Pondering What Language God Speaks

Today was Spanish lesson day.  Our sweet and fun teacher, Miss M, comes to the house and works with the littles for a half an hour or so.  They are really enjoying their lessons, as she makes it fun to learn.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly they are picking it up.

Today we learned the names of colors.  Azul (blue) and rosa (pink) we knew from Dora the Explorer, thank you very much.  Today they learned amarillo. (Cooter said it sounded like armadillo, and then went off on a tangent about running over them. No! I’ve never ever.)  And blanca.  And rojo and verde.  And then came naranja.

Both Cooter and our Princess started off trying to pronounce it phonetically, using the English version of the sound the “j” makes.  I stepped in like I do *sigh*, “No y’all, in Spanish the ‘j’ makes the “huh” sound.”

Miss M reinforced that with them, and as Cooter practiced one more time, I turned to Princess and asked, “If the j makes an ‘h’ sound in Spanish, then how do you think “Jesus” is pronounced in Spanish?”

She sounded it out and eventually came up with the phonetic pronunciation of “Hay-soos.”  Very good.

Miss M explained that yes, in Spanish, that is how Jesus is pronounced, but in English it is Jesus.

Cooter looked up.

“Huh,” he said, staring at nothing.  I could see the wheels turning.  “I guess God speaks the same language we do then.”

Y’all.

Oh my.

Not wanting the Spanish lesson to be taken over with an obviously needed theology lesson for my seven-year old, I held off on saying too much just then.  But both Miss M and I laughed and shook our heads.

“The way some folks act and think, you would think so, wouldn’t you?”

I have a challenge on my hands, I’m afraid.  We’re all a bit egocentric at best, and Cooter is no exception.  But I want him to know that Jesus didn’t speak English, King James or otherwise, that God does not choose America’s side over another country, that Jesus most likely was not blue-eyed and fair-skinned, and that God and Jesus go way beyond nationalities and borders and languages.

It’s going to take a while, I’m afraid.  I know adults who don’t get it yet.

So we’ll add theology to our list of studies for now, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they can grasp just how much we can’t grasp about God.  And the world.  And still be okay with it.

As my Aunt says, I think we’re all going to be surprised.

Love to all.

 

Snarkiness, a Mama Fit, and What Came Next

Mama Confession #939.

Y’all, I showed out today.

Pitched one more fit.

Even slammed a door.

And I’m so sorry.

But I’m not sorry for what followed.

Today my littles were out playing with their friends, and is wont to happen with the under 10 crowd, as well as the over 9, under 25, 24-99 and all others, drama ensued.  By with this group, it’s the kind that after all go in and have lunch and come back out, all is forgotten.  It’s a different kind of grace, but grace nonetheless.

So emotions had been tight at one point and another.  My oldest has been under the weather.  My to do list, when I look at it in its entirety, overwhelms me and makes me want to crawl in a hole and hide.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I don’t even have time to actually write down all I need to do, my time is so full of trying to do things.)

To say we were all primed and in a mood would be appropriate and quite spot on actually.

And then it happened.

The snarky words, the unkind look that broke this Mama Camel’s back.

I was done.

So much so I couldn’t even “use my words” as I encourage and sometimes even beg my crew to do.

I stormed out of the room.  The kind of overdramatic huffing and stomping out of the room that was reminiscent of my teenage years.  The only thing missing was the exaggerated “eye roll” and my raising my voice to announce, “You don’t even understand me AT ALL.”

I’m not sure I even understood myself this afternoon.

I went to my room and I slammed the door.

Loud.

I sat for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened.

My heart hurt.  I felt like crying.

My children were turning on each other.  Those who should love and support each other were pointing out differences with an accusing finger.  They were calling names and poking fun and pushing buttons of vulnerability and frustration.  It wasn’t pretty.  And all I could do is sit back and watch.

Or was it?

I decided to take action.  Time for a meeting.  You know the ones I mean.  Where I sit and talk and have moments of silence for emphasis.

*raised eyebrow* EMPHASIS.

So many times when the “fussin'” has ensued, I’ve sent one or another or all three of them to their rooms.  I came close today.  Real close.

And then I had a thought.

I thought about how I’ve been writing about how we need each other, we need folks.  We need community and togetherness.  If I believe those things, and I think they can help in times of strife in our community, our church, our world, then why not in my own home, with my own people?

So instead of sending everyone to his or her own room, I sat them down on Cap’s couch.  I told them I love them, and that this home, our family, is supposed to be a safe place for them to be.  A comfort.  And that with the way we’ve all been using words and looks and unkind comments, it hasn’t been that.  I talked about all of the brokenness and hurt in the world and how we didn’t need to bring that into our home.  There’s enough sadness in the world already.

And then I dropped the bomb.

I told them to spend at least thirty minutes together, all three of them.  They could do whatever, but all three had to agree to whatever it was and they had to be kind in words, thoughts, and deeds.

And guess what?

They spent more than 30 minutes together. Way more.  They watched a show together, one they all liked.  They paused it and had a snack together.  One they chose–together.

And you know what else?

I felt peace.

In my heart.  In my home.

Oh well, there was still a moment or two that I had to remind them and *ahem* myself to choose our words and actions a little more carefully, but for the most of the rest of our day, we had peace.

Kindness.

Laughter.

Compassion.

Encouragement.

Sympathy.

While I was trying to climb and conquer Mt. Washmore this afternoon, I turned on the TV.  It was a Harry Potter marathon.  I think it was the fifth or sixth movie that was on.  When the headmaster Dumbledore calls and gathers all of the students into the main hall, he tells them why they were all searched upon arrival to Hogwart’s.  He explains that evil will always try to get in, and it is up to each one of them–they each have the ability–to keep it out.

And so it is.

I felt like something was worming its way into our home today, has been for a little while actually.  And it’s up to each one of us to be intentional with our thoughts, words, and actions–to keep it kind and a safe place for us to be.  Safe to share our stories, our worries, our joys, and our fears.  Safe.  Comforting.  A place where we can be ourselves and not looked down upon for it.

