A New Verb

Last night at Pursuit, where the crew and I go on Wednesday nights for worship and fellowship, we listened to the message given by our friend and pastor.  He talked about light in the darkness and being that for others.  But the one thing that stood out to me and that I’ve carried in my heart today was when he {perhaps accidentally} “verbed” a noun.

He was talking about holding onto memories and moments and how they can give us hope–only he started to say, “That hopes me–that brings me hope.”

I am not sure if he meant to use hope that way, but I have to tell you, I’m glad he did.

I know I’m going to give away my rapidly increasing age with this, but today as I pondered over hope as a verb, I recalled the SNL skit from my college days with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as Hans and Franz. (Funny I don’t remember watching SNL much, but I remember those two vividly.)  They would introduce their characters and say in unison,  “We are here to pump {clap} you up!” In each skit they’d share that this is what they were called to do.  It would seem that this was their sole focus in life.  Pumping others up.

In reflecting on the words from last night, I’ve thought about how we are called to be light in the darkness.  There has been so much blasted darkness that has crept in and wrapped itself around people whom I care about and our world in general–it has weighed heavily on my heart these past few weeks or so.  In the midst of what our friends and family and even strangers in the checkout line at the Kroblixmart are going through–most of which WE HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT–we are called to hope others up.  (You can even add the clap for nostalgia if you’d like.)  In much the same way as Hans and Franz did, we need to make it a focus of our lives–to encourage and listen and stand close with those who feel like they are drowning in the darkness.  They don’t owe us the story of all their pain and turmoil–just jump in there and care anyway.  They’ll tell us when and if they’re ready.  In the meantime, hold fast with grace and love and prayer and the power of a gentle touch in the midst of hurt, doubt, pain, sorrow and the jarring, harsh crushing of one’s dreams.

I’m so thankful for the words I heard last night, whether they were intentional or not.  As the hours of light grow fewer and the shadows grow longer,  I fervently pray that in the coming days I can hope up those I walk alongside and share their load.  Perhaps we all can do that.  Fervently, urgently, fiercely surrounding those in pain with love and grace and hope–hope that gives the strength to see folks through to tomorrow.

And if when life catches us off guard and sends us spiraling, may we all find the strength to find someone close by, grab tight to their hand, and say–even if only a whisper, “Please.  Hope me up.”

I am reminded of this truth I heard years ago–“Hurting people hurt people.”  I like this new twist to show the beauty and power of our new verb–

Hopeful people hope people.

May we all make tomorrow a day of hope.  Finding it, giving it, doing it.

Hope me up, y’all.

Love to all.

*****thanks, TH.  For your words and for the inspiration.  

hans and franz photo

We are here to hope {clap} you up!–Hans and Franz

 

Behind Closed Doors

It was overcast and rainy today.  So we stayed in like you do.  With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today.  Folks were grumpy.  I might have overreacted to spilled water.  The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move.  Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done.  Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.  They We all got cranky.

Not our best day.

I blame it on being stir crazy.

That’s a thing, right?  When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy.  One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off.  Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.

Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe.  He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside.  I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.

Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit.  If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen.  Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around.  Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits.   When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that.   For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around.  Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems.  Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.

My front porch is a “laboratory.”  Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things.  Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with.  (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)

This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community.  About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally.  I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it.  I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.

Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast.  I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school.  I can only imagine the pressure they must feel.  Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own.  And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.

Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse.  People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be.  All of that has to go somewhere.  All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.

I’m not saying these families are doomed.  What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be.  It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future.  Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships.  Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness.  The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice.  Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations.  My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain.  He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities.  All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.

I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution.  He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs.  The older man was sentenced to life in prison.  This young man was given the death sentence.  He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison.  The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted.  Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison.  Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  And then, so did SCOTUS.  And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.

It’s all so broken.  I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?

Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods?  What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in?   Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..

all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.

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Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs.  There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us.  In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer:  “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I’ll meet y’all outside.  Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door.  And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.

Love to all.

*******************************************************

You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.

This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people.  YES.  I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/macon/watch-bibb-county-judge-lays-in-on-wayward-teens/112000603

 

 

 

 

Come Sit By Me

After a weekend of thinking about light and darkness and all that weighs heavy on my heart in the midst of the joy and laughter of the season, this is what I continue to hear in my head as though it’s on continuous play:

 

If you have light,

it will not be diminished by inviting those who stand in darkness

to come alongside you.  

It will only diminish the darkness for others.  

You will still have as much light

as if you were standing alone. 

Or maybe even more,

as the flickering lights reflect in the eyes of all who gather.

Keeping the darkness at bay for as many others as you can–

that is what this journey is all about.  

