I Will Love You Louder

 

“Whom you chose to listen to, will determine the outcome of your life.” Daniel Messina, Crossroads Fellowship – Raleigh, NC

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.

 2016 was a tough year. Finally! The election was over, and I could get back to normal. I was so looking to 2017. While I was looking forward, God must have been chuckling. No, there are always still miles to go and tears to cry.  More reasons to seek Him, not my will.

That’s how life always happens. The wave of one crisis finally crests, and you’re treading water, ever so carefully, gratefully , hoping to quietly just float back to shore. And then you see it–the next wave. It’s so much bigger.

Lately the din of the news of the world coupled with the roar of life in my own kitchen has been making my head spin. I feel like it will explode on some days. Anxiety. Depression. Painful situations. Too many people I know are suffering. Is anyone in control up there in the tower? I’ve too many incoming planes and they’re all arriving unscheduled in my backyard from C and C Airways (Crisis and Confusion) and clearly their communication system is down. Help! I don’t know what to do! Hello? Is anyone listening?

So here we are. We’re hours away from a new POTUS and frankly, the world still seems as screwed up as it was before the election. The fault lines of our souls keep on cracking and dividing us further apart. The news media hurls the bad news fly balls faster than we can catch them. Apparently, mean tweets and anger and division swell ratings. Who knew?   Sheesh, if all I ever did was watch the news, and fall victim to every voice with an agenda, I’d swear our cities were burning down, we were in the middle of epic race wars, the planet is heating up to lethal temperatures, and mankind is continuously eliminating one another in the quest to dominate and be right—be it geography or the infinite, ever-expanding digital land mass known as social media.

But a weird thing happens when I walk away. I go outside and I see and breathe in sunshine. Or rain.   Or even snow. Regardless, it is a breath of fresh air. I put geographical distance and measured time between my eyes and the constant tap,tap,tapping of text messages on screens and BREAKING NEWS flashes. You see I’m learning, that if any of us are going to mentally survive going forward, you’re going to have to change the messages you listen to, in order to quiet your mind, to be a better, kinder, gentler person yourself.

Or you could just stay angry all the time. Or sad. Or feel hopeless. Or disgusted. Or whatever negative default state of disrepair you’ve learned is a safe fallback. Because as long as it’s the President’s fault (current, past, or incoming) or Congress or those on the other side of whatever viewpoints or opinions or theologies we currently hold sacrosanct, then guess what? We’re all absolved of any responsibility for fixing our own lives. Well—isn’t that convenient?!

Now before I get mean tweets of disagreement, let me say something. Disagreement does not equal disrespect for personhood or viewpoint. Though lately, many of us from the top to the bottom seem to have forgotten that. But you know what, we don’t have to engage! We don’t have to obsessively watch or listen to those voices which anger us. We don’t have to have angst anymore because others think differently then us.

In a world where uniqueness and diversity is celebrated, it seems like the last place that holds true is in the world of thought. And that’s actually where we most need to celebrate diversity. Without it, we wouldn’t have the great artists who create beauty, the scientists who solve mysteries, the doctors who find new ways to heal, the spiritual leaders who calm and inspire and teach us new ways of being.

Since the right to free speech doesn’t guarantee kind speech, we must choose what we listen to. We can’t regulate others’ tempers or temperament, only ours. I only know that if individually we become the voices of reason, kindness, gentleness and self-control, tolerance of viewpoint, and above all the blessed voice of silence because we choose to listen to others, some of the negative will be forced to retreat, to simmer down, perhaps even end.

Even if others don’t stop speaking ugly, you can still fill your head with pretty. But it’s your choice.   Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? How is it affecting your body, your mind, your soul?   Maybe it’s time to change the channel. Or go outside. Or listen to a symphony. Or read something that allows you to touch the words, feel them come to life as you turn the pages. I know! You could even get something done that you’ve been putting off! Or most of all, perhaps you need to learn how to sit alone with yourself and your thoughts. Surrender that which isn’t yours to fix. Pray for others. Make a plan. Rest. Rejuvenate.   Just be still. And know.

Changes are coming. Some will be great. Some will be terrible. Some will be made by us. Many will be made by others that are simply: out of our control.

So in light of all that? How now will you live? How will you choose?

