Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Letter To My Body:

I was watching you today in the mirror and thinking about how far we have come in this life.  When I think about all that I have put you through and all that others have put you through, I can’t believe that you haven’t fallen apart.  You aren’t what you used to be but that is only because you sacrificed yourself to make ME stronger.  You have given so much to me, even when I was cruel to you in words and in actions and you kept giving and giving….you kjust ept giving.  In the earlier years of our relationship, I abused you but it was only because other people showed me how and I didn’t know any different.  I threw you to the wolves and allowed them to take so much from you that they ate right through you and then came after me.  I know all you wanted was to protect me and keep me safe, and it wasn’t your fault that you couldn’t always protect us.  I wasn’t returning the love and care you gave to me and I was a million miles away from you – too distant to do my part. 

We both fell many times, but we kept picking each other up.  I have so many regrets.  I hate that I made you breathe in my addictive, toxic madness for 16 years.  I’m sorry for introducing you to powerful substances at such a young age and then forcing you marinate in them so many times.  I’m sorry for all of the times I called you names and looked at you in disgust because you didn’t look like what I saw around me.  I tried to stuff you into a mold that didn’t fit and kept telling you that you were not enough – that you were not ok – that you were a disgrace – I was always trying to make you change instead of loving you where you were.  I beat up on you with machines, I starved you and deprived you, I filled you up and then made you give it right back through your nose and throat.  I tortured and tormented you and it was never enough.  And you just kept on giving to me, like a lost puppy with nowhere else to go.  And, because we are stuck with each other forever, you only had two options, keep trying to talk sense into me and be heard or plunge into death, taking me with you.  But you didn’t give up on me and you spoke to me.  I finally started to hear you.  I started taking you more seriously and seeing that you were just as much a part of this journey as I was.  Even then, I was still so hard on you.  I meant well…I was confused about what was best for you and US.  I thought that if I made you comply to my rules and standards, we would both be happy, but making you work so hard at an impossible outcome only brought more pain and disappointment, even when you were at your peak.  I was learning to treat you better, but I still had so far to go.  You were patient with me and kept speaking softly and kindly to me.  You were persistent when I didn’t listen and you didn’t give up.  I heard you whispering now and then, telling me secrets that were eating away at you – you needed me to hear them and do something about them.  It took so long but I got it!  I let you touch me and I learned that I would not die if I embraced you and let myself feel your presence.  I didn’t know how much it would help me to help you…to listen to you and to be fully connected to you. 

We’ve been through so much and we still have plenty ahead of us, but I want you to know that I hear you, I see you and I love you exactly as you are.  I promise I will do my best to take care of you and be kind to you from here on out…and no matter what, I will fight for you because you are worth it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Response to the Abercrombie Obsurdity...

Dear Mr. Jeffries (Abercrombie & Fitch):

I heard about the ugly way you’ve been worshipping “pretty”…

I can’t say I’m at all surprised


Coming from an empire who sells clothing by using as little of it as possible in its advertisements

Yeah…I get it…Sex sells

AND I’m no sales person

but I don’t need a set of breasts or a lesson in male anatomy

to help me shop 

I’ve been trying to figure out for years just what it is you’ve been trying to sell

But you just let us all know today

Lest any of us had any doubts…


A big, ugly LIE with a sexy price tag

That buttons and zips up with a little elbow grease and denial

You are pushing the drug of false hope that one can ignore their own power & beauty

By covering it with stone-washed bullshit


You spoke from your heart but it was thoughtless and we all know what is coming for you now

Those lame garments you hide under are not going to save you from the attacks you are about to endure

But they will set you free if you are willing to take off your Abercrombie armour.

I don’t want you to miss what is before you!

There are many lives you can touch with something real…

Now that you’ve gone and made a public ass of yourself

I hope you find some freedom in that after the pain starts to settle into your bones

And you remember what made you believe all that crap you are trying to feed us


So…Mr. Jeffries, my dear brother on this hard-living earth we share…

Take a look around…and SEE

The kids who are cutting…

The kids who are vomiting themselves into a 6-foot deep “comfort zone”

The kids who are lured into dark alleys or sleazy marketing photo shoots

The kids who will enter into adult life and spend the rest of that life believing they are

weird instead of unique…WRONG instead of BRAVE…

The kids who are one step away from pulling a trigger on their classmates

The kids who are pushing back suicidal thoughts behind an exhausted smile

Look into their eyes


The price of EXCLUSION…


Oh…wait…you are about to experience it fully.

