Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Nevertheless – ahem – I present What I Learned At The Beth Moore Conference (followed by BM trivia). Yes. I said BM trivia.
I've had several people ask how the weekend was and what she said. Frankly, it's hard to distill several hours worth of anointed speaking into meaningful soundbites. But I'll try.
Beth's message began with the observation that we probably all have areas in our lives where we don't really trust God.
I trust him with my finances, my marriage, my children …. But I don't trust him with THIS THING.
Apparently, she's struggling with a This Thing, and, out of that, God led her to have each of us consider what our This Thing is.
“The place where you have a steadfast mind,” she said, “is where you trust God. Anyplace our minds are not steadfast, we can find the root of our distrust.”
She spent a good deal of time explaining how we can really know what our This Thing is. Some of us may know automatically. Others may not be so sure. She asked, for example, if we find ourselves with heavy hearts and we can't articulate why. Most of the time, she said, our hearts are heavy in the areas where we don't trust God with something. And the root of that something, that sadness is always found in a wound. (This is excluding obvious external causes for mourning, such as a tragedy or some kind of loss or bad news.)
Is it getting a little complicated? Well, she unpacked her message over two days. But I'll try a bit more.
If we don't trust God with something, it's probably because we were wounded somehow, by someone at some point in our lives -- and we haven’t handed that hurt over to God. Maybe we tried. Maybe we didn't. That wound may have scabbed over, but it didn't become a scar. It's still painful when hit. And wherever we're wounded, that is where we typically don't trust God.
Then there was this: “The very area you are most tempted not to trust God,” she said, “is the place God has most chosen to trust you.”
Do you understand that? His permissive will allowed you to endure some sort of suffering. What he wants you to do is rise up from whatever it is and use it to glorify him. He's trusting you to do that.
"I'll make Satan sorry he ever messed with me," she said. "It'll turn on him."
She gave us another guide for identifying This Thing that we don't trust God with. She called it The Spewing Head. Every time she used this term, which was often, she mimicked the sound of a gushing fire hydrant and motioned wildly, flinging both hands out from the side of her head toward the heavens: spewing thoughts. It was goofy and hilarious and made the point pretty well.
If there's an area in your life where you can't seem to control your thoughts -- you worry yourself to death about something, even if you know you shouldn't and it's pointless -- that’s where your distrust can be found.
Psalm 112:7 -- He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (I needed to hear that one.)
Life, she said, is more about purpose than pleasure. And I’m beginning to get that.
That's the best I can do with her message. Wish you all could have been there, and I mean it. There were somewhere between 14,000-15,000 women in the coliseum. It was amazing. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak: Go.
Now for a list of Interesting Things I Didn't Know About Beth Moore:
1. She's a fan of the (spray-on) Mystic Tan. ("People in my office say, 'Beth, you're so dark.' And I tell them, 'You too can be tan like me.' … "My brother always says, 'Tanned fat looks better than white fat.'")
2. She discovered the hard way, while with daughter, Melissa, that one should not get into a pool after having just been Mystic Tanned. The chlorine in the water is, after all, bleach. ("When I got out of the water, I was dark, dark, dark from the shoulders up. And from the shoulders down, I was white, white, white. Melissa said, 'Mom! You look like a Dairy Queen dipped cone.'"
3. She's been stalked twice, forcing her to hire a private investigator to handle the situation. So it's pretty amazing she opens herself up, still, to people the way she does.
4. From around December to March/April, she had some sort of physical ailment that made her drop weight rapidly (and she SURE doesn’t have any to lose, being roughly the size of my thigh). They thought it might be, among other things, cancer. It wasn't, though she didn't say what it was. It was bad enough, though, that she feels God allowed her to go through the ordeal so that she can use it when she ministers to people. (See the bit about God's permissive will above.)
5. She has a new (first) grandbaby, and she's so crazy about him, she'll answer to whatever word he says following Momma and Dadda. ("If he says Momma, Daddy then bow-wow, I'll be Bow-wow. 'Come here, precious. Come to Bow-bow.")
