twenty-sixteen

Hey there.

Hey, lift your head. What has you so tied in knots? You think there’s nothing left, don’t you. 

That every time you try, you mess it all up. You’ve asked-is any of this worth it? 

Am I worth? 

Come here.

Let me hold your hand, and listen to you. Pour out your fears. I won’t tell you there’s nothing to be afraid of. You have seen enough of this life to have earned the truth.

I am so sorry that load you have been carrying is crushing your very spirit. And you have been doing it all alone wondering why no one has noticed how you walk, bent, limping.

I can’t take this from you, but walking alone ends now. 

And I can support you so that burden is a little bit lighter for the rest of this particular journey. 

You are not weak by allowing someone to help. We are simply not meant to do this life alone. 

Maybe some frames of our film are solitary pictures of just me, you. 

But you have been trying so hard for so long.

So now, feel those hard, painful emotions you have pushed away. Yes, I know they are not pretty, but they are valid, real. However, they are not you. 

You are simply beautiful. And you do not have to believe it, see it, claim it, not now, not yet-for it is true. 

You say, dirty is not beauty; soiled, blemished, scarred.

Let me search with you for the source of this dry river-bed. Then you can drink handfuls of clear, sweet water until you are filled, and then, we need only to find a patch of sunlight. There you can plant your roots for a time, and catch your breath.

Maybe we will take a look at that cumbersome load over there-together unpack and see if there are any pieces we can discard. 

Of course, I will stay with you until we have reached the bottom. Let me take your garbage. Please know, there is nothing that you hand me that makes you less than.

This garbage, its not recyclable, not something to donate-it must be thrown away. 

Here, I’ll light a fire for you and we will burn your refuse. Then. When the embers glow within the wood and the ashes fall onto our skin, you will know. 

It is time.

You get to choose, how long before you pick that burden back up. Because, let’s be clear, it still exists. I’m so sorry it does. 

But you get to decide how you will carry on. 

I cannot imagine your suffering, your pain. I wish we could fix this.

How unspeakably punishing it has been. It’s no wonder you have grown thorns. 

But that will not keep me out.

I must tell you though, that I have limits; that my strength fades, my hope disappears, my faith can be overcome by fear. Know it isn’t my heart that chooses this completely. We all receive love and gift love uniquely.

And my aim is love.

We will navigate this trial, walk this trail with another, a helper.

So let’s prepare. We have enough to start. We will look for provisions along the way. 

We may stumble, fall apart, weaken: but we are sculpted out of the finest clay-mud from dirt and water formed in an image of the very One who created this world.

Ready?

…i found this one recent night, late when I couldn’t yet sleep. So i was up, looking for a good read to help me fall asleep, and found a pile of my drawings, doodling, writings I had done over the year. This one caught my eye. I remembered writing it, wrapped in a blanket in my cozy chair, in the deep midwinter of last January, when 2016 was still new and relatively unmarked. I wrote this as a letter to myself originally. To remind myself when that I am valuable and valued, and real. Looking at it again, i also felt the pull to share it here. It is what I would say to a suffering one, whether I know you or not. I hope it speaks to you or someone you know. This past year was difficult for many, in so many ways, on so many levels; so let’s be for each other buckets of water to together throw onto the dumpster fire that was 2016.–hollie

Not In Love

image

It is February 4, 2016.

I am laminating loads of conversation heart papers for my preschoolers to use next week to give them an opportunity to work on their colors, letters, counting, and most likely, eating their weight in “Be mine” and “UR Cool”.

It’s a very soothing and satisfying, slightly mindless activity, laminating, which led me to my first love-Pintrest. Checking out my boards, I found a blog post from last year, and started reading.  Looking at my home page, it appears that I haven’t blogged since November, which can’t be true, but it is.

I have written a year’s worth of posts in my head, in snippets and lines, most forgotten before I found paper, pencil, I-Product. And when I have had the clock time to write, words have been nowhere I could find them.

So, to get a post up, I am sharing what I wrote a year ago. Even with a small edit, and though I am a year changed,  I still find my heart beats in the space of these words.

 

You might think, if you knew me, that Valentines Day would be my favorite. Hearts, love notes, sonnets, pink, cute puns, a day dedicated to expressions of love?

Well, it is not my favorite. And, in fact, Valentine’s Day is the worst.

There were two Valentine Days I could say were perfect; I was perfectly happy, perfectly settled, perfectly content.

Eighteen years old. 1991. Secure in myself, no pressure romantically or socially, that day was just one of those charmed days when my mind didn’t mess with me and my heart was beating steady.

What I remember from that day? Coming home from school earlier than my sisters (somehow), popping in a VHS of The Little Mermaid, swiveling the newest model wood encased TV on its base toward my seat,and singing along with my girl Ariel. Also, the sun was streaming through the slider doors, just as it should have.

At eighteen I was still the definition of a hopeless romantic, and Disney, much less Hollywood, did NOTHING to disabuse me of this state.

Thirty three years old. 2006. I hold a snapshot in my head from that Valentine’s Day of me holding my two month old sweetheart Liam (he really is a sweetie), an almost three-year old Haden with a mischievous smile and holding a heart balloon (he really is mischievous) and my parents smiling, holding Haden, with the humming of the coffee shop filling the background.

