Growing Hope

These are confusing times we are living in.  Things that are unprecedented going on all over while other things that are frighteningly precedented take place close to home and across the world.  Some days, I just want to sit with my book and dog and read and escape with the sounds of the littles playing in the background.

It’s hard to know what is right and wrong, you know?  Hard to know how to make things better…..how to wrong the rights…..how to help the hurting.  And it feels so overwhelming, wondering how the little things I do in my day to dailies could possibly make a difference.

Is it any wonder we are all so tired?

Yesterday for the second time in three months, I found myself sitting next to an elderly woman in her 80’s expressing her thoughts on the world, our country, the situations on her mind.  Different women, different circumstances, but both times I sat trying to find balance in the situation.  Would my firmly stating how much I disagree with her change the world for the better?  Should I speak loudly and strongly what I believe is right and wrong?  Would I make things better by trying to explain how she wasn’t seeing things in what I believed to be the right light, or would I only alienate her and make things worse?

I couldn’t be sure.

Both times, I said something like, “Well, it is hard.”

“People are hurting.”

“I am not sure that everyone sees it that way.”

“It’s hard to know what the right thing is, isn’t it?”

Because it is.  None of what I said was an untruth, but I didn’t come out and say, “I BELIEVE YOU ARE WRONG.”

I just couldn’t.  And both times, I left feeling bad–wondering if I’d let down those who are hurting.

The difference yesterday though was that my littles, Cooter who is now 10 1/2 and our Princess who is almost 13, were there and listening.

*sigh*

As we left and got in our vehicle, I answered questions that Cooter had about what had transpired.  He wanted to know all kinds of things, like what the woman had been referring to and why she believed what she did.  One part I could answer, the other I could only guess.  And I told him that.  Then we talked about how we all see things differently.

And then we moved on to other important subjects–like what was for lunch.  Cooter is very meal-focused these days.  Must be that whole growing boy thing.

Then this morning, Cooter brought his Grammar/Literature book to me.  Some days there are readings that he is asked to read aloud to me.  This morning he came with an urgent need to read it to me NOW.

“Mama,” he said.  “You have to hear this.  It made me think about that lady yesterday.”

And then he read from his text–

Japanese Culture: Part 2

by Jennifer D. Lerud

Family, honor, good manners, and outside appearances are very important to the Japanese people.  They have two forms of behavior: omote, which is the public, formal, and conventional behavior that governs how close they stand to each other and who shakes hands first, for example; and ura, which is their private, informal, “relaxing at home” form of behavior.  They believe it is proper to agree with anyone older than themselves–even if the person is wrong–in order to avoid humiliating or bringing dishonor on an elder person.  The Japanese people display people’s ages in newsletters at work, and school and work desks according to age, and even hand out cups of tea in order of age.  Social ranking and status are important things…..

(from The Good and the Beautiful, Level 4–Book 2 Course Book, p. 11)

“See, Mama? That’s what you did yesterday.”

Bless him.

I’m not writing this to debate about whether I should have stood up yesterday or three months ago and called these women out.  It didn’t happen, and I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow or next week or next year, should such a situation arise again, as it likely will.  I’m writing this because I’m trying to wrap my brain around a child who was paying attention, and a timely lesson that spoke to him, and the fact that he saw the connection and shared it with me.

Most days it’s all little things that are dots that I don’t connect into a big picture until much later–if ever.  It’s reminding Cooter umpteen times to rinse out his oatmeal bowl before it becomes glue in the bowl or listening to our Princess practicing “The Carol of the Bells” for her piano recital.  It’s making sure that swim suits and dance leotards are clean and dry, and that scripts and epi-pens are in hand as we head out the door.  It’s grocery shopping and meal planning and reminding little people to empty the dishwasher.  It’s talking on the phone with our law student and trying not to miss her too much, knowing she’s where she’s supposed to be.  Sometimes it’s even making time to read my new favorite book or watch the newest Hallmark movie.

And most of the time, these little things don’t connect…..

But today, they did.  Today I’m thankful for a perfectly timed (I’m looking at You) Literature passage that gave me grace…..for that same passage that spoke to a little fella and helped him understand the ways of the world a little more.

