Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
another page torn off the calendar and tucked away
to use for scratch paper
when I need to jot something down

not much has changed since yesterday
except now I can wear the white shoes
that I haven’t owned for about five or six years

(and what is that about–I used to
welcome spring by buying a new pair of
white sneakers every year while
the old ones were relegated to lawn
mowing duty)

and yet, today was a resurrection day
one of culling the old and worn
and the way things used to be
and allowing for new things to happen

one of laughter and
conversations about the best way to
cook a hot dog–turns out everyone
has their own opinion
and some folks *ahem* are quite
serious
about this

the sound of laughter all through the house
like a bell on the cat’s collar,
letting us know where the children are
at any given moment,
apparently mattress surfing is
pretty awesome
and time with your friends makes this
the “best Easter ever”

on days of resurrection and finding
joy in the most unlikely of places
things like chairs and socks can be sources of great
entertainment
and stories of goats
and why no one wants to take cake home
can have folks literally laughing out loud
and nearly rolling on the floor while doing it

and so as another season has come to pass,
and we can breathe a little easier
(figuratively only, because pollen)
with the focus and intensity of Lent behind us,
I write this all down so I can remember

this is what it felt like in the beginning
and a year from now
when we look back and see how far we’ve come
I hope it won’t be too far from this picture
we painted today

colorful and vibrant
unique and brilliant
like newly dyed Easter eggs

as we carry the soul of where it first began
with us
alongside the folks who have the oil to light our lamps
when we are running low

as together we travel
on unbroken ground

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The Most Precious Part of the Goodbyes

Tonight we said goodbye to a place that we hold dear, Bare Bulb Coffee.  I wasn’t sure if I could or would be able to be there as the lights were turned out for the last time, but as the time grew closer, I knew I couldn’t be anywhere else.

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Driving up to the shop one last time. Sunsets can be so beautiful…..

A few of us who have shared many cups of coffee and moments together in that space gathered tonight to play games, sit and talk, have coffee.  We ordered some pizza and hung out–making precious memories that I hope all of these people I love will carry with them for a long time.  There were friends there whom I was with last night, and there were friends whom I haven’t seen in far too long.

It was an unofficial Bare Bulb reunion of sorts, and it was good.

What I will remember most are the laughter and the stories.  And how folks whom we hadn’t known as long were brought around the table with open arms just like those we’ve known for years.  I’ll remember that strangers were invited to share in the pizza and the celebration and the light.  One more time.

I’ll remember the smiles on the faces and the gentle strumming of a guitar.  The children on the stage, playing games and eating pizza and coloring signs as tributes to this place where they grew up.  I’ll remember ordering my large decaf, no room for anything one. last. time.  The smell of the coffee.  The sound of the beans grinding.  The glittery tiles on the coffee table, the cool feel of the tile on the big table where the group gathered for one more round of Apples to Apples.

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The thing I’ve noticed is that when we are saying goodbye to someone we love, there is one thing that is always a part of those moments.

The stories.

And tonight was no different.  I heard all the stories being shared, and it made my heart glad.

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Tonight I’m most thankful for the ones who have gathered there over the years and those who gathered tonight.  Thank you for filling this sacred space with laughter and all the stories that we can hold close and use to fuel the flame given to us by this special place.  That we sent her out with laughter and fun and friends who have become family is a gift I will always be grateful for.

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…..and there was. For ALL.

May we honor what Bare Bulb Coffee was and what she taught us by letting our light shine–even in the darkest of times.  Together.

Love–and light–to all.

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From the first moment my feet stood in this place to the last time tonight, this place has always been a sanctuary for me. Holding me close and allowing me space and grace to do what my heart and soul needed to do. Thank you, friends, for sharing the journey.

 

Be the Light

When I was in grad school and had a class called “Spirituality and Family Therapy,” my mind was blown.  So many good books, so many great thinkers and powerful conversations.  One of the ideas I was introduced to was “soul of place.”

I think I had always known about it and felt it, but this was the first time having words put to the idea.

