And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Idea, Released

Are you comfortable? This may take awhile. Of course, I used to write a new post for this every two
weeks, but that was a long time ago. I've been lucky to get out one a month, and I don't believe in luck. So there you go.

I have lost a lot of charms during my lifetime, the kind that hang on necklaces. I had a pretty silver circle with my initials on it. A gold one received in high school that may be around here somewhere - I gave it to my mother years ago, and then she gave it back, so it should be in a drawer but Lord only knows. Several from my sister, not because of any Freudian thing but because she has given me more gifts and therefore the odds were better that I would lose a certain percentage. I don't have a great track record with such things.

I could make excuses that we've moved around a lot and that my things have been rifled through in my absence, but the fact remains that I haven't taken good enough care of some things (and people) for which I honestly care deeply.

This week, there was a lot of turmoil and drama and I went outside to (1) get away from it and (2) pray about it in a quiet place. While I was sitting on a marble bench in the front yard, I had a revelation. My IDEA of what a happy family should be had crossed a line, maybe from the very beginning, but certainly at some point. There is a tired - but true- saying in Christianese that says "Jesus is either Lord of all or he isn't Lord AT all." In other words, whatever is number one in your life is God (or god, as the case may be).

I made having a happy family that looked and acted as I thought it should, for years I think, a god. Maybe not The God I Worshipped, but right up there. And that's wrong. We can have good ideas, great ideas, even GODLY ideas, but if we start holding them up above all else, if we let the ideas control us, turn us into people who try to rein everyone into the roles our Idea has cast them in, then we need a good talking to out on a bench at night in the rain.

Did I mention that it started raining while I was sitting outside?

Anyway, I cried over this incredible failure on my part to trust God (who has, repeatedly and consistently, proven himself completely trustworthy) with this vital part of my life. I was so busy wailing and gnashing my teeth over the failure of our family to be My Idea of A Happy Family that I'm sure I added to the unhappiness, to the problems, to the turmoil. I repented on the spot, asked God to forgive me, and then went that all-important step further: I released My Idea of A Happy Family to him, to do with as he will.

Jump to today, when I frantically looked for a charm that fell off my bracelet. (You didn't think I'd start with charms, if there was no connection to my point, did you?) I'd been wearing the charms on a charm holder around my neck instead of one at a time, but the charm holder was getting heavy. I got a bracelet and took it to Ye Olde Jeweler (that's not the real name, but it's the oldest jewelry store in town, where I got my ears pierced, where my mother bought the gold hoops she gave me on my wedding day. She worked at a jewelry store before she got married and knew a good one when she saw it) but they disappointed abysmally. I picked up the un-attached charms and the bracelet after a full month of inactivity, and decided to put them on myself.

Apparently my attachment skills are not perfect. I found one in the car this morning and purposed to fix it. When I laid out the bracelet to begin I saw, to my horror, than another one was missing, one of my very favorites. Most of the charms represent things from my childhood or motherhood but this one represented me now, represented my passion for writing. A tiny silver typewriter, center stage on the bracelet, gone. I crawled around the floor with a flashlight looking under things. I crawled around a long time. I made several trips to the driveway and to the car.

Finally I gave up, releasing the lost typewriter into the cosmos. Not that I was going to give it up entirely, of course, because I really liked it. I found its twin online and ordered a replacement, figuring that if I find the original, I will love having two typewriters hanging on my bracelet, but I'm certainly not going to do without one at all.

What does my charm bracelet have to do with my idolatrous notions about family? I think it is that attachment to things and people we love is important. We need to take care of them. I know that I had taken care of my bracelet. Knowing I hadn't soldered the jump rings as a jeweler would (I assume) I was especially careful not to catch the bracelet on anything. All week long, since I attached the charms, I have been conscious of the fact that I must use care. And I STILL managed to unhook two, and lose one, presumably, altogether. A failure in bracelet protection.

I've been a failure at creating and maintaining My Idea of a Happy Family, too. There are the relatives who won't talk to me despite attempts to reconcile. There are the ones who hold grudges for things that were said or done long ago. There are those who no longer need me or particularly want me, at least a good bit of the time. There are those from whom I have needed to distance myself a bit, so that they can grow up. People have moved, and moved on, and that is as it should be. While I focused on lots of Good Things, I've neglected the Best, at times. Not all of the time, but here and there

I don't mean to paint a dismal picture - we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with many of the family sitting around the table, missing those who couldn't be there. We're a mess, perhaps, but a mess that loves each other. We're stumbling along, but we're helping one another, too. Many, many things, and people, and relationships, to celebrate! But as a unit, we don't look like My Idea of a Happy Family all of the time. Actually, not any of the time! And that's okay. It's not our job to look like YOUR idea of a happy family either! Maybe your idea is the white picket fence, Mom, Dad, two kids, a dog and a cat. That's not my idea, but whatever yours is or mine is, it's probably not the reality we live with every day.

This isn't about beating myself up or feeling guilty. There are too many variables involved where families are concerned. There have been times when I was doing all I knew to do and doing it right, and others were dropping the ball, so to speak. I'm not perfect - not a perfect daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin, niece, mother, grandmother, you name it - but neither is anyone else perfect in their particular roles in my family. I own my mistakes. I don't own theirs. And we aren't one is perfect, anywhere, anybody.

