beautiful pain

mon chry side

Even beauty can harbor pain. I have been looking for the beauty in each day, but I haven’t posted about it in the past week. There have been so many things swirling around in my head, and I wanted many times to sit and write. Life gets in the way, and that’s not always bad.

My pain. The beautiful pain to share? Not like “Oh, it’s so beautiful, it’s killing me!” I don’t do insincere well. But there are three things have led to this post. One was a dream. Another was a memory. The third is the present. Let me explain.

The dream:

I am in a public setting, a bar, a party, maybe (it’s a dream–funky from the get go, so keep that in mind). I’ve apparently come with friends, and we’re all mingling. I’m not a drinker, so that’s not happening. It appears at least some people are in costume. I never see myself, I don’t know what I’m wearing. A man walks past that I notice. Shorts are a part of his costume. He’s tall, with lean muscles. I find him attractive, but I never see his face in focus. We begin a pleasant conversation. I see him smile at me. I like a smile. Another man approaches us and tries to get my attention. He’s annoying and at least a little drunk. You know how that is? People with slurry speech rarely get the hint, and he won’t go away. The handsome fellow kisses me. It isn’t passionate, it’s actually ridiculous simply intended to get the message across to the tipsy interlocutor. It worked and he’s gone. I see the conversationalist smiling at me in a casual way, as if he’s ready to pick up where we left off, and like nothing happened. I don’t know how the rest of the evening went, I only know as we’re leaving, and standing outside, people are all parting ways and he looks at me and realizes something is wrong. He asks about it. I tell him it has been a long time since I’ve been kissed and I really hadn’t anticipated the first one to be anything like what he’d done. It had upset me and unnerved me in an unpleasant way. Like an unwelcome violation. Oddly, I wasn’t angry at him, but the casualness of it all really disturbed me. As he looks at me, I know he’s listening and understands. He leans down, and I know he’s going to kiss me again. I let him, and it is sweet, tender, gentle. This is not the type of kiss that makes you think the next thing is a segue into bed. It’s not passionate, but there is an intimacy to it that I haven’t known in a great while.

And I woke up. The dream saddened me. Because the kiss was beautiful. But it wasn’t real. The sadness is from the knowing that it wasn’t real. I’m not a casual person. I guess that’s part of the lack of insincerity. I don’t go around randomly kissing strangers and won’t begin today. It’s that I don’t have that kind of intimacy with anyone, and I’ve no idea when or if that will occur again. I know that God intended for intimacy to be beautiful. It’s the lack of that in my life that is painful.

The memory:

I have been sorting through the things in my home. We homeschooled for so many years and I have begun to tackle the pantry where the books and supplies were primarily kept. I need to clean it out and figure out what there is and what needs to be done with it all. So many sweet memories came to my mind as I began to sort through the things. Things to throw away, things to put in order, things to store away. Thinking about what is gone and never will be again is painful. The memories are beautiful and I’m very grateful to have them. It doesn’t stop the tears. I am a sappy sentimentalist. Many times I don’t like inevitability. Sometimes the memories are so beautiful and painful at the same time I prefer to avoid them. It’s when they come flooding back due to the absolute necessity of moving forward that crowds in and I cannot turn off the memories, because they are right in front of me. They will not be silenced. And I have to do the pantry in short spurts or I am overwhelmed with the noise and images blocking me from moving forward.

The present:

My oldest daughter came for a visit. I have been anticipating this since before Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen her in almost five months and I’ve been looking forward to it immensely. Her little sister has been waiting for it “on pins and needles.” Her words. My oldest daughter is truly amazing and is living an incredible life, saving money towards her future; and she enjoys the work she’s doing so much, it doesn’t seem like work to her. She’s got the job we all want — where you’d want to do it even if you didn’t get paid, yet you do get paid. Awesomeness.

So, she arrived. Her stay was brief, enjoyable, and beautiful. Simply beautiful and bittersweet because the whole time I knew she’d be leaving again very soon, and I really like her company. There are changes in her in this brief separation that are molding her into another individual, not one I don’t know, but her own person. Yes, it’s what we want for our children, but having had my hand in nearly every decision, every direction, everything for her whole life prior to her moving ahead is still a difficult pill to swallow. I love her and I have already mentioned I don’t really like change. Add to that her departure was a foregone conclusion even before she came.

