let your cup overflow

let your cup overflow

Blog post for slow collection

One of the reasons I wanted to write about living and moving at a slower pace is illustrated in the following hour or two in my life. It’s a small passage of time that revealed my impatience, propensity to hurry and pettiness. I could add other adjectives but, you know, I’m trying to be conscious of word count. 

During Christmas break, my son Caleb had dinner plans across the city from our home. The location of the meal was just far enough away it didn’t make sense to divvy the driving between me and Carl or to return home after drop-off only to return in short order for pick up. 

I decided to take a book, find a warm place to read and wait. I remembered a nearby Starbucks from a previous waiting scenario and was delighted to find several open chairs, cushioned just enough for passing time.

The young woman who took my tea order was cheerful and engaging.  It was hard not to notice thin raised lines running the length of her left upper arm in contrast to her right arm, a colorful sleeve of ink.  Each side a visual of pain in different dimensions. I hoped it was a testimony of inner and outer healing.

 There were several tables dotted with men in conversation and every so often another member would step across the door’s threshold, causing an eruption of laughter and welcome.

I staked claim of my seat, set my cup upon the side table situated between me and an adjacent padded chair and opened my book. 

After about 15 minutes, a man sat down with coffee and proceeded to blow his nose more than sip his drink. He stayed for about 10 minutes and was on his way. I was relieved.

Another ten minutes passed and an older man nabbed the vacant seat and spread his bounty of food and drink, covering the table. I am sure there is an associated emoji for how I eyed this action. I am sure I inwardly sighed as he buttered, torn open and crumpled his bags and liberally seasoned his food with salt and pepper. I know I snapped a discreet table photo and sent it to my daughters with a comment about the virtues of sharing space after he pulled the table towards him, almost toppling my stoppered tea. 

I resumed my reading after picking up my phone a few times to read the emoji and gif littered text responses when the man asked me if two giggling brown-faced children sitting at a high table across the cafe were mine. I replied no and pointed to their parents sitting in mirror-imaged chairs to ours. 

I set my gaze upon my book and attempted to locate my last read sentence. He continued to express his worry the children might fall if not watched properly. We conversed back and forth for a few minutes. It was harmless really. But then from what context of our conversation I am not certain, he began telling me about his great-great-grandfather and how Indians tried to take his land while living in Montana. I didn’t have a response and to be honest, I wanted the conversation to end. I picked up my phone hoping for a text to appear, informing me my time was up.

I attempted to direct the conversation to a different subject. He rose to fetch additional napkins from the counter and I took this as my opportunity to assume a forceful reading posture as if I were a superhero of the literary kind. For a small passage of time, my victory was clear as there was not a sound except for the tide of conversation, laughter, and frothing swirling about us.

My phone’s telltale ding alerted me that Caleb was ready for a lift. I told the gentleman I was heading out and the reason why I had tarried.

I gathered my belongings and stood up. 

“…but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
I do not know You, God, because I am in the way.
Please help me to push myself aside.”*

He lifted his face towards mine and asked,

“Did you have a nice Christmas?”

In as few words as possible, I answer him by telling him, I did have a nice Christmas, it was simple, quiet and lovely.

I ask him about his Christmas and hoped for an equally quick answer as my foot needed to be attached to an accelerator.

He paused and quietly replied,

“My Christmas wasn’t so good. My wife died 10 days ago.”

My mouth widens and I sit down.

For the next ten to fifteen minutes, Darryl shares about his wife, his sorrow and the pre-existing splinters within his family which would require more than a tweezer or needle to remove the nagging ache. 

My book is in my bag, my phone is in my pocket and my eyes are affixed to him. When I glance down, I reacquaint myself with the remains of his meal. Perhaps this partially consumed spread is considered dinner when a home is suddenly empty. 

I truly need to leave but how can I leave? 

My watch buzzes every so often and I know my messenger’s identity.

When it feels like the right moment, I tell Darryl my need to retrieve my son. I express my sorrow for his huge loss and the grief he must be feeling. I ask if he would like me to pray for him. It is truly all I can even think to offer. I don’t expect him to consent but he slides his hand to an open spot on the table closer to me.

