Running for Love

From rising before the crack of dawn to walking with Miss Sophie this evening, from the icy chill of early morning to the warmth of the afternoon sun, today has brought a plethora of images of new life and sweet life.

The last of the blooms on a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

The last of the blooms on what I believe is a Japanese magnolia at my favorite campus.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny's farm.  I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

These sweet yellow flowers remind me of my Granny’s farm. I love them and all the warm fuzzies they bring.

 

This tree has been bare all winter.  Look at that beautiful green!

This tree has been bare all winter. Look at that beautiful green!

 

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky.  I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

Each of these leaves was smaller than the tip of my pinky. I love to see some baby goats and baby puppies and babies of all sorts and kinds, but baby leaves are pretty cute too I think.

 

And for the sweet.  Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears.  It's Easter, why not?

And for the sweet. Cinnamon rolls thrown in the oven when we got back home, and our Princess decided to top hers with her all-natural gummy bears. It’s Easter, why not?

 

But the sweetest image I can only picture in my head.

My brother, who is a minister, called me after church today.  He was, in his own words, honored to be the one to give the sermon at their Community Sunrise service this morning.  When he told me what he talked about, my heart was full, and I wanted to give him the biggest hug.

But it’s not geographically possible right now.

He talked about the story found in the Good Book in John 20–the story of John running for the tomb.  My brother pointed out how grownups don’t run toward something like that very often, so filled with love and passion.  He’s right, isn’t he?  Children seem to have cornered the market for running with joyful abandon, but not us adults.

Except for my brother.  He runs and chases his children. And mine.  And Mess Cat’s little guy.  He’s good at that.  So much so that his presence is requested outside at least once every day when they are here.

Children like to run towards someone or something they are excited about, something or someone who fills them with joy.  Children also like to be chased.  Pursued.

I love this story, and what it challenges me to do.

I need to seek joy.  Pursue it.  Run towards it.  Run towards the new life that can come from loving all and from caring and showing compassion.  Forgetting what I look like while I’m doing it, I need to run hard and catch that joy.

Who in your world needs someone running towards them?  Who needs someone in pursuit of them because they are loved and cared about, so they can see and feel that?

May we all find what makes us run with joyful abandon towards it.

Love to all.

A Theology Lesson from Cooter

What would you do when your seven-year old young’un has done “run oft” when he’s supposed to be doing his school lessons?

Yeah, me too.

What if you find him curled up on the couch reading a book?

Yeah, it’s a little harder to be firm, but still, he needs to work on his handwriting and his math, right?

Yes.  He does.  Trust me on this.

What if said book that he is curled up with is the Good Book?

I know.  I know.  I got nothing.

I did tell him to please put it away and come back to work on his writing.  After all, adjectives are fun too.

He turned over with his Bible, and said, “Oh man, I want to read the Bible.  I want to see what happens.  Did you know that God just said it, and it happened.  He said words and they showed up–‘Light!’ ‘Animals!’ ‘Plants!’ ‘Oceans!’ Wow!”

Oh y’all.  How do you argue with that?

Finally he did come back to working on writing his sentences all about Star Wars (thankful for the soul that came up with the idea of Math, Reading, and Writing workbooks that are Star Wars-centric! No way she’s getting paid enough–and yes, I’m sure it’s a woman–a woman who has pulled her hair out trying to get her child to quit talking about Star Wars and get.his.schoolwork.done).  He circled the nouns and underlined the adjectives like a pro.  Finally.

Still, he loves to talk while he’s doing all of this.  This little guy who did not talk much and had me quite worried about it until he was well over two years old.

He’s been making up for it ever since.

Which, don’t get me wrong, I love hearing his voice.  And his thoughts.  It’s just that when his 9-year-old sister is sitting next to him trying to focus on word problems and times tables and begging me to buy her ear plugs…..it’s not conducive to the “happy happy happy” place I like to be.

Oh me.

So today he was writing and talking–not both at the same time mind you–and he says, following up on his question from earlier about did Jesus die on a Sunday, “Jesus got betrayed because his friend thought that God was going to change things in the world with love.”

Yeah he did.

The way my little guy said “love.”  I realize his perception of the story is a little south of standard but still, I almost started bawling.  For all of his chattering, there’s some deep stuff flowing in there too.  And it’s not all Star Wars either.

Because then he said, “I love reading the Bible.  It’s why I’m a new person everyday.”

For the love.

What do I even do with that?

Say, “Hush up now and finish your schoolwork”?

No.  You just can’t, can you?

We have days like this.  Days when things are good, even if the book learnin’ doesn’t necessarily go as planned.

When my children are thinking and the thoughts they share are fascinating.

