You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.

The Number That I’m Most Afraid Of

Yes.  There is a number I’m afraid of.  You read that right.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

It’s 70 x 7.

490 literally.

But I’m afraid it was symbolic, so it could be any number, infinity, or #asmanytimesasittakes.

None of them an easy pill to swallow.  Or anything I can or really want to wrap my brain around.  For sure, not my heart.

In the book of Matthew in the Good Book, that number is given.  In response to the question, “How many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me?  Seven?”

“Seven? Hardly.  Try seventy times seven.”

Oh my.

Y’all.  Imagine if someone hurt you.  Bad.  Knowingly.  Willingly.  Showing no remorse.  And hurt others too.  Ones you love.  What do you do with that?  How do you forgive that seventy times seven times?

I’ll tell you where I am at in this.  I’m still working on number one.

I have put it behind me.  Yes.  Moved on.  Yes.  Days go by I don’t think about it anymore.  But when my memory confronts my heart, my heart still folds its hypothetical arms and shakes its little head and walks off with a frown and a heavy weight bearing down.  Just.  No.

How am I supposed to do that?  How can I forgive someone who has never asked for my forgiveness?  Who has, with a great degree of arrogance and to any one who would listen, indicated that I was/am/always will be the problem.

I don’t even know.

It makes me very sad.

I know the words of the Lord’s prayer.  And how some folks say they can’t pray the words “Forgive me…..AS I forgive them” because they haven’t been able to forgive yet.

And I know the rest of that story from the Good Book about how often we are called to forgive.  How the King forgave his servant who owed him a great deal when the servant asked him to.  How the huge debt was erased.  And how almost immediately the forgiven one came across a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small amount, and even though his debtor begged for forgiveness, he did not grant it and had his fellow servant thrown in jail.

The end of the story is that the folks who saw all of this happen were appalled.  They went and told the King, who was furious.  He confronted the servant and asked why he couldn’t forgive someone when he had been forgiven such a great debt.  Then he made the servant pay back the great amount he owed.

I get it.

I am given grace beyond measure.  I am forgiven multiple times every day.  Always.  I am thankful.  Humbled.  Blown away even.  And appreciative–did I mention I was thankful? I know I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it.  At all.

But 490? Or as many times as it takes?  Do You really know what that person did to me?  Have You been following this storyline closely?  Are You aware?  Because if You have, surely You wouldn’t be asking this of me.  You’d know it’s beyond forgiveness, right?  Right?  Rig–

*sigh*

I don’t have any answers tonight.  No ideas for how to get over this hurdle.  I’ve been hurt by folks before and was able to move right along, eventually forgiving, forgetting, even becoming good friends after all was said and done.  Thankful for them in my life.

But this one.  This One. Is. Very.  Difficult.

So if you struggle with a pain or hurt that you can’t get past, know you’re not alone.  I’m not saying we’re right in being where we are, just that we are in this boat together, floating around in the darkness looking for a  way out of the murkiness of hurt and frustration.

And if that number seems way too big for you like it does for me, maybe we should just break it down and work on forgiving in this moment right here.  Just this very one, not looking beyond it.  Not for them–the ones who hurt us–but for us.  So we can leave the darkness.

Love and Light to all.

 

 

on going back

going back

to the person whose heart you hurt

oh so long ago

and saying “I’m sorry,

it was my brokenness,

not yours”

courage

going back

to the person whom you

might have offended

and saying, “I’m sorry,

for the words that came

without thought”

humility

going back

to the person you’ve

been so angry with,

listening

and then saying, “It’s okay,

it’s over, my heart just let it go”

grace

peace

hope

it is in the going back

that we can move forward

and beyond

lighter

and with a full

and thankful

heart

love

 

 

Encourage a Mama, Hug a Child

It’s here again. The flipping of the calendar pages and it rolls around again.

When I was little, Mother’s Day was about making homemade cards, writing poems that rhymed, and making some kind of special food for my Mama.  I probably crocheted her a bookmark or something small a year or two in there somewhere.  It was a day about my Mama, making her feel special.   I don’t know if I remembered to say thank you every year but I sure tried to make it “HER” day.

Later after I married, it expanded.  It was about my Mama and my mother-in-law.  Dividing our time between the two.  Hoping they feel loved and treasured.  And appreciated.  Even after my first child was born, our day was already so full, it just seemed the obvious choice to keep it about them.  I was fine with that actually.  Having no expectations prevents disappointments. (And if you will recall, I’m a script writer from way back–but if I don’t write one, it’s all good.)    I enjoyed making it all about these women who had built the foundations for my family.

Fast forward eighteen years.  As I prepared to face my second Mother’s Day without my Mama, I pretty much decided the best coping mechanism was denial and avoidance.  The mantra–“it’s just another day, it’s just another day”–was working for me.  It is easier to handle feeling nothing than to feel the pain.

