14 October, 2019

Trust Me Preacher Lady

I love Laundry Love--and it's not because I love doing laundry and holding babies--both of which I love to and get to do when I'm there. No, it's because of the people, the people who minister to me every time. And if I'm totally honest, one in particular--Darren.

I met Darren 3 years ago. Boss had just arrived home from Montana. He went with me and also met Darren. But he didn't stay. It was a hard time for him and he just didn't want to be around people very much or for very long. We had planned to go to dinner afterwards, instead Darren ran across the street to his apartment and brought me some of his homemade bbque. "I know you'd rather go eat with your son," Darren told me, "but this is pretty good too. And trust me Preacher Lady, your boy is going to be alright."

Spring 2017 I was back at Laundry Love. Darren shows up. I begin helping him fold his clothes. "How's your boy?" he asks. I think I might have teared up a little bit. "He's having a hard time right now," I responded. "Trust me Preacher Lady," Darren said as he nudged me, "Your boy is going to be alright." (Thanks to that comment I didn't ball up and destroy the SEVEN Florida Gator t-shirts I was helping him to fold.)

Darren and I have seen each other at least 1/2 dozen times since then. Every time we talk football smack and EVERY TIME he asks about "my boy." EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

That may not seem like a big deal to some, but it was and is HUGE for me. Some of my closest "friends" stopped asking about Boss a long time ago--others stopped talking to me--others spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to avoid me. But not Darren. Darren asks. Darren cares. Darren doesn’t judge. Darren just has faith. Darren just loves.

Last Thursday I was at Laundry Love and no Darren. I had a great time but was disappointed. Have no fear! Seven forty five (we end at 8) in walks Darren. We hugged each other as he said, "I don't have any laundry tonight, but I was looking out my window and saw you so had to run over here. How's your boy?" I know my smile could have lit up the laundromat if the power went out. "He's great!" I told him. "Living back here in Louisville and working. I get to see him and he calls or texts me every morning. He's awesome." Darren just smiled, gave me a wink and said, "See I told you to trust me. I knew he was going to be alright; I never doubted it from the day I met him. Just got to have a little faith." Then he gave me a big hug and said, "And here you're the Preacher Lady."

Darren walked me to my car as we closed up ("No one's going to mess with you if I'm around," he
told me.) He hugged me again, opened my door and I slid in with a heart exploding with love for this man and his faith.

Then, Darren knocked on the window. I rolled it down. "Go Gators!" he yelled.

Well mostly love....

18 September, 2019

John Prine, Hope, and Maybe Healing

It's been an adventure for our children Growing up Doyle. I'd like to think most of the time it's been an adventure full of love and laughter and fun. Actually I'd like to think that's all it's been, but I'd also like to believe fairies will keep my house clean and my yard pristine....

The truth? We have had many years full of love and laughter and fun; we have also had times of deep heart break and pain. I have been asked through the years, "How did you make sure your children developed such close relationships?" And even though inside I was bursting with pride, I would answer, "I have no idea." And that really is the truth---I have no idea, and the pride part--well you know "pride goeth before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) 

Are my children close? Yes. Is it because of something Chris and I did? Maybe a little, but you know who did a lot (other than the children themselves)? John Prine...let me explain.

The night I met Chris, he introduced me to the music of John Prine. He grew up listening to it, and I loved it immediately. The night I flipped out studying for my GOE's 6 months before we got married, my best friend, instead of siding with my neurosis I might add, named it, and through the years, the music of John Prine and God have played starring roles in the family life of the Chris Doyles--sometimes at the same time. (Hearing God--Sometimes in the Voice of John Prine)

From that July evening when I put the GOE's on hold, to our wedding (where we wanted to dance to Inspite of Ourselves" as our song, but I knew good and well my mother would NEVER allow that...but it's still our official song), to potty training Boss with Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings, to sermons I have preached using lyrics from many songs particularly lyrics from "Tree of Forgiveness," but seriously that man's music will preach, to SK's tattoo of lyrics from "Spanish Pipedream" in her Daddy's handwriting this summer (confession--two weeks later we gave her a tv), to tonight, John Prine's music has lived in our lives--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The last few years have been really hard with lots of heartache and heartbreak. They're different you know. Heartache comes from the natural process of life--growing up and leaving home, finding new loves, moving on with young adult lives that are busy--read, no longer texting or calling your mother every day. That heartache is surrounded by a cushion of love and pride--knowing this is the way it should be and being thankful even when it's hard.

