The Christian Woman.

Sitting in the blue Lumina under the huge oak tree whose branches swing right above the brick Zoar United Methodist Church sign, I am about eleven and I’m waiting on my mother.  She is talking in a small hen circle to some church ladies wearing pastels and she’s been there for about twenty minutes.  Never a person whose character is known for patience, I am debating on laying down the horn but I do not want to embarrass her and I do not want her to tell me how embarrassed she is once she gets in the car. But clearly this must be intentional.  She knows I am in here.

I think about the few Sundays she forgot to come pick me up after kid’s Sunday School. I think about how I sat on the second to last step, feet scribbling in the dirt telling Mrs. Donna Kay, whose daughter was about my age and whose mother never forgot to pick her up, “No, I’m fine you don’t have to take me home. She will come get me.”

I could have walked home, it was probably about a mile. It was a trail we often rode the four wheeler down so I was familiar with it. A dirt road connected home and the church and it ran right behind my Uncle Robert’s house. If I was lucky enough, maybe his horses would be on the back field and I could see them on the way home.

I was harboring some resentment toward my grandparents who’d never gotten more horses after theirs died.  The only one they had left was Rusty, a thirty year old, brown gelding with a back as swayed as a canyon. I loved Rusty but he wasn’t wild and he always had flies near his eyes.  Not like Uncle Robert’s horses, who were healthy and brushed.

I never walk home but sometimes I do beep the horn.  Because I am a little brat. Because I do not understand what this church and these people mean to my mother as a woman and as someone who always does the right thing. As someone who wants to better herself and her daughter because she wants me to cherish the things of childhood that she herself still cherishes.

To me, it is another thing I am made to do. To sit through and think about when and how I am going to get out of being little enough to go down to kid’s sermon or have to stay for Sunday School, which I do not like to because my mother often forgets about me and a part of me has trust issues with Mrs. Valerie, the Sunday School teacher.

Mrs. Valerie had insulted my mother.  Being that I am a Southerner and a true to life “mama’s girl”, to this day I find it hard to bestow the grace Preacher told us Jesus gave everyone to anyone who insults my mama.

Her closet was never full, like she made sure mine always was, and most of her good clothes had been purchased on layaway.  But on Sundays at Zoar United Methodist, my mother was the most beautiful woman in church.  On any days, anywhere, she is still the most beautiful woman.

My mother has always worn slips under her dresses and I have too because, well I guess you tend to do the same things your parents did. One day in the parking lot, under that massive oak tree behind the church sign, Mrs. Valerie pointed at my mother’s dress in a crowd of Christian women, laughed at her like a snotty school girl and said , “I can see your slip!”

I guess Mrs. Valerie did not come from the kind of women we do; ones who wear slips under their dresses and do not embarrass mothers doing the best they can only to make ourselves feel more secure.

 

 

When we first started going back full time to church, my mother slowly made relationships with the people there. I cannot speak for how she felt during those years because I have never asked her what made her go back.

Now that I am an adult whose spirit instinctively seeks deep communion with others and who realizes that when we are older we get to pick and choose our friends, I bet she was looking for herself.  And the people who knew her when she was a young girl helped bring her back to life and confirm the woman she became.

Maybe she went back to church so she could have a little peace from her daughter for about thirty minutes after the service. Sometimes longer, if she needed it.

 

 

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Writing and Loss.

They really do not exist. Because people live forever. Immortalized in photographs, Facebook pages, and old voicemails. It’s a wonder anyone can let go.

I’ve recently thumbed through my old diaries from childhood to now. I laughed until I cried at young me, in love with every boy in town and fearlessly certain about becoming a writer one day.

I came across a scrap of paper with words I’d jotted down from my Papa while he was dying. “We’ve always been special friends, me and you. I feel like I’ve been more of a father to you. Take care of our folks, they don’t have all the good sense you do.”  That man, full of brutal honestly and silliness, who stopped speaking toward the end, only tightening his mouth to breathe in the last of this world. His family around him hand in hand.

