Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
another page torn off the calendar and tucked away
to use for scratch paper
when I need to jot something down

not much has changed since yesterday
except now I can wear the white shoes
that I haven’t owned for about five or six years

(and what is that about–I used to
welcome spring by buying a new pair of
white sneakers every year while
the old ones were relegated to lawn
mowing duty)

and yet, today was a resurrection day
one of culling the old and worn
and the way things used to be
and allowing for new things to happen

one of laughter and
conversations about the best way to
cook a hot dog–turns out everyone
has their own opinion
and some folks *ahem* are quite
serious
about this

the sound of laughter all through the house
like a bell on the cat’s collar,
letting us know where the children are
at any given moment,
apparently mattress surfing is
pretty awesome
and time with your friends makes this
the “best Easter ever”

on days of resurrection and finding
joy in the most unlikely of places
things like chairs and socks can be sources of great
entertainment
and stories of goats
and why no one wants to take cake home
can have folks literally laughing out loud
and nearly rolling on the floor while doing it

and so as another season has come to pass,
and we can breathe a little easier
(figuratively only, because pollen)
with the focus and intensity of Lent behind us,
I write this all down so I can remember

this is what it felt like in the beginning
and a year from now
when we look back and see how far we’ve come
I hope it won’t be too far from this picture
we painted today

colorful and vibrant
unique and brilliant
like newly dyed Easter eggs

as we carry the soul of where it first began
with us
alongside the folks who have the oil to light our lamps
when we are running low

as together we travel
on unbroken ground

img_1877

Get Your Brave On

When I was at my lowest after first Daddy and then, fifteen months later, Mama passed, my baby sister Mess Cat sent me the song “Brave” Sara Bareilles, and said, “I just want to see you be brave.”

Brave?

BRAVE?!

I love her, but I just couldn’t hear that.  I wasn’t ready to.   Being brave was the furthest thing from my  mind.  Anger?  Yes. Despair?  For sure.  Pain?  Absolutely.  BROKEN and shaken to my core?  One hundred percent YES.

I was fairly for certain sure I had nothing remotely brave left in me.

And yet–

Today the song came on the radio.  I was singing along.  Where I once almost loathed the song because it required something of me that I just didn’t feel prepared to do, I now really, really like the song.  It was uplifting.  I was dancing along as I tidied up around here.

And that’s when it hit me.

All those days that I spent crying as I washed the dishes or stopping in the middle of moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, lost in thought, or the nights that supper was a sandwich and applesauce–all of those days, I was brave.  We all were.  We woke up to the knowledge that things had changed and would never be the same again, and yet–we didn’t run.  I might have stayed in bed a little longer.  Some days I didn’t change out of my hoodie and sweatpants.  Some days I left dishes in the sink until the next day.  (Okay, most days.)  Once I broke down crying in the middle of the grocery store and had to stop and check out and go home without getting most of what I was there for.  And as the years stretch out, the “some days” are farther apart, but they STILL happen.

But I haven’t given up yet.

I might have felt like it, I might have closed my eyes and taken afternoon naps for a week straight, but I never gave up.

And I think maybe that’s what my sister was saying.  She didn’t like seeing me give up.

Today I read the lyrics.  Not all apply to what we have gone through, but these lines stand out for me:

Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

I have some dear friends who are going through dark times and hard things–some of the hardest–right now. Today is our first time remembering my sweet friend’s birthday without her here.  I’m thinking about her family and how brave they are today and have been for so long now.  Another sweet friend is remembering her husband she misses with every breath.  She is so very brave. And yet another friend just said goodbye to her sweet Mama.  How brave is she, remembering her Mama with pictures and stories and loving on her children, smiling through her tears.  And then there’s my friend whose son just passed.  I hold him and all of his son’s family in my heart as they are all kinds of brave, doing the unthinkable.

You are brave too.  All those things that might have taken you down, but didn’t take you out–BRAVE.  There’s a meme going around about how you’ve made it through all of your hard times 100% of the time so far–YES.  YOU.  THAT.

BRAVE.

Mess Cat, I’m sorry I didn’t hear what you were saying back then, and that it has taken me three years for it to sink in.  But thank you.  It has indeed sunk in.

Listen, y’all.  We have all made it through 100% of the hard things–the broken and sad and devastating ones.  We are all still on the journey.  Even if you are sitting on the bench taking a break, YOU ARE DOING LIFE.  Let the light in.  We all have earned the right to wear this badge.

img_1723

Go forth and get your brave on.  You are amazing.

Love to all.

The Most Precious Part of the Goodbyes

Tonight we said goodbye to a place that we hold dear, Bare Bulb Coffee.  I wasn’t sure if I could or would be able to be there as the lights were turned out for the last time, but as the time grew closer, I knew I couldn’t be anywhere else.

img_1620

Driving up to the shop one last time. Sunsets can be so beautiful…..

