Speak Up!

It was early evening when she came down the stairs and told us she was going to church the next morning.  She needed to go, and so she was going. And anyone else who wanted to was welcome, more than welcome–she’d love the company–to go with her.

To say I was taken aback would be an understatement.  I was speechless for a moment or two.

Not because I thought she was wrong for saying it, but because I was a little shocked–and envious.

Here was a young woman, my sister, younger than I, speaking her mind.  Saying what she needed.

I want to do THAT.

The thing is, no one thought she was wrong or inappropriate for speaking up.  Quite the opposite.  We all worked it out so it could happen.

And so it did.  And it was a good thing.

Well then.

Over the weekend I heard two people sharing stories about a mutual friend.  It seems that he is a particular eater.  Not picky.  But intentional.  I get it.  So he went to a gathering at one of the friends’ house and under one arm he carried a blender.  In his hand he held a bag of things to blend.

For his healthy smoothie.

He was there for the fellowship, and knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to eat what was there, he carried his own vittles.

Okay then.

And no one thought unkindly of him.  Hearing the story I was again envious that this man was able to take care of himself, in the least obtrusive way possible.  He did what he needed to do for him, which made him able to be a better friend to all at the party–because he wasn’t stressed over the menu and what he could or could not eat.

My sister was a better parent, I’d daresay, after she was able to go and feed her soul as she had expressed she needed to do.

Good for them.

Sometimes I have a need, and yet I’m hesitant to express it.  Out of guilt?  Feeling selfish?  Not having enough time?  Perhaps it’s being raised in the south where you often hear, “Bless her heart, she was such a good person–never took a minute for herself, always doing for others. Such a gracious lady.”

Yes.  That.

I don’t mean to say that we need to become self-centered and egocentric, but I don’t think, as evidenced by the church visit and the blender, that folks will gasp in horror, clutch their pearls, and kick me out of polite society if I say, “Hey, you know what I need to happen right about now?”

But that’s what I fear, I think.

Offending.

Seeming selfish.

Bad parent.  Spouse.  Friend.  Family.

“Did you hear her just say what she needed?  I swanee, she’s got some nerve!”

The truth is that I think those who love me will likely shrug and say, “Huh, never knew that, okay.”  And the ones who don’t may very well tsk tsk and shake their heads and maybe even wag their tongues–but I can’t let that keep me from speaking up.  Besides, my needs are not really all that interesting fodder for gossip anyway.

Last fall I really wanted a fire pit.  I hinted around and no one was biting.  (Well, who can blame them–I was being really subtle so as to be more grace-filled…..*sigh*)  Finally I resorted to “sending pins” on Pinterest and YouTube how-to videos to the Fella and my oldest.

And you know what?

I got that fire pit!  On my birthday.

And the adventures we’ve had since we got it?

Priceless.  

It was hard for me to speak up.  (Well, I came close, right?  With the videos and pins?)  But I think my people were a little relieved that they didn’t have to guess or try to hack into my Amazon account to see what I might want.

A fire pit?

Sure thing.

Took me nearly twelve years of marriage to figure that one out, but now that I have, I’ve figured out it’s actually pretty nice.

And if it can’t be done or made or given, well that’s okay too.  That’s part of this speaking your needs thing.  At least someone has thought about it and tried.

What’s on your heart? What matters to you?  What would mean the world to you if someone would just…..?

Tell them.  Speak up.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if it comes from deep down within you, this need, then it’s okay.  Just tell someone you love and trust.  Tell someone what you need.

I’ll be you’ll be surprised.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who listen to me and who encourage me and give me permission to want and hope and need.  And speak up.  Most of all I’m thankful for my fire pit, which is fun in itself, but also warms my toes–and my heart, as I remember that I was heard when I spoke my heart…..and it was okay.

Love to all.

 

My fire pit being built, because I asked.

My fire pit being built, because I spoke up.

Partying at the Pit

To tell this story, I need to share some background information.

First of all, last Monday the Fella took the day off from work to build me a fire pit.

A fire pit!

I’ve been thinking about one for quite  a while now, and I finally decided to drop that as my official hint as to what I wanted for my birthday.  (Subtle ones, you know, like sending him how-to-build-your-own-fire-pit youtube videos and website links and coming right out and telling Aub and the littles, “I want a fire pit for my birthday.” Very subtle, and yet it somehow worked.)

