The Shack

Standard

There were times I thought my heart might burst or I might sob out loud, you know…one of those loud hiccuping things for the entire theater to hear. It’s rare for a movie to leave me breathless…an hour later, I’m still sighing.

My hubby and I just saw The Shack...and it was moving and heartbreaking and poignant and all the things you’ve heard it would be. It was all those things and more.

Let’s start here – it will make you cry. Period. Unless you’re semi-robotic. But as Papa says in the film, your tears can be mighty healing. This film reminds us all that pain is universal. Pain and unspeakable evil. But along with that pain is love…love we cannot fathom, love that can be damaged by old hatred and anger, but love that can survive when little else can.

The author of this book took emotions that so many of us are afraid to voice or are unsure how to release and put them to paper. An incredible feat…and if you ask me, inspirational for so many people. We all need to be reminded that we are loved, that it’s not our place to judge others, and that with help, we can move forward from despair.

That’s what this movie is about. And it was beautiful.

This year for Lent, I took on the Herculean task of (trying) to give up fear and worry. For years, I’ve prayed about it, read about it. I try hard to focus on the positive but it is still something that hovers in the back of my mind, waiting to jump out at me like a creep in the night. My own take on this unwanted experience is that since I’ve seen up front and personal how gut-wrenching life can be, I now am afraid that something just as bad will happen again. Not good, I know.

In this movie, one focus was on letting go and trusting God. That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately…as in completely…for good or bad.  I trust that I will be taken care of no matter what happens on this Earth. I trust that with help I can survive anything that comes my way. I’ve spent a lot of time chanting I trust You.

Maybe that’s why this movie was so powerful…maybe it’s easy to find yourself in the middle of not trusting, or maybe we recognized pain that strips you bare. And even though everyone hasn’t felt the same kind of pain or experienced the same tragedies, this movie speaks to everyone’s hidden pain about something. Because we all have something.

Go see this movie. Open your heart to the tears that may accompany the visit. Imagine what your life’s garden may look like as God continues to see way beyond our scope. Take my word, it’ll be worth it.

What’s Your Purpose?

Standard

I think somewhere along the way people decided your job was your purpose in life. Something that takes up so much of your time must be your whole purpose in life, right? With each passing day, I know this not to be true.  It’s a lie we’ve all bought into; a lie that more often than not leaves people feeling empty and useless.

Our jobs are just jobs…a vocation we decided to approach to feed ourselves, to provide shelter, to help pay for the things we want in life. And then when your skill or trade or profession leaves you empty, you’re left feeling like you’ve done something wrong.  Maybe picked the wrong career, maybe stuck with a job that leaves you unfulfilled.

Here’s what I’ve realized…our jobs are simply vessels.  Vessels that get us closer to other people, that perhaps help others, or provide for them what they can’t do for themselves. They are simply places to go with things to do.  But it’s what you do with that vessel that is your real purpose in life.

While you’re working, do you smile at others?  Do you use kind words?  When you’re at the place you spend eight hours a day or more, do you open your heart?  And if you do, is it with love or just duty?

I truly believe the ‘lowliest’ job (and honestly there are no lowly jobs because they all keep this intricate world running) is just as vital as the highest paying job.  So what if you make more than me or my neighbor.  The question is…what are you using your vessel for?  Are you sharing your love with others or only spewing more hatred into the world?

I believe the greatest thing we can do for our young adult children is to encourage them to give themselves to others no matter what vocation they choose.  Be it a carpenter or businessman or dog trainer, all that really matters is whether you choose to share the love that God gave you.  Is your light shining or are you making this world a harder place to live in? We need to remind them that their purpose in life has nothing to do with a paycheck, but what you do with your soul each and every day.

purpose

You Can’t Say That At School

Standard

A little girl with bouncing, shiny black curls ran towards me in the hall. It was more like a skip but still, in her current condition, she should’ve been walking. Covering her face was a mixture of glee and concern. Her large eyes met mine as she sort of smiled then sort of frowned. “I’m going home,” she said, immediately wanting a hug. “I don’t feel good.”

I hugged her back as I tried not to breathe in her germs and told her to get better soon.

And then this little voice, very twangy and small, chirped from behind me, “Her’s freakin’ sick.”

In a nano-second, I pushed the girl out of my arms to turn to the boy. “What?!”

“Her’s freakin’ sick!”

For a few seconds I could only gape at this child, only five years old and already spunky. Had he really said freakin’? Oh yes, he had. And did I want to address that first or his use of her instead of she?

I ignored the grammar lesson and proceeded to tell him not to use that word at school or at all.

