Tuesday, April 24, 2012

feeling tall

For the last few months, Saturday mornings have found me learning something new. I am a fair weather runner. I don't usually run in the rain or the snow. I don't run when it's too hot. And when I run in April, I wind up sick. My allergies flare up the first week of April ever year, and it's all over. 

I don't like treadmills, and have never motivated myself enough to get to a gym. But then someone I knew started to teach a boxing class. 

Now, I have said countless times that I need a punching bag for when I'm upset or frustrated, so I jumped at the chance to learn about boxing and get my exercise in at the same time. 

Anytime I learn something new, I feel strange at first. Awkward and insecure. I was sore for days after my first lesson. But I haven't given up. And it feels good to get up and have somewhere to go on Saturday morning. To start the weekend full of energy. It's been a few months since I started. Now, when I walk out the doors, sweaty and tired, I feel taller. Often still sore. But somehow tall. And for someone who is only 5'4'', that's saying something. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

remember the broken

It’s heartbreaking some times. Not every day. Not even most days. But on occasion, sitting in the front row of other people’s hurt, well it hurts. That sick to your stomach, ache in your chest, kind of hurt.

Yesterday was one of those days. A day when in the time it takes to sign a signature, the mood of the entire day flips. One minute, I’m not even thinking about who is going to walk through the door. I’m sending a congratulatory email to a friend who has just sent exciting news. And the next minute, I’m handing out Kleenex and taking deep breaths to keep my own emotions in check.

The signing of paperwork is routine around here. I’ve drafted and signed these documents countless times. And that’s what makes days like yesterday so difficult. It’s knowing that most days I’m oblivious to the brokenness. Most days I don’t think twice about it. Most days I don’t see the tears. Most days I don’t know the hurt. Most days I forget. 

On the one hand I’m glad most days aren’t like yesterday. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do that every day. On the other hand, I pray, Dear Jesus, help me not forget the brokenness. Mine. Theirs. Even when on the outside the people I meet act like everything is OK. Help me remember their hurt.   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

knowing birds

© Maggie Lee, Louisville, Kentucky, December 2008
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology at allaboutbirds.org is my site of choice

I dared to walk to work today. Knowing it would rain. I have a rain coat. An umbrella. I am willing Spring. Daring warm days to string together uncountable. I am ready for the sun to warm my skin, all the way down to my bones. But it’s only April. 

It takes ten minutes to walk to work. Often longer to walk home as I stop to talk to one neighbor after another. I’d hardly made a block this morning when I noticed the birds chirping ahead of me. As I approached they took off toward the trees. But one caught my attention.

There are usually just sparrows here. Brown, flecked birds. But this one, it was so much tinier than all the rest. It perched on a thin branch at a height just above my head. I held my breath in hope that it would not fly off. I wanted a closer look as I passed by.

 I did not stop, for fear I’d scare it. And as I passed, I saw the faint yellow of its belly. I guessed it was a goldfinch. Just beginning to change out of its winter coat. Uncle Flash would scold me for guessing and not verifying. If he were still here, he’d throw the bird book at me and tell me to look it up. To find out for sure. To stop my guessing. 

I tried to look it up online when I got to work. But I’ve never been as good at knowing birds as he was. Still I am convinced the little tiny bird was indeed a goldfinch.

Even though it'll rain on me today, the walk was more than worth it. To see up close the tiny bird with the barely yellow belly and know that Spring is here. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

attitude: two sides of the same mirror

I sat by Mirror Pond on a park bench, sandwich in one hand a book in the other.  I’d been there for some time when load voices behind me distracted me for a moment. Three teenage girls were walking down the grassy hill behind me. Talking loudly. One exclaimed over an item she’d forgotten to bring with her.

As I glanced behind me, I saw they were on their way to meet up with a larger group of teens walking from the other direction. The girl who’d forgotten something, shouted even louder to the other group about how she’d forgotten it. Whatever it was, I’ve since forgotten, it had no significance to me. As the groups met about twenty yards over my left shoulder, I tried to return to my book, but could not concentrate to finish a sentence.

From the moment I first heard them approaching, I could hear their language seasoned with f-bombs. Loud. Purposeful. Every. Other. Word. I could hear the anger and indignation as they talked about their teachers and the assignment they’d been given.

I was startled. I looked around. I didn’t know if I should interject. Ask them politely to speak more kindly. I scanned for children who might be hearing this assault of language, a mother who might step in. Part of me was relieved there were none. I knew these teens, who showed no respect for their teachers, the authority figures in their lives, would simply laugh at me or cuss my out if I stood up and asked them please. So I said nothing.

You might think I’m prudish for being bothered my their harsh language. But I have to tell you, I think cursing has a place. I’d be lying if I told you I never, ever curse. I do. I try to limit it to my internal dialogue, or when no other ears can hear. But sometimes I slip. Just don’t tell Mama. She likes to think that I am still sheltered from the evils of this world.  But the reality is that I think curse words can be a valid form of expression. Sometimes “darn-it” and “fiddlesticks” simply aren’t strong enough words to express the depth of emotion.

But these teens, they weren’t using their words to express emotions. Their attitude showed they used these words to make a show. To say, “I can do anything I want. No one else is the boss of me. Just try me.” But they weren’t proving any point to me.

