Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Valor



“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”-  Victor Hugo

Everybody knows everybody.  In a town this small anyone within city limits knows his neighbor.  The novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder wasn't too far off in his depiction of small town life in his play Our Town.  There's a Methodist, Catholic, and Baptist church in town.  A cemetery, a mom and pop's grocery store, a post office, a photography studio, a post office, a quilt shop, a car repair shop and a pharmacy line the main streets.  The wind yanks at the lights and wreaths that hang from the light poles lining main street causing them to rock and sway. But today, it isn't any of the decorations that catch my attention.  On the outskirts of town lies a Catholic cemetery.  They stand, brave and tall.  White hats sit on their heads like doves, and their blue coats have a line of straight brass buttons down the front.  USMC.  

The wind is blowing hard today, and yet they stand calmly in their dress blues.  I wait.  A police car blocks traffic, and I have no choice but to wait.  I wonder.  Who was this soldier?  As far as my eyes can see the cars, trucks and vans continue to come.  A white hearse pulls up next to the hole lined with green carpet cloth.  December. Such a hard time to lose someone you love. Such a sad time to say goodbye.  But then, is anytime a good time to say goodbye?  The men salute the hearse, the two stand alone. Their pants whip in the wind.  I think to myself, "What a depressing job!" To have to stand by the grave of another soldier, to see the faces of those he loved, to stand in the almost winter-cold and windchill, to say goodbye knowing that it could have been you.  And yet, honorable.  

My mind wanders to two separate graveside experiences, both in December.  Snow will cover it all, and spring will come.  The quietness of winter, the death of things living.  The promise of Spring blossoming and bringing life again to all things.  Hope.  In the midst of pain there is hope.  These goodbyes are not forever.  And yet, we are all standing by.  In one way or another, we are standing by and waiting.  We are living.  Learning to say goodbye takes a special kind of courage.  Bravery is doing in the face of difficulty what is honorable. 

Bravery may be standing by and being excited for a friend when she is engaged and getting married, and you are still single.  Bravery may be meeting that friend who is pregnant when you aren't, but want to be.  Bravery may be stepping across the street to see your neighbor.  Bravery may be fostering those kids, you know, those ones that no one else takes.  The forgotten ones.  Bravery may be loving that person.  You know, the one who hurt you deeply.  Bravery isn't just for soldiers. Noble causes can be taken on by the most common of men. 

Bravery, valor and honor led my Savior to the cross. 

Where do you see courage and honor in your life today? What do you need to be brave about?  Heroes are made one choice at a time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Through

"Sometimes even to live is an act of courage." -Seneca

He comes home dejected, wondering if he'll pass those classes.  Those classes.  The ones he vowed he'd never take.  The school. The work.  "We'll get through this," I say.  Through.  There is no great leap over an obstacle, no instant solution for a problem. Often the hardest road traveled is the road through.

When on a road trip, there is endless scenery, but after awhile it all begins to look the same.  Each landscape melding itself with the next, one lonely road hinged to another.  Billboards to break up some of the monotony, quiet silence and road noise wrapping up the mind in droning thoughts like "When will this end?" and "Are we there yet?"  These thoughts are silenced.  As adults we learn to wait, and know that life isn't just a destination or a vacation.  

With child-like anticipation we await the next thing, the moment, the destination, the day.  This going through is a journey that takes courage. This isn't our home, but it is easy to live as if it is.  In the midst, dear Lord, help me be thankful for what I have.  With open hands, help me to travel through and love well. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

For Today, More than Enough

I wrestle her.  She seems to outwit me and break the rules by trying to choke the life out me.  The breathing, living hope sputters for air and she comes again with her steely grip.  The dogged determination I have to hold hope, to win this battle over creeping discontent, to find things to be thankful for.  She comes at me with running force and knocks the wind out of me.  I come up with breath of newly dawned day, and whisper a begged plea.  

I push her out the door, out with the cat food.  She grabs hold but I push her hands off.  No strength of mine, this battle I cannot win.  "Mercy, Lord, mercy.  Grace, Lord, grace.  Double doses today.  I need them." I swallow them like a starving man half gulps down his meal without chewing too much.  This medicine, this food, it satisfies.  Give thanks, eat and it is more than enough.

Little boy hands reach and touch blue frog, little boy body creeps backwards across the kitchen floor and bumps into legs that tower over him like the great granite pillars.  He touches toes, and continues his trek, scratching tile grout along the way, collecting treasures with his excited eyes.  "He isn't mine," I remind myself.  He's like a new library book on loan to me.  His long fingers explore, little replicas of mine, tiny little wrinkled knuckles.

He tells me it is a heart posture, this learning in all things to be thankful.  It is more than a prayer whispered over a meal.  The life attitude that everything I have I do not own, and what I have is pure gift.   A gift, what we have been given, when our eyes choose to see what we have not been given.  A gift, when with camera like clarity we choose to focus on what we have and the background becomes blurry.  Stewards of life, of joy, of hope and what we've been given.    We'd like to package things up, and put a number on them, file them away in place.  But life is a conglomeration, a book that bleeds ink page to page that describes what we have relates to stewardship and relationship.  It isn't the ten percent we give, it's the hundred percent that we have. And we unpack these little boxes, and choose not to live a sham.

And yet, some days I still wake up wrestling with her.  With trembling, hungry hands I'll drink this overflowing cup I've been given.  It spills and satisfies, reminding me of the more-than-enoughs and the abundantlys. Today, that is enough.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where the Warmth Is

"Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only night. "-Victor Hugo
 
Jack paints the grass white, and trees watch on with naked arms icy with wonder. I look out and my breath whitens the pane.  Inside the kettle whistles monotone, and fire glow casts itself over objects in the room.  I see his eyes look on with wonder as the light plays in his eyes.  He bangs on silver pots with his yellow toy. We long to go out, but we are in.  We stay where the warmth is. 

I weave stories, read, and look at books with him. He rubs his tongue like a little wave against the two white little chicklets of teeth. His little hand finds the patch of hair that he rubs when he's satisfied.  We'd walk together but it's too cold.  I long to go out, but I stay in.  I stay where the warmth is.

