Jersey Girl Meets Tennessee

I'm not sure where to start exactly. The month of May took me by surprise and the stories I've witnessed and been a party to are not for the faint of heart. Kind of like growing older as I hear it said. Most of those involved in the stories are over age eighty and some days it feels like herding cats. 

I'll back up a bit. Sometimes you make the best of plans, for the right intentions. You plan, advise the parties involved and take action. All was well on the Tennessee front but the New Jersey contingency had gone off course. They had in fact left the building. One on a stretcher. Seems he thought, "go clean out your closet and make a trip to the Salvation Army" meant, go up into your garage attic and proceed to fall on your head, face first on the hood of your car. I'm talking the hubs parents.

We diverted to New Jersey. We had a go round with nurses, physical therapists and a doctor who looked at mine and said, "Well, you are the surgeon, what do you think? You should be telling me." Wait... no, that's not how this is supposed to work. He gets to be son, you be doctor. That's the deal. We came to an understanding and we headed South, with Jersey girl in tow. 

Doing a bit of research before leaving for the Garden State we had established a place of respite for Jersey Girl upon our return. We needed a place that offered safety, kindness, and some fun. Fun can be lost as one grows older. Sometimes the mind tricks us into worry over what we forget or confuse. Car keys, money, siblings who have long passed on can all add to confusion and make us fearful. We wanted to fight that as hard as we could. 

We spent a week at our home in Tennessee acclimating. I've come to learn acclimating at this age can take years not days. I get it. We took Jersey girl with us everywhere. We spend our weekends and evenings demoing our new, old house. It's loud, hot, dusty and I have poison ivy on 49% of my body. I look like I lost a fight with a barn full of cats. 

Jersey Girl came with us, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, reminded the dogs to behave... over and over and... over. She swept the floors and talked about what a lovely house it is. I giggled as it is anything but lovely right now, but her kindness radiated through the cloud of drywall dust concealing the floor. The reality of upstairs bedrooms, a house just on the market and 24/7 care needed pushed us to do the uncomfortable but responsible. God pointed us in the right direction after a local call out to friends. We hit the jackpot or Godpot?! It is still ever easy. 

I call her Jersey Girl because of CJ. He works at Jersey Girl's new home. The first day he heard her speak he knew she was not a Southern belle. She is proud of her Jersey roots and she told him so. He nicknamed her and it fits well. Everyday she introduces us to CJ... and the staff. Everyday. 

I looked at CJ, and said, "You've seen Ground Hog Day, right?" I should have said Fifty First Dates, but he knew what I meant. He laughed hard.

I'm finding beautiful things among the hard. CJ is one of them. I don't know his story, not yet. He is a tall young man with a beautiful smile that he shares easily. He has a story of tattoos I get a glimpse of on his neck and arms. Some day I will ask after we build trust. He works hard and is ever so gentle with these (mostly) ladies, that can try even an angel's patience some days.

CJ and Jersey Girl would not cross paths if not for this sweet place. CJ makes life fun for these ladies. He helps whisk away their fears, at least for the moment. This truth is not lost on me and I thank him everyday when we say goodbye. 






Offer It Up...




This is messy, untidy and raw. It is my spot today. I throw it out and I will throw it off me. I am tired and sad and sick of sin. 

This week a sweet Texan friend of mine lost here mama, her best friend. Cancer. My friend, Weslee is one of those people you don't easily forget. She is a tall, dark haired beauty with a Texas "Hey ya'll" for everyone she meets. She is married to an extra tall Texan and together they have three baby Texans whose feet were dipped in Texas dirt upon entry into this world. Serious as New York Pizza. 

Weslee is walking a path of grief. Her mama, diagnosed with polio at 15 months of age lived most of her life confined to a wheel chair. From the stories I have heard and times spent with this beautiful woman it's obvious she was an overcomer, leader, warrior woman. She radiated light in her like few I've known. Her legacy is rich and her light will shine on in those she touched. 

Weslee is too young to lose her mama. She is in her 30's and my heart aches for this deep loss. I remember those days, raising my babies, 800 miles from my mom, yet a phone call away. I grieve for my friend. 

This week we watched in horror as Syrian babies fought for breath, dying in their fathers' arms. Any paper or news channel provides opportunity to turn away, our brains not understanding the evil. We want to believe in good, but the evil multiplies. I read of Niger and the Boko Haram and their unquenchable thirst for blood. I think back to the Rwandan genocide years ago... I was younger, hearing things my mind couldn't understand. But, it did not affect my life... yet of course it did. Years later, I was hungry for stories of survival and I remember reading and then hearing Immaculée Ilibagiza describe her life in, Left To Tell. I was more convinced than ever that we were created to survive, rise up, love. My view changed in what I should pay attention to, but it is still hard. 

