I SO value a good laugh! I'm the type of girl who's always searching and digging for something to giggle with someone over. This week, a special someone shared a pretty humorous story with me. Hearing this tale first hand was one of the bright spots of my week. I knew it was too funny not to share. But just to be clear: The following account is 100% true, although perhaps slightly bolstered. The names have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent. No professional egos will be harmed in the retelling of this story.
The day started with a bang! 'Boss Guy' rushed into the office and joyfully boomed, "Announcing, new team member: Professional Pat!" A round of applause erupted from Pat's enormously supportive and welcoming new workplace team. "How exciting!" thought team member Lee, "A new coworker to lighten our load. Maybe Pat will be the missing piece to our workplace puzzle; filling our hearts while helping us complete our tasks. But I know nothing about Pat. I wonder what Pat’s interests are. I wonder if Pat has a family. I wish I had a little information to help me break the ice with Pat and avoid any potential land mines. What to do??...What to do??" considered Lee
No more than a couple of decades ago, this scenario would have just run its course, awkward moments and all. In the olden days (pre-internet), there were three basic ways to learn valuable morsels of information about a person: 1. a stirring round of 20 questions, 2. squeeze intel out of the local "know it all" and 3. (the more stalker-esque route) hire a P.I. Today, all of us inquisitive souls have Google…and Facebook.
Now Lee, being a truly resourceful and internet savvy individual, sprinted to the nearest computer and Googled "Professional Pat". To Lee's great relief, a Facebook page was top of the search results. Clicking away, Lee was beginning to feel thoroughly informed about Pat and exceedingly thankful for modern technology.
What (one might ask), had Lee found on Facebook to make Lee feel so informed?? Well, in addition to enjoying a few cheery photos, Lee discovered that it seemed this new coworker was happily married...to a 3 ton African elephant; tusks, trunk and all. "OK", thought Lee, "Good to know! Now we'll be able to avoid any possible awkwardness regarding Pat's marriage. Knowing this information ahead of time means I won't show even a glimmer of shock or surprise when Pat offers me a peek at a family photo or tries to share some humorous spousal anecdote . I certainly don't want Pat to feel judged or rejected. I'm really thankful I Googled Pat!"
As Pat's first week was coming to a close, Lee was feeling very confused. Pat hadn't once mentioned any elephant. In fact, the way Pat talked, Pat was beginning to sound exceedingly single. "How awkward!" thought Lee, "I wonder if Pat is a secretive person, or worse...embarrassed and hiding a marriage? Something didn't feel right to Lee. Once again Lee enlisted the services of that trusted Google-search friend. Lee quickly found Pat's Facebook page again, the one boasting photos of Pat...and Pat's four-legged spouse. This time Lee took a much closer and deeper look, and with the benefit of having spent a week with Pat in person, was able to discern that although this Facebook page owner greatly resembled Pat and shared Pat's name, it was absolutely NOT Pat!
Lee sat back and felt a wave of warm embarrassment rising, imagining just how close to catastrophe they'd come. Lee was so thankful to have resisted the temptation to ask about Pat's significant other (in a knowing fashion).
Lee learned an important lesson: Sometimes the elephant doesn't belong to anyone in the room because it's oddly possible for more than one person to have the same name and nearly the same face.
Our miniature forest feels particularly magical today. Diagonal streams of sunlight fill and illuminate all the dainty, fluttering leaves, as if thousands of tiny glowing lanterns are floating through the air. Rain fell all morning in a slow motion curtain of delicate drops, leaving millions of dazzling beads of water on everything. Even the spiders’ webs, that are usually only obvious if they catch on your hair or snag on your face, are sparkling in the brilliant sunshine. How beautifully these delicate, thin shinning strands connect an infinite assortment of things that would naturally and quite normally have no bond what so ever.
This morning I was completely captivated by the beauty out my front window, but then trying to describe the scene…I found myself stuck. I couldn’t stop thinking about the spider webs. I was suddenly amazed by how they literally connect things; the way that they join objects together that might normally never find a connecting point apart from the spider and its web. I found myself amazed by the huge heap of things that spider webs could symbolize in life; so many perfect parallels.
