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I could say to you, Don’t worry. Be positive.

Or, Don’t beat yourself up about that. You always try your best.

But all of it boils down to this equation: Don’t tear yourself down. Build yourself up.

So yesterday, you didn’t get anything accomplished. Your tuchus was dragging all day. All you were able to do in the affirmative was turn on the heat when you realized a chill had rolled in. I suppose you could even beat yourself up over that. Tiny mean voice in head: Oh, great. Another dent in the ozone layer! Way to minimize your carbon footprint, genius.

Or when you make a mistake: You always do that. Will you never learn?

Always and Never are the two Poles of Pain. The North Pole of “Always” is a place of perfection that you believe you fall short of but, in truth, can never reach. The South Pole of “Never” is what you feel you always fail to do. They feed off each other and distract you from the Equator of Balance. 

But “always” hasn’t happened yet, and “never” may never come. Life isn’t all-or-nothing. It’s some-and-something. Take some steps, and you’ll accomplish something. Give yourself some latitude, and something will change for the better.

Breathe in fully. Relax your muscles. Have some cocoa or herbal tea. You did your best today. Tomorrow’s a clean slate. Move forward. Oh, and also? Be where you are.

Don’t deplete. Replenish. So what if you’re not perfect? You’re flawed, but you’re also funny, functional and formidable. Don’t let negative notions tell you otherwise.

You’re fine as you are. 

In other words, perfectly you.

…that’s what my college roommate used to tell me every time I spoke without thinking — which was often. As SueBE discussed in her most recent post, oftentimes — especially when it comes to the newfangled media we use daily — we speak or write without fully thinking through the ramifications. I know I do. Mea culpa. Guilty as charged. My brain is only tenuously connected to my mouth in the best of circumstances. So what do I end up doing? Opening my mouth and inserting my foot, over and over again. I can issue all the blanket apologies in the world, but that won’t cut it; not when people are hurt. So, what to do? Short of a mystery illness robbing me of my ability to speak for all of time to come (something I’ve actually wished for), I can pray for change.

Struck dumb — I mean stupid,
startlingly so — and yet the words flow,
a curious experiment gone wrong,
incongruous fluids knocked from vials,
pooling into something strange:
Will I turn into a giant? Or a fly?
Will caustic chemicals rip through
flesh or will they coalesce, landing
with a thud — a rotten egg, an elephant
in the room, all heavy feet and gray
implacability? God, lift my tongue
or snip it. The wiring is bad or else
I’ve lost the remote control. Either way,
words are imperfect. Unfixable.
Sharp and irrevocable. I need a new
language, a learned vernacular:
with as many words for love
as the Sami have for “snow.”
White. Blanketing. Hushed.
Words that rise like prayers,
like steam from a hot bath,
like the susurrous sound
of a sigh. Or silence.
Silence will do.

We’ve all heard the advice, think before you speak.  Of course, it also extends to thinking before you tweet, post or comment.  Too bad I don’t always remember that!

This morning an acquaintance posted two photos of her old house.  One was the two-story Victorian as she and her husband had restored it. She made sure we were clear on that – they had restored it to how it should have been when they bought it.  Then she shared a photo of how the most recent owner, now selling the house, had repainted the exterior.

Restored featured shell pink with white trim.

The new paint job is purple with gold, not metallic, trim.

My first thought was that in the west Texas sun, the pink looked faded and tired.  Not to mention I hate pink.  Really.  Unless its raspberry which is so sassy I have to love it.  But anyway, I digress.  I knew better than to say the house looked faded.

My second thought was to be honest and tell her that I like the purple better, because it is a strong color and I like strong colors.  And it doesn’t look faded and tired.  Fortunately, my filter once again engaged.

Then I realized that the pink was better.  Think how much easier that color would be to paint over!

Wait, no.  Strike that comment.

In the end, I kept my big mouth shut, an all too rare occurrence.

Often God works slowly, or at least that’s how it seems to we mortals as we rush around and demand heavenly solutions now, Now, NOW!   But slow is often what we need. It gives us time to situate ourselves, casting aside what will get in the way, developing more positive habits.

