Time to Celebrate!

This announcement just ran in Publishers Weekly:

“Amy Fitzgerald at Lerner/Carolrhoda has bought Ginger Garrett’s middle-grade novel Name Tags and Other Terrible Ideas (Most of Them Mine). When sixth grader Lizbeth finds her plans to get rid of her father’s new girlfriend and make friends at her new school derailed, an art project prompts her to think outside the box. Publication is slated for fall 2020; Melissa Jeglinski at the Knight Agency brokered the deal for world rights.”

Think Like An Oyster

Pearls

 

I am a woman obsessed with pearls.

 

Delicate and hypnotic, I love to watch the way each one catches the light, reflecting a soft, ethereal glow.

 
Here are the top three reasons why everyone should be obsessed with pearls.

 

First, they symbolize the secrets of the heart: hidden wisdom, the discovery of heaven-on-earth, and tears of joy.

 
Second, you can often find pearls in thrift stores, like I do. It’s a little tricky to tell a real pearl from a fake one, but once you master the secrets (which you can learn anywhere online) it gets easier. I pay as little as $3 for some strands, even the ones with gold clasps.

 

Don’t think pearls are always white, either. My collection includes black Tahitian, South Sea, fresh water, dyed, Baroque, and of course, the classic white opera-length strand. For my many evenings at the opera.

 

(Which is my kitchen on Friday nights. Pavarotti on Spotify while I make pizza.)

 
Here is the third and most wonderful reason to be utterly obsessed with pearls:

 

Pearls are the embodiment of the promise that good will overcome evil.

 
Each pearl began as the smallest injury or insult, a breach of manners that none of us noticed.

 
The oyster noticed, though. It mulled it over. Quietly. In darkness. Day after day.

 
Layer upon layer, covering that affront with goodness until beauty was all that remained. And we’re proud to display what remained.

 
If we drilled down to the center of these beauties, would we see the insult or injury that began the good work? Why would we want to? It cannot be undone.

 

All that matters is how the oyster responded.

 
Someday, all that will remain from today is my response.

 
That statement makes me reconsider the things I think about, and how I think about them, in the dark of night. I had no idea my inner thoughts would make such a pronounced appearance into the world someday, but they do. I see that principle all the time now.

 
A friend of mine recently endured an unimaginable tragedy. She told me she can only speak the truth now. I would be reminded of Cassandra, but my friend’s story is infinitely more hopeful. She can only speak the truth, and when she does, the truth sounds very much like love.

 
And I think of her, what terrible events she must have to mull over, in the darkness, day after day. But somehow, she responds with love. A quiet outpouring of it, day after day. Her response touches us all and makes us want to be better humans. She is leaving a powerful legacy.

 
Someday, I’ll leave my collection of thrift store pearls to my girls. And whatever events, insults and setbacks I have mulled over in the darkness, well, that creates something I will leave to them as well.

 

When my life’s labor is finished, I hope it will be something very much like a pearl. I hope it will be love.

Snowdrift the Pyrenees Subdues Her Nemesis

Dogs

Snowdrift is a Great Pyrenees mix that my wonderful vet helped us save from the dreaded disease parvo. Snowy stared down death at a young age, so she has a stoic personality. We adopted Watson the black and tan bloodhound mix, and it would be incorrect to say he has a personality. No, he IS personality.  A very loud personality that includes yodeling in the early hours of the morning.

But I love this photo because at some point every afternoon, Watson naps. And when he does, Snowy watches over him. She can’t resist the pull of her Pyrenees DNA that urges her to protect all livestock, even the ones she wishes would run far, far away.

Good dog, Snowy.

When You Journey to Bethlehem

“Christmas is really for children, isn’t it?” The casual remark made by a friend wounded me deeply. I had recently miscarried and was told I would never be able to carry a child to term. All month I had struggled to survive emotionally, bombarded hourly with toy advertisements and commercials featuring adorable kids sneaking downstairs in their pajamas. If Christmas was for children, what could it offer me? I had no children, and never would, it seemed.

