Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hard to Handle

This much coffee is a sure sign I am not handling anything...

I want to talk about something chewy again.
Of course I do.
I chew on lots of stuff.
And when it bugs me...I have to get it out.
Like snake venom.
Or splinters.
Or spinach in my teeth.

How many times have you heard this phrase:

God will never give you more than you can handle.

I remember the first time that I heard it.
My older cousin had just died in a drunk driving accident.
Adults around me were dropping that phrase like it was the next diet craze.
And here's the thing....
that sweet little saying


How does it make sense
in this world
that God would never give you

a puny, 

more than YOU can handle?
It doesn't.
I often (ok....always) have more than I can handle.
I am prone to hyperbole but I am not exaggerating here.
I'm relatively safe in my western, entitled life.

And most days I still CANNOT EVEN.

So why is this a phrase that 
safe and comfortable western Christians 
want to throw around?
What is comforting to us about believing that 
dishes out exactly the right amount of pain
 that we can handle-


I recently read For the Love by the incredibly brave Jen Hatmaker.
Don't know her?
Fix that.
Tout suite.

thanks to Cooking with the Johnstons for the picture above.
For the Love.  Buy it!

For perspective on challenges I could be asked to 'handle',
 I try to place myself 
in the shoes of someone who has had 
terrible, awful events outside of their control
occur within their life.
It helps me put what is happening in my life into perspective.
I try to imagine 
how it must feel to have this phrase
 said to me when:
 my livelihood is eliminated
my sister is raped
my brother over-doses
my son starves 
my government is overthrown
my crops are burned 
my apartment is shelled
my school is unsafe
my water source  is contaminated
my body is diseased
my life is over

And every time I imagine it
my instinct is to curl up and die.
There is no comfort in this phrase.


We need to stop saying it.

In most cases
the perpetrators of evil are humans.
In others-there is no real blame.
Natural disasters happen.
People die.
It is the way of life.
God does not create tragic events
so that humans

can prove their ability to handle their shizz.


On instagram?  Follow @thejoywarrior  

It helps me remember that God 
didn't set up my life
so that I could dose myself with pain
in amounts that my tiny body could handle 
There is no way I was designed to handle this life alone.

So what is it about this phrase that keeps it in our toolkit?
For me, it's the independent behavior it validates.
I think we all know by now how much I love 
like I have my life together
and am handling it like a pro.

Look at me WINNING over here.
Not needing anything 
or anyone
because you know...
God has my playlist SET!
And whatever crap this life throws at me
it is my JOB to handle like a Boss.
(Which used to mean handle alone).

The thing is...I cannot handle my life.
Not alone.
Not without God.
from ibelieve

I am pretty sure that the 
really heavy, hard stuff in my life
is there so that I will eventually 
So that I will realize
that in order to deal
I need to reach for God.
So that I reach for the one 
who holds my soul closest
and in his hand.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Suburban Gardening-Decade in

My front porch in October.  

I'm tired of deep meaningful conversations.  
My therapist has me doing an intense weekly delve into my childhood trauma.  
Good work that needs to be done.

My country is in a state of turmoil.
My metaphorical neighbors are having a hard time loving each other.
Everyone wants to be right
and have that mean that the other guy is wrong.
I don't want to talk about that either.

This peony was given to me by my Grandmother...it is simultaneously loud and gracious, just like us.
My church is struggling to find a voice
that doesn't magically sooth every single perspective and member
and still stands for the poor, downtrodden, and dis-enfranchised.
you know...
like Jesus did.
I can't even talk about that.

So I'm going to post some pictures
and some yard tips
that should illustrate somewhat
how my yard is doing since I wrote that long ago post.
Hellebore beside my porch....sneaky winter flowers.

I was going to try and post side by side pictures.
But that got technical real quick.
And it is winter and all.
So I decided to post some shots of flowers in this over grown,
matured and well-loved
suburban yard.

When we moved in, our soil was literally rubble.
Left over from the build.
There were some plants in the tiny yard.
But they were haphazardly placed
and relatively unimaginative.
Daffodils in a sea of lime green Creeping Jenny

Here is a little of what I know about gardening in small spaces.....

1. Color and texture should be in every space of your garden.
Every damn space.
Don't forget to look high and low.
Yes, the space should flow but...
make little vignettes OFTEN.

