Can’t Handle the Tooth

In honor of the incredible toothache pain I’m in right this very minute, I’m going to share a quote by one of my favorite authors of all time (and then a book of his, too). Or maybe two books of his. Or three. Or…

“If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.” -C.S. Lewis

That guy, up there, wrote exceedingly well about the God. And life. And pain. And love.

And friendship.

I like what he wrote about friendship so very much.

The first book of C.S. Lewis’ that I read was “The Four Loves”. Although still hovering over Christianity as though it were a possibility, I was still too full of Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche to land.  And as I read Lewis’ take on charity, eros, philia, and storge, I realized there were enough “thinkers” in this Christianity gig to make it a pretty sure thing.

And then, I got to the part about friendship and I exhaled. Because, exactly.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

But, then in The Abolition of Man, Lewis brought me down to my knees. I thought I saw through all that religiosity and hypocrisy.

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.”

Oh boy! He had my number. And as I speed read every book I could get my hands on (because, BOOKS!), I realized that there was no more denying God.

So I didn’t.

Ultimately, C.S. Lewis, turned my eyes outward and upward.

And they are ever upward.

Even as I sit here feeling like I can’t handle the tooth (pain). 

Yes indeedy.

If you are hovering over Christianity, grab a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Or, The Great Divorce. Or, if you are more fantasy fiction leaning, The Chronicles of Narnia series. (And no, it’s not just for youth. I daresay you get far more out of it as an adult!)

And then, if you missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below. I am writing this series as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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Five Things I Learned in September

September heralds birthday-mania, in this family of mine. Soccer starts, summer ends, and generally, All The Busy-ness intrudes into every breathing space I’ve spent the summer cultivating in my soul. Every. Single. September.

But, looking back over the past month (I praise you, Lord, for ushering in October!), I’ve taken inventory of what is important and what can be let go of. Maybe it’s because I’m already tired of the tyranny of the urgent that shouts from day one of September. It could also be that I’m applying loads from our study over on Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies Or, it could just be the sugar talking (from the many pieces of cake I’ve consumed this month).

In any case, here are the five (most important) things I learned in September.

  1. There is still no such thing as too much cake. There is, however, such a thing as a scale to try to tell you otherwise. I can’t get over how much I love my people, so celebrating another year with each one of them was precious. This picture so perfectly captures one day of the celebrating. I feel the need to point out that four birthdays are represented in this picture. And that’s just the family birthdays! Family_Bdays_Missindeedy2.  When the subject line of my favorite online devotionals looks like this, twice in one day, I’d best pay attention. (And, because this topic was in the subject line of many devotionals and blog posts and conversations this month, you can bet my attention is rapt!)  Tongue_Trouble_Missindeedy3. Also, I learned that reading  is still my favorite thing to do. Most recently, I’ve read Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs, Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown, For the Love by Jen Hatmaker, and Taming the To-Do List, by Glynnis Whitwer. All impacted me greatly. But, this one line from Every Little Thing has been banging around in my head for a week:  “Some seasons of life are like that, with each moment marking a small victory, primarily because we survived it.”  AMEN! EveryLittleThing_Missindeedy4. Sweetboy is old enough to “watch” Sweetgirl for an hour, now,  while I run out to the grocery store (or Target). However, Sweetgirl has dutifully informed us that her brother is a “Not-So-Great Babysitter”. Upon further questioning, we found out that this is because he will not play Princess Palace Pets with her.  We’ve realized her gifting does not lie in determining the quality of a babysitter.
  2. Lastly, (even though it says number 2, because even my computer won’t listen today!) I learned that friendships require time, but that time requires careful consideration. I’m pretty sure we all know that, of course. But, it was brought home to me when I started filling in all of the commitments that I had over the course of the month. I saw lots of lunches and breakfasts and coffees with lots of wonderful beautiful friends, but hardly any white space for my own soul to breathe on its own. Everyone in this household suffers when mama doesn’t have space for her soul to breathe. Anyone else? Now, this realization is going to take some thinking through because, friendships! But, for now, I see that I can’t sustain the pouring out without more time and space to fill up. 

There you have it. Try to contain your enthusiasm for all the sharing. If you’d like to read some far more fabulous lessons learned in September, head on over to Emily P. Freeman’s blog and check them out.

What did you learn last month?

Cheers to You, Friends!

