A Backstage Kind of Grace

Our little guy, Cooter, who isn’t so little anymore as he is now exactly two months shy of turning eleven, performed in his acting troupe’s version of “Trolls” this past weekend.  The role of Branch suited him well, as he griped and stomped and put on his unhappy face throughout rehearsals over the past few months.

Friday night was showtime.  He was ready.  He’s not been feeling one hundred percent, as the upper respiratory stuff that has everyone sniffling or hacking got a hold of him too.  But he was feeling good Friday.  We ran lines, and he practiced his dances wearing his Falcons helmet and jersey (a sight to see, trust me on this), and then we were off to the theater.

After the young people of Acting for the Almighty gathered backstage and got in costume, excited and a little anxious, the lights went down and Scene One began.  Cooter had several lines in this scene…..and within the first few minutes, it was time for him to deliver his line and be interrupted.  Which he did and he was.

And then it came time for him to finish what he’d been interrupted trying to say…..

and he jumped to the next page of lines, skipping the lines of several characters.

It only took a split second and the rest of these young actors jumped right in and carried on, finished the scene, and moved on to give a great performance.

But my stomach was in my throat.  Or my heart was in my stomach.  You get what I’m trying to say.

I was sick.  For my little guy.  For the children who hadn’t gotten to say their lines.  For the director and the playwright.

Oh me.

I had friends and family there who hadn’t been to rehearsals or memorized parts of the play from going over lines for three months.  They said they had no idea that lines had been missed.  Which I was thankful for, but I knew.  So did his fellow players.

At intermission one of the volunteers came out to reassure me that he was fine.  She said he took the hit for messing up and giving the wrong line, but “you saw him come out in the third scene.  He put himself back together.  He’s fine.”

The rest of the play went extremely well.  And it was a great performance.  I’m so proud of each one of the children, who bravely did what so many of us would be terrified to do.  Got up on that stage under the bright lights with at least 200 folks watching–spoke loudly lines they had memorized, danced, and sang.  They are our future, and things look really, really good for all of us.

That night Cooter and I talked a bit about the play, and he promised we could run lines the next morning before Saturday afternoon’s performance.  Before he went to sleep, he told me, “Everyone was so nice about me messing up.  They told me it was okay, that I’d go back out there and get it next time.  And I did!”

Bless.  Them.  Whoever “they” were–thank you.  Thank you for not getting upset with him.  This Mama’s heart is so grateful.

On Saturday morning when he got up, he had breakfast and then was puttering around.  I’d forbidden his standard rough and tumble football free for all in the front yard–I did not want him missing his last performance for ANY reason.  That and I’m a worrier, so he played with his friends and their Matchbox car village and did other indoor things on this cold day.  When he came back in and we were getting ready to go back to the theater, he and I had a quiet moment.

“Mama, you know what I’ve learned from this production?”

“What, buddy?”

“Improvisation.”

“Ummm, yeah?  Really?”

“Yes ma’am. Because when someone forgets a line or messes up, you can improvise and carry on. That’s what we did last night when anyone forgot a line…..like I did.”

Well, bless it.

I think that’s kind of what we need to know how to do in this life in general, isn’t it?  Improvise.  Goodness knows we seem to do a lot of it around here.

And, as the Fella says sometimes, we are none the worse for wear for it.

If improvisation were the only thing Cooter carried away from this experience, I’d be thrilled. Ecstatic.

But you know what? It wasn’t.

He learned a lot about grace too.  The way folks were understanding, encouraging, and supportive in the face of his mistake…..

that’s a beautiful gift.

And because of it, he wasn’t afraid of trying again.  Afraid, wondering what it would be like if he messed up again.  Because of that grace, he was able to get back up on that stage Saturday, try it again and do a fantastic job.  (If you’ll forgive this Mama for saying so–actually they ALL did a brilliant job on Saturday.  I am so proud of each one of them!)

I want my son–my children–all of the children–always to know what grace feels like.  So much so that they feel it in abundance and share it with anyone who could use it.  Grace gives folks the courage to try again.  To get up and out there just one more time and not so afraid of making the mistakes that are inevitably going to come in this life.

When Cooter was a baby and baptized, I chose a song for him.  It was Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” and there was a line that I love so much…..

May “you find God’s grace in every mistake and give more than you take…..”

Tonight I am thankful for the ones who spent every week teaching my little guy and all his fellow actors about drama and singing and dancing and grace and being supportive of each other and how to improvise.  His acting may never be anything more than something he loves to do for fun–I have no idea where he’s headed with this…..but sharing grace and how to encourage others, how to courage on, and how to figure out at the drop of a hat what to do next in the face of the unexpected–all things that these wonderful folks have taught him…..

that they showed and shared with him God’s grace in his mistake…..

well, my heart is full to bustin’, y’all.  This is the really good stuff of life.