I have two camellia plants in my yard-one is a fall bloomer, one is a winter bloomer.  
In addition to cut flowers, they look great in the yard,
provide foliage for Christmas crafts
and a place for birds to perch.
They are also NONBORING (helleri hollie..i'm looking at you)
backdrop for smaller shrubs and perennials.
They are distinct, add their own beauty AND allow other plants to shine.

C. japonica-the winter bloomer.

3.  Set a color palette and keep to it
By the front bed....Purple Heart, Loropetalum, Impatiens, Hydrangea, Creeping Jenny
This is the hardest one for me. 
Because I love them all...all the flowers.
All the time.
I have been mostly successful sticking to lime greens and hot pinks
 with a dash of purple or yellow thrown in.
It works for me.
If I am tempted in early spring or fall then I turn 
the back deck into a short term color wheel.
The perennials all fall into this color scheme and so prevent my chaotic, overplanted yard
from LOOKING chaotic or overplanted.

Annuals are like costume jewelry...made to overdo it.  
They won't last and you can never (rarely) have too many
 as long as you stick to a color palette.
Perennials are like precious jewelry.  
Invest in pieces you'll love forever.
Perennials are trees, bushes, and perennial flowering plants.
Carefully consider each purchase of these.

Also....you can't just plop a tree in the middle of the yard and expect to have a garden.
Here's an idea of the scale of plants you'll need:
For every tree, try to add at least 3 bushes.
For every bush, try to add at least 3 perennials (I prefer 5).
For every perennial, try to add at least 3 annuals.

If you keep to this rule, you'll have layers of height.
But in a small space, you also have to know how tall that tree is getting
and how wide that bush will be.
They're like baby lions...cute when they're little but they grow fast.
Pick well in small spaces....
Find an evergreen bush that also blooms and or bears fruit.
It is possible.
Get at least 3 seasons out of each perennial plant.
Spring flowers, summer shade, fall color and something interesting in the winter.
Beautyberry...worth every square inch of my garden that it takes up.

4.  Mix in beauty and usefulness
There is no reason that you can't have flowers and edible plants even in tiny spaces.
Mix them in together.
Buy dwarf varieties for pots and patios but also consider them in the yard.
Tomatoes are exotic and beautiful.
Lettuce can fill in for sprint annuals.
Kale and cabbage love to be with pansies.
We mix in veg with annuals often...but we also finally gave in
 and planted a side vegetable bed.
It is beautiful and functional.

Two views of our garden.....the first is late late summer-
pansies went in with the marigolds, 
tomatoes are done
greens and fall crops are planted
parsley and peppers are still kicking

This shot is very early spring.
Purple kale is huge
Carrots are ready to go anytime
pansies still peaking out
spring peas are climbing the trellis' on the sides
(we had to ring it with rabbit wire because the bunnies were eating us out of veg)

 We are a decade in.....once again life proves that in spite of 
concrete, runoff, poor drainage...LIFE WINS.
You can overcome any challenge as long as you keep trying
and you don't even have to try that hard.
Just keep at it, one pile of compost and one cup of water at a time.

This tiny garden is awesome and amazing.
It doesn't stop for elections, tax designations or denominational struggles.
It just keeps powering through.
And that is something to remember when you just can't even.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stop-Hammer Time!

Sometimes you just need to take a break from the real world.  
This is one of those times.  
My real world involves too much work, too many deadlines. 
Too much divisiveness.
So much hurt.

Sometimes all that hurt sparks an urge to create.

This feels like one of those times.
So after careful consideration 
(also known as unrelenting, unproductive conversation),
my family decided this would be the perfect time to remodel our downstairs.
We kind of had a plan.
But not really.

The front two rooms of our house currently look like the back room of the Goodwill.
Everything is stacked up so we can work on the living room and kitchen.
It is crazy making.
But oddly enough, it distracts me from the rest of the world 
which is also...
crazy making.

When we moved in, our house was only about a year old. 
Much had been left untouched.
The landscape which was one of the first things to fix 
and was discussed long ago in these pages.
That part is my jam.  
I can whip a surburban lawn into shape in no time.
In fact, our yard has grown and overgrown
itself several times since then.

The inside of our house was basically builder grade
with no changes.
The owner lived there a year but ultimately decided 
to move to a quieter street
in an adjoining neighborhood.

There was some unfortunate Laura Ashley wall paper.
But that is a mere memory.

We built a fence.
We painted some rooms.
Then came the precious second born child.

