Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Week Of Joy

I write this in Colorado Springs, CO. My job flew me out here for a couple of days. This morning when I woke up, I looked out the window and saw the mountains for the first time. I’ve never been out west and its blue beauty is nothing short of breathtaking. I can’t get over their hugeness, the way they peek and fall away, the black smudges of pine against a tan gray, yellow background.

Some of you may have heard of the fires raging throughout the state consuming more than 15 thousand acres of woodland. The whole place is a dense smoke bank. The kind of smoke that clings to your clothes even if you've only been outside for a minute. It dries your throat and you can smell it everywhere. Last night as I was driving back from the conference I saw the reddish glow of the fire emanating on the far side of the mountain.

I haven’t had time to blog in a while so this short break is my window of opportunity! here's the "scoopish" (as my mom would say).

Last week, I turned 22!. There wasn't much time for celebration as a friend of mine was getting married the following day on my parent’s farm and I was the decorator and coordinator for the event. I didn't mind though, I enjoy serving so I was doing something I loved. 

I have had a little time to reflect on this past year. So much has happened and I have grown exponentially in my walk with the Lord. I finished school, traveled to cities I'd never seen, added some really awesome friends to my collection, unearthed a gigantic revelation of the Father's love, got a job in ministry, grew closer to my family and in all this stepped into a much deeper understanding of who I am and the destiny that is over my life. 

I am also pleased to announce that the wedding was a smashing success! (It was a Pinterest wedding—if that means anything to you—handcrafted, homemade, organic feel all over it. Totally country.) 

I didn't have time to take pictures but I stole some from friends so you can get a little peak! 


Before Ceremony, guests trickling in

 First dance
"I do!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Tale of an Exile

