Tuesday, March 30, 2010

egypt :: falafel any day of the week

Today I bring you some Egyptian cuisine. There's not much time as we are checking out of our hotel in a few minutes and moving to a different location for the next few days. But I have been enjoying this fantastic food so much I had to try to share some pictures with you. I really do enjoy living in China, but the eats here are forcing me to consider whether or not a move is in order. Is it okay to move for food?

Hummus (please say that H with as much guttural phlegm as you can muster), feta cheese, fresh marinated grilled vegetables (all in one mouthful- delightful), pita bread, filafel (for breakfast- yum!).

Turkish coffee. I was hesitant at first because I know they boil it with the grounds and leave it unstrained. But they are so fine they become a clay-like paste that sits at the bottom of the cup while the liquid above becomes a smooth, black delicious means of caffeination. You can order it plain, mildly sweet, or very sweet. But the most important thing to note here is how smooth and strong it is... just like this girl likes it, as long as it doesn't put any hair on my chest.

I leave you with one sad little shot of the glorious pool that we have looked longingly at for nearly four days now. This was all I could get before the pool manager came over and kindly informed me photos were not permitted. But let me tell you, there are cabanas, there is foliage, lots and lots of green foliage, flowers, and cool clear water. There are piles of towels, little votive candles everywhere in the evening, the sound of waterfalls.

The next two days we venture into the city on our own so hopefully I will have much more to share here soon, with pictures. For those of you who are interested, things on the homefront seem to be going well. I was informed by a friend that my daughter was adorably dressed with her hair neatly combed (didn't know we even did that) in the Nursery on Sunday, so the Man appears to have things in order. He did tell me that earlier that morning she had thrown herself into the tub fully dressed, twice, while her brothers were getting cleaned up. She does keep things interesting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

egypt :: why 16 year olds won't rule the world

Today I stand in a land where nearly three thousand years ago a bruised and battered nation saw a miraculous deliverance out of a dark and brutal enslavement and into the shining glory of freedom. I walk on sand and look up at a sky that could have seen the same footsteps and felt the gaze of another Foreigner who came to  live and walk among us.

Yesterday was the first of four conference days we came all the way to Cairo to take part in. That means for now, the sightseeing is on hold. The issues being discussed at this conference by hundreds of high schoolers from all over the world are swirling around in my head as I also try to reflect on the significance of today... it is Palm Sunday, the first day of the final week leading up to Easter.

The moon has risen warm and bright, full and luminous like  a freshwater pearl dropped kerplunk in the middle of the deep midnight sky. It is a vivid reminder of the truth that surrounds me: the world is very dark. There is beauty there, the remnants and glimspes of it so wonderful that sometimes you can almost forget the burden of pain that we all live under. But in spite of all that reminds us of joy, we don't escape the reality that this world, and each of our lives, are shadowed, darkened, marred by all that destroys what we long and hope for in life.

I sit in a city full of people living in buildings that are crumbling, crusted with dirt and surrounded by piles of  trash and refuse from its inhabitants. I sit in a lavish hotel with marble floors and bath towels the size of my living room and listen to passionate debates about issues like genocide, human trafficking, violations of treaties, civil wars, and thre rise of nuclear powers. I see the effects of poverty, corruption and human fallenness all around me. The cries for collaboration, peace, and mutual consideration seem to fall dead and silent on the floors of high walled conference rooms. They are necessary talks, but will they truly bring about the "hope for a better tomorrow" that these youth dream of?

As I return every day to the comfort of my hotel room and look out onto the scene of depravation and struggle, knowing its sorrow is known to millions of people in every nation on earth, the darkness can seem to close in. I listen to the heartwrenching issues and feel overwhelmed, hating the small feeling of problems so large and the heavy burden of my small, protected life. It is easy to look out and ask, "Where is He?"

He was here. He came into the darkness but the darkness has not understood it. Nevertheless, He came still. He entered our darkness and broke its power over us. Some can see it  and believe, others cannot or have not. It is a thing of faith- for we are faith creatures. But it will not always be this way.

