Legacy of a Mountain Climber

She was a girl with a mountain to climb.

-Markus Zusak

 

My daddy taught me to climb mountains. I was born in Texas while Dad was in the Army, but as soon as his time was served, he headed straight back for the mountains. I really can’t blame him. He was raised in Detroit, moved to the mountains when he was 10, and then he found himself in the desert for years. Once his time in the desert was finished, it was logical to go back to the mountains. It’s even biblical. There are a lot of verses in the Bible talking about fleeing to the mountains. Growing up I thought of the mountains as comfort, like the topographical macaroni and cheese. This week my daddy, the mountain climber, would have been 61.

When I went to visit my grandparents, and it didn’t matter which ones, we headed for the mountains. One lived nearby in the heart of a region that is known for sweeping rivers, wildflowers, and fly-fishing. There I learned to pick the sassafras leaves off the tree and smell them, and I ran through the sprinkler while the train whistled as it came around the mountain down the bend in the road. I learned about snakes and owls. My granddaddy would play the guitar as my granny rocked me to sleep. My dad’s parents were a state away. Our extended family settled in the mountains so high I got car sick each time we traveled there. In those mountains I learned to dance in the rain, caught my first fish, learned to snap green beans, and climbed the crab apple trees. Mountains were my friends.

My family could always see the mountains in the distance. We could visit the mountain and live in the valley in the shadow of the mountains. My father took us on afternoon drives for most of my childhood right up until the day mountains started having a completely different meaning to me. I always loved the part of the mountains where we reached the end of a wall of mountains on each side and the blue sky opened up. We spent our weekends on walking trails hiking to waterfalls with various friends, seeing creatures in the woods, and being taught to leave nature where it was. Flowers were there for everyone. There, the rocks were made for skipping. Life was tangibly more abundant there in the mountains.

The day my father ended his life it was at the top of one of his beloved mountains. That was the first day I thought of mountains as something huge to get over. My playground was now a graveyard. I had to find a way to sort all the wonderful memories I had in those mountains that were now mingled with the pain on the worst day of my life. I swore I’d never drive past that place again. Then I moved to the mountains. I had to drive past that mountain each time I came home for the holidays. When your mountain is visible, it makes for a much harder journey to get around it.

When you are raised climbing mountains, it makes it harder to identify mountains that are problems. If you like challenges, you might not notice your mountain until it starts to feel like a desert. Once I lived through losing my father, all other mountains seemed like hills. I eventually came upon a time in my life it was clear I was in the desert. This was a totally different kind of mountain. Desert air sucks the life out of you. It demands your attention. It gives no mercy. Deserts are not known for their mercy to life. Deserts are…well, deserts.

You never really consider life in the desert. Everyone knows cacti live there, but if someone had told me to name desert animals I’d likely have said, “tumbleweed?” I started understanding why a cactus is prickly. I was pretty prickly myself. I started to feel forgotten by the God that I knew made all my beloved mountains. I started praying that God would move a very specific mountain. I was working three jobs while battling this mountain, and one day I was sitting praying watching the front door of a retail establishment, and it hit me. The store I worked had “mountain outfitters” in the name. God had somehow placed me smack in the middle of the biggest clue that sometimes He moves the mountain, but some mountains are meant to be climbed.

While in my metaphorical desert, I did a little research. There is a rain shadow effect that happens in some areas that cause little water to get to an area because of…you guessed it, a MOUNTAIN. In the rain shadow effect, water comes up with wind up one side of the mountain, and moist air rises. By the time it gets to the top, the moisture is gone. The other side of the mountain has a rain shadow effect that causes desert like conditions.

     Something I never considered was even though the rain was not reaching my desert, I was being sheltered from the wind by being on the other side of the mountain. But things still grow in the desert, and I was no different. In a rain shadow effect, it still rains, and when it does, the desert the next day is abloom. The plants there have just enough rain to live until the next rain. Sometimes that is how we live in the desert. We just have to get the rain when we can, and somehow it is enough until the next rainfall.

