BLACK OR WHITE!!!
Do you hear me???
BLACK OR WHITE!!!
Good or bad.
Wrong or right.
Yes or no.
How much do I love these?
They make life so much easier.
I know what to do and what not to do.
No weird subtleties that confuse others and me the most.
How difficult are these for me? They make all my decisions so much harder.
But easier is NOT always better. By any stretch.
We’ve seen enough of that in our homes, in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, in church and especially on social media.
CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER!
YOU HAVE TO!!!
One is 100% wrong and one is absolutely right!
And if you don’t choose what I choose, you will be disowned.
Not talked to.
There seems to be a huge missing factor in what I love and what can be easier, but not better.
It’s a little six-letter word called WISDOM.
Wisdom says it’s not always black and white, good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no!
Wisdom allows for the whole possibly-hidden story behind what’s outwardly visible.
Wisdom often brings a third out-of-the-box thought, path, or decision.
Wisdom isn’t simple or easy much of the time.
It can nuanced and difficult.
It requires grace and patience and seeing things from many angles.
Wisdom is the way of Jesus.
He’s all about it. He doesn’t get caught up in the ALWAYS this or ALWAYS that.
He’s all about the SOMETIMES.
Sometimes it’s the right thing to walk away and shake the dust off of your feet.
And others it’s the right thing to stay and lean in and heal those in your path.
Sometimes it’s the right thing to break hard and fast man-made rules.
And others it’s the right thing to follow them closely.
Sometimes it the right thing to turn water into wine in celebration.
And others it’s the right thing to turn wine into a symbol of grief and remembrance.
When our son was a senior in high school, he and his classmates went to a very sketchy (to say the least) beach hotel for the weekend after prom.
This mama white-knuckled it on her knees through those 48-hours.
When he came home, he shared a crazy story.
A boy in his “suite” (if you can even call them that) had brought some heavy-duty drugs with him and was using them openly.
Our son did NOT want to be involved in the slightest and needed to figure out what to do, where to sleep.
Guess what he chose: to sleep in his friends’ room on the floor.
That sounds simple enough, but it’s not. His friends were girls.
Normally, this mama would never have praised her son’s choice for sleeping in the same room with four bikini-clad, beautiful members of the opposite sex. I would have freaked out just a little (okay, a lot).
But I did just that. “Wise choice!” I said to him. “I’m so glad you came up with that option and acted on it.”
How crazy is that?!?
After he walked out of the room, I breathed a quick thank you prayer for not only God keeping him safe that weekend, but granting him wisdom in the middle of not-the-greatest of options.
I was stretched out of my own black-and-white thinking in a way that still surprises me now.
So today, when the rubber meets the road and I find myself tempted to fall into the easier way of doing life, I hope to choose the much much better way of WISDOM.
It might be more work and I might be hugely uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.
For me. And for the people around me.
Not the one about just saying no.
Not the one about the future. It was a completely different, way more nuanced and complicated one. The kind that might make her big kid get defensive.
Or shut her out. The kind where she went through all the scenarios in her head.
How should approach the subject?
What should she say? This or that or the other thing? Her mind raced and looped and her stomach got all knotty inside. She loved this big kid so desperately.
She had worked so hard on keeping her mouth shut and her opinions to herself.
She did not want to do anything that would hurt this kid or their relationship. But this was one of those times when talking was really important. It couldn’t and shouldn’t be swept under that rug where the pile grows and then there is a huge bump that no one can get over or around. This was one of those times when talking was scary, but oh so necessary and really good. For her big kid.
And for her. She got up the gumption after a few nervous-nelly days to say, “Can we take a walk just by ourselves?” When the answer was “I’d love to Mom,” she said a little prayer for help, mustered up her brave mom heart, put on her cute white shoes and took the first step out the door and into what might end up horrible or wonderful. At first, she asked lots of questions that had nothing to do with anything about anything. She was hoping to make it feel like she didn’t have this weird mom agenda that was about to pounce. Next, she talked about all the beautiful sights on the walk, the tulip trees in bloom and how the neighbor had shaved her dog in the strangest of ways. She was avoiding. Finally, in the most normal, not awkward mom way she possibly could, she carefully tiptoed her way into “the talk.” She tried so hard not to “set her big kid straight.”
