Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Chance to Change

In less than a month, our new housemate will move in. Here are 5 things I hope not to do:
  1. Resent him for not doing his dishes.
  2. Tell him one thing when I mean another. Instead, I’ll have a real conversation about it, not a passive-aggressive one in passing.
  3. Ask him to do things that I am not willing to do myself. How many times have I caught myself doing the very thing that bugs me about another person?
  4. Forget it’s his house, too. He pays rent. He lives here. Give up some control here.
  5. Love myself more than him. 
As hard as it is to live with others - sharing space, sharing decisions, sharing needs - it can often be harder to live with yourself. 

In the 5 years we’ve lived with a variety of people, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve not necessarily changed a lot about myself, but I have seen it. I have spoken it aloud. But now it my opportunity to put into practice some of the change I hope to see in myself.

What have you learned about yourself from living with others (roommates, spouses, parents, etc.)? Have you been brave enough, vulnerable enough, to make changes?

Friday, January 3, 2014

You and Me, On the Curb

Mattresses, clothes, a baby crib. Bookshelf, rocking chair, lamp, microwave. All things that immediately identify regular, everyday living, things that most of us have in our homes and closets, on our shelves, in our kitchens.

We shop for them at thrift stores and on Craigslist; receive them at wedding showers and baby showers; get them as hand-me-downs from grandparents and aunts. Their usefulness goes unnoticed most days, as we rise up and sit back down in the same old chair, re-heat our leftovers every day at lunch, drift off to sleep night after night, some more restless than others.

But when stacked on the curb, near the intersection of Holmes and Walnut Grove, any passerby knows it means one thing only: eviction.


My coffee was only $2.68. Unlimited refills. That’s worth it to me, when I’ve set up shop here at this local cafe, knowing I should be buying food (and often, I do). 

I’ve got a five-dollar bill left, one I’m half-prepared to give to the woman on the corner a half-mile back, the one holding the sign while smiling at me as I turned at the light, making my way here. 

It’s not that I’m always compassionate; I love excuses.  

“She’s probably lying to me.” (Yes, there’s a good chance of that.)

“She probably keeps making bad decisions.” (Also a good chance of that. A lot of people who make bad decisions, including myself, still have a roof over their head. So, what?)

“I’ve seen her before; why hasn’t anything changed?” (Because most people only give her five-dollar bills and then drive away never to think twice about her.)

What I know is that she needs more than a five-dollar bill, and that is what’s hard to address. What she needs is to be looked in the eyes and asked, “What is your name?”

That is scarier, harder, asks more of me, like getting out of my car on [what a south Mississippi-born gal considers to be] a bitterly cold day. It means she might ask for more. It means she might have the opportunity to lie to me. Or to tell me the truth. 

And the truth usually asks much more of me than a lie.

As I think about the invisible family who got evicted less than a mile from my house and the woman on the corner less than a mile from my mind, I’m struck by the power of community.

Are these families, made of mothers and sons, grandmothers and goddaughters, connected to a community? What kind of community? 

In my Christian community, one where we seek to know, support and love each other more richly than a success and power-driven culture might have us do, we talk about community a lot. I think we’ve concluded that it’s not community if we just hang out, if we aren’t going deeper, if we aren’t seeking God together.

And I agree: that is a good, rich definition of community.

But that’s our definition of community, that when we've finally reached "real community" it's good, and hard, and rich.

Almost everyone is a part of a community: the homeless community, a family community, a religious community. It can be healthy, or it can be toxic. It can be life-giving, or it can be demanding and controlling. Almost always there is some community at work in someone’s decisions, health and well-being, or lack thereof. Community is, indeed, powerful, whether for good or bad.

And this is why I’m thinking about community. Is there a good, healthy community at work in the lives of those I’m writing about today, the woman on the corner, the family out of a home? Maybe. Their community might be doing the best they can to love them and serve them in hard places, giving temporary shelter when the locks were changed, or on the coldest of nights.

But my gut says that there is a truly good community yet to be found, a community of hospitality, of welcome and love that says come as you are. A community that has been welcomed first by the One who dwelt in flesh, living among wanderers who lived on every extreme of the spectrums: from fishermen to rabbis, from powerful men to weak and property-less women, from legalistic leaders to faith-filled tax collectors who invited Him in for dinner. 

This is what I’ve yet to get, to really internalize, that I was invited and loved as I was, as I am

I was given a home, an identity, a purpose, even with all my crap on the curb and my little lies just to get a handout or two to make myself feel better for about 24 hours. 

And now, I am to go and do likewise. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Walking Lonely Roads

Some days it is a lonely road on which the artists walks. The way we must document everything, in lines and fire, dust and color, words and song. Why must the smallest of things be noted, some so taxing to read, listen to, watch. Are our mediums - canvas, clay, paper - just places to groan, complain about what's wrong around us, draw attention to ourselves to fill some hole left unfilled in our childhoods?

Even our closest friends can sometimes feel the pressure from being given too much emotion, baggage, thoughts brought up from the depths. C'mon, just leave it buried; that's what we do.

As I write, I imagine how my husband might respond to the exposed things, possibly with, "What?" or "What do you mean?" or "Hmmmmm, good writing." Even to those as close to us as a spouse or a sibling, there's no way to wholly transfer experience, perception, feeling. As a songwriter, I hope to at least stir up some desire for the listener to think on their own experience, as a result of placing themselves in mine for 4 minutes.

It's a scary thing to pick up that guitar and expose the flaws, loves, guilts, hatreds I've found in myself. Or what more of the same you will find in me, once you hear.

But mine isn't the only road that's lonely.

Yours is, too.

You've documented everything that's ever happened to you, been done to you, documented it in your own head. You, too, note every small thing, every failure, every victory. You beat yourself up, pick yourself up, and, if you're brave enough, eek out little snippets of these things to the ones closest to you, hoping to feel some relief, should they reach out and grab hold of what you've given them.

But for some, you'll never tell, never explain, never get around to the deepest of deeps.

For me, and maybe for you, I just can't help but write it down.

I'll help you walk that often lonely road.