Solstice

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to be born, and a time to die,

A time to plant, and a time to uproot,

A time to kill, and a time to heal,

A time to tear down and a time to build,

A time to weep, and a time to laugh,

A time to mourn, and a time to dance,

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them,

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing,

A time to search, and a time to give up,

A time to keep, and a time to throw away,

A time to tear, and a time to mend,

A time to be silent, and a time to speak,

A time to love, and a time to hate,

A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

A friend and I were texting Friday afternoon about my plans for the weekend, which included a whirlwind trip to my hometown to see some of my very favorite people — two dear friends and my family (my aunt and cousin will be visiting, too — yay!). Because of some other things I had planned this weekend, I had to make the four-hour round trip in one evening. My friend joked that she hoped what I had planned was worth such a quick jaunt over and back, and I could only smile and reply that time would tell.

But here’s the thing.

I have a complicated relationship with time.

I don’t like it.

More accurately, I don’t like waiting. Patience is a virtue I was born without and haven’t really gained much of in my 30-something years on this planet. Just ask my parents. At two years old I demanded that my father stop at Kmart on the way from bringing my newborn brother home from the hospital to “get that baby some teeth!” Clearly, his gummy grin was some sort of factory defect and I had no time to wait around for a replacement.

You don’t even want to know how I am at the airport. Slow traffic? DMV? Microwave popcorn? Fuhgettaboutit.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life in anticipation of that next step. As a teenager, it was the milestones that come with reaching certain ages – driver’s license at 16, voting rights at 18, alcohol at 21. High school, then college, then a job. Marriage, house, kids. A neat little flow chart to follow and check-mark.

My chart ran off the page after marriage and house, and I’ve had to do some back pedaling. That’s a pretty difficult thing to do for someone who for many years clung (like, hung-on-by-my-fingernails) to the belief that there are just certain things you do, and this is the amount of time in which you have to do them. Divorce was not on my flow chart, and it totally screwed up the next step and all the ones after that.

Divorce is agonizing and fraught with all kinds of messy emotions. There were times I’d go from joy to flat-out rage within a matter of hours, just depending on what happened or how certain conversations went. It was nuts, man. I began to compare everyone I knew, and even everyone I didn’t, to my own situation. I’d pass by a family at the grocery store and think, “She gets to have a marriage and family. Why is mine falling apart?” If I passed by a woman who seemed, ah … under qualified… to be a mother? “Lord, why does she get to have a baby? This is not fair!

I know. I was a real peach.

See, it wasn’t how I wanted my life to turn out. I had a list, darn it, and THIS WAS NOT ON THE LIST, and everything was getting completely off schedule. I was running out of time. And so I became consumed with figuring out how to get back on track, even if it meant defying all odds and somehow saving an unhappy, unhealthy marriage. I was totally prepared to do that if it meant I could keep that list intact.

Crazy, huh?

Thank the Lord in heaven above that he knows better than I. The most painful experience of my life turned out to also be the source of the greatest gift of grace I’ve ever received.

I remember, in the middle of all this, receiving a message from my brother on Facebook. It simply said, “Time heals everything.” I appreciated the sentiment (especially since it came from my usually stoic sibling), but at the time I wondered if it was true. Don’t tell him I said this, but it turns out he was right. Well, mostly. Time does heal, but healing is not a passive activity; you don’t just wake up “fixed” one day after a certain amount of time has passed. It takes work, and a lot of it — and sometimes time is excruciating. And that’s why we try to rush things.

I’m guilty of that, of trying to make things happen too quickly. Always have been, which if I’m honest is probably one of the reasons I ended up in this situation to begin with. After the end of my marriage, I prayed every single day for God to change my life, and I expected him to do it immediately. I made a few mistakes during that time, because even though I wanted God to intervene, I was just too impatient to wait around for him to do it.

We often expect our prayers to be answered in quick, grand fashion. Music, confetti, cheering crowds, a great booming miracle. But often what we need to do is quiet ourselves and listen to that small voice whispering … “wait.”

I don’t think it ends there. I think we’re given the periods of wait so we can work and pray. Personally, my work involved changing my attitude and learning to focus on my blessings rather than the things that were missing. I had to rebuild my life, because nearly everything about it had changed. I had to reconnect spiritually. And I had to learn to accept the seasons.

