The Road That Is Transparency

Somewhere between 2010 and 2012 I stumbled upon a new-to-me road.  It was named Transparency, and it seemed to be THE place to be.  Everyone began talking about it.  Bible study groups and Sunday school classes often provided a front row seat from which to gaze upon a traveler of this road, hanging on every exposing word.   And slowly, more and more people began to share their experiences through storytelling they safely called “being transparent”.  At lightning speed, actually, this thing became a modern-day buzz word in Christian roadway mapping.

This road seemed safe, as more and more people got on board.  Initially, I was envious of those who were brave enough to set foot on that pathway.  I wondered, “does it hurt to tread along a  trail made up of brokenness and discord?”  But then I imagined, “it must be awfully freeing to let it all hang out whilst cruising Transparency Road at a moderate speed with the windows down”.   Just years before this, it would have been unheard of to take a trip down Transparency Road.  It would have been a road avoided by all.

I jumped on the bandwagon at some point, believing that if I shared the raw details of my experiences from Transparency Road, somehow someone who heard may be encouraged, or helped.  I wondered if sharing out loud would somehow justify things that had happened and bring salve to wounds that had yet to completely heal, all while sparing someone else from going through a similar experience.

I realized soon, though, that the more and more people talked about themselves from a safe-to-them vehicle traveling down this road – the more I shared from my own Transparency Road car – the less satisfying and intriguing the position from this highway.  Stories from Transparency Road are initially captivating, leaving spectators hanging on the experiences, wanting more.  It’s almost like socially acceptable rubbernecking.  Who doesn’t love a good story that makes you go, “Wow, that happened” or “I can’t believe you did that” and so on?  We like the shock value of hearing raw details.  Why is that?

But here’s the thing:  Transparency Road is not a final destination.  It does not stand on its own.  It is not a cul-de-sac.  The Transparency Road is literally a self-serving route when the traveler never leaves its pathway.  That’s why stories that start and end on Transparency Road seem unfinished.  That’s why often a weird, haunting feeling of emptiness lingers.  Transparency is simply a road to journey on to get somewhere else.  It’s not a place to waller.  Is waller really a word even?

I can tell you all day long about things I did that I wish I didn’t do.
About things I said that I wish I didn’t.
Things I ate that I wish I didn’t.
People I hurt.
Scars I have.
Sins I’ve committed.
All day long, I can tell you this stuff that I wish I didn’t do.
I can share with you the dirty, ugly stuff that is who I have been – who I am – as I speak to you from a rolled-down window in my car as I travel Transparency Road.
But until I turn the corner onto Transformation Way, I am doing you a disservice in sharing my unfinished tales.

Transformation Way.

You know, if I ever for some reason go into development of neighborhoods, I will definitely have some good name ideas for streets.  Who wouldn’t love to live on Transformation Way?!  Or how about Transformed Place.

Transparency is great – WONDERFUL – if it leads you to be a TRANSFORMED PERSON who can share the story of His wonderful work of transformation through our journeys.  Our trials.  Our dirty, self-promoting, sinful missteps and off-road ventures.

Transparency is talk and transformation is action.

Transparency can make us feel “okay” and “excused”, or that our sins are less than tawdry, if we shove our weak, sinful moments into the light of inner and outer circles for all to gaze upon.  It puts the focus on the hands of the stone-throwers, and somehow makes our sins more palatable.  If care is not taken, being transparent can become a safe deflection.

At some point, Transparency Road needs to be abandoned for a smoother route along Transformation Way.

Think of Paul.  Lord knows, he traveled Transparency Road boldly.  In the face of those whom he had persecuted, Paul didn’t linger on Transparency Road long, but instead, shared of making that turn onto Transformation Way.  That is what makes sharing travels along these two pathways a Kingdom Builder.

There was this paramour.
And I hated her.
Loathed her.
Didn’t know her, only the act that gave her the paramour title.
Everything in me said, “Stone her”.
And Jesus said, “You who is without sin cast the first stone.”
And I knew instantly that I was guilty.
Dead in the dust.
The stones fell from my hands.

Now, in telling you this, I’m being transparent.  I hated.  I wanted to cause pain.  I did cause pain.  Name-calling.  Finger-pointing.  Ugly, ugly, ugly.

If my story ends there, I’ve shared nothing good, and made myself feel better for telling you how awful I am.  If I stop there, my story-telling ends with selfish motive.  I’m helping no one.  There may be other people who can relate, or may feel a connection to me and say “I did that, too!”, but if I don’t follow through by sharing with you how this very instant transformed me, I am not doing you any favors and worse, I’m not giving glory to the Father for His great transformation in me.