There were letters from my dad when he was in Iraq. Boy, did I see myself in his writing! I’d forgotten his humor. I’d forgotten how eloquent he could be. I’d forgotten how he annoyed me with book recommendations, mostly Stephen King. One he sent with the inscription, “The girl in the book reminded me of you, thought you’d like.” I never liked them but they did offer conversations about books and writers and style.

Each letter ended with his tagline, “Love you- miss you- kiss you! -Daddy”

Love letters from my high school/college love fill my box of feel goods. Letters, cards, and gifts from people I have loved to give my ego a boost when I’m feeling least loved or desirable.

I’m going to marry you. I can’t wait to see you this weekend. I am proud of you.

These affirmations have kept me going for some time. Though the relationships have changed, morphed into something different or gone altogether, the words are parietal art on the walls of my heart.

Looking introspectively at how the need to write has always existed, forces me to also see the link between the male figure and loss. It feels like a slow, painful walk that is begging me to take it.

 

 

 

I’ve got love like an ocean.

“I think if I didn’t have Jesus I’d be a slut. An unmarried one, of course. ” I recently confessed to a friend.

“I could see that about you, you’d be in love with people and I think I’d be in love with things, like drugs and alcohol.”

“It’s true”, I agreed.  I’m in love with everybody.

 

The up and down ritual was instinctive. The words of the creed siphoned from my gums into the air free and dry.  Sundays were easy; ritual is human nature.  Open the doors and see all the people.

Sixteen year old me sat there, placating my mother by not falling asleep and keeping my heels on, feeling a chill up my spine every time I thought about last night’s camp out.

Where I come from, a camp out is when you tell your mama you’re staying the night at your friend’s house while your friend told her mom the same thing then you’d go out with whichever boy was the flavor of the month at the time.  You’d plan to go home first thing in the morning and when your mom asked why you were home so early you’d say your friend had gotten sick or had to get up early for a tennis match out of town.  You’d hope she wouldn’t notice the woman you had turned in to overnight. Or the hickeys on your neck.

Church service the next morning was always a strange and pleasurable retrospective dichotomy of should have feelings about guilt over being such a sneaky little thot and reveling in circumspect love and teenage passion.  (The be all end of all of life as you know it.)  Strange because one ear held a vial with liquid memories to keep forever about what that boy told you and did to you last night.  Sentences that fiercely and protectively cradled words like “only” and “forever”.  The sacred feeling of fingerprints not yet washed off of your body marked you as belonging to someone.

The vial stopped time and senses in that back pew.  It blocked the story and description of love from an all-watching, all-knowing God who offers a greater, different kind of love.  He’s got a whole lot of love to give.  But, then again, like Robert Plant sang, that boy was gonna give you every inch of his love too.

It is not shameful, not even in a daydream during service.  A distraction, of course.  But also love, of course.

Today, I sat on a hard back pew facing a navy blue and faded maroon book for the first time in a long time.  Having gotten used to a gray, cushioned row, the tangible feeling of cold wood shocked my butt and heart into the past.  A place I feel we are all recovering from. A place where we are looking for healing in the bruises that have finally turned yellow and are beginning to blend in with your skin.  Where we rolled on the grass and got dirty and felt free when we were young.

It is rare to think about those years ago on Sunday mornings now.  (Unless I’m in a coffee shop blogging about them after Sunday lunch.)  Eventually you learn how to shake out the water and sound and began listening.

However, it is a human requirement to look at the past through clean glass and wipe off the dirt to see how necessary recovery is. The freedom, the forgiveness, the people, and the appreciation of every single thing.  Although I still wince thinking about that one drunken night where I sang “A Case of You” to him and swayed with the grill in the backyard to keep me vertical, it was youth encapsulated.  A couple years later when my heart broke? Time of my life.

Sunday morning services are good for these sort of reflections.  They wear you out like a shopping trip with women or an hour in the gym. When it is over, your cup is full.  An ocean into a shot glass.

 

 

 

You’re in it.

It’s true that when the year ends, each of us must decide the label to tag it. “Goodbye 2017, you were the best so far”, or, “thanks for everything, 2017”, or, my favorite from yesterday, “2017, you’ve got one hour and twenty six minutes left to fuck me over one last time”.

