Misty Garrison » Gathered Fragments

I cry (and yell) over spilled milk.

And you start chanting, “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

And the floor looms large as I fall to my knees under the weight of my sin. Against you. Against Him.

And it’s just milk.

And you. You are the gift I prayed to receive in the years of darkness. The years the locusts devoured.

Words come more softly now, but with urgent desperation. “Lord, please redeem this moment. This Mama. Please don’t let my failures do permanent damage to her.”

And I find you once again in your place of safety. Cowering under the table, hiding from my harsh words of wrath.

Oh, how I long to return to who we were together – before you turned 3 and your sweet Mama became a B.

And here we are again. Little sister is now 3. And you know better than I that 3 is hard for me.

You’ve walked this path of eggshells before. And I see the look of remembrance with flashes of terror in your eyes. Followed by the flood of forgiveness in the beauty of your smile. And you know better than she that 3 is hard for me.

But you also know that this is why I, why we, need Jesus. And that He will help us. And heal us. As you so lovingly remind me while comforting the wounds my words have inflicted upon your sister. Even while the scars from your own wounds threaten to throb.

And we are partners in grace. Both needing and both receiving.

And the Gospel wins. Again.

And the Savior still reigns. In our hearts.

“Most of us are painfully aware that we’re not perfect parents. We’re also deeply grieved that we don’t have perfect kids. But the remedy to our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Christian children (and their parents) don’t need to learn to be ‘nice.’ They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has gone before them as a faithful high priest, who was a child himself, and who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a Savior who extends forgiveness, total righteousness, and indissoluble adoption to all who will believe. This is the message we all need. We need the gospel of grace and the grace of the gospel. Children can’t use the law any more than we can, because they will respond to it the same way we do. They’ll ignore it or bend it or obey it outwardly for selfish purposes, but this one thing is certain: they won’t obey it from the heart, because they can’t. That’s why Jesus had to die” (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace).

What lessons of grace are you learning from your children?

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After discussing the loneliest nation on the planet in yesterday’s post, I thought it might be time to finally give you a peek into my own personal battle with loneliness. And I say “peek” for your own well-being for I fear if we plumb too deep into the psychosis that is my mind, we might not make it back out or least not unscathed.

And as always when you enter into a dangerous activity, a few disclaimers first. I have friends, I think. At least I did before I started this 31 day journey. We even do stuff together on occasion. But friendship and loneliness are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One can and often does exist in the presence of the other. Especially for introverted prophets (but I get ahead of myself). I do not share this piece of myself so that you will feel sorry for me or even offer me your comforting words of pity. No, instead I just hope for a little understanding and prayer, of course. And perhaps those of you afflicted with my condition might find encouragement in the truth that we are not really alone. However much it may feel like we are.

You see, God, in His infinite wisdom (and I like to think a little bit of omniscient orneriness), decided to make me a girl. A girl who would rather throw the football around than paint my fingernails. Then He chose for me the spiritual gifts of prophecy and teaching with only the slightest touch of mercy (please pray for my girls). Oh, and just to make things really interesting, He said, “Let’s make her an extreme introvert with a passion for restoring community to The Body & the broken places of the world.” And that took care of that. And it was good. And not a mistake. Only it has taken me years and a bit of “therapy” for me to realize that it is okay to be me (more on that later in the story). But even knowing that He delights in the way He created me and rejoices over me with singing, it is still hard most days to be me.

You see, I can feel completely alone in a crowded room. Small talk makes me want to throw up in my mouth. It is just that difficult for me (I know my friend also named Misty understands this). Which means I come off as snobbish sometimes. But I’m not snobbish just a social pariah. Oh, but you say, you are always hosting people at your house and “visiting” with them. Watch closely, people, and you will see that I have exactly two settings: smart a** and silence. My social skills were best designed for use in a classroom full of teenage wanna be ganstas. Because they get sarcasm, heck they shower in it. (And, I miss them dearly). Yes, I am either cutting you down, harassing you, giving you a hard time, or I am squeamishly awaiting someone else to rescue me from the claws of chit chat. Trash talk, not small talk and we good.

Or, if you want to sit down at the table with me and discuss how we might storm the gates of hell and take back what belongs to our King. Or Piper, Tozer, Manning, Nouwen, Wilson, Miller, Lamott, or Father Tim perhaps? Well, then we good too. Not a lot of middle ground with me. Oh, I can fake it for a while but most likely little pieces of my soul are dying. It’s not that I don’t care, I just honestly have that much trouble relating. To people. Which translates into most people feeling like I am too much. Or, at least that is what I have heard my entire life.