Mostly I’m thankful for this process of “raising children”–that label is so limiting and not at all what we are doing together, y’all.  Together, all of us, we are growing hope.  As these little people watch and listen and read and begin to understand and teach us through their eyes and with their hearts–we are raising the ones who will carry our stories, our love, our light, and pass it along to the next generation.

And today, that is everything to me.

Love to all.

 

 

 

where it hurts

when my children were little
I could ask them
“where does it hurt?”
and they would point or nod
or tell me
and I would doctor it up,
cleaning it,
putting on the ever-magical
bandaid

and kiss it all better

which would usually end in giggles and
all would be fixed

but now, as they grow,
when they come to me with
pain in their eyes
and hearts on their sleeves,
sadness weighing them down,
and I ask where it hurts
it breaks my heart when they shrug

unable to pinpoint the source

of the aching pain
that has them curled up in a ball
forlorn, in tears,
and lost

no amount of bandaids or kisses
can fix some of the hurts
of goodbyes or harsh words
or not knowing

and so I sit and clench my fists,
angry that there is so much broken in our world
and that little ones, young and old
have to feel all the things
that are hard

I hope for comfort and peace
when all I can do is tell them to breathe
and rest
and hang in there

and gently rub their backs

because there’s no bandaid big enough
to cover
where it hurts now

Bandaids_closeup

By DedeBandaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Pancakes for Supper

There’s a lot of hurting and pain in the world.  Just in case you weren’t already aware.  And sometimes people respond to that hurt and pain with a whole lot of anger and pointing fingers and insisting that people who are speaking against what they believe need to be condemned.  They point at them and vent their anger in an effort to…..

fix it?

Ummm, okay, I think they might be going at it all wrong.

I read this article that I’ve thought about today–“It’s Okay to Eat Lucky Charms for Dinner.”  I really like what Alice Seuffert had to say.  Sometimes when the news is more than her heart can bear, she brings home Lucky Charms to have for supper.

And so that’s how I found myself making pancakes for the crew tonight.  It was a good day really.  A swim meet where our Princess did her best and had a great time and actually surpassed her personal bests in all her events.  The smile on her tired face when it was over said it all.

Despite the joy of today, what has weighed heavily on my heart is the dream I woke up from in the dark just before dawn.  It was a hard one.  My family and I were on some kind of trip, in a place where we’d never been before.  We were on some kind of open air trolley, and suddenly it stopped.  People started running, so of course we got the children off the trolley and ran…..away.  Away from people yelling and the gunshots that followed.  Young men in their teens were running around with guns shooting everywhere.  In our terror, we ran toward some trailers that resembled my first and second grade classrooms. We ran behind some for protection and found another one.  Outside of it was a comforting soul, a woman whose presence was soothing and reassuring.  She looked a lot like the priest I met at the vigil on Monday night.  She pointed toward the door on the porch of the trailer.  She told us to get in quickly, and then she was gone.  We moved quickly up the steps and towards the door as I saw out of the corner of my eye a woman with dark hair standing quietly and alone on the other corner of the porch.  Once inside, we breathed deeply and with relief.  I looked around and immediately my children were relaxed alongside others. Right behind us, the woman with the dark hair came in quietly behind us and closed the door. I started to worry, and then two things occurred to me.  The first was that in my other-conscious state (you know, the part of you that knows it is a dream–that happens when I’m about to come out of one), I knew she looked very much like a woman who has been in the news a lot this past week.  A woman whose sentencing hearing has caused a lot of anger and finger pointing and hurt.  Before I could be afraid, I was offered peace and I took it.  Suddenly I just knew we were all safe, and that it wasn’t for me to keep her out of this place where we could find peace and safety and comfort.  It wasn’t for me to lock the door and keep her out.

Just the opposite in fact.  Because we hadn’t locked it, she was able to find her way in herself.

As I woke up, rather shaken after such a dream, I sat in the darkness and waited for my heart to settle.  I wondered if I should write it all down so I wouldn’t forget.  I thought back over the events in the dream, and my mind replayed the moment she entered the room, one who has done wrong and been found guilty and so many are vilifying to the point of wanting to see her die–that moment when it was as if the words were whispered in the air, “It’s not for you to keep her out.”

