We Forgot To Limp

Plum stubbed his toe this weekend, not the terrible first stubbing of spring that draws blood on tender flesh cushioned for months under socks and slippers and boots, but really more of a bumping of his little foot against the cement porch, a foot that has spent the entire summer roughening on the gravel road alongside our home. A closer inspection showed not a single drop of blood, not a tear in his skin, no mark of the injury that he felt. Hours of barefoot play in the summer sun and the steadfast refusal to keep shoes on brought about a tough exterior, one that belied the pain he was experiencing. We have extra bandaids for just such an injury, one that is more inside than out. He asked me how one limps, such was his determination in milking this event as well as the disappointment that nothing outward pointed to the level of pain he was knew. I showed him and he managed a limp for all of two steps before he was distracted and the pain receded. I understood his concern, though, I had worn my own bandaids all weekend.

Our church moved 10 years ago to a brand new building, one that fit the dreams we all shared for more ministry options. This weekend was the celebration of that move and our 3 services would be combined into one but our church couldn’t hold us all at one time, thus the high school just down the road was chosen to be our worship site. The auditorium and cafeteria were large enough for us all, a perfect choice. Except that building held memories of my children, of Stella’s art exhibits, of decorating their lockers every year for their birthdays, of graduation ceremonies as I watched them cross the stage and look to their future. I walked those hallways as I registered them for classes each year and bought new sweatshirts and yearbooks, I met with teachers their for conferences. This was their high school, the place I drove Stella to early each morning when she missed the bus and picked them both up to drive to orthodontist appointments.  This building held memories that I had ignored. Yet walking though with Plum, I began to mentally limp, I felt the injury and knew no one could see me bleeding. Then it happened, I was distracted. Plum wanted to explore the stage, a friend tripped and fell, the food was plentiful and the friends were all around, I forgot that I had stubbed some memories. As we left the event, I realized I had survived without real damage to my psyche. Now in thinking about the school, I would also remember singing praise songs and would always consider that the students who sit in those chairs for assemblies will be covered in the prayers of our congregation.

Later Chef and I attended a wedding of a young woman from church, a woman who oozes grace and light. She sings with our praise team and sends me notes that lift me at exactly the moments I think I am sinking, she lives out faith actively. Chef and I had not been to a wedding since the civil ceremony of our daughter, the estrangement occurred one month after that and we were not invited to her actual wedding, the one with the dress and cake and music. I knew this would be a stubbing crashing smashing of memories, a bashing of hopes and dreams but I so respect this young woman we couldn’t not go. Bandaiding my heart, we entered the event hall and found that many other friends from church were there as well, we sat with some who kept us occupied and laughing and covered with joy such that we forgot to limp, we forgot to check for bleeding. This wedding was the perfect one to ease us back into life, to invite us to participate in joy and distract us from our pain.

I know it would be safer to avoid the gravel, to always wear shoes, to stay away from places that trigger memories that will break through to my bruised soul. Yet I am not called to be safe and protected, to hide and to be cushioned. I am asked to rely on the strength of God, who will guide me and keep me from harm. Running away rom those events that might possibly touch on my sore spots means I would miss the chance to heal ever so slightly, to replace some memories of what hasn’t been with an evening of laughter and new jokes to share and delight with friends instead of nursing wounds on my couch. Paul says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, he doesn’t say we should stop doing the things that might rough us up. Today I trusted in God to protect my soul, and found his grace was indeed sufficient. Step by step, that is how I move ever closer to the light.

 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

(photo credit to http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2013/01/that-funky-bandaid-color/ )

 

 

When Children Repeat our Hate Speech

The world crashed down before I even had my first cup of coffee, before actually I had even turned the coffee maker on. We had only donned slippers and robes moments before, just out of bed, I’m not sure I have even visited the bathroom yet, surely I must have or I would have lost control of that function right there on the steps as my grandson uttered hate speech. Of course he didn’t know the meaning of the words he used, merely repeating something in the manner of growing his vocabulary. Of course I delight as he uses ever larger words and deeper concepts that he picks up from listening and exploring his world, I have always delighted, until this one morning. My heart broke before it even had time to fully wake. Spreading the reputation of my Plum far and wide as a joy bringer maybe has brought more pressure than this 6 year old can bear. As he nears his next birthday, I too am getting closer to admitting that he doesn’t always bring the smiles and lighten my heart, he is reflecting the world sometimes to me and it isn’t pretty.  I much prefer when he shows me God.