I still believe there’s a time and a place for being sent to one’s room for some down time, quiet time for contemplation.  It certainly helped me to regroup and think through to a plan of sorts today…..well with the exception of that whole pitching a fit part.  But I also believe there is a time to come together–not just a time, a need for it.  Unfortunately in our days and nights of places to be, things that need doing, numerous forms of entertainment, and assignments to complete–we can lose track of our togetherness, so focused on each individual’s coming and goings.  And sometimes what we need most is to be connected, to be with those who will always love and accept and listen, no matter what.  Those whom we belong to.  Sometimes we just need a little reminder of who that is and what that feels like.

Tonight I’m thankful for folded clothes and the wise words of a fictional wizard.  I give thanks for each one of my gifts, my children–each so different and unique and yet so much alike.  I have my fingers crossed that they grow up to be best friends, and that they always, always have each other’s backs.  And most of all, I give thanks for togetherness and love and the laughter I heard as the afternoon wore on and they spent good time together.  Sometimes it’s easiest to push away the very ones we need the most.  Today I give thanks that we took a different route.

Sending them to a room to be together…..who knew.  Sometimes that’s just what we need–after all, there’s strength in numbers.  And a lot of fun too.

Love to all.

 

Sunday Drives and Other Ways of Doing

Saturday night.  Almost Sunday.

A shift in the mindset is about to happen.

It does every Saturday night, but this one in particular.  I’ve been thinking all week about what has happened to the Sunday traditions I was raised with.

It started last Sunday when my phone rang around 10:30 in the morning.  It was a real number–meaning that it didn’t show “Unknown Caller” or a 1-800 number on the caller ID.  So I answered it even though I didn’t recognize it.  Sometimes I throw caution to the wind like that.  Don’t get excited though, it’s not very often.

“Hello?”

“Yes, hello.  I’m so and so and I’m calling for this agency which raises funds for this group of people and we can really use your support because it’s important to us and your support allows us to continue to exist which totally betters your life as a matter of fact we don’t know if you’re aware, but life without this organization would be totally unbearable, so—-”

Okay it was something like that.  I’m not quoting him verbatim here. 

“Ummm, I’m sorry.  Ummmm.” Calmly, Tara.  Be kind.  “I’m sorry, are you aware it’s Sunday?  Sunday morning?”  I paused.  “This just isn’t a good time.”

“Oh ma’am I’m sorry.  I’m not a part of the organization, I work for the group who does the fundraising, so please don’t be upset with the organization.”

I ended the call with suggesting to this man that while I realize he is trying to make a living, perhaps he should tell his supervisor that Sunday morning is not a good choice of times to call people.

Wow.

Frankly, I was shocked.  I thought that Sundays, especially Sunday mornings were considered sacred and respected, pretty much across the board, whether folks were church goers or not.  The unwritten do’s and do not’s of the day so to speak.  I guess not so much anymore.

Growing up we weren’t always involved in a church. So for different periods of our lives our Sunday mornings were free.  During the springs and summers, if we hadn’t gotten it all done on Saturday or if we’d been otherwise occupied or if the weather had been off, the grass would still need mowing on Sunday.  If it were any other day of the week, Daddy would wait only long enough for the dew to dry up and then head out as soon as possible after, so it wouldn’t be too hot for the job at hand.  But not on Sundays.  He didn’t let us start that mower up one minute before noon, and he never did either.  I always thought it was out of respect for the other folks who lived nearby, but maybe it was his way of tipping his hat to how he was raised.  Much like my “no doing laundry on New Year’s Day.”  A tradition continued out of respect for our past and our people.

We didn’t go to the store on Sunday unless we absolutely needed something.  And if we did happen to go (always after the morning church hours), we sure didn’t tell our Granny.  Sunday was the Sabbath, and things like that would have upset her greatly.  Or so I grew up believing.

Sunday was the day Mama often fried chicken for dinner.  It was a quiet day.  (Well I guess not for her, bless her.) We might read or finish up homework or watch the Sunday afternoon movie on one of the local channels.  Some Sundays might find us taking a drive…..and winding up at my Granny’s for a visit.  It’s what we did.  And by evening, it was either potluck night or I made waffles on the old waffle iron.  Waffle nights.  Those are good memories.  I even made up my own recipe for peach syrup out of the peaches we’d frozen the previous summer.

Okay, pardon me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

I am not judging those who do not take their Sundays “off.”  There are folks who have no choice.  Their job might require them to work that day.  Or they might have something that needs doing and it cannot wait another day at all.  Even the Good Book addresses those situations, when Jesus told some folks that sometimes things just need doing on a Sunday, and that’s okay. **

I am not judging the man who called me last Sunday.  He was, after all, doing his job.  I am just wondering, in a curious sort of way, where we are heading.  I actually rather like the inconvenience of not being able to get a meal at one of our favorite places on a Sunday.  And not being able to shop at the craft store.  Or the on-line yard sale site.  Or our favorite used book store.  All those things suggest this day is different from all the others.  Set apart.  I like not calling folks early or knocking on doors before noon.  Sometimes the old ways make sense.  And they help us take care of ourselves.

Tomorrow is Sunday.  I’m going to try to slow down a bit and remember what that means.  We’ve come a long way from the days when the constable could penalize you if he caught you working on the Sabbath. (We watched the Revolutionary War period movie “Johnny Tremain” on Friday.  Intense.)  And yet, I do hope we don’t go too far in the other direction.  I don’t think we were made to fill up each one of our days with someTHING to do or someplace to be.

Sometimes it can’t be helped.  But when it can…..

I think we might take a Sunday drive tomorrow.  And maybe, just maybe, I might pull out that waffle iron.

Love and a restful Sunday to you all.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

**Luke 14:4-6  They were silent. So he took the man, healed him, and sent him on his way. Then he said, “Is there anyone here who, if a child or animal fell down a well, wouldn’t rush to pull him out immediately, not asking whether or not it was the Sabbath?” They were stumped. There was nothing they could say to that.

