Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Meadow

Recently I attended a leadership awakening class that was recommended by a very good friend.  Those who know me understand how long it has taken me to find my voice; however, this weekend I lost it, literally.  The week prior to the two and a half day course I couldn't sleep without waking around 3 am, my heart racing.  I felt a battle approaching, adrenaline pumping, but it was a fight not a flight mode reaction.  My intuition told me the battle would be fierce, I would be bruised and possibly broken but ultimately victorious.  I was anticipating something God orchestrated, life changing, an awakening within my spirit.  What I found was terrifying.  Fractured pieces, unrecognizable shapes, parts of a puzzle I had created but did not recognize as my own.  Yet each piece represented a part of me; at times exquisitely beautiful and other times pieces so sharp they eviscerated my beliefs crumbling the foundation of my perceived strength.

Growing up with a depressed, prescription medicated, suicidal mother and rage-filled, violent, alcoholic father did not prepare me for what I was about to experience.  From my first contact with my assigned roommate to the class introduction I was certain God was creating the perfect storm for my undoing, and I wanted nothing to do with His plan.  If any other human being had recommended this class to me I would have been gone within the first hour; however, it was my beloved friend who knows my heart and knows my soul - I had to trust her, so I did.

Retreating almost immediately to the dark, safe closet I had created in my mind, I cowered there awhile.  Covering my ears I waited for the angry man to stop raging up and down the hallway; waited for an opportunity to open the door a crack; waited for a chance to see if it was yet safe to come outside.  Eventually it became tiresome sitting in there because he kept pounding on the door pressing me to see with new eyes.  The gig was up; my safe place had been compromised.  What's the point of a safe, dark hiding spot if everyone knows you are in there? Reluctantly I emerged and as I did the closet door became nothing more than a thin veil, a barrier I had created.  As golden light streamed through, the darkness diminished and my vision became clearer.  Clear enough for me to see the meadow; clear enough for me to see the little girl I had shoved into that closet so long ago.  She was waiting for me there and she was radiant with joy.

This meadow is in my mind but it is a real place too.  A place I discovered as a child hiking with my sister through the redwood forest.  My steps there are silent, absorbed by the soft, rich soil beneath and the scent is earthy and warm. Time stands still and reverent as dappled sunlight dances through the canopy of giants overhead.  The hike is hard, all uphill, but my gift is this beautiful meadow at the top of the ridge.  Finding this meadow again is like finding my heart; only it is whole in this place and untainted.  The little girl I had left there so many years ago recognizes me as herself; no time has passed because time does not exist there.  This meadow holds the truth; no tomorrow, no yesterday just this perfect moment and in that instant I am free.

God breathes purpose and passion into my life every single day; my perceptions are what determine whether or not I receive His gift.  In order to live I must stay awake to the truth.  God is alive in His people and it is time for me to wake up and remember what is real.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Deafening Silence

Grief is this vast, open space with no color or sound,
just an empty awareness of no longer me and you. 
The silence of your absence is deafening at times.

So much of life is this one-way conversation 
taking place in a paradigm of my own creation. 
It doesn't matter how much time passes, 
when I find myself here 
it is as lonely for me 
as the day you stopped breathing.

Grief sneaks up on me
when I feel vulnerable or afraid 
and it pounces like a rabid dog,
infecting me with its disease.
  
For a few moments, or hours 
I feel myself a child again
lost amid the chaos of life 
with no ability to interpret its' meaning.
 