"Home is not four walls and a roof," I remind myself.  I long to go out, and I go.  Alone with a cup of coffee and a computer I make lesson plans.  A dog sits on my feet, and on cold days I long to stay in, but I go out to watch people. Home becomes a very fluid concept during these days.  Grey is the color of loneliness, with snowflakes falling.  Inside, I'd put up a tree with lights.  I stay.  I stay where the warmth is.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," they say. But do they know that each step takes courage?  Each step leads closer to home, the one where I will stay.  I long to go, but I am here.  Memories fling themselves across the canvas of time.  I'll stay where the warmth is living, breathing,  while I grasp the life-giving hope of eternal spring.  Contentment in the here and now, peace in the present.  I long to go, but I'll stay where the warmth is.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Different Creatures

"Evidently according to the radio show I heard today, most women don't feel good enough," he says.
The corners of my mouth curve.  "Do you feel like you need to be validated, because that was what the radio show was saying."  I smile with a sigh.  "No, I don't need to be validated.  But yes, what he said was generally true."

We live in a culture in which we can't keep up.
We can't be as slim. 
We can't be as athletic. 
We can't be as crafty. 
We can't get as many things done in a day.

And the problem mainly is that we can't be who we are not.  Usually the temptation is to compare ourselves with another woman who seems like she has it all together.  But we've been created to be ourselves.  Bumps, flaws, and bad hair days, we are who we were meant to be.  Growing and stretching into what we will become takes time.  But we can't be who we are not.

Awhile back, I gave away all my yarn to a friend.  She asked if I would need it back.  I told her, "No, because I won't use it.  I got it at a time when I thought I would be good at crocheting.  I've tried.  It hurts my hands.  I'm not that great, and I'd rather spend my time doing something else." This being who you are also takes admitting to yourself who and what you are not, and accepting with open hands who you are.

I tell my hubby that we women need to know we are loved the way we are.  That we are cherished (in spite of what we are and are not good at).  He looks at me and says, "I would have never thought that women go around with these kind of thoughts in their heads everyday." I smile at him, "Well, Honey, they do."

He sighs.  What different creatures women are.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kitchen Cupboards

The drawers pull out now!  Yeah!

Phew!  Just in time for Itty-bitty to figure these doors and drawers out. But not quite yet.  Still working on crawling.

Huge thanks go to my fantastic cupboard arranger....my husband.  We're on a roll now, so I'm guessing a few more throw away/organize projects are in the works.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Small Space Kitchen

Welcome to the kitchen...in need of a little organizing help.  Excuse the overflowing trash can, please...

No dishwasher, and a lot of counter clutter. I haven't learned any trick to help other than to do dishes regularly (as in after mealtime), and try to find everything a home.  Problem is finding everything a home right now, but I'm working on that.

Thankfully, I have a rather large pantry space. It cannot be seen in this picture.  The kitchen is a part of our living and dining room.  A three person table is at the end of the counter top, and the kitchen is open to the living room.  Compost bucket on the end...we don't have a garbage disposal so the chickens get to have the scraps! Lucky chickens!

Tackling the Cupboards


Good grief, I'm a mess...
HELP!!! I can't get anything without an avalanche.
Hubby built me these nice shelves that pull out in our cupboards.  Since we both tend to be cheap savers, he figured we could buy the unfinished cabinets and finish them ourselves.  We used polyurethane and a pretty wood stain to make them stand out.  On the inside, however, they've become kind of a mess.  My Mom would probably tell me everything would fit better if it nests.  In practicality, I know this.  In practice, my hands can't get anything to nest well except the Rumis  game.  I rock at that game.  How come kitchen cupboards don't work like board games?


This project is two-fold:  I'd like to get some shelf protector down, and I need to organize the cupboards.  

As of this evening, we, yes WE finished this project.  I sorted stuff into order, and my ever-so-great at packing husband fit what needed to go back into the cupboard neatly.  Maybe this is how you organize a house?  Teamwork...doing what you are both good at!  On the up side, we threw away a trash bag of cupboard clutter.  Pictures to come of the new organized cupboard tomorrow.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Work Together as One

"It is, I think, that we are all so alone in what lies deepest in our souls, so unable to find the words, and perhaps the courage to speak with unlocked hearts, that we don't know at all that it is the same with others." - Sheldon Vannauken


I don't have anything to say that isn't like the person next to me.  No claim to fame, no edgy writing to shock you out of your seat.  But I, like you, have seen everyday mercies new.   The whispers of my past are just like passing wind that blows through bare tree branches.  It whistles for a time, and then is still.

This getting to know someone may take a lifetime.
I remember when we were dating and I said I wanted to get my master's degree.  He asked why in the world I would want to do that, and it was like a little part of me died.  The irony is that when we told this story this week, he confessed, "I'd NEVER say that to her now.  I  KNOW her."  Is it possible, I wondered, to explain to someone who doesn't understand?  Will he understand?  How long will it take to make him understand how important this is to me?

4 months after we were married
And here we are.  He's doing something he was pretty adamant about NEVER doing.  Books tower over his laptop as he studies.  This work of studying is time consuming.  But oh, the discoveries he is making about topics he always wanted to know about.  I see him growing, I see him becoming, I see him sacrificing.  "We'll get you through this," I say.  And right now the only way seems to be through.  There are no easy answers, only perseverance.  

He tells me I'm next.  I think of my baby, my lack of time  and  of that girl riding in the car with him a few years ago trembling and wondering if she would ever feel herself or if she would be giving up all she ever was for the sake of a union that would seemingly take away the freedom she'd known.  (She did feel herself after some counseling, and she didn't lose her freedom, only gained new responsibilities and more freedom.)

And you know what?  She found that the greatest freedom was being known and loved.  She found solace for those dreams that were accepted and not silenced. Conversations over meals with laughter.  It took knowing and understanding.  The answer was on the other side of two lives becoming one in two lives working together as one. 

