Monday, August 3, 2015

Puzzling Pieces

It keeps me awake at night.

This story—the mystery I’ve stumbled across. Like Alice, I’ve tumbled into the twisting, gravitational pull of someone else’s rabbit hole and I have no idea where or when I’ll land.

Thrilling, captivating, and surprising, I’ve been stunned and shocked by what I’ve discovered. But there are still too many gaps to reveal whether he was a hero, a zero, or just another human being with feet of clay.
Like me.
I blame it on that photograph.
It’s just a simple framed picture of my great-grandparents on their wedding day, taken more than one hundred years ago.  Which sounds like forever until I stop to realize that, if life had not been so hazardous at the time, they would have both lived long enough for me to have met them. After all, my grandchildren still have three living great-grandparents and will always have their very own, personal memories of them.
All I have is a faded photograph. And the internet.
The wedding portrait hung in Grandma’s bedroom. For a few years following her death, it hung in my dining room. Eventually, I gave it to my aunt in exchange for a smaller version, and now it adorns her wall. Ironically, it’s traveled almost as many miles as the couple who gaze out stoically from within its frame.
Grandma told me she barely knew them. Her parents, the couple in the photo, both died of tuberculosis by the time she was nine years old.
“I was born in South Carolina,” she said. “My mother was disowned by her family when she married my Irish Catholic father, because he was divorced. I had no siblings and, when mama and daddy died, I was raised in Arizona by my foster parents,” she said. “Now eat your potatoes.”
Grandma rarely minced words, so I thought that’s all there was to the story. She was born. She was orphaned. She was adopted. She grew up. Life was hard, but she got over it. End of story. End of questions.
But one afternoon, years after I passed the portrait on and settled for its 5x7 facsimile, I ran across a handwritten family tree that Grandma gave me forty-five years ago. Then I sat down next to my husband, Rob, plugged some of the names into, and out of Pandora’s internet box tumbled hundreds of puzzle pieces—completely out of order—containing a  fascinating story of Grandma’s parents.
It’s incomplete, though.
It reminds me of bagged yard sale puzzles I’ve bought a few times—lots of pieces, no idea what the end result should resemble. If not for a couple of facts in the family tree Grandma gave me, we’d have never discovered anything about her family. She didn’t say much about it when she gave the booklet to me, but I think she knew that, someday, I’d go looking for another picture of her parents and I’d need a little help.
So far, I’ve spent about four months coaxing my computer to spit out their records. And while the internet plays a mean game of cat and mouse, I’ve earned its respect by being tenacious. All I knew of my great-grandfather before came along was his name and birthdate. And that he was from County Cork, Ireland.
But he wasn’t from County Cork.
Nor did Grandma’s own grandparents disown their daughter for marrying him.
I assumed he was an only child, just like Grandma, since all I knew was his name and birthdate. But imagine my surprise and delight the evening the names of his eight siblings surfaced on the internet and revealed that he was from Galway County, Ireland.
But here’s the thing—Grandma wasn’t an only child, either.
Her father was married once before marrying Grandma’s mother and fathered five children, including two who died as infants. Also, Grandma’s parents lost a baby boy the year before she was born. In all, her father welcomed seven children into the world. So while she grew up as an only child, and though she knew of them but never met them, Grandma actually had three half-brothers. Somewhere.
Guess who now knows where they grew up?
Oh, internet. You are a remarkable, magical thing.
You are also my tormentor. You supply the facts but make me analyze their hidden meanings. You prove existence but not intent. You name names but hide hopes and dreams. You expose heartache but ignore conclusions.
How can I assemble a jigsaw puzzle when all I have to go on is speculation?
He was always a shadow of a man to me, just one photograph away from being invisible. Now I have over a hundred documents proving his existence but no explanation of his choices.
Except for one. The one where he adopted out the only child he ever had a relationship with—because he was dying of tuberculosis.
In all the years he spent in America’s military and all the years he traveled the world, the most important act of bravery he ever exhibited was when he found a family for his daughter, my grandmother, in the months before he passed away. He gave up all his rights to her while he was still living, but found a family to love and protect her at the end of his own life.
In the end, he died alone and uncelebrated, two thousand miles from his wife’s grave in South Carolina, five thousand miles from his childhood home in Ireland, his name mentioned in dozens of newspaper articles but missing from his own headstone.  Today his body rests under a eucalyptus tree in an unmarked grave in Phoenix, Arizona.
I don’t know why I know more about Grandma’s father than she did. I don’t know why her story was so condensed as to blur the lines of reality. Maybe it’s because I was a kid and kids don’t need to know the pain their grandparents experienced when they were kids. I bet the internet won’t explain any of that to me, either.
For now, I have that photograph. And the internet. And my own speculation. And gratitude to the man whose protection of my grandmother led to my own birth and the powerful bond I once shared with her. He was not a zero. He was a hero.
That’s a pretty good piece of the puzzle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I am a terrible Facebooker.  Or bookee . . . bookist?

