Inflating a pool, deflating my pride

You hear a lot of voices while you’re inflating the kiddie pool in the high noon sun. Most of them are saying,

You are a moron.

Why aren’t the kids helping you?

Was that a wasp?

You are still a moron.


You might even appreciate the irony for a moment, inflating the kiddie pool while standing on the surface of the burning sun, that you paid for a hot yoga class that morning, HAHAH, which is basically the same thing, HAHA, in terms of working out in a sauna and breathing hard. The only difference is that in hota yoga your outfit was cuter and at the end the instructor placed an ice cold towel on your head as she whispered, “Namaste….”

Then there’s always this one voice that seems to intone not in your head but in your heart and it says,

Don’t be mad about this. Don’t be mad about any of this. Don’t feel sorry for yourself for one second. This thing you’re doing for your kids–

That voice gets interrupted for a second because you just bumped your head on the beach umbrella you were trying to drill into the ground near the sad-looking kiddie pool so that the littles will have some shade.

I know you just hit your head, says the voice, and I know how that feels. But be tenderhearted anyway.

You go in the house and tell the kids you want to share something with them. They look slightly alarmed because you are all sweaty and, “Mom, we were watching Teen Titans–”

“You guys, so I got the pool all ready for you,”

“Yeah, thanks, Mama,” they pat my shoulder just to maybe tamp down the crazy I might unleash on them at any moment.

“So you know, as I was out there and I was sweating and getting injured just to do something nice for you guys, I was thinking about someone who suffered a lot doing nice things for me,

“Jesus?” they say.

“Yeah. And how I don’t always say thank you. So that was just a reminder of how even Mommy needs to say thank you to Jesus more.”

All I have is the Gospel. Again and again I’m fooled by pride that I’m the one making big things happen. But all I have is Jesus and the grace he floods me with, the air that he pours into my lungs each day, which I offer in trickles and spits and poorly inflated pools to the little ones who are on lease to me. All glory is his. Namaste, Peace be with you, and Amen.

2016-04-25 07.36.05

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Wisteria Mysteria Whisperia

Wisteria. It’s a big gnarly vine that strangles other plants and bears too heavy for rooftops but for a fleeting moment at the height of spring, its color and essence are the most redemptive thing.

Wisteriate should be a verb.

Wisteriate (v) – To cause much burden by heft and upkeep but to offer just enough of a glimmer of brilliance that all else is redeemed.

I imagine the original Edenic wisteria, fluttering incessantly, the fragrance of paradise was the only global warming.

I think about a clever Creator that knew how wisteria would wisteriate in the gardens that would know darkness and frost.

How patient He is with us all, in our wisteriatings through every season.




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Sorry Not Sorry: On apologies and boundaries

I’ve seen my students punctuate tweets and statuses with a phrase, often in hashtag form, over and over: “Sorry not sorry.” It’s an anthem of their generation. The unrepentant declaration always bristled me. I’m not sorry. Ergo, I’m not apologizing. But I also get it–they’re staking their claim for feeling the way they feel, even in the face of elders who’ve raised them to be more mannerly, puppeteering their sorries when they really were not very sorry at all.

Photographic postcard of ventriloquist Alan Stainer of 'The Gaieties'.

What about when we really are sorry? What is required of us when we truly are sorry?

As a teacher, apologies are one of the currencies I am supposed to accept in the barter system of assignments and grades.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t complete this assignment in time. Technology conspired against me.”
“I’m sorry for being late for class today. My roommate turned off my alarm by accident.”
“I’m sorry I was not able to come to class today–I was feeling under the weather.”

I know there is a sincere sorrow in {some of} the sorries I receive. I know it does not benefit me to judge the sincerity of {any of} them. What is sorrow for something done in error if there is no repentance, though? What worth does an apology have that simply observes a custom of niceties?

Our tenant gives us a Christmas card. He apologizes that there’s no envelope. He apologizes in the card for all the noise. But he’s a musician. How can he not generate noise and how can he truly be sorry for the noise? He does not want to repent of noise–it’s his job, his identity. He still feels sorrow for the ways in which the noise affects us and the hours, decibals that it reaches us.

In this instance, I realize it is possible to hold two truths, one in each hand, and for neither to eclipse the other.

In one hand, he holds sorrow for causing us irritation.
In the other hand, he holds an unrepentant love of making his music.


This last school year, the personal theme that has emerged for me is BOUNDARIES. How I don’t have them, how I need them, how I’m afraid of instituting them, how ultimately I’m so mad at everyone because of my failure to embrace them. How I’m going to die if I don’t learn how to nail them.

Ahem. So yeah. That’s been my area of interest.

Like most hard-wired people pleasers, I have been learning to let the smallest biggest word to emerge from my mouth (it’s spelled N-O) while my neck cranks back and forth in synchronicity. I’ve got a long history of saying YES while on the inside the feelings were rioting and the heart was launching an OCCUPY NO movement and my hands got clammy and my sleep vanished as I lived in dread of the things to which I said yes, sure thing, you got it, you bet, you can count on me, YES – party of one.

I just felt so much guilt in the saying no, initially. So I said, Sure, Friend, you can sift through my closet. Then I got mad when she took all my clothes. I said, Okay, Teens from the youth group–y’all can sleep over in my dorm room. Then I got mad because I was sick for the rest of the weekend and got nothing done. I said, Hey, why don’t you come over to my house and cry at my kitchen table when you’re sad. Then I got mad when she wanted me to be her therapist.

Zweefduik / Swallow dive

It was all so virtuous, the reasons I said yes, initially. Jesus shouldered the weight of the world, surely I could sign up for one meal train. Even though my kids never see me cooking during the school year. Even though I sit down to a bowl of cereal most nights. I can ferry over a casserole to the church member who just had a new baby.

If you really examine Christ’s behavior in the height of His ministry, though, the Savior of the world had boundaries. He retreated. He made specific requests of other people. He delegated jobs to a bunch of knuckleheads even though He knew they lacked faith to even see them through to completion. He didn’t get mad that He said Yes to living in a broken world, even though He knew how it would all end.

I started to awaken to this once I saw that Brene Brown video that should be required for all people-pleasers and those in recovery from people-pleasing. She says she learned about boundaries only after she turned 35. Oh look. I’m 35. Maybe that’s why they don’t let you run for President until now in the hopes that you’ve learned about boundaries. Dr. Brown says that once she learned about setting boundaries, she became less nice and more loving. I absolutely want that to be my legacy. Not to be remembered for being nice. Niceness is the sugar in lemonade that hides the sour, niceness is a smile that fades. Love is enduring and infinite and we have more of it to pour out into the people who need it and who matter when we identify and stand firm on the boundaries in the rest of our life where we can only offer cups of sugar for their sour pitchers of lemonade.

I am learning ever so clumsily to hold the two truths at once, out in front to a world that wants me to choose only one. I’m learning the art of being sorry I can’t say yes, but also not sorry that I’m saying no. I’ve learned to say, “I’m sorry–I wish I could.” I’ve learned to say, “But I can’t.”

You can hashtag that “Sorry now, not sorry later.”


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