The Soul.  Of place.

I knew this when I said goodbye to my Granny’s farm.  It was even more real the first time I returned years later, to walk around and see the shadows of the stories of the past.  The day I locked the door to my Great Aunt’s house, the one she lived in my entire life, where so much laughter and games of Go Fish echoed in the air, just before signing the papers to sell it to a new family…..I felt the soul of place in every fiber of my being.  Each and every time I set foot at Blackberry Flats, I breathe a little easier. The air is richer and it fills my soul.  The pasture where I learned to ride and the little building where I curled up on top of the hay with my cats and a book are all still there.  The tree that I sat under while still in college has spread its branches just as our family tree has.

Memories.  Light.  Love.  All the stories.

This has happened one other time for me.  It actually happened the first time I walked through the doors.

About five and a half years ago, I walked into a coffee shop that I had heard about long before it had become a reality.  It was a non-profit venture by a group of churches in the Presbytery—churches and church people who realized that not everyone feels safe or comfortable in a church building.  They were looking for a different way to “do church,” to be a community.

And they found it.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the lightbulb etched into the cement floor.

Light.

And that was the second thing I noticed.  How the room glowed.  How it was lit up with more than just the energy from the bulbs overhead.  It was bright with a beautiful spirit.  A calming spirit of peace.

And my soul sighed.  Home.

My family and I have spent countless hours in that little coffee shop in Kathleen situated alongside the GW Boutique, Stevi B’s, and the movie theater.  For coffee, for conversations, for book groups, for art classes.  It’s where I learned to knit and to pray out loud.  It’s where people see the best in others and listen with their whole hearts.  It’s the place I last sat with my dear sisterfriend before she left this world, where we shared our hearts and stories over soup and salad.  It’s where I learned to love pimento cheese and was actually captured on film sharing how good it was, “It’s toasted!” This little coffee shop saw me transition from lattes to black coffee, and my friends the baristas made the very best of both.  This coffee shop is where I sat for hours, set up to sell Beads for Life just a week after my Daddy passed.  It was a sanctuary, and it held my heart gently.  In those hours, in that light, I made my first tiny steps toward healing.  Something I’m still working on.

Grief is an odd duck, isn’t it?  It’s not like this information is new to me.  I know that, and each and every time I’m thrown back on the wheel, I realize it anew.  This whole experience, since we got the word at the end of November that our precious coffee shop was hurting and might have to close, I’ve felt the sting of a terminal diagnosis all over again.  The hope that maybe, just maybe, something or someone can change all of this, the ups and downs and ups and downs and finally, the overwhelming realization, that no, there really is nothing more that can be done…..

yeah, I’ve done this a few times already.

And while it’s a place—yes, just a few square feet that we are losing, not a person—I still grieve.  I grieve for the soul of Bare Bulb Coffee.  I grieve because my littles have begged to sell lemonade or cupcakes or pictures they make to save the coffee shop they love.  I grieve because my oldest has found peace and comfort within the shop walls on more than one occasion when her world was falling apart.  Her love of playing music has been reignited sitting there on Sunday afternoons, or out on the patio in nice weather, just strumming and talking and doing life.  I grieve for all of the experiences my children will not have because the doors are closing.  It was our safe place, a place where we all felt “home,” and that’s not something that is easily found just anywhere.

Next Monday night the door will be locked for the last time, the last cup of coffee poured, the last smile shared as change is given, the last story told over the tables, the last hand held sitting on the couch in the corner.  The last backpack to fight hunger will have been packed, and the last book purchased for the literacy program that is a part of the mission of Bare Bulb Coffee.  These things might continue elsewhere, but it will not be the same.

I’m not sure if I will be there when the door is locked for the last time.  I’ve thought about it.  I have a week to decide.  I’m not sure if I can handle being present for one more passing.  It is precious and hard and beautiful and brutal and all of these things, and I treasure those moments in my heart.  But I know that the hardest moment will be when the Open sign is unplugged, and the lights are turned out.