I wasn’t the only one silently suffering in the season of good cheer. My Bible study leader had recently lost her son to suicide. My neighbor had just buried her mother. And a colleague had passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind a wife and three children. All around, nativity sets were on display. But what we saw there made our hearts burn with grief. We saw a father, a mother, a child…each of us saw what had been lost.

Slowly, we journeyed on during the long, lonely month. Alone and disoriented by grief, we needed rest, but no one seemed to have room us, or for our endless pain, not at this busy time of year. We didn’t know it, but we were journeying to Bethlehem, too.

That season, I was often thinking about the people at the Inn, who had no room for the holy family. Who could turn away a woman in her final month of pregnancy to sleep out of doors? And when her cries of labor began, did their hearts burn with shame?

Maybe not. Indifference is the most comfortable of evils.

When the baby took His first cry, they were, however, probably a little relieved. “See,” they must have thought, “the babe is brought safely into the world, and I have no part to play in that story now.”

(If they had only known!)

So, my friend, when you are hurting at Christmas, never forget this:

Indifference was part of the miracle. God was with us there, in the cold, in the dark.

And so this is what I now believe about Christmas: God’s silence is never to be confused with indifference. He is not indifferent to your suffering. Nor to mine. Let others turn you away, or turn you out, or pretend not to hear your cries… God is near. God is not indifferent. God is at work. If the story is bleak, it’s not over.

Christmas is the fulfillment of a sacred promise made to the whole world, but those who have made the long and weary journey to Bethlehem can rejoice with relief. The aching grief over what should have been becomes the very place He chooses to fully give Himself to us, and welcome us at last to Bethlehem.

Christmas is neither the beginning nor the end of His story of Love, but the miraculous middle. We who travel to this place in the dark of night, find that the miracle in the middle is more than enough to see us safely, and joyfully, on to The End.

And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2: 10-11 KJV

© gingergarrett.com

The Best Christmas Is Yet to Come!

Several years ago, my parents sold their home in Texas to be closer to their grandchildren. The first Christmas with the family together was glorious; we ate, played, and shopped nearly every day. One afternoon, I picked up my five-year-old daughter Elise after a fun day with Grandpa and Grandma.

I noticed she was looking out the minivan window, a sad expression on her face. “What is it, hon?” I asked.

“It’s Grandpa and Grandma. I just feel really sorry for them,” she whispered.

“Why?”

Elise sighed. “I was just wondering, aren’t they ever going to have kids of their own?”

I chuckled all the way home.

Children can know the facts without understanding them. Sure, Elise knew that her grandparents are also my parents, but she was not yet able to comprehend the full meaning of that fact.

She had a shadowy understanding that children grow up to become adults and one day have kids of their own. Of course, my daughter will know, just as her grandmother and I do, that childhood is only the beginning of a great adventure, and the sweetest surprises—not to mention the deepest sorrows—in life come with time.

I do wonder if I’m like Elise in my understanding of Christmas. Every year, I set out the same crèche. I bake the same cookies. I sing old hymns and carols, light white candles, and wrap presents. I understand Christmas so very well…or do I? Do I know the facts but lack the ability to grasp the greater implications?

What if Christmas is a mystery we will only truly comprehend much, much later? What if this Christmas here on earth is only a dress rehearsal for something far more wonderful?

Are the deepest joys still to come? I believe so, though I cannot comprehend them yet.

One day we will wake up in our Father’s House and discover that the real Christmas morning has arrived. We’ll be surrounded by family and friends, feasts and laughter. I believe I’ll also be awash in dog hair and slobbery kisses. There’ll probably be a horse sharing my hot cocoa and peppermint stick, too, but I won’t mind. In heaven, my horses will have impeccable table manners.

I cannot comprehend the mystery of Christmas, but there is one thing I’m sure of: the best is yet to come.

An Actual Miracle Occurs…

The most glorious mothering-moments always seem to go terribly wrong for me.

My fifth grade daughter invited a friend, Grace, for a sleepover. Grace’s father is a church leader, a detail which will be important later, and one which my daughter will refer back to in therapy years from now.

My daughter (nicknamed Lolo) and Grace were happily cavorting when their time was rudely interrupted by my teenage son returning home with a few of his friends. Elementary school girls love to antagonize teenage guys, and teenage guys will frequently escalate the return-fire, in order to put an early end to hostilities. (I am frequently reminded of President Truman at these moments.)