As for me, I will resolve to speak less, listen harder.   I absolutely will be more selective on who/what I listen to. I will find ways to fast from those things that frustrate me or don’t help me grow. I will show love to those who think different, or who I disagree with.

 In the silent art of learning how to listen better, I will find I love you more. I will stop trying to change you. Perhaps you will grant me the same kindness?

In the gentle moments where my soul is quiet, I see I am able to love you. Even though we are different.   I will love you—louder.  Because it’s the only voice that makes sense to me.  It’s the only voice that will carry us all home safely.

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Today

Living in Today      I have a daughter who lives on the other side of the world right now.  It’s weird, because wherever she is, she is nineteen hours ahead of me thanks to daylight savings time and 8000 miles of ocean and continents.   Whenever we talk, she is always living in tomorrow, but I am still stuck right here: IN TODAY.   When we Skype, I usually start with, “So tell me, what can you tell me about MY tomorrow that I don’t know will happen yet?”

      I find it interesting that my Monday is always her Tuesday and so on.  So in an attempt to avoid Murphy’s law and various other pitfalls, I jokingly request she give me tomorrow’s headlines for my life as soon as she knows them.

Okay, not really, but it almost seems plausible.

          I find myself having this same beef with God lately.  Could you please let me know what’s coming down the pike tomorrow?

     You see it’s been a challenging year here.  Life situations  (aka “crisis events”) have been too many and too close together.

It’s too much!  I’d say while shaking my fists, as if God had suddenly decided that Job needed a twin sister!  I can’t bear another bit.  Silence.  Other than the sometimes discouraging and fear-inciting voices inside my head .

How many times have I looked at today’s headlines or story line in my life, and then logically predetermined tomorrow’s outcome?

Then like Ty Pennington giving some lucky family a spanking brand new home on Extreme Home Makeover, God who is merciful gave me a Big Reveal moment inside the quirky head that is home to what can only be described as Liz Logic.

Yes, the same brain that is home base to creative pursuits such as writing and photography and imagination of every dimension is also the executive studio of worry, FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real as Joyce Meyer adequately acronymed it!) and as a triple treat: anxiety.

It’s indeed hard to live fully present, in the present.  I haven’t perfected it.  But I have started attempting it more.  It’s a process of mindful letting goPrayer helps.  As does focusing on the positive moments of the day and small victories achieved.

Also essential?  A network of like-minded friends.  Negativity breeds in times of uncertainty.  So does positivity.  Pick one.

But the most important thing is living for today is simply LIVE TODAYNot tomorrow, today.   The bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow because apparently we were designed to have only enough mental storage capacity for worries for ONE DAY ONLY.   That is all the room for worry the human brain can comfortably hold.   We are told God’s grace is always sufficient for the day.  He even knows the number of exact number of hairs on our head (which for some unfortunate souls have diminished to the “less than 100” range as evidenced by comb-over fashion futility).  Yes, God dresses the lilies of the fields finer than kings and cares for the sparrow, how much more does he care about me?

If God’s promises are true for eternity, they are certainly true for today.  But it takes FAITH, an earnest attempt at, not just reading or memorizes promises, but believing them to be true.

Having a crystal ball or magic time machine that could tell me what tomorrow will bring wouldn’t ultimately fix the circumstances that will invariably arise.  But having faith in the God who holds tomorrow will at least help us get through.

SOME PERSPECTIVE ABOUT LIVING FOR TODAY:

Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.  Khalil Gibran

When Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow meet, only Today gets to shake hands twice. That makes Today twice as important as the other two. But it also means that Today must be careful, because who knows whether Yesterday or Tomorrow washed their hands after going to the bathroom.”    Jarod Kintz

Poison and Wine — The Power of The Words We Speak

POISON AND WINE – By the Civil Wars

This song simply says it best of all!  Such a talented duo!

      It happened again.  That thing that hurts me to the core.  And out of this raw place in my heart, my words came tumbling out.   Sometimes our words speak love and all that is good and lovely and pure and true because it comes from the fullest part of our heart that is content and knows what it means to be loved.  These words are a sweet wine, a pleasure to taste as they slip quietly into the ether landing in the soft pillows of your ears.  Like a chain reaction, your eyes light up and meet mine and for a moment in time, we are one.

