Five-Minute Friday {finish}

 

The line has been set for them. It’s clearly marked, family and friends at the end waiting to congratulate those crossing the finish line.

Some have trained for this. They know the measure, how long they’ll walk or run. They know the course before them and they set out to reach their goal.

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Some tasks, some goals have a clear end in sight. A defined beginning and end. Many do not.

I thought her life would head toward its finish line spending more time with her family. Longer visits than the standard week. Visits to our side of the country that would find us exploring more places and doing more projects and sharing life like we’ve never been able to as adults.

To see her now, many would say her life is finished. Alzheimer’s continues to ravage her mind and this woman who gave birth to me, this woman who was recognized by her community for her years of service to the marginalized, this woman’s life as we knew it is gone.

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before Alzheimer’s

 

She lives in a caring place with others suffering this mean disease.  When people ask how she’s doing we say “content” because she is.

My heart knows that my mama is not there. And my heart hopes there is still more meaning to her existence. That God allows her breath because even in this state that seems to hold little value, His work is not done.

She has ‘run a good race’ as the Word tells us. But she is not done.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for her Five-Minute Friday blog party. She provides the word prompt and says GO. We write, mostly unedited, and mostly within 5 minutes. Yikes! To join in, click here.


Happy

We played that song. You know, the happy one. The song that is humming through the background of everyone’s life these days? It’s bouncy and snappy and, well, happy. So we played that song in the chapel full of men, in their seats 5 minutes before our Tuesday night recovery meeting. This is when we play funny clips or bloopers or photo’s of them at a recent event or celebration. This is the time at the end of a long day they sit feeling a bit drowsy from a full belly from dinner and a fresh shower to wash off the work day heat.

I bounced and clapped and mouthed the words, hoping to coax them to be, or at least act, happy. Some returned the begged collaboration, some marveled (my interpretation) at my complete silliness, and bravery to display such and others remained unmoved. Externally at least. Unfazed, untouched, resilient to the ebullient mood around them.

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 You can’t make me. Go ahead and try. And if you even make a dent in my heart I’ll not show it until later. Alone, when you won’t see you touched that part of me that was tender.

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We can be made to go to meetings, get up at a certain time, stop at red lights and tuck our shirts in. We know the consequences of not following certain rules and we know the risks. But no one can make us happy. Our feelings can’t be mandated no matter how silly the person in front of you is being or how dang happy that song is.

Someone sat in front of us one day and said, “I just want you to be happy.” We weren’t sad, still, he felt he had the ability to make us happy. We ignored his statement. Until later, when a question went unanswered and I said, “You know what would make me happy? For you to answer the question.” He fell silent. Had he answered the question, my happiness was not in his hands. That’s on me.

12 Traditions play

What would it look like if we could make someone happy? For a moment, I suppose it would be fun. Smiles from everyone and that carefree air that often comes with the feeling.

But feelings flee and turn and faster than a snap of the fingers the bright bold color of happy is turned gray. That fast. Feelings are like that.

So I’ll take my happiness, thank you. I’ll be responsible for it and do my best to share it in hopes it can brighten the places I walk. But I know it’s your choice to join me or not. I know it’s just for a moment sometimes. Happiness is a feeling. But joy? Ah, joy goes all the way through the soul and stays there. Good or bad, joy is with me. Joy is more than a feeling. It’s a promise.

What does your happy look like? Where have you found your joy?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT


Let’s do this!

The tea kettle whistles. I’ve let it go too long. I try to catch it before that point. Now I’ll have to let the tea cool longer. I don’t know how others can drink theirs scalding hot. No, this will take some time to cool.

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I’ve fumbled my allergy pills and the vitamin bottle and the thought flashed through my mind, “it’s going to be one of those days.” NO followed just as quickly. No. I won’t let it. Why am I so quick to give over a whole day to fumbling because of this?

Have you done that? Do you do that? You give over to less than because it’s Monday and you know, it’s Monday, it’s not suppose to be good.

Traffic is slowed, you get caught by a train, then it starts to rain slowing things down more and now you’re late. What next? you wonder aloud.

Some days we give in to it. Some days we don’t. Today, let’s don’t. 

Don’t give in to the critics in our head saying we aren’t smart enough, thin enough, young enough.

Don’t give in to the negative voices that threaten to drown your joy. Smile in the face of their gloom.

