Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Category: faith (Page 2 of 2)


My dog Mandy got skunked last night. I was enjoying a late dinner with a good friend on my patio on a just right summer night. The cicadas had finally quieted down and she and I could hear each other. I was beginning to think, “I should get the leash so Mandy doesn’t run into a …” when she squealed and came running up from the back of the yard.

The first time Mandy met a skunk I didn’t immediately realize what had happened. The odor was so much more intense than the skunk smell on the highway that I didn’t recognize it. It smelled like burning chemicals. I thought someone had committed a terrorist attack against my dog. In my panic I let her into the house and she ran into every room, rubbing her face on the floor trying to get the smell out. She ran into her kennel, her safe space, and ran right out again. For weeks the skunk smell lingered in the house. I swore I could see a haze of stink, like in a commercial for breath freshener.

Once I realized what happened, I found a skunk-off recipe on the Internet. It helped. But for weeks the only part of her that smelled like her was her feet. I would lie beside her on the floor and hold her foot up to my nose to take in her unique combination of dog sweat, grass and dirt that smells a lot like warm Doritos.

My dog’s been skunked and I have too.  I’ve tasted the shame of betrayal and felt the sting of being misinterpreted. I’ve been made into a handy scapegoat and been the object of gossip.

I’ve been skunked and I confess I’ve been a skunk. I’ve let my own hurt feelings, damaged pride and pent up anger spew onto others. Sometimes my absence has caused more hurt than any words would have.

I’ve learned through experience that once the spray has been released the smell lingers in the air and clings to those it touches.

There’s a story about Jesus in which he washes his disciples’ feet. It was customary for a host to provide a way for his guests to freshen up and wash off the road. What’s remarkable is that Jesus takes on the role of a servant and serves those who will soon skunk him. They’ll run away and pretend like they never knew him. And they will be skunked too when one of their own betrays them and their teacher is executed.

I am supposed to say that when Jesus washes their feet he washes the skunk juice off, a lesson for us that Jesus’ love can leave us fresh and sweet smelling. That hasn’t been my experience. Jesus’ love doesn’t take away the stink of skunking or being skunked. The odor clings and rises off of us so people cross to the other side of the street.

What is true is that Jesus doesn’t need us to smell good. He can acknowledge the stink without heaping on shame. He cradles our vulnerability like he held the feet of his beloved friends and he breathes in our most true selves.




Bitch Wings

(Liz gave me permission to write about “Bitch Wings.”  She read this post and approved of it going public.  I am so grateful to her and her family for sharing this part of their life with me. )

I learned about “bitch wings” from Liz. We were standing in a hospital waiting room after Liz’s husband had died. The representatives of the organization that would harvest Frederic’s organs had given Liz a lovely quilted keepsake box as a memento. Her cousin said, “That was a bitch wings moment.”

“Bitch wings” are what women get when we put our hands on our hips, push back our shoulders, take a strong stance and are ready to take on the world. I learned from Liz that bitch wings come in handy when interrogating teenagers about what was happening in the basement. Her young adult children laughed about how their mom stared down their friends, hands on hips, eyes locked.

Bitch wings can say, don’t mess with me. And, I’ll carry you on my back for a mile. For 100 miles. Through mud. In the hail.

The previous days had been excruciating. The paramedics had rushed Frederic to the hospital after Liz found him. What followed was intubation, neurological tests, moments of hope that were dashed with the words “reflexive movement, not intentional movement.” There was the family conference with the neurologists who advised more time and more tests. Liz sat up in her chair and the wings came out. Would more time on the ventilator help Frederic’s brain recover? Would it help him speak again, or help him know them? She didn’t flinch when the answers came. So if more time will not help him heal we know what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want to be like this. Not even for one more day.

Bitch wings make a woman fierce and brave and vulnerable and strong.

It was bitch wings that drove Liz to lift Frederic’s body when she saw it hanging from the rope in their basement and it was her wings that let her let him go.

Those wings gave Liz the courage to say out loud that Frederic had died by suicide, to confront him as he lay in his hospital bed with the pain he had caused her and their children. And those same wings stroked his cheek with a lover’s touch and whispered to him about the goodness of their life together.

On bitch wings Liz flew into the face of God, “You abandoned him. You abandoned me.” And she wrapped those wings around herself and her beloved as she gave him into the care of the Holy. With those wings she pulls her children and her friends close in a tight embrace.

Liz is moving soon to California to try on a new life. She isn’t done grieving, but she is willing to try flying in new directions.

Anyone can have bitch wings if she is willing to be strong instead of sweet. Though they make her terrifying, they are not armor. They send her into fire for those she loves.


By Mara,  Liz's daughter  "I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again.  You can see that glorious strength in her."  -Liz

By Mara, Liz’s daughter
“I find so much emotion in the pose, yet I know she will stand up proud and strong again. You can see that glorious strength in her.”


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