Prom Night

My girl.  Her Junior/Senior.  No, really, it’s her first and last prom.  It’s a long story but this is her junior and senior year, so this is it.  THE PROM.

She hemmed and hawed as we do about whether she would go or not.  In the end, she wrote her own check and bought her ticket.  Let me just tell you this is HUGE.  I am so proud of her.  She was intent on going and having a great time.  With friends.  I love that.  I didn’t have her courage or grace when I was her age.  The jury is still out on whether I have as much as she does now.

So we went shopping.  In the end she chose a beautiful dress that was just perfect.  From the GW Boutique.  I’m telling you, we love shopping there and can get the best bargains ever.  I was proud of her choosing to shop there and then so thrilled that she found THE DRESS.  (Aub, are you saying yes to the dress?  Why yes, yes I am.)

THE prom dress.....Take 1

THE prom dress…..Take 1

She then planned out her shoes, found them at a different location of the GW Boutique.  Yesterday she got some inexpensive stuff to do her nails and today she did them herself.  I am telling you, this girl can make a party out of nothing.  She just has that gift.

This afternoon she visited our sweet neighbor friend and talented hair stylist, and she got her hair did.  It was beautiful.  So we had all the puzzle pieces together, time to put them in place.  She started getting dressed and came to me to help her zip up.  Oh y’all.  I just about cry when I think back on it. Just a few hours ago.  My girl.  Beautiful.  I tried to zip but I didn’t have my hands in the right place.  So yeah.  This happened today.

This zipper is broke.....and so was my heart.

This zipper is broke…..and so was my heart.

I just pulled wrong and too hard.  I tried y’all.  Really I did.  We got out the needle nose pliers and I opened up the zipper to slide the other side back in.  Oh what a mess.  My heart sank as each minute ticked by.  She was about to miss her prom.  Because I.  Messed.  Up.  If I had been my Granny or my Aunt or my cousin even, I would have ripped that zipper out, HAD the right one here to replace it, and stitched it back in, and she still would have been on time.  Ahem.  No.  I heard my girl say, “It’s okay.  I just won’t go.  It will be all right.”

Not.  On.  My. Watch.

I love this child.  I try not to spoil her.  But I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I’m going to let her miss her prom, after she made the decision to go and got her outfit together with such a good attitude and open heart.

I started barking orders.  Rare for me.  (Never mind, I can’t even type that with a straight face.)  So I said, “Get your dress shoes, take your boots just in case, throw on clothes, we’re going to a store, and this is GOING TO HAPPEN.”

And you know what?  It did.

We had a twenty minute ride to the closest store that might possibly maybe have a dress in stock.  She had called them, and we were hopeful.  In the meantime she was texting our other dear and treasured neighbor friend who was pulling dresses from her closet and texting pictures in case the shopping trip was for naught.  Have I mentioned I have great folks all around me?  Love my neighbors.  Yeah, these folks make that an easy commandment to follow.

We laughed as we made a game plan for our dash-in-try-on-buy-and-dash-out mission.  Failure was not an option.  Despite the rain, she kept her cool and her hair in place.  We walked in and saw a beautiful selection of dresses right away.  My eyes went to the chartreuse immediately (yeah, it’s kinda my thing) and Aub’s went to a cute black and white number with BLING. (And she can pull off some bling!)  She did indulge me and try on the chartreuse.  She thought she looked eight years old.  I thought she looked like Tinkerbell, and it was very cute.  But the black and white one…..her eyes lit up.  The price was right, and the pashmina wrap was on sale (needed–the rain had dropped the temp to 55 already!) and there was a cute pair of earrings to match.  And with that we were at checkout right on time.  We asked the cashier for a pair of scissors to snip the tags off.  (Remember my broken filter? Yeah, I told her about the zipper.)  “Oh when is your Prom?” she asked.   I checked the time.  “Ummm, now.”  Sweet young woman.  Headed to the same college as Aub next year–for nursing school.  She’ll make it.  I saw it in her eyes.

Aub changed in the car–avert your eyes people.  She kept it decent, and we were on our way.  She was only fashionably late, thank goodness.  And all was well.  I am so proud of her for turning her back on a bit of a rough start and setting off for an evening of fun with friends.  I love this girl.

My girl, turning her back on the past, and headed for the future.  You go girl!

My girl, turning her back on the past, and headed for the future. You go girl!

After seeing her off, I called my cousin.  I shared with him the evening’s events.  I told him how bad I had felt about not being able to fix the zipper.  “Eh, it’s good to know what you can and can’t do.”  And he is right.  I could have tried.  But many broken relationships and a month later, Aub might have had some semblance of a dress left.  When it comes to stitching and sewing up something that delicate when it’s that important with serious time constraints…..”ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Tonight I am thankful for a girl who dreams big, who is strong and wise and beautiful inside and out.  I am thankful that we were able to go to a store and get a backup dress.  I am thankful for our conversation and laughter and meeting a new person and hearing her story.  I am thankful for kind and gracious neighbors who are a part of the village helping me raise my children.  I am very thankful for great hair spray that withstands major humidity and many dress changes and tremendous stress.  Finally I’m thankful for the words of wisdom from my cousin–trying to make myself into something or someone I’m not…..yeah, FOR SURE ain’t nobody got time for that.

