Friday, March 30, 2012

Water's Edge

“I have heard the mermaids singing,each to each.”-T.S.Eliot


          Yesterday we made our first beach trip of the season. Throughout the spring and all summer, there will be many more. As we drove through Big Lagoon State Park, headed toward the picnic area, I was overcome with a sense of peace. This has become, over the last three years, our special place. Unlike many beach-type areas, it doesn’t often seem to attract loud, annoying people. The few people who do come are more of the quiet, friendly sort. Thus the wildlife is not frightened off and the sense of harmony with nature is not disrupted.

          Big Lagoon is a place where I can revel in God’s creation. Last summer we befriended and fed a heron, whom we named Terron. He hung out with us for most of the day, eating our picnic leftovers and coming nearly close enough to touch. At any given moment one can look up and see flocks of pelicans overhead. Ospreys and other large birds nest in the park’s trees, and a family of crows has returned each year to the same place near our picnic spot. One of our favorite activities is to catch and observe tiny water creatures, such as pipefish and seahorses. They are so small, yet they are little pieces of delicate perfection. My daughter likes to collect hermit crabs and build them sand houses. Of course we return all of the animals to their homes. I would never presume to impose on the beauty of this place by removing so much as a plant from the premises.

          Yesterday the water was still too chilly for swimming. I look forward to the day, a few weeks from now, when I will be able to totally submerge myself in it and feel that mystical connection I have with oceans and lakes and rivers and lagoons. My father loved the sea. He might have been a sailor, had the realities of life not kept him bound to the land. I am his daughter, and from him I inherited a love not only of water, but of places and things that are free and wild. At times I am tempted to utter a barbaric yawp, to quote Whitman, over the roofs of the world. A part of me has been and always will be untamed.

          Walking along the water’s edge, I thought about a lot of things. I thought about God and life, and how nice it is to spend a day with friends and family, and how perfect a hot dog tastes when it has been incinerated on the grill. I looked at little shells and seaweed and driftwood and a dead jellyfish. I thought about the goodness of the Creator, and how He works all things together for our good. Those little seahorses swimming about in the kelp bed have no thought or knowledge of us, or of anything other than hanging on to life and producing young, yet God knows when each one gives birth and when each one dies. That’s so amazing. How much more, then, does He know us, our hopes, our dreams, our futures? Jeremiah 29:11 talks of this, of how God’s plans are only to prosper and not to harm us. That word “prosper” does not necessarily have anything to do with finances. It has to do with the investment of our souls in eternity. He will get us there. We just have to keep walking with Him, trusting that everything serves His purpose.

          A group of children and adults, apparently either a large extended family or some type of family daycare setup, arrived at the beach about an hour after we did. They brought with them a large assortment of sand toys, but the children, being children, were not deterred by the water’s chill and eventually made their way into the lagoon. They were nice children who did not throw sand at each other or attempt to drown one another. It is always refreshing to see kids who get along with their peers and obey the adults who are in charge.One little girl came up to my friend Robin and I as we waded up to our ankles and said, “Excuse me, will you watch over me for a minute while my mommy gets my float?” We said we would, and she smiled and ran back into the water. I thought about how rare it is for a child, given an opportunity to be out from under a parental eye for a moment, to actually request supervision. It’s really a shame that we refuse to be humble enough to acknowledge our own need for God’s help and protection.

          Right before lunchtime, as the hot dogs were cooking on the grill, the dolphins came. I don’t mean just one or two dolphins, but an entire pod. They were chasing the fish near the shore, and they were close enough that we could see the water squirting from their blowholes. The children stopped all play and stood transfixed in wonder and delight. So did the adults. The dolphins swarmed in circles, stirring up the water. It was almost a dance, their movements were so smooth and lovely. God’s gentle pets at play. I was honored that I saw them. It is good to know that in the aftermath of the oil spill horror, the great creatures of  the sea live on. It is impossible to know right now the complete impact the spill had on our gulf waters, to know how much the populations of various species were decimated, but in that moment just to see these animals joyously leaping was enough. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to give us a little hope.

