Friday, October 29, 2010

Words of Grace

Today, as I was speaking to a friend of mine, my youngest daughter, listened on, and then turned to me as I was mid-sentence, and said, "Mom, you sound like a Pastor-Poet." To be quite honest, I have never heard the term Pastor-Poet, and quite believe, that it was an invention of her creative 12 year old mind, but may I say, given the bevy of commentary a budding almost-teen can aim at a mother, these were words were welcomed with open arms. Whatever this gracious sounding title may confer in meaning to who I am, or to the worthiness of my words, it spoke as vastly as the oceans to my sense of worth and esteem. In a word, my daughter conferred upon me the elusive "V" word...Value.

As a mother of many children, sparing you the details, as to not derail this diatribe with the horrors of child birth, or other sordid tales too long to tell; I have found myself often questioning my value, as well as the regard that I have imparted to my family. I find this is a dilemma alarmingly constant, not only among mothers, but among women, young and old, a malady of self-deprecation and perhaps it is simply a disease that is gender blind. We each wander through life with a great question mark seemingly tattooed on our hearts, and our often fragile psyche's, seeking a word, any word, that indicates we are worthy. As with this ailment of plague dimensions; self-deprecation, we often create a devastating legacy, tearing down with our own words, those we intended to build.

I have often been fascinated at the power of words, and how I, in my humanness, am more adept at using them to harm, then I am at using them to heal. As a woman who proclaims herself to be a follower of Christ, I have had to question my own willingness to take ownership of the weight of my words. If I am charged to think about what is pure, what is noble, what is lovely, admirable, excellent, then should I not also let these things come off my lips. I mean, shouldn't I be shouting them from the rooftops, or at a bare minimum, whispering them in the ears of my loved ones? What is my good report of having a God who loves me, if I do not then behave as one who is loved, and confer this love upon all those who come in to my path? In my self-deprecating arrogance, have I not conveyed that I do not agree, that I am not worthy of that love, nor is that love powerful enough to fill me, change me, and overflow out onto all those I encounter. I refuse for another day to live in such a demeaning manner, and without question, choose to affirm who I am, and thereby have words of value for those I encounter, because truly, I am in awe of the people with which I have the privilege of sharing life.

Unfortunately, as a woman of habit, sometimes habit of the negative persuasion, I must confess that believing that I, and others, are due esteem, if for no other reason than because each is a masterfully carved work of artistry, must become more than a work of head-knowledge. For this woman of humankind, it must become a work of intentionality, a discipline of the self. What is the famous quote? A picture can paint a thousand words? Pardon, if I have erred in verbiage, but as for me, I believe a word aptly spoken can create so brilliant a portraiture on the heart so as to change a life for an eternity. In my world, they are words of simplicity: the knowledge for each of my children that the last words I will say to them before they go out the door or hang up the phone will be "I love you," to my son, "You are a fine young man," to a friend, "You are amazing," to my husband, "Thank you for being so good to me."

I love the thought of a Pastor-Poet, and thinks that perhaps I would like to be one, if a pastor is simply one who gently leads others towards was is truthful, and a poet is simply one that weave verses beautiful enough to heal a heart. Then let it be so. For today, I will be content to share the wise words of a boy to his bear:

Promise me you'll always remember:
You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
--Christopher Robin to Pooh

I pray that though I may have failed in days past, from today and forward I will only help ALL that I encounter to know that they are so much braver, so much stronger, and so much smarter than they have dared to imagine...

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things(Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Have a Good Run!

Running and life have been a common theme for me over the last month...perhaps because my daughter has been participating in triathalon events, and tomorrow will run her first 1/2 marathon. Other friends, friends in my "advanced" age bracket, have been training and competing as well. Again, and again, I have been inspired by messages with this theme, and by those all around me, who run their race with focus, and with endurance. Today, I am reading and running, but writing only a little. I just ran across a passage in a text I am studying, and hope that it will inspire you as it has me.

"Like the marathon...every life race has periods of extreme discomfort interspersed with excitement and joyful enthusiasm. At times, we all encounter hindrances that impede our progress. Some of these are beyond our control, but many are obstacles we create for ourselves.

In the race of life, for example, we get sidelined when we allow our bodies to get out of shape, our relationships to cool, or our spirituality to be neglected. Sometimes we're distracted from running strong because we look at the crowds, hoping to get applause or wanting to prove something to our critics. Worse is the tendency to keep our eyes on the competition, habitually monitoring the progress of others until we lose our own direction. "Making comparisons is the cardinal sin of modern life," according to business guru Jim Collins. "It traps us in a game [or race] we can't win. Once we define ourselves in terms of others, we lose the freedom to shape our own life."

