Fact Rather Than Fiction

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There is a humorous jabbing at my expense in our family. If a true story is made into a movie then the laughs begin regarding, “mom must go see that one.” That is fine with me! All my life I have been a collector of biographies and people’s stories. The one constant in all the labels I have on a resume is within the common denominator of seeking truth that informs, transforms, and challenges us all to rise up, press on, be real, get honest, and be wise because our stories have come together. The defining truth in the details of one’s story acts like iron sharpens iron as we encounter one another’s story. (Proverbs 27:17)

Reader, you know by now my love for history. In the details of a historical timeline I am keen on drilling into the motivations that drive the story in history. I seek answers, character traits, personality and goodness squeezed from bitter bites of living. What impacts one to choose within a tragedy the attributes of optimistic triumphs? Do we learn from life’s ease and celebrations as much as we do in the difficult and traumatic ones? Are the stories of struggle or ease; of equitable influence in the shaping of human beings? Can we be ethical and balanced in all circumstances?

One of my first true stories I ever read was the Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl hidden with her family by Miep Gies during WWII. This Jewish family’s story is woven into historical fact with the life of Christian compassion by Miep and her husband Jan Gies. There are many stories of this kind of heroism of hiding, resistance, and soldiers fighting for freedom over oppression. Good reads include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Louis Zamperini, Jan and Antonina Zabinski, and Oskar Schindler to name a few true stories from this historical timeline. These stories are a challenge for the rest of us to be inspired to simply show up bravely for one another as human beings. There is something sacred in the witnessing, telling, and inspiring others with the truths within one’s personal narrative. To know another’s story is not for consumption of opining opinions, frivolous entertainment, or line the pockets of authors or film makers of the story.

At the heart of the purpose of gleaning truth from another’s story is to collect the truth about yourself.   Would I in my own freewill choices be brave enough to stand up for another being oppressed? Do I live a daily life of appreciation for the calmness of ordinary days? When chaotic events hit do I stay the course of being true to God, self, and others? In the midst of grief, disappointment, tragedy, loss, and lament will I sell out God, myself, and another?

Recently, I sat on the deck of a beautiful lake home. The waters were sparkling in the sunlight. We had music, food, friends, and laughter swirling through our days together. Routinely, as a hospice chaplain I see death often. As a human being I have my losses and death stories too. But, I sat in the beauty of that day and proclaimed the one true lesson that death and loss teaches me. I have come to this place in my life that I can separate fictional influences like denial, naïvetés, and the cost of false optimism in daily living. Instead, I can hold the truth of living in celebration and the truth in crisis with equal respect and equal appreciation for what the story holds for me. I no longer live for the calendar events worth celebrating and dread a loss or death of someone I loved or love still. I strive to live each day with the freedom that truth and fact finding offers me.

This truth allows me to keep perspective, live out the values and beliefs that influence my attitude and ethics, and be responsible for owning my own reactions and responses to any given event or saga.  The outcome is to rest in doing life with a balancing act of gratitude, advocacy and encouragement to others, and self-awareness for empathy sake for others and true to self. Whether I am enjoying a celebration with friends at a lake house or sitting with God in prayer over another in illness, crisis, or declining to death: I simply breathe. And remember the words Anne Frank reminded us to live by, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Now, that is a fact!

 

 

Fluff and Stuff

In the mid-eighties to late nineties I was a decorator. My husband and I had our own version of Chip and Joanna Fixer Upper stories. He built and remodeled homes and I decorated. The kids went on a few of the job sites and enjoyed playing in the mounds of dirt, paint, or climbing on the structures. We had thought at one time the marketing events, business aspects, design and architectural elements would become something each child would gravitate to something within this family business. One of our jobs was a relative who loved the color pink. She wanted to find a pale pink, medium pink, and darker pink shade as her color palette.

Color and its symbolism holds some meaning for me. Pink is a positive color for love, sensitivity, and tenderness to name a few attributes of the color pink. During this overwhelming saturation in the color pink I was asked to head up the cotton candy booth for the school carnival. My husband picked up the cotton candy machine and the pink sugar that would become the puffy clouds of fluff and stuff floating through the air of my kitchen. We made hundreds of bags for the booth supply. We cleaned sticky residue of cotton candy off the walls, curtains, and kitchen table. The color pink invaded my days of a decorating project and school carnival for some time.

The beauty of this color did please our loved one as she finally had the home of her dreams with some shade of pink in every room. The palest shade of paint was called fluff and stuff and looked very close to the light pink haze of cotton candy hanging around my kitchen. Those days were demanding schedules for the balance of family, business, and charity fundraiser for a school.

Today I am a hospice chaplain with different demanding schedules of family, business of healthcare, and charity focus. In a meeting, a phrase caught my ear. “Let’s get to the bottom line of matters today. We don’t need any of the fluff and stuff about people’s stories.” There was that color name for the palest pink coming up from my memory bank of one of my own stories.

To be a holder of another’s story is more than fluff and stuff. There is something sacred in the act of being a witness, a spiritual director, and for many the last minister that will pray with them and for them. The symbolism of the color pink also reflects other characteristics. The words are faithfulness and beauty.

There is a responsibility to faithfulness in hearing the details of another person’s life stories. There is a beauty in the art of listening.  A person’s life stories is beyond the fluff and stuff that colors their perspectives or the sticky residue of the attributes that rests in unfinished business at the end of their days.

