Sipping Water on a Saturday in a Coffee Shop — Old Hickory, TN

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Today is a sitting on the couch, beside a newly checked-out book about Mother Teresa, rainy Tennessee afternoon. Yesterday, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????at least I had an answer for the pressure on my body, the big pain, the knots in my shoulders, leg cramps, and muscle spasms. This morning, I woke up in a lot of pain. I was foggy from sleepiness and I couldn’t get my body to move even though my mind had things to do upstairs. I cried in a great big hug my husband gave me, my head on his shoulder. He did the most beautiful thing he could have. He held me while I cried. While I talked about a garden I wouldn’t get to work in. Babies I wouldn’t get to have because it’d put to much strain on my body. Tea that I wanted to make that was just upstairs was hard for me even to get to … He made me speak positivity. He asked me if I believed in a big God and that he could heal me. Yes. Then, he prayed for me. What was important for me after that was that I got out of bed. Yes, it would have been one hundred percent okay for me to stay in and rest as much as I’ve traveled in the past 24ish hours. After two shots yesterday and a new medicine last night, I believe sleeping in all day was permissable. However, I got up. I needed to do something fun. To expect more out of my day. I needed to overcome the pain. I wanted to spend time with my husband. Admittedly, I had to give up the “showering, makeup, and cute outfit” aspect. But I put on some shorts, a tee, pulled up my hair and went on a trip of discovery with my love.

We began at a cute little coffee shop in our new town that we haven’t ventured out in a lot. We ate brunch and had a devotional. The beginning started out rocky. I was still groggy and in some pain and boy did I make the girl at the counter wait as I oscillated from choice to choice where my brunch was concerned. A few tears fell at the table, but I ate … Heath read a devotion from my “Freedom Refresher” book that I got after my spiritual cleanse in a time long ago. Then, I read Ephesians two out loud. I especially took to heart the part about God preparing good works for us to uniquely do in advance. Before I was born, God new what He would have me to do to love on His people and advance His kingdom. That was special to me and comforting because the last few months I’d been living in a lot of fear. God knew I wasn’t going to take the path most people my age took — that I had some healing to do, that I would graduate college late, that I would have the desires of my heart fulfilled and move to New England for two years, and that I would find the man I wanted to be with in my early thirties. I’m not “too late” for Him. I guess I’m right on schedule. Also, something I realized in a song this week. My fears DO NOT make God a “promise-breaker.”

After we ate and spent time talking about the devotion, we chatted with the owner and got invited to visit a church that seems to be doing some unconventional and spectacular things for the community. We visited some small business and found an artsy place that offers classes. We enjoyed conversing with the woman that owned the art center but also Heath found an opportunity to step forward closer to a dream he wants to see realized and I make get to teach a poeCome-Be-My-Lighttry workshop for kids. Finally, we went to the local library. Small and precious. I immediately found a movie I wanted to watch, a book of Mother Teresa’s writings, and a CD of Classic Musicals from the movies. None of this would have happened if I would’ve chosen to lay in my physical pain today. It’s not right or wrong. It was just a blessing.

The enemy likes to come at me with the fear of death. That fear had intensified in a colossal way since February. Consumed my life no matter what I did. It has caused me to forget who I am. How special I am to God. That God isn’t through with me. It’s caused tears and physical pain. It’s caused guilt over feeling like a bad follower of Jesus because I want to have more time with Heath and have a baby. Shame over succumbing to something that I know is irritional, especially in the light of the promises of God. But life is a battle. The light comes on and we shake out of lies we’re believing. We seek to overcome the darkness and fear because we were made to be brave. I love getting to be brave with God. I don’t always love the struggle. Finding out about Fibromyalgia wasn’t like discovering that my poetry book go picked up by a mainstream publisher or something. However, it was a blessing in it being an answer that took my eyes off my fears and gave me something that wasn’t life-threatening to seek to overcome. To seek healing for. To get up for every day even after I fall down. Somewhere in the journey we have to realize, it isn’t that life is unfair, it’s that perspective and gratitude are so important. If God is with me, I’ll go anywhere. Somedays crying, somedays kicking and screaming, somedays waking up and walking forward.

Happy Ten Years! Cheers! — for there are days I don’t even remember I used to wear the label “cutter.”

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broken chains“My chain are gone, I’ve been set free …”

 

There’s no rule that says you can’t celebrate a victory from your past while you’re walking through something you so desperately want to overcome in the present. This is a lesson I’m glad I have the compassion to realize in my life today, at thirty two years old. Today I wanted to wake up with ten years of healing, greeted by a day of gusto, energy, and something that God and I could do to celebrate together. What I found was a partly cloudy day (with sunshine at the moment) and a breeze that higlighted bouts of tears — some of thanksgivng and connection with God, some of fear and sadness, and some of just tears (because this happens to a lady once a month). I almost didn’t go to church. I was struggling a bit emotionally and my physical health has left easy tasks a bit more exhausting recently, but I wanted to be in God’s presence. This victory is His and mine. No one can know how great the darkness was, could have been there with me in the scary moments, and no one knows how immense the healing, how blessed a redemption, or could have shown me what a palpable thing true Grace is. No one but my Papa. So wearily I walk into Parkway Baptist Church in Madison and as I’m waiting for my sweet husband to come out of the restroom I here a song that has been special to me for quite some time wafting behind the people opening and shutting the doors to the sanctuary. In a church where every time I’ve visited they’ve sung mostly beautiful hymns, comes a contemporary praise song that in the past God has sung straight into my spirit.My chains are gone, I’ve been set free, My God, my Savior has ransomed me, And like a flood His mercy reigns Unending love, amazing grace …

There are some things that I am blessed to say in my life that I know from experience about victories and miracles. Truthfully, I’ve never understood why I’ve had so many when there are plenty of people who are desparately crying out for a specific one. I choose to be thankful and I choose and then try to remind myself to choose when I am not, to never take for granted the healing and the miracles (plural) that God has done in my sweet life. I’ve learned that victories that come from God’s healing are to be grateful for, to bring glory to him, but they are not there to be dependent on forever. God bringing me out of the depression, the cutting, and the eating disorder that really should’ve taken me out of this world was a huge victory in my life. There were days where I couldn’t make it hours without cutting myself or throwing up something I’d eaten. Ten years! Ten years since I’ve taken something sharp to hurt and bleed because my life was out of control, because I couldn’t be perfect, or I couldn’t stop pain that was happening to myself or others emotionally. I am thankful of that every day of my life, but it cannot be the last victory. Every day there is a chance for another miracle, no matter how big or small you just have to keep looking through the special vision only God can give. I can’t rest on something accomplished in my past.

