Monday, May 31, 2010

Smooth As...

So we’re off to a rousing start.

The launching of “Margery” was as smooth as the skin on a baby’s bottom.

No hitches. No glitches. No internet witches.


At one point last week, I had a mental image of John Belushi trying to muster the troops for one last bit of deviltry before shutting down the Animal House. “Who’s with me????”  I cry, taking the long-awaited leap of faith.

…asking you to leap with me.

(Knowing we could all end up in a pit together.)

Expecting a roomful of perplexed silence or indifference.

But hoping somebody will get it.

Evidently some didn’t.

I received this text message from a family member:

“New blog!  What what?? Totally over my head.”

 With exquisite maternal forbearance, I reply something to the effect of: “Duuuhhh. Glad we paid for 19 years of education.”

Then I realize that maybe she’s right.

Maybe this whole thing is too obscure; the connection too strained and nebulous.

Another relative laughs, “Who the heck is Margery?” 

“Did you read “Who is Margery?” I query.

“It was too long.”

I sigh. Loudly.

But before long, I begin to see a few positive comments. Some old friends take the leap to become new friends.

I am encouraged.

The fact that it was almost impossible to get Margery going is most likely affirmation that I’m supposed to do it. I’ve learned to be ornery that way. If there are many obstacles beforehand, there will usually be much fruitfulness afterwards.* (* Spiritual Principle thrown in for free!)

Last week was an awful week to take the leap.

Actually, Margery has been almost ready to go for many weeks. But one thing after another made me procrastinate. Trying to attain some level of perfection. Ironing out the wrinkles.

Hoping the schedule would get less busy so I could concentrate.

I realized that day would never come.

(I will tell you about the day of Margery’s birth next time. I tried to fit it in here, but it’s too long. Don’t want to be accused of being long-winded, do I?  Don’t want to give anyone a reason to quote: “Mama’s talkin’ and she can’t shut up!!”)

Anyway, ready or not, Margery has made her imperfect debut onto the internet. Like her author, she’s still a work in progress. Hopefully over the next months we’ll get the “Coming Soon!” commitments met, figure out font issues, straighten out the kinks. If not, I hope you’ll give her a chance anyway.

If anyone’s still as confused as my some of my family members appear to be, or as technologically challenged as I am, I will try to simplify*:

(*i.e., I will write as if to one of my old friends who may have gotten her first laptop in the last couple of weeks and/or to one of my offspring.)

Okay, so, if you have the time, take the little mousie thing (or make your finger take the arrow) up to the top and click on “Who is Margery?”  Read. Then take the mouse/arrow to “Who Am I?”  Click and read.  Notice any similarities? 

Now read “Why?”

Does that help anybody? I’m not trying to be too high-brow or esoteric. I’ve been advised to “keep it simple.” That is what I hope to do… at least some of the time. To take complex ideas and make them simple and accessible. If I fail to do that on a given day, come back. Even if that’s not what you’re interested in, come back anyway. Tomorrow might be the day we discuss ingrown toenails. Or I give you my prize-winning meatloaf recipe. Or tell you the best cheap makeup. You never know.

Bottom line: if you were blessed in any way by either of the other two blogs, I think (hope) you will be by this as well. Don’t let the historical context scare you off. I promise you won’t get a Medieval History lecture every time you visit. (If ever.) It will be mostly the same kind of autobiographical stuff, but with a wider range. If you hate it one day, come back the next (or in 3 or 4) because it will be something different. I am giving myself permission to branch out.

Yesterday I attempted to organize all of my documents. I discovered 43 unfinished posts from the other two blogs.

Evidently there is still quite a bit to be said.

I thank those of you who are still willing to listen.


Another note for people like me: Once you click on a page ("Who?" "Why?" etc. ) on the bar on the top, just click again anywhere on the page to get back to the Home Page. (There is no "Home" tab.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Margery? Why Me?

“Those who do not remember the past
are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason

I have always been fascinated by the past. As a child, I loved reading books set in other centuries. I was intrigued by how different yet the same everything was. I went on archaeological digs with my father, searching for Indian arrowheads and Civil War relics in the woods near my north Georgia home. I was mesmerized by old objects. Someone held this bottle in his hands 200 years ago. I wondered what stories the bottle…the bullet…the belt buckle…could tell.