It is hard to trust and feel hear during these great expanses of time.  This seems to be especially true today as we Tweet and post and get feedback almost instantaneously.  We equate these rapid responses with deep approval.

God works slower than that and that’s okay.  Because what God builds we can rely on.  Social media?  Not so much.

–SueBE

Kind people, I don’t wish you hardships. If anything, I wish you only softships. Luxury liners, even! 🚢 And, on the road of life, if you stumble here and there, I hope you’ll always have a soft place to land.

But you know as well as I do that hardships are life lessons. It really is where the rubber meets the road. Your “wherewithal escrow” increases during those times you have to take the long way and come up with creative solutions.

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” This nugget of wisdom was on a strip of paper inside a fortune cookie.🥠 When you realize a situation isn’t working, that’s the nudge from your soul to make changes.

The opposite of “hardship” isn’t life on Easy Street. It’s purpose. Community. Working toward a goal. Self-acceptance. Contentment. Kindred spirits. Partnering with Providence.

It’d be great to be able to get ahead of the bills, but you and I both know that if we got more money, we’d spend more money 💰 and we’d just end up with new bills.

All right, so you don’t own a yacht. If you’re lucky enough to have a roof over your head, food on the table and loved ones in your life, you could just fill up your bathtub with water, put a rubber ducky 🦆 in it and call it your houseboat. If you have a place to call home 🏡 and hope for the future, you know as well as I do, you’re truly blessed indeed.

Agitation seems like a negative word in general, but sometimes it’s actually a good thing. For instance, when my washer stopped its agitation cycle, it backed up and water overflowed onto my basement floor. I was able to fix it, but it made me wonder: what about the agitating people in our lives?  

Everybody’s got that one person in their life who believes they’re God’s gift to the world. You know the ones I mean. They’re opinionated and belittling. Utterly insensitive.

One such person finally pushed me too far and I told him exactly what I thought of him, that he was condescending and downright rude. It didn’t faze him at all. “When the Good Lord was handing out brains, I was at the front of the line,” he said. It was his way of saying, you go ahead and have your opinions, little lady. I still know what’s best.

My theory is that God put these people into our lives to teach various lessons. Sometimes it’s patience. Sometimes it’s perspicacity: when to speak up, when to hold your tongue. 

Of course, the best approach to someone contentious is not to engage, since they live to press your buttons. It’s been my experience that they’ll eventually find other people to annoy and waft away. Keep your eyes toward the sun, and you’ll realize how small those dark clouds really are.

Last week, my husband read an interesting article.  He said that a lot of young people don’t belong to a church, any church, because so many churches refuse to engage politically.

My first reaction was “No, that’s not true.”  After all, our congregation is really active politically.  And then I thought about it.

Our pastor preaches social justice.  Our denomination calls for social justice.

A handful of us work on the community garden.  We grow food that goes to the pantry.

A dozen or so people prepare our monthly dinner that is free to all who come.

But if you walk into the building and take your child to the preschool, do you know about these things?  Nope.  There’s nothing on any of the bulletin boards.  They are simply full of upbeat sayings of no more than about six words.

Whether a teen or young adult is liberal or conservative, they tend to be idealistic.  If your energy tends towards their ideals, there will be a connection.  But it doesn’t do any good if they don’t know the connection is there.

Hmm.  Kind of like putting your light under a bushel basket.

What do I expect you to do with this?  I’m not 100% certain.  I’m still playing with the ideas myself.  At this moment it is just a little something to think about as you move into your week.

–SueBE

Him: What’s bothering you?

Me: Nothing.

Him:  Why do you keep sighing?

Me:  I’m not.

Him:  You are.

After both my husband and son had conversations very like the one above with me, I realized something.  I sigh when my asthma is bothering me.  Long before the coughing kicks in, I sigh as I try to breathe deeply.  Now I know to look out for it as an early warning sign.

It doesn’t matter if the problem you need to address has to do with yourself or with society, step one is listening.  Only then will we learn that a problem exists.

Complaints about an election can indicate that people feel disenfranchised.