It isn’t the last thing I’ll have to overcome. It’s a struggle some days right now to stand up or walk up stairs. I promised myself that because God set me free from paralyzing fear during the four years I really struggled deeply with self harm in my life, those days when I couldn’t leave a dorm room only watch other students enjoying life from those huge windows on the third floor … that when he broke that bondage to the kind of fear that makes you afraid of yourself that I would never walk in fear again. Yet, I’ve found myself in a season of painful fear. Does it make what God did in my life any less than a miracle? Absolutely not. But that huge addiction that God helped me to overcome in my life, well He never said it’d be the last thing I struggled with. Today I believe it makes this sort of celebration even more special because I know that I’ve overcome fear worse than this before and circumstances scarier and because today I know the tools to walk out of it. Miraculous in itself. I might now be a doctor and I might not know how to stop the body cramps, the whacky heartbeats, and the dizziness, but I do know who to go to with my fear. Which is why when I thought about how to celebrate my anniversary today with God and nothing significant popped out, I knew the answer was to share and share honestly.

Last year, Heath and I had our reception on June 1st. I didn’t think about the anniversary it represented on that day, but it was such a special date that worked out in a way that never could’ve been a coincidence. We had a huge party. I danced with Heath, I danced with my Dad, his Dad, and I danced with my Papa. I radiated joy. It was a great way to celebrated life and a new life with Heath.

I think we put so much emphasis on numbers. 5 years. 10 years. 20. 50. What makes them more special than 1, 39, or 17? Today is special because I’m living. I am in a season where I’m struggling at times, but I am living. I was floating in a sensory deprivation tank Friday night for an artist’s project I’m doing and I thought ten years ago I would’ve been cutting to get through a time in my life like this. Today, I’m already anxious from this season in my life and I’m naked, floating in tank, nervous, but I made it through the 1.5 hour session whole and intact. So, today is quieter but no less celebratory. I guess if you can revisit your fear and even if you have to crawl somedays and be really happy the days you feel like yourself … well, you keep going and you remember what a beautiful and different person you are — an overcomer then and now. I am learning to love myself over again, even when my chest hurts and the view of my life is through dizzy eyes that reflect a little more fear than I’d like them to.

Today I thanked God for being my warrior. Because even when I was stuck in the darkest addiction of my life He never left me. Because even though it was scary and I didn’t understand why it was happening, He was blessing me. When I went to sleep with a paper towel stuck like glue with my own blood holding it to skin that would scream in the shower in the morning, I held my hand in the shape it would have been in if another’s hand was grasping tight and I asked God to hold my hand while I was scared. I believe He did. When I was locked behind heavy doors in a mental hospital He was there — through the people I met, those that protected me, through the lives I got to touch, through a man that found a relationship with Him there, through tears in a bed when medicines made me sick, and as I read His word on that same bed clinging to Him for my very survival. Through the love of family, friends, and therapists. Through recovery after recovery. When I shouted at Him, questioned Him, and almost gave up, He was there. At a funeral, He brought a mentor. When, I drooled down my own face watching I Love Lucy with a group of othres in the same type of pain as me (the day that takes the place of and while you’ll never here me say “today was the worst day ever”), He never left me. So, today, ten years later when I cry in fear over a life that maybe I love too much. He isn’t as far as I think He is. I know He’s wiping the tears.

It’s our celebration today. Many more victories still to come. Always, grateful He’s loved me enough to not just walk with me when I can see Him, but when I try to take back the control that was always meant to be His. Happy Ten Years! It has been ten years of blessings, more miracles, and beyond my imagings of dreams coming true. Enough to fill an entire book.

Did you know that I met my husband sharing my story of healing to a group of girls in a detention center in Alabama? Think on that a minute. If I hadn’t have gone through that time of pain and darkness, I never would’ve had a story to share. God works in beautiful ways. I’m not the only life that was saved because the enemy didn’t win ten years ago and I don’t take credit for all that happened afterwards, but WOW, redemption is not just an idea it is an amazing reality.

Honest and real I wanted to share. I am thankful today where I’m and hopeful because of what I’ve had to overcome before, that there is a light out to something healthier for my body and my mind once this season is complete. Gratitude.

I also honor whatever you’re seeking to overcome today. Stick with it. Cry out to Him. It’s more than worth it.

 

 

 

 

Then I saw Heaven open wide — and oh! a white horse and it’s Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that’s known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as “Word of God.” The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. — Revelation 19

Easter Shoes

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Just a little bit of self-promotion and then writing to fall in the next few days. I have much to purge from my heart — and head.

Easter Shoes is a poetry book that I put together from my undergrad thesis manuscript. If you’re a local Nashville poetry fan, I have also been reading from it for the past two years. It is available now on Lulu.com and Amazon. Please check it out and support an avid lover of words. Feel freed to read it, take it in, review it, and share it with someone who needs to connect with the poems on its pages.

Much love to all who read my pieces and come out to hear them here in Nashville,

 

Amanda

 

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Hold The “Pee Stick” Downward or What to Expect Even If You May Not Be Expecting

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It has occured to me that all of you might not know Lily. Lilienne.I knew the connection to this post would be much harder if I did not introduce you to her … Lily is my daughter. I’ve had her for about 6 years now, but she’s still up in Heaven until she gets to come into my belly and meet us. My husband and I. All of us.

It was during/after the Oscars. The in which Kate Winslet FINALLY won. I was dressed up as usually watching the broadcast in my room. (I don’t like to watch with other people because I like to daydream, write my speech in my head, and I don’t like the speeches on TV to be interrupted). I began to think about the daughter that I wanted to have. I wanted to dress up and watch the Oscars with her, wake her up just to watch it snow or look at the stars, go on those adventures where you just pick roads one after the other and see what kind of fabulous destinations you find. I wanted to hike with her in the woods and show her all the things that I learned as a naturalist in New England. It was that night that I knew that I was going to have a little girl and name her Lily. I felt it. God speaks to me in special ways and I that promise. I wanted to have her whether it was just the two of us, whether she came through me or was addopted. Two fabulous ladies making life a beautiful adventure. I loved her so much. I began to share her with people. One reason was that my cousin’s were having babies around this time and I didn’t want them to take that name. The main reason was that I wanted to be able to tell her when she finally got her that her family loved her so much before she was even born. I wanted her to be born into love like that. So lots of people know about Lily. My friends in

other states, other poets, my cousin’s little girl, Hadley. When I met Heath (my husband) before we even dated I knew he looked like Lily. He had to love her before we even thought about marriage because I knew she would be apart of my life. He did.

