Early on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.
I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.
But the singles group?
It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.
But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was. Continue reading The Lesson in the Peeling Wallpaper→
Some days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.
When I start to feel that heaviness, I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.
It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.
Over coffee recently, a friend intrigued me with her description of a relative we’ll call Jackie. Jackie, it seems, embraces the odd. If you were to go shopping with her, you might be flummoxed to discover she prefers the items with tiny flaws: the one blue vase with a splotch of orange paint where it shouldn’t be, the picture frame with a nick on the corner, the sofa pillow with a pulled thread. Nothing that renders the piece unusable or unsafe, mind you, just something perfectly imperfect.
Me? I’d be rummaging through the box or bin for the one object in the whole selection that WASN’T slightly crooked or smeared or cracked, but apparently not Jackie.
I’m not kidding when I say there was a glow in the room. My neighbors had invited my daughter and me over to meet their new grandchild – their long awaited, breathlessly anticipated, deeply adored grandchild. They knew how much we had been looking forward to meeting this little one and it was going to work out perfectly. Their daughter and son-in-law would be there with the baby all afternoon. I could hardly contain my excitement.
She was everything we thought she would be and more. Beautiful, angelic, perfect. That is the absolute truth. But what impressed me even more than the preciousness of this child Continue reading When the Circle Widens→
Miss Ruby – as my grandmother was known to her friends- was a hardworking, dignified Southern lady. Her husband (my grandfather) died tragically when their children were very young. She raised my Dad and my aunt as a single parent, working two jobs, opening her home to boarders, and selling cakes and pies she baked from scratch.
She had a lot of wisdom and wow, was she resourceful! But I can’t imagine she had the luxury of choosing the ideal timetable for any of the major decisions she had to make. She couldn’t take extra days or weeks to consider her options; she had bills to pay, repairs to make, kids to clothe and feed. I expect she was in survival mode much of the time.Continue reading A Question My Grandmother Probably Didn’t Ask→
I came across a Gaelic prayer this week that began: “As the hand is made for holding and the eye for seeing, you have fashioned me for joy.” Have you ever considered that? That you are “fashioned for joy”? Is it really possible God intentionally designed and crafted us for joy?
Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem like it.
If the prayer were true, joy would be as foundational to our daily experience as our hand holding a morning cup of coffee or our eyes seeing the hour on the clock. Joy would be natural … and obvious … and so automatic as to barely require thought.
There are people in my life – not just acquaintances but friends – who are battling fear-inducing, seemingly insurmountable challenges: treatment for a life threatening disease, a child’s mental illness spiraling out of control, deep betrayal, job loss, marital breakdown, incarceration. These dear people are experiencing life’s lowest blows and I wonder, how are they to find or exude this joy for which they were created? Continue reading Are You Fashioned for Joy?→
For much of my Christian life, I believed I needed to “pray the answers”. My prayers, I thought, should include suggestions for God, ways He could answer my requests. I’d begin with, “If it could be your will, God, would you please ___________,” and then I’d fill in the blank with ideas for how God might respond.
I don’t think I fell into that pattern because I really thought God needed my input; I think it was a way of giving myself a kind of metric so I could know my prayers had been answered.
If things resolved the way I had prayed they would, then God had met my expectations and I was assured once more that yes, God answers prayer.
Do you know how much energy I expend trying to figure out why some people do and act the way they do? How hard I try to figure out the best way to relate to certain individuals so they either respond in the way I think is appropriate… or at least don’t insult me?
With some, I struggle just to figure out how I can get them to flat leave me alone.
I’m guessing you spend a fair amount of energy, too, trying to balance your interactions with other people, determining how best to communicate, convince . . . or simply not end up in conflict with them. Continue reading A solid strategy … not a bad word→
Relaxing never came easily to Smudge. Indeed, for most of her life, she has struggled mightily with it. Terriers (especially Jack Russells) are just like that; if you’ve ever had one, you understand. Now in her twilight years (she’s 17+), she has become something of an authority on this topic (among others) and I’ve picked up some useful tips from her.
This past week I was looking for something in a closet and came across a box of old handwritten letters. They were still in their original envelopes, held together with rotted rubber bands. I pulled them out and the next thing I knew, I had lost an entire afternoon.
What a kick to read stories from my then-25 year old sister gushing about the new job she had come to love. To revisit my mother’s fretting over her upcoming nursing board exams and hear again, at the end of every letter, how much she loved me. Priceless.