Ruth and Naomi

I have been reading the book of Ruth lately, digging into the story of two women who united under extreme circumstances. I find myself coming back to this story often, I know the deeper meaning of the players and God’s call for us. Still, I just really like Naomi and Ruth, I understand them beyond the surface level of the story. The funky boundaries of their relationship, the strength of their characters, the hardships that they faced together, these women were rock stars. I want them at my dinner parties, I know women like them. In fact, I surround myself with Naomi and Ruth in friendships, in classes I attend, in groups I am drawn to. I love these women. They show up, they ache, they are loud and are shy, they just keep doing the next right thing even though they carry a history that hurts and a fear for what their children are doing right now. They pull me aside and share their brokenness because I tell mine here, they know we will recognize each other. Still, the story or Ruth and Naomi is about more to me, a guidebook of how to love in the midst of hardship and the world questioning your right to, a society that says go back to your own people, a story that tells of a love that goes beyond blood and into the souls of women.

My own relationship with Mama defies explanation, is one of the purest examples of the power of prayer and a view of real redemption. We have struggled together to find our way in the wilderness, she was left “widowed” almost as soon as she discovered our Plum was growing within her womb. Chef and I offered safe haven about 7 1/2 years ago now, we have been offering the same ever since. She and I are our own Naomi and Ruth, gleaning what is good from the fields of our history, a bond that is so strong and fragile on any given day, yet forged by God thus unbreakable. Mama and I met when she was at her lowest, we have found ways to take each other even lower. We have hurt and healed each other in ways that only women can. Words that wound and leave scars have been flung out in anger and fear. We also have spoken sweetly and at the most tender times, messages that bore truth so fiercely the walls melted away. This bond is what happens when God gets involved, when God says I will not allow you two to break what I have chosen to stand. Despite all of our best efforts to destroy our relationship on any given day, any given year, we have survived and are bound together not just in our love for Plum but the underlying love for each other.

Now that she has married this wonderful new man with a full family in tow, has a new baby, Sweetness, my place in her life is once again a battlefield. Blessedly, this time it is not us warring. Who wouldn’t, if you have not journeyed with us all these years, wonder why in the world she calls me instead of a different grandma or brand new sisters? Why does she allow me into her heart when others are kept at bay? I won’t share Mama’s story here, what I can say is that building and destroying trust and trying to rebuild it is not for the impatient, results are not immediate. Isn’t this true of all parenting? The seeds we sow at the earliest ages are what we find sprouting in adolescence, rarely do we get the behavior turn around from a time-out in the blink of an eye. We stay with it, we keep trying. We do the next right thing and own when we did all the wrong things and admit we were just too tired and hungry and lonely to even have a conversation so please don’t talk to us when we look like that again. We admit our humanity and we show humility. Because those characteristics are what we want to see in our children. Mama and I have learned each other’s hungry faces, too tired to talk voices, we have learned the silent signals and where all the land mines are. We have found that hurting each other is so horrible we can no longer bear to do that, loving each other is too dear, we must continue. Doing so is work, I know I drive her crazy and there is a really big obstacle called my son in the way many days. Still she knows that more than anyone on this earth, I want her to succeed. I am invested in her being the best mama ever. She knows that I don’t visit her to judge her progress but to delight in her love for her family. She trusts that I never carry a scorecard to document her wrongs but rather a camera to catch her family loving laughing snuggling. She wants me to see her doing this, my soul aches to see her see me seeing it. Together we know how critical it is that she be affirmed as mama, that she not be undermined at this important time in her daughter’s life. We have journeyed here before. Traveling together on this road is much much sweeter while she holds and loves and coos at her baby, I take the pictures. My need is not to hold Sweetness, my soul yearns to see her do so with this confidence. Thus, she allows me in, a spectator a witness someone to document this time around because I was there before. Naomi and Ruth bound together searching for scraps of nourishment, feeding each other’s souls. I get it.

Mama doesn’t let others in so readily, she carries many wounds. She doesn’t broadcast them for all, she is protective of her story and her family. Oh Lord loving our children is hard, isn’t it? We just want in, they want boundaries and schedules and to be seen as adults with the ability to make choices that are respected. We see children playing house until we are forced into acknowledging our baby has grown, our work there is done, we no longer can give a time out. Forging a new relationship with an adult child requires respecting limits we don’t like, we may be put in the thinking chair, our desire to speak may be rejected. No longer in control, we find ourselves suddenly wondering what happened, where did we go wrong, even try to affix blame on the interloper, the new spouse. We lose sight of the fact that we have actually succeeded in launching our child into the world, we can now sit back and drink wine on the porch and do hardly any laundry and the house stays neater. We find our own women friends again. Just as we do, the phone will ring and a question is asked. Do you think she may have a fever? What would you do about this stain? You find you are invited to step in just a bit, you must control the desire to rush forward and do the laundry and make the dinner and hold the baby. Go drink your wine and just listen. I imagine Ruth and Naomi spent many hours talking to each other, more was spent listening. Those silent places are where holiness happens.

