Archives for August 2012

Things Change. . . A Mixed Media Post

Life has gotten interesting of late. And I haven’t had as much opportunity to join with Lisa-Jo as I’d like. But when I saw this week’s prompt, I went to my draft pile and pulled this one up. I started to write it a week ago, to note what feels like a great, big, massive change in our lives – our youngest grandchild will no longer require our weekly care.
Gasp. She begins pre-school next week. How can this be??
So, you’ll see where I began the timed part of this post – and I surprised myself with where I went from there. Isn’t that always the way with 5 Minute Friday?? 
(Pictures added both before and after the 5 minutes!)
Five Minute Friday

Lilly – one-hour old
About 10 months old.
Feeding the bluejays with Poppy.
Tough girl pose – 15 months.
Playing doctor, 18 months.
Sweetness at 22 months.
Just a little uncertainty, also 22 months.
A series of wild-hair shots. Oh, my – yes. About 2 years old.
At her 2nd birthday party.
Under some semblance of control with Aunt Lisa, just past her 2nd birthday.
Lilly at 2 years, 6 months – how can it be?
A little dress-up play, three weeks ago.
Perhaps a cell phone would have been simpler for this little jaunt??
Every Wednesday since June of 2010,
she has come to our house to play.
And eat.
And sleep.
She was four months old when we began,
and I was just weeks out of the hospital,
and more tired than I knew.
So when nap time came,
I would put her down on the bed next to me.
I’d run the TV softly to create a little white noise,
 and sit next to her while she slept,
my computer on my lap.
During those first months,
I would do email,
research for teaching or preaching,
and wonder what the looming world
of retirement would be like.
Since the end of that year,
I’ve used Lilly’s nap time to
read blogs,
check Facebook,
think about posts,
write posts,
and watch her while she sleeps.

START:
Two days ago marked the end of an era for us,
an end to babies.
First there were our own three,
each of them remarkable,
unique,
full of fun and curiosity and determination.
Then those three grew up,
met some pretty amazing partners,
and started having babies of their own.
Three boys from daughter number one –
one, two, three.
Three boys from daughter number two – 
one, two, three.
Loud, rough-and tumble,
some more than others –
wonderful promise of sturdy men to come.
Then, just one month after that last boy,
our boy and his wife had a GIRL.
Glory be.
And nearly four years and one miscarriage later,
another girl.
And now, they tell me, they are done.
Their family is complete.
So.
Will I live to see great-grandbabies?
It’s within the realm of possibility –
our eldest is 21.
But I’m not sure it’s within the realm
of probability.

Everyone waits theses days.
We married young,
had kids while we were kids.
Not so much anymore.
There is education to be gotten,
jobs to be found,
houses to be bought,
lives to be lived.
And that’s all wonderful. . .
but . . .
I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey.
I loved growing up TOGETHER,
hanging on by a shoestring,
having babies before we had the money for them,
and loving every (well, almost every!) minute of it.
So,
change comes.
And we?
We roll with it,
or
it rolls right over us.

STOP.

Maybe I won’t miss this mess every week  . . .

. . . and maybe I won’t miss this weekly menagerie as I tried to get a very sleep-resistant girl to acquiesce . . .

But this?

(at 15 months old)

And this? (last week)

And yes, THIS (two days ago) I will most definitely miss.
She now covers almost the entire bed . . .

. . . and sometimes adjusts herself to make contact, her head on my leg as I type.
Sigh.

A Book Review: The Bibledude.net Community Commentary Series – Philippians

There’s this dude I know – one of the very few people in the world that I actually call ‘dude’ – who is committed, hard-working, creative and kind. His name is Dan King and he hosts a remarkable website called Bibledude.net. He is one of a handful of bloggers that I have actually met in person and I’m here to tell you that he is the real deal. 

He lives clear across the country in Florida, loves his adorable family, travels regularly to Haiti to do compassionate work (and write about it), and he has written a book about that which I reviewed last year, called “The Unlikely Missionary.”  

Last fall, he got this interesting idea: invite Bibledude readers to consider contributing to a study series on the book of Philippians. I signed up – “Why not?” I thought. So I did a little studying, wrote down my ideas and joined them with the rest of the writers. 

Little did I know that Dan, cagey entrepreneur that he is, had a creative idea brewing. “Why not,” he wondered, “make this small commentary available as an e-book?” So he gathered a couple of his editors and added some word studies and a little historical background and voila! We’ve got ourselves an e-book. What looks like it might be the first of several in a Bibledude Community series.

