sometimes the snag is a thread

It’s happening again. Seemingly random experiences all rising up to say something to me. There’s a theme in my wandering thoughts, a sermon, a scene in a movie, a comment from a friend, a song on the radio…
I thought my current situation was a snag. Something to cut off. To pull to the back side. To try to weave back into the existing fabric so that everything would be like it used to be. But the snag is a thread, pulled out by God to reveal some things. Some things about my incompleteness, my weaknesses, my “issues”. Some things about God’s wholeness. His ability. His presence. And His complete lack of surprise or distress or frustration with my lack.

This snag is not to be cut short. It is to be grabbed onto as a precious thing. I am to see it for what it is: a thread of my life that God – our wondrous Craftsman – intends to weave into something unbearably more beautiful and extraordinarily more useful. Not tucked in to the old fabric. But to become part of something new.

I entered church focused on the snag. The word of grace spoken through the sermon helped me see the thread. You can hear the sermon that was part of my re-orientation at http://blackhawkchurch.org/basics/sermons.php.

It's a gift to be part of a community for whom grace is not merely a bullet point on a doctrinal statement, but a living value.

Under stress, our hearing is not so good. At times when we most need to hear words of grace, truth, comfort and direction we’re least able to hear them. It's a good thing that God does not get tired of repeating Himself. He uses different words, a variety of voices, and ranges in tone and volume til we have ears to hear.

In the repetition, God also gives us something to see. He begins to lift threads
revealing life themes that give direction
tying truth heard in the past to our present experience
weaving grace through the mundane of daily life.

What snags are you facing? Reflect on what you’ve heard and seen in the past few days. Is there a theme? What issues, questions, threads are rising to the surface? Is God pointing you in a direction? Is He reminding you of lessons learned, inviting you to apply those to a present situation? How is He offering grace to you through the very things that feel difficult or uncomfortable?


sucking it up skills

The minute he called and asked, “How are you all doing?” I knew it was going to take a lot of skill to keep it all inside. The shaking voice clued him in to my true state. I could barely keep it together during the call, but managed to hold it in til we hung up. Tears creeped out from where I had hidden them. But busyness rescued me. I quickly sucked it up. Had to. Things to do.

I sat down in her office to discuss my new venture. I was determined to use my best powers of sucking it up. But they weren’t good enough. A tear fell when she asked, “How are you doing?”, sitting back to really listen. But anger rescued me – allowing me to express feelings about my present circumstances without tears. Then we moved on to the business at hand.

The phone rang when I got home. It was a long distance friend checking in. “How are you?”, she asked, full of her usual empathy and compassion. Here they come. Tears. The quivering voice betrayed me. But silence rescued me. My understanding friend began to pray as I sat sobbing on the inside, shaking and silent on the outside. Her words – and the hope that Someone besides me heard them – pried open my heart. Hanging up the phone, I allowed myself tears. Just for a minute. Til my son, looking at me with bewilderment and distress, rescued me. Mopping up the spill, I sucked it all up again and asked, “So, what shall we have for dinner?”

Crawling into bed, unable to sleep, I laid my hands on her book of poetry. “That will do the trick”, I thought. And it did.

The tough veneer I’d firmly plastered over myself began to peel, revealing a gaping hole. The one I’ve tried so hard to hide. Even from myself. I knew what was lurking there. I pulled the covers up to keep it down. I read other poems – ones that weren’t about me. But “Dread” and “Take Me” came at me like a 1-2 punch, swiftly followed by the knock out blow of “Moving On”. The geyser buried beneath the surface blew. The poet knew. Her story shared in lines did the trick.

I tried to read on. But exhausted by the geyser, or perhaps by weeks of sucking it up, I got up from the bed and turned on the TV. Rescued again by distraction, I replastered the veneer.
I awoke this morning, wind ripping at the trees outside my window, rain pelting the roof.
Outside reflecting my inside.
Tossing off my sucking it up skills, I arose to face a new day.
Outside reflecting my inside.

Moving On

From disbelief
to sadness.
A trickle of hope
begins to fill a well
then dries.
We smile the smile of the helpless,
fill packing cases with our lives
and litter today with regrets.
We pack up our wooden memories,
our celluloid and prints.
But friendship is harder to leave
and impossible to take.

And so we have
one last cocktail or barbie,
one last call,
one last time.
We live in a limbo
of tied ends and throwing out
and too many goodbyes.
Nothing happy happens
when you're packing.

The gannets descend,
And we slide down the slope
in a forest of mire.

When we step on the runway
and the end is in sight,
no pit could be deeper.
Though things will improve,
please God can you stop them
from making us move

Muscat, January 1996

used by permission
Jo Parfitt, "Moving On", from A Moving Landscape


If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing

I haven’t been able to write in the past couple of weeks. Well, that’s not really accurate. I haven’t been able to ponder, get inspired, plan, write, meditate, edit, rewrite, tweak, and sleep on it before pushing the “publish” button. But today some work, poorly done, inspired me. And I’m choosing to skip all of the other steps I typically require of myself and just push the darn button.

This afternoon I pulled weeds. At least the weed tops. I cleaned up the backyard. Just around the edges. I washed the patio. Not the moldy bits that need the power washer and a scrub brush. But the first layer of accumulated crud that’s not been touched while we’ve focused on leaving our old life and packing up for our new one.

Splashing water on long-neglected plants that were either overgrown or shriveling, the thought came out of nowhere: “I’m enjoying myself!” The lavish greens reaching right up to the sky, blue and white and sunny, feeding my eyes and my soul. The sound of the fountain my husband built soothing my nerves and speaking to me in something other than words. The joy of working alongside my singing son. As I stopped to grab hold of the moment, another thought popped into my head: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

I grew up on the saying, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” The parental appeal to “just do your best” became fundamental to my worldview. When I grew up, I found myself among others of my own kind. Perfectionists. We didn’t call it that, of course. We talked about “excellence” and “development”, “integrity” and “modeling”. Even about “living our faith”. Some of us even felt that our “best” was the standard for doing something well. And in a culture steeped in evolutionary thinking, “your best” always needed to get just a little bit better. Those things “worth doing well” needed more effort than they did last year or yesterday. In the end, the belief pushed me to fear, exhaustion, disillusionment and more recently, thank God, to a reformulation of the old adage.

If I never do anything except the things I can do “well”, well, I will never do anything. And I’ll miss out on the satisfaction of ½ pulled weeds, the beauty of an overgrown garden, and the pleasure of wet feet on clean-enough cement.

I think that’s all I've got right now. This time I’m not going to try to improve it because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

Jo Parfitt (www.joparfitt.com) introduced me to the medicinal “shitty first draft”. Her writer’s workshop last March changed the way I saw writing – and myself. This blog – and a book that’s in the works – began as a direct result of her training and affirmation. Jo’s most recent book, A Moving Landscape, is “a memoir in poetry of a life overseas”. I can’t wait to read it!

What are you not doing because you can’t do it “well”?
Today, doing something you’d like to do without concern for getting it right or doing it well. Go ahead! Give yourself permission to do it poorly. In the doing of it, stop and feel the joy. And, if you’re so inclined, ask God to show you what “doing it poorly” has to do with living your faith.