Friday, June 8, 2018

I See You

I’m sitting at the beach again this morning— after a Walmart run to get some Banana Boat dry oil spray with the lowest possible SPF you can buy that still contains SPF (it’s 4, if you’re wondering, and after a few more visits I’ll buy another container that contains 0 SPF... what can I say? I like to be tan) —because lately, the beach is where I go when the writing bug bites me. Words build and build, like the waves which I’m currently watching, and I find myself texting mini blogs, full of alliteration, philosophy, and a high adjective and superlative content. As my friend Julia can attest to. She’s borne the brunt of it this past week.

This morning, my spirit is heavy. It’s so heavy. Part of it may be my (sometimes accursed) empath nature, but the truth is, all of our spirits should be heavy today. This morning, we lost another human— I won’t be flippant with the loss by labeling him a celebrity, because his life is of the same value as any “regular” human; no more, no less— to depression and suicide. The second in the media this week. 
I’ve heard more times than I can count, just this week, “But they were rich. They were famous. They had everything.” 
“Everything” is utterly subjective, friends. Maybe the people who have what we deem “everything” realize “everything” isn’t enough. Maybe the people who have “nothing” are also acutely aware that they’ll never “have enough”. Maybe what it all boils down to is that, somewhere, deep inside, there is a fundamental lack that screams they are not enough, everything amounts to nothing, and therefore there is no such thing as everything. It all totals not enough. Every “everything” in the world can’t fill a fundamental conviction of not enough. 

I’d say there’s a sudden epidemic of suicide, but that would be, again, making less of something so large. An epidemic, at least to me, implies a sudden surge of a disease or phenomenon unlooked for; and that is not what this is. This... this is an insidious, long buried, long ignored, long building illness which, because our world has grown smaller due to the internet and media and our constant connection to one another, because of our tiny steps toward acknowledging mental illness as a real illness, is finally rearing its head in a culture that slowly, oh, so slowly, is becoming aware that this issue, this creature, even has a head to rear. 

When I was in high school, I thought I was depressed. Twenty years later, I realize that all I was was a highly sensitive person, with a melancholy disposition that led to a penchant for melancholy music, bad friends who treated me like garbage and contributed to a feeling of isolation that I didn’t deserve, and big heaping helpings of 16 year old “I feel sorry for myself”s. What I felt then wasn’t even on the same planet as clinical depression or anything under the mental illness umbrella. 

Recently, depression has reared its head all around me; from strangers in the news, to friends and family members who have their own stories to tell and who can tell it all in their own good time if they so choose. If it’s this exhausting and weighty to me, I can’t even begin to fathom the everyday battle these brave humans are waging to keep themselves pushing through, when all they want is to embrace the creature that rears its head to them regularly; a creature we don’t even know about or understand, because it’s buried deep to the rest of us. 

I have a confession. One that has kept me awake many nights for the past several years; a wasted opportunity on my part, a failure. A failure. One I don’t even want to share because it’s an ugly truth that I’m ashamed of, but nevertheless feel compelled to share (as I so often do).
When Robin Williams killed himself, I posted a beautiful photo of my daughter in Peter Pan tights, with a favorite quote from Hook. “To live would be an awfully big adventure.” 
I talked about one of our dearest friends, Tommy, who battled depression for more years than many people knew, and finally committed suicide just two weeks before his 27th birthday. I pleaded with people, to please, please, seek help. Seek friends. They weren’t alone. People loved them. 
Following that post, a person I knew remotely contacted me, asking if I would ever be free to hang out with them. They saw my post and it spoke to them. I knew for a fact that this person struggled with dissociative disorder and psychosis. And—oh God, forgive me— I got scared. I didn’t feel equipped mentally or emotionally to dive into a situation like that. I knew this person had endangered themselves on more than one occasion, and there was a possibility they could or would endanger others. I thought of my kids. And I got scared. I didn’t educate myself the way I should have, and I sure as hell didn’t understand half of the compassion I had so fluently written about. So I chickened out. I told this person I didn’t feel like I could give them what they wanted or needed. I referred them to suicide hotlines, programs, churches, organizations. 
That person then told me, in no uncertain terms, what they thought of me and all my words. 
They were right. They were too right. I’ve told very few people about that incident, because I was so ashamed. And now, almost four years later, I think— dear God, I hope— that I would respond differently. I remember their words in vivid detail. I stare at the ceiling at night and wish I could go back and give a different answer. And I wonder, if I am so tortured by what I did, if I relive my words and their words so often, how much more does that other person relive them? A person- a brave human- who stiffened their spine and took an extra shot of bravery and reached out, and was summarily rejected by another human who hid behind words and couldn’t come out from behind them and at least try to be equally brave. 

