Come Out and Play!

Posted: January 28, 2016 in blog post

Kat Silverglate's Shot of the Day

dali and camVH5L1760Wynwood in Miami is a photographer’s paradise. Art appears on every exterior wall, between every bench and road sign, in every bathroom. Even on the parking meters, the drain covers and the door knobs.  You walk around a corner and it is literally in your face.

What I think I love most about Wynwood is that it draws people out of their houses.  From behind their computers.  Away from isolation.  We are meant to be active participants in this magnificent life.  So easy to withdraw.  So easy to hide.  So easy to stay away, alone, afraid.

We are made for community.  For interaction.  For fellowship.

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them [favorite title], John Ortberg brilliantly tickles out the truth that we all come with this little “as is” tag, like the one on the clearance shelf in Walmart, with dings and scratches.  The Lord…

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Heaven Meets Earth, Copyright 2016 Kat Silverglate

“Oh My God!”

It just kept coming out involuntarily.

“Oh My God!”

“Oh My God!”

“Oh My God!”

It just kept coming and coming and coming from a woman who doesn’t say it or type the letters OMG in daily banter.  Oh my gosh, yes. Oh my goodness, absolutely.  But Oh my God?  My journey through the use of those words could be the subject of a dramady [drama and comedy combined].  I guess all of our journeys from legalisms to heart truths look similar?  I’m talking to you from under the bus here, so feel free to cringe or smile or nod or laugh.

“It’s a sin to use the Lord’s name in vain,” someone said to me one day.   Yes, I knew this. But Oh My God?  Is that the same thing?  I remember thinking they were pure and kind and speaking from a really loving place when they said something like, “making God’s name small in casual conversation is just the same Kat.  Throwing His great name around like a potato chip or a paper plate is just as bad.”  To me, it was like they were announcing a new law.   So, wanting to do things “God’s way,” I made rules for myself to obey this law.  Never say the phrase “Oh my God.”   They said you’ll be in trouble with God if you do.  And when the words would come out of my mouth, I would be gripped with fear.  “Don’t say that!  It’s too casual for God.  That’s bad,” I reminded myself.  Sure, I was moved by the desire to do it right, but something wasn’t quite right about how this whole journey was going down.

And then, well, you know how it goes.  Right?  The whole fear thing got morphed by something else.  Something far more powerful.  It didn’t happen in a straight line.  It wasn’t linear.  It was omni, kind of invading the whole question from every angle.  The light slowly came in and overtook the darkness of fear from the inside out leaving me with insufficient words to describe how A led to B led to C led to D. Something changed in me the way lovers change us when they look at who we are becoming instead of who we are at this moment.  At some point, it just wasn’t a ‘thinking’ thing for me any more.  Or a fear thing for me.  Or a law thing.  Or a rule thing.  Or a judgement thing. Casual OMG’s just didn’t seem to come up in my mouth or flow from my pen.  Not because I was afraid.  Or was trying not to do it.  But because…

And then, it happened.  On the road in Glenn Coe Scotland.  After years of living without thinking about this very much, I am suddenly transformed into a verbal OMG billboard. Megaphone.  Maniac.  I can’t stop myself from saying it.  Duck tape and super glue wouldn’t have damned the flow.  And here’s the thing.   It wasn’t volitional.  It was just coming out.  Literally, it was like my soul was speaking as we turned the corner and saw what looked like heaven meeting earth.  We were on the road but the mountain in front of us appeared to be coming out of God’s hands just so we could be awed.  Floored. Breathless.   Excited.  Moved.  Blown away.  It was floating like a mirage or a vision. Disconnected from what seemed real, yet connected at the same time.  Like you could drive right off the edge of the earth into the heavenlies.  Oh My God!  No picture could do it justice.  And no other words could be more adequate. I just kept snapping pictures as this uttering was coming from my soul to the maker of that mountain.  Deep calling out to deep?  Is that what that means?

I knew the remote parts of Scotland would be beautiful.  Even breathtaking.  But not like this.  Not even close.

The closest analogy I can make to this experience I was having is to a principle in the secular law called an Excited Utterance.    It’s actually an exception to a rule that says we keep out evidence that isn’t very reliable.  When we overhear someone say something [hearsay], it isn’t very reliable.  So the law keeps it out unless there is a really good reason to make an exception. Excited utterances are kind of like spontaneous words from people who are under some kind of stress so they don’t have time to think about what they are saying.  There is a reliability to the words because they are so spontaneous.  The startling or shocking event forces the words out.  “I killed her.” No time to think about whether that’s a wise thing to say.  Or premeditate how to avoid consequences.  It just comes. That’s as close as I can come to the words coming out of me that day.  Spontaneous.

As I mediate on it and think back on the whole experience, my heart says with joy — Oh my God!

Look what You made.

You made that mountain and floated it in the sky right there so our breath would leave our bodies and we would declare, even if involuntarily, who we belong to.   For the word in the middle — the MY — to be the intimate part of that declaration.  Not, Oh God.  Or, Oh A God.  But Oh MY God.  Mine.  Intimate.  Personal.  Relational.

My God.

Mine.

Amen

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Images on this page by Susan Walker and Anne Fecht

He was the BIG RED BUS guy.  The guy who stood to welcome anybody willing to give blood for the life of another.  Tall.  Very tall.  With a gentle giant demeanor.  Nobody was intimidated by his invitation to visit the bus.  In fact, I never heard him actually invite anybody into that BIG RED BUS.  I just saw him greet people with welcoming eyes and a genuine smile letting the BIG RED BUS do the inviting. What I noticed most about him was the way he came out between donors and stared in awe at what was happening in the parking lot.

