Rediscovering Fruit

Our countertop is littered with fruit when Plum is here. Fresh strawberries are his favorite so along with the bowl of apples, they are a constant.  Most often juicy oranges and just getting ripe bananas are added as Chef stops at the store on his way home when he knows Plum is waiting, selecting also purple grapes and a couple of kiwi. We have way too much fruit when Plum is here, his stays are shorter but our fruit purchasing hasn’t caught up to that. Chef doesn’t eat it, I stopped years ago when money was tight and I was saving all the fruit for the kids. I noticed recently that I only eat it on vacation or when we are dining out, when it is presented as an option someone else is offering. Even though I have lush fruit on my counter, I don’t indulge. I look at it longingly but something within me stops my hand from reaching for grapes, doesn’t allow a clementine to grace my plate, I rarely taste an apple unless finishing one Plum has left behind. In truth I love fruit as much as he does. This sacrifice is no longer necessary and may really be cutting me off from essential goodness. Last night on my way home I bought fruit for me. I felt wicked, naughty, self-indulgent. It tasted so delightful.

As moms we sacrifice much for our children, we begin the act of parenting by giving way to our very own personhood, allowing chemistry and biology to alter us. We feel ill, we are stretched from the inside out, we wobble, we become the carrier of another. It is almost a given that we get lost in the process, that everything we do becomes centered on the life we are growing. Once the baby is shed from us, the long process of losing them to the world begins, our womb and personhood take many months and maybe years to recover. Still we are charged with nurturing the new life, fully dependent on us to become a real person, so we focus on them. Our bodies, our persons never fully regain equal standing. We are a role much more than a woman. Thus, the fruit goes to the kids when money is tight and I have to learn again to eat it. I have to grasp after all these years that something so basic as the gifts of the harvests are meant for me as well.

I watch Plum eat his strawberries, his eyes shine. Juice from the clementines streaks down his arms. He is joyous. We soak up his joy like the napkin collecting the sticky sweetness on his chin, aware he is getting this goodness. Last night I bought both of those, for me, knowing Plum wouldn’t be back for a couple of days. Surely there will be plenty left when he returns, but I tasted the gorgeous strawberries, felt the sunshine of the seasonal light my soul. I added a sweet ripe banana, the soft slices the perfect accompaniment to my dinner. I knew the exuberance of eating well, the richness of the earth. Aren’t these the very symbols Paul uses to describe what the Holy Spirit offers us? I have to wonder how cutting myself off from the real fruits has allowed me to wall my soul from the gifts the Spirit brings? Certainly those gifts are the byproduct of trusting so deeply in God’s plan, allowing Him to be the gardener in my life. What if bad jobs are weeds being pulled, what if unhealthy relationships are plucked away like bad seeds? What if long seasons of quiet are preparing my soul soil for a great planting, a rich harvest to come?  Knowing God is in charge of the gardening, that my Fruits come from not too much self-sacrifice any more than over-indulgence, I am beginning to wonder where I might notice more goodness, more gentleness, more peace, more faithfulness. I am a joy and love noticer, but not so much with forbearance and maybe I have some self-control work to do. Like strolling through the fruit section of the store and only finding apples, I have been availing myself of too little fruit.

With each bite of the clementine I will have for breakfast, I am asking God to show my His fruits and where I might find more peace. I am going to add an apple in to my lunch, another quest for goodness. Dare I have more strawberries as an afternoon snack? I may have swung too far the other way but my oh my, years of sacrifice have lead me to this: once I taste the fruits of the Spirit, I really want more.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.  Galatians 5:22-23 Message 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Lifetimes

Something stirs in my Plum’s heart, I never know when to expect it, he begins to cry over the loss of our pets from 2 and 3 years ago. Significant because he is only 6, I often wonder how much he really remembers. Yet a sadness overcomes him, he becomes almost inconsolable. The loss is deep, the yearning is mournful. It matters not that we have new beasts who push past me to lay atop him, providing comfort with heavy fur. Warm dog breath finally eases his pain as we rock and talk about lifetimes, about natural order and about heaven. We agree that it still just hurts when those you love are gone.

