There’s an irritated cat sitting next to me.
I didn’t call her to me. She came voluntarily, traipsing all over my computer keyboard and causing it to make odd noises and flash unfamiliar screens at me. She seems totally unconcerned that my laptop is about to explode and that things are falling off my desk as she sashays back and forth across it in front of me.
This is the common evening behavior of HRH Queen Fancypants. Or it was, until the GrandSparks and the Lolly-headed Dog showed up. Though she was by far the most tolerant of the cats, she stopped coming by for her nightly visits. Now that they’ve gone, it appears that her majesty will be resuming her rounds.
So I did tonight what I used to do: I grabbed the Furminator and began removing large amounts of fur and fuzz from the Fancy. The Ragdoll breed does not lack for hair, that’s for sure. Fancy has an abundant, luxurious, silky coat that looks even thicker after you remove enough excess fur to knit another cat. I brushed as she paced and purred.
I brushed until her tail started twitching and she gave me the royal stink eye. But since she didn’t leave, I kept on brushing until she nipped me. Seemed a reasonable enough sign that she was done and someone was about to lose an eye for impudence.
Royalty can be so dang moody.
While lunching in a sports bar today, I saw three different snowy NFL games broadcast, one of them in snow so deep that I had no idea how the players were dealing with snow in their cleats and socks. They had to clear the yard lines with snow plows and shovels just to be able to tell where they were on the field. I was glad I wasn’t sitting in any of those stadiums. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t envious of their weather. I miss snow and winter. I don’t need long seasons of it in order to have my fill, but in this part of Florida we don’t get any.
Instead, we had strange fog today. Fog doesn’t happen much here; we might see it once or twice a year, tops. But today the entire area was socked-in with heavy, damp fog, some patches too misty to avoid the use of windshield wipers in the van.
As I drove across the bridge this morning I glanced down at my dashboard and saw that it was 67 degrees outside. It was so strange…there was nothing to the left or the right but white. It occurred to me that if I didn’t know better, I’d think that the white fog was actually white snow. I pictured it as such and immediately felt colder.
It was strange how just the thought of it being snowy outdoors affected my belief system about what it felt like out there. Sure, my dash thermometer said 67. But it looked like 30.
Our lives are full of things that look one way but are really another. There are usually pretty dire consequences for believing the wrong things. It is vitally important that we only agree with that which is actually true, and not just that which looks true, or feels true, or seems true. Otherwise we empower something untrue simply by believing in it.
So…you may feel as if you have no real purpose in life, but that’s not true. God has His eye especially on you, to do good to you.
And it may look as if your situation is hopeless and you’re going to be stuck forever, but that’s not true. Hope is a great lubricant for stuck-ness, and it’s ok to believe against the odds.
And it may seem that nobody sees you or believes you are capable of great things, but that’s not true either. You were created for mighty exploits, daring feats of counter-cultural love and grace and power that represent the love of a Father to an orphan-hearted world.
What you believe matters. It shapes who you are and what you’re willing to do.
I miss a good snowstorm, but I’m glad I don’t have to shovel fog.
“Ok, how ’bout these?” I asked.
“No. I say no to those.”
“Alrighty…then how about these ones?”
“Better. Those are ok.”
“Good gravy, I don’t want ok.” I took the frames off my face and listened to the optical shop girl suppress a snicker. I suppose it was funny; it’s not every day that your customer brings along a vocal, very truthful friend to help choose frames…via FaceTime. I pulled another pair from the pile and directed my face to my phone camera.
“Those aren’t bad. They’re nice.”
“Hmm.” I studied my face in the mirror. ”I’m just not sure. It feels like a lot of glasses on my face.”
We’d been at this for a little while, bantering and debating. In time I narrowed my choices down to three different frames, all of which looked decent and all of which had their merits, each frame very different from the others. The choice wasn’t apple, banana, or orange…it was apple, can opener, and wombat. I tried on one of the finalists for about the tenth time.
“Ugh! How am I supposed to decide? And to top it off, none of these are even remotely like what I thought I was going to choose!”
