Welcome Back

A year and a half.

It’s been that long since I last posted on this blog. It was December 2013. There’s a rambling post rattling around in the drafts folder from  February 2014, but I never finished it and now it just seems pointless to try.

A lot has happened in that span of time. And I can’t really put my finger on why I stopped blogging.

I was tired. I wondered if my writing had anything to offer in a world full of voices. I was busy. And part of me was convinced that I had nothing else to write about.

I’m still tired and busy. I’m still wondering if I have any wisdom or anything worth saying. But after almost two years of silence, I’m trying to edge my way back into blogging.  I don’t know how frequently or how this blog will change, but I know it will.

And I hope you’ll come along for the journey.

Dear people of Nashville

Dear Nashville drivers,

My mom always told me to offer good points as well as criticism when giving a critique, so I’ll start with this: I love you guys! I love this city and the quirky streets that change names 600 times and the fact that there are about so many roads names Old Hickory around here that people sometimes have to ask, What Old Hickory are you talking about? I love that we get all crazy when it rains and it takes 30 minutes longer to get places—and our overreaction to even the thought of snow makes me smile. It’s also special how my bright red car seems to have a cloak of invisibility that causes all of you to either pull out in front of me or try to merge into my lane—on top of my car.

But alas, that’s not the reason for today’s post. Today’s missive is meant to help people see things a little more clearly, and for that to happen, I’m going to have to be frank. So, here goes. . .

In the past two days—in two very different parking lots in two very different sections of town—I have nearly been mowed down by a couple of you playing NASCAR in the parking lot. I get that Thanksgiving was a little later than usual and you feel rushed to get all your Christmas shopping done before December 25. I get that it’s a busy time of year—if you had looked at my planner last week, you’d see that I’m just as busy as you are.

All that said, it’s no reason to drive through the Brentwood Target parking lot at breakneck speed, only to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting me as I turned from putting my shopping cart in the corral. When I was learning to drive, my dad told me to drive more slowly in parking lots (and residential streets) because you never knew when someone could run out into the street in front of you. Maybe your dad should have given you that warning, too.

Now, my friend in the blue VW Beetle—I’m not sure what you were taught when you were learning to drive. One thing I know you didn’t learn, though, is patience. See, last night I was walking out of World Market in Nashville West, and a nice car had stopped so that me and other pedestrians could walk across the lanes to our parked cars. You, in your infinite impatience, didn’t seem to realize why the other car had stopped and began swerving around her, pulling into the other lane of traffic to pass a car in a parking lot.

OK, there’s a bit of a problem if you think you’re so important that you can’t wait for a few minutes to allow pedestrians to cross the road.

But, I don’t think you realized there were people walking, until you started to pass the other car and finally saw me—which was when I yelled “Really?!” at you and gave you my patented death stare, which was tinged with more than a little disdain. Here’s a life lesson for you, which can be taken literally and figuratively: Don’t ever let your own desires or self-importance become so large that you don’t have time to stop for others.

And finally, I must give a shout-out to the lady in the Nissan Altima. There are specific rules and regulations that govern how a four-way stop works. Let me give you some refreshers:

1. A 4-way stop means that you actually stop. That means your car should not be moving. It means that you do not merely slow down to a creep and keep edging out into the intersection so that other cars cannot pass until you move and therefore, you get to leave first.

2. If you’re the last person to arrive at the four-way stop, you’re not the first person who gets to go through. Most of the time, you go in the order you arrived at the stop. Which means, since me and three other cars were there before you, it wasn’t your turn anyway. (And just so you know, if you arrive at the four-way stop at the same time as someone else, yield to the driver on your right. )

So, Nashville, it’s eight days until Christmas. Until then, let’s slow down, smile at one another, and enjoy Christmas. It’s not really about getting the best bargain, rushing from place to place, or getting everything on your to-do list done. It’s about a Gift of grace and mercy who gives us peace. Let’s revel in that this season!

This day in history

On this day in 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans and many other coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

As I typed those words into a Facebook status for an account I manage at work today, unexpected tears sprang to my eyes.

