What Happens Next

That’s me, the mobile mama. At least that’s what Maria called me when I told her my plans for our break. Thanksgiving over there then a Black Friday road trip up the the coast then a Christmas flight to Texas ought to do it. I’ll be making the rounds to spend time with the ones I love most. “Mobile momma!” she said, and we laughed.

She’s one of our University students; one semester to go and on the edge of “what happens next” in her life. She’s headed for home where her parents and youngers are waiting. Her Momma will cook up her favorites and they’ll watch her little sister at practice games. She’ll return to the nest she flew south from, where they’ll catch up on the milestones they’ve missed. Reconnect and do life as before. Though they know this won’t last they won’t say it out loud. They’ll hang out like old times, like its just other day, and they’ll relish the moments while they can. They know things are changing. They sense their girl is about to spread her wings and fly away into her future. But for now she is headed for home.

I can’t say for certain but my hunch about her is this: that no matter how far from home, there’ll be plenty of road trips and plenty of flights that will lead to the ones she loves most.

Waiting Room

Waiting rooms. What a difference there is when it comes to the spaces dedicated to the purpose of “the wait.” For a hair style or an oil change or a diagnosis . . . we wait. The environment itself, in a perfect setting, conditions us for what’s to come. The proprietors do their best (or their least) to set a tone while we inhabit their spaces and we wait.

My favorite tire shop has coffee and donuts and free tail wags from the owner’s friendly dog. There are regulars who drop in for the sports channel, downing coffee as if on a bar stool at Cheers. So pervasive and brain numbing is that heavy aroma of tire rubber though . . . and yet the out-of-place (yet not) loveseat plopped smack in the middle of the Michelin display gives a sense of “come and sit a spell, y’all — feel at home.”

So what are “we” like as a wait-room? For the people in our lives, those who count on us, or encounter us; longtime friends, fellow co-workers, our kids or family folk; how do we ourselves serve as a place they can wait? When their kid was in an accident or their mom just got the report or the longtime friend fears for their job? Do we pat them on the back with an awkward word of advice? Do we say those well-meant things such as, “you’ll be fine,” “worry doesn’t change anything,” or (forgive me) even dab on a bit of bible verse, saying as if on auto pilot, that “all things work together for good . . . ”

Can you feel what they feel and just be there? Can they come to you when the chips are down and the rent isn’t paid and the doctor’s news is bad—would they find in you the kind of waiting room that has regulars? Not flawless but with flexible hours of operation and maybe a coffee as needed?

Significant comments and helpful strategies are optional in the ultimate waiting rooms of life. Paid professionals can offer that. The heartfelt presence of an arm around the shoulder or a look straight in the eye will say what a thousand well-meaning words may fail to. We will get through this together. Come and wait.

She Remembered

Grandma’s hand worked lace went out of fashion multiple decades ago. It has a new life now as a lampshade adornment that I enjoy—not a use she would have foreseen for this collar made to embellish the neckline of an otherwise plain country dress.

Otherwise plain. Makes you think if you have the time to wander. A continuous thread, not of silk like a fancy lady would have had but of the available, affordable, common fiber of the working class. In the hands of one who was as humble and durable as her thread content and yet who possessed an eye for beauty and a heart that longed for more of it, this humble thread was made into something quite beautiful. Quite treasured.

She described to me once the simplicity of her first home as a young bride. Having married one of the boys from the farm down the road she detailed how her tiny kitchen was literally created from scratch. Real scratch. It was located in a corner of their little one-room home where she had fashioned kitchen cabinets out of orange crates. She hand-embroidered a cheery bluebird pattern onto rough muslin fabric from a 25 pound flour sack. Having strung these homey curtains onto twine they were tacked to the open fronts of the orange crates and voila! True farmhouse chic in the dust bowl of 1920’s Kansas. That was Grandma.

It was the light in her eyes as she reminisced that revealed she was there once again. Transported in mind back to Kansas with the orange crate kitchen in a place they would start out together on a lifetime of “til death do us part.”

There was no shame at the humbleness of their beginnings. With a satisfied glow she remembered . . .

Voice of Pain

We were in a good sized assembly of more than 500 others and it was “High Five Friday.”

The guy a few seats down the row from me didn’t mean to do anything more than what we’d been instructed. We’d just high-fived each other in the noisy energy of the room when his extended arm came down quickly and his elbow hit hard on my shoulder bone. It was no more than a brief moment in a crowded room. He apologized amidst the sounds of hundreds of slapping hands that filled the air while it felt like a sledge hammer had struck me.

