Reflections on Lent Day 3 - Lost and Found
The fog bank hangs outside my window. There above the valley. I am fog bank high. This hill. It affords me such a view.
Writer friend Linda Grabman was kind enough to send me a few photocopied pages of the Lenten Study I wrote years ago that she keeps pulling out and rereading. She had highlighted and underlined portions and put stars over some paragraphs and pages. For this - she apologized. What she doesn't realize is that this is the supreme compliment that any writer can ever receive. When I go to signings for books that have been out a little while or someone comes up in line with copies of novels that I wrote years ago and they have been filled with page note finders, scrapes of paper, favorite passages highlighted in yellow, blue, green, pink - all these things justify my existence for being.
Hmmm, River, that sounds a bit dramatic.
'Tis not. 'Tis the way I feel.
That and being a young mother who gave birth to brothers who became my little wild wolf pack and roamed the world with me and then gave me another little wild wolf pack known collectively as - the Girls known as the Adorables - and the boys - known as the Charmings.
And being a sister, cousin, friend.
These things complete me. These things round out the edges of my humanity. But those underlined passages - they justify why I still live and breathe and move. Because I've been two things all my life since birth. A writer - of the southern variety. And, a mystic - of the Christian variety. Let's tackle that word in another post shall we?
The fog grows, becomes a thing, spreads beyond the limbs of trees, encroaching.
In the meantime - Yesterday, I woke up and decided flat out that I was going to embark on this Lenten 40 days of writing again and I promised it wouldn't be your Mother's Lenten study or mine. Meaning, I wouldn't try to redo or revisit or recreate what I had done before. When I saw all of those beautiful highlighted pages of Linda's I knew I wouldn't. Because they were very thoughtful. Connective. Prayerful. They offered a Contemplation, a Discussion, a prayer at the end. And, I don't promise to do - or not to do- any of those. I know I just promise daily to get up (or before I fall asleep on the road) write a reflection on the day at hand, to keep a stranger in my heart for that day and lift them up in prayer and to share those words with you which I hope will edify you in this season of your life where you are.
One of my greatest strengths when it comes to writing or sharing on things spiritual is I put them where the real road rises to meet us. I didn't originally know this was a strength until years have gone by and readers and editors and other writers have told me so. I've been tagged as genuine or 'the real deal' which I always attributed to my inability to put on airs. To pretend. A lack of social graces. But I've come down to one very, serious truth in my life. There is little time. Should we have a thousand years to live this life I might change my tune but we do not. In my consideration of my life, my relationships, my days and my words I think - there is little time. Why would we waste them on artifice? Why would we waste them pretending? Each moment is a crystal shining bright with the birth of new intent. I don't want to color that with pleasantries which serve no purpose.
I think this fog is becoming more than a simmer. It's forming into cloud. It's determined to be something. To turn to liquid.
Enter the guy at the store. I made a quick dash into a popular place to grab a few items I needed with a quickness. A very, friendly young man rushed to help me, pulled out a place for me to put my four items. I love this store that I will not name to keep his identity semi-private. He cheerfully asked what kind of day I was having. Just having surfaced from hours of food poisoning I told him I was having a great day. A really great day. Sometimes it takes getting knocked down to realize how great you feel just being normal. Then I put in my bank card which refused to process. He politely lets me know it's not processing. I draw a blank, say, no there's enough in there for these four things - bread, cheese, bananas, soup - I've got this. Then I realized I had turned my card off because I had misplaced it. Which caused me to say something exactly like, "OH I'm SO SORRY - I'M SO STUPID!" and I proceeded to tell him I'd misplaced my card and when I did I turned it 'off' until I could find it but of course now I had found it and I could turn it on again - which I did all of these things while I was explaining this to him so that it would work and I could check out.
To which HE BEGINS TO TELL ME HIS STORY.
"Don't worry. OH, NO don't say your stupid. You're not stupid! (I love his kindness that he has taken time to cheer me up and cheer me on.) I lose things all the time, he says. But then I find them. I'm constantly forgetting where I put things like my phone my card, my keys. I hooked a GPS on my keys to just help me find them."
