Young, dry wit

My youngest has a way with words. Like her older brother, she has a quick, dry wit that often stings, and is almost always humorous. Her quick retorts keep me laughing. The last two years, I have tapped her words into my keyboard and posted them as Facebook status updates. I keep a running list of the updates that reference her and thought I would share some of those here.

– On the way home from school, the ten-year old dare-devil, Joy, says, “Hey, Mom. Will you buy me some throwing knives.” (Yes, she means the kind from ninja movies or magic acts) I B.E.L.L.Y LAUGHED …. LOUD. She yells, “WHAT? ….. James has some!!!!”
Yes, he does. And he’s 20 years old.  (5/7/10)

– “We can’t leave for school yet. I’m having a ‘white sock’ emergency” – spoken by Joy, as she dug through clean laundry
trying to find the required type and color of clothing to take to school for gym.” (Wed/ 6:45am on 9/8/11)

– We were trying to cut down a dead tree in our front yard. Glory & I are holding onto the jump rope tied about 15′ up the trunk.
Joy wouldn’t be quiet so we made her go sit down on the sidewalk … away from us.  She was holding Glory’s phone and looked like she was texting someone.
Glory asked, “Who are you texting?” “Nobody.” She replied. “I’m trying to put ‘911’ into the contacts so I’m ready.” (5/23/10)

– Yesterday, we had tabouleh, grilled asparagus and steak for lunch. At dinner, I offered Joy a less labor-intensive meal of a grilled cheese sandwich.
She said, “With ALL the foods in the world, I think we should be able to eat something different at every single meal for life.
I get tired of eating THE SAME THING.”
The last time I cooked a grilled cheese sandwich was the DEAD of WINTER …. six months ago.
I told her to come up with a menu and SHE can start cooking. (5/25/10)


– This morn, Joy was telling me this whole detailed story about how to make a flame thrower out of a bic lighter.
I said, “You’re TEN. Where’d you learn that???” “On Youtube.” I said, “Joy, THAT’S why you don’t need to be surfing Youtube.
I don’t even want you hanging out with FRIENDS that know that kinda stuff, much less watching instructional videos.”
She glibly retorts, “Well, there go all MY friends.” (6/20/10)

– Joy looks at my mouth wound with a flashlight and says quite cheerfully
“At least your WHOLE BODY doesn’t look like a ZOMBIE” (Tues, 6/29, 2010 … after I had surgery on my mouth)

– As Joy ate a large bowl – and the LAST of  the fresh strawberries topped with fresh whipped cream this morn,
James asked her for ‘JUST ONE …. ONE …. one OR TWO….. strawberries ….. just a bite…. puhlllleeezzz???”
She turned her back to him, protecting the bowl from him and told him firmly, “GET YOUR OWN BOX.” (Wed, 7/21/10)

– Joy & I are out shopping today and she’s giving me all the reasons (again) that we need a new van.
This time she includes that people stare at us because our van is ghetto (which it isn’t).
Then she says with heavy wit, “Welp ….. at least we don’t ever have to worry about getting carjacked.”  (July 30, 2010)

– First week of school kept us busy. Joy’s clothes have accumulated all over her floor. I knock on her door a moment ago and say,
“Hey. You need to clean your room, girl. That floor’s a mess.” Her reply, “What floor? I don’t see a floor.”  (Sat 8/14/10)

– I told Joy to get off the computer because she had been playing some stupid game for a good hour or two. She corrected me,
“Oh, no …. I was watching Youtube videos for cheats on the game for a while.” lol   (Thurs 9/2/10)

– “Wake UP, Boo!!” She sits up, grumbles and falls face first into her pillow.
” I want to go back to sleep. I was dreaming I was a millionaire, because I invented waffles.” 

Later she got up and told me that Obama had eaten one of the waffles from her factory, died and she was big trouble.
The waffle had a roach in it and it killed him. She said she was worried about Obama dying and was sad that she lost her millions,
but she knew they could never take from her the fact that she was the “Inventor of the Waffle.”  (Thursday, 9/9/10)

– ‎”Smart and wise are two COMPLETELY different things.” Words from the mouth of a babe. At ten, she knows more than some adults.  (Fri 9/10/10)

– Joy walks in from school on a Friday afternoon, drops her book bag and swings her arms into the air and swoons as she spins in circles. “Oh, Mom! It smells like the weekend!”  (Fri, 91/10)

– Our dog is nutty.  She doesn’t want to go outside to go potty …. unless you ACCOMPANY her down the stairs … because she’s afraid she’s going to be LEFT outside ALONE. *gasp* So, walk in with her … barreling up the stairs, across the deck and into the house.  I get inside and say, “Our dog is crazy.”  Joy replies, “We found her on the side of the road, Mom.  What do you expect?” lol   (Sat 10/2/10)

