Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another word about emotion....

Usually when people are sad, they don't do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.--Malcolm X, 1965

This Year, I'm Grateful

This reeks of melodrama, I know. I'm paranoid about being overly dramatic, too emotional. I'm coming to the conclusion that drama and emotion are seminal elements of humanity in general and of me in particular. There is a place for them. It would be a shame to eliminate them completely, don't you think? I'd miss something of what it means to be human. Feeling may twist judgment, says Kenneth B. Clark, but the lack of it may twist it even more. I love that quote. Who can be objective? Not one of us, really. We just aren't. The ones who think they can express anything with objectivity are the most partisan (and consequently, the biggest liars). We just weren't meant for that.

I'm starting to feel something unexpected taking the stage in the play of emotion I've been watching in my heart's theater this year. The first act: Hope. Followed by Fear, Apathy, Grief and Despair. See, I've had twin themes of disappointment running a dual, and bizarrely synchronized, course through my life this year. I've greeted these themes with emotion. I'm at what must be the climax of action. Something is about to happen and I wave a ragged flag of faith that says it must be good. This unexpected thing is starting to feel a lot like Gratitude. Odd.

I'm walking around with a hole in the middle of me. I've tried filling it with all kinds of things and I've felt all kinds of things about it. I almost feel crippled. More odd still is what effect it has on me. I've welcomed the Son of God into a part of my heart that I've held close and silent for a long time. The needs of other people, their vulnerability in a harsh world, is poignant and real and pressing to me. Every moment is pregnant with meaning. Every small beauty makes me cry. And as there are more small beauties in the world than we will ever be able to catalogue, I cry a lot. I don't even know that it's a sign of sadness as much as it is a response to a mundane yet sublime realization that this hole in the middle of me has made more room for God than I knew I had. This strange and uninvited perspicacity leads me back to Hope. I feel it's waiting in the wings and wishes to whirl me around with my eyes closed at least one more time.

What a blessing was Paul's Thorn of the Flesh. I'm brave enough to say that although I feel the temporality of my thorn, I hope I'll never forget what it meant to hold it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, we stay under covers watching movies. It's good to be reminded who I married and why. I've noticed that I'm spoiled by kindness and made too soft for a harsh world. It's a luxury I don't take for granted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Images, Smimmages

I must have seen 100 bumper-stickers on the 280 today. The life of a bumper-sticker must be exhausting (pun intended, yuk yuk). Out of thousands of stickers, you the bumper-sticker must be the one to grab attention and stake a claim on the image of your particular bumper's driver. You vie for position, sometimes scrambling to overcome the voice of the actual car. I see a late-model Lexus SUV with a "C The River" sticker. Intended message: I'm upper-middle class, but dammit if I don't love the environment...despite the gas milage of this car. Actual message: "See this neato car Daddy bought me for graduation? You won't see me in a wimpy little Prius." I see a Camry with a sticker for some obsure hipster band I've never heard of. As in the case of the Lex, the message is clear. This car is middle-class vanilla; but I, on the other hand, certainly am not. I even took the "Lucy Pevinsie for President" sticker off of my car because it became a screaming announcement of my church affiliation. (BTW, people in Georgia have those stickers. No kidding.)

This makes me tired. The constant striving to label, categorize and file away our very beings (often even using someone's corporate logo!) must be symptomatic of a *consumer-culture on the skids. The bumper-sticker is even used to keep people from slapping you with a label. Well, to keep them from slapping you with a label quickly, anyway. The FSM "fish" next to the flag of the Episcopal Church, for example, gives me a headache. Mix your metaphors if you must, but try and make sure they aren't mutually exclusive. Otherwise, you just make me think you're schizophrenic

*Did you get that reference? If you were a **hipster music hippie like me, it would have been obvious. And nauseating.
**I haven't been a hipster music hippie since everyone listened to the Connells, but you still make me wanna walk like a camel.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I thought this was finished, but it is not not not. And I'm having a hard time being philosophical about it now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Questions I'm Embarrassed to Ask

How DOES the Dewey Decimal system work? I've never been able to figure it out.

What the hell is a Eurodollar, anyway, and why would someone trade it?
(The obviously related follow-up question is what the hell is a porkbelly?)

Do people really buy those $800 handbags they sell at Saks? I mean real people. Those who live in Burpingham?

What are the rules for hyphenating last names? I mean, I know David and I could be the Lewis-Smiths, but I'm the only one who is really a Lewis-Smith. David's just a Smith, even though his middle name is Louis. Is that correct? In America? Cause I know it isn't in England. But I don't care.

What is the correct way to scramble an egg? I can scramble eggs, but I don't think I do it correctly.

Am I really supposed to tip the mailman at Christmas?

Whew. I feel better just owning-up to all the things that I don't know.

Oh, I thought of one more:

Does the Ghost Whisperer come on tonight? (Or, the Boobie Whisperer, which is what I call it. That hour on Friday nights is the only time you will ever hear me say to my husband "Will you LOOK at her boobies hanging out of that top!")

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stuart Weitzman is a Feminist

I went shopping with my mother-in-law this weekend. I can't say that it did very much to improve the mood I was in when I made my last post, but I'm resigned to the idea that I'm going to have to deal with that for awhile. Resignation makes the heart grow stronger,or at least it gives the brain a respite from fretting.

