Camp on Sunday

Sunday morning we took it slow in camp. We still had a few days before the big hike down and so we just chilled, cooked a good breakfast and enjoyed a morning fire. And then, the kids planned church for us. And we had some Sabbath together. 

I’m not sure why adults think they always have to lead. You should’ve seen the kids take over when we told them they should plan church. We had an invocation, 2 songs, 4 Scripture readers, a sermonette, and a benediction. Kids are great leaders and they can plan without your help. Just let them know you’ll wait for their plan and leave them alone. Don’t underestimate them. 

After church we got ready for the day. No rushing. Just slow by the fire….

Then we made some plans…A Desert View picnic coming up…..

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…

Just Being

160Ever have trouble just being? Ever live distracted? I’m pretty sure we all do. That’s why we are looking for the next thing, the next email, the next text, the next event, the next whatever. It’s easy to sit and be still with a pretty view in front of you. Shoot, you might even pick up a rock and really engage the moment. But, in daily life, hmm. What is it with us humans? Sometimes, distractedness can mean grief. And, good grief, I am feeling it this week.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have to look back in order to move forward or even to just be. It’s been a year since my mom went into the hospice facility and almost a year since she passed away. I was wondering this morning what I was blogging about one year ago. It was funny and sad. And I guess it’s been really hard for me to just be since then. I watched a funny clip someone sent me about why smart phones aren’t good for kids, and although it was supposed to be very comedic, it hit me hard that most of us really don’t want to feel sorrow, sadness or loneliness. This is no surprise, but the comedian went on to say that we buffer this sadness that is necessary at times with keeping busy, checking things, or looking for the next thing instead of just being. So, we never really feel anything, but this mediocre satisfaction with our products.

When I write it, it sounds very unfunny. It was pretty funny; but at this point, I know you don’t believe me. Anyways, I’m working on just being today. It’s what God made the Sabbath for anyways. Just to be. God is good at being. It’s even basically God’s name. I’m not sure how to help you with being. It has something to do with being okay with the place you are in. I just know that one year ago, I really was there and you can hear it. I think there is something to be said for prayer. For breathing in and out. For finding the funny. And for letting those waves of sorrow come.

Here’s the entry from one year ago today:

September 22, 2012 “Hospice Partying”

I’ve been spending time with my mom in the hospice inpatient facility. OH, and with my five siblings and their spouses and their children and their grandchildren. Wow. I just want you to know we really do try to not be so loud up here, but it’s hard for us. There’s a lot of us. We like to laugh. We want to respect the other families. The nurses keep saying they really don’t mind and that laughter is the best medicine after all. If this is true, we could provide a lot of best medicine for a lot of people. Here are my favorite quotes from the partying:

1. “So, what are you in here for? Pain management?” a random nurse asks Mom. “No,” she chuckles, “I came here to die,” she says matter-of-fact.

2. “I don’t care who you are….whether you are a Christian or not….life is hard. You just do the best you can,” Mom said.

3. “You’re so totally the favorite child,” my oldest brother says laughing. I shake my head laughing too. “OH, it’s true,” my sister says. I wanted to stick my tongue out at them.

4. “You have to add me on there or I can’t Facetime with you, Turdface,” my oldest brother says to my older sister. They were sitting side by side in Mom’s hospice bed each with their Ipads in hand.

5. “You just take whatever you want from my house,” my Mom says serious, “I’m not going back there.”

6. “Who’s the patient?” the nurses ask chuckling at my mom still coordinating the party.

7. “I wonder how you do that skipping,” my niece asks as we watched Dick Van Dyke skipping to Mary Poppins. Mom watched as some of us tried skipping like Bert. My nieces skipped down the hall. My brother-in-law started to until a nurse aide saw him at which point he sheepishly returned to the room we were in.

8. “I just take my chair where ever I go,” my brother-in-law said passing nurse as he wheeled my mom’s favorite recliner down the hall to her room. The nurse laughed. Mom was so happy to see her chair.

A Sabbath Prayer for Being

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

This Train

111If you were here tonight, you would smell it. It’s nasty. There is something dead in this house. It hits you when you come in the door.  That was for free. I just wanted you to feel like part of the family. After all, this book I’m writing is about how place forms you. And let me tell you, this smell will change your life. 🙂

Maile asked what we are going to do about it. I told her, “Hope it rots fast.” Don’t you love what you find yourself saying to your children? We can’t find the source; think it’s in the walls. She’s walking around spraying Lysol. She’s a take charge kind of girl. Oh, and she didn’t like my solution. I love that about her.

I came back from mountains and got right back on the fast train. I’m tired, but I’m glad for mountains to climb and trains to get back on. Sometimes I want to stop the train and get off and go home and crawl up and rest. But, I know I wouldn’t really stop it. These daughters are moving on this train too. And this graduate school is almost over. And this curriculum ain’t gonna write itself.  So, quit crying about it and get busy, right?