May we all be so kind and abundantly filled with grace to share.  And may we all have others around us who jump to wherever we are and help us carry on when the unexpected happens and we aren’t sure what line comes next…..

Love to all.

 

drama masks 2

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*****For those who may not know, Cooter is the nickname that my Daddy, his Cap, gave him years ago when he was very small and loved playing Matchbox cars with Cap.  The name came from the mechanic on “Dukes of Hazzard,” which still makes me laugh.  No one really uses that name for him anymore, but I use it here to remember the man who let my little 4 year old guy drive those little cars around and around on his hospital bed.  “Daddy, you can tell him to stop,” I said, after Cooter had circled his bed for about the umpteenth time.  Round and round the bedrail, the foot rail and above Daddy’s head he went.  “He’s not bothering me,” Daddy said. And he meant it.  I’ll treasure that memory for always.  I know Daddy would have loved this play so much, especially when the children all sang “True Colors” together.  It was one of his favorite songs.  And so now it’s mine.

 

 

A Dime For My Thoughts

A few days ago the littles and I were watching some videos about the Presidents.  One had a song about who is on this kind or that kind of money.  It was maybe a little beneath my two agewise, but it was a catchy tune, so we watched.

And I sort of sang along in the hopes that they would too.

Who’s on the penny?  Who’s on the penny?

Lincoln.

Who’s on the nickel?  Who’s on the nickel?

Jefferson.

(Did I mention I was rocking it while my two sat staring back and forth in disbelief between me and the screen?)

Who’s on the dime?  Who’s on the dime?

Eise

Wait.  What?

What do you mean–Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

I don’t even think so, people.

I pulled out my trusty friend (my phone) and asked that very question.

Who is on the dime?

And I’m sorry–

NOT Eisenhower?

My whole life has been a lie, y’all.

A LIE.

How did I ever get that confused?

Who was the first one to tell me that?  Or did I just assume and no one ever talked to me about this VERY IMPORTANT FACT, so that on this very day, I totally embarrassed myself in front of my two very impressionable children and had my very world turned topsy turvy, up on its end?

I feel like I should be sarcastically thanking someone, but I can’t figure out who.

I love my children.  I love homeschooling them.  Most of the time.  I love it when I learn new things, like how snails grow their own shells or a quick way to calculate something or the amazing things we have been learning about the Bill of Rights.  I love the great things we read and watch and the awesome conversations we have at times.

But this–

This I did not enjoy.  AT. ALL.

And it’s such a little thing, isn’t it?  I mean, I’ve spent more dimes than I would ever care to count or admit, and ALL THIS TIME I thought I was handing over Dwight D. Eisenhower, only I wasn’t, and so my world is a bit off balance right now.

What else have I assumed I KNEW AND WAS TOTALLY CORRECT in my way of thinking about–only wasn’t?

What else am I wrong about–in my thoughts, my understanding, my beliefs?

It’s scary, this thing of assuming what we know or understand is RIGHT.

Which is why, maybe, just maybe we should every now and then take a step back and listen to what others know and understand.  We don’t have to take those things on or accept them as true, but who knows what we might learn if we are open to hearing it.

Just a thought.  That’s my FDR coin’s worth, anyway.

……still shaking my head…..

Love to all.

img_1543-1

And so now, looking at it up close, OF COURSE I CAN SEE THAT THIS IS FDR. How have I been getting this wrong all these many years?

 

Epiphany

I wrote this to share at Coffeehouse Carols Sunday a week ago–these thoughts that stayed close to my heart after a phone conversation with a dear friend.  May this day of Light and Love give you hope during this darkest season.  

The_visit_of_the_wise-men

“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann – Postcards thebiblerevival.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_visit_of_the_wise-men.jpg#/media

 

“We ask for the light.  But then we can’t handle what it shows us.”

When I heard the words of my friend echoing across the phone line, my breath caught and I was silent.

“I’m going to have to sit with this for a moment,” I told her when I found my voice.

And then I sat with it for many days, for the whole ten days before Christmas.

During this time of Light and Love and candles and twinkle lights on the trees and houses and storefronts and all the lights in all the places, during this time of celebrating the Light that broke through the darkness—how could I begin to contemplate the hard things that the Light brings?

We all seek the Light.  Like the shepherds and Magi and all who followed the shining light to find the Messiah, we look for it; our souls crave the Light in the darkness.  Hope in the brokenness. We see it as Good and Holy and Perfect and Emmanuel.  God With Us.

And yet, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?  The pain of the light piercing the darkness?  Sleeping in a dark room and the curtains are open to the full sunlight of the day?  We’re outside or riding in the car and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and our sunglasses are nowhere to be found?  Sitting in a dark theater and the lights come up at the end of the show?