2005.

Eight years ago.

Eight years since I sat in my office and dialed my brother’s cell number over and over, hoping the busy signal would fade and that I’d get a few seconds of scratchy connection to know he was OK.

Eight years since he weathered the storm in a small house at a Christian camp outside of New Orleans where he was working at the time.

Eight years since that Labor Day weekend when he drove home to Missouri with all he could pack in the back of his truck and came home to stay.

Eight years since the phone call that my high school best friend’s little brother had been in a car accident.

Eight years since that devastating moment when my mom turned to me and quietly told me my friend’s brother wasn’t coming home.

Every year, when Labor Day rolls around, those memories come back. The joy of my brother coming home and being safe. The heartbreak of a friend and dear family who were grief-stricken in the death of a child and brother. I knew then that your heart could be broken and joyful at the same time.

Eight years. It feels like yesterday and long ago. But I don’t stop the tears when they come to my eyes when I remember. I let them fall as I pray for my friend and her family. So much life has happened in the interim. My brother got married and now I have two nephews—but I want my friend and her family to know that they’re not forgotten.

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Words of Blessing

Your words matter.

It’s a phrase I’ve spoken a thousand times, probably written a thousand more.

Your words matter. I’ve written before about how words can be a blessing or a curse—and we’re the ones who get to decide which one.

I think there’s a reason so much in Scripture involves the spoken word. God speaks the world into being. Fathers speak blessings over their children that can’t be negated even when they discover they’ve blessed the younger son instead of the older. And I don’t think it’s a mistake that in the Gospel of John, the disciple Jesus loved calls Jesus the Word. What God had spoken and promised had become flesh. The Word was alive.

Words matter. They’re important. And over the last few months, when I’ve had few to write and even less time to think about what I’d write if I could think of something, I’d forgotten that. The joy that this blog had once brought me had faded. I didn’t feel like I was writing for the joy of it anymore. . . .just the expectation of having something new on the page.

So, I let it sit silent for weeks that stretched into months.

But last night, someone said something to me that reminded me of who I am. He didn’t mean it as a blessing, but it felt like one. I needed to hear those words and didn’t even know it. They felt like a gentle rain falling on a parched soul.

“I can’t wait to hear what God does with your life. You are so talented, so creative—you know how much I think of you,” a friend who is leaving our church for an exciting new teaching position said.

And I didn’t know until that moment that the reason I hadn’t been able to write or think of anything to write lately wasn’t that I’d run out of words. It was that I’d stopped believing I had any to offer. That I’d begun to feel talentless and uncreative and tired.

And that wasn’t who I was created to be.

Your words matter.

They may be the thing that ignites a forgotten dream, comforts a suffering soul, or reminds someone of the person they were created to be.

Your words matter. Use them wisely today.

Be courageous!

I don’t like to call myself a runner.

Because that seems to imply that you love the discipline, that you’re good at it, that you’re fast.

A runner sets personal records and runs through the pain.

At best, I’m a kind of slow walk/jogger who runs sometimes.

But I’ve run two half marathon and various other shorter distance races. I’ve spent the hours training for a long run and felt the wonderment that you can indeed do something you thought impossible (and various parts of your body did, too).

I know the comarad225282_10150180676017128_564822127_6743799_606274_nerie of the running community, the adrenaline of running a race you’ve trained for, and the joy of completing that goal and crossing the finish line.

Maybe that’s why yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon have hit me so hard.

Because I know what those runners were thinking as they neared that finish line. They weren’t thinking about bombs or terrorism or terror or any of the words we’ve bandied around in the hours since those bombs went off.

They were thinking about finishing.

They’d been running for hours and most were in the final miles of a grueling race. The finish line was in sight.

Some greeted it with enthusiasm and a rush of adrenaline.

Some probably saw it as the end of a painful race.

Others saw it as the physical embodiment of a dream accomplished. You have to earn entry into the Boston Marathon, qualifying at another race with a fast enough time. For many runners, the Boston Marathon is a dream race, the goal, the pinnacle.

A few probably sprinted to the finish line.