I had been working in my home office for about an hour, trying to escape the conflict, when Lolo and Grace came storming into my office, hands on hips.

“Tell the boys to stop scaring us!” my daughter snapped.

I raised my eyebrow, words being too much of an effort by this point.

“They put a big rubber snake in the kitchen to scare us!” Grace said.

“We can’t get to the freezer for popsicles,” Lolo added.

I yelled at the guys but they didn’t reply from upstairs. They had music blaring. So, with a groan which was more a precursor to arthritis than actual aggravation, I walked from the office to the kitchen. There it was, a giant rubber snake, thrown across the kitchen floor.

Shaking my head, I bent to pick it up.

It lifted its head and hissed at me.

The girls screamed bloody murder.

Stumbling backwards, shrieking, I did several things simultaneously. (Incidentally, this is where my heroic part in the tale ends.) I grabbed a phone off the kitchen counter and threw it over my shoulder to the girls. My son and his friends turned off their music, so I knew they had heard my screams. Which was timely because I had two commands.

“Everyone, jump on a dog!” We had two Pyrenees, one weighing 90 pounds and one weighing 160. If they came into the kitchen, the fur would hit the fan.

And… “If this thing bites me, call 911!”

The girls began sniffling and breathing in ragged gasps, so I knew they were starting to bawl. I had to work quickly.

Looking wildly about, I spied a lacrosse stick propped next to the back door that leads to our backyard. With a deep breath for courage, I stepped closer to the snake—which coiled and lowered its head menacingly—and slowly opened the door before grabbing the stick.

The snake was light brown with darker brown markings, but I didn’t know whether it was venomous. A little known fact is that even nonvenomous snakes can flatten their heads into a triangle shape to scare off bigger predators.

Gently attempting to scoop the snake into the lacrosse stick’s net, I only succeeded in angering it. It struck at the net, and I briefly lost bladder control as it rapidly slid toward me. I screamed and jumped back as it slid right under the couch by the backdoor.

My heart was thundering in my ears. If the snake crawled out of the other side of the couch, it would be in my den. We would have to sell the house. I bent down, racking my brain to remember the patron saint of snakes, which I realized was probably Satan. I didn’t know where the snake was under the couch, if it was venomous, or if dust bunnies were any protection. My only real hope was that all the socks and wrappers my kids threw under the couch would form a protective barrier.

I wrapped my fingers around the edge of the sofa and lifted. The snake was coiled on the far end, nearest the door. It opened it mouth and reminded me why I had been screaming moments earlier. The girls shrieked on cue.

Then, thank the Lord, I had a spiritual epiphany. God can talk to animals! He called them in pairs to the ark, didn’t He? Passing along a message to a lone snake would be no problem for Him. Plus, imagine my reputation at church when the leader’s daughter told her father of how Ms. Ginger prayed to the Lord and He answered her prayer and all our lives were spared.

Clearing my throat, I steadied my trembling hands and lifted one to the heavens. “Lord,” I began, with a backwards glance to be sure the girls were paying close attention, “you can talk to animals. You can do anything! Would you please tell this snake he has to leave my house right now? I’ve left the door open for his convenience.”

I AM NOT MAKING THIS NEXT PART UP.

Instantly, the snake uncoiled and slid out the back door.

My jaw dropped in disbelief. Slamming the door shut behind the creature, I turned triumphantly to face the girls. We had just witnessed an actual miracle.

The girls were pale. Grace stood slack-jawed, her eyes wide. “Ms. Ginger, you sure know some bad words.”

Turns out…

The whole time I had been dealing with the snake, just prior to my grand act of faith, I had treated the girls to a stream-of-conscious-swim-through-the-dark-river-of profanity. I had been so terrified, so blind with panic, that I had been completely unaware of what I was muttering the whole time.

I looked at Lolo. “I cussed? Like, the really bad words?”

Lolo nodded, her chin quivering.

Grace was a little more helpful. “You didn’t just use them. You conjugated them.”

Well, then.