Don’t let circumstance determine your mood. You get to choose. Choose joy. Choose purpose. Choose determination.

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Some days are daring us to give in. And some days we can. Some days we retreat and give our souls time to rest. But not today. Today we do this. Today we do this together because we need each other cheering us on. You can do this. I know it. We’ve got you on this. On this day that wants to win, we’re cheering you on to be victor.

Put on that playlist that makes you dance. 

Smile at strangers.

Let someone go in front of you in traffic. You’ll feel like the winner. Trust me on this.

When the storm clouds gather, and they will down here, dance in the rain. [But respect the lightning ;)]

YAY YOU! You’ve got this I know it.


His story called Grace

She was laid up sick for days a few months ago. She hadn’t been that sick since her heart surgery a few years back. That was rough, she said. But she was thankful for her sweet husband who took care of her. Not like her first husband. That was a mistake, she said. “I went from the frying pan right into the fire on that one, trying to get away from my mama. But I have me the best husband. He can’t work, disabled. So he takes care of the house, does the cooking and takes care of me and I work.”

Her name tag says Mary. I stepped in her line because she seems to like her job and moves along at a decent pace. Mary, who is well into her retirement years showing up with her face and hair made up for her business attire, her red shirt and khaki pants. She slipped the last of my groceries in the bags and I took home food and Mary’s story.

lighthouse top framedI have a beacon. That’s what Henry tells me. A beacon that flashes calling out to random strangers “talk to me”. Often times it’s my fault. I smile and apparently that’s an invitation for people to stop in the middle of an aisle and tell me they get wrong numbers on their cell phone all the time because some company must have had that number before. I looked around to see who this woman was talking to only to find no one but me.

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The young mom carried her toddler son and put their towels down on the sand near us. She slipped his water wings on and introduced him to the ocean. Kids always capture my attention and he was so fun to watch. They came back to their towels where she tried to get him to sit next to her but he was having none of it. He found a plastic lid that became his scoop for the sand which he poured on to his legs and on to the towel. We laughed a little too loud and she looked our way with a smile as he did it again. We carried on back and forth while her little one chattered away unclear words bringing smiles all around.

For that moment, our stories intersected. Just like they do with the men in our Center. Our stories crossing and merging until we realize we’re part of a bigger story and it’s God’s story. A story about people. Messed up, empty, disobedient, unfaithful, lost and weary. He invites us to his story called Grace.

Mary name tag

It’s my regular Target and maybe Mary will share more of her story with me one day. I just have to get in her line.


Five-Minute Friday {bloom}

I suppose anyone can be a gardener. Though not me. It’s not the lack of a green thumb but lack of attention or lack of priority. The one indoor plant that has managed to survive us more than a year sits where I see it daily yet only remember to water it when it droops, it’s silent cry for nourishment. I’m only now remembering it has had blooms on it in the past, probably when it was sent to us and maybe it would again if I did more than water it. Some kind of plant food, I suppose.

This does not come natural to me so I plead to not having that mythical green thumb. My mother-in-law did and tried to will it into my being but it can’t be grafted like I hear some plants can. Still, those with that natural bent can’t seem to understand how my tribe can’t master the plants they give us saying, “really, you can’t kill this”.

I understand the concept of gardening and I get the metaphors. How soil has to be prepared and seeds planted. There is care and tending that goes into it and that’s where I fail. My attention leaping ahead to the final product.

Though in people, I do enjoy the process. Not the pruning part, that’s never fun. But the tending and nurturing. The watching of the growth. I am content to wait. Not for my growth, mind you, but others. Surely this is where God delights. We are His garden

Sunflowers

 

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First, the small, tight bud. In time (and with trust), it (we) opens and reveals. Colors unique to each flower, edges imperfectly perfect, small and large all glorious. All strong. All turning toward the sun (and the Son).

It is here we bloom.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five-Minute Friday party where a whole big bunch of bloggers wait for Lisa-Jo to give us a word and say “GO”. To join in, click here.

 


For a friend

We have never met but her pain has touched my heart.

She reached out to me in an email, “can you help me tell my story? Maybe in that blog thing like you did for Laura? It just hurts so much.”

