The Bee’s Knees

comedy st pete
From left to right: Christine Sneeringer, Justin Fennell, Leslie Norris Townsend, Joby Saad as Aunt Jolene, me, and Michelle Krajecki

I recently spent a week in Tampa Florida, doing a Clean Comedy Show at Coconuts Club on St Pete Beech with friends. We had a four day run and after that, Joby, Michelle and I performed at the Ale and the Witch at St Pete Mall. Oh what an incredible week.

I have great memories of St Pete. My in-laws used to live there so we visited quite a bit. That and my youngest was conceived there years ago.

It turns out those “cute name” little drinks they serve on the Tiki Hut bars become verbs instead of nouns if you have enough of them.

Yes my mother in law did that math, giving her second reason for hating me.

Do you know her first reason?

 

I married her son.

Oh well.

Back to my story.

 

Someone told me recently that they wish God had given them a gift that allowed them to travel. I didn’t know what to say so I just smiled and hugged her. She’s in the middle of young child season and i miss those days. I could try and explain that, or tell her how i woke up one day, my kids we’re grown and the career i had before I became a stay home mom no longer exists and cutting my husbands meat really isnt an option, but she wouldn’t understand.

I could tell her don’t rush this season, it’ll end soon enough, cherish those days. I could tell her that all I really know how to do is be a wife (its all I’ve done for 25 years)and while that isn’t a bad thing really, I’m in a new season with no clue how this is going to turn out. Not better or worse, just new. And that’s okay.

Besides, it’s not like God said to me, “Go! Though shalt now be a comic.” It’s was more like a whispered, “follow me.”

So I follow the whisper.

How did I get here? This place where I can travel with friends and tell jokes. I still think it’s a dream some days.

Truth is though, I can sum it up in one word: FAILURE.

That and of course GRACE.

So I guess that makes two words really. I never was good at math.Which really messes with my name it claim it friends who want blessings in return for right behavior.

Yes, hard work, faith, and other things come into play here. But there is really more than that going on in my life right now.
I can still remember my lowest point ever in my life. My dream of working in a church fell to pieces around me due to spiritual warfare. And the Non Profit I worked for closed it’s doors. I stood on the precipice of “now what” and shook in my boots.I also went on meds and spent three years in therapy, so you know. I wasn’t firing on all cylinders for a while. My hobbies back then included wrapping myself in a blanket, chain smoking and staring out into the abyss that is my back yard.

I LOVED that life. I didn’t want to let it go.

The pre therapy one I mean not the abyss. That would just be weird. And sad.

As much as I hated that time, and as painful as it was – the most amazing blessings have unfolded as a result. A stranger came along, grabbed my hand and put me to work for her promoting her events. I took one small step after the other until I learned how to breathe again. I went from there working larger events and helping plant a church. Each step, each choice to say yes beget more things and more opportunities. And so, I pulled up my bootstraps, leaned into God with everything I had, put one quivering foot in front of the other, and with the help of a delightful mentor I learned to say yes to the Holy Spirit.

Didn’t realize I was saying no until she pointed that out. Note: Never use the words “I could never do what you do, I’m just happy to be here” to a Spirit Filled woman – she will start praying over you and well — you’re toast.

She suggested an experiment – she wanted me to spend one year only saying yes to where I am invited. Don’t knock on a single door and then watch God work. Let’s see what He thinks about these so called limitations you think you have.Now I don’t always recommend that because we can get too complacent sitting around waiting for God to move. I still moved – I said yes to things I never would have said yes to before because I was so busy. And I learned to say no to the things and places I didn’t belong.

I started writing again and I remember wanting to write a series about life after kids and pondered her advice to say yes to everything I was invited to even if it made me throw up from fear. The result? I made amazing new friends, learned that I can too stand up for myself after all, that fame means nothing to me (Hey my husband AKA “Guitar man” opened for Mitch McVicker remember? Cool yes, but Mitch isn’t a rock star and never wants to be – best lesson ever), worked production for some amazing christian artists who aren’t rock stars either. I’ve even invited a few of them to come to my church and perform. I also rode a horse through the jungles of Belize, swam with sharks, and started doing stand-up (which is a huge stretch for a story teller like myself.)

