Monday, March 11, 2019

Willow


Less than a week ago, my friend asked for prayer. 

My friend is an advocate and leader in anti-trafficking---a woman on the front lines. 
She had committed to assisting a woman caught in a dangerous web. 

The prayer was for the first step: moving the woman (let's call her Willow) out of the neighborhood where her car had been stolen and her apartment had been burglarized. My friend's husband would assist. A third volunteer was desirable; none were available.  

I'll go, I offered.

Less than an hour later, in a neighborhood unfamiliar to me, carrying hastily packed boxes and bags from an apartment, I found myself praying in the chaos that God would help us take with us the things that mattered most. 

Willow's mattress was rolled and pushed into the backseat of one vehicle. The sturdy wood bed frame miraculously fit in the hatchback of my car. Bedding, swiftly packed clothing, kitchen essentials, personal care products and other necessities filled a third car. Occasional tables and painted canvasses, revealing Willow as an artist, were gently added. I prayed again. So much was being left behind!

In the 90 minute window allotted, the plan unfolded. Willow packed and we loaded for 40 minutes. Then, Willow locked the apartment and left with a trusted advocate to get the keys to her new place. Meanwhile we drove 9.6 miles to the new apartment attempting to avoid rush hour traffic. We arrived ahead of Willow and unloaded. Then we waited.

In the waiting, time was unrestricted. Feeling unnerved I asked my friend about the chaos, the reality of so much being left behind, the undermining of Willow's humanity --- her sense of safety. 

My friend was comforting and encouraging, and openly shared about similar moving experiences... the necessity of an escape plan, the need for vigilance. And, how God changes our lives, the provision of her current home where she feels safe.

Her honesty left me with the realization that this is the first time -- as a person whose life was predominantly safely middle class married -- that I am personally engaging the silent threat of chaos. 

A few months ago I stored a nylon cinch sack near the safe that holds my passport and other documents, determining that if escape were necessary (natural disaster or human threat) I could walk cross-country the 3 miles to my son and daughter-in-law's house. 

In recent days I find myself pondering, in Hollywood apocalyptic style: What else is essential to take with me? 

From my growing library (153 books counted today) I am selecting these books: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough 1977, The Shack by William Paul Young 2007, The Transforming Friendship by Leslie D. Weatherhead 1928, and Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell 2005.  

I am a flawed, human and fragile encourager, a speaker and writer of words. 

My spiritual gift is exhortation.

Willow is gifted. She is an artist.

In the chaos she chose to bring her paintings.  

I will bring four books.

R









Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dinner from an Empty Refrigerator

As I put down the red silicone scraper and step back from the stove, something pleasing catches my eye, something beautiful, this food. 

I'd worked only one job today, and my small group was canceled due to icy weather so ... when I arrived home, the luxury of time met me at the door. The studio apartment -- all 461 square feet of it -- has been home for the past year. Many might consider it small. It all depends on where you are coming from ... 

... and when arriving here I'd come from a bedroom plus bath where I'd lived as a guest and grandmother-in-residence for 14 months. Yes, my son and daughter-in-law were inviting, loving, gracious and welcoming. The kitchen, living room, kids' bedrooms, play room and family room were open to me almost any time and there was a spoken expectation that I'd join the family for dinner, which was wonderful ... and yet the introvert in me felt more comfortable upstairs, in my bedroom plus bath, listening to the muffled voices of the grandchildren reading or playing or squabbling or getting ready for bed.

Tonight, my meal, the food -- a southwestern rice with beans and corn served over sauteed breast of chicken with a heaping spoonful of cream cheese blended with sour cream and salsa, plus fresh chocolate chip cookies -- looked so inviting! I am not much of a cook and readily confess that I'd rather be eating ... enjoying the aromas, textures, flavors. The feel of the warm ceramic bowl in my hands, the balance of the well-crafted fork, inspire delight. 

