Boyfriend Wisdom

Back in March, I was reading through some old emails I had written to Stone.
In one particular email, I was pining for him. It was more prose than a letter.
I found my eyes tracking slowly
with a saddened surprise …
as I read my own words.

Stone and I were reunited as friends last summer at the first of June.
We camped together once or twice a month until September
when we decided to date …. long distance – Augusta to Atlanta.
We talked on the phone once or twice a week when he found time to call.
He is always busy.
We continued to visit as often as our “pre-dating” months …
about once or twice a month (truly not enough to “build” a strong relationship of any sort).
By November, our friendship was a solid five months old.
I didn’t realize that even as far back as November,
I wanted something that wasn’t available to me …
or in other words …
I needed something that Stone couldn’t offer.

In the email from November that I found myself re-reading back in March,
I read these words.
I sunk into a telling slump as reality was revealed in my heart.
My thoughts when we first met last June …
were the same as in November …
and hadn’t changed as late as March, almost nine months later.

I wrote:

I want you to trust me, too.
I want to understand the things that are difficult for you
so that I will be tender.
I want us to be able to talk through the tough stuff
without you having to change the subject.
*scratches head and wonders “Why do guys do that?”*
I want you to show me … explain to me …  so I can listen
and understand
and edify you and lift you up … build you up.
I want to be your helper.
I already love you.
I long for the day that we have enough history and depth
that I know that I am your best friend,  preferred over any other companion.
Time is good for that.

When the conversation became deep or difficult, Stone would change the subject.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?,” he would ask … until Joy or I would give in
and let him change the subject to his topic of choice.
This is the way he is built. It is who he is. And that’s fine.
I prefer to work THROUGH the difficult, not skip around it and ignore it.
This is who I am. I’m different from him. And that’s fine.

Back in March, I found myself in bed late at night when Glory came flitting into the house. I heard the door slam and she yelled for me until she found me.  She was getting ready to move out. She found a new room-mate and was ready to try it again on her own. She was excited. I had heard all about Elaine, but I don’t believe I had yet met her. The two came into my room and sat to chat for a bit. Quickly, the topic of Elaine breaking up with her boyfriend came up. I was interested. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Oh, no … don’t be sorry. It’s okay,” she replied. “What happened?” … was naturally my next question. Glory had to flutter away to gather some important things – probably laundry – before they flew back off again. Glory left Elaine sitting at the foot of my bed to tell the story.

Elaine’s calming voice told the story in a rich voice with an unusual inflection that I can’t describe, much less mimic. She said, as time went along, she found she would call one friend to join her for a movie. If she was sad, she would call a different friend for support. If she had great news, there was yet another who came to mind to be the first to share in her celebration.
And it began to occur to her …
she called her boyfriend
less … and … less often
to share in the day to day ups and downs,
trials, tribulations and celebrations
of her life.
And she knew.
Her “boyfriend” … was not her “best friend.”

I sat there dumbfounded.
This child …
this young girl of one score …
had nailed on the head
my relationship with Stone …
without even telling her story with that intention.
She had boyfriend wisdom that I did not.

It was no accident that she sat at the foot of my bed telling me this story …
this complete stranger … but friend to my daughter …
beautiful and wise, young and knowing.

I spent several months confused, perplexed, conundrumed. The more I was drawn to Stone (from September to April), the more I found him an impenetrable, well fortified fortress. He protected himself superbly from injury, not letting me in … at least, not in the way that I need in a relationship. And that is no insult to him … it is how he is built. I am built differently.   He has been injured and there places he was unwilling to go, there were topics he was unwilling to put on the table. We all have these injuries. There were places he would not give. We all have these places.  When I would share, “This is how a woman feels about ….. ,” he would reply that the idea was ridiculous or insinuate that it was silly. He simply did not understand me … understand how women are built. And that’s fine. He would say, “I just want to be Stone,” letting me know that it was just too much work to be pliable and flexible.  I do not want to change him. I wanted to share with him … but not make him someone he was not.

He was always telling me, “Let it go.”
I realized that I did, in fact,  need to let it go.
I needed to step back and leave him alone … let him be himself.
He is a wonderful man with incredible attributes.
But, the longer we were together
the more I realized that I was just
for him.

The harder I tried to be who he needed to be
(non-analytic … more reserved …. less emotionally revealing ),
the more I felt MYSELF becoming lost.
I was building my own walls and fortress.
I even found that I had formed an almost invisible grimace and flinch
that showed itself very quietly
when I was afraid that I wouldn’t please him …
when I would wear something, do something or say something
that I thought Stone wouldn’t like.
I doubt Stone ever saw it.
But, it was there. More than one friend saw it and pointed it out to me.
I didn’t even know it was there.
I was again in a relationship with a man that I was trying to please
by being what he needed
rather than by being myself
and in being myself
being the person he needed.

Stone was not my best friend …
and I realized
as I listened to Elaine talk …
that he never would be …
because I was trying so hard to change to be what he needed
that I was losing myself …   again.