When Ruth went out into the fields, when she later married Boaz, she didn’t leave Naomi behind. Their relationship was cemented in the journey of hardship and loss and pain and tears, all those long talks and shared worries about where the next meal may come from and how much they ached over the Ruth’s husband no longer being around, Naomi’s son gone from them. These two women were bound together thus when Ruth began her new life, she took her “mother” with her. During a time when bloodlines really mattered, this is an incredible story. The graciousness of Boaz is remarkable. Today, families are scattered like those barley seeds that Ruth labored to harvest, bloodlines are even more messy. Today to have two women like Mama and I bound together after so many fractures and obstacles is surely the work of God. We are blessed that our real life Boaz accepts our relationship. We are blessed to have each other. Just this Sunday as we sat in church together, I gloried in how ridiculous our family tree at that moment was and how amazing God is at sticking folks together. Later as Mama sat outside the sanctuary and sobbed because her gift to me on Mother’s Day was not good enough, sobbed because my children were not seeing in me what she does, I could only remember those two women long long ago who found a way through famine and loss and hardship with only their faith to carry them. Mama’s gift to me is more pure than a bouquet or a bottle of perfume, it is the inclusion into her journey. It is the gift of trust that comes only through fire that has singed us all but left nonsense in the ashes and what matters most stronger and standing.

Isn’t it amazing that the story of Ruth and Naomi is what is shared at weddings? The story of love that is selfless and outside of convention, the story of women who understand that listening is every bit as important as talking and honoring looks different than showing up on one day each year with a card or flowers. Time to build trust and following each other along the path of God is surely the only way in to lasting relationship. Mama and I have journeyed long to get to Bethlehem and I know there is room in the city for others to join us. May they come and sit patiently, may they wait for their invitation to dine on the barley seeds, may they accept the gifts of love that come from the deepest parts of a young mother’s soul. It is worth the journey, I promise.

 

Ahead of Myself

In a family where impulsiveness runs as sure as blue eyes, we know all about fresh starts and second chances and the power of forgetting that last act that was out of character. We understand each other, we often ask, “Did you get ahead of yourself?” and then give space for the offender to catch up. We move too quickly through life which generally serves us well: Stella began reading on her own at age 4 after crawling at 3 months and walking at 8 months. Arrow was not to be left in the dust and walked at 9 months, he chose not to read until kindergarten and then jumped to 3rd grade level with a couple months of special attention. Plum is no different, he finds controlling those impulses a daily battle won mostly at school and often lost at home. We are not smarter, just process quickly and then act, but when we act and then process, mistakes happen. We get ahead of ourselves. Within the confines of our home, we understand this and sprinkle grace about, understanding eyes shine on each other as we throw away the memories of the last unfortunate toss of flour onto the counters and beasts or spray of water onto the bathroom floor, we know better and are better and mostly do better but sometimes the urges overwhelm us. The floor is wet, the counter is covered with dust and we wake as if from a trance and wonder what In God’s name just happened. Have you ever been there?

Arrow was actually diagnosed with ADHD as a child, Stella received her ADD status as a young adult, gifts surely given to them from my blood line but I am not counting out the pesticides from all the fruits and vegetables I fed them as children. That doesn’t explain my inability to act outside of the fog sometimes, surely my brain was not still permeable by these chemicals? Age is not helping, stress an even greater factor. More and more I find I have gotten ahead of myself with disastrous results, whether in conversation or in action. It seems I so very often am seeking that sprinkling of grace and those understanding eyes from others who may not know I moved a little too quickly and left my reason behind. At this rate, I fear I will be tottering old lady saying quite inappropriate things to strangers at an alarming rate without even a chance to come out of the fog. As my body slows, my mind is directly proportionally racing. It doesn’t bode well.

Yesterday I wrote here on my blog and didn’t do the final edit before it was time to join the family again for the 7,000,000th time to fix breakfast, check the iPad settings, let the beasts in and out, refill Plum’s milk, feed the cats and finally give up and head out to the church sale and the errands that awaited us all. Later as Plum and Chef were getting haircuts, I sat in the sun and remembered I hadn’t published my post and went to the app on my phone and hit the button and all was well as I sat in the glorious sunshine and breathed for a moment, just one moment of peace in a crazy morning. That was my trance, looking back now, that snippet of time sitting on the sidewalk alone with no distractions I went into a different brain place that was not good even though it all seemed so lovely. I had forgotten that I didn’t edit, that I wasn’t ready to publish. Nothing in my memory spoke up and said stop, wait, slow down consider, nothing. I just hit the button and the internet was allowed to read not only my blog post for the day but my personal journal writings. EEK! Retract, squash, withdraw. Except one cannot undo such a public step, this blast of speed was not within my kitchen, was not just flour all over  my countertops in a fit of abandon but a recording of my deeper musings caked into emails that I couldn’t scrub clean.