That being said, it will shock and awe those of you who know me well to read that I experienced love-at-first-sight with a pair bright-red, patent-leather, Stuart Weitzman stiletto heels. I know. They are absolutely ridiculous. I'm completely infatuated. I have to imagine what kind of woman would wear these shoes. I flip through my mental picture album: Betty Friedan rolling off her cloud and klomping off to Heaven's Public Library to do research for the New, New, New Feminist Mystique? Not quite. She's the woman most widely credited with disarming the iconic housewife-in-heels image, and I have no reason to believe she's sorry now that she's crossed the Jordan. (Yes, I know she was Jewish, I just can't adjust to the idea that God didn't mean for the Jews to be His Chosen forever.) Or, what about Frederica Matthewes-Green schleping across the country to speak to church women's groups about how church women's groups are absolutely stupid? That takes some moxie, but it's fairly obvious that Freddie's particular brand of chutzpah don't come from nobody's shoes, y'all.

My mind's eye rests on an image of a woman I'm sure will fit: She's in an office dressed for work, she's in the kitchen cooking supper, she's strutting to the park with a baby in a stroller, she's at the crisis pregnancy center helping women figure out what their choices actually are. She's Oprah in Chicago, she's Katie in New York, she's Barbara in Birmingham. She's Dorothy, easin' on down that road to tell the Wiz a thing or two. She's US, y'all! Helloooo, Sexy!

It really isn't about those shoes anymore. It's about a feeling they give me that feminine is powerful. That woman is necessarily strong and sexy. That Jesus is more concerned about keeping women out of sexual slavery than keeping them out of the pastorate. (We've taken a wrong turn, y'all. We live in a world where little girls in our congregations get molested and it takes us hours and hours of discussion to figure out if you need a penis to come to a meeting or hold a communion cup. We're out-of-our-minds crazy if we think Jesus doesn't notice that. He notices and He cares more than we can imagine.) Just picture us, whacking through the phallocracy that is Corporate America, but also the Presbyterian Church in America, doing irreparable damage to the notion that women can't hold their own in business and that God has a small and prescribed place for women in His church and we're sinning if we step outside His borders. I'm ashamed, but I'm even afraid to ask questions anymore. Men and women hold these issues up as a measure of orthodoxy in the church.

My silliness can't last when it's informed by the gravity of and these issues. I'm thankful for those who seek to help.

I've been inspired. By a pair of $300 shoes. In my book, that makes shoes art and Stuart Weitzman a feminist. Boo-ya.

I'd like to point out, incidentally, that Nine West makes a great copy for about $45. (I've room for a little silliness, I guess, if only to stay the worry.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm a little teapot?

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran

I had coffee with my nephew, Dave yesterday. He's 19 and at the peak of his fact-gathering, self-defining mission. It's so validating to watch because it reminds me that this is a season all thinking people must experience. The bombardment of ideas, especially those of the "liberal," "humanistic," "post-modern," and "new-age" varieties make us rethink and refine our core beliefs. They make us stronger and better. They make us claim our ideologies and give us the words to define them. I'm proud of him. He's a thinker. So am I.

There are a lot of things in my brain. Too much thinking. Too many thoughts. I need a thought vacation. I'm departing in about five minutes. I won't think about anything but laundry, groceries and soap for the rest of the day. I will lose myself in the business of mindlessness. I'm excited. This is my "farewell to thought" post.

I am, indeed, "weeping for that which has been my delight." I can't seem to stop, though, and that's my problem. I've cried a year of tears over the past two weeks. Someone handed me a button at my Bible study. It said "It's ok to say Merry Christmas." I don't care about "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays," but I cried. Someone sent me a kind e-mail. I went to thank her, and I cried. Someone wrote a kind and encouraging note to me, and I cried. I heard a Mr. Rogers song and I cried. I saw a red-tailed hawk flying over 8th Avenue and I cried. To be honest with you, I'm crying now. I don't know why though. I just don't know why. Or maybe I do. I've decided not to think about it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

This is my dad.

This is something I wrote a long time ago, but I thought I'd put it here again because I've got pictures now.

This is my dad. This photograph came from Briarwood's website. My dad works at Briarwood. He's smiling, but I bet he's thinking "Please get this over with as soon as possible."

Some people (both men and women) are born with Warrior Spirits. My dad has a Warrior Spirit. I think it probably came in handy when he was a United States Marine, but I think God probably gave it to him for such a time as this. Lately, I've been seeing how far we have drifted as a church, as a culture, as a nation and a planet from God's design for us. There's so much sin in our world that Evil has been able to set up camp everywhere. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it's the first time that I've really contemplated it. In a world of Evil, we need some Warrior Spirits. A Warrior Spirit doesn't necesarily go around whacking people's heads off anymore. These days, I think that a Warrior Spirit is a leader who can rally us to grasp truth and find it worthy of our decisive action. That's the kind of Warrior Spirit my dad is. When I talk to him, I find myself seeing black and white in a world of gray. He makes me see the truth I knew was there all along.

I need that. I love my dad. I need a good dose of the truth right now because so much around me is hollow and false and wrong. I'd like to fight against that, even in my own world, but I can't even find my sword right now. I'm not sure how to go about it. My dad didn't know either, but he told me that Someone does and I know that Someone will tell me soon.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"I'm so tired...."

Lately, I've been extremely dissatisfied with my eyebrows. They don't have very much of a shape and there are several little "wildies" sprouting up in places they shouldn't. My eyebrows are migrating. The other night I was looking at three of my beautiful friends (Amy McClure, Elizabeth Wilson and Amanda Hannah--they're all really exceptionally pretty. Actually, all of my friends are pretty. All of them. I don't have a single un-pretty friend that I can think of right now.) and I noticed that they have beautiful eyebrows. When I drink a little alchohol, not even too much--one glass of wine even, I notice how pretty all my friends are. If I have a second glass, I'll start saying things like "Oh, you're so pretty! You're the prettiest girl!" That's how I know when to stop.

