The Between

Few people enjoy experiencing the Between.

Quite often, though, that is where I live. In the Between. Between what? Well, pain and healing, mostly. Pain is a condition universal to man, and I usually have very little control over when or how I experience it. Pain can take the form of sarcasm, gossip, manipulation, or betrayal. It can be the illness or death of a loved one. Or, maybe my pain is the result of my own baggage and dysfunction.

Healing, though, is a choice – a necessary choice if I want to move on and live a healthy, non-bitter life. When I experience pain, I want healing. But before I can heal, I must experience the Between. So what is the Between?

The Between is that span of time that comes after the pain and before the healing.

For me, it may be a time of anger, isolation, or withdrawal. Maybe I sulk or resort to some self-destructive behavior. I cry, sleep, pray, yell, or do absolutely nothing. I hide, make excuses, go numb…. my reaction to pain can differ based on the situation, except for one thing – the waiting. Always, the waiting.

Why must I wait for healing? Why must I go through the Between? Is there any purpose in that lonely, agonizing space? And if there is purpose in the Between, what is it?

I think it’s hope.

Someday, when I’m completely healed from all of my pain and dysfunction, I will no longer need hope. To walk in total freedom from pain and suffering requires no hope. And I look forward to that day. But for now, I am learning to hope in the Between.

What do I hope for in the Between? Peace. Redemption. Rest. Comfort. Love. It can be scary to hope, but without it healing comes slowly, or not at all. So I have a choice – when I experience the Between, I can despair or I can hope.

Between the two, I choose hope.

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Porcelain Dolls and Baseball Gloves

Today’s post was born out of a whole lot of past angst. That’s my latest word – angst. I can’t seem to use it enough. I angst gonna eat that. Oh my angst. That outfit is angst. Angst me.  I didn’t say I was using it correctly.

It was Christmas Day in the early 1980’s. I was 8 or 9 years old, and the Christmas presents were stacked wall-to-wall in my grandparents’ basement. I was so excited to open my gifts!

You need to know that I was a huge tomboy. Did I say huge? Sneakers, ball caps, skateboards, sports…. I took ‘tomboy’ to it’s apex – I perfected it. So imagine my disappointment when I opened my first gift – a  Precious Moments figurine, along with a Precious Moments Club membership. I was horrified. But it was only the first gift, so I put on a brave face and held it together. Unfortunately that didn’t last long.

After opening countless subsequent Precious Moments figurines, along with some jewelry and many other non-fun, breakable items, my emotional dam broke and I burst into tears.

Now let me get to the heart of it: I wasn’t crying because of the gifts themselves (although they were dreadful). I was crying because in that moment I could only think of two possible reasons why I was being given these things – either no one knew me well enough to know what I liked, or they were trying to change me into something I wasn’t. It didn’t matter if neither was true – that was my perception at the time.

Of course my family felt horrible. It really was the worst Christmas ever. And today you can’t even sell Precious Moments in a garage sale. No one wants them. Imagine that.

This story does have a happy ending, though. The next Christmas was perfect – a baseball glove, a basketball, Match Box cars with the cool car carrier – even a pogo stick! It was the best Christmas ever – I felt known, accepted and loved.

I used to think that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t girly. For a long time I thought that God had made a mistake when he gave me a uterus and a set of ovaries. Many nights I would cry myself to sleep and pray that I would awake as a boy. It’s no fun feeling like a stranger in your own body.

If I  could go back in time and talk to me, I would tell little Amy that she is completely normal and totally awesome. I would tell her to be confident in who she is and not to worry about what other people think. I would tell her to embrace how God created her and never look back.

And then I would tell her to keep reminding herself of that truth every day of her life.

Why is this important? I’ve learned that when I’m focused on how other people perceive me, I’m not focused on other people, and I’m definitely not focused on God. The best way to get over insecurity is to stop focusing inward and start focusing outward.

Today I love being a woman. I love being a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter, an aunt. But every now and then I need to remind myself that I am perfectly known, accepted and loved by my heavenly Father, and it’s still okay to be me.

And it’s okay to be you, too.

Unless you like Precious Moments figurines.

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Seriously

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet. Seriously, I’m wearing a bonnet and there’s a bee in it. All kidding aside, it’s a really big bee. This is why I don’t often wear bonnets. Well, it’s one of the reasons. Can you imagine if you were wearing a bonnet right now and there was a bee in it? Believe me, it’s scary.

I’ve never been stung by a bee. Ever. I know right now your thinking, “Amy, that’s not true.” It is. Also, I’ve never taunted a bee. I’m very much against bee taunting. Especially when I’m wearing my bonnet. I don’t enjoy being taunted, and I can’t imagine that a bee, already trapped in my bonnet, would enjoy the experience, either.

I know what you’re thinking right now – “Amy, where are you going with this post?” I have no idea.

