The Story of Place Part 2

 

The chapel was small, and there were some people in the middle aisle. We sat on the right with only two people in front of us. Sitting there quietly, I watched every person curiously. One man came was friendly and came to shake our hands, and then the service began. The pastor was an African-American woman, and she led everything. There was one pianist.

The pastor read the obituary, and then she invited friends and family to give testimony of Karen’s life. A friend went up first. She was open, smiling, sincere, and she knew a lot about this place. She met Karen through AA. They had just started volunteering at the Salvation Army together. She was sad for Karen to say goodbye. But Karen knew Jesus, her friend said, she knew Jesus, and she is with Jesus now. She smiled and returned to her seat.

The man that had greeted us went up next. He had known Karen through AA also for a long time. He said she was his friend. He said he loved her. And he said she was so frustrating at times. He knew her too well and he could always tell when she was using again. He said it was hard to be with her sometimes. He said, “But she was clean and sober the last three years. She was clean and sober when she died and that was a victory. And she loved God…like a child. And she was with God now; and her struggle is over. ” He sighed in relief and sat down.

I felt heavy. Most of the places Karen had been were places I had never been to until now. Hard places of addiction, places of sorrow, places of depression, poverty, and illness. What a gift she gave me to not be in those places with her.

A cousin went up to talk about Karen. She was trying her hardest to be positive. The strengths she found to speak of came with details behind them of how much Karen must have hurt her family…the family she came from. They all looked nice enough. It was all weighted. Every word.

My head spun around my whole life to try to see hers. She was my flesh. She is gone. I had already said goodbye to my adopted mother with the sorrow and pain of a child and I miss her so very dearly every day even now. But, now. I was saying goodbye to the one who bore me into this place.

My heart was heavy, but there on that pew, nothing was hanging out there for me anymore. I felt myself open-wide. Open. I knew it all. I knew she was too young to have me. I knew there was something broken in her life. I knew the rest of her adulthood was filled with addiction and pain with some points of light. I knew she was probably using when she was writing me letters. I knew she had somehow made peace, made friends, and made this place her church. I knew that her story and my story and our places were coming full circle in this moment to find redemption in the bigger story of God in us.

After the last prayer, the man who spoke of Karen in the service came straight to me. He knew me.  He held my hand and said, “I know it must have been a very hard decision to come here, but I’m so glad you are here today in this place.” I smiled and squeezed his hand. “Me, too.”  I was welcomed into the reception warmly. I spent the next hour meeting people who knew about me and those who didn’t. All of them were delighted to talk with me, curious, kind. It was like a big exhale for all of us. As my dad and I stood in front of my car to say goodbye, we just looked thoughtfully at each other, satisfied. “I’m so glad you came with me,” I said.

“Thank you for letting me be part of this with you,” he said, emotional. I couldn’t say much more. I needed him that day. I needed him that day in 1975 also. Thanks, Dad.

This story is one I have never told. I’m not sure why. I guess I wasn’t ready until now…until this place. I tell it to you now to remind you of all of the stories, all of the places that have never been told. I tell it to you now to remind you of all the stories, of all the places you have never been yet. I tell it to you now to remind you of our place in God’s story of redemption…..messy, circling, love, openness and sacrifice.

And so we find that God uses place to open us wide. Or we must open to the place we are in or the place God is sending us….for

St. John of Chrysostom said “It is not enough to leave Egypt. One must also enter the Promised Land.”

I’m not in the place you are in. God is. That’s what I do know. Being open to seeing value in the place you are in suddenly opens up places within you that you knew nothing about!

You might have seen hints…you might have smelled them or glimpsed them through some crack. You were searching for this place all along, praying, writing, grasping. You lit some candles. You’ve been on your knees and nothing happened. But then it did perhaps in a place you would have never imagined. Opportunity knocks right here. Light comes in, into all these places within you that you never knew and then you knew. After all, perspective is about the lighting, right?

Your places are there for the seeking. You might be surprised where you find brokenness, redemption, true love, and sacrifice. Don’t be afraid. There might be some fear, maybe the whole thing is closed up by fear. Be afraid and remember that perfect love drives out fear. You’ll be okay. Perfect love is the place, the whole story. So, crack it open, that place you’re in.

Eph. 2:22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

For this place’s sake, don’t miss it.