He was, as we all were, in those tender days following the initial mass destruction in Paris.  Worldwide, people were reeling.  Up the next day trying to move through life and all the constructive plans that were made long before this evil showed up, it was hard to function without that numb “how do I keep moving” feeling.  It seemed to be the activity in the parking lot that was moving him in and out of that bus with more than a “just keep moving through this day” determination.  Clearly, there was an ember.  A pilot light.  A spark of hope igniting in that man every time he left that bus and circled the parking lot.

A few months ago as the plans for what would happen in the parking lot began to form, that same pilot light was palpable.  The same spark glinted.  The same ember burned.  Much like the RED BUS man who was struggling to move out of the shadow of the darkness of evil, this planning group was pushing to move out of a different shadow — the shadow of the valley of death.  Still emerging from grief over the loss of their best friend, their mentor, their cheer leader and the founder of this weapon of mass construction that would soon happen in the parking lot, they came to this planning meeting with a tender mixture of hope and grief.  Oh, they knew that their beloved wife, friend, mentor, leader was delighting in the perfect peace of the Lord now and this gave them great comfort.  But they missed the snot out of her and could not imagine dancing in the parking lot again.  Not the same way anyway.  And not so soon.

This parking lot dance started 12 years ago at a dining room table with a few Jesus followers who wanted to bring hope to those going through an ER time of life.  You know that kind of time, don’t you?  We all have them at some point.  A lost job.  A sick mother.  A recent diagnosis.  A prodigal child.  A season of isolation.  A time when you are searching for God in a world that seems filled with mass destruction.  This collective of a few “one persons,” ordinary men and women, prayed that God would give them 5 or 6 people to give a basket of food to during the holidays so that a hopeless one could know through the hands of a stranger — God has not forgotten you.  He sees you in your time of need.  He wants to build you up, not tear you down.  He is on your side.  In the hands of Christ, these men and women wanted to be weapons of mass construction in a world of mass destruction.  To follow the HOPE of Glory so closely that they became part of His path of massive HOPE.

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Turns out, being in this path is highly addictive!  Madly transformative.  And magnetic to those who are seeing refuge in the path of the Lord.  The first 5 or 6 weapons of mass construction grew into 30 or 40 and then 60 or 70 and then, well, we can’t really count because counting isn’t really practical anymore.  And, more importantly, it isn’t the goal.   Baskets of Hope, as it came to be known, became a movement of mass construction involving “many one persons” who come together to bring hope to the hopeless.  Schools, businesses, churches, neighbors, friends.  All come together so that one person, one family, one hurting soldier on the battlefield of life can hear God say — I will never leave you or forsake you.  I have not forgotten you.  You matter to me.  You are significant.  I want to build you up.  Restore you.  Hold you.  Save you.

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So what hap11057509_10153472136923192_6611551360215819122_opened in the parking lot that day?  Hundreds of “one persons” who had contributed in some way to collecting food, praying, operating food drives, inviting neighbors, gathering families, visiting businesses, setting out collection boxes, speaking at schools and to organizations, fielding phone calls — they all came together to meet each other as a group for the very first time.   To see what it looks like when many one persons do a little so that God can massively construct hope and build a lot more than we could ever imagine on our own.

As all the food was wheeled out on carts into the parking lot and the Cub Scout who asked 10 members of his family to contribute saw all of the food together, his mother ached with a mixture of joy and raw emotion over the fact that her son was part of building something up.  As the many stood holding just one beautiful bag ready to fill it with food dona12244748_10153127771802601_7513394954856786505_oted by them and others, a small group from a local church huddled in prayer asking God to show them just one family who needs to know “God has not forgotten you.”  As the instruction was given, “OK now, let’s start
assembling our baskets,” the parking lot erupted in a frenzy of mass construction, laughter, joy and amazement as baskets went from empty to overflowing.  As each one was filled, the person or the group who did the assembly walked the bounty to the foot of the Cross and laid it there lifting up a prayer or a praise for all God did to make that happen and all He will do as the basket goes out.

This is what the RED BUS Guy was witnessing one day after the Paris attack and it was lifting him up out of a darkness that we were all fighting to reject.  And I know this because at the very end of the day while all the leaders were standing at the foot of the Cross in amazement at what God had done with many one persons for the sake of HOPE, the RED BUS Guy came in and said something like this…  I gotta tell you, I came here really distraught over what is happening in the world.  Really down.  I needed to have hope today.  I needed to see this.  I needed to see what happened here today in this parking lot.  This was amazing.  This gave me hope.  Thank you.

To which we all said, “thank Him!”  We may have cooperated in the mission, but He is and was the power in bringing many one persons together for the sake of HOPE.   He does the work of HOPE!  And He asks us to join Him right where we are.  One person at a time.  Isn’t that amazing?  We told him the same thing we told each other that morning — in the hands of the Lord, we are meant to be weapons of mass construction in a world of mass destruction!  We are meant to be built up in the Lord and to build others up with Him and in Him.  To God be the Glory.  Amen.  And Amen!

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It hit me yesterday.

What I miss so much about her.  Not just her.   But about her.

Because about her is somehow different than missing her.

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Tricia Heng — Little Lady, Big Heart

It hit me yesterday because I dialed the number for the ministry of a dear friend and I heard her voice for the first time since she passed.  You know that feeling when you’re going about your day and you have ordinary catch-up tasks and you’re clearing your decks for the next thing?  You’re in your skins [sweats and t-shirt] not expecting anything today but this mundane movement from the tasks that separate you from the next mission that actively engages your armor.  The one you put on to protect yourself from the unexpected slings and arrows on the battlefield of life?  You aren’t braced or protected or defensive in any way because catch-up tasks don’t normally require that kind of posture.  You’re pretty much relaxed and free and moving involuntarily through bills and grocery shopping and lists and clearing out voice mail and deleting junk marketing from your inbox, cringing, maybe, at all the little things that pile up.  If you spoke the ethos of your transition day into a voice recorder it would sound like — lllllliiiiiiiiiiiiffffffeeeeeeee – said slowly with an intonation that would leave the audio monitor with a line slightly elevated above dead silent but still flat and monotone and pitch-less.  It was that kind of day.