      All too true, is that sometimes out of the darkest corners of our heart, the mouth speaks.  It’s a battle as old as time itself.  It’s the words that are born in a place where loss and fear of loss is never more than a whisper away.  It’s the trigger button that provides instant recall of something so painful or so scary that when the words come, they don’t self-edit or seek the brain’s permission:  Is this a good idea to say this now?

       This is the hardest part about being gifted with humanity.  We are more than our instincts.  We are instinct plus feelings.   We deceive ourselves and try to protect our tender hearts, as if hurting the heart of another soul will spare our own.  Except that it doesn’t.  We spew our poison because our anger, our rage, our fear, our sadness, our insecurities, and any and all of our other weaknesses overtakes us.   We get lost in the moment of what we need.  We try to take control of a situation or another person because we know at our core, we actually can’t.  Still we don’t want to go down without a fight.  The poison is out of the bottle.  And it spreads like a cancer.   Once we pour it out, we can’t pull it back in.

         You know.  If you’ve ever spilled words out of the poison bottle, you know.  It’s a bitterness whose purpose is to get even with another; it’s an ill-fated,  ineffective attempt to persuade somebody else that you are right.   But in the end, it is your cup to bear, and you drink it….alone.

          It’s hard to say words of love when we hurt.  When we are afraid.   When we’ve been misunderstood or wronged.   It’s hard to walk away if you always have to have the last word.  It’s hard to stay silent in the face of injustice, inequity, or danger.

       But sometimes, the battle is not ours to fight.  That’s called letting go.  Sometimes we can hold on in life best by intentionally letting go of the need to:

  • Say it
  • Solve it
  • Change it

Inner peace is never found in our external words, but our internal thoughts.  I forget this when I speak, but it becomes pretty crystal clear when I write, work on my photography, or spend silent moments with a loving God who created me.

Poison or wine.  Which words will you choose to speak today?

Just cause I said it
It doesn’t mean that I meant it
People say crazy things
Just cause I said it
Don’t mean that I mean it
Just cause you heard it… Adele – “Rumour Has It”

….For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Matthew 12:34

I’m Late! I’m Late! For a Non-Existant Date!

AIW RabbitThe Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (Copyright  — Disney)

Have you ever been massively stressed out because you showed up incredibly late to an important event that didn’t even exist?

Yeah?  Me too.  Here’s what happened to me yesterday:

I am part of an artistic group that I’m super jazzed to be a part of.  I had spent a good portion of my day working on my “exhibit” that I would showcase along with the other artists.  It’s something we do once a month in order to constructively critique our work and sharpen our skills.

The problem is that some of us artistic people are sometimes more creative than organized, more distracted than punctual, more scattered all over the place than efficient. 

So it was no surprise last night I felt myself internally blowing a gasket when:

My husband forgot about my meeting despite repeated reminders, thus forgetting to come home from work to watch our young son so I wouldn’t be late for the fourth time in a row.

At 6:59 pm, I stopped by the local gag-a-burger joint en route.   I was 2nd in line at the drive thru (“One fry, one sweet tea, please hurry, thank you!”) only to have to wait 9 ENTIRE minutes for ONE car in front of me to receive their order.  I watched my rear view mirror as the line began to snake an entire circle around the joint.   I had no room to back up and abandon my order, and I couldn’t ram the driver in front of me to “the special designated area for “folks whose custom orders delay EVERYTHING for the rest of us.”  I was forced to wait!

I felt my blood pressure points accumulate faster than the points on a Medieval Madness pinball machine.  To make matters worse, Bachman Turner Overdrive was singing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” on the radio.  For whatever reason that song totally grates on my nerves and added to my stress levels.    I began to scroll down the paltry six presets on my radio:

  • Station One:  Lady Gaga.  No, please! 
  • (Switch)  Katy Perry.  No Lord, I beg you please, double no!  Not if it were the last song on earth!
  • (Switch)  Commercial (Men are you urinating more frequently then you used to?)
  • (Switch)  Another commercial (Parents, does your child talk back to you at least once per month?)
  •  (Switch)  Pearl Jam  (Jeremy Spoke in Class Today)—should I blog about the deeper meaning of this song or chuck the thought? I quickly decide on the latter.  I realize the song is weirder than my weirdest thoughts and yet it intrigues me how such lyrics generated millions of dollars and fans.  Whatever!
  •  Switch–Classical music.  Cool!   I start to calm.  I go to Whole Foods in my mind and make 15 cups of Kona breakfast blend with lots of brown sugar and cream.   I meditate here for a moment.