Concerns about hunger often point toward a lack of social justice.

Worries about the legal system might mean that we need to check to see that Justice’s blindfold hasn’t slipped allowing her to judge more harshly against one population that another.

Listen.  Listen deeply.  Even if you first reaction is to deny that a problem exists.

–SueBE

When I saw the headline “I will not declare a state of emergency in Newark over lead water crisis, (NJ Governor) Murphy says,” I realized that it’s probably for the best that I’m not governor of New Jersey. I’d end up doing things unilaterally based on my conscience. No doubt I’d be kicked out of office for going around all the roadblocks, like apathetic politicians and reams of red tape. 

First, I’d declare the obvious state of emergency for Newark, a city of 285,000, that hasn’t had safe drinking water since lead was found in city water lines. Next, I’d declare a state of emergency for Camden, a city with a population of 74,000, that doesn’t have a supermarket, forcing residents to rely on corner stores for their food. 

It’s a good thing I’m not governor of Arizona, either, because I’d call for a dedicated tax to establish infrastructure for the Native Americans who live on reservations and don’t have electricity, the internet, or indoor plumbing. Some even have to use flashlights to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night and haul drinking water in buckets.

I’d probably end up being a benevolent despot, trying to right all the wrongs in society in one term since I’d never be re-elected. Sure, I’ve got no experience, no crony-connections and no idea how to do the job, but my qualifications are: 

  1. I’m a human being, and,
  2. I’ve got a heart, and it’s telling me: something’s not right. 

If being denied access to food and water isn’t an emergency, what is? May those in power be hounded by Heaven until they do the right thing.

My friend Krissy over at Visionarie Kindness Chronicles posted a poem today about her discovery of poetry and how it seeped into her being, helping her make sense of her life. It’s terrific. My origin story is more predictable: My mother read me poetry from the time I was a baby. I remember her reading “The Highwayman” — “the moon was a ghostly galleon/tossed upon cloudy seas/and the highwayman came riding” — and stopping to say, “Do you hear the horse’s hoofbeats?” She tapped out the rhythm of the poem and I HEARD IT. Nothing was the same after that.

I was in bed when poetry first found me,
pierced my heart ear-first, an elf, a thief,
a waif who having found warm welcome
would never leave me. I started hearing it
everywhere, whispering words I kept
hidden in the trunk of a tree, in a shoebox
with my paper dolls, behind the geraniums,
velvet-leafed, that flanked the house I
fledged in. They grew, took root,
cross-pollinated with prayer until
there wasn’t anyone else I could ever be,
so bound was poetry with my blood.
I wept alliteration, sighed in spondees.
I was a Phantom of Delight; I was
alone and palely loitering. I was
The Lady of Shalott in “My heart
belongs to Daddy” pajamas.
Heroes get powers. I got a pen.
But I learned how to fly with it anyway.
Now only God can see me coming.

Last week when we had our first choir rehearsal of the season, as usual I sat in the back of the room.  No, the back row isn’t trouble makers. That’s the Soprano section.  Yes, I’m in that too.  I’m in the back row with the tall people.

But in the back, I can see everyone react when we open with our prayer requests.  The energy level in the room was high and then one person after another made their request.  Prayers for the family of a college friend who had died.  Prayers for a mother-in-law who lost her sister.  Cancer. Surgery.  Injuries.

With each request, the energy in the room dropped.  Shoulders sagged.

My hand shot up.  “I’ve got a  prayer of thanksgiving.”  I went on to thank everyone for my many prayer requests over the summer.  Yes, my friend still faces a masectomy BUT they have now found chemo she isn’t allergic to.  My niece hasn’t had another blood clot.  And my brother-in-law is not only walking, he is back at work with the city parks department in a very physical job.

The hard things in life need our attention in prayer but it will also weigh you down.  Be sure to offer up gratitude for the good.  You may have to look for it but it will raise your energy level and your spirit.

Me?  I thank God for helping me find this community, for the women writers at WOW, for my son and husband and the opportunities I have to work from home.  What are you thankful for?

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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