The old show, “Kids say the Darnedest Things” takes a lighter view of the utterances of children, when they repeat the curse words mommy said or describe how daddy put the moves on mama. We laugh when we hear adult talk emerge from little mouths, highlighting the absurdity of our concerns and our proclamations. Yet what of the times that they repeat hate speech? What does that say about the world they are exposed to, how do we control what they know and hear and say without limiting their growth? In a society that allows white supremacists to march freely without the need for hoods, there should be no surprise that this ugly talk has filtered down to my first-grade grandson. Apparently it began on his bus, when he was being bullied by older kids who eventually were sent to see the principal and he was moved to the seat right behind the bus driver. Yet no one bothered to address the language used against him, to explain why it was wrong. He only knew it felt hurtful to have the older kids taunting him. Other kids ran to tell Mama as he got off the bus and sat down in tears, unable to make it even the block to his door, such was his shame. So when our very large white Labrador blocked his path on the steps, it seemed the perfect time to use his new words. Frustrated and annoyed, he blurted out, “Move it you white cracker!”

My first instinct of horror and shock ruled my own words: No Plum we never ever ever say that, that is ugly horrible talk. Then I got some coffee and invited him to sit with me as we dug into the why. We talked about slavery and the idea that some people are worth less than others, something he thought was outrageous and my heart began to mend. We talked about another ugly word, one I never ever want him to use and why. We explored how angry people are right now because they are being treated as less than still and he is white skinned and he is expected by many to be better just because. We talked about a war within our country fought by those who wanted slavery to continue and those who didn’t and how grateful we are that the North won. We also talked about bullies and hurtful words and how the things those folks say are probably things we don’t want to allow to come out of our mouths. He apologized to our dog who was none the worse for it all but my Plum was learning that words matter.

A deeper fear was lurking within me though, one that screamed that I must stamp out this hate speech before it can grow any roots. Somehow I missed some moments with my own son, in spite of all the posters and quotes and books and moments to address his innocent utterances as well. He was one person, an addict but not a racist, before he went to prison. When the gates opened, he was clean and sober but covered in swastikas and runes and subtle references to white supremacy organizations. His experiences inside had exposed him to a race war that our war on drugs has elevated, he became an enlisted soldier in an army that was bringing its fight outside the cells and into the streets. Mama and I feared what he would plant in this sweet child’s head, how would we continue to nurture a child who loves everyone if his father was telling him to hate some? Yet Arrow has chosen to separate from his son, to disappear and begin a new family outside the influence of our ideologies. While his son is white, he has become less than worthy in my son’s construct, a heart-breaking possibility when we measure people by what they can do for us and not by virtue of their existence. Still, everyday I worry about this man who was once my little boy learning that words matter and love was better than hate. He is engaged in a war that has already been lost, on many fronts. My soul aches for this lost boy.

So we try again, with this child, to eradicate hate speech before it can destroy a little boy’s loving heart. Every day that he leaves our homes, when he climbs aboard a bus or hits the playground, he is exposed to a world that is struggling with racism and sexism. For now, he knows that God made us all, that we look alike on the inside, where it matters most and that we are all important to God. He told me today that he is a follower of God, not bullies. My joy bringer reflects God to me, and I have to be strong enough and honest enough to reflect God right back, especially during the hard talks, even before coffee. I have to be brave enough to tell him words that he cannot use, even against our dog, who truthfully, is quite annoying. We are meant to be light and grace during these turbulent times, our children are watching and listening, and in spite of us all, repeating our embarrassing words. His “shits” and “damns” don’t seem all that bad any more.  Neither does home-schooling.