He doesn’t remember that one of the dogs he is mourning used to bark all the damn time, insisting as only a border collie can do, that we play with her. He doesn’t remember that we had to monitor her all the time so she didn’t herd him in his little walker. He doesn’t remember that I had to nurse her the last two years of her life, forcing her to eat as I watched clumps grow around her midsection. He only knows he misses her. God only knows why.

He doesn’t remember that our other dog, the best rescue ever that we saved from Hurricane Katrina watery parasites and brought home to love, was so strong he could knock my Plum over. We had to keep an eye on that one as well, Plum was just toddling and could easily be toppled. He doesn’t remember that he used to flinch from the loud battles they all used to have. He only knows he misses him, God only knows why.

He surely doesn’t remember the last loss, our sweet sweet rescue who was so protective of me she used to bare her teeth and nip a bit when others came too close. She nipped at him a couple of times and also nestled up so closely when he was feeling, well, any strong emotion. He had to battle with her to get to me many times, he didn’t like her on his bed but there she slept, watching over him, worrying about his doorway when he wasn’t here. He only knows that he misses her, God only knows why.

Plum only remembers how soft their fur was, how much he loved that they loved him. He listens to stories about their better days, their finer qualities and takes those in as his own memories. So sometimes he weeps, we comfort him. I understand his selective memory. That is how our hearts heal from brokenness, we smooth over the rough places of hurt with stories of laughter and silliness, we focus on the good times and loosen the damaged patches from our soul storage. We begin to remember with grace. This is how I have dealt with the loss of my own mother, 5 years ago today.

With each passing year, it becomes harder to remember the difficulties in our relationship,   there were plenty. The big things don’t ever go away maybe but their weight, their importance diminishes as more sweet memories and deep longing replace them, smooth out the hurts. Distance allows me to see her as a person aside from her role, to see that her own  needs weren’t met, see her own challenges in life, and wonder how she ever managed to love at all. I especially have become so much more aware of the ways that I hurt her, the times I let her down, distanced myself from her. I look back at our relationship with fresh eyes and a sore soul and know that we just both did the best we could, we were both so broken, so badly damaged. So somedays I find myself weeping for my mother, a strange sight indeed to anyone who knows what a complicated path we took. Those tears smooth out more bad places, wash away more painful memories so that my soul fills with snapshots of those times we laughed and we shopped and we shared recipes.

When Plum is crying, I ask him what he would like to do with his long lost pets if he had just one more chance with them. He often says he wants to play with them or give them a hug. So then we do that with the ones who are near and we go outside and speak to the clouds. We claim our aches and send them up to the sky and then we rejoice with the barking yapping beasts who are close by. The breath of God dries our cheeks and sends fresh joys in the rushing chasing ball carrying beasts who long for our attention. The same is true for me, as I consider what one more thing I would want from my mom. At one point it would have been affirmation of all my hurts, that I was right she was wrong. Later it might have been that she really did love me. The long road of healing now shows I need neither of those last conversations, I know she was as right as she could be and she always loved me as best she could. Today I would only want to tell her that I am sorry. But just like every other conversation I wanted to have, she already knows that. All I really want is one last time to snuggle up and share some comfort. Healing for us both, all we ever both sought. My soul is making progress in the mom compartment. So I speak my yearning to God and cuddle with the one who is here, my Plum who really just wants to dance today. So we dance. And I know my mom is rejoicing at our silliness.

We all know that death strikes too suddenly, too often with no warning. Sometimes we have the chance to say our goodbyes but still healing takes much longer. Lifetimes, everything has a lifetime, I teach my Plum. I don’t teach him hurts have lifetimes. We are practicing giving those up to the clouds as they come, in the hopes that his little soul may become the generation to grow up less scabbed and scarred, more trusting and open. Still, he cries and I comfort. Today I leak out some sorrow of my own, unexpected feelings of loss for a mother who left us 5 years ago and still is missed. And today we dance and throw balls for beasts and snuggle up just a bit closer. Soul healing means making some new memories and letting the old fly away with grace.