7:29 pm.  I have arrived at my destination.   Let the stress of late begin.

Everything this entire forsaken day has transpired against me it seems. Nothing got finished on time.  I had been disorganized, delayed and detained all day.  No hour of the day remotely resembled the hour preceding it.   It was all I could do to make up a new ultra creative excuse for why my family sometimes forgets why this night is important to me.

Criminy!  I barged into the room, now thirty minutes late, where the other artists would already be showing and critiquing their work.  They would be calm, in place, at peace, focused, and ready to present.  I would be out of breath, frazzled, confused, and wondering if I could slowly slink by and find a chair without spilling my wares or causing everyone to look at the REALLY LATE girl (again).

“Hi, I’m sorry I’m…..” OH!  Wait a minute. ..

These aren’t my people!  These people were immersed in a bible study with soothing moments of solitude, prayers, peacefulness, and calmness.  Like those who shall someday inherit the earth, I meekly said, “Is this the Thursday Night Artists Club?”   Duh!  I knew it wasn’t!!  I was just grasping to say anything at all while my breath was making its way in from the parking lot to catch up to my body.

“No sweetie, it’s not.  But you could probably ask someone at the front desk on your way out.”  Gahhh!

I couldn’t exit quick enough!  It finally dawned on me.  I ran to my car and fished thru my purse full of clutter.  Finally!  I found my pocket calendar.  Yes, I know my phone has a calendar, but I’m always afraid I’ll lose my phone if I rely on it for not just phone numbers, Facebook, and photos, but my actual life plan so I view a paper calendar as an insurance policy, a reverse Murphy’s Law if you will, that as long as I don’t totally DEPEND on my phone, I’m insured against losing it.  Just a stupid mind game I play myself, but hey we all have them!

I pull out the calendar.  Though I clearly knew the day of the week (Thursday) I had inadvertently forgotten the date!   I see now it’s the 5th Thursday of the month.  Though we meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month, I had not run into this 5th week phenomenon before.

Deflated and breathless I take a moment and realize I am the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I live my days traveling at the speed of light from moment to moment and task to task but often with the awareness of a gnat.  I not only don’t see the forest through the trees sometimes, I sometimes miss the fact that I’ve left the woods entirely and am now suddenly surrounded by Mac trucks on an eight lane interstate.

All this technology to keep us in check, we spend all our time emailing, texting, status-updating (way guilty!), messaging, tweeting, chronicling and calendaring ourselves into oblivionBy attempting to do everything, we often accomplish nothing. 

In the end, my daughter called.  She’d be coming home in an hour!  A rare treat!  We only see her a few times a year now as she is in college, living at the beach this summer, and traveling still between jobs.  She’d be crashing at our house for just tonight.  She wants sushi rolls for supper.  Downtown.  With all the trendy people under perpetual Christmas lights with their shiny cars that are parked by the valet. 

So now that I’m free tonight, it’s a date.  Our family goes.  My seven year old has only a banana split with massive whip cream and ice cream for dinner, as he is not sushi-tolerant yet.  I justify this sugar infusion since he will also be dealing with sleep deprivation tomorrow at school.  Oh well, not my problem. 

And so it goes.  Another day in the life of Liz.  No two hours are the same.  If you have a family you may have a life like that too.  You wake up dreaming of order and art; you close the day with chaos, crabmeat, and chopsticks eating “Steven Tyler”.  It’s TRUE!  That’s what my sushi dish was called; The Steven Tyler.  It was delicious!   We also ate the Bob Marley but passed on the Marilyn Monroe.

A change of plans is our only constant in our busy lives.  We’ve but one option:  Roll with it.

“It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”  Sarah Dessen: “What Happened to Goodbye”

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.    Ecclesiastes 3:1

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

What We Draw Near

Cojoined Tree CIMG3853

     We have a new dog.  So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature.  So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.

       I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking.  I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.

We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of.  I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love.  And it feels as if there is someone else with us too.  I can’t see or hear Him.  But it’s more than a feeling or intuition.  It’s just a knowing.   

     On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree.  I was immediately drawn to the tree.  For it is a co-joined tree.  Or at least that’s the term I gave it.  Is it one tree or is it two?  Have you seen one like this?  The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment.  I looked up.  Oh my!  Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one!  Or at least that’s how it appeared.  They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.

