Growing in Change

We change. We grow. We collect scars. We mature. We make mistakes. We learn. We carry wounds. We heal. We build relationships. We burn bridges. We hurt. We ignore. We decay. We develop.

We change.

I believe everyone changes. I don’t believe that the change is necessarily healthy or good, but all of us change. We can change into people who become more and more caustic and hateful, or we can choose to be people that grow towards health and wisdom.

I believe people can change because I can see the change in myself and the people around me.

I have grown wiser, more cautious, more outgoing, and occasionally more judgmental. I have become a better parent, wife, and pastor. I’ve developed my patience. I’ve learned to center myself in something besides myself.

I’ve seen my relationship with my husband, John, change over the past eight years we’ve been together. We’re still learning how to communicate with each other. I’d have thought I would have gotten more of it down by now. Apparently we keep changing and learning about ourselves, and keep bringing more to the relationship than we are aware of. This has been helpful to learn and challenging to navigate.

I’ve especially seen my daughter change. It’s easier to see: she adds a new word to her vocabulary each day. Her change is in greater increments. But when she reaches kindergarten, puberty, high school, college, or adulthood, she won’t stop changing. I’ll keep having to get to know her as we each keep changing.

I’ve even been able to tell that the daughter I am carrying is changing. Her kicks are getting stronger. She moves within me and listens to me sing. She grows.

I had a terrible migraine this past week thanks to Hurricane Irma that lasted four days. I cannot remember the last time I had a four day migraine. It was before I started trying to conceive our first child. The bonus is that I cannot take the usual medication I take to handle my migraines. I had tylenol and the ability to relax my body. After three days I got a rescue dose that knocked me to sleep and kept me out of the emergency room. When I am in the midst of a migraine that long, I have a hard time believing that I will never not have a migraine. I know, logically, that this is not the truth, but I feel like I will hurt and be exhausted forever.

What amazes me is that I lived through a season of migraines like this for a year and a half. I survived them hitting me in waves every single week.

What astonishes me is that it has been over three years since that season. I’ve gotten twice as far past that time than the time I spent in the midst of it. I’m far healthier now. I know my body better. I am more resilient. I enter centering prayer more easily. I am more able to relax my body through the pain, so that it doesn’t hurt as much.

As I spent hours upon hours mindfully relaxing my shoulders, jaw, hips, and neck, I realized I was receiving a small gift in the midst of the pain. Relaxing through an unmedicated migraine is not unlike relaxing through natural childbirth. The technique I use for coping with the pain of migraines is the same that I used for my first birth.

However, the pain itself is different. The experience and purpose of it are radically diametric. Migraines hurt because they hurt. Birth works the body in order to deliver a child.

Birth ushers in a radical change. The labor of childbearing, though intense, is productive.

Change in our lives will hurt. It either hurts because it is producing something new, or because we are caught in a cycle of trying to stay the same while change happens around us. I often get a migraine when a major weather system blows past. My body struggles to catch up to the change in the pressure around it. The weather eventually changes, and I eventually stabilize. But I am changed.

Every day, I change.

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Listening for Peace

We have a depressing drought of peace these days. I have to avoid the news before I center in the mornings or my mind is filled with woe and terror rather than peace and hope. For all the places where I’ve heard the world is not at peace, there seem to be another hundred lying under the surface where the news just hasn’t reached me yet.

For all that the world is not at peace, I don’t suffer much for it. I can spend a day off social media and have a wholly better feeling of how my world is doing. My grocery run is not interrupted because the immigration policy in the country is falling apart. My gas receipt might be a bit higher because of a flood that has devastated the fourth largest city in the nation, but that is the only way that my day to day life is affected. My children are not going to be targeted by police because their skin color is assumed to be a threat.

If I ignore what is going on, then my life is hardly affected at all.

But crying peace when there is no peace is not peace at all.

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,

saying, ‘Peace, peace,’

when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:14 NRSV

Simply because I am not in crisis does not mean there is peace.

And yet I seek peace.

Not peace in the absence of a storm, but peace in the midst of the storm.

Sure, I’d like to not have to worry about how much my health insurance costs and whether or not our daughters will afford to go to college or whether or not a tornado will hit our house but I seek peace in the midst of all of it.

Sometimes peace comes when I take action. It’s one of the reasons that I have marched and stood vigil and been present to hear the voices of others who are not like me nearly a dozen times in the past year and a half.

Peace is an action that we create with our words and with our bodies. We carry peace into places that have no peace and grant peace to others, if we respond with grace and patience.

I carried peace on my wrist for a year after my 14 year old cousin, Harper, committed suicide. I needed the reminder that peace comes from God, not from external circumstances. I still carry the reminder: “and all shall be well” on my wrist, a reminder from Julian of Norwich that even when the world is crumbling around me, God speaks into the chaos.

“They treat the wound of my people

as if it were nothing:

‘All is well, all is well,’ they insist,

when in fact nothing is well.” Jeremiah 6:14 CEB

There is a world of difference between “all is well” and “all shall be well.” Everything around us is in turmoil, lives are ending, and yet that is not the end of the story. God speaks peace into a world that hungers for it, and though we are not there yet, we can see glimpses of hope around us when people show up to help others, when gifts are given without expectation of payment, and when homes are opened for those who have lost everything. Peace and hope are here, but it is hard to hear them whisper with all the other noise around us.

Happy…

My daughter and I were watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood earlier this week, and the episode was centered around happiness. Momma Tiger taught Daniel a new song, the Happy Song. “This is my happy song, I could sing it all day long!” By the end of the episode, my daughter was singing along with the words “happy song” each time they repeated. Sometimes “song” has three syllables because the “ng” combination can be a bit tricky, but she gets it. She knows when she is happy.