I don’t share this for absolution. Not even a little. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I share this because I know I’m not the only one who has been presented with or will be presented with an opportunity to shine a light for someone who is surrounded by darkness. I fumbled. I dropped my light. You don’t have to. 

I was afraid of something I couldn’t understand. In a society that wears “happy”; that sloshes the word around like a can of paint for us to slap on our walls and cover up drywall damage, 
we are horribly, woefully, unacceptably undereducated.

It isn’t right. It’s a travesty. People- humans- who run the gauntlet every single day against themselves, just to win the battle to live- something that is a basic human right, the most basic and fundamental of human rights- shouldn’t have to buy cans of that paint, shouldn’t have to wear it like a second skin over what our culture has too long deemed as damaged. It. Isn’t. Right. 

I don’t have answers. I don’t have training, or the right words, and a lot of days, I don’t have a whole lot of bravery. God knows, I wish I did. What I do have is a heavy, still heart, a desire to educate myself, and a big can of paint remover to help scrape that coating off of my fellow humans who are tired of wearing it. 

You are not broken. You are not alone. You are not a waste of space, you are a part of what makes this space we live in so worth occupying. There are those who consider it their supreme joy and honor to occupy this space with you. You’re not alone. I see you. Always. 

**I'd be remiss if I didn't list resources here for those of you (or someone you know) who are bravely battling depression, any type of mental illness, and everything that goes with it. Maybe you've seen and heard it all before, and maybe you won't call. But maybe, just maybe, you will. And maybe "not enough" can slowly become enough.

**The National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741


**For those of you who, like me, want to be better educated and better equipped to shine some light, there are more websites available than I could possibly link. If you know of any in particular, please comment. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Teenage Years

When Ashton was an infant, he had reflux to a horrifying degree. I’m talking so much puke that there would be a reverse silhouette (I guess that would just be an outline?) of my body on the wall when he burped over my shoulder. I carried full sized bath towels and multiple changes of clothing for both of us at all times.
One night, when he was about 10 days old, I couldn’t get him to stop crying. All night, I nursed him, rocked him, bounced him, patted him, and still he cried. I ended up lying on the couch, shirtless, Ashton nestled in the crook of my arm, skin to skin, with him screaming relentlessly against my chest. I sobbed with him, finally half shouting, “What do you want from me?? I’m not even wearing a ****ing shirt!!!” 

In that moment, I thought to myself, “It can’t possibly get worse than this.”

When I brought a newborn Chloe home from the hospital, Ashton had managed to contract double pink eye in the two days I was gone. Try telling a 2 year old that he can’t come in contact with Mommy or the new baby, all while trying to nurse said baby, and recover from giving birth, and comfort the 2 year old who feels miserable— at my ground zero as a mother of two. 

I told myself, “It can’t get harder than it is now.”

When Atleigh was born in a home that we had outgrown before we’d even moved in, to a family that was taken completely by surprise by baby number three, I suddenly had more children than I had hands. Those early months are a haze, punctuated by sleepless nights, an ER worthy bout of strep, and trying (and often failing) to figure out those dang sling carriers with the double rings, because baby number three could not stand to be set down, could not handle not being in the middle of everything that was going on at all times, and nine years later still has the most chronic case of FOMO I’ve ever seen. She would only ever let me face her outward where she could see everything. 

I said to myself, “I couldn’t be any more exhausted than I am with three kids under four. It’s all downhill coasting from here.”

And for several years, it was. We found a rhythm, I learned to not take myself seriously, and we carried on. 