We were all smiling, laughing at some forgotten something one of us said. And I am happy. Blissfully content and happy. At thirty-three, I was still a romantic, perhaps not hopeless, since life and time and love will dull the shiny exterior that lures us to the fantasy for sale.

I’d then been living with a heart filling new kind of love for three years, that of the love of a child, and that love, it’s all-consuming and you don’t come out the other side of that unchanged.

Those other forty Valentines days?

Of course I remember decorating shoe boxes with construction paper and stickers to catch classmates scribbled Valentines. And I remember plenty of hopeless without the romantic part teenage and early twenties Valentine’s Days whiled away watching Say Anything, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and consuming cheap chocolate by the pound.

Also, chocolate. Chocolate has always been a part of every Valentines Day. And can I just say, what did I do before sea salt and chocolate exchanged vows?!? Now that’s a perfect union.

There have also been some pretty awful Valentines Days. I can confidently claim that each of those was due to crazy unrealistic and/or dreamy expectations. Expectations fueled by A. Sleep deprivation. B. Love languages lost in translation. C. Comparison, the root of all discontent. D. Depression/Anxiety/PMDD/PPD.

I can see that now, it’s always clear when you have your bearings and are on the other side of the storm. But those are the Valentines Days that I look at with the most love for…me.

Many of the others are love notes that fill my shoe box full, of people and stories gathered along the way.

But those painfully sharp, and foggy hazed Valentines days? Those are the times that pushed this heart to its very borders.

And then, stretched it.

I love cards, typography, design, a clever turn of phrase; thus, I have an extensive (slightly expensive) collection of perfect cards for every occasion. I learned about writing letters and cards from my grandmas, who sent them to me. And from my mom, who sent them to anyone who needed one.

So in my love/hate relationship with the holiday, if there is something that still attracts me to Valentine’s Day, it would be the words.

Words. In the wrong hands, they’d can be weapons wielded, and we all know the stinging wound that an unkind word or turn of phrase can leave. Or often, the even more painful cut of word unspoken.

But in the right hands, well. The perfect words spoken or recieved at the ideal moment can change the course of our heart’s trajectory.

There have been many ways I’ve tried to fill in the blank space that my heart became every February 14. And with all of the usual suspects.

Flowers are beautiful, but they lose their blush, and wilt and die in a couple of days. Not really an effective illustration of true love.

Chocolate is sweet, but it’s heady pleasure melts as quickly as a birthday candle, its absence felt all the stronger.

Love stories are heart warming and meaningful, usually to those invovled. I do so love a love story.

But if not careful, I become hugely disappointed at the ending because while “they” get to have a happy ending, literally, I am left frustrated and feeling less than by comparison. I become entangled in the pages and scenes on the screen and buy into a narrative that is not my own.

And then there is Cupid. Cupid is creepy.

Yes, I know the St. valentine connection. And that is what gives this holiday hijacked by humans with hearts of varying shapes and sizes any chance to survive.

I shared my confused heart with my husband and a few close friends this fall. I decided to give up. It was clear to me, even in my crisis, that I did not know how to love. I love this person too much, and this one not enough. That one so well and then that one so wrong.

The question for me has never been, Am I capable of love?”

The answer to the equation I had been working for all along was, “Am I worthy of love?”

You can get so caught up in playing the game of love, so wrapped up in the X’s and O’s of the game plan for relationship, that you can become completely unaware of who you are playing for, who you are playing with, of your very own heart.

The decision to give up on Valentines Day is one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

Will I decorate with hearts and send cards to all the different people I love in unique ways?

Will I hunt down and consume the best Sea Salted Chocolate I can find?

Will I put on a Throwback Thursday Epic Love Song Spotify Playlist?

Are we seriously even debating any of this? Time After Time. After Time.

The simple and completely confounding truth is that I found Love. I’ve always known about Love, my whole life in fact. I’ve invited Love in to live with me. Have even had times in my life when I loved the way Love does.

But the thing is, that was on my terms, kept just far enough away with cleverly constructed boundaries so that I couldn’t fully feel True Love.

If you can’t, don’t, will not fully let Love in, you will suffer.

You get hurt in life, yes. People will miss the mark, misunderstand, misinform you.

You will hurt, let down and do the opposite of love to others.

Human love is finite and has a limited vocabulary, and many broken hearts lie on the path to Love.

But come closer. and listen to my voice very carefully. Love. Found. Me. Love. True, unbound, wild, all consuming, undeniable, pursuing, translating, relentless Love found me. Knocked down my flimsily built barriers, took away my weak resistance, and made me look in the mirror and open my eyes to see…Love.

When Love captures you, and you surrender, it feels nothing like losing, and everything like winning.

All those lonely years, waiting on someone to rescue me from my castle tower, I thought that winning love, being loved had to do with my effort. My beauty. My perfection.

And when I finally, finally, last autumn, walked myself out of that fortress and bravely stepped out into the open wide light and laid my weapons down, and gave up-I found out that I had had the equation all wrong.

It wasn’t about me being In love. It never was.

It was, is, and always will be about this-whether I love well, love enough,have happy endings or not, Love never fails.

And finding yourself at the end of this search, this Love story only means that you are at the beginning.

So, give up.