And just for fun, and with much appreciation, the original “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The Three Gifts

Twenty-four hours into the HospitalStay with Mama, she and I rode in an ambulance from Warner Robins to Macon, a very painful ride for Mama, only made more so by the driver blasting Q106–Classic Rock.  Yeah, there’s another letter to write.  I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Forty-eight hours in, I had spent a night in the CVICU waiting room, been home the next morning for a few hours, and then returned mid-afternoon to hang out with Mama again.  The game plan was for me to stay until visiting hours were over for the night at 9 p.m.  Mama and I talked some, she dozed some, and we sat in companionable silence too.  One of the care techs came in and shared her story with Mama, while holding her hand and trying to take her mind off the pain.  Mama was like that–folks were always sharing their stories with her.  She was a great listener.

As the evening wore on, Mama was getting tired, but the pain kept her from getting good rest.  It was about 8:15 when she said, “Why don’t you head on home? It’s almost time, and I’ll be fine.”  I told her no.  I just didn’t feel like I could leave yet.  I am thankful for that still, small voice that told me to stay.  It was only a few minutes later when I noticed a flurry of activity at the nurses’ station.  Doctors and other staff were gathered and looking towards our room and then moving with purpose towards us.  I knew something big was about to happen.

There was a very kind doctor who had a great smile–remember Enos from Dukes of Hazzard?  Yeah, that kind of smile.  He came in and explained that the latest MRI confirmed what they had suspected, and that Mama would need emergency surgery within the hour.  We were both in shock.  Mama did not want to have surgery.  When my brain started functioning again, I thought about Sandy, my sister who had been there earlier that day for several hours.  She had probably only been home for a couple of hours actually.  I called her and put her on speaker phone.  She talked to Mama about the surgery and listened to what the doctor had to say.  She told Mama, “I don’t think we have a choice.  I’m coming Mama.  I’m leaving now.”

I looked at Mama and she looked at me.  I knew her fears on this, but we really had no choice.  She finally nodded and said, “Go ahead.  Sign it.”  She was in so much pain she hadn’t been able to sign anything for herself since being admitted.  “If it will make this pain go away…..I’ll do anything.”

There was a rush of getting things together and then wheeling Mama down.  One of the last things she told me was, “Don’t let Sandy do anything foolish.”  Meaning what, Mama?  Mama was worried about her making the two hour drive late at night by herself and wasn’t sure Sandy should come.  I tried to reassure her, but I knew it was on her mind.

After meeting the surgeons and anesthesiologist, I was led out to a waiting area.  To sit by myself.  And wait.  I had called my other sister and my brother and let them know.  I talked to my aunt again.  While I was talking to her, she said to be sure to check my cell phone, that my cousin had texted me.  I told her I would, and we said goodbye.

And there was the first gift of the night.

The gift of presence

The gift of presence

My cousin and his wife had come down to stay with his folks for the weekend.  When they heard what was happening, they decided to come and sit with me.  When I read this I shed the first tears of the night.  That they would make their lives interruptible, travel a half hour up that late in the evening, that they didn’t want me to be alone–have I mentioned how incredible my people are?  And they brought me a bottle of water and homemade peach cobbler.  There is that too.

In the meantime I had texted my dear friend and minister, who also said she was coming.  Bless her heart, I was tucked away in a waiting area that no one knew about apparently, so she wound up wandering the hallways of this enormous hospital complex, until she was rescued by a kind soul who led her to where we were.  And then I got the second gift:

The gift of comfort

The gift of comfort

My sweet friend had heard all about my experience of spending the night in the waiting area the night before without the comfort of pillow and blanket.  On her way out her door, she grabbed these blankets and a pillow for me and my sister to have as we sat through the night in the surgery waiting area.  Bless her.  Yes, they were as cuddly as they look.

What a gift she is! Wouldn't you be happy to see that face too?  Here she is saying, "Are you serious?" when a dear friend offered to bring us the Best.  Coffee.  Ever.  (She was, thank goodness.)

What a gift she is! Wouldn’t you be happy to see that face too? Here she is saying, “Are you serious?” when a dear friend offered to bring us the Best. Coffee. Ever. (She was, thank goodness.)

My third gift arrived in a bit of comic relief.  My sister was trying to figure out how to get to the right parking deck.  We could SEE her from the windows in the waiting area.  It was pitch black out, but there she was, trying to get around one way and closed streets to where I was telling her to go.  Finally my sweet cousin pulled out her phone and used the GPS to lead Sandy in.  I was so relieved and thankful when she was finally sitting next to me.  And I looked around.  Sitting around us were people who loved us, who made time to be with us during a very dark and scary time.  And there were so many more who were holding us in their hearts who couldn’t be physically present.  So thankful for them all.