It can be abrupt.  Jarring.  Startling.

When the light shines suddenly in a place of darkness, in those first moments we can see things that are quite unpleasant.  Things scurry and run quicker than our eyes can discern, seeking the cover of darkness once again.  When the Light first came into the world as one of us over 2000 years ago, then too, the Light shone brightly and showed us things that were not okay.  Things that had been under the cover of darkness for so long—injustice, poverty, condemnation, evil thoughts and deeds, wickedness, deceit.

The Light did not bring beauty to the world in the most conventional of ways.  The One Who Came brought beauty by shining a spotlight on all of the things hiding in the dark and showing us how to live in such a way as to end those things that were scurrying for cover.  To follow in the dust of the rabbi and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  To LOVE and never let the darkness cover up all that is hurting our world ever again.

It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s exhausting.  As exhausting as trying to pick out the perfect gift on Christmas Eve or as frustrating as trying to return the shirt that didn’t fit on the day after Christmas.  Even more so.  To carry all of the things that are hurting and painful and broken in one’s heart and mind, and to seek to find ways to end them, to heal them, to relieve them—it’s just hard.

So Christmas.

The Coming of the Light.  Hope in New Life.  Joy in the sound of a cry joining the soft lowing and stirring of the animals surrounding the newborn child.

The dawn will come and the days will pass, and it will become apparent that the coming of the Light did not suddenly change the way things are done.  In fact, His coming only emphasized just how wrong things had been for far too long.

And yet—imagine being in the darkest place imaginable.  Maybe this doesn’t take much thought for some of us—for those for whom this is a very real reality.  So the darkness is so dark and thick and heavy, not only can you not see but you can feel the darkness in every fiber of your being.  It is oppressive.  You feel alone, disoriented, lost.  And hope is fading fast.  The silence is deafening.  Or the worries in your heart and mind clamor for attention, and it is dizzying.

And then one night, in one moment, the Light shines through.  And while that can be quite disorienting and scary at first, once you get your bearings, you look around.  And what the Light shows us, blesses us with, is that there are OTHERS.  We are not alone.  He gives us the gift of drawing others close to His grace, and we gather together and share the journey, all of the journey.

My Mama used to say, “Joys multiplied, sorrows divided.”

For me that is the beauty of the Light. Of the gift we are given at Christmas.

We gather together around the baby each and every year and we sing our praises and we look for some sign that our Hope is not in vain. If we take a moment and look around at all who are in the glow of the Light, we can see that we are not alone.

There are others there to help us up when we fall, to help us find hope in the situations that break our hearts.  There are those who will point out the good in the midst of even the hardest of things, and those will carry on when we just can’t.  They show up with casseroles and love letters and kind words and hand-drawn pictures and cups of hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring.  And they show up, again and again, because, for all of the hard things the Light shows us, the most important things that He shows us is that we are a part of something really, really good.  We are a part of a community.  A group of folks who choose love.  Who care.  Who seek to find the things that scurry for cover and bring them out into the open so Love and Light can bring the beautiful and powerful transformation, through our passion and love and efforts to follow in the dust of the child who was born so long ago and stays at our sides still today.  Our steps might be clumsy at times, but we are on the right path and we are together.

My folks used to remind my siblings and me, whenever we would go anywhere, to stick together.

I think that’s the most beautiful part of the Christmas message.

Stick together.

Look out for each other.

Hold hands when crossing the street or walking through the hard things.

And no matter our differences in any given moment, love each other.

God With Us, and we are With each other.  Standing in the Light.

Merry Christmas!  And may Epiphany and Light be ours today and everyday.

Love to all.

Don’t Go It Alone

I remember a sermon my sweet friend who introduced me and my Fella shared.  Actually it’s an image that she shared that has stuck with me all these years. I believe in looking back that she read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 from the Good Book.

IMG_0392

The picture she painted with her story, of the dark and traveling together and the stumbling, but someone always stopping to help another up.

Powerful.  So powerful.

We are not meant to travel alone, y’all.  To do this life with no one else around.  I am not saying we are not meant to live alone, but I do think we are not meant to LIVE alone.  Sharing a house and sharing a journey are two different things.

My life has been changed for the better because of the folks who are around me and the ones who listen and love and care about my story and I theirs–in fact, so much so that our stories become intricately interwoven.

Through messages and late night phone calls and texts about silly things and all the important ones too.  The being interruptible and sitting with me in the hard places and the holding me in the light and hoping for good to come.  The sitting quietly and laughing loudly.  The road trips and waiting rooms and bowls of soup and handmade aprons and letters in the mail and cards left on the front porch.  The shared tears and the reverberating laughter.  The hands to hold and the hugs to envelop every little bit of what is going on.  The “I’m on your side” and the “well, have you looked at it this way…..” The “let’s go do” and the “let’s just be.”