In the MEANtime I Heard the Holy Spirit

My pastor spoke a word in prayer during our services that halted my listening, his flow for me interrupted by the utterance of a single group of letters, a compilation I had surely heard most of my life.  What is it but the Holy Spirit when that happens, when the light changes ever so slightly, when our ears become so acutely attuned we can only hear the cricket’s chirp, when the aromas of a pumpkin pie block out all other scents? I know it is the Holy Spirit that sharpens my focus this finely, pulls me into a sacred space where wondering and imagining and considering feel much more like prayer. When he uttered this one word, one among many as he prayed over and with his congregation, I know the light must have been pouring through the skylights above to rest exactly upon me, so sure I am that his word was meant for me. I wish I could say I remember the context, the way in which he used the word, yet the Holy Spirit amplified this word, typed it in bold and enlarged the font until that word ran everything else off the page, out of my awareness. He said “meantime.” That is how I know something holy was underway, this word I have used and listened to and read countless times, it hit me right then that I had been languishing in the MEANtime.

Since this moment in church, the word has echoed and reverberated and made itself known in my thoughts. I’m trying to understand and live into that one word, to roll it around on my tongue and consider how I have become that very idea, how I have allowed that word to rule me instead of the Word of God. MEANtime. He said something about us resting in the meantimes of our lives and I was convicted right in that moment. Longing for what has already happened, waiting for what will be, the waiting for me is agony.  I suffer from an inability to live only in my current moments, not my desires, not my wishes, my views cast not forward to the possibilities, not backward to my sins, but my eyes fully filled with the joy however tiny in my midst.  The MEANtime, the time between where I was and where I am going.

Every time we set off for a trip, whether to Chef’s hometown an hour away or week long adventures to explore another state, Plum asks about 5 minutes in, “Are we there yet?” Wanting to be “there” where all good things surely reside, not being cooped up in a car seat, peering out the window as we pass what could be for the hope of something more interesting, more rewarding, anticipating the destination instead of enjoying the ride, that time becomes the MEANtime. In between when I was happy and the future joy I carry in my satchel of hopes, that space feels coated in hurts and worries and fear and discontent. Considering my moments as waiting for my dreams to happen rather than watching others I failed to imagine come to life before me, I miss joy. Is it any wonder the time feels mean, feels empty, feels as if disappointment reigns? Another moment I didn’t receive a call or text or email from my daughter, time appears wasted as the seconds fall into minutes and hours and days and weeks and now years of missed sunrises and butterflies hovering about the flowers on my porch, sitting in ugliness of those moments because I don’t have what I want. Would I remember to notice and savor the joys if all was really just as I want? It is true that my spirit is lighter when I am sharing a laugh with my daughter, but does that joy cause me still to miss what God is laying exactly in my path? What if getting what I want leads me to rest there and stop reaching for Him?

MEANtime is not about what is happening or not to me, although I have settled into that discomfortable space, registering and tracking all the despicable and dishonorable events, an ugly scrapbook of malicious and maligning moments that I can pull off the shelf to peruse in my least grateful moments. Because really that is it, to be in the MEANtime means I am devoid of gratitude, my ability to see and nurture blessings lost in the sensation of licking wounds and sharing my misery. Surely this time feels MEAN to God as well, appearing stuck in a railcar with Dementers who remove all joy from my soul, a crushing weight in the darkness that I select over the possibilities of  walking the trails filled with autumn reds and oranges and the sharp cries of bluebirds. Yes I have used this in between time to be mean, to fail to see and amplify His glory, to shout and sing about those flowers that emerged without my efforts and the sun that rises in spite of me and the gifts of the owl calling in the trees outside my bedroom as I drift off to sleep. Paul tells me to be content in all things, Paul doesn’t notice MEANtime, he rests in joy moments that are surely filled with aching muscles and tired eyes and too many days working without rest and yet he speaks only of contentment, of each moment as if it were the most important of his life. Paul has shared some time with Dementers as well, he is actively choosing joy. He doesn’t seem to be experiencing any MEAN time, even in prison.