– I hear her Nickelodeon alarm clock trumpet reveille across her bunk beds and stuffed animals. Her pre-teen feet hit the floor as she scurries to turn down the racket. “Joy!! Joy!!!,” I yell with enthusiasm from my bedroom chair ..  my head thrown back to propel my voice through sheet rock, fingers still above the keyboard. “Joy! I love you! YOU.MAKE.ME.SMILE!!!” She moans back to me, “You should.” I laugh.  (Fri 10/15/10)

– Joy informed me this morning that she thinks she has agoraphobia … specifically, the fear of “wide, open, clean spaces.”  I queried, “Oh, really? What makes you think that?”  She replied, “I know you’re gonna think this is nuts, but I think that’s why I don’t like to clean my room … because then it’s a “wide, open, clean space” and it bothers me.”  (Thursday 10/28/10)

– Me to Joy: I need to go jump in the shower.  I can’t go to school with my hair looking like this! Joy’s reply:  “Don’t worry about it, Mama.  Your hair will look just as crazy when you finish with it as it does right now.” Thanks, Darlin’.  (Tues Dec 7, 2010)

– Just home from school, Joy is rummaging through the pantry and fridge. She mumbles under her breath, “We don’t even have any junk food in this house.  This is sad….so sad.”  Thursday, Dec 9, 2010

– Joy walks out into the living room every morning upon waking with an elaborate dream story to tell.  She proceeds to tell me of the plan of the aliens to take over the world, she was the last one left on the planet. The stars weren’t really stars; each one was a UFO. She matter-of-factly tells me, “You can’t possibly have as much fun sleeping as I do.” She may very well be right.  (Tuesday, 12/21/10)

– The dog is on the porch whining … because it’s getting dark and she freaks out when she’s outside at night. Joy just asked, “Is there such a thing as a puppy psychiatrist? We really need some money for dog counseling.” (Wed 12/22/10)

– I found a list of Joy’s (she’s a list maker) It is headed: How to be a better daughter (don’t know if she wrote these or just copied them) #6 Wear small patterns in your clothing so as not to anger parents. (Sat 1/8/11)

– Epic dream #147:  “Mom. I had a crazy dream last night.  I was on a bus going to Disney World with my class and Lil Wayne was with us …. only we found out later that the guy looked like Lil Wayne but it was really Snoop Dogg and we were really going to DESK World, not Disney World.  We got there, and it was just one BIG office. It was really a disappointment!”   (Sun 1/16/11)


– Black tights & (mostly) white dalmatian don’t work well…. so, Joy grabbed the lint roller as we walked out the door to church. Getting out of the van after we got home, she left the lint roller on the front seat. I reprimanded her (in a teasing manner) and told her, with a head cock and a finger snap, “Girrrr, you better PUT that lint roller UP!” She promptly stuck it up on the ceiling and said, “There. It’s up.” LOL I love that girl. (Sun, 1/30/11)

– Never eat gas station sushi.  (Fri, 2/11/11)

– While we ate dinner, “Did you know, if you put head phones into your nose, you can open your mouth and the sound comes through your sinus’ cavity and out your mouth?”  (Thurs, 2/24/11)

– Joy says, “Let me get this straight. I struggle through thirteen years of elementary and high school, then go to college for four to eight years or more, then I get a job and work my the rest of my life until I retire. Then I have fifteen years to have fun … but my bones are crumbling and brittle so I can’t do anything fun or I’ll get hurt. Then I die. *sigh* Great.”   (Tue 9/9/11)

– Joy says to me, “It’s all your fault I’m a dork, because you’re the biggest dork I know.” WAIT! Did she just blame ME because SHE’S a dork? *rolls eye**  (Wed 7/10/12)

– The last two she wrote and posted in her Facebook status update.
She is now officially old enough to have her own account.

– All school text books smell the same.
Math books smell like Axe cologne.
Science books smell like dirt.
English books smell like dead flowers.
Social Studies and History books smell like nursing homes. (Sun 9/23/12)

– “” if you didn’t like your home, i would build you your own world. i would build you a castle. and hire five thousand guards to protect you. i would have a bed carved of the finest redwood and a mattress sewn from the softest tuft of cloud able to be harnessed. i would write you a symphony and hire an orchestra of the finest musicians. i would have them play you to sleep every night. i would hire you your own personal five-star chef, so that i could bring you breakfast in bed every morning. i would hire the finest seamstress to sew you a dress made of phoenix feathers and unicorn fur to wear to our royal ball. if you were lost, i would run to the end of the earth to find you, and if i didn’t find you, i would jump. from the edge of the earth. because if i had to live without you, i would rather not live at all. i think what i’m trying to say is i love you.”  (Tues 9/25/12)

He moved! He moved!

I love the original Winnie the Pooh movie.
And when I hear myself say, “He moved!” I use Rabbit’s voice and inflection.
Remember when Pooh was wedged in Rabbit’s door because he filled his belly with honey
and his tummy became so full and rotund that he couldn’t exit Rabbit’s den?
After weeks, rabbit leaned over and pushed Pooh’s toosh and “He BudGed!”

