Salty Fairytale

Once upon a time

EverAfter sounded like hell.

Days much longer on

clay-cracked earth

Resounding death knell.

I fell defeated to my knees

Slipping down through

Hopeless days.

There was you.

Pitched forward, I expected

To fall forever.

There was you

Who caught my feeble hands.

For a time I yet knew

Nothing but the salt of

 My own tears,

Denied, stubborn love.

Nothing’s changed.

My world still cracks and sways.

But pitched forward, I lean

Into stable arms and lend-ed breath.

LIke a fairytale

I stand in the embrace

Of everafter.

Clasped in the arms

 Of eternity’s King.

Cracked, clay earth

A scarce memory.

image by: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.7.Adulterous_woman.htm

Whistle While You Work

Don’t get wrong, I am fully aware that there are multiple occasions that warrant a good cry. In fact some of those occasions allow for screaming (if you’re alone) and stomping and banging on the counter tops. Traffic jams, (lots and lots of traffic situations) being stood up, stubbing your toe…

But, Snow White had a point, “Whistle While You Work.”

I never finished my traveling story last Tuesday from the airport. After I wrote to you, I continued to pace the terminal for another 2 hours. I arrived in Dallas about 3 hours later than I was scheduled and three hours itchier to see my new niece. On my trip home, I boarded the plane right on time, we sailed through turbulence and touched down three minutes past ETA. Then…we disembarked and I hustled to the baggage claim and the shuttle counter.

I had failed to consider that other people might want to ride my shuttle. Three other people to be exact. And we were leaving the airport at 5:30. And it was raining. Our driver gets credit for taking every possible opportunity to jut between bumpers and dart across traffic and cut the edges on construction zones. But even with all his assertive driving, I didn’t get home until nearly 7:30 p.m. Argh – 3 hours after landing.

Now I was three hours itchier to pick up my puppy. I ran into the house to find that it looked like a bachelor’s pad. No it wasn’t filthy, but Patrick doesn’t believe in putting the pillows on bed, dumping the trash or dishwasher, getting his clothes all the way through the wash, rinsing dishes or the coffee pot, sweeping around the litter pan or sorting the mail.

I saw myself doing it. I knew it was coming and I had a choice, and I chose to scream. I let the tears out of the dam and calling my husband names under my breath. Coffee, I needed a Starbucks to soothe my flustered-ness. Safeway has a Starbucks, is on the way to pick up my dog and I can pick up some veggies for dinner too. Guess what? I arrived at the store moments after a fire alarm forced evacuation and closed the store indefinitely. Everything, everything seemed determined to test my self control.

Like the metaphorical devil on my shoulder, a niggling little voice said, “It’s OK. You have every right to let your emotions erupt. No one is here to see it, so it isn’t really a sin. You are all alone on the east coast again. The rest of your family is still huddled around baby Kylie, swooning over her smiles and making up funny new phrases like, ‘mashing pumpkins’ when she poops.”

Whistle While You Work. Praise the Lord that He is bully enough to shout over my own fleshy voice.

Abby, just because Patrick isn’t here to hear you and no one can watch you put on a colossal display of anti-obedience. Sing, sweetheart. Praise me. I deserve it.

When Brave and I got home, I propped up my Ipod and let Pandora sing classic Christmas music. Within the first 3.5 minute song, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need… Baby all I want for Christmas is you!”

The cheery refrain made me think of my sister Rachelle. She is my sunshine – an un-dimmable light. We love to sing loudly together in stores, in the car and anywhere else. Whistle (or sing) while you work. Suddenly, I grabbed Brave’s front paws and were swirling around the smooth kitchen floors in my socks and his slippery paws.

When Brave started panting and I skidded into the sharp edge of the countertop we slowed. But the crustiness of anger and loneliness were gone. Tonight, in half the time I feared the daunting tasks would require, I had paid the bills, sorted the mail, made the most of an empty fridge, folded laundry, brushed the dog and written to you.

So, this post does have something to do with lies. In a world where we’re told that we deserve to do somethings for ourselves, to express ourselves bluntly and without regard, to pursue happiness at all costs – I did not – you do not – have the right to indulge our flesh. When your personality divides along the lines of spontaneous reactions versus choices, chose Christ. Choose the fruit of the Spirit: self control.

Because even in the quiet of my kitchen I am in a constant dialogue with my Creator. May I speak in reverence, respond in love and bring Him glory.

P.S. Please forgive any typos you notice here. I strive to write professionally. However, tonight I’m writing through bleary eyes. There should be warning on keyboards: DO NOT USE THIS DEVICE WHILE TIRED, STRESSED OR UNDER THE INFLUENCE. But I wanted to talk to you tonight and promise you that we’re back on track here. I’ve got some great posts for you this month and a new slant on the theme of Predatory Lies in the new year.

Merry Christmas!

