Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007. It was a very good year.

It's late-- I drank about a gallon of green tea earlier. I suspect that I am not as immune to caffeine as I previously believed...

So my mother has always had good suggestions for insomnia (though I am so thankful that I have never really suffered from that... I have friends and students who have and I think that it would be hellish), and two of them include reading the bible and recounting your blessings. I'm picking blessings right now because I need to go to bed and Don is already asleep on our new fabulous sheets which will ensure that I will oversleep every day for the rest of my life.

Very Good Things.
* it's raining and will rain some more.
* we had thunder yesterday.
* my boy got me some fantastic chairs for Christmas. He thinks that it wasn't a romantic gift. He's wrong. He just doesn't know that line in "Steel Magnolias" where Julia Roberts' character was given furniture for her first Christmas married and everyone was very impressed. :)
* my new car
* the miracle that will be getting my new car in order (long story. i will tell it once it is resolved. but here's this: so far, there's a car finding service i am prepared to campaign against very soon)
* my job. i happen to have landed at the most amazing school with some pretty incredible co-workers. and i love my students. it's good.
* did i mention the rain?
* my sunday school class (the availables, the island of misfit toys, the 20-30 somethings/no demographic is good enough). they just get cooler and cooler all the time. i am so, so amazed at my good fortune. in my life, i have found myself in tight spaces with some of the most intelligent, most interesting people around (with some notable exceptions in Richmond, Va., and about three countries I won't recount here). i could also give thanks for the crappy people, i'm sure, but i won't. that's another late night post.
* THE CONYERS CHRISTMAS ELVES!!!! Dudes, we made the FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPER YESTERDAY!!!! Oh my gosh, that was so much fun. You guys ROCK!!!!
* my family. oh wow. lucky lucky.
* my niece(s). Chandler gets more beautiful every day, and Nathan and Lucy's little lima bean has a beautiful profile. i KNOW that she'll have red hair, but we'll report back on that in may when she arrives at last.
* don. don don don.

it's funny. so many people use blogs for different things. some for politics, some for rants on very specific topics in life, and some for personal diaries. i have a friend who wrote a fairly scathing commentary on the sense of self-importance that comes across when bloggers just sort of write long rambling posts on only personal stuff. hm. i don't guess i know why i'm writing, but certainly not for the purpose of antagonizing blog-scanners who would criticize! here's this: if you don't care to read, well... don't. no big deal.

i guess my purpose really is directly related to the fact that i need to keep writing and i keep trying to get my writing partners to blog, too-- it's a good place for accountability (did you write this week?) and commentary.

also, sometimes i feel like i have something-- a speck of a thought or feeling-- that i want to work out toward a larger teaching or essay.

and i get comments via email and other places from friends who are just sort of happy to hang out and read something. i'm curious like that, too. keeping up with friends in other countries, former YWAM-mates and Agnes Scott classmates, etc.

anyway, i'm sleepy now. being thankful is very relaxing.
:)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

To be absent from the body...

Last night, she lay down beside the man she loved more than anything. This morning, she awoke to an empty house.

My best friend's father died this morning, in his sleep.

He was only 60.

How do we go on? How does his wife go on? How do you go to sleep, wrapped in mingled warmth under stacks of blankets, exhausted and together, and wake up him-less? Him. Him. Him. How does a wife go on?

Kristen's father was a great man. She gets this amazing...magnetism... from him. He was the kind of guy who knew e v e r y o n e in his community, seemed to manage to make them all feel liked and known by him. I remember that he took us to this steak house in their town in Missouri once, about 10 years ago, and the chef came out to greet us all by name when he heard that BJ was there. He was what you think of when you hear the term "life of the party." People wanted to sit with him. Kristen is the same way. They don't even really have to try. It's just this... thing. Kristen's husband nailed it when he toasted her at their wedding reception 11 years ago: This thing about her is nameless...it's simply "Kris-ness." BJ had it first.

And people have to die. It's the way things work. The cycle of life and all that. But can you imagine? To wake up, shuffling to the kitchen on a freezing morning three days before Christmas, to make coffee for yourself and your partner. It's odd that he isn't up first-- he's typically the first one up and has done a thousand things already. You head back to your bedroom to wake him up, and he has gone. He's not there. He won't open his eyes.

Oh.

What were you doing when he was dying? Did he open his eyes one last time to gaze on your face? Did he know that he was going? Did he need your help? Was he afraid? What were you dreaming about? How could you be so close to him, in that cozy safe proximity of your bed, your home, and yet be so far-- thousands of dreamy miles-- away from him in the most important moment of his life. Touching him perhaps. Your head on his shoulder. Your hands tied up in his.

