Heart Issues

You could call it hammering.

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You could call it pummeling.

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You could call it buffeting or polishing or refining.

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Sometimes you don’t know until it’s all over.

There are days you don’t get what you ask for. Instead of reprieve, you get the opposite. You are thrown right back into the fight just when you’ve come to the realization you’ve got nothing left to fight with.

You are falling down down down.

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But in the falling you have choices.
You always have choices.

Like when a thaw has finally melted away a fair amount of the snow that has hugged the foundation of your house for the better part of three months and then the meteorologist says to keep the shovel handy because another several inches is coming in the night to bury it all up to your calves again.
Oh, and there will be wind.

You have a choice whether or not to believe that under all that snow there are seeds germinating in dark places.

It is at night when the attacks come full force. Call it mid-life out-of- whack hormones or a pesky thyroid disorder, but when the heart races and the feet pool sweat and the trembling threatens to loosen teeth and your husband has to muckle onto you to keep you from running for an ambulance, there are still choices.  You have a choice to believe that, when the waves come and you feel like you are floundering in a dark pool of unbelief; faith germinates in the dark night of the soul.

 … three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…

What does a person do when shipwrecked for the first time, the body dashed against rocks and floating ship pieces, gasping gasping gasping?

What does a person do when the boat splinters a second time?  Do the “W” questions come pouring out? What’s going on? Why is this happening again? When is it going to stop?  Where are You?

But when the ship wrecks thrice and the person is left all day and all night floating floating floating, do the “W” questions cease because it is in resignation of abandonment that whispers the loudest?

Cloudy skies over a calm ocean

The whispers try to crowd out the still small voice, but the voice is a sword and it always manages to cut through the pounding heart and the adrenaline rush. It cuts through the wires that dangle from the chest hidden under a fresh camisole, the monitor pressed against the belly recording every errant beat. It cuts through children clamoring in classrooms and deep breaths are needed to keep from losing peace when an episode hits and the button needs to be pushed.

Buffeting.

Pounding.

Suffering.

Somewhere in cyberspace someone is reading the rhythms of my heart signaling what might be wrong, what is most probably right.

Somewhere in God’s Kingdom, He is reading the rhythms of my heart, expanding them for others, enlarging them for Him. There are no ship pieces to cling to. There is only Him. The Word of God breaks through the buffeting, the pounding, the suffering, the resignation like a ship breaking apart upon the rocky coast. His voice may come quietly, but it has the power of a mighty ocean.

It is my choice to listen.

 

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Women In Bathing Suits At The Shallow End Of Things

African elephants,animals,mammals,nature,trunks,babies,pachyderm,tusksHer legs rub together, all wrinkled like an old mama elephant’s, loose skin hanging a bit like she’d had a significant weight loss at some time in her life. She bends her knees hard against wet tile and lifts the boy whose legs dangle; atrophied white sticks trying to stand on their own. She gets him to the side of the pool. He shivers. She sweats. Her hair stands every which way on top of her almost wet head. Her face is leather cracked. Maybe she smoked. Maybe she still does.

Another woman walks the edge of the pool, her back ramrod straight, her shoulders pushed back like she’s bracing for a fight. She smiles cracked leather, too. She is in the latter part of middle age, yet under folds of skin too familiar with the local tanning booth, lingers the shadow of a young woman’s toned upper arm. Despite her clipped walk  her belly sags tired at the front of her purple flowered swimsuit. She is leading the way for a boy pushing a walker.

There are several of these ladies in the water today as I sit poolside watching students from a functional life skills program swim laps. I am sitting next to a pretty girl who isn’t able to swim because of an injury. We are multiplying numbers together. She is having difficulty staying focused because of some boys showing off in the water. I am having difficulty staying focused because of what I witness at the shallow end of the pool.

I can’t take my eyes of these middle-aged, almost old women, lift lift lifting dead weight children in and out of the water.
Children encased in plastic floats and safety gear and neon masks and giant goggles.
Children who flail water.
Children who scream gibberish.
Children who would most certainly drown if it weren’t for the iron grip of women whose bodies have morphed into a flabby fade in loud spandex.

