Friday, May 18, 2012

pondering my ponderings

A quick glimpse into how I tick...

This morning Charlotte Talks played a re-air of an interview with Tommy Tomlinson.  During it, he said something to the effect of "a writer goes through every part her day as if she's going to write about it".  I chuckled at how true that is.

Today, while cleaning out the car I was walking through (in my head) the entire Bible, trying to find a passage where we find evidence that compassion was ever a bad thing.  I didn't arrive at any firm conclusions (at least not yet).

While vacuuming I thought about whether or not people who say they will "go to their grave" thinking a certain way have the slightest idea what they sound like... or what that even means.  I thought about how I can't know whether I'm right or I'm wrong but I pray to God I never turn into a pillar of salt.

While wiping out the microwave I was thinking about autism, and about how I wish research went into studying the brains of people who actually have it - figuring out how they're wired - and tapping into that, rather than trying to prevent it.

I thought about how I got to meet Temple Grandin at an Autism Conference last year.  I thought about the young man (with autism) who was selling his cartoons there.  I thought about how his mother wanted Temple to be impressed, and about how - instead - Temple said flatly, "These are great. Now get him the heck out of here. He shouldn't be traveling to Autism Conferences. He should be out selling his craft to the real world!  (she addressed the crowd then)  Hear me?  Get these kids out of this autism awareness bubble and out into the world!"

I thought about that a lot.

I don't have time to write about everything I ponder. I don't even have time to write what I'm writing right now! Writing this is making me late to pick up my daughters.

I hope I can prioritize my life well.  That I can make an impact.  That my ponderings aren't lost on the dustbunnies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

pondering finitude

Brennan Manning says, "If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” 

So I won't...

I've been dog-sick this week.  Let's start with that. Not as an excuse, but as an honest reference point.  Yesterday was my first day back to normal routine, with nausea and fatigue still brewing just beneath the surface.

It began as we left the boys' school following afternoon pickup.  She stomped the floor of the car and, from two rows back, threw her headphones at me.  Yes, while I was driving.  She'd torn the felt from one of the ear coverings.

"It was loose!" she screamed, before I could say a word.

I kept my cool.

"Did you ask someone to help you with it?"

"No!" she growled back.

"Okay... well, I'm driving right now, we'll see what we can do with this when we get home."

And that's when Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk.  With the first yell, stomp, and fist-into-the-car-wall I reminded her that by choosing to throw a fit she was forfeiting her freedom once we arrived home.  I reminded her that she could choose right now to calm herself.  I reminded her that I would help her if she'd let me.

She didn't.

I thought about pulling over, but we'd been through this before; getting out of the car only extends and exacerbates things.  And the kids were starving.  Better to pick the shortest route and get home. Stat.

Things only escalated as the miles passed.  The other three grew increasingly (and understandably) miserable.  I tried to make light.  We all rolled our windows down and stuck our heads out (well, except me) and sang.  It didn't put a dent in the noise she was making.  She was flailing her body into their seats.  She was throwing things.

Then ... it happened.  Something I'd long feared.

She hit her sister in the back of the neck.


That's when I realized how finite I am. That I do, indeed, come to an end.

I swore at her.  With a growl and a volume level I didn't even know I was capable of.  They were all wounded by it.

I pulled over and weighed my options.  Sitting her in the front beside me wasn't one - not without a straightjacket, anyway.  Last thing we needed was her grabbing hold of the emergency brake or the gear shift.  Besides, I didn't trust myself to touch her or even get near her.  No - the third row was the best place for her.

Still-crying-injured sister moved beside me.  Brother (who had been beside me) moved in front of Hulk.  I instructed that if she so much as laid a finger on him OR his seat, he was to turn around and punch her as hard as he could.

Brother smiled and smacked his fist into his palm.  Hulk screamed louder.

What was I thinking??  I won't hit her myself, but I instruct him to??  The brother who has been itching for the chance to pummel her, but has never done so because I taught him that violence isn't the answer?  Somewhere inside I knew I was screwing this up.  BAD.

The other three were trying hard to ignore her incessant noise, and not make me any madder.  I could sense this, and I hated it for them.  They didn't ask for this... they didn't deserve this.

"Let's get ice cream!" I announced. "You deserve it for having to ride all the way home with THAT going on!"