6. Her oldest brother is an orchestra conductor, and she's watched him at work so often that when she's alone, she likes to crank up the stereo, take a pencil and conduct the music with abandon. ("Have you tried it? You should try it.")
7. The hotel she was staying at (across the road from where a few thousand more of us were located) threw its breakers half-a-dozen times Saturday morning because of all the hairdryers being used at the same time. ("And I'm seeing some fabulous hairdos out there. Honey, I'm from Texas, and we UNDERSTAND big hair in Texas.")
Amen and amen.
Oh, and I also learned Janet (completely devoid of stage fright) can play a mean tamborine when it's thrust on her by a guitar-wielding restaurant troubadour lacking backup.
"Lake House" is a fun chick flick, but it should come equipped with a flowchart. Or a lobotomy. Thinking it through hurts.
And Joye can navigate us on foot perfectly through OKC, but she has no idea why they have buffaloes on every corner or how to pronounce the word frite.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I'm leaving my little East Texas hamlet tomorrow to head for Oklahoma City. That's where Jesus' sister (aka Beth Moore) will be speaking. I'm looking forward to it because I've heard her speak before, and she’s not only an awesome preacher (though she wouldn't call herself that, being a Baptist), she's also flat-dab funny. I mean fun-ee. There's nothing like having the Holy Spirit convict you about your orneriness one minute and the next laugh so hard snorting commences.
But – and no disrespect intended toward Jesus’ sister – I’m mostly excited because I’ll be spending the weekend with two of my oldest, dearest girlfriends in the world. We're staying two nights together in a decent hotel – no husbands, no children (though of course we love them and will miss them and think of them blah, blah, blah), no laundry or dishes or errands. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Just the three of us. (At this moment, the heavens are opening up, an angel choir is breaking into the “Hallelujah” chorus and a blinding shaft of light is engulfing me.)
Joye, Janet and I haven't been completely alone together in about 14 years. And the last time doesn't even count since Joye had a three-day-old baby who kept getting a wee-bit aggressive with the whole breast-feeding thing.
I’m blessed to have made some incredible friends in my life. I sometime categorize my friends by eras: the growing up era (k-12); the college era; the newspaper era; and the stay-at-home mom era. During each one of these periods, God has blessed me – and I mean BLESSED me – with incredible friendships. The funny thing is, I really don’t make friends that easily. When I say “friends” in this case, I mean FRIENDS. Not just stopping to talk in the grocery store friends or saying hello at church friends or sidling up to at a shower friends or even Bible study friends. Those kinds of relationships are relevant and important; having friends like that means you’re connected to your community. You care about people outside your own world. You’d help them in a time of need and do so earnestly.
But what I’m talking about here are the friends you can phone well after 10 p.m. if need be (something my mom was very definite about being a no-no), friends you can cry on and laugh with – simultaneously. Friends you trust your children with. Friends for whom you’d seriously sacrifice your time and energy, and know they’d do the same. Friends from whom you can seek wise counsel … then tell them their pants look ridiculous. And they still love you.
These types of friends I’ve never made easily. It’s not uncommon – and I HATE this – that after someone gets to know me well, he or she tell me, “This is funny now, but before I really got to know you, you intimidated me.”
I don’t know if it’s my height, my outspokenness (which I like to think is charming in a forward, Texas woman sort of way), the spider tattoo on my forehead … What?! But I get it a lot, and I’ve finally come to accept it the way I do my long toes and distaste for slapstick comedy and Zydeco music.
In that light, each dear friend I’ve made is someone I am convinced God connect me with as a gift. And with that gift comes a charge – that I stay in touch, that I reach out, that I connect with across time and distance – whether the distance be thousands of miles or two blocks.
God created us for community. Within that community we can thrive. Outside of it, we often whither, turn inward, become selfish.
Be sure you're connected.
Monday, June 19, 2006
A very dear friend of mine died a couple of months ago, leaving behind her husband, their 5-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.