This week a young man from back home, a U.S. marine, gifted with deep friendships, family, athletically, died of a heroin overdose. He had witnessed more than the human eye should see including losing his best friend to enemy fire. The demons of war had taken their toll and tragically this young life is gone, leaving deep land mines of grief that may never fully heal. Survival is not easy, even when it appears you have walked away from the front line. How do we understand PTSD and the human heart? My heart grieves for his loss, though I did not know him. 

How do we handle the loss that keeps coming?! I have wrestled with this for a year. What I blamed on a volatile political year, full of hatred, evil and fighting at every stop, was just an outlet. Don't misunderstand me, I have my beliefs, yet my sadness began earlier. It has grown to a deep place where I have struggled in relationships and my calling. 

Racial injustice caught my eye. Finally. Yes, guilty as charged. As a white woman it may not be my struggle yet I have come to believe it is certainly my opportunity. My friends of different color and culture are my sisters and brothers and deserve what I have. Freedom. This became an opportunity to lean in and learn. This was good and also uncomfortable. Let me grow and be changed. 

Then my friend Joy lost her boy a year ago. A tragedy that came close to home. Her losses have been big, tragic and relentless. She has lost two sons in the 20 plus years we have been friends. Soon after Christian died, Joy lost her mom, then dad. Really God?! I'm so disappointed. 

I have tasted tragedy. Losing my beautiful 4yr old brother. As a 6 yr old you expect your brother to be where you left him in the front yard, when you waved goodbye, headed to school. You don't expect to find that he was hit by a car. A 6 yr old might spend the next 20 years trying to understand that. Years later, pregnant with my first child, my 29 yr old husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nope... never understand that one God. Tragedy and grief can wear one down. 

This week my 82 yr old friend left a beautiful rose on my porch. She knew I was sick and offered a healing balm. My friend who has lived life full. Gifted in music and humor and a love for people because of her love for God. She is a warrior. She lost her love to one of the cruelest diseases, ALS... and she has not quit. She reminds me. We are survivors. 

I have lived far from family for over twenty years. This changed the direction of my life. I built deep friendships among women in every community I have called home. I am grateful. Without these relationships I would be a shell of who I am. I have been challenged, stretched and loved by many. 

These do not diminish the relationship with my sister, brother and parents. The space in between however does and it changes the reality of day to day life. I was not there when my sister walked a hard path of broken relationship and also rheumatoid arthritis. I worry about her. My mom is 80 and somehow managed to lose an eye last year. She is a one woman wrecking ball and yet she is an 80 yr old with one eye. I worry. 

I remember 9/11. My sister and I called each other. "Where is Craig?!" He is the brother and commercial pilot. He was in the air, somewhere safe. 

I am not a worrier. Never been a worrier. My friend Joy is not a worrier. I think that is one of the reasons we connected so well. We had suffered serious casualties in our lives when we met and we still had a fight, a joy, a warrior within. These days I am looking for that warrior. I sure as hell will not become a worrier. 

I have stories to tell but have struggled. A woman I met in prison. I was not a member, just a visitor. She handed me her story, typed out. Yea, that was probably not supposed to happen but there was no way I was walking away from that. It sits on my table, waiting. My friend, Ellen... I will never tell you her story. It is not mine to tell, but I can tell you things she does that are kind and generous. The stories wait, because my heart has been stuck. 

I believe in the good, and so I am tired of the evil I witness. The pain and suffering. The homelessness. The sick. The depressed. You see the tragedies and then watch one unfold before my eyes. A pastor, one I had concern for. A life of lies. A sadness for his family and the moments I would slap him if he was my son. Foolish, foolish man. Years from now he will live with regret that will bury him. I have no more time for this foolishness. The world is on fire and we are worried that we are not happy or fulfilled. Enough of this!

The circumstances that fight to hold us back, break us down, confuse our mind... we have one choice. Offer them up. God knows our human condition and He mourns with us. As my husband said to me last night, "God must weep at what we have become." 

So I will throw off the chains that bind me and look up. I will offer up my prayers and remember that my Warrior God has called me to run with the horses and be a warrior. He has created me for this. No fear for the days to come...