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Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

a star

You see the dark that few behold

And fight a faceless fear

As if at night, the clouds unrolled

Shadows feel welcome here

Time draws you forward, but the mind

Or something near the soul

Embraces tears, the mingled kind

That measures darkness whole

Polluted sanctuary, yet

There’s nowhere else to kneel

To bare your soul, the past regret

The emptiness you feel

How dark, so dark, before

The bated breath of dawn

Night tangible, the ghosts of yore

Who, senseless, struggle on

Sleep evades the sweetest dreams

Where answers dare to shine

Project instead nightmarish screams

And deeds of dark design

Caught within, among, it all

Your soul still bleeds its reason

The will of hope, evasive arc

Persists in spite of season

Draw in the draught that never dims

Where blood and water flow

And worth, not based on act or whim

Is yours to feel and know

Although unseen when dark surrounds

And shadows rush in cold

Let mercy breathe, and hope abound

Love’s broken wings enfold

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the soul is like a birdIt’s that time of the year once more – when we’ve reached the end of that horse- or scenic-themed wall calendar and prepare to hang up a new one.

When we try to wrap our brains around the fact that, yes, the year actually is over, and wonder where exactly it went because it flew by so quickly.

When our thoughts turn to resolutions and goals for the New Year.

A friend of mine just wrote on his Facebook page that he began one of his resolutions in October and reached his goal by the end of the year. I will try to keep that in mind for 2013. But as I did not have that foresight, here I am at the end of 2012 thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.

There are the usual … eat more healthy food and less junk food, exercise more, finish all cookies and pies by 11:59 pm so that I don’t break the resolution due to a sugar and gluten infested home, etc.

But New Year’s resolutions need to be more than just weight loss and exercise goals, I think … something that outlines growth of the soul.

During this past summer I began to read a book titled Between Heaven and Earth, by Ken Gire. The introduction follows:

Between heaven and earth lies the firmament of our prayers. In one sense, the firmament is ethereal as air. In another sense, it is substantial as atmosphere. In a sense, it is a mere wisp of who we are. In another sense, it is rich with the elements of life, gritty with the dust of our humanity.

Within this ever-changing sky funnels a maelstrom of faith and doubt. Turbulent at times. Galing with emotion. Wild and windswept and full of fury. A swirling vortex of questions, arguments, and confusion.

But that is not all there is to the weather of the heart.

There are calm days, too. Serene as a sunset. A tinting of thankfulness on the horizon. A billowing of praise. And, thank God, for most of us, there are more blue skies than storms.

Some … prayers have been sighed into the heat of day. Others have been shivered into the cold loneliness of night. Together, they make up the atmosphere.

And together they celebrate an intimate God.

A God who listened and spoke, cleaving all of human history with a word.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Prayer is, I think, an expression of our deepest longing. Unspoken syllables tearfully ascending an expansive sky. Snowflaking into a word. Something beautiful from heaven, coming down.

Glistening with grace and truth. Settling on our shoulders. Touching us with wonder. And love. And hope.

Immanuel.

Perhaps it is more than a name.

Perhaps in the firmament between heaven and earth

            It is both a prayer

                        And an answer to prayer.

It took me a few months to read through the book, and it was a journey of sorts, as I sat on my balcony on quieter mornings, or curled up in the corner of the couch to fit in a few pages on busier days.

The book, contains thoughts on prayer, and prayers from various walks of life and perspectives. I felt a stirring in my heart as I read, of the need to make prayer more a part of my life. Yet the hope hasn’t quite taken off in my life as I would have hoped it would. Not quite the eagle soaring life of prayer I envisioned as I read. So I will start in the New Year with perhaps a fledgling resolution: yes, to pray.

More specifically, to quiet my heart long enough to listen and feel that stirring in my heart of someone to pray for.

My New Year’s resolution is to pray for someone every day, someone that is in a way a part of my life, whoever comes to mind as I stop and listen and pray. It is, in a way, a hope to give a little of myself in a way that will matter. A way to say thank you to those who have touched my life in some way.

The prayer might be in my heart one day, or spoken aloud the next. It might be a verse, or a whole Psalm. I might write a note to the person, or post a prayer on this or my other blog. Or it might just be a prayer offered up in silence, trusting God to answer the prayer in His time and way.

