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.

Music Monday: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage with Bill Gaither

I’ve never heard this song before. It’s kind of a Blue Grass / Gospel mix. with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage and Bill Gaither.

Personal Note: When I was much younger (In my early 30’s) a sweet friend in my 12 step rooms introduced me to the Gaithers.  She would have me watch their videos and listen to their songs and write down everything I learned about the God of my understanding. — I actually had a God that I believed in back then, He was harsh, judgmental, and indifferent. He was absent in the big deals of my life (or so I believed at the time.) I find the Gaithers to be very uplifting, both in their music and in their overall message. Even though I’ve never met them, nor seen them live for that matter, they played (and continue to play) a rather large role in my Spiritual formation. They are coming to Tulsa on July 27 and this time, I plan to be there.

Thoughtful Thursdays: If you are cute and you know it, bat your eyes.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

I’ll be honest, some days I feel more like my old self than I do my new. Some days the old me emerges out of nowhere and I wonder if I’ve grown any at all. Thankfully, feelings aren’t facts.

The old me was really really cute, and man did she know how to work it. I still do and I hate it. As much as I hate how good I am at cute, there was a time when I hated being called out on it even more. And yet, I have a mentor, and a multitude of friends who when seeing my “cute self” try to push her way around, call me out on it. A lot. I am learning to appreciate that even if it hurts. That’s what happens when you hang out around 12 step rooms for too long. You learn to appreciate things you used to resent. – Like the truth. It took me a long time before I ever allowed people to tell me the truth. While I’m selective today about who gets to, I still allow it because I know I need it from time to time.

“I’m cute and I know how to work it!” Said no self-respecting woman, ever! —Tweet This

Playing cute is a lack of trust as well as a lack of respect both for ourselves and our victims.

My cute self got us in a butt load of trouble when I was younger. So much trouble in fact it cost me the respect of my co-workers, friends, and myself. What made me change? A man. An honest one at that.

Do you know what he said to me?

“Don’t get me wrong darlin, I love my wife. I just think we’d be good in bed together.”

I didn’t feel very cute after hearing those words come out of his mouth.  Actually, I never felt more alone, hurt, and ashamed in my life. My cute self had behaved us into a really nasty corner and I felt stuck.  I’d pursued him, if I’m being honest, under the guise of we work together, we should hang out. What’s the harm in that? Not that he wasn’t willing, ready and able, but I digress. Every time we hung out after work was at my invitation, never his. And we rarely hung out in a crowd, it was usually just us and a couple of beers.

My excuse at the time “I thought we were just buds. I never saw that coming, HE’s the jerk, not me.” — It took me a few weeks (okay years plus a few 12 steps, sponsors and finally a flat on my back moment of surrender) to stop lying to myself. Even though I wasn’t willing to admit it at the time, deep down, I didn’t want him to love his wife, I wanted him to love me. Now that the truth was out, I couldn’t lie, I couldn’t pretend and boy did it hurt.

The truth is, they always love their wives and you and I deserve better than meaningless table scraps. We deserve the whole banquet and yet due to moments of extreme stupidity, loneliness, lack of self-esteem or what ever you want to blame we are easily tempted to settle for so much less.

Instead of being the kind of woman that brings out the whole man, we play the cute little girl who can manipulate boys and nobody wins.

“I love my wife…” I heard these words more than two decades ago, and I have never forgotten them.  My life changed that night.

Yes, I turned him down. Just in case you were wondering. Not that it matters really. It still cost me my job eventually. I also cried for weeks. Cute stopped being fun. It stopped working. Cute wanted love, not a cheap one night stand with a married co-worker. I had to kick her to the curb if I was ever going to get what I really wanted and kick her to the curb I did.

The problem I have with Miss Cute Self is she likes to make an appearance every once in a while just to see if she’s still got it. That’s when my brain kicks in and tries to tell me that I will never change.

I have a news flash, my brain lies. For one thing the committee that meets are a bunch of drunks, misfits, co-dependents, floozies, and stone throwers. They are the nay-sayers of life and live to prove that I’ll wind up homeless and rejected tomorrow if I’m not careful. They like to wring their hands and show slides from the past. They like to try to prove that what tripped me up yesterday will surely trip me up today and I need to stay in my little cocoon and keep up my old tricks in order to survive.

