Yesterday, during my lunch hour, I took a quick trip to the local grocery store. I had just a few items to buy, plus I wanted to pick up something for lunch. This was to be a brief trip because I had to get back to my office for a meeting.
While walking through the area where flowers are sold, an elderly woman was standing right in the middle of the aisle. She didn't move when she saw me, she just continued to stand there, in my way, holding me up. And, between you and me, she was getting on my nerves.
In my mind I was wondering "Why won't this woman move? Is this an instance of Trump-induced entitlement, and she just doesn't think she has to get out of my way? Does she think that this is her world and I'm just lucky to be a part of it?" I am usually very tolerant of seniors, but not this time. This time, I was getting a little heated. But then I thought to myself...
What if she's buying flowers for the family of a close friend who just died?
What if this is her first time buying flowers since her husband passed away?
What if she's momentarily confused and isn't sure what she should do next?
I really had no idea why that woman was just standing there and the stories I'd made up in my mind could have been as far from the truth as the east is from the west.
Then I was quickly reminded of a time about six years ago when I was in the blender section of my local Target store. I wasn't there to buy just any blender and this wasn't a purchase I really wanted to make. I was there because a loved one was fighting cancer and wanted to try a holistic approach. We'd found recipe for a concoction he could drink and this recipe called for a variety of ingredients that needed to be blended together. We needed a super-duper blender, and that's what I was there to buy.
I remember seeing the other women in the aisle, imagining them looking for a blender to make smoothies for their families or to try a new recipe they were making for their Sunday dinner. And, while I was happy for them, I was sad for myself. And I thought about the fact that they had no idea that why I was there in that same aisle with them.
Just like I had no idea why the woman was in the flower section on yesterday. We just never know, do we?
So it made me think that I really ought to treat everyone as if they're having a bad day. By that I mean that I should go the extra yard, give the extra smile, extend a little extra patience. Sometimes it won't be warranted, but what about the time that it is? For example...
When I go shopping with my sisterfriend, Karen, I love the way she interacts with the salespeople. She is always bubbly and friendly and makes them feel as though she's so happy to know them. If any salesperson working with Karen was having a bad day, I know that my friend has made them feel a little better. I've never asked her why she does this, but I admire it and I try to imitate it as much as possible. Her kindness is contagious!
So, note to self, and maybe to you, too: You just never know what a person is going through. Some of the most hurting people look fine on the outside, but on the inside they are torn apart. Be patient. Be kind. That gesture can make a world of difference.
If you know me, you know Sasha Malia. Sasha is my cat child.
She's a constant, nonjudgmental companion and I love her. But she's sick. I think.
I mean, she's acting like her normal self, but she's not eating anything. It's as if she's protesting something, yet I have no idea what could be upsetting her.
She has no rules and she has no job. What could she be upset about? I supply her food, her shelter, her everything! Sasha has got it made in the shade!
Wow, that causes me to pause because God could be saying the same thing about me.
I've got a lot on my mind these days and I'm not sure how things are going to turn out, so I'm worried. But I can hear God saying "What is Gail upset about? I supply her food, her shelter, her everything! She's got it made in the shade!"
Yep, I can hear it and I accept it. And, as the song goes, "I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me." So I will do my best to do better.
I've got to stop worrying and Sasha has got to start eating. Come back soon, I'll let you know how we both are doing.
Well, I heard it again. And it made me mad. Again. And I really don’t get mad too often. Yes, I get upset and discouraged, but I don’t often get mad. I avoid such opportunities as much as I possibly can.
But the other morning, while riding in my car listening to my favorite gospel radio station, I got mad.
You see, once again, a married woman was going on and on about how wonderful marriage is, how it is ordained by God, and how if you end your marriage it is only because you’re not working hard enough. I won’t mention this married woman’s name, but she used to sing with her sister. That’s all I will say.
This makes me mad on so many levels.
For starters, what would a married woman know about ending a marriage? Unless she’s on a second marriage, no married woman can tell me anything about what divorce looks like or feels like. They simply do not know.
And, do you live in my house? Unless you do, you have no way of knowing why my marriage ended or if I didn’t work hard enough. Speaking of which...
Who dictates what is “enough”? And who said I was supposed to “work hard” in my own home? Sure, I was supposed to compromise and listen, do some things and not do other things, but was I supposed to work hard day after day, trying to fix something that I alone did not break? I don’t think so.
What’s more, do you think I wanted my marriage to fail? Did I one day wake up and determine that it would be better for me to be single? Obviously, marriage was an interest of mine, otherwise I never would have said "I do." So the end of my marriage wasn’t something I chose, it just happened.
Special note to church folk: Please don’t judge me or any other divorced person you meet. When you feel that urge to say something about how we should have done this or shouldn’t have done that, please put your hand over your own mouth and just hush. (“Hush” is the polite, grown up church girl way of asking you to shut up.) And don’t tell me what God intended for me. How do you know? Mind your business.
You telling me about my marriage and divorce would be like me telling a basketball player how to dunk or a printer how to print or a cat how to meow. I have no idea cause I’m not a basketball player or a printer or a cat.
So, if you’ve never been through a divorce, if you’ve never lived in my house, if you’ve never walked in my shoes, please keep your opinion to yourself.
I’m done. And I’m not that mad anymore.
I don’t know if I’ve ever written about this, but one of the biggest obstacles standing between me and a happy marriage was the house I lived in.
I hated it.
It was old, it was ugly, and it was falling apart. And any attempt I made to try to make it nicer, homier, or to reflect some small portion of my preferences and personality was often rejected. It was painful.