The difference between rabbit and me is that my words are not “He budged!
my announcement is, “He moved! He moved!” ….
But, trust me … I have the SAME enthusiasm!!

(found at 1:39 in the video, if you would rather not watch the full clip)

I am SO thankful that my son has moved out …
but not for a reason that you might immediately expect.

I ADORE this man. He is kind and thoughtful, slow to anger and speak. He is funny beyond measure with a wit that is quick and dry. He is smart and can figure out how to take apart and/or put together almost anything. His Google-search skills are absolutely crazy!  He has a real relationship with God and a heart for people. He fully understands software AND hardware. He is concrete and abstract. He is creative and detailed.

Not long after most of the boxes were packed and moved,
the front door swung open wide
and my man/child stepped inside

*spoken slowly, and firmly with intention on each word*
“Do you  K.N.O.W  …..  how much sponges cost??!!”

James walked in and immediately began a monologue.
The only thing missing was the soap box.

“All those years, you asked, ‘Please use an old sponge’ …. “P.l.e.a.s.e use an old sponge’ ….  but I would just stop at the sink and take the sponge from the counter rather than going to the container in the utility room to find an old one when I was working on my car and needed one. WHO KNEW that sponges cost over A BUCK a piece? Seriously, Mom? I went to the store the other day and started to buy a pack of sponges. The pack was … like SIX BUCKS … and had …. like FOUR SPONGES in it and I’m thinking, ‘WHAT? SIX DOLLARS for S.P.O.N.G.E.S??’ “

And my mother’s heart swelled.

For almost a year and a half I tried to get him to move out. I LOVE my son, but it was time for him to be on his own. He turned 23 this summer. He has a car and a motorcycle and a good job. Glory has been gone for several years, but James? He was in no hurry.

He didn’t always do what I asked of him … when I asked. But, he was a grown man so I didn’t feel I could discipline him. Paying me rent just wasn’t enough. There is more to “pulling your weight” in a household than simply offering money. The only way he would figure out to keep a house running
would be for him to have to run his own.

And so, I gently pushed. I gave him a few ultimatums
that I caved upon.
It’s hard to stand firm
when you are standing alone.

But, he finally made the leap.

He found an apartment in the same apartment complex as his sister. It’s so exciting to me that they are so close. For years, they did not get along. But, when they began life guarding together, they became friends. And each year since then, they have become more and more close.




They talk almost every day. They visit each other. Glory will say, with a *sigh,* “I love my brother. He’s my best friend.”  And you can see it all over her face. She means it.

James stops by to pick up packages that are delivered here (he’s always working on some sort of repair to his car) and to check on Smudge from time to time.  I knew we all called Smudge “James’ cat” … but I didn’t realize that Smudge would have also called himself James’ cat. Since moving out, the Smudge-man is quite lost. He follows me around the house. He follows me up to the park where I stretch before a run. I have to “shoo” him home before I leave the park … lest he follow me further? He meows at me when I enter a room. He finds me to ask for attention by walking across the desk or jumping into the chair where I may be seated. This is WAY out of character for him. I didn’t realize just how much attention James gave him … until he left the house. I know he misses James.

Last week, James stopped by and
upon leaving said, “I had no idea
how much I took for granted.”

That’s really all I needed to hear.
Those are the words that I have been waiting for.
He now realizes there are many more details
to running a household
than he previously realized.

I’m so thankful that James has moved out.
I’m thankful because I didn’t want him to go from
my house into marriage without an “in between” where he would learn
how to be in charge of his home with all the responsibilities involved there.
I’m thankful because he’s learning to appreciate things
that he has taken for granted.
And, yes, I might also be slightly thankful
because he’s not here to bump down the air conditioning thermostat in the summer.

Perspective and Encouragement

Joy swims with the Summer Swim League here in Augusta. There are many swimmers in the league who swim on one of the year-round teams, as well, but Joy has never been a year-rounder. When placed up against a child who swims year round, she is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to time in the water, technique and strength since the summer league begins around mid-May and wraps things up by mid-July. Eight weeks isn’t enough time to see grand improvements in stroke or strength … but swimming is still excellent exercise so my kids have always been a part of the summer league.

Because she isn’t a year round swimmer, Joy doesn’t come in first place in her races because she swims against girls who do. I don’t believe she has ever placed first overall.

Our summer swim league team generally competes against one team at a time. We participate in about five or six meets per swim season. Joy’s best strokes are back and breast. This summer, she came in fifth in these strokes out of 20-25 girls, depending on the meet. At the end of the season, at our Division Championship she did well enough to make the cut and earn the privilege of moving on to the All-Star meet.

The All-Star meet is composed of the top three fastest swimmers in each age group, in each stroke, from each team. So, Joy was one of the three fastest swimmers from our team in the 11-12 girls in backstroke and breaststroke. At the All-Star meet, she came in 13th overall in breast and 19th in back out of a total of nineteen swimmers in each race.

