Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Friend Loveth at ALL Times, Right?

[Background (don't be misled-this post is actually NOT about romantic relationships, entanglements, or even marriage)*
A friend loveth at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity. (King James Version)
In wedding vows, this roughly translates to the part about for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Spouses should be giving and receiving this support so naturally as part of marriage that it needn't even come up in conversation.  Sadly, even the most "happily married" among us do not commonly experience this is as reality.]
Regardless of relationship status, our FRIENDS are the ones that will help us survive.  Though it is highly unlikely that we have, or ever will have, made such official, and public, vows with THEM, the unwritten code of True Friendship outlasts most every other kind of relationship in our lives.*

And we've finally made our way back to THIS post...
So, a Friend loveth at all times...right?

There is no "catch" to this well-known passage.  It is complete and unabridged, and needs no modernizing to make it understandable.  What it does NOT say is probably more important than what it does.

It does NOT say:
A friend loveth
when it's convenient.
Or when it makes sense.
Or when you're RIGHT.
Or  when you're at church
Or when you ASK for help
Or on certain holidays
Or when YOU need Something,
Or when your back itches in that
one spot you can never reach..

A FRIEND loveth you
When you weep,
And when you weep for her,
When you laugh, and
Not just when you
make her laugh.
A Friend loveth
to make you smile,
And will do all she can
to double your joys,
And to halve your sorrows.

A Friend, a TRUE Friend,
Loveth through ALL the years,
And through ALL the tears,
And keepeth, without ever being asked,
all the very best of YOU
Safe and Pure in her heart, and
Is ready to remind you
WHO you STILL are,
Before you completely forget.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Casting votes before swine

Little known fact about Me:
I once went very much out of my way to cast a vote in a local election I had no intention of participating in, and NO interest whatsoever in the candidates nor the outcome.  I did it because someone whom I've known, loved, and respected my entire life told me she was going to vote, and was calling other white people to tell them to be sure to vote, too, because a black candidate was running against the incumbent, a white man who had held this office for decades without any significant challengers.
I was SO shocked that, even minutes later, I couldn't remember exactly what my reply was, but I know that I did manage to verbalize (poorly, I'm sure) my profound opposition to this blatantly racist and unreasonable attitude.
And that's how I came to "get out the vote" for a man whose name and face I cannot remember, in an election I had NO interest in, that he had not a chance of winning in the first place.  I had the power to cancel out just ONE single vote that I knew was being cast out of ignorance, bigotry, hate, and/or fear, and I felt obligated to do so.
P.S.  The incumbent won anyway, as everybody knew he would.  Did I make a difference?  In that election, absolutely not!   In my own heart?  Absolutely.  I was the tree that fell in the forest.  And I HEARD mySELF, even if no one else did.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving 2012

I am grateful for:

1    The ability to walk
2    and the ability to talk, and the (admittedly limited) ability to hold my tongue.
3   And the ability to love
4    And the ability to share
5    and the ability to laugh and
6    the ability to sing, or at least the ability to LISTEN with a joyful heart.
7    For the gift of comfort when I need it most.
8    For the dear ones who live on in my most precious memories.
9    For those who stayed when the rest turned away.
10   For those who are willing to share the worst, and in so doing, make the worst better.
11   For glimpses past armor, and disguises adopted in defense, to the vulnerable brothers and sisters sharing this space, this world, because, no matter what else changes, we are STILL each other's keepers. 
12    For every time another saw my pain, and simply...cared.
13    For every time another thought of me, during a moment of prayer.
14    For each and every time I felt a silent thanks when words wouldn't come,
15    and for each and every time another sensed the same from me.
16     For happiness that lingers long after a visit.
17    For learning to face  and trust the woman in the mirror,
18    and for learning to love and forgive her, too.
19     For chocolate, dark and light, in all its glorious forms!
20     For smiles shined on you from a child you've never seen before.
21    For women the world over, great with child.
22    For long, soft kisses that keep us young.
23    For moments of wonder, gazing up at the sky.
24    For seeing ourselves in others, and loving them anyway.
25    For standing against evil, despite our own fears,
26   For being willing to listen when another just needs to be heard.
27    For every time children sleep withOUT tears dried on their cheeks.
28    For every moment my body isn't wracked with pain,
29    For every moment my heart isn't breaking,
30    and for every heartbeat, and every breath that I don't have to struggle to take.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teach us to Love

Dear God,
Teach us to love others
And laugh at ourselves.
Teach us to serve others,
With unhurried, glad hearts.
Teach us to comfort, and be
as your arms here on earth.
Teach us to make
Kindness as much
A part of us as Breathing.

