Hate to Hope in the Space of a Day

puddleheart

Today while searching through old email archives I came across a pair of poems I wrote in 2005, one day apart. The second is apparently a glimpse of God’s healing touch at a pretty difficult time in my life as I struggled with my mama’s progressing illness. What I didn’t know was just how short our time together would be.

 

Hate

 

Hate is ugly as it comes for me
Hanging like moss from limbs over bus-stop shanties
Waving like a pointed finger in the face
Taunting like the enemy it is
And winning

And I wait for the bus, not even sure where I’m going
Or where I want to go
Staring into the distance not seeing
Not caring if the bus comes or it doesn’t
I may still be sitting here
When it’s gone

Feeble attempts they are that I make
Little efforts to push the feeling away
Knowing deep down that isn’t me
I love
But today I hate
And I hate that I do

I hear the bus and breathe a sigh of defeat
Cast my ocean-blues to the ground and shuffle my feet
Hoping I’m alone on the dusty bench
Not wanting to lead another down an empty road
Another bus will be along later
Maybe

_______________________________

Hope

 

Hope comes on a butterfly’s wings
Alights on my shoulder and flutters away the dust and tears
I swallow back the pain once more
Lower my eyes again to the dusty ground
This time I pray

I’d hoped to be alone on the bench
But a stranger appears who doesn’t mind that I wished her away
Her words lifted to heaven before mine
Her tears falling softly for a struggling girl on a bus bench
An unmet friend

I steal a glance toward her
Sad to have given her reason to cry
But her smile forms a bridge across the dust
And I wonder at the love that can reach out to a stranger
And offer hope

And the moss sways in the trees above our heads
Hate loses its grip and slowly dissipates
I feel its icy fingers loosening, loosening
There’s a rumble in the distance coming closer
Her bus and mine

 

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When you want to weight the moments

weightmoments

I watched his face like a sentinel, him facing the crowd with bravely squared shoulders, his brother close behind, whispering, “Be strong. Stay strong.” Now and then he would close his eyes, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. His jaw tightened and his heart raced, but he was ready.

I didn’t have to turn to see when she came into view; her entry was mirrored in his features as he completely melted, shoulders visibly heaving in the evening sunlight. Adorned in ivory and satin, her veil trailing behind, she was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and he couldn’t wait to take her hands in his as her father joined them with a warm hug and a knowing gaze. The two were clearly so excited they could barely breathe, and we were right there with them.

Being the mother of the groom I had resisted the urge to bring my camera with me for the ceremony, but the whole time I sat there thinking, I have to save this. I have to freeze it for later. I just have to.

I soaked in every word and expression, every smile and every breeze that floated past and set the brightly-hued cloths above our heads to dancing like balloons held fast by ribbons. I longed to still time and savor it all.

The evening continued with stillness and prayers, with gold rings and laughter, with an impassioned kiss and the promise of forever. Then came dancing and dining and gratitude spoken amidst photo flashes, family gathered with friends and all wishing the best God has to offer the two-become-one.

And me, I smiled with my soft mama heart and wished them this day in a time capsule for the healing of any sadness that might ever befall.

And all that remembering has me thinking. I don’t always have a camera, but I always have words.

However I choose to weave them, wherever I choose to share them, words are always right there waiting to describe those precious moments, to let me stop time long enough to smell the wildflowers and watch the wildly-colored cloths flap in the wind and see a groom openly weep with adoration and joy at the sight of his bride.

Words weight the memories so they don’t fly away.

So I word it, this present wrapped in earth tones and silk, and I hold it out to my sweet boy and his beautiful girl with a prayer that they always remember.

May we never forget the magic of those moments, never lose the delirious delight that broke the dam and let the tears flow in the beauty of it all as we witnessed an event that will only happen once. May we hold it close enough to savor it over and over because what we witnessed was a miracle. And who doesn’t want to live a miracle again?

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

The church it was never meant to be

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The Church. A place of love and joy and peace. A sanctuary of safety. A haven where the flock gathers and works together and loves one another with the love of Jesus and builds one another up and spurs one another on and helps one another grow.

At least that’s the idea.

Sadly, this is not always the case. In fact, there’s a lot going on in churches across the nation that Jesus would never have endorsed—or tolerated.

Three different times this week this topic has surfaced among people I’ve watched suffer deep and damaging church abuse. One of those people is a friend who has been a mentor for nearly 30 years. His ministry has been his life since before I met him, and a few months ago it was cut blindingly short by a dagger of deception so sinister he and his family are still reeling. The fallout has been severe, not only for him but for all who know and love him—and this man of God has an innumerably wide reach. Put simply, what was done to him is unconscionable. The fact that it was done in the name of God makes it even more despicable.

But are these the things we dare not write about or speak out loud? Are these the things we sweep under the vestibule rug and pretend never happened, all in the name of not further harming the Church’s reputation? Is this healthy? Is this beneficial? Is this right?

