More than Pearls. Going Up, Together.

My mother is an amazing woman.

Most people commenting about her say what a lady she is.  And it is the first thing you notice.

She is intelligent but gently spoken, and she carries herself well.  She likes doilies and little pink flowers.  She is a woman who wears pearls while she gardens.

But she also adores king snakes, and she has a thing for those huge black and yellow garden spiders.  These creatures are the good ones, you know, the protectors of the outdoors, a woman’s best friend.

After God, husband, and poodle, of course.

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My mom, last year, with one of her dear friends.

I have seen her chop down a tree, barehanded, with an axe.

I have seen her move a couch.  By herself.  Not dragging it, but lifting it off the ground and setting it gently down, Wonder Woman in blue jeans.

I have seen her saddle a stallion, and I once saw her kill an armadillo with a shovel.  Not an easy task.  Like hammering a nail with the sole of a shoe.  But saddling up horses and protecting kids from rabies and leprosy is an everyday thing in the South.

It’s what you do.

It’s what you do, even if you are a single mom, and you have so many hours set aside for crying on a Saturday afternoon.  You chop the trees, you whack the beasts, you put on your pearls, and you take care of the kids.

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Single moms are my heroes, especially my mom.

My mother pinched every thin dime we had and somehow made a home on a teacher’s salary.  She cooked meals from scratch every day, and, one Easter,  she stayed up all night sewing so we could be those girls at church in the beautiful dresses.

We knew we didn’t have what other kids had, but sometimes when I visited their houses, I realized I didn’t want anything different.  My mom made a good life for us.  And I did see her cry, a lot.  But I learned something about pain from her tears.

She hurt, yes.

But my mother never wallowed.

She never took her identity from pain.  She did not let betrayal define her life or ours.  She had times when she cried.  And then she got  up.  And took us to the park or to the river.  And cooked out hamburgers and hot dogs and ate potato chips out of giant generic bright yellow bags.  And laughed and sang songs.  And enjoyed life, in spite of all the heartbreak.

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My mom knew how to focus on what she had, not on what she didn’t.

It is easy to look at someone lovely and only see the pearls.  It is easy to look at someone courageous and only see the strength.

It is easy, and sometimes more comfortable, to assume if someone has success, then they must have never known defeat, they must have never known pain like ours, they must have never had to whisper to themselves in the dark.

But mostly, isn’t the opposite true?  Most of the people I know who walk in a shocking level of victory have overcome some shockingly terrible thing.

The difference is not that they were never knocked down, but that they decided to get up.

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They made certain choices in the face of pain.  They gave grief its time but did not let it overtake them.  They put emotion in its place and did not let it wash over them.  They took their burdens to God and left them at His feet.

The challenge for us comes when we look to their example and decide if we will follow it for ourselves.  And it’s an example that Jesus teaches, however much we sometimes twist that message in the church.

When faced with the lame man at the pool, Jesus did not pander to him because of his pain.  In fact, we never see Him do this.  He said to the man, “Get up.”

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My audience here is truly amazing.  I have an extremely high level of support.  Even so, I have had some criticism of my worldview, and considering the generally encouraging tone I try to set here, I find it surprising.  But one of the great joys of writing on the internet is opening yourself to all interpretations of your message, and all the uncensored, unveiled response.

I would say this.  Life is messy, and we are walking uncharted territory.  If we can’t be honest about these situations, and laugh and grow together, then we are kind of missing the point.

There is always backlash to a message of strength.  There is always resentment when someone shares a story of bravery, some secret jealousy or suspicion.  There is always that one person worried that courage is just a cover for recklessness, that one person who wants to bring up a few rare exceptions to argue and prove a point and use it to justify their own passivity.  That’s fine.  This blog might not be for them.

But for the ones who want to get up, welcome.

We are going up, together.

***

You are in my prayers.  I am rooting for you.  To focus on what you have and not on what you don’t.  To have victory and to enjoy this bloody beautiful life in spite of it all.  