As I sat with Plum and Chef eating lunch at Taco Bell where the little prince had requested 4 soft shells tacos and was only eating two because he was consumed with the sauce packets he was teasing his grandfather with, we discussed the names on the brightly colored challenges to Chef’s palette. Mild, hot, fire, diablo, Chef tasted them in progression and made increasingly disturbing faces to the delight of the boy who was being initiated into testosterone dares. I was focusing on the cute messages on each packet and then settled on the hottest, asking if Plum knew what diablo meant. A wonderful opportunity to discuss good and evil, the role the devil plays in our choices, how we battle Satan in our daily choices and then my phone rang. Generally I wouldn’t answer during a meal but given the name on the screen, I chose to this time and that was God right there in Taco Bell, because that caller alerted me that I was way so far ahead of myself that I needed to pull myself back and check my blog. Immediately I realized what I had done, emerging from the trance like splashed with icy water, the furious deleting began. Still, emails existed that couldn’t be recalled. Thus, the ask for grace, the wondering if I had been working for diablo, how could I have chosen the wrong army?

What I know is this, edit, edit and edit some more. But more than that, God is in the mistakes also, in those holy moments when we sometimes show our truer selves and speak our deeper truths. Those messy dirty places can be washed clean but only if we bring them out in the open and let some light and water and air come to them. I certainly wouldn’t advise posting journal entries on the internet but mistakes happen and grace is given and pausing to seek God is especially important. I have also known lately that I am moving too quickly without giving enough thought to my actions, I am running from ghosts and hurts and am begging for retreat alongside some still quiet waters. Just this week I mistakenly picked up a homeless man instead of the gentleman from our church outside of a clinic who needed a ride home after a minor surgery. What could have been really dangerous or mildly disastrous turned out to be somewhat hilarious but still, I was too distracted to be in the moment, the trance had me and I was unaware.

I know this also, I am blessed with such a beautiful friend who loves me enough to call me and say wake up you absolute fool, my words not hers, but the message nonetheless. I am blessed with other friends who replied to my email saying they deleted the first one with offers of grace and support. I am blessed to have a former resident pastor who still shepherds me from afar who put context and wisdom onto my mistake.  I am blessed with the knowledge that I was not choosing to be on the diablo side, just not actively choosing God’s army either and I have more work to do there. Mild sauce is not good enough, I need to be cold and clean and clear with my words to avoid hurting others. I need to be awake, have my impulses in check, not so far ahead of myself that I coat others in the dust of pain. There are only so many times I can ask for grace for that, only so many times for second chances.

The still quiet waters are beckoning me, escape from the world and into retreat with God. I believe it is time I accept the invitation into that trance.

Becoming a Tree

Leaves have emerged onto the branches of the giant old tree in my back yard, I must have slept while it happened. Barren all winter waiting for spring, then brilliant red buds lined the wood as it reached across my yard and into the sky. Every year I plan to watch for the moment those promises turn to leaves, to see evidence of hope long buried sprouting into shade for giggling children on the trampoline. I miss out each year, it happens without me. The tree doesn’t need a witness to change, it needs no applause or  pictures to capture the stunning developments. The tree does as God asks, through every season, without complaint, shedding losing growing deep in the soil where no one can see and reaching high into the heavens. The tree allows nails to pierce it’s trunk as planks are applied for little feet to climb, it allows tiny growth to be pulled and plucked by a little boy who grabs hold and explores. The tree is steady in purpose, providing comfort and shelter and the joy of seasons to all who venture near. I can hear God asking me to be this tree.

How does one truly accept all that has come before, all the seasons and the plucking and the piercing? Forgiveness. Ugly horrible painful deep real forgiving of the people who have hurt me because otherwise I remain like a weed, sprouting up each summer in danger of being trampled, being poisoned, carrying my own prickly edges of protection that hurt bare feet and hearts that come too close. Without forgiveness I cannot accept that I am where I am supposed to be, I am who I am supposed to be. What if just one life event were different? What if I were not a childhood sexual abuse survivor? Would my heart really seek out the quiet children others miss? Would I understand the acting out teen who is yearning to tell a secret and deathly afraid to do so? Would I join in the slut shaming movement instead of wondering how this young woman learned to use her body to gain love? Becoming like the tree is to gain that perspective on my life, to forgive all that has come before and embrace the very soil that feeds my roots.

I have abhorred my father for longer now than he was alive, longer than I was with him. My hate has always been justified in the horrific things he did and allowed others to do. But what if I were to see him as damaged also? What if I go back a generation further? He was a child once, he was 6 years old once just as my cherished Plum is now. He was worthy of love and hopes and dreams, did anyone tell him that? What broke in him that he emerged as a hurting adult? That inner little boy must have been devastated at how his life evolved, how he was hurting his own children. That image breaks me, I can relate to that sorrow. I found a connection to my father. I found a way in to forgiveness.  My tree is growing roots.

I have avoided any mention of my exhusband, a chapter of my life best forgotten. Yet my children came from that union, gifts that bear the sweetest fruit and the most painful thorns. Much hasn’t been resolved from that rushed marriage and the even speedier dissolution, so many points where events could have turned right instead of left with only a different choice from him. Still, I know where he came from, I know who he is. Thirty-five years is a long time to be disappointed in someone for not being more, not being stronger. The truth is, it was never about him, it was always about me. He wasn’t enough for me, I chose wrong. I can forgive him for not being the right person because it was the wrong union, like a tiger and a frog marrying, never a chance for success, someone was always going to be destroyed. All fallout from that marriage is ash or glitter, burning bridges or sparkling promises of the future. He still influences the children, yet I am grateful that he gave them to me in the first place. I can offer forgiveness to him for not being strong enough to help me, then or ever, it wasn’t really his calling. I forgive myself for seeking refuge in the union, I know what I was escaping from, I was only looking back, not where I was headed. I brought devastation to us all. My tree is growing stronger.

