The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

Get it While It’s Hot

I guess I saw this moment coming, I just didn’t realize it would arrive so quickly.

My children are splitting up their inheritance and I’m not dead yet.

As begins most of my plights, I was going along, minding my own business, cleaning stuff. This is my happy place and people should respect it. By people, I mean the quasi-adult humans that I spent many hours and several body parts birthing in a hospital and the rest of my life cleaning up behind. We are hosting actual adults this summer and naturally, this means my feather duster is putting in some overtime.

I cleaned out my bookcase.

Here’s how that looked in my mind: These treasures came from a used book shop for a quarter each. They are ratty because they were loved but no one reads them anymore. I shall return them to the shelves from whence they came and rejoice some stranger’s heart.

Here’s how that looked to my kids: These treasures came from Mom’s bookshelf and they are spun from pure gold. They are ratty because I accidentally left them in the tree fort/floor of my car/washing machine. I shall rescue these irreplaceable tomes and anything else not nailed down before my mother’s dementia progresses to the point where she can’t remember that I wanted that!

Now. As I descend from a long line of women who kept stuff around just for the pleasure of dusting it, I am not emotionally bound to any one item. If it delights the heart of my children, by all means take it now. They can dust it for me and decide whether I get visitation rights.

But. In the back of my aged mind I hear warning bells. Don’t confuse the real things with the fake. I’m not talking about diamonds. I’m discussing relationships. Things are replaceable. Books are dime a dozen. You only have one Mom and her shelf life isn’t quite the same.

Well, depending on who you ask, I suppose.

You may have noticed, no one is ever pronounced “dead” at a funeral. Lots of interesting phrases though – the latest trend being “celebration of life” – because who wants to be a Debbie Downer when someone exits their current house full of loot, never to return?

Most religions subscribe to a “Me, Act 1” and “Me, Act 2” version. There’s a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. It’s uncomfortable to discuss the turning point. No one likes to dwell on that little detail. But you’re not dead.

Buddhists would have me doing re-runs until Netflix is obsolete. Not so exciting, but steady work.

Hindus would put me in a mini-series (starring Angelina Jolie).

But if this life is a one-off, he who dies with the most toys wins. Of course, if you’re the lucky dead dude, you yourself won’t know you won, but everyone left standing around will, and as that’s the whole point, it’s a win-win. That would be cause for celebration, certainly.

They will put my ashes in an urn or my photo in a frame, and set me on the shelf with the books they rescued and dust us all the same. I’m okay with that, because I read a Book that says dead is dead and dust is dust and if I am interested in an Act 2 I should bring it up with the Big Guy and make resurrection arrangements.

Meanwhile, allow me to suggest an excellent book: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

No, you can’t have it. Yet.

I am merely suggesting that if we’re going to go around putting PostIt notes under the big-screen TV and the InstantPot, there had better also be a modicum of manners.

I’m not dead. Yet.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.”
Ecc 9:5

Princess and the Pea

“For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.”

So says Deuteronomy 3:11.

A lot of things were destroyed in these Deuteronomy wars, but apparently the giant iron bed was spared as a tourist attraction.

This is Moses the Meek kicking butt here, and I’m super excited because it reminds me that the giants in my life are not going to be a problem…but maybe their beds are.


There comes a time when you are ready to buy a bona fide bed. Usually it’s after all possibility of kids climbing into it with you has passed. When there are no diapers in the house. When the sheets are so thin you can’t tell the design on them anymore and you are tired of keeping the bed frame that holds up the mattress from putting holes into the wall that it was shoved up against.

Anyhow…

I was forty-some-odd years old and ready to graduate to a “big girl” bed, one with a pretty headboard and decorative pillow shams. Hubby watched nervously as I poured through websites and catalogs.

He wasn’t going to sleep in a big girl bed.

Sure enough, I fell in love with a beautiful canopied contraption from Pier One.

It went way beyond four-poster glory. It was sleek and sophisticated. It was handsome and versatile. It could be dressed up with flowing organza and twinkle lights or slicked down in houndstooth and down-filled leather bolsters.

Not that I had a preference.

It was freaking expensive.

Hubby broke into a cold sweat when he saw me click the beauty into the website cart.

He begged for one week to come up with an alternative.

“As long as it doesn’t come from Costco,” I replied, setting the cart aside.