Do you see that? She was last in backstroke.

In the backstroke heat, she swam against Maggie who is the coach’s daughter. Maggie swims year-round most years. She is one of four siblings who swims under their mom’s excellent coaching instruction. Maggie works really hard and is an excellent swimmer. Maggie came in 13th above Joy’s 19th in backstroke.  Though the difference in time was only 2.29 seconds, Maggie was, yes, faster than Joy. I tried to explain to Joy that she shouldn’t compare herself to anyone … especially a year-round swimmer.

She is SO hard on herself. That night and through the next day, she was so sad. She was terribly disappointed in herself.  You would have thought that she was the slowest of a.l.l  the swimmers in the entire state. No amount of encouragement from me seemed to help.

So, I began to do some research.

I wanted to
put her placement
into perspective.

As I did research, I found that our swim league is made up of 21 individual teams. There are 18 counties represented in the CSRA league with 4 team divisions that are placed in each division by team size. Our team, the Makos, is in Division I because we have a large team.

The one statistic I could not find on the site was the total number of swimmers in the league.

So, I sent a quick apologetic email to the league secretary asking if he knew a number off the top of his head. If not, I asked him to please not worry about doing research. I really didn’t want to be a bother … I just wanted to encourage a disheartened pre-teen swimmer.

Within minutes, he sent me back a reply.
I called Joy over to the computer so she could see the screen.

“Do you see that number?” I asked, as I pointed to the string of digits in his reply.
“Hmmmmm” she grumbled.
I choked up as I spoke.
“You came in 19th
out of 2,100 total swimmers.
Do you see that? swimmers?” 

I continued with a pep talk about perspective and doing our personal best …
and about how important it is that we have all the facts.
I told her how proud I was of her and that she had worked hard
and did an amazing job this season.
I mentioned that, IF we choose to look at how we compare overall,
we should, at the very least, have the proper perspective.

In reality, I don’t want to encourage anyone to look a.r.o.u.n.d at others
to compare themselves
or find self-acceptance.
Truly, we should trust in God …
what He has to say about us …
what He asks of us …
how He wants to direct us …
how He evaluates us …
to find our perspective on ourselves.

But, in this case, a little looking-around perspective was a good thing.
This was a competitive event.
In this case, my girl was choosing to focus on a very.small.few
rather than the overall group.
So, in this case, I was happy to broaden that perspective and show her
that she was being illogically hard on her own performance.

I think we all do this.
Or maybe I should just speak for myself: I KNOW that I do this.
And it is so helpful when someone comes alongside
and says, “You’re doing a good job. Don’t be discouraged.
Let me put things in perspective for you.”

I am always thankful for words of encouragement. We all need it … daily.

So, I want to encourage you today.
I want to encourage you to be sure that you’re looking at the big picture
when you do find the need to compare yourself to others.
And, if and when you fall short,
even then, don’t be discouraged …
for God looks at your heart.
He forgives you when you sin. He loves you in spite of your messes. He does not expect you to measure up to the standard of others, He only asks that you obey Him and do your best. And, even.then, He has compassion and mercy when you fail … because we all do.

“Christmas” Masterpiece

She didn’t even ask me for help. She asked for paper and glue …

and bubbled over with joy of her collection of paper ….
beautiful scraps in spring and summer hues
of azure, pink and vermillion.

“Bubbled over”
… not a phrase to truly depict this child …
this child … Joy.

 Loud and silly …
are seldom seen
though she is twelve.

She remains laid low and moves languidly.
She is quite solitary.
Like James, much more energy is expended in thought
rather than action.
“Christmas,” I call her, at times. She always gets it.
I remember, when tiny, I would serve her plate first at dinner
in hopes that she might finish her meal
before the table was completely cleared.

Joy and James are the antithesis of their sister, Glory …
who twirls into the room, boisterous and active,
talks and talks and talks
spilling stories with raucous laughter and energetic outbursts.
Glory can finish her entire meal before I even dip my final side dish.
She wastes no time
to arrive, enjoy or consume
and move on to the next adventure.

Funny how we are all built differently, isn’t it?
Our God is so wondrously creative.

God gifted this little one with much of this blessing.

At Michaels, she purchased brushes, canvas, paper and adhesive
with a final product in mind ….

… and came home to begin.
Shredding the paper
and mixing the patterns
that oh-so-beautifully-intertwine,
she began to piece together her masterpiece.
She shared her vision with me.
It is exciting to watch her work.

I think of instruction in art. I taught art for several years at co-op when we homeschooled. One line of thinking throughout history has been to copy the masters. If one wants to be an accomplished artist, she should choose an artist to copy. In studying the design elements, style of work, brush strokes, highlights and shadows from a master, you learn to think like the master. And once you have formed a firm foundation to base your creativity, then your own original personality will emerge in your inspired artwork.There are many ways to learn a new trade, art or passion. One way … is to study a master.

