The Brave Phone Call

Last month, while my husband was traveling, I took the boys to a birthday party for a friend of ours. On the way out the door, I glanced in the mirror and made sure to wipe away any blush I may have put on my cheeks for church earlier that morning. Why? Because I remembered who one of the guests at the party might be. A friend of a friend, this person only ever crossed paths with me at events at this particular friend’s house. It had been a few years since I’d seen her, but I distinctly recalled a hurtful comment she’d made to me at the last party that we’d both attended. And by smearing away any traces of make-up, I felt I’d removed any ammunition she might have for additional remarks about my face.

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Here’s what went down back in 2014:  Although I’d been sick for over a week, I felt better on the day our friends had planned to host a party for their little boy. I thought my face looked gray and wan from having been sick, so I put on some make-up in hopes of perking up my appearance.

During the party, I met the friend of a friend (let’s call her Harriet, because it’s not even close to her name), and we talked a bit. Later, as we circulated through the backyard party, Harriet and I intersected again. She explained how she’d recently begun selling a skin care line. Then she declared with alacrity, “And you have rosacea!” In case you don’t know, rosacea is, according to dictionary.com, “a chronic form of acne affecting the nose, forehead, and cheeks, characterized by red pustular lesions.” Wow. Apart from some wrinkles and a few freckles, there was nothing on my face–except the inexpertly applied blush. Maybe the pinkish-red shade of the make-up led her to this on-the-spot diagnosis.

My response? “No, I don’t. I’ve been to dermatologists before–concerned about getting checked for signs of skin cancer–and I’ve never heard that.” A moment later, I walked away.

Fast forward almost 3 years later to the party of last month…Remembering that Harriet would probably attend this party, too, I scrubbed at the blush–and hoped I could avoid conversations with her.

bunting

God must have heard my inner chatter about those plans to avoid Harriet, because He said, Nothing doing. She and her family arrived about the same time my boys and I did. And we were some of the first comers. So…not really feasible to avoid her. Buffered by our mutual friend (although neither of these women knew of my wish to avoid interaction with Harriet), we 3 women talked a little. Harriet asked me a question; I answered. Then her next comment felt a bit challenging, and it rubbed me the wrong way. Plus, I was T.I.R.E.D. and flying solo as a mama for 11 days straight. And my next response to her was more reactionary, a little more intense than I’d intended.

More people had arrived by that time, and I wandered off. For the rest of the party, Harriet and I didn’t cross paths again. By the end of the evening, I’d been contemplating approaching her to explain–why I wanted to duck when I saw her coming, why I’d been testy with her. But in the busy-ness of getting children ready to leave, I didn’t pursue it. I planned to text my friend who hosted the party for Harriet’s information and then call her in the coming week.

After getting Harriet’s contact info, I called her. I apologized for my abrupt comments during our conversation at the party (that I’d recognized had startled her while we were talking). I told her that her question sounded a bit confrontational–but that I probably read into that question of hers because of what had happened a few years before. I apologized for having tried to avoid her. She explained that, after the conversation at the party 2 days before, she’d then tried to avoid me. She’d assumed I was exhausted, knowing my husband was out of town, but she also wasn’t sure about wanting to talk with me anymore. When I explained about her rosacea comment, she actually remembered the conversation. I knew back then that she’d probably gotten caught up in excitement about her new side business; I willingly gave her the benefit of the doubt, believing she hadn’t intended to be hurtful. She apologized sincerely for the offense of the comment and accepted my apology, too.

rotary phone

It’s unlikely that I’ll see Harriet again anytime soon. But that truly doesn’t matter. God’s Spirit impressed on me both the need to apologize for my own brusque words to Harriet as well as to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge how I’d been hurt years before. My honesty gave her the opportunity to understand more about the situation. If I’d never shared this with Harriet, she’d have had no way of knowing that those words of hers had bothered me, had even stirred up insecurity. I couldn’t have held her responsible for information she didn’t have. But having the information meant she could then deal with the impact of her words.

I didn’t approach this phone call with the expectation of receiving an apology from Harriet–although I figured she might offer one. And I certainly wouldn’t have demanded one. What I did hope for, though, was mightily fulfilled–that 2 sisters in Christ could wade through a potentially messy conversation with humility and compassion and, in the end, arrive at a unity rooted in authenticity.

The next time I see Harriet, I’ll be the first one at our friend’s party to greet her.

