Writer’s Block

Writers block plagues me these days.  It always does when events too big to fathom arise in my life and a big event looms huge on my horizon.  In 2 months we move to America.  We move to America and I’m trying to fit my brain around that reality.

So, my head is swarming with thoughts and emotions and details and, somehow, I can’t put them together enough to form a cohesive deep thought.  Thus is the reason for my weekly posts becoming not weekly.  I just don’t have the words for this yet.  I’m standing in front of this huge thing and I’m so close I can’t figure it out.

But that’s ok.  It’s ok that I can’t figure it out, say it nice, spin it well, or wax poetic.  When the words don’t come forcing them doesn’t work either so I’m learning to be still when all around me is moving.  Be still.  Ponder.  Move slow…while I can.

A day comes soon when boxes will gape at me waiting for me to toss them a bone.  I will thoughtfully sort through all our clothes and shove them into suitcases.

But now is not that time.  Everything in me revs up waiting to shift into gear…but its not that time yet.  It’s the slow down time, the ponder time, the be still time.  I am oh, so bad at it.  The woman in this picture looks like she knows how.  Maybe gazing at her will help me know how to be still!DSC_0449

The boxes and bags are the easy things really.  The people.  That is really what’s got my tongue.  Saying goodbye to the people we’ve lived and worked with for the past 13 years.  The people who knew us when we operated like children because our language ability was so poor in this new land.  They saw us grow up and we saw them grow up.  It is impossibly sad for us all.

But along with it is an excitement about what is to come.  An excitement that rises up and feels traitorous in the presence of all the grief of leaving stands right alongside it.

So, I find myself stumbling around for words and struggling to chain my thoughts together.  Be still.  Slow down.  Ponder.

Just putting pen to paper or, in this case, fingers to keyboard breaks through a bit.  Maybe it is the way God is showing me to slow down, be still, and ponder.  A new thought.

Watching…

DSC_0012At any moment I can look up and be sure a camera is looking back.  Big brother is always watching…always.  Sometimes I look up and count cameras just to see if I can top my biggest number pictured here.

It wears on me from time to time.  I grow weary of being watched even if it is benign watching and I am not the target.  Then sometimes I forget until I look up and see a camera in a startling place like in church…watching me.

They watch on the internet, on the street, in the malls, in subway stations, in train cars, in airports.

This summer the watching helped us put together how a passport disappeared in the airport.  But something about seeing a passport stolen while four or five people watched passively is a lot to get over.  I now need to forgive faces and not just vague incidents.

I don’t want to see some things.  I don’t want to see the children that get run over by careless drivers and the people who stand by and watch but do not help.  Constant surveillance means video of such incidents condemns but doesn’t seem to change anything.  I become a watcher myself standing by outraged but nothing changes.

Knowing that most will stand by and do nothing for me, I face the question, will I still do something for others?  Will my desire for privacy, so defended in my passport culture, win out and I sink into resentment unable to forgive the sin of a sinful world?

Or will I count this as yet one more way to share in the path that Christ took?  A path with scant privacy?

Cultivated Vines

Our neighbor cultivates a small, self-claimed plot of the common area of our apartment complex.  We pass by in slow motion, our footsteps stall as we navigate the stepping-stones past her garden.  We traipse by daily and the kids are the first to notice the grapes that finally hang from the trellis or the flower bud that bloomed in all its beauty. The delight on their faces keeps routing us past her garden. 20130822-103544.jpg

Her cultivated vines contrast with another arbor we seek shade under.  Vines cover the walkway and we rest there on hot days, enjoying the shade. It took us a while but we finally realized the vines were grape vines too!  Lots of shade but no grapes.  The kids expressed their surprise.  I did too!

Because I grew up in suburbia and I never enjoyed gardening, agrarian pictures of spiritual life come to me in a fog.  I kept thinking of the differences between the cultivated garden and the wild grapevine.  What surprised me is that the untended grapevine provided shade which we enjoyed but it was indistinct and unable to offer bodily nourishment.  It needed trimming, pruning, and cutting by someone with a vision for what it could be–a source of food and shade.

Sometimes I rather wish I was just a source of shade for others.  A place to rest, to have light-hearted fun, to take a break from the heat of the world.  No uncomfortable conversations…no cutting needed.  Or I want to pursue only what seems personally enjoyable.  The vines remind me that is not all God desires for His people.  It falls far short.