I remember you mom, as the woman you were and the woman I wanted you to be and all the love that fell somewhere in between. Look at Plum, hasn’t he grown? His love for our beasts surely melts your heart. I feel your smile so deep in my soul it is pushing water out of my eyes. Let’s go dance.

The Great Fence Man

I am counting days, marking off my mental calendar, until the fence man appears. The invisible line that protects our beasts is no longer enough for both of them. Our Lab, my beast, respects the boundary. He hears the warning chirp emitted from his collar as he nears the edges and he retreats to safety. He doesn’t cross. The Golden, Chef’s rotten horrible spoiled bully who refuses to share any bones, he has discovered that a bit of a shock is worth the adventure of touring the neighbor’s yard. He runs freely across and mocks my poor beast. He chases my cats who used to be able to cross the invisible line and feel safe. He just has no concern for the established boundaries and now we have to put up a fence, a real fence, a big jail around our yard to keep everyone in and safe and I can’t wait for the fence man to get here. We could have gotten one of those outdoor kennel set-ups, much less expensive. Yet the boundaries on those for our big beasts would have been cruel. They have long legs built for running, they have instincts to explore, they want to bring balls back for us to throw again. Well, my beast does, Chef’s Golden prefers to collect them all in his mouth because he doesn’t share and is horrible. Still, boundaries too close leave none of us satisfied.

These beasts remind me that we all make decisions to either stay within the lines or push free and that consequences are sure to follow. Not that everyone is facing jail time for breaking out, but I can’t decide which of my beasts is the true lesson. I really want it to be mine, who runs to the door to alert me that his sibling has once again chosen a path that could lead to trouble for all. He is a rule follower for sure. I want the lesson to be about following God’s plans for us and respecting the boundaries, even ones that are harder to see like the ones our loved ones set out for us. But then I see our Golden running so freely with a smile on his face, which is true for Goldens most of the time anyway so I have to take that in to account, but still, he just looks so happy. Unencumbered by the restrictions placed on him, new rocks and trees to smell, exciting new places to pee, what joy! Accepting that a bit of pain may be necessary to find our true spirit, is that the lesson God holds our for me here? Where is the fence man? If only I had more time to consider this all without jumping up and down every few minutes to check on beasts.

I really wonder if maybe my actual lesson isn’t the anticipation of freedom that I imagine at the surrendering of theirs. That hasn’t been lost on me. Much like the times I have used a child’s time-out to actually go to the bathroom alone and I always feel freer when Plum is finally asleep in bed, I am a mother hen who only feels truly able to do as I please when I know exactly where all my baby chicks are. Knowing that I can no longer just let the beasts outside without supervision means I have no rest, no down time until they are safely back in. With the nice weather coming, they don’t want to be in. In out, up down, we are in constant motion that leaves us all tired but not spent. No one is satisfied with the current arrangement, I call them back in too soon for their wandering spirits, I keep them closer to try to manage any runaways. They fuss to go out when a squirrel braves the porch, taunts from the other side of the door. They need to run and play. I need space from them. We need a fence. Did I mention I can’t wait for the fence man to appear? Balancing their need to run and explore the world and my desire to keep them safe is a constant struggle. But deeper than that, I realize my heart is never fully at rest until I know my other baby chicks are safe as well.

I have been fenced in or out, depending on perspective. Without knowledge that they are running freely, exploring the world within the bounds of God’s fences, I just worry. I fret and call for them in my dreams. If only I knew they were respecting boundaries, were establishing safe ones for themselves, couldn’t I just rest? I am anticipating some pushback from our beasts when they realize the front yard is no longer accessible to them. I imagine sitting up there in peace with coffee and my laptop in the early mornings while they roam the back yard in search of squirrels and sticks. More likely they will bark and demand that I join them. My fence may not bring all that I hope, it will surely require a different kind of mowing and weed whacking and the front door will need more attention so we don’t have escapees. As I spoke with the fence man, we talked about where to put the gates. Ah, yes gates. We have to have access beyond the back door, other ways to access the jail, the safety zone. I wonder if my Stella has considered putting in a gate. Not an all access opening, one that could still have a lock, but an way into her fenced off heart. An invitation to see that she runs freely, that she is secure. If only I knew that Arrow was respecting the safety of his fences, my God wouldn’t I rest? I don’t need to run freely about their yards, sniff their rocks, only peer over the fence sometimes to catch of a glimpse of their smiling faces as they explore their worlds still sheltered from harm.