**Matthew 12:11-14  He replied, “Is there a person here who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn’t, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out? Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals!” Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out and it was healed. The Pharisees walked out furious, sputtering about how they were going to ruin Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Love Will Keep Us Together

Do any of you remember the song by the Captain and Tennille, written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, “Love Will Keep Us Together?”

Yeah.

I was so sad when I heard recently that they were divorcing.  Not that I know them personally.  It’s just a hard thing to go through, no matter what the situation, and well, yeah, sad.

So I’ve been thinking about that song and that sentiment this evening.  I’m sorry.  This has been a hard week.  With issues nationally and personally begging for love and falling short, it’s been emotionally exhausting.

Weekend, anyone?

Yes, please.

Unfortunately, the need for love doesn’t take holidays or vacations.  Our world, our communities, our people–need love all day, every day.

And it’s up to us to share it.

I’ve seen a lot of things this past week that have pained me and caused me to grieve for us as a people.  People patting themselves on the backs for “convincing” World Vision to reverse its hiring policy change by threatening to cancel their sponsorships of a child in need.  Good-NESS.  Pastors of mega-churches suggesting their friends and congregants should make the call and cancel sponsorships, and then later celebrating a “victory for the church.”  Friends posting pictures of people in restaurants or stores dressed differently, poking fun at how they look.  Oh my, how many times have I left home to get something for a sick young’un, looking like a hot mess?  There are probably pictures of me floating around somewhere too.  *sigh*

I have been honored, however, to read a few thoughts others have shared about the World Vision hiring policy change and reversal that are encouraging and empowering.  I appreciate that they are willing to step up and speak out, not necessarily on either side of the issues, but instead, for love.  Love will keep us together, right?  And we’re made for community, for togetherness, for loving each other.  No matter how hard that is.  (And I know of which I speak, my friends.)

Darian Burns wrote a great post (link here) about the stance that World Vision took.  And about how love didn’t happen in any of this.  But some of my favorite words he wrote were in his replies to the comments.  He referred to the sinful responses following the announcement of the policy change.  Many of the responses to World Vision’s announcement were nowhere near loving, so yes, sinful is a good word for them.

He also wrote this:

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I cling to these words.  I do not believe it’s up to me.  At all.  I do not presume to think I know all the right answers, and I do not believe I’m going to “change someone” by arguing my points over and over and over.  To love and love and love some more.  That is what I feel called to do.

Again, not easy.  But there it is.  There’s no compromising on that one.  I’ve had Mama and Jesus telling me that, to be kind and loving, all my life.  How can I think it’s okay to do otherwise?

Heather at the Extraordinary Ordinary wrote a heart-tugging post about what love looks like in response to the hard things going on this week.  In sharing her story, she mentioned that she had Jehovah’s Witnesses come by her home.  Rather than slamming the door shut, she received them with love, wondering about their stories and lives.  Beautiful.

It reminded me of a similar experience I had.  A few years ago we had two Jehovah’s Witness ladies who came by our house once a month.  I didn’t have much if any previous experience with the whole knocking at your door and talking about Jesus thing, so I was mostly fascinated.  That might have read as enthusiasm and receptiveness on my face.  And that’s okay.  Because what I found was they were lovely people.  We stood and visited on my front porch, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes longer.  One time after they’d been by a couple of times, they knocked and I went to the door wiping away the tears I’d been crying over the death of my Daddy just two weeks before.  They kindly asked, I shared, and their compassion was a thing of beauty.  An art.  I am thankful to this day for their kindness.

Because, you see, we had more in common than not.  Never mind the difference in religion, beliefs, race, family and geographical backgrounds–we all three knew what it was like to be a woman, and we all knew what sadness felt like.  And in that moment, we were all together.  Loving each other.  Them with compassion and me with appreciation.

Lord have mercy.

In her discussion on what love looks like, Heather writes:

I don’t care if you are gay, straight, overly hairy or purple. I don’t care if you’ve had an abortion or if you’ve slept with 398 people. This is not my concern. I will not regret not being concerned about this. I will not regret loving you. Concerning myself with all of those things is unloving because we cannot possibly over-think such things without judgment. It’s just impossible.

These might possibly be some of my favorite words ever.  Man, I wish I’d written them.  Thank you Heather.

Because that is truth.

I will not regret not letting our differences keep me from hearing your story.  I will not regret not letting the fact that you are sleeping in the woods in your homemade campsite keep me from loving you like a brother.  I will not regret not letting that you shared with me that you were molested by your uncle as a child and are now a lesbian keep me from being friends with you.  We both know what broken relationships look like; it doesn’t matter that we have different kind of relationships.  I will not regret getting to know you beyond the first impression that might have been more about me than you.  But what I will regret is if I let any of these things keep me from stepping out of my comfort zone.  And loving you.  And all of your stories.

And you know what else?

I hope that someone will do these same things for me.  I hope they won’t regret not letting my messy house keep them from pursuing a friendship with me anyway.  I hope they’ll work around my quirky ways and oddities and want to hear my stories too.  (And I hope they won’t take incriminating photos of me on my last-minute grocery runs for Ginger Ale and saltines.)

I hope I’ll be loved.

We can all use more of that in this world.  And if we share it, as Heather pointed out, I don’t think we’ll regret it.

Love will keep us together.  And we need each other, y’all.  Really.

 

 

 

Watching the Baby Bird Learn to Fly

When did my baby girl grow up?

Lately it has become very apparent that she’s growing up faster than my mind will let her.  As we moved things from Mama’s house to their various new homes over the past couple of weeks, we decided to move the like new twin mattress and boxsprings into our Princess’ room, as her mattress has seen better days.  We got the set into the house, and the next day we started making the move.  We began by stripping her bedding and lifting up her mattress.  As we prepared to carry it and the boxsprings out, I noticed our Princess looked upset.

“What’s wrong?”

She began crying.  “I don’t want a new bed.  I like my old one. Why do I have to be the one to change?”

