Walking each other home: Book review of Stitches by Anne Lamott

IMG_2539970996080 “My time is limited. I’m dyingyou know. Not that anybody cares.”

Sigh.

It is one of those conversations where I catch myself with one hand on the receiver and one hand on the ground so that the Earth’s trajectory – and her self pity – doesn’t send me hurling into space.

“Are you going to die today?”

“Well, no.”

“Good. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

It’s been almost four years since I first met Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies. A lot has happened in those four years and in that time, I have read every non-fiction book she has written. I find that how I receive her books is very much contingent on where I am at when I read them. What jumps out at me today, might be entirely different tomorrow.

ultimately, we are just walking each other home. – Ram Dass

The main alcoholic in my life is dying Not today, or tomorrow, but soon. They have a year maybe two at the most left.I think they need to live with me so that I can help and they think they need to stay exactly where they are (over 1, 000 miles away.) They want to die the same way they live: On their terms.

I think that stinks, but nobody asked me.

I can either spend what is left of their life arguing with them, or I can see them for who they are, a child of God, and allow them the dignity of making their own choices.

Stitches is full of Anne’s trademark dry humor, subtle wisdom, and gentle heart. It’s almost poetic in its writing style and it’s soft-spoken much like Anne’s actual speaking voice. Rather than hammer at you, she almost whispers. Stitches is like a sacred conversation between old friends.

Anne writes and speaks with gentle authority and with the wisdom of a woman who has been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. Whether it’s as the overly sensitive child who learned the freedom that comes from choosing to see what is really going on, the woman who is walking her husband home after 40 years, the best friend who grieves, the mother with a mentally ill son, or the teacher who doesn’t give up – Anne teaches us that life is a miracle, the sun continues to rise with or without our permission, that we are not rags, and that if we hold hands, we can stand against the wind.

I don’t know what season you are in. For me, I’m in the thick of chapter two – The Overly Sensitive Child. Perhaps you are facing life without your mate, a sick or wayward child, the loss of a best friend or a community tragedy much like what hit Moore Oklahoma this year. And maybe you are wondering how to stitch your life back together.

Maybe, like me you need to hear that it’s okay to let other people in , that beauty has meaning, we can take our own turn and that we are not rags. Whatever season you are in, or what you may need to hear, Stitches is a book that has something for everyone. I give it 5 stars.

You can get your copy at Amazon.com

DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT: While I do at times receive free copies of books in exchange for honest reviews, no goods or services were received in exchange for this review. I purchased the book myself via Amazon and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to tell my readers about it.

Robert Downey Jr is a Class Act All the Way Around and I’m a Puddle of Tears

I’ll be honest, when my friend shared this video (via his blog – Save a Cactus Hugger) with me last week, I sat down and cried.

I didn’t cry because I’m such a fan of these two men. I am (and you my readers know that, probably ad nauseum I’m sure.) but that’s not the point. I think this video shows courage, and great humility. Robert Downey Jr has proven himself to be a class act all the way around.

I’m not sure why it made me cry really. My reaction was so strong emotionally that I’m forced to look at it and find out. Yeah me, another Fantastic Growth Opportunity. (AFGO as my friend calls it) – I know that I’ve had many periods in my life where I’ve been overcome with a severe case of dumb-butt and have needed to face that in myself. And while I’ve been blacklisted for serious infractions like admitting I’m a more of a Ben and Jerry’s Fan than a Dairy Queen Gal, I have fortunately been spared the limelight of these two men’s lives.

Not that I haven’t necessarily done worse.

I just never got caught. Or if I did, it never made the nightly news or cover of People Magazine.

Maybe I cried because I’m one of those women who loves alcoholics to death — literally sometimes. (To point, if our eyes meet across a crowded room and my heart starts doing 280, chances are pretty good they either have a flask in their pocket or a criminal record. Which is in all honesty how I landed up in a 12 step room to begin with. I was raised to believe that I am personally responsible for other people’s bologna and it took a few years to let go of that responsibility, one clutched controlling finger at a time.)

Maybe I cried out of self pity? I have several alcoholics in my life who have yet to accomplish (on a personal level) what I witnessed here.

