I no longer bound out of bed these days. I pray my way out of bed these days. I slowly sit up and throw my legs over the side of the bed. I sit there for a few moments to meditate on whether I should even try to get up. I must daily choose not be defeated by any geriatric state of mind so I slowly rise to stand even as cranky joints grudgingly respond to the call of the brain, “Get up, get up, GET UP!!! Slowly, inch by inch, I will myself up to my full height, whatever that looks like these days because as we age, we shrink, I think. I wobble into the bathroom for my thousandth visit since I lay down to sleep the evening before (I blame the blood pressure meds). I stare in the mirror and note the bedhead state of my hair. I can see clearly now since cataract surgery and I stare into a face that will greet me every morning from this day forward. I really did not understand just how diminished my vision was until the day after the surgery on the first eye and my face came into all its glorious focus. It took me more than a minute to recover. All I could think was a line the character Aunt Bee had in an Andy Griffith Show episode about aging, “You’re no spring chicken any more!” No spring chicken anymore. Nope, not anymore. My snapback has lost all of its snap and refuses to come back. It just limply lies there waiting for someone, or something, to push it back into place. My hair grows in gray and rallies agains any hair dye that tries to encroach on its territory. Crows peck at the outer corner of my eyes and chin whiskers grow at the speed of light as they defy tweezers. People tell me I don’t look my age, whatever they think my age may be, but my hands will not lie to save face. Birthdays insist on adding up and they refuse to stop showing up every year with another reminder that time marches on. My 18 year old mind is confused about my physical state of affairs and keeps sending out orders with which my obstinate body refuses to comply.
Still, grace continues to somewhat ameliorate the effects of growing older. I am still here, present enough to laugh with daughters, love on grandchildren and celebrate small victories. Ice cream is still a treat (always in moderation as is everything these days) and the hint of Autumn in the air wraps me with warm memories of yesterday. I move forward in the assurance of my faith which reminds me God still cares for me and He will take good care of me. I celebrate today because everyone, young or old, knows for sure (especially these days), that tomorrow is not promised to anyone of any generation.
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
~excerpt from “Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning
The fact of the matter is that everyone is aging no matter their age. We may not always be able to grow old gracefully every moment of every day but grow old we shall so come grow old with me — it’s all about mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. I’m good with that.
Earlier this year (2017), on a Sunday morning, I drove to Church, bounced out of my car and before I walked into the building, I looked down at my feet. To my chagrin, I had on mismatched flats. Both pairs were black but each had a different embellishment so I knew the difference would be noticeable to the inquiring eye.
I dashed back to the car, fervently praying that I had left a pair of matching flats in the trunk! No such luck. The only pair of shoes in the trunk were a pair of my daughter’s stilettos.
Now I love a pair of stilettos. I have written about my womanish stilettos. But, it had been over two years since I’d worn heels (hip and knee issues eventually replaced), so I shuddered at the thought of putting on those shoes. But, in my mind, I had no option, so I teetered my way into the sanctuary.
Everyone expressed surprise that I was not only in heels but in those heels! As I contemplated twenty minutes of standing in those heels, I blurted out my truth, “I wore mismatched flats to church this morning and these were the only shoes in the car!”
After the laughter died down, one young woman said, “I might have some flats you can wear.”
Those flats turned out to be slides topped with fuzzy stuff. At this point, I did not care what anyone might think. At least my feet would be flat on the ground. Fuzzy slides it would be!
Since the day of that mismatch mishap, I make sure my flats match before I walk out the door.
Let us now rewind to this past Sunday.
I again was a part of the Praise/Worship team. I pulled out my flats and intentionally made sure I had matching shoes. When I arrived at the church, I stepped out of the car and looked down at my feet.
Yep, you guessed it! Mismatched. Again. What. The. Hades!
I walked into the church and the first person I encountered, I pointed to my shoes and said, “Yes, I did it again.”