Over the last decade (and change), since becoming a mother, I have had different friends enter the landscape of my motherhood. Each has contributed something precious and necessary: community, advice, support, assistance, and laughter.

Must. Have. Laughter!

While all of my friends aren’t mothers (hello Jason, Joan, Sarah!!!), I’m focusing in on those fellow mamas today.

Some have come alongside to help me see clearly, when my eyes were too filled with tears to do so on my own. I’m thinking of my sweet friend Ally, who listened as I relayed a devastating fear about Sweetboy, and just held my hand and patiently listened and prayed with me.  And Dana, who hears my deepest anxieties, and prays with me then and there to allay them. They are truly like Job described when he spoke of a friend interceding on behalf of another – “…let him plead with God for a human being, like a person pleads for a friend.” 

Also, I’m thinking of a brave and kind friend, Aimee. We met as part of a weekly playgroup for Sweetgirl when she was a toddler. I was unable to see some obvious developmental needs emerging in her, so focused was I at the time on getting Sweetboy acclimated in our new town. Her words were so kindly spoken at just the right time.

Others have helped lift my eyes to the Right Place, when I forgot to. I think of my bold friend Kim who walked with me through my initial depression diagnosis; and, who weathered a mighty storm, side-by-side with me, with our then shared church family. She truly modeled Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a {sister} is born for adversity.”

I have deep thankfulness for my friends Rae, Kristy, and Erin, who push me and encourage me to keep writing and dreaming and become the best little writer that God wants me to be!

And then, there have been the precious few who have provided much-needed comic relief. My fiery-haired friend Erin, quick-witted friend Janet, and round-table friends Monica and Katie . I welcome the bellyaches from All The Laughter, and their cheerful hearts truly do bring a smile to my face. Often!

These are just some of the friends in my life. And, I cherish each one. Speaking with older friends and family members about their own friendships, I see the eternal Truth and Wisdom in these Words:

Two are better than one, because they have good pay for their work. For if one of them falls, the other can help him up. But it is hard for the one who falls when there is no one to lift him up.

Each new friend that God graces me with, online or off, provides more reasons to be grateful. Whether we share a love of God, writing, or eating – whether we’re commiserating over how hard it is to be a parent, spouse, or not eat – having friends to lift me up is truly a gift that I cherish.

And a special shout-out to those of you in this here blogosphere – you hold a special place in my heart. I can’t hardly express how much joy your comments and encouragements bring to my heart.

So…

Cheers to you, my friends! Thank you for being one.

Yes indeedy!

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One Thing Better Than High Hair

I attended a rockin’ Twitter party last night.  It was a happy hour filled with flying fingers, cracked jokes, and community building. I was surrounded by a couple dozen amazing women, many of whom I am able to call “Friend”.

And, it was grace.

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.”

– Frederick Buechner

Because, the party wouldn’t have been complete without me.

Without me?

Yes!

And it’s not complete without you, either.

It took me twenty some-odd years to own that.

And, my season of High Hair ushered that lesson in.

One of the most painful memories I have, is of being labeled an outcast by a group of middle school girls that I thought were my best friends.

I could say it was because I developed physically before they did and they were jealous. Maybe. It’s possible that they were acting out of a need to have control over some part of their out-of-control lives. Beauty wasn’t my friend back then; and that didn’t do me any favors, either.

I might never know why they shunned me as they did.

What I do know is that as a tender 12 year old reed, it broke me.

And, I took my broken pieces and receded into the safety of my tomboyish ways. Hunting and fishing with Ahab, skateboarding with Brother, keeping my face in the pool and away from the eyes of those who sought to bore holes into my heart. Those were my survival techniques.

And I surely did survive.

But God wanted me to see Him. And He wanted me to do more than survive.

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So, He sent Grace striding into my life, all high hair and hairspray, frosted lips and Northern accent. That unmerited favor modeled a grace for my fragility. That one longed-for friendship did so very much to repair some of the damage done to my heart.

God tenderly repaired this broken reed and set it straight.

I learned a beautiful lesson that year: sometimes Grace comes through people. And He reminds you that what happened then doesn’t matter near as much as what you allow to happen now. It pours over you and into you and shows you that you are not alone, that you are loved, and that the pain of the past does not have to define your future.

Indeed! While Beauty and I never did make amends, Grace and I?

We’ve become BFF’s.

Has grace ever found you in friendship? Would you share here?