When the fence is erected, I will plant flowers along the edges, much more flowers around the front yard that won’t get trampled by beasts. Knowing my landscaping is inaccessible from large paws that seek to dig and trample and hide bones and make mud piles, I can garden in peace. My fence can be decorated with joy colors to show it is only for safety, not to keep others out but to ensure that those who need to run can do so without worry of passing cars. Maybe my children have decorated their hearts as well, new joys that sprout up without the worry that I will trample it all with my mothering and busting through the invisible fences. I pray that one day the Great Fence Man will appear to them and show them the wonder of gates. Until then, we are learning more and more about our own need for safe boundaries and the call to run freely. We are learning to balance both as we await the fence man. We are remembering that sometimes we erect a fence that is just too small, we need God’s help in expanding our boundaries to include room to move more safely, we need some help installing those gates. I also know that lessons are sometimes muddled when all I want is some peace and quiet. Soon, soon the fence man will appear.

“Then the gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.”― Kahlil GibranThe Prophet

Eight Days and Over Two Years

This meaningless ordinary symptom of acceptance, a minimal label to conquer controversy. Whew, I managed to get all the daily prompt words in for the last 8 days, behind on my writing but catching up in one sentence. A rush, indeed, maybe nonsensical if anyone dares look too closely, but still. Done. Project complete. Except, no. Just spewing out words without thought and concern for where they fall, no acceptance of consequences  when they do can stir controversy for sure, create just another meaningless mess of letters that conquer a page but nothing more. In fact realizing that our words are powerful, that what we choose to say or withhold speaking will have long lasting impact, that is truth, for sure. I can’t just throw out words strung together and catch up, I can’t just throw out apologies and make it all better. Thoughtful consideration, deep listening, that is the stuff of relationship building, bridges that heal and stabilize and continue the conversation.

Much has been said about the word salad that our new president serves up daily, a feast of letters that leaves me bloated and still hungry for meaning. Anger rises in me when I read transcripts of his remarks, not just for content but in the absolute butchering of our language. I worry about generations to come who will study his remarks as if they are reflections of acceptable speech. Closer to home, though, I wonder if I am accountable for my words. I know I certainly don’t always say what I mean, my heart is not always expressed as clearly as I intend. I am shocked to find someone has taken offense at what I have written or found hurt in one of my posts. A blog about grace, and someone got their feelings hurt? Really digging, right? It must be them. But is it? Maybe my own word salad has been tossed, something mixed up between the writing and the reading. Doesn’t it matter that my intent is not to bring pain? Is it my responsibility to continue to follow up until clarity reigns? Grace requires that I seek out those who find offense and work towards reconciliation. And then do better with my words.

I heard of a published author who posted this week that she received a really nasty bit of feedback, an email that ended with, “Stop writing.” Wow. While I was hurt for her, I was somewhat buoyed by the fact that even someone of her stature can set off a reader, elicit such anger. That she chose to expose it and address it publicly was my real wow. She didn’t hide in shame, she owned her words and her space. I have invited some folks not to read my words. I have apologized to others, have almost shut down in shame as well. Finally, I decided to own my space. I also committed to being more thoughtful about my writer words. Still, I think back to the turning point disagreement with Stella and her fiancé at the time, words were spoken that altered our course. We all thought we had apologized, clarified, got quiet and listened enough to move on. To share our space. Hindsight shows that night broke the bridge, each time it rained the flood waters washed more away. Since that time, there has been much word salad and excessive letters, controversial notes and emails and attempts to visit, the bridge won’t hold us up. Because, ultimately, clarity and understanding, accountability requires that the speaker and the hearer each own up to their parts of the message. One way communication is a lecture, not a relationship. Words only going out mean interpretation happens with no chance for feedback and translation. Like 8 days worth of writing prompts, words mixed together may look good, but one can only guess at the meaning. And guessing is dangerous when we are talking about matters of the heart or our country.