That is until about year ago. When I embarked on a long journey with Steven & our missions pastor at church. After which for the first time in 39 years, I finally felt like I didn’t have to apologize for being who I am. Where words like, “you are intimidating, too deep, too much, too passionate, too in love with Jesus” (what?), no longer defined me. Where being a woman with the spiritual gift of prophecy no longer crushed me (at least not all the time). And I was freed to rejoice in my creation. To celebrate my gifts and my story and release myself from the expectations of others and their hurtful words telling me that I should just be somebody else.

Oh, it is still lonely. And, on occasion, I still beg for him to remove this “thorn” from me. To let me write about rainbows and unicorns instead of justice and brokenness. Because let’s face it, nobody lines up to pay to hear what Jeremiah and Isaiah have to say. I mean, who invited them to the party? Killjoys. It’s not popular to be the voice crying in the wilderness. And it can be really heavy sometimes. Like all of the times. Yes, I stay awake at night trying to figure out how we can end generational poverty or at least get more people to be willing to enter into relationship with our impoverished brothers and sisters. For our own good, not just theirs. Because make no mistake about it, the privileged gain more from fellowship with the poor than they ever gain from us. In reality we have so little to offer them even though in our arrogance we believe otherwise. (And there I go again. Cornflabbit!).

But I wouldn’t trade those sleepless nights alone with Him for all the community and human connection that I keep talking about. In the end (because in the beginning) it is Him. And only Him. And I am grateful for the affliction that He has chosen for me because, “he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

From A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,

“The pain of loneliness arises from the constitution of our nature. God made us for each other. The desire for human companionship is completely natural and right. The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His Godgiven instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God… His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek God in what he can find nowhere else. He learns in inner solitude what he could not have learned in the crowd – that Christ is All in all, that He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that in Him we have and possess life’s summum bonum.

Two things remain to be said. One, that the lonely man of whom we speak is not a haughty man, nor is he the holier-than-thou, austere saint so bitterly satirized in literature. He is likely to feel that he is the least of all men and is sure to blame himself for his very loneliness. He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul – who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it, so he remains silent and tell his griefs to God alone.

The second thing is that the lonely saint is not the withdrawn man who hardens himself against human suffering and spends his days contemplating the heavens. Just the opposite is true. His loneliness makes him sympathetic to the approach of the broken-hearted and the fallen and the sin-bruised. Because he is detached from the world he is all the more able to help it.”

So, do me a favor, will ya? Fill up the awkward silence hanging between us and I promise that I will join you when I find my footing back here on earth. Of course, I’m probably gonna make a snide comment about your hair (just ask Ashley V or Melissa B), but we’ll take what we can get. Right?

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  • Tasha - Loneliness, now that is quite the topic to cover! Thank you for your honesty!ReplyCancel

Solitary confinement. Deserted islands of prosperity. Suburbia.

You know, that place where 50 or so years ago we traded our porches for privacy fences and communication with our neighbors on the way to the corner store for long commutes across town in our cars alone. Where people are replaced by television programs. And sometimes I wonder if I am the only one (besides my sweet hubby) who cares. The only one who struggles to survive this separation from my fellow man. The only one who wonders how we got here and why. And then I read books like The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee that include quotes like these:

“…experts point to the 1950s as a pivotal period in the development of a culture of isolation. It was during this era that Americans began to build places to live that have turned out to be more of a prison than a home – we know these places as the suburbs” (p. 111)

Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff writer Liz Stevens writes, “Suburbs were created after World War II to remedy the housing shortage where the land was the cheapest. The automobile made it easy for people to commute longer distances to work. The clean, spacious suburbs, as they were, fit neatly into the concept of the American Dream. What happened is that suburban developers created a housing market aimed at newly affluent populations. But these developers were not architects or urban planners, and the new suburbs did not take into account basic human needs” (p. 111).

“Writing for the Atlantic Monthly, author James Howard Kunstler is brutal to the suburban way of life, suggesting that it is ‘socially devastating and spiritually degrading” (p. 113).

And I know it is real. And while I understand that my own struggle with life in suburbia is quite likely exacerbated by my introverted and possibly less than appealing personality, I still worry about what we are becoming as a culture.

A friend of mine who has returned to the states from years of mission work in Uganda recently shared with me that after being in their new neighborhood for over a year not one “neighbor” has asked them over for dinner. And my heart aches for her and the hard, but rich with people, life she left behind. And I know that not everyone has the gift of hospitality, but we, who profess to believe, have all been called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And sometimes love is simply a bowl of soup to a stranger. That we may eventually call them friend.