How can we have a best friend
or be a best friend
if we are not ourselves?

Just a few days before my conversation with Elaine,
I saw a quote somewhere in cyberspace
that hit me right.between.the.eyes.
God is good that way … to speak to me about a topic time and time again
and help me work it through. I’m always looking for Him.
I thought about it. I shared it with friends. And then,
I made it into a magnet and placed it on my refrigerator as a reminder …
and to give me courage
to do the right thing
and set Stone free.

Soon I would travel to Atlanta to spend spring break at Stone’s house. Joy and I went over during the Masters Tournament. It was wonderful to be there and spend our evenings with him. During the day, Joy and I traveled about sight-seeing and visiting. We rode the Marta Monorail downtown for a day. We went to Stone Mountain. We spent a few days at Lake Lanier.
But I knew that I would soon need to step away
and stop trying so hard.
Stone and I needed to just be friends
and no more.

And on a bike ride event weekend on the third weekend in April,
I handed Stone a beautiful handmade card
that declared my love and affection,
and let him know that he was right …
I needed to let him be himself
and I needed to be myself.

He began to read the card aloud. I told him he probably didn’t want to do that
as his son was within earshot.
He asked if I was breaking up with him. I told him yes.
He then refused the card … in true form … refusing to look at anything difficult.
I looked down and said, “That’s just it, the reality remains the same
whether you acknowledge it or not.”
I had to share what I was doing and why.
He would rather say, “It’s a beautiful day!”
We are built different … he and I.
And that’s a fine.

I love that God will use
a plethora of situations like
daily events,
His grand, marvelous creation,
accidents like spilled cereal
or a young girl with gorgeous, brown doe-eyes,
covered in ink, beautiful and quiet,
to speak into my life.

I said from the start that I believed that my friendship with Stone was orchestrated by God. I said over and over and that I would remain with him until God showed me differently. We have a great deal in common. Stone and I both love to ride bikes, swim, camp and hike. We worship the same amazing, grand God who created this beautiful world of trees, rocks, water, earth and fire. It was hard to come to grips with the idea that he and I were not meant to be a couple. Stone used to tell me we were getting older and didn’t have time to waste. Like the forty-year old, childless woman who believes her biological clock is ticking and knows she needs to have children sooner than later,  he is right. Stone and I are nearing fifty and we have no time to waste.

But, I see it differently. I do not have time to waste being in an unrealistic relationship.
And I certainly do not want to be married and alone. I have done that before.
I’d rather be single than squander my time painfully trying to be someone I am not.
I do not expect him to sacrifice in that way either.
He has too much to offer and is too grand in spirit
to squander his days
with a woman who has needs that he is not built to fill.
The blessing here is that I figured this out
before it was too late.

I dropped my boyfriend

I …. literally ….. dropped my boyfriend.

The word came up time … and … time … again.
He would use it.
Then it would spill from my thoughts …. right into conversation
moving …. liquid … invisible yet quivering.
Believing with that
there are no accidents …. there is no “chance,”
I thought it no happenstance that we were each
grappling in some way with

Each time I have traveled to his home, I have taken a small gift or two. I plan ahead. I am intentional. I make him a card … or I pick up some sort of trinket along the way that I tuck into a drawer, leave on the dresser or place on a window sill.  At Valentine’s, I left a post-it note pad with a heart printed on I tucked a wrapped gift of soft and yummy Life Is Good pj’s in a hiding spot after one trip. I called him on a special day to ask him to go look in that same spot so he might discover the surprise. Just before Easter, I left an amber cross on his kitchen window sill with a few Scrabble trays supporting the blocks to spell the message “EASTER BRINGS HOPE.”

We all need “hope,” don’t we?

I have left a sweet note on his pillow,
the words “You are wonderful” scratched on lined notebook paper,
and cards of all shapes and sorts … all handmade ….
dreamed, created and left behind with love.

Then there was the smooth, river rock
…. a beautiful velvety, round stone …..
like the one above
with the word “TRUST” painted on its slick, dark surface.

Back in November, I bought a few discounted tickets to a rock climbing gym. I was in no rush to use them because I knew that every month I waited to redeem the passes was another month that I grew stronger as I worked out at the gym, ran and biked. But, the expiration date drew near and when I was on a recent visit to Norcross, Stone and I went to Adrenaline Climbing in Suwanee to try to scurry our way to the top of those knobbed walls.

The gym was per.fect. The walls were challenging enough that we could learn how to maneuver
without the daunting feeling of being surrounded by climbers with spider blood running through their veins.
The gym was big enough to have experienced climbers to watch without being crowded.
Our trainer was a young, strapping fella who taught us more in ten minutes
than we had learned in our several visits to the Bass Pro Shop wall .
It was really good to get some strong, helpful instruction.

But, even with the quality instruction, I still had a gut feeling that I didn’t know enough.
I asked question upon question as is my wiring and inclination.
My questions were answered and my fears calmed.
No. I wouldn’t be lifted off the ground as I belayed Stone down from the wall’s height.
Yes, the belay equipment (grigri) would even out the difference between
Stone’s 210 muscular body mass and my 135 lighter frame.
No. I wouldn’t drop my boyfriend.

