I have not the foggiest idea why the story of Maggie Lee’s life and death has touched the souls it has. Truly, it makes absolutely no sense other than God’s eye toward and passion for redemption. Stories like those of … Continue reading
It is time I came clean. It seems that no matter how hard I try to beat this on my own I just cannot. I. Love. Rehab. Adore it. Addicted to it. In each dilapidated space I see potential. I … Continue reading
Today John and I have been married 22 years. Our marriage is so old that it could’ve ordered a beer last year. That’s old. The great truth I have learned is that the longer you are married the less you expect of your spouse and the more you expect of yourself. I have learned much from this opposite I married.
In the infancy of our dating period, John cooked dinner for me. In his deadpan humor he teased me about my utensil usage. Manners being of paramount importance to me, I was devastated. I wept on the phone to my Mom and Dad that night. “Mother, he criticized me for not using a knife on his chicken. It was a free-standing chicken breast. Very. Tender. He. Thinks. I do. Not. Have. Mannnnnerss.”
I could literally hear my Southern Mother’s neck hair stand up through the phone. “It is completely acceptable to use a fork to cut ANY poultry which is not on the bone.” Miss Manners replied. My Father had more pedestrian words to offer, “Reel him into the boat and if you get him in there and don’t want him, you can always throw him back” My bruised feelings over his imagined criticism quickly faded but my romantic feelings did not.
I couldn’t throw him back. I was smitten from the first time I saw him walk across campus with his monogrammed L.L.Bean book bag. He had me at the monogrammed L.L.Bean book bag. In a sea of Divinity students who not only exegeted Hebrew passages about Noah’s flood but appeared by their pant length to be anticipating a second one, John was a stand-out.
We actually first met six years prior to seminary when my high school choir sang at his home church in Tyler. They were one of our “concert” stops. Such the Baptist love story. I briefly dated one of his high school buddies and after college in Seminary this guy kept telling me that I looked familiar. He connected the dots before I did and we have been together ever since.
The first time John came home to Houston, my Father greeted him with a huge bear hug. The look on John’s face was reminiscent of the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. He comes from a long line of hand-shakers which is totally great, just different from that which I was accustomed. I have come to realize that life is not done your way or the wrong way. These are the things you do not necessarily know going in.
Tonight James Taylor is in town. He was so sweet to schedule this date for us. I have loved his music since college. His is the first song on the first mix tape I ever made for John and I labored to his greatest hits with both of my children. James is boss. So we will celebrate this love God has graciously given and the love we have chosen to stick with in good times and bad. His book bag and dark hair are gone but he will forever have me: heart and soul.
If being Right is Wrong…I still want to be right
I know what my faults are. I do not feign perfection. I am well aware of what lies in my own soul. In our congregation we have addicts, ex-cons, prostitutes and even a Junior Leaguer. We are all sinners saved by grace. If that grace covers someone like me then of course it covers everyone else as well. But even I have blind spots. Occasionally, like the father of all chin hairs accidently discovered while driving, I am surprised by a glimpse of something ugly in me. That I never saw before. Prior to my launch into my latest furry discovery, here’s a look at a few of my vintage flaws:
1) I lack that part of a human brain which knows how to fold a fitted sheet…or anything else that may come out of the dryer
If I am folding three t-shirts I will fold them three different ways. May even roll one up in a wad if the mood strikes. I never did puzzles as a child. I do remember stapling black pieces of paper together the length of my body and tracing myself with a white crayon: a life-sized Jinny crime scene at four. I did have Lincoln Logs…which I taped together. Not a linear thinker.
2) I suffer from extreme multi-tasking over confidence
The gap between what I think I can accomplish and what I can realistically accomplish is a pretty profound. I no longer try to cook and change diapers but I do wand on mascara en route to work, a holdover from my hour commute to Baylor Medical Center. Right this second Evangeline has a hi-temp glue gun welded to her back seat carpet, remains of a mobile salad-consumption-attempt and red light faux-nail application fails. I have memorized comedy bits, frosted cupcakes and refereed a Chihuahua death match all in my sedan which makes me I think that I can do it all.
We moved into our old new home in December. I promptly re-tiled the fireplace in a beautiful limestone. I grouted it 3 weeks later and now, nearly March, the wire brush sits plopped in front of the project. It is as if I am signaling to any unfortunate visitor, “The smeared-toothpaste grout patina will one day be removed by the handy wire brush resting motionless on this mantel. Right here. It sits immobile to signify that one day, like Central Expressway, the project will reach completion.” All I need is a permanent “excuse our progress” sign.