Even though I no longer am in my “desert”, I still have a few mountains. I have decided that some of them will not be moving, and one day I will be prepared for the hike to get to the top of them. I am grateful for the legacy of mountains my father left to me. I don’t have to hike the mountains alone. Just like God provides rain to a desert in need, He has not failed to provide exactly whatever and whomever I need in my life through each mountain, valley, and even desert. Mountains are inevitable. I’m glad my daddy knew the way to the top.

Advertisements

Giving Way to Happiness

Every little beat that I feel in my heart
Seems to repeat what I felt at the start
Each little sign tells me that I adore you
Louise

-Dean Martin

“Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more…to give way to the happiness of the person you love.”

-Winnie the Pooh

Once in a while we make a really big decision, one that can have the ability to break our heart. Five years ago I made such a decision, but five years ago this decision didn’t feel like it could break my heart. It felt like one I needed to make. Tonight I realized that for me, the decision felt inevitable. I think it always will to me.

Sometimes a line is a straight line to someone. Sometimes a line can be a straight line away from someone. Sometimes you have to hope your line is a circle or at least a triangle.

Life sometimes has a way to reveal things to you, only to have them covered back over with none other than life itself. I keep telling myself that you shouldn’t doubt in the dark what you saw clearly in the light. I keep telling myself that if you give up something amazing, clearly there is something else out there that will at least be equally amazing. I keep telling myself it was real. I keep telling myself the stories I have written weren’t just deleted like they didn’t matter. I keep telling myself a lot of things.

Growing up I thought once you made a friend, they stay your friend. No one ever tells you how life will put 1,394 things in your path so the friends drift away. No one ever tells you that you will go through life changing triumphs and tragedies that make friends be able to exist without you where once that would have been inconceivable. No one tells you a lot of things about being a friend. You have to find out by being one.

I do know this. I miss my friend.

Learning to live without a friend is like learning to live without a piece of your heart. I’m not sure you ever learn how. You just live because there isn’t an alternative. You learn how to be okay by practicing being okay.

I used to write things because I had reasons to write things. Now, I have reasons to stay quiet. It’s easier. When you open yourself up to tell someone how you feel, it can appear to them as though you are fighting. As it turns out, sometimes you just care so much you can’t be rational. Love is irrational. I will stand by that statement as long as I’m alive.

When a person says, “I don’t want to fight,” I have discovered they generally can’t have the conversation at the moment, or they don’t want to be wrong. I’ve heard it a few times from a few friends. Well, sometimes it is okay to fight. When someone wants to fight for you, maybe learning to listen is part of being a human.

The greatest gift you can give someone is listening. Unless, you can’t.

Then, I guess, that’s okay too. It won’t really change anything.

Probably.

Reflections of Love on Father’s Day

My dad always walked a little fast. He always apologized for it, but I never minded. I had no trouble keeping up with him. (He also went a little fast on the interstate, but that’s another whole story better left untold.) If we went somewhere, he usually knew exactly where we were going, or so I thought. Looking back I think the child in me just thought he must know where he was going or he wouldn’t be leading me there as well. Now that I’m an adult and a mom, I know the real truth. Even when we think we know where we are going, we rarely do.

He liked to ruin the end of television shows if he knew it was past my bedtime. He probably felt like I deserved it. I laugh now, but at the time it didn’t seem so funny. He would walk into the living room and take one look at the screen and say, “Oh yeah, this is the one where the UPS man made it look like it was the husband.” Then he’d walk back out knowing I would just turn the television off exasperatedly and go to bed. I’m older now and possibly wiser. I’m now considering the possibility that MAYBE the UPS man didn’t do it. MAYBE Dad just wanted me to go to bed.

My dad would stay up until I got home even when I was an adult. If I rolled in at 10 p.m., he would turn off the television and head to bed. If I walked in the door at midnight, the same thing happened. He wanted to make sure I was safe. I thought he was being ridiculous. He likely went through a lot of Pepsi and ice cream waiting on me. My child will be able to drive soon, and I have to say I have reversed my position on this being ridiculous.