It makes me want to sit up all night, just watching. Making sure. Taking care of him. Listening to him breathe. I'm thinking that if I never slept again, I could get a lot of reading done. I could just sort of lie beside him with my hand on his tummy, feeling the rise and fall of his breathing. I could nudge him away from nightmares, make sure he's covered with enough blankets all night....

Right-- that's pushing it. Can you imagine living with someone that manic? Oh my gosh, it would drive him karayzee.

I can't imagine my life without this man of mine. The loss of Kristen's father has hit me on three levels: 1) I love her and wish that I could stop the waves of pain that she is walking into. I can't imagine how it feels to lose a parent, but I know that the loss has to be unbearable. She's fiercely independent, but today she is broken in half. I can't bring myself to even listen to the first message she left me this morning-- and I can't believe I didn't sense that I needed to call her back right away. 2) her father turned 60 on the 10th of this month. Mine turned 60 on the 19th. How could I cope with losing my dad? Or my mom? Or my brother? Or my husband? Or any friend at all? And 3) what can it be like for a woman to lose her husband?

It feels sometimes like God sews beautiful people and experiences into the fabric of our lives and they are only here for a season, but we want to command the divine quiltmaker on how to order the quilt. It is His to decide when this patch or that block should be moved or replaced or expanded.... Sometimes I feel like a little kid who is given a gift and who howls in anger and hurt and frustration when my Father wants me to let go so He can hand me something else, something in addition to, something better.

But how can there be anything better than that person He gave you? I have literally never known anyone as beautiful as my husband is, in every way. I mean, surely there are other beautiful people, but not to me. Not for me. How could I wake up to having lost him? How did Kristen's step mother do it? How can she have felt? Did she go completely numb? Did her brain scream in terror like you might if you were being murdered? Was she afraid to be in the room with a dead body?

And tonight... oh, tonight that dear woman will lie down in that bed (she won't leave the house-- neither would I) and be alone for the first time in 15 years.

To be absent from the body is to be together with Christ-- how could we live without this consolation? But only the Holy Spirit can hold the heart of a newly minted widow and make her able to keep living.

I cannot imagine. And pray God that I will not have to for many, many years.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brrrrrr....

It's freezing outside (oh, an old YWAM friend from Brazil would say it was "frizzing") and I can't sleep. One thing keeping me awake was remembering that I needed to pay my cell phone bill, so I got up to do that-- but the operator was a total jerk and I had to interrupt his whole page and a half of his script every ten seconds just to find out that I was in the "wrong department," when the automated teller is the one who sent me there and he was treating me like I had just tracked mud into his white-carpeted living room. I wanted to cuss at him and accuse him of not even living in America, but then I caught myself. He can't be happy about working the phones at T-Mobile at one in the morning any more than I'm irritated about having to call him. It's my own fault anyway. And when I'm done, I get to go back to my warm bed and my 2 million count Egyptian cotton sheets that smell like heaven straight from the dryer and my husband who smells like campfire. T-Mobile guy just gets to hit a button and say "Welcome to T-Mobile, this is ______, ID# 6784023, how can I assist you?" until 7 a.m., I'm sure.

Maybe I should call him back. Apologize for being grumpy.

Well, no. I mean, I'm not being paid to go back to bed, am I? T-Mobile will be sleeping tomorrow when I have to bust three 14 year olds for trying to cheat on an exam and who will take it personally and be highly offended when I tell them to takeoffthathatpullyourpantsuptuckyourshirt
inputthatcellphoneawaystophittinghimgrabbinghimtalkingtohimherthem.

Yes, the Song of the Public School Teacher. Lovely, isn't it? Imagine it to something by Vivaldi.

In other news, my preacher is a goofball and I really adore him. Seriously, though-- he's a goofball. That kind of brilliant, insightful kind of goofball. Like a favorite professor with serious heart. He said today-- and I can't remember how he worked it anywhere close to the sermon-- oh yes: he was thanking God for the rain (Yay God!!!), and he said that yesterday he stepped in a puddle and was terribly frightened because he didn't know what it was!

No, seriously. Cooky goofball. Dude is my age but thinks that I am years younger than him. I have yet to correct him. I like him so much. He's single and every day I resist the urge to even imagine which of my single friends I would want to fix him up with. I respect him too much to even go there. Besides, I am famously bad at fixing people up. If you are single, do not ask me to introduce you to anyone. I will ruin your life. But I WILL pray for you :)

Another thing I'm thinking, by the way, is that I want to be like Mary: radically available to God.