The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.

     Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James.  James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).

The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith.  James teaches us about:

  • Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
  • Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
  • How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
  • How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
  • How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
  • There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
  • There are also warnings about riches and money.  If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
  • There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer.  Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that?  It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE!  Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
  • He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
  • The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp.   But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

     In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self.  We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song:  I did it……”My Way!”  Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives.   Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?”   Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?

So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities?  Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment?  Sickness?   Lack?  Trials of every kind?   Stress?  People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along?    Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?

Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes:  Yep!

But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this.  Right.  Now you are where you need to be. 

Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true.  We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.

It just doesn’t work like this.  In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness.  When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime)  then you can truly be at peace.  You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer.  That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering.    This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!”  (James 1:3)

We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise.   I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first.   Control really should be a synonym for futility.

I always say:  We are all just renters here.  At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.

It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes.  But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing.  Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught.  We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life.  That’s because we are.

We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too.  Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits.  Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away   But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too.  Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins.  God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.

I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!

Image

When I was a child, I remember my mom owned a book titled “I’m Ok; You’re Ok”.  OK, blogger’s disclosure here:  I have never read the book.  Sixty seconds of research on Amazon clearly puts me in my place; this is a distinguished writer who not only has the letters “M.D.” stenciled by his name, but has sold copies in the millions!  As if psychoanalyzing the dynamics of our parent/adult/child relationships to one another wasn’t totally gratifying, this doctor ultimately skyrocketed to fame with his book and subsequent movie “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal”.    Second disclosure:  Glad I didn’t share couch time with him!

Ladies and gentleman, allow me to present myself:  Liz, amateur blogger who has zip, zero, nada credentials other than The School of Hard Knocks and The University of Life’s Experiences.   I am an expert in many subjects though; particularly the ones I deem worthy of arguing over.  Everything else is irrelevant.  Capishe?

Anyway, in my humblest of opinions, I really think most people would find ourselves and could skip years of therapy and countless thousands of dollars if they could just read one of dozens of books I eventually plan to write –barring unforeseen distractions of course!   I will call it:

“I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

Born just a few decades shy of the new millennium, I, like many of you experienced big life events.  Off the top of my head I remember these events, both external and internal, in a world that started out with time moving slowly. Now time seems to move at the speed of light thanks to the exponential increase in technology and access to world and interpersonal events simultaneously.    This is my truth as I remember it:

  • I turned four in a new house.  This time, it was a two-story home.
  • Our family got a brand new color TV!
  • The next day we saw Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon.
  • Our new color TV became my mom’s CNN when the Watergate Hearings started.
  • I turned eight that day.  “As the World Turns” was suspended.    I was covered in poison ivy.
  • President Nixon said he was not a crook.  I remember he was like the Beatles in this regard; he was famous and he also gave America the peace sign.
  • I repeatedly sat in the scorching heat and was bored to death in the back of my mom’s Impala as we waited forever to get gas before it ran out.
  • President Nixon, besieged by scandal, scowly jaws, and a neck that always seemed to turtle into his shoulders, resigned.
  • My cat had kittens and then my dad didn’t come back one day.  Then my parents divorced.  And I had to give all the kittens away.
  • Life was not always sunshine and lollipops.
  • I turned eleven.  On my birthday my dad stopped by.  He tied a red bandana around my eyes, put a cowgirl hat on my head, and gave me some genuine leather cowgirl boots.  We rode in his Porsche convertible 911 Targa to an unknown destination.  When he took off my blindfold, I was standing at a field near a stable. He had bought me a horse—the horse of my dreams!   I was so lucky!
  • I got the consolation prize but my mom got stuck with all the responsibility of raising me during the height of my future rebellion.  We are still very close to this day.
  • Then Elvis fell off his porcelain throne and died on his bathroom floor.  The whole world cried.  Did I?  I can’t remember.
  • I read CS Lewis’s “Alice and Wonderland” and got lost for a few days.  A love affair with words and imagination ensued.
  • I turned 12.  My horse got very sick.  I lay against her belly and cried copious tears on the hard ground when we had to put her to sleep.  I’m not a brave person, but I learned I could face it when the time comes to tell our pets good-bye.
  • I got my period and then over 900 people died in Jonestown, Guyana.  I do remember crying over that when I realized this scene repeated itself hundreds of times:  Parents gave their kids Kool-Aid.  Then they died.   Why?
  • I started high school.  My friend’s brother drove me to school in a 1970 VW Bus with a silver foot shaped gas pedal.  The van always smelled like reefer, but it didn’t bother me because I had a secret crush on him.  We never talked to each other.
  • John Lennon was assassinated.  Then my mom and I celebrated Christmas, just us two and our cats, for the fifth time.
  • Summer came.  I started liking boys more than girls.
  • Second year of high school was in session and John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodi Foster.    Then I got my driver’s license.
  • That summer the sandy haired boy with the reefer bus committed suicide.  He left behind a daughter and girlfriend.  He never knew I liked him “more than a chauffeur.”  I was not a good friend to the sister he left behind.  Death makes people who aren’t grown up yet drift apart.  I wish I could tell her I’m sorry now.
  • Next I dated someone who was immature and sometimes cruel.  I got smart quick.  I dumped him fast.
  • I met my second boyfriend.
  • I worked all through high school.  Then I graduated.
  • A week later I moved out into a brand new mobile home with my boyfriend.  It hurt my mom because I didn’t give her any warning.
  • After four years I married that second boyfriend.  We had ups and downs, and stayed busy with three amazing kids who did every activity under the sun.  We traveled, we camped, we loved, we lost, and we loved again.  The cycle of life’s events big and small, internal and external happened, all over again.  Only this time it seemed to go by even faster, and with more of us.  We have a mostly good life today.  Some say blessed; I do.