This is the beauty of the Easter preparation, of enjoying the season of Lent as it leads you through the Word and gives you time to think about all that this great moment in history, the Resurrection, means for us. The world can seem so dark to me, but the Light of the World stepped down into darkness, and madea way for us to be free. This Friday we will remember the darkness that Jesus friends and followers felt as all they had believed and hoped for seemed buried and dead with the broken body in the grave. But in the early light of a Sunday sunrise, the light of Truth will remind us again that though all seems lost, we know for certain who is Victorious, and who is working even now in the midst of all that still remains broken. He is making things new, and He will make all things new when the time is right.

Tomorrow we head back to the conference rooms and delegation proceedings. It will be Monday and the streets outside will be the same as they were today. But I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able... because He was stronger than the grave, and the death that could not hold him.

May you rejoice in the Light that came, comes, and is coming into your darkness!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

egypt :: camel rides and a missing sphinx

This morning dawned bright and... hazy. What is with this haze that follows me everywhere? For some reason I forgot that pollution is a serious problem here too and was just envisioning blazing hot sun in the desert pyramid land. But, haze it is, and it seemed to clear as the day wore on.

Before heading off to the pyramids we stopped at the Egyptian Museum to view all the ancient relics that date over 4,000 years old. Mummies, chariots, sarcophogus, carvings, jewelry (even sandals pretty similar to my own), and King Tut's treasure were housed in dusty old glass cabinets and lined up in cavernous, echoing halls that reminded you of a warehouse long forgotten. Oh, and cameras were forbidden.

Small side note... do you know where else picture taking was forbidden? The Tashkent Airport. In Uzbekistan. Have you ever had a layover in this airport? It's a great place if you like lots of alcohol, chocolate, and dozens of men smoking in your face. Other than that, I'm not sure what they are afraid you will record on your precious film. But, nonetheless I just wanted you to know I was in Uzbekistan.

So after the mummies, we were supposed to go to the pyramids. One of the options was to get  to them via a camel ride. I could hear the chastisement I would receive if I didn't take this opportunity so I decided to go (despite all my dislike for the idea of trail animals and the uncomfortableness of riding an animal that is mad at you for not knowing how to ride IT). Little did I know that this meant we would only be able to see the pyramids at a distance of about 100 miles.

With that in mind please take this little photo journey with me through the back villages and up to the pyramid site. If you're disappointed in the final delivery... know that I was slightly as well, and we're now trying to figure out if we need to take another trip to a different site later in the week. I didn't even get to see the Sphinx.

:: Our spitting, I've-got-a-little-man-complex camel who kept trying to race to the front  of the line. He nearly lost us several times and I found my hand holding on for dear life to the rump of this gorgeous animal ::

:: One of our guides who was forever curious about our marital state. I tried to dress modestly but maybe the dusty ankles or hair whipping constantly across my face and in my mouth was just too much for him ::

:: This little guy was a pro at handling the animals. He was full of smiles and friendliness, and you know he was hoping for a tip in the end. There were handfuls of these boys everywhere... playing soccer by the burning trash heaps, shooting marbles on the dirt road outside the front gate, one group walked by sipping coke out of little plastic bags. ::

I just love open air markets. All I want you to see here is what the cart in the background is holding. A huge pile of fresh artichokes. I might move here.

:: On our way through a narrow alley, we had to pull up to let a funeral procession by ::

:: and here they are, in all their glory ::

:: another close up:) ::

:: Can you see the Spinx behind there? I can't either. But I'll always have my camel, and that's something. ::

:: and so will this boy... have his camel I mean. He also didn't seem too concerned about missing the Sphinx ::

Tomorrow is a work day, and by work I mean changing the the world through diplomatic netotiations (at least pretending to). That also means more time sitting, and reading, and thinking. So, be prepared... another wordy post may be looming on the horizon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Way There

I sit at a fiberglass table, looking out on a tarmac where winged machines the size of several Blue Whales are taking off into the air in what seems like an act of defiance of natural law. Concrete runways stretch nearly to the horizon, there are little piles of rumpled clothing hiding the tired flesh of slumbering beings on every suitable (and unsuitable) surface you can find. An overhead sound system gently and serenely speaks arrivals and departures into our ears without the slightest hint of the anxiety that someone or other must be experiencing.