Prayer is a mysterious thing, as Ken wrote above. It is ethereal and heavenly, yet at times answered in surprising, miraculous, and tangible ways.

So if   you see more posts on prayer, or more prayers in this blog, or my writing or parenting blog, this is the reason.

It is my New Year’s resolution … one that I pray to keep all year long.

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Heart-shaped leaf in handSo I turned 30 yesterday. It’s about time you stop putting the same number of candles on the cake as years you are turning.

But there are other things to count that can help define the day.

Sometimes, when giving my children a Bible class, we play a game where they count as many blessings as the number of years they are.

I thought I might do just that, because I was blessed with many gifts on my special day, not all something I can hold in my hand.

Often the things we hold in our hearts last longer anyway.

 

cloudy sky1. I woke up to a cloudy sky and a gentle morning rain. The past couple of weeks, highs have been in the 100s. God blew a few clouds and a cool breeze my way to bring a smile to my face and remind me that the seasons do change – just as the seasons of life, bringing breezes of hope and showers of peace.

 

2. My husband and three children, after an early morning trip to the donut shop, gathered around me to sing happy birthday and smother me with kisses and the love of a family.

 

3. My youngest son, after singing happy birthday, blew on my face, as if for a moment he thought I was a birthday cake. First he said, “I’m just cooling you off.” Then he said, “You’re the stick of a wick.” Then one of my other kids suggested maybe I was the cake. His response?

“No, she is not a birthday cake. She is a mommy and you can’t eat her.” He started our day with laughter.

 

4. Coffee and a donut, after a couple weeks of a low-carb diet, was an immense enjoyment.

 

5. Jessica, Allen and I walked to my parents’ house in the cool morning weather. My son held my hand, which brought to mind that soon it will probably be me reaching for his hand rather than him reaching for mine. I held on tightly.

 

lamp post6. We passed a house with a lamp post surrounded by flowers. Lamp posts always hold a bit of magic for me. Perhaps it was the Narnia series. Perhaps it is a sense of something so simple bearing light for so long. Not traveling far or shining from high in the heavens, but still sharing light with all who pass its way.

 

7. I watered my mom’s back yard. Her plants and flowering bushes might not be the average person’s idea of a manicured, tame garden. It reminds me somewhat of the garden from the novel The Shack. The wild mess of a garden, the protagonist soon discovered, was the garden of his heart. And every day God’s Spirit worked in it to make something beautiful, a unique and colorful pattern. Ours hearts are no different.

 

8. I got a short note from a Facebook friend whom I’ve never met, letting me know that my writing is an encouragement and blessing to many. At times you feel remote or distant, a few words like that are all you need.

 

9. I got another note on Facebook, from someone I’ve met only a couple of times, one of those people I wish I had time to know better, but time and space never quite allowed it. Among other encouraging things, in her note she said, “I don’t think anyone would forget meeting someone like you.” That’s about the time I had to start looking around for a tissue.

 

10. I made lunch for my kids and made myself the first sandwich I’ve eaten in two weeks. Amazing how good toasted bread, meat, cheese, lettuce and a bit of mustard and mayo taste after weeks of few carbs.

 

11. I love naps. They’re one of life’s greatest pleasures. Enough said. J

 

12. I opened a gift from my mom. Angel chimes and prism.

Rainbows and angels.

Two of my favorite things.

I would wonder how she knew. But she’s my mom.

 

13. My son drew me a birthday picture.

 

14. And another one.

 

15. My daughter followed suit.

 

16. My aunt sent me a birthday card. I don’t think that in the past couple years, she has missed a single birthday in our family. I pray that I develop as much thoughtfulness and care “when I grow up.” 🙂

 

17. My husband gave me a birthday card too. It had golden roses emblazoned on the front. It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Perhaps a memory unremembered. I wonder, do they grow roses of gold in Heaven?

 

18. We went swimming. For a while I sat and watched the shimmering sky blue mixing and merging with cloudy teal, as light and shadows reflected and danced.

Like our lives, blending the colors of sorrow and joy, but creating something beautiful, refreshing, peaceful, when we just flow with all that life brings.

I also found a heart-shaped leaf floating in the water (see picture above). Reminded me how love finds you when you least expect it.