He served in church as whatever was needed. I have seen him take up offering, drive his whole family to Christmas play practice without grumbling, be a children’s pastor with my mother, or run the sound board at a lady’s ministry conference. He was equally gifted with puppets and being Joseph in a Christmas play with no prior notice (and didn’t laugh when Big Bird ended up being Baby Jesus when the real Baby Jesus had enough). He drove me to the gas station to get snacks during church when my blood sugar was low. When I decided I had to go to youth group the day I got my wisdom teeth out, he carried me back to the car and took me home when the meds kicked in.

I made him mad a few times, and dad was a redhead. He had a temper. Once, I made a fort out of every railroad tie that was being used for landscaping. My brother and I were seated inside our life-size Lincoln Log cabin chilling out playing some D.C. Talk on the portable cassette player when he asked us what in the world we thought we were doing. Playing, Dad. Duh. On a different occasion I did a logical thing by placing dish soap in the dishwasher when we ran out of dishwasher soap. I flooded the basement. When I was in elementary school, I got a Cricket doll. I played a song outside his door on Saturday mornings so he’d wake up. I couldn’t wait to see him. He would have liked for me to wait until 8 a.m. at least. Oops.

He taught me a lot. In my 21 years with him I patched sheetrock, mixed concrete, painted, raked, mowed the grass (almost ran him over), planted flowers, planted trees, and trimmed hedges. He taught me to drive by yelling the word “mailbox” at the top of his lungs when he felt like I was too close. He taught me to fish, although, that ended up being a fiasco with a pregnant catfish. Because of him I know how to put up a tent, and the one we put up lived on my top bunk for at least a year after that.

He picked me up off a floor heater when I was a baby and made me feel safe, even though I felt like the world was ending. He was with me at the hospital when they used the biggest needle I had ever seen. He stopped by to check on me during the day when I had the World’s Worst Stomach Bug when I was 7. He carried me when I had mono. He bought me a jacket when I sunburned myself at the beach. He offered me Alka Seltzer for what ailed me, but knew I’d never take it because that stuff makes me puke.

His thoughtfulness knew no bounds. He was always fixing VCRs or DVD players for our relatives. He has put down his fork at dinner and driven across town when his mother-in-law forgot how to use her remote control. He took a church member to the food bank regularly. Dad remembered when I mentioned I wanted flannel sheets, and I got them for Christmas. On my 21st birthday he made me my favorite kind of cake and let me cut it while it was warm and uniced. That is still my favorite birthday memory.

Once you leave home, you spend your whole life trying to figure out how to get back there. It’s impossible; trust me. My dad was special. So incredibly special. I’m so sad my kids never got to meet him. I’m sad I can’t call him up and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. I know I’ll see him again one day when we get where we are going.

He just always walked a little faster than most people.

Demonstration

Demons struggle

Pushing down 

Pulling up, but 

Make no sound.

Demons struggle 

Thought long gone 

Keep coming back 

With breaking dawn.

Demons grabbing,

Slashing, tearing

What was there 

Is what I’m bearing. 

Silent demons, 

But angels before.

I let them out.

They bar the door.

Former angels 

Fill my mind.

All the halls 

Have demons lined.

Remnant demons from 

Life lived well 

Have turned on me

And made my hell. 

With Apologies To Emily Dickinson

img_0822Hope is a thing with feathers, “ she said,

However, I am not so sure

I carry my hope piggyback style

And the weight’s a chore to endure.

 

My hungry hope eats everything

It’s the least picky eater I know

So carrying it around all day

It has nothing to do but grow.

 

Sometimes it gets too heavy for me

And I drag it by the feet

At times I rest with my head on its chest

Other times, I’ll admit my defeat

 

While carrying Hope around all day

It burns a hole and sears

It scratches at your sanity

And it preys on your worst fears

 

Hope’s words are dipped in poison

On every inch there is a thorn

But if you swallow every word of Hope’s

Your passion is reborn

 

Hope is not a thing with feathers.

Dickinson was wrong

I’ve waited

and waited

and waited

I’ve waited for so long.

