Saturday, January 15, 2011

That Grieving Thing

Make no mistake, over a 5 year blogging period I have written more than one post about grief!

Tonight I am sitting here thinking about my Mom. Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of her death. Each year it hits me in a different way. There was initial relief after being her care taker for so long and it being so hard. Then there was the loneliness. Anger came and went. The feeling of abandonment visited one year. Then sadness - just good old fashioned sadness. And longing, a different kind of missing and sadness. Oh, the emotions have been varied and deep. But tonight as I sit here and think about things, I am struck with my struggle for identity. Phew, there I said it.

I know all the faith talk about true identity. I say those words to others. I believe them. I teach them. But honestly, they do not bring comfort right now, tonight. Sometimes the ache of pain is so deep and real that you can feel it in your body. That's where I sit tonight. And I long for identity tied to parents. I had to grieve my Dad's death at 11, all my grandparents before that and then my Mom when I was 35. It feels strange to not have parents. It sometimes makes me wonder who I am. And that is the version of grief that showed up this year.

Like all hard things, this one will allow me to ask the very important questions: what did I learn about myself in this and where are the places that God needs to reign more fully.
And, I take great comfort in knowing there are new mercies every morning.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Disturb us, Lord

I love beautiful prayers and this one by Francis Drake is a treasure....

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


It does not take long when reading Henri Nouwen, for one to realize the depth of wisdom, experience, insight, sacrifice and reflection that his life can offer. I have been drawn to his writings for 20 years or so and find myself journeying back to some of the same pieces over and over.

His writing is significant in Christian Spiritual Formation, but really it is the fact that he lived life well that matters most. He made choices in favor of people, for the sake of the Kingdom in spite of personal gain. And God has been glorified.

These words of his are incubating in my mind right now: "the friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing....not healing...not curing...that is a friend who cares." Currently, my heart is aching for several friends who are going through VERY tough things and I am a fixer by nature. I work to not be. Did you catch that? And while I absolutely value "presence" and just being able to "be" with people in their hardest moments, my brain goes into overdrive and begins searching for ways to "help." Unless I told you that is what was happening in my mind, you might never guess, but it's happening in every moment of crisis.

I love Nouwen's call to put down the flawed idea of savior and pick up the beautiful role of present friend. This kind of presence can only come out of the overflow of a heart so turned to God that His peace defines, His comfort is tangible and His character is trusted. And so my heart is convicted that as we walk alongside the ones we love, being attentive to God on their behalf, the real job is making oneself available to hear what it is that God is whispering in intimate hushed tones. It is less about what we can do for people and way more about who we are for people because of who God is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Color Purple

I don't really know how to write what I am feeling about this, but that has never stopped me before, so here goes.

I love me some purple! Not sure what that is about but it has been a lifelong love. My Dad, who was a musician, stand up comedian guy, had day jobs to support his artists life and one of those was in the carpet business for a season. He decided to re-carpet our house at one point. I got to pick my color for my room. And yes, I chose rich deep purple. It was me. And to my musician/artist Dad.

Anyway, I never lost my love of the brilliant color and even in the black, white and turquoise years I was secretly a fan. Then I attended college at ACU. A dream come true for a purple lover.

Purple has always represented more to me than just a fun color. I use the expression, "my inner purple" a lot. Those who know me, understand that means my Arlene-ness. You know, the inner core of who you are. Mine just feels, well, purple. I love the purple metaphors for life in poetry, in prose, in art, in theatre. I love the Spiritual significance. The audacity of it, really.

And so, the journey of purple in the hair happened last year. I know there are haters among my friends who scrunch their nose up a bit and wonder, "what the heck." And that is a-ok with me. But the purple streaks in the hair story has taken on its own life. I did it, at first, because I was bored. I fight an inner battle of rebellion all the time. Filtering, monitoring, choosing, intentionally deciding. Picture a two year old trying hard to obey. There you've got it. That is me, inside, still - at almost 44. But allowing some of the inner purple out, just a little, functions like a release valve. And you thought it was just a bad hair color choice.

But the purple hair journey got more interesting as I began to notice what was happening. People who would hardly engage me in conversation before began talking to me. People who looked different to me. It became a great conversation starter. I found a point of connection with a few teenagers who I had previously not been able to connect with before. It has led to significant conversations with checkers at the grocery store, people at the Pizza place around the corner, the tire guys at the local store.

The converse was true too. There is nothing like the disapproving stare of a more conservative peer who is making assumptions about your character based on a few inches of hair color they have observed. It took me back to the less comfortable years and made me think about how I perhaps have judged others. Interesting.

But, I'm writing about it today because of a comment that I overheard on Saturday. Spencer started his Basketball season and we were about in the gym at a local church where he plays. My phone rang and so I hung back to take the call while the family all got settled. Two women came walking by, assumed I was not paying attention because I was on the phone and just a little ways away from where I was standing, the one says to the other, "I guess she should pick to either wear the cross or have the purple hair." It stunned me. I finished on the phone and went to find David. I told him the story and chose to try and just let it go. But, wow - some cards were shown right there. I have pondered those words for several days now. I keep wondering about the times I have had a similar thought and I have asked God to strip my heart of those. Honestly, I think I have messed up enough in my life that judging other people seemed foolish a long time ago, but I know I have my moments. I pray God keeps those words alive in a positive way as a reminder for me.

