Sister

Over forty years ago today (and just how much over, I’m not telling) I was given a new role in life.

To be

a big sister.

I got two more chances to do this over the years, but this first one–the one I asked my parents for–she was the first, the one I learned and practiced on.

Some days I’ve done a better job than others of being a sister.

What being a sister means and looks like has changed over the years.  Sometimes drastically.  What, when we were little, meant whispering secrets after bedtime or fighting over who had to turn off the light (she didn’t even have to leave her bed–not really sure WHY we had that argument so often) turned into her being there to encourage me and stand up for me and even help me pack the night before my graduation.  Help?  No, she pretty much did it.  All of it.  As we both grew older and had our own families, what sisterhood looked like changed again.

It’s always changing.

Because relationships are fluid.

And I think that can be really beautiful.

Because, though it’s fluid and changing, it still is.  The relationship is still there.

And as long as it is there, no matter how hard times might be or how much we struggle to find time to be together, there is hope. There is possibility for our relationship to grow and become even more precious.  And there is grace.

Tonight I am thankful for my little sister, who all too often has been a big sister to me.  She has never been afraid of the dark and time was, she’d take on a giant to defend me.  She loves hard with a gentle voice and a passionate soul.  I don’t remember life without her, since I was three when she was born–it’s as though she has always been a part of my story.  She grounds me, she loves me, and she walks alongside me.  Even when things fall apart or we argue or have doubts and frustrations, she is my sister, and that will always be one of the things I’m most thankful for in this life.

That and grace and hope.

Love to all.

Little_Julia_tending_the_baby_at_home

“Little Julia tending the baby at home”  By Lewis Hine, 1874-1940, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Day to Say Their Names

I don’t think that All Saint’s Day truly resonated with me until two years ago.  The Sunday closest fell on my birthday, and we were invited to the church my Mama loved and joined that last year she was with us.  They were remembering all those who had died in the past year.  Mama’s Sunday School class was having a gathering time to remember as well, and we were all invited to that too.

Sacred, holy moments.  Hearing my Mama’s name spoken by people who knew and loved her and missed her just like we did–that was a precious gift.  I can’t think of a lovelier way to have spent the day.  Hugs, laughter, sharing stories, tears, gratitude, light, love, and remembering.

Much as we did today.

Our family was invited to Daybreak, the day shelter and resource center for those experiencing homelessness, to remember and honor my friend who passed on in May.  She was instrumental in recognizing the need for this place, dreaming about it, and making connections that eventually saw it come into existence.  My family and I have spent many Sunday evenings there in that place or, before it was built, just down the street at the park with our friends, serving and laughing and talking and being with people we came to love.

Much like tonight.

I had the great joy of preparing the hot chocolate for this evening.  I so miss my Sunday rituals of preparing the coolers and making the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our friends’ supper at the park.  It was my Sunday liturgy–giving thanks and going through the motions so that we could serve our friends and be a part of the Sunday night picnic suppers.  (And don’t forget the marshmallows!)  Tonight as the room began to fill, so did my heart.  Face after face of friends we shared those suppers with, some whom we served with and others whom we served.  My heart was full to bustin’, I’ll tell you what.  All the hugs and catching up and moments of companionable silence.  Standing side by side with these beautiful people and caring souls, all of us broken and full of light, as we listened to the names of those we have loved and said goodbye to this year.

We said their names.

We told their stories.

And ours.

How we loved, laughed, learned.

And how we will continue to honor their memory.

I shared about my friend’s love of elephants and how, like an elephant, she never forgot what was important–love, family, friends, forgiveness, holding on, letting go, and taking care of each other.  Relationships.  Another friend shared about the seeds that our friend D planted in her life.  Beautiful seeds that are continuing to grow and changing the world.  It was when I heard a pastor talk about how D didn’t finish her work here that I caught my breath.  What?  So he agreed that she was taken from us way too early?

