Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I'm reading a small book called TheReturn of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. We know the circuit of the story -- restless boy, asks for partying money/early inheritance, drunkenness, women, pigs, awareness, return, embrace, fattened calf, surly older brother, reprimand.

Rembrandt painted this parable. Nouwen became obsessed with his painting, staring, electrically, studying, contemplating. He unfolds his connections, God's punching, in this book.

Nouwen speaks of how we're all like the prodigal son -- not happy until we're home, until we have the heart for home, until we reach our father's arms who welcomes our wandering.

He speaks of how we're all like the elder son and ends Chapter 4 with this quote: "Both [elder and younger son] needed healing and fogiveness. Both needed to come home. Both needed the embrace of a forgiving father. But from the story itself, as well as from Rembrandt's painting, it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home" (66).

There's pride. There's anger. There's "what's mine is mine." All are reasonable. All don't allow a growth but a tightening. I can imagine the continued looks of animosity between the two brothers, building even though the younger desires a new life. Will this conflict run him off again? What happens when the father dies?

What do you do when a family member is jealous of your choices which has caused you pain and sacrifice to make as you turn on a better path?

Perhaps embrace that person? Perhaps define your territory as one which involves love but peace? Perhaps take their pain and carry it? Perhaps focus only on God's delight in who you're becoming through him?

I am relating to this story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I always do such a thing => ignore the blog, write, and then wish to write again and again before the long silence. The space of time, right now with the sun shining into my beautiful office room where my mandolin and guitar are splayed in light, is right; I have some minutes before I drive to retrieve my son from a rare playdate. He wouldn't like me to call it a playdate now that he is seventeen, but the mothers coordinate it as dates, times, arrangements still are elusive.

Anyway, it's a beautiful December day; some kind of pollen is blowing in the air; the green grass is waving to defy winter. Defy on. I'm in love with the potential in my flower beds as the sun pulls upwards.

I am wondering about something as pleasure brims: I am wondering about guilt. At times when I enjoy my surroundings and my easy living, I feel it. I think of others and feel for their lack. I think of my friend whose children are gone over the holiday and a new wife has appeared; I think of my student who just lost a grandfather; I think of the tired mother at work; I think of the parents and kids who just burned up on Christmas day during a house fire, or the . . . , or the . . . ; headlines scream and rant and let you know that your sunny room full of musical instruments is not everyone's experience. You are not all there is; it's good to have peace and to have "safe pasture" but one should not live for only this. (Did you see how language lapses into "one should" as if the deep voice of parents are still monitoring?) I sadly think we seek this and nothing much more.

However, guilt has a shelf which can be useful. Love doesn't need one but is often left up there with guilt, shame, fear, selfishness.

Did an unnecessary shadow fall upon my room? Can't I just enjoy? Yes, yes, yes! and yes can lead to an extension outside here as well.

It's a dilemma. One of my old friends thought one should just live for one's experience only, which is the highest form of living. It always sounded like a self-centered philosophy to me. Yet, my codependent urges to help or fix or feel something for someone has also interfered and made my living for others complicated and ridiculous.

For now, I am going to enjoy my sunlit musical room; however, for me, I desire a deeper awareness than just this, one that involves sympathy, compassion, wise discernment, and love in movement, not in isolation of my own self-serving joys -- although I am thankful, God, for the joys that each human being, regardless of loss, hardship, have available ==> your potential in the soil, your sunshine of pull.

May we all respond and feel the joyful freedom it gives. Selah.
Two days after Christmas. I would like to give a shout out to my friend, NP! When she, a most contemplative, brilliant, analogy-maker writer, creates her own blog, I will try to put her on my blogroll, which has not been edited for a while, due to remiss, ignorance, forgetfulness. Yet, it's good to keep old blogs regardless if they are used any more -- they were a stage for me, when I was home alone with a son who needed lots, a teenage daughter who broke us down, an escape needing a depository, a way to make new, smart friends, a room with a view to call my own. Blogs, an interesting room with a view. Now, we have Facebook where epigrammatic, superficial, or agitated sentence blurts are the norm. I don't think I would ever say, "Yay, Mizzou!" on my blog which I have many times on Facebook. It seems important to share team wins with others, immediately getting those gratifying thumbs-up. We're in this together, right now, in real time -- no need to pretend that anything else matters in our life right now other than a Tiger victory!

