far worse than a tummyache

my little guy came in from his shower tonight,

crying with a tummyache

he couldn’t decide if it was hunger

or something else

I treated it with a ginger cookie,

a cold drink, and love

 

and I thought about how thankful I am

that tummyaches are treatable

and how I hope he is still years away

from the untreatable, unfixable ache

 

that of the heart

 

when the heart is in pain

there is no cure

but time,

and even that is never a steady

or hurried or permanent fix

 

the symptoms can return

at any time

 

tears, panic, sadness, worry,

not understanding,

wondering why

 

the pain of losing someone,

of watching justice come undone

at the hands of those we trusted,

the people who make promises

and then soon forget,

those who misuse the power

and leave folks hurting and in need,

those who forget about loving people first

and getting ahead second

 

the hurt and pain can come back again

and again

despite the passage of time

 

and as I watch his peaceful slumber

no trace of pain left to see

I am thankful for ginger cookies

and cold drinks

and those little hands I love to hold

and I wish I could find something

that would give me and my heart

a peaceful night of rest

as well

 

the pain of heartache–

of questioning why–

can be hidden behind a mask

and carried well over time,

but in the dark of night

and the quiet of the solitude,

the questions echo loudly–

and the pain becomes once again

an open, gaping wound

that knows no cure

 

and so we love…..

and wait.

 

 

 

“When they see the love you have for each other…..”

 

My Mama had rules for living–she *ahem* shared them with us on a regular basis.  I think maybe her number one rule was this–

“Don’t leave anyone out.” 

I heard her say this so many times to us growing up.  When we driving up the dirt road that led to Granny’s house.  Sometimes we didn’t know if any of our cousins would be there, but she’d just about always turn around from the front seat and say, “Don’t y’all leave anyone out.  Play with everyone.  Y’all make space for everybody.”

Yes ma’am.  She’d say it when we had friends over.  Or when it was just the four of us.  With the dynamics of three girls and a baby boy, with nine years span between oldest and youngest, she probably said it way more than she cared to.  “Don’t leave anyone out.  Y’all play nice.”

I knew she was serious.

I was more afraid to be caught leaving someone out than to be caught in “telling a story (fib)” or not doing my chores.  I’m not kidding.  She didn’t play about this.

So much so that it was impressed upon me and became my rule too.  I’ve said the same thing to my own children many, many times.

Tonight I told them this again.  I looked my two littles–our Princess and Cooter–in the eyes and I told them I wanted them to remember something very important.

“Y’all, I want you always to remember not to leave other folks out.”

“Why, Mama?” our Princess asked.  “Did we do something?”

“No, baby,” I touched her hand.  “Y’all are fine.  Just please remember this is important to me.  It hurts other people if you don’t include them.  Now if they aren’t playing right, you can walk away and find me or Daddy or Baba, but don’t ever leave someone out on purpose.  It’s hurtful.”

“But Mama, we didn’t do that.  Why are you telling us this?”

Aub sat on the couch and listened.  She knew where I was coming from and where I was going.  And why.

“Well, some big people are leaving some folks out and that makes me very sad.  I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to do, is it?  I don’t think that that’s right.”

Out of nowhere Cooter said, with his booming voice and exaggerated waving arms, “Well, I’m just listening to God on this.”

Well, okay then buddy.  Sounds like a plan.

Because you know what?  I don’t get it.  I read the same Good Book that others do, and what seems to be pretty much the number one rule after loving the Artist who created us, is to love.  Love one another.  Our neighbors.  There’s no other specifications beyond those words.  No one listed not to love.  Love one another.  All.

Sounds kind of similar to my Mama’s rule–not leaving anyone out of the love and playing nice.

Umm, yeah.

My Mama used to quote that one about loving folks to us a lot too.  She loved the words in that Book. Dearly loved them.  And lived them too.

This afternoon Aub and I found out through a Facebook post that World Vision reversed their decision that was announced yesterday.  Because of the folks who threatened or did withdraw their support and sponsorships, they rethought their position and declared today that they were reversing their decision that allowed the hiring of Christians who are in same-sex marriages.

To be honest, call me naïve-gullible even, but I was shocked.  We’ve been a bit mournful around here.  Sad.  Yes, sad.  And feeling a bit betrayed.

However–

what I wrote last night still stands.  This organization is doing great things for children in need in the world.  For that I am thankful.  And for those who decided in the past 24 hours to sponsor a child as a way to support World Vision’s decision to be more accepting, my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping that they will continue to sponsor these children in need.  Even though the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, another thing I said last night still stands–these children did nothing to deserve this.  Don’t make them suffer for any decisions that are being made.  We are called to love, and that’s what we should continue to do.