Then he continued, sharing from the Good Book that the poor will always be with us.  So no, D didn’t finish her work, just as we won’t.  We take it up from those who came before us who cared and loved, and when we leave this world, those who come after us will, we hope, pick it up and carry on with the loving and caring and taking care of folks.

It reminded me of the stories I heard while in England about the ones who worked on building the great Cathedrals.  A father would work his whole life and then the son would join in and then his son.  Some who worked on these grand holy places never saw them to completion.  Yet they put their whole hearts into doing the best job they could.  And so it is.

As I listened, I found comfort.  My job is to do what my friend did.  Love long, hard, and every chance I get.  Be a friend, a good listener, an encourager, someone who is dependable and kind, someone who laughs and can tell great stories, and someone who serves and serves and serves again.  Someone who loves.  She was all of these things.  And much, much more.

My other job, no less important, is to raise my children to pick up the legacy of loving and to carry it on for as long as this life will let them.  And so on and so on.  May it ever be so.

The job of loving and caring for others is one that can never be finished, never be overdone, and never will be outdated.  It will always be there, waiting for people like my friend to step up and show all of us how to love passionately with a radical hospitality and all the hugs anyone could ask for.

Tonight I’m thankful for hearing the names of those whom I have loved and had to say goodbye to this year.  I carry them in my heart everyday, but today it was such a gift to be able to share their stories with others who loved them too.  Their light I hold close and give thanks for, and their love is etched on my heart.

May you find someone with whom you can share the stories of those you love and miss today.  Feel free to share them in the comments section if you’d like.  I’d love to hear them and I’ll join you in the remembering.

Love to all.

It’s Not Okay

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I was talking with some folks a *bit* younger than me about the blog, and one of them said, “You should write about how it’s not okay for guys to push females around or be forceful with them.”

Ummmm.  Okay?

I listened to the stories, and I know that she knows it is not okay.  I know she can take care of herself.  And for that I am thankful.

But I’m sad that this is something she thinks needs to be written about.  Very sad.

I’m no expert on the subject of dating violence.  However, I think we might be doing the whole world a disservice by calling it dating violence, because I highly suspect it doesn’t start off as violence.  I think it can start off as disrespect.

And that’s not okay either.

Let me say that again.

Disrespecting another person, whether you are dating or not, is not okay.

But disrespect is where it begins.  An unkind word, a put down, a demand on your time or resources that is just that–a demand.  Getting frustrated when you want to spend time with other people.  Getting frustrated when your world revolves around anything but them.

But no, the violence hasn’t started, so it’s hard to feel like it’s not right.  Because the demands and frustration and disrespect are usually followed by a reminder of why you started dating the person to begin with.

They’re funny, charming, kind, handsome, gorgeous, silly, goofy, smart, dark and brooding–whatever.  You second guess yourself.  You start thinking that maybe they’re right–you should want to spend more time with them.  You shouldn’t be so serious about your education or your career or YOUR dreams and goals.  After all, it’s sweet they want more of your time–that means they love you, right?

Wrong.

Anyone who loves you LOVES you.  Supports you.

Not only is disrespect not intended, it doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately, because the violence often does not happen at the beginning of the relationship, it is easy for young people (and older ones too) to rationalize about the disrespect and continue with the relationship.

Because “at least he/she doesn’t hit me.”

NO.  Just no.

We have to raise our daughters and sons to know what disrespect looks like and that this is not acceptable or okay in any kind of healthy relationship, friendships included.  And we have to empower them to have healthy relationships.  We need to hear whatever story they bring to us, and let them know it’s okay–we love them no matter what.  And then we have to help them define disrespect and set boundaries.  And to let go of the bad stuff and the bad relationships, no matter how long they’ve been with someone or how long they’ve been friends, no matter how nice it was in the beginning, no matter how many promises the other person has made.

No means no.

Disrespect is the gateway to violence.

I really believe that.

I’m not sure what my young friend wanted me to say.  Sweet girl, I hope this does what you asked me to do.  I see you there, being so strong, and letting the guy know what is not okay.  And I am thankful you are able to do that.  But know this, any guy–any person–who isn’t in awe of you and all about celebrating all that is you–just keep on walking.  Because you are better than that.  You deserve someone you can respect to the end of your days and who will spend every breath supporting you and your dreams.

