Checkin’ In

check

This keeps coming to me so I guess I’m gonna write about it, even though doing so may mean I will turn off various people, for almost opposite reasons. I’ve been thinking about humility for days now, ever since I spoke with a local pastor whose church I go to sometimes (there goes half of you). It’s weird cuz I don’t go there regularly, although a friend of mine speaks there occasionally on Sundays, and has begun to lead a weekly thing there mid-week. She and her following kind of invade this small, quiet church regularly, and those of us who attend when she speaks are SO not quiet. It’s an odd phenomenon and it fascinates me, mostly because of the reaction of this pastor. I’ve been going to church for many years now, have known many pastors, have even been married to one (surprise!), and I have to say….. I’ve known very few whom I’d consider humble (and there goes the other half).

 

And I don’t say that to be critical; it’s almost part and parcel of the position. Comes with the territory. Pastors, as we usually experience them anyway, hold an audience captive for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, while they speak on whatever they’ve determined people need to hear that day. Don’t even get me started on all the things I do not like about that scenario. But that’s not my point here. My point is that that arrangement easily fuels the speaker’s ego, sense of self-importance, and can over-elevate their role in the spiritual community. Or misdirect it, at least. An occupational hazard, if you will; hopefully less of a personal weakness. So when I meet and get to know a pastor who does NOT need to be the center of attention, who willingly and joyfully gives away his precious pulpit, to a woman no less, AND instead uses the time to serve the teenagers in the back room?!?! Oh yeah, that guy gets my attention. I do want to hear what he has to say. He has earned the right to be heard, in my book.

 

I could go on here about the biblical value of humility, of how Christ Himself modeled it, prized it, and taught on it…but I   won’t. Mustn’t pontificate in a piece on not pontificatingJ. Anyway, He pretty much nailed it with the whole washing of the feet thing, one of His last “sermons.” Gotta love a God who teaches by showing, on His knees no less. Many Eastern religions also wisely honor the act of serving as well. And in this very particular historic moment where we are bombarded by the hard sell of politicians who embody the religion of ego and power, the gentle message of service is especially appreciated. It is, in fact, a power move. The whole “the least shall be greatest” thing.

 

So yeah, this pastor blows my mind by behaving in a manner opposite of many clergy. But I mean here to talk more about the power of humility in service than the misuse of position, tempting as that is, LOL. I’m thinking of the many teachers, nurses, artists, firemen …….well, there really is no limit, is there? The young single mom who served you coffee this morning at Starbucks….the teacher heading into a classroom of kids resistant to learning….the nurse who encouraged you in the hospital when you were frightened and wearing a thin gown with an embarrassing slit…..the older guy who pumped your gas in the icy cold last winter (Jerzey peeps). Sure, they might not have been motivated by humility, but still. They were performing acts of service, worthy of our props and appreciation. I wonder if there is not some spiritual power in that, regardless of motivation….

 

I do believe there is power in our response to them. I do believe that when we value the person offering service to us, when we show appreciation to that checkout person standing on her feet for hours, we feed the world with love. I’ve had a weird attraction to checkout people for years, and that looks very odd in print but it’s true. Maybe because as much as I’ve worked some tough, crazy jobs, and I have, I don’t think I could stand in one place for long periods hitting those barcodes. My back couldn’t do it, my brain couldn’t do it, and I mean no disrespect; I’ve cleaned toilets for a living. So when I check out in a store, I can’t help but notice the checker, usually a woman, standing… standing…. oh wow, still standing and checking. That is a hard gig. Showing some love to her is an honor. Appreciating her standing chops alone is easy to do. And there is power in that. We have the power to lift one another up in the simplest ways. A kind word, a token of recognition and appreciation. It only takes humility, and awareness. And in this, the age of Trump/Clinton, don’t we all yearn for some significant power? Some way to heal the world, to ease the pain?