That is when our work will truly begin.  For those of us who have loved her, who have found solace in her soul and light, we will have to become the light.  To welcome all as she did.  To offer a cup of water to the thirsty, just as she did.  To sit with those who cry, to celebrate with those who are joyful.  It will be up to us to light up the darkness and to show others the hope in the brokenness.  It is important for us to continue to do all of these things…..together…..or she will have been here in vain.

Tonight I’m thankful for the dreamers, for the ones who took a spark and created a bright light for our community, for the world.  It was so much more than a coffeeshop, so much more than its tagline—“hot coffee, cool mission.”  It’s where I grew up, where I asked hard questions and wrestled with them with folks who thought differently and who challenged me to do so as well.  It’s where I said so many hellos and a few heartbreaking goodbyes, this place where strangers became friends, and friends became family.  I am thankful for all of them, and my life is richer for this place, for her soul, and for the community she leaves behind.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, and all of your beautiful people.  Thank you for the ones we knew and loved and for the ones who taught us what being different was like.  Thank you for the books and the stories and the hugs and the tangled knots and the hands that helped each other with knitting and painting and life.  Thank you for being open to all of us, no matter what we looked like or what stories we carried in our hearts.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, for the Light.

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My last painting at Bare Bulb Coffee, and her task for all of us she leaves behind. (The class was taught by Terri Siegel, a talented artist friend–one of many gifts the Bulb has given me.)

The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas…..

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By SeppVei (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

eight things that I pondered on today as I was cooking the black-eyed peas and collard greens.

1–This is the last full year my oldest will be in college.  ACK! How did that even happen?  Too fast, y’all.  It’s all too fast.

2–This is a Leap Year.  So all those folks who, on December 26, said that there were 365 days until next Christmas were all wrong.  And many had no idea.  It seems like the older I get the quicker these Leap Years sneak up on me.

3–Even years.  This is an even year.  And I can’t remember if I like even years or odd years better.  Is it weird to have a preference?  Never mind.  Don’t answer that.

4–It’s good to have people.  So when you don’t have macaroni and cheese and you need some and you know your little people are tired of your recipe, one of your other people might step up and say, “Hey I have a great recipe–would you like for me to try making it?”  (It was a success, by the way.) Or when you are struggling with something but maybe no one or only a few know, someone out of the blue asks others to hold you in the light without your ever saying anything.  People are good to know and have and love.

5–Hallmark Christmas movies are addictive.  And I’m addicted.  Now I am very sad, because I am pretty sure they are done showing them.  Dear Hallmark, please start a Christmas movie channel.  Some of us need the magic and loveliness all year long.  I will subscribe.  I promise. Thank you, and Happy Everyday.  (P. S. Does Candace Cameron Bure’ live with you on site? She seems to be in a lot of your movies these days.  Just curious.)  

6–Eating at the Pizza Place on New Year’s Night is a tradition I could get used to.  Very much so.  Not packed, good food, happy children, happy grownups, and the staff are wonderful, beautiful people–and we can never be around those folks too much.  A great start to 2016.

7–As soon as the New Year arrived, Cooter, whose birthday is still several weeks away, started asking, “Can I just go ahead and say ‘I’m 9?'”  He is my baby boy.  NOOOOO. No, you may not say you are 9 yet.  Not even one day before you actually turn 9 may you say that.  Just stop.  I have all the emotions to work through before that day gets here.

8–I told myself I would not focus on the loss of our beloved coffeeshop/church/hangout/missional, fair-trade coffeehouse before the New Year.  I wanted to celebrate the holidays and then let my heart grieve.   Today the New Year arrived, and it hit me that the time has come to close the door on the hope of it staying open as it stands now and prepare to say goodbye.  The pain of losing it is real and hard and never so clear as when we pulled up to the Pizza Place down the row from the coffeeshop, and the lights were not on in the shop.  I had forgotten it would be closed today for New Year’s, so to see it closed and no one there and to know that THERE WAS NO COFFEE brewing today–something inside of me broke.  This will be a year of hard things and getting through them and walking with others who are also struggling.  But we will get through them.  Together.