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I wonder where they’ve put their inhibitions. Did they stuff them in a locker somewhere or fold them neatly beneath their underwear hidden in their gym bags?

They don’t suck in their bellies.

They don’t strut the firm body of a younger woman desperate to wear the Hot label.

They don’t do the eye dance women do to other women’s bodies comparing comparing comparing.

There is no hotness here….unless you count the sweat that drips on the brow after hoisting eighty pounds of kid up and down metal ladders all morning long.

Snow banks bleed dirt from sand trucks and the driveway is still rutted with ice and I am putting away laundry when I see my bathing suits tucked into the back of my drawer. I think about summer eventually showing her face and I think about me sitting by the lake in my own wrinkled, pooch sagging skin wondering if I look okay….if I  look my age.

 I should certainly hope not. So says the little phrase written on a badge I sometimes wear much too proudly.

Days later I am getting an education on what real beauty looks like and I realize I am at the wrong end of the pool.

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Ahh, to be propped up with padding or loaded into Lycra in an attempt deny the inevitable leaves more women poolside instead of diving into the shallow end of things where you get to lift someone else to a place of accomplishment or simply, a place of joy.

There is nothing sacred about wondering how to fit things around  a bottom succumbing to gravity.  What is sacred is helping someone else to defy gravity.

It’s a sacred and beautiful thing I am seeing at the shallow end of the pool today. It is a sacred thing helping someone keep their head above water. It is a sacred and beautiful thing helping someone simply to keep on swimming. 

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The Truth About Mahwidge and My One Twoo Wove

” ‘The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry, we just think we do. Or even if we marry the right person, just give it awhile and he or she will change. For marriage, [being the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem….learning out to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.’ ” – Tim Keller, quoting Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas in The Meaning of MarriageIMG_8045

Once upon a time a young man and a young woman were enjoying pizza and a pitcher of cheap beer at The Rat, or Rathskellar ( a German word for “council’s cellar” traditionally located in the basement of a government building where officials could enjoy a pint after hours.) It was in this cavernous, councilor’s environment that the young woman realized she had met her  twoo wove. He was handsome and so very funny.  Out of the 6.2 billion people living on the planet,  how extraordinary that she found herself in the exact same location at exactly the right time with The Only One For Her. If it wasn’t for his last minute transfer to the same college only weeks before they never would have met.
Whew!
That was close.

A year and half later the couple married on a beautiful winter’s day with just the right amount of snow on the ground to make everything sparkle. No one needed a coat for outdoor pictures and guests still say it was one of the best weddings they had ever attended.

Then the honeymoon happened.

Driving north for a trip to Old Quebec, the temperatures suddenly plummeted to sub-zero degrees. Severe wind gusts blew snowdrifts across the plains and onto the highway making driving difficult and terribly long.  The post-wedding glow on her husband’s face was fading fast but the young woman ignored it and decided to re-count the honeymoon money she’d ripped from all the cards the day before.  After settling into a quaint hotel in the historic village, the couple braved the cold to take in the attractions as much as they could, often ducking into coffee shops to keep from getting frostbite.  Most establishments did not speak English, making communication difficult, but the couple didn’t mind. They were in love. Cold and shriveled, but in love.

They had just enough money to eat at one special place and decided on a beautiful restaurant in the heart of the city. They dressed in their best clothes and headed out into a siberian-esque night. The tuxedo-ed, tight-lipped waiter, who did not speak English, handed the couple a French only menu with many dollar signs,  but the young woman was able to navigate through it having taken some French in high school.  The couple laughed at their ineptness even though their waiter clearly did not think Any Thing or Any One was funny. After a delicious meal and plunking down their last Canadian dollar, the couple again braced against the cold and within minutes of entering their hotel room the young woman began what was to become a series of embarrassing trips to the bathroom all night long due to a sudden shellfish allergy.

