“Okay” Can Be a Comforting Prayer

BPyUYW1CIAA-IFqIn part of a passage I posted the other day by Anne Lamott she said that

“okay”

is one of the four great prayers.

o TN_handsigns_O

I wonder what the other three are?

I’d bet they are one worded – perhaps thanks. Amen would be kind of obvious. What about yes? or Hallelujah, or yipee or yahoo or agreed? That’s what amen means in terms of word roots I think. I’m fairly sure it just means “Yup, I think the same thing as you my old pal God the greatest.”

About a month ago my prayers were not close to being quite that amiable. “Greatest” is still not the first thing that pops in mind with how I am feeling about the heavenly host, but I’m starting to ease up on my internal sky rant which started out pretty much like this:

Are you *%@+&ing kidding me? What happened to that giant life plan that you and I mapped out and you were so generously CLEAR with your instructions about what you want me to do with my life? The hints you left were not random on this one. It wasn’t like the time I thought I could somehow make a career out of folding origami cranes and little paper frogs. That wasn’t very practical was it now? Did I try to figure out if that’s what you want. Well YES SIREE I did! I prayed, I journaled. I reflected. I went to mass and made the sons come along as well. I even started reading Anne Lamott books. I may not have gotten to my goal of making a thousand paper cranes, but I got good at that craft and hosted a couple of really fun workshops for kids and showed those little kidlets a good time. Did I whine and moan when I figured out that the want ads had nothing that said: “intensely reflective and fairly forgetful paper folder wanted to fold cute little animals out of beautiful asian paper squares” ? NO MA’AM! I kept on truckin’ and started out working on Masters degree #2 because the first one was not in big demand in the countryside where we were living. Was I bummed when it stopped working out for me to continue in that program. Well sure. It was really interesting and the career demand was going to be huge. And did I stop trying to figure out what you want? Hell’s bells no I didn’t. I dug up all of the Thomas Merton books that we own and got friendly with him again. And I found another hobby as instructed and spent hours and hours building that outdoor porch train track. Giving up that corner of our house that became my little prayer space was pretty damn hard to leave, but I did, DID I NOT? Our buddy Merton says keep reflecting not matter where and no matter what so when I discovered how ridiculously large the Mississippi river is compared to my serene corner on the great Ohio, THAT’S WHAT I DID DUDE! REFLECT, REFLECT, REFLECTED MY *#%…..

There’s more, but I’ll spare you the details. Consider that a prelude.handsigns_K

By the way, I know that I used both “he” and “she” words for God. I’m one of those people who feel like God is so big that gender kind of limits the whole point of divinity. And I get irked at continued references that imply that our collective imagination stopped at the image of a white guy with a big old beard being in charge of the universe. That’s kind of boring I think. And none of my grandfather’s look like that anyway. One was a motorcycle cop and the other a journalist with big thick eye glasses.

Anyway.

My dear friend sent me a beautiful gift after I called her to tell her what was upsetting me so greatly. Wait, no, She is the one that had called me first. I had sent a rapid fire set of text messages saying “ahhhhhhhhh” and “eeeeeeeeeeeeek” and “yowwwwwwwwww”! She knows me well and called and said “I’m calling to talk about the weather and want to know what you are making me for dinner.” So we had a great and funny conversation that was mostly a “not talking talk” about what I was upset about, but at the same time she got a basic run down on the scene.

Shortly after, a gift that she had promised came in the mail. I wasn’t expecting it quite so soon! The card that she sent with it had a cute front that talked about how God’s world is full of all that is good. On the inside though, the little bear was shaking her hands at the sky and saying “give me a *xyz#%ing break!”

So all of this to say is this….

yeah. I agree with Anne.

It took me a month or so, but the best prayer I can burp out at this point is “okay.”

And once I said okay, my load started to lighten. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry, but this particular situation is not one that I can afford to pout about for very long.

Some new realities have fallen into my lap that are complicating my plans to get through this Sign Language interpreting certification program, but thus far there is no reason to do anything other than continue to enjoy and get as far as I can in the courses.If some fine tuning needs to happen, then so be it – I’ll deal with it when that time comes.

I’ll say this though – and again, I won’t bore you with the details, but adjusting this quickly from a “BLEEP YOU” cosmic conversation to a kicking my shoe in the dirt and mumbling “okay” prayer stance is completely unheard of for me…pun intended. I hold grudges like a toddler who is unwilling to release a blanket during nap time.

And. I have fallen in love with my studies about a language and culture that surrounds and protects the lives of those who have less than perfect hearing. Somehow, some way though, I didn’t wait even a day this time before sounding the alarm bells to get help and comfort when I had a wrench thrown into my plans. I scattered out a few “hey friends, I’m freaking out” messages and predictably there were those that said “huh?” and those that said “got your back girl. Bring it on. You’ve got this thing. Don’t stop now.”

And the best part? Some of these people are new friends. I survived the three-year mark of relocation and am meeting and entrusting some really, really great people in my new world. I’m encountering people who are flies in my soup too…but I don’t care. This is not my first trip on the pumpkin wagon and I know to be careful to trust only those who gain my confidence. I hope that I have the sense to pay that back.

I don’t know that I need to read up on what the other three prayers are that Anne Lamott mentions. Saying “okay God” is comfort enough for now….gotta start somewhere.

(The top photo is mine and is morning sun on the Mississippi River which is now a favorite water way, second only to the Ohio.)

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Anne Lamott on Praying for Spiritual Signs

fallRecently I’ve been enjoying this song by Colbie Callait.

And, this morning I stumbled on an interesting Facebook Post from Anne Lamott. I think it fits with the month of remembrances and thanksgiving.

She wrote it on August 9, Just last summer.