After the graveside service, a few of us stayed until most everyone but the immediate family was gone. Before the casket was lowered, the 5-year-old asked, matter-of-factly, if he could get in there with his mom. When they told him he couldn't, he went back to playing with his friends, running around headstones. His sister on the other hand, looked paralyzed, tearless eyes blazing. When they began to lower the coffin into the ground, no one spoke or moved. To be frank, the knowledge that my friend was remade in Heaven was of little comfort in those endless minutes.
Since then I've been thinking a good bit about the nature of memory. I wonder how much the 5-year-old will recall of his mother. I have memories dating back to when I was two and three, but they're like the flickering reels of film used in old-timey cameras. And how many of the fine details, the little things do any of us remember about even the most important loved ones lost to us?
I think about this when I've been separated for a lengthy period of time from someone dear to me. I find myself registering, almost subconsciously, how she purses her mouth this way or curls forward when she laughs, or how he habitually rubs a leg or pushes back his hair. I realize then I had forgotten those idiosyncrasies. Seeing them again is like having a sepia-toned photograph bloom into color: the image hadn't been lost, but its vibrancy had faded.
I especially think about this when I consider the death of Robert, the brother of my heart. He died of cancer seven years ago, and I still chafe at the reality of my children never knowing him. He is to them little more than that man in the photo with Momma when she was young. I kept a journal the last few months of his life. Recently, I read an entry following one of our final conversations. I had forgotten the exchange completely. Reading it again made me gasp at how I could have lost its memory.
Speaking on the phone with Erin just before attending this recent funeral, I rhetorically asked her (feeling ridiculously sorry for myself) how many more funerals of close friends I would be attending in my life. She answered simply, "A lot more."
It was like a needed slap in the face, reminding me that death is irrevocably part of life. It's just part of the deal, and we're not excused from it at any age or under any particular circumstances.
What I've tried to take from all this is the constant awareness that I'm not promised tomorrow with my children, my husband or anyone else. How will my words and actions stack up if today is my last day? Will I have been unnecessarily selfish or cross? Or will I have reacted to the challenges of my day with love and treated my husband as my best friend?
With this in mind, I realize that while my friend's beloved son may not carry a great deal of specific memories of her into his adulthood, he and his sister are permanently imprinted by her goodness, her laughter, her love of them.
Such things outlast memories.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
It's not just the occasional "Has Anyone Ever Told You You Look Like Hilary Swank?" (who played the roll of a young man VERY convincingly). Umpteen years ago when my senior class had a panoramic picture taken, I proudly showed it to my Mammaw and asked her to pick me out. I was sitting on the front row, ankles crossed, hands primly laid across my knees (just like I ALWAYS sat) and, blessedly, my hair had grown out of The Perm.
She studied it a minute, and then pointed to the third row, where Andrew, our class's official Longhaired, Pot-smoking Dude was smirking knowingly. The damage was permanent.
So when I found a link to this very cool site, I was curious to see who I would be compared to. After uploading a photo, the site utilizes fancy-schmancy technology to compare you (or anyone else you happen to have a photo of) to a database of "the world's 3,200 most famous men and women."
So I uploaded this picture of myself and waited patiently to see who my celebrity look-alike is. After which I planned to contact her so we could get to know one another before becoming Best Friends Forever.
The first match I get is Courtney Cox. OK. That's flattering, but ... come on. We look like we could maybe be cousins. If she fell on her face.
But my FAVORITE, and the third best match on the list, is (drum roll, please):
Matthew Broderick. Yeah. The skinny little guy from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Inspector Gadget." That Matthew Broderick.
Well, now. I couldn't just take that. So I uploaded a different picture. (Hey, the site told me to.) The problem is I don't have that many photos of myself. I'm always the one taking them.
So I chose the profile photo I use on this blog. Big mistake. Big. Big. Mistake. Apparently I should delete this photo immediately. Because, y'all, you know who my first match was? With an even greater compatibility ratio than Ms. Cox?
Kevin Bacon. Mr. Six Degrees Of. Kevin Freakin' Bacon.
But it gets worse.
