That’s Hilarious…..and Important

A few days ago I had the privilege of speaking with a most delightful fellow on the phone.  My little nephew, who just turned four, woke up from his nap and came in the room where my brother was on the phone with me.  The miles divide, but the heart does not.  Thankfully so.  When his Papa told him who he was talking to, the little guy got on the phone and said hello.

My brother was suffering with a pretty bad cold.  After we said our hey, how are you’s I asked my little friend about his father.  “So are you taking good care of Papa?  Since he’s sick?”

“Uh huh,” he said.  I could almost see his head nodding over the phone.

“Oh good,” I replied.  “I need you to take very good care of him, because I love him.  He’s my baby brother.”

“What?!” he exclaimed in disbelief.  He turned to my brother. “Papa, Aunt Tara says you are her baby brother!” He giggled as he relayed this silly idea.

“That’s right.  I am.  She’s my big sister,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the phone.

“What?!” my nephew repeated through his giggles.  “THAT’S HILARIOUS!!!!!”

Oh, the joy in hearing him erupt with laughter on the other end of the line!  Bless him, I miss my brother and his family.  The laughter was like a balm to my soul.

I’ve been thinking about that little guy and his shock and disbelief about our connectedness.  It was as though something like that had never even entered his mind.  About how we are joined together.  The string that connects us.

I am thankful for my nephew, his laughter, his joy, and his reminder that sometimes we might not know or remember just how much we are all–every single one of us–connected.  And oh–the joy and laughter that knowledge should bring.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to remember the things that divide us–those things tend to be so much easier to focus on, don’t they?

But wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone to remind us of that connectedness and laugh like a child with joy over that knowledge?

Hilarious.  And fabulous.

And one of the most important things to remember.

Love to all.

 

Truth

I took one of those quizzes like you do that spins a little circle around and then somehow reads the very depths of your soul and comes up with an answer to an intriguing question in thirty seconds or less.

Ahem.

The question was “What is your word for 2016?”  I took it, shrugging and laughing.  I had already chosen MY WORD for the year, but sure, why not?  So I hit the button and off it spun and then–there was my word.

Truth.

Sure.  Okay.  Whatever.

My word/phrase is so much better.  I moved on and didn’t think about it again.  Until yesterday.  And today.

Truth.

And it has become apparent how much this word is already playing into my journey, just seven days into the New Year.

It has also become apparent how much people work not to be transparent. It’s not NOT telling the truth, it’s just keeping the truth under wraps.  So yes, not being truthful.

Oh, for the love.

Perhaps it’s the stage of life I’m in, but I’m really tired of all the cloak and dagger, undercover, in the back room, under the table, under the cover of darkness stuff that goes on.

It’s everywhere.  And I’m just as guilty as the next person.

We work to keep from being transparent.  It starts with our insecurities and worries and fears.  We mustn’t, we can’t, let anyone see them.  We aren’t even comfortable telling folks we care because what if they don’t reciprocate or what if we get hurt or what if we go out on a limb and then…..nothing…..

Yes.  There will be pain.

But what if there isn’t?   What if those feelings are returned?  A thousandfold?

We aren’t comfortable telling someone about the mistakes we made.  Mistakes of commission or omission–we are terrified of saying “Hey, look, I was trying my best, but it just didn’t work out, and here’s what happened, and I’m sorry, and I will work to do better and to make amends,” because what if the people we share this with are only seeking to condemn and point fingers and get revenge for all that has happened…..

Yes.  It could end up badly.

But what if it doesn’t?  What if there’s forgiveness?  Grace?

We aren’t comfortable being truthful because we worry that others might shudder when they see our flaws, our wrinkles, the ugly bits of us that we think are best left untouched and hidden away forever.  We are so scared of someone seeing the real us, because they might recoil in horror.

It would be devastating.

But what if they don’t?  What if there’s acceptance?  What if we find a kindred spirit?

The truth is one of the scariest things out there.  It can take our stories from merely entertaining to provoking and hard and inspiring and broken and powerful and life-changing and something really beautiful.  It can take a relationship that is good and make it the best.  It can turn a mistake into a learning opportunity and a space to heal and make something even stronger.