Wishing you all a Happy Welcome to this New Year!  And that you get the year right the very first time you have to write a check.  (Does anyone even write checks anymore besides me?)

Love to all.

 

Goodness…..one Cup at a Time

You might remember me sharing about a coffee shop in our community where all kinds of good things are happening.  This is where my children have grown up playing and laughing and making good friends.  We have met some of our best friends in that space.  At one time or another I and my oldest have sought and found sanctuary there.  It’s a place of peace and a community of bright, vivid lives whose stories become intertwined once they walk through the door.

It’s a little bigger than most coffee shops, because it was never meant to be just a coffee shop.  It was designed to be a meeting place, a place to form and build relationships–ones that would celebrate your joys with you and hold you in times of sorrow.  I have experienced all of that with the people of Bare Bulb Coffee.

This past week the Board of Bare Bulb Coffee made a difficult decision.  If the folks who love and support this coffee shop are not able to raise $60,000 by January 31, the shop will close.

The expenses for running a coffee shop like this, with the missions and focus on relationships are a little higher than usual, because of the larger space.  Not everyone who enters its doors purchases a menu item, which is okay.  Some come to be with friends, study, learn to knit, play a game with their daughter, or just sit in the place that so many of us call home.  Some days the cash register reflects the good that has gone on.  Other days not so much. But good has happened nonetheless. The money that all are hoping to raise will go towards operating funds for the coming year and to hire a top-notch manager who will take the shop to another level businesswise.

This has been a big part of my week.  Working with other folks for whom this matters greatly.  Inviting our community into this project of saving the shop from closing.  Listening to precious stories of people who met their spouses at the shop, children who leave Mom a note thanking her for taking them to Bare Bulb, folks who have written or studied or created while sitting in the little shop on the corner.  Every one has been dear to me and has been imprinted on my heart.  My favorite little place is loved by so many for so many different reasons.

My Mama used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t know.”

And so we asked.  We told the story of our hardship to the Bare Bulb and local communities.  And we asked for help.

And oh my heart.

People have jumped to act.  So many have said NO, not on my watch–the light will not end.  People are offering to have benefit concerts, to donate portions of their sales towards keeping Bare Bulb open, to donating to a shop-saving fund, to giving items and services for a Silent Auction to raise money for the Bulb.

And we only announced this three days ago.

Incredible.

We’ve even had folks emailing us, offering their hearts and time to do whatever is necessary to keep the light of Bare Bulb Coffee open.

Y’all.  For the love.

In the midst of another hard week filled with hard stories, I have been amazed and thankful beyond words for the compassion and encouragement and unwavering faith of people I’ve never met for whom this place is just as important as it is to me.  The light of Bare Bulb Coffee has shone brightly and lives have been changed by the relationships and community there.

It’s a new model–this blend of mission and business and community and space and selling and making of the coffee and pastries and frozen hot chocolate.  We have learned as we have gone along.  There are things we can look back and say we should’ve or shouldn’t have and in the end, one thing stands–this place matters, it matters to a whole lot of folks.  And if the ones who are speaking up now with love and generosity and kindness and faith have anything to say about it, it will continue to touch and change lives for many more years to come.

If you are interested in following along, you can like our Save the Bulb page on Facebook or follow us on Instagram at savethebulb.  We have a Generosity.com crowdfunding campaign here.  There’s a great video there that tells more about all the light that shines out of our non-profit, missional coffeehouse…..one cup at a time.

Wishing you all a wonderful place to call home with a community who believes and empowers and loves.

Love to all.

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http://www.barebulbcoffee.org Great Coffee, Cool Mission

A Good Story About One Who Is Growing Up

And speaking of a good story…..

we were, last night.  About big stories and good stories.

Last night at Evening Prayer we discussed a program that our local coffeehouse has–Backpack Buddies.  Each weekend, children who might otherwise go hungry receive non-perishable healthy snacks to help them have enough to eat when they are away from their schools or child care centers.  We discussed sharing this program with others outside our group to increase awareness and donations so we can provide enough food for 35 children during the remainder of the summer.  (The program provides for a lot more children during the school year.)

