Monday, February 28, 2011

Glasses

I'm sitting in my living room with a baying dog.  She's literally howling at the moon as though she could see it this time of day.  See, E took the Big Lug to the vet for what is technically called "a goopy eye."  And Jamaica can't handle it.  Absolutely cannot handle being left at home while he got to get in a car and go for a R.I.D.E.  There oughta be a law.  Not to mention a law for my poor ears.  Fortunately, she's more likely to obey me than just about anyone, so now she's just pouting.  Facing the window, pawing at it, and pouting, like we did this just to torture her.  Which, of course, we did.

That, however, is not what this post is meant to be about, and hopefully, if I can keep the baying at bay, so to speak, I'll be able to hear myself think well enough to write it.

When I was at the eye doctor last week, I got to choose new glasses, which is always a treat, though, unfortunately almost always happens with completely dilated eyes, so that one has to lean about 2 inches away from a mirror to actually see what they look like on one's face.  I do pretty well without glasses, actually, but not with them dilated.  There's a flaw in the system that has us picking out an apparatus that will allow us to see, one that will always be on our faces, without actually being able to see clearly enough to do the picking.  But I began thinking about my long history with glasses afterwards (and, with the help of the technician and Beve, I think a fairly good choice was made, though I won't know for sure until next week).

When I was in middle school, for some absolutely unfathomable reason (to my fifty-three-year-old self), I thought it would be 'fun' to have glasses.  My older brother and younger sister both had them, and I wanted to look...I don't know, more intelligent? I can't remember.  So during a school eye exam, I actually claimed to see less than I actually could, not a lot less (I didn't want to make it obvious, after all), just a little less.  So I was hurried off to an eye doctor, where I repeated the procedure adequately enough to get my first pair of glasses.  And...not surprisingly, the wearing of these glasses was difficult.  Made my head ache and my eyes squint to see clearly through them.  It wasn't long before I 'lost' those glasses--actually, at a rodeo, where I 'accidentally' dropped them in some sawdust in a barn.  Then I had to 'fess up to my parents, not only that I'd lost them, but that I didn't think I really needed to get another pair.

By the time I was in college, though, I did get glasses.  My mother'd grown tired of mentioning that I was closing an eye to read, and I realized that the difference between my eyes was significant. It was determined then that I have one near-sighted and one far-sighted eye.  So I got glasses.  However, oddly enough, I couldn't tell the difference between having them on and not.  So I rarely wore those glasses either.  Finally, about ten years ago, the difference between my eyes had grown large enough that I began having trouble focusing.  That is, whenever I had to switch focus from near to far, I couldn't see anything.  It was VERY aggrevating.

So I got glasses, with a prism in them, which helps with that focusing problem.  And suddenly, FINALLY, glasses began to work. They made sense.  I can actually see better with them than without, at least if I put them on first thing in the morning, and keep them one (though I have been known to forget, leave the house, and never notice).

But here's the interesting thing: when I first began wearing glasses fulltime, I was extremely conscious of them.  I spent a lot of time looking at them.  That is, they'd be on my face, and I'd be very aware of the edges of the frames, the smudges on the lenses, the differences between the lenses and everything around them.  It took me a while to ignore the glasses and simply use them to see through, to allow them to become part of my eyes and look at the world through them.

And it seems to me that this is something we do with our faith.  We go to church, Bible studies, small groups, etc, and we spend an inordinate amount of time looking at our faith.  Looking at what prayer is, what sanctification means, how grace works, when to forgive.  The list is endless.  We stare unendingly at all these facets of our relationship with Christ--over and over and over. But...then do we actually, simply, completely allow our faith to become such a part of us that we stop seeing it, and simply look at all the world through it?  Christ in us is the lens through which we see all of humanity, keeps us from walking into walls, and stumbling over our own sin.  God knows--He absolutely, utterly knows--I have no problem studying scripture.  So don't take me wrong.  But I also know that without putting what I learn into practice makes all that study merely academics, no different than studying physics, for example.  And that (no matter what physicists might say!) will not change your life, nor anyone else's.  It does no good to study Him, if we don't wish to be changed by Him, nor to change the world by His work in us.

So put on your glasses of faith, and walk into the world boldly, extending His Kingdom because you alone--of all you rub shoulders with--can see to do it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Style?

When I finished my ode to CSL last night, I checked in on other blogs I read, including (of course!) daughter E's Random Stupidness (which you can get to from the link on the side--I'm not savvy enough to embed it, I tried and failed). She posted about having been awarded some bloggy stylish award.  But here's the kicker, and I do mean kicker.  She had to 'award' 15 other bloggers with the same award.  A bit like a chain letter, if you ask E (and me for that matter).  But she did it.

And the first name on her list was me.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  ME, stylish?  That's a hoot.  I'm talking gut-busting, laughing-til-you-cry (not to mention pee your pants, which I surely won't...this is a very reverential blog, after all) hoot.  Just to tell you how 'stylish' I am, just this month E and SK joined the 30-for-30 club, meaning they had to choose 30 pieces of clothing from their wardrobes, and wear only those things for thirty straight days.  When I suggested joining them, E told me I could do it with 10 things, since that's all I ever wear anyway.  Most days you'll find me in pjs all day long.  I don't leave the house in them--that's a line I won't cross--but I also don't always leave the house.  I also don't wear dresses, tights, tight pants, heels, nor own more than one bag (which is what they're calling purses these days) at a time.  And you know what?  I'm okay with how I live.  I'm okay with my daughters being the fashionistas in my life, and enjoy watching how they put things together.  But don't ask me to copy them.  No way, no how.  Not now, not ever.  Too many physical problems, too much lack of interest.

However, the other part of this 'Style Award' was to share '7 things about yourself'.  Considering I've shared about 734 things about myself since I started this blog, it seems unnecessary...until I walked down the hall and E kind of dared me--almost double-dog-dared me--to come up with 7 things she didn't already know about me.  And that did it.  That, my friends, is just about the only style I have, after all: telling my story to all and sundry and seeing how God has shown up in it, over and over.

So here's my list.  I don't know how many my kids already know, but I gave it a valiant effort:
1.  When I was in grad. school at WSU I went out a couple of times with a grad student in the history dept named Harry.  After the second time, I knew he wasn't for me, so said no repeatedly after that.  Finally, he came into the Bookstore, where I worked, tore off a corner of the Bluebook (a test booklet back in the olden days) he was carrying, wrote "Harry" and his phone number.  Told me to call him if I wanted to see him again.  Years later, (after I was married) my dad told me a man attending their church had asked him about me, said he'd dated me.  When I asked who it was, my dad told me, "He says you think his name is Harry.  But it's really Henry."  I've always wondered why he wrote his name down wrong on that bluebook.
2. Back in high school, Tylenol was a brand new wonder drug.  And my mother was always a believer in the newest and latest.  So one day, when a friend and I were home at lunch during school, I gave my friend some Tylenol for cramps.  She was pretty hesitant to take it, but I convinced her it would do the job.  About half an hour later, back at school, an ambulance was taking her off to the hospital. Apparently Tylenol wasn't a wonder drug for her!
3.That same year my family ordered a new Suburban Carry-all, and for some reason, my parents let me choose the color.  Or maybe my voice was just the loudest and vociferous.  But we definitely ended up with the only shiny orange carry-all in town.
4. My first kiss was during a Young life game at a weekend camp.  All my friends had real first kisses long before I did, so I made up one...but that's the truth.  And the boy was from Kennewick, Washington and I never even knew his name.
5. My family's first dog was named Prince Lightning (because he had a white Lightning streak on his black back).  My father brought him home from the pound one day when I'd been stung by a bee so badly my entire leg swelled up and I couldn't walk.  I liked to pretend he was my very own dog.
6. I collect old books, the oldest of which is a 1850s complete set of Charlotte Bronte's works, once owned by my great-great-grandfather.  In a fire, I'd probably mourn their loss as much as anything.
7. The famous people I've almost met:
   I once had Easter brunch in a restaurant in Eugene, Oregon at a table next to where Wilt Chamberlain was sitting.  He was the largest man I've ever seen, so large he couldn't fit his knees under the table, and I was close enough to touch them, if I'd been brave (or stupid!) enough to try. Everyone in the place was gawking at him, and many tried to ask for his signature (which is a hobby that I don't quite get) but he politely refused to sign any autographs.
In Cambridge, England when a friend and I were waiting to board a train, we were delayed because a special train had arrived.  And an ugly, though very dapper, smallish man got off the train, dressed in a suit with a pink shirt and tie, with a pink handkerchief in his pocket.  It was Prince Charles, and he walked right by us without so much as a word.  I think he must have been late for a very important date.  And we decided that his lovely wife (this was back in the Diana days) had dressed him.