He desires for me to become a source of real nourishment for the hungry. He wants to transform me into a tended grapevine, to submit to the cutting and stripping and arranging so that the juice flowing through me from Him funnels to fruit and shade for others.

Again I find myself asking what needs cutting and where to direct my energies, talents, and gifts.  In 7 days my kids all go to school and I find myself with many hours in the day to devote to new things.  My bent is to want to do it all and say yes to everything that comes across my path that seems the least bit interesting.

But, the lesson of the vines reminds me that fruit comes when I submit to the cutting and pruning and arranging of the One with the vision for my life.

Now…here’s where I wish I was the one pruning, the one with the big picture so that I didn’t have to trust so much! But, I guess that is part of what it means to trust…to submit to the hands of the One with the vision.

Summer Heat

DSC_0039If I ranked seasons…and I do…summer ranks last.  Dead last.  For some reason God planted me in place after place that heats up to unholy temperatures in summer time.  The furnace of Texas and now the furnace of Asia.

Because I know it is the right thing to say, I say God must know what He’s doing and somehow the heat will lead to greater sanctification of my soul.  And, because I know a seed must fall to the ground and die before producing anything I can give mental ascent that the feeling of dying in the summer heat might serve a purpose.

Yet…I still enter the heat of summer dragging my feet and fighting a dull, pervasive grumpiness of soul.  For three months makeup slides off my face and I feel ugly.  For three months, my kids want to swim everyday in the blow up pool and spray each other with the spray nozzle set to the “kill” setting.  For three months, the grocery store refuses to turn on it’s a/c until 3 pm.  For three months…

I admit I deserve a prize for being a brat.  We do run our home a/c day and night in summer.  Ice constantly occupies our freezer drawers.  My suffering is slight compared to some.  But when it comes to discontentment, comparing with others rarely nips my disease of complaining up at the roots.

Instead my eyes opened a little this week to my need to come before the Maker of summer and submit to His seasons physically and spiritually.  Is it possible I can grow in the Lord just by being willing to live in the heat that He brings for a while?  To even cheerfully set up the pool for my kids in the heat?  To put on makeup every once in a while to cheer my soul even knowing it’s going to disappear in an hour?  To go to the grocery store and refuse to open my mouth to complain about the a/c schedule?

Learning to come under the reality of my days instead of fighting and wishing and complaining is no small task for me.  I just now begin to accept that possibly my whole summer’s spiritual assignment revolves around cheerful submission to the heat of summer.

I wonder what He holds on the other side as I choose to walk through this barrier to contentment.  I bet it’s good whatever it is.

What season ranks last on your list?  Why?

The Art Journey

My husband dreams of buying an original piece of art one day so we stray into art galleries on our rare weekends away.  We stroll through discussing what we see.  What we like.  What we don’t.  Picking out that original piece of art gradually changed from a notch on our belt…something to hang on the wall and accomplish, a box to check, into a marriage journey of sorts.

A few years passed before I took my husband seriously.  Buying this original piece is a life dream of his.  I like art and I like original art but I tend to be, how shall I say it?  Cheap.  My husband is frugal and between the two lies a great chasm.  The cost stared me down for years, a barrier to enjoying our art gallery browsing.DSC_0069

At one time, my husband liked the “painter of light” and I most definitely did not.  The ensuing years fleshed out how I felt and forced him to define why he liked what he liked.  Too perfect, too defined, too cliché to me.  Safe, complete, harmonious, calm to him.  I looked at Kincaid in the mall and understood the peace he craves in contrast to the chaos of his upbringing.  I still don’t like Kincaid or art in the mall but I understood why he liked Kincaid.  He began to understand me too.  He began to appreciate the messiness in art that describes so much of life.  The play of colors slashed across a canvas whispered to him and then he understood me just a little more.  Life is messy.

Eventually I embraced our quest for original low-end art.  I accepted my husband’s dream and took it on as my own.  Now I dream the dream as well.  We finally realized with a spark of shock after 14 years of marriage that the pilgrimage to our piece of art is more about our marriage than the art.  Through art we discover each other.  As my love for a style I don’t even know how to name clashes with my husbands mild distaste for same said style, we meet, my husband and I.  We discover each other.  We grow and change and put words to the changes through the media of brush strokes and colors on a canvas.

I feel we never will find our piece of art.  Our search spans like a railroad track that veers closer and closer but never quite meets this side of heaven.  In fact, I almost oppose actually purchasing a piece because I enjoy the journey so much.  Wandering the streets of the world and popping in shops…talking about us through art.