While the adults discussed the kinds of foods that work best, it turns out the littles were listening.  As we said our goodbyes and prepared to leave, Cooter came up and tugged my shirt.  “Mama, I have some ideas about some things to put in the backpacks.”

“Really?  What’s that?”

“Well, toothbrushes and toothpaste.  They might not have them and this way, they can take care of their teeth.”

Huh.  That’s not a bad idea.  I was impressed, not only that he’d been listening and thinking, but also that he had come up with a really good idea.  I told him to go talk to our friend who is in charge of the packing of the bags right now.

And he did.

He’s growing up right before my very eyes.  Sometimes I get growing pains it is happening so fast.

Today in the car, Cooter and his sister had a long discussion about what would be good to put in the backpacks along with the food.

Princess, our swimmer, thought that swimsuits would be a good idea.  Cooter nayed it, but she defended it by saying, “Well, it’s really hot this summer, and they can at least run in the sprinklers.”

Cooter was thinking coats, hats, and gloves in the winter.

And then he floored me.  “Well what if we get them some presents to put in there during Christmas?  I mean, they might not get as much as we do, so maybe we could share with them.”

Bless him.  Bless them both.

This isn’t a big story.  We haven’t solved world hunger.  Or even hunger in our own community.  We haven’t even been to the store yet to pick up food for the backpacks this week.

But I think it’s a good story.  One that I will hold close to my heart–especially when I am tempted to forget how giving and loving and thoughtful my children can be.  Oh, like all of us, they have their moments when they most definitely are not.  But this, their minds and hearts working in sync to see a need and try to address it?

Priceless.  Good.  Joy-filled.

May we all take a moment to see how we can fill a hungry body, heart, or soul today.  It can be as simple as a smile or picking up an extra can of healthy food or a bag of apples.

Wishing you all good stories.  Love to all.

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The closet where the Backpack Buddies magic happens.  Thanks for helping fill it up.

The closet where the Backpack Buddies magic happens. Thanks for helping fill it up.

If you are one of my local friends and you have an extra minute and dollar or two, please consider dropping a non-perishable item in the purple bucket at Bare Bulb Coffee in Kathleen.  (And get yourself a cup of coffee while you’re at it–it is literally the best coffee ever.  And seriously, I know what I’m talking about.)  Some of the things they can use are granola bars, instant mac’n’cheese, crackers, 100% fruit juice, fresh apples, fruit cups, and canned goods like Chef Boyardee or tuna.  (They try to stay away from gummy snacks and sugary drinks and chips.)  They are packing for 35 children every week right now, and your help will make a huge impact.  Thanks y’all.  

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.

 

 

 

BYOD…..do what?

We are headed into unchartered waters, and I’m not gonna lie.  I’m more than a little worried.

Recently I found out about a plan that has been integrated into the local school system.  BYOD.  Bring Your Own Device.  That means iPads, smartphones, laptops, e-readers, tablets–bring them all.  They are planning to incorporate these devices into all areas of study–Math, Science, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, and PE.  By the beginning of the last nine weeks of this school year, this program will have been implemented in all of the schools in this county.

That’s right. The devices that could have been confiscated or gotten you in trouble before–you’re not only allowed but encouraged to bring them.

Good gravy.

I have two major problems with this.

First of all, how many children in this community have their own electronic devices at their disposal?  How many families can afford to go out and buy some kind of device now that this has been brought into existence?  My favorite coffeehouse, Bare Bulb Coffee, has a program called Backpack Buddies.  This program, as described on their website:

Each week, we fill more than 60 backpacks with food to help children who rely on free meals at school make it through the weekend. You can volunteer to pack backpacks, deliver food, or simply drop a donation by the shop. We’re collecting: juice boxes, cheese and crackers,easy mac, granola bars, trail mix, fruit cups, and instant oatmeal. 

