Simple

calm

“One day I will find the right words and they will be simple.”
Jack Kerouac

These days, they are anything but simple. They are complicated, complex, wrought with conflicting opinion and stand-taking and assertion. I am tired.

I long for calmer moments, of rainy afternoons and dark clouds gathered and thunder like the rumbling of a distant train.

Things are about to become much less quiet in my life as I start work as a TA and simultaneously begin work on my B.S. in Ed Studies full time online. This will be far from simple, but I need rest soul-deep if I have any hope of getting through the next two years.

I want the election to be over. Whatever we are going to wind up with for leadership I just want it done so (hopefully) the arguing and judgment will stop. If it doesn’t stop, then social media will not be seeing much of me. I need to focus in a positive direction.

I long for quietness, for lightness of being, for peace. I long for moments spent holding my husband’s hand or playing Little People with my grandchildren or making dinner for my big, beautiful family. I need to pull inward, to beckon my heart back home. Only then can I pour myself out the way God calls me to do as a wife, a mother, a Mimi, a teacher, a friend.

I am praying for renewal of purpose. For all of us.

The lesson in a lie

grace

A lie is an ugly thing. The one I told Mary Jamison in eighth grade wasn’t supposed to be an ugly thing, but in the end it certainly turned out to be.

Mary was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. She was taller than me (which wasn’t saying much, as she was appreciably taller than most of her friends) with long blondish-brown hair and a creamy white complexion not uncommon among my other small-town Minnesota classmates. She thought she was homely. I thought she was beautiful.

I had moved from Florida to Minnesota in the middle of the school year, a move that snatched me from my friends and made me hate the step-dad who dragged us away. I was a blonde, blue-eyed, deep-tanned skater with a thick Southern accent. In other words, I stuck out like a sore thumb. All things considered, it came as a pleasant surprise when I went from being an ordinary nobody in big-town Tampa, Florida to quite a somebody in tiny Wykoff, Minnesota.

Everybody wanted to be my friend, and all the guys wanted me to go out with them. By “go out” I mean “be boyfriend and girlfriend” since I was all of 13. Looking back it’s crazy to think I was allowed to have a boyfriend that young, but I digress. It became a common occurrence for school-mates to randomly walk up to me and ask me to “say something–anything!” just so they could hear the twang. At first it was fun. Before long it had gone way past annoying.

Suddenly (and miraculously) the most popular girl in school, I got love notes in my locker nearly every day. My friends teased me about it, giggling and begging to read every word. But Mary looked sad. Fun I could handle, but the look on her face as I stood at my locker reading yet another secret admirer letter was more than I could handle. I wanted to do something to make her happy. I wanted to make her smile. So I decided to lie.

I didn’t see it as a lie, of course. I saw it as an intervention with the most loving of intentions. I wrote a letter to Mary from an imaginary Secret Admirer, telling how “he” thought she was beautiful and smart and amazing, and slipped it into her locker. My efforts gained the exact result I’d hoped for: Mary dashed into the next class grinning from one flushed cheek to the other. Her eyes danced as she read us the letter, and we all rejoiced with her. She refolded the note and sighed deeply, then said, “Do you think he will write me again?”

Suddenly this was a little more complicated than I had considered. Of course she would be disappointed if he didn’t write again. It had never occurred to me that this would have to continue somehow, and that at some point it would have to end. And then we’d be right back where we started: Mary’s sad eyes.

After writing a few more notes and sneaking them into her locker and hearing her excitedly read them at lunch, I realized I was in over my head. The thought of letting her down broke my heart. Telling her the truth was out of the question, since she would understandably hate me forever. So I confided in a mutual friend and asked her what I should do. Unfortunately the mutual friend was so shocked by my confession she took it straight to Mary.

I won’t ever forget Mary’s confrontation, her face contorted around the angry “How could you?” and her eyes brimming with tears. Caught unaware, I could do nothing but stand there in shock. No words came at first, and then I tried to explain that I was only trying to do something nice for her but she held up her hand stop-sign fashion and walked away.

News spreads fast in a small-town school. I was no longer Most Wanted As a Friend. In fact, nobody was really speaking to me at all. Few times in my life have I felt so alone.

About a week later I found myself walking down an quiet hallway during lunch hour. I didn’t bother going to the cafeteria any more, dreading the stares and looks of disappointment and disgust. I had come to their school and hurt one of their own. I was the unforgivable.

At the end of the hallway I backed against a row of lockers and slid to the floor. Drawing my knees in close, I let my head fall forward and wept. Hard. I’m not sure how long I’d been sitting there when I heard a noise. Startled, I raised my face to find Mary standing above me. I couldn’t meet her gaze. She backed up and slid down the lockers across the hall, assuming my same position opposite where I sat. I wiped my face with my sleeve and forced myself to look up.

Her face was sad but not angry. Her words were quiet and pierced me through. “It really hurt what you did.”

“I know,” I managed to choke out. “I swear I never meant to hurt you. But I see now how stupid I was.”

“I know why you did it. I’m hurt that you lied to me, but I can’t be mad at you for why you did it.” She managed a half-smile.

