My Confession and Apology

I have recently been so upset over all the vicious things people spew on social media, more upset than usual. Whether I read a book review on Goodreads that curses out the Bible (and Christians) or whether I read an article posted on Facebook bashing the gay community (often by professed Christians), it just breaks my heart and I know it breaks the heart of Jesus. Today, I was reading the Bible and just wanted to share a verse, but the following is what came out:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

Regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion....... you get the idea. It is only through love, not hatred, that people can see Jesus. Hatred in the name of Jesus defiles his love and isn't FOR his name at all, but is AGAINST his name.

And like my brave and loving friend, Erika Chambers, I am filled with a desire to confess and apologize to any that do not believe in Jesus (and to any that do).

I confess and apologize for being judgmental to you instead of being supportive. I apologize for not listening when you needed me to. I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable or unworthy because I recognize that I have done so. I apologize for doubting you, for acting superior to you, for not loving you as Jesus loves you. And he does love you, just as he loved me - even when I was cursing his name and the name of his father. And I did. Too much trauma I have been through all the way back to my birth and after I lost my great aunt and uncle - my surrogate parents - I hated God. I hated him and cursed him and threw all my religious artifacts (many from my beloved great aunt) in a box I shoved in a closet. I kept them because of her, not for any God-is-real reason.

I know many of my long-time friends are unaware that their "always has been spiritual" friend (me) had done such a thing, but that is because I was trying Buddhism and Wicca and other things out so I guess I still seemed spiritual. But I cursed God and told him to leave me the %$#@ alone, get the $%&@ out of my life because he was nothing to me and I lived many years hating all things religious.

But God loved me still. He loved me still and he wants me to love others as he has loved me.
I am not perfect and I am better than no one. I am deeply flawed, but because of Jesus, I am better than I used to be. A massive work in progress, I am vowing to love you more and I wholeheartedly apologize for all the times I haven't.

One thing specifically I feel I must confess is my absolute anger at parents of obese children. I have made hurtful comments and posted articles not in a helpful and loving manner, but in an angry and derogatory way that does nothing but cause pain. I have not loved like Jesus. Meanwhile, I lie in bed sipping my Java Monster or sit with Netflix while binging on alcohol (which, thankfully, I have recently given up) or ice-cream. I confess to being a health hypocrite and apologize to those parents, Christian or not, that I have hurt and scorned, again from my judgmental and superior disdain.

I am posting this with nothing but a desire to love you more and if these words are somehow offensive to you, I ask that you please refrain from mean and nasty remarks, but as I am trying to be better, to love better, explaining to me in a helpful way would be welcome. I will have to delete any hateful-type of comments that may be posted because nowadays, you never know what words may be triggers and again, that is not my intention.

Vacation Interrupted - A Writers at Work Assignment

Once a month, I attend Writers at Work (W@W). W@W is a place for writers, both published and unpublished, to write, learn, critique, and just have plain fun with one another. It is really a great group of people, led by an amazingly talented woman, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. For the first time since I moved to da 'burgh ten years ago, I have found my people or as we in W@W say, my tribe. Each month, we meet at a local library and we're given an assignment to work on until the following month. While I generally am not fond of the assignments, they really make one write outside of the box.

A couple of months ago, the library asked if we would have an evening of readings for patrons and their children. It was held on Thursday evening and we each read something we wrote as part of a W@W assignment. Since most of the work I've done for the group contains a lot of cuss words, I really had to comb through my files to find one that would be appropriate for children. For the July 2012 assignment, I wrote a story titled Vacation Interrupted. The story had the following requirements: 

"The assignment for next time is to write a story, poem or article including the following:

animal:  meerkat
clothing:  T-shirt
activity:  walking
weather:  balmy weather
location:  Kenya, Africa
situation:  an interrupted vacation

750 word limit"

So here is what I wrote:

Walking along the moonlit path between quaint cottages, I am overcome with a deep sense of gratitude. On all sides surrounding me are the most unique and colorful flowers, and various trees in more shades of green than I knew existed. Through deep reds, brilliant blues, bright yellows, and majestic purples, I meander speechlessly. Grand thoughts (too much to bear) flow through my soul and  I breathe in the balmy Kenyan air with a peaceful sigh. It is here at the Sopa Lodge I return to every year. It is only here that I can refresh from my chaotic life. Being here … completes me.

To be in this land that is still just as God created it is to bring me closer to Him. My heart stays behind each year when I leave, but while I am here, I am renewed as I spend my days in the safari wilds and spend my evenings as I am now, in quiet, joyful solitude.

"Well, hello there, pretty lady," a southern, United States voice frightens me out of my reverie. I turn to see a man wearing a stained T-shirt displaying a picture of a meerkat on it. It reads "Meerkat Manor" in giant letters.

