Working Out

It was June, I think, or maybe July.  I’m not sure.  I know it was very hot.  And that Daddy was still going for treatments at the Cancer Center.

This particular day Daddy’s physical therapist, Miss Ida, whom I loved and adored from my own visit to the PT office where she worked, had helped get Daddy situated in the passenger seat of Mama’s car.  Mama got in the back, and I drove the two of them down and over to Highway 96 where the Center is located about twenty minutes away from the house.

When we got there, I pulled up under the breezeway to let Daddy out as close to the door as possible.  Mama went in and came back with a wheelchair.  I helped Daddy turn his legs around, and then we wrapped his arms around my neck, and I lifted while he tried to help.

At this point the lymphoma was zapping his strength and his broken hip from a few months before, though healing, was hindering his physical abilities as well.  I lifted, but my efforts did little to get him from the car to the chair.  We tried again, and I got him up a few inches.  And then…..

I almost dropped him.

He almost fell onto the edge of the car and to the pavement below.

I was mortified.  Daddy was fine, but still.  WHAT IF?

A kind soul happened upon us then–no coincidence at all–and she came right over, enveloped my Daddy in her arms, gently placed him in the wheelchair, waved off our thanks, and went on her way cheerfully, wishing us a good day.

BLESS.

It was easier getting him into the car on the way home, and somehow we got him from the car to the house without another incident.

But that moment stuck with me.  My upper body strength was sorely lacking.  If I couldn’t take care of my Daddy, something would have to change.  Immediately.  I was broken over the fact that it had been a stranger who had come to his aid–that after all he’d done for me through all the years, I couldn’t help him–unfathomable.

And so I began working out back then.  Nothing too serious, just trying to build up my strength so that I could help lift him.  And when he was bedridden at the end and would slide down in the bed, I was able to move him back up in the bed.  I am thankful for that now.

A couple of days ago, I woke up thinking about how we work to build up muscles.  How we work and push them beyond their limits to be stronger and to be able to do more with them.  Almost completely recovered from a frozen shoulder, I am ready to start rebuilding my core and my ability to “lift and tote.”  Mostly for groceries, but still–it’s a good thing to work on.

Then I started thinking about our hearts.  And how we love.

That’s a good thing to work on too.

We don’t build up our arm muscles by continuing to do the same thing every day–by only lifting the laundry from the dryer or the groceries from the car.  We have to be consistent, and we have to go outside our comfort zones to be strong and stronger.  We have to lift things we wouldn’t normally lift.

I think it’s the same in building up our hearts–and our capacity to love.  We don’t do it by loving the same people all the time.  We do it by loving folks outside our comfort zones.  And by doing it consistently.  That’s the only way to build up our love muscles.  Loving those we wouldn’t normally love.  Going out of our way for them.  For others.

And that’s the only way to build up the kingdom too.

A kingdom where I’d really like to live.

Wishing you all a day of working out–and building up those muscles.  For the good of all of us.

Love to all.

Die_Frau_als_Hausärztin_(1911)_135_Bruststärker

“Die Frau als Hausärztin (1911) 135 Bruststärker” by Anna Fischer-Dückelmann – Die Frau als HausärztinLicensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

that door

you’ve seen enough of them slammed in your face
and those few that were slammed behind you
but this one
was different

you knew the possibilities that lay behind it
you knew the stories of what could be
and all the maybes and likelies

and still it was terrifying
because this one
this one

you were going to knock on
and wait

and you with your brave self
did
just
that

you knocked
and waited
and slowly the knob turned
and it opened
and there were the possibilities of all that you hoped for
dreamed of
wrote about

so beautiful with all the could be’s
that it took your breath away
scary and exciting and dizzying and amazing
much like looking over the side of the Tallulah Gorge
leaning in, but not too much, not just yet
taking time to adjust your vision
and find your balance
on the precipice of something so grand

a place where each step is measured carefully
climbing down to where everything,
all the precious little details
come into focus,
a place where beauty and dreams and hopes
all join together there in the place that few
dare to tread
the place that takes every ounce of courage
and letting go and trusting
and not looking down
to get to

you will get there
and when you do
don’t let the past make you look back at how far
you’ve come
instead take a moment or three
and make camp
right there
in the valley
of all you’ve hoped for

even if
it looks
nothing
like what you
imagined
it would

sometimes flowers
bloom in the
cracks
made by storms
long past

Tallulah_Gorge_(c,_1894)-_USGS_

Tallulah Gorge, circa 1894 Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7632628

don’t let them

don’t let them
tell you the stars aren’t really
diamonds
twinkling just for you
waiting to adorn your dreams
while you slumber
where you live out all your heart’s desires

don’t let them
tell you it’s silly to
guard your heart so carefully
or to love him so completely

don’t let them
convince you life isn’t hard
and that the world
isn’t broken

it is

but you in your diamonds
bringing life to your big dreams
holding the hand of the one
your heart calls home
giving from the beauty and kindness
that flows through your soul

you
will
change
it
all

 

Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography

“Big Dipper Ursa Major over Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Astrophotography” by Astroval1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg#/media/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg

where it hurts

when my children were little
I could ask them
“where does it hurt?”
and they would point or nod
or tell me
and I would doctor it up,
cleaning it,
putting on the ever-magical
bandaid

and kiss it all better

which would usually end in giggles and
all would be fixed

but now, as they grow,
when they come to me with
pain in their eyes
and hearts on their sleeves,
sadness weighing them down,
and I ask where it hurts
it breaks my heart when they shrug

unable to pinpoint the source

of the aching pain
that has them curled up in a ball
forlorn, in tears,
and lost

no amount of bandaids or kisses
can fix some of the hurts
of goodbyes or harsh words
or not knowing

and so I sit and clench my fists,
angry that there is so much broken in our world
and that little ones, young and old
have to feel all the things
that are hard

I hope for comfort and peace
when all I can do is tell them to breathe
and rest
and hang in there

and gently rub their backs

because there’s no bandaid big enough
to cover
where it hurts now

Bandaids_closeup

By DedeBandaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Leaps of Faith

Out beyond Granny’s house on the farm was a ditch of sorts.  It was swampy around it, and whether or not anything we imagined was true, we cousins made up stories about what kinds of horrible things lurked in the murky, dank waters.  The worst thing in the world would have been to fall in that mess.

And yet–what did we do?

Made a game out of running circles.  Run towards it, leap over it, stick the landing, get up, run around it and back to the other side to do it all over again.

Great fun.  We laughed and encouraged and teased each other.  That ditch was a source of disgust and inspiration for many afternoons of fun.

I’ve been thinking about marriage lately.  I remember well the day I looked at my Fella and thought, “Well, yeah, okay.  Why not?”  And then we took a giant leap of faith.  Together.

And some folks would have us believe that marriage, the act of making that commitment one to another, is a leap of faith.

Hogwash.

It SO is NOT.

Instead, marriage is a thousand little leaps of faith, sometimes all in one day.  It’s fighting all that would pull us asunder, and taking that leap to honor, to trust, to share, to give, to open up, to love–hoping to stick the landing.  One. More. Time.

And there’s a lot of asundering things lurking in the murky depths out there.  Sometimes it’s even us ourselves threatening to pull us apart.

When my cousins and I used to play “jump the ditch,” we’d leap and try not to fall in the mess below.  On the off occasion that we nearly fell in or our foot slipped and we had nowhere to go but down, it seems like there was always someone who turned back and offered a hand and made sure we got back on level ground again–if only we trusted them enough to take their hand.

That’s what marriage is about too I think.  At one point or another one partner or the other hits a slippery slope or just plain falls in the mess of darkness and pain and fears.  It’s hard to be vulnerable, and sometimes it’s hard to trust that other person standing there loving you through it, willing you to take their hand and come back to level ground.  Sometimes what is stopping us is ourselves.  We lose our footing because of so many reasons, and it’s hard to think that it all even matters anymore because all we can see is the mess.  The brokenness.

But then there’s the hand.  Of someone who loves us, helping us back to where things are good, and we are standing on firm, even ground with them.  If we would just take that leap of faith over the messes and the doubts and the fears and frustrations.  Leap and grab hold.

For dear life.

And love.

Tonight I give thanks for the ones who took my hand all those years ago, and for the one who continues to reach out to me even when I’m asundering myself into a million broken little pieces.  With each leap and landing that we stick, we get stronger, because neither one of us plans on letting the other one fall in the darkness.  At least not for long.

Love to all.

IMG_9952

a long time gone

the thing about special days now
is that they will never be the same
without hearing your voice
and that phone call at exactly
the same time every single year

the sound of your voice echoes
in the silence
that inevitably comes
and the moment passes, another year
and still
my heart misses yours

as though it were only yesterday
and you were not a long time gone
from this world
released from the pains
and worries from before
that day that took you away

as the day draws to a close
the darkness suits, doesn’t it
to think of this life without you
from here on out

doesn’t seem like something I’m going to be able to do

and yet I will
of course
and most days I can
but when that phone doesn’t ring
and I don’t hear your voice
at all
on the day you never once let pass
by
without showing your love
or teasing me about getting old

it is almost too much to bear

I don’t have you to call and tell
how much this hurts anymore–
that might be the hardest of all

my friend, part of my heart, is apart
from me
and this life will never be the same again

gone is a complete sentence
to which there is no reply

You Are More

Cooter has become fascinated with stories of things people got in trouble for when they were his age.  He has had many conversations with his Daddy about his.  Recently he asked Leroy if he got in trouble at school.  Leroy told him he couldn’t tell them what all he did when he was younger.  I think Cooter was a little scared and a whole lot in awe of his uncle.