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He went and got the supplies from the getting place, and they even had a kit to make it a little easier.  When he got home he had all kinds of help in the form of the zoo crew.  They dug, plotted, placed, and poured.

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And we had us a fire pit.

Only we had no firewood or roasting sticks, so we decided to hold off until we got those things.

It’s been a fun week of imagining what it would be like.  Our Princess wants her big sister to bring home her guitar and for us all to sing songs around the fire.  She’s the idyllic one.

We made to another trip to the getting place to finish our list, and then–today was the big day.  The First Ever Wienie Roast at Buckingham Bottom.

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the littles.

Or their neighborfriends.

We had a yard full by 9:30 this morning and they were still playing strong when the Fella went out to start the fire an hour later.  Of course our Princess excitedly told them what we had going on.  About 11:15 she came to the porch door and called me over.  “Chloe has something to tell you.”

I walked over.  “Yes ma’am?”

This little eight year old peered in through the door and said, “Well since I haven’t had lunch yet, can we–well, I can’t speak for the rest of my friends, they might have had lunch, but could we roast hot dogs too?”

Oh me.

A simple Sunday was all I was after, y’all.  Lunch with the family, wrap up laundry necessities for the week, and then a nap.  Yep, that was all I was hoping for.

And yet–

As though lit up in lights, my “words” for the past couple of years came to mind–interruptible, intentional, open, with.  How could I turn away someone who was hungry?  Or at least fascinated by the idea of cooking hot dogs over a fire?  I once told someone who asked “what I was” that “well, I love Jesus and how he led his life”…..not trying to be cliche’, but I knew what Jesus would do.  And I was sorely ashamed.

I told Chloe I needed to wrap up what I was working on, and while I was thinking about it, what would her Mama think?

“Oh, I have a walkie-talkie, and I can just call and ask her.”

Brilliant.  Do that.

After making sure the Fella was okay with us adding to the guest list, I told our Princess to have all her friends run home and ask their parents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to invite them or that we didn’t have enough food, I think it was that I didn’t want to be responsible for other people’s children around a fire, handling hot roasting sticks, or for feeding other folks’ children.  (Food allergies can really make you paranoid, for your child and for others.)

But once we committed to it, I felt at peace.

Which is what You were aiming for up there, huh?

I cut up apples (I cannot feed other people’s children just hot dogs, save that lack of nutritional balance for my own crew) and put everything we needed on a tray.  When I walked out they were so excited; they were all sitting by the fire on logs from our old tree, empty roasting sticks already in their hands.

Bless ’em.

They were too sweet.  No one except mine had actually roasted hot dogs much if at all.  Chloe said she didn’t even like hot dogs until today.

Well there you go.

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There’s something magical about a fire, isn’t there?  The flavor it adds to food, yes.  But the camaraderie of sitting around it and talking and cooking over the flames, watching the smoke chase the “pretty ones,” and mouths watering in anticipation–it takes us back to our roots, doesn’t it?  Cooking outdoors, over a fire.  Yep. Magical.

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And I could see it in their eyes.  Everyone wanted to keep roasting, they each ate two hot dogs, with the exception of Chloe (but she did enjoy the one!)–only the second one was with no bun.  I know that they would have kept roasting many, many more if we hadn’t made the rule “You roast it, you eat it.”  I’ve felt the same way over many years of wienie roasts.  The roasting is the best part, but you can only eat so much.  The struggle is real.

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When we moved on to the marshmallows, I was faced with giving them a number, their limit of the max they could roast and eat.  We came up with four, and I honestly have no idea why.  It just seemed like a nice round, even number.  I didn’t want anyone to get too hyped up or go home sick from all that sugar.  So four was it.

And again Chloe was brave and tried one.  One.  She doesn’t like marshmallows, but she found out she does love roasted marshmallows.  Awesome.

Listening to them as they sat on the logs they’ve rolled around the yard for months now, realizing that I almost missed out on this fun and fellowship, I knew some church was going on around that fire–and not a word of sermon preached.

Of course there was some smack talk going on about who could cook the best hot dog ever, and I might have been the one to start it.  I finished it too.  After all had their fill, I sat down by the fire that was, by this time, dying out.  I found a sweet spot over white ashes and sat and sat and waited and waited.  Yeah, the roasting is definitely my favorite part.

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And after a long time of sitting and waiting, I had the perfect hot dog.  Maybe that’s what folks who love to fish feel.  All that sitting and waiting coming to fruition…..

