Monday, February 28, 2005

Bubble reads

The week is beginning its spin cycle. Monday morning. I have much to do today to prepare for the trip to Birmingham which begins tomorrow. I still need to get that boy taught too.

My brain is whirling this morning, though, in a good productive way. I have three books in front of me which I plan on taking to 'Bama. One is my study called "Abba's Child" by Brennan Manning. Chapter 2, wow, hits hard. Here's a line that made me cringe and confess last night:

"Prayer is death to every identity that does not come from God." I confess to grappling after false idols lately and feeding a false identity which has its importance away from God's light. We all mingle in the dappled shade from time to time, but wrongful priorities have a way of stealing your substance. I've been walking there more lately, and I know why in some ways. Manning says it here too in another way:

"The false self specializes in treacherous disguise. He is the lazy part of self, resisting the effort, asceticism, and discipline that intimacy with God requires." (42) Yes, I've been lolling about, looking at the sparkly, lit up filler items. I've desired distraction; I've resisted prayer during my times of restlessness or anger or sadness. This is an amazing chapter; unfortunately, I'll be gone on Wednesday when the group discusses their reaction. The chapter made me peer more suspiciously at our upcoming trip too -- what are we feeding? if changes happen, how can we assure that they're not only for insubstantial gain? It's a powerful temptation to ward off.

St. Augustine knew about temptation. I picked up a bargain 'The Confessions of Saint Augustine" a couple of years ago, and before my bath last night, I scouted for an unread title to take with me into the warm bubbles (the luxurious Western woman's options!). Wow. So far, in this weighty-worded, exclamative book, I see Augustine exploring the nature of sin in man, in our infancy even, probing how things were created, and why we need the love of God. Amazingly enough, I see a hint of the 'collective unconscious' ideas in his writing. Did Augustine come first and then Jung? God came first says the Bible which Augustine confirms. Aug. speaks of time in an interesting way. I like it.

Then, finally, "Hope for the Troubled Heart" by our own Billy Graham. It's lovely so far, and narrows in on the heart of the problem and the antidote.

Well, I've got lots more reading and pondering to do. However, life means much more than reading (darn!:).

But before I go, just a word to say that my daughter turns 16 today. She is on her way to adulthood which will be here soon. Unbelievable. I look at her and resist this age in a way -- it's full of worry and resentment; a hard reflection of your parenting up to this date. Please, God, be with her in a loving active way, and teach me to love her better each day. Only you can work and soothe.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Saturday sparkle

It has been an excellent Saturday afterall.

For some reason, I had a passive sadness this morning. I couldn't show up to go outside alone and enjoy the beautiful morning. I used to run solo and hit the day at an energetic (or active) pace. I had my watch, my tights, my fleece. I used to write about what the practice of perseverance stirred up in me: joy, strength, tightness, knee aches, faith.
But then, after about six years, I gradually slowed down and almost stopped altogether. And, now with homeschooling Cody, I don't get to meet my spirit-friend and run on Monday mornings.
But, the best thing happened today! As I was feeling passive and incapable, my cell phone rang, and my old Monday friend called to see if I could go on a trail walk. Saturday mornings are usually open for me, and so we agreed to meet in 15 minutes.
Thank you, God, for friends. I realized this morning when we were talking and laughing and jumping with our conversation that You are in the mix of this. When we looked over the bridge at the sparkling river below, and said hello to all the bikers going by us, and leaped over the mud puddle by the tunnel, and shared our spiritual heights and lows, I realized that You were showing me life again and again, outside of my worries and limits. My friend seems so sure of You and so stable, and it was wonderful to be re-inspired. Thank you for a treat morning!

Then, I went to lunch with my daughter, and we chatted as if our recent wall had crumbled.

Later, I went to a rousing meeting for a new communication vehicle for the church. A woman I know across from me made a cynical comment about indoctrination, and it was so fun to be able to laugh out loud and exchange knowing looks. I love being in a church where we can be cynical and laugh out loud freely. The meeting was great, full of creative suggestions ... more on that later!

An hour later, we were at the less-attended Saturday evening service. The sermon was okay, bu the people around me there are my friends. I talked with one who is beginning chemo treatments again for cancer. My reliable JH was across the auditorium, having made it safely back from her grandchildren. A small group study member was greeting at the door, new to service, looking committed and happy.