What’s different about this commentary is that…it’s not a commentary (italics added to imply a heavy, academic, technical tome). Rather, it is a user-friendly, approachable, brief and helpful study guide for anyone wanting to extend their understanding of Paul’s words to the church at Philippi. 

And it launches TODAY. Please check it out over at Dan’s fine website.

The Saving Grace of Work

This post was originally written almost exactly one year ago in response to an invitation from Charity Singleton for a High Calling Blog Hop. I’m reposting it today for Ed Cyzewski’s week of blogposts on “A Hazardous Faith,” the title of a recently released book he co-authored. This particular post is actually more about a long-term season of struggle in the life of our family – both my immediate family and our church family. And it speaks to the role of my pastoral work as an anchor and strong center during that tumultuous time. Because, let’s face it – LIFE is hazardous – that is just a fact. And following Jesus in the midst of it somehow manages to both add to and subtract from the riskiness of it all. We are never promised sunshine and roses when we choose to place our feet in the shadow of the Rabbi, no matter what the televangelists might tell you. We are not rescued from life and its losses. Rather, we are invited into a relationship that makes those losses easier to navigate, a relationship that never ends and never fails.

 

2009 was most definitely not my favorite year.

Come to think of it, 2008 and 2007 were pretty rotten, too.

And 2006 and 2005 were not a whole heckuva lot better.

At times, it felt as though we were riding a dangerously out of control roller coaster, careening from side to side, tilting on one very narrow edge as we rounded some treacherous turns and corners.

My dad died at the beginning of this long stretch of tough stuff, a rugged dying, leaving my mom both exhausted from care-giving and desperately lonely for her partner.

My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer about two months later, enduring painful and debilitating surgery and still in recovery mode during a long-planned anniversary trip to France soon after.

Our son-in-law was applying for long-term disability, literally fading away before our eyes. His wife, our eldest daughter, was beginning an education process that would give her a master’s degree and special ed certification in 12 months. Their three boys were struggling to find their bearings in this new universe.

Our middle daughter’s 3rd boy was born in distress, tiny and in the NICU for 5 days. Our daughter-in-law needed a slightly dicey C-section for her first-born, just weeks after her cousin’s difficult entry into the world.

My youngest brother landed in the ER with a severe leg infection, requiring a long list of care-giving efforts from me, my other brother and our mom. This illness began a long, downward spiral of long-missed diagnoses, homelessness, sober living residences, heart surgery and eventually, sudden death in 2009.

Our son-in-law entered the last year of his life with multiple hospitalizations, serious complications of a wide variety, and a miraculous six-month respite, giving us all some memories that were lovely and lasting. That year, 2008, ended with a devastating pneumonia that took his life in a matter of hours.

And the next year, our beautiful town was hit by wildfires – two times – requiring evacuation from home and church, plunging our worshiping community into emergency mode for months on end.

As I said, it was an unbelievably difficult few years.

And every week, except for vacations and emergencies, I went to work. Many people wondered why. Why do you want to step into other people’s difficult situations? Why do you want to visit the sick? Why do you want to write Bible study lessons? Why do you still want to preach in the rotation? Why do you want to lead in worship? Why? Haven’t you got enough on your plate already?

I don’t know that I can fully answer that question.
But I will try to write a coherent list of possible reasons in this space:

work grounded me;
work reminded me I was not alone;
work taught me about community;
work provided an external focus;
work brought at least the illusion of order
to my terribly disordered world;
work kept me from drowning;
work brought relief from the weight of worry that
was an almost constant companion;
work allowed me to stay in touch with the
creative parts of me as well as the care-giving parts;
work gave me a different place to look,
a different place to reflect,
a different space in which to be me –
the me that was called and gifted and capable.
As opposed to the me that was helpless,
impotent and
overwhelmed.

Work was something I could do,
something I could manage,
something I could control – within limits.
My life was spinning frantically out of control,
at least out of my control,
heading down deep and dark crevasses that terrified me.
Work was more easily containable,
expectations were clear,
contributions were valued.
Work was grace for me during that long,
long stretch of Job-like living.

Work was a gift,
a gift of God to a weary and worried woman.
It allowed me room to breathe,
it provided me with commitments I could keep,
it brought me into contact with people who
could actually use what I had to offer.
And it brought me into contact with people
who could bear me up,
who could tend my gaping wounds,
who could be as Jesus to me,
even as I tried to be as Jesus to those
I loved most in this world.