In the midst of hands exchanging cash for nourishment and huddled voices seeking community, I touch the top of his hand and pray words that can only be accomplished by One mightier than me demonstrating my best superhero pose. I whisper words to the One who is always there in the midst of our darkest days, even when the world continues to spin as usual. He’s the One who knows my impatience, hustling, and inward-turning ways and tenderly offers me a seat to grace me with a better, clearer view.

When I arrive at the restaurant, Caleb is unbothered by my tardiness, figuring something important must have come up to delay my arrival. 

Caleb’s friend needs a ride home as well and as we drive the rain-soaked streets, I explain the reason for my lateness and don’t delete any unvarnished parts regarding me.

They listen in silence and I hope it’s not because they are absorbed in scrolling their phones. When I finish, they both agree Darryl had a crummy Christmas and they were glad I listened.

I am glad I listened too.

Eventually. 


*Flannery O’Connor-A Prayer Journal

oh for the love of empty wrappers

oh for the love of empty wrappers

I abandoned several months of low carb living Monday for something

in a brightly colored plastic sleeve.

Small discs of peanut butter and chocolate heaven melted

in my mouth as I chose sugar to be my soother.

But that was the other day, let me backtrack a few weeks.

I decided to take a risk.

I applied for something in the arena of writing knowing

the odds were numerically stacked against me.

I decided to consider it an exercise without

expectations pinned on the outcome.

I pushed click and a fragment of myself flew off into cyberspace.

I uttered this to no one except a few lines in an email to a friend

and in private chats with God.

Then I waited.

The way you wait for the thick envelope to land in your mailbox with

a thud during college application season.

Everyone knows thin does not mean you are in.

(Which is not always the case, but let’s go with it for
the purposes of this post.)

One morning, I glanced over my inbox and there it was.

The. Answer.

It was a lovely and kind email even though it felt like a thank you

wrapped in tissue paper tattooed with the word no.

Not you.

During the waiting period, I had made positive self-talk my ritual.

I prepared myself and would not allow any hopes to escape into the

atmosphere.

Yet a few wafted through a small keyhole in my heart.

I moved on because life does carry on with or without my permission.

I thought the disappointment had been absorbed until a week later,

I innocently visited a website revealing

the ones who had been chosen.

Somehow now it made a difference, it felt different seeing faces.

Even when I allowed my calculator

(yes, I am crazy like this)

to do the math telling

me that a mere .0189473684% of the pool of applicants were selected,

it didn’t seem to matter.

It ruined my day.

Or should I say, I allowed it to ruin my day.

I hoped consuming the contents of a wrapper would

fill the lack I felt in my heart.

The peanut butter cup was my gateway drug for

the rest of the day.

Carl didn’t even say a word (bless him!) when he saw

me eating a brownie or two during the NCAA

basketball championship game.

I wish I could blame my binge on

my march madness bracket debacle,

but I can’t.

Empty wrappers, sacks, boxes or whatever

container are not a recipe for contentment.

In the moment, a perfect and harmless antidote but

in the aftermath, the cause for the consumption

sits smugly watching you take out the trash.

Tuesday was another day.

The rhythm of the morning was a fresh gift of mercy.

Later, I returned from a walk and while showering it occurred

to me that I had prayed for God’s will regarding this opportunity.

I had prayed the right people would be selected.

Isn’t that what happened?

Isn’t that answered prayer?

Is it still answered prayer when I am not fond of the outcome?

What does it mean when the right person doesn’t mean me?

In that moment as water crashed upon my head,

I felt drowned in the reality that perhaps my

praying is much more like prodding.

If I am honest, this awareness hurt more than

not being chosen.

Every solitary day God chooses chocolate stained me.

I commence a pity party whenever my will is overridden.

It’s me who needs to be prodded back into alignment.

It may seem inconceivable and sound insincere based on the

above lament, but when I received my rejection email,

I prayed for those selected.

I prayed for how God was planning to use them to minister to others.

I said a carbon copy prayer for myself.

On Tuesday I prayed again.

I prayed the same prayer.

A prayer for the selected.

A prayer for me who has been eternally chosen

by the heart and will of the Father.

 

No prodding needed.

 

 

agendas

agendas

I could tell you a story,

paint you a picture,

hand you a book or

buy you a movie ticket.

Whether heard or witnessed, experiences are rarely identical.

I might smirk while you laugh until tears escape.