          Yesterday I got a taste of the joys to come. I remained on the water’s edge, looking forward to what the summer will bring. I also had a sweet-sad feeling, for this summer will be a little different. My son graduates in two months, and he will be starting his first college class in June. He will also be working, so he won’t be with us all of the time. We will have to have some of our beach days without him and his silliness and the sound of his guitar. He is about to begin his own journey into adulthood. He too is at the water’s edge, almost ready to plunge in. I hope the memories we have made will be enough to sustain him through whatever hardships the future brings.

          God be with you, my son.

Oh dance along the silver sand

And beat the turtle drum

That youth may last forever

And sorrow never come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Know That It's Probably Magic

“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it.”
Jim Henson

                I watched “The Muppets” with my family the other night. It was a profound, almost spiritual experience. The Muppets have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and, no matter what anybody says, they are not “just puppets.” They are the heart and soul of Jim Henson, described by a colleague as a man “who walked this earth like no one else.”  I can believe that. Beneath the whimsy, the goofy humor, the sheer entertainment, there are some pretty important life lessons inherent in those lumps of foam and fabric. Who knew that some scraps of an old coat and a bisected ping pong ball would live forever as an icon of wit and wisdom?

                When Kermit sang the poignant “Bein’ Green”, he was singing about what it was like to be Jim Henson, a shy man who thought he was ugly and weird. The voices Henson gave to Rowlf and Kermit were his own voice, but he hid behind his puppets for most of his life. He was gentle and kind. He led with love, and he never wanted to trouble or burden anyone. Had he gotten to the hospital six hours earlier, his life would have been saved. This is the horribly ironic thing-his very desire to not be a “bother” cost him his life, and was a devastating loss to all who knew him-and millions who didn’t.

                Those of you who know me know of my fondness for puppets, but this was not always so. As a small child I was terrified of them, along with clowns, talking dolls, mimes, and anything in a weird costume, like Mr.Peanut. I still think all of those other things are a bit creepy, but thanks to Kermit, Oscar, Grover, and the rest of the Sesame Street Muppets, I lost my fear of puppets by the time I was four. I watched “Sesame Street” because of the Muppets. Even now, I am skeptical about its value in terms of a child’s future academic success-I could already read when I started watching anyway-but its merit lies in the lessons that it teaches about being yourself, getting along with others, the importance of family and community, and respect for those who are different from you.

                Obviously, “Sesame Street” was not my only venue for learning these things. I had a great family, I went to Sunday school and church, and for much of my childhood I lived in a close-knit neighborhood where everyone knew everyone else and felt free to correct one another’s kids. I’m not even sure such communities exist today. I ran and played with a pack of friends of all ages and from experience came to understand what behaviors were acceptable and which ones were not. But what the Muppets did was reinforce the values I was already being taught.  Additionally, they made me laugh and feel good. This was Jim Henson’s goal. He wanted to make people laugh and he wanted them to see that life really is good.

                I cried when I heard of Jim Henson’s death and when I watched his funeral. He was one of those rare people , like Walt Disney and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who gave the world an intangible Something. It has to do with being able to show Truth via imagination, things so deep that we often spend days pondering them. Amidst the wonderful absurdity of a pig falling in love with a frog, a bear telling bad jokes, and a piano-playing mutt, there is a message of hope and peace and joy. We all yearn for the Rainbow Connection, and sometimes, just sometimes, we get glimpses of it on this side of Heaven. It may be seen in different things by different people. For me, the glimpses come through literature and poetry, through music and movies, through God’s creation…and through the Muppets. I laughed heartily and wept unashamedly as we watched  “The Muppets”, and when they sang “The Rainbow Connection” near the end, we were all singing too. That’s what Jim Henson desired-for EVERYONE to join in the song and feel loved and accepted in a way that he himself was never quite able to feel.

I miss you, Jim Henson. You made the world a better, kinder, gentler place. May the Muppets live on forever.

“Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Final Move

“Just when we think it’s almost over, Love has the final move.”