I did not do any of it perfectly.
Lord knows, that isn’t even possible
and it surely wasn’t true.

My body let me know how big the load had become last year, when it was my turn to enter the hospital and begin round after round of medical appointments.

The end of 2010 brought the end of my work life. I have missed it at times. But I am discovering that even in the lack of structure and schedule of these first months of retirement, God is underneath. And around and in between. Just as God has always been.

I don’t completely understand why this truth is true, I just know this: the gift and grace of work helped me to see and to know God’s presence when the roller coaster was tilting crazily. And somehow, we’re still here, clinging to the sides of the coaster car, doing our very best to enjoy the ride.

Please check out the other posts being offered today in this busy week of commentary on a powerful topic. Here is a link to today’s page at Ed’s blog.
And while you’re there, why not order a copy of Ed’s new book?
He is a great guy, a talented writer and editor and he has a brand new baby boy.
Go on, make his day. 

(Sorry, Ed, I couldn’t make the banner work.)



Sunday Musings

Just wondering . . .
on a summer Sunday night,
with cool night air drifting in from the door
and sweet worship music on 
the computer.
Just wondering . . .

what comes next?

We’re home this week,
when we thought we’d be gone.
Traveling to the northwest,
to see beautiful country,
and beautiful friends.
But we’re not. 

So here’s a calendar,
suddenly open.
And here’s a body,
more tired than I knew . . .
wondering.

My mom-in-law
began to slip,
 down
and down.
And her daughter had long-laid plans
to be gone.
It didn’t feel right to be gone at the same time,
so here we are.

And really, it’s fine.
We’re relieved not to be packing and unpacking.
We look at each other and wonder –
how come we’re feeling so tired?

When did we get so old?

And that has me wondering. . .
what happens in this culture
as we get old?
We see lots of pictures of
green space,
golf games,
exotic travel,
smiling, silver-haired models
seem to say,
“It’s time to relax,
to enjoy the fruit of your labors,
to remove yourself from the world of work.”

But here’s what I’m learning.

It’s truly difficult to do that.
I love to travel – I do.
But not all the time.

And I love to relax – I do.
But not all the time. 

So, we put our hands to what we find.
My husband, gifted with finance and investing,
sits on boards and committees,
and he manages the money he so carefully
invested for us,
for our moms,
for other family.

He tends this huge yard,

with good professional help. 

He invests himself completely in our grandkids
when they’re around. 

And I?
I sit in my small study which needs sorting.
And I meet with those who are seeking
more of God.

And they teach me far more than
I ever teach them.

 And I tend to family, too.

Ailing mothers, growing grandchildren.

I make spinach salad for 50 at our
first-Sunday-back-to-college student lunch
after church today.

And in, around and through all of that,
 I try to write.
But I’m late to this game,
really late.
And I am also way past the age of most
of my compatriots out here in cyberspace. 

Most of the time, I’m okay with that.
But tonight, I’m feeling out of place,
out of sync,
out of my element.

I’m sure this wondering phase will sort itself out.
And I’m talking to God about it,
in my usual, on-going conversation
with this One who seems both near and far,
surprisingly small,
yet immense.
And right this minute,
I am listening to the song I wrote about 
And the beauty of it pierces,
it pierces through all the wondering,
all the melancholy,
all the feelings of uncertainty 
and ego-centered angst.
Because THIS is the truth – 
and a woman who lived many centuries ago*
wrote these words,
in another tongue,
another place.

But her words, her insights
speak to my soul this night, in this place:

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.
I cannot leap in gladness, unless you lift me up.
From love to love we circle, beyond all knowledge grow.
For when you lead, we follow, to new worlds you can show.

Your love the music round us, we glide as birds on air,
entwining soul and body, your wings hold us with care.
Your Spirit is the harpist and all your children sing;
her hands the currents ’round us, your love the golden strings. 

Play me a medley,
play me a song.
Lead me, I am yours.
I cannot dance alone.

O blessed Love, your circling unites us, God and soul.
From the beginning, your arms embrace and make us whole. 
Hold us in steps of mercy, from which you never part,
that we may know more fully the dances of your heart. 

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.