Heartbreak, however, comes when people make choices and respond to choices in different ways. Heartbreak comes when relationships begin to fracture and try as I might, this Mama has to learn to let go--to let young adult children figure out their own way with me and with each other, and realizing it might not end like a Hallmark movie.

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between heartache and heartbreak, but these past few years have given me lots of practice...

Tonight I am heading to Red Rocks Amphitheatre to hear  the man, the myth, the legend. To say the rest of the family is jealous, doesn't even touch it--not only do I get to go to Red Rocks (for the second night in a row let me add) something that is on many's bucket list, but I get to hear John Prine live with the Colorado Symphony. But here's what I love about this family--despite the fact they all want to be here, they are also so happy I get to--every one of them.

Here's something else--the only family text that all have responded to in the last 6 months has been about this concert---has been about the music of John Prine.

I don't know what the future is for all of our relationships (Thanksgiving may tell us that); I don't know how fractured relationships will mend and change, or not, but I know that tonight I will stand and sing the words to every song; I will take pictures and videos; and I will be carrying five other hearts in mine. I will be carrying their hearts and a whole lot of hope.

When he sings "Summer's End" I will cry--I know I will, and I will send it to all four children reminding them they can always "come on home" when they need to.

Thank you Christy Beesley for making this happen--you have no idea what it means to me.

26 August, 2019

Dogs and Redemptive Love

I just wanted to walk down the beach and slap the pier--well, that's not really true. I wanted to run down the beach and slap the pier. But since I'm 4 1/2 months post total knee replacement, I had almost resigned myself with that not happening.

Eleven weeks ago we came to the beach during my recovery. I had just been told I could stop using my cane, but I had also been told to be very careful--to not walk much on the beach as it is unstable--so basically I was told walk down to the beach and then just sit. It was not an easy week. So this week was very important to me. It was going to be a redemptive week.

Off the dogs and I went at a fast pace. We got to the pier, and I slapped the fire out of it. I slapped it as a sign of victory and accomplishment, and I slapped it out of frustration and pain. And it felt good.

We turned and began the 2.27 miles back. (Told you I've done this many many times) Bobby was not keeping up. I'd turn around slightly and encourage him, but he was falling further and further behind. I was getting more and more frustrated. I wanted to keep my pace fast and consistent. He was totally ruining it. I decided I would just keep walking and when I got to the path back to the house I'd wait on him.

I got to the path, turned around, and I could see Bobby NOWHERE! I began to panic--how was I going to go back in the house and tell Caroline I had lost her dog. I suddenly knew well the panic Chris felt when he lost William at the Pirates game--possibly a slight exaggeration.

I started walking back to the beach frantically wishing my hysteria away. A half a mile back I found him. My relief was instantaneous and then I was completely irritated. Now not only does he bark at everyone as though he owns the beach, but he also can't keep up. He was ruining everything. My plan had been to walk to the pier EVERY day. Clearly this was not going to be possible for Bobby, and the dogs and I have a routine. There was no way I was going to be able to bring Winnie down and not Bobby. I mean I could, but then Bobby would bark non-stop and wake Caroline. My fear of that far surpassed my fear of losing him.

I'll admit it--I began to pout. And I continued to pout all morning and well into the afternoon. I complained to The Babies non-stop. They kept saying I could just try to leave him on the porch; I wouldn't hear or consider it; there's a possibility I was enjoying the pout.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I would send him home with William on Thursday and board him for the weekend. The week could possibly be saved. It was the perfect plan and it was made even more perfect when the vet just happened to call for another reason and just happened to have a cancellation that very day! Surely this was God at work!!