 

 

do you have the time?

Sometimes I choose a movie to wach because it’s popular.  Sometimes because I’m in the mood for it. A few times because I’m up for anything and it’s the only one availble that I can stomach.  Most of the time, though, it’s because I feel like it.  My instinct rarely steers me wrong, except when I doubt it and don’t listen to it and try to be only logical, and do what would seem right to everyone else while ignorning all of my instincts screaming at me.

Yes, it does sound like a slightly intense way of picking a movie.  But, it works for me.  That’s how I ended up watching Dan in the Real Life this morning. On instinct, I hit the order button on my DirectTV remote and enjoyed. In the comfort of my super soft blanket.

Oh, there have been long, long segments of my life when I would have shuddered at the thought of still being in my pajamas, lying in bed and watching a movie in the (gasp) mid morning hours.  

So not what you are supposed to do with your time, right?!

Well, I did it.  And it was awesome.

I’ve actually been doing things a lot differently than you are supposed to lately.

I made and had Apple Pie Crisp with REAL home made whip cream the other night, for dinner.  I’ve been having real whipped cream every night, truth be told, on whatever I want, for a month or so.

I bought (three) abstract shape coloring books from Whiz Kids and new markers, all for myself.  Then I colored.  For a long time.  When there were a million other things that could have been accomplished.

I let the floors in my house sit for another week, making it a month since they’d been cleaned, while I worked on a song that had been sitting on the page, on my piano, waiting for a melody. Both turned out with immensely satisfying results.  I listened to myself about the when.  

Timing is, as they say, everything.  

We all have that inner clock.  Our inner mechanism finely strung and set into motion the millisecond we leave the world of creation for this one of backwards growing.

The Apple Watch debuted earlier this week, and sold out.  I haven’t worn a wrist watch for about a dozen years or more. I used to, and I loved my watches.  More as a fashion asscessory at times.  My favorites, the Swatches, the Fossils, they all kept time artfully while simultaenously fulfilling my needs as a very meticulous watcher of time. I suppose only time will tell if or when I may sport an Apple watch of my own.

You can guess how I tell time now.  My I-phone has to be charged, or the microwave time has to actually be set.  Or I can turn on DirectTV to check it, too.  My kiddos were tutored in number and time keeping skills first simply by living in our twenty-first century digitally run home.

And then they’ve learned to tell time the ‘old fashioned’ way at school, but I also keep a “real” clock with ticking hands in each community room of our home.  I love items that have come before me, machines that existed before my children, and pieces that have been held over generations.  They all give me, give us, a sense of time.  A very real soundtrack to the passing of our days.

Looking through my Twitter feed, I discovered happily, has been a non-waster of time.  I jumped in with my handle this winter (@holliejoyjoy) and have found more interesting communities, links, stories, events, information and people than I have on any other platform to date. 

All social media sites can be time-wasting, energy-destroying, soul-sucking places to dwell.  And once you have been on any or all of these places, you find this truth, in your own way, your own time. Then, you decide what you can tolerate, and live with, and proceed with caution.  I like so much of what can be done, what does occur, and the incredible potential of our digital wi-fi connected lives.

I also equally hate what can be done, what does occur and the devesating potential of our digital wi-fi connected lives.  I’ve made peace with that fact that this is life in the age we live in.  So, I choose to travel the faster than light -speed world made of units of time that I have yet to grasp; on my terms, and on the surfboard of my creation.

That is how I came across a tweet about the 26th (an odd even-year celebration) anniversary of Say Anything.  It’s a movie that often gets overlooked in the epoch of epic Gen X (1961-1981ish) coming of age stories; Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Flashdance, Footloose, to name quite a few.  The movies that late Baby Boomers and early Millenials along with Generation Xers watched most likely on the big screen when the movie came out, or on a VHS in a VCR, rented most likely from a video store, which meant that to see either, you would have to drive and spend some cash (for real) to watch.  

There are maybe a handful or two movies that I can rewatch, and last night I realized that while watching even the badly cut/edited for commercial TV bleeped-over and free version of Say Anything, that there was a reason I still held a fondness for this particular flick.

Not only is it a smart, remarkably still current screenplay with some pretty memorable lines, it’s set in Seattle and surrounding environs, and the boom box scene is one for the rom-com ages. And Lloyd Dobler (Jon Cusack) undeniably stands among the best of all-time male romatic leads who forever give us unrealistic romantic relationship expectations.

Speaking of _ _ _ _ : (four letter word, has to do with “gets away from you when invovled in a deeply creative process”); I just noticed that the bus was going to be delivering my sweet Kindergardner any literal minute.  So, I threw on my prettiest running capris and adorable Zella top (insert prideful remark about how I got these for an amazing deal at Nordstrom Rack), left my hair to nature to do it’s best, grabbed the most organic, raw, bagged snack I could and walk/ran to the corner.

We have had some of the most gorgeous warm and cool, clouded and sunny spring days in Eastern Washington that I can remember.  I’ve been frustrated that I haven’t been able to fully be out and enjoying them all the past month.  As I soaked some of that sun in a few minutes ago I noted that the calendar reads the 16th today, which means ten days until the Race for the Cure Spokane run.  