So there was a pause.
After the pause there was more painting.
We added a deck.
And a stone backsplash in the kitchen.
We fixed a bunch of stuff that the builders messed up.
Nonsexy stuff like moving the hot water tank out of the attic over our closet.
Replacing the crappy HVAC unit.
But we did stuff.

There are two projects that have bugged since I stepped through the door.
Fireplace in living room and master bathroom.
Both are huge and disruptive.
Not able to be completed in a weekend.

Today's install is a glimpse into what gutting the living room looks like.
It's mostly in pictures.
I couldn't possible begin to describe HOW we did this.
We barely know ourselves.


Ta-dah!  Behold the green marble and awkward cutout that must go

It's possible that you would not describe this as a monstrosity.
You are entitled to your opinion even when you are wrong.
Green marble surrounding a dangerous gas fireplace.
Strangely too-high cut out for a deep deep TV.
These 'features' were installed by builders who didn't actually try to sit on a couch and watch TV in this cutout.
Or watch their toddler shove their dogs tail into the exact place the flame would be if this was ever ignited.
Also...where is the mantel?
Who decided to frame this like a picture?
Or the top cutout like a window?

Well, sorry if you like them.
Now they are gone.
No one who knew them is missing them at all.

Here are pictures from demo day
We live in the south so we can have windows open in January

My shirt says 'Namaste Bitches'  

I am a small person...and this was dangerous.  But fun.

We hauled out the fireplace (and sold it on craigslist).
We took out all the molding.
and then we worked on reshaping.

It took a lot longer to get this done than any rational carpenter would think.
We'd never built custom cabinetry before.
We had never messed with drywall before.
We had rarely used a miter saw or a table saw before this.
But like all broke (and broken) people, we can do hard things!
And this was not easy..
Here it is coming along:

And here it is a few days (weeks) later.  Are you starting to see it?
My mother in law was convinced there was going to be a fish tank in here.
Long live the 70s!
There will be no fish tank.

Getting closer.....almost there

I spent New Year's Eve doing this:

So that the first day of 2017 could look like this:

Of course...Now I'm back to painting. 
This was just phase 1.
We had to paint the ceiling because we had to repair a crack.
And now we're painting the walls because this color is no longer working for me.
And then we will be replacing floors.
So the front rooms still look like the back room of the Good will.
But positive change is happening.
Even in all this mess.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Ok...it's not spring yet but I definitely want it to be...

Do you know what regifting is? 

Here are a couple of definitions:

or another:

I notice a few key points about a regifted item.  

  1. It was unwanted 
  2. It was given away in the hope that it would be wanted
  3. It is wrapped up and portrayed as though it is special and only for the new person

Keep these things in mind. 
The first person didn't want the gift..
they wanted it so little that they wanted to give it away.  
They disguised it so that someone else would want it.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.
When a recruiter gives you Godiva chocolate
and you KNOW that your step-sister adores
Godiva chocolate.
It's totally ok to give her that chocolate along with the rest of her Christmas gift.
Here's another example.
If someone gives you a mug that you like
and you don't have any room in your house for more mugs
but you know your neighbor was really needing some mugs
and that she will absolutely love this mug too
then regifting is the right move.
Feel righteous.
I do.

Q:  But when can regifting go wrong?

A:  When the thing you regift is something that you think is crap.

You should not be giving other people something that you think is worthless.

That is not a gift.

That is taking out the garbage.

Let's run a scenario.

Let's say that my father gave me a ring for my birthday.  
My father is sooo excited about this gift.
Every member of our family for 4 generations has worn a ring just like this ring.
This ring stands for our family, represents who we are.
This ring is worth A LOT of money.  
This ring is valuable and precious.
To my father at least.
And presumably to the other family members who have worn one like it.

When I look at this ring, all I can think is....
This ring is horrendous. 
It is the ugliest, 
least inviting, 
least appealing thing
that I have ever seen.  
Not only is it ugly and not my preferred style...
it is also something that would embarrass me to own.  
The mere ownership of this article makes me cringe.  
I have watched the members of my family wear this same type of ring my whole life.
I played with it as a child while I sat on my grandmother's lap.
I stared at while recovering from illness.
I was excited as a child to get to this point.
I was honored at the thought of being mature enough to earn this honor.
I actually love all of these rings...don't get any ideas friends

 But now as an adult, I feel differently.
Somewhere along the way
the honor and love that are inherent in this ring
disgust me or make me feel small.
i consider ways to make it more ME-
modernize it or update it.
Wear it with other rings.