As much as I tried to appreciate the moments she was here, the inevitable loomed. My youngest princess cried the night before she left as we were saying prayers at bedtime, and I had no words of comfort. Just understanding. It made me cry. I tried not to think about the following morning. But, a sweet little girl crying as she clings to you sort of makes that difficult.

These kinds of things make me wonder about the idea of it “being better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

So much pain in beauty. But Christ never promised it would be easy. We have pain. We are bound to have pain. There is no lie in that. We will suffer in this life, no matter how much beauty we experience. Whether we know Him or not. There is not a single person past or present that has not experienced pain.

It’s times like this that I see why I hold back so often from reaching out to people, why I would choose rather to stay silent, stay alone, stay aloof from engaging. I anticipate the end and the departure. I anticipate disappointment. I would sometimes choose rather to be lonely than to be hurt. It is knowing the pain which accompanies the beauty that distresses me most.

I have hope in the beauty. I know there is no way to escape the pain. I know we were given beauty in this life to enjoy and I would not change the beautiful to escape the pain.

This part of my life must be my cocoon. The waiting for a new and beautiful something that God has for me when this is past, this must be my chrysalis. I am being transformed through what by all outward appearance is a time of stagnation where nothing is changing but hours, minutes, and days. Butterflies have wings. I better prepare to take flight.

the beauty of people

Photo credit: Flickr user James Crindland via Creative Commons

Photo credit: Flickr user James Crindland via Creative Commons

I know people can drive you nuts. I know they sometimes seem to be a bother, and there are so many of them that really chap your hide. More often than not you hear complaints and gripes and all that hits the airwaves is the bad, with one little blurb to try to restore your faith in humanity at the very, very end.

This is that blurb.

Backstory: The week before Christmas or so, I went to visit a Culver’s restaurant. My kids enjoy eating there. I like the food, too, but we don’t eat out much. The kids were spending time with the grandparents and I was alone. So, I thought I’d swing by and pick up a burger while I was out, go home and eat in front of the boob tube (any of you ever heard that one? no? dang! my age is showing). I only get a single, every time, no drink, no fries. This is splurging for me, mind you.

Back at home, I settle in nicely, I have my water, I have my blanket (it’s cold this time of year), and I sit down, turn on the set, select my poison, and start eating. I’m watching, I’m eating, I’m enjoying the show, then another bite, and I realize this isn’t what I ordered. The restaurant is fifteen, twenty minutes away. It’s cold out. I’m watching my show, and gas hadn’t dropped to the ‘what the hey happened?’ rate it is now, and I’m thinking it’s costly to go in and replace the blinkin’ burger, so I just eat it. And watch my show.

Afterwards, though, I decided to call the store and let them know what happened. I thought maybe they’d apologize and send me a coupon for a sandwich or something. Remember, I like their food. And I don’t eat out much. It’s sorta disappointing when you’re thinkin’ bacon and you get tofu instead, right? Although, I’m sure they don’t serve tofu, you get the drift.

I called. I asked for the manager. First, I told him how much much my kids and I enjoy eating there (remember we’ve established this already). He thanks me. He told me people rarely call to say good things. He told me he appreciated that very much (not feeling the love yet? ah, just wait). I told him I was glad he appreciated it, but there was a tiny problem. I let him know that I had been through the drive through and didn’t check my order before I left, so I didn’t know that my sandwich had been made wrong. He told me it wasn’t my job to double check their work (taking responsibility is one of my pet peeves–he shoots, he scores!). He asked what I had ordered, and I told him.

You know what he did? He said he’d write my name down in the special place he had if anything ever went wrong, and whenever I wanted I could come in and get a free basket to replace the burger that was wrong. Nice. I thanked him. I thought it was pretty cool.

The thing is, typically I don’t say a word. I eat, I go on with life, no biggie, so I thought this was a sweet deal.