That evening I walked with the dogs down to the beach again. (My feathers weren't ruffled anymore and I had a plan...plus it is not tradition to walk to the pier in the evening.) As I was heading back to the house I turned around to check on the dogs. Winnie was waiting patiently for Bobby and suddenly I felt lower than a snake's belly in a rut.

I thought about June....

The dogs wanted to run. The dogs wanted the routine we have had for years. The dogs were confused. The dogs stayed with me. The dogs adapted. The dogs loved unconditionally.
And I forgot.

I forgot or maybe I just didn't care. It was about me--both in June and now. In June I needed love, care and comfort; the dogs provided it. This week I needed/wanted to prove myself (to whom I have no idea--I guess myself--darn I hate when I realize how selfish I am); Bobby was in my way. I was perfectly willing to cast him aside and to justify it by faith.

Bobby stayed. We made one more much slower walk to the pier and back. Bobby barked at everyone we saw. And it was okay.

I was reminded of community--of caring for one another. I was reminded that justifying selfish acts with faith is just, well it's just plain wrong. And yet it's so easy to do. I was reminded that in relationships we give and we take; we adjust so we can remain in relationship.

I was reminded of and received the power of redemptive love.

27 July, 2019

The Newspaper Fairies Nextdoor

Shortly after I had knee replacement I decided I wanted to read the
paper. (Yes we still get the printed paper and yes it is a continued conversation in our house, but as my dear friend Ethan says about why he still gets it, "I like to hold it, and I like the way it smells." We are newspaper kindred spirits.) Anyway....

I wanted to read it, and I wanted to read it right then, not when there was a family member around to go out to the driveway and get it for me. (I'm kind of hard headed.) So I got my walker (stop laughing) and moved to the front door knowing full well getting down even those two steps was going to be hard and probably stupid. I opened the front door and lo and behold, there it was right smack dab in the middle of the door mat. All I had to do was bend down and pick it up. I was overjoyed!

The next morning when I moved to the front door, there it was again. And the next day, again the newspaper was there. "I wonder," I thought to myself, "Why the newspaper delivery person has started putting newspapers on our front porches? It doesn't always get right to the mat, but it's still there." I didn't think about it for long. First I was on painkillers so no thought lasted long or was logical, and second I was just thrilled I didn't have to maneuver the walker and my body down the stairs and across our desperately in need of fixing bricks broken front walk.

One morning as I moved to the front door I saw my beautiful young next door neighbor skipping up the walk swinging the paper in her hand (the daughter not the mother...although the mother is also beautiful and young). She tossed it on the mat and skipped back to the car to head off to school.
My eyes filled with tears as my heart filled with joy--and no it wasn't the pain medicine.

The next morning I watched again as the younger sister picked up the paper. She cautiously moved up our walk. She stopped about midway and with all her strength and a determined grimace on her face, threw the paper onto the porch. It didn't make the mat, but it cleared all the steps. I laughed out loud at the look on her face and the speed with which she turned and ran back to the car not looking back.

This became a daily source of joy for me--watching the girls get to the paper, figure out whose turn it was, and delivering the paper. Sometimes it looked like they were trying to do it covertly and sometimes they sang and skipped as they approached the porch--granted they are under double digits so perhaps they still thought they were being secretive.

One morning a friend of mine arrived early to take me to PT and brought me the paper. "No!" I shrieked, "Put it back." While he looked at me like I had lost my mind, he also took in the cane in my hand that I'm sure he realized I could use as a club if I so chose, so he hurriedly returned the paper to the end of the driveway. I explained to him why I had acted like a lunatic in that moment (he's still waiting for explanations for all the other times) sharing the joy it brought me each morning watching the girls from behind the curtains of my house. (Now you're picturing Mrs. Kravitz....)

Just to be fair to the story and also to permanently delete the picture in your head of two girls with rainbows over their heads and colorful stars shooting out from their heels as they skipped towards my house with halos over their heads and an hallelujah chorus echoing through the heavens, there were times they had obviously forgotten whose turn it was and there were some minor scuffles. There was also the time they held it between them, swinging it as they brought it together tossing it together. (The older one did then run up to make sure it was on the mat--typical first child!)