*Our Director of Worship Arts, Bob Gross, wrote a lovely melody to go with these powerful words written by Mechtild of Mageburg in the 13th century. This translation was done in 1991 by Jean Wiebe Janzen, but the words in bold are Bob’s addition and serve as a beautiful refrain throughout the piece. Since I first wrote about this beautiful, haunting song, Bob has included it on #5 in a series of self-produced CDs taken from our Sunday worship services. And if you would like to listen to it, follow this link right here and scroll down to number six on the list. Hit the play button and enjoy. (If you use the contact addresses on the home page, you can order CDs for yourself. We are a congregation of about 325 people and apart from Bob, everyone you hear is a volunteer – vocalists, string players, acoustic and electric guitars and bass, piano, wind instruments, percussion – all from within our own community, many of them college students. We are so blessed. SO blessed. Please remember, these are not studio sessions, but live worship recordings.)

I’ll join this with Michelle, Jen, Duane, Ann’s Monday gratitude group – because I am grateful, even for the melancholy times – and maybe with Laura and Laura, though it’s not particularly playful nor is it about a physical place so much as an emotional one.


On In Around button







Quiet for the Weekend – August 24-26, 2012

These pictures are over 40 years old, taken in the Southern Province
of the country of Zambia. We went fishing one day, an afternoon off.
We watched some local boys, and then a good friend and his small boy showed 
my husband how to find fish in this large pond.
We laughed and enjoyed the beauty of the day.
And that’s why fishing is a heavenly gift, so very suitable for weekend quiet.

    After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: 
Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, 
the brothers Zebedee, 
and two other disciples were together. 
Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.”
    The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. 
They caught nothing that night. 
When the sun came up, 
Jesus was standing on the beach, 
but they didn’t recognize him.
      Jesus spoke to them: 
“Good morning! 
Did you catch anything for breakfast?”
    They answered, “No.”
      He said, “Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”
     They did what he said. 
All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, 
they weren’t strong enough to pull it in.
       Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, 
“It’s the Master!”
     When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, 
for he was stripped for work, 
and dove into the sea. 
The other disciples came in by boat 
for they weren’t far from land, 
a hundred yards or so, 
pulling along the net full of fish. 
When they got out of the boat, 
they saw a fire laid, 
with fish and bread cooking on it.
     Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Simon Peter joined them 
and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! 
And even with all those fish, the net didn’t rip.
     Jesus said, “Breakfast is ready.” 
Not one of the disciples dared ask, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Master.
       Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 
This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples 
since being raised from the dead.
John 21:1-14, The Message

Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers. 
Herbert Hoover


If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.
Doug Larson

If fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.
Tom Brokaw
Like they say, you can learn more from a guide in one day than you can in three months fishing alone. 
Mario Lopez

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
— Chinese Proverb

Joining Michelle, Sandy and Deidra and their weekend invitations
to slow down, center and lean into rest.
A question for friends using Blogger: 
recently, anytime I cut and paste, I get this weird white background.
Don’t have a clue how to get rid of it.
Any ideas??


