Tag Archive - Friends

Steel Magnolias

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I’m crazy about the new venue. So intimate, it feels like you are all mixed in among the characters. It was true during Fiddler on the Roof. The actors began to wonder onto the stage a few at a time and it was like arriving in a new town early in the morning and watching it come to life around you.

And it was especially true during Steel Magnolias. So far as I knew, I was sitting in Truvy’s shop, among that lively bunch of wild and familiar women waiting for my own turn in the chair.

From the time Truvy walked into the beauty shop, adjusting her more than ample bosoms, slathering a new coat of lipstick over the old one, and varnishing her bleached blonde locks with enough Aqua Net to create her own personal ozone hazard, I knew it was going to be a fun evening. She dished up plenty of wisdom with her beauty treatments, just like most hairdressers I’ve known, but she also had the good grace to laugh at herself, and pretty much everyone else. 🙂

And boy did we laugh!

We laughed at Annelle whose every action screamed the fact that she was uncomfortable in her own skin. Over the course of the next couple of hours, she would blossom, in fits and starts. But that hunger to fit in, to be liked and accepted was ever a palpable reality. So much so that I was astonished to see the actress afterward and observe that she was nothing like her character.

We laughed at Clairee whose polish and good manners, confidence and subtlety, did not for a minute hide her vivacious interior. Instead, it gave it precision and potency. Her humor always took me by surprise. A truly elegant Southern lady AND an untamable spitfire.

We laughed at Shelby who we first met on her wedding day. Shelby who arrived in curlers with a bag of baby’s breath and a magazine picture of Grace Kelly. Shelby who, for all her lithe, sweet, pink prettiness, possessed within her the iron will she had absorbed from these strong women. Shelby whose wedding colors were blush and bashful. Feisty, mischiefmaking Shelby.

We laughed at M’Lynne whose matter-of-fact humor frequently bordered on sarcasm, but was too Southern to dip over the edge. We laughed at her husband who was out that morning shooting all the birds out of the trees.

We laughed at Ouiser before we even saw her. At dinner, friends and I predicted that Nan Gurley would incarnate Ouiser. And we laughed just imagining how she would play her. It was so much better than we imagined. Ouiser with the outlandish fashion sense and psychotic dog. Ouiser who has been in a bad mood for forty years. Ouiser who people are nice to only because “I have more money than God.” Ouiser who decides to go have her colors done?! Ouiser who will be offered as a punching bag in a moment when we all really need a good laugh.

Woven all in and through the laughter are strands of memory and difficulty and hard things that have been weathered and walked together. There is a love and a belonging. There are the things that don’t have to be said because they are understood by all.

Some of the most poignant moments came at the mirror. A mirror is a very vulnerable place. In this production the audience sat just back of the  “mirrors”. So when one of the women had the moment of considering herself, the way she looked or who she was (and maybe those are too tangled up most of the time) we saw it. For a space, I had this feeling it was only she and I in the room. It was raw and exposed, intensely intimate and tender.

If you know the story, you know that it takes an excruciating turn. This was powerful in the extreme. It was played with restraint, not manipulative or sentimental. But deeply honest. And the honest wrestling, the yearning to make it somehow make sense, the uncomfortable place of not knowing what to do or say or be was so true that it pierced me to the heart. All the sorrow and longing I have ever known seemed to be connected to that moment.

Steel Magnolias is a profoundly human story. Southern women, to be sure, are their own peculiar brand of human. 🙂 But anyone who has lived life, truly and deeply, will find parts of their story in here.

I highly commend to you Studio Tenn’s performance of this wonderful work. It is intimate and artistic, cleanly and beautifully articulated. I have seen a great deal of theater in my life, and this was, without a doubt, one of the most moving experiences.

You have nine more opportunities this weekend and next. Buy tickets HERE.