I wash the dishes, including a carafe of way-too-old-to-consume pineapple juice left over from my January birthday. The refrigerator looks quite empty. In the digestive aftermath of the meal I move on, choosing to sit on the futon snuggled up with a soft grey lap blanket gifted me one Christmas by my niece. 

The apartment is quiet. I miss the muted voices of the grandchildren.

Traffic moving along the freeway that borders this apartment complex fades into the background, except for the occasional semi. Without looking out the sliding glass doors (the only window in this studio), my senses tell me almost instinctively what time it is. Evening darkness and steady noise point to the 7pm to 1am travel of city-dwellers and suburbanites. When I awaken in the night a hushed stillness indicates a sleeping community, the highway nearly deserted. Soft morning light and limited but growing noise signal early commuters avoiding rush hour traffic.

Despite the delightful meal and my comfort in this living space, evening is difficult. This is when I most wish to turn back the clock to when evening meals were shared by two, the life I had before my husband died. One of us cooked; the other did dishes. In the oasis between dinner and sleep we returned to the kitchen table for a game of Scrabble, or settled into rocking chairs to watch a movie. 

Decades ago (before we married) my husband and I were not surprised to discover Myers-Briggs assessments categorized me as an introvert. After nearly 1000 days a widow, there is a shift as the woman that is me slides closer to recluse. The grey kaleidoscope of living alone is slowly becoming my normal. The shapes and sounds and tastes of life are dulled by loneliness. 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18


Perhaps that is why I took the photograph... to capture the colors and vibrant promise of the meal, to embrace delight, to remember the Lord is close.

Rw

Sunday, October 28, 2018

a view from a point

Looking out the window from the 14th floor of the Federal Courthouse I saw something unexpected ... the Gateway Arch from the west side, the mighty Mississippi a narrow strip of water in the background.

In respect for the solemnity of the event -- the sentencing hearing of a friend -- I had left my cell phone behind, in a car parked on the streets below. I could not digitally capture the image.

Searching today for a photograph that represented what my eyes had briefly observed, I discovered how rarely the camera lens captures this view. Most of humanity photographs the arch from the east; the vast majority from at or near ground level. 

I am reminded of a new-to-me concept from Richard Rohr's "The Naked Now"

a viewpoint is a view from a point.

Like the view from the 14th floor, an unfamiliar viewpoint occasionally surprises me. More often, though, it is an event that impacts my viewpoint -- when life-as-I-know-it is altered by death or birth, unexpected illness or the restoration of health, the tension of chaos or the tranquility of shalom, the earthly consequences of sin or the arrival of healing grace.

In the days and weeks preceding the sentencing of my friend, my heart and my prayers sought grace and peace for her. 

I found my heart pondering God's justice and grace against the backdrop of our legal system. I wrestled with the great potential for injustice, knowing that though the U.S. is ranked 19 of 113 countries globally, our legal system is a poor substitute for justice.

I struggle with the incarceration response to financial crime and the probation plea arranged for life-threatening choices. 

I pray seeking grace and justice for two friends. One, in 2018, is accompanied by her defense attorney and the other, in 2011, is a witness for the prosecution. 

And, even as I write, I am convicted, my bias exposed

my viewing point is my seat in the courtroom.


R

Photo credit: 123rf.com 20490869
U.S. Ranking: WJP Rule of Law Index 2017-2018 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Clinging to the Echo

My prayer wasn’t answered. 

On my knees in the bedroom, the paramedics working on my husband in the basement workshop below, my prayer for a Lazarus death-to-life miracle was not answered.

True or False? Did God answer my prayer?

God answered my prayer.

The answer was not what I wanted. 

My deepest desire was for the miracle, for my husband to return to life, to be fully restored and returned to me—returned to me in that moment—now.

The earthly miracle vs. the eternal miracle.

My needs vs. God’s plan.

The now vs. the forever.

The cynicism hides within me. Do I know God knows? Do I seek God’s companionship, grace and healing? Or do I cling to the echo of once was?

