Monday, April 29, 2013

Shelter

My least favorite season of the year has come.   It has me packing us a survival kit, and hunkered down in front of the storm radio when the winds get fierce.

Tornadoes.

Our friend the weatherman says it is his favorite season.  I'm sure it isn't one of my husband's favorite seasons because in the middle of the night when I hear a strong wind I ask, "Do you think we are in danger of having a tornado?" My husband will reassure me we are safe (even though he'd rather be sleeping).  And then I check the National Weather website to look at the radar.  I suppose it doesn't really help that our weatherman friend told us we live in tornado alley which is an absolute wonderful place to spot tornadoes!

When I met my husband he lived in a two story house with no basement and no tornado shelter.  His slightly paranoid wife made him build a storm shelter.  She insisted that no, she wasn't going to run to the ditch and jump in the culvert pipe.  After all, what creepy, crawly things might be living there?  He may have rolled his eyes, but he listened.  Bless that man.  He built me a storm shelter.  The funny thing is that he designed the storm shelter using a very large culvert pipe.

Now that shelter, it has gotten very little use.  We have an air mattress down there, several LED lamps, candles, and a tub of blankets.  The last time we used it was perhaps one of the times we didn't really realize we needed to use it.  I was five days from my due date with our son, and that night was supposed to be one of the worst nights in Kansas history of tornado touchdowns which are nothing like football touchdowns.  Our weather radio went off.  Then it went off again.  My husband was on the phone.  Enter very large with child pregnant woman who is hoping not to give birth in the storm shelter.  "Honey, we need to get in the storm shelter."  Five minutes later.  "Sweetheart, I'm going to the storm shelter, please come with me I can't move very fast and I need to get down those stairs."  We go together, armed with books, headlamps, and blankets.  The shelter itself has a musty book-like smell that encourages book reading.  Enter good conversations and books=about 3 hours spent in said storm shelter.  I do remember the going joke that some dark and stormy night my baby boy would be making his appearance.  (Thankfully, it was not that night.)

We leave to realize the electricity is knocked out.  Hubby had turned on the back porch light, and it was no longer on.  The house was standing.  Inside are several messages on the machine.  One from the wife of our friend the weatherman telling us to get in our shelter if we haven't already.  Two from family calling to ask if we were okay.  We waited about 30 minutes before cranking the generator (Old Green), and contacting people.  I guess we'd hoped our electricity would come back on.  After a little research and time we found out that we had been sandwiched between TWO tornadoes.  One passed 1/2 mile to the east, and the other passed 1 1/2 miles to the west.  The next morning we found out one of them totaled our neighbor's house and farm.  (I wrote about it here.)

That said, I'm glad we have a shelter.  I'm praying this year the storms will come and water our gardens, but be gentle on us.  The rain falls on the just and unjust, and storms don't respect  one person's land, crops, home over another.  But there is a shelter that holds one safe in the storm.  We are thankful for what we have but know we are just stewards of it.  Tornado season reminds me once again of what really matters. 

Do you have severe weather in your part of the country?  What do you do when it comes?  How do you prepare?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pick Up and Go

 "For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice."  T.S. Eliot

Adventure.
I wasn't really looking for it, but as a young 20-something who wanted to do something bigger than herself, and a little out of the norm, I found it.  You wouldn't think that a first year kindergarten teacher would be the kind to pick up the crayons, pencils, paper, puzzles, and books and leave them behind.  But when you leave, there is always something left behind.  The past will sometimes whisper life-like dreams to you in your sleep.  It is left, but not forgotten.  The constraints of time and space reach their fingers to the mind in the night hours when the dark has come and the eyes are heavy.  It haunts  in beauty the dreams in another language, the nostalgia of the moment wringing my heart like it is an drenched hand towel.    I am not where I was, nor will I be.  For who I am now has taken the place of who I was. And yet, who I was is mystically a part of who I am now.

Those books, they line my shelves.  Stories of people and places.  Language books in script that most people can't read.  Nestled in between the stories, they speak my story.  Sometimes I forget that the girl who did that was me.  I don't tell my story because somehow the tangles and brambles that get caught in stories that aren't mine to tell.  When I was the one confided in, I knew that their stories, their secrets needed to be hid.  They could not be spoken in daylight.  Such it is when you live in a foreign country, such it is when it is not your story but your daily reality that stories effect lives.

A small piece of who I am learned to live in secrecy, in quiet journal entries.  There are stories from this era of my life, luggage that bears weight upon the shoulders turning them red.  The worst kind of luggage, the kind you can't get rid of after a long train ride, and days of stowing it and then taking it out again.  But they are not my stories, nor are they mine to tell. 
What I could tell you is of village life, vineyards, dirt roads, public toilets, food poisoning, and exotic food. I've been on five modes of transportation in less than 24 hours making it from a bike, to three wheeled taxi, to a taxicab, to a train, to an airplane.  I've worn the same clothes the whole week long and no one has commented to me on my lack of style.  My bike has gone uphill in negative temps with wind, while water from my eyes froze on my eyelashes.  But this isn't what I know now.  When it is your reality for years, the routine normalizes.  But it isn't these kind of stories that change you.

