Compassion

The Journey, November 5

Well, it has taken a little while, but I am now down 8 pounds, and hoping to hit that first 10 pound goal by sometime next week ūüôā In the long run, I have many more 10 pound goals to go, but I am going to celebrate this one and not worry just yet about the next one. Afterall, there is (or should be) joy in the journey, right?
I have struggled a bit this week with enjoying where I am, not only with my weight, but in other areas of my life, as well. I have had to remind myself more than once that there is beauty, value, and worth in my life, in me, in the here and now. Of course, there are things that never fail in bringing a smile to my face, like my wonderful son and his effervescent personality. Or a beautiful sky. Or chocolate. ;p But, I think that there is something in all of us that wants to be seen, to be known, to be recognized as a precious, unique being. We desire affirmation.
For too many years, and even now at times, I looked to others for validation. Of course, this is normal to a degree. But, there is a difference between seeking the approval of others in your life and seeking permission and empowerment from them. We can trust some people with our power, but not all, and we are never meant to relinquish it. It was given to us to wield in love each in our own way.
Our power is made up of many things – the sum of our experiences, our strengths and our weaknesses, our gifts and talents, our motivations and passions. It is unique to each of us. Custom-fitted to our path in life by God to perfectly equip us for the long road before us.
It can be easy sometimes to forget who you are, who you are meant to be. It’s easy to blind yourself to your giftings and worth, to deny the fire that burns within. But, my friends, when we choose to do that (and yes, dears, it is a choice), we live a lie. We are commanded to walk in truth, yet we are so easily misled into thinking it’s okay to be false to ourselves. We are meant for so much more.
When I was a senior in high school, I had to select a personal motto for the yearbook. I chose, “To thine own self be true,” from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. I stumbled away from that many times. But, the words served as sort of a North Star over the years. I may have felt lost over and over again, but knowing that there was something more, somewhere, gave me hope that I would find the high road once more.
So, wherever you are on your journey, whether you’re working toward a healthier lifestyle, a new career, or a brighter outlook on life, remember that there is a better way, a higher way. And, every journey walked in truth will be a positive experience in the end. Hang in there, put one foot in front of the other, and soldier on.

A Few Words on Forgiveness

A number of years ago, I was given the opportunity to make a life or death decision. No, I didn’t find myself having to choose between the red wire and the blue wire – my choice was much more personal than that.

¬†I found myself in a parked vehicle with my (first) husband and a young woman whom I had considered to be one of my closest friends. They were confessing to me that they were “in love,” and even though they were married to other people, they felt that being with each other was the perfection of God’s word because they weren’t “in love” with their spouses. Obviously, they were deceiving themselves with a warped twisting of scripture in hopes of supporting their sin and in doing so, leaving behind a wake of¬†spiritual and emotional devastation in themselves and their families.¬†

Most of the details of that conversation have been lost to tears and time. I remember that I mainly listened. A prior relationship between them had been exposed some months in the past, but it had supposedly been brought to an end. As they told me that they just couldn’t walk away from one another, that it was destiny, that they were compelled to jump at what might be their last chance at “true happiness,” I remember feeling cold. Their words became distant as I focused on breathing. On surviving those next few moments of cruel reality. I went somewhere else in my mind and God showed me that I had two options. Time stopped, and I saw two futures for myself. I could choose bitterness and hate, or I could choose forgiveness and love. Whichever option I chose would not change the outcome of my husband’s and friend’s choices, but¬†it would determine my own future. It would set me on a path¬†to a living hell or a glorious hope. How I chose to survive this moment would determine whether I walked a path of life or of death.¬†

My words broke through the fog and the tears, ” I CHOOSE LOVE!” My husband and friend were startled. I had interrupted one of them — I don’t know which one.¬† I repeated my declaration over and over, convincing the darkness, convincing the universe, convincing myself.

I looked up, wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at these people whom I had loved, whom I had trusted, and I felt empty and full at the same time. Parts of myself had been ripped apart. They would eventually heal back together, but in a different, stronger configuration. I didn’t know that at the time, but a small part of me hoped that it would be so.

I had made my choice, and I was done with the conversation. They had made their choices also, and there was no point in exposing myself to more of their excuses. I asked my husband to take me home. The following few months before our divorce was finalized were filled with terrible, painful days. But, even in the midst of my desolation, God was working in my heart. He had planted that little seed of hope in the fertile soil of my choice to love. I knew that, even then, I was beginning to learn to forgive. I knew that I had to in order to survive. That, if I had any hope of being Marilyn again, whole and happy, I could not let bitterness take root in my soul.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest, and over time, the Lord blessed me with a new old love by reuniting me with my college sweetheart. We married and have a darling little boy. Time and circumstances eventually brought us back to Missouri, and I wondered if I would ever run into my first husband and my old friend.

To be honest, the idea filled me with dread. The idea frightened me because, for some reason (and if you’ve been divorced, you might recognize this feeling), even though I did nothing wrong, there is a shadow of shame that tries to attach itself to the one who was left behind, or rejected.

