Corelleware

corelle copy

Mother’s Day began with the sound of shattering glass. It was 7:00 a.m. My son-in-law had left for his job at the church. My husband was at the convenience store. The grandkids, where are the grandkids?

I lay listening for the commotion I was certain would follow. My daughter, down the hall in another room was doing the same. But there was no shrieking, no stampede, just silence really – except for… a muffled cry?

So in the still of the morning, though I longed to linger in bed, my curiosity won the moment.  I slipped on my glasses, donned my robe, and tumbled out of bed the way you do when the mind wakes but the bones still slumber.

And dragging my protesting body, I worked my way out the door, down the stairs, down the hall and stopped, at the entrance to the kitchen. On the floor lay the shattered remains of a plate, a Corelle plate, strewn in a six foot radius. And there, at about the ten o’clock mark, stood Lucy. Ballet flats, ivory lace dress, perfectly coiffed Lucy. Head in her hands, stifling her sobs, nine year old Lucy.

Corelleware. Those nearly indestructible dishes. The ones that just never quit. The patterns may be old and dated but those darn dishes never wear themselves out. If you have them, you’ve probably owned them for 30 plus years, or you got them from someone who did. They can take the heat of the oven, the chill of the freezer and the pounding of the dishwasher. The harvest gold and avocado green clash with the stainless steel but dang it, they are just too sturdy to chuck. They outlive and outlast and out serve all the competition.

Funny thing about Corelle though… it’s strong until it isn’t, durable until it isn’t, resilient until it isn’t.

And as I stood there, as Lucy stood there, I recalled the times I’ve been oh too painfully like Corelle. Strong until I wasn’t. Durable until I wasn’t. Resilient until I wasn’t. Moms, are so good, so much of the time, at keeping it all together. Until comes the moment we aren’t. Until we have steered and steadied and staid ourselves but the storm strikes anyway. And the stress becomes too much. And we fail and fall and fracture – shards everywhere, penetrating everything, striking everyone.  Yes, we pick up the pieces, but still, the damage is done.

One of the blessings of multi-generational living is that it’s nearly a do-over.  An amazing opportunity to “get it right” the second time around. To allow the lessons of the past to guide the actions of the present. And yet, the beauty is we don’t have to wait until we’re 60 or 50 or even 40, until we’re grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Do overs happen anytime we allow our past weaknesses to morph into present strength, our past failures to drive us to future success. Anytime we to chose to learn from our mistakes.

And nearly forty years of motherhood has taught me that it isn’t broken plates that I regret, but broken spirits. And so, this day, this Mother’s day, I rewound the tape and sang a new song. Lucy received no scolding, no shaming, no shards. And as I gently swept the glass from around her feet, we talked about how her best laid plans for Mother’s Day went from feast to fiasco in one furious flash. And it was a sweet time for Lucy and I, sweet as the sausage she could no longer serve.  Me – extending grace, she – recieving it. Because broken plates, like broken anythings, can be occasions for guilting or for guiding, for chastising or for charity, for rebuking or for restoring. I know that now.

And so this plate shattering, food splattering morning has swept up some broken pieces of my own soul. Pieces left astray since the last time I couldn’t quite hold it all together. Pieces replaced with peace.  It is healing, cathartic really, those moments we “get it right.” And I am savoring this one.

There is no perfect mother. So I will strive for being second best – The Corelleware of Motherhood. Sturdy. Old. Dated, but not worn. Withstanding the heat and the chill and the pounding. Out-living, out-lasting, out-serving. And oy vey, clashing with the 21st century.  If the dinnerware fits…

And alas, I smile. Because, Corelleware.

And because today I am one broken plate closer to a new set of dishes.

 

socks

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3 year old Josiah has become my foe.

It started the day I was comfortably reading on the sectional and he decided to body slam me. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to engage this little guy, I cast my book aside and “fought him off.”  It has since become a daily ritual. “ZuZu (Grandma Sue) fight with me?”

And so I do. His toddler frame, my aging body, we are pretty much evenly matched. We roll around on the sofa, or the carpet, my “Joe Dragon” challenging his “Batman.” He takes flying leaps, unaware he could break my bones. I capture him, by the ankles, knees, waist, whatever I can get hold of, and threaten never to release him, until he fights and squirms and wriggles free, delighted to have escaped my clutches.

One day as he broke loose, I managed to grab the arch of his foot and threatened to steal his sock. I tugged at it taunting in hollow voice, “This sock has all your power. I’m going to take it from you!” He fought me off with a vengeance, but not a fun vengeance. It was one thing to tickle, and roll, and jab and pounce. It was quite another to steal his sock. He didn’t like it. He did not want to lose that sock. And his angst when I tried to take it, confused me. It was, after all, just a sock.

Within earshot of his protesting cries, 6 year old Mariele could stifle herself no longer. With the righteousness and confidence of a David encountering Goliath she marched up to the two of us, interrupted our tug of war, and with furrowed brows and piercing eyes, brandished her weapon:

Truth.

After glaring and pursing her lips at me, she admonished her little brother…

“JOSIAH! THERE IS NO POWER IN YOUR SOCKS!!!”

Our duel slowed as I watched him process this information. Wanting the battle to continue, I tried to assert otherwise. But the Truth burrowed in, captured the flag, and staked it’s claim in Josiah’s mind.