As I said.

Today I discovered how to get to a hidden place for messages sent via Facebook, and began answering all twenty-six of them.  Twenty-six.

“I read your post today,” a new blog reader of mine wrote. “Love, love, love!” she said.

“Oh, thanks,” I replied. “Hope you keep reading!”

She at least kept writing. I heard back from her a few minutes later when she pointed out how long ago she sent the compliment—two years ago.

Hoo boy.

Am I the last person on earth to learn about . . . the OTHER box? I hadn’t heard of the OTHER message box Facebook created until last week when I tried to send a private message to a friend that I can’t friend.

“Your message will go to their OTHER box,” Facebook interjected, “because you're not their friend. Unless you pay one dollar,”  they added.

What? Is Facebook charging tolls now? I’m not paying a dollar when I can email for free. Especially when Facebook won’t let me be her friend.

My friend emailed and asked me to be her friend, which seems kind of backwards to me since we’ve been friends for a while now. But once I found her on Facebook and tried to friend her, there was no friend button to push on her page. So I emailed her back to ask her where her button is.

“My daughter came over this afternoon and we can’t find your button, either,” she wrote.

I didn’t know I don’t have a button. Now I’m missing both my button and my OTHER box.

Why do I even have an OTHER box? What was wrong with my FIRST box?  And where did I lose my button?

I think I figured it out this afternoon, though. They must have put my button in the OTHER box.

That’s just no way to treat friends.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Tooth Fairy Is My Hero

Jules isn’t a baby anymore.

She reads a little, swims a lot, and in a couple of weeks is going into kindergarten. But most of important of all, she has loose teeth. When you’re four going on five, that’s almost as big a deal as getting married.

Last night was exciting for her—her first baby tooth departed this life, leaving her a tiny bit toothless.
But it didn’t go without a fight. She and Allie and Will came to play at our house while their mama taught a few piano lessons at home yesterday, and Katy texted us before we picked them up.
“There’s a good chance Juliet will lose her first tooth today. You gotta take a picture for me if she’s at your place!”
Jules was pre-occupied all afternoon, focused on wiggling the little escapee with her finger and not so much on playing with the dolls. She definitely had a lot on her mind. But when it was time to take the kiddos home, there were no pictures.
The tooth was still hanging on.
We picked up a pizza on the way, and sat around the table with Katy and the kids, talking and eating. Suddenly, Jules was crying—that little tooth was trying to make a run for it. Turns out, hand tossed crusts are as good at twisting loose teeth as caramel apples.
But the tooth was still there—just a little sideways now. And instead of excitement, Jules had fear in her eyes.
“I don’t want you to pull it, Mama,” she said, as tears ran down her face.
“My teeth didn’t hurt at all when they fell out,” big sister, Allie, tried to encourage her.
“It’s just like pulling a carrot out of your garden,” I told her. “It doesn’t hurt the carrot and it doesn’t hurt the ground.” Guess how well that sage advice went over. Grandmas can’t remember how it feels to lose teeth. Well, some of them can.
But Katy had the magic answer. 
“Do you want to talk to Daddy?” she asked.
Jules wiped away a tear and nodded. So they got him on the phone, switched it over to face time so he could see the renegade tooth all the way from his fire station, and Jules started smiling again.
“You don’t have to pull it out,” he told her. “Just keep wiggling it with your tongue.”
“Yeah,” she said cheerfully, “I think it’ll come out tomorrow on Dependence Day!”
Firefighter daddies save the day every time. Jules went back to eating, we went back to talking, Daddy went back to working, and a few minutes later Katy asked Juliet to open her mouth so she could check on the dangling tooth.
“Jules!” she said in surprise. “Your tooth is gone!”
We all looked at each other and then at the gap in her mouth. Sure enough, the tooth was gone. Really gone. It wasn’t in her mouth or on her plate or stuck in her pizza. We expected more tears then. Cuz how do you explain to the Tooth Fairy that you still want her money but it might be a lot harder for her to retrieve the tooth she came for?
But Jules was jubilant. And trusting. She knew the Tooth Fairy would do the right thing. She and Allie went in to the craft table in the other room and, pencils in hand, explained everything—Jules with a hand drawn sketch of the whole event, and Allie with a written explanation on behalf of her little sister.