Father’s Day Benediction

I recently told a dear friend of mine I hated Father’s Day because my dad passed away years ago. I soon realized I was preaching to the choir. You see, my friend had a child, an only child, and she too had passed away. His child was special for myriad reasons, but most importantly, she was special because she was HIS.

He didn’t get to choose her, but he would have. I feel pretty comfortable saying he’d do it all over again. His beautiful daughter had special needs and needed nursing care all of her 10 years she lit up his world. Now that she is gone, besides the gaping chasm left in his heart, she took with her his feeling of being a father. This led me to ask myself what a father really was.

I never met his daughter, but I can tell you about the gift she left us. She left us her DAD. Chad used to spend hours devoted to her care. Now, he cares for others ranging from lonely friends, to his parents, to students struggling (and I do mean STRUGGLING :)) with APA format. He shovels gravel with a smile, will make your universal remote behave with decorum, and read your favorite books just so he can talk about them with you. He will play board games with large amounts of instructions. He will watch movies adapted from books even if you warn him they are awful. He will drop off passion tea lemonade to a friend, and not JUST because that friend got him hooked on them. He will encourage small children, and he will encourage large children. Actually, he just encourages everyone.

Now, he’d be the first to try to deny all of this. For starters, he likes to argue just a little. He loves science and math and feelings are just not in any equation he likes to work. He prefers to be the behind the scenes type of person because that is who he is. He likes to pretend he’s a tough guy, and truth is he is a tough guy—a better tough guy than most tough guys are.

He’s the kind of tough guy that tells you to remember your umbrella when it is raining hours away from where you live. He’s the kind of tough guy that plays video games with a nephew and recommends books to his niece. He’s the kind of tough guy that will listen to your hurt and never hint of his own.

Being a good dad starts before the birth of a child. It extends far as far back as learning to be a good sibling. Being a good dad also reaches long after death, whether that is the death of the parent, or even when it is tragically the child’s. It’s the selfless nature, encouraging words, and raw love shown that proves a person is a real dad, even in the face of ultimate hurt when a child leaves the world her parent shares first.

So Chad, Happy Father’s Day to the best DAD I know. I’m so thankful you ARE a DADDY. It made you who you are, and the legacy of love you gave your daughter will live long after all of us in the quiet way you care for the people in your world. You don’t have to feel like a DAD to prove you are in the example you set for your family and friends. We know you are a dad because of the kind of love for others shown is the kind that lives on forever. I’m thankful for you every day.

(Ladies, he’s single. Can you even believe that? All interested parties can contact me and I’ll pass on your info!)

 

Are Your Relationships Up On Blocks?

Along with our sweet tea, SEC football, and good manners, in the South we also have an affinity for lawn ornaments.  These can range from the occasional flamingo, the weeping angel statues you’ll find in gardens, or my favorite eyesore- the car up on blocks.  I’m not sure why you will see so many cars up on blocks here in the South, but I like to think that it tells us a lot about the person that lives in the residence.  When I see a car up on blocks I have a few thoughts about the person who owns that car, and things that might be true about him or her.  Cars can be a lot like people, and symbolic of relationships.  Some cars can be members of the family and some even have names.  A few questions come to mind when I see a car up on blocks.  Is it fixable?  Is it worth it?

Cars aren’t meant to work forever.  However, if treated properly, they can last for a long time with maintenance.  If a car isn’t maintained, much like a relationship, it will break down and it will not be usable.  When a malfunction occurs it could be something simple, but odds are, if the car is up on blocks than it is definitely a problem much more complex.  Most of the time before a vehicle completely breaks down there are a lot of signs that something has gone wrong.  There might be a little symbol in your dashboard, or there could be a noise you hear when you are running the roads.  Relationship symbols and sounds are a little different when they are signaling trouble, but they are there nonetheless.  Communication is usually the key to both the breaking of the relationship, and also whether or not it gets fixed.