A few of us who have shared many cups of coffee and moments together in that space gathered tonight to play games, sit and talk, have coffee.  We ordered some pizza and hung out–making precious memories that I hope all of these people I love will carry with them for a long time.  There were friends there whom I was with last night, and there were friends whom I haven’t seen in far too long.

It was an unofficial Bare Bulb reunion of sorts, and it was good.

What I will remember most are the laughter and the stories.  And how folks whom we hadn’t known as long were brought around the table with open arms just like those we’ve known for years.  I’ll remember that strangers were invited to share in the pizza and the celebration and the light.  One more time.

I’ll remember the smiles on the faces and the gentle strumming of a guitar.  The children on the stage, playing games and eating pizza and coloring signs as tributes to this place where they grew up.  I’ll remember ordering my large decaf, no room for anything one. last. time.  The smell of the coffee.  The sound of the beans grinding.  The glittery tiles on the coffee table, the cool feel of the tile on the big table where the group gathered for one more round of Apples to Apples.

img_1621

The thing I’ve noticed is that when we are saying goodbye to someone we love, there is one thing that is always a part of those moments.

The stories.

And tonight was no different.  I heard all the stories being shared, and it made my heart glad.

img_1624

Tonight I’m most thankful for the ones who have gathered there over the years and those who gathered tonight.  Thank you for filling this sacred space with laughter and all the stories that we can hold close and use to fuel the flame given to us by this special place.  That we sent her out with laughter and fun and friends who have become family is a gift I will always be grateful for.

img_1629

…..and there was. For ALL.

May we honor what Bare Bulb Coffee was and what she taught us by letting our light shine–even in the darkest of times.  Together.

Love–and light–to all.

img_1640

From the first moment my feet stood in this place to the last time tonight, this place has always been a sanctuary for me. Holding me close and allowing me space and grace to do what my heart and soul needed to do. Thank you, friends, for sharing the journey.

 

The One About the Parking Garage

The day my Aunt and I found ourselves in a parking garage was a day of rain and slick roads and hard things and laughter and stories and all the good things of being with someone you love and adore can be, despite what the Universe has going on around you.

Because, in case I haven’t mentioned it, I do love and adore her.

As we pulled into the garage, intent on parking and getting to our destination and reason for the nearly three hour trip, I began the descent (yes descent–interesting setup in that one) on the first deck.  I was remembering other times in parking garages maybe or maybe I was finally relaxing after driving through some heavy rain, not exactly sure of the route. Whatever the reason, I kind of zoned out. (Kind of nothing–I was in another world.)  I remember looking to my left and thinking it curious that I was still seeing an outside view even though we had circled down a couple of floors and should have been underground already. 

After making three complete circles of floors and not seeing a single parking space, my Aunt gently interrupted whatever was going on in my brain.

“You do know we are just circling around on the same level, don’t you?”

 

 

Ahem.

Well actually I didn’t.

All I could do was laugh.  She is the sweetest soul, and she was so gentle in her prodding me back to the present.  But y’all know as she rode shotgun and I didn’t do anything to go below to another deck that she had to have been thinking, “What the French toast is she doing?  No one is going to have pulled out of one of these spaces that quickly.”

With her help I finally figured out how to go down a level and then another.  It was on the third level below that we found the perfect spot.  One easily pulled into and out of, with plenty of space around it–excellent and desirable qualities in a parking garage parking space.

I’m pretty sure we laughed the whole way to the elevator that led back up to ground level. 

I’m thankful for my Aunt for so many reasons, but right now I’m thankful for her gentle prompting to keep me from continuing to go around in circles.

Because if she hadn’t y’all, I’d still be there right now.  Circling around.  Wondering how come no spots were opening up.

In this life we have those moments, don’t we? All of us.  When we get our wheels stuck.  Or we circle around and around, never really advancing or getting anywhere, unable to move forward.  Isn’t it nice when we have folks who love us enough to gently call us out on it, and then laugh with us when we wonder what on earth we had been thinking?

If you have one of those folks, give ’em a hug.  If you are one of those wonderful people who help the rest of us keep on keeping on, thank you.  Here’s a hug from me.  We need you in our lives, with your caring ways and gentle reminders of how to move forward.  Thank you.

Love to all.

Parking_Garage

By Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (Metro-North’s North White Plains Parking Garage) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

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.

One Thousand

About a week ago, I happened to notice my blog post count.  It’s not something I’ve watched since around number 500 or so.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the number and then counted on my fingers to discover that I would hit Post 1000 tonight.

IMG_0610

This is post 1000.

I’m smiling at the timing of this.  This, if you will pardon me, momentous occasion.  I set out in April of 2013 to write.  Everyday.  I thought maybe six months would suit, proving to myself I could stick with something.  But something unexpected happened–it became a habit.  One I grew to depend on.  A companion every evening, with whom I would sit down and share my thoughts or stories or woes.  There were a few evenings I would have rather been left alone, but I pushed through and my soul was better for it.