A few days after my period was finished in Jauary, I had a huge mood swing in the car on the way home from Gallatin with Heath. When I got home, I got a fishbone stuck in my throat and did a lot of self-examination (that’s a whole other story). The next day I realized I hadn’t been acting a whole lot like myself and I apologized to my husband. I thought maybe my thyroid was acting up. For the next three weeks, I felt a sickness I had never known before. I’m always fatigued but I felt a tired that was double what I normally felt and came home on a Friday and went to bed at 6 PM and stayed there until the next morning. My breasts became very sore (this is something I don’t normally have with my cycle). I was nauseous like I’ve never been in my life. It was kind of like being seasick in my brain, I felt that my knees would buckle, and it was hard to walk very far. Smells made it worse. I never threw up but I felt like this every day for three weeks. Originally, I thought I had a UTI and some thyroid issue. In the beginning, my mom said, “Do you think you’re pregnant?” My answer was no. I’d just gotten off my period and it was fine. It was too soon. But as the days continued and the symptoms fell into place it was hard to ignore the idea.

Not to mention that there were signs. God speaks to me in special ways unique to Amanda. He has since I was a wee little girl. I’ve always had a special connection with Him. I’d put a movie in the Netflix queue that I’d seen the preview for a very long time ago. It arrived and one Sunday we finally got around to watching it snuggled up in the bed. The movie was, “The Incredible Life of Timothy Green.” The story is about a couple that cannot conceive and they write down all the things they wan they’re kiddo to be and bury these papers in their backyard. In the middle of the night, a boy comes into their house. Through a season he teaches them how to be parents and at the end of the movie they adopt a little girl — Lily. It stayed with me the next day as if it was something I was meant to pay attention to.

The first weekend after the pregnancy symptoms began Heath and I went to breakfast at Cracker Barrell. That morning whe we cuddled and talked we thought there might be a little Lily growing inside my belly. I felt so beautiful in his presence and so loved by him. We went to the toy section and there was a little blonde-headed girl beside Heath. She was talking to a woman that I thought must’ve been her grandmother and the lady called her by name, “Lily.”

When we were at the table that day, I told Heath I didn’t think all these things being brought to our attention was a coincidence. God works with me in this way and I try to pay attention to the little things. He said he would need a little more time to believe but he thought it was strange. That next night we went to church and I was still feeling so lightheaded and nauseous I thought wer were going to need to leave. This is when the pastor stood up and started talking about all the new moms and babies in the small church, “You may even be pregnant now …” He said. Heath put his arms around me. I was in a bit of a awed state, a daze. I knew I couldn’t go to the doctor until Monday, but when we’d gotten there I asked God to show me himself that He was better than any doctor could ever be. The pastor talked about being a parent and I took many notes. Heath and I have this thing where we right something affirming on each other’s arm during service. On his hand I wrote about how he’d be the best dad ever. Later, while we were sitting behind a couple with a little infant he wrote on my palm, “Loving Mom.” The next day we received a postcard in the mail that was not for us and it said, “Lily.” Heath was like, “Okay, God we get it.”

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It was a precious time for the two of us. His face would light up when I had a pregnancy symptom. When he left for work he’d say, “Bye, Lily’s Mom.” I felt so special. Very sick but special. I shared with my boss and my supervisor that I thought I might be pregnant. For several reasons … I wasn’t feeling like myself, at times I felt faint, and we had a huge conference coming up and it was going to require longer hours and I knew I’d been having to go to bed early and getting grouchy and sick when I didn’t.

The weeke before the conference we hand delivered invitations to the governor’s office, house of representatives, and the senate. I was very fun but it was my sickest day yet. I remember crossing the street and thinking about something that I believe was a blessing. All my life I’ve heard people/parents say you’ll never realize how much you can love a child until your a parent yourself. Somehow feeling this sick for someone else made me realize in a smidgen of a way how that could be amazingly true. You carry something for nine months, your body changes, you become so protective, and your sick for this little person in a mega big way. You couldn’t know that unless you were a mom. Not in that exact way.

I became protective of this little fertilized egg I thought was in my belly. During this time, I took a few tests way too early and some closer to when my next period should come. It was a hard wait. This is when I realized that having a baby is not like on TV. You imagine peeing on a stick and immediately having a response and finding a cute way to tell your husband and later to surprise your family. I did all theose things. The daydreams, the peeing. But I got negative responses. I trusted how intuitive I am about my body and the way God was speaking to me. Although, knowledge can be a blessing and a curse and this is where the internet comes in.

I knew we were buying a house for the first time and it probably was not the best moment to be pregnant. I also knew that all my life big things have happened all at once. I think God does that sometimes so that we have to draw nearer to Him and cling for dear life. So overall Heath and I were at peace and content. I felt happier even at work. I felt like I had a special something inside. I was so excited. There were days later where the enormity hit and I felt overwhelmed. There were days when the internet gave me too much hope. I began to pin things. (See Pintrest.com) I began to look up pregnancy symptoms. I began to get very excited. And then there was the conference.

I work like clockwork (my body). I was late. The only time this has ever happened is an extremely long time ago when I was purging and in May when I came off my birthcontrol. I was having symptoms unlike my normal PMS symptoms and I was late. At the conference, I felt nauseous and super tired. I also felt very faint at the reception Tuesday night and I couldn’t definitely tell when I waited too long to eat. I was sure Lily was coming.

Wednesday afternoon after lunch we started packing up and I began to have big cramps. This also is not the norm for me cycle-wise. Mostly, I have back pain with my period. I went to the bathroom and when I looked at the toiled tissue there was a skinny blood vessel. I broke into tears. This is the way I normally start my period. I was devastated. No it hadn’t been the “right” time. No we weren’t “trying.” However, I’d already fallen in love with her, spoke to her, had been protecting her. I was so happy to meet Lily. Finally.

I went and got my boss. He gave me a hug and called Heath to come and get me because I was really sick and shaking. When Heath got there he drove me home in light snow, took me upstairs, changed me into pjs, and put me into the bed. My heart was broken. I sobbed. I was angry and confused. I was upset with God because I didn’t believe He would show me those things for no reason. I was hurt because yes I wanted to have time to build a life with Heath with just us but I felt so excited to carry his sweet baby. I talked to my Mom who tried to sooth me, but the tears kept coming. Yes, God’s timing is perfect. But I wanted to hold Lily in my arms. My doctor called and this is where the hope I tried not to let seep to far into my soul comes in. He thought I could have had an egg fertilize and not implant in my uterus and that I might be miscarrying or I could still be pregnant.

