Stop Smashing the Angels! by Michelle Jones

My mother seemed pretty average to me for most of my life.  Like many she cooked, worked, and expected chores and good grades in return for lodging my siblings and me in her uterus for 9 months and then putting a roof over our heads after that.  She did do some uniquely wonderful things though that I didn’t really appreciate until I was grown and on my own.

Good meal etiquette mattered to my mom.  We knew how to set a table at a young age, and eat with one hand in our lap until we needed to use the knife.  We didn’t talk with a full mouth, or chew with our mouths open.  Eating with elbows on the table particularly bothered her, and whenever she saw it, she would tell us to “Stop smashing the angels.”

A little history:  She explained to us once that whenever you ate a meal, God stationed angels around your plate.  I imagined they were very small and had good eyes and quick reflexes, because she said they purified your food, and kept you from choking on fish bones and such.

Elbows on the table in our house meant squashing these benevolent celestials and presumably leaving yourself defenseless against all sorts of gastro-catastrophes.  I couldn’t be sure if there was room in Heaven for angel killers with food poisoning, but I was not willing to risk it.  None of us were.  We took it for granted that the angels were there, and for the most part, we kept our elbows in check.

Many years and many meals later, I’m still certain the angels are with me; only now, I have scripture to back me up.

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1: 14

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34: 7

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalm 91:11

Lately I have been challenged by the notion of those tiny angels around my plate.  Mom never said anything about them watching out for my elbows.  They just watched out for me.  In return, I respected their presence and their position.  My table manners were proof of my regard for them.  That said, I wonder:

Do I take God’s presence for granted?  Do I recognize His position in my life, and if I do, is it provable by my actions?

If we’re honest, most of us don’t really like the idea of availability and accessibility as presumptive qualities.  We want the option to bestow or withhold our gifts at will, when it feels right to us.  Open for caring 24-7?  Who does that?

God does that.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” He says.  We should believe that, and yet, how many times have we secretly wondered if—not when—He would act on our behalf in a circumstance?  Faith doesn’t wonder about God showing up.  Faith assumes He’s here already—even if He is invisible—and acts accordingly.

More than anything else, the names of God communicate a passionate determination to be close to us, as a protector, comforter, and defender.  He is jealous and fiercely possessive, tenderly affectionate, eternally devoted.  He demands our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul.  He gave all that He had to have us in the Person of His Son, Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

This is not the behavior of someone who loves at arms length, or who takes time off from loving us.  Our God is not content to sit on the edge of a dish and look at us.  He will not be satisfied until there is no space between us, until He is the breath inflating our lungs, the rush of blood through our veins, the thump-thump pulsing in our chest.

He is Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord who is present and accounted for, not just watching us live, but giving us life.

What then is my response?

If I know He is with me, am I calling out to Him?  If I am certain He is God, am I worshiping Him?  If I believe He is omnipotent, am I letting go of the reins?  If I am convinced that He is faithful, do I trust Him?  If I know that I was worth dying for, will I refuse to barter myself for the attention and approval of men?

The Lord can be our Shepherd, if we’ll be His sheep.  He’ll find us green pastures, but He won’t make us eat.  The still water, the rod, the staff, the anointing oil—none of it matters if we insist on going our own way.

Oh, to have the wisdom and courage, in all things, to let God be God; to keep my elbows at my sides and let His angels run free!

Advertisements

Psalt For My Wounds #1 by Michelle Jones

Who am I that You should care?

Who am I that You should choose to share?

Who am I but Yours?

That is enough, and still it overruns my shore.

 

Who are You that every star is Your story?

Who are You that my ugliness is Your glory?

Who are You but everything I need?

That fills me, and still it gives me room for more.

 

Lord, I love You.

You are my ear and my song to You.

You stand alone between me and me wronging You.

If not for You…

 

Who are We that You lift and ground me?

Who are We that You’ve lost and found me?

Who are We but helplessly, hopefully, eternally together  in Love?