So there you go, E.  How many did you already know?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Old Jack

Because it's Friday night and I'm fresh out of original ideas, I thought I'd post some of my favorite quotes from my first dead hero in my Christian walk.  The man who created Narnia, the Silent Planet and taught me more about evil and good than any living person when I was a baby believer looking for milk and meat all at once--sometimes quite impatiently, as I recall.  I'm talking about Clive Staples Lewis, of course, known as Jack to his friends, among which I definitely count myself, though I never met the man and would be speechless to have had the chance.  Heroes are apt to do that...even to a person like me.

First of all, to clear up a matter that people often misunderstand, argue about, here's the man himself about Aslan: "If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair represents Despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality however he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question,"What might Christ become like, if there really were a world like Narnia and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?" This is not allegory at all."  Letters of CS Lewis, (29 December 1958)

Then a few of my favorite general quotes:
It costs God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion. Mere Christianity

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. Selected Literary Essays


If the imagination were obedient, the appetites would give us very little trouble. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.


We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.  Letters to Malcolm.


Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.  The Screwtape Letters

And a few nuggets of gold from Narnia (and those of you who haven't read them...perhaps this will wet your appetite.  I hope so, I sincerely hope so!):

"Do you mark all this well, King Caspian?"
"I do indeed, Sir," said Caspian. "I was wishing that I came from a more honourable lineage."
"You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve," said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth. Be content."  Prince Caspian

"Who is Aslan?" asked Susan.
"Aslan?" said Mr. Beaver, "Why don't you know? He's the King...It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus..."
"Is--is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion--the  Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan.  "I'd thought he was a man. Is he--quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you."
The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe

"And as he spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.  The Last Battle


 And finally this:
"We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.  The world is crowded with Him.  He walks everywhere, incognito." Letters to Malcolm


Exactly.  Yes, to all this, I say: Exactly!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Testimonies

Between "Is one better or two?" questions behind the strange eye apparatus at the vision clinic this afternoon, our eye doctor asked me how to witness to people 'sitting in the chair', as he put it.  This isn't the first time we've talked about our faith.  In fact, even before he's putting the dilating drops into my eyes, he's talking about all the things he's struggling with--being a foster parent (which he and his wife feel called to do), trying to be a witness to those he works with--'all of whom are liberal, non-believing people;' as if liberal and non-believing are synonymous (but that's a different story).  How to share the gospel...

I told him that I think sharing the gospel is not always about speaking so much as it is being a Christian.  For example, Beve works in a public school.  It's almost impossible for him to speak his faith to those he encounters.  Our eye doctor said, "But there's clearly something different about him, like there's a light on that is different than in most people."  Exactly, I answered.  That's the Light that came into the world that cannot be hidden under a bushel.  That's the light people see when they talk to Beve.  They don't always know what they're looking at, but they certainly see the light.  Dr. K looked at me for a moment, with his head cocked like a puppy trying to understand what I was saying.  "Thank you for sharing that with me," he finally said.  Then he asked, "Is three better or four?" as he adjusted the machine.

I sat there thinking about how difficult we make 'testifying' about Jesus.  We worry about it, wring our hands, tie ourselves into knots and work ourselves into a sweaty mess because we think it's something unnatural.  But it isn't.  Talking about Jesus is talking about our lives, our own lives.  Here's the thing:  in a professional situation, we might naturally hesitate to tell intimate details of our lives with our loved ones--and it is right and prudent that this should be so.  However, should the subject arise, we wouldn't hesitate to answer questions about those loved ones.  And it seems to me that Jesus is my first loved one.  So sometimes I talk about Him.  The subject comes up.  And other times I don't speak of Him.  But my goal is to live as His.  Then whether I have a chance to speak, or only my actions speak, others will see the Light of Him shining out of my life.
And that's my testimony for the day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Here's to a board in your eye

Back in the olden days when Beve and I spent a couple of months in India, he got sick.  I might have mentioned this before, but the dysentery many westerners (including both of us) suffer in such places became something much worse for Beve.  In fact, what developed from that bout of dysentery was Reiter's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease with no known cure.  While we were in India, Beve got so sick, his knees swelled to the size of basketballs, his ankles the size of softballs, and by the time we flew 'home' to Holland, where we were living at the time, he couldn't bend his legs to sit very well in airplane seats.  Even before this malady, Beve had broken an airplane seat, trying to fit, so you can imagine the difficulty when only his hips bent for that long trip across the eastern hemisphere.

It took about a year before Beve finally had Reiter's syndrome completely diagnosed, and when he did, it was because he got iritis.  I don't know if any of my readers have had iritis (I haven't), but let me tell you from my front row vantage point: it can fell a legal giant.  Iritis's extreme sensitivity to light and accompanying pain is one of the few ailments that makes Beve miss school.  And it takes weeks to recover, partly because eye doctors (all doctors?) have a long protocol for treating it.  Drops in the eye every hour, visits to the doctor ever other day, but finally when this treatment doesn't work, the needle comes out.  For the squeamish among you, you might want to stop reading now, because the ultimate treatment for each bout of iritis (at least Reiter's Syndrome-associated) is an anti-inflammatory injected directly into the eye.  And it hurts just about as much as you can imagine.  I remember sitting in a waiting room one snowy Sunday many years ago listening to Beve  say, "Ouch, ouch, ouch," as the doctor gave him the shot.  It made me more than a little nauseated, and I don't even mind needles.

That was the last time Beve had iritis.   About 14 years ago.  I should say, the last time until yesterday, when what he thought was a sinus infection revealed itself as iritis when he walked out of his school into the sunshine.  Fortunately, he was on his way to take his father to an eye specialist, for a re-check appointment.  Grampie's retelling of the story to me on the phone this morning put it this way,"Dr. Subong looked over and saw something wrong with Beve's left eye, so he fixed him right up."  Actually, Beve asked if he could be seen, and the doctor squeezed him in.  Having had a close personal relationship with Dr. Subong (ie, a weekly appt with Grampie) since November definitely made a difference.