It’s doubtful the same sentences would be underlined or the faintest  of brushstrokes

hiding in the corner of a frame would be celebrated in one accord.

I believe conferences are like a collective fellowship

revealing the tandem fibers woven into our lives.

I mentioned on Monday, I attended the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

I would love to share my thoughts knowing I won’t capture even an

ounce of what each person’s perspective.

Let’s call them footnotes.

I am usually a prolific note taker but I didn’t take as many notes this year.

I chose more often to put the pen aside and step into the stories told by others.

For clarity and length sake, I will provide the link to each speaker mentioned so

you can read their bios and have a firmer place to land.

Four speakers shared with over 300 writers and creatives on Friday night.

Standout quotes and thoughts:

Tony Kriz

We tend to make ourselves the hero of every story. 
Jesus was good at making others the heroes of the story.

We must be willing to lay down our agendas. (my paraphrase)

You must write for art, for beauty, never for the career.

At the end of his talk, Tony instructed the audience to turn in their seats
in such a way where our eyes could land on the greatest amount of people.
One by one he read statements for us to raise our hands if the answer was yes.
We were given time to scan the faces unlike our own but united
in lifted hands.
Statement by statement we stood together in honesty as we were stripped down
until we arrived at the final statement of
I am a writer.

You can read those statements here.

Sarah Thebarge

I was riveted and only wrote her name on the page 🙂
She shared that we are writers because we write.
We need patience in our writing as God may have only unfolded
half of our story.
When the other part arrives, it will illuminate the first part
and bring completion to the whole story.

Randy Woodley

Our stories are stretched through diversity.

Allow new adventures and people to stretch us and our stories.

Remember God says I am doing a new thing, will you not see it?

Deidra Riggs

Deidra shared a day when she abandoned her routine and agenda and
simply allowed God’s whisper to lead and teach her.
He showed her things she would have never seen had she been
unwilling to let go of her plans.

Go closer.

Choose a different way.

Go off the prescribed path.

Whether you are a writer or not,

God is writing your story.

Be willing to wait,

to lay aside agendas and control.

Wander away from

the concrete path and allow your

feet to tread in squishy

and muddy terrain.

Our stories possess more

colors than contained in the

largest Crayola box.

Will you let Him?

Will you listen so you can write it down?

Will you share your story in spoken words

or words upon a page?

His glory is supremely magnified when we utter our stories.

Saturday marks the point when brains become saturated with

information, thoughts and dreams.

It’s here where life-giving water floods our

once solitary paths and unites them with a multitude of footprints

gently treading upon our souls.

Eric Larson

The memorable final dance sequence of Flashdance provided a visual

reminder to “take our passion and make it happen.”

God has not given us a spirit of cowardice but of love and

a sound mind.

Be brave in life and in your writing.

Paul Louis Metzger

Our lives and our writing should be shaped by the object of our affections.

Our lives should be shaped by sacred literature.
Keep learning from the literary guild.

The best writing is often not found in the place of comfort,
but often in the margins through suffering.

Don’t hide what you want to write because you believe
no one wants to read it.

Stay thirsty, my friend!

Sarah Bessey

We were blessed to hear from Sarah twice over the weekend.

I did a lot of listening and not a lot of jotting down.

Our dear friend from the north brought her Canadian sensibilities,

her passion for Jesus and blessed us with prayer.

Writing is my spiritual discipline, my prayer,
my cloister, but it is also my offering.

Quit writing with an agenda, a motive or a strategy.

Begin with your own life-giving life, 
not a copycat life,
but a life brimming life.

His words are not an addition to our lives.
They are life.

Write in the midst of the mess as it is where we meet God.

Deidra Riggs

We ended our time with Deidra gently urging us to

not discount the blessedness of rest.

You know she was speaking my language 🙂

Rest is our heart’s true home.

When we deny ourselves rest, we deny our true home.

Rest is where our feet find solid footing.

Rest is holding things loosely…our callings
our gifts and letting them go.

Don’t forget God’s promise that we will enter
into His rest.
An intimacy designed just for us in the private place.

Don’t rebuff God’s advances to you.

Take this life and make it an offering.

Take your life passions and make it happen.

What will you do with your

calling,

gifts

and life?

Will you fully give it away?

I repeat,

Will you share your story in spoken words

or words upon a page?

Live a great story!