Every single thing a blessing. I’m not a name it claim it girl. I don’t throw God’s promises back in his face, rather I thank him for today and go on. Now some people are really good at reminding God his promises. It’s just not my way. it’s not our relationship. It’s not a theology I understand even though it is a popular one.I wouldn’t go around demanding my parents, family, or friends do really spectacular things for me just because I’m so awesome. They’d call me an entitled brat if I did that. So, I don’t treat God that way either.

The only way I can describe the past few years is it feels like I’m in the middle of this passionate love affair with a God who’s yes trumps every no I’ve ever been told in my life.

No you can’t join this church, you’re just a kid.

No you can’t be on the this board, it’s already full with charter members.

No you can’t be a deaconess (I don’t care if you took the classes already) you weren’t raised Lutheran.

No. No. No. No.

Here bring cookies to the funeral.

No thanks.

Jesus didn’t die for me – or you – to be relegated to sitting in a pew on Sundays and being told that’s all you deserve because you are an adult convert. Which is a common occurrence in some older churches. I know this: Jesus lives so that you can have abundant life.

God’s YES will ALWAYS triumph a world full of nos.

That is pretty cool.And if someone is telling you otherwise – they are lying. So when somebody asked what I did to deserve this or that event, (and they usually do) I honestly answer “Nothing.” I tell the truth about who I am and what my accomplishments are – and my goals. I don’t embellish (because getting found out is easier than people realize) and I trust God with the journey. I could run around and “work” my connections and strive to arrive more quickly, but that’s exhausting. I’d rather take my time, make friends and learn. I’m enjoying the journey.It doesn’t matter what any of us do for a living really. No one is “more called” than some one else. No job is more important than the other. The hand is just as important as the foot.

Remember Mitch? – That man travels to small churches, cut up blue jeans, shirt, bare feet (much like Rich) and plays his heart out for God – not stadiums. I LOVE that. And even so – his job isn’t any more important that the janitor who takes time to talk to troubled teens, or the gal at the check out counter who smiles every day – or the corporate executive — They all matter to God. We’re all called to live life by a God who adores us not for our “here is how I’m going to bless you today Lord” lists quickly followed by an open hand wanting something back as if he were a vending machine – but because He created us and he’s mad about us. Oh that we could love him back not because he’s Santa handing out wishes and accolades based on our own perceptions of righteousness and entitlement, but because he’s God. Would that not just be the bees knees right there?

NOTE: No clue why my formatting is messed up. But thank you for reading. Have a great day peeps.

Robert Downey Jr is a Class Act All the Way Around and I’m a Puddle of Tears

I’ll be honest, when my friend shared this video (via his blog – Save a Cactus Hugger) with me last week, I sat down and cried.

I didn’t cry because I’m such a fan of these two men. I am (and you my readers know that, probably ad nauseum I’m sure.) but that’s not the point. I think this video shows courage, and great humility. Robert Downey Jr has proven himself to be a class act all the way around.

I’m not sure why it made me cry really. My reaction was so strong emotionally that I’m forced to look at it and find out. Yeah me, another Fantastic Growth Opportunity. (AFGO as my friend calls it) – I know that I’ve had many periods in my life where I’ve been overcome with a severe case of dumb-butt and have needed to face that in myself. And while I’ve been blacklisted for serious infractions like admitting I’m a more of a Ben and Jerry’s Fan than a Dairy Queen Gal, I have fortunately been spared the limelight of these two men’s lives.

Not that I haven’t necessarily done worse.

I just never got caught. Or if I did, it never made the nightly news or cover of People Magazine.

Maybe I cried because I’m one of those women who loves alcoholics to death — literally sometimes. (To point, if our eyes meet across a crowded room and my heart starts doing 280, chances are pretty good they either have a flask in their pocket or a criminal record. Which is in all honesty how I landed up in a 12 step room to begin with. I was raised to believe that I am personally responsible for other people’s bologna and it took a few years to let go of that responsibility, one clutched controlling finger at a time.)

Maybe I cried out of self pity? I have several alcoholics in my life who have yet to accomplish (on a personal level) what I witnessed here.

Maybe I cried because I know so many who left the room before reaching this place of hope and real forgiveness.

Or maybe I cried because I’ve been around 12 step rooms for so long and I honesty wish church were more like this and it isn’t always.

No matter, I love the video and believe that Robert’s actions show great class, love, and humility – not to mention courage and so do Mel’s. These men are a great example of true friendship — we should all be so blessed.