My Lord God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us. We cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do we really know ourselves, and the fact that we think we are following your will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire. And we know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road, though we may know nothing about it. Therefore we will trust you always though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. We will not fear, for you are ever with us, and you will never leave us to face my perils alone.

—Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

The Story of Place Part 1

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a
place that he was to receive as an
inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going
.” Hebrews 11:8 NRSV
There is a story of place within all of us, did you know? It is rich with detail. You’re thinkingyours might be boring. Maybe it is. However, in that boring story there is detail and meaningand reason and mystery…you just have to zoom in a little.
Too often we are afraid to experience a life that has an interesting story…listen to the Psalmist:
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help
14
rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
15
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the Pit close its mouth over me.
16
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
17
Do not hide your face from your servant,
for I am in distress
make haste to answer me. Psalm 69:13-17
We are always searching for security, safety, comfort. We must know in the deep that our
individual stories of place belong in a much bigger story.
God’s story.
It’s who we are as human beings. Did you know my story? I have written several parts
of it in a book, on a blog, and in journals. Ugh, my journals. They sound a lot like that Psalm I just read. I hate reading my journals.
But, there’s more to my story. ..more I haven’t written, or told. Just like there’s more to the Psalmist’s whining and there’s more to Abraham’s story than he hadan inheritance and he set out for some place. There’s more to the friend’s story you are
sitting by now and it is far from uninteresting.
I was born in April 1975. But there are no photos of me that day. It was three days later that
I would meet the family who raised me.I always wonder what Karen’s day was like on that day?
Karen was my birthmother. My parents were older than her.They had 5 other children.
And some kind social worker brought me to their home on that day and I was welcomed into their happy home and given my place as the youngest child. I had a happy childhood, and there were no differences between me and my siblings. I knew I was adopted, and my mom and dad would patiently answer my questions when they would come up.
I thought of Karen some growing up; did I look like her? Was she nice? Was she pretty? where was she now. My parents told me God chose me to be in their family which made me very special. When asked, they gave simple, limited information. Yes, she was very young. She wasn’t able to care for you. She had problems. They didn’t elaborate.
It was the 70’s after all, and this was a closed adoption. No one relished in dramatic details of sad stories. Our home was a very happy place with lots of love and affection and laughter.
I grew up happy in my family. A few years after getting married, Matt and I were considering starting our family. I decided to try and find out information about my health history. I was able to get some bits and pieces, but then I decided to try to connect with Karen. My folks were okay with it, but they weren’t pleased. It didn’t take long because Karen was trying to connect with me. We sent pictures and wrote letters. Real letters. Remember the 90’s when we all actually wrote letters.
She told me it had been a long hard life for her and she had been in a place of addiction for a long time. She assured me that she was clean now and steady with a job
and a church. We talked on the phone a few times. Then she became upset because I wasn’t ready to meet her in person. I felt cautious. I was a social worker now, and I wasn’t naive about this situation. Karen began to say strange and demanding things. I realized that I was bringing up things I couldn’t understanding in a place I wasn’t part of. Finally, she told me she didn’t want to have contact with me anymore unless I met her. I wasn’t ready for this especially with her strange behavior. So, that was it. We didn’t have contact anymore.
Life moved on, and we started our family with one daughter and then we had two. We movedto Indonesia to do mission work and in 2003, and in 2008 we transitioned to back to South Texas. My mother Maureen died of Leukemia in 2012, and I was glad to be with her through the very end of her life. (Btw, Mother’s Day is no picnic for those who have lost their moms.)
I did think of Karen in different moments while living and travelling in different places. I was content to pray for her from afar. I hoped she was well and still in a good place…a place of wholeness.
This past summer, I received a letter from a lady named Theresa and onthe same day a
Facebook message from a lady named Leslie. Both said the same thing. Karen was gone. She had been very sick, and she had died at home. She had gone to a better place. I was in shock. I read the letter and the message over and over again. Both people who had reached out to me were professional and courteous. Both of them knew they had to tell me. They told me of the funeral, and I held the information close for a few days.
Finally, I picked up the phone and called my dad. I told him. I also told him I wanted to go to the funeral. He was quiet; then he asked if he could come with me.I was so glad.
That Saturday morning, I woke up early and I drove 5 hours to get to the funeral and my dad was waiting for me in an old inner city church parking lot. I jumped out of my car and gave him a solid hug glad he was there with me. He held me tight. I hopped in his car, and we drove down to a Subway. It was surreal in that booth chatting with him about the girls and his morning at the car race track. All at once our food was gone, and he was asking me if I was ready. I said yes, very sure albeit nervous.
To be continued…

My Parlor

We’ve had some adventures lately. Also, I ran into this sign, and I felt like I should share it with you. Even though I would never say anything like that to my kids. Isn’t social media fun? I think so.

img_2090

Also, social media is very disturbing. Look at this face swap Maile did with her bunny. Doesn’t it make you never want to look at my blog again? It makes me never want to look at that photo again.