Immediately, he found “a practically new identical bed” on Craigslist.

Willing to save money on the bed meant I could splurge on linens. Right?

Suspicion came too late.

Instead of my graceful elfin fairytale, we were staring into the maw of a gutted tank.

Hubby thought it was, in sheer cubits, the manliest thing he’d ever seen. This was a bed to rest your war boots on.

Or corral elephants in.

Quite possibly it was the final barracks of Og.

The Ammonites must have kept it in storage until Spanish Crusaders carried it across Europe and into the new world, along with horses and cannons and smallpox.

I imagine it easily held the entire ship’s crew.

We dragged the iron bed home in pieces and reassembled it in the bedroom where it took four mighty men (okay, three strong guys and one weakish woman) to coerce it into position.

The mattress lies on crossbars of steel.

Our tile floor is softer.

You have to be one tough giant to sleep on this bed.

“That’s it, I’ve had it,” I said one morning to the Hubbs, “This bed is ridiculous. I’m tired of waking up with half of my body gone numb. It takes an hour before my shoulder stops hunching up into my ear.”

“But sweetie,” he replied, twisting his neck back into position, “you need a firm mattress for a bad back. I can feel all my vertebrae moving into position as I go to sleep.”

And once he’s asleep, the vertebrae keep moving in a desperate attempt to find a place of rest.

The man’s going to be a hunchback.

Cursing the Crusaders, I went shopping.

I began with an extra-thick mattress cover and a down-filled duvet.

I found a foam gel memory mattress topper.

I grabbed a microfiber king-size pillow top.

That mattress was covered like a layer cake and rose another cubit.

I frosted it with fresh clean sheets, four fat pillows, a colorful quilt, a soft fleecy throw, and wrapped it all up with creamy silk drapes tied at the corners.

All I need is an elevator, and we’re set.

And maybe side rails are a good idea for when you graduate to a “big girl” bed.

Maybe…

The Pity Party

Genetically speaking, anxiety and depression and a significant handful of other fun mental issues have a real possibility of showing up in my life.

I grew up watching people I loved suffer with hurts that were deep inside.

Watching was the only thing I could do.

It was on my list of “well, when I grow up, I won’t ever do that!”

The list also included not spanking my kids (spoons don’t count, do they?) not locking them outside (fresh air and sunshine: mandatory, people) and going to all of their school events (but I don’t have to like it).

So when my radar goes off on the fact that I’m suddenly “so tired” and my exercise routine has fallen off, and eating isn’t worth the effort required to walk into the kitchen and stare into the fridge, well, it’s time for my reboot.

Many times, it’s issues outside of myself that trigger a spiral, and I’ve built a great deal of stamina up, keeping life’s stress where it belongs: in the rubbish heap.

But if you see me wearing bright colors and reading funny greeting cards in Target and rearranging my tea cupboard, you are watching me take my medicine.

Please understand: clinically diagnosed depression along with its counterparts should be treated always and immediately. Like any medical issue, medication, physicians, holistic practices, and girlfriends should all be involved.

I am blessed that so far in my life, I have been able to keep depression at bay, but nobody is immune from Pity Parties.

So my blog keeps me well practiced, spinning straw into gold, as I try to remember that life’s worse scenarios not only have silver linings, but, seasoned by a little time, are perfect fodder for turning upside down into comedy.

If you have to choose between laughing and crying, which would you rather?

Because life goes on either way. And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite reboots is a man named Elijah. Every time this prophet in Israel (864 BCE) had an idea, God backed it up.

If Elijah thought it shouldn’t rain for three and a half years, it didn’t.

If Elijah asked fire from heaven to fall and scorch up the top of Mount Carmel, it did.

If Elijah wanted the Jordan River to open wide so he could cross on dry ground, bingo.

The man had a job to do, and he preferred the dramatic, the sarcastic, the maverick and the solitary.

Which worked out fine until an angry queen issued an order for his immediate – and as painful as possible, please – death.

The man went from manic to depressed overnight. He ran out into the wilderness to end it all. And there, he met God.

Sure, I’m skipping all the delicious details for now, because the thing I want to point out is, since God is everywhere…you can find Him anywhere.

Even at the end of your rope.

Here’s a guy who’s just sick to death of everyone not listening to him. He’s tried everything he can think of doing, and instead of making progress, things are going completely south.

Sounds like a typical Thursday.

