little moments like pearls.

in these days of endless hours spent in the quiet cave of a hospital room, i am learning to appreciate the little moments.  moments where the sun breaks thru the clouds, if only for a very brief time.

yesterday, we had such a break.  one of the specialty docs came in to discuss his take on things and, for the first time since this journey began, we felt like someone had control of the reigns, like they need exactly where we were going and how to get there.  we all breathed a sigh of relief.

my pops, who’d only been able to sleep for the three days prior, actually spent a good portion of the afternoon awake (about 5 hours).  his awareness was high as he cracked jokes, his chuckles filling the air.  it was enough to help me breathe a deep sigh of relief.

the relief was short-lived, however.  he settled into sleep and, within the hour, his fever had spiked to 102 and it was hard not to feel  like we had just taken a huge step backward.

a good friend (and angel in disguise) brought my sis and i homemade enchiladas for dinner.  needing an escape from the disappointment, we headed to the visitor’s lounge and watched Jeopardy while we ate.  my stepmom soon joined and eventually we found ourselves working on a puzzle for nearly 3 hours.  in the 4 years since she joined our family, we’ve never had such a concentrated amount of time together.  it was a beautiful little moment, putting that last piece in place, feeling a strange sense of accomplishment we desperately needed.

today i headed to the hospital after a long, 10-hour day at work.  i had just enough time to grab a cup of soup and sit down with my sleeping papa bear.  just as i was getting ready to pack up, the nurse had a visit, stirring him from sleep.  he sat up, slowly munching on an apple, sipping on his cup of water.  he was perky and present, looking for the remote for the first time in a couple days.  we settled on a movie and watched it together, our humble little gathering of family, all beaming as we heard my dad’s chuckles and commentary on the lives of lions.

behind the privacy of the bathroom door, i let tears of gratitude fall as i listened to him chatter.

then, just as quickly as it had appeared, the liveliness was gone.  he began asking after his pain meds and his movements were much less jovial.  i left before he could slip back into the black oblivion of drug-induced sleep.

little moments.

laughter shared across the room over nothing really, except the extreme shared relief of light at the end of the tunnel.

watching Family Guy for 1/2 an hour and forgetting why you’re watching it the visitor’s lounge of a hospital.

finding a vanilla pudding waiting on the top shelf in the cafeteria, complete with a vanilla wafer on top.

dad making a McNabb joke that, just weeks ago, which force a deep sigh from my lips, and cause a rolling of the eyes.

the little moments remind us that there is still something worth holding out for, something worth hoping in the best for.  the little moments remind us just how deep our capacity for love really is, as that love drives us to search, like deep sea divers, for the rare pearls.

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these dry bones.

i had the opportunity to visit Training School this Tuesday, and the first question Larry asks is “How/where has Jesus been transformative in your life?”  We were asked to divide into groups and discuss.  I paired up with the two guys closest to me and the last one to share said simply, “He brought life to these dry bones.”  Ok, he said more, but that’s the poetic synopsis.

i’ve really been wrestling with the-meaning-of-life type questions and frustrations lately, and it’s really been something that has clouded my vision and my heart.  but when this guys mentioned dry bones, i couldn’t help but think of all the times in my own journey with Christ that He has rejuvenated me, encouraged me, given me water to satisfy my parched existence.  is that enough, i pleaded silently.  is it enough to say that i do what i do simply because you’ve brought life to my own dry bones?

November is National Novel Writing Month, and with that comes a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month (that translates to 1,667 words/day); i am on my fourth year accepting this challenge.  to say i’ve had writer’s block would be a complete understatement.  i started with an idea, but found that after a couple of days, i hated my story and was avoiding my computer so that i wouldn’t be faced with writing.  after much debate, i scrapped the story.  then i started another one, trying to pull details out of thin air and growing more and more frustrated.

this did not couple well with my already overwhelming frustration concerning the meaning of things.  i began to critcize myself for being good at nothing, not even a stupid challenge that thousands of people have done.