                When I use Love as a noun, I often capitalize it. That’s because I think of Love as a Being. God IS Love; that is His essence.  In Chris Rice’s song “The Final Move”, he says, “It was Love that set this fragile planet rolling.”  Then he goes on to say that in the end, Love always wins. Love has the final move. Thus we know Something-that no matter how things look, the good guys eventually  win.  The ultimate Bad Guy was defeated when the nails ruthlessly pierced Love’s hands and He hung on the cross and died. If I didn’t believe that, if I didn’t KNOW it with every part of my being, I could not face the evil that sometimes seems to smother our beloved planet with its choking darkness. I could not handle the everyday misfortunes nor the great sorrows that this life brings.

                Nearly twenty-five years ago, the music of my life was stilled when I lost my father. I did not see how Love could have the final move. All I saw was a vast, black void where my father had been. I thought I would die along with him. I knew, like the Tin Man, that I had a heart, because it was breaking. Then, the cards and letters began pouring in from people who loved us, who loved him, who were sharing our grief. Day by day, the burden seemed easier to bear. Our friends could not carry our loss, but, just as Sam Gamgee could carry Frodo, who bore the ring, they could carry us. And they did. The music began to play again as I came to realize that Dad was still with us, that he was very near, and I grew in my understanding of death as just a transition to another state of being. We will see him again, and then we will have eternity. The time we spend here on this earth is so very short by comparison. Sometimes I stop and silently ask, How am I doing, Dad?  I can almost hear him-for I have not forgotten his voice-saying, You done good! Love had the final move because my father went Home to his Heavenly Father, and I now have two fathers in heaven.

                Fast forward to the summer of 2004. I had recently learned that I would never be able to bear children, and along with that, my husband and I suffered a terrible betrayal. I spent many weeks in a state of shock, going through the motions of living. I remember reading The Magician’s Nephew during that time and the line where Aslan says, “I know. Grief is very great. Only you and I, in this new world, understand this. Let us be good to one another.” I resolved to be good to my husband, who was struggling as much as I, and to attempt to rise from the Swamps of Sadness. God , to whom nothing is a surprise, had sent ahead of time a tiny angel in the form of a dog named Hermione. It is very hard to remain in the Swamps of Sadness when a bright-eyed pup won’t even let you stay on the sofa. Like a Narnian dog, she was there to help, help, help! And she did. Love had the final move. In fact, it was not until October that I realized just how true that was. In the door came three children who needed us as much as we needed them, and we became a family, and the pain began to fade and Love joined us in a joyous and beautiful dance.

                January, 2011. I was called out of my classroom by the school secretary and quietly told that my mother’s house was on fire. She was okay, but they were taking her to the hospital because she had inhaled so much smoke. Neither the house nor the contents were insured. The pets were gone. Everything was gone. I asked God what He was doing this time. I wondered how Love could have the final move. For years I had worried about my mom and sister. They needed a better house. Now God had allowed the only home they had to be destroyed.  I could not fathom what was happening, but by the next day I saw Love moving. I saw a school full of children raise almost two thousand dollars in one day. I saw a small church and a community pull together and commit to rebuilding that house. Ten months later, we celebrated Thanksgiving together in the beautiful, newly restored, God-built dwelling. On the top of the bookcase sits a picture of Dad in his Marine Corps uniform, a reminder that he’s still watching over us. Full circle. And if we needed any further proof that Love has the final move…

                January 2012. A terrible story of animal neglect in the nearby town of Summerdale. Many animals died of starvation, but 109 survived. My sister is getting ready to adopt one of those 109, a dog who looks very much like one we had many years ago…his name was Elliott, and he was an angel, too. My mother also now has Solee, a Siamese who needed to be an only kitty. New, lovely home, better than ever before. New pets to keep them company. New beginnings…but also a few memories recovered. Among them my wedding dress, my Bible from when I was a teenager, our old copy of A Christmas Carol , pictures…and the cards and letters sent by our friends after Dad died. Grace at work. The Hand of God. Beauty from ashes. Love…having the final move.

                All is well.

“ Out of this darkness, new light will shine, for we know that joy is coming in the morning.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Least of These

“I’ll follow You into the homes of the broken,follow You into the world

Meet the needs for the poor and the needy, God, follow You into the world.”