The Flip-side of Mentorship

I stumbled across two of my most precious mentors entirely by accident. In fact, I was supposed to assisting them.

Nanny was approaching 90, and she lived with her 70+ year-old daughter, Katherine. Make no mistake – Katherine was and is completely capable of absolutely anything. In her multi-facted role of grandma, sister, housekeeper, mother, caring daughter, community volunteer, active church member and widow, she never dropped a ball. Not a crumb landed on her polished floor. Not a dog hair lingered on her couch. Her lawn was never too long.

But Nanny was approaching 90 and her health was supposed to be failing. Hospice entered the picture and began to send a nurse out a couple times per week to help with bathing, medication, etc. And I was a hospice volunteer, assigned to Nanny for companionship and to stay with her occasionally for Katherine to have a few hours off. That never happened.

Once or twice, I “kidnapped” Nanny, and we would get a pedicure or go to the mall or drive around old-town Columbus and she would tell me stories of growing up in the old south. Then, we would come home, hoping that Katherine had taken a nap or read a book, only to find that every single time she put herself to another task. Katherine cooked for her whole extended family, managed her children’s finances, raised her granddaughter, spoke at church, volunteered in the community, and cared for her dying brother. Never, never, never did I see her relax. Never, never, never did I hear her complain.

On many occasions, Nanny and I simply sat outside on the back porch with her dachshund, Prissy, and thumbed through old photo albums. Sometimes, Katherine would pour a rich glass of southern-sweet tea and join us. Katherine was bold about her love for Jesus, and so was Nanny. In fact, the first time I met them, Nanny told me, “Don’t expect to visit me for too long, I hope Jesus calls me home soon!”

The love in Katherine and Nanny’s home met every visitor at the door. It swept me up and carried me inside. Katherine imparted wisdom to me incidentally. In her I saw diligence, commitment, sacrifice, service, boldness and hope. Katherine proof read some of my articles and offered godly criticism.

Nanny taught me about marriage in the stories of her deceased husband. She had married at the age of 15-16. A girl can hardly have determined her love interests by that age, but Nanny had determined her commitment before the Lord. She told me of discovering their differences and similarities.

During this time, I was slipping back into an old, destructive habit of compulsive, excessive exercise. No one I knew called me on it. None of my running buddies mentioned my obsession. None of my family lived close enough to see the decline. No one seemed concerned that I was losing weight. No one but Katherine and Nanny. Suddenly, my weekly visit to care for their needs flipped to a weekly accountability check-up.

I doubt that I was as good for Nanny and Katherine as they were for me. But God was good, and before I moved, hospice had to drop Nanny because she was no longer declining.

Sorry, Nanny. God continues to share you with us one day at a time! But I am confident, that when you do go home both you and Katherine will be rewarded as a “good and faithful servants.”

Obviously

I tried really hard to make this post about anyone other than my mom. I was afraid it would sound repetitious. There are other women who have advised me and guided me over the years, but if I don’t start with my mom, all my other stories will have no foundation. Mom taught me to listen, seek counsel and respect experience.

 

I looked up “mentor” in the dictionary. That’s the first time Google Dictionary, that verbose king of words, answered my question with one word: Advisor. In search of something deeper, easier to expound upon, I hit up the thesaurus: trusted advisor, coach, tutor, trainer, counselor, consultant.

 

From first grade, Mom was my teacher. Any teacher’s aim is to see her students learn to read, write, add and subtract. Mom’s impact went much deeper. She taught me sacrifice – while her peers were flaunting established careers or community recognition, she was lesson planning for three restless pupils. While her peers lunched for a brief hour over crisp, restaurant salads and ice tea, she spent nearly an hour simply getting baloney sandwiches made while listening to recitations, explaining math problems and conducting oral spelling tests.

 

Mom advised me to “Study to show [myself] approved unto God, a workman who need not be ashamed (2 Tim. 2:15). That verse was stitched into the cover of the Bible she opened every morning. My sisters and I understood that God’s word was the single most important thing for all of life. And Mom made it clear that it honored God for us to devote ourselves to scholastic learning.

 

Mom counseled me through more than a decade of anorexia. She sat with me through therapy sessions, modeled compassion and learned when to let go.

 

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this mentor/mentee relationship, is that although I learned much as I sat at her feet, on her lap and in my desk; Mom’s words and actions reverberate in my life today. I often call Mom for encouragement. But I don’t need to. Usually, I know exactly what she’s going to say. Her influence became a part of me – the most beautiful part of me.

Doubly Adopted

I was adopted at the age of 24. Oddly enough, that’s the same time that I adopted my little sister. Confused yet?

The Brewers were a kind family of three that I met at church. I had married about six months earlier and my husband had immediately deployed to Iraq, leaving me family-less on the east coast. I snuggled in at church, feeling loved by the crowd of people. I joined the choir, I helped with kids’ classes and attended every service. But being a part of a church family isn’t the same as having a sister or a mother.

