Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Tales: Momma, Can We Keep It?

"Momma, can we keep it?"

I turned to the door from my place at the sink, washing the dishes from lunch, to see my little daughter standing in the doorway, covered in mud. In her arms, she held a teeny little puppy, so equally covered in mud, you could barely see what color his fur actually was.

"Cassie," I admonished. "You're filthy! What have you been doing? And where did you get that?"

I grabbed a towel from the laundry room, and spread it on the floor to set the puppy on.  I sat on the floor, and with a wet cloth, I carefully wiped the mud from my daughter's face.

She gestured vaguely to the outdoors in response to my question, but only repeated hers. "Momma, can we keep it?"

I hesitated. "Baby, I don't think your daddy is going to want to get a dog. Someday... but... not now. We're going to have to find where it came from." But, as I turned to the puppy and began to wipe the mud from his fur, he nuzzled my hand.  Still covered in mud, he climbed into my lap, turned around twice, and with a sigh, found a puppy's sleep.

In that moment, I knew that if my daughter asked again, "Momma, can we keep it?"...  I knew what the answer would be.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Celtic Thunder "Celtic Thunder" CD Review

The first of two CDs to complement their debut DVD, Celtic Thunder's first music album, entitled simply "Celtic Thunder", was released in 2008. It is a mostly somber, but not depressing, collection of music seemingly intended to showcase the stars of the new show at their most poignant and very best. It really is a fantastic CD-- I'm hard-pressed to find many songs that I don't like, though of course there are certain ones that I like more than others.

The Great

The album starts off with Heartland, an ensemble song that has opened many Celtic Thunder shows over the years. And for good reason! Anchored by a powerful chorus in Gaelic, Heartland chronicles a tumultuous journey and a plea to God for help in the midst of peril. With strong music and full harmonies, Heartland sets the stage for the full masculinity of the Celtic male that Celtic Thunder strives to embody.

Keith Harkin leads off the solos with his rendition of Mountains of Mourne. This is a lovely folk tune that is absolutely pleasant to listen to. Keith's excellent guitar prowess and vocals which allow the lilt of his accent to show through combine to make this a simple but truly lovely song.

Long one of my most-loved songs, Brothers in Arms is performed by Ryan Kelly. Missing is the energetic pizazz that is signature to so many of Ryan's performances, but in its place, Ryan layers rich and powerful poignancy to create a song of soft but strong emotional power. It's a side of his talent that isn't showcased as often as I'd like, and for that reason perhaps, this song consistently ranks in my top favorites.

Not to be missed is the bonus track of Damian McGinty singing Puppy Love. Simply put, it's adorable.  This is the song that made me fall in doting love with young Damian. He's darling, he's sweet, and he will put a giant smile in your face.

The Good

Celtic Thunder has performed a number of different arrangements of Steal Away, but the one on this CD remains my favorite. Paul Byrom sings lead in this beautiful predominantly-acappella version, but the harmonies in the chorus are inspiring.

George Donaldson's The Old Man is one of his most-loved ballads. The depth and warmth of George's brogue really comes through in this song, working together to create a feeling that is both sad and emotionally rich.

Both of Paul's solos, Remember Me and She, are beautiful and excellent vehicles to showcase Paul's classical talent.  Both songs allow Paul's romantic tenor persona to shine through, beginning with gentle tenderness and growing into astounding power.

What I Didn't Love

Keith's Lauren and I, his own songwriting feat, isn't really my favorite.  To be fair, I "had" to listen to it about 97 billion times in a row back in 2008 (I wish I was exaggerating) and this endless exposure might have something to do with my apathy.  There's really nothing wrong with it; it's just consistently tied for my least favorite of his solos in the original Celtic Thunder show.

If You Can Only Afford Three Tracks

  1. Heartland
  2. Mountains of Mourne
  3. Ireland's Call (unreviewed here, but a great fun ensemble anthem)

Friday, March 22, 2013

I'm Trusting You

And so here we are, at the turning of a new page. I brought something for you.

That's the key to the castle gate, the one I keep my heart locked up in. It's yours.

And you can do with it what you choose. You can use it to open the door and come in and sit by the fire with me. Or you can choose to sneak in an army to disarm me when I'm not paying attention.

But, I'm making the choice to trust you. I'm trusting that you'll treat the gift of the key with respect and kindness. I'm trusting that you'll enter with care. And I'm trusting that you'll understand the fear that comes with giving out a key.

I know what can happen. But I'm trusting you, anyway.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You

"What are you doing?" I demanded, looking into her eyes.

She stared back at me just as fixedly, but in silence.

"You never make any sense," I tried to explain. "With your fits and stops and starts, I don't know what you're thinking anymore. You go this way and that way and I don't think I can trust you."

She seemed to start to answer, but stopped herself. She couldn't.