And then this happened.

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A card.  From my oldest’s grandmother.

When I read the sweet note that thanked me for the gift of her granddaughter, two things happened.

I cried.  Bless her.

And then…..I felt ashamed.

I’ve been so busy feeling sad for me, or rather, avoiding feeling sad for me or anything for anyone else, that I failed to realize that this is a hard day for her.

The first Mother’s Day without her child.

Something no mother should ever have to experience.

Something in me broke in that moment and the floodgates opened.  And I wept.

I can’t celebrate tomorrow with my Mama sitting across from me over a Stevi B’s veggie with pizza spice–giving her all my mushrooms–or with fried fish plates.  I can’t hear her laughter as she reads the two or three cards I give her–I never could pick just one.  I won’t see her wrinkle her nose and look at me and tell me how beautiful I am–all her ways of telling me she loves me dearly.  And I won’t hear her say my name–this woman who gave me the name and gave me life–and who pronounces it like no other.  I just won’t.

But I’m one of the lucky ones.  Because all of those things have happened.  Often.

With the big day approaching, women whom I love and respect, women who are caring and are not as self-absorbed as I, shared posts that, along with my sweet card, served as an impetus for me getting off my pity pot.

On Thursday, my friend Renea Winchester, who blogs here, shared this:

For many, Mother’s Day is a sorrowful time. Women recall the pain of babies who were never born, or were taken from them too soon. Daughters reflect on strained and broken relationships with their mother, and wish with everything in their soul that the relationship could be better. Some, who had a deep friendship with their mother, miss those times with a pain the heart can never overcome. Darling girls whose mothers are in the fight for their lives also hurt with the uncertainty that today could be the last day. I’ve seen many posts from friends who have lost their mother this week. My heart goes out to them. So for those who have their mothers with them on this earth, let us not only reach out to her, but to our sisters today, tomorrow, and every day. Let us purpose to be a woman who uplifts and encourages another sister. Could you do that today, and every day?
Oh my heart.  What a beautiful soul she is.  And yes, we should strive to do just what she says.  Uplift and encourage another.
Then on Friday, my sweet friend, Karen Spears Zacharias, who blogs here and here wrote:
And yet again I am reminded of how many kids come from homes absent loving mothers. This is a hard, hard week for those who have spent their childhood being the parent their moms failed to be. We have created a culture where too many children never know the tenderness of a loving mother. They have no idea what it means to be nurtured. Don’t just take time to thank your mom this weekend. Take time to hug a child who needs it.
*tears*
Between these two beautiful, strong women who create beauty and inspire movement with their words, I was awakened.  There are sisters who are hurting over this day.  There are children whose hearts are aching.  What better way to overcome my own pain than to do something to help ease the pain of another?  Be the feather?  Yes.
And then this was on my screen yesterday…..in preparation for their graduation today, the class of 2014 at my alma mater, Wesleyan College, shared their message about the education of women and standing strong for sisters everywhere:
Photo courtesy of the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association

Photo courtesy of the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association

I don’t remember a time I’ve been more proud to belong to this place.
Again, tears.  There are mothers who are weeping daily over the loss of their daughters, over not knowing, their fears and anxieties and their imaginations taking over.  My heart breaks for them.
As I picked up my card again last night, giving thanks for the one who took the time to think of it and to send it, filled with heartfelt and loving words that washed away so much hurt and pain, I contemplated how to make this day easier for her.  Or more bearable.  Sending flowers just seemed so trivial, considering all she’s going through.  I mean, what do you give someone who has already started dispersing her things?
Your time.  Your ear.  Your shoulder.  Your laughter.  Your stories.
It came to me, whispered on the air, like a dandelion star floating across the sunlit yard.  All of these things.  More precious than gold.
So I called.  I said thank you.  And I love you too.  And we laughed.  And talked.  And shared in the sadness and reveled in the joy of the good memories.  And it was good.
I don’t know exactly what tomorrow will bring.  I have a to do list that would be nice to get through, but it’s not set in stone.  I plan to take down a candle and put it on the counter and light it tomorrow for all of those Mamas in Nigeria and all over this world who weep over their children.  And for those children who don’t know what it’s like to have a Mama hug them tight, call them beautiful, and wrinkle her nose at them.  It hurts to think about all of this pain–it would be much easier to ignore it…..and my own.
But numbness can be painful too after a while.
Tomorrow I hope to have an opportunity to hug a child, encourage a Mama–but then, in the words of my friend Miss N, “Why’s it gotta be just one day?”  I hope tomorrow is the start of something good.  For all of us.  Time to find someone in need of refuge and be the feather.
Love to all.

Letting Feathers Fly

The day after I shared with y’all the video of the beautiful Thai commercial and challenged us all to “be the feathers” who look after and over each other with compassionate hearts and tender hands, my friend shared this quote with me.