Maybe I cried because I know so many who left the room before reaching this place of hope and real forgiveness.

Or maybe I cried because I’ve been around 12 step rooms for so long and I honesty wish church were more like this and it isn’t always.

No matter, I love the video and believe that Robert’s actions show great class, love, and humility – not to mention courage and so do Mel’s. These men are a great example of true friendship — we should all be so blessed.

Have you ever played small? Cut it out.

Making myself nothing to suit others is not humility; it’s ego and lack of trust. When I make myself small to “help” someone else feel like they are important what I’m really communicating is I think I’m too big for you to handle and you are too weak to see my greatness. Real relationships require real honesty. If I cannot allow myself to be fully me when we’re together, am I really allowing the other person to be all they can be? Of course not.

Making myself nothing is just another mask for fear. Fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. What are we really afraid of when we do that? Rejection? Failure? Pride?

We get caught up in the lie that we are being too prideful if we boast (talk) about our accomplishments. Really? Isn’t playing small prideful as well? Yes, we can be very prideful in our ability to make ourselves small — I see it all the time in church. We get hung up on thinking that playing small pleases God. No it does not.

God did not create us to be small nor did He create us to fit in. We are created in HIS likeness in order to make a difference in this world. We cannot make a difference if we are playing down to nothing.

Making myself nothing so that other people can feel like everything is about manipulation and control. It’s about people pleasing and being liked.

Let go of the control.

Be who you were created to be and make a difference.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

Fisher’s Of Men – or – How I Met My Husband.

I am 22 when my boyfriend decides to dump with the classic line of “It’s not me, it’s you.”

I am crushed.

Inconsolable even.

Drunk on Hagen Daz ice cream and dreams of what could have been (AKA self-pity in over drive), I am a horrible mess. In a moment of what I can only call pure desperation, I reach for my Bible and start talking to God.

He Dumped me! Can you believe he dumped me? I’ll never get married. My life is ruined. What am I going to do God?

Flip, Flip, Point.

I looked down to see where my finger had landed.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 for you purists)

Fishers of Men? Really God?I’m in! Yeah!

I put down my bible drive to the mall and buy myself the BEST fishing wardrobe minimum wage can buy. You know, little black dress, red lipstick and fish net stockings. Shortly after that I pack up my little bag of sorrows, leave Redford and moved to Chicago where I spend the next few years participating in the catch-and-release program.

Not to be confused with the prison release program, which is something entirely different.

Okay, if I’m counting the guy I met in front of the Sears Tower that one Spring, not really.

But there you are.

One day I meet this really cute guy at work who gets me to go out with him by hawking the fact he plays guitar in a rock band. We’d only gone out a couple of times when he calls to tell me he wants to take me to church on our next date.

I thought he was speaking figuratively and dressed accordingly.

Do you know he took me to church?

For real?

Wow, am I popular. I even meet the woman’s auxiliary. They call themselves “The Church Basement Ladies.” I am not making that up. I ask them what they do and they tell me they mostly sew quilts and cook supper for Jesus.

Now I was not raised in the church but even I know it’s been at least 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth so either these ladies were pulling my leg, or they’ve held up remarkably well.

Best,

Deana

No Longer a Vagabond

A New Beginning. It still needs paint and such, but what a great start.

“If you are bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” Lou Holtz

My husband surprised me this weekend by emptying the spare bedroom where he keeps all of his music gear. Once the room was empty he ripped out the carpet and laid new flooring. This will be my new office / art studio and the front living room will be our new music room; complete with french doors and eventually a baby grand piano.

For those of you who don’t know, J-man is a VP for a national telecommunications company by day and a musician by night. In other words, he’s an artist who can afford to eat.

Depending on who you are and where you are in your life this may or may not be a big deal. It’s a big deal to me though. I left Corporate America back in the 90’s to raise a family. That was a huge life change for all of us. I was raised to have a career, not raise a family. While that choice meant great sacrifice for all of us, being there for our kids while they grew up made the sacrifice worth it. This sacrifice also allowed him the freedom – and motivation – to pursue his career and take it as far as he is able. He works amazingly hard and does well, and I’m very happy for him.