We quiet our souls.  It is enough to sit quietly and to know in the still we are known and loved.  Blow, winds of our past.  It is enough to remember and then be still.




 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Small Space Living

I've been contemplating sharing some small space ideas, and my actually progress of weeding out stuff in our small space.  I have a few projects I need to get done like the kitchen cupboard space, the baby bedroom storage space, and a general weeding out of our closet and dresser.  This sounds like it should be easy, right? 

I've come to the conclusion that I have to get rid of some stuff.  It's nice stuff, but it is hard to store and maintain.  It needs to find a home where it can be used and loved since at my house it is just gathering dust and taking my time up to organize.  A friend referred me to a site called apartmenttherapy.com.  I love it because it has a small space section.  (And I'm talking it finally has a small space that is similar to the one I live in and not over 1000 square feet.)  It sure has some useful ideas! 


So welcome to our small space on the prairie.  I'll be sharing some before and after pictures of projects, and of finishing jobs we've done on the inside of our house.  Welcome, take up a seat, and come learn to organize with me. 

Row, Row, Row

"Row, row, row your boat," he continued, "gently down the stream.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Life is but a dream."  He paused, looked down and half-joking whispered in Itty-bitty's ear,"It's a nice rhyme, but that philosophy is all wrong."  I giggled to myself at the sink since he seldom reads the correct words and because he was thinking about the words as he was reading them.  A child's rhyme, and philosophy all in the same breath.

We want you to know little one that you are safe and loved.  Life out there isn't a dream.  In fact, sometimes it is more like the next page in the book that states, "Rock, rock, rock your boat gently to the shore, if you see a lion, don't forget to roar. " Because life will roar in your face, your boat will rock, and sometimes you will wonder if the water will submerge the little boat.  And we pray you have the courage to roar back, and to weather the storm.  But for now, little one, know the innocence of this rhyme.  We hope our home it is a shelter for you.  A place where you know you are incredibly loved, little miracle.  A place where we will teach you, help you, and soon let you go so that you can test your boat in those storms.

But for today, row, row, row.  We love you, little son. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Here and There

An absolutely gorgeous day here on the prairie.
Blue skies, sunshine, and low wind make me one happy girl. 

 Hubby jokes that I am fueled by sunshine, and I suppose in some ways that is true.  When the winds don't blow so hard that it is difficult to be outside, and if the weather isn't so hot that I'm sweaty all over, I really enjoy being outside.

As you can see from the pictures, we have no neighbors.  Just wide open spaces of sky and plains.  "Why does the sky look so big?" I've sometimes wondered.  My theory is that without mountains to give a higher horizon, the blue just seems to stretch on for miles. 

We're contemplating building at our house.  We're getting 10 chickens this evening, and they need a chicken house.  For now, we've got a temporary structure for them.  We also got a black cat and a grey cat.  I have plans to call them George and Martha since this is an election year.  Right now they are both 'kitty, kitty...' And we've talked about adding on.  Again.  The problem has nothing to do with not knowing what we want.  It's the reality that we both know how much work it takes to build and to finish.  We're both really good at starting something and not finishing.   It's easier to start with high enthusiasm than to finish with it. 

So here is to building and finishing....and a perfect day spent in the outdoors.

Friday, October 26, 2012

By All Means Sing




"If you hear a voice within you saying, "You are not a painter," then by all means paint...and that voice will be silenced." -Vincent Van Gogh

I didn't try.  My main mistake that year was failing to try.  
"You've got a good voice," he told me, "And I would have put you in ensemble."
But I didn't believe it.  I'd been told since junior high that if you couldn't sing vibrato, and you weren't friends with someone who had clout, or didn't have singing lessons,  you couldn't sing, even if you could read notes and carry a tune.  You couldn't sing because one person decided the worth of your voice.

We moved.  The new teacher, he told me I could have sung in the ensemble, but I didn't try because I didn't believe I was good enough.  Entrance into the ensemble was by audition only.  The next year I tried and I made it!  I learned the joy of singing with my alto voice blended in harmony with others, offering together a gift of music. That teacher gave me the gift of hope and courage.   If you find a voice within you saying, "You are not a singer,"then by all means sing....and that voice will be silenced. 


We can spend our lives listening to that voice....you know, the one that says:
You aren't good enough.
You aren't beautiful enough.
You aren't like so and so.
You aren't lovable.
Silence the lies with truth:
His grace has covered you.  You are good by His grace alone.  He has given you unique talents.
He has made you, formed you in your Mother's womb.
You are exactly who He made you to be, and comparing yourself with another isn't wise.
You are loved.  Completely, totally, unconditionally.

 He offers us the bread and cup, and says, "This is for you.  God loves you, Lisa."  I hear my name and I know.  God loves me and He calls me with His shepherd voice and affirms His love for me by giving. The bread cupped in my hand, the cup held in the other.  Love meets me where and when I remember with Thanksgiving what He's done for me.  This bread, this cup.  Take it, and remember God's love for sinners.  His voice silences the lies. 

"The voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says 'Do not be afraid.'" -Casting Crowns

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fly

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." - C.S. Lewis The Four Loves

They told him to fly.  Fly, because you can, the doctor said.  Fly because you love it.  Fly because it makes you feel alive, alert, and yourself. 

 His eyes light up when he talks of flying, his mind acutely aware of all the details of landing a tail-dragger.  Forty some odd years of flying ought to make you an expert at that.  But, he notes, there are certain skills you can't teach someone that are like second nature to the person who possesses those skills.  My hubby, he nods his head.  And I listen, knowing that my husband has keen eyesight and perception, and notices details most would miss.  This perhaps is part of being a pilot.  His hands, they can fix airplanes.  But they can't fix this.  Fly, they said. And he thinks of all he will leave and what comes next.  

He asks Hubby to fly.  "Fly, because soon I won't be able to.  Fly, because we love it.  Fly because it makes us feel alive, alert, and ourselves."  An airplane can soar in the quietness of the sky on a clear day above farm ground, and miniscule monopoly homes.  Fly, because it makes problems seem far away. 

