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Flashbacks and fast-forwards

July 30, 2016

My high school classmates got together in my hometown this evening.

They were in Ohio.  I’m in Florida with a schedule that didn’t allow for travel this week, and so I missed out on the gathering.  I spent the evening eagerly looking forward to photos popping up on Facebook.

Who would have ever thought in 1981 that we’d one day have tiny cordless portable telephones that work as cameras and handheld computers?  Who would have imagined Facebook?

We came from three K-8 elementary schools in a rural part of Ohio and consolidated into one graduating high school class of 88 people.  We were our own small town, and our worlds were still small and mostly untried by life.

It was hard to be me in high school, mainly because I had no idea who me was.  I was a confined and compliant restless creative who was reasonably smart, but I wasn’t pretty and I was a total train wreck at all things physical besides marching band.  I wasn’t one of the cool kids.  Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t friendless; there were six of us girls who’d known each other since we were very young, and we stuck together during the high school years, too. They loved me, and I loved them. But I still felt like an outsider drowning in my own life. All I knew is that I was Different in ways I couldn’t articulate, the kind of ways that keep an insecure teenager on the Uncool-But-Not-Outcast list. I didn’t know how to be ok with that. It would be many years before I would make peace with my kind of Different, and even come to love it. But back then, it felt like a social death sentence.

Fast forward a few decades. I’ve since lived at countless addresses in seven states. I finished a degree that I never officially used. I married Mr. Sparky and raised four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange children, one of which has produced four beautiful, brilliant, creative, and delightfully strange Grand Sparks. I’ve picked up and abandoned dozens of creative pursuits because the world of creativity is just too huge to park in one corner of it. I found out I could do hard things. I eventually discovered who me was, and subsequently found out that I actually liked me in spite of a host of quirks, flaws, and peculiarities.  I finally began to believe it was cool to not be one of the cool kids.

The truth is, I wouldn’t want to be 18 again for anything. The skin and the more slender frame might be nice, but not worth the angst.

I looked at the pictures of my beautiful classmates coming across the screen tonight. I don’t think I knew how beautiful they were when we were young, because when I looked at them all I could see was how I didn’t measure up to the invisible (and self-created) standard that loomed in my mind. But I long ago released myself from that impossible standard; I don’t care about measuring up anymore. I now look at them and I see life.  And even though I wasn’t there to hug the necks and share in the stories, I look at them and instinctively know some things to be true.

Our faces are no longer unlined, but the smiles are now tried and tested by the fires of life. Joy, even in the form of a smile for a camera, is a choice, and we understand the other options because we’ve experienced pain, disappointment, and loss that we couldn’t even fathom at 18.  We’ve laughed and cried harder than we ever knew possible; we’ve raged and we’ve loved. We all now know that we can do hard things, because we’ve done them.  We’ve been amazed by our own strength, and devastated by our weaknesses.

We have all lived a story we couldn’t even imagine at 18.

We have said goodbye a few of our classmates, their stories over far too soon.  But for the most part we still have chapters left to live.

Personally, I plan to pack mine full.  I have Important Things to do for (and with) a King I love and a kingdom I long to see established on earth as it is in heaven. I have a legacy to leave. I have creative exploits I haven’t even thought of yet.  The possibilities are literally endless.

The next time my classmates get together, I hope to be in their midst fully being my own introverted but not shy Different self—purple hair, warped sense of humor, and all.  Until then, there’s Facebook.

It’s good to be alive in 2016.

Choco-rambling

July 26, 2016

It’s Ridiculous O’clock and I should be in bed, but it’s raining and the sound of the water showering the trees and running off the roof makes my soul so happy it wants to just sit and soak it in. From indoors, of course.

Also, I ate a couple handfuls of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate chips, which was probably a bad idea because caffeine and sugar. I don’t need either. But dang…even though I can leave all the other kinds of choco chips alone, there is something about these that is amazing. That Trader Joe has it goin’ on, I tell ya.

The Sparky household recently acquired a 6′ tall cat tree. In case you are wondering, there are no cats growing on it. There aren’t even any little kitten buds that might one day blossom into full grown felinity. I am not sure if I’m disappointed or relieved about that. Thus far all three cats have explored it to some extent, but nobody seems to want to claim the kitty hammock on the lower level.  Queen Fancypants seems to the the one most often smugly surveying her domain from the upper heights. I’m sure we all look so much smaller from up there.