In order of compatibility, I also learned I could pass for Swiss politician Moritz Leuenberger (huh?), racecar driver Jacques Villeneuve, actor/comedian Jack Black (by which point I'm ever-so-willing, begging even to be compared to Ferris Bueller) and Bob Dylan.
Bob. Dylan. My mouth opens. But no sounds comes out.
My sweet Lord. Mammaw was right.
Without a city pool, the kids and I have contented ourselves for several summers with one of those hard-plastic numbers in the back yard accompanied by a fanning sprinkler that doubles as a force field.
But then several of my friends joined the country club in the past year. And I must say, it's not what you know; it's so who you know. Given that I don't play golf or tennis or care particularly to eat regularly in the country club restaurant (though the food is perfectly delightful), it doesn't make sense to join just to be able to use the pool.
But mooching as guests off my friends who are members? Heeeeck, yeah. The kids love it, and I've actually gotten enough sun to look, you know, alive. (I'm one of those people who occasionally gets complimented on my "porcelain" complexion -- which translates "pasty white.")
There is a drawback, however. Apparently, there's an unofficial "beautiful people" day at the pool. I accidentally went to the pool this week on Beautiful People Day. I don't fit into this category. I never did, and if I had, it was at least two children and 200 varicose veins ago.
So I love going to the pool, but I would love it a lot more if perfectly tanned, flat-stomached, no-need-for-padding-here types would, you know, not go. Or at least post a Beautiful People Days schedule.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
However, I was asked, "Who has pretty feet, anyway?" So let me clear that up right now. Erin Humphries does. I like to call her, "My Friend Erin-With-Four-Kids." Actually, I like to call her a few other things, too. But I'm pretty sure she'd get angry with me if I shared them here. Anywho, Erin has beautiful feet. Really. They're smooth and elegant and, well, pretty. It's totally annoying. When I start to covet her feet, I remind myself she has twice the responsibility I do for keeping human beings alive. In light of that fact, she can keep the pretty feet.
I've been trying to come up with a few things that make my family unique. I can think of plenty of things that make us special and perhaps even enviable, not to mention bizarre and annoying. But unique. Well, now, that's a bit more difficult.
So the first thing that comes to mind is our wheels. There's the fairly standard Toyota. It's old but runs well. Then there's my husband's baby: a faded green 1970 International Scout, complete with customized roll bar. It's a Man Magnet. Come to think of it, it's a magnet for the curious everywhere. On the occasions I drive it, I'm very careful not to pick my nose at red lights. Not that I do that, of course.
What really puts us over the top in the unique category is our 1996 Dodge Caravan Sport minivan. How can a minivan have the word "Sport" in its name, you ask? Well, ye shall know it is Sport by its racing stripes. A minivan with racing stripes, y'all. !
My husband bought it from a friend for $100. It had been sitting for about a year. One new transmission and a good cleaning later and that baby runs like, well, like a 10-year-old minivan with a perpetually squeaky belt. But it seats eight, so I'm not complaining. Occasionally I pick up My Friend Erin-With-Four-Kids' kids.
Another thing that makes us unique is the frequency we partake of breakfast suppers. My mom -- a super Southern-style cook -- used to occasionally offer breakfast meals, which I always thought was awesome. Never mind that the woman can have all the major food groups represented on the table AND everything still be warm. Nah, scramble up some eggs and call me Fred. That's what I'm talkin' about.
When it comes to breakfast suppers, I subscribe to the Mae West philosophy. She said too much of a good thing is wonderful. So it's pretty common in Casa del Clay for me to whip out the pink carton of eggs, a can of biscuits and announce: Breakfast supper! So common, in fact, my 5-year-old daughter is now capable (with supervision) of preparing her own eggs from start to finish.
Another thing that's become standard around our house is a strange array of across-the-street parkers. When we bought our house, the view out our front door was of woods. Those trees have since been cleared, with a few picnic tables scattered around the lot. I never see anyone using the tables, but people like to park along the road there and do ... I don't know what. I'm afraid to know what.
A few days ago, this was the vehicle parked across from our house.