A call was made to her father to explain why Grace had learned certain words at my house that day. I found it ironic that I was a woman blaming a serpent for my sin. Maybe it would make a pithy sermon illustration, I suggested. He was quiet for a moment. Apparently, this was not the first time Grace had heard those words, but at least I had used them in the context of abject terror. Which, technically, gave me the moral edge . I decided to give him a pass, though. God had certainly given me one that afternoon.

I do hope that one day in the future, a therapist will put down her pen and say, “Wait…go back to that part about the snake. It actually left?” Because it did. Immediately. And my daughter knows now that when we pray, God listens more to our hearts than our words.

And that’s probably the real miracle for me that day.

Ask for the Impossible

I was going to an important meeting, so when I merged onto the highway, I pulled to the far left lane. Some people drive; I zoom. This is the reason my friends have kindly suggested that I never put the Christian fishie on my car. (And I know the proper term is Ichthys, but fishie is much more fun to say and we are all in dire need of much more fun.)

Too late to exit, I realized that up ahead ALL lanes of traffic were stopped. As I inched forward over the next half-hour, I saw that five lanes had been narrowed down to one. And it was raining.

I was going to be late for my meeting, which drives me nuts. I run on Lombardi time. (If you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late.) Thanks to my GPS app, I could watch my ETA grow further and further away. All I could do was breathe.

And pray! I always remember prayer a fraction of a second later than I probably should. After all, I am, for the most part, a Christ-follower. Occasionally my language lags behind but I am also a Texan so I’m sure Jesus makes allowances for that. (“You all may go to hell and I will go to Texas,” as Mr. Crockett said. That quote still makes my heart thrum with joy. )

Anyway, I remembered something Beth Moore said about praying for the Red Sea to part when she was sitting in traffic. I felt stupid, but I asked God if He would part the traffic like He did the Red Sea. And I knew of course that this was impossible, unless all cars pulled over to the left and right emergency lanes. Oh, wait—traffic was stopped in those, too. So much for parting anything at all.

But I prayed. And reminded myself not to waste my precious hours on this planet with a grouchy attitude. I knew my prayer was silly but I prayed it anyway because when you are in an impossible situation, you might as well ask that the impossible be done, right? Because prayer is not always about getting what we ask for; it’s about remembering that more things are possible than we know. Prayer is about our attitude when we’re in an impossible situation.

Suddenly, I saw men wearing reflective vests weaving in and out of the cars just in front of me. Startled—because men normally aren’t walking on the highway—I strained to see what they were doing.

They were moving traffic cones. In the blink of an eye, the car in front of me sped off and I saw that all lanes of traffic were now open. The sea had, indeed, parted.

Because I prayed? No. But the timing is suspicious.

Perhaps, if you believe in such things, and I do, God used the moment to remind me that my imagination is woefully limited. If I could not foresee such a humanly possible answer, then I really have no idea what “possible” even means. I have no clue what could be happening, and what might happen, in the divine realm.

So, ask for the impossible. Pray in a way that embarrasses you. It’s good for your heart to be reminded that what we see is never the entire story. Wonderful things can happen in the blink of an eye.

And if you see me in your rear view mirror, pull to the right. I’m probably late.

Irma, Harvey and the Wrath of God

The last blog post I wrote was about my pledge to meet every wound with love. And then, as often happens, it seems I was due to be tested on this principle. Did I really mean that post? Would I really greet my wounds as a chance to let Love make my life more beautiful?

If they are my wounds, yes.

I did not foresee that my son would be in a flour fight (yes, baking products turned into projectiles) and that someone would throw a hard ball at his face, shattering his nose.

That was certainly a wound, complete with streaming blood, a trip to the ER and a head CT.

I did not greet that wound with love. In fact, if you hurt my kids, I will unleash a scorched earth policy that would leave Sherman breathless.

I was furious that the event organizer thought it wise to allow teenage boys to pack flour into bags, creating hard objects to throw. Teenage boys are universally renowned for their ability to turn any object into an instrument of pain and/or destruction.

