A Dad’s Memory

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My Dad called. He said, “I wrote it all down, about our adventure of moving to Tahoe and how I remember it.” It came yesterday in the mail, and the pages tumbled out when I tore the envelope. “Do you think you could type it all down since I am not such a good typist?” I want to be able to read it, he said.

And in the writing it, and the reading of it, I knew he was reliving something powerful.

“I will do my best, Dad,” I said. And it’s an honor. When someone has put their heart on a page, you have to be careful with it. It’s something almost sacred that they are trusting you with, not just words on a page. I will keep the handwritten version for myself and I will save the other version on my computer, the one I will type neatly with no lines crossed out. No bold underlines. I will try to put the feeling in it, just the way he felt it.

I will do my best to bring it to life as he lived it.

Because our stories, our memories, is what we have. In sharing those, we open ourselves, our hearts to each other.

And it’s always a risk.

Because there is always the chance they won’t see it or feel it the way we intended. And that’s okay. We still have to share it.

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As I picked up the pages again, I saw the way he wrote and I thought of how someday he won’t be here. Even now, I squeeze my eyes shut to keep tears from leaking out because I know it’s true. Someday the letters will stop. And I will imagine him sitting in a corner spot of light in Heaven with a big feather quilled pen. Writing his thoughts of all the beauty he sees, and meeting Jesus for the first time.

I have words in my treasure box, so many words gathered over the years. Sacred ones. The lid no longer shuts, but I slide them in anyway.

Because words from someone you love are always sacred.

I will do my best, Dad with your memory. Here is my only memory of it. I remember standing in something I now know was snow and crying because I didn’t like the cold.

And someone, probably you, sticking a ski pole in a snow bank so I could see the holes it made.

That’s it.

I think maybe you can fill the blanks in my mind, since I was only 2.

We will relive it together and then it will be ours to share.

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One thousand (plus one) love letters to God

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 Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. A book was opened in God’s presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored God’s name. Malachi 3:16, The Message

When I glanced up at the number of posts I thought, “It can’t be. How could I have passed 1000 posts and not have known?”

One thousand thoughts, one thousand meanderings, one thousand words I have set free to see what God would do. One thousand dreams, one thousand hopes, one thousand love letters to God.

One thousand ways I can share my faith, as well as my victories, things God and I and you did together……….One thousand times I have failed to love, and one thousand fears set free. It’s amazing really, what He has done with these words. Like bread cast upon the waters, He has carried them further than I ever thought possible.

I stare at the shore and wonder at my own words that have washed up from somewhere I never suspected. Only God can do that. When God stirs words they have a way of coming back full circle. I think of how they’ve come back from people I never dreamed would read them. I think of the ones who sowed the Word into me when I was young in all those Sunday school classes and sermons. To those that first sparked life and hope into my heart I would say this:

“It was the seeds of your own kindness and love for God that caused these words to grow.”

One thousand mornings of entering prayer like a sealed jar, my hope flickering like the candle, I sit back down and wait on Him to find He has already been there. It’s always Him who waits for me. Sometimes I’m not even sure where to start so I don’t. And it’s okay, for the waiting itself is Holy.

Once the words start tumbling out I experience a resurrection that I can no longer keep to myself. I find that God is not scared of what tumbles or flies out of this jar, whether black unnamed thing or brightly colored butterfly, and it seems that neither are you, dear reader. Many of you are still here.

The most important thing I have learned is how much He loves me, and that is what I want you to know.

And what He has taught me through all of you. I have learned that when I harness my words to prayer, miracles happen and when we join our words together it feels much like communion. I could never repay the friendships, the community of love I have found through writing. Your comments never fail to humble me.

Every now and then I think I might just seal this jar and keep the lid screwed on tight, who wants to see this mess anyway? But I thank God that never lasts, that feeling. The love I feel for God is so strong this flesh cannot contain it.

So here’s to 1000 more love letters to God.

And you…..

I thank you for hanging in with me this far.

A Champion for Ragamuffins

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He was a champion for Ragamuffins everywhere. When I heard he died yesterday I was saddened because of the words of grace he will no longer write, but I was happy knowing he was with Jesus. Brennan Manning’s book Ragamuffin Gospel went through my parents house and then mine and then everyone we knew, we bought extra copies and passed them like batons at relay races.

Brennan Manning was like a quiet megaphone that spoke softly and yet loudly into our hearts something that we tend to forget. That we are dearly loved by God, and there is nothing we have to do to earn it. Like Sally Field’s memorable Oscar speech of 1985 in which she emphatically claimed, “You really, really like me,” Brennan Manning had a mission, and that was to spread the word that not only does God like us, He really really loves us.

He opened us up to the possibility that there was nothing we had to do to earn God’s love. That’s what spoke to my heart.

 He hung out with dignitaries as well as twelve-steppers, and his book made me cry more than once.