Dr. Subong only confirmed what Beve already knew, and was about to begin the typical regime of drops, when Beve told him to cut to the chase.  "Just give me the injection."  Again, that personal relationship helped.  Beve said it was the easiest, least painful injection he's ever had.  And he should know, unfortunately.  And today, just 36 hours in (along with hourly, ubiquitous drops, of course) Beve's already feeling better. So the good news/bad news of that injection worked perfectly.  He didn't even have to miss a day of work, which makes him extremely happy.  All around, it turned out well...well, as well as an injection in the old eye-ball can ever turn out.

How's that for a visual for your day? All things considered, I'd rather have that board in my eye. But I have a funny feeling that isn't what Jesus was talking about.

And He certainly knows I have plenty of the kinds of boards He actually meant.  Those boards of a critical spirit, of anger and envy.  You know, the boards that--built up high enough--create walls between me and other people.  I'm very aware of these boards I allow to sit between others and me, especially while I'm busy pointing out the tiny specks that couldn't create a wall if there were 10,000 of them piled up.  Specks just don't get in the way, don't hurt anyone but the owner of them.  Boards can hurt everyone in their path. 

Beve's eye will be fine soon enough.  The injection did its job. Now for the job in front of me of letting the Holy Spirit remove those boards from my eyes.  After this weekend, even a weekend I loved, I think there's plenty of work for Him to do in me.

So, to my family: where I was critical, thoughtless, forgive me.  For the words I said that I shouldn't have, and those I should have said that were left unspoken, please forgive me for my sins.  I know who I am, know who I'm not. Thank you for your patience...and for your reminders that I must become more His. Daily.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In a bead shop

Yesterday while walking through Fairhaven, my sister wanted to stop in a bead shop.  She needed to make some kind of pin for her knitting counter (I'm barely a knitter, so just smile and nod when she explains such things).  As she looked for what she wanted and E checked out the extensions for necklaces, I let my fingers drift through the long row of beads. 
"Excuse me," a young woman said. "I'm from the Herald.  Do you mind if I take a few pictures of you?"  "No," I said.  Her 'few' was actually more like 3 dozen pictures from every angle, as I picked up one bead then another, then finally began laying a row of them along my palm, as if I was going to make a necklace.  Make a necklace?  I've no more business making a beaded necklace than flying to the moon, but there I was, acting like I knew what I was doing, with a photographer practically standing on my shoulders to get a better angle.  It was fairly ridiculous.  And the next thing I knew I was actually buying that pile of beads, bringing home all the materials to actually put it together.  I'm telling you, I've uncovered a whole new marketing scheme: hire a photographer to snap pictures and ask questions, as if a shopper is being interviewed, and wah-lah, sale made!

And sure enough, this afternoon, E pulled up the Herald's website and there was my picture, in living color, complete with name, date and serial number.  As if I was actually a bonafide jewelry-maker.  I really think that woman picked me out because my shirt was orange and stood out against all the colors in the shop. 

Here's the picture.  See what I mean about the orange?  I look very intent, like I really know what I'm doing.  What a crack-up.

It makes me wonder how often this is how we appear to others: like we really know what we're doing, when in reality, we're just letting our fingers drift through the beads, marking time.  If we act the part, that's half the battle, according the world, our culture, the paper, right?  This is what confidence really is. 

But this isn't true.  This picture--these beads in my hand--don't make me a jewelry-maker.  They don't even make me all that interested in the craft.  I was nothing more than a human mannequin yesterday.  And I am certain this is absolutely the opposite of the kind of what God intends me to be.  In either form or function.  Called by Christ, given over to Him, I am meant to be also true in my innermost being.    Sure, one might say that this picture is morally neutral.  No harm, no foul, as a sports-person might say.  But it is a strong reminder to me to be who I really am, even in the smallest of ways. And not to pretend otherwise.  Even in a bead shop.

So I suppose I'll be making that beaded necklace.  Will that make it a true picture? Or simply prove that capitalism actually works?

Monday, February 21, 2011

And that's a true story

It's quiet here in my back room, which is making our big dog very happy.  He was thrown off his nap cycle over the weekend, when the population in our house kept rising and rising.  I lay in bed yesterday morning, 'girding my loins' for the day (as Beve would say), and thought of how thrilled my parents would be that so many of the family was gathering.  They always hoped we'd outgrow our childhood quarreling and become friends as adults.  And we certainly have become friends.

There were 11 of us for high tea at our favorite English tea shop on Saturday.  That's a family tradition that even the men are happy to participate in.  We eat our pasties, tea sandwiches, knock back tea with great abandon, then end the meal with the most mouth-watering scones and Devonshire cream one can imagine.  We left the tea room in time to walk the board walk along the Bay right at Sunset, and even with the wind whipping around us, felt blessed to be in sharing the day together.

Then yesterday afternoon, my older brother and his wife pulled up just as I had found a moment to finally get dressed.  From all over the house I heard squeals:  "There's Uncle D!"  Along with my older brother, was BB, all the way from Massachusetts, which was the best surprise of the weekend.  He'd only caught wind of this party last Wednesday, but with the blessing of his wife, came out for five days (it's his mid-winter-break).  We were all so surprised to see him, we might have overlooked R and D for a moment, but we were glad to see them too.  And, channeling Mom, that meant all of my siblings were under my roof in...well, I can't remember the last time we were together at our house.
My sisters and I are wearing our 'sister' shirts, which Mom bought and loved.  I'm on the right, next to BB (who refers to me as Big Sis, because he doesn't feel comfortable calling me BS--Thankfully!). Dump's the tall middle sister, whose plan to introduce her new friend to a quiet subset of this family was hijacked into the extravaganza this weekend has been (BB and RE, the youngest sister, on the left of Dump, are still here).  Dump's friend, B, otherwise known as 'the new guy', was pretty overwhelmed by the cross-conversation, interruptions, strange-half-said-fully-understood sentences that went on all over the place in the last four days.  I think we wore him out with our family dynamics. And yes, I think that anyone--even I--would be overwhelmed in such a situation.

R, our older brother (in the crimson WSU shirt) who looks more and more like Dad, brought up his tripod so we could get a picture of the whole crew.  He set it up out back, thinking we'd stand on our deck where the shadows would make for a better picture.  Unfortunately, as Beve and E kept telling people, our deck is in REALLY bad shape.  18 people, two of whom are sitting on their walkers, apparently do have enough weight to make the thing shift and crack.  We moved closer to the edge, just in time for a second crack, then quickly got off.  The picture (which I don't have, since only R has it) will show only Grampie and Thyrza sitting on the deck, with Beve kneeling between them, in case he had to break their fall.

There's always a whole lot of hard work involved to bed and board so many people, especially for one like me--it's a stretch, to say the least.  But yesterday's very delicious dinner (in honor of RE's 49th) birthday was a perfect example of how we work together.  I think at least a dozen of those there contributed directly to that meal, and the bulk of the sauteing was done by my 16-year-old nephew, the youngest among us.  Pretty cool.  This is what makes family work. When we sat down together (at two tables--and yes, there was a 'cousins' table' and an adult table), we enjoyed what we'd worked for together. Then I put a nickel in, turned Grampie's crank, and he told story after story--some a little less coherently than others, but all very entertainingly.  And he finished every one with the words, "And that's a true story."  (Grampie and Thyrza enjoyed themselves so much that today he told Beve, "That was a great program yesterday.")