Once, I was about to go to the beach with the girls, and my neighbor (who redoes furniture) was having a big I’m-moving-and-I-have-a-lot-of-furniture sale. I meandered around this couch for awhile. Then I brought Maile in on it. Then I bought them. Matt was out of town so I had to ask him very nicely to go pick up our new couch on his way in.:)

Ahh, but then there is my Parlor, all new and waiting for you all to come visit. Not really. I just want to sit in it by myself. But, everyone likes it. Even Dot. Even though at first they thought I was super weird for buying the two for $65 from my neighbor. I know they’re kinda ugly. But, I see some possibility in them.

Also, who doesn’t want a parlor? Do you know what you do in a parlor? Just visit. And read. And rest. No tv. No phones. No electronic devices. Just people and words and rest. You should try it. It makes for a great time.

Anyone ever seen anything like these before? Any guesses on how old they are?

Okay, I have more to tell you but I have to go to bed. You see, I’m on this 5 day clean eating plan and that means I’m skipping the old ice cream and wine habit. So, I have to go to sleep. Good night. I’ll be back later.

You’ve Got This

  You need to at some point as a mature adult (as someone who wants to reach the next level of consciousness in your life) to decide to bring a little bit more emotional peace, mindfulness, conscious will about the emotions you’re experiencing each day…

If you’re constantly finding yourself in a panic…you need to decide that you want a character that is stronger than that. To stand strong. Make it a goal to have character development.

Purposefully decide to deal with chaos from a good place. Meet the demands of the time, the moment from a place of peace and strength and joy…from a good place….from an emotional state that is going to service in the situation…that you have chosen. You get to choose the energy and joy you generate.

That old ethic that came from stoicism…you are the commander of your own attitude. You are the one that stands true and solid in the moments that matter. –Brendon Burchard

That’s right. I’m challenging us all today. To a deeper, more extraordinary life. After all, I just had a birthday, and I’m always feeling reflective around there. There is a story of place that I haven’t told on the blog that I’m thinking of sharing with you. I was able to share it with some good folks at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Florida on our road trip.

But for tonight, holding some heavy things around here, I’m sensing the need for character…you know the kind…deep down stuff…digging deep. You need it too. Some emotional maturity and the fight to be objective about your own life….it’s something we are desperate for in this culture. Drama is tired.

Let us rise up together. It’s not a long life after all. Why not go for extraordinary?

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing with is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.” –Reinhold Niebuhr

Road trip part 2

    

   Yay for another road trip stop!!! If you are passing through New Orleans (or close enough to stop) with your family….here is your to do list:
1. Get some beignets and coffee. 

2. Walk around. Watch a magic show.

3. See NOLA through the kids eyes….they keep commenting on smells…

4. Go in St. Louis Cathedral. Sit down and breathe. 

5. Walk down Bourbon St. Educate carefully. 

6. Have some lunch at Pat O’Briens. Wait for a good table and then be thankful you’re not in the rain when it starts.

7. Walk in the rain. You won’t melt. 

8. Buy an alligator egg. Stop and listen to the saxophone solo. 

9. Answer lots of questions from the kids about life and differences and culture. 

10. Watch the making of pralines. Taste them. 

11. Get in your car thankful and drippy from the rain.

  

What’s Up Beaches

  
  
This is why we drove all night. So we could have this day. I love this place and I love these people.

Also I wasn’t really following fish. It’s just that a fish truck was in front of me.

We spent the day at the beach and it was Matt’s birthday so we let him choose the restaurant…fish is what he wanted…so it’s good that we were at the beach.

  

 I  recommend Two Dudes Seafood if you happen to be in Jacksonville. It  was yummy. It’s cozy in there and they have the fresh catch of the day. My fish was grilled with jalapeño crusted with a cream sauce. It had grilled veggies with it…delicious and nutritious! Everyone was friendly and all of us were satisfied!

More about the reason for being in

this place tomorrow.