Tuesday, January 12


"D'you know what I'm going to do when I win the lottery...?" 

If we had a winning ticket for every time we've heard that line, right? We think about that debt absolving, travel enabling, financially "freeing" smile-of-fate ourselves, dreaming up the countless ways we'd spend our easy millions.

This time, the words are tripping from my friend's tongue hopefully, excitedly, purposefully. As we sit, waiting for spare parts, side by side on a hard wooden bench in IKEA she continues:

When I win the lottery (Let's say ninety million dollars, to start?), I'm going to make it my full time job to give it away! I'll hire a few friends and we'll spend our days coming up with creative ways to anonymously help people who need it.

Her excitement is contagious. My heart rate increases as my imagination slips into overdrive. For hours, she and I hash out (and argue against) all sorts of possible methods and means of helping and serving and giving; of surprising and enabling and fixing. Long after we part ways later that afternoon I continue to allow myself the liberating joy of pretending a limitless supply of give-away money.

My friend's obvious joy at the thought of giving unreservedly is gripping, engaging. I carry her thinking with me into supper prep and onto the treadmill. I wrestle with it in front of the t.v. and while I'm reading a chapter-or-two before sleep. I wonder about it on the way to bed and stay awake long into the night thinking it through. What would I do with $90 million dollars? What would wisdom dictate? Reckless, God-like Love would say...what? Practicality would demand...? Friendship would insist on...?

By 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning I change the focus -- just a little. I'm losing heart, of course, realizing that the odds of my ever having such a towering stack of cash are pretty slim (especially since we don't actually buy lottery tickets!).

Then I think, "Well. I don't have $90,000,000. In fact, I don't even have $90 thousand...or $900. In fact, this month, we don't even have $90 left to give away. But I can do ninety cents. I can always do ninety cents and, some days and weeks and months, I'll be able to do closer to ninety dollars. One day, when the costs of feeding hungry tummies and keeping shoes on always-stretching feet are lessened, that number will climb closer to $900.

There's always a little that we can set aside to share, right? It's enchanting, alluring to dream of big numbers and big results (micro loans all over Central America; goat herds throughout Africa; clean water, clean water, clean water; brightly illustrated books in girls' schools in Pakistan; homes for every child in my city). So enchanting.

I'd like to keep dreaming about those big numbers. In my real-world-giveaway-tin there are, roughly, ninety give-away cents right now. I'm going to set-to learning the wisdom and Love and practicality and compassion that will stretch those pennies as far as miraculously possible. If I become versed in that insight with our pocket change, perhaps the ninety, nine hundred, and nine hundred thousand dollar give-aways will be that much more impactful when the time comes?

Wednesday, January 6

Pick-up Sticks

Not long after our family moved into our newly-built home, our dishwasher broke. That was seven years ago and we never did get it fixed. That means dishes get done by hand around here and, since I'm the only one that really cares if the smells of rotting food and plugged drains are ousted from the place, I'm the one that scrubs them up.

Day after day after hungry-kid day, I wash those dishes and painstakingly organize them in the dish rack. We're a family of five, so the stacks of plates and bowls pile up. My determination to fit every last dish in the sink-side rack is undaunting. It's also lacking in good judgment. Having sent dozens of ceramic coffee cups and cereal bowls crashing to the floor, you might assume that I'd catch on to the concept of drying-as-I-go.

You'd be wrong in that assumption. Drying the dishes isn't my job. I wash. The kids dry. Not wanting to nag and bother, I just keep on trying to stack that rack a little bit higher, knowing that a little air dry will work just fine and that things will find their way to their rightful cupboards when I'm done...or whenever said "kid" gets around to slotting them away.

The two impracticalities (my unwillingness to holler for help, and my focused determination to contain all of that glass, metal, stainless steel, and plastic in one, tidy, albeit massive, heap) combine to create what amounts to a treacherous, and fairly infuriating, game of Pick-up Sticks: one wrong pull on a misaligned Ziploc container and you'll find a landslide of dinneware cascading directly toward your feet. 

Yesterday was no exception. Cup upon tottering little bowl atop wobbling bigger bowl, I'd balanced what looked to be every usable dish in our kitchen onto one wired dish tray. My boy dutifully set to the task of dismantling the thing and putting stuff in it's rightful place. Then, without warning, the shattering THUD-smash-tinkle...tinkle...tinkle of, you know it, the eight-cup Pyrex measuring bowl.