It’s a bumpy ride, and there will be disagreements.  Misunderstandings.  Hurt feelings.  Many times.

But there should never, ever be disrespect.

Be particular, as my Granny used to say.  And be cautious.  If they can’t respect you, they don’t get to be with you.  Dating, friendship, whatever.

And that’s pretty much it.

May you find the one you are meant to be with, but in the meantime, may you grow to be your own biggest advocate and dream big.  The one who will appreciate walking that path with you will come.

Love and respect to all.

radiance of tomorrow

there is brokenness in the world

and each morning seems to bring more stories,

more news

of violence, crime, heartbreak, racism, hatred, bullying, judging, loss

 

stories that have the ones who hear them

with their hearts and souls

weeping

and wondering if the world will ever be set to right again

 

and yet each night as I burrow under my blanket

seeking rest despite the rips in the fabric of our being

I find myself looking toward what I hope will come when I awaken

and embrace a new day

 

the healing, the kindness, the good in all of us

 

and I dream of the radiance of tomorrow

and all that could be

if we only

could

be

menders

of the rips

and pEAce it all back together again

“Did You Have Bacon?”

Aub went out for lunch today.  When she came back she mentioned a rash on her arm that had come up while she was gone.  By the time she returned home, it was gone.

She and Cooter were sitting at the counter while I was loading the dishwasher.  We started trying to come up with reasons she might have broken out.  She has had reactions before and best we could figure, one food was usually involved.

Bacon.

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I know, right?

Sad.

It was Cooter who asked first.  “Did you have bacon?”

“No.”

He thought for a minute.  “Did you eat anything that had been near bacon? Maybe processed with bacon?”

She smiled.  “I don’t think so.”

“Hmmmm.  What about anything that had anything to do with pigs?”

And so on.

He’s an interesting 8-year-old.  But since before he could talk, food allergies have been a part of our world and way of life.  With one sister with nut allergies and another whose sensitivities haven’t all been determined, he knows.  The language–“may contain,” “processed in a plant,” “nut free”–and the worry.  He knows there are restaurants we will never go to, and he knows which ones we can.

As we were talking, and I listened to his line of questioning, it occurred to me.  “You’re going to be an allergist when you grow up, aren’t you, buddy?”

He laughed.  “Well maybe. I just want you to be okay.”  And he leaned in for a hug.

Bless him.

In his Ted Talk, Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins Ministries talks about relationships, about how your mother won’t be homeless because she has YOU.  He also talks about the advancement of gay marriage.  In this 2010 video, he talks about how fifteen years before there was no place that a couple could be gay and married.  And in 2010, there were nine states and a district.  The difference, Hugh says, is relationships.  People who had friends who were gay were twice as likely to be accepting of gay marriage.

I’m not here today to debate the existence or legalization of gay marriage.  I just want to think about what Hugh said–

the difference is relationships.

I saw that today.  My little guy would consider becoming an allergist because his sisters suffer from allergies that can be life-threatening.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

I look around at the people in my life.  How they shape who I am.  The people whom I am in relationship with have a lot to do with what I believe and how I want to live my life.  I am thankful for this diverse group who challenge me to step outside my comfort zone and with whom I can have great conversations, even when we disagree on a matter.

That’s what this life is all about.  Being our best selves, and not only allowing but also empowering others to do that as well.

May you all have someone around you whom you love enough to make life decisions around, and may you encourage and empower those who are in your circle.

Love to all.

 

***** I’m pretty sure “Did you have bacon?” was Cooter’s way of saying “I love you” this evening.  That whole being known and mattering to someone else–yeah.  Love. 

It’s Okay to Choose Healthy

pic of note on my mirror

Yesterday when we were at the Fun Center with our friends, in the midst of the “drama,” there was a girl we didn’t know who called our young friend a name.  She then persisted in teasing him a few more times while they were all playing.  It was frustrating for him.  I looked at my oldest and said, “Sounds like that girl has a crush.”