So when it hit me, the joyous unmistakeable mountainesque lilt of her voice, I was defenseless.  Unprepared to protect myself.  To fight what came over me.  It came physically before I knew what was happening.  Like the time you were a kid and you picked up what you thought was a sweet glass of ginger ale only to discover it was straight scotch.  Gulping greedily and mindlessly, expecting a quenching sweetness, you didn’t feel the pain until you were halfway through.  It wasn’t the physical burn that got you so much because you realized in some primal place that you weren’t gonna die from this.  It was the betrayal to the unarmored, naked security you felt just moments before you were hit with reality.  That’s what got you.   That little synapse of delay between your physical senses and the havoc being wrecked on your heart is pretty darn harsh.    A few words into the recording, I felt my throat tighten, my eyes swell and my body ache with grief.  The pitch of the audio waves reached my heart before my brain processed the transaction.  Water spilled over the edge of the thinly veiled lock bolting down my tear ducts since April.   Salty tears were apparently lurking so close to the surface that a mere sound wave could pierce the shallow layer holding them at bay.  Grief.  It was upon me before I could put up my armor and run to resist the grip of ache.   I was fighting so hard to recover quickly so that I could …   hmmmm?  So that I could…?  What?

A few years ago I had one of those seasons where grief came sideways into the world of those I knew and loved through my son’s school.  That season taught me that we are often more prepared for the rear-enders that we see coming in the rearview mirror or the head-on collisions that we brace for moments before they hit more than the side winders that hit us in our blind spots.  Three people at my son’s school died in a very short span of time — a beloved long-time employee, a young student and a spunky full-of-life 40-something guidance counselor.  No matter how skilled one was at avoiding pain or burying emotion or hiding from the earthquake that shakes when death comes, grief was moving through the school.  Administrators, students, employees, parents, friends – no matter where you turned, people were grieving.   Grief was upon us.  We were, most of us, fighting to get through it quickly so that…?  Hmmmm?  So that?  What?  I’m not sure now.

A group of counselors came to the school to speak to parents about helping their children grieve.  Here’s what penetrated the fleshy portion of my brain and never left me.  It’s what came to me yesterday when I ran to suppress the ache of grief.  The counselor with the long brown hair and calming voice looked at the parents and said something that has combined with the things I’ve learned since.  I can’t really separate what she said then from what I’ve learned since, but here’s the melded version of the message that remains in my heart…  You need to know that grief tends to be cumulative.  Things you bury come back when you least expect it.  They pile up.  So, while your child or your friend or you may appear to be doing great on the surface, underneath, suppressed pain may remain.  How do you know?  Watch for little things.  Over-reactions to seemingly small events are classic.  The things that cause buried grief to seep out later generally pale in comparison to the loss you first experienced.  A pet dies.  You can’t find your homework or your wallet.   A friend moves away.  Your car gets broken into.  Any feeling of loss can cause the mountain of buried stuff to arrive at the doorstep of your heart and demand to be tended to.  It doesn’t make any sense at the time, because it seems so out of proportion to the event, but it’s evidence that we’ve buried something that needs air.  The best thing you can do with grief is to deal with it when it comes.  Don’t avoid it.  Or bury it.  Deal with it as it comes.  And remember, it won’t come all at once.  Mercifully, it will come in waves.  Some big, some small.  Ride it to the shore.  And don’t worry about when the next one will come.  Just deal with the one that has arrived.  As I said, I don’t know how much of that is post-lesson experience impressing on memory, but I can tell you is this.  Whatever initial seed that lady planted that day was spot on – grief is cummulative.  Not just psychologically, but biblically.

This morning as I fought to process my ardent resistance to grieving Tricia’s death, I read the blog of one of my professors, also a pastor.  His wife died Tuesday.  It’s Thursday today.  They were married for 30 plus years.  Grief has come upon him.  He isn’t avoiding it.  Rather than suppress it or go into isolation, he has done something I’ve never seen before.   He has come out to share his grief very publically.  Posting on facebook daily the ache in his heart as she was dying, his prayers to the Lord, his needs, his sorting through truth, his fears, his questions, his anguish, and his faith.   I’ve marveled at how safe he feels crying out to the Lord publically and inviting others to carry him through his pain.  Asking for prayer and comfort and help.  Inviting Christ’s body to hold him.   Reading his page is like reading the Psalms, the most authentic prayers imaginable touching the things we often think but do not share out in the public square.  Yet we identify with the Psalmist because he is like us.  Experiencing real pain, real hardship, real questions, real doubt, real life.

This morning he wrote about the consistency between hope and grief.  That a man may have the blessed assurance that his wife is with the Lord in Christ but still experience deep grief.  He didn’t say it exactly this way, but the hidden message that opened up in my heart as I read it was this – grief does not betray hope in a believer.  Authentic hope is no more diminished by grief than faith is diminished by honest questions or love is defeated by testing or opposition.   Jesus wept.  Those who observed his grief over the death of his friend Lazarus said wow!  What love he had for his friend.  Literally they said, “See how he loved him!”  His grief was not a reflection of a lack of hope but a reflection of a depth of love.   Love seeks presence.   Death bring separation.  And separation, even temporary separation, leads to grief.  I love how this professor describes the consistency.  “It is a grief that we would have if our loved one was to go on a trip they would never return from, and while they were gone no communication with us is possible.  On the one hand we might know they are safe and even happy where they are going.  But on the other the loss of that relationship would create deep sorrow.  The more the other person was in our inner circle of emotional intimacy the greater the pain at their now not being there to interact with.  Their ‘chair’ or place of trust in our heart is now empty.  That emptiness hurts.” 