Anyway, I decided to take control of my eyebrows and I made an appointment at one of Birmingham's fancy-pants salons to have them shaped. This involves lying flat on your back while an eyebrow shaping person puts hot wax on your eyebrows and yanks them out. Then, she'll get the rest with tweezers. (They don't pull out ALL your eyebrows.) It costs $22. It's worth it. I feel like a new girl. All my little eyebrow hairs are in a nice little row. Yay, tidy eyebrows. This is a luxury I shall afford myself regularly.

When I was sitting in the waiting area, I overheard some ladies talking. These ladies weren't as naturally pretty as my friends, but they had certainly done some work to acheive a kind of artificial prettyness peculiar to the well-heeled. We're talking new boobies, new noses, fake nails, full-makeup, hair color, hair extentions, dyed eyebrows, facials, seaweed wraps, you name it. They were what Southerners call "done up."

One of them said to the other "I spend two hours on myself every morning just to get ready to leave the house. I wouldn't, but my husband wants me to and I really want to do my part to work on my marriage."

Wow. (Shudder.)

When I got home I called my husband to tell him that I had brand new and not crazy eyebrows, he said "You paid to have your eyebrows ripped out with wax? That's weird. Why would you do that?"

I love him. He's the best of both of us.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Strange Happenings (Or, Susan Says the Darndest Things)

The Scene: The Western on Highland
The Players: The Smiths, Elizabeth and Luther Strange

Act I: The Produce

David: Is that Big Luther over by the fruit?

Susan: Yeah. I think so. I wanna talk to him.

David: You're a dork.

Susan: Yeah. I know.

Act II: The Checkout

Susan: (extends hand) I can't believe we put Dum-Dum back into office.

Luther: Yeah. It was a surprise. I appreciate you saying that.

Susan: Yeah.

Luther: It was a bad time to run as a Republican. It's hard to run against a Folsom in Alabama.

Susan: You'd think it would be a detriment. Better luck next time.
Luther: Yeah. Thanks.

Susan: Bye! Merry Christmas. Good luck and everything.

Luther: Thanks!

Act III: The Car

David: Are you going to call Pickering and tell him what you did?

Susan: Yeah.

David: You're a dork.

Susan: Yeah. I know.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Chicago Bean Town????

Even though we were far away in Chicago, you were still on our bean. Yuk Yuk.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Birmingham to Chicago and Back Again

Where we stayed.

David and I went to Chicago last week for my 30th birthday and for a meeting that happened to coincide. I'm finding 30 hard to deal with. We stayed in Streeterville on the Miracle Mile and it was incredible. We visited River North, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville and Chinatown. Mostly, we spent a lot of time on the El and a lot of time walking our little feets off.

David spent a day at the Chicago Board of Trade and at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I got to tag along to the Merc. Some traders from R.J. O'Brien took us on the floor and in the pits where they trade Eurodollars. (Can you name another girl who has been in the pits at the Merc? I think not.)

The Madness that is the Merc.

We also hit the Field Museum and the Chicago Institute of Art, Millenium Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo. The lions there were incredible because you can get so close. The male looked at me right in the eyes and my animal instinct made me get anxious. The female stood in the outdoor enclosure and ROARED. First time I've heard that. All of the animals there were performing. It was awesome and FREE. Can you believe that?

The Kovler Lion House the Lincoln Park Zoo. (It was built in 1912.)

Chicago is incredible. Really. Way better than New York because it's more accessible and friendlier. New York has nothing on Chi Town. And that's the truth.

My new best friend, the Blue Line El.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The God of Melted Faces (and a little fruit salad)

Yesterday morning, I went to hear Frank Barker give an overview of Eschatology. He touched on many ideas during a short period of time. I left a little frightened and convinced that Tim LaHaye knows even less about theology than he does about sex. (And if you've read his book about sex, you know that is very little indeed.)

I'm left with an image of a schizophrenic God who seeks to save, but permits horrible things to happen to his people. I come to realize that I have a very small and pitiful faith. We have to have the faith that God does work things together for our good. This is difficult. We start from the place of wanting to have that faith.

Now for the salad.

David and I watched the gubernatorial debates on Monday night to see what the gubers had to say about the future of Alabama should they be elected. (Sorry, had to go there.) Bob Riley caught my attention by saying that the reason people in Montgomery keep making fun of Lucy and saying that she doesn't understand things is because she doesn't. After that, Lucy reminded me of a little wet chicken running around bawking loudly but saying little. I expected one of her handlers to come out and grab an egg from under her skirt. The debate gave me a new insight into sexism. Lucy really can't play with the Big Boy Gubers. She just didn't bring her big-girl game.

Next up was the debate of the candidates for lieutenant guber. I think that Luther Strange is, and I like the way that Little Jim Folsom taw-uk-s. There's something about him that I like even though he is probably as crooked as his little old grandma. I think he wears lipgloss.

Lucy Baxley for Gubernor!

Friday, October 27, 2006

An End to All Symbols

I spent the better part of this week in hospital waiting rooms doing all kinds of nothing with my mother and my sister. There is no day or night in a hospital. There is no way to gauge the hours as they pass. You count off Starbuck's lattes and churchy white-shirt visitors, but you can't remember what day it is or what you would have been doing if you were not here. Towards the end of the week, I could barely even remember who I am. I remember my identity by bowing to the icons of the life I've made. This comes as a frightening surprise.

It's a normal part of human development to wear identities like sweaters, periodically discarding and leaving them wadded on the floor of your mind's closet. You're selling a notion of yourself and people buy it. It's a firm deal and difficult to undo even after life leaves you naked to figure out who you are and who you were. And in this situation, as in so many others, the last comes first.