Once I was able to stand for a period of time, I baked a batch of cookies and took it next door to thank the girls. So now they know I know or maybe they've forgotten--they are young. I am now perfectly capable of walking to the end of the driveway without any fear to get the paper, but I don't. They still bring the paper to the porch each day. Now that it's summer, it's not always early in the morning. In fact, sometimes it's not until late afternoon, but I wait. And I insist everyone else does too. There are some days I have gone to work and probably already heard the news from NPR before the paper is delivered to my porch. But when I drive up and see it waiting there for me, I always smile and my heart sings (You are so lucky it's my heart singing and not my voice.) and I read it even already knowing most of the news.

Last night I sat reading the paper (even the obituaries which Caroline finds very creepy) and thought about all the negative news--the despair, the angst, the vitriol, the let's name it--evil and I thought about my newspaper fairies. Despite all the negative in the world, those two young girls and their gift to me reminds me of the goodness of people and it gives me hope.

I was reminded that in this world where there is so much brokenness and despair, but there is also goodness. These young girls reminded me to take a step back, to stop being overwhelmed and to live the words of Edward Everett Hale, an American author and Unitarian clergy man of the 19th century, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."

There will come a day when the thrill of delivering the crazy lady next door's newspaper no longer exists--I mean I'm sure when they're 16 and leaving for school they'll be two bleary eyed--but I will never forget these months and the joy and hope it brought to me. I will never forget they did something, and so can I.

Isaiah 11:6b "and a little child shall lead them."

23 July, 2019

The Belt of Hope--Or Not

In the fall of 1996 I bought a needlepoint belt canvas--my first. It
was a U of L design, and I wanted to make it for Chris. This of course was BEFORE I knew he would root against UVA even though both his wife and daughter, not to mention multiple in-laws, attended UVA. (And may I add he did NOT attend U of L)


When I bought the belt Sarah Katherine was just over a year old, in no time at all, three more children  joined the family, and I decided I would rather spend my time smocking and making heirloom dresses and christening gowns while the children were still young enough to wear them. (They will argue it went on far too long, but that's an issue they can take up with a therapist.)

Also it's not fair to say I never worked on it. There were many Cousins Weekends when I would pull it out and stitch away--of course the next year I was in the same spot...whatever! It was a constant joke among us--so while Chris didn't get a belt, we all had great laughs. (Or maybe they were just laughing at me..)

Seventeen years later the belt was finished--there was great rejoicing from All Saints camp to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Since then I have made multiple belts, but that belt--that belt was special.

So back to the story.

In June Christopher borrowed that belt for a funeral. We haven't seen it since.

Yesterday was not a good day--not at all. I woke up with anger and hurt from an incident the day before with my girls. I was trying to write a sermon to be preached that afternoon at the funeral of an amazing man who died far too soon. A man who could make me laugh and who loved me despite my flaws--the greatest of which he believed was my love for Georgia football. I didn't want to write this sermon, preach this sermon, or frankly even be at the funeral. I didn't want to be out of bed...

I dilly dallied around finding all kinds of "important" tasks to do. The hands of the clock moved far too fast--mocking me. My stomach hurt--a pain I've had for weeks. I realized I was truly being Martha from Sunday's gospel--distracted by many things. I realized I was staying busy, bustling around to keep my feelings far away--all my feelings--feelings that have been building all summer and that I have successfully ignored. Before long, despite my valiant attempts to avoid the inevitable, the time came to get in the shower and get ready.

After I finished showering, I opened the shower door and yanked the towel of the towel rack, and then I froze. There was a belt hanging there, but it was not THE belt. I want THE belt--the first one I ever made, the one Chris loved the best, the one that was borrowed without permission, the one that was carelessly lost, the one that in that moment I believed could solve everything if I could just find it. It could take away all the pain of suicides and addictions and mental health and deaths that come too soon. If I just had THE belt it could fix everything--except I can't find it and even if I could I know it can't fix everything or really anything.

With no warning my body began to shake uncontrollably, I slid down the shower wall and began to howl like a trapped animal, sobs racking my body. Yes I was sad, a sadness that feels like it has taken up permanent residence in my soul, but I was also filled with rage--a rage that to be honest, scared me.