It occurred to me as I read this and let down my armor to reflect on my visceral reaction to Tricia’s voice – grief is not the thief of joy.  When we rush to armor up and prevent ourselves from grieving, we may be depriving ourselves of something holy.  Does not Jesus declare a blessing on those who mourn in the Sermon on the Mount?  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4.    Doesn’t Paul declare in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that God is the Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God?  No, grief is not the thief of joy, the wrong kind of armor is.  Armor designed to keep bad stuff out is good.   Armor that locks stuff in that needs to come out is bad.  Falling apart in our self-constructed armor is not of the Lord.  It is of the thief.  Don’t let the thief steal your grief.  He’s a liar!  God blesses those who mourn with comfort.  He calls those who have been comforted by Him in trials to comfort others.  The wrong kind of armor is antithetical to receiving that kind of comfort.

So, here’s what I wrote as I let myself ride the wave of grief that came this morning.

It shocked me that I could still hear her voice.   That I missed her voice that deeply.  That her voice was so unique and distinguishable and recognizable.   So intricately carved in the brilliant formation of vocal cords by a brilliant God.   I can hear it in my mind if I close my eyes…  “This is Tricia.”  The pace and rhythm of that sentence repeated by her a thousand times imprinted itself like an audio signature on our hearts.  We could pick out that voice in a line up a million others.  Crazy, isn’t it?  Beautiful, isn’t it?  I’m shocked and awed by that.  By how we don’t know the true depth of having until we stop having.  Not because we are selfish, but because God is so much… so beyond… so I don’t know how to give it words.  We can’t begin to list, itemize, add, mount-up, imagine, the infinitesimal units of blessing that come from one creature made by God.  It brings me to my knees.

I miss her… reliable presence.  Beautiful countenance.  Genuine smile.  Radiant glow.  Delight in Jesus and determination to share His magnificent mercy and grace with… everybody.  Her utter generosity with her life.  Her willingness to be messy and vulnerable and not have all the answers.  To give the ones she had and to let that be enough – for now.  Her ability to lightly hold and release the things of this world as gifts to be given not treasures to be hoarded.  Bold unrelenting devotion to the call on her life to bring hope to the hopeless.  Git-Er-Done, put side-blinders on, no nonsense way, of moving from where she was to where God was leading.  Her simple but never simplistic messages.  Her authentic and honest self-deprecating speech.   Raw confessions.   Unvarnished witness.   Willingness to repent.  Encouraging cheerleaderesque word romps.   The laugh she shared when she was ticked about something.   The one that made you curious about what ticked her so.  The one that made you long for more of what she had.  The empathy she felt when another was hurting and the action that went along with it to reveal the sincerity of her heart.  The way she looked you squarely in the eye, often looking up at you because she was so short, leading you often to want to look up yourself.  Her passion to equip others for purposeful living.  The residue of grace that remained when she left a room.    The arrow that defined her life as a tilt upward toward her Creator away from self-glory, recognition, and titles.  The otherworldliness of her joy.  Her restlessness at inaction and holy discontent over the things that grieve God.    And her hope.   Her irrepressible hope.

OK…  I think that’s the end of this wave.  I think I rode this one all the way to the shore.  Thanks for riding with me.  I need you to know that the wave didn’t drown me as I feared and I have a gentle comfort as I write this.   Don’t worry about the next wave friends.  It will come when it comes.  Just deal with it when it comes.  Ride it to the shore with the Lord.  He is the God of all comfort.  The Father of compassion.  He has comforted others so that they can comfort you in your time of trial.    

Copyright July 2015, Kat Silverglate

IMG_2894I’ve been searching for the smallest number of words to sum up my friend Alma. The pithiest statement. The one that nails it and leaves everybody nodding because that little word comes as close as you can come to sum up what was so uniquely Alma. The thing that makes you want to stand up and applaud God for making an element in one of His creatures so spectacular. The way you do when you see the sky painted like you’ve never seen it before, or a mountain range buried in puffy white clouds, or the giggle of a baby that pushes away frustration, or the beam in the eyes of a groom as he glimpses his bride for the first time in all her splendor. The thing that makes you want to say – thank you for making this transcendent thing so very apparent through this one human being. Do it again God. Do it again. Help me see this again. Find it again. See it in myself maybe. And in others. Do it again.

She loved her kid. She loved her family. She loved her husband. She loved animals. All those things would leave us nodding about Alma, but we could say that about many people, couldn’t we? I think I could say it about myself. About many of my friends. Those are good words. Very good words. But the truth after thinking through her life, at least my limited exposure to it — how I met her, how we came together at significant points, how she died — I think there is a great word that smushes it all into the most succinct package. When we hear this word later in this piece, later today, later this month, later in our lives, I wonder if God will use it to remind us of something profoundly holy about the way He shows up in a life.   Not only in Alma’s, but how He offers Himself in life in general. Because, by holy, we generally mean set apart.  Profoundly different than the hard and hurt and cold and efficient world we see around us day in and day out.

Just about every encounter I had with Alma left me with this growing idea inside my heart. This notion that there was a theme that kinda defined Alma. A word. I picked three short vignettes to share with you hoping that you’ll arrive at the same conclusion. The same or a similar word before I reveal. Hoping that God will continue to live through the story of Alma’s life to bless and reach and transform. The first story, I hope, will make you laugh. The second, I think, will probably make you cry, but in a good way. And the third, well, I believe it may help you cope. At least it is helping me.  All three lead me inescapably to the conclusion — Alma had a word.

So let’s start by laughing. How I met Alma. I was at my friend Laura Dahne’s house having lunch and she says something like,

“Hey Kat, I gotta cut this short. I have a dear friend who is really sad and I need to go and love on her.”

“Oh,” I said. “Why is she sad?”

“She had a miscarriage. I know it must be emotionally very painful.”

