A Prayer of St. Augustine

Our community tragically lost a high school senior on Monday afternoon. It’s unspeakably sad and my commentary is wholly unnecessary…Here’s an old and timeless prayer as evening comes again for those who are mourning.

Keep Watch

Keep watch, O Lord,

with those who work and watch and weep this night,

and give your angels charge over

those who sleep.

Tend the sick, Lord Christ,

give rest to the weary, bless the dying,

soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted,

and all for your love’s sake.

Amen

I want Taylor Armstrong’s Hair Length

but I do not want her story.

She spoke in Virginia Beach last week. And I actually didn’t know who she was. I don’t watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ve seen a few of the Atlanta and  New Jersey ones but, honestly, the way producers portray women on these shows makes my soul die just a little. Keep in mind, though, that when I turn on the TV at night I am magnetically drawn to any and all coverage of Kardashians, so I am in no position to take a moral stance on Reality TV. Just wanted  to explain that I knew next to nothing about Taylor Armstrong before I read her book.

And there are a million and one ways I could take this post regarding the subjects of domestic violence, control, mental illness, raising daughters, intervention, tough love, grief, and yes, lip implants.

But I’m not going to, because you can read it, or even better, run, do not walk, to get into therapy and discuss all of the above. (What if your therapist could also give you lip implants? That would be a valuable co-pay. Ruthie look into this.)

 I will say that my favorite part of this memoir was the last few pages: the acknowledgements. Taylor thanks dozens of people for various ways they supported her over the years. And there are funny references and tender ones and jokes I will never understand (because these are not my friends). And it was in those last few pages that I found what I couldn’t seem to find anywhere else in this book – hope. Because, it turns out, throughout the nightmare that was this woman’s marriage, she was not alone after all.

And it made me think about who would be in the last few pages of my book…and whose books I might be in –  for showing up in the mess, and for refusing to go away.

Oh Williamsburg, I cannot help you if you do not help yourself.

Some friends from college posted a picture of their reunion this week. I commented about how happy it made me to see them together again.

What I did not add was that I pass their college house, the one we spent hours at doing that college brand of nothing, every day while driving to preschool.

How do I still live here?

I love it, I do, and I’m open about it. Sure, it will always be mystery to me that a town of 50,000 can support three, count them three, Chico’s, but the community, the scenery, the costumes, the college, and the ever-growing urban center that we live in (new burger place called Mooyas!) makes for a good life.

And for the most part I try not to defend it, because defending only shows you have something to hide…Right?

All that to say, when I saw this print ad:

I wanted to throw in the towel.

What Michelle Obama Taught Me about Parenting (the short list)

I read an interview where President Obama bragged on Michelle for how she has taught their daughers independence and responsibility. Starting at the age of 5, they got up on their own, got dressed, and made their beds.

AHA! This we must do, I think to myself, partly out of parental motivation and let’s face it, partly because, in some twisted way, I thought it could get me a step closer to Michelle’s wardrobe. (Do like Michelle…dress like Michelle?)

Sophia’s 3 “Chores” are to make her bed, get dressed and feed her fish. If she forgets anything, it’s the last. (Why is this fish so resilient?!)

I LOVE how she makes her bed…a new and unique masterpiece each morning:

I bet even Sasha and Malia don’t have a Carebear that big…

Beach House Books – Always a bonus

Before we left for vacation, I posted about what I planned on reading while we were away. But when we arrived at the house in Florida, this awaited me:

Beach house books! Paperbacks left by vacationers along the way with bent corners and sandy covers and plot lines that pull you in without putting you under. Delight! Can I tell you the authors whom I first met through paperbacks found on Beach rentals shelves? As a teenager this is how I read through every volume by Amy Tan and John Grisham.

This past vacation, I met Elizabeth Berg. I know I’m probably late to that party. I read two books by her from the above basket. The first I wasn’t crazy about, the second I loved, each took me about a day and a half and neither kept me up at night examining my existence. Perfect. Let me recommend this one:

 Sweet, tender, mother/daughter relationship, polio, and Elvis. (My descriptions never fail to make books sound  bizarre.)

What great books have you found or forgotten at a beach house? 

 

 

What I Love about Three Year Olds…and its not the hygiene.

This Sweet Face absolutely- will- not- ever- in- her- life use the bathroom before leaving the house. She opts to announce her need while we are on the highway, causing us to careen off the nearest exit into the nearest, sketchiest BP. And then as I hold her straddled body over the germ infested toilet in the scary scary gas station, she refuses to go.

 Love her.