Trying not to encourage him, I merely nod and continue along my way, but it is not to be.

"Where you from, Miss?" He has now turned and is following in my direction.

Quite irritated, I reply, "Noh Ahn-gles." My hope is that he would assume I was not an American and that he would leave me alone.

To my great relief, he tipped his head and replied, "Well, good evenin' then," and turned around to head back to wherever he came from.

Though I was alone again, the annoying southerner has somehow managed to ruin my peace of mind. No longer feeling the calm of a few moments before, I decide to head back to my cozy cottage for a glass of red wine before calling it a night.

The next morning, as is customary at the Sopa, I am taken to my assigned table for breakfast. I wait patiently for a server to take my drink order before getting up to partake of the delectable breakfast buffet. As I wait, I smile and reminisce of my first morning here when I had woken up early in desperate need of coffee. There was none to be found, not in my room, not in the lobby. I showered and got ready quickly, my body rebelling over doing these things without caffeine to jolt it awake. Having settled in the dining room, I was ready to jump out of my skin waiting for that first cup that took 20 minutes to get to me. In Africa, they are in no hurry. They live a leisurely life and have no concern for the caffeine addictions of Americans.

Still smiling, excited for a full day of safari, I stand as the waiter approaches, readying myself for the buffet line. "Jambo! May I please have a pot of chai?" I ask my waiter.

"Well, ain't this somethin’?" the Southern drawl asks. "No habla unglase, hu?" I turn to see the southerner, who has been sat at the table next to mine. Not only do I feel embarrassed to have been caught in a lie, but it is clear to me that this will be a vacation interrupted time and time again.

For the Love of Reading Glasses

I spent a couple of weeks in Utah with family this past Christmas and because my eyes have an astigmatism that shifts, I have a hard time reading when wearing my contacts. It's like I am very drunk, you know, when the room is spinning and everything is blurry. My sister wanted me to read something she wrote and I told her I couldn't.

She handed me her reading glasses and said, "Try these."

I told her several times, "Trust me, these aren't going to help," but she continued to encourage me to just try them so I did.

Lo and behold!!! I could read! I could read the words as clear as if I were sitting in the ophthalmologist's chair, you know, when the one is better than the two and the three is better than the four. Oh, for a bookworm, this was as close to a miracle as me attempting yard work, getting pricked by something sharp through my thick gloves and not dying from it (if you read my previous post, you'd know I don't do yard work).

Okay, so I'm fairly young and the idea of wearing reading glasses made me feel... well, resignation. I'm not sure I would've come home after the holiday and bought a pair of reading glasses, even if they did make reading possible. I just wasn't there yet, you know? Buying reading glasses was like saying, "I'm old." Just don't think I woulda, but when I opened my sister's Christmas gift, neatly tucked in a box full of goodies were a pair of zebra printed reading glasses in a zebra printed carrying case.

Zebra print. My sister knows me well. After my mission trip and safari in Kenya, I am in love with everything African. It was such a magical time for me. The mission part was magical, too, but the safari! The animals were migrating and there were thousands of zebras and elephants and giraffes and topis and wildebeests and a bazillion more animal species. Seeing the world just as God created it, with a lioness hunting gazelles and vultures cleaning up the mess, with elephant herds protecting their young from our vehicles and the hilarious snorting sounds the hippos make while bathing themselves in the rivers. Just magical. I felt God in that place. All over Africa, really, I felt God's presence. So naturally, I was only too happy to wear my stylish zebra reading glasses!

I have since come to love reading glasses and even recently bought another pair. I was at the book store and forgot to bring my zebra readers. The clerk was going to let me borrow a pair while I was browsing, but the beautifully marbled purples and blues and greens that framed them left me reluctant to let them go. I'm wearing them now as I type this.

So folks, don't think of reading glasses as the end of your youth. Instead, think of them as just another way to look cool. Reading glasses are just another way to express the colorful you that the world doesn't always see. AND, with your fashionable readers, now you'll be able to see the world in the words you can once again read.

(A friend took this photo at a writer's get-together held a few days after I wrote the above post. I was preparing to read the story I wrote to the group. We all later read some of our work at our local library two days later. You can read my story here on my blog.)

If I Die from Something Poisonous

I attempted yard work today. Everyone who knows me knows I don't do yard work. However, my little yard boy graduated high school so there is no one else to do it and the weeds were as tall as my neighbor's children. The weeds were lurking around my A/C unit like some of the stalker-like men I've had the misfortune of knowing.

So I attempted yard work. Got my sunny and colorful gloves out of storage. They look almost new. Got my little, red cutters (also out of storage), and outside I went to take some anger out on the vicious Audrey II-like weeds. I began hacking away when something mysterious pierced me right through my gloves. I'm sure it's nothing but a very strong thorn, but if by chance I am found dead in a few days (or weeks or months since I live alone), it should be noted that I attempted yard work today and nothing more.