All of it.  Every single bit of others in your life and mine…..they save us.  They make us better.  They keep us from falling in a pit of despair and believing the lie that no one cares about us or that it is all about us and no one has ever had it this.  BAD.

They walk alongside, and they pick us up when we fall.

And the coolest thing about this journey is that as we share it with those who circle the wagons close and stay there beside us is that one day we will have the chance to do that very same thing for someone else.

It’s a beautiful ebb and flow of life.  Today I needed picking up.  Tomorrow it might be you.  Or you.  Or maybe even me again.

We all stumble.  Most of us fall.  But it’s the knowing there’s a hand that will be there to help us back up…..that’s the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

Our posse.

Find yourself a good one.  Find the folks who are walking carefully and maybe even a little slowly, hanging back.  Leave be those who are darting around and ahead of everyone else.  The best way to find a friend, the old saying goes, is to be a friend.

Go and be.  Reach out your hand.  And you’ll be amazed at who comes to stand beside you.

Love and best wishes to all.

Flip the Flag

Miss Sophie and I went for a walk late this evening, after the sun was well behind the trees and there was a lovely breeze blowing, dissipating some of the heat from the day.

IMG_9338

As we walked down the cul-de-sac, I noticed a flag up on a mailbox, and in that moment, I wished we had flags like mailboxes.

A flag that we could flip up as a signal to say, “Hey, notice me.  Stop here for second, could you?  Can I please give you some of this that’s weighing on me for you to take away?  Will you share something with me that will brighten my day?”

Maybe I’m oversimplifying it, but that’s it.  I think that a flag to flip up when the words are hard to say–that would be just what I need sometimes.

Wishing you all the words to say and the people to hear them.  And to understand.

Love to all.

upon being awakened by the sound of a fly buzzing

upon being awakened by the sound of a fly buzzing,
trapped, I could only suppose, behind the blinds
I began to wonder

it didn’t sound frightened or scared,
just the persistent buzzing
much like a bee as it goes about its business
humming, happily oblivious
or not, I guess,
to all that is happening around it

and I wondered how many times
I mistake the words coming from a person
sitting right next to me
as meaning she is okay–
hearing what she says but not really listening

and realizing

she too is trapped behind the blinds
or the masks
or the circumstances that have her feeling afraid,
lost,
with nowhere to turn

such that she just continues to buzz
hoping that someone will hear
and understand her cries for help

and set her free

It Goes Both Ways

This past Sunday we moved our college girl out of the dorm and back home.  Her and all her stuff.  I found myself saying something that I seem to be saying a lot lately, as I asked my cousin for help at the last minute.  “My lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on your part, and I hate to be a bother, but…..”

I do hate bothering folks.  And needing help.

I was raised by a strong Mama who often said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”  Which was what she said to discourage us from sitting around waiting on things to get done without us putting in any effort, I’m pretty sure.

Today, however, I was reminded of the original quip–one that my husband brought home from work with him.

IMG_7805

“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”  

Yeah.  This one I don’t do so well either.  I don’t know if it’s codependency or being the oldest of my siblings or just my personality, but I tend to make emergencies out of other’s needs, last minute or not.  I loathe letting other people down.

Today it came to my attention that someone we knew might need some help.  I was concerned and frustrated, as this cold had me on a self-imposed quarantine until this evening.  (I’m old-school–I don’t go anywhere until I’ve been fever free for 24 hours. That was good enough for my Mama, so…..) I wanted to help, felt guilty I wasn’t helping, and yet…..

this person had not even asked for my help.

Still I worried over the details.  Maybe I should have offered.  Then my wise girl pointed out that this situation was like so many others that we’ve come across–the person involved tended to change his plans and his mind at the last minute.  Taking others along for the ride.

In other words, not our monkey, not our circus.

Not our emergency.

There was such an immediate sense of relief when I realized that.  It’s not always on me to help.  To make things okay.

If that sounds crazy, good.  You are in a healthy place, I think.  It has made me crazy at times, trying to rearrange my own priorities so I could help someone whose plans fell apart and needed someone at the last minute.

It’s good to help others.  It’s also good to have boundaries.

To take care of you.  And it’s even okay to say no sometimes.

It’s a fine line to walk.  But today I took a step in the right direction.  I let go of expectations that had been put on me by no one else but me.

Tonight I’m especially thankful for my cousin.  And his truck.  He not only showed up, he showed up with a smile and a willing attitude.  That was another of my Mama’s favorites:  “The Lord loves a cheerful giver…..and so do I.”  She always did love my cousin.  He’s shown up more than a few times with that smile and attitude.

May we all have good boundaries and the peace that those can bring.  And when it is right and we do show up, may we have a smiling face, a cheerful heart, and be all in.

Love to all.