People in the stands and lining the street cheered. Boston schools were closed and the bustle of the city was shut down and focused on the race.

It was a celebration. A happy time. An achievement.

And then it wasn’t.

What should have been a happy moment for so many, suddenly became one of terror, tragedy, and horror.

Dehydration and exhaustion you expect after a long race; shrapnel, no.

But the reality is that in many countries around the world, what happened yesterday in Boston is part of daily life. People head out into their daily lives knowing that everything can change in an instant. Yesterday’s events made me realize a little of what it’s like to live in countries where the threat of danger is never really far from anyone’s mind. Where mothers lose children on a daily basis. Where people bear scars for the rest of their lives.

Boston has sobered me and reminded me that this world is not perfect. That it’s not even home. There are glimmers of joy and beauty and truth, but it is not the hope we’re living for.

And yesterday, I turned to the only true Hope, Jesus, as I cried for the people affected in Boston.

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” —John 16:33

An Easter thought

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,” God says in Isaiah 55:8.

And today, as I ponder Maundy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday, I understand a little more of that.

His ways are not my ways, because if it had been up to me, I would have chosen a way of salvation that cost me very little. Because instead of taking the shame and weight and penalty of our sin on us, God—in Christ—took it upon Himself.

Salvation came a great cost to Him.

And in my selfishness, I would have chosen a different way.

But God didn’t.

His justice cried out for a punishment for sin. His very character demanded that it couldn’t just be ignored.

But His very character also answered in love. In Christ.

I think of Him in the Garden today, the “aloneness” of it all. The heartbroken prayer. The tears. The stress He was under. His friends, sleeping, unaware it seems of the despair and strain He was under.

Alone.

Crying out to God in a Garden with a broken voice and maybe a broken heart.

Despair.

Fear.

Anxiety.

Obedience.

And somewhere in there, the glimmer of hope. Spring was coming. Easter. Resurrection.

If you feel alone, heartbroken, broken, or even a little hopeless today, rest in the fact that Jesus knows how you feel. He has cried out in the dark to a God who didn’t seem to answer. He knows.

And hope is coming.

Today is a gift

Earlier this week, through Facebook, I learned that a member of my high school graduating class (and a member of my extended family, my second cousin) had passed away unexpectedly. He was found in his truck outside a local McDonald’s near where we grew up and the death was labeled suspicious at first. It is now a murder investigation.

It’s been a little shocking to say the least.

In response, a guy in my high school class posted the picture below, taken of our class on the day we graduated. (Yes, my class was small.)

857217_830243923080_191620738_oWhen I look at that picture now, I’m struck by how young we look. We were just babies, but we thought we had the world by the tail.

And as I’ve read the posts on Facebook in the aftermath of Sean’s death, I’ve realized something not so great about myself.

In the years after high school, I went to college five hours away from home at a school no one in my graduating class attended and only one other guy from my school (two years older than me) attended. After college, I moved to Nashville, went to Vanderbilt, and began my adult life.

And I think I wrote off some people in my class, Sean being one of them. Classmates have written beautiful tributes to him on Facebook, and I missed out on knowing someone because I couldn’t see past my own self-importance. I was so focused on myself, and maybe thought I was better than others.

And I was wrong.

Every day is a gift, and every person is made in the image of God.

And today as I write those words, I mean them. I sense their weight.

May I remember them. May I not miss the opportunities to love others. May I fight the tendency to think I’m better than others. And may I live this day as a gift from God, living every moment and redeeming the time.

Not Alone

This weekend, a friend of mine has had to make tough decisions about his mother’s care, knowing that she may be facing the end of her life here.

They’ve weighed heavy on my mind, and I haven’t know what to say.

Because what do you say to someone in that position?

“I know how you feel” is trite and untrue. You can only say “I’m sorry” so many times before it feels too little, too.

So, I’ve prayed with tears in my eyes and asked that God’s peace that passes understanding fall on that family. I used to think that phrase meant that God gives us a peace the world won’t understand, but I’m not sure I think that anymore. I think, now, that sometimes, it’s a peace that comes even when we don’t understand what He’s doing because we know He’s trustworthy.

