The longer I live, the more I reIMG_3179alize that striving, by definition, is an obsolete practice within my faith in Christ. I, without question, am ‘failing’ on so many levels as a Christian. Do I read or pray or seek enough? No. Do I attend a church service regularly? No. Am I worshipping Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength….ummmm… probably not. A lot of my strength is currently going toward survival. So, if you were going to ask me if I felt like I was pursuing the Lord well or living out my faith according to the measuring stick of Christiandom, the answer is, unequivocally, no.

But, my goodness; He is beyond mine and your, for that matter, standards. I have been left speechless this past week, astonished by the working hand of the Lord, who took my lack of pursuit of Him and laughed toward my corner of life’s boxing ring. I’m sitting here, thinking I ought to get in the fight, but truth-be-told, my gloves are off. I have other things to do, like make sure everyone in my house has food in their stomachs and doesn’t wreak of armpit cheese. I may squeeze a proverb in at the breakfast table or listen to a few cringe-worthy Christian ‘hits’ on the radio, but beyond that, I’m trusting, in this season of life, that Him in me is enough for Him and me.

With that said, I went with my family to another state to simply be with friends and family. I left the house, forgetting to pray about the purpose of the trip and probably praying for nothing other than the plea for no lost luggage. I made sure I had coffee and chocolate for our hosts and made sure that there was underwear enough for all the travelers. It was a lovely time living life with people we love and that is really all I had expected. But is He not great? Does He not have more? Yes. The answer is yes.

The brief synopsis of the hand of God: While at a park that does not exist on google maps, we ran in to a woman whom we ate lunch with two years ago, in a different state (neither ours or the one we were visiting). We had lunch with her those nearly 800 days ago, because we were pursuing the Lord and the wild and crazy life that we love living with Him. And sometimes that wild and crazy life is forgotten around our house when all is a whirlwind of sleep deprivation and saliva floods. In fact, we had, somewhat, forgotten about that lunch and all the many exhilarating interactions we had that trip. But He did not and He ensured that despite our greatest efforts, He would push the issue right up next to us in a park – in another state – that neither party met in previously – right. Striving can’t make that happen, but neither can my comatose like state.

He brings everything to me and everything that reignited and every domino that fell because of the park surprise can be credited to Him alone.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

He has not forgotten our hearts, our dreams, our sane version of ourselves. I could be in the ring despite my crazy, punching at the air, adding to the noise and troubles of the day. But I’ve been reminded this week, that it is a beautiful thing to Him when I’m sitting in the corner with my gloves off, because when I finally look up from the towel, I can really see Him shine.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.

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To Know and To Be Known

FriendsTo love another person is to see the face of God.  – Victor Hugo

Is it not miraculous to fall in love with a stranger? Not a love like that of wine and roses, but like that of wine and laughter and shared stories. A love that doesn’t tarnish with time or distance, but seems to rest until the next meeting when you know your heart will be full once more with he or she who was once a stranger and now a friend.

I have many such friends who now create a beautiful network that stretches across a world of land and sea. They each began as strangers; strangers we lived with, dined with, faced fears and pain with. Strangers whom shared their lives, their plenty and want, their joy, their strength and weakness. An unfamiliar face may define a stranger but love makes that face a friend.

I have had someone who cares for me take time to explain that people are very fortunate to have 1 or 2 friends in there lifetime. This person’s definition of friendship was loyalty, companionship and a true knowing of one another; a friend is the person you could call in the middle of the night for anything.

I could tend to agree that we may have few very close allies in our lives as I have a very small number of people who truly know the intimate workings of my life and heart. They know about my day’s ins and outs, special hobbies and select fears and dreams. Time spent together with these friends is frequent as proximity allows.

Okay. Fair enough. Go on.

This very caring person went on to tell me that the many people whom I’ve encountered as strangers are not, in fact, my friends. The sentence ended with a kind smile and left me with a pain in my chest that occurs when I am not understood.

I smiled in return and told this person, “I know.” But it wasn’t that I was agreeing with their statement, but that “I” actually “know” a reality that this person does not; a reality that perhaps few people know: that when you see God in another person a stranger is transformed in to a friend. Eagerness comes over you to hear what other stories and life experiences this new found friend has to share. As the courses keep coming, vulnerability is second nature, laughter and crying ensue; its beautiful and it is love!

When the days or even short hours conclude, is it naive of me to think that we are now friends? For how could I possibly think of this beautiful person as a mere acquaintance? They have let me in and I them and only friends can part knowing there are no goodbyes.

If not in this life time, but the next, we shall meet again. We will enjoy the love that we forged together last and reminisce upon the history of our first meeting. I have to believe that only friends can comprehend the pleasure that can be experienced within the realm of knowing and of being known. Only friends can look at one another and know they are staring in to the face of Love, Himself.

