Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wheel alignments and tire rotations

Last Saturday, I took the minivan over to Good Year to have the wheels aligned and rotated. I felt the van pulling over to the right when I drove, so I knew it was time to have some work done. Just after 8 am, Steve and I drove the couple of miles to the repair shop and he took the keys inside and made all the arrangements. (Why did Steve take my keys inside? I was still in my pajama pants.) Less than two minutes later, out he came and off we went, back home. I was to return and pick up the newly aligned Sienna at 11:30 the same morning.

Back home, I did a workout, showered, had breakfast, read, wrote, cleaned the house, did the laundry, the usual Saturday morning activities. At 11 am, Kristiana and I set out for the car repair place on foot. On their return trip from Daniel's morning baseball practice, Steve and Daniel were supposed to meet us somewhere along the way, pick us up, and drive us the rest of the way. It was a glorious morning, so we walked along with both smiles and sunglasses on our faces.

Sure enough, about one-third of the way there, we caught sight of my husband's Toyota Camry. They dropped us off at Good Year on their way to Daniel's basketball game. (Have I ever mentioned Daniel's obsession with sports?) Not only did the kind gentlemen align and rotate the wheels, but they also replaced two of the tires. Apparently, I had waited too long to get the work done and the two front tires had suffered irreparable damage. $290 later and we were on our way. No more pulling off to the right or to the left. No more worry about whether or not I might lose control of the wheels altogether. The new tires gripped the road with new determination. All was well. All was back as it ought to be.

I remember going with a friend to the chiropractor many years ago. After considerable pressure from my friend, I went into the room with him as the "alignment" was being done. Snap, crack, pop, pull, turn, twist - horrible sounds. Horrible angles. Within a few minutes - which felt more like an hour to me - my friend sat up on the table and declared himself realigned; the pain was gone, and all was well.

I've gotta admit that I like the Good Year way of aligning things a lot better than the chiropractor way. Drop off the unaligned parts. Come back in a few hours. Pay the bill. Drive away. No odd sounds, no frightful twists and turns. Just leave the hard work, the heavy lifting to the folks who know what they are doing. Why should I have to hang around?

In my life, however, the most important, to most valuable realignments require my presence. When I cracked my tail bone as a senior in college and suffered with subsequent back spasms, I had to rest. I couldn't leave my back in the bed in my dorm room or on the couch in the TV room and go about my regular business with hopes of returning later to a healed and restored lower spine. When I pulled my hamstrings (repeatedly) as a track athlete in high school and college, I had to stop running for a while. I had to go to the trainer for heat treatments, stretching, weight lifting, and a gradual recovery. I couldn't leave my hind parts in the training room and return hours later to strap them back on and head out to the track. I had to involve the whole package, my whole body in the healing process.

The same is true for my mind and spirit. When I feel my thoughts pulling to one side, to one emotion, to one person, it's time for a realignment. When I feel my mind slipping from trust to fear, from calm to anxiety, from love to indifference, it's time for a rotation and realignment.

In order to do that, I take my mind on a journey back to the place where all was well and try to determine where I began to go off track. For example, late the past Sunday night, I found myself snapping at the children for minor infractions (who but a horribly unaligned person refers to her children's actions as "infractions"?). My husband could do nothing right (this same husband who encourages me to travel alone, to go out in the evenings and do a little shopping for and by myself. Again, how bad can such a husband be?). Suddenly, I wanted to get in the car and go for a long drive towards the beach. In Spain. So I sat at my desk, journal before me, pen in hand, and began to go back in time. How was it possible that such a wonderful day had suddenly turned so awful? Where and when had the tide began to turn in and rush over my head? It was Maya. The dog. She had peed in the house. She had been doing so well, no accidents in weeks. And every time she has one, I feel like it's my fault somehow, like I had done something wrong. Irrational, I know. But there it was. There it is: a six pound dog had turned me against my family. It was definitely time for a realignment. Maya's tiny bladder is not my fault. The fact that we neglected to take her outside is not my fault.

Readjust. Realign. Relief.

