Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: April 2015 (page 1 of 2)

When hard things are good things

JJ and I have an amazing opportunity in front of us. We get to move home, close to family, where he can teach in the local schools, as he had hoped those years ago when he decided to change careers into education. We’re excited – only as the stars perfectly aligned did this become a reality. This is a good thing.

Yet, it’s a hard thing.

It’s hard to leave. My friend dropped by with chocolate – and later with cilantro – when she knew I was struggling. I have to leave thoughtful people like this! It’s totally unfair. Our beloved school is only a Troy campus. Our church family. Our small group. My yoga studio. My work.

It’s hard to pack. We’re painting, de-cluttering and staging a house to put on the market with 4 nosy young children. This isn’t just hard, it’s nearly impossible.

It’s hard to find a new home. The size of our family makes us a tad needy in the space department. The size of our income makes us a tad needy in the budget department. And now that I’ve been surrounded with these delightful people who know about beautiful things, I want all of the beautiful things. In fact, I just hung up curtains in my bedroom tonight. DO YOU KNOW HOW FINISHED A ROOM CAN FEEL WITH A SET OF CURTAINS? People, this is valuable information that needs to be shared. Buy all the curtains! Even the cheap ones from IKEA that need hemmed! Hang them on an inexpensive IKEA rod and do a happy dance at the beauty of a properly clothed window!

I digress. Back to the hard things. (Although, cutting in a straight line to hem curtains is HARD for me.)

Part of me, in my early morning festering of woe, wanted to throw in the towel. Should JJ rescind? We could just stay. We can be in a house, with a yard, right here. (WITH BEAUTIFUL CURTAINS, let’s not forget.) Perhaps we made the wrong decision. This is too hard – if it were good, it would be easy, right? Things would happen with rainbows and butterflies and the occasional unicorn. Prices would drop, water softeners would be included in the price and the next 3 months would consist of mimosas with the ladies I love most. That’s how we know when we’re doing the right, the best, the good thing. Right?

Where did we come up with such a philosophy of life? That once a decision starts to cost us something, we’re doing it wrong? If it’s hard, it’s also bad?  These are terrible guides into life. Everything in my life that is worth anything to me has come with a cost. Being married, mothering children, often even my work – they all tend to be hard. But they are good. Beautiful, even. They’re my best offerings to my world. If I took steps away every time it gets a bit challenging, I would be halfway around the world by now, drinking Italian wine and reading old books by the sea. But that’s not good, it’s just easy.

So my mantra now is good things can be hard things. They’re not mutually exclusive. The Easy Button that Staples wants to sell us only rescues us from buying printing supplies. If we start using it with the rest of life, it could end up quite boring. It’s only through engaging challenges that we find out it’s true worth.

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Final Resting Place

**This piece has been resting in my drafts for over 7 months and I’m just now able to share it. I promise I don’t think about death all the time. 

After my grandfather died, our family tended to the traditional details surrounding death, one of them being a resting place. A grave. The four brothers, along with 3 wives and a significant other, ventured to Hale cemetery .

Aunt Judy, whose first husband had died many years ago, already had a place. Uncle Charlie found his site near hers, and it was decided the whole gaggle of Wingfields would buy their final real estate in that area. Each person wondered about, some showing preference to high ground or resistance to becoming a future walkway. Each couple found a future home, some “across the street” from the other, with Grandma and Grandpa’s presence as the center of them all – if not physically, than in spirit.

It seems like a mundane, even morbid, task to consider where you want your bones to dissolve. Yet intrinsic in our souls, we consider it.

The patriarch Joseph lived in full awareness of it. Raised in his father’s land but sold into slavery as a young man, he spent most of his years in Egypt as a foreigner, robbed of the connection to his people. He lived by foreign customs, likely even took an Egyptian name as he served the house of the Pharaoh.

Joseph’s wish, one he made his brothers and their children swear to, was to join the family tomb. After he died, he remained embalmed in a coffin until Moses led the nation out of  slavery and someone remembered the oath and thought to take Joseph’s bones along for the ride. Eventually he came to rest in a tomb in the land of his father.

Why take such interest in where dead bones lie? Why would the Bible even mention this in the story of the Exodus?

One writer mentions the burial as a final act of maintaining contact with the community, even after death. Our final presence with our loved ones gives some sort of guarantee that we won’t be forgotten, that we will be included and remembered as the local history builds in years.

To be honest, I’ve given thought to this question. While living at a distance from my roots, I’ve wondered where my body would return to the earth. On the one hand, it makes sense to remain close to the community in which you live – where you raise your children, build your friendships, and share your life’s work. Yet something pulls me homeward. How could we consider anything other than finding a spot near JJ’s sister, who already rests? Why would we not be a short drive from other family markers of lives remembered?