In the beginning, God was. The Light was with Him and the Light was Him. I think I might have been there, too. I knew something of God before I ever went to church. I think this Created Self is a mask for the self that was made by God somewhere before it got this body and this name. I have a feeling this Soul called "Susan" and this Soul called "David" met each other somewhere back in the darkness of a newly created world. I realize I am who He made me to be. The Bread of Life puts an end to all symbols. I realize I don't need an icon. I don't need an image. His atonement brings me the actual Christ with actual outstretched arms and I am an actual Soul in need of Him.

So, who would I be without my hair, without my clothes, without my friends, without my house, without my car, without my church, without my nationality, without my history? A Soul in His arms. And that's all I ever needed to be.

Something weird happened in the publishing of this entry, and I hope it didn't mess up your RSS feeds. If it did, I'm sorry. :-(

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Panis Angelicus--Or The Song My Nephew Sang at Our Wedding (Significance to be Explained Later)

St. Thomas Aquinas

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis.
Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.
We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Grief, Hope & their little girl, Tenacity

I got to try on a new hat this week. I got to be the Poster Child of the Opposition.

It's a role I'm not familiar with. I'm a soul steeped in compliance and broiled in reticence. "I'm sorry for being here," I say. "I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time to voice an opinion of mine ," I say. Once, I even went to see a counselor and apologized the entire time for talking so much about myself. (Which really indicated to both of us how much I needed to be there.)

This week, it occurred to me that I've rarely voiced an opinion that hasn't been preceded by an apology of some sort or another. Never. At least not that I can think of. And what I've learned is that is when you say something apologetically, people automatically find a reason to take offense. So, I quit. Suddenly and cold-turkey without the methadone of reflection. I said something cogent and true and honest without apology. And then, I cried. Later, I had a lot of "I hope you felt heard" comments from a few different people. And I wholeheartedly appreciated that, but I don't really know if I felt heard or not. It wasn't the point. (Since when is "being heard" any kind of comfort? I don't know that I want to "be heard" anymore. I just want to be taken seriously.)

The O. Henry ending to this story is that I ended up feeling alright about it. It didn't come without a fair measure of grief, though, and I learned that sometimes we grieve over the right decisions. And that's not a bad thing. Grief isn't a Harbinger of Doom. Grief isn't an enemy to avoid. Grief is a friend in a black coat. It's the tunnel we travel from the gloom of the locker room to the sunshine of the field. Stretch that metaphor a little. It rings true.

There's been something else to grieve about this week, but I'm coming to the end of my scheduled blog time, so I'll stop. Suffice it to say that this week, I've learned something about the relationship between grief and hope. Grief might be the watchman of the night, but hope comes in the morning. I'm surprised by my capacity to hope. It's directly proportional to the depth of my grief. And that, somehow, makes it hard to be afraid of anything.

And you would think now hope would be tired, but it's alright.
You would think now hope would be tired but it's alright
You would think tired, ragged and oil-brown
but it's alright...Karen Peris

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Very Very Mad World

Have you ever looked into someone's life and wondered why God forgot about you?
I have.
Why do people in bad marriages find it so easy to make babies? Why do people who don't work hard make so much money? How do mean people get so many others to listen to them?

I used to get depressed about it and I would comfort myself by thinking you never know what's going on behind the curtains! I would feel a little bit better, but I didn't really believe it. Until I actually looked behind the curtain and saw for myself.

You know what? It wasn't a comfort. I wasn't pleased. I saw that shame and I was shamed. I saw that poverty and I was poor. I had seen the fall of Colossus and the camelback transport to Syria. There's no comfort in the proof of those old maxims.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Communion of the Saints

Lately, I've been wondering about the Communion of the Saints. I've been saying "I believe in the Communion of the Saints" as a part of the Apostles Creed since I was a child, but this is the first time I've ever been curious about the meaning of these words. (This is a two-fold shame. First, that I never wondered and second, that I was never told.)

What I found was an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise. I haven't been lying all these years. I really do believe in the Communion of Saints.

Communion of the Saints doesn't mean, as the Catholic Church says, that the Glorified Saints (those who are already dead) are able to pray for us and interceed to Christ on our behalf. No, the Communion of the Saints means something better. It means that Christians are bound together by love and have full participation in each other's gifts and graces. It means that we're in it together. It means we recognize our obligation to be a family to each other. It means we work together for our common good.

My soul is tied to yours. My gifts are there for you to use. My grace is shared with you and it's my responsibility to care for you and bring good to your life. And it's your responsibility to do the same for me.

I believe that the members of Red Mountain Church could benefit from a second-- or first-- look at the Communion of the Saints. I think it's one of our underpinning values. In fact, the Communion of the Saints and the belief that the Gospel changes everything might be the values we hold most dear. I desire to move toward a greater understanding of the Communion of the Saints and allow Jesus to weave that understanding in to the fabric of my life. It's beautiful. It's noble. It's true. I shall think about it.

All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

This communion which the saints have with Christ, does not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of His Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor does their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man has in his goods and possessions.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Derrick and the Mom Who Yells

Tuesday and Friday mornings are a team effort at the Smith House because these are garbage pickup days on our street. We must be among the first houses they come to because they're always here really early. David's always wanting to be at the office early and it's a sprint of breakfast, clean socks, coffee making, trash can and out the door!

The past two days we've had trash pickup, I've been on the front porch throwing the last of the trash into the can when a woman and her children have come walking down the street. I first saw them a few weeks ago during one of my walks with Corduroy. Their family is a little boy about 6, a little baby girl about 14 months and their mom.

The thing is that every morning, the little boy is lagging behind the mom and the baby girl and the mom is SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS at him. He's a little bit nerdy. He's got thick glasses and he looks like his hair could stand to be washed and cut. He wears a Birmingham City School uniform that looks a little rumpled. He looks shy. He looks at me out of the corner of his eyes as he walks by. He doesn't smile, but I don't think it would take much to get him to.