Quite a bit of time passed, and I began to think of the possibility less and less. Then, last weekend, I saw her. I was leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, and a couple was getting ready to enter the cross walk. They were holding hands. I didn’t recognize him, but her hair looked familiar, her stature, her posture. Then, she looked up and our eyes met. She had been smiling, but I watched her countenance change. That familiar shadow of shame was now covering her eyes, but she didn’t look away. She bravely stood there, seemingly submitting herself to my judgment. Then I felt it, a tugging from that other place inside myself. I had to choose, again. My heart answered before my mind really had a chance to think about it. I looked at her, threw out a casual wave, and smiled. Our eyes were still locked as I saw the shadow blow away, her face lit up with life, and I knew that God had just completed the work of forgiveness He had started in my heart so many years before.

Truly, words hold the power of life or death. Always choose life for yourself, and others, and you will find healing and peace. Forgiveness isn’t just an act intended to make ourselves feel better. It’s the breath of heaven that blows away the shadows of fear and shame, freeing us to walk in the light.

It’s always Sunny in New York

I took some time to consider the best way to introduce myself,¬†and it didn’t take me long at all to come up with the answer. I am going to share with you one of¬† my favorite things – a story. A little story about a young girl’s summer in the city – how she discovers secrets of humanity in sidewalk subtleties. I am going to tell you the story of how I met my friend Sunny under an awning on the streets of Manhattan.

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     I wonder if, from behind those dark glasses, he sees me. Does he know I’m here? Does he watch me watching him? I think he’s probably handsome, under there somewhere beneath the long, unruly dark hair. Behind the oversized, outdated, too-dark sunglasses. He wears a suit every day, the same one Рwhite once. Just right over the shoes, but a tad too short in the sleeves. It is dirty, but not torn.
And here I am, standing in pale pink Bandolino (when will I learn to wear tennies for the commute?) heels, purse held in school girl fashion across my knees, waiting. My brother Jon will be here soon to meet me for our train ride home, back to Brooklyn. #10 Cambridge Place – I think our address has a lovely, old world romance to it. It sounds heavenly, and it is, for a Brooklyn brownstone.

Sunny is here everyday, standing on a neat square of cardboard a polite distance from the theater’s box office that occupies the corner space. He is always smiling – holding out the cup, but never asking with words. Looking toward something none of the rest of us sees, he glows with some secret happiness. That’s why I call him Sunny. I don’t know his real name, but I’ve become attached to him – to the familiarity of him being here everyday. The promise I made to my brother to not talk to strangers withstanding, I decided to give him a name at least to use in my own mind.

The shift changes in the box office, as it does every day at this time, and Old Vinnie takes up his post. I made up his name, too. Everyone should have a name, don’t you think? Once Vinnie counts his drawer and settles in on his worn leather stool, he starts watching. He watches me, watches the gathering crowd near the train station steps – people waiting until the last minute to descend into the tunnels, enjoying as much of the fresh air as they can. As much as I can. Then, I wait for it. I wait for that moment when Old Vinnie sprouts wings and a halo.

He looks over his shoulder, reaches into his pocket for some coin, tosses it into the register, and taps the window. Grabbing a snack-sized Doritos from the hanging display, he taps the window again, motioning to Sunny. Sunny takes a few long strides, grabs the Doritos, gives a dazzling smile, and returns to his square, not a word is exchanged between the two men. It happens every day, this unassuming act of kindness, and it makes me smile, feeling content as I observe the compassions of fellow man. There are, afterall, some good people left in the world.

Then, one day, he isn’t there, on the squared patch of sidewalk by the box office. It¬†is empty space, and I¬†am alone in a sea of people, worried for my¬†¬†friend whose face I’ve never seen, but find myself missing.

A day goes by, and then a weekend of wondering, a Monday of waiting. And, he’s back. The upwelling of elation in my heart, the return to normal, the knowing that my friend is back and safe is cut short, replaced by a hot anger when I see the bruising, the scrapes, the bandages.¬†Stark white against his shabby suit, they are freshly placed. Another angel, unseen, is taking care of him, too. And, I am ashamed. What have I done to help this man, other than enjoy a delight in the well-doing of others?

It is time for the shift change, and I am ready. This time, when Old Vinnie looks at me, I look back. Walking over to the box office, I look at Sunny, boldly trying to see through the glasses, to make contact. He looks vaguely in my direction and smiles. Whether he sees me or not, I’ll never know. I pass the bills under the glass, speak the words, and walk back to my waiting place. Old Vinnie¬†had said¬†nothing, but as I stand near the curb, I see his cracks and wrinkles hiked up in a lop-sided smile. He knows I know his secret. Dropping out of sight for a few moments, he returns with a styrofoam carton full to overflowing with a steaming hot dog and cheesy nachos. He sets down¬†a cold drink on the counter and taps the window.

Sunny walks over, a little slower than usual. Is there surprise in his eyes when he sees the little feast, a little extra happiness in his heart? Will he remember me after I’ve left New York? I’ll never know, and I don’t need to know. ¬†But, I do know that I will always remember him.