Here’s to catching up on prompts and one day catching up with Stella. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you oh God. And to you dear readers. And to you my dear daughter.

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Ephesians 4:29The Message 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Controversy
Conquer
Label
Minimal
Acceptance
Symptom
Ordinary
Meaningless

Knock Knock

I think transitioning from mother to mother-in-law to grandmother is an overlooked challenge for women. The process of planning a wedding or showers should warn us that we are moving into new territory yet the busyness of it all keeps us from realizing that our role is changing. Really changing. Sure we hear the jokes but think they only apply to others. Then we find ourselves the fodder for comedians, aching wrong turns and missteps that leave us wondering what happened and how did my child change overnight into this other? We used to talk, we used to be close, what happened!! Then a baby comes along and mostly all is forgiven because now they have given us this, a fresh start. Only, wait, what the hell, now we don’t even get that? They want to keep that one too? We scratch our heads and wonder when it will be our turn to love and cradle and cuddle, knowing this babe is just the thing to fill up the whole our child left. Any memories of struggling to establish our own family under the watchful gaze of our own mother-in-law with her fingers itching ever closer to our brand new babe are lost in the flush of the placenta, the smell of baby wipes and the sight of little toes.

Ay ya ya, is it any wonder newly weds and mother-in-laws struggle so?  No one tells us how to do it, how to breathe through the contractions of the new little family, to trust that a new birth of bigger more openness with happen. Like a pregnant mama at 36 weeks, we want it now. We grow tired of waiting. We are ready to push. We hear everyone tell us that resting right now, at this critical point is what is most important. Rest now, because soon you will be called into action. Allow that family to grow and your chance will come. Oh waiting is horrible. Transitions just really suck. We forget that our choices now during the transition set the stage for how the birth of the new family will be experienced by all.

The knock on our Wednesday evening small group classroom signaled more than just an interruption to our group. It was more than just a notice to let me know my Plum wasn’t feeling well enough to last the evening with his friends. It was a warning that life was going to get rough for several days, that more interruptions were coming, that my schedule and timeline were not my own. One moment we were adults talking around a table, knock knock, suddenly I was in full grandma mode where I would remain for the foreseeable (with no sleep and the inability to see much further than this mug of coffee) future.

Plum has croup, not fun with little lungs that grasp for breath sometimes anyway. Oral steroids and nebulizer treatments are helping to open his constricted airways. Neither help close his little eyes to get rest. I want rest. I had planned much rest after making the Wednesday meal for the larger group. I scheduled much rest as we came to the end of this study and my other one that just finished. I was going to do one slow victory lap around my kitchen with a glass of wine and then collapse contentedly on the couch until I was ready to leisurely climb the stairs to collapse in bed for hours and hours and then rise slowly for coffee and more resting in a comfy chair. I love the studies and work at church but my body was making it clear it was time for rest. I could taste it, I was seeing it. Then I heard the knock, knock. I knew in my gut that knock was for me and that my fantasy rejuvenation time was going to be just that, all fantasy.  My head turned in slow motion, letting go of my fantasy to return to reality requires much effort to release those plans: a push of the years in mama mode, the pull of the sickly cough of my best boy.  Slow motion propelled into high gear as something took over, the knowledge that grandmas step up to the job when needed. Wine, rest and comfy chair collapses will wait.

