Tuesday, July 26, 2011

love in a heat wave

If I let my husband drive the car that has air conditioning and have not love, I am just a honking horn. If I keep the house at 78 and keep all the household appliances off and have not love, I am an environmentally conscious nothing. If I blow my emergency menopause fan onto the woman beside me in line and have not love, I am only a nuisance.

Love is patient in hot weather, love is kind to other people who lose their victory. Love does not envy those at the pool, does not boast of its own time at the beach, is not proud of a tan. Love does not try to get the best place in the shade. It is not rude to plodding service people, it is not easily angered by the traffic slow downs. Love does not give the finger to the driver who cuts in after speeding past in the blocked lane. Love always honors the humanity of others, always trusts that they are just not at their best, always hopes there is ice cream in the freezer at home and always hangs on til the sun goes down.

Love never fails. Even in 100 degree weather. Give that a thought.

Monday, July 18, 2011

the spider and the wasp

The wasp is shiny black and fearfully big just inches from my face outside the kitchen window. Suddenly it connects with a few strands of spider web and seems confused that it can't just fly off.

The spider is gray and small, a quarter the size of the wasp, but fast. She speeds from her hiding place and leaps onto the head of the wasp, sinking her fangs into its head.
The wasp shivers violently and whips its stinger back and strikes the spider. In the spasms of the life and death struggle the wasp dislodges from its thready trap and leaps into the air, the spider still fiercely biting its head.

The wasp stings the spider over and over and the two of them bang against the window as the wasp uses its wings to try and escape what has now become part of itself.

Then in a burst of wild energy the wasp careens out of my view, spider and all, both striking and fighting with brutal aggressiveness. The web vibrates like a violin string and goes silent.

"If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:15

Somewhere there is a dead wasp in my garden, with a dead spider on top of it. All this is outside my periphery of vision, but I am as certain of the outcome as if I witnessed the end. The two have become one venomous interchange.

I stand by my window and think of how many times I have seen this enacted in life. Spouses stinging spouses. Coworkers biting and devouring coworkers. We watch it on TV - hateful destruction whose end is just beyond our vision. And our government is in the very act of this interplay right now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

bride of Frankenstein

I had ten minutes on the porch this morning, sitting in a rocking chair and enjoying the cool air. I smiled as Steve came out and joined me. He sat down with his coffee, and I noticed the inch long stitched wound on his forehead.

It suddenly occurred to me that I am now the "bride of Frankenstein."

Interesting what places our lives take us. For better or worse might mean we live in a palace, or it might mean we live making visits to a hospital. I have fared very well in the ups and downs of life. I will do all possible to be the best bride of Frankenstein I can be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

what my daughter wants

5 years ago I asked my daughter what she wants. I found her response today, going through old piles of stuff.

- i want my daughters to grow up to be fabulous women with lives full of people who love them, who love God and have a strong sense of their own worth and beauty.
- i want to be a good mom, who leaves them with memories they can hold onto rather than ones they have to 'deal with'
- i want to be able to sit on the porch with my girls when they are grown and talk about life, to have grown into friendship with them like my mom and i have
- i want to look back over my lifetime and be able to say i said yes to God, and did whatever he asked of me - that i used my gifts well. I want a "well done, good and faithful servant"
- i want a lasting marriage that doesn't just hold out til the end for the sake of blind commitment, but rather one that continues to grow in love and intimacy and respect. i want to learn to love curtis better. i want to feel like the center of someone's universe
- i want big lillies that aren't eaten by rabbits
- i want regular time to hang in my hammock and sleep
- i want to be a better human in the mornings
- i want to always live where it is warm, and there are living things to get lost in (i stood out in the street last night at dusk while 4 or 5 bats swooped and dove not 10 feet above my head)
- i want to write a book that people read and think is fantastic!
- i want to grow old and beautiful - the kind of woman you want to sit beside and talk to because she is so wise and funny - i want to be the kind of person peter and john were "unschooled, ordinary men, and (others) took note that these men had been with Jesus." i want that kind of tone in my life, too.
- i want to find a way to live that gives more life than it consumes
- i want to always have parties that people look forward to coming to, because they know they are going to laugh hard and have a great time
- i want always have cute shoes and style
- i want to live so that the people i love always know i love them
- i think that's it...

What I like about this list is how it moves through all the arenas of a real life - it isn't a pious list of dis-embodied hopes nor is it a greedy list of lusty wants. We are all like this in some way - what we want ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous and that is the beauty of being human.

thoughts on self

"A strong community helps people develop a sense of true self, for only in community can the self exercise and fulfill its nature: giving and taking, listening and speaking, being and doing. But when community unravels and we lose touch with one another, the self atrophies and we lose touch with ourselves as well." Parker Palmer

We are confused about self. Is self good or bad? Should we take care of self? Should we 'die to self?' Does a strong self mean that a person is self-ish? Why do so many people have trouble being comfortable with their own self?

Palmer suggests, and I agree, that it is not a whole and healthy self that is damaging to others, but it is an empty self. True self is life giving.

And to be healthy, one must take as well as give. One must speak as well as listen. One must be loved as much as one loves. This is the gift of true community. True community does not expect a person to be always best, always wisest, always giving, always beautiful. True community lets each person be undeniable human, sometimes under the weather, sometimes needy, sometimes unable to give. True community is safe and hospitable and full of humor about life.