With a blog, one must be more thoughtful, perhaps that's why I don't write as much any more. However, I still do think. I still do wonder. I still hold open my hands for understanding regarding relationships, hope in God, a child with high functioning autism, a daughter who has turned the corner, and sees me now as a person. Life is good. Age is good. I can still run three miles, although running away from things doesn't matter as much as it used to, thankfully. God has broken me of that, still with the freedom to make my own choices and reap my own consequences, though.

My friend NP, the brilliant, contemplative, analogy-maker, beautiful writer, shared a video link by Brene Brown who is a researcher on shame which I watched today. In it, she says one of the keys to being happy is having the courage to accept your own imperfections. I've gotten better at this through the years, still walking the path into knowing that the outlines of perfection are illusionary blurry lines which mess with my perceptions and cause me angst. I am accepted the way that I am, created, loved, held together by the encompassing Grace of the land. I can relax and relax more into being imperfect but worthy of love and acceptance.

Yes, I wish I was better at things: loving, accepting others as they are, forgiving, hoping, believing, being more like Jesus, that historical and exemplary figure => for this I lean into the source and dip in my cup. And, dip desiring the dip.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Finally finding the campus of College of the Ozarks, I lined up to wait to hug my friend who just lost her husband to brain cancer. She was my best friend in high school, radiant then as she is now in her faith. She was radiant at the end of the line, almost like a bride.

But, the deal was that the earthly healing she "claimed" in the name of Jesus was denied to her husband. Way down the aisle in the chapel, he was cold and pale.

Throughout the 11 month ordeal, my friend would send faith-infused updates. Her labor for healing resulted in a glowing testimony of amazing hope and assurance that her husband would be healed. I forwarded these to friends because of their power; I dared to hope that God would show himself, that he would involve himself, that maybe I could hope too in connection to my prayers for my son.

Yet, as the updates came, finally came an admission  that the healing might happen in heaven. However, I have never seen such a demonstration in expectancy that God would deliver healing upon earth, even to the last moment.

Her last update on Tuesday stated that her husband was now in heaven. However, he "is alive and well" in a recovered body and looking into the eyes of Jesus.

When I approached her at the visitation, she dry-eyed squealed out my name, and we clung to each other crying. Once upon a time, we had been high school best friends dreaming about boyfriends and husbands and what God would do in our lives. We were both earnest, faith-full girls. We both trusted in good futures.

We both have been down hard paths.

My friend has lost her gift, the man whom she treasured more than anything else. Brain cancer. Life gone. Prayer denied.

Yet there she was quite radiant, whispering to me that Vince didn't suffer due to God's grace in his last hours. I was happy for her.

However, I cried much driving back.

For her. And, that God didn't allow us hopeful onlookers some more, solid, unquestionable proof of his existence and reported upon active care.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bar Tab

Above on my tab bar (words to reverse!), I have several open blogs written by individuals with Asperger’s. I became aware of them from a friend and now I can’t walk away from reading them. One in particular “My Life on the Other Side of the Wall” by Aaron Leakes, who works alongside an autism agency in town, is especially good. In it he describes indepth, what a social anxiety looks and feels like for him. I’m reading knowing that I get to understand my son better through Aaron’s openness and honesty.

Fortunately, I was a shy child and teenager which has helped me understand some of social paralysis. Only through hard work, intense desire, and some spiritual shoves have I completely defeated it, yet I remember not wanting this for my worst enemy. It was such a place of echoes – echoes of self-defeat, shame, hatred. A battle. But, I am grateful for it because now I can understand somewhat the feeling for my son. It has been helpful.

Reading the blogs of these individuals has shown me both an open and swinging door. The open door shows me the similar experiences, the similar battles, and similar hopes which these people have. If I can learn from them, I might know better how to understand or help. However, I also see the perpetual swinging door of hope, despair, energy, weariness, optimism, depression which accompanies my parenting and the individual’s experience. We swing, and the world pushes their way through.

Each day seems a battle to confront and win. I think, in a way, that’s a universal thing, though, for some it happens in a more intense manner. I rolled out of bed wondering what it would be like to not be able to roll out of bed, what it would be like to be facing a terminal illness, what would it be like to have a spouse leave you, or a child die.

The battle can’t be denied. Life can be tough. A tactical plan must be conceived.

