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Dear Mr. Webster,

Your word arrived here safely yesterday.  She was a little rumpled after her long trip, but she is doing well nonetheless.  She has actually been lovely…..amenable–

quite frankly we love her.

Already she is changing things around here.  She bustles around in her long skirt that hangs just so; she is straightening up, seeing to it that all are getting along.

That they are with.

She is bringing things, people together in such a way that has never been seen around here before.

Have I mentioned we love her?

Bread.  Jam.

Tea.  Coffee.

Macaroni.  Cheese.

Sweet.  Salty.

This.  That.

All these things that just sat, on their own, not interacting or doing much of anything, are now up, wandering about, mixing, mingling–making the world a much better place with their interactions.

All because of her.

Thank you for sending her to us.

She came just in time.

Because, you see, just as those things were sitting on the shelf, all to themselves–not being with, we have begun to do that ourselves.  Sitting with those who are alike, where there is no need for sharing or caring or what not–because we are, well, just alike.

But now that she is here, she is challenging us to join together–what a scary, challenging, beautiful word–together.

She wants to put together–

him.

Her.

Short.

Tall.

Redheads.

Brunettes.

Believers.

Doubters.

Business people.

Farmers.

Dancers.

Scientists.

Wealthy.

Indigent.

She knows–she understands–that she cannot stand alone, she must coexist with another.  With more than one actually.  She wants to show us that being together is the best way for each one of us to shine.  She wants to take all those adjectives, then put them together.  Just by taking the hand of each one–then standing between them.

Joining them.

Together.

If we are not careful, her spirit might just catch on–one day we might just find her joining the two who said they’d never stand together.

Me.

And.

You.

Bless her.  She’s got a long way to go, but one day, maybe, just maybe, she might succeed in helping us all take the hand of the one standing close by, and then caring and sharing and helping each other.

Thank you for sending her.

Just in time.

With gratitude for And,

me

 

 

Love to all.  

 

 

The Guy, The Fella, and Where the Healing Begins

So I heard this story about a guy who was disabled.  He couldn’t get up and move around on his own.  He lay there for a long time, not far from what was a known cure.  Years and years.  He would start to move towards the cure, but by the time he got there, someone else was already being treated, and apparently it was a “one at a time–first come, first served” kind of thing.  So he stayed put.  In that same spot.

Then one day this fella who was becoming more well known in the area came along and asked the guy, “Do you want to get well?”

Whoa.  That’s kind of a personal question, right?  I mean, this fella is all in his chili.

True to form (for so many of us), the guy started listing the reasons (ahem-excuses?) as to why he hadn’t made it to the point of getting better.  No one had stopped to help him, he couldn’t do it on his own, someone else was always already there so he hung back.

The fella all but holds up his hand to stop the flow of excuses and says, “Never mind all that.  Get up, pick up your stuff, and walk.  You’re good to go now.”

What?

Yep.  It happened.  And the guy got up and took his stuff and walked away.

Cool, right?

This is the story that was shared in Evening Prayer on Sunday evening.  It’s from the Good Book.  After reading the story aloud, my pastorfriend asked a series of questions that we were to discuss at our tables.  She asked interesting questions about what would healing look like for each one of us?  What did it mean for this guy?

But she didn’t ask the one question I was expecting, the one question I kept thinking about as she read the verses from John 5.  I was expecting the hard question that she has asked us about other stories we’ve read–

Who are you in this story?

I’d like to answer, oh yes, I’m the paralytic, laying there, can’t get up.  Or won’t.  Sometimes there’s not much difference.  And yes, I have been that person.  So comfortable in my misery, in my paralyzing fear that I don’t move and take a step towards healing–yep.  I’ve been there.  The struggle is real.  That struggle to not have my identity be that of the “victim,” but instead to put the past behind me and move on.  Move towards the healing waters.  Move towards a new way of living, without all the pain from the past dragging me down.  It’s hard, and sometimes it’s a daily conscious choice I make to leave it all behind, if only just for today.  And then the next day.  And the next.  It takes work.  No wonder the guy was still lying there after all those years.