I’m still impatient, and I’ll admit to still having a list. But now I can say that I don’t know if I’ll check everything off of it, or even what it will look like in a year, or five or even 10. I’m getting used to hearing that small voice, and it’s because of it that I no longer fear the days when the daylight hours are short, or when the trees are stark and naked against the grey sky. I’ve been promised that summer will return.

And it always does.

 

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Drinking from the saucer

I have to take a moment to thank those of you who have stopped by this little blog, read my words and shared encouraging words of your own. It means so much! It feels great to write again; I missed it so much. There were just so many days when I felt so physically and emotionally drained that the idea of trying to make sense of everything that was going on was completely overwhelming. I also wanted to be respectful of everyone involved. I know I mentioned a few things here and there on the old blog, and especially in the last post there, but I really tried to tell the truth without being nasty, you know? I’m not interested in that. Perhaps at one time I was tempted, but those moments have passed.

Anyway, it’s good to be back! And I love your feedback. After reading the first few posts, my sweet friend Colleen shared her memories of her grandfather, who used to pour his hot coffee into the saucer to cool it, and then he’d drink it right off the saucer.  Pretty smart, if you ask me (because I’ve had my share of burnt tongue tips from being a little too eager to sip a hot beverage). She also sent the lyrics to a song called — are you ready for this — “Drinking from the Saucer.” I loved it so much I had to share it here.

Drinking from the Saucer

by John Paul Moore

I’ve never made a fortune

And I’ll never make one now.

But it really doesn’t matter

‘Cause I’m happy anyhow.

 

As I go along my journey

I’m reaping better than I’ve sowed.

I’m drinking from the saucer

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

 

I don’t have a lot of riches,

And sometimes the going’s tough.

But with kin and friends to love me,

I think I’m rich enough.

 

I thank God for the blessings

That his mercy has bestowed.

I’m drinking from the saucer,

‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

 

He gives me strength and courage,

When the way grows steep and rough.

I’ll not ask for other blessings, for

I’m already blessed enough.

 

May we never be too busy

To help bear another’s load.

Then we’ll all be drinking from the saucer

When our cups have overflowed.

 

Perfection.

Green thumb

For as many years as I can remember, my parents have raised a garden. When I was younger, it was enormous, stretching over two plots in our backyard, with another at the top of the hill behind our house and yet another one at my Granny’s house.  Corn, potatoes, beans, onions, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers straight from the dirt were staples on our late summer dinner table.

Back then, I didn’t really appreciate what we had. The food tasted great, yes, but I admit to sometimes wondering why my parents and grandma did all that work when they could just go to the grocery store and buy what we needed. I realize now, of course, that home-grown food is much cheaper and healthier than anything we can find in the produce bins at the store, especially in a time when we can’t even be sure of what has been mixed/injected/sprayed on the stuff that’s supposed to keep us alive.

Fertilizer on the Bennett farm? Horse poop. Doesn’t get much more natural than that, folks.

I suspect that my parents also grew a garden because they’re big believers in hard work and the gratification that comes from it, especially when the results are tangible (and edible). That garden was one of the ways they could pass that belief on to their children. I will never forget the feeling of dirt beneath my fingernails from digging up a few potatoes, nor how those ‘taters tasted an hour later as we gathered for the supper my mom had prepared. The image of my dad in his overalls, bent over and dropping seeds into the brown earth, his old tractor and buggy parked a few feet away, is forever etched into my mind.  And to this day I have few memories of Granny that don’t include her old hoe.

It wasn’t that long ago, but wow – that was such a different era. Those long, hot days of my youth are gone, absorbed by days hectic with work and other obligations. When I was a wife and stepmother, there always seemed to be something more demanding of my time than playing in the dirt. For most of my relationship with my ex-husband, we didn’t have a yard. I tried my hand at container gardening once, with disastrous results (ask me sometime about the six-foot-tall tomato plants), and the little garden we planted at our house suffered from bad soil and, if I’m being truthful, quite a bit of neglect.