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I think of the pain of losing a spouse and I can’t touch it. I’ve had loss but not that. Not the one who fills the space next to you each night. The one you reach out to find warmth but find emptiness and the emptiness inside is bigger than place he filled in bed.

It is her pain and it is crushing. A life too young, taken too quick. It was just some back pain, probably a pulled muscle. The diagnosis: stage 4 cancer. A year later his place next to her in their bed is empty.

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around the lake  on Lake Junaluska

There are no words to offer that can fill that hole or soothe that soul. We know time is the healer but we don’t know how we’ll get through the time.

Three months he’s gone. Before, family came from out-of-state to be close, be together and it held her pieces from scattering in the winds. Now they are gone, back to their lives and it’s a cold urn she clings to in the night when she needs to feel something that is him.

I don’t know this broken woman. I think Glennon’s word ‘brutiful’ fits here: a broken and brutal beauty. That is what this aching woman is. She is screaming inside and wants to scream out loud: IT HURTS SO BAD. I HURT SO BAD.

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We hear your hear, dear one. We hear your soul cries and we hold your words dear and tender. We don’t need to know you face to face to know your anger and pain. Your grief is real and crushing. You are caught in the rip current of grief and the only way to escape a rip current is to swim with it. If you try to swim to the shore, against the current, it will pull you down. Swim with it my friend. Relax your body so the water can carry you. Know the water is the love of Jesus not abandoning you but allowing you to float to safety. He is carrying you through the rolling tide.

Written with permission and input from Melissa Hale. Please pray for this dear sister as she continues finding God’s grace and peace in her storm of loss. 


How are you today? (please, just say “good”.)

She was the kind of girl who didn’t know that the proper answer to the greeting, “How are you today?” was a simple, “Fine, thank you.”

At 17, her answers tended toward ailments and bold statements like “my cervix hurts”. I’m not even joking. After a few of these revealing answers to my polite nicety I stopped asking. I didn’t want to know the details of her life. A teenager in a handful of teens we had in this small congregation and I didn’t want to know the drama that lay behind her openness.

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Our landscape of ministry has changed and now it’s men I pass in the Center, politely saying “How’s it going?” as I never break stride in my walk. We answer “good” to one another as we move on to our destination which is not finding out how the other is actually doing.

One of the counselors doesn’t allow them to answer “good” when she poses that question. They’ve hidden behind that word and many other things and it’s time for honesty to take root in all aspects of their lives so let’s start with the basics: How are you doing today?

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I value transparency and vulnerability but I have trouble finding the line. The line between over-sharing and being real. Or the line between nice and abrupt. And the other line between honesty and politeness.

One man answers, “Can’t complain” and I quip, “You can, but no one wants to hear that.” Truth.

It’s easier to be open, to be vulnerable in writing. Or in the dark. I learned that as a kid. We didn’t speak of serious things in the open. I would write a note and slip it in mama’s purse saying I needed more “feminine products”. And she would silently place them in the bathroom. No words shared.

Sometimes writing feels like saying it in the dark. No faces staring at me and hiding behind a blog title with distance between. Comments are faint words shared in the dark of cyberspace so they are safe. I can be real here. Mostly.

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3 generations

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I can feel when one is being true, authentic. I feel if their words of praise are glossy varnish or the worn patina of life. Real is what I want to show and why I fumble at times. Those business events that demand I be nice and not so real because real is rude so I fake it and wonder if it shows. Plastic me, performing. That’s a heart issue, I can assure you.

It’s important for me to show the scars from old wounds and hurts, the fatigue that comes from stubbornness. It matters that those around us know we haven’t been spared pain and sorrow because we bear the label “Pastor” or “Christian”. But I dance around the ‘how much’ sometimes.

Do I share details of why my father threatened to disown my 18-year-old self or are those words enough? Will confession of shame and bad decisions and poor choices, will acknowledging sin in my life make me real enough without the gory details?

How much is too much me and not enough grace, not enough Him?

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It helps to go slow. To listen to the prompts within. To trust His voice and His time. I learning, growing, stumbling and getting back up.

I heard their murmurs when they saw I was wearing a pair of Chucks. I heard the word “bobo” uttered and spun around to give a glare, a smiling one, of course. “Fakes? You think I’m wearing fake Converse? I don’t do fake, guys.”

Or do I?

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Linking up with SheLoves Magazine for their July link-up for their theme Authentic. Click here to read other posts. 


