About Smiles and Being Beloved

Some Sunday nights at our gatherings we talk about hard things.  We attempt to answer hard questions.  We wipe away tears from laughter and from introspection.  And though we may not leave having answers to all of the questions (or some weeks, any), we leave with a sense that we are not alone in our questions and doubts and heartaches and joys.  That is huge.

Truth?

It’s what most of our Sunday evenings look like.

This past Sunday night my pastorfriend shared this video from Phileena Heuertz of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

It’s all about hearing ourselves called “Beloved” by the One who created us.  That we are just as loved, each and every one of us, as our Creator loved the Son.

That’s a lot to take in.

While the words said in this clip were powerful, what struck me the most were the faces.  The faces of the people in the video.  When the camera focused on one person and his or her face filled the screen, I found myself searching.  And yearning.

What was I waiting on?  What did I want to see so badly?

And then it came and I knew.

The smile.  One after another.  Their smiles transformed their faces.

I know folks say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and I won’t argue the point.  And while I recognize that tears are truly an intimate thing to share with another person, I realized as I watched each person smile that smiles are the most precious, intimate, and vulnerable things we can give to another person, especially a stranger.  It brings us closer.  Tears can come, and it’s okay if the person sitting with me doesn’t also cry.  But a smile is nearly always shared.  When we are brave enough to share a smile, we wait and hope for one in return.  And we are often crushed if it isn’t.  When each one of these people in the video smiled, so brightly and openly, I found myself smiling right back.  Connected.

And I know this happens every day.   We might not be the best at opening up like that to strangers.  But when we do, it’s rare that we aren’t gifted one right back.

The idea of being beloved.  Of being worthy of being loved.  That’s hard to accept sometimes.  Many times I don’t feel like a beloved. Or like I’m worthy of more than being tossed in a holding pen for a long, much-deserved time out.  Is it hard to feel loved in those moments?  Absolutely.

What if, what if we are one of the ways our Creator shows others they are beloved?  What if we could do just that–look someone in the eyes, smile with all our being, and say to another, “You are beloved.  You bring this world great joy.”

I think that could be just about the most precious thing to be called to.  To tell others they are loved.  By us.  And by the One who breathed life into them. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  There are no “buts” in God’s love for any of us.  Nor should there be any in the love we share with others.

Beloved.

It’s a beautiful, mesmerizing, and life-changing word.

Who needs to hear they are beloved today?  Look in the mirror, hug your friend, smile at a stranger in the checkout line, and tell them.  

You are beloved.  

Love to all.

 

 

 

We Can Do Better…..

I’ve been fascinated with the journey of the “Humans of New York” photographer.  From Europe to Africa to Asia…..the stories of the people he comes across in his journey have made me laugh, cry, and fall to my knees in thanksgiving.  Sometimes I forget how good I have it.  Brandon’s photos and stories often remind me.  And, as painful as it can be, I am thankful for that.

Saturday he shared a picture of a man from Saigon, Vietnam who described what it was like to be on the ground when the American planes were bombing them.   He finished with:  “When they dropped their bombs, I don’t think those pilots knew what it was like on the ground.”  (Click here to see the photo and story from Humans of New York.)

The grace given in those last words blew me away.  I don’t know that I’ve ever extended grace that looked anything like that.  That’s powerful and challenging and I just don’t think I have what it takes to forgive like that.

And that makes me sad.

Below the photo on the Facebook post were the comments that people had made about this mans’ story.  The ones most liked by others were at the top.  And that’s where I read the other words, the ones that have stayed with me today.

It’s an African proverb:

IMG_4723

 

This has moved me to tears more than once today.  Our world, our country, our community, our families are in turmoil.  And who is paying for it?  Those who don’t have a dog in this hunt, a bone to pick in this fight.  The innocents.  The ones who don’t get a say in how this all plays out.  The ones who have often have no idea why the fighting is going on at all.  As if those of us in it do…..

*sigh*

Tonight I am thankful for the peacemakers in this world, for the ones who stand up to speak for those in need.  I am thankful for those who use their words to put down on paper stories that teach us it’s in our hands to make a difference for the ones who have no voice.  And I am thankful for Brandon, whose brave journey and stories from around the world have yet again touched my heart and challenged my soul with the task of growing and doing better.