If we had a Sparky tree, I would use the hammock. Just sayin’. Although I am not sure what would be more entertaining: watching me get into it, or watching me get out of it.

Tonight’s post as been brought to you by a lapse in good judgment when choosing a late night snack.

 

Beyond Oceans

July 25, 2016

The day was bright where

blue met blue,

the razor-sharp line

of the horizon

unwavering in the glittering sun

and the dancing wind.

You see I heard

and I knew it was true

before I ever saw.

What do you see?

The razor’s edge began to waver and

soon it disappeared

as the darkening blue met the rising blue

with the flourish of the

brushstrokes of a master painter.

I watched the clouds rise

tall and ominous,

filled with fury and the flashes

of lightning,

and I trembled

at the prospect of yet another

fierce tempest unleashed

upon my blue

and I wanted to turn away.

Look again I heard

and so I looked again

as the lightning ripped through

the towering column of

angry-looking clouds.

That isn’t a storm.

I drew a sharp breath

in the shape of a question mark

and the electric answer sizzle-cracked

through my awakened being.

That is power…

Go towards it.

And the earth beneath my feet

began to move.

 

 

The new New

July 18, 2016

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. -Steve Jobs

It’s a holy moment when you realize that you’re standing in the middle of a group of revolutionaries. I was taken back a bit by the revelation—not because it’s particularly surprising, but because for once I wasn’t really looking for them.

They vibrated with intensity. Holy Spirit obviously liked it, because He met them with His own vibration and the room buzzed with a glorious energy. It was the kind of energy that riles up those who are crazy enough to believe they carry Something that really can change the world. They are rebels, for sure, brilliant star-shaped pegs who refuse to be crammed into the world’s square holes.

 

I felt the question more than I heard it.

Are they so different from you?

No. Not really. I don’t really know them, but I like them.

So do I.

It feels really different. It looks familiar but feels really different.

It is really different. This is something new. It’s even new to them.

 

Something new.  I’ve heard a lot about “new” since late December.  And I’ve seen a lot of new, too. New is now morphing into Newer Still, More Newer Still, and Ultra Mega New With Bonus Features.

You’d think New would come with elbow pads and a crash helmet, just in case. But it appears that it doesn’t, and a helmet would just smash my hair flat anyway.

It would be a pity to show up to change the world with flat hair.

 

 

At my fingertips

July 10, 2016

The pen is mightier than the sword.

It may surprise you to know that I don’t really care for the physical act of writing, of taking pen or pencil and forming sentences on a page. It makes my hand crampy, and I get frustrated because I can’t edit easily if I decide there was a better way to state something I wrote four sentences ago. These two reasons pretty much sum up why I actually have few physical journals around. It’s much easier for me to type.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m an absolutely terrible typist. My keyboarding skills are slow and dreadfully inaccurate, and I spend a lot of time hitting the backspace key so that I can fix whatever horrific typo I barfed into the universe. I know you know what I’m talking about. I am well aware that no matter how many times I proofread, one occasionally slips through the cracks and takes up residence here in Sparky Land.

Sorry ’bout that.

It matters to me because words matter.  Words are powerful.  They express individuality and creativity; they spread ideas and information. Whether we speak them or write them, they are by their very nature locked and loaded. The book of Proverbs puts it this way:

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. –Proverbs 18:21

The tongue.  That’s anything you say or write or sign or otherwise give voice through words. That’s some serious stuff, you know?

My fingers on this keyboard are my pen, an extension of my voice. On any given day my pen can be

-a surgical blade

-a soft blanket

-a tourniquet

-a machete

-a lasso

-a grenade

-a bandage

-a guide

-an harpoon

-a life-preserver

-a mile marker

-an emetic

-a machete

-a key

-a tornado

-a comedic interlude

-a map

-a dream-inducer

-kerosene

It’s actually a weighty responsibility, wielding the pen well.

Over the years I’ve learned that not everything I think needs to be spoken or written.

Not everything I speak or write needs to be shared.

Not everything I share needs to be broadcast to the public.

It’s not that I don’t believe my pen has power.  It’s because I believe it does.