So more waiting. He wanted me to make an appointment to have a quantitative serum blood test. So that the OBGYN could monitor my HCG levels and see what was going on. The next morning there was pink on the toilet tissue and I lost it again. The internet had told me about implantation and breakthrough bleeding. This could mean nothing bad. For several days, once a day and then later two to a few there would be pink. My hopes grew again. Lily might still be in there. It was a painful and confusing process. At times I felt very alone. I have a super sweet, supportive husband, but it wasn’t his body that was changing for three weeks, it wasn’t him trying to protect this little thing inside, and do everything possible to stay off his feet and anything else thinkable to stop what might be the inevitable. I knew that once a miscarriage started it couldn’t be stopped. I knew that. I got down on my face more than once in front of God and I told him I believed Him. I asked Him if it be His will for us to have her that she’d be okay.

And I waited. And I loathed cliches. I hurt. I hoped. I cried. I felt excited. I read too much on the internet. I trusted that everything was going to be fine. It was a logic Heath adopted earlier than me. If we were to have a baby we’d be excited and if not we’d get some time to continue bonding alone in our new house. I agreed inside, but down deep I wanted her so much. My breasts continued to be sore and I craved Cheesburgers and Kool-Aid. On Monday night of this week, I started cramping again and it turned into the flow of a regular period before slowing down a bit again. Again, I read some women bleed during early pregnancy. I went to the doctor because the appointment was already made and I needed a new OBGYN anyway. In the waiting room, I felt a bit silly. I wasn’t having the symptoms really anymore. Not since Saturday or Sunday. I knew I most likely just felt things too early and the baby hadn’t implanted or I wasn’t pregnant. Heath said, “I’m praying for you.” Again, I felt so loved. He’d told me earlier in the week, “Amanda, God promised you Lily, right?” I nodded. “Well, then this is not Lily. If God promised you Lily then she knows to stay in your belly.” (I told you I have the best husband.)

The doctor did want to do the test to rule out pregnancy, but she explained something to me. I was so blessed that day to be with a doctor who would talk to me and listen. She said sometimes for no particular reason your body can produce way more progesterone than it needs. This can cause a chemical pregnancy or cause pregnancy symptoms — extreme fatigue, breast pain, nasusea. Basically, your body is tricked into thinking it’s pregnant. It can make your period late and make it more painful. This made sense to me. It also felt good to have a doctor beleive me and that I wasn’t just making things up. I know my body. I’ve lived in in for 32 years. The test hasn’t come back yet, but I don’t think it’ll be positive.

This has been a hard experience. At times blissful. At times hard to handle physically. At times heartbreaking. I don’t know why God showed me all the things He did. I’m not angry anymore at Him. Just asking Him to give me the lesson. I am grateful for the things I realized and learned. During this time I thought of how much I loved someone who might not have ever been there. I only felt those changes in my body for three weeks or so. I can’t imagine losing a baby to miscarriage later on, to stillbirth, or even to lose a child in general. Mothers are strong, beautiful, overcomers. I also realized that I loved Lily for so long before she “got in my belly” of course I was excited to finally “have her in there.” If I can love and protect and want the best for her now, how much more when she really gets in there. It was an interesting experience to go through. A lot of the pregnancy stuff with no beautiful baby at the end. Lots of women go through that on a bigger scale every day though. Maybe I was just meant to share. I’m not trying to be naive or to even know how much worse it feels as pregnancy progresses and the end result is not positive. I just know I wanted her so much. It still hurts some down deep. Like having to return a special gift before you are ready to … I do know it’s much more than a plus or minus on a “pee stick” and there’s so much love in trying to hold something in so that it doesn’t slip away before it’s supposed to. I wanted to be able to tell Heath on Valentine’s Day that he’s going to be a Daddy. That time will come. I will cherish this time for what it was and keep trusting God’s plan for me and for Lily.

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 Trust what you know about your body. Trust God. Never give in to the lie that you are silly, dumb, or naive. Love yourself. Love your experiences. Just love a lot.

Sometimes Even At 32 A Day Can Become “Urinetastic!”

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Today. In this moment. I feel pretty. I say this because I’ve been having some difficulty adjusting to outwardly aging. Also, because I’m trying to marry the how young I feel and how fast I believe the year count is going. It’s not a bother. It’s just an adjustment. Many things ment this. Helping others. Drawing nearer to God. Watching videos of inspirational people that I admire for their stories. Remembering the truth that some people lose limbs, are born with handicaps (though end up being more motivated and amazing than people who weren’t), and without the opportunities I’ve had, so I need to get on with changing the world and worry less about my face and wrinkles that came from smiling and laughing. The fact is I think older women are beautiful, but no one ever teaches us how to transition from one decade to the next. All the magazine would have us believe 50 year olds look like 19 year olds …

But this story isn’t about 50 year olds. It’s more about 50 dollars and the tale is “Urinetastic!” At least, that is how I would rate it and I’m the one who lived it. 50 dollars. It was the set price for gifts for a dirty santa game we played over Christmas. I thought it was too much. For 50 dollars you can draw names and get someone a thoughtful gift that they’d really like instead of spending fifty dollars and getting something you’d never use or want. Alas, the dirty santa fairy smiled on us and we got to play. I’d been wanting a massage for some time and I ended up with gift certificate for just that. I picked it for the third time and it was locked. It was frozen. It was mine.

I didn’t even know if the company existed in Nashville, but oh how I longed to feel my body relax in that way. Stress oozing away. In the end, I decided to get a facial. I’d wanted to try one for a long time and I thought it would be healthy for my skin, plus all the aforementioned word paraphanalia in paragraph one. It was set. 5:30 PM. Green Hills. Facial. Ah … (which are also my initials)

About 3:50 I went to the restroom at work, squatting as we girls tend to do. Well, sometimes I sit on my hands but I’ve stuck my hand in strangers’ pee too many times to do that consistently now. As I was squatting, my mind wandered. I saw a Christmas tree needle from our artificial work Christmas tree that I’d taken down earlier in the day on my new boot and leaned over to pick it off. I leaned all the was over. What is that sudden fountain of warm liquid making your pants and new red, silky Christmas underwear soaked? Why that’s your own urine you sweet, fabulous 32 year old woman! Great, I thought. Maybe it was just a little. No way. So I pulled my pants off. Stuffed my underwear in my pocket and tried to blot. I didn’t want to go home first and get out in the cold and get stuck in traffic and be late for my first facial. I needed relaxation! Thinking it would dry in the car on the way to Green Hills, I still couldn’t quite push out of the mind that I was going to a ritzy part of town smelling of urine. Did I wrap my sweater that I keep at my desk around my waste and throw on my coat? Ummm … of course not. What my coat didn’t cover, I hoped my purse would and I walked in the cold toward the parking deck. This is where I turned on the heat and sat on a car air freshner. Sorry, Glade, but this flat, bony hiney was crying out for you.