the other day, as i was writing this fictional character’s story, it hit me that maybe i was having such a struggle because i had never really told my story.  this did not excite me, but it has been interesting to see themes emerge and to find that i still feel like breaking during certain scenes.  it’s strange to remember such intense details from events that happened years and years ago, and to realize that they still bind me somehow.

do your duty.

about a month or so ago, a couple of our regulars came in looking completely exhausted.  i know they have two young kids and a baby, and immediately thought about what a treat it must be just to get out for an hour for a quick coffee date, a luxury i take for granted.  for whatever reason, this began to trigger a line of thoughts that ultimately led to “i don’t think i’m unselfish enough to have children.”

when i confessed this to my friend and coworker, she reassured me that maybe that was a good thing to admit…but still it broke my heart.

a week or so later, i nannied for a little one, just over a year old and teething.  from sun up to sun down for 3 days, the little tyke and i trucked all over the southeast corridor, hitting up coffee shops and grocery stores.  i came to notice little aspects of his personality, how he would play with my hands as i pushed the cart or how quiet he became in a public setting, or even his attempt at signing “more” when he was eating.

then came the post-afternoon nap.  he was teething and having such a rough go of it that he would wake early, screeming fitfully, and could only be soothed by being held.  and listening to soft music, preferably Frank Sinatra.  for an hour and a half on two of the days i danced and held and cooed and whispered, just trying to hold back his tears for a minute.

needless to say, i went home exhausted.  but i discovered something about myself: i could be selfless.  i could do my duty.  i may have to take a 10 minute nap in the car before running into the grocery store, but i could still wake and pull myself together and change a diaper in the parking lot.

i could be a mom.

which is nice, but i’m not.

and the whole “duty” thing began to bleed over into nearly everything else.  it is good, it seems, to fulfill your duty–to love your kids, to care for them, to do the laundry or clean the bathroom, to see thru a confrontational conversation, even to forgive.  but then it feels as though everything is a duty.  even those things i love.  even those things i once dreamed would happen.  they all feel like nothing more than an endless succession of duties.  and it’s not even that i have a problem doing my duty, but that i can feel so disconnected, so full of doubt and questions, and still do my duty.

i’m having a bit of a Jimmy Stewart-like crisis.

questions lie at the root of all of this, particularly “why?”  “why does it matter?”  “DOES it matter?”  “do the tedious little actions i once touted were so important really make an impact?”  “why does my heart break for this when i’m powerless to change anything?”  “why do i continually throw myself against this, only to be broken on the rocks?”

and then, where do i go from here?

Jesus, take the wheel…

(so sorry for the cheesy country song line…it’s just what came up when i was brainstorming a title….)

i haven’t posted in awhile, but that is not for lack of things to write about.  life has been full, for sure.  the gallery has launched (you can read more about it here), Kelley and i moved to a house just around the block, our community is adjusting to having two houses, finding (paying) work continues to present challenges, and the list goes on and on….

this week, i’ve played nanny to a delightful 13-month-old who’s regular sitter was on vacation.  from early morning to early evening everyday this week, we’ve played, danced, talked, had meals, ran errands, and took naps together.  he was also subsequently teething, so i spent  a lot of time soothing frustrated tears.  definitely built up my mommy arms.

i have to admit, there was a bit of let-down as i handed over the car seat this evening.  because as exhausted as i’ve been and weary to the bone (how do real parents do this?!), i’ve gotten to know that little guy.  his mannerisms, his characteristics, how he responds in public, what makes him laugh.  there’s a sad sort of emptiness in knowing my future days will not be dictated by his schedule.

on a different note, i’ve been struggling tremendously with finances.  leaving my job, and working for the coffee shop and starting the gallery were all things i feel very sure of in doing, but they’ve come with a heavy cost.  growing up the way i did, in the culture we have, that both promoted self-sustainability as god, i have been a good little girl and haven’t shared how completely broken my situation is.

until tonight.

i felt a nudging last week to share with my community what i’m struggling with.  i fought this, even to the very minute i said it outloud.  not because i don’t trust them, but because counter-voices kept popping up, telling me i would be judged and labeled.  that i would be considered irresponsible and that i should just “get a job.”

