Another turn to your neighbor kind of Sunday

Service this morning was great. The message followed up on last week’s about humility and focused on the power and role of prayer for a believer. Which I myself am not the best at. Not because I do not think it is necessary, more because I go down the rabbit hole that is my mind and forget my way out of there. There was a map once but I ate it when I got stuck down there for a very long time. And I forget that there is something bigger than me that can actually do something about my hopes and concerns. Something that is the GPS. If I decide to talk about it instead of trying to read the paper map of anxiety and confusion. Confusion is the compass my papa gave me when I graduated high school. It’s intention is good but if you do not know how to use or manage it, you only get more lost.

One thing I noted from today was, “God looks at us and sees the mess. He also sees perfection” I love this because it means something completely divine and sovereign sees me, hot mess me, as satisfactory. As perfect. (Nearly, anyway.) He chose us as his best work. Not the oceans, not the mountains, not even miniature horses.

When Mable jumps the fence to chase after bicycles or random dogs in the road, I get pissed because I know the kind of trouble she could get in if she picks the wrong dog or the wrong cyclist to bark at. I refuse to let her back in, I eventually give in, feed her, bathe her, and let her sleep in the bed. Every damn time.

This is grace. And a weakness for puppy dog eyes.

Our church did not extend any mercy or grace when they made us introverts pray for a neighbor today. By neighbor I do not mean the person in the house next to mine whom I can quietly pray for without ever having to talk to. No, the neighbor we prayed with today was named Amy. She was beautiful, elegantly dressed, and sat to the right of my husband this morning.

I wish I could tell you that when we admitted, reluctantly, what we could use prayer over that she had the answer for us and we had the answer for her. But it did not work that way. At least not at this time.

However, it felt good to be sincere. To not have to lie and say, “You’re in my prayers” or “I’ll put you on my prayer list” then forget about it. It felt good to just do it out loud, no matter how awkward it was or can be. It reaffirmed how selfish saying all those things is. I tell people I will pray for them mostly for me. It is a check on a list and it makes me feel good about how I appear to others. But it isn’t honest. And when you break it down, that is what I want to be the most. Honest and sincere, so that when I do pray for others, they know it is real. More than that, that the Spirit in me is real.

If you think about it tonight in bed or tomorrow while you’re driving, Amy needs prayer over her husband’s health.

 

July 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief post on the power of sugar

Yesterday I strengthened relationships through the power of sugar. Lemon blueberry marscapone (twice), lemon blackberry cheesecake, white chocolate dark chocolate swirl (twice). Why? Because the easiest way to get me to spill my soul is by offering dessert. I assume everyone else feels the same?

The perfect dessert dates include black coffee and good conversation between bites and sips with friends. The conversations where you laugh at each other’s confessions, tear up over each others’ pasts, and speculate the validity of mild gossip.

Food truly eases any nervous tension. It makes us warm and comfortable. (Sometimes warm and uncomfortable, depending on how much we’ve had.) Enough so that we open up between deep breaths, the diaphragm rising in hesitation above a full, extended belly. Before you know it, hours have passed and your body slowly transitioned itself in to the bliss and serenity of connection, communion.

Maybe this is why Christ referred to himself at the Living Bread. He knew we humans would go for a carb metaphor.

It is why many a late night Rose, Sophia, Dorothy, and Blanche said, “I’ll get the cheesecake.”

 

If you give an artist a pencil, she’ll forget about her blog.

It was brought to my attention that I did not post yesterday after I committed to a post every day this month. I got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Yesterday I worked on a watercolor piece I started over the weekend for about four hours in the morning and after I got off. The Honeycutters  were on standby, their songs orchestrating brushstrokes. It is the first watercolor in years. Which does not seem to matter much when it comes to this particular medium because it seems every time you do it you it is like that first. You learn something new. It is not forgiving and requires patience. Like me.

Being huddled up in the “extra room” aka the junk room makes me feel like I’m thirteen again. When I could not drive and did not have too many friends yet to drive with anyway. I’d blast No Doubt really loud from the boombox and get lost in collage or oil pastel portraits. When I was older, said boombox battery pocket became a perfect hiding spot for L’s, switched out for Macy Gray or early Train. The “Meet Virginia” days, not the “Hey, Soul Sister” of lite rock nightmares.

A blow up chair positioned itself under the extra room window. It was blue and a bouncy resting spot for the friends that eventually came to chill on. Mama bought me a nice drafting table that sat across from the chair. I still had Beanie Babies on the bookshelves that lined the west wall. Their little beady eyes watch me grow as an artist. They watched the mistakes and the discoveries. They watched every time I swore over painting because I never understood it. Still don’t.