Lean on Me

lean on meI wish I had learned earlier to trust others with the deepest parts of me. I wish I had understood that there are people who can know the worst about me and still love me, people who are willing to go to hard places and sit there with me as long as they need to, people who refuse to let me get stuck in my misery, who call out in me what is good. How different my life might have been.

For me, it took a crisis to plunge me, almost without my consent, into finally living vulnerably. It has been one of the great, good gifts in my life.

The same was true for my friend, Anne, though she got there much younger than me. She has written beautifully about that experience in her new book, Lean On Me.

Lean on Me is not a stale “how to” book with seven action points to automatically fix all your relationship woes. It is a story. A glorious, difficult, hope-filled story.

I am comforted in the idea that Jesus rarely instructed without parable. Truth is communicated through stories; they are principles that wear flesh and breathe air and feel pain and joy. Recalling a quote from Madeleine L’Engle, “Jesus was not a theologian. He was God who told stories.”

Like any good story, it will speak to different people in different ways. Here are some of the passages that were particularly poignant for me.

On Practicing Vulnerability:

A great misunderstanding in the world is that we must wait until we feel safe to be vulnerable with other people. They must earn our trust and show us they will not take our wounds and cause them to bleed more. We misconstrue the wisdom of guarding our hearts, our life’s wellspring, as a command to build a fortress around them.

We are never safe from pain, and safety has nothing to do with vulnerability.

Vulnerability will hurt…It is a paradox: once we realize being vulnerable is never safe, we are then free to be vulnerable. We guard our hearts by giving them to the Guardian. We accept the fact that hurt will come. We see wounds as gifts. When this dramatic shift in our spirit occurs, fear no longer controls us.

I love the chapter Persevering Through Pain. On the “slow and inefficient work of God”. On letting “the waters of grace slowly, moment by moment, smooth out my heart.” Her Holy Week reflections and her ruminations on the struggles of both Paul and Christ are powerful. But the poetic and evocative language defies reduction. You simply need to read the whole of it.

On Receiving and Returning:

I did not see myself worthy to be served like this, so unconditionally…Why do you still love me? I feel so helpless…I continued pushing away the love that was trying to envelop me, to be lavished upon me.

I choose faith, and it says go, love, and believe. Enter in where there is pain and love. Do not worry about if it’s enough. Believe it is enough for the moment.

From Circles or Spirals:

No kind of action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. ~Amelia Earhart

The principle that we cannot give what we do not first receive works in reverse as we cannot receive what we do not give…It is a constant circle of pouring out and being poured into.

From Big Challenges and Small Steps:

…Sometimes my relationship with him felt empty. God appeared silent. It was only over the course of time that I recognized the hope he was giving me was often expressed through my relationship with others, spirit to spirit.

We will always feel a complex, two-sided longing–the craving for relationships and the desire to be on our own–creep in as we pull our feet through the mud of the daily. When this comes, we must take a heavy breath and command our spirits to rejoice and reach out…We are children of the One who has loved us in the past for eons and will love us into forever for eternity. A Man died in our place, painting us pure and lovely, and nothing can steal this away from us. Not even our own selfishness.

It has been my privilege to know Anne for several years now, and to see her walk the portion of her life chronicled in the book. She is a radiant grace-bearer and truth-teller, with her words, and with her life. I highly commend this book to you, wherever you find yourself in the world of community and sharing life with others. It will nourish and challenge you.

Forgive Me

The temperature has plummeted 25 degrees since morning. A gray sky oozes raindrops, on their way to becoming ice. But inside, it is warm. Clouds of incense hang in the air making it sweet. And holy. Flames flicker before the icons, and soft, buttery light bathes the images of saints, of Christ and His Mother. The room is crowded with people I love. We have come here to commence the Lenten journey together. We want to begin clean; to rid ourselves of anything that might impede us along the way.

Last fall, when Mike and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, we learned the importance of traveling light. We agonized over every single item we placed in our packs. In the end, we still took too much. And we felt it every step of the way. We resolved that next time we would be more ruthless. We would carry less.