They put the documentation under Jules’ pillow later that night, and the Tooth Fairy—who wasn’t attending her first rodeo—made good with the money.
I think of all of childhood’s heroes, the Tooth Fairy is my favorite—even more than Santa Claus.

She doesn’t care if you’ve been good or bad, she doesn’t watch you while you sleep, and she doesn’t make you wait all year before she brings good things to you. Most important of all, though—if you accidently swallow the evidence, she still keeps her end of the bargain.
And whether you’re four going on five, or forty-nine going on fifty, we all need that kind of grace in our lives.
Thanks, Tooth Fairy. You rocked it again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What's The Problem?

I drove into the drive through. I ordered my iced decaf at the triple-caffeine-beverage-store. I waited patiently as the car in front of me waited patiently, too, and finally got his drinks. Then I waited even longer to get mine. I drove out the other side of the drive through and took a big gulp . . . of a fully caffeinated drink.
Until that happened, I had no signs of hormonal dysfunction. Which is the reason I drink decaf.
So I drove around to the beginning of the drive through line again because it’s in the triple digits here and that’s why God invented drive throughs—no one walks outside in the daylight in Phoenix in July.  No.One.  Now there were three cars in front of me and I’d already waited four times too long in this line thirty seconds ago.
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw no one.
I turned down both side mirrors and began easing out of the circular drive through, praying with perseverance and asking with full-on faith that no one would plow into the back of my truck while I backed out. That’s when I saw her—the woman in the red truck who impatiently waited for me to finish my circus act. Still, prayer works and we did not meet by accident.
I parked, leaving my truck at the mercy of the sun where the air conditioned temps disappear through the cloth and glass interior like water through a sieve. I went inside where no one waited in line, two people sat at separate tables in the gigantic room, and three baristas stood behind the counter. In short, it was human error with no extenuating circumstances. So I politely told one of employees I had ordered a decaf but didn’t get it.
“Not a problem,” she answered, taking my cup and starting over.
Have I not blogged about this before?
Yes, there IS a problem! 
It’s a first world problem, admittedly, but it’s still a problem!  It was a problem for me. I didn’t want to park my car and walk out into the furnace we call ‘summer in Arizona,’ or I would have done it the first time around. I didn’t want to order this drink twice. I didn’t want to back out of the drive through because there was no “through” happening in the drive.
Not only that, I’m not the one who caused the problem. So why did the person who made the mistake tell me she wouldn’t hold it against me if she had to re-do the order she messed up?
I’ll tell you why. Because no one says “I’m sorry” or “You’re welcome” anymore. Polite responses, appropriate to the situation, have been dumped. Now the universal, one-size-fits-nothing response, “not a problem,” is all we’ve got left.
And. It’s. A. Problem.
How do I explain this? It’s a toughie, but I’ll give it a shot.
The very answer implies that a problem does exist but, through the graciousness of the offended/guilty party they’re willing to overlook your stupidity just this once. Or, in a situation where “not a problem” substitutes for the more appropriate “you’re welcome”, you can just take it at face value that you are not welcome and, again, it was a problem.
We’re not telling the truth, folks. “Not a problem” insinuates that there was a problem or we wouldn’t even use the word “problem.”
See the problem?
Sigh. I don’t know how to undo what’s been done to manners with this pathetic phrase. I could write a letter to my senators, but in light of foreign affairs, they probably won’t think it’s a problem. I could put it on a t-shirt, warning people I will stand for nothing less than “you’re welcome” or “I’m sorry”, but then I’d feel stupid and everyone would agree. And that’s a problem.
So, I’m throwing it up here, again, on my blog where I’ll look like a whiner who needs to focus on positive thinking a little more and stop making mountains out of molehills. AND be grateful that I have enough extra cash to order overpriced drinks in the drive through from the air conditioned comfort of my giant land barge.
I’m sorry. Thank you for listening.
I know. It’s not a problem.
With thanks to my husband for letting me post this photo which I unashamedly used to get your attention so you'd read this blog. And because I couldn't figure out how to use to borrow other people's photos. I'm sorry. You know the rest. Still, it does make you wonder if he has a problem.  :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

