Wild Hairs

This morning as I got ready for work I was thinking about my friend Brandee; her favorite Merle (as in Haggard) was on the Grammys last night, and I wondered if she had seen him. Brandee left Facebook for her son’s fourteenth year of life, and all I can say is more power to you, girl. That’s a good gift, one of your self and your focus, and I ought to mind your example and do the same thing.

But I was thinking of Brandee and Merle as I washed my face, as I did that thing where you lean in close to the mirror – really close – and examine your pores.

I guess that’s what we’re doing, anyway. Women do this all the time, don’t we? Looking at pimples or soon-to-be pimples or what-used-to-be-a-pimple, and that spot that looks a little bigger than it did yesterday. The stray eyebrow hairs and our lashes or wrinkles, the tiny blood vessel there and the bit of a blackhead that you know you shouldn’t mess with…

I lean in close because I’m ridiculously nearsighted and can’t see myself at all unless I’m two inches from the mirror. I do it every morning, out of habit or compulsion.

Today, my face Cetaphil-clean, I patted dry the dampness and leaned in.

Now I’m about to get all honest and truthful up in here, and I don’t want to hear anything about it from those of you who will see me tomorrow, and I especially don’t want to see you looking, so promise me you won’t. 

I leaned in and looked and wondered why – for all that is sweet and lovely and holy about the wisdom of age and timeless beauty and earned wrinkles and all that – why did God see fit to turn up the hair-growing hormone for women as they move through the middle part of their aging? Because there it is, in all its loveliness – a downy, dewy peach fuzz, like my son’s pre-pubescent boy-face right before he ripened for the razor and moved into the stage of stubble.

I sighed and realized that after spending the final moments of last night’s Grammys running in and out of the bathroom trying to color my hair (yes, I did. Now it’s not news.), I had more delicate self-care to manage.

Getting older means spending more time in maintenance, that’s for sure.

I’ll deal with the hair removal, and now you know my secrets, but back to Brandee and Merle and all that. I wondered if Brandee had seen Merle, and realized that I’ll either have to email or call her or just show up at her house to ask her, because I don’t think the girl texts and she’s done with Facebook and she’s got those three littles at home, plus her teenager, and I don’t much see her out and about town. I considered the joy of showing up on her doorstep because I wanted to ask if she’d seen Merle, and in a flash I realized that in the not-so-distant past, that’s how it worked.

When I was wearing Brandee’s shoes, with the littles underfoot and the house always upside down (and no worries for hair color or removal, either one), people just showed up. I had all those babies, all the time, and there was always somebody popping in. And it was always okay.

We were attached to the church, always some church that paid the bills while the kids’ dad was leading youth ministry, while I managed the kids and pregnancies and tried to keep up. I remember this, the sense that I was obligated to be a cheery representative of maternal joy, to demonstrate that the salary and the housing and the occasional meals and love offerings were well-placed. I was a happy, barefoot mother and wife, nurturing and nesting. Messy, but joy on display for all to see.

For the most part, I think it was true. I was cheerful, and optimistic, and I fiercely loved my little ones. I felt blessed, and I considered it a duty to live like it, to reflect the Joy of the Lord. But there’s this – I never planned on having a big, squirming batch of kids with names that all began with the same letter. I hadn’t yearned to be a homemaker and a stay-at-home mom. It happened, and I was happy, but even then, as the kids came along one-by-one, my sense of who I was and why I was doing what I was doing was pinned to this notion of a responsibility to please someone else. Who? The church? The husband? The in-laws? I think my own parents thought I’d lost my mind; the jumper-wearing, rural-redneck country girl was so far from the bookish, jazz-loving city international-traveler self that I’d been wearing that I think we all spun in circles for a while, trying to grab ahold of just what happened.

The focal point of all this, the consolidation, came to light in God; thrown around lightly it makes me uncomfortable, but it is true: Jesus saves. I can tell you surely that there was a great deal of daily rescue that came in the form of a still, small voice and a gentle nudge to keep turning, keep turning in and out of all those seasons, until I’d come round right and found some sense of myself again.

And I did, peeled back until the roots were exposed and then built back up again, fashioned into a girl who realized and reclaimed her purpose in the walking, talking, pooping, fussing antidotes for selfishness that the Giver of life bestowed in five equal and necessary portions of grace and humility.