Why?

It’s because we’ve both learned how to graciously—well, on most days, accept one another and those around us in the world as they truly are.  That is, “I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

We both had childhoods that were indeed mostly happy, full of play, and learning, friends and family.  Yet from time to time, we took turns getting suddenly thrown out of “Happyville”.  Leaving Happyville, was always followed up by temporary internments in the tenement slum housing known as “Dysfunction City”.

We all went through this.    Yes, we children of the Age of Aquarius, this new dawn of enlightenment and reason, all had to endure these universal hardships of life:

Hurt.  Sadness.  Disappointment.  Unfairness.  Events beyond our control.

But here’s the good news:   The bad didn’t last.  It never does!  As God wove the threads of our life’s tapestry, these hard things became the torn threads that gave our life, our tapestry, its character and its absolute richness.    The master weaver is still at work.

We live and we dream and the world just keeps on turning.   God is in control.  And we’re all going to be okay.  Mostly.

And we know that in all things,  God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

ImageLiz and Her Horse Patches – 1976

Bye Bye Baby Girl

Dance Photo: Bob Stuart Photography
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Partial Lyrics – Daughters – John Mayer

Who doesn’t get a lump in their throat when they look at their baby girl and see the incredible young lady you knew they would be.  We look in the mirror at ourselves and often think Oh my; what happened? But our daughters—well, that’s different.  Sometimes we have these moments that just seem to freeze time.   As we do, we  observe with amazement and are  shell shocked because this realization hits us so hard; where did all the time go?

I’ll tell you where it went.  You bring the little apple of your eye home and your days get consumed with nursing, stimulating, putting down, comforting, and watching every first in amazement:  First  smile, first tooth, first step, first words.  You have more fun dressing your baby girl than you ever did playing dolls.    I was born to do this, you think.  My happiness is complete now.

You don’t realize it; it’s gradual, but you leave the cocoon of infancy quicker than you thought.  Now your packing diaper bags with goldfish crackers snapped in plastic, a few wedges of apple for good measure, sealing  sippy cups, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and Barney tapes (my baby missed the IPOD and even CD generation).   You’re meeting the other moms you’re friends with for play dates at the park, or Gymboree class, gymnastics lessons, or trips to the library or museums. You’re in full blown motherhood!  You’re concerned about every morsel they ingest, every habit they have and every milestone they either exceeded or lag behind.  You put character band aids on every boo boo and you kiss the tears until they vanish.

All former identification with career status only has now taken a back seat, most likely, to motherhood, regardless of hours worked outside the home.   Sometimes you may go to work because you desperately need a break, or perhaps you have to work, but it kills you.   Either way, you’re desperate  to hurry  home,  afraid of what you might be missing.  The ache of not being with her catches you off guard.  You always thought you could do both easily.   You learn having it all, is not just an illusion, it’s clearly obvious that you don’t even harbor that desire now.  Less becomes more.