Once upon an exiled time, I lived under the power of a terrible curse which robbed my life of both love and light. The nature of the curse was this: every morning just before sunrise I died; and every night I awoke in darkness. My life was void of illumination and warmth.
            Strangely, I did not know the depth of my own despair for because death robbed my days and darkness blackened my nights, how could I know that such miracles existed as the faithful rising sun, the purity of color blue or the beauty of a smile? Still, I felt a sense that there was something missing like bread baked without salt or the loss of an old, family ring.
            Then, on a day woven on the loom of destiny I saw it—coming from the forest toward me, bobbing bright and blinding. As it drew near I felt fear at its foreignness. What was it?
            “Hello!” A voice called flavored with music.
            I jumped to my feet and pulled at my coarse, wool tunic that had knotted itself about my ankles. “Stop right there!” I demanded fiercely. “Who are you? What is that terrible thing in your hand?”
            She laughed a light, jovial laugh. “I am Etsmey,” she said. “And this fearsome thing in my hand is a lantern,” she shook it and the light danced off the bare trunks of the withering oaks, swept bare with late autumn’s cold.  
            “What is it for?” I asked suspiciously.
            “For? Well, to see by of course! I was hunting chestnuts and I won’t be able to find them in the dark,” she held the lantern aloft and the light caught her angular features. “You’re not a fool, are you?” she asked curiously, drawing near to investigate my face.
            “Of course not!” I clipped, brushing a tangled strand of hair from my lip. “I’ve just never seen one—it makes my eyes hurt to look at it—put it down.”
            She lowered it a little. “You are a strange girl—I’ve never met anyone so strange. Let me guess, next you’ll be saying you’ve never seen the sun!” Etsmey mused sarcastically.
            I frowned. “What is that?”
            “You’re not lying to me, are you?” she asked suddenly serious.
            “No, I swear on the darkness I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
            “The sun is what gives this land life, it makes the wheat grow, the trees change and the soil warm. By it we see…well, everything!”
            I had heard of people, poor peasants mostly, who worshiped the different elements: wind, water and air. I wondered if Etsmey was one of the exiles who practiced these rituals. “Is the sun your god?” I asked.
            She laughed. “Of course not that would be ridiculous! There is even a greater Light than the sun and that Light commands the sun like a servant. Why, compared to the Light the sun’s glow is like the tiniest ember.”
            I leaned forward intrigued. “What is the Light?”
            “You mean Who is the Light?” her voice grew gentler. “He has many names, but my people and I call him Abba, Father.”
            Abba. That name reached in and touched the darkest, driest places of my soul as if with a glowing, liquid hand. Something about the idea of a Father both frightened and fascinated me. “What is he like?” Unconsciously, the thought of him brought questions on the current of my mind.
            Etsmey sighed wistfully. “He’s a fierce warrior yet he is peace. He’s a lion yet a lamb. He is the most excellent One—the fairest of all men.”
            “How can I meet Him?”
            “You must ask him to come with his light to touch your eyes to see. Then you will be able to see him as the rest of my people do.”
            “Will it hurt me?” I asked. “His light I mean...”
            Etsmey considered. “Perhaps a little at first but that will pass. You could ask him to come now if you want. He can pull back the veil of darkness from your heart.”
            I was used to the darkness. I’d grown accustomed to it, at times, it even a comforted me.
            “Will I have to walk in light?”
            “Naturally, all his people do.”
            I thought of how Etsmey’s small lantern had hurt my eyes, how much more the One she called the Light. I shook my head and as I did the feeling of death began to grip my body, cold and paralyzing as poison. “It must be nearing dawn,” I thought through the thick heaviness that wrapped itself around my mind. My legs gave way and then...nothing.
            I awoke alone in darkness. There was no sound. No familiar wind whispering secrets to the shivering trees. No night owl lording over the forest with his watch. Suddenly, a cold sweat leapt to my pores and my heart began to pound. I wasn't alone.
            “Etsmey? Etsmey, is that you?” I whispered shakily as my soiled fingers groped for my staff.
            “No…it’s me,” a masculine voice replied on my left.
            “Who are you?”
            “One who will give you your heart’s desires…” he said on my right.
            “How do you know what I desire?” I challenged the darkness.
            An amused chuckle burst from him and echoed through the naked wood. “Correction: desires, for there are many of them. You desire to no longer be in exile. You desire the curse removed. But above all, you desire love.”
            “How—how do you know that?” I asked. I had never voiced my longings even to the darkness.
            “I know many things,” he said. “Things about you: your past, your future, your exile, the curse, even about your enemy.”
            I stopped. “Who is my enemy?”
            “One who would hurt you. His half-witted followers (like your friend Etsmey) think that he ‘loves’ them. They lead others astray by their deceived doctrines of the ‘light’ he brings. Do you want to know a secret?” He drew nearer and I could feel his warm breath in my hair as he whispered, “He’s the one who exiled you. He’s the one who cursed you. Do you want to belong, wandering one?” the voice asked softly, his strong arms embrace me. It felt good to be in his arms. I could belong there. “I will take care of you. I will be your father. We can live in my kingdom and perhaps I will even give you power to rule.”
            “Really?” I asked, intrigued.
            “ I promise.”
            “Ha! Father of what lies?” It was Etsmey. Her small frame stood planted in the clearing holding her lantern. She was glaring at us, teeth clenched like a wild, barbarian.
            “Etsmey,” he exclaimed like a pleased show master. “I hoped you would join us. I have been waiting to have a little chat with you.”
            “I don’t want to talk to you,” she snapped. To me she said, “Come on I’m taking you home with me.”
            “Do your people know what you did, Etsmey?” he asked then clucked sadly. “If they did, they wouldn’t even want to touch you. Filth is what you are.”
            Etsmey reddened and swallowed. “I’m not that person anymore.  Abba says...”
            “Abba-says-this-Abba-says-that!” he mocked in an annoying singsong voice. “Come now, when are you going to think for yourself? He isn’t any of the things he says he is!”
            Instantly, Etsmey’s eyes flashed the color of boldness. “I may still be learning who I am, but I know his nature is love and truth,” she held the lantern higher and began to walk forward. “I know you to appear good and handsome only in the darkness, but when his light shines on you…” she shoved the lantern forward.
             I saw for the first time the wretchedness that held me in his arms. Putrid ugliness wreathed in rotten distain, not a man at all, but a monster of a creature.
            I screamed and struggled but he held me tighter his broken teeth grinning evilly upon me. “You will be mine,” he hissed venom in my ear. “You will live with me forever!”
            “No!” I shrieked, clawed and twisted, even bit him, but I was powerless. An image flashed into my minds-eye, chained in one of his reeking dungeons, no water, the floor a bed of red coals, starved rats gnawing my toes and fingers, evil monsters torturing me with hot brands. Forever. “I never said I wanted you!” I shrieked.
            “But you never said you wanted him either.” His reminder was like a boulder falling in my stomach.
             “Call upon the name of Abba—ask him to rescue you!” Etsmey’s voice roused me.
            I tried to find my voice, but even that failed me. Nothing came out. I closed my eyes. Only my heart whispered and somehow its cry was louder than the confusion.
He heard.
            Instantly, the darkness and all evil fled the earth. Suddenly, we were standing there in the light bathed forest. I was looking at him and he was seeing me.
            “Daughter,” his face—his wonderful, satisfying face—broke into the most generous, smile that man had ever known. He said it as if there was no word in the world he liked better; nothing that pleased him more than to say it. “Daughter,” he breathed again, eyes glistening as though he could hardly believe it was true.
            “I see you, Father!” I sobbed with joy and fell into his arms happily, willingly.  
Once upon an exiled time, I lived under the power of a terrible curse which robbed my life of both love and light.
But now, because of him, I am changed forever after.
The End