The truth can destroy doubts and questions and anxieties and loneliness and pain and worry with a single blow.

Taylor Swift  (y’all know I think she’s a philosopher) wrote: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

She’s right.  We don’t.  But when we have the courage to speak the truth, we know that we are putting our whole selves out there–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and we are opening the door for the possibility of healing, acceptance, grace, and love.

I’m all about opening some doors, y’all.  Let’s open some together.  Y’all in?

Truth.  Huh.  Who knew that little thirty second quiz could pack such a powerful punch?

Love to all.

img_1226

 

What Babies Do Know That We’ve Forgotten

This morning I was trying to *ahem* encourage Cooter, my seven-year old, to buckle down and get started on his math.  He wasn’t in the mood for math or a pep talk today.  He moaned and went prostrate across the stools at the counter.

“Ohhhh, I wish we knew everything already when we were babies,” he called out, rather dramatically.

Our Princess leaned over and patted him as she picked up her math worksheets and pencil.  “Oh, buddy, but we didn’t.  We have a lot to learn.”

Interesting.  Why is it that I have days when neither of them really want to do their lessons in a timely fashion but I very, very rarely have a day when they are both willing and happy happy happy?  Today was a good one for her.  Not so much for the little fella.

The words from my little guy’s mouth have played back over and over in my head.  I thought about when each of mine were babies and wondered about what exactly they knew.  I remembered the precious babies I’ve held over the years and thought about what they seemed to know as well.

And you know what?  Cooter might have gotten his wish.  Seems like to me babies know an awful lot.

Babies know how to love.  Unconditionally.  They just love being held and doted on and snuggling and they love with abandon.

Babies smile.  They say I love you with their gaze, their smile, and when they learn to control their arms a little better, with their touch.

Babies look people in the eyes.  And they don’t turn away.  My Daddy called it “imprinting.” When he held each one of my three, they would gaze up at him for as long as he was willing to hold them and gaze back.  They imprinted him and stored him up in their memories.

Babies reach out for what they want.  They grab the silverware, newspaper, books, keyboards, hair, hands, and another person. They aren’t afraid of going after something interesting.  And they find the whole world interesting.  Babies are curious and adventurous and can make anything ordinary absolutely extraordinary.  They breathe life into everything around them.

Babies talk.  Sometimes a lot.  But they also listen. They listen so intently they can often repeat the sounds you just made.

Babies can laugh at nothing.  They can cry about anything.  Babies are not ones to hold their emotions in, stuffing them down deep inside so they can wreak all kinds of havoc on their hearts and minds and souls.  Babies let the world know how they feel–whether it’s joy, hunger, happiness, or pain–they let the world know.  And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

As Cooter’s words echoed in my mind, I thought about all of these things and realized how important every single one of these things is to a person’s well-being.  To healthy relationships and lives.  And then I realized that we as a society don’t value these things like we should.  We don’t have time for sitting with someone and listening intently or gazing and memorizing precious faces.  We squelch our emotions and tuck them away.  We pine for things (tangible and intangible) without setting goals and working for what we want.  Or we go the immediate gratification route and what we wanted only satisfies until the next want comes along.  We are afraid to look people in the eyes.  We assess the appropriateness of the situation before we let ourselves laugh or cry.  We hold back.

And loving?  We often fail to love unconditionally those who are different, who look different or act different or think differently.  We don’t open up to strangers and give them a friendly smile and a wave from across the room.  It doesn’t seem quite right.

And yet–

I think maybe we have a lot to learn from these wee ones.  And while the point didn’t get Cooter out of his math today and it sure won’t tomorrow either, I think it’s a good one.   (Shhhhh, he doesn’t have to know.) I think we need to look at babies and how they are with people to see how it really should be done.  How we should interact and look and be in this world.  And most of all, how we should love.

Have you ever seen a baby reach out to someone they barely know?  And change the world with their smile?

That right there.