“Can you forgive me?” My words faded to a choke at the end. She nodded, then came over and hugged me tight. Grace and forgiveness washed over me like a miraculous healing right there by locker 54.

In that moment I vowed to never do anything like that again, and to always think things through before acting. I had learned the hard lesson that good intentions don’t excuse bad actions. I had learned that a lie never repairs but only digs a deeper hole, and that only truth and honesty and love can fill those empty places.

Mostly I learned that grace is one of the greatest gifts a heart will ever hold.

How grace sets free prisoners like me

prisonerfree

Yesterday I watched my friend led off in handcuffs bound for prison.

In those few moments that seemed to stretch out like a movie before me I blinked away tears so I could see him for every one of those last few seconds. I thought about how if I, his friend, felt such anguish in those moments, how much more must his beautiful, devoted wife’s tender heart ache. His parents, too frail to be present. His beloved children, looking on in horror. His sister, whose slender, trembling shoulders my arm instinctively encircled.

I saw it in his eyes, the pain of sadness, regret, fear of the unknown. I juggled a million thoughts ranging from gratitude for what could have been a harsher sentence, to anguish for what he and his family must be feeling, to anger at those whose heartless lies and groundless assumptions had twisted his sin into something far more sinister than it ever was.

I saw something else, too. I saw my own sin. And yours. He was all of us, his soft eyes pooled with the penalty of wrong choice, of a momentary theft of reason by the one who would see us all imprisoned for eternity.

But our God has another plan.

Our God has a plan for life over death, freedom over bondage, victory over the father of lies.

As hard as it was for me to watch my dear friend led away yesterday, I know His God—our God—has His eye on both the sparrow and my friend. And I know He already has a plan for redemption, not only for my friend but for those whose lives he will touch in these coming years. He’ll be Paul for a little while within those high walls, sharing the love and grace of the God who never forsakes, whose love never fails.

And we will all be right here, praying and sending courage and visiting often as we can, reminding one another that this pain won’t last.

The Enemy gets but a short season, and then comes God’s glory.

So we live for that assurance and we encourage one another and we pour it all out on this man we love who faces a mission field the Enemy meant for evil but God will use for good.

And we share with anyone who will listen how the grace that covers him covers us all. Because he is all of us, really, in our daily mistakes and pitfalls and poor choices.

May I live these moments of this life grateful for the grace that sees chains loosed and freedom bought with the blood of the One who did nothing wrong.

I will never forget the face of my friend yesterday in that courtroom. May I never forget to tell the story of the God who loved us enough to buy our freedom with the life of His only Son, in whose eyes pooled the penalty of the whole world’s sins at once.

This is our story, all of us prisoners set free.

Almost {NaPoWriMo 17}

anxiousdriverI almost called you today
Sobbing down a narrow highway
My heart torn clean in two
Surprised that in that moment I wanted you
I almost slid
But caught myself before I did
Poured it out to God instead
From a part of me I think is dead
There is no friend I trust me to
Not even you

How she loves {NaPoWriMo 3}

She never stops giving
Running, helping, pouring out
Sits in her car and the tears fall
Keeps adapting, keeps shouldering it all
Pushing her body over the precipice again
And down for the count till she’s mended
It’s how she loves

She prays in the window seat late at night
Red hair shining in the light of the moon
The day has bled her dry once more
She’s wearied to the core but not undone
She’ll run for one more hour
Her source of power beyond herself
Is how she loves

She begs escape but not from it all
Just moments she can call her own
Alone in the quiet where hurts get worded
And hearts are softly, sweetly reached
About her town and across her world
Her selfless heart unaware
Of how she loves

And I, from miles away kneel down
And lift her to Heaven with words of my own
Picture me reflected in moonlight by her side 
If only in a dream where help can be touched
And kindness is spoken by holding a hand
Somehow her heart knowing I understand
How she loves

 

 

{Happy birthday, beautiful.}

Chocolate Friends

chocfriendsWe keep trying to get together, my friend Mandy and I. I think we’ve had to cancel three or four times just over the past few months, for one reason or another. The latest cancellation was today, with me mending but not quite over some crud that finally chased me down. I try hard to be invincible, but my humanness rats me out sometimes.

So today even though we had to cancel getting together, she and her husband and little boys stopped by to drop off some books for my granddaughter (who is stuck with her pitiful ol’ Mimi while Daddy and Mommy are away for their anniversary). As Mandy handed me the bag of books, she indicated a smaller bag and said, “This is for you.”

I thanked her, and after we chatted for a minute I gave her a mostly-sterile hug and she was on her way.

Inside, I got Belle settled with her new-to-her books and opened the bag Mandy had said was for me. Peering inside, I found a Pepsi and a Hershey’s with almonds. My favorites. Best thing of all, she knew they were my favorites.

There are friends, and there are what I call chocolate friends–those who bring you simple (but wonderful) things like Hershey bars because they know you love them and because they want to make you smile.

She made me smile today, and I’m already looking forward to the next time we don’t have to cancel.