One of my heroes, Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in North Carolina tells the story of one of his friends in need asking him for help with her utilities.  She became quite upset when he told her he just didn’t have it.  “I thought you were my friend,” she said.  And Hugh told her he was.  And that though he couldn’t keep her lights from going off, he would come and sit with her in the dark…..because that’s what he thinks Jesus does.  Sits with us in the dark.*

Tonight I am thankful for family and friends who sit with us in the dark.  Who hold our hands and tell us it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay not to want to do this again.  So soon.  And who bring us comfort in the form of warmth and a most delicious peach cobbler.  Most of all, I am thankful for folks who show up.  They may not be able to fix things–things may not even be fixable.  But in the midst of the darkness, they show up.  In whatever way they are able to–bringing meals, sending messages, making phone calls, dropping off goody bags, delivering cups of coffee, offering hugs in a hallway, listening,  sharing muffins on a Wednesday aftenoon, through all of this–sitting with us in the dark.  And that is one of the greatest things any of us can do for each other.

*This story can be read in the chapter “The Marine,” in Karen Spears Zacharias’ book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?: ‘Cause I Need More Room for my Plasma TV“.  Or you can meet Hugh Hollowell here http://lovewins.info/ or here (yes, it’s 18 minutes long, but I’m pretty sure you will love him):

What She Sees

Do you know what a “meme” is?  According to Wikipedia (a great resource, right, I know), “a meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.”

Yeah, okay, now that I’ve cleared that up, the “What I do” one really cracks me up, especially this one about homeschooling.

Hi, I'm a homeschool Mama, and only one, well okay, two of these may be accurate.  Don't ask me which ones.

Hi, I’m a homeschool Mama, and only one, well okay, two of these may be accurate. Don’t ask me which ones.

We have an example of the “What I do,” or rather “What I see” meme going on around here.  I was watching my middle one riding her bike up and down our dead-end street the other day.  She was so happy and free riding along.  It’s one of her favorite things to do.  She was so proud the day she learned to ride her bike on  her own.

Only it’s not her bike.  Exactly.

This is my daughters’ bike.

My daughters' bike--about twelve years old. Many a happy mile has been ridden with this one.

My daughters’ bike–about twelve years old. Many a happy mile has been ridden with this one.

That was not a typo.  It belongs to both my daughters.  It was my oldest daughter’s bike, a gift about twelve years ago, from my great aunt.  She was like a grandmother to me, and she delighted in getting this bike for my girl for her birthday.  I can remember how happy Aub was riding it.  Mama and Daddy would load Aub and the bike up and go down to see my aunt, letting her walk along while my oldest rode it on her paved driveway.

Fast forward about ten years.  Daddy knew that our Princess had outgrown her little bike with the training wheels.  He remembered he had kept this bike out in his building all those years, and he told me he thought it was time.  It was bittersweet as he was the one to teach Aub to ride how to ride without training wheels all those years ago…..on this bicycle.  The lymphoma had taken away his ability to teach this granddaughter, but not his desire to have her learn.  So we got the bicycle out, brushed the dust off, and brought it home.  And that was the beginning of the shared love of this bicycle.

I did have good intentions.  Those rusty handlebars?  I planned to paint them.  The hand grips?  They could be easily replaced, as could the seat with a chunk taken out of it.  (Ouch.  I do NOT remember how that one happened.)  I even had plans to replace the pedals.  But in truth, with the chaos of our lives the past two years, those things never happened.  In fact, all we have replaced is the tires.  Out of necessity.  (Dry rot–vicious stuff that.)

As I watched our little butterfly fly up and down the street on her bike, I thought about her bike and the fact that she LOVES it.  The rust and oldness of it do not bother her at all.  In fact, I think this is how she sees it.

How I think our butterfly sees her bike

How our butterfly sees her bike

Of course, as I look around at our plethora of “interesting” things in the yard, on the porch, and so forth, I am afraid that this might be how some folks around here see her bike.

How I'm afraid the neighbors see the bike

How I’m afraid the neighbors see the bike

But not this girl.  Oh, how I love her vision!  We say she’s our sunshine, only sometimes we have to wear sunglasses.  Things like a little rust or old pedals don’t slow her down.

Tonight I am thankful for this child who dresses herself in what we would call mismatched colors and patterns but still looks beautiful, who sings and dances and asks us to sit for her performances, and who giggles when we ask for autographs.  I love how she sees this world.  I adore that the bike she is riding is made all the more precious to her because it belonged to her sister. This child who loves animals and cannot stand to see anyone have their feelings hurt, this child of mine will have her own hard time of it in this world.  But this I know, her sentimental heart and sweet smile and special way of seeing things has shed light into many a dark day, and I am thankful that she is just who she is.

And one more, just for fun–how SHE sees herself on her bike:

This is a real princes, not OURS.  Princess Amalia, Dutch heir, riding HER bicycle. But I am sure our girl sees herself as a princess riding her beautiful bicycle.

This is a real princess, not OURS. Princess Amalia, Dutch heir, riding HER bicycle. But I am sure our girl sees herself as a princess riding her beautiful bicycle.

With all respect, to the adults in my child’s life

Disclaimer: I have had a headache today, and I really did need a nap.  Alas, it did not happen.  So I apologize for the following.  Maybe. NOTE: Filter broken.

Dear Adults in my child’s life,

Here lately I’ve been thinking on some situations that have left me shaking my head.  As I listen to my teenager tell me what’s happened, and she asks, “Why?” or “How?” I struggle to find an answer to give her about these folks who are grownup and making these choices.