My own son, in fact, found a way to explode a can of green beans from the inside out, thereby creating an explosion so loud that we have yet to see the birds return to nest in our backyard trees. Adults do not look at canned produce and see the potential for explosions. We just don’t. But if we are in charge of teenage boys, we must think like teenage boys.

But, to continue, my son was injured through the negligence of a third party. It was, in part, a deliberate injury and the fault was squarely on the business’s shoulders. So when the business owner called me in the ER, the Mama Bear in me raged. Even King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, warned that few things on earth are as dangerous as a mama bear.

However, I tried to make it clear that my fury was at the decision that led to the injury, not necessarily the person who made it.

On the way home from the ER, we listened to the news from Charlotte, and then the dire warnings about Hurricane Harvey. One person opined that America was facing the wrath of God for her many sins. And of course, with Irma making her US debut this weekend, even more people are suggesting that all these events aren’t actual weather: they’re divine punishment.

I know they’re wrong. Because on that night on the way home from the ER, I suddenly understood one of the least favorite references in the Bible: the wrath of God.

I have always hated references to the wrath of God.

Who wants to believe in a raging God?

Not me. Ever.

But…what if the wrath of God is quite different than anything we had imagined?

Follow me on this:

Every one of us yearns for justice. Yearning is now said to be the final stage of grief, in fact. That’s why it’s so silly to talk about closure when we’re dealing with deep wounds. Closure isn’t possible. The two ends can never match up again: what was and what should have been are forever separated in this life.

So we yearn for justice. Real justice, not just prison time. Real justice would go after the root of our suffering.

Ask any parent in a pediatric cancer ward what they would do to Cancer if they could. Ask a grieving father what he would do to Heroin. Or a victim of human trafficking what she would do to Pornography and Rape.

Their wrath wouldn’t be pretty. But it would be just.

So, I do want to believe in the wrath of God and you do too. But as God’s children, His wrath is for us, not directed at us. He’s not coming to destroy individuals. He is coming to destroy evil.

I like to think that when God’s wrath is poured out on earth, all of humanity will cheer as we see every form of cruelty, all manner of disease and torment thrown into the pit of hell.

We will at last know the truth and the truth will make us free.

It’s time to stop fighting each other. We must fight for each other.

We can’t destroy each other and find justice. There is no Us versus Them. Celebrities speculate that God has already picked sides. I would argue they are right: God is on our side.

So I don’t fear God’s wrath. I hope one day to see it, and finally see the end of all suffering.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Let Your Wounds Become Windows

Untitled design

Recently I bought a lantern that absolutely enchanted me. Made of tin, an artist had painstakingly punched thousands of tiny holes in the metal, until a breathtaking design of complexity was evident.

The plain tin box, when lit from within with a candle, was truly lovely. Its light was nothing like the harsh glare of a commercial bulb or even the inconstant glow of an open flame. More than just the light, more than just the lantern: together, they were a thing of rare beauty.

Ironically, C.S. Lewis compared us to objects made of tin. “[God] is beginning…to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”

I understand so well.

Transforming plain tin to rare beauty is a process both painstaking and painful. The more the tin is pierced, the more elaborate the final pattern. If I had been that piece of tin, I would have demanded a much simpler design.

And if I run my hand along the inside of the lantern, I can still feel the rough edges of the strikes. I feel something quite like them in my heart, too. Each regret in my life has left a rough edge, and each loss has created a wound.

The wounds are what I should have been, how I should have acted, and all the terrible things that should never have happened. I am pierced through with the reality of my own failures and the failures of a broken world that promises happiness and delivers scorn.

I am just a plain tin box wishing to be a thing of beauty, but each failure, each loss and regret, is another nail piercing me. I find no pleasure in the process, and no glimpse of a design. Certainly, I see no beauty.

It takes faith, as raw and real as the wounds, to believe that a Master Artist can use all this pain to create beauty. When we look at the news, it seems impossible. But then I take a deep breath and remember that I am not responsible for changing the headlines…just my attitude. I have to meet each wound with Love. I need faith to hold on, and wait for the beauty to be revealed.

I believe the final design of my life will be made more beautiful because of my regrets and wounds, not in spite of them. I believe that there is hope for me, for you, and for this aching world. I believe that Love is still, and always, at work.