When I presented my class on 1 Kings 19, I took everyone verse by verse to show how God helps Elijah through his pain and depression and how we can use this model to help each other through it, too.

Being present, compassionate, and patient are key.

And the answer to all things lies in God’s Still Small Voice.

The voice that opened Creation is also the voice that tickles in your ear when you’re very quiet and listening. It alerts you to His presence and insists that you listen for something much, much bigger than your current circumstances.

(Even Ahab proved that a wife who whispered in his ear was more persuasive than fire from heaven. Crazy, but true.)

God reminds Elijah that he is needed yet, because life goes on either way, and you don’t want to miss it.

“We have a future,” He says, “You are My treasure. The lights are going out on the Pity Party and it’s time to try again. And just because you feel all alone, doesn’t mean you are. I have surrounded you with thousands, Elijah, you just can’t see them from where you are standing.”

And so I have replaced my Pity Parties with Tea Parties.

The pretty tea things remind me that I am also a useful treasure on His shelf of “favorite stuff”.

I am gentle and kind and patient with myself and surrounded with kindred spirits.

The Still Small Voice takes over for a while and hugs my hurts until they dissipate.

And like Elijah finally leaving the cave, the light returns to my heart.

And I can go on.

“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” Psalm 46:10

Specter

I’ve been working on several projects at once, which makes me crazy and happy simultaneously, and occasionally I’d like to share bits of them with you lovely readers.
Sometimes you can hear the several mugs of tea that went into the writing of a blog and sometimes I hope it’s obvious that God has fingerprints all over the page.
But this little excerpt is from a book I’m writing simply titled “Abide”.

What makes a person stay in a place where they don’t feel safe, when they have all the choices in the world to choose from?

If there’s a chance that the specter you fear may not indeed be real, would you question it?

When you take away the fight and you remove the flight, what do you have left?

When you won’t be a martyr and you refuse to be a victim, who are you?

Can you separate the specter from the circumstances?

There is a place in the middle of everything and everywhere. It’s a pinpoint in space between time and location and thought and energy. It’s the vortex, the crux, the center.

But for this book, I’m calling it the bend in your elbow.

Because it’s a place you have never once considered.

And it’s right in front of you.

And a lot of stuff hinges on it.

This was a lesson I learned very young, and then forgot.

Sometimes, you can bend that elbow, flex that arm, and step deliberately into the crux.

In second grade, all of my classmates played the same game every single day at recess.

The boys, in a pack, would chase the girls, in a pack, all around the playground and into the girls’ bathroom. The girls would proceed to hang out in the bathroom for the rest of our play time, giggling over the boys, sending out “spies” who would run shrieking back.

I thought it was awfully mean of the boys to hold us hostage in there, when I would rather be on the monkey bars or playing hopscotch.

I vividly recall the day I had a thought. It was a radical and new thought.

Something that, obviously, had occurred to no one else.

Which automatically makes it suspect in second grade.

What if? (Oh boy, there it goes again. I wonder how to get my mother’s voice out of my head?)

But what if…we stopped running?

You could count on the boys never, ever giving up the chase. They were delighted with the whole arrangement. You could be sure the adults in the area weren’t going to do something about it. Why should they care? Everyone seemed okay with the game.

But.

We were in charge of what we were gonna do.

Weren’t we?

We second graders who weren’t in charge of anything…?

I told the girls what I was going to do. They were horrified. There was absolutely no telling what would happen to a girl if a boy actually caught her. Boys were mean and awful and full of cooties. They were fast.

We watched the clock tick slowly towards recess, holding our breath.

The bell rang, the boys and girls gathered up their collective teams, and off we went.

It took me all the way to the bathroom to gather my courage.

I stopped five paces from safety, turned, and stared those boys down.

The pack of boys skidded to a halt, inches from me, arms flailing and shocked faces registering a little too late, that something had gone awry.

“What are you doing?” they shouted, “Why did you stop? We totally got you.”

They were mad.

“Yeah?” I said, sarcastic even at that tender age, “Just what are you gonna do with me, then?”

Total silent confusion. I love that.

That is exactly what your fears do when you gather just enough courage to skid to a stop, grab a monkey bar for support, and stare them down.

“I’m never running from you guys again,” I said, “It’s a totally stupid game and I hate staying in the bathroom and I want to go play. Don’t bother me anymore!”