While I am not a master at any level in any area, I have been a lover-of-paper for decades. I have used paper to decoupage scrapbook and create cards,  artwork and practical items. There is always paper within arms reach. It is easy to find gift wrap, tissue paper patterned and solid, scrapbooking paper, construction paper, stationary, white copy paper and post-it notes.  To watch this child use paper to create stirs my soul to warm.

But, the greatest encouragement to me is to see
this child’s ability to take that which she has been gifted
and use it to make make beauty.
She has torn into pieces that which was slightly ordinary …
sifted through and sorted…
and is now in the process of applying piece-by-broken-piece
a pattern and design of
a beautiful art that
will inspire and please …
encourage and uplift.
I tell you … I pray … I beg my dear Heavenly Father …
that I might help direct her in doing this in her
emotional and spiritual life, as well.

My prayer is that she might be able to use what is gifted her …
to create beauty in her life and influence others in her circles.
I know she can accept the easy, tender, kind and gentle.
I know she can embrace the beautiful, gracious and showy.
I know she can easily receive the rich, wonderful and sweet.
We all can do these things … can’t we?
But, I pray she graciously accept the tattered, torn and broken …
the untimely, uncomely and undesirable  …
the difficult, painful and solemn
with  grace, mercy  … with full embrace.
Because, these things come. God can use them for our strengthening …
our betterment …. His glory.
Fighting them does not eliminate their presence in our lives.
Perspective …. again. It’s all about perspective.

I pray hers  – her perspective –
would be healthy … strong … and accepting
of all life has to offer.

I will be sure to share the final masterpiece with you.
But, remember … she is “Christmas” …
it may be a while.

Questions and Answers

I watch Him work in her life
and am encouraged.

Not so long ago I shared that she claims to be an atheist. 
In a recent conversation, she told me,
“Ya know, I don’t think I’m an atheist, I think I’m more of an agnostic.
It’s not that I am certain there is no God … it’s just that I don’t see proof of Him.”

And my heart rejoices.

The other weekend, as I finished the bike ride in Aiken, Joy texted me to ask if I was riding with the group that was coming in at the Odell Weeks Recreation center. I was only about five miles from the finish when I received her text. She was at the skate park in Aiken with a friend. As I pulled into the parking lot, I made my way to the ramps to find her. I watched her skate, we talked for a bit and then she introduced me to the park’s attendant, Travis.  

As we spoke, we casually covered college, skate boarding, motorcycle accidents and more. I questioned Travis about a book he was reading … and  our conversation quickly moved deep into relationships, introspection, being a thinker, his blog, To The Root and more. Joy was within ear shot and she commented on the fact that Travis and I had just met, yet we had moved into the deepest conversation she had been privy to overhear that week. She followed the statement with the one she often uses when she doesn’t know what to do with me, “Mom, you’re so goofy.”

The next day, I requested to be Travis’ Facebook friend
and, upon his acceptance of that request,
found that he had written about Joy on his Facebook wall.

He mentioned in his post that she was a polite and respectful young girl
that he had talked to several times.
She mentioned that her mom was a Christian …
yet he was surprised when she told him that she was an atheist.
His gut reaction was to tell her that she wasn’t old enough to hold that opinion,
but with wisdom and grace,
rather he told her that she should research and own the idea.
He said that he knew several atheists who were well-studied and held strong convictions.
He pointed out that he respected them because they knew why they believed.
He guided her not to grab hold of the ideas of the those around her,
but give herself a strong base for her own convictions.
If she was going to claim to be an atheist,
then she needed to be able to defend the concept.

I was moved
with awe
by the active movement of God in her life.

Here was a wise, young man
put into her path
telling her the SAME THING
that I had told her only a few months before.
“Be able to back up your ideas and opinions
with a defense.
Know WHY you believe
what you say that you do.”

Last night, as I lie in bed, I heard her talking.
I assumed she is on her phone.
I asked her who she was talking to and she answered,
“I’m reading my Bible … out loud … to myself.”

I am so thankful.
I’m thankful for the presence of people in her life that challenge her to “own” her beliefs.
I’m thankful for her courage to be herself, to question and to search for answers.
I’m thankful for her honesty with me … and even that she is struggling …
for in our struggles, healthy people ask questions and seek answers.
And that is exactly what she is doing.

Praise be to God.

The Labor of Growth

Growing up requires a great deal of effort and labor.

When he was my first, I saw it. Before there were more … when it might have gone undetected,
I saw it.

We would go to a playgroup and all the children would share and play together,
and James would be “over there.”
I remember the day I first noticed. He was around two years old …
twenty plus full years ago.
The group of ten or so children were swinging and playing on the jungle gym …
that tow head blazing in the sun.
Those pudgy legs were adorned with navy shorts.
He was holding a red “shobel” in that chunky right hand,
squatting so that fanny almost touched the dirt …
while he watched the other children
from a distance.

My oldest … the man/child
and my youngest … the Joy Bucket
have always been this way …
with the social flutter-by butterfly girl, Glory, sandwiched right betwixt …
flitting from place to place … always looking for a hug,
always wanting to be
surrounded by, immersed within, touching people.