the first questions one of the guys asked was, “do you feel like you’re exactly where you are, doing exactly what you should be doing?”  i started crying, and could barely eek out a “yes.”  because i do, and the hardest thing to digest in sharing my situation with others is that they might suggest i just do what it takes to pay my bills, instead of being risky and really living into the situation God has placed before me.

so then the brainstorming came.  one friend offered me a possible part-time job, another budgeting advice and to begin praying for a wealthy benefactor, while another laid out a beautiful vision of someone using their abundance of resources to fund my work with the gallery.  it was a beautiful conversation.  instead of feeling left out in the cold with lofty expectations to “pick myself up by the bootstraps,” i was loved and supported and encouraged to keep seeking out what God might do in this situation.

awhile ago, like several years back, God whispered something revolutionary to me: “i have all the resources in the world.  don’t you think if i wanted to, i could take care of any expense, pay any debt in a heartbeat?”  yes, i thought.  “then trust me.”

i am still learning how to trust Him in this, but am coming to a better place.  and starting to believe not only that He can, but maybe that He actually wants to.  that maybe He wants to free me just as much as i am longing to be free.  and maybe, just maybe, hope is still alive that the church can be the church for one another, a place where all are provided for and everyone is freed to live out their God-created identities.  it’s not wishful thinking…it’s beautiful dreaming, in a world with a God big enough to set dreams in motion.

just being.

i’ve taken the steps set before me.  moved through endings and new beginnings.  worked through endless 6-day weeks, trying to balance two different work situations.  busted myself trying to wrap up loose ends, training a new employee on my job, making sure she had anything she could ever need.  and all that led me…here.

wherever “here” is.  i find i have a hard time indentifying the season i’m in until it’s nearly over, and this one is no exception.  suddenly, i have only a very part-time commitment in terms of scheduled hours to a job.  i do have hours and hours of independent work to do, but all this is on my own time and schedule.  i went from having to rise at 6 am sharp to get a run/shower/food in before my 30-minute commute; now i can wake whenever i want.  run whenver i want.  make an elaborate breakfast and read an article while i sip my coffee.  i can bike to the pool in the middle of the day and have afternoon tea. 

this all sounds like i dream, i know, but i honestly don’t know what to do with myself.  i just don’t know what to do.  all this free time, i am quite aware, leads to no income of any sort.  the next season, though, will demand large amounts of my time, and during strange times, so i am hesitant to commit to even another part-time job, in fear that i will just end up quitting or it will take away from the Gallery, etc.  i keep seeking out God but mum’s the word.

something deep down whispers, just be.

just be.  such a foreign concept in our society of productivity.  to be honest, i don’t even know what that means.  for so long, my value has depended on what/how much i could produce. 

i’ve been babysitting this eve, spending time with a beautiful 9-mo-old, and if there’s one thing babies know how to do, it’s BE.  after dinner, i pulled the stroller outside and plopped him down in it, ready to take a walk.  he smiled as i strapped him in and stuck a finger in his mouth to relieve his gums of the pain of incoming teeth.  all through the walk, he sat still, never making a noise.  he had no clue where we were going, what he would see, if we’d be back in time for his beloved bottle , if i would accidentally run us both over a cliff.  none of that concerned him.  he trusted me and so felt content to be.

perhaps that is the key to this practice of  being.  if i believe i have a good God who wouldn’t lead down a path only to abandon me at the end, then i can trust the ride i’m on.  i don’t know where we’re going, what i’ll see, what will be needed from me or if i’ll have money to move into that little two-bedroom apartment i’ve been salivating over.  He does, though…i don’t claim to understand it or Him or even this process, but i am learning to trust.  i am learning to be….

so be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.  God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time.  live carefree before God, he is most careful with you.
-1 peter 5:6-7

living sacrifice.

and so it came, the morning the old man had been dreading for weeks.  he wiped his eyes clear of the tears that now, he realized, came so easily, and put away the breakfast dishes.

at the door appeared a young man who served in their stables.  he was there to let the old man know that the preparations had been but before he said a word, the old man nodded his acknowledgment.  the boy bowed slightly and was back out the door.