                Many years ago a young minister had his first assignment to preach in a small, poverty-stricken mining town. Upon arriving there, he was dismayed by the relative luxury of his own living quarters as compared the conditions of his congregation. Before long, he was living among his people, giving them what little he possessed, going without food in order to serve them, and eventually becoming physically ill. When his superiors came to see how he was doing, they were disgusted and horrified and removed him from the ministry on the spot. Did he not realize, they asked, that his job was not to live as one of these pathetic souls, but to set himself above them in order that they might aspire to something better?  Thus the young Vincent van Gogh, bitter and disillusioned, abandoned “religion” altogether and never returned. One of his most famous paintings, The Potato Eaters, was created during his time in that little village. In these poor, humble, hardworking people, van Gogh saw a beauty and nobility invisible to the eye of the average person. One wonders what he could have done to change the world had he not been ousted from the ministry. His paintings are works of genius, but went unrecognized in his lifetime. As Don McClean expressed so eloquently in his song : “They did not listen, they’re not listening still, perhaps they never will.”

                Perhaps they never will, indeed. All you have to do is read the newspaper. Apparently, we don’t want homeless people marring the beauty of our parks and streets. That’s why the “No Begging” ordinance in Mobile has sent charitable organizations scrambling to find venues for feeding the homeless. Polic e patrol Bienville Square to make sure that no one is handing out food to “panhandlers” and “vagrants” , because if you start doing that, more will show up. This causes people to lose their appetites and fear for the safety of their children. I read one comment that said, “It’s bad enough that I can’t even take my kids on a picnic because of all the shiftless bums, but now they want to build a homeless shelter and invite them to come?” Well, yes. That’s kind of the point, if we are living like Jesus. Jesus invited EVERYONE to come.

                My daughter, age thirteen, went with a group from our school yesterday to work in a soup kitchen. At lunchtime, they went to Bienville Square to eat their sack lunches. While she was there, a homeless woman came up to her and asked for water. My daughter was fully aware that she wasn’t “supposed’ to do this, but she did it anyway. Her question to me was, “How come we can give bread to the birds and squirrels in the park, but not the homeless people?” I have no good answer for that, except that birds and squirrels are pleasing to look at and homeless people aren’t.  Not to most of us, anyway. Jesus saw something different. Van Gogh saw what Jesus saw.So does my daughter. As she talked about the old blind man that she served at the soup kitchen, and the down-and-out dad who brought his baby daughter in to get a meal, and the fellow in rags who had with him a small, well-worn Bible from which he read verses to all who would listen, she teared up and said, “God really blessed me today, Mom.”

                Jesus said very plainly that we were to care for the poor and the sick. He never specified WHICH poor and sick. He never said that we should question them about why they are in the situation they are in.  I know of some churches who give out boxes of food to the needy-AFTER they attend a morning or evening service. I guess sitting through a sermon proves that they are needy enough to “deserve” the food-or something. Honestly, I am confused as to why there would be any such requirement. I cannot find any basis for it in Scripture. Maybe I overlooked someplace where Jesus said, “Sit the needy down and preach them a sermon, then hand out the bread.”  At my church, sometimes people come in off the street while we are having a Wednesday night meal. We feed them, and invite them to stay for Bible study afterward. Most of them don’t. Occasionally, someone does. Either way, we have shown them Christian charity. They might be grateful, or they might feel entitled. That’s between them and God.

                A large percentage of homeless people are war veterans who were unable to cope upon returning from the horrors they experienced. Mentally ill people who either weren’t quite crazy enough to qualify for residential treatment or somehow slipped through the cracks make up another portion. Then there are the kids who aged out of the foster care system and were kicked to the curb with no skills and nowhere to go. There are the women who fought desperately to keep their children and stay off welfare and ended up on the street. There are the kids who ran away because anything was preferable to the nightmare of abuse. There are the men who were laid off and found themselves on a downward spiral from which there was no escape. In today’s economy, the face of poverty could be that of the guy next door who is now a paycheck away from losing all he has. It’s really easy to be judgmental and make the assumption that all homeless people are just lazy and don’t want to work. I don’t doubt that a handful have made that choice, but it is not a majority. Who would choose to be despised, rejected, mocked, and forced to sleep out in the rain? Oh, wait…I do think there was One who did. He did it because He wanted to understand. He came to help us remember. But we forget. We close our eyes and refuse to SEE, because it makes us uncomfortable.