This morning, I felt a cloud of fear settle in about six inches away from the roof of my heart. Fear of job loss and another move. Fear of gaining a tremendous amount of weight and not being able to lose it. Fear of losing friends to illness or death but having no way of knowing what was going on with them. Fear of violence against my children. Fear of war, hunger, famine, drought, tornado. I found myself in a fog of fear, unable to find a way out. I had turned on all the fog lights I had at my disposal, but the way was still impassable.

It took a while, but I figured out when these Carolina blue skies turned to slate gray. I've been hearing many stories of illness and death lately. A friend who lost her father to death a year or so ago, lost her mother earlier this week. My Spanish nephew, Alvaro, goes in tomorrow for his first cleft palate correction surgery. I still have heard no news about the family waiting months for a new job. A church friend who was deported from the US called me yesterday to fill me in on their new life in a country that has taken them in as refugees. I watched the Oprah Winfrey show on the leadership academy for girls that she opened in South Africa; the life stories of her newly adopted daughters are heart-breaking. More painful than all this was the realization, the remembering that lives are being claimed hourly by violence, war, death, disease, starvation, and natural disasters all around the world. There are many reasons to be captivated and paralyzed by fear.

About an hour after the fear fog settled over my spirit, my son, in his Bible memorization practice, spoke exactly the right verse into my life.

Romans 8:38-39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I can and eventually will be separated from my husband and kids, by school, by college, by work, even by death. I can and probably will suffer from some natural disaster at some point; we are already being affected by an ongoing, albeit relatively mild drought here in the South. So much can go wrong. So much does go wrong in life.

But nothing can separate me from the love of the God who promises to be with me until the end of everything. The God of all comfort. The God of peace. The God of grace and mercy and compassion.

No horrible cracking sounds or unnatural twists of the spine or the spirit.
No credit card charges or checks to be written from my account.
This is a realignment and rotation of soul, of mind, and of thought
that cost me nothing. Nothing but trust. Nothing but faith.
But Christ's love for me cost Him everything.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Movie that Changed My Life

Yes, I finally saw a film that changed my life.

It is entitled, "Amazing Grace," and it is the story of William Wilburforce, the English Stateman, who fought for over 15 years in the British Parliament to bring about the end of slavery in the British empire. The film depicts the emotional and political battles, the tears shed, the lives lost, the despair, the anguish, and the physical suffering he endured as, year after year, his bills were defeated. Then, finally, success. Freedom. Redemption.

How did the film change my life? His tiresome work and the work of his co-laborers, the work of abolitionists in this country and all the world around, changed the course of history for people of African descent over 100 years ago. Those changes made it possible for my parents to meet in New York after growing up in segregated North and South Carolina. Those changes made it possible for students of African descent to study at places like Williams College in Massachusetts where I met the man, the white man, who was to become my husband. And those changes made it possible for me to live with my husband and our two children here in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city and a state that used to be known for their opposition to the abolition of slavery.

So, yes, Mr. Wilburforce and the story of the way in which God's Amazing Grace touched his heart and motivated him to face what appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle and overcome it changed my life. I left the theater in tears as the strains of Amazing Grace echoed through the corridor. Awed. Grateful.

And wondering to myself: What will my passion be?
What will I spend the rest of my life fighting for?
I'm still wondering.

Take the children. Take the parents. Take friends and neighbors.
So see "Amazing Grace."
Be inspired to stand strong for justice and mercy.
Be inspired to stand strong against powerful people and corrupt government.
Be inspired to ask God what He wants you to spend your energy and passion on.

His Grace Still Amazes Me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Life comes at me fast

It's not that I don't think about blogging. I think about it every day. It's not that I don't have anything to write about. My mind and heart are full of stories and incidents to share, both uplifting and sorrowful. It's just that life is coming at me and flying past me fast.

Last Saturday, I went to the early morning prayer service at church and then gave a talk to the women in the Spanish congregation about friendship, love, and how to love one another as sisters in the faith. Then Daniel had a basketball game and we watched two other games after that. Then it was dinner, walking the dog, getting ready for church and for bed.