I am stepping into his journey, this discovery of what the moment holds and what God wants me to hear. I am seeking out the gift of this day, this one right now, and praying that God’s timing allows for reconciliation as well. I am a work in progress, I still have my dreams. But I did notice the mums on the front porch today as Plum and I waited for the school bus and I lamented that he is soon to be 7. The flowers were shining bright yellow into our day even as the sky was overcast. Also, he may have a better appreciation of time, this child who squeezes out every second of playtime before the bus takes him away. I told him it is crazy, it is ridiculous that he is going to be 7 in only two weeks. My sweet little grandson, the child who brings me joy, replied, “But Gran, it is just an age.”

This is just an age, it doesn’t have to carry any other weight, it can just be what it is. It doesn’t have to be the MEANtime unless I choose that. Today I am leaning into the holy space of Magnificenttime. I pray you find your moments and seconds are filled with kindness and blessings today.

 

When 8 turns into 400

In a world that often says “no” or maybe “not right now” or “I need more information”, when I encounter “yeses” I notice. It stands out. Working with the King Food ministry at my church, I experience those “yeses” as members of the congregation purchase a box of meat and vegetables and snacks to donate to those in our community who are food insecure. Depositing congregant’s checks with the accountant each month as the folks who need the food are identified, I am often in the tension between too much food or too little, that place of needing more families or more boxes. The program is not smooth yet as I strive to streamline processes with too many moving parts on my own. Still, each month I am awed by the donations and see the impact of giving a family a week’s worth of food, knowing their monthly budget has been graciously and beautifully impacted. People say yes to purchasing as well as receiving and the ministry chugs on.

This month was different, this month challenged deeply my abilities and my beliefs. While we usually have several boxes to donate that I need to manage as well as the boxes for individuals within the church, this time a woman at church told me she wanted to order 8 to give away. Initially I was thrilled but then became concerned, could I find enough people, would they come and pick up at our church, where would I store any that did not get a home… basically I began to whine about my big problem of 8 extra boxes.  I was trying to run this ministry alone, without considering that I have only to ask others for help and God would call the ones to rise up. As typically happens, when I whine, my God begins to teach me about focusing on my self instead of Him.

Eight extra boxes, I said. Eight of the biggest box offered, the one that feeds a family of 4 dinner for a week. So much food at 40-60% off the retail price, these boxes are a definite blessing to those who struggle to feed their children. Yet I fretted and moaned and worried. I lost track of the blessing as I focused on the daunting struggle to move food boxes from the delivery truck into our church and get it to a home within the safety time limit. I fretted about it to anyone who listen, I stressed that I didn’t have enough contact with those who needed the food, that I didn’t have a structure in place for them to come get it, rather than relying on my delivery to their homes. Too many moving parts, I whined. Then the delivery was delayed, requiring more communication with each recipient as King Food ministry dealt with a truck shortage as most around the country had been pulled to help with hurricane relief efforts.  The distribution was pushed from Friday evening to Saturday morning at 6, then 8 and then 10 until finally we were told the truck had been in an accident and distribution would not happen. Frustrated, I sent everyone home with the promise of more information as I received it and an inner question about the worth and viability of this ministry. It felt too big for me to manage alone.

Almost as soon as I reached home, I discovered that the accident, just 10 minutes away,  meant the contents of the truck, 500 boxes, were to be trashed.  The Sheriff felt we couldn’t get it to another freezer site within the time limits established by the health department, unless someone acted immediately. My 8 boxes became 500. First a call to Chef who marshaled his resources to get a refrigerated truck and driver to meet me at the crash site, then a call to key church members who sent out a wider plea for assistance all while I rushed with my little Plum in 90 degree heat to persuade the sheriff to allow us to salvage that food. When the refrigerated portion of the truck was reattached and stabilized, the sheriff inspected a box and agreed that we could take the food, given that we had another refrigerated source onsite. A chain was created between the broken truck and the new one, the last person working Tetris magic to stow as much as possible within the smaller space. We salvaged close to 400 boxes. Now my 8 was 400. I needed a home for it all quickly. Chef had the answer again: the huge freezer space at the commissary where he works was provided as a holding area.