I’m not a major nor even minor fundraiser, usually due to my time management skills. (That is not my favorite topic.) So, I run in support of and with my church’s women’s group (Whitworth Church), and of and with many cancer survivors and families and friends who’ve survived, but lost their loved one. 

There’s no way I’d miss this race, despite my out of running shape body, not just because my oldest son and motivator has ran with me for the four years I’ve participated with this hopeful event, but because people who have lost everything, who have lost the very battle with time, are there, doing whatever they can to buy time, for others.

It didn’t take long this morning, into Dan In Real Life, to realize that I indeed had watched it before.  It just had been about seven years ago.  Watching it with fresh eyes, I caught so much more than I had in my first sleep deprvied distracted viewing.  There is much to like about this movie; the soundtrack, the kids, the setting, Steve Carrell as Dan, the story.  At it’s heart, is really a story about the pulsing dance of timing and love and life.  And how much of the time, waiting is an act of love.

Because there is simply no way to stop time, is there.  If there was, we would have all used up our alloted minutes on our time-hold plans to grab back that one conversation, to spend just one more mintue holding that one person, to say the words you have been wishing you’d said in that one moment.

As with all things we cannot control or fully understand or truly define, we spend alot of time insisting that we can tame this elusive unknown, while it insists just as strongly that we do not own the valuable currency that it is. Nor do we know how to spend, save or invest it effectively enough.

I’m hopeful though. The days like today, the moments I mentioned earlier, the time I spend just enjoying what I’m doing, who I’m with, they, in effect, make up for lost time.  Or what seemed at the time lost-like. However. I’ve seen time change everything; memories, directions, hearts and minds.

Time in real life isn’t tethered to an ever repeating circle of space, it’s free and flexible and limitless, wound and repaired in the hands of the Time Keeper. 

And that means that there are endless possibilities for how our days, years, lives add up. We’ve got plenty of time.

Time Warped-interesting thoughts on time perception.

Infectious 

(This is an updated and edited version of the blog I posted the other day, in an attempt to make sense of the craziness that was my life a week ago. It was published in a state of extreme fatigue, so hopefully this version will contain far fewer spelling errors, make more sense, and tell the story as clearly as I can.  Now, back to the Elite 8 game between Gonzaga and Duke. Go Zags! Never Stop. I can go with that.)


It became Spring the day I was admitted to the hospital.  I didn’t know it was the first day of a the new season, in part because of the mind numbing pain I had been in for twelve or so hours, and the sweet numbing and softening of all the sharp edges that the “special” IV drug was dripping into my veins.

I’d managed to put up festive St. Patrick’s Day decorations and pull off all of the requested cooking, baking and wrapping for my sons’s tweltfth birthday earlier in the week.  I’d joked that Thursday, after his birthday, I was going to crash for the weekend.

I did not realize the frightening accuracy with which I was predicting that day.

As much as I love a good nap and adore reading before sleep in a pillowed bed, it is rare that I sleep for most of the twenty-four hours of a day.  Thursday of last week, I did just that, slept and slept, while only twice dragging myself up to send the boys to school and to welcome them home. 

The rest is hazy.  Probably because I was asleep. When I wasn’t alseep I was keenly aware of the pain touching every (every) part of my body, and the constant shivering, shaking and cold sweats that wracked my body from top to every aching toe.

That’s exactly what woke me, at 2 a.m. Friday morning- pain.  Mark said that the first night back home in my own bed this week, that several times he had to tell me everything was ok; I’d been crying in my sleep.  That’s what one’s psyche does after a trauma, phyical, emotional, mental.  

That phyiscal anguish awoke me last Friday, crying in pain, and I slowly tottered downstairs, sans my glasses which I’d lost or left behind at camp the weekend before.  

I was in search of water, and lots of it.  And I discovered that the pain that shook me awake was radiating from my left hand, from my thumb.  Weird, I thought, maybe I got some glass stuck in it the other day when I broke my billionth glass item.  I carried my water, right handed, back up the stairs, but not to bed, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.  Even with doses of pain relievers, yoga stretches to relieve my back pain, and just flat out exhaustion, pain stole sleep and relisience hour by hour from my weary self.

I’ve been admitted to the hospital several notable times in my life, but always for a reason I/we knew of; overdose of medication (due to a pharmacy mistake) when I was a toddler, tonsils in first grade, labor and subsequent C-section births of my two oldest boys, a concurrent miscarriage, broken ankel and blood transfusion, and then on bed rest and the later C-section birth of my youngest son.  While not where I wanted to be, the stays were all understandable, and life saving.

I was pretty sure Friday morning that I’d just had some sort of flu bug all of Thursday, and so was doubly confused when I couldn’t raise my left arm at all, and teared up in pain even attempting. Since I didn’t really sleep, I showered (let water fall on me) and got dressed in some clothes I had left,  and then napped on the couch until the boys helped me help them get ready for school.  

And I called my mom.  I’m lucky my parents are less than ten minutes away from us now, and I knew that even if I didn’t understand why, she would hear in my voice that I did indeed need to a ride to Urgent Care.  ASAP.

She took one look at me, hiding under my baseball cap, holding my arm close to my chest and understood that this was something, and I needed help, now.  I hadn’t called ahead, how do you explain an injury you don’t even grasp?  I was soon ushered into a room, and when I took off my coat and sweatshirt, we noticed that my hand was red and there were marks on my arms that looked as if I’d scratched myself.  But I hadn’t.