Sunday was church, out to lunch with a couple of friends. Home to listen to Kristiana's account of her weekend away at camp. Back to church for the evening service. Then some family time. Off to bed.

Steve was off from work on Monday, but we had a few errands to run as a family. And since it's so rare for us to have an entire day together, I focused on hanging out with them and not sitting at the computer. Kristiana had horseback riding that afternoon, so I was off to the barn with her. Steve and Daniel went up to Davidson College to watch a men's basketball game.

Tuesday and Wednesday are a blur. Oh yeah, homeschooling, a trip to the supermarket, cooking, cleaning, talking on the telephone, beginning to prepare for a women's retreat I will be leading in April, walking the dog, teaching the journaling class at church, to a lecture on the jazz of the Harlem Renaissance, taking the children to a photographic exhibit of musicians from the Harlem Renaissance, plus times of prayer, journaling, reading, and exercise in between.

It's not that I haven't learned a lot during all of this or been dazzled and amazed by the wonder that is this life I live. I have stood in silent awe in our backyard looking up at the bare trees and marveling at the many bushes and trees that remain green year-round. I could see my breath in the early hours of the day - as well as fresh, bright young daffodils bursting to life in spite of the cold morning air. I watched Maya lift her head to breathe in the many scents around us and wished I could smell what she smelled. I wondered what tunes the birds were singing to one another and to The One who created them. I listened to the children in one of the backyards that faces ours and wondered what stories they were telling one another. Then one burst into loud, fretful cries, and my curiosity was piqued even more.

In the library where I perused the shelves for something, anything that caught my interest, I saw the husband of a dear friend, a friend who is suffering with a very serious cancer, reading. I didn't disturb him, but I prayed for them both. I prayed for my friend, whose hair and physical strength are gone, and whose only prayer request is that she be able to keep her eyes on God throughout this ordeal. I came home with a book called The Art of Kissing. I look forward to testing a few of the recommended techniques on my work-weary huband.

I have spent a lot of time this week on the telephone. Listening. Praying silently. One friend whose husband is refusing dialysis. No more, he says. No more. An aunt who is refusing a second open-heart surgery. No more, she says. No more. One friend whose mother is on life support, and she and her siblings must decide what to do now. Two friends who find themselves in dark, lonely marriages. One whose child is inexplicable ill. Friends of friends who are suffering, afraid, and alone.

I receive email updates about a local homeschooling family of nine whose husband/father hasn't been able to find a job in more than nine months. As I stand at the kitchen counter, chopping, slicing, and dicing food for our meals every day, I pray for her, for the mother, because I cannot imagine who fearful she must be of not having enough food to feed her seven children. Then I am reminded again of the countless mothers around the world who go to bed every night and listen to their hungry children cry out in pain. I stand at my counter, knife in hand, and weep for them all. I pray the only thing that I can, "Lord, have mercy." Later, I call my children into the kitchen for an extra hug and tell them I love them. They don't even ask why. They know me.

My heart is full. My mind is full. My life is full.
I am filled to overflowing.
And I am thankful.

Thankful for this house that protects us and all our stuff, keeping us warm and dry.

For the bountiful food we eat.

For fresh water to drink and bathe in.

For the opportunity to be a mother and to homeschool my children.

For an encouraging and understanding husband, who encourages us to get out for more field trips, to read and write more, to play outside daily, to live this life we have to the fullest.

For his willingness to work so hard in order to support this wonder-filled life we live.

For his sports-loving spirit: this past weekend, he made arrangements for himself and Daniel to go to Florida for another father-son baseball spring training trip. (I won't lie; sometimes I wish he didn't love sports as much as he does, but when I see how much he loves to share his love of sports with his son, I forgive him for making me a weekend sports-widow.)

For life and health and the strength to live fully, abundantly, and joyfully each day.

It's not that I haven't thought about blogging.
I think about it every day.
It's just that life has been coming at me so fast of late, I haven't made the time.