My parents used to say, “If you know better, do better, and folks’ll like you better. ”

Amen.

Love to all.

 

Comfort in a Cup

We have a few traditions when it comes to birthdays in our family.

First of all, we celebrate for more than a day–we have birthday weeks and sometimes happenings for our birthday month.  It’s all about the celebrating the lives of those we hold near and dear.

You get to pick what kind of cake (or pie or big cookie or whatever) you want for your birthday.  I spent years asking my Mama for a red velvet cake.  Only it was a brown velvet because she wouldn’t use all that red dye.  I think there was a study or something…..anyway, never mind the color, it was delicious.  For years she made me that.  In more recent years, I chose a Texas sheet cake.  Ooey, gooey chocolate goodness.  My mouth is watering as I type.

The birthday supper is a big deal.  The honoree gets to choose anything he or she wants.  And if you’re lucky enough to have your birthday on a weekend, you get to choose two meals.

And so it was for my girl.  She came home from college the day after her birthday, so we celebrated all of Saturday.  I knew she wanted Mexican food, so I had that planned for supper.  But for her birthday lunch, she asked for something I haven’t made in years.  Something my Mama used to make, and my new 19-year-old grew to love it sitting around the table with Mama and Daddy and whoever else happened to be at their house.  Easily among the best comfort foods ever.  The smell of it cooking.  I mean, y’all.  For real.  I was in memory heaven.

Mama was a good steward of what was in her pantry and refrigerator.  She rarely threw anything out.  Over the years she learned great ways to recycle leftovers in a new dish.  Her way of using leftover mashed potatoes might just be her most creative and best tasting effort of all times.

Baloney cups.

Pan number one of baloney cups....oh the smell of them cooking.....

Pan number one of baloney cups….oh the smell of them cooking…..

I grew up on bologna sandwiches.  I can remember being in my bed, waiting for sleep to come, and singing the O-S-C-A-R  M-A-Y-E-R song.  We loved our B-O-L-O-G-N-A.  I loved taking the red rind off and then making sure I had gotten every bit of goodness off it before throwing it away.  Delicious.

When Mama had leftover mashed potatoes to use, she used to pull out her biscuit baking pan and lay bologna slices out on it.  She’d put a scoop of mashed potatoes on top, and add a slice of cheese.  She put it in a hot oven to broil, and voila’ the house smelled amazing, and our taste buds were in for such a treat!  She served it with some fruit and we had a meal.

One of our favorites, though we didn’t get it very often.

I was surprised when my baby girl asked for this for her birthday.  Surprised and delighted.

Pan #2--who decided that 11 slices makes a pack?  Interesting choice, don't you think?  I mean a dozen or a baker's dozen, but 11?  Is that an Oscar's dozen?  :)

Pan #2–who decided that 11 slices makes a pack? Interesting choice, don’t you think? I mean a dozen or a baker’s dozen, but 11? Is that an Oscar’s dozen? 🙂

It was a special treat for all.  The Fella loved it and had memories of when we made this years ago.  I don’t think the littles had ever had it, and they were intrigued and not a bit shy about digging in.  (Suffice to say we went through a whole pack of bologna for the just the four of them.)

The way the house smelled took me back to a safe and happy place, and for a little bit I was home again and my parents were close, and oh–I think I might have gotten the greatest nourishment from those baloney cups, and I never took a bite–my soul was fed and my heart was full.

The only problem is I made the mashed potatoes from scratch.  And only used about half of them.  So now, I have leftover mashed potatoes…..and if a Mama has leftover mashed potatoes, chances are, she’s going to need some baloney to go with it.

 

Love and the comforts of home to all.

train of thoughts

riding on my train of thoughts through haikus tonight…..

 

leftover food and

dishes in the sink are the

remnants of good times

 

it was a joke said

the young boy, “after all I’m

only seven now”

 

she loves to plan fun

and games and things that show all

around they are loved

 

the laughter was good

the friends were the best of all

stories overflowed

 

she’s under my roof

for tonight at least and I

listen for her sounds

 

that one who’s known me

longest, her smile is like his

and it warms my soul

 

all is quiet and

lights are dim, time to lock up

put worries to bed

 

this day is done here

thankful for it all, full heart

memories echo

 

 

Love to all.  

