redemption story

the truth is, we are all living a redemption story–
in any given moment we can change direction
make choices that take us on another path completely
rewrite our story
change up the cast of characters
have a set change and cull the props

at any point on our path
we can chart another course
and turn this life around
such that what was born of the dark times
can shine such beautiful light
eventually,
one day

and what was broken and caused all the pain
can lead others to the light, to beauty
and towards their own redemption story

all of us have that chance
for atonement and healing hearts,
as long we are on this journey
and putting one foot in front of the other
it is not too late

there always exists the choice
for small, great things
that can leave an imprint on the hearts and minds
of history
changing the course for all of us
if only we are strong and speak in truth
with courage
celebrating joy and leaving beauty marks in our wake

we are all living out our stories
it is for us to make it a good one

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be strong, true, joy / Walk in the Light / the story is always redemption

Note:  As I was making this picture with the Latin words, I used an on-line translator, as it’s been just a few years since my last Latin class.  To double check my translation, I reversed the process and learned the truest interpretation of the words here.  The one that made my the most joy-filled, the most hopeful is the last one.  Instead of saying “The redemption story is always possible,” it interpreted it to read, “The story is always redemption.”  So much hope there.  For all of us.  Love to all.  

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.

of what doesn’t make sense

we have this need, don’t we,
to make sense of what doesn’t

to figure out the why
sometimes becomes very important,
almost urgent

I wonder if we get that from our mothers
or our fathers
or from the One who created us

though of course I feel fairly
certain there are times when
even the One who painted the sky
that brilliant cerulean hue
and strung the stars across the darkened dome
cannot figure out why the things that happen
happen as they do

and in those moments I feel God squatting down
beside me
helping me pick up the pieces left over
after the storm has blown through
gently, quietly there
patiently handing me what is left
to begin again

it reminds me how, when the Lego habitat vehicle creature
has been demolished by a careless hand or movement,
I wipe the tears and
kneel down beside the one whose heart is broken,
picking up the pieces one by one and handing them back
to my little one
whispering encouraging words,
in the hopes that soon, in his own time,
he will find the strength, desire, and courage
to try to build it again,
maybe even better this time

once his heart begins healing
and he no longer seeks to make sense
of the chaos that ensued

and instead
bit by bit
moves on, beyond,
leaving some questions asked
unanswered
and yet, somehow, in the presence
of rainbows and the One who lined up
those colors
just so
finds peace
and rests in that
one more night

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Columba pacis

This evening as my Aub and I gathered together in a circle of 100 or more people gathered at the Vigil, I looked down in the midst of the singing, and I saw this leaf there on the ground in front of me.  It intrigued me and comforted me.  As prayers were said for the one inside the building hidden by the woods, awaiting to know if her life was about to end or not, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.  As prayers were said for the ones who know and love her and would grieve for her both inside and outside of the building with the bars, I focused my heart on the prayer and my eyes on the leaf.

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At first I thought it was a cross, but as I looked a little longer, I realized it was a dove.  Of peace.

And my heart and soul breathed a sigh of release.

And a prayer for grace and mercy.

Tonight I am thankful for a life that is still being lived, a story still being told, and for the souls who shared their stories and hopes with us as we stood in the cold and hoped and prayed and laughed and cried together.  I am thankful for weather delays and cloudy medicines and the chance that hearts could still be changed and justice and mercy can go hand in hand to continue the life of one who cares, who has saved lives herself, and who has told folks they were better than their circumstances.  Of one who loves.

As for what tomorrow will bring, I focus my heart on the prayers and my eyes on the dove.  On peace.  And grace.  And mercy.

And I know that whatever story comes next, in the end, Love Wins.  It just has to.

Love to all.

 

 

 

Other Thoughts:  The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

 

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The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

In September 2011 I heard a name I’d not heard before.  I heard it on the radio, saw it on Facebook.

Troy Davis.

This young man only three weeks older than I am was convicted for the August 19, 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.  His execution was scheduled for September 21.  That day my heart was very heavy.  He had been denied clemency, but his execution did not happen at 7 p.m. as scheduled.  The Supreme Court was reviewing his case.