My life is different now, and while I wish my situation was different, I’m in a place where I can appreciate this time as the gift that it is. How many adults, regardless of their current place in life or how happy they might be, don’t sometimes wish for a little bit of time to pursue things that will make their hearts happy? Things that they want to do, rather than have to do. Things that are just their own.  Yes, for me, this is precious time indeed.

One of my goals for this year was to plant a garden in my backyard. A friend and her husband came one evening in mid-May with their rototiller, and within minutes I had a nice little patch of naked dirt just a few feet off of the back deck. I bought a few plants – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and a variety of peppers – dug a few holes, and said a prayer that Waylon would stay away.

You can see by the purple object in this photo just how well that part worked out.

 Garden

So here’s the thing about gardens. You can’t just plant your vegetables, walk away and call it good. They require maintenance in the form of weed-pulling and watering. And oh, there was an abundance of each.  It’s been an exceptionally rainy summer, and do you know what happens when you alternate rain and sunshine every day for two months? That’s right. Weeds as high as your butt.

Since we had about two straight weeks of rain, and because I may or may not get lazy once in a while, I haven’t been pulling weeds as often as I should. The weeds were tall, and there were plenty of them. Ok, let’s be honest – it was a jungle. I spent much of my sunny Saturday morning pulling them out of the mud, and there were some spots that I just ran the mower over (see above-referenced laziness).

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? There are things we want out of this life, goals we want to achieve, and milestones we want to reach. We take the first few steps, things are going well, and then whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. You mean there’s work involved? I have to do something rather than just wait for it to happen?

It’s not going to fall out of the sky and into my lap?

That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. I used to think that just because I was (or at least tried to be) a good person, that good things would automatically happen to/for me. As long as I did what I perceived to be expected of me, and generally tried to not be a jerk, my life would be just fine, and everything I dreamed of would come true simply because I wished it so.

Ha. Hahahahaha.

I don’t recall the exact moment of my wake-up call, but at some point as I was picking up the pieces of my life, reality gave me a good hard shake. I realized that I would never achieve my goals without some deliberate planning and A LOT of prayer. I also figured out pretty quickly that I needed to get up off my rear end and get to work – pull those weeds and find some focus.

I’ve set some pretty lofty goals for my life – some things I want to have, some things I want to achieve. Through faith – faith in myself and faith in the Creator who put me here to not be complacent but to thrive – I’ve already made some headway. Oh, I’ve still got a long way to go, and lots of work to do. But you know what?

 Squash

That’s growth, baby. GROWTH.

And it tastes so, so good.

Drenched

The last two weeks were rough here at the Just Us Girls bungalow. Despite dreams of a summer filled with sunny skies and warm air, Mother Nature thought it better to shower — nay, drench — us with enough water to strangle a toad. And not just that, oh no. She also thought we needed a show, so she gave us here in the Mid-Ohio Valley night after night of lightning flashes and booming thunder.

I don’t really mind the rain, because I accept it as a necessary occurrence that, you know, helps living things stay alive. I also don’t mind thunder and lightning because I know that as long as I remain inside they can’t hurt me. Waylon, however, doesn’t have this part figured out, and her little doggie brain goes absolutely insane during storms.

I’m not exaggerating. At the very first hint of thunder, her little body begins shaking violently. She pants and paces, moving from door to window to window to door, until finally she climbs up into my lap. She cannot be consoled. There is no petting, no rocking, no hiding under blankets or under beds or behind doors that will calm her down. Nothing except sitting in her mama’s lap and waiting for the storm to pass over.

But after two straight weeks, mama’s lap and her nerves began to feel a bit frayed. Most of these storms oh-so-conveniently began right around bedtime and lasted into the night, so neither one of us got much sleep. Day after day, I checked the weather forecast hoping to see a cartoon sun or two smiling back at me from my phone screen, only to discover instead a gloomy grey cloud in its place.

I began to wonder if the rain would ever stop. There were a few moments when my poor sleep-deprived brain thought that this was it, we would never see the sunshine ever again and we’d spend the rest of our earthly days with sad little faces walking around in sad little puddles beneath sad little umbrellas.