"You've been wrong so many times," I continued, "and I've listened to you every time.  And every time, you lead us into just... trouble. How do I know you won't do it again?"

The corners of her mouth quirked up into a sad smile and she shrugged helplessly. She knew her faults. She didn't need me telling them to her. She knew them well.

"I just don't want to be hurt again," I confessed, a tear sliding its way down my cheek.

She slid her hand over her heart and tapped it, nodding insistently at me.  So, I did the same.

"Okay," I agreed.  "Together.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trusting Again

You've been hurt. You've hid in your castle tower. You've come down. You've opened the gate. You're at least ready to try... ready to try trusting again.

As a confession, I'm walking this out now and I'm still figuring it out. I'm not an expert.  And what I write today isn't what I would have written three months ago. It probably isn't what I would write if I was writing this three months down the road, either. But, it's what I have.

Rebuilding Trust With Old Relationships

Sometimes you choose to heal relationships with people who have broken you.. or that you have broken. This is a choice. But it isn't an easy thing to walk out. They say that trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. It takes work and commitment and a whole lot of time.

I think it starts with some honest communication. You can't just sweep the things that happened under the rug and say "Oh, it was no big deal."  It was a big deal and pretending that it wasn't doesn't change that. Avoiding the big deal just puts a blanket over it. It's still there in the middle of the room and sometimes you have to be willing to talk about those things, and these conversations are hard. They're uncomfortable... and on both sides. You both feel singled out, put on the spot, and maybe even like a big fat jerk for even needing to still talk about it. But, if reconciliation is the goal, I think you need to start here. You need to be honest and fair and have respect for each other, but you need to be willing to talk about the hard things.

You also have to choose to forgive, and this can be difficult.  I think that sometimes there is a part of us that clings to hurts for far too long. We can't keep a record of all the wrongs done to us by someone. We can't build a positive future if we're still hanging onto a negative past. So, we have to choose to let things go. We have to choose to not keep bringing them up. To be honest, I struggle with this. When I'm having the worst time forgiving, I often find that it's because I haven't really let go of the things that I thought I let go of.  I'm still harboring them. I'm still remembering them. I'm still punishing for them.

Mostly, I think you have to accept that rebuilding trust is something that takes a long time. It's not a thing that happens overnight and it's a lot of baby steps. I have to remind myself of this all the time. I'm kind of an "all or nothing" sort of girl. And after we've done the hard talk and after I've made the choice to pursue rebuilding, I want it done! I want it all to be magically fixed and just get on with it already. But, it really doesn't work that way. It takes work first.  It takes a whole lot of patience.  But mostly, it takes time and belief. But, I think that what you get in the end is worth the effort and the tears and the time.

Placing Trust in New People

This is a whole different thing. I don't have quite as much to say about it, but I think it's important, too. You have to remember that not all people are the same. I know you've been hurt before. I know it makes you scared of trusting anyone again. I get that.

But, understand that not everyone is like the person that hurt you. The fact that you were hurt before doesn't determine what you endure in the future. It's frightening to risk it. I know. If you risk nothing, then nothing can be taken from you, right? But, if you risk nothing, nothing is exactly what you will receive when it comes to love and friendship and support, too.

I don't know how to tell you what to do to make it easier. This kind of trust is a choice, too. Choosing to step over your fears to embrace the "what-ifs" is scary. But, not everyone is here to hurt you. There are so many who would love to love you, and are just waiting for you to let them in.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Safe in the Castle Tower

In the past, when I have been hurt by someone I've trusted, I've gotten scared. My tendency is to hole up in a castle, pull up the drawbridge, and hide in the uppermost tower.

Protection has been the ultimate goal.

When someone new or even old has approached the castle's gate, I've turned them away.  It's simple... if no one can get past the gate, then no one can attack from the inside. For what I've found is that no one can hurt you quite as much as someone you allow into your innermost heart. So, naturally, if I just keep the archers at the castle wall, then I'm safe.

Sometimes I'll even come to the wall myself.  I'll call over the top and ask for the secret password. And when they call it back to me, I'll ask them to complete a test.  And then another. And then another.

More often than not, they'll eventually leave.  Not because they don't want inside, not because they don't care.  But because they simply have come to the understanding that they will never pass enough tests for me to let go of my fears. It takes someone dedicated to wait through all those tests.

Maybe you understand this. Maybe you do it, too. And maybe it's true that we allow those we love and trust the most to hurt us the deepest. But I can think of no sadder solution than to hole up in our towers and refuse entrance to anyone. To deny ourselves the pleasure of relationship because we fear so deeply the pain of betrayal.

Towers are safe. But, towers are awfully lonely. Maybe it's time to come down from ours.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trust is Like a Vase

"Trust is like a vase. 
Once it is broken, though it can be repaired, 
it will never be the same again."