I was taken aback.  What? I realized I hadn’t discussed it with her at all.  Just with the Fella.  You mean you have a mind of your own about this?  You have a preference?

Wow.  When did that happen?

So in the end we switched out Cooter’s mattress and boxsprings.  Apparently our girl sleeps just fine on her old one.  Our Princess was happy once again.

Until the following afternoon. I had brought home Mama’s lovely touch lamp–you touch it to turn it on and off.  I thought it would be nice in Princess’ room and that she’d like to have her Maemae’s lamp.  She’d been using a lantern-type lamp that was actually supposed to be in Cooter’s room.  As I brought it in and told her, she gave me a look, and said, “Mama, I don’t want that lamp.  I like the one I’m using.  Why aren’t you asking me about any of these things?”

Ummmm, because in my mind and heart you are still four years old, just beginning to explore what it’s like to be you…..not nine and pretty sure of your likes and dislikes and who you are.

I get that part of it is that she doesn’t handle change as well as some do…..not sure where she gets that from.  Ahem.

Well, yes, she is my child in that respect.  And I remember nine.  I remember thinking that I was about to be two-digits old.  That nine is the last single digit age.  Yes, I was a bit angsty even then.  And sentimental.

In that respect we are just alike.

But I think it’s likely that I was not as sure of my tastes and preferences at age nine.  At least I didn’t feel as free to share them as she does.  That’s something I’m glad she didn’t get from me.  She is finding her voice a lot younger than I did, and for that I am grateful.

There are still things that she doesn’t get a say in:  how far she can ride her bike, if she can roam all over the neighborhood like she wants, if she can have dessert without eating a balanced meal, if she can have Sprite whenever she wants, and things like that.  For goodness’ sake, I’m letting you dress yourself for the most part child, what else do you want from me?

Autonomy.  To come into her own.  I get it.

My Daddy used to call my children when they were babies–“a puddle of people.”  As they would lay in his arms and stare up at him, he said they were “imprinting.”  And then they started becoming their own little people.

I don’t know if it’s because of her usual sensitive, sweet nature, quirky sense of style, health issues, or simply because she’s my baby girl, but I have not let this little girl grow up in my mind at all.  Until she found her voice and told me what she wanted.  It’s an interesting thing to try to grasp.  That this little one, born in Japan, who smiled and giggled as the cherry blossoms fell down like snow around us as she rode on her Daddy’s shoulders during her first spring, is entering a new phase of her life.  She will be in a different age bracket on her next birthday–a pre-teen.

I just can’t even.

But I have a feeling that this sweet girl who gets her height from her tall Daddy, this baby who is nearly as tall as I am and wears the same size shoes, will always be ready for a hug and a kind word.

Just so long as I don’t go trying to change things without talking with her first.

I guess I’d better make a note of that.

My little bird is trying out her wings.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Another Princess story written by her big sister is here.

 

 

 

“When they see the love you have for each other…..”

 

My Mama had rules for living–she *ahem* shared them with us on a regular basis.  I think maybe her number one rule was this–

“Don’t leave anyone out.” 

I heard her say this so many times to us growing up.  When we driving up the dirt road that led to Granny’s house.  Sometimes we didn’t know if any of our cousins would be there, but she’d just about always turn around from the front seat and say, “Don’t y’all leave anyone out.  Play with everyone.  Y’all make space for everybody.”

Yes ma’am.  She’d say it when we had friends over.  Or when it was just the four of us.  With the dynamics of three girls and a baby boy, with nine years span between oldest and youngest, she probably said it way more than she cared to.  “Don’t leave anyone out.  Y’all play nice.”

I knew she was serious.

I was more afraid to be caught leaving someone out than to be caught in “telling a story (fib)” or not doing my chores.  I’m not kidding.  She didn’t play about this.

So much so that it was impressed upon me and became my rule too.  I’ve said the same thing to my own children many, many times.

Tonight I told them this again.  I looked my two littles–our Princess and Cooter–in the eyes and I told them I wanted them to remember something very important.

“Y’all, I want you always to remember not to leave other folks out.”

“Why, Mama?” our Princess asked.  “Did we do something?”

“No, baby,” I touched her hand.  “Y’all are fine.  Just please remember this is important to me.  It hurts other people if you don’t include them.  Now if they aren’t playing right, you can walk away and find me or Daddy or Baba, but don’t ever leave someone out on purpose.  It’s hurtful.”

“But Mama, we didn’t do that.  Why are you telling us this?”

Aub sat on the couch and listened.  She knew where I was coming from and where I was going.  And why.

“Well, some big people are leaving some folks out and that makes me very sad.  I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to do, is it?  I don’t think that that’s right.”

Out of nowhere Cooter said, with his booming voice and exaggerated waving arms, “Well, I’m just listening to God on this.”

Well, okay then buddy.  Sounds like a plan.

Because you know what?  I don’t get it.  I read the same Good Book that others do, and what seems to be pretty much the number one rule after loving the Artist who created us, is to love.  Love one another.  Our neighbors.  There’s no other specifications beyond those words.  No one listed not to love.  Love one another.  All.

Sounds kind of similar to my Mama’s rule–not leaving anyone out of the love and playing nice.

Umm, yeah.

My Mama used to quote that one about loving folks to us a lot too.  She loved the words in that Book. Dearly loved them.  And lived them too.

This afternoon Aub and I found out through a Facebook post that World Vision reversed their decision that was announced yesterday.  Because of the folks who threatened or did withdraw their support and sponsorships, they rethought their position and declared today that they were reversing their decision that allowed the hiring of Christians who are in same-sex marriages.

To be honest, call me naïve-gullible even, but I was shocked.  We’ve been a bit mournful around here.  Sad.  Yes, sad.  And feeling a bit betrayed.