The doctor came in quickly after the nurse, with a student in tow, all I remember was both of their faces, the doctor’s concern and the student doctor’s face that she was unable to school from an extremely worried expression.  I heard words, but the rushing, swooshing sound in my head that had been my compaion earlier in the morning was starting up again.  I just knew that what I thought would be a fairly quick and easy visit was turning into me traveling straight up to the ER at the local hospital, to be checked out, and possibly admitted.

My mom drove me calmly as I uncalmly called Mark, who uncharacteristically answered at work.  I said, “Mark, I’m headed to the ER, and they said something about sepsis, and I’m really scared.”  Then the tears started. And he was on his way.

After sitting in the waititing room watching the streaking in my arms become longer, and boarding a wheelchair my mom procured for me after I said I felt like I might pass out, we shuffled through intake, and then I was fast tracked into a room near the nurses station, onto a stretcher bed, and covered with four or five blankets because I couldn’t get warm.

Mark and my mom kept vigil and asked for ice and fed it to me when I needed, and coordinated with my amazing sister to pick up my Kindergartner from the bus stop.  Now, I know I was in a state of shock from the pain and the events of the day; how did I go from flu-like to sepsis in a day and a half?  I had such an incredible caring and calm nursing team and doctor, so the fear didn’t set in, at least all the way, during that long afternoon.  

I got the whole ER package special; blood draws, urine samples, IV fluids, IV drugs, finally a warmed blanket (seriously sweet), a hand x-ray, and in my case, no answers.  Mark thankfully corrected each and every one of the health history questions the ER doc asked (in my defense, I’d just recieved another dose of special floaty meds), and gave insurance information as well as ran home to get a bag of necessary items for me when I was admitted to the hospital, and returned home in time for the boys to get off the bus.  He was a stud.  Also, this wasn’t our first ride on this particulary pony.  

It’s what made me angry when I felt well enough to feel anything again; my suseptability to sickness.  I’d told my husband many times before that I was sorry for the heavy emphasis on the “in sickness” part of the vows.  I saw myself as healthy in my young adult years.  While not particularly true, it wasn’t particularly false either.  It’s just that as the years went on,  my file at the doctor’s office grew larger and my medication list longer.  I still, however, maintain that I am healthy.  Just prone to sometimes not be.  

And when I’m not healthy, and something goes askew in my body, it tends to be in what I like to call the “ten percent category”.  I think my OBGYN knows this pretty well; if he gives me any statistics, I’ll say, I bet I fall into that ten percent.  Unfortunately, I say this because it has been true, too, too many times.  

People like to call some people in their lives hypochondriacs.  I’ve come to believe that while there may be some of those who are, there are far more who are simply born and wired to be ultra sensitive, in every way, and that means, mind, body, soul, spirit.  More sensitive to stimuli, germs, pain, emotional highs and lows, and illness.  Yes, I just described myself.  While I’ve come to accept this in others, and in most part in myself, I still don’t like it.

My oldest son’s big birthday parties were Saturday, at a trampoline place with ten friends, and Sunday with our family for lunch and cake at our house.  I missed both of those.  You don’t get that back.  He doesn’t, and I don’t get a do-over.

The thing I haven’t told you yet is that the fact that I ended up in the hospital with an agressive, and potentionally life threatening infection when I did didn’t really surprise me.  You see, for the past few months, and especially past few weeks, I’d been on the verge of some pretty big breakthroughs; for me and my family, life changing kind of stuff.  I’ve been battling and praying and claiming and believing, all things that the enemy of our soul hates.

“So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭13‬ NIRV)

“Be prepared.  You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.  Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.”  (Ephesians 6:13 MSG)

Let’s not pretend that there isn’t a spiritual realm.  Most people would say they are spiritual, not religious.  We know that there is not only more than this life, there is more to this life.  

I just know that I have seen enough in my life to know that we may live on this earthly plane, but much, much more goes on around us than we could ever imagine.  And, as I’ve been grown in faith, and grown in who I am, fear has shrunk and my capacity to put on my battle gear and take up my weapons has gained traction.  

I’m not content anymore to leave things the way they stand.  Have stood.  Could stand for generations.  And you know that when you draw a line in the sand and use that kind of power on behalf of God’s children, you’re also going to draw attention.  Ever noticed that when you are doing exactly what you know is the thing you are supposed to be doing how it feels like you are suddenly under constant attack?  

I watched The Theory of Everything last night, part of my recuperation plan (distract and entertain).  It is the story of Stephen Hawking told from the perspective of his wife, Jane.  It reminded me that we all have giftings, in one way or another, on stages large and small, in front of the camera and behind the scenes.  I believe that there can and will be great adversity at times when we use those gifts in a way that impacts and imprints others with God’s love.  

Alll of you, who prayed for, sent encouraging notes to, visited, and made meals for me and my family, you have left indelible imprints of His love on our lives.  And know, that you are loved right back.  

Thank you. Those two words seem like not enough, and I wish I could thank each of you in person and tell you how much a part of my and my family’s healing you were. Since I cannot, at least today, thank you.