Nowadays there are two live, four legged babies with beady brown eyes that shuffle around my feet when I’m sitting at the table deep in creating. There is no blow up chair or stereo but there is a daybed and an iPhone. Proof that I am mostly an adult.

Speaking of adulting, I’m headed out for cheesecake and coffee with the girl I work out with. I’ll owe you one, a post and a coffee.

 

 

July 7

Wigs. (Another short story)

*Names and events have been changed or modified.

 

Kate and I sat across from each other outside under a makeshift shed for dining. Chicken decor surrounded us. Jersey giant. Andulusian. Brahman.

They do not make the strawberry lemonade like they used to. I think it’s artificial now, too sweet and too red. The kind of red syrup that makes kids loose their ever loving minds. As I continue diluting the sugary drink with water, Kate catches me up on some people we went to college with.

“Oh my God- did you hear Madison Mitchell has some kind of cancer now??”

“Cancer?” I ask, trying to remember who Madison Mitchell is. Kate was more popular than me in college so either I did not know this girl or I only knew her because Kate and our other friend Lena had mentioned her before.

“Yes and she’s pissed off because no one has donated to her go fund me page.”

“Does she not have insurance or a job?”

“Yes!” Kate exclaims. “She has two jobs and insurance. That’s what’s so crazy about it. She’s got the money.”

I press a little more, “Sooo what’s she being funded for?”

“Probably wigs. She’s already bought four of them! You should see her Instagram posts. There are almost enough wigs for a different one every day of the week.”

Kate never forgets twenty something year old girl melodrama. It is fun to watch while she tells it. Her eyes widen so you can see all of the white in them and her head bobbles like a dashboard figurine. I do not remember what brought us together back then- probably art history or painting with our tyrant professor McKinley-  but it feels like she has been around much longer than she has. The nights Kate, Lena, and I spent drinking and drawing were what college memories are ideally supposed to be. We laughed a lot, we critiqued a lot (art and other people), and, nearly seven years later, not much has changed.

A Short Story

*Names and events have been changed or modified.

 

“Did y’all hear that Bayleigh Trunson got married? To a GIRL!”

What!?” my aunt shrieked. “I bet that Alfelia is having a fit!”

Bayleigh and Alfelia’s family were Christians, the worst kind. The ones whose church was total cult status. The kind where everyone wore a smile that, I swear to God, twinkled with insanity, and everyone dressed modestly on Sunday, and affairs ran rampant. But no one talked about it. The kind where if you did not attend the revival then your salvation became questionable. When Mama married their uncle and son, respectively, she told stories one has to believe  to be true because they were too wild to make up.

For instance, when they went to marriage counseling, the ex eschewed any responsibility for the impending divorce by telling the counselor, a pastor, that his only goal in life was to be a gospel singer. (Which clearly means he is just like Jesus and my mom must be just like Satan. Or Potiphar.) At which point the pastor abruptly perched herself on her piano and they began to sing “Amazing Grace” while my mom said there in disbelief, humility, and tears.

“Good for her,” I said. “If there is such a thing as karma this is it for the way her family behaves. Like the time Alfelia’s grandson knocked that girl up then told the girl ‘Why don’t you just get an abortion?? You’ve already committed one sin!’ Who can blame Bayleigh for liking girls when every damn man in her life had that kind of motherly figure!”

“I just hope she married her because she truly loves this girl and not because she is escaping something else. Like her family.”

It seemed pretty extreme to me that someone presumed to be heterosexual their whole life would suddenly change teams just to prove something to their fucked up family. But I supposed it is done. We all deal with family in our own ways. Some of us take a toke quietly behind the barn at family functions while others of us sneak out without saying goodbye.

“Oh!” I remembered. “Didn’t they already have someone gay in their family?? Alfelia’s brother, right??”

“The florist in Atlanta!” My aunt exclaimed, proud that he existed and even prouder that she remembered him.

“Then maybe we are the only ones surprised by this. Not that we matter. But it’s not their first ride at the gay rodeo.”

It was a topic my family had talked about before. Faith and sexual preference. We laughed at both sides of the two topics. Ones that it seems the world, when it is not obsessed with being politically correct or getting offended, generally enjoys poking fun at. Because when you are confident with yourself, gay, straight, believer, plant worshiper, whatever, then what does making fun of yourself hurt? And when you are actually kind and considerate with someone different than you who you have a real relationship with, then they know where your heart actually is. Even behind a joke.

 

The Taste of a Ladybug

“I ate a ladybug today.”