And yet, my heart aches for those who felt like they were finally being included, being invited to join in “Red Rover” or “Colored Ribbons” or freeze tag.  Or kickball.  Only to find themselves once again pushed off to the side, last ones picked for the team…..or never chosen at all.  Just kidding, y’all, we didn’t really mean to include you.

Tears.

I hear my Mama telling us in “that” tone of voice to behave, mind our p’s and q’s, and be kind to each other.  I see Aub huddled on the couch, taking time from her studies to read the hurtful things people said in response to yesterday’s announcement and the comments from today of people proclaiming victory in the name of the Very One who embraced and loved and hung out with the broken and the lost and the cast aside.  Just no.  Please.  And I see, through tears that I am holding back, the faces of my littles wondering what other reasons there could be for leaving someone out besides them not sharing their bicycle or for going inside to eat supper early.  This is one of those hard things to talk to them about–like the death of good people we love or why folks went to Africa and took people away from their homes and made them work for nothing.

There’s just some things I can’t explain to them enough for it to make sense.

Because it. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

And that hurts.  And makes me mad.

That small train engine that stopped traffic yesterday as though it were a train engine pulling 100 cars gives me hope.  That’s why I had to find my voice.  I almost didn’t speak up.  I was worried about alienating or hurting my friends who believe differently.  The thing is I respect that folks can believe differently than I do.  I can still be friends and show respect, but I can no longer respect myself if I don’t say when I think something is wrong.  Which is why I couldn’t leave it to my eighteen year old to be the only one crying out “Not fair.”  I have to be able to look in all three of my children’s eyes and know I tried my best to change things for the better, that I didn’t just leave it for them to do.

We have a long way to go, and the past two days have proven that.  We have people–real people with names and faces and families and broken stories living on the streets and in the woods, in bus terminals and empty parking garages.  We have people who are turning their backs on their neighbors, the very ones they are called to love, because they are different.  And we are using words–words from the very same Book that tells us to love–to point fingers and draw lines of division and pain and hurt.

And it’s time to stop.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. –John 13:34-35 MSG 

This is how everyone will recognize you…..oh my.

Old, old words.

Calling us to a new way of living.

Even today.

Especially today.

This loving folks and living large is hard.

And yet, it’s all there is…..

Love.  To.  All.

Does the Mayor Know About This?

Official seal of City of Macon

Official seal of City of Macon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last Tuesday was election day in Macon.  There were signs all over for the Mayoral race.  Pretty heated I think, with a former mayor running against the current mayor, with several others thrown in to keep things really interesting.  And all of this being beside the point, as I don’t live or vote in Bibb County.

However, as we drove on election day from the more affluent side of Macon to the destitute visage of downtown, I guess our Princess noticed the signs and asked some questions.  Like, what were the signs for? (election) What does a mayor do? (help run the city) She knew about voting because both she and her brother joined me during the last election I voted in.

Finally she asked, as we headed toward Daybreak for our time with our Sister Circle, “Mama, does the Mayor even know about all the people who are homeless?  All the ones who don’t have enough to eat?  Does he even care?  Does he want to help them?”

Bless her.

These questions were asked with such imperative sincerity that it made me just about cry.  She struggles with the idea that people could be without homes, even after three years of hearing their stories and getting close to people in these circumstances…..she still can’t understand why.  When she sees empty houses, she is convinced that is the solution.  All those for sale out here where we live?  That could solve the problem.

I listened to her questions and told her we could talk to our friend who helps run the programs at Daybreak to see if she thought the Mayor knew.  Then I asked her if she would talk to the Mayor and tell him if he didn’t already know.  She was reticent at first, but I believe she would.  She feels just that strongly.

Before the Sunday night suppers we volunteered with joined up with Daybreak, it was known as “Come to the Fountain.”  My littles know that, as there have been a few occasions where we gathered downtown to serve dessert and coffee on Thanksgiving or breakfast at Christmas.  But I don’t know if they knew the story of why it was moved to Central City Park before Daybreak was built.  This afternoon on our way home from Sister Circle and Daybreak, they started asking me about it.  I told them the truth as I knew it.  That some of the downtown businesses would rather not have folks who are in need, as our friends are, hanging around where their potential customers could see them.

Oh the beauty of innocent indignation!  “What?” our Princess asked.  “Are you kidding me?  Does the Mayor know about this?”

I love her.

