life, Light

My Heart Melts Like Butter

“Nobody’s ideals form them like their loves form them.” – Ann Voskamp

I paused on page 117 of The Broken Way, the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window and across my bed, putting a spotlight on my slumbering, gently snoring beagle.

I thought of an old friend, who turned down open-hearted friendship in favor of fellowship with close-minded ideals.

I felt something stir.

Hope.

Longing.

Love.

Maybe Love would one day draw him.

Maybe, in the end, Love would form.

I read on to a new chapter.  Mean girls and devouring women.

Unexpected tears rolled.

Not sobs, not even a cry, just a few stray tears churned up by a benign sorrow.

p. 189: “I’ve made wide berths around women for years and skirted the communion of community because who knew when smiles could turn into fangs if you turned your back?”

You and me both, Ann.

I closed the book and put in a load of laundry. Socks and underwear.

I love any piece of writing that churns a memory, an emotion, a “me, too.” I love writing that keeps me pondering long after I’ve put it down.

I’ve had far more male friends than female friends in my life.

I thought about my friendships in general, about how I was able to keep my heart wide open, how I was able to turn the other cheek and expect good things as a non-Christian child, yet watched my heart increasingly close as a Christian adult.

We Christians often think that our children’s hearts are in danger of being corrupted, wooed, enticed away from God by the world, but I think it’s much more likely that they will be pushed, shoved away from Him by members of His church.

Waiting for the dryer to dry I jot down that thought.

I love writing that inspires a thought, even a post.

It’s what God called “worthwhile, not worthless words.”

It’s what I hope to someday write.

Good job, Ann.

#churn

 

 

 

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life

Rejoice with those who wear jeans.

“I hope I’m not dressed too casually,” I remarked, as I pulled my black, three-tiered Minnetonkas up over my black skinny jeans.

I was heading to my daughter’s alma mater to speak.

“It is Friday, though,” I reasoned, “and the students probably have a jeans day today, what with basketball and all.”

“What with basketball and all” = the boys bball team won the state semi-final game last night and they’ll be back at the Breslin Center in East Lansing in the morning for the final.

So the kids would most likely have a jeans day.

“Yeah,” my daughter said, “they probably do have a jeans day.”

Nowadays the students at that school wear uniforms, but my daughter was a student there before uniforms, back when they had to follow a very strict dress code.

Back then jeans days were granted on select Fridays and they were a huge, happy deal.

“I remember earning a special jeans day once,” she mused. “I think I got to wear them on a Wednesday.

It was a glorious morning, as all jeans day mornings were, dressing without the pressure of the code and looking cute for a change.

So I went to school in my jeans and a t-shirt while everyone else didn’t.

And that’s the moment I discovered that happiness is only real when it’s shared.

“That’s such a touching little story,” I said, as I clasped my necklace, “I think I’ll jot it down.”

I love my girl’s heart.  I love that she couldn’t enjoy the privilege of jeans while her friends suffered in khakis and collared shirts.

Not everyone is like that.

Go Eagles!

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life

Hospitality

I received a distress call right through my computer, just as I sat down tonight to write a brilliant post.

A sobbing friend didn’t feel safe in her home and her husband took away her car keys. So I drove over and loaded her, her dog and a few quickly packed items into my car.

She has just gone to bed – traumatized and exhausted.

I’m in bed now, too.

Would love it if you would say a prayer for her.

Hope all is well with you.

 

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life

It’s the Little Things

The wind has died down, the sun has finally come out and the hub has gone fishing.  But before he left he read to me.  From the Bible.

“Read some of Jesus’ words,” I said.  “I’ve heard enough from Paul.  Not that he didn’t have some good things to say, but he’s not God.”

You all know how I feel about that.

Anyway, with me still on crutches, that was our church today.

And then the hub hightailed it to the lake, leaving me here on the sofa, with a beagle snoring gently beside me, continuing worship by recalling some of the things for which I was grateful this week.

On Tuesday my cleaning lady came.  (Don’t judge me, she only comes EVERY OTHER week.)  She is a huge Slurpee fan and she often tells me about her latest favorite flavor.  This time it was Vernors.  I am not a Slurpee fan – brain freeze – but, what proper Detroit girl doesn’t love Vernors?

As she was leaving, she mentioned that she might stop for a Vernors Slurpee on her way home.

“Hey,” I said, “why don’t you stop at the 7-11 here, near me?  That way, if they have Vernors today, you can text me and  I’ll have the hub stop and get me one on his way home.”

Her eyes brightened and her mouth formed a smile.  She was clearly pleased and heartily agreed to do so.

About ten minutes later the garage door opened.