It's like an in-between world, this airport, this transfer lounge. A place between places, a stop on the Way. I'm not a travel blogger, but I feel like I need to update you on my travels since I left yesterday and won't be arriving in Cairo until sometime late tonight. Nothing much has happened since we left, since I left those  sweet cheeks and strong hands. But here I am without them, in a world between worlds and with nothing but a tarmac and people to look at, a book in my hands and thoughts running uninterrupted.

So, if you choose to join me here, please stay and feel welcome! I wish we were sitting together. Know that since I am no travel blogger my observations may be a bit more metaphysical than you were hoping for, and since I am without children my words may get a bit lengthy. We will hope for the best though.

I left on this trip to one of the oldest recorded civilizations with the realization that I would be traveling during the final days leading up to Easter. As a new Lent observer, this kind of disappointed me at first! I wanted to be home with my family and friends, preparing our hearts and minds and home together for the greatest of our Christian Holy-days. But the more I thought about it the more I realized this could be a unique way to enjoy the preparation for Easter. The historical place we will be, the unique stillness I will experience, the precious time to read and think and pray, these are gifts sacred to a mother and not to be treated lightly or wasted with the weight of guilt.

So this morning I sit watching man-made birds and God-made man and read and think through the Stations of the Cross. It's a simple, prayerful exercise, thinking through the progression of Jesus' journey from the time he is condemned to die by Pilate until he is laid in the tomb (oh the anticipation for the final Triumphant Morning!) It's impossible to sit in an international terminal and watch its crowds of people, reading about the act of the Incarnated God giving himself in death to redeem the world, and not think through it's implications for the span of all these varied lives.

 It brings questions, and sorrow-- for the fallenness of these precious creatures is evident everywhere: the businessman who berates the stewardess for her misunderstanding, the anger and frustration from the customer who is hindered by language, the harried sharpness of the mother whose child will not listen, the child who refuses to go any way but his own. There are days when I look around and can see the beauty that is still present too, the wonder that still remains of all the glory of God's original intent in creation, but today his need to die looms large on this concrete horizon.

The way of the cross is not all doom and despair. I sit here rejoicing, knowing the sweetness of forgiveness, of freedom, of hope, of joy because of the Way that Jesus took. But the journey to that sweetness begins at the cross. And wherever you are, whatever you see, you can look at him There, high and lifted up, and find that He is the Way.

On a lighter note, but one that is highly important to me, I had a Quizno's sub last night! Turkey and swiss cheese on a rosemary crusted bun. Sheer delight.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


First some baking. Can't leave them without some comfort food!

Not a lot of room to pack it in but there are enchiladas and fresh (now frozen) baked bread, spaghetti sauce, cookies galore, milk, lots of mozzarella (because that's what Americans live on) and more...

No shorts, no tanks, no showing the collar bone. What's a girl to wear?

Fitting some lap time in though he barely fits there anymore.

The reading list. Always a difficult task... did I bring the right ones? Will I be tired of these and wish I had others? Am I bringing too many? Not enough?

I will miss these blurry curls (which is usually how they look in real time too)

... and sweet sad eyebrows

and my rumble tumble boys

and Blue Eyes. 

Leaving tomorrow!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Forest for the Trees

I can barely see the rooftops today. We woke to an eerie, orange haze that has invaded our city. Eyes were rubbed, window panes swiped at with the heel of a hand, and the sulfuric haze remained. Whatever it is, the annual spring windstorms from Mongolia, or the pollution being pushed in en mass from a neighboring city, it's not the kind of thing you're craving in March.

It seems like most things around me these days are covered in a cloudy haze, one that weighs heavy on my already melancholy mind. I'm leaving for Egypt on the trip of a lifetime in a few days, but I feel kind of blah about it. I look at the children mangled about  my ankles and all I can see are the issues, in myself and in them. I notice the cupboard doors that are falling apart and the drawer that always catches. I see the broken tiles, the burnt out light bulbs, the polluted skies and endless rows of dirty high rise apartments.