“Really,” I was assured by my instructor, “You’ll be fine. Trust me.”

There it was again.
This was yet another exercise in …. “trust.”
With a deep, cleansing breath, I said “Okay,” and we began.
Stone climbed high and, with guidance standing right at my side,
I helped him repel back down safely.
We made the reciprocal move with me climbing and Stone keeping me safe.

Piece of cake, it was. I had nothing to fear. With a pat on the back and a quick, “You got it,”
Matthew stepped away and Stone and I were on our own.

At first, the distance between the ground and my weak hands gripping the multi-colored nodes concerned me. But, I began to feel comfortable. This was challenging, but still fun. Stone did an excellent job of slowly lowering me down. Smooth and gentle. He was awesome … which was no surprise. He’s strong, agile and athletic. I knew I was safe with him at the other end of the rope.

It’s quite amazing how little true strength it takes to control the rope that winds through the Grigri system. You can easily hold someone suspended with a single hand …
but I tended to use a wide open stance of my legs
– my body size, weight and strength comparatively small to his –
and hold the rope with BOTH hands …. for good measure.

On my first “solo” experience as the belay on the ground, I was a wee bit too cautious with the release of the rope.

I don’t think Stone’s harness was seated properly and
I stopped the rope too quickly
and found myself
LIFTED up off the ground
and moved towards the wall by about five or six feet ….
When I was still again,
he was hanging in the air
suspended and
pinched painfully between his legs the harness.
I was so embarrassed.
I was sad that I had not learned properly … that my fears had some true … that I had “hurt” my friend …
and that I was evidently a sloppy listener and could not follow instructions well.
Knowing that the experience is painful, I was determined NOT to let that happen again.

So, Stone went back up for another try on a nearby wall.

The next climb and release
was actually
more of a monumental failure
than the previous smooth move
that may have left him unable to father children again.With the release latch tight in hand,
about half way down the wall
when I was given the word “go,”
I opened the latch too graciously
which allowed  my 210 pound friend
to free-fall … at least 15 feet …. and hit the mat with a loud, knock-the-breath-out-of-you THUD.I could have died.
I know I turned red.
I was embarrassed … terribly so.
But, oh-s0-much-more-than-that ….
I was so very, very angry at myself.
This “exercise in trust”
proved that I didn’t have what it takes.
I had feared in my gut that I didn’t have what it took to be efficient
and I found out I was right.
My head spun with thoughts of all the spiritual/physical parallels.
It rocks with doubts of my abilities, trustworthiness and strengths.

Stone has never seen my cry ….
He has seen me tear up a few times,
but never has a tear streamed down my face in front of him.
But I warned him that afternoon
while I stood there furious and disappointed
that I might very well just melt.into.a.puddle
right there on that cushioned climbing gym floor.

We climbed a bit more. I didn’t drop Stone again. And he was never really mad at me.
I think he knew how upset I was with myself. He wasn’t injured physically.
If there was injury ….
I’m afraid it may have been more within me.

I trusted a man to instruct me in the caring of the life of a friend.
I listened to a young man who doesn’t know my caution,
my strength and abilities.
I listened to a young man who is comfortable and confident at belaying ….
though I knew almost nothing at all about it.
I listened to a trainer who is a
different age, gender, strength and ability
and I trusted him when my inclination was to stand trembling.

I should have listened to my gut.
I should have been more cautious ….
more careful ….
more …… something!

But, there it was …
I really was
I didn’t have what it takes.

My weakness and inability …
my lack of strength, knowledge and understanding ….
put someone else in danger.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

My mind reels with the spiritual/physical parallels.

The enemy tells me that I cannot be trusted.

And …. well …..
this is truth:  I don’t have what it takes.
I should trust my gut on this one.
I don’t have the strength, knowledge or understanding to keep someone else safe from harm.
I am often not weighty enough to counter-balance what I am up against.
I can be fitted with the right equipment, but may still miss the mark.
I can be instructed, but I won’t always “get it.”
The greater the distance from my trainer, the more likely I am to make a mistake.
There is a grip that is best … not too tight and not too loose.
Too much variance in either direction can put others – or myself – in harm’s way.

The One to trust here is not myself, but my God.
With the instruction of God’s word, I find myself properly equipped and directed.
With God’s Holy Spirit, I have a trainer at my side
to lead and guide me through every relationship I encounter.
With Christ’s reminder, I can experience grace and mercy
to forgive myself for my shortcomings.
I need not beat myself up for not being well-equipped.
If I were strong enough, smart enough, experienced enough,
and heavy enough ….
I would have no need of God.

But, truly, I need Him. I need Him to guide me …
that I might not cause injury
or harm
to those whose lives I touch.
Oh, that I would be t.r.u.s.t.w.o.r.t.h.y
in this adventurous life …
of relationships.

No Such Thing as Wasted love

I knew what he would say before I gifted him. I had heard it before.
I knew the phrases. I knew the tone. I knew what would come.