Today’s plan consists of:


Me completing some of my overhanging schoolwork

Me playing the banjo some

Me choosing to be hopeful and not fearful

My son hitting golf balls with dad

My son running a mile with his dad

We as a family being united to be in this together.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adjustment at the Movies

I'm stymied. Seems like lately, I do not enjoy movies. I should like movies, and I have some in the past. However, lately, they all fall short. It makes me wonder if movies meet us where we are at times, or if many movies truly do not have merits as they should.

My husband and I just watched "The Adjustment Bureau," and it was okay. If I apply all the liteary dimensions, I can perhaps see clearer where it went wrong.

Setting: New York with supernatural elements; the unseen "force" becomes visible. The setting seems plausible even within the "willing suspension of disbelief" and the few, fantastical elements. The buses don't morph into fighting machines; they are real. The buildings are quite normal too.

Style: I haven't thought much about style in movies, but, now that I am, I believe this film's style is somewhat jerky to me. There isn't an emphasis on cinematography or mood setting. Perhaps I want more layers which style offers in a movie.

Plot: A story is told. A senator-to-become realizes an outer, directive layer exists which comprise of men, angels, agents on a mission to keep him on course for his life plan. Falling in love with someone who he is meant to be with in an earlier plan, but not current plan, causes these agents to trail him and try to intercept this off-path love. Of course, love is stronger than fate because it illustrates free will, and the main characters maintain their love and receive permission in the end. I don't think the plot is a problem. If I want to enter into a story, why not this one? It's as good as another.

Characters: At times, plot interferes with characters, though. Although Matt Damon is a good character actor, his character is too busy running, like many modern movie thriller characters want to do. Not enough time is given to develop motivation or personality or anything to help the audience deeply identify. It must be a dilemma in action movies, and I don't think the movie fails completely -- probably does a little better job than most --at characterization. However, I think that the lack of this element causes the movie to be flat.

Theme: People can control their own destiny if they want it badly enough and assert their individual rights. "Fight for your right to party," as the song goes. Well, sort-of here. I think that the theme is a good one. The voice at the end hammers in the theme to make sure we know it, because we need interpretors of meaning in our modern day stupors (it seems they think so).

Overall, it seems the style (lack of mood setting) and the lack of character development robbed this movie, which is making me analyze it late at night. Well, I might be able to sleep afterall soon. :) Perhaps it isn't me and my unrealistic standards.

One last thought -- as I assess my appreciation of movies, I am wondering if I had more appreciation when I was younger because I wanted what the movies offered more than I do now. I will have to think about that late at night one night.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Blizzard philosophy -- trying to answer a friend's question is my question: When you see suffering, injustice, you accept that God is in charge and it is all from God...and submit and accept? For example in Egypt right now...the people have been living with the oppressive regime of first Sadat, and now Mubarak for over 30 years. The U.S. has supported Mubarak all these years...because it's better than a power vacuum in the Middle East?! Now after a generation, thousands are ready to break the yoke and stand up and say "no more". Did they suddenly hear from God?

I'll try to give you my meager perspective on your question. Or, at least what I've used to placate my questions. First one about suffering, injustice and oppression -- is God in charge and is it all from God, so we should submit and accept. I think we are a multi-layered world. We have the "natural law" layer -- if one lives on the Sahara Desert, one may be hungry and thirsty; if one lives in the Midwest, one might get blown away by a tornado. God doesn't mess with natural laws --- they are set in motion, and unless it's highly necessary to prove something (like Jesus walking on the water, or the talk with Moses, etc), He doesn't alter anything. He made the potential for the wind to blow at high rates of speed. He made volcanic plates. Our earth is dynamic and continues to roil and boil, and provide pleasant retreat too. The idea of God is one of Supremacy over it all, but He lets it operate. The other layer we have is the man-organized layer: we have social, human conditions which add to life's complexities. We have petty bosses who want to let their issues spill out and make others' lives miserable. We have Hitler. We have Mubarak and his protesters and his supporters. We have Mother Teresa's response. We have the Salvation Army. We have political institutions, religious ones, everything man has created to support his own base or good nature.