Where is the line—for certainly there is one, is there not—between diplomacy and deception? Can we call out the practices that are harming God’s people and sending them running away from Him as fast as their weakened legs will carry them?

Perhaps the more accurate question is how can we not?

What if we started believing we have not only the right but the responsibility to call out sinful treatment of God’s people in the Church? What if we started understanding that such vigilance when done in genuine love is not destructive but healing and growth-inducing?

What if we stopped tolerating hatefulness and abuse and selfishness and greed going on in the name of church and stood up and said, “Enough”? Wouldn’t Jesus have done so? Didn’t He call out things people were doing and call them wrong out loud?

We don’t have to use a hammer. If the pen is mightier than the sword, can our words be prayerfully woven and used to effect positive change within the Church? How many lives might be made more lovely? How many lives might ultimately be saved?

Can we continue on in silence while abused believers limp around on shattered stained glass and carry those slivers out the door with them perhaps never to return?

Who will save His children if not us? Isn’t it time we speak out?

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

When we whisper thanks into the whirlwind

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She graduated from high school on Friday and turned 18 on Saturday, then on Sunday spirited me out for a surprise Mother’s Day lunch at Piccadilly because she knew it was where my mother and I always went. She’s my baby-girl-become-woman, my soul friend who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.

I said goodbye to 25 years of homeschooling and 32 years of parenting children and turned hopeful eyes toward the years ahead as a mother of five adults. I am sad, and I am excited, and I am wistful.

Mostly, I am grateful.

Milestones are like that, if we can briefly sidestep the chaos and cacophony to be thankful for the beauty and meaning of the moment.

Friday I rushed around picking up the last of the party goods and made a rare purchase: a new blouse for me to wear to her ceremony. I smiled, recalling how often she has said things like, “Mom, buy it already! You never get anything new!” So I bought it already, and wore it happily. By evening I was running on pure adrenaline, grinning, snapping pictures like a madwoman, and cheering for my baby.

She crossed the stage like a supermodel in her shiny white cap and gown and pale pink tassel, never missing a step. Happiness was painted all over her face, surrounded by adoring family and friends and her sweetheart by her side. I thought my heart would burst.

I spent Saturday cooking while she and friends celebrated at the beach. I had asked for a list of her favorite foods, and I was determined to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My feet protested the extra work as I bounced from kitchen island to stove to sink and back again, but my heart was busy pondering it all while my hands kneaded dough and braided Stromboli.

Events like these give us perfect opportunities to think deeply and breathe gratitude, even among the noise and hard work and achy limbs. I whispered thanks for a million little things I kept recalling as I worked, frequently gazing across to the “18” she’d formed in photos on the front door and marveling at the growth of our sweet little baby who is now a beautiful young woman. I couldn’t have felt prouder.

Mother’s Day dawned with church and then my surprise Mother-Daughter lunch followed up by a stop at Barnes and Noble to browse books and sip Frappuccinos—two of my favorite things. The grandparents and the boys and their families joined us in the evening for the wildest game of Apples to Apples in family history. More moments to ponder in my heart.

Today I spend reliving it all through photos and recalled memories. We will talk often of these things in the days to come, thanking God for such a wonderful whirlwind weekend. My body is sore but my heart is full, and I struggle to word this gratitude I feel.

I pray this same grateful, hopeful joy for you.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

This weaving of words knit deep in our hearts

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It was around 1993 when I established a writer’s group I called Wordweavers. I found out a year or so ago that the name has since been copyrighted by someone else, so sadly I can only refer to my own “Wordweavers” outside of that official name. My mission was to provide a group where writers of all ages would be encouraged and equipped to discover the creative writer within.

I conducted a survey at the beginning of the first Wordweavers workshop, asking each writer for his or her impressions on the topic of creative writing. The responses were varied, but very informative:

“I loved creative writing when I was younger, but my high school English teacher edited my papers to death and my love for creative writing drowned in an ocean of red ink.”

“I would write letters more often if they didn’t seem so boring.”

“I’ve written a couple of poems, but I’m afraid to show them to anyone.”

“I think my writing is pretty good, but I’m too shy to let anyone see it.”

“I just want to write something people will actually read.”

“I have plenty of writing and no way to share it with anyone. But deep down I’d love to see my writing in print someday.”

“I’ve written from my heart all my life, filled 23 journals with my thoughts and experiences, and I need to know how to turn that into a life story.”

I’ve watched writers from seven to seventy catch the spark that ignited a brightly burning desire to write creatively. Some of the writings have brought us to tears. Some have simply left us all sitting with our jaws on the table. Some have made us laugh till our sides hurt.  But all have encouraged writers to write.

One ten-year-old girl, when given the word ‘wish’, wrote: “I wish I could travel to Mars, so I could dance along the red moon without dying.”  We all sat speechless as those few words captured our imaginations and gave us a glimpse into this young writer’s heart and mind.

