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.

Time Capsule

As I grow older I have become less and less willing to celebrate commercial holidays. Maybe the blatant consumerism, the grab for more and more of the less and less money I have is fueling this resistance.  Maybe it is just weariness, every month seems to hold another event to “celebrate,” decorations to pull out, hang up, put down, stow away. Why can’t my home just rest as it is for a bit, the constant shifting of the wreath on the door and moving the items on the table to clear space for the tchotchke of the moment means the stuff I really like rarely gets displayed. Have I become a curmudgeon? Is it really that the fractures in my family are more visible when holidays are quiet, when presents and picnics are not planned with anticipation around this home? This estrangement is wearing on my soul and another Mother’s Day is rolling around, must we have this day this year? I know I can’t be the only one who wishes to hide as the calendar flips to May, knowing there will be no honoring me as I question my very worth in such a basic role.

Schools build craft activities around celebrating moms, how painful it must be for the children who have no mom to take the handprint plasters and tissue paper butterflies home to, no one awaiting those treasures to fill the box and look at years later, measuring the development of the artistic and handwriting skills of each child year to year. I have one of those boxes, filled with cards and letters and art projects, a cedar chest that holds the most prized baby clothes, tiny shoes with scuffs from wobbly steps, bits of ribbon and squares of bed sheets. More than just evidence that I was a mom to those children, it reminds me of our love, of our lives together. The cedar chest is our time capsule, one that they often would search through, ruffling the contents, pushing aside the items that belonged to the other as they sought clues to their early years, asking for anecdotes they had heard many times over. This time capsule may be buried now for them but it sits still in my home, a ticking living beating heart of our story. One day like long lost travelers they will come home again to discover our history is still in that box, that our relationship as mother and child began with my hopes and dreams and the ankle bracelet the hospital attached as they first entered the world. They will pull out cherished locks of hair to hold against the heads of their own children, comparing colors with a wistfulness that will break their hearts.

My treasure chest contains the last cards I received on Mother’s Day, lauding me and dripping with gratitude. As I read and re-read the card from my Stella, the estrangement becomes even more difficult to grasp. She was real in that card, those were her words, the daughter I knew since birth. Only months later she disappeared into a darkness that my light and love cannot reach, is there anything harder for a mother? Moms who have lost their children to death or to the world, who ache to have one more conversation, to caress those baby locks that have turned into teen and adult hair styles that no longer need our brushing, just one more. But I am not being honest, I want more than one, I want to hear the phone ring as it once did, see that my Stella was calling to include me in her daily or weekly musings, especially now that she is a mother herself. I knew her when she played with dolls, when she painted them with nail polish and bathed them in her own tub of bubbles. I long to see her bringing her fierce love to those babies now in her care, to see her teaching and reaching and carrying without thought, to watch how she juggles the one on her hip and the one wrapped tightly around her as she fixes snacks and tends to her home. I want to see her be a mom, I have seen her in every other role throughout her life and it has been a magnificent view. Like watching the most amazing movie only to have the film snap, sputter, the reel spin, the screen go black, I still remain incredulous that the connection has been broken. Offered tickets to a lesser show, this one of muted colors and b-side music, I long for the glorious vibrancy that she brought, the birds sang jazz, the colors were neon. I want that bigger life that comes from generational connections.

I long for my Arrow, differently, trusting that our break has more to do with his addiction, will someday soon result in restoration. I feel more in control of this fracture, knowing that if I gave in on boundaries and rules, we could be in contact daily, he could walk into my door. What mother would stop that from happening and then say she misses her children? The mother of an addict, the mom who has visited her child in rehab and hospitals and prison, a mother who knows the peril of enabling. Arrow gets clean and sober and sees the light, touches base again and the glorious light of his presence fills our home and my soul again. Our break is only a splinter, one along well worn tracks. Every day that he is away, I pray for his safety, I beg for him to make the turn into a life with sustaining colors, to find the little boy who delighted in God and then rest there, find peace there. Then he will come home and dig through the treasure chest to show his children who he was, before this long detour.