Same mismatched flats! Yes, we all laughed. Again.
I did my best not to care. Didn’t work. I felt like those shoes were screaming, “Hey, look at us! We don’t match!”
When sound check was done, I rushed out of the building to the car to search through the car trunk.
One stiletto that belonged to my daughter, no mate. One black flat, no mate. One black patent leather medium heel, wearable, no mate. One black kitten heel, no mate.
I am not frantic. I am determined. I open a car door to the back seat and I search under the seats. I seem to recall the mates to those wearable heels under the car seats.
Nothing, no mates, no flats, no thing! When did I clean out the car?
I go back to the trunk and begin to tear it apart even more (thank goodness, I don’t have much in my trunk).
After much tossing of stuff aside, I find the mate to the medium heel (at least I hope it”s the mate but at this point I do not care).
Wait. I have not worn heels for Praise/Worship for almost three years. What if I trip! What if I stumble! What if I topple over?
No such incidents, I’m happy to report. I also now realize that I can wear heels on those Sundays I am on the team. However, I am in the comfort-first stage of life, so flats it will continue to be (with an extra pair always in the trunk, just in case).
Today is “National Widows Day”
I cried today
I did not cry because I am a widow
Even though I am a widow
I did not cry today
Because he is no longer present
I cried today
Because some people took the time to say,
“You are not forgotten”
I did not know that tender place existed
“You are not forgotten”
It is so easy for widows to be lost in the fog of grief
I do not mean a widow loses her way because of her grief
Though this is possible
The journey on the path of the new normal can be quite circuitous
Fraught with fear of the unknown
Strengths to be discovered
Obstacles to overcome
Courage to be cultivated
But this is not what I mean
When I say a widow is often shrouded in the fog of grief
I mean too often others lose sight of her because of her grief
Unable to relate to the loss
Or her struggle in the loss
They lose sight of her because of her grief
Familiar voices no longer call out to her
Familiar faces fade away
Memories are sometimes her only recourse
But they too are painful reminders
Of forced isolation
That which is too often a part of mourning
Others try to construct a timeline
For her grief
As though they know what that timeline should be
For her grief
Challenged by her singleness
Begin to exclude rather than include
They do not realize
That “single” only means to the widow
A double bed that now only makes room for one
The spouse’s name is no longer spoken
Unless she speaks it
The stories she so treasures
No longer told
Unless she tells them to herself
It’s the widow’s walk without the wail
Or a mournful claque
To encourage the grief over loss
The supportive recognition of her sorrow
After “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”
She is alone
Shrouded in her grief
As though she was buried
With her husband
“Donna, you are not forgotten”
Yeah, I cried today
For additional information about “Widow Wednesday:” http://widowwednesday.com/national-widows-day/
I saw the thread on Facebook before I watched the “Kev on Stage” video. Apparently Dr. Juanita Bynum has taken umbrage, and passionately so, to some current dress trends of church women, especially those who stand in front of the church to lead the congregation in worship.
As a worship leader, I guess I am in her line of fire I quit stockings long ago. They were expensive and were only good for one wear before a run would inch its way up from a toe or wind its way down from the crotch (should I say crotch in this post?).
I will admit it gave me some pause when I first went stockingless; what would people say? What would they think? What would bare legs say about me as a woman? Would it be safe for me to walk down the street bare-legged, less known, into the sanctuary? Would I be accosted by hungry deacons on the prowl who might mistake my bare legs for solicitation? Would my bare and greasy legs blind the people to the presence of God? Would God dwell in a temple supported by bare and greasy legs? I don’t do stringy shoes or go draw-less so would my bare and greasy legs be more than enough to mark me with the scarlet “T” for THOT? Also, I don’t do greasy legs well. My dry skin absorbs lotion and coconut oil like they’re addicted to the stuff, so is bare-legged and ashy a minor fault? Is it okay for me to stay on the worship team bare-legged and ashy?