An African Journal – Post Three: A Living Landscape

Where we are teaches us a lot about who we are.
I am a Californian, born and bred.
Oceans, mountains, deserts – 
these are in my blood,
part of my psyche.
Cycles of wet and dry,
hot and cold,
sail-filling winds and
soul-slowing stillness –
these are part of me now,
not to be separated out,
placed on a shelf somewhere
like a seldom-read geography tome.
The real geography of this place is part of my soul.
Perhaps that’s why the geography of a different place,
a faraway place,
never felt alien to me.
I ran to it, embraced it, let it fill me up –
as much as a 21-year-old is capable of such rapture.
It was dusty and dry much of the year.
And as a Californian, this look I knew.
But anything short of jungle could grow there,
and grow it did, all over the savannah.
 And all around the edges of our small neighborhood,
with its dirt roads and driveways,
its brick houses, wide-open sky views, flat-topped trees
and all that red clay, just beneath the dust.
Grasses of all kinds flourish in this climate,
turning brown in the dry season,
but bright green when watered by seasonal rains.
The cloud formations were breathtaking,
the ground fog during ‘winter’ was not.
Much like California, we enjoyed three seasons
in Zambia rather than four:
Hot and dry,
warm and wet,
cold and foggy.
 When we first drove onto the campus, we were flabbergasted
to see tall poinsettias – and they bloomed every year,
bringing spots of bright color to the green and brown.
The shady side of our new home encouraged calla lilies and 
coleus in every color combination.
The front yard featured a row of bright coral-colored
flowers I had never seen before –
gerbera daisies,
always twisting toward the sunlight.
 Our campus was completely flat,
making it an ideal space for soccer matches –
a sport new to us in 1966.
My husband learned it well enough to coach it;
neither of us learned to love it.
 We lived about two miles off of the Cape-to-Cairo road,
a main thoroughfare going north and south on the continent
of Africa. Our town of about 2000 was a delightful place,
where something interesting was always bound to happen.
 There was a hospital, a small elementary school,
two general stores,
a butchery,
a bakery
and a small book store,
run by the church we served with.
 Acacia trees graced the southern entry to Choma,
sheltering the post office at that end of town.
And the train stopped in Choma, too.
A steam train – just like the picture on the sign below.
And we rode that train about twice each year,
sleeping overnight,
waking with cinders in our hair and on our clothes.
It was in our local train station, the first week we arrived,
that I had one of the most profound experiences 
of my young life. 
My husband and I got separated for a moment just as a train pulled up. Surrounding us was a veritable sea of Africans,
waiting to meet friends and family 
or to board the train for a new destination.
Every single face around me looked 
different from mine.
Every one.
And like a shot to the gut,
I had just the tiniest inkling of what it feels like
to be the minority – for the first time in my life.
This is an insight that simply cannot be bought,
or even taught,
and I am grateful for it.
The bus stop was right outside the bookstore, 
across the street from the bakery.
Bags and babies hung from every window,
from every baggage strut,
and the energy of a newly born country
poured out into the street.
This is the local police,
and this is the fire department.
There was one house fire in the two years we lived there,
and this team successfully extinguished it.
One of the two banks in town, about to have its
name changed as the nation of Zambia was four years old
at this point. Any reference to its former name 
(Northern Rhodesia) was being eliminated.
Note the drug store next door – called the Chemist.
As a former colony, many Britishisms remained.
A young mom, baby on back, getting ready to cross the street.
I don’t think she had to wait long.
Every once in a while, a touring car would
whiz by, making a stop for supplies or refreshments.
This was a highlight for the local community.
We met Australians, South Africans, Germans 
as they were heading either north or south on the transcontinental highway.
At the other end of the transportion spectrum,
we sometimes saw this coming down the main street.
Cattle were visible signs of wealth in Bantu society.
The Tonga tribe was the main group living in the
southern province, and despite the fact that it was 
officially against the law of the land, 
brides were bought and sold . . .
with cattle – lobola must be paid.
These gentlemen are the tribal elders
and it was their primary job to palaver,
to meet and talk.
Every day. All day. About anything and everything.
I never did get used to that as a know-it-all
20-something.
Looking back as a knows-very-little-indeed 60-something,
I believe this constant communication 
contributed to the well-being of both the 
tribe and the family.
Things got thoroughly talked through
before hostility developed.
This nice looking man was proud to be the owner
of a rifle and he asked me to take this picture.
I was happy to oblige.

We lived at an elevation of just over 4000 feet and it was suggested that at least once a year, 
we travel to sea level to take a break, 
get a little richer oxygen and basically rest up. 
We did that exactly once.
My husband’s parents and younger sister 
visited us the second summer we
were there, and the five of us took a wonderful trip 
which I will write about sometime soon.
But one place we could get to in an afternoon
was about 120 miles south of us.
 From this angle, a peaceful river.
 From this one, a glimpse of why the local people called
this place, “the water that thunders.”
Victoria Falls, one of the wonders of the modern age.
Astounding, spectacular, magnificent – words fail.
Completely fail.
My husband took a truck load of students there on 
a field trip one year.
Not one of them had ever seen it.
Not one.
One hundred and twenty miles.

It is the landscape of a place that gets in under the skin.
The contour of the land,
the shape of the sky,
the colors of the plants and flowers,
the presence – or absence – of water.
And this is a landscape that fed my soul,
that invited me to grow,
that gave me hope,
that taught me about time and seasons 
and hard work and good rest.
This is the landscape in which I became
an adult,
a wife,
a mother,
a more careful critic of the church,
a searcher after God’s deep truth,
and a whole lot less of a know-it-all.
I am grateful.

Joining with Jennifer and Duane, if he’s open this week, 
Emily, if she’s open and Ann’s Wednesday group.
Better late than never, right??