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This is post #1 in my 31 Days of Grace series. The Nester is hosting her annual 31 Days of Writing. If you’d like to check out one of the thousands of unique contributions, click here. You can find my introduction post here.

 

 

 

Watching Them Play

Four backs all turned to me, are sitting happily on the blacktop of the driveway. They are noticeably minus one.  That one is facing me. Facing the others, too.  It struck me afresh that “one of these kids is not like the other.”

Three siblings sit next to each other, enjoying the cool of the shade. My own two children are in the mix, too, but I can’t help but notice how different Sweetboy can look from other kids, just by his choice of seating position.

It’s in these moments that I feel lonely.

Watching him play.

Realizing that he always manages to find a way to separate himself from the crowd. Albeit unintentionally.

Even a crowd of well-loved friends.

I listen to chatter about water balloons, all spent and shriveled up in their burst state – a million little shards of latex balloon peppering the driveway.  Much like the shards of my heart in this moment.

Their conversation is like popcorn kernels exploding in the air.

“I so won that round!”

“My baby water balloon never popped. Look, I’ve still got it!”

“Maybe we can fill up more after we take a snack break?”

“That was fun!”

And then, his own comment. Different.

“Do you want to swing now?”

I forget sometimes. I forget that this child, this Sweetboy, he marches to the beat of his own drum. It is not the music that other kids his age often hear.

This melody is an awesome and awful tribute to how differently my child’s mind processes activities that he participates in. Conversations that he carries on with friends often reveal more about what he’s not into than what he is. It’s a stark reminder that the music he hears has strains running through it that others cannot.

I hear it, though.

In these moments, I do.

And I see it.

And I still, nine years after that first Autism diagnosis, I still rail against what I see. And, what I hear.

Until…

My heart reminds me that he does, indeed, have friends to have conversations with.  There are activities he participates in.

Until I listen a little longer to hear, “No, we still want to play with water balloons, Sweetboy.”

Until I get to hear him answer back, “Okay. They are fun!”

And I feel okay again.

Watching them play, watching him play, the music carries on. I feel sure that he’s going to be okay.

Yes indeedy.

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Best Friends Forever

English: A variety of tweezers, including poin...

My tweezers and I? We are best friends.  Best. Friends.

I wish I were kidding about this statement.

Alas, it is true.

It’s kind of a hairy story.

You knew I was going there, right?

Apparently, God saw fit to endow me lots of opportunities to give my tweezers a workout.  I have become very skilled at using those little suckers.  Even in the car.  Not while driving, of course. Although, I wonder if I could put that on a resume?

  • Adept at manipulating miniscule tools for emergency hair removal situations under high velocities

That sounds so official-like, doesn’t it?

Anyhoo… one of my greatest fears is being stuck in a place that doesn’t have either a 10x mirror, a 5x mirror, or… a mirror.

No worries, I don’t love myself that much.  I do, however, love knowing whether I’ve got a plucker that needs to go before going out into public. (Sidebar: friends don’t let friends go out in public with a Granny length chin hair poking out. Can I get an Amen? I mean, when we’re all 96 and start mistaking our toothbrush for our hairbrush, we can let that slide.  Until then…)

Truth be told, nothing strikes terror in my heart quicker than being in front of a mirror, while already in public, and discovering a surprise hair. Or 3.  MERCY! My heart gets to palpitating and I get the sweats.

Add being caught in that situation without my best friend?  My mouth just went dry…

It’s happened often enough, though, that I’ve developed an action plan. I now stow my best friend in every possible location I can think of. Purse? Check. Car? Check. Random kitchen drawer? Check. Upstairs, downstairs, and basement? Check, check, and… you just never know.

However, I also have a group of 4 flesh-and-blood best friends who are spread over these United States. We’ve made a pact that if I ever become incapacitated for some reason, they will take turns coming to my bedside, on a rotating basis. To pluck.

Yes, being best friends with me is just. that. exciting.

Now you know the true definition of TMI, folks.  I can’t even apologize, you see, because I’m all about The Sharing.

And since the likelihood of more unsightly hairs cropping up seems to increase with my advanced maternal age, I do believe my tweezers and I?  We really will be best friends forever.

So, to recap – I have hairs to spare.  My best friends deserve a medal. And, If you ever come to visit and reach into a drawer for a spoon, but instead pull out a pair of tweezers, you’ll understand why.