But as I was listening, I felt my heart skip a beat, as I realized who I really identified with in the story.  Not willingly, but I saw me there.  And it hurt.  Far worse than the pain of lying in my own story.  I have been the person who has walked on by someone in need, not noticing the guy who might need help getting to a healing spot.  I have been too busy or too self-involved to notice.  Or worse, I’ve noticed, and–this hurts to admit it, but there it is staring me in the face–I’ve walked on by anyway.  After all, I have things to get done, places to be, no time no time no time.

Whew.  That glimpse really hurt me.

As we talked about the story at our table, someone wondered aloud what happened after the guy got up and took his stuff (bedroll) with him.  We continued reading.  Turns out the guy ran into some Jewish leaders.  Their immediate reaction was–Why are you carrying your stuff?  Who told you to do that?  It’s the Sabbath, you are not supposed to carry your bedroll on the Sabbath!

Wow.  We found it surprising that no one acknowledged that this guy who had been over by the water, unable to walk for 38 years, was walking!  You know folks knew who he was, right?  I mean even if he was referred to as “Guy who hasn’t moved in years” or “Guy who won’t get up” or “That poor guy by the water,” folks had to recognize who he was.

And yet, instead of seeing the miracle right in front of them, all they could do is be judicial.  They didn’t celebrate at all.  Not a bit.  They pointed fingers and accused and sounded quite unpleasant to be honest.  What you’re doing is against the law and just who exactly told you to do it, because this is so not okay.

Oh y’all.

Today when I thought back over the story and that part in particular, I began to grieve.  Far too often I am like the Jewish leaders.  There, I’ve admitted it. Too often I look right past the amazing things in life and go straight to critical.

When Cooter shows me a Lego contraption he’s built, and I quickly say, “Oh yes, that’s nice” but more quickly move into the “Why are these Legos all over the floor? You have got to pick these up!”  Or his sister wants to tell me about a story she read, and I’m pushing her to finish unloading the dishwasher so we can get the thing loaded up again.  Or when my oldest tells me about an event she’s excited about being a part of and I’m giving her my recommended do’s and don’ts and safety guidelines, rather than sharing in her joy.

The miracle–I just pass on by it like it’s nothing–and move straight into the criticism and legalistic commentary.

Oh me.

This breaks my heart.

Something else breaks my heart.

The world is mourning today a great entertainer.  Someone who touched so many lives.  All day folks sharing their own stories, their own connections with him as though they knew him.  And I suppose in a way we did.  Only we didn’t know about the struggles.  We didn’t know he could use a helping hand.  Or a listening ear. 

And this part of his story and the story from Sunday night have intertwined in my heart and made me aware–of my shortcomings and how I need to work to see the folks around me.  Really see them.  Take time to listen.  To hug.  To tell folks what they mean to me.  Take time to hear what they really need and not just make assumptions.  I need to stop judging and start embracing, loving, caring.  Who knows what difference one moment of caring and loving and compassion can do?

I know of one moment that made a huge difference.  It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t, but I will share this.  It was because of someone who opened her eyes and saw another hurting so badly he was moving away from the healing fast, it was because of her caring and noticing and taking a moment–because of her, someone I care about very much is alive and well and loving on other folks this very day.  And making such a difference in this world. 

Because she noticed.

I think that may be where the healing begins.

It is with my whole heart tonight, that I think on this and make a promise to myself to notice.  To slow down and take time for what really matters.  I need to let go of things that are superficial and dig deep.  And love. 

May we make each day a day of noticing.  Imagine all the good that could do. 

Love to all. 

 

The Better to See You…..With

It has occurred to me in the past few days, perhaps not for the first time, that this whole being “with” that I am trying to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace, it will take a different set of eyes.  People, including myself, don’t always tell folks when they need help or a hug or a listening ear.  It’s just not that easy, is it?

I saw a video clip at Evening Prayer last night that spoke to me.  I hope it will inspire you as well.  Not easy, but “this is water.”  This is a graphic version of a commencement speech that David Foster Wallace wrote and gave at Kenyon College in 2005.  It rings so true for me–especially the grocery store stress–the fluorescent lights, and I inevitably get the wonky grocery cart.  It also made me think of Mr. Al whom I met at the store last week.  I am thankful for that quiet voice within that told me to stop and be with…..if only for a few minutes.  Thank you, my pastorfriend, for enlightening us by sharing this with us last night.