Excuse me, but why does someone driving a hearse need to pull over and rest? It seems to me that if ANY vehicle should drive from Point A to Point B without stopping, it's a hearse. And an ambulance. Definitely an ambulance.
Lastly, and I know I'm probably riding the poopy train too far, given the Connor Clay and the Disastrous Poopy post, but this is, after all, about what makes us unique. So it would be dishonest to not include the fact that my son now insists on sitting backward on the potty.
I asked him why, Why, WHY must he sit backwards? He explained quite calmly, "Connors like to sit this way."
Oh. Well, then.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Toeing the line ... the scissors, the belt, the toy horse and anything else I don't want to bend down and grab
No, this was a major purchase because, being thong-type footwear, they expose my toes. All of them. All 900 inches of them. It's a big step for me. Nearly any sandal I've ever purchased has a fairly wide strap across the end. I've done this to prevent people from gawking or getting distracted and walking into walls.
My husband -- then my affianced -- once asked if I would accompany him to his anthropology class so he could present my toes as evidence of The Missing Link.
He still limps.
I can pinch with my toes (though I don't -- well, only my husband occasionally because he's still being punished). I can grab things with them (incredibly handy feat). I can find purchase with them while forging a swift, rocky bottomed river bed. I can lean forward until my head is nearly parallel with the floor without falling (now I kid). Oh, yes, these toes, they have their uses.
But for years I was just plain embarrassed by them. Who has toes this long?! And believe me, I've searched. Many is the time I've heard someone mention their long toes and assured them, "Ohhhh, you haven't seen long toes."
They always eye me dubiously because -- not being familiar with my mutant super powers -- they think I'm jesting. But I've never lost a toe challenge. I warn them: Really. I've Never. Been. Beaten.
Inevitably we circle around one another a few times, move into close proximity, kick off our shoes and -- WHA-BAM!
Ahhh, Grasshopper, when you too can snatch these pebbles from my hand without moving your arms ...
They back away in fear and awe.
So, I was saying. I bought some thongs the other day. This was preceded a few weeks earlier by an emergency shopping incident in which I had failed to bring a change of comfortable shoes following an out-of-town event. In an effort to spend as little as possible, I bought a pair of cushion-bottomed flip-flops.
(Queue harp music.)
Oh. Oh, my! These are (as my daughter recently said) like beds on my feet.
I wanted to wear them all the time. I wanted to sleep in them. The wiggle room! The fresh air! The cultural relevance!
So Thursday when I was perusing the Please-Just-Take-Them wrack and spied an ever-so-cute, semi-dressy pair of thongs ... well, I threw caution to the wind -- for the low, low price of $8.
Look out world. The Missing Link is moving among you.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Look, it’s certainly not classy during a time of war to insult the president in front of thousands of people – particularly on foreign soil. But the resulting fallout was rather extraordinary and, to my mind, ridiculous. In addition to their radio play plummeting, they were cursed, threatened and harassed. Essentially, they became pariahs.
Was it because they disagreed with the president on the issue of Iraq? Personally, I believe George Bush is a man of character. I like him. I interviewed him a couple of times as a young reporter and, later, enjoyed running into him from time to time at the capitol (think governor, not president).
Politically, I’ve got issues with several of his policies. I was particularly not a fan of several first-term cabinet members. For a while there, though, I felt I could hardly disagree with an item on his agenda without being labeled “un-Christian.” Strange times.
Was the backlash because the Chicks spoke out against the president on foreign soil? That probably had a good bit to do with it, but I suspect the brouhaha would’ve been just as bad if they’d been in the States. Heck, anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line would have been considered “foreign soil” anyway.
Was it the fact that they’re country singers? I think this is mostly it. Country singers can embrace drinkin’, cheatin’, stealin’ and beatin’ – but left-leaning politics are strictly verboten.
So, I was sayin’ (about a hundred years ago) I’ve been listening to their new album. It’s very good. Musically it’s excellent. Lyrically, it’s raw and revelatory. Many of the songs address the fiasco and the fallout of the incident. What I’ve learned from listening is they lost friends, got very angry, received death threats, refuse to apologize and are hated in their hometowns.