Until about three years ago. When Ashton hit the preteen years. A year later, Chloe joined him across that line in the sand, the line that divides them against me and leaves me wringing my hands, a hairsbreadth away from the babies I nursed and coddled and cuddled, knowing that I can’t cross that line no matter how much I want to. 
And all of my metaphorical shoulder rubs and head petting, telling myself it couldn’t get worse than the infant and toddler years, were a cruel cosmic joke that came back to mock me everyday. 

Nothing— nothing— could have prepared me for the teenage years. So many mothers told me it would get easier: the toddler years wouldn’t last forever. They were right. Those years don’t last forever. But most days I’d pay good money to go back to those sleepless nights and the potty training and the fermented juice cups under the couch and the trying to keep them from accidental grievous injury everyday of their little lives. 

Being a mom of infants and toddlers is exhausting. Don’t get me wrong. I honor all you moms who are in the trenches I’ve clawed my way out of. But it’s a physical exhaustion. We’re tired. All the time. ALL the time. We’d give our kingdom for a full night’s sleep; we’d settle for a nap. 

Being the mom of two teenagers and a tween is exhausting on a level I never could have comprehended in those years I was sleep deprived, begging for reprieve. I’m exhausted in a way that no mother who has been in my shoes could have prepared me for. It’s a mental exhaustion, as opposed to physical exhaustion, and I’d take waking up four times a night with an infant over this almost any day.

It’s bone deep. It’s soul deep. It bows your head and hunches your shoulders and it turns you inside out with worry and weariness. It exposes all those ugly, weak spots in you, and it leaves you raw and shivering and wondering how, how, HOW, could that obnoxious, cheeky, clever little angel I hugged mere years ago turn into this. Could somehow embody all the worst parts of me, bleed it out, and shove it right back in my face? How? When? Why?

Nothing has made me weaker, nothing has made me question who I am as a person, and Who God thinks He is, like raising a bunch of teens. 

I’m tired, y’all. I’m so tired. I’m tired of being pushed against at every turn, argued with and questioned and huffed at. No amount of discipline sticks, no amount of reasoning gets through their thick heads— seriously, do their skulls get thicker when they hit twelve?? I may as well be trying to communicate with a cinder block, and honestly I’d probably get through to that more easily than I can to my kids. 

A thousand nights of sleeping clean through, a car sans car seats, a recycling bin full of sippy cups and lids, a wasteland of a living room (and bedroom, and kitchen, and bathroom) strewn from wall to wall with Matchbox cars and Barbies and sandals and Carter’s pajamas, all the toddler tantrums in Christendom were not enough to prepare me for the mental and emotional wasteland that I’m in now. The constant battle of wills. The role reversal, going from toddlers tugging on my shirt to beg for my attention— craving it, needing it, prizing it— to me knocking on a bedroom door, craving, needing, prizing one scrap of insight into their days, into their world. Any tears of physical exhaustion that I wept a dozen years ago have long since been eclipsed by the tears of mental weariness that I keep hidden, that I cry in the bathroom where they can’t see, that roll down my temples some nights after they’re asleep and it’s just me, me, me and my memories of those obnoxious angels that used to be mine. 

But don’t despair, Mamas. 
One: We are surrounded by a great and mighty cloud of witnesses, of mamas, parents who have gone before, who have walked and staggered and crawled through the minefield, the wasteland of being a mother to humans straddling the dimensions between childhood and adulthood. 

Two: Speaking of no comparison— that first gassy smile from your newborn, that first babbled “mamamamama” pales— pales— in comparison to a genuine smile from your teen, a voluntary, albeit mumbled, “love you” from a creature who, lets face it, at this age doesn’t love a whole lot. In those moments when you feel like if you have to face one more day of these brass heavens they build against you, you might just vomit from the sheer stress of it, if something doesn’t give soon— those are the moments when they look at you, really look at you, and smile. And those smiles, sneaking out from the corners of their faces where the baby still lurks, hidden and angular.... somedays, the sun rises and sets on those smiles. 