 

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Update on my Minimalist Challenge

Today my to-do list included, among other activities, to toss an old tennis ball back and forth with Woodrow in the backyard (which he likes to do and asked me about this afternoon) and to finish browsing through a book of fighter planes with Woodrow (that he’d also asked me to do–we started it Monday night and finished it this afternoon). This is a large part of what I do as a “professional mother,” investing time in my  children. And that makes it to the to-do list.

dry erase board with markers

Spending these moments together with him, doing activities that he’d chosen, confirmed something for me:  My first born’s love language is quality time. My own love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch; I think Garfield’s are receiving gifts and also physical touch. Knowing what speaks love to my children helps me to pursue them intentionally, offering what I know will bless them.

Have you heard about the 5 love languages? You can discover more about those at this site.  The book of the same name (The Five Love Languages) has been around for decades, but I find it’s helpful to know this kind of information about yourself and about the ones you love.

wreath with garland

Other items on my to-do list today:  bake bread, make smoothies, and–of course–since it’s November 8, to organize my 8 things to purge in my November Minimalism Dare. I’ve been faithful with this practice each day this month, and it’s giving me the gift of anticipation. Each morning, I wake up eager to toss something else into the give-away bag. Part of me wants to rush through it and dump everything into the container headed to Goodwill all at once (I’ve pulled out a pile of stuff that I will eventually get rid of and am so far picking through that for each day’s give away). But I’m heeding my internal reminders to pace myself, to enjoy the ride, and to value having something to anticipate each day.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve purged so far in November:

Day 3:  1 glass jar with lid + 1 fabric swatch + 1 piece of clothing

Day 6:  1 tent (an extra one we’d been trying to sell–it finally sold!) + 1 luggage tag + 1 two-minute timer from an old Boggle game (we lost some of the letter cubes) + 1 ribbon + 1 piece of fabric + 1 cord with tassels

Day 8:  1 garment bag + 7 make-up samples

chalk spilling from tin bucket

On day 2, we gave away a box of macadamia nut milk that we’d won at a grocery store event (random, I know). We didn’t need it, so we passed it along to a family who did. The make-up samples went to a women’s Bible study via a friend, hopefully blessing some women there who might enjoy these items. On day 7, I FINALLY returned 2 books I’d borrowed from my team leader with Cru–I’d had them more than 2 years.

So, this project isn’t only satisfying to me; it’s actually giving me the means to bless others, too. I can’t wait to discover what else I can share, toss, sell, or donate this month!

 

November: Minimalist Challenge Month

This summer, the furnished apartment where we stayed in Colorado included cable TV (which we don’t have at home). So Mike and I watched several HGTV episodes of tiny house shows. I have a fascination with tiny houses, and back in 2015, when we embarked on the journey of selling our townhouse, we both pondered how we might build a tiny house on a little patch of land.

We couldn’t figure out a way to make it work financially (with the need to buy the land first, then build the tiny house, but still have a place to live in the interim), but I still gravitate toward TV shows featuring tiny houses.

One of these episodes featured a couple who’d taken a minimalist challenge before pursuing their move into a tiny home. Here’s what that entailed:  For a month, they gave away, sold, or trashed personal belongings. On the first day of the month, they got rid of one item; on the second day, 2 items. On the 3rd day, they donated or threw out 3 items…and so on. I’d never heard of this plan before but was intrigued by it.

carafes

Now I’m planning to take on this dare for the month of November. I won’t have each item out of our house by midnight each day–it just isn’t feasible–but I’ll put the things aside in bags for donation as the month goes by.

I’ll also stay accountable to this challenge on my blog, so you can read about the flotsam and jetsam that I’ll be passing along–to the garbage bin or to the Goodwill. Today’s the first day.

Day 1.  A ribbon gleaned from my craft bag. (It’s fine to start small, I think.)

I suspect this dare will become increasingly difficult as the month goes by–good thing I picked a month with only 30 days. 

Care to join me? I find something so cleansing about purging excess stuff from our home. Maybe you’d like this dare, too.

Wear It Well Wednesday: From New York

Just a few days before my family and I flew to New York for our recent vacation, a package of goodies arrived from our friend Vivian in Texas. In it were lots of pieces that I wore to, in, and coming home from NYC.

I’m so blessed that my clothing sizes are similar enough to several family members’ sizes (and some friends’, too) that I can wear their cast-offs. Here’s the outfit I donned to travel to New York; I also wore the pants the following day with a different shirt.

wear it well wed in new york

Shirt and jeans:  hand-me-downs from Vivian. I especially like the zipper details on the ankles of these pants. Boots:  passed down from my aunt Anna. The necklace–which is more or less my go-to one–is a gift from my sister. In case you wonder, I did not wear these boots around New York City. As soon as we plopped our things in our friends’ apartment our first night in town, I changed into more comfortable shoes, and we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Then we had Japanese ramen at a tiny restaurant in Brooklyn Heights–it was a great introduction to our NYC vacation.