She turned serious and said, “I read somewhere that you shouldn’t tell children that other children who pick on them are doing it because they like them.  It could set them up to think that such behavior is okay, and they can wind up in abusive relationships.”

Well.  Mind. Blown.

This takes me back to when I was in the third grade and LP, the red-headed boy in my class, kept bending my thumb back when the teacher wasn’t looking.  Or asleep.  Ahem.  Mama told me it was probably because he liked me.  Then she, my Daddy, and my other third grade teacher all told me I should kick him in the shin the next time he did it.  (Different times, huh?)  I couldn’t figure out why they were saying “chin” so fancy and just how did they think I was going to get my foot up high enough to kick him there?  So I did what came natural the next time.  I hollered out, “Stop it, LP!”  It woke the teacher up, she rapped her ruler on her desk and then used it on his palm when she figured out what was going on.  Yes, for sure, different times.

I don’t think it was bad parenting that had Mama and Daddy telling me his behavior probably meant he liked me.  I’ve told my oldest the same thing, and there was no mal-intent in it.  However, when she told me that yesterday, it all clicked.

Yes.

When we tell our sons and daughters that someone is being UNKIND, even downright mean to them perhaps because they have a crush, it starts a trail of reasoning.  He keeps pulling my thumb, he likes me, so it is okay.  So when, as teens, they meet someone who pushes them or slaps them or belittles them or worse, they see it through the lens of UNKIND=ATTENTION=AFFECTION.

This terrifies me.

I’m reading Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite right now.  In the story the main character is belittled and threatened by her husband.  She wants to break away from it, but she still loves him so much.  I know she’s a fictional character, but I wonder about the story behind her putting up with the abuse.  I wonder about the stories of so many men and women who stay.  Could it have been something as simple as thinking the negative attention meant someone really cared about them early on?  Accepting any kind of attention as okay?  Or scared of what it would take to get out?

And so I resolved to change my thinking–to change what I am teaching my children.

And what I tell myself.

Under no circumstances is it okay for someone to be mean or abusive to you.  To my children.  To me.  It needs to be shared with someone you trust and then what to do about it needs to be decided from there.  But it should NEVER be tolerated.  And NEVER EVER kept to yourself.

Not the belittling by someone on your ball team.

Not being pushed around by a boyfriend.

Not being yelled at by a friend who wants to play a different game than you.

Not being made fun of about your clothes or your weight or how you look.

Not being manipulated and lied to by a friend, a girlfriend, or a spouse.

Not being given guilt by the wheelbarrow load when you follow your morals, your values, your instincts.

Not a single one of these things says, “I care about you.”  In fact what I hear loud and clear (somewhat in hindsight) is, “I care more about myself.  You and your feelings do not matter to me in the least.  I need for you to be weak for me to feel strong.  For me to feel all right I need for you to feel pain, misery, lost, frustrated, hurt.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this today.  Sometimes people who feel bad about where they are or about decisions they have made lash out at those around them, oftentimes those closest to them, in an effort to lessen their own pain.  I have a friend who is doing this.  And after reading the article my oldest shared with me, I recognized what is going on, and that I have to walk away.  As a wise therapist once said, “It’s okay to choose healthy.”  I have this stuck on my mirror to remind me everyday, because I need reminding.  I think it is time I start really taking this to heart and teaching this to my children.  I see friends of my littles already starting the manipulation routine, and I don’t want to see my children succumb to the guilt, nor do I want them to become the manipulator.

If you are interested in reading the article, you can find it here.  While I do not agree with everything on the list, I do think this point alone is worth reading the article for.  We are all human beings, worthy of being treated with kindness and respect.  I know there are times when someone is unkind and hurts the feelings of others without any intent to do so at all.  It happens.  But it’s still okay to let them know, without confrontation, that it hurt.  Chances are, they will be sorry and things will get better.  But it is NOT OKAY for someone, for anyone,  to deliberately hurt you–physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.  EVER.   It has to stop.  Talk to someone you trust.  Call a Crisis Line.   Do whatever it takes to end that cycle.   No one deserves to be made to feel less than.  Not you or me or anyone.  Ever.