Fo the times you let things get out of hand when you are in charge, let her peers rattle her cage and wait to stop it, thank you.  She now knows where you stand, as do I.  We know better now.

Thank you for saying, “Well she never calls me.”  YOU never call her.  And who is the grownup here?  (Oh, that’s right, it may very well be her. Hmmmm.) The same goes with complaining that she never comes to see you.  Do you come see her?

And to the grownups that see her and then ignore her, but make sure you each see her–yes, there have been awkward moments in your relationship, but sitting and whispering and pointing and NEVER speaking? Yeah, that didn’t make things more awkward at all.

If you promise to do something, I’d suggest you do it.  Or have a phenomenal reason why you didn’t. She’s written folks off for less than that.  Just FYI.

And finally to those who label today’s teenagers the “instant gratification” generation while complaining that the wifi is too slow or that the drive-thru line is too long, ummm, well, you’re on your own.

Here’s the thing, I am tired of people knocking teenagers and complaining about how they are.  I know quite a few, and most of them I think pretty highly of.  I know young adults with integrity and a great sense of humor, who take time to serve and help others; not because their schools require a paper signed saying they’ve “served” so many hours, but because they really, genuinely care.  I know teenagers who choose to spend their time with people who are homeless, with young children in need, who travel on their school breaks to serve folks in another country.  These “kids” don’t need role models.  They ARE role models.

But for those who could use someone to watch, someone to guide them, here’s a thought.  Could we, AS ADULTS, check our behavior and make sure it’s role model worthy?  I’m looking in the mirror as I say this as well.  I need some polishing, quite a bit actually.   I just think we are all a bit hypocritical when we say, “I wish they’d act more adult-like…..I wish he’d grow up…..Why isn’t she being more mature?”  From what I’ve seen up close and personal and in the media, I think that young people may be out of luck.  We’re bickering over who’s right, who’s wrong, what other people should do or say and how they should live.  We tell young people to get things done, and then we spend hours in front of all kinds of foolishness on the computer, our laptops, our smart phones.  (Oh boy, that one hurt, Tara! I say to myself. I know, I know) We are so busy pointing fingers or staring at screens that we forget who is watching us.

In the past few weeks, I have seen more behavior from ADULTS that I don’t want my children emulating.  I don’t want my children to judge others.  I want them to be okay with being the first to forgive and offer grace.  I want them to have their priorities straight.  I want them to continue to grow and learn.  I want them to love all, and do love.  That’s the bottom line–I want them to grow and to love.

The irises brightening our days and our spirits

The irises brightening our days and our spirits

This week our yard has been graced by these beautiful irises.  These are from some bulbs I found on clearance at Wal-Mart at the end of the season a few years back, and I let my little bitty ones plant them.  Pretty much, they dug, and they threw them in some not very deep holes.  The whole thing was, quite honestly, not very intentional.  However, look at them!  Each year, just when I’ve almost forgotten about them, they burst out with the most beautiful blossoms.  And what a sight to behold!

I think that it is important for me to remember that my behavior and attitude are like those bulbs.  I may not be putting an example out there intentionally, but I am planting a bulb.  It may stay in the ground for quite a while, but eventually, that thing’s gonna grow.  And because I want to grow beauty and grace in the world, I’d better be real careful about what I’m dropping into the soil of their souls.  Because whether I intend to plant it or not, if I drop it, eventually it will grow.

Thank you for sticking with me through my headache-induced rant.  Tonight I give thanks for those adults who ARE planting beautiful bulbs of love and grace with my children.  Those who are careful with their words, those who encourage and empower our children to help and to shine brighter.  I am thankful for those who are patient and listen, and who give the most precious gifts of time and respect.  You may not see the beauty come to full fruition any time in the near future, but know that one day, it will, and I thank you for that.

Who has your bail money?

Jail-Bars-and-Cuffs

After my Mama had been in the hospital in Macon, in the CVICU, for two weeks, for whatever reason, they decided to move her.   (I have my theories, but considering we’re in polite company, well…..)  To the STICU, which I’ve already described in previous posts–suffice to say we called it the STINKU.  Unfortunately the day that they moved her, they failed to let us, the family, know.

I was at Mercer University, not ten minutes away, with my oldest for her scholarship interviews.  My sister had come in from out of town to see Mama and was about to head up there, when I got a call about our elderly cousin of whom Mama was guardian.  She needed to go to the ER.  Her breathing problems and lung condition had gotten much worse.  I called Sandy to tell her, offering for her to go with my girl to Mercer so I could meet them at the hospital.  She said no, she’d go, and then she’d see Mama later on.

We had a good day at Mercer, checking in regularly with Sandy at the hospital in Warner Robins and with Mama’s nurse in Macon.  Around 3:00 I called the hospital to check on how Mama was doing, and I was told she was not there.

“I’m sorry, what?”  (I really got to make time to have my hearing checked.)

The voice replied.  Again.  “She’s not there.”

Unbelievably, there had been one other woman there with Mama’s name.  “Oh, no, I’m sorry, I’m not speaking of the one on the 9th floor–the one in the CVICU.”