A certain amount of randomness should be expected after midnight.

Back to bed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just Sing...

My father and I have a song. You know-- an "our song." I have this vivid memory of sitting beside him in the front seat of our little white VW Beetle in 1974, when I was around 3, and "our song" came on the radio-- "Sing... Sing a song... sing out loud... sing out strong! Sing of good things, not bad/Sing of happy, not sad..." Remember that one? I remember first hearing it on Sesame Street (vintage Sesame Street-- it grew up with my generation and I firmly believe that we were better for it). Daddy and I would sing that song and laugh and laugh... just thinking of it now warms my heart. I love my dad.

Today I think of the fact that I have grown up with my earthly father telling me to sing. Once, just before I gave my life back to the Lord (just before I turned 21), he got so frustrated with me.... My dad is the gentlest person I know, but he was angry with the fact that I refused to sing. I had made tiny forays into singing while in high school, but the truth was that I had really, really gifted singing friends around me and was totally intimidated, though I would hardly admit it. Tori, Heather-- my friends could straight up sing. So could I, but I held back.

But Dad knew that I could sing and he knew that there was a reason for it. My dad wanted to hear my voice, saw me dying inside of a thousand diseases of the heart, and wanted to hear my voice.

Today I am thinking of that. Only, I'm thinking of my Father and His longing to hear our voices-- He knows our need to worship Him. My friend Bryan is hosting something he's calling a "travelling worship time" or something (see his blog-- it's on my links list) tonight (I'm home, sick)- he's home from YWAM, trying to hear God's direction for his life and pursuing every good thing he can think of in the meantime.... I think that it is so, so important and brilliant that he thought to organize a worship time... when in doubt, praise. That's one thing I'm thinking of.

The other is this: the church, as every, every, everyone is saying, is being shaken. The reality is, it's been a long time coming, too. The Paulks at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in DeKalb county are being shaken in a mighty way; certain big-time televangelists are being questioned about their financial integrity; and various and sundry church scandals on smaller (and some larger) scales world-wide. The shaking there is a good thing.

But then there is the inexplicable attack, this craziness, on our brothers and sisters at YWAM Denver and in the Springs. Unbelievable. I read an outlandishly stupid comment on a blog that claimed that it was pure hypocrisy on the part of these missionaries that they turned the soon-to-be shooter away-- but has that commenter ever lived on a base? Do they understand that the people who who asked that young man to leave were kids and that they did the right thing? That a YWAM base is not designed to be a homeless shelter-- it's a training facility [often] populated largely by young men and women in their early 20's, and the students there are not equipped to work with people with certain mental issues? That it would be dangerous and stupid for them to allow an aggressive individual to sleep on the premises when they do not know him, have no way of containing him, have no idea how to handle him? We had individuals like that at every YWAM base I worked with. Those bases are specifically designed to accomodate a certain ministry. To suggest that those kids did anything hypocritical or wrong is infuriating. They were probably frightened by the way he acted, but the generosity in their spirits probably wanted to help him. But the head of hospitality was this lovely, young woman cleaning up after a party. The base leader, probably one of the oldest guys there, was headed home-- what were they to do? I've been where they were, on a YWAM base with crazy, needy strangers looking for help--only our "visitors" weren't armed.

But you know what they're doing now? Oh man, they're singing. I can't imagine.

These things... remember the old cry, "Maranatha, Lord... come quickly."

There's this song that I love-- it's one of my favorite worship songs of all time-- called "Sing to the King." When I sing it, I feel like I'm going to just come right off the stage. "Sing to the King who is coming to reign/Glory to Jesus, the Lamb that was slain/ Life and salvation his empire shall bring/and joy to the nations when Jesus is King."

The last time I sang it, I could feel the presence of the Lord and the agreement of the congregation in such an intense way. It was unbelievable. And here's what I was thinking... when Jesus comes again, we won't have to worry about who is going to be president. We won't have to worry about youth pastors who sin against children. We won't have to worry about pastors who call themselves Bishops and then rape the flock. We won't have to worry about hurting, hurtful young men who shoot people who would have loved him. When the King comes...

But here's this: He comes to us every time we sing, when we lift our hearts in adoration of His loveliness. Like my dad, longing to hear my voice and loving it since I was a little girl, our Father in heaven longs to hear us sing to Him. And when we sing, He comes to us. His word says that He inhabits the praises of His people. God inhabits the praises of His people.

So sing. Sing a song. Make it simple to last your whole life long. Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing. Sing a song.

Come into His gates with thanksgiving.