Sisterhood of the Traveling (insert article of clothing which inspires, flatters, and cheers)

We were relatively new to the neighborhood, but several of the little girls were meeting on the porch across the street. Adorable with their ruffly clothes and pony-tailed curls, they brushed their dolls’ hair lovingly as they chatted. Bella had just arrived with her puppy backpack. I don’t think her own hair had been brushed since the day before. I heard one of the little friends greet her and ask if she had “an American Girl doll.” I did not hear Bella’s reply, but watched her enthusiastically drop to the ground, unzip her backpack, and triumphantly produce “Snakey”–the articulated wooden snake she’d chosen from Chinatown. Bless them, the girls went with it. Friends do that.

I have found my “movie friends”–the one or two who get into crazy predicaments and throw out fabulous one liners, who stick by you when times are stupid or hard, who make you laugh till you pee when you really just want to throw yourself out a window, who make you feel like the best version of yourself, and who can sit with you and be ok with your weird inner world.622675ac21c2d1d7a543311c03df7488ad6a5c1211e73ee7bbeb4cdb3d02fccf

I’m an introvert. I do Alone well. I enjoy Alone.
So this is the furthest from The Shire I’ve ever been. I’m going to miss some people. Three people. So much.
Let’s be real, I miss my friends who are far away. But somehow this is different.
Maybe it’s because I’m the one not going anywhere and the three of them are leaving. A Diaspora of Awesome, if you will.
There are three women I’ve laughed with here whom I will miss in a bone-deep way. Three women to whom I’ve actually bonded the way I imagine people bond with friends in high school or college. Three women whom I would totally watch a movie about.

I was in a Bible study for a few months that turned out to be my jam. I can’t even really explain why–on the page it looked very clearly laid out and logical but when I read the assignment each week I felt like it was completely formless and required flying by the seat of one’s pants. Essentially, it was precisely how my students must have felt when I gave them assignments in Freshman Composition classes. Made both no sense and all the sense to me.
I’ve been able to process and write in a way I haven’t felt able to in a while. And I’ve had a wonderful sort of anticipation with each assignment. Like God was going to really show me something each time.
So with the last week of class I was pretty pumped. I told God48324 that I would like to read something about friends and saying goodbye and having peace and not being sad and getting brave. Annnnnnnnd go!
Nothing.
For three days.
Not gonna lie, was pretty disappointed. Thanks a lot, God.
The next morning I resorted to sullenly flipping through my Bible. My eye dropped to the bottom edge of a page and saw “But even if he does not…” There’s a song I love of late and that phrase is the main chorus, so I stopped to see what was happening here.
It was about Daniel.
And his three friends–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In a nutshell, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown in a fiery furnace which had been heated to seven times its normal heat (cuz a regular people-burning-furnace wasn’t enough…) when they would not serve false gods. They speak as a unit; there are no individual lines from each of them. They don’t know that God WILL save them, only that He CAN. And that’s enough for them.

Now. There are plenty of individual lines from my friends and me. And they are brilliant. None of us has known what will happen next,

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which is great

and we’ve had plenty to say about how jacked up a few things have been. But as a unit, and as part of an even greater unit, we’ve been able to wait. To not act too rashly. To remind each other that God can do this thing, but even if He does not, we will not give up our hope in Him.
Wednesday has been my other Sunday. It’s been how I pace and center and recharge and motivate. But with a lot more communion. And a tiny bit of cussing.

We’ve all been here less than a year. We’ve really only been getting together for a few months but the fire has been heated to seven times its normal heat. Bad stuff has gone down while we’ve been here. Broken spines and major surgeries, reoccurring illnesses, peeing blood, shingles, disturbing revelations–and that’s just my house. My three friends have had even more intense issues thrown at them. But, for me, knowing I will see them Wednesday, have a glass or nine of something festive, listen to their stories, and tell them mine, anchors my week.

I don’t know how the silver refining process works. I looked up a few things on the internet and I still don’t really have anything. I thought it would be a great metaphor of transformation from bits of metal and ore or whatever to this beautiful valuable silver after going through the fires. Dude. There are alloys, coppers, sulfides, light measurements, assaying techniques–forget it. I’m not skilled enough to make any of that mean my friends are beautiful and precious and strong.96e1996482068215613365280ef50400

So let me just tell you: My friends are Beautiful and Precious and Strong.

Jesus is absolutely my anchor, but these people have been the links connecting me more securely to Him. As much as I will miss their presence, these friends leave me with powerful outlines on my heart’s wall. Being blasted in a furnace leaves marks and I hope I never stop trying to walk like they do–with courageous and quiet strength, enduring and focused intensity, and an all encompassing joy and energy to not only do battle with this life like Boudica on speed but also to love the journey and infuse every person encountered with encouragement and hope and proof that the fire can always get hotter and the seas can always get rougher, but the Anchor will take the heat. The Anchor will hold.