One Person’s Trash is another Person’s Treasure

75929_436284309752230_518131487_n

I’ll never forget my first winter in Chicago and the time I tried to give a homeless person my coat. My boss stopped me and made me get on the train. I did not understand why he stopped me and I cried the whole way back to the office.  He was protecting me. My kind heart over-rode common sense. 

I moved to Tulsa seven years later and worked in the Bank of Oklahoma building on the 27th floor. They had an ice rink back in the 90’s and I’d go down there for coffee and breakfast. Every morning I’d see the same man with ragged clothes and I’d buy him breakfast. At lunch I’d sit by myself in the square and share my lunch and cigarettes with a few of the homeless men that hung around. My boss found out about it and made me stop. He said it wasn’t safe for a nice girl like me to be alone with these men. He thought I was putting myself in danger.

I shared that story recently with the wrong person and their response surprised me.

“Your boss was wrong. I mean you smoked. Obviously you weren’t a nice girl.”

They were so proud of their comment that they laughed. This wasn’t a heckler, I wasn’t even on stage when he said this. We were sitting at a kitchen table sharing dinner with friends. A heckler I can handle, this — I just smiled and changed the subject before getting really quiet and letting other people control the conversation. It’s an old survival skill from childhood, if you let them know they got to you they come back for more. I’ve learned how to hide crumbling.

Just because I can hide it doesn’t mean I don’t crumble sometimes.

Knowing what this man said is a lie doesn’t change the impact of his words. The committee in my brain is now in high gear, passing those words around like a cheap bottle of wine. “You’ll never fit in.”, “You can’t trust people.”, “He’s right you know. You are trash.”, “I’m never coming back here again.”

Every fiber of my being now wants to show this man how “not nice” I’m capable of being. Oh you think smoking is bad, wait until I tell you about the time I did thus and such! The committee is also offering up questions on his mother’s marital status when he was born as well as her emotional temperament. In 24 hours I ruminate every possible come back. They are wonderful come backs by the way, I’m always brilliant after the fact. The problem is those comebacks do nothing for my heart and just keep the hurt feelings going while Mr Idiot has no idea that I’m even wounded.

At this point, I’m the one wounding myself by repeatedly hitting the replay button on the DVD in my brain.

I want to stop the spiral. I try to read. I pray. I stare at my phone to call a friend, but it’s too heavy and then an amazing thing happens, I receive a Christmas card from a friend. Inside the card is a puzzle piece with these words:

“YOU GLOW and you do more than light up a room — you light up the hearts of all who are in it.”

Her card is postmarked several days earlier, and arrives just in time to soothe my heart and my brain.  She doesn’t even know about the incident yet.  I now have a choice, I can hit the replay button on the remarks that hurt me OR I can choose to believe my friend and her words of encouragement. So what if one man thinks I’m trash. He’s an idiot.  I have a wealth of friends who think otherwise and their voices are loud enough to put the committee to rest.

It is said that silence equals approval. I neither agreed with nor approved of his comment and yet I remained silent.  I don’t have to be quiet just to prove I’m nice. There is nothing to be gained by staying silent when someone lies about my value to my face. There are a number of acceptable responses that I could have used. My therapist says when someone throws a prickly pear at us (an insult), we don’t have to catch it nor do we need to throw it back. We can simply say things like “ouch” or calmly speak truth, “that’s not true about me.” Simple phrases like that stop most people in their tracks and give them the chance to clean it up.

I’ll try and remember that next time. In the mean time, I’m taking my puzzle piece from my friend and posting on my bathroom mirror. I glow, not only do I light up a room, I light up the hearts of all who are in it. — And so do you.

Question: How do you respond to thoughtless (or maybe not so thoughtless) comments? I’d love to hear from you.

It’s About Choices

From Elements of Your Life on Facebook

My word for the year is breathe. My word for September and October is choices.

Everything I do is a choice. Owning my choices is a sign of being a grown-up. I’m not always a great grown-up.  Some days, I would rather shift blame than face myself.  That’s a choice too, though not a productive one. We don’t have to grow up. We can choose to blame our past, blame others or circumstances and stay stuck as a victim OR.. we can find freedom. That too is a choice.

Some choices I’ve made this month.