It dried mostly and somewhere along the way I resigned to the fact that if people I didn’t know though I smelled like pee for I don’t know an hour of my life while I was in deep relaxation I could live with that. Was it in the back of my mind in the waiting room during a close intake session with the person that pre-questions you? Yeah. Was I awkwardly commando in some not so fabulous to be commando in pants with sticky urine on my legs. Yes. Before the facial, the asked me if I need to go to the restroom. I said yes. I also reminded myself to focus and do it better this time. I walked bare butt over to the paper towels, wet them, and wiped up and sprayed the outside of my pants with Lysol. This would have to do. When they took me in I was told to lie down on a heated table in a dark room while a lady pampered my face and massaged my neck, back, and collar bone area. Was it “Unrinetastic!” Oh, my gosh yes! I think a lot during massages and always misask or don’t ask for the correct pressure saying “Ow!” over and over again in my mind. I couldn’t believe it when the facial was over and walked out like a drunk girl. That’s how relaxed I was and just like some drunk girls I already peed my pants.

Sometimes we have to just laugh at ourselves, accept things, and relax. Sometimes even at 32 you have to embrace the “Urinetastic!”Image

Hope To Stir The Love For Writing Within (And I Waited One Week and Two Days to Post This)

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I want to start writing again. This statement is in reference to the fact that I haven’t written very much at all in the last two years. But it does indeed spring from a deeper well altogether. I began acupuncture a few weeks ago and on Thursday evening, I’m pretty sure the nice lady that was sticking me with needles shoved one right into my brain. I had a headache down the back of my head for most of the next day. Not to worry, though, this hope I am sharing with you does not come from my brain (that may or may not have a thinly shaped hole from an acupuncture needle). It comes from the creative part of my soul.

I’ve been reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I don’t read a lot of books on writing, but I enjoy her very much and so far the book is just what I need. I want to write again. With this desire comes more specifics. I want to write again because I love to write. I want to write again because there are things I need to say. I want to write again because I need to get out the everything I need to get out and stay healthy and whole. I want to write because I’m daydreaming and imagining. I want to write because I’m passionate and I’m learning new things. Trying to figure out new things. Because I’m good at it. Because God lends you a gift and you don’t just shove it down into your intestines and try to hold it there.

The summer after the 5th grade I got a desk in my room. I sat down at this desk and I began to write. I wrote because … I wrote. That summer I’d fallen in love with Star Trek: The Next Generation and it was going off the air. I began a novel with a young girl not too much older than I was who was the daughter of two of the main characters. I wrote her story. I wrote their story. And in a way, I wrote who I was, what I was feeling, what I wished I could be, and I began to find a voice for this character and most likely for myself through the creative process of writing. I want to write again — just like that.

I don’t want to rely on writing for identification reasons. I don’t want to always answer, I’m a writer. “What do you write?” Poetry. Memoir. Plays. I had three plays produced. I worked on a novel at residency in Vermont. I studied with my favorite writer. These are amazing things, but they are not who I am and they are not why I write.

I believe writing is to share. That we all have a story, a perspective, a vision that someone else can relate, connect with, or benefit from if we are willing to share in a real and honest way. I want to write more to not share. At least initially. I feel like right now I mostly just have my prayer journal that I keep to myself. I want to go back to just writing something I want to call and share with my best friend or read to my husband. I want to do away with that pride or attachment that any creative person has and stop checking to see if the blog I just posted has been read, commented on, etc. I want to write just to see what comes out. I want to write because I want to see where a character goes. I want to sit down and write fanfiction just because I miss the characters or the TV show and it gives me joy to revisit them.

It’s not that I don’t want to “be a writer.” It’s not that I don’t want to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl. However, I want to write because of the “fun of it.” I want to sit down once a day and just write anything whether it comes out at a reading or stays on my computer until I’m long gone. I am a writer. And while it’s nice to be published or study with cool people or do readings or have creative friends. I used to write because I had to, because it was part of who I was … I used to write because there was a computer on a little desk in a room decorated with gymnastics medals, Star Trek: TNG posters, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas photos. I used to share my work by passing it around in the hallways or watching the face of a friend in the desk next to mine. It’s not that I wrote to be something, but that I was becoming more me and more aware of who I was because I wrote. Sharing words is important, but everything need not be a blog or a post or something that hangs out there waiting for feedback.

Without the byline, without the esteem, without explaining who I am by explaining what I’ve accomplished I want to write. Everyday. Sometimes in secret. Just for the joy. Just for the experience. Just because it is what I was made for. In the still, in the quiet … Just me and the Gift-Giver. Just a lover of words.

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Struggling to “The Least” When the Love of Others Propels You “Up”

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201209-omag-conflict-balloon-284x426 imagesMy mind is in a bit of confusion. While my spirit is calm. It could be the good for of exhaustion I’m experiencing, the coffee, or, you know, just me. But here’s something I was thinking about yesterday.

It is beautiful to be loved on and to be made to feel important by others. I believe we should give that gift to one another as fellow human beings in a community of sojourners. However, where it can become a problem is when we start believing we’re important. It’s a thoughtful concept I was thinking on in reflection of a work even this weekend. It personal thought in taking inventory of my inner self. I can be appreciative of others treating me in lovely ways, but while I may be important to them relationally or in my role on a team. I am not important. I am a servant. I will constantly ask God for that reminder in prayer and seek to remind myself moment by moment. In a healthy way, I am always to make my self the least. It is my desire to be humble and to serve. So I must remember that having beauty and recognition and appreciation fed into me is not to make me go up and up like a colorful balloon into the clouds. I am to be more like a floating balloon. I go up when encouraged (in that sweet breeze) and then I let the heaviness of gravity (or a great, divine God) bring me back down to earth. I am constantly moving. Yes, maybe that’s how this thing is supposed to work we lift up others and we they lift us up as well, but we seek to bring ourselves back down. We ask God to lovingly push us back down. And we are full, like a balloon with His love. Satisfied. Up and down, up and down. Never just up.

I Don’t Want To Live In Nashville Without The Contributor — Please Read and Respond.