Having had a miscarriage myself, I’m thinking – emotionally very painful? Oh, yeah. It is awful. And for odd reasons that transcend the general harsh reality of death. While a miscarriage is like any death, it is generally more isolating and met with less sympathy because most people are not even aware that you were pregnant to begin with. Nobody saw your round belly move or felt the wild delight that you were bathed in as you imagined pink or blue, what kind of mom you’d turn out to be, how many kids you’d have, what you’d name this new little human. To a longing and expectant mother, a miscarriage feels like someone hit you with a two by four of despair and you just want the whole world to stop spinning while you get your hope legs again. The drunkenness of delight gets broadsided – bam – by the two by four of death.   Sound like I’m overstating it a bit? Ask just about any woman who has been through it. It sucks.

So I said to Laura with a sudden pain for this stranger I’d never met, “I wanna go.” Laura, who knows me very well, did not think this at all weird. And being full of wisdom, she decided on the spot, that our conspiracy of love for Alma would be much more successful if we didn’t actually tell her that I was coming. We would just show up together and Laura would rely more on forgiveness than permission if everything went to hell in a hand-basket.

Over we drove to Alma’s parents’ house where Alma was sunken into the fibers of the couch exhausted from crying and desperate for the arms of a friend. Broken-hearted. The minute Laura walked in, she looked relieved and ready to be safely held by someone who didn’t care what she looked like, how she was dressed, whether snot got on her shoes or tears stained her dress. She looked like the shipwrecked sailor who sees the rescue plane hover over the SOS she painted desperately on the shore. That is, until she saw me, a complete stranger, emerge from behind Laura. Alma kinda froze. Didn’t say a word. Her eyes bounced back and forth from Laura to me. The beautiful look of relief turned to confusion and then to something akin to piss-off-ed-ness. She didn’t have to say a word. Her eyes said it all. Really? You brought a friend with you? A stranger? You brought someone I don’t even know into the middle of this most intimate horrible time? Really Laura? Are you kidding me? I thought you were my friend!

As I started to question what seemed a few short moments before like a really good idea, I decided to keep it brief and to the point and then get out as quickly as possible. I walked right over to Alma, sat on the couch and said, “my name is Kat. I’m not going to stay. I just want you to know that I’ve had a miscarriage. I know the pain you are feeling. And I want you to know that God carried me through it and that’s how I know He can carry you too, if you’ll let Him.” I told her some of the things that I learned on my journey and then I got up to leave. Only Alma, my new miscarriage-BFF was coiled around me like a grape vine sobbing, starting to let it go, and starting to heal. It seems the two by four of hope had transcended the two by four of death. That it hits harder than death and it leaves you just as dizzy, but in a good way. In a way that you may still be flattened but you’re eyes are open and you’re looking up nonetheless.   And it was only possible because Alma didn’t reject the presence of a stranger in the midst of her pain. She didn’t say no to hope. She said yes.

Alma at our first retreat together

               Alma [right] at our first retreat together with Laura the Brave [middle]                         and Kat the Hot Mess But Blessed One [left]

And so a friendship began. We would go to retreats together, text and call each other, celebrate her post miscarriage pregnancy. I would see her arrive in Weston months later with baby Matthew holding him like a promise from God in front of my face – behold God’s miracle! Behold hope! What an awesome friend.

Alma holding her miracle Matthew

Alma holding her miracle Matthew

 

 

But that damn two by four of pain. It would come again. Like a wallop leaving her dizzy and undone. She had been coughing. The doctor ordered a lung biopsy. There we were again. Laura, Alma, David (her husband) and me, wound up like a little grape vine praying before she went into the procedure. Only this time, Alma had invited hope into her pain.   Come on! You got a two by four of hope? Come to my biopsy! Come on. Let’s hit it harder than it is hitting us. Come on! It was in this second encounter with Alma that the word – Alma’s word – got a little more defined for me. I didn’t know it then. But I know it now in the rear view mirror where things always seem so much clearer.

The procedure took a long time. Alma’s sister, Laura and I found ourselves sitting together in the surgical waiting room having the kind of conversation you have with a stranger. You see, we didn’t know Alma’s sister. As we were getting to know her and swapping Alma stories, this loud wailing in Spanish started to drown out our conversation. It wasn’t Alma. We all knew her voice. But it was coming from the same place where Alma was having her procedure – behind the doors where people aren’t supposed to go. DO NOT ENTER UNLESS AUTHORIZED. Nohimi, the Spanish speaker amongst us, finally acknowledged the white elephant we were all trying to suppress – “do you know what she’s saying? She’s repeating over and over — I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to do this alone. I don’t want to be alone.”

So Nohimi, suddenly feeling the pain of this total stranger, says, “let’s go sit in there with her. So she doesn’t have to be alone.” So we went where nobody was supposed to go, three strangers, into a room of a woman who was wailing under the weight of the two by four of despair. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to do this alone. I don’t want to be alone. We didn’t do much really. Nohimi, Laura and I just sat with her, prayed for her, sang to her, listened to her, told her about God and how He promises us His presence. That we were only present because she cried out.  And then, eventually, she just fell totally and completely calm.  Started watching TV and eating the food that was set before her.   The two by four of hope transcended the two by four of despair yet again all because Alma invited us to be present in her pain. The two by four of hope was hitting harder than the two by four of pain leaving its lasting mark on us all.   Thank you Alma for inviting His presence into your pain. We were all transformed by that wallop of hope. Dizzy, in a good way. Looking up at the end of the day. Not drown in a sea of despair.

IMG_2913

The Green Smoothie Girls, prayer warriors for Alma and our friend Tricia and…

Over the next few years, I would watch Alma intimately involve others in her cancer journey.   The B.A.D. Girls of ECC. The girls you see in these prayer jackets — the Green Smoothie Girls— would pray as an army, drink green smoothies daily for a month, sip from the same water goblets where the words “renew us” were written.