I whined about 8 or 9 or 11 boxes this month so I was given 400. I was handed the challenge of a broken box truck with a driver who was injured and not in his home state. I was shown that this ministry is greater than my small role, that many hands are required to do the work of God and that I can coordinate it all if only I reach out to my friends.  The extra 380 boxes went to the local food bank and to a transitional housing facility. Eight found their way through our ministry to the recipients initially identified, yet thousands will now benefit from this very different donation. I am confident that next month when I have only a handful to distribute I will remember that God is the provider, that I am merely a conduit. My role is to get the food to the hungry, not worry or fret or whine about numbers. We can do great things through Christ who strengthens us, even as He turns 8 into 400.

Deeper Breaths as I Inhale Hope

I began smoking again after close to two decades of not on the day of my daughter’s wedding, when my Chef and I along with my brother and sister-in-law were doing a pub crawl to drown our broken hearts at not being invited. I didn’t intend to add that horrible habit back into my list of vices, it just happened as most tumbles off the wagon do, with an offer for one, just to be crazy for the day, to be utterly rebellious, to illustrate just how deeply we devastated we were and maybe to scream at the God we were striving to find, even in our drunkenness. That first cigarette led to another as the day wore on and my sobriety returned. Serenity in the routine, lighting one up, slow deep breaths, as I sat alone, exiled, who wants to sit with a smoker? The habit returned and for a long time, for many many packs of those Kool Blue shorts, I welcomed it as an indicator of my brokenness. Could God find me if I lit this torch in the wilderness, would God seek me out again and bridge the divide between my daughter and I if I was covered in this ash of repentance? I sat alone on my porch day after day, waiting.

The practice of repentance smoking grew with my loneliness and ache. While I didn’t really want to smoke, I didn’t really not want to either. Lost in limbo, unable to garner enough concern to quit, I allowed my routines to become enmeshed with the craving, first thing in the morning with my coffee, after every meal, before bed. Many nights I would rise out of a deep sleep and go outside again, just to smoke and wonder what I could possibly do to change my relationship with Stella as I gazed at the stars she used to identify for me. As I continued to smoke and she didn’t reach out, I accepted the horrid breath and the smoky clothes and the coughing and the harm to my body as penance. I witnessed the disgust in my Chef’s eyes, I listened as he walked away from me, further and further. I accepted my punishment. I imagined scenarios of her returning home and me throwing away the coveted pack of Kool’s, tossing out my lighter. I experienced plenty of alone time to think and imagine as no one wanted to be around me during my puffing sessions, I didn’t want them there either. Fifteen minute retreats into despair spread throughout the day, moments for me to indulge in smoking and sulking.

After two and a half years though, I knew the punishment phase of my grieving had to stop. Just as laying in bed and letting the world continue without me hadn’t brought her back, no amount of nicotine would either. Finally, embracing my health for me, I chose to stop. I am edgy and twitchy and wishing for my vice and yet I am freer. I see the sad woman sitting alone, and I don’t want to be that sad anymore. I see how smoking was a slow suicide, a jumper on the edge of the bridge, begging someone to stop them, give them a reason to live. I recognize I have reasons other than my children, yet being their mom was my core identity. That portion sliced away left me too empty, the space filled up only with deep inhalations of smoke and then each slowed release of my devastation into the air, polluting my body and my surroundings, creating synchronicity.

Still I quit, the latest act of acceptance that I have no impact on this child ever walking across the bridge I have built. Filling my days with all those 15 minute retreats left me shamed and isolated, filling that spare time now is daunting. Attempting to break the habit of missing her, of wondering what I haven’t done that might work, imagining scenarios of her car in front of the house every time I turn the corner, dreaming of running into her at the store, always always  seeking her face, I now have to take deep breaths and recognize that I cannot break that addiction. My craving for relationships to be rebuilt, to be rejoined with those who have walked away, I cannot kick this one. No big cosmic reward for avoiding the gas station, not picking up the spare pack this time, not searching the trash for a butt and feeling that momentary aliveness, even as it escaped my lungs, no now I am left with truth as any addict finds, that my problems are still my problems, just without the high to carry me through.

