By Lisa Huddleston Categories. A place for everything; everything in its place. Right wrong. Black white. True false. All neatly filed away. But tornados come. Hormonal, chemical, literal winds of time whip apart the categories that give order to my life and then chaos reigns. Organized religion, educational theory, liberal conservatism and vice versa. Illicit or elicit? I feel the sucking pull, and it really does sound like a train. But there is no safe place to go to hide my brain from the storm, and I know my thoughts, my files of self, will soon be flung to neighboring farms and driven into hardwood trunks of trees to hold the fragments of who I thought I was. Lord. Jesus. Christ. Have. Mercy. On. Me. A mantra. An OM. A chanting lullaby to calm the wind. "Peace! Be still." But I will never straighten this mess again, and I am doomed to uncertainty. Of this am I sure? Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, dirt that I am. Naked I came and naked I will leave with miles to go before I sleep.
By Lisa Huddleston
My daughter and son-in-law moved into their first real house yesterday. Naturally, they and all who love them were very excited about it! We all could picture the sweet little place picture perfect with its white picket fence and brightly colored zinnias growing along the borders. Serene and peaceful.
But let’s face it–moving is hard! Your body gets tired, your emotions get strained, and your nose clogs up from breathing too much dust that has collected on the too much stuff that takes almost all of us too little time to accumulate. Oh my goodness. So much stuff.
And here’s where it gets personal. Sarah and John have only been married for about a year and a half; Chuck and I have had a home for almost 30 years! Can you imagine what it would take to move us? Ugh. It literally unsettles me to the core of my bones to consider. That horrible load of stuff that has crawled bits and pieces into the corners of the closets, the attic, and–I can’t even bear to consider–the basement where all sorts of detritus of this life of ours has gathered.
It is convicting. It is disgusting. It is gluttonous. It has got to go.
And it is going. As each child has moved out, they have scooped up old couches, beds, dressers, and enough dishes to set up housekeeping. And while I have deeply grieved the child, I have rejoiced over the loss of the stuff.
Soon our youngest will be moving from a dorm to a “home” of his own and with him will go more stuff. Then we will begin in earnest to shed the gluttony of our past, and even now we have begun the process. Sorting and categorizing. This to the dump. This to Goodwill or the Help Center or the Habitat store. This for Nick. And before something new comes in, something old must leave.
Truth. If we haven’t used it in years, we never will. And to keep what others need when you do not is a sin. Like stealing. It simply is.
Yesterday reminded me. The more I own, the larger my burden. Help me, Lord, to simplify. Less of me, less of this world, and more of you.
“My practices change over time, but the goal is consistent: to learn to live a happy, useful life on this earth without using up an unnecessary share of its goods.” Barbara Kingsolver
By Lisa Huddleston
I’m throwing a little pity party, and lucky you are cordially invited. So what’s the problem? Oh just more of the same: feeling as though I don’t fit in any category I can find and knowing that unrealized potential is worse than no potential at all.
Haven’t I written about this stuff before? Sure I have! And that makes my party even more spectacular. Balloons, banners, confetti–the works!
What’s today’s cause for celebration? Let’s see: a less than stellar grade on an assignment for my Evaluation and Remediation of Reading class, a growing recognition that I am wasting time and money by taking these classes to renew my teaching license because odds are that I will never really teach, and a general sense of failure and despair. Yeah, that covers and smothers it pretty well. (Why yes, that IS a reference to Waffle House’s menu.)
Oh well, what’s a girl to do? Get over herself, I guess.
I did read a wonderful passage from Galatians this morning, chapter 6, verses 4-5, that contains some pretty good words to consider right about now:
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. (The Message)
Who am I? (THE question of the ages.) What is my given work? (Don’t I wish I knew.) Am I sunk deeply into it? (Probably not–unless that explains that sinking feeling I’ve been experiencing–no.) Am I too impressed with myself? (Sometimes.) Am I too hard on myself by comparing myself with others? (Very likely.) Am I taking responsibility for doing my creative best with my own life? (Ah, God knows I’m trying, but this isn’t a game of horse shoes.)
And as is pretty obvious by my quick and snarky responses to Paul’s deeply probing questions, I still have a lot of work to do. Work that starts on the inside and hopefully works its way out to the world.
Change my heart, Oh God,
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, Oh God,
May I be like You.