That's The Difference

“YaYa,” my seven-year-old granddaughter told me, “you’re just a tiny, little bit, not too much, but kind of a little . . . old.” 
It’s true. I already knew it, though. Allie’s little sister, Juliet, had recently let the cat out of the bag.  “Pretty soon you’re gonna need a cane, YaYa, because you’re kind of old.”
And you know what they say—two out of three professionals can’t be wrong. The third one is only two and hasn’t figured out the obvious about his YaYa yet. But the mirror doesn’t lie. I am kind of old.
Fifty-six. Next week I’ll be fifty-seven. It feels a lot younger than it sounds on this end of my life, except when my joints hurt or I get brain fade or when I find myself on the wrong side of a generation gap. I’m so old, I’ve lived through about twenty-five years of disappointment and experience that my younger, adult self couldn’t have imagined.
When I was in my thirties, I had a lot of answers. After hitting rock bottom emotionally, I’d just been set free from the religious legalism I grew up with. I began to learn the truth about Jesus and God and the Spirit: God is for me.
But I didn't know everything. I didn't know there's more to life than easy answers.
This year my best friend, my beloved, the man I’ve clung to for forty years, had his second stroke and third dangerous blood clot. This year we’ve struggled with the surprising and sometimes painful adjustment of living in a small space in full-time retirement. This year there has been stress. There has been failure. There has been a lot of pain we can share with nearly no one else. Few understand any of what we’ve been through together in the last year alone.
So at 2:30 this morning, anxiety rolled in on me and robbed me of a precious hour of sleep. Which wasn’t nice, because old people like me really need sleep. Even worse, Anxiety brought its sidekick, Guilt, along to condemn me while I lay there in the dark. Every reaction, every fear, every harsh sermon I’d ever heard ran through my mind like a horror flick until my heart cried out for Truth.
And the truth I had learned while I lay crushed and broken in my thirties was still the truth this morning—Jesus isn’t expecting anything from me, and He loves me as I am in the ever-now.  Ever since I first learned that, I have sought to know the One who will be there for me in the frightening times when I have no one else.
And then I heard Jesus whisper to me, “That’s the difference.” 
See, you can live with a harsh, angry God when you are young like I used to be—youthful and strong, loved by your family, surrounded by your children, beginning your career with your whole life ahead of you.
But when the nest is empty, when your health fails, when your spouse is ill and you sit in hospitals alone, waiting endlessly for medical tests and results, fearing for the future, listen to me—an angry God doesn’t cut it.
At that point, you’d better hope you are strong enough not to need a God like that because that God knows better than you do how weak and imperfect you are on your own. There can be no comfort from that distant God.
But the God of the Bible condescended—He came down to our level. He identified with us. He carried our sorrows. He bore away all our sins. He proclaimed, “It is finished!” He forgave when no one asked for it. He included even the thief hanging beside Him who never expected that much. Jesus went to the failure, Peter, and lifted him up.
This God is not one of my imagination or indulgence. Jesus is not harsh to His lambs. He doesn’t demand they find their way back to Him and walk on their own two feet. He goes after them, His lambs, and He carries them.
In all the days of old, He felt what they did, suffered with them, and carried them. The more candles I see on my birthday cake, the more I must know how to hear God speak clearly to me of His love and promises. I must know He is for me. I must know confidently that He has my back—He is my rear guard. That He sees and understands my wounded, fearful, desperate heart when no one else can or does.
I must know He is the Lover of my soul that the Song of Solomon describes. If I don’t, I will not make it. I can no more cozy up to a rigid God than I could to an offended rattlesnake.
It scares me to realize how close I came to losing my beloved or, at least, to losing his cognitive companionship. I weep to think how close I came to losing his comforting strength and leadership. We have both come close. I have faced cancer twice and survived with my body mostly intact. Now I deal daily with disruptive hormonal surges that make me hard to live with sometimes. I mourn the loss of my youth. The years are both a gift and a curse, it seems, though by far they are a gift.
It’s taken me nearly a thousand words to try to capture the meaning of what Jesus said to me in the dark this morning:  “That’s what makes the difference.” I need the intimacy and acceptance and unconditional love of God because as life gets more fearful, this Love is my constant.
God is for me.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Distress Signal