As it took hold, Josiah jumped up and faced me. Fearless. Chuck Norris style. I ducked as he deliberately lifted a foot, ripped off a sock and chucked it at me. Ducked again when it’s mate came hurtling my way. And with that, Josiah was free. Free of the fear of losing his socks. Free of having to cling and fight and run lest they be slipped off his little feet. Free from believing his socks possessed all he needed to conquer his enemies.

The moment he understood his socks had no power, he ceased to need them.

Relate much? ‘Cause I sure do! More often than I care to admit, I’ve been in Josiah’s shoes socks, admiring their fit, believing their lies, thinking they suited me.

So many brands have warmed my feet. Socks labeled “unforgiveness” to punish offenders. Or the pair marked “guilt” to soothe my conscience. I wore some tagged “pride” to protect my image. There was even “dependency”, the pair I couldn’t live without.  I clung tightly to my socks, fought to keep them on, fending off anyone who would take them away. Believing they would make good on their promises. 

Instead, these imitation ruby slippers, fueled my anger, prolonged my sorrow, eroded my self-confidence and kept me weak. And worse, they concealed the best in me, things like mercy, compassion, humility, and strength. And as long as they were on my feet, I was their prisoner.

And I’m guessing,  you might be too.

Can I be Mariele for a moment, scorning the one who taunts you? Brandishing my weapon:

Truth.

That it might burrow in, capture the flag and stake it’s claim. That it might take hold in your mind, so you might rise, victorious, Chuck Norris style, ready to bare your feet.

Because regardless or the price, or the purpose or the promise  – 

“THERE IS NO POWER IN YOUR SOCKS!!!”


“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”  ~Malcolm Muggeridge


 

Weeds

weeds

Some weeks ago I was asked to speak about “a season of my life” during a women’s brunch at church. The message was to be brief, and encouraging. I knew that I should share about the prior 7 years… a very dry and empty spiritual time from which I was only just beginning to emerge. But I didn’t know, I had no idea, how I could possibly relate this experience in a manner that might be encouraging to anyone. Because honestly, I wasn’t encouraged by it myself.

My “walk in the desert” began in 2008 with the death of my beloved nephew Jon. He was among the first of many soldiers to be undone by the effects of PTSD after returning from the Iraq war. He was only 24 and I loved him as if he was my own. His suicide, coupled with subsequent tension within my family, seemed to sever all connection between mind and soul. During those years I laughed, I cried, I celebrated, I worried, but I didn’t feel.

I didn’t feel the presence of God in my life though I knew He was real. My prayers seemed to return empty, unheard, though I knew He could hear me. The spiritual rituals to which I had been accustomed, no longer moved me, inspired me, comforted me. It was all dead to me, and I to it. The only time I felt remotely close to God was during long hours on my knees weeding my gardens. I’d pour out my heart to Him, tears watering squatters as they were yanked from the earth. Twice I heard his voice. Two times. Heavenly nuggets more precious than gold. He gave me only enough to sustain me. But He gave me enough.

And then slowly, ever so slowly, in the past year… a flicker. A twitch. A spark. Like the butterfly flutter of a gestating infant, I began to feel the Spirit move within me once again. The soul stirring as if from a long, deep sleep.

And though I was grateful to be exiting such bleak spiritual darkness, I had no idea how I might relate my journey in a manner that would be helpful to anybody.

And so I fell asleep one night, struggling to find some purpose to my path.

God speaks to us in many ways, sometimes in our dreams.

At some point during the night I woke to the salty sting of tears sliding past my temples. I was weeping. And the memory of my dream was clear, solid, as a window pane. I had been pleading with a distant God. “Where were You all those years when I sought you out? Where were you as I languished in my garden, emptying my soul?”

And that night, 
               in that dream, 
                             God appeared. 

Not as a person, but as a presence. 
And I was swept up in His arms. Swaddled in his Love.
And He spoke words to me that even today, move me to tears.
Because I had been so wrong about Him. 
And so undeserving.
Yet He was so compassionate.
 
He simply said,

“Susan, didn’t you know? While you were weeding, I was weeding too.”

And as I slowly drifted back to wake, clinging the edge of the glass, not wanting it to slip away, it all crystallized. Seven years of darkness crystallized. And suddenly I understood.

While I was weeding, He was weeding too.

In my sorrow, I had neglected the landscape of my soul, and allowed a lot of awful things to take root, crowding out the Good that once flourished. Suffocating the very breath of God. Muffling the sound of His voice. Leaving no room for that which I longed.

And He weeded.

For seven years He weeded. I must have been a mess.

Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted.”

Matthew 15:13 NLT

God uproots nations. He uproots cities. He uproots the wicked and the disobedient. That which defiles – He uproots.

So too in our souls.  He weeds grief and plants joy. He weeds despair and plants hope. He weeds lies and plants truth. The God I thought had abandoned me, had instead knelt by my side and weeded. As I weeded.

Until the fertile soil lay bear, readied for new growth, good growth, His growth.

gardening-wheelbarrow.jpg

At the end of the day, when my gardening is complete, I’ve developed a little ritual. I rake up the debris, collect up the tools. Pile everything into the wheelbarrow and cart it 10 paces into the yard. And then I turn and survey the freshly groomed earth. And behold – something beautiful.

When the Lord’s work in us is complete, will he not also, from His seat on the throne, give a long approving nod to us

as he takes in what he sees.

Before him.

Something beautiful.

You and I.

Something beautiful.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 NIV