Wedded bliss hit the brick wall of reality.

The End.

Wait. That’s not right.
It should read: The Beginning.
Meaning: the beginning of refinement and polishing and downright scraping.

My husband and I were launched right from the beginning into the stark reality that happily ever after is a fairy tale myth because no one really just bumps into their one true love. There is more of choosing than finding in the marriage business. Even if the first blush is all romance, at some point the knight in shining armor sheds his steel and the princess lays down her crown. This is where we got all bent out of shape. One can only walk in armor and wear a crown properly for so long. We quickly realized that the person we had just married was not the person we had just married.

We were strangers.

Every circumstance, every curve around the bend brought out pieces of each other that hadn’t been seen before and those pieces sometimes cut, bruised, and buffed up against our egos, our own personal wants and desires.

The ending of the story The Princess Bride isn’t true.  Real marriage isn’t when Buttercup and Wesley finally reunite as they were meant to be, riding off on horseback together. Real marriage is more like several scenes before when Wesley is standing as the Dread Pirate Roberts arguing with Buttercup and she pushes him off the cliff and they both go rolling down the hill, hitting every rock and boulder along the way. It’s in this tumbling and bruising that she recognizes who he really is.

My husband and I have had to learn to make true love over and over again if we wanted to stay in this thing. It wasn’t just about staying together in the same geographical place, it was about staying… friends. It was about staying lovers no matter what feelings or circumstances or inconveniences or weight gains and stretch marks got in the way.  Thirty two years is a long time to wake up next to someone you think you know, and then another layer gets peeled, another depth gets plumbed. You share another crisis or another euphoria happens and you are getting to know him all over again.

He gave me a card with the boy and girl on the tricycle a few years ago.  I keep it in plain sight on my bureau.  Some days I think, yup, that’s us, whizzing along our journey, him trying to go as fast as he can and me with my arms wrapped around him for dear life. Other days I think, yea, right…he’s always wanting to steer, to be the boss, and why do I have to be the one in the back wondering if my skirt is going to fly up? Then there are the days when we’re not sharing the bike at all. We are on our own unicycles riding circles around each other because we are doing our own thing. The problem is we’re not very good at it. We’re always falling.

The truth is, it is better for us when he steers. He buffets the wind when I need a strong navigator. I need someone to lead the way when I am afraid or indecisive or lazy.

The truth is, it is better for us when I lean encouragement into him. I buffet his back when he needs a strong advocate.  He needs someone to cheer, “Keep going.” “You’re the best one for the job.” ” You might want to lean a little to the right”.

We thought we knew all of this on that sparkling February day when I wore Gunne Sax and he made the whole wedding party bust out laughing during photos.

But, we were strangers.

We didn’t know anything.

We didn’t know that loving right can be really hard and, when done right, builds muscle.  Love muscles, like strands twisted, braided and wrought into one unbreakable rope-thing called marriage.
So, we got bent out of shape to be re-shaped by unconditional love that only the Ancient of Days can impart to flawed human beings.

This is what is extraordinary; when two people who essentially start out as strangers are, over time, scraped together bit by bit, piece by piece until they are truly one.

It is no fairy tale.
But it is a great adventure.

Besides, if my life were a fairy tale, I’m thinking it would be more like Shrek.
 

Confessions of a Bitter(-ly Cold) Woman

An old wive’s tale has proved true. I made a face for too long and now it’s frozen.  It has frozen into a teeth-gritting, lip puckering frown and it’s not my fault.  I have been gasping and tensing for almost four months now every time I step into the frozen enclave called a shower, sit down on the iced over commode, or run to the garage to throw a trash bag in the barrel before my nose hairs freeze.

Getting the mail is hazardous for my lungs and makes me have to pee.

Getting gas for the car makes me want to swear at the wind tunnel where all gas stations seem to be located this time of year and this also makes me have to pee.

I buy coffee to keep my hands warm.

