Friday, August 19, 2016

The Truth and the Chrysalis

On a chilly November day, Zumba music summoned me into a room full of strangers when I didn't do strangers.

I was a stranger, an unknown. I had to be because if people really knew the truth about me they would eventually walk out, decide I was too weird, boring, ugly. This was me, I decided somewhere in a Baptist school in sixth grade - that I wasn't pretty enough, white enough, normal enough, cool enough, funny enough, talented enough.

I wasn't enough, so I'd be a stranger and better off unnoticed.

If I stayed hidden in the woodwork, I'd be safe from the teasing and bullying, and from the smiles, fake and real. (I couldn't tell the difference.) There is no risk when you go unnoticed.

Caterpillars camouflage themselves to self-protect. They blend with their environment to go unnoticed and be safe from predators.

For the decades after those cold years in the Baptist school and later in high school, I decided I was going to play it safe. I'd be silent and blend in. If I couldn't fit in then I'd blend in to invisibleness.

No one would hurt me again because no one would see me. No one would really know me. I would not stick out like a sore thumb anymore because I would not be noticed.

Frumpy clothes and a frumpy attitude would keep me out of people's hearts. I wouldn't tell them how I really felt about them - that I love them. No risk-taking, wave-making, heart-moving, heart-melting.

"I see no one, and no one sees me," says Colin in The Secret Garden.

They would not get into my heart - they wouldn't. They would not break it. No one ever would again.

I gave my mother my heart, and she broke it.

"Stop crying!" she'd scream.
"Lazy girl, do it/get it yourself, liar... get out of here, dog." (It sounds even worse in Arabic)
"You may not go with her anywhere, and she will not enter this house again," she'd sentence. "She's not really your friend."
"Why can't you be empathetic like your sister? Oh, how I love her so, poor innocent baby!" she'd wail.
"Why don't you get a big house like your cousin?"
"You're just like your father."

I wasn't going to do this. I wasn't going to tell you the truth. It's too painful. You'll think I'm pitiful. You won't believe me. You'll believe my mother. You'll walk out.

And you'll break my heart. No.

I wasn't going to tell you the truth about my mother. If you knew about her - the mental craziness, her raving madness, her schizophrenia, her paranoid delusions, that if she met you, a friend of mine,  you'd enter into her delusions and she'd think you're dangerous and never allow you in her presence again.

It's too weird, just too much, and you'd just walk out. And you'd break my heart.

Please don't walk out. I am not her, a silent cry muttered in my mind a thousand times.

Caterpillars sometimes crawl up under the leaf instead of atop to feed so the birds high in the trees can't see them. If I could just believe you won't leave even after knowing the truth about me, I could get out from under my safe, comfortable spot under the leaf. I could let you see my true colors and even fly. We could fly together, maybe like we were meant to?

But the next step toward that glorious dream is time in the chrysalis. And that's where Zumba and the room of strangers comes in.

When I first walked into the classroom, I held my breath - literally. I saw only women. Damn. Carefully and purposely not looking at anyone, I sped to the back wall. It was the girls and their mothers including my own that hurt the kid me the most. Not this time. I'd fumble around behind them where they wouldn't see me, so they wouldn't laugh me out of there.

I would not be seen, I willed. I'd just get a workout with this fun music and disappear before anyone noticed I was ever in the room.

Those were my true thoughts exactly. I remember because they were the same ones that replayed like a soft tidal rumble in any new situation for 25 years since high school. But ten minutes in and I began to wonder if the smiles around me were real. I hadn't wondered a thing like that in years. I had always assumed they weren't. Paranoia's influence.

But they just kept smiling at me for a year and a half.

"We're family," they said, while fixing my posture, subtly correcting my poor form, dancing right alongside me and up close only when comfortable.
"Relax, release the day's stress, have fun."
"No judging."
"You don't have to, but if you want to learn the moves, we'll teach you."
"We care."

Wait. Care about what? Oh, the people who come to class. Right.