I tried playing her “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and she wasn’t as in to it until she saw the Minions on the music video. She knows what Minions are. I liked the song before I ever saw a Minion movie, I was fascinated by the website that hosted the music video when it first released, a 24 hour music video of people dancing and singing to “Happy.” Its really hard not to dance and sing when I listen to this song.

I am always happier when I listen to a song that makes me want to sing along. Even if it is not a happy song in and of itself. I am driven by the emotion and compelled to join in the collective call that is created in the music. It can be a lament or a praise, a song about a break-up or falling in love, a cry of loneliness or a celebration of unity, if it is a good song, I will be singing along by the end. I don’t even have to understand the language to want to sing along; I can learn it phonetically.

There are other things that make me happy.

Blank journals always want to find their way into my possession and into my home. They hold such potential for what they could be. I have nine or ten of them waiting to be filled.

Every time I try a new recipe and change it to make it mine, I feel the satisfaction of making something worth eating. Plus, making an old favorite recipe, one that I can nearly do by rote and don’t even have to look at the recipe, brings me incredible satisfaction.

Learning or experiencing a new story or a favorite old story either through a book or movie makes me happy, especially when we have to tease out the reasons why it is a good story. Figuring out what the storyteller is trying to do when it isn’t always obvious is one of my favorite things that my husband and I do after watching a new movie.

The ocean, a lake, or any body of water bigger than a puddle bring me peace. Laughing and playing with my daughter, husband, or friends brings me joy. Playing board games (as long as they are explained well and not a few certain types) lets me work my creative strategic analytical mind and still have fun with it.

I’m realizing now why so many happy things I read are made up of lists, because I am tempted to keep on listing things that make me happy… but I find joy and happiness in a bunch of different places, sometimes I just have to know where to look.

Love is what you do and what you say

Today is my Grandmomma Janet’s birthday. I’ve had three grandmothers, each very different. Now, only one is still living, Grammy Sara down in Florida. The third was the first one we lost, Sue-Sue. Each of my grandmothers had their own special name. They had their own special way of being. They have their own special impact on my life.

Grandmomma Janet loved to share love with people. She went out of her way to care for others. She set up crafts for the shut-in ministry at her church, she made pear preserves every single year that she could, she hosted our family for Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters when we lived close enough. I learned table etiquette from her influence. (You cannot eat your dessert until the person serving everyone has been able to sit down and eat their first bite.) I learned that love is just as important by what you do as what you say. She was an artist, though she never quite claimed it. She loved daffodils.

Daffodils
Dancing in the wind

 

My grandmother looms larger than my grandfather, though I have memories of him as well. Granddaddy Norris still loves to work with his hands and build things out of wood. He loves cookies of all shapes and sizes. He always fell asleep while we were watching TV, unless he was watching Jeopardy, because he had to make sure they got the answers and the questions right. He loved to travel with Grandmomma Janet, they made sure that they took each of their grandchildren on at least one trip with them, to share that love.

Memories are funny things. We remember people from different times in our lives, and from different times in theirs. We put the memories together to build the composite of who we loved and who we remember. Some memories fade and some become crystalline, clearer with each year that goes by. It is important to forgive hurts and angry words, but it is also important to remember that the people we love and look up to are as imperfect as we are. Remembering loved ones as whole persons allows us to have grace for the people in our lives now. Norris and Janet at Wedding

Spinning

I faintly recall our house in Reidsville, and I know that the house in Greensboro had blue shag carpet in my bedroom, and that my sister and I “redecorated” the bed, her doll, and a few books while we were still there. I remember learning how hot things got cold and cold things got hot when they were left at room temperature… I couldn’t understand why my pear didn’t stay cold. But my first true memory is of a very particular merry-go-round.

The Merry-Go-Round is my favorite playground element. I like the swing, it is a very close second, but the merry-go-round? You spin faster and faster and faster and give yourself over to the force pulling you against the bar, never quite sure if you might spin off or stay until the next push. It has been years since I’ve been on one, but some of the same feeling comes when I go Contra Dancing, the same spin and release of control to someone else.

As a child, I always wanted to do the merry-go-round first. After church one morning, we went to go visit one of the mission communities in Columbus, Georgia where my father would eventually serve, Open Door. And I saw it. In the back there was a playground and I saw my prize: the merry-go-round.

Like a smart child who has learned the ways of the world, I knew that the quickest way to get from one point to another was in a straight line. Even if there was grass that was kinda tall, and there was an obvious path out of the way, I went straight to where I wanted to go.

I didn’t make it.

Stinging started.

I looked down, and my legs, in their lovely white tights (that I hated, by the way), were crawling with stinging things.

My seven year old self freaked out.

I thought that I had been attacked by a swarm of bees. I did not like bees. I did not want to be covered with them. But I was covered with stinging horribleness.

I don’t know how my mother got me to calm down enough to realize that I was not, in fact, being stung by a swarm of bees, instead I had run straight into a briar patch of sand spurs.

After I calmed down enough to sit, my mother and the children around me began to pick the stingers off of my tights at least enough to get me to take the tights off. There were too many stingers to get them all off a seven year old’s squirming legs.

I distinctly remember the kindness of the children around me and I distinctly remember that they were all black.

My first true memory, with a beginning, middle, and end is of children like me and yet with a different skin color than me.

I did end up getting to play on that merry-go-round, with those children.

I don’t know if I ever learned their names.

I don’t remember if I ever played with them again, though I don’t think so.

I’d love to say that I was always as kind to other children as they were to me, but I know that is not true.

I know that I learned that caring for someone is not based on their skin color.

I know that sometimes the path might not be the most direct route, but that the people who are part of the community know the dangers that formed the safest way to journey together.

And I know that playing together and working together is better than trying to push a merry-go-round all by yourself. If you take turns as the rider and the spinner, everyone has more fun.