Our Bending-Low Jesus

“Our Bending-Low Jesus”
I used this phrase at a friend’s blog today
and somehow it bloomed up in my mind
and came out my mouth 
during my evening walk tonight.
I so easily forget how powerful our story is,
how remarkable.
Maybe it’s the reflection I’ve been doing 
on the Cosmic Christ
the past few months,
 courtesy of my Catholic brothers and sisters.
Maybe it’s the contrast of that image – 
the one I can hardly grasp,
the one that speaks of grandeur,
and Beyond-my-ken,
and Ground-of-Being hugeness –
the contrast of all that
with the picture we have of Jesus
in the pages of the gospel.

Jesus, who bows down in the dirt
and writes grace with his fingertips.
Jesus, who spits on that dirt
and packs it into blind eyes.
Jesus, who gets hungry,
and impatient with the ravages of sin,
and wonders if his friends will ever get it.
Jesus.
Who bends low for us.

My mother is with us for a few days.
And as I walk in the evenings,
I beg forgiveness for the many ways
I miss the mark when I am with her.
Impatience simmers,
sharpness surfaces,
tension rises until the air is heavy with it,
stagnant and fetid.
I am exhausted in ways I can’t even describe – 
weary with worry, I suppose. 
I give her the thrice-a-day medicines,
I make sure she eats and drinks,
I do her small amount of laundry.
Yet so often,
my spirit is twisted,
almost angry about what’s happening to her.
And I do not want to be angry.
She likes to walk out to our side yard,
to the spot where 
I watch from a polite distance,
as the grass is bumpy and she is unsteady.
She bends low, holding her knees,
speaking with words I cannot hear,
touching the metal angel I have placed there,
to mark the spot.
That simple movement is one of the
most achingly sad things I have ever watched.
Mothers should not have to bury their children.
Yet so many do.
So many do.

Mine did. 

Really, Lord?
So much loss!
Her husband, 
her grandson-in-law,
her vision,
her son,
and now . . . 
her mind, too?
How long, O Lord?
How long?
How much, O Lord?
How much? 

There are no answers to these cries,
none that suffice.

Except for this one:

Our bending-low Jesus.
And so I spread all the ugliness out there on the driveway
as I walk in circles in the deepening dusk.
I rue the words just behind my teeth,
the ones that don’t come out,
but want to.
I offer them up, 
I beg for grace and then,
I see him.
Bending down in the dirt, 
he writes my name,
with the words 
forgiven,
forgotten.
And I am bent low.
Pictures:
1. The Risen Christ, on the wall of the chapel 
at the Monastery of the Risen Christ,
San Luis Obispo, CA
2. The angel which marks my brother’s burial site.
3. A station of the cross in the chapel at the Mission Renewal Center,
Santa Barbara CA

Offering this at Michelle’s place, Jen’s Sisterhood and Ann’s gratitude link-up. 
I may not count like she does, but I am deeply grateful nonetheless.

Quiet for the Weekend – August 17-19, 2012

It was a beautiful summer afternoon,
sun shining,
water multi-colored,
wind on the rise.
So I stopped the car at a bluff-top park,
and stood and watched a while.
These trees are fast disappearing,
going the way of much bluff side real estate,
sinking down, down into the sand below.
But today, this one lent itself to a lovely portrait frame
of the wind at work.
Suddenly, two billowing kites puffed into closer view,
filling and flapping and giving their owners
a memorable ride.
 I stood and watched in admiration and awe.
Such grace and beauty,
strength and confidence.
But as always when I gawk at kite-surfers,
I was struck by something else, too.
 I was struck by the power,
the invisible but oh-so-necessary power
of the wind.
Athleticism alone does not make this happen.
Good equipment all by itself will not produce this result.
It is only when the wind rises,
when the board owners allow the wind to do
what only the wind can do
that a good ride becomes a thing of beauty.

Jesus said, 

“You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, 
the invisible moving the visible,

a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit— 

and becomes a living spirit.

 

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from 
or where it’s headed next. 

That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” 

John 3:5-8, The Message

Joining Michelle, Sandy and Deidra with their lovely weekend invitation to quiet:

An African Journey – Post Two: A Letter to My Younger Self…

 Standing next to an ant hill somewhere in central Africa, approximately 1966.

Dearest girl,


That’s what you are, you know. You don’t realize that, but I do. Looking back across these years, I see you. I see how very young you are. Twenty-one, newly married, recent college graduate, thrilled to be living your life, to be planning a cross-continental move, to be moving on, moving out, moving away. 