We should do more of that.

We need folks and folks need us.

Love to all.

 

 

 

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:

20140328-232903.jpg

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.

 

 

 

Nary a Waste

The past few mornings, Miss Sophie has arisen a little earlier than usual.  I don’t know how to figure it, but I keep blaming it on the time change.  Why not?  It’s an easy target and everyone else is doing it, right?

So she and I walk in the quiet morning air, breathing deeply as she takes her morning constitutional, tending to her business as she does.  Some mornings she draws it out more than others.  This morning was quite different from the past few mornings.  We’ve had both sunny and warm and sunny and cool in just the past few days.  (Welcome to Georgia.)  This morning the sky was overcast as I peeked out the window, putting on my shoes.  I expected it to be brisk, but instead it was very much becoming of a proper spring morning.  (No Winter, you’re still not fooling me. I know you’re still around.)

As Miss Sophie sniffed the ground, I took a deep breath and thought about how different and yet beautiful this quiet morning was.  And it occurred to me, all of these days, with all of their differences–in temperature and breezes and birdsong and sunlight or clouds–all of these were made by the same Creator.  The same Artist painted the sun and brightness of yesterday and the day before as painted the gray and overcast of today.  The same Hand waved the breeze gently yesterday as waved the whipping winds of today.

Same Designer and yet different designs.  No two days alike.

Is it any wonder the magnificence of differences in each one of us?  We have been designed and created by One who loves uniqueness and whimsy and color and light and all different shades and hues and sounds.  By One who delights in each one of us.  Just as we are.

Today was so different from the past few.  Tomorrow, bringing back a taste of the chill, will be even more different.  But will any of us disregard a day in our life as unworthy or a total waste simply because it is different?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  I can still get things done, I can still eat and work and do laundry and play with my children, you say, no matter the weather.  I can go to work and the grocery store and send my cousin a birthday card, no matter what the day looks like.  Oh sure, I might have to adjust my route or the timing of a thing or two if the day is very different, but a day that is a total waste simply because of the way it is?  That’s crazy talk, Tara.

And I say you are right.

No day, no matter how different from our ideal–balmy, sunny, light breeze, birds singing, just a few beautiful fluffy clouds in the sky–is a waste.  Even if it snowed tomorrow (ha! what year do I think it is? 1993?) it wouldn’t be a waste, would it?  It might not go just as we had planned, but I expect most of us would come up with something that would make us feel downright all right about the day.  A waste?  That’s blasphemy!

And so I think it’s the same with people.  The Artist and Designer and Creator and Maestro who came up with the Idea of how special we were and are and can be made each one of us different in so many ways.  It is really beautiful to think about.  As much as I seem to enjoy talking to myself (ahem), I don’t think I would enjoy it very much if all I had to talk with or relate to or share thoughts with were more of me.

And yet we have a bad habit of disregarding someone if they are different from us, don’t we?  I have been known to do it.  Oh well, she doesn’t see things the same way I do, so…..it would be a waste of my time to get to know her any more.  Oh my, he is definitely making different choices than I would…..did you see what he was wearing?  I’ll just move on, not worth getting to know him.  We’d have nothing in common.

I’m speaking in generalities, but the truth is we all have specific, very specific things that we use as reasons to disregard another person.  Their faith, where they live, their income bracket, their schooling, their skin color, their gender, their sexuality, their health status, their job status, their style of speaking, their marital status, their hair color, the music they listen to, the clothes they wear…..shall I go on?

It reminds me of our neighborhood drama.  On a daily basis one of the children tells one or several of the others, “We’re not best friends anymore.” Because…..you won’t play what I want to play…..you won’t listen to what I’m saying…..you won’t let me go first…..you won’t come to my yard and leave her out…..you won’t share your doll with me…..you went home for lunch…..

and on and on it goes.  Those seem pretty childish, I know, but the things described before theseconcerns and issues of the 5-10 year old bunch also seem pretty childish.  If we never associated with anyone different from us, how sad would that be?  I wouldn’t have very many friends.

Scratch that.