I love that she thinks that one person in charge can make a difference and would even want to.  I love that she is on her way to being a champion for those who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t have a voice.  She can be such sunshine and joy in our lives, but when she gets her mind and heart stuck on something, she’s much like a teething puppy grabbing one’s pants leg.  Ahem.  She just won’t let go.  She genuinely cares and her heart is troubled.  She is not going to stand by and let things just happen.  Not if she knows it’s not right.  She’s a lot like her big sister in that respect.  I am so thankful and scared to death to be raising these strong women.

I really don’t want to mess this up.  I want to do the right thing for her.  I want her to know she is being heard–that her voice matters, even at her age.  Her thoughts are important, and I want her problem-solving skills to continue to grow.  I wonder how much longer I will let these questions go on before I make a call to the Mayor’s office and set up an appointment.  And I wonder how he will respond to the advice and thoughts and suggestions of an almost nine year old.

Eh, he’s probably had worst advisors.

Just sayin’.

Folks, y’all go and let your voice be heard.  About things that really matter.  And take some time to listen to the voices of those around you.  It’s going to take all of us getting mighty creative to straighten this mess out.  As we talked about in our Sister Circle today, the seventh principle about living gracefully in community is, as written by the Magdalene women of Thistle Farms, “Make a small change, see the big difference.”

It doesn’t matter how small, whether nearly 9 or 19 or 97–all voices matter.  And can make the change the world so craves and needs.  It all starts with listening.

The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms.  www.thistlefarms.org

The 7th principle of living gracefully in community from the women of Magdalene of Thistle Farms. http://www.thistlefarms.org

Honk Less. Seek More.

This afternoon I stood outside visiting with another volunteer and friend at the Daybreak Shelter during the family style picnic we go to each week.   One of our friends came up and started a conversation.

“See that grass?” he asked, pointing at the newly laid sod.  I nodded.  “Yeah, if they had put fertilizer on it right before that big rain the other day, it would be taking off about now.  But they didn’t.  And look at it.”

I thought for a second.  “You mean some 10-10-10?” I asked.

He continued.  “Yeah, that’s right.  That sure would have helped.  See if they put that on there, it would really grow.”

I kicked my shoe on the sidewalk, trying to figure out how to phrase what I wanted to say.  I tried to speak gently.  “I’m afraid you’re telling the wrong person about this.  Is there someone you could tell that could make it happen?”

He laughed.  “No.  No one will listen. Besides it’s too late.  The rain is over.  It’s just going to take a long time now.”  He continued to bemoan the fate of the new grass.

How many times do we do this?  Tell everyone but the one we should about our problems or issues or concerns.  Everyone but THE one who could do something.

I did not want to write this tonight.  But it has been all my mind ever since.

Why?

Because I am guilty.

GUIL-T.

I don’t fault others or myself for talking things through with someone.  Not at all.  It is important to have a good sounding board, someone who will listen and make suggestions on how you could best handle a situation.  But in the end?  The only way to resolve it and to make things happen is to address it with the other person or people who COULD make a change.  (You getting all this, Tara?  Um yeah, I’m writing it down.)

I remember talking a situation over with Daddy a few years ago.  Numerous times.  The same old thing.  And, after several conversations, his response was pretty much, “Why are you telling me all this?  I can’t do anything about it.”  Finally I got his point.  He couldn’t.  But I could.

Daddy was right.  Too often we do just what my friend was doing. We hem and haw about something that is going on, but when it comes down to it, we do not ACT.  How many times do we complain about a work situation with everyone but the person in charge?  How often do we put our concerns aside, thinking it is too late or our voice won’t matter? How many times do we feel our heart breaking over the plight of a group of people, but tell ourselves no one will listen?

Listen.  I know.  I am guilty of this, but I also know I have to stop.  The grass is greener on the other side because someone saw a need and didn’t just talk about it; they acted.  If we are going to change the world, our communities, our neighborhoods, our homes, our RELATIONSHIPS–if we are going to stand for justice and the well-being of ourselves and others, we have to stop just talking about it.  We have to go to the folks who can either take action or help US to do so.

I saw this picture of a great bumper sticker the other day.   I love this.

This.  Yes.

This. Yes.

I think I will stick this to my mirror.  So I can remember and recommit every morning–I’m going to quit honking so much, and I.  Will.  Act.

Tonight I’m thankful for my Daddy who empowered me to go to the source, who taught me I could do anything I set my mind to, and who helped me to have confidence in approaching someone with a concern, a plan, a dream.  I am thankful for friends and family who dream with me, who listen to me “honk,” and who then hold me accountable to do the seeking, to act.  Most of all, I am thankful for this gift of grace, that tomorrow I can start anew, with the commitment to honk less, seek more.   This.  Yes, I think so.  Y’all in?