I know his name because the mom will say things to him like "Derrick, if you didn't drag your damn feet all over the house, you might have been able to get some breakfast, but you don't get any because you're too slow!" or "Derrick hurry up. If you weren't so damn stupid, you'd be ready in time."

This morning, Corduroy dog heard the mom yelling and she ran out on to the porch and barked. Loudly. And growled. It scared Derrick, but I think what Corduroy meant to do was to scare the mom. If we had one of those dog-bark/English translators, I think Old Cord Dog would be saying something like "Bitch, if you don't shut up, I'm going to eat your friggen face off." That's what I like to think of Cord Dog.

My prayers these days go like this: God, please let someone at school make sure Derrick gets some breakfast. God, please let someone say something kind to him today. God, please let him get a bath and a haircut. God, please make sure that Derrick gets some love from someone today. God, please do something to make his mom's life less overwhelming. God, let me know them better so I can do something. God, show me what to do..

I guess what bothers me most is that there is really nothing in the world I'd rather have than a little boy or girl. This woman has both and she doesn't seem to want them. But I want them. Especially Derrick. I'd let him eat breakfast twice every morning.

The world is an unfair place and it's hard to understand sometimes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Lord, have mercy on me! I cannot burn."

I've just read about Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, the English bishops who were martyred in 1555 during the rain of Bloody Mary.

I wept.

I didn't weep because they were martyred, I wept because as a Christian, I am not fit to occupy their heaven. I have neglected the scriptures for which they died and I have often forsaken the fellowship of believers. My brothers and sisters all over the world face death for their faith and I argue for my right to use the "f" word and drink beer. Such pitiful arguments among such pitiful Christians should shame us all into silence! YET WHY DO I CONTINUE SPEAKING?

Foolish me. What have I believed myself to be? I should heap ashes and dirt on my head and sit under a paper bag and lament the great sin of complacency that entangles me. These men are not worthy of earth and I am not worthy to be called "Christian" alongside them.

I am ashamed of my sin and I am ashamed of the opulence with which I surround myself. Oh to have done with lesser things! Oh, the legacy of which I cannot even conceive!

Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Here's something

Here's something I read today:

When these old racist republicans [basically, our grandparents] die off, I'm going to be happy about it. each moment one of these people passes away, the world is quietly becoming a better place.
(My feelings on this issue are complex, and are definitely connected to baggage I have with bullshit sentiments about american history, american morality, and more personally, hatred I have for my grandparents. All attempts to be helpful and reasonable with me on this matter will fail. Thank you.)

Maybe I should have just replied to this directly, but I didn't want to come off as being either helpful or reasonable, so I'll just post it here.

Mostly, it just makes me miss my grandparents. I never really knew my Texas grandparents, and that's my loss. My Virginia grandparents were drunkards and bootleggers, but they were my family and I miss them every day of my life. I am less now that they are gone. They represent a part of my history that I'll never get back and my grief has not be satiated with time. The world is not a better place without them. Not in any way. My world is smaller now. Whenever I see a little old lady in the grocery store, I miss them.

I miss you O'Bryants, Russells, Andersons & Gambles, Normans and Russes and Beards. I'm so glad you were here and you weren't even Republicans.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Southside Walkabout

This afternoon, Corduroy Dog and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful day. I'd say fall is on its way, if not already here. We walked down 16th Street and then down the mountain toward Five Points. At Mellow Mushroom, we saw M.J. who works at Golden Temple. I like M.J. I'm not sure she really knows who I am, but she is always acts like we're old friends. She's from Michigan. She is a lesbian. Some people ran out of Mellow Mushroom to cuddle Corduroy. She loved it.

When we rounded the corner, I saw a homeless man. (The vast majority of the homeless in Birmingham are African American. I do not know why this is true.) He had crooked legs and I prayed a blessing for him. He said "That's a pretty dog and a pretty woman, too." Then, he walked in an alley. I hope he sleeps in a safe place tonight. He was about 70 years old.

Next, we crossed 19th Street on 11th Avenue. A Birmingham City police officer almost ran over us. His siren was blaring. Corduroy Dog didn't budge. She's a good old girl and I bet she would have been a great police dog or a guide dog.

The trees on the mountain are thinking about changing color. The light was sharp and crisp. I love late afternoon sunlight.

We walked home on 11th Avenue. David came home and called us to find out where we had gone. He came and picked us up. When Corduroy saw him, she ran and jumped in his Jeep. She knew just what to do. I love her.

Today, I felt like a part of my community. I felt grounded. I felt home. My heart cannot hold my hope for this city.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The long road up from where I've been...Part One

I'm a feminist. These days, everyone is. My feminism is a journey over the mountain and through the woods right back home to grandma's house. Literally. Well, literal in a figurative kind of way. This is the story of my Feminist Bent and how it showed Jesus to me.

Ten years ago, my Feminist Bent (let's just call her Mabel) was a reaction. She was a fierce little knee-jerk response to That Guy. Do you know him? He's the man propelled by some hard-working invisible engine to keep everyone inside the lines wherever he goes. He's the teacher in my Christian school who accidentally taught me that women don't ask questions in Bible class. He's the Christian who uses "Women's Issues" as the ultimate litmus test of Orthodoxy. I've always known him. Everywhere I go, he goes, too. Sometimes, he brings a few feeble-minded females along with him and together they preside over the Kingdom of Superfluous Prudence and Unnecessary Discipline. Lately, I've noticed my ability to pick him out of a crowd and I wonder how much of that is wisdom and how much of that is Mabel on the warpath. I'm not sure.