Mama took Plum to the doctor who advised limited access to my Sweetness, if possible.  Yes, it is possible. Knock knock Plum returned and I waved goodbye to mama and Sweetness for the day, the evening, the foreseeable future which looked like forever when Plum was hyped up on steroids and did not want to nap the day away. As I was pulled back out of sleepy mode I remembered many many years ago while in grad school when our family came down with the flu. All of us, both children even.  The real horrible flu. So my mother-in-law at the time, God rest her soul, came to nurse us all. That time is hazy, a feverish sweaty tear-stained memory mush. What has remained after all these years is the selflessness of that grandma who drove an hour to come sleep on a couch, to wipe brows and mope vomit, to make soup and do laundry, days and days of nursing a baby and a toddler and two grown adults now rendered helpless and worse than children.  Surely she had plans before that phone call, ring ring, created an interruption that challenged her physically and mentally and was not in any way a fun visit with her grandchildren. She stepped up and delivered. She is one of my grandma role models, one of the women I pattern myself after. There when needed, not intrusive when not. She mastered the transition.

Chef’s mom has served us in such way, I have been blessed in mother-in-law selection. Grandma J has starred in many blog posts for her selfless appearances at every one of my surgeries and the nursing afterward, she shows up for all the kids events and never misses the chance to send a card with $5. Much has happened behind the scenes with her as Chef and I grew into our marriage, establishing our family and our boundaries and making room for us all. Still she shows up and doesn’t judge the state of my refrigerator or flower bed s and always asks for a recipe. She just genuinely allows for my dignity as I make sure she has time with her son alone also. The transition wasn’t always smooth but worth the effort as we built trust and found space for our new family dynamics. She is one of my favorite people, a valued resource who is welcomed into my home and has claimed my heart. Creating all these different kinds of family places is challenging but matters most when someone interrupts our daily life and asks that we show up. She always answers the knock with a yes. Together we mastered the transition.

As a child I remember when my mother’s mom was dying. I didn’t know it then that was what was happening, I just knew my brothers and I were pulled out of bed during the night and taken across town to my dad’s mom. She opened the door as we were being carried up to it and she said no.Knock knock, no. She would not have her plans interrupted. She would not have her home in disarray. In the midst of this trauma, my mother had to find alternative care for her 3 children. I am sure she never forgave her mother-in-law. That night we met an extended aunt in the town I now call home. I have warm feelings for her, I never really bonded with my paternal grandmother. This woman was never a grandma to me, the antithesis of who I wanted to be when I grew into my own role as mother-in-law and gran. She didn’t understand how to transition, she wanted her son to stay her son and the rest of us to fall in line with her plans. Disaster.

It matters not how often you see someone but what you do when that knock happens. When the call comes in and the need is there. Do you show up as a grandma? Can you set aside your plans for wine and victory dances and comfy chairs? One day I pray the knock is from my daughter, I will always say yes. I won’t ask to hold the baby, I won’t reach for the toddler. I don’t do either with mama now. I have mastered the transition after many hard pushes and pulls, I know my role as mother-in-law. Show up when asked, stay out of the way when not. Put a bit of food in the fridge and send a card with $5. Back away slowly. Of course I long to hold the baby, who doesn’t really? I have huge gaping wholes in my heart about the size of new grandchildren who are 10 hours away, a daughter who is emotionally a million miles away. Still, I wait for the invitation and pray that when the knock happens, I can summon the strength to let go of my own needs and accept the request to be present for hers. That is how we master the transition.

Knock knock. Who will answer? Just as God shows up always, I pray we find a way to be present for those who need us and not show up as needy ourselves. Being a servant is really the best descriptor of a gran’s role that I can find, not the lady of the manor. That job already taken. Cookies. Cookies help too. Even daughter-in-laws like cookies. Come to think of it, my mother-in-law always brings cookies. Of course that is mostly because my husband tells his mother that hers are better than mine, but that is a completely different post. Show up, let God work out the details of when we are supposed to get our rest and our wine and know when to back out. Always say yes to the knock. Easy-peasy.  Oh and that hole, where our child used to be, God has plans for that. Can you hear Him knocking?

 

 

 

 

 

Bigger God

Almost 20 years ago I was hit by a drunk driver. Sitting at a red light in the middle of the night on my way to pick up Chef from work, I don’t remember why I was using his car, why I didn’t have my own, the car coming from behind didn’t stop. I literally never saw it coming. One moment I was waiting, the next I was in chaos. Blessedly another driver happened upon me and pulled me out of the car, called emergency people and stayed with me during the early moments of panic and disorientation until I left for the hospital in the ambulance where Chef met me.  A sneak attack, I wasn’t able to avoid this crash. How to avoid another one? It took a very long time for me to feel safe driving again, the evidence of the crash not just visible on the car but on my psyche.