He looks at the calendar and calculates.  If we time this right, Hubby will have his tail-dragger certification in November.  Our friend gets weaker, but still talks of flying.  He knows he soon will not have the strength to operate his plane.  Between trucking and flying, it is what he has known best.  

He sits in our living room and tears up.  "They gave me this quilt to remind me that I'm covered with God's love."  He still walks, and lives.  But if you ask him what he does, he'll tell you he quit his job in August, sold his trailer and truck, the only income he's ever known, because he was diagnosed.  "Two months, they said.  Four if you are lucky."  Terminal lung cancer will bring an end to his life, there will be no cure, just maintenance. 

"Fly," the doctor said.  "Fly because you love to."

Fly, he says, and is letting go slowly but surely.  He knows that God loves him and holds him.  It's the grief of goodbyes, and the separation pain He feels.  We feel it, too. "I'll try to get certified," Hubby says, knowing that it will take time and energy.  "We'll fly," he says, even though neither of us want to think of a day when his strength is so depleted that Joseph will have to fly.  

Something like this should hurt.  We could withdraw from it knowing that the grief of death is coming, but love chooses.  Love chooses not to withdraw.  Love anything, and you will risk being hurt.  

"We'll fly," Hubby says.  Inside it feels like my heart is tied, bound with ropes of sadness.




Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Sweet Family

"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!" Albert Einstein

We had family pictures done in September by Jenny of Long MemoriesShe did a fantastic job of capturing us enjoying one another on our farm.  It is so precious for me to have these pictures because I am usually the one taking the pictures of my boys, thus I don't have very many with all three of us in them except the ones I have from the day Itty-bitty was born.  
Itty-bitty was quiet and pretty somber.  He vacillates between really happy and really mellow.
Mr. B cracking lots of jokes.

Trying to get El revved up for a smile.

Or a half-smile will do....

Mr. B being clever about something....

Heads up!  (Notice my boots...who'd have ever thought I'd have a pair of cowboy work boots?!!? Not me.  City girl, meet country.)

I love the intensity in their eyes.

Love me some KS sunflowers....and some snuggles.
Have you loved on your family today (and not just in the pictures)?  Give a hug, a smile, a kiss.  Make a meal, clean (yipes) those places that you've procrastinated to clean, say a kind word, send a note, surprise them with something special. 

I remind myself that these moments will pass. 

And that reminds me of this song two of my good friends (Kim and Alisa) and I used to listen to.  "This Day" by Point of Grace.

When I look back at this picture of Point of Grace, I think to myself...wow, look at those pants and hairdos.  :)  Kinda dates me a little...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Native

Sabino Canyon-Tucson, Arizona
"Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind." -C.S. Lewis

 "They'll grow," he says.  I don't say anything, but I'm not sure.  
"We'll give them water, and sunlight," he smiles with a twinkle in his eye,"and these mesquite trees will make it."
"How different could this climate be from Arizona, anyway?"
"Arizona doesn't freeze very often, I've never seen it do so more than a handful of times in all the years I lived there."
"What did you do when it froze?" he asks.
"My parents would cover the fruit trees, but we didn't have a deep freeze."

So we wait.  They grow a little.  He puts rabbit wire around them to protect them from the rabbits on the prairie.  The freeze comes.  They die.
------
"They'll grow," he says.  I'm not so sure.
"We'll give them water and sunlight," he half smiles, "and our little boy will swing from these apple trees someday."  

So we wait.  They grow a little.  He puts a fence around our grove.  But the wind blasts, and summer unleashes a fury of heat that water cannot keep up with, and several of the trees succumb to a pest.  
--------
"They'll grow," he says.  I don't say anything.  I know he's right. These trees are native to our red dirt prairie land.
"They'll get their own water and sunlight, and there are other trees like this growing here.  These elm trees will thrive in the dirt we have. "

So we wait.  A few trees become many.  We don't have to build a fence around them.  
-------
The difference?  
Native trees grow best in the land that is considered their environment. 


Just like a tree needs the correct environment to thrive, so does the soul.  Is it any wonder then, why I sometimes feel out of place?  Like I have to battle, fight to make thrive, and to do what is right?
Like I'm stunted, dying? My soul has to fight to prosper, and live.  That part of me doesn't seem like it fits in this world.  That is because it doesn't. 

My soul was not made for this world but the next.  It isn't native to this world. 

 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beautiful Joy

The stack of our old International Harvester
Neat parallel chocolate rows of dirt line the fields as if they are mapping the way for the green wheat to arrive in perfect, synchronized form.  The sky is a somber grey today, and the rain is supposed to be here in a day or two.  Inside, I sip my decaf coffee, and bounce my little one on my knee.  The harvest will come, but there must be a planting.

When harvest comes, little one, you will be a bigger boy.  We will show you trucks and tractors, and you may remember or even toddle around our legs.  The world will seem so big, and so fresh and green then.  You were born a few weeks before the earliest harvest that farmers in these parts could remember, and just about 10 days after huge tornadoes swept our state and our neighbor's home away.  You were due just 5 days after the tornadoes, and Daddy and I were both glad you were not born in the storm shelter.

We sing to you.  We play with you.  We read to you.  We love you.  What joy you bring our lives.  We plant little seeds of kindness, and little acts of love.  There will be difficult times, we know.  But this laying down of our own lives, this self-sacrifice of love and time is for something bigger than ourselves.  We choose to love each other, sometimes imperfectly, but always with laughter.  We are learning to be your parents.  You are planting in us seeds of love, and oh, the harvest of joy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Do You 'See' Me?

I'm linking up again this Friday with Lisa Jo for the Five Minute Friday challenge.  Write. Just write.  No editing.  Join up if you'd like!

See me.  I'm over there in the corner.  I'm a visitor.  I wish I wasn't one, but I am.  This crowd, it makes me uncomfortable.  I really want someone to see me, and be genuine.  Talk to me, I'll listen.  But yes, you have your friends.  I've been away from the states for some time, and I've got to take action.  "Welcome," I wish I felt it.  I wish I felt like you are actually glad I'm here.  But I'm on the outside looking in, and I'm not sure I want to be with the 'in' I see.  So I leave, and vow that I will be the change.