We head to the mountains at New Year’s. We are in a cabin filled with people … six portions of families …  a little boy, a tween, multiple teens, many young adults, several adults

and she sits in the corner with her game.
But, she misses nary a word. She soaks it all in … but …. she keeps a safe distance.

And though, we share many traits, I can only know her so well … because, in fact, she is just beginning to forge her way … blazing the trail as she travels an ancient path towards adulthood, a footpath  completely foreign for her … rocky and uneven, misty at dawn, ominous at dark with forks around every other bend … a labor to travel.

I watch Della love on her and know that Joy will be asked questions that make her think. I want her to be challenged … to think.  Della will quiz and question and listen and it will be good and rich and dense conversation …. fleeting as it may appear, there is worth.

And along our jaunt through the conifers and deciduous on a hard-packed path,  Joy comes to me to say, “I love Miss Della.” Me, too, my child. I don’t ask about their conversation. The parts I need to know will be revealed later. But, I am grateful for time investment and put one foot in front of the other pleased.

She is attending an arts based school that is filled with students from all socio-economic, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Children there are rich and broke, honest and deceptive, Christian and Atheist. They are leaders and followers, grounded and wandering, thinkers and minions.

And she is making her way.

And she is original … unique … distinct.
I can identify.
The life of my blood
courses through her veins.
If all look up, I must look down, under and inside.
It is how I am wired. I want to see
another perspective.
I’ve always been “different.”
When I was a child, my daddy used to ask, “Why do you have to be different?”
I never had an answer for him.
Then I wondered if that was a bad thing.
Today, I know it is good.
Today, I know my answer to that question.
“I don’t “have” to be, I just am.”

She wears the hat of a skateboarder.
She told me some time ago that she wanted to learn to skateboard
because there aren’t many girls that do it. She wants to be different, too.
I don’ think this is something that I have taught her. It just is.

She dreams vivid dreams and must rise with the sun to tell the whole story
from end to end.

She paints her visions into the physical world.

 She hears songs and writes out lyrics.

She plays tunes that bounce inside her head.

There is music all over our home ….

instruments that she wants to master … tunes that she wants to play.

Her room is full of costumes … glasses …. jewelry …. accessories.

She is all over the place
and I understand.

I live scattered wide.
I want …
I N.E.E.D to
write, paint, photograph, cook, serve, bike, paddle, run, camp, create, sew, embroider, read, knit, crochet, stamp, blog, make jewelry, scrapbook, photoshop, latch hook, minister, study, massage, play guitar, violin and dulcimer. I have worn dresses, ground my own wheat for bread, homeschooled my children and grown my hair long. Today, I am a single mom who wants a tattoo, to learn how to shoot a gun and to bike ride across Georgia. I have hair as short as my boyfriend, am working to be able to do 25 pushups and have a (slightly) gauged ear. I am as comfortable in the woods without a bathroom or shower holding a home brew as I am downtown at a schmoozy hotel with a glass of champagne … need I go on?

So, she is struggling. She is pushing the boundaries and trying to establish them for herself.
She is testing and feeling and searching.

She has written on Facebook that she is an Atheist.
My daughter
“does not believe in God.”

I learned a long time ago
to never be surprised
by anyone’s words or actions …
including my own children.

Why should she believe in God?
*quizzically wrinkles brow* Because her mom believes?
Is that reason enough?
She tells me
she prays and does not hear Him.
She asks and does not receive.

I understand. I have prayed those prayers.
I have gone un-answered.
I have prayed. I have begged. I have pleaded.
And I have believed.
I had faith He would answer me.

Was I mistaken … to have had faith? … to have believed?
I think not.
We are a fallen, broken, messy group of people. We struggle. We wrestle. We flounder.
And we must figure out where we stand. We must decide how we believe.
We must work out our own salvation. (Philippians 2:12)
The God of the entire Universe
certainly is not required to answer my personal prayer
… no matter how right and noble and and just and good it is …
simply because I prayed it.
Nor does He need to answer hers.

She has made friends with other students who are exploring religions of the world. She brought home a Buddha a few weeks ago … a stolen Buddha, none-the-less! He sat on her bedside table for a few days before I asked about him. She said she took him from a friend. I know she’s looking for a reaction. And I offered none … at least not the shocked, offended kind.  She said, “I know you think he’s evil.” I laughed and said, “No, I don’t. What do you know about him? I would say that he was a peace loving man who was moral and wanted to do right. He was not evil. You should do some studying and find out what he believed.” I do not want her to take the word of others … not even mine!  She must own her ideas … in time. It takes time … and work.