I don't want to think about leaving them all, but we will think about this possibility more in the coming week. We'll be going to Birmingham to see.

But, my Saturday was wonderful. Thank you, Lord, for life's goodness which you've created.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Higher than coffee?

'Tis a Friday morning, and my fat grey kitten cleans herself beside me. I let her outside, but her maximum comfort level in the big world is only about three minutes. She has jumped down now; she must know that I'm writing about her. Typical young teen.
Cody sleeps peacefully; my hazelnut cinnamon coffee is my constant.
Isn't it crazy how there are these fundamental things in the world that avoid complex scrutiny with either logic or emotions? For instance, coffee is always welcome and good to me. I seldom approach it with the desire to parse, or appease, or pretend I'm something I'm not around it. I wake up, put on my rose-patterned warm robe, and approach it confidently.
Most of the time, I analyze what I react to in my environment (either human or object), and so it seems rare this morning to have this anchor. I'm not sure why I'm appreciating it so much right now. I do think it has something to do with my dreams. I dreamt about a moved friend who was going through a tough time regarding parents. I was there for her ... can we ask the same of others? Often not. I think I tossed and turned on that last night as well.

However, I have a friend who is steady like coffee. She teaches me a lot just by being warm and available. I don't scrutinize her much at all; she's already proven reliable. My husband is steady; he hugged and kissed me this morning before he went to work, telling me that I'm pretty and good. I can always count on him, although I feel unsteady in the way that I reciprocate and how I securely grasp his love. Why should he love me?

Relationship with God. Okay, this should be steady and comforting at all times, right? In some ways, I know that he's reliable to me; however, I tend to turn away from Him, and I'm the one whose not fundamentally sound. It's difficult to remember that He loves me despite me. It's difficult to remember that my mind wants to denounce his love and presence at times, particularly when I feel low. It's a complex relationship that often has too much of myself, wringing my hands, in it. I need to just allow him to be there like my morning coffee. He is there. Sip and see that he is good.

Yet then I begin exacting in complex ways.
I begin thinking strangely, mixing my parenting weaknesses with my weakness at accepting God's love. I feel his disapproval at how I'm handling my daughter right now. Yet, it's not really Him but my own human limitations I'm struggling with. I want things to be perfect, to have a perfect relationship, but she needs to grow on her own without me. I hate that, and I'm feeling hurt. Then I get angry. Then I feel sinful. Then spirituality becomes a nuisance. Coffee seems a better alternative.

Yet then coffee goes its natural way (euphemism btw), and it becomes momentary. I can still love its calming effects, yet I can't ask it to heal my flagellations. Sigh. Approaching the higher good is so hard at times because it wants you to relax and find rest and give up the fret. He wants to work on heart, mind, spirit in a good sense. I'm not sure that I'm so malleable.

It takes trust, a simple gesture. Here. I raise my coffee cup to the eternal and pledge attempt, if not attempt then acknowledgement of, if not acknowledgement then a heart beat for your ideal, good, steady, reliable reality. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


My "encourager" of last semester bought me a small book called, "I Can Only Imagine." It provides the MercyMe single of the same name on a c.d. Each small, glossy page holds a short story of how this emotion-invoking song touched someone. A mother died ... the song comforted. A fellow Iraqi soldier was killed, the song was played a hundred times that night. Miscarriages occur ... the mother weeps for resolution as the song plays.

It's crazy almost that some people are opposed to comfort. One indication of this was seen recently in a popular magazine. In the latest issue of Time (Feb. 28), letters to the editor responded to the magazine's cover story focus on influential evangelicals of the day. The letter writers were jittery (okay, angry). One accused these evangelicals of furthering an agenda that dictated "religious persecution rather than religious freedom". One said that these people represented "an aggressive brand of Christian religiosity from leaders whose intolerance rivals anything we have heard from the Islamic zealots." One argued that the evangelicals showed simply one thing: "there is money to be made if you can convince people you have a direct line to God."