He tells me “Be yourself.” *exhale* Whew.
And so, I give gifts or cards or trinkets.
It is said that we love from the place that we need to receive love.
I guess I need presents (NOT expensive ones)
and written words on paper …
because these are the things that I give.*shrugs shoulders*

When I put away Christmas ornaments, I bring out Valentine’s decorations.
When I put away Love …. I bring out love.

So, at their last visit, Jet mentioned the decorations. Still mid-January he questioned why I had them up and what they were about. I explained that I think we should celebrate every day … so I love to decorate for each holiday. Stone chimed in that “Valentine’s is a girl holiday ….” with the undertone that women at Hallmark thought it up so that they could be lavished with presents (his words from another conversation.)

Later he tells me, “This is why guys h.a.t.e Valentine’s Day: On February 15th, girls go to work or the store or talk to their friends and they are asked what they received for Valentine’s and then the friends proceed to tell the girl how she should dump the guy because his presents aren’t good enough.” I’m not sure what to do with this interpretation of the holiday. *scratches head*

I’m often taken aback by his illustrations like this. I wonder where he has learned these things? I ponder the company he has kept. I would never think such a thing and I’ve never been privy to this type conversation. My friends are not like this.

And so … I work to break down another brick wall of skepticism about women.

I hide a box of chocolates on Jet’s bed under his pillow with a prized Lego set wrapped in white paper …. red curl ribbon cascading down. He will find it on the weekend after my visit … just before Valentine’s Day. I am excited to think of his happiness. And I hope I am tearing down walls built by his father that women are selfish and only want to receive.

I send Stone a card as a “decoy” … that he might think he is only receiving a card for Valentine’s. He receives it on Monday and thanks me. I fret about sending them sometimes …. having sent several through the months. Is it too much? I remember his words, “Be Yourself.” I should make that my mantra.

Tuesday morn, I ask him to check under the bathroom sink for something I pretend to have forgotten. He falls for my ploy. I have planted a gift for him there, just as I did one for Jet.

He finds that there is a present and a box of chocolates there. I am ecstatic that I have surprised him completely. And he loves my gift. I have chosen a set of Life is Good lounge pants in wonderfully earthy colors and a shirt to go with them. I know … I’m dreadfully practical. But, Stone is as well … and he loves the present.

As he pulls the boxes from under the counter, he begins. “Karen, you shouldn’t have … now I feel guilty.” There is this deluge of … scolding. I knew it would come. I let him finish and matter-of-factly retort:

“Look! There are three things that can happen here. I can stop giving you gifts … which means stop being myself. Or I can give them and you can get over the guilt and accept them as they are offered – as gifts. Or you can pony up.”

And to be honest, there is no need to “pony up.” No extravagant gift could compare to the card that he sent. It is the first card he has given me. It is the first time he has written my name.

The written word means so much to me. When we were shopping one afternoon months ago, he held the grocery list. I asked, “Please write down garlic before I forget.” He scribbled “I love you” on the bottom of the list. I kept his note on the remnant of the grocery list. It remains on my refrigerator beside other important things like Nina’s Save-the-Date magnet and verses of scripture.

I watched him pick out a card for his mother’s birthday. I know this card he gifted me was not the first that he pulled from the rack. I read and see certain words underlined. It is like the cards that my father chooses … carefully, intentionally, purposefully chosen for its words. This card … is a treasure. Outlined in a black crushed velvet, it speaks to my heart and makes me smile inside.

I think of this man … coursing with testosterone … highly competitive with a heart to “win.” Can I train him to relax? Can I successfully show him that I don’t require lavish gifts, big trips and lots of hoopla? Love might be messy … but it can also be easy. Women shouldn’t be work. We are meant to be … designed to be h.e.l.p.e.r.s … not WORK. Can I teach him that a small gift …. a card …. the written word … or even rocks (like my won.der.ful Christmas present) are HUGE to me?

With my switching from Christmas to Valentine’s decor, I exchanged my snowflake painting to one I painted about l♥ve.

I love the phrase at the bottom. It’s true, isn’t it?
There is no.such.thing as “wasted” love.

Love unreturned is not wasted.
nor is rejected love squandered.
As a lover of God, I must believe that all love offered
is an investment
and it will not go unnoticed by the heart
or undetected by the spirit.
Just because the one intended to receive the bestowal
does not know HOW to receive it
does not mean that it is misspent.

Loving others looks different from person to person ..
but we all need love.
I want to encourage you to continue to love that prickly person …
the one that rejects you …
the one who doesn’t know how to receive what you offer.
Give graciously, abundantly and without expectation
of thanks …. or even acknowledgement.
Give to the teacher who doesn’t seem to like you,
the spouse who rejects you,
the friend who has turned on you.
Love the neighbor who is brambly,
the child who has gone wayward
or the cashier who has obviously had a long day.
Give and love with no expectation in return …
for truly

There is no such thing as wasted love.

Stone asks ….