Kaitlin Brewer was 15, about the age of my sister living in Kansas. She was bubbly and talkative. When the congregation stood to shake hands or mingled in the foyer I spoke briefly to Kaitlin and discovered small things we had in common. I knew she loved to read. She was growing up in a conservative Christian home; she had a crush on a guy in the youth group. I knew how much I missed my sisters.

One Sunday after the service, I stopped her, “Kaitlin, would you go to Barnes and Noble with me this afternoon? I just want to browse, flip though magazines and get a coffee. It’s something my sister and I love to do together, but she’s not here and I really miss her and… I’d love to ‘adopt’ you.”

Kaitlin’s eyes glittered with enthusiasm. “I’d love to! I’ve never had a sister. That sounds like so much fun!” A few hours later, I drove up the Brewer’s driveway and Kaitlin climbed into my passenger seat.

I didn’t spend a profound afternoon advising Kaitlin in the ways of a godly woman. Instead, we sang at the top of our lungs with the radio. We shared our favorite books. I felt sheepish at her detailed memory of every book she had ever read – many more that me. It was a priceless afternoon that filled a growing void in my heart.

The holidays were fast approaching and Kaitlin went Christmas shopping with me. She helped me lug them into Quik Pack’n’Ship as I tearfully mailed all the gifts to my family. I refused to go home for Christmas while my husband was “celebrating” in the desert.

On Christmas Eve, I got a phone call from Mrs. Brewer. “Abby, Kaitlin has really enjoyed having a sister. Would you be my ‘daughter,’ and spend Christmas with our family?”

The next morning, I joined the Brewers for coffee cake, French roast and the reading of The Christmas Story. Mr. Brewer intoned Luke 2, just like my own daddy. I sat on their living room floor and took a nap in the study as the joyful day wore on.

The Brewers entered my life in an informal way, but they became my family. I adopted Kaitlin and their whole family adopted me. With no effort at all, I mentored, encouraged and came alongside Kaitlin, and benefited enormously at the same time. Mrs. Brewer began to email me about once a week, teaching me in an unconscious way to honor my parents, respect and submit to my husband, love unconditionally and rejoice in my role as a godly woman.

It’s been almost seven years since I’ve seen the Brewers. Kaitlin’s has gotten married. We’ve moved about three times and they’ve probably moved just as many. Once in a while, I’ll open my email to find a well-crafted devotional titled “As God Pleases, Dispose the Day.” Mrs. Brewer continues to teach me.

My relationships with Kaitlin and Mrs. Brewer were never sanctioned “mentorships.” We slowly started to do life together. As we each personally continued to submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leading, He led us in obedience to Titus 2:3-4.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Who? Little Ol’ Me?

On Friday, I will tell you a little bit more about a Bible study that I’m taking at my church. But in speaking of Weakest Moments on Wednesday, I really wanted to share this.

The study I am taking is about marriage. I feel like I really stink at this marriage thing. My husband and I are so different. How do we talk to each other? He’s never home. How do I invest in US? So, I sheepishly enrolled in the study that I hoped would “fix” me. I was floored when after the first day of class, the co-teachers asked me to be a small group leader. I thought, if only they knew how messed up I am. If  they knew how many times I’ve danced on the edge of giving up, they would never ask me to lead. But, when I prayed about it, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge, so I agreed.

Much of the time, I have my radar of up for what I should be doing for God. I rarely feel satisfied with where I am. Surely there is some capacity that I am not filling.

I didn’t believe I was equipped to lead women in a marriage class; so I kept looking for something else. As I continue in prayer, I want to share some of what the Lord has been telling me. I hope you are encouraged in the vocation that He has given to you.

Abby,

Consider that I have lead you to here. I’m not ceasing to lead and guide you, but don’t you think I brought you HERE for a reason? Maybe I want to use you now, but you’re often so focused on whatever you are preparing to do. Whatever you think you SHOULD be doing for me.

Abby, choosing my way will not mean drastic change of direction or taking on something new. But learn to be interested  and invested in what I am doing in you today.

You have asked for ministry. You have been given the ministry of loving women, exposing their strengths, introducing them to relationship with me. Do not fear. Do not allow a false spirit of fear to lead you astray. You must follow, fear, listen to, serve and cling to me. I will do more than you can imagine or desire.

Do not be like Zechariah, whose voice I took for a time when he failed to believe in my power to conquer all human weakness.

I love you. Abba”

Holy Empty

Abba, teach me to be completely careless,

Radically change me into wholly fearless.

Exacerbate my human weakness.

Show me Jesus, make me speechless.

Rip from my hands all that’s worthless.

I want to see NOW in disciples, in emptiness, in hope, in eternity,

In faces, in hearts, in today, in tomorrow, in expectation

Your Holiness.