I love the idea of God’s grace being available in an ATM.

Every morning these days, you have to ask yourself, What the hell IS it all about, Alfie? Or you pray for a sign that you absolutely cannot miss or misinterpret, the tiniest hint of direction and assurance.

Well? I got one.

It has been one of the worst week in years, and that’s saying something. You know exactly what I’m talking about, no matter how much you love your life and your pit crew; no matter how hard you strive to present a good face. It is so hard here. It’s like Old Yeller meets the Hunger Games; plus the parking is terrible.

Under the best circumstances, we are a nutty and sometimes violent species, on an extremely dangerous piece of land.

But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for a while, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.

The next morning, I took Lily’s beloved ne’er-do-well husband Bodhi for a walk. I adore him, but he has tiny mental issues, such as aggression, and having eaten entire chickens, and 24 muffins once. Then, too sad to stay at home without Lily, we went out for a bite.

After eating sandwiches in the car, we headed home. I was disoriented, and so far behind on my daily life, after a month of Lily in decline, that Sam frequently consults A Place for Mom online. But a block from home, I got that Holy Spirit nudge, a tug on my sleeve, which urged me, as it often does, “Stop.” It’s given up on nuance.

They say that when all else fails, follow instructions. The nudge on my heart said, “Go to your friend’s kid’s school.” So I said, “Okay,” the fourth great prayer.

My closest friend’s child, who has been through the ringer, the On Beyond Zebra ringer, starts kindergarten soon, but the friend has been on Total Fucking Overwhelm (TF0). She has not entirely gotten him enrolled, and the school’s website had conflicting info on how to do this. And, of course, no one is in the office, because it is August, which was one of the two biggest mistakes God made–August, and snakes. So we drove to the school.

There was one car in the parking lot and a woman climbing into it. Then some janitors ran into view and called to her–had she locked their lunches in the office? She had–Oops, to quote Rick Perry. So she got out, to unlock the office. I asked if I cd run along beside her, like a little dog, and ask a quick question. “Fire away!” she said. I told her about this boy, and asked all our main questions. She was so helpful. I thanked her, and asked if she worked in the office.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m the new principal.”

Of course she was the new principal, because God is such a show-off. Call this energy the Divine It, or Ed. Whatever works.

“Wow,” I said, bowing my head.

“Look,” she continued, “the easiest thing is probably for me to just give your friend my cell phone number.”

I said, “Okay,” on the verge of laughter and tears. “Thank you.”

Bodhi and I went home and called our friend. “You better sit down,” I told the mom. “I think we got some kind of Inbreaking.”

I told the mom my story, about how we’d somehow ended up at the Grace ATM, and how holy spirit had saved the day.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Or Lily.”

I gave her the new principal’s cell phone number. Then Bodhi and I went to read the new People, and took a nice morning nap, feeling a little bit better, which is a miracle.
from FB page Suspended Coffees

Forgiveness Friday: Sometimes It Takes Going Through the Roof

Maybe the reason that life puts pebbles in our shoes and smudge marks on our eyeglasses is that we are living in a cosmic comic strip with only five windows, and the last one always contains dialogue that says: “I can’t do this alone.”

I mentioned the other day that I wanted to find something to put on my desk as a tactile reminder that self-doubt will keep me from experiencing what someone described to me in a letter during last year’s Lent.

The letter says:

“God is present in all things and “everything is grace.”

I found a perfectly snarky reminder to continue this work of allowing myself to experience what is good and real, rather than to spend my whole day in repose due to my pebble injuries and blurred vision. Here is JerkFace in full glory.

Perfect if I do say so myself. What a snot, eh? The fellow at the store said “you can keep him at your desk and at least one of you will be relaxed.” Exactly. JerkFace hasn’t a care in the world, and is full of high falutin’ criticism, smack talk and derogatory sass.

The only problem with my find is that this little thing is so stinking cute and so me. This is the version of me that turns my family blue in the face. One of them told me in no uncertain terms just this morning:

“You just check out and we can’t even figure out

anything about you.”

It’s true. Much of the time I am enveloped by some sort of dark struggle, or recovering by way of a triple blanket bed cave with a book. Anne Lamott describes this need to give pain a full-fledged examination:

“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.”
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Thankfully, SweetCheeks, my desktop compass toward grace in the form of a desk decoration is much bigger than silly little JerkFace.

What would I do without my family who is willing to forgive me and call me in out of the rain time after time, cartoon strip after cartoon strip? Just like in this weekend’s Gospel story, they are always there the next day, ready to haul my sorry can to some new spot in the sand as the tides ebb and flow.

With absolutely no exception, this weekend’s Gospel story is my favorite. In the story

3 …four men tried to bring in a paralyzed man on a stretcher, 4 but could not reach Jesus because of the crowd. So, they removed the roof above Jesus, dug through the ceiling, and lowered the man.  (Mark 2)

Can you even imagine this? Oh come on, don’t be a jerkface, let go and imaaaaagine the drama of being that guy on the stretcher. Or the people underneath trying to follow the rules and wait in line, and then someone cuts in line by way of the roof?

I have a painting in my office made for me by an Appalachian artist name Charley Kinney. He made it for me when I told him that this healing story was my favorite gospel tale. At the bottom of the painting Charley wrote: “Christ healen peple.”

The drama of the story is epic, but what is transformative is the message.

Jesus says to the man:

9 “What’s easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk.’ 10 So you’ll know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins here and now,” Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and told him, 11 “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

That is faith.

That, is faith.

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had

a better past.”
Anne Lamott

Speed bump after speed bump, fall after fall, stupid pebble after stupid pebble, faith is the confidence that we are worthy of the tender care given to us in the oddest ways, day after day after day.

And then again, on another day.