I sit on the kitchen counter and he leans right into me. Or will back me right up against the washing machine. He pulls me in close at the bike trail. He gets my attention to tell me
that he loves me.

His eyes dart away as he drives. He says he cannot look. If he looks me in the eye for too long, he is distracted from the task at hand. So, he must look away. I can’t fathom. Really?

He tells me, “Your eyes are beautiful.”  When he first told me, I blushed a simple thank you. The thought renders me speechless. Nobody has ever told me this. I think my eyes … are quite average and plain. Average lashes, lackluster color, small in size … they’re just not outstanding.
But, he thinks them beautiful *wrinkles brow* … and he tells me often.
He tells me, “I can’t believe nobody has ever told you.”
I think, “I can’t believe that you think they are beautiful.”

Ever-so-gently, he s.l.o.w.l.y outlines the oval of my face.
He tenderly runs his tall middle fingers from the part atop my head,
across my forehead and temples and down the hollows of my cheeks
until they meet under my chin.
“I like this,” he says. “I like that you don’t color your hair. It’s natural. I like the gray.
Don’t cover it. Don’t color it.
I like that you have these beautiful wrinkles here,” as he softly traces around my eyes.
I have not asked or fretted. I have not mentioned my gray or my thinning flesh.
I am comfortable in my covering of skin.
He is not reassuring me of doubts that I have revealed. He is instigating these expressions
of admiration
and frankly, I am … hollow with surprise …
After all these years of striving to be what another man wanted
and coming up short,
I now find myself
admired for what I deem average …
yet he loves me … in spite of me?

God is telling me that I can be loved, real as I am … gray and all …
warts and moles, belly fat and dry skin, selfish heart and self-centered attitude.
I do not have to be “perfect” … I can just be me.
I am thankful …

… and overwhelmed.

He has not run away when things get stinky
with our hodge-podge mix of offspring
and our own collection of personal baggage.
He is accustomed to a quiet, tidy, orderly home and life.
I appear disheveled.
Overwhelmed would be a better description ….
my children, my home, my life, my attitude …. are all a work in progress.
But, he has not run away.

Even when he visits our home,
he doesn’t seem to mind the birds chirping and molting
scattered blue and white striped feathers gracing the floor under the hutch.
He may even accept my Mudger, though Stone is NOT a cat-man.
And he adores Dulcie … he even asks me to bring her to Atlanta or camping next time.
I scratch my head in wonder. Really?
There is always noise with us.
The big kids, Joy and I, when combined, are a raucous bunch.
James tickles Jet, squirming on the floor. Joy screams and plucks instruments.
Glory is always loud. She does this silly little dance in the kitchen.
I sing … all the time … music following me from room to room …
Bose speakers in one room, iHome in another, my phone always playing a tune.
And he hasn’t run away. I am amazed.

Stone asks over and over ….
“You know that I love you, right?”
It moves me.
He doesn’t just parrot the phrase BACK to me
because I have first made the statement … NO!
He does not say, “I love you,” with a p.e.r.i.o.d.
He  i.n.i.t.i.a.t.e.s his feelings in question form
so that I must reply.
Did you see that? Did you? HE asks ME a question. I swoon.
He does this often … in the grocery store, the kitchen and on the trails.
I am bowled over by this … not an act of man,
but a gift from God … a reminder to me
that this man was hand-picked by a loving Father
specifically for me … the two of us complimenting each other’s
strengths and weaknesses.
To another, this simple question would mean nothing; to me, it means the world.
It is an amazing thing.

He loves me where we are the same:
patient, health oriented, positive attitude, frugal,
gifted to teach, creative in the kitchen, God-seeking, servant’s heart,
lovers of camping, biking, swimming, and God’s creation,…..

And he loves me where we are not similar, though I know it’s much more difficult:
He skims over the emotional because it’s work … and somehow feels unnecessary?
I look deeper, dig, analyze, turn over rocks. I hunt, search and want to talk …
because to me, it is as e.s.s.e.n.t.i.a.l to understanding.
It is not enough to know “that” … I must know “why?”
As a Geologist, he analyzes data.
As a writer, I analyze emotions, motivations and intentions.
The two are far from one in the same.
But, he has not run away …
in fact, he stays
and is willing to work through the messy.

And I rejoice.
He leans right into me, he backs me up, he pulls me close.
He asks me questions. He sticks it out. He loves me … wrinkles and gray.
And I am comfortable, hollow and overwhelmed with gratitude
all at once.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Biceps and Grit

As the days begin to lengthen, so will they soon begin to warm. Oysters are only available during months with names that have an “r” in them. We bought a bushel a few months ago when Stone came to town, but wanted to have another gathering with some friends. School will be back in session soon so Stone and Jet came over for a few days last week before we are all thrown back into scheduled life. We bought a bushel of oysters, invited a few friends over and stood around the grill trying to stay warm in the high 30 temps while we dined on oysters raw, steamed and grilled in the shells in butter, onion and garlic.