“papa!” he heard yelled loudly as a boisterous young boy came running through the house, a distraught woman chasing after him.

“isaac!” she called, breathing heavily.  she was no longer young herself, her greying hair and aging skin reflecting a life long-lived.  she was waving a shirt in the air and it was then the old man noticed that his young son was topless.  despite himself, he managed to chuckle.

he told no one of what his God had asked of him, could not bring himself to even utter the words.  it seemed just yesterday they were promised of the coming of this young son, his only son,  and today it would all be over.

their travel into the wilderness went smoothly.  his young son bounced with youthfulness and excitement.  he knew only that they were going to make a sacrifice to their God, a usual practice, but the day also savored of potential adventure, and the young boy could not help but shreak and giggle on the slightest provocation.  the old man rode at the front of the party where the tears could flow freely and out of view.

when they came to the base of the mountain, he stopped them and dismounted his donkey.  the young stable boy prepared to as well, but the old man waved him off.  he picked his young son up and tossed him over his shoulder, as they had done many times before.  young isaac giggled and squirmed until, just a few steps into the path, his father put him down and let him run ahead.

the old man reflected on the years with his little son, the promises he was sure he had been given, but that now felt questionable at best.  the promise of a future, of the joy of sharing life with isaac and his children, of seeing his family grow and live beyond him.

deep down something broke and he had to stop and wait for the rush of emotion to recede.  at that moment, his young son came running back and wrapped his arms around his legs, squeezing them hard in an embrace.  the old man bent down slowly and touched the young boy’s face.  in his eyes the old man saw his wife, the nose mirroring his father’s, the soft round mouth that resembled his own.  Dear God, he screamed out inside, what have you asked me to do?

they continued on to the spot he had reserved, and the young boy eagerly gathered sticks and branches to compile into an altar.  the old man moved slower.  he began to wrestle with the idea of backing out, of not completing this task asked of him.  fear rushed through him, and doubt.  while he knew in his head that his God could easily bring the dead back to life and that he would not ask something without good reason, he wondered at his heart truly grasping that concept.  he wondered at losing the only thing he had on earth he had ever desired, and loved most intensely.   he wondered if the grief would ever subside.

soon enough, the altar was ready.  the boy began to question what they would be sacrificing, as there were no animals present.  the old man squatted to the ground and pulled his son close, breathing in the sweet smells of sweat and soap.  he closed his eyes and kissed the boy gently on the forehead.  his mind was made up.

our God will provide,” he said with a forced half-smile, and lifted the boy to the altar.

Ash Wednesday

currently reading (the Message):
Lamentations 3:19-33
Hosea 2:14-15

we spent the morning with the staff of Common Ground, walking the city streets and partaking in an Ash Wednesday mass.  as i walked the long aisle to receive the ash-shaped cross on my forehead, i felt overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to repent.  we have such a loving God that allows us not only the chance to choose, but also to acknowledge our errors and come back to Him.

despite my week now of sickness (yes, i’m still hacking and sleeping poorly), i am drawn more and more to this radical Jesus who loves deeply and welcomes me back, no matter the condition i’m in.

so today begins the season of Lent, a time of reflection and preparation for the coming death and resurrection of Christ.  40 days until Easter (not including Sundays).  “40” is a symbolic number all through the Scriptures…40 days of the flood (Noah);  40 years of Israelites wandering in the desert;  40 days of Jesus fasting and being tempted.  so, Lent seems to be a time of fasting and praying. a time for God to cleanse and renew His people.

God has been gently and quietly pulling me to be still, and rest, which i have fought to the end.  (i had to chuckle yesterday when i realized that one of the only things that works to stop my coughing is to still my body and focus on my breathing).  through this contemplation, i’ve realized that my schedule, no matter how good the intentions, keeps me from being present in my house.  this leaves me scrambling, running from thing to thing, which fosters impatience and neglect with the people i live with.

so, for Lent, i am clearing my schedule.  this sounds dramatic, and i hope it is.  i will intentionally not be planning anything in the evenings and hope that this will foster more relationship with my housemates, as well as allow for quiet, still space with God.

Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.