Okay, so the above is a bit of facetious hyperbole, but the thread and the video resulted in this blog.
I can see both sides of the argument about modesty and the believing woman. I get the concerns on both sides But, listen Linda, listen (you too Joe), the external is no true indication of what’s happening in a person’s heart (but you already knew that, right?). This legalism of judging people by their appearance has got to go. How many times have we missed the opportunity to truly minister to someone just because they didn’t look right, didn’t sound right, didn’t dress right? How many broken people have left the church still broken because they weren’t like us and thus unacceptable for us to reach out to them? How many former members are now bitter church expatriates because of the banging of loud and hateful gavels by self-appointed church judges?
And listen, “Cash me outside” with Dr. Bynum’s colorful expressions in her rant “How ’bout dah?” Was there no better way for her to express her despair over these greasy bare-legged stringy shoe wearing draw-less worship leaders who are, apparently between services, doing the deacons over in the corner?
Donna, you’re judging, now.
Yes, my point exactly.
You see, I am more concerned about the worship leader who stands in front of the congregation every Sunday to lead worship but has yet to truly understand the heart of worship. I am concerned about the worship leader who stands in front of the congregation every Sunday but has not yet been convicted by grace. I am concerned about the worship leader who stands in the front of the congregation every Sunday and relies more on a beautiful voice, the always on-key riffs, than the Holy Spirit. I am more concerned about that worship leader who knows all the songs but is barely acquainted with the Master.
To worship God is to value Him highly When we begin to declare that one’s worship is not for real because their appearance is not up to our self-constructed standard, then our value of worship is sorely misplaced.
Maybe it’s time we all got back to the heat of worship as delineated in John 4.
“They that worship Him must worship Him in stockings, closed toed shoes and draws (aka drawers).”
Oh, that’s not what it says?
“How bout dah?”
I watch them run into the cafeteria, all wide eyed and just a little wild.
For five weeks each summer they become that diverse group on a campus that is not nearly as diverse during the school year.
They do not understand the privilege afforded to them of learning on a campus that costs a pretty penny to attend during the school year, a campus largely comprised of the homogeneous and the privileged.
The teachers who work with this diverse summer group may not be used to working with such diversity, either.
My wish for both groups is that they would come to understand one another in such a way that the experience will remain with them long after the memory of the summer sessions fades.
The line of difference drawn hard in society’s sand will only be erased when the diverse dare to embrace inclusion and dare to sit down to talk through skewed perceptions and unwarranted stereotypes.
While it is too true that I often view the world through a lens forged in the fires of Jim Crow, I believe that change is possible It will take time. It will require patience. It will have to be fueled by determination.
I choose to believe!
We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. ~Maya Angelou
Sometimes posts of people I knew back in the day pop up on my Facebook page
Sometimes I scroll through Facebook pages of people I knew back in the day
Recognize faces in captured photographic moments
People I no longer see, have not spoken to in ages
This is not intentional
It is just the nature of the beast
Out of sight, out of mind
It occurs to me that I have become one of those people
Like those former celebrities who no longer occupy the limelight
And people wonder
“Whatever happened to?”
Yeah, I have become one of the misplaced
People who I saw on a regular basis
People with whom I laughed and cried
People with whom I dined and traveled
I no longer see or talk to
It is the nature of the beast
To be forgotten as memory fades
And connections dissolve
It’s just as well
Especially since I am no longer that Donna
They probably wouldn’t recognize me anyway
Which is just as well
Because if they had really known me back then
They would not have let me get away
I still remember how I felt that summer afternoon
It had been many years since I last stood in front of the courthouse square in that small Texas town
I was a teenager the last time I stood in that courthouse square
My sister and I spent almost every summer with my grandparents
We lived with them for three years
They did not live in this small town but it was where they went on Saturdays to market and to socialize on that courthouse square
I was back many many years later for a church reunion at the family church
We drove into town because it had been so long since I had seen the place
I parked in front of the War Memorial
A concrete memory of lives lost
I did not expect to recognize anyone’s name
I wasn’t looking for anyone’s name
I found his
He had been my elementary school friend, my summer friend, always laughing, always joking
His name now a statistic
All these years later
I still remember how I felt
As I stood in stunned silence
My heart breaking for a loss family and friends had already mourned years before
Perhaps a dull throb in their hearts that day
A fresh and sharp pain in mine
I still remember how I felt
I still mourn
And the others whose names and lives are lost in history’s battles
Known only to the remaining family and friends who still mark every anniversary of loss
We owe so much to so many
I was going through some old pictures last week when I came across one I had not seen in some time.