I love my kids, both outside of myself (totally differentiated, fond of who they are as independent people) and deeply within, as they themselves formed the texture and substance of the me buried beneath all I couldn’t gather, running in the wind to present something of worth to grasp at a moment’s approval.

Trace it all back to Brandee, who I imagine to be surrounded in the chaos of preschoolers in a little cabin in the woods, with only a glimmer of what 20 years will bring to her. And let’s tell the truth again – it’s really not about Brandee, is it? It’s about me, and who I was when I lived in her shoes and hadn’t a glimpse of what it would be like to be me, two decades past the days that merged into diaper changes and feedings and constant vigilance and car seats and strollers and mini-vans. Somehow, those years rushed by even as they moved like molasses, and the littles became big, in full possession of good grammar and drivers’ licenses and bank accounts, degrees and destinations and extravagant plans and places to go.

And I’m still leaning into the mirror, looking at my face, while time paints a portrait and my soul continues to stretch and grow, to morph into something new and yet worn by the unceasing tempo of the years. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it was a different life; and yet it was just yesterday that all this was yet hidden, waiting to be unwrapped, sloughed off, revealed.

That’s the thing, I think; the further I move from where I was, the more the light reveals. The old continues to go, peeled back to expose secrets and substance as yet unimagined. Good stuff; rich, abundant and aromatic.

With the occasional wild hair.

All The Things In The Attic

We seem to jump from one Big Major Life Transition to another around here. It’s always something.

Here lately, it’s two major moves; the first, of our family business to a larger, more visible location. We’re excited to put the music store in a better position to be a solid, long-term part of the community. It’s been all my dear husband has thought about for months, and at this point it’s been the reason he’s crawling into bed at 4AM. The man knows how to git ‘er done, and at this stage of the game, it’s whatever it takes. The doors will Monday, although it will be a while before everything is rolled into place. Designing and building lesson rooms, rewiring, adding insulation, painting, carpeting, putting up trim and taping and bedding and everything else you might think of; he’s doing it.

Motion in other places, too; the renting of my old house to a new family. For a few years, good friends have lived there. The arrangements were comfortable, by which I mean I had left Some Stuff over there in the attic and the storage shed. With “real” renters moving in, it was time to purge and clean and sort and move The Stuff. I’ve spent hours in the attic, sorting through the things.

And I had a blog post in my head, because thing is our prompt, and I wanted to write about a certain thing, but that desire was preempted by this exposure to All The Things in the attic.

Last week at church, we heard a powerful and extremely relevant message about living in the present, in a way not distorted by alarms on iPhones. I found myself very thoughtful, considering carefully whether or not the way in which I spend my hours truly honored the life I’ve been given. It was a great message for the beginning of January, a normal time to look ahead and think toward the future.

But then I went in the attic, and all that went out the window with the dust and broken chair arms.

There were photos; some from 35 years ago and some just a decade old. Me, here and there. Me, with Sarah as a baby. Me, as a freshman in high school. My five kids, in a ridiculous pose across a butt-ugly couch. Me and my kids’ dad, in a very stereotypical church directory pose, with big Texas hair and big glasses and one smiling baby.

I’d started the week contemplating the future – excited, even. Planning ahead. Ready to embrace and be in the moment. But then I went soaring down the dusty road of recollection and remembrances, of yearbooks and scrapbooks and photos stuck between the pages of books. Upon the January pinnacle of looking forward, I plunged backwards into the annals of time gone by.

My history.

And an amazing thing happened.

See, I think there’s more to the “be in the moment” message than meets the eye. I wouldn’t have told you this before coming face to face with a shy, skinny, smiling girl centered in a linear line of masculinity (the only girl cousin, that was me), but I am convinced there is some slight danger this ever-present charge to embrace the future, seize the day and all that.

I had forgotten who I was. Not “forgotten” in the sense of I didn’t remember; but that it didn’t matter. I’d let that girl go. Paid no attention to her. Never considered how what was had carried over into what is.

I think it’s the divorce, certainly. Starting over requires forging ahead. That’s part of it. The new marriage, the emptying nest, the changes in my parents, an entirely new life in a brand new town. But I was shocked to realize how much I’d left behind, all that I did not recall about who I once was.

I know I’m not who I used to be. I thank God for all the ways in which I have grown and changed and become kinder, better, more honest, more decent. I am different and it is good. But I remember my first encounter with salvation, Southern Baptist style, in which what I understood was required equaled an outright cleansing of the past. Not the “Jesus’ blood makes you clean” sort of thing, but a “you weren’t saved then so your history doesn’t matter” notion. “All that matters is that you are a NEW CREATION THE OLD HAS GONE THE NEW HAS COME.”