Real. Honest. Thinking neither too highly nor too lowly of myself–nor too often. Deep. Hard working. Responsible. Creative.
Okay. The party’s over. Please, turn off the lights on your way out.
By Lisa Huddleston
Some times Intentional Living requires maintenance, and that is exactly what today has been dedicated to. Yes, I did ride my bike and walk on the treadmill for a while–both maintenance related tasks for my physical person–but that’s not all. Because today is President’s Day and Chuck is home, we have scheduled all sorts of long-needed repairs on our aging house.
To start with, the plumber arrived early this morning to work on several old and leaky toilets. Nothing glamorous about that job, but oh did it need to be taken care of–and it makes me very, very happy to know my toilet will not be falling through the floor and into the basement. That would not only be painful but more than a little awkward. I’m glad and thankful to know I have a firm foundation!
Next, and hopefully very soon, the electrician will arrive to do several jobs that have needed to be done for years. I can’t even explain the technical situation, but for many years one nook of the house has been without power, and I simply cannot wait to have it restored. I’m tired of running extension cords to my desk lamp, stumbling through the dark when I need to head into the kitchen at night, and worrying that we are all going to one day go up in flames. I will be absolutely delighted to flip the wall switch and have the ceiling light fixture turn on and to sleep without midnight worries over fires. Oh yes, simple joys are best!
And it’s not just the old broken things that we hope to restore. I am also thrilled to be putting a brand spanking new outlet in the butler’s pantry so that I can move the microwave and toaster off of my too-crowded kitchen counters to this discrete location. Yay! I truly can’t wait! Tis a joy to be simple!
And, of course, all this physical maintenance reminds me of my need for spiritual maintenance, as well. I mean there’s always a lesson to be learned and here it is: Sometimes my faith gets worn, my resolve leaks out all over the floor, and I can’t for the life of me turn on the light of truth in my dark and dreary heart. (See yesterday’s post for a prime example.)
When that happens it’s best to call in the experts: spiritual plumbers and electricians to plug my leaks and jump-start the power of my faith. Who are these experts? The Holy Spirit who prays for me when all my words fail, the Word of God that stops the leaking of my resolve by showing me that I am in good company in the flawed and floundering family of God, the Body of Christ revealed in my friends and family who constantly seek to encourage my resolve and build up my faith, and, finally, my Heavenly Father who knows what is best for me and desires that I get it in a timely manner. What trustworthy workers!
Yes, maintenance may not be glamorous, although I tried to tidy up every area where these workmen will be serving us today so that at least it won’t be too nasty. But maintenance is one of the most important ingredients of Intentional Living–especially in the second half of life where so much is prone to needing repairs.
I am thankful for the knowledge of all these experts and for their availability to repair what I cannot do on my own. And thankful also for the reminder that life is a daily readjusting to the challenges that only God knows will come.
“Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Could be most anything. An encouraging word. A buffalo herd. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” –Claire Lynch
God knows! And for plumbers and electricians and the Holy Spirit and the Word and my brothers and sisters on the journey called life, I am thankful that with some careful, intentional maintenance I can be in good shape to meet if not always conquer the challenges that lie ahead.
(Keep your fingers crossed on that whole power outage thingy–and the wires hopefully uncrossed! This ain’t our first electrical repair rodeo, and I admit to being a little skeptical. Some of those past electricians confessed their inability to help, and others just quietly faded away while promising calls that never came. But, hey, hope springs eternal … and I’m thankful for that, too.)
Sometimes painfully bright moments of piercing clarity cut through the mundane moments of my life. Epiphanies. Icy cold splashes of truth. Acid that eats holes in the fabric of the ordinary.
In these pinpoints of recognition, I cannot avoid the truth that life is very, very brief and often very, very hard. Yes, I know–life is also very, very beautiful. Yes, yes, it is painfully beautiful! Yet from the moment we are born, the math is against us. While we think we are adding, time is ticking and subtracting from us the things that we suppose will be always ours.
Born naked, we are wrapped in cloth that moths will eat and arms that worms will consume. Born soft and vulnerable, we build exoskeletons of stuff that rust promises to destroy. Even the tents of our flesh will each in its turn one day mold and disappear. “Life is so meaningless!” this moment screams. And it honestly feels that way in the cornea-burning blast of epiphanal light.
