It happens

Having one of those days? Me, too.

I got home from work today, grabbed Cleo’s leash and promptly headed out the door for our walk. I thought to myself, “This leash is just a formality,” because Cleo is the most gentle walker in her older age. And, if it weren’t for, um, city laws, she’d walk off leash right next to me.

So, we go around the side of the building by the golf course. It’s a gorgeous afternoon. Temps are mild, sun is shining – beautiful. Cleo is sniffing like she normally does.

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Cleo – best.dog.ever.

We make another turn around the building and I notice one of my neighbors. He’s an older man, leaning on the rail of his first floor balcony coolly smoking a cigarette and watching the golfers, like the Marlboro man come to life. He has tan, weathered skin that suit his cowboy hat and boots attire. We nod and smile at each other. I mention how nice the weather is and he gives me a funny look.

I walk comfortably, one hand on the leash, the other in my pocket deep in thoughts of the day. I wonder if he thinks it’s too cold, maybe that’s what the look was – but, then…I turn back to check on Cleo only to realize I’m walking a leash and collar ONLY. No dog.

I look up and laugh awkwardly as the man is looking at me with his head tilted to the left, his cigarette frozen in mid air and he says, “I was gonna say….” and his words trail off as I sort of sprint and sort of gorilla run (because I always run funny when I’m embarrassed) to where I was walking Cleo, hoping she’s still there. Shouting behind me what I believe to be so witty and funny he won’t really settle on the absurdity of me walking only a leash, “The leash is really just a formality!”

Then, cursing my words that her leash was just a formality. Clearly it’s NOT.

imageI find her right where I left her. She’s standing there letting the wind carry her ears back, as if she’s the Pantene hair model. My shoulders relax and I just laugh. But, inside, I know – I have to take her back by my neighbor so he doesn’t think I’m INSANE.

So, just like the perfect dog she is, she sees me, acknowledges me by walking to me. I love her. And, I proudly walk back by the gentlemen. Thinking how it’s been the weirdest day. I had already spent three hours at work on a task I do daily, only to realize I did it opposite of how I was supposed to. Well, that was enough to send me out of my cube to  talk to people. And, for an introvert, it really takes sheer task exhaustion for people time to be more appealing.

I approach the gentleman, smiling and say, “Heh, heh, found her. It’s been one of those days.” I even do the Vanna White arms gesture toward Cleo as if to say, “Tada!” She’s real I promise.

He just tilts the rim of his hat to me  with a smile and twinkle in his eye and states wisely, “It happens.”

I feel relieved and a little less embarrassed as we keep walking. And, I shake my head laughing, thinking, “It sure does.”

And, I say a silent thank you to the Marlboro man because working in a world where perfect is the goal, doing things better and faster and if you make a mistake you have to ask: what’s the impact? what was the root cause? how will we correct our process so it never happens again? It was just nice to do something by accident and not have to dive into analysis, but be content in the truth that, “It happens.”

And, leave it at that.

Friends who can touch the sore spots

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

It’s funny how we can go through life operating a certain way for so long that when someone comes along and says something about it in a way you’ve never considered – it’s like WOW. I now see it totally differently.

I called my friend (who’s really a sister I just know was separated from me at birth) the other day who lives on the West Coast. Living in Austin, it’s amazing how just a two hour time difference can make it so hard to connect. But, it does. So, we finally connected. And, it never feels like enough time. You have those friendships that seriously feel like drip with such richness it’s never enough, yet it’s so filling at the same time.

Without revealing her life details, I’ll just say that she began by jumping into how she was doing. This is what I love about this friendship. We can skip right past the, “Hey, how’s the weather?” chit chat and get right to the heart talk.

As she is sharing, I’m marveling – because I, too, have been struggling with the very same thing! And, it’s not something I would call common. You know what I mean. We all have these peculiar struggles that keep resurfacing mysteriously, or maybe not so mysteriously, but enough of a curiosity to them that we end up just reacting to the struggle because that’s all we can seem to do. Not proactively trying to solve it or prevent it because it jars us so much emotionally we want to just abandon all reason and run from it as fast as we can or put an immediate stop to what’s causing it.

So, I tell her – hey! Same here! We laugh knowingly. It’s quite often this happens to us. As if our lives and friendships are so meant to be intertwined even down to the unique challenges we are facing. As I listen to her recount her experiences of late, I get very caught up in the emotions of them.

And, I began to describe my own experiences. And, we know they relate to earlier childhood trauma, PTSD, all these buzz words, she says. Then she says something that blows my socks off.

Allow me some writing liberties as I detail this in a novel-esque manner:

“Mel, this particular thing keeps happening to me. And, I can almost audibly hear God ask me so gently, “Won’t you let me touch it?”

I tear up hearing this. She goes on to describe how God has become such a partner in her life that He wants to heal her completely of all this pain, but she has to be willing to let Him touch the sore spots.

photo credit: David Blackwell. via photopin cc

photo credit: David Blackwell. via photopin cc

That in Him touching those spots, His touch heals. It’s all over the Bible. It’s in daily life if we listen. One touch of the Master’s hand…and it frees us.