This is one national link if you or someone you know needs to seek helpwww.thehotline.org

LOL…..just don’t cut it

pic of lol

This afternoon my middle sister called.  She had a few minutes and wanted to share something that had happened in her adventures in homeschooling.  She got tickled as she told it.  So much so that her giggling overcame her voice, and she had to give into it for a moment.  Which started me laughing.  And before we knew it, we were both laughing and stumbling over words and neither could really understand the other.

Good, no, GREAT stuff.

See, we haven’t had a lot to laugh about together lately.  So much has gone on in the past four months, so much worrying, so much sorrow, so much business to tend to, so much to decide about.  And in all that I have missed her laughter.  Especially when it overtakes her story.  My Aunt says I do the same thing sometimes, that it reminds her of Mama.  Funny how I spent most of my life not wanting to turn into Mama, and now a random comment like that…..it becomes a treasure to hold onto.   I should be so lucky as to turn out like my Mama.

I wonder if the overwhelming laughter could be genetic because my Aub does the same thing sometimes, as she shares her stories.  She’s really good at that–sharing her stories.  I don’t take that lightly.  That’s another treasure.  And we can “lafe and lafe” as Andy Griffith might say.  It can take us quite a while to get through one story sometimes, just because of the laughter.

As I went on my walk tonight, I was thinking about my sweet neighbor who is moving soon.  Oh, how I will miss her!  We spend pretty afternoons standing in her yard or mine while our littles play, chatting about our days, our families, our children, our dreams, or what’s for supper.  We have texted about this and that from time to time, but our relationship consists mostly of face to face, can I borrow an egg or a can of tomatoes, real-life conversations.  And now we won’t have that.  I made a promise to myself tonight, thinking of my sister and her precious laughter, that I won’t let my relationship with my neighbor and friend become a texting or e-mail or facebook relationship only.  I love her laughter, and I love hearing her stories.  I hope we will be able to make time for regular phone calls and for visits when they come to town.

I am very thankful for the benefits of modern technology as I’ve said before, but I do think it has done us a disservice on this front.  So much of our communication with others is by text or e-mail.  I am guilty of this too.  Oh sure, we 🙂 and LOL, but there is nothing like a hearty guffaw in your ear when you are on the phone or right in front of you when you are sitting with a friend.  I love the camaraderie of laughing with someone until tears are rolling down my face.  And believe me, that’s the stuff that joy and healing are made of.  Honest to goodness Laughing.  Out.  Loud. Together.  That’s the best right there.  LOL just don’t cut it.

We Are All One

So I saw this video today…..

Hugh Hollowell, who runs Love Wins Ministry in Raleigh, North Carolina, shared it and his thoughts along with it.  You can read what he wrote here.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot today.

I get what this young man is trying to do.  I respect that he has a problem with how A&F feels and what they are doing.  Being outside their desired demographic (I have never been nor will I ever be one of the “cool kids,” and we won’t even talk about their sizing), I don’t like what they are trying to do either.  I really cannot fathom burning clothes.  Especially ones that don’t have rips or broken zippers.  Ahem.  (I mean, I have a Repurposing board on Pinterest, for goodness’ sake–we just don’t throw clothes away.)

I have only been in one of their stores once.  It was dark, and the music was way too loud, and we were stared down as we walked through.  We were there to exchange a gift that was the wrong size.  I left there with a headache and a general lack of being impressed at all.  I won’t ever go back in there.  I don’t need that kind of stress again.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t know why their clothes are “The Thing.”  I don’t get it.  Just like I don’t get why other brands of jeans without the comfort waistband or the ones that ride so low that when I bend over that I could get arrested are considered hip.  But whatever.  It’s his company, he can do as he pleases, as can I.  I vote with my dollar.  I can refuse to give him any of my money.  Which I do.  For many reasons, not the least of which is that his merchandise is way over-priced and they have had questionable labor practices.  (Do NOT get me started on fair trade issues tonight.)