What’s the hub doing home so soon?

It wasn’t the hub, it was Becky.  Bearing a gift.

Yes, that's a Christmas coaster in June.

Yes, that’s a Christmas coaster in June.

Thanks God, for the little kindnesses that make life wonderful.

P.S.  My brain only froze once.  So that was good.   Momentarily very painful, but good.

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life

Ewe

Mentally ill people deserve to have friends,
to not be lonely,
to be heard.
God wants them loved
and cared for.
A mentally ill blogger I follow
rejoices when he finally makes a friend,
and I rejoice with him.
And then sooner or later
he alienates him
or her
and he laments.
Posted laments
for all to hear.
And I am sad for him
and I sigh.
Why is friendship with the mentally ill so challenging
and tiring
and sometimes mean?
Why does he shove his friends’ hearts
into meat grinders
leaving himself
alone

again

and

again

and

again.

There is no ewe in friendship.

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life

A Healing Presence

John described Dallas as the personification of a soul sustained in grace.

It was very early on a Saturday morning when my friend pulled up, his bike perched atop his car.  It was early, but I was awake and excited.  We hoisted my bike up next to his, fastened it down and ventured forth.  The long car ride gave us plenty of time to talk.  Mostly it gave my friend  time to talk – about his rather odd and soul-damaging parents.

We were the first to arrive at the campground on the northern border of Vermont.  We weren’t positive we were in the right place, but we pitched our tents and called it a night.  The others arrived as we slept.  All strangers, all eager to embark on a six day bike ride ride that would slice through Vermont from top to bottom.

The course was difficult and the week was hot – with temperatures in the 100’s.  After riding alongside Lake Champlain for most of the morning on the first day, our route finally intersected it at a nice grassy park.  The others rested under shade trees, but I rode my bike right to the end of the dock and jumped in.  So what if I would be riding wet.  Figured I’d be my own swamp cooler.  It was HOT.  My friend eventually joined me – after first removing his shirt, because men can do that, even in the midst of strangers.

A sudden and severe thunderstorm on day three – one that had our bikes hydroplaning the last two miles to that night’s campground, was both scary and welcome.  Should we take shelter in the forest or just go for it?  We went for it.  The rain felt good but it brought no lasting relief.  The air was just as hot, heavy and steamy after the storm as before.

Day four involved a climb of 3,400 feet – 1,500 to 1,600 up Brandon Gap alone.  Brandon Gap was steep at the very top.  Very, very steep.  So steep that my pedaling ground to a halt.  My friend advised me to walk my heavy, not-state-of-the-art bike the last little bit.  No way.  I was determined to earn my guzzle of Gatorade at the top.  But it was too steep for me to get going from a halt.  So he got off his bike and gave me a running start.  Thanks to him, I arrived at the summit to the cheers of the others.

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Our bikes enjoying a well-earned rest.

Day five may have been the hottest of the week, and I have never handled extreme heat or extreme cold well.  The last five or so miles of that day’s ride were through shadeless fields.  Our destination was in sight but the heat had taken its toll and I was feeling very weak and nauseated.  “Just a bit further,” I told myself as I tried to keep my bike from toppling over.  I was too weak to talk, but my friend saw my pale face.  As soon as we arrived at the campground he ushered me to a shade tree next to a river where he wetted his bandana and put it on my head.  I sat there sipping from my newly refilled water bottle.  A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Intertwined with the physical challenges was a lot of laughter, quiet early morning devotions, heartwarming conversations with new friends, a carton or two of Ben & Jerry’s with many spoons passed and shared at country store rest stops and pleasant evenings with my friend visiting my tent to read to me.  He liked to read aloud, and l liked to listen to the sound of the words through his English accent.

It was a feel-good vacation.  My first bike trip.

Shortly after the trip ended, one of the couples – two very experienced riders – sent us all a chart of the daily and total elevation gains – the miles we had ridden each day, the feet of climb and the climb/mile. Handwritten at the bottom of my chart was a personal note:

Congratulations on biking every mile of such a difficult course.  We hope your success will be an encouragement for you to attempt another adventure in the future.  Your pleasant disposition despite the conditions (heat and hills) was very inspirational.

You may think that the need for a push and the heat-stroke would have knocked me off my friend’s biking buddy list.  But not so.  The following summer he invited me to join him on a tandem mountain bike trip through the Canadian Rockies.

And a few days after we returned from Vermont he called to say he wanted to pitch his tent in the grassy yard just outside my condo.  Because being near me was somehow soothing.

Which brings me back to the third full sentence on the 82nd page of the Soul Keeping Study Guide:

“John described Dallas as the personification of a soul sustained in grace.”