No matter what I imagine or try 
this ring is still a piece of crap.
I would definitely never wear this ring.  

So what do I do with this thing that I don't think is valuable?

Funny you should ask....
my friend has a birthday coming up.
This person is my best friend.
I love this person more than I love myself.
When I cast about for what I could possibly give this person,
I realize that nothing feels appropriate.
This person is part of my family
closer to me than anyone else.
We have a bond and I've promised to keep them safe.
We've been through so much in such a short time
and I know that I can commit to standing by this person forever.
There is nothing dark or terrible about this person that I cannot rejoice in.
This person is everything that I wish I could be.

Original Art by me

I think about all the people who have felt that way towards me
my father who held me when I was sick
my grandmother who shelled peas with me
and I try to think about what they would do in this case.
I remember the ring and the tradition and the value that my family places on it.
After thinking about it for a while
I decide that this is what I should give to my best friend.
I can think of no greater tribute to this person
than giving them this ring
(that I think is ugly and that I wouldn't be caught dead in.)

Wait.  what?

I think that it is awful
and ugly
and never to be seen.
But somehow, in my mind
 my best friend will overcome
all these judgments that I have against this thing.
I am confident in this person's ability to transform 
anything ugly into something resplendent.

Sometimes you're hustling while doing the dirty business...

 I wrap it up in a new, beautiful package.
I make it look extra special.
And I deliver it to my friend.

My friend's eyes light up when the package is opened.
This is EXACTLY what my friend has always wanted.
This ring means we are family.
That we belong together.
My friend knows the details about this ring-the weight and the meaning behind it.
My friend believes that I am giving them something that I value and appreciate too.
The look on my friend's face is everything I've ever dreamed of seeing.
My friend puts on the ring and I feel something powerful.
Maybe it is possible
that I have done the next best thing 
to actually wearing that ring myself.
Maybe it was never intended for me
but was meant for my friend.
This person who is so magical and extra-specially special.
I will give this friend everything I've got.
Especially the crap.

magical thinking gets you every time
A few days (or years) pass.
My friend is still my friend 
the magic isn't as fresh as it was.
And my friend ALWAYS wears that ring.
and my friend LOVES that ring.
Simply adores it.

And the thing is....
that ring is still pretty horrendous in my eyes.
I wish the ring could be reworked
new stones or a fresh coat of metal maybe.
Anything but that same ring.
Plus...not only is it ugly but after all this time
it's beat up.
It's not even shiny anymore.

But my friend LOVES it.
When I suggest a replacement or a fix
my friend quickly rejects that idea.
This ring is beautiful and perfect.
dr. Laura is pretty right on...even when you wish she weren't

And I think...my friend is a total idiot.
No one could like this ring-much less LOVE it.
It becomes obvious to me that my friend is 
a poor judge of these things.
I will really need to get some advice from someone different.

And this is what happens every time you regift something that you think is crap.

Why does this ugly ass ring matter so much?

This is a metaphor I've been using lately for marriage.
More specifically, a metaphor for a challenge that I've seen in a lot of marriages-
including my own.

How many of us approached marriage as a way to belong?
How many of us showed up and said 
'I give you all of this, all of me, all my love'
while secretly thinking 
'who would want this pile of crap'?  

How many of us prayed that this person
this glorious, perfect-for-us person
 would never figure out that 
we are totally 
unlovable, uncool, unattractive, or not enough?

How many of us thought that being chosen, 
being loved unconditionally, 
being valuable to someone else....
would suddenly help us become valuable
to ourselves?

How many of us thought we would feel differently about that gift
(sub in your body, your heart, your family for gift in this metaphor)
 when we saw how happy it made that other person?

And how many of us eventually thought...
what an idiot that perfect-for-me person is
 for valuing me.
I'm just a worthless piece of crap and you're too stupid to see it.

Or another line in this magical thinking trail...
How many of us thought
the magic didn't work with THAT person 
so they must not be perfect-for-me.
Perfect-for-me is still out there.  
  Let me try it again with something or someone else.  
Maybe it will take this time.

How many of us gave the gift anyway?

Knowing that it wasn't a gift but was instead a pile of crap.

You can love someone else
exactly as much 
as you 

Stop giving the gift of crap.
Find what you truly love 
and know is priceless
and give that.

You are beloved.  Be a gift worth giving.  Or stop giving gifts....just give money.