I will be the person who invites you over to my house.  I will be the one who sees you, yes you, in the corner with your eyes down.  The shy one.  The one who doesn't really want to carry on conversations for politeness sake, but for the sake of knowing, loving.  I will reach out.  I will give you a hug, and say, "Welcome!"

And when I do, I'm surprised to find that you like me, have a soul.  You want to know, and be known.  I find in the process of welcoming I am crazy, incredibly loved.  In the process of welcoming, I am welcomed.  Though this isn't my home, and I feel like a stranger trapped between two places I have lived in the last ten years, I know this isn't the final welcome.  I won't step off the plane, and feel it home.  I'll step off the plane, and have dreams of the other place while I'm present in this one.  My heart longs for timelessness. 


Five Minute Friday

Monday, October 1, 2012

Because Not Every House is a Home



"A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands." Proverbs 14:1

Hubby in front of our home...flying his kite.
It's easy to think I want something different.  I want a house that looks like a house.  I want more space so we have room to have people.  I want a dishwasher so I don't have to do dishes three times a day.  While it is one thing to want those things, there is a fine line between dreaming and complaining. 

How is it that I've lived in smaller spaces, and I've had no problem?  I  lived in a 21 floor apartment building, and it didn't look like a house.  I had no problem washing my dishes.  And good grief, I didn't even have  a clothes dryer.   When surrounded by the 'better' things in life it is easy to notice and complain about what we don't have compared to someone else.

My eyes stopped on this "...but a foolish woman tears it down..."  I'd never read it in this translation.  But the visual picture it gave me was overwhelming.  "Lisa, every time you complain about the dishes, it is like you are taking down your house board by board."  Hubby built our house before I was around.  Nail by nail he put it up.  He is the epitome of responsibility.  And you know, when I complain it is like slapping the face of the one who provided it for me.  I am saying, "Hubby, this isn't good enough for me.  Thank you, but I'd like something else."  And to amplify that, "God, this isn't good enough for me.  Thank you, but I'd like something else."

So I stopped.  Every time I'm doing the dishes and I start thinking wrong, I picture myself tearing down our house.  Our cabinets.  What Hubby has worked so hard to build.  And I realize we are building together.  We are on the same team.  When I complain, or compare what I have to what someone else has, it won't look the same.  The Giver is the same, but the gift is different. Your house may be small but your sense of home can be filled with an even bigger sense of love.  The love that you share with others within your four walls will have everything to do with the legacy you leave for your family.   

Because not every house is a home.
It was my 'ah-ha' moment.
In what ways do you build and cultivate a sense of  home? 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Leaving

I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday....five minutes of writing without editing or over assessing.  (Lovely exercise for this recovering perfectionist...)

GRASP
GO

"Is there any free space I could shove this bag?" I ask.
We made our way to the back of the plane, our seats were in the very back.  Unfortunately, that also meant everyone else had taken all the overhead space.
"No, you'll just have to keep looking yourself," she replied with irritation.
I looked at my husband, and tears started to form in my eyes.  They threatened to spill.
"I can't handle this right now," I tell him.  He gets me to our seats, and grasps our two carry-on pieces in his hands.  "I'll get it, you sit."
"I'm sorry," I tell him, as the threatening tear storm looms and my eyes begin to seep tears.
He knows what the morning has been like.  The rainstorm.  The struggle to get a taxi.  The emotions of leaving.
The sky cried the day we left, grey sad sky.
She hadn't stomped in that dirt puddle this morning, or had to hail a taxi three times, I tell myself.  My nose begins to join in with my tears.  He comes back, he knows.  He's found a place for our bags.  I burrow my head in his shoulder, and he asks, "You okay?"  
"Yes, I'll be okay, I'm just overwhelmed." 
I dry tears, but the heart still aches.  The captain comes over the loud speaker, and we hunker down for a fix up on the tarmac.  The journey begins with a single step, one foot after the other, numbly following the other.

STOP
Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quiet

The Mister and the Wee One
We've been going through the process of getting teeth here at our house (the Baby, not my hubby or I).  We've had our share of sleepless nights for a few days, and I've discovered a few things about sleep.  Well, I kind of already knew it.  I love sleep.  I mean, sleep and I get along REALLY well when I get some.  And when she's gone, I'm learning how to function, and trying not to clench my jaw when I think about things.  Sleep and exercise usually help.

This evening the house is strangely quiet as my tiny one went to bed without crying.  He's as tired as we are after the last three days of teething.  He wanted to fuss and be comforted.  He wanted to snuggle his little drooly face next to my shoulder and lay his head down.   And I think of the rest that really refreshes.  The comfort of knowing you are safe and cared for, and being able to rest even in the mess of life.  This rest, it refreshes. 

So sleep sound, little one.  You are safe and loved, not just tonight, but always.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Country Living

Storm on the prairie
I'm joining up with Lisa Jo for Five Minute Friday.  You can join here.


Wide.
Vast, open, real, vulnerable.
Limited.
Closed, clenched, tense.

We live out on the vast prairie.  We see the seasons change in the trees and grasses around us.  Our little house is surrounded by wheat fields in our country's breadbasket.  Our county produces the most wheat in the US.  At least that has been what we've been told.  Out here, we make an attempt to know our neighbors.  I say attempt because for me it is as difficult as crossing another culture.  

These farmers have lived and worked out here for generations.  The German community of which we are a part goes back to the land rush and settlement, when settlers could claim their own 160 acre plot and farm it.  The community is tight-knit.  I could say I've tried to make friends.  (I have.)  I could say I'm giving up and moving to the city.  (I sometimes feel like it.)  But truth is, I know that the next two years we need to live out here, and two years is a long time not to make a friend.  

So I look at him and say, "We've got to change something."  And we do.  We invite people out.  We change churches.  The country church isn't a mega-church and it doesn't have a bunch of programs.  But with 40-ish people we find what we are looking for.  We find a community of believers.  We let go and open our hearts to our neighbors and friends.