But I get too lost in my glumness. I know the weather will turn. And I know I'm not alone. In two weeks we will be remembering the saddest day in the history of humanity, the day the Son of Man was slain for the sins of the world. I was thinking a lot this week about the Man of Sorrows. He does not always give answers, though there are answers. But he always gives himself.

My little its and bits of sadness are but a drop in the ocean of suffering and pain. There were others who were overcome by waves of sadness far greater than mine this week. A friend is grieving her empty arms as she waits for a baby, four young children and a father watched their newest arrival slip noisily into the world as their mother slipped quietly out, and a dear old woman lost her home and her family to the stark walls of a nursing home. I watched others try to give answers, reasons, hopeful scenarios... but it all fell listless and weak against the yawning chasm of pain. Sometimes answers just aren't enough. But He is. And so for them, and for myself as we sit in this haze and see through the glass darkly, I ask for Him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Call of the Nile

Some time ago I wrote of the selfless super acts my husband seems to regularly engage in. I alluded to the fact that there would be more to come... and my post today, if it is nothing else, it is a tribute to that fact.

I am going to Egypt. I am going without children.

Hmm. Interesting, you might say to yourself. How is she going to swing that? Doesn't her husband have a job? Aren't her kids kind of young? Aren't there several of them? Why is she going to one of the great wonders of the world and leaving the most important people in her life behind?

First of all, before I explain the details, can I just say BAAAAAHHHHHH!!! I'M GOING TO EGYPT!!
If there was something I never imagined myself being as a suburbanite kid growing up two towns away from Gary, Indiana, it was a world traveler. Now, here I am living in the Far East, racking up stamps on my passport like it's a hobby or something.

The facts are that the school we work for is taking some students on a trip. They needed an extra chaperone and voila, I am here to serve. The trip falls over the Spring Break, so my knight in shining armor will be flying solo with all the bread-buttering and bathtimes, and using up his precious vacation time to do so. I feel really blessed by him and the joy he seems to genuinely experience at the idea of me getting to do something so rare and exciting.

We will be in Cairo for 10 days: haunting the pyramids, flying down the Nile, losing ourselves in street markets and the inky depths of middle eastern coffee. There is some business to attend to (the purpose for our trip, ahem) but even that is exciting: a five day simulation of the United Nations that will be full of interesting ideas, proposals, debates, and all that is the melting pot of young minds hard at work.

I am planning to breathe deep, look long, take pictures, and hopefully share some of it here with you when I'm not enforcing curfew and sitting tight lipped in a hotel conference room. On top of all that I'm sure I will be waylaid with guilt about the fact that my husband is bearing the raw end of this deal, and that there are a host of people who are far more deserving of this trip than I.

He's excited about having a special time with the kids; loading up on pancakes and Monopoly marathons. I'm stocking the freezer and trying to figure out what to wear when it's 90 degrees and you can't show any skin.

We leave one week from today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

{book}worm wednesday

Some people may pine for box seats at a Red Sox game, but I would venture to say that having front row seats to the delight of watching a young boy learn to read is nearly as or even perhaps more exciting. Last year at this time I was bemoaning the fact that my sprouting four year old hardly seemed interested in learning his letters; but this year, true to all the sage advice from my mother and a host of other "been-there" moms, he has shown that when they're ready, they're ready. 

Sometimes I think I can literally see the the gears in his head turning as his mouth twitches and moves, eyes squinting as he silently ponders all the sounds and phonics and piles of information he is sifting through in there. And then he has it, the word. His face breaks into a smile and I can feel the pride and pure joy emanating from his little chest. His journey is just beginning. 

Here's where the rest of us are on the road...

what i'm reading
The Peasant Girl's Dream by George MacDonald (formerly Heather and Snow)
A natural follow up to Surprised By Joy was to read one of Lewis' greatest influences, George MacDonald. His stories are always simple, but with a clear and pervading love of people, nature, and God all woven beautifully in and throughout the moors and cottages his story dwells in. This particular story is set in the Scottish highlands, where MacDonald grew up and always loved to write about. In the words of Michael Phillips, it "tells a humble story of the enduring quality of love-- between man and his friend, between parents and children, between brother and sister, between man and woman, and between a simple-minded boy and his God. This is a quiet story, to be savored as its influences and relationships and perspectives soak gently into your spirit."

