Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Hollywood

Dear Hollywood…

Thank you. Thank you very much for your input and your labor. I know you’ve tried hard and given your best effort, but I’m afraid you are just not good enough. You don’t make the cut. There’s something much better for me than you. And although you may be surprised to hear this, it is you who has taught me to speak with such words.

Hollywood, you do not know me. Yet you tell me who to be. You convince me that I am less than. You convince me that others are less than. You have taught me how to compare and conclude.

You discourage.
You distract.
You distort.

You have plastered yourself across the billboards in the sky, the magazines in the store, the pictures on the screen, and you have come into my house and invaded my eyesight. You have shown me an image – an idol – of a beautiful woman, and I am not her. She is not herself. Yet she and I and others strive to become what we think she is. What you say she is.

We spend and skimp and starve
And tease and tone and tuck
And pout and plump and puke.

And, Hollywood, I am sick.

I am sick of this and through with you. I am pulling you down and tearing you up and shutting you off.

My eyelids are closed. My ears are plugged. My mind is resolved. I will run away from you, screaming until I bleed to make my voice louder than yours in the real ears of my real brothers and sisters.

We will know the truth and the truth will set us free!

We are precious and accepted
blessed and eternal
significant and treasured
wanted and desired
beautiful and adequate
chosen and adopted.

We are valued. We are enough. We are loved.

We are free.

Monday, May 24, 2010


The first time I ever heard Susan speak, I was sitting in my upstairs apartment, and she uttered the phrase that no one EVER ought to say. It floated up through my window from the sidewalk below where she stood with another woman.

"So, when are you due?"

I winced at the response of the woman standing with her.

"What?....Oh. No. I'm not pregnant. I'm just fat."

I overheard the rest of the conversation as she told the not pregnant woman how she had rescued a tiny puppy and now was being forced by our landlord to get rid of it. Later that evening, I saw her standing outside, so I went to introduce myself to her and the puppy. She proceeded to tell me all about how she had been in a car accident recently and spent the following month in the hospital and had gained 30 pounds because of it. She said she had some clothes that didn't fit her anymore and wondered if I wanted them.

"Sure! I'll take a look."

I gave her my phone number and told her to let us know if she ever needed a ride anywhere.

But before I ever got a chance to look through the clothes or give her a ride, Susan decided to keep the puppy and lose the apartment. I drove home to find her packing an unspeakably huge amount of stuff into a red SUV.

"Are you busy? Can we load your car up with some stuff too?"

For the next couple of hours, we climbed up and down the stairs, stuffing all of her clothes and meds and valuables into garbage bags and throwing them into our cars. She kept giving me things.

"Here, these are really good shoes....Oh! This sweater will be so cute on you....This purse is real leather. Quality."

She used the word "shit" like it was a comma and kept saying "If I have to carry one more thing, I'm going to pass out." I was genuinely afraid she would.

When we got to her new place, she ran around like a newlywed showing me all of the features. Hardwood floors, dimmer lights, two closets, washer and dryer. I can't even tell you how many times she told me I need to come over and have dinner or let her wash my clothes or just hang out. She was clearly desperate for a friend.

At one point she gave me a little wooden sign that hangs on the wall and says, "I believe in angels." She hugged me and said, "I want you to put this in your place and don't ever forget me." I thought she was being a little dramatic for just moving down the road.

A week went by and I thought about going to visit her a couple of times, but always came up with a good excuse not to. One day I came home from work and was met at the door by my neighbor, Katherine. She gave me the news.

Susan had passed away.

A mixture of congestive heart failure and a drug overdose. Immediately, all of my moments with her flashed through my mind. Did she do it on purpose? Was she planning it all along? Is that why she gave me all of that stuff? Did it have something to do with her loneliness? Could I have prevented it? Was it my fault?

I grieved her for awhile, and guilt sat heavy on my chest like a dental X-ray vest. I should-ed on myself over and over again - Should have called her, should have gone to see her, should have, should have, should have.

And, you know what? I knew Susan for a week and a half. I don't know why she's dead. I don't even know her last name. But for me, it was a consideration in grace. Grace for people who are less than desirable to be around. Grace for myself when I'm selfish and not Christ-like.

I don't know what Susan did with her life, where she worked, who she loved. But I know this. Her life touched my life, if only for a short time. And if you are reading this, her life has touched yours.

Susan. Your wooden angel is hanging in my room. And you will not be forgotten.