But all is well. All is well. All manner of things shall be well.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Numb Parts Coming Back to Life

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago to find that my left arm was completely numb. I couldn't use it to hoist myself up to a seated position. In fact, I had to use my right arm to bring it around and place it on my lap. The phrase "dead weight" took on a personal meaning that morning. Strangely unafraid, I sat on my bed and waited.

Within seconds I felt the blood begin to flow from my shoulder down my triceps and biceps, down into my forearm, and reach the end of my fingers. Strength was restored. Usefulness was restored. Energy. Life.

Last week, I began a book by Alice Walker entitled, We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For. It is a book of speeches and essays delivered and written in the past five years or so about the state of our world. The horrors of war, poverty, racism, hunger, and the injustice that permeates our society and our world find their way into this volume. She writes about our environment, the animals that walk the earth, and the rich bounty of food that the earth provides to all of us on a daily and yearly basis. She writes of the power of prayer, of meditation, and of action. As I sit at the kitchen table reading it little by little everyday, while eating salad, drinking tea, and enjoying the quiet sunlit afternoons in South Charlotte, I feel the blood flow back into the activist part of me, that part that has become numbed by all the dismal statistics and seemingly endless tales of abuse, murder, war, bombings, shootings, gun rampages in malls and schools.

Alice Walker describes it this way: "There is a pit of loneliness, so widespread in this postmodern world; the pit of violence, in which our children are slowly drowning; the pit of fear, as we realize how trapped we are in our cities, our towns and our streets, and even in the countryside, where men seem now to be almost always armed, and women know in our bones that we are never safe."

Who are we kidding? I wonder. We may not have car bombs or suicide bombers like Iraq and Israel do, but the citizens of this country have easier access to arms than those of nearly any other country on the planet. After all, it is our inalienable right to bear arms. It is our right to purchase them and load them. It is our right to enter public facilities without being inspected for those weapons. It is the right of admittedly violent groups of people to buy guns and "protect themselves" against those who live in our country, clean up after us, build McMansions for us, but are not allowed to become citizens of this nation. It is also our right to die while standing outside the Gap at the mall looking at the mannekins in their tight jeans and bare midriffs.

Why are there signs around Charlotte that inform us that concealed weapons are not permitted in various places? Why do such signs need to exist?

Why are there emails going around the internet warning of the horrific ways in which parking lots, supermarkets, office buildings, and shopping malls are becoming ever more dangerous for women and children? Some of the internet accounts are "hoaxes," but the rapes, robberies, car-jackings and killings that occur in all of those locations are no hoax. Why do such emails need to exist?

Why do I refuse to walk my dog alone at night? Why do I refuse to allow Kristiana and Daniel go anywhere alone after dark, even just up the street to a neighbor's house? Why does my heart skip a beat and I say a quick prayer every time I see a woman jogging alone with her iPod earphones in place? Why is it that I know that when my children are adults, the world will undoubtedly be safer for Daniel to be alone anywhere at anytime than for Kristiana?

Yes, the part of me that used to surge with outrage about violence, about the needlessness of it, the way in which we excuse it and justify it, that part of me is coming back to life. What I wonder is what I will do with this lifeblood, this energy that has found its way back to my fingertips, back to the keyboard, and here to my blog.

Fortunately there is more surging in me at the moment than merely rage about the pit of loneliness, violence, and fear that our world seems to be teetering over at the moment. I offer my thanks to God and to Alice Walker for reminding me that prayer is key to overcoming the rage that comes with anger at injustice. Prayer is not the only response, of course, but it certainly ought to be the first one.

Later in the book, she tells the story of a man born to a slave woman in the South and whose father was also his mother's owner. (Even writing that sentence makes me want to scream.) The slaveowner and some of his violent friends killed the son one night because "his horse and saddle were too fine." Killed his own son.

Certainly that is an awful story. But the best response is not to carry out an act of violence against the father and his friends. Nor is it a good idea to hate them for their cowardly act. The best response is prayer.

Again, Walker's words:
Let us bring our attention to the life of our young brother,
our murdered ancestor, George Slaughter.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know we remember you

Let us bring our attention to George's mother.
She who came, weeping, and picked up the shattered pieces of her child,
as black mothers have done for so long.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know that we remember you

Let us bring our attention to George's father.
He who trails the murder of his lovely boy
throughout what remains of time.