 

I see I’ve rambled a bit. I started by thinking of Jeff and how his example has stirred me. But that kind of proves my point. Seeing him serve teenagers joyfully rather than grasping his opportunity to be up front has moved me deeply. More than any words he might say, his actions taught me. Those are some lucky kids in that back room with him, and the power of his example of humility and service floats right through the walls to the front of the church. No pulpit necessary. And brought healing to a heart maybe somewhat desensitized by long-winded preachers. A true servant is a powerful force. We who appreciate humility and kindness and service are a powerful force, or can be. No matter what your faith, be a vessel of love and appreciation today, to a nurse, teacher, artist, fireman, or yes, please, those magnificent checkers! Power to the people, y’all. In the most unusual ways.

Both

bik

My husband and I are working in Ocean City for a month, the island beach town where we raised our four children. It is a very family-oriented resort, no bars or alcohol sold, and it JAMS all summer long, until Labor Day. School starts the next day and the transformation in this small city as vacationers leave is extreme. Streets that have been furiously overcrowded are suddenly empty; finally we can park again. The wooden boardwalk is once again pleasant, the ocean breezes themselves feel joyous. Pretty much everything whispers… they’re gone. The relief is palpable.

 

Our family had very few traditions, but the first day of school was one we never missed. For this one day, maybe, the kids were less reluctant about school. Especially when they were younger, there was a tiny element of excitement, curiosity. Once all four were on their various school buses, Paul and I always got on our bikes, headed to the boardwalk, and rode through the freshly empty town. We’d stop for breakfast at the tiny restaurant that we could never get into in the summer when crowds kept the locals at bay. We reclaimed our community and looked ahead with deep satisfaction to the life of a parent with kids in school. Sports, new friends, challenges….growing. Moving forward, back when time was kinder.

 

I’m not much for holidays anymore, so I don’t know if there is a more evocative day for me. The calendar is no longer my friend, lurking as it does with dangerous days and memories. It’s fitting that this day falls in September, rolling out hope of cooling air, promises almost tangible on the ocean breeze.  My bike ride this morning was still lovely…even though no longer brimming with those same expectations. Being back in this town where we lived for almost 30 years, where we raised four kids, and walked through life….and death… with many friends so deeply implanted into our hearts…feels at once familiar and foreign. We’ve been forever changed by recent events…by the loss of our son. Our transformation feels as radical, as blunt and dramatic, as these empty streets. And yes, they are a fitting metaphor for the hole within, the hollowness that never leaves…. But the air still feels ripe with promise; hope continues in the same streets, the remaining children, the same friends, and the life to come. There is both, always and concurrently. At home in Floridee, I never run into anyone who knew Zack, who can evoke or share memories…..and here, I do run into those who knew him, loved him, and remember. Both situations help… and hurt. I hang and eat donuts with his girlfriend, and it is glorious, and brutal. We laugh and love…and cry. I want her to be my daughter forever…but I remember that she has her own parents… her own life. And of course I want this for her. It is both. Everything is both, and today especially is deep with dreaming.

 

Paul doesn’t really like to come here, and I understand why. Just speaking logistically, it’s a rough go. We pay a boatload of money to stay in a shoebox. Parking is a nightmare, and the bed is so bad I sleep on the tiniest of couches, shorter than the length of my body. Everything feels a bit alien to us now in this place that was home for so long. But I will always want to come as this is also a place of great comfort to me, solid encouragement, a living reminder that we built a life. That like the undulating waves coming in and out of the shore, life has its own rhythms and rhymes and cannot be denied. My oldest son and his daughter still live here, although not together. Like so much else here, this is not the fulfillment of my dreams for him. His life has had as much coming and going as the tides, and the road before him is not one easily traversed. It fits about as well as my tiny couch. But I do sleep each night, and he does walk through the days. We keep going, because life, for all of us, is both.