So, what was the best part of the weekend for me?  The conversations, of course.  At different times, I had significant conversations with my niece and her husband, my nephew and his wife, my sister-in-law, my sisters, including one with Dump and her new friend, and my brothers.  And that 16-year-old taciturn youngest of the party as well. I feel flooded with awe at the depth of those who are my nearest community. I'm inspired by the way they look at the world, the way they love each other, their parents, their children, the world.  I'm exhausted in a heap tonight, which means that pain is sharpening its fangs on my body.  But I wouldn't change a thing...
 except perhaps for a little safer deck.
And that's a true story.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

They're my people

Have I mentioned that a few members of my extended family will be staying with us for the long weekend?  A few meaning about 10,000. At least that's the way it probably seems to some people.  And I'm not talking about me--really, I'm not.  Here's the thing:  my middle sister, the Dump, has been seeing a man for almost a year now, and, because they live in California, he hasn't met any of her family other than her sons.  So a few months ago, she asked if she could bring him up to meet us.  Sure, we said, come on up.

Well, in our family, this kind of thing tends to snowball.  When he signed up, he thought he was flying to Washington to meet a couple of sisters and a brother-in-law.  But WRONG! First a niece decided to come with her mother, then another with her husband.  I invited my older brother and local family to join us as well--I mean, why not, after all.  He might as well get the whole picture. It's important to understand that this is a man who was an only child of older parents.  He doesn't have any extended family.  I'm quite certain he won't know what hit him.  And I'm even more certain he'll likely to think the 17 of us are more like 17,000.  Poor man.  He asked the Dump if we ever interrupt each other in conversation. "Of course!" she told him.  I'm pretty sure she was trying not to laugh.  Yep, that's a man who wasn't raised with five brothers and sisters. Really, poor man.

So we'll gather, beginning tonight when Beve and I drive down to Seattle to pick the Dump, her man-friend and her son (who wanted to be here to see what the aunts think of the man...whatever that means).  And by the time Sunday rolls around, and we're 17 at our table, which is only part of our large rollicking family, we'll have had plenty of chance to scare Dump's man.

Among us will be Christians, agnostics and atheists.  The devout and the irreverent.  The earnest and the sarcastic.  Most of us are talkers (though I'm close to the top of the list), and all of us are opinionated (a couple pretend not to be...but I won't name names).  But when we break bread together, all those differences--the shallow ones and the cell-deep ones--don't matter. They're my people and I love them.  The agnostics and atheists as well as the believers.  Just as much.  And I pray for them all, for the devout as often as for the irreverent (and I'm in both categories myself as well).

In the interest of total disclosure, I sometimes can't stand my family.  My siblings can make me as crazy as few other people on this earth, which isn't surprising.  After all, they've had a whole lot longer to perfect the skill.  When we're around each other too long, we tend to revert to certain childlike behaviors toward each other.  Bickering and quibbling, for example.  But, when the chips are down, they are my people.  And I'd go to the mat for them, metaphorically.

Yep, these are my people and they're coming to my house.  We will talk and play and be together, and hopefully, welcome this new man into our midst with grace.  I'll let you know how it goes--on Monday.  Have a wonderful weekend.  Full of grace and mercy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a...

It's a Kindle.
Kind of like saying, it's a boy, or it's a girl.
Tonight we went out to dinner for Valentine's Day (apparently our nurse actually should be earning the big bucks--it was a virus!) with Grampie and Thyrza, at a mighty tasty Asian buffet.  Mighty tasty.  The giants in my life are big fans of buffets, BIG fans.  You know, more for their money and all that.  So in the almost three decades I've been hanging around them, we've bellied up to plenty of them.  Some good, some...well, imagine me waving my hand horizontally side to side a few quick times here, and hope you can guess what that means.

But this buffet was amazing.  Sushi, to begin with. Wonderful sushi. Ah, I'm happy just thinking of it all.
Anyway, as we sat there, Grampie had a presentation to make. Grampie loves presentations.  He gave me this carefully wrapped gift (in Birthday wrapping paper, thanks to E).  It was his way of saying thanks for all I've done for them in the last year.  What a gift.  It was at Beve and E's encouragement, something very clear when Grampie kept asking where all the books were and how they could fit in that little thing. 

But I'm grateful.  To all of them.

Now, if you'll excuse me.  I have some books to buy.
But just so you know, my first download was the Word.
Priorities, you know.

P.S. Beve's fortune cookie was actually so good, I put it in my pocket: "Half of being smart is knowing where you're stupid."
I can name two ordinary 'places' where I KNOW I'm stupid--auto-mechanics and Scrabble.  One won't surprise you, the other surely will.  But it's the truth.  I don't see words in my head, nor on little tiles in mixed up forms.  I see images.  Words come from some deeper place. A different part of my brain.  Don't ask me how.  Neurology is another thing I'm pretty stupid about, but at least it isn't ordinary.

And one more thing, since this is a post about all things under the sun, now: tonight when we talked over the weekend with Grampie and Thyrza, telling them about my extended family coming for a visit, Grampie said, "And your mother's coming, of course."  He was awfully embarrassed when I reminded him that my mother was dead.  Scrunched up his face--as he does--and apologized all over the place.  Ah, Grampie.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nets

Well, dang it, I'm sick, which is really annoying, considering everything I have to get done this week.  Also annoying is the fact that the doctor was right last spring when he told me that once I had a bronchial infection I'd be more susceptible to them, especially in the first year.  Triply annoying is that the nurse I just talked to told me that this bug has been going around, is viral, so there's nothing to be done for it but to wait it out. But call back if it lasts longer than a week because the doctor will want to see me.  So I'm having this close encounter with a cement block on my chest, accompanying cough, headache and aches, and thank you very much, have a nice day.  As my mother-in-law always said, "That's why they call it practicing medicine." 

The thing is, I'm very used to having things wrong with me.  As my devoted readers know, I'm no stranger to a weak body.  But my issues are generally of the idiopathic sort.  That's the medical term for "we haven't the faintest idea what the heck is wrong with you, though clearly something is."  Unknown origin is another favorite phrase in relation to my ailments.  Run-of-the-mill things like bronchitis and influenza have leap-frogged over my life to land on other folks with regularity, and I've been grateful for the favor.  So this strikes me as...a bit much.  No, I didn't say that. OK, I did.  But I'm sick, after all.  Give me a break. At least today, my fever doesn't seem as high.  Yesterday I stared into space about half the day, trying to sleep in a recliner so I wouldn't cough.

It's not a good week to be sick.  Thursday night we pick up the first of a rather significant contingent of my family coming for the long weekend.  By Sunday, there will be 15 of us for dinner.   Fortunately it's my family, who will understand if I retreat to my bedroom.  They already know Beve's the host in this household.  I have other gifts.  Hospitality is definitely his.  It isn't that I don't love having family or friends visit, I definitely do.  It's just that Beve anticipated needs, is always on the look-out for how he can feed, serve, welcome others when they're with us.  I'm too busy communicating with them to notice physical needs unless they're pointed out to me.  I want to burrow deep into the recesses of a person's being, to discover what makes him or her who they are, and can do that to the exclusion of feeding them. Sad to say.  Beve understands that unless a person has food and drink they aren't comfortable enough to share.