We had a big enough crowd that we almost finished off the bushel. When morning came, crushed ice lay piled around the cooler on the deck, frozen  and stiff from the frigid night air, having moved nary a bit from melting through the darkness.  Stone was intent on not allowing the three or four dozen oysters that were not consumed go to waste. Before he left town, he sat down with a shucking knife and pried open shells, scooping out the oyster while we chatted.

The warmth of his body and his breath powering down upon the thermometer on his zipper pull gave the false sense that the morning was much warmer than it actually was. The hour he spent outside shucking and then cleaning up the deck and scrubbing the cooler and utensils was greatly appreciated.

His strong work ethic and frugal spirit warm my heart. He is not wasteful. He is quick to offer a helping hand. He does not mind working hard or long.

In fact, while he was visiting, he took a huge slice of time to try to whittle away at a wood pile in our back yard.
He split logs for an hour or two … not at my request, but at his insistence.

I moved split wood from the pile he was creating to the fence line
and prayed thanksgiving … for him
ever aware that his friendship is a gift from God
and continuing to ask God to take him away
if he is a gift that God does not want me to indulge.
I always pray that I … we, in fact, Joy and I,
bless his life multi-dimensionally
and bring a richness and quality of friendship
that he has not experienced.
Oh, that we might be a blessing ….. please, Lord.

Stone is a man of character
with physical strength, fortitude and strength of will.
He blesses me
and he Makes Me Happy.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Stone gave me $#*@ for Christmas

I spent several days last week with Stone. He had a Christmas party at his home on Thursday. He was a bit overwhelmed with the addition of preparing for and hosting a party on top of regular life, so I offered to step in with my help of manual labor. I drove over on Wednesday evening so that I had the entire day Thursday to clean. I love community projects. I’ve had friends come over to help me clean or paint or move. I know how much it means to have another pair of arms and legs help on any project.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m not Amish at heart ; the thought of barn raisings or quilting bees makes me warm inside. I was excited to be able to help Stone.

The timing was such that his party fell just before the North Atlanta Rock and Gem Trade Show. Just a few years ago, Joy and I attended a similar show here in Augusta.We spent two or three hours purusing the tables, asking questions and exploring the interesting examples of God’s handiwork in gems and fossils. This beautiful ammonite (an ancient relative of the modern day Nautilus) sits on a collection shelf in our home, a treasure that we brought home for that show.

When Stone invited me to attend the show in Atlanta with him … I was … beside myself with excitement. To think that I would be attending a show with my own personal guide was … well … thrilling, to say the least. Stone’s teacher’s heart alongside my inquisitive, ever-questioning spirit would make a super match … well, for ME anyway!!

With rows and rows of tables and booths
pretties that sparkled and tinkled
and fossils with stories of old,
we spent four full hours meandering and investigating.
As the end of the show drew close, we had to move a bit faster.
I am certain we could have spent at least another two or more hours,
had we had the time to linger longer.

Before we arrived, Stone suggested that I keep my eyes open for a pair of earrings or a necklace that I admired. He offered to buy them for me as a Christmas gift. I searched throughout our visit, but only saw two little bracelets (bracelets that I would add to the string that I wear daily)  that I really wanted to wear out of the show. As we neared the end of the afternoon, Stone asked, “Is there anything here that you’d love to have?”

I shared with him that there was something I was contemplating buying …. but just couldn’t decide if I could justify the amount of money that it cost. He queried for more information.

I took him by the hand and led him back to Stones and Bones table.

You know everything that lives … has to breathe, grow, eat and poop … right? Has it ever occured to you that a dinosaur that left behind footprints …

might also leave behind poop? … that could turn into a fossil? …. a fossil, that when cut in half, could be polished
and stunningly beautiful?

There I stood beside this table of fossils and bones … explaining to my geologist boyfriend
that I really wanted a piece of coprolite.
He was quick to laugh at me and tell me that he couldn’t possibly buy me dinosaur dung for Christmas!!
“What will your friends think? What will Della say?”
But, who decides what is a gift and what is not? If we give a gift to please someone ….
if we desire to offer something that is exactly what the recipient wants …
then why in the world should the gift be limited to that which is
“socially acceptable” by all standards
rather than simply desired by the beneficiary?

I assured him that this was something that I wanted … no matter how silly it might seem to others.

So, gift it he did.
I’ve already showed my gift to at least a half dozen people including my friend, Carin, as we supped on coffee at Starbucks yesterday morning and Jason at the Apple Store in the mall. I took my present with me to show Carin because I knew she would appreciate  … NOT the present itself … but how much the present means to ME! She gets it … and she was so thrilled for me. She tells me time and again, “When you talk about Stone, you glow!”  I feel that is true. He is a gift to me … a gift for which I am grateful.After Starbucks, I went to the Apple Store to purchase a cover for my Macbook and ended up in conversation about rocks with the store Genius. Turns out Jason is a fossil hound and rock collector, too. As he rang up my purchase, I ran out to my van to retrieve my prize so I could show it to him. I just don’t care how silly I look …. why not share excitement about life with others? Right?Yes, the topic even came up at Aerie in the mall as I chose new lingerie … and with the sweet cashier at Williams and Sonoma as I picked out a wonderful gift for Stone’s dining table. Can you tell I’m tickled? I’m sure Stone will give me another gift … something that doesn’t sound as ridiculous as dinosaur poop …..
but … really …. is there something that would be quite as neat and fascinating to me?
Coprolite will be really hard to beat!!
So, as silly as it sounds, my boyfriend gave me #%@& for Christmas.
And I couldn’t be more happy.