This was an attentiveness and nurturing I had never known. So I was blissful and bitter all at once. Over the moon over Zumba class and devastated over what I was supposed to experience as a little girl and never did - nurturing, gentleness, kindness, attention, caring, affection. I didn't know how much I intensely like those things and how much I needed them.

I realize now that when I first walked into that room with the Zumba people, then strangers, now cherished friends, I had walked into my chrysalis.

(More later.)


Friday, April 15, 2016

An April Sky & Lent: When You Pray for a Friend

The snow flakes fell from an April sky the other day. Large, copious and quiet. The Good Life devotional pointed to the lost sheep and lost coin parables, and I pointed sad eyes to that sky.

Because this nudging to pray for someone just won’t stop. It’s been a year, and I still feel it. Her face in my head, I love her, and I’m just not sure if she clings to the Shepherd... or if she’s happy enough, so I pray for her just in case. Feeling silly, I picture her lost like a lamb, and my heart breaks. Draw her near, Lord, I say, hem her in from the front and round the back. I want to see her up there…

The snow kept whirling around, falling light and graceful, gentle, barely brushing the grass blades greened by early spring. That’s just how Your love is - gentle, grace-filled, surprising, beautiful, pure, white, all over the place. And You can just do that to a soul, pour out giant fluffy dew drops of mercy and kindness all over us, a soul comes clean and, “there’s more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7.

Heaven’s angels celebrate.

And I know once again, it’s me too that needs a good wash.

So during Lent we hold a fast, hold in our desires and whims and hold out for the hope. Because it’s not all for nothing. While we quiet our stomachs, we pray in a room and quiet our minds. While we seek Him a little more this time, we ask Him to fill up our shriveling souls that feel empty, hearts on edge about more than a few things, hearts that ache over loves lost, loves rejected, loves that never happened.

It’s the way a soul forgets daily but remembers once in a prayer that He is enough. He fills the emptiness. He heals, and we just need to hurt. And I know it’s me that needs a good healing. It’s through that hurt that I can finally heal. He’s it. Only He can do it, not those I lost, or those I wanted and never really had.

Maybe the sadness lingers, but heaven’s singers are making it known in it’s fanciest corners that a broken humbled soul bowed low was heard and not only, but was forgiven and embraced and not only, but was sung over. (Zephaniah 3:17) Not only for me but for my friend.

The ground, already heated a little while ago from a few days of unseasonable warmth, melted the giant snow puffs right when they hit. I watched them disappear just like our wrongs do in a heat of a prayer, a tear-ridden sorry, a trembling faith.

Goodbye wintry sky. Spring is on the wing, and so is my soul.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Girl's Beauty

March teases my skin with a little warmth, and it's a day of breezes, and wind eases through the air and our kitchen window. This girl of mine, with the giant eyes that notice everything, head dropped on my shoulder, pleads,  "Can we have a fire in the back? It's so nice out."

This girl, who understands deeper than any 12-year-old ought to and reads in and out of books faster than anybody ought to, peeks at the mirror and quips, not pretty... and... you're just saying that because you're my mom

Not so fast.  I stare into her eyes locking them with mine and quip back the obvious, "You're beautiful, and it's not because I'm your mom." It's my turn to plead... "You're even more beautiful with the braces and eye glasses because it's you, and we wouldn't want you any other way. Your beauty comes from inside…" I go on and on, and is she even hearing me? Does she believe me?

She doesn't know that a girl's glow comes from inside her. The glow from the fire is warm, bright, constantly moving, like her. The Spirit-fire inside her - that's what she needs. And she already has it. 

Fire illumines and cleanses. But in order to get your fire you have to burn something. Then… fall the ashes. And that’s when you get the beauty.

That’s when you become beautiful.

I stare at the fire. It's not just her. It's me too, and I know what needs to be done. But I don’t know if I can do it.

To spark a bonfire blaze, a dazzling dance of firelight, dry wood needs to be burned. To be this dazzling dance of firelight, I need to burn the fears, insecurities, guilt, perfectionism, hopelessness. 

And the more those freedom-stealing, spirit-withering, soul-shrinking things are burned, the bigger the flame, the brighter the light, the quicker the flicker, the cozier the room. Every single soul that comes close will be warmer and happier.