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Way I See Things : My Early Life

My mom tells me, laughingly that I was the stubborn one of all of us kids--in delivery and rearing. The proud markings could be traced along my impish chin and defiant lips that stuck out when thinking deeply or angered. She also says I was born old. Not with wrinkles or white hair of course (I'm no Benjamin Button) but rather, possessing a maturity and communication style beyond the average child of three. Adults were impressed. And I like impressing them with my vocabulary. 
Then, I was strong willed, a little bossy and particular about hand washing. Today, I am strong willed, a little bossy and particular about hand washing. Not much changes. 
Amid all this, a nickname was coined. I was crowned and dubbed “Boo Boo”, because my lower lip always stuck out. Boo boo lips they called them.
Remembering back comes in snippets, somewhat golden and hazy memory clips of summer scenes. Climbing the boxelder that grew in the low areas on the “other five”; thrilling games of tag over round bails in the hay barn with the neighborhood kids; playing hide-and-go-seek with the shaggy collie we loved like a sister.
It’s interesting how so many things about a person changes with age and then in another way they don’t at all. I’ve matured of course, but I’m still that stubborn, naughty girl of six. I’m still me.   
Born not far from the capital city my family moved three times before my third birthday. First, my aunt and uncle’s basement. I was a year old and I still remember two or three flashbacks from our time there. Then the apartment…oh the apartment! That was during my terrible twos and I was spanked every day in that place. Flashbacks: standing at the window waiting for my dad to come home from work and throwing a record-breaking temper tantrum (over Lord only knows what) using stuffed animals as missiles (these where quickly confiscated).
Then we moved into the schoolhouse with grandma and grandpa. It was a square, three story white house which they had renovated from a turn of the 19th Century school house into a home for their rapidly growing family back in the nineteen-fifties. I hated it there. Mom and Dad had bought Bettenger’s corn field and where building a Cape Cod house on the hill. This kept them extremely busy and I spent my days with grandma.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandparents, they were kind, feeble and always had Schwans ice cream stocked in the extra freezer it was like an icecream wonderland in that freezer. I just liked to open it up sometimes to look at it. But at the same time, I remember being paralyzed by the fear that one day my mom would walk out that door and never come back.
I may have told her as much between sniffles, because one day she hugged me, rocking me as I cried and said, “Don’t worry Bethany, Mommy will always come back.”
And I believed her.
On a day shortly after this, as my twenty month old sister Kate wailed after Mom had left grandma’s house, I put my arm around her and said oh-so-wisely, “Don’t worry, Kate, Mommy will always come back.”
            Needless to say, we were happy to move into our first real house after eight months at our grandparents. It took me a while to adjust to system of normalcy then.
 I asked Mom if we were going to stay in that house.
She said we were.
I looked at her very seriously, “Are we going to stay here forever?” I insisted. Feeling safe has always been a deep need of mine—still is in many ways.

More to come...