So I leave you with this….

I will be your friend when you have none…

When you are hated and remembered for that one thing you said and can’t take back

I won’t condone what you said or the mentality behind it

In fact, I resent it

I have young children with impressionable minds and you hurt them by what you said and what you sell

But I will…

Love you when you feel excluded and despised by the rest of the world

Because we all deserve that, now don’t we?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Much We Need The Needy

Mary had only been home from the hospital for a few days and was still settling back into her nursing home apartment. It was her birthday and I was on my way up to her room to give her the standard card and balloon that the facility provides for all of our residents on their birthdays.  It was the first thing on my “to do” list and I had a particularly busy day ahead of me.  As I walked into her room, I could tell right away that the last thing she needed was some happy idiot singing the birthday song loudly and shamefully off key.  Instead, I decided to give her a more low-key birthday greeting.
After I presented her the balloon and card and placed them where she requested, I started on my way out her door saying “Have a wonderful birthday, Mary”.  As I started across the hall towards the stairway, eager to begin chipping away at the next rock on my mountain of tasks, I heard Mary’s faint voice reply “I don’t want any more birthdays.”  I felt my heart sink, but my feet were still moving as if they hadn’t heard a thing.  When I reached the stairway, something stopped me cold.  “What are you doing?” was the beginning of my inner monologue.  “This woman is reaching out in desperation.  She has just told you that she has no desire to see another birthday and you are just going to walk away from that?”  I stood there at the top of the steps, wavering.  I tried to reason with myself “Hey, I can’t be there for everyone!  I’m only one person and I have so much work to be done.”  Then came the hard-hitting question…”Define your work.  What is your mission here?  Is it paperwork?  Is it passing out balloons?”  Another attempt to put my petty tasks before a hurting woman’s needs was not necessary and I started back toward her room. 

I reentered her room with arms wide open and asked if I could give her a hug.  She happily accepted and I could see Hope returning in her voice.  I sat down next to her bed and asked her why she made the comment about not wanting another birthday.  She began to tell me of her woes, her aches and pains, her loneliness and her confusion about God’s plans for her.  I held her hand as she unloaded her troubles.  It occurred to me that this woman just desperately needed to be heard and understood and I almost missed the opportunity to be there for her.   Now as she sat up in bed, crying and letting it all out, I could clearly see that I was being rewarded – we were having a tender moment together – this was the kind of connection that both of us had been hungering for. 
For a brief moment, I beamed in the certainty that I had made the right choice that day and the experience itself had rewarded me, but the pain of the real lesson in this moment was just about to strike.  As I leaned over to give Mary another hug, she squeezed my arms with love and appreciation and said “I wish there were more people like you in the world.  Why can’t there be more people like you?”  She had such sincerity in her eyes and all my eyes had to offer back were tears of shame.  I said my goodbyes as quickly as possible, gave her another hug and I was gone.  I had to get out of there for fear of disappointing her with the truth.  The truth is that I didn’t have the guts to tell her the truth;  that just minutes before, this person she suddenly thought so  highly of stood at the top of the steps selfishly trying to place priority on her own small world of paperwork and everyday tasks while a woman cried out for a moment’s relief from her everyday realities of loneliness, sorrow, agony and misunderstanding.  I didn’t have the guts to tell her that there have been others who didn’t make “the cut” and that it could have just as easily been her – she wouldn’t have wished for more like me if she had known that.
I didn’t know how to tell her all of that and how everyone wants to be able to be there for those in need, but most of the time, we just don’t know how.
The truth is…we all need each other desperately and around every corner,  God has provided us with an abundance of opportunities to reach out and, not only help someone, but love someone.  We may not always notice it as an opportunity, but when we do, it is in everyone’s best interest (especially our own) that we take heed and follow what our hearts are telling us.
One never knows what kind of unexpected blessings are wrapped inside of those opportunities.  It could be a valuable lesson that turns into an on-going gift, such as the one I received from Mary on that day.  That was years ago and Mary no longer celebrates any birthdays on this earth…but I still celebrate the gift she left behind for me.  It was not a fair exchange.  I gave her a balloon and a card and she gave me a lesson in life and love that will stay with me always.