The page went on to say that a soul sustained in grace is a healing presence.

And that reminded me of Vermont.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connect the Dots.”

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life

Help Wanted: Cheerleaders… and a team

I had this friend. She was, is a party girl. I don’t mean that she dances with lampshades on her head, she’s just all about having a good time. And she was a lot of fun.

I didn’t know that she was all about a good time until I asked her to join my board. It didn’t take long to realize that she is not the roll-up-your-sleeves hard-worker type – which is what I needed her to be.

“Oh, well,” I thought, “she can be a cheerleader.” Except she wasn’t.

A cheerleader’s job is to cheer. A cheerleader cannot be a fair weather fan. She has to cheer you on through thick and thin until the bitter, agonizing end. Her job is not to guarantee the win, her job is to keep you going, to pull out your best performance, to energize you.

But a party girl is not there to pull out your best, win or lose. A party girl is there to celebrate a victory. It’s all about the celebration.

I was frustrated because I thought my friend lacked courage. I thought she wasn’t engaging in the mission, wasn’t cheering the team on because she was afraid to be associated with failure. I noticed how viciously she would turn on her favorite sports team when they weren’t winning, as if their failure was her failure. Lots of people are like that. I’m not like that. I’m a loyal fan.

But maybe it’s just that she wants a party and losing teams don’t get a party.

Anyway, I thought she was waiting to ride my coattails, but now I think she was just waiting for a party.

I was waiting for her to cheer me on so I could accomplish the task, and she was waiting for me to accomplish the task so she could cheer.

Impasse.

I finally asked her to step down from the board because her disdain for the faltering team was spreading to other members of the board.

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

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faith, life, restoration, Stories from the Island

Surprised By Joy

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I guess I expected them to arrive somewhat weary and heavy-laden, downtrodden and in need of rest. Instead they were lively and strong.  Pure joy entered the welcome reception on Friday night as each woman looked me in the eye, introduced herself and shook my hand.  All except one.  One offered only her fingertips and looked me over with suspicious eyes.  “I’m not here to judge,” is what I thought.  “Welcome!” is what I said.

The women helped themselves to a spread of cheese and crackers, sliced melons, grapes, pineapple, assorted veggies and assorted dips, smoked whitefish with a beautiful array of fancy toppings and a variety of lemonades and punches.  It was just right.  Polite, jovial conversation centered around the freshness, sweetness, deliciousness of the food.

Then my daughter entered with goody bags, one for each woman, personalized with her name on it.  A handshake would no longer do.  One got up and gave me a big hug.  “Ohhh, I like hugs,” I exclaimed.  That brought several more to their feet to give hugs.  One massaged my shoulders when I mentioned that her hug felt good against my achy back.  It was going to be a good weekend.

After the reception the chicks and I walked to town for pizza while the hens stayed back to talk.  While we were gone Margaret, the one who greeted me with caution, had a seizure.  She has brain cancer and in all the excitement of the trip she forgot to take her medicine.

Over lunch on Saturday Margaret told me that she is blessed.  She had heard of the Island and had seen it on tv, but she never thought she would actually get to visit.  She told me her story – about how she became acquainted with the other women through rehab.  About how someone slipped her a drug when she was a young teen and she was hooked right off the bat.  She loved the way the burn moved through her body.  She loved the effect it had on her brain.  Some people don’t like that effect, she said, but she did.  She was proud to report that she never sold her body for drugs.  She sold things.  Things that she had stolen from Home Depot or Lowes.  Her father was a sheriff in the Chicago area so she got away with a lot as a teen.  But eventually she caught a bus to a new town so that her family wouldn’t know how addicted she was.  She left children behind.

But now she is blessed.  Blessed because she is clean.  Blessed because she and her boyfriend live in a loft – something that has always been on her bucket list.  Blessed because today she was on the Island.  Blessed because her children were cared for by someone who assured them that it wasn’t them, it was the drugs.  Blessed because she has been recently reunited with her children and they have forgiven her – have always forgiven her.

Margaret said that through it all she was aware of God’s love for her.  She would often talk to Him in the drug house, to the chagrin of the other visitors.  One day she told the drug man that she was  done.  She was going to get back with God.  Surprisingly, he directed her to a Christian rehab facility.

As I got to know the women, heard their stories and marveled at their joy, I began to really understand what Jesus meant:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Church, as I have known it for too many years, has been mostly a gathering of Pharisees.  Oh how I long for the fellowship of those who love much.

It was such a sweet weekend.  June, who you’ll meet next, kept flying “first annual” up the flagpole hoping I would salute.  First annual it is.  If my little ministry could afford it, it would be first semiannual.  I love those women.

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