And then there are days like yesterday (which usually outweigh the ones like today) when he was writing his Star Wars sentences and every time he was supposed to use the letter “b” he wrote it “B.”

“Cooter, why are you using capital B’s everywhere?  Those are supposed to be lower case.  Do you see that?”

He nodded as his tongue worked the side of his mouth and he continued writing.

“Yes ma’am.”  He kept writing.  “But the big ones are more fun to write.”

Oh.  Well.

Excuse me.

Since you put it that way…..

still.  No.

This raising children is surely an adventure and teaching them at home is sometimes like an adventure on steroids.  All in the same day I get to hear the history of the world according to Star Wars, how the world was actually created according to the Good Book, how many Legos it takes to build a cantina from Star Wars, moans and groans about one more page of writing or math (depends on the day), and that people were afraid of how love would change the world.

That last one–I think some folks still are, don’t you?  Afraid of loving all like God and how that might change the world?

But that’s a story for another night.

Tonight I’m thankful for a day full of good things–of teaching my children and seeing some of it stick, of working alongside them to clean up or prepare a meal, of listening to their jokes, hopes, dreams, silly stories, and fears.  I give thanks that I often learn more than I teach when I hang out with this crew.  That their hearts and minds seem to be growing in the right direction–that means everything to me.  And that they know that love can change the world?

That.  Right.  There.

Now if only I can get him to give up those “fun to write” capital B’s.

Baby steps.  baby steps.

Love, the world-changing kind, to all.

 

 

Perseverance, Bobs, and The Ones Who Took the Call

It’s been almost a year since I stared disappointment in the face, since our Princess found out that she wasn’t being invited to try out for the swim team.  That was one of those defining moments for me as a parent, and it broke my heart.

What a difference a year makes.  She and Cooter took lessons at the beginning of June this year.   Once again, our girl was disappointed not to be selected, but she bore it well.  She knew she had another round of classes, and she set her mind to just keep trying.

For the past two weeks she has done just that.

She has gotten stronger in her strokes, and her endurance is better.  She can go the whole length of the pool without me having to will her there.  (Okay, that’s what it felt like people.)  Her backstroke is beautiful to behold.  She set her mind to it, and today, this happened:

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Oh, the excitement!  The sheer joy in that sweet face.  In the words of our Princess, “It made the past two years all worth it.”  Yes baby, it did.

It’s funny her take on it.  Last night she had written herself a note on a Wesleyan College (her future alma mater, she insists) sticky pad.  It said, “Last day!  🙂  Make it BIG.”  I was overjoyed to see her cheering herself on–thinking positively.

“Mama, you know that note I wrote myself?”  I nodded from the driver’s seat as we pulled away this morning.  “Yeah, well I think it was good luck.  I’m glad I wrote it.”

Ahem.  How far do you let this go?  Me?  Not far apparently.

“Well baby, I’m glad you wrote yourself that note, and I’m so happy you have been invited to try out, but all of that happened because of your hard work.  You set your mind to it and you practiced.  You got stronger, and you listened to your instructor’s directions.  You did well, and you earned this.”

“Yes ma’am.”  She paused.  Okay, good, she’s hearing me.  “But imagine if I hadn’t written it.”

Oh my.  *sigh*

I’m proud of her.  I’m proud of her for applying herself and for her determination, but what I’m most proud of her for are the bobs.

She and another girl who was also hopeful about meeting the requirements had just completed the swim back from the other end of the pool.  She told me they did their bobs while waiting for the other two students to swim back.  (Bobs–they duck their heads under the water while holding their breath and blowing air out of their noses.)

“But these weren’t ordinary bobs, Mama.  They were special.  They were hope bobs.”

“Hope bobs?”

“Yes ma’am.  Because we were hoping we’d made it.”

Ahhh.

Then the third girl made her way back.  Only she wasn’t able to swim the whole way without stopping.  By the time she reached the end where Princess was, the little girl was in tears…..”because she was sad she wasn’t going to make it.  It was her Mama’s dream for her to be on the swim team.”

Oh.  My.

I nodded, not being able to find appropriate words in the moment.

“So we did some more bobs.  We did think bobs.”

“Think bobs?”

“So we could think of how we could cheer her up.  Then we told her she did a good job, and that if she didn’t make it, she could try again.”

That.  That right there.  That’s why I’m proud of my sweet girl today.  She has such a precious heart that sometimes it overwhelms me.  Imagine what life would be like if more of us took the time to do “think bobs” and “hope bobs.”  Beautiful.