Something in my spirit says that in choosing a site in our current county we would be removed from the larger family narrative that comes with joining together in burial.

Which begs the question: If I want to be buried there, why would I not live there? I want to be included in our family’s place on this earth. Shouldn’t I be a part of the living and not just the dying? The life, not only the death?

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

 

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Shine, sing and other ways to love

Things I know to be true about myself:

1. I’m not a good listener. I am fantastic at hearing and absorbing and synthesizing information. However, if simple listening is what you need, I’m not your gal. Recently, I’ve tried to ask friends about their needs in this regard. Do you want advice right now or do you want me to just listen? At least then we’re both understanding the same expectations. Because….

2. I’m an ideas person. I’m a believer that we are not so firmly planted in our ways of life that we cannot change the things we do not like. We can’t change all of the things, but we can change our approach or our response to them. So I all-to-often share what I’ve done, read, heard, or thought about. I’m one of “those people” who will recommend a great book for an extremely difficult season in your life. I know this about myself and I’m trying to pull on the reigns, but it remains a life pattern which is not easily rectified.

So do you know how God has dealt with me, continually throughout my life? He gives me people in grief. I’m completely awful with it. I’m not good at talking about it because there is no book or lecture I can recite to alleviate the pain. I hate the pain, it’s so incredibly hard to sit with and hold their pain, so I wash dishes and bake cinnamon rolls and try to pretend it’s an illness that will someday find healing.

I must be a failure at these grief “growth opportunities” because they have appeared throughout my life. Particularly with friends whose mother is named Deb. Those friends’ mothers tend to die of cancer. I feel as if I should offer this as a warning to potential new friends. I should write it on my name tag at socials and meetings.Hi, my name is Michele. If your mother’s name is Deb, we cannot be friends. I’m sure you’re fantastic!

Grief seems to be the extreme side of general “hard times” in life, of which all people move in and out. It seems the eternal question as a decent human being is: How do I help those I love during those hard times? What does love and support look like? Is it just listening? Getting a glass of wine? Bringing a pot of soup?

About four years ago, I was walking through an incredibly dark time. So many unknowns sat in front of us and it simply hurt to think, and to not-think, about it. I needed something from others but I couldn’t put words to it. One day I was singing to Crowder, as I often do, when I realized I was singing:

Shine Your light so I can see You
Pull me up, I need to be near You
Hold me, I need to feel loved
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?

I realized that light was exactly what I needed. But here’s the thing: I didn’t need someone to shine a light at me. I needed them to shine the light for me. I needed them to walk just ahead, beside or even behind me and point that light forward so that I could see the next step. They may need even to drag me to the next step. Of course, daylight would be nice. But my friends have no control over daylight. They can, however, shine the light of a small candle in the immediate space around us.

Right now I’m not walking in a season of darkness. Actually, colors are quite vibrant in my world. I’m living in a spring day in which I see so much beauty – the grass is greener, the sun is brighter and I have a sense of where we’re headed. Even though many unknowns lie ahead, I’m not living in fear of constantly stumbling around in the dark.

But my friend is not. She’s living in the darkness. She remarked, “I just wish we could see some sort of light in all of this.” And I knew so well what she meant. My heart aches that there’s nothing I can do in the situation. I’ve delivered multiple pots of soup, so she’s probably a tad tired of my efforts to help.

Last weekend at church, the topic was something around “faith during hard times”. We sang a song very much related to that topic. I enjoy the song, but my initial thought was, “this isn’t exactly what I’m experiencing right now.” It felt a little untrue. But I remembered my friend and how true it is for her right now. I thought about the times that songs have been so true that I couldn’t mutter the words out loud because the trueness almost hurt. Or I would start crying. Yeah, mostly that.

These songs would make grand promises about God actually being good and seeing us through to the end and I wouldn’t sing because I didn’t know if I could or would believe that again. In my darkness, that part didn’t feel true. I didn’t sing those parts because I wondered if I believed it.

A teacher once taught about singing and gave reasons “why we sing.” It was a great lesson but the only one that stuck with me is that we might “sing until it’s true.” We might not believe something to be true, but we sing it anyway. The words and melody shape us and push us onward toward belief. They can carry us toward belief.

Last weekend I decided that we can also sing until someone else believes it’s true. Those parts of songs that are simply too true to utter out loud still need sang. Those of us living in light times simply must sing them on behalf of those walking in darkness. We must supply the melody and hum the rhythm so that, eventually, others can join in the song.

We shine the light. We sing the song. Not at, but for, beside, behind and around those who need it.

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