Posted in Ordinary Holiness

…for a stranger

Two years ago, I was lying with my neck resting in the crook of a shampoo bowl, and the stylist was noting how quickly my hair grows. We had just cut it short 5 weeks ago, and it was already in need of getting shaped back up. It hit me then that I get my hair cut off an inch or less at a time – many times a year. What if I didn’t? What if I just didn’t go in for a haircut for…a while? How long would this stuff get? And how long would it take?

I guess I knew right then that I would be growing it out to give it away. It just struck me as the most absurd thing that I have quick growing, thick hair I keep throwing away a little bit at a time, and there are others who have lost their hair who long for what I have. (I feel the same way about giving blood. My body just makes the stuff. It doesn’t cost me anything to make it. And other people need it, so sharing it makes simple sense.)

Growing out a short haircut with loads of layers wasn’t really fun, but once it got to be chin length, I went in and had it shaped nicely with some long layers that I could let grow out. I had a trim every 3 or 4 months to remove dead ends and shape it up a bit – always telling the stylist about my plan, so she would honor my desire to keep as much length as we could while still keeping it healthy.

My daughter has long, thick, strong hair, so I asked her about caring for it. She told me how to keep it healthy, and I stayed away from using heat on it most of the time, didn’t wash it every day, used a good conditioner, got hair ties that didn’t pull or damage.

And the most interesting feeling grew: I was a hair surrogate!

Now, I considered being a surrogate mother when I was younger. I loved pregnancy and delivery. My body did it well, recovered well from it, too. So, I really did consider it. That’s not how life worked out, though. I just never want anyone who reads this to think that I can for one minute equate growing my hair with growing a baby. Conceiving and growing a human with all the physical and emotional ramifications of that AND the process of handing that child to his/her parents? Absolutely no comparison to not getting a haircut.

Except in one way: I knew the whole time I was doing it for someone else.

  • When I was sick of it and wanted to cut it last summer, I thought about the child who would get the wig made of my hair. If I gave up, would she have to wait just a little longer?
  • When I felt like coloring it just for the fun of it, I remembered that Wigs for Kids only takes undyed hair.
  • When I thought about cutting it…and just starting again another year, I remembered that the rules require that only 25% of the hairs can be gray. I meet that standard right now, but likely not in the coming years.
  • When I wanted to straighten it, I considered the split ends and damage I was doing – and knew it might render my hair unusable if they have to trim off too much when they get it.
  • When I kind of liked the length, but really wanted some layers in it so styling would be more fun…you get the idea.

Another feeling grew, too. As I researched the various programs for giving your hair away, I learned a lot about the process. How the hair is boiled and bleached and prepped in lots of different ways, how it takes about 6 donations to make one wig, how Wigs for Kids puts the wig on the child and lets her get a haircut in the style she wants.

So, that meant my donation was reliant on 5 other people going through with the years of growing, caring, waiting…and then cutting and donating. I started wondering who they were. I wondered if they were tired of long hair, too. Or did they LOVE having it long, but chose to donate it because it was just the right thing to do. Were they planning it all along, like I was? Or were they like my friend, “Ginger of Luxurious, Strong, Straight Hair” who was at a huge gathering of Lutheran Youth in Detroit and plunked herself in the chair at the Donate Your Hair booth?

I felt connected to those 5 strangers as I grew my hair. And today,

as I walked in to Great Clips (that’s the company that donates to Wigs for Kids – and also, I am not a big spender on haircuts that I need ALL THE TIME), I wondered about my 5 hair-donation-siblings. Had they already sent in their donation? Was I the first of the 6 of us?

 

We put my hair in 5 twelve-inch ponytails, to keep as much length as possible for the donation. (Gathering it all into one ponytail would mean losing the length around my face for the donation and keeping hair I didn’t need for my new style.)

Then, she snipped each one off!

061117_2343_Surrogacy2.jpg

And…that’s the only time I will donate my hair.

 

But, I’m glad I did it.

 

Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Worship

Whenever I’m on vacation, I get to choose where to worship on Sunday morning. Sometimes, if I’m in town I worship in a nearby town at a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. Sometimes, I worship here in High Point at the Episcopal or United Methodist congregations near me. Last night, I wondered if I might drive the 75 minutes to worship with my parents.

But, this morning I woke up and sneezed my fool head off! Not sure if it was allergies or a cold, I decided not to bring a potential cold to a local congregation. And I’ve heard people tell me many, many times that they don’t go to church because they find God in nature, or they don’t like to be around lots of people, or…they watch a preacher on TV. Well, I don’t have regular television, but I do have the internet, so I decided to try worshiping at home today.

Now, my task list for today (besides worship) was to install a fence, plant 6 shrubs, and transplant a bunch of potted plants.