It isn't the big decisions that change us, it is the small ones.  Indecision holds us at times and the results remain the same.  Little changes.  I can do that.  We can do that.  Didn't  Einstein say that the fool is the person who does the same thing over and over again and expects different results?  So here we are on the open prairie throwing our doors open wide, knowing that to be vulnerable is to risk being hurt. 
Five Minute Friday

Monday, September 17, 2012

The REAL Issue

I'm linking up with Sarah Markley to blog about social media. Join here if you'd like.

"....I realized that when I compare my gifts with someone else's, there are only two places to go: inferiority or superiority. I either become envious or arrogant.....there's no spiritual benefit to doing that, and it comes out of a carnal, self-centered heart."- Chip  Ingram

"We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” - C.S. Lewis  

"And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it."- C.S. Lewis 

To Read C.S. Lewis's writing on the 'inner ring'-go here.


No guff, he cuts to the quick and says, "But that's not the REAL issue.  It's the heart."  
I know he's right.  How does he have this laser-like focus on life and what really matters?

We are a society that becomes addicted to the next best thing.
The tool somehow becomes the idol.
What can be used for good also has great power to be used for evil.
We have blogs.
We have Twitter.
We have Facebook.
We have Pinterest.
We have ipads, iphones, and the newest technological stuff available.
It can be used, and it can be abused.
It is neutral, but what we use it for, and how we use it has everything to do with our heart. 
From out of the heart comes envy, lust, greed, and pride.

"If I give this up, somehow, I am afraid that I will get behind and never catch up," she says.
This desire to keep up follows one and nips at the heels.  "I have to stay ahead," she tells me.  "If I get behind, what will people think?  How will I be able to maintain my job if they can't stay in contact with me?"  And I get it.  Pagers used to be the 'next best thing' in the 80's, and now it's the cell phone and the tablet.  The push to remain current keeps the electronics industry booming.  People want what is new and up-to-date, and they scramble to understand these devices just to fit in with the culture that evolves from having the gadgets. They want to be on the 'inner ring', the cutting edge, and be able to talk about these gadgets, devices, and apps with other people. And it changes.   Electronic companies change devices almost as quickly as the fashion industry changes clothes designs. 

That said, I'm way behind.  My hubby and I share a cell phone.  It's not even the kind with the cool screen you can touch.  Oh yes, I think they call those little programs apps.  Our phone is the 'phone home' cell phone.  We carry it from the country to the city, so that Hubby can call me between his classes.  I guess one could call it the 'love phone' because it's how we stay in touch when Hubby is away.  He checks on us, tells us he'll be home, asks if he can get anything, and tells us he loves us.  But I still stick napkin notes in his lunchbox. 

I have a laptop.  It does what I need it to do.  E-mail used to be the next best thing, then it was instant messaging, and after that it was Skype and Google Voice.  And (gasp) while we were overseas we spent two whole years away from Facebook, and were filtered from Wikipedia. We spent a lot of time reading books and writing email over those years.   I use the computer on a daily basis, but there are days when I put the lid down and don't look at it. The outdoors beckons, and Baby and I take a walk.  Hubby and I watch the stars.  We talk about what we are reading, as opposed to what we have to do.  Big ideas and dreams about the future. Plans, wishes, and hopes.  Theory, and theology.  His mind curiously at work, and mine, engaged in understanding and thinking and finding words for the thoughts.  Or we dance, in the living room, just because we can.    

Without realizing it, our culture has become one of immediacy.  The big house?  Now please.  The car? Now please.  The credit card bill is somehow ignored, and the price people pay is in their time. They are auction their lives off to be debtors to the credit card company, and slaves to the never ending rate race of 'Who Can Get Ahead?'.  The new devices?  Now please. There is envy, there is greed, there is pride.  These existed way before any of the new electronic devices.  But now it is possible to know how Suzy Q.'s beautiful living room looks,  how Nancy is building her new house down the street, and what new car Joanie got.  If God has given you these things, I am thankful that He has so blessed you.  Rejoice in that blessing, but please don't sell your life to it.  Life is so much more than what we can have.  Not everyone is so blessed, and if one isn't careful, they look at Suzy Q., and wish they had what she had (envy), or they look at Suzy Q. and think, "Well, I'm better than she is!"(arrogance), or they look at Suzy Q. and whip out their credit card to buy things they think they should have, too.   The matter lies deep within the heart.  

We were walking on campus one day when Hubby and I saw something I won't forget.  It was a gorgeous Spring day, but no one was looking around.  They weren't engaging with one another.  Two guys passed us, and they were both plugged into their ipods, their eyes focused downward.  They were clearly walking together, but neither was engaged in conversation with the other.  We passed a girl sitting on the grass who was totally into the phone conversation she was having but didn't seem to notice the world around her.  A guy almost ran into us because he was so focused on text messaging.  These devices have created a culture whose greatest struggle will be learning to be with and love on other people, and contentment.  The tools that keep us so connected, can also keep us disconnected.  

"Yes," I say, "You are right."
"The matter is a heart issue."  

Where is your heart?  How do you 'unplug' to spend time with family?  Have you engaged with a real-life friend this week?  Are you content with blog/home/car/ life that you have?  

To read two other posts I've written about social media, click here or here .

 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moonrise

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the blackness. “Where are you?” I ask. “Over here,” he answers. I step carefully through the dewy grass to the chairs he's positioned in the middle of our yard. The moon hasn't risen yet. “You know, I was thinking yesterday,” he said. “Those solar lights in the yard, how amazing they are.” “Yep, who'd have ever thought that up,” I comment. He goes on, “Then I saw the moonrise and it was full.” I smile to myself as he continues, “A solar powered light to brighten the night. It seems like what we try to do here on earth is only a reflection of something He has already done.” My eyes adjust gradually to the darkness, as we watch the stars. I observe the diaphanous Milky Way as she glows a trail across the night sky. A satellite passes, and I see a falling star. Somehow, out in the night air it is easier to focus, and watch. Life moves a little more slowly, and we observe the changing of the seasons in the sky. The north star, ever constant hasn't moved since men sailed their ships at sea some hundreds of years ago. This sky, a focal point of His glory.