I’ve prayed better prayers.
Not that anybody should brag about something like that. It’s just that I’ve spent enough time in Sunday School and Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings to hold my own in a room full of Baptists. I’ve memorized the Lord’s Prayer (both versions—Protestant and Catholic) so I’m pretty much ambidextrous where that one’s concerned. And it’s been rumored that I have, on occasion, when no one was listening, prayed in tongues. But that’s probably just a rumor.
None of that was helpful last Sunday morning when I found myself sitting alone in the corner of a large, empty emergency room in Queen Creek, Arizona. Crying.
I’d have to say, too, at that particular moment, I didn’t even remember the words to “Now I lay me down to sleep.” I just sat alone in that cold, impersonal corner with no idea where the Kleenex were, crying and wondering if God realized how alone I felt.
And how afraid.
That's why I prayed the only words that came to mind in those terrifying few minutes when my husband was wheeled away for another CT scan after another series of stroke symptoms.
“S.O.S.” I said to the empty room.
It was all I could think to say. It seemed pretty appropriate since my soul was in some serious distress and the nausea sweeping over me was kind of like I imagined seasickness must feel. I just kept whispering the words to Mr. Morse’s code in the emergency room to the One Who I was sure would understand my distress signal.
And then I texted my best friend. Who texted our other friends. And then I texted my daughter. Who stopped what she was doing and asked her friends to pray for us. And then I texted my son in Kentucky. Who pulled over on the side of the road and prayed for us with his pastor friends. And then I texted my friends in Idaho. Who prayed with their friends at church and their family. And then I texted my sister in Texas. Who put it on Facebook and fifteen people responded by praying.
And then I stopped crying. My husband came back from the scan smiling and returned to normal. And any day now I’ll stop asking him every twenty minutes if he still feels okay.
A few days ago I had a date with my four-year-old granddaughter and we got to talking about her grandpa, “Chief”, my husband.
“I hope he stops getting sick, YaYa,” she said to me from the backseat of my truck.
“Juliet,” I said, “will you do me a favor? When you pray tonight at bedtime, will you ask God to make Chief well?”
There was a brief pause, because Juliet is thoughtful and chooses her words slowly.
“I’ll keep it in mind,” she said.
Which is all any of us really need—someone to keep us and our needs in mind. Someone to hold you up in prayer when you’re falling and can barely sit up in a chair in the corner of an emergency room stall. Someone to pick up the text with your distress signal and relay it over the airwaves until prayer reaches a crescendo and the God of Angel Armies fights for you and the ones you love.
You don’t have to know how to pray. You just need to know how to spell.
It might be the best prayer you’ve ever prayed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January Shmanuary