While I am a critical thinker who doesn't like the wool pulled over my eyes, I can't help but notice that these writers are practicing the same intolerance that they're ranting about. If you practice baby-with-bath-water-thinking as their letters strongly indicate then how can you say your way of thinking is better? It's simply fingerpointing both ways, which negates itself.

I was sad when I heard them, though. If "I Can Only Imagine" comfort is stunted for them due to a rigorous wall of belief, then a hole is dug, limits are placed. If they believe that all evangelicals are greedy, exclusionist who wish to undermine democracy (interestingly enough, have they studied their history of America?) then they are missing out on some exceptional views of helping alleviate human suffering. But, I guess like many of us, they just want to lash out and stay only there. They want to remember the wounds of those who were imperfect before them and not open their imagination to something different, something higher than people even. Stuck in a hole. It's safer that way.

That's my commentary for the day. :) I can only imagine the day ahead!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Daffodil friends

I remember beginning this blog with my farmer yearnings in tow and fresh images in my mind from my rural homeland: Bo jumping bales, pepper jelly being boiled on the stove, Elvira the mule appaloosing up the hills, the North Fork winding its way. Sigh.

It seems like a long time since I've been home. Mom says the daffodils are already budding up, ready to burst. Vietta's legacy returns each year to remind us of her, my unmet pretty great-grandmother. The daffodils have naturalized and run down to the green, mossy pond about 200 yards from the house. Wouldn't it be amazing to be known and remembered by a bloom?

But, it's February in the city, or large town one might call it. The cul-de-sac has had its share of kids lately since the weather has been temperate enough. Thursday evening, girls were chasing Cody, and he pedaled furiously into the side of the road which tipped him over, and he rolled and rolled (his words) and landed on his ankle. Three and a half hours later, the xray showed that it was just sprained. He's been crawling around with his splint dragging. I fetch him food every hour or so, because he's milking me like a hurt boy only knows how to do.

Life for me has been less anxious. Except, of course, for Wednesday evening when I got up and spoke in front of 90+ women and told on myself. The chapter for my small group study was called, "Come out of Hiding" which I did and now wish that there was a cave around to re-enter. Ah well ... the women in my group exposed themselves too in a surprising way. There's much pain out there, you know. God works through the air.

Life has been a bit in the doldrums. Except, I went out with two old bookclub friends on Friday evening, and we discussed all sorts of things. They helped me see that I can move on without too much guilt. Movement is the operative word. VB wants to be everyone's mother, and we gladly let her.

Friendships have been going through a strange period. People that I know and love have gotten busy, as if I haven't. My friendships are seemingly cyclic, and I don't like that. I want people to be around longer. It seems as if I know tons of women whom I consider friends, yet too many of them are revolving close friends. They revolve because of circumstances. Is that bad or good? Is that the life of women? I would rather, in some ways, have closer less revolving friends, yet circumstantial situations bring many back and forth. Last year, I had at least two in my close circle, but one of those women is never available now. She has three children and focuses on them; she increased her hours on her job. I've had to release expectation of much time from her after trying to keep things going. Then, there are wonderful newer women that I have met and like a lot and serve with. The ground just keeps moving a bit in this area. However, my wonderful friend, JH, is still around, loving me, being there for me when I need anything, accepting both Cody and me in her kitchen whenever. I so much appreciate that!

Well, I am going to try to sleep again. For some reason, the cat decided to become an acrobat around 3:15 this morning and made me wake up and think about jewelry and friendships and daffodils and movement .... on to bed for some more dreams. Bien nuit.....

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

No ceasing

"Pray without ceasing," says the Bible. I feel great sadness for a friend this morning, and, literally, slept with a prayer in my mind the whole night for her.
Whenever my friends pray for me, I feel a certain strength surround me. I pray for your hope and guidance for her, God.

This evening, I need prayer as well. I'll be talking to the Wednesday evening group and sharing some vulnerable times in my life. Our leading question is: Describe a time when you felt most lost.

There I sat with a baby in my arms, and a six year old girl, and a husband whom I felt, at the time, that I didn't have much in common with. God was a distant shadow of a better, more naive time. God, actually, had gone, burst into a thousand pieces by a thousand philosophies of negation. I was informed, I had read, I had disavowed in the face of words and circumstances.

