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silhouette of two person sitting on chair near tree
Picture of two friends sitting in chairs seen in silhouette at sunset under a large tree. They are facing each other as if deep in conversation.

Happy as a clam.

Cute as a button. 

Fit as a fiddle.

Do these phrases even make sense? How do we know clams are happy? Has someone taken a seaside-survey?

A button, cute? Useful, maybe. But I’ve never seen a button in a beauty contest!

And a fiddle is fit? It looks like it’s wearing a tiny corset. Maybe this musical pun is a groaner, but that can’t be good for its organs! 

So how about this saying: Goody two-shoes. Do the baddies only wear one shoe? 

It’s not possible to make sense of things as they once were, because time marches on and things change. 

Old sayings are like old ways of doing things.

It might’ve made sense to someone, at some point in time. But we’re in a new era. So just as a general rule, and public service, let me offer some sage counsel.

When someone confides a painful truth to you, please do not do this:

  • Gaslight them (say, “I’ve never experienced it, thus, it hasn’t happened to you.”)
  • Blame them (say, “What did you do to cause X? What were you wearing/saying/thinking,” etc.)
  • Snow them (say, “I know exactly how you feel.” No you don’t. You know how you feel. What they’re going through is another person’s situation.)

Show up as a friend, and if that person with a painful truth wants to talk about it, honor that. If they don’t, you know the drill…. Honor that. Silence isn’t the enemy. They may just want to sit and “be.”  

Come to think of it, there are some wise old sayings that still hold true, like this one: “A sweet friendship restores the soul,” Proverbs 27:9. Give your friend in pain space when they need it, and solace when they ask for it. You’ll know how to be there when you listen with your heart.

heart shape book page close-up photography

“…as an answer to prayer, ‘do what you’ve done’ seemed too easy. I guess I was expecting something trickier. Have you needed a friend’s help to hear God’s voice clearly?”

Maybe having a soulmate isn’t the fairy tale of finding a romantic partner who fulfills your every need and with whom you “click” instantly. It seems to me that you find that connection with friends over the years. Could it be that “belongingness” (as author Brene Brown termed it) consists of components of a whole constellation of characters in your life?

There I go with the alliteration again! Lori and SueBE know I love to use it in posts, so much so that we’ve termed it “alloteration.” Think I’ll flag it 🚩for your safety as you proceed.

SueBE’s post, “How Do You Pray?” resonated with me, and I realized we’d both gotten the same sense of God’s nudging again, even though we live so far away from each other.

Lori, SueBE and I have been discussing a project we can do together, and it seemed natural to believe it was something different than what we are already doing — writing this blog together.

But as I prayed about it, the “words on my heart” were so clear: Just what we’re doing now. Like SueBE, I thought, that can’t be right, can it? Doesn’t it have to be more complicated than that?

Just what we’re doing now. 

So what are we doing now?

  • Writing posts and prayers
  • Bouncing ideas off each other
  • Exchanging emails to catch up on our lives and discuss current events
  • Encouraging each other during hard times
  • Learning from moments of conflict (after ten years of friendship, we’ve only had one, initiated, regrettably, by me)

These things may seem inconsequential, but they form the foundation of our friendship. 🚩

Paradoxically, that moment where I left my common sense in my other purse and said hurtful things to SueBE has deepened the soul-sister relationship for all three of us.

It was me at my worst when SueBE was at her lowest. It was Lori at her best, standing by and offering care to us both, knowing it would eventually be resolved in the spirit of grace. It was how people who care about each other seek redemption, forgive, make amends, and heal together.

But as for the project we set out to do together, we decided to write “laments”, a type of sorrowful prayer, so I’ve been writing, discarding, starting over, stomping away from the desk. I just haven’t found a way to express what I’m trying to say. It could be because I’m trying to write from a perspective of hard things are happening, but in the end, we have hope. 🚩 I always have hope, but trying to make it universal with how I feel about everything going on in the world has been…? Fraught? Feels false somehow.

So maybe the three of us are supposed to do something similar to what John Green and his brother Hank do under their moniker, The Vlog Brothers. They record videos addressed to each other about all kinds of topics.

Of course, selfies are not my comfort zone, so I doubt I’ll be climbing on board the video wagon. Lori and I aren’t used to presenting our personas as a package for perusal (🚩). SueBE is more comfortable with public speaking, as she has done it often, and does it well.  She offers classes on the art of writing. She’s our professor, and it’s her purview (½ 🚩)

I’m not sure how this new project of just what we’ve been doing will manifest, but I know that we’ll figure it out from afar, together, with prayer, patience, and the persistent push of providence. 🚩

Do you have to be there in person to understand what someone else is going through? No, of course not. If you care, you can be there by phone, email, or video. If that person is part of the swath of soulmates in your life, you can be there with your heart.