May you be free...

Let us bring our attention to those who rode with the father,
whose silence and whose violence caused so much suffering
that continues in the world today.

May you be free...

I continue that prayer for those who verbally, mentally, physically, sexually, emotionally abuse those that they consider to be weaker than themselves.

For those who themselves are abused, neglected, hated, feared, and belittled.

For those who perpetuate violence, justify it, excuse it, and support it through our action and our inaction.

For those who are forced to carry out acts of violence in the name of someone else, on behalf of someone else, who fear for their own lives daily for the sake of causes, religions, peoples, and government systems they do not know, understand, nor gain any benefit from.

For the countless mothers of every race who pick up the shattered pieces of their murdered children. For the children who pick of the pieces of shattered siblings and parents.

For the fathers and husbands and brothers, often abused and violated as children themselves, who are so often the perpetrators of the shattering.

For hungry, thirsty, ill, pained, fearful, angry, lonely, indebted, obligated, disempowered, disenfranchised, homeless, landlocked, despairing people everywhere.

For the healthy, wealthy, strong, solvent, happy, joy-filled, laughing, satisfied, and contented ones as well.

May you be free
May you be happy
May you be at peace
May you be at rest
May you know that we remember you

May we be forgiven.
May we forgive others.
May we be loved.
May we love.
May we be known.
May we know.
May we be filled.
May we fill others.
May we be spoken to with truth and in love.
May we speak the truth in love.
May we not be silent when we ought to speak up.
May we not silence others - even when they disagree with us.

May you never be numb again.
May I never be numb again.
May none of us ever be numb again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Love Day!

The children and I went to the supermarket earlier today, and on the table closest to the door were $50 bouquets of fragrant roses. Hovering above the table was a cloud of helium balloons. Near one register was a shopping cart full of $35 bouquets sans the vase. Love was in the air.

Well, balloons and the fragrance of roses were in the air, anyway. I didn't see a single smile on the face of anyone standing at a cash register with flowers in hand. I will concede the possibility that the price of those flowers could wipe the smile off most faces.

The scent of roses is not in the air here at home (yet...) but love most definitely is in my heart. Here are a few people and things I love in no particular order:

I love irises, tulips, and impatiens.

I love yerba mate tea, juicy novels, and my down comforter.

I love NPR, classical music, and sunny Sunday afternoon drives back home from Asheville.

I love Skirt magazine, O magazine, and reading magazines at the library.

I love email, snail mail, and text messages, especially when they are unexpected.

I love green salad, fresh fruit, almonds, and ice water.

I love milk chocolate pecan turtles, chocolate chip cookies, and key lime pie too.

I love preparing to teach, to speak, and to lead women's retreats.

I love planning to travel: we've got our 20 year reunion at Williams coming up in June.

I love the smell and feel of new babies. I love the delight on the faces of their parents.

I love waking up in the morning without the alarm clock - and staying in bed.

I love food prepared by other people and cleaned up by others.

I love clean laundry and warm socks.

I love floor length robes and LLBean slippers.

I love daffodils, especially when they bloom in February.

I love big bows in little girls' hair and patent leather shoes on their feet.

I love getting a clean bill of health from my OB-GYN and my dentist.

(Speaking of which, this morning I had my annual OB-GYN appointment. My sweet son, Daniel, asked what time I had to be at the "OB-GYW." I asked why he put a W at the end. He said because if there were an M, then men might try to go.

"No, Daniel, it's an N at the end." "Ohhh!"
We both laughed at that one.)

I love silver jewelry, flat shoes, long skirts, turtlenecks, and perfumed oil from SmellGoods.

I love the Christmas carols, listening to the choir sing the Hallelujah Chorus, and the flickering light of 4500 candles in the church sanctuary on Christmas Eve.

I love jelly beans, candy egg hunts, and the sunrise service at Easter.

I love hugs and kisses and gazing into the fire in the fireplace.

I love holding hands and walking at the beach and watching the sunset over the water.