That consumes me, and wonder of wonders, it makes me whole.

“The View From In Here” by Michelle Jones

I just went on Amazon.com and ordered my favorite movie of all time:  “Life As A House.”  It stars Kevin Kline as an architect who lived in a dilapidated shack on an amazing piece of property overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  He inherited it from his father, an abusive alcoholic who killed his wife (KK’s mother) and another couple in a drunk driving accident when Kline was just a kid.

Kline’s character learns that he’s dying of cancer at the beginning of the film.  He decides to spend the time he has left trying to make things right with his rebellious, estranged son who lives with his mother and hates him because he was never there.  They spend the summer building the house he designed for that property.  His motivation:  “…to give my son something better than my father gave me.”

As I watched the movie for the umpteenth time, I wondered, for the umpteenth time, how we manage these lives that we have “inherited” from our parents.  As we move through our days, sometimes it’s difficult to see the beauty around us because of all the crap that’s inside us.

It’s a beautiful story about relationship, redemption, healing, and forgiveness.  What always strikes me though is how the house they built together was one that had windows everywhere.  The view—which was ALWAYS THERE—could be seen from the inside looking out, and if you were outside, you could see the beauty that was inside the house.

Isn’t that one of the goals of life, to SEE what is really there, what’s always been there—the truth—and to show the world a “house” that was built with that view in mind?  If the “house” is my heart and not my physical being, or my circumstances, it makes sense that we can’t see the “view” as well from the shack as we can from the new house.  If we’re believers, we can only say so much about the awesomeness of God if our lives are not a reflection of the truth we say we know.  Kevin Kline tells his son at one point, “We have to tear this thing down before we can begin to build.”

I was afraid to tear down the house I had become so used to living in, because I didn’t know if I had what it took to start, much less finish my life according to the plans God has for me.  I have failed at too many things to count.  I have left so much unfinished.  I have been wrong more times than anyone has a right to be.  I was tired of watching my life fall down around my ears, over and over again, and I was too scared to believe God would—and could—meet me in my squalor and cover me as we built anew.

It’s tempting to want to just go outside to look at the view; momentarily forgetting the shack is where we really live.  I have been guilty of avoiding facing what’s damaged and neglected in my life, through deflecting, blaming others for where I am, or busily fixing other “houses” in other neighborhoods.  But those are temporary respites from reality.  Eventually, I have to go home and sleep in my own bed.  I have to hear the creaks under my own floorboards and the rattling of my own pipes.  I have to try and look at the view through my own tiny, dirty windows…until I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and do the work.

Once I decided to show up for work, I found out that God’s sleeves were already rolled up and that He—Author, Finisher, Designer, Builder, and Decorator—had always been there.  He was just waiting for me, because you see, faith only works when you do.

We’re all in various stages of “construction.”  I’m not always comfortable in my unfinished digs.  I imagine that I’m an eye sore to the neighbors from time to time, but the truth is they all have their own homes to deal with.  If they’re focused on mine, I can’t do anything about that.  I just have to keep hammering where I’m employed.

I want a house where the view can be seen from every room.  I know it’s doable now.  I am sure that’s the plan He has for me—for all of us.  I don’t want to just talk about a view that can’t be seen from where I live.  I don’t want that life.

Atlanta has been good for me because I’ve been forced to look at the condition of my heart without distraction.  It’s not always easy, but somehow God is growing my confidence in His ability and willingness to create the heart He wants in me.  The “view” is becoming more visible from the inside of me and in the inside of me.  I am certain now that before it is anything else, Love is PATIENT and KIND.  If not for that, I would have no hope.

I shared some of these thoughts with my friend Suzan, and she suggested I share them with others.  Every day this week, someone has said something to me about writing down what’s been on my mind and heart for others to see.

It finally hit me a moment ago.  Each time I learn a truth, and write about it, it’s like God telling me that He has installed another window in my house. When we do the things God put us here to do in the way that He planned for us to do them, it is like a window that gives us another glimpse of the magnificent view of Him.