She tried so hard to listen and understand.
She tried so hard to share her thoughts and concerns from a place of love and not fear. And guess what? It went better than she could have imagined. What could have gone sideways, upside-down or completely backwards went mostly straight. What could have ended in tears, slammed doors and broken hearts ended in a hug. It wasn’t because this mom did it all perfectly. That is not true, not true at all. This mom actually does not really have any idea why it went so well. Maybe it was because the Tender Lover of both of their souls softened their hearts. Maybe it was because they had slept well and eaten a good breakfast. Maybe it was because they just loved each other and had worked really hard to do these kinds of talks better than they had done a million other times. Maybe it was none of those things. Who really knows? But this mom does know a few things right now. She can take a deep breath and her tummy can unknot. She will offer a huge prayer of thanks. She is not a nervous-wreck mom anymore. She is a glad one.
It’s raining today.
The tree stands there.
The huge, lopsided evergreen tree stands tall outside my window.
I stare and gaze and am lost in a myriad of thoughts about this tree that is the always-green focal point of our back yard.
How does it feel to be a tree, doing nothing all day?
When we moved here, I had visions of this tree. It was perfectly-shaped. I made mental plans to put lights on it as soon as the darkness of the time change came upon us, a symbol of beauty and hope in the middle of the black and cold of winter.
But the stress of the move pushed the thought to the side and “naked as a jaybird” is the way the tree stayed.
One morning, I woke to the sound of crackling and crashing. An ice storm had come through in the middle of the night. Branches were sagging under the weight of the thick, sparkling crystals, many snapping and plunging to the ground.
This tree was no different, looking haggard and strong all at once, the watery frozen glaze enveloping every needle and branch.
I turned my back for a moment when I heard a snap, crackle and pop. A huge branch from an even-taller-and-more-mighty tree had come tumbling down, side-swiping and decimating some branches on this perfectly-formed tree.
I stood there, my heart breaking just a smidge for this tree and for me.
My silly, important plans, and hopes and dreams for this flawless evergreen.
Gone just like that.
Perfection wiped away in a flash.
It’s raining today.
The tree still stands there.
The huge, lopsided tree stands tall outside my window.
It does nothing all day. So it seems.
But is this the truth? No it’s not.
It’s drinking and growing and reminding and teaching.
Teaching wise truths to little old me.
Drinking deeply from the good soil, the soil of a Loving Gardener, gives me strength.
Growing doesn’t only happen when it’s sunshiny and happy, but also when it’s stormy and weighty.
I may be lopsided and have scars (even forever), but I am still full of life, both inside and out.
Perfection isn’t the key to beauty. Being myself is. Others can still play in my branches no matter what.
I don’t need “extra” twinkly lights to be a symbol of beauty and hope. I already am.
This tree. This tree outside my window.
She’s you and she’s me.
I fight a silly battle in the weird places in my head.
Something in me feels like it’s kind of wrong to have pleasure. Or JOY.
It plays out in normal and odd places.
Eating a brownie with ice cream (guilt staring me in the face).
Watching my kids enjoy each other’s company (thoughts careening through my head, “What about all the moms whose kids aren’t even speaking to each other?”).
Having the rest I need (accompanied by the niggling feeling that I should be working. ALL. THE. TIME.)
Getting flowers from a friend for no reason (when people live in squalor and alone).
Why is it fair that I have JOY?
It’s a battle that rages inside of me.
I try to make peace with those voices in normal and odd ways.
Reminding myself that my life isn’t a bed of roses all the time.
Wondering how much is too much pleasure and too much pain. Have I had enough of both?