And we cannot travel it alone.  

I think it really can be that simple.

If you have it, share it.

And if you don’t, look around–I hope and pray that someone will turn to you and wave you over. With a warm smile and a hug.  There’s little better than standing next to someone strong when one feels weak or lost, tucked in under the shoulder and wings of someone who cares.

If you have light, share it.

If you don’t, come sit by me.  For as long as I have it, we can share.

IMG_6250

Love and light to all.

 

https://imightneedanap.com/2012/12/16/keeping-christmas-everyday/

 

sisters, light, and hope

she leans in close and lights the candle

as the world grows dim

but she is there

to shed light

and hold my hand

her words and her silence,

they both comfort me,

as she knows which is needed when

because

she knows

me

 

she claps her hands and

then grabs mine

she dances a jig,

leading me in a happy dance,

in celebration of the news

she is happy for me

because

she knows

me

 

she looks me in the eyes

and tells me not the words

that I so long to hear

but instead

the words

I need to hear

the ones that challenge me

to head out in the direction

I’m meant to–

not to stay here and rest

on my laurels and the couch

You can do it, she tells me,

because

she knows

me

 

she weeps alongside me

my pain is hers

she shares in my heartbreak,

my brokenness,

my loss

her tears mingle with mine

as she wraps her arms around me

and I lean in close,

comforted,

because

she knows

me

 

our days of riding bicycles

and writing plays,

playing softball

and making up games to play for hours

on end

are gone with the ticking of the clock,

the flipping of the calendar page

no more do we dream as we once did

our hearts know the true endings

and they aren’t always happy ones

and she wishes she could change

it all

because

she knows

me

 

 

and still

though we know the sadness sometimes wins,

that darkness has triumphed and can again

still

we light the candle

with the Hope that somewhere in the world

a sister will see it and find the strength to light

hers too

and then another and another

until the light shines through us all

and the darkness in our hearts is no more

 

she wants that for me, for her, for us

all of us

she loves and she is a treasure

far beyond

gold and rubies

and chocolate chip cookies

because

she knows

me

 

and being known

and loved

through everything

is the

greatest gift of all

 

Last night we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath–a precious tradition.  This week the candle represents Hope.  It is my hope that when one of us is hurting, another sister will turn to her and share her light until the one who is hurting is able to light her own.  And no one will have to struggle in the darkness alone again.  

Love and light to all.  

 

 

Our Advent wreaths.....waiting for us to share the light.

Our Advent wreaths…..waiting to share the light.

 

 

 

Sunday’s Coming, But It’s Different for Everyone

Saturday.

It’s been on my mind all day today, what with today being, well, you know, Saturday.  And tomorrow being Easter.  And I’m wondering what that first Saturday was like, the one after the horrors and sadness of the day before.  I usually do that every year about this time.   I think about the day and wonder about different things.

I wonder, I mean I was just thinking, did anyone walk up to those who were grieving the loss of the one they loved, the one who had been brutally and suddenly taken from them, and say, “Well, it will all be okay.”   “Don’t worry, he’s in a better place.”  “It’s all a part of the Master plan.”  I just wonder…..

It was Saturday afternoon.  I’d spent the better part of the day at my alma mater with my oldest for scholarship day, a day filled with interviews and forums and walking all over campus.  I’d been anxious and worried, as Mama had been in the hospital for three weeks and moved into a different room on a different floor just the afternoon before.  I wanted to be with my oldest, but I also wanted to be with my Mama. 

Upon arriving at the hospital, a nurse was adjusting some of Mama’s IV’s and medications, and it was apparent that things were not going well.  The nurse was trying to bring up some numbers and down some others.  She saw my face and looked at my seventeen year old, and said she was too young to be in the room.  What she didn’t say was I’d be asked to leave if I let the panic in my face be unleashed.  Mess Cat, who had been with Mama all day and the night before, took my girl and went to get a bite to eat.  I was sitting by myself, willing Mama to fight this unknown evil and soaking in the first quiet moments of the day. 

And then she walked in. 

She introduced herself as a hospital chaplain. 

Ah yes, right.  I had asked one of the patient representatives about having a chaplain come in and spend some time with Mama.  She had been so comforted by her own pastors and friends who had come in and visited.  We had been told by at least one nurse that Mama didn’t seem to be resting well at night.  I had wanted to ask the chaplain on call to check in with her during those long night hours when we hadn’t been allowed to be with her, prior to her moving to the MICU the day before. 

She sat right down next to me on the couch that would later fold out into a bed for me and Mess Cat to sleep fitfully upon.  She asked me how I was doing. 