But spirit remains. Spirit lives on. Set free and once again naked and poor, our spirits return to the Spirit that inspires all life. And that is what all the losing, all the letting go is about–right, God? A freeing of spirit to a spacious place where we no longer are about addition or subtraction, or getting and spending, or the wasting of time. Isn’t that the truth? God, let that be the truth.
Then the blessed clouds pass over the sun. Our pupils return to normal diameters and the comfort of normalcy numbs our knowing into unknowing. And mostly we can forget–until the next time the sky splits.
“But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:18).
Many of you are probably familiar with those words from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were about to be thrown into a burning furnace, because they would not worship Nebuchadnezzar and his little ‘g’ gods. The king wanted to see if their god (THE God) could rescue them, and they replied that although they knew that God could do it they did not know if He would–but they cast their lot with God either way.
Their story ends well. God saves them with His supernatural power and “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire … not hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them” (Dan. 3:27). And everyone says, “Amen!”
That’s sort of how I felt yesterday. After undergoing last week’s biopsy (uncomfortable but not terrible), I got the good news that the pathology report showed no signs of cancer. Chuck and I breathed synchronized sighs of relief and thanked God for the good news. Before we even left the parking garage, we texted the word, Benign, to everyone who had asked to be told and began receiving our friend’s happy words: Praise God, God is so good, Thank you, Jesus, Baruch haShem, and my personal favorite, “Be-Nign, Valentine!” It was very good news, and we have very good friends!
But ever the philosopher, I can’t help thinking of what our response would have been if the news had been bad. Even then, would we have praised God?
“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
By Lisa Huddleston
Amazingly, the onslaught of concerns (both small and not so small) continues, and while I can’t share everything I’m carrying in my heart, I remain unendingly thankful for you who help me carry them. Kind words. Thoughtful texts. Snarky comments that make me laugh (especially these). All the ways you let me know you care. Thank you.
And for those of you who don’t know my burdens, I am thankful that you are helping to carry someone else’s. ( As I know you surely are.) People are leaning on you, and that is a good and honorable thing. Thank you for being there for the people in your lives.
And, finally, I am thankful for and honored by those of you who trust me to help you shoulder your struggles. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
And isn’t that why we’re here? To shoulder each other’s burdens, to learn from our own, and to pay forward the comfort we’ve received from Christ? I do believe that, at least in part, it is.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us as we cast our cares on you–thankful to know that you care for us.
An odd, old memory just jogged through my mind. I was sitting here on the couch wasting time and watching TV when a commercial showed a grade-school girl opening an instrument case to reveal a brand new clarinet.
Instantly I felt my 5th-grade excitement at getting my brand new, shiny brass cornet. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to learn to play it. However, in my ignorance and enthusiasm, I picked it up by the mouthpiece, and the horn detached falling bell down on to the floor. I had only had it for a few days, but for the rest of my school career in band, there were crinkly dents circling the neck of that bell, and I was sad and a little ashamed every time I lifted it out of its metallic smelling case.
Many years later, I had the opportunity to play in a church orchestra, and my sweet husband surprised me with a new, unblemished silver trumpet. It was beautiful, and I was proud to hold its shiny smooth bell before me. No scars showing. No shame over my earlier mistakes. A clean slate.
Hmmm … truths to ponder. Mistakes are sometimes the results of our ignorance. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t hold that new cornet by the mouthpiece when I first received it. It took an accident to teach me a hard lesson–and I never lifted it up that way again. But by then the damage was done, and I had to live with the scars my mistake left behind.
Happily, another truth is also contained in this story. Second chances teach us grace. I felt very undeserving of that shiny silver trumpet. I hadn’t played in years. I wasn’t any good. I had dented my first instrument–I’d probably do it again. But no. I played that horn with joy, and it restored my love for the experience of making music. Grace. Second chances. And joy.
I could have rejected the chance. I could have told Chuck to return that trumpet, or I could have told the director I wasn’t good enough to play. After all, that’s exactly how I felt. But for some reason, I took the risk. I accepted Chuck’s generous gift, I joined the band, and I did okay. And it turned out to be a lot of fun!
Funny how that commercial brought those memories rushing back. Not only have I kept that old cornet. It is proudly displayed in our music room–dents and all–as a reminder of the provision of my parents, my husband, and the graciousness of God himself.