I was walking to work last week through downtown and I decided to take the left “walk” sign instead of the one directly in front of me. While waiting, I noticed a Contributor vendor on the corner by the corresponding “walk” sign. He had arm braces, long hair, and super cool necklace on. “How are you doing?” He asked in a way that was impregnated with familiarity. Did he know me from The Bridge? From noticing me walking to work? From that Saturday night Heath and I decided to pass out cupcakes to the homeless downtown? Was he at our wedding? These thoughts ran through my head, but I suppose they didn’t really matter. He told me about a degenerative condition he had in his back, that he’d been standing there since midnight, about some pain he was in due to illness. He told me he liked my blouse, looked at my engagement ring as he explained it was the same color as his birthstone. I told him I liked his necklace as he asked what I’d been doing. It was a conversation between friends and I’m almost certain we’d never met. He didn’t try to sell me an issue of the paper and I told him I needed to remember the following day to bring cash because I needed some recent issues of Nashville’s street paper. He said he wouldn’t keep me late from work. I said, “It’s nice to see you.” He replied, “It’s so nice to be seen.” It stayed with me. Made me smile. I understood what he meant. I remembered praying to God on the way to work for a renewal of dreams and a revelation of the things I am, am to be passionate about. Then, I saw my friend there on the corner by Puckett’s. It was my “best thing” that day.

Contributor vendors are often the “best things” in my day. If you don’t live in Music City, here’s the deal about our street paper. It’s a nonprofit that gives jobs to at least 400 homeless and formerly homeless individuals. Many vendors write articles, editorials, and contribute song lyrics and poems to the paper. Vendors by the papers they sell for a quarter each and then sell them on the streets of Nashville for a dollar each. In the paper, there are amazing testimonials of people finding themselves again after a season of being lost, procuring shelter and food, and sustaining a well-being from their jobs as Contributor vendors. I first discovered this amazing street paper and the people who sell them — those glad “to be seen” when I began visiting my husband in Nashville while we were dating. I loved buying the paper. I missed it when I went back to Birmingham. Heath was certain I would need to set aside a big chunk of my paycheck once I moved to TN just to spend on Contributors. These individuals selling words (which is my all time favorite thing) have been a tremendous blessing to me. They brighten my day and at times we would have 5 or 6 copies of one issue of the paper before the new issue was ever printed.

Last week, I missed a poetry reading I was meant to read at with some talented friends here in East Nashville. On my way home I began thinking how I wished there was another reading in August. Then I thought about having a reading with Contributor vendors who’d written poems for their paper and some of my poet friends. We could charge a small cover and then give the money back to a paper that is doing some much for the poor and homeless in Nashville and for its “housed” citizens as well. The next day I read an article which talked about the threat of The Contributor having to go out of business. The money that the vendors make stays with them and the paper is funded by donors. If The Contributor does not reach the funding it needs by the end of this month there will be no more Contributor street paper in Nashville. I don’t know about you, but I know that I don’t want to live in a Nashville without The Contributor.

I think about the beautiful lady that stands out on Jefferson Street. Her main goal is to wave at everyone in the cars and get them to smile, but many people look away or down. If you do look her way and smile she gives you a thumbs up and the most beautiful grin you’ve ever seen. She says, “God is good.” I spoke to her a few weeks ago at The Bridge ministry and told her she had a beautiful spirit and I enjoyed watching her worship. Then I realized who she was, the same lady that had greatly blessed me when I smiled at her from the driver’s seat of my silver Hyundai Accent. She told me that she used to live under Jefferson Street Bridge. Now, she has a home. It has no warm water and some holes she has to plug up, but it’s a home. She shared with me how good God is to her and that she believed He put her here to testify to that goodness and that’s what she does every day out at the median on Jefferson Street. She said that many people can’t even smile on their way home, to their families, to warm water, but that she knows the goodness of God and she wakes up every morning and acknowledges that. I love her.

There’s Mr. Snow who used to stand on the corner out in front of Dunn Brother’s Coffee by the Life & Casualty building when I worked as a barista there. It was kind of a tough time re-learning an old skill, having a lot of pressure on me, getting up at 4:30 AM to drive to work before dawn, working an afternoon job, and trying to plan a wedding. He saw me tired going in, tearful on my breaks sometimes, sometimes he just sensed things. He always had a word of encouragement for me. He was my favorite thing about going to work there. I shared my extra breakfast bar with him. He gave me sunshine.

There’s a man that sells papers on Music Row near where my husband works. I don’t know his name but to him I am “Queen” and Heath is “King.” “Hey, King. Hey, Queen.” He says happy and smiling. “I’m going to have a love like yours someday,” he told us after remembering seeing us walking the block holding hands. He was excited when I told him of our engagement and showed him my engagement ring. He asks where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing. I love him.

The older man in his hat out by Jack In The Box in West Nashville, the man with the light spirit and kind face in front of the Walgreen’s on Union Street that I see every morning … I love them all. I am thankful to them in so many ways. They contribute more than just to society, to the paper, they are changing the lives and days of everyone they come into contact with. They are working at something that has meaning and that gives back. They are heroes.

I won’t live in a Nashville without The Contributor. It is my hope that you can’t either. Please buy a paper if you see a vendor. Two. Three. Please consider giving. Prayerfully pursue tithing to this fabulous nonprofit whether you live in the city or in another state or country. Spread the word. “Extra, extra! Read all about it!” Give your extra. Read this blog and share about The Contributor and was has to be done to save it and the 400 (at least) jobs it provides to the poor and homeless here in Music City. Please. Because the truth is you’ll be losing a blessing for yourself as well as a chance to bless these vendors who stand in the wind, rain, snow — who bring the sun. Thanks ahead of time for seeing a need a helping make way for those who need their community right now. It’s not just a paper. These are not just vendors. Whether you’ve met or not, they’re your friends.

Contribute to The Contributor at their website or by mail:

http://thecontributor.org/The Contributor

P.O. Box 332023

Nashville, Tennessee 37203

from The Tennessean

from The Tennessean

Without Words (Saying Farewell to TB)

Have you ever just been so amazed by something that you feel different? You shake, your eyes well, and your face won’t quit smiling?

All you can do is get down on the floor and say, Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Today I heard a word I knew I would hear. Today I anticipated that word. For days, I’ve imagined it reaching my ears, the smile, and the excitement. Yet, I could have never known how sweet it would be until I actually heard it. Today the word, negative, changed my life for the better. I’ve never welcomed it more. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with TB infection about two months ago. I have been on INH (the preferred antibiotic for TB for a month). I was sick, exhausted, and becoming very depressed. (For more information, check out the testimonial on this very blog from a few weeks back.) About three weeks ago, I asked for prayer while we were serving our homeless friends under Jefferson Street Bridge here in Nashville. I was tired and had almost decided that it would be better for me to stay home and rest, but instead I went to The Bridge. That night, Heath and I were to be prayer partners. I’d been tearful. I felt like I couldn’t find a job, I couldn’t find myself in community here, I missed my family and friends in Alabama, and it was hard to keep my eyes open from the antibiotics I was on. How was I supposed to be the woman God has called me to be, find that lady I love, and be a fabulous new wife while feeling sick and stuck?

