via Pascale de Groof on pinterest
I’ve been sitting with this idea for awhile. It’s one of those thoughts that is both profoundly obvious and deeply challenging. On both sides of the coin, people are not who you think they are.
But in my case, I’ve been holding this thought in terms of the woman who married my brother. Because, I don’t think good things about her, if I’m honest. I’ve not been given cause to.
Five years ago, my brother stopped talking to me. When I heard through the grapevine that they were pregnant and no-one told me (not my mother, not my brother) I was heartbroken. I have longed to be an Aunt — it’s one of those life long dreams. But when I found out that being excluded was payback. A way of getting even for the wrongs my brother felt I had committed against him: I became resolved.
So, I severed ties with my family. There were lots of reasons to do so. But, my main reason was that after long, painful conversations with our son (who didn’t understand why he was being ignored and left out of things) it became clear that I needed to take responsibility and protect my child. He didn’t deserve to get sucked into a toxic situation. He needed ME to make the hard decision: so that he didn’t have to!
Since my brother wasn’t talking to me — I wrote a letter to my mother. And that led to an avalanche of hate speech from the woman who married my brother. I expected it. I didn’t lash back. I get that, from the outside looking in, I seem like a complete bitch. A selfish person. In her eyes, I’ve committed untold sins against her. And, who knows, maybe I have! But to hear her tell it, I’m simply not worth the air I breathe. She’s a therapist: she would know.
But, if my friends were to read her description of me — they wouldn’t recognize me. Nor would the people at my church or any of the other circles of people I relate to on a daily basis. Why? Because I’m not who she thinks I am.
And she is not who I think she is.
Sure, lately, I haven’t had anything positive to reflect on. But I am certain that she is making a difference in her world. In the lives of the people who love her. In the life of her precious child. She is not who I think she is either.
This is the test, friends — the real test of the gospel. Can we call ourselves followers of Jesus but refuse to see others as Christ sees them?
I don’t think so.
So, I’m a failed human being — doing the best that I can. And all I can do, in this situation, is protect myself from the things that are hurtful (I don’t read her blog or twitter any more) and pray. I don’t expect that will solve things. I mean, I don’t even know what “solved” looks like. And I don’t think it will “mend” things either. Prayer doesn’t change other people, it changes you. No, I don’t want her in my life after the things she has said to me. But, that doesn’t mean she is worthless. It means I have to work harder to see her as Christ does.
She is not who I think she is. So I pray.
I pray that she will love every moment of mothering the child (ren??) she is blessed with. I pray that she and my brother will know a deep and genuine love for each other –that only grows with time. And I pray that she finds within herself the true and abiding knowledge that she is beloved of God: and THAT is enough.
I am not perfect. I am not there yet. But I am trying to remember: that even as people strike out at in fear and pain and anger and hate, they are not the sum of those actions. Ultimately, none of us can be boiled down to just one thing. Just one moment in time. Just one mistake or even just one success. We are so much more than that, we are children of God.
And, so this is what I’m working on these days. The soul work I’m doing. I can only hope that eventually God will make perfect, in all things, that which is broken.
This is the problem with making proclamations.
I kinda jinxed myself, right? I’ll confess, I’m finding it hard to keep up with all my obligations. There is so much to do — gardening, blogging, and laundry (oh my) end up on the floor.
I’d tell you that I’m going to be better: but we saw what happened last month. So, let’s just move forward, shall we?
Hi. I’m Wende and I spin plates.
Rather poorly at times, but spin I do. There are days when it feels as if there are more plates wobbling on the ground, just about to lose all sense of motion, than plates spinning neatly in the air.
Each day begins as a lottery, a game of chance: which plate meets the floor as the rest demand my attention? Will it be my little store? Will it be the gym? It will probably be the laundry; that plate spends so much time on the floor it’s established a dust colony. Today I will spin the work plate, the church plate, the “no child you are not dying of some strange illness you googled” plate.
I’d like to tell you that it all gets done eventually. But I’m beginning to suspect that eventually will never arrive. Incrementalism requires a great deal of patience and even more grace: a simple kind of self-love that says, “I’m worthy and enough, even if there isn’t enough of me to go around.” Be gentle with yourself, Wende. Walk gently.
It’s ok if the dog has fleas (OH MY GOD, how did this happen?) and your child is going to college in 3 weeks.
Breathe, Wende. Keep spinning those plates.
But some days, mother nature throws you a plate worth spinning. An 80 degree day in September: beautiful and clear. Balmy. The word is balmy — but only because Santa Barbara-y is not a word.
We’re not likely to get such an invitation again this year. So, I set down the work plate (though I gave it a few spins just to be safe) and worry plate. I stacked up the laundry and the pest control plates and everything else that can wait until tomorrow plate: and fell soul first into this beautiful day.
A long walk along the river. Spun! A fabulous dinner on the porch and finishing off that lovely Rosé. Spun! Raspberry Thyme Sorbet. Hey, I made that!! Taking goofy photos with the love of my life. I think you know the answer to that.
Check out Mireio tomorrow for the Raspberry Thyme Sorbet recipe.