 

19. My teenage nephew spent most of the day with us and he looked after the kids so my husband and I could go out for dinner. I’m so grateful for family, near and far, who add color and happiness to my life, each in their own special way.

 

20. My mom and dad called from Australia, and I talked to my sister too, whose Aussie accent is coming along nicely. 🙂 Again, so thankful for my family.

 

21. My husband and I walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. I ate so much I thought I might have to be transported home, but the walk back in the evening breeze (though it probably didn’t take care of one-tenth of the calories I consumed) was refreshing.

 

22. I got a couple phone calls from friends. Wonderful to hear familiar voices; even though far away, they’re always close to my heart.

 

23. My kids (with Dan of course) bought a cake for me. They had it inscribed in cursive: “happy birthday dear mommy.” Though they have for the most part graduated to calling me “mom,” it’s nice to be called mommy from time to time.

 

24. My youngest started singing “happy birthday” about five times, trying to get everyone else to sing along.

Finally he said, “Come on, everyone, it’s time to sing!” I had never heard such a heartfelt (or heart melting) happy birthday song in my life. (Might have had something to do with the cake he knew would be cut and given out after the song.)

 

25. They put a “3” and a “0” on the cake, otherwise I might have hyperventilated having to blow out 30 candles.

 

26. After we prayed with the kids for the night, they each gave me 30 kisses before rushing off to bed. They actually didn’t get up time and again, making it possible for us to watch a movie.

 

27. My husband picked up Hunger Games – on its first day out on redbox. Our nephew stayed over and watched it with us. It was a good movie. Now about getting the books…

 

28. By the end of the day, I had scores of birthday wishes from friends and family on Facebook. Grateful for each remembrance, and every one of my friends and loved ones.

 

29. When I headed for bed, I noticed the present from my daughter. Last week, my aunt had dropped off a write-your-own Curious George book. She had finished it in one day and gave to me for my birthday. She had taken a highlight of her past week and wrote a very creative story about it. I was impressed.

 

30. Thirty years, filled with countless blessings from a God whose love is greater than the universe can contain, and whose heart is imprinted upon each precious gift.

Most of all, the gift of knowing I am loved, that my life has a purpose, and that the best is yet to come.

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Window to Let the Sunshine InIt never ceases to amaze me. It’s a feeling that I can’t quite explain, but that never fails to fill my heart with wonder.

Ken Gire, one of my favorite authors, in his book Windows of the Soul, writes of the windows that give us a glimpse into things that lie beyond the surface. In his unique, lyrical voice, Ken writes . . .

“We have all had moments when we’ve experienced something . . . we can’t quite explain, yet can’t explain away. Moments when God has touched our lives like a soft hand of morning sun reaching through our bedroom window, brushing over our eyes and waking us to something eternal.

At some of these windows, what we see offers simple a moment of insight, making us slower to judge and quicker to show understanding. At a few of them, though, what we see offers a word spoken to the very depths of who we are. It may be a word to rouse us from sleep and ready us for our life’s journey . . . It may be a word telling us who we are and why we are here and what is required of us at this particular juncture of our journey.

Or, in a startling, sun-drenched moment of grace, it may be a word telling us something we have longed all of our lives to hear – a word from God – a word so precious it would be worth the most arduous of climbs to hear the least audible of its echoes.

Windows of the soul is where we hear those words.

And where the journey begins.”

In the book, he writes about many windows – windows of dreams and of depression, windows of writing and of wilderness, windows of movies and of memory.

Another window – one that was not mentioned in Ken Gire’s book – is the window of friendship.

The dynamics of friendship have altered somewhat with the rise of social networks. It is simple to add hundreds of people to your list of friends with nothing more than a simple click.

I don’t doubt that real friendships exist within these parameters, and commenting back and forth on random happenings is not necessarily a bad thing. But I would venture to say that they seldom offer a glimpse into the soul.

Those are the places we often keep partitioned off, closed to others. Why we do so is anyone’s guess.

We have fears of being misunderstood, fears of being laughed at, or of standing alone as the only one who thinks or feels a certain way.

We keep the curtains closed. And so often we dwell in darkness.

Accepting a shadowy, colorless existence as a life.

Certain moments, however, let sunlight stream into the windows of the soul that we so seldom allow others to see.

I recently read a book about sight to one of my kids. It started that our eyes and brain capture over 60 images per second in the light. When it’s dark, they only capture about ten images per second.