Chef and I watched the movie Lion last night, a profoundly moving story of a child lost and found, the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. Even though he was established into a new life, he never stopped aching for his family of origin, his mum. I know these children of mine, I know their hearts, I felt them beat against mine. Without reservation, I know they too are lost and can’t find their way back home, the call too hard to make, the gap seemingly too wide to bridge. As I sobbed watching the movie, seeing this young man make a trek finally to find his mother, seeing the support and encouragement of those around him to go on the journey, I could only wonder who in my children’s lives are planting those same seeds? Who tells them to go, to reach out, to try again? Anyone? My children know the way home, they know where I am, like the mother in the movie who 25 years later had not moved, just in case her lost boy ever came back, I am here with the cedar chest, holding our lives and our history, waiting.

The calendar has flipped not just for me but for my children as well. They too know that the day to honor your mother is fast approaching. While they are currently committed to a position of separation, I know that they do so only with full knowledge of the luxury that stubbornness affords them. They have a mother who will wait. They have a mother who accepts their scraps and bits and saves their plaster handprints and baby clothes. They have a mother who has always championed their success and held them during their struggles. I know in the quiet moments of their honest souls as the tv shares another ad about honoring your mom, they know what I know. I am still here loving them regardless of the month or holiday. They are playing the odds, as many friends know, that they will always have time. They ignore the memes and the reminders on social media that you are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Being a mother, having a mother is soul work, more than a day on the calendar. Women across the country will be celebrated this Sunday for the achievement of having sacrificed their bodies and their souls. Women across the country will be ignored even though they too made those same offerings. Other women want nothing more than to have the chance to make those sacrifices. Ultimately, we all have a mother, many are a mother. The current state of our relationships do not negate what we know, that we  have a cedar chest full of tissue paper butterflies and old crayon scribbled cards, to remind us of who we were and who we are. If you are longing for your mother, if you are aching to carry babies, if your children are lost and your soul cries out for them, if your family is whole and this year is full of celebration, I will being praying for you this week. Let us remember all those who will get cards and flowers this week and those who won’t. Those who will sift through the treasure chests and remember when sticky fingers brought breakfast and crumpled handfuls of dandelions. Sometimes memories are all we have to sustain us, until the calendar flips again.

What the Machine Missed

I finally had my mammogram yesterday.  A couple of months late but with no insurance it took an entire network of sisters who knew that I needed to go visit that squishing machine to make it happen. Women who understand that we all hate that contraption, hate the very thought of leaning in chin up arm over here just another notch down don’t breathe. This year though I had some irregularities that meant I couldn’t really ignore the reminders in my inbox and mailbox saying it was time to schedule, even though I worried about how to pay and what they might find. I delayed, I kept my concerns secret until I couldn’t and then I whispered and hinted to just the right women who found the necessary resources and soon I had an appointment that led to another and another and yesterday was mammogram day. The worry was over, no need for concern. All clear, see you next year. As I thanked God for lumps that weren’t cancer, I also praised Him for all who made the day possible, the techs, the docs and the women who made the connections. Still, I hate the machine. I’m only human. I realized also I kinda hate my breasts.

That cold machine that looks inside my body only sees tissue. What it misses is that my breasts are scary parts to me, these flesh pieces that hang a bit too low now but once sustained my babies. It doesn’t see that I fretted in school that they weren’t big enough, then later frowned that they were too large to go without something to support them. The machine doesn’t see that I have always been slightly at war with these appendages  who expose my gender and often draw unwanted attention to me sexually. The machine looks at tissue, looking for disease battles to be fought and doesn’t know a lifelong war has been waged.

The technician with cold hands, a gentle soul and an accent I can’t place instructs me in all the moves to get the best view as I consider how my breasts have shaped my life, how many hours I have spent thinking about these very members. Her low voice fades as I remember the empowerment I felt in those first moments of breastfeeding my daughter, knowing I had just carried, delivered and was now nourishing her, ME! My body was no longer dirty, sexualized, I didn’t escape onto the ceiling as I watched others invade it, I was with her as she fed from me. I gave her life and she gave me wholeness. We bonded over the latching of her tiny mouth to my personhood, my breasts reaching from my soul to her.  Milk enriched with hopes and dreams that she would never feel anything but the empowerment I was experiencing in that moment dripped into her mouth, ran down her cheek, soaked into her newborn skin. She smelled of me, the sweet scent of deep yearning surrounding us both.