WOW. That was my paradigm shift. For me, this unique issue – which I’ll briefly explain has to do with being so easily startled by people it thrusts me immediately into a dark pit of emotions. I end up blaming the person who scared me even though they did not mean to or they meant no harm in it. Yet, all my harbored anger comes to surface and I learn that I still have a ways to go in this healing and forgiveness journey. And, I always think, “If they only knew what this does to me they would stop.”

She then teaches me something I consider pure gold (despite The Outsiders declaration that “nothing golden can stay, Pony Boy”) :

“Mel, if in that moment of fear we can look at that person and immediately forgive them because they know not what they do, we are walking in the healing of Christ.”

I still get goosebumps just recalling this conversation. I’ve often asked: what does healing look like? How will I know? Giving myself my own renditions of a yard stick to gauge my progress. Yet, continually coming up short.

But, she put it out there – straight from scripture. Forgiving as Christ forgave us. Immediate and full. In our wholeness and healing by His touch, we are free to let go of the pain others inflict on us. And, we can forgive. That is a life that is full and rich. Not having the perfect job, or family or home. But, a heart set free to love.

photo credit: Bhumika.B via photopin cc

photo credit: Bhumika.B via photopin cc

So, as I lay here in bed sick – my heart is full and getting more well by the minute. And, maybe that’s why I keep getting sick. I’ve been engaging in this life with a “I got this” attitude. And, I’ve been pummeled cause I don’t got this! And, the most beautiful form of intimacy is touch – the good kind. Pure and loving. And, for those who know my story, you know this is my heart’s cry.

And, I thank God for friends who can get in there and touch those sort spots. Even the ones that know not what they are doing.

Crossing cultural & social lines with Joy

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

I try not to blog much about work in case I say too much or say the wrong thing. It’s the same with my relationships, I try not to blog too much about them either. But, sometimes, things happen and I am so incredibly moved by them, I just have to figure out how to share them.

This is one of those stories. (cue dramatic music)

If you’re like me, or not but just enjoy a bit of quiet and peace, working in a corporate culture with low walled cubes can be draining because of the lack of privacy. Every word uttered aloud can be heard by someone else. I have learned there are some remarkably good things that come out of it, too, though.

One morning near Christmas, I just had a song in my heart. You know what I mean? And, as I passed by my co-worker’s cube, whose American name is Joy (she is from South Korea), that I’ve passed every day for the last year, without even thinking, I started singing to myself but aloud, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” A song I learned as a kid in Sunday School. One of my favorites because it was interactive, we’d all sing and shout, “Where?!” and reply, “Down in my heart.”

As I got to the shout part, I stopped by her cube door and said, “Hey, Joy – do you know this song?” as I sang her a line in my best child like voice.

photo credit: 27147 via photopin cc

photo credit: 27147 via photopin cc

Now, I hadn’t ever talked with Joy about God or church. And, honestly, in our environment I’ve been pretty safe to do so, but I’m always aware that I work with so many people from other countries and cultures that they may not respond with open arms to a question about such things. So, I’m sensitive because some of the stories of where they’ve come from are heartbreaking. And, it’s good to present God’s love with consideration.

Her eyes lit up under her angled bangs, and she said, “Yes, I do!” in a hushed tone. She smiled so big and asked me, “Are you a Christian?” with such anticipation that I stepped closer to her to respect how quietly she was speaking.

I replied, “Yes! Are you?” She nodded enthusiastically and we both started laughing sharing such a treasured secret if you will.

And, she went on to tell me that in South Korea she learned this song as a child. And, she began to sing it in Korean while I sang it in English and we giggled like the little girls that first learned it.

I don’t know her story and she doesn’t know mine, but in that moment it didn’t matter. We were those young hearts that were learning about the love of Jesus and singing about it with hearts that believed.

As we did this, a man walked up to the cube. We both froze. He was a man known for being cynical and a bit hurtful. Because he himself is a hurting man. And, don’t we all relate? When we have a vast hurt inside of us, other people’s happiness seems to expose it, shine a bright light on it and we feel worse. Unless they reach out and share it with us. Include us in it.

She stopped smiling and just looked at him. He asked if we were singing, here at work? He said looking a bit like we were so childish. And, we were, but in a good way!

She blushed and I quickly started rattling off as I do when I’m nervous. My only encounters with him include him being bitingly sarcastic about how happy I am, yelling at me for something that’s not my fault, but also apologizing. So, I get very nervous around him.

But, that day with Joy next to me and joy in me, I replied confidently and a bit protectively because I didn’t want her to regret our moment, and she could go back into her shell so quickly. So, as if to beat him to the punch, I said, “Why yes! And, it’s just the craziest thing that I’ve worked here over 3 years and I’ve never sang aloud in a cube with a coworker before and you, of all people, walk by and hear us!”

He just looked at me like he was deciding if I was putting him down or not. He landed on not (phew!). And, said, smiling for the first time I’ve ever seen in a conversation, “Well, I like it! It made my day.” And, he walked away.

And, like two girls who’s dad was telling them to pipe down and go to sleep, we bellowed over laughing! Sighing with relief!

And, that began a new friendship. Where in this culture of perfection, and do more, do more, do more and we are defined by our performance, not our heart – we just enjoyed the warm presence of a loving God letting us know we weren’t alone. And, what a surprise it was to discover just when I least expected it.

And, in that I found Joy.