Shifting

As the movement of the ocean affects each grain of sand on the shore we too are affected by the forces around us.

Sometimes in the form of gentle repetition, as a peaceable wave upon the shore, other times as a crashing wave, pounding down on whatever is in its path. In its own appointed time and by gravitational pull it reaches a powerful crescendo. We weren’t targeted though we may feel we were. There was no prescribed agenda for that forceful wave to splinter the innocent piece of driftwood or to displace the solid mass of rock. Shift happens.

Being a living, breathing creature in an ever-living, ever-changing environment means that we will continually grow and as we do we’ll change. We’ll shift. We’ll be shaped by the waves and the storms. What new form we’ll take is yet to be seen.

Are you shifting? Don’t fear it. It is movement. You are alive! You are being shaped.

My Old Friends

Like old friends there is much to be told when you’ve been away from each other’s stories for a while. Much to be shared, to catch up on and why do we care? Because this is a book we want to read! The subject matter is always of interest to us. The small details and the larger plot of a thing, described in detail that feels like its being painted before your eyes in living color. Though in print, placed between two covers its merely ink on paper. But in opening it up, allowing the words to breathe, to form into stories; some that bring a smile, some that break your heart, some that make that same heart beat so fast you can barely catch your breath . . . These are the stories that connect us and keep us held together as enduring friends.

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A beginning, a middle and an end. Pages and chapters and themes bound together tell the story of a life and a friendship filled with loss and love, illness and recovery, then more loss and despair. Some chapters do not have a happy ending though we wish they all did. They just don’t though the urge to edit and rewrite them is strong.

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But thank God for all the daily doings that comprise a life and a friendship. The dailies that keep the storyline moving along. Will it come to a flourishing finish or a flatlining fizzle? Will we find that illusive herd of longhorn (yesterday’s story) or never ever be able to locate them? Sometimes the search itself, the search for the longhorns or the perfect ice cream sundae, or the gravesite of an ancestor or a once shared wisdom will fill chapter after chapter after chapter.

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The seemingly insignificant daily steps of any journey aren’t just “filler” and not just throw-away words on the way to a Pulitzer prize; the real meat of it all; the plot that we’ve come to expect will develop. The book, the friend, there’s sooo much to be discovered, considered, developed in our thought life. It’s exhilarating! And yet if we take the simplistic and thoughtless approach that this one seems familiar as if we’ve seen it all before; read this same basic storyline and we think we know how it all ends we just might miss the greatest story ever told.

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There is mystery in the small occurrences and minor details that may seem so insignificant as to be overlooked. Keep your eyes open and your heart open—to good books to good friends and all the stories that they tell. The real wisdom will often be found in between the lines.

Where’s The Longhorn?

We drove down a road not too far from my sister’s new home in Tyler. We were in search of a herd of longhorns she’d seen several times out that way. East Texas, even in the wintertime, turned out to be more green than I’d imagined. There was an expectation of cactus and tumbleweeds and roaming longhorn though I know this vast state is much more than all that.

When both she and her husband mentioned that they’d seen longhorns out this way I became all the more interested in this pursuit. So down the road we drove several times during my visit in hopes of spotting that herd, even a stray, but we never did find them.

Each time, though, we passed by this curious sight of a tumbledown house with it’s roof still intact lying squarely on top of it’s foundation. Was it a gradual rotting away of an abandoned little homestead? A long ago leveling earthquake perhaps? What might have caused this implosion that dropped the roof down to the ground.

You know sometimes we get the greatest satisfaction or even amazement from something we weren’t in search of. Things we weren’t even going after or pursuing in any way just appear on our way to somewhere else. The unexpected sight of them intersects with a fleeting moment in our lives and we experience an “Oh wow” or an “Ah ha.” We’re out on a metaphorical drive through a particular phase of our lives when we come upon a thing that arrests our thoughts. Others may not ever see it. We want to find it again to share with them but the moment with its “Ah ha” was ours.

As for me my takeaway from our search for the elusive longhorns is this, “Girl, keep your walls built up! Your foundation is rock solid, the roof over your head will continue to cover you but, for Pete’s sake, fortify those walls!”

Stand

Today is the day to stand up on your own two feet.

I suggest you put your shoes on first but you know what? Its a new decade so stand up, whether snow boots or flip-flops or barefoot.

No need for making an angry stand or a belligerent one. Whatever level of strength you have in you today, use it and stand to your feet.