Three: There is a camaraderie with my teens that I treasure above most things; that I store up in my heart for those days when the brass heavens bruise me and make me feel broken, and that keep me tiptoeing through the minefield, knowing, knowing, KNOWING, that this is just a season. This won’t last forever. And someday... someday my babies will be back, but better than ever, because they’ve made it through their own personal teenage minefields, and I’ve been waiting for them on the other side; holding my hands out to them the way I did when they took their first steps, cheering them on, calling out warnings and encouragement, believing they can do it and will be the stronger for it. 

Take heart, parents of teens. We’ll be stronger too. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Flight Risk

Whoever decided it was a good idea to take a several ton chunk of metal and send it hurtling through the sky, going hundreds of miles an hour and hovering miles above the earth, was probably on hallucinogenics. 
I’m all for exercising your imagination, creating new things, pioneering in our culture, etc.... but I don’t like flying. I HATE flying. I have a just this side of sanity fear of flying. 
And the people who DO love flying? I don’t understand those people. And I’m good at understanding people, as a rule. I don’t understand air travel lovers. What’s there to love??

So here I am, sitting on a gray vinyl end seat attached to a row of identical gray vinyl seats, outside my gate at the airport, surrounded by strangers in various states of inertia and alertness. My legs are crossed and my dingy white Chuck Taylors are rocking restlessly back and forth, the only outward sign of my inward panic, and the only thing keeping me from getting up and running in a tight circle, screaming and flailing and getting tackled by security. 

This is my first time flying all by myself. I know, at the age of almost 35, this probably seems pathetic. But sister prefers road trips, and the east coast, and places moderately accessible by road trips. This is also the longest flight I’ve ever taken, aside from a trip to Newfoundland, Canada, a whole EIGHTEEN years ago. And at 16 you’re not afraid of your own mortality, especially if you have your older brother with you, and your Discman playing Starflyer 59’s latest release. 
I’m trying to chill. Really I am. I’m trying to keep my stomach from churning and keep those panicked tears that keep pricking at the back of my nose and eyes and trying to close my throat at bay. Because I’m a grownup, dammit! My dad tried to make my feel better telling me that I’ll get to fly over the Rockies, and all I thought was, “Flotation devices won’t work in the Rockies!!!!”

My suitcase was five pounds over the check limit, meaning my check fee would jump from $25 to $100. They can’t even gradually increase the weight to cost ratio. 50lbs, $25! 51lbs, $100 and also we’re gonna require one of your kidneys, if you please. The exceptionally kind American Airlines clerk saw my panic, undoubtably thought I was at least 10 years younger than I am, and told me he could sneak about an extra two pounds in if I could weed out three pounds. So there I was, holding up the check in line, trying to figure out what I could take out— and hang on a second. Yes, I’m a clotheshorse, but I’m not THAT big of one. I only packed TWO pairs of shoes, and TWO pairs of pants, I’ll have you know. There are several sweaters and layers, because while my beloved Virginia will be enjoying 60-70° weather the next week, I’ll be in Idaho, where it’s a WHOLE lot colder than my best friend assured me it would be. And the rest of the weight is gifts for her kids, which mainly take the form of books, so. Now you’re informed— I ended up grabbing the first few items I saw: my jean jacket, a pair of gray velour sweatpants, and my stuffed puppy (everyone who’s seen my on trips knows about Lumbar, my floppy and well loved stuffed dog that Jeremy got me for our first Christmas 16 years ago). Then I had to carry all of that in addition to my carry on backpack, my jacket, and my scarf (because it’s COLD where I’m going, remember?), and try to figure out how I’m going to squeeze it all into my only allowable carry on, which is also packed full. There was a kind TSA agent who watched me struggling to wriggle my ID out of my wallet, one handed, sweat beading my brow and breath coming fast, and graciously, without comment or censure, placed his rubber blue gloved finger on my wallet to hold it in place while I worked my ID out of the sleeve. 
Several times I dropped several items, and had to scramble to gather everything back up, while onlookers no doubt watched me and figured I was drunk at 5:30 in the morning.
Currently, I have a chambray shirt on over a t-shirt, with my scarf and my denim jacket tied around my waist. My other jacket will have to go on OVER my over-shirt AND denim jacket, and essentially I’m going to burn alive. The velour sweatpants are rolled tight and shoved into the side pocket of my backpack, but if I have to, I’ll put those on over my current pants, too (Maybe I AM drunk?). 