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kissed by a Stranger

 Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed and wondered. I plotted three dozen stories in swirl binder notebooks, all of them starting with the simple phrase: “What if…”
What if…What if a girl named Stevey grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and she—she lived during the Great Depression in one of those poor shanty communities. Secretly, she dreams of becoming an plane pilot…
I’ve asked question of so many of my fictional characters that it seems perfectly appropriate to ask it of myself.
What if I became an author…?
A real, honest-to-goodness published author!
“Beauty. Truth. And goodness,” my high school lit. teacher’s voice rings back to me.  
Yes, Mrs. L. those are the things I will write about.
Experiences—the ones that matter, the ones that change us need to be given voice, to be shaped by those choice golden words.
As long as I write with truth people will listen. As long as I write about beauty they will identify. As long as I write about goodness people will care. I will write things that should matter to everyone but rarely do because no one has learned to say them. I am learning to say them. 
Stories matter. They are a fragment of human history, a piece of an experience which changes a life forever…
As I was writing the above a woman walked into the coffee shop and struck up a conversation with me.
“I could never sit like that!” she said indicating to my cross-legged-atop a high stool posture.
I laughed, “It’s the only way I’m comfortable sitting. I work in an office and my boss makes fun of me, but doesn’t object!” I tossed back good-naturedly. (Do people even say “good-naturedly” anymore? Well, either way that’s the adverb I’m using.)
We started talking and I asked her where she lived and where she was from originally. She mentioned she was moving because her husband passed away 6 months ago. I expressed my sincere sympathy and asked how she was doing. Not the usual, polite, ‘how are you doing?’ But the seriously-I-care-about-you-as-a person-and-recognize-this-is-an-inexpressible-life-altering-loss, “HOW are you doing?”
She drew a deep sigh. “We were together for 47 years. I miss him. Especially on weekends…” she said. And that was all she needed to say. Her round, wrinkled face wore a mask of strength over deep sadness. In those words, I saw much. Much more than what was said. A life of love, companionship, togetherness…where death didn’t belong. Death is one of those things we humans will never get used to. It shocks us every time in a new, different way.
“Theresa, can I pray for you?” I asked, rather a natural question over one I had to think about.
She nodded. “Sure,” her voice trembled she stepped forward and hugged me, kissing my cheek.
I prayed for her; just a short, gentle prayer of comfort and to sense God’s love for her. Every time I quoted scripture she squeezed my hand tighter. I offered to come and visit, we exchanged numbers and she left. That was all. But it meant so much to me to meet her. I’ve never been kissed by a stranger before!
Funny how a glimpse into the life of a sudden acquaintance can change you. You have this sudden amazing revelation hit you when you realize that you are not the only person on the planet who is a real person! You smack your forehead and go, “Wow!” And you see the people all around you in traffic jams and the unsmiling, teenager ringing out up at a gas station and you’re going, “Wow that’s a real person with his own issues and story.”  
That’s what meeting Theresa reminded me of. Maybe because I had recently lost someone I loved and I was able to connect to her humanness. That humanness piece causes one understood and felt and no matter if you are worlds apart in everything else, you can identify at least on one thing. The element that lies at the back of everything it wears the faces of truth, beauty and goodness.
But I know it as...

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Word

There was a word. A hushed word. It fell.
Fell from the sky like a drop of perspiration from a bowl of blue JellO.
It hit the earth, splashed, scattering fragmented syllables
The syllables ricochet finally falling like pearls on marble tables
They rolled and bounced in search of the breath of rewarding destiny
 Discovered by child’s hand—though clumsy—
They were hands that believed in the word and refused to squander
Hands soft, unfettered by entitled thinking or the sourness of a disillusioned wanderer
Fingers polished the word until it was given voice
Something that hadn’t been said for ages thrice
The word cried out in the night
Trees raised their sleeping heads and walked forward like fearless giants
Mountains as tall as clouds reared their heads and stomped as horses
Stars pulled back their glittering bows and stood readily
 The child looked at them, his heart burning fervently, heatedly
Too long had the word gone unspoken, too long was it ignored
There would be no rest until the message of the word went forth
No sleep, nor stop, no more standing in a crowd of idlers…
While little girls are raped by their fathers
As orphans slump in alleyways nothing but worms in their bellies
As long as fifteen minutes of human flesh and a bed is sold for a few dollars
So long as unborn babies are killed by their mothers
If man lets these things persist…
The rocks we stand on will cry: “Justice!”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Ode to the Dorm Room

I'm done with school! I got a job in mobilization and am renting not far from my place of work. I can't get over how quiet silence actually is. Seriously. What a precious, coveted thing!