That’s the real beauty - beauty from the ashes.

Beauty that doesn't fade with the Spirit-fire.

Gazing at the fluttering light that penetrates her giant eyes, she coos, “It’s so beautiful, Mommy.” 

Just like you, darling.

Monday, January 11, 2016

When You Want a Sister

Hollywood Studios is, as are the other Disney parks, a furor of imagination.

The world of movies is an escape to somewhere exciting, haunting, old, new, real and magical.

The thing about the storylines, like Frozen's, is that the outer layer is fanciful, but the deeper themes are ever so real.

Like the theme of sisterhood.

A girl doesn’t always remember meeting her sister for the first time. She was always there far as she’s concerned. And a girl assumes safety, familiarity and even delight in the arms of her sister - unless those nice things are snatched away when the tender shoots of that kinship are just sprouted, have just taken form and presumed the right to grow strong and sure a good long while.

Elsa and Anna are like my sister and I. We were in a way separated. Missing was the emotional nurturing. Mom could only really love one of us at a time it seems in hindsight. We just didn’t have the chance, the permission to bond. Dinner was on the table every night, house immaculate every day. All we had to do was get good grades and act right.

Act right. Act normal. Act happy - don’t complain. Don’t cry.

“Conceal, don’t feel. Don’t let them know,” sings Elsa.

Yeah, no one knew.

No one, including her young children, knew that every event, action, reaction, discussion and decision occurred through the lenses of her paranoid delusions.

Over the years, she urgently relayed to me these figments as our unfortunate reality. She believed she had special psychic powers worthy of being studied by an unnamed committee of medical researchers. So, in her mind, our house and bodies were being watched every minute of every day and remained perpetually in danger. My friends were not really my friends but agents being used by this committee to get to her.     
Everyone was suspect. No one was safe. Everything was secret.

And my thirteen-year-old self believed everything I was told. Grandiose ideas that once seemed fanciful to a young child eventually revealed her as a woman suffering from schizophrenia.

But the secret didn’t last, and it’s reckoned that when my high school best friend’s concerned mother found out about the fantastico at our house, she was not allowed to talk to me anymore. Then none of the other girls in our group did either - ever again.

It’s only a theory that it happened that way. Regardless, this was the result for me: no more girlfriends, no more new sisters. The old sister and I hadn’t even started.

One day in the time and place of another story, I wrote a poem about my sister inside of which I named her princess. I was very young, but she at five years younger was so beautiful to me. To little-girl me, she was just like a beautiful princess.

But when girls grow up in “kingdoms of isolation,” they become queens of fear, awkwardness, insecurity, intimidation and shame. Elsa and I should do lunch.

Neither of us knew that the other would be telling the same story. Neither knew that we could be princesses - that we had it in us.

The princess characters gliding, singing and dancing around World Disney convey messages to little girls of beauty, kindness, courage and sincere care for all. 

It’s because every girl can care if she’s cared for first. (1 John 4:19) Every girl can be kind and courageous as Cinderella’s mother exhorted before dying.
Every girl who cares for all who cross her path by her affection and attention speaks love over and over.
Every girl can be a princess - of a sister-kind.
So when a sister, by birth or not, can’t care or be kind, when you can’t be safe in her arms, when she’s so ridden with fear, awkwardness, insecurity, intimidation and shame that she just doesn’t have any courage, you can be the princess she needs. Like Anna was to her sister-queen.
Because what every girl really needs is a sister.
Every girl needs a friend she can tell her secrets to, go shopping with, work out with, sing with, dance with, watch a movie with, pray with, who will just listen, hold you, help you find lost things like your smile, hope and courage, will not judge you no matter what, will love you always. 

A friend like that, a soul-sister, keeps you honest, keeps you happy, keeps you sane, beautiful, loved. She keeps you. Because what we need is to keep each other. We need to be each other's keepers so we'll never be alone. 
A girl and her sister... sisters like that, glide, sing, and dance in places somewhere inside of human hearts everywhere that are exciting, haunting, old, new, real...

and magical.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Year New Wonders

I'm all over the place this fall. Our first week under our belt, I worry about all the things I forgot to impress upon them at our Goals and Goodies meeting.

