Friday, September 27, 2013

Better to be True

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."-Dr. Suess

Today I'm linking up with Lisa Jo for Five Minute Friday where we write for five minutes without edits or's topic...TRUE.

It's there in the liquid sanity I drink before 7:45 am in the morning, the truth. One wouldn't guess that I've been a professional these days.  It seems the only thing I am getting professional at is the multiple changes of diapers and the routine that helps our days function.  I exchanged the heels for a pair of comfy Crocs flats (that don't look like Crocs, by the way).  In the morning I throw the eggs and sausage on, and we eat well, all of us.  Our day looks better this way, our day feels better this way, our day is better this way with food around the table to start.

It's there when I calm a tantrum by playing the "I love you" game.  "I love you more than all the airplanes," I say and he buzzes his lips like a flying contraption.  This grace, this daily grace, this true grace.  He gives it to me at night when he puckers for a kiss and snuggles up on his mattress with his thumb in his mouth.  He doesn't know.  He doesn't know how hard this is for me, how good this is for me, this learning to be a Mama.

It's there in the honest confessions to others of genuine need.  The you, the true you, the you that doesn't hide under the sheets, or quake from honesty, the you who contemplates and protects and trusts and every day struggles to think on things that are true.  The you who thinks you are no good at something, so has to be reminded every so often that yes, you can, yes, you are.  Yes, you are not perfect.  But that's okay.  It's better to be true.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Once Hoped For

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."- Epicurus

A thin line of sunlight peeked out from the dusty sky, and day peered at me through my back window that happened to overlook a dusty croquet playing field and a small vineyard.  From the comfort of my chair, I could hear the faint voice of the sellers that were peddling their goods on the labyrinth of roads in the hutong. At twenty-eight, my life had settled into a predictable routine.  I'd get up, find myself some breakfast, write (if I had time) for the educational magazine publication I'd been doing freelance work for, get lesson plans in place, and leave for work around 8:30.  Work happened to be teaching.  I was content with what I was doing but there was the gnawing question of  "What next?"  I'd been living my dream, except there were a few pieces still missing.  

There are many things one is told when one is single. 
  • If you start doing the right thing, someone will come along and join you.  (Implying that you aren't doing the right thing if this doesn't happen.)
  • You need to put yourself in a place where you can meet more singles. (Implying that you isolate yourself which may or may not be true. Some are not comfortable around large groups of strangers. Namely, me.)
  • You need to get online and try the online dating thing.  You know you could meet someone.  (Implying that perhaps you'd come off better virtually than if you were in real life.)
  • Honey, God will send you someone in His timing and it will be perfect. (And what if it takes more work than the 'firework' image of God just sending you someone and all the sudden, wham, you understand each other perfectly?)
  • You are getting old.  (And the other part of this will go without saying because really, one knows one's age and one's desires.)

And I'd been told some of these and a few others that I'll not mention.  In the quiet of the night, he tells me he prayed for me before he even knew me.  I'd been doing the same except somewhere in the late twenties I stopped.  Perhaps it was not what God wanted, I decided. Maybe I needed to be single.  Maybe this before me was to be my greatest work.  Days would come and go, I'd host students, play my piano, write, and teach, and take myself to bed in my little apartment knowing that I was doing a good job with what I'd been given, and trusting God with what I had not been given.  

My life has changed drastically since then.  It has been a difficult change, but at the same time, I've been given two great gifts, my husband and my son.  I forget some days, when the laundry heaps and piles of dishes remind me that I've got some other people to care for other than myself, that these people are blessings.  They get to see the real me, the one that has to repent of ungratefulness, the one that works in the garden with runny nose and rashy skin, the one that walks and writes, the one that one calls wife and the other calls Mama.  And it makes me want to be the best Mama I can be. The choosing of joy in the midst of the mundane, the looking for beauty in the middle of the normal---please--I want that.  It is here that I want to be real.

And I tell him, "It sure took you a long time to find me."  And he says, "Well, I had to travel halfway around the world."  This love we have, it takes work, it is work.  On days when I'd rather be doing anything else but household chores, I remind myself that there were lonelier days when I had no one to care for but myself.  There were no piles or laundry, no mountains of dishes because it was just me.  

"Good morning, big boy," I tell him.  He grins at me and jumps up and down on his mattress, and extends his arms.  Here we start again, we begin a new day as the great ball of orange greets the green prairie grass causing the dew to dance in her light.  Thank you, Lord, today, for this.  Today. Remember these gifts as the things you once hoped for.