Similarly, we want to commence our Lenten journey unencumbered. So we have gathered for the beautiful Forgiveness Vespers. We pray together words about the coming fast and ask God to purify both body and soul. Then, the priest bows before each member of the clergy and says these words, “Forgive me, a sinner.” Each of them replies, “God forgives. Forgive me, a sinner.” Then the priest responds, “God forgives,” and they embrace one another.

After this, they form a line at the front of the church and, one at a time, we pass before them and have the same exchange, adding ourselves to the end of the line. So that, by the end of the evening, each of us has bowed before every other person and asked for, given, and received forgiveness. It is a deeply moving experience.

Obviously, some of us know one another better than others. Our stories are more involved. There is my wise and gentle friend and hero who teaches me, by her example, what it looks like to purposefully pursue relationship. There is the friend who knows all the worst about me and chooses to love me anyway. There are friends who have generously poured themselves out on my behalf more times than I can count. There are so many who have inextricably wound themselves around my heart, and it is an honor to bow before them and ask for forgiveness. We exchange words of love, and our embrace says all the things we do not know how to say.

There are also those who challenge me; who sometimes rub me the wrong way. And I can only imagine how many people feel like that when they see me coming. But each of us is choosing to let God use the other in our lives to refine us and make us more like Him–There is more than one way for iron to sharpen iron–And this act of humbling ourselves before one another, of forgiving and embracing one another, is a crucial part of that.

All the while, the chanters have been quietly singing the hymns of resurrection. A glimpse of what awaits us on the other side of this journey. An important reminder of where we are headed. Fragments come to me over the voices of the many penitents. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death.” “Dance now and be glad O Zion.” “Glory to thy Holy Resurrection, O Lord!”

As the evening ends, my heart is full. And I walk out into the night as light as a feather.

We are begun.

Forgive me.

Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; and as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Passover.
~from the Lenten Triodion, Forgiveness Vespers

The Fiction of Speed

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Yesterday was a day for talking about love. Facebook and Twitter were full of sweet tributes. Two of my favorites were unlikely stories. Couples who shouldn’t have made it, but have.

K talked about the gift of being married to the love of her life. This, in the midst of a heroic, difficult battle against cancer. A battle they are fighting TOGETHER. And this in spite of the fact that there was a time when she did not cherish him and what they had together.

W spoke honestly of her personal hell year. The year she hated her husband. In the thirteen years since, she and he have worked to build a beautiful, real, deep love that only seasons and grows with years. They have added three chosen children from Ethiopia to the two born of blood. Theirs is a radiant, vibrant family. It is impossible to say how many lives have been changed…are being changed…daily…because of them.

Both of these women were important voices in my life during the season when I wanted to chuck it all and have done with being married. They were generous enough to tell their stories. They were kind enough to listen to the nonsense that I believed at the time…all my arrogant, petty protests about what I “deserved”. Then, they were wise enough to tell me the truth. In love. To challenge me to do the hard thing. And the hard thing after that…

There is something lovely about young love. The giddy excitement. The breathless wonder. I have a friend who is living in this world at present. It is great fun to watch. But I have come to have a high regard for old love. The sort that is fermented. Tested.

Not everyone goes through a season, like Mike and I did, where they can hardly tolerate the very presence of the other. But everyone who is married will have periods when something is more “urgent” than tending the marriage. New baby. Illness. Job loss. Death of a parent…or a child. Something that seems to take all you have. This is where the battle is won or lost.

This is when you give without demanding return. This is when you daily throw yourself on the grenade for the good of the other. This love is not sexy or convenient, but raw, and rugged, and real.

This kind of love creates a safe place to become. A safe place to dream audacious dreams. A place to dare that which you would never have dared alone. A place to be chiseled and refined into something glorious. Where life reigns regardless of circumstances.

I want a love like that.

