nail polish best buds

What would you do if I sang out of tune,

Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.

It’s hard not to sing the lyrics to this song (covered by Joe Cocker and written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney) that played over images of grainy photos at the start of “The Wonder Years” TV show.  Don’t we all get by with a little help from our friends?  In today’s reading from Proverbs we are reminded of the love in close friendships.  

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NIV).

My first and best friend in life was (and is) named Wendy.  While our friendship has morphed from painting fingernails endlessly as middle school students to now calling to laugh at our crazy kiddos, we can always seem to pick up right where we left off, no matter the time or distance between us.  

Unlike most obligations in our lives, friendship isn’t required.  Our friends don’t have to connect with us for work.  They’re not obligated through a family tie.  They just like us–for whatever reason–crazy quirks and all.  Although friendships may wax and wane through the years, some friendships stand the test of time and call us to re-connect again and again.

In a task-oriented culture, friendships might seem frivolous, but nothing is trivial to our God who can count the hairs on our heads.  It’s interesting to me that it’s often the seemingly insignificant or trivial things that bring the most heart-felt smiles at a funeral.

  • He always had a roll of LifeSavers in his pocket. . .
  • She could eat a whole package of vanilla wafer cookies in one sitting. . .
  • Oh, he hated that one song, and every time it came on the radio. . .

Sometimes trivial becomes the most important.

C.S. Lewis writes eloquently about God’s gift of friendship in his work, The Four Loves:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself. . . Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

Thanks be to God, for friendship.

pure gift (or I sense that I am dying)

I sense that I am dying, from I know not what.

I read stories of young women dead at 23 in hiking accidents, in life accidents, blasted away quietly in crazy-making ironies.

I see yellow baloon Facebook posts for a two-year-old taken from her mother a year ago in her sleep, silently and violently.

I sense that I am dying, and it’s true.

It’s true, and yet we’re called to “rage rage” against it, to ignore, to retaliate to act as if.

As if this isn’t the case.

As if we’re not.

The time unknown.  The when.  And thank God for that.  But the wondering gets at me sometimes. . . today, tomorrow, at eighty-five when my home of knick-knacks has been whittled to an apartment and “a community” by design?

I wonder at what I’m doing with this life energy, with these hands not quite yet wrinkled.

This today.

I can’t decide most days if it’s an extreme burden or a blessed lightness.

But I can choose.

I can’t choose what’s true, but I can choose the lens through which I see it.

Those who did great things did so by steady drip drip drip.  Tenacious and faithful movements over time, of believing that today I will create life, for this day I will not die, and God willing, tomorrow neither.  The bold ones, the movers and shakers, the love-ya with gooey mac and cheese ones, their daily courage sits, compounded, somehow ready for us to take our own helping–not taking from others, but what is ours–to dare too we too might leave a mark, leave a difference, impact just one.

I wonder at my drips.

I wonder if they are wearing away at the right cleft of stone, hewn just for me, or if I’m dripping somewhere wrong, wearing clicky shoes when flats get their faster, better, in a way somehow more me.

I wonder at me. . . and than wonder at that tendency and wish I wondered more at others, turned out.

I sense that I am dying, but for today I sit here open, catching a poem before it sprints by and is gone.

It is in the catching, the being open, the stopping, the breathing, the living, the loving, the giving and connecting, and the laughing at the CAPITAL LETTERS in that e-mail or at the the chunkiness of the bottom inch of that dragon-breath coffee that we hold the dying at bay.

If only for today.  Pure gift.

mean mama

I’m not sure it was the boldness of the elderly man’s words in the grocery store entrance, or the hysterical tantrum my toddler daughter was throwing that left me paralyzed, unsure of what to say.

“Oh, come on mean mama,” he said, while cupping my elbow, “make that little girl laugh.”

Make her laugh?  Hah!  She was pedaling her feet in a circle on the ground, flailing her arms at every attempt to grab her and screaming at the top of her lungs.  

Yes, I had become “that mom” in the grocery store.  This just had to be God’s punishment for every time the younger me had been annoyed or sat in judgement of another mom and toddler in a similar situation, right?  All joking aside, this will be forever etched in my mind as a moment where I felt no sense of control.  I felt helpless.  I felt sad.  And mad.  I didn’t respond in any way to this elderly man–who, I didn’t realize at the time–was trying to offer me some wisdom.  Instead, I scooped up my daughter and hauled her to the bathroom to flail in privacy.   

In Matthew 18, Jesus talks to us about these “little ones,” and my sense of Jesus is that He wasn’t just talking about perfect little angel children, but children with all of their colors–both darling and patience-testing.  

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)  

Through the challenge and joy of our toddler, I’ve been brought closer to God as I learn to lean not on my own strength, but rather to trust in God’s provision when I know I don’t measure up, when I feel like a helpless child myself.  Let the little children come to me, includes us, God’s children.  May we have the courage to come to Jesus not only when we’re our best, darling selves but also when we look back, embarrassed at the tantrum we’ve thrown.