Mabel probably cost me a lot of second dates with a lot of the RUF boys who asked me out in college. Suffice it to say that I'm pretty okay with that.

Mabel and I continued along together until I found myself out of college and back in Birmingham. I started going back to the church of my youth and joined the Swingles Group there. I saw That Guy everywhere and I realized that he was the only available candidate on the marriage market. I decided then and there never to get married, but I also started to put my hand over Mabel's mouth in Sunday School. She's patient, though. She waited me out. Ironically, enough, all Mabel needed was the love of a good man, and when I married my Prince in 2003, Mabel was my maid of honor. (Now, she's Mabel Lewis-Smith.)

Mabel had a growth spurt when I became a wife. I realized that That Guy had taken away the beauty inherent in caring for a family and loving a husband well. A wise woman told me just last week that women love and care for people automatically. It's just who we are. But when That Guy takes advantage of us, we trade what God gave us in exchange for self-protection. It's a sad thing because it robs our entire community of the strong feminine influence it needs to function well at a basic level. My wise friend made eloquent the rudimentary musing I'd been chewing on for years.

I realize now that That Guy is the reflection of Evil in our society. Not that he's the devil, but don't you know that Satan can get inside our heads and ride our sin around like a tricycle if we let him. That Guy is as manipulated as manipulated can be. Satan has never been a big fan of women. In fact, Satan has attempted to destroy us since the we've had the word for "woman." You don't even have to believe me, look around. The city is full of destroyed and exploited women.

But I'm starting to realize that underneath the Sauron-like gaze of Evil, Jesus works in the lives of women in this city. Silently, his helpers move like the mice chewing Aslan's ropes to make a better place for the battered and abused women of the world. And through them, he works in me, too.

...more about that later. The laundry is calling my name.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Panda Family

My September 11th Story

I didn't come into the office that morning until the first tower had already been hit. All of my coworkers had gathered in the conference room around the television and were watching footage of what I thought was a Cessna plane flying into Tower One. I don't remember what I did the summer of 2001, but in the summer of 2000 I spent a week and a half in NYC. I remember driving over the Manhattan Bridge and having the driver of my taxi say "Those are the Twin Towers. It's the World Trade Center." They were beautiful. Shining in the sun. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I had written an article the week before and I had interviewed a man who was an iron worker on the Twin Towers. I always wondered how it affected him.

As we watched television and saw how the reporters struggled to identify what had happened (Is this an accident?), I realized that it wasn't a Cessna, but a commercial airplane. It seems that as soon as I had that realization, the second tower was hit. The realization was clear: This is not an accident. Someone is doing this on purpose. There was a collective gasp as we started to see people jumping out of the flames to the sidewalks below.

I called my dad to ask if this was the end of the world. By this time, I'd heard about the Pentagon and Flight 93. I thought that the Pentagon was being bombed. Daddy, they're bombing the Pentagon! I called my best friend Karli, Karli, is this the end of the world? The boss wouldn't let us go home, so for the rest of the day, I sat at my desk and pretended to work. I asked my boss if we could pray together. She said no. (Ironically, because many of the women I worked with went to the same baptist church. Actually, the wife of the head of the Southern Baptist Convention and his church organist were the number one and the number two people in the company. I remember wondering if you can't turn to your religion now what point is there in having your religion? I think that's shameful. I want no part of that religion.)

I went home at lunch, turned on the television to watch the coverage. I went to bed at night for a week with the television droning in the background.

I realize now that in a way, it was the end of the world. But I'm shocked that we're still here. That we haven't been attacked again. In the years between 2001 and 2006, I got married, bought a house, got a dog, dug a garden, saw my nephew graduate from high school, saw my two best friends have babies, found a new church home, and made plans for my future. My future. I really didn't expect to have one.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Less We Say About It, The Better (just make it up as we go along)

Sometimes, I have Nervous Breakdowns. It's usually good because it indicates a growth spurt (of a sort.) I don't want to write about my day, but I would like to share these lyrics. This is Naive Melody. I can't decide if I like the original Talking Heads version or Shawn Colvin's cover. Either way, this is kind of where I am today. And that's a good thing - that's sort of bad.

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb - born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok I know nothing's wrong . . nothing

I got plenty of time
You got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say goodnight . . . say goodnight

Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - you lifted up your wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I'll be . . . where I'll be

We drift in and out
sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I'm just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head......

Friday, September 01, 2006

Poverty Soul Fusion

These are the people in your neighborhood! Mister Rogers with Owl and the Trolley, by Dana Ellyn (I'm not a big fan of the fire in the trolley. I love Mister Rogers. He's part of the fabric of my childhood.)

Affluence separates people. Poverty knits 'em together. You got some sugar and I don't; I borrow some of yours. Next month you might not have any flour; well, I'll give you some of mine. Ray Charles

I'm going to come clean and shock you all: I've never been poor. I've never been rich, either, but even by American standards, we do okay. So, of course, like every other white middle class churchgoer, I'm forced to think about poverty in terms of spiritual defficiency. Perhaps that's ok in this instance.

How many times have you found yourself sitting around a table with friends, a few drinks starting to roll around inside you, when someone says something to the effect of "I try not to, but I SNIFF GLUE!" Suddenly, all eyes go to that person and everyone can identify. (Of course, it isn't about the sniffing of the glue, it's about sharing something inside you that's embarrassing and potentially shameful.)

We bond with eachother over honest dialogue about our shortcomings. We bond over our poverty, not over our wealth. Have you ever had a conversation with a rich person who only wants to talk about money? I have. It stinks. I don't think it's because that person was any more greedy or pretentious or materialistic than I am. I think it's beacause really rich people have a hard time managing anything else. I almost feel sorry for them. (Notice I said "almost." I'm not that free of vice.) We gather all of our shiny toys around us as if to say "Hey! Come and play with me!" But what we end up doing is pushing others away. That's sad.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cigars that Smoke Good and Bow-Legged Women

The Blind Sensation meets....