And he also challenged me in my walk:

In the final analysis, the real challenge of Christian growth is the challenge of personal responsibility. The Spirit of Jesus call out a second time: Are you going to take charge of your life today? Are you going to be responsible for what you do? Are you going to believe?

His words were a balm for my soul and I won’t forget him.

Even today, I grabbed my copy of Ragamuffin Gospel and threw it in my bag. I may never get the time to open it, but I know it’s there and it makes me feel good.

Enjoy the first day of the rest of your life, Brennan Manning, and we will join you after a time.

Then we will all be Ragamuffins Redeemed, sitting at the feet of Jesus with you. Until then, we will re-read your books and strive to live and walk in the footsteps of Jesus until such time as we begin our own forever with Him.

When it just flows

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Sometimes you hit a sweet spot with blogging, or any kind of writing for that matter. You stop wrestling and trying to figure out what you should write, or what people want to hear, or what you want to hear from yourself. It doesn’t always happen this way, but when it does?

It becomes not something you do, but something you release as a free expression of the worship that naturally flows out of your heart and soul. It’s gratitude and nothing more…..

Just now, I was heading back up the stairs here at work. I had a spring in my step because I am on break and I knew I had an hour or so to do this post. I simply couldn’t wait, not because I have anything of much importance or earth shattering to say, be because I serve a very good God and I am so glad He is walking with me on this earth, because the more I see in the news?

The more hopeless it seems to get. The bleaker the outlook, the more I cling to my God and the more the gratitude spills out. And the more I want to share that with everyone else.

As I spent time with my family just this past week, I learned to cherish them all over again.

When I was unpacking my suitcase last night, I came across the hand drawn map my Dad made me, the directions to the hospital. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. I tucked it into my keepsake box, which is fairly bursting at the seams with each passing year.

Looking at that map, I wondered how in the world I have been so blessed. I have had people drawing maps for me my whole life. At every turn.

And when I took that wrong turn on the freeway just recently? I got a call from Elaine who was watching me via the “Find friends” app on my iPhone. She called to tell me how to get back on but I had already stopped and asked directions.

Friends and family that have your back. When it all comes down to it, that is what matters most. In the hospital room beside my brother there was a man who had no visitors. He was awaiting his heart surgery and he had no company.

He has no hope of any face to greet him when he comes out. No hand to grasp except the medical staff.  No loving eyes that meet his, and no one to wipe his brow with a cool cloth. My brother felt so bad he said he might even go visit him afterwards.

Yes, I am extremely grateful these days. For people who love me, and for a loving God who gave me the best road map and the only one I will ever need.

His word and His love.

in Just-spring

By E. E. Cummings 1894–1962

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
         the
                  goat-footed
balloonMan          whistles
far
and
wee

 

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When I first heard this poem by ee cummings I was so struck by the imagery of it, I never forgot it. I don’t remember what class I was sitting in or what teacher it was that made it come alive when they read it aloud but I do remember feeling like he got it just right.

I remember walking home from school in February or March after a cold spring rain, walking through puddles and seeing daffodils and tulips bowing under the weight of the water, and then how vibrant and alive the world turned when the sun came out. Each time, I would remember this poem, and the little lame balloon man. In my mind I could see him part walking, part listing from side to side with his big bunch of balloons for sale.

Good poetry, like good art or good music wakes us up, stuns us with the beauty of the world.  That’s because it is God inspired. Great music….great art…..great poetry or writing,  has the power to lift us beyond ourselves. If it is truly good, it makes us better. 

It’s why people gasp and fall silent when they first see a true Masterpiece in an art gallery. Like nature, it wiggles you down to the core……takes your breath away and makes the world stop for just a moment.

Because just for an instant you almost believe you’ve found God’s pulse.

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Seeds…….

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This morning was one of those mornings I woke up about 2 hours before I actually had to get up. It was 2 AM when I looked at the clock. When I stirred, my little white cat came up as he usually does to snuggle and fitted himself like a furry spoon into my chest. His purr was the only sound in the room. The morning commute hadn’t yet started.

As I lay there in the dark, in the quiet, a thought dropped silently like a pin on carpet.

Sometimes writing is like throwing seeds up in the wind……….

You never really know if your words will hit good ground, or any ground at all for that matter. There is only one reason to write, and that is because you must. Writing is a writer’s way of making sense out of the world around. It is our magnifying glass and it is not always so gratifying. We pour our hearts out and think, this will really resonate with someone. And sometimes it does, but not always. And that’s okay.

The truth is, writing hurts sometimes. It’s like cutting yourself and waiting for someone else to staunch the flow but no one’s running up with a roll of gauze so you have to go get it yourself.

Other times it rewards you greatly. When that happens you feel on top of the world. You know you’re doing the thing that God meant for you to do.

Sometimes you actually get to see the flowers resulting from the seeds you threw up months, even years ago.