We feel the need to define our year ending so that we can voice it and cast it out. Out into the world’s cubbies where dreams, and small talk, and drunken conversations live. Where they hide to be forgotten. To cherish. Or to not think about anymore.

This proves how we as humans all seek fresh starts. Praise God for a month one after the month twelve. Praise God that we only have to experience Mondays once a week. And some weeks during the holidays, not at all.

The concept of boundaries has been embedded into my thoughts as of late. Time bound into seven days, twelve months, a year. Oceans bound by land to protect us. And yet, we are willing to get close enough to the shoreline that we even get in the water.

Faith or morality or whatever belief system you choose, has some kind of boundary which you live by in order to protect yourself. It’s design is to give us the best, richest life free from the obvious dangers and threats.Like the sand sponges the salty water before it has a chance to drench us.

And yet, boundaries can also cause us great pain. They can become dry wall when you desperately seek even just a peephole. Chicken wire. A broken board.

My hope for another year is wisdom and bravery. I read a quote recently that said choosing to live when I wanted to die is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Brave. A common word for a tween loving plaque from Hobby Lobby. But what is daily bravery?

Survival? Happiness? Staying within those boundaries you’ve made for yourself? Making a dream come true?

Let’s anticipate what this year’s ocean of salty seconds and minutes has to say about it.

Winter’s Ear

Thinking a hot cloth may help the pain, I tilt my head to the right. The tucked towel folds loosely into my clavicle while I press the other end to my ear.

The sharp sting inside of it starts up usually by the end of September every year.  The first cool shift in the trees that the elements thought no one saw, I feel immediately.  The wind funnels itself straight into my ear like dough shaping a pretzel a state fair.

Tempted to put a cotton ball in it, I’m reminded of when the trouble first started and how much fun Chris Shealy had sitting behind me in ninth grade whispering in to the damn thing to see if I really couldn’t hear out of it.  He always used my good ear when he wanted help writing his paper on To Kill a Mockingbird.

Mama had taken me to Columbia to see an ENT doctor. (Perfecting saying otolaryngologist had taken me the whole hour’s trip.)  A beautiful Asian lady shined a light inside my head as I described the pain.

It feels like something shifted in the atmosphere and now the inside of my ear is bleeding. Or maybe like a ghost stuck a q-tip all the way in.

The doctor confirmed a small hole inside my eardrum.  Big as a pinprick. Although it felt like more like a crater.  We scheduled a date for surgery.

Mama, being the medic, bustled around worriedly for weeks leading up to the surgery.  Ali, being the child she was and child I still am in that I handle these sorts of things the same way, wasn’t concerned. I’ll just be asleep the whole time, right? Why worry.

At the center, I shimmied out of my day clothes and duct taped together the blue gown. Always blue, always thin as a paper towel. Why I need wear this when they would only being working above my neck didn’t make sense to me. Maybe they, too, knew I’d come from a trailer and wanted to sterilize me.

An anesthesiologist administered my first conscious black out while Mama stood on one side of me and Beautiful Asian Doctor stood on the other.

As I faded I heard doc say, “Oh my God. I’ve never seen this happen before.” Pillow batting began to weigh my eyelids.

“I can’t find the hole. The hole is gone!” One of my eyebrows raised in curiosity as if I were on my death bed but remembered one more thing I had to tell my spouse before I let go in to the aseptic beyond.

“It looks like scar tissue has covered it- she won’t be needing the surgery!” Beautiful Asian Doctor conducted a heavenly host of nurses to gather around singing Christmas hallelujahs while my mother wept.  I gave a stoned little smile and the next thing I remember was waking up alone in the backseat of Mama’s car at the Columbiana Shopping Center where she’d left me to go use her Kohl’s cash before it expired.

 

Where are you.

It is Halloween night. All the lights at our house are off so as to keep the trick-or-treaters who aren’t out getting good Christian candy in church parking lots away.  As if the dogs and the fence are not enough.

My phone lights up letting me know that it is eight thirty. I’ve almost finished a share size bag of M&M’s and half a bottle of Winking Owl- Aldi’s best cabernet. I pick at the flecks of pink label on the bottle. The logo is an owl made to appear more serious and debonair than any one item from Aldi could ever hope to be. I empathize with it’s attempts to be better.

It is warm on the couch, with a dog curled up beside me and another one underneath me. Even their affections cannot stop the hot and wet tear that begins to run down my cheekbone.

You see, this is why I do not enjoy drinking. The liquid uninhibitor prompts a fight within. Everything pushed behind the curtains is suddenly brought center stage. But I must be thankful for it; Some of my greatest conversations with the Almighty are prompted by booze.  In this case, sponsored by Aldi.

I yell at Him. I tell Him how exhausted I am. I reveal the truth: sometimes I think it would be easier to go Home than to allow Him to leave me here one more day. But who am I to allow Him to do anything.

God does not just take this from me. He fights back. I’ve always appreciated that He is no wimp. In my anger we go back and forth, round for round, spirit to spirit. I yell at Him that I am afraid, He tells me not to be. O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!

I tell Him how hard it is for me to trust Him but that I am anxious to do so. Let thy grace now like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. 

I plead with Him to make things better- He reminds me that His promises do not happen overnight. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.

He reminds me of our relationship: Father and Child. He will take care of me, even in my rebellion. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.  Seal it for thy courts above.

I vent and sob silently, eager for Him to say, “Ali- here is the road, start walking down it and all the answers will be there.”  In a gift basket with chocolate and gift cards to Target. He never says this.  But He does remind me that salvation is a dialogue.  Not a one time, one liner. A fountain that allows a continuous drink.

I vent and sob silently for the lost sheep that I have become in these last few months. Maybe in these last few years. Yet, this feeling is not new. Where have I been? I consider that the Lord might be wondering the same thing. Where do you go, my darling? 

Anxiety paralyzes the mind. We search for a prosthetic to maneuver around it.  Sometimes that is in the form of a pill. Or an inspirational tattoo. Or a prayer.

When we know we cannot move, eventually we stop trying. The things we enjoy become a burden. We either care too much or too little. We sleep too much or too little, as well.  Sometimes we lose friends and give up on dreams. Or blogs.

This is where I have been. This is where I go when I go away.

There is looting in my head. Windows broken and shattered, day and night beaming through every moment. The only distinction being the fear of the day and the anticipation of night’s darkness.  The darkness provides a brief respite, a hiding place.  Where I can sleep and pray the enemy will keep his lies out of my dreams.

I look for hope in the stars, the most magical light that God uses to pierce darkness.  I yell at God and know that He is proud of me for speaking to him unrestrained. He appreciates my honesty because, we both know, it is what keeps our relationship real. If I lose that He is actual– then I lose every inkling of hope. A life cloaked by darkness. And I for one, love the stars.

So keep walking, little sheep because right now, you are still here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s

An streak of boldness

What can I say? I’ve neglected posting daily due to adventure and experiment.

I’m in the middle of revisiting my old, finicky friend, watercolor. It is a temperamental friend that requires time and patience. This is frustrating when you’ve given yourself a sort of timeline in which to make a portfolio to be proud of. Watercolor has no agenda, it does what it wants when it wants. You simply follow it’s lead.

In addition to spending a couple hours a day on art, I’ve used the weekends to have adventures. On Saturday, some work friends and I kayaked the French Broad River in Asheville. The sunburn and the sore peddling arms were worth the deepened bond with these friends. We laughed, we prayed, some of us cried, and we had communion in the back of the car with turkey sandwiches, fruit, and Michelob Ultra.

I often think negativity in relationships can be cured with a little fun, honesty, and bonding experience. In the role I’ve currently been given, I strive to bring positivity and and encouragement to those I work with. We do not have a hard job. The biggest problem is hard hearted people.

What do you do when you cannot change these people? You assess that their behavior does not stem from a personal vendetta against you; it stems from insecurity and jealously. And if you can’t get on the side of friendship with someone like that, you’ll never do anything right in their eyes. A lot of the times one’s reputation can be chalked up to what Anne Lamott said best, “Maybe you should have behaved better.”

That said, we gotta keep loving them through whatever it is. God is most pleased when we are aware of how awful someone is and yet we still make the effort to smile and try to get a laugh out of them. I think He shows us His favor through this. He has to put up with them and us, after all.

 

confession

The added weights at gym class last night coupled with running the connector walkway has exhausted me today. And tomorrow, adventure awaits. In truth, I will probably fall asleep between the time it takes to finish this sentence and begin the first episode of Boardwalk Empire.

Hope and, then, a reminder

It is almost ten at night but it feels much later. Maybe because there is more on my mind to think about in the hours between six thirty a.m. and now.

I am in a tough situation. You see, I cannot give you the details but I can tell you that it involves family and it is messy.

I’ve spent time in the Word trying to find an example of what I’m going through. I was hoping for a quick and easy parable where God points His finger down in the pages and says “HERE IS YOUR ANSWER- FOLLOW WHAT I TOLD THAT PERSON TO DO”. Even though we are not so different from the people in those stories, it does not always work that way.

I know now that I have to put the work in on this one. I have to spend more time reading and more time talking it out. Correction: less time talking it out to anyone I know and more time talking to the Lord about it. That said, I need to spend more time being quiet and listening.

The answer is there. I may not see it tonight, or next week, or even next year. It is a true test of patience and trust. When I do not know what to do I usually determine a response with: do the right thing.

Do what is honest. Do what is loving. Do that which does not hurt you or offend others.

Sometimes you can know all of those things and even do those things but when the final verdict is not up to you, how do you still go on when life truly seems unfair?

If this happens to me, I plan on doing just that: keeping on. Knowing that on this side of Heaven, nothing will be perfect. Sin gave us that. I plan to keep on and rest at night not feeling bitter or mistreated or angry.

Remind me of this post when that time comes.

Girly things

One thing about trying to post every day is that some days…I do not have too much to say.

To be frank, I’m more invested in the other three tabs I have pulled up. Pinterest “Clothing Wants” board. Lulu’s. Anthropologie.

Maybe it is the fear of one day waking up to the realization that I could be a hoarder that inspires me to be the exact opposite. To be a compulsive purger.

When you live in a house the size of mine, it is not such a bad quality. In fact, as much as I love to purge, I also love to organize. There are many secret hiding places in our home where one would be surprised to find winter coats, dvd’s, acrylic paint, and light bulbs. You gotta get creative if you need to keep things.

My husband tells me the only thing I really hoard is bed linens. This is true. I use the dogs as my excuse. “Oh, but they always get the ones we have so dirty!” In my defense, he buys green onions every time he goes to the grocery store. Every.damn.time. His reasoning for why we have three bags of oozing green onions in our refrigerator drawers? It is a nice, visual finishing touch to a meal. I reckon.

Despite what husbands may argue, Pinterest is a safe place. It allows you to create a dream home or dream closet without ever actually investing money in those things. (Unless you unlock the door to the Visit website feature.) Would I ever spend $132 on a blouse in real life? NEVER! Would I pin it as a clothing want? Of course.

The best description I’ve heard is: Pinterest is when your wife stares at her phone for eight hours and then you eat salad out of a mason jar. I’ll quietly raise my hand that yes, I’ve done this.

Is there harm in lusting after expensive clothes or brand names? If you took a look in my closet you’d have to say no. Because desiring those things has not led me in to any sort of credit card debt or therapy for the overspending (I think we’d call this couple’s therapy).

Gifts is not my love language. It is my husband’s. We had a difficult time figuring this out when we first got married. He could not understand why I didn’t worship the ground he walked on when he bought me something and I could not figure out why he didn’t act like he loved constant affection.  We are still working on this.

I’m not a gift kind of girl. That said, I am a girl. A girl who likes to wear beautiful, fun things. So if you happen to meet my husband, please let him know about the “Essential Jumpsuit” from Lulu’s that I’ve kindly bookmarked on my laptop. Feeling good and looking good is essential, after all.

 

July 18