Just hand em’ over and we’ll be sure to be B.F.F’s in no time.

Yes indeedy.

Alpacas, Gerbils, and Community – Oh My!

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:20

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Did you know that Alpacas spit?  Maybe you were already privy to that information, but I always thought they were far too cultured for that.  Apparently, while they won’t spit at you, they will indeed spit out into the great beyond to share their disdain for something that you might be trying to introduce them to. Like, say… a harness for the first time.

And, did you know that there are Gerbil Rescuers? Oh, yes. There. Are. You know how you can bring home “two male gerbils” and 2 weeks later you awake to miraculously find that there are approximately 23 more are in the cage now, too?  There are kind folks who will swoop right in and help you make that right.

I learned these things, and so much more, from these beautiful new friends that I made at the inRL Meetup that took place at my home this weekend.

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I wrote here, back in March, that I had taken the leap and signed up for the (in)courage inRL (that’s in real life) meetups that were going to be taking place this past weekend, around the world. And not only did I sign up to attend, but also to host at my home. (‘Cuz I’m just extroverted like that).  I wrangled a sweet friend with Mad Decorating Skills to come help me in that area because God so clearly neglected to give me that particular skill set.  True story. (And that would be the beautiful lady on the far right up there!)

My friends, if you didn’t get a chance to make one of these this year?  Put it on your calendar for next year. NOW!  It was amazingly refreshing and uplifting and encouraging. And I have pictures to prove it, of course.

But first, I must show you how I started the morning.  I put on my brand spankin’ new white inRL t-shirt, and proceeded to get lipstick right on the front of it.  Lipstick that is, apparently, immune to any sort of stain stick. Trust me – we tried a few different ones.  I took it as a reminder, from the God that provided this opportunity for community, to Keep It Real.  Amen?

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As each new woman walked in, I reminded myself to breathe and to just brightly say, “Welcome!”, instead of rushing to explain what was staining the front of my t-shirt.

And do you know what was amazing?  No one noticed.

Do you want to know what else was amazing?  These women!  Not a single one was at the same stage of life as me.  Not a single one had a child with Autism.  There were two without any children at all. (Although, we’re all counting the Alpacas as children after our conversation!) We were all at various places in our faith journeys, in our work lives, and relationships.

We may not have been a large group, but God brought five women together to learn about what community can feel like -with all the pain and joy it brings with it – in real life.

And it was so good.  So. Very. Good.

With the icebreaker over and the gabbing winding down, we gathered around the screen to watch the webcast on Staying in Community. There were so many heads nodding throughout, that I thought heads were going to fall right off of bodies! Such wisdom was conveyed during the telling of these genuine and heartfelt stories during the webcast.  A few of my favorites were the following:

  • “We all need to be told it isn’t too late to make it beautiful.” –Angie Smith
  • “…we walk around and pick up a few of each other’s shards to add to a few of our own. Because that is what good friends do.  Become safe places to break wide open and share the shards of our mess.” – Kristen Strong
  • “The thing that wounds us is often the thing that God will walk us through again to heal us.” – Mary DeMuth
  • “Sometimes when we stay, it’s because our testimony isn’t about us at all- it’s entirely about Him.” _-TeriLynne Underwood
  • “You need imperfect people in your life to perfect your practice of love.” –Ann Voskamp

These were just a few of the many many thoughts I tucked into my heart during this webcast!

The talk of mentors had my head spinning for the rest of the day. I didn’t write down who said, “Mentors are like anchors. They ground us when things get rough.”  I chewed on that for hours!  And Marina Bromley spoke of the importance of being real: “One of the best gifts you can give to a mentee is to not be perfect – but perfectly open.”  Oh. My. Soul! Don’t we all just crave someone to be real with us?  Someone who will let us be ourselves and not turn us away when we botch it up and good? Who will call us to the carpet when we’re turning away purposefully?  And love on us when we aren’t?

Are you feeling like you missed a great opportunity?  Don’t! If you missed it, I do believe it will be made available later on, in DVD format. I’m going to tell you straight up to run and get yourself a copy, when it does! You will be so thankful.  And encouraged.  Who doesn’t want that?  Who doesn’t need that?

This is one event that I plan to take part in forevermore.  It did my heart and soul good to know that I was part of a larger community of women who are trusting in God to see us through every stage of life. And that we’re better… together.

Yes, indeedy!

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