Why I Need a Tribe

I arrived at the library’s front desk because I had walked right past the slot where you are supposed to return your books and movies. The locking mechanism on the box of Season Two of Parks and Rec wouldn’t close so I needed to talk to the library lady behind the big desk. I would love to say that all people that work at libraries are wonderful, because I’m an idealist and think they should be. I mean all they do is sit and talk about books all day long and punctuate the silence with an occasional shhhh. Research interesting stuff. Excellent job, in my book, haha.

But our librarians at the new fancy library seem a little annoyed and kind of stressed out and not very helpful and the last thing they want to do is talk to you about a book. They are not the imaginary ladies in the fictitious book club that I don’t belong to. I’ve always glamourized the ideal of librarian. I also have dreamed of being a monk, or a nun if girls can’t be monks. I mistakenly have believed that isolation would somehow protect me from being hurt when people disappoint you, or worry you, or worse of all, die. My super obvious introvert thinks I could somehow exist all alone, but in reality my people loving self would be achingly lonely. And I would still be sad when my monk friends, or my nun friends, or even by goodness, my librarian friends, disappoint me or inevitably die.

There is really no escape from our inherent need for community. And those who do seem to escape appear sort of lonely and jaded and a little pathetic. I do imagine I would hermit out with style, not looking all John the Baptisty, more like the fabulous Greta Garbo, but that’s probably also a lie. I wouldn’t shower and would drink too much coffee or too much wine; and some people would call me crazy or bipolar or agoraphobic, and they would most likely be right.

Actually, for an extreme introvert on the take a quiz on facebook (and maybe at my shrink but don’t tell anyone) scale, I love people. I have a rather large community of real life friends and even some I don’t know except for social media. I belong to a small church of wonderful misfits that do life together in a real and honest and sometimes muddled way. We get in each other’s face in a loving way when we start messing up, and we are there to honestly and sincerely celebrate each other’s victories. There is very little anonymity and that is good. Pew sitters get called on to plug in somewhere, anywhere, so they feel needed, a part of a living organism.

I spent some time this fall and early winter in a dark place. It scared me. I was struggling with some bondage of anxiety fueled mostly by my desire to isolate and therefore feed the beast. My loves, my community, my tribe wouldn’t let me stay there. But I had to cooperate to receive help. I think I see that as something our changing world fails to offer. True community. We all have “stuff” but we all need one another. No one can slip through the cracks of love.

So my exhortation today for you, is to love you another. Look after the elderly, the sickly, the lonely, and the ones who have fallen away. They need you. I need you.

And I am forever thankful for my people. My tribe.

The Rain is Mundane

Bottom Creek is presently in flood stage.  (I almost wrote “Bottom Creek is currently in flood stage.”  But that was way too funny and I’m starting this writing off seriously, as this here is my life’s work and that does sound like I should be pretty straight up.  It also tends to stress me out, hence the 20 years it’s taken to get this sucker going.)

It has rained here in SW VA for almost two weeks.    I hate the rain.  I can barely open my eyes on an overcast day, but I’m raring to go at 6:00AM on a day that promises sunshine.  I’ve got SAD in the worst way, and I’m unapologetic for it.  Actually I’m unapologetic for a lot of things, and that gets me in trouble.  I’m old, set in my ways, I know what I like.  I don’t like rain.  I don’t even like clouds because they sometimes cover the sun.  Don’t judge.

On the day it started raining the dark skies were more like a nuisance.  I mean, all throughout that weekend I couldn’t get dry.  It was the crazy quick transition from summer to fall, when all of a sudden you realize your feet are cold.  You left home without a sweater and regret it.  Your seat warmer feels real nice on your ice cold bum.  That day.   It rained all Monday.  I stayed home.  I woke up Tuesday to drizzle and fog.  Tuesday morning I went to a class in town.  Larry texted me that it was raining hard on the mountain, which means hurry yourself home before you can’t get home.  He is definitely not an alarmist.  I do that well enough for the both of us.

I got home an hour before Bottom Creek jumped her banks.  In my mind and in this narrative she suddenly become female.  Primal.   The bottom field right below the cow pasture filled with rip roaring run-off.  Our driveway usually meanders peacefully through the cow pasture and over a bridge that stands four or five feet above creek level.  The rushing water quickly covered our driveway.  Entire 40 foot trees started coming through our yard and through the dark brackish river-creek.  Every single piece of trash that ever lined the creek bed washed right through our front yard, so to speak.   Sawed off tree stumps.  Liquor bottles.  Pieces of random Styrofoam.  Literally anything that wasn’t tied down and that would float.  Water comes quickly over the bridge once it’s crossed the bottom field.  The now raging river roared into the field where we held Cameron and Annie’s beautiful tranquil wedding last summer.  That event would have been under 3 feet of raging brown angry water on that particular Tuesday.  The creek-river backed up against our sweet little bridge that I usually don’t think too much about.  Except how pretty it looked all lit up for Cam and Annie’s wedding.  The lower half was under a few inches of water.  The upper half was still above water but there was no crossing that bridge because everything below it was under powerful, crazy waves of water.

By Tuesday night after the hard rain had ended, we were able to cross the bridge to feed the cows their evening grain.  The creek still raged dark and murky but a little more contained.  The power of water definitely spoke to me that week.  Something fearsome yet so very beautiful.  Good if contained.

