Monday, August 20, 2012

Hallelujah from the Not-Yet-Holy

So last week, I had the unanticipated experience of being reminded that one of my not-so-smooth edges is still, well, rough.  And unfortunately, a friend was on the receiving end of the encounter.

It was my first week back at work after a glorious summer vacation (more about that another time, hopefully), and my colleagues and I had attended an “interesting” in-service (feel free to interpret the word in quotation marks with a derogatory slant).  In a rare moment of inspiration, I decided to write an ironic response, and I had only an hour to crank it out.  So, I hurried to my new office space, perched on the chair inside my little cubicle (which, by the way, is surrounded by three other little cubicles, all jammed into what used to be a classroom . . . the very picture of unnecessarily close quarters) and began writing furiously, hoping to finish the piece so that I could share it with one of my colleagues.  I was doing one of my favorite things—creating, writing, in the zone, actually experiencing the rare instance of crafting something that might make someone else laugh.

Things were flowing smoothly, and it looked as if I would finish just in time, when one of my friends walked in to see my new digs.  Now, this is someone I care about, someone whose company I enjoy, a person whose friendship I value.   And how did I respond to her willingness to take time out of her schedule, track down my new campus location, and say hello?

I treated her like an interruption. 
Like an irritant, instead of the important friend that she is in my life.

Yucky me.

Fortunately, t took only a few minutes to realize that my rough edges had made themselves highly visible.  So I apologized.  More than once.  Because it—no,I—was that unpleasant.

And my friend, being her typically gracious self, quickly accepted my apologies.   We will be fine, I’m sure.  And because she is who she is, I’m confident that our relationship will resume as it was before.

But I now have a snapshot of the not-so-wonderful person that I clearly have the potential to be.

And I’m left with a lesson, or two:

One is that the dear people God has gifted me with are abundantly more important than amusing words, than the fleeting (and ego-boosting) achievement of making someone laugh.  So when I’m in the midst of a project, working furiously, and one of those gifts appears at my door, I must remember the value of that person.  Even though my driven, type-A, finish-the-task personality will tell me otherwise, I must remind myself to stop, to welcome, to savor the blessing of that relationship. I simply must remember.

The unfortunately reality, though, is that I won’t.  I won’t always remember.  Because the rough edges are still there.  And even though they’re being smoothed out over time, they will likely remain a very-real part of the patina that is not- -perfect-me.

When that happens, I hope I will ask for pardon and hope for the response that I received this week. 

But—like I did the other day—I will need more than that.  Because those rough edges are not just unfortunate; they are the on-the-surface-evidence of the deeper soul-deficit that will continue to exist until my final breath.  I am flawed.  I need forgiveness from my friend, from my Father.

Even though a friend can offer me the wonderful blessing of her forgiveness, He is the only one I know who gives the kind of grace that nurtures hope. 

Hope for redemption. 
Hope for restoration with my friend, with my Father.
Hope that this not-perfect girl can step into another day. 
Clothed in His Holy.


Sunday, August 19, 2012


 A valuable discipline, stretching.

The goal is to give the muscles a blessed moment
to rest, lengthen, extend, give a little. 

To allow our muscles to drape themselves—if only briefly—
across the frame of our bones, 
trusting them to do what they were created to do.

To stop the work of flexing, tightening, tensing, proving, producing, planning, taking, improving.

To cease, to release, to rest, to be. 
This is the stretch.

But in the middle of this release, I find myself grabbing.
I want to muscle my muscles into remarkable looseness, 
harangue them into extraordinary elasticity,
prod them into proving just how stretch-y I can be.

See me stretch?
Please, be impressed with this forced flexibility,
with my tolerance for pain,
with my willingness to push the limits of my God-given threshold. 

My ability to make pain happen,
to push through it—all the time smiling—
I start to believe, sometimes,
that this is what makes the stretch beneficial. 
When really, this is when the stretch ceases to be a stretch.
Instead, it becomes an opportunity to push, to drive, to coerce, to control.
To prove.

Of course, there is pain.  But it comes simply from letting the stretch happen.  From standing tall, planting feet, relaxing knees, hinging hips, allowing my head to drop--slowly, slowly now—towards the floor, arms following, feeling the pleasant heat of tissue that resists and then relaxes.

And so I will stretch.  Bend.  Breathe.  Trust.
Move from rejecting to receiving,
from arguing to accepting,
from resisting to resting.

This is the stretch.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Royal Oak Inn

Here’s how one online review describes the Royal Oak Inn:  “It's not a luxurious stay by any means, but well kept, tidy, and has all the basic necessities.”

The basic necessities.  TripAdvisor got that one right.

Last year, the kids and I stayed here before our week at Camp Ozark, and I remember feeling a combination of things.

Amused at the earnest-but-dated décor of our kitchen-carpeted room;

Relieved/delighted that Mom and Pop establishments are still alive and kicking;

Charmed by the owners’ kids and their cousins frolicking in the middle-of-the-parking-lot pool.

Welcomed by the unpretentiously friendly folks who ran the place.

That night as I talked to my husband on my cell phone (since our room didn’t have one), I tried to describe it to him—the room, the town, the simplicity.  But my words just didn’t do it justice.

But this year he’s with us.  And after a 10-hour drive, our Honda Pilot rolled off Arkansas Highway 270 and in to the parking lot of this unpretentious 15-room motel in the heart of tiny, rural, 104-degree Mt. Ida.   

The 20-something man in the office handed me a key to Room 4. “There’s an ice machine in the room next to yours.  Help yourself.”  We did, also noticing the haphazard assortment of towels, laundry detergent, paper towels, and other cleaning supplies.

No frills here.  Just the basic necessities. 

I slid the key in the door and hoped nothing had changed since our last visit.

Faded towels?  Check.
Paneled walls?  Check.
20-inch tube tv?  Check.
Unmatched bedspreads?  Check.
Silk plant hanging in a dark corner, fooling no one?  Check.

Sighing with relief, I turned the knob on the window unit and stretched out on the bed with my family.

There we were, together, comfortable.

Sometimes it’s nice to stay in what we like to call a “fancy-schmancy” hotel.   We don’t mind getting a little pampered from time to time.  But when we do, there’s always the chance that I’ll leave feeling like I need to spiff  up my house, my yard, my hair, my personality . . . . me.

But on this steamy July evening, my family and I settled into this place that’s just plain comfortable in its own skin.  I was reminded of how very little we actually need. 

And I wondered whether God might be inviting me to step away.  Away from the ipod – iphone – ipad – itouch – ithis – ithat – I – I I I – shower – me – with – unnecessary – luxuries – to – make – me – feel - significant world.  Towards simplicity.  Towards refreshment.  Towards peace. 

Towards the basic necessities. 

So . . . .

Beds?  Check.
Shower?  Check.
Towels?  Check.
A/C?  Check.
Family?  Check.
Father?  Check

Nothing fancy.  And that’s just fine.