Every year before our home lessons, outside classes and appointments begin, we have a family business meeting. It's very serious, except for the "goodies." We discuss family and individual goals over donuts or muffins and answer the endearing but serious question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

While this answer changes each year, their seriousness about such a matter does not. The future lawyer, marine biologist, NBA player and artist/singer are reverent about their dreams. And of course, they are allowed to change their minds because, it's God who will lead them, God who will hold their hand. It's He who is preparing their minds and hearts... for something. He puts the dream in their heads, but wants them to follow Him with their hearts. The realized dream is not the end, but the means. God is the end. 

"I am the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Revelation 21:6

But there's so much to say with so little time to say it. How does a mama prepare a 10th, 7th, 4th and 1st grader for a new year in one hour?

Like the singing nuns asked about Maria, "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"

How can I possibly grasp every beautiful idea, quote, curiosity, image, wise saying, worthy person, place, study skill, Bible verse for them to see - in one hour? 

Says Aladdin,

"I can show you the world, 
Shining, shimmering, splendid... 
I can open your eyes, 
take you wonder by wonder, 
over, sideways and under, 
On a magic carpet ride."

Says Scripture much, much earlier,

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9

The magic carpet ride in the sky is our adventurous journey with God, a ride with the Creator, who holds a thousand moonbeams in His hand and shines them up there, dazzling our eyes. 

He is the God of wonder. All things wonderful come from Him. This is what I want them to see - God will take us wonder by wonder, over, sideways and under... God's wonders never cease, my dad used to say.

Many, Lord, my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5

God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5

God inserted something inside each one, so we would have a natural inclination to explore, inquire, wait and wonder.

Wait and wonder.

"It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder." Bishop Kallistos Ware

This year, we're turning over a new leaf in our homeschool methods for older children and discovering the art of questioning. Using the Five Common Topics, we explore five "places" to go while discussing a thing. "Topic" comes from "topos," which means place. Since I've learned this tool for tutor work at Classical Conversations, I've been trying to apply it as much as I can to anything up for discussion. I will likely write more about this later. It's a great kickstart for a talk with a middle and high schooler especially. The beauty of this method of asking questions is that it forces them to think. For the less curious student, it forces them to wonder.

The beginning of any good discussion, essay or endeavor is the important questions asked.

The act of asking questions is the key to discovering that there's something to wonder and realizing there is more to learn. Having the answers is not required. Those will come by asking more questions. And an even greater thing to them will come: the espial of God's plans for them...

His thoughts, His dreams for them.

Many, Lord, my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When You Want to be a Friend

1970s-Me (second from left) and my sweet cousins, gems from a family, gems forever 

A smile warms a soul. Even a stranger's hello can stir up lazy love senses. 

The hello of a friend who knows your name wraps its arms around your heart and squeezes tight. 

But one day or another, a certain someone might be all but plopped upright onto my path who might need a friend half as much as I, but I don't know how to begin...  When she smiles at me, heart flutters and mind races to think of what to say. 

And me? Shy, scared-of-rejection me... I muster a “hi." The smile is as wide as I possibly can stretch it, hoping it does all the talking for me, because I don't know what to say next. 

Nice day... Supposed to rain... How old are your kids... Great class, wasn't it... Sure is hot out... How long have you been coming here... Don't you love their coffee... 

But this is a person with a past like me who has her own struggles. She too is a person with worries, hopes and dreams. We might have something to connect about, but I'd never know because my introverted self says, what if she gets to know me a little more and decides I’m not good enough or that she just doesn't like me? She could become my sister, but I’d never know. I'm too scared. Will my name be safe on her tongue? 

Rewind to a few decades ago, when this girl sits for story time on a carpeted classroom floor with the rest of the third grade. She burns for a friend. She turns, and there's a girl sitting in front of her with sunny blonde hair. She plays with it, and the girl doesn't mind and whispers in the bathroom  that we're going to be best friends. Then she moves away never to be seen again. 