And my joy of music rather than my shame has been handed down to my three children who play piano, mandolin, guitar, bass, banjo, cello, violin, and whatever else they choose to play. Praise God for second chances–and even (who can believe it) for commercials?!
By Lisa Huddleston
Others seem all about fate
The first are fights in the present
The second are struggles through wait
I still have a lot on my mind, and at the same time my mind is so unfocused that it feels empty in its lack of direction. No one issue seems to hold center stage for long.
In times like these, even my prayers can lack focus. But I have found one thing to pray when the spiral begins:
Lord Jesus Christ
Have mercy on us
By Lisa Huddleston
The subtitle of this blog site is “Intentional Living in the Second Half” so I think it’s fair (even right) to share my recent experiences with a bad mammogram simply because they are all too familiar to too many women of a “certain age.”
Don’t panic anyone–I have no news yet, and Chuck and I definitely expect it to be good when it does arrive. But I thought it may help someone else stay calm/know what to expect/find comaradery to share what I’ve experienced so far.
I scheduled my yearly mammogram a little late this year. I hadn’t received a reminder from my GYN’s office so by the time I remembered to book an appointment with her I was already a few months late. Then I put off the mammo until after the holidays–you know, just in case there was anything that needed to be dealt with. We women always expect “it” to happen some day, and the holidays are crazy enough as they are so I waited just a little bit more.
On the first week of January, I went in for the annual smooshed pancake photography session. No fun but no biggie. All seemed well, although they did take a few extra shots on my right side. I left feeling unconcerned and happy to check that off the list for another year.
A week later I received “the call.” They had seen something suspicious and would like me to come back in for some more pictures. They promised me that I would “know something” that day. I made the appointment for Thursday and let it go. Truly. I felt calm and a little supernaturally distant from the whole idea. Lots of people have “bad” mammograms that turn out to be nothing. I really wasn’t worried.
That day my attitude began to change a bit as picture after picture was made trying to get a better look at whatever it was they saw in there. It definitely was small (“Good news,” I thought), but they sure were determined to see it–enough so that my pancake felt more like a crepe by the time they were finished!
Finally the radiologist appeared from his darkened office to tell me that he really couldn’t tell me much. (“What?! They promised!”) He felt it would be wise for me to have a “needle biopsy” done to be sure that there wasn’t any cancer. Okay, he may not have actually used the “C” word, but it was heavy in the air and in the doctor’s and tech’s sympathetic faces. I acted nonchalant and joked with the tech as she told me I would be receiving a call later that day from the hospital. My brain iced over just a little, but I still felt abnormally calm. I mean, how surprising can it be when breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in America? We all know people who have been touched by it, and I think we all secretly expect it to come to us one day. (Maybe that’s just me? Maybe not.)
Nope. No call that day. The next day (Friday) a nurse from my GYN’s office called to say she would make an appointment for me with a group of surgeons in Nashville. Hmmm … surprise! Not where or with whom I had been told to expect, but still okay. Probably a good choice. But I didn’t actually get the appointment scheduled until the next Monday. And, finally, after another week and a day of waiting, that appointment was, ta da, yesterday.
Chuck went with me (oh I love me that man!) It’s always great to have a medical translator along. My own, personal patient advocate. But I must admit, it was awkward and a little weird to have him sitting in the corner of the room holding my bra, sweater, and purse while I received the most thorough breast exam the world has ever known. (Ever kneaded bread dough? Yep.) We have been laughing about it since then, but overall the visit went well. We liked the doctor very much. She doesn’t expect to find “C” and said there’s an 80 per cent chance of its being benign. Good.
But she did say I need to have a stereotactic biopsy rather than the simpler needle biopsy I expected. Surprise again! Next week. Ugh. (I have a friend who said it’s like have a curtain rod jammed into you!) But there will be Valium and local anesthesia (thank you, God), and I will survive.
So … intentional living goes on and will keep going on regardless of the results of next week’s test. I’ll keep you posted on the whole curtain rod thing, and I’d appreciate your prayers. I still believe that it’s going to be okay, but either way, nothing surprises God.*
We sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” in church Sunday morning, “And I know He watches me.”
*(Disclaimer: It’s easy to sound brave now. I know. It will be much harder if the news is not what we expect–and I won’t even try to fake it. I hope I don’t sound flippant to those of you who are fighting cancer right now. My heart goes out to you. Blessings!)