“Turn this way, please,” I hear from a distance, as I remember in middle school pubescent boys running by laughing as they stroked fingers down my back, checking to see if I was wearing a bra yet. Shaming all of the girls, those with their nubby nipples and those of us who bloomed later, who knew we were lacking. The world and little boys telling us our worth was measured by our cup size in 6th grade, a message that continues in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and tv anchor dress standards. My mother didn’t understand my dismay at my flat chest, she bore the shame and back problems from growing breasts early that required she never go without a bra, ever. I remember watching her get ready for work in the morning, her breasts hanging as she powdered and wrangled them into shoulder-cutting, back-scrapping heavy duty armor. I longed to grow breasts like her, I knew it was my birthright. She hoped I never would. She bought me a training bra to quiet the school yard boys, one that would suffice for years as I didn’t grow and her hopes were realized.

“Are you doing ok, Lisa? We are almost done with the right side, just one more,” I float away again as I recall my very first mammogram when a lump was found and I was thrust headlong into a different world of worried faces and alternate rooms and extra exams all behind the doors that kept the men on the other side so women could wear pink gowns that open in the front and don’t really cover anything. A quick biopsy and another all clear and a reunification with my husband before he even knew I was fighting with my breasts and had escaped with a win again, we went for lunch as if nothing had really just happened. Yet I knew, a glimpse, just a tiny moment’s worth of what so many women don’t get to come away from, they stay in those rooms and don’t go for lunch and they know the battle is only beginning and I wonder how many memories they have of their breasts, something that men will just never understand.

I had my yearly mammogram and all is clear. I turned this way and that, I leaned in and held my breath, I got squeezed and smashed and I have to do it again next year. I remembered one time laying on a secluded beach with Chef in Mexico, newly married or maybe not quite yet and removing my bikini top. The sun was hot on my skin and I dozed safely, aware that I didn’t need to battle in that moment, I could rest in peace with  more of my body exposed. No 6th grade boys or invading machines or judging society or even tiny babies to pull and tug. That beach was a communion, the only one ever, between me and my body, a white flag of surrender of all the worries and wantings. The sun lowered, the day ended, my breasts and I picked up our weapons and prepared for years of war ahead. Still, we had a moment, we had a day. My breasts were enough, I was enough.

“We want to do an ultrasound, just to get another look at what the machine can’t see,” I hear as she guides me into another room, more positions. As I look at the ceiling and recall all the times I have been touched by those who weren’t so gentle and didn’t tell me what they were going to do next and didn’t ask permission and didn’t care if I was comfortable, I wonder at how we have distorted and diseased what God has given us to nourish His babies. How a body part no different from any other has come to be so sexualized that even little boys who don’t really know what they are doing participate in shaming. I wonder how sad God must feel that I war with my own body, His temple, only able to commune fully on a sandy beach far away, rather than daily in my own skin. What would it take to stop hating and fearing the parts of me that God created every bit as much as my eyes that seek out beauty and my ears that listen for laughter? “Everything looks good, we want you back next year, no cause for concern.” The machine and the tech and doctor don’t see though what God is showing me, the concern and worry were never about the lumps and the tissue.

I have a year before my next encounter with the machine. 365 days, will that be long enough to fully lay to rest this war and come to peace with my body? Will I enter the pink rooms and don the front tying gown next year with a love of my full self, an awareness that I am actually exactly just right. I am enough, not too much, not wanting. I have breasts, nothing to hide, nothing to fear. Like the grainy images I spied on the screens, impossible to understand and interpret without training, the path forward is unclear but still calls to me. I don’t think I can really be absolutely grateful to the God who sends me sisters to set up appointments and foundations to pay for the uninsured and scans that are clear and technicians that are holy and inventors who create the machines in the first place and not understand that at the heart of it all is a God who loves me, all of me, my breasts included.

I had my mammogram yesterday and all is clear, the tissue as well as my need to embrace self- love, to truly commit to self-care.  If I really want to have communion with God, I have to begin to acknowledging the vessel He gave me and offer some grace to my breasts, who are not at war with me, but have been with me all along, waiting for my surrender and acceptance. A lifetime of turning this way and that, of covering up and hiding away, no easy feat to stop this battling. The gentle words of the technician remind me, “We’ll go slowly, just one step at a time, and let you catch your breath between.” Yesterday I had my mammogram, today I begin the journey of acceptance. It may not show up on any of their reports, but that is what I learned in my pink gown. Thank you God for all of it, for another chance at communion.

By the way, have you scheduled your yearly appointment yet?

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.