One woman wrote a poem to the baby she had not yet been able to conceive, even after longing for a child for several years. Her poem touched our hearts and gave us a tangible view of her empty arms and yet-unfulfilled dreams. A short time later, barely able to speak through her tears, she shared her poem at a Mother’s Day banquet. She finished the reading to a standing ovation from a roomful of friends, symbolically celebrating the imminent birth of her sweet baby boy.

Whatever was written, we all celebrated together. That was the goal—the celebration of words and those who wove them, and the hope that the weaving inspired. That remains my goal, and I don’t see that ever changing.

And you, my friend—what is your story? What words to you long to weave that wait patiently for their moment to come? Dare you to start weaving.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

How sadness always hints of hope

hintsofhope

Daddy sang sad songs to me in the car. I was four and then five, and I begged him to sing them one after another as I cried in the seat beside him. There was no safety belt save for his arm that shot lightning-fast across my mid-section if he sensed danger. In spite of his oft-inebriated state, I felt safe.

I never really questioned why I loved those sad songs until I was much older, and then only really as curiosity was piqued thinking back over those days of just him and me in a little blue VW Bug. The songs were terrible, really, but I couldn’t seem to hear them enough. For a long time I never fully understood why.

One song was about a dying girl telling her parents to give away all her toys and things, but to please put her little shoes away. Another was called “Little Angel with a Dirty Face”, a father singing to his daughter about how her mother had gone to Heaven when she was born. They were just awful, but I wanted to hear them over and over.

I’ve thought a lot about why as a tiny little girl I wanted to continually hear these songs that made me sob in the passenger’s seat, surely unable to fully process the deeper themes and meanings behind the lyrics. Over time I began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t the sadness I wanted to steep myself in, but the implication of hope when the healing came.

I’ve always believed healing would come.  

Seven years later as a confused pre-teen I stood by a coffin staring into daddy’s face, peaceful and silent. No more sad songs, no more laughter, no more twinkling blue eyes as he dunk-tapped the ice in his jelly glass of sweet tea. No more just him and me.

Years later I would watch my baby daughter lowered into the earth in a little white box, then later my brother, and later still I would sit by a bedside holding my mother’s hand as color drained from her face and her sweet spirit floated up.

And in all this loss, all this singing of sad songs and tears that came with each note, the hope has never been far behind. It’s because I know my hope doesn’t rest here in this place, doesn’t come from this temporal life even as beautiful as it is.

My hope comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth. Somewhere deep down I’ve always known that, even long before I knew who the Lord is. I had to know, or I can’t imagine I would have wanted to hear those tear-jerkers again and again. To me, they weren’t just sad songs; they were reminders of a hope that lives beyond what we can see here.

I think I’ve always seen sadness this way. My heart must have always received it as a reminder that when I hope in Him, sadness will always turn to joy.

 

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A Write Where It Hurts Column Post

Where my help comes from

littleme

I hear it often, the “Why, God?” that echoes down hallways and into the nothing where it seems no one hears. I feel it in my own body, the ache that won’t be soothed because the hurt is just too deep. Their pain resonates with me, because I have been there, too.

I think of my own life, those moments when as a trusting little girl I was beaten black and blue, when boys being boys tied me up in bed sheets in the darkened den and swung me around the room, hurling me into wrought iron furniture and laughing uproariously at my terrified screams.

I think back on night after night of waking up in different jails, a familial voice somewhere in the distance and a strange jacket keeping me warm till morning when he was sober and set free to hit the next county and drink, rinse, repeat.

I remember the cold, confused empty in my chest and my longing to die, fumbling with the binding of breasts leaking milk meant for a baby girl who would never taste it because hello meant goodbye.

It would make sense to think back on those days and go ape on God.

But I can’t.

Because but for Him, I wouldn’t be alive. But for Him, I would never have survived to write about these things and humbly word to others the hope that comes through belief in Him. I wouldn’t have made it through any of it or known any of the love or beauty or joy of this life that I have by His grace enjoyed.

So I can’t bring myself to blame Him when He is all that has made life possible for me.

No, I look instead to the day when He who died on that Jerusalem hill for my sake personally wipes every tear from my eyes and there is no more crying or pain and everything makes sense and the hardships of this life are but a vapor blown away by His breath of eternal life.

I know where my help comes from.

I refuse to allow hate and blame to rob me of the beauty of this life. It will be gone before I know it, so I live it gratefully to the full.

I blame the Fall, and I lay it all at His feet pierced through for the sins in the Garden and the jail and the driveway and the den. And in my own fallible human heart. 

Because it isn’t blame I feel toward Him. It is a worship that I will never stop offering up to the One Who sustains my every breath and will one day exchange beauty for ashes and restore to me what the locusts of this fallen world have eaten. I can only thank Him for loving me enough to breathe life into me in the first place, knowing that in the end all that matters is being with Him in Glory.

I don’t blame Him because He loved me first and last, and for that I will love Him every moment good or bad.

I lift my eyes up to the hills.