“Nope, I’m sorry.  Not there.”  Pause as MY HEART STOPPED BEATING and my whole body was immediately in shock.  “She’s been moved.  STICU.”

Ah, okay, wait, WHAT?!?

As I was dialing Sandy, our other sister called me.  I told her.  She already knew, as she had just talked to Sandy, who had also just tried to call.  They had told Sandy she was in surgery.  WHAT?! Oh, I see what you did there.  Surgical Trauma ICU/Surgery.  Yeah, one and the same, why not?  *sigh*

So Sandy and I worked out that as soon as the interview was finished, my oldest and I would head over to the Medical Center as quickly as possible.  Our cousin, Miss Betty, was frightened, so Sandy did not want to leave her.  She’s a good egg, that one.

As I waited for the final interview to end, I emailed my aunt, who was and still is our ADULT in the midst of the craziness of all of this.  I had to let her  know Mama had been moved, and NO ONE HAD TOLD US.  (We kept our numbers posted HUGE in her room for goodness’ sake!)

“About to throw down, save some bail money please.”  I wrote, with tears streaming down my face.

She immediately emailed back.  “I don’t know what it means that she’s been moved…..but you should have been called the minute someone first formulated the possibility in his/her head.  Man!  I got the bail money.  Do what you gotta do.”

That.  That right there.  Family.  Love.  Having your back.  That’s the good stuff in this life.  And that and my pair of boots are what give me the confidence to show out when I have to.

I have to clarify here, my aunt is a very gentle person.  She is not a bat-swinging, where-are-the-ones-who-did-this kind of gal.  But when it’s necessary, she has my back.  And that’s what I need more than anything.  To know that.

My brother preached a sermon a while back, I think it was while Mama was in the hospital.  About “Next of Kin.”  He talked about a time when he was at home, and he couldn’t find Mama.  Anywhere.  So rather than panic, he called our aunt.  About the time she picked up, Mama walked into the room (apparently they missed each other in a game of musical rooms) and said, “Who’s on the phone?”  He told her who it was, and she said, “Okay, let me talk to her,” assuming our aunt had called our house.  They both talked for a few minutes, and he laughs now, thinking about how each one probably wondered why the other one called.  Next of kin.  Whom do we call when we’re scared?  Worried?  Upset?  Frightened?  Whom do we call to share our joys? Our triumphs?  Our giggles over our broken filters?  Who has our bail money ready and tells us to do what we have to do?

Treasure those folks, because when you lose them, you really, really miss them.  Give yours a call and say thanks.  Make them smile today.

Today I am thankful for my aunt, who stepped up and was my bail money person on that day and so many others since.  And for her children, who share her with us.  (And for her precious daughter who makes me laugh wondering why her mother never offered her bail money–I got yours girl, you hear me?  Always.)

And for the record, while it was a close call, no bail money was actually needed that day after all. But it came real close…..

Enough

you-are-enough

My friend and I were talking on the phone Thursday about where our faith and our lives were heading. “Sometimes I’m just worried I don’t do enough,” my dear friend said.

This breaks my heart.

Enough.

This word has haunted me most of my life. I am sure that it is the cause of many folks sitting on the couch in the room of their therapist, seeking to hear that they are. Enough.

Enough to be chosen to be a friend.

Enough to be faithful to.

Enough to be truthful with.

Enough to laugh and have fun with.

Enough to change plans to spend time with.

Enough to stand up to others for.

Enough to be paid attention to and respected and cherished.

Enough to be loved.

Enough. Simply enough.

My friend who worries if she does enough? She has walked most of life’s darkest pathways with me. She loves fiercely–her family, her friends. If you “belong” to her, you never doubt where you stand. You are loved. And she worries that she doesn’t do enough? Where is this stuff coming from?

From our society, our culture. You are not enough unless…..You do not have enough unless…..You do not do enough unless…..these thoughts flash through my mind as fast as the commercials that send these messages flash on our television screens. We are told that no matter where we are, what we are doing, how we look–“enough” does not even enter into the picture. If you don’t believe me, take a moment at the checkout stand at the grocery store. Look at the headlines on the magazines. Most of them thrive on telling us we (don’t do, don’t have, are not) enough.

Tonight I saw the heartbreak in a mama’s eyes. The culprit? The message that one she loves is getting–that she’s not enough. Oh we as Mamas, as daughters, as sisters, as friends–we can tell the one we care about– You. You are enough. More than enough. But the voices of our peers, of the society we live in, of this world? They tell us we will never be so. And those voices all too often, unfortunately, are much, much louder.

I told this beautiful Mama, who ministers to so many, “You are a good Mama.” She is. And even though she can’t prevent the pain from happening or fix it when it does, she is ENOUGH. She’s a beautiful soul who shines like a new penny, with a rich hue of grace and love she generously gives to others.

I told my friend who worries about how much she does, who says she “only” spends time loving her friends and family, “If you are loving those around you as much as you can, then you are doing enough. That loving has far-reaching effects you may never know about.” The grace and love we give to someone else gets passed along.