I don't know how long I sat there. When I thought I could cry no more, I stood up on still shaking legs, and I remembered the only other time I have cried that hard and with that much pain--it was 9 years ago (The Death and Resurrection of My Family). I smiled a little--smirked may be more like it--as I remembered. Because what I knew was, as painful as that time had been, as hard as it had been, now in its place is peace and love--with the typical family angst thrown in--just being real. Nonetheless, remembering that time and the resurrection that came, gives me hope for the present.

I remembered again as I celebrated the Eucharist at my friend's funeral--as I said the words "Do this in remembrance of me" I felt the hope--the hope of resurrection. Resurrection that comes from even the darkest most hard to reach places.

I'm not going to tie this up with pretty bow--I was still filled with rage and shaking (try putting on mascara with shaking hands) I am still angry, hurt, and scared. No rainbows suddenly appeared over our house. No small woodland animals flitted in to sing and help me dress--instead, there was my daily reading mocking me, a good friend attempting to comfort me but instead laughing at me (and I was okay with that), another good friend being introduced to the real me that I described as "a foul mouth, pearl wearing, monogram everything priest." (She messaged back she already knew that about me and likes me anyway.) I still had to bury my friend--and he will mock me forever as a ribbon from a floral arrangement on the casket has found a permanent home in my prayer book.

There were no rainbows and woodland animals, but there was the presence of God found in texts, and readings, and flowers and Piggly Wiggly peanut butter and babies and people and writing. Oh there is still anger and sorrow, and I desperately wish I knew how long this was going to last.

But nonetheless, there is hope--no matter how small--there is always hope.

And I still really really really want the belt back.

11 July, 2019

I Just Want My Stain Stick Back

I am the stain master--or rather I used to be.  
Got that white shirt completely spotless!

There wasn't a stain I couldn't get out. We lived on a cul-de-sac and I was known as the stain master. One Saturday before Easter, Sarah Katherine went with the neighbors to an Easter egg hunt. They were horrified at the red kool-aid down the front of her Easter bunny smocked dress. "No problem," I told them. And it wasn't--by the next afternoon the dress was washed, ironed and hanging back in the closet. The truth is it wasn't hard. Every night while the children played in the bath, I sat on the floor and rubbed stain stick on all the Georgia clay, red juice, grass stains, ketchup, mustard, chocolate--you get the picture. Then I'd toss the clothes in the hamper where they'd sit until I washed them.

For really tough stains I soaked them in a bucket with oxy clean sometimes for over a week. I never failed--NEVER.

Four weeks ago Caroline came home from her job at camp with some mud stains on her khaki shorts. No problem--now I was pretty sure I had to jump straight to the tough stain routine. I soaked them for 24 hours, washed and voila--or rather not voila--still stained. So I put them back in for another soak (without drying them...that would be a disaster) and let them sit for a week. Pulled them out, washed them, and---ugh! The stain was still there!

So off to Kroger I go. Clearly I should have followed the steps of the past--first the stain stick and THEN the oxy clean soak. I wandered up and down the laundry aisle. I could not believe my eyes--there was NO stain stick. None, nadda, nothing, nope, not there. There wasn't even a label where the round, green and red stain stick should be. I texted SK--"I don't think they make stain stick anymore." She replied, "OH NO!!" (She totally gets it--love that girl!) I am not exaggerating when I say I felt slightly sick to my stomach.

I got home and googled stain stick--you're not going to believe this, some rectangular thingy majig came up. Then I went to amazon. Surely they would have it. They said they did---YIPEE! Thank goodness for amazon prime--the next day I gleefully opened the package only to discover THEY LIED!! It was that rectangular thingy that said "Spray and Wash." And for the record, it doesn't work.

These shorts were ruined and my stain removal run was over--I could no longer guarantee I could keep my family's clothes stain free.

I really was sad, and then I started thinking. I can no longer keep all their clothes clean--I no longer have the tools I had, the tool of which I was in control. They are going to have clothes with stains on them and there's nothing I can do about it. I can no longer keep their world stain and wrinkle free.