Present Day: The kids and I were grocery shopping (oh, joy!), and my daughter had given her brother all her scoopie coupons she’d been collecting (to exchange for a toy) as a gift for Christmas because it’s all she had to give. Since then, she’s been chomping at the bit to go exchange the coupons for a toy. Now seemed like a good time to collect on the basket, get the toys, and feed hungry kiddos in between stores (I can only go one place with these hooligans in between feedings).

We entered Culver’s and who should be at the counter, but the manager I had spoken with about the basket. His nametag was a dead give away (I asked to be sure). I mentioned my name and said he’d told me I could come in and get a free basket. He remembered (must be a short mistake list–Culver’s gets bonus points for that one).

I ordered a kid’s meal for my son. He said I could get a full size basket if I wanted (I kinda figured that, but I always get the kids baskets because they get their free scoop of custard and the coveted scoopie tokens). I ordered a kid’s meal for my daughter. I then ordered my typical sandwich for the basket. Manager said I could get any side I wanted.

They have the best onion rings. And they cost extra.

I know, I know. Small fries. But, hey. When your budget is small, it’s the little things that make a difference.

So, I told him, I loved their onion rings and would like those. They have good fries, too, I would have been happy with those.

Nice.

And, I asked if we could redeem our scoopie coupons. I didn’t know, but if you collect ten coupons, you could either get a free kids meal, or a toy. I like learning something new every day.

Since my little princess had her heart set on an actual “toy” for her brother, we had to get one of those. They were under the counter, and out they came. My little rug rat quickly grabbed the biggest boy toy at the top of the box and off he ran like a shot!

Poor princess. There was an adorable little stuffed dog in the box, too. His name is Fudge. Manager told us so. She looked so deflated.

Manager will be upset if he reads this, because he asked us not to tell.

But I’m telling.

And I’ll deny it all as a fabricated tale if asked.

For “likes”.

(But it’s true)

He whispered to my daughter she could have Fudge.

Those toys are cheap–I know (I didn’t say that). He acknowledged it. He knows.

Does my daughter know? No. All she knows is that she gave away her scoopie coupons to a little brother who likes the biggest baddest boy toys he can get his hands on. And she will get no enjoyment out of a big, bad boy toy her brother probably can’t even manage, and won’t be playing it with her.

And she also knows she is now the proud owner of Fudge. Who has bendable ears. And her brother got his Christmas gift too.

Princess likes dogs. Her doggies all gathered together a few days ago to watch “Bolt”. And you would be hard pressed to find a larger gathering of stuffing outside a toy store or fabric store than what was in the home theater that day (on the floor in front of my old, tiny laptop, although the stuffing thing might be a very slight exaggeration, for dramatic effect).

Today, we sat and enjoyed our lunch. The kids ate their meals, followed by their custard. Everyone had onion rings. It was a grand day out.

As we’re gathering together to head out, the Manager walks towards me and says, “I want to ensure you will visit us again.” and hands me two free custard coupons.

Humanity, bro.

Faith restored.

People are beautiful. And I will be returning to Culver’s. I didn’t need the coupons for that. It’s all icing on the cake, man.

childhood is beautiful

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I couldn’t rest until I posted a blurb today. The beauty of today is simple. My daughter is an artist. If you asked her, she would tell you so. At the ripe old age of ten, she has total and complete confidence that she is an artist. She is self assured, bold, assertive, and very bright. And, she’d add talented. In fact, she’d add a laundry list of the assets she is graced with because I tell her. I write it down in love notes (she likes card exchanges, and they’re frequently handed to me to fill in and return to her in the shape of a heart), I whisper it to her when she curls up on my lap, I tell her at bedtime.

Today, she had me take pictures of her new puppie’s doghouse to send to her sister. The doghouse was bare when she got it, and she colored it in. It’s mind-bogglingly gorgeous (yeah, I probably just made up a word).