And then life happens,
it is all around me;
even now it calls my name,
"Mom, Mom, where are you?" 
And I am here,
I am glad to be here;
I just selfishly wish
you were here, 
too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rolling with Boulders

The haunting sound echoes deep inside of me, no surgeon's blade can find its dwelling place.  Like my blood it rushes through me, sustaining my spirit and calling me to wake up and remember what is real.  The swollen water picks up the boulders like marbles and tosses them haltingly along its time-worn depths.  That's the sound I cannot forget, the rumble of those boulders.  The reverberating, discordant rhythm is unpredictable and perfect in its chaos.  In my world of order and strait lines I am drawn to the memory of this creek, I ache for the connection I found there.  Like Psalm 42:7: Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  In those deep rumblings I first heard God's voice, that voice has never stopped calling me to "wake-up, wake-up, wake-up and remember;” like water gently splashing in the recesses of my mind.  Sadly, just like my alarm clock, I have learned to hit the snooze button when I receive God's wake-up call.  I just keep sleeping, dreaming my own small dreams about how my life should be; that is until I am rudely awakened.  Life has been kicking-my-butt for some time now and for this reason I am reconsidering my sleeping arrangement; I think it's time I learned to roll with the boulders.

Rolling with boulders requires surrender on my part, a letting go of the many things I hold on to with clenched fists.  I would like to tell you I reached this conclusion as a result of deep contemplation or even revelation, but that would not be true.  The truth is I am exhausted from swimming so long against the current of my life.  I don't know what life is like for you, but for me it is a constant juggling act while I try to balance the weight of my world on my over-burdened shoulders.  Have you ever tried to carry a much too large pile of dirty clothes to the laundry room?  The load is so big you drop a sock along the way, when you bend down to pick it up a pair of dirty underpants fall to the floor, as you pick up the underpants the dirty dance continues, piece by piece, all the way to the laundry room.  That's a snap shot of my world, but no one has asked me to carry so much, in fact, no one has asked me to carry anything at all.  I have chosen my burdens. I am surrounded by people I admire who live effortlessly enjoying their successes and embracing their failures with equal ease and grace.  I long to be one with that unpredictable water of life, no more struggling, releasing all those burdens I was never very good at carrying anyway.  If the world has enslaved me, God has set me free; all I have to do is choose to let go and float.

I think it's time for a good, long soak...and after that?  Well, don't ask me - I'm learning to live in the moment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Bar of Soap

We have all been affected in some way, big or small, by the economic crisis that has plagued our nation.  One year ago this April we laid our entrepreneurial dream to rest when we lost our business and our proverbial shorts.  Since then I have limped along, almost daring to dream again but without the enthusiasm necessary to build the bridge to get me there, wherever there is.  In the meantime my husband has continued to train horses, and we have stallions to stand if anyone is interested in creating more equine mouths to feed, however, at our level they are not.  The question became how to create another income stream in the desert of our economy.  My husband decided to trim trees and with the help of our eldest son became Affordable Tree Trimming.  And that's what this story is really about.

Since placing a small ad in a local publication, my husband's phone began to ring.  Now you have to understand my husband in order to appreciate this story; the man does not like to ask people for money.  He is beautiful that way.  During the past six months since beginning this business he has met some incredible people.  He provides excellent service and a great work ethic all at a very reasonable price.  But beyond that he offers an ear for those who want to talk but have no one to listen, the majority of the phone calls we receive come from elderly people, many are lonely.  One of the elderly couples we met spent New Year's Eve with us playing poker and sharing their history.  That couple blessed us with so much more than we could ever give to them. 

My husband recently received another call for a free quote; when he told the elderly woman how much it would cost she said she would get back to him.  When he did not hear from her he called to follow up.  She told him she had changed her mind about the tree trimming.  A few weeks later she called again and asked how much he would charge to trim just two of the trees as she was going to have a problem with her HOA if they were not trimmed.  He told her he would trim the trees for half the price he had quoted.  When he and our son arrived to do the job he couldn't help noticing how little furniture the woman had or all the unpacked boxes stacked around the interior of her home.  As he spoke to her he learned she is from Europe, lives alone and her only daughter lives in England.  He learned she is living on a fixed income and is doing the best she can to hold on to what she has.  He told her he was going to trim all the trees for the same price.  She argued with him and said she felt ashamed, he told her not to.  He said it was an easy thing for him to do and there was no stopping him.  After trimming all the trees he realized there was a tree that needed to be staked; he told the woman he would return the next day with the stake and she could pay him then.

When he finished the job the next day the woman tried to pay him twenty dollars more to compensate our son, Todd refused letting her know our son would be paid from the money he received.  The woman told him to wait, went back into her house and came out with a small, beautiful box; inside the box was a fragrant bar of soap.  She thanked him and asked him to give this bar of soap to his wife. 

Now before you start thinking my husband is some kind of saint, let me set the record straight.  He is not.  If someone gave him a hat that said, "Who Farted?" he would wear it.  He shaves once every other week or so, whether he needs to or not, and believe me, he needs to.  He alone is responsible for our daughter's vocabulary at the age of two including the word "bullshit".  He is rough, but he is real.  He would rather watch The Andy Griffith Show than the Dallas Cowgirls, and has been known to shed a tear at a Hallmark commercial, even though he says he just got something in his eye.  For all of these reasons he is my field of stars.

We may not be able to pay the mortgage this month, but I took a shower this morning with that beautiful soap and I have never felt so clean.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Running with Arms Wide Open

Running with her arms-wide-open my daughter launched herself onto my lap for what is known in our family as a monkey-hug.  Monkey-hugs involve all four limbs simultaneously wrapped around your body with a few wet kisses thrown in for good measure.  Who wouldn't love a monkey-hug?  Prior to her attack I was sitting in an Adirondack chair watching her play along with hoards of other children.  Other parents were similarly situated on benches and chairs that surrounded the outskirts of the play-area.  It was a lovely day, cool with a gentle breeze and dappled-sunlight shadows falling from the trees overhead; a perfect day to practice living in the moment.

Chloe was running, jumping, climbing; every now and again she looked back at me to be certain I was admiring her agility.  After ten minutes of playing she caught sight of me again, and from 20 yards away, with arms wide open, she ran toward me with a war-like cry, "Mama!", as if years had passed since our last meeting.  She was overcome with the joy of the moment; that's really the only way she knows to live, so she gifted me with a juicy, full velocity monkey-hug.  Delight immediately replaced my stagnant thoughts; in a moment I was awake, alive and revitalized.  She resumed playing after the hit-and-run leaving me to wonder; when had I stopped running through life with arms-wide-open?

If we are running through life with our arms-wide-open, our heart is probably wide open, too.  Did I take a bite of a poison apple that put me to sleep to my passion?  And if so, what was that apple called?  After some careful consideration I decided its name is compromise.  Compromise didn't happen all at once for me, it began slowly, each time allowed another person's opinion sway my thinking or actions.  Each time I allowed another person's approval, or withholding of it, deter me from the direction my heart was leading, I compromised.  There are cautious people in this world, perhaps controlled by their own fear, who disapprove of those who run through life with arms-wide-open.  These cautious people will stick out a figurative foot and trip the runner if they are given the chance.  Later, when they find the runner fallen with bloody knees they will say "see, I told you not to run" without ever speaking a word.

I don't want to live an anemic life of compromise because it is the polite thing to do or makes people around me feel safe.  If I have chosen to take a bite of a poison apple, I can also choose to spit it out.  I can choose to run through life with arms-wide-open believing, as my daughter does, that the world is good and I am loved.  There will be those along the way, who want to knock me down, and I will skin my knees, but I can always get back up again.  There is such freedom, strength and joy that comes from being true to ourselves and I am always invigorated when I meet people who live their lives from that place of freedom.

So, when next we meet, be prepared - you may be greeted with a full-velocity monkey-hug.  I would be honored to share with another human being even half the joy that Chloe gives me each and every day.  What would this hurting world look like if we all ran through it loving one another with the heart of a six year old?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Postcard From A Friend

I love books.  They are the fabric of my life, like cotton.   No matter how often my physical address changes, I will always feel my material possessions are disposable, but my books must travel with me.  My books are like trusted friends, always there, always available, a little dustier than I care to admit.  From hardback classics to well loved paperbacks, most I keep.  The books I give away are the books most precious to me, too good to leave to the confines of my dusty bookcase.  So it was while dusting my bookcases I happened upon an old postcard from a friend.