Don’t you?

I have these young friends. Too young to be as wise as they are. But they sing a song about this very thing. I kept playing it yesterday, and reading the stories of long love, and my heart celebrated men and women who are courageous enough, and stubborn enough, to hang in there long enough, to tell a great story with their lives. I share the song with you. I dedicate it to K and G, to W and B, and to all those who daily choose to die to self in order to love well. May your tribe increase.

*Post title borrowed from the song by Lulu Mae. If you like this song, you will love their album The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree.

The Next Right Thing…

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. ~Michelangelo

The year of empty was a year of whittling away. A year of freeing. Not the beginning. It is a work that has been going on for years. Most especially the past 5 or 6. But the chisel struck even deeper this year. It was painful at times. Disorienting. Much of what I have used to define myself has been stripped away.

I am learning to hold all things with an open hand. To find my worth outside of my abilities or accomplishments. It is a cleaner way of being. But raw, too. Exposed. Uncomfortable. Still.

As I have pondered one word to give shape to 2013, I have thought much of the story in Luke 11. A demon is cast out of a person. He roams about for a bit, comes back and finds the “house” swept clean, and brings in a whole posse of his friends so that “the final condition of that person is worse than the first”. While I am certain there is still much about me that needs to be carved away, I would also be intentional about what is permitted to enter.

Of late, I often find myself feeling as though my life is an ocean. I stand near the edge of it. Circumstances roll toward me like waves, and I am tossed about from one thing to the next like so much seaweed.

I don’t want to be seaweed.

I would be more like a buoy. Able to bend with the waves as they come, but grounded. A fixed point for those around me.

With all this in mind, one word keeps echoing in my brain.

purpose

A lofty word, this. It sounds good. I am still figuring what it looks like where the rubber meets the road. (And if this year is anything like last year, there will be plenty of surprises.) But here are some of the thoughts I have been jotting to myself on scraps of paper and rumpled napkins, and the occasional morning page…

Focus. I have only about a billion pursuits that capture my interest at any given time. Incurably curious. But, this causes me to begin, then abandon, too many projects. So one of the first action points has been to identify only a few precise goals for the coming months and shelve the rest for later.

Get. Up. Early. This is one of the more odious components of the plan. But necessary, I believe. Once the household starts buzzing, I have responsibilities to my family and others. Getting up early gives me silence and head space.

Boundaries. Because my life is mostly other centered, it is easy to completely lose myself in the lives of those I love. While it is honorable, and delightful, to care for my beloveds, there are contributions I believe I am to make to the world that require me to sometimes separate myself for a few hours of undivided attention to a project or a class or a writers group, etc… I am not good at this. So very not good. But I am putting these on the schedule. Because, what gets scheduled gets done. Right?

This is it, really. So far. If I can be faithful in this, I will be considerably less sea-weedy.

Just for kicks (and maybe a little accountability) here are some of the things I am purposing to do…

*Morning prayers. EVERY day.

*A disciplined study of ancient Church music. (at least 2 days/week)

*Become more durable; less vulnerable to injury. Run (a little) less. Significantly ramp up core work. No major running event this year. (first time in 6 years) Instead, a hike. Grand Canyon. Rim to rim. To rim. Roughly the same distance as a marathon one way. With packs. But we will give ourselves a day for each direction. Mike and I both look forward to training on the trails this year.

*A more consistent approach to the mandolin. (at least 2 days/week)

*Complete all 5 levels of Fluenz Spanish. This I am doing with my youngest, and we love it! (5 days/week)

*Write. The main reason I began blogging was to keep me accountable for writing something on a regular basis. As you might (or might not) have noticed, I have been a slacker of late. There are many (pitiful) reasons for this. And it is an exponential equation. The longer I do not write, the harder it is to resume. So, I am allying myself to a writer’s group to keep me accountable for producing some sort of content, and to receive (and hopefully give) valuable criticism. Blog posts will probably be somewhat less frequent than in the past as I focus on a couple of other writing projects. But there will likely be something here at least once a week. Please pop by every now and again. Or, better yet, subscribe and you won’t miss a thing.