I sat on the edge of the bed in my dimly lit room.  My children were all asleep, the youngest piled in next to me.  The Fella was out of town for work and had been for quite some time.  I was alone, fervently praying for someone to save this man’s life, all the while fearing the worst.

In that moment, I realized that I did not, if I ever had before, have the stomach for capital punishment.

See, life and how very precious it is had just been impressed upon me greater than ever before.

My Daddy, my very much-loved Daddy, had just been admitted to Hospice only a few days earlier.

Life was precious.  And dwindling.

And in the quiet of the night, I begged God to step in, for someone to save a life that did not have to be ended.  Not like my Daddy’s.  His body had already given him a death sentence and clemency had been denied.

But for Troy Davis?  It could have been very different.

Only it was not to be.

The Supreme Court came back and denied a stay of execution.  And at 10:53 p.m. on September 21, 2011, Troy Davis was given a lethal injection.  Fifteen minutes later he was pronounced dead.

I can hardly type it without feeling sick.

I don’t want to argue the validity of capital punishment.  I don’t want to argue guilt or innocence.  I won’t even argue that if the function of prisons is to rehabilitate and change lives, why aren’t we rewarding those who do work towards that goal?

I am here to simply say, all lives matter.

If one says he or she is pro-life, doesn’t that mean pro-all life?

Earlier this past week, my sister-in-love shared the story of Kelly Gissendaner, who was scheduled to be executed on this past Wednesday night at 7 p.m. here in Georgia.  Kelly was convicted of plotting the murder of her husband.  The man who actually killed him is serving 25 years and will be up for parole in a few years.  I felt sick when I read the story my SIL shared for two reasons–the fact that I live here and this was the first I had heard of the story, and the fact that it was, once again, the willing ending of a life that didn’t have to be.

All that day my heart was heavy.  When the word came that the execution had been rescheduled for Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m. because of the inclement weather, I gave thanks.  I’ve never been so happy about snow in my life.

I’ve been piecing together Kelly’s story.  It is a heartbreaking and inspiring one, one of second chances and redemption.

I’m not going to talk about the certificate she earned while incarcerated.  You can read about that here.

I’m not going to talk about the women whose lives she touched and changed because of who she has become.  Her sisterfriends (and they call themselves that–oh my heart) do that so beautifully here.

I’m not going to share her words with you right now.  I hope you’ll watch this video and hear them for yourselves.

I’m not even going to talk about how unfair I think it is that the man who actually murdered Kelly’s husband, Doug, will be out of prison in 8 years because he took the plea deal first and testified against Kelly.  You can read about that here and find a link to copies of her request for clemency.

What I am going to say is that life is precious.  I know this.  For. A. Fact.  Like so many of us, I’ve had the lives of those I love taken away by disease and I. Am. Still. Heartbroken.   Because of that, I cannot be okay with inviting death in and ending a life like this.

I just can’t.

I was conversing with my wise writer friend, Lisa at My So Called Glamorous Life, about Kelly. Lisa lives out of state, and she shared this with me today:

“I had not heard of this case before I heard a radio dj mocking the prisoner because of her last meal order. I think that’s indicative of how people dismiss the value of a life.”

So tonight, as I stay up very late to finish this because time is of the essence, I’m not asking for anyone to do anything except–

PLEASE DO NOT DISMISS THE VALUE OF A LIFE.

All lives.  Yours.  Mine.  Kelly’s.  Everyone’s.

If you read her case, and think she deserves to die, then okay.  If you can be okay with it, then I have to respect that.  I hope you can respect that I cannot.

But if you read her case, and your heart cries out for things to be different, here are a couple of places you can go.  There is a Facebook page I just found that has a list of suggestions for helping here.  If you are a member of the clergy or know someone who is, you can sign this petition here.  (Out of state clergy are also encouraged to sign.)  At this point, it is my understanding that Governor Deal is the one who can step in and stop the execution.  I have emailed him twice, only to get no response, and I tried calling the number listed “in case of time sensitive matters,” and not only did I not get an answer but there also was no option to leave a message.  Simply no answer at all.  Here is the place to send him messages or call.  The video above also gives more contact information and ways to tag the Governor and the Parole Board if you are active on Social Media.