I love the windmills on the hills and the castles on the horizon and the churches in the small towns of Spain.

I love the gelato shop at the bottom of the Spanish Steps and the Galleria Borghese and the view from atop the Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome.

I love the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo, the restaurant on top of the Uffizi gallery, Mario's, that tiny restaurant on the Piazza San Lorenzo in Florence.

I love my true friends. The ones who call, who write, who send music and poetry and postcards. The ones who welcome not only my calls and my missives, but also my rants and my raves. The friends nearby and the friends far, far away. Across physical and literal oceans.
You know who you are. I love you.

I love, adore, cherish, treasure, prize, and delight in my two children, Kristiana and Daniel.

I love my husband, Steve. Today is the 20th anniversary of our first "real date." We've been together for nearly half of our lives! Thank you, Steve, for all of this. I will love you so for always.

Who and what do you love?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

There are moments...

when silence is the only answer.

when laughter is the only reasonable response.

when tears flow without explanation.

when a guttural moan expresses everything I need to say.

when a song reminds me of a friend far away.

when a cup of coffee in a special mug does the same.

when discovering a forgotten stash of cash is a perfectly timed miracle.

when a hot shower is all I need.

when darkness makes The Light of Life ever brighter.

when a bright red sweater offsets the blackened edges of my loneliness.

when the voice of a friend, in person, recorded on an answering machine,
or imagined as I read a written message, puts me back on the right path.

when closing my eyes and opening my heart center me on and in His Divine Presence.

when poetry read to the children sets my spirit to dancing.

when the sound of their laughter at my antics reminds me to laugh at myself.

when an embrace on the couch lays all the anger to rest.

when lunch with one friend and coffee with another on the same day
are two perfectly timed gifts from The One Who Loves Me Most.

when a photo takes me back to that place where I turned around
and you were looking at me already. Smiling.

when this breath, this moment, this instant are more than enough.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On my knees...

Scrubbing the floor in our bathroom yesterday, I wondered whose crazy idea it was to put white tiles on the floor. The Zep stuff I'd discovered on the top shelf of the hall closet was cutting through months and months of cosmetic crud buildup between the tiles. The grout that used to be white and had turned brown was turning white again. Spray, wait, scrub with the brush. Rinse. Spray, wait, scrub again. Make sure the window is open. Wash your hands frequently to keep the Zep stuff from washing off the brown stuff - melanin - on my hands.

After 15 minutes of spraying and scrubbing, I decided to rinse and rest. There is still brown stuff to be scrubbed away, but at least and at last I'd begun. Progress had been made. Nice. As I stood up and looked down at my handiwork, I wondered if anyone else would notice the difference. As I looked around at the rest of the floor and all the gunk that has yet to be tackled, I wondered if I would notice the difference an hour later. Nope, G, no self-criticism allowed here. You started. You made progress. You will come back and work more on this even if no one notices.

I'd spent weeks trying different products on those stains. Organic things. Inorganic things. Downright horrendous things. Fumes. Bleached spots on my clothes. Skin irritation. And absolutely no noticeable change in the condition of the floor. Then as I looked for something else in the closet, there it was: Zep for toilets, tiles, and grout. How had I missed it before? Would it be any different from all the other things I'd tried? Nothing to lose in the attempt. Perhaps something to gain: these shoulder muscles would get a good workout from the scrubbing.

Good thing I didn't look at the bottle, shrug my shoulders in despair and walk away. This product worked. It smelled awful. The label came with lots of warnings against contact with eyes, skin, clothing, and mucous membranes. Carefully I followed the directions. Gratefully I saw results.

So much like life.

Ground-in, angry stains on my soul, places where resentment has gotten caught between the tiles of my heart, and crusted layers of superiority and self-righteousness layered over bitterness and hurt feelings. I've tried some of the usual stuff: telling every and anybody who will listen to my tale of woe. I've moaned and groaned. I've invented new details about the perceived injustices that have come my way. I engage in the age-old practice of stony silence, broken up now and then by the sound of me angrily sucking my teeth or defiantly sighing.