So, before the sun got too hot, I went out and started working on the fence. The work is always slow for me because I’m not adept at this kind of work. Inevitably, I forget I need (or can’t find) a tool. I spend a LOT of time measuring things many times, so I don’t screw something up. And…now that Roxy and Eleanor live here, it’s like working with a toddler under my feet!

As I set up my work, I thought about how in worship, we begin with confession and forgiveness. So, as I made my way around my shed just loaded with things that I use only occasionally, I confessed that I spend money on things I don’t really need, that my comfort and convenience get my money far more readily than a stranger with a hungry tummy or a sick child who needs medicine or a single mom who can’t pay her bills. And as I measured out where the fence posts would be and drove stakes into the ground, carving into the earth, digging up grass that had grown there, I confessed that my use of fossil fuels in my car and in the truck that delivers my Amazon Prime items means I am complicit in the call for more resources. And if those who are building dangerous and leaking pipelines (like the Dakota Access Pipeline) which threaten our water supply didn’t have customers like me, they wouldn’t be carving into the earth in dangerous ways. And as I knelt in the sun, my muscles already feeling weak with only a few minutes of work behind them, I confessed that I do not care for my body as I should. I do not move it and keep it strong, even when I know it is important and faithful.

Since I am the one who pronounces God’s forgiveness after our confession on a Sunday morning, I stood up and looked around my yard, thinking about declaring myself forgiven. Then a breeze picked up, blowing my hair across my face, and I knew just what to do. I walked over to the stone birdbath which rests on an old stump. It was shimmeringly full today because of the powerful rainstorm that blew through here last night. Reaching out my hand, I saw the dirt under my fingernails as I dipped my God-made fingers into that God-made water and smeared a barely muddy cross on my God-made forehead. And in that moment, I remembered that God didn’t make the cross; we did. God showed up to love us, and we fashioned him a cross for making us admit we weren’t loving each other well. And God did not punish us for such a savage thing. God forgave us. Because God is in the business of forgiving and never grows weary of forgiving me. This, I believe.

Because I am not physically strong, and because I get over-heated oddly easily, I committed myself to taking frequent breaks to come inside, cool off (lying on my tile floor is fantastic for that), drink lots of water, and remember to eat well.

On my first break, I decided to find a sermon. So, I scrolled through Facebook to find a friend’s church with a link to their service. I watched Facebook Live from Pilgrim Lutheran in Lexington, SC. And what do you know, the pastor said that we need the church, that Jesus prayed we would all be one…together. Even though it is inconvenient and frustrating and not always efficient – we need each other in order to be Christ’s church. On the day I decided to do church alone, the sermon I randomly chose to hear reminded me that I need the church, and the church needs me.

I spent the rest of the day in and out of the sun, working hard, resting, petting my dogs, telling my dogs to move out of the way, accomplishing an important task, and remembering that I’m a capable woman. The fence posts are in, and the fencing will go up tomorrow. I didn’t plant the shrubs because I called my dad for some advice, and the suggestion he made means waiting to plant the shrubs until we do some other work in that area.

I sang a little – because we always sing in worship.

I ate fresh strawberries and blueberries from my garden, and while it was not Holy Communion of bread and wine with my sisters and brothers in Christ, it absolutely was a provision from God growing right there in my backyard.

So, I had church on my own today. It was fine. But in 7 days, I get to worship with my beautiful congregation – and that’s better.

Scroll down if you want to see my very helpful dogs being very helpful.

First, I gathered my tools in my very professional construction bucket, and my assistant made sure everything smelled right.


 

…and tasted right.

 

 

Eleanor stood very, very close because it is helpful to have others very, very close when using a hammer.

 

 

Meanwhile, Roxy came over to laugh about how muddy her nose was.
Both girls kept me company while I worked by being very, very close. After all, nothing is more helpful than closeness while using tools.
I’m helping, Mom.  See how close I am? That’s how you know I’m helping.
Posted in Ordinary Holiness

Dear Evan Hansen

(Spoiler alert: not the whole plot, but some of it)

A few weeks ago, my friend, Shelly, introduced me to the new hit musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Not to be over-dramatic, but…it’s the most important piece of literature I have heard or read in a very long time.

When Shelly told me it was about suicide and depression and fitting in and lying, I thought, “Wow. Okay. This sounds like it will speak to me since my life story includes all of those things in some fashion or the other.” It also sounded hard, but Broadway musicals can make hard things accessible for me, so that evening, I said, “Alexa, play Dear Evan Hansen.” (Alexa is the voice-activated thingy my daughter got me, which does more than play music – but that’s about all I ever ask her to do.)

I listened and loved it. But, I couldn’t really make out the story line from just the songs, so I looked up the plot. Basically, Evan pretends to have been good friends with a classmate (Connor) who has just committed suicide. Evan ends up being invited into Connor’s family – each member of which grieves very differently. He becomes the son that Connor never was, and they become the parents that Evan never had. Evan’s dad left when he was 6 years old, and his sole-bread-winner single mother was always busy.