Then there is Emmylou on the way home the other night – asking me about the apartments that we are passing. Wondering what they are. After explaining that they are small houses connected together that share a big yard in the middle, I steal glances at her in the rear view mirror. And I see the wheels churning and I know what she is thinking before she finds the words to speak her heart. “Mama, I wish that (insert list of friends’ & neighbors’ names here) all lived together in the same house with us.” Me too, girl, me too. And my heart breaks for her and the life she desires that seems impossible in this land of seclusion. And then I get mad. Because all she really wants is to be with her people.

And I wonder again why we each need a home all to ourselves. Whatever happened to four generations under one roof? Or, at least a group of Friends? Taking care of each other. Sharing meals around the table, life in the everyday, tools for our labor, and the blessed nuisance of other people up close and personal. Not to go all Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution on you all, because that guy freaks me out a bit. Mostly because I am afraid that he is right.

But then I think I know why. At least when I use our own little extended family as an example, I can see why. We all want different things out of life, and each part of the family pursues its desires separately. Including 3 houses (4, if you count the farm house), multiple acreages, 2 tractors, at least 5 lawn mowers, and all the time & resources it takes to upkeep all of that. You know, the American Way. Individual rights over societal (or familial) needs every day of the week. “This contemporary human condition (isolation) flows out of… a culture of individualism, which promises to us the best – only to inflict upon us the disease of loneliness” (Frazee, p. 110).

And its just plain hard. Sharing life and our spaces. Even for those of us who want to so badly. Like my friend who shared this, “I do feel God calling us here to be in community, but that my heart isn’t always in the right place. I want to have a generous heart and a loving and life-giving nature! We have a small home (very small) – and the numbers of children in and out as well as the noise level is often more than I enjoy. I am an introvert by nature. This summer the number of children coming around and hanging out has nearly doubled – great! We have had fun outdoors and they are truly wonderful kids – but now the days are getting colder and shorter and everyone wants to play inside. There is added noise and smells and squabbles. It honestly makes me a bit stressed out sometimes – so I ask for prayer that I can be a positive and encouraging host (my husband always is) and I seem to come across as the ornery rule enforcing mama. I want our home to be a place people want to be in community – and experience ‘life together.'”

Amen, Sister. I feel your pain and love your heart.

And while I have way more angst than answers (at least realistic ones), might I make a few simple suggestions? Start considering ways that you can create margin in your life. And maybe even share them with us here that we might learn a simpler way of living. And then, the next time you see a “dead woman walking,” unshackle yourself from the couch & mind-numbing technology long enough to be a human in the flesh for her and perhaps in the process rescue both her and you from the prison of isolation. A stay of execution. If only for a moment. And again. And again.

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My friend, Jess, shared the following response to this post: “‘Relationships sabotage my efficiency…'” Yes. Motherhood, community, anyplace we really desire to be and see Jesus comes at the cost of laying down our own agenda- dying to self. I need to learn this again and again. And that’s why a life lived for him must be a life lived with margin – I can’t fill up the edges so there’s no room for anyone’s need.”

Margin, indeed. The one thing lacking in our privileged suburban existence. (oh, and the front porch – but that will be discussed another day).

Less achieving, more just being. With each other and for each other.

Like when I take my recovering meth addict friend home to her trailer park late at night. She doesn’t walk through her front door and close it behind her. Or drive in the garage and shut the door before the car comes to a complete stop. Completely exhausted from a day of shuttling her soul from chaos to confusion. Too spent to see someone standing right in front of her. No. She heads to the campfire in the commons area of the neighborhood. Where every night she shares life with her neighbors while the children run free playing every form of pretend imaginable. None of which would be possible if they were all scattered their separate ways in pursuit of their individual interests & activities.

Or when the sun goes down in Haiti and the music blares. And we dance. Instead of fretting about tomorrow’s to do list (or catching up on last week’s), we teach yoga to burly Haitian gods. Or quiz them on their English lessons. Or talk about our stories of redemption. And what it means to be a Christ follower. Together. But again, there are no activities to rush off to or hours of homework to complete. No neighbors with whom we need to compete. To win. At life. And birthday parties.

And we, in our castles filled with toys & our smart phones filled with noise, have the nerve to pity them. Perhaps even look down upon them in disdain. And their ability to live simply and love deeply. And their fullness of life. In the margin.

“The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor” (1 Samuel 2:7-8).

“You are to help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you” (Joshua 1:14).