 May 2013 find us all embracing the endless opportunities to love and bless others (and ourselves).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Letter 2013

They showed up out of nowhere, just weeks after we had moved into a new place and a new chapter of our lives.  A small congregation of juncos found their way to us and I could tell by the way they took to the feeder in the dogwood tree and took cover in the nearby bush just under the kitchen window that they were planning to see us through the winter.  They quickly determined this was “home” for a while and I think they were well aware that they were being admired from the other side of the brick every morning.  Upon moving here, one of the first things I did was put up bird feeders…and I waited.  It didn’t take long for them to find us…cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos and most recently, a pair of blue birds are inspecting a house I hung on a sturdy pine.  They are my angels…time and time again, they seem to show up when I need them the most…reminding me I am not alone here and pouring beauty over my life with the grace of their flight and the secrets in their songs.    It is a gift that no dollar amount can measure.

I can’t say I never would’ve thought I would find myself here – in emotional and financial chaos  – for no other reason than the simple fact that, it can happen to anyone on any given day.  We are not self-made people and we only have so much control over the circumstances of our lives.   I have my tendencies towards arrogance, but not to the point of not knowing my place next to any and all creatures of mankind.  As far as I can see, we are all next in line for a spot on the homeless or bankruptcy list – we just don’t know it.

Despite this fact, my human nature has found me drifting now and then into states of denial & dread about the reality that I face ahead.  But I have no cause for fear because I have been reminded in some of the most profound ways that we are not walking through this chapter alone.  Just like those birds that always show up when I need them most, so does my God and the incredible people around me that He uses to display the loving way he stoops down to wherever I am (Psalm 18:35) just to raise me up and send me off into flight on the wings of his sufficient grace.

That sufficient grace has come in so many unexpected ways, like feathers falling from the sky, composing a secret message just for me (and my girls). I found “feathers” from friends who took us in or gave us a temporary place to stay, wanting nothing in return.  I found more feathers left anonymously for me at my favorite coffee shop in the form of a generous gift card, and there was the time a friend put gas in my car when, unbeknownst to that kind soul, I didn’t know how I was going to make that nagging “empty” gas light go off.  More feathers were falling when a friend gave me a job and I could’ve made a comforter out of the bounty of feathers that fell all around me through the generosity of several people who gave me an opportunity to regain my footing emotionally and financially.  And they kept coming…feathers of support , encouragement, a listening ear, time, help and empathy freely given to my daughters, help moving things I couldn’t handle by myself, an unexpected check in the mail and so much more (you all know who you are).  And just the other day, I picked up a trunkful of feathers in the form of Christmas gifts and gift cards for my daughters from a local church...a flock of beauty we have yet to meet.  Yet they took it upon themselves to do something for them that I cannot do this year – even Black Friday wouldn’t have helped me this year.  I was blown away by their generosity, but I think my favorite part was a card from a 96-year old woman, who included $2 in cash because she wanted to help give us a good Christmas.  And did she ever!  If I know anything, I know that God loves to take what we give to Him, no matter how small, split it wide open and multiply it in immeasurable ways.  This Christmas, I have a valuable and powerful gift to give back to those who are next in line for chaos…$2 in feathers and faith…and it never would’ve happened if not for the exact place I stand at this point in time.  I have been given the honor of being a part of a miracle that I already know will keep giving for eternity.  That is a deal no Black Friday can touch!

Merry Christmas and may your blessings be multiplied in 2013!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

George's Pizza, Pasta & Joy

I love this place!  The food is always good and the couple who run this operation are always pleasant and full of joyful life.  Now I know good and well that they are not riding on any gravy train.  Every time I’ve ever come in here, they are here, hard at work, but they work hard with smiles on their faces and theirs is the kind of smile that takes a whole lot more than mere facial muscles can produce.  Theirs is a smile that can only come from Real Joy.