Five Minute Friday

Friday, September 7, 2012

Grace-Filled

She smiled at me, and said something in Chinese.
I asked, "What does that mean?"
She closed her eyes and thought a moment.  "Grace.  You move like grace."
"Oh, you mean graceful?" I asked.
"Yes," she smiled.
.......
 I must have laughed all the way home.  She must not have been watching when I tripped unto the boat at the pier and almost landed in the water.  Never mind that we had to walk across a wooden plank balanced over the water to get on the boat.  Every morning I was afraid I'd end up stepping in the water instead of on the wooden plank.
.....
 "What did she say again?" she asked.
"She said I was graceful," I snickered.  "My Holly-hobby like skirt and I almost went head over heels into the Yangtze River and I'm graceful!"
My friend looked at my quizzically.  "But you are.  I see it."
"But my long and lanky limbs have absolutely no coordination," I shot back.
"Yes, but grace goes beyond how you hold yourself, it is a part of who you are," she said.
.....
When you love another person, you are full of grace.
When you see your neighbor and love them as yourself, you are full of grace.
When you give others the benefit of the doubt, you are full of grace.
When you listen and see the truth of what others say, you are full of grace.

It takes more than coordination to be graceful.  It takes a grace-filled life.




Five Minute Friday

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Anger

"My anger protected me only for a short time; anger wearies itself out and truth comes in."-C.S. Lewis

He bubbles up and ignites within me, and I am not supposed to feel him.  My face burns and I run up stairs to my room to bury my teenage head under the covers and cry.  I'm not supposed to name him.  But he is there.  You know those verses about '...be angry and sin not' and anger not being good.  So I decide it is better not to feel him.  I ignore him for the most part.  I pretend he never visits, except in the night hours when the lights are turned out, and I can hide my face under the blankets and cry hot tears.
......
"You're mad," she tells me.  "I can tell you are angry with me."  I quicken my pace down the back road from the park, and dodge into a storefront.  She persists.  "You can't treat other people like this when your mad.  You can't run and hide, and pretend I don't exist."  She followed me to the shelf with the trinkets on it.  I finger the figurine of the little blue bear, while all I want to do is go and hide my head and cry.  Anger, I'd been taught, was a shameful feeling.  

She is my friend, and I don't want to hurt her.  At least when she is angry with me, she talks in even tones, and expresses herself.  She doesn't unleash her anger on me.  In tenderness, she still makes me breakfast.  She laughs at my jokes.  She still thinks I am worth knowing.  And I start to heal.  Her love and kind truth balm up my brokenness teaching me about love, truth and forgiveness.
.....
"You are angry," he tells me.  And I admit it.  "Yes, I am," I say.  I ask for some personal space to process and he gives it to me.  I've learned that anger can be felt and dealt with appropriately.  But this choice not to feel him is a non-choice.  Because eventually he brews venom and spits it, wrapping his nasty claws around his victims.  To stew, to make a meal of him, and then pretend he doesn't exist only breeds bitterness.  He does exist, and he and I have made peace, not through hot tears and hiding, but through truth in love.




Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nobody Pays for Poetry, But Somebody Still Writes

“All world views yield poetry to those who believe them by the mere fact of being believed. And nearly all have certain poetical merits whether you believe them or not. This is what we should expect. Man is a poetical animal and touches nothing which he does not adorn.”- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "Is Theology Poetry?"

A handful of journals sit on my shelf filled with thoughts from junior high through college.  Notebooks of handwritten poetry written in evolving script.  "These are quite good," she told me.  "You ought to consider publishing them."  But there is no market for poetry. Yet my eyes, my mind work in poetry.

"We can write a song," I say.
He grins, and says, "That will take too long."
"Does he know me?" I wonder to myself.
I take a day with the piano, and work a tune.  My fingers work over the black and white keys, my mind calculating.   The words come next.
The next week, I play the tune.  I show the text.
He smiles, and says, "You're fast."

And yet as a teen, this is what I would do, days on end.  I'd create tunes and texts.  I'd sing my history lessons, or make up songs just to remember facts.  I'd do this, my mind zealously ablaze and at work.
 "We can write our wedding vows," I say.  He agrees.  "We can."
We take a few weeks and get it perfect.
Something happens when one's words are strung together on a page. 

She paints a picture in yellow, and I think of the story behind the picture.  Our hearts, lives were made for this.  Our own act of creativity mimics our worldview, and that piece in us that was created for the eternal. 


She asks me, "When you play the piano, do you see colors?"
"No, " I say.  "It just feel right."
"Can you read the notes?" she asks.
"Yes," I say, "But they bind me.  If I am creating, I hear what comes next. I can't write a piece and create it at the same time."
"Will you play for others?" she asks.  And my stomach immediately ties itself in knots.  "No. I can't."
"But they'd like this, they'd really like to hear," she says.
The thought of presenting what is so close to my heart to an audience brings my stomach to my throat.  "I can't, " I say.  I wrote these for an audience of one.
The thought of playing piano in front of an audience brings back memories of pressure-filled piano recitals, or in church.  I was supposed to be able to play those songs so that others could sing or follow.  But my hands would trip over the notes as I read them.  My palms would sweat.
"Can you write down your songs?" she asks. 
"No.  I don't know how to."

"Can you play?" he asks.
"Yes," I answer.
I put the Skype headphones near the piano, and he listens.
 He asks what the thought behind the song was, that song written in a minor key.

And I know that this gift is different than others.  It is mine.  I keep it close to my heart.

I once described his Grandma as 'deep waters'.  There seemed to be so much below the surface, so much that one didn't see when first meeting her.  I think each person now is somewhat like deep waters.  There are aspects about people that you don't understand or see until you know them really well. 