This has been good for my soul.

So after the six month mark, I continued, and then one year and two and two and a half, and now…..1000.

I have loved sharing my stories because in doing so, many of you have shared yours with me.  Stories are the very fibers of our lives, and I thrive upon them.  I love to sit and hear folks’ stories, just as I enjoy sharing mine.  When we listen, we learn and one of the most important things we learn is that we are more alike than not. WE. ARE. ALL. CONNECTED.

And so it is that the timing of this is so perfect.  For the first time in 103 days, all of the ones I am most connected to are all under one roof.  The Fella, who has been away for work for all this time, is home. Home!  (The fact that I bought a special bag of sweet potato chips just for him might tell you how excited I am.)  My Aub is finishing up the semester and tucked away in her room HERE studying.  Home!  I don’t dare interrupt, but knowing my girl who is one of my dearest friends is right here warms my heart.  All of my people.  Home.

I have big things going on–good things and wonderful things and challenging things.  I have a project that I’m going to put some loving hands to.  I have a coffee shop that I and others who love it are working to save.  I have a family who would probably like to eat something other than yogurt and blueberries or chicken wraps or cheese quesadillas for supper.  (Not that those are leaving the menu entirely, just so y’all know.)  In this season of chaos and all the busy things–good things–I seek a time of Advent.  Of preparation. My soul craves it.

During this season of Advent and reconnecting and rebuilding and recreating and remembering, I’m going to change things up a little bit.  Some days will be writing and sharing stories, but some days it will be 1000 words.  As in a picture is worth a…..

I’m no photographer by any means, but there are moments and things during the day that touch my heart, and I look forward to sharing those with you.

Tonight I am thankful for all of you–my friends and family and others whom I’ve never formally met who take the time to read the stories, to hear the words, and to feel all the things along with me .  For those of you who share my words with others, thank you.  I give thanks for the stories you have shared with me which touch my heart and make me laugh or weep or think.  Thank you.

And tonight I’m thankful for the Fella being home safe.  Where he belongs.  Not just because I need someone to tell me Miss Sophie is okay or haul off the recycling or help us move the scarecrow and pumpkins so the nativity can be put up in the yard.  Because he is loved and as Cooter put it, “Daddy is one of my shining lights.”  I’m thankful this semester is almost over for Aub, who has worked and studied and performed and written and volunteered and made beautiful music.  She amazes and inspires me.  I look forward to cuddling in front of the fire with my littles and reading stories of Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien and making all the merry memories.  I am excited about my project, and I am hopeful for our coffeeshop.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to quieting my soul and listening.  Listening to hear the whispered stories of my past and the story of where I am meant to go, and dreaming of what may come.

Thank you all for sharing the journey.  I look forward to continuing onward with you however it may look, sharing the light and love and laughter.

Love to all.

12313954_10208407321560027_6895210283033568168_n

 

Telling Folks Where to Go

So there was this sign out yesterday a couple of streets over, advertising that there was going to be a neighborhood meeting tonight.  I texted with my sweet neighborfriend, curious if she or her husband were planning on attending.  I had a question or two, and I’d been trying to figure out how I could make it work so I could go.  But it wasn’t looking promising.

“Probably not,” she wrote back.  “It doesn’t even say where it is.”

Huh.  You know what, she was absolutely right.

Y’all, there I’d been spinning my wheels trying to head in a direction that I didn’t have a clue about.

Not the first time that’s happened on this journey.  I found it ironic that in all of my planning and thinking it all through, the ultimate direction I needed to go wasn’t even part of the equation.

All too often, my friends.  All too often.

This evening I sat at the pool, watching Cooter practice and trying to keep from getting chilled (it was in the 60’s–brrrr!), and I thought about the folks at the meeting.  The ones who planned it and set the sign out, letting the rest of us know about it.

Don’t you know they were sitting over there (Wherever THERE was), wondering why no one else was showing up?

Folks, if you don’t tell people where you are, how are they going to meet you there?

I have friends who are able to speak to their pain, their sadness, their worries, their struggles, and I admire them for that.  We can’t walk alongside them, toting a light to help see the path or help them up when they stumble if we don’t know WHERE THEY ARE, can we?

And yet, how often do we think we’re leaving signs that we are struggling or upset or overwhelmed and get our feelings hurt when no one shows up to say, “I’m here–  I’ll sit with you in this darkness,” when we would be so much better off if we just came out and said exactly how we are hurting?

No?  Just me?  Okay then.

Tonight I’m thankful for my neighborfriend reminding me that if we don’t have directions, there’s no sense in worrying over if we can get there or not.  And I’m thankful for the folks who speak from their hearts and let me know where they are and how I can help.  Most of all, I give thanks for the ones who come to my side when I do speak up about the hard things, when I show them where I am.  I couldn’t keep traipsing along without them.

addmap

Leave a map, y’all.  Folks want to be there, but you have to be brave and let them know where you are.

Love to all.