My point...yes, there really is that when we see an issue of pride (My Idea vs. God's plan at work in the universe) there needs to be release. We can frantically try to hold on, as I did while I crawled around the floor looking for my little lost typewriter, or we can come to point of release, as I did sitting on the bench. "Okay, this is what I've been doing wrong. I'm sorry. Please forgive me, please fix it." That doesn't mean we do without, however; it means we get a new start. I can approach the family I have with more grace than when I wanted them to fit into a space that wasn't really made for them (even if it was a really nice space).

I can order a new charm. I can extend grace to others who have their own flawed concepts of what our family should look like, what I should look like, people who don't always take the best care of the things and people they genuinely care for, just like me. And I can trust God to create order out of chaos, joy out of sadness, fulfillness out of emptiness, his plan as opposed to mine.

Maybe this is all too convoluted, too much thinking for a Friday night. But that's okay, too.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why "Breaking Bad" Could Be Real, But "The Walking Dead" Could Not

The title sums up the subject matter pretty succinctly, I think. Breaking Bad, the ten-time Emmy AMC that just recently completed its five-year run with an outstanding, dare-I-say-perfect final episode, could actually happen. It made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the highest rated television series of all time, so obviously the writing and acting were top-notch. But it could also be true.
award-winning television show on

There are, as we all know, high school chemistry teachers. I don't know how many there are in the United States. In 2010 there were about 25,000 secondary schools and 33,000 private schools. Let's say half of those included high school grades, 16,500.

That's 41,500 high schools, most of which would have chemistry teachers. Or at the very least, science teachers. Out of those, it's completely believable that some would be diagnosed with cancer. And it is completely believable that out of those, there might be a few who would be tempted to go out with a bang, make some fast cash, leave their families a legacy. Possible that former students would convince them to cook meth, and possible that - given the right personality and ego constraints - the teachers would strive to make the Best Meth Ever.

Would these few gain the notoriety of a Walter White/Heisenberg? Probably not, but it's possible. Would any one teacher team up with someone so dysfunctional and lovable as Jesse Pinkman? Again, possible. Possible to have a family member in the FBI. Possible to have a pregnant wife and disabled son. All possible. Possible to have the greed and easy money change the teacher to the point that he (I don't see it as probable for a female teacher. I apologize if this sounds sexist. Just my opinion.) changes in ways he never anticipated, becoming as violent as the violence provoked by the meth he cooks so skillfully.

All possible. Which made "Breaking Bad" so addictive. We watched, hoping that Walter White would stay true to himself and to his family but also hoping that he didn't get caught. By the time the series ended, we knew that justice had to prevail. The final episode expertly tempered justice with mercy - Walt died, but not from a long, painful final battle with cancer. He died, but saved Jesse's life. He died, but also provided for his family's future. Jesse escaped, to change into the good young man of which we came to believe him capable.

Hank and Mike and some others we would have liked to see survive didn't make it, but again, not only possible but extremely believable. You can't get mixed up in the crystal methamphetamine industry without some serious consequences. Skylar, Walter White's wife, was conflicted - also believable and possible - but she emerged virtually unscathed. Well, except for being a widow, losing a brother-in-law, knowing she condoned and connived right along with Walt, etc. etc. etc.

"The Walking Dead," however, as well-written and as well-acted as it has been and continues to be, is a fantasy.

"Could there be zombies?" my grandchildren ask.

"No," I answer. Aside from medical science, which is also on the side of my argument, the Bible says that it is appointed for men to die once, followed by judgement (Hebrews 9:27). If a person could die, but not really, this wouldn't be accurate. \

But, you say, there are a few instances in the Bible where people didn't die, they were just taken into heaven. What about them? There are, actually, two occurrences. Enoch "walked with God and was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah was taken up into a whirlwind on a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:8). BUT many scholars believe that the two witnesses John prophesied about in the book of the Revelation (chapter 11) are Enoch and Elijah. They get killed. Their one time.

We live, we die, we face judgement. According to the Bible, those who trust in the saving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, live forever. Given the choice between being in heaven where there is no pain or suffering, or returning to earth as a flesh-eating zombie, I doubt anyone would want to leave the golden gates. And those who are in hell, while I can see why they'd want to return to a better place (earth), maybe scare a few folks, etc., would they return in such numbers? And escape any heavenly plan to thwart them in the form of angels? Demons, or fallen angels, could certainly take the form of zombies - that's the best bet, in my book - but I think they would have more power than slowly trudging along in search of flesh. If the zombies had fire coming out of the nostrils, or had superhuman strength, sure, but television's walkers sort of schlep along. No demonic power in the lot.

Those who don't die in faith, theologically speaking, experience a sort of "forever death", eternal separation from God. The current pope, Pope Francis, has said that all good people will inherit eternal life, not just Catholics. I'm not a Catholic, so I'm hoping he's right. Not just for me, but for a lot of good people I know who haven't (yet) made a decision of their wills to believe in Jesus. They're still at the "he's a good teacher" stage of seeking truth, but I have hope.
At any rate, there are probably many more reasons why zombies are figments of the imagination and not scientifically or theologically possible. That's just the one I used with my grandkids. They make for a great story, but naaah. I don't think so.

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2013