When we love our husbands, raise our children, give to those in need, weep for those who suffer and lift our hands to help them, study and share the Word, celebrate the beauty in another person’s life, hope when life appears hopeless, or give ourselves when our pockets are empty, we confirm that there are windows where decaying walls used to be.

There’s lots of work to do in me still, but every time I look through a window, and see the view of The One who gave me my breath, it takes my breath away, and I am encouraged to keep moving forward.

Growing Older With Grace by Michelle Jones

I have a beautiful amazing friend named Grace who woke up this morning and felt every one of her 40-something years.  Today she is more than a little aware of her grey hair, the baby fat, and the aches and pains that weren’t there not so long ago.

She has decided that she doesn’t want to “go down without a fight.”  She is sorry that she took her beauty, youth, and health for granted.  Today she could use some encouragement.  I’m posting my response to her and to you too if you are finding it a challenge to grow old gracefully.

My darling sister,

Who decided that growing old “gracefully”–or doing anything gracefully for that matter–meant taking what comes without reaction or response? I am 49 as of a week and a half ago. I decided that Graceful is the thing that needs reshaping if I’m going to leave my 40s and enter the second half of my life with it.

Like you, I thought I’d just accept my grey hair as it came. However, it did not get the memo that I would not be ready for it until I was closer to 60. Until then, it is supposed to come slowly and discreetly. It doesn’t, so it must be punished with invisibility, because the rest of me is not finished with the black hair. The hair does not decide my age. I do.

As for the excess fat that shows up in the worst places, not a problem. We always say, “If I knew then what I know now…”  If I knew then that my body would turn on me like this, I would have been more disciplined about exercising, right? Okay, you know now what you didn’t know then. Why not do now what you didn’t do then?  Tell your body who is the boss of whom. I promise it will not always be easy, but Grace, we are tougher, wiser, and more determined than we were when we were younger, aren’t we? If we knew then what we know now, it just wouldn’t have been fair to be that fabulous! Balance…

What we don’t have now is nothing compared to what we didn’t have then. Youth is supposed to be taken for granted.  If it isn’t, then we’re just old people walking around in young bodies.  Where’s the fun and extravagance in that?

Society calls us “women of a certain age” because of our years. But I realize that I am also a woman of a certain age because there are some things I know now that I only suspected or hoped for when I was young. I am certain of the substance of my value, not just in this world, but to God, and to others. I am certain that I am strong and capable of loving the way I want to be loved.  I am certain that the truth is what IS, not what people tell me it is, or what I may feel in a given moment, or what I regret.  I am certain that these years on me are a good thing.  I wouldn’t trade what I’m certain of now for all the elastic skin and perky boobs in the world!

Recently I started working out because I decided I wasn’t going to “turn” 50 next year.  I’m going to ROCK it.  50 is going to wake up on March 22, 2011 and say, “Damn! I am FOINE!! I didn’t know I could look like this.  Thanks Michelle!”  And happily, my body is responding because I AM THE BOSS OF IT, no matter what I feel like when I wake up in the morning.

So the other day, I was walking into my dressing area like I always do before a shower. I got a look at myself in the mirror naked.  There is a beauty that happens in a healthy, fit woman as she ages that is more impressive than anything plastic surgery can accomplish.  When we take care of them, our bodies become the stewards of our beauty and not the other way around.

Get rid of everything that gets in the way of the beauty that your body wants to show you and you will be fine.  I’m saying this as a woman at the end of her 40s looking forward to rocking 50 next year on a cruise ship in a smokin’ hot swimsuit. I’m talking as a woman who has to fight off 30-something men these days.  I’m talking as a woman of a certain age whose body is certain about who’s in charge of it finally.

You don’t have to fight age. Just tell it what it’s supposed to look like, and watch it behave.  It’s different for every woman. What is it for you? I can’t wait to see.