And they never did.

I watched the girl pack run by once in a while, and I would feel sorry for them, except, they seemed pretty happy with the whole routine. It’s like they were okay with the attention, even if it was bad attention that wasted their time and held them hostage and amounted to nothing.

Weird.

I mean, not that we ever behave like that as adults, right?

 

“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”    John 12:46

Angels in the Backseat

Once upon a New Year’s Eve, we got it together on a bright and beautiful Sunday morning and headed across town to church.

You reckon that God is over there waiting for you and you’ll hear some lovely thoughts on scripture and practice loving your neighbor and teach the kids a thing or two about how Jesus loves them so.

And your suburban is in the shop (again) but that’s okay because another member is driving two of your kiddos and you’ve got the other three in the Lexus with you, so you make a cup of tea to go and debate just briefly whether to hassle the carseat into it because the kid is five already and it’s only across town.

So you don’t bother.

Hubby’s driven the exact same route a million times.

So when we entered the intersection and got hit by another car incoming at 3 o’clock and spun and got struck again and then spun into another car who was just minding it’s own business waiting for the light to turn and we all landed smack in the middle of Oz, it made no sense.

None.

Hubby immediately jumped out of the car.

“What happened?” I heard him asking, “I don’t understand…what was that?”

His first thought – and all of the alternatives were just as awful – was that somehow he had run a red light. That someway he had just made a terrible mistake. But he had seen a green light.

Hadn’t he?

It never occurred to anyone that – hey – he had just jumped out of a totaled car.

And walked around trying to understand stuff.

I vividly remember sitting in my seat, wondering the same thing.

I was surrounded by deflated air bags; tea was all over the place.

There was a breath of complete silence.

And then my little one started to cry.

“Kids!” I shrieked, “Kids! Are you okay? Somebody talk to me!”

“Yeah mom,” said my eldest. He was sitting directly behind me. “I think so.”

I heard glass shifting in sharp little ice cube sounds. I heard the car door open behind me. I heard my daughter in the far left seat groan very quietly. My baby was still crying.

I must’ve lost it just a little.

Over and over, I screamed at the kids to tell me they were okay until my eldest opened my car door.

He got right up in my face.

He made eye contact until I was quiet.

“Mom,” he said, “we’re okay. We’re all three out of the car and standing here. I’ve got the kid, he’s just scared. Look, he stopped crying.”

And that’s when it occurred to me that I couldn’t move.

My brain told my head to turn and look out of the car, but my head didn’t want to.

Weird.

That was it, weird.

And I just didn’t care because my babies were standing in the middle of the road and promised that they weren’t hurt and they were okay and everyone was going to wait for the emergency vehicles and stay together and take care of each other until everything was okay again.

That’s what I needed to do. Fix stuff. Make it okay pronto.

I sat there and called my mother.

I know.

I told her where we were and could she come and collect us and that we were all okay but obviously without a vehicle.

Oh, and I couldn’t really move yet but it was all the same to me to sit there in the comfortable car and wait for her. I was fine. I called her, didn’t I, to tell her so. I must be.

I sat in the car, hearing voices that seemed jumbled and far away and looking at nothing much in particular, feeling tired and thankful and completely sure that we were all fine.

Which makes no sense.

But I didn’t need it to.

I just knew.

I was very surprised when a strange man popped his head into my personal space.

“Hi there,” said Mr Handsome.

“Hi.” Mental eye roll. Surely I could’ve come back with anything more clever.

“How are you feeling?”

“You know,” I said, “I’m fine, thank you. I just felt like I didn’t want to stand up yet. I’ll get out now, if you need me to.”

“Have you moved at all since the crash?”

I didn’t like his insinuation.

“No, but I was just pulling myself together. Look, I can turn my head, it just hurts to do it, but I’m sure it’s fine.”

I had barely shifted my chin to the right when he and the entire firefighting crew around him exclaimed, “STOP! No! Don’t move!”

Well. I didn’t know I was so popular.

I gave Mr Handsome the stink eye.

“I can wiggle my fingers and my toes. I can move my arms and make phone calls. I’m fine!”

“Look,” he said very calmly, “we don’t know if you have a hairline fracture anywhere in your spine. If you turn anything at all…you could pop it.”

And that’s when I went a little to jelly.