But the day to day is the stuff that makes people feel like they connect to you.  "How was the food?" they ask, and "Did you have a good time?"  Two years of your married life spent abroad is not a vacation.  There is so much more that one could never express, that one could never explain after eight years of living abroad.  These stories.  They must be lived, but I'm not really sure they could be told.  

I wish the girl who packed her bags knew then what I know now.   These stories, they change you, they wrinkle your soul.  Some stories you may wish to tell, but they are not yours to tell.  Keep them close, they remain a part of who you are and where you've been.  This my girl, is what happens when you pick up and go.  Your past and present stories merge to create your future.





Do you have a story you wish to tell?  How do you tell your difficult stories?  Do you struggle with finding your voice?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Routine

It's there between the changing of the clothes from the washer to dryer.  The cupboard is open, its contents thrown all over the floor by tiny hands made to explore.  Coffee drips and gurgles its way down into the glass pot, the liquid goodness flavoring the air with awake. Routine flows from one job to the next giving her stability to those who dwell in the house.  We're not always on schedule, but routine, we know this.  She's stuck between the pages of our favorite books,  joins during nap times,  hops to the chores, and knows when to gather the mail.  

We need this.  I need this.  Like knowing what comes next in a good story, routine grounds us when life gets messy.  When we need to look to do the next thing, and keep our hands occupied, she comforts like a warm blanket.  Day to day we go from this to that and we know her.  She knows us and welcomes us, putting out mat.  When we have a break from her, we can't wait for things to get back to 'normal'. We need her sometimes to just remind us to be faithful even in the small things.

What are some routines in your house?  :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Stretching of Body and Heart


Photo by Jenny Long of Long Memories
 I stood behind the counter and she asked, "Is there anything wrong with these?"  She looked for the tag on the blue jeans that I wished would fit, but that were snug in all the wrong places.  My lips curled at the sides and said, "Nope, they are perfect they just don't fit.  I'm still trying to lose baby weight."  I've been told lots of things about losing weight after pregnancy, but the only thing that seems to take the weight off for me is five miles of walking everyday and portion control.  And I still have some pounds to lose.  He's stretched my body for 9 months.  I don't know if it will ever be the same.

And then there is my heart, my heart.  This year he's stretched my heart as I've loved and loved some more.  I've given when I had nothing more to give.  At night, I've chosen him over sleep.  Oh the expansion of my heart.  This love has stretched and expanded my life.  I know I won't ever be the same.

Has your love been stretched and expanded this year?

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Not the Going, It's the Goodness

"I'm scared of dying," she says.  I think of some quip I can offer, some anecdote that will solve that problem and take away that fear.  But I don't have one.  As young children, we are taught if we know where we are going when we die, we shouldn't be afraid to die.  For me, I've found it has more to do with Who I know than where I will go.  

He looks at me with eyes that twinkle happiness when he's awake.  We've been parted a few times, this boy and I, but not very many times since he's made his appearance.  He sees me and he knows that I will be good.  I will feed him, clothe him, bathe him, change him, and play with him.  He sees me husband and knows the same constancy.  When we are not seen and we are in an unfamiliar place, though, there is fear I see it in his eyes when I put him down and he is unsure of his environment.

I am much like a baby.  I cannot see the One I will spend eternity with, and I only know of Heaven from what I've read in the Bible.  Of course, there are those 'well-meaning' stories I've heard from childhood about Heaven that makes it sound like it is a place unlike I've ever imagined. The change? Will I be able to deal with it?    The new Heaven and the new Earth will be closer, I believe, to what we know now minus the sin.

The fear, I think, comes from not knowing what will come, how will I get there, will I recognize other people, how will I be changed?  There are no pat answers to this, because no one living has experienced it.  Some things are kept secret, and I don't know all the details.  However, I do know the Who.  I do know who Jesus is, even though I've never seen Him.  I've read enough to know He is good, and He is love.  I wish, like a child, there was some kind of object permanency about Him.  If I could actually see Him, I think I would know I am safe.  Instead, there is a faith that takes words and trusts them.  The environment will change, but I can know I wasn't really made for this world anyway, but for the next. 

I pick up my son and comfort him.  He relaxes into my frame, leaning his head on my shoulder.  I think with Jesus it will be the same.  Through all the change, I can rest on Him.  

"I'm not afraid to die," I tell myself.  But I remember that cold operating table, and flailing gasps for air.  Grace, grace is given when it is needed, and not before. The next memories are of an elevator, and the worn, worried face of my husband.  The thought that nags me is not the going, but of the goodness.  I can trust to be present with Him will be good, because He is good. For today, that is enough.
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