Ok, admittedly, this post has nothing to do with the title. I've found myself listening to a lot of Waylon Jennings lately and I've remembered how my dad used to sing the opening line of Lukenbach, TX. This was his own unique version.(Incidentally, I don't know what's up with my muscial tastes lately. I've also been digging on Ray Charles. When he says "Go on Margie, sing your song," I get chills. I almost pee when Margie sings "BAYBAHHHHH!" ...even when her words come out of Rudy Huxtable's mouth....)

I don't have original ideas anymore. These days, I just comment on other people's observations. This is no exception.

I think that when "older" people refer to "America," they're referring to a place where poverty and racial prejudice can be eliminated. Some Americans remember segregation and when war and economic depression made everyone poor. So, they've seen some enormous strides in both of those areas.

People born in the 1970s and '80s don't remember those things and don't have a grasp of the progress made. In my mind, that could be a good thing. There is still a lot to be done and the time to rest on our laurels isn't now. (What is a laurel, anyway? Is it like a big fat self-rightous pillow?)I get so excited when I consider the possibility of making as much progress in the next generations as in last generations! This is the possibility in America that I love so much. Pause for a moment and just consider what our world could be if that happened.

Unfortunately, I've seen some real Anti-American sentiment among the young lately. It's a puzzle to me because I think we live in the richest and most opportunity-filled period of American history. This isn't your mom's America. It's better. Perhaps it's just a reaction to some of George Bush's neo-con foreign policy (YES, I went there J.P.!! I'm not sure what that means, but I said it!) but I hate seeing such negativity because it is paralyzing. How are we going to make America more fully the "land of the free" if we've given up? Well, we aren't. If we don't fight for America, where are the poor who gain financial stability and the black folks who rise up above racism and the marginalized who plop right down in the middle of things going to live?

Oh, Canada? Whatever. I hope Canada is game. Or France. Or Greenland.

The Texas Hoss. When I get to heaven, I want to hear them both.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

No Comment

'Cause it's all about "staying places for free."

Friday, August 25, 2006

I would be authentic if I could figure out who I am!

God is an artist in sea and sand. This is a view from the beach of Hunting Island looking back over the bay toward Fripp Island, South Carolina.

I'll be 30 years old in November. This seems like a milestone, but I thought I was turning 30 last year until my mother set me straight. So, I guess this year's a kind of do-over. In his book A Resilient Life (try not to focus on the cheesy Christian plug, it's really a wise book), Gordon MacDonald writes about the questions we face at each decade of our lives. About the thirties, he writes: "Thirty-somethings find themselves asking, why am I not a better person?"

That's true. Why am I not a better person? (What does better mean, anyhow? Better than what?)

As I've been thinking about this, I've come to understand the difference between my flesh and my heart. I've always just thought that my flesh was the most genuine part of me, that if I were boiled to bones in a cast-iron pot, my flesh would be what remained. It's a wretched and disabling thought that my core identity springs from the part of me that speaks harshly to my husband, curses my friends behind their backs, is lazy, selfish and cowardly. Nevertheless, I've subjected myself to that idea for the whole of my life. I've stood in front of the mirror, seen the parts of myself most twisted and warped by the Fall of Man and said "This is who you really are. Now, you've got to work really hard to keep anyone from finding out!" Evil was whispering in my ear. What a lie.

I'm recently able to peek out from all of the self-protective layers and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit say to me: You know that part of yourself you've been hiding? That part of yourself you thought was the most real? Not only is that part of you not the biggest, it's not even real. I fixed that a long time ago. I don't remember it. Nobody remembers it. It doesn't drive you. It doesn't control you. What are you hiding from? If your new heart is at your core, there isn't anything to hide.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rambling of a Zen Christian

I read David's Psalm 32 this morning and the first few verses spoke to me in a new and different way. I think that when the Holy Spirit draws us in a new direction to expand our understanding of ourselves (which is always by our understanding of ourselves as we relate to Him) he illuminates the scripture as confirmation. Maybe that's why we speak of scripture as being "alive."

David writes: ...blessed is the man in whose spirit is no deceit... He's writing about how blessed we are when our sins are forgiven and we aren't too shy to confess them to God.

There's a person in my life (actually, this person isn't really in my life, I think it's been a year since we spoke) who wounded me so much that I painted them with the Asshole Paintbrush. You know what I mean? I threw this person over as being flawed beyond repair. Lately, I've had cause to think of them again and I'm surprised at what I've realized: If this person could see through my eyes, they'd be shocked at their behavior. This person doesn't have a clue of how they present themselves to others. We see the content of the heart (to a limited degree), but this person doesn't. If they did, they'd confess and probably change. That's a profound realization. This person is mired in the deceit of their own spirit. They don't think anything is amiss.

I'm starting to understand that this is just a stop on their journey. God will illuminate the truth of the heart as he sees fit. Right now, I'm having some of the truth of my heart illuminated. Sounds painful, but it isn't. It's good. After all, what have I to be afraid of? My sins are already forgiven. If I confess them to God, I'm not gaining more forgiveness, I'm just opening the door to change. And that's interesting to me as well. If we are forgiven, why do we confess? Here's why: it's walking through the door to change. "I see my own deceit," we say. "I agree with God about it and I will, through His strength, walk a different way."