As we were leaving the pool today, bubbly and excited with more than one of us beaming from ear to ear, we talked about the day–our Princess’ exciting news and how Cooter had learned to dive into the deep end of the pool.  (And he is phenomenal diver–he literally takes my breath away each time he goes.)  I asked Princess if there was anyone she’d like to share the news with.  She called Mess Cat, Leroy, and my Aunt.  Each time her joy was new and fresh, and I wanted to cry.  I am so thankful that she has people she wants to share it with (all of the requests were her own), and I am even more thankful that they took the call and celebrated with her.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about the ones she couldn’t call, but whom I’m sure were celebrating her stick-to-itiveness right along with the rest of us.

And I thought about the words I’ve heard so often through the years.

The Lord gives and the Lord taketh away. 

That’s from the Good Book, from the book of Job.  If ever a fellow lived that, it was he.  He had a time of it.  And I reckon that in the past four three years I’ve felt more compassion for him that I ever did before.

But today…..today I decided the order of that was all wrong.  (No offense intended to the biblical scholars in our midst.)

Today it felt more like “The Lord taketh away, and the Lord gives.”

Because in the midst of missing my Mama and my Daddy and all the others whom we’ve loved and who have journeyed beyond the veil, there has never been a moment when someone didn’t step in and love on me, on us.  Not replacing them, mind you, but sharing light and love and lifting our spirits just when we needed it the most.  Like today.

My parents are no longer here where we can see them, but when I look around with eyes that will see and listen with ears that will hear and I-get-myself-off-my-pity-pot, I am in awe of the gifts we have been given in those who stand beside us, with us.  Those who curl up next to us when we are too tired to go on.  Who wait patiently and encourage and love and…..

it’s almost too much to wrap my brain around.

Life is good.

My children have had the privilege of learning to be safe in the water.  They have learned a lot, including the important lesson that hard work can eventually pay off.  And they’ve learned that people and their feelings and relationships are the most important aspects of our being.  I am fortunate beyond comprehension to have the people in my life that I do who love on my babies–all of them–as though they were their own.  Because they are their own.  We belong to each other in this life, and that is a sweet, precious thing.

I’m off to do some gratitude bobs.  Because tonight my heart is full to bustin’.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

The Number That I’m Most Afraid Of

Yes.  There is a number I’m afraid of.  You read that right.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

It’s 70 x 7.

490 literally.

But I’m afraid it was symbolic, so it could be any number, infinity, or #asmanytimesasittakes.

None of them an easy pill to swallow.  Or anything I can or really want to wrap my brain around.  For sure, not my heart.

In the book of Matthew in the Good Book, that number is given.  In response to the question, “How many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me?  Seven?”

“Seven? Hardly.  Try seventy times seven.”

Oh my.

Y’all.  Imagine if someone hurt you.  Bad.  Knowingly.  Willingly.  Showing no remorse.  And hurt others too.  Ones you love.  What do you do with that?  How do you forgive that seventy times seven times?

I’ll tell you where I am at in this.  I’m still working on number one.

I have put it behind me.  Yes.  Moved on.  Yes.  Days go by I don’t think about it anymore.  But when my memory confronts my heart, my heart still folds its hypothetical arms and shakes its little head and walks off with a frown and a heavy weight bearing down.  Just.  No.

How am I supposed to do that?  How can I forgive someone who has never asked for my forgiveness?  Who has, with a great degree of arrogance and to any one who would listen, indicated that I was/am/always will be the problem.

I don’t even know.

It makes me very sad.

I know the words of the Lord’s prayer.  And how some folks say they can’t pray the words “Forgive me…..AS I forgive them” because they haven’t been able to forgive yet.

And I know the rest of that story from the Good Book about how often we are called to forgive.  How the King forgave his servant who owed him a great deal when the servant asked him to.  How the huge debt was erased.  And how almost immediately the forgiven one came across a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small amount, and even though his debtor begged for forgiveness, he did not grant it and had his fellow servant thrown in jail.

The end of the story is that the folks who saw all of this happen were appalled.  They went and told the King, who was furious.  He confronted the servant and asked why he couldn’t forgive someone when he had been forgiven such a great debt.  Then he made the servant pay back the great amount he owed.

I get it.

I am given grace beyond measure.  I am forgiven multiple times every day.  Always.  I am thankful.  Humbled.  Blown away even.  And appreciative–did I mention I was thankful? I know I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it.  At all.

But 490? Or as many times as it takes?  Do You really know what that person did to me?  Have You been following this storyline closely?  Are You aware?  Because if You have, surely You wouldn’t be asking this of me.  You’d know it’s beyond forgiveness, right?  Right?  Rig–

*sigh*

I don’t have any answers tonight.  No ideas for how to get over this hurdle.  I’ve been hurt by folks before and was able to move right along, eventually forgiving, forgetting, even becoming good friends after all was said and done.  Thankful for them in my life.