I think the same could be said for the questions that lurk around in the darkness of the soul. We only grasp shadowy images – outlines, really.

And so many questions remain.

But when we let go of our fears and open our hearts to the illuminating love of a friend, the gloom dissipates.

Let the Sunshine InColor and light replace the darkness and shadows.

Suddenly the focus is clear, as details fill out the sketchy outlines.

Images start to make sense with all the brilliance of a new morning.

The curtains draw back to let the sunshine in.

The wonder that never ceases to amaze me is the gift of true friendship – a window to our own soul, and a bridge to another’s.

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Woman's Hand Holding DandelionA year ago today, this moment, in fact, I was a few miles up in the sky, flying. Well, not just me flying, although that would have been even more memorable and noteworthy than what I am writing now. In any case, I was in a plane. My kids were as well. I’d venture to say they enjoyed the trip more than me. My daughter spent most of it choosing one video after another from her own personal TV, right in front of her seat. My older son spent most of it sleeping next to me. My younger son spent most of it sleeping on me. Yes, it was a tiring trip. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’ve yet caught up on that sleep deficit.

One year since moving from India, home for nearly 12 years, (nearly 15 years of my life altogether), back to the town where I grew up (more or less). A year passes so quickly, it’s almost hard to believe.

You would think (or I would hope) that after a year of change and new experiences, I would have something outstanding to share. Something deep. Lessons from the wellsprings of the soul.

Maybe it’s that sleep deficit finally catching up, but I was drawing blanks.

There are some things I hadn’t planned for that are now happening, such as me going to college (something I never thought I would do when I graduated from high school 14 years ago).

There are some things I had planned to do, that I’m not doing after all, such as educating my kids at home (something I always thought I would do.) [The older two are attending a great school and being taught by dedicated and loving teachers, and I am attempting some early learning and “unschooling” with the youngest.]

Some things have come into focus and have become clearer than before. Other things are so fuzzy that I wonder if I will ever get close enough (or maybe far enough?) to see them clearly.

A few things stand out though…

A loving family really is priceless and wonderful.

Distance doesn’t really matter to true friends.

There is no such thing as “too old” (or too young for that matter) to start over, or to begin learning something new.

A calling that is felt deeply in the heart remains, no matter where on earth you might be, how far you travel, or how far you might feel from home. Everyone has an awesome purpose.

It doesn’t take traveling from one side of the world to the other to start over; that can happen at any time, or even each new day, when God’s mercy and love is as new as the day it began (which was forever ago).

Although certain specific steps on the path of life might be unknown or hazy, and you might not even know if it’s the “right” one, it’s reassuring to know where the journey leads, and the reason for the trip.

Speaking of right, if the heart means well, and the soul is ever drawing nearer to the Creator, no matter how big or small you feel, or how far or near, there is no “wrong” place, for we are all guided by Everlasting Love, ever closer to “…one day face to face.”

Last but not least, if this all still makes sense when I wake up tomorrow (after having overcome some of that overwhelming deficit), I think I’ll keep on writing. 🙂

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double rainbow in cloudsEvery cloud is silver lined,

Or so the stories say,

But how and why, I sadly pined,

My best friend passed away,

Does the cloud reach out a hand,

To dry a tear-stained face?

Turn the hourglass so the sand

Returns from its pain-filled place?

No, said a voice within my heart,

It cannot do these things,

But it shows that though raindrops start,

There’s one who sees all things,

Perhaps the storm will pass your way,

Quench your joy in chilling wrath,

But when again the sunbeams play,

You’ll find more illumined your morning’s path,

For as your tears awaken your soul,

And cleanse your heart from errant ways,

As the heartbreak makes you whole,

A treasure on your path now lays,

And as you walk the way that’s shown,

You’ll find the storm left in its wake,

A treasure that you sought to own,

But from another could not take,

Treasures of love that come only through pain,

Treasure of joy only sorrow can bring,

Treasure of peace through the wind and the rain,

Treasure of flight, like a bird on the wing,

Delight in the treasures laid on your path,

For only therein may your heart awake,

It is in love and not through wrath,

That nobler form your trail take,

And when your heart seeks for the joy,

Evoking serenity through pain,

When deepest dreams you will employ,

Realized only after the storm and rain,

Hidden truth your thoughts expose,

And lift them as diamonds from a cave,

As thorns would hide a lovely rose,

Yet a lover’s hand would risk to save,

Thus see the yonder morning’s glow,

As radiant light outshines the storm,

Lift your eyes to colored bow,

Take in the iridescent form,

Let your gait hold steady now,

As the morning’s path you tread,

Not seeking shallow joys somehow,

But treasure you’ll find instead.