This is not the only program in our county helping children have enough to eat on the weekends.   And on breaks.  In a county where some of our children do not have enough to eat in their homes, we are going to encourage bringing in electronic devices for use in the classrooms?  No these are not being distributed.  In reading about the program, I did not see anything about there being devices available for loan in the classrooms for those who do not have them.

My heart breaks.  I think our priorities are skewed.  Here, yet once again, we are dividing ourselves into the haves and the have nots.  We are creating that “other” that Hugh Hollowell warned us against in his post I shared once before:  “What Folks Who Live Outside Do Not Need.”  We have the children who have their own devices and then there are the other children.  I cannot stand the thought of it.

There is a video of a child who has difficulty in communication using a tablet to improve communications.  It’s awesome.  If we need those in the classrooms for learning tools, then we as a community need to step up and somehow make sure that those are available for the children who need it.  School-owned and school-provided learning resources.  That’s it.  As for day to day use in a classroom, it frustrates me beyond belief to think of the children turning the pages in their textbooks trying not to catch the glances of the ones clicking on words and instructions on their devices.  It plain makes me mad.  But then I’m the parent who got a stomachache around Field Day time each year, worrying if all of the children were able to send in the money for their class’ Field Day t-shirt.

Mama’s rule of interaction with others #568.  “You share with everyone or you put it away.”  Rule #1.  “Don’t leave anyone out.”

My other problem with this plan is what our children will actually be learning.  A couple of the examples involved clicking on QR codes and receiving instructions…..in science, in PE.  Okay, so now we’re cutting back on interaction with the instructors.  Wow.

People are unlearning how to communicate with each other.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I have great friends whom, unfortunately, much of our contact and communication is through messages–on Facebook or text messages.  E-mail is even becoming a less used option.  I’ll take this form of communication over none at all, but still.  Are we forgetting how to sit still and look at someone and carry on a conversation?  This is my fear.  I also worry that we are becoming desensitized.  It is very easy to “say” anything on social media without seeing the hurt in someone’s eyes.  Things communicated electronically can often be misinterpreted and promote misunderstandings by the truckload.  It’s one more mess waiting to happen.  Why are we contributing to this by encouraging less human interaction in the schools?  Our children, all of them, need to learn courtesy and kindness and compassion.  School, among other places, is a place to interact with others and practice those skills.  But not if we fill their hands with devices, so their focus is there, and they are looking away from those around them.  It’s just too much.

And now for the elephant in the living room.  Yes, I homeschool.  My oldest attended a private kindergarten, Department of Defense Schools, and public schools in this county before she asked to be homeschooled at the beginning of eighth grade.  I realize I don’t have a dog in this hunt.  However, my heart is breaking for those families that cannot afford to put a device in their child’s backpack and send them to school with it.  Many families have more than one child.  How do they decide who gets to take the device they have if they even have one?  I may not send my children to school in this county, but I do have a voice and I am concerned for those whose voices may not be heard, so I decided to share my thoughts.  One of my friends expressed her own concern about being able to afford a device, and it made me sad and mad.  I love her fiercely and her little guy too.  He deserves the same opportunities as every other child in that classroom.  I don’t like to think about this form of segregation.  Because that is what it comes down to.

They say they are working to ready these students, all of them K-12, for college, where devices are used on a regular basis and integrated into the coursework.   My oldest is in college,  and she does use her electronic device in her studies.  We discovered that e-books are a lot less expensive and she (unlike me) has no trouble studying from that format.  She uses the calculator on her phone, and she communicates with her classmates through text messages.  The professors relay information through e-mail.  All of this is wonderful.  But I can tell the school system one thing, college requires something else.  Being able to get along with others.  Working together.  Being a part of group work and teams.  And compassion.  Understanding.  Tolerance.  Kindness.  Respect.

And I’m afraid, dear BOE Powers That Be, there’s just no app for those things.

Weigh in:  What are your thoughts on BYOD? 

For more information about the BYOD plan, click here.