But this one.  This One. Is. Very.  Difficult.

So if you struggle with a pain or hurt that you can’t get past, know you’re not alone.  I’m not saying we’re right in being where we are, just that we are in this boat together, floating around in the darkness looking for a  way out of the murkiness of hurt and frustration.

And if that number seems way too big for you like it does for me, maybe we should just break it down and work on forgiving in this moment right here.  Just this very one, not looking beyond it.  Not for them–the ones who hurt us–but for us.  So we can leave the darkness.

Love and Light to all.

 

 

Dream a Little Dream With Me

Today is Epiphany.

Yes, the twelve days of Christmas are over.  We spent much of the afternoon putting away our Christmas and tidying up.  And I made it through it.  Only this year, I made no promises to myself about where we would be when the boxes were opened again.

So on with Epiphany, the day marked to honor the theophany of the infant Jesus to the Magi, the Wise Men.  (theophany–my new word for today–it means “the appearance of a deity to a human”)

I love the story.  The Magi set out looking for the one born to be King of the Jews.  They had seen a star indicating that he had been born.  They went to Jerusalem and started asking how to find him.  When King Herod, a rather jealous king, heard about this, he became worried.  He told them to go find this newborn king and then come back and tell him where the baby was so he could go and worship him too.

Yeah, right, Herod.  I see what you did there.

The Magi continued on their journey, and then…..

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.   –Matthew 2:11-12, The Message

Here’s what I love most about the story.  They were there for the right reasons.  They were there to worship the newborn King, not serve Herod and his priorities.

But then there’s this–“In a dream, they…..”

When have you ever dreamed with another person?  Never, right?  So these Magi–some say scholars, others say kings–each of them had a dream…..individually.  I’d love to have been a fly on the wall the next morning.

“Ummm,” one of them takes a big gulp of his coffee, looking for some way to put his thoughts into words.  “I know we all were on board with this plan to go back to Herod and tell him so he can come worship as he said, but…..” Another gulp of coffee.  “Oh never mind.”

Another one, slightly stooped as he rolls up his knapsack, speaks with his slow and deep voice, a voice that makes you listen for the wisdom therein.  “No brother, what were you going to say?  I want to hear it.”

The first one shakes his head.  “No the lack of sleep and the excitement of the past few days, all of that has my mind a little mixed up.  It’s nothing.  Let’s head on out.”

Still another one, the youngest of the travelers, speaks up.  “Well I don’t know about any of you but I didn’t sleep very well.  I dreamt all night.  And such vivid dreams.  They gave me no rest or peace.”

The second man, finished with his journey preparations, leans against his pack and says,  “Dreams?  Really?  Tell us about them.”

The dreamer shakes his head.  “Man, I’m telling you, it was so real.  But still nothing for us to base any decisions on.  I guess I’m just worried about the trip back.  That’s probably all it is.”  He pauses.  Then he slaps his thigh with his right hand and looks at the others rather sheepishly.  “Okay, all right, y’all are never going to believe this, but I dreamed we shouldn’t go back to Herod….we should go back another way and head home without even stopping back by like we said we would.  Is that crazy or what?!”

Eyes pop and mouths open with disbelief.

“I had that dream too!” “I can’t believe it, that was my dream too!”  “But what can this mean?”  “So should we follow what we were all told in our dreams or are we heading back to Herod?”

I love it.  I don’t know that this is how it played out–all we are given is one verse for what I think is a very important part of the story…..they were told in a dream, they went back another way.  The End.

But it’s not.  As we listened to this story at Evening Prayer last night, I thought again about how this might have happened.  Thank goodness they were obedient, yes, but I am really thankful that the first one spoke up about the dream.  Can you imagine the tension inside each one (much like the tension inside of me when a dream is rambling around looking for a way out), fearing that he would have to be the one to share what his dream was–to the disbelief and scowling looks of his fellow travelers?  That he would have to be the one to look crazy? And yet, share it he must.  Did any one of them understand the real importance of the dream?  The importance of obedience?  Thank goodness at least one did.  And it was a very good thing.

But here’s the lesson that sticks with me, in my mind and my heart, from this story.

Never be afraid to share your dreams.

Who know who else has also been given that dream to make it happen….with you?

And that’s what I know.  In this year of “with,” in this life of with, I know that nothing I am to do is me and me alone.  Our dreams can only come to fruition if shared with others, and if we all work together toward reaching that star…..it is there we will find the Gift it shines to honor.

Share your dreams, even if they seem crazy; who knows what good and right things can come from it?

For the fun of it, from a show we watched every Christmas.  I seem to particularly remember Daddy loving this show–

Finally, a great song about dreaming from one of my favorite musicals–and yes that is Mr. Donny Osmond…..