It reminded me of a video I saw on a friend’s page a few weeks ago.  (I’m sorry, I can’t remember exactly who, but thank you!)   It is a different way of presenting a similar message, and it would be really hard to live like this every moment of every day.  However, I think the point is that while we can’t help everyone we can start with ONE.   And that it’s not all about us.  We just need to start opening our eyes and our hearts. Right?  If you see it differently, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I am due for an eye appointment and checkup.  I think I need new lenses–the better to see you…..with.

More Love Than Any Woman Could Handle

Yesterday my college girl stopped and got her oil changed on the way to the house.

My Mama would be so proud.

When she came in the door, however, all was not well.  The car had cut off on her several times at lights ands stop signs.  This was not a problem before getting her oil changed.  *sigh*

Okay.  I did what my Mama would have done (or told me to do, not sure at this point) and called the mechanic shop.  The manager was very apologetic and asked that she “run it back over” and they would fix it.  He had a feeling he knew what had happened.  I told Aub, but driving it again made her nervous.  I get it.  But “running it back over” was easier said than done.  Highway 96 after 3:30 in the afternoon is a battlefield.  You’d better be prepared for anything.  And now that they have started the road expansion project, it’s even crazier.  All the time.  Please don’t think I’m making light of battlefields–you seriously have to be on your game and very aware on that road.  Every single second.

I decided I’d drive it back over.  It was a rough trip.  There was an accident on 96 (thank goodness we know that the worst damage on that one was to the vehicles), so I had to re-route.  The car did not cut off on me, but it idled a bit wonky, and reminded me of my days of driving my MGB–a stick shift.  And this car is NOT a stick shift.

I made it there safely, thankfully.  When I went in, I told the manager that not only would I not be mad if he found they had made an error, but I would be thankful.  It is not yet time for this car to start giving us trouble like that.  He looked a little startled, “Don’t get mad, ma’am.  Don’t get mad.”  Well I just said I wouldn’t, didn’t I?  It did not take him long at all. Sure enough a vacuum had come “aloose” and once it was popped back in, she ran just as smoothly as the day she was brand new.  (I’m assuming here, I mean, it was a very smooth drive back home.)

I decided to stop at the grocery store on the way home.  I wanted to find something quick to prepare for supper (Leroy was cooking White Chicken Chili at his house the afternoon before–he flung a craving on me).  So I planned on a dash in-dash out-only get the necessities kind of trip.  That store is hopping on a Friday afternoon, and I was limited on time.

As I left the produce section and headed over to the canned beans and vegetables aisle, I had to work around several other carts.  There was an older gentleman who was looking at the baked beans.  I apologized for being in his way as I loaded up on Great Northern beans.  He was very gallant, something you don’t see a lot of anymore.  He insisted that I wasn’t in his way, and we began our visit.

I could see something in his eyes, a story he needed to tell.  All thoughts of my quick “in and out” slipped out of my mind, but it only gave me a moment’s pause–then my word to embrace this year–with–echoed in my head, and I stopped to listen.

Mr. Al, much to my surprise, is 81 years old.  He looked younger. He has been widowed right at 3 years.  I think the day his wife died is coming up in the next few days.  They were married 34 years but they’d known each other 36.  He had actually moved away from where she lived, but he couldn’t get her out of his mind.  So sweet.  They later married. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and given a life expectancy of 3 years, but with his loving care, she made it more than five years after her diagnosis.  Bless him.  Looking in his eyes, I could see a kindred spirit.  The tears that threatened to come to the surface as he shared–I’ve felt those myself.   I apologized to him as we shared stories–losing a Mama and Daddy is not the same as losing a spouse, and I know that.  He shook his head.  “It’s all hard.  It doesn’t matter, if you loved them dearly.”  I appreciated his grace.   He understands.  Grief is…..what it is.

