Liar

I possess neither the patience nor the finesse of talking to a soon to be 13-year-old boy. Michael met me at my school this afternoon, but instead of me driving him home, I made a right toward Walmart.

“Where we going?” be asked.

“Home,” I said. “But first we’re going to get your hair cut.”

Speaking of cut, he cut me off before I could say another word.

“Dad said, ‘Walmart has raised the prices of hair cuts, and they don’t cut it the way you want them to. They have a book that they HAVE to cut from.’ He said he’d take me tomorrow.”

During their football practice? Nope. I don’t think so. Thus, I launched into my conversation about truth.

“Michael, you know I love you, but I am very concerned with the lies you tell.”

“WHAT?” Indignation floweth forth.

“I didn’t lie.”

My response was calm and simple. “I don’t believe your dad would care to research Walmart’s haircut policies and prices.” As usual, Michael had an explanation. “Well, I ran my sentences together. I was going to say that Dad would take me tomorrow. Then I just added the other stuff.”

See, Michael has a particular place where he gets his hair cut, and he really likes it there. But the shop is closed on Wednesdays, and Michael has football practice every other afternoon.

And that’s when the conversation went from bad to worse.

“Why would I lie?” he asked. “You wouldn’t even know it if I lied. I’m a really good liar.”

Oh, really?

Again, speaking calmly and simply, I said, “Michael, I hate it when people lie to me.”

Ever the defensive Lockhart, his response was quick. “I don’t lie.”

There was a short pause as I shot him the evil mom glare, and then he added one word.

“Often.”

It’s true. I absolutely can’t stand it when someone lies to me. And despite Michael’s lack of faith in my ability to read people, I’m not so bad at figuring out what’s real and what’s not. I guess teaching taught me that little tool. I’m a conundrum. Either I trust too much, or I don’t trust at all.

As for my students, I don’t catch every one of them who tries to pull a fast one. But when I find out that I’ve been had, I ache inside. I really care about people, and it hurts when they betray me. I’d rather endure the sting of truth than suffer the deep cut of misplaced trust. A friend you can truly trust is like a safety net that catches you when you fall in life.

I tell my students that sneaking an answer on a test may earn them a few extra points, but in the big picture they’d rather have me on their side. If they’ll just be honest with me and let me know they’re failing, I will find another way to help them succeed. I’ll be their safety net.

I guess that’s how God feels about us, about me.

I don’t like it when other people lie, but it’s hard for me to admit that I lie too. Maybe that’s where Michael gets his deception. I lie to others, and I lie to myself. I suppose some people call that kind of lying denial.

In a few days I will be off to Dallas for the adventure of my life. I’ll be boarding a plane all by myself. I’ve never flow in a big plane before, and I keep telling myself I’m not scared.

My greatest goal in life has been to be a published writer. Yes, I want to hold a book in my hands and smell the ink and feel the pages. But no, I don’t expect my life to change drastically once I’m published, if I’m ever published. I won’t make a lot of money.

But money is not an issue with me. If I have it, I will spend it on the things that make people happy, myself included. If I don’t have the money, I don’t fret over what I can’t have. I just think of those things I want as little treasures at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I’ll stumble across them. Maybe I won’t. (Sure wish I could stumble over a 69 Camaro.)

What I really want to do is EARN the privilege to teach others about writing. I wouldn’t consider myself a legitimate source if I weren’t actually published. I dream of holding workshops and going to schools to teach young people how to write. So maybe this will be the year that I will find an agent and an editor who will help me get my books into print.

I’m going to Dallas because I am a finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest, a pretty amazing achievement. Thank you, God. The winner will be announced at a gala. Although the finalists are not guaranteed a contract, the opportunities for meeting the right person to put the publishing plan in motion are ripe. My name will be “out there.”

But I think I’ve blown my chances. That’s me admitting the truth. The fact is I haven’t been writing as I should have. I haven’t been writing period. I can’t. My heart is too heavy. I have too much on my mind. When I lost my parents, I lost a part of me. And when I lost my parents, I realized that I am and always have been a human being separate from them. I always lived to please them. Now I’m on my own. I have to make my own decisions and accept myself for who I am, imperfect as that may be.

I’ve lied to myself, told myself that I’m all right. But that’s not the case. I want to be a writer, but just like the game rock, paper, scissors, sadness beats writing right now. I wish it didn’t.

The purpose of my blog is not for me to have an open diary. I’ve been telling my students for the past week that to write is to be vulnerable, to open up and to reveal a part of yourself. So struggling, hurting writers, I want you to know, you are not alone. I’m sure my writing mentors and heroes have had their own hurdles to overcome.