I've been lately thinking about my strengths and weaknesses in great relief.  Sunday we were at our friends' church for a day-long 'retreat' with a former university president.  It was a wonderful day, rich and challenging.  At the morning service, he used Luke 5: 1-11 as his text, which is the story of Jesus in the boat with the disciples, who have been fishing for hours, catching nothing.  He tells them to cast their nets on the other side, and they bring in a haul so large it tears their nets.  At this moment, Peter kneels and tells Jesus he knows he's a sinner.  And Jesus tells them all they'll become fishers of men.  There were five key things about leadership and following in this passage, according to our speaker, but I keep thinking of two/three in specific.

One is that Jesus used their very gifts to draw them into ministry.  He used the concepts they understood in the language they knew, and called them to vocations based on their own gifts and abilities.  Fishermen to fishers of men. This is exactly how He starts, and uses us--with our own gifts and talents.  Oddly (or not, if you believe in the Holy Spirit), this is pretty much what I was writing about Saturday before we heard the message Sunday morning.  Look back and see.  I love that He does this, that He confirms what we're thinking about.

But with our giftedness, which comes, I believe because we're made in the Image of God, we must keep in tension that we are sinners. The moment at which Jesus calls them to leave everything isn't a high point, but a kneeling point.  A moment at which Peter knows what he is is relations to Christ.  He is a sinner.  Paul says, "Christ came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst."  When I was a young Christian I was shocked by this statement.  I couldn't imagine that Paul--the saint--would think of himself as the worst sinner. But the longer I live with the Light of the World, the more I understand this feeling.  In comparison to Him, in relation to who He is, I am wholly dependent, and wholly needy.  A sinner saved by Grace.  This is always, always the crossroads we live at: that we are gifted treasures used by Him in Kingdom work, and we are sinners kneeling at the foot of the cross.

And then there's this final thought from Sunday:  when they left their boats to follow Jesus, those nets were still full.  He gave them a catch so large it ripped their nets--and they left it!  I don't think I'd ever seen in such sharp relief before that even what we are given by Him must come second--or after--His call to follow.  Even the most miraculous gifts of our life are to be considered nothing in comparison to being His disciples.  There's no indication that they gave those fish a second thought when He called them to follow.  That, I think, is what made them true disciples.  They left their nets...their nets full of fish.

Dare I do the same?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

His looks will confuse you

What a day.  An oh so wonderful, full of everything, very good day!  But I'm exhausted now, fighting a cold, and just need to veg a bit. Ruminate a bit more on the best of the teaching, let the best of the fellowship marinate along with it...and write about it when I'm a little more coherent.

In the meantime, I thought I'd post some unoriginal work.  Annie Dillard might call such things, "Found Poems," though these are neither found nor poems.  They are far more interesting and entertaining than that (at least to me, and therefore, I'll subject you to them!).  One of Beve's roles this year is to be the counselor for the Grads program, which is newly housed at his high school.  This is the program for the teen moms in the district who want to finish high school.  They come to school with babies in tow, and work hard to juggle the demands of being new moms while still teens with all that means.  Beve has spent a lot of time in their classroom this year, getting to know them and working with them. So at the end of the first semester, they were asked to write a descriptive paragraph about him for their final in English.  Beve was given those paragraphs last week and we've enjoyed them more than the girls probably intended.  They're sweet and clever and funny and kind.  They have a lot of opinions about how he dresses, and even his style of glasses; apparently, to quote one of them, his looks will confuse you!
So, here are some exerpts:
"Mr. W. has two or three children...all of which he's put through college.  I find this amazing that he's managed raising a family, kids and wife, traveling outside of the America and still getting his kids through college.  I think as a consequences of living with women, Mr. W has a strong appreciation for chocolate.  He always has chocolate with him."
"Mr. W is a silly-looking tall man with glasses who is willing to talk to any student here at SqHs.  He is over six feet tall and looks like a huge giant! Anytime you are talking to him you have to look up at him. When first meeting him you might think that he looks like a strict guy but after talking to him he is one of the nicest people you would ever meet."
"What can I say about this man? He is tall and slim.  He has all his hair without any bald spots.  He wears glasses that go with his face that are not the big huge ones that people always make fun of.  He is the best counselor I have ever had during my high school years."
"Mr. W is tall, like over six feet tall!  He has a lot of long features such as his legs, arms and torso.  He also wears thin frame glasses over his blue eyes and I've never seen him go without shaving his face.  Mr. W has a narrow set of teeth and smiles a lot. When he talks it's a low tone that isn't real husky but kind of a matured sound.  He's probably in his late forties or early fifties and is starting to grey a bit.  I would say that his dress is something I would expect from an ex-basketball coach, and current high school counselor."
And this whole paragraph:
He's tall like Kobe but not quite as dark, loving like Oprah but not so girly.  His name is Mr. W, SqHS counselor.  Mr. W is a charming and understandable man.  He is quite serious at first but becomes very sociable and funny afterwards. With his tall appearance and bright smile he knows how to light up the room.  His ideas toward education and life are positively creative.  You could easily mistake him as a boring old man with his square shirts, classy pants, grey hair and 1990-styled glasses, but take into mind that his looks will confuse you.  His attitude toward his students is admirably courteous.  His heart is in the right place when it comes to them.  He could easily understand a student's outside of school situation and does his best to better them out in the real world as well as supporting them in their education.  He has the skills to guide many students into the right path.  The advice that comes from his rough voice and doughnut-smelling breath aid many in their growth to happiness!

Ah, Beve.  He's a good one.
Enjoy your week.   Wow, I mean, Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The God-given Imperative

I found it!  No, I'm not talking about Jesus, because He's not an it, after all.  And if I was actually going to begin a post (or write a slogan) with the genesis of my relationship with Him, it would be, "He found me."  Maybe others go searching until they find Jesus, like He's playing hide-and-seek with them, has crawled into the darkest closet where they only look when they've reached the end of their rope.  But that wasn't my experience.  My experience--and I daresay the experience of most of us from the those sons of Zebedee out in the boat with Simon (later Peter) onward--is that we answer a call, or a knock, or are found by Him.  He does the work of seeking us first, now and always.  So, that slogan, bumper sticker, that whole "I found it" campaign that had such momentum a couple of decades ago (was it really that long ago?) is wrong.  Just plain wrong.  As well-intentioned and good-hearted as it was, it put the emphasis in the wrong place.  We have to get over the notion that we're the center of the universe.  We aren't.  It doesn't take a genius to know that.  But we also have to get over the more pervasive notion--even in Christian circles--that we're the center of our own story.  We aren't.  We just aren't. The one who set the stars into space also created amoebas.  And He, my friends, is the One who knows our names.  He calls us into relationship with Him.  His Name is Jesus.  So, none of this "I found it!" about the One who found us.

Whew.  Just had to get that off my chest.
 What I meant when I said, "I found it," was Rainier Maria Rilke's Letters to A Young Poet.  I've been looking all over my house for it recently.  I really have to get my bookcases better organized.  I used to be such a stickler about my books.  But we've done too much re-arranging in the last few years so my Dewey-decimal system (or my own rendition) is all out of order.  It makes me just the littlest bit crazy.  But this too is beside the point because I found what I was looking for. Thankfully.

Today I got an email from a friend which reminded me of being young and uncertain of who and what I wanted to be.  It reminded me that it's a process, this figuring out who we're meant to be, and for some of us, it takes a life-time.  Hey, look at me, after all.  Anyway, her email made me think of this quote Rilke wrote to his young poet friend.  It's one of my all-time favorite quotes, because it's about writing.  But it's also about living, or about whatever it is that you're passionate about.