Pyrex don't just break, they explode (I learned this dramatically one evening when I attempted to broil pork chops in a Pyrex. They respond violently to extreme temperatures. Do not try that at home!). Teensy tiny shards of glass were fired in every direction and my best baking bowl lay in a ruin of my-own-fault making.

I got snippy. My son got defensive. And then we got to work hustling dogs out of harm's way and tossing glass into the recycling bin. 

Like you, I'm a little introspective looking ahead into the New Year. Like you, I can already see that there's a whole lot coming that will need our attention, our devotion, our affection, our dutiful labor. Our dish racks are full. We have the occasional luxury of starting out with an empty tray -- not a lot going on. Not too many demands or dreams or things-on-the-go. But most of the time it feels like if we attempt to add even one more coffee mug to our already teetering heap, the whole carefully-balanced lot will come crashing down around our toes.

We could learn from the demise of my Pyrex, though? We could empty the dish tray a little, as needed, or ask for a little back-up with the tasks at hand? We could avoid calamity and inevitable collapse by just working a little smarter.

I know I've learned my lesson. Directly behind me sits my latest achievement: An, I think, extraordinarily well organized mound of cooking utensils and pots and containers and cutlery. No chance that tomorrow will be a re-play of yesterday. I don't have any Pyrex left to shatter.

Wednesday, December 9

Give Presence

If you have a minute, check out this link. If you only watch one video, "Enter The Story" is a good one to start on.

I'm too late to apply this wisdom to my Christmas season this year, but I can't wait to make a change next go 'round!

Tuesday, December 1

Tia's Prayer

I pray that in the quiet you will hear Him; in the fierceness of the night you will find comfort in Him, and when you cannot, know that (someone) will on your behalf.

~ Tia ~

Monday, November 30

Holding My Breath

I'm not very brave. That's probably one of the reasons that faith in an invisible God comes effortlessly, naturally to me. Needing Him is like needing air or water or shelter. I know it. So I believe.

Today has been a scary day. Until this moment, with the house bursting with energy, with newly-hung lights promising memory-making, merry-making, with the distraction of chores and need upon need, I felt I was navigating the uncertainty of the day well. But as the house grows silent and the wind howls outside and the ambiance of those same lights takes on new meaning ~ weighty, what-if, I-don't-know-how-to-do-this meaning ~ I'm not moving through the questions so seamlessly.

Fear cloys at my throat and my heart and my limbs as thoughts rapid-fire their worrisome threats. Will my boy be okay? He's going to be okay. Of course he's going to be okay. But what if he's really not okay?

My fifteen year old man of a child spent the day being poked and prodded and bled and tested. He has a funny little spot on his eye ~ a hemorrhage caused by who-knows-what. It's likely just a symptom of some sort of vascular infection. There was (or is) probably an infection in a valve in his heart that the body's breaking up and then pumping through his blood stream. Bits are getting stuck in some places and causing a little damage. No biggie. Treatable. Walk-away-from viral stuff.

It could be something different, though. And that's where the fear is sitting, watching, waiting. It's inviting me to follow it's lead in muddling through questions that cannot be answered tonight. Tonight there are no answers. Only a choice: faith. Or fear.

I know this: God is always good. He's sometimes fierce and deadly. He's sometimes tender and full of healing. Sometimes He gives. Sometimes He takes. He has always given much more to me than He's asked of me. I have known the merciful God.

I'm scared to death of the One who steps aside and allows life's vicious blows. I do not know that One well. I think I trust Him despite that lack of comprehension? I grow angry with Him. I charge Him with neglect, at times; I rage against His apparent withdrawal, at times. But I tend to lean toward believing that He knows something I don't know about the way this all plays out, and so I have faith in my unseen God.

Maternally, I am toying with coming undone. I so desperately want my six-foot-two, sarcastic, brown-haired, wise giant of a babe to be well and joyful and whole. He probably is. He might not be. Either way, I believe that the One who knew him even before he was formed holds him securely, surely, eternally. His ways are good and true and full of Life.

I'm not very brave, so that's where I'll settle in. Near to the Giver of Life whom, like air, or water, or shelter, I cannot live without.