The past few days have been emotional ones for me. Both of my boys have birthdays this week. My older son’s birthday was Sept. 12. Happy birthday, Josh. I love you.

And Michael’s birthday is Sept. 14. I will soon be mom to a brand new teenager and a brand new “legal” adult. I don’t think I can handle it. What do I do? I miss my mom and dad. Now I know how they felt when I reached milestones in my life. But they always had the answers. I don’t.

So back to the truth. I fear I’m not ready for Dallas. Sadness beats writing in this moment, but will it permanently beat out reaching my dreams?

Writing requires a kind of self truth, even if everything you write is a lie. They just give it a fancy name called fiction.

So instead of accusing Michael of lying, maybe I should have asked him if he was resorting to fiction again.

Maybe denial has been my writer’s block. I know I can do this. I know I can write. The stories are there. I guess I’m just going to have to tell me and God the truth. I can’t do all this by myself. I’m not fine. I’m not the perfect person I want others to see. I need a little help.

I’ve been telling myself over and over, “I don’t lie.” I guess I should have added another word.

“Often.”

Skinny flowers

I could never work as a gossip columnist or a hard news reporter. I’m too sensitive. I don’t like offending anyone, intentionally or not. I’m also hesitant about dropping names, especially when I know all the interviews I’ve ever had, all the celebrities I’ve ever met, are gifts from God, not rewards. I didn’t earn them.

During the last year I have taken my relationship with God to a different level. I don’t think we can ever reach an ultimate level of intimacy with our Creator. The more we seek, the more He reveals about Himself and about ourselves. Honesty is the key. We can’t lie to God. He knows what we think, how we feel whether we confess it or not. Confession frees us.

I have had a rough year. I have retreated. But I’ve learned when we’ve had more than our minds can take in, we need a quiet place to reflect and to be still. That’s where I’ve been. And in my quiet place, God has not forsaken me. He has sent me flowers, skinny flowers.

“Skinny flowers” is actually a phrase from a song by Three Crosses, my all-time contemporary Christian band. And yes, God came through on that one too and gave me an opportunity to write a story about this bluesy rock band for a national music magazine.

I never dreamed I’d talk to the members, but God is good like that, giving me the desires of my heart. One of my favorite songs is about a band member’s daughter who picks skinny flowers for her daddy, little bouquets of love.

I liked the album so much that I bought one for one of my best friends who had a little girl of her own. Rhonda played the “skinny flowers” song almost every time they were in the car, and little Emily, who is now a freshman in college, could sing every word.

The irony is God recently picked a very special skinny flower for me, one that makes me say, “Wow. Who would have though God was planning this all along?”  Of course, we never know what God has in mind, how He can make anything work for our good.

The little girl in that song, April, is now a beautiful young lady and recording artist with a voice like an angel, and my son Josh just shot  a music video for her yesterday. I never would have dreamed it. What a sweet gift!

I’ve seen parts of the video. It’s beautiful. I’m not at liberty to post anything else, but I can tell you I’ve heard her singing the song at least a hundred times this weekend via video, and every time I have had to stop what I’m doing to listen. The song is a cover tune, but I refuse to listen to the original. April makes me believe the song, makes me live the song.

Who would have thought that God would use the little girl who picked skinny flowers to help heal my grief?

The truth is during my retreat into the wilderness, God has not abandoned me. He has sent me several flowers, all in the form of special people who have changed my life and who have helped me heal.

I don’t know what’s next in life. Everything is changing—and some of these changes are good, exciting. I can’t help but think of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

I don’t know what will happen next. I do know how I feel. I suppose I’ll just keep climbing in faith. They say never look down when you’re moving to higher places.

Despite my flaws and fears, despite life’s circumstances, I haven’t abandoned God. He hasn’t abandoned me, and the skinny flowers he sends are constant reminders He has a plan. He makes things work out. He knows our hearts. He knows the truth.

So whatever it is that God has me doing, I want to be a skinny flower (quite literally, I’ll admit. I’ve been living the Weight Watchers life, and it’s working!) But more importantly I want to be a flower in someone’s bouquet, a reminder of God’s love. I don’t want to be a rose. Roses have thorns.

I think I’d like to be a rare wild flower like the ones that grow on the May Prairie. We had a few of them to pop up on our land when we lived in Asbury, and they dazzled me with their beauty. I never knew their real names. They were like nothing I’d ever seen.

I think I’m like a wild flower because I’m not typical. I think God places me in the bouquets of people who do don’t conventional very well.