Now,

bring me that horizon

and a box of Kleenex.

Dorian’s Palette

042414Made of failure,
constructed of disappointment,
she is set down before Beautiful
with her empty bowl
and her crushed being.

Twisted and untruthful,
plank-eyed and a great arm for stone throwing,
she is brought to Beautiful
and placed on her mat,
given her bowl.

Her portrait is a glossy masterpiece
in Vermillion
in Prussian Blue.
The brushstrokes are masterful–
a rich blending of evil
of intention
of all the good colors.

She holds out her bowl
to take up the collection,
the things she needs from others
to cover up her own contributions.

All her betrayals
and every dead thing
she’s made or believed
go into this bowl
as she sits on her mat.

At night she brings out her mortar and pestle.
She brings out the linseed oil.
She grinds the contents of her bowl into
lovely pigments
to correct her portrait.

But each morning she must
be carried out again.
Unable to stand,
she is set down.
She holds out her bowl.

Until she hears,
Look at me.

And she does.
Then.
Beautiful looks at her.
Beautiful takes her hand and
pulls her up.
Beautiful is where she’s always been.

Standing up,
her knife is no longer flat and dull,
no longer for mixing facade.
With the new blade
she can destroy her portrait.

When they ask her what has happened,
she will say,
I looked up. It is Beautiful.

Watch Repair

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I get tired.
I sleep on the job.
I look around
but I do not watch.
I love the trees–
how they dwell in their grassy silent chambers.
And I hate wandering
on the edge of those gardens of knowing
the terror is only just ahead–
but not yet.
I would feel safer in a tower,
walled off and lifted high above the danger.
But I want to be like the trees,
brave and standing and rooted
yet reaching.
I want to be
not far.
A tree is tall.
A tower is tall.
But even if I climb to such papery or stony heights
I do not watch.
Instead,
I kiss you.
I kill you.
I fall asleep in the cool breeze
and in my heavy worries.
I offer you my small things
but I know you don’t really need them.
I’ve seen many towers standing alone.
They offer good vantage points.
They encourage pause.
I think a tree must not like to be alone.
However tall and standing and rooted,
a tree must grow taller with a fellow.
You want to be with me,
want to bring me to where you are
and to see me awake.
Because while I was sleeping,
You were saving me.

gethsemane

Sword

From under the stones-
in a flurry of sticks-
the weapon bursts outward.
The weapon is singing a song.
The mission has a soundtrack.
Lists, signposts, a return address:
they mark the map I follow.
I want to hold the weapon–
for protection
for promise
for prosperity.
It seems to have new batteries though.
The weapon goes out into the fray.
I follow at a distance
out of respect
and safety.
But the song it sings is catchy.
I need to hold the weapon–
because of danger
because of defeat
because of death.
I feel disgrace when I lose sight of its shadow
and am left only humming the tune I’ve learned.
My hands want to hold the weapon.
But then I look around the field
where I’ve been in the fray
and realize the weapon has been holding me.

How To Be Christina Fishburne On Monday

Find yourself planted for three years in a place people typically stay for only one.
Congratulate yourself on all that personal growth you did in Hawaii.
Think about all the people you know who might have cancer.
Plan a productive day.
Damn the constantly dirty floor to Hell.
Think about writing.
Go to the gym.
Preemptively grieve all the friends who are leaving this summer.
Start crying because people you love might have cancer.
Want another baby.
Vacuum.
Forget to buy more bagels.
Think about writing.
Think about painting.
Think about cancer.
Think about being pregnant.
Damn elliptical machines to Hell.
Vacuum.
Decide not to have another baby.
Wish you cared more about politics.
Wish you cared more about history.
Wish you cared more about Power Rangers.
Damn cancer to Hell.
Vacuum.
Think about writing.
Think about babies.
Think about wine.
Think about the people you know who have survived cancer.
Wish you were Diana Gabaldon.
Wish you were Claire Fraser.
Wish you were taller.
Wish you were better at conversation.
Wish you had a plan for dinner.
Pick up crumbs with a wet napkin.
Hold Malcolm’s hand when he offers it.
Thank Sam for doing the dishes.
Listen to Bella’s detailed plan for her birthday party half a year away.
Laugh at how Auggie says new words wrong.
Think about not wishing for more.

This is not about the election.

They have to leave us.

They try to do it strongly.Version 2Version 2

We have to let them go. We try to do it gracefully.20161110_201110

They have to go far away. 20161110_185628We have to stay put. But it doesn’t always happen fast. Sometimes it drags out over days. Version 2Days of waiting to leave. Days of knowing they are technically still here. But we can’t see them. Then they are gone.img_0605 And they have to do hard things. 20161110_18575720161110_193815They have to live in hard places. 20161110_193857Version 2They miss us and we miss them. 20161110_193734100_2532We try to be brave like them. Version 2Version 2 Things happen to all of us. img_0514100_3275100_2507Version 2100_3056Version 2But they miss our things. 100_2990OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA100_3183100_3403100_2731And we miss their things. 20161110_185713Version 220161110_194029It’s hard for each of us to understand the other’s things.