Our girls weekend away

Our girls weekend away

She’d go away for a girl’s weekend, then to another retreat, no hair, sick as a dog, grabbing on to hope. Looking up. Praising/Asking God in her pain for His presence every step of the way. She didn’t let despair and pain and sickness drive her into isolation. She invited the presence of God and He always seemed to come with this crazy group of 2×4 hope swingers. Everybody looking up in some way after each dizzying blow.

IMG_2611And then, the last two by four of pain would wallop.   Try to hit us harder than we could bear. The pain of death. We were in Atlanta. At Cancer Centers of America. The whole family was a part of her journey there — husband son mother father sister brother brothers-in-law sisters-in-law nieces friend. The whole shootin match. We started visiting the highlights of her life with her. Best moments with mom and dad. Best friendship moments. Funnies stories. What do you want Matthew to know? And then this random question. Did you have a favorite childhood song? One that takes you back to your comfort as a child? Transcends time?  Circles you back to the earliest beginning? I looked at mom with a question mark face? It was just too overwhelming to go there.  As a mother myself, I can’t even begin to imagine.

IMG_2610So Alma, barely able to speak anymore started to mouth the words of a song her mama sang when she was a little girl. Then mama, reeling from the 2×4 of death, started to sing. And that two by four of hope rose up in the middle of that place yet again. Taller than the other. Hitting harder than the other.   Later in the waiting room I would meet a man whose adult daughter could barely speak because of a problem with her esophagus. “Can I tell you what I just learned from my friend Alma? When you can’t speak, you need to sing. Sing her favorite childhood song. See what happens. See what rises up in her.   He lit up with hope. Yes! That’s it. I can sing to her. That is what I will do. I’ll sing.”   When Alma couldn’t speak, the room was often filled with her favorite worship music. She wasn’t singing with her lips, but sometimes her foot would keep the beat or her face would radiate peace.   Bam. Dizzy. Up. Hope.

Later I would realize that the shorter two by four, the horizontal one, the one that is filled with the pain and death and suffering and despair that we can see at eye level with the world, is cut right through the center by the two by four of hope. That second two by four is bigger, points right into heaven and makes itself into the shape of a perfect cross as it crushes death and pain and suffering. God overcoming death. Hope bigger than despair. God literally with us in death and rising to life everlasting. Where heaven meets earth like a sloppy big kiss. Fully present in our pain and then overcoming it. Transcending it. So we can too. By His presence.

So here’s my word for Alma.

predrenched-webYour first guess will probably be hope.  And that’s a really good answer.  It’s the primary answer for another friend of mine who was great with a 2×4 — Tricia.  For Alma, I think that’s the B+ answer. Because it’s dependent on the A+ answer which is presence.  Hope, I believe, comes from the presence of the Lord. God with us. At the cross.  Alma had a peace that came from PRESENCE. The two by four of hope always transcended her pain because she invited the presence of the Lord into it. And He, as He always seems to do, brings His body along in the process.

God, thank you for Alma. For her willingness to invite your presence into her pain.   And for what you do when we are willing to be there in Your presence.

Do it again Lord.  Do it again.  Transcend this place with the 2×4 of the presence which brings hope.

Amen.

Mistake Therapy

Posted: January 14, 2015 in blog post

The Titanic Bubble

I don’t know exactly when and how it started, but it started. My habit of avoiding mistakes. To me, making a mistake was like death. OK, not that bad, but pretty darn close. Praised so loudly for victories, I think I slowly started to convince myself that a normal life was filled with victories and no defeats. Mountains with no valleys. Roads with no speed bumps. Laughter with no tears. I started to think that there was something terribly wrong when I made a mistake. As long as I was riding the crest of a victory, or appeared to be, all was well with the world. Problem was, I was bucking reality. That’s not how life was designed to work. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up on the possibility that my life could work that way if I tried hard enough or simply believed it could. Like a captain standing on the bow of a sinking ship, I was yelling to myself, “It’s still safe to stay in this sinking mistake-less boat as long as there is just a little bit of deck above water.”  I insisted to myself that mistakes were abnormal and victories were the way life was designed to work. That I was doin’ well as long as I wasn’t messing up. Sounds funny looking back now. But it wasn’t then. And it isn’t now, particularly when I drift back to my old ways.

So how does one find herself in the un-reality of mistake-less living? Turns out, the only way to stay relatively ‘mistake free’ is to build a titanic sized bubble around yourself. To retreat from risk. To retreat from real life.  And that is exactly what I did. Very slowly at first.  And later, after lots of practice, with that habitual auto-pilot response that takes hold when you do something long enough. If it involved something that might lead to a mistake, I went the other way. If it involved something that I didn’t understand perfectly, I withdrew until I could master it privately and then I would emerge apparently mistake-less. The irony about that was hilarious. When I felt I had mastered something to the degree I was unlikely to make a mistake, the opportunity was already over.  And by the time I emerged, my mastery was, well, foolish. I’d justify my missed opportunity by arguing “I’ll have that in my arsenal for the next time this comes up.”   But life doesn’t seem to throw the same ball at you very often. Life balls aren’t soft and are caked with the messy nuances of life. Or, and this is the best one, I would sit on the sidelines in my little mistake free bubble and watch as others got messy and dirty and grew and laughed and cried.  Ironically, I looked at their ability to make mistakes, grow and move on as admirable. How did they do it? Why were the rules different for me? They were in the arena of life fighting the good fight covered with sweat and tears of joy and shining with the afterglow of perseverance. I was clean and neat but miserable on the sidelines watching and trying to grow without getting dirty.