I just spoke to the clerk for my flight and he told me the puppy is allowed to be carried on with me, which nearly made me weep with relief. There was no way I was going to manage to squeeze it into my backpack, and if it came down to the puppy and several other items in the carry on, almost all items in the “other” category are only so much ballast. The velour sweatpants and the small lap blanket my sister insisted I bring since I’m in the cheap seats and will get cold, and yes, possibly even my makeup bag would have ended up in a trash can in the middle of Norfolk International Airport. 

In 20 minutes we’ll begin boarding, although I’ll be boarding last so I still have time to sit and stew and maybe put my head between my knees for a bit. And— assuming I’m alive to see them— I’m sure the Rockies will be beautiful from above. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Eyeliner?

I'm going to go ahead and answer that question for you all right off the bat, and the answer is, absolutely not. There is no such thing. I am firmly ensconced in the "go big or go home" camp when it comes to makeup. If I don't look like a drag queen, I'm doing it wrong.
 However, I do believe there can be such a thing as too much mascara; but that's only because the clumping, and I have an anxious habit of pulling on my eyelashes when I'm stressed out. I won't reveal how many times I've pulled out chunks of eyelashes and ended up with bald patches.

All of this is just to segue into the fact that some days, for me, are just an utter waste of makeup. Some days are just a constant raining of eyeliner tears; when it feels like all the makeup I wore as armor drips down my face, bit by bit: tracking down my cheeks and clinging to my chin for dear life; for hope, for strength, for bravery... until they finally give in to gravity and accept the grief.

Today is one of those days. One of those wounded, broken, Why and What If and What Next type of days.

And no. I'm not happy that my first blog since the birth of this year is me writing about melting makeup. But if you've read my blog enough, you know that I don't fake it. I write what I feel from where I am and I make no apologies.

Because more than anything, I strive to be real.

And today, my reality is hurt and broken and betrayed and frustrated and confused, and my reality is dripping my Go Big Or Go Home makeup down my face.

And you know what? That's okay. This is okay. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no reason to pretend you've achieved it, or pursue something that can never be caught. So these pageant queen tear tracks on my cheeks are fine. They're not forever, any more than perfection would be if I could catch it.

Hurt comes to us. Rejection rears its disfigured face. Stress strangles us. And eyeliner will sometimes leave tracks down your perfectly primed and applied matte powder.

But none of them last. They appear, they swirl around, they rain down, and then they head on their way. Because there is no permanent strength in these things. They're sprinters; they're not marathoners.

So I'll wait out today. And tomorrow... well. I wouldn't be a proper drag queen wannabe if I didn't own plenty more eyeliner.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Snow Day In A Miraculous World

The Now Project
January 1st-7th

Last month, I hopped on board with a fellow Instagrammer's brain child, called The Now Project, which was officially launched with the new year. The concept is to try and capture moments during our week, post photos, and write about them. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep this up all year, especially the writing part, since I tend towards laziness, but I'm going to try. The hardest part will probably be picking just one "moment" per week.

However, if I have to choose one moment from the first week of January, I choose our crazy, out of nowhere snow day. Living in southeast Virginia, a few blocks from the Chesapeake Bay, we don't see a lot of snow. We get humidity aplenty. Mosquitos, hurricanes, 70 degree rainy autumn days, patriotic parades, cannons left over from our Revolutionary and Civil War years, but not a lot of snow. So for us to get 10" dumped on us in a single day in the midst of blizzard conditions is pretty noteworthy.

Full disclosure: I loathe snow. I hate being cold. I hate the wet, and the mud, and the layers, I hate all of it. But my kids are all still young enough to glory in the beauty (and let's be honest, the novelty) of a winter wonderland, so I suck it up at least once a year and let them spend a half hour preparing to go out in the snow for a total of fifteen minutes.