                What are we uncomfortable about, exactly? I think we turn our eyes away because deep down we KNOW that could be us, and we fear it. We can be arrogant and sanctimonious because we aren’t in that situation, and can somehow convince ourselves that we never would be. We are too smart, too wise, too self-sufficient to EVER let that happen. We forget that every breath that we take is by God’s grace. No one was ever a “self-made man.”  Whatever we have is not our own, and we don’t get anywhere on our own. Sooner or later, without Him, we fall. Sometimes even with Him, we fall, but He is there to ultimately pick us up again. People get sick, lose jobs, fall on hard times. Jesus said to love them and serve them. When He was about to suffer the worst degradation, humiliation, and pain imaginable, he knelt and washed the feet of His disciples. He told them to go and do likewise. He tells us to be His hands and feet and voice in the world. It is a voice that can be heard, even over the shouts of derision and hatred. But it needs to be a collective voice. Everyone can make a difference in the world individually, so just imagine what could happen if we, as one body, followed the command in Micah to do justly and love mercy! The whisper would become a shout, and the world would be turned upside down.

                I want to live like that.


And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tender Mercies

“I don't trust happiness. Never did, never will.”

                In the 1983 film “Tender Mercies”, Robert Duvall plays a down-on-his luck country singer named Mac Sledge who ultimately finds redemption and yes, true happiness with widow Rosa Lee and her young son. This movie, a quiet and powerful character study, may well be Duvall’s best performance. It was a favorite of my dad’s, and it took me years to really understand why he liked it so much. I get it now. It is Rosa’s faith, never wavering yet never preachy, that finally brings Mac to the point of restoration. Yet there is no pat ending-there still will be struggles, there still will be doubt along the way. That’s how things are.

                Like Mac, I don’t always trust happiness. Even now as I write this, my husband and daughters are at the vet with our hedgehog, Annabelle. I’m not holding out much hope, but I am praying. Raina has lost a lot of her pets over the past few years. For some reason,she has had worse luck with her animals than her siblings have. I don’t know why this is so. I do know that, because of His tender mercies, God uses all things. All things serve the will of God, whether they want to or not, whether they know it or not, and whether we see it or not. The small tragedies and misfortunes as well as the ordinary moments of our lives-they mean something. Sometimes the Something is beyond our human comprehension.

                Last year when I first learned that my mother’s house was on fire, I was horrified. Within seconds, reassured that she was okay, I was overjoyed. Then when I heard that the animals didn’t make it, and that almost everything was gone, I was heartbroken. When I saw my mother with my own eyes, realized that she was really all right, and thought about what could have happened, I was relieved. That night as I listened to my sister verbally process what she had lost, I was saddened. From moment to moment and hour to hour, my emotions ran the gamut. I grieved with my mom and sister for what they had lost, but there was so often laughter as well.

                Now as I sit here, my daughter has just walked in the door. Annabelle is gone. Yesterday we had a hedgehog; now we don’t. I am without words. Things can change so quickly. Pain and sorrow come unexpectedly. But we go on, and the tender mercies of the Lord continue. The mercy in this is that Raina still has her horse. That could have gone very, very differently a couple of weeks ago. The mercy in the fire was that God used a lot of amazing people to rebuild the house, and it is so much better than it was before.  In the next couple of weeks, my mom and sister are getting a cat and a dog. The dog they want is one that was rescued from the Purple Hearted Puppies horror in Summerdale. I look at those furry little faces and still cannot believe that people can be so cruel, but at the same time, there are loving people lined up to take those animals. Again, we see the balance. The blessing in the thorn, so to speak.

                I think that trying to make sense of everything that happens is normal. I also think that it is not always possible to do so. In the movie “Creator”, in which a scientist tries to re-create his dead wife, there are references made to “The Big Picture.” When I imagine The Big Picture, I see a mosaic, a collage, a collection of seemingly random events that eventually end up making Something. In that film, the scientist at last realizes that he cannot duplicate what was. He cannot bring back the past, and he shouldn’t try. Instead, he finds a new beginning.

