Friday, February 3, 2017

The Hard Truth About Love

It's hot in here. Hotter than a sauna, sweltering, suffocating. There must be some other way.

Choked with grief over people I’ve lost that look a bit like me and people I’ve never had to begin with, I crave cold water. I can almost taste the refreshing relief of being noticed, accepted, pursued, wooed, really really loved.

Who will do it? Who will love me limitlessly, always be there for me, never let me be lonely? Who will hold me when I need to be held? Who will hold hands and take long walks with me? Who will really, really love me?

Who's going to stand in this bloody fire with me?

Though I'm not being burned, I don't like it here. It's hot. It hurts.

The spark to this fire might have been a little prayer tucked away in my heart a long time ago. I might have asked to be useful, to have more purpose. I might have said, "Use me, Lord." And I might have said it off and on for several years as I waded the mostly calm currents of homeschooling inside our family-size bubble. "Use me for more," said I, not knowing what I was asking.

Yeah, that spark was in me, but it was no robust mustard seed. It was just a glint, easily gone in a blink. I asked, hoping He was listening, but not really sure.

That's it. He must be right here fanning my little spark of faith into a roaring forest fire.

I need to jump into a lake. But freshwater does not refine. Fire does.

There's a person whom I love. She is precious to me. She came in and out of my life like an angel would. The beauty of her face makes my heart dance.  She is strong, kind, and so very wise. She steps into my heart, fills it up, then moves on to her next unassuming person.

She will leave me though I wanted her to stand in the fire with me, to get me through. I wanted her to be the one to love me as I am, take long walks with me and never let me be lonely.  I wanted her to hold me. I just wanted her to be around all the time, every minute. I wanted her all to myself.

I love her deeper than her heart will ever fill for me. I am attached to her. My arms wrap around her tight and eternal. I can't let go. Her smile is a spray of sparkling light beams that burst through your eyes into your soul. It's warm, wide and bright, like a sunset. It draws you close. It enfolds your soul with bear-like arms and a tingle.

It is a joy and pain to see her. Because I know like any sunset, she'll slowly go away from me. She'll vanish gently and gracefully, but as time passes, I'll see less and less of her. There'll be times I'll wonder if an abrupt departure would have been more bearable.

There will be other times the loneliness will cover me with a dark suffocating gassy dense fog, and I'll despair of getting through and decide I've seen my last sunset. 

Love’s not pretty, and it doesn’t always feel good. It isn’t always the warming heat of the fire but its burning sting that makes you cry out in pain and the smoldering smoke that makes you grope for air.

I didn’t know any of this before now, before I let myself love someone, let her fill up my heart and let her love me. I’d not done that before. I had loved them from a distance, and it was fine.

What I thought was love was fear. I was afraid of life without her. I was scared of being perpetually sad, but she just wouldn’t let me love her superficially. She made me love her recklessly, when I’d always been so careful.

All the beauty of the world and its creatures is rooted and fashioned in reckless love. Everything else is darkness, confusion, and hate and is rooted in fear.

It is fear that is drawing the thick red line of division thrashing the page of our nation’s history book. I believe the anger, hate and grief experienced by the people that are unhappy with the election’s outcome is because of fear. And under reversed circumstances, that same fear drew a similar line eight years ago. Fear is powerful.

When I finally give love a chance, my worst fear rises up and burns a hole right through me.

Why was she given to me only for her to be taken away? This is exactly what I was afraid would happen.

My heart was trapped in a Brazilian nutshell and has been getting a violent nutcracking. There was no other way for me except the hard way. Breaking through hard heart walls is bound to cause some hurt. You begin to question the point. It hurts too much. Not worth it, I said dozens of times. Begging George and my friends to let me turn off the lights and surrender to the couch with my cozy gray and white blanket, I have made up my mind. I'm done with everyone and everything

But then someone who doesn't have a Brazilian nut for a heart shows up and sits by me. We just talk. And we stay silent. For one night, one slow hour in a night, I can remember that love is showing up in someone else's darkness and feeling it too. Then even in the dark, I'm not alone. That faith spark reignites, and for one hour it's worth it.

Because when you've been grieving in the dark long enough, and you've got a cross on the wall reminding you of the strangest, most wretched, most piercing grief, your eyes begin to look up. And through the wild flames, your faith is kindled, and you can see Jesus dropping down low from heaven and even lower into hell to be with you. 