“On purpose?” I asked Mama.

“No! I thought it was a piece of chocolate!”

“How does that happen?” I asked with a grin.

“I was eating this dark chocolate candy while I was driving and it was getting dark. I kinda noticed a piece on my shirt so I put it in my mouth. It was a ladybug. It tasted really bitter, like a pill. I spit it out.” I imagine her spitting it out comically, like Elmer Fudd hung up on a word beginning with the letter s.

We both have this habit of secret snacking. Her, ladybugs; me, dark chocolate morsels. I could see how the two could be similar in the dark.

I went through a ladybug phase when I was a kid. Some girls go through horse phases or everything purple phases. Mine was ladybugs and Gone With the Wind. Our animals were named Tara and Beau and Scarlet and in my bedroom were fancy plates decorated with Rhett and Scarlett that read, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

My dad got in the habit of calling me ladybug. Every other weekend when I would visit he would let me pick out something from Maxway or Family Dollar. You know, to show me he loved me. (Maybe this is why gifts is not my love language.) Usually a crappy figurine of a frog or ladybug. Once I found the perfect pair of ladybug earrings, a tad bit bigger than the size of a flea. I thought of those when Mama told me of her snack.

My Aunt Julie got a tattoo of a ladybug on the back of her neck when I was a kid. I remember it being a big deal. Not because she was the first to get a tattoo, my uncle who worked on Harley Davidson’s was covered in them, but because it was the first person I saw almost every day who had a permanent insect colored on a visible, obvious body part that could only be hidden when her hair laid just the right way. My eyes did not meet hers for about a year after that, as all I wanted to do was look at that bug on this lady I was related to.

Paradise Found

It is Sunday. An all or nothing day. Either July sweat or the cool AC. Either inside napping or outside exploring.

The lot across the road from the front of our house would be an ideal shady spot for a home except for the giant electric pole that stands with authority in the center of it. Otherwise it is beautifully surrounded by a fence of flora and direct sunlight at six o’clock.

Behind the lot is an abandoned baseball field. Last year it got mowed- mower unknown- and turned in to the shoddy practice field from The Sandlot. Though no one ever played ball there.

Today we went back there to find the field of hope had completely grown. Our dogs once pounded the ground of the old field but today they yipped and jumped like antelopes over the tall grass. Cedar, who does not like to jump or yip, mostly made paths by rolling like a barrel every few steps.

The grass itched ours legs and the dew wet our toes as we waded through it. We walked until we got to the back of the lot where a crowd of trees gathered making the distance indiscernible. Two sets of stairs led down to another ruined field and a path. We followed the path in to the woods. Noise quieted and the air chilled. Broken glass and flattened Coors Lite cans littered the forest. I felt like I was at home.

Cows layin’ down, rain’ll hit the ground

I grew up with this expression as a definite indicator, not a suggestion, of when we could expect rain. If cows are lying down or if there is a ring around the moon the night before. It is this kind of Southern folklore that has left me confused about what to wear for the weather ever since I moved away from the pines.

Because there are no cows on my street (there are two pigs and a rooster and a tree with a face carved in it but I do not know any other metaphors for how they relate to impending torrents or drought). And because most of the time you cannot see the moon from our fenced in lot. We don’t go outside too much at night here.

One thing I have learned to count on is that when I cut the grass, it will rain that night. The rain will sprinkle the confetti of chopped grass I throw on the bare spots so that it lies flush onto the ground in hopes that something green will grow from the bits and pieces. I appreciate this.

The bare spots on my soul need sprinkling sometimes as well. The spots that are selfish and judgmental. The ones I refuse to garden because I would rather preserve them as safekeeping for imperfect memories. The good and the bad, as obvious as a black and white film. Memories I love even though they are the very origin of the bareness. Because if planting new soil on them means forgetting, I’d rather a plot be bald.

Those spots that need pruning or fertilizing stay settled on my soul until I am ready to drizzle that Holy water over them. This baptism leads to forgiveness (of self and others) and acceptance (of self and others). It also leads to kindness (to self and others). When something new takes root, slowly but intentionally burying itself in the necessity of my heart, then I will know it is tetelestai: It is finished.

I read somewhere that you can think you are in love with something or someone from your past but it might really just be the memory that you are in love with. Memories are always remembered better, with more tenderness and perfection, than reality. So whatever you remember is probably far stretched from the truth. It is probably a cross between what really happened and the made for tv version of what should have happened. God rolls His eyes at this.

