Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mercy 1

More than a year has passed since I posted to any of my blogs and 95% of my personal writing this past year took the form of grocery and to-do lists, the other 5% was comprised of items too intimate for public consumption and an ongoing list of essay ideas.  Somehow, as much as I think I want to write, I keep pushing other things ahead of writing.

I love to write.  Time often passes at warp speed when I write.  But the more time I let lapse between writing, the harder it is to construct a sentence, let alone an essay.  So, to encourage my brain to begin again, I am posting a journal entry/essay from 6-7 years ago, which I recently found when I cleaned out some files.  It was one of my early attempts to sort thru and pull clear at least one string from the tangled mess within me.


Is God really with us?...  Is God really good?...  Is God?

These are questions which for most of my fifty years I would have answered with a hearty, "Yes, Oh yes, OH YES!  God is!  God is good!  God is with us!"  And as I said or sang those replies, my mind would have filled with remembered pictures of tender caring and provision in times of need and spilled over into an enthusiastic telling.

These questions are also the source of the themes that have been heavy on my mind for much of this past year of change and joy and lament, weaving themselves into my daily musings, angry questions, journal entries and prayers, into the very fabric of who I am becoming.

Both David's father and mine died within the past 15 months, each after lengthy physical declines over several years.  As I watched both our mothers handle the growing burden of giving care and nurture with great love and grace, it seemed to me at times, that their greater suffering came from increasing isolation, as they had to let go of their usual activities and fellowship with family and friends, at the same time that their mates of so many years withdrew into that silent place within.  

Between the deaths of our fathers, David and I visited our son, Kyle, and his wife, Michelle, in Kolkata,India.  She was six and a half months pregnant with their first child, and they had decided to return to the U.S. to raise their family.  David and I, along with Michelle's parents, followed Kyle and Michelle around during their last days in India, walking the streets, surrounded always by outstretched arms, beseeching eyes and murmuring voices asking for rupees.  Kyle and Michelle deeply wanted us to understand the heartbreak and frustration they had experienced trying to walk with God and their Word Made Flesh community in that city so crammed with life and death.

David and I are still reeling from the impact, upset and humbled by our "Ugly American" responses to much of what we saw and experienced; unable to fit Calcutta into the world view we carried there.  My friends had expected me to come home and begin sharing with them what we had experienced in ways that would broaden their world and encourage them in their choices to love and serve beyond their fences.  I had expected to do that also because I had been listening to and sharing Kyle's stories and concerns and wrestling with his lifestyle changes for several years.

But instead, I became mute.  I was angry that our few photographs from Calcutta looked so colorful and bright, angry that they hid the incredible air pollution and dirt and death.  I was unable to articulate either in speech or writing in coherent words the huge questions that wrestled for prominence in my mind.

So over the spring and summer and fall, as we moved Kyle and Michelle and then joy itself , baby Isaac, into and out of our home, as David and I bowed under the stress of one of our most challenging years yet in our business, as I drove the interstate back and forth to be with my mother and father, the unanswered questions raised by Calcutta mixed and joined with the grief that continues to slip into our days on cat's feet.

Our year and our hearts became characterized by lament.  We withdrew - physically and emotionally from others.  We asked angry questions about the Church and our choices and the God we thought we had known.  We despaired of our decades of giving to and serving others making a difference in any measurable way. We drew our family into a tight circle and we sighed together.  And in the midst of all the lament, we cried out for mercy.

Kyrie eleison.  Lord, have mercy.
One of the earliest prayers of the Christian church has become my daily bread.

There ends my unfinished essay from 6-7 years ago.

But I did not tell of the prophet Jeremiah's recitation of mercy which David and I spoke in bed together just before sleep and soon after waking, almost daily, for a season, which I cannot, with certainty, place chronologically.

Because of the LORD"s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

Daily struggles and sorrow I had not imagined were beginning to carve grooves in our family and I would need that mercy cry even more, though I could not speak the words.

My own experience of troubles and sorrow pales like an ivory spot on white paper in comparison to the suffering of multitudes of people around the globe.   These seven years later I am still learning to live the mercy prayer: to sleep, hoping for mercy, and to wake,  looking for compassion with the morning light, and to hold "Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy" on my tongue and in my hands.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I love boys! 

Last weekend when we were working on the house, I heard Michelle's startled "OH, NO....boys, come back here! " holler when she discovered the boys using the 6 ft fence's top cross board to move along the back neighbor's top fence like squirrels.   I was up in the snorkel lift with David at the time, placing shingle panels on the gable, and I can tell you, they were close to the far end of the neighbor's garage along the neighbor's side fence when Michelle spotted them.  hehehe.  By the time she was able to get the camera ready to shoot they had made it back to their own back fence.