So here you go on this windy Saturday night:
Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself that you would have to die if it were denied you to write.  This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and testimony to it."  (18-19)

What Rilke is touching on here is the God-given imperative, I think.  The gift He has given--to preach, if that's the call, to teach as a teacher, or nurse as a nurse--that makes us whole.  In responding to this imperative, as Rilke calls it, we are what we were created to be, our in-His-image selves. 
For me, it's writing, generally.  But writing with an ear to His voice, if that makes sense.  This is what drives me.  This is the urgency in my life.

What is it for you?  What's the end of that stillest hour of your night question?  "Must I...?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A broken record...again

My intention for today was to post some photos of my most recent quilts.  You know, just something light.  But today was another hard day.  A headache from dawn to dusk hasn't helped, but that's not the crux of it.  Here it is: I got my feelings hurt today.  Badly.  And frankly, that doesn't happen very often.  My body's pretty weak, my emotions don't tend to be.  Sure, Beve can hurt my feelings, and my kids can press my buttons, but to be wounded...well, I can count on a single hand the number of times in my life when this has happened.  Maybe because I'm just so dense I don't get it,  or maybe my mother's having been hurt by every second thing anyone ever said to her, whether it was even close to hurtful or not has actually stiffened my resolve into not taking offense by things others say or do.

Except today.  And by an old woman not functioning at the height of her abilities.  And I know better, dang it, I really know better. But here's the story: Grampie had an eye appointment, and Thyrza, as always came along because she wanted to hear what the doctor had to say, and, she told us, she wanted to speak privately to the doctor after the appointment.  So at the end of the appointment, Grampie and I sat in the waiting room while she spoke to the eye doctor.  On the way home, she told us that she'd talked to the eye doctor about Grampie's deteriorating mental abilities.  The eye doctor said, "That's not really my area of expertise. But he should probably see a neurologist."  Thyrza was very interested in this new idea, very hopeful about it.
"Thyrza," I said.  "Grampie's already seeing a neurologist, Dr. Morris.  He's been seeing him since last April. You've come with him a few times."
She remembered this, she told me.
"Would you rather find a different one, one they suggest?" I asked, treading lightly.  I know how she's been about these things lately.
"No," she answered. "I think he's fine."
Then she said, "This is why I don't like you to come to appointments with me.  You always deny or embellish everything I say."

I didn't react very well to this, I have to say.  I got very quiet (Beve would recognize this response in a second).  Finally, as I got out their walkers, I said, "I'll just be quiet from now on."  Thyrza didn't say another word to me.

I'm tired of this.  Tired of not knowing when I'm going to be blasted by her.  But what's worse is that I don't react with grace.  At least I didn't today.  And my instinct is to reduce contact, which is what she wants, though, unfortunately, not what she needs.  She/they need our help, and it's too much for Beve to do alone, nor would I want him to. But to grit my teeth and continue is not good for any of us.  How do I learn to extend grace, allow her anger, which, as I've said, is surely mostly anger at her own weaknesses, to roll over me without being hurt by it?

This is always the dilemma of the care-giver, I think.  And the dilemma of humans dealing with other humans.  We hurt each other.  We are thoughtless and offensive and lash out in anger toward others because there's something deeply hurting within ourselves.  And I manage on my own, doing better or worse, depending on my mood, the weather, and who knows what else.  Or I can admit I will never win at this equation on my own terms, and abdicate.  Give up.  Again.

Yes, I'm a broken record.  I know I am.  Because I need to learn it over and over and over.  And I'm a very slow learner.  Give up. Surrender.  Ask Him to act in me, in my stead, to extend love toward those who do not act loving toward me.  No matter what.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A baby bird

I woke up thinking about the students Beve has accumulated (Sounds like a pile of sweaters, doesn't it? Sorry couldn't think of a better word today).  Of course, there has been a host of students in his 25 year career, I am not talking about most of them.  The majority of the high school students in Beve's caseload pass through his door (his goal each year is to meet with each of his students at least once, which is a huge undertaking since his case load is usually over 430), and head off into their lives.  For better or worse.  Many for worse, sadly enough.  These are the ones who awaken Beve in the middle of the night (I started to write--'keep him awake at night' but nothing keeps him from falling asleep quickly, other than that night last week when he took the Exedrin migraine too late in the evening!).  The kids who drop out, the ones whose personal lives are so complicated because of their choices or their parents' choices or--usually--a combination of both, that they have the deck stacked against them before they've begun, these are the kids Beve worries most about.  He wonders how, as he ages, he can continue to be relevant to them, can continue to step into their shoes with enough compassion and understanding that they will open up to him and hear him, and not simply see the gray hair on his head.

But every now and then, a kid comes along who becomes a little more to Beve.  Or perhaps a better way to say it might be, a kid sees something in Beve that they need.  In Mr. W____, as they call him.  And even long after high school, when they've stayed in our home, bought Christmas and birthday gifts, and are very much part of our family, they continue to call him Mr. W____.  They don't, however, call me Mrs. W____.  Not more than once, anyway.  I can't abide it.  That comes from my childhood, and having called Beve's tall, stately mother by that title for 18 years before I married him.  I've just never thought I lived up to the billing  (get it--lived up, was tall enough?  This over-stating of a pun is intended for my son and his buddies who always find it amusing).

Anyway, I'm thinking today about three girls in particular who have become a bit more than part of Beve's caseload.  Each of these girls was on her own to a large extent.  Without parental support, for the most part--in other countries, behind bars, or simply unable to care for them.  And this absence of a parental figure during these crucial years made them both older and younger than their peers.  I don't know if there's any correlation, and I certainly don't imply any where there might not be, but each of these girls is a different ethnicity than Beve.  LB, the oldest now, is from Hong Kong.  LB's been part of our lives for almost 10 years now.  We've lived through a lot with her. Hard times and good times.  She's a tenacious survivor, that one.  What she lived through in her early years would have brought most of us to our knees, and I'm not talking prayer.  But she's like the energizer bunny, she just keeps on going.  Then there's V, who my oldest blog readers will remember from the summer she lived with us, is from Zaire, though she was raised in (and has returned to) inner-city Seattle. Oh, V.  If anyone could turn hair gray, it would be that one.  I can't tell you--I really can't, because I don't know more than hints--of everything she's up to, but she's not a success story.  It's a worry.  A very sad worry.

The youngest one is C.  C is a young Hispanic who just met Beve this year.  But these days, she makes a daily appearance in his office, to sit in his rocking chair, rocking furiously as she tells him of all the trouble in her life.  A week ago, Beve and I watched C get baptized.  It's the custom at our church for any significant person to come forward to greet and hug the newly baptized person when they come down the steps from the pool.  So we went forward, and were immediately in a swarm of people waiting to hug C.  Even Beve's stature didn't make him stand out in that crowd.  Two of her five younger siblings were there, darling little boys with their foster mom, dressed up in suits with their hair slicked back.  We met them after the service and they shook our hands solemnly.  I asked if they always looked this way, and the mom laughed.  C just found out last week that her mother has relinquished her other three siblings to the people they've been living with, so she doesn't know if she'll ever see them again.  C's life is hard, and she's a tough customer in it.  She made a step of faith last week, though she willingly admits she hasn't the faintest idea what being a Christian actually means.  It makes more sense to her to beat someone up than to turn the other cheek, to get mad and even and make a person pay.  Forgiveness isn't a concept she knew anything about until she heard about Jesus, and even now, she doesn't understand how to translate that into her everyday life in a world with an alcoholic father and an incarcerated mother.  Beve is the kindest man she's ever met, certainly the only stable one.  And she recognized it.  That's the good thing.