I want it now is earthly.

God comforts those who mourn. God knows.  


“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tuscany

I am watching Under the Tuscan Sun for perhaps the fifth or sixth time, having purchased the DVD used, from VStock. There is something about this story that is soothing at this time, the season of being out on my own, having moved from my son and daughter-in-law's guest bedroom to a studio apartment a couple of miles away.

I babysat the grandchildren this morning. It is Mother’s Day and my son took his loving, adorable wife golfing. That’s important, spending time together as a couple, without the kids. Returning to the apartment, my dog (Harley) and I took a nap, and I did a batch of laundry. The pool—I walk by it on the way to the laundry—is turning from dense green to an inviting clear. New patio furniture appeared this past week on the terrace below the deck of the welcome center. I am looking forward to swim days with the grandkids at grandma’s cool pool house.

Despite this, I remain lonely.

Recently the social worker who leads the grief support group sent a link to an article on mourning. Following a couple of the links within the article I read something I hadn’t thought of before:  prolonged grief or sadness or depression may alter how the brain works. The pathways of thought potentially become ingrained, habitual. In the nearly two years since my husband died, is the time spent in extended grief-sadness-depression day-after-day changing the pathways in the brain from joy and a sense of belonging to sadness and a sense of hopelessness? Yes. This feels true—a “new normal” if you will.

I find that I do not wish to love again, that “brick walls” surround me and these walls are just high enough to keep distance between me and possible new friends. These walls are not the 30-foot-high stone walls with guillotine gates that I first discovered within myself after reading Allender’s Wounded Heart and beginning to explore the my own story, my strengths and weaknesses. Nor are my current walls the sturdy fences with gates which let things pass through like sunlight, moonlight, breezes, rain and humanity.

If today I were to describe grief as it relates to the loss of my lover, my husband, my friend, it is a hole within me that looks and feels frighteningly like a brown recluse spider bite, the skin continuing to die and pull away from the point the venom entered, forming  a crater in the flesh. Yes it can and often does heal, though healing takes a long, long time.

Meanwhile there is pain. Not every-moment-of-every-day pain, but unexpected and often unwelcome occurrences, as though someone has snuck up behind me and pushed me down a steep hill or a flight of stairs. Then, every so often, there is the decent into the abyss, when whatever pushes me and its timing, hurls me endlessly downward.

God meets me there, in the abyss. God is not surprised. 

God knows and rescues me.


 R

Friday, February 23, 2018

Lament

Silence. Lament. Rage. Hope.

Four paintings adorn the wall behind the dinner table. A woman weeps at the base of a birch tree. Her face is hidden. Her back is sheltered by the trunk of the tree.

The woman and the tree trunk do not move as my eyes drift from painting to painting and back again.

Silence. Lament. Rage. Hope.

Hope. Rage. Lament. Silence.

Behind and above the woman ...

     ... the canvas is painted white. Silence.

     ... the canvas is painted a gray and stormy sea. Lament.

     ... the canvas is painted a vibrant and angry red. Rage.

Behind and above the woman ...

     ... yellow and orange displace the vibrant and angry red. The tree has pushed forth leaves, rich and green. Hope.

I am drawn to Lament.

R

Photo credit: Image 64239214

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Cross

It surprised me -- the Cross.

I had approached the beautiful, sturdy, enticing chair from the side, with an air of self-absorption. I was seeking a peaceful place to calm my inner self, to meditate, think, pray and wrestle.

My decision to travel here to Victoria TX was impulsive.The training offered by Quantum Circles was secondary to the opportunity to engage the healing essence of human friendship, to see and hear my friend teach, to discover the passions of her heart, to reveal my struggles and let her healing words wash over me.

God surprised me. God was already here, in the chair, waiting for me like a trusted friend ready to share whatever was on my heart. On my friend's porch, God offered friendship, the Cross inviting me to leave my burdens here.

R