Last Wednesday, there was no way I nor my family could have guessed at the long and draining weekend we would soon face. He was our strength, gave us times of unexpected refreshing and poured love into our weary days.

Four days, four different antibiotics, four main nurses on rotation; He was in each and every quarter of that time.

Blood draws, blood tests, blood cultures; His nail scarred and bloodied hands held my own wounded hand.

I took my first walk outside today, on the kind of gorgeous blue skied, green grass, blooming flowers and budding trees sparkling with drops of yesterday’s rain that only Eastern Washington can pull off.  The moss clinging to the rock wall down the street was glow in the dark green.  The forsythia bush on the corner was beacon bright yellow.  

Only my thumb is red and stifff now.  The swelling has left my hand, the streaking is gone and I can lift my arm above my head and stretch.  I need less rest and sleep, can focus for a length of time and write, doodle, and play the piano keys again.  

Best, my boys have all felt a little bit safer every day, trusting that I wouldn’t leave, to wander back to my side to share what’s on their minds, and I can catch them up in hugs again.

There  were moments last weekend when all of this was in question.  Serious words from me to God in the deep night between IV bag changes, blood draws and med deliveries.  Four nights of intense in and out of awake and asleep dreams, my head trying to work out at night what my heart couldn’t.

After something like this, it can feel almost too good to be true to be back to normal.  I’m just thankful  for each corner of quiet, calm and even crazy dimension in my home.  I’ve made a list of things that need done, eventually, but I’m not in a rush.  I’m on a ten day course of oral antibiotics, and while we can see where the infection must have entered and started and spread from, there is still no answer as to what, how and why.  

That could be unnerving.  Would have been seriously unnerving  for me a few years ago.  Now, I think I like the ambiguity.  No known cause, nothing to obsessively try to control or avoid.  Random can win this time.  

I don’t think my family and I have come out of this unscathed or unaware, but certainly undaunted.

Before I contracted this infection, I’d found several chapters in Isaiah that spoke to me about the place I was in, the place I felt I just couldn’t move frrom.

“Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me-The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.

But God’s not  finished.  He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.  He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right–everything.  Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.

Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace.  The moment he hears, he’ll answer.  Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you.  

Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right. “This is the right road.  Walk down this road.

Look, God’s on his way, and from a long way off!”  Isaiah 30:15,  18, 19-21, 27-28 MSG

That’s the kind of infectious faith I want.

And I won’t be going back to where I was before this.  I feel like I’ve crossed a bridge,  over a swift and treacherous part of a river and I’m sitting on the bank of the roaring water on the other side. It’s not that the other side wasn’t a good place to be or a safe place to land.

It’s just that now I can see the new path in front of me.  And I’m ready.  I think I have what it takes to navigate this journey.  I’m prepared.  I’ve got all I need.

That’s the funny thing about the other side of suffering. I’ve been reminded that instead of subtracting from strengths, it only expands your capacity to listen to the voice you’ve known has been there all along.

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The Madness of March

Haden just brought me his bracket, I asked him if we could use it for his blog post, and through the magic of technology, I was able to post this in no time.  Time I was using for walking around in circles trying to pick which mess to start with.  Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.  Wednesday is Haden’s birthday. I just got home from a retreat last night.  My day is bookended with important meetings I can’t miss. So, yes, there is much to do.  I just have no interest in that list today, I’m all up in my head and in need another cup of coffee. (With whip.)

So, that is Haden’s bracketology. There are many, many, many other brackets being filled out as we speak.  Some virtual, some newpaper, some posterboard, some handwritten.  Why does this matter to so many?  Even those who don’t watch basketball all the other months of the year?

I think it has much to do about nothing.  What I mean is, for most of the country, winter is a long and often dreary season.  Less light, more bills, chinook winds months away.  There seems to be very little to look forward to, and sometimes, nothing to do.

It’s simple.  Sports bring people together.  And in a time when we are refining what community even looks likes anymore, what it needs to not be and how desperate so many are for at least a taste of what it can be at it’s best, sports matter.  They matter alot.  And to alot of people.

We gather to watch hometown teams, where we have lived or live now, and cheer for a game between two communities of athletes being played out on hardwood.  And we are part of something bigger than the problems we are avoiding, the relationships that aren’t what we hoped, the future that looks more bleak than the winter we are leaving behind.  It gives us a common lexicon, we have something we can talk about to the guy at the gas station, the neighbor we don’t know what to say to, our own family members.

I love that both March Madness and St. Patricks Day occur in the same week of Haden’s birthday.  He is all about movement.  He loves anything containing crowds and sports.  There was rarely a moment even when I was carrying him through nine months that he wasn’t moving.  He hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped.  Except for wings, fries, and gatorade. (At least lately).

He has the best of the madness and fiestiness of these March occasions; he comes by both quite honestly. His name and spelling, come from his great-great-great grandfather on my mom’s side, Thomas Haden, whose parents were both full Irish.  We usually claim different percentages of our bloodlines and hold them in more or less regard, I just have been drawn for a very long time to the Irish clan, doncha’ know?  I so wish you could hear my killer Irish accent.