Thank you for reading this.  I am ashamed I was hesitant to write this at first.  I respect folks’ rights to their own opinions.  I don’t like to get into political rants, which is why I haven’t taken this to Facebook.  But my heart has been heavy about this–this is about life, the life of a woman who is my age.  Whose childhood and past led her to make some really bad choices and do some really, really bad things.  This evening I saw this on Love Wins Ministries‘ Facebook page, and I knew I had to write this.  Now.

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Because if I believe in redemption and grace, I have to believe in it for everyone.  And that’s why I’m writing tonight.  Because I do believe in grace.  And love.  And the sanctity of life.  Oh bless it, I know how precious it is.  That is why my thoughts and heavy heart have led me to write what I have the past two nights.

And I decided that I could not go to bed Monday night, whether the execution happens or not, if I didn’t speak up and ask for help.  Help in sending out the message that dismissing the value of a life, any life, is NOT OKAY.

Kelly Gissendaner after finishing her Theology degree through courses offered at the prison

Kelly Gissendaner in 2011 after graduating from the Theology program offered at the prison

May we all find ourselves filled with the peace that Kelly has found, and may a miracle come and give this story of redemption what it really deserves–grace.

Love to all.

 

Rainy Days and Redemption

We awoke this morning, quite early, to the sounds of thunder rolling angrily.  And close.  It was so early, in fact, that most in the house went back to sleep to the sound of the drizzling rain.  The house still seemed quite dark when we stirred, though the day had gotten a good start already.

A rainy day in Georgia.

In the fall.

Ahhhhh.

Grateful for a break from the downpour I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional and was thankful she was moved to be a little quicker this morning.  The littles had breakfast as did their big sister, still home for Fall Break.  The house was eerily quiet, a mood suited by the gray and the rain outside.

I set out the day’s lessons and encouraged the crew to get started.  I too began my work for the day.  Sitting at my desk, my back was to them.  Though they were chatting about some scenario they’d made up to play out, they were getting some work done, so I allowed myself to become immersed in what was in front of me.  Soon I realized the room had become very quiet.  I turned to see what they were up to.  Our Princess seemed to be daydreaming, her gaze aimed out the window.  I remember the days of sitting in our classrooms at the old school in town–windows all down one side of the room–and doing just that.  I think some of my best thoughts came from those moments of mind wandering.

Then I noticed Cooter, across the room, no longer sitting at the table working on his math.  Instead he was curled up with Goatillard the goat, who moved here to live with us after Mama left this world.  My little guy seemed in a trance, staring out from the window seat at the rain as it poured down.

My little guy curled up with Maemae's goat, staring out at the rainy day.

My little guy curled up with Maemae’s goat, staring out at the rainy day.

It took my breath away for a moment.  Beautiful.

I wonder what he was thinking in those moments.  If anything at all.

I looked back over at our Princess, who met my gaze with a sheepish smile on her face.  She shrugged lightly.  “My eyes are lost in the rain.”

Oh my. With all the rain and beautiful thoughts and staring out at creation and poetic words, how I could say that learning wasn’t happening?

I just about called school off right then and there.  No textbook nor I can compete with all of that.

Poetic thoughts.

I found myself thinking about all kinds of things this morning, as I went about my day to dailies.  A rainy fall day…..gray…..suited my emotions.  Bottom line–I miss my parents.  It seems as though each day a little more, if that is possible.  When I think about where we were three years ago, with Daddy doing so poorly and us not ready to admit to what seemed to be inevitable, it becomes almost more than the heart can bear.  Again.

This morning I saw this quote shared by author John Paul Schulz that stuck with me.

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And it is true.  While my heart and mind was steeped in sadness, suitable for a dreary day, my girl’s poetic thoughts and those of Ms. Woolf proved true.

As I let myself become lost in the rain, sitting on the couch that I can enjoy because of the goodness of friends, I found myself thinking of redemption and reparation.

Are there two things more life-giving than those?

I’m sure there might be, but for today, those thoughts and the actions I took refreshed my soul, and life came “breaking in as usual.”

When I finished, my heart was a little lighter and I breathed a little easier.  I’m still a work in progress and the pressure that tomorrow will be sunny, so perhaps my disposition should be too is a little more than I’m ready to take on tonight.  Perhaps after a good night’s rest…..