                In “Because of Winn-Dixie”, a little girl learns that “you gotta love what you got while you’ve got it.”  No one lives forever, nothing stays the same. But to not trust happiness is rather a foolish thing, because God will always give us something new. He’s in the miracle business, but he’s also in the business of rebirth and restoration. That’s why we always know that spring is coming, that beauty rises from ashes, and that, while weeping endures for a night, joy comes in the morning. Mac Sledge learns that God’s tender mercies can heal a broken heart, in the person of Rosa Lee. My son is at this moment in the backyard, digging a hole in which to bury Annabelle. Nearby are the graves of other beloved pets who brought us love and laughter and loyalty. They all were cherished. How much better to have the memories than to have never had them at all.

                To withhold from ourselves the incredible beauty of loving and living fully because we fear the hurt is to not love or live. The tender mercies of the Lord will see us through the pain that inevitably comes.  We can take all to Him and know that there remains, on the other side of the darkness, an unquenchable Light. Today we will thank God for the time we had with Annabelle. We will shed some tears and then we will forge on. We will trust that happiness comes and goes with our circumstances, but that joy is eternal.  

                God’s tender mercies make us strong.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wearing My Tie-Dyed Sneakers

“You’ve got to make your own kind of music, sing your own special song, make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along…”

                I have never been skinny. I will never be skinny. I have lost some weight, and will lose more, but I am not built to be skinny.  I am not just plump or chubby. I am, in fact, fat. There, I said it. Everyone knows it. It’s not as though it’s something a person can hide. I was chubby when I was in elementary school, plump in middle school, and fairly close to an ordinary size by high school. I wore a size twelve, which is hardly obese, but a lot of people who knew I was sensitive about it had a lot of fun with it anyhow. When I look at my high school pictures, I realize that I was not a “Rotunda”, a “Moo-Moo” or any other of the myriad names my peers came up with. I was short, a wee bit chunky, and cute. Not ugly. Maybe even almost pretty. When I wasn’t trying desperately to fit in by imitating the clothing and hairstyles of others, I had a great style that was all my own.

                I put on a lot of weight after my dad died, when I was twenty-one. Then I developed some health issues in addition to the female problems I already had. The same medical problems that made me unable to have children played havoc, over the years, with my weight, my blood pressure, my blood sugar, my thyroid…you name it .Losing weight has been an ongoing struggle. Most of the time I don’t worry about it. I exercise as much as I am able, I don’t eat a whole lot due to diabetes medication, and everything is controlled quite well. My heart is astonishingly healthy, my cholesterol perfectly normal. I wear ugly diabetic shoes to work because I have to in order to function. Sometimes I have to walk with a cane because of arthritis and neuropathy. So it goes…and so what??

                Well, here’s what. Some people, in order to make themselves feel better about their own sad, pathetic lives, think it great sport to make fun of those of us who are fat. These same people, some of them, would never dream of making fun of someone who was of a different race or color or religion, or had some physical or mental challenge, or some facial deformity. Sadly, it is still politically correct to bash obese people, and our society seems to worship those who are thin. We equate skinny with pretty, and pretty with good. However, I have known skinny people who absolutely hated their body shape, too, and short people who dreamed of being tall, and tall people who wanted nothing more than to shrink by at least a foot. That’s because there are many people who live to put other people down, and nothing is sacred. I have heard every fat joke there is, but I have also heard plenty of racist jokes (still, in our enlightened age?? Oh, yes.) I have heard kids, and even adults, laugh at folks with speech impediments or “funny” accents, folks with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, you name it.  So much hate. So much cruelty. So much judgment.

                Why does this happen? I have no idea, but we all do it. We do it when we think people don’t know, but the truth is that they always know. Even if things are not said directly to them or in front of them, THEY KNOW.  And it shouldn’t matter, anyway, because it’s still mean. I know that people, even students at my school, make fun of me behind my back, and it hurts. It’s not everybody; it’s not even a majority.  When I go into a store or a restaurant or a movie theatre, it’s not as if there are hundreds of folks staring and pointing and laughing. It would be conceited on my part to think they were, as most are far too busy with their own lives and worries to even notice. But every now and then…I hear it. The rude comment, the snicker, the whisper.  Then my defense mechanisms kick in, and I become angry, and sad, and I think things I shouldn’t. I tell myself that I would rather be fat than stupid. But a part of me has always wondered what it would be like, just for a day, to be a stunningly gorgeous, thin, totally shallow and vacuous person. And there I go…because there are plenty of thin, gorgeous, brilliant and compassionate people, and there are mean, nasty fat people, and all kinds of everybody. 