He asked me the same question recently.  I decided to tell him the truth.  Something I’ve been carrying around for a long time.  Something I’m not proud of, and I still hang my head when I tell it.

And so I confessed to my eight year old son.  When I was not much older than him, I was sitting in the lunchroom in between my friend and LP (the one who had bullied me the year before and had pulled my thumb back over and over and my parents had told me to kick him in the shin).  I always took my lunch, but the two of them had each bought their lunches.  I don’t know what else was on the menu that day but for sure there was cornbread and something that ketchup could complement.  Everyone was done eating, and we were just waiting to be told to line up to head back to the classroom.  My friend nudged me, handed me her ketchup, and whispered for me to pour it over LP’s uneaten cornbread.  We both knew he was done eating, but she thought it would be funny, and in the moment, I thought she was funny and while something was rippling in the back of my brain, I took the little paper cup of ketchup and squeezed it out over his cornbread while he was turned talking to the person on his left.  And we waited.

We could hardly stand it.  When he turned back around and saw the ketchup, his face turned nearly as red as the condiment.  We giggled behind our hands and between each other.  He was mad.  And so he did what most fourth graders do when they are mad–he told the teacher on us.

Oh me.  This was a joke gone horribly wrong.  One that gave us two or three days sitting out at recess.  This was back before PE, back when we could talk amongst ourselves and play near about anything we wanted to.  So missing any recess was a huge loss. To add insult to injury this teacher had taught my Uncle and my Daddy, and I felt like I had let her and pretty much the whole world down with my poor judgment and horribleness.  My heart was broken over what I was sure was absolutely my worst day ever.  At least the worst thing I had ever done.

Cooter laughed.  He barely squeaked out, “Ketchup?  Really?”  Yes, and don’t make light of it, buddy.  I learned that lesson. Not my plate.  Not my cornbread.  Doesn’t matter if he wasn’t going to eat it.  Doesn’t matter if someone else “told” me to do it.   I have my own brain, and I didn’t use it that day.  I was all about the fitting in and giggles and all the feel good of that moment.  And the truth that I now realize as an adult is that the reason LP told on us was probably because he saw us giggling together and he didn’t feel like he fit in.  It wasn’t about the ketchup on the cornbread, it was about our singling him out.

I’m so sorry, LP.

The thing is, whenever I do something that is less than my best or I make a mistake or I inadvertently do or say the wrong thing, I’m in fourth grade again.  I’m nine and my face is beet red and I’m looking Mrs. W in the eyes as she looks at me and my friend with disappointment and tell us we can’t play at recess.  I’m sitting next to her or whatever teacher is out there and trying to explain my embarrassing predicament to those who want to know why we aren’t playing.

Life is hard, y’all.

But here’s the good news.

I am more than that mistake.

I am more than the wrong I inflicted upon LP and his cornbread.

I am bigger than the poor choice I made.

I am more than my worst day.

And so, my friend, are you.

My beautiful friend Marilyn and I were talking about this earlier.  She gave me the grace and encouragement I needed today.  That I need everyday. We all make mistakes.  None of us have lived a flaw-free life, one where we have never, ever crossed a line or hurt anyone.  We all have stories we’d rather not have to share.

Let ’em go.

We are more.

We are the love we share.  The hugs we give.  The light that shines from who we have become and what we do–and who we are becoming.  We are all the right choices we have made over the years as well.

Do not let your one ketchup-pouring moment define you.

Because there is grace.  There is redemption.  There are second and third and twenty-twelfth chances.  You can do this.  You can turn it around.  As long as you have breath, the possibility exists–you can do better.  And become more.

More than those poor choices.  Those bad moments.  Those mistakes that you really didn’t set out to make.

And to be honest, this was not my only non-stellar moment from my life–it’s not even my only non-stellar moment from that year.  But it is the one that sticks out, as I was so grieved over all those I’d disappointed.  I had to look them in the eyes and face what I’d done.

And you know what?  A few days later, grace won.  Love won.  My time “sitting out” was done, and the slate was clean.

Redemption is real.  And attainable.  And free.

May we all let go of our worst moments.  And allow others to let go of theirs.  Our most painful mistakes.  And may we look in the mirror and offer the grace we so freely give to others to the one looking back at us.

Love and grace to all.