While his energy is something to behold, which I do daily, it’s his spirit that really defines him.  He’s loud and crazy, he reminds me of a fiery Irishman in his tempermant, he’s always ready to play a physical game, any game, please.  He is bright, inquisitive and funny.  He was built for people time, and he is loyal, honest (mostly) and has a deep heart for any suffering, human or animal.  He’s a great conversationalist, a database of sports information, and harder on himself than anyone else could ever be.

There have been times and seasons that I have grieved privately over the difficult traits and genes that he has inherited, about the hard road he has had to walk, living with multiple severe food allergies from birth being one of them. And I’ve battled the perceptions of others who perhaps aren’t used to the technicolor live out loud rule breaker sort that I so happen to admire and love.

I know though, that he is who he is, the creation of love, generations of family, designed by his Creator for a purpopse all his own.  So, as he turns 12 (so not possible I have a twelve year old, maybe I miscounted??) I celebrate him, all of him, the day of his birth, the boy he has been and is, the gift wrapped in skinned knees, stained shirts and (as of now) a turned around Arizona Cardinals ball cap.

This guy.

 

Fifty shades of yoga pants

Today is Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras, Carnival, beniets, beads and Kings Cake day. A day for feasting before the days of fasting.

I knew Ash Wednesday was coming up, mostly because I was reminded on Sunday. But for some reason Fat Tuesday didn’t register until today, because of Pinterest. So now there are gluten free bengiets to fry up later. I only wish I still had some coffee from Cafe du Monde to dip them in.

A movie opened this week, Fifty Shades of Gray, and if you haven’t heard about it or the book preceding, you are living off the grid and won’t be reading this anyway. So I’m just going to assume we all know.

And this week, I am going to resume my yoga workout, seems like a good week to re-start with Lent and its focus on deprivation and bettering.

There are also a lot of upset people on social media. Upset about Fifty Shades, upset about yoga pants, and probably upset about all the over indulgence of Fat Tuesday. I think these same people would all appreciate it if we could skip all these messy messages about humans and their bodies and just jump into the safe and sane forty days of Lent.

I am not upset about Fifty Shades of Gray. As far as I know, we still have freedom of speech in the USofA. Also, we have a free market system, which means you get to choose where, how and on what you spend your dollars.

I won’t be reading or seeing Fifty Shades. I have twenty books piled up by my bed to read, and I get to a movie theatre about once every season. I just choose to go to either the movies my kids want to see (almost always), or the ones I want to (almost never). Which means I often view the movies I want to when they make their way to my local Redbox.

I also wear yoga pants. I would say they comprise most of my wardrobe. I made a conscious choice on my fortieth to stop wearing uncomfortable clothes and wear what feels good. I was never that much of a fan of jeans and other un-elasticy pants anyway.

And now, my friends, my time has come. Workout Wear – including yoga pants, sweats, sweatshirts and leggings are HIGH FASHION. For real.

Maybe that’s how this whole “I am a Christian woman and I pledge not to wear yoga pants blog post movement” began. Maybe just more people are wearing comfy non-restrictive, yet oh so smooth and moisture wicking clothing.

Full disclosure: I am a follower of Christ. Not always a particularly good example of one, but that’s Who I’ve thrown in with, forever. And. As I said above, I live in leggings of some kind or another. (Also, I’ve got some super cute ones).

While there have been some very thoughtful pieces written on the subject, I just cannot get behind (oops) this cause. In my life, I’ve rarely shied away from controversial topics, I just love conversation too much. I’ve also ranted, proclaimed, debated and embarrassed myself on a wide range of topics.

I’m just wondering if the message is getting lost in translation. And I think that the vast majority of those upset with Fifty Shades and Yoga Pants consider themselves Christians.

The two topics also have a lot in common. I’d even dare to say they are not as black and white as presented, but both lie a few shades closer to gray.

They are really, both about bodies and whose property said bodies are. Let’s just say here what it is, it’s about sex. It’s about women and men. It’s about things that are uncomfortable to talk about. And that looks and feels a lot like a paint-water glass mix of all the colors from your paintbrush. It’s murky. And suspiciously gray.

Here’s the thing about messages, campaigns, crusades; they are going to get messy if you have people involved.

We have freedom of speech, and religion, but as we know, there is nothing black and white nor clear cut about either of those things. And don’t even try to tell me you know the motivation or heart of fellow human beings who actively voice their discontent in the name of religion.

That doesn’t mean I agree. In fact, I think that somewhere in last twenty years or so the Christian church in America has veered way off topic.

So I ask, more than what it is you are upset about, who are you hoping will listen? And why?

Preach to the choir, please! Literally! Let’s talk, discuss, pray over, ask God for wisdom about the very complex issues that these two lightning rods force in our church families.

But, think about, please, when you boycott, call out, draw your line in chalk on the concrete, who might be eavesdropping. If we are to use the name of Christ in the very public arena that is 2015, do you think your message invites someone closer? Creates an open, safe conversation? Builds relationships?

Or does it simply reinforce the image of what many, sadly associate with Christians; a clique of judging, hypocritical, unintelligent, rule bound, unloving people.

I admit it, I myself, I have stopped listening to the vast majority of prominent Christian voices. I grew up in the faith, have persevered in relationship with my Savior, and built a life around the Truth. If I, who believes, have grown this un-trusting of the American Christian church, what of those who we are supposed to be loving?

