The other day I was driving one of my kids to practice and the weather had turned super stormy, super quickly. Living in the south, you learn to adapt to swift changes in the weather due to raging thunderstorms in warm weather. Many of these storms are accompanied by a tornado, as was the case the other night while I was driving. I left my house and began driving into clouds, into rain and into dark skies. When I say dark skies, I mean that it was dark out at 7:30pm when it is normally still daylight. The rain came in sheets, downward, sideways, any which way–so much rain that my windshield wipers could not keep up even on the fastest speed. The only help in seeing the road was the hazard lights from the vehicle in front of me. Entering the on ramp to the highway, no blacktop could be seen. All that was normally visible of the road was covered in green… leaves, branches, debris. Once on the highway, hail began to pound on our car and in an effort to save our rooftop, I pulled under an overpass for a few minutes to wait for the calm. While driving, my daughter worried that I could not see. I assured her that I could see, and even when I couldn’t see ahead of me as I normally was able to, I could still navigate through the storm. Later, we found out that there actually were a couple of tornados that had touched ground in the area. Were they near where we were? Yes. Had we been in one of them? Probably not. But who knows for sure? This leads me to question, as we navigate the stormy weather in our lives, how do we respond? When life gives us heavy rains so thick that we cannot see, do we trust in God’s unfailing guidance and carry on in the midst of the storm? Yes, storms and troubled times in our lives are sometimes placed there to give us pause. In pausing, do we keep our faith that God is the master of our storm as well as our sun? It is hard to remember, but trials bring new opportunites to life and new opportunities for God to work in our lives. There are days of rain and thunder, and there are days of rainbows and sun. Too much of one thing is a curse not a blessing. Keep faith in the storm, even when you cannot see beyond the rain. The broken road, the rejection letter, the “no” seem like the dark cloud when actually, the sun is just waiting to push through and show you a yellow brick road, a golden ticket, a “yes” to the right thing. When all the world is seemingly under the gray cover, turn your umbrella upside down and use it as a boat. The places it will take you are far greater than you can see from the where you are standing.
Vulnerability is irresistible. I went to see the Great Gatsby a couple of nights ago and now I am obsessed! Not only was the cinematography lush, vibrant and multi-layered, but the music was chosen with such precision that it should be named as best supporting role! The soundtrack of the movie has become as talked about as the acting itself. The songs and their placement enhanced every single scene. Even though the story was set in the roaring 1920’s, the conflicts and hopes of the characters are timeless and that is why the modern music makes such a contribution to the mood. Rather than choose music with a retro style, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby chose the songs on the soundtrack based on the feeling, not the era. The song choices so perfectly linked that when heard outside of the theater, they still evoke the feelings from the scene. The acting by Leonardo DiCaprio was absurdly good. He transformed a scene with the slightest creasing of his brow, a deep sigh, a pause. Jay Gatsby is driven, patient and at times over the top with his need to create his perfect life. The most irresistible thing about the movie is the vulnerability that is shown in Jay Gatsby’s character, a man of great success and influence but incomplete… searching to recapture lost love and friendship. This vulnerability is how we get vested in his success and in his human-ness, we find ourselves rooting for him to have it all in the end. I don’t want to go back and retell the story because you just have to go see this movie for yourself. This modern and edgy interpretation is not your high school book version of The Great Gatsby! Treat yourself to a superb, albeit fantastical version of one of the most famous stories of the drama and intrigue of the life in excess during the 1920’s… and then hurry and download the soundtrack!
We all have masks. Everyone has at least one, but most everyone wears a mix of many. It may be that we began to create these masks to become closer to the “Me” we wanted to be. Remember when we were kids in art class and we learned how to create something with paper mache’–usually a mask! Tearing piles and piles of small, skinny strips of newspaper and after dipping them in our “glue” of flour and water, we then started layering them, over and over again atop each other. Until finally, we had that shell of the mask dried to the perfect thickness, to hold just the right shape. We did not leave it there. We added paint then, and perhaps adornments like beads, fringe, glitter, anything we thought would make our mask unique, beautiful, different… our own. Somewhere down that road to “Me”-ness, we end up picking up peices of other people’s masks to add to our own. We looked at our friend, our neighbor and we liked what they had done with their mask, so we borrowed some of their ideas and added them to our own. Did we pick up those parts for our mask because we did not like our own or were afraid to show what our real mask looked like? Or did we pick those parts of the mask because we had a dream, a goal, a want to become something bigger than who we were? Who knew that exercise in art class all of those years ago would bring out thoughts on such a lesson in life as an adult. Is your mask there to hide who you are, or is your mask there to create who you are to become? As you layer the strips of paper for your “Me” mask and it begins to harden, do you like your own mask enough to share it? Do you love each layer as it is applied, adorned with your own touches, colors-soft or vibrant, glitzed or quiet, beaded or plain? I love the Shel Silverstein poem above. It helps remind me that maybe we should all show a little bit of our own blue skin in the mask that we wear and share everyday!