With His help, you can get up.  You can do it.  We can do it.  Going up.  Together.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat, and walk.”  Jn 5:8

 

One Nation Under…Creepy Clowns?

Last week, I asked my teenage daughter what she would do if she saw a creepy clown.

We were walking near our house.  The neighbor’s dumpster rested on the sidewalk in front of us, open and tipped on its side.

I said, “Like right now.  If you saw one.  What would you do if you saw a creepy clown crawl out of that dumpster?”

“Kick it!”  she said.  And we laughed.

I defy you to have this conversation and not laugh.  There is something both upsetting and hilarious about this trend.

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“Ok.”  I said, “But what if it were the neighbor, just in regular clothes, and he crawled out of the dumpster?”

“Oh. I would walk around him.”

I’m concerned about the safety of our citizens wearing clown masks.  Their lives are at great risk if my sweet and gentle daughter is ready to assault a clown  just for crawling out of a dumpster.

***

A friend of mine actually saw a creepy clown last year.

I’ll tell you what happened.

She and another woman were walking alone in a park after dark.  Not long after they arrived, they noticed a man in a creepy clown mask stalking them in the shadows, mimicking their every move.  The women were terrified and left the park.

Ok.

Scary, right?

Now.

Let me tell you the same story another way.

The two women went to the park.  It was after dark, but there were lights in the park.  Also, it was Halloween night, so lots of people were around.  They noticed a group of three teenage boys standing together at the edge of the playground.  One of them had on a clown mask.  That kid saw the women walking and said something to his friends.  He started following the women from across the playground.  If they walked, he walked; if they stopped, he stopped.

The other woman had a small pistol in a fanny pack on her hip.  She had her hand on it, ready to unzip and fire.  My friend was worried for the clowns’s safety and called out to him.

Her voice is funny when she recalls how she said it, kind of charmed and tolerant, the way you would ask a toddler if they were having fun playing in the toilet.

“Awwwww, hi!” she said, “Are you being a creepy clown?”

The boy stopped and tilted his head to one side and walked away, back to his friends.

The situation was diffused and the two women went on with their walk.  They did not call the media or the police or post about it on Facebook.

The story did not go on to have any creepy clown baby stories on the internet that day.

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The first version of that story is intentionally creepy.  The second version is still cringeworthy, but it is not sensational.

The media does this to us constantly, tweaking a story to pull out the most provocative elements, whether in regard to politics or race issues or creepy clowns.

And, sometimes, we do it to each other.

***

As of today, in reality, the actual reported creepy clown incidents are very few.

And there is absolutely no truth to reports of clowns hurting or luring children into some dark and scary woods.

Most child predators try to bribe kids with things they like, like candy.  Or puppies.  And it is common knowledge that many children are afraid of clowns.

No disrespect to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, but seriously.  As if any kid would go to these guys???

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At the time of this writing, out of over 40 states this fall, only two reports of creepy clown assaults on an individual in the U.S. are actually confirmed, and those involved a tenth grade student and an adult.

And get this:  the vast majority of arrests associated with creepy clown sightings have not been of people dressed like creepy clowns, but of those people who are lying about seeing creepy clowns.

***

What is going on here?

The last few years have seemed to hold more terror than we are used to.

Whether it’s true or not (and it appears in many cases to be false.  Look at this article on the declining rate of gun violence, and this one for the lower rate of other assaults in the U.S.), we are on high alert as a society.

International and national tension.  Election year stress. Our country finds itself in a time of cultural change in many areas, and most people fear change as much as anything else.

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We are heightened.

It makes sense that culture would come up with a scapegoat, something to diffuse the anxiety.  And clowns have always served this purpose.  Broken the tension. Lightened the mood.

People can talk about #ifisawaclown in a way that they can’t talk about #ifiseearefugee or #ifhilarywins or #iftrumpispresident, and on and on.