However–

what I wrote last night still stands.  This organization is doing great things for children in need in the world.  For that I am thankful.  And for those who decided in the past 24 hours to sponsor a child as a way to support World Vision’s decision to be more accepting, my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping that they will continue to sponsor these children in need.  Even though the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, another thing I said last night still stands–these children did nothing to deserve this.  Don’t make them suffer for any decisions that are being made.  We are called to love, and that’s what we should continue to do.

And yet, my heart aches for those who felt like they were finally being included, being invited to join in “Red Rover” or “Colored Ribbons” or freeze tag.  Or kickball.  Only to find themselves once again pushed off to the side, last ones picked for the team…..or never chosen at all.  Just kidding, y’all, we didn’t really mean to include you.

Tears.

I hear my Mama telling us in “that” tone of voice to behave, mind our p’s and q’s, and be kind to each other.  I see Aub huddled on the couch, taking time from her studies to read the hurtful things people said in response to yesterday’s announcement and the comments from today of people proclaiming victory in the name of the Very One who embraced and loved and hung out with the broken and the lost and the cast aside.  Just no.  Please.  And I see, through tears that I am holding back, the faces of my littles wondering what other reasons there could be for leaving someone out besides them not sharing their bicycle or for going inside to eat supper early.  This is one of those hard things to talk to them about–like the death of good people we love or why folks went to Africa and took people away from their homes and made them work for nothing.

There’s just some things I can’t explain to them enough for it to make sense.

Because it. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

And that hurts.  And makes me mad.

That small train engine that stopped traffic yesterday as though it were a train engine pulling 100 cars gives me hope.  That’s why I had to find my voice.  I almost didn’t speak up.  I was worried about alienating or hurting my friends who believe differently.  The thing is I respect that folks can believe differently than I do.  I can still be friends and show respect, but I can no longer respect myself if I don’t say when I think something is wrong.  Which is why I couldn’t leave it to my eighteen year old to be the only one crying out “Not fair.”  I have to be able to look in all three of my children’s eyes and know I tried my best to change things for the better, that I didn’t just leave it for them to do.

We have a long way to go, and the past two days have proven that.  We have people–real people with names and faces and families and broken stories living on the streets and in the woods, in bus terminals and empty parking garages.  We have people who are turning their backs on their neighbors, the very ones they are called to love, because they are different.  And we are using words–words from the very same Book that tells us to love–to point fingers and draw lines of division and pain and hurt.

And it’s time to stop.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. –John 13:34-35 MSG 

This is how everyone will recognize you…..oh my.

Old, old words.

Calling us to a new way of living.

Even today.

Especially today.

This loving folks and living large is hard.

And yet, it’s all there is…..

Love.  To.  All.

“The will to make it so”

A year or two ago someone who knew we were helping serve at the Sunday night suppers for folks in need asked me, “Yeah, so all those folks y’all are feeding–they are all either drug addicts or alcoholics, right?”

Ummm, no.  No more than all of us with houses are NOT addicts or alcoholics.  Not everyone.  Not all.

I didn’t say it exactly like that, but I did tell him that if I were on the streets day in and day out, I’d have to be on drugs or drinking just to cope.  I don’t think I could get through the fear and uncertainty and hard things that happen without some kind of mind altering substance.  I just don’t.

Today at our Sister Circle we had a new sisterfriend join us.  I remember her from the Sunday night suppers, but this is the first time I’ve seen her since then.  She said she’s been around there a lot, so I guess we’ve just been passing each other.  I invited her to join our group, and she did.

Once again our sisterfriends who have been coming for a while were gracious and patient listeners.  Once again we heard stories about how often it is one’s own family who can be the most hurtful.  Once again, the tears and the unknowns and the sense of being overwhelmed.  And once again, I got mad.

This young woman is on the streets.  She was kicked out of the last place she was staying.  The reasons don’t matter and I’m not sure how true they were anyway.  Suffice to say, it’s going down to at least 30 tonight and one more soul is on the streets.  One of my sisters.

Breaks my heart.

She’s tried the local shelter.  There are no spaces available.  She told the story of a night they put her out at 11 p.m. because her urine test showed drug use.  She had admitted it upon admission earlier that evening.  Said she’d been clean for a day or two, but it was still showing up in her system.  I asked her if Rehab was a possibility.  She said she’d tried to go last night.  She wants to be clean.  She wants to be off the streets.  She’s scared and it showed.  Her only family said no, you can’t come here–maybe because of her prior drug use.  She shrugged and said she didn’t know for sure.  She was tearful.  As we continued our conversation in the group, she put her head down on the table and fell asleep.  Bless her.  It was warm and it was safe.  Two things I take for granted just about every single night.  But not this one.

It doesn’t make sense.  The shelter is full, but even if it’s not, you have to be sober to be there?  To get sober, most of the people I know need help–they need rehab.  But rehab’s full.  So there’s no way to get off the streets?  A young woman who is at risk for so much to happen?  And there are church buildings, God’s houses, sitting empty all over town.

Oh me.  I can hardly believe what we are doing to each other.

And today there was more that didn’t make sense.

Yesterday World Vision made an announcement. They are changing their employment policy.  Because they employ folks from all different Christian backgrounds and because some denominations have begun sanctioning same-sex marriages in the past few years, they decided to defer to the authority of the churches and allow Christians in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.  No other changes to their otherwise fairly rigid code of morality for their employees. That’s it.

I’m not opening up a discussion about same-sex marriages here.  My Daddy raised me that you don’t discuss religion or politics with folks, and I’m already really close to stepping over the line, so we’re going to leave that subject for another day.

Here’s where I am headed with this.

Do you know about World Vision?  I knew in general, but not the particulars.

Here’s just a small bit from their website.

Our Impact

Poverty is complex, and so are our solutions.

With 44,000 staff members worldwide, we bring sponsors and donors alongside children and communities in nearly 100 countries. The map below shows our work across issues — from health to disaster response — integrating lasting solutions to the root causes of poverty and sharing God’s hope for a brighter future. And we stretched donations with grants and corporate gifts-in-kind to make every dollar donated achieve $1.15 in impact.

Here’s another number to throw at y’all.