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I was moved and (for some reason) frightened by this book as a 5th grader years ago, but am going back to spend some time with one of the most influential writers in recent history. I have a couple other books on order from Amazon... so more from her in the future.

Evil and the Justice of God  by N.T. Wright
My most influential prof in college first introduced me to an in depth appreciation of N.T. Wright. I saw this book on the display table when I walked in the library  the other day and immediately picked it up. Further inspection has proved what you would expect from the current Bishop of Durham and former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey. Its, well, "thesis-ish." This is not bad and in fact probably quite good but my brain is a little out of practice (perhaps forever dulled by diapers and conversations with Marble-Mouth?). I am hoping to plug through and learn a lot but check on me in two weeks... hopefully I will still be trucking and not curled into a ball reading Twilight or something.

the husband list...
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
First of all, can I just say that I am blown away by this man? I mean, did you know he is studying for a Master's Program, teaching a full load, fathering three kids and husbandering one needy wife? How does he find the time to read in the midst of all this? I'm so glad he does though... it makes for a lovely friendship to balance out all the passionate making out. Anyway, I'm digressing. Les Mis is a beautiful story, epic picture of Love that gives all, pours itself out, and Mercy that forgives and gives and gives. As Hugo states in his preface, "so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless." It's a story of crime, hate, oppression, love, sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption. All the themes of life and history and the beauty of God's redeeming Story are here. If you try it... don't be alarmed if it takes you a couple attempts to get through. You will not be disappointed.

the kids corner...
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The saga continues... we found a copy of Little House on the Prairie, but found that the books have been re-numbered and technically Farmer Boy is now next in the series. I don't remember reading this one as a child. I must have skipped it because it looked boring to me or it wasn't about Laura. I'm glad we're reading it now... it seems we must always have a book in our hands about farming these days, rubbing salt in the city-dweller wound. I think that's why I like Chaim Potok-- he makes the city seem cool too, in a Hasidic Jew sort of way. I'm digressing a lot today...
I think the thing that hits you more than any other in this book is the amount of food this kid consumes. Almanzo works hard mind you, and I have to keep reminding my husband of this fact when he asks me if we too can eat a dozen eggs, flapjacks, biscuits and gravy, a piece of apple pie (for breakfast!) and a large glass of whole cream with nutmeg sprinkled on top all in one sitting. Sure, I tell him. Go right ahead. But first you must go outside and dig up the entire concrete parking lot, furrow it, then seed it with the heirloom seeds you have saved from last years potato crop. And if you're me, why you ought first to sheer the sheep, spin the wool by hand, weave it on the loom into a broadcloth, then hand sew it into a suit for your son when he heads off to school. And knit all his socks.
So, we had toast for breakfast.

Green Eggs and Ham & The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
It's fun to have fun but you have to know how. Where else can you get that kind of wisdom? I'll be honest, I didn't grow up reading Seuss but I have come to really enjoy him as I've read him with my kids. I believe Sam I Am has come close to converting my three year old into a vegetable eater. Well, a vegetable tryer anyway. I believe another test for Newberry Medals and Caldecott Honours and other such awards should be whether or not an adult can sit and read a story time after time, hour after hour, day after day, and still enjoy it themselves. In my opinion, Seuss passes this test.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
We seem to have a flair for the Frenchies these days. Les Mis, and now Madeline. She's a cute (redhead, 'nuff said) spunky little girl who lives at a boarding school in Paris (you must say Pare-ee or it won't rhyme!). The illustrations of Miss Clavel racing through the hallways in the middle of the night will leave impressions on young minds for years to come. 

Davy's Dream: A Young Boy's Adventure with Wild Orca Whales  by Paul Owen Lewis
A delightful story of a boy and his boat, and the adventure he experiences with the "wolves of the sea." 

Curious George Goes to the Beach by Margret & H.A.Rey's
In my humble opinion, the world could do without another Curious George book. I know he's a cute monkey and all, but mostly I just find him rather annoying. And I don't understand his friend's outfit. My biggest beef with the books though is that I find them incredibly boring to read. But somehow we have accumulated a few of them and I can't find it in my heart to dispose of them... so we read and re-read: "He was a good little monkey [YEAH RIGHT!] and always very curious..."