The first thing that happened that night when we arrived at The Bridge is that several people remembered us. When I say that they remembered us, whether from the wedding or from us volunteering at the ministry for about two years now, I don’t me that they don’t recognize our faces on other nights. However on this night, we were hugged, the lady that helps with the volunteer bracelets was excited to see us, and asked to see our wedding rings. In several ways, I was reminded that I do have family in Nashville, we are loved under The Bridge. The volunteers and the homeless at The Bridge are family to me. They are community. Mr. Christmas (The husband of the amazing woman that started the ministry who is a pastor here in Nashville.) told us to go have a seat in the chairs up front where some of the prayer partners sit on Tuesday nights. I hadn’t sat from that perspective since the wedding when he married us. It felt special. While we were singing I got up and went to talk to Mr. Christmas. I told him about some things that had been troubling us since we got married, that I had TB infection, that the medicine was making me ill, and that I was depressed. He said that he wanted to pray over me before we left. So during the prayer time, I prayed for two special ladies and then I stood as Heath, Mr. Christmas, and another pastor from his church laid hands on me and prayed for immediate healing.

We’d just listened to a pastor talk to the crowd about the woman with the blood disease in the Bible who reached out and grabbed the edge of Jesus’ robe (a very special story to me because I felt like God used it in my life in amazing ways when I was healing from self-harm). He also talked about Jesus healing the blind man, one of Heath’s favorite accounts of Jesus healing in the Bible. I listened to Candy as she quoted a shirt she’d seen that read, The church has left the building. I wanted one. I stood as three beautiful, Godly men prayed for healing in my life.

May I share with you my story? Pastor Daniel asked. Yes, I answered. He said that his family was a praying family and later in life he found out that he had tuberculosis. They found crystalized scar tissue in his lungs and that later when going to the doctor for his liver, he mentioned the connection with TB. The doctor prayed over him. Another x-ray was preformed and there was no scar tissue and no sign of him ever having tuberculosis. His name was Daniel, like the prophet. Daniel held my hand as he and Mr. Christmas imparted faith to me. As Paul did in the Bible, they shared some of their faith with me. While they were praying, I chose to believe God. I began walking in a miracle from a beautiful God that’s bigger than imaginable. He is listening. He is here. He cares. Powerful. Loving. Great.

While Heath and I were helping put away the chairs, I told him that I didn’t want to take the medicine anymore and that I wanted to be re-tested for TB because I believed God had healed me. The next day, I called the Department of Health that had initially diagnosed me with TB infection and where they were overseeing my treatment. I was told that the test would not be re-ordered by the state because I had been exposed to TB, I carried the bacteria that causes TB, and that the test was accurate and ALWAYS came back positive once someone had tested positive for TB. I was advised that I could go somewhere else and get a test done on my own, but that it was a waste of time because once a test reads positive, it’s impossible for it to read differently. I called my primary care physician and told him what happened, how sick I’d been from the medicine, and that I believed God had healed me. I knew he was a believer in God and healing. He’d also been part of my journey when God did great healing in my life before. He said that it was true that people always test positive after having been exposed to TB, but he wanted me to get a second opinion and see a specialist because the side effects.

Several beautiful confirmations and hugs from God came before that second test was preformed. I read a verse in my Bible that talked about God releasing from their troubles those who had high regard for the weak. A girl at the temp job I was doing said, “God listened to you.” It was in reference to something different and kind of out of the blue. She didn’t know I was a Christian, and I felt like the Spirit was calling me to pay close attention at the time, to take in the moment. I went to the walk-in clinic that afternoon and told them that I wanted another test. They’d done an early chest x-ray for me when I’d first be diagnosed. This time I noticed some things. The Bible verse on the wall, the lion (Aslan) up on the cabinet. The doctor there agreed to do the test. He was the second doctor that day that told me he’d never heard of the blood test that they use to test for TB (I later found out it is fairly new and used by those who do more specialized work with TB because it is more accurate than the skin test). I felt God that day, smiled, and praised Him in my car all the way home after having my arm punctured for the test. I knew it would be clear. Anytime, thoughts would come into my head that were contrary, I asked to be healed from any unbelief. Every couple of hours, I smiled at Heath and showed him my arm. Clear. In fact, nothing came up on my arm at all. Even a bump coming up on your arm is not how they determine if you have TB, they measure it in centimeters and test its firmness. We walked in at 4pm on Saturday, as I’d been instructed (Ok, we were early because I was excited!), and the nurse looked and said it read negative. The doctor ran his hand over my arm and said, There’s absolutely nothing there. I’d been after they injected me with the test, knowing that not only had God healed me from TB, but that He would have to do the impossible, change the outcome of the test. Knowing it was a Christian facility, I told them about what happened at The Bridge and how I believed God healed me. They were excited, and the doctor thought it was very interesting that I’d had two clear x-rays and now a negative test. He said that if I’d come there for testing, they never would have used a blood test instead of a skin test, and I would’ve never started the medicine. He was interested to see what the DOH would say and faxed them their findings.

The DOH told me that the test was fallible. That the results could be a false negative. That they believed in healing, but also in taking medicine when it was needed. It was up to me whether I continued the medicine, but that they wouldn’t make the decision without another blood test. I went to get my medicine and although they wanted me to start it back because my body had rested from it for over a week, my doctor wanted me to wait until after I saw the specialist. He, like me, was excited that God had healed me. Heath and I had left the walk-in clinic a few days earlier thanking God and celebrating at Chuy’s. Both Heath and Dr. Alford said, God doesn’t just do thing part way.

Now, while the guys prayed for me under The Bridge, they also prayed for healing from the depression I’d been feeling. The next week I struggled a bit after running out of my anxiety medicine that helps me sleep. It wasn’t a fun thing. It was a hard week, but it wasn’t the same as it had been before. I went to The Bridge and served despite my feelings because I knew I needed to be brave, to be there, and to be with God. That week God blessed me with a new job (that I really enjoy going to), I got to see my family, and some hopeful possibilities happened with our housing situation. All of these things occurred during the week after the prayer at The Bridge. and not because of anything I did, but because God is bigger than, well, everything. I also found out that the shirt Candy had mentioned, The church has left the building, was from a church in Brentwood and I asked the missions director if I could come and buy one. We spoke, he gave me the shirt, and when I left he said (having never met me), Wear it in good health. I’d never heard of this shirt until the night I was prayed over at The Bridge. I’d googled it and found it here in Nashville.