I could swear His tears are mingling with mine, and together all these tears of ours are going to put out this fire that He's standing in with me.

That’s what a fire does. It purifies, slowly burning out the fear till love glistens and fills up that jagged hole in your heart.

It's true. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... I John 4:18

As for my disappearing friend, I'll be letting her go.

So I can go. Go do things I've never done, go to places I've never been, go shake a stranger's hand, go pour into someone and fill up their heart. 

Like she did mine.

Fire makes a heart keep the joy amid the pain and kills fear so you can let go of your own Isaac, like Abraham did and like I'll do. When we can do that, we can be free to love others more. Then love's fire won't be trapped in the fire pit, but will spread wildly all over everyone and everything.

That's worth it.

As for who she is? Not yet.. you'll have to wait and see. (Wink, wink)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016: The Year I Traveled Back in Time

Last year started, as years are known to do, on New Year’s Day.

I had decided 2016 would be the year of yes. Yes to my kids, yes to more clinging to Jesus, yes to trusting more, yes to adventure, yes to challenge. Yes. 

"No" was still used, but there were more yeses. 

So gathering up my year, I word-draw the neat pretty piles and the ugly messes of the last 12 months because we were made to remember. 

The stale wintry Ohio sky turned into a fleeting spring with the white bleeding heart that returned in the front, a summer garden full of tomatoes and peppers out back and a quick orange-brown fall and Honey Crisp apples from a favorite muddy orchard. I thought my wispy bleeding heart wouldn't make it back, but it did.

We skipped around Disney, saw Celtic Woman, and I changed my hair color, then changed it back. I tutored Challenge A and dissected the world in maps, good books and a cow's eye with enthralled budding teens. I got a license to teach Zumba and began teaching it to friends and strangers, who will become my friends. I went jet skiing for the first time ever, and, yes, my friend and I flipped our boat, and who knew that would be fun?

The year aged and furrowed its brow as I saddened more and more with the days.

There was a double rainbow that brushed away the dark summer clouds turning the sky into a canvas barely big enough for it. It was slippery wet not from rain showers but from my river of tears rushing down into hours.

And hours into months.

The flood rose higher and higher and I, flailing, knew I was drowning. And what do you do when a Nile isn't long enough to get your ache stretched across? What do you do when the dam of dark memories breaks? 

This year? I darkened, not only from the sun but from depression and anxiety.

My short-term memory had already been slipping while the deeper, longer one grew cleats, and I'm afraid my whole life is slipping. I couldn't tell you what happened yesterday, but 30 years ago? Different story. 

These old biting stories are newly vivid like that rainbow. My boy asks me to tell him a story from when I was a kid, and I panic in secret for the forty-ninth time. He wants a funny tale. He wants to know his mama better. He wants to get closer and I've been running away from the stories my whole life. 

They've been locked up in a closet in a house on Winterset Drive since I walked out.

Remembering can sadden and gladden.  It can choke and it can soothe. I used to think old painful memories were sought. But I did not invite these nasty things. This year, let’s face it, remembering was a kick in the stomach.

It’s what I did all year. Remember not meaning to. It all tromped back, invading my present. Or did I go back to my past? Until this year I thought time machines were only the stuff of fantasy. 

But God knew about the closet and turned me into a time traveler. Because He was coming after all of me, and He needed me to remember all of it, all of me.

For his writing assignment, my boy composed a story about two men who travel through a portal and into another world where friendly dragons and children play together. But the Deadly Fire Blasters appear out of nowhere to fight alongside their army of bad dragons, capture the good ones, and throw them and the children into the dungeon.

I’m like those two men, treading a dark portal and its outlying path to a bleak place I’ve been before. I have to see someone, and I’d rather be stuck in a dungeon with Grodd, who’s not a dragon, but a freaky, mind-controlling gorilla. 

Having left her long ago in that lifeless colonial on Winterset Drive, I’d vowed never to look at her again. I know she’s pathetic, and I can’t stand what I’ve yet to see. How will she look, how is she coping with misery?

I forget to breathe as I inch and push through. It’s beginning to look more familiar. I search untamed in the dark for the closet. There it is. The old 70s door tucked at the end of the narrow hall is smaller than I remember. I don’t bother turning on the light, so I just close my eyes, push my heart-shaped key into the hole and turn the knob.