Until I was lost, and He flooded my office after a simple question and a strong denial. "Do you think God loves you?" Crazy, childish stuff. "No." And, then the flood came into my office, and it said, "Why build walls? You are tangled up and lost. Now's the time to return." And, I did, and I still get tears in my eyes to recall that moment of his desire for me again. It was real and bold.

I need to find that video of me, lost, skinny, with baby, with imaginations of escape. Change has occurred, might as well document grace.

I pray that you have a grace-filled day,

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Intimations a la obgyn

As usual, it was a marvelous ob-gyn annual visit. I showered and then flew across town to his office. His sassy nurse laughed at my hesitant response to a personal question. She took me into one of his waiting rooms where I undressed and put on the open-in-front robe for the convenient breast exam. And, then he gently knocked and opened the door. Reunion! There was so much I wanted to say to him, but he has lots of open legs to visit and babies to deliver. One year, he delivered 362 babies. He's truly committed to being there which he was for me when Cody was born. What was better is that he was there afterwards too. He visited me in my recovery room and asked what it was like, the miracle of birth. I love him, and my husband knows this. When any woman asks me who I see, I exclaim in long wonder about my gentle-man doctor whom they can never get an appointment with because he's so adored by all. Each year in February, I get to see him (and he me), and I recall snippets of our quick conversations during my exam: one year it was about DisneyWorld, another about his sons, another about a Bible study with his friends, another about teenagers in general, this year it was about Cody's upcoming genetic studies (I also told him about sledding). Then I am released from the chair, and we sit and talk like we've been at tea this entire time. Then he offers to help in various ways. He's going to write a prescription for me for cholesterol medicine! He's going to copy some files for me from my folder! He tells me that I look great and thin, and he makes some derogatory remark about his overweight figure. One year, he was truly God in gesture when he waited for me by the door with one hand holding out a packet of Ovcon, and his other hand holding a box of trial Ovcons. He offered them to me, and I immediately thanked him profusely (and affectionately) for the one free box of birth control pills in his hand. He said, "But, I'm offering the entire box to you." I felt so grateful and blessed to be receiving more than I imagined. Didn't that parallel something in the Bible that Christ did? Anyway, each time I leave my doctor wishing that I had complimented him more, that I knew his wife, that I would have some type of recurrent woman issue, that he would stay as a friend instead of a doctor. But, I realize my emotions regarding intimate privacy invasion has resulted in a codependent transfer of need and ... love, although he does deserve the love because he's so humble, gentle, caring, etc etc etc.
Okay, I must end this blog right now. One year from now, I will revisit this topic and again attest how wonderfully gentle and caring and sweet this oby-gyn man is, but, for now, I must get some sleep so that next year is one day closer.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Zippin' with WW

Minus the rows of well-constructed homes, we could have lived a long time ago. Snow seems so ageless, so timeless, spaceless. We took a path, like Robert Frost, in some snowy woods in a neighborhood small park, and there was an unbounded creek lying in wait for the discoverer. We walked on the bank and heard the dark water trickling, defying the developments up the hill. It was beautiful and like home when, as a girl, I used to take my long walks in winter's face to find amazing beauty, even much moreso than in Spring. I don't have the right words to describe the stillness and the beauty that I still "recollect in tranquility" as Wordsworth says. But, I know that the experiences of nature have stayed with me for a long time. There's something strong and peaceful and pure about their intermittent reminders too when I stumble into a similar setting. It's like the ageless, timeless, spaceless aspects of creation hits me again. Strong hints of the eternal abound in the natural world, and they want to be seen and known. I feel like they're always calling me to look at them, and if I don't, I lose out.

Anyway, Cody and I were supposed to be looking for a good downward slope; I pulled our orange plastic sled, at times with him in it, and we were dressed for zero degrees and speed. But, the peace in the woods just took us over for a while. Most lovely and accessible if only we would leave our heat-induced pleasant-enough homes more. We found a small slope in the woods and zigged and zagged perilously between trees, until we decided to drive to the big hill at a larger recreational park. The hill waited, pure and unmarked (because other kids were in school), which complimented Cody's need for speed. He pulled the sled up to the highest point, and then screamed "aaaaaacccchhhh" all the way down with a gigantic smile. We raced and tried to break each other's sled tread records. I felt young and athletic when I ran back up the hill to do it again.