4.3 million–the number of children World Vision has who are benefitting from the sponsorship program.  These children come from all over the world in 1,650 communities.

Wow.

That’s some serious impact right there.  4.3 million children whose lives are affected by this program.  This program which states:

Our vision for every child, life in all its fullness.

Our prayer for every heart, the will to make it so.

So now because of their new policy change, folks are, to quote my oldest, “losing their minds” and calling them out, threatening to and actually cancelling their sponsorships.  Of these sweet children.  Who have NOTHING do to with this at all.

Are you kidding me?

When all of this hit the fan yesterday, my oldest stepped up and let the world know that she thought this was ridiculous.  She wrote:

“It is so sad to me to watch people quit sponsoring children through World Vision because of their stance on same-sex marriage.  You’re going to end a relationship with a child in need because you disagree with a company?  Get your priorities straight.  Jesus said to love.  Through ending your sponsorship you are letting your prejudices overwhelm your calling to love.”

Yes.  Yes ma’am.  One of my prouder moments as a Mama.  I’m so thankful. She gets it.  Priorities–choose relationship above all else.   Her Maemae would be so proud.  Mama didn’t play when it came to children and taking care of them.  Daddy either.

My girl wrote me later today, very upset, and I wound up using the “I” word.  “Someone just commented that the kids sponsored through World Vision are going to hell because they hire gay employees.”  Her hurt and frustration was obvious.  Wanna get me upset?  Do something that I can’t make sense of for my children.  I told her I was sorry that there are idiots in the world.

And apparently Dr. Bill Cosby agrees.

Well enough of that attitude.  That just pours fuel on their fire, doesn’t it?

Still, I agree with the author of Rage Against the Minivan when she says:

 “If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It’s astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there.”

This evening I was sitting in a little storefront near the railroad tracks.  I heard the train before I saw it.  It was LOUD.  Blowing its whistle for all it was worth.  It was working it.  And then I saw it.  I was expecting a long train with all that racket.  And instead?  Just an engine.  One.  All by itself.

But you know what?  The tracks didn’t pull up and go, “Nope, you’re not enough for us to stay here for.”  The rails still lowered.  Traffic still stopped.  And we all sure heard it.

The fact that it was only one really did not affect very much at all.

I’m mad.  I’m mad that a sisterfriend is on the streets tonight, scared and worried, because she’s caught between a rock and a hard place.  She must be clean to get a spot in one place, and to get clean she must go to Rehab, which is also full.  And so she will probably continue to use.  I am pretty sure I would as well.  There’s only so much you can close your eyes to and still be okay.

I’m mad that people are choosing to tell the world their indignation over another’s sexuality is more important than helping a child–a child they were already helping.  The child is suffering through no fault of his or her own–which is what the sponsorship was all about ending–the needless suffering.  Right back to square one.

But what my oldest is teaching me, and what that little train showed me this evening, is that even if I am the only one who feels this way, I have a voice.  I can speak up.  And I should.  Someone will hear.  I can start the ball rolling.  I can stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.  How can I choose to do otherwise?

And in the midst of all the controversy and bashing and fussing and pointing fingers, I can do what we were first called to do, what we were created to do.  I can love.  Love others, love those who are like me and those who are different.  Love those who agree with me and those who frustrate me to no end.  Love.

Tonight, as I remember not to take for granted a place to lay my head in out of  the cold, I also want to hold in my heart the words of World Vision–“the will to make it so.”

Changes are needed.  Love and understanding are needed more.  May we all be set afire with the “will to make it so.”  Even one little train car can stop traffic for a moment.  All by itself.

Amen.  Love to ALL.

 

 

 

 

just need the zipcode for Heaven

Dear Mama,

Well, we are just about done.  The house at Blackberry Flats is almost all cleared out, Mama.  I know you’ve probably been shaking your head, wondering what was taking me so long to get it in gear.  I can’t say, really, except that it was just too much to think about.  To get myself together enough to do.  I know you sure must be proud of Mess Cat and Leroy.  They really made it happen, didn’t they?  And Sister, she helped too.  And the prayers and ideas and help from Bubba and Coey–thankful for those too.

I guess it was just me that was the bump in the road.

And I’m sorry, Mama.

It’s just none of this seems real.  Still doesn’t.  Like one day I’ll wake up and we’ll have a long talk analyzing THIS dream.  It’s been a h— sorry.  Yes ma’am, I’ll watch my mouth.  But you have to admit.  If the past three years, the past fifteen months even, have been a dream, it’s been one for the books, right?

We tried to be good stewards with all of your “things,” all your “stuff.”  I know you’d just as soon we packed up most of it and given it to folks who needed it.  With the exception of the few things you talked about and pointed out where you’d like for them to go.  And one day I will be able to let go of more of it.  Just, not quite yet, okay?

Saturday we came across your “Backdoor friends are best” plaque that hung at the back door.  Remember how I used to be embarrassed to have folks, friends of mine, come in through that door?  You had that old-fashioned wooden clothes drying rack back there, remember?  And you’d hang all of our unmentionables on it to dry.  If we knew someone was coming over, one of us girls would make a mad scramble to go and hide those things.  We couldn’t have folks coming in the back door and seeing that.  Now I miss that life of knowing folks well enough to go in through their back door.  It speaks to the relationship and to the trust and the love.

As I held the plaque I knew.  Aunt.  She needed this.  I hoped she would be okay with us offering it to her.  I knew you would be.  They are our oldest and best “backdoor friends,” aren’t they?  I sent it to her by way of Cuz’n.  She and I talked yesterday.  Turns out that was the right place to send it.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  The only thing was, she wanted to know if I’d be okay seeing it at her back door.

Oh Mama.

Today I’ve thought about that question and how quickly I said “Oh please yes!” as my heart leapt with something akin to joy.  At first I thought it was because it would have a good home (you know how I anthropomorphize things–and yes, Daddy, used that one just for you!).  But as the day wore on, I heard from Mess Cat.  The last of the things have been delivered to a thrift store that will help families who have gone through what we did with Daddy.  Bless ’em.