Tonight I listened as my own daughter shared the story of backing into another car. She is friends with the other car’s owner. He and his whole family showed her such grace and forgiveness and love. It made a huge impression on her. She has passed that grace on to others….. like the folks in traffic who frustrate her. She said, “I was given grace I didn’t deserve, so I can pass it along.” I know what she means. After this family was so kind and gracious when I spoke with them, I was later able to love on some folks in a very difficult situation. And it was not really hard at all. That is the ripple effect of love and grace.

Just as the good and the grace and the love get passed along, so does the yucky stuff. If we are frustrated or angry or intolerant and share that, in whatever form that might take, believe me, it gets passed along just as quickly, if not quicker.

So here’s an idea. Let’s make a pact. Let’s be the ones to say ENOUGH. And let’s tell someone now that he or she is ENOUGH. Look her in the eye. Take her hand. And tell her truly and passionately and with all the love you feel for this person, You. You are ENOUGH. There are enough folks in this broken world telling those we love just the opposite. Let’s be the voices of grace and love and be the ones to start the ripple of good stuff today. And if you do this, love others with all your hearts, you, my friends, ARE ENOUGH.

The message below is brought to you with a giggle by a friend who shared this with me many years ago. A great mantra for us all–share it with others!

Beauty and Sorrow

Pieces of home

Pieces of home

Today was a beautiful spring day. The sun gave everything the glow of highly polished gold, reflecting the beautiful blue of the sky. The wind kept the sun’s rays from being too warm. The day started off just cool enough to make me appreciate the warmth from the rays this afternoon.

Lunch with my sister and her family, an impromptu and entertaining visit with my cousin over at Mama’s. The joy of being with family, folks who know what lies behind the smiles and laughters and make no demands that it be any different. Just comfortable. Understood.

And yet, in the midst of the good moments, I found myself laying on the floor in the middle of the hallway at Mama’s. I lay there and closed my eyes. I could hear the past, Mama calling us for supper, Daddy calling my name to come help with something, or his patience as he helped me prepare for the state spelling bees, our whispers and giggles after lights out, all four of us piling into one bed early on Christmas morning, waiting until we could wake Mama and Daddy up.  I could see the sun shining through the windows at my favorite time of day. 4:30 p.m. Usually I had homework done by then, Daddy was almost home, and it was too early to prepare the table for supper.  A peaceful and sometimes quiet time in our home.  I could smell the brownies or chewy bars or peanut butter bars Mama had made for our afternoon snacks, which would welcome us as we came in the back door home from school. I could feel the heat from the baseboard heaters against my back in the middle of a cold winter evening. I remembered the way the attic fan would draw the refreshing night air in through the open windows on hot summer nights, billowing curtains cheering the coolness on. I saw Daddy’s coats hanging on the wooden hooks in the hall. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. And listened to the echoes of the past and then…..the quiet. How could it all be so close but I cannot reach out and grab it and keep it close to me? This. This is the thin place where I live.

I walked barefooted outside in the yard. I have a wise cousin who would say this helps ground me. It does. Being at the place that has been home for over 35 years also grounds me. It brings me joy and peace. And it also brings me tears and longing. For all the pieces to be back together. Today the ground was damp under my feet as I walked across the grass showing off with its new green sprigs popping up. Tonight my cheeks are as well. The longing for the people who made this home, for truly it is only the people who ever could, that longing–the reason for the unanticipated, uncontrollable sobbing when I found myself in that rare moment alone. The moment when it all hits me how suddenly and unexpectedly it was all taken away.  Broken.

There is beauty in this day and there is sorrow. And the two cannot be untangled, as it was the beauty that brought the memories that led to the surfacing of the sorrow. I do dearly despise platitudes as I told my cousin today. And he said, “Well pretty much all that can be said is, it will be different. Nothing will ever be the same again.” For those words, for the absence of the need to fix things with his words, I am thankful.

And I am thankful for the moments that are thin–when for a brief period of time, it is the same. For just a few minutes today, memory was real and all was whole again. There is beauty in that.

Ain’t nobody gonna help you

This display was seen at a bookstore on our walk in downtown Macon.  Daddy warned me about this crew!

This display was seen at a bookstore on our walk in downtown Macon. Daddy warned me about this crew!

Tuesday when the littles and I were headed back from the Grand Opera House to where we’d parallel parked (you may take a moment to be impressed–ha) on a side street, I saw this display in the window of a bookstore.  As I stood there taking it all in, I thought about what Daddy said when I was expecting my first one, his first grandchild, eighteen years ago.

“Ain’t nobody gonna help you raise this young’un.”

Now my Daddy was an educated man, a wordsmith of sorts who did all kinds of cogitating and reading fascinating and in-depth works.  However, he was smart enough to pass on this bit of wisdom in just this way, probably the same way it had been passed to him.  I don’t know, maybe it’s his original thought and he just knew it would resonate better this way.

Because I’ve never forgotten it.

When folks gave my child the diet soda when she was very small instead of the juice I’d sent, I remembered this.  When ThoseInCharge on the plane trips back and forth from Japan played Rated R movies on the overhead screens and I had to keep a constant check that she wasn’t watching (and therefore I could not sleep!), I thought about this.  When one of her teachers questioned why I wasn’t letting her watch one of the popular tv shows at the time, I remembered Daddy’s words.  When those who should have had her best interest first and foremost let her down time after time, yep, Daddy, I would think, you are SO right.