Cody was at his bravest; last year, he was anxious and cried on the way up and the way down. However, today it all felt good. The water on the lake below us sparkled, the air reddened our cheeks, the freedom we felt heightened our gratitude; it was an exceptional day of learning, I think. Why do our schools institutionalize so much? All of those kids should have been out with us on that slope, testing their limits, noticing the contrasting colors of the sky, the ground, the water -- zipping downward with a feeling of freedom. It's freedom that causes us to learn more. Well, I'm getting prosaic again, and I apologize for that; it's just ... I wish that you could have been there instead of being contained. I was very fortunate that I stepped into my shoes and went outside to follow my boy's call.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Atlantic crossing

Democracy. In the Old World, parents talked late into the night about the possibility of a voyage, about how much it would cost, about the hopeful opportunities that possibly awaited them upon new soil. I can imagine the children listening in the bed or room next to them. I can imagine them waking up with a new type of excitement, a new type of fear, imaginings unlike before. Perhaps they played games outdoors of how they would ward off an Indian attack. Or, how they would live in the big house on their own acreage. Or, what it would be like to have running water in their own apartment. Or, what American girl or boy they would one day marry.

I felt like an Old World parent when I chatted with Cody this morning. He had never heard of the word "democracy", that it was a government in which the people voted for their own leader; a government set up to protect the freedom of the people. His questions roamed freely, and we talked about alternatives like monarchy and dictatorship. I introduced him to Hitler, to the lines that formed at the concentration camps upon arrival, how bad bias caused horrible deaths, how it caused Hitler to self-destruct in the face of approaching enemies. Cody couldn't believe it and asked me to stop describing it (for some reason, that time era has always fascinated me).

We talked about Stalin and the freedom to worship, and how he burned the churches down or converted them to political meeting places.

I told him about how our country was young and fought to win freedom for everyone, which we did. He asked, "Well, what about the slaves then?"

Ah, perception. Democracy is growing, evolving, with some serious mistakes to make up for.

We talked about our gift, our country that gives us freedom and choice. It was so cool to be part of that discussion and query instead of handing it to the school to teach. I was there! We were like immigrants looking faraway at what is offered in a new place with a progressive spirit, with a flame for liberty and justice. Then, our living room was an Ellis Island of sort; we entered, looked around and saw what good things our country had to give after struggles.

And, we sit in our living room as a result studying what went before us. Amazing stories. Amazing fortune to be part of such a place.

That's it from central America 2005!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Shiites what? A good site for understanding the differences between the Shiites and Sunni. The Shiites reign in Iraq say the headlines this morning. What does this mean? Did our Christian nation pave the way for more oppression, or for more freedom? We can't change worldviews by force even with removal of a dictator. Did we throw a stone over there with our soldiers' bodies and then have the water return to the same reflection? Will the Christian groups there be able to freely worship like they did? President Bush purports to spread values and ideals, yet who can honestly say that oil economics did not play a role as well. Hopefully, the Shiite undergirding of the new constitution will allow democracy, albeit in foreign language and concepts, which means reasonable movement for those in Iraq who don't hold authority: other faiths, women, free expressionists. The world shifts a bit.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Wobbly river