There’s amazing diversity in the things that spiders attach their webs to; each object is quite unique, not unlike people. Some of us are pretty weathered and rugged, like the old majestic tree in the yard. Others of us are fragile, more like a skinny twig or maybe even a blade of grass. Some people are stationary, while others seem destined to roam; never wanting to stay in any one place for very long. Even with all of our differences, our shared experiences have a way of drawing us together, just like that web which attaches and holds the rock to a car.
I love how two people, who look outwardly, to have the least amount of things in common, can find their way into each others’ hearts through a shared experience. It’s those very people; the ones who I NEVER imagined I’d find myself feeling connected to, who end up being the ones to teach me the most about the world and about myself. It’s the most beautiful dose of humility.
Moving to the Northwest has given me the chance to share my life with people from all over the world. I’ve never before been exposed to such a variety of people; neighbors from Sudan, Canada and India, fellow elementary school families from France and Germany and friends from Ethiopia and Mexico. Before this season of my life, I’d never had the opportunity to really value the splendor of the ‘melting pot’ that has made the US the amazing nation that it is: a nation full of possibilities...of hope.
I remember how I first felt, meeting our Sudanese neighbors. I wasn’t sure if we’d have anything in common. I worried that they’d feel skeptical of us (me and my family). I wondered if our differences in faith would hinder a relationship. I wondered if they were hoping to convert us. I remember one particular conversation with that sweet Sudanese woman (months into becoming neighbors), where I realized that she had become just another mama, loving her kids and wanting good things for her family. I learned a precious lesson about being open-hearted even when the differences feel distracting.
There have also been times where I’ve felt connected to a person merely because he or she looked like me. We shared a common interest, similar style, family structure, or maybe we both grew up in the same area. So I determined that based on appearances, we must also be composed of the same “stuff” on the inside too. But in truth, in spite of the “web” or outward connection, not all people that appear the same, share the same composition.
Just as glistening, dew laden spider’s webs reveal the bond between objects, sharing experiences like achievement, loss, triumph, joy and pain, and shared interests, link us (humans) together. Sometimes our connections are shallower and short lived. But sometimes we find that we have deep, soulful and strong bonds with somebody extra special, and our lives are better because of it...and forever changed.
Watching my sweet Nyla perfectly position herself just where she likes, (a couple of feet from the TV, on her back, pillow under her head) is beyond adorable. But right now, more than cute, something looks…strange. With her short little legs bent at the knees, those wonderful feet look to be resting at the base of her hiney, atop a bulky, round, pillow-ish looking object.
What the heck is that!?
I walked a bit closer and quickly realized that her grotesquely droopy, saggy and FULL diaper had become her footrest. Wow…both creative and icky!
The diaper wasn’t REALLY that big of a deal. It was in fact pretty hilarious. I stood her up and had a good belly laugh over the amount of sag. I even took a few pictures because it was just too funny to see her diaper peeking out the bottom of her nearly knee length dress. But then I attempted to make some homemade wheat bread and it turned out to be the WORST homemade bread ever! It was super dark and hard on the outside. It was SO hard that if I’d knocked on it, my whole family would have likely stampeded to the front door expecting someone to be standing there. Plus, the middle was doughy and cavernous. I pulled it from the oven, let it rest a bit, and as the warm sweet smell filled the house I excitedly sliced it open and quickly noticed that I could see my kids across the room through my bread window.
Ohhh, it was such a low. I laughed. I cried (not really), but then I got this feeling that my periodic failures are maybe a beneficial thing. Do I enjoy being flawed?? Ummm…NO. But, as I stared at my “hole”-some loaf of bread (70% air pocket), I had a thought: being confronted with my imperfections is maybe better for maturing my mind and my soul than the enjoyment of constant success. Maybe that's just what flawed people say to make themselves feel better...or maybe these miserable moments keep me clear-headed. If I were able to retrieve a mental stack of picture-perfect performances (meaningless accomplishments), I might deceive myself into thinking that I have no issues because I bake lovely homemade bread and do other random lovely things too. It would sort of be my personal version of that nasty Facebook fallacy; the one where we convince ourselves that all those handpicked, perfect images are accurate representations of authentic life.