This forgiveness that is ours in Christ emboldens us to live in profound authenticity. That doesn't mean we wallow in the deceit of our spirit, it means we live according to the desires of our new heart and we realize the freedom that comes by confessing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Here's a video my brother-in-law, Chuck, made in his nursery. Aren't his plants beautiful? (And aren't these little hummingbirds amazing?)

Here's a close-up of "Little Chirpy."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Different and Yet....

Two posts in one day? I've got a lot to do and I'm trying to avoid doing it.

We Smiths are standing at a crossroads. We can choose to stay the same, but we won't. There are a lot of possibilities for the future. They are all at once terrifying and thrilling.

Here at our little cottage,the sun is hidden and the storm is about to come.

I've been thinking about September 11th. This has lead me to think of the traders in New York. This has lead me to think of Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that lost almost 700 employees that day. This makes me wonder who these people were. Some young men. Some with families. Newly married. Working hard on Wall Street because everybody in that line of work wonders what it would be like. Promising futures. Not that much different from us.

David talks to traders on Wall Street. I bet they all know someone who doesn't come to work any more. They don't talk about it. I guess they're busy being young men. Some with families. Newly married. Working hard on Wall Street because everybody in that line of work wonders what it would be like. Promising futures. Not that much different from us.

The Cost of Hope

I've been thinking about what it costs to be a Christian. More specifically, I've been thinking of the toll God exacts of us as we struggle toward Heaven's shore. It's a journey we're sure to complete because we struggle with the strength of Christ. He's paved the way with his blood, but the getting there is expensive. We need to remember this so that when we are called upon to pay the price, we won't be surprised and have our faith rattled.

The more I am sanctified, the more is required of me. I don't struggle with the same sins I always have, but I am increasingly amazed at the hidden sins that live within me. Life shakes my heart's intentions to the surface of my consciousness and I must confess again and begin again to live in the new light.

I remember what I heard in a Negro spiritual: "I'm not what I should be, but praise God, I'm not what I was." Amen.

I belive that America is good. I belive that love is stronger than death. I believe in truth in a post-modern world. I believe that God is near.

Eden at the beach.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Prayers of Thanks

The road to Tuxedo, North Carolina

Everything we do that is sensual and alive and amazing is a prayer of thanks to God, I think. Sarah-Katherine Lewis

I spent my first summer at Greystone washing dishes and sleeping on the front porch of the worst cabin at camp. But the second summer, I cooked. Or more precisely, I chopped. I still slept on the porch, though. Mountain summers are nothing like the sauna-summers in the Jones Valley. Here, the acrid haze of the city gets trapped by the mountain and it's hard to take a good breath sometimes.

I spent a lifetime on the porch of the dining hall.

I saw the inside of vegetables all day--the hidden world in the cavity of a cantelope, the labyrynth of life in the seeds of a bell pepper, the pregnant tomato and the gauzy flesh of strawberries. On my breaks, I swam in Lake Summit and skied with my friend, Graham. (Wonder what happened to him? My FarmHouse friend, Troy Rhone, told me he married a beautiful girl.) I ate well, I slept well, I played hard. In short, I lived.

Here's a cross on the Pavillion looking out over Lake Edith.

Romans speaks about how humans shut God out of their thoughts so that they won't have to change the way they live in light of his truth. Paul says that if you do that long enough, you'll reject truth and finally, you'll start calling lies the truth and encouraging others to do so as well. Rome was a lot like the U.S.

The sad thing is that the lifestyle folks try to preserve isn't all that great. Trust me. I know.

I remember sitting on the dock at Lake Summit and watching the tiny drips of water fall off the fringes of my towel and thinking "These little drops are like every day I spend here. They're golden and soon, they'll be gone." (Pretty poetic for a teenager, huh?)

The Dining Hall.

For me, Greystone was a chance to see the ordinary as art and experience things as mundane as mushrooms in a new way (and really, for the first time.) The mundane is all we have. I expose my life to God and let him make the changes. He shows me how to live well. The mundane tasks of life done well are the pinnacle of life's experiment. The ordinary is all, and it's just enough.

Grestone the green.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cooking Out at Chez Smiff

We cooked out with our friends Manley and Rebekka last night and had a great time. We love those guys. David and Rebekka didn't make this picture for some reason! A lot of my hair fell out when I was sick last year. It's growing in curly and red. Being me, I take this as a sign. Of what though? (BTW, I'm the one sitting down, not the red-head with the extra pair of legs.)
We had ribeye steaks,grilled asparagus, roasted new potatoes, fried green tomatoes and Elberta peach ice cream. (And lots of wine.) The food was nice, the company was better.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


The eggs hatched sometime during the night.

You can't see the babies, but the empty eggshells are visible in this photo.

Soon, the babies started to flop around and peek out from under their mother.

They are incredibly ugly.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Our Basic Incompatability

David wakes up early to see how his bonds are doing (he's like a bond farmer.) Sometimes, when he gets home, he's really sleepy. And that's ususally when I feel wide awake.

I like to take pictures of my wide-awakedness.

Sometimes, I take pictures of David's sleepiness. He doesn't ususally get mad.

I think he's cute.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Millions of Peaches...Peaches for me!

One of the best things about living in Alabama is being able to eat Chilton County peaches right off the trees.

It hasn't rained much in Alabama this summer, but it's still green in the orchard.

These are Elberta peaches from the Culp family orchard in Jemison.

Elbertas are larger and easier to eat than many early-season Alabama peaches. They are my second-favorite. My first favorite peach is the General Lee peach. General Lees have white flesh (big surprise there) and are very sweet. They are so hard to find that most people have never eaten a General Lee peach. I am a lucky girl. If I have a daughter I will call her "General Lee Peach Smith."

My mom has never eaten a General Lee.

She doesn't care.

I wish I lived in a peach tree.