How are things progressing?

I tell people, he’s such a good guy. I tell them how wonderful he is … I tell HIM how wonderful he is.

Because he is.
But, it’s more than that … more specific than one adjective can describe.

He is a good guy
f.o.r me.

We are well fitted in many aspects. We are compatible. We compliment each.
Our personal strengths and weaknesses work together in an excellent, healthy balance.

I often find myself apologizing
because I talk about Stone
a lot.
Alas, my poor friends …
because I must work to keep my conversations from circling back around to him
and Him …. all He,
my God,
is doing in my life.

In a recent conversation, a friend asked, “So, how is your relationship progressing?”

I hesitated.

“progressing”  ……

I gave it a moment  …
that word not setting well in my spirit …
and replied, “I don’t like the word “progressing.”
Progressing says “movement” or that Stone and I are “going somewhere.” While it’s true, no healthy relationship should be stagnant and still,

I am cautious of movement in a.n.y direction …
in part, because where we “are” is such a good place to be.

I searched my mind for a metaphor and thought about swimming.
“Progressing” says that we are swimming across the ocean. I have stepped into the sea and I am making my way from Georgia across the Atlantic ocean towards Europe. There was a departure
and will be an arrival.
Progressing implies … a start and an end.
With this swim in mind, the focus is dual: on making sure that I swim well so I make it safely to the other side … alive
on the goal – walking up onto distant shore.

This is not where I am living.
This is not my perspective.

My friendship with Stone
is more like enjoying a swim in a wonderfully designed swimming pool.
The water is a fabulous temperature. It is cool and refreshing. It quenches me from within. The sun warms my skin and supples me from without. The summer air is sublime. The pool is beautifully constructed with a small fountain that adds ambiance and revitalizing sound and motion. It keeps the water fresh as it is filtered. It keeps the pool from becoming stagnant, should no others come to stir the waters and keep the water in motion.  There is gorgeous landscaping that fills the eye with green to compliment the blue in the water and sky. The natural stone accents add dimension and texture for the eye to enjoy. The pool is huge … large enough for many swimmers … lots of fellowship … yet, I can swim for exercise to build muscle. And there are pocket seats nestled around the pool’s edge for resting. There are life guards close by for instruction in technique, if desired, and, of course, for rescue, should help be needful. Can you picture it? This place is a place to linger and enjoy. This place
is a good place.

As the parallel came to mind, I thought of the quote
Life is a journey ….

not a destination.

This is where I am. I am not swimming furiously towards a goal, fretting about training, strength, energy, dehydration, being sideswiped by a faster swimmer, attacked by a shark or overtaken by waves.  I am not focused on “there” … so I can arrive and celebrate  … have my muscles massaged, refuel, hydrate and rest up and begin training for the next event. No. I am swimming in a pool at a spa that was hand chosen by my Heavenly Father.  I do not want to “progress” in the waters of time that I might arrive at some final destination.

I just want to be right here
right now
enjoying the swim, the waters and the surroundings

It’s a good place to be
and I’m quite thankful for this perspective.

I don’t trust myself

I’ve mentioned before that my skin is dry … v.e.r.y dry.
As winter settles in and the humidity in our southern air is completely nonexistent,
my skin has returned to its hibernation mode. I work hard to stay supple.
But, my efforts can only be so successful. I am working against nature.
As I bathed this morning, I thought again about being afraid for Stone to touch me …
hold my hand or see my legs when I wear a skirt to church …
My skin is less than inviting … not as soft and smooth as summer.

This is just one of my thoughts of all the different ways that I can dream up
for Stone to reject me.
I wish I could blot out these ideas.

I find myself picking up the phone to call Della more often than in the past. I talk to Stone or visit him and there comes this *scratches head* wondering moment when I question if what I’m hearing or seeing is “normal”  … his comments or actions being very “testosterone powered” … something I am quite unaccustomed to hearing or seeing.   At times, Jeff is close by to add weight and validity to the discussion. Della and Jeff  have been married long enough that they have worked out the kinks. And Della has lived with three different levels of testosterone for years. She has a 21 year old son, a 17 year old son and a she’s been a lover, helper, partner to Jeff for going on twenty-five years. She’s honest with me and will tell me if I need to relax and “breathe” or
….. run away.
So far, I haven’t gotten the “run away” speech … about Stone.

In a conversation last night, I found myself telling her that I wouldn’t be crushed if Stone walked away.
The more I think about it, the more odd that sounds. Shouldn’t I be upset? Wouldn’t it be natural to
be deeply wounded?