 

I want to come each summer, to see him and encourage him. To ride my bike on an empty boardwalk and feel hope in the wind. To look at an enormous sky and know that Love is watching over us, and over Zack, and the waves and the road are still before us. Both coming in, and going out…. No one gets a pass. But we all get to ride, for how long we do not know. In some seasons the streets are filled with promise and pleasure; in others, the ride is more difficult. The bed’s too soft and the couch is too short, sleep is fitful at best. But get up and jump on your bike. Ride to the boardwalk and look out at that magnificent sea, at the waves endlessly unfurling. Embrace the coming in and the going out, the duality of it all, while you still have it. Tomorrow is not promised, but hope still rides the breeze.

Dare to Care

light

A week or so ago, someone said this thing to me, and now it’s killing me that I can’t remember who it was. He or she was telling me about some time they had just spent with someone new, and with the most plaintive look on their face said, “You know, the whole time I was with them they never asked me one question about myself.”  I was immediately fascinated by this remark, so taken aback that when they went on to something else, I missed the opportunity to dig into their meaning. Now I’m wondering, was it said with disappointment? We’re they surprised, or relieved? Because this, oddly, is something I think about a lot. I mean, like a lot. I wonder often if this is a cultural circumstance or a personal one. Are we less interested in others? Are we overly consumed with ourselves? Have we finally given ourselves over to a full-on selfie existence? And is anyone else noticing this phenomenon?

 

Freak that I am, I’ve had a life-long fascination with humans, and how they operate. Definitely in the bemused scientist sense rather than the nosy neighbor way. I was a people-watcher even as a child. My parents would take us to places where they’d drink the day/night away and try to forget they had kids; their one skill set:). But honestly, I don’t remember ever being bored. I would sit quietly for hours and watch everyone. Somewhere along the way I became convinced I was invisible. For years I continued the same behaviors, although less successfully. Note to self: people don’t like to be stared at. It took me a while to comprehend this. I’m embarrassed to say I have a memory from probably the fifth grade of a group of girls finally turning around and screaming in my face…. something to the effect of stop staring at us, you giant freak. Because yes, I was just standing outside their circle, unabashedly staring and listening to them. As if they were my own personal movie, with absolutely no awareness of how wrong/weird that was. It seems crazy to me now that I was what, 11, before that occurred to me?! Hey, it was SCIENCE, people! But it didn’t stop me, I just became a sneakier watcher. Still am, truth be told.

 

I wonder constantly what makes people tick. Why do they do the things they do, say what they say? It’s a happy day for me when I get to watch friends in their family setting. Seeing humans in their natural habitat, how much of their behaviors are familial, what are the group dynamics. And all of this information just intrigues me more, raises more questions. Which I then ask. Asking questions is a part of who I am. I’m less rude than my 11 year old self, more careful, but I still want to know. I want to know what you are like inside, what drives you, how did you get this way, what does it feel like to be you…. Geez, I sound horribly pushy and nosy in this, and I don’t think that’s the case. I’m just, well, I’m interested.

 

And there you have it. That may be the core of my inner freak, my deep and abiding interest in others. And this adds to my already high freak level because it seems to me that most people are not. I’ll be honest, my interest doesn’t always seem to compel me to authentic caring or kindness. I mean, I do try to be kind and caring but I think my success ratings are as mediocre as the next guy’s. Which is to say mildly. I’m more curious, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into any redeeming social value. Actually, I’m probably way less socially valuable, as I also seem to be losing my memory at a rapid pace. I hear constantly from my kids about all the things I forget. My friends are less harsh but I’ve had some soul-searing moments where I discover ways in which I’ve let friends down by failing to remember various plights and/or situations. Interestingly, I’ve yet to forget any party invites, LOL. I know, my friendship skills are beginning to fail, sad to say. If only curiosity counted!

 

Well, it counts with me. I think in this impersonal culture people are dying to be known. To have meaningful conversations, to get past the superficial. I believe that because of the reaction that I generally get when I do ask questions. I am sensitive to those who do not want to share, but for the most part, people enjoy looking within if invited by someone genuinely intrigued by the discovery process. We live each day in a mad, mad rush, every hour a blur. An interested friend can’t slow time down but they can help take your temperature, and that can sometimes make a huge difference. Of course, not everyone is introspective. But you know what they say about the unexamined life….