Eyelash curlers are crazy things. I’ve never used one and have no plans to do so. Why doesn’t the eyelash curler need to be hot, like a curling iron? How does it curl those tiny little eyelash hairs without heat? And why do people curl their eyelashes? And if they do curl them, do they want me to notice? “Hey, I love your eyelashes. They’re really curly.”

Speaking of hair, I love Fall. Football, leaves, cocoa, pumpkins – it’s my most favorite time of year. (Also, the bees go into hibernation, which is nice). I love putting on a sweatshirt (it’s like wearing a hug from my mama), making a Dirty Blonde (coffee with cream, no sugar) and getting into a good book.

Speaking of books, they’re great.

Do you know the most perfect way to eat an Oreo? I’ll tell you, and then you have to go try it. Pour a glass of milk and drop an Oreo into it. Slowly count to 7 (maybe 8 if you’re insane), then fish it out with a fork and put the whole thing in your mouth. You’re welcome.

By the way, this was my favorite Super Bowl Ad:

Did you watch it? You’re lying.

This has been nice. Life doesn’t always need a point, or a moral,  or a nugget of wisdom. Sometimes it’s just nice to don a bonnet and dunk an Oreo.

But I guess I just dropped a nugget, so never mind.

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Stuff

I’ve done some stuff.

Let’s just say that I love grace. I’ve been generously partaking of copious amounts of grace since my youth. As I was reflecting on this the other day, I thought it would be ‘fun’ to list some of my less-than stellar moments. Here we go:

Age 5: Broke into neighbor’s house while they were away and ate their food.

Age 5: Climbed neighbor’s TV antenna on top of their roof.

Age 5: Skipped out of swimming lessons and walked home over a mile in my swimsuit.

(Apparently 5 was a bad age for me).

Age 9: Kicked Connie in the shin during class.

Age 10: Punched Kim in the stomach on the first day of 5th grade for stealing my boyfriend.

Age 11: Sniffed glue.

Age 12: Dumped a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake out my youth leader’s car window, splattering it down the side of her vehicle.

Age 14: Ripped up my Spanish textbook in the school hallway, only to find the principal behind me.

Age 16: T.P.’d a LOT of houses.

Age 17: Mooned a LOT of people.

Age 18: Left my friend stranded at a McDonald’s while she was using the bathroom, forcing her to walk miles back to campus.

Age 19: Ate food off of a complete stranger’s plate (I had to – it was a dare).

Age 20: Emptied a two-story dorm in the middle of the night with a fire alarm (setting things on fire produces smoke).

Age 21: Unbolted and removed all the divider walls from the stalls in the women’s bathroom in our dorm.

I could go on (I’m afraid this is not a comprehensive list). When I think back on my stuff, I’m amazed that I turned out as well as I did. And I credit this miracle to three persons –  God and my parents.

We all have stuff. Some of our stuff is fairly innocent and makes for good stories. But then there’s the stuff that I don’t want to share in a blog – the stuff only those closest to me know – the stuff that would keep me from ever running for President. That stuff. Is grace graceful enough to cover even those things?

It depends. From whom am I asking grace? I have found that there is a limit to the amount of grace people will extend. Because we’re human, and in our humanness our grace has limits.

Don’t believe me? Adolf Hitler. Jeffrey Dahmer. Adam Lanza. In my humanness, I cannot extend unlimited grace.

God’s grace, though, is a bit different. And it makes me uncomfortable.

It’s unfair, illogical, undeserved, unjust and all together scandalous. But his is the only grace that is without end. And that’s the kind of grace I needed – endless, uncomfortable grace.

I can extend unlimited grace – not because of grace itself, but because of the grace Giver. My human grace is insufficient, but I can give his grace abundantly. Because he gave it abundantly to me.

My story is entirely enveloped in the unmerited grace of God.

And so is yours.

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Community Grooming

There’s a common social conundrum that produces tension in my life, and I think it’s hilarious. I’m gonna call it “Community Grooming.”

Each new day presents potential grooming land mines – eye matter, clingy dryer sheets, eye lashes on cheeks, mismatched socks, dry skin, open zippers, clothes tags, boogies – fun stuff like that. Some struggle with these more than others. Honestly, I’m a mess – it takes a village to keep me presentable. I once went to work in my slippers.

There are two types of people – those who point out these imperfections, and those who don’t. I’ve got a friend who fixes my face every time she sees me. Others will spend the entire day with me and say nothing – if I were pantless they’d probably compliment me on my shirt.

So who is correct, the informers or the ignorers? When I observe a hygiene flaw in another, should I speak up? I find myself falling into the ‘informers’ group, but there are some non-negotiable exceptions:

– It is something they cannot change. Hair is permanent, and beauty marks do not rub off.  I know, I’ve tried.

– I don’t know the person. That’s just weird.

– It involves teeth and there is no mirror. They will pick at it until their gums bleed, but that piece of peppercorn is not going to budge.

I’ve heard that cleanliness is next to godliness, but I wonder….. When Jesus walked the earth, perhaps his disciples ensured his tunic was securely tied before he addressed the crowds. Or maybe they informed him of his wine mustache before he spoke in the temple. If God incarnate experienced Community Grooming, I don’t need to feel bad about that button hole I missed or that mismatched earring. It’s part of the human experience, and it’s hilarious.