Strange thing was, that upon this nano-second moment, my recently injured foot began to throb in pain again. A couple of months earlier I’d dropped something heavy on my foot and as a result had limped around for several days. It was an accidental wound, and man had it hurt. Though this had happened weeks and weeks ago it began to ache and the pain returned again. What?

The complete strangeness of the recurrence was baffling—then something else came to mind about hurt and pain, so I’ll ask . . . have you ever been hurt, and I mean emotionally so, over something that happened long ago? Did a dream drift away that you’d held over time? Did a relationship die that should have grown better? Did someone call you “friend” and then draw a line and take sides against you because the hearsay was so more interesting than the truth?

The pain of the past has this mysterious way about it. It comes alive as if it just happened though its done and over with. It only exists now as a deeply stored record of history. But then a fresh wound seems to unlock the door it was kept behind.

While I don’t pretend to have an explanation for my earlier physical injury resurfacing with the unwelcome voice of pain, there’s a correlation here to be considered. Pain’s voice is saying something. It may be just an old echo from across a cavern of the past but it signals that we’ve not yet let go.

We’ve got to be gentle but firm with our past hurts. It is over but we may never really let it go. Burying without setting free an old grudge or hurt is to preserve it alive for another day. Oh, there’s work to be done so heed the voice of pain and do the restorative work needed to once and for all move on. Pull it up — get the roots. Get it gone and move on.

Sunday Psalm

I had the manual out this morning and read about an enduring relationship between committed partners.

“Love and faithfulness meet together . . . Righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

What a simple message it is that peace of heart and mind is intimately connected with the right, the pure, and the good.

In the times when we’ve lost our peace, when something feels “off,” something isn’t right, its so easy to misgauge what it is. Oh sure, we’ll rail about a person, place, or thing that seems wrong while we miss what’s right there at the root. We focus on the unjust since that seems so glaringly obvious. We wrestle with it, even get down in the mud with it. Now that’s on us too. But after a fair amount of struggle, a restless night, some hours or days with that unsettled feeling disconnection brings, becoming at last hungry for restoration, we see a flickering light in the tunnel that beckons us to abandon all the circumstantial evidence we’ve clung to. At the heart of it all we want peace and Peace wants us too.

Take that step or that leap. Draw near to kiss righteousness. You have to be close to do that. Not just being nearby or simply in the same room but in contact with. In that moment of connection to “what is right” peace returns and the discord begins to drift far away. Harmony resumes its rightful place on center stage. A tightly held fist now begins to slowly unfold and it is ready once again to reach out. Maybe even upward in surrender and communion. Sunday psalms are good like that.

Psalm 85:10

YOU

There is a certain expectation, you know.

If you have a gift or a talent for a particular thing then at some point you’ll be expected to do something meaningful, useful or perhaps profitable with it. To share it or sell it or post it or teach it. To somehow shine a light on the giftedness that you possess. The expectation may not be external at all but one from inside your own head saying, “do something—don’t waste it.”

In some moment of quiet as your thoughts shift to who you’ve turned out to be (this far) with no audience given to a critical voice or a disappointed opinion (of your own or another’s), just allow your heart and mind to accept this truth. YOU are truly one of a kind. There was never a mold even made in the first place to be broken after you were created, if you know what I mean. There’s not one other person like you. No other set of identical fingerprints for that matter which stands to serve as a maker’s mark that there is only one like you. The only “you” that this world will ever have in it. There will never be another with the same viewpoint, perspective, same song in their heart, same twinkle in their eye as you.

I’m talking about the real, honest to goodness you, not the talent that’s been gifted to you or any other expression of you. Or the ability that’s an extension of the one and only you. Remove the expectation to “be all that you can be” and just do that thing you do. Just be you.

Room with a View

My view at the end of a mid-November work day.

Sure, there were errandy things I needed to dash off to. Because there’s no greater rush than to find the right microwave oven replacement bulb at long last or perhaps to change out the water filter on the fridge (my current to-do list). But I said to myself, “that can wait” while I paused and I pondered my day. While I drank in this expanse of beauty; this artist’s palette in the sky. The freeway rush hour will still be there—it will wait while this calming scene at the end of my day takes me somewhere much further than the Southbound 405 will tonight.

••• ••• ••• ••• ••• ••• •••

My older sister was once looking for a new place to live. She was single back then and was looking to find something new. We looked at this one small place in her price range knowing it was likely too cramped to be comfortable enough. It sat perched on a ridge high above the sprawling seaside town below. We walked through the entrance to the confirming reality that the square footage just wasn’t going to be enough.

But the view . . .

The view went on for days—to the sea with the ragged hillside and town and the coastline down below. Oh that view! And I suppose there was even a bedroom and a kitchen and such but all I recall was that view . . .