“Okay, I guess.  I mean, well–” I gestured toward Mama in the bed a few feet away.  I started to explain what we were hoping for.  “I am glad you are here though–“

She interrupted me.  She was not there because she’d gotten the message that Mama needed visits.  I’m not sure if we were on her room list and needed to be checked off or if the nurses had asked for us to have a visit to get through this difficult time.  Whichever it was, she was not going to sit and listen to me explain about Mama.  She had her spiel, and she went into it.  About how I needed to turn to my faith and not let the darkness overcome me.  That I needed to turn to God. 

It was overwhelming to tell you the truth.  In the past forty-five minutes, I had driven across town while listening to my oldest compare the two colleges she’d visited over the past week, parked on the roof of the parking garage, where I’d changed out of my dress pants and into the jeans I’d brought, switched from dress shoes to my comfortable ones, entered the hospital, walked down to Mama’s floor, been admitted to the unit (imagine having to have permission to see your Mama!), and been hit full force by the apparent problems that were needing to be addressed for Mama.  I was having to think about changing her code status; and if that weren’t enough, this woman who didn’t know me or my Mama or what we were going through, and apparently wasn’t going to take the time to hear any of our story, tells me I need to turn to God. 

Excuse me, lady, if it’s all the same to you, you don’t know me like that. 

Before I could pick my chin up off the floor, she patted my hand.  “I tell you what, I want you to sit here,” she patted the couch, “just sit right here and think about God your Father.  Just think about Him and how much He cares for you and take all of that in, and I’ll be back in 30 minutes and we’ll talk about how you’re feeling then.” 

My chin slammed back down and hit the tile floor again.  The only thing I could think, as I held back the tears was, “My Father is gone, and I’m scared I’m losing my Mama too, and you want me to sit still?  There are things I.  Have.  To.  Take. Care.  Of.  That I Must Do.  Thank you, but NO.” 

Instead I sat and didn’t dare speak for what might come out of my mouth.  The one who had raised me better, to act like I am somebody, lay only a few feet away, and for all I knew, she could hear every word.  So I just stared blankly at this woman who called herself a chaplain, as she gathered her clipboard, handed me her card, and made her way out of the room. 

Soon after that Mess Cat and Aub came back in the room.  I shared with them what had happened.  I was livid–appalled, and they were too.  When the chaplain came back, my sister excused her and told her it wasn’t the time.  And it wasn’t.  I was signing paperwork about insurance coverage, as Mama had been in the hospital enough days that they needed additional information.  Right after that, I talked with Dr. G, who was such a great ally for us and good advocate for Mama, and I signed paperwork, changing Mama to a DNR. 

Horror.  Sadness.  Nothing like what those who loved Jesus and watched the crucifixion went through, but painful still.  As I sat there on that Saturday, waiting and wondering and talking to God, and shaking my head, hoping it was all a very, very bad dream,  someone sat next to me and said, “It will all be okay. God’s got this.” 

And all I could think of was, “Really? Because I’m not so sure. Couldn’t He have stopped this at any moment?”

I wonder if any of them–any of the disciples, Mary, Mary Magdalene, I wonder if any of them thought these same thoughts–if any of them wanted to scream and punch a wall.  I wonder if anyone, well-intentioned as they might be–said to any of them, Just sit here and think about your faith.  Trust.

I wonder what it was like fearing you had lost the One who gave you new life.  The One who made a way for you to live out your life.  The One whose example you sought to emulate.

Or maybe I don’t have to wonder about that part so much.  Because in just over twenty-four hours after the chaplain visited, my Mama was given new life of her own, healed, no more pains and heartaches–she joined my Daddy and the little ones whom she never got to hold.  The woman who gave me life, who called me out about my poor choices, set a beautiful example of how to live, and loved me through everything–she was gone.

The brokenness of Friday, the waiting and wondering and heartbreak of Saturday, and then there’s Sunday.

Tonight my heart is heavy for those for whom tomorrow does not bring joy.  Easter is more than a day, it’s a lifting of the spirit.  And not everyone is able to have that on this day.  There are friends in the hospital, friends who have just said goodbye to someone they loved most in this world, friends who are waiting on tests to come back, friends who will wake up in the cold air of morning and their day will be no different from any other, except that those who pass them by, seemingly without seeing them, are dressed a little brighter, a little fancier.

For them, Sunday comes, but Easter may not.

May our words be a comfort and not leave the ears upon which they fall filled with sadness and hurt, may we understand that not everyone is able to rejoice on this Day of days, and may we seek to listen and to love first and foremost, putting others before ourselves.  And may the quiet moments of this day sound louder than the festive ones, filling our hearts with more to ponder upon as the sun sets and a new season begins.