The events surrounding my journey into prison are so rife with spots of intervention, my God I wanted someone to rescue me. The double life was exhausting, I have never possessed the ability to hide my feelings well, how could everyone miss what was happening? Furthermore, how could I not trust ANYONE? Surrounded by professionals who could have saved me, healed me, believed me, I chose the path of secrets and pain and the ugliest spiral into darkness. I have no need to forgive those who missed my tear-stained face or my anxiety or my bloody panties in the trash can, I am long beyond holding anyone else accountable. It was all me. Can I forgive myself for not screaming? Can I forgive myself for not going to the next person and the next until someone heard me? Deeper still, can I forgive him? He was once a child, like my father, that someone wanted more for. The sickness with which I sought out abusers so I could be the perfect victim is appalling, fuels my marching and protesting and shouted chants. I have to be heard now, I won’t be silent. Is this not what God wanted me to learn? I do not need rescuing, I am my own savior, I am strong enough. Without this experience I would be on a markedly different path, I would certainly not be married to Chef, not be involved in my church, in the deep meaningful relationships with women who have molded me. I would not care about prisoners who are locked away and forgotten, I would not understand to serve a replica prison meal before the showing of the documentary “13th” at church. My soul without these deep broken places would not feel and notice the aches of others, I cannot believe I would care as deeply. I am those lepers, I am those on lists who check boxes and struggle to ever be employed or respected. Can I accept that my brokenness brought me to an alternate wholeness? Only through real forgiveness for what happened on a dirty mattress in a filthy apartment when God cried out with me. Forgiving that moment brings buds of hope, as surely as Jesus shed blood on the cross to give us all new life. Those seconds as I watched the ceiling My God was still with me, waiting for me to realize I was more, I was meant for joy and comfort and purpose. Such a patient God, through the long seasons as I am stripped bare and forget that summer comes and I am His and my body is not for this. He has long forgiven my horrific choice to accept so little from life, to forget to reach up and out. Peaceful gratitude swells within as I offer up my branches now to the God who has shown me I never have to allow anyone to cut into my soul again. Forgiving myself, my rapist and the God I thought did not protect me, my tree grows strong and sturdy.

The ugliest times in my life are the very parts that move me into action, into growth. Those branches that look dead in winter sprout new buds and then leaves, providing shade and comfort for the weary and the rowdy. I rarely can see when I move from bud to full leafy coverage, God moves swiftly. A call, an ask, I am fully vested into areas of ministry before I realize that I have grown and pushed myself deeper into soil and out further into the sky. I am the tree that stays steady through the seasons, planted exactly where I am meant to be. The pains of my past are piercing and purposeful, certainly God did not orchestrate the horrors but will use what I give him to bring beauty and glory to His world. All He asks is that I stay planted right where I am, that I trust that I can bear the seasons, that I watch for the buds to emerge.  Children will giggle around me, birds will nest about me. Life happens in trees, all of life.

I don’t need pictures or applause to document my changing and growth, I don’t need anyone to notice that I have moved into a new season. Trees don’t long to be planted elsewhere, they don’t yearn for the leaves shed last autumn or the one before. God is asking me to be this tree, to be right here, right now, and know that He is with me. My heart wants to be obedient to this ever present God. Still, those leaves that have fallen away… a certain wistfulness and ache remains. Clearly my work as a solid tree of faith is just beginning. This season of renewal in Him brings peace in releasing the weight of the past, a peace in embracing this moment, as I wait for the birds to nest.

Interruptions: Opportunity or Annoyance?

Some people divide the world into haves and have nots, others into groups based on color or who we love, maybe the separating lines are which team you root for on Sunday afternoon. For me it is this: Are you an interrupter or one who listens with intentionality? Now some may argue that this is not an important issue during these times of political and environmental unrest, when it is imperative that voices of truth be heard above the forces that would shut them down. Sing it, Sista! I do hear you. Still, I know that my life has been marked by interruptions, the significant points in my journey are all places where I was stopped unexpectedly while moseying along or speeding forward with mission focus. Then, bam, slam, screeching brakes and my progress is interrupted. I know these events have given me opportunities for growth but only through much pain and most often the loss of that plan in exchange for a new one. So when I am talking with someone and I get interrupted, maybe not the first time but if it is a habit of theirs, my skin gets itchy, sweaty chills cover my body, I feel the rage building. Enough with the delays, I just want my turn to go, go, go.