Fast forward to fifth grade Valentine's Day.  Bubbling with sheer bliss because everyone was going to get a little card from me and I from them, I don't get any except one:  a stout, boisterous one shouts from the steps of the school bus going home, "Here ya go, Ceci, the Egyptian frog, here's your valentine." In the card she thrusts in my hands the same taunt is written, and the jeering laughter from her and the others doesn't stop, and I wonder why the ground is not splitting deep and swallowing me right up. 

In sixth grade, the popular girl wrote a letter to the teacher, licked it shut and sneered that it was about me, showing me only my name through the white, thin-papered, sealed envelope. The teacher quietly read it right in front of me and later quipped that I was talking too much to the popular girl, distracting her in class. Perhaps really I was trying too hard to be her friend. 

I force open the locked doors of high school memories, the ones I should have let go decades ago but didn't. How do you let go of something that grips you tight, pitiless? How do you erase the sneering eyes, the gruff voices daily at the lunch table and in the hallways funneled straight down on me? 

When one day in eleventh grade, I was her friend and she was mine, and the next day, I was her enemy. She and the rest of our friends were done with me, and the cool, sweet-smelling breeze of friendship that I desired something awful transmuted into a lone, screeching howl. We never spoke again. The stormy winds of rejection at school just didn’t calm down all the way till graduation.

After that, there was very little rejection... because there was very little trust. The invisible boards walled up tightly around me would keep out the crying winds of ridicule and flout. I’d be safe with my guards up. 

So the barricade cemented around my heart and mind like the unfinished, storm-shielding walls of my basement - cold, hard, colorless - I was not meant for sisterhood. What do I know about being a friend, much less a sister?  Clearly, nothing. The risk is too high. I'm done trying. Better be safe than sorry. 

But how does a girl become a girlfriend when the walls are up? The question is a muffled cry inside the walls. 

“If the broken would just love the broken - this might free us all from the chains of rejection.” ~Ann Voskamp

I'm not ready. More questions loom. What will the first exchange of smiles morph into? What happens after hello? How can I stand a chance when every time I tried to be a friend I failed? The burning sting of failure had penetrated and numbed the burning desire to have a friend. 

When you don't trust yourself, you don't trust others, said I. So it better end before it starts, I resolved.  Keep the talk small, eyes away from hers, guard up. She doesn't need to know about me. She doesn't want to know anyway. 

When you don't look into the eyes of the person you're talking to, when you keep your eyes down to the ground, you keep the walls up. 

But this is not God's safety. It's in how He dealt with Jericho. He would have no walls. Jericho fell when His people blew their horns. They boldly, bravely blew their bellowing horns, and God conquered the city engulfed in walls by tearing them down. 

He wants me to take these fear walls and blow them out - loud and slow, louder still. And again and again. I blow a feeble tenor, heart wobbling on a weak faith that aches to be strong, like the bright penetrating cry of a trumpet.

The sea-crossing, manna-eating, fire-following Israelites trusted Him, and the giant walls came down. They marched into their prosperity, hopes and dreams realized.  

They trusted God. When I don't trust myself, I can trust God. It's what He wanted from me all along. 

He tears down the walls of fear, distrust, hopelessness, entrapment. His trumpet blasts, and He tears mine down - to keep me safe. 

The walls come down because Love came down. It's not the walls that keep me safe. It's the saving God who still comes down. 

On day two of scribbling these heart notes, mulling over Love coming down, struggling to order my thoughts, He rings in, answering them in the same morning's devotional entry.

"Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down." Isaiah 64:1

Oh, He'd tear down my walls, He'd part the heavens to do it - to save me. 

He, not my fears, knows my name and reaches down His heaven-holding hand from on high - from a place higher than the risk of going beyond hello  - and, just like a Friend, holds me tight. 

His kind of best-friendship holds a soul right and pours His trumpet-blasting love inside till it spills over, and you just have to pour into another like that, too.  