They all did.  They recognized stability and kindness and something they didn't get anywhere else.  That's more important than those gray hairs on his head.  More relevant.  Beve asked me if I'd be willing to disciple C, and I agreed.  We're going to shop for a study next week.  I'm thinking we have to begin at the beginning. And I don't mean Genesis.  I'm not really sure what I mean. The basics, I guess.  What it means to be a Christian, once a person's made that choice.  There's a lot of ground to cover.  She's eager, hungry, and raw.  Exactly as we all come, when you get right down to it.  Sure, some of us have a veneer of polish on us, but beneath, how do we know anything in the beginning?  We all begin like baby birds.  She helps me remember.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beve's new phone

Beve's had this day marked on his calendar for months. Er, make that years.  And let's just be honest, it wasn't to see my smiling face that he came racing home from school. "I feel a scratchy throat coming on," he told E this morning when she called him to say the mailman had just delivered his package.  And though he got home about 4 PM, he didn't even take his coat off until almost 8 PM.  Instead, he and E sat straight down on the family room sectional and began 'sinking' Beve's new toy phone.  iPhone, that is.

Yep, we're Verizon customers so Beve's been waiting for this day.  Last week, he gave J the charge of placing his order the first minute after midnight the day the iPhone was made available to Verizon.  J spent all evening, checking, and was able to place the order at 11:45, 16 whole minutes earlier than expected.  Magical!

So all evening, Beve's been playing with his new toy iPhone.  Watching you-tube clips, playing games, doing all sorts of other things that are far beyond my expertise or interest.  I tease Beve about his nightly Craigslist devotional(by the way, don't go looking up Craiglist--definitely NOT the same thing without the s), followed by a couple of hand-held device games of something or other.  Now we'll have to add some kind of iPhone viewing to his nightly ablutions.  They are rather like his ablutions, after all--the things he has to do in order to wind down enough to go to sleep.

The iPhone isn't really something I'm inclined toward, to tell the truth.  I mean, half the time I forget where I've put down my cell-phone.  Yesterday I never even turned it on and didn't notice until I was getting ready for bed.  I just can't quite get in the habit of being married to this electronic device.  Sometimes I actually like the idea that I'm unavailable to anyone.  And I'd rather choose when to look at my email.  Once a day is plenty.  I just don't need to have my phone tell me I have new messages every few moments.  It's just hard to imagine that I'll get a message in my inbox so important it can't wait a few hours--or even a few days--until I see it.

But I'm thrilled for Beve.  I really am.  I love that he was excited about it, waited for it, and now has it.  He'll use it.  And lately it's been a little like talking to an old scratchy phonograph when talking to him.  And sometimes the dinosaur cuts out for no earthly reason.  Yes, I think we'll all be glad for the clarity of this new phone, though the first person he spoke to this evening had to tell him to take the protective cover off his phone--that was why he couldn't hear very well.  Live and learn, and he's learning I-phone on the fly.

And I'll watch him.  I'm an old dog.  I'm thinking that the new trick I might be willing to learn is a Nook or Kindle.  Though I do love the feel of a book in my hands, there is some advantage to these when traveling.  Just saying.  Hint, hint.  Beve...Beve?

And that's about it tonight.  Nothing profound.  Nothing spiritual.  And stuff, which is ironic, considering what I wrote about yesterday.  But I'm nothing if not a bundle of contradictions.  I suppose we all are to a certain extent.  Our aim is to lessen the contradictions.  As we become more like Him, I believe this happens...
But I think a Nook would help.  I mean, there are a lot of great classics I could put on it, right?
Oh great, add a little justifying to my contradictions.  Better just quit while I'm behind.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spring Cleaning

We're watching the Super Bowl, which always makes me a little sad, because it means that football season is over for another year.  The other day E asked me which I'd rather watch, the Super Bowl or March Madness.  "Is this a trick question?" I asked, looking from her to Beve and back again.  There is no question for them, after all.  March Madness--college basketball's equivalent of Christmas, birthdays and every other holiday wrapped up together--is definitely their choice.  And I know it.  I've lived it a long time.  But I love football, even when the two teams playing aren't teams I have a particular liking for and one is one I even hold a certain grudge against (sports grudges die hard, after all, and I still maintain that the Steelers and the refs robbed the Seahawks of the Super Bowl ring in 2006--just saying!).  So I'm more than willing to root against Pittsburgh anytime, any way. Sorry to you Steeler fans out there.

But with two minutes left in the season, we've been jumping into the next season.  No, not basketball, because that's more than a season but a year-long reason for living, just ask my family!  I'm talking about the season of spring-cleaning!  Anyone want to do the wave with me?  Can I at least hear an Amen, then?  Well, it is big news around here, when cleaning out and clearing out are reasons to celebrate, because they're oh-so-very-hard to do.  Today, as our pre-game warm-up, Beve and I cleared out the large hall-closet that houses everything from canned goods to china to his old Boy Scout merit badge sash (my dad would be sooo happy that to see it so carefully saved) to paint.  Yep, it's a cornucopia (oh yeah, and there's one of those, waiting for Thanksgiving along with some ceramic pumpkins!) in that closet.  And today we just plugged our noses and dove in.  Now all my crystal candlesticks are on the same shelf with the candles, and the table linens have their own home together as well.  Sigh, how I love being organized.  I really love it.

 I'm greatly encouraged by the space created, and by all the junk we tossed.  And thankfully, Beve was willing to let go of more than I expected.  He's more of a hoarder than I am.  Not a hoarder like that TV show that makes me cringe every time I see a commercial for it.  But he often thinks there might be a use for something I'm trying to throw away.  This is definitely something that causes a bit of tension between us now and then.  But I don't want to cast aspersions on him...if my weaknesses were written about, it'd take a blog post from here to eternity to finish the list.   And it's like that for most of us, actually.  We're all a combination of strength and weakness, without a doubt.  If his worst weakness is to haunt thrift stores and garage sales to find bargains, well, I can certainly live with that. 

Anyway, we got about half-way through the closet (I told you it's a very large, well-stocked place!) before my leg gave out...co-incidentally about the same time the game came on.  Beve hauled out a whole lot of junk that people will paw through at some Good Will or other, looking for new treasures.

I think we've gotten clogged up with stuff.  So clogged up that we've forgotten that we're just here temporarily.  You know?  I look at the elders, listen to them talk about their things, worry about what happened to this box, where that treasure went, and I think they're holding on so tightly, because these things are slipping from their fingers.  This truth hit me the first time when my beloved mother-in-law died.  With her watch still on her arm, and her wedding ring just slipped from her finger and handed to her husband.  Of all the beautiful things she collected in her life--and they were myriad--she took absolutely none of them with her when she left this world.  This is always, always true.  We take not a dang thing with us. This house full of things-- books and dishes and technological things and clothing and...everything else.  All of it will be left for our children to deal with when we die, if we don't first. 
So, if we love them, we'd do better to get rid of what will surely make them crazy--even angry--down the road.

Because what we take with us, the only eternal valuables we have in this life are the relationships which we've been given.  Their lives count.  Their impact on us, and ours on them--this is what we carry with us into the Throne room of the King.  And that, my friends, is a burden worth carrying.

So let that spur us toward our basement...