The hands paint, write.  The mind, curiously alive with ideas.  The heart, feeling more than one could express.  Personality reflected in our works.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moving



"To return means to revisit the strange feeling of being both visitor and resident, as if we are absentee owners holding titles to the property of the past. On the one hand, we know that this place will never again be home. On the other, we know it will always be home."
Bob Welch from Things That Matter Most


It is a strange dichotomy, this returning home.  
Like a fragrance from the past, it follows you, your story.  
So different from others, beautifully unique.
It is yours.  The sights. The smells.  The living.
It is your life.  Live it well.  Tell your story.
We left.  Our bags packed, jammed into a taxi that was almost sagging to the ground.  8 years of memories stuffed into 4 duffel bags.  They don't tell you you'll feel like this when you leave.  They don't tell you that the breaking, the remaking, the putting-back together of a dream sometimes takes leaving to begin.

We left. And some would say 'failed'.  As we struggle to relate, to love, to put back together and trust, we know that leaving does not mean deserting.  It doesn't mean one ceases to care, or that this dream has been abandoned.  It doesn't mean we don't think about our life and how we can best spend it.  It doesn't mean we don't feel the pain of deferred hope, or the sadness of missed friends.   Somehow these pieces will fit back together in their own time.

"We have a few weeks and then we will need to make some hard decisions."
I knew it would come to this. It always does.  Risks, decisions, the future. 
Being an adult doesn't release one from the responsibility of decisions.
"I know," I said.
A few weeks pass, and we choose.  We must.
I understand the gravity of our decision.  We'd done a whole lot of living in that apartment.  Meals and laughter shared with friends, and sorrow shared by a close few. 

"Here's our shelves, and our dryer, you can have them," I say. These pieces of my life, they are small.  I haven't had a lot.  She lets me hold her baby, that baby's hair all mussed from a nap.  "Where did you have her?" I ask.  And she tells me at the hospital around the corner last August.  I look into the baby's chocolate eyes that melt my heart, and I say, "She's beautiful."  And I know that she was probably there when I was there.  I hand the baby back, and leave with my husband, feeling the sadness of hope deferred, yet the joy of life given.

We sort out and give away belongings, and know that life isn't what we have or can pack into four large duffel bags.  I stress over what to pack, and what to give away.  My husband tells me stuff is replaceable, and to take what matters.  So he helps his girl, this girl who is so sentimental over every little thing that has been given with love.  And I let go.  They don't tell you the joy you'll get from giving is sometimes mingled with sorrow.   That the gift you give, sometimes you must give out of your pain.  And sometimes, the leaving brings hope that you cannot experience if you stayed.  They don't tell you that moving tires you, and feels so much like ending and beginning. 

They don't tell you that what is on the other side will be better than you can expect or imagine.  The ocean must be crossed, the risk must be taken, the life must be laid down to understand it isn't in the moving, it is in how you've lived and what you've lived for. 

How do you choose courageous living in a world that encourages comfort and safety?


 



 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Risk

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."  -Anais  Nin

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot

I coughed nervously and my stomach tied itself in knots. "Okay.  No problem." I'd say.  Inside I'd wonder if I really was able to do what they thought I could do.  "How did I get this job?" I'd ask myself and I'd think of how predictable the last few years had been.  No deadlines.  No words.  Journals.  Thoughts.  Occasional letters.  Students.  People.  Language Classes.  Piano lessons.  Creative endeavors.  Now one day would bleed into the next writing and research project.

 I lived in a small apartment, and my room was floored with dark mahogany wood. It was about 9 by 8.  A little daybed was shoved into the corner, a few bookshelves of my favorite reads lined the wall, and there was a balcony was off the end of the room.  Out on the balcony there was a  writing desk.  When it wasn't unbearably hot, I worked there as I watched the pigeons swoop on jasmine-incensed wind.  Somehow in that tight space, I managed to cough up words, and string them together on a page.  I'd dream of what came next. But this was my next. Then how come it hurt so much, this letting go of what I had hoped life would be? 

Fractured.  That year my life broke into a billion little pieces was the same year I discovered the beauty of what Sheldon Vanauken calls 'bare branches against a sky of stars' or something like that.  I read.  T.S. Eliot.  G.K. Chesterton.  C.S. Lewis's Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed.  Some Piper.  I asked God the hard questions.  Like how come this pain, this loneliness hurts so bad?  And why the pain?  And why couldn't you let bad things happen to other families, other people?  Why?  And He was silent.  I was 28.  

"Are you interested in a change?" she asked.
"Yes." I said.  "I dearly love my students but I've been doing this for 6 years making ends meet.  I need to start saving for the future.  I don't have a choice." 
And I knew it was true.  I needed to make a change.  I didn't mind where I was at, and I'd always had enough, but I was having to do side jobs in order to save back money.  I knew I'd probably never retire, but I didn't think that justified being irresponsible. And then there were those words of well-meaning people.

"You don't take enough risks." 
"You need to speak up for yourself."  
"You would have better chances of getting married if you'd put yourself in a position where you could meet someone."  
 
And I jumped and took a crazy risk.  I passed the interview process was offered the job, and I jumped, to show myself I could.  I left what had been my home for close to five years.  Never mind that I was overseas.  It was home.  Students came to see me off with gifts.  They ran after the van that would take me to the capital city as I cried a river of tears.  And I was gone.  The coal city with its dusty floors was but a memory, but the people, they still cross my path occasionally.   I became a small fish in a big pond.  My almost 2 ft. long hair I'd coil up on my head, and I'd wear business suits and dresses.  I'd talk myself into dressing the job, even though I felt like a scared six-year old.  And somehow, at the end of that year, I was a published editor and author.  

It isn't what I've written that comes back knocking on my door to say hello.  It isn't the words that I've penned that write me a letter, or give me a phone call.  The words, the jobs, well, at the time they defined me.   But the letters, the phone calls from people.  They've come back round. It isn't the words or the job. It isn't who I'm trying to be.  It's who I am, the pictures and portraits of where I've been, the people I know, and those who love me.  This is the making of a life.  

Do you struggle with letting go of what you supposed life should be, and embracing what it is?





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