What to Write When Your Brain Is Highjacked?

NOTE (written after I posted the below verbiage): Being technologically challenged, I can't figure out why this blog, when posted, has 2-3 spaces between each paragraph when my editing page has no paragraph spacing and is spaced just as the previous post was spaced. I have OCD and this is driving me nuts!

I realized today that the reason I don't blog is because of my health situation. I'm not choosing not to blog because of it. Rather, certain health conditions frequently highjack my brain and writing something that might actually mean something to someone else just hasn't been possible (there are days I'm lucky I remember my name). However, I really want to make a habit of blogging, kind of like the bible study my church is doing, 91 Weeks with Jesus (a.k.a. Know the Word). For approximately twenty minutes a day, five days a week, you read portions of the Bible and listen to audio commentary on it. About 1,000 people at my church are doing the study together and there has been something really powerful about it. For most of the 19 weeks that we've been doing the study, I have kept up. It's the only routine in my life that I've been able to maintain week after week. Okay, 91 Weeks and morning coffee.

So what can I handle as far as blogging is concerned? I haven't been able to blog about health and nutrition because the research requires too much ... well, thinking. I haven't been able to interview people and write about it for the senior newsletter I report for because again, that requires a creativity and intellect that slips in and out whenever if feels instead of whenever I would like it to. I haven't been able to blog any book reviews because I've struggled for almost a year now with getting my beloved books even read. So sad.

Random thoughts. Random thoughts are about all I can handle right now. Random thoughts float around my head like garbage floats around on the waves of the beaches of Virginia. Non-stop floating. Day and night the disorganized thoughts in my head tease me as they come and go and meander in and out of my head. "Look at me," they shout before disappearing behind the murky clouds that fill the Pittsburgh skies day after day after day.

But writing is the thing I enjoy the most next to studying the cultural history and Christian theology found in the Holy Bible. My idea is to blog random thoughts when I have them and if, by chance, I wrest control of my brain out of the hands of chronic illness, then I will blog something intellectual.

Stay tuned!

Keeping A Journal & Genealogy

I received my first journal for Christmas when I was ten years old. As a writer from as far back as I can remember, this was one of the greatest gifts I've ever received. I faithfully wrote in a journal on a daily basis until my late twenties. Since then, my entries have been scarce and sporadic, but I have managed to save most of these journals over the years.
Recently, it was in talking with a long-lost aunt that I rediscovered this treasure trove of history. We were talking about a bible in my possession that was passed down since before I was born. It is a memorial bible in honor of my grandmother and one I have never used because I didn't want to ruin it. My aunt told me that yes, I should absolutely use it and that my grandmother would want me to.
This started the digging in my garage for the boxes containing memorabilia as far back as my birth. I uncovered a wealth of riches that have blessed me tremendously. All week, I have been pestering family members and friends with photos and text messages containing tidbits of the jewels unearthed in these boxes. An heirloom plate I did not even realize I had, a cherished Lady and the Tramp record my sisters and I played until it wouldn't play anymore, and all the beloved journals I've kept since I was ten years old.
I opened one journal from high school and immediately sent quotes of it to my dear friend who was a "bff" back then. For my beloved sisters, I've shared lots of photos (via Facebook) of the many journal entries about our times together or how I missed them when we were apart. To their surprise, they also received a photo of a doll we each had at birth. My sister from another mother has gotten non-stop texts about our crazy twenties as I read through these journals documenting our escapades.
We've shared some of those good memories with a laugh, some of those really bad ones with a tear, but the most precious gift from this "journey into the past" is the recording of visits and conversations with departed loved ones. In these journals are words I had long since forgotten, stories told to me of the days gone by, the days before my own, stories I couldn't otherwise hear again.
This is the purpose of today's blog, to remind you of the preciousness of life and the importance of somehow recording the "mundane" that may one day become treasures to you (and the generations that follow). I have often wished I had recorded conversations I had with my grandfather, my great aunts and uncles, and even friends who left this world way too soon. As I began a quest of researching my genealogy late last year, I have wished even more that I could remember those conversations detailing the history of my family. There are few left that can remember enough to answer my many questions and those left often tell different versions of what they remember. However, in these journals recording the daily events in my life, I have found some answers. There are certainly many entries detailing events, emotions, experiences that I'd rather burn than have another come across, but they are littered throughout cherished memories and history that I would otherwise be without.
In all of this, I have become inspired to journal again in the consistent manner I did as a child and as a young woman. I have been reminded of how important it was for me as I grew and learned and lived. As a writer, it kept my words flowing as it cleared my mind to focus on my art. Most importantly, I want to add to the memories, to the history of my family, the conversations and moments that may one day bless me again.