I wear scarves over scarves.

I am a salt lick.
Everything… my car, my boots, my coat, my nice black pants, my kitchen floor… all covered in layers of salt.

I’ve got on so many layers I don’t know what’s underwear or outerwear.
I wear socks 24/7 .
There are tiny lint balls permanently embedded in my heels.

I no longer walk normally.

Instead, I walk gingerly; which takes great effort, by the way. To navigate a driveway that has ice pockets, ice ruts, snow covered ice, ice banks, icicle daggers, icicle swords and icicle javelins takes time and the concentration of a tightrope artist, which is why I instinctively spread my arms wide every time I leave the house. Or walk in a parking lot. Heaven forbid if I’m standing too close to someone.

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I’ve lost the use of my neck. I think it’s because my shoulders have risen up around it in an effort to keep warm and therefore I can’t really turn from side to side since my chin has dropped again, due to the frozen frowny thing that’s going on with my face.

In the morning before school, I want to hurl scrambled eggs at the weather man, even Al Roker, who seems like a really nice guy.  I just can’t take any more catastrophic, historic, unprecedented Snowmaggedon forecasts.

I don’t have time for a weather apocalypse.

I want my skin back. I want my lips back. I want my warm toilet seat back.

I’ve got to believe Spring is right around the corner. The farm store down the road thinks so. They’re advertising maple sugaring supplies on sale, so that’s got to mean something, right? Don’t they have an in with the Farmer’s Almanac or something?

Still, another snowstorm is forecast the day before Valentine’s Day and then we’re right back in the Arctic freeze, or so claim those guys on TV who like to say things like “doppler” and “computer models” and “historic.”

Looks like I will be hunched, layered and Vaselined for another few days.  The good thing is there will probably be chocolate in the house for Valentine’s. I just hope the person surprising me with the said chocolate will have the presence of mind to keep it near the pellet stove lest it freezes and I chip a tooth. I don’t have a layer, or a sock, or Vaseline for that.

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Winter Bites

Here’s the thing:  When winter grips glacial and the very bones in your hands knob frozen you are just going to have to fake it.

When winter’s bite keeps on biting and the oil tank keeps emptying through the chimney and the dryer breaks and the struts go on the car because the frost heaves keep rising up up up to dislodge the very teeth from your jaw, you must do whatever you can to muster up the strength to be….happy.

If you don’t, you just might become…

crotchety.

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Chronic complaint will pickpocket your joy and you won’t even know how you got to be this cynical about something so majestic and mundane as the weather.

Another storm comes from the west.

Another opportunity to fight fear.

Nine weekends in a row there has been something coming from the sky threatening peace… be still.

Who hasn’t white knuckled it at some point this winter through the drizzle and slush?

Who hasn’t clenched teeth and stiffened shoulders against sudden ice on the asphalt?

The whole lower forty-eight seems to have been bitten by Old Man Winter hard this year and frown lines are furrowing deeper. Shoulders are sagging enough already.

Complaint tries to reign and that’s when things get really dangerous. Not only is our outside frozen…we steel our insides hard, too. Bitter winds can yield bitter hearts if we let it.  When the elements pound hard we are tempted to believe no one is for us…in fact, all may be against us.

It’s hard not to keep the lips thin grim when a draft keeps pouring under the 110 year old front door because the threshold is no longer plumb. It’s hard to wake early just to clear a path. It’s hard to smile when you’re trying to stay warm.

Yet…fight and be quick about it.

Be quick to do whatever you can to keep the heart in a place of spring joy, no matter how cold it is outside. It’s the slow plodding, the resigned shuffling through life that gets us into trouble.

I say, “Let there be surgery!”

Let there be the sharp stab of Another Reality that sets our feet and our hearts back on joy and hope and, heaven help us…smiling!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It is not our own hearts we must fix our eyes on, it’s His.

His heart that knows the times and seasons and places where we will put our feet. He knows the end from the beginning and when the north wind will blow. He knows that we are but dust and are so easily blown, so easily settled.