Contrary to some people’s belief that I am “basically retired and living a life of leisure,” I consider being a stay home mom a full-time commitment and a job in itself. I am by no stretch a Martha Stewart. There are many women who do far better at this domestic goddess role than I. This explains why even as a Mommy Blogger I rarely wrote about domestic things. So not my forte’.

On top of being a SAHM, I’ve spent the last 14 years volunteering throughout the community and in school, as well as continuing my education. I even held a few part-time positions when certain financial needs arose. Our oldest is a junior in college and our youngest is a senior in high school. They are wonderful well-adjusted young men and I am proud of them both. While I realize this isn’t the choice for everyone, we as a couple, made the right choice for our family.

This season is coming to an end and it is time to look forward to a new beginning.

With corporate a distant memory, I’ve chosen to gather together the things I do well such as speaking, writing, and art and start my own company. Jeff bought me a laptop three years ago and I’ve been a writing vagabond ever since. I take my computer with me where ever I go. This has been wonderful so far but is also constraining. I need my own space to breathe, write, and create.

Even if he is getting another room down stairs, giving me his music room is no small feat. This is a tangible act of love and faith. Being married to a man who not only believes in me, but follows up on that belief with action is priceless.

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. 

Let’s Talk About it: Why are you a ………

In yesterday’s post I commented that I choose to be a Christian because it works for me.

That comment both confused and upset a few people. I didn’t mean that nearly as flip or me-centric as it may have sounded. And I’m sure it does pose the inevitable question of “So if it stops working does that mean you’ll try something else?”  While that is a very fair question, the answer for me is no, I am not going to go somewhere else when this doesn’t seem to be working for me. It really isn’t about me, I’m home.

The problem is though – Christianity isn’t all I’ve ever known. So for me, it was a choice. Whether that faith came from God or was passed on by my Grandmother and other witnesses is not my point of discussion for right now. I’ll get to that later, I promise.

My question for you guys though is this:

What is your faith tradition. Why are you a _______________ (Fill in the blank)

 

This blog post written by Deana O’Hara for Confessions of a Spiritual Bulimic. September 8, 2010. All Rights Reserved.   This is a friendly place, please keep all of your comments and discussion respectful of others. As owner of this blog, please note that I reserve the right to delete all comments that are snarky and/or off topic.

Women of Faith: Tulsa Oklahoma, Imagine Tour

 Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Real Women

Real Life

Real Hope

I can still remember the day back in 2004, that my friend Rita stopped me in the hall, pointed to me and said, “YOU need to go to Women of Faith this year. It’ll change your life.” I seem to think I rolled my eyes at her and laughed. I was tired, beaten down with life and grief (I’d buried 10 friends that year), and frankly I was not in the mood for some churchy, happy, smiling faced, woman’s conference. I was falling apart and the last thing I wanted to do was sit around and listen to a bunch of women who had it all together tell me how great they are.  Don’t mind my pity party or self loathing – or the fact that I lived in constant comparison at that time – and always (in my opinion) fell short of everyone else – I was apparently enjoying it because I stayed there for an awefully long time. There is defeat brought on by life and there is the kind of defeat brought on by ourselves – I was losing hope.

The truth is, I was already secretly handing in my ministry resignation to God — going to a conference was not (in my opinion) going to fix me. I’d already convinced myself that I was too broken to be of any use anyway. Basically while I hadn’t given up on God, I had pretty much given up on myself – and thought he has too.

Ever been there?

Feeling smug in my ability to ignore my friend’s recommendation, I was not amused when I got a flier in the mail inviting me to a Women of Faith Conference in Oklahoma City.  Nor was I amused when a gal in my bible study announced that she was going and wanted someone to come with her and decided it would be me.

I’m a believer that God speaks through people. When I hear something once I might pay attention — but when the message comes to me three times in one week, I’ve learned to listen even when I have a broken heart.

I’ll never forget that first conference. I was introduced to wonderful teachers and speakers like Kathy Troccoli, Sheila Walsh, Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll, Thelma Wells, and Marilyn Meburg. I laughed. I cried. I learned and I leaned into Christ for two solid days. I had no idea Christian women could be so honest with eachother.  Chonda Pierce was even there – which is how I met her, but that is another story.

