Thursday, June 29, 2006

Taking Care of Laundry

One of my favorite scenes at camp-- the laundry hanging from the line outside each cabin. Colorful and crowded and messy, just like life. It's mostly just the towels that get hung out to dry. The old ringer washers were rough on towels. We were allowed to pull the towels from the tub of water and run them through the ringer (always under the watchful eye of my grandmother, with her admonishing us, "you kids keep your fingers away from that roller now.") I liked how the towels came out almost completely flattened, loved the way they fell into the laundry basket waiting on the floor below. Packing the basket to the clothesline and fighting with the clothespins to hang the laundry was a different matter altogether. I never cared for much for that. So that's how I feel these days, like I have been floating in a nice little pool, and now I am about to be run through the ringer again. I fret about being flattened and hung out on the line to dry. Flat and dry may be a lovely state for a towel, but flat and dry on a human being is, well, flat and dry. The good news is, my son is coming home today*, coming home to fill his empty chair. There will be restrictions and if he does not adhere to them to the letter, he will be hung out to dry, be forced to return to the place he came from. He has had more than a month to sit and think about things, to think about what he needs to do when he gets out. Right now, he is sure he does not want to go back there. Rehab is in the works, finding a job will also be one of the things he will have to do, and getting back to working on his education will be another. He says he knows he has to stay busy.

I have had more than a month to sit and think about what I do not need to do (for him) when he gets out. Please pray that we will find the healthy balance between what he needs to do and what I do not need to do (for him).

(*I thought I was going to get him yesterday when I started this post yesterday morning. The judge's secretary assures me that I will be able to bring him home today. They were supposed to change the paperwork to where he could be released to us on his own recognizance, which is what the judge said he would do all along. All it takes is a phone call. I don't quite understand why it was not done yesterday. I tried to tell my son not to get his hopes up too high in case something fell through and we had to wait till Friday. Now I am a little worried about trying to get this done on a Friday before a holiday weekend.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Seeking Light

Sometimes you have to get close enough to reach and pull the chain.

Sometimes you have to be willing to open a door.

Sometimes you have to peek through cracks.

Sometimes you have to be brave enough to roll up the shade, in spite of the fear that the shade will break and remain open, leaving you vulnerable and exposed.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Road Trip

Hubby and I decided about noon on Saturday that we would go to Lafayette (a little over an hour away from us) and go to Barnes and Noble and then out to eat. We talked about getting a room since he could not leave until three or so, but I had seen on the internet some websites about bed and breakfast cabins you could rent and said I’d see if any of them were available. As it turned out, there were several that had openings and it came down to a choice of a cabin on Bayou Teche that was cheap-cheap or a cabin that was three times more but had a Jacuuzi. So the question was, do we go for scenery and thriftiness, or do we spurge on a silly old bathtub that makes bubbles? In the end, we chose to be economical. We brought books and our journals, planning to read and write and reflect. On the way out the door, hubby asks, “I wonder if they have a table and chairs to sit on?” (The cabin was a one bedroom cabin with no kitchen, it did have a bathroom, I asked that question.) I snorted and said “surely it does”.

Well. Turns out, the cabin was so small you could not cuss a cat without getting fur in your mouth. We were a little disappointed at first and thought about asking to switch the the only other empty cabin which was priced in line with the cabin at the other place (the one with the Jacuuzi). It had a fussy little bench seat inside the cabin and a stool at the antique vanity. On the porch there was a dainty little table with small chairs.

Strike 1: It was a homely little cabin.

Strike 2: It can’t be good news when the cheap plunger is right there in plain view, looking like it gets regular use.
Strike 2.5: I had no idea what these things were. The cabin was decorated with vintage women’s purses and hats but these things seemed not to fit the theme at all. I went to bed that night and prayed they would not come alive in the night and come to get in the bed with us. When we were getting ready to leave, I casually mentioned to my husband, “Hubby, I wonder what those things are”, and he reached over to touch them and pulled them loose from their perch (I knew he would!). Turns out it was a woman’s stole, a little fur collar thing. Whew.
In the end, we were satisfied with our choice. This was the view from our back porch.
Cypress trees.
This was out front, a remnant from the crawfish festival, no doubt. Breaux Bridge, where these cabins are located, calls itself the Crawfish Capital of the World.
This is one of those old-timey push mowers. We played around with these when I was a kid.
The handle of the mower is resting on a cypress knee.
Anybody know what this is?

Thursday, June 22, 2006



Time will heal, that’s what they say.
And yet the scar remains to this very day,
a thin white line and still tender to the touch.

It was no help to have an allergic reaction
to the Mercurochrome so that my skin scabbed over
and I had to do my presentation in class
with crustiness exposed because the bandage
would not allow air to reach the wound
so it could heal.