The conversations we are afraid to have with each other are infinite.

Enter the creepy clowns.  A universal thumbs down.  Something we all can agree on.

But here’s the problem.

The more that people perpetuate the rumors and the myth of the creepy clowns,  the more the myth will grow.  And the potential of something bad happening, to clowns and non-clowns alike, increases as the hysteria rises.  Mobs are notorious for terrible decisions, and clowns are not known for wisdom.

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Remember that scene in Prince Caspian, where Edmund thinks of his fear in the steaming ocean, and the fear comes to life?  A giant- kraken like monster wrapping itself around the ship as the sailors look into the fanged mouth of death.

All thanks to Edmund’s fear fantasy, manifested.

***

It’s a strange thing that these kinds of fears can be self-fulfilling prophecies.  

I pray that the hysteria dies down before someone else gets hurt.  I pray we can find peaceful and brave ways to face the real issues.  That we can call up in our collective selves a certain amount of tenacity and grit and strength that would make our grandparents proud.  That we can find ourselves unified as one nation with a common goal for good.  And just drop the clown thing already.  

Amen.

NOTE:  I was contacted by a reader after publishing this post.  She wanted to let me know that there were three confirmed clown attacks in Detroit.  In the name of integrity, I am including that addendum here.  That brought the number of confirmed attacks to five rather than two.  The basic message remains the same, however, that creepy clowns are not the threat that is implied by the amount of media attention they have received of late.

And just to check, I looked up the number of assaults yearly in Detroit.  The last year on record at citydata.com shows 9,191 assaults.  That’s an average of 25 assaults in Detroit every day.  Which confirms the point of this post–assaults by clowns are extremely rare.

The masks stand out and make clown attacks seem more prevalent than they are.  They are something we can identify, which is simultaneously creepy and reassuring.  We can identify the clown.  It’s the psychopaths that we interact with on a daily basis that we can not identify.  Much easier to just focus on clowns, however erroneously.

Too Whatever: Gray Hair, Doubts, and Insecurities.

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.  Old enough to command respect.  Old enough not to care what people think.  Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

I’ll admit.  It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came upon me as  I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever.   Hard-won identity fled, its ancient, gray tail between its legs.

I have serious wrinkles now.  That the kids gave me.  I used to point at my forehead when they were acting crazy and tell them, “See this?  See these wrinkles?  YOU ARE GIVING THEM TO ME!”

I gave the last sixteen years to raising kids.  I’m still doing it.  And I love it.  But all this time, I’ve been telling myself, “When they are older, then.  Then I can do my thing.”

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I once heard Oprah say, “You can have it all.  You just can’t have it all at the same time.”

The woman who doesn’t have children.  Telling me not to worry about putting off my career.

Mercy.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.  She is the best selling author of several books on Amazon. You can find her here.

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She understood.  She laughed.  She told me that she had the same  fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older.  She was, therefore, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé.  She hadn’t done enough in her field.  She was doomed to fail.

At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting,  writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old. 

The same lies.

It showed me the truth.  That the same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old, too young, too fat, too thin, too inexperienced, too seasoned, too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

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It’s up to us what sticks.

I don’t really collect anything, but if I did, it would be those stories of people who defy expectations and beat the odds.  Fairy tales.  Bible stories.  Sports movies.  I love ’em.  Can’t get enough.

Mike Rowe is fast becoming a Paul Harvey for our time.  He is a great storyteller, and I’m including a story from him today.  Listen now or save for later.  You’ll be glad you did.  “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,” about America’s first female self-made millionaire, Sarah Breedlove.   Link here.  (Doesn’t start till minute 6:00, so fast forward past the commercials if you need to.)

You can also read about Sarah Breedlove here at Wikipedia.

If Sarah can do it, I can do it.  And you can do it.  Beat the odds.  Have it all, whatever that looks like for you.

Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

And.

Never give up.  Never, never, never, never, never give up.