Riding the merry-go-round of indulging and restraining and balancing and being thrown off the whole crazy ride.
Writing posts to figure it all out. Is it wrong to have pleasure? Sheer, unbridled pleasure? How much? How often?
Once upon a time, I read a book called the Celebration of Discipline. It talked about fasting and prayer and meditation and worship and all those very holy practices that guide us to a healthy spiritual life.
I am all good with that. DISCIPLINE. Hard stuff. “No pain, no gain” material. Somehow, it feels right.
But the last chapter did me in. It’s titled, “The Discipline of Celebration.”
What? What is that?
Easy stuff? Celebration? Joy? No pain period. Is this even allowed? And a spiritual discipline at that?
I guess it must be. It has to be.
Why else would God make laughter and singing birds and flowers and kisses and friendship and tickle fights and waterfalls and rainbows?
It’s seems like pretty big deal in this life.
Even Jesus talked about it and lived it.
He didn’t stop the woman from breaking open her whole bottle of perfume and pouring it all over his feet. Lavishly pouring it. NO SKIMPING. AT ALL.
He made it the very point of the whole story about the Prodigal Son. Kill the fattened calf. Rings on hands. Best robes. Big parties. FEASTING. Redemption.
He healed people and they thanked and praised Him and He straight-up received it with gladness of heart.
In the end, He told His friends that He wanted His JOY to be in them and for them to have it to the FULL. Not just a little. But a whole bunch of JOY.
This isn’t the easiest for me.
I wish it were.
But I’m working on it. One normal and odd step at a time.
I have to. I’m reminded every time I sign something.
It’s my middle name after all.
By the way…
I took a huge step just the other day.
Check out my sheer delight in NOT tipping over.
When I hear out-of-my-control things on the news or from a friend or family member, or experience them in my own life, I barrel quickly toward fear and anxiety.
All the “what-if” thoughts careen into my head and heart.
Depending on the day….
I run the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist.
I get angry and try to come up with a plan to fix it.
I just take a nap or watch mind-numbing television.
I become completely paralyzed, staring out the window, unable to do anything.
Super rarely I…
pour out my heart
connect with God
what I actually might need more.
Not too long ago, one of these “doozies” reared its ugly head.
It was something with one of my kids.
It kept coming up over and over and no matter what I tried, the problem just wasn’t getting fixed or even getting pushed in the right direction.
It was NOT for lack of effort on my part.
I had tried my usual…
along with better tools like…
talking with friends
in the dark
on my knees
tears pouring out
making one last-ditch effort telling God I was super serious this time,
the word “Hosanna” flooded my mind and also my mouth.
I wasn’t sure why.
I had to check it out.
What did this word that I had heard so often in my churchy life even mean?
Thanks to ever-helpful Google, I found that “HOSANNA” was originally an appeal for deliverance, a cry that shouted
Over time, it developed into an expression of
joy and praise for deliverance
that was anticipated and WOULD be granted,
an oral burst of HOPE in God, an “anchor for your soul” kind of HOPE.
Being the “doer” that I am, I came up with a “Hosanna List,” that “doozie” being at the very top.
I keep adding other (lots of other)…
I only have one word for them:“HOSANNA.”
I would imagine you have your own “Hosanna list.”
If it’s not written down, it’s swirling around in your head.
Take courage, my friend.
We have a God who not only CAN SAVE, but WANTS TO VERY MUCH!
It’s HIS JOB.
It’s HIS WILL.
There’s nothing too small or too great!
There really is great hope!
A question I have asked myself over and over and over again this week as I settled my mind on “springing ahead,” even the clock speaking of the hope of longer daylight and warmer spirits.
“What gifts came as a result of the darkness of this year of all years?”
I am usually someone who rushes over the grief and wants to spring right to positivity and happy things. I like that. I’m definitely a “spring-forward” girl.
But I am learning that it does NOT work. I can’t just rush to JOY. Nor should I.