Along the river. . .
For the past year, IZ and I have been walking the river on Saturdays. Weather permitting. It has become our sanctuary. Our ritual. Our way of exorcising all the pent up emotion that life throws at us Sunday through Friday. We talk about our dreams, our frustrations, our hopes.
Along the way we meet fellow travelers. Today, a friend of a friend who just passed away — I don’t know her, but we’re connected by our mutual loss, the funeral we attended just yesterday. And a dog name Maggie May, whose owner informs us that she knows when the wind is blowing by looking at the trees: which means leaves are also blowing and Maggie May lives to chase leaves and fetch them. Choosing just the “right one” each time to take home. And our neighbor, queueing up for the trolley with a visiting relative: because that is what you do with visiting relatives.
As one hour gives way to the next, we are transported as much as we are rooted. Touching base with the local barista and the pavement beneath our feet. This is more than exercise. It is very foundation of our week. And I am reminded, despite the stress that we vent, the hurdles in front of us (yes, we can eat the elephant one bite at a time), that our lives are truly amazing. MY LIFE is amazing.
And I fall in love all over again.
This month in Sunday School I’ve been teaching prayer practices that are accessible to children. This week, we prayed with our 5 senses. Praying with our sense of taste was the most popular! So, we shared this practice with the whole congregation at closing and it was a huge hit!
The next time you eat something sweet you can pray, “Thank you God for all the Sweet things in my life.” Simple. And tasty!
Would it surprise you to know that I am a sucker for reality dating shows? I’m not ardent: I tend to google results after about 3 episodes and go back to watching true crime — but I’ll give most dating shows a glance at least once. So when this Spring’s utter rating failure (it’s not a good thing when your executive producer takes up with one of the contestants mid-show) promised to feature “DATING COACHES” I could not look away.
At one point, the only male coach on the show gave this bit of advice: ”When a man offers you his jacket and you refuse it, you’re depriving him a chance to feel like a man. YOU think you’re being nice not making him suffer being cold. HE doesn’t see it that way.”
Wait. What? Really?
I promptly paused the show and went and asked IZ. “Is this true? Do guys really think that?”
IZ smiled, “Yeah, kinda. I don’t know if all men think like that, but it’s true for me: I do want to go out of my way for you. And doing those kinds of things makes me feel more like a man. It’s not because you CAN’T do those things for yourself, I just feel good about myself when I do them for you.”
How did I miss this memo?
In all my years of insisting on getting my own door and refusing jackets — or any of those little acts of chivalry — I’ve missed the point. Those acts were just as much about him as they were about me. And that doesn’t make him sexist or lacking in empathy — it made him human. A man in love. A man in love with me. Walter. Tango. Foxtrot. I am an idiot.
In my own defense, dating IZ as a teenager didn’t make matters easy. He opened doors for EVERYONE. And there were times when I honestly thought he would mow me over to get to the door before me. I don’t recall ever seeing my father open a door for my mother, so I didn’t have a frame of reference. And the look that would come over IZ as he would eye down the doorway– it was clear he was on a mission and getting in his way was not a good idea.
That irked me. At 19 I was determined to shake off the sexist “women are lesser” film I had clinging to my skin. As much as he was determined on being a “gentleman” I was hell-bent to not need him to be. This was war. And, because he knows when to let things go, he finally relented. “Fine, get your own door” when I explained yet again that I was WOMAN, I can DO. THIS. MYSELF.
The years would progress and my reasoning (about the doors anyway) became more about practicality. It seemed ridiculous for one of us to get drenched holding a car door. “That’s fine, I’ll meet you inside.”
And then I read this beautiful piece of writing by James Stafford. It’s a love letter really, entitled “You Know You Could Have Been A Candle” — written to the woman he loves. You can read it over on The Good Men Project. And you should, read it. It’s stunning. A small paragraph has stuck with me this week. He writes:
I love that you let me adore you. I shouldn’t complain, but it’s hard sometimes to be a man. I’m not your boss, your competition, or your coworker. I’m not The Man trying to keep you down or put you in your place. I just want to open the door for you because it’s polite. I want to pick up the check, open the jars, hold your hand. There’s no gender politics at work. That you realize that says everything about your character.
It’s taken me 20+ years to realize his impulse to adore me has as much to do with how he was raised as the fact that he does, indeed, adore me. 20 + years for me to let him be the man he truly is: willing to set aside his own argument for the sake of mine. Even though, in this particular case, my argument was misguided. It’s taken 20+ years to realize that it has nothing to do with making me “less”. If anything, I am more for having been loved by a good man. The why of that love, well, that’s beyond my comprehension.
But it is not beyond my amazement. The very memory of his 16 year old self, running to get my door leaves me breathless. I wish I had had the character then to appreciate the gesture at the time. The grace to have said , “Thank you” in the moment. Somehow, I stumbled into loving a good man while reaching for my own door — who, for reasons only he can explain, loves me enough to let me be wrong.
The photo strip was taken on IZ’s 21st birthday–which was 22 years ago this week.