I love you,

Michelle

Father Figure by Michelle Jones

My dad was not a nice man.  In fact, sometimes he could be a real jerk.  I don’t think he liked me much.  If he ever smiled at me, I didn’t know it.  This morning though, I was really grateful for him.  He showed up in one of those impish flashes of memory that dart from one corner of your mind to another.  It was an odd appearance at an odd moment, or so I thought.

I was working out for the first time in a very long while; my thighs muscling the rest of me nowhere fast on the elliptical.  Ten minutes in I felt a hundred years old. The iPod was pouring Justin Timberlake into my head, but I couldn’t hear JT over my labored breathing.  I gulped down another mouthful of water.  It seemed to evaporate as soon as it hit my throat.  Eyes closed, I tried to “see” the songs, but the pictures didn’t stay long before my body reminded me that I…AM…DYING!

The only thing I could think about without interruption was quitting.  My feet, legs, arms, lungs and heart, even my bladder (all of a sudden the water’s got something to say!), every part of me was whining now.  They were all saying the same thing:  “This is haaarrrrd!”

“IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD!”

The voice in my head cut through everything I was thinking and feeling.  It was my own voice, but not the one I have now.

I was 8 years old, maybe 40 pounds if you put rocks in my pockets, wild haired and energetic, with a mouth as big as I was small.  My tiny balled up fists were perched on bony hips, and wide eyes filled up with angry tears too stubborn to fall.

I was yelling up at my father whose face was a strange mixture of annoyance and shock.  He was good at shutting me down with an insult.  It was the quickest way to get me to leave him alone.  That day I had asked for help with my math.  My father was very smart, but he had no patience.  Sometimes he seemed to me a wonderful, treasure-filled house that had no doors and no windows.  There was just no way in.

He tried explaining the work for a few minutes, and then gave up, but I kept asking questions because I hadn’t given up.  Finally, he did what he always did when he wanted me to go away.  He said something mean.

He told me the problem was not the math.  It was me.  The answers were there, he said, but I was too stupid to see them.  Being stupid was like being nothing to my dad.  His mind was the only thing he’d let you admire about him.  It was also his weapon of choice.

Stupid.

If my father had chosen to punch me in the gut with all his strength, I would have had more air left in me than I did in that moment.  I couldn’t breathe.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

Stupid.

He stood there, watching me the way you watch a building demolition.  First you hear the muffled sound of explosions from inside the structure.  Then you wait, because you know that the real beauty is in how it crumbles—without noise or a lot of drama, neatly and completely.  He was waiting.  We both were.

Stupid?

That word whirled around dangerously in my head, smashing into everything I knew about myself, until it crashed quite unexpectedly into something big and immovable.  My father’s words had collided with Truth.

I almost didn’t recognize it.  I was so used to believing the smartest man I knew.  I had never disagreed with him before.  But here was something so simple and right, that as soon as I saw it, I understood it and it became a part of me.  When I looked up at my dad, I was pissed.

“This is 5th grade math!  I’m in the 3rd grade!  IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD!”

It was the only argument I remember having with him.  It was the last time I asked him for help.  It was the first time I knew I was smart.  And it was the first time I knew that it was okay for something to be hard.

I finished my workout today without quitting.  It occurred to me that I spend way too much time in this life trying to take the “work” out of my workouts. There is value in knowing something is hard and doing it anyway.  The fact that something is hard doesn’t mean you’re nothing.  It means you’re at the edge of yourself.  It’s an invitation to become something more.

Thanks Dad.

What if I… by Michelle Jones

I’m at the beginning of a journey I have begun many times.  I can’t see the end from here.  This is always the scariest part for me…day one, step one, moment one of anything I really want to finish.

The “what ifs” are already crowding my head.  What if I fail (again)?  What if it’s harder than I thought it would be? What if I don’t have the character to tell the truth when I slip or compromise?  What if I run out of run before I run out of race?