Every time my brain rehearses the past to take away my present reality, I lose the chance to grow.  Committees are just dementiated liars. (I made that word up – my committee suffers from memory loss and warped perceptions of reality.) I don’t care how many times I hit replay on that DVR’d memory, it’s going to be foggy. Did I say this or that? What did they really say? When did that really happen? All I get are sound bites and nothing more. Just enough really to want to cling to my old habit, old hurts, old resentments, old anger, whatever.

I miss out on so much when I let the committee have its way with me. When I get lost in my mind as I’m prone to do, I need a referee. I need an advocate. I need Christ to take over and set things straight. Once I have that, I can ignore them when they call. Unlike my committee, God doesn’t keep score. I’m told in psalm 130 that he keeps no record of our sins.  I think that’s fantastic. He’s not some boogie man in the sky waiting to strike me dead or hold me to account for my past — he covered that with the cross.

There are still old habits, old behaviors, and old memories that trip me up from time to time even today. That doesn’t mean I haven’t changed or grown. It doesn’t mean I have to keep doing those things either. When I catch myself in an old behavior (or have an old behavior pointed out by a friend) I can choose to react and behave differently right this minute. Yep, I’m back to choices.

I have friends who believe in me enough to tell me the truth. Sometimes it’s a “yeah you, you so got this!” and sometimes it’s things like, grow up, quit being a victim, don’t manipulate me, and take responsibility for your choices.

I don’t have to crumble when someone points out something I know to be an old behavior surfacing. It’s not the end of the world. I don’t have to allow the committee to take over with their doctored evidence. I can own it, apologize and move on. And it’s over and done with. I love that.

Sometimes there are tears because it hurts. Hurts is okay. It means I’m alive. Allowing myself to be open enough to these friends is a good thing – and a somewhat new thing. Ken Davis said it well in his book Fully Alive, If you choose to move forward in your quest to live fully alive, you will fall, it will hurt…and it will be worth it.

I have friends who love me enough to help me kick her to the curb when they see her and I love that. I don’t need to be cute with them. I just need to be me.

Contrary to what the committee says, I don’t need my cute self in order to survive anymore nor do I have to stare at my past and believe I’m never going to change. I have changed and that is good news.

What old habits trip you up? Do you let them define your day? How do you change?

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.

Why Redemption’s Heart; Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Sometimes

………………..there are no good choices.

………………………Sometimes

……………………………..life throws us for a loop.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

2003 was just such a time.

The most interesting thing to me is while the year was stormy and my heart felt as if it had been broken into a million pieces, my walk with God has never been more intimate.

My journal that year reflects two prayers and only two.

  1. This hurts and I’m afraid.
  2. Teach me how to forgive.

In the midst of the storm, I lost sight of who I am. I allowed man to define my worth instead of God. Fortunately, God did not remain silent. We spent a lot of time unpacking Isaiah 43. So much so, it’s now my life verse in many ways.

  1. I don’t have to be afraid because God made me exactly as I am. I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been called by name. I am His. He is with me.
  2. Because He is God, my personal God, my Savior — we have a relationship. We have such an amazing relationship that he is willing to not only walk through the waters and fires of my daily life, his hand keeps them from overwhelming me. He paid a huge price for me. (John 3:16), He is willing to trade in the entire world just for me. Even though my earthly relationships suffer hardship, death, and sometimes rejection, my relationship with him is one of love and protection.
  3. He wants back every last one of us that bears his name, no matter where we travel or how far away from him we are — he searches for us and wants us back.
  4. We are created for His Glory. He personally formed each and every one of us. — This includes those who hurt us. Knowing who we are in Christ strengthens us. Knowing who you (or they as in my perceived enemies) are in Christ – teaches me mercy.

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Isaiah 43 – The Message

When You’re Between a Rock and a Hard Place

1-4 But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you. 5-7“So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.
I’ll round up all your scattered children,
pull them in from east and west.
I’ll send orders north and south:
‘Send them back.
Return my sons from distant lands,
my daughters from faraway places.
I want them back, every last one who bears my name,
every man, woman, and child
Whom I created for my glory,
yes, personally formed and made each one.'”

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What does it mean to live like you are forgiven?

Know the one who created you.

Don’t be afraid.

Trust him through the storms of life.

Show mercy to others.

Forgive.

What does Isaiah 43 say to you?