How bout you? Do you make resolutions? Have you chosen one word to give shape to your year this year? I would love to hear about them.

**This post inspired by the One Word 365 project. Check out hundreds of like posts (and leave your own) here.

***The title of the post is a phrase my beautiful, wise friend, Gail, often uses when one or another of us becomes overwhelmed by a situation that is too big for us. All that is ever required of us is to do the next right thing. Thanks, Gail.

Lord, You Know

“You carry so much stress in your body!” they both say to me. (The chiropractor/kinesiologist who has been treating my ailing ankle, and the massage therapist who once a month or so tries to untie the knots into which I tie myself.)

My first thought is, “Like I can do anything about that!” But then, I begin to wonder, “What is it, really, that I have to be so stressed about?”

I…am a worrier. I never thought it would happen to me, but it has. And what’s more, I am coming to see this worry as sin.

Hear me out…

I learn my child or my friend is in crisis. I immediately absorb this crisis into myself. My stomach hurts. I can’t sleep. Because I need to fix it! I begin rolling the situation around in my head. What should I say to them? What can be done? Who should I talk to on their behalf? What if they won’t listen? What if they persist in self-destructive behavior? What if someone hurts them? What if they do not understand how serious this is? (Read this faster and faster getting louder with each phrase and you will have some notion of the cacophony in my head.)

Do you have any idea how long I will stew over this before it occurs to me to mention it to God?

And even then, I have to say it just right. I need to present Him with a solution and implore Him to implement my plan. Is this arrogant? Is this foolish?

Truth is, apparently, I trust myself more than I trust God.

Ouch.

Fortunately, He has been good enough over the last few years to provide me with some situations that are completely out of my depth. Slowly…slowly…I am learning a new way to pray.

Lord, You know.

Someone I love is making choices that have potentially devastating consequences. I struggle with what to say and what not to say. I am terrified for him. I have NO answers. So I offer him to God. Every morning. I have stopped telling God what to do. Lord, you know. That is my prayer. Lord, you know how to help him. Lord, your resources are illimitable. Lord, please make haste to help him.

Every time I think of him throughout the day…every time I am tempted to begin scheming about how to fix this…I pray.

Lord, you know.

And in the night when my restless mind presents to me a laundry list of dear ones who are hurting…

Lord, You know.

I am sleeping better than I have in a long time.

But, far more important than that, I am reminded every morning and all throughout the day that God has each of my beloveds under His wing. That the power of heaven is being unleashed on their behalf. And that is worth far more than any “solution” I might come up with.

Does this free me from the responsibilities of being wife, mother or friend? Absolutely not. And I will still serve those I love with all I have. But I am letting go of the arrogant notion that it all depends on me.

With silence, tolerance, and above all by prayer we benefit others in a mystical way…What we are unable to do, His grace will achieve. ~Elder Porphyrios

P.S. I use the following prayer from the Orthodox prayer book every morning to bring before God the names of my family and my very close friends, along with others who I know to be at a point of particular need. They are the words I would pray if I were smarter. I am glad someone wrote them down for me. I offer them to you…

O God, our heavenly Father, who loves mankind and art a most merciful and compassionate God, have mercy upon Your servants (Name those whom you wish to remember) for whom I humbly pray to You to care for and protect. O God, be their guide and guardian in all their endeavors, lead them in the path of Your truth, and draw them nearer to You, so that they may lead a godly and righteous life in Your love as they do Your will in all things. Give them Your grace, and mercy so that they may be patient, hard working, tireless, devout and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption, and direct them in the way of Salvation, through the goodness of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the prayers of His Holy Mother and the blessed saints. Amen.