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
I adore her books. I have vivid memories of these pages from my childhood, and I love to read them still. Clearly this woman has a rosy-colored view of the past and bemoans the passing of the small town and the old country ways... but she writes about it in such a way with "steam shovels that dig as much  in one day as a hundred men could dig in a week" and Little Houses with pink paint that you begin to feel much the same way.

keepin' it real (wherein I literally scoop all the books off our coffee table and give you the as-is list)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 
My sons have taken this book (and a few others floating around about pirates, as well as one recent showing of Swiss Family Robinson) a little too much too heart. Currently we have two bulging "pirate bags" loaded up on their dresser, filled with loot and hand-made books of "pirate plans" and such to take to Grandma's house (who lives in America and will not be visited until about 18 months from now). Nothing is safe from being made into a sword, or used as a treasure chest for all their moneys. Apparently, more modern pirates are using Tuppeware and checkers pieces, along with Lincoln logs and masking tape to carry out their deeds.
There is no telling where the Hispaniola and Long John Silver will take you, or your children.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
A lovely little tale, though it is a bit disturbing that the mother so bluntly tells her children that their father was cooked in a gooseberry pie as a warning to stay out of the neighbor's garden. I love the vocabulary she uses and the way you are practically lulled into reading with a British accent. I love that the sparrows implore Peter to exert himself, and that he is left with camomile tea at the end of the day as his punishment.

Curious George Gets a Medal by H.A.Rey
Seriously? A medal? I can't believe I've been roped into reading two George books in one week. Torture by curious monkey. I must love these kids or something.

There you have it my friends. And now, what are YOU reading?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Usually Don't Like Ladies Retreats

Have you ever known that moment of realizing you are the friend who has failed? I have known it. There have been times when I have known it for a day, or an hour, or an afternoon before I sought forgiveness, but this past weekend I had known it for months.

Ladies Retreats. They always seem to bring out the worst in me. I circle around them like a hawk from the moment the event is announced, my beady little eyes on the lookout for anything I can sarcastically ridicule as being estrogen-overload or write off as a display of all the cliches of womanhood I think I am so above. I like women. I'm glad I am one (back hair? no thank you). I even like being friends with women and thrive on the love and fun and fellowship we share. But women's retreats seem to always spiral into some abysmal overdrive of emotions, confessions, tea pots and pastel flowered name tags that I can't bring myself to enjoy or understand. I want a cool retreat.

This weekend came close. Due in part to the fact that at least the appearance of it was chic and modern (thanks to my uber talented art teacher friend who designed it) and extremely well done.The other part was because of the unseen Headliner for the weekend, my very own... Holy Spirit.

I had already decided that in the case of a dud speaker (which she was not), or a message theme that I wasn't jivin' with (which was the case), that I would bring along a couple of Substitute Guest Speakers; you know them well, Jack and Tom (aka: Clive Staples Lewis and Thomas A'Kempis). I knew if all else failed me, they in fact, could not.

But, as it turns out they were unnecessary because of a sometimes subversive but always present Speaker-- the One who has my heart. Which brings me back to the moment when you know you have failed as a friend...

This is not a new feeling for me. Surely one of the things I have been given more of in this life than I could ever deserve or understand is Good Friends. They come on many levels and perhaps only a few stand out as those who with whom I share a special trust and knowledge of, but one of the most important and life-changing parts of their friendship has been their willingness to forgive me.

There is one moment in my friendship history that stands out, and I believe always will, as the day my friend saved me from the pit of my own blindness and selfishly hardening heart... the day she wouldn't let me Let Friendship Go. I had felt a divide between us, a growing separateness. I fed it with my private hurts and disappointments, my excuses for why it was too hard to chase her down, break down the wall, talk about the Hard Stuff. I shrunk back and lashed out with my silent retreat. She felt it: the sting, the quiet, the coldness.