My Plum was ecstatic, the few friends that I have told grew tearful and celebrated with me. Still, I seek something to fill the void, to remind me to take those deep breaths and release my toxins. If smoking was the symbol of the cancer within my relationship, how will anyone know I am in pieces still, that I have not closed this chapter even as I crumpled the last box of cigarettes and tossed them away, that the tumor still resides within my heart? Each burnt offering I lit and consumed, the incense of filth I blew around my altar to a God who is not taking my calls, has blocked me on social media, is too busy with hurricanes to check His voicemail, the ashtray and lighter, my addiction paraphernalia evidence of past sins and secret desperate wishes for a Savior.  I no longer attend the church of self punishment, I don’t tithe my pack a day as the offering plate of an overflowing ashtray sits waiting on the table, but what should I worship now? I gave  up smoking and still no Stella.

I know that my friends and pastors would tell me that God is near, that Jesus is walking this horrible time with me and mostly I know it is true. Maybe I all the way know but I think most days now I don’t want to search for God, I want a miracle. I am out of offerings and apologies, I grow cold and old and wasted as I wait to be rediscovered as worthy by those who have snubbed me out of their worlds like each cigarettes I smoked down to the filter, looking at it with a mix of surprise and disgust that I had allowed that habit to form. My patience has diminished with my lung capacity, I no longer wait in faith, I don’t walk with the assurance of one who is supported by a loving God. I gave God an ultimatum I think, bring her back or I slowly commit suicide. I blinked, I gave in, God doesn’t pay up on debts I create. So God and my daughter stay silent and I have extra time now to not be smoking and alone and still I wait for a sign that I made the right choice.

I quit smoking. I shed a bit more shame and stopped polluting me. Yet even as I discard all evidence of these toxic 2 and a half years, I know that healing will take longer. Damaged bodies and broken spirits must be handled with care, to minimize suffering and reduce further devastation. My soul is seeking a response from my Creator. Maybe once the smoke clears, I will see Him again, will notice that He cries along with me and aches at my brokenness, that He sits in anger at a child who refuses to forgive, who accepts grace but offers none.  I want to see that God but more, I just want Him to save us both from this hell. I believe He can do it, just as I finally trusted that I could get through the day without smoking. I did it, I quit smoking, a stumble of faith. Now I want to hear Him say I chose wisely, to embrace life over death.  I want my daughter to call, text, email, walk over the bridge and give up her addiction to righteousness.  My offer of grace remains, without limits or scorecards. Alone still on the porch, I wait.

And notice the leaves begin to tumble to the earth. And crickets singing as the night disappears. And remember that hope as tiny as the hummingbird that flits around the last blooms of summer still resides within me.

How My Husband Stopped My Pity Party

As someone who has sought comfort in knowing, who has turned toward education when faced with challenges, I have become more and more aware that I have approached my faith as an intellectual construct. In this age of ready access to information, advisors only a few keystrokes away, I trust that I can find the answers I seek to any conundrum. I know now this has hampered my ability to sit in the waiting, sit with not knowing, sit with silence. I am far too often in my head, too little time is spent truly tending to my soul. Difficult truths lie there, answers do not come so easily, so quickly. This time of slowed thinking, minimal screen time, reduced stimulation from outside has forced soul searching, maybe more painful than the original concussions that  necessitated the rest. The knowledge I crave, the up-to-minute news and constant flow of viewpoints from strangers keep me distracted and I want that back, I want to be distracted from admitting that I am harboring questions that have no easy answers and truths that are painful and I am wondering about a God who allows me to keep heading out to the wilderness with my bag full of disillusionment and discontent. Wouldn’t I be a better beacon of hope to finally be able to say that I have managed the crisis and now wow look where we are? Where we are, indeed, I can hear God whisper. It is clearly too quiet in my world.