Not so long after our Buddha discussion, I mentioned a physical/spiritual parallel in conversation. She said, “There you go again, talking about God. I really don’t want to hear that all the time.” I do not raise my voice or get irritated often, but set her straight quickly with a firm tone. “Let me tell you something; God is as much a part of me as life and breath. You cannot separate the two of us … He flows through me like the blood in my veins. I will respect who you are as an individual and you must do the same for me. I will not be quiet because you do not want to hear what I have to say.”  *deep breath*

I know He is there. He is watching her and listening to her. He knows who she is and who she is becoming. He loves her unconditionally and wants to answer her prayers. But, for now, she must search. She must test and push and decide.

She is intricate. She is difficult. She is prickly.
And she is wonderful, intelligent and inquisitive,
beautiful, talented and spunky,
creative, bright and different.
She is these things because she is made in His image.

Like her brother, she has a personal bubble that is a little larger and a little thicker than many.
Like her brother, she is questioning and listening and watching.
Like me, she is creative and has a different perspective on the world around her.
While there are struggles, I look forward to the future and all that it has to hold.
This girl, she is searching. The process is a difficult one for a mama’s heart to watch,
but it is a must for every strengthening, maturing soul.
And so, she sings and writes,
she pushes and she wonders
and I praise and pray, watch and wait …
for growth … is labor.

Hiding places

There by the front door is a little vignette that includes a plant stand of begonias that bloom almost year round, a lovely little metal snail, a handy small rake and an ancient pitcher that has poured water, tea, milk and lemonade for decades.

I have these little groups of favorites all over my home, each item represents something special … each holds a memory, wish, hope, dream or prayer. Each item has symbolism. I see life this way … God speaking through the things,  the people and the words He allows to cross my path.

I’ve mentioned before that my grown-up people
have smoked cigarettes.
I don’t like it, but they’re grown.
I am certain that I still do things today that my own parents do not like.
If they don’t find displeasure with me, it is only because they don’t live in close enough proximity
to feel my every thought, experience my motive and see my actions.
(Don’t get me wrong here. I am not disrespectful of my parents and do not intentionally disobey them ..
but I know that I wouldn’t please them fully if they saw my life in full swing all the time.)

James is my least neat child. He doesn’t put things back and he doesn’t clean up behind himself. If he were to read this, the hair on the back of his neck would stand up … but while he’s gruffing, there is a spoon on the counter beside the microwave and there are dishes in and beside the sink that were not there when I went to bed. The driveway is full of car stuff – parts, repair tools, and cleaning supplies-  that have been there off and on for weeks and the bathroom is always littered from end to end, floor to counter with …. stuff.

A huge frustration for me is James’ continued habit of stuffing cigarettes into little-almost-hiding places. He uses the ivory ceramic pitcher on the front porch as an ashtray. I agreed that this would be fine, if he would just keep it emptied so that it won’t make the entryway to our home
smell like an ashtray.

Even with an established “ashtray” in an accessible place, he continues to tuck cigarettes into corners … even there at the front porch …. less than five feet from the agreed-upon disposal spot.

I always say that mercy is my weakest character trait. Yet, I tend to forgive, forgive, forgive
even for irritating habits like this.
I’ve asked this man/child over and over not to tuck his lighter and butts under the back porch deck stairs.
I’ve asked him not to put his cigarettes out on the brick work of our home
and leave little black ash circles here and there.

I’ve asked him not to drop his butts in the yard or on the street.
But, he forgets ….
he disobeys ….
he disrespects me
…. he chooses to do what he wants to do rather than what he has been asked.
And THEN he gets irritated when I remind him that he is not honoring my requests.

And when I get upset …
when my feathers ruffle …
when the hair stands up on the back of MY neck …
my sweet, gentle Lord reminds me
of my forgetfulness …
my hiding places …
my intentional disobediences …
and I am humbled.

I break His heart.
I know it.
We all do.

I go to Him and ask for His help …. I lay my toys on His table and I take a step back.
I wait and I wait and I wait  ..
and then
in my impatience,
I step up to the table and offer ideas and suggestions
from my limited knowledge and shallow perspective
on how to restore and repair
those things that He knows intimately, thoroughly, fully.

There must be some balance
between grace and mercy for wrongdoing
justice and discipline for disobedience.

I have to admit to you
that I’m pretty good at drawing the line in the sand …
but I fail at figuring out
what to do with the man/child
who chooses to step across the line
and then gets angry with me for drawing it.
Praise God, that He has no such problem
figuring out what to do with me
when I disobey.
My desire is that I draw a little closer to Him each week … day …  moment
that I might hear His voice,
heed His leadings
and hurry to obedience
with humility and a contrite heart.

Praise God for vignettes
that tell me stories.

She hears me ….

…. and I swoon with gratitude.

Last night
…. way past the scheduled bedtime of eight o’clock ….
I peek into her room again to motion her towards slumber.

She – still hovering over the keyboard – tells me she is working on homework …
one that has a rough draft due in several days …
but she’s filling the page in the word processor
line upon line.
A speedy typist she is not … yet text runs off the top and bottom of the page.
I wonder if she has cut and pasted from somewhere.
I query.
With wrinkled brow, she states, insulted, “No. I’m writing a story.”