Deep Calling to Deep…

I wish you could know my friend Kendra. She is a remarkable young woman. Heart wide open. Generous, courageous, curious. I walk away from every encounter with her encouraged and challenged.

So when she made a request of me, a couple of weeks ago, I took it very seriously. She asked for suggestions for some creative, inspiring, heart-and-eyes-wide-open reading. As I began to compile my list, it occurred to me that I would have you know these books. And I would LOVE to know what would be on YOUR list.

Here are some of the authors and books that call to deep places in me. That rankle and provoke, that compel me to dream better dreams, that stoke the fire within.

Mary Oliver, especially Thirst  Oliver sees the world with extraordinary eyes, and she paints it with lovely, evocative words that allow us to see it, too. Her writings on longing and prayer and the life within are some of the most excruciating and exquisite I have ever read.

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

P.S. I love hearing her poetry in her own voice. Listen to three poems here. The first will surprise you, I think. The second, one of my favorites, will leave you undone. Marvelously undone. The third will nourish and delight.

Thomas Merton, especially The Seven Story Mountain and New Seeds of Contemplation. Also, the Book of Hours offers a lovely sampling of his work. Thomas Merton is an Anam Cara. A soul friend. One who sees the world in a way very like, only more so. I can pray his words and feel as though they are mine, just more elegant. More piercing and concise. More thorough. I crawl into them and travel through them to a place I want very much to know.

“You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires.  My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction.  And I do not possess my house in silence.

“But I was created for Your peace and You will not despise my longing for the holiness of Your deep silence.  O my Lord, You will not leave me forever in this sorrow, because I have trusted in You and I will wait upon Your good pleasure in peace and without complaining any more.  This, for Your glory.”

C.S Lewis, especially The Great Divorce and Till We Have Faces  Well crafted stories carry profound truths to deep places in our hearts. I have read the first title 6 or 7 times, and the second twice. Once each with friends. I still see these characters regularly before my eyes. Lewis’ insight into the meandering of the human psyche and his ability to convey these are unmatched. *Note, The Great Divorce starts slowly in my opinion. Persevere! It is SO worth the effort. Soon you will be reading so fast you forget to breathe. And re-reading. I promise.

Chaim Potok, especially My Name is Asher Lev I have read three books (thus far) by this author, all excellent. But this is my favorite. Important questions about talents and gifts, about faith, and most especially about where (or whether) one can live at peace within the other. Excruciating. Riveting.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho An evocative tale about a young man seeking his “treasure”. He finds far more than he could have dreamed. Something richer, deeper, better. Something MORE…

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible…”

Madeleine L’Engle, especially Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art I happen to know Kendra already loves this one, but it is most essential. This is a sweet washing of life and imagination and God and story and creativity and everything that makes us truly alive in the world.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God When I am lost; when my soul is terribly troubled and I do not know how to say what is happening, I rush to Rilke. Almost always, I find the words I need here. His was a turbulent, hungry, desperate, ecstatic journey with God. And he wrote it all down. So I borrow his words. And say what is already in my heart.

In deep nights I dig for you like treasure.
For all I have seen
that clutters the surface of my world
is poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not happened yet….

My hands are bloody from digging.
I lift them, hold them open in the wind,
so they can branch like a tree.

Reaching, these hands would pull you out of the sky
as if you had shattered there,
dashed yourself to pieces in some wild impatience.

What is this I feel falling now,
falling on this parched earth,
softly,
like a spring rain?

John O’Donohue, especially Beauty the Invisible Embrace and Anam Cara  O’Donohue’s lyrical prose reads like poetry. (It doesn’t hurt that I heard him read before I read him.) I can always hear him now. A rich, Irish brogue that sings the words. Words about the beautiful. About love and kindness and spirit and God.

“…beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, especially The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky’s world can be dark at times, but his characters are nuanced and layered. No villain is without hope of redemption, and no protagonist is thoroughly without vice. All are pilgrims. We see more of ourselves in them than we might care to.