Eventually, I became a History major at Emory. (For those from outside the region, Emory bills itself as the “Harvard of the South.” Duke and Vanderbilt are supposed to be the “Yale” and “Princeton.”) Actually, I majored in Frat Party 101, but I faked my way through a BA, and went on to earn an MRS. (I can give you my sister-in-law’s cell phone number so she can explain to you how I managed to accomplish both of these achievements. Call me. ) On the rare occasions that I made it to class, I was drawn particularly to European, specifically English, history. (I wrote my thesis on events beginning in the Medieval period: “The Percys of Northumberland.” Say it in a pompous English accent.) I’d actually get up for those classes most of the time, unlike, say, my “Science for the Non-Science major” course on “Environmental Science.” (Everything would have been okay there, except for the fact that I thought I heard the professor say that the exam was optional.) Oh well, it all worked out in the end. Kind of.

Unfortunately, that sort of thing was typical. It appears that I have never in my life (until recently, anyway) been able to learn anything the easy way. A strong-willed child, I always tested the limits and had to learn things for myself. This is a most unfortunate trait. (Evidently, it is familial. I’ve had to live through it with one of my children, and now I see it in my delectably adorable, but feisty, grandson.)

How wonderful it would have been to learn from the experience of others, rather than only through firsthand failings, foibles, and faux pas.

How sweet it would have been to profit from the lessons of the past.

Sadly, I have learned the vast majority of Life Lessons the hard way.

But I believe that those are the lessons that should not be wasted. Suffering…in any form…should not be wasted. It doesn’t have to be.

It is possible for some… a minority, obviously…but some…to learn from the mistakes of others. To profit from their life experiences. To heed their sage advice and counsel.

…As I have finally been able to learn and profit from people like Margery Kempe. And her more stereotypically ‘saintly’ contemporary, Dame Julian of Norwich (Or her more worldly contemporary, Chaucer.) And from St. Theresa and Augustine and Francois Fenelon and Brother Lawrence and Amy Carmichael. And Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Dickens and C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.

And my friend Gwen.

I’ve learned life-lessons from people like Hannah Whitall Smith and Hannah Hurnard. From Oswald Chambers and Simone Weil and Brennan Manning. And from….

Well, don’t worry about it if you’ve never heard of any of these people. Stick with Margery long enough, and you will.

Because I feel like I’ve been given a divine directive.

I’ve heard a call.

It’s something like, “Kim. Come on. Seriously. Don’t let it all go to waste. It means something. Share what you’ve learned during your +half century on earth.”

Even if your kids won’t listen to you.

Maybe their friends will.

When I was first beginning to listen, a beautiful older friend used to say to me, “Honey, I’ve got a PhD in experience.” A dramatic underachiever for most of my years, I can echo that self-accolade at long last.

Finally…the hard way…I feel as if I have received a diploma from the School of Productive Suffering.

I’ve lived a lot. I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve been hurt a lot in the process.

Fortunately, I’ve also received a great deal of healing and quite extraordinary supernatural comforting for whatever pain I’ve experienced. Whether external or internal…of outside origin, or self-inflicted.

And I feel a compelling to obey the injunction in II Corinthians 1:4 to “Comfort with the comfort I have received.”

It’s really not optional.

I’ve received comfort. I must dispense it.

No choice. No constipated Christianity.

Flows in, gotta flow out…

No hogging the good stuff all for yourself.

Also, there’s this:

“Tell the older women to behave as those who love the Lord should. They must not gossip about others or be slaves of wine. They must teach what is proper, so the younger women will be loving wives and mothers.” (Titus 2: 3-4 CEV)

Gotta confess….I’m still working on the wine part.

(I hear you, Kathie Lee.)

Well, I guess the “behaving” part, too.

We’re all “works in progress,” right?

But old ladies have earned the right to misbehave every now and then. Wear purple dresses with red hats and act silly in public and all that.

Still, I am told to “teach what is proper” to the younger women.

(Quess we’ll eventually have to arrive at a definitive definition of “proper.”)

Finally, I must close by telling you that this is actually a long-held dream, fulfilled, at last, as a backdoor blessing.

Several years ago, I felt that I was at a crossroad in life. Coming out of a lengthy period of bad health, I was feeling useless and under-utilized. I was trying to figure out what my next step should be. I was burdened by trends I saw developing in my children’s generation. I shared my heart, vision, and concerns with our former youth pastor. He said, “Kim, you need to write a blog.” “What’s a blog?” I asked. He tried to explain.

I forgot all about it.

Until recently, when I realized that even when we are slow or reluctant or immobilized, God’s purposes have a way of fulfilling themselves in us, nevertheless.

A “web-log” was born in spite of me, in circumstances I would not have chosen. Like a ship’s log, it charted our family's passage through stormy waters.

But now we are in somewhat calmer seas, and it is time to return to the original calling.

