Thursday, October 30

The Subtle Lure -- by Tia

The following is from my friend's blog. It relates to some things that a couple of us have been talking about...

"Lead us not into temptation" often means, among other things,"Deny me those gratifying invitations, those highly interesting contacts,that participation in the brilliant movements of our age, which I so often, at risk desire."
from the reflections on the Psalms

I have been ruminating on this for a couple of months now and I'm not sure how to accurately put it all into words. We, as women have an instinctive need to help, to nurture and to put feet to our caring. It is a beautiful thing. I have seen it in action many times and I am always amazed at the caring and generous nature of those around us. It can however be misused or abused as most of God's gifts can be. We need to be aware of what we are doing, of not seeking out conflict or making more of a problem than there is or even seeing one where there is none. It can be so gratifying to be the one who is able to help walk someone through the storms of their life or even the one who is looked to for the answers. God is His infinite wisdom has chosen to work through man. This is His way. We need each other, and reaching out beyond ourselves to serve one another is truly remarkable. My word of caution in all this is that we need to look at our own hearts and see if we are doing this with the right intentions, to walk in humility, to see the person for who they are not the problem and how to fix it.

Tuesday, October 28

One of Those People

Warning: Uncharacteristically negative diatribe-like editorial dead ahead. Proceed with spit-guard and Valium.

"Oh. You're one of those people."

I sigh inwardly, not without emotion. Outwardly I attempt to make eye contact. "One of 'those' people? By which you mean...?"

He determinedly avoids my gaze. "Aww, you know. We have one working as a bag boy. He can work anytime. Even during the day. 'Does his school at night." He's actually sneering as he blurts his explanation in the general direction of my feet.

I'm surprised at the instant rise in frustration in me. I resent this stranger's insinuation -- undefined, uninformed -- that there is a "those" and that I'm one of them.

My oldest son has a smirk on his face (I fleetingly wonder if he can see into my mind. Does he actually see the building storm there?) as he shifts his grocery basket from one hand to another. He's been holding to a consistent (and new) Just sock him in the mouth approach to problem solving. I can almost hear him urging me on behind that grin. My youngest is contentedly oblivious to the drama that has the potential to explode all over the pharmacy shelves.

Because that's where we are. In Safeway. At the pharmacy. I asked a simple question about a product and a very helpful, if a little pasty-white and balding, man came 'round the counter to dispense his medicines and, unexpectedly, his opinions.

It began with a "Why aren't these kids in school?" We (I) brace for that question, never sure what blank stare, confusion, or open judgment we'll encounter when we glibly respond that we do school at home.

"Oh. You're one of those people." I don't even know what that means. What? Did he expect us to be rifle-toting, government hating, fear mongering system haters? Perhaps he feels we over protect our children or that we under educate them? Maybe we smell funny or look peculiar?

I'm instantly angry and when he mentions that he actually knows a home schooled boy I mask my growing ire with a smile and a joke, "So, does he have any peculiar ticks or facial twitches that worry you?" My attempt to lightly suggest that he is, quite probably, a typically developing boy despite the unorthodox nature of his upbringing goes unnoticed.

Not too long ago I was openly, publicly, and loudly criticized for my choice to stay home and school our sons (I always appreciate when both of these choices -- because that's all they are: choices. Not holy callings or fear-inspired withdrawals. Just choices. -- take a blow in one swift sentence.). A group of professional adults happened to ask an off-handed question about the kids' grades to which there was, apparently a correct answer. I did not give the correct answer. Those highly educated and successful folks spent the better part of fifteen minutes schooling me on the perils of my choice and the superior nature of their own educational preferences.

I did the same thing in that encounter that I did with Pharmacy Guy: I made light of our choice and deferred to their opinions in the moment, cloaking my own building fury with an attitude of submission. I had no frame of reference for dealing with such hostility then and I don't now.

In "Horton Hears a Who" (the recently released cinematic version) the antagonist of the story is made particularly obnoxious by her "pouch school" technique in raising her 'roo. She is intolerant, narrow minded, and snidely judgmental -- not to mention entirely irrational.

Right there, on the big screen, for all the world to see the message is clear: home schoolers are idiots.

I'm not sure how Mr. Pharmacy Guy came to that conclusion for himself. I didn't stick around to press for details (What with the full schedule of brainwashing and isolating I had lined up for that afternoon). But I'd just like to state, for the record, Mr. PG, that whatever bit you think you know about those people, chances are it's just a teeny bit of an enormous BIT and it'd be kind of you to get your informational pills all stuffed into the right bottle before you dispense your poisonous cure-all on them.

Monday, October 20


Early Autumn sun filters past urban obstacles; stray rays brush past me as I pump dollar after dollar into our gas tank. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpse a loitering man: clean, just a little taller than I, black cowboy hat comfortably lodged on his aging head.