                I used to like to wear only dark, boring colors, thinking that fat people shouldn’t wear pretty things. Bright colors probably do call more attention to my size, but I LIKE them. I like my new tie-dyed sneakers that I got for my upcoming birthday. I like funny T-shirts, and my sock monkey hat, and my green scarf with peace signs in all colors all over it. I like big, comfy, muu-muu style dresses and moccasins and things that look like they shouldn’t go together at all. I like pink and purple nail polish, and braiding my hair, and then letting it down without brushing it so that it falls down in crimps and curls. I like big, clunky jewelry, and cute hair accessories, and my socks that say I LOVE LIFE, and anything denim.  I will be forty-six years old in four and a half days and I am only just becoming comfortable with who I am.

                I used to think there was something wrong with me because it was so hard to find people who liked the books and movies and music that I liked or thought the things I did. It’s still hard. Not many people get me, except my husband and my kids and my sister and a handful of friends and a few of my students. It’s okay, though. Even those who don’t really get me seem to like me.  My principal thinks I’m a nerd, and a bit weird, but I believe he also knows that I’m a good teacher and that I love God, so it doesn’t matter very much. My mother has never understood a word I said but she loves me anyway. A lot of people find me funny and interesting ,and all of the things that make me wonder if I am even sane made my husband fall in love with me.  I am coming to realize the truth of Scripture-that we are all one body, and we should embrace our differences. Unity does not mean sameness. There is a place for everybody in God’s kingdom, and GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART.

                Still, if I could have one wish, it would be for people to look at one another through the eyes of  love. There is nothing wrong with the way anyone looks, but there is much wrong with the way we see. My daughters should not have to feel ashamed of their bodies to the point where they want to hide in their sweatshirts when it is 80 degrees, just because someone at school called them a name. My son should not have to put up with people making fun of his complexion, or the way he talks. They should not have to be hurt that way, not in their Christian school especially, but not really anywhere.  The world is an imperfect place, though. I have been wounded, too, and it sometimes makes me bitter. I try to have compassion for everyone, and to love them like Jesus. After all, He was mocked and scorned and humiliated. Knowing that helps a lot. He feels what we feel.  I have to pray often, and swallow the anger, and get up again with determination to love the haters. It’s easy enough for me to love the outcasts and misfits, honestly.  I am one of them. My difficulty comes in trying to love those who seem to have it all.

                God loves each one of us and breathed life into us, and if He had wanted us to be alike, He would have created us that way. I will never be skinny. We are born with a basic body type and design, and mine is shorter and wider than average-but then, who decides what is average? I want to be thinner, for the sake of wanting to live a long life and be healthier, but I will never be able to shop anywhere other than the plus-size department. I figure the best I can hope for is to get down from a 4x to a 2x, and is that really so bad?  I also would not be athletically inclined even if I was a size two. I have never been able to get the stupid volleyball over the stupid net, and I once nearly concussed myself with a badminton racket. I have fallen off a sailboat and been run over in a basketball game. Sports aren’t my thing. What of it? I have other gifts. For exercise, I swim at the Y. The water is nice, gravity being my nemesis and all.

                This is me. Take it or leave it. I have things about my character that I want to improve. I always want to strive to be a better person-kinder, wiser, more loving, stronger,more joyful.  God’s still working on my character and those things that aren’t so good or kind or wise. However, my basic personality, like my basic body shape, was made by Him and I think it’s pretty okay. Quirky, perhaps, or eccentric, or downright strange at times, but basically okay. Maybe even fun. Maybe I’m someone worth getting to know better, if you are willing to look past the extra poundage and throw away whatever assumptions you have about why I look like this. God made me, therefore I am beautiful my way-and His. Tie-dyed sneakers and all.

“Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be.”