I’m blown away by her gifts and talents over and over again. She oozes confidence and wherever we go, she jumps right in with total self-assurance that she will be accepted because she is worthy. She is a good friend to have and she knows it. She’s gracious, fiercely loyal and protective, and she gives her friendship without reserve. There is a charm and charisma that draws others to her. She will not be left out or ignored, so resistance is, as they say, futile.

She is beautiful. I love the beauty of childhood.

endings

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When I get to the end of a book, I react in some way. I’m sad to leave the characters behind if it was a good book, I may also be satisfied in the resolution of the story. At the end of a movie, I do likewise. I tend to think about it a bit, and if it was unsettling, I sometimes linger longer on my reflections. I like the movies that leave me with a warm, pleasant feeling, but you always want to go back for more.

So, is it any wonder that at the end of a year we give pause to look back at the year and wonder on it’s contents, and look forward to the next year in hopes it will unfold in a more hopeful way?

It has been a while since I’ve posted, and I’ve gained new followers in the interim (odd that, but welcome, all!), and I think a part of it is the length of time my life has been in a limbo mode. It’s not like life is standing still, but since I’ve either been in a survival mode or simply waiting on God that it seems like not much is going on. Yet, my children continue to grow and experience needs, and as they say, ‘Time marches on’.

With that in mind, looking back on 2014 doesn’t give me much to truly reflect on but the constancy of God. Is that a problem? Nope. Not at all.

I have moved–temporary. I have had a change in my financial status–temporary. I have enrolled my son in a new district with a whole new school, surroundings, teachers. . . temporary. I have begun again to homeschool my eldest daughter still in school–temporary.

We are surrounded by temporary. I need to hold on fast to the things that are eternal. I need to cling to what God’s promises are for the eternal. The things I have are not the things that will be.

I recently listened at a Wednesday night Q&A bible study to the response of my pastor which turned to the idea of being in limbo and waiting on God. As he responded, I sat there and began to cry. I couldn’t help it. He was talking about how sometimes, when you’re waiting on God, and you don’t know the outcome, because God has yet to reveal it to you, some people will perceive it as a cop out. As weakness, even. He said as a pastor, he spends a lot of time waiting on God and it’s tough as a leader to do that.

I get it. I’m in that place and some people find it unsettling. As if I can take over for God. It resonated with me in a familiar, “That’s it! Precisely!” kind of way. I felt it deep, and it moved me to know I’m okay.

We want to be in charge. We want to be in control. We want to know the answers, the responses, the clever comebacks and the formula. The formula to punch into our daily routine so that when we get our ducks all in a row, we know how it is going to end. I gave up on this a long time ago. Doesn’t mean I don’t try to take it all back, pick up the burden again, and wish I knew where God was going with my life.

I do have a rough guestimate. But I don’t know how to get there. I’ve seen glimpses. But I don’t know how to bring it to fruition. It’s bigger than me. It’s more than I can do in my capacity. That’s how I know it has to be from God. And that I have to wait on Him. And be ready.

What can I do in the meantime? Well, for starters (hehehe–endings?), I will stop the attitude of being in limbo. God has something for me today. Tomorrow, next week–it’s future. Today. That’s what I need to focus on.

As I look at closing the curtain on 2014, the focus I have as the curtain rises for 2015 is beauty.

I’ve really decided I’m a pessimistic optimist. I don’t know how else to define my POV. I know the end of the story. It ends good. I know I’ll be standing with the hero of the story when God closes the book on time and reopens the gates of eternity. But every day isn’t sunshine and roses, and I know I’ll get burned now and again. Pessimistic optimism. I’m cool with that.

How does that fit in with the theme of beauty, you ask?

Well, I recently told a woman she is beautiful because her beauty is not simply the exterior, it comes from within, where it truly matters. I don’t mean that I don’t appreciate physical beauty, what I mean is that I’m going to focus on the beauty in this day. The beauty of the here and now. Whatever it is that God shows me today that is beautiful in my world. Because there is beauty to be found, and I need to see it.

Standing still on the edge of tomorrow, at the end of 2014, I have hope in the beauty of 2015. Because God is in it, and He’s got something beautiful waiting to unfold before me this year.

I don’t want to miss it.