I pay him no mind (considering instead what I'll be paying at the till in just a minute), then I notice that he's moved closer and is, in fact, leaning up against the pump I'm using. He's gesturing at my oldest son who's seated in the front seat of the car. I turn to face him.

"Hey! Are you giving my kid a hard time?" I tease. I look more closely at him then. I see that he's leaning on the pump because his own legs will likely fail him if he doesn't lean on something. His brown-as-earth skin is beautifully wrinkled and weathered but, in his drunkenness, he's failed to clean the mucus and muck from his face. His right eye is seeping and crusty, both; it is milky white, blind.

I can't squeeze any more liquid gold into the tank so I hang up the pump and turn my full attention toward my new acquaintance. "What can I do for you today, sir?"

"Just need some bus fare. 'Trying to make it to Fort Macleod. Just need to get to the edge of the city so I can hitch my way."

His words are slurred and mumbled and difficult to catch. "You're looking for bus fare to Fort Macleod?" I ask with surprise. "That's a little more than I can help you with!"

He grins and then laughs at my misunderstanding. "No, no, no! I just need fare to the edge of the city!"

I laugh too and ask for his name. I ask him if he'll wait for me there while I go settle my bill and get some cash. "We'll talk about this more in a minute, Danny," I say as I move away from him.

Inside the station I'm surprised by the worry and anger etched into the faces of the staff and other patrons. A woman steps toward me and demands, "Are you okay? Do you need help?" The attendant, worried, mumbles "Is everything okay out there?"

I laugh my surprise and say that Danny and I are just having a quick conversation. I'm grateful for their concern, I say, but every thing's fine.

I make my way back outside and pull the bills I've just received in change back out of my purse. Careful to shield the transaction from the growing number of curious eyes both in and outside of the station, I press them into Danny's hand and suggest that there's enough there for a good supper and fare to the edge of the city, if that's where he wants to get to.

I tell him I'm glad to have met him and suggest that the few dollars I've given him won't get him very far. Would it be okay, I ask, if I talked with my God with him? He readily agrees, immediately taking my outstretched hands in one of his own and removing his hat with his other.

We approach God then, Danny and I, in the gas station parking lot. I ask Jesus if He'll heal Danny's blinded eye and keep him safe as he continues his travels (Why does inspiration always fail me in these moments? There are never any sparks or blinding lights or flashes of insight. Only mumbled, stumbled attempts at drawing God and man into the same moment.). We say our amens and our goodbye's. I jump into the car and he staggers on his way ~ not toward the bus stop, but toward the corner pub.

Just days later I received this in an email from my friend. She said:

Last night I had dream. I was sitting on the ground, just in the dust or dirt with an (East) Indian woman. We were, together, taking one of my cleaning rags and cutting it in half. In my mind, I was cutting it in half to give a piece to a man who had lost an eye. This rag would serve as a patch to cover over the place where his eye would have been. Then I realized that the other half of the rag was for ME to do the same thing to my own eye. I was no different from the man who was poor and blind.

Here I was thinking I was "saving" him (or rescuing him or helping him) and at the same time, reminded of my own need for rescue and of my own imperfection. The rag was for both of us! There is some sort of significance in it being shared.

When I read her dream I thought of Danny. I thought of how easy it is to feel sanctimonious. Good. I love the reminder that my "eye" is as much in need of clean rags as ever his was.

The exchange of stories and gifts and prayer between ourselves and hurting strangers -- they are as much (more?) for us as they are for the ones we are reaching out to. God reaches into both lives with different lessons, kindnesses, convictions.

We need that clean rag, split off from the one we've used to serve another, to bandage our own eye: an eye that sometimes skews our vision and indulges temptation and looks for glory.

Sunday, October 5


I hadn't thought about it for ages and ages, so I'm not sure why, at that particular intersection, on that particular day, in broad daylight, it came to mind, but there it was.

My memory kicked in abruptly and took me back in time. I was coming off of a late night shift. I'd spent my evening caring for a wonderfully bright and challenging Down's Syndrome baby. The proximity of that shift to my earlier client had left me without a dinner break so I steered our mini van into the nearest Wendy's drive-through for a near-midnight supper.

Keenly aware of the extra weight that saddled my stressed muscles and bones, I was embarrassed by my fast food forays. Pounds settled on and around my taxed frame, causing pain, mobility problems, and constant humiliation. But I was hungry and alone and looking for the comfort that only a carton of fries and a tub of coke could offer.

Eating and driving requires some skill. I had a system of balancing and lodging and placing my various treats so that I could access them easily and safely and in the exact order that I always consumed them: fries in the cup holder nearest my seat, Coke in the one beside. Burger in hand. Bite of burger first, then fry, then a sip of soda.

I was shoveling food into my mouth -- fast. Shoveling and driving. Scarfing the food down without taste or awareness. Madly seeking the comfort of carbs, I pulled to a stop at a well-lit intersection, stuffing a particularly large mitt full of fries into my mouth when I felt that I was being watched.