My first recollection of being cut short was in elementary school when my parents divorced. Clearly as the child of sexual abuse, I can assert that my entire life plan was disturbed by the horrific actions of others, a waylaying of the dreams that God had for me. Maybe that overarching trauma is why the little and huge delays are focal points for me. Still, at my elementary school, all the grades were together with little desks and smaller chairs and access tot he smaller playgrounds, except the 5th graders. They learned and played in the new big wing that was glorious and had larger desks and the pencil sharpeners were higher on the wall and the playground had no fence.  The goal of every child was to be a 5th grader, to own that school with our evident importance, to be the ones allowed to walk through the halls delivering notes and passes and look condescendingly down at all our poor small brothers and sisters, to collect their wishes as we walked by, knowing we were at the peak. I longed to be in that wing, I just couldn’t wait to have those teachers who seemed to dress smarter and have better supplies. I wanted to have the confidence I knew came with an assignment in that hallway. Then my parents divorced and we moved the summer before my 5th grade year and I lost my school. I am sure my mother had no idea of the gravity of this move, how changing schools systems interrupted my reaching those dreams. I almost made it, I did the work, I suffered the withering looks of older kids, I never reached that wing. Matters were made worse by the completely alternative school setting I then attended, I have written about that and the saving grace of my friend Lisa. Still, I didn’t recover well, my progress was interrupted and it took some time to regain my footing.

Later, in high school, I had to graduate early and enroll in college classes in order to maintain Social Security benefits that would pay for my education. The final semester, the one I had intentionally left full of fluff classes, having taken everything I actually needed to complete all the requirements during all the packed semesters before, gone in an instant. I no longer went to school with friends who were skipping out and planning prom, I was thrust into college courses with people who drove to school and then went to jobs, not my dream of college either. A long delay that broke my spirit and left me out of step and alone. The haunting of 5th grade, I knew these ghosts but couldn’t find a way to make the change good, to see the opportunities afforded me.

Later, I married before I graduated from college, seemingly unable to now finish with the same group I started with, an unconscious force requiring that I break it off with education just when things were getting really good. I got pregnant during grad school, and chose to delay my studies, a 3 year program turned into 4.  I have written much on how I derailed my career, but through the lens of interruptions, I can see that I have a certain inability to cross the finish line, at least on time.

I know also that my most important, most dear life plan ever has been critically interrupted. It could be argued that the suspension came when I sat in jail and my children waited at home. It could be argued the interruption came when I couldn’t sing to them at night or hold them on my lap or make snacks or carry them on my hip as I busied about the house. I can see now that the line was just fuzzy, that I was not accepting a disconnection. I maintained all routes of communication and was blessed with weekly visits. Still, 2 1/2 years were lost. The real interruption wouldn’t come for 20 years.

It is clear to me now that when I am speaking, I just want to be heard. I value those who listen without preparing their response before the words have left my mouth. I crave the presence of those who are comfortable with silence, who can allow space for thoughts to form and ideas to percolate. I find solace in relationships where careful consideration is given to the message, where effort is expended in determining meaning. How much is missed when we stop another short in our quest to ask a question, force our ideas into the air that was carrying theirs? Like a fan that circulates the dust particles around the room, nothing ever lands, nothing is heard when everything stays swirling. Conversely, the quiet, the listening, the actual hearing, that is grace. Holiness happens in the moments where truth can be spoken, when we meet each other at the altar of our own hard stuff and find there is room for all of us. No need to push or shove aside to get our truth spoken, we find many truths can co-exist, we find the answers to questions come if we wait.  So folks who practice interrupting or have trouble with silence are hard for me to be around.

Lately I have been so taken with the concept of being present, really aware of the moment I am in. I want to look forward to the 5th grade hallway or the day my children and I are reconciled. I want to rush forward to when everything will be better, trying to get through this long interruption and back to my real life. But what if this IS my life? This very moment when Plum sits on my lap and I type around him, his long legs now almost reaching the floor, his wiggling bottom indicating he needs to pee, the smell of little boy filling my lungs and soul as he rests his sleepy head against my chest. This is my moment right now, my life within the interruption, my opportunity to detour and find a new path. Because the truth is that the new school in 5th grade brought me a life long friend. Going to college early may have saved my life, I was drinking and driving and on a poor choice path. I left grad school to spend a year with my daughter, one I will never regret. Those interruptions were also opportunities for me to check my trip outline, to see that other options were better suited for me.

Maybe my battle with interrupters is not completely fair. I may have lost sight that sometimes I need the air to be circulated, I need someone to help me pause. Because my thoughts can go on for too long in the wrong direction, a gentle “Um, Lisa, can I get a word in?” may be just the thing. I sat in on a meeting a few days ago and listened as my good friend who is quieter seemed to struggle to be heard in the larger more vocal group. My own Chef repeatedly jumped in when she was speaking. Later as we processed the event, he had no idea, said he was supporting her words, her truth. When he apologized to her, she was completely unaware and did not experience it that way. Her take: maybe I am just a bit sensitive in that area. Ouch. So the jury is out for me and interruptions. I don’t have resolution on my big pet peeve, except to know I am working on being here right now and hope that you can join me in this space. I am really curious how others experience interruptions, how conversation flow affects you.  Thoughts, comments, go! Are interrupters an either/or bad/good deal breaker or necessary to keep the conversation going?