I don’t like January anymore.
And it’s not because it’s such a letdown after all the Christmas celebrating. Well, maybe that’s a little bit of the reason why I hate it. And it’s not because I despise making New Year’s resolutions, although that’s pretty good motivation all by itself.
I hate January because it’s got a lousy attitude.
For years I blamed Christmas for the way January treated us. Specifically, Christmas’s tree. Not the fake xmas kind like I had as a kid, but the real ones that you chop down. And as soon as I got married, that’s the tradition we kicked off. We took beautiful dead trees, placed them in tubs of water, decorated them with electric lights and prayed we’d make it through Advent safely before the house either went up in flames or somebody got electrocuted.
Every single December we survived without any significant drama. No fires, no fruitcake poisoning, no sugar cookie comas. We showed up for church cantatas, didn’t overshoot the Christmas budget and still made everyone feel loved. And, as the last fireworks lit up the last December night’s sky, we welcomed the new year with a big sigh and sat back upon our laurels.
That’s when January took aim and shot us all in the keister. Which, back then I blamed on allergies from the deforested tree in our living room. But now I don’t think it was allergies at all. I think January is December’s jealous half-sister.
See, December is full of sparkle and music and parties and laughter. It’s all about celebration and families—the most wonderful time of the year, right? But there’s nothing remarkable about January except for flu season. At least that’s how it is at our house. January is like the fourth fairy in Sleeping Beauty—since she wasn’t invited to the party, she’s going to ruin it for everybody.
That’s so unfair. It’s not my fault that January doesn’t happen in the month of December.
Year after year, we went to bed healthy on December 31 and woke up with a temperature of 101 on January 1st—or January 17th, whichever came first. To be honest, there were some years that January surprised us, skipping past post-nasal drip, and simply brought bad news. One new year I came down with a virus that left hives as a parting gift. Nearly twenty years later, that virus still lives here like part of the family and is even mentioned in my will.
We’ve been broadsided in various Januarys with family loss, my husband’s persistent pneumothorax, and whooping cough. And for this year’s Special Edition of January, in the space of one horrific week, my husband suffered a mild stroke, came home from the hospital with a respiratory infection, and didn’t even get all the attention he deserved before I came down with the same virus.
Early this morning, as I lay in bed with a throat that burned like the Sahara Desert, I did my best to ignore the pain and fall back asleep. “The house is too cold to get up,” I reminded myself, “and even if I do, first I’ll have to go to the bathroom, then get some milk in the kitchen, come back to the bathroom for pain meds, and try not to wake up Rob with all that moving around.”
I knew I was right. It was too much trouble to get up for a stupid sore throat.
I guess I dropped off to sleep in spite of myself, though, because the next thing I knew I was standing face to face with Charlton Heston—Mr. Ten Commandments himself, but out of costume. And Charlton looked at me with those wise, all-knowing eyes and gave me this profound piece of advice:
“Go get some Tylenol. You’ll feel better,” he said.
Who argues with Moses?
I found my slippers, padded into the kitchen for medication and crawled back into bed before the sun came up. But not before I was consumed with overwhelming regret, something akin to what Aladdin must have felt when he realized there was no fourth wish.
You know that anyone who can part a raging sea with a stick, or play Chicken with Egyptian pharaohs, could ask the Almighty for permission to wipe the month of January off the face of the earth. He could do it with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. He could slap that self-centered month down and force January to behave herself or hit the road.
But I forgot to ask. I won the lottery and forgot to claim my winnings. Now all I have left is a headache to remind me how forgetful I am.
January scores again.
I’m gonna need more Tylenol.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Handwriting On The Wall

Iamaw rit er.

Ia maw rite r.
I ama wri ter.
I am a writer.
They told me if I say it often enough, I’ll believe it. That it will become clear and obvious.
It’s harder than it looks.
There’s a sign above my desk in our home office that reads, “Until you spread your wings, you will have no idea how far you can fly.”  The sign above that one simply reminds me to “Dream sweet Dream.”
I keep buying the words of random writers, hanging them on my wall and hoping they’ll lead me to the Promised Land where humor drips effortlessly from my pen and eloquence—does whatever eloquence does.
This might take a while.
I really love to write. It’s an open window to my soul. Geez, that sounds like an overused idiom, if ever I heard one, and not particularly original. Which, I suppose, is what makes it an idiom.
Sigh. See what I mean?
For some people, writing is a punishment. I blame school teachers for that. Remember how they made you stay in at recess at write one hundred times on the chalkboard, “I will not chew bubblegum in class”?
Not only did that give you writer’s cramp, but it totally popped your bubble. Sorry. Aren’t puns some kind of inferior humor?
Mrs. Fisher was the exception. She was my third grade teacher at Neil Cummins Elementary in Corte Madera, California, and I adored her. She’s the one who inspired me to love to write. She had a metal recipe box full of index cards on her desk. On every card was a title and, if we finished our work early, we could pull a random card out of the box and write a story to go along with the title.
It was magic.
Mrs. Fisher rewarded me with the privilege of writing. What a genius. But even more than that, she admired my stories and told me I was a good writer. Do you know what happens to a child when someone believes in them and tells them so?
Years later, I found myself sitting alone in a basement apartment writing lengthy emails to friends about my husband’s recovery from heart surgery. It was therapy for me—a way to deal with the extreme anxiety I felt. Putting my feelings into words was soothing. Crafting words that reached the hearts of others was healing. One afternoon, one of those friends dropped by to check on my husband and me and, as he left, he told me,
“You need to keep writing. You’re good at it.”
And I believed him. I believed him because writing is healing for me, even if no one ever reads what I write. And so I kept writing. Do you know what happens to an adult when someone believes in them and tells them so?
Right. Good for you. You’re keeping up.
So, I’m going to keep on writing. Until my dreams come true. Until I see how far wings can take me. Until I believe for myself that I truly am a writer.
Thomas Edison once wrote, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I don’t really feel like an overcomer.