And in the midst of our sunrise-to-sunset battles, I love Three Year Olds. Because when they are not defying common rules of civilization (you must wear clothes, you must eat,) they are talking. All the time.

And unlike Two Year olds, who are just beginning to build their vocabulary, and unlike Four Year olds who are starting to gain a sense of the world around them – Three Year Olds masterfully articulate the wise nonsense of their imaginations. And when I’m not holding 30 lbs in a gas station stall, it’s priceless.

Olivia has been planning her wedding in Ariel’s palace, when she grows a fin, after she plants marigolds in her garden, and before her Pony Party with Twinkle Twirl. She’s currently a Mommy to a purple pony and a pink penguin and she carries a treasure box with jewels for a wedding.

I’m having one of those weeks when I just can’t seem to get myself going. I succumbed and went to the grocery store when I realized all of us had adopted Olivia’s diet of bananas and buttered toast, only to forget to buy dishwashing liquid again, meaning I’ve been washing the dishes with hand soap (can this kill us?)

But with my Barefooted Mermaid Mommy by my side, I feel little judgement, and the freedom of  low, low standards. Perhaps reality is a bit overrated? Especially when there are Undersea Weddings to attend and marigolds to plant…

Rereading the Prodigal Son, and my Unfortunate, Elastic View of Grace.

When Travis told me I was being the “Older Brother” the other day, I did not fight it.  I’d always thought that brother had some valid points. Perhaps my mission was to give him greater voice. (Don’t you wish you used Biblical allusions as artillery in  your marriage? It’s great.)

He had done something I had been asking him to do and instead of being grateful I was just mad that it had taken so long.  (Don’t you wish you were married to me? It’s great.)

And then I dove into Luke 15, in that most determined state which simply means I am looking for something new to justify myself.

Do you know the story? Two sons, one father. The younger son asks for his share of his inheritance early, leaves, lives hard, spends the cash, ends up hungry in a pig pen (paraphrase) The older son stays home with the father and works the family property is responsible, rule-following, colors within the lines (paraphrase.) The younger son returns home looking rough and the Father is so happy to see him he throws a huge party. The older son resents this. Why didn’t the father ever at least let him slaughter a goat for a party with his friends? (sympathetic – We Puerto Ricans are pig roasters ourselves, but this story is Jewish and the pigs play a different role.) The Father tells him to get over it. He loves them both. (paraphrase)

The Father represents God. The brothers represent you and me. The story is about compassion and wild, unadulterated, ever-expanding grace. It’s a love story involving snorting pigs and slaughtered calves and emotions as messy as the ones I live with. And, as the lovely, nameless commentator who writes in tiny print at the bottom of my Bible pages writes, the story is, “…the essence of the Gospel.”

And in my poorly-motivated close reading I saw two things I had never seen before.

Luke 15:20 But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion.

The story draws a comparison between the one who appears to be “close in” and the one who is  “far off”. And the Father loved him while he was far off.  Before he got there. While he still stunk of pigs. Before he had a chance to give a speech of apology or a list of intended reparations…leading me to my second realization: That wayward younger son didn’t come home because he was sorry. No, no, he came home because he was hungry.

And the Father loved him as he was. And He threw Him a party. And gave him new clothes and jewelry. (Love.)

See, my understanding of grace, unfortunately, tends to be like the elastic bands that I wrestle Sophia’s hair into every morning. It stretches and grows in different seasons, but as soon as I let go it bounces back. If I’m not vigilent, my Elastic Grace bounces back to believing it can be bought with  eloquent apologies or at least good intentions.

But, the story doesn’t even describe good intentions. In fact, the older brother who assumedly has good intentions, we are left to think is even farther off.

What?

And this is what can be maddening about the Bible.

Or when we’ve spent some time in the land o’Far Off (or let’s face it, that’s where we get our mail), in the form of pig pens or in that scarier, darker form of always being so in with the Father,  it’s sheer hope.

Hope of wild compassion for the stinkiest ones, tired, hungry, and in debt.

Hope of wild compassion for the clean ones dying of bitterness and exhaustion inside.

And hope for great parties with the Father.

—————————————————————————–

A few years ago I heard Tim Keller speak at the Willowcreek Leadership Summit. In a two day conference full of dynamic speakers, media, and communication, this Pastor I had barely heard of, stood up, and with no catchy hook simply talked through the Parable of the Prodigal Son. And it was one of the most mesmerizing hours of the Summit.

It’s been years now since I’ve read it, but The Prodigal God is as easy to read as it is immersive.  Wherever/whoever you are, you will find yourself in its pages.

————————

image credit