Imagine His joy when he allows us to fully live in the blessing of His gift of experience (it is a gift- we are not vegetables!) If we are living like God, full of love and patience for one another, then every day is cast within the light of truth. Memories are unscathed from regret. Remorse over the past does not keep us up at night. Holiness is a fine pillow. God cartwheels over this.

 

 

 

July 1

 

 

Iron Sharpens Iron

Today I ate Grandpa’s Fried Breakfast at Cracker Barrel, took Cedar to the emergency vet (he is okay, just a deep gash on his leg), and finished a drawing while starting a watercolor. Pouring rain and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s newest album, Nashville Sound, has been the background noise for this afternoon’s creative outburst.

Can we just take a minute to appreciate the lyrics to the song Something to Love, which I have played on repeat for the last forty five minutes?

I hope you find something to love
Something to do when you feel like giving up
A song to sing or a tale to tell
Something to love, it’ll serve you well

I was born in a tiny southern town
I grew up with all my family around
We made music on the porch on Sunday nights
Old man with an old guitar smoking Winston Lights

Old women harmonizing with the wind
Singing softly to the savior like a friend
They taught me how to make the chords and sing the words
I’m still singing like that great speckled bird

I hope you find something to love
Something to do when you feel like giving up
A song to sing or a tale to tell
Something to love, it’ll serve you well

Tonight we’re lying on a blanket in the yard
The wind is cold the sky is dark and the ground is hard
But your momma loves to count the stars at night
So if I get a little chill that’s alright

I hope you find something to love
Something to do when you feel like giving up
A song to sing or a tale to tell
Something to love, it’ll serve you well

You were born on a hot late summer day
We turned you loose and tried to stay out of your way
Don’t quite recognize the world you call home
Just find what makes you happy girl and do it ’til you’re gone

 

Hot. Damn.

I think that is it. That is enough. May it serve you as well as it has for me today.

Nests.

I think I may go home in a week or two. That is, my mother’s home. It is about that time. Home is the necessary reset button. It is the nest, the womb, and the blanket you carried as a child.

 

We have a bird’s nest in the fake lilies outside of the front door that hang desperately hoping one will notice the attempt at beauty rather than the dust. Or the nest.

When I first noticed the nest, I shifted the bottom of the decor just to make sure nothing was in there. As I was stood on a chair and carefully moved it, Mama Bird came flying toward my head. I shrieked, jumped off the chair, and stumbled as my dogs laughed. Before I said a power word at her, I noticed her three little egg babes deep in the nest.

Every day, more wisely than the first attempt, I stand on the chair about three feet from the nest and look Mama Bird square in the eyes (with distance…in space and gaze). I want to hold her in my hand, as she is a quaint and plump little mama. Like Merryweather, the blue fairy from Sleeping Beauty. Any day now I expect her to change my outfit from pink to blue. Or at least my eyes.

Does everyone long for and protect the nest? I certainly protect the memory of my first nest while believing in my new nest. That it can even become one. But it is difficult.

Maybe it is because we are all ethereal, made of dust and experience and the good dark chocolate. Similar to chalk or jellyfish. I can’t help but think the restless longing for home will always exist. Even when we are here, it is not enough. Like John Mellencamp sang, Hey Jesus, can you give me a ride back home? I’ve been out here in this world too long on my own. I won’t bother you no more if you can just get me in the door. Hey Jesus, can you give me a ride back home?

Unlike John Cougar, I plan on continuing to bother Jesus about my fascination and desperation for it. I want Him to know I am committed to home. To mine, to my mama’s, and to His. You need someone to fluff the pillows and redecorate the guest bathroom in Heaven? I’m your girl.

I also blame Him, in some part, for the constant whirling in my head of: When can I go see Mama and Meme’? Let me look for a house on Zillow for two hours. Am I lying on the couch? I better get some laundry going. It is never quiet in this attic.

You see, being still is not in my skill set. Ability to memorize someone’s drink order from two months ago and who Ryan Reynold’s first wife was? Yep, I got that. But quiet? Meditative? Nope.

And I hate when God calls me out on it. (I think it was part of a secret intention when He matched me with my husband, who is a little too good at being still and doing nothing.)

This morning, after coffee and reading and bird snooping, I accidentally confessed something to God about my control issue. Although it came as no surprise to Him-in fact, I am sure he fist bumped an angel or one of my grandparents after I said it. During a prayer for Mondays, for coworkers, for patience toward unsweet tea drinkers, I caught myself admit aloud: God, I need You more than I need a plan.

I plan on going home one day. I plan on living in a different place one day. I cannot control how the plan will go; I may build my nest from wood or I may build my nest from gold.