 

My MeToo Experience…Or One of Them, At Least

The other day on Facebook, I noticed a friend had referenced the MeToo stories circulating on social media, in which women acknowledged the sexual harassment and assault they’d faced. Her post mentioned how she’d experienced MeToo moments in elementary school, middle school, high school, and on into adulthood. I paused at that, wondering about sexual harassment that occurs when we’re that young.

girl staring at sun

Then I remembered a couple incidents in my own childhood. Oh, yeah.

The first MeToo story I can recall took place in 6th grade. A boy who sat across from me in English class had apparently been annoyed with me that day; maybe we’d had an argument. I don’t recall what prefaced his outburst, but what I DO remember were his narrowed eyes and his exclamation of “Flat-chested!” hurled at me as an insult.

I was not even 12.

That particular comment hurt me very little, actually (I didn’t think much of this boy, anyway). But my second MeToo experience caused far more damage.

The summer I was 13, I’d bought a new one-piece bathing suit. A rainbow of pastels, with a little ruffle around the hips, the suit initially came without straps. After trying unsuccessfully to wear this suit (and maneuver in the waves) at the beach strapless, I went home and sewed on some elastic strips from my mama’s sewing basket (after I tried dying them in a bath of purple dye made from food coloring; the tint held for one wearing, but the straps themselves lasted.) The straps I’d made looped over my shoulders and held up what was–to me–the perfect swim suit.

pastel candy

Later that summer, our church youth group packed the church van and drove to a big, busy, crowded water park for their “faith and family” day, or something like that:  Christian bands were slated to play, for instance. Several of my friends and I started that day at the wave pool, which is what it sounds like–a pool with mechanically generated waves. If you pushed through the waves, you could reach the opposite side of the pool, which was a regular swimming pool. That’s where we were headed.

My friends moved faster than I did through the waves, but I was making progress by myself. About that time, a curly-haired boy about my age made eye contact and smiled at me. I don’t remember smiling back; I was preoccupied with getting to the side of the pool with my youth group friends. A minute or so later, I noticed that he had walked closer.

The next moment, I saw him swim by–behind me–and felt a noticeable pinch on my rear end. He surfaced a few feet away, smiling and half waving at me. I was incensed. Livid. Absolutely indignant. And I did something in response that I probably shouldn’t have done on “faith and family” day at the water park, with youth group friends and chaperones around. I flipped this boy off. Without even giving it much consideration, I stuck up my middle finger and glared at him, then I kept making my way, alone and feeling more so by the minute, to the spot where my friends were swimming.

sunglasses at the pool

I practically shook with rage. How dare he do something like that to me? What makes him think he can do that to MY body–pinch me on the butt–just because he wants to? And I’m supposed to accept it, just like that, because he felt like doing it? 

I didn’t have enough language at such a tender age to put words to all that this incident surfaced in my heart and mind. And I don’t think I told anybody. Not a soul. Because even then–in the summer of 1987, at 13 years old–I think I assumed that this was just “something boys do.” I also remember thinking something along the lines of this being the “first time” I’d gotten pinched on the rear by a boy–as if I expected it to happen other times, too, and there’d be nothing I could do to stop it.

I’m raising boys, so maybe there’s something I can do to stop it–simply keep teaching my boys that there are parts of our bodies (including their own) nobody else can touch without that person’s permission, for starters.

I’ve never actually regretted flipping that boy off that day at the pool, although he looked properly stunned when he saw my gesture. If I had to choose, I’d still prefer that 13-year-old Allison to have reacted the way she had–instead of shrugging it off as just “something boys do.”

*For the record, I know not ALL boys do this. Nor do all men perpetuate harassment or assault. And I am thankful for those men. Women need good men in our lives, and we need to raise our sons to BE good men.

A Spoonful of Sugar: My Mopping Playlist

Music can really set a mood, even while doing mundane household chores. I mopped the kitchen/eating area today (it’s all one room) and created a play list as I went along. I’m sharing it with you today, for your own listening/mopping pleasure.

You’ll notice there aren’t any praise and worship songs; I wasn’t aiming for contemplative, thoughtful tunes. I looked for upbeat, familiar songs–preferably ones with which I could sing along. Essentially, I needed to hear music that would make me want to dance with my mop. And I did, as I listened to Bruce Springsteen croon about how his “kisses used to turn you inside out.”

mop on wood floor

We have an Alexa (which I think is more properly called an Amazon Echo), so I just yelled out tunes for it to play while I sloshed my mop back and forth over the tile floor. I was initially against bringing this device into our house, but my husband won it as a door prize at a trade show. The last thing our home needs added to it is more technology. But I acquiesced so long as we only refer to it as “it,” and not “her,” although it can be easy even for me to forget since it has a female name. You pick the best means for enjoying your own play list, and maybe mine will inspire you.