Signs your relationship are headed for a breakdown are easy to spot.  While oil in a car is necessary, the relationship equivalent of oil is communication.  It is the one thing that can help keep everything running smoothly.  As long as communication is open and honest, there is hope to keep your engines running.

Another sign your relationship is headed for a breakdown is the same as if we were talking about a car.  Sometimes, with little warning, something breaks. Something changes. It could be circumstances, it might be something deliberate.  With a car it doesn’t matter if someone cuts your brake line,or someone let the air out of your tire, time is of the essence in figuring out what it wrong and getting it fixed.  The same can be said of most relationships. Getting to the problem is half the battle, but fixing the problem can be the most tricky.

Which leads me to what happens when something breaks? When a breakdown occurs, one thing is for sure.  It won’t fix itself.  With relationships, because there is more than one person involved, this is a complex situation.  In order for it to function properly it is not as simple as replacing a malfunctioning part.  The process can take a long time.  Also, there is the risk that it might never be fixed. Not everything is fixable.

When something has gone wrong you can respond in one of a few ways.  You can try to fix it yourself, take it into the shop, or you can rely on a friend to help you.  As a last resort the car might be beyond fixable, and therefore you might have to make a bigger decision than you first planned.  In rare instances, a car might end up on blocks until you can decide what direction to go in.  Restoration, trading it in, scrapping it, and just letting it sit there are all things that could happen to a car that is in need of assistance.  When a relationship runs into trouble, the options are very similar.

Restoration is the first option.  When a car is a wonderful piece of machinery and it could be worth much more fixed, people will choose to restore the car.  It will require much time, hard work, and probably money, but when they finish what they started, it will be something to be enjoyed for years to come.  Sometimes restoration is a wonderful option in relationships too.  Sometimes with a little tender love and care an old beat up relationship can seem new as long as both parties are committed to the process, and it will be a process.

You can trade a car in, and sometimes that is truly the best option. Maybe you aren’t attached to the car emotionally, and the best thing to do is to just replace it with a new car.  Getting a new car can be exciting and fun.  The same is true with a new relationship.  If the commitment isn’t there, maybe the best option is to get a new one.

Sometimes you don’t need the car, and you can just scrap it.  If it doesn’t work anyway, it’s a great option.  You might not need to replace the existing car, but you know holding on to it isn’t the best thing to do.  This is also true about relationships.  Maybe you are better off single for the moment, or maybe you just need some time to figure things out.

Lastly, you could just let it sit there.  This is the option I refer to as putting a car up on blocks.  This particular choice makes me wonder more than the other options.  Letting something sit there with no progress toward the greater good also means that there will be negative consequences.  Things rarely just sit and don’t get worse.  When a car, or a relationship, is up on blocks it’s not going anywhere, and there are usually no plans for it to go anywhere.  So, why keep it? Sometimes it is the sentimental reasons that make us reluctant to let go.  Maybe a lot of firsts happened.  Maybe you just aren’t ready to have a final decision.  Maybe you don’t know how to fix it, and you are waiting on something to happen to guide you in the right direction.  Perhaps you just don’t have the time to devote to fixing it, but you don’t want to let it go just yet. Whatever the reason, when I found myself pondering this recently, I found myself judgmental of those I knew with those kind of relationships. Then I realized I was in possession of a few relationships up on blocks myself.

I decided that I had been holding on to things because I was scared of letting them go.  I was scared because I wanted to keep them so much, I didn’t care if they hurt me.  For a long time it was worth it to not say how I felt because I wanted to protect someone that meant everything to me, but I knew that in their eyes, it was me that was up on blocks.  The truth is as human beings we are worth the best life we can lead.  It may not be what we want, but maybe things will find their way to make them okay.  So if you are reading this and someone is not choosing you, then choose yourself.  You choose  you, because you are worth it.  A good friend of mine has a dream car I’ve never heard of, but that means there is someone out there for everyone.  You are someone’s dream. It might not always be perfect, but you deserve something amazing.