I knew then and there, if I only go to one conference a year WOF was it.  Every year, God breaks my heart open just a little bit more and makes room for His healing touch in my secret places. He fills my heart with scriptural truths, joy, and tears and faith in what He alone can accomplish.  This year was no different.

This year I got to go with a bunch of gals from my church who had never been before and since it was in Tulsa they thought “Why not.” — What a joy it was to be there with them, laugh and cry with them — and stretch out to God with open arms — knowing that He was reaching back. One of the gals even asked if it was always like this and when I said yes, she said “oh this is a no brainer, I’m coming back next year.”

How cool is that?

Women of Faith is totally Christ focused. It’s full of gifted communicators and teachers who share their life stories, and share a faith in Jesus that always leaves me astounded – and hungry for more. I love it.

I’ll give you a brief recap of the Imagine Tour and some of what we learned. If you want to know more about the speakers, just click on their names to go to their web pages.

Marcus Buckingham: In a world that mainly focuses on fixing what we’re weak at, author and speaker Marcus Buckingham offers a rather different paradigm. Marcus believes that our strengths are gifts from God and he suggests that we find what we are strong at, and grow in those areas.  Now I’ll be honest I reviewed Marcus’ book Find Your Strongest Life Now a few months back and I had a hard time reading through it at first. It’s a bit too technical for me. I read a page of credentials and my eyes start to roll back into my head, but that’s just me. Once I saw Marcus speak and explain his thoughts at WOF’s opening day, I gained new insight into what it means to use the gifts God has given us – not for ourselves – but in order to make a difference in the world.  Strongest Life is definitely one for the tool box. Marcus has put together an easy test that helps you find your strength categories. I’m a Creator/Teacher. If you’d like to take his simple test, simply click Strong Life Test.  and see for yourself. – and remember, this is just a tool — Our toolboxes are only as useful as the tools we place in them. I like adding things to mine.

 Lisa Harper: My first question is how did this wonderful bible teacher keep from being on my radar all these years.  I really like this woman. She’s bright, funny, intuitive, and scripturally sound –  I could relate to Lisa on almost every level. I say almost, because I haven’t lived through everything she has. But close. Lisa talks about a personal relationship with a God who is passionate, powerful, loving, and untamed. She speaks of a Hero in her life – named Jesus and what he has done and continues to do.  She speaks about the women in his life from Mary to Martha to the woman in rags, she speaks of His grace, forgiveness, attention and love that he displayed towards them and continues to display towards us today. My only regret was not taking notes — I really wish I’d done that.

Luci Swindoll: How do you describe a woman like Luci? She’s a painter, a singer, a liver and lover of life. She is passionate about everything she does and brilliant to boot. What I originally liked about Luci was her common sense approach to living out her Christian walk. She embraces the life God has given her and does her best to live it out to his glory and not her own. She’s a giver in every aspect of living. She spoke about the importance of feeding our souls – with important stuff, not stuff of the world, but stuff of God’s gifts to the world – she is also careful to remind us not to be selfish with that, but to share with others.

Sheila Walsh: Even though Sheila is second on the roster, I’m writing about her last. I cried my eyes out the first time I heard Sheila speak – her story is so profound and heartbreaking and refilling all at once that you can’t help but be moved by it. I’ve had a wonderful time watching Sheila grow over the last six years. She is a beautiful, anointed, and gifted teacher, singer and speaker. I can only describe this journey as watching her grow into her skin and be happy there. She’s British (or maybe Scottish, I’m not sure) and it’s easy to mistake the posture that comes with it as cold assurance – when in reality I find Sheila to have this tender heart that just melts anyone’s who knows her. She teaches with clarity and focus and apparent confidence. This year she taught on trust — she spoke of Gideon and Abraham – and to quote my girlfriend – she got “in my business.” and I love it. She has a very gentle and affirming way of combining Gospel and Law in life changing lessons. If you saw only her — it would still be worth the price of the entire weekend.