Tonight I’m thankful for moments that move me to tears.  For little boys hugging goats.  For poetic days and poetic words and little girls who speak them.  I give thanks for the love of those who have gone before, those whom the memories of make me laugh and cry and ache for just one more story, one more hug, one more word of wisdom, one more “I love you.”  And in the midst of that yearning, I’m thankful for the opportunity to share those things with the ones I care about.  Today. In this moment.

Life comes breaking in…..as usual.  

 

Love to all.

 

 

 

Sometimes It Has to Fall Apart Before It Can Get Better

I have a really cool blender.

I have turned in to one of those people who can and will accept cool kitchen gadgets and the like as a gift.  But this one I got for myself when I had to change my eating habits all around to take better care of myself.  It rocks.

Why?

Because it’s easy to clean.  That’s how I rate things in my life these days.  How easy is it to clean?  It’s possible I even like my children more right now because they can bathe themselves.

Okay, just kidding on that one.  Ahem.

So I’ve been enjoying smoothies every other day or so.  I’ve worked on perfecting my recipe.  Those things make me forget I can’t eat just anything I want–one of the reasons I love them so much.

Today I was getting ready to make my smoothie (“it’s smoothie day” are joyful words around here), and I realized I needed to wash the blender first.  The blade comes out of the bowl completely, so those two things were a breeze to clean.  Then I tackled the lid.  It has a lot of grooves and crevices.  I am good about rinsing it right away so it has never been hard to clean.

But today I noticed something didn’t feel right.  I dug around and started trying to get into those crevices.  The more I scrubbed, the ickier it got, until…..this happened.

 

The gasket and lid from my awesome blender.

The gasket and lid from my awesome blender.

The gasket came away from the lid.  I had no idea it would even do that.

And suddenly, the ick and grime were so much easier to see.  And to get rid of.  I had it cleaned and ready to go in no time.

I find this to be true in matters of my heart and soul as well.  I go through my daytodailies thinking I’ve got this.  I’m smiling at strangers, I’m kind to animals, I speak softly to children (okay, most of the time), and I try to return library books on time.  I tell the baggers at the grocery store and the clerks at the drive thru I appreciate them and I wave to my neighbors.  I’m doing all right, right?  By the standards of many, it might could even be said, “she’s a good person.”  (There are always some who would argue, and a few have lived or do live in the same house with me.)

But when I get down deep, and I do some real soul searching–something that I try not to let happen much anymore, I realize that I have some ick and gunk in there.  Some attitudes and thoughts and grudges that need to come out.  And unfortunately, like with my blender, something usually has to break before I can get to the really bad stuff and work it out.  I mean, the blender worked fine even with the ick in the lid.  On the outside, I never noticed it.  Same with me–from the outside, it all looks okay.

Tonight at Evening Prayer we talked about some words from the Good Book that talk about just this sort of thing.  The breaking down, clearing away, like with a bunch of trees, leaving only the stump.  But in this story in the book of Isaiah, there is promise and hope–the seed that will later become a shoot that begins a long line leading to Goodness is left in that stump.

A seed of hope.

When the gasket came out, it looked like the blender lid was broken.  As I pondered whether it was or not, I cleaned it anyway.  Carefully and slowly and diligently, not scrubbing all haphazardly as I had been before.  Methodically.  Round and round until I was sure it was clean.  And when it was, it went back together as before, only better.  Cleaner.

It’s the same with me.  There are times I have felt broken.  Overwhelmed by the ick and the chaos.  There have been times I’ve been so wrapped up in what was going on around me, I didn’t realize all the brokenness I had going on inside.  But when I sat down and really listened to my own heart, my thoughts, my soul–I realized it was there.  And it took breaking down to be able to see it, and only then did it become easier to make the changes I needed to.

And then things fit right back together as they did before.  Only better.

Because there was a seed of hope tucked within.

Tonight I give thanks for hope in the brokenness and for friends who walk alongside, helping plant that seed in what is left after the breaking down.  I give thanks for those who listen and those who share and for finding myself today in the ick of the lid of my blender.  Sometimes this living life thing can be just that messy.  And it takes falling apart to get it all cleaned up.

 

Wishing you friends with pockets full of seeds.

Love to all.