Gary R. Collins "Christian Coaching"

"Strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race that God set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." Hebrews 12: 1-2

For today, I will keep my focus on that which has been set before me: Love my family every day in tangible ways, write every day without being concerned if anyone reads my words, get on the treadmill and take another tenth of a mile, and set my face like a flint on the One who set the race before me. Tomorrow, I will get up and cheer my daughter on, even if in her focus, she only sees the finish.

Have a good run!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Works of Wonder

I am a crier. I don't mean a little tear here and there, kind of a crier. I mean the kind that makes my children laugh at me in the movie theater. The kind that causes my husband to ask almost every Sunday in church if I
am okay. The kind that buys waterproof mascara in bulk. I mean this literally, I stock up. As I write, I can count five bright orange tubes of Cover Girl, waiting under my sink to repair my potentially tear stained face. As best as I can remember, I have been a crier for the most of my adult life. Even before I truly realized that life was hard, and people suffered in ways that I could not bear for them to suffer, I cried. I cried watching children's movies, I cried when I was proud of someone I loved, I cried when life was perfect and beautiful and beyond all that I could imagine. Tears flowed in sympathy, and in empathy; in pain, and in awe. Once,as a young mother I laid in bed next to my husband and wept at the realization that my children would grow up too fast, and then they would leave me. Yes, that was me, the consumate crier.

Tears are my Catharsis. They come to heal and cleanse my wounds,they come when I hear a story of deep triumph, and they come when I suddenly realize how utterly stunning and magnificent life, and the people I am priveleged to have in my life, can be. I believe in people, and despite the depth of my own errors, I believe in myself, and the great possibilities that lie inside of each one of us. I am a member of a family that has suffered great loss. I watch as my children,who lived through the death of their eldest brother and father, choose to live an amazing legacy to their loved ones adventurous spirt. Again and again, I hear the stories of amazing human beings that have broken free from their hindrances, their chains and defeats, and have pressed forward to be human examples of fearsome and wonderful design. I watch on, as a friend struggles with cancer, living each day with purpose and joy before her children, and I remember my own father in the last stages of his battle, sitting one by one with each my children, giving each a special gift, and establishing within them the legacy of knowing they are loved. I encounter women who have lived their lives in service to others stretching out a hand to say the future can be different, serving in meal lines, mentoring single mother's, and investing their own lives and funds in broken hearts and broken people, far and wide...and I let the tears roll.

Some weeks ago, I had the gift of witnessing one of my daughters participate in a Triathalon. The mere act of registering for the event made my knees weak on her behalf, but her embarkation into a new world of running, riding, and ocean swimming, for the greater purpose of funding a local children's hospital, lit a fire in my heart. The discipline and devotion with which she began her journey was remarkable, but not unlike the devotion that I had seen earlier in her older sister as she undertook a marathon, or even the perserverance of their sister, who once believing herself "not smart," learned that she could learn and began to believe in her own intelligence, completing her Bachelors with the honor of two scholorships. I tell you these things not to basque in pride at my offpsring, but rather to note that the brilliant, the tear-worthy surrounds us, but it is our acknowledgement of it's presence that can fill our hearts and souls with the quest for the great, and the wonder that can make each of us reach for to be the "more" that we long to be.

I am not afraid of my tears, nor frightened that in allowing myself to desire to be all that I was designed for that I will feel too much pain, or bear too much disappointment, perhaps exhausting my vast well of tears.
We each are made for a purpose, perhaps one of mine is to cheer the people in my life on, to tell them their lives are worth living, that they each have the possibility to make a difference. To cry with them, to cry for them, and to well up in joyful tears at their victories. To my children I must say thank you. Thank you for showing me how worthwhile each day can be, and that there are tears that are sweeter than any gift I could ever receive. I love you each...keep encouraging one another. You inspire me.

My daughter trained for her event with a team, and within that group of athletes she had a partner, both of them new to the tri event. When she
emerged from the ocean swim, her team mate had not yet hit the sand. She
stripped off her wetsuit, ran to her bike, prepped for the next leg of the journey, and then waited... I called to her not understanding her delay, and then she turned, saw her teammate, nodded her head, and they mounted their bikes. Later, she explained that each of them had a different strength, but they committed to see each other through to the end. To spur each other on, I say, to greatness. The greatest of which is lending each other a hand in the journey.

I am grateful. To see the awesome in the everday, and everyday, to see and meet people who are truly awesome. If tears roll from my eyes when I encounter them, it is because once again I have been given a gift, the privelege of being in the presence of those who inspire, love, care, and labor to leave a legacy, as well as the joy of knowing... I, also, am fearfully and wonderfully made, designed to inspire other's, and to wipe their tears. I know that full well!

Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Observations in Delight

No story today...Simply observations in delight.