(I do believe that, by the way; but not to the extent that to recall that I was the salutatorian of my graduating class didn’t matter because I wasn’t saved then.)

I daresay that’s probably not exactly what was taught, but Lord knows that’s what I caught, and so began a losing battle with recreating The Perfect Christian.

But that’s another blog post…

This one, today, is about the absolute joy I discovered in the attic when I found these things, the relics not of my childhood but of my 30’s and 40’s. Of my days as a young mother (and a newly “saved” Christian). The era of a kid on each hip and one on the way. I sat down and took a hard look at myself, with the gentle compassion that seems to have come my way with age.

I liked what I saw. It gave me great joy and a slow peace. I remembered who I was, where I came from, what I’d been through – not the hard stuff, but the happy.

These things, we keep them or we pass them on, we take them to Goodwill or just leave them sit in the attic. They hold some key to the past, and at a certain point, it’s not worth fearing anymore. Because what has come to be is sane and solid, whole and healthy.

That’s me.

That’s good.


I thought I mostly wanted to leaf through the scrapbooks, but these slight, somewhat kitschy journals are the things that caught my attention and triggered some sort of regeneration of heart and soul, past and present. These are the kids’ journals; books I started for each one when I learned I was pregnant.

(Except for David’s, whose book I started when he was about a month old. He got eight pages written in his before it ended – compared to TWO FULL BOOKS for kids #1 and #2 Poor guy. It’s tough, being the fifth one down the line….I told him the consolation is for the next four years, he gets me all to himself.)

May 16, my 27th birthday, I found out I was pregnant. We’d only been married four months. I bought the first journal, wrote “BABY” inside the front cover, and began to write to someone I only knew through the resonance of her presence in my womb. Lonnie wrote, too, and I feared perhaps my heart would crack, reading of the hopes and dreams that would eventually dissolve and dismantle our family as it was then. But my kinder, gentler heart simply saw the naive excitement of two young people who didn’t know quite what they were getting into. Hindsight, when carefully applied, kindles a grace-filled love and appreciation that is stronger in light of reality, rather than only memory’s shade. The reality is we are still family, in ways that are tinged with pain at times; but also resound with joy.

There are five beginning books, seven in total (when I was much more ambitious with the early kids), each full of wondering and musing, no small amount of preaching and the hopes and dreams for a future family. My handwriting, which still looks the same. My doodles and drawings; the parts of me that remain constant and static, while my world expanded five-fold. The same voice that spoke life and love and patience and grace to these five children, who have grown so much over two decades, who now carry the imprint of my love scrawled upon their skin.

These books showed me myself; the ghost of Life Past, and I came to see that little was wasted. In a way I never expected, these things closed the circle somewhat. I am beginning to think it was a ritual needed to mark this 50th year of life; one that occurred by apparent happenstance, and yet seemed too timely to be coincidental.

Sometimes you’re just ready to sit down and dig into the past. I was, and I did, and I’m better for it.

Love

Our word this week is “love”, and honestly, I thought “duh”.

I mean, really? Aren’t we all surrounded by love? Isn’t that too easy?

The joke’s on me. NOT easy at all. Serious contemplation of the word and what might be worthy of a few hundred words caused me to reconsider my callous attitude.

I quit pouting, considered myself spanked, swallowed my pride and tried to narrow down the field.

Of things I love.

Of people I love.

Of places I love.

Of ways I love.

Of where I experience love.

Of how I receive love.

Of how I give love.

Of the love I want.

Of the love I had.

Of the love I long for.

(See what I mean??????)

This is no slight thing, either in concept or construct.

And there is this: Every prompt does more than elicit a blog post. I find myself seeing differently. Contemplating. Considering.

Noticing.

(I recall a theme from last fall…..)

ANYWAY:

Love.

Here’s all I have: A father and a son, not estranged, but not quite right. Awkward. Time and divorces and careless comments had twisted connections into hard, dense bullets of hesitation and a palpable wariness. Eager to please, anxious to bridge the gap, but never. quite. there.

We had journeyed to visit the patriarch of the family, an intentional effort that involved only one destination. That, in itself, spoke volumes; a trip that, in the past, included other family members was this time reduced to his family, and only his. It mattered.