So, I made an appointment at Vanderbilt for last Monday. I didn’t ask for prayer because all I wanted to do was be thankful. God already healed me. He didn’t have to do it again. I was nervous to go to the Infectious Disease Clinic (I am OCD, and I asked God for a doctor who was kind and who would listen. She was amazing to me, and she said that the problem with having the new test and the skin test was this — what if you tested positive on one and negative on the other? She told me about other treatment options and the option of me just playing the odds, but that they would re-do the blood test for me and then we would talk. Maybe it was a false positive. Maybe it was a false negative. Maybe your pastors really did heal you. (I thought, Pastors don’t heal people, God does. However, I was thankful for her kindness and her listening ear.) She also told me that false negatives are mostly common with elderly people and that given my age and that my immune system works the test should have showed some kind of reaction. So the doctor left me in the room for the nurse to take my blood.

I sat there and I prayed. I thanked God. I smiled. I prayed claiming that His blood was alive inside of me and believed it would be His blood they were taking. I waited while more samples were taken. Four tubes. Today I called for the second time to ask if the test results had come back (It takes a week.), even though I knew the answer (I believe please heal me from any unbelief). I know how great God is. When we’d told Mr. Christmas about the negative test from the walk-in clinic he’d said, “God cared about you.” It surprised me, his response, but it was what I needed to hear at that moment.

Today I heard the word. Negative. The nurse said that she’d mailed me a letter, that the doctor said my thyroid was fine, and that my blood test was NEGATIVE. No sign that there was recent TB infection. No reason to continue medication. I was shaky. I thanked her. When I got off the phone at work I teared up, overwhelmed and amazed by God. Overwhelmed and amazed. I went to share with my coworker. No one could know how I was feeling, meeting with God on the inside at that moment, but I wanted to share. I want Him to be blessed, to receive the glory. My mind was blown. I went to get my things to leave and got down on my knees with my head on the floor. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I was in a daze.

Lord, I am amazed by you. I said this when I got home and laid face down on the hardwood floors at our house. How thankful I was to Him for letting me believe in Him for big things, even when others told me they were impossible, and for never letting me down. Every day I am loved and cared about by God. Today I felt very loved and special. Miracles do happen. Never believe God for just the small.

My God, how great thou art.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Even without words.

Thank you.

In the next minute,

in the following days,

when the things come,

when the distractions rise

may I never forget this moment.

Lord, you are Healer to me.

Lord, if you can, heal my son!

Jesus looked at him and said, If you can? Anything is possible for him who believes.

He replied, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!

Mark (I think), The Bible

Do You Like to Read? — Illiteracy is also a metaphorical problem that must be solved

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Monday night while I was lying in bed — my jammies on, my star night-light projecting colorful constellations on the ceiling. When instead of dreams coming my way, I thought of something I wanted to share through words. Still in the dark, I rolled over and jotted down some notes on one of the notebooks next to my bed. I love when that happens!

So much has been going on in the news lately and that night the Trayvon Martin case was pretty front and center on my mind. That was when I began to think about a Mr. Roger’s quote that I read recently. Mr. Roger’s was a big believer in the mindset that there is no one that you cannot love once you know there story. Oh, Fred Rogers, his trolley, his Chuck Taylor sneakers, and his rad cardigan. He’s been inspiring me a lot lately.

Well, in bed in the blue-walled room, I was thinking about human beings. I thought about the trial. I thought about the guy that mugged the man walking down our street. I thought about the homeless people selling the Contributor papers here in Nashville and the ones under the bridge on Tuesday nights. I thought about friends who have become distant. I thought about family members. This is the conclusion that I came to — we are are only our stories.

We are not a skin color. We are not a sexual preference. We are not a gender or an age. All the figures, the human beings you see walking around daily — we are solely a story. It is my opinion that the world would be a better place if we even took the time to view each other in this way even some of the time. That kid in the teacher’s class that is always late, never raises his hand, has potential, but would rather stare at an IPhone. The woman that calls your job to berate you about something you had no control over. That family member that let you down time and time again. The man in the mental hospital with the burn marks on his neck. That tween girl with the red lines marring her skin. We are not labels. We are not our actions. We are a story.

See, maybe the problem is that not many people in society really enjoy reading these days. People don’t like to read and are so focused on how things effect them or circumstances or feelings … we don’t see past the hurt, surface, or our own mirrors to read what has happened or is happening in another person’s story. An abusive upbringing. A single mother that works three jobs, hardly ever sleeps, and snaps at her children more than she’d like calls into the CVS to find out why her three year old’s cough syrup hasn’t been filled curses and yells at the 18 year old, part time, cashier that happens to answer the phone. She spends 15 minutes crying in the bathroom and wonders if she’ll be able to pay for herself to get through the next semester of her freshman year in college. The first ever in her family to go to university.

The young black man in the hoodie …

And let’s try it this way, the grown up, white man, who goes free after taking the young man’s life …

See here’s the other side of seeing people as their story, sometimes you have to take the time to view those that you don’t agree with, those that have wronged you, those that seem to have written their own stories atrociously. Can we be brave enough to look at these people as a story? The child molester. The murderer. The suicide “victim,” that took a few with him. The school shooter. The corrupt cop. It is not that we need to agree with the “stories” that we are taking the time to read. It’s that we need to see them … from the beginning. To forgive, even if we still believe that justice needs to come. To move forward ourselves. To believe in redemption of those that have “chosen the wrong adventure” in their story, so to say. Because though it is a challenge, we have to be able to see everyone as a story or the plan, it’s just not going to work.

Because here’s the final part. We must be willing to help write the story of others as we walk out our own. AND we can do it. A positive plot twist. Scary thing is as much as we hate to read in this country well no one has time to write (not even the writers). We want to erase. We want to tear up the paper. Throw out. Maybe even recycle. That’s where love comes in. How many people do you see in you day that you actually take the time to think about where they came from? The chapters that happened before you met that led to the dialogue or climax that you heard from them / witnessed today?

It isn’t about always being able to fully understand, but maybe, just maybe Mr. Roger’s was right. And maybe a boy in a hoodie might still be alive today if a man with authority had seen him as a story. It may take his family a long time, but someday they may see this man whose gun took their son’s life as a story and it won’t bring back the one they love, but it will help them to forgive for their own healing and to move forward. Maybe one day that man put “The End” on someone else’s life too soon, will see his story and change his own. Sadly, it may not happen. It’s a risky chance to take, this reading.

But we are only our stories. Read me. I’ll look deeply into your pages with magnifying glass, not skipping over the footnotes. Let’s brave this challenge as a community.  I believe it will be a huge step in the direction of bringing more “beautiful day [s] in [to] the [this] neighborhood.” What’s the story of your neighbor?

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