 

Do you wonder about the people in your life? You may know the ones in your inner circle, but how about the next circle? The ones you just met recently, or maybe you’ve known a while but on only the most casual level? Or do you ever feel like even those who know many things about you still don’t know YOU? The you that’s just below the surface, or your back story. I’m not talking excavation crew here, I just mean what goes on in your mind/heart on a regular basis but it never sees the light of day. And maybe how it got there. Think about all those reality shows people watch. They can’t possibly be interested in those lame plots, can they? I wonder if it’s more about watching unobserved, seeing how people run…. I dunno, I could be wrong. I could be the world’s biggest freak, and I’m actually okay with that. But I’ll go first and say this: I do want to be known. Sometimes I physically ache for it. I bet a few others feel the same way. Ask each other questions. Invest your time in knowing someone. Fight against the dying of the light, people.

 

 

Girl Overboard

adult-life-jacket

I am a person of excess. Always have been, probably always will be. Just the way I’m wired, and I don’t think of it as good or bad. But I tend to do everything big. I feel things in a big way, I think deeply and often over-think. I eat too much, I jump in always in the deep end, I am loud in my self-expression. I do try to be sensitive to others and not suck up ALL the oxygen in the room, and I understand that some misread the intentions of those wired like myself, and I’m fine with it. I get it. It’s not easy to consider the makeup of others, and maybe they figure who’s got the time? Very understandable.

 

Sometimes my wiring is a positive. It’s taken me on some wild adventures; I think I’m living in Floridee because of an insatiable hunger for, what… more? More is the name of my game. Back in the days when I thought I’d have a tombstone, I wrote my preferred inscription: “Here lies Kevan. She always wanted more, and she finally got it.” Those who know me best or longest know my instructions about the memorial service, and okay, they’re unusual. They involve some climbing up on chairs and yes, there’s a bit of pretending the chairs are horses… I guess some might call that extreme… or a tiny bit controlling, I’ll cop to it. But only because I want so much to express myself even when I’m gone… you see, this is what I’m talking about. I may have a teensy problem.

 

Every so often, I just feel some crazy rising up in me, like a slow dark tide. I can ignore it for a while, sometimes a long while even. But then: something must be pierced, said, written, tattooed, or dyed. It’s just the law of the jungle: something’s gotta give. And once it does? Sighhhhhh… peace in the land. So you learn to just go with it. I do try, I swear, to factor in the needs of others, if their needs are unlucky enough to be connected with mine. I’m fortunate to have a man who couldn’t care less about the color of my hair, and trusts me to weigh the things that come out of my mouth. My daughter however, when she was in school, used to cringe at the attention my hair color brought her way, and I did feel badly about that. I ran into my mother-in-law in a grocery store one day and I think the shock of my purple head just broke her usual polite restraints; she stopped in her tracks and wailed, “Oh Kevan, why?!” Is it wrong that I loved that she broke through??

 

Why indeed? Because it is who I am. I don’t always love who I am, but I do try to. I went through a period of a year or two recently when my brain and heart were so broken, so rattled and dismantled and wounded, that I couldn’t always remember who I was, or reach that person. I’d leave the house as Kevan and wake up an hour later in a social setting huddled in a corner, dazed and confused, wondering where I went. And that can happen to us, when we’re not in touch with ourselves. Taking our temperatures, paying attention to our own lives, honoring our need to express ourselves. One of the best things about my recovery is that I do feel like myself again, like Kevan. I’m certainly changed by my experience, but I try to see that as a positive too. Life is full of changes; you gotta roll with it, grow and change and expand as needed.

 

Today I’m feeling a little of the black tide. It’s been a rough week, and I may be wishing today that I felt less. That I was better at shrugging things off. But that’s never gonna be me, and when push comes to shove? I’ll take me, over my purple head in the deep end. Just throw me a life jacket if you see me bobbin’ in the tide.

