A classmate of my 4-year old nephew kept crying at preschool, so my nephew put his arm around him and asked what was wrong. Through tears, the boy told him he missed his mom. My nephew responded, “We all miss our moms, but we have to be here anyway.” With that, the little boy wiped his face, walked up to the teacher and gave her his tissue.
(I know it would have been a cleaner story if the boy just put the tissue in the trash instead of getting the teacher all germy. But I just write the truth however unsanitary it may be. )
The teacher had already tried to comfort the boy, but it was my nephew’s ability to identify with what the child was feeling that finally helped him move on. I think how much this relates to all of us regardless of our age or how we dispose of snotty tissues.
It’s a comfort to know we are not alone. So often, in our sadness, loneliness, and lowliness, we feel like the only ones. Instead of reaching out, we go further inward. Our suffering becomes isolating and that makes us feel worse.
When I was a child, I considered freedom to be something grown-ups enjoyed. They can eat what they want, stay up as late as they want, watch what they want, buy what they want, and do what they want.
Little did I know.
As a teenager, freedom meant breaking rules, rebellion, and choosing for myself. As a young adult, it meant not being tied down, buying something I couldn’t afford, and a readiness to explore my place in the world. As a new mother, freedom meant I had three hours when my children were in preschool to go to the grocery store, exercise, pursue an interest, shower, or do dishes.
Those remain the quickest three hours of my life.
Now I think about freedom not as what I can get away with, spend, or get done, but who I am meant to be. What was I created for? What’s constraining me from that?
Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” He captured in lyrics what we know from experience – the agony of the wait.
Last summer I experienced waiting in a completely different way, as hope. A publisher was considering my manuscript on works of mercy. We began conversations in June, and she presented the manuscript to her Acquisitions Committee in August.
In the time between, the waiting, I was so excited to have the opportunity. I felt like everything was coming full circle and that God really did have a plan for me. I worked hard polishing the chapters and helped put together a marketing plan, but I wasn’t anxious. Instead, I felt like I was in a pale pink bubble, not made by a fairy-tale godmother, but by God himself. I was on the cusp of a dream, closer than I ever thought possible. Instead of feeling like the waiting was the hardest part, I wanted to remain in it. It seemed too painful to be so close and experience rejection. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine hope. I would have been content to float on that hope for the rest of my life.
I like the month of June because I finally have time to think about new year’s resolutions. I can’t deal with them at the end of December when I am recovering from the Christmas frenzy. The months that follow feel like I am running just ahead of falling dominos. But now that summer is officially here, my year sprawls out in front of me like a beach towel on the sand. (Okay, half a beach towel.)
I am feeling so optimistic, I bought a new calendar. It was no easy feat, since apparently most stores quit selling them by the time Cupid starts shooting arrows through month-old resolutions to get its candy on the shelves.
I want to be on fire for God, but sometimes I feel more like the worn edges of two sticks that were furiously rubbed together but never produced a spark.
We aren’t even halfway through the year, and I have been to four funerals in almost as many months. I have tried to find light from each of the lives I mourned, to formulate a takeaway, some kind of life lesson that will make sense of all this sorrow. I did okay at first, feeling a heightened gratitude for my own life and the people in it.
The gift of death is that it edges life, delineating what matters most. Because of the sorrow, we see clearer, act more deliberately, and love more purposely. All the unimportant things that sent us into a frenzy are momentarily deemed inconsequential. The stark contrast between life and death gives us a clearer perspective and realigns priorities. Read more →
I am trying to be a list person. Typically, my lists get left behind on the kitchen counter, or if they are more goal-oriented, require me to breathe into a paper bag. Instead, I am a do-one-hard-thing-a-day-and-act-peppy-about-it kind of girl. Read more →
I have a new computer and noticed at the top center is an icon of a little light bulb that reads, “Tell me what you want to do.” Maybe it’s because I had a perpetually messy room as a child and watched too many episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie,” but I’ve been looking for a light bulb like that my entire life.
Haven’t we all? How much simpler life would be if we could just get what we want, what we think we need, what we know will finally fill that persistent ache of our humanity. When I look at my life, the things I wished for as a child, the vows of certainty I made as a teenager, the ambitious plans I made as a young adult, and the middle-age accumulation of decades of yearnings, efforts, achievements, and disappointments, I wonder why I long for anything. It hasn’t been a ‘your wish is my command’ experience, but it has been magical, even if that magic felt black at times. Read more →
When I was in college, a friend often wore Birkenstocks, the backless shoes that are the tree-hugging cousin of the flip-flop. The shoes reminded me of crunchy granola and the Hare Krishna food they used to give away on campus at the University of Florida. This was back in the nineties before Nordstrom carried the comfort shoe in an array of pastels. I was poor in college, so a splurge for me was a 2 a.m. run to the border for a nacho bell-grande. In hindsight, I should have opted for the free food passed out by the bald people wearing white sheets and dancing with tambourines. It was probably healthier. But I was afraid if I ate the Hare Krishna food I would end up in a hallucinogenic state and disavow my beachy flip-flops for its chunkier cousin.
A friend of mine confessed on a recent girls’ night that her Christmas tree was still up. It was past mid-March. New Year’s resolutions had already been forgotten, Cupid already shot his arrow, leprechauns already spent their pots of gold, and cumulus clouds were already forming April showers in the skies, so I didn’t really know what to say.
She seemed relatively nonchalant about it, and I told her I didn’t know whether she had become fully liberated or if she had simply gone over the edge. There seems to be a fine line between those things. Read more →
This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. Since mercy is kind of my thing, I figure I should write about it. Only, all I can think of are answers to the question, how did mercy become my thing? Mid-life crisis? PTSD? Exposure to pesticides?
I have other things I am passionate about including cats, dogs, and color-stay lipstick. Unlike mercy, those things make sense to me.
For most of my life, mercy felt above me like one of those words at the top of the hierarchy that I could never reach. It was like the incense used during Holy Days that rose to meet the cherubs at the top of cathedrals. It was an enigma, because I never took the time to contemplate what it meant, how it’s shown, and its source from which salvation hinges. Read more →