When my words bring life, I want them to bring life to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, and self-control.  I want them to heal and bless.  And I want to be sure that when my words destroy, they destroy darkness, lies, and worldly systems that are set up to damage hearts and lives and deface the King and the kingdom dear to my heart.

If you ever wonder why I don’t employ my pen to address certain topics, most of the time this is why. Words are powerful, and I rarely find myself wanting to scream them over panic and chaos like some keyboard warrior needing to have the word du jour to fix the mess du jour. To be effective, words also need appropriate timing.

Your words are just as powerful as mine, you know, be they written or spoken. What you say, how you say it, when you say it, to whom you say it…even why you say it.

I hope you embrace that, because it is true.

 

 

A brush with hope

July 9, 2016

Every morning the canvas is blank, waiting for color, waiting for words, waiting for sound, waiting for something, anything, to give it an identity.

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps all the best stories have already been written. Maybe all the best songs have already been sung, the best paintings painted. Perhaps there are no new dances left to dance, and all the great ideas have already had their time in the limelight.

Maybe King Solomon was right.  Maybe there really isn’t anything new under the sun.

But I can’t really jive with that. Sol wrote some good stuff, but he was definitely not having a good day when he came up with that “nothing new under the sun” gem—which Jesus later corrected, by the way.

The truth is that every day life keeps coming at us. Every day the planet overflows with little lungs taking their first breaths, and worn ones taking their last. Every day humankind navigates relationships, the laws of physics, the mysteries of life, and a host of appetites that remind of us of our kinship with the kingdom of beasts.

Each day we are filling a canvas, regardless of whether or not it’s our desire or intention to do so.  We either absorb from the world around us, or we pull from the overflow of what’s within us, and we decorate the canvas. And as the sun goes down we tuck that canvas away. It’s official; another day has come and gone, another canvas has been filled and hung in the gallery. Tomorrow’s canvas may be completely different, but as today slowly becomes a yesterday, it can no longer be changed.

As long as there is laughter, as long as there are tears, as long as people rage and grieve and tremble and wonder and engage in random acts of curiosity, canvases everywhere will be splashed with color and poetry, the ideas of inventors and the footprints of dancers, the brilliant light and soul-shattering shadow of the joys and sorrows of a day of breathing in and out on Planet Earth.

I want my gallery to be a monument to unreasonable hope and outrageous joy.

 

 

 

 

Tyrannosaurus iPhonicus

July 3, 2016

My phone had been warning me for a while now. The battery began dropping its charge by chunks and would randomly shut down my phone, claiming that it was dead. Except…when I’d plug my phone back in and it would restart, my “dead” phone would be at 32%, or  18%, or 54%, or wherever it was when it decided to feign death. I could hear it snickering and singing nanny-nanny-b00-b00 at me.

Mr. Sparky was a trooper, trying to fix it for me. Between the two of us, we tried every “fix” we read about. None of them actually fixed the problem. Meanwhile, my phone was becoming more and more unreliable. It was irritating the ever-lovin’ mess out of me because I never knew when it was going to roll over and play dead—something Jake the Jerk-Faced dog is yet to do, by the way.

The bottom line is that my once top-of-the-line new release iPhone 5 had become a dinosaur. It was still pretty new when the 5c/5s was released. It was getting a little older when the 6 was released. It was becoming downright geriatric when the 6s was released. When the SE was released, Siri started hollering “EH? SPEAK UP!” to me when I’d ask her to do anything, referring to me as “Sonny” in a shaky, crotchety voice.

It was time.

Today I became the grateful owner of a shiny rose gold iPhone 6s. And AT&T was running a special that if you bought any iPhone, you could get a free iPad mini 2, the kind that can do wifi or cellular, if you’d just pay the recurring fee for the extra line. Well…ok!

And then reality set in.

I alway forget just how terrible I am with learning new tech. It comes naturally to everyone in the family but me. Their brains just seem to intuitively understand how tech things work. I eventually learn what I need to learn, but I suspect I barely scratch the surface of the capabilities of the tech devices I own. It’s pretty remarkable what these little hand-held computers can do…if you know to ask them to do it, and how.

I guess days like these are designed to remind me that gratitude and humility go hand-in-hand.