A relationship is not a trophy.  It’s not a merit badge we wear with our accomplishments.  It’s how we treat another human being , and they in turn translate that into having value to you. You are essentially letting someone know you love them when you are investing in your maintenance. When you invest in a person, you should get a return on your investment.  The value of a car that is being worked on rarely goes down, and the same could be said about most relationships. But if for some reason you are pouring money into the car equivalent of the Money Pit, and you love it with all your heart, but it will never transport you anywhere again, please ask yourself why you are doing that.  At the end of the day, you aren’t going around in circles, you are going nowhere. We all know that it is rare that a car up on blocks ever actually makes it off.  Luckily, here in the South, with a little kudzu we can consider them yard art.

Butt Wiping 101: Potty Training My Coworker

As a recovering people pleaser, it pains me to have to say sometimes you just have to make people mad at you for a good cause.  Last week I made a coworker mad at me by simply stating facts that were true, and while painful, if she had just been a little more proactive in her job approach, things would never have gotten to this point.

The old saying goes “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  I’ve always thought that was incredibly unfair.  It made more sense to me that the wheel that never gets squeaky because someone was proactive enough to make sure they took great care of their wheels should have grease before any other wheels running around being squeaky.  As it turns out, those that are excellent at caring for their own wheels run around this planet greasing other people’s wheels too because they are too thoughtless or lazy to grease their own.

I’m not speaking about those that need occasional help.  I’m hardly perfect, and I will ask for help from time to time.  I’m talking about habitual squeaky wheels.  Those kind of people that run around complaining about whatever at that moment needs fixing are exhausting.  It seems they are never happy.  Someone’s inadequacy or sheer laziness prompts them to look beyond themselves for a solution to their problems and that usually means a person that is a professional problem solver.  The issue with that is that means the professional problem solver is now doing two jobs: their own and the problem maker’s.

The inspiration behind this piece smiles widely all the time while spewing poisonous myriad issues. She has a job, doesn’t know how to do it, and instead of figuring out how to do super productive things like download her own attachments, she chooses to yell like a toddler that needs their rear wiped.   I’ve discovered that people enjoy making her shut up so much they do the unthinkable.  They wipe her butt.  I’ve done it.  Those in charge have done it.  Those that work in her team do it.  The reason they do it is simple.  Her butt is dirty, and we are horrified at the fact she is unable to do her own job effectively.

As toddlers we are eventually potty trained when we get old enough to understand that there is a cause and effect situation going on with our body.  Steps are taken to ensure that we know how to use the toilet.  The last step in toilet training is learning to effectively wipe our own butt.  Otherwise, disaster ensues and there are bigger messes to clean up than originally were necessary.  At work, this translates to someone who doesn’t know how to wipe their own butt has two choices: find someone to do the job or walk around with turd butt.  Those of us that understand the fine art of butt wiping are horrified by the later, so we inevitably do the former.  That is ridiculous.  Adults should wipe themselves.

When someone is getting paid for a job, they should do it.  They don’t have to like it, but certain things that aren’t negotiable.  Just because they don’t like one aspect of a job does not mean they should get to neglect it or find someone to do it for them.  Some jobs are dirty.  Some jobs have things that are not fun about them.  We don’t sign up for just the fun part of a job.  We sign up for the whole thing.

There are problem makers and problem solvers.  Everyday I encourage students to be a problem solver, and not a problem maker.  I do it because I don’t want to live in a world with a lot of people that can’t solve basic problems themselves.  If we don’t allow people to wipe themselves the problem doesn’t go away.  Poop happens.  You can wipe it, but odds are, the problem is going to happen again.  Without learning how to deal with the problem, the problem maker is going to keep on making problems forever, and that is a perpetual problem in and of itself.

So, what would happen if everyone stopped wiping people’s butts?  It would be messy for a while.  Yes, when we train a toddler we take a risk, and when we do this with a coworker, it can be just as risky.  What if they fail?  What if they do something wrong?  In the end it is a much better solution than just continuing to do your job and theirs too.  There comes a time when you have to remove the help they depend on and allow them to have ownership over their problems.  In a world where Google exists, is there much they can’t figure out when dealing with most jobs?  I doubt it.  Let them get messy.  Let them yell.  I bet that eventually they will figure out the solution.  If they don’t, at least they are finding someone else to clean up after them and it doesn’t always fall to you. And that? That’s one less problem for you to deal with!