I know in my knower that all of this is panic and foolishness, but I still have to get it out and look at the mess as it is.  Courage comes with clarity, and clarity comes when I tame all the lying monkeys swinging between my thoughts and the truth.

Turns out the “what ifs”—despite their persistence and intensity— are not my problem.  They’re not hiding the truth from me.  Rather, they expose my duplicity because they have all been true at one time or another.  I have failed, fallen short, and been weak of character more times than I want to think about.  It’s not only possible, but likely that I will be again.

If I’m honest, I don’t like “what ifs” because they won’t provide me with the one thing my fearful self desires most—a good enough excuse for opting out.  Think about it.  Giving up because of what might happen is like losing an argument with someone you’ve never met. Do I really want to go out like that?

Dwelling on what might happen is a distraction.  We can justify it by claiming we’re wise for considering possible costs before moving forward.  Not so.  Costs are fixed and certain.  They are “what is” not “what ifs.”  Knowing the cost of something helps you move forward.  Wondering “what if” just holds you back.

The best use of your mind in the moments before you begin the journey toward a big or important goal is to ask yourself if it is something you would do if you knew you would not fail at it.  If there were two lists to be read aloud at your funeral—one of things you attempted to do, and one of things you would not attempt—which list would you want it on?

I suspect you already have what it takes to make a first step, don’t you?  I know I do, or I wouldn’t be entertaining worry at all.  What stops most of us is not lack, but slack.  All we really need to finish most things is to begin them, each day.

Day one, step one, moment one…

Here I go.  I hope I have company.

Of A Certain Age by Michelle Jones

I read once that potential makes good breakfast but lousy dessert.  Most of us believe that, don’t we?  Common sense tells us that fantasizing about who we could be is much sweeter than lamenting who we could have been.  The problem is common sense has never been a sensible judge of accomplishment or destiny, because we were created to be uncommon.

Let me be clear about something that may or may not encourage you to read further.  I believe there is a God; one supreme, amazing, spirit/person who imagined, planned, and fashioned all of everything except Himself, because He has always been.  His personality, His relationship to humankind, and His desires for us—as I understand it—are seen in the design of all of Creation.  Patterns repeat themselves over and over on earth and in the heavens, so much so that theories of big bangs fizzle not just in my religious mind, but my logical one.

That very belief brought me to an impasse recently as I looked back at what is likely more than half of my life.

Do you know what it’s like to watch time slip through your fingers like sand and wonder how much of the best parts of you are gone with it?  Have you ever choked on the ashes of dreams that can never be?  Is there a list somewhere—on paper or in your mind—of what you would do differently if you had known then what you know now?  Maybe you’re not hopeless, but do you hope less than you used to?

When we’re young and looking forward, our potential—and the plans we make to realize it—keep us energized.  In the run for our lives, they are simultaneously the wind at our backs and the prize we reach for.

But, somewhere along the way, responsibility supplants possibility in the contest for our attention, and our identity and the plans we once stood on with such confidence begin to wobble with the weight of our obligations.

We keep our balance by modifying and fine-tuning the plans to salvage what we can of our ideals about ourselves. We fall from self-made pedestals, a little bit with each change, adjustment, failure, loss, or tragedy until the ground gives way beneath us, and disappointment crashes into us from below.

The pain is real and we feel it enough to forget how good we felt dreaming not so long ago.  Which brings me to my impasse.

Lately I’ve been wondering when I stopped thinking my life was ahead of me and started viewing it from a rearview mirror.  When did I stop being ambitious and hopeful about what was in my heart?  When did it become resonable to decide that my destiny is less real than my disappointments?

Ants carry 600 times their weight.  Shouldn’t that show me endurance?  A caterpillar doesn’t wrestle in her chrysalis.  What does that tell me about patience?  A river keeps running over the rocks thrown into it, polishing them on its way to the ocean.  Is that not a glorious picture of perseverance, grace, and undying devotion?

Those patterns exist for a reason.  They are there for our benefit, to teach us something about how we are to live.  Why do we insist on existing beneath their example?