It sucked a bit to realize I’d overlooked my daughter’s overfilled diaper. Then I forced a little education on my resentful, resistant homeschooler and topped it all off by baking nasty bread. In the end, it was a pretty rotten day. After all my disappointment in myself settled, I heard God say “don’t allow yourself to hide behind your successes”. Or, in the words of Socrates, "The unexamined life in not worth living". A well prepared meal and my (sometimes) clean house have the capacity to push the weightiness of parenting out of my mind and give me amnesia towards the broken places inside me that require healing. But that looking-glass loaf of bread reminded me that we aren't meant to have hollow, cavernous insides.
Hi, my name is Kristin and I’m a news-aholic. I last checked my news app…maybe a minute ago. Jumping on my phone for a quick sec to make sure that the world hasn’t collapsed under my feet is possibly my version of a nervous twitch (minus the nervousness). An A-A style support group for news addicts might be a bit dramatic, but if there were such a thing, I’d likely have a sponsor. I sandwich my day between two hearty slices of world, local, political and entertainment news. Although the last category doesn’t truly count as news-worthy, I pathetically enjoy my guilty little peek, not to mention the rounds of trivial pursuit that it’s helped me to win over the years. So, there you go, entertainment news does have some (albeit ever-so-slight) value.
A few days ago, as I was doing my customary little sweep, something caught my eye. I had nearly exhausted all of my news-reading options when I happened upon a curious opinion piece. Originally published in The Huffington Post, the title sort of lunged and growled at me, like a dog looking for a fight. The bold words (in more than just font) read “Christianity Needs a Progressive Revolution”. Suddenly this author had all of my attention plus a little of my defensiveness. If I was a yoga girl (and way, way, WAY more limber) I might have been inwardly chanting, “Breathe in objectivity, breathe out judgment”. So, with a huge multifaceted breath of curiosity, I made an intention to keep an open mind, all the time wondering, “What does he mean by progressive???”
Just a few words in, and already I was swimming through deep waters with the author declaring that millennials are looking for churches that actually “live the gospel message, not just preach it”. I drifted off for a second, imagining our whole world, with its churches full of impactful people who calculate each of their words and movements in light of the love of Jesus. I’d barely begun that daydream when I was thrown in even deeper as the author explained the true intent of his words. By living the gospel message he was speaking about engaging in political and social issues, through the lens of the gospel. What a valuable and reasonable call to action. It's when we insert our faith into a tidy little box and section it off from the other portions of life that we give place to hypocrisy. Faith should inform all of life. But the further I read the more infuriated I felt. I despised the lack of concern this writer exhibited for living human babies, forcefully removed from their mother’s bodies and killed (abortion), while showing great interest and passion for preserving our planet for the next generation. How could he miss the massive contradiction in choosing the planet for the next generation while condoning the killing of this planet's heirs? How could he favor the one cause while rejecting the other? And furthermore, how could he not see that God’s heart is first for humans? God sent Jesus to save ALL people…that’s what the gospel is all about!
It was likely around that portion of the article that I stopped reading and irately texted Adam a link saying, “You have to read this shockingly shitty article” (yes, I do swear sometimes...but ONLY when it's an emergency or when I'm quoting a movie where the actors speak with accents, as my mother-in-"love" has confirmed is completely acceptable). But I have to confess, the thing wouldn’t leave me alone! It just kept jumping back into my thoughts. I kept wondering…what is it about these Christians (a mere handful of years younger than me), that this author asserts, view society and their faith so differently than I do; so abstractly. With my first read through, all I saw was that the author had replaced some of the most valuable causes for that of others. Maybe he had…but after a second and third read, I realized that I’d completely missed his heart.