I was in the third grade
when I survived the head-on collision
with one of my classmates. The scar remains
to this very day, underneath my chin,
a thin white line and still tender to the touch.
Time will heal, that’s what they say.
But didn’t Jacob walk with a limp after wrestling with the angel?

Do not say to the crying mother:
Time will heal.

Do not say to the neglected child:
Time will heal.

Do not say it at all:
Time will heal.

Time will not heal. Time surges forward.
It may wash away much of the detritus,
but always there will remain
a thin white line, still tender to the touch.

Thankfully, I have never had anyone offer me this useless piece of rhetoric. I overheard this a couple of weeks ago, spoken by a grandfather in reference to his grandsons who had been put into his custody after being removed from a home with an abusive step parent and parent. I knw he meant well, it just makes me think, that's all.

I believe time will make it easier, but there will always be the tender places. I liken it to grief. My brother has been dead for eleven years and I am used to it now. This week I met another person who has his name, and is about the age he was when he died. And the grief comes whispering back to me. It is not as intense as it was, and it does not linger as long as it used to, but it is still there and a part of me.

So many times, when we see someone who is hurting, we want to do what we can to help them, we want to take their pain away. Often, the most healing thing we can do for them is to listen quietly.

(There is another silly short poem in the comments to the post before this one if anyone is interested.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Road to Doodlefork*

I am the little girl in pink sitting on the fence at camp, contemplating a call to Doodlefork, wondering whether I can make it there before my counselor snatches me and takes me back to Bible study.

I am the dark-haired girl in white. I will take no risks. I will sit and wait, like a good little girl, for the next Bible study to begin.

I am the unseen counselor who snatches the girl back from the edge of Doodlefork. I only want to help, to protect her on her journey. But who am I to say whether she should make the trip to Doodlefork or stay sitting on the fence, waiting for Bible study to start? Maybe I should take a detour and walk with her to Doodlefork.

I am the girl to the left, standing outside the fence. I have been to Doodlefork and back, and I know that right here is where I am supposed to be at this moment. I am engaged in conversation with my fellow travelers.

I am the woman beginning the back half (third?) of her life, holding the camera, observing fences and gates, wondering: Is this gate opening for me to pass through? Or has the storm blown this gate open, and now I need to get it closed as quickly as I can?

I am the woman who is shocked that the clock did not stop while I sat on the fence taking my own time out as I pondered whether to travel to Doodlefork or to stay where I am, where at least the challenges are familiar and known to me.

I am the woman who still does not know: Am I supposed to be in the back yard? Or am I supposed to be in the front yard?

Bloom where you are planted, that is a little saying I took to heart back when I first heard it in high school. And it worked well for me for a long time. Be content where you are, don't give in to that restless spirit. But who knows? Maybe that restless spirit is a call to change, a call to get off the fence and take a trip to Doodlefork.

*thoughts upon completing my third assignment for the Journaling From The Heart workshop.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sentence Prayers

Last summer was the first time in over ten years that I did not go to camp. I was not able to go this year to work, but I went up last night to visit. They had finished remodeling the tabernacle and I wanted to see that, but I also just wanted a taste of what I was missing.

It's hard for me to explain my pull toward camp, especially this all girls missions themed camp. Part of it is that these girls are so precious and they have their whole lives ahead of them. Or at least we assume they do; I noticed one small bald-headed and pale girl in the crowd. We know what battle she is facing, she wears evidence of it on her head. But the others? Who knows which girl will be an unwed mother? Who knows which girl will follow a call to mission fields far away? Who knows which girl returns to a home devoid of loving care and attention? Who knows which girl will marry well and raise her 2.5 children in a comfortable suburban setting? And which one will fall to drugs or alcohol?

I took photos but none of them are that compelling.
I managed to get a few blurry images of a group of girls practicing their song before "camper spotlight" starts.

Take a look at the girl in the longish white skirt and striped shirt at the outer fringe of the activity onstage. You can tell she's tired. This is the last night before they all go back home.

Now she has gotten her second wind and has moved center stage.

She even manages a timid smile for her adoring audience, or maybe she spotted me, way in the back, with the camera pointed toward the stage! (Click on the picture and make it bigger, you can better see her smile.) Blurry images, that's all we have. We just can't know what impact these few days at camp will have on their lives, can't know what things they will face.

It is an awesome responsibility and privilege to spend time with these girls, to be a leader, to be a listener, to be a see-er, to hear them pray...

Sentence Prayers

Sweet and full of innocence,
with tender hearts they pray:

God, help my cousin,
she’s fifteen, she had a baby.
God, I pray for everything
we prayed for already
and anything else we need
to pray for.
God, I hope I do good
on my math test tomorrow.
God, keep my sister safe,
she lives in a bad place
and my mama wants
her to come back home.
God, help my neighbor’s
autistic son get better...