This past week, on January 5th, was also Chloe's 11th birthday. I usually do a birthday photo session with my kids, and this time I decided we should take advantage of this rare, snowy occurrence for Chloe's big day. Which means- yes!- I too went out in the snow. Wonder of wonders! I won't post all of her photos here because I want to share them in a separate blog for her, but I will throw a couple in.

All of that said, here's the thing. I'm taking a chance with this. I don't know anyone else in this group I've chosen to be a part of, which in itself is a big step. But it's one I'm eager, albeit nervous and scared and kind of freaking out and fighting social anxiety and-- well, I could go on and on about that-- it's one I'm eager to take.  I'm choosing an opportunity to push myself out of my lazy ruts that I create for myself when I could be creating something beautiful instead. I'll work at becoming that version of myself that I want to see. I'll drop the ball sometimes this year, absolutely I will. But my main goal for 2017 is this mantra: "No more self sabotaging." That includes settling for subpar writing and blogging, photographing, and passing up chances to record this little tiny space of time my kids and my family are occupying right now. We live in a miraculous world, friends; one where anyone can instantly share what sandwich they ordered for lunch. Don't my kids, their memories, and their lives deserve more recognition and respect than a sandwich, even if it did come from Which Wich?

As far as it depends on me, my kids will be a part of this miraculous 2017. And I will be the record keeper of our small, wondrous, everyday miracles.

Happy New Year, Happy Snow Day, and Happy Miracle Choosing.


All photos © 2017 Mary Smoot
Shot with Nikon D800

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Manner Worthy (From an unworthy person)

Here's the truth, friends (as I'm fond of saying, 9 times out of 10 you'll get the truth out of me, whether you want it or not, whether I want to give it or not, and I'll pair it with words like "fond" because that is the enigma that is Mary. Enigma? Bundle of dysfunction? One is just a nicer way of implying the other. See: Bruce Wayne).

ANYway. Here's the truth. This morning was rooouuuugggghhhh - multiple letters convey so much more than just caps and italics, am
I right? - for the Box House fam (Oh man, I'm sorry, one more- at least- side note: Ashton was SO embarrassed that I used the terminology "fam" yesterday. I tried to tell him I was using it in regards to my "FAMILY" for years, before it became millennial/middle school common vernacular, as an ACTUAL shortening of the word "family". God knows what it means or implies now. I still don't quite understand. Even though we weren't in front of his friends he muttered to me, "DontsayfamPLEASE", like it was something obscene).
This morning was ugly. Too little sleep for all of us, too much emotional expenditure and socialization on my part, which always catches up with me, Ashton in pain from his braces tightening and his first LESS THAN B grade in history because he missed a project due yesterday because of said braces tightening appointment, being cold... so much. So many little things that add up to catastrophe when there are so many people trying to cope at once.
So I lost it. Not on my kids, oh no. Not really. I got in an "altercation" (that's the nice way of putting it, boys and girls) with another parent at Bub's school. It was bad. I cried the rest of the way to dropping the girls off to school (all the parents at their school are NICE. They don't cuss women out before they've had a chance to apply their makeup!). Cried some more after they were out of the car. Asked myself what on earth am I doing with my life. Told myself I'm doing nothing and it's all horrible, "a chasing after the wind", so why bother?
And then I decided to open my Bible, which I'd left in my car a day or two ago. I opened it to a random Psalm that didn't really speak to me.
I skipped ahead and I said, "Okay, Paul, what do you have for me? I KNOW it's something I need to hear. Which Pauline letter do I waaaaaant, let's see, let's go wiiiiittttthhhh.... EPHESIANS." I love me some Ephesians.
But this morning Paul, my BFF Paul, my precious, wise, RUDE Paul, clobbered me. Of course he did. Because sometimes you just need to be clobbered.

The verse I opened to this:
Ephesians 4:1-3. The NIV says:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I won't lie. Because I don't do that. I threw my hands in the air and huffed aloud. I may  or may not have slammed the Bible shut. I definitely half yelled, "Are you SERIOUS right now??"
I mean. Bro. Give me a break. I'm stressed and sad. I'm exhausted. I'm hormonal. I had a total stranger cuss me out in the presence of my kids before I even had my makeup on. Okay, okay, I yelled back. I accepted the thrown gauntlet, I owned the ugliness. I'll keep owning it. I made my kids cry.