Yeah.  It was with those words and thoughts on my heart, and wondering if I’m going to be able to live those words out in my own real life, that I went through my day.  Life is hard, y’all.  But I’m guessing you know that.  I’m guessing you could tell me some stories about how hard it is.  Whether it makes sense or not, it is easier for me to forgive someone whose story I hear than it is for me to forgive someone whose actions have crossed my own story and changed its course.  Even when the former one’s actions are far more damaging and permanent and violent than the latter.

I know.  It doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

The much used page from my Aunt Bee's Mayberry Cookbook by Ken Beck.  I was going to post a picture of the pancakes, but I was to late because, well, pancakes.

The much used page from my Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook by Ken Beck. I was going to post a picture of the pancakes, but I was too late because, well, pancakes.

So in all of those thoughts, I thought about the Lucky Charms as comfort food, and since I was too–I’ll just say it–lazy to go to the store this afternoon, I made pancakes.  Goober’s Pancakes 57 from Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook.  They are legendary in our house.  Not because they’re phenomenal or anything, but because my crew knows Goober’s story.

I’m glad they know his story.  All too soon the other stories will find them.  The dark ones.  The ones that will cause them to struggle with what they thought they knew, with all the grey of right and wrong and everything in between.  The ones that will challenge them to be forgiving and loving and leave the judging up to only One.  For now, the stories that make us smile and laugh and feel like home are just fine.

May you all have someone to eat pancakes or Lucky Charms with and to bring you comfort when the darkness threatens to envelop you.

Love to all.

 

 

********You can get your own copy of Aunt Bee’s Mayberry Cookbook by clicking on the title above.  Even if you never cook, you will enjoy reading it.  There’s even a recipe for her Kerosene Pickles!  

far worse than a tummyache

my little guy came in from his shower tonight,

crying with a tummyache

he couldn’t decide if it was hunger

or something else

I treated it with a ginger cookie,

a cold drink, and love

 

and I thought about how thankful I am

that tummyaches are treatable

and how I hope he is still years away

from the untreatable, unfixable ache

 

that of the heart

 

when the heart is in pain

there is no cure

but time,

and even that is never a steady

or hurried or permanent fix

 

the symptoms can return

at any time

 

tears, panic, sadness, worry,

not understanding,

wondering why

 

the pain of losing someone,

of watching justice come undone

at the hands of those we trusted,

the people who make promises

and then soon forget,

those who misuse the power

and leave folks hurting and in need,

those who forget about loving people first

and getting ahead second

 

the hurt and pain can come back again

and again

despite the passage of time

 

and as I watch his peaceful slumber

no trace of pain left to see

I am thankful for ginger cookies

and cold drinks

and those little hands I love to hold

and I wish I could find something

that would give me and my heart

a peaceful night of rest

as well

 

the pain of heartache–

of questioning why–

can be hidden behind a mask

and carried well over time,

but in the dark of night

and the quiet of the solitude,

the questions echo loudly–

and the pain becomes once again

an open, gaping wound

that knows no cure

 

and so we love…..

and wait.

 

 

 

A Time to Listen, A Time to Write

Sometimes as a writer you have to realize when it’s more important to listen than to keep writing.

Tonight is one of those times.

I had a hard conversation earlier with someone I love and will always love, but it will be different from now on, I’m afraid.

Still trying to wrap my brain around the pain in that, I received a text from my oldest, Aub, about the video she’d just watched on my college sister’s Facebook page.

Wyanne is a very talented artist.  She tells beautiful stories with her paints and her brushes and all kinds of other materials.  Beautiful.  And that girl has fought a huge Giant over the past year.

Last night I talked about being frustrated with things that are NOT OKAY.

CANCER IS NOT OKAY.

But Wyanne’s still standing.

Not only that, she’s still painting and creating and sharing light and love in the world.

And wisdom.

IMG_5838

She’s made it through the storm and is working on picking up the pieces.  She’s got big beautiful plans.  Plans about creating art and community.

Now that, THAT IS VERY OKAY.

I watched the video, and like Aub, I was moved to tears.

We have so much.  We are so fortunate.

And we don’t even realize it half the time, do we?

Even when having hard conversations, I can hang on to the hope that reconciliation and healing can still come–because we’re still standing.  On the other side of the storm.