The rest of the story is this:

Though it took me years, I finally dropped the stones.
In doing so, I allowed the Holy Spirit to direct me.
I reached out to the woman, whom I previously identified with an accusatory name.
Gracefully, she reached back.
And ONLY because of My Savior’s great forgiveness, mercy and grace, I am filled with genuine love for this woman I now call my friend.  Family, even.

Only God can do that.  That is transformation.  And it doesn’t stop there.  Because of this experience, I am slower to judge.  And I’m more quickly to notice when my backpack becomes heavy with a stone or two.  I’m not saying I don’t judge.  And I’m not saying I don’t pick up stones.  Both things I am not proud of.  But they are things that I notice and rid myself of much quicker than I did years ago.

Transparency to Transformation.

The road that is Transparency leads to the way that is Transformation.

Thank you, Jesus, for being The Light and The Way.

 

 

“The family was shrinking”, It Read.

I picked up a new read at the book store recently, Educated.  This is my first read of the new year.

fullsizeoutput_126

Standing in the store, reading the blurb, I instantly felt compelled to give this book a go.  It’s a non-fiction, memoir of sorts, about a girl who grew up in the mountains of Idaho with her mom, dad and boo-coos of siblings, she being the youngest.  It chronicles her family life and the nest, as fledgling older brothers flew away, and eventually, her journey in leaving it as well.

Not gonna lie, once I opened the book at home from my comfy reading chair, I almost closed it for good before getting to Chapter One.  I’m one of those weird book lovers who reads the whole thing, including all those miscellaneous pages at the beginning before the story actually starts with “Once upon a time.”  The author’s note, which precedes the first chapter in this particular book, opens with this sentence:  “This story is not about Mormonism.”

There were a couple of sentences following that one, but they didn’t matter because I was stalled out on that one, six word sentence.

Why did the author feel the need to state that from the get go?

I am not a Mormon.  I have some friends who are.  But I am not.  I am friends with them and they with me, yet we do not press our views, opinions, thoughts on this subject matter into each other.  I wonder, “Will reading this book in some way impress thoughts about Mormonism into the tapestry that is who I am?”  Because who I am belongs to The I Am, I know that I have to take care to guard my heart.  “Be careful”, I’ve always warned my own sons, “of what you read, listen to or watch, because you cannot unread, unhear or unsee what you take in”.  I believe this with all of who I am.  (Thank you, I Am.)

So, was this my warning to put the  book down?

I didn’t.  And I’m still reading it.  But had I read the author’s note at the book store, I probably would have laid it back down on the table where I found it.  I’m not saying that’s the right thing to have done.  I’m not saying reading it is the right thing to do.  This presented a small personal fork that I have chosen to navigate carefully.

Since I did not close the book and chose instead to proceed forward from the author’s note, today found me in Chapter 6, where I reached my second place of stalling.  The book read, from the first paragraph,  “The family was shrinking…”  It didn’t even take an entire sentence to bring me to a stand still.

Again, I read the words, “The family was shrinking…”, and I felt the weight of a previously unnamed something stirring in me.

2018 was a tough year.

2018 found me listening to the whispers from dark places.  To the lies.  It found me reclining in hurts.  And in uncertainties.  Quite frankly, it was the most difficult string of months I’ve ever torn from the calendar.

Sometimes we know why there are seasons of disappointment, despair, and sometimes we don’t.  I’ve never really been able to put my finger on one solitary culprit for the funky year 2018 was.  There seemed to be lots of things, and nothing, all at the same time.  But I think this book that I’m reading that I almost didn’t has spoken to me the unnamed source of where most, if not all, of 2018’s negatives were birthed.

“The family was shrinking…”

That’s it.

Like breathing in and breathing out, my immediate family has increased, and is now decreasing.  Changing, like the seasons.  In an inevitable, natural rhythm, this change crept about gradually on the increase, and seemingly suddenly on the decrease.  Crept suddenly.  There’s an oxymoronic coupling if I ever saw one.  But it’s true.  Crept, because this change happened under the radar.  Suddenly, because it was harsh and immediate.

When our oldest son stoically left home in 2011, we were included in the details.  Plus, his two younger brothers were home still, providing companionship for each other and distraction enough for us to avoid hemorrhaging over the empty chair at the table.  This change was hard, but manageable.  We knew (sort of) where he was going, and (sort of) what he was doing.  Our communication was not severed.

When our middle son left not quite a year ago, it was different.  We were left out of the details.  We were left out of the thought of details.  In the middle of a cool night, he took off.  Was it done stoically?  Couldn’t tell you.  We weren’t there.  We didn’t know where he was, where he was going, or what he was doing or planned to do.  This change was hard.  Drastic. Resembling a theft.  It was stealthily carried out without our knowing.  Without our inclusion.  Our communication was severed.  Completely.  Bluntly.  Though there was one younger brother still at home, he was old enough to feel the head-spinning void this type of desertion brought.