I can’t help but be curious enough to want to ask one of them what they feel is the source of their joy.  I am certain I know the answer, but I think I will ask anyway.  I ask the bright-eyed man, as he walks by my table, “Where does your joy come from?” and to my surprise, he answers with a reply that sounds more life a question “Because this is business and we have to(?)”.  Unsatisfied with his answer because even though it is not a lie – it is not the truth, I prod him again to let him know that I am now ready for the real answer.  He accepts my invitation and begins to tell me that he loves being in the restaurant business.  He went on to tell me that he used to be an accountant and he left that behind for this.   “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I thought.  He told me about some of the frustrations and hardships of the business but they couldn’t  hold a candle to the becoming light in his smiling eyes. 

Just as I was about to get up from the table, he pointed at my Bible and said “Pray for me…and my business.”  I gladly committed myself to his request and then he told me how glad he was to see someone pray before eating their meal and that people still read “the good book”.  AHA!!  I thought.  That was the answer I was waiting for.  That was the real source of his joy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Secret of the Trees (written Fall, 1998)

I sit here in a sober trance looking at the early October trees.  They are trees I have gazed upon in wonder many times before but now, at this moment, they are showing me more than I usually see.  They are mocking me today and each time the autumn breeze caresses their limbs, they seem to sway in their own laughter.  They are laughing at me in a way that suggests they know something that I don’t.  But a descending leaf of green, invaded by splashes of red, begins to speak to me loud and clear and within the short span of time it takes for a leaf to make its journey from branch to soil, the “secret of the trees” unfolds before my eyes.

How can it be that in all of this time I have never seen this obvious reflection?  How could I have missed the ever-so-blunt comparison between the natural cycle of a tree and the intentions God has for human existence?  But there they stand – autumn trees – in the middle of a journey that every soul will take as well…the journey of transformation.  Nothing changes overnight and, like the trees, there must come a time for every searching spirit when there is more darkness than light, for it is what unfolds in the darkness that gives true color to all things.

Once we have the courage to face the darkness and we can see for ourselves how our sins and our suffering are transformed into beauty, we are then able to accept them and we begin to let go.  But friends, I can assure you that letting go of pain and past trespasses is not as natural nor as easy a process as the leaves that fall gracefully to the ground.  I have often found myself raking up piles of my fallen past only to hump them right back over my shoulder, repossessing my heavy load.  So I just let them fall again and again, however many times it may take, until I finally learn.  And, in time, I am able to shake them off for good and they become rich soil that can be given away for the good and the growth of others.

But the hardest part is still yet to come.  The transformation from idle existence to darkness,  to colorful beauty brings us to another place that makes us plead for mercy and courage.  We come to the place where we must stand naked before the world in the same way a tree stands naked before us in the purifying process of winter.  This is the place where we face the cold chill of rejection and loss.  This is the place where we learn humility and what it means to stand before God and your fellow man with no means of hiding your flaws, your negative thoughts, your fears, your tears, your vulnerability, your emptiness, your wants, your rage, your greatness, your lack of faith and your need to hide the fact that you are not perfect.

But despite the terrifying unsightliness that may lie underneath your “leaves of protection”, one has never seen more beauty in you and more proof that God dwells within your heart as when you stand with no shame in spiritual nakedness.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I’m not gonna get in the ring with you tonight
I know you made me and you have the right

But you just squeezed the very last drop of fight
From your girl who can no longer stand in your light

Yeah, go ahead and take some more!
Isn’t that what you sent me here for?
To drag me right up to their beautiful faces

And rub my nose in those privileged places

Only to turn me out by my ear
Writhing in pain from my want and my fear
While the violins play “Maybe next time, my dear”

Hell yes, I’m angry! And I don’t mind saying
That, tonight I just don’t feel much like praying
And I know that you love me despite how I feel

Sometimes, I just wish that you were not REAL

So I could go on feeling bitter self-pity
Without the conviction of being a city
Up high on hill where light can be seen

I just wanna live somewhere safe -  in between

The Heaven and Hell that play catch with my soul

And inquire with knives “Are you half?  Are you whole?”

But you love me too much and you won’t let me go
And somehow I lift up my face and I know
That no matter how I may feel at this moment

I will rise up tomorrow and face my opponent

Staring at me in that ugly dark mirror

And your face will shine through, even brighter and clearer

Whispering sweetly “I’ve never been nearer”….

But tonight, you are simply nowhere to be found
I can neither abase, nor can I abound

The best I can do is to utter a sound

From worship’s despair “Once Lost, Now Found”

Just another day’s work on life’s battle ground….