And Then Along Came Angie

Angie may have well been named Angel because to me, she was one. She was exactly what I needed at the time I met her. As is so often the case, God puts the right people in our lives when we are ready to grow.   Or maybe they were always there and we were simply ready to hear what God was teaching all along. Anyway, Angie said something that scared the *&&^^%$ out of me. She said, if you aren’t making mistakes honey you aren’t growing.  Pop. There went my Titanic covering in one piercing statement. I didn’t really realize it yet, but the false protection of my bubble was gone. I wanted to put my fingers in my ears when she said it and loudly sing la la la la la la to drown out her needle piercing truth. To blow another bubble. Or to run away. Retreat to the safety of the sinking titanic sized false ground under my feet. But the truth was, I didn’t want to. I was drowning there. Lonely there. Not growing. I hated what she said because something in me knew it was true. And I didn’t know how to do the mistake thing very well. I had avoided them for so very long. Mistakes take lots of practice you know? And humility, which I clearly did not have in sufficient supply.

So I did what we so often do. I tried to ignore it. Avoid it. Run from it. Pretend it wasn’t real. But it haunted me every time a missed opportunity passed me by — If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t growing.  I could hear her like a bird on my shoulder. I started to notice all of the life that was slipping away. Started to pine for the messiness of working through mistakes. Started to notice all of the mistakes others were making and how it led to lessons, community and growth. To apologies and deep grace. To humility and strength.   I started to keep a mistake journal, asking myself daily, “did I take any risks? Did I avoid life because I was afraid of failing?” The exercise was like a cold shower. Actually, it was more like an ice bath. Holy cow, I was missing life!

Mistake Therapy

Slowly, my journal morphed into a challenge to make mistakes. Not intentionally. But as part of a deep desire to live authentically and fully. As I said yes to more opportunities, I started to record my inevitable mistakes with humor and tears of release. I don’t know where that journal is anymore, but the entries were hilarious. Something along the lines of.. “Said yes to speaking engagement. Afraid I’ll fail. Gonna do it anyway.” “Called the wrong coordinator for engagement and felt like a fool. I didn’t die. He was annoyed. I asked for grace. He softened.” “Agreed to help friend with problem. Didn’t know what to do when she got here.  It made her laugh. We learned together. It was nice to be vulnerable and free not to feel like I have to have all the answers.” “fell off stage at event after announcing speaker. I wanted to die.” OK, that one happened long after mistake therapy, but you get the point – I would never have been on that stage if I wasn’t willing to risk falling off. And you know what? At a meeting later to talk about the event and what went well and what didn’t, I was the one making the joke – “well gang, I took one for the team to distract from something the speaker said that didn’t go over very well. They’ll never remember that statement, but they’ll never forget me splayed out on the floor in my dress!” They laughed – hard — and patted me on the head with a mixture of pity and relief it wasn’t them! I still wanted to die, but I got through it. And they kept me around.

God’s Beautiful Bubble for the Weak

Here’s what God says about mistake therapy. He doesn’t use those words of course. He uses words more like these.  It is in our brokenness that we cling to Him.   Grow in Him. Meet Him. Literally, the bible says that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9. When we are weak and vulnerable, we are humble. And when we aren’t so full of our own pride and emptied of our own power, we have room for God and His power. More than that, we realize pretty quickly, being perfect in our artificial self-made bubble is akin to creating our own god. And that’s the most horrible feeling of all. Feeling like you have to be perfect like God knowing all the while in your heart of hearts that you can’t be no matter how hard you try. It’s hell as far as I’m concerned.  And as far as God is concerned as well. It’s why He came. His power is made perfect in our weakness. We couldn’t be mistake-less so He took the hit and said, come all you broken ones and let me be your perfecting power. His grace is sufficient.

Drift

So yesterday my friend Roz asked me a question, seemingly out of the blue. “Remember that talk you gave on Mistake Therapy? Is it written down anywhere?” I didn’t remember. So I decided to write this. What Roz didn’t know, of course, is that I needed to write this to realize that I’m coming out of a long season of drift. Retreating from hard stuff for fear of failure. I said yes to the opportunities that are before me a while ago, but I’m smack dab in the midst of making a lot of mistakes and fighting the temptation to blow a new bubble.  Run away. Refuse to let God be God and be the power in my weakness. His grace is sufficient. When I am weak, then I am strong in Him.

So Angie, you’d be proud of me. I’m making lots of mistakes. It’s messy, but I’m growing. And Roz… thanks. God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew I needed to write this down. You and Angie make a great team of angels.

Love you both,

Kat

 

dont-show-mom

Tug of War — Don’t Tell Mom. http://www.photosbykat.com

I love being the daughter of Sally Alderman.   Having a mom that still cares whether I’m warm when I leave the house or whether I’ve reached my final destination in my car or whether I’m sleeping enough [she already knows I’m eating enough — :/] or whether I’ve gotten my flu shot this year or whether I will finally learn to say NO to too many things — her latest protective covering of love over my 50-year-old life.    When I got pregnant with my son, Aunt Jeannie, the matriarch of the Silverglate family, became mom for a precious moment.  She patted my not-yet-protruding belly and gave me a soulful look and said — ‘from birth to the grave, my dear.  You will carry that child from birth to the grave.’  It sounded so… I don’t know — daunting?  Like music should play in the background – da da da.  And I guess it should have, because, I’ve learned over almost 20 years now, it’s so damn true.

Yes, we empty our nests and we let our children go, but we never stop carrying them emotionally, spiritually, and some other way I can’t explain with enough texture to do it justice…  It is like there is this pilot light in your heart that always stays on.  It could ignite at any time. You see something or hear something or smell something that sends a spark to that little flame and woosh, the fire starts and there you are carrying them again.  Praying for the little flicker.  Picking up the phone.  Or just lifting up a little praise to the Creator for picking unqualified you out of all the mommy’s in the world for this little creature.   As long as God blesses us with the breath of life, we carry our children forever in our hearts.  We love to hear them talk.  Hate to see them suffer. Cry when they cry.  Laugh when they laugh.  We worry about them.   The pilot light is always on.