It's a lot like rearing them. It used to be so easy to keep their world happy and carefree--no stains, no wrinkles. No permanent spots. I was in control. I made the decisions, and I got to erase the "mistakes" they made. That didn't last long...

Now I have to sit back and watch. I have to see them taking risks, trying new things, messing up sometimes and I can't stop it or fix it. I have to see that some choices they make could leave lasting stains--some things they may then discard and move on, but other stains may stay with them forever.

But here's something I do know, here's something that most days I can fully trust. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) In ALL things--the stainless and the stained. God doesn't cause the stains, but God can bring good through them. Even the toughest, ugliest, dirtiest stains can be made new through God.

The disciples asked Jesus, "Who then can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:25-26) 

I'm not in control--truth is I never was (shh don't say that too loudly I still like to live in my fantasy world sometimes), but God is.

But I do still miss my stain stick....

25 June, 2019

A Sermon for Maddie

I think I can safely say and be 100% accurate that not one of us planned on being here this Monday
morning. I think it's probably also very accurate no one wants to be here. I don't think Maddie wanted us to have to be here. And yet here we are surrounding her family with our love and prayers as they begin the journey of the unimaginable. We don't want to be here, they don't want to be here. The journey has begun; the journey that we all can only travel because the power of God working within us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

Our liturgy today is an Easter liturgy. It is the liturgy of the resurrection remembering and celebrating that God came, lived and died for us so that we would have eternal life. God has conquered death and we know Maddie now rests in the loving arms of God. Maddie is finally at peace. But we also hurt. Our hearts are troubled even though as the Gospel tells us there is a place for us all, a place where Maddie now is, a place with many rooms, which let's be honest is a good thing because Maddie would rather move to another room than clean up the one she's in.

Our hearts are troubled because while we know Maddie is at peace and in God's loving arms we want her here with us. Our arms ache to hold her. God knows that. God understands that. God weeps and grieves with us while at the same time he lovingly holds Maddie.

God loves us completely, fully, unconditionally. God loves ALL of us no exceptions. That's how Maddie loved. Look around today and you can see that unconditional love. People are gathered here --people who may otherwise never cross paths--Maddie brought people together. And we loved Maddie. God loves Maddie and God loves each of us. Sometimes you may not feel that, you may feel so distant from God, and that's okay. Feel our love--let us wrap our arms around you and be the hands and feet of Christ here in the flesh. Let us be the love of God for you.

God loves us so very much that God came to live among us and to journey to the cross and beyond for us. Jesus lived a short 33 years, but during that time he too felt deep pain. He felt the pain of the betrayal of his friends, those he thought knew and loved him most. He felt unbearable grief at the grave of his friend. Jesus felt loneliness, betrayal, and fear. He cried out to God in his anguish expressing how he felt forsaken even by God. God understands the darkness that can overtake us.

There is nothing God desires more for us than complete and total wholeness. God desires that we all live into the people God created us to be--complete and whole. God journeys with us on our journey towards that wholeness beginning at our baptism and continuing until we are united with God for all of eternity. For some the journey is a long one and for others it is much shorter. Maddie's journey began here at her baptism and, for us, her journey was far too short. She is now complete and whole, pain free and resting in God's arms.

I need to say this very clearly. God does NOT cause, allow whatever verb you want to use, tragedies to happen to teach us or someone else a lesson. God does NOT want us to experience the pain we are feeling so something good will come out of it. God is loving and forgiving and merciful and full of grace.

Thursday morning I walked out to my front yard to look at what I call my resurrection garden. Every year I plant the lilies we have placed on the altar at Easter for my grandparents and my husbands grandparents and every year they bloom just when I need to be reminded of God's eternal love and of the resurrection. Thursday I looked down and noticed they were different sizes and heights. Some were very tall reminding me some people have long lives, others were very short. But they were all blooming--there is always resurrection. I looked down again and saw all the weeds crowding them (I'm not so good at keeping up with that). I thought that's the world we live in--a world that is broken and messy--a world of weeds but out of that, despite that resurrection does always comes. Always.

Alleluia the Lord is risen.