Here’s to my Wesleyan sister Wyanne and to all of us who weather the storms and then pick up the pieces when they’re over…..

and rebuild something even more beautiful and filled with love and light.

May you have a good day of listening to stories that remind you to appreciate where you are, and may you find hope in the midst of brokenness.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Thanks to Auburn for lettering Wyanne’s quote for me so quickly.  Love you girl.  And to her sweet bff, the originator of “That is NOT okay.”  It’s her birthday, and she’s pretty amazing too.  Happy Birthday, A!

 

We Can Do Better…..

I’ve been fascinated with the journey of the “Humans of New York” photographer.  From Europe to Africa to Asia…..the stories of the people he comes across in his journey have made me laugh, cry, and fall to my knees in thanksgiving.  Sometimes I forget how good I have it.  Brandon’s photos and stories often remind me.  And, as painful as it can be, I am thankful for that.

Saturday he shared a picture of a man from Saigon, Vietnam who described what it was like to be on the ground when the American planes were bombing them.   He finished with:  “When they dropped their bombs, I don’t think those pilots knew what it was like on the ground.”  (Click here to see the photo and story from Humans of New York.)

The grace given in those last words blew me away.  I don’t know that I’ve ever extended grace that looked anything like that.  That’s powerful and challenging and I just don’t think I have what it takes to forgive like that.

And that makes me sad.

Below the photo on the Facebook post were the comments that people had made about this mans’ story.  The ones most liked by others were at the top.  And that’s where I read the other words, the ones that have stayed with me today.

It’s an African proverb:

IMG_4723

 

This has moved me to tears more than once today.  Our world, our country, our community, our families are in turmoil.  And who is paying for it?  Those who don’t have a dog in this hunt, a bone to pick in this fight.  The innocents.  The ones who don’t get a say in how this all plays out.  The ones who have often have no idea why the fighting is going on at all.  As if those of us in it do…..

*sigh*

Tonight I am thankful for the peacemakers in this world, for the ones who stand up to speak for those in need.  I am thankful for those who use their words to put down on paper stories that teach us it’s in our hands to make a difference for the ones who have no voice.  And I am thankful for Brandon, whose brave journey and stories from around the world have yet again touched my heart and challenged my soul with the task of growing and doing better.

My parents used to say, “If you know better, do better, and folks’ll like you better. ”

Amen.

Love to all.

 

Bad Guys and Hurting People

We had a house full of fun little folks today.  They played and ran and talked and got to know each other in such a way that I am convinced the littles in this world should be in charge of peace negotiations.

They know what’s most important.

Like favorite colors, how to ask for what they really want, favorite Star Wars characters, how to share dressup clothes and stickers, and how to use their imaginations.  They are kind and even when it’s hard, they acquiesce and take turns when they are reminded that’s how we roll.

Yes.

At one point Cooter, all decked out in his shield and body armor and sword (thank you GW Boutique), came up behind me and announced in his “announcing” voice:  “I’m a bad guy.  I hurt people.”

And then he ran off.  To wreak havoc and make superheroes cry, I guess.

He’s a cute little guy, but he’s so much more–sometimes the words that come out of his mouth really make me think.

Like in this instance.

Because what has weighed on my heart today is that it’s not always the bad guys who hurt people.  Their feelings and emotions and sense of being okay.  In many cases, it’s the people we hold near and dear who really hurt us the most.  Or whom we hurt.  Without even thinking.

It’s sad.

The hurt that is caused by “bad” guys is bad, but the hurt that is caused by someone whom we think loves us–whether intentional or not–that pain goes much, much deeper.

And it takes a lot longer to heal.

I am glad that my seven-year old son sees the world in black and white right now.  It hasn’t been long since I realized there are all these shades of gray out there.  I have often heard and even quoted, “Hurting people hurt people.”  And while I think that’s true, I think it’s important to realize that not all hurting people are bad.  In fact many are good–they’re just going through something that is causing them heartbreak and pain, and that gets passed along.

Tonight I’m thankful for the words of my little guy that have me looking at my heart and thinking about the pain I’ve caused, some inadvertently and some, I’m ashamed to say, not.  I wonder how much longer before his world gets rocked and he figures out all who hurt others are not bad.

It’s a lesson I needed reminding of today.

Love to all.