(Written in 1999, dedicated to Trina)

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It was mid-July when I heard some great news: the family I had traveled with to India and had been staying with were planning to move to Lonavla. They invited me to come along and I jumped at the chance. They had found a bungalow outside of town, and we planned to move in early August.

Besides this family, another young couple with a newborn baby planned to move with us. They were good friends of mine and I was happy about this turn of events.

We traveled back and forth between Mumbai and Lonavla over the next couple of weeks—cleaning, packing and moving. We arrived just in time for monsoon, the rainy season. I loved the magical feeling of rain falling all around, green fields and hills in every direction. The walks and hikes we took were great fun and full of discovery. We often made it home just in time to watch the afternoon downpour from the safety of our cozy home; we didn’t always make it back in time, though, and ended up looking as if “the bridge fell in.”

After a couple of weeks, Jonathan and his family asked if I would be willing to return to Mumbai for a couple of weeks to help with a couple of projects. Of course I agreed. The couple of weeks passed quickly, involved in projects and programs for the underprivileged.

Mid-August found everyone back in Mumbai to celebrate India’s Independence Day together. We had been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. “I could get used to this,” I remember saying to a friend over the dinner, which was arguably the tastiest food I ever had; it ended with fresh mangoes and vanilla ice cream—still a favorite of mine.

The family was returning to Lonavla the evening of August 18—my seventeenth birthday. I had originally planned to return with them, but a friend asked if I could stay on in Mumbai for one more week, to plan her mom’s birthday. So I stayed an extra week…it passed very slowly. The highlight of that time was a birthday card and letter from my best friend. She hadn’t forgotten my birthday, and I was so happy to hear from her.

It was at the end of the week that I got the phone call, which came from Lonavla, letting me know that my best friend had passed away. (Read the full story, “We Shared a Heart”)

Two days after that, I was still reeling from the shock when the young couple returned to Mumbai, on their way to the airport. Their newborn baby wasn’t granted a visa, so they had to return to the States.

I wished I could go back to Lonavla right then, but there had been a misunderstanding and those I had been staying with in Lonavla were under the impression that I had wanted to stay in Mumbai for good. They wouldn’t be able to pick me up for another two weeks.

It’s not easy to describe how I felt during those couple of weeks. My best friend had died; any other close friends or family were thousands of miles away. I felt every comfort had been removed and the familiar ground pulled from beneath my feet.

Had I done something wrong? Did I make a big mistake somewhere along the line to bring me to where I was now standing (and felt like falling)? Why was everything crumbling apart around me? I had nothing to hold on to, and I never felt so alone. I wanted to call my mom—to whom I could always talk and find some form of comfort—but she was away from home at the time and I didn’t have a phone number to reach her.

I had only one place to turn. It’s strange—almost funny if it weren’t so pitiful—how, when everything is going fine, we find it difficult to draw close to the only one who is always with us. Yet it was at this time that I grew to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and the depth of His love, a comfort that could only be felt through deep sorrow and a peace that could only be understood through great turmoil of spirit.

I realized that no matter how alone I might feel, how far from friends and family I was, how distant from the comforts in which I always found solace—I still wasn’t alone. Beyond feeling, I knew that there was a purpose. Perhaps it would take time to find it. Perhaps there would come more sorrow and difficulty. Perhaps the path of life would be just that—a path—with rocks and boulders and hills, rocky and cold mountains, lonely and sunless valleys.

I knew I was meant to walk the path and I knew where the path led. One day the path will eventually lead to a home where no tears will again dim the eye, where pain will finally be drowned out in abiding joy. Yet I knew that as long as I traveled this road, I would not be home, because there were still many things to experience, learn and understand upon this path. Sometimes I would feel I walked the road alone, and sometimes I would have those beside me with whom I finally felt at home. The journey beckoned, and I was only just beginning.

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