You’re a little bit full of yourself and your university education, especially those three courses in African studies you took that last semester, in preparation for moving across the sea. Three college level courses does not an expert make – believe me, it just does not. But then, you learned that within the first six weeks of moving there, didn’t you? Yes, you learned it the hard way. I guess that’s how all good learning comes, sweetheart. It has to hurt a little to be real.

I look at these old pictures and I know you’re a bit nervous about all that’s happened to you in the last few months. I see a smidgen of uncertainty, a frisson of anxiety. But mostly what I see when I look at your face is this wonderful truth: you are just plain gob-smacked with the freedom you’ve found in being married. 

You and he are on your own – and that feels grand, doesn’t it? You can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. Of course, there are limits to that, aren’t there? Limits of morality and common decency, which you both hold in high regard. But more than that, there are limits of believing and belonging, limits that you share, that you value, that you try to live. 

Following in the footsteps of the Rabbi from Nazareth has always been part of who you are, for as long as you can remember. Suffering growing pains as a 4-year-old, you told  your Mama one night, “That ol’ Jesus is down in my leg tonight and he’s hurtin’ me!” And you believed that with your whole, small heart. Jesus was there, living your life with  you. 

And walking down that center aisle of the old brownstone church in downtown Los Angeles, late on a Sunday evening the year you turned 11 – saying ‘yes’ to Jesus in front of your community of faith – that was important, significant. And you felt it deep down inside you as you drove home in the backseat of your parents’ car, staring at the street lights. You were filled with wonder that night – and so many nights since. 

Your heart was true that 21st year, this much I know. But I also know that your heart and your mind had a lot of traveling to do in order to communicate well. And then there was the matter of getting what you knew and what you felt to travel down your limbs to your hands and feet. Living what you knew, what you believed, what you began to allow yourself to feel with the truer pieces of yourself – that took years and years, and still isn’t done. No, not done yet.

Our once-a-week dinner with the students at Choma Secondary School.

But here’s what I want to tell you, oh, brave younger self. Here’s how I want to encourage you. You will break out of the mold as you get older and wiser. And you will make a lot of mistakes in that process. But you will also learn and stretch and grow and change and enlarge your heart and your mind and your spirit . . . and it will be wonderful. Difficult, painful, anxiety-filled, marked by loss, watered by tears and tears and tears . . . but wonderful.

You will push three living beings out into the world and love them fiercely. Those three will form you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine now, but count on it – their mark on you will be indelible. 

And while you’re at home, raising them and learning more about that Rabbi you love, you will begin the hard work of questioning much of what you were taught about who you are as a daughter of God, a sister to Jesus. And you will find answers from good people, from faithful people, people who’ve walked the road ahead of you. Some of them will be contemporaries; many will be much older saints, long gone to be with Jesus. 

If you could see me across these years, you might be surprised, maybe even shocked. Life has this way of getting both more complicated and more simple as time passes. Layer upon layer of love and responsibility get added as your family and friendships grow. But at the same time, much that is extraneous and unnecessary gets stripped away, leaving the bare bones beauty of truth, faith, hope, peace, love. 

You cannot see what’s ahead – neither the joy nor the heartbreak. And you can’t really see what’s behind you at this point, either. That takes time and work and self-care and you’re nowhere near that at age 21. You’re too busy living your life to look at it carefully. Give it a little time, however. You’ll start looking. And what you’ll find will surprise you, bring you to tears, fill you with thanksgiving and make you wonder about a lot of things. 

It will take time and scrutiny to understand the impact of an alcoholic grandfather on your mother and her parenting of you. It will take time and patience to look at the steely-eyed pressure your grandmother put on your father and how his reaction to that made a difference in you and your own family circle growing up. These things take time, they take maturity. But you’ll get there. You’ll always be getting there, honey. Count on it. 

Because that’s what this life is about. Truly, it is. We’re here to become human, to become the person we were designed and created to be – in a word, to look more and more like Jesus. And back then, you only had glimpses of all that, which was exactly how it should have been. Now, at this end of these years, I can say with gratitude that goes deep as the Marianas Trench – it’s all grace. Because it is, dear one. It is.

Love you – more and more,

Your older, wiser, creakier Self

Waiting for the bride at my nephew’s wedding, April 2012

Delighted to be re-joining Bonnie over at Faith Barista, whose prompt this week was a letter to our younger self. I’ll also check in with Emily at Canvas Child.