But for now, I'm all about the cross and purple living symbiotically. And besides, it makes me happy.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A God Who Sees

Gen. 16: 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

I read this verse today and it will not leave my mind. I have said this before and I am standing by it. I think one of the greatest needs of humanity is to be known and seen. Not seen in a flashy, attention seeking way, but simply to be seen. Noticed. I have heard homeless people describe the pain that comes from being invisible. I have heard those who are recently divorced talk about the pain of becoming invisible to the couples they used to hang out with. Nations who have little to offer are allowed to crumble under genocide, aids epidemics, wars and starvation because they are invisible. Children feel it from parents who are distracted. Teenagers feel it when they are not heard. The elderly are often pushed to the side and in an attempt to reduce our responsibility and increase our convenience they become invisible. People all around us who there but are unseen.

Jesus had a thing for losers, as one of my favorite songs says. He noticed. He saw invisible people. He usually aligned himself with them. He sought them out. Women, children, the sick, the hurting, the ones society marginalized.

And so, now you see why these words from Genesis have found a place in my heart. God is the one who sees. His view of the world and humanity is the one that matters. And once we have had that encounter with the One who sees, our lives are never the same. Hagar who has been a player in a really bad plan to solve a family problem has been mistreated, she flees and hides and feels invisible. But as she hides she discovers that the Lord still sees her. But not only that, He chooses to meet her in that moment of deep distress.

Today I pray that I may see like the one who sees. With His lens. With His heart. With His eyes.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


I have written several posts over the last 5 years about friendship, community and relationships. And here I go again. I read a quote today that has really struck a chord with me and I posted it on facebook but I have to explore it some more. From my friend Michele Moore Fant's status: "A great community creates conditions where people can fall in love. It is a place where we can make a fuss over one another. It is a place where we can ask, "How did I ever live without you?" Lois Schmidt

The words...."it is a place where we can ask, how did I ever live without you" really resonate with me. God has given me a generous portion of friends who I can honestly say those words to. We are scattered far and wide across the country and across the world, but they are "those" friends. And that got me thinking.....

In good counseling circles, would those words be acceptable or would they be a sign of bad boundaries and enmeshment? I personally love them. I love the idea of community where you literally feel like your life is incomplete without the touch of the ones that matter. Where, in your relationships you have the edges rubbed off. Where you see the mind and heart of Christ in ways you are not yet experiencing. Where you join giftings and offer something more meaningful to the world. Where you know these people KNOW me and still LOVE me.

This kind of "falling in love friendship" within community is risky. It is intense. It is done with covenant and intentionality. It reaches into your heart and takes up residence. And so it does not leave easily. It is designed to stay the course, for the long haul.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"Like an airport, the church was never meant to be a destination." Reggie McNeal

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Just having a little rant today....

I have tried to use this blog space of mine as cheap therapy over the last five or so years. It has certainly provided me with ample opportunity for cathartic posts. Not that my plan was fool proof, therapy has been in order along the way, too.

I have, be proud, even employed filters in my writing. Sometimes feeling things and wanting to say things that I knew would not be well received, I managed some restraint. Those who know me, know this in itself is something to be amazed by. I do have filters. I can employ restraint. I know, as I said, be proud.

My political post from 2 years ago, while certainly not the highest comment generating one, is the closest I have come to really putting it all out there.
Until today.

I'm kidding...kinda'. Nothing too heavy, just some thoughts that I need to give an escape path to. They are chasing around in my brain and that's a scary place.

Rant 1: Do you ever want to look at some people squarely in the face and just say...CHILL! Just typing that in caps made me feel better. Oy, this one is about to kill me. I am accused of laughing too quickly, too loudly and too often - but the opposite is not ideal either. Facebook has prompted this one. I have a friend or two that only post the most serious, heavy, lesson learned, self improvement type things. I just want to yell, "tell me about something you saw at Walmart today, please. I can't take one more maxim of universal absolute truth." I am not a shallow-can't-go-deep girl. I love the intense, passion of a good deep conversation. But seriously, I mean, lightheartedly, c'mon guys - chill and chuckle a bit!

Rant 2: "The mommy-blog-that-highlights-the-perfect-life" - the pressure is killer! Thankfully I am too old to be part of this movement, but my heart aches and my brain gets mad for those who are pressured to subscribe to it. I have never seen a time in mommy-hood where there was: more pressure to cook meals ahead for months at a time, make said meals look like The Pioneer Woman's, hand make cards, stitch cute things on cute clothing, spend hours on finding ideas on hand making and stitching perfection, schedule kid play time so it looks more like preschool with field trips, art time, story time as if the child needs play suggested by others instead of intuitively just play. The mommies must also look cute, the kids even cuter, with bedrooms that are design masterpieces. And to top it off - Mommyhood must be the pinnacle of all your hopes, dreams and ambitions and fulfilling.
NOW IF YOU ARE OFFENDED: I think the Pioneer Woman, etsy etc are all great resources - don't get me wrong. I like looking cute and I like nice things too. And if Mommyhood has completed you, more power to you. However, I think there are young women around the country that are struggling under the pressure, too afraid to say they want off the "perfect life bus." Its just unattractive to me. The appearance of perfection always is. I want to be a part of the raw, the gritty, the real, the unlaminated, chaotic, non-matching part of people's world.

Rant 3: I am on a very carb restrictive eating plan due to an allergy to wheat. Carbs do not seem to know that. They call my name seductively from the pantry, in restaurants, at the bakery, in my dreams. I've tried to tell them, "it's not about you, it's me." They whisper back in the quiet...."oh but we had you at hello." So, little carby flirts - get behind me. Oh wait, I have less behind since I eliminated you.

This rant session is over, this girl has a little less angst, life is good.