Other times you feel like the words are scattered to the four winds as soon as they hit the page. And sometimes you question why you keep doing it because you start to feel like an abused spouse going back to the abuser.  

But no matter, we will keep going back whatever the outcome.

Because the little everyday moments of life are too important to miss.

And because it’s what we do.

When you need to find your way home

Food for the soul

Sometimes it is very easy to get lost amidst all the traffic online. Being engaged in social media can be a good thing, but it can also make you feel lost in a crowd. You look around and all of a sudden you are in a dark forest full of words and soup and you feel like yours disappear as soon as you hit.

Publish.

You remember when there was light on the path, sunlight filtering through the trees. You were encased in warmth of community, of comfort. You were there once, but you aren’t so much now and you are not even sure how it happened.

You didn’t notice at first just when the sun went behind the clouds. It all got to be confusing and noisy and you noticed less and less peace and more and more pressure.

But there is always a way to get home.

As a writer, as a person, as a believer.

To me, that is the best thing about what we believe. With God, there is always another chance to get home. Every moment, every day. We just need to be reminded how easy it is. How easy to remember that we are already wearing the ruby slippers.

My three taps……..

Getting alone with God in a quiet place.

Remembering who I am writing for, and why I am writing.

Open the pages of the Words He wrote to light the path again.

And really, the truth is, we are all daily prodigals aren’t we? Every day we confess our failings and once more He cleanses our hearts, clears the way for progress, and we get strong enough to go on.

He is just over there in fact, standing right beyond that thick stand of trees you can’t see around. It’s amazing just how close He was all along. “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28

When I lift my gratitude and focus back to Him, I realize that,  like Dorothy, I had everything I needed all along. All I had to do was remember.

And just like that……. I am on a hillside sitting in the Narnian sun with my arm around my Aslan.

Home once more.

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Taking back my joy

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Lately I have noticed I have stopped doing things I enjoyed last year. Somewhere along the line I started listening to a voice telling me I didn’t deserve it, that what I was doing wasn’t good enough to warrant the joy. I became my own worst critic. Life does that sometimes. It just saps your strength until all the joy is pressed out. I used to come to my own blog for comfort, and lately I just see the things I want to change in it. I have fallen into the pit of comparing myself to others again.

There is a problem with that kind of thinking though. All it leads to is a distorted view of ourselves and others around us. The Bible warns us about comparing ourselves to others:

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

So I am done with that, as of today. I am permitting myself the joy of creating again. No matter what. I may never take my camera off the automatic settings, but who cares? I give myself the freedom and permission to enjoy it anyway.

Yesterday, I remembered a time not so long ago when I danced around with my camera, capturing every sunset, every sunrise, chasing the light. I remembered the joy and freedom I felt and it almost made me cry. I miss that me. I am taking that me back. As of now.

I am carving out my home again on this blog too. I miss my old blogger platform, but I am committed to making this one the best it can be, for you and for me. I will write in such a way that is honest and in such a way that it lets His light shine through,  and I will lift up praise to my God, because He is worthy.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Clay jar or crystal pitcher?

Why I write

 

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I remember when I first learned about the magic of words. It was in first grade reading circle that I discovered that they had the power to carry me to another world.

In that same first grade class where I leaned the magic of words, I struggled with 9 minus 2. I remember one particular day struggling with a math paper at my desk when Kathy Kawamura sidled by and said with a smirk…….”You aren’t done yet?” I can still see the expression on her face, and I can still feel the burning humiliation of that moment.

Learning in general has never been easy for me. I struggle with comprehension. Sometimes I have to read a paragraph or a concept over and over again until it starts to click in my brain. And math……Math and I have a long and tortuous history. Best to skip over that one.

But stringing words together? That was my salvation. Still is.

In sixth grade I learned that not only could I transport myself to another place by reading, I could transport someone else to another place with my own words. In high school, all my hopes and dreams, crushes and angst were chronicled in a little black book.  

It was a release for me then, and it’s a release for me now.

I believe God gives each of us at least one thing we don’t have to struggle with, one thing that comes effortless, that gives us peace. Writing has been that thing for me. It’s like a perfectly fitting glove for my soul. It doesn’t matter if I am any good at it, I just know I have to do it. Like breathing.

And if not a soul except God ever sees it? I’ll still do it. It’s my way of making sense out of the world around me. Somehow it’s always been important to me to make sure that moments are not lost, because every moment matters.

It occurs to me that not everyone feels the need to chronicle a walk they just went on, but I always have. That compulsion alone is what makes me a writer.

Not because I am any good at it.

Not because hundreds of people will read it.

Not because I will gain any notoriety because of it.

I write simply because I am doing what God made me to do.

Capturing what I see and feel, what I think about God, and everything He’s made, what He whispers in my ear is a form of worship. I believe God has given us all at least one gift, one thing that comes easy, because He knows how hard the rest will be.

Our highest calling is to do that one thing for His glory.

And never ever stop no matter what anyone tells you.