May every wound become a window.

Pranking My Mother

Would you like to meet my mom? First, try to imagine Betty White from her Golden Girls role. Now, change her bouffant hairstyle to black. And add a large bejeweled crucifix from an Avon catalog hanging around her neck. Got it? That’s my mom. She’s epic. In the best possible way, or the worst, depending on which side you take when I tell you this next story. In fact, I tossed and turned last night in bed, questioning whether I should even admit to the final phone prank. It’s so diabolically juvenile…

Anyway, my mom is the kindest, gentlest, most trusting woman God ever created. She loves the Lord (since she’s from Oklahoma, His name is actually pronounced The Lard) and for this reason alone, I’ve questioned my own faith many times. After all, what sort of God pairs a mom like that with kids like me and (name redacted) my brother?

One fateful year, Mom decided to get a job. She’d stayed home to raise us but now that we were on the verge of maturity, she decided to leave us without daily supervision.

We were on the verge all right. But it wasn’t maturity.

Her first job was answering phones for a prim, proper and thoroughly uptight Southern Baptist church. Play along with me. Her job involved picking up the phone and answering in the sweetest voice imaginable, “Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?” Or something to that affect.

Oh, boy. So much to work with here. For my brother and I this proved an irresistible target. We were delirious with anticipation.

Her second week on the job, we began our first wave of assault. My brother, a master at accents, tried a few voices with me before settling on the one we were sure sounded the most like Satan. Not that we had ever heard from Satan. Which was surprising considering how much of his work we carried out on a daily basis.

My brother cleared his throat, practicing one last low growl. I dialed the phone.

“Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?”

“I’d like to talk to the pastor.” (Make sure you imagine this in the voice of Satan.)

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“The Prince of Darkness.”

“A prince? My goodness. Hold, please.”

Our call went through and we hung up. We stared at each other in astonishment. There was blood in the water now.

And unfortunately, since Dad refused to pay for cable, prank calls were the only available entertainment that summer.

The next day, I dialed again. (On the job training had taught us that prank calls are less likely to be exposed if you space them well.)

“Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?”

“I’d like to talk to the pastor.” (again, in the voice of Satan)

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Lucifer.”

“I’m very sorry, Lucifer, but he’s in a meeting. Would you like to leave a message?”

“No message. I’ll pay him a visit.”

“Wonderful! What time should we expect you?”

“6:66”

“We’re looking forward to it. See you then!”

And then, apparently, the pastor grew tired of having calls put through from Satan and meeting times set aside for the Prince of Darkness.

Mom moved on to more suitable employment.

She was hired by a school textbook company on the sale support team. Her job was to answer the phone and take the orders for textbooks from the field salespeople. Sounds easy. Until you factor in her children, two unsupervised criminal masterminds.

Every day, she would jot down her orders, then walk them down the hall to the warehouse manager, who would instruct the warehouse team to pull the orders and ship them to the schools.

After she established herself as the nicest, sweetest, most patient phone operator in the company, she began receiving the most unusual orders. Since the company’s inventory was not computerized yet, the inventory manager spent hours in the warehouse trying to find the obscure textbooks she placed orders for, including, but not limited to, “Animals and How They ‘Do It.‘”.

I am not proud to type that.

I am ashamed.

Remember, we were children. We were idiots. Worse, we were bored.

That summer my brother and I honed our creative skills, straining the limits of credulity, and slowly, the future began to take shape for us.

I became a writer. My brother has gone on to become a wildly successful fraud detection expert. He buzzes around the city in his convertible foreign sports car, and he still makes prank calls.

To me.

Often while sitting in my driveway.

The last prank call ended in an argument about whether fish have feelings.

He’s that good, people.

Or that bad, depending on where you are in your faith walk. As for me and my house, we do serve the Lord (or the Lard, as the Okies say), and my children have gotten away with exactly NOTHING.

I feel pretty good about that….but there was a price. When the hymn writer wrote, “Jesus Paid It All,” I doubt he had any of this in mind, but I’ve read the fine print in the gospel and indeed, all my sins are covered. Which is why I never miss church, if I can help it.

I figure Jesus wants to keep an eye on me now.