Waiting

I stumbled across an Easter activity on Pinterest that I was sure would make the season more about Jesus and less about the bunny for Plum. You have probably seen it, the one where you dip a marshmallow in water, roll it in cinnamon sugar and then wrap it in a crescent roll and bake it for about 7-8 minutes. The concept is all about the disbelief the disciples had, the lack of trust that Jesus would really be who He said He was. They prepared His body for burial anyway, not understanding He would not stay in the grave. So the marshmallow (Jesus) disappears when we open the robes after some time in the tomb. (I got a bit twitchy about the oven being the tomb but that is my adult awareness, I didn’t share that with my Plum.) He was with me for the entire process of preparation and was all about exploring the rolls, looking for Jesus after they came out of the oven. The waiting, though, which I thought we would do, chairs pulled up to the oven window, watching the slow process of dough puffing and browning, nope. He was out. He couldn’t stay with it for that long. I will admit my timing was off, he was involved in other things, but still, I wanted to tell him if he didn’t sit with me and watch he didn’t get to eat any Jesus rolls after! That didn’t sound right to my own ears, felt just a bit creepy, so he was allowed to play Lego while I cleaned up our mess and kept watch. Next year we will try again and I will enforce the waiting part, that is what living in Saturday, after Good Friday and before the dawn of the Glory of Easter Sunday is, the waiting, slow agonizing empty waiting.

We have a Keurig, it sits in the closet. We decided the expense and the waste were not acceptable to us, we went back to a regular old pot and grinder to make our morning coffee. While I can sit in comfort knowing I am helping the environment with this little step, I must admit I hate the coffee maker every single morning and secretly dream of pulling the faster more efficient machine out, EVERY SINGLE MORNING. In fact Chef just admitted maybe we should use it just for my first cup, while I wait for the pot to brew. Because I don’t wait for the entire pot to fill, as soon as enough liquid has filled the bottom of the carafe, the pot is pulled, my cup is filled and the mess begins. Our machine still sends drips without the pot to catch it, I know the mess is coming, it is acceptable to me each morning as I struggle to wake. I just can’t wait. Or more accurately, I won’t. So towels are at the ready, the mess is wiped as I sip and I always get the strongest of the brew, when Chef reaches for the pot it is mostly black water. There, you are privy to my ugly coffee routine, an inability to wait and share and not be messy. And I am the one who wants to give Plum lessons in the importance of waiting? Do as I say, not as I do, right? IF only it were just a first thing in the morning issue for me, if I were a paragon of patience and trust the rest of the day, I might have more credibility. The truth is, I think I would have been right there with those disciples, lost angry seeking a new direction without my leader. I spend too much time there now and I already know what happens when the rock is rolled away from the tomb, when the crescent roll is broken open. I really should trust more, the waiting should come easier for those of us who know the truth. But Saturdays abound in my life, like early mornings without a Keurig.

Not to take anything away from Good Friday, but this is the harder day for me. I can mourn with the best of them, but waiting is just about the worst thing my Jesus can ask me to do. I don’t want to have down time to think, to feel, to acknowledge my pain and mortality and my sins. Instead I bustle around, wipe the countertops, make a casserole and scroll through Twitter to find others who agree with me about the sins of our leader. More comfortable looking outward while I clean up my coffee splatters, I scour Pinterest for ways to bring more Jesus into Plum’s life.  Move along, push through, avoid avoid avoid. Yet my Saturdays come in the evening, when Plum is in bed or at Mama’s and I am alone without any more energy to bustle and the house is wiped and maybe my wine glass is filled. I’ve been stuck in a very long Saturday of waiting for others to wake up from counting my sins and accepting the glory of a Jesus who has given us all more grace than we can put in our Easter baskets, too much grace like the plastic grass we buy to fill up baskets of candies and little trinkets for kids to find when they wake Easter morning. Grace that always hangs over and despite our best efforts is cleaned up for days afterward, found stuck to our shoes, peeking out of purses and clinging onto our best dresses, a strand between the couch cushions. That grace like the staticy plastic grass sticks to us and to everything it touches, transferred from my hands to the Beast’s fur as I reach down to pet their horrible selves, is transferred to my car on the way to church Sunday morning and left on one of the chairs, maybe the one where the lady who never smiles at me sits or the man who knows me from before will rest. Will they pull the strand away and know they are given the chance to forgive? It really only comes when we sit alone on this Saturday, our basket empty, wishing we had grass and grace and forgiveness and a second chance to say the right thing and not say all the wrong things and the opportunity to read a book to the most ill behaved child in Sunday school. Grace is really only ours when we give it away, like the disappearing marshmallow that still tastes so sweet in the rolls. Waiting for our grace and our baskets to be filled means we have to just be alone, empty, watching the rolls get brown while everyone else goes about their lives and we are aching. We are called to sit wondering how we could have missed the chance to say, “No no, I know how this ends, stick with me, He is who He says HE is, we can trust Him with our everything.” Because tomorrow we will sing glory glory but on Monday will we? On Monday will we worry and fret and stew over whether our children will ever speak to us again, if the job is going to end, if the president is going to lead us into another war, and we forget that we are called to trust in Him. We forget on Monday that we must forgive the car who parks ridiculously and the person who doesn’t take their cart back at the store and the person who always always replies to all instead of just the original sender on an email to 50 people. We forget because we rush through our Saturday and we throw away that grass that annoys us. We don’t notice our grace chances when the sugar high is over.

