Dec 18, 2016

The saved and heathens alike...

“I like to compare God’s love to the sunrise. That sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you’ve been the night before. It shines without judgement. It never withholds. It warms the sinners, the saints, the druggies, the cheerleaders – the saved and the heathens alike. You can hide from the sun, but it won’t take that personally. It’ll never, ever punish you for hiding. You can stay in the dark for years or decades, and when you finally step outside, it’ll be there. It was there the whole time, shining and shining. It’ll still be there, steady and bright as ever, just waiting for you to notice, to come out, to be warmed. All those years, I thought of God and light and the sun as judgmental, but they weren’t. The sunrise was my daily invitation from God to come back to life.”
-- from Glennon Melton’s “Carry on, Warrior: The power of embracing your messy, beautiful life.” 

Because, when I say I’m “often a mess, yet saved by Amazing Grace,” books like this just scream out to me. And apparently, they scream LAURA THE HOT MESS EXPRESS to dear friends who aren’t on social media to know that’s my stand-by self-description. They just know me. They know me and my messes and love me anyway, which is really quite admirable. And they surprise me with a copy of this in the mail. I inhaled this book this weekend. 

As previously mentioned, Glennon also has a chapter titled “Inhale, Exhale,” which starts: “Reading is my inhale. Writing is my exhale.” 

I did a lot of both this weekend, dog sitting in a hundred-plus year-old ranch house in the midst of a seriously badass winter storm. I moved from my computer station on the couch to the firewood pile to the fire to the kitchen to the couch. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. For three days. Reading. Writing. Inhale. Exhale. 

In those exhales, I hope I also learn to breath out a love like God’s. My prayer today: God, please, please, please – give me the gumption to love like you do. The gumption. Courage. Grace. Confidence in your warmth as it rises and touches every frozen place and brings us back to life.

Stick it to my heart and my tongue and in my thoughts. I'm so forgetful. I read your word and take in your warmth and hold it selfishly, thawing out my own thoughts and hurts and fears with it, like it's a fire to gather around. 

But you can take my word on this — four days of gathering 'round a fire in solitude is warm and comforting and re-energizing and all, but it leaves you stinky and smoky and greasy if you don't get out in the sunshine to blow the stink off. And when you do finally step outside into the real warmth, the real sunshine, the reality of that self-warming fire hits you like a ton of bricks when you step back inside and take a deep inhale. 

And I say "you" like this heathen in particular has higher standards of personal hygiene than not showering or changing clothes when I'm not seeing anyone but a lovable border collie for four days. I don't. I stink, yo.

And I'm guilty of treating God's love more like a fireplace than the burning ball of sunshine that it is. I treat it like a place I can cozy in to, maybe invite some friends to, maybe even help some others start their own. I love it when others start their own fire or share mine, but it's still a little limited. Sometimes I compare my tiny little campfire to others' bonfire and feel a little jealous. 

But God, you're a ray to reflect that never ends. Steady. Bright. Brilliant. Honest. True. The same today, yesterday and forever, for every soul on earth. You are so good. Shine, shine, shine. 🙌

Inhale. Exhale. Eggs. Texas. A Messy, Beautiful Life. Welcome to the Crazy Train.

This HAS to be my first blog post back. It's fate.

Let's start in the middle, because the beginning goes back too far when I haven't touched this blog domain in two and a half years.

I'm reading a book. This book.

It is a hot mess. And it is beautiful. And it is laugh-out-loud funny. The dog is staring at me as I howl at my new friend and long-lost sister Glennon. 

There are a million sentences and thoughts I'll be going back to highlight on read-through two, but this… this little tidbit grabbed me today. "Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale." Plus, the crazy cat lady visual. 

I haven't exhaled much lately. I mean, I'm always writing. I have approximately 482 reporters' notebooks full of interviews and stories waiting to unfold and be exhaled on to a page. I'm always at least three stories deep behind deadline, terrified that the next email ding will come from an editor who is waiting and disappointed and frustrated.

I inhale my sources' stories — their ideas, goals, lessons, frustrations, insights, connections, mannerisms, favorite words, sayings, histories. I read and research and question and transcribe and pour over details and re-live our interviews by staring at hundreds of photos and hours of interviews, all just hoping I'll be able to capture enough to breath life into the 1,200 words that are fit to print in a magazine or the 25 photos and captions that will summarize a slice of their lives on Facebook or the three minutes that will hold someones attention in the YouTube video. An exhale that captures a little piece of them.

I can never do it on a surface level. That's why strait news — the daily or weekly news business — is torture to me. There's never enough time to inhale it all. You just can't breath it all in in news time — you have to get the facts, get the words on the paper and get the heck on to the next story. I can't do it. I have to INVEST. I have to INHALE.

My transcripts and notes on ONE FAMILY ranch. I can't guess how many trees have died for this. 
Ok, so I'm inhaling and I'm exhaling all the danged time, which I dig, because, well — LIFE. But I'm only inhaling and exhaling OTHER PEOPLE. Which is cool and all, because telling other peoples' stories just sets my heart on fire and makes me squeal with joy when I get their stories breathed into words just right.