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G.B….The Long Goodbye

There is a lot more life and attempts at faith going on these days than my travels. In general, I need to write more for myself; perhaps I may find that despite the infrequency of plane rides, bumpy roads through Iceland and Tube cramming, I am having plenty of adventures. My curse is that of being a verbal processor. One like me, has limited insight in to his or her heart until he or she begins talking or in my case, writing. So here it goes.

Grandma in boots @ The BeachMy Grandmother passed away very recently and I have found it to be quite the blow to my heart. She nearly made it to 96 years old, in fact, she was only nine days shy of her birthday. I can remember attending the 100th Birthday of her father when I was only four years old.

What I have found most challenging in my attempts at grieving is that it is hard to know what to do about the grief that you feel. When someone is around for the entirety of your life, there is this false reality that their existence on earth is indefinite. A healthy 90-year-old seems invincible; when their wits are about them and they still tend to the garden. How or why would that ever change?

As I took the time to write for her memorial program and assemble photos, the overwhelming reality of her influence in my life set in. Nearly every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, Holiday weekend was spent with her and there are many memories surrounding it all.

She introduced me to the Big Band Era, kicking her feet to Glen Miller’s, “In The Mood”. She taught me that seagulls can eat everything, including your leftover spaghetti. I learned what a marionette is and how creepy they are. I discovered what cloisonné, the Orient, pheasant, candied ginger, The Macy’s Day Parade, escargot and hydrangea are and how to crack nuts, properly make a bed, play black jack and prepare veal bockwurst.  She snored unbelievably loud, loved the beach, had the most beautiful roses and soil in her garden that I wanted to truck it out when she sold that great house. She stretched every morning, pitched baseballs to the kids, befriended neighborhood cats and loved Chinese food.

She was a legend in the family, because in one moment, if she was buying she wouldn’t let you have a whole cheeseburger at a restaurant (forced sharing) or try to convince you that “no one charges that much for bananas” at an honor system fruit stand – leaving the more appropriate amount; but in the next moment she might pay for your college education, give you a huge no-interest loan or just write you a $2,000 check, just because. You couldn’t accuse her of being stingy. She was frugal with a heavy side of generosity.

02290006And so goes Grandma. We didn’t see as much of one another in the last few years. I’ve gotten older with a family of my own and she moved further south. But we would talk and write and I made sure to always tell her I loved her. That was the last thing I said to her when I saw her the few days before she died. She hadn’t been up for 24 hours and something stirred her. So while I put a cold rag to her brow and touched her hand, I told her, “I love you Grandma. Very much.” And she said, “I love you too. Very much.” She never got out of bed after that day and passed three days later.

Memories live long after the deceased, providing that comforting sense of a life prolonged in to eternity. Though she is not with me now, it is in the blink of an eye that we shall be reunited and kicking our feet to the Big Bands together.

I will conclude this long epitaph with what I said at the memorial. She was a treasure, I hope she knew that in this life; she certainly knows it now.

When I think of Grandma, I can’t help but think of the joy in her heart that welcomed us all in. Standing on the porch, greeting us when we arrived armed with candy dishes and a big smile.

As grandchildren we were invited to participate in her world: talk at the table, venture in to the mysteries of the basement, smell the flowers, pick the raspberries. She shared her life. It wasn’t just showing up at her house to be entertained; she was a teacher of life. I think of how much I learned from her, just being around her; hearing her stories, watching her at the sink or by the radio, in the garage or wandering around downtown Portland.  It was fun to follow her around, being a student of her admiration of just about everything.

That big smile that she smiled with her mouth and her eyes conveyed a joy in simply living. She took pleasure in warm days – turning on the sprinklers to give her garden a drink and her ankles a cool down. She would describe in detail and with great enthusiasm every morsel of her supper, even if it was just soup and sandwich. That ancient jar of pickles was an opportunity to share family history as well as her chance to help you discover more ancient canned goods in the basement… and tools… and magazines… and a fridge that you could talk through. Her collections of little birds and cloisonné vases were treasures and tomatoes, onions and figs were gifts. A YAHTZEE or a bunco made her gitty and just about anything you would say, made her sing. ALL of it was joy.

As she got older, those smile lines got deeper, showing the world that delighting in life should be worn on your face.

To quote Shakespeare, “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

She seemed to let those wrinkles come unashamedly. She was Grandma, take it or leave it and that is what mattered; the memories she created, the life lessons she shared, the spontaneous dancing she encouraged – all with a smile.

Grandma, thank you for all that you were to all of us.  I hope that we all leave this earth with the signs of love and laughter permanently on our faces, as you did.  You were one of a kind and you will be deeply missed.

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