Off the Cuff

It's May and I can't even believe it. These months keep sneaking up on me and it's no wonder I have to stop and think about how old this April birthday made me. Thirty-nine, that's how. And my aunt made it plain when she told me you're only one day older than you were yesterday. 

Just one more day.

That seems like a good perspective, but when you lose track of months, lose track of time, lose the margins to life-sucking details and distractions, it feels like 39 could be 60 tomorrow.

I'm not actually complaining about my age - I'm good with 39 and every year I see 70-somethings in our church doing inspiring things and I don't lose heart. There's time enough. This is just my lament of slippery-time and flying-months and my inability to juggle everything I want to do with all the things I have to do.

I feel like the days fly by but I know people who count time like molasses running slow, dripping monotonously and dragging with a dull ache.


Last week my husband and I seated ourselves on a bus with 50 other people from area churches and we slept in fitful, balled-up spurts for 10 hours until the bus stopped. We spent Friday and Saturday in the jails, prisons, treatment programs and juvenile facilities of the Fresno area, listening to stories and sharing good news with people who had mostly lost hope.

In front of us on the bus to Fresno sat two newlywed 18 year-olds. Towards the back of the bus, with the rowdies, was a couple married 52 years.

Time means different things to all of us, according to our perspective. Time to the newlywed 18 year-old means dreaming of children and a home and all the future plans. To the couple married 52 years, time is what you have spent and how much is left and everything important, rising to the top.

To the inmate, time is the 17 months you've spent without the sunlight and birds, without a fresh breeze, without privacy, without your child. Time is what you serve and the number of months or years or decades left in a place where serving time is your punishment.

I don't want to live as though I serve time.


Feeling overwhelmed is often just a sign to me that I haven't made good plans. My husband reminded me of this when I was ready to back out of the Fresno trip because of a number of our children's events that I would miss over the weekend, and the fact that there were no grandparents available to be with them.

Between the three teenagers we knew things would run okay without us, but there's just something about having someone that's not your child, be in charge of your children, because....siblings.

You don't have peace about going because we haven't made a good plan, he said. He was right dangit. So we made a plan, and because we have good friends we were able to hook someone at the last minute to be the adult-at-home for our children.

I don't know why I put stuff off. I let time sabotage me because I don't take charge of it, and time should not be the boss.

I spent the weekend with people who had stories to tell me, prayers to plead, challenges to my faith, and tears. Our time served each other and these girls made me a mess of thankful and sad and hopeful and responsible.

Time is serving Jesus and the most amazing thing is to see hope through a sentence - five years or five words or five more months without sunlight. You meet some of the most hopeful and joyful brothers and sisters behind bars, those who live off the cuff and don't let time rule them. They challenge me.

Free on the outside is no match for breaking the chains inside your soul, and that's what I learned again in jail.