I have spent the last several months preparing to write, reading books on writing, discussing ideas for writing, and beginning the mechanics of writing. Writing, writing, writing. I have little notebooks littering my purse, and a bigger journal that I grab when I know I will have a few minutes of time for my thoughts to ruminate. The notebooks are beginning to be filled with bits and pieces of my mind, scrawled as illegibly as they appear in my brain, matter not yet mature, not yet formed in it's entirety. My husband has already grown used to my mid-sentence interuptions to our conversations, or the sight of me climbing into to bed, only to climb right back out and scrawl another thought. "More ideas," he says, as if he is trying to understand this new animal that appeared in his wife's body. I have half written pieces sitting protected in my computer, not ready for consumption, and yet, I have begun to take ownership over the idea that I just might be, nay, I will say it strongly so my ears will hear, "I am a writer."

I am a woman who believes in purpose, and even more, I believe I was specifically designed by a loving God, on purpose, and for a purpose. As a young woman of 21, I was drawn to a movie called "Chariots of Fire." The film is based on a true story, and it's central character is an Olympic runner by the name of Eric Liddell. Called to the field of missionary work, Liddell also had a deep love of running, a passion that was coupled with the innate skill and discipline necessary for the sport. Liddel took delight in being all that God had designed him for, and in the movie he states, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run I feel His pleasure." I can still feel the way those words took my breath away the very first time I watched that movie, and heard the statement, "I feel His pleasure." That excitement, that anticipation, still wells up in my heart every time those words come to my mind.

I had no idea at 21 years of age where my life would take me. I was a young mother, newly married, and wrestling with how to be married. I certainly could not imagine what I was designed for, nor that I was truly designed for a purpose, or that a Creator cared enough to design me, specifically me, to be a pleasure to Him. I also lacked the understanding that I might be required to discipline my self to discover those skills and gifts that were uniquely mine, but I knew, even then, that I wanted to feel God's pleasure in my life. I wanted to be His creation.

Recently, I sat in a lovely cafe, the name of which translates roughly to the daily bread. I ordered tea and a brioche, and the young waitress brought me a pot of tea, a bowl, and a carrier filled with large jars of jam, and one of spreadable chocolate. Announcing my ignorance, I asked the obviously savvy server, if the bowl was for my tea. With a smile indicating she understood my naivete in the ways of tea bowls, she simply said yes. Feeling generous, I poured my cream into the bowl, filled it's depth with tea, and tore off a piece of brioche, to lavish it with chocolate spread. Something about drinking my tea from a bowl felt abundant, even spoiled and decadent.

I was there to write, but having somehow forgotten my trusty writer's notebook, I grabbed an advertisement from my purse, and began tucking my notes among the letters. A certain joy began to fill inside of me, a delight. I sat watching the drops of an earlier rain hanging from the wooden chairs on the patio outside my window. I breathed in the sweetness of a heaping bowl of tea. I enjoyed the pots of lavender glistening with moisture, and delighted in the realization that again God, was "making" me. I want to be His artwork, and to enjoy all of His creation. As I sat scrawling notes, thinking of the the life I have lived, I could not help but think of the verse in Song of Solomon, a book of poetry and passionate love, "He has brought me to His banqueting hall, and His banner over me is love." And so I scrawled it on my paper, my "Writer's Notes," and hoped to always know His pleasure, and to daily discipline myself with the commitment of a swift runner, to be what I was made for. This, is my daily bread.

Excerpt from "Chariots of Fire" (1981)

Eric Liddell:

You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Daddy's Boots

It has been said that no one can fill your father’s shoes. Now whoever said it I have no idea, and probably, they were very wise, and quote worthy, but nonetheless, their name has passed from existence, or at a very minimum, they are not Google-worthy. (Google-worthy – A highly technical term meaning “you so smart”) Now, it may be, that whoever first noted that you could not fill his or her father’s shoes, was simply speaking to a younger sibling about to pour mud, or juice, or green Jell-O into their daddy’s shoes, and the wiser older sibling simply didn’t want to be around when dad put his toes in the muck. However, I’ll grant that is more likely, that some profound thinker was simply trying to point out; there is no one like dad.

As a young, prolifically freckled, flat- chested, big- mouthed, red- haired teen, I was very familiar with a pair of shoes that my father often enjoyed wearing. This particular set of footwear would have been more accurately referred to as boots; brown, worn leather, thick and stable, with a solid sole and heel. Daddy’s motorcycle boots. Now before you get the wrong idea, please don’t think that I grew up under the tutelage of the Hell’s Angels, or ruing every weekend, pretending to cheer, as my aging child of a father took to the track to race moto-cross. No, my father was a business-man, the consummate corporate career professional, wearing the power tie of his day, and alternating classic colorless suits in monotones of grey, blue and the occasional brown. He was always appropriate, always on time, and careful to ensure that every red hair was perfectly in place.