Tomorrow we will discover that the tomb is empty, that the promises are fulfilled. The crescent roll lesson is not lost on me, I am committing to waiting today. Waiting for this long Saturday of aching searching emptiness to show me the ways I can offer more grace not just tomorrow when everyone looks their best, but on Monday and Tuesday and the days that follow, when we all have a bit of sugar low and grass stuck to our shoes. Maybe, just maybe, my children will find their own awareness of all they ways they have been forgiven. That is between them and their own marshmallow experiment. Just as I couldn’t force my Plum to sit with me, I can’t make them wake up to grace. I can pray a stray bit of plastic grass finds them, all the way from me.

My friends, I pray you embrace this lonely day of waiting, that we might truly feel the glory of the empty tomb. I pray your day is not just filled with egg boiling and ham prepping, but real soul searching. It is a hard day, by design. Still, we know that tomorrow will bring song and fancy clothes. Sit with me in our Saturday, friends as we watch the dough rise.

Wheels Off

At the end of last summer Plum and I decided it was time for him to lose the training wheels on the bike Janet’s children had outgrown and donated to us. Wrenches were found, bolts tugged, the extra supports for riding his bike were gone. Helmet and Gran snuggly attached, he eased down the driveway and onto the street. Several trips back and forth, he was so close. Lacking confidence though, he wasn’t ready to ride away from me. I didn’t communicate that confidence. I saw my little grandson, that baby, on a dangerous machine, traveling on roads with other vehicles trying only to crash into him. I saw rocks that would catch his tire and fling him 100 feet into the air and I couldn’t run fast enough to catch him. I saw other horrid children on their own bikes teaching him bad tricks like no hands and standing up and going ever faster away from me. My mouth said things like, “You’ve got this!” but the hand on his back surely said, “No no honey not yet.” I am not the teacher of next steps. The training wheels were reattached. Summer ended, winter came, a new spring is here. God knows our needs and gave us a Chef.

Yesterday the sun was warm and the breeze was light, the bus brought us a Plum and Chef decided it was the day. He didn’t warn either of us. Plum said no. I said no, only in my mind. Maybe my eyes said that as well to Chef but he wasn’t looking at me. Out loud I said to Plum I actually didn’t want him to ride with no training wheels because then I couldn’t keep up with him, I wasn’t sure of his speed. He said yes, gramps let’s go. I know I am not the teacher but I have a role to play as supporter, of gentle nudger. They found the wrench while I found a chair. As I got situated in the driveway for what was sure to be a long lesson and tears and several falls, I wondered if I should get band-aids ready, hide them in my pocket. Maybe an ice bag, no that would melt, a bit warm out. Still, as they prepared to ride, I prepared for the fall. He didn’t.

Within 5 minutes of Chef taking off the extra wheels, Plum was gone down the street, victorious and free. I missed the first joyous bit of freedom because I was still getting ready. He already was. This could be a story about the amazing teaching ability of Chef. It could be a story about waiting until a child is really ready before setting them up for a task. It really is a story though about understanding again and again that our children are meant to ride away from us. They may need a nudge, help removing the wheels, a more supportive hand on the shoulder, but ultimately, they must to go. As they leave, they need to know we are not sitting with the first aid kit in our lap, that kind of readiness does not speak confidence in their skills but rather our own inability to let a skinned knee be shouted to all that achievement is theirs. Covering every last boo boo also hides their hard work. I forget the air is healing for those scrapes also.

With twinkling eyes, Plum rode up to me as I sat in the driveway. My God he looks like his father. He arches one eyebrow, gives me a saucy wink and says, “Didja see that, Gran?   I just burned out my tire.” Yes, yes, my sweet, I saw. I saw you riding away and I know you will ride further and further and still I will sit here for the times you ride back. I will celebrate your bravery as I sit with bandaids in my pocket. I will shout with joy that you can ride fast and go far, as my heart knows the babe I held and fed and nurtured is two less tires closer to me. Maybe it is because I am missing my children so much, maybe it is because the world feels os unsafe these days. I want only to hold him closer, Chef knows we have to send him out more.

My blessing list includes a grandpa who teaches you not to be afraid of the world and of leaving us a bit behind. My prayer list will always mention his safety and amazing adventures.  I will also pray that we both have courage for all the chances he gets in the days and years ahead.  Still, I will always have bandaids, bright colorful bandaids in my pockets. Just in case. Because while I know he is brave, I also know he is precious. His short little life hasn’t always been filled with people who have known that, my role in that regard is secure. As he grows older, his achievements more remarkable, it may be true that others will step in and step up to celebrate with him. My chair will scoot further back to allow others a front row view. I know he will always find me in the crowd and with a saucy wink, ask, “Gran, didja see that?” Yes, my love, I see you and am so proud of you. Chef will be right next me, knowing he gave the real nudge out into the world.