How do you cultivate a heart of gratefulness for what you have been given?  What are you giving thanks for today?

Monday, September 16, 2013

In the Waiting

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
-John Milton

I drive, and I try not to think about it.  Words like "not again", "please not this", "more testing", and "pain" link themselves together and I turn on the CD in the player and listen.  Tears form in my eyes as I drive through the small town on the way to the big city.  Medical tables and invasive procedures of the past--of my past--in Asia blink through the mind and suddenly I'm back in the waiting room there with bunches of Chinese around me while I cry rivers and hold my MRI and ultrasounds in my hand.  "This will be easy,"  I tell myself, "compared to that."  But there is the 45 minute drive to think through things I'd rather not think about, to remember, and so I listen.  I listen to Fernando sing songs of faithfulness, of mercy, of love, of redemption.

I pull up in the parking lot and sigh.  I drink the rest of the water from my water bottle, and breathe a prayer.  "Please."  I get out, and lock the car, and enter the nearly empty office.  "Can I help you," she asks.  And my breath catches in my throat.  "Yes, I have an appointment, and I need to fill out some paperwork."  I finish as quickly as I can, and turn the paperwork in.  "You okay?" she asks.  And I manage a weak yes, but she can see my eyes threaten to spill and what I don't say is written on my face.  We're told not to worry about these things, we're told that suffering is for a purpose, we're told to trust, and that we'll have exactly what we need.  But what if what we need is something we don't really want?

The waiting room is nearly empty, and I hope I don't have to wait too long.  Long enough to think through what is going to happen.  They take me back and the technician asks me a few questions, and then looks at me.  "Are you okay?" "Yes, mostly, " I say and some of my worries spill out, and she says, "We'll make this quick," because sometimes the best words to comfort are no words. She's fast, and tells me results should be in today or Monday.  I get out of the room, out of the office, and take in the fresh air and sunshine. 

I must wait.  And oh, the waiting. We're all stuck in one way or another in the waiting.  The waiting for a job, a house, a career, a family, an orphan, a husband.  Waiting seems sometimes to be the restless holding pattern that bridges between now and the future.  

I get that call, the one I've been waiting for, and they tell me 'all clear' and there are sighs of relief and thankfulness.  Waiting is more than enduring, it is trust that the waiting won't be wasted even if the results aren't necessarily what is wanted. A life well-lived has a lot to do with authenticity in the waiting, the silence---that looks for hope in the face of adversity.  I don't have all the answers, and I'm still learning to trust in the waiting, but I know that His record to me in the face of suffering has always been faithfulness, even when I've doubted. He is at work redeeming me, redeeming the waiting. 

Are you in the middle of waiting for something?  What keeps you sane in the waiting?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Words Go Quiet

"A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it." -Michelangelo

“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 Vanauken

The words go quiet, softly whisper away; there are none that come.

Each day the sun rises as indian summer gives her final whoop and paints the sky fantastic pastel shades in the morning, and chooses to paint the sun with vivid orange and crimson war paint in the evening.  At dusk, dragonfly armies swoop in search of the mosquitoes, and chickens reluctantly find their way back to the pen and wait for the dawn.  Sunflowers droop their heads and say their shrivel in the mid-day heat.  This beauty.  What to say of it?  I see it everyday.  And yet some days my heart gets caught in my throat with the beauty and the Author of it all.  I know I am loved, and yet there is the pain in the midst of it.

The words go quiet though the mind is busy; it is enough to think these thoughts, to see such beauty. And so I hold them, these words, this mind, afraid to speak or write because I'm more critical of my own thoughts that are not at all original or new or earth shattering.  And I think of all I have been, and what I am now.  There are seasons, they say, (although I'm not sure who 'they' are) and one follows the next in its ebb and flow.  

And we go, and I write words that are read and see flowers and comfort friends as tears flow.  I've been told this writing, my writing, it is a gift.  But the words, they go quiet, and softly whisper away and a lump lodges in my throat and holds them down.  I tell myself that anyone can write, and I'd rather be known by those closest to me.  How come it is that I write perfectly good obituaries and am drawn to the the sad?  Why must I think so hard on deep things that I can only share with a few (and for good reason)?  And this choosing joy stuff, that's what it is in the dark when the sadness seeks to strangle joy. 

The diamonds come out on the black canvas of the sky.  The moon peeks her half-face through the clouds that shroud her in rainbow.   The words go quiet; there are none that come.  With full heart in a world of pain I lift my hands to the Creator who made this beauty, who made me in all my complexity. 

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