Now He's gone and indulged me and in my palm nestled these gems, precious girlfriends I call sisters. He keeps placing more in my hands. He drops them in and closes my fingers over them tight. 

I hold onto them tight, too, because He gave them to me. 

And this shy, scared girl? She became a girlfriend because the walls came down. 

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! Isaiah 64:1 

 Part your heavens, Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke... Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters..." Psalm 144:5-7

Trumpet: "any of a family of brass wind instruments with a powerful, penetrating tone…”

Monday, July 13, 2015

When a Church Sings Praises

The beating of the drums at the July 4th parade sets the heart thumping. The steady, repetitive march of feet and stroke lifts the mind and heart to a status of hope. The drums say something's coming. 

And I'm expecting it.  

An American remembers the freedom we as a nation once didn't have and remembers when it came. The people would not be under the bondage of tyranny anymore. They were free to live, free to pursue a life worth living.  

An American remembers and celebrates it with the steady beat of a drum pulsing inside and outside do we don't forget, so we claim it and keep it - this freedom that’s ours. 

And in my own insides, the drum beats on right up to the twelfth of July, the Feast of the Apostles. Last night at church, there was that same drumming beat, but made of voices, a steady rhythmic pulse, breathtakingly loud and joyous. There were no real drums, the voices were the percussion performing the most noble type of prayer, the prayer that the angels do:  praise.

At Midnight Praises in the home church of George's family in Upstate New York, the voices filling up this monastery church beat out the words that throb the heart:

Peter and Paul
Destroyed the power of Satan
And they restored the nations
to the faith of the Trinity.

And louder still the voice-drums continued their praise waking up a nation who had celebrated their independence just seven days before:

Peter and Paul
Are the spiritual priests
they demolished the temples
and the worship of idols.
Peter and Paul
together are the workers and craftsmen
they restored all the nations
once more to the Creator.

Today, we call again the nations to look beyond its founding fathers. Aren’t nations made of people? People with souls who have a higher calling then even the Declaration. They have a higher authority, a higher hope. 

Come, all you nations, 
To worship Jesus Christ.
He ascended to the heavens
And sent to us the Paraclete
Spirit of Truth, the Comforter. 
Amen, Alleluia.

That hope, that authority? Jesus, the Christ, the Savior, mine, yours, theirs… the nations’. 

The people praising last night and singing in church today were finishing up a conference that demanded a rigorous schedule and little sleep for want of catching up with old friends. The bodies were tired, but the praising voices calling out to the Lord, praying for the people of the world awakened me. My fatigue went out the window. 

The church prays with hope - a hope that a bunch of steadfast, strong voices stir up with their voice-drums - for the people of the world, its nations and their rulers. That they’d know who the real authority is and put their trust in Him. 

That they’d know where the real hope is - not in chariots, not in the fancy, not in the idol, not in anything or anyone else but the Creator of the universe, our nation and our souls.

We, the church, need to expect it, claim it and keep it - this freedom from the world's darkness and tyranny that's ours.

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 
“We ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples, 
And I will sing praises to You among the nations. 
Psalm 108:3

For thus says the Lord: “Sing with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save Your people, The remnant of Israel!’ Jeremiah 31:7

Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; 
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. Psalm 28:7

Friday, June 19, 2015

Remembering My Father

It’s these days a daughter thinks of her father. The lonely days, the hectic days, the hot days, stressful moments, mourning moments. 

Eleven years ago, your feet walked here, but your mind lingered up over the skies. Your hands labored at work and turned the pages of your giant Bible and your Agpeya, and they signed the cross over your chest - while no one was looking, and while at times they were, while I was. 

I remember waiting for you in the lobby of CAS and the elevator opening. When you stepped out, you’d sign the cross big and told the world you belong to the people of the cross - without opening your mouth, only your heart. 

I remember stressful days… the moments when it would have been too much for anyone, but you kept calm and carried on, smiling. When you mourned you smiled. When you faced adversity, you smiled real, from inside, from a place in the heart that walks in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

I remember when bad things would happen in the news, like shootings, and you’d say to pray for them, the shooters, the lost. You never know, you’d say, they might find Him.