And just in case you missed the triumphant display of boyhood...

I remember a college professor sharing a "kids story" with our class to illustrate parental discernment and wisdom in reserving spankings for clear acts of direct parental disobedience, NOT for youthful exuberance or exploration.  His elementary son and daughter had been nowhere to be seen in house or yard for awhile, and when they arrived home a little later, they were all dirt and smiles, relating to mom and dad excited stories of exploring underground "tunnels" in the neighborhood.     

And I am pretty certain, from all the excitement, adrenalin-loving moments, this young'un has already displayed (see 5th photo down on this link), I'm certain he will have his own as well as shared exploits.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Triathlon Tale

Isaac participated in his second triathlon for kids this past weekend.  You'll find photos and story here.

The waves of racers start with the oldest kids (13-15 year olds) and finishes with the 5-6 year old group.  Who can watch small riders pedaling out onto the bike course with training wheels and not smile?

After 5 or 6 of the training wheel riders had passed me, I turned back to see 2 more boys with training wheels, separated by at least 40 feet and going almost exactly the same speed.  The second boy remembered the "bike passing etiquette" instructions they'd all been given at the start of the race and called out loudly "PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!"

What good manners...what self-confidence...what total mis-judgement of one's relative speed!

He tried so hard to overtake the rider ahead of him that he took the turn too fast for his training wheels and balance and he lost it.....but quickly hopped back on and headed out.  I would love to have heard his version of the story to his parents after the race. :-)

Good times for spectators at Seminole's Tri If You Dare triathlon for kids.  A few parents get a little INTENSE in their coaching, but mostly it's kids looking like they're enjoying the challenge and the fun of competition.

   Check out The Fitness Torch for a classic runner's duel photo from this race.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Connecting the Dots From Guilt to Freedom

Amber's Articles

I've had lots of conversations with various people, over the years, about the life-changing dynamic of forgiveness, but two, in particular, have been on my mind in recent days.

About thirty years ago David and I shared a dinner table with a couple who were strangers to us in a darkened theatre for a community musical production.  The older man across the table found a statement I'd just made about being forgiven for my crimes against God hard to believe:  "Surely you don't expect me to believe that you have sinned? - a sweet, young woman like yourself can't have done anything bad enough yet to qualify as sin."  I insisted that indeed I had, and named a few of my actions which I considered to be transgressions.  He remained unconvinced that I had committed anything so seriously wrong to qualify as sin, and I was surprised that he reserved the label of "sinner" for people who committed murder and other "serious offenses". . .  Clearly, we had different definitions of sin and guilt.

Flash forward three decades to a conversation with a friend who was preparing to divorce her husband.   I asked her a question to gauge her awareness of her own possible contributions to the destruction of their union.  She was in her forties, and I figured she was plenty old enough and had been married long enough to have realized how some of her own actions, attitudes, and inadequacies - not just her husband's transgressions - might have also pushed the two of them to move from lovers to adversaries.  She seemed shocked that I would ask such a question, replied "I haven't done anything", proceeded to recount "the short list" of her virtues stacked alongside her husband's offenses, then repeated her declaration of personal innocence.

I was stunned into silence.  I, too, could have recited a short list of my husband's faults and offenses against me (from my perspective:-), but I could also list plenty of my own faults and offenses against him in our relationship.  I'd had opportunity to look and truly see times and ways when I had failed to love and treat my husband the same way God (and even my husband:-) had loved and treated me.  I cast about in my memory bank, trying to remember when the recognition of my own faults and offenses within our marriage first began to rival the inner list of offenses I charged to David.

I knew I'd been a VERY slow learner in acknowledging my own contributions to our conflicts, but surely by age forty I'd been able to own some blame for our conflicts - hadn't I?  Well, to be honest.....careful scrutiny of my memory bank made me admit and grieve that I had wasted DECADES looking at my actions and and attitudes in our marriage through lenses of self-interest, self-protection and self-righteousness.  I had (and alas, still have) an incredibly strong knee-jerk reaction to criticism or correction instead of listening, with an open, teachable heart to the person who is criticizing  or correcting me.   I'm working on it, I've made some improvement, but still, I have a long way to go.

That conversation with my friend reminded me what a gift it is to be able to see my failures and inadequacies in loving my husband - or any other another person in my life - from their perspective, and what a gift it is to be able to own guilt in wrong-doing.   Because having both a clear awareness of my own transgressions and also clear memories of having been forgiven myself, help move me to WANT to forgive my husband's (or another person's) transgressions against me.  In fact, the connection between receiving forgiveness myself and offering it to another has been so strong in my own life that I wonder if a person is able to give true, full forgiveness  to another person and experience the resulting freedom WITHOUT the awareness of having been forgiven transgressions oneself.