Let us be mindful of the stories that make up a life. Let us reflect on the symbolism and characteristics that inform us of who we are in the uniquely wonderfully made story of us. (Ps. 139: 14) Jesus encouraged and taught through parables and story.  He encouraged us to have ears that hear and eyes that see. (Luke 8:8) I pray we see the essence and nuances of all the shades and shadows, light and brilliance of our stories that make us up who we are and hear God’s unconditional love that desires to color our lives with Him.

 

Watch the Children Grow

Downton Abbey is an all-time favorite show of mine. When PBS did the special interview show with the actors there is a consensus of appreciation for the fans who ‘went bonkers’ for this show. I remain one of those fans. There are many lines in six season’s worth of this show that is memorable. One of those lines in the last season is when Cora tells her husband that she just wants to enjoy being around to watch the children grow.

This family of characters offer us a glimpse into a historical timeline of family dynamics and historical events. Following the angst of upstairs aristocratic society and downstairs support staff in positions no longer a part of the vocational norm in this historical timeline; I did marvel at the evolving inclusions to get to know one’s children, the letting go of children, and acceptance of imperfect siblings who made a way for each other in their hearts.

Mother Teresa is quoted on love of family, love of the hurting, love begins in the home, love is a paradox of hurt because of love and love until it hurts. Today, I am watching adult children take on the task of family life in the twenty first century and it is vastly different than the era of this PBS program. What does not change from generation to generation is the need for us to heed the main ingredient of love for another. Jesus said it was the one commandment I leave with you. (John 15:12)

What would the 21st century family dynamics look like if we actually practiced the art and spiritual wellness of loving one another in family life? What level of respect and rapport would change if we found ourselves serving one another in love rather than expecting to be served our way? Can ‘love’ change the hurt and harm done in generational patterns of family life? Isn’t love more than healthy boundaries, positivity of self-esteem building, and meeting basic needs? Isn’t love a part of sacrifice, nurture, and awareness? How do we define this four letter word of complexity?

It is my contemplation on the defining of love that had me hear those words jump off the dialogue of a beloved program I do love. How easy that word comes up in our daily language. I love you. I love dogs. I love ice cream. I love that color. I love that!  Does such love carry with it the love that Jesus commanded of us? Is it the same concept as Mother Teresa challenges us to consider in the doing of daily life with one another?

Another grandchild is about to join our family. Our son and daughter-in-law is about to welcome a son. He will be the sixth grand-one to join us. Without having met him, he is loved. There is mystery in love. This is something of God’s divine nature in welcoming new life into the world. There is hope in love. It will be fun to watch these grand-ones grow. But, what I will really enjoy watching is the children I birthed grow into an awareness of loving their own in every stage of doing life with their own deeper abiding love. For love is endless. Real love is unconditional even if the relationship requires some healthy conditions. I look forward to watching the children grow and learn the lessons love has to teach us all.

Being Free!

   dragonfly  Lately I have been reintroducing myself to historical writers on the Revolutionary war era. History is this snapshot in time that captures the colliding factors of people, places, and events driven by the need for change or struggles to not change. The impasses and determination to have a voice and the winner gets to tell the story that will go down as history. Whatever factors historians place on determining the definition of history and all its accounts in dry dates, dusty references about ideas or ideology, evolving cultural mores, or ways of living; the common denominator is around freedom. All struggles worth recounting is about the fight for freedom. Aristotle say’s that history is about the unchanging past. Within these many reads on the struggles around or during the Revolutionary War era there is one book I read titled ‘Independence Lost’ by historian Kathleen DuVal. This author sheds light on the Native American Indians and how these many different and differing tribes fared in the fray and within the fringes of this historical timeline. I was intrigued by this read because of the location of war efforts from the Gulf Coast and Panhandle of Florida and the influence of the Upper and Lower Creek nation from Alabama. My great-great grandmother was a Creek Indian from Alabama. I lived in the Panhandle of Florida for nearly thirty years. The academics of my day never told me much about the stories of women, Indians, Gulf Coastal people, or people of color during the Revolutionary War. But, this author offers us a reflection on the issue of truth. Most people pick a side in the fight in hopes for a gain or as an influence to the outcome. The gain and the influence rests in being free. In being free, Aristotle is correct about an unchanging past in history. Sift down the issues, lower the shouting polarizing voices, and drill down to the truth within the story and one will find the golden nugget is a ticket for being free. This is where change is always the catalyst that nothing ever remains the same except the struggle to be free and tell the story of that struggle from the lens of the storyteller. This storyteller believes the only fight worth fighting over is the need to be free. This website of blogs, poetry, and postings by this authorship will mostly rest from this premise of being free. I have remained in my clergy identity with a group of daring, determined and at times in history difficult Baptists because of this very identity in freedom. Scripture offers us in John 8:32 ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ To know truth and to be free requires some honest reflection and introspection of the story of you, of me, and of all of us as we encounter one another and expect to be free or offer freedom to another. Maya Angelo said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This first blog is a promise to tell a story of love, self-awareness, spiritual direction, grace, forgiveness, hope, faith, and freedom. It is an invitation to simply sojourn with this woman and maybe somewhere in the history/her-story the Spirit of God’s grace can offer some truths about being free.