Be careful with trust.  Both with the people who trust you, and the people you've placed your trust in.  Trust is a delicate thing.  Sometimes it's easily bestowed in the beginning or sometimes it's something you have to grow into and earn. But, either way, it's a gift. But, it's a delicate gift, fragile.

You have to be gentle with fragile things, and so it is with trust.

Once it breaks, it's pretty much broken. It won't ever look like it did before it was dropped.  You can pick up the pieces, and you can glue them back together.  Piece by delicate piece. But, it won't really ever be exactly the same.

There will be stray shards that are missing. Cracks that run down the back. Sometimes they're cracks that you don't even know are there.

It takes a long time to piece trust back together. It's a possible thing, but it's a slow, long process -- one that requires time and patience, mutual commitment and more time.  And even when you've done all the gluing, it's still a delicate thing.  And maybe even now, more delicate than it was before you dropped it.

So, be gentle with trust. Give it wisely and treat with honor the trust placed in you. For once broken, it's never quite the same.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Challenge of Forgiveness

Forgiveness was the topic of the message at church this morning, and the outline in the bulletin was full of so many quotes I liked that I just had to come talk about it a little this afternoon.

Forgiveness is one of those issues that I find myself struggling with often. Who do I have to forgive? What things do I have to forgive? Why do I have to forgive? Do I really have to forgive that too? And, possibly the ones I actually grapple with the most.. what even is forgiveness and what does it look like and how do I walk it out?

It's Not About Them

Probably the most game-changing thing I ever heard about forgiveness, and which has helped me a lot in my own understanding and ability to put it into action, is that forgiveness is not about the person you're forgiving. It's not about saying that what they did to you is okay, and it's not about lying yourself down in front of them so they can kick you again. But, it's about you. It's about you and your own heart.

Our pastor told a story about a culture where, if someone wrongs them, then they would put a token in their living room, prominently, so that every time they saw that token, they would be reminded of the wrong that was done to them. Can you imagine living that way? Never being able to move on, always keeping the anger and the pain at the very forefront of your mind and heart and passion.

And yet, we do. Don't we? We return to the pain over and over.

"Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."-- Proverbs 4:23

If we keep our hearts constantly reminded of the pain it felt when we were hurt, how can our hearts ever heal? And so, in many ways, I have found strength in understanding that forgiveness is not about making the other person feel better about the pain they caused you.  But, it's about healing the bitterness in your own heart. How can goodness grow in a place that's kept filled with pain and hatred?

It's Not Easy

This is hard. Forgiveness is hard. I struggle with it all the time... sometimes it's because I don't want to let the pain and the anger go. Sometimes it's because I want them to pay for what they did. Sometimes it's because I feel like I'm being weak for letting it go... like if I was a stronger person, I'd fight it out to the death and make them pay.  But, that's wrong.  Forgiveness takes a lot more strength than hanging onto the pain ever will.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." -- Mahatma Gandhi

But, it's important to remember that forgiveness and creating an atmosphere so the same offense can happen again aren't the same thing. Forgiving someone doesn't mean that you keep letting them hurt you.

"If someone tracks mud into your beautiful home night after night, forgiving him means the next time he knocks, you go to the door. But if he is still muddy and still willing to track it in, you do not let him in. There has been no repentance, thus there can be no reconciliation. Only repentance (taking off his muddy shoes in respect for your home) can result in an invitation to come in. Forgiveness is simply the willingness to keep going to the door in hopes that repentance may have occurred." -- Dr. Dan Allender

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean an automatic extension of trust.  That's something that has to be built up, and that takes time and willingness on both parties' parts to change, to do what is necessary to work together to heal each other's hurts, and to rebuild the relationship and the trust.

They aren't the same thing, forgiveness and building trust.  But, I think that the latter can't happen without the former, so you have to start there... at the forgiveness... together.


This Week's Series on Forgiveness and Trust

Sunday............. The Challenge of Forgiveness
Monday............ Trust is Like a Vase
Tuesday............ Safe in the Castle Tower
Wednesday....... Trusting Again
Thursday........... Thursday Tales: I Can't Trust You
Friday................ I'm Trusting You

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Tales: The Cell


I can hear the door to the cell creak open, but I barely lift my head. It's not even worth the effort anymore. My eyes stay closed.

I try not to move, like he won't notice me if I stay still. But the awareness of him being back makes me aware of the tiredness in my arms. I try to resist, but I can't. I flex my fingers in an automatic attempt to get the blood flowing into my limbs again.

He notices.  He notices and he laughs.

It's not a laugh of humor... or maybe it is. Maybe he enjoys this. All I can hear is the cruelty in it.  And I cringe.  Inside, outside. It doesn't matter. He knows.

As he moves forward, I can hear the whip slide across the floor. He asks me what he asks me every day.