I let strapping young men strap me into a hard stretcher. I forgave them for lying me smack in the middle of the street in broad daylight with a crowd of onlookers who will remain forever anonymous, as my neck was in the cone of shame.

It was a bit much though, (paramedics take note here) that I was on an incline with my head lower.

I had a head rush, but I was glad I was wearing my nice skirt and top.

Someone else was put into the ambulance with me, and the paramedic asked me questions all the way to the hospital.

But not the other guy.

The other guy had broken ribs and a collapsed lung. But I didn’t find that out until much later.

By the time I was laid out in the ER, and my X-rays were being scrutinized, Hubby was sitting next to me again.

He told me my parents had arrived on the scene and collected the children and taken them on to church where they were surrounded for the day with instant multitudinous family.

A police officer stepped into our cubicle.

He explained that the other car had blatantly run a red light. The driver and his passenger were heading home after an all-night party. They had just stopped at a drive through for breakfast and the driver had glanced down at his wrapped McMuffin and never even saw the intersection coming.

He struck our front right car panel at full speed, crumpling it just to the edge of my door.

When we both spun, he struck the back right car panel, crumpling it just to the edge of the back door.

When we spun into the other car, we smashed out the left rear of our car.

The three kids in the back seat were leaned forward when the rear window shattered and threw parts from the other car into the seat at them, showering them in glass.

Not a scratch on them.

The officer mentioned that this was a perfect lawsuit. They had all the evidence in their report available. This negligent driver had totaled a family car, minors were involved, and here was the mom laid out in hospital.

He gave us paperwork and respectfully backed out.

Hubby and I just looked at each other as a doctor walked in.

“No fractures,” he said. “Just a full-body whiplash. Take your time starting to move. I’ll prescribe some pain killers.”

Sometimes you have “church” in the most unlikely places.

It dawns on you that God wasn’t waiting around somewhere for you to show up.

He was sitting right here with you the whole time.

With His arms around you.

Every scripture involving the concept of thanksgiving, grace, and mercy popped into my head.

And I thought they were all beyond true.

I felt nothing but sympathy and sadness for the people in the car that had hit us. They were hurt, and we weren’t. We had a loving family with multitudinous arms lifting us up.

I didn’t know what kind of family these strangers were going home to.

What would their own mothers say, running to see them in the hospital?

Were they afraid? How many ways had this morning changed their lives, maybe forever? Were they going to spend months worrying, waiting for us to hunt them down?

Because we didn’t.

When God hands you the lives of your children, you don’t ask for a single thing more.

I believe my kids learned a thing or two that day about how much Jesus loved them so, without anyone saying a thing.

Later, at home, I put on – very slowly – the sparkly top I had bought for New Year’s Eve.

I answered the constantly ringing phone to reassure everyone that, yes, our open house New Year’s party was still on. Please come.

For once, I didn’t do dishes or join the Xbox dance-off or hula hoop contest.

I just sat up very straight and soaked in the love that permeated our home.

And tried to thank the angels who had been sitting on the kids in the backseat.

You’ll Always Be My Friend…You Know Too Much

I received a birthday card this year that said, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears; your actions louder than your words; and your faith stronger than your feelings.”

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In the basement of a sweet little church last week, I stood up in front a group of women and let my dream of saying something intelligent be bigger than my fear of choking on the spot and dying a very public death.

For sure, leading a gym class and gaining perspiration would’ve been easier than leading a Bible class and gaining inspiration.

And as it turns out, when I stood in front of these beautiful women, my faith wasn’t in my own abilities to speak, but rather in their intentions to listen. I had to believe that somewhere in my ramblings, each of them would hear something that spoke directly to her own heart. Something gloriously small and explicit. Something, I hope, that made them glad they were sitting down with enough time to enjoy the new thought.

The title of my classes, “On the Care and Feeding of Your BFF”, was chosen by a group of girlfriends months ago, as they were lounging pool-side. I actually asked them to vote on what I should talk about in Canada.

I’m cool like that. (I’m also sadly unfocussed like that.)

But, as every writer knows, all bets are off when you sit down at the keyboard.

Martha and Mary of Bethany kept butting into my notes and no matter how hard I explained to them that they had lost the vote, they would not get out of my face.

So I let them take the floor, and Class 1 was born.