And then one dayVersion 2 they’re back. img_1387_zps676d09f1And there’s more waiting. img_1519_zpsba00bc47Agonizing minutes and hours of waiting. img_1521_zps2bec4be9We can see them. img_1527_zps1a17229cWe can almost touch them. img_1539_zps152cc91aWe are about to lose what’s left of our minds. And then

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Welcome home. And welcome back. And whatever the world is like, it will always be changing–but the reason we send you and the reason we wait for you is the same as the reason you go and the reason you go again, and again: we love our country and what it was built for and we love each other because we have this in common.

We Put The “ER” In Character

This past week I had occasion to call an ambulance. Twice. The first time was especially great because I was also obliged to leave my screaming husband and screaming baby in the exam room so as to run across the hospital to the parking lot where I had to move my car in order for the emergency helicopter to land. Now, the last time my body hit a dead run was about the year of our Lord 2006. My body doesn’t like running. Nor does it do it well. But I was motivated. Highly motivated. And I was fast. It felt amazing! As I flew down the halls and burst out of the sliding doors, I rocketed toward my about-to-be towed vehicle and thought: I am a beast!
Who knew? And had the hospital been bigger than the frozen food section in Target, that Olympic record would have been in big trouble. I’ll tell ya what.
no-runI hate running. But apparently I can do it when I have to. For short distances.

***

I am trying to cook something for dinner while ping-ponging between the kids for homework assistance. Bella is trying to remember “the flag song” for her program at school, so she has me singing every flag song I can think of while she unceremoniously cuts me off after each beginning line.
“Oooooh say can you see…”
“Not the national anthem, Mama.” (Said in the tone reserved for simpletons, fools, and the miserable slobs who don’t know what color ranger is always the leader of the Power Rangers.)
I have just unloaded the dishwasher and turn around to see Auggie has emptied the cabinets. Sigh.
“This is MYYYYYY country…”
“NO.”
This is the day after the first ambulance ride and Sam has been able to come home, so I have a flurry of texts from concerned family members coming in. I answer a few at a time as I sing,
“My country ’tis of thee…”
“NOPE.”
Getting a little punchy, I throw in some swinging elbows:”You’re a grand ole’ flag, You’re a high-flying flag…”
“TOO FAST! TOO FAST! I can’t remember the hand motions!”
I pause over the laundry basket on the couch. Half of it is distributed around the room now. Thanks, Auggie. Why are there only 2 pairs of underpants? One, two, three…eight shirts and pants…
“KEEP GOING.”
“And forever in peace may you wave.” I start to get into it. I sing louder. I fold clothes in a rhythm. I’m on key. I sound great. “You’re the emblem of the land I love, the home of the free and the brave!”

I don’t know it yet, but my brand new friends, who’ve never even met Sam, are plotting. I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to get dinners and spontaneous visits to make me laugh and my lawn mowed and random snacks. I don’t know yet that the next day I will go to the store and totally lose my crap and cry and snot all over the woman who bags my groceries as she prays the most beautiful and powerful prayer over my family. I don’t know that a couple of hours after that bolstering I will be calling another ambulance and texting “I need help” to my friend who will show up and take care of my kids all day while I deal with the hospital situation. Or that my mother-in-law will put her life on pause earlier than planned to get on a plane. Or that moments after that I will be crying in front of Sam’s boss, who has returned to tell me to let him know if I need anything.

“Every heart beats true, under Red, White, and Blue, where there’s never a boast or brag.”
Asking for help is really hard. Accepting help is actually really hard too. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, a mom thing, a military thing, or what–but I tend to think, I can do this. I just need a few more minutes OR I just need to put that in the backpack so I can use my hands OR I just need everyone to be quiet so I can think… Spoiler: none of these things actually enable me to do what I need to do. I can actually do a majority of what needs to be done on my own. I have the twitching eye and stripe of gray hair to prove it. But I can only do it on my own for a short distance. I need my brave friends and my family and to be reminded that God is here and in control. And I don’t have to be.

“But should auld acquaintance be forgot, keep your eye on the grand old flag.” The chorus of George M. Cohan’s song is in all of our heads now as we stomp, run, wander, and shuffle around the house. James Cagney played him in the movie, so I see him singing it too. There’s a line that the Cohans would say at the end of their shows, and I’d like to say it to all my new friends here and to those praying and supporting us all over the place,
My mother thanks you, my father thanks you…my husband thanks you, my daughter thanks you, my sons thank you, and I thank you.