Hulk knew she wasn't getting any and exploded even more.  Inside, I was torn between a sick satisfaction and a keen awareness that I was making things worse.

Birkdale.  Ritzy ditzy shopping center in the heart of ticky tacky suburbia.  (Seriously? Who brings Hulk to Birkdale?)

Three went inside to make their choices, while one put on quite the sidewalk show out front.

"Sit here while I go in and pay." I directed her to a rocking chair in front of the store.  I'd have given anything to have had cash on me in that moment.  Store clerks don't take kindly to 11 year olds using their mother's debit card.

She picked up the rocking chair and slammed it down onto the sidewalk.  I wanted to do the same thing to her. I literally thought about calling the police to take her away.  Or an ambulance to shoot her with a sedative.  Somebody.  Anybody who would MAKE. THIS. STOP.

Somehow I managed to pay, then the two of us got back in the car while the other three sat outside enjoying their treats.  Watching them, I broke down.  I started to wonder things... regret things ... things I usually don't let myself wonder or regret.  I tried to stop myself.  I tried to picture the tiny helpless five year old who crawled into our lap that first day.  Tried to imagine her wallowing away in an Eastern European institution.  Starving to death.  Unloved.

But I couldn't.  Not this time.  I couldn't will away the bad feelings.  I looked at the other three sitting peacefully on their bench, and wished with all that was in me that I was sitting next to them instead of stuck in the car ... with her.

"I have to use the bathroom!" The first intelligible words she'd formed in forty-five minutes.

"No. Wet your pants for all I care. You can clean the seat up after, too!"

Yes.  I said that.  I hated myself now.  Hated myself for such evil thoughts and evil words and evil deeds.  Hated myself for not being a better mother to her the past three years.  For not being able to prevent us getting to this point.

Her yells turned to whimpers.  She really needed to go.

And so I softened.  I sent her in to a bathroom, and she came out calmer.  She'd either exhausted herself or the urgency of needing to pee triggered something in her brain - some awareness that she is in fact  human after all.

"I'm sorry I hurt my sister," she muttered.

I tried to make myself think of Bruce Banner.  "Did I hurt anybody?" he'd asked, after 'coming to'.  I tried to muster sympathy.  "Love always forgives". I tried to remember.

On the ride home, the others were glad to see she was calmer.  They wanted us all to be happy again.  They'd let it go.  Just like I'd taught them.  They'd recovered.

But could I?

I walked to the back deck with an insurance card and a phone.  I got a list of doctors.  People who can help.

Because she needs help.  Serious help.

After dinner, I tucked her into bed early.  I sang to her of the steadfast mercies of the Lord, that are new every morning.  It didn't take her long to fall asleep.  I wasn't surprised.  How anyone could keep that up for that long is beyond my comprehension.

I suggested Daddy join the rest of us for America's Funniest Home Videos, which turned out to be a huge hit.  They all laughed.  They needed to laugh.

But I was glad the room was dark.  I couldn't laugh.

Because I need help, too.

I'm finite.  I come to an end.

Anybody feel that?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

pondering the why question, with a little help from Buechner

"why do you bother?"

"does it really change anyone's mind?"

"what difference does it make?"

I get asked these questions.  Sometimes by well meaning friends, sometimes by enemies (physical and otherwise).

Two summers ago, I read this. I return to it again and again.  I'm still working out the hows, but the why? Clear as crystal.

from Listening to Your Life:

"...the words you read become in the very act of reading them part of who you are...if there is poison in the words, you are poisoned; if there is nourishment, you are nourished; if there is beauty, you are made a little more beautiful... a word doesn't merely say something, it does something. It brings something into being. It makes something happen...

what Red Smith said was more or less this: "Writing is really quite simple, all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein." ... I couldn't agree with Red Smith more. For my money, anyway, the only books worth reading are books written in blood.

Write about what you really care about - write about what matters to you - not just things to catch the eye of the world but things to touch the quick of the world the way they have touched you to the quick, which is why you are writing about them.... Then, the things your books make happen will be things worth happening - things that make the people who read them a little more passionate themselves for their pains, by which I mean a little more alive, a little wiser, a little more beautiful, a little more open and understanding, in short a little more human

...looking at their lives in this world as candidly and searchingly and feelingly as they know how and then telling the rest of us what they have found there most worth finding - we need the eyes of writers like that to see through.  We need the blood of writers like that in our veins."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

pondering conversion

It's no secret I'm a fan of the Sarcastic Lutheran.  But what she writes here about Phillip and the Ehtiopean Eunuch is especially ponder-worthy.