There is so much talk about moving forward at the beginning of a new year let alone this being a new decade. I am one who believes in moving forward because that’s where life is. And yet today my word is stand. Whatever that means to you do it. I’m not saying stand and fight but maybe it’s time for you to. I’m not saying stand and cry. But maybe it’s time that you did and in so doing release what is gone. Maybe today you do nothing else but metaphorically stand up in your spirit— and use your physical feet and get that body of yours standing up as a silent declaration. Whether it’s getting the strength back in your legs to walk or run into your future or whether it’s just a holding-your-ground kind of stand.

Rise up in your spirit and stand.

Scarlet

I’d been back from my trip for several days and had finally gone out to tend to my garden (it looked sad) and the bird bath (it was dry) and to sweep up the leaves that collected.

My absolutely favorite succulent, about the size of a teacup, has been a lush velvety green—at least for as long as I’ve known it anyway—and just this summer it really began to thrive in it’s sunny location. Around autumn several small orangey blossoms began to appear on it. What? A new season a new outfit I suppose. But I hardly expected to return from my trip to find it dressed in scarlet. It looks stunning! It is growing and changing with the new season.

What a difference a change of season can make. In our gardens, in our lives—in ourselves if we’ll let it. Perhaps we’ll feel something different beginning to flow. A new energy, a renewing of passion for a thing that lay dormant. Inside something new, something feeling vaguely electric may be starting to flow once again. Of course it’s not springtime yet. I know it sounds like I describing spring while winter has just begun. Winter is, as we know, the season for dormancy and stillness and such. But perhaps there’s yet something new stirring in your heart in this season of stillness.

Let it! Don’t tamp it down. Let it flow. Doubts and nagging voices aside, allow the fresh flow of a new move in your heart begin to propel you forward. Movement means there’s still life inside. Small, incremental movement will take us from where we were in the previous year or even yesterday into a new place of heart and mind. Take a look in the mirror. Are you scarlet?

Out and Away

This wide spreading tree stands on the grounds of Mercy Ships International where my nephew landed his first job out of college a few months ago.

What great work they do bringing skilled surgeons into parts of the world that consider a cleft palate or facial tumor as clear evidence of demonic activity in one’s life. Children, teens and adults who’ve been shunned, neglected and worse are literally given new life by the medical teams that travel voluntarily to villages we’ve never heard of. Hope in abundant supply overflows with each surgery performed.

But this is not the focus of my thoughts for today.

After many years I still carry a lingering sadness for a friendship I lost years ago. And how well I know that by human nature we want reconciliation and happy endings yet sadly at times we have endings without either. Sometimes a divide—a branching out if you will—propels one or both into a direction that would not have been imagined nor ever realized if things had remained the same. And so growth “alongside of” is replaced by “growth away from.”

This became evermore clear to me as I looked at the photo of this grand tree. It illustrates to me how circumstances of life may thrust us out to east and to west as a natural, though not always wanted, process of growth. Apart from a central connection we grow, budding, flowering, reaching out and serving a purpose that is meant just for us. Just for them. But not always together. Though growing out from the same sturdy trunk the reach of our branches is now out and away from each other. Growing in opposite directions these branches appear to expand their reach with outstretched arms and extended fingertips about as far as they possibly can. Providing shade in due season to those below and serving as lifelong home to feathered friends or perhaps a welcomed rest stop to those on a migratory journey. More ground is covered (pause and think about that) because of the trajectory which is out and away.

A happy-ish ending now comes from the certainty that you had to let go to move forward and grow. A necessary ending has transpired.

The Right Stuff

Relaxing in the Dallas airport between my flights two days ago, munching on some extra crispy pecan crackers, there appeared this odd bit of scrap from the in-between trimmings of dough. Never seen that before but it makes perfect sense that some of the perfectly good stuff needs to be cut away to create the intended product. What do they do with the stuff that doesn’t make the cut? I’ve never thought about it because I’ve never seen it. Does it normally go back in with the unbaked cracker dough to be remixed, rolled out again, having a second chance of making the grade?

It dawned on me that the misshapen piece was made of the exact same ingredients, baked up in the same hot oven, resulting in just as nice a crunch and with a taste every bit as delish as it’s perfectly shaped cousin. But it really was a reject, not the top quality product that met the manufacturing specifications. It wasn’t it’s own fault that it was (to Nabisco) nothing more than a scrap of what didn’t fit the mold. By some miracle it made it through the process, past quality control and on through to packaging. How ecstatic it must have been when against all odds of production it made it to the store shelf!

And what about those who don’t fit the mold? We have a way of looking differently at folks who aren’t the same as the standard or the norm. Oh sure novelty will catch the eye but when we expect a certain level of standardization we will view those who vary from our definition of “the norm” as different. And, heck yeah, they are!