And then her eyes twinkle, her brows arch and she sparkles, “Let me tell you about it!”

She cannot be interrupted. If she begins a story, she must finish. A three minute Youtube video can take twelve minutes to describe. But, she won’t be stopped. She m.u.s.t finish. I think, if she were a shoplifter and caught red-handed by a security guard in full uniform, pointing a loaded gun at her
she would still have to complete the action of putting the item into her pocket.
She can.not be interrupted.

I can’t squelch her enthusiasm and so I say, “Yes, tell me.” I hear the first of the story …. but can’t follow through listening intently to the end
because I am rejoicing and distracted in my spirit.

This is what I heard:
“It is a story about Edeth, a white witch, which is a witch that does good things. White witches are full of power and can cast spells, but as they age, they are are not able to cast as many as when they were young. They are allowed a death wish as a final wish. Edeth is invited to be a part of a group of witches that are abnormally beautiful. The reason they are so beautiful is because they used one of their wishes to ask that they be beautiful. Edeth recognized that they were selfish. They were outwardly beautiful, but inside they had evil hearts. Edeth told them she didn’t want to join their group
they didn’t use their power for good ….”

And that’s all I heard
of her six-minute story …
My eyes misted and my thoughts wandered as I gloried ….

She hears me!!

“Use your drama for good,” I tell her …
time and time again …
When she leaves the house, those are the words she hears last from me.
We have a talk about people being unkind or mean-spirited,
I tell her again.
When we talk about her own dramatic flair …
I implore her …
“Use your drama for good.”

She’s hearing me.

And I rejoice.

Uncommon …. influence

Just a few weeks ago, we packed bicycles into the van. We stuffed backpacks with bottles of water and apple juice, chips, homemade chicken salad, grapes and an array of  sweet treats.

We met Britt and her friend Julie there … Joy and I.

When Britt first called to ask if we could get together, she left the “how and where” we would meet up to us. She has traveled a good bit, lived in several cities and been lots of places. She’s always going and doing … so I assumed it might be a “step down” to take a common ride on our average bike and walking trail. I didn’t want to be hemmed in by a restaurant booth, bothered by waitresses or completely distracted by a movie. I wanted us to do something fun and freeing. Little did I know ….

As we rode, Britt confessed that she hadn’t been on a bike since she was probably around Joy’s age. She hadn’t been on this path (at all, if I remember right?).  This type of outing wasn’t her norm.  So, she was thrilled to ride a bike, feel the loose rocks under her tires and the wind in her hair. She … was like a little kid. She was thrilled with our outing choice.

Our world is small. A year ago, during summer camp, Joy met Britt and fell under her sphere of influence. Britt with her engaging smile and blue eyes that sparkle, has a way infecting others with her enthusiasm for life. She follows the rule that I try to instill in Joy: use your drama for good.

While Joy was enamored with Britt at camp, James had become her friend through a completely different circle of influence. He had friends who had introduced them. He had spent some time with her dining, at movies and through fellowship.

After camp ended last summer, Britt prepared to move to Chicago to go to college. So we met at Atlanta Bread for a meal … Joy and I, James and his friends, Britt and her mom. We had such a nice visit. And Britt took time to specifically talk to Joy. This was really about Joy.

Britt likes Joy. She sees something in Joy that I see. She sees a spark of creativity and an energy and determination that is not average. And she wants to encourage that.

So, in Britt’s crazy, whirlwind busy life of coming and going, college and family, moving and shaking, meeting and loving, she carves out time to influence my child.

And I *swoon.*

Britt’s heart desire is to be a world changer. I don’t know HOW God will use her, but He will. She will make difference in this huge orb of green and blue, land and sea, physical and spiritual. She will make a difference.

I reflect back on my own life. It took me years to build the momentum to love others as deeply as she does. It took me decades to embrace individuality that way that she does as a young 20. I am inspired by her focus and energy. She is …. uncommon.

Here is a project that Britt was inspired to create. This video is a good reflection of Britt’s ability to see more than a face, a skin color or a label : she sees value in every body … every soul … every spirit.

I know He will use her on a grand scale,
but He is also using her in a personal, intentional and focused way.
He is using her to influence Joy … to use her drama for good.

Britt has now left Chicago. She has moved to Asheville, NC and plans to finish her schooling there. And I treasure that she continues to nurture a friendship with my girl
because she sees the potential for my youngest.

We rode our bikes down a dirt path close to our home and it looked average and everyday.
But to Britt, it was invigorating and unusual and wonderful.
And as I watched Britt do her average, everyday thing
by pouring her energy and enthusiasm into my daughter’s impressionable spirit
I was moved by how out-of-the-ordinary and uncommon was her gifting.
Britt offers herself …. truly invests freely to encourage others to be
authentic, true and real
and use their drama for good.

For this I am grateful.
And I look forward to her return visits …
when we will fellowship
in what appears to be a common way
sharing an influence that is anything but.