We stepped across the threshold and into a new guest room, one that held too many memories to approach with any comfort. And yet all things become new, and time brings change; a sort of anointing happened right there before our eyes, with prayer and a faith that we could move forward.

There is a holiness, a sacred space created when relationships begin to stretch and change shape. When one is willing to reach across the divide and say, “Let’s move past what was and step into something new,” and the other smiles and that smile says, “I never thought you’d ask.”

I stood back and watched something beautiful happen, right before my eyes. Prayers flew like bullets, it seemed; I had this deeply rooted, visceral sense of without ceasing going on and on and on, always. Flowing, a current of love-to-come out of the deep roots of genetic and historical connection.

Father and son, they are so alike in so many ways. The more I saw and heard, the more I saw the likeness. Time together does that, no? We spend time with ones we love, whose likeness we claim, and the identification becomes more apparent.

This is the mystery, the connective tissue.

God is love.

Love is of God.

Anyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.

Holy. Sacred. Bound.

A father loves his son, a son loves his father, and sometimes all they need is some space in which to set it into motion.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Waiting / Not Waiting

It’s the first day of 2014.

Where I am this morning;
six glorious inches of snow.

My initial thoughts meander back to Y2K and what seemed like an unbelievable moment – moving from 1999 into 2000. There was the Prince song, of course; and on the cusp of December 31, 1999, I found myself wondering how I was supposed to party….I sang the song in a rock and roll bar band (back in the early 80’s) but never really knew how to embrace the purpose of partying. Like it was 1999. Two thousand zero zero party over oops out of time / tonight we’re gonna party like it’s nineteen-ninety-nine… I think we all wondered, “How did we get here?” Like the year 2000 was something we all waited for, but couldn’t conceive of actually happening.

I thought about the fourteen years that have flown by since that watershed moment. I measured the growth of my youngest son, from infant to teenaged giant. I considered the fact that I slept last night in a bed in a house and a town that I never would have envisioned fourteen years ago, beside a man that I didn’t even know then.

Life does involve quite a few twists and turns, doesn’t it?

I laid awake until the wee hours pondering such things, until the pondering faded away and I spent 30 minutes scrolling through Facebook posts (“HAPPY 2014!” “Happy New Year!” “So thankful!” “What a great party!” “Picture of my kids who fell asleep!”)

I can’t say that Facebook brought anything positive to my contemplative state. On the contrary, perhaps…

ANYWAY:

Our new word prompt is waiting, and I am not sure of my approach. Because, honestly, I’m kind of tired of waiting. Lately, there’s been so much of it.

Waiting to recover from eye surgery.

Waiting for the remodeling project to be complete.

Waiting for an engagement party.

Waiting to embrace a new role and restructuring project at work.

Waiting for the new music store to be finished.

Waiting for the house refinance to go through.

Still waiting for a solution to the house refinance project.

Here’s what occurs to me; in my current context, waiting seems to be a very inert word. Things are happening, and I am waiting. At the mercy of the inevitable slow march of time, which heals all things and passes too quickly and brings about change and reveals wisdom and flies. And so forth.

I think I shall not do so much waiting in these coming months. I think I shall expect.

This does not mean that I will not be still; I need to do more of that. I aim to linger more in moments, in awareness, in being present. I’d like to abide. I want to hunker down, watch and observe.

But I don’t think I am going to embrace waiting for the next few months. Coming out of Advent, in which we waited for the birth of the child who changed everything, it seems that my soul has soaked up all the waiting energy necessary for some motion. Action.

There is much to do, and some of it requires stillness, deep thoughts and expectation. It might look a lot like waiting. But I sense a change ahead, one that will shift the core of my being slightly. There will be a settling and a new understanding of what it means to accept and I do believe that there are beautiful, halcyon moments ahead that will be fueled by wisdom and forward motion, like the buildup of steam and energy and all the collected particles of grace and glory that we frail humans are privy to in the years we are allotted.

I feel very good about this. Though it seems almost obnoxious and sacrilegious, my soul argues against waiting today, refutes the notion of a dormant, passive, powerless life. My soul claims a kinetic act that might very well be still, but seeking.

Yearning.

Claiming.

Fourteen years flew by in an instant. I am laying claim to the ones left to me. I want to grasp whatever frail understanding I have of what it means to be human, what it means to love family and friends and seek the greater good. I will wait, but only in the anticipation and expectation of some sort of motion. Much has come. Much is here.

Time for something to happen.