What really bothers me is a song called “Lubbock or Leave It” where, I think, Natalie Maines is from. Here are a few of the lyrics:
Throwing stones from the top of your rock
Thinking no one can see
The secrets you hide behind
Your southern hospitality …
I'm on my way
To hell's half acre
How will I ever
How will I ever
Get to heaven now
This song exemplifies – once again – the perfectly lovely tradition of people who either are or just call themselves Christians throwing stones at those they disagree with in some bizarre attempt to get them to change or apologize.
Bam! Be more like me. Slam! Think differently. Whack! Jesus loves you.
Why would anyone who’s attacked by The Church want to join the church? The question they pose is valid: How will they get to heaven? Not by following that example.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Connor, on the other hands, likes to let it all hang out (figuratively and literally). He's not one for over analyzing something. He invites the entire world to feel his pain. My eardrums feel his pain. Then his bottom feels a disproportionate portion of his pain.
The good news is that he's happy in the same way: passionately. In fact, he pretty much throws himself whole-heartedly into everything. It's not that he doesn't KNOW he shouldn't be climbing over the fence. He's been disciplined for it before. He just wants SO badly to get to the horses. Or up the ladder to the top of the house. Or across the ninth hole to get to the pond. Or off the deep end to get to the water. Never mind the hooves, the height, the flying golf ball or the times I've already fished him out of the pool.
It's scary parenting a fearless and strong-willed child. It's also frustrating. What's helped me the most emotionally is something planted in my heart as I prayed over him one night. I always thank God for the children, for the good plan he has for their lives. But this night, as I bowed over Connor, I thanked God for making Connor exactly as he is. I thanked God for my son's energy, his passion, his determination. For I realized if God has a plan for Connor -- a plan to prosper him -- then he also equipped Connor with exactly the set of characteristics necessary to fulfill that plan. Knowing this has been immensely freeing. I don't spend time now (well, not much) wondering why he's this way or that way.
But what about the post title?
Imagine, if you will, a young boy who hadn't -- as far as his mother could determine -- had a bowel movement in near-on on a week. I've no formal medical training, but I'm fairly sure this is a bad thing, which could result in an explosion of some sort. Or, worse, a very unfriendly visit to a doctor which could scar a boy for life ... or a doctor.
On Thursday, I gave Connor a dose of Milk of Magnesia ("Comfortable, cramp-free relief. More like nature intended.") It's cherry flavored. He took it easily and announced, "It's good. It makes poopy come outta my hiney." That's the general idea. So we wait.
Fast forward to Saturday. Still nothin'. By this time, the kids and I are out-of-town visiting family. I ask my Mammaw for some Milk of Magnesia, which she has because at her age, she's collected enough pharmaceuticals to shame Merck. He gets another dose. (And, yes, I said "Mammaw.")
Moving on to Sunday. No results. Connor gets another dose in the morning. That afternoon, he has so much fun playing with cousins, he does the pee-pee dance a little too long and wets himself. At this point, I don't have any more clean clothes for him, so I find a pair of shorts and, after drying him off, send him off commando.
We return home several hours later and, with my husband now in tow, go quickly to our church's recreational building where, with much help, I began transforming a Sunday School room into an Arctic scene, complete with covered walls, snow, an igloo and a mountain. (Only took six-and-a-half FUN-FILLED hours.) In the midst of hanging snowflakes, my husband walked in to inform me Connor would be needing fresh clothes. And a bath. Oh, and a mop might be handy.
It was then that I remembered the poor little thing, having been given three adult-sized doses of Milk of Magnesia and THEN set loose to play, still didn't have underwear on.
And Ground Zero ... my sweet lord. The horror. The horror.
I don't care what the bottle said. It was NOT like nature intended.
Fortunately, Connor had made it into the restroom. And -- yes! -- there was a shower in there. So we got him cleaned up and covered in an adult XL camp T-shirt in no time. Still there's no doubt: This incident totally trumps the time I said the sucker would kill him.
Loading your constipated son up with a laxative for days and then sending him to play without underwear: priceless.