Lilith by George MacDonald  The path to resurrection will ALWAYS lead through death. But none of us wants to die. Really. This is one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Mostly because at the time of my first encounter I was digging in my heels and refusing to die to all the things I had used to define “me”. I felt like letting go of these would be death, NOT figurative but LITERAL death. This book, this fantasy of the highest order, helped me get inside that dark place. It gave me courage to do the hard work of becoming, by first being willing to walk into the terrifying darkness of being nothing.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield  This is one of the most important books I have ever read on pursuing your calling, whatever that calling may be. I re-read it frequently because I so need the kick in the pants it delivers. Here is an example of what you will find within:

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Julia Cameron’s  The Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice  Cameron is a successful writer, but she remembers all too well what it is like to be silenced by fear. In this book she teaches us how to break through barriers to our creativity. Barriers we are not even aware of that are blocking our art. It is highly interactive and requires homework. But it is so worth it.

Thanks, Kendra, for giving me a reason to revisit old friends. Pick and choose whatever seems right to you. It is a worthy start, I believe.

To all of you, friends near and far, who is it that fans the flame of your passion, your creativity?

 

Curious. Expectant. Surprised.

The evening is soft and sultry. Unexpectedly hot for May. We sit on calico covered hay bales in the long twilight shadows, while the two of them make promises. Love and cherish. Til death. I have never seen her more radiant.

Every detail says something about who they are. Individually. And as one. Bow ties and suspenders. Antique colored glasses spilling blossoms. Lanterns, paper pinwheels, and signature cocktails served up in mason jars.

He leads her to the dance floor. His touch tender, her eyes filled with love. And their deep joy becomes the music, becomes the dance, becomes the night sky and stars and fireflies and air. I can’t take my eyes off them.

They have been dancing into one another for months. A bit at a time. Here is the extraordinary thing, as they have moved toward oneness, I have seen her becoming more and more herself. As though he is liberating something inside her, and she is liberating him. A sweet, selfless love that is curious and generous, that discovers and makes brave.

I have thought of it often since that night.

 The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own. ~Benjamin Disraeli

He is an internationally renowned jazz pianist who has played with the likes of Art Blakey and Wynton and Branford Marsalis. There is a photo on the wall of him with Dave Brubeck. He talks about these things humbly. Like gift.

Then he begins to tell us about some of his students. Students who have played with Miles Davis and Sting. Students who have become headliners in their own right. He talks about the joy of helping someone find in himself something he didn’t know was there. And I am very glad to be entrusting my son to him for the next four years.

It is gift…

…this ability to see inside someone and draw out what is there. But it is gift that can be cultivated. By listening deeply. By loving generously, without agenda. By wanting the good of the other as much as I want the good of myself. By being willing to surrender preconceived notions and allow the other to grow beyond anything I could have imagined for him.

I want to love like this.

I want to live among others like this.

Curious.

Expectant.

Surprised.

Don’t you?

*The enchanting couple above are Shawn and Madeline Lemon. It is a delight to know them. Positively beautiful, inside and out. Photograph by Brandon Chesbro.

**Jake’s instructor is to be the inimitable Donald Brown. I include the following by way of introduction. Treat yourself to a summer evening in Vienna, and jazz on a Bösendorfer. (That is perhaps only ironic to piano snobs. ;)) The piano solo is about 5 minutes in. Don’t miss it.

Afterward Many are Strong…

“You might break your arm again, but you’ll never break it there.”

It happened on the last day of Mike’s ski trip with Jake. Toward the end of the day, Mike took a tumble and landed on his wrist. Broken. They patched him up temporarily at the resort clinic, gave him some good drugs, and told him to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as he got home.