 

 

Room For Rent

Room For Rent

Things that take up too much space in my head: obviously, chocolate, and secondarily, potato chips. That pretty much goes without saying. In an unrelated thread of course, aging and the way my body looks. Ha! And all that that means. Parents and children, and all the struggles therein. Yes, I know, some parents and kids do fine. They’re not the ones renting room in my head. I admit, the last one makes the first two look a little silly.

 

Quite a few friends are working through serious issues with their kids. Some are dear friends, some are fighting battles that are potentially deadly, whether they be physical or behavioral. Or a mix of the two. Or maybe emotional. Or possibly spiritual. Or else…. You get the point; there’s just soooo many things out there waiting to become difficulties you have to deal with alongside your kids. And I know this all too well. Our family has been through it. And by through it I mean every variety and mix of rage, loss, tears, fears, sorrows, mistakes, regrets, horrors, and pain you can think of. Life can be like that; thus, the afore-mentioned chocolate and potato chips.

 

How do you get through it?… Wouldn’t it be great if I had some kind of solid answer? Some wisdom that could calm fears, dismantle terror and grief? I don’t know that such a thing exists for pain so visceral, so bone-deep and consuming. There is no “solution” for grief that stops the very spinning of the earth, or sadness that sucks color from every vista. Parents battling addiction or mental issues or even sometimes just the teenage passage live in a grim landscape. So much of the fight is without weaponry; waiting is the name of this grey, helpless game. And while it is absolutely true that there are parents who damage their children, it is also quite true that much of what some parents, and kids, suffer in a given day or year or decade feels fairly random. I think of the 50 sets of parents grieving their children lost in Orlando. It is a dark season for so many, and the only way through it is through it. Which sounds ridiculous but is surprisingly astute.

 

From what I can tell life just, well, happens. And it happens differently for some people than others. Again, much appears to be random. Some are dealt loving homes, with solid parents; some get Joan Crawford. Many birth healthy, happy children, and you see bluebirds flying above their heads as they walk down the street. Others are challenged by handicaps and hardships that make them seriously hate bluebirds. We had four kids, and I used to joke that if I only had the first two, I’d be in counseling; if I only had the last two people would come to me for counseling. All four were adored and raised with the same love and care, but each had their own path; some were more bird-oriented than others, ahem.

 

Here’s some survivor tips for those in the trenches: first, let people love you. Sure, there are those who will judge, or misjudge you. But you’ve got no time for other peoples’ problems. So let the friends and family who get it help you carry this load. Laugh whenever you can, and loudly. Laughter helps so much; you NEED that kind of oxygen running through your veins. So find those angels who will help you mine the humor; it’s in there, I promise. Be with encouragers, and avoid those who are without hope. You will need a lot of hope to get through; some days hope is all you have, and the thread is slim. Friends who look ahead with faith can shine light into some very dark corners, and it will make a difference.

 

Learn to sit with pain and be okay with it. You don’t have to like it; you’re not crazy. But into each life some rain will fall. To expect immunity from the human condition is foolish and wasted energy. Pain will come but you can limit its power over you. Look deeply into its face. If it is pain that must be walked through, get some comfortable shoes and get to it. Check out the scenery as you travel; no sense making the journey and getting nothing out of it. There are things to be learned, strengths to be gained. Make every step count. Set limits on how much ground you are willing to give up. You’re not in charge of everything on the road, but you’re not completely without power either. Remember past triumphs.

 

Guard the door of your heart and mind very closely, and do not give room to fear of what may come. It may not. Why worry over it until it does? Even if it does, you will get through it. THAT’S what you want to feed your spirit with, the truth that speaks life to your bones. It ain’t no joke: guard your thought life well, and only deal with what HAS happened, not what could. Get in touch with every good part of your being, and I know you know what those are. Take some time and remind yourself of your fierceness. You eat bluebirds for breakfast!