Like the Delaney sisters, it’s finally time for me “to have my say.”

Back in the eighties, I gave my grandmother one of those quipy little decorative pillows that were popular then. It said, “Avenge yourself. Live long enough to be a problem to your children.”

Watch out, Middle Child.

Mama’s getting ready to let it rip.


Oh, one more thing: My husband recently gave a talk at church where he told a sanctuary full of people that he was married to a combination of Billy Graham and Lady Gaga. If you hang around long enough, maybe you can help me figure out what he means by that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who In the World is Margery?

“Here begynnyth a schort tretys and a comfortabyl for synful wrecchys, wherin thei may have gret solas and comfort to hem and undyrstondyn the hy and unspecabyl mercy of ower sovereyn Savyowr Cryst Jhesu, whos name be worschepd and magnyfyed...”

(“Here begins a short treatise and a comforting for sinful wretches, in which they may have great solace and comfort and understand the high and unspeakable mercy of our sovereign Saviour Christ Jesus, whose name be worshipped and magnified…”)

So begins the first autobiography in the English language, written by a woman named Margery Kempe (1373 – 1438?), the "Madwoman of God." Lost for centuries, it was rediscovered in 1934 in a private library in England.  Margery’s diary is considered to be the most unique offering of its kind in English literature. Valued by an array of scholars in disciplines ranging from theology to Medieval History to Women’s Studies, it reveals a startlingly honest portrayal of a very complex and complicated woman living in an era when women were seen as one-dimensional.

A contemporary of both Chaucer and Dame Julian of Norwich, Margery was a woman of the world, enticed by all of its pleasures. Born into a wealthy and respected family of burghers, Margery grew up spoiled and frivolous. She loved pretty clothes, good food and drink, and the opposite sex. (And sex.) She was lusty, passionate, and had a heart for adventure.

Married at 20, she experienced such violent puerperal fever and/or post-partum depression after the birth of the first of her 14 children that it turned into a type of psychosis. She had to be bound and restrained for over 6 months to keep her from injuring herself or any who came near her. It was during this period that she had the first of many mystic visions. In it, Christ came and sat down on the bed beside her, saying,“My daughter, why have you abandoned me, when I never thought to abandon you?”  Immediately following this supernatural encounter, she experienced an immediate and miraculous healing.

In spite of such overt divine intervention, Margery’s faith journey was not transformed overnight into one of constancy and sinless bliss. She continued to flirt with the world while attempting to inhabit the Kingdom. Like many of us, she wanted to have her cake and eat it, too. She frequently fell into temptation and despaired of her soul. When contemplating God’s mercy toward her, she would begin to cry…loudly. Because of this proclivity, she often found herself being forcibly escorted out of church.

Margery was a woman of strong voice and opinions. At a time when women were valued as little more than property, she wasn’t afraid to express her views loudly and publicly, a tendency which found her facing charges on numerous occasions. Her life was frequently threatened, and she spent more than a few nights in jail. Brought before the archbishop during one of these times, he pronounced, “I don’t believe there’s ever been a woman in England who’s got herself into so much trouble!”

Margery was undeterred. She continued to “live large.” The woman didn’t know how to shut her mouth. She meddled in the Church’s business as she meddled in her children’s business.  She was a frequent source of embarrassment to her family and friends at home.  But Margery was not one to sit still. She traveled extensively on pilgrimages all over Europe and even to Jerusalem…often with no companions. (They would abandon her on the way, over-dosed on chatter and drama.) Her personality led to wild adventures and many seeming-disasters. She survived several serious illnesses, and "prepared to meet her Maker" more than once. She was ready. 

Margery’s story is a remarkable ‘tell-all’ of magnificent missteps, beautiful blunders, and fabulous faux pas. An unlikely saint, she has a hard time keeping her foot on the pilgrim’s path instead of in her cavernous mouth.  She’s sometimes hysterically funny without meaning to be. But, na├»ve as she is, she still retains the ability to laugh at herself. Or at least to laugh with others as they laugh at her.

Whatever may be said of Margery, madwoman or saint, she knew where to turn whenever she found herself up a 50-foot tree with no ladder. She trusted God to rescue her. Completely and totally. She talked to him as if he were her best friend, standing right beside her. She praised him, argued with him, questioned him, laughed with him, cried to him.

And he talked back. 

Margery was a character. A mess.

But, oh, she loved her Lord.

And was not afraid to say so.

I am a modern-day Margery.

“If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” (II Corinthians 5:13)


Monday, May 24, 2010


“…pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
(James 5:16, nlt)

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