And my heart crumbled just a bit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy that Mess Cat and Leroy and Shaker are going to make so many new and wonderful (I love hearing you say that word in my head right now) memories.  Have you seen Leroy out in the building?  It’s about to enter a new heyday for sure.  They have beautiful plans and ideas for the house too, Mama.  But most of all, it will be filled with love and laughter again–your favorite way to decorate, the way you decorated it best.

But for a moment this afternoon, as I drove home from Macon, I saw the empty house in my mind’s eye.  And what my eye stayed on was that freezer.  Oh, it’s not there, no ma’am.  Going to be put to good use.  But between it and the refrigerator–you covered them (in your organized way of course) with pictures of our babies and pictures our babies had colored.  Or drawn.  Or scribble scrabbled.  Just for you and Daddy.  There on the windowsill was the little baking cat figure that Aub picked out for you.  The plate we painted for you and Daddy hanging on the wall.  All around you, Mama, you decorated with love.  Your placing these things throughout your home, all the way back to your dresser and the wooden bead necklaces that first Aub and then Princess made for you, spoke volumes to me over the years.

And today, in thinking about them not being there, I realized what they all said.

All of those things you placed freely around your home, said–

You belong here.

You are loved.

You are special.

You are mine.

 

And that’s when the tears came, Mama.

It’s not that I won’t ever not belong there, but it’s time to move on and let new stories come to life in that house.  I’ll knock first and I’ll enter through whatever door Leroy and Mess Cat decide they want folks coming through.  And it will be okay.  Better than, even.

But if Aunt does decide to hang that heart with the back door friends message by her back door–

well, that will be just fine with me.

Because you know, then, for just a moment, I can remember that I had a place that I belonged, a house that always said, “you’re mine” or “well, hey, it’s you again, where you been? what you been up to?” And I can smile and give thanks and know.

I was loved.

Miss you Mama.

Always, and always and always,

love,

t. annie

 

 

A Birthday, A Couch, and a Whole Lot of Love

We moved the brown couch in our house eight days ago.

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub's photo shoots in 2003

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub’s photo shoots in 2003

It’s known as “Cap’s couch.”  There are so many memories around that couch.  Mama and Daddy bought it years ago and put it in the “big room/playroom.”  The blue fold-out couch was already in there, so now they each had one.  They always said that the brown couch was to go to Auburn, my oldest, when the time came, because she had spent so much time on it.

And now it’s here.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

And my girl continues to spend time on it.

Aub asleep on Cap's brown couch.  Under Cap's argyle blanket we made him.  The argyle was a thing between us.  A precious sight.

Aub asleep this morning on Cap’s brown couch. Under Cap’s argyle blanket we made him. The argyle was a thing between us. A precious sight.

Each night she’s been home from college since we moved it in, she has slept on her Cap’s couch.  She says it’s so we’ll all remember that it is really hers, but I know she knows I know what she’s not saying.

Got that?

We all miss them.  And today we are especially missing Daddy, Cap.  He would have been 71 today.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.  It was on Daddy’s birthday in 2004 that I called him from Japan, where the Fella was stationed, to tell him of this precious gift due in November–our Princess.  What a birthday gift!

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that.  Daddy never aged.  At least not until the lymphoma and the chemotherapy and radiation starting taking their toll.  He will forever, in my mind, be around 40–the age he was when I was in high school.  When he was calling out spelling words, helping me train for the state literary meet.  Helping me with trigonometry.  Teaching me to drive.  To pump gas.  Driving back to town to pick me up from work.  Listening to my stories of how my day had gone.  Watching football games and the summer Olympics with me.  Teaching me how to grow up and fly.

Oh Daddy.

The last time we were together before the day our world fell apart and everything changed–first the seeking of a diagnosis and then the fighting the diagnosis–I sat next to my Daddy on that same couch.  I was showing him a book in the Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers catalog that I was thinking about getting my Fella for his birthday the next month.  Daddy looked and nodded, but now I suspect he was having vision problems even then.  I sat almost shoulder to shoulder with him.  I can’t say why, but that day things felt different.  I felt protective of him.  He’d been having some balance problems but all the doctors had written it off as other things.  Never anything so serious as lymphoma of the brain.

Well, that’s enough of that.

Today I baked a cake, and we took turns saying what we loved remembering about Cap.  Our Princess said she loved it when they flew a kite together at Blackberry Flats.  Aub said she liked that he taught her big words.  Cooter shrugged and said, “Everything.”  Yep.  I hear you, buddy.

My Daddy came across as the strong, silent type.  He was both of those things, but so much more.  He was more than his bearded look might suggest.  He was a wise man who was also intelligent and kind–not a combination you come across as much as you might think.  He was a good listener, and when he spoke, others listened.  When he retired, folks signed a card for him.  Several mentioned how much they would miss him listening and sharing his wisdom.  Amen, my friends.  Amen.

Daddy could be quiet and contemplative, but when he laughed his booming laugh, it seemed as though the whole house was shaking.  He could click his tongue and shake his head, very much like his Mama, and you just hoped you weren’t on the receiving end of that disappointment.   My Granddaddy used to say that when my Daddy pointed his finger at one of us, it was a MILE long.  It sure felt that way.  It seemed like he always had some cut or bruise on his hand or grease under his nails from working with his hands.  He loved to do that.  To create.  He inherited that from his grandfather and father, who were both talented carpenters.  He also created with words.  He wrote.  He read.  He observed.

Daddy was fascinated with the world.  But mostly with the little things that might be ignored by other folks.  He loved reading about science and philosophy and where the two meet.  Daddy loved children.  He loved talking with them and teaching them things.

Daddy loved wasps.

One summer he set up his video camera and recorded them.  For hours at the time.  He wanted to know the whats and whys of their actions.  The other day when Mess Cat and I were going through the video tapes at the house we found one marked “wasps.”  She sighed.  I laughed.  I love that about my Daddy.  After he got sick, the wasps practically took over his building out back.  I used to say that the ones he recorded thought they’d hit the big time and went back and told their family and friends to come and see.  I think Blackberry Flats was the “Hollywood” of the Wasp World.