And yet He  loves.

He gives us a future and a hope and there is no such thing as calamity, there is no such thing as crotchety,  for those in Him.

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Comrades Fly Right Because Of God With Us

Some days you just have to do the hard work of clearing a path if you want to fly right.
You must trudge.
You must lean into the resistance and not run from it because every kid knows this one thing:

A proper pathway yields maximum flying power.
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Some days you have to put your sister and your brother on the toboggan because their weight will pack the snow down faster, even though your muscles burn fire through your coat when you pull them uphill.

Some days you have to be exceptionally patient, the kind of patience that sets the jaw and squints the eye.

When you finally reach the top of the hill and your chest is heaving and your nostrils are breathing frost and you realize you’re going to have to do this many times, you find that you are thankful for the camaraderie. 

Good fellowship is what the dictionary says it means, but there is so much more to the word.  Camaraderie is more about a bond of trust and conviviality that welds a life done together so well.

Oh, so that’s it… to trust one another while feasting on joy…that’s what it means to be convivial.

Joy glue.

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You spend the better part of the morning carving a path that winds around prickly bushes that stab thorns and curves past fir trees in blanket snow.  Your back trickles sweat all the way down to your snow pants. You don’t care. You pull your comrades one final time up over the top and gaze over the summit. The path below glistens with a hard glare because you and your sisters and brother have done the work that matters.  The kind of work that requires so much muscle. The kind of work that so many quit half way through.

It is time to fly.

You tell everyone,  especially the littlest ones, that they must hang on tight.

There is only one exception and it is this: If you yell  “Bail!”

You look into the eyes of your little sister and your even littler brother and tell them with all the seriousness you can muster that they must ditch to the sides if they hear you yell “Bail” because this means you are in danger of  a collision with either a face full of thorns or tree bark.

But you know that this is what flying right is all about.  You link arms with others who are willing to trudge. You laugh with them in the middle of sweat and aching limbs.  You don’t let the danger stop you.

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You take your position in the front of the toboggan because you are the oldest. You know immediately when the toboggan begins its descent that you have succeeded in making the pathway right because you are flying down the hillside so fast your face burns harsh. You narrowly miss the prickly bushes but it only elicits squeals of delight from your comrades in the back.

But then…near the end…speed has a way of taking over and “Bail!” comes screaming out of your mouth. The little ones really do ditch but you and your other sister don’t have time and within seconds you are being driven up the side of a fir tree only to dangle there upside down from a low branch, your foot tied up in the toboggan rope. That is when big laughter peals pell mell all the way down the mountain. Though you ended up in a tree at the end of the line,  you flew right and fast and you were not killed!

You are joyful for comrades who were willing to pull the rope with you. You are joyful for comrades who trudged all day alongside you. You are joyful that you are about to do it all over again.

Nobody really wants to fly solo.

Not even the hermit who thinks he’s done the world a favor by taking up residence alone in the woods only to bump into humanity when it is necessary to get supplies and mutter how the world has all gone to hell because of all these…people.

There is some truth to his philosophy.

We really are in the pickle we’re in right now because of people giving up camaraderie with the Ancient of Days Himself,  instead, giving heed to a slithering voice by a tree. What the poor hermit doesn’t get is that there is a wild ride to taken…an adventure to be lived because the hard work of carving out a pathway to the Ancient of Days has already been done.

Two beams, three nails and Jesus did the job.

Jesus took the beams and the nails because of the joy set before Him:

Camaraderie with us.

Who wants to go for a ride?

Resolution And All That Jazz

The funny thing about making a resolution is that it does not begin with the doing of a thing, or the not doing of it, as in some cases.

To be resolute…it all has to do with the heart. It’s got to begin there to have any real say so and that’s where I’ve been messing it up.

Not on purpose, mind you. But that’s just it…resolutions are supposed to be done on purpose and without purpose or heart conviction anything can throw you off.