"Well, thanks, I do that, too. My Mom! She is always fussing with me to stop losing this stuff and I tell her hey at my age - it's not gonna change. This is who I am." (This is a true thing with us. She tells me almost everyday how she just wishes I didn't lose things. And if I'd only put my keys in one place and leave them there. And so it goes.)
Then he adds, "Well, I've had a car accident and a steel plate in my head and then a brain tumor removed."
Ok, right about now is when I realize I may not have a GOOD excuse for what I have but that's totally ok with me now because my friend Shellie Rushing Tomlinson has the exact same problem which we discovered in a horrible and funny way on book tour when we were both constantly losing and finding EVERYTHING and I know what it's like to be fully understood in this area. It really is because I have a thousand colliding things going on in my mind - and my mind will stay that way until I'm dead and not buried under the ground because I am claustrophobic.
BACK TO THE GUY.
I say to him, "WELL, you have a really good reason for all this I'm just born this way."
BUT HE CONTINUES HE STORY - - -
"My girlfriend yells at me all the time about it and says I just don't focus and I just don't LISTEN and . . ." and right about then is when I shifted into some kind of truth-telling, no social graces, Lenten study Spiritual advising mode and said -
"Look Honey, you just need to get a new girlfriend cause you aren't changing.'
I don't always sound Southern and because I wear black on black with a side of black a lot I look more from New York than the deep south but when my honey's come sliding out of my mouth I'm as southern as a Friday night pick-up truck ride on a muddy back road.
He told me he really liked his girlfriend and I said something like Well, that's good and I'm sure you do but you aren't changing. Then he wished me a terrific night and I wished him a good life and went on my way. We parted laughing.
That fog has indeed formed a cloud, turned to rain, to wash away.
Now, here's the rub.
When I walked to my car I thought - well, it looks like I've found my stranger for the day. Because that was my Lenten promise to myself. That I'd say a silent prayer for a stranger again for the forty days of Lent. I still do that - sometimes. But I don't employ it as a daily practice the way I did for three years running. Then last night as I was watching Star Trek Discovery - Or maybe when it was over - I thought about that guy. And I was surprised about something that I had forgotten. Something I had known so very, well. That had become a part of me. That when you say a prayer for a stranger they imprint you. Like a strange creature in the forest opening it's eyes and seeing you and you make eye contact and it hangs. Suddenly, your level of caring shifts from barely perceptible to palatable. And, you don't ever forget them. Yes, it's a mystical thing.
I don't know that guys name. But I'll keep him in my prayers from time to time as he crosses my mind. When I was saying all those prayers for strangers the publisher asked me what I prayed for them. And asked me to write that prayer down if I could so they could make cards. When I think of that guy who I really think of as a kid as young as he is although he is a young man - I can't think of a better prayer than that. So I'll start there.
Do I think that kid should find a new girlfriend? Well, only time and that young man can answer that one. But I do know is that people should be respected, hopefully understood, and loved for who they are not who someone wants them to turn into.
Rain in due season. That's what I'd like to think. But we've had a lot of rain of late. The driveway turned to mud, the river rising and all that.
I've learned not to place my perceptions in the middle of a prayer. That praying for strangers is a delicate issue. But it's one that can hold simple universal truths. We learn to pray from the heart of our hearts. With a pure intention. For someone we've never seen before this day. We learn to hold something precious and holy. A life passing our life in this river we call life.
It is simply this. This prayer, this thing. Had I told that young man my prayer for him it would have been this.
Everyday I pray for a stranger. Today you stood out to me in a beautiful way. I pray that your burdens be lifted, your fears abated, and that your loves be protected. And that you will live and move and have your being in the presence of the Divine today and all the days of your life.
That's the kind of prayer I can bank on.
That rain has moved from the valley to my hill. To the house, to my windowsill. To wash clean my heart where it grows barnacles I feel. A rock of skepticism. A shell of indifference. A shadow of dark sorrow. A dark cloud that refuses to wear thin, to release, to dissipate. To break open to possibilities. To love.
Lent. It's a good season for reflection. 'Tis.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.