He talked about how much he loved his wife, how absolutely perfect she was.  A dear lady he knew came to him a while after his wife died and said, “If you ever think about marrying again…..”  He shook his head.  No.  That would not be happening.  He talked about how he loved his precious wife.  “We are told that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church.”  He shook his head and chuckled.  “That’s a lot more love than any woman can handle, isn’t it?”  But he tried.  He said he could get upset sometimes, but that he would get to the bottom of the steps and have to go back in the house. “Well, hello, here comes Mr. Repentant,” his wife would say with her beautiful smile.  “I knew you couldn’t stay upset.”  And she’d been right.  She had seen the best in him and brought it to the surface.

Oh how he misses her.

I don’t know how much time we spent there at the beans talking and listening and tearing up together.  Time seemed to fly and to stand still all at the same time.

What do you do with all that love when the person is no longer here to soak it all in?

I don’t know.

Maybe you stand and tell someone who understands in the middle of a grocery store.

Tonight I am thankful for a mechanical error that made a car go wonky.  That error led to my unplanned trip to the grocery store and the privilege of visiting with Mr. Al.  We may never meet again, but his love story has touched my heart and I will carry it with me for a long time.  I am humbled to hear of this love of a husband for a wife that is so great it will last forever.  The smile on his face when he spoke of her and the tears in his eyes as he remembered–that right there.  What a beautiful reminder of what being “with” is really all about.

“No, I don’t think so”

There are people who walk into our lives, pull up a chair, plop down with a satisfied sigh, look us in the eyes, make us laugh, and it’s like they’ve been there forever.

Isn’t it fun when one of those folks comes into your life?

Two years ago a pretty special somebody walked in.  She took my world by storm, at a time when the only storms we’d had in the past few months were bad ones.

But she was a good one.

The kind that clears the air, gives you a rush with the great breezes, and leaves everything brighter and clearer and fresher once it’s blown through.

That’s what being with her is like.  The air is charged, the conversation always lively, and best of all, she’s the kind of friend that takes you on as family.  She is a loyal one.  Once you belong to her, you always belong to her.  And when she laughs…..we all get tickled.

She is a beautiful, strong woman busy loving on folks and raising two strong young men.  And she never lets grass grow under her feet.  She inspires me with her energy, her courage, her humor, and her honesty.  She calls it like it is, and she sees with a clarity I wish I had.  She makes me wish I could be very much like her when I grow up.

This evening as we sat around the table way past mealtime (don’t some of the best conversations happen around the table?), she was listening to Aub share a story of some of the goings on in her life.  She held up a hand as if to stop her and said, “Wait.  Hold up.  What you should have said right there was,” *clap* *finger pointed*”‘No, I don’t think so.'”

Wow.  I like it.

I like what it says.  And its flexibility for different situations.  It sets up boundaries with no room for misinterpretation.  “No, I don’t think so, you’re not going to treat me that way.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to be your pawn anymore.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’ve got enough on my plate right now.” “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to let your issues become my issues.”  “No, I don’t think so, I appreciate your offer of help–but I’ve got this.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’d rather not share this with anyone.”

These words just might be my new magic words.  Pair them with “Isn’t that nice?” and we’ve got a winning combination, I think.

Beautiful.
Just like my friend who made the time to visit and abide with us today.  Who listened and shared her wisdom with me and my girl.  Who laughed with us, teared up with us, and who loves us.  Her laughter filled more than our home today, it filled my heart.  And bless her, she even rolls her eyes with us and for us.  We may not get together very often, but she is a true sisterfriend, and she and her family have shown up for each of the joys and the heartbreaks in our lives ever since our meeting two years ago.

When you’ve got a friend who rolls her eyes for you, don’t let her go.  And if anyone tries to mess that up, you just clap, snap, and point, and let them know, “No, I just don’t think so.”

A real treasure…..and I am thankful for her.

For those of you praying for and thinking about Aub’s friend, Miss K, she is getting stronger.  She is still in hospital and has a long way to go, but she is awake and alert and sharing her own thoughts and updates on Facebook.  Please continue to keep her and her journey in your thoughts and prayers.  But thank you for traveling this far with her and all of her sisters at Wesleyan.  They will be so happy when she is able to return.  As will we all.