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  • The Sweet Pea - Thanks for sharing your heart. I find myself smiling, nodding, and yelling, “you, too?”
    The way I see it, you are twice blessed. You write like your father, and have your mother’s common sense.
    Don’t be discouraged by a lack of comments. I’ve written 141 stories on my blog and have only 5 comments. People all over the world read my stories, and I’m content. Keep writing. I can’t wait to see what happens next..ReplyCancel

A couple of the responses that I have received lately got me thinking about this quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And the pain that follows after joy has been stolen. Either our own or someone else’s. And what exactly is feeding this monster joy stealer. Insecurities. Yours. Mine. Hers.

In an email from a dear friend, “I love your blog but I’m NOT eloquent with my words so I will never comment (insecurities suck don’t they).” Yes, they do, friend. They suck the much needed encouragement right out of a person’s life. And the blessing a person would receive from giving that uplifting word to someone desperate to hear it. And it almost makes me angry that we allow insecure feelings about ourselves to keep us from being what others around us need. Because, of course, we are too busy pretending (covering up the truth of who we really are, how we really feel and the life we really live) to risk reaching into someone else’s hot mess. We might get found out, or perhaps burned. By the truth. Yours. Mine. Hers.

And then this comment on Facebook, “I know it comes from God and he’s calling me to take the next step in my faith but my scared self can’t quite take the leap of faith an instead stays where she’s safe yet my heart aches for the community and friendship that I know others like me would love to have yet like myself are too afraid to take the leap.” And we stand across the room from one another desperate for companionship but too scared to admit it, so we continue to sail our ships alone and pass each other by even as we are both sinking. And perhaps all it would take is a simple, “Hello.” Or maybe asking, “Want to take a ride in my sinking ship? Maybe together we could bale water & repair the holes left by life. And watch the sunset wash glorious light over the water and our broken vessels.” Yours. Mine. Hers.

And my friend, Jess, has written some beautiful words of encouragement & challenge on this subject here.

And I can’t help but wonder why we are so afraid to love each other. Or more accurately, to allow others to love us. And what would happen if we all just took a sharpie and wrote our crap on our foreheads and got it over with already. The exhausting facade upkeep could stop. Permanently. And perhaps we would finally be free to celebrate each other’s gifts instead of allowing them to make us feel less than. Because, if you think about it, what are we really risking? Life together instead of loneliness? Is it really worth protecting ourselves if we end up sitting on the porch swing all alone?

And the way I see it, we have…

…cancer to beat.
…husbands to keep.
…children to raise.
…supper to cook.
…wounds to heal.
…homework to complete.
…marathons to run.
…orphans to rescue.
…widows to care for.
…justice to seek.
…parents (and God forbid, children) to bury.
…faith to doubt.
…obscenities to shout (at least in our head).
…friends to encourage.
…coffee (or tea) to drink.
…laundry to wash.
…neighbors to love.
…life to live.
…forgiveness to give (and receive).
…dreams to chase.
…blessings to count.

Yours. Mine. Hers. But wouldn’t it be better if it were “Ours” instead? Together. Insecurities and all.

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  • Disney's World - So much better together!! If I could do it alone, I wouldn’t need Christ and together, as a community…. we are the body of Christ.

    Thank you for not giving up on this conversation. I so desperately need it!!!
    ReplyCancel

  • Tasha - I loved this post! Thanks for sharing! One of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed reading through these difficult conversations is that you are honest and bring humor into the mix. The whole comment about writing our issues on our foreheads had be laughing and realizing how helpful that could be.

    Oh, and I’ve been reading the blog you recommended. Boy between her story and yours I am so encouraged. I’m in the middle of her 31 days of letting go. For those curious, you can find the middle of the adventure I’m talking about here: http://www.flowerpatchfarmgirl.com/2011/10/31-days-letting-go-of-past.htmlReplyCancel

We are almost out of the woods. Only, I’m afraid we may have to go in a little deeper before we can come back out on the other side. And most days I can feel you there by my side. But, if I am honest (cause you know by now that I will be and you are probably growing a bit weary of it), the dwindling numbers of “listeners” to this conversation can get me down if I let it.

For those of you unfamiliar with this side of blogging, there is this nifty little feature that tells you have many times a particular post has been viewed. Bleh. It has an official name I’m sure, but I like to refer to it as the soul killer or dream crusher or perhaps candy from baby taker. Long story short, it messes with your mind. And mine is already of a questionable state, so you can only imagine the havoc this thing wreaks.

So, you say, just don’t look. Yeah, right. Like don’t pick the scab or peel the sunburn or curl your toes at night even though you know its gonna cause a foot cramp. Easier said than done.