There she is, a shivering, shriveling shadow. She’s weak, stubborn and alone. I can’t see her eyes, and I’m glad.

I’ve come to slay her when I need to love her. But I do neither. I only cry in the dark with my 16-year-old self.

I hold her tight in my arms for as long as it takes to unleash - to remember - almost 30 years of uncried hurt.

And while the tears fall, the stench rises out of the quiet wreckage. She’s surrounded by everything else. The wild anger, shock over lost friends and family, ache of sadness, embarrassment, abandonment, humiliation, neglect, shattered dreams, old hopes and old memories meant to be sweet turned bitter by the rind of disappointment. The odor of my mother’s meanness and jealousy smokes. No one’s been allowed in. Her heart has been surrounded by high stone walls that are beginning their fall. 

The clamor of the crumbling grows as I finally turn on the light.

The stink turns into a perfume of acceptance and embrace. It was not only my mother who emotionally abandoned me when I was 16. I did too. When I stuffed it all in the closet, the meat of me, the best part, was thrown in there too, like the baby with the bath water.

But I’m still breathing, though in tiny ripples, so I say, “I’ve come for you. It’s over now.”

“This is all I know,” she trembles.

“Just you wait, it’s much better now. You’ll see.” I finger the heart-shaped key in my hand, tracing the edges.

“I’m comfortable here,” she persists, but her voice falters. 

“I know. But real love, giving and taking it, is wall-shattering. You’re going to really love now. You can’t love here. Besides I need you. I’ve always needed you, you’re the best part of me.”

“I’m the weakest and most damaged part of you.”

“You’re going to become the strongest,” I show her the key, but she doesn’t see it. 

“Not without a mom. I need her. I need a mom’s love.” She is so young and so broken up. She wipes her eyes, which never meet mine. “I want her to hold me tight and tell me she loves me,” she pleads. “I want her watchful eyes to be keen and her voice gentle and assuring. I want to take walks and hold hands and plant one of her thousands of flower pots with her. I want to watch her paint which she’ll never do again. I want all of her. Most of all, I want her to want all of me. 

“I’m not leaving without her.”

Heart sinking, I speak slow and steady. “She might have lost you, but Love has found you… and He’ll never leave you - ever.”

This God we have with the lightyears-long, galaxy-wide arms reached out and picked me up and sat me down in the Zumba time machine. 

The dancing Zumba people are the heart-shaped key that opened that heavy closet door. They believed in me when I didn’t. They saw a person I couldn’t see. They saw the girl in the closet and invested in her. They loved all of her, even the shriveled part.

Now I see her, and I’m finally beginning to love her too. 

It’s going to take a while, but Love will always remember, and it won’t always feel good. Sometimes, some years, like my 2016, buried memories will come out of the closet and fire up pain, refining you, rekindling your heart so it can breathe love again. Healing love. 

Love that heals is love that will not fail. It will be miraculous, mysterious, piercing but it will not fail when it’s real. 

It will be dangerous and precious. It will gain everything and lose everything. It will bind up a heart and break it. But whichever path it blazes, it will go on and on.

And so will I.

Friday, December 30, 2016

One For Me and One for Her: When You Remember a Gift

The gold bracelet in my hand has a little charm that dangles an engraved bouquet and the word Mom etched tiny. Shiny red Christmas wrap and white ribbon lay on the table, and I’m wondering why I’m giving her a gift this year. 

The last time I saw her was when I brought a friend to meet her and Christmas loomed ugly this year. The white lights, tinsel, manger scenes, pretty songs and plays only made it worse. 

My sixteenth birthday was not much better. Its white candle lights shined meaningless and so did the coppery gold bracelet she gave me for a gift. A relative had given it to her from her extensive stash of Egyptian jewelry, but I never once saw her wear it. She rarely wore her fancy things. Tiny diamonds and a turquoise bead made it striking to the eye, and it struck my heart sharp with the blade of shallow love. In the box it stays 29 years later. I remember that wretched birthday because it was a sweet 16 that went sour.

She had told me to leave that year. “If you don’t like it here, get out, go live with your father,” she retorted to my own tongue-lashes directed straight at her. 

“It’s always about you, and why don’t you let me talk on the phone, and I’m so sick of hearing it, and why did you and Dad separate, he did nothing to you…”  Except protect you.