Paying Attention: A Prayer with Photos

Grant that I may I have eyes to see you, Lord.
To see you in the light,
to see you in the dark.
To see you in the rainbow,
to see you in the clouds.
To see you in the new,
to see you in the worn and weary.
To see you in the blessed and blissful details,
to see you in the rougher edges.
To see you in the easy, graceful gifts,

to see you in the slogging, stultifying backwater.

To see you in the immensity of the universe,
to see you in the intensity of a single cell.
Grant that I may have a heart to hear you, Lord.
To hear you in the laughter of children,
to hear you in the slowing of age.
To hear you in the soft sighs of the sea,
to hear you in the harsh cries of the hawk.
To hear you when the joy breaks loose,

to hear you when the sobs don’t stop.
To hear you in a beating heart,
to hear you when the beating stops.
To hear you in the wonder of a well-fed child,
to hear you in the one who starves.
To hear you in the still, small voice,
to hear you in the silence 
of questions without answer.

Even there, O Lord.
Even there.
May I have eyes to see,
ears to hear,
and a tongue to tell
the glory of our God.

Even.There.

The photo of the ‘shoes’ near the end of this prayer is from eastern Europe – 
a WWII memorial sculpture commemorating Hungarian Jews 
who were lined up on the edge of the river, 
told to take off their shoes, and then shot to death.
This reflection was prompted by a post about photography and truth at Kelly Sauer’s blog today. She was pondering old versus new in her photographic style. That got me to thinking and praying about the contrasts in this life; that the light and the dark are often closely connected and reflective of one another; that God doesn’t abandon us when life looks dismal or terrifying. I need eyes and ears that look and SEE and hear and LISTEN for evidence of the Presence of God – wherever and whatever and whenever.
Sometime during the dark morning hours, I realized that this post was also triggered by the powerful WWII story shared by Ann Voskamp in yesterday’s blog post. 
Even in the most horrific of human-devised schemes,
God does not abandon us, God is not absent.
So thank you, Kelly. And thank you, Ann.
I’ll put this one with Michelle tonight, Jen tomorrow, and Ann on Wednesday and Duane and Jennifer, too.

Here is a legend for the photographs.
1. Reflections of stained glass on the stone walls of a cathedral in Cologne, Germany, 2009.
2. Sunlight breaking through the clouds as we flew from Florida home to LAX, May 2012
3. Cloud-covered moonlight over Puget Sound while staying on Whidbey Island, August 2007
4. Layers of color at sunset at the same place and time as photo #3
5. Our youngest granddaughter Lilly on the day she was born – 2/25/10
6. An oversized drawing entered in an art contest spotlighting the homeless population of Haarlem, The Netherlands, 2009
7. Our dining room pine buffet, loaded with my much-loved Fiestaware, taken on the day of my mom’s 90th birthday party, June 2011
8. Silhouetted ruins above the Rhine River, 2009
9. A tableau of bicycle against the stone wall of a local Catholic retreat center, Spring 2011
10. Garbage gathered at the edge of a marina in Miami FL, May 2012
11. Yosemite National Park, summer 2010
12. A birch leaf in our front yard, fall 2010
13. Sunlight through amber windows at the New Camoldolese (Benedictine) Hermitage Retreat Center, near Big Sur CA, December 2011
14. Our granddaughter Gracie, aged 2, laughing at the antics of her cousin Griffin, aged 2, on Whidbey Island, August 2007 (They’re six years old now, soon to turn 7)
15. My favorite centering prayer spot – the beat-up swing that hangs from an oak tree in our front yard, taken in the spring of 2010
16. Hendry’s Beach, Santa Barbara CA (officially known as Arroyo Burro State Beach), sunset, winter 2011
17. A bird of prey overhead – maybe a hawk, maybe an osprey, in British Columbia, summer 2007
18. Municipal flower garden, Nuremburg, Germany, 2009
19. The cross on our back fence that marks the place where my youngest brother’s ashes are buried. Taken in the spring of 2011.
20. Lilly, playing in her tent, Christmas 2011
21. Santa Barbara cemetery on a foggy morning, winter 2011
22. Lilly’s adorable bunny slippers, Christmas 2011
23. A skeletized leaf, picked up by my grandson while we were hiking in the Redwoods near Santa Cruz CA, summer 2011
24. Window angel spotted in a side street of Regensburg, Germany, 2009
25. War Memorial in honor of slain Jewish citizens, Budapest Hungary, 2009
26. Approaching Laity Lodge through the Frio River, the hill country of Texas, September 2011