And in this time, I’ve become even more convinced that Jesus understands our grief. That His words are true and He is with us always, that He will never leave us or forsake us. And that we can rest because our loved one is in His hands, too.

In the pit of grief, it can feel like you’re alone. But Jesus’ own words tell us we’re not. He is with us. He will not leave us. He is not afraid of our fears, sorrow, doubts, and sadness. He understands.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

—Frederick Buechner

I love you, but . . .

A few years ago, I made a decision: instead of letting price decide where I went to get my hair done, I’d invest in the experience. While I may not splurge in tons of places in my life, this was one area where I was going to spend a little extra and allow myself to be pampered a little.

So, I started going to a nice salon in town, and I love the salon. I love my stylist, the hair products they sell, and the fact that they’ll bring me water (lemon or cucumber), coffee, or hot tea if I want some to enjoy while I’m waiting or my hair color is processing.

1159233_65306995But there’s one little thing about the salon that drives me crazy: they have no concept of a middle class girl’s work schedule.

I’m not implying that they don’t work as much as I do. The stylists work long hours and long weeks and to get time off, they basically have to make up the hours they won’t be there. I respect them. But when I call for an appointment and ask for one in the afternoon, I’m always asked to consider 12:30 p.m. appointments or 2 p.m. or some other time that is in the middle of a normal workday. And when I ask for a later time, I always feel like the receptionist is a little confused and frustrated with me.

Sometimes, I just want to start in on a little tirade: I work. Every day. I get there at 7 or 7:30 and work until 4 or 4:30 or later. I don’t take an hour lunch usually. I can’t just leave work in the middle of the day for something as trivial as a hair appointment.

It could be that many of their customers have more flexible schedules than mine or are in positions where they can take off in the middle of that afternoon for a hair cut. But, I’m not in that position. I can’t make it into a lunch time appointment either, because it takes too long. Two-hour lunches are not something that really ever happen in my work week unless they involve a meeting!

I get that the “after-work” slots fill up fast and that may be why I always run into this problem, but I do wish it were a little easier to get one of those appointments—and that my fancy salon that I love were a little more in tune with the real-world life of a middle class girl who works hard . . . and budgets to be able to go there.

The Day I Returned to the Gym

Yesterday, in the span of 10 minutes, I:

A) somehow lost my YMCA id card on my way into the building. I had it in my hand 5 minutes earlier!
B) discovered my earrings (favorites from a trip to Colorado) were missing from my ears.
C) realized I hadn’t packed the shirt I thought I had in my gym bag and now had to work out in a ridiculous shirt that isn’t very comfy.
D) All of the above

Let’s just say that all answer D pretty much describes yesterday, a day I had decided was my triumphant return to the gym. Yes, I haven’t seen the inside of the gym since sometime right around Thanksgiving, but that’s nothing, right? I can jump back in to cardio intensity after weeks of long hours at work and evenings spent either doing housework or flopping on my couch in exhaustion, right?

Well, the answer is yes.

And no.

6996457189_d8f50d42a4_zThe elliptical was harder than I remembered and I know any sort of outdoor running at this point would end in me crying . . . or hyperventilating as I tried to breathe. So, my return to the gym was quiet, without fanfare, and a little more frustrating than I had bargained for.But at least this time I didn’t fall off any machinery.

Which has happened.

And people stare when you fall off a stairmaster then laugh uproariously at yourself.

But, people, come on! If you can’t laugh at yourself, your life must be kind of sad and boring.

(I say this because I laugh at myself a lot and I want to to try to hang on to the idea that my life is not sad and/or boring.)

Anyway, the hope is that I can keep my gym workouts going over the next few weeks, rather than dissolving into a puddle of self-pity after extremely tedious days and easing those sorrows with pie. Yes, pie.

So, here goes nothing! My goal this week is to go to the gym at least twice and continue my stretching/pilates-based workouts at home 5 days a week.

All of that so I can still eat that pie every once and awhile and not have to buy new jeans. :)

“A finished person is a boring person.” Anna Quindlen

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