My daughter’s 8th Grade Formal is coming up this weekend. It is a fancy and fun dance, but more than that, it is a celebration of the end of middle school and the ushering in of high school. After getting all dressed up, we normally go up to our club and take pictures of all the teens before they go off to the dance. This year there is an event going on at the clubhouse, so my daughter and I went out to find another spot for pictures. We were thinking about going to a pretty field near our house, but as we passed it, we realized that amid all of the spring rain and renewal it had become overgrown and was no longer accessible to us. Looking into that tangled mass of new, green leaves and weeds I was reminded that a path only remains one by being exercised, tended to and cared for. Our lives so closely mimic that of the path in the woods. There are moments of clarity in our minds where we set out to forge new paths, or reconnect with old paths, or struggle to stay on the same path! It could be a New Year’s Resolution, a commitment for Lent, an academic or athletic goal as you enter high school or trying to stay the path you are on when obstacles try to crowd the way. Some of our mental paths take form and settle into our daily walk of life. Some get overgrown with weeds and obstacles and end up being unusable. A single footstep doesn’t make a path and a single step in your mind’s path doesn’t make a life. Is there a pathway in your mind or heart that needs tending? Go there once and again and a clear walkway will begin to form. There is incredible beauty in beginning! The first step, the first breath, the anticipation of what’s to come… Eventually what once seemed impossible becomes possible and real. Is there a pathway in your mind that is already there? A well-worn comfortable place that you go back to again and again, like sinking into your favorite chair at the end of a busy day? Either way, repeating over and over our intentions with our thoughts and our actions will lead us down the path we are setting, as long as we tend to it, care for it and exercise it regularly. Grab your boots and hat and take a walk, one step at a time down that path!
We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”, so I guess that means that because I ate toast with Nutella and bananas this morning that I am crunchy, sweet and…. yellow? No, seriously I know that the idea is that what you put into your body is what nourishes it or doesn’t depending on what you choose. I have been thinking about the opposite of that. What you put out of your body can also nourish your insides or not depending on what you choose… In other words, you are what you speak. Raising two teenagers can become days of lessons upon lessons in life, but experience tells us that the best way to encourage a thoughful, kind, respectful human being is by showing them that in a world full of the unexpected, you can carry yourself in whatever manner you choose. Your reaction is your own choice (even though sometimes it feels like you have no choice but to be rude or forceful right back at someone)! Words have the power to enhance your life and the life of the person you are speaking to. Your words become a mirror, a big reflection that follows you around and shows you what you look like from the outside. If you run around judging someone harshly or gossiping about them, the feelings those words create will come back at you in the form of a judgement against you, or a story behind your back. On the other hand, and thank you God always for the reminder that there is the other hand, if you run around sharing words of kindness and encouragement, the effect of those words will also come back to you. Never underestimate the power of a kind word. We all know that a word once it is spoken cannot ever be taken back. Everything you say will be connected to you forever-good or bad. Are the words you share meant to be nourishing or to be breaking down? Imagine that the words you speak swirl around you mingled with the air that you breath, and at any given moment they become a collage that creates the picture of you to the world. Your reflection in that big mirror. The words that you choose will allow you to create whatever self portrait the world sees in you. Is your word picture beautiful or is it ugly? Just as a flower grows from the dirt, you too can create a beautiful you with only a tiny seed, a small word of nourishment to a friend, a stranger, an adversary. Like a mighty oak tree from an acorn grows, once spoken your words become a living thing. Do you remember a time when someone complimented you on a day when you felt inadequate? Do you remember a day when someone encouraged you to try when you were scared that you would fail? Do you remember a day when someone gave you wise advice when you were faced with a tough choice? These are the things that made all the difference on those days. One word, a string of words, a conversation, this is what we speak, where they take you is up to you! I remember when my children were young and one of them came home complaining that “so and so” was mean to them, and they did not want to be friends with them anymore. My response that day, and my response today would be the same as it has always been anytime a situation like that arises, “I do not expect you to be best friends with “so and so”, but I do expect you to be polite and kind”. Living out this example is at times, harder than not. We all probably prefer to puff up our chests and show we are as tough as the cookie next to us who is ranting and raving, but I am reminded that God does not measure strength in raised voices or cutting remarks. Our strength is measured in words of faith, wisdom and love. As we walk from place to place and speak with person to person, what word picture is being painted around ourselves today? If you are what you
eat speak, then I’d like to order a sweet words sundae with a cherry on top…to-go please!