This morning, as I thought about yesterday’s conversation and my confession,
I realized that the reason I wouldn’t be upset
is because I still expect it.

Not so long ago, I wrote Stone a long note
In part, I said,
“I still remember back a few visits ago.
I thought I should write out a list of all the things about me that are “yukky” …
all those things that the other men in my life didn’t like
because I’m so afraid that one day … you’ll get close enough
that you’ll find that the things that you see
aren’t as desirable as you thought
and, like them, you won’t want me any more.
It’s hard. Even as I write, tears roll down my cheeks
as I type these thoughts.
But these aren’t wounds that you have created ….
yet God is using you to help me learn to trust again.
I don’t know why I trust you … but I do.
May I ask you …. please? Please be careful with me?”

There is that word. It comes up often with Stone ….
he and I both unsure of how to walk it out in realtime.
Sometimes I feel like I am walking through an obstacle course
I’m not sure where to put my foot next ….
or how to keep my balance.
“Is that right? How am I doing? Am I going to trip and fall?”

And the truth is, I trust God to care for me if He
or Stone
choose for our friendship to end.
And I trust God to take care of our friendship if it continues.
For the most part, I trust Stone to continue to be a good man
and not turn on me.
The one that I don’t trust … in this triangle … is me.

I wonder how long it will take for these wounds to heal. Will I always be in this place of struggle? Surely not. But, could it take years? And … why can’t I simply acknowledge that these ideas are prompts from the enemy. In accepting this idea, wouldn’t I then have to step out in faith and claim trust in God’s design and redemption …
acknowledging that I am, indeed, “good enough.”

Stone tells me to “Be myself.”
I have absolutely no struggles in this area with any.body else.
in a male/female relationship that involves a deeper emotional level
than simple friendship,
I can’t seem to claim my footing.

This is a tough one. But, I am confessing it publicly so that I have to look at the issue. I am shining a light on it that I might claim victory over this self-doubt. And, if I am here, I know others are as well. Have you been in this place? Have you found victory?  Would you be willing to share your struggles or your triumph?

As always, thanks for reading and sharing this space with me. You richly bless me with your presence.

Replacing His cross with my Heart

I have written Stone notes to say thank you for allowing us into his life … for sharing himself and his son.  Surely it was difficult for him to let us peek into his life – their world … a man’s world of testosterone, work, crocs with dinosaur shoe charms, rocks, camping and man-things  … women being unpredictable and full of estrogen, an uncommon element in their sphere of understanding.  After our trip to Lake Winfield Scott, I slipped a rose from the vase that graced the picnic table through out weekend of gorgeous weather and fresh air. I laid it beside the Rodeo seat as a reminder of our presence in their weekend. It would wilt before they arrived home … but so would I, missing them … Stone and Jet. On our first visit to the man-place in ATL, I left a note in the kitchen cabinet and one on the shelf inside Stone’s medicine chest …. simple little handwritten notes …  “You are wonderful” … because he is.

Before leaving home last Friday for another visit in Atlanta, I tucked a chilly, metal heart from my jewelry tree’s nest of leaves into my train case with the intention of leaving it somewhere sweet at Stone’s house before returning home … a reminder of my presence in his life.

The month before when Joy and I had gone up for our first visit, I accidentally dropped a silver cross from my purse into the floorboard of Stone’s car.  It had graced a necklace, but I had taken it off the chain earlier in the day. It is a charm that I wear often and enjoy. Stone picked it up off the floor and laid it safely in a coin holder in the console where it remained for a month.

As we packed our sweet van this past Sunday afternoon with skateboard and luggage, pillows and backpacks, I quickly slid into Stone’s clean vehicle to pick up the cross. While I tried to be stealthy, Stone stepped outside just as I was grabbing the cross. “Oh, don’t take it,” he said with a smile, “It reminds me of you when I see it.” I smiled and picked it up anyway, knowing I had a plan. Later, I slipped that steely heart out of  my front jean pocket where it was warm against my body …  and into the coin holder of his vehicle …. exchanging the cross for my heart.

Yesterday, as I thought about Sarah’s words ….
God’s words typed through the conduit of Sarah’s keyboard ….
I shared my heart with a friend in a phone conversation

and it hit me ….Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

I put forth great effort in two separate motions …
two different, unrelated areas …. and
in doing so …
I made parallel motions in one fell swoop.

In the physical world, on Sunday afternoon
I intentionally removed a Cross from Stone’s vision ….

… simultaneously …

I had been striving to
to quietly …. without detection
cause my own heart … life … self
to be the center of Stone’s thought life …
I want to be irresistible.
I want it to be
all about me. *mourns*

Do you see that?
I had made great effort
to switch The Cross
with my own cold heart. *tear*

Not only had I been trying,
but Stone has resisted my action
and I have persisted
preferring MY reminder (a heart)
over His (a Cross).

I could see it so clearly. My desire has been to be irresistible 
to weaken him I want to be the center of his thought life
and IF I succeed in this effort to make MY heart the focus of his attention
I am successfully removing The Cross from his focus.

please forgive me.