I've successfully made a mountain out of a mole hill: a small disagreement has become reason for abandoning my marriage. Or a slight disrespect on the part of one of the children becomes justification for not kissing them good-bye when I leave for an evening event. I won't return a telephone call or text message because that person took a little too long to get back to me. Someone disagrees with my opinion, so I deftly erase them from my address book and the phone list on my cell phone.

Sometimes the offense is more serious than that. I have been yelled at and had the telephone hung up in my ear. I've been disrespected in public by someone who ought to know better. I've been lied about and intentionally disparaged. My request is denied, or worse ignored, and no apology is offered. I am deeply wounded. And the outcome is the same.

I'm pissed off. Downright upset. With good reason.

What is required in response, however, is the same in each case.
Roll back the carpet. Look at the mess.
Pull out the journal and markers and stickers.
Write it all down - describe it in detail. Excruciating detail.
Open the window of my heart and mind, and let it rip.
Get alone in my study and cry.
Or go for a ride in the car and scream.

This sucks. I am angry.
I'm not sure I'll ever get over this one.
I'm not sure I want to.

Spray the angry spray of words onto the paper.
Or into the air.
Let it sit. But don't let it dry.
Wet it with my tears.
Scrub it with the truth: I am bigger than this. I will survive this.
I am not alone. I have never been alone.
This is not the end of my life. Even if it is, all is well.
Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.
If necessary, I get lathered up again.
I rinse and repeat.

Then I get up. I look down at the somewhat less messy mess. I am grateful for the progress towards cleanness, wholeness, and improvement. I no longer worry about whether or not anyone else notices. I notice. I know what I've done. I know what it cost me in time and tears. I know that I am better, that I am on the road to restoration and reconciliation - with myself if no one else. The work is hard. The smell of relational rubbish burning is putrid, but after the fumes and the debris are cleared away, the results make the hard work well worth the effort. My emotional and spiritual muscles are getting stronger all the time.

In a few months' time - or perhaps within a few hours - when the gunk builds up again, I'll pull the rug back and get down to work again.

On my knees.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In thought, in word, and in deed.

I've been asked to speak to a group of women tomorrow night (yes, on Saturday night) on how we can be women of impact in our world. My response: in thought, in word, and in deed.

What do we think about? What is the nature of our thinking patterns? Do we tend to be positive and upbeat thinkers or critical and negative in our thoughts? Do our thoughts become prayers for greater love and mercy and perseverance in difficult situations or cries for justice and punishment for those who have done us wrong?

What do we talk about? Do we criticize and complain? Do we ask other people to join us in our carping and belittling of those with whom we disagree? Or are we known for kind and gentle answers rather than sarcastic, mean-spirited ones?

What about our patterns of behavior? Are we peacemakers or warmongers in our personal lives? Do we seek to find peaceful solutions to crises or are we ready to send in the bombers and think of a plan to rebuild and withdraw much later on? Are we known by our love or by our anger?

During the month of January, I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about solitude, silence, and prayer. Time away and alone, not a time of emptiness, but of fullness. Time to refrain from speech, not the icy silences that bring tension into our homes and lives, but the silence that communicates peace and love. Time to act with deliberate intention, not frantic and frenetic activities to keep us from having to be alone or be quiet.

As I've prepared for tomorrow night's talk, I've thought about solitude, silence, and prayer as the opposite of thoughts, words, and actions. Don't think, pray. Don't speak, be silent. Don't do anything, just sit there, in solitude, in quietness of spirit, and at peace.

How can I be a woman of impact in my family, in my church, in my city, and in my world? Through the deliberate decision to extend grace, to be a peacemaker, to restrain my tongue, to slow down and temper my thoughts, and to politely refuse to compare my full calendar to the full calendar of others.

How will I make a difference, be a woman of impact in this over-stimulated, noisy, crowd-controlled world? Through my solitude, my silence, and my prayers.

Naturally, I was reminded of several Scriptures that apply.

Psalm 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 46:10 - Be still and know that I am God.

Ephesians 4:29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Philippians 4:8 - 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.

Colossians 3:17 - And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God the Father through Him.