Yesterday I finally met SueBE and Ruth. Oh, we’ve known each other for years — eight, I think — and we’ve spoken on the phone and seen one another in photographs. But yesterday marked our first real meeting (if you count Zoom as real, which I do). Even before I’d friended SueBE on Facebook, I knew just how she’d be — the friendly face, the laugh, the slight Missouri drawl. She’s the super-smart sarcastic girl you want to be BFFs with in high school, only you’re a little afraid she would see right through your nonsense. Ruth was more surprising. Not because she doesn’t look like her picture; she does. It’s just that in all the years before I’d seen that picture, I’d imagined her as a brash brunette or zesty redhead, not a delicate blonde with cheekbones that could cut glass. Oh, she can turn on the “Jersey” if she wants to. It’s just a little like witnessing a ballerina impersonating a longshoreman.

Anyway, we talked a bit about how we’d gotten here; that is, how three such disparate points of light had managed to converge. And while I know very little about physics, I know this much: A higher hand was at work.

It takes a touch to turn
string theory into cat’s cradle,
to weave strands that by rights
should never warp or weft, that
(like a luckless pairing of disparate
dishes somehow combines to form a feast)
becomes a rope so finely turned and tasseled,
it could pull a weighted liner across a sea of stones.
We know the weaver; we’ve seen his work. Why, then,
wonder that such things occur? Yet if you read it in a book,
you’d frown at such blatant deus ex machinations. Let us
instead marvel at the weird we of us, of the variations that
make us sisters, at the deft impossibility that made us friends.

Harry Potter and his pals studied “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” And it’s a good thing they did! For us Muggles, perhaps a more salient field of inquiry would be “Defense Against Trolls.”

You know what trolls are. And if you don’t, a quick perusal of SueBE’s latest post will put you in-the-know. We all deal with trolls, whether on the internet or in real life. They come out of nowhere, ready to do anything to get your goat (so to speak). So when SueBE complained about her personal troll, I was ready with a full-throated Billy Goats Gruff counterattack: “No one bothers my friends! Get out of the way, Troll, before I ram you right off this bridge!”

I do this without thinking. As my friend Susan recently said to me, “You are always, always on my side.” That’s my impulse, to fly to the defense of anyone I love. But is it the most effective means of dispatching trolls?

Trolls don’t respond to logic. You can’t argue with them. Neither do they respond to loving gestures — because they don’t truly understand love. They understand control: If they can control you, all is well. But if they can’t…here they come crawling from under the bridge looking for a fight!

God calls us to love one another. But God does not call us to surrender who we are (our safety, our conscience) to any living person, troll or otherwise. Perhaps the best defense against trolls is to avoid them altogether. With no one to pick on, what are they, really? Just sad creatures who live in the dark.

And if you can’t avoid them? May I suggest always traveling with companions? SueBE and Ruthie are my die-hard backups. They’ve always got me, and I will always have them. I wasn’t born a Capricorn (sign of the goat!) for nothing.

When crossing bridges and other shaky places,
you needn’t walk alone.
Look for your sort. You will know them
by sight and by soul.
Once you have their hands and hearts,
hold on. Consign your strength
to their care. No one need deter you.
Clip-clop where you will.
It is not by hoof and horn you will succeed,
but in turning to your herd, to the warm, soft wooliness
of kin and kith and kind.

Deny, deny, deny. You name it, and someone is out there disbelieving in it, whether it’s systemic racism or a killer virus. It’s rather like a Laurel and Hardy sketch in which a truculent moving man actively does not believe in the grand piano dangling above him perilously by a fraying rope. He will still be smashed flat when it falls on his head. Only it won’t be funny when it does.

The only remedy for these maddening times is to surround yourself with people who support you, who understand and nurture you, yet challenge you to keep your eyes open to hanging pianos and societal ills. Folks who help you work to make things better.

I am lucky to have a blessed few of these friends in my life, including (and especially) my co-bloggers, Ruth and Sue. There are times I think I’d go quite mad without them. Who keeps you sane? Why not give them a proper blessing today?

You may have to sort through galaxies
to find them, sift stars through your fingers
like glitter to hold and heft those
with the proper weight and gravity,
the right amount of sparkle,
the habit of making you glow,
illumined from within,
suddenly a sun.
You will know
you have found them
by the way your soul grows
to match and meet them, the way
you exceed yourself incrementally
under their care. Hold them close.
Though black holes loom, your constellation
will hold, delighting the heavens and luring wayward
planets into more stable orbits.

What will you be known for?  Last night, a friend and I were talking as we attempted a new craft.  While we worked we chatted about family and how we remember various people.  She mentioned that in all of the photos, her great-grandmother looked incredibly stern and that’s actually how almost everyone thought of her.  My grandmother was all over smiles with a great sense of humor.

Just then, my friend dropped a bead which she managed to trap against the table.  Proud of her accomplishment, she showed me the bead with a flourish which was when she smacked the open tube of beads across the kitchen table.  The patter of tiny beads raining down is a very distinct noise.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

I’m fairly certain this is how we will be known?  Laughter.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

On Sunday, we met our choir director’s husband.  “She’s told me about everyone but which one are you?” he asked me.  “Soprano.  And I laugh at everything.”  He looked confused because truly that describes both my friend and I.  I pointed at myself.  “I’m inappropriate laughter.”  “Oh, I know who you are.”

Yep.  That’s me.  My friend?  Over the top laughter.

Even when tiny green seed beads are raining down in my kitchen.  The sugar bowl.  I forgot to check the sugar bowl.