Today was Perfectly Beautiful.

Keep close the Treasures
Of these Wondrous days,
All Sunshine and Shining eyes,
And Shining hearts,
Overflowing with the Joys of Discovery,
And Love that's way bigger than
The Walls that try to contain it.

Every butterfly of Spring,
Each rustling of Fall,
Floating puff of a cloud,
Or the first drop of rain,
Has always been there,
Each waiting, waiting,
For one perfect Moment.

All at once,
Your heart leaps!
It melts, and it Smiles,
As You realize
That YOU are part of
Something now,
Something Magical,
Something only Poets,
And Mamas, and God,
And now YOU,
Can Understand.

An Indescribable Peace
Washes over You,
Wrapping you in Laughter,
Restoring your Soul,
Making brand-new and beautiful
A World YOU thought
You'd long given up on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Grown-Up" has so little to do with Age.

Remembered through a veil of sorrows and time, the saddest sound I have ever heard remains the sound of Bethany's heart breaking at the loss of her Mama. I've been unable to find words to adequately describe it, but I can still hear it, and I can still feel it. It is one of many profound experiences that have changed me while becoming part of me. Her pain was the most excruciating, pure, and completely unscripted I've ever witnessed. Free from the knowledge of societal expectations of how she was SUPPOSED to feel, Bethany simply FELT. Unfettered by the burden of searching for purpose or meaning, her grief was at once terrible and beautiful in its simplicity.  She wasn't expected to conform, nor asked to adhere to "acceptable" behavior under the circumstances.  I watched helplessly as a vast ocean of mourning deposited her on the shore, leaving her gasping for air, only to engulf her again, pulling her under, and all of us there wanting, but none of us able, to save her, to mend her aching heart, or soothe her bleeding soul. As she wept, I remember hearing clearly only the one word: Mama. Mama. Mama. Since the moment she was born, farther back than she could possibly remember, Mama had been there when needed. But now, during her time of greatest despair, Mama couldn't come to her. 
Instead, to her side came a humble angel in the form of my sweet Tiffany, still but a child herself, really, and held on tight, until they were both drenched by the tears of indescribable suffering.  Without offering up any platitudes, cliches, or lessons, she just...held on.  Desperately attempting to ease Bethany's pain by sharing it, she would have taken it and borne every bit of it herself if there had been a way.
I saw my eldest niece as if for the first time through that lens. She is one of the most caring, loving, and empathetic people I have ever known. There are those who can convincingly speak and act with compassion when called upon. Thankfully, these things can be studied and learned.  But a genuinely loving heart itself cannot be bought or taught. Throughout the remainder of what some might refer to as her "troubled" teen-age years, I continued to see Tiffany as I saw her then, remembering the self-less, brightly shining soul I had glimpsed, and realized that she was already more "grown-up" than most adults, and she was so, so much more than just the pretty blonde girl others saw.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Favorite Portrait of Me

Little Tiffany once presented me with a picture she had drawn of me. Sadly, the drawing itself  has long since been lost. Upon studying the picture closely, I noticed what looked like lots of hairs sticking straight out all around my entire face!  Always having been self-conscious of facial hair, however light in color, I was a bit disconcerted that it should be so obvious as to be included in such a young child's depiction of me.  I finally pointed to the hairs on the paper and asked Tiffany to explain.

I have kept what she said next in my heart ever since, where I will treasure it forever.  Smiling lovingly and proudly, the sweetest little girl in the world said this to me:

It's YOU as the SUN.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

You know who you are...

........ is a woman with a simple name and a pleasant exterior covering up hundreds of fascinating layers that combine to make up who she really is. Some of these layers are so strong, so unbelievably tough and resilient. What I would give to have a tenth of her strength... Some of the layers are softer than a dandelion floating away on a child's breath. She has known absence, and appreciates presence more dearly. She has known heartbreak, yet is first to forgive. She has known Want, and appreciates Having. She has looked right into the face of serious illness without flinching. When she sees injustice, she does not avert her eyes. When she gets knocked down, she forces herself to get back up again. She is an old-fashioned girl at heart, adapting old-fashioned kind of values to this modern world. She is probably oblivious to the fact that she represents Hope, inspiration that maybe we too can choose to make the most of what Life hands us. Proof that we are not defined by what we cannot control, but by how we live our lives. A mother like none other I have known. Fiercely protective, while encouraging growth and independence. Honest and understanding, able to understand and empathize during each stage her daughters pass through, by keeping in her heart the young girl she was, not so very long ago.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Father's Days

Dear Daddy,

Wow.  Did you ever think you'd read those words, that they would be directed to you?