But I'm selfish because I'm human and a youngest child and need to exhale me some ME THOUGHTS. Sorry for the yelling, but my head gets crowded sometimes, and there seems to be a traffic jam up there right now where I can't get other people's stories out with the fluidity that my editors demand and I suddenly realized today as I read Glennon's exhales that it's because my stories are all bottled up in this danged old blond head and I need to start exhaling them more often than an occasional Instagram novel where nobody wants to read my 300 word photo captions, and this all makes me write in too many run-on-sentences and that's not good for anyone.

Have you missed my neurotic ramblings yet, dear nonexistent reader?

I told my sister this all tonight, and she suggested that I maybe just start talking to real people more often. Like, calling them. Or seeing them in person. I mean, it's a good theory. But it's not where I'm going with this. Because it's not the same. It's not the exhale I need.

So, I looked up my old bloggaroo. Belle of the Blog. And read some of my old, pointless exhales and laughed and laughed and laughed at myself. And that's just what I was looking for. A place to laugh at the crazy train that goes on in my head and used to spill out into words. That's my gift. A crazy train that somehow finds humor and joy in the tiniest things. That deserves to be captured.

As fate would have it, when I logged back in to dear old Belle of the Blog, I found a pile of unfinished "draft" posts. Surprise, surprise. And in there was a "guest post" by none other than my dearest friend, D.O. — the only person who still occasionally asks, "Are you going to blog about that?!"

She also happens to be the one who surprised me with this "Carry On, Warrior" book in my mailbox last week. So, with that, I've exhaled enough for one night, and want to turn it over to her.

This is where I left off in 2012, with this in draft: 

Allow me to introduce you to the best dang'd ol' Texas I know... which is saying a lot, because I'm yet to have met a Texan I didn't like. 
She's a suburb navigator, loves Stones Jagger Nelson sharing shotgun on cross-country trips with her, makes whiskey drinks dang near -- Ok, just as good -- as me, and can quote about any line of the movie Pure Country from memory. 

Bring in the strings, Earl.... It's Darci Owens, ya'll!! 

I love eggs…from my head down to my legs!  It’s amazing the different ways foods come:  processed, foreign, frozen, fast – but eggs – they’re a universal gem.  I’m not sure if it’s their simplicity or just the fact they ask for nothing in return. Their mere presence in a grocery store cooler makes me grin a bit.  Have you ever tried to bake without eggs?  It’s hard. There’s a substitute for just about every ingredient – but eggs.  Even their substitute calls for eggs – egg beaters. What are those really made of anyway?

I also like the fact the female chicken can have eggs without a male chicken.  Did you know you can have a whole gaggle of hens, no rooster to cock-a-doodle-doo and never go hungry a day in your life?  Talk about self-sufficiency.  Maybe I just envy the female bird.  But she can’t eat eggs. Or beef. Just corn. And I do like beef. I’d say, if a bovine could lay an egg, well, I just might have all I’d need in one of those four-legged moo’s.  And if there’s one thing I like more than eggs, it’s beef.

But back to eggs. When I was 10, I opened my first checking account with 100 one-dollar bills I’d collected from selling farm-fresh eggs from my grandparent’s ranch. Pure profit - that’s what it was. And a little bird turd. But not to bother, I was into making cold calls, peddling those dollar-a-dozen cartons from the back seat of Dad’s ’94 Chevy – the Green Machine. That was the height of my stint in the corporate world. I should have known then.  By the way, the eggs were BROWN, fresh and delivered to your door with a smile by a youngster wearing tall, scrunch socks and Nike high tops. Don’t act like you’re too good for those.

So with this being my first blog-post…guest-post, might I add….I should get to the point.  As LauraBelle and many of her faithful followers have learned, I’m not above stalking this blog.  I find inspiration to write by reading some of these stories portrayed here that I’ve either lived and actively played out or felt like I have since they ring so vividly in my mind.  Laura is a fantastic writer!  One day, I came across the post ‘Flashback to 1803’ highlighting stalking Pioneer Woman, AKA P-dub, and decided I’d like to cook with her, too.

Breakfast is my favorite meal - probably due to my minor egg obsession - so I thought I’d try out P-dub’s Egg in a Hole recipe.  Digging through my utensil drawer, I realized the obvious shape missing was the adored circular cookie cutter.  Such the ways of the world – why have a circle when you can have a chunky gingerbread man for those cookies no one ever bakes, a leopard (spots included) and a pointy-eared mule, complete with braaay?

Point is, I’m not good with decisions.  So I opted for the Texas-shaped cutter.  Then I got really creative and decided I’d call it, Texas Hole-d ‘Em…eggs.  Deal is, you stuff your cutter into a slice of bread, butter the skillet, drop the egg right in the middle of the cutout and watch!  You don’t want to over-cook the eggs.  It’s more like over-easy so the ooey-gooey goodness pours out into your toast.  Take it for a flip and if you’re really ambitious, add a piece of cheese and a slice of bacon and place another Texas Hole-d ‘Em egg right on top.  Now THAT’s what we call a Full House!

Not sure this is what P-dub had in mind with this recipe when she cultivated it in her exquisite Oklahoma kitchen (I’m sure she has a few circular cookie cutters I could borrow). But who really uses an Oklahoma-shaped cookie cutter anyway?  ;)  ‘til next time!

NOTE: I've obviously lost the Texas Hole'd 'Em Egg photos that Darci sent me four and a half years ago. But dang, isn't she fun?! So, here are some of her goats from Texas. That's a whole 'nuther story for a whole 'nuther day.