Also, today we buy a new helmet that fits.

 

Bursting

I got smacked in the face with my wealth yesterday. I thought I was helping her out, giving her a ride to see her son in prison. I hadn’t spent much time considering why she couldn’t drive herself. I hadn’t spent much time wondering what all separated her experience from mine. I could only see how we were sisters, how we were united in the terrible experience of motherhood from afar, behind razor wire and across county lines, accessible only when the bureaucracy that contains our children determines. I saw our connectedness. I didn’t know that string was a barely visible thread. My earnest heart was blind to all, my desire so great to help that I missed all the needs I could have been fulfilling.

I picked up Mom and Grandma to drive them to the prison an hour and a half away. We stowed Grandma’s walker in the trunk and began to know each other. I discovered that this was a surprise visit, the son didn’t know we were coming as I had assumed. I remember all the visits with Arrow, carefully planned. He would call the morning of the visit to see if we had left yet, he would call when he thought we were getting close. His anxiety was so great, his ability to wait in short supply. He always knew we were coming for a visit. Many times he would call just as we were turning into the prison grounds or were half way there to alert us to a change: a lockdown in the entire prison, visits canceled for all due to a shortage of staff, a holiday that was changing the regular schedule. We would all share our disappointment as we turned around, sought a park or play place for Plum, headed home. Still, he always knew. Because we had money to send to keep his phone account funded, I couldn’t survive otherwise. I couldn’t. Even when the $20 I sent was the last that I had, it was in my mind a necessity. Now I see that is a luxury. I knew it somewhere back then but that is how I survived my son being incarcerated. We talked almost daily, for 2 1/2 years. This mom and grandmother did not have that luxury. The $20 would have been spent a hundred times over on other necessities. Real necessities.  So no, her son did not know we were driving there for a visit and maybe could have saved us a trip but was surely saved the excruciating disappointment of knowing his mother was just that close, only to be denied.

As we drove we talked about the all the hurdles one must jump in order to actually make it inside to visit. We were celebrating that we were finally making the drive. I mentioned guards telling us our clothing didn’t meet the criteria for the visiting room, even after we had carefully checked and rechecked before leaving home. Mom asked me if her skirt would be okay. A quick glance to the backseat told me I had missed that detail in the loading of the walker, in the rush to go. No, no, I think that will be an issue. Let’s stop at the closest dollar store and just grab some pants. No worries, we have had to do it several times. I assured her not to be concerned, it doesn’t have to be the prettiest thing, just do the job. I am an ass sometimes. She picked out a pair of pants that had a matching tank top she would save for later, I pulled out my card to pay as she promised to pay me when she got a check again (I declined the offer) and she went to change. She raved about her new pants. She called her boyfriend. She told her mom she has a new matching top. Stopping to buy throw away clothes just to get in to see my son is a luxury. Stopping to buy clothes to see hers was a bonus gift, something that made her feel special and excited and new. Later I realized that stop made the day more bearable, she at least got a new outfit. From the dollar store. A luxury.

The day was a bust, we were denied the visit even though the hours are given on the website and on the answering machine. We will try again. But more than that, I was given a chance to have my wounds examined, aired bit, determine just how fresh or healed they were. I realized that while my Arrow is mad at me now for boundaries set after his release, I know I supported him to my utmost ability while he was experiencing the worst of what the justice system has to offer addicts. I know that he and I are outliers. I know that while we suffered, our suffering was still in luxury. He had a continual flow of pictures of his home and his son. He had Amazon deliveries of books and newspaper subscriptions. His commissary account was never empty. His visits were as often as allowed. We never were unable to see him due to our own economic hardships: lack of transportation, inability to purchase clothing to meet fuzzy standards, basic reading skills that allowed us to complete the tricky forms. We live richly and he did so while in prison.

They asked if we could stop at the local quick mart to grab a gallon of milk, they had enough food stamps to cover it. I wanted to take them to the larger grocery store but they had arranged a ride for that later, to do bigger shopping. They just needed milk for now. Shopping at the quick mart is how people in poverty are drained of their money. I hated sitting in the car while Mom went into buy milk. We don’t ever buy milk there, we know it is way too costly. That is luxury, the ability to save money by shopping wisely. She bought 2 gallons to save a trip. My heart sank as I watched her lug them to the car. She could have gotten 3 at the grocery store in my end of town.

Many of my bubbles were burst yesterday and I am sitting in the mess of it. I am newly wounded, newly convicted that I have much I don’t need or even want and others survive on so little. Of course I knew that already but when smacked in the face with it as I drove my car and carried passengers who ask how much I will charge to pick up their son when he is finally released.  I know I have more to do in showing I am giving of me, not holding out my hand to take from them. When Mom asked if we could maybe text each other sometimes, now that I have her number, I agreed. She asked if maybe I would send her a prayer sometimes. This seems like a starting place. Where I can redeem myself from my rich girl preconceptions and remember that we are actually still sisters. We are united in hurting over our children. We share a Father. This Father wants me to see His hurting children and get my wounds reopened and get hurting alongside them because I have given all of me. One ride to a prison is just not going to be enough. That would be a luxury.

Blindly