When I woke up today, I thought to myself, "I need to go talk to one of my pastors; my anxiety is wrapped tight. I'm not functioning. I can't feel anything anymore." But I knew my pastor would just tell me that I need a drink (if I wasn't in the "upper ministry echelon" then he would be afraid of departing that advise given our semi-Baptist funding). He told me that before a Wednesday night program once when I was on the verge of a panic attack (only prayer stopped it and gave me calm).
So, I had a wonderful glass of red wine tonight at the local winery. The wine was called 'rouge jouilette', je pense. It made me walk back up the hill that looks over the Missouri river in a wobbly happy sort-of way. Oui, j'ai l'amour pour le vin and ale, but I rarely imbibe much. No more writer group meetings. Not many more book club outings lately. I feel self-conscious about it too. I remember some feelings that accompanied the drink.
But, the 13th anniversary gave us a ticket out. A movie ticket also. We went to see "Sideways", and it, too, helped me feel again. Yes, it was full frontal uncouth in some ways, but it made me thoughtful and glad for my own personal landing. It involved lots of wine, a perturbed unpublished writer, a sexaholic, regrets, longing, grasping for bits of grace. It made me glad that I have opened my hands to an alternative. I used to be more where the characters of the movie are -- dependent upon the movements of others, dependent upon seasons, upon how others react to me, dependent upon my own sense of worth, upon external circumstances .... and, even though I still have my dread ups and downs, I'm steadier now, due to faith, due to Word. This doesn't mean that I'm certain I will always continue with it. I could do something foolish; however, I know something new now which means a hell of a lot to me. I'm so glad I feel this again, and I thank the movie for making me sad and empathetic and longing for what's beyond our suffering and our temporary goodness (which I'm not downplaying ~~ existential grace is amazing if that's all we have; there's a certain beauty in that, although extreme sadness too in its short-lived state). I felt sad for the characters. The writer almost killed himself if it wasn't for the grace of Mia who encouraged him, who gardened, who had 'lots of soul.'
Maybe I will go talk to the pastor when the anxiety wraps me up again. Yet, I don't know, maybe I'll just go see a movie. Maybe I better talk to him and make sure that this is alright. Maybe I just need to get out of the house more.
Well, I think I can sleep now since I processed this. We have a full day without children tomorrow. It's guilty pleasure which is a nice feeling to be able to experience. Thank you, le Dieu, for this grace. Maybe in heaven, I will be a perfect mother.
Bien nuit!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Urban folk

Julie Clark and I are spending the evening alone together. Is she a lesbian? I can't tell yet from her lyrics. Hopefully, not, and I can freely download this excellent album I found on realRhapsody this evening. She's "urban folk" which sounds like me, the blend of downhome and caught in a city. Yet, the pronouns do matter, breaks my concentration, introduces images I'd rather not encounter, so I'll just freely enjoy her music now. It's good, though. I love sifting through all of these albums, thinking that I can break out of the mold of my current listening box of local radio. I can expand ...........
Cody had me sifting through Rancid albums earlier. Yes, my children like alternative also. Thank you, God, for that important distinction. Eagerly received when other things feel paltry right now in my life.
It has been a tough day with anxiety. Now, the boys and daughter are gone, and I'm alone, and I can relax in music with a longing bent, especially Julie's "The Naked Song". :) A bath is soon calling, after another look at a recorded television show, after these apples and cornnuts which constitute my supper, after this nice writing break.
My former co-teacher asked me today if I wanted to grade essays with the group. Outer life.
The Wednesday night group went alright. I have no concept of myself up front, except that I'm inwardly shaking, yet I can talk, the words form from all the books I've read which have helped me articulate something from my depths. Also God's kind spirit. Also necessity of duty that sprang once from love, that mimics love enough to speak as opposed to mute anxiety.
The women are wonderful. We all need each other. And, yes, there are probably those who struggle with lesbian feelings as I've heard testimony. Not me, though, thank God for that! But, I do struggle and need my friends. Will I have to start over? Let's not think about that.
So, it has been nice to meet Julie Clark, urban folk rocker, this evening. I do love music.

Take care,

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

almond roca

My last blog was bleak (bleally!), but not all is dreary. For instance, Cody and I rode our bikes to a nearby frozen custard shop a few minutes ago. We didn't ride, we raced, except when he called "icebreak!", and we rested on the curb. Then he'd say, "Ready, set, goat!", and we wouldn't start up again, because he said goat instead of go! When he finally said, "Go!", we'd be off again in the cool sunny day.
At the store, I got my favorite almond roca, and he got his usual vanilla in a cup. Then, we sat on a beautifully carved bench and gave each other a couple silly quizzes, laughing, making sure we included the word "butt" in several. It was like being in fourth grade again.
Cody loves to laugh. His blue eyes shone back at me, and I thought, "I have lots of time to be with him now. I'm so glad!"
I am incredibly grateful for these moments of grace and goodness. As Papa tells Travis after he shoots Old Yeller, "We must focus on the good things in life or the bad will takeover."
Tru'dat Papa. :)