Pick up Your Brush and Go For It

Tonight Mess Cat and I went to the Coffee and Canvases event at Bare Bulb Coffee, our local coffee shop.  She’s been once before with my oldest, as have I.  So tonight we finally coordinated our schedules to be there together.

As our instructor shared with us the story behind what we’d be painting and talked about techniques and brushstrokes, he said something that struck me in the very center of my being.

“If I was worried about it being perfect, I’d never pick up a paintbrush.”

Speechless.

**********

Okay, I’m back.  Let me tell you, this is a talented young man.  He is a skilled artist, whose talents at painting are only matched by his teaching abilities.  He has the patience and gentle way about him that brings out the best in every person in the room, whether they’ve painted before or not.  He has a gift, many gifts actually.  To think of the world without his art, the beauty he creates, and the passion he has to share it with others–unfathomable.

And then I started thinking about times I haven’t “picked up a brush” because I was worried I would mess up.  Why start when I know it won’t be any good?

How often do we do this to ourselves?  Opportunities that are lost, dreams never even attempted–all because we are worried about the end result.

I have to admit I wasn’t ready for tonight.  I had been looking forward to it, but I’ve been feeling a bit off my game and out of sorts and off kilter and discombobulated lately, and it just took the oomph out of it for me.  I had fallen in love with the picture we were painting, but I was tired and just didn’t feel up to it.  And to top it all off, the picture was quite intimidating–a beautiful old twisted tree on a beach–so I wasn’t sure I had it in me.  How would I ever paint that?

But I got there and saw my sister and my dear friend already there and waiting (story of my life–sigh), and my spirits lifted.  From the first gentle instruction, I felt the worries and anxiety and stress begin to wash away.  The smell of coffee, the beautiful scene in front of me, and the comforting presence of folks I love–all were soothing.  We were soon laughing together and encouraging each other and moaning over mistakes we made.  Which our instructor assured us were not problems at all and set about teaching us how to fix them.

So yeah, I painted this tonight.

pic of my painting

In the end, I was pleased.  I learned a lot about brushes and texture and about me.  See, when I went into this, I didn’t see how I could pull it off.  Oh, I know it’s nowhere near as good as our instructor’s version, but I love it.  I love that he encouraged us to make it our own with our own colors and style.  And I love that with each leaf I painted and with each grain of sand I dabbed on, I relaxed a little more.  And slowly, one detail at a time, the big picture came into being.

Too often I tend to look at a task or project or goal or dream and think, unh-uh, no way.  Not gonna happen.  The end result can be off-putting and scary.  But if I can break it down one piece at a time and take tiny steps, it can all come together in the end and look pretty all right, if I do say so myself.

I am encouraged by the folks in my midst who have “picked up their brushes,” and let go of worrying about being perfect.  The young woman who returned to ballet class as a young adult, not having taken lessons since she was 8.  The man who returned to the theater, remembering his love of it from years past.  The woman who has picked up pen and paper and keyboard and is writing and pursuing her dream of being published after years of wanting to.  The non-fiction author who set out to write a fictional novel about the past and the land she comes from.  The young man with the doctorate in electrical engineering who returned to the classroom at a seminary, determined to be a pastor.  Two young women who had a dream of rescuing young women from the streets and doing something about an ecological crisis in a far away land.  A couple with young children living in a city whose vision of raising their children on a farm became a reality. The sister who doesn’t think she has an ounce of artistic talent, who sat next to me and painted with a style so similar to Mama’s it brought me to tears.

The amazing thing about all of these beautiful people is not that they weren’t afraid or anxious; they very likely were.  It’s that they pushed through the anxieties and fear of failure and not succeeding, and they picked up their brushes anyway.

What beauty are you depriving the world of by not picking up your brush?  As my Mama told me more times than a few, “Dream big and go for it.  I believe in you.”

Don’t Save It, Use It

Last night we had “Messy Church.” A kind and talented young man, Micah, came two weeks ago, (when we missed because of sick young’un, round two) and led the group in creating papier-mache’ globes. Last night he returned, leading the multi-generational group in coloring, painting, and writing on these globes that are to become “bare bulbs” hanging from the rafters of the coffeehouse where we go to church.