Smile Collector

This is dedicated to my very own “Smile Collector.” Thank you for your years of friendship and smile collecting. I thought this bore repeating. The fact you put up with me is amazing.

  Smile Collector

There’s a special kind of smile that is hard to collect.

The ones on the ground can be challenging.

You’d assume they’d be the ones waiting for you, but they were dropped.

A dropped smile is at first suspicious.

It may look like a smirk.

It could be a half smile.

Eventually, you gain its trust.

But by that time you won’t want to put it on a shelf,

Or in a bottle,

Or in a trophy case.

In fact, you might end up wearing it- everyday.

Ashes For Beauty

 After a school year spent sitting in other people’s chairs, I was eager to have a chair of my own as school started this fall.  After a roller coaster where I thought I had a job and then I realized I did not, now I am back sitting in someone else’s chair again in an interim position next door to a classroom I thought might be where I’d spend years.  Then last week the school I was non-renewed from 14 months ago had a few spots open and I decided to apply. The principal was no longer there, and I felt like I had great relationships with the people left there.  I knew it was a risk, but I decided to do it anyway.  I could tell you this really long story about how I had an army of people behind me, amazing recommendations from principals, and a fantastic interview, but I’ll just get to the point and say about the time I was listening to Journey sing “Don’t Stop Believing” in a T-shirt shop the size of a postage stamp in a tiny village in the North Georgia mountains my phone rang with bad news. Despite all those awesome things, the job was not mine.  Once again, I was not enough.  I’ve come to live with rejection so often these days we need bunk beds.  (With my dumb luck, rejection probably snores and sleepwalks.)

If you are going to have really bad news thrown at you, the best human to drag on a road trip with you is a guidance counselor.  She can talk you through it, help you laugh at yourself, and drown your sorrows in a river when she takes you tubing.  So, on our adventures the next day we decided to zip-line off a mountain, and we saw a pottery shop as we left where we thought you could paint pottery.  As it turns out you can no longer paint pottery, but we took a look around.  We saw this set of mugs on the shelf and the lady told us those mugs were really special for a big reason.  They were wood fired.  This made little sense to us, so she explained further.

Wood fired pottery is special as the process is not only time consuming, it is labor intensive.  Few people use wood as a fuel to fire pottery.  It is hard to produce identical pieces because where each piece is placed in the fire creates the results.  It’s chaotic in nature, and though it can create beautiful pieces, most potters would rather have a consistent result.  Fire will have a range of temperatures throughout the kiln, so each piece will be unique.

The mugs she showed us were created identical, but the mugs were not all exactly alike.  She explains that there was no glaze on the mugs at all.  The fire created the glazed look as the flames hit the surfaces.  Flashing is the name given to where the fire hits the piece directly and in the places where the fire touches the unglazed pieces those places are the prettiest.  So, if you are a piece of pottery, you want to be directly in the flames.

She directed us to another shelf where two bowls were.  She showed us they had the same markings, but they were completely different.  One bowl was amazingly beautiful up close.  The sister to this bowl was okay, but not shiny at all, and would fetch less money.  The only difference in them is how much the fire touched them.  She took the beautiful bowl down and showed us the inside.  It has this amazing looking interior in the bottom and she explained that that was ash glazing.  This type of firing made even the ashes beautiful.  The ashes get so hot in the kiln, they actually turn into glaze and glass.

I was amazed by all of this and then I had this striking thought. Sometimes life burns us when you expect one thing and get another.  Sometimes you put a lot of time and effort into something you think is going to be amazing just to be disappointed.  Then there are times that we realize that on the other side of the intense heat we feel, we will be better.  I guess I’m not ready to leave the fire just yet, but on the other side of this I will be stronger.  I will have marks where the fire touched me, but they will be beautiful.  Even the ashes will have purpose.  Even the ashes leave beauty.