There is a song in which Evan’s mother (along with his girlfriend, Zoe, and his friend, Jared) sings about how much it hurts that Evan has so easily chosen a new family, one who can give him all the things she never could. So, we get to hear the pain in his mother’s voice as she angrily sings, “I’m sorry I had it rough, and I’m sorry I’m not enough. Thank God they rescued you!” (Here’s a video someone has created for this song.)

Well, Evan’s lies catch up to him and they begin to unravel. He knows he has no real excuse for the lies he’s spun – except sometimes you want something to be true, so you make it true.

And while Evan is trying to figure out what comes next, how to face the world after being caught in such grand lies, his mother sings the song So Big/So Small which begins by telling about the day his dad moved out. And how she felt so small. And how 6-year-old Evan asked if there would be another truck coming to take Mommy away, like the U-Haul that had taken Daddy that day.

Some of the lyrics of that song are:

I knew there would be moments that I would miss.

And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill.

And I knew I would come up short a million different ways.

And I did.

And I do.

And I will.

But…[just like when you were little, right now, and for the rest of my life], I will take your hand and say, “Your mom isn’t going anywhere. Your mom is staying right here. No matter what.”

And there I stood in my kitchen, up to my elbows in soapy dish water, shouting “Alexa! Pause!”

It was too much all at once. But, that’s the way it is with grief – you simply don’t know what will trigger it, what it will ask of you, or even what exactly you are grieving.

My second husband died two years ago. He died of depression; the way he died was suicide. So, I knew what to expect when I started listening to this musical about those who were left to live in the wake of suicide. I was not surprised that his sister isn’t all that sad or his father feels resentment. I was not surprised that someone pretended to have been great friends with someone who died. I was ready for all things death and grief and confusing emotions.

But, this musical is also about a single mother who tried to be a father, too. A single, hard-working woman who wanted to give her kids a more leisurely life, some of the nice things that money buys. This woman is terrified she will not be enough, and is watching her son prove her right by slipping so easily into another family.

Now, I need to explicitly say right here in public that I have a 23-year-old son who has been beautifully welcomed into the family and life of his fiancé. He has moved away from me, and has a new home. This is as it should be. I raised Micah to be brave and chase his dreams. He met his dream. Her name is Jenna. And her family lives in Baltimore. So, he has planted his life there, and I am grateful to God and to Jenna’s family for the warm and authentic way they have enfolded him.

Being a single mother to adult children is not the part of my single-motherhood that stopped me in the soapy tracks that night. It was the people in this picture. It was 33 year-old Jennifer holding onto her children for dear life. It was this Jennifer in this picture who sat in a Family Law courtroom trembling with the brightest fear she had ever felt – waiting for a stranger with a robe and gavel to decide how many days per month she got to live with her own children. And this Jennifer wondered how in the whole wide world she would be enough. How could she ever find enough time or money or confidence or experience to keep these two safe and nourished and exposed to the right people and questions and possibilities!?

And when it comes down to it, there are times when I was not enough, times I made some pretty lousy choices. But, I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed right there. No matter what. And I’m convinced that was the call on my life – and always will be.

And none of this happens in a vacuum. We single moms have villages who help in a million tiny ways. And the fundamental truth is the single mother in this picture only got through each next day because her parents had taken her 33-year-old hands and said, “Your parents aren’t going anywhere. Your parents are staying right here. No matter what.”

Posted in Ordinary Holiness, Whole 30

Day 20 – Whole 30

I’m staying with dear friends this weekend.

The dearest of friends.

The kind of friends you can call up and say, “Hey, when I come stay with you, I need to have a special diet.” And they say, “Okay! Just tell us what you need!” And they make Whole 30 compliant chili and fantastic egg/sausage cups…and you feel welcome and nourished and whole while you are in their home.

I pray you have such friends. I really do. Every single human deserves safe places inhabited by safe people with nourishing food, understanding hearts, and similar enough senses of humor that you can make each other laugh and laugh.

The “courage” bracelet I’m wearing in this picture arrived in the mail a couple years ago when my life was very dark, and it was hard to breathe. A woman I knew at a church I used to attend sent it to me. We weren’t great friends, but I liked her very much. She had heard that life was hard, and she thought to buy this bracelet and send it to me out of the blue.

I pray you have a friend like that.

I pray I am a friend like that.

15 years ago, I got divorced. It was so hard. Harder than anything in my life up to that point.

I bought myself a new ring to wear on the finger that had formerly worn a wedding ring. I haven’t been able to wear it in a long time because it hasn’t fit. This week, with slimmer, healthier, non-inflamed fingers, I slipped it back on…and I remembered how it felt all those years ago to buy a piece of jewelry for myself – with my favorite word on it: HOPE.

I pray you can be a friend to yourself.

I pray you can slip HOPE back on your finger, too.