Our younger daughter was so excited. Art is her thing. She grabbed markers and had so much fun decorating her bulb. In the midst of all of the art, there was great fellowship. Truly light was being shared all around the room. There was a cake, celebrating the birthday of the church, and Micah had brought a treat, Orange Stuff. It is his grandmother’s recipe, and he shared that he makes it to stay connected to her. That right there. Precious.

One of the “bulbs” was designated to be hung for the children to swing at and try to break. It was already filled with candy–pinata time! Our girl finished decorating hers, and passed it along to her Daddy for him to add his own touch to it. She was so excited about the whole thing. She came up to me, “Oh Mama, I can’t wait to knock mine down. It’s going to be so fun.” I pulled her aside and explained that hers would be hung up in the shop, but that the one that Mr. Micah had was the one we would be swinging at. Tears welled up in her eyes, and sadness was evident in her voice, “But Mama, I want to do mine too. That’s what it’s for.” I tried to talk her into being happy that she whenever she walked into the shop, she would see her bulb and remember the fun she had making it. In that moment, she was inconsolable, but the fun of the evening caught up with her, and when it was her turn with the “bat,” she was all smiles.

It took a few swings and then, as pinatas often do, it lost its string and fell to the floor, still intact. A few creative moves from one of the older children, and everyone was squealing excitedly over all of the candy that was scattered around.

Candy and crimped paper.....y'all know how I love me some paper crimping!

Candy and crimped paper…..y’all know how I love me some paper crimping!

It was on the way home that I thought about the evening, and I wish I had done things differently.  Oh, I think in the end our girl will be tickled to point out her bulb each time we go to the shop.  I think it will make her smile and feel special.  But I wonder if I gave her the wrong message.

She was happy creating and making something.  And she was looking forward to seeing it in action, this thing she had put time and energy into.  She wanted to see it used for its intended purpose.

And I said no.

So often we have special things that we put aside and don’t use, saving them for a special occasion.  The china, the real silver, a dress, a special pair of boots, the handmade quilt.  I am guilty of all of these.  The sad thing is that it seems like the special occasions rarely if ever come.  And the things sit.  Collected.  Protected.  Unused.

This happens with our gifts and talents too, I think.  We have a skill, there’s something we are pretty good at.  Maybe it’s baking.  Maybe it’s knitting.  Maybe it’s organizing events.  Maybe our special gift is kindness and laughter.  And we let it sit on the shelf until it is NEEDED.  In a major way.  When there’s a sign-up sheet.  Sometimes we don’t see the value in using our gifts a little (or a lot) in the day to day.  We don’t use them for their intended purpose–to shed light in the world and love on other folks. Every day.

I have a set of fun dishes that it took me a while to start using.  All different colors with polka dots.  Oh I just love those dots.  And sure enough, in the using of this set, we have had three of the small plates bite the dust.   There was a time when I would have kept them in their boxes–as a matter of fact I did in the beginning.  But honestly, the joy that those dishes have brought me by sitting in my kitchen, making my children smile, getting excited over choosing (and yes, fighting *sigh*) their color plate or bowl or cup–that’s worth the sadness of the broken dishes.

So, no, I don’t think we’ll go and take the bulb down and bash it to pieces.  That’s not where this is headed.  However, as the bulb hanging down from the rafters of Bare Bulb Coffee will make my girl smile and remember a fun night when she created and did something she loved, it will remind me that life is short–that I should use what I have here and now.  For its intended purpose.  To love on folks.  All of them.  And not save it for a day or time or need that just may not ever come.

Our girl's light bulb--she decorated it herself.  Someone asked her, after reading it, who her teacher was, and she said "My Mama."  Yeah, folks "bestest," that's how we roll around here.

Our girl’s light bulb–she decorated it all herself. Someone asked her, after reading it, who her teacher was, and she said “My Mama.” She wrote, “God is the bestest.” Yeah, folks, “bestest,” that’s how we roll around here.