So I thought I’d heard it all for the day. Not so fast. A few hours later, just as I’d wrangled the attention of three antsy little ones, another small voice demanded, “Who farted?”

Once again I gaped at the child (not the same child as before). I then told him not to say fart at school or ever. He proceeded to tell me that somebody did it and it smelled bad. Minutes later, as I’d moved the children on to other topics, the same fellow spat, “I can’t hear myself think!” He then began to chant as he squeezed his ears from top to bottom, open and closed, “It’s okay…it’s okay…peace, peace, breathe, breathe.”

All I could do was stare…that’s about it. Sometimes you just have to follow their advice or go crazy. So I breathed and then I laughed a little – but not in his face.

Y’all…come visit for a day. Come for a week. I promise you’ll smile.

img_2674

Dreams Are Weird

Standard

So last night I had the strangest dream. I was in the White House…not sure why or how…and I was writing intently. Type, type, type. This man moved into the room beside me and sat across a narrow aisle. I looked over and it was Donald Trump. His shoulders were slumped and he seemed weary and tired. I knew who he was immediately, and I finally asked him why he was up in the middle of the night. He shrugged and then asked me why I was doing the same. I told him I could only find time to write when I was away from children. We began to talk, not sure about what, and in the next blink of the dream, we were sitting together in a big chair, shoulders touching. Sitting the way two small children would do in a classroom while reading books…innocently and without a care.

This man was grown but felt needy…he was needing a calm time in the middle of a harried world.

And then we wanted coffee, he regular and me decaf, and I woke up.

Ugh…unfinished dreams! I think if I’d stayed asleep just a little longer I would have gotten up the nerve to tell him in my best teacher voice to stop tweeting immediately, and too, maybe I would have volunteered to take Mrs. Grizzly Bear’s place as nominee for Secretary of Education.

It’s a shame he wasn’t having the same dream as me.

Here’s what I keep remembering from that dream though: this person is a human being. He’s far from perfect, as we all are.

He’s living behind this big bravado, which is a world he created for himself, but he’s just a man. He’s not God, and we all need to be praying for him since he is the leader of this country.

He felt vulnerable. He is whether he acts like it or not. He is not the ruler of the universe or my life…nor is he yours. Only one being holds that position, and when I focus on that, then this change in politics becomes much less scary (and mind you, I would have been just as worried about the change if Hillary had been elected).

God bless you, Mr. Trump, and may God guide every decision you make.

And P.S. – It was mighty strange dreaming about you, DJT. I’m taking it as a sign of too much media. I’ll now return to my books and hide away from you for a while.

sun

 

Diablo and His Ladies

Standard

For Christmas, I got a new coop for our chickens. We’ve had the same group for a while now…Diablo, the rooster, and six hens. We all love the eggs we get from them and are now incredibly spoiled to the flavor of fresh eggs. I got the wild hair to bring the chickens closer to the house and mentioned it to Bill. Voila! I was given this beauty on Christmas Eve.

I think the chickens love it. If the amount of poop in the coop is any indication of love, then they are head over heels in love with it. It has become (mostly) my job to feed them daily and gather the eggs. The thing is, I’ve had to become a little braver with this new chore.

 Just like with my dogs, as soon as the chickens hear me approaching with food, they get flustered. Wings started flapping, squawking commences, and by the time I open the top of the cage, they are ready to rumble.

Maybe their instincts tell them to get ready to fly. Maybe they sense that it is their moment to escape. Maybe they just want to scare the crap out of me.

So…when I open the lid, they begin to fly. At first, I backed away and squealed. Now, I’ve figured them out. They only fly up just a little…maybe a few feet, and then they settle back down. Only one has dared escape, and as soon as she hit the ground, she was trying to get back into the pen with the others.

But she didn’t fly back into the pen.

No, I had to pick her up. Pick Her Up with my bare hands! That was a first for me. And I lived through the ordeal just fine.

(A few close family members and friends were awed that I was able to catch the bird and put her back in the pen. I may have awed myself.)

 

 

“Rest Beside the Weary Road and Hear the Angels Sing…”

Standard

Why do I go to church? Why do I bother?

I woke up this morning and my first thoughts were worry thoughts, fearful thoughts. It happens to me often, I won’t lie. Will something bad happen today? Who’s going to die next? I hope our old house doesn’t burn down. Are my kids okay? What will I do if something happens to Bill? I spend a portion of each day (some days mere minutes, others much longer) fighting away these thoughts, doing my very best to find the good in life. I turn these worries over to God daily but still, at times, they linger. (I think I’m wired to worry, and unfortunately, I know I have a panic button that makes my brain fear the worst.)