And I am SICK. TO. DEATH. of taking the high road. 

I'm sick of it. I want to get in someone's face and have a word war like Eminem had in 8 Mile, minus all the rhyming because I'm not the best at that, at least not off the top of my head. don't want to just own the ugly. I want to embrace it.

But oh God..... make every effort to keep the unity.
And not just keep it. Create it. Something to be kept must be created in the first place. It must be offered to others in order for them to keep it. Perpetuate it. I didn't do that this morning. That fellow parent expected me to react and Lord knows I did.

I wish I could tell you all this will never happen again. I'll be a good example. I'll rise above. And some day, please God, I'll get there. This morning was a setback. I haven't learned to be "humble and gentle". I haven't lived "a life worthy of the calling to which I have received". The ESV version says, "Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called". I love all those active verbs. "Walk". "Calling". Action. Effort.

Granted, I don't necessarily LOVE them right now when I want to hold on to my messy. When the effort seems so far beyond me that I can only see it as words on an onion skin thin page written by someone thousands of years ago.

Life is ugly. Horribly, horribly messy. Sometimes it involves death, illness, heartbreak. And sometimes, it involves smaller things like running late, being screamed at before you've had a chance to put on your makeup, falling apart in the car and sitting on the side of the curb for well over an hour while you pull yourself together (*waves from side of road*).

But.... let's be active. Let's TAKE ACTION. I'm mad. I'm frazzled. I'm so completely spent that if you asked me for one single penny of my emotional investment I wouldn't have it to give.
But attempting to walk in the calling to which I have been called. Maybe I can manage that. Walking is just one step at a time, after all.

Walk with me, friends?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Words Will Break My Heart

Words.... there are so many things I love about words. I love the way they sound. I love the cadence of certain words, the satisfaction of a good alliteration. I love the way the meaning or sound of a word can change depending on the words that surround it. I love the heady rush of being able to spout words off faster than thought, a well turned phrase, a sentence that stops you in your tracks. 
Awhile back, a friend of mine sent me a list of  the 100 most beautiful words in the English language. Many of them have a musical cadence, a bouncing from one syllable to another. Some evoke certain emotions, sights, thoughts, smells. The truly beautiful thing? Not all the words have beautiful meanings. 
The most beautiful thing about words: they are one of the most powerful forces begat to us humans. 
The book of Proverbs, chapter 18, says, "The power of life and death is in the tongue". James chapter 3 says our tongues steer us the way a rudder steers a ship. 
Such a small, simple thing. A rudder. A tongue. But with the right pressure, the right power, able to control entire vessels. 
Don't believe in the Bible? That's okay. There are plenty of sayings, metaphors, colloquialisms that acknowledge the power of words. Call it positive or negative reinforcement. Call it good or bad vibes. There's the well known saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 
Whoever came up with that saying was deeply cloaked in denial. 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart. 

In my head swirl the words of many, many people who have hurt me, betrayed me, encouraged me, valued me. They're all swimming around in there. The family friend who said my chin resembled Inspector Gadget's. A person in my life that I was desperate to be loved by, to be valued and seen, who told me I was a thorn in their side- a reference to the Apostle Paul's painful trial that could not be overcome, no matter what. The first person who told me I was pretty. My youth pastor, who called me faithful. A friend who always tells me they admire the way I throw an outfit together. The first person who asked me to sing. The first person who told me I could write. A person who flippantly asked me- in their mind, as a joke- what I was doing with my life. Telling me I was slipping. 
They're all in there, taking turns using up space in my mind, fighting that battle between life and death. Repeating, replaying. Over and over and over.


Your words are mighty. 

Your words can be merciful. 

Your words can be malicious.

Your words hold poison.

Your words hold power. 

Your words can wound.

Your words can heal.

Your words can rip apart or bind up.

Be careful, friends. Be the good words that someone remembers in twenty years. Be careful what worlds you create or tear down with your words. 

Be wise. Be kind. Be beautiful.

Be careful.