I looked back, not really with much longing and regret like Lot’s wife lest I render myself fully salted, unable to move forward;  I just wanted to get a reminder of what I actually hoped to accomplish in 2013.  I figured if I wrote it down for all to see, then I would be more apt to keep my word. I had three so-called resolutions for the last year…eat more, read more, walk more. I did one really well, one not so well, and one hardly at all. According to the New Year’s Resolution Grading System I am probably hovering around a C minus.

What I did really well: I did eat more.
There were more people, more new people, actually, around our table this year than ever before. And we, joyfully, were at the table of others.

Sharing a meal with old friends, new friends, expanding families;  this is where it gets real.
We let our guard down when we lift our forks up.
We make fumbling eye contact when we pass the salt to someone new, but it’s a getting- to -know- you fumble, so we laugh.
We spill our stories over dishes.
We reveal our selves upon full tables.

beverages,dining,eating,eats,food,forks,glasses,hands,knives,people,pies,pizzas,plates,restaurants,silverware,wines,women,slices

What I did not do so well: I did not complete my desired reading list.

Close-up on the spines of books

I did go to the library twice to get “Les Miserables ” only to find one copy in French and the other incomplete; volume two had gone missing.  A busier than usual work schedule filled up in the Spring and then I did not transition well into a new routine over the summer. It left me pretty much book-less and garden-less, meaning, although, I did read, I did it a lot less. I did garden, but it was a less cultivated plot, a less loved space this year. For the better part of the year my reading companion was Paul in the Book of Acts. Not bad company…but I missed the pile of books.

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What I hardly did at all:
As for walking, I did a few loops around the neighborhood but nothing to get the heart pumping or the mind cleared. I even bought new sneakers. I hardly broke them in. I miss my dog. It’s not the same traversing the streets of my little village alone and yes it’s been almost three years since he left us, so I had a go at the track nearby, but I hated it, all that looping round and round on flat ground. Besides, this new trajectory of learning to live with the suddenly of the unexpected meant my walking routine had to change.

backpack,figurines,hiking,maps,sports,people,women,directions,standing

What am I saying? There is no routine. Each day is a surprise most of the time.

Sometimes the phone rings for a teaching job while it is still dark and other times the early morning silence means I am being led into plan B.
Most days are spent bent somewhere.
Bent toward a child working out sums.
Bent toward a heart working out revelation.
Bent toward prayer like never before.

Some days things get scrubbed clean, other days the laundry has been forgotten in the washing machine. Some days snow forts need to be built, other days the fortresses surrounding wounded mind sets need to come down.
Although there may not be much of a routine, there is a certain rhythm.

Trouble is, I’ve been used to waltzing.
These days my life is more like a jazz syncopation.

The key to jazz is improvisation. Improvisation is inventing something at the spur of the moment in response to a particular situation. In jazz, the musicians, although committed to staying to true to the pre-determined tune, are free to improvise, to have what someone calls a”musical conversation” within the piece. This means the piece is never played exactly the same way twice.

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I am thinking about the Daniel man, the one who stares at lions.  Captured during a brutal invasion he is suddenly out of his routine and at the mercy of someone else who now calls all the shots and yet…this Daniel possesses the creativity and the guts to improvise, to invent something at the spur of the moment and still stay true to his resolve of following the one true King no matter how his routines change.

This year’s resolution?
It is a resolute heart. And all the creativity and guts that come with it to improvise, to have a “musical conversation” with the One who is for me.

The Father Who Comes Out Of The Shadows

The dvds lie skewed in the cabinet, the christmas movie line up almost finished.

It is our family tradition to make merry in fantasy, humor and good storytelling in film. We laugh at a grown up elf, take away life lessons from Dickensian puppets, and ponder a life wonderfully lived. We end it in animation by remembering what Christmas is all about.

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In the middle of our line-up there are two stories, one rough, rude; the other proper and sentimental. The first tweaks those who find the humor inappropriate.  The second tweaks those who find the sentiment unrealistic.