Friday, February 4, 2011

A sad day

This will be a rather serious post.  It's been a serious kind of day.  I was awakened this morning by a phone call from Beve telling me that a friend of ours was raped Saturday night.  R-A-P-E-D, he spelled out to me when I said, "What did you say?" That's how unexpected it was, though how this news would ever be expected, I don't know. Anyway, I suppose you can imagine that I've been thinking about it all day long.  About her.  She's not the first woman I've known to have suffered this crime against her person, which is a crying shame to me as well. This young friend--in her 20s-- actually called E in the first moments after it happened, though, unfortunately, it was in 4:30am and E didn't answer her phone.  Of course, there's some regret about that now, though what E could have done from our house so far away from hers, it's hard to say.  Give distant comfort, yes.  But her life is altered now.  There are wounds that cannot be undone.  And it breaks my heart that this is so.

In a few weeks, SK is directing the Vagina Monologues at Whitworth University.  It's her second year of directing and third year the Monologues have been performed at Whitworth.  (If you have the opportunity to see the Vagina Monologues, you should.  Really.  No matter what your age or gender.  No matter how uncomfortable it makes you at moments.  It's real and important, and makes you think.  Helps you to stand up, perhaps!) I have to say that of all the things SK's been a part of theatrically during her college years, I'm most proud of this work.  E and I saw it last year and were stunned by the monologues.  We laughed, thought deeply and cried.  A lot.  At the end, SK stood and asked every woman in the room who'd been abused (emotionally, physically or sexually) to stand, and it was shocking to see the large number of girls and women who stood.  Then SK asked anyone who'd known someone who'd been abused to also stand--there were far more people standing than left sitting in that theater.  It killed me, it really did.  There we were, a theater full of people who'd been affected by the abuse of women, either of ourselves or someone else.  It's an epidemic, it really is. 

And it breaks my heart. I know I'm a lucky one.  Not only did I live a safe, even enchanted child-and-girlhood, but I dodged a true bullet the night a man pushed his way into our apartment and only by the grace of God and my roommate's sudden, larger than life (certainly larger than she actually was in her real life) appearance, that man high-tailed it out of there, leaving me to shake like a leaf, but completely whole and safe.  Yes, I'm one of the lucky ones.

But I don't know why. That is, I don't know why God chose to protect me when He hasn't chosen to protect others, others perhaps more vulnerable than I am, certainly ones with a more torturous life story already.  I don't know why He allows the suffering of some in such great degree, and keeps others so completely safe from such horrific pain that goes on and on, and takes a lifetime to recover from.  I rarely have the urge to ask God "why me?" but this situation, like so many others in my life, cause me to stop and ask, "Why not me?" and "Why her?"

And when I ask that question, there are two kinds of answers.  Well, one isn't an answer at all, but the silence I've learned to expect from the great Mystery that is the God we serve.  Until I can say I've created the heavens and the earth, until I've given breath to every living creature on that earth, (which, of course, is as far beyond my puny self as the edge of the universe is beyond the view of my naked eye--or even farther, but I couldn't think of anything farther than that) I have no way, no ability, and no right to understand why God does what He does and allows what He allows.  He is who He is, and that is it.  He is who He is. His answer to the hardest of all questions. He is who He is, and who He is is far beyond my reckoning, but also--and this is the salient point for our friend, though the pain within her is too deep and cruel to hear it today--as close as a beating heart.  When our friend was awakened from a dead sleep to a man not merely in the room but on her, God was also there.  Aching as much as I'm aching now.  As much as every woman hurts to hear this.  I believe this.

And I believe that my safe, good life means I have a responsibility to be comfort for the hurting.  To love those who feel dirty and unlovable because another human has so violated her. We each have that responsibility--to care for those He puts in our lives to care for.  Even when, or especially when, it breaks our hearts.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Copying Ten on Tuesday

E and her blogger--or is that bloggy--friends participate in this activity called "Ten of Tuesday," which I always enjoy, because I like to learn more about my child. And now that SK has joined in, I especially like seeing what the girls/young women tell me about their lives.  But I've never felt the need to answer these questions myself, because I spend just about every post writing my-life-as-an-open-book kind of things.  However, the first question of today's "Ten on Tuesday" is something I've been thinking about a whole lot lately.  So I thought I'd take a shot at the list of these 'young punks' (as Grampie would put it). With my own spin on it, of course. Smile!
 1. What is your favorite childhood memory?
 What I've been thinking about actually is my first childhood memory which is a lot different than my favorite.  My first is of being in a church.  Interesting, huh?  I was dressed up in a very fancy dress, and the church was dark stone, and I was with my grandparents because my mother was busy at the front.  In fact, it was my aunt's wedding, I've since determined, and my mother was an attendant.  Just a few weeks before I turned two.  By the way, my sister Dump's first memory is a taste.  And the taste is wood.  Chewing the wooden railing on her crib.  Also very fascinating, if you knew her.  She's all about taste, that sister.
But my favorite childhood memory undoubtedly have to do with being at our cabin on Whidbey Island.  Sleeping outside, swimming in the sound, riding bikes to Bayview Store.  Hauling water from the well, learning to sew on a treadle sewing machine, and cook on a wood stove.  It was like living a hundred years in the past.

2. What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I'm so succinct in my writing.  Just kidding.  Actually, I think it's that I'm passionate.  I mean, I'm almost always all in...I'm just not half-hearted.  In relationships, interests, conversations, emotions.  And you always know what you get with me.


3. What is your favorite thing that your child does?
Well, they all have Beve's great sense of wit. And his loyalty.  E thinks logically, J thinks deeply, and SK thinks passionately.

4. What is your favorite thing to do to relax?
Read in the bath, read in front of a fire, read by a pool, read in bed...well, you get the idea.

5. What is your favorite restaurant? And what is your favorite thing on the menu?
I love Thai.  Several years ago, E and I made a point of going to all the Thai restaurants in town--there were 10 at the time.  My favorite is probably Supon's.  A little dive-ish, but oh sooo good.  And I always, always order Curry.  Red or Panang.  However, on a completely different vein, the Abbey Garden Tea Room is a must any time we have out of town guests, and their high tea is amazing!

6. What is your favorite piece of jewelry (besides your wedding ring)?
I only every wear earrings besides my wedding ring.  About 90% of the time I wear the same tiny diamond gold hoops.  I like others, but I just don't think about it.  And my watch, of course, which doesn't even feel like jewelry. The way some people don't get out of bed without putting on their glasses, I don't get up without putting on my watch.  If I forget it, I'm lost for the day.

7. What is your favorite night of the week M-TH? And why?

Friday because Beve will sleep in the next morning, so he won't go to bed as early.  And every night of any vacation.  For the same reason.

 8.What's your favorite dessert?
Anything lemon.  However, we made this pumpkin bread pudding for Thanksgiving that I've been dreaming of ever since.  I do love pumpkin.  I'm not--oh, the revelation here!--a huge chocolate fan. Don't hate it, just don't prefer it, if there's a choice. 

9. What is your favorite item in your make-up bag?

Thanks to my daughters, I'm more of a make-up person than I used to be. E bought me a Stila travel palette of eye-shadows for Mother's Day last year, and that's been in my purse ever since.  I don't really use much else. Perfect colors, right consistency, lovely mirror with magnetic closure.  What's not to love?

10. What is your favorite smell?
Coffee, freshly ground.  Second:  Wood on a campfire (evokes my dad and childhood.  See #1).