I remember your smile, because it was part of the normal. You made it normal to smile in every circumstance, under every beatitude, under every blow.

I remember the time when you said, God is faithful even when it’s hard. And I remember the words you’d mutter randomly, in any kind of moment, those precious words, the same ones I heard you say nearly everyday, when it made sense and when it didn’t: Thank you, Lord.

I don’t think there was a time when you weren’t thankful, when you weren’t stubbornly content with your life. Maybe it was because the days you smiled were the days you prayed and read your Bible. Not a day passed when the three didn’t happen. 

I remember how you spoke words of encouragement to any who’d listen. But I remember the quietness, too, except during the evening news. And I remember your passionate love for the church. the Word. the Psalms. 

Once you referred to a brother you loved as a walking gospel. You were one, too, despite your opinion of yourself. You never put yourself down, but closed your handwritten letters with “the wretched” (hakir) preceding and crowning your signature. You knew where you stood, knew your place in this world.


Eleven years ago today, the day before Father's Day, you went to be with the Lord but are remembered here. Keep on praying, Dad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

One Step at a Time

The June sun was warm early, and I had to go meet it. Rousing Husband, we outstretch our walk longer than usual. Air, sun, wind, sky, trees, fields sown with a coming bounty, cheery song of a bird perched on a wire insisting that all is well eases the stresses of the week.

The thing is that it’s more than only the nature. There’s something about walking a long road and breathing, talking, praying, laughing, listening that is whole. It’s all of me that comes alive. I’m not just exercising my body, but my mind and spirit. There’s something about walking that is holy.

There’s progress in walking. The destination is beside the point. It’s about the walk, at least for now. 

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Genesis 17:1  
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 

I need to believe that I don't need to know everything beforehand. In a world that demands and dictates longterm finances, healthcare, college, career, family, retirement planning, where is the room for His voice? What if all this planning is the stuff of the short term and we reserve the longterm stuff for Him... and now? we just walk. 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 

On the hair-pulling days, trying to figure on finances, colossal house projects, lesson plans, high school transcripts, long term meal plans, our hopeful trip to Egypt, couldn't I have a GPS for this stuff, too? But there is no road map. There's the great Road-Designer God. 

Only God. 

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 

When we walk with Him, we don't need our smart plans and our smart phones. With God, walking is living (Col. 1:10), breathing, believing (2 Cor 5:7), loving (Eph 4:1, 6:4) in new life (Rom 6:4) in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).  If we draw our own map, we'll likely find ourselves at home in the body and absent from the Lord, not the other way around. 

Walking on the quiet road, my life partner and I talk about the plans - kids, family, house, garden, trips, ministries, college. How can we possibly and responsibly address all these? 

By walking - one step at a time. 

A man’s heart plans his way,But the Lord directs his steps. Prov 16:9

And when He says, "Walk," He knows where the journey ends, and so do I. So on the days when fear grips and it’s all I can do to take the first step or just the next step, I can leap large and laugh because I’m walking with Him. 

And it's all I can do to start running. 

Lead us throughout the way into Your kingdom.  ~Liturgy of St. Basil

Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; 
it is not for them to direct their steps. Jer. 10:23

The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Prov 16:1

The "Walking" Books:
Further reading for help to walk the heart walk, trust, 
let Him direct each step

Daily Light on the Daily Path, Bible verses for the morning and for the evening, centered around themes
Own Your Life, Sally Clarkson  For women, by this beautiful godly woman. I just love her, have learned much from her other writings and saw her speak and spoke with her. She's humble, open and... persistent about boldly believing, generously loving 
and living your best life in Him.

For the children:
Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids Sarah Young For everyday, 
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, Sally Lloyd-Jones, writer of Jesus Storybook Bible  For the tender hearts, beautiful illustrations. Eleven-year-old loves it.
His Mighty Warrior, A Treasure Map From Your King Sheri Rose Shepherd  Especially for young boys. Mine reads one letter a day, which comes with a Bible verse and a short prayer.
The Indwelling Life of Christ, Major Ian Thomas  For older children, teens, adults.