There is divine reason and purpose attached to me.  I was designed to succeed.  That truth is animate as long as I am.  Destiny does not have an expiration date.

So who are we to become?  Someone uniquely beautiful if snowflakes or butterflies are to be believed.  Perhaps someone as powerful, enduring, and life sustaining as the mighty Amazon.  Someone connected to a greater plan if we can discern anything from the very cells and systems of our own bodies.

I’m going to look forward as I advance on the latter years of my life, not wondering who I might become, but certain that who I am is enough to become whoever I was created to be.  I know now what I did not know then.  Why not do now what I could not do then?  Life happens.  It’s about time I returned the favor.

God Himself breathed life into me.  Isn’t it ironic that when I consider all He has done to show me that I have value in His world—when I look at everything He created to enjoy me and teach me how to enjoy Him—it takes my breath away.

O Come Ye Unfaithful by Michelle Jones

What sticks with us most growing up is not the memory of what is given to us, but what is lost or taken away.  I suspect it is because we are born without disappointment, ready to receive, certain that our sucking mouths will be filled, and that our outstretched hands should have and hold every object of our desire.

Baby Love is this:  I ask.  You give.  I am satisfied.

Demands for simple things—food, a dry diaper, safety—are usually met and keep us in this posture of entitlement…until someone offends us.

Offense—any infliction of pain or withholding of pleasure—is our first signal that the world and its people have the power to rob us of control, stall our drive, and make us doubt the wisdom of expectancy.  The first time a parent ignores our cries and leaves us in the crib to sleep through the night, we are outraged, and that feeling doesn’t leave us easily.

If we are honest, somewhere deep inside us is the belief that trusting people entitles us to their faithfulness.  It’s an infantile notion—the stuff of tantrums—that remains in us because we don’t know how to challenge it and win.  We don’t know how to declare the world unfaithful and still have hope while we’re in the world.  This puts us in one of two postures:  perpetually disappointed or perpetually hopeless.

How do we discover and experience love among imperfect people in an unsafe world?

First we grow up.

Love is a very high cliff over a very deep ocean.  Only fools “fall” in Love.  The wise count the cost of it, know the worth of it, then willingly make the sometimes arduous climb and JUMP into it.

Love is not blind.  It sees the world as it truly is—in all its ugly and clumsy incompleteness—then reaches for it, drawn not by potential reward but need.  Adults know that caring is no guarantee that you’ll be cared for, and people who offer love with demands for loyalty usually cannot be trusted to deliver or appreciate either one.

Second, we become skilled at the art of forgiveness.

Pretending nothing happened is not the idea here.  If my brother’s aught against me is not real, pardon is unnecessary.  Forgiveness is not forgetting to remember, but rather remembering to forget.  It is choosing, with each thought of vengeance, to let your offender off the hook because there is a measure of grace burning a hole in your pocket.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we have grace enough to spare.  But consider this:  How weak and deflated is the spirit of a bully?  How much evil does it take to shrivel the heart and create an abuser?  How long does the mind have to steep in ignorance and bile to produce a racist?  Grace doesn’t know the answer to these questions, and it takes pity on those who do.

Finally, we experience love in an imperfect world when we stop trusting people to be anything other than people, and start trusting Love.

The only thing people have the power to do perfectly is repent.  Don’t expect him to behave.  Expect Love to behave.  Don’t look for her to guard your heart.  Love will do it.  Relationships don’t heal us.  Love heals us and relationships.

Love does not keep us free from pain.  Bullies and abusers will always be with us on earth.  But Love will keep us free in pain.  Oppressors walk naked and unhidden before us when our pity exposes them as the only victim left in the room.

What sticks with us most when we live a life of Love is not the memory of what is lost or taken away, but the good we are fortunate enough to leave behind.

Love is this:  You need.  I give. We are satisfied.