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By this time the children were all running around the yard playing “Mother, May I?” and “Hide and Seek” with occasional breaks to build their “earth” in the sand/water box.  I called them over to see my perfect hot dog.  One wrinkled up her nose in distaste and said, “That’s burnt,” but her brother looked at me incredulously, “We could cook them that much?”  I nodded.  “Okay then, next time, I’m going to cook mine that long and I’m going to win.”

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In the end we decided by a show of hands that everyone had fun and everyone loved the food, so we all were wieners–I mean, winners.

Yeah, I like that.

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This afternoon I saw this quoted by Advent Conspiracy.  And my heart breathed a sigh and said, “Yes.”  And I knew what this is saying, because I lived it today.  I got to reclaim my own real life today. And oh, was it a glorious one!

Tonight I give thanks for a family tradition started by my Granny years ago and continued on by my Aunt and all of our family still.  There truly is nothing else like it.  I am grateful for my family and their gift of time and energy in making my dream a reality.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a little girl’s question that turned my day on its end, and for an unplanned journey that wound up being the best one after all.

Who can you be interruptible for and be with? What can you be open to and intentional about?  It just might make your day. Go reclaim your own real life.

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. 

 

A Lesson From the Lyrebird

We are traveling around the world with our homeschool lessons this year.  We’ve been in Australia, and we’re about to move along to China next.  There is so much to learn about each one that it’s hard to decide when to stop and move on to the next country.

One of our favorite parts of our Australian studies has been the folk tales.  We’ve been reading from this book.

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Billabong-James-Vance-Marshall/dp/1847801242/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406077911&sr=1-1&keywords=stories+from+the+billabong

We found our copy at Amazon.com

 

The littles have asked me to read their favorite stories to them again and again.

One story stood out for me, and I learned about an animal I’d never heard of before.

The Lyrebird.

They are fascinating animals who get their name because the males have tails that resemble the ancient Greek musical instrument, the lyre.  They are simple yet beautiful to me.

Photo by Debra--  https://www.flickr.com/photos/damselfly58/6302167338/in/photolist-aAUfMy-7eTRFh-eCh5QV-2kf66M-9bpNor-kzK5z9-5UFd4k-9AvxYg-9KHRzc-i9sWkS-bcY7Pa-co5bUW-dgMjBz-891SkC-azSEXh-5Ftocb-nEU6yd-8Epepn-burUjR-7GqmpE-9ARvPb-5jtmHq-bzL2BP-nTezgq-7zjbD8-8hBYDS-6pKDBc-9NzLm3-82aie5-fM8bH-85NQPx-4Luxcq-9ANyh8-8WV39C-bGQ8eH-9crjcF-9Nkh7T-7UmTwN-bR2QUF-7BUrQu-7M1SXL-4gExqd-8EFoFM-4Ng4Wy-busn5i-burXQK-8Aa7NQ-6bMzoR-dr8pvK-dr8Uhf/

Photo by Debra– Thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/damselfly58/

What is most amazing about these birds is that they can copy the sounds of other birds and the things they hear around them.  Even–the click of a camera and the sound of a chainsaw.

What?!  Yes.  Watch this video.  I have yet to tire of seeing this.

(Is the song “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” playing in anyone else’s head now? No?  Okay, just checking.)

This bird is captivating, isn’t it?  I mean, that camera shutter and forwarding?  The chainsaws?  The CAR ALARM?

And while the talent of this beautiful Australian bird amazed me, it also made me sad.

Why is this bird of the wild able to imitate such things?  Why is he hearing a car alarm or a chainsaw out in the wild where he lives?

Sad.

And he thinks it’s beautiful as he incorporates it into his mating song.   He doesn’t even know what he’s “singing.”

The lyrebird is a lot like our children.  They listen and hear the things we say and the things said in their presence wherever they go, and they repeat them.  Not knowing what they are saying, only that it’s a part of their world, so it must be okay.

Or not.

That’s the lesson I learned from the lyrebird.  I have a tender spot for these birds now, maybe because in the story he was especially kind and generous.  Or maybe because he is able to sing such beautiful things, and bless him, he thinks the sound of a car alarm is just that.

Either way, the lyrebird reminds me that more are listening than I know.  At any given time, my children and others are watching and listening to find beauty in this world.  May what passes through my lips only add to it.

May your day be graced with sounds of beauty.  Love to all.