I want my life to have purpose, to have meaning. I don’t care about material riches. I just want my life to be rich, so I invest in people, and so far, thanks to the lovely bouquets God has sent me during these dark days, I’d say I’m blessed beyond measure.

Falling backwards

Once an English teacher, always an English teacher…I guess. I live my life in metaphors. I’ve reached the point in which I can’t think in simple terms. Lessons learned come to me in imagery, painted on my heart, my mind, my soul.

What lesson have I learned lately? Life is hard.

And on those days when I just feel as though Igive way to the stress weighing me down, I imagine myself falling backwards, hoping that there will be somebody there to catch me because I can’t catch myself anymore.

I love my two sons with a tenacity that no other mother’s love could match. Son Number One is off at college learning how to live life “on his own.” In just one week of apartment living, his building has caught fire,
and his car has a flat tire. Ah, college life.

Son Number Two has grown another inch in the last week, or so it seems. He almost looked me eye to eye tonight. Our noses almost touched. He’s my baby, and the thought of my little imp growing up leaves me heart broken. I can’t compete for his attention anymore. He has discovered girls and cell phones. Life will never be the same.

I was looking through some old pictures and found my younger son’s snow angel picture from last year’s “blizzard.” It made me think. Wouldn’t it be great during our times of trouble if we could just fall backwards and know one of God’s angels was there to catch us?

Today I had a check up at the doctor. He was a little concerned about the stressors in my life, and his advice was for me to let people take care of me for a while. I couldn’t help but think of my snow angel. Maybe God has his own “snow angels” on earth to catch people when they’re about to fall.

The truth is I have had many, many people taking care of me—my walking friends at the park and at school; my students, both former and present, who surprise me with cards and gifts and balloons; my closest friends who let me share a little bit of the “imperfect” real me; and my family, who literally keep me going day to day. I can’t sufficiently express my gratitude.

I miss writing. But it’s difficult for a wounded heart to let go and fall backwards into a pool of imagination and dreams. A couple of Sundays ago I awoke with the idea for a novel from start to finish. I believe the idea was a gift from God, just a little incentive to remind me there’s something there waiting on me when I feel like writing again. He’s waiting to catch me too.

Sometimes we just need to rest to heal. And sometimes the best prescription for a wounded heart is the presence of a trusted friend.

Where I am now

When I lost my mother on March 25, I fell into a state of numbness. As much as I tried to function in this fast-paced world, I couldn’t keep up. I fell further and further behind. I managed to do my job, to my job well, but I feel as though I failed at everything else. By the time I returned home each evening, I had nothing left. I was an empty shell.

When my father passed away unexpectedly on June 27, my strong emotional pillars collapsed, and I realized for the first time in my life what it feels like to be lost.

If it weren’t for the grace and mercy offered by members of my family and select friends, I think I would be stuck in neutral, totally unable to move. I’m an only child, and I always feared the day I would lose my parents. But that day comes to all of us.

I’ve learned the great toil grief takes on writing. Last year at this time I was on the fast track to learning how to get published. The future was bright. But I’ve been stopped in my tracks in a dark tunnel. I can’t see the light at end. Maybe it’s after the bend. Despite my love of and appreciation for my writing groups, I can’t participate. I have nothing to offer.

I’ve signed up for the writing conferences. Maybe I’ll serendipitously stumble on what I need.

So instead of writing fiction, I have picked up my guitar and have found a different type of outlet for creative expression—writing lyrics. I consider myself one of the privileged few who is on a first-name basis with a a couple of the very best, award-winning songwriters in Nashville. They have what it takes to pen a hit. I don’t. But That’s not my goal. Sure I know you need a catchy riff, a hook, plenty of imagery, a few metaphors thrown in, and God’s grace shining down on you to make a song-writing dream come true.

But all I really want is to tell the truth—to write what I’m feeling even if I don’t understand it. Even if it’s the worst song in the world. Even if my syllables are a bit off and it only has three chords.

Lately, I’ve been on a blues kick as you can probably tell from my earlier posts, so a lot of what I have written lately uses a blues-type progression. But what I write is inspired by life itself.  Life is unfair. Our dreams are unfaithful. Our plans often fail. But there’s always the chance hope will prevail.

If I could write the ultimate song, I would write it for the people who have taken time to listen to me. I guess that’s what all writers want—a good listener. I guess that’s what all friends need, a good listener who really cares, who never lies, and who always understands.

If could share any tidbit of advice with a reader going through a difficult period, I would strongly suggest finding some outlet of expression. You can’t keep feelings bundled up forever.

What you write, what you paint, what you play doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else as long as what you express is the truth and you give yourself a chance to purge itself of whatever you’ve been holding back.