Life Lesson #189 ~ I Will Sit With You





'When you can't look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark." ~ Unknown

I am a lover of books. I read often. My taste is vast and wide as I can appreciate the differences in styles, topics and genre's.  I grew up inside libraries reading the classics. I'd sit up for hours after the lights went off, under my sheets with a flash light sailing the Seven Seas, sitting at the Round Table, running around with Tom Sawyer, searching for Treasure Island, diving 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, chasing a Thousand and One Nights, following the Lost Boys and falling down rabbit holes. Of all my adventures though, Alice and the Hatter became characters the most dear to my heart. Now, I love the purity of Lewis Carroll's original stories and nothing can compare. After all these are the books I read growing up, drawing me down that darn rabbit's hole and through the looking glass. These books are the same stories I read to our boys, and the very same books still sitting beside Joshua's bedside table today. Are these tales complicated, complex, a bit perplexing and even a down right mental labyrinth? Absolutely they are! But that's what makes Alice, Wonderland and all the characters she meets along the way so interesting, right? I don't know where I would be today if not for sharing my childhood with poor, confused but adventurous Alice. I grew up chasing Wonderland myself, seeing things through my own eyes and interpreting each and every character sometimes very differently than Carroll himself. And I think because of this I'm able to still appreciate the various, very different and liberal creative license many take with his unique and imaginative books. After all the wonderful thing about Alice's adventure is one must enter Wonderland with an open mind. And if we do, then with each generation the ideas, the dialogue found inside Carroll's books will continue to take on new meaning; and our views of Wonderland and even Alice herself will change, grow and widen as we expand our minds. So when I first saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I went in with an open mind. I knew his perspective was not only going to be diverse, but widely misunderstood...maybe very much like myself actually.  And being who I am I suppose, I could see the value in a different, darker perspective of Wonderland in all Carroll's particular tales.

Let me say this. One of the greatest lessons I've taken away personally from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland has been the value of friendship. The relationship between Alice and the Hatter is beautifully laid out through both films. To be honest seeing Alice and Hatter meet was unlike anything I had ever seen before and yet how I had wished it could be all along. The friendships Alice forges in Wonderland somehow were deeper than anyone else had dared to imagine. It was if we were looking beyond the looking glass after all these years. A concept, that in my eyes was extraordinarily different, touching and very much full of Alice and her muchness quite honestly. Different, yet nothing like the other stories but somehow deeper, more expanded. I truly found myself back in Wonderland, seeing this world as it was meant to be seen, alive and breathing. It was truly like meeting an old friend once again. You know what I mean? Still the same, but changed and very different than before. As if being drawn into a warm embrace it's very much as Hafiz  explains, "Your heart and my heart are very old friends." This is Wonderland for me, this is how I see it and how I always will. And just as Wonderland will always be an old friend, the lessons I have learned here will continue to go and grow with me. And as I think of this strong, unbreakable bond between Alice and the Hatter I'm reminded of the Hatter's in my own life. Those connections, the links between my heart and these women God has placed in my life are secure. No matter what the distance is or even the reasons, we're never really missing, not even when time keeps us from one another a little too long. We are closer than brothers or sisters because we love deeply, unconditionally and without demands. These are the friends Proverbs 27:9 speaks of. "A sweet friendship refreshes the soul." These bonds go deeper than any well we can physically draw from. These are genuine connections with people who see us as we really are...the kindred spirits who will laugh at our funeral because they know the real story and because they lived the tales with us, right beside us. These folks don't mind that we're a bit crazy. It's all part of our charm right? And if that means we're as mad as a hatter showing off our unicorn, they're still in. This is how I see Alice and the Hatter. Why? Because just as Alice knows the Hatter is imperfect, she loves him. Whether he's talking in riddles, confused or even if she can't make heads or tails of him in the moment he's her truest friend. And he feels quite the same way about her too. They're two peas in a pod despite the fact she's "always too small or too tall."

Alice met Hatter in Wonderland. As for me I met my partner in crime, my sister and one of my truest friends in my life during the late 1990's. I was very awkward, and I say this as if it's something new but we all know differently. And though we were vastly different we bonded quickly. I was in my mid 20's back then, ready to take on the world and motherhood. I was the rookie, and she was the seasoned veteran showing me many of the ropes when it came to raising a toddler. She was tall, thin and beautiful inside and out. She was outgoing and her smile, as it always is, was contagious. I was quiet, short and plump and unknowing at the time, pregnant. Shawna and I met through a mutual friend, a friend to this day, is very much family, dear and the author of our great friendship. We'd been thrown together to plan our friend Natalie's baby shower. Amongst all the balloons and decorations we decided what not to do and what to do, which sandwiches were acceptable and after looking a few more times at our budget Natalie's baby shower came together. The Lord had surprised me once again not to mention the discovery I was expecting again myself! From the moment we met we were friends. Now that's not to say we were best friends immediately but we were close. A bond was forged that day and through the years it has only grown deeper and stronger with each passing year. Together we raised our boys side by side. When our boys had play dates, we did too. And whether I knew it or not at that moment God was planting seeds. Over the last two decades, Shawna and I've become more alike despite our differences. By His grace and the hands of time, Shawna and I have become the friends Romans 12:10 speaks of. "Be good friends who love deeply." I couldn't have known then what God would do, how He would shape our relationship at times drawing us apart only to bring us back even closer than ever before. Time has honestly been good to us, deepening and growing our friendship into a sisterhood. I can't imagine doing life without her. I mean who would run through the mall parking lot with me in saddles, rain coming down, soaking us literally to the bone and still laughing all the way to the car? Who else would be comfortable with my goofiness, acting simply silly in public and not care? Who else like the Hatter would urge me to lean in a little closer just so she can help carry whatever is weighing me down? Who else could be so different and yet so much alike? And who else would purposely sit with me in the dark?  I can tell you she's my closest, dearest friend, my sister and my very own Hatter. Without her I would have never found my "muchness" again.