I remember after 9/11 wondering about every car on the road, our safety no longer a given, attacks possible in seemingly safe places. I recall driving and looking at the cars next to me, wondering if they would really stay in their lane, really stop at all the red lights, observe the rules of the road. To have war declared on civilians with an invasion in previously considered safe places meant I no longer was sure of other paces I once trusted. Everything, everywhere became suspect. What happened on 9/11 to me though as I rushed to school to pick up my kids is that I had a flat tire and someone stopped, a stranger came to my aid and changed my tire and sent me on my way without any payment or need for bigger thanks. Someone entered my chaos and stayed until the panic subsided.

I have noticed that during times of stress and chaos, I slow down. My senses become attuned to what I miss during normal daily life, an indication I need to pay attention. Things that normally roll off , stick.  Vulnerability forces openness but I can chose what comes in.  As much as I notice opportunities to be afraid and worry that all is lost, I still see the angels who come as regular folks and do the next right thing to calm me. My choice is whether to remember the crash or the one who pulled me free. I can fixate on the burning buildings or my spare tire safely attached. I can worry that every time I get in the car someone may choose to disregard the rules of the road or the millions of times they don’t. Holding on to the angels who visit during times of trauma is important. Seeing the ones who visit daily maybe even more so.

I’ve been riding around about to crash for a few weeks, on the edge of shame and empowerment, wondering who to trust and where the next hit was going to come from.  I’ve been driving with a heightened sense of the cars around me, walking with a thinner skin. Crashes leave wounds, spare tires don’t ride as smoothly. In that condition I notice every bump, every time I hit a rock or stub my toe. A sideways glance or mistaken word, a little less friendliness gets blown into dangerous traveling. I see peril everywhere, my wounds pulsate.I forgot how many angels are already around me.  I forgot to choose where I give my attention. I forgot that I don’t have to drive on some of the faster roads, go into some neighborhoods that are less than friendly. I forgot to give more attention to those angels who pull me aside with kindness. I forgot that rainbows show up after storms. And then, I hear the words of an angel who visits in the midst of my chaos. My friend Janet mentioned in passing, an off-handed comment from her that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with me, it pulled me from my personal wreckage or at least the crash I was heading for. “God is bigger than this.” Dear Lord, there are just some phrases that I should tape up around my home to see everyday, reminders to get centered not in my crazy but in my God. Blessedly God knows I forget my tape so angels appear in the shape of friends with the right words. God is bigger than this.

God is bigger than fear and worry and old wounds and itchy scars. God is bigger than hurtful words and flat tires. God is bigger than rough seasons and dry patches and cold spring weather and global concerns. God is indeed bigger. Also, God needs me to show up as an angel sometimes too. Because I suspect someone else may be driving scared, hurting with worry and wondering if we are going to observe the rules of engagement. God would most certainly appreciate if I get my head out of my past and into this moment where it is not all about me. Where unkind words reflect another’s hurt, where a swerving driver may be rushing to see an ailing relative, where scars that itch mean healing is happening. God is bigger than my nonsense, my ridiculous fretting. God is bigger. That will do me for today. I’m steering clear of all the rest. Now if I could just find some tape.

May your day be filled with a bigger God who reminds you of the angels all around. May worries and wounds fade away as the you choose to remember what is good. The rest is not worth our tape.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” Phil 4:8

Symptom

Update: How awesome is this? The folks over at God is Bigger, an amazing venture started out of pain and the choice to see God as bigger than all the hurts, read this piece and sent me some bracelets to share with those who might need this reminder as well! Plum immediately snagged the green ones because, well he is Plum, but I have purple pink, teal and black if you would like to wear the reminder as well! Send me an email with your contact info and I will send it out to you.  And everyone, go visit their site, great stuff! http://www.godisbigger.com/category-s/131.htm17553543_10203072997622303_7863566956881829590_n

Ta Da!