Saturday, November 21

Unlikely Packages

Dyed-white, thick, straight hair obediently encases her heavily made-up face. She's hurriedly running a brush through it as I approach the sink between her and another woman in the restaurant loo. Fashion and appearance matter to her; everything about her look is deliberate. She's making a statement.

The other gal is struggling with the tap. Is it motion sensitive? Are you supposed actually turn something? Her worn grey and maroon winter coat is sagging over slack shoulders. Her mousy, unkept hair and cheap mud-brown plastic glasses frame an uncertain face. "I can't figure this thing out she mumbles."

"Just pull up," they dyed woman says. It is then that I realize they are acquainted. They laugh, "Just pull up! Pull up!" They're laughing and brushing and washing. The woman on my left sighs an after-giggle sigh, "Aaah. Just like Play Station."

"Yup," the now successfully scrubbed friend replies, "I guess that's why we make such a good team. We both know some stuff."

I yank my hoodie sleeve down over my hand to grip the suspiciously finger-printed handle of the bathroom door and make my way back out into the restaurant. I leave the exchange behind me. And I take it with me, too. Two women as unlike one another as could physically be. I would never have put them together as friends, thinking that the one would likely want nothing to do with the other. But there they were, sharing, nurturing, affirming, instructing.

We need each other, my friends. We are different ~ sometimes glaringly so. We think differently, believe differently, parent differently, treat money differently. We walk and dress and do our hair differently.

And we are the same. We need help with the bathroom tap every now and then, and sometimes beating a level on the latest game is un-doable without a buddy at our elbow. We need someone standing beside us as we stare into the bathroom mirror ~ someone who believes that we are lovely and acceptable and worthy.

If you don't have that friend, go make that friend. You may be surprised where you find her. She may not be packaged the way you'd expect and you may not be the one she thinks she's looking for either. Extend friendship until you find her. She's worth the search; she's worth the wait.

Monday, November 2

I's comin' back for ya'. Don't you never give up on me.
~ Chicken George, ROOTS ~

Don't ever give up on me. Raw need, longing, hope, fear.

What if we never gave up on each other? On our mate, our sibling, our friend? What if they never gave up on us?

Faithfulness without flinching.

Don't give up on the one who's hurting you; the one who's driving you nuts; the one who's wrong.

Just don't.

Wednesday, October 21

Saint Theresa's Prayer

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly
where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite
possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love that has
been given to you.

May you be confident knowing you are a
child of God. Let this presence settle
into your bones, and allow your soul the
freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

On Praying For Our Kiddos

Every part of me is praying...right down to my atoms I am praying.
~ Valerie ~

Tuesday, October 13

The Offer

I found Natalie in Geez magazine's (http://www.geezmagazine.org/) latest collection of thoughts on "holy mischief in an age of fast faith". Her gently provocative thoughts moved me to change, to grow, to take the face of a friend in my hands and say, "Look away."

So impacted was I that I hunted her down and asked her permission to re-print her thoughts here:

The Offer

In my house live two cats. In the morning, as I eat breakfast in our solarium, surrounded on three sides by panes of glass, the cats sit on the other side of the table, flicking their tails wildly as they stare out the window. They stare at the birds flitting to and fro amongst the trees and telephone wires, free to do as they please, to do as they were created to do. They sit there; the heart-shaped cat food they've been purring for all morning is left abandoned at the sight of what they really desire. They gaze, poised as if they might strike at any moment, sneaking and hiding amongst the chair legs as if lurking in the shadows of the forest underbrush, though they've never experienced any such thing. Yet they never jump, never even paw at the transparent barrier between them and the object of their longing.

Their ritual of walking away from the cheap, substitute, ridiculously processed product and staring out eagerly, impossibly at the world they long to be a part of pains me. Some mornings it pains me to the point of tears. It pains me for them, and it pains me for humans too. We too are offered our hearts' desires in cheap substitutes, products that claim to offer fulfillment. But what pains me most is that the cats know to look away from the processed promise of fulfillment, even if they remain physically trapped. We do not even know how to look away, let alone walk away, though no panes of glass (except maybe the ad-laden TV screen) stand between us and the experiences that would fulfill us.

Let us help each other look away.
~ Natalie Boustead ~