The Eyes Have It by Michelle Jones

Sometimes life interrupts life, without warning or apology, and our expectations take a bit of a hit. We adjust and we survive.  Then there are those times when our own decisions—no matter how right or well intended—shatter our insides and cause huge chunks of tomorrow to suddenly disappear.  There is no adjusting then, only falling, into the pile of ashes that used to be our dreams.

This is the rest stop on the way to Beautiful.

My appointment with Dr. Christine Lee was still consuming my thoughts as I watched Adam and Grace exchange their wedding vows.  Sitting alone amongst the other guests, pieces of Now flitted by me like parade confetti, barely noticed, unclaimed, and then gone forever.  It’s hard to pay attention and die at the same time.

“I think you’ve made the wise decision,” Dr. Lee had told me.  “We’ll take out your uterus but leave the ovaries.”  She was sympathetic and knowledgeable, the kind of doctor you want when you’re finding out that what you’ve always counted on can never be.

I will never have children.

I had done the right thing.  There was no question in me about that.  It was a responsible and courageous decision, the return on an investment of focused study, prayer, and good counsel.

I will never give birth to a daughter or son.

Adam and Grace, newly Mr. and Mrs., breezed past my pew.  They appeared blissful and confident, a couple looking forward to everything awaiting them.  I was glad for them, and for a moment, I seized a piece of their joy and made it my own.

Later, at the reception, my friend Terri spotted me and waved me over to her table.  I didn’t see her husband Kent and presumed he was off somewhere kiddie wrangling two of their three children.  Terri was holding onto their youngest, a pretty doll-baby named Taylor.  I approached them kicking myself inside.  What was I thinking?  A happy mommy bouncing a happy infant on her knee was the last thing I needed.

“Hey, girl, and hey pretty girl.”  Instinctively I reached out to touch the baby.  I was not ready when she responded by reaching up for me with both arms.

I hesitated for just a second, and then I took Taylor from her mother, scared to look at her, scared to like her, scared that one smile from her would bring Never crashing down on me for the hundredth time in the past 24 hours.  I was so scared that the tears filling up my eyes would fall and never stop. Terri’s other two children walked up and she was temporarily occupied, confident Taylor was all right with me.  I wasn’t so sure I was all right with her.

That fragile emotional landscape where we are both undone and unseeing is a terrifying stretch to navigate.  We are raw, weak, and vulnerable; walking wounds wearing fake smile bandages.  Here, safe places are scarce, because well meaning words can cut as deeply as thoughtless ones, and pity is more often salt than salve to the heart exposed.

Taylor was fidgety so I stood up and swayed with her in my arms.  I sang and spoke softly into her ear as we slow danced.  It relaxed us both and we settled into each other like old friends.

I will never hold one of my own like this.

It was a huge fist punching a hole through the floor of my heart and my despair was suddenly bottomless. The only thing holding me together was sorrow and the tiny person breathing on my cheek.  I held onto my friend a little tighter.  She laid her head on my shoulder and I inhaled her sweet baby smell like my life depended on it.

I’m not sure when or why, but I stopped singing and began to share my pain with her.  She didn’t understand a word I was saying, but she didn’t seem to mind the transition.  She didn’t complain when a few of my tears fell into her fine curly hair.  Then, something quite remarkable happened.  Some of my sadness began to leave me.

I noticed it right away.  Taylor must have noticed it too because she lifted her head from my shoulder and tried to look directly into my wet eyes.  I shifted her a bit so we could face each other properly.

She stared more than looked, right through me it seemed.  I didn’t hide anything from her.  If she had cried, it would have destroyed me.  I was that breakable.  She didn’t cry.  She just stared.  So I stared back.

Her eyes were round and clear, so clear that I saw myself in them, like I was looking into two little mirrors.  It wasn’t normal.  I could actually see my facial expression.  I smiled, and I could see my teeth.

We are never left with only one way to see anything.  Rain is bad for a hairdo, but good for the earth.  Losing everything also means you have nothing to lose, so go for it, whatever “it” is.  Fear can paralyze you or present an opportunity to be courageous.  The depth of misery is also proof of our capacity for love.