Our days may be busy or they may be quite still. One thing I’ve come to know is that living them well is not dependent upon the sprawl of your mansion or your shoe-box sized estate. Its all about the view. Your view.

Sometimes you don’t need a bigger place.You just need a bigger view.

What We Saw

Early Thursday morning, up way before the sun as I love to do. I’m not a sleep-in-late type and I never was. But there isn’t much to see at 4:30am just staring out the window into the dark. This tea towel of a kitchen curtain was much more interesting than the black. And while I know there are colors out there, right where they were when the sun went down (terra cotta, chartreuse and mustard gold) I can’t see or enjoy them in this dark without the light.

So I lean on my foreknowledge that they exist, seeing them or not, at this moment. The knowledge sustains me until the sun rises and reveals what my mind knew was there. Because darkness doesn’t change what is real and what’s true. For a moment it obscures but has no lasting power over beauty, love, wisdom or truth.

The sneaky cousins of the dark though—they distort what is real right in broad daylight—as their particular speciality lies in fading colors, altering proportions and erasing minute details of the people and things that we love. Darn Shadows! But there in the shade or in the dark, the truth, the real details of an object, an issue, or a person’s character remain untouched and unchanged. The lack of light itself doesn’t alter a thing or negate its truth or existence.

This early morning musing is a simple acknowledgement that faith is put to the test in the dark of night. In the darkest hour. When the sun don’t shine. Faith is believing what I can’t see. When the darkness closes in, when the night falls, when the scene fades to black I will remember, I will recall the truth of what I saw there in the light of day. That there is color, there is beauty. There is peace. There is hope that the sun will come out. There is faith to believe that it is so.

Just For You

Just an ordinary Tuesday, same old drill, same old me.

A sweet smiling worker at the University motioned me to stop and then very humbly presented me with a tiny box containing something sparkly. It was a rosary made of faceted crystal beads, a tiny antiqued silver medallion and a crucifix. I instantly put it around my neck and thanked her profusely with a hug of astonishment at her thoughtfulness. There were too many students and professors coming and going for this to be any more than an extended moment though she quickly communicated what she had intended to and we both went away feeling thankful.

Not being raised in the Catholic tradition I’m unsure of any protocols involved. I’ve worn cross necklaces before but sparingly. A reality show a few years back featured real housewives wearing huge and elaborate crosses on jean pockets and across their cropped tee shirts. It seemed a misuse of a revered symbol of suffering, death, and redemption but who am I to judge? It was trending.

I confess I don’t know the proper times or ways to wear my heartfelt gift. Is it to be worn daily? Just to church? Held in one’s hands during prayer or just at funerals? Too many questions perhaps but I want to get this right to honor the kind heart of the one who gave it.

Yesterday I read that there were just 43 days left until Christmas. OMG, what a sense of panic washed through my entire being. This was meant to inform that we have only so many days “left” to buy gifts, bake the cookies, rehearse the carols, trim the tree. Write the annual Christmas letter. All of that. We’re all RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO DO THE RIGHT THING! was how it felt.

Then the message of the gift that had been given just before spoke gently to my soul. The message came through crystal clear without being stitched on my jeans or worn on a filigree chain. It is Love, once again, that prompts us to give. Not a threat or a season but a heart that’s been moved, felt appreciated, noticed. Love does that. It notices and responds with a kiss or a rumpled daisy plucked from the neighbor’s garden, “I picked this for YOU mommy.” Just for you.

Multiplied

Do you see how the light doubles those four letters? It’s the light and not the dark that multiplies the best thing that ever was.

The best thing that ever was, is, or evermore shall be. Its more than a feeling, more than a song of chemistry and compatibility. More than a four letter word on a wall. It’s caring and being cared for—a true give and take. Giving of oneself and also connecting with others, receiving from them too. Allowing it, you know? The uncomplicated exchange of giving an others-focused type of love that brings a peace to the heart and the mind.

Sometimes we may need to spend a little coin to deposit some love into another human soul. A cup of coffee for a stranger, a monthly support pledge to educate a child in Ghana, a dish or a day spent in giving a Thanksgiving meal to local military families . . . so customizable and limitless in its variations though money is never at the heart of it.

And while money “can’t buy me love,” as all Beatles fans fully know, it’s still nice to have a pocketful. But then even a burgeoning account possessed by an empty heart leaves a soul incomplete, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. Oh, neither an empty heart nor an empty wallet is particularly awesome—most of us have been there and know a little about the effects of lack—more than we’d like to. However, a full heart, a give-and-receive heart, a heart that lets others affect it will truly know what it is to be multiplied.