I understand, but I don’t watch them for the humor or the sentiment.
I watch them for what happens in the end.

There are two gifts.
There are two sons.

In the first story, the son, a little boy, is given the gift of his dreams, despite the fact that everyone around him promises he will shoot is eye out. Yet, it’s the father, a seemingly clueless and crass man who knows what is in his son’s heart, what will give him the most pleasure. It is the father whose face breaks sheer joy when he watches his son tear the paper, break open the box, dispense the BBs.

In the second story, the son is a self-conscious adolescent worrying about his future in Depression era Virginia. He aspires to be a writer, but is embarrassed to share his dream with anyone, least of all his parents. Yet, it’s his father, who is unable to be present most of the time due to work, that somehow knows what’s being birthed in his son’s heart. He comes bearing the gift of writing tablets.

The endings of these stories get me every time.
It is because I am hard-wired to be loved like that.

We all want a father who knows our heart’s cry. We want a father who knows what we need when we need it.
We go humble and contrite, but our hearts explode great joy when we realize we didn’t even have to speak our ache, our fears, our hopes, our desires… He just knows.

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These stories are visual aids for me.
They are sad shadows, really, of the real thing, but sometimes the shadows are all we can see through the details of our life.

I need reminders that I have been given a gift come screaming in a feed trough. I need reminders that I do have a Father that knows the ache of the human heart and that He’s come out of the shadows to fix it for good.

Good news has been shouted. Darkness has received the fatal blow of a glorious light, a wrapped and swaddled gift that only a Father could know we needed.IMG_7037

I turn to see.

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A son has been given.
This new beginning gets me every time.

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A Bit Of Christmas Yellow

The girl is late.

She missed the morning attendance and early breakfast and now she shuffles her feet past her classmates who are busy doing what needs doing when one is in third grade. She’s the last one to hang up her coat. She can’t find her paper. She raises Japanese Button Quail and she understands the physics of the flight of chickens. Her shoes are untied and when you tell her, she quietly says, “I know.”
She’s eight and she’s the only one who sees the yellow hearts on the floor.IMG_7925

She drags her backpack through a pile of scrap paper dropped from an earlier cutting project and suddenly stops. Her feet plant hard and she lowers her head toward the floor. She reaches down, her winter coat baggy around her arms, and she picks up a piece of yellow paper, bent, little, heart shaped. She stares at it pressed between her thumb and index finger. She looks over at the kids next to her.
Her girl voice speaks low. Rasped. Lisped.

“Guys.”

“Guys.”

“Look.”

Nobody hears. Nobody looks.
She bends down and picks up another yellow heart. She steps towards her friends.IMG_7929

“Guys. Did you make these?”
She holds one of the hearts up to the light and smiles.
Nobody hears. Nobody looks.

Accidental yellow hearts spilled on the floor destined for the trash are not plainly visible to everyone. You have to get low to see beauty in  shards. You have to hone in to see what was cut away and dropped.

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The girl goes back to the pile and picks through the shreds and finds the rest of the hearts. She makes a pile of them on the desk. “See,” she says to the boy sitting there.
A boy hears. A boy looks. “Wow! Guys, do you see this?”
I am blessed in that moment to witness marvel take over a little boy’s face.

Some people are hard-wired for beauty and mystery and intrigue.

They are the ones that see light reflecting on the wall and wonder about the color and the shimmer.
Other people say, “It’s just the sun.”

Some people keep pushing the button on the water fountain because when the water swirls round and round and round they can actually see life in it.
Other people say, “Stop fooling around,  it’s just water.”

Just.
To quote a line from “Finding Neverland” just is a horrible, candle-snuffing word.

candles,conifers,decorations,evergreens,household,luminarias,pine trees,pines,seasons,snows,winter,nature,plants

Anything that diminishes the beauty, the wonder, the marvel of this life may as well be lights out.