 

If you are dealing with behavioral issues, make a point of remembering how much you love your kid. I know you know that, but it’s important to keep it within arm’s reach. We had years of turmoil with our older sons. Fortunately, they seemed to take turns, and we rarely were struggling with both at once. But for a period of years, it seemed one if not both were wildly angry at us and acting accordingly. We didn’t often get to FEEL the warm fuzzies, but I tried to remind myself regularly of all the love that lay beneath the yelling and general smashing. And the Universe is kind, and will at least occasionally let moments of light shine through, when you get to laugh together or even love together for a moment with your angry child. Those golden moments will feed you for a long time if you stoke them.

 

Geez, I almost sound like I know what I’m talking about. But I’m no expert. I’m probably coasting on the fumes of yesterday’s warm fuzzy. Our oldest son just completed 6 months of jail and rehab for drug-related behaviors. He was fortunate to get into a good rehab and once he was clean he was able to hear the kind of truths that will keep him free if he holds on to them. We’ve waited for years for the call that his dad got from him yesterday, Father’s Day. We’ve both always HATED those artificial Hallmark holidays that are painful for so many, but yesterday was a bright moment for Paul and Jesse. Words were said that have been a long, long time coming. Which brings me to my last thought: hope. Always and forever hope. And when that is too tough, count on friends to carry the ball for a round or two while you rest. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And even then it ain’t over. That’s the thing about life. The sun rises in the morning each and every day. Let it shine on you.

 

 

 

 

Of Kindness and Delusions

Of Kindness and Delusions

Facebook literally made me laugh out loud yesterday. My “memories” included a public apology I had to make two years ago, after yelling at a houseful of guests at a surprise party we threw for friends. To tell the funny story I have to tell some sad stuff too, but that’s how life is, right? And if I’m going to have a blog I need to get this said anyway.

Almost three years ago we heard screaming as we woke up one morning, and ran downstairs to discover that our 27 year old son had had a seizure during the night, vomited in his sleep, and choked to death. There. I said it. I know, it’s brutal. My story since then has had much to do with surviving that morning and the loss of our precious son. I knew fairly soon after Zack’s death that I had to keep living but I had no idea what that would look like.

We’ve been fortunate in having an amazing community of love and support, and that makes a huge difference. I’ve always been a survivor at heart, so my M.O. was to just. keep. going. Simply said, you try to feel what you feel and go on as best you can. There were times when I cried all day but I also had many days when I laughed, and that felt like progress. The whole first year you just feel like you’re underwater, like your connection with the rest of the world is shaky, blurry and distant. You see them and interact with them but it’s all through a watery veil, and you’re the only one who is wet.

Maybe if I’d talked about it more I’d have been more in touch with what was going on inside, but what can you say besides, “I’m so sad”? It’s like an app running on your phone, draining your battery without you knowing; your worldview shifts beneath all those tears without your consent. The world had turned out to be far less secure than I thought, so inside I became very insecure without knowing it. I just wanted to fit back into the “normal” world as quickly and with as little attention as I could. I guess that was the thinking, but I can’t say for sure as I was completely uninformed of this new game plan.

Many of the new friends I’d made in Floridee were much younger than I, but that’s not unusual for me. I’ve always hung with who I enjoyed without categorizing, and never gave it a moment’s thought. I didn’t really think about it this time either, but on some level of desperate, unseen need, I took another tack this time around. I needed to be like them, not just with them. So apparently, despite reality and science and every truth known to mankind, I was now gonna be young again. Like 40. Which is crazy because I’m SO not 40. Like, I’m 40’s grandmother. But whatever. That’s the  decree that came from my trickster subconscious and I pretty much insisted that my friends all go along with it. Like I said,  I had some very supportive friends. Confused maybe, but kind. So they nodded their heads graciously when I talked about our generation, their eyes revealed nothing when I spoke of similarities that existed only in my imagination. And I went on blissfully unaware of my delusions. Ahhh, progress!