Five-Minute Friday {belong}

She stood in line with the other 4-year-olds, a cool October morning, listening to their coaches instructions on which way to run down the soccer field. She pointed with the others but when she took the field, she didn’t belong. She held back, reserved, doing her best but this wasn’t her place.

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It fell apart for me at 14. The year my parents divorced leaving me in an unfamiliar world, parents separating states apart, no longer leading the only church I’d belonged to, no longer leading our little family together.

Everyone has a story

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The moving started soon after, every six months a new state, a new school and belonging was not something I knew but something I longed for.

We landed here, this town I’ve come back to, my senior year in high school and half way through the year, like clockwork, dad was ready to move again but I was done with it. I was done being the new girl and I needed to stay someplace long enough to fit. I needed to know what belonging could mean. I needed a place for who I was becoming to plant roots and grow.

So I stayed and I belonged and the roots took hold and grew deep for 20 years until God had a change in mind that would take us on a journey of a different kind of fitting and a deeper kind of growing where our roots would grow more deeply in Him rather than place. This is where I belong.

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She stood with the girls, her 6-year-old self now, in her first dance class. She has twirled for years and finally the timing is right for her to dance. Her shyness ebbs as she finds this place of belonging.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for her Five-Minute Friday blogging part. She provides the space and the word prompt and a delightful party of writers gather to add our spin to the dance. To join in, click here.


When one thing leads to another

I read the words in a blog on A Deeper Story. An achingly, beautiful post written by a man crying out to God in anger and confusion and pain. I typed the words into Google and began looking at my choices and landed on one that took me on another course. I can’t decide if Google is a blessing or curse or cause of ADD but I seldom remember where I started when I finally land on a site that, at times, changes my initial course.

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“tohu va-vohu” – the formless, dark, uncontrollable, deep. That’s how Nate Pyle used it in his post as he referenced the creation story in Genesis 1. That seems to be where those Hebrew words are found.

All of this lead me to chaos. The chaos that was without form. The chaos that God hovered over. The chaos that God made into form. The chaos the He mastered. The chaos that was me.

I still don’t know how these words are pronounced. But I love the reminder that whatever chaos may be swirling around us, whatever chaos I feel I’m in or have become, God’s grace can make into form and beauty, order and purpose.


Lord have mercy

She emailed me. From Russia, “have you read Found?” And again, when they were back in the US she emailed, “Have you read Found yet?” No, I said. It’s on my list. I looked at a small stack of books on the table, the ones I’ve paged through a chapter or two and the ones below I’ve meaning to get to and there it was, waiting near the bottom. I grabbed the book for a road trip.

I haven’t read 50 pages and I can’t help but pause to consider her words. Micha Boyett has put words to the music of my soul.

That’s how this book is going for me. Read a few pages, drop the book to my lap while I gaze out the window or wonder why I didn’t get the e-book version so I could highlight passages or maybe the whole page in places. I am afraid if I read too much at one time these thoughts will rush through too quickly to be examined and that would leave me where I started and I want more. So I pause and consider.

Found book

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Today I am considering these words the author spoke to her husband, “I love you more than my idea of being remarkable.” 

She is saying this because of her struggle of feeling value, feeling worth as a new stay-at-home mom. That was not me. Isn’t me. Not that time of my life.

Mothering two littles was enough for me. It filled me and added to my understanding of God’s love for me. Being the stay-at-home mama was my calling. I knew it deep inside. I didn’t need remarkable. Then.

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But now? Most of the time. I think. Maybe? I wonder, do I love Jesus more than my small ideas of being found remarkable?

We get praise from others and we point upward, ‘it’s all for His glory’, and we believe that. But….do I honor Him enough for what He is doing? Do I love Him, God, more than the ministry?

Lord have mercy“, Micha says and I echo.

She writes of trying hard in her spiritual life, as though we have to try at all and sometimes it all just feels trying. I get that, the good church girl I’ve been, wanting to live right, do right, forgetting He is the one doing and it’s been done for me. And you.

I’m learning there isn’t much doing to believing and that’s what he wants from me: to believe. Believe in Him and unto Him. But believing is active and I can make the simplest things complicated.

I’m going slow with this book as it pulls me in page by page asking questions and feeling more and more released from needing the answers.


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