Crazy? Yes. But that’s what stress will do to a person, and evidently to a dog as well. The fact that the Fourth of July brought not only thunderstorms but also fireworks — well, that was just cruel.

I knew, of course, that the rain had to stop eventually, and after one final hurrah on Friday evening, it did. Waking up to sunlight Saturday morning was nothing short of glorious. Waylon promptly found a nice spot in the backyard and planted herself for sunbathing while I tended to the grass and the vegetable garden. A day later, we’re both still in the best moods, feeling playful and energetic and happy. It’s really wonderful.

This afternoon, I started thinking about the metaphor of the “storms of life,” and just how true it is. When we’re neck-deep in worry, a difficult situation or a crisis, sometimes it’s all we can see. Just like the rain, it’s unrelenting. It’s so easy to believe that things won’t change, that the sun will never shine again. It’s the new normal, and that’s just the way it is.

I’ve felt that way more times than I could probably count, especially while going through my divorce. On many occasions the only relief I felt from the gloom was when I was asleep, because the pain that was in my heart when I closed my eyes was waiting, and back the very second I opened my eyes in the morning. Sometimes even sleep was no relief, because even my dreams couldn’t always escape that particular storm.

At the height of it, I really didn’t see a way out of the sadness. I figured things might improve some, but that the hurt, confusion, loneliness and, yes, anger, were scars that I’d just forever carry with me. Instead of searing pain, they’d just become a dull ache — and that’s just how it would be.

I was so wrong.

Storms are frightening, but I’ve learned that there are things that can bring us comfort while we wait for the rain to end. For Waylon, it was my lap and this:

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It’s a Thunder Shirt, which through some sort of magic simply wraps around dogs’ chests and helps them calm down when they’re feeling overly anxious. I have no idea how it works, but I can attest that it does. Even though she still feels jittery, the Thunder Shirt gets her to a place where I can at least get up and go to the bathroom without her scratching down the door.

After using it for a few days and seeing how much it helped Waylon, I thought to myself that it would be awesome if there was a Thunder Shirt for people. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just slip on a cozy piece of fabric every time we felt scared, or lonely, or sad … and it would somehow make us feel better? Yes, please — sign me up for that!

But then I realized – I already have a Thunder Shirt, and I’ve worn it many, many times. Through every instance of fear and doubt, God was there to wrap me up. Sometimes my Thunder Shirt came in the form of reassuring scripture. Sometimes it was a text message from a dear friend letting me know she was thinking about me. A lot of times it was just being able to hear my mom’s voice. During the darkest moments of my storm, I was sheltered by cards, phone calls, encouraging words, invitations to get out of my apartment, a friend on my doorstep with a bottle of wine and a DVD. And oh, the praying!

If I were to list all the things that happened in my life that helped lift me out of that storm, it would take all night. I think back on that time and am slap-me-silly, downright amazed at what happened and how different things are now. For everything I’ve lost, I’ve gained so much more. I have the most wonderful friends, both those who have been with me for years and new ones whom I’d never have known had it not been for this upheaval. I have a beautiful place to live in a little town that I adore, right down the street from a church that has also been a lifesaver. I have an awesome job. I have a family that know is always there. And most importantly, I have a stronger-than-ever faith in a God whom I know loves me, protects me, and wants good things for me. The proof is in the puddin’, and right now I’m absolutely swimming in it.

I’m happy.

This doesn’t mean it won’t ever rain again. I fully expect to experience more sprinkles and downpours because, well, that’s just life. It can’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time. But I also know now that whatever type of storm comes brewing up, it’s going to pass. Things will be ok in the end. And I really, really hope that even in some small way, my story can serve as encouragement to others facing their own kind of storms.

That’s why I’m writing again. I need something that can absorb all of these words and thoughts rattling around in my head, and I wanted to create a space for discussion and feedback from friends. If you keep reading (and I hope you will!), you’re going to see a lot of thoughts on faith, because that’s a huge part of my life. It is my life, actually. I can’t separate that out because it’s such a part of who I am now. I promise that we’ll have some fun, and hopefully that we’ll learn some things along the way.

So friends, I invite you to grab an umbrella. We’re going to get a little wet, but I’m so glad you’re here.