As you learn to make peace with work and motherhood, time ticks on.  Soon you’re packing back packs, lunch boxes, and learning how to French braid hair, and sanitize freshly pierced ears.  Baby girl plays with you;  she plays with her dolls or Build-A-Bears, or with friends.  You don’t even feel it, this sudden pull as she becomes  the pretend role of mommy, Queen, finger painter Picasso,  clown, gymnast, dancer, singer, artist, pot-holder weaver, tye-dyer extraordinaire,  and a million other choices. Yes, she’s leaving you, alright.

You referee sibling fights and arguments amongst friends and you too, change hats more frequently than you once changed diapers.  One minute you’re craft mom, the next minute you’re nurse, the next you’re mentor mom, homework mom, PTA mom, and chauffeur mom.  Yes, before elementary school is finished, you will start logging miles that would make a truck driver say, “Whoa momma….slow down.”     But you keep going, because you know dance lessons, help with homework, music lessons, summer camps, play dates, museum trips, are all what will make your daughter super amazing someday.  Or at least you delude yourself, if you can just keep on striving towards that ultimate Queen’s Crown of PERFECT MOM, all will be well!

Time doesn’t pardon you or slow down, just because you can’t seem to get it all done in a day.  More than half her childhood has passed already.  Middle school is a complete revolving door of hormones, physical changes, and a mental maturity that arrives without warning.   Stringy uncombed hair is suddenly combed.  Make up is applied.  Bras go on first.   “That time” arrives and leave you both a little sad.   Even little girl is more a memory now.  Hints of a woman are lurking in your subconscious, but you chase it away.

High school arrives.  Day after endless day of activities ensue.  First car, first date, first job, first prom, first boyfriend all take place.   The cycle of firsts repeats.    My daughter is a dancer.  EVERY night of her entire high school life was spent at a studio.   Dinner with family was rare, but the dashboard dining table was common.   Rebelling or excelling is common during these years.   You learn to deal with the stress of either, or both sometimes.  Your daughter’s friends sometimes become your friends, or sometimes become the thorn in your side.  But deep down you love all of them; especially the thorny ones.

Since you often feel like you are feeding and mothering a clan, you admit that maybe Hillary knew a thing or two when she said, “it takes a Village to raise a child”.  You are Village Mama trying your level best to supervise, teach, befriend, and intervene when necessary.  Your former status as CEO on the domestic frontier has been diminished to that of an adviser.  Unlike your day job, you were not informed of your demotion.

Suddenly you went from  turning baby girl on her back in the crib, to this moment where  you’re watching  young lady turn her tassel.   In our case, we wrapped childhood up with several amazing final senior recitals, a graduation party, and tied a pretty bow on her life with a big trip to NYC,  a final nod to the amazing world of competitive dance.

Then–.BOOM!  It happens.  This is the day she leaves you!  Bags are packed,  room is cleaned out, pictures are taken, hugs are exchanged, and you go back home with one less.  You tell yourself not to cry.   But of course, you do.   You’re happy for her.  But you’re sad for you.  You knew that day they placed her in your arms this day would come; you just tried to pretend it wouldn’t.

We say goodbye and let this beautiful woman God crafted all those years ago inside of you into the big wide world.

You nurtured her, taught her, laughed with her, traveled with her, joked with her, ate with her, made things with her, drew with her and sometime when she wasn’t looking tried to just draw her.  Above all, you just loved her.  You loved her so much and so hard, you realized when she left, you weren’t sure what was left inside of you.

If she’s your first, you know the first time in every big step is the hardest and you take comfort in the children who still keep you busy.   If she’s you’re last, or your only one, you feel pain the most acutely, because now time demands of you to answer the question who am I now and what in the world am I going to do.

But like her, you will find the answers to these questions in time.  Take time to listen to your heart; what is stirring in your soul just for you?   And just like baby girl, you will step out bravely into the new world and find the answer.  Trust God.  Reach out.  Go forward.   And find your life in a new way.

When I saw her first in a pram they pushed her by
Oh my, my how you’ve grown
Well it’s been, it’s been…a little while

In a Little While…U2