If we'd open our minds and look just a little bit closer than what we see on the surface we'd learn so much more about the Hatter and Alice. If we're listening, watching with our hearts we can see how their friendship in many ways ties all of Wonderland together. It is their bond, their connection which binds the rest of our curious friends together....much like the circles we're apart of in the world outside Wonderland, joined, linked and attached to right? Our circles may be small, but they are still mighty, linking one heart to another. When one of us feels broken we all hurt but we do not break. We carry each other and we build each other back up. When one faces darkness, we all face it together, side by side. And if we've been gone too long  such as Alice has in Through the Looking Glass, another chain in our link will call on us much as the Blue Caterpillar did. In fact he scolds her lovingly but still reminds her to hurry. "You've been gone too long, Alice. There are matters which might benefit from your attention. Friends cannot be neglected." And what has happened in her absence? Hatter has grown darker, denying himself laughter, losing all the "muchness" that makes him who he is. Is this not true in real life? We face seasons of doubt, struggle and sadness. We retreat into the dark places of our mind, hiding, trapped inside our heads, losing ourselves. Those who love us, our loved ones and our friends may try their best but still, as the Cheshire Cat explains to Alice no scheme "can raise any sort of smile." When we've backed ourselves into a corner, unable to decide up from down, realizing life is more than likely really sitting sideways, this is when our circle steps in. They call in the Hatter, or send for Alice. Why? Because they know our response will be much the same as Alice when the White Queen calls on her help. "Hat is my truest friend, if he's in need I will help him." Like Alice and the Hatter these same connections, those hearts kindred to our own soul  know us better than we do ourselves. And because of God's grace, the seeds He's planted, watered and the way He's grafted our lives together, our cries can be heard even when we're not saying anything at all.

"My circle is small but the love is enormous, genuine. It gets no better." (Unknown) We should all have circles like this and I believe God intends for us to be part of one another's lives in this very fashion.  It's taken me years to fully understand  myself and maybe my whole life to truly know that I'm not designed to be everyone's cup of tea. And neither are you. We venture out into this great big world and we meet folks who simply don't "get us." Maybe we're uptight, or maybe we're too chill. Hey you could like me weird, quirky and peculiar. I promise you that's not always a good combination for everyone involved believe you me! But instead of rantin'and ravin' about it just go on and skedaddle out of there. Our friends, similar or not 'get us" just the way we are. If you have those kind of connections, hold on to them, don't take them for granted. Like the friendship between the Hatter and Alice, we too "come to meet special people only once." Some would say I'm lucky, but personally I know I'm blessed to have a few Hatter's of my own inside this peculiar life I live. Through the years as I've grown up, become a woman, a mother and now dare I say it? Yes, I shall...a middle aged woman, I've learned the value of cultivating a small circle and closing doors, especially to the Queen of Hearts and her army of playing cards. See I've come to understand something Women Working conveys perfectly. "I can be open, honest and real while still understanding not everyone deserves a seat at the table of my life." This is pretty much how I see Alice and Hatter. They might not be able to carry a tune in a bucket, but together they're going to get that bucket where it needs to be,  aren't they? Our lives are much the same. Now as for my own personal Hatter's some are tall, some are short and some are just plain silly like me but each and every one is just as divergent, unique, distinct and special in their own individual ways. Each of my dearest friends, sitting around this table of life drinking sweet tea with me comes with a story of their own, with different strengths, weaknesses and talents too. Not a one is any more or less in value in my life than another. Why? Well  because they all bring out different parts of me. Let me be clear about Southern women though, they should never be underestimated. We are a gracious, honest bunch but we are tough as nails too. We can quite literally "bless your heart", slap you silly and hand you a casserole all in one breath. We're generally huggers, raised on sweet tea and Jesus. When we feel the urge to cry over split milk our girls grab us up and we go shopping. Like Sharon McKerr says, "Southern women see no contradiction in mixing strength with gentleness." And our friendships are much the same, a mix of truth, kindness, honesty and grace. I am of the mind that we need less #BBF and more living, breathing human diaries. See we must make meaningful, purposeful investments in each other. And in doing so we secure loyal friendships that last and never expect or demand anything from us in return. Instead they continuously love us, unconditionally. These are the Hatter's and the Alice Kingsleigh's Wonderland points us to.  These are the ones who wipe away our tears, hug our necks and look us in the eyes knowing they got this and do it  all with a "Come on, chin up Buttercup."  Yes we all have that one friend, maybe two or three even who are rebels. And least you forget they have absolutely no problem sneaking Peter Pan out of Neverland and into Wonderland just so he can ask you, "Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?"

And now I guess I will wish you an ado. I am off to tea with the Hatter, and of course an adventure or two with a few of my beautiful and sassy southern girlfriends. Who knows what trouble we will find ourselves in today? What I do know, without a doubt is we shall find it together. You can count on that. You can also be sure when I count my blessings I count these women twice. And so as I wrap up today I want to share one last thought. It's found in Ephesians 1:16. This verse honestly explains my heart better than any of my own words can. "I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly." And this is where Life Lesson #189~ I Will Sit With You both begins and ends. If we call ourselves friends, companions, confidants and sisters then we are truly each other's first line of defense when the darkness falls. And this is the lesson, the truth Wonderland has to offer us. Let us be champions as Alice and Hatter, a looking glass into one another's souls, prayer warriors, beacons of light and hope truly bringing out in one another our vital "muchness" locked inside our hearts.

"My dear Alice, in the garden of memories and the palace of dreams that is where you and I will meet." ~ The Hatter

~Christina

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