There have been so many times.  Rules set by parents of peers–they give their children new cars while she is sharing Becky the Blazer with me.  Children who had cell phones way before she did, and she just didn’t understand.  Young people her age allowed freedoms that just aren’t okay with me.  These folks just ARE NOT making it any easier for me in raising my child.   Oh boy, was Daddy right.  Nobody’s helping me here.

But then again…..

I look around now, today, just four weeks until her graduation.  And I know what Daddy was saying, and yes, so many times it was true.  I’m glad he told me that so I was a little prepared each time it happened.  But I also know he was wrong in a lot of instances too.  He himself proved the prophecy wrong.  He and Mama have been huge in the “raising up” of my children.  Their help was priceless and made a significant impact on the young woman about to embark on the next step in her journey. (Maybe his double negative was prophetic after all?)

There are others.

Family, our people, who take time to love unconditionally, as hard as that may be–and to laugh with me and at me in the challenges of parenthood

The teachers who empower and encourage her to think for herself–the ones who show her the door but let her open it herself

The folks in her life who helped her figure out what she believes and what she doesn’t and give her grace in changing her mind; those who help her on her faith journey, help her to develop strong faith so her steps won’t be wobbly as she continues upward

Those who take time to listen to her stories, people of all ages who love her and listen and call me on stuff as well (you know who you are)

Today I am thankful for those who have given her grace and love and a safe place and continue to do so.  When the messages she gets from those around her fill her with doubt or sadness, there are people who ARE helping me raise her–our village people–the ones who hug her, who are on her side, who come out swinging the proverbial bat, saying, “Where are they? I got this.”  Those are the ones I’m thankful for.  And because of them–

The folks who ain’t gonna help me just don’t matter.

And for the record, no one got a book on Tuesday.

What would you take?

Sleep is an elusive creature these days. I can be very, very tired, eyes drooping and fall into a deep slumber only to find myself wide awake in the early hours and unable to fall asleep again anytime soon. I find myself missing my college days of truly sleeping in–rising on Saturdays at 11:30 and dashing over for brunch in my sweats before they shut it down at 11:45. Those were the days…..for sleeping anyway.

But last night, I was sleeping soundly. So soundly I did one of those things where I woke up, reviewed my dream, and fell back into it. In part one, friends of ours stationed in Germany were living in this huge complex that was housed in a beautiful, historical looking building. They were living up on one of the top floors. Outside of their “apartment” was this very open staircase area, and the staircase could be seen as far down as you could look. It was as though there were no end–they were up that high. The husband told us that’s where we should live–it was beautiful and efficient and a great place. Well…..heights and me…..fair weather friends. I can handle it in some situations, but not in others. And never,  in my wildest dreams, would I live in such a place with the scary, horrifying stair situation. Oh wait. I was wrong. In my wildest dream, just last night, I DID live in that place. This was after the intermission where I woke up to think, why is he telling us to live there? That’s just crazy. Zzzzzz I was back out and there we were, living in this very high rise mansion. With all those staircases.

But good news, it was beautiful. However, this is about the time someone started talking about structural instability…..and how the whole thing could collapse at any point. The culprit? You got it. Those ridiculously frightening staircases. I knew when I stepped out on it and IT SHOOK, we had serious problems. This is when the order was issued. Everyone was to get out. There actually were elevators in the complex,  and some folks were using them. No way. I know what can happen with that. So I started easing my way down those already collapsing staircases, only to find myself back in the apartment with the assignment of grabbing what was important to take with me.  (I think my children were with me, maybe, but this was a pretty egocentric dream, truth.)  What I chose to take couldn’t be very heavy or cumbersome. I grabbed a bottle of spices–probably the Greek seasoning I used to make our Greek chicken burgers last night, but I didn’t have time to really check. I also grabbed a huge glass jar of juice or liquid of some kind. You know, because that’s not awkward to manage at all when exiting a collapsing building. Then I was off.

Not the actual jar and spices from my dream, just added for special effects

Not the actual jar and spices from my dream, just added for special effects

The rest of the details are hazy, and I woke up again. And I lay there. Spices? Juice or whatever? Seriously?

So I thought about my LIST. I have a friend who has a specific list of what to get out in case of a fire. I know in general, but a specific list? Beyond the children? Ummmmm, not really. So at 3 a.m. I worked on my list. In the dark.

What really matters in that situation is humbling, isn’t it? I think I would grab the hard drive. It has our pictures on it, and I wouldn’t want to lose those. I would like to grab the fire proof box, but I decided I would chance it living up to its name because it’s pretty heavy. I have a bag that has legal documents that I’m dealing with right now, so I’d better grab that or I’d be in big trouble. The thing is, there are so many things I am not able to get rid of for sentimental reasons or because “I might need” or “Maybe one day,” but when it comes down to it…..I didn’t put a one of them on my list. My children and my pictures. My past and my future.