I had an experience of true community this past week. The Elliott clan went to the beach for a week - 12 of us under one roof. A pretty big roof, but one roof none the less. I spent some time in thought before we went, and allowed my rumble of anxiety to rise in me, paying attention to its source. I realized that I felt anxiety about the massive task of keeping the 'ship afloat,' of making sure the meals were made and order maintained. Then I decided I would not keep the ship afloat. I would be a contributor, choose for my own wellness sometimes, and walk away from chaos rather than fixing it.

In fact, I told my daughter this. "Rachel," I said, "I know sometimes you go into your bedroom with Curtis and you say, MOM is driving me nuts!!!" She smiled. "Don't do that this time, Rachel," I said. "When I am acting controlling or nuts come and tell me, MOM! You are making me nuts." We laughed.

She didn't have to say that to me. But then, I didn't make her nuts. Sometimes when three parties were all jumbled in the kitchen vying for ingredients for three different lunch menus I went and sat on the porch with a good book. When dinner was planned and someone started to cook I went to the pool with the little girls. When the evening was late and things were getting loud and overwhelming to me, I put myself happily to bed and enjoyed hearing the laughter as I fell asleep.

We were a community of friends for those days. Everyone was accepted as they were. Sometimes one person rose to the situation and sometimes another. But I realized that the key to our harmony was freedom. Every self was allowed to be, simply as they are. Every person gave something. And every person took. Every person sometimes chose for themselves, and every person sometimes chose for the other.

There are very few situations like this, and I am glad I didn't apply my many skills of arranging and controlling to make things wonderful - and ultimately ruin them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

summer thinkin' - head surgery

I am sitting in a clinic while Steve has his head operated on. I have thought he needed this, for years now. smile Actually he has a small cancer on his forehead and once this dermatologist gets it off he will likely have a 1/2 inch pit making his forehead look like someone has been mountain top coal mining. But what is on my mind is the instructions mailed to him a week ago that describe all he must do to cooperate with the surgery.

Of note is the instruction to, and I quote, "be a couch potato" for 24 - 48 hours after the surgery.

Now, I have cause to wonder why none of the invasions of my body have every come with instructions like that. I remember, for instance, the experiences of giving birth. For almost a year my body is invaded by an alien who grows with more force than a tapeworm until it is the size of a regulation football. Then this creature is forced like a "hail-Mary pass" out an opening that I would prefer to keep at, say, 1" at most. After ripping skin and muscle and crushing my whole excretion system that had served me so well, this little football person begins sucking at my boosum drawing energy out of my body like a Borg invasion.

Just as I begin to feel like a human again - six or maybe seven hours after all this ordeal - a fat, tired nurse begins to prod me saying, "You need to get up lady. Let me help you" - and she pushes on my aching back and pulls at my arm to force me to move. Gown open at the rear, and various appendages hanging from my body I lumber down the hall or into the bathroom. And so it goes... wake up to feed the alien, get out of bed, stand up so the bed can be made, and entertain a host of visitors.

Now, why is it that a man with a booboo on his forehead is instructed (as if a man needs these instructions!) to be a couch potato for a couple days and a woman who has just preserved the future of the human race has to get up as soon as possible FOR HER OWN GOOD!!!? I think the instructions after birthing should include, "You MUST be a couch potato for 2 - 3 weeks if you are to survive."

I remember last time I had surgery - again, a miserable female surgery that did require anesthetic - the male nurse came in just before I went in and asked if there was anything in my religion that he needed to know pertaining to my care. My brain synapses lit up and a brilliant idea occurred to me. "My religion" I said, "requires that a woman awakening from surgery must have chocolate waiting for her."

He looked confused. Then laughed. And yes, he had chocolate waiting for me after surgery. Maybe we simply need to ask.

(For all the literalists who read this: I am actually very thankful my dear Steve has this kind of medical care...and I will wait on him hand and foot for at least 2 HOURS following. After that it is everyone for himself!)

Friday, July 1, 2011

summer thinkin' - rest and restoration

We are almost on our way to the beach. I mean THE BEACH! Not the swimming pool, not the lake - we are talking N.Carolina ocean front. And I have been thinking about how to manage a home with four families in it, for a week. I have decided that I want to radiate grace and gentleness. That will be my contribution.

Wendell Berry wrote this description of holiday'ers:

"On those weekends, the river is disquieted from morning to night by people resting from their work.
This resting involves traveling at great speed, first on the road and then on the river. The people are in an emergency to relax. They long for the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Their eyes are hungry for the scenes of nature. They go very fast in their boats. They stir the river like a spoon in a cup of coffee. They play their radios loud enough to hear above the noise of their motors. They look neither left nor right. They don't slow down for - or maybe even see - the old man in a rowboat raising his lines.
The fishermen have the fastest boats of all. Their boats scarcely touch the water. They have much equipment, thousands of dollars worth. They can't fish in one place for fear that there are more fish in another place. For rest they have perfect restlessness."

Even in our holiday time we don't feed ourselves what we are craving so deeply. In all of life this seems to be one of the insanities of humanity. We crave love, and feed ourselves on power. We crave acceptance and feed on vanity. And when we crave sabbath rest, when our souls long to eat in Eden - the smells and tastes of nature - we eat a frenzied feast of excited entertainment.

What would life be if we fed our longing for joy with kindness? If we fed our need for rest with a hand in ours and feet on the grass. I don't know. Maybe we will always seek rest in perfect restlessness. It is the human way.

But this week I am choosing to focus on laughter rather than control. I am going to look for whispers of life and sit where I can hear them. We'll see. I may not make it all the way through in peace but I am starting with this grace and we'll see what happens from there.