I respond the same way I respond every day.

Again, he laughs. I answered wrong. It long ago stopped mattering what I answered.  Every answer was wrong.

He shuts the door. He cracks the whip.

I retreat inside myself to the one part of me that he hasn't yet broken. It's a small part but it's still mine.

Maybe for just one more day.  But it's still mine.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Important to Be Honest with Yourself

Being honest with yourself... does that register a sigh of resignation for anyone but me? Sometimes I hear that and think, "Do I have to?" It's easier to live in a comfortable state of denial. But, every once in a while, you have to force yourself to take stock of what's what.

Sometimes that means examining your relationships to see if they're really healthy for you. Sometimes that means taking responsibility for your part in making relationships and situations how they are. Sometimes that means realizing that the things you're trying to accomplish aren't actually the things that you want, or that the person you're becoming is not the person that you want to be.

This can be a painful process. It's easier to sort of gloss over the hard parts or the parts that make us look ugly. It's more comfortable to just go along with the status quo of relationships because changing them takes work.

So why? Why do we have to do it?

Well, because.  How else do we keep ourselves on the path to being the best "us" we can be? How else can we make sure that we're following our own dreams? How else do we grow and continue to build our character?

Sometimes your heart lies. It wants what it thinks it wants, and it wants it now.  But sometimes what it wants isn't what it needs. Sometimes you change yourself to be what someone else thinks you should be, and you end up becoming someone you don't want to be. Sometimes you just listen to the world and what it says you should accomplish... and so you go after that, full throttle, only to find out that what the world thinks you should be doing isn't really what you find fulfilling.

I guess that we have to be honest with ourselves so that we can be true to ourselves. So that we can live authentically and fully and healthily. So that the things we need become the things we want, and the potential of who we can be becomes the reality of who we are.

So, every once in a while, it's good to stop, take stock, be honest... and live fully.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Tales: Only In The Driveway

The sky outside his bedroom window slowly changed from nearly black to a dark grey. Morning was on its way, but he knew that the rest of the house would yet be in bed for hours.  The young man slipped from his bed and pulled on the nearest pair of pants.

Pulling his backpack from under his bed, he began to fill it with all the essentials for his trip. A change of clothes, his lucky charm, a bunch of bandages just in case. Today was the day.

With his backpack slung over his shoulder and his sneakers in his hand, he slowly opened his bedroom door and peeked into the hallway.  The house was still silent and it was safe to proceed. He tiptoed down the stairs, grabbed a cookie from the counter, and snuck out the back door, stopping on the back step to slip his feet into his sneakers.

There it sat.

"Only in the driveway," they had said.
"You must be very careful," he had been told.
"Always where Mother can see you," had been the refrain.
And, of course, "Don't ever ever ever ride it down the hill."

But, he wheeled it to the top of the hill, regardless.
He sat on its seat.
And with a deep breath, he pushed off.

It was the most exhilarating ride of his life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy and Sad

I used to think you couldn't be happy and sad at the same time.

When my children were young, I found myself deep in a pit of depression. But, for a long time, I didn't recognize that for what it was. I could still laugh. I could still recognize humor. So I thought that, if that were the case, then I couldn't be depressed.  Wouldn't I just be sad all the time? That's what I thought it was.

Or the time that a very good friend of mine died early and unexpectedly. On the trip to go to her funeral, we laughed. We thought of all the things that were uniquely "her" and we laughed a lot. And was that somehow sacrilegious to her memory? That we could be so broken over her death and yet so filled with laughter for her life?

And so I've learned that you can be sad and you can be happy, and both of those things can exist at the same time, in the person, in the same place. You can be sad about one thing, and happy about another, and they don't cancel each other out. You can even be happy and sad about the very same thing.

They're both true.

This is okay. It is perhaps the beauty of the human experience that we're not just one thing. We are complex and layered and sometimes feel or say or do things that seem completely conflicting.  And yet they're all true, jumbled up inside of us.

And maybe that is us.  Jumbled up, confusing, but beautiful.

So today, I embrace the happy. And I embrace the sad. I embrace the mad. And I embrace the grateful. And I accept and appreciate that all these things can exist inside me all at the same time.

And it's beautiful.

Friday, March 1, 2013

February 2013 Recap

This month, I'm borrowing from my friend Stacey and looking back at some of the things that February has had to teach me through various events in the month...

-- Sometimes things need to be taken apart before they can be repaired.

-- There is humor to be found in some of life's most frustrating experiences and finding it can be the difference between happiness and despair.

-- That which once brought you joy can bring it again.

-- Everyone needs some time away to recharge.

-- Someone else's creativity can shed light on situations in your own life with amazing emotion and clarity. Let your heart be opened, wrung out, and convicted.

-- Be mindful of the difference between success by the world's standards and success in your own actual goals.
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