It is too quiet in my world when I can hear wisdom from my Chef. I don’t seek advice there, that is not our natural flow. I am the source of knowledge, a rude admission, but I am strive to be honest here. It isn’t that I don’t think he has much to share, he just doesn’t trust himself over me to share it. Yet in the space created by my slowed processing on a difficult morning when I ranted about my hurts and frustrations and outlined the litany of complaints I carried regarding the state of my relationships and where was God truly in any of this (can you hear my rant, it wasn’t pretty) my Chef said he thought it was about expectation and expectancy. I stopped. I listened. Those two words were powerful and  true and convicting. I didn’t like him much in that moment. Who likes to be told the truth about their sorry selves when they are throwing a particularly ridiculous self pity party and have invited others to wear hats and sing songs to our own woeful lives? Emperor, you are naked, I heard. In my most mature voice I reminded him he needed to go get ready for his Sunday School class.

Still, those words have echoed and reverberated and refuse to leave me alone. I have been bound up in expectation of God. I have a list of chores I would like Him to complete,  neatly labeled, outlined in order of importance. Much as if I were to hand a list to Plum, I expect results. My results. Like when I asked the kids to clean up the toy room after they trashed it and they said they did. When I inspected, it was a disaster by my standards. Of course they were long gone and I put everything where I wanted it and the room met my expectations again, they did not. I obviously wasn’t clear enough with them but I am positive I have been crystal clear with God. But what if I explored expectancy? Honestly, I would rather not. But the word is bugging me and the concept is sticking around so I am starting to open up my mind to the possibilities and that may be the point.

Rather than giving my list to God, what if I asked God for a list? I think I mostly have, I have been faithful to calls to action in various ministries yet I think there is more. What if His list says wait? That is ugly. What if HIs list says trust? Seriously, can’t I just do more works? I know James tells us faith without deeds is dead but what about deeds without…faith? Can I squeeze by? What if His list says sit in expectancy, knowing that I am God and you are you and I am handling ALL and you need to manage only what I put in front of you each day, each hour, each minute? Ah, I have reached the point where I always end up, sense of control, the battle that God and I have, except it is always only me wrestling and God watching and wondering when I will ever get tired enough to stop my nonsense. Friends, I think I am getting tired.

I can’t think my way out of this mess, I can’t find an answer on any message board or listen to a podcast that will tell me what I secretly already know. I have a choice to make, expectation or expectancy.  I’ll keep you posted. I wonder if you have found yourself comfortable in either of those camps, a tent erected, fire smoldering, s’mores at the ready. If you are where I need to be, send up a signal, I might need help out of this wilderness. Also, PLEASE do not tell Chef I said he was wise. We have a delicate balance, no need to upset things. In exchange, I promise to continue to share his insights. Be well, friends, may your day hold enough silence and restoration that you might open up your expectations to allow space for the unknown. Just a tiny bit for us scared ones.

 

Why We don’t Pee in the Dog Pool

I saw a picture the other day of a vacuum cleaner that was still going strong after 40 years. Hundreds of comments were posted, admiring the beauty of this old machine that  with general maintenance and some loving acceptance of the noise it generates has lasted even with daily use. Many comments noted that memories of visits to grandma’s house include that equipment, nostalgia trips that felt cozy and stable during current unsure times. I was left wondering what future generations will recall of visits to grandma, what will be the lasting impression when our society has accepted the concept of disposability. Our mantra:  broken? buy a new one. New model has arrived? Get in line for the first release. I can see that this is where we lost the ability to offer grace, to be humble people,  to seek forgiveness. We have internalized the disposable ideology to include relationships with spouses, children, employers, most importantly with our Creator.

Babies learn object permanence between 4-7 months old. We are designed to spend, shy of a few months, the entirety of our lives understanding that just because we cannot see something, it still exists. We are created to look for what we know is missing, to seek out what was just in front of us, to search for what we know to be true.  To learn object permanence, stability must exist, same items around the house, the table in the same room every day, constancy of environment. When something breaks and we change up, we are teaching our children that broken means bad and new is better and then wonder why they whine at the store for a toy every time. No we did that, with our new phones and better watches and nicer shoes and fancier cars, with a new toaster and blender and vacuum. What could we teach them and remind ourselves if we leaned into the space of brokenness, if we struggled to fix what has stopped working?