Almost a year after Zack’s passing, two things happened. The first was that we planned a surprise party for friends celebrating their 20th anniversary. I had to plan it a good month ahead as he traveled and it took a lot of coordination to make it work and keep it a secret. The second was another tragedy. Another couple in our circle of close friends lost their son in an accident, and we were all devastated. It seemed too cruel to be true, and it actually was. And while my focus initially was, of course, on helping to stand by this couple, it slowly began to knock me backwards as well. Within one month we had the loss of Brandon, then Mother’s Day, the anniversary of Zack’s death, and in the midst of all this, the party for Katina and Greg. Because it was a surprise for a lovely couple who had made it 20 years, we decided to go on, and I thought I could do it.

A BIG miscalculation on my part. Like, scary bad. As if the exorcist threw a party, complete with green slime. I was not into it. And looking back, I think I was just waiting for an excuse to lose my mind and release all of the black venom in my heart. My poor, innocent guests. Like lambs to the slaughter. At one point someone was taking a picture of me and and Katina’s daughter Savannah, a girl I adore. It should have been a nice moment. And then Katina said those fateful words: “Oh nice, Savannah, a picture of you with your OTHER GRANDMOTHER.”

Sure, they seem like innocuous words. Unless your shaky world is built on desperate irrational denial; then not so much. I imagine the black ink of a venomous octopus shooting into the room as I snarled,”Grandmother?! What did you say? GRANDMOTHER?!?!” There was a bit of nervous laughter… until I put a stop to that with another snarl, “Don’t be laughing.” And then proceeded to berate my poor friend for her cruelty AFTER I GAVE HER A FREAKIN’ PARTY. I know, it’s ridiculous, and I can’t help but shudder even now as I remember it. But the truly amazing part was that I didn’t know I did anything wrong. Everyone left soon after, what a surprise, and I went to bed and sank into a deep black octopus sleep.  I was telling the story to another friend days later and when she also laughed nervously I said, “Yeh, that’s what they did.” Kay waited a moment and then said gently, “But then you apologized, right?”

I swear that is the first time I saw it. My watery seas parted and I saw for the first time in a year how deeply delusional I had become. How insistent I was with my friends that I was their age, dammit. ….that the whole prior year had not happened. That the world was not really as insecure as it turned out to be….and yes, that we had not lost Zack.

Even I know I’m not really 40. Now. But in the moments of our lives, we can be so out of touch with all the work our spirit is doing beneath the surface of our busy days…our will to survive. My poor spirit gets a workout. As do my friends. I posted that heartfelt apology and my friends were gracious to accept. In fact, we laugh about that night now and it’s easy, it’s SO ridiculous. I asked one of my closest friends later, “How could you go along with that? Why didn’t you tell me?” Another nervous laugh as she said,”Well, I did try to say something sometimes about your outfits.”

…..wait a minute. Nobody is saying ANYTHING about my fashion choices. Release the black ink!!!!

 

My Road Less Traveled

My Road Less Traveled

You’d think it would be easy to know your own thoughts. To be self-aware, to your own self be true. But oh baby, that’s one tangled web to unravel. Years ago, I used to pray regularly to become humble. I knew enough to know it wouldn’t come easily. But then just when it seems you might have reached the promised land…well, can you really be humble and think you’ve arrived? As soon as you consider yourself humble, are you maybe… being prideful? It’s all sometimes so much confusing tail-chasing, to me.

As I said, that was a long time ago; feels in some ways like another lifetime to me, in fact. Because I’ve since wandered down a different road, started exploring some of the intriguing side paths, the wilder ones, less manicured and roped off. Not because I became weary of the main drag. In those days, I was looking for all my answers from within the church. I was a longtime cheerleader, I joyfully passed out the Kool Aid, and I’ve got much sincere gratitude for the haven I found in the church. Finding a Father who loved me, a system of belief and relief, and a community of believers who embraced me was life-saving to me. One that I’ll never stop loving and appreciating.