By the time I had hit the “why am I not gorgeous and blonde like my older sister?!” years, my father’s career track had taken a turn. A decade of working full-time, followed by hitting the halls of higher education, rewarded him with the opportunity to take his hard earned executive experience, and adding the title of Dr. to the front of his name. Dad became a professor. This illustrious title change brought with it a new “uniform”, and because everyone who goes through the paces of becoming Dr.” I worked darn hard for this tittle” should be rewarded with a new and stylish ride, my father turned in his luxury vehicle for a motorcycle and a helmet. Well, truth be told, the my dad had always had bikes, but they were weekend toys, certainly not something that was used as transportation to and from the office, I mean that helmet plays havoc with the carefully cared for coif.

I really didn’t mind that dad had left the 70 hour weeks, and the “We’ll pretend to shove some family time in between the meetings” company picnics, for the more laid back pace as an intellectual imparter of knowledge. The dilemma for me was that the task of taking me to high school, often, fell to dad. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved my dad, more than I wanted to admit, but with that certain wary kind of love that a teenage girl has for her father. That sort of” please don’t hug me in public, how could you be so uncool, why are you still here?” kind of love. On the days when I came out of my room still fighting the curly locks at the nape of my neck, wishing I knew how to apply mascara, the last vision I wanted to see was dad’s brown leather boots jutting out from the legs of his well-fitted jeans. Knowing that at any moment I would have to put on a helmet, swing my short leg up over the back of that bike, and actually hold on to my father as he drove me to school brought terror to my weak high-school heart. It truly wasn’t the getting on the back of the bike trauma that made me sure I would never go to a single high school dance, no, it was pulling up directly in front of the school, arms still encased around my dad, jumping off the back and trying in one fell swoop to disengage myself, my helmet, and my once carefully feathered hair from the two-wheeled destroyer of my social life saga, that wrenched my fragile psyche.

Dad passed away some ten years ago, after wrestling with cancer for several years. Still, each day he got up, many days pulling on those sturdy boots, and headed for a group of students whom thought he was both cool, and worthy of his title. My father was a mentor and a devoted educator, gaining the respect of his students for his open door approach to teaching. He also was an open- hearted grandfather to my six children, who thought just a little “sit” on the top of their Papa’s motorcycle was the coolest, and a ride was like heaven itself. My father went home when my youngest son was almost seven. Even from his toddlerhood my son had a gentle and embracing spirit. When his soft blonde baby hair barely brushed my knee, I would touch his head and say, “You are a fine young man.” The years since my son would sit on his Papa’s bike have passed as swiftly as the revolutions of the engine in my dad’s motorbikes, and now my son stares his eighteenth birthday in the face. As his family and his friends look on, one thing becomes very obvious to all who spend any significant time with him, like his papa, he is a fine man.

Recently, my son and his grandmother have enjoyed special time together, sorting through old slides so that they can be scanned onto DVD’s, opening boxes long stored in the garage, listening, talking and sharing the legacy of our family. From time to time, he comes home bearing treasures; black and white photograph’s he has copied to share with the family, selections from my father’s extensive classic music library, or a published work bearing the name of the professor himself. Just the other day, that fine young man emerged from his room in his usual avant-garde mode of dress. Sticking out from his urban cool jeans were my daddy’s boots. “These were Papa’s” he said, blue eyes brilliant with the enjoyment of the gift.

“I know,” I thought, “you fill them well.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Am Here

I am here. Sitting at my desk, empty tea cup at hand, out of breath and full of frustrated anticipation. My goal is simple, to do that thing I used to do; to put pen to paper, or as is the case these days to attack the keys of my helpless keyboard in the swift method of a hunter pecking out each symbol, wishing I had listened to my father and learned how to "type." Yes, I, two days before I mark the half century of my earthly existence, am starting a blog. It is for me, but I must say, I hope that you will read it as well, and cheer me on, or perhaps shake your head glad that I am only taking up air, and not truly denuding the rain forests with my thoughts.

I read some months ago a friend or acquaintance perhaps, who stated something to this effect, "like the world needs another blog, but I am going to write one, because I need to." Yes, I need to. I can't write a page without writing a paragraph, and I certainly can't write a story, an article, or a book, if I can't write a page. So, here it is, my first blog. I have not written anything more than college papers, grocery lists, and the occasional thank you (I am trying to get better at this) in fifteen years. I may frame it, like a new business frames their first dollar bill. For every encouraging friend who has said, "You need to write a book!", thank you, and how about I start here.

So follow me. If I offend you by my faith or by my foolishness, read on, remembering that I am but a simple woman, who sometimes has had an interesting life, often without my permission, and has managed to step in the muck more than once. Much more than once.
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