After I finished telling the story of the dream & how we bought the farm, the somewhat encouraging numbers have now plummeted. And I sing my writing mantra over and over in my head: for an audience of One (capital O), for an audience of One, for an audience of One. Then screaming in my head, “Why don’t more people read this?!?! And respond. It is good stuff, right? Cue the crickets chirping.

Right?

Bueller… Bueller…

Anybody?

For an audience of One.

But really, anybody out there?

And, out of desperation and ever so slight madness, I sent a Facebook message to my writing, living, reading, broken human, loving Jesus hero – Flower Patch Farmgirl and asked her if she might pretty please consider taking a peak at my 31 days of conversation and possibly share her thoughts.

And she responded!!!

And when I emailed my one of my girlfriends who has an equal appreciation for FPFG, this was her reaction. “I’m shrieking like a teenage girl finding out the boy that she likes, likes her back! The Flower Patch Farmgirl likes you!!” And I may or may not have danced the jig. Or maybe I shook it.

And the crowd parted at the NKOTB concert and Jordan locked eyes with me. And, of course, he fell immediately and madly in love.

For an audience of One.

Why is that so hard? Why, oh, why do I so desperately want people to like me, and more importantly, like what I write? It’s like I’m broken or something. And, I can’t “shake it.”

And this little nugget of wisdom from FPFG, “God will send the people here who need to read this. Rest in that, and keep on writing it down. Just do what you’re doing because you were called to do it. Try to not worry about who is or isn’t reading. Write because it’s important and because you love it. Keep on keeping on, Sister. This story matters.”

Yes, indeed. Trust. Rest. Love. Write.

Of course, I intended for this message to be a thank you to those of you who are still here with me, but sometimes I can’t control where this thing goes. And I have more responses and encouraging words from your side of the conversation that I really want to share. From your own journeys and struggles. Which is exactly what a conversation should be. But remember early on when I told you that I dominate and interrupt. Well, here you go. As usual, you couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And I would share them now except that I am supposed to be prepping soup, buying groceries and packing for a camping trip (all of which should have been done days ago).

So, you will just have to check back tomorrow for a proper thank you (read: shameless ploy to get more blog views).

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  • Anonymous - And now I’ll sing “Whoa, we’re half way the-re. Whoa, livin’ on a pray-er…” all night :)
    I usually read via the emailed version, which I look forward to, but I’ll make it a point to visit the blog now.ReplyCancel

  • Tasha - I love the photo you took of the girls! Thank you for continuing to write. I look forward to reading more soon!ReplyCancel

Early on in this conversation, I received a wonderfully encouraging email from a dear friend. You know, the kind that is always there for everyone else despite the mountain of responsibilities looming ahead of her. She is the uplifting note in your mailbox during a hard week. And a special treat for your kids during every holiday season. She is a potted violet of thanks on your windowsill. A ray of light shining on your darkest, most lonely days. And a voice of reassurance when the rest of the world has gone crickets on you (like when you commit to writing for 31 days straight). Selfless and thoughtful. And I want to be more like her when I grow up.

A few words from her message:
“I know you well enough to know your ideal community is either right outside your front door or in another country completely. My prayer for you will be that the places you are in, the things that you are a part of during each week will bring you the peace and joy of some sort of feeling of community.”

And I appreciate her wisdom in recognizing that I have the tendency to focus on the ideal and miss the real right in front of me. And I do, all the time. But, in this particular conversation, I want to clarify that I am not looking for and dreaming of “ideal” community, but instead “actual, authentic” community as defined by the Bible, evidenced by the very character of the Triune God, and perpetuated by the creation of man in His image.

The word “ideal” denotes perfection, and community is anything but perfect. It’s messy, hurtful, inconvenient, and exhausting. But also full. Of life. And each other.

“The fundamental building blocks of the kingdom are relationships. Not programs, systems or productivity, but inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships. The kingdom is built on personal involvement that disrupts schedules and drains energy. When I enter into redemptive relationships with others, I lose much of my capacity to produce desired results with a minimum expenditure of energy, time, money or materials. In short, relationships sabotage my efficiency. A part of me dies. Is this perhaps what our Lord meant when He said we must lay down our lives for each other?” (Robert D. Lupton, Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America).

The life God planned for us in the garden and was made possible for us on the cross. The kingdom of God here on earth now as we wait for our glorious reunion. The restoring of shalom.

It is our right.

It is our inheritance.

It is our responsibility.

It is our reality.

May we live it (or die it).

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  • Tasha - Friends of ours who have gone before us in the adventure of relocating with the purpose of building community and reaching that community for Christ recommended Theirs is the Kingdom. Thanks for the reminder. It wasn’t at our local library, but I think I met a relocator recently who will probably have a copy I could borrow.ReplyCancel