***

Cheering you on, Fearless Wanderers! 

One Easy Tip for Emotional Healing. A Guest Post from Alice Briggs.

 Lady is taking a break from posting this week!

Moving across the country is taking up all of my time.  Today’s guest post is from my friend, Alice Briggs, owner, CEO, and general factotum at Alice Arlene, Ltd. Co.  She has an artwork business, alicearlene.com, and an inner healing business, emotionalandspiritualhealing.com.  She is a delight.  Check out her websites, and enjoy!

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Hey there, fellow lovers of Lady the Fearless!

I’ve been loving all of Lady’s tips on how to combat fear.

I wanted to let you know about a couple of resources that I’ve created that are practical and easy to implement.

I’ve been terrified of failure, defined in my mind as “anything less than perfect,” for as long as I can remember.  I was the kid that wanted to know why she got a 99% instead of 100% on the test.  I was the kid that shattered when she messed up during a piano recital and walked away from playing for years.  I was the student who studied so hard that the lack of sleep actually hurt her grades.  It’s not a good feeling to wake up looking at a test paper!  I don’t recommend it!  I was the new professional who over-analyzed every decision she made and was devastated when others thought there was a better option.

I had no room for grace.

I had no room for peace.

I had no room for process.

I had no room for freedom.

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My identity was wrapped up in what I did and how perfectly I did it.

It took me many years, and lots of help from God, to shift into a more helpful framework of identity.  I am Alice.  Nothing I can do, or not do, can change that.

I was created by God in His image.  I was created by God to do good work.

 But I was also created by God to enjoy the process!

So how did I begin such a foundational shift?

A lot of small things.  Over a period of time.

And I’m still learning.  But I have grace, peace, freedom, and pleasure in the process!

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I was a scavenger, still am!  I would pick up ideas, tips, and tricks, and try them.  And I held on for dear life to the ones that worked.  The ones that didn’t, I cast aside.

When I began my inner healing practice, I wanted to pass on these tools and tips to my clients.  I found that the ones who used them made faster progress than the ones who didn’t.

I decided that these things were far more significant than I thought.  I wrote blog posts on them and was encouraged to write a book.  I agreed, but I wanted it to be practical.  I get irritated when I read something that is completely theoretical.  It sounds good, but I want to know what it looks like.  How do I apply it in my life?

So, that’s the book I set out to write.   A Guide to Freedom:  11 Steps to Greater Joy, Hope, and Peace, 

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One of the chapters is on personalizing scripture.  If there is something plaguing me, such as fear, I use a concordance and look it up.  I make note of the verses that jump out at me, the ones that hit my heart, and spirit, and mind.

For example, I’m afraid and I find Joshua 1:9:  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

There are a couple of ways that I can personalize this scripture, so there’s not a “correct” way, just the way that speaks most strongly to you at the time.

1) I could get out my trusty 3×5 cards and replace the “yous” with my name.  I could write:  Has God not commanded Alice?  Alice will be  strong and courageous.  Alice will not be afraid; Alice will not be discouraged, for the Lord my God will be with Alice wherever I go.

2) Or I could use “I” and “me” instead of the “you” pronouns and write:  Has God not commanded me?  I will be strong and courageous.  I will not be afraid; I will not be discouraged for the Lord my God will be with me wherever I go.

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Sometimes I find that using my name has a bigger punch, but again, there’s no right or wrong way.  The chapter includes templates to help you see exactly how to use this approach for yourself.

Other chapters include:

Grace for the Journey
Saturate Your Atmosphere
Read the Word
Listen to the Spirit
Take Negative Thoughts Captive
Bind up the Lies
Forgive Quickly and Often
A Community of Believers
Exercise Your Spiritual Giftings
Practice Thankfulness

I’d love to connect with you and share more tips and tricks for emotional healing through my website at emotionalandspiritualhealing.com.  Stop by, and sign up for my newsletter, and stay in touch!  –Alice