If I point out a grooming deficiency to you, know that I love you too much to let you go through your day with that piece of fuzz on your lip. And if it’s a beauty mark, I apologize. It takes an army to keep me together – I’m just trying to return the favor. Unless it involves your teeth – then you’re on your own.

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Sitting in the Mud

Everything happens for a reason. God is in control. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. God won’t give you more than you can handle. Call me if you need anything. Let go and let God.

I’ve been on the receiving end of these cliches. Maybe you have too. You were probably in the midst of some painful circumstances – the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a job loss, a health crisis, a divorce, a prodigal child. Well-intended people spoke these words to me in my time of deepest pain, purposed to encourage and comfort me.

And in that moment I wanted to rip their faces off.

I have also muttered these phrases to others. And after I did, I cringed at how trite and shallow my words sounded. But it’s all I knew to say. Why do I gravitate toward sharing these patronizing words with those who are hurting, knowing that it will cause them to want to rip my face off?

I don’t like to sit in mud. It’s dirty, it’s uncomfortable, its – muddy. I can endure it for a while, but eventually I want to hop in the shower and get clean.

I don’t like to experience suffering. It’s sad, it’s messy, its painful. I can endure it for a while, but eventually I want to feel better and move on with my life. And this is especially true if it involves someone else’s suffering – someone else’s mud. I am willing to sit in the mud of another’s pain for a season. I visit the funeral home, deliver a meal, send a card or go to coffee. I listen, empathize, encourage and support. For a time.

And then I decide it’s time for them to get up out of the mud. Because I’m ready to get up out of the mud and move on with my life, and I think they should be ready as well.

But what if they’re not?

What if I decided to sit with others in the mud until they are ready to get up? What if I put aside my need to fix it? What if I threw my timetable out the window? What if I chose silence instead of cliches? What if I got comfortable in the mud?

I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting. What can I do for you? You’re gonna get through this.  I don’t understand either. I will walk through this with you. You’re not alone. I love you. I will sit in the mud with you until you are ready to get up.

I want to be comfortable sitting in the mud, because someone sat in the mud with me.

And I don’t want my face ripped off.

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You Said What?

My mom warned me about it, the Bible predicted it, people have created pithy sayings for it. But I succumb to it time and time again. To what am I referring? Borrowing one of the aforementioned pithy sayings, I’m talking about “sticking my foot in my mouth.”

When I was 16, I got a job in a grocery store as a cashier. I wasn’t making burgers or soliciting strangers over the phone – it was a great first job. I made $3.75 an hour and was excited about it. One evening, we were fairly busy and it was time for me to go home. I put my ‘closed’ sign up but told the four customers in line that I would check them out. As I glanced down the lane, I noticed that the lady at the very end had a deformed left arm. (Please remember that detail – it’s important).

All four customers had very full carts, so it took a while to begin checking out the last lady. (At this point I had completely forgotten about her deformed arm). She had an infinite number of coupons, as well as some government-assistance vouchers. I was working diligently trying to bag her groceries, take her coupons,  process her vouchers and send her on her way. And she was working hard trying to put her bags in her cart, arrange her coupons, tear out the appropriate vouchers and pay the remaining balance. We were both so busy, there wasn’t much opportunity for conversation. So I decided to say something, and that’s when this came out of my mouth:

“It looks like you could use another hand!”

Yep.

I remember the cashier next to me freezing mid-transaction and staring at me, mouth gaping. I remember looking at my customer – seeing her deformed arm, her expression of pure outrage – and realizing what I had just said. Sometimes it’s so bad, you just have to laugh. And I did. As I was apologizing to her. I’m pretty sure she didn’t accept my apology, and I’m fairly certain she never shopped at our store again.

We’ve all put our foot in our mouth. You’d think we would self-correct after our first case of verbal diarrhea, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. So why is this an ongoing problem for us humans? Even when our intentions are pure, we slip up and hurt those whom we never intended to hurt. It’s almost as if there’s something at play that is out of our control. And I believe that there is.

In my experiences with this, I’ve learned that I really don’t have a mouth problem, or a foot problem – I have a heart problem. That’s difficult to admit, because I really want to think that I’ve got a good heart. But I don’t, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. So, every now and then my mouth reveals the wickedness in my heart. Ouch.

So what’s the solution?

Other than never saying a blessed word to anyone ever again, I think the answer is grace. Not until heaven will I stop saying stupid things, and until then I rely solely on the grace of those I inadvertently offend. I hope that next time you say something regrettable (or are on the receiving end of this wonderful experience), you will extend grace to yourself and to others.

To sum up – I’ll try to be careful with my words and control my tongue. But please know that my tongue is affected by my heart, and my heart is a fallen heart, prone to wickedness. Other than that, I’m a wonderful person. Unless you have a deformed arm.

Thanks for the grace.

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