On the Sagging of Time


Nobody cares to listen to someone gripe about her age.  I find it as boring and depressing as the next person and yet I’m about to do it.  Well, kind of.

My 38th birthday is in a handful of days and, while I’ve always loved birthdays as a category, I’m not ready for this one.

Thirty-eight is no man’s land.  To wit:  I’m not old, but I’ve kissed youth goodbye if my eye bags are an indication of anything (and I suspect they are as I’ve been sleeping through the night for years, thanks).

I believe in Heaven as an actual place.  I believe in the doctrine of future new bodies for those who are reconciled to God.  These are truths I’ve embraced for more than two decades now.  So I shouldn’t fret at the blotchiness of my skin, at the tired expression I habitually wear even when I’m feeling kind-of awesome.  These things are not my forever.

But I do fret.  Not always, but often enough.

I’m stuck in the middle of things–longing for the eternal and, sometimes, for flashes of the vigorous past.  After all, I can still jump on a trampoline with my kids without peeing on myself, but I can’t finish a movie if I start it too late.

This is the way it is for everyone fortunate enough to have her health and a modicum of stability in the in-between years.  I suppose it’s a kind of luxury to feel safe enough that one can afford to fuss about crow’s feet.

In the end, I won’t offer pith or wisdom.  I’ll leave these words suspended, like I am

This Is How Love Wins

I am a Christian and, while I often write without specifically mentioning my faith, it colors everything, absolutely everything, that I do and am.  It is the source of my deepest inspiration and the bedrock on which my life is built.  I don’t normally post videos and other media on this blog, but I was listening to a song this morning while hiding out in my bathroom (go figure) and it struck me.  I had to share it.  If you have a moment, and the inclination, click the link below.

Warning:  The video is pretty graphic so exercise caution if you have little ones in the room.  And one more thing.  If you don’t already know, the recording artist for this song has undergone some staggering suffering in his personal life.  (You can learn about it here).  Knowing this makes this song that much more poignant, I think.

Our Gangly, Spread-Out Tribe (and why we need it)

Malcolm Gladwell gave a name to the desire we have to locate our ‘people,’ those who are like us in some way, those with whom we feel an affinity.  He calls this the urge to find our tribe.  He explains that our tribe can be the people we live with or those with whom we share a deep connection.  Once we’ve discovered and connected with these people we feel better about the world–happier, safer, more understood.

Our tribe can be, and probably is, made up of people who share our interests.  For those of us who are people of faith we find something of a ready-made tribe in our houses of worship.  We share similar outlooks with the people we find there–on life, on the nature of reality, on God.  Even in church, though, there are no guarantees.  There are plenty of lonely people in the pews on Sunday mornings.

Our tribe can be our family members.  In some sense, it always is.  I’m blessed with a close-knit family.  They’re supportive in good times and bad.  My two sisters are the people I call most often.  I used to give little thought to the idea of finding a tribe because I assumed it was my biological family.  In many ways it is.  And yet…

After my husband and I moved overseas we felt like we found it.  We found our tribe.  They were young and old, they had large families, and were couples with no kids.  They were from Mississippi and New Mexico.  They were doing well with the local language.  They were completely inept.

They were missionaries.

They understood the joys of care packages full of beef jerky and Starburst candies.  They knew why those of us in certain countries couldn’t be on Facebook in the Fall to witness the advent of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes–again.  They commiserated with us about airports where the electricity goes out and people spit on the floor.  They laughed with us as we swapped stories about second (or third, or fourth) language gaffes.  They understood that you can meet a person in a strange country who remembers a certain park in a city near the one you grew up in and that, as a result, that person can become your friend for life.

We came back to the States, a tangled mess of grief and relief.  I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but I felt deep loss, the loss of our tribe who were going on without us.  That feeling hasn’t gone away completely.  But God is good and, ever so slowly, he’s helping us to gather our tribe again on this side of the ocean.  We’re adding them one by one.  We can tell them a mile off.  It’s something about how they order food and talk to the waiters.  Or how they look a person in the eye and want to know their story.  It’s how their eyes fill up with tears for people they remember, how their hearts are shaped like continents.

Our tribe is spread out now.  It’s right here and way over there.  But we have one.  And slowly I’m feeling happier, safer and more understood.

Who’s in your tribe?

How the Amish Are Helping Me Get Over It

They were at the farmer’s market the other day, as usual.  The Amish stood behind their stall, an older man and two teenaged boys, inviting us to look at heirloom tomatoes the size of our heads.  My sons surveyed the diverse group around us, a band united in our common love for misshapen produce and hemp soap.  We were people with sunburns and short shorts, people with tattoos, people with canes and perms, moms, dads, kids who helped push strollers, kids who needed time-outs.

My middle son pulled me close and whispered, “Why do they always have those weird haircuts?  You know, those super short bangs and ear flaps.”

I don’t like whispering but I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know who he meant.  I turned away and looked at trays of ceramic beads, tugging my eleven-year-old with me.  I told him that there’s a reason Amish men wear their hair in that peculiar way.  True, I didn’t know what that reason was, but there was one, I was sure.  He thought about that for a moment.  Then he turned around again and looked at the teenagers with their overalls and straw hats.  They smiled and nudged one another, eyes betraying inside jokes.  They were lanky and clear-skinned.  The taller boy’s hands revealed nail bitten fingers as he loaded eggplant into a paper sack.

They were just boys with weird haircuts.  And they seemed OK.

I watched them, too, pretending to need cucumbers.  They made me wonder if it might do a person some good to be intentionally different on the outside in order to reflect a difference on the inside.  A person who chooses to look different has already told the world what it wants to know, has already decided that the world wasn’t that important anyway.  This kind of person has learned that most of the time it doesn’t kill you to be stared at, or misunderstood, or judged.  That the feeling is something you can get used to, that sometimes it makes you stronger.

My family is living differently from many others around us.  We don’t wear our differences on our sleeves nor do we wish to make them a bigger deal than they are.  Sometimes, though, looking like everyone else on the outside while feeling different on the inside is its own kind of strange.  You wonder how long it will take before people discover your brand of other.  You wait, bracing yourself for the surprised looks, the head nods or the raised  eyebrows.

The Amish don’t have to wait, and they seem to be doing just fine.

I look at those short bangs and smile.

They make me want to be brave.