But she knew Grace. She'd tasted it first as a college girl on a concrete step and she'd learned to drink deep and to keep coming back, growing intoxicated with this all-spirit, all-soul, all-life sustaining Love that was Jesus' life poured out for hers. So she, in all her hurt and anger and disappointment, knowing Grace had loved her still, reached out to me and loved me still. She came to my house and spoke honest words, searching words, humble and wounded words-- and she gave me Grace. In her emptiness, she was filled with High Love and she poured it out on me. I have never forgotten it. She saved me, and He saved me from drowning in my own self-infested pool where I would have Let Friendship Go.

Somehow though, as I sat in the high walled conference room, surrounded by a myriad of females from a world of different countries, listening to the American speaker talk fervently on a subject I was completely detached from, my mind was elsewhere because I realized I had done it again. I had become a friend who had failed. The feeling had been growing for months-- a different face this time, a different land, a new backdrop to my same old ways. The ugly burdens of guilt and regret and sadness and finally, fear were increasing at such a rapid speed that I found myself unable to shake the weight of their existence. I could think of nothing else in this beautiful, peaceful, well-lit room. I began to be afraid. I knew now what had been lurking for months and that was that I was in the wrong, pulling back, being distant, retreating with lofty coolness, and causing another friend a lot of pain. My reason are shameful, but He knows.

And it was in His knowing, and in the way that she had saved me from Letting Friendship Go that Grace found me and saved me again. I sat in that room, my heart gripped with fear and my mind racing with prayers and thoughts about what I might have to do, and we sang:
...And as He stands in victory,
sin's curse has lost it's grip on me.
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Grace found me again and helped me see that all this curse in me has no grip on me, and I can go forth with humility into scary places (like seeking forgiveness and admitting great wrongs), pouring out the love He is pouring into me. I went. I stumbled. I shook. But Grace was there and His love flowed. We found hope and renewal and the beauty of a Friendship Not Let Go.

Have you ever known the moment of being the friend that failed? You are not alone. I have been there. I may be there again... but so too is Grace. And sometimes Ladies Retreats turn out to be not that bad.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Taking Over the World One Toddler at a Time

Peek-a-boo… aha! It’s daybreak and I’m awake. These fools can’t make me sleep a moment longer. Don’t they know that it’s not this silly pink blanket with fuzzy brown trimming, or this strangely shaped plastic nipple thingy they shove in my mouth every night that makes me sleep? It’s the sheer will power and brilliant planning of my highly developed 15 month old brain. You see, I know that without at least an 8 hour stretch of rested neuron activity I will not have the appropriate amount of energy or sugar levels in my blood to sustain the kind of activity I have planned for the day ahead. And boy do I have plans.

The Tall One seems completely clueless to my powers. She sings and swoons and pats my back in patronizing little circles, tip-toeing out of the room as through I’m not laying here, WIDE AWAKE, in full knowledge of the fact that she is traipsing off back into well-lit rooms to drink wine and gobble chocolate and God knows what else they do when they lock me away in here.

But, aha! I’m awake now and there is not a minute to lose. First, I must find that pesky three-year old who sounds like he’s got a legion of marbles in his mouth and chase him down when he’s getting off the toilet, scaring the bee-jeebies out of his plump little hiney because he thinks I’m gonna yank on his thing—which I do sometimes-- but only because it’s so tiny and he screams like a girl, and I’m the girl and I don’t even scream like that.

Then the Tall One comes running in again. She scoops me up and usually attempts some sort of serious sounding reprimand, squeezing my hands as though that will somehow deter me from wanting to make the little squealer run again. I mean, maybe if you cut my hands OFF, maybe then I’d think twice, but squeeze them? C’mon lady, read any decent parenting books lately? Probably too many modern ones that talk about “understanding” and “respect” and a whole bunch of other stuff I won’t respond to cause I’m not even two yet.