It’s just that sometimes you might pull up a chair in the corner of your life, turn it around and sit down and observe. It’s a fascinating view watching all those balls in the air, all those aims and dreams and goals and tasks, and sometimes it’s just nice to watch. My tears fall and I see my dad getting older. I see all that we’ve accomplished this year. I see the beautiful transformation of my daughters from children to young women. I see this book floating around in my head trying to find a chance…some sort of negotiation to get out on the pages that aren’t yet. I see all these other ideas waiting to bleed chalk onto my fingers to make it to that blackboard. I see the rest of the family doing their thing, and no one is getting younger but we are so good at being young. And no one I know is good at getting old. And I kinda want to stay in this corner on this chair with my chin on my folded arms. It’s not a bad place to be. And I’m so thankful for this corner and for what I’ve seen.

But, I don’t. I lift my head. I say my prayer of thanks be to God for mountains, girls, words, brothers, sisters, goals, dads, and deep, deep love and connection. I stand, turn the chair back around, and I start running to jump the train. That chair will be waiting when I need to step off the train for a moment again.

Finding

Taylor Swift was blaring, and they all knew the words. The mini-van was kicking it. We were on our way to a waterpark for Lydia’s 8th birthday. I’d lost count of girls. I promised to get a head count before we get in there. The variance in my life makes me smile as I thought of the social work home visits I had made the day before. Just when Party in the USA was coming up the girls started finding a few things in the back seat that they have been looking for.

It’s a theme. Lately we’ve been finding things. A phone that’s been missing for two weeks, an iPod that’s been missing for a year, a book I never read. I can tell you there were some happy folks around here when those things were found. Except me. I can’t read that book for awhile.

My mother gave me an antique jewelry box at the very end when she was in hospice. All of us had already been through all of her jewelry with her and she had carefully given away all that anyone wanted. I never thought about what was left in that jewelry box, but I knew I wanted the box. Lately, I’ve been finding new pieces…earrings, a necklace in there that I want to wear. I feel like a kid in the mornings when I look in there. I’m amazed at what I find. And, I love wearing things that she wore.

What are you looking for? I’m looking for rest right about now.  I’ve been working all day, and it seems like the longest day.

There is really nothing like turning a paper in at 11:49pm that is due at 12:00am. I have a knot in my back, my lower half is numb from this black leather chair, red paint is chipping off my desk, and there is coffee everywhere. But, I am finished. It’s not even a good paper, but I’m happy. I’m happy it’s done. And I’m happy that I found something today when I was scanning in documents for my paper. It’s this old photo. My hair in it seriously keeps it real around here. Wow. But, don’t look at me. Look at that lovely lady next to me. We are smiling. She is dropping me off for summer camp.

img137

I just found it. And it took my breath away for a minute because I miss her so. Also, I have to admit I can’t get over that giant pin she is wearing.

This past week I was at a prayer retreat where I began to find some rhythm in the breathing of life again. I also found some new friends and some very old ones. I found some rest and some quiet. I found that all really might be well after all.

What are you looking for? I hope you find it. Whatever it is could give you a glimpse of hope and light and a lifting of sorrow. 🙂

Going for that rest now. Plus, I might look for that giant pin. I’ll just bet you….it’s in that jewelry box.

May God keep you silent. May God give you words. May God help you listen. In Christ who is within us, Amen.

Giving Thanks…Anyways

Her laughter is contagious, don’t you know. I wish I could play it for you on here. She was laughing when I answered the phone. “Katie!!!! I just sat in a high school auditorium for 12 minutes waiting for a concert that never was.” I started laughing and wiped my greasy forehead. It had been a sweaty day. “It was so quiet. I heard nothing. I sat as still as possible, and there was not even one footstep down the hall. Not one light switch switching.” I could really picture Beth, sitting there as still as she could listening for any signs of life and being amused and exasperated all at once that in fact her son was not going to be in a concert in this particular venue.

I’m not sure about you, but this week has been a doozy. With both cars in the shop in one week, my hard drive on my laptop dying and unrecoverable, curriculum writing underway, school programs coming at us right and left, and state rodeo finals coming up, I’m ready to go to bed and start over. My sister-in-law making me laugh always helps, and that she did today.

So, we laugh, we wonder when we will sleep again, and we are grateful for simple things like money to fix our cars, friends who fix laptops, and healthy active children. And the list goes on:

711. dogs who snuggle with girls during movie watching

712. boiled eggs

713. finally remembering to buy band-aids of which my youngest is addicted….only remembered because of the tornado lock-down at Target

714. a bathroom finally finished

715. coffee or tea…you pick

716. my editor telling me that a writing project is at the printer this very moment 🙂

717. a-gold-sparkly-headband-kind-of-running day

718. an ongoing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off quote-off with my sister-in-law….um, I’m winning right now with: “You’re not dying. You just can think of anything good to do.”

719. a lot of piano playing going on at my house

720. watching our second daughter Maile play Hamlet. She was rather good at welding the sword. Hmmm.

721. a day of prayer

722. a visit from my dad and his wife…their undying patience as we rodeoed all day long

723. random texts of encouragement

724. red raspberry jam

725. yoga head-stands

726. making plans to help victims of the tornadoes at the rodeo finals

727. a mustache slumber party

In the end, no matter your day, your week, your year, and that’s hard to say considering what’s happened in the world just this week, may we all give thanks anyways, even if we  are weary, sad, or even if we feel like pushing back our chair from the table of gratefulness and walking away. We might just find that offering up thankfulness leads to hope and light and joy and a way to prayer. Join me in giving thanks.