This is already one of my very favorite stories, but Nadia highlights something new - something I'd only really begun to think about.

Who was converted that day?  Philip? the Eunuch?  both?  (read it)

Then I started thinking of other conversions in scripture... like Peter's in Acts 10 ... 

"God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean...Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."

I started thinking about examples from movies and literature... like Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn ... Huck chooses to help Jim, even though he believes doing so will condemn him to hell.  

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:"All right, then, I'll GO to hell" -- and tore it up.It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. "

I started thinking about Robert the Bruce, in Braveheart ... his father tells him that all men betray, all men lose heart.  He passionately retorts, 

"I don't want to lose heart!! I will never be on the wrong side again."

These aren't "bow your head and close your eyes and raise your hand and repeat this prayer after me" moments.  These are moments of life change.  Of repentance.  Of refusal to turn back no matter how many entreat, warn, or accuse you.

These are conversions.

I remember my own. It brings us full circle to Nadia and to Stuart.  She explains, there, that Stuart had converted his friends "again and again", to his faith.

Well, Stuart converted me, too.  I wrote this (below) nearly a year ago. I said, then, that I wouldn't turn back. I'm ashamed to admit I've been tempted to!  But I haven't. And I won't. Because now I know so many more Stuarts, and they convert me... again and again.

another post about the Wild Goose Festival.. 
While listening to Phyllis Tickle speak, I looked over my shoulder and saw The Sarcastic Lutheran standing right near me. I knew it was her even though I had no idea what her real name was (it's Nadia). I introduced myself, and we talked a bit when she suddenly asked, "Would you like to serve communion at the bluegrass liturgy this evening?" Now, ponder that with me: The Sarcastic Lutheran is asking the Waffling Presbyterian to serve communion at the Bluegrass Liturgy. WILD goose indeed! 
Of course I agreed, though I wasn't convinced I was "allowed".  
The service was ... well, it was heavenly! The music was familiar (bluegrass hymns!), the liturgy beautiful, and the sermon brilliant. Then it came time for communion. There were so many people that they set up several serving stations. I was assigned to a station along with Stuart, a member of Nadia's church.  Someone quickly threw out, "You know Stuart, right?  The tall, handsome gay guy with the mohawk!"  I literally had no clue what I was doing, and wondered how I'd find this Stuart person in such a sea of people.  
 Turns out it wasn't hard. :)
Stuart and I took our places - he served the bread, I served the wine. Each time someone walked up I watched him look deep into their eyes and say, "The body of Jesus, broken for you". Then I looked deep into their eyes and said, "The blood of Jesus, shed for you." Something washed over me as this process repeated over and over, over and over. I knew that I believed it, whole-heartedly. That whoever stood in front of me, no matter who they were or what they were or where they came from or where they were going, these words I spoke were true: "The blood of Jesus, SHED FOR YOU." I'm not getting into eucharist arguments here, that's not my point. My point is that I participated with the Spirit in an unmistakeable way as I communicated that Truth to every person who stood before me, inviting them to participate in it.
Every person. Every one. "God bless us, every one".
Then, when our line had ended, Stuart laid a gluten free wafer on my tongue, looked deep into my eyes, and said, "The body of Christ, broken for you." I was weeping by this point, but I handed him the cup and said, "The blood of Christ, shed for you." And we hugged.  
I knew then, that I'd never be able to go back.  And that I didn't want to.
Thank you, Sarcastic Lutheran. Thank you House For All Sinners and Saints. Thank you Stuart.

pondering with the naked pastor and josh garrells

the sickness:

the cure

repeat as needed...
Still I get hard pressed on every side Between the rock and the compromise Like the truth and a pack of lies fightin’ for my soul And I’ve got no place left go Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown More glory than the world has known Keeps me ramblin’ on andSkipping like a calf loosed from its stall I’m free to love once and for all And even when I fall I’ll get back up For the joy that overflows my cup Heaven filled me with more than enough Broke down my levee and my bluff Let the flood wash me ...