So I went to church this morning, and I know it can’t be true, but our pastor, Lee, was talking straight to me. We haven’t spoken about my fears…it’s not something I go around discussing, but his words sang right to my heart.

Even though I forget, even though I sink in my own fears of life, I forget that this is a problem that plagues the world. Fear is not my own exclusive feeling, neither is worry. They cripple the masses. Since the beginning of time, they’ve crippled many of us.

We sang these words today:

O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

That is a verse from “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, a poem written in 1849 that was later put to music.  1849 – how could words written so long ago still suit us now? Take away modern perks and we are still the same. We still feel crushed at times, still trudge through the hardships of life.

So why do I go to church? I go to be reminded that my troubles are not new or exclusive, that we have the greatest gift of all at our fingertips. We have the peace only Jesus can bring…peace and hope and love. I go to feel the love of community, to hear words that soothe my weary soul. I go to feel the sun warm my cheek as is filters through the stain-glass windows. I go because I need to be reminded often that I am not alone, that none of us are.

christmas-nativity-wallpaper-1

Merry Christmas

 

Seasons

Standard

My Wednesday night women’s group never fails to be enlightening.  Something about the class makes me think deeper, and this past Wednesday night was no different.  In our discussion, a young mother said ‘the season of my life’. Someone had told this woman that she was in the season of raising children. And she is…three of them, and she’s in so deep that a life without chaos seems unfathomable to her.

On the way home, her words washed back through me.  Her life season is surely summer. No longer a baby in spring, living without the burdens of life, she’s now in the full throes of summer. This is her growing season – filled with abundant life, filled with buds and blooms.  And even though it may feel too hot at times, it’s the most bountiful time she’ll ever have.

But then I realized…my summer season is ending. I’m certainly past the years of producing babies, and most assuredly no longer thirty. My season is fall. Something about that realization brought a sudden rush of tears to my eyes. It’s more than the realization that my children are no longer babies. It’s more than the graceless steps of aging.  Maybe it’s knowing life is progressing steadily along, sometimes vanishing in big sections of time, while I work on hanging on to what’s left.

Still, fall has always been my favorite season. The colors, the refreshing feel of the air after a long hot summer.  If this is the season of my life, I will embrace it. I’m more secure in my skin than I’ve ever been, more independent, more sure of what I want and don’t want. It’s really an incredible feeling. Simple joy in nature, kindness and laughter feel so much better than ever before. My dreams continue to grow in this season…things I want to do, places I want to see.  And even though my landscape has changed, I know I’m still me…just in a slightly different light.

007

 

What the Heck is Fwight Night?

Standard

Y’all…I’m still shaking my head, still trying to decipher what I heard today. I was across the table from two little people…real little people. These little people have severe speech impedements (according to me anyway), and they were both talking at the same time. Their little shoulders were touching as they gabbed and gabbed, and even as I tried to intervene, they couldn’t find the period at the end of their sentences. Our topic was math – matching dots to numbers – easy, right? But no…somehow we ended up talking about Fright Night (I’m still not real sure what that is). Remember the speech issue I mentioned – fright night becomes fwight night.  Anyway, apparently this stuff is scary so I proceeded to tell them they didn’t need to watch scary things. They shook their heads and said they watch scary stuff “all da time”. 

Y’all…I’m 47. I wasn’t allowed to watch scary movies when I was little. When I spent the night with a friend at 13 and saw my first one, the original Jason, it traumatized me so bad I was sick all night long – in the dark, where Jason lives, All Night Long.

So, these kiddos were comparing war stories about their scary shows. One looked at me and said, “You wealy don’t need to watch Fwight Night…it’s bad, so bad.”  The other jumped in, “I have scawy dreams after that show.”

Well duh…they’re five. 

Even though I was honestly fascinated by their conversation, I declared total silence until they finished their work. It about killed them to be quiet but they survived the torturous five minutes. 

Is it just me? Am I the only person in the world who believes Chucky should be off limits for children? Like for real. No scary shows = no bad dreams. Back to simple math. 

Y’all…these kids. My days are never boring.

Kid friendly Halloween!

My idea of a scary movie.

The Little Old Man

Standard

There once was this little old man, his body frail and hunched and confined to a wheelchair. He no longer spoke, only listened. His body no longer cooperated, but his eyes still sparkled from time to time. His body had not always been this way. He’d once been tall and lean, spry and brilliant. Time had played the dirtiest of tricks on him, forcing him into a life he would have never chosen for himself.