The postcard fell out of a photo album from my ten year high school reunion, I didn't have my readers on so I couldn't make out who the postcard was from, that should give you and idea of how long ago my reunion was.  Once I found my glasses, I wasn't surprised as I read the sender's name.  She had been our Senior Class President, not the typical bookworm, I'm-better-than-you one might expect; she was real, even in high school.  Imagine that.  She apologized in the postcard for not getting photos of the reunion sent out sooner and promised to send them, which she did.  She told me about a mutual friend who had given birth to a baby boy on August 7th, his name was Jacob.  She invited me to look her up when I was next in town and to keep in touch this time.  She was the same, quality person she had always been, true to herself, true to her friends: True.

Almost two decades have passed since that time, and after all these years I have finally gotten back in touch with her.  The qualities I admire most in her are not the same qualities I possess.  It has taken me decades to wake up to who I am and finally feel comfortable in my own skin.  Lifetimes have passed between us, yet what was true in her then is still true today.  She has always been a great encourager; full of life and joy.  She offers a gift to each person who meets her, whether she is aware of it or not, her gift is to see you.  As the Na'Vi explain in the film Avatar, "I see you" doesn't mean ordinary seeing, it, like Namaste, really means "the God spark in me sees the God spark in you." I see Myself, in your eyes.

We make our lives so complicated.  We speed along, mapping our chronology and desperately filling our pockets with scraps of experience, attempting to define ourselves before our time runs out.  But what if who we are now is who we have always been?  Maybe the truth of who we are is so clear and concise it can fit on a postcard, and it is simply beautiful, just as it always has been.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gretel Must Die

As I stood filling our evil bovine's water trough this morning I noticed a ladybug floating motionless on the water's surface.  Reaching into the soupy water I scooped her up, just in case she wasn't as dead as she looked.  She was alive, but soggy.  She tickled my finger as she marched around on her six little legs acting like she had someplace she needed to be.  My five year old daughter emerged from the house; eyes still sleepy, grumpy because I wasn't inside to greet her when she awoke.  Her long, coltish legs sticking out of her too short pajama pants from last Summer, arms crossed, barefooted, right hip posturing her displeasure.  I made an offering of the ladybug knowing her delight would outweigh her agitation.  It worked, ladybugs have the power to transform my Chloe, her smile was sunlight.

Gretel, our cow, noisily munched her crushed corn and snorted at us, threatening to shish-kabob us with her horns if we got too close, and for this I am happy.  Despite Gretel's large, gentle brown eyes, and beautiful soft coat and sweet lowing voice, she hates us.  Well, who can blame her?  Since she arrived just over a year ago we have been fattening her up, just like the woodcutter's children caught by the witch in the forest, you know the story, Hansel and Gretel.  And now that the end for Gretel is drawing closer, just a week away, I'm wishing Gretel was like that ladybug, so I could scoop her up and whisk her away.  Reality is this:  If I were to set her free she would impale us all, it would be a bloody massacre and Gretel, without a second twitch of her tail, would resume the chewing of her cud whilst surrounded by our dead bodies.  She's such a cow!

But this death business, how to get it all reconciled and nicely packaged up like the nameless, faceless, plastic wrapped items in the meat department of our local grocery store?  My original justification was this:  Here is this baby cow, who we will love and nurture.  She will have a name, albeit a name that mocks her, but a name.  She will be surrounded by sunlight, laughter and life.  If she would allow me to hug her, I would, really.  I even let her lick my hands with her long, pointed, scratchy, black tongue that smells like a moldy beef stick, even though she sticks that same tongue into each of her nostrils.  Seriously, I have tried to be available to her, but she's not like a dog, or even a horse.  Gretel is psychic.  She hates us because she knows; she can smell our guilt like last night's hamburger on our breath.  All right, I admit it, I'm feeling like Lady Macbeth here, and the deed hasn't even been committed yet!