Gran, where’s purple blankie? Honey, have you seen my briefcase?  Nanny, I can’t find my______.  Lisa, do you know where I set my ______ down? Like the chorus to our family song, these questions ring out with such frequency I almost don’t hear them anymore. I just begin looking, I go retrieve the missing item. Like our beasts who can sniff out a tennis ball behind the couch or under a cabinet, I just know where lost things are. No need to pray to the saint of missing items around here, it never gets that serious. Ta Da, here you go!  I am the hero for a few fleeting seconds, family member reunited with item, all is well. Of course, that means these people never really are responsible for their stuff, not with a built-in finder at the ready. I previously thought this was a superpower that made me special to them, I have come to realize that it kept them from being able to search on their own, a skill they would need throughout their lives.

Being a mom to my children was more important to me than just about anything, like breathing or eating. I overdid it on many aspects and hindsight allows me to see my mistakes, attempts to swing so far away from my own childhood that I created other problems. I left my kids with deficits that now are glaring, now haunt me. In my efforts to protect them and make their lives happier, to make up for earlier trauma, I forgot to let them struggle just a bit. I forgot that they needed to learn to find stuff on their own. It feels great to be so needed in the rush of everyone’s lives, when buses are coming or carpools are waiting and I could hold up the desired book bag or sweater, but that meant they didn’t learn to look for what they wanted, they didn’t learn to miss what was gone. I thought they had enough struggle early on, I wanted to save them from anymore. Oh, Hindsight, you wicked devil. It felt so wonderful to be needed in the moment, now I am missing and they don’t know how to search for me. They can’t find their way home and back to truth and into forgiveness. I think maybe they just gave up and got replacement moms, relationships that were easier and immediate and Ta Da required little of them.

I left my children without the skills needed to stick with the search, to uncover truth like pillows on the couch, to compromise as if bending to hunt below the bed. They give up too easily, forget the fun of the hunt. I remember one birthday party when we held a scavenger hunt during Stella’s sleepover, all the girls fanned out around the neighborhood. What was expected to be an hour game quickly turned into a bust when one household went through the list and gave that pair everything on it. The girls returned triumphant, unaware that they had really lost and destroyed the game. Robbed of the opportunity to ask many times for help, one stop gave everything. The goal was not really winning, the journey was the fun part. The neighbor thought they were helping I am sure, just as I always thought I was. Kids need to learn to search and find and ask and look.

Sometimes when we search for one thing, we find a different treasure all together. I began writing to seek my own voice and have found a place where many feel heard. Each holiday season as I prepare to decorate I come across something in a closet that I forgot was stashed away, the blessing of a short memory, maybe. Still, treasures lurk waiting to be found. Exploring is the journey, finding riches in my soul I didn’t expect, finding connections to God I would have missed if I chose not to go looking.  Oh how I wish I had taught the kids to seek. I can’t undo the damage with my children who are now adults. I pray they someday will learn to ferret out truth, they will become eager to seek forgiveness and dole it out like the grand prize. Ta Da! We found you, Mom!  Until then, I can change my role as “Super-Finder” with Plum. He loves to explore already, it won’t take as much to help him learn to seek out what he wants most. Not so sure it will work with Chef, he is already grown. And I AM really good at finding things.

One day I pray I will find my daughter again. Ta Da! I pray my son will find his way, Ta Da! I know that God, the Great Finder of all us lost souls, has prepared the way. The best hunt ever, the most glorious find ever, a journey that will ultimately only happen with Him as the guide. So I keep looking to Him, knowing the struggle is teaching me much. There is no one place to find all that I need to get reunited with my lost children, I have tried all of my super-powers to make it so. The time is not right to find them. They have to find me. When they just can’t do without me anymore. Like Plum and his purple blankie, often he goes to find her on his own, he can’t wait until I finish my task. When their need is that great, they will look back towards home. I will be here. Just where they left me. Ta Da!

May you find what you are seeking today, may your heart be filled with joy and just enough curiosity to seek out what God is nudging you to look for. Treasures await, my friend.