God, I feel like a hardened
skeptic, an intruder.
I know that rocky path
out of a little girl’s world
into womanhood.

Many voices will cry out,
saying to their soul:
i am your salvation,
come with me.
Their faith will be shaken,
sifted like flour,
and unbelieving feet
will trample fragile hearts.

Doubts will swarm
like flies, demons will taunt,
bringing condemnation
in darkness,
leaving these precious
girls crouching,
panting in their fear.

Oh God, in the madness,
the devastation of frigid
will they remember you?
Oh God,
May they hear your voice
to their weary soul:

your salvation.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Peaceful Day

The waters of conflict were rolling with distant family members. We took a trip and spoke face to face. We isolated the troubled waters.

We communicated. We stirred the waters a little more.

We let the waters roll beneath the bridge. (Is that the shadow of a divine hand casting a blessing on the passing of troubled waters?)

And then there was a bend in the creek, and the waters are calmed and stilled. (Don't you see the light of grace shining on us all?)

I am learning to face and deal with conflict. And now we have a win-win situation for all parties involved. I am particularly pleased. It means a minor dream of mine will come to pass, after a time, something I had lost will be returned to me.

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Idea Whose Time May Have Come

I spent some time in Houston over the weekend and saw this sign on the University of Houston-Clear Lake campus. Seems like an appropriate warning to me.

I've signed up for a writing workshop over at Journaling from the Heart. I'm not sure how much of my writing I'll be sharing here from working through those exercises but I am looking forward to participating. I have long been an introspective person, well aware of my interior state and my interior state is restless at the moment. One of the issues is that I am dissatisfied with my job. Another is that I am thinking about going back to school.

The details of how to do that, and what path to take are all a little foggy. I am only at the beginning of almost knowing I want to go back to school.

I am a thinker and a ponderer. Lord, have mercy, I am a thinker. My problem is, and always has been, making the transition from thought to action. I am also a dreamer who will take a dream and build it into such a grand and glorious fantasy that it seems impossible to achieve. I know that there is a suitable middle ground for me somewhere between the tentative statement, "I think I'd like to go back to school" and the grand (and foggy) illusion of "I'd like to go back to school and eventually get my Phd in "Something or Other" and then go on to become an expert in my field and maybe write two or three books on the subject. Two issues hold me back from the extreme vision: time and drive. Well, three issues: time, drive and money!-- but somewhere between those two thoughts, there is a realistic plan that will work for me, a fifty-year-old slow bloomer. There are choices. I do know that. I just need to work on fleshing them out.
One of the things I hope to gain from working through the journaling exercises is a clearer picture of what I want/need to do.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

An Ordinary Photograph

Sometimes an ordinary photograph can speak to us of extraordinary things. This one was snapped last Thanksgiving. My nephew declared it ruined but I knew differently.

Whatever we may choose to call it, The Wilderness, The Desert, The Dark Night of the Soul, Poo Poo Alley—we have all been there. I once heard a preacher say that we are all either entering into wilderness or just exiting it after a time of wandering. Some of us spend more time than others wandering. I think I may have already exceeded my "wandering allotment".

And occasionally, if we are not careful, whenever we are in that darkness, our perspective becomes skewed in such a way that we are not seeing correctly.

You can't see it clearly, but here is what the quote on the page says:

"A lecturer to a group of businessmen displayed a sheet of white paper on which was one blot. He asked what they saw. All answered, "A blot." The test was unfair: it invited the wrong answer. Nevertheless, there is an ingratitude in human nature by which we notice the black disfigurement and forget the widespread mercy.

We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings on one day. We might begin; we could never end: there are not pens or paper enough in all the world. The attempt would remind us of our "vast treasure of content." (Attributed to George Arthur Buttrick)

Next thing we know, the only thing we can see is one dark blot. And we lose track of the light that is in our life. I lost my sense of gratitude and I was full of self-pity. I had forgotten the widespread mercy that permeates my life. This was the attitude I had taken with me on my journey during Lent.

I don’t know what happened exactly (though I do know Who is at work) inside me. The darkness is still there. Anyone can see it. But it no longer overwhelms me. (And let me be the first one to make perfectly clear that I am not announcing that I have "arrived" and things will now be rosy forevermore!)

Miraculously, it would seem, something changes, and an ordinary photograph takes on a whole new substance. And that which was thought to be worthless and ruined is saved (though it is still very ordinary!).

(Yes, the first photo and the last photo, lightened up in Photoshop, are one and the same.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Just in Case

There is anyone out there who does not know it, today is the first day of the rest of the 2006 Hurricane Season.

Here are the names of this year's players:

Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William.