So I guess I get that this young man is protesting.  He is asking us to vote with our actions.  I don’t think he meant any harm.  I just think he picked the wrong action.  Did you notice in the video that the people he is handing the clothes to are not sure of what is going on?  They seem hesitant?  I wonder if he got permission to share their faces all across the internet.  Because here’s the important thing to remember–

They are people.  Just like me.  And you.  There is no us and them.  We are all one.

If someone videoed me and showed it all over the place without checking with me first, I’d be really ticked off.  It feels like he is using them as props in his video and that really makes me sad.

In the past three years, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with folks, some of whom I call family, who have found themselves homeless at one point or another.  The reasons why vary as much as they themselves.  It is not a situation anyone chooses for him/herself.   And usually it’s not something that happens overnight.  But there it is.  And they have to live with it.  No, wait.  We all have to live with it.

I have learned a lot during these three years.  I have learned, among other things, that handing out “stuff” creates a have/have not relationship–and that’s not a healthy basis for any relationship.  I’m ashamed to say I know this from experience.

The director of the program we volunteer with has taught me a lot, and the stories I’ve heard would curl your hair.  There is one sweet lady who wanders around downtown with a shopping cart loaded down with full suitcases and other items.  One day when I was leaving the hospital from seeing Mama, the lady was trying to cross the street.  She started to push her cart ahead of her and then realized the light had changed.  She tried to stop it, but the cart was so heavy it pulled her into the street a few feet.  The last thing she needs is an A&F sweater to add to her load.   There was another lady who had a chance to stay in a shelter.  She was offered a ride there, but she insisted that she had to go back to the park and get her bags of stuff first.  She wouldn’t hear of anything else.  In doing so, she lost her spot at the shelter.  And the “stuff?”  Turns out much of it was baby or children’s clothing–and she has no children.  For quite a few of our friends in these circumstances, it is difficult for them to let go of things.

I guess some of what troubles me about the video is the nonchalance in his handing out the clothes…..there is no assessing need.  I mean, the man with the guitar on his back?  Did he really seem like he was going to hang on to it beyond the next corner?  It just hit me.  What hurts the most here is that there is NO RELATIONSHIP.  He is walking around handing out A&F clothes to people willy-nilly.  In trying to make a point to the A&F CEO, he’s making a point to the people he’s walking among.  If YOU wear this, it will really upset them.  Because you are not cool, you are not important, you are not good enough–not even good enough for me to do more than pull something out of my stack here and hand over whatever my hand touches to the next person I come across.

It’s based on his message, not the needs of those he’s “reaching out” to.

Ouch.

I heard the story about someone driving through the park tossing sandwiches out of their car at the folks sitting scattered through the park.  People, this breaks my heart.  We are called to feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe those who are in need.  These are active verbs.  As in action.  As in, engaging the other person and assessing.  Are they hungry?  Thirsty?  In need?  THE ONLY WAY to know this is to know the person.  Talk to them.  Build a relationship.  If we just hand out STUFF, we are only meeting one person’s need–our own.

I don’t mean to suggest that donating food and clothes to missions is wrong.  Not at all.  Missions have game plans and procedures for assessing needs and distributing accordingly.  Most of them do this well.  What I am saying is that when we come across people who are different, people without homes, from different faiths, from different cultures, with different beliefs–we need to see that we are one.  All differences aside–One people.  If even one is suffering, we are all suffering.  If one is objectified, we all are.  If one is downtrodden…..well, you get my point.  It’s simply not an us-them.

pic of liberation quote

So if the information shared in the video and the policies of A&F trouble you, think about it.  Consider how your voice can be heard.   And then Act.  That’s important.  But consider, before you act, whom your actions are affecting.   For in the end, we are all one, and what we do to one of us, we are doing to all of us.  And if even one of us is hurt by it…..it’s just not worth it.