I was being watched. A small car loaded with young, beautiful, sneering girls had hit the red light at the same time. They were watching. They were pointing. They were laughing.

A fat woman stuffing her fat face. Or some such. I couldn't hear their words or read their minds. But I think I made an accurate assessment of their thoughts and intent.

I was...what? Destroyed? Crushed? Humiliated? I was sick. Sick of myself and my killing behaviors. Sick of the pounds and the pain. Sick of being stuck and ashamed. Sick of depending on seat belts that weren't designed to support my girth. Sick of hiding. Sick of ugliness.

All of this came over me in a wash of fear and relief and uncertainty and hope while I sat at another intersection just the other day. Excess pounds have disappeared (and stayed disappeared for almost two years). I don't snarf fast food as though my life depends on it -- often -- and never at night. I don't fear the jeers or cruel glances or averted gazes of an embarrassed public so much any more.

I imagine, on some level, I have those girls to thank for that. I don't know what part that snap-shot memory played (plays?) in this journey toward health, but I'm guessing it does play a part.

We can be so quick to fuss and bother about the painful, prickly, jarring moments of our lives. It's easy to believe that God is unkind and mean of spirit. It's not a stretch to think that He's orchestrated circumstances to somehow get us to shape up or get growing -- or, much worse, to simply harm us.

God is no such God. Rather, He'll change those awkward, tearing, cruel times into something seamless, healing, and productive. He didn't put those french fries in my hand, nor did he put the sneers on the faces of those young women. But He transformed a moment of ugliness into a part of the catalyst that would move me toward healthy change.

I adore Him for that. Wildly. Deeply. Gratefully. He is such a God. You have a sorrow right now. You have a physical wrong, a mental glitch, a brutal addiction, a festering offense. Your God did not heap those things on you, but He will redeem them for you. He is good. Always. And this dark moment will, in time, become a reminder of Light. Of salvation. Of rescue. Of healing.

Set the french fries aside. Dump the burger. Look those young and so-much-to-learn women square in the eye and grab 'hold of the truth that this time is not for always! There are other intersections with other you's not so far off.

Wednesday, October 1

Dragons in the Pantry

I noticed the beginnings of the offending smell during school hours on Monday. On Tuesday Ben mentioned something that "smells like our old hamster" in the pantry. By Thursday, Jamy was taking dramatic breath-holding measures whenever circumstances required that he rally toward the offending closet.

But hours are quickly filled and schedules demanding and I did not have enough minutes in the day (and was too weary to make use of them by the night) to deal with the offensive, albeit organic, smell of rot coming from our kitchen storage.

Friday came and, busy or not, something had to be done. Heaps of recycling were disassembled and smelled and the breadmaker thoroughly examined. Canned goods and dog treat bins were sniff-tested and cracker boxes checked for peculiarities. Nothing.

And then, there it was: a slender, yellow cardboard box with beautiful Chinese figures tracing its surfaces. A gift from some of our world traveling friends, we had tasted its delicacies and left the rest for another day. "Dragon Cakes" they were called. Small, round balls of paste and flour and many mysterious something-or-others.

Dragon Cakes don't age particularly well, it turns out, and they were alerting us to that fact with an unholy scent. They found a new home in the trash, but despite my best coffee bean efforts (a trick I learned post-house fire last summer), the smell lingers still.

Almost two weeks later (This would be a good time to start formulating appropriately biting "Get your act together, Cinderella!" comments, as you'll find them useful in the next few minutes.):

It's late and I'm tired. I shuffle my way to the pantry to scavenge something that could resemble a tomorrow's-lunch for my hard working husband. A yank on the door and I am rudely, cruelly assaulted by a worse-than-dead-hamster smell. Bob catches a whiff, too, from his spot across the room.

"What on earth...? The smell is back! I thought I took care of that ages ago!" I start my search from where I left off upon the discovery of rotting Dragon Cakes. I yank, I haul, I complain, I shift things around.

There it is. Of course. A long forgotten bag of what were once potatos. They've deteriorated so thoroughly that their putrid juices are seeping through the bottom of the bag and into the wicker basket that holds them. Mush with eyes ~~ that's all that remains. I scoop them, basket and all, into the waiting garbage bag and leave the pantry to air out overnight.

Somewhere in my tale of questionable housekeeping there's a lesson on what happens when things are left to fester in us. Tiny offenses can become overwhelming problems. A thought sneaks in, too, on what happens when we are distracted by false solutions or Dragon Cake issues instead of pushing forward until we find the real source of the stench in our hearts, our minds.

I could spend some time ruminating there (I probably should if the care I take of my soul is anything like the attention I pay to my kitchen storage!) but I've just realized that in my haste to route offending vegetables I forgot to finish making Bob's lunch. Mindful meditation will have to wait for another metaphorical moment while I make up for the missing lunch with a spectacularly filling dinner. Unfortunately, we'll have to do without the potatos.