The people of Egypt want change. Perhaps their ideas are shaped by their beliefs in God. Their perceptions of what is good for a human being operating in a political system might be supported by their particular religious outlook. We did the same thing when we broke from England. The United States, whose religious beliefs are shaped by God supposedly, who attaches itself to Israel because of religious heritage outlook, acts primarily for the good of itself, although colored by the lens of religion somewhat, yet really is concerned about holding onto peaceful economic conditions which also means staving off one's enemies. We can support this conveniently by the mentioned religious dimension. Here in America, we live the good life. None of us want our enemies to press in on us. We're about self-preservation, like it or not.

President Obama is seemingly going along with the change too, per his last talk. Maybe we can hold onto preservation and the ideas of democracy, maybe we won't lose relationship, maybe we just have to say the Egypt people are winning, so let's be part of the inevitable and be conciliatory.

Did they hear from God? They might think so. Yet the religious dimension is being used to support a world view and a political action. Happens all the time in that human layer. It's not always bad or good. It might be valid or invalid.

The last layer we might have is the spiritual layer. God, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha (or are the last two man-made?), etc. I choose the first two because of my heritage and because of historical and logical reasons. This layer is one we try to manipulate and understand and emulate. We try to praise it; we try to force it; we try to verify it constantly; we use it. It's very complex. Even if I'm tempted to say "and it's very simple", I know that isn't true. It's complex. Because how does God infuse the layers? And, does He? Remember the devotion I sent which was my friend's writing regarding her husband's brain tumor? It's a test. If he isn't healed, God did not in fact intervene, and the voice my friend heard isn't more than her intense wishful thinking. If he is healed, it could be the science involved, but it could be God involved, and perhaps because she tapped into his layer repetitively and with great assurance and seeking, she is rewarded for her faith. It will be interesting to see what happens. Admitted or not, we'll all be disappointed if this faith test isn't resolved positively.

This spiritual layer seems to be more individualistic than corporate. It seems like it works despite the tornado, earthquake, monsoon, even cancer. My friend will make peace with God even if her husband dies. Is it possible to believe in God when you have no earth's resources? Or, when the social layer is so intense and full of problems? Seems as if there are blocks, obstacles, yet we all universally live within the circle of our conscience, of our soul working toward meaning of some sort. Is the meaning our family, our social connections, our homes, our meal providing, our politics? I can't believe that this search for meaning is non-existent. Therefore, we have religion; we have religious stories and religious paths to take. We have an awareness that we may not be all there is. Some of us are free-er to explore this in our comfort and leisure than others, yet that too has a distraction side. Some of us don't have much of a chance due to our culture or restraints or our suffering. Yet there are undeniable currents -- morality issues, meaning issues, etc.

Where is God? Sometimes what we require of Him is more than what He has permitted Himself to do. Who knows why? Sure doesn't help our beliefs out at times. Yet the layer is there. His layer.

I know some people won't like this because I make him sound very passive, and I don't expect a lot of intervention. Yet I pray for it despite myself. But, I think my prayers would be best served if I could just understand the layers better and why He, in Being, is necessary in our daily operations, search for meaning, and pathway through the layers of this life.

I don't know if I've answered your question. I'm doing a lot of articulation of my thoughts here too which I haven't before. I could definitely be sounding vague, but what is crystal clear anyway?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


After my last post, I tromped through the serenity of the nearest grocery story which was like Mardi Gras since people were out shopping for the first time and for another upcoming snowstorm. No natural headiness happening. However, I saw several friends and we yacked and perhaps they thought I wouldn't let them return to shopping? Well, such is social desperation during snow-time.


** perhaps I'll return to my women's ministry group this session; yet, can I take it? So much skin flailing at times. I wish to be okay with me. However, I realize that I determine that and no one else.

** my son's soccer game is tonight; a newly discovered sport, a blessing. He's doing well at 16. He will make it.

** just heard from my long-lost CA cousin who married a black man. We found her again after discovering that my aunt and uncle disowned her. Seriously, this day and age? Julie and I are writing, and I'm getting acquainted with my second cousins I never knew I had.

** I have a printed NYTimes article entitled "The One-Eyed Man is King" regarding the remake of "True Grit." Here's a good line: "Like classic Hollywood Westerns before it, 'True Grit' in all its iterations has an elegiac lilt." Like Shane, an order is established; transgressions are answered.

