Don’t hug me…

I realized over this weekend that as I have gotten older…and as I deal with stress at work…my personal space gets a bit bigger–and my openness to “stranger hugs” has gotten less. By “stranger hugs,” I mean hugs from casual acquaintances at church–people I know by sight but really haven’t had any interactions with. They’re people who want to thank me for music ministry or who feel more of a closeness with me than I do with them…

While I appreciate their sense of connection–that’s been one of the things I’ve really appreciated about my denomination–I find myself side-stepping when I sense a hug coming…or pulling away…or stiffening up like my grandmother used to.

Why? I’m not sure…

I’ve wondered if it’s because I’m “reverting” back to more of the personal space I developed as a child living in England–where the sense of personal privacy encompasses more space than it does here in America. I know through the years there have been times when I’ve moved back a step in conversation because someone has felt too close.

Maybe because I value hugs more–and want them to be meaningful? There are some folks who can always hug me–family and close friends. And there are some folks with whom I’m very comfortable initiating hugs–pretty much the same people. 

But hugs as a casual form of connection? That’s getting more problematic for me, and yet I don’t want to offend those for whom it’s more meaningful. That’s part of the whole issue of patience that I’m currently struggling with.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
                                          –Emily Dickinson

The first line of this poem by Emily Dickinson kept running around in my mind the last couple of days. I guess because we had had some e-mail exchanges with a family we’ve been involved with for a number of years.

They’ve been through some rough times. Some of them have been of their own making, but others have been situations they have had no control over. It has seemed recently as though about every time things were beginning to look up, something would go wrong–or the situation would not work out as they hoped it would.

Most recently, the husband has been out of work over a year…had a stroke (which he came through without any longterm damage)…and thought he had a good opportunity to receive paid training–with a job offer–as an over-the-road truck driver. He has gotten all the way through to getting his permit–but the company decided they didn’t need so many in the class…and so he’s left in the lurch again, just needing his practice driving time to get his license, but without a way of having that happen.

We had received an e-mail from the wife indicating that they were out of hope.

We went to visit them Saturday–and found them in better spirits–with more hope–than the e-mail had indicated. But that triggered thoughts of the Emily Dickinson poem…and I got to thinking of how sad it must be to truly have no hope.

I’ve never been there. I’ve been–especially in the last couple of years–through some very difficult storms (mostly work-related)…and at times have wondered what the future was holding…where I was going to end up…and, even, sometimes if there was a place for me in my church. And yet, even in those times, the little bird of hope kept singing. Sometimes I wondered why. Why did I still have even just a smidgen of hope when everything logical said to just give up?

But it was there. Something singing…singing a tune without words…something that never stopped, that allowed me to see each new day as a new possibility.

I think that hope sometimes is a gift–a gift from God…perhaps a reminder that God continues to walk with me even through the darkest valleys.


We saw Defiance last night…what a powerful movie!

Yes, it’s violent–extremely violent. Unfortunately the violence was integral to the story–of our inhumanity towards each other.

It’s a true story–a story of Jewish survival during the Holocaust. But it’s more than that. It starts out as a simple story of survival–of three brothers who are not outstanding citizens of the community, but who survive the destruction of their village…and are determined to survive in the woods they are familiar with. As they begin their effort, they are joined by more and more Jews who are fleeing to a place of safety–and the story becomes more.

It’s a story of how a group of hunted people from all walks of life became a community. Living in conditions I can’t even imagine…constantly fearful of being discovered…faced with the prospect of having to flee at a moment’s notice…surrounded by enemies determined to exterminate them…they still came to understand the importance of pulling together into a community–of maintaining their humanity.

There are moments of humor…moments of pathos…times of faith questioning and arguing with God…and yet ultimately this is a movie that bears testimony of the will to survive that despite the worst we do to each other–and the incredible importance of community.

I don’t have enough to do…

Yeah, right!

I just finished a project that I was about two weeks behind on…still have somewhere between 30-40 international songs to notate as potential submissions for our new hymnal project…am helping to host a recital Sunday afternoon…co-teach the senior high Sunday school class on Sunday morning…have a drama to write to use in a couple of weeks…need to write hymn tunes for 3-4 more texts…

 So that’s why I agreed to play in the band for my congregation on Sunday. They didn’t have a bass player available, so I suggested using our keyboard. Guess that’s what I get for making the suggestion!

I guess I still have trouble saying “no”–especially when it’s for things that I really do enjoy doing. Only problem is that then I get stressed out, trying to make sure I get everything done–done well and on time.

Perfectionism can be a curse…and perfectionism integrated with many years of feeling that I was “supposed” to do everything I was asked to do can REALLY be a curse.

I’m learning that not everything has to be absolutely perfect…and that it’s okay to say “no”. But it’s still a challenge!

Intimations of mortality

Yesterday, about noon, my husband called. Our son-in-law had called him with the news that our daughter had been taken to the hospital with a possible heart attack. He was heading to my workplace to pick me up.

We spent the rest of the day at the hospital, waiting to find out what had happened.

Fortunately, it was not a heart attack; unfortunately, they’re still not sure what’s causing the health issues she’s had for the last year that culminated in yesterday’s incident…but they’re determined to find out.

It’s one thing to be in the hospital, waiting for this kind of news when you’re dealing with parents–or your parents’ generation. It’s quite something else when you’re dealing with your children or grandchildren.

We’ve dealt with this kind of mortality before, when our oldest grandson died on his 21st birthday. But that death was the result of an unwise decision that had fatal consequences.

This was something we had no control over… We don’t know what her family medical history is–she joined our family when she was 8. And so we sat and waited…wondering.

I know that death is part of life…and it seems easier to deal with when it’s more distant. But yesterday brought home the truth of that statement: Death is part of life. Fortunately we didn’ t have to come face to face with it then…we just had a reminder.