She laughed at me. ”Which one feels the most like you?”
“I don’t want the ones that are me now!” I sputtered. ”I want the ones that will be me in six months!”
“Well, good luck with that,” she laughed.
“I’m serious! I want the ones that will be me in six months or a year, not the ones that are the current me.”
I really was serious. And though she was laughing, I knew that she not only understood, but that she was taking it seriously too. She got it. This was why I’d asked her to come with me. She knew I’d count on her to look with more than her eyes and to see deeper than the nose on my face.
The thing was, until it came flying out of my mouth, I had no idea I felt that way. But once it did, I realized that it was actually one of the most important aspects of this process. I wasn’t just choosing for the present time, but for the future. For something– and someone– yet unknown. I needed to choose something that suited me now, but still required me to grow in order to fully occupy the choice. Kind of like how a mom buys her kids shoes and clothes that are a little too big, knowing they’ll grow into them quickly.
Since that day in the frame shop, I’ve become increasingly aware of the ways I’ve been accommodating the future me, the me I haven’t really met yet. This has been going on for quite some time, though it’s become a more consistent practice recently. And yet, until I articulated it over a pair of eyeglass frames, I didn’t realize I was doing it.
Now I’m wondering what it will mean that I’m aware.
A gust of wind, a swirl of leaves, a moment’s hesitation.
I do not know this path. I have walked similar paths, but not this particular one. I don’t know if this path exists as a means to a destination, or if the destination exists as a means for this path.
The path bends beyond my view. I look around but there isn’t another soul in sight. Others have walked here, however. Their footsteps still echo, carried by the wind.
That wind. That leaping, dancing, wild and furious whisper of the breath of heaven. It is terrifyingly magnetic, an invitation to come live, come die, come burn in all the colors of the rainbow.
I lean forward into the tumbling swell as it calls my name, knowing it will not let me fall.
The house is quiet. The Far-Away Sparkette (who is once again far away) packed the GrandSparks and the Lolly-headed dog into her van and drove north this morning.
Within five minutes I’d found several matchbox cars, a larger toy truck, a pair of sneakers, some baby shampoo, baby nail clippers, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Ok, so maybe not that last one.
Within twenty minutes the cats began drifting downstairs and sniffing around, even Dr. Love who has hidden for most of the past three months. The breakable items are slowly coming back into view, and I put the tissues out where they could be found, because before, they were out where they could be found, and I therefore had to hide them.
That sentence will make sense to everyone who has ever dealt with toddlers.
I don’t have to climb over baby gates, I don’t have anyone begging for my lunch, I don’t have to ninja my way in the door to keep the Lolly-headed Dog from escaping, I don’t have anyone making blood-curdling screeches while I’m trying to converse, I don’t have anyone using the litter boxes as a sandbox or using the pet water bowl as their own personal splash pad.
But…there isn’t a tiny drunk man wobbling up to me with a giant toothless smile, grabbing my pant leg and reaching his arms and waving his hands to be picked up. No rambunctious little boy is shouting “blblblb!” because he can’t say Nana and this is how he says banana and since Nana and banana sounds the same, he calls us both blblblb (think running your tongue in and out of your mouth over your upper lip. Yup, that’s my name.).
I knew it would be a brief season, and now it’s time for another shift. I don’t know exactly what effect God wants this closing one to have, or what is coming next. Sometimes you just can’t know until you find yourself in the middle of it. It’s best to just buckle in and go along for the ride. Sometimes He floats you down the rolling river, and other times He straps you to a rocket with the fuse about to blow. You have to figure that no matter what it is, it’s going to be good if you go with Him, because He is good.
Even when you’re going Mach 3 with your hair on fire.
Today…I am so over dogs.
The Lolly-headed Dog has been in freak-out mode because he can tell the Far-Away Sparkette (who is not so far away right now) is gathering and packing, and he’s terrified he’s going to be left behind. I keep telling him there’s no danger of that.