I am not an overly competitive person. I don’t love an argument. I have never thought that I was one who needed to be right. At least not always right ALL the time. So when this scene unfolded and made my neck hair stand at attention I was surprised at myself. Whenever I find that something insignificant brings out my worst, I know that it is time for a deep breath and a hard look at the state of my soul.
This nugget of self-realization hit me quite out of the blue at an adorable shop yesterday. Three weeks ago I bought a reasonably-priced galvanized tray and I wanted my friend Lisa to see the cute store from whence it came. The shop’s entrance was canopied by illuminated twigs and tied with teeny chalkboard signs encouraging one to “relax,” “breathe” and “buy more crap” O.K. Not the last one. But if Magnolia Market had an illegitimate second country cousin twice removed this place would be it.
Lisa is a lady. She acted predictably: classily oohing and aahing as I blurted out, “I WANT TO BUY ONE OF EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE STORE!” like Will Ferrell jacked up on candy corn. I love Lisa because she is self-possessed and has awesome cheeses at her home at all times. I could knock on her door at three a.m. and in five minutes she would fart out a seven layer dip and some exotic cracker with which to scoop it out. She can still wear shorts. I stand amazed. Anyway, she loved this place as I knew she would.
The owner flitted around rearranging succulents and cotton ball wreaths; the whole place hearkened back to an idealized farm-house life minus the hassle of actually milking anything. I excitedly complimented her bird cages, porcelain berry cartons, cow creamers and pedestals. The merchant, clearly over my initial enthusiasm, struggled for another way to phrase “thank you.” Just then Lisa picked up the tray I bought three weeks prior. I said, “I love that! I got that tray three weeks ago.” That statement shed light on a hidden fault as bright as the rusted bed spring fixture shining above me. As it would happen, I rather enjoy being right.
The owner looked up through the micro-herb garden to correct me, “Oh no, I remember that you bought the one that was a little larger with a ring at the top.” I stared blankly and felt my face ask, ”Could this be true? Am I mistaken? Don’t I know one two-tiered galvanized tray from the next? What kind of animal AM I?”
My lack of response evoked an even more passionate attempt from the owner to jog my memory. “Yes, the tray you bought was a bit wider and instead of the wooden handle there was more of a ring on the top.” She made a ring motion with her right hand which she thought would bring it all home for me. “That’s the one you got.” Her speech slowed and eyes widened, as she firmly reminded me that I had not in fact purchased that particular tray but rather one like it, you know the one with the ring that stupid people buy.
I did not comment because I thought that perhaps she was right. She seemed so confident about what I purchased on my first and only visit to her shop weeks ago. Maybe I was wrong and she was hiding an enormous hippocampus under her organic, locally-sourced flax garden hat like people who can remember what they ate for breakfast in 1987. I struggled to remember our black lab’s first birthday party when I used the tray. My mind’s eye revealed decorations, Pupperoni in galvanized cups, homemade dog cake and human food: cake balls with blue #1 picks on top. No ring that I could remember.
Curiosity got the best of me and so with a grove of petite olive trees blocking the owners view, I used my remaining cell battery to search for conclusive evidence. With the moral high ground to retain, like Atticus Finch, I needed evidence to vindicate myself. This completely uninvited and unwarranted accusation must be answered, right?
I scrolled through photos until I found Cash’s Birthday montage. (don’t judge) Impatiently, my fumbling fingers enlarged the picture of our kitchen table. Alas I saw the galvanized tray just as I had remembered. A slight wooden handle adorned the top. Glee flooded my soul. I was right and that could only mean one thing: she was wrong. Buzzing with vindication, I wondered what to do next? Should I casually saunter over to Lisa and prove my innocence or do I go straight to the heart of the matter and show the owner that I was right first?
My innards rejoiced, the embarrassment left my face and my left hand held the proof that I wasn’t off my nut. Right? Then the piety set in. How dare she accuse me of recollecting wrongly? The nerve. Who does this person think she is? Then it happened; I felt a twinge in my gut. A zing which, when I listen, helps me to simmer down when something flies all over me. A still, small prompting warns me.
“Why does this matter so much to you?” I felt The Spirit question, “Why are you bothered by this? Slow your roll before your mouth blurts out that which has up until now thankfully been reserved to your head.” I breathed deeply and wondered why I felt like I had to be right? Why did this even begin to matter to me? Why would the accusation of me not remembering the details of an idiotic yet adorable kitchen accessory get under my skin so?
I recognize consistently that when I am offended by the small stuff that my heart has gotten janky somewhere along the way. The fact is the rightest thing we can do at times is not insist on how right we are. Chances are if I am feeling defensive that there is something in my soul out of whack. I am not meant to be a defensive soul but a hearty one with a loose hold on blessings, with nothing to prove and nothing to lose.