The blank wall remains open filling up with more than the permanence of a painting.

What place does art take in your life?

Yielding in an Unyielding Culture

100-0031_IMGI’m astounded by the risks pedestrians and bikers take on their road back home or to work.  The shortest distance between two points consists of a straight line.  Conservation of energy reigns supreme to most foot and bicycle traffic so hoe-bearing old farmers tramp across eight-lane highways looking neither right nor left.  On a rainy night people invisibly weave in and out of cars on dark, soot covered bikes cloaked in black jackets.  Have I explained why I dislike driving in the rain?

From the comfort of my car, I remind myself of the days I rode bikes in driving rain.  The days I arrived home with mud spattered up my back into my hair and my hands turned to ice on the bars.  The early days when I achieved my personal challenge of keeping my feet on the pedals all the way to school to avoid sinking into piles of  mud.  So, now, stopping to allow a horde of pedestrians cross a busy street on a rainy day brings a wide smile to my face.

Yielding defies all local logic.  Most become paralyzed in disbelief when I give way.  I see the confusion on their face as they struggle to decode the situation and then discover the unbelievable.  Someone stopped….for me.  Often they spring forward when the idea dawns that the coast is clear, a new surge in their energy.  I especially like stopping for one person in this country who believe to the core of their beings they rank only one of “too many.”

Giving way.  Yielding.  Such a small thing to give way yet what a difference it makes to give away a few seconds, to not be first that time, to not claim my right according to the law, to surprise someone with a small kindness, to recognize an individual soul.

I do not always yield, believe me, but I like the state of my heart when I do.

What uncommon courtesy puts a spring in your step?  What uncommon courtesy do you like to gift others?

When Boundaries Get Crossed

Picture me standing in line for the lady’s room at a coffee shop with my daughter mentally pondering my spiritual growth.  Just a year before at the same shop I’d struggled with impatience.  Women in our host culture seem to take eons in the restroom. Eons.

Maybe its just that personal spaces are few and when privacy comes, it must be enjoyed…for awhile.  Now, look at me waiting patiently! I felt thankful to be in such a place and be able to recognize this growth. I mentally patted myself on the back.

A few minutes later, after stepping in to have our moment, an older women enters the restroom and waits about 2 seconds before she starts pounding on our doors.  Literally, pounding.  The locks rattled, the door shook.  It was a shocker!  She loudly complained of how long we are taking and asks us to get out so she can have her moment.  She continued to grumble and berate us loudly and did not cease to pound.

I know enough language to be sassy.  I can express things I wish I could not.  What proceeded to transpire still fills me with a mixture of pride and shame.  Pride at the fluency and shame at my use of my fluency.  We conversed…ok…spoke loudly…ok…argued.  I suggested she find other places to have her moment.  She asked me to show her one.  I replied I could not do that at this moment.  She continued to loudly complain and urge me to hurry up.  I offered to learn from her vast experience about how best to do that.  And it went on. It was a charged conversation.

Ten minutes later when the adrenaline dissipated in my veins, I doubled over in hysterical laughter at the absurdity of what transpired in that restroom. To have someone literally try their level best to evict you from a bathroom stall, well, it just crosses a boundary.  Apparently, it’s a boundary I did not want crossed.  Isn’t that how it is with boundaries?  We realize their importance to us when they are crossed.

I’ve heard it called “Hulking Out”, what I did.  It’s not pleasant, attractive, or in the slightest bit useful.  I had to explain and apologize to my daughter.  Actual repentance in my heart occurred later that day.  I realized just how short my fuse can be…so very short…which humbled me.  All that pride of how I learned so much patience?  Gone. Back to square one, I stood there with a truer picture of who I was and it was not who I wanted to be!  I hulked out, tried to force my right and win by argument…by power. It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve hulked out.

A crossed boundary often kicks in my survival instincts. I try on being dangerous. But that’s not the dangerous God wants for me.  His power came in His laying aside His life and rights for others…not claiming them for Himself.  He gave everything.  Am I willing to forgo survival?  To pass on using my strength which is no strength at all?  To be truly dangerous God’s way is to be the right kind of dangerous.

I think being dangerous for God’s kingdom that day would have been using my 10 minutes of language ability on my captive audience toward a much different end than protecting my right to a bathroom stall!