Many of these with a shape varying from our own have stepped outside the norm to become our artists and musicians, our dreamers and makers, our discoverers, trend setters and influencers.

So go ahead little cracker scrap and dream that dream. Take that leap where the rest of us may fear to. One day your unique gift may be heralded as the latest innovation. You, after all, are made of all the right stuff.

Time to Fly

Yesterday was my last full day in Tyler and I basically went out on a fried food high. Just look at that creamy good gravy drowning a crunchy coated slab of chicken fried steak. Texas toast, which I didn’t eat, good old mash equally smothered with country gravy, which I did eat, and a pile of crispy coated okra for good measure.

I do not eat like this in California.

The last seven days have been a relaxing mix of spending time with my older sis and her family in their newly established lone star homestead (okay, house, but I’m embracing the culture here), of tracing Shelby County family roots, of visiting the local establishments where they do all the smalls of everyday life, of eating good ol’ Tex Mex and Southern style meals (relishing every morsel), all of this giving me a good sense of their new life in this state. For the record I’m returning home resembling a hearty portion of chicken and dumplings minus the chicken. It’s been AWESOME—but my bags are now packed and we leave for the airport in just moments.

Off I go to the place of my birth and the sandy shores that I love. Back to beautifully sunny Southern California I go with a bittersweet smile and a saddish yet happy heart. I don’t know when we’ll meet face to face again. All this is uncharted. So I return to the land of my birth that also happens to be overpriced, over-everything, five lane freeway rush hour traffic and I LOVE it! For there’s no place like home. Home sweet home.

LA Picture book What?

We were looking up as we walked along the crumbling sidewalk of oldtown Palestine, east Texas. Way above our heads we saw the year 1878 posted high up on the Victorian ornamented peak of the period wooden building. That’s when I spotted the hanging sign with the curious title in a lovely french inspired script. “LA Picture Book Hair Surgeons.”

Having four creative and inspired stylists in my inner circle I wondered if this was a bit too clever/confusing of a name for a hair salon, or in Texan terms, a beauty parlor. Was LA for Louisiana or the City of Angels? What does “picture book” have to do with it? And then my eyes lowered from the hanging sign to the shuttered doorway of whatever this establishment used to be. The glass entrance door was dirty and was hung with the old school not cool metal blinds that my dear grandma used to have in her living room windows. This establishment’s title was repeated in stick-on lettering—the kind you can buy for a few bucks a sheet in a hardware store but was now crackled and peeling away. Eerily so as the doorway resembled the unraveling bandages of a creepy mummy. I thank old horror films snd Scooby Doo cartoons for that one. But the sight of it was as compelling as the opening paragraph of a good mystery story.

I wanted to know more but a google search yielded nothing. I wanted to know more for no good reason other than simply to justify the mixed messages being sent by the same five words presented in two completely different ways.

Here’s the leap . . .

What’s your truth? How are you presenting it, intentionally or otherwise? Does it speak to the heart of your essence or confound the folks around you? Let’s bring clarity to our message in the year that’s just about to dawn. I’m personally going to give that a try.

Going Up?

One thing my sister-in-Texas has repeatedly mentioned during my visit is that they’ve been asked one particular question multiple times by the locals. In setting up a new life in a new-to-them town in a new-to-them state the folks here in Tyler have been welcoming, helpful and friendly. It truly seems as if they’re equally concerned about the spiritual well-being of the newcomers as they are other more secular concerns. Hence they ask those putting down roots in their town a heartfelt question . . .

In our ancestral search over the last few days we discovered a common thread woven through the fabric of our family history. Several of our long gone kin have been educators, school superintendents, and promoters of better education practices. And there’s a parallel thread of deep faith. We were able to locate the abandoned church building referred to in historical notices that was started by a great, great, great of ours. Amazingly all its stained glass windows and red brick exterior are beautifully intact. We squinted through leaded glass in the church entrance doors to see rows of lovely wooden pews and altar and other platform furniture still in place as if services had just ended and the caretaker had locked up for the day. A plaque at the entrance bore the name of the church founder – one of our own, T. H. Day.

Perhaps these long gone Texas congregants asked their newcomers the very same question, “Have you found a church home yet?”

I would like to think it was not asked from a position of judgement or purely investigative but from a place of true care—from a mindset and heartfelt concern that we each need a community to belong to, a congregation if you will. A people, a place of communion and connection where truths are spoken into your life.

It’s faintly asked in a similar way by this east Texas stairway in nearby Palestine. There are good hearted folks here aplenty and it seems that even their stairways will ask.

Going up?