So when that question came, I paused. I really paused.
First, I need to speak of the darkness.
Of the soul.
Of the cocoony, wintery, messy, middle-of-the-muck-and-mire-stuff.
Of the death of life as I knew it almost exactly a year ago.
Of all the loss in every facet of society and in my little world.
Losing friends to this monster (youngish ones).
Not having family reunions on both sides.
Isolation and disconnection.
The tearing away of peace of mind.
All the complicated choices to see people safely.
The sheer exhaustion from the stress.
Judgment from everywhere, even my own, about all. the. things.
Lack of motivation.
The constant survival mode feeling.
It’s all been hard. Too hard in many ways. DARK. Really dark.
But my heart (my spring-forward heart) also sees the gifts that can only come as a result of the darkness.
Even the darkness of a horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad year.
The dark night of our collective souls.
I’ve been watching our rhododendron sleep through the winter, the buds closed tight, hunkering down.
At one point in the coldest and snowiest and darkest of days, the buds were covered with ice and the leaves were droopy and frozen.
I stood there looking at it through my big window, marveling that when the light and the warm and the spring finally comes, each frigid bud will burst forth into all the purple blooms that shout beauty and hope.
The blooms are the gifts of the darkness.
So right back to my question.
“What gifts came as a result of the darkness of this year of all years?”
Then another, more clarifying question came as well.
“What gifts do I want to bring with me out of the darkness and into the “spring,” into the light?
To be honest, there are many.
Plenty of rest for this recovering-workaholic.
Moments to stare out the window at my sleeping rhododendron covered in snow.
The freedom from all the soul-killing expectations to be busy, busy, busy.
Deep connections with those most important to me.
White space that grants margin for creativity.
Extra time with the Tender Lover of my soul.
Long walks in every kind of weather and the appreciation of nature that comes with them.
Simple thankfulness for things like paper towels and meals with friends.
Discovery of parts of myself that I hadn’t known before and I now like (a lot).
The narrowing of priorities to what really matters.
Deep empathy from and for others in suffering.
There are more and more and more.
Life-changing “terrible gifts” (as CS Lewis calls them) that have only come as a result of the darkness.
Gifts I will continue to unwrap for the rest of my days.
Gifts I will hold onto like a treasure box only meant for me.
Terrible, beautiful, sacred, horrible, hard, holy, very very good gifts.
The gifts of the darkness.
Have I hated this year?
A resounding YES in many ways.
Do I wish it never happened?
A thousand times NO.
I’m peeking out an my rhododendron on this bright, sunny day.
It’s reaching for the light and its leaves are glorious.
The buds are still closed, not quite as tight, and I can see their faint color through the green.
Soon, the purple will unfurl into all of its goodness.
It won’t be for a few more weeks, but I can feel the gift of incredible beauty as if it is right now.
There once was a woman who DID NOT like ordinary days.
She wanted hoopla and fanfare.
Bluster and rah-rah.
Ordinary meant colorless and ho-hum.
Stodgy and flat.
Who would ever ever want that?
But along came some very un-ordinary days.
She found herself smack dab in the middle of them.
For a very very long time.
Like more than 350 of these un-ordinary ones in a whole, long, very confusing row.
But there was no hoopla or fanfare.
Bluster or rah-rah.
There was strangeness and head-scratching.
Veiled faces and pandemonium.
She sat down one day on her ordinary couch
in her ordinary house
after a very ordinary breakfast and thought for just a minute and a half or so.
About all those ordinary days she had not liked.
The ones with laughter.
How silly of her? Not to like them.
She found that she could not wait until she could have just one of them again.
Just one. Count them. ONE. Ordinary day.
A regular sun-up to sun-down.
But on her ordinary couch
in her ordinary house
she thought for another minute and a half or so.
About all these un-ordinary days in a row.
Would she want them back?
Would she say “good riddance?”
Would she find that some of them were just ordinary after all?