Someone decided to bend the top portion, perhaps to put into a wallet, I don’t know.
I thought, “I will have to get it restored because of that crease that runs right through the face of the person in the photo.”
It is a picture of my grandmother. She died in 1964. It is the only picture I have of her, full body.
I loved my grandmother. I still think of her often. My sister and I lived with my grandparents for three years.
It was the country and the living was neither easy (for them) or fancy.
I loved it, was not even mindful of what they did not have.
I just loved being there, being with them.
Well, more my grandmother more than my grandfather who was rather taciturn and rarely interacted at any length with us kids.
My grandmother was not beautiful. She was not pretty. I’m not sure you would even call her handsome.
I see that now. I did not see that then.
I only saw her, only heard her laughter, enjoyed the food she cooked, especially the steak and gravy with rice or those fat red sausages served for Sunday breakfast after Grandpa’s Saturday trip to the market.
They lived in the country with very few modern conveniences.
No indoor plumbing, no electricity or gas, chickens on the yard, wood stoves, tin roof, well water.
I do not remember ever being bored.
This picture takes me home.
After all, home is where the heart is.
All these years later, my heart is still her home!
I met Grace and Frankie last year.
Septuagenarians coping with a new normal.
Divorcees who never expected three score and ten to include a roommate and dislocation from all that once was.
I have watched their lives unfold.
I have laughed with them.
I have cried with them.
I have been angry with them, at them and for them.
I have grown to love them as friends and contemporaries.
I have never met them.
You see, “Grace and Frankie” is the name of a Netflix series I discovered last year.
Played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the Anal Waspy Socialite and the Free Spirited Jewish Hippy Bohemian (who are radiant in these roles), they are an unlikely coupling as roommates but they find themselves having to run in place on the same track as they initially cast side-eye at one another.
Their husbands, soon to be ex-husbands, announce to them (around a restaurant table to waylay a scene, the husbands hope) that they are in love with each other, have engaged in an affair with one another for twenty years and now that they can, they want to get married…to each other.
Sayonara life as the ladies once knew and lived and loved.
Sayonara to a future filled with retirement and grandbabies and exotic trips around the world.
Sayonara yesterday, hello uncertainty.
I feel their pain, their sense of loss, their severed identity.
The ex-husbands move on with life as usual with the desired partner and no drastic unexpected changes (well, maybe one).
Grace and Frankie have to figure out exactly what is “moving on.”
This is not an attempt to review the series, and I suppose some of the material should be problematic for me, but it isn’t.
Instead, I want to talk about the “lossness” with which the women struggle, loss that is palpable throughout each episode.
Who wants to be seventy years old having to figure out the rest of their life, however long that life might be?
How do you pursue purpose at a stage in life when you thought you had accomplished pretty much all you were going to accomplish by that stage of the game?
Grace and Frankie stumble and fall, regain their equilibrium to move awkwardly forward like a blind person in a unknown space.
They have to learn to walk again, 69 years later, and they have to learn how to negotiate their own way through the rest of their life without fear hobbling their stride!
Eventually, they become fearless and fierce in pursuit of their own voice.
Real life Graces and Frankies take note.
Sometimes the end really is the beginning
I see you, Grace and Frankie I see you!