As the week went on the water which still roared slowly became clear.  All of the built up sand and topsoil and trees and coke bottles were way down at the Chesapeake watershed by now.  Bottom Creek still rushed out of her banks but her dress was altered.   She had put on her fancy clothes.  The sparkly ones.  Her prom dress.  Still fierce but something was different, she was scrubbed clean.  This water, still flooding mind you, flowed crystal clear.

Because I see every single thing in the natural having spiritual implications this blows me away.  How something so mundane yet necessary (and annoying) as rain needs to come.  It must come.  Although a rainy day completely changes my mood I might remember the creek next time.  The rain would not stop for many days.  It was COMPLETELY out of my control.  Solely at the calculated whim of the One who created rain, to water the earth, and also to water my soul.  But the cleansing is the part that blows me away.  Bottom Creek was so absolutely clear.  The silt, the filth, the trash, the dirt, even the deep rooted trees had been washed away.  That Creek needed that cleansing; and it had to come to rip-roaring flash flood stage to wash clean.  There were too many obstacles that had to be overcome to entirely renew her without a true honest to goodness scary flood, too many helpful but constricting bridges to butt up against.

So I’m praying today that the Lord continues to do a thorough cleansing in my life not only to remove the visible dirt, but the not yet visible.  The Strongholds that I have freely welcomed.  The trash I have accumulated on the creek bed of my soul and most certainly all of the garbage and floaters.

War Story

There is a place, a beautiful place, at the crest of a mountain range magically and aptly named Fancy Gap.  Fancy Gap is a really small town located in Carroll County, VA at the tip-top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   An interstate winds down the mountain here, travelling south through the western VA mountains to the North Carolina flat lands of Mount Airy below.  The road wraps around the inside of the mountain range, creating completely unpredictable weather all its own.  Down that mountain and up another one, my only daughter attends Appalachian State University, studying Social Work in their Master’s Program.  She’s been in Boone five years now, four in Undergrad and one now in their MSW program.  Fancy Gap Mountain looms between us.

I have struggled with anxiety all of my adult life, probably longer.  I’ve always been a super conscientious type with a strong calling that I now realize as a leadership mantle.  What this meant as a first-born child was everything was either my fault or my responsibility.  My mother is an 80 year old woman-child.  My funny, handsome, passive dad died when he was only 53 years old.  I’ve been the grown-up all my life, even when I wasn’t particularly acting like one.

That mountain is a literal picture of my anxious life.  My child (who by the way is miraculously capable) travels up and down Fancy Gap Mountain at least a dozen times a year.  Because of the way the interstate lays, Fancy Gap is probably one of the foggiest places in these Blue Ridged Mountains.  Combine intense traffic, slow-moving trucks and treacherous weather and you have a recipe for traffic accidents.  Since Emma has been going to Boone regularly, I remember at least six multiple vehicle deadly pile-ups.  One involved 70 something vehicles.

I’ve vilified that mountain so that I’ve given it a personality.  And I have taken our relationship personally.  It’s me against the mountain.  And generally, in terms of my anxious thinking, the mountain usually rules. I’ve verbalized my fear that most of the time I figure there is about a 50/50 chance that the mountain will win on any given day.  Ridiculous odds.  I’m a statistics freak.  I can’t even begin to consider the math that has so jaded my thought process.  Historically, my family members have won for five years.  I don’t know anyone personally who has lost.  But I’ve been miraculously two cars behind a fatal crash and just five hours ahead of a super crash.

I travelled down to Boone in mid- September to visit my kid.  She really is my best friend, sometimes I think we share the same mind, which doesn’t quite serve two efficiently.  She lives in a small falling down college rental house in a nice family neighborhood with another grad student and a first year teacher. She invited me down to spend the night, have a nice dinner, take her shopping. I’m very happy to do that.   I don’t remember inviting my mom to stay in my dorm room, definitely not in my bed, ever.  I’m not even sure I remember my mom ever visiting me in college.  She was there for graduation, I do remember that.  I don’t remember spending any time with her though.  I was there for the culmination of the four year long party.  That certainly wasn’t her fault.

It was a rainy weekend this fall trip down to Boone.   Hard rain was predicted; in fact a flood watch the entire journey.  I seriously thought about blowing the trip off.  The dying on the way there or back jumped up drastically statistically in my always wandering mind.   I think I imagined it to be about a 93 percent chance that I would die either driving there or driving home.  But being the eternal optimist I talked myself into a more livable 86 percent and took the plunge.  It rained all the way down 221 towards Hillsville where I pick up I-77.  I took a deep breath and merged onto the interstate.  After three days of preparatory worrying and an hour drive of active panic, I remembered to pray.  God spoke to me.  He had probably been trying to for days but I was too busy listening to the demons in my head and playing with statistics.  He told me to stay in back of a truck.  A slow truck.  In the truck lane.  All the way down the mountain.  In that cradle I felt protected and loved on.  At peace for the first time in days.  As we hit the crest of the mountain I looked out to the unprotected south east.  For the first time in an hour the skies broke open, not with rain, but with brilliant light.  The entire valley was ablaze in sunshine.  We were still in the rain on both sides of the mountain, but the vista was crazy magnificent.  I sat in my truck cradle and admired the stunning view.  Before I knew it the five minute “do it and die” was done.  I was down.  It was still raining hard but not on the mountain.  It was insane.  God spoke to me again.  “Not only will I protect you but I will dazzle you in the doing so.”


Well, this was my first blog post.  And it really wasn’t that scary after all.