Mama says you held me first, so your face is the first image I have.  As such, Daddy, YOU are the beginning scene in my story.  I see myself reflected first in your eyes.  The first thing I ever saw was the love in your eyes, and that is as if branded in my mind. 

In case you are wondering, you're doing just fine at this daddy business.  Getting to know each other is an adventure for all of us.  I'll be growing and changing quickly and visibly, in measurable ways.  Your changes will be more significant than measurable, but very, very important.  You, yes, YOU, are a father.  Say it out loud:  I am a husband.  I am a father.  I am Rebekah's Daddy. 

You sound proud.  And maybe a little scared, because you didn't grow up surrounded by good father role models.  The good thing is, you are a person who can learn from the mistakes of others, as well as your own.  You survived and became so much more than your beginnings would have predicted.  For that matter, so did Mommy.  Don't doubt yourselves: I am starting MY own life in the arms of two people who would give up anything just to keep me safe.  I can tell. 

Pick me up and hold me a whole lot.  The day I'm too big for that is coming so much quicker than you think.  Sing to me before I can tell if you CAN sing or not.  Read to me, and make sure I see you enjoying reading, too. 

Respect my mother and make a conscious daily decision to make sure I learn first-hand how a good man treats his family.  You can do it.  You have hopes and dreams for me.  I have hopes and dreams for the three of us. 

You don't get to choose whether you are an example to me.  You only get to choose what KIND of example you are.

I'm your biggest fan right now.  And I suspect you are mine, too.

THE world is a big, exciting, and sometimes scary, place.  But, at least for today, MY world is clean, soft, loving, safe, and bright, because of you.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh, was I proud!

Yesterday I saw my sister for
The woman she'd become.
   And, OH, was I proud!

Beautiful and smart
Funny and kind
Peace-making and faithful
Loyal and temperate
Determined and generous
Passionate and strong
Forgiving and healing
Loving and wise.

Sometimes I see you as the little girl growing up beside me, slightly behind me, on the ever dwindling end of the timeline of disaster we called childhood.  You were fierce and kind, and braver than I ever was.  While I was looking up to you, I like to think you were looking up to me, too, and OH, was I proud!

We learned so many things together:

Anyone can be brave with the right person beside them.

Words aren't always necessary, but shoulders are.

Be careful who or what you take for granted.

Santa is for suckers!

You must seize for yourself moments and hours and days you will treasure.

Believe and protect children.

Watch each other's backs, and stay vigilant.

Neither war nor peace is guaranteed for long.

Don't let what you can't control define you.

Be better than you HAVE to be.

Be greater than the sum of your parts.

Give with a glad heart, or even a sad heart, but GIVE.

Don't believe everything you're told.

Keep an open mind, but draw your own conclusions.

Make plans, but know that LIFE is what happens in the meantime.

Don't pass up a chance to laugh.

Never turn down a child's hug.

Keep promises or don't make them at all.

Tears don't mean you're weak.

God sees us out of the corner of his eye.

Today I left my sister, perfect baby at her breast in her arms, and I could force my feet to walk away only because I know they are in good hands, each other's. 

And, OH, was I proud!

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Truth about your Mommy

1. Your Mommy has always loved you more than anything in the world, and that will never, never change.

2.  Your Mommy remembers exactly how it felt growing up Girl in the American South, and will understand what you are feeling way before you do.

3.  Your Mommy can (and will!) find the humor in just about any situation. 

4.  Your Mommy has inner strength she may not yet know she has, kind of the emotional equivalent of lifting a car off someone in the adrenaline rush of an accident, and she will suit up and fight against everything and everybody that might be looking to hurt you, her child.

5.  Your Mommy will sing and read to you at every opportunity, but, more importantly, she will LAUGH with you every day, helpinging build a strong immunity against the non-stop barrage of bad news that will soon assault your consciousness every day.

6.  She will teach you to laugh at yourself, but be kind to others.

7.  She will never be too busy to comfort you.  In fact, if you need comforting, it will disappoint her if you DON'T come to her.

8.  She will teach you by example that it's more important to BE a good person than to be-LONG to the right groups or organizations.

9.  She will encourage you to be your most unique, creative self, rather than passively LET you.  She won't be lying when she tells you your works of art are the best she's ever seen.