A fascinating man who was fascinated with life.  He taught me to respect and tell the truth and take care of what we had.  And others.  Take care of others.  He once told me I didn’t need all the clothes I owned.  Just a couple of pairs of jeans and a few more shirts than that.  No need for all I had.  One day I hope I get to the point where I can pare it down to just that.  I’m afraid it won’t be anytime soon though.

Most of my happy memories with Daddy are from before his fight with the Giant began.  We had good times then too, it’s just that so much of that time we felt the weight of worry hanging over us, so it was hard to see past that.

An exception was when he came home after being away that first time for over a month.  He walked (!!!!!) through the back door on his own.  Slowly and steadily and by himself.  We had picked up pizza for their supper and driven over to meet them.  Leroy had driven Mama and Daddy home from Emory in Atlanta.  My children’s world had been turned upside down by the absence of their Maemae and Cap, but in that moment all was right again.  Cooter, a little over two and a half, was already digging into a slice of pizza.  He grinned so big with a mouthful and said, as though it were any normal day, “Hey Cap!”  Daddy stopped, reached out for the counter for support, smiled just as big and said, “Hey, Cooter.  How’re you doin’?”

Tears, y’all.  All was right again.  For a while.

My other precious memory is much later–almost two years later.  Daddy had become almost completely bedbound, partly due to the progression of the Giant and partly due to falling and breaking his hip months before.  He had been up in the wheelchair–maybe for an appointment at the Cancer Care Center?–and we were getting him back in the hospital bed in the living room.  Mama and I got him all the way back in bed and his head on the pillow.  As I was about to leave the room for a minute, he asked me if I could help him.

Oh Daddy, anything.

I leaned over so he could wrap his arms around my neck.  And I half lifted, half pulled him up higher in his bed, so he was in a better position.  Bless him, he couldn’t maneuver it very well himself anymore.  He lifted his head up off the bed enough for me to tuck his pillow back in place.  I asked him if that was better.

He closed his eyes and nodded.  I reached out and touched his shoulder.  Just as he had reached out and touched my toe after the birth of my first child seventeen years before.  No words were needed.

As I started to walk away, I heard him clear his throat.  I turned back.

“Thank you, Tara,” he said, barely above a whisper.

No, Daddy,  thank you.

Each day I left their house, as I said my farewells to my folks, I would go in wherever Daddy was, sitting at the table, reclining on the brown couch, sitting in his recliner, or finally, laying in the hospital bed, and I would say,

“Bye Daddy, see you later.  I love you.   Thanks for everything.”

I meant it then and I still do.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.  Love you.  See you later.  Thanks.  For Everything.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby.  He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone.  I miss him every day.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby. He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone. I miss him every day.

If the House is Quiet and the Brit-coms Aren’t On, Then…..

It’s Saturday night.  The house is finally quiet.  I went in search of my Brit-coms on PBS, but instead a concert was playing.  Missing the Brit-coms made me think about my favorites– “Keeping Up Appearances” and “As Time Goes By” among others.  Thinking about “As Time Goes By” made me think about their brilliant cast, which then made me think about Dame Judi Dench. (I’m living out my own version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” here.)   I remembered a quote I’d read from her several months ago:

The more I do,

the more

frightened I get.

But that is

essential.

Otherwise why

would I go on

doing it?

–Dame Judi Dench

Not only is she a talented actress, she is also a very wise woman.

So I decided to look up more words from this woman who seems so familiar to me, after years of spending Saturday nights together.

And I found this one.

20140322-221851.jpg

Wow.

Be careful what you seek.  You just might find it.

She shot that arrow right through my heart.  As though she’d been reading my mind.

Because, you see, I do this.  I build bridges left and right in my mind and cross all of them, testing them for security and comfort and safety, not trusting what they will be like on the other side unless I check them out.  Way in advance.  Well before I reach the bridges.  And most of those bridges are only in my mind.  I will never have to cross them in “real life.”  This is how I know Anxiety Girl* is back for a visit–you know, my friend who is able to leap to the worst conclusions in a single bound?  Yeah, her.

What would it look like if I didn’t cross any bridges until I came up on them?  There’s a fine line between being carefree and careless, between being over-prepared and without a clue…..these fine lines elude me.  I usually wind up over-prepared (for things that don’t happen), over-stressed (over things I am anticipating will happen), and over-worked mentally (trying to get all my plans together–plans I NEVER HAVE TO USE).  I wish I could no kidding (and sorry if you start hearing the Frozen theme song here) “let it go.”  All of it.  And try taking life–the joys and heartaches and adventures and rainy, sleepy afternoons–as it comes.  Whenever and however it comes.

Unfortunately, I learned the fine art of script-writing my life many moons ago, and it is a hard thing to stop.  But I’m trying.  I wish there were a twelve step group for those of us addicted to being prepared.  I’m not meaning to be facetious here, and I don’t mean to offend those with more serious life-threatening addictions.  I recognize it’s a minor one in the whole scheme of things, but it can be somewhat debilitating.  I feel like a catcher always in position who doesn’t know which way the ball is coming from, so I’m constantly spinning and watching for it from all directions.

Which isn’t really possible.

And now that I’ve exhausted and mixed metaphors like I do, I want you to know–if you struggle with the “what if’s” and “I’ve got to be ready for anything” and “what is coming next?,”  you are not alone.  There are several of us.  And one moment at a time, maybe we can overcome.  Being prepared is not a bad thing.  It’s just the being prepared for anything and everything that could potentially, might possibly happen–that, not so much.

I’m going to try to let go and only worry about bridges that I can actually see up ahead.  It’s a waste of time and energy to do otherwise, right?

*sigh*

I really wish the Brit-coms had been on tonight.  Would have made for a less exhausting evening.

Love to all.

*created by artist Natalie Dee of www.nataliedee.com