I wouldn’t have any friends.  I don’t think that anyone I know and care about is exactly like me.

And for that I am extremely grateful.

Throwing away the chance to get to know someone, someone designed and created and orchestrated by the Great One just as he or she is simply because he or she is different, that’s as ridiculous as throwing away a day in our life just because the weather isn’t perfect.

That’s just full of the foolishness, as my folks used to say.

Make today a day to go and meet someone new.  Someone different.  Or maybe you already know someone but haven’t made time to say hello.  I’m not saying you have to be BFF’s Forevuh or anything, but I bet you’ll be surprised if you really take time to listen to their stories.  You just might find you have more in common than you do different.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll appreciate them for the work of Art they are.  And vice versa.

Go be fabulous.  You were made to be exactly that.

Love to all.

On the Road Past Devastation

Yesterday I drove on roads that serve as the backdrop for both my childhood and my previous life.  As I drove by the long road that leads to my Granny’s house I heard the echoes of voices from the past–my cousins, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my folks.  As the car whizzed by, I saw landmarks of times that were less than happy, and that brought back a whole different set of memories.

And then I turned onto another back road and saw this:

pic of devastation on HM Road

This is across the road from the house where one of my sweet friends lived when we were growing up.  I think her folks still live there now.  I spent many a happy day at their home–it was my first experience with a two-story house.   But this, this across the road, up until recently was woods.  Covered with trees like the ones you see in the background.  The picture just does not do justice to what it really feels like looking at this cleared area.

Devastation.

I was driving home yesterday when I saw this, and it suited where my heart was at the moment.  And it occurred to me that this is what it feels like when you are devastated.

Like when someone you’ve trusted with your heart, your life, your everything, hurts you with lies, abuse, lack of respect…..and just walks away seemingly unscathed.  Or when you hear the diagnosis of someone you love most in the world and you know that each tick of the clock has become your enemy and time is the most precious thing you have.  Or when Plan B falls apart, and even though there are 26 letters of the alphabet, you just don’t have any plans beyond the first two.  There just are no words for this.  Except maybe–

Devastation.

The land across from my friend’s house has been ravaged.  I’m not sure by what, but whether by storm, tornado, or manmade machinery, the results are the same.  Loss of life, of beauty, of soul.  Much like our own souls when we have been ravaged by grief, loss, disappointments, fear, infidelity, betrayal.  Such devastation can make us almost lifeless and ugly, filled with internal scars that others can’t see, but they eventually come to the surface as anger, sadness, confusion, passivity, and all kinds of other physical and mental symptoms.

pic of be kind quote

I’ve seen this quote a lot.  It’s made its rounds throughout social media.  But the truth is this is truth.  That Plato knew what he was talking about.  Not everyone’s scars make their story obvious like Harry Potter’s.  Because of his lightning bolt scar on his forehead, people instantly knew who he was and his story as well.  But for us it’s not that easy.  Some of the worst things one can go through leave no visible scars; but the pain and loss, they are still there.  It’s important to remember that, as we judge others like we tend to do and jump to incorrect and unkind conclusions.

As for the ravaged land, it can come back, depending what the plans are for it.  Hope and little bitty roots waiting to grow again spring eternal just under the surface.  With kindness and attention to the life that still remains, it can become green and vibrant again.

And that’s the thing–if we can always be kind, if we can stop judging and condemning and thinking everyone else is so different and we are so much better, then and ONLY THEN can we stop the ravaging of souls.  Right now.  It’s the death of a spirit, which doesn’t get reported as often as you might think.  That spirit with the right loving people around CAN get better and grow strong again.

And if, when the wind blows really hard and the rain beats down, those little tendrils of new growth shake and are weighed down by all that is around them, that’s okay.  We all have those moments (some longer than others) that weigh us down.  That’s where the rest of us come in.  IF we are kind, and if we can love as we truly should, and we sit with folks through these storms, they can get through it, and continue on down the road, past the devastation.

And in the midst of the brokenness and pain of this world, that’s a hope to hang on to.