In the meanwhile, Jake the Jerk-faced Dog has to be sure that everyone knows he’s boss dog, and so whatever the Lolly-head does, he has to do too, except with more passion.
Have I mentioned that Jake weighs 13 lb. and the Lolly Head weighs about 60 lb.? But they both seem just fine with Jake doing the big dog strut. So…whatever.
This afternoon the GrandSparks were down for a nap and the Far-Away Sparkette, who’s had a rough few days of health challenges, was attempting to join them. Suddenly a high-pitched commotion broke out in the next door neighbor’s back yard. There was so much screeching and squealing and yelping that I wondered if something was trying to carry off their small dog. Or maybe a pygmy rattler had gotten to it. I tried to look out my window from my living room and I could barely see the little dog down at the back corner of the yard because there was yard junk blocking a clear view. But the dogs in my house were not about to let all that noise go unanswered. They began barking vigorously, and some dogs across the street were joining in on the doggie chorus.
All I knew was if those dogs woke those babies, I was not going to be happy.
There was still a lot of yipping coming from the neighbor’s back yard, and I couldn’t see if they were home. I went to my back door for a clearer view, ready to go out and scare off the velociraptor that must surely be chewing on that poor dog.
Uh…no. No velociraptor. No hawk, no coyote, no pygmy rattler. Just a couple little dogs gettin’ busy and making sure every other dog in the neighborhood knew they having a bit of afternoon delight.
I fussed at the dogs in my house to hush up, but they were now busy barking at the lady delivering packages. And the people walking on the street. And the cars going by. And the leaves blowing across the lawn. And the spiders in their heads.
The Lolly-headed dog is also an expert door-rusher. If you’re small, like a toddler, he’ll just bowl you over and be halfway up the street before you realize what happened. If you’re not small, he’ll just shoot straight between your legs, or take you out behind the knees. Once he’s gone, he’s gone. He knows his name when it’s dinner time, but not when it’s time to come home. We spent the entire day trying to be sure that dog didn’t escape. And he didn’t, but my last nerve is shot, because did I mention that whatever the Lolly-headed dog does, Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog also tries to do?
Anyway, tonight I am reminded why I am a cat person.
And also why I’m glad all our animals are fixed.
Once upon a time life came in two colors:
Up or down, in or out, good or bad, right or wrong, dark or light, yes or no…black or white. All shades of gray are symptoms of compromise. Must. eliminate. immediately.
Nothing much messes with your inner creative like black and white thinking.
Actually, not much messes with your inner grace-giver like black and white thinking, either. Which is strange, considering that I’d been taught that God likes black and white thinking and engages in it Himself.
Somewhere along the way I realized that black and white thinking was becoming too restrictive, like underwear two sizes too tight. It’s difficult to adopt black and white thinking and not walk around looking pinched. It’s a lot of work, keeping your world divided up like that.
So I decided to add another option to my list:
3. Full Kodachrome.
The new option was a stunner. It had texture and tone and temperature and– get this– gradients. And to my surprise, I discovered that there was no spot on the entire color scale that God didn’t make and love. He wasn’t black and white like I’d heard. He was rich reds and deep blues and wispy lavenders and sunny yellows. He existed within it all, and it all existed within Him. And I loved it. There was so much life in it.
Still…there were times when I couldn’t figure out if a thing was black or white or neon plaid. I couldn’t identify it, and that made me feel uncomfortable.
And that is when He taught me to add yet another option to my list:
3. Full Kodachrome.
4. None of your business.
And bingo! There it was: peace in the in-betweens.
Because it’s true: some things aren’t for us to judge. It’s not that they aren’t black or white or fuchsia, it’s that God hasn’t placed them in our backyard and it’s really none of our beeswax. We don’t need to go looking for them simply to submit them to judgment. Doing so only increases our propensity to confuse discernment with a critical spirit. And true discernment is too precious and too rare to defile with negativity, criticism, and a judgmental spirit.
Life is much brighter with these four options. And they make me feel like I’m rockin’ the right size undies.
Which is good.