A month or so ago with a group of moms who still meet monthly to celebrate the fact that our kids brought us together through school [and we survived], we had one of our tender moments where we all share what’s going on with our cubs.  One after the other, the Lionesses recounted little vignettes about their prides.  Some were funny, some were sobering, some were sweet, but this one really got me.  It was from an awesome crazy woman who is fabulously animated and fun.  She was imitating herself listening to her son on the phone and she was saying “uh hugh, uh hugh, uh hugh” and then, quite dramatically, she pretended to cover the imaginary phone so he couldn’t hear her comment to us in the studio audience, “he could be talking about dirty laundry and I’d be thinking in my heart — just keep talking kid.  I love it when you talk.”  We all got mushy.  Wet eyed.  Nodded.  Yep!  Birth to the grave Aunt Jeannie.  Birth to the grave.

In the days and weeks leading up to my Africa trip, I could tell my mom wanted to explode with the desire to protect me — her half-century-old-cub.   She was the Lioness sensing all the danger and pacing around the pride.  I could also tell that she was depositing all this mother-protective-surge-o-love onto my sisters because she was really really quiet about any sense of fear or worry she might be feeling over the great African adventure.  She just kept telling me how excited she was.

Finally, the day before I left, sitting on her living room floor — the one where my son crawled when he was 2 and my dog slept every Christmas from the year he was born till the year he died and where she paced waiting for me to come home at all hours of the night — she she gave me advice on what to bring and what to leave behind while I dumped and reloaded my suitcase umpteen times.  In a quiet moment while I was in my head debating whether to shed the extra shoes that matched and looked cute but were really just extra weight, she whispered — “Hey Kath…”  She’s the only one who calls me that on a regular basis so it wakes up mother love inside me.  I could tell by her tone that she didn’t want me to give her my ears but also my heart.  I looked at her sitting on the tiny yellow plastic Big Bird chair half in the house and half out on the porch where she has watched life go by every afternoon since 1974 saying hi to every animal that passes — by name…  “Kath… promise me you won’t pet the lions.”  Before you dismiss that as a joke, you need to know something about my mom — she was serious.  Dead serious.  And not because she’s crazy either.  But because nobody knows you better than your mama!  She knows that my love of animals has led me into some rather unfortunate circumstances — including one as a child with a lion named Poo.

The moment had depth plumbed by the knowledge of how much she had restrained herself from sharing her worry with me.  I knew how hard it was going to be for her not to worry in the middle of Ebola and places unreachable by reasonable means.  And, more than any of it, I knew I’d feel exactly the same way about my cub.  So, I got wet eyed.  Nodded.  And vowed:  “I won’t mommy. I promise.  I won’t.”  And I meant it when I said it!  Really I did.  So please note that the picture above does not involve any form of hand to hand contact.  It was purely a friendly game of tug of war at a lion cub rescue in Johannesburg.  And I take the 5th on the rest of the pics in that series, except to say, it didn’t include this guy below.

lion-yawn-2-w-logo

As I slowly unravel my adventure with fear and work to understand the root of it in my life, I know a few foundational things worth repeating.  Some fear is good.  Look at this guy’s teeth for goodness sakes. Sheesh!  Be afraid of this guy’s power.   Respect it.  Take proper precautions.  But whatever you do, don’t skip the safari.  Don’t give up the opportunity to get close enough to gaze at his magnificence and beauty.  To marvel at his ways.  Don’t stay so far away from awe-so-me moments, even scary callings, that you clog up the opportunity for awe.

Life is an AWE-SO-ME experience — a word that is said with less bravado and with more of a breathless question…  awe, so me?  Like David who questions the great AWE…  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  Can you hear it?  Can you hear David’s heart.  Hey maker of all things that bring AWE…  so me?

AWE God, SO You did that for ME?

AWE God, SO You made that for ME?

AWE God, SO You love ME?

AWE-SO-ME God?

Yes you!  He wants to fill us with His awe and wonder.  But fear?   It wants to move you away from AWE.  It scoots you back a few inches at a time.  Makes you so afraid you retreat just a little bit.  Intimidates you into thinking there is danger where there is not. It nudges you off the safari to the glass enclosure at the zoo or the video play back or the magazine expose. It makes you a spectator more than a participant.  It steals your joy.  If you’re not careful, it will steal your life.  It has taken a large part of mine.

Sitting in the presence of a roaring lion, I could feel scripture’s admonition about the nature of evil — like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  I don’t think I could feel the power in that verse more than I did sitting in front of that open mouthed lion.  Awe God, that’s a magnificent description of the power of fear over a life.  It devours opportunities, moments, options, possibilities.  It puts you on the side lines.  It diminishes awe.  It answers the question AWE-SO-ME? with a growl rather than the embrace of a lifetime.

I don’t think I really knew how serious my mom was about her request — don’t pet the lions — until I got home.  I scheduled my trip so that I could spent the night with her before heading back to my den.  We were talking about the trip, looking at pictures, laughing about the things I struggled to take out of my suitcase, and she says…  “Hey Kath, I didn’t want to show you this until you got home because I didn’t want you to get any crazy ideas.  But now I’d like you to watch it because…  I love it so much and I know you’ll love it because it involves a lion.”   It was a 1 minute video called The Hug of the Century about a lion who is reunited with a person who rescued him as a cub.  This is a hyperlink, so you can click here to watch it:   http://www.vitality101.com/Fun/lion-kisses-rescuer  I dare you to watch this and not be totally overcome with a craving to be received this way.

lion-sleepingI laughed and wept and gave my mom the hug of a lifetime after watching it.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but I’ll say this.  This is a glorious picture of what it feels like to be rescued.  To know that we don’t have to be afraid.  To know that the slightest turn toward rescue will be met with the embrace of a lifetime, not a growl or a bite.  To know that rescue brings rest.

So mom, I guess my response to your question would be a little different today.   As I slow down to wrestle through this question of fear, I guess I’d have to promise not to pet the wrong lion.  Not to pet the lion that devours but to pet the Lion of Judah.  The one who rescues.  The one who saves.

I love you mom.  Kath