A rod and several screws later, he was good as new. Better, in fact, according to Dr. Cook. The only joint in his body that was invincible.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. ~Ernest Hemingway

I know people like that. I’ll bet you do too. Heroes who have walked through hell, and come out the other side with souvenirs of grace. Stronger. More radiant. Gentle dispensers of the mercy they themselves have received.

A friend whose marriage, like ours, should have gone down in flames. But she and her husband slogged through the breathtaking pain of it, the humiliating and generous WORK of forgiveness, and are building a family that vibrates with the glory of God.

A friend who has seen the bowels of depression. Who knows what it is to be so lost and desperate you can’t even see the road out any more. This friend is now in school to be a counselor. To extend to others the help that was given to her. Beauty for ashes. The oil of gladness for mourning. A garment of praise instead of the spirit of despair.*

I have also seen those who define themselves by the great tragedy in their lives. Who refuse to  forgive. Who wear their woundedness like a badge of honor. Who play forever the role of victim or villain, unwilling that things should ever be other than they are.

What makes the difference?

I am no psychologist, counselor, or priest, but I have had my own experiences with brokenness, and I have walked it with friends. Here are some of the things I have observed.

1. Own the truth. Healing begins with recognizing my culpability in the situation. Blaming others, excusing my behavior, lying to myself are all barriers to my healing. I must invite people who know me to speak into my life. Even if I don’t like what they say. Perhaps, especially if I don’t like what they say. They are likely to see things more clearly than I can. If I cut off everyone who disagrees with me, I am cutting off my lifeline. Whether I realize it or not.

2. Ask for help. If my mind or my body betray me (ie. depression or illness)…if through no fault of my own tragedy befalls me (death or sickness of a child or spouse, job loss, bankruptcy…fill in the blank…), the problem is obviously bigger than me. Much bigger. I need friends to pray when I forget how. To get me to a hospital. To feed my family. To sit with me and share my grief. And to help me know when it is time to move forward.

3. What does this make possible? My friend Gail has asked me this question more than once. Nothing is wasted in life. But I must be willing to offer it with open hands.  There are people who need to hear my story (and yours). Maybe not everyone. But I usually seem to know. Sometimes the loss of one dream is a clean slate to dream new dreams. Like it or not, this is my new reality. What can I see/give/be/do from here that would have been impossible before?

The world breaks everyone. We have no choice about that. But we can choose to yield ourselves to the healing work that will make us stronger in the broken places.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. ~Isaiah 43:19

*Isaiah 61:3

Honey’s Vintage Sweets

Soft, sea foam walls give the eye a place to rest against a cacophony of color worthy of Wonka. A wall of glass jars filled with assorted delights beckons from across the room. But I can’t get to them. I can’t stop meandering past every table.

Nostalgic candies from my childhood. I tell Marianne about riding my bike through the woods and out to a little store on the highway to buy candy necklaces. My cousin and I would put them on our sweaty necks and wear (and eat) them all the way home. Mike delights in 6 different flavors of Zotz and an infinite variety of pop rocks. There are candy cigarettes, teaberry gum, wax lips, sugar daddies…..

Novelties. All things mustache, plates with faces that kids can decorate with food, cap guns, sling shots, bubble gum yard sticks, dispense your own Jelly Bellies or sour powder, a whole side board of assorted Pez dispensers…

I know where I will be shopping for stocking-stuffers this year….

Sample 12  flavors of rich, decadent home-made ice cream from a Kentucky dairy that has been in operation for over a century. The strawberry is ridiculous. My friends, Allie and Jordan, recommend the milkshakes.

My favorite thing in the whole store…the thing I can’t stop thinking about…the thing you MUST try…is the strawberry lemonade. Fresh-pressed lemon juice, muddled strawberries, simple syrup, and a generous splash of joy. It is vibrant, refreshing and crazy delicious.

Honeys Vintage Sweets officially opens today. You can find them at 123 South Margin Street in Franklin. For more information, or to keep up with special offers and promotions, check out their facebook page. You’re welcome. 🙂

 

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