Someone shared the other day that if you see your house is on fire and are relieved, that should tell you something. I do not want my house to burn down, but when it comes down to what is really important, what I no kidding do not want to let go of, that is telling. This is the season for rebirth and spring cleaning and growing into something new. I think that my dream last night, and the hours of processing after are teaching me something. I can let go of some things that I haven’t been able to before. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but when it comes down to what really truly matters in my life, I have a bunch of stuff around me that really doesn’t matter.

And included in that are the spices and that jar of juice.

Who Told You Who You Are?

I had the great joy of taking my littles to the Grand Opera House in Macon yesterday to see Rainbow Fish.  Field trip! I LOVE live theater.  I give thanks for parents who, while they didn’t have much extra, made sure we saw live plays and classical concerts.  Love love love it.  It is so fun for me to see the love of it growing in all of my children.

My 8 year old daughter loves to read.  Over doing ANYTHING else, except maybe playing outside with her friends.  (And in response to my family here, yes, it’s payback–she comes by it honestly.)  She has recently picked up her children’s Bible and is reading through it for a second time.  If she doesn’t become a minister, I will be quite surprised.  The questions she comes up with floor me sometimes.  Over the weekend she asked, “So Mama, is Jesus and all of his family, like Mary and Joseph, living up in Heaven too?”  She’s quite taken with the idea of who all is there now that she has folks she treasures there.

So yesterday morning as we were waiting for the play to begin, she leaned over and whispered, “Mama, who told Jesus he was God’s son?”  Um, what?  “Was it his Mama and Daddy? Joseph and Mary?”

Wow.  Just wow.  Without getting into a theological discussion here, as I’m not a good enough Biblical scholar for that, I had no idea how to properly her.  After doing a little searching, I don’t know that there is a set answer.  So.  Yeah.  Maybe?

The lights dimmed, and the play began.  My littles and I were entranced with the great performance of four fabulous actors telling the story of someone becoming happy when she shared her gifts.  Throughout I found myself thinking about that question.  And then this:  who told me who I was?  My parents.  They not only told me who I was, they gave me the gift of KNOWING I could do anything I chose to set my mind and abilities to.  (Yeah, I know, except for putting that toothpaste back in the tube.  But I am working on it.)  They empowered me to set out on my dreams.  You want to get a job? Okay, we’ll get you there and back, as I couldn’t drive yet.  You want to go to Wesleyan? Okay, we’ll help you do the things you need to do to make that happen.  More than things like that, they told me what I was.  They told me I was smart.  That I was capable.  That I could do great things.  Mama told me often I was beautiful, and while I think she was quite biased, it made me feel good.  They gave me the confidence to step out in this world and try to do the great things, big or small,  they raised me to do.  And when the world hit back, really, really hard?  They opened their door as sanctuary once again, and helped me put the pieces back together.  Yes, it was Mama and Daddy who told me who I was and then gave me the strength, encouragement, and resources to keep on becoming more.

This month is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It was a year ago that A Silence of Mockingbirds by Karen Spears Zacharias was released.  If you haven’t read anything by her, you really, really should.  Great writer and fantastic soul.  In all honesty, if someone else had written this story, I would not have read it.  I knew the story would be hard, but I trusted Karen that this was a story that needed telling.  And it is.  I had the book in hand by Friday afternoon, and I was finished reading it by Saturday afternoon–AND no one had to wear dirty clothes or go without a meal.  It was a compelling read…..which is hard to believe, considering I already knew the ending.

The story that rocked my world.....holding me accountable for working to change things for these children. When I met Karen Spears Zacharias for the first time last May, she asked, "What are you going to do to change things?"

The story that rocked my world…..holding me accountable for working to change things for these children. When I met Karen Spears Zacharias for the first time last May, she asked, “What are you going to do to change things?”

The thing is, child abuse is something that is hard to think about.  We want to believe that the system is in place to protect children.  Friends, it is not, as Karen shares in her story.  There are holes in the system and WE must be the fillers.  We have to be a part of the system that fights for them.  We as individuals, we as community, we as church, we as the world, MUST be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves.  I could make all kinds of suggestions here on how to get involved, but one the best things to do is read this book.  Karen has taken time to do the right research and tells us what we can do to make a difference.   If you can’t handle reading it, I get it, really I do.  Please contact your local child abuse prevention organization and educate yourself.  There’s great information on the internet too.  If we are educated, we know what to look for and who to call and how to help.  It is imperative that we are prepared.  I don’t know how to say this any stronger.  IT IS UP TO US.  WE HAVE TO ACT.

My parents told me who I was.  Somebody.  And many times, they had to remind me to “Act like you are somebody.”  I knew I was loved and treasured and when they disciplined me, it was because they knew I had better in me.  WE have to be the ones to tell these little ones and big ones, who are trapped in brokenness and who are hearing all the wrong messages, who they are.  They are loved.  They are treasured.  They are capable, and this is not their fault.  They are worth our time and effort and love.  They are worth our getting involved.

Who told Jesus he was God’s son?  I’m not sure.  But I am sure what he told us.  To take care of those who need help–the children.  Today I am thankful for my little minister who made me think about this, so I would re-commit myself to telling the little ones who they are.

For more information about Karen’s book and Karly’s story, go to http://karenzach.com/meet-karly-sheehan/