Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumn Days

Dear Christa—
Listening to the Sunday night praise service testimonies reminded me of what Dena, fellow teacher and friend since college, said recently regarding testimonies: “Everyone has a story, and every story is broken. We are all broken, and Jesus puts us together.”
It is so true, so universal.
No matter how hard we try to be perfect spouses, parents, parishioners, brokenness will come. We can no more escape the pain of our world any more than we can jump over the moon. The pain for some seems and is harsher than others, but great or small it is there—pushing us into Jesus.
Those five testimonies were so different, yet the thread that ran throughout each one is that in the midst of brokenness, Jesus came. He sought them out, even when some were not looking, to bring healing, peace, and life.
Sometimes we look so good on the outside that people don’t realize that each of us needed a Savior. Sometimes in the moments of goodness, it’s easy to forget just how lost we were.
Then sometimes, in the hard times, it’s easy to forget that we are broken no more. Perfect? …not here, but there is much to be grateful for.
Our neighbor across the street has a tree with blazing autumn red leaves, so rare among all the Colorado yellows. It reminds me of my Midwestern roots and the beauty of fall that leads into Thanksgiving. My childhood Thanksgivings were spent among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It was the holiday I missed most when I went to college.
Today these autumn leaves remind me of Thanksgiving—that I am whole and I should be characterized by gratefulness.
Pack in the beauty that autumn brings like storing up can goods for winter. Breathe in clear air that’s not too hot and not too cold. I want to fill my heart with gratefulness, for winter days are just ahead. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Window Washing

Dear Christa—
A lot of things didn’t happen this summer after I broke my patella. So, even though school is pretty all consuming, we decided that we’d try to do one thing we usually do in the summer each weekend this fall. Last week I cleaned most of the windows. I finished up the last four on the back of the house this morning while Jay went to Home Depot to buy stain for the deck.
I never wash windows without thinking about the horrible aluminum windows with the nail-breaking storms that were over them that we had for years and years—and the summer I decided that I was never washing them again.
My parents had come from Illinois and brought their camper. They had taken the kids to a campground in Green Mountain Falls, and Jay and I decided to wash all the windows and storm windows inside and out. We thought it would only take a day and maybe the next morning, and then we’d join them.
So, as my parents watched the kids swim in the pool, I broke fingernails and one window-washing day turned into two. And when two days turned to four, I vowed that I would never wash those windows again—ever. In those years I only saw my parents once a year, and it all made me sad. As I was vowing to never wash windows again, Dad was deciding to never bring the camper to Colorado again. It cost too much to pull it, and his truck wasn’t strong enough to haul it over the mountains, which is why they ended up only in Green Mountain Falls.
It was a vow I kept for years. We never again washed those windows between the storms, not ever. Oh, I’d spray a little Windex on the inside, and Jay would squirt the outside with the hose once a year, but never ever did we really do those windows that I hated.
Years later, after all the kids had graduated from college, we bought new double paned windows. They don’t take very long to wash, and all the upstairs windows can be washed from the inside, both inside and out. So, generally, after the Miller moths migrate though here in June, I wash windows—except this year when I broke my patella.
So, this morning as I finished them up, I was thinking about how I hated those old windows and the visit I’d squandered on them. Dad never did bring the camper back to Colorado, although we met them to camp at other places over the years. And it’s been many years now that I’ve had nice windows, and Dad has gone to Heaven.
Today, the nastiness that Miller moths leave behind is gone—that is until they come through next year. I see more clearly now. And, I didn’t break even one nail.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Reflection