I see broken people all around these days, marchers who are filled with hate and friends who post about hurting with depression, parents who are struggling to pay for school supplies and marriages that are on their last breathes. What if we stuck with each other in that broken place, what would that look like? I know I have worked hard to teach Plum personal responsibility, the old “you break it, you buy it” mentality. Just yesterday he went outside with me in the early morning, straight out of bed, no stopping for a potty break. He loves to pee outside among the bushes. I know, another post, different responsibility. Still, he got some wild idea to pretend he was one of the dogs and go about  the yard marking his territory, leaving his scent. Early morning, secluded yard, cover of darkness, all good until he chose to pee in the dog pool. Yes, that is where I drew the line. The dog wading pool where our beasts go to cool off after many romps across the grass catching the ball, chasing each other or just relax during the heat of the day. HE peed in their pool. When I told him he had to empty and refill the pool, he claimed it was an accident, he said it would be too hard to empty it, he looked for any way to slip out of his responsibility for the wrong doing. No matter, even if it had been unintentional which being half an acre away from the indoor plumbing we have graciously supplied for his bodily needs, several feet away from his normal hiding places in the bushes, the guilt was his. He aimed, he peed, he must fix. “But gran, it is too hard!”  Indeed.

As I watched him pull bucket after bucket from the urine infused water, I knew he wouldn’t do that again. He would not only chose more carefully what to destroy but also appreciate that we show respect for the belongings of others, that we fix what we destroy. Much like when he was attempting to throw tantrums early on, I allowed him to do so in his own room with his toys, encouraging him to break his things which would not be replaced but setting the boundary that tantrums and destruction would not be allowed in common areas. Incredulously, he told me he didn’t want to break HIS things! Of course not, and neither did I want to sacrifice mine. Thus, no tantrums. Patience, persistence comes in that very fixing, the moments or hours devoted to nothing else but concentrating on righting a wrong. Grace meets us in those places, when we are repentant, straining muscles of our own ego, dedicating ourselves to the task of restoration of another, to the parts we broke. Rushing the task like buying a new pool or for me to clean it out for him, speeds us on through our encounter with the Holy Spirit, our opportunity to ask for forgiveness and receive it.

We have broken the backs of our brothers and sisters of color, we have broken boundaries within our marriages, we have allowed children to be hungry and parents to struggle to provide even as they work 40 hours, we have hurt each other. Until we accept responsible and stop shifting blame, looking for wiggle room that eases our conscience and lets us zoom into new relationships without fixing what has been broken within the old ones, we are continuing to miss our own encounters with God. We cannot fast forward to the good parts, we cannot have memories of grandma’s long lasting sweeper if we don’t repair the hose along the way.  Those encounters with grace, those times we have restored what is broken, when we have admitted our own broken selves to another, fessed up to our sins, well, just like anything it gets easier the more you do it. A skill practiced, a habit built. Given my own history, I cannot hide behind false pretenses, say I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me. My sin is out there, yet it makes it even easier to confess more and more when I am wrong, to admit when my own impulses led me to pee in the pool. Further, the gift of grace that I receive so lovingly pushes me to share, I want everyone to feel those sweet moments that come from a cleansed soul, the relief of restoration, coming closer again to God rather than hiding in darkness and shame. Grace is an investment God has made in me, one He urges me to make in others. But first must come confession.

Friends, have you hurt someone? Like a crystal heirloom vase you knocked over as you raced through the day, it cannot be swept under the rug and ignored without cutting someone’s feet. Go get that sweeper, fix the mess, own up to what you have done, make restitution.  It won’t be easy, it may take time away from other fun exciting events, you may have to listen to the vase owner’s hurt and disappointment for longer than you wish. Still, stick with it. Grace will find you right there. The alternative is just more brokenness, more pools filled with pee, more cut feet, more hurting people. Shall we work on restoring, shall we remember to value what we have, can we commit to just a bit less disposing of what really matters? Lets take some tender time with each other and listen as the Holy Spirit guides toward grace. All the best memories reside right in that place.