Amber has posted a great article about how to apply this dynamic of forgiveness in your own life.  Find it here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Slowing Time

Even though I'd heard this since I was a child, I still marvel how much faster time seems to slip by at 55 years old, than when I was a child.  But it does seem that one good way of slowing it down is to "look for the joy" in each day, finding, noting, and deliberately holding in our minds and on our tongues and fingertips gifts from every day's moments for which to thank God.  I give thanks for:

221.  wonderful weather, perfect for painting the house,

222.  two weekends in a row,

223.  allowing us to finish painting the 2nd story trim, soffit and exterior walls moments before the sun went down Sunday night,

224.  on the last day we would have the free scaffolding

225.  bucket truck to help us reach trim higher than scaffolding

226.  bonus time with Amber and Bennett, who stayed with us while Sam was away

227.  quiet walk together and playground exploration

228.  the total surprise of heart-pounding adrenalin fear coursing through veins when I try to pull myself onto second level of scaffold without side or cross bars, setting up challenge for both weekends (I LOVED climbing trees as a kid)

229.  several more attempts to let rational thought conquer adrenalin history of unsteady balance and swaying head...adrenalin wins again and I am reminded that cilia stiffens and fluid thickens as inner ear ages

230.  bucket truck to lift me and husband to talk me through transferring my weight to the rattling "OSHA approved" cotter clipped crossbar of the second level scaffold section with handrails  (this picture blurred by bounce of bucket, but perhaps an accurate portrayal of my pounding heart?)

231.  deep breathing and eyes focused on roofline and soffit to slow my heart pump and steady my feet on planks to paint

232.  second weekend confidence gained through pulling myself up and down numerous times, body and balance adjusting to walks along double and single planks with paint pan and roller in hand

233.  daughter-in-law who refused to let her fear limit where she could work and by the end of the second weekend was readily walking on the roof and across single planks without handrails or building to hold for balance security

234.  smiles and waves from high in the bucket truck with Grandpa

235.  noisy joy of 4 cousins together, the 3 older all vying for the youngest's attention

236.  energy enough in tired body to play backyard games of lion-hunt

237.  boys learning to climb trees

238.  young boy's giggles, learning to skip

239.  osprey hovering, its forward progress halted by strong wind over lake

240.  for "almost 6" boy dashing inside, bean sprout in hand, excitement over the first growth popping through the dirt, almost more than his body can contain "Look, Grandma, the bean seed is GROWING!"

241.  osprey flying to young ones in high nest on pole, carrying mouse or mole in its talons

242.  pitter-patter plop of hard oak leaves dropping to ground in back yard

242.  3 standing and gazing at bright, bright moon

244.  apogee moon, closest full moon distance in 18 years

245.  heading to the beach for the next evening's "big show"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Painting Crew

These past few few (exhausting) weekends have been filled with painting the exterior of the new family house, and I thought you might enjoy some of the photos as much as me.

After a few hours of real house painting, painting while standing on level ground was simply too tame for Isaac and "I do everything Isaac does" Eli.  So discarded forms were put to use as ladders.

Grandpa David taught the kids how to balance their paint tray on the 5 gallon bucket.  But I'm guessing he didn't anticipate they'd do it while squatting on a ladder.

Before she started painting each day, Michelle would pack coolers and snack bags AND assemble dinner in the crock pot which she carried to the job site for supper.

Seriously, can a painter get much cuter than this?

The kids really enjoyed painting.  I love their concentration...especially the tongue.  (Click to enlarge)

Kyle and Michelle have done wonderfully at involving each of the kids in the WORK of the house building so they can have the satisfaction of helping to build it, and hopefully ownership in helping to take care of it as well.

Grandpa David found out just how little individual work the adult who is "supervising" the kids gets done, what with filling paint trays and smoothing out blotches and runs for the half-pint helpers.


Dried on dirt from previous rains had to be brushed off before painting the stucco.  If only I approached ALL my work with this much joy and anticipation.

Isaac was so happy to be painting, that most of the weekend he was humming while he worked.

We are proud to be WORKERS!

I have always admired how HARD David pushes himself, but after painting 2 full days in a row of contorting my neck and shoulders to paint the trim under the soffit from the ladder, I have even more respect - He had done it even longer the weekend before.  I bought those big butt pants several years ago and have been saving them all this time just to paint in :-)

David keeps the rest of us adults in the family laughing at his attempts to communicate with Prema, but he worked with her for hours both days that particular weekend, and when he told her (through an interpreter :-) that she had done a good job painting that day, she just BEAMED.

I took all the painting photos on the weekend that Kyle was installing electrical