Dear Christa—
Probably for the first time in the history of my life, I was thankful to defrost the freezer this morning—although I know that one day I’m going to turn head over heals into that thing.
I’ve often been relieved and satisfied when it was done, but never grateful to do it. Christopher asked me this summer what blogs I’d write about the lessons I’d learned from breaking my patella this summer. I told him “none” because I didn’t really learn anything other than that I’m easily annoyed—but I knew that already.
I have considered how very difficult it is for people who deal with afflictions on a daily basis, and I became annoyed that I was annoyed with such a petty and temporary inconvenience in light of my friends who deal with real pain and limitations that only do and only will continue to get worse from one year to the next.
I think, at times, those of us who do not deal with continual pain and afflictions make the assumption that those who do “adjust” to the harshness that has been dealt out to them. Yet, acceptance does not negate annoyance. To just wish you could go upstairs fast, like one used to. How could that ever not annoy you?
I received the sad news this week that one of my previous students had succeeded in taking his life. He was smart—perhaps one of the brightest students I’ve ever taught. He lived in constant, unbelievable pain. He was a mature and faithful Christian.
We just assume that in today’s world that doctors can fix anything, but it is not so. And, I’ve found I can neither condone nor condemn his decision. I only know that this world is sadder without him.
I know also that as health can bring forgetfulness, that I will one day forget to be grateful that I can go fast down the stairs. One year I will forget to be thankful to defrost the freezer. But maybe the forgetting will come slowly.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Redo, Please

Dear Christa—
Jokingly, I said to the orthopedic doctor this morning, “I think I’m healed.” And he surprised me when he replied, “I think you’re right. See your x-ray? It looks good…real good.”
At first I was so happy. Happy to unsnap that brace for the last time, knowing I’d never have to pull it up again because it wouldn’t stay in place. Happy I wouldn’t have to start school tugging and yanking on that annoying thing. Happy to finally after 6 weeks to bend my knee…at least as far as it would go.
But later, I felt like I wanted a redo. A redo of summer. My body feels like summer is just beginning, yet my brain reminds me that I start back to work next Thursday.
It’s not the first time I’ve wanted a redo.
I’ve taught classes that I’ve been grateful for another chance at the next year. I’ve visited places I’ve wanted to redo and do better because I love the people I’m with and they love me.
The next time I walk to Pike Market in Seattle, I’m hoping to see more than a park bench and ice on a swollen knee.
But, mostly I’ve wanted to redo relationships.
At times relationships ebb and flow like the tide at the ocean’s shore. Sometimes they’re so close, and the next thing you know they’re distant, and I’m wondering when and how things got that way.
Maybe I was inattentive. Maybe it wasn’t me at all. Maybe I will never know.
But, unlike summer, relationships can have a redo. It isn’t easy. It takes time, and it takes focus. It takes changing priorities. It takes cooperation. And desire. And prayer. And a bunch of other stuff.  
Then, one day, it’s healed. That relationship won’t look the same under an x-ray. In life, things happen we always wish hadn’t. But, it can be strong, and it can be good. Kind of like bending a knee that hasn’t bent in six weeks.
And maybe I can even dance by the first dance of autumn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Broken Bodies

Dear Christa,
Since breaking my patella a week ago, I’ve gained new insight and appreciation concerning Paul’s comments on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27. It’s too long to type out here, but you know the passage I’m talking about, the one where all the parts work together. And boy, is it ever true.
When one part of the body isn’t working, it makes all the other parts have to work harder and pick up jobs that aren’t theirs. It really does take 2 legs to hold up the body. Sometimes the muscles in my arms ache worse than the knee that’s fractured from supporting my weight on crutches.
Not only do the other parts have to work harder to compensate, but nothing works as well. The windows remain dirty, the freezer not defrosted, my morning walk not taken. Things I’d planned to do will not get done, not until later. Washing windows and defrosting freezers are not significant, and there will be time to do them once my knee is healed. But, what about the work of the body of Christ? What happens when broken parts hinder the whole?
A body part not working right doesn’t just have the negative effect of how it affects the others. A broken part is a broken part, and it needs to be tended to. I can’t ignore this knee. That’s impossible. It has to be cared for. If not, it won’t get better. We can’t ignore hurting Christians anymore than I could pretend this broken kneecap didn’t exist. When one is hurting, the rest must help. It is only right.
All the people of Christ are so important. There are no insignificant people. When John Donne proclaimed in Meditation 17 that “no man is an island” and that what happens to one happens to all, he was establishing the value and interconnection of every person. 
Perhaps keeping the body of Christ fit and healthy is not mostly an act of being proficient, but more an act of love. I can say that I have gained new appreciation for my knee. When it’s back in service, maybe my feet will pick themselves up a little higher. Maybe my eyes will look where the body is going instead of being distracted.
And, maybe I won’t get frustrated if I have to pick up some extra work for a hurting person. Maybe I’ll pay a little more attention of how to benefit the people around me. I hope so.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Losing Hope