Love and understanding to all.

 

 

 

River of Birds

This afternoon after I fought back during Round 2 of the Migraine Mess, I took Miss Sophie out back to let her run her little legs off.  It was a nice afternoon.  I’m hesitant to get too excited, because I know what my Granny said has always come to fruition.  Every.  Single.  Year.

There will be an Easter cold snap.  Right before Easter.

And Easter’s late this year, y’all.

So, ummm, call me a cynic, but I don’t trust the weather just yet.  I see you playing hide-and-seek over there, Winter.  I don’t believe you have packed your bags and headed home just yet.

Anyway, weather forecasting aside, as I was watching the littles and Miss Sophie running around, playing Frisbee and soccer, I heard a distinct sound above.  I looked up, and way, way up high, there were geese flying in the beautiful v-formation.  Tears came to my eyes.  I do love geese, especially since I found out that in the Celtic culture, they represent the holy spirit.  I have a friend who texts me “geese sightings” since we talked about that.  I love it.

As I watched them fly over, I thought about thoughts I heard shared by a dear man, my Mama’s pastor and friend, Pastor Bill.  He shared it at a Memorial for our cousin, Miss B, on a rainy Saturday afternoon in the upstairs chapel of the church.  Gathered with our family and a few dear friends, he shared stories and songs to bring comfort and hope to the children and all of us who had been touched by death, not once, but twice in the previous weeks.

A year ago today, Miss B passed away one week after Mama.  I was with her the day and night before.  Listening to doctors, nurses, taking in opinions and listening to all the options.  A visit from old friends of Miss B’s and their kind words helped a lot, but ultimately the decision was mine as to what to do.  I talked with my sisters and my brother and my Aunt, and by early the morning of the 17th, I thought I knew what we had to do.

I had dreamed about Miss B just two nights before.  She was in a beautiful golden room, wearing a fabulous bright pink dressing gown.  She was dancing around, and her speech was perfect, not hard to understand at all, as it sometimes could be.  I said, “What has happened?” and she replied, “I’m fine.  I’m dancing.  I’m happy.”

Wow.  I took comfort in that dream as I wrestled with the decision before me.  It was time to let her dance.

I called Miss Sue, our precious and dear friend who was Daddy’s nurse and has been a friend to all of us.  She and Pastor Bill had been there when Mama left this world, and I trust her as much as I love her.  Which is a lot.  I called her and asked her what she thought.  There were medical issues I wasn’t quite clear about.  She asked me if I was by myself.  I was.  “I’m on my way,” she said.

Bless.  Her.

Around this same time, Mama’s neighbor and sweet friend and someone I’m glad is on our team came in.  Miss Helen.  She had been a friend to Miss B too.  She walked in and hugged me.

So it was that the three of us gathered and said our goodbyes.  Miss Sue was so beautiful, talking to Miss B.  She was a comfort to me and for Miss B, talking her through the journey, as she took her last breaths.  I don’t know how I could have handled this without these two strong and gentle women there to help me say goodbye and let Miss B have peace.  Finally.

On that Saturday afternoon when we honored and remembered the life of Miss B, Pastor Bill asked the children in the room, my littles and Shaker, my nephew, if they’d seen the birds flying overhead.  So many it was hard to see where they began and where they ended.

They nodded.  We all did.

Pastor Bill called them a “river of birds.”  He talked about hope and finding beauty in life.  I don’t remember everything exactly as he said it, but I do remember the peace he left with all of us.  And what a gift he gave us in talking about the river of birds.  Now when we see them, we all point them out and stand in awe for a moment.  Standing in awe is good for the soul I think.

So it was today.  I watched the geese as they traded the lead.  Once.  Twice.  Three times.  Rhythmically and without slowing the progress.  The tears flowed when I thought about how the people in my life do this for me.  They come up beside me when I feel like maybe I cannot go on, and they take the lead, letting me rest and catch my breath, protecting me from taking everything head-on all by myself.

We do not journey alone.

And for that I am thankful.

Tonight I especially give thanks for those who have listened to the Spirit and been there to sit with me and all of us in the darkness.  And to celebrate in the light.  Pastor Bill and Miss Sue, who made time for us time and time again.  They love well.  Miss Helen, and her spunk and laughter giving us what we needed to keep going.  My Aunt, whether it’s bail money or a shoulder, someone to listen or advice about cupcake papers–she always picks up the phone.  She’s never too busy.  And all of you with your hugs and messages and calls to say you are thinking of us.

Thank you all for taking the lead for a few moments.  So we can catch our breath.

The river of birds.  Flowing.  Together.  Onward.

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?