Allison’s Mopping Play List

  1. I Am a Paleontologist, They Might Be Giants
  2. I’m Goin’ Down, Bruce Springsteen 
  3. R.O.C.K. in the USA, John Mellancamp
  4. Why Does the Sun Shine? They Might Be Giants (notice the science theme from time to time)
  5. Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Denise Williams (first heard this on American Bandstand as a child)
  6. Dancing in the Moonlight, King Harvest
  7. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals
  8. Tempted, Squeeze
  9. Safe and Sound, Capital Cities
  10. Break it Down Again, Tears for Fears
  11. Budapest, George Ezra

The steady stream of music simultaneously helped me get my floors clean and lifted my spirits. And in my experience, lifted spirits translate to more energy.

woman in washing machine

I’m off to listen to more music and maybe even find something else to clean. Happy Friday!

Gifts: Big and Little, Obvious and Disguised

Just a few days ago, my family and I returned from a vacation in New York City. Thanks to the generosity of some friends/ministry supporters who live in Manhattan, we were blessed to have free housing during our visit. Their apartment in East Harlem gave us a place to sleep at night, as well as a kitchen to prep some of our meals. We saved additional money that way, although we did buy quite a few hot dogs and pizza slices while we vacationed.

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Seeing the city from the Empire State Building.

I’ve loved New York since I was a 20-year-old college student serving there for a summer on an inner-city mission project. I went back to NYC in 1999, leading a group of college students (as I worked with Cru at Mississippi State) for a week of urban ministry during spring break. After 9/11, I went up to New York for a long weekend to assist with some of the Cru response to the attacks.

Before this recent trip, sixteen years had passed since I’d walked the streets and ridden the subways in this most amazing of cities. It had long been a dream to take my children on a trip there. I love it when dreams come true.

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Hugging a tree in Pelham Bay Park, at the top of the Bronx.

Although I could write many words about our experiences in New York, I want to begin at the end:  the plane trip home. On the flight to New York, I sat beside Woodrow and then sat by Garfield on the flight home. As he prepared to watch a kids’ movie on the screen in front of his seat, I contemplated my options. The book I’d tried to download had stalled, so I had no book to read–I prefer an actual book I can hold in my hands, but the one I’d gotten from the library and saved just for the trip was in high demand. I couldn’t re-check it and had to return it to the library before we left for New York. And the screen facing my own seat wasn’t working. I considered asking for help with it but then decided against that. I’ll just read my Bible, I thought. And I’m glad I did.

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Windy day on the Staten Island ferry.

I read through the first few chapters of the book of Acts and wrote down some thoughts in a little notebook I keep in my purse for jotting down to-do lists. The Lord taught me on the plane that afternoon as I drank tea and ate sweet potato chips delivered by the flight attendants. He taught me about His character.

In Acts chapter 3, verses 1 through 16, Peter and John–apostles of Jesus–cross paths with a disabled man who’s known by all as a beggar. Indeed, he begs for coins each day to supply his daily bread. Peter and John have no money to give, but instead they heal him–and his life is changed. You can read the story for yourself here.  

Although I’m sure I’ve read this passage numerous times, it struck me anew on the plane that day. Here are the thoughts I recorded about it…

This crippled man, who could not provide for himself, begged daily. Everybody knew him as a lame beggar. He asked Peter and John for money, as he did of everyone who walked by him. And he did need those few coins for his meager, bare-bones existence. He needed to have those alms in order to survive. But–BUT–what if God wanted to say NO to the request for a pittance and instead give this man what he needed AND MORE? To give him so MUCH–something so BIG–he’d no longer need to beg. HE WOULD NO LONGER NEED TO BEG. And he’d no longer BE a beggar. This is what God did; He did NOT give the man that for which he asked. God gave him more than he even knew to ask. But first God HAD to say NO to the pittance before He presented the jackpot. 

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God did a form of this for me on the plane that afternoon; instead of presenting me with a working TV screen so I could watch the news or a movie, He offered me fellowship and interaction with my Creator. He said “no” to the pittance so He could give me the jackpot. And He performs this same kind of work in bigger, deeper ways in our lives, over and over. Oh, to have eyes of faith to recognize it. 

Of all the treasures from our New York trip, I’m especially thankful for that non-working airplane TV screen.