The book I held in my hand was about a teenage girl. Not much older than any of them.  A girl who left her home to work in Uganda. A teenage girl who would adopt 14 daughters before she was old enough to drink in the States. And she did all this because she knew Jesus called her to love. To love just one. Each one she met. And every day she strived to say, “Yes” to that call. (You can read about her here.)

The difference between the teenagers in the park and the one I read about were stark. Opposite sides of the same mirror. Long after those angry teens moved on, I put my book down and prayed for the baby that the girl who’d forgotten something pushed in a stroller. I prayed that baby would know more love than anger. More grace than pain. More joy than sorrow. 

Each day we have a choice to make. We can choose love or we can choose anger. We can choose joy or we can choose disappointment. Which choice will you make today?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

good start to a new day

I woke to the sun shining through my window. 
The first time I've seen it in days. 
I dared to wear my favorite skirt in the cold mountain air. 
I scraped last night's rains off my frozen windshield
I had to leave earlier than usual. 
I dropped my car off at the shop to get my tires changed. 
I walked to the nearest coffee shop for a pot of tea.
I had time to kill.
I smelled the varieties before making my choice.  
I chatted with the little boy at the table next to me. 
He picked pecans out of his granola and offered them to me.
Finally, I had to say goodbye.
But was reminded what joys can come in even the smallest change of routine.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

a reason to celebrate

Mama was in town last weekend. She had meetings with the KIDS Center. On Friday, we huddled together in the snow flurries as local children sang "Celebrate" to kick-off National Child Abuse Prevention month here in this mountain town. 

Wearing coordinating outfits, Mama, little sister and I sat in a row at Sunday service. Mama remembers my first Easter dress. I've seen photographs of the pink dresses and white hats she dressed us in. (And by us, I mean my twin sis and me. A side-effect of being a twin is speaking in the plural.)

I remember later Easters. A new dress each year. Hats with elastic bands the cut into the skin under our chins. And pulling on that band with my white-gloved hands in between group photo shots. 

I remember Easter egg hunts with my cousins. And finding forgotten eggs weeks later while pulling weeds in the garden. 

I was baptized by my grandpa in a little white church on Easter Sunday. That was 18 years ago.   

In college I attended a church that would frequently hold baptisms during service. I remember the pastor's words each time he'd dunk someone into the water and raise them up again. Those words repeat in my head even now when I witness a baptism. 

"Buried with him in death. And raised to walk with him in newness of life." 

As each believer emerged from the water with those words, the congregation clapped and cheered in celebration. 

Standing in the cold on Good Friday, listening to the voices of children sing celebration songs, I felt uncomfortable. I was confused by songs of joy juxtaposed with the reality of child abuse. But on Easter I remembered. We celebrate not the death of our Savior, but the of the hope that it brings.  He stood in the gap for us and rose to walk again. 

The songs were not a celebration of death, but of the hope brought by those working tirelessly to end the abuse of children. The songs were for the social workers, the doctors and the volunteers and for everyone who stands in the gap for the abused. 

It's time we all started working together to end child abuse so we really have something to celebrate. What are you doing to stand in the gap for the children in your life? 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

child abuse: america's hidden crisis

Sunday was April Fool’s Day. How many of you got tricked?

Yesterday was free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry’s. I missed it this year.

But April is an important month for another reason altogether. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  

According to a recent BBC report, one child dies in the US every 5 hours as a result of abuse or neglect. That’s nearly 5 children every single day. Did you know that?

The BBC calls this our “hidden crisis”. We have the worst record in the industrialized world. For a nation who likes to win, we are big losers when it comes to protecting our children. These children are not only being let down by their abusers, but every single one of us who doesn’t step in fails these children as well.  

We have got to take responsibility. We have to become better protectors of our children. We need to educate ourselves about the signs of abuse and how we can better protect children. Each one of us has a responsibility to end this crisis.

My mama’s a writer. She’s the author of the just released A Silence of Mockingbirds. The story of the murder of 3-year-old Karly Sheehan.  This book is a must read. Not because I’m biased and the author is my mama. But because, every one of us needs to open our eyes to the real problem of abuse and neglect in this nation.

Some of you may cringe, and say, “But I couldn’t possible bear to read such a book.” And to you I quote Flannery O’Conner : “The truth doesn’t change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Child abuse is real, and by closing your eyes and plugging your ears to the reality, you contribute to the problem.

Mockingbirds are fierce protectors of their nest. They will take huge risks to defend their young. They have been known to dive-bomb larger birds, animals and even people who threaten their nests with a goal to chase the predator as far as possible from their nest. We need to take a lesson from the mockingbirds and learn to protect our children. 

Take the first step to becoming a protector and buy A Silence of Mockingbirds

Monday, April 2, 2012


My apologies for disappearing on you all. I've been spending time behind the steering wheel.I'm one of the few lucky grownups (if I can be considered that) who still gets Spring Break even though I don't work in education. And when I'm on break, I more or less unplug. 

I don't carry a fancy phone, don't even own one. My computer time on the road is limited to the time spent in coffee shops, and seeing as how I still haven't developed much of a taste for coffee, well you get the picture. 

While I dream of one day traveling to places where the sun actually shines in March, Spring Break for me means road trips, car food (pretzels), visits with friends old and new, yummy meals, frozen lakes, and time with family. And with the right company, there is beauty even in the rain.