Oh! Dorm room! Dorm room!
Thou hast served us well!
Despite the wax spills, makeup stains and clothes strewn pell-mell
You loved us in the stressful times
You sheltered us from prying eyes
Your paper thin walls allowed us to hear
Every irritating sound that might reach our ears
You gave of yourself
Offering all your meager wealth
You are our friend of unusual form
Room 301 in the girl's dorm!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Kids that Changed my Life

I thought I knew kids. But then I met these kids. In my opinion there are three breeds of kid: spoiled kids, good kids and then sad kids. I volunteer for four hours a week to work with the latter. Many of them have a history of homelessness or a parent who is in prison. Many of them live with an aunt or grandparents. They are hurting. I couldn’t possibly summarize my experience over the last year working with these girls, but I am changed forever because of it. Simply, they taught me more about life, evangelism, and missions than I could have ever taught them.
The following is a short true story from a night there a few months ago (however, I changed the names for obvious reasons).
“I love you but you don’t love me!” Zaviana retorted in her husky voice, hands braced on her little hips. She was wearing a princess shirt, pink mini skirt and leggings. I looked down at the petite six year old, her oily black hair neatly braided in ball ponytail holders. Her mischievous eyes sparkled.
“Girl! You’re crazy!” I said in the same sassy tone she used. I caught her in my arms and tickled her until her squirming body hit the floor (the natural impulse of a child when being tickled is to get a low to the ground as possible).
“I love you so much! But do you know the most important thing you need to remember?”
“What?” she asked still giggling.
“That Jesus loves you,” I said.
Usually, everything in the classroom was fun and games until the name of Jesus was mentioned. Then, either one of two things would happen: either one of the girls would roll her eyes and complain saying:
“This is boooring.” Or they would just ignore me completely.
Sometimes one might say, “I know, I know, Jesus died for our sin.” And just as I was about to encourage the little girl to tell us more another would find some creative way of bringing up body parts at that moment. Either way it went it was rarely positive.
I felt desperate and defeated. What on earth was I supposed to do? How was this churched, country bumpkin supposed to relate to this class of undisciplined, inner city girls anyway?
As the conversation began to go down the toilet—literally—I called them to get their attention.
“Girls…girls…lets not talk like that…”
“Ew! Zaviana —you nasty!”
“Let’s not call others names Tirrell. How would you feel if I call you a nasty?” I asked the eight year old. I had a partiality to Tirrell, probably because she was quick-witted, listened sometimes and had a cute sense of humor, but I worked hard not to show favoritism.
“But she is nasty! She thinks she’s a boy!” Tirrell retorted.
Zaviana grinned and covered her mouth to keep from laughing.
“Zaviana…” I held my arms out to her. She came over shyly still smiling from the attention she was getting negative though it was. “Zaviana, I want to tell you that you are a beautiful, smart, wonderful young lady. God created you exactly the way He wanted you to be. He has a plan for your life. And you are not a boy you are a lovely, little girl.”
“But I’m ugly,” she said.
“That is a lie from the devil,” I said seriously looking carefully in her eyes. “You are beautiful—that’s what God says. You are a child of God.”
I turned to the rest of the class. They’d all gotten distracted and where now chasing each other around the room, climbing over tables, chairs and behind bookshelves. It took me a solid five minutes to get half of them sitting with me on the floor. I turned to one girl.
“Jamartha, who are you?” I asked her excitedly. She frowned.
“I’m Jamartha…” she answered giving me a look that said: You are crazy weird.
“No,” I said. “That’s your name, but who are you?”
“I don’t know.”
I turned to another girl. “Nijah, who are you?” I asked again.
“Nijah…” she smiled shyly.
“But who are you?” I asked again.
“I’m a friend,” she said.
“That’s great! Are you a friend of God?” I asked.
She nodded.
“Are you a child of God?” I asked.
She nodded again.
“Everyone say it with me: I’m a child of God!”
“I AM A CHILD OF GOD!” They chorused.
“Stand up! Say it louder! Tell me who you are!”
“I AM A CHILD OF GOD!” They said again. Every face smiling.
“Doesn’t it feel good to say that? Don’t any of you forget it!”
Life is a constant journey of discovery. One curiosity leads to another. Along the way, you begin to learn a lot more about yourself then you previously did. Identity is huge. God wants us to know who we are. Apart from what we do, how we look, what our background is like, He wants us to know that above all He is what defines us and gives us significance. It's a lesson I must remind myself of again and again.
Thanks for reading, please pray for my little girls at the ministry and the constant spiritual warfare. I'm there Thursday nights.
In Our Precious Father,