–SueBE

My friend Maria, who hails from Taiwan, tells me that in her culture it is believed that friends are souls who find one another, lifetime after lifetime. Though I’m not a fan of reincarnation (it sounds terribly tiring), I like the sound of this conjecture. After Ruth opined that she thought the three of us really ought to get tattoos so that we can find one another in the next life, it all clicked together.

The sky appears daunting, swarming
as it is with bright and twinkling things,
still: We will find each other,
unerringly, though lifetimes,
on this or any astral plane.
We will coalesce into constellation—
The Sisters, they will call us, or something Latinate —
we will laugh, knowing we are we, not stars but souls,
bound by something more grave than gravity,
beats of light that blink out occasionally,
only to reappear, newborn but ancient,
in yet another freckled sky.

(Or: In Which Lori and Ruth Pen a Poem Together)

You may not know that one of my very favorite poets is our own Ruth. As you probably have gleaned, she has a way with words. So when she emailed me with a premonition most poetic — Rows and rows of grown things. And it came from the pain. — I had to respond.

Oh Gardener, you surely tease:
what can grow from this blighted, salted soil
but stones and brush, blunted and stunted as bonsai?
What takes root in blood and mud but dashed dreams
and creeping evil? This ground has shown no promise,
not in all its years of sunward striving. Still, you laugh.
Crucifixion turns into Resurrection. Do I not recall?
And I see — rows and rows of grown things,
green shoots rooted in pain, turning new blooms
toward heaven. When will it come? You simply smile.
I carry no timepiece. Only wait for the rain to cease.
And you throw me an umbrella: a friend.
I resolve again to wait.

Lori’s post, “Who Walks With You?” and SueBE’s post, “If Only…” were uplifting to me and I was reminded yet again of the way the three of us who write this blog sustain each other from afar on a regular basis. Lori’s comment that “people are amazed when I tell them we’ve never met in person” made me ponder: What is it that makes people connect and form into a community?

It also made me wonder: what if we met and were not at all what we expected? Would the community come apart?

For example, I seem to be the Kindly-Auntie type on this humble blog, but who knows? Maybe in real life I’m an obnoxious loudmouth who stands so close that you have to hold your breath — for some reason, I’ve always just eaten onions.

Not really. I actually am the Kindly-Auntie type. (Plus I don’t eat onions.) I’ve got the bona fides: cat’s eye glasses, knitting, Lifesavers in handbag. I used to have a cat. That’s another Kindly-Auntie thing — remembering lost loved ones in regular conversations. KitKat is still a part of the household in that way, and a part of our hearts.

Kindly-Aunties are able to shift gears from lighthearted to deep-rooted on a dime. We still carry change purses (speaking of dimes). And I am not on board with this push to eliminate pennies. Oh, and we’re also known to go off on tangents.

Of course, I use the Kindly-Auntie lexicon — “handbag” not “purse.” I call everyone “son” or “dear heart” and have pocket packs of tissues available if anyone sneezes.

The reason we get along so well is that we just get each other and think the world of each other. We don’t need to be in the same place on the planet to be on the same wavelength. True blue friends like that are a blessing indeed.

So there I was, watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” yet again — as I have nearly every Christmas season except for that of its premiere (I wasn’t born yet), when it occurred to me (as it always does) that there are some serious flaws in the storytelling…most glaringly, with the subplot about the Island of Misfit Toys. (Whew! That was a long sentence. Take a breather, readers.)

The “misfits” on this island range from the slightly offbeat — a train with square wheels, by no means unfixable — to the ludicrous — a polka-dotted stuffed elephant (so what? I had a purple plaid stuffed dog). But what always got me, doll-lover that I was as a child, was the little ragdoll. Seriously, what was so wrong about her? She was adorable! She could say, “How do you do?” Why in the heck was she stuck on this island?

Okay, I realize I’m taking a children’s animated show a bit too much to heart. But isn’t that what children do? On the plus side, maybe it was repeat showings of this Rankin/Bass classic that caused me to side with the underdogs, the folks on the outside margins, to begin with. I still do, perhaps because it’s where I see myself.

Only here’s the thing: God doesn’t make misfits. In God’s great plan, there is a “fit” for everyone. It may take awhile to find it, of course. But it’s out there. I doubt my first grade classmates knew what to do with a girl who was already reading at a fourth grade level (at least — the test only went up that high), who made up rhymes instead of playing tag, who had (I kid you not) an invisible “thinking cap” that she mimed putting on before spelling bees.

It took a long while to find “my people.” But find them I did. Some of us are odd ducks (or geese or elephants), while some of us are simply extraordinary. I know some pretty terrific folks — SueBe and Ruthie, for two. My friend Susan is the most thoughtful person on earth. My friend Maria lives a life of quiet but radical spirituality. Caroline — who I have known since first grade — combines brash good humor with erudition…and has never, ever treated me like a misfit.

So for all you “misfits” out there, take heart. There is a slot out there for your distinctly shaped peg. And there are other people, too, who will embrace your particular brand of different. Because, like the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys, you are not wrong…only wonderful, in a way all your own.

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