To make matters worse, my ex-husband was a contractor, so he made his living making other people’s houses look good! Meanwhile, our house – I can’t even call it a “home” – our house was always in some state of disrepair and disarray. That was a hard pill for me to swallow. I didn't grow up in an ugly house, why was I now a working adult living in an ugly, beat up house. It made no sense.
One of the many things I disliked about the place was the front door. I really don’t think it was a door, I think it was a board that my husband put up and called a door. Honestly.
So I remember often telling him that we should get a new door, even offering to pay for it myself, but he never wanted it replaced. Please don’t ask me why, I have no clue.
OK, so fast forward to yesterday. I was in Lowes, returning some curtains, and there was a contractor there picking up a door for one of his clients. Immediately I felt some kinda way, as the young people say...
I thought about how wonderful it was that this person was getting a new door! Whoever the person was, they immediately became my friend, I loved them for having made this purchasing decision. There was a part of me that wanted to wait around to see the door they'd selected, but I had things to do... plus that would have been weird. :-)
Then my mind went back to myself and I felt sad. You see, I remembered the shame and confusion I felt on the many days I walked through the ugly door at that house I lived in as a married woman. And I remembered the embarrassment I felt when anyone would come through it. They had to know that it was a board and that it lead to a house that needed a lot of work. Most of our visitors never mentioned it, and I will always be grateful to them for that. But I knew.
The truth is that, in many ways, that door was the entryway to a life that, quite frankly, was not what I wanted or felt that I deserved. There were some good times there, that’s for certain, but that house and that door were a constant reminder that all was not well in my world.
Now that I think about it, doors can be rather symbolic, can't they? They represent an opening and a closing. A beginning and an end.
So once I stopped feeling sad, I rejoiced in knowing that God had provided me with a new door... a new opening, a new beginning.
Now I love my door, and I love the home it leads me to, and I love the life that’s cultivated inside that home. Life is good.
I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time in that old house with that old ugly door.
It has been quite a while since I wrote a blog post, but I have a really good excuse...
For the past few months I've been planning the first SPARKLE Conference & Retreat. It took a great deal of planning and thinking and rethinking, but it was held this past Saturday and I'm very happy with the way things turned out. People enjoyed themselves and I do know that a few lives were changed.
While in the midst of the planning, I swore that I'd never, ever host another event like this. By the end of Saturday's event, I was already planning the next one. I think it's necessary.
You see women, especially women of faith, are often reluctant to share their pain. For whatever reason, be it pride or embarrassment, we want people to believe that life has always been wonderful for us... that we've never been through a difficult trial... that God has always been good to us.
God HAS always been good to us, but if we're honest, there were times when it didn't feel like that was the case.
The SPARKLE Conference & Retreat provided a day of mask removal so that women could be real with one another. Speakers talked about the pains associated with divorce, abuse, and addiction. Our stories were sometimes raw, but always relevant. And, like I said, lives were changed.
The atmosphere was "inviting and embracing" in the words of one of our attendees, and that's exactly what I wanted for the event. I'm pleased and I hope that God is pleased with me as I continue to do the work I feel He has put before me.
A few days ago I was enjoying my morning walk with my sisterfriend, Katrina. We walk together at least 4 mornings each week… but let me explain what I mean by “together.”
Katrina lives in North Carolina, I live in Maryland. But we text each other every morning, usually around 6:45am, to inform the other of our walking plans for that day and then we talk during our walk through our respective neighborhoods. It’s a great way to encourage each other to walk, and we laugh and solve some of life’s problems along the way.
OK, so on this particular morning Katrina was overwhelmed by the fact that a tree branch fell in her neighborhood. She witnessed it and she heard it. The breakage of the limb was very, very loud. She talked about this limb for a good 5-10 minutes. I thought it was interesting that the branch had fallen, but Katrina, also known as Crima, was truly overwhelmed by this, so much so that I started laughing at her for taking it so seriously.
"Did you know the tree personally, Crima?", I teased. "Is this the first time you've seen a fallen tree limb?"
Then the next day she told me, with great excitement, I might add, that she'd seen another fallen limb. Again, she was quite taken by this and again I kinda chuckled, still amazed that she was so amazed. Crima is my girl, but I really did wonder what the big deal was. And so did she.
She later confessed that she didn’t know why she was so interested in these fallen limbs, but when things like this happen, she digs deeper. So she did some research to find out why trees lose their limbs. She wondered if there was deeper meaning to this, something she was supposed to glean from this.
And there was.
Crima learned (and then shared with me) that when a tree loses a branch, it is often because that branch has been deprived of water. So it dies and falls from the tree. However, interestingly enough, it is not uncommon for water to pour out of the limb when it falls.
The limb that was starving for water is often full of water, but unable to process it effectively. So it falls off… and dies.
Wow. Isn’t that like us sometimes?
Sometimes we fail not because we don’t have what we need, but because we do not process it effectively.
We have the strength, know-how, and ability to do things, but we don’t use the gifts to our advantage. So our goals go unfulfilled.
We have a direct line to the Source of everything, but we don’t call upon Him. So we go without.
We have resources all around us, but we don’t take advantage of them. So we suffer.
We let our “water run out” and our dreams, our possibilities never come to full fruition... and eventually they die.
How sad. What a waste.
I’m no longer laughing at Crima, but I’m thanking her for sharing this lesson with me.
And I’m trying my best not to let my water run out.
I already knew these things, but just in the past 8 days these 8 things have rung truer than ever…