He had moved four years earlier into an apartment close to work and close to OSU campus, so most of the other residents in the building were partying college students. He paid rent and a mortgage and in return was given the lonely life of a single father, very little sleep, and migraines.

I moved in with him and left the bracelet at home with her.

And now 29 years later, I give her a bracelet for Christmas. She usually doesn’t like anything I buy for her, but she says thank you and will never wear it, just like I never wore mine. So why in the world give her a bracelet?

To her, the bracelet I give her will also seem like a shallow love, because she doesn’t believe I love her truly. Paranoia leaves no room for trust. She can’t trust love. She didn’t trust that Dad loved her till the day he died, and she doesn’t trust that I do. love. her. I didn’t trust hers at sixteen, and she doesn’t trust mine now. 

But even though I couldn’t trust her love back then, she tried to love me with all she had - she had a bracelet.

So the one I give her now is the same - not a shallow love, but a trying love. I’m trying to love her, though she can’t receive it. Her befuddled mind can’t take it, like my teenage mind couldn’t.

Our bracelets are just the same - tokens of a love that tried and hoped against everything that it would be taken. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. But it doesn’t matter, because it was all for me to finally understand. I needed to give her a bracelet, because if she can take that, then she can take my love. It must have been the same for me when I was sixteen. I still have mine.

She had given it to me hoping that I would take a sick mother's unfelt, broken love.

My heart is sad, but my mind is clear, and the bracelet I bought her last week from the mall is a mirror of the one she gave me so long ago. 

Two hearts that are broken and can’t trust. Two loves that can give but can’t take. One daughter who’s trying this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Becoming Sister-Conscious: My First Zumba Class

When God takes action in your life, you'd better watch out and you'd better not cry. 

All at once, I am teaching Zumba to a bunch of ladies from church.

My Egyptian sisters, excited to move and have fun together, might have danced unsure, but they danced.  I told them over and over they were doing fantastically, I’m not sure if they believed me.

How did we women become so darned self-conscious? When in the world does the poison of it penetrate the soul and mind?

It’s all over the world, not just Egypt. It’s in the Americas, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, India, South Africa.

It’s in our heads.

These women, so beautiful, don’t yet know after just one Zumba class how bad it was for me at first. They don’t know (yet) how uncomfortable and downright intimidated I was the day I shuffled into my first class at the gym. They’ve never seen my two left feet in action. Ha.

They don’t know (yet) how Zumba grabbed it by the horns and wrestled it out of me.

Dancing is fun and feeds the soul, but a Zumba experience can give you the shameless tenacity to grab the beast of self-consciousness bare-handedly by its horns and simmer down the loud lies that sneer at you from the mirror.

The mirror doesn’t lie, you say. We say it all the time to our beautiful curvy bodies that did nothing to deserve the verbal abuse.

But what if we were each other’s mirrors? What if in the space of a blink we could see ourselves in each others’ eyes? We are all very much the same though our journeys might differ. 

Our eyes tell our story, and, like mirrors, they don’t lie either.

On the first day of teaching a class by myself, I missed my Z-sisters, but I was like a little girl who can’t contain her excitement over a slew of friends coming to her birthday party. For the entire hour, I was all giddy, not believing they showed up, the 22 of them.

Not sure if I said anything intelligible when one sweet girl told me that had I not offered the class to this group, she wouldn’t have done it. She wouldn’t at a gym, only in the safety of our group. 

And the mom who lost her little boy to brain cancer, the one I had prayed for, begged for. The whole army of us had heaved the ache on the cross and a little on each other till the very last minute, till there were no more minutes and no more hope of him sticking around. Can a mother’s heart ever beat again?

I kept an eye on her just to check and, well, honestly to satisfy my awe. I might teach her Zumba, but she just might teach me how to keep going when a heart shatters, how to keep smiling when the only feeling is pain.

She was roped into it, but I hope she comes again. She ended all her little phrases to me with Habibi (my love). Her eyes said, I don’t know what I’m doing here, but you’re sweet. She barely knows me. But we both know pain, and our eyes tell it straight.

In a Zumba classroom, a sad, stressed-out, self-conscious soul can get a little relief and a whole lot of love. Because we’re all in this together. We all carry around some hardship from the day, the year, the life. You and me and the whole lot of us, we’ve all got somethin’.