Inside the Cocoon For Now

It’s my girl’s birthday.  Commence the partying!

A week or so ago, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday.

(well, within reason, you know)

I batted around a couple of things that she’s enjoyed before.  Magazine subscription.  Shoes.  Clothes.

Nothing was resonating with her.

She just shrugged.

Well okay, technically the shrug was in my mind because we were texting and on the phone, but yeah, pretty sure she shrugged.  I have known her for nineteen years now.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have a clue.”

I told her that was okay.

“No. It’s not.  I don’t like that I don’t know myself.”

The words that came to me came instantly.

“It’s hard to pin down a moving target.”

I don’t know where those words came from but they just made sense.

After all, in the past two, four years my girl has grown by leaps and bounds.  She’s been forced to by life and death, and she’s made choices on her own that required a level of maturity that I can hardly fathom.

And then there are moments that I realize she’s still my girl.  When we laugh together over a memory or something that just happened.  When she complains about my helicopter parenting or I turn my head so I don’t have to look in her room.  When we sit and talk for hours or volley messages back and forth.  She’s still my girl, and yet she’s so much more.

It makes sense that she has a hard time figuring out her likes and dislikes and preferences and favorite things right now.  She’s growing and changing, and it absolutely makes sense that as she changes, so might all of those things.

A sweet friend shared a quote tonight from Maya Angelou.

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That right there.  My sweet girl, it’s okay that you don’t know what you want.  That’s absolutely wonderful.  You are growing, changing, transforming.  From one beautiful creature to another.  I am sure if you asked the caterpillar what she wants and then asked the butterfly, they would be quite different.  The butterfly doesn’t need several pairs of shoes at one time and the caterpillar doesn’t need wing cleaner.  But they are one and the same.

And, I’m just guessing here, when the precious creature is at her innermost changing tucked inside her cocoon, if someone asked her what she wanted, she’d very likely say, “I don’t know. It’s like I don’t even know who I am.”

Tonight I’m thankful for words that come into my head and show up on my Facebook feed just when I need them most.  I’m thankful for growing and changing and beauty all around, as scary and hard as it might be to see when we’re in the middle of it.

Here’s to my girl and all of those like her, those who are in the midst of transforming.  I cannot wait to see what all of you beautiful people become next.

Love to all.

 

#19love

Nineteen years ago at 3:32 a.m. a new life came into this world.  She is amazing and beautiful and funny and generous, and she makes this Mama thankful and honored that I am the one who gets to call her mine.  She’s smart as a whip and tough as nails and as fragile as a China cup, and she makes me mad as fire and proud as a peacock.  (You know, the male ones that are way too pretty who strut around like they are really, really proud.)  I am in awe of the person she’s becoming and delighted by all the good things and people who have come into my life….all because of her.  

Happy birthday, baby girl, keep smiling and having fun and being YOU.  You are the best you there will ever be, and I give thanks for you every single day.  From the first day I knew you were going to join this crazy world to this one right here and now.  I love you.  Always.  

 

for my baby girl

 

when I first learned

you were in there

under my heart

growing and changing

faster than I could ever

imagine

I was amazed there was room

for you

my heart was so full

 

I imagined I could feel your

movements

though of course that was silly

so soon

 

those first precious days

after I knew you were there

I would touch where I thought

you were

in wonder and awe

and I whispered

“hang in there, baby,

it’s going to be okay

I love you”

 

those words

the same words

I’ve had reason to say

far too many times

over the years since

while rubbing your back

and drying your tears

 

hang in there, baby,

it’s going to be okay

I love you

 

as I watch you now

growing and changing faster

than I could ever imagine

I still carry you in my heart

you ARE my heart

 

and I will always give thanks for

the gift of You

 

My boo, oh so many years ago.  Happy Everyday, baby girl!

My boo, oh so many years ago. Happy Everyday, baby girl!

 

typing with thumbs

Today this happened. And so tonight is a haiku kind of night, because I can only type so much with my thumbs before they get plenty tired. Which is pretty amazing if you really think about it–typing with one’s thumbs. Ah, the world we live in today. Amazing.

my computer died
tap the keys but no words come
writer with no tool

Apple brand or not
everyone knows which one
to choose except me

Y’all take care. Advice welcome.

Love to all.