There were more speakers and skits and singers but it would take a whole week to write about them. They are all wonderful teachers and inspiring women who speak of a faithful and true God. If you’d like to know more about Women of Faith please see their web page at www.womenoffaith.com

Have a blessed Monday ya’ll

This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. Please note that no goods or services were exchanged for this blog post. I am simply sharing my personal opinion on valuable resource.

What if the pastor doesn’t like me? Can I still join?

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

 

I am a member today of a Lutheran Church in Oklahoma, very much a Christian and very much forgiven and beloved of God, but you know I didn’t always belong to a church.

Confession: I used to believe if the pastor didn’t like me, he (or she) wouldn’t let me belong to their church.

For you life long, church going, Christians out there, that probably comes as a shock. Shock or not, I really did believe that and acted accordingly. This false belief creates a serious dilemma. I want to be part of a faith community and this one man (or woman depending) stands (I believe) as a spokesperson for God; I’m going to have to perform and dance and lie through my teeth if I want to stay here. Not much different really than what I believed about God back then but I am ahead of myself.

My desire to belong mixed with the possibility of rejection, created a fear within me that was so strong that the presence of a pastor made my body shake.  And if they were wearing a death suit? (Black shirt and collar) I would hyperventilate. Nice hunh? yeah, I was a mess and a half. They call that idolatry – placing things or people in higher regard than God, but I didn’t know that. I just thought those were the rules. You are either in or you are out.

I used to try and hide my shaking by placing my right hand on the wall and my left hand on my hip. But then my knees would start to give and ….

To put it another way, my attempts to keep from falling off the planet, made me look like Mae West.

My physical shaking did not stop until about six years ago when I buried ten friends in twelve months. I was so devastated by my personal losses that I no longer cared if any of them liked me or not. They could all hang from a tree as far as I was concerned and like me or hate me I was here for the duration. I sat in church and cried for weeks on end, hanging on – not to their words, but to God himself.

Some faith communities require believing before belonging. Others allow a person to belong long before they really believe. Thankfully for me, by God’s Grace, we found such a community in Oklahoma.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Busted Stick Oklahoma is the very first church I ever belonged to in my entire life. Our family joined Trinity in 1993.  It was a strange set of circumstances that brought us there really. 1. My husband was raised Lutheran, therefore… 2. It was within walking distance from our house. 3. I was a young stay at home mom in a new town, thousands of miles from my old friends. I needed other women to be around and they had young mom’s there.

Not one of those logical to me reasons included my believing what they believed. I just needed to belong somewhere. I was lonely. I’m also ahead of my story here.

When I was a young girl, I tried to join churches. I would visit my grandmother in Buffalo NY and take the bus to this beautiful cathedral and just sit in awe. Back home in Michigan, I would attend festivals and youth group things at local churches and would secretly wish for more. Even though I didn’t belong to a faith community, and I didn’t know all of the fancy prayers those churches had, I knew God and I believed I knew him well and knew that he knew me.  We were best buds growing up. He was the one adult I could always talk to — and he’d listen. I liked that about him.

One day (1978) I went with my neighbors to hear Lisa Welchel (Blair from Fact’s of Life) speak at their church. There was something different about Lisa and while I didn’t understand it I knew it had something to do with Jesus and I wanted what she had. I went home that night and sat in my bed talking to God like I normally did. I told him about everything she said and how I wanted him to please – if it wasn’t too much to ask – do for me what he did for her.

(Edited to add: I had the awesome joy of meeting Lisa Welchel in 2008 when she spoke at E-Women in Tulsa. Lisa knows this story, is touched by it and allows me to share it. — I’m not name dropping here — Lisa was a teen just like me, I could relate to her and that is important)

That very week I walked to every church my little feet would carry me to and boldly sought out the pastors. Each time I’d tell them I want to learn about Jesus and could I join their church.  Every pastor said no.

The Lutheran Pastor said no.

The Catholic Priest said no.

The Baptist Pastor even said no.

My mom, who was seeking her own place to belong brought me with her to a community not far from town, asking if we could belong, and you know what? The Maharishi, said yes.

to be continued….