Dear Christa—
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Prov. 13:12
I’ve been reading in Proverbs this summer—So much good advice, so much I haven’t followed. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty—wondered why anyone would want to read these words—wondered how they all fit together to bring us to a loving God Who redeems. Yet they do.
This morning, this verse, resonated with me. In my nearly 60 years, I’ve found it so true. When we have our heart set—when we wish for “it” (whatever that is) so badly, and it vanishes like the mist over the mountains on a Colorado summer morning—it is so discouraging.
It makes me feel isolated and lost—regardless of how much those who love me come along side. Maybe you have or do feel so down this morning. One moment the hope is there—so close you could pull it into your heart. Then—in an instant that epiphany, that phone call, that decision dissolves it before your very eyes.
Hope deferred truly does make the heart sick.
Yet, deferred means “not yet.” It doesn’t mean “not ever.”
Isn’t it wonderful the significance that one word can carry? Deferred means not yet, which gives all the more glory to the second part of the verse: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
No one can have a longing fulfilled who hasn’t had a hope deferred. 
The very waiting has purpose. 
I have seen it in my own life and others a multitude of times.
I’m learning to rest in the waiting. It’s been a long road—60 years. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the green in winter when all seemed dead and lost. Maybe I’m just numb. Yet, even so, it’s easy to lose hope.
If you’re heartsick today, lift up [your] eyes to the hills no longer covered in mist. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Ps. 121:1-2
I often think of these verses when my heart is sick. They help me to have hope when hope is deferred. And I want to remember them, too, in the day of rejoicing, because a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Monday, May 26, 2014

From Genesis to Now: the Tower of Babel

Dear Christa—

I guess sometimes people can just talk too much. I suppose sometimes we just need to know when to stop.
The second year I taught (nearly 30 years ago), I had vocal nodes. What was crazy about it was that I was teaching a small kindergarten class of 6 exceptionally well behaved and precious little kids. But, the sweet little class was in a rather large room of the church, and the speech therapist decided I was speaking to the room and not the class. (And the fact that I had the “Oh, Holy Night” solo in the Christmas cantata, which was way too high for me surely exacerbated the situation.) She also uncovered an anger issue, but we’ll just let that one go for now.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there…Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Gen. 7
Seeing the therapist was humiliating for me. Having minored in voice, I felt indignant this had happened. I wanted to do everything that I wanted to do.
Yet, the day before the first performance of the cantata, I awoke totally silent. I had no voice at all.
The result, though, was longer lasting than sessions with a speech therapist I didn’t care for, who in reality was probably quite nice: voice rest for weeks, except during the afternoons that I taught—no singing for six months and a voice that has always been weak all these many long years. So I learned to be quiet. And I learned that I am rather prideful.
So, the descendants of those who were saved in the ark became prideful. They intended to build their city and a tower to the sky. They chose themselves. They wanted to do everything they wanted to do, whether it was good or not.
I no longer teach a handful of little children, and a lingering cough has brought back old sensations in the throat that I don’t want to ignore. School was over last week, and now I really can choose to be quiet. I hope that this will be a summer I choose to listen and not babble.
Sometimes we talk too much, and sometimes we just need to stop.