So when the music fills the room and the feet step and twirl to a rhythm, we’re all dancing together. We’re de-stressing, letting go, laughing, panting, sweating - together. Nobody’s judging. Not even the most subtle stare, smirk or pointing finger would survive in this hot energized room with the blue carpeting, wide windows and three doors.

But there’s infinite room for rocking with the beat, braving new dance moves, tripping over feet, bumping elbows, building up sisters, love-bonding.

Self-conscious is defined as “excessively aware of being observed by others.”

In our newborn class, I hope we will “observe” each other - look out, protect, support, smile, laugh and sing. I hope the others watch out for me. I’ll be watching them like an ostrich on her egg. I’ll be sister-conscious and love-conscious. We’ll be “aware of being observed by others” - and love it because the eyes don’t lie.

In a sister’s eyes, I can see her hurt and her joy, and I can see mine. I can see my own experience in her because she’s been there or is there and we’re both just being vulnerable enough to shake it out, shake off the muck and share stuff. We can do that here. Then without even trying, we find ourselves showing the compassion, empathy, vulnerability, loyalty and love that was always there but got buried under the yuck. 

We dig it out in Zumba, like shining a mirror spotless, so we can see our reflection.

Friday, December 2, 2016

An Unexpected Lesson in Love

Bird, by Anastasia Bibawy
 A Black Friday find at The Limited - $5! How could we not?

She smiles at me, and my heartbeat skips. She doesn’t have to say she loves me. She doesn’t have to say anything at all. She’s just amazing, and I’m in awe of her. Her deep brown eyes look right into mine and hold my gaze.  She’s beautiful and adorable. She constantly cracks me up with her silly and witty ways - one minute sweet and girlish, the next tough and spunky. I want to be just like her. When she grabs my hand and holds it, I silently beg her not to let go. There are times when I think she knows me more than I know myself.

She loves me. It’s hard to believe I could be loved like that, that my little dress-up-loving girl is not going to change her mind one of these days. It’s painfully hard. I’d turn down a box of diamonds for this… for the rock solid belief that I’m good enough to keep around. If I could just believe it, if not for my sake, for hers...

The Thanksgiving sun’s rays beat through my bare window onto me and every corner in the room. Can anything hide in that light? Can I hide in love’s light? Real love uncovers stored up lies nursed over a whole long lifetime. It exposes the icy boulder that blocks the workings of that love.   

What is real love? The shocker is that it needs taking as much as giving. It has to, because real love can’t reject. But the flowing waters of give-and-take hardened to a frozen block in the quarter-century-long winter of my life. 

It can be just as hard to take love as it is to give it.

This little girl grins silly at me, almost winking, "Mommy, I love you way more than you love me.”  Can a seven-year-old possibly be struggling with this too? Is it more common than we realize - the hesitancy of accepting love? the fear of trusting it?

“Not possible, Cupcake. I've loved you since you were born, since before you even met me!” 

“Nope,” she chirps. “Doesn’t matter, I still love you more. End of discussion!” 

We do this everyday, and she usually gets the upper hand of the banter. But at such a young age, does she need to self-protect? Does she (and I) find it so hard to believe love is returned equally? Does she really not believe that I love her just as much, no, way more?

As I wrestle with this and curse my relentless habit of overthinking everything, she fixes her almond eyes on mine, exposing me. "I love you more than anything, Mommy.” It’s hard to believe I could be loved like that.

Back teeth grinding, I tell myself to shut up and just believe it. 

I loved my mother like that. Somewhere in the yellowed 70s' photos, she loved her children. But somewhere along the way, she changed her mind. Well, her mind changed her. A chemical imbalance will do that. It warped and complicated her beautiful mind. And though her love for us might not have vanished, it was masked and became excruciatingly hard to see. And somewhere along the way, I wore the belief that I am unlovable.

For my daughter's sake, I need to believe her instead. 

How do you get to believing the one thing that could change your life when all your life you were told the opposite? How do you get to believing you’re loved unconditionally now when back then you just weren’t?

Sometimes I get surprise messages from heaven at exactly the right time and the right place. And that’s wonderful. But sometimes I need to draw near. I need to bang on the door. 