 

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Oh my.

She shared it with me as a different way of thinking about “being the feather.”  I really appreciate her taking the time and effort to make sure I saw it.

But I also kind of wanted to run away from her.  (and maybe stick my fingers in my ears too?)

Because, Monday, you see, was one of those days.  A day I would have run away from if I could have.

In hindsight I realize it wasn’t nearly as big as my heart thought it was at the time.  Ah, the clarity of hindsight, right?

But there in the middle of it…..

I had a call from an attorney I’d never met regarding business with my Mama’s and my Great Aunt’s estates.  He needed some documentation from me ASAP and suggested I “just fax it” to him.

*sigh*

If you have a fax machine in your home, more power to you.  I did not mean to misrepresent you when I replied to his request.  However, I have been asked so many times in the course of handling estate matters “Do you have a fax machine?”

No.  I do not.

I thought about what to tell this gentleman–the one who answers the phone by saying his name, and then “Attorney at Law” immediately following.  Oh dear.  I much prefer “my” attorney who has walked this journey with me and been so wonderful–he almost sounds distracted when he answers “Law Office.”  I’m really good with that.

“Sir, what I need for you to know is that most folks just don’t have a fax machine in their homes. And I’m one of them.”

Okay, I was frustrated.  I have a lot buzzing this week and driving paperwork down to him 45 minutes one way was not on my list.  Not until we were scheduled to meet anyway.  Which we were.

And I told him just that.  I asked him why it wouldn’t work for me to bring the papers with me as I had initially been told to do.

And then he said it.

“Well, how do I even know she’s dead?”

 

 

It was so silent, there weren’t even crickets.

I held the phone out away from my ear and stared for a second.  I could not have just heard what I thought I did.

“Ummm, sir, I can assure you she is. I’m not just taking all this on for the fun of it or for my health or anything like that.”

Yep, by now I was crying.  But I didn’t want Mr. Attorney at Law to know.

He suggested I call my attorney and have him find it in his files and fax it to his office.

All I could think of was if one more person said the word “fax” in my presence……

I called my “Law office” good guy who immediately set to work finding and fa—sending over the phone line copies of the required documents.  He wouldn’t even bill me for his time.  (Note to self–need to do some baking.)

The Attorney at Law called me back, this time saying that the documents were not sufficient for me to be able to handle the aforementioned business.

What?!

I was starting to get a bad taste in my mouth with this guy.  Then he made a condescending comment that let me know he didn’t think very highly of my Mama’s business acumen, her planning, or her intellect.

WHOA.  BACK. THE. TRUCK. UP.  NOW.

My Mama and I didn’t always agree.  I’m not perfect.  (Well there’s a surprise folks.)  And neither was she.  But she was one of the smartest and most ingenious, creative people I knew.  She could make something out of nothing, whether it was clothes or a meal or a craft or book report project. She had skills.  But if she didn’t know how to do something, she either researched it or she found someone else to handle it.  She didn’t do anything half way.

I was seeing RED.  Don’t ever disparage my Mama.

And oh help him, I knew right then and there he had never heard of my Great Aunt.  She was known in his same small town, and she was respected.  Her Daddy had been a farmer and the probate judge and she worked for him at the courthouse before marrying.  She was a class act right up to the end, but she would not have hesitated to have this boy for lunch.

And this apple doesn’t fall far from that tree.

I’m not proud of what I said next, but it happened.  I guess so far you might think I’m sharing this story with you because Mr. A.A. Law didn’t think through what he was saying before he said it.  He didn’t guard his words.  And okay, that’s where I was heading if I’d written this Monday night, but I didn’t.  I’ve had time to cool off and put it all into perspective.  At least somewhat.

So yeah, as he was explaining the “problems” with the legal document, I snapped back, “Well at least now you know she’s dead.”

Oh my.  The only sound was the sound of him sputtering. And then, “Well, I didn’t say that.”

I won’t go into details, but suffice to say I assured him he did, and then I started crying.  This time he knew about the tears.  I told him that, for whatever reason, it was just as fresh as if it had happened the day before.  He said IF he offended me he was sorry.

Well he did.

But I guess my lesson in all of this, and why I wanted to run from my friend’s quote she lovingly shared, is that I wasn’t any better than Mr. A.A. Law.  I spouted off without thinking about where my words would land, but even more importantly, HOW they would land.  I let my emotions take control, just as he had let the business at hand take control.

We both forgot one important thing.  There was a human being on the other end of that phone line.  One with a whole life full of stories leading to that moment, and with thoughts and feelings filtering what was actually being said.  Was he out of line?  Sure he was.  But was I any better for throwing it back at him later?

I can’t be sure.  My heart tonight says No.