There are a lot of things I don’t really feel like. I don’t feel like doing laundry. I don’t feel like vacuuming the floors. I don’t really feel like paying the bills.
You get it. I don’t really feel like doing that stuff. But I do it anyway. Eventually.
Sometimes I think I am defined by my behavior. When people first meet me, they always start out by asking what I “do”, especially if I’m applying for a loan or visiting a church. When I quit homeschooling our kids, even some of my friends asked me what I was “going to do now.” I told them I was considering petty larceny—because the hours were good and it paid pretty well.
I don’t usually say that to strangers, though.
Of course, the consequences of petty larcency make it a lousy choice, so in the end I always qualify my life and tell the truth by simply answering—I am a homemaker.
But that’s not really who I am.
If you take out all the things you do from the way you describe who you are to others, there isn’t much left to talk about, is there?
Sometimes people attend twelve step programs and define themselves by their weaknesses. “Hi,” they tell each other as they take the spotlight, “I’m Mary and I’m an alcoholic.” Or a gambler. Or a drug addict. Or a dozen other things for which there are twelve step groups. I’m not knocking support groups. They are a lifeline of hope for many.
But if I tell you I’m a homemaker, then isn’t it logical that I should live out my identity, walk away and start sweeping some floors? If I tell you I’m an alcoholic, shouldn’t I go drink alcohol? If I believe I’m a drug addict, doesn’t it make sense for me to keep doing drugs? Does defining myself by the things I do really give me an identity? And does defining myself by my weaknesses really set me free from them?
I’m just wondering.
Someone told me once that I’m an overcomer. Then I read that God says that’s who I am, too. I didn’t really believe it because there are still a lot of things in my life that I need to overcome. Maybe I shouldn’t walk around acting like I have a Master’s Degree in overcoming, I thought to myself, until I’ve officially overcome everything. Wouldn’t that make me a liar if I boast about my accomplishments before they’re accomplished?
I guess so. If accomplishing things was the basis for my identity.
But what if my identity is a gift. What if I stop hoping I can do anything to change myself and start believing I’ve already been changed? Because that’s another thing God said. The day I exchanged my life for His Life, I got a new identity. I didn’t feel it happen. I still looked the same. And it was years before I started learning the truth about what He did inside me that day.
But ignorance didn’t keep it from being true. It just kept me from living in freedom.
So I guess it’s true that I am an overcomer even when I don’t feel like it’s true. It’s true that I am as righteous as Jesus Christ. It’s true that I am His beloved. I am accepted by Him. I’m complete in Him. And holy.
Even if the floors are covered in dog hair and the water bill is overdue and all my socks are dirty. I’m still an overcomer.
Maybe that’s how freedom feels. Maybe God told the truth when He said He made me new. Maybe that gives me permission to believe it. Maybe defining myself has nothing to do with my weaknesses and everything to do with who He says I am.
Maybe it doesn’t matter if I ever feel like an overcomer. Just knowing it’s true is like a transfusion of hope that Jesus will always make me overcome.
And on my worst day, if I sit across the table from a stranger at Starbucks wearing my smelly socks covered in dog hair and no makeup, I can still introduce myself as “Eula, an overcomer.”
Bet that’d knock their socks off.