They showed me how to behave like a “best friend forever”. And how not to. And what happens when you let Christ take over your heart. And what happens when you don’t. They both looked me in the eyes and reminded me that the Good Samaritan hadn’t seen his choices coming, but when he saw a wounded man, he didn’t see danger or calculate a backstory or contemplate excuses.

He just reached into his bag and pulled out a massive can of instant and lavish compassion.

“Let’s do this,” I hear him think.

End of story. But also the beginning of ours.

The ladies in Ontario played along with me as we explored the many languages of love that feed and nurture those deliberately connected relationships.

We had soul-warming soups for lunch, and faith-building, hand-holding conversational comfort food; the kind made of good old fashioned face time, bubbling along with laughter, our individual flavors melding together.

Later, we went deep into the pits with Jeremiah and up to the mountain top with Elijah.

Caring for your friendships needn’t stop when one stumbles into a pit.

For the girlfriend who suddenly doesn’t know what to say or do, this class held tools for building ladders out of pits and ways to hold on to each other when life gets real.

It does get real, doesn’t it?

How wonderful to know someone has your back.

Amazing things happen when women gather together.

Their love for each other is so tangible.

I am thankful for the prayers and encouragement, the mentoring and editing that countless women supported me with as I walked this road to Canada.

It’s changed me in ways I haven’t yet put words to.

And I know that, one BFF at a time, we are going to make it through this crazy life of ours, holding hands, pressing onward, and yes – very likely – giggling a lot of the time.

One Two Three Not It

When you attend the same family Bible Camp every July for almost 30 years, you can count on being asked to help out.

And this time, they have the wrong volunteer for the job.

They asked me to do the evening coffee – which I don’t drink and can’t make and it’s served in 50 cup urns that require hefting.

I generally try to avoid hefting (double hernia surgery and all).

When our Camp Committee asked me to give it a go I waited two months to reply, hoping someone else had stepped into the gap.

“You’re our only hope, Obi Wan,” they replied.

Swell.

So I got the scoop (rim shot) from my coffee guru girlfriend, bought supplies, and hauled it all up the mountain.

They hadn’t counted on my tea fetish.

Here’s the thing.

Don’t volunteer for stuff unless you’re willing to be a hot mess with it.

Do or Do Not. There’s no fun in “Sort Of”.

That night, in a dark and pouring rainstorm, a few brave souls discovered that an American had set up the real deal tea bits.

“Oooooh”s and “Aaaaah”s warmed the cockles of my heart.

(Of course you have heart cockles, Google it.)

On the other hand, coffee addicts were making the same face and whimpers over their own tiny cup of comfort.

“Maybe I sleep on a bunked,” said the whimpers, “and maybe I’ve lost track of my kids for the tenth time today and maybe everything I own is covered in mud, but for these five minutes – I almost feel human.”

The next day, the Committee is seeking a couple more volunteers to help out at Carnival Night. Who will man a booth, play a game, hand out prizes for the 7-12 year olds?

This is the part where you attempt to fade into the background by staring at the ceiling and acting distracted by your fingernails.

DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT.

They need a volunteer for the face painting booth.

My artistic talents are limited to drawing a smiley face on a bandaid.

Unless the booth involves spackle, rollers, and fat blue tape, I am the wrong volunteer for this job.

Have you seen me paint a wall?

There is always collateral damage.

I can’t be expected to paint a face without masking off the rest of the child’s body.

At least the wall holds still.

Speaking of which, I was also asked (begged, let’s get down to it) to put something together for the 3rd grade class for performance night. You know, when each class climbs up on the stage and sings a little song or recites a little verse about what they learned all week.

I walk with a group of moms who not only have ‘been there done that’ for a million years, but have been trying to pass on the T-shirts. Nobody but nobody wants this job.

How many versions of “This Little Light of Mine” can you take?

I raised my eyebrows, leaned into Mrs. Committee Persons’ personal space and whispered, “Fine. But we’re doing this my way for once. I’m sick of being bored. I’m lighting things on fire.”

She didn’t bat an eye.

“Fine,” she replied, “just turn in your receipts at the end of the week.”

I walked away muttering to myself, “There’s gonna be fireworks and lasers and a fog machine! I’m gonna have acrobats and a live rhinoceros! We’re gonna reenact the Exodus and release thousands of little frogs into the audience!”

That’s how you get a standing ovation, baby.

Well, maybe a running ovation.

Also, hopefully, they never ask you to volunteer again.

Win, win.