Seeing myself in Taylor’s eyes taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life.  Because I do not have any children, all children have me.  I am free to belong to every one that I encounter.  For a moment, an hour, or a season, I am theirs.  My attention is theirs.  My smile is theirs.  My joy is theirs.

Oh, and before you ask Well Meaning and Piteous, I have not ruled out adoption, and I am open to marrying a man with children.  But those are issues for tomorrow.  Today, I have no children.  Today, there is nothing where my womb used to be.  Today, I cried as I wrote this.

But…

TODAY IS BEAUTIFUL.  Today, my body is empty, but my heart is full.  Today, I am available and accessible.  Today and every day, I am grateful for YOUR children.  Can you say the same?  Today, I am free to love.

Mind Over Mirror by Michelle Jones

Mirrors have no charm.  They are not in the business of mincing words or sparing feelings.  Spinach in your teeth, ketchup on your blouse, that booger you missed when you blew your nose; these are all things your friends and even strangers will pretend they don’t see, but the mirror will not hesitate to call you out for the slob you are.  There was a time I couldn’t go near one without it calling out something that was wrong with me.

Fat Girl!

Gray hair!

Surgery scar!

Get some sleep!

I used to think all mirrors were jerks, until photographs started yelling at me too.  Pretty soon, I didn’t even have to see my own image.  I could look at a woman in a magazine, on a television show, or clothes on a rack at Macy’s.  They were all telling me the same things:

You’re not small enough, pretty enough, young enough, rich enough, smart enough.

Your skin is flawed.

Your hands are not dainty.

Have you noticed that your breasts, which once pointed proudly at the horizon, are now focused on a point just beyond your toes?

I was secretly angry at the guys who were beside themselves about Halle, Tyra, Beyonce and others.  I was sick of designers who seemed to create their garments for stick women and not me.  I stopped trying on clothes at the store.  I didn’t like eating in front of people because I thought they were judging me with every morsel I put in my mouth.  (It didn’t matter that they weren’t, because I was doing enough judging on my own.)

One day it occurred to me that the mirror, the television, the photographs and magazines, all of them, had the same voice:  my voice. The mirror wasn’t the jerk.  I was.

Better lives don’t just come to us. They reveal themselves to us when we’re ready to live as we are and give up whining about who we are not.  Whining cheapens the privilege of drawing breath, robs us of our hope, and tells the world we serve a derelict God.  It is impossible to complain and say “Thank You” at the same time.  It is impossible to move forward, make corrections, or improve from where you are not.

Here’s the thing.  Sometimes we have to fight to have the life we want, not always, but sometimes.  Some of us have pounds to shed, others of us have businesses to grow, children to raise, or a degree to earn.  Whatever the case, the first “enemy” is always yourself, and your weapon is always the Truth.

If you had asked for help, not eaten so much, exercised, or gotten your degree, things would be different today. That’s a fact, not Truth. Truth is what IS, not what would have been.

You quit your job and might not find a better one in this economy.  You’re over 40 and may never marry or have children.  That is a possibility, not Truth. Truth is what IS, not what might be or even could be.

We move toward our desires by dealing with Truth and Truth only.  When we’re drowning in our complaints, Truth is the stone that rises up out of the sea for us to stand on.  Believing keeps us from sinking and leads us to more Truth and before we know it, we become men and women who walk on water.

I’m not married, I’m not Beyonce, and I’m not rich.  Those are facts.  The Truth is I’m a beautiful, brilliant woman.  My lines are more Autobahn than Route 66.  Perhaps one day I’ll meet a beautiful, brilliant man who can handle the curves.  The fact that I don’t know him today doesn’t dim my light.

My mirror still has no charm, but it is silent and I have learned to say “Thank You” for the body I have, the person I am, and the wisdom to take care of both. I have learned to hope for and work toward a better tomorrow from where I am, not where I’m not.

Where are you?

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: