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 I got my heart broken? 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.

 

 

 

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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

Places in Time or Yes, I know I owe you two

I have recently spent a fair amount of time in the town where I went to college. It will forever be a “college town” in my mind because of this. A place where on Thursday nights we felt we owned the town and where sometimes when we went out to our favorite bar we’d come home with a shot glass and no bill from the night before.

College Town is also a nice little community of artists and musicians. The down town area has blossomed in to something beautiful and hip. Topiaries and brick buildings with green awnings beautify the Main Street which was, many, many years ago, known as “the longest main street in America”.

When I lived in this place, I hated it. I found it and the people to be pretentious. I found fault in every little thing and even though I was in the art scene, I hated dealing with everything and everybody in it. I thought it was because they treated me differently. I thought it was because things were handled unfairly. It was not until much later someone told me, about something unrelated, “Why are you so worried about those people’s opinion of you? I guarantee you they are not thinking about you. In fact, people are probably thinking of you far less than you believe they are.” This punched my insecurity and self obsession and vanity in the face.

This morning I went to College Town and grabbed a coffee before my runnings around. The barista was a guy who used to play music at the bar I worked at back then. I mostly remembered him as the guy my friend Catherine and I had a crush on, even though he is a short fellow. A short fellow with a beautiful, soulful singing voice and eyes the color of Werther’s Originals.

He represented the kind of person I thought of when I thought of this place. He didn’t get to know me, he was quiet which came across as judgmental, and he was someone I wanted to get to know me but knew it would never happen. Today I realized that one, I didn’t get to know him either; two, he stays stoned a lot which explains the reserved demeanor, and; three, if I had not been so hostile or hung up in myself and my melodrama, we could have been friends. Maybe more. Or maybe not. We will never know.

I’m not going to regret the time in College Town because it truly was one of the best experiences of my life. But I do see how insecurity plagued me there and other places in my life. And how I do not want it to trickle into the new life I have here.

Age really has nothing to do with a secure self. It mostly has to do with the wisdom that comes from the actions we took or didn’t take. It’s not regret, it’s not remorse. It’s not hating yourself for what you did or didn’t do. It is the good and the bad. It is hope in the darkness of your future and a flashlight casting a glow in the tunnel of your past. Like Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

 

July 17

A Family Gathering, Part Two

Aunt Donna finally showed face, right on time so that while everyone was hugging and saying the how you beens, she snuck ice in the freezer and the coleslaw from Red & White on the two long tables of food that awaited the hungry crowd.

By this point Aunt Susan had gone in to full blown, tight lipped dogging on anyone who sided with Aunt Donna’s case of the unassuming, mystery half quart of pasta salad. There really was not a side to take. But she was the kind of person who you’d rather be on her good side than her bad.

“You need to just move on from this- look, we are here. We have ice. We have unexplainable pasta salad, and it’s time to eat.” I said, hoping to sway her back to the sane, calm side. Mom said I lived in that world, that I was a good mediator in that way. Calm in the face of crisis. Able to see both sides of the story.

“That might all be true but it doesn’t explained the fact that she hung up on me. Why can’t people just do what they are told?? How many times did I…”

At that I left her trailing off to go say hello to the great aunts and uncles and to smell the heads of all my cousin’s babies. All the while sneaking my way up the front of room near the buffet line.

Mom, dressed in a clean, pressed white blouse and floral pink and green shorts with cute, lace-up sandals, was making the rounds as well. We both like to float a room, listening to interesting stories in just the right amount of time so as not to get bored or become boring. We always find each other’s eyes during the prayer though.

Big Mama prays the same way every time. She does not waver from what is familiar and safe. Once, she slipped up and couldn’t remember what goes after, “…we thank you for your love, your mercy, and your grace.” Mom and I held our breath, hoping someone would collapse in a diabetic emergency just so Big Mama could get out of the awkwardness.

The sitting arrangement is always the toughest choice of a family gathering. Because I want to get things going, I jump in line earlier. I do not empathize nor understand the folks who linger around like they don’t know getting in line to make a plate is why we are here. As if we don’t do this year after year. Being one of the first to prepare their plate means deciding which end of either two long tables to sit at.

Each table sits about twenty people. It is smart to sit in the middle so no one has to squish in. But sitting at the middle with no one else around means you are the first target someone else looks for to sit with.

This is okay most of the time, as our family tends to have quirks and freaks but none who are absolutely dreadful or threatening. The worst one is a second cousin who mostly talks about himself and how great his life, his wife, and his children are. We all know he is full of shit. But we raise our eyebrows and exclaim, “Oh, wow!” anyway when we hear they are traveling the East Coast in an RV for the summer. We are kind because we know he lacks those things that money and bragging rights cannot buy.

Such as joy, honest soul bearing connection, fluidity in the dynamic only families can create, and deep, dinner table laughs with macaroni casserole hot on your plate and red velvet cake waiting on the counter. The same visceral sort of things that also cause you to call each other dumbasses on Holy days wearing beautiful pastel outfits.