What he’s truly craving is for Christians to organize a powerful love movement where congregants and visitors don’t just come and listen and then walk away unchanged, where churches don’t tip-toe awkwardly around the issues of the day, but boldly step right in the middle of the thing. He’s aching for a place where this love would actually change people and compel and propel them into actively engaging in social issues for the purpose of God’s love and justice; to be the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves (the unborn, the poor, the rejected and…maybe even the planet). He’s tired of churches so passionless that there’s literally “sitting-room only”, it would never be packed out.
I’m in love with this imaginary church already! But I think we’re forgetting something, just because a bunch of people come together, claiming to be Christian doesn’t mean they all speak for God. Repentance, revival and revolution are huge, massive results of a heap of little choices made in a person’s heart. These things don’t work on a corporate level unless each individual has come to their own personal (internal) crossroads of sorts, and made their own life-altering decision. I just had the perfect memory of my dad singing that old 70’s folksy-Christian song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going”. The words are true. Passion is contagious and passion for a cause is even more so. But fires need fuel or else they just burn out. Even the brightest fires without fuel will just fade away. It’s the decisions made at the crossroads of our lives that cement our convictions and fuel the fire within us…or determine whether we’ll just burn out.
We are each responsible for our piece of the movement, and at times it may feel like a lonely road. Is it irritating that we don’t all automatically unite for the same cause?? Yes!! But, in the inspired words of Elvis, maybe what we really need is “a little less conversation and a little more action”. I’m confident that if we were able to collect a mass of people, whose hearts had all been transformed; so convinced of the love of God that it permanently altered them and caused them to move as one to confront injustice in the world, there would no longer be “sitting-room only!”
You know that moment...the one where you discover that something you’ve believed (for maybe your whole life), isn’t founded in truth, that it’s based entirely on lies and perceptions…and then you make the intention to right your thinking but your heart takes a while to catch up? It’s one of those crazy things we’ve all experienced; the deconstruction of one paradigm and the construction of a new one. Right THERE, in an awkward disconnect between head and heart, is precisely where I found myself tangled up this week.
Revelation struck me near the end of a Beth Moore simulcast. Yes, I admit it…I’m a bit of a Beth Moore fan. She’s insightful and loud and fun and passionate. With all of her energy and volume (both hair and noise) rolled into a compact little body, I can’t help but think that if she were an animal she might be a fluffy and extremely courageous chihuahua.
Something she said…as she shared her husband’s story gripped me. The story went like this: two brothers, ages 2 (Beth’s husband) and 4, played make-believe gardener, as little boys enjoy doing. One boy, or maybe both, had an idea. Since imaginary play is more fun when it’s nearer to reality, the boys decided to fill their toy mower with their daddy’s gasoline. As they carefully poured, the fumes ignited, causing a huge explosion. The family was instantly reshaped (on many levels) by the loss of their 4 year old and the near death of their 2 year old. The day of the older brother’s funeral, one of their neighbors lovingly cared for the younger son (Beth’s husband). This neighbor was so amazed that this boy had survived such an enormous explosion that for more than 60 years she shared with others the story of the “miracle boy” who had been spared. Now in his 60’s, another funeral reunited Beth’s husband with his old neighbor. In her 90’s, quite old and frail, the neighbor looked into this grown man’s face and declared, “YOU are a miracle boy!” The encounter was massively impactful for this grown man because his entire life he’d only thought of himself as “tragedy boy”.
It’s such a heartbreaking story with a strikingly beautiful twist of an ending. As I listened to the story, tears streamed down my face. Those who truly know me know how much I hate to cry, but what I detest even more, is me crying publicly. I feel so vulnerable and naked and I don’t have pretty little soap-star tears. Mine turn my eyes bloodshot, my face blotchy and red, it wrinkles up my forehead and forces the corners of my mouth down. Here’s an embarrassing admission: I’ve tried over the years to cry while retaining a least a tiny sweet smile. Yes, it’s sooo stupid that it's a little funny, but sadly all I have to report is that I created a pinched, awkward looking straight lipped expression because I’m 100% physically incapable of crying pretty.