Jesus was just a baby born in feed trough obscurity.acreage,countryside,fields,fotolia,homestead,horizons,abandoned rustic shacks,sun,woodenAll that harking and heralding angels do is just a Christmas song, not some cloud-rending, open heaven event that shook some sleepy shepherds out of their normal routine.

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Is this what happens when we demand to know, to understand with proof before we can believe?
Is this how we justify just?

Did it become just an angelic visitation that left an old man priest speechless because he had to know?
But the girl Mary never let an angelic visitation lose its majesty by wanting to know; she only asked how because she was caught up in the wonder. She believed a womb could be breathed upon. She believed a poor, unmarried, untitled, obscure maiden could carry the Creator of the Universe if He wanted.
She believed within the wonder. 

Poor Zechariah. A good man. A man who loved God. A good priest who forgot the wonder for a moment. He couldn’t see past the scraps of reality to the yellow hearts hidden there.

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The girl gathers the yellow hearts and makes a pile on the desk. She’s told to hang up her things because now she is very late. She walks over to the coat rack, but before she gets there she stops. She plants her feet hard. She looks up toward the ceiling. I can’t see what it is that she is looking at but for the second time that morning I see marvel come over a child’s face.

It’s a wonder, is it not, that God comes to stables?

It’s a wonder, still, that He comes to third grade classrooms. academic,desks,furnitures,school equipment,schools

 

30

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Thanksgiving’s early morning light broke through a hard frost on the ground and pounded hard contractions in the belly.

Sixteen hours later it was a the boy drummer who broke the womb first.

I have been learning to walk inside the steady drum beat of thanksgiving ever since.

I have stumbled.

There have been murmurings.
There have been downright complaints.
There have even been shouts in the dark, “why is this happening?”

Still.

The one who broke bread was teaching me that thanksgiving was the way to cling to the Anchor of my soul when white-coated men tried to predict the length of the boy’s days through the lens of a liver transplant.

Two Thanksgivings later, He was showing me praise was a way to hang onto Him Who breathed life- color into black and white places when a white-coated woman advised abortion for the one who was being knitted into the Fiery Irishgirl.

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In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It is in the IN that I see God.

Thirty thanksgivings have gone by since the boy came fearfully and wonderfully made…the boy who bears the same name as the man who fought off lions in a den by wielding a sword of praise instead of one of complaint.

Jack Hayford says it like this:

But by the song, by the praise, (or thanksgiving…my word) we begin to infest the situation with the possibilities of His presence and His power.

Thankfulness is an inside job. ajar,doorknobs,doors,entrances,household,portals

I could not give thanks for missing enzymes and scarring biopsies.

But, I could endeavor to muster my soul, the very inside of me, to give thanks for where He has placed me to face them. By giving thanks in all things, His presence suddenly infests, invades, really, the situation.

His presence changes my geography from the inside out.

It was thanksgiving in all things that brought me to the altar every week for the boy to be smeared with prayer and oil; this time by suit and tied men with tears streaming down their faces.

It was thanksgiving in all things  that kept me standing upright when another white-coated man took a piece of the girl’s thigh for his microscope.

I am a slow learner.

Thirty thanksgivings and thirty birthdays later and I am still in school on this one.

I think of Jesus and how thirty was a Holy Spirit invasion for Him, too. He came out of a desert full of the Spirit and was launched then, into what would become our rescue.

I think about how He wouldn’t turn stones into bread in that desert place to feed himself, but near the triumphal end He warned the grumblers who wanted to stop the praising and put an end to the thanking; that if they did, they would see those stones shout their praise and thanks to Him right then and there.nature,photographs,rocks,stones

 

Jesus will take praise and thankfulness over food?

Why?

Because thankfulness invites Presence and Presence invites thankfulness.

The wind blew fierce over a hard frost this morning. The roads heaved hard with arctic contractions.

The boy is thirty today.

He banged drums in worship.

I’ve been thankfully invaded.

boulders,cascades,forests,nature,plants,rivers,rocks,sunrays,trees,wilderness,freshness