As true as it is to say that we shouldn’t be judged as a whole, that every church, every Believer is different, that we don’t all stand for the same issues; why shouldn’t we be?

Brothers and sisters, the early, early church was attracting people by the day to their fold. Why? Because they – as a group – were the best PR on earth for the faith. Those looking saw the new Christians loving one another, loving those who suffered on the fringes, and fed, clothed, laughed, prayed, shared; together.

Do we really have time to freak out on Russell Wilson for tweeting about (gasp!) watching Fifty Shades of Gray? Do we really need to spend our breath on re-hashing a very old debate in new (yoga) pants of “Your Clothing Makes Me Look At Your Figure”?

Seriously? I could cry at the waste of this. The waste of your precious, fearfully and wonderfully made God given gifts that you can use instead to love his children best.

I am only too aware of my own wastefulness. It seems easy, just love God, and then, just love others, more than you love life, more than you love yourself. I can tell you, though, that there are more than fifty ways to mess up at both of these jobs.

That’s where grace comes into this picture. Into our mixed motives, painful expressions of hurt, our very messy existences. And grace changes everything.

Grace asks the hard questions, but with so much evident love that you have no choice but to answer with your whole heart.

I’ve been learning a lot about black and white thinking lately, and the funny thing is, that despite our very disordered human way of charting and graphing things that can’t be, when you mix black and white, you get, yes, gray.

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are perfect church calendar bleeding into life examples of that very point. Fat Tuesday is all about revelry, excess, getting whatever you can to make up for in advance all of your sacrificing of and fasting from.

Except that doesn’t ever work. Because God’s economy is not our economy. In his economy, sacrificial love never runs out. His supply for our demand.

In the end, these are just my thoughts, and I am learning (slowly) to run those thoughts and their offspring, words, through God’s filter.

I like what our pastor shared Sunday about what his Lenten discipline focus was going to be. He said that being a verbal extrovert (I perked up), sometimes when tired, or irritated, his responses can be less than loving.

That’s a cause I can get behind. Less of the worst effects of my design and more of the good that God designed me specifically to share. It will take time.

And in the meantime, I will enjoy the real fifty (plus) shades of gray in the world, comfortably ensconced in yoga pants, hopefully eating bengiets and drinking cafe au lait, finding out what love and community is really about.

Bedlam Magazine: The World Needs a New Kind of Christian-Copeland

Relevant Magazine: Yoga Pants and what the Bible really says about Modesty

define me.

I am made for love.  To feel that surge of the unknown powerful filling my lungs, my heart, my eyes. I love alot, and I love big.  I liberally use the word to show appreciation for something created, or for someone’s gift. I love, love, love everything some days, and others, excavate the deepest parts of my heart to find the tiny bit I have left.

I grew up on Disney fairy tales (pre-pre-Frozen) where, yes, while the girl was smart and feisty, it was still the hero/man/prince who saved the day.  Where once upon a time love was sealed with a kiss, roll credits.  Oh, you got a rom-com from Redbox? Awesome, I’m there.  I’m sure I still have a mix tape or two of 80’s & 90’s love songs too.

How we first experienced love as a child, then as a hormonal and social catastrophe-waiting-to-happen, and finally, finally growing into the adult we have been shaped into all inform our definition of love. Who loved us, and who doesn’t, well, that draws the boundary lines.  How we see the world and everyone and everything in it, our personality, our outlook, our temperament, our mission statement, however you want to frame you, that is how we pronounce love to the world.

On Amazon.com today, there are currently 525,175 books on love.  The Love Dare, The Four Loves, Love & Respect, The 5 Love Languages, How We Love, Love Busters, Love and War; and this is just a brief skimming over of countless titles and subjects written from every direction, all with a voice and a pen and a different take on that little four letter word.  I’m a sucker for a book, so throw love on it and I’m up for a read, another chance to find out how to do love.

It is it’s very organic nature that makes love the effort of our whole being.  Seems simple, on paper.  God is love.  Our task?  Love God, love others.  This is why children often do love best.  They don’t overthink it, categorize it, package it or hoard it.  Love is unpredictable in the hands of humans, prone to fly when it’s meant to stay, hold on when it’s meant to give away.

The thing is, I’m 41 and I think I’m just scratching a tiny corner of the scratch and sniff sticker that is love.  Probably would smell like cotton candy.  Just a thought.  I’ve read and I’ve thought and I’ve prayed and I’ve listened, all my life, just to try and define love.  Like I could get a hold on it, and then…what?

Confession:  I don’t feel up to the tremendous responsibility that love is most of the time.  But I’m learning that maybe that’s because you can’t try to love.  Or do love better, bigger, stronger, successfully.

Because eventually the word feels hollow if overused at Nordstrom. And pretty soon, there needs to be other words in our arsenal to describe our feelings. And seriously, I could have ten romances in a lifetime and never come close to the edge of the vast, deep and wide ravine waterfall that really is love.

The times I have loved best have been when God’s pure love and acceptance for me have overflowed to others.  So I have hope.  That if I pay attention to what He’s telling me and who He is, pay attention to who He’s asking me to love, kick fear to the curb, and then be brave enough to stay soft hearted in this hard world, it will happen.

I won’t be able to define love,  Love will define me.