And this is where 2018 was spent.  This is how it lingered forever and resulted quickly in lost time.

It was spent in retreat.
Huddling up with the immediate family.
Shutting out familiar routine.
Tending to the gaping wound.
Doggy paddling.
Keeping our heads above water.
Taking the waves as they came.
Sometimes constantly.
Oftentimes without warning.
One.
After another.
And another.

Waves titled:
Uncertainty
Self-doubt
and
Lies

Holding hands with:
Anger
Sadness
and
Neutrality

Fueled by:
Not knowing
Feelings of defeat
and
The hushed rumor mill of a community we were once a part of
and
The blaring rumor mill of a community we were never a part of

Rejection, in it’s rawest form, facing the saltiness of each wave that came.

Daily.  Sometimes hourly.  Occasionally by the minute.

Almost an entire year spent trying to figure out what our family whole looked like and who we were becoming.

“The family was shrinking…”

___

I might pick the book back up soon and read the rest of that sentence.
The rest of that chapter.
Maybe even the rest of the book.

But it will be later.

After this tsunami.

___________________________________________

Educated | A Memoir
BY Tara Westover

So far, I give it a very good rating.
Tara’s use of imagery in describing the mundane, often overlooked , is incredible.  So far, I have found that the author’s note is exactly what it states.  The author’s experience as chronicled is not about Mormonism, but instead, an age-old, shared instinct to separate at some point from our families in chase of our own identities.  I have been been both that young woman who was chasing, and now the older woman who has been left.  It would be neat if there was a companion book to this one written from the perspective of Tara’s mother.  Two points of view on the same experience.  But that’s my two cents on a book that I’m still to finish.  I’ll let you know when I reach the final word if my advanced review needs some editing.  At this point, I am really glad I didn’t read the author’s note while I was standing in Barnes & Noble.  Who knows how long it would have taken for me to acknowledge the normalcy of the thing that I felt was causing a bleed out in 2018.
Thank goodness I’ve entered 2019 on the mend.

~S

 

 

 

 

A Home For The Village People

YouTube is great.
So is Pinterest.
All these ideas…..SO MANY….

As I pulled out the boxes of Department 56 village pieces, I wondered if it was possible to construct a landscape for this hodgepodge collection accumulated over the years.  I entered into a Google search:

CHRISTMAS VILLAGE LANDSCAPES

And….BOOM!  The magic of the internet threw me into a kaleidoscope of possibilities.  They really are endless.

3 weeks and too many spent bucks later, I have a home for my Village People and their town, now lovingly called Moose Junction.  You’ll understand when you see the final picture below.

This is how it started, after all the boxes of styrofoam and glues were harvested from internet and local walk-in stores.  I cut the styrofoam using a hot wire cutter, and used foam glue and styrofoam pins to secure the pieces.  This is how I “planned” my city, and made an electrical engineering plan.

fullsizeoutput_a

Looks pretty good just like that, doesn’t it?  I moved around the buildings until I got the look I wanted.  Placing a few village people on the scene also helped me get my head around what I was going for.  My entire landscape is made up of three sections.  Hopefully this will help with storage.  The back section is 12″ x 36″ x 2″ smooth foam.  I learned this important thing right off the bat.  There are different kinds of styrofoam.  Who knew!?  Turns out, the best foam to work with when creating junk like this is the smooth foam.  I got my stash from Hobby Lobby and Woodland Scenics.  The first foam I ordered from Hobby Lobby online was the large open cell foam.  Thank goodness I could return it to the store and not have to wait on returning it via UPS.  The front half of the village is made up of two pretty much equally split sections of 12″ x 36″ x 1″ smooth foam.

Next I had to add newspaper puffs to my structures.  This gives the plaster cast something to adhere to.  This is the back section, which will make up the higher “mountains”.

IMG_9877

Full sheets of newspaper “pillowed” works best.

The next step was to add plaster casting.  I used the cement sheets from Woodland Scenics.  Some I purchased online from Hobby Lobby, and some I bought in person at Hobby Lobby.  They had a better price on the concrete sheets.  I found this step to be the most messy and enjoyable phase of construction.  The structure is starting to take shape!

IMG_9880

Isn’t that neat?!  Here are the other two sections for the front, lower elevation:

IMG_9871

IMG_9879

I let these sections dry for about 3 days.  Everything I watched and read said that the castings should be dry in 30 minutes or so, but even though I used two layers of sheets, as advised, the model was very damp feeling for a long time.  It may have been that I didn’t let the sheets drip enough when removing them from the water basin to apply to the foam and newspaper structures.