Anyway, then there’s breakfast. They give me this cold, creamy white stuff that I get to suck out of a long tube just like one of those old Indian guys who smokes—which is what I pretend to do and I love the cold brain freeze I get at the end. Think there’s stuff like that for when you’re as big as the Tall One? Then she (the Tall One-- she’s kind of around all the time, pulling me off of stuff, shoving things in my face, squeezing my hands, rubbing my back, stuffing me into seats and strollers and on and on- so you’ll just have to get used to her) is there again with toast and squishy bananas which are my favorite because you squeeze them super tight and they metamorph into a completely different substance, oozing out between your fingers and up your sleeves. I’ve discovered they work really great in your hair too- and it smells so good. I don’t know why the Tall One doesn’t use it; her hair always looks a wreck.

But on to the rest of the day. I have so many plans: there are the kitchen drawers to empty and dispense with into the garbage bin (so far, I have successfully smuggled one foreign imported pastry cutter, one bread knife, and one highly coveted blender apparatus into the hidden depths of the plastic bag abyss without the Tall One or her accomplices ever noticing until it was far too late), bunk beds to scale and sky-dive off of, plungers to inspect with my teeth, windows to escape out of (the Tall One flails about so with hysterical gestures and dances that it makes the event rather addicting), cleaning supplies to guzzle, computers to rewire, and always the little Squealer to yank on. I’m so delighted just thinking about the prospects of my day that I think I’ll stop pooping in my pants right now and save a little for later. It’s time to roll.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing Senses: colors

A writing exercise... to think back over your day and paint it with the colors you saw, and whatever else comes to mind.

A moody sea of blue that was the coverlet, now thrown back in heaps of stormy, rumpled sheets, tossed aside with my morning thrust out of bed. Oily, fragrant, coal-black coffee, swirling with creamy white ribbons; it tugs jovially on my eyelids, laughing at my stupor, drawing me up towards the light of the day. The sunrise, pale and pink, peaking through the cold windowpanes, but muted by the soft cloud cover and the concrete jungle it meets.

Blue, sparkly eyes rubbed with groggy, fleshy little hands on their way to the bathroom. I boil water. The shiny metal pot; cold and sterile like the thoughts running through my head. Where is the thrill to embrace the day, the charge of these little ones barking for breakfast like a nest of newborn sparrows, heads thrown back, mouths open wide? It’s buried in the blankets of my unmade bed… I’ll find it later when I make her nice and neat, tuck in the corners, smooth out the wrinkles, ship shape it up so at least it looks pretty. Pretty, for an hour… or two. Where did Caroline Ingalls get the stamina to make those beds day after day and wipe the dishes, and make red calico aprons, and decorate her dinner table all pretty with flowers and starched cloth and strawberry cut outs on her butter mold?

Did her baby ever pull on the corners, sending dishes crashing down? Or stick fingers in the crock, spilling fresh cream all around? Did she undo all the napkins and knock over flour bins? The sky is brightening still, and I see those honeyed curls, sleepy eyes and pink puckered lips, ready for a kiss… now the whir begins. 

I know, I know it all will pass, and pass too fast. So drink it in; and look up quick, see Mercy meet me on my knees, weak with pleas and full of need. But Mercy does what Mercy knows, and that’s to make a girl who’s slow, slow to see and hear and go, into a woman full of Joy.

Grey, wet slabs. Slip, slap, slosh. Banging clanging metal carts with dull and lifeless, timeworn plastic handles and little orange seats for tiny legs and torsos. Glaring overhead lights and a me, lost in the sea of silky straight ebony hair. Find me the green yogurt and the blue carton of milk, throw in a tightly wrapped bunch of sickly looking celery and overly robust apples, their plump red bodies shining with the health of too many chemicals. Grey sky, grey day, grey roads to pave the way. Soft light and reddened cheeks greet this geek, with hair not sleek and clothes not chic, Freakish week. Feeling bleak. They finally sleep.

But I’m awake and full of knowledge; knowing the day, the minutes that swept me along, throwing me here and there without a breath to spare. I linger on those moments now, after they are gone and feel the weight of all that was left undone. It’s true irony… the freedom I now know and want to roll around in. The things I couldn’t do when hands were full of little needs and dirty sheets, the words I longed to write and read and sit with over a cup of tea. Now I spread them out before me, like a buffet in my mind. Take your pick! And savor the silence, but all I know now is that I’m tired.
Mercy meet me in my need.
Show me all I do not see.