10. You can always trust your Mommy.  She won't ever lie to you, though she may have to carefully filter some truths until you are old enough to understand.

11.  You will never have a bigger fan, or a greater champion, than the woman who gazes on your sleeping face, with a cramp in her arm that she would rather endure than disrupt such a moment of blissful, perfect peace.  She would give anything to be able to give you this kind of peace for all of your life.

12.  She won't give you everything you want, but you will have everything you need.  During the first year of your life, your wants ARE your needs, and she understands this.  You will be a more secure, independent, and happy little girl because your needs were met when you were a baby.

13. Your Mommy would rather cut off her own arms than use them to hurt her child.  Discipline without the "rod" is actually more difficult and less understood, but the parent who practices SELF-discipline first is willing to sacrifice the "quick fix" of a spanking in order to teach her child in the way she should go.  Hitting, no matter how people try to change the wording to be less offensive, teaches that whoever is the biggest and/or strongest gets to be in charge and set the rules.  History is full of large-scale examples of the folly of this kind of thinking. 

14. Your Mommy will make some mistakes along the way- she is HUMAN, after all.  She may even lose her temper and say things she regrets as soon as they come out of her mouth.  But the difference between her and other people you may encounter is that when Mommy says she is sorry, she will truly mean it.  And, if ever she makes you cry, you can be sure her own tears will outnumber your own.

15. You WILL take your Mommy for granted for quite some time as you work hard at the business of growing up, but she will NEVER take for granted the miracle that is you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To the Beautiful Woman who Loves my Brother

To the beautiful woman who loves my brother:
One of the things I love most about you is HOW you love him.
You stand steadfastly by him in good times and bad...
You protect him, from himself, his past, and from demons old and new. 
He doesn't go into battle alone anymore.
I don't think you changed him.
You are the one who finally FOUND him.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Oh, Father, stand by my Friend

Oh, Father, thank You first
For her blessings, as she is also
In Constant Gratitude of You.
Now please keep her even closer During the coming trials and
Mixed blessings of the next two years.

Grant courage to her voice,
To speak when she must,
And the quiet resolve
To hold when it would be best.

Peace like a river and
Protection from self-doubt-
Make them hers and
Let her keep herself whole,
Never forgetting who she is,
And Who you are,
Who will never forsake her.
Let her Family endure,
Understand and support.
Let her emerge triumphant (if tired), Confident and strong,
An even better version of herself Than she can now imagine...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Letters

I used to bemoan the fact that the love of my life, my lover and best friend, my husband, the father of my beautiful daughters, didn't leave me love notes.  I used to bemoan this LOUDLY, and often, and there are people you could call right now and verify this, because I forced them all to listen to my sad complaint.  After all, I occasionally left him a heartfelt note; so it seemed only natural that he should reciprocate, right?  That's how the logic played out in my mind.  I mean, I was REALLY critical, harshly so, of this one colossal (perceived by me) fault.  I admitted that he was indeed a wonderful husband, considerate and constant, the perfect willing companion to balance my own special brand of madness.
Naturally, I received little or no sympathy for my position.
  But I still WANTED those love letters!  I wanted to be able to hold them and read and re-read them, to hold in my very hands the many written declarations of my love's unrelenting affection for me. 
And still no love letters...Love letters were not forthcoming, despite my self-centered pleas.  Knowing in my mind all along that I was wrong, I still felt it as an acute loss when I made the conscious decision to concede this battle and accept that love letters from him to me were just not meant to be; I needed to appreciate him for all he WAS to me, and not hold against him what he wouldn't do (write me those love letters that I was basically demanding).

And then one morning, I came home from work to find the door to the bathroom from the entrance to the bedroom relocated to the entrance to the smaller area where the tub and toilet were, thus separating the sink and closet, creating privacy for the other area, thus fixing my least favorite detail in that particular house.

In that instant, I realized that he had been leaving me love letters everywhere...

I started finding love notes in the towels waiting by the tub when I got home from work, the patient way he let me work through so many of the things that are really hard for me, withholding judgement, understanding that changing my mind is just part of who I am, knowing that I don't mean it for EVER when I'm angry or sad or hurt, making sure I always know that troubles are temporary, and that our love will stand strong, no matter what.
Love letters on paper, I  have only a few to cherish, and I DO cherish them, but they cannot compare at all to the love letters of a life shared and treasured and the support and constancy of daily life, and daily true, unquestionably true, enduring love.