The little old man often visited nursing homes, slipping in and out according to his health that week or month. No one paid him much attention as he inched down the hall in his wheelchair. There was very little eye contact between he and the others…only a few could read his thoughts when no words were spoken. He crept along, his feet slowly pulling him towards his goal. And then, when he was sure no one was looking, because no one bothered him much anyway, he would reach up and pull the fire alarm.

On more than one occasion, his shaky fingers reached for the shiny red handle. On more than one occasion, he succeeded. Even though his body no longer worked, even though he couldn’t speak his feelings or needs or wants, and even though most thought he was no longer able to make and then carry out a plan, this man knew better. His mind still looked for the mischievous, and only he knew for a very long time that he was the reason for the scrambling of workers. Inside he chuckled, knowing that he’d still been able to stir the pot of life in his own way. It wasn’t meanness that made him stir…perhaps only a wish to be more than an old man in a chair.

**

That’s a true story about a man I knew. A man who hadn’t always been old. I think young people look at the elderly and think it’ll never happen to them, but those of us who have lived a little longer, know that it’s only a matter of time before we follow in their footsteps.

This story affected me deeply. It sounds like a tale about an impish person…but really it’s so much more. It’s a person still trying to live his life in his own way. Instead of giving up, he found a means, even when every odd was against him. He found a way to still live, make decisions and be in charge of his situation if only for a moment. It’s a tale about the mind, of how it can work even when the body shuts down. It’s a story about enduring until the end. It’s a tale about finding the joy in life even when life is at its worst.

This man’s spirit and mischievousness have been passed down through the blood lines. Two others have inherited every bit of his charm and spunk and wittiness. Ask me how I know…I know because I knew the little old man in the wheelchair. I know the nephew and great-nephew who inherited his fire. I knew this man, and his name was Bill.

cruise-7

‘The Little Old Man’ was written from my mind’s eye…I wasn’t there when any of this happened. It was how I saw the story unfold. Still, I know this for sure…the old can become new again. I’m sure Bill’s having fun sailing on the waters of Heaven.

 

 

 

 

Great Forever

Standard

“I’m not ready.” That’s what he told me as we sat waiting for a table at J. Alexanders. We were surrounded by strangers who probably thought, “Ooh look at that couple.  They’re both crying…they must be fighting.”

We weren’t fighting.  We were instead facing a cold, stark fact. Bill’s dad was close to dying…we’d both just witnessed his current state, and we both knew he was to the point of no return.

Bill wasn’t ready to lose another parent, the second in ten short months. He wasn’t ready to face life without parents and grandparents. He wasn’t ready to let another loved one go.

We still aren’t eight days later.

But he did go. Very calmly and surrounded by a packed room of loved ones, he slipped away with a few last breaths. The very thing we all live in fear of, the very thing none of us will ever escape from, happened. Eight days later, it’s still hard to believe it happened.

The loss of one parent is excruciating. My mother passed suddenly when I was 35, and it left me empty inside. I wasn’t ready not to have a mother. Bill lost his mother in November, and I was thrust back into those emotions…even eleven years later. How do you live without a mother? I discovered quickly you can because you simply have no other choice.

But two parents? I’ve listened and watched, my wanna-be-writer’s mind that never ever really shuts down, absorbing the words of so many. Some say they felt like orphans when parents passed on, others stated it was a new feeling of responsibility when they were suddenly at the top of their living family tree. Others just nodded in understanding, having lived through it and understanding our weariness.

So now what? How does life continue in such an unwanted new fashion? Here’s all I can fathom:

-Life will continue, whether we really like it or not. Our job is to find the joy in the bad. Life is what you make it, that’s for sure.

-Cherish each day with your loved ones. (Don’t we hear that to the point that it almost becomes a weary cliché? Unfortunately, it’s blatantly true and nauseatingly hard to live with once the loved ones are gone. I learned that the hard way with my momma.)

-Enjoy today. Tomorrow may really kick you in the face.

-Life can suck. Life is gut-wrenchingly hard at times. But life is also wonderful and beautiful and warm.

-Find a great pair of big girl panties. You will need them often.

-Each loss makes me so thankful for what I have left. Each loss makes us grow (even when we’d rather stay babies and never grow up).

-This life is not forever. But there is a place that is forever. That gives me incredible hope.

I can’t help but think that all the loved ones that are gone…parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends…are just a step beyond what our human eyes can see, and they’re prodding us along. They’re nudging us into the next day, the next month or year. They’re that hidden strength that gets us through the hard times when we’d rather just pout or cry. They are our strength, and they’re waiting on us in the great forever.

img_2505