My backstory isn’t as horrific as some. Suffice it to say that there was an absence of love. My parents never should have been together, let alone had four kids. But that’s what that generation did. It was a different time; when they finally split up, I only knew two other families of divorce. Shit really hit the fan when she married the next guy. About him I will only say that he had issues. If you call sadism and the need to destroy issues. So I was out of the house by 17, and looking for love in, well, every place. Although I didn’t know it, and I gave the search my full and enthusiastic attention for a number of years.

So when I heard a message of love and grace and a ready-made family, I couldn’t sign up fast enough. Sure, I was supposed to stop the drugs, sex, and maybe even rock and roll, but I had really done all of that to death by then anyway. And I’m not gonna lie, I did fall head over heels in love with Jesus. I mean, who wouldn’t?! Jesus is amazing and revolutionary and like no other. He is pure love; what’s not to like? I am still in love with Him, and I don’t see that changing. Like, ever.

And life in the church? Yes, it was an adjustment, a huge adjustment, but I grew to love it. The girl who had zero interest in love, marriage, or family did a 180. I married just the right man for me; a man who was as lost and self-destructive as I was. Like me, Paul planned on dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. Instead, together we made a home in Mayberry and had four kids. And yes, we had struggles in our family, lots of them. Addiction dogged us, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing more along those lines in another post. But for the most part, we were pretty happy in a life that we had never dreamed would be ours. I can’t overstate how richly satisfying that was for both of us, two lost street-weary souls. I really experienced love for the first time in those years, and a lot of it. Church life became the whole ball of wax for me. And there it is… the fatal flaw. It was church life that meant so much…and that is very different from God life. I never saw the distinction. There’s quite a bit of cross-over, but there is a distinction, and it ain’t small. And to know it you do have to go inside and be aware of your own motivations, your own needs and drives. Web Unraveling 101. I’m not saying I wasn’t sincerely motivated by loving God. I was, all the way in. I was just unaware of all the peripheral additives of the church and how much they were shaping my views.

My son Jake started asking me questions about God and the Bible shortly after he started college. Typical, I know. But they were good questions, and we had always talked honestly and deeply about everything, so I took them seriously. Questions about some scriptural inconsistencies and contradictions, observations about judgments and lack of love… some of them I shared,  some of them I responded to initially with the party line. But over the next few years, he often stumped me, and I began to try to find answers for myself. As I searched and prayed, and listened, I began to have  my own reservations. Not about God in any way, but about the way we were perceiving Him, about the way we were expressing Him, about the gap between His message of love and all of the conditions that the church seemed to add on to that pure message. I wrestled with all of that mightily. It grew to become a tearing apart inside of me, as I could not reconcile the difference between church life and God life any longer. About that time, I started reading books that confirmed my own hesitations. These were a great relief to me, as I felt alone and often fought my own interpretations, thinking myself a rebel and ingrate, and some of my leaders were all too eager to affirm that in me. Going back to the beginning of this post, I wondered if it was pride….

Here’s where I’ve landed. God is love. That is 101. And it was good for me to search my own heart, to try to know myself more. I needed to get honest about some of my own motivations. A girl raised with no love is gonna search it out like a heat-seeking missile. And she may find herself doing many right things for some wrong-ass reasons. Or vice versa. I’m grateful now for the way I came up, because it opened me up to finding God, needing God, wanting God. My lack led me to the Love Supreme, and that’s a beautiful thang. Where it got a little twisty was that in my eagerness to fit into the family I always wanted, I got a bit confused about what was God and what was church. I was told that there is pretty much only one way to understand things from His perspective, and not surprisingly, it was their particular brand of Kool Aid. Today I see that view as more narrow, way more narrow, then I did then. I don’t disagree with all of the major beliefs, but I do distill much of it through the grain of love, and that has opened up the road greatly. I am a tiny bit ashamed of the presumptuousness of my earlier faith, thinking I had everything pinned down so tightly, assuming that my interpretation was the only right one. But I give myself grace to forgive that earlier Kevan. And I’m hoping that you find grace for her as well today.