So I opened the Bible and found this about being loved…
  • ...As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved… Colossians 3:12
  • For God so loved the world… John 3:16
  • So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us… 1 John 4: (13-21)
  • I will seek him whom my soul loves.. Song of Solomon 3: (1-11)
  • See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1
  • I will call them “my people” who are not my people and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one…  Romans 9:25 
In my need to overthink everything, I forget everything that really matters. He has always loved me… more.  More than my mother, father, sister, brother, husband, children, close friends love me,  He loves me most. Yes, I needed my mother to love me better than she did, and I need to love my family and friends better than I have. I need to believe they love me. The relationship will even sweeten if I let them love me. But it won’t happen by gritting my teeth.

It's a matter of brave, gritty trust.

The truth? Loving Him most gets me believing in other people's love. Even my mother’s! His love melts the thick iceberg of confusion and doubt. It makes everything and everyone make sense. It says, I'll do what you say (1 John 5:2-3), I'll talk to You (Jonah 2:7), I'll trust You, (so many on this, but my favorite Isaiah 26:3), I’ll love You with all my heart, soul and mind. I’ll love You most. Isn’t that what He’s always asked for?

And He replies, "I loved you first. I love you more." We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) I have every reason to trust it and no reason not to. Trust.

Amelia and I can debate about it till we're blue, but she has to know and trust this one thing. Of all people, He loves her more. He loves her most.

Loving Him most is what will get me believing in people's love… and will get me taking it.

It’s illogical but couldn’t be truer. The more I love Him, the more I can believe you love me and let you do so. Isn't He the original Love, perfect, eternal love? The whole idea came from Him anyway.

So because I love Him, I can believe you. It'll be breathtakingly beautiful the day I believe you when you tell me you've got some love for me - 

and I take it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Story

 I don't usually write fiction, but this is a brief attempt. It evolved slowly but lucidly. 

An Angel, Her Garden and Me

An angel came to the door. She knocked, tilted her head to the side and said, "Hello, my darling girl, can we be friends?”
Her smile, warm, sweet and true compelled me to throw open the door to my house and heart. I clasped her hand and showed her every room. I thought she might like the moon outside my window, so we lingered there a while. 

Sitting by the fire under the sky, she asked, “It’s perfect right here. Do you sit out here a lot? I would every day!”

I longed with an ache to show her my breathtaking gardens with one thousand playful, graceful flowers of hundreds of kinds, because I suspected she’d feel at home in such a spot. But they only existed in my head, so I played her a song instead.

She watched me and listened intently as I tried to forget she was there so I could play well. She was distracting me with a smile that seemed just for me. She loved my song. She might have even loved me.

I swallowed the flood of tears before they seeped out. She squeezed a hale arm around me. "I know you're teary and glum. Come to my garden, where I dance and play and where you will too. You can be silly, sad or still, and still I'll think you're beautiful."

Me, beautiful? 

Striking beauty illuminated her golden face. Her flowing hair reflected all the colors of lily, poppy, sunflower, delphinium and rose. 

We held hands and walked and walked under the sky. We laughed and cried together and there were no hours, just one precious moment after another crystalizing into a myriad of memories that no one will ever steal.

How she found me, I don't know. Dare I hope? Somehow she really knew me. She must have loved me.

Though I had only just met her, I felt that I was only hers and that she was only mine. I thought we could live in this little paradise forever and that I'd get used to her smile. But neither happened. I thought our love, hers of gold and mine of silver, was the garden key that we would hide in a secret place and later forget. I thought we would sparkle together forever. 

But it was not to be so. 

"I must leave now," said she, and I grope for words and air.

"But you just came. We've only just begun," I protested, my thoughts scrambled to form something more convincing.

"I have other gardens," she confessed with a wink and a smile. "But I'll never forget you. You're my darling girl. I'll always love you."

"Other gardens?" I pine each minute for her to stay just one more. Of course. She could claim as many as the stars.

"This one is yours. Draw many here. Let them see your smile and feel the warmth of your love. Here, let them feel joy in any weather, under any sky. Your joy will never leave you because you have too much to live for, and most of all, you've discovered true love.  And all is well.  All is well! Farewell, dear one!"

We embraced, and, as we pulled apart, she smiled wide, cupped my face in her hands and peered into my eyes with hers, deep and clear.  She kissed my cheek and was gone. 

I found myself in our spot under the moon by the fire where we had been sitting before. The night seemed colder and the sky darker. But I'd drum it till I was blue if I had to. All is well. All is well. 

And in the breeze I heard a hum that sounded like her singing,

I know you can do what you want to do
  be who you want to be.
You must know it too. 
Do you see what I see?
I believe in you!