Saturday the tears flowed from that place in me that mourns with every mom who’s endured the loss of her child. Then as the words, “miracle boy” and “tragedy boy” rolled around in my mind I felt a connection, specifically to the “tragedy” part…more tears. I haven’t had a tragic life, I imagine many pieces have looked idyllic from an outsider's perspective, so I wouldn’t say “tragedy girl”, but maybe “bad luck” or “unlucky girl” , “NOT one of the favorite ones” or maybe even “tolerated one”. All of these labels paint a rejection-filled picture of how I believed God thought of me and felt toward me.
It was a dark time in my life, many years ago, that allowed me to see that what I’d come to believe about God was based on lies and misunderstandings; my perceptions and not the truth. I spent heaps of time working on changing my broken thinking, and it had changed, but this weekend I realized…my heart hadn’t fully let go of the lies even though my head had. There was still a part of me that felt a bit rejected, undesired and not valued by God. For a moment I felt that old familiar pain of the lies but then a supernatural exchange took place. It was as if I'd been renamed…“miracle girl”. No more “unloved”, “rejected” or “tolerated girl”. God aligned my heart with my head, something I hadn’t been able to do, even with all my knowledge and understanding of the facts.
So, does this “miracle-girl” always feels like a miracle?...No, not even after that extraordinary and nearly tangible encounter with God. My moment with God was renewing and healing but then life started back up again. I had to jump back into the craziness of my loud and busy role as mom. I stepped back into making mistakes and having to say sorry, feeling frustrated by bad attitudes (mine included). I still have to choose every day, as my feet hit the floor, (sometimes even in my first moments of consciousness) to reject the lies and hold tightly to the truth. We all hear that voice inside urging us to be defined by our worst and lowest moments; the voice that says we are worthy of rejection, unworthy of love, undesirable, unworthy of true friendship and maybe...unworthy of God, but the truth is this, WE ARE EACH A MIRACLE. Even more, each of us are desperately wanted, never worthy of rejection (regardless of the rejection we've endured), completely accepted just as we are and loved!
Each day of every year is marked by a date; a marker in time giving validation to the significance of life. Some dates are ordinary, lacking importance while others seem to mean everything. We plan life around these illuminated pieces of time: catastrophes, holidays, achievements, the beginning and ending of a life and the establishment of families. As we arrive back at these same dates each year, it’s impossible not to reflect on why specific days carry value, the reason for the value…the person that we value.
Today is October 1st, my Grandma’s birthday. Every year this day comes around and I can’t help but think about her. Today, I’m thinking about her. In years past, recognizing the date as being October 1st, maybe produced an inner moment of silence, but today it’s much much more. Today I’m mourning. I’m drowning in my own tears as if she died today. I wish desperately that I could say that I miss her because we were inseparable and shared precious secrets while holding hands through life. Although we did hold hands, I wasn’t terribly close to my Grandma. She was sort of the wallpaper of my life. She was a quiet woman and I didn’t draw her out. I was intimidated by her age and as I grew older, but not wiser, I struggled to connect. I knew facts about her but I didn’t really know her heart. One huge piece that I was always sure of was how much she loved me.
I felt her love, all the time. I felt it even that one Christmas, somewhere in the 80’s, when she gave me Roger Rabbit panties and completely embarrassed me. Today…I wish I could do it all over again. I’d do it all differently. I’d do it better. I’d love bigger and I’d go all in! But, truth be told, regret might be one of life’s best teachers. Yes, I have regrets, A LOT, but I’m so thankful to truly understand the importance of investing in people I love before my opportunity has passed. Is it easy?? No. But, it’s soooo worth it!
October 1st has made a mark on my heart and today I honor my Grandma. Happy 100th birthday, Grandma! I still love you.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.