  • Remembering not to do something permanently stupid because I’m temporarily upset. (I have a temper, I need to staple this one to my forehead)
  • Being happy no matter what mood someone else is in.
  • Not letting people lie to me.
  • Allowing  people in my life who tell me the truth, even if it hurts my feelings.
  • Being real and honest with my mentor.
  • Investing in my career and buying my own banjo stand and taking lessons instead of going to the State Fair.
  • Facing my feelings and not wasting anymore time playing Facebook games and other things just to zone out.
  • Increasing my practice time from 30 minutes a day to at least an hour if not two.
  • Moving for an hour a day.
  • Eating what my nutritionist tells me to eat so that the pain in my stomach doesn’t return rather than turn to comfort food and old habits which does cause pain.*
  • Performing Stand Up twice a month at open mics.
  • Listening to God when he tells me NO! I’m at the point in my walk where his expectations of how I live my life are crystal clear. I’ve learned how to walk, it’s my responsibility to walk in what I’ve learned.

I’ve made some private choices as well and rather than discuss those, I’ll simply carry them out. Every day is a choice. We can choose to stay stuck, or we can choose to grow and move forward. What choices are you making today?

 

*Old habits that cause pain – sounds like a great blog topic for later this week.

Entertaining Angels, God with Skin On

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

It is important to have friends you can be 100% yourself with. I have those. We try our best to be there for each other whenever we are needed. Life happens sometimes though and our friends are not always available. Those are the moments I take to God. Sometimes he sends me someone, and sometimes it’s just us. He must have known I needed an angel this week.

Well, not literally, I don’t think anyway. I can say one thing, they did not come in the neatly wrapped package I usually prefer (ie well known to me and female.) They are part of a group I am in and I believe they use a nom de plume. People I trust know them and therefore I talk to them on occasion. 

Don’t get me wrong, I know that blind trust is a sin and we don’t discuss anything deep or too revealing – safety rules and all – but we do talk sometimes, mostly about comedy, sometimes about faith. I like the whole no preconceived expectations aspect of that and I enjoy talking with them. They know more than I and I love surrounding myself with people further down the path. It’s how I grow.

I also set boundaries because they appear to be male. I’m not above temptation and will not replace things I should tell my husband with a stranger. There is no lure in that for me. I’m in ministry to serve God. Even so, I am fully aware of my own potential pitfalls and watch for those slopes.  The fact that He (meaning God) can even use me astounds me sometimes. I don’t want to mess that up.

I find it interesting how willing we are to let down our masks with strangers, more so than with friends. While I reveal a lot here for you, I do strive to keep the private out of the personal. I only share that which I think might benefit someone else because we are not alone in our daily struggles. Some things are universal. While it is true there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, not everything is everyone’s business nor do I wish to glamorize sin.

I’m a sinner saved by Grace, through faith. No more. No less.

Even so, I caught myself telling him things I don’t typically share with people in my comedy group. Like how I wasn’t raised in a church. I don’t talk about that. Must have needed to.

 I caught myself wanting to know who they really were and even tried to trick them at one point. The Holy Spirit tweaked me on that one and I apologized.  I finally gave up the ghost.  I believe that God puts people in our lives for a reason. This weekend I needed a prayer partner. I was genuinely upset about something and had requested prayer for a person. I failed to explain that I was on the ceiling myself over the situation but somehow talking with them calmed me down.

Ministry can do that. So many people are hurting in this world and I’ve yet to find a channel or way to listen to their hurt without drowning in it myself. I never want to become so cold-hearted that I feel nothing when someone shares pain. Even so, balance is good.

 I needed someone to talk to and this person was there and I appreciate that.

Truth is, knowing me, as much as I’d like to believe I’d be fully myself I’d probably try to impress them with my brilliance or baffle them with my BS and neither sounds satisfying. 

God gave me an ear to listen, and heart to hear and prayers when I needed them most.

Not knowing who he really is, keeps God’s face ever before me. — And for that, I am thankful.

“I will not wish thee riches nor the glow of greatness, but that wherever thou go, some weary heart shall gladden at thy smile, or shadowed life know sunshine for awhile. And so thy path shall be a track of light, like angels‘ footsteps passing through” — Words on a church wall in Upwaltham England

Speaking Truth, The Value of Friendship

Great advice from a comic friend — “Honey if you don’t have people you can tell the truth to, your safe circle is too small.” –

We all need people in our lives with whom we can be just ourselves. People we can tell the truth to and people who will tell us the truth in return. We need to cherish those relationships. 

I really don’t have more to add to that right now. I think it’s enough.

Cherish your inner circle.

Create one if you must.

And then protect it with everything you have.