** Too many book tidbits are floating on my tables. Perhaps I should pick just one instead of 20. Now, there's an idea.

** Served the K-2 grade students at church this morning. Love them. Love their faces while jumping rope. Love their progress from kindergarten to second grade. Love the little buddies who always sit by me and put their heads on my shoulder. Love kids.

** Many papers to grade.

** Much snow to melt.

** It's a good life when things don't go wrong.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Yes, Jack London wouldn't think it's that bad at all. I should remove my flowery robe, dress in thickness, and go outside to tromp. The wind isn't even whistling; wolves from an upper NW pack have not even descended into my state. The one to three mountain lions spotted in rural areas do not like this university town. A malicious deer with a weaponry rack only exists in the imagination of a city-slicker.

It's tame. Each sequestered back yard here might have a cat's trail, or a squirrel's brush, or a dog's plow marking the snowscape. Yesterday, I saw one terrified deer bounding into our yard and over the neighbor's fence, marking wide leaps of horror. Yet no danger exists.

I could go outside and walk off this fancy cabin malaise. When I was younger, I always did just that, dressing in old green coveralls and an old Chiefs hat, some old tennis shoes, some old black work gloves. I would dodge the heat wave from Mom's wood stove. I would dodge the loudness of Dad's television. I would dodge getting involved in the third book of the day. The cold air would hit; the dog would fall in behind; freedom came from striding down the hill, past the pond not quite safe for skating, past the summer's blackberry bushes, past the Mulberry playhouse tree with the old teakettle swinging coldly from a branch. Finally, into the back acreage; finally down the steep hill where the quartz rock could always sparkle to be found. Down to the secret pond, surrounded by cedar, and away from everything.

I never was not greeted graciously in the winter-time outside. Some sort of beauty awaited. Some sort of treat presented itself. Some type of freedom assented inside my spirit.

I would focus on small things, and they would focus back, like two aliens studying each other's habits; two aliens living under each others' noses until one says, "Hello" and the other says, "Finally!"

Prayer and love, or release from loneliness, or spiritual un-chokedness would always happen. In the winter-time, the desperation for such would be extreme. In the winter-time, such outlines inside and outside just occurred. The snow on the branches gave me pause; the greyish ice on the spring-fed pond made me think; the sound of the branches spoke. Wow, I'm a bit crazy like Thoreau and Wordsworth themselves! Yet when a country girl needed a vacation which was never taken otherwise because of money, she could find it on the land -- the Ozarkian land especially. I don't know what the crazed city kids did, and for them, I feel sympathy.

When walking back up the steep, rocky hill towards our small house, I would be ready for it again. Another night of television or books and thick wood heat. Another cancellation of school or basketball practice. Another grapple with closeness, sounds and silence.

I think I must try to walk today outside. I think I will just be one of those neighborhood women who walk to shape up. I think I must go find a creek bed too if possible.

Amen and amen.

Asking for it back

from "The Age of Reason" by Kathleen Norris

Now it begins: the search for a God
who has moved on, the
God-please-help-me need
you still can't imagine, strangely
twisted landscapes
in which you may not rest.
The pillar of cloud
you saw march across the plain
will pass you by; some younger child
will see it.

It was given
so readily, and now you must learn
to ask for it back.
It's not so terrible;
it's like the piano lessons you love
and hate. You know how you want
the music to sound,
but have to practice, half in tears,
without much hope.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not forgotten

Writing in the blog, non. Living in the life, oui. I was reminded this week of how powerful writing can be to capture the fast-movement of life. I was reminded of my place here, an open square for words to write and capture.

For a writing assignment given to my freshmen students, I wrote about homemade ice cream. I created a sensory map in which I captured all the sensory details of the ice cream family event which we used to have each summer at Grandma Cora's house. The piece has captivated me. I keep reading it over and over again reliving all of those southern Missouri moments of that specific time which represented complete harmony in the universe to me. Grandma's laugh, the smell of the grass, the spicy smell of hydrangea, the feel of the hugging humidity, the sight of aunts, cousins, uncles in the lit circle by the food table, the cicadas, the men hunched over, turning, turning the crank, pouring in the ice, the creamy delectableness of the gift. Grandma's bustle and joy. The wealthy life. God and pleasure.

Therefore, motivated by the writer's desire for preservation, canning, going to the cellar and unscrewing the jar which holds experience.

Grateful for the ever present possibility.