Part of me hopes my Mama and my Great Aunt are proud that I didn’t just roll over and take what was being said without calling him on it, but part of me wonders…..no, part of me wishes I had handled it a little better.  (And I swanee I can hear my Mama calling out from the Other Room, as she often did, “Y’all play nice.”)

Later when I called Mr. Law’s secretary to relay more requested information, I’m afraid I was snappy with her too.

Feathers flying.  Words going out of my mouth wreaking havoc on hearts.

Not feathers where they should be.  Tucked in close around the heart of another –a shield and a refuge.

Shoot.

A mere day after I stood and encouraged and pleaded with folks to #bethefeather

Oh.

It’s almost more than I can bear.

This life is hard.  I so want to be somebody who makes an impact on the world one minute, and then the very next moment, I am flying off the handle and making an impact all right–a negative one.  Not what I was hoping for.  At all.

Tonight I’m thankful for the difference that a day makes.  The clarity that can come from walking away.  And for a message that, if I’m about to open my mouth, maybe I shouldn’t–thank you gnats for that one.  I am thankful for good guy attorneys and for folks that have my back.  And I’m trying to be grateful that I get a chance to meet Mr. A.A. Law in person, in his office, and look him in the eye.  It won’t be easy, but I think I have to apologize for my mouth, for my snarky words–to him and to his secretary, who was only caught in the crossfire, bless her.

Actually, I’m not telling the truth.  I know I have to apologize.  Because I can hear my Mama as clear as if she’s sitting right here next to me.  And who knows, she probably is.

“Act like you are somebody.”

Yes ma’am.

I hear you.  That’s what being the feather looks like sometimes, isn’t it?

Love and hope for a chance at do-overs for all.

 

 

 

 

no hearts in my text messages

I’ve always been an Anglophile, as far back as I can remember.  It all culminated with a trip to England over spring break my junior year in college.  Most people came back to school with tans.  I came back with a new affinity for hot tea with milk and a tiny bit of an accent.

I loved that accent.

A few years later I auditioned for “The Importance Of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.  I garnered my courage and auditioned with a British accent, or my best attempt at one.  I got the part–I can’t remember which of the young ladies I was cast as, but I was thrilled.  I took home the dialect tape and the script and started working on my part.  I was in my element.

Unfortunately after the first read-through I succumbed to outside pressures and discouragement, and I dropped out.  It was a hard thing to do, but at the time I felt like it was the only thing I could do.

I hadn’t thought about that in ages, until tonight when I was reading and saw this quote from Oscar Wilde.  It caught my eye because it’s from him, and after our bonding all those years ago, I wanted to see what he had to say.

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Wow.  Well played, Mr. Wilde.  Well played.  You have impeccable timing.

The thing about forgiveness and Mr. Wilde’s approach here is that it’s not always that easy.  People aren’t always friends or enemies.  Sometimes they are somewhere in between, a person you love who betrays your trust, or someone you don’t care for who surprises you with great kindness.  It’s all those shades of gray that make the paths of life so difficult to maneuver.

I don’t know a lot about forgiveness.  I just know it’s a case of learning as I go.  I am trying to let go and not let the pains from the past poison who I am today.  It is not always easy.  The temptation to wallow in the anger and frustration and “been done wrong” thoughts comes to the forefront now and again, and I have to work through it and start over.  Just not as far back on the trail as I was before, thank goodness.

I may not know what forgiveness is exactly, but I do know what it is not, at least for me.  Oprah Winfrey says, “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’”

Ahem.  No disrespect intended, Ms. Winfrey, but I don’t think so.

There are some folks whom I have to make a conscious choice every day to forgive.  Some days I’m closer than others, and every now and then I’m actually there–but I will NEVER tell them thank you for the pain and hurt and hits my soul took from the choices they made.  I just don’t think “Thank you” exactly expresses the right sentiment.

And *sigh* neither do the words that could so easily roll off my tongue.

Like I said, it’s a conscious choice I have to make each day.  Sometimes moment by moment.

So I try to find a balance.  Somewhere between gratitude for what happened and shooting looks that could kill or making plans for revenge.  Which I think might look a lot less like what Ms. Winfrey describes and more like what C. Joybell C., an American poet and novelist, describes:

“People have to forgive. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!”  

–C. Joybell C.

I am thankful for this life’s journey and for a good day at home doing laundry, cleaning bedrooms, teaching the littles, and visiting with folks I love.  I give thanks for my crock pot and for the miracle that dried beans and sides can make a meal.  I am lucky to have friends who have my back but also tell me when I need to straighten it.  But I have enough trouble some days putting one foot in front of the other.  I don’t need any rocks tied to my feet.  I know I have wings, and one day I will soar.  I’m working on it.  If forgiveness will let me fly high above and break free from the chains of sadness and heartbreak, then I’m all for it.

Just as long as I don’t have to send any hearts in those text messages, I have hope I can get there.