Then I added some rocks.  These little guys are cool.  I used a rock mold by Woodland Scenics and some of their mixture.  The rocks set up in about 20 minutes.  I used the same concrete sheets to adhere the rocks to various places on my mountain ledges.  Then I stained the rocks using earth pigments from Woodland Scenics (yellow, gray & black).

IMG_9886

Next was the prepping of the under turf.  I couldn’t get my hands on a Woodland Scenics product called Under Earth, which is a pigment they sell, so I made my own pigment by diluting an acrylic antiquing medium.  It worked pretty well.  Basically you just want to apply color to the plaster so that it looks like earth underneath the grasses and sands and snows to be added.  I applied with a sponge brush.

IMG_9894

After all was browned and glorious, I began adding my turf.  This is a pretty large landscape, and the fun and newness of using shakers filled with various colored “grasses” wore off quickly.  What got me was the gluey parts.  I did not buy enough Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement, which is sprayed under the turf and on top of every layers, to hold the ground in place.  It was frustrating to have to run to the store or try to figure out an alternative adhesive.  I was able to use Modge Podge quite successfully in-between trips to Hobby Lobby, but my tiredness of this task made for messy application.  Before I build another landscape, I’ll research and find some alternatives to have on hand.

So I added darker turf first, dotted with lighter and “burned” turf, then sprinkled on snow.

IMG_9901

Finally, after all turfed out and everything glued in place, THE FUN finally settled in.  My husband said I hit “Summit Fever”, as I worked until I had the entire village set up and plugged in.

Here’s the final result:

IMG_0048

IMG_9943

IMG_0003

fullsizeoutput_30

IMG_0017

Here’s a picture of it all glowy and happy in the dark:

IMG_0031

And finally, here’s how it looks from afar.  See why we call it Moose Junction?

fullsizeoutput_34

Red to White, Lord.

The richness of unjust rampage
viewed from a platform
constructed of self-righteous stones
appears crimson.

Take heart!
Within the muddled spectrum
Light abides
and ever changes the hue from certain death
to life.

Red to White.

Hearts are changed in this way.

Hate becomes love.

And the view changes.
____

I am struggling, Lord, to find any compassion in my heart for people who are unknown to me.  I feel they have opened fire upon what is mine.  What is Yours.  Stealing.  Maiming. Plundering and killing.  Lord, I feel every strike made at their hands elevates them to a platform from which they feel invincible.  And I find myself wrapped up in wanting the worst outcome for them.  Lord, I know I am not created for this mischief.  I know You did not design me to hold grudges.  I know You are unhappy when I judge.  Please help me.  Please help our community.  Please remind us, Lord, of Your supernatural ability to heal across all of our differences and allow tenderness to not be crusted over with the scars of evil events.  Help me, Father, as I desire to think, behave, and reach out in a way that is glorifying of You.  Father God, help me rise above this miry pit of pain and ugly feelings.  Lift us all up so that we may continue in this spiritual fight, knowing that Victory is already claimed – that YOU have overcome this world.  Give us strength.  Give me the ability to see through glasses that are tinted by Your light, and not my desires for justice.  You and You alone, Father, are able to take stuff like this and suit it up to bring a testimony that is Kingdom Building.  Ever remind me of Saul, Lord, and the testimony you gave him.  Let me remember this every time I want to write off the hands that pull the triggers, Lord.  Thank you for what You have promised and for Your truth.  Thank You for the hope we have in Jesus.  Crimson dotted with light, Lord!  Turn this place into your blinding spectrum of life!!

In Jesus’s name,

Amen

No automatic alt text available.

…At Peace

MEMORY CHALLENGE:

AT PEACE
free from anxiety or distress / a state of friendliness / unruffled / undisturbed / harmonious / serene

Recall a time when you felt the most at peace, and invite Jesus to reflect with you. What do you remember? How did you feel then, as compared to how you feel now, re-visiting that time?

…Alone

MEMORY CHALLENGE:

ALONE
isolated / separated from others / exclusive of anyone and anything else / incomparable / unique

Recall a time when you felt the most alone, and invite Jesus to reflect with you. What do you remember? How did you feel then, as compared to how you feel now, re-visiting that time?

“When I felt most…”

During this season of Thanksgiving, join me for a time of reflection – “where we’ve been”.  As we explore our most personal memories, my prayer for you, and for me, is that The Lord will apply His balm, His humor (Yes!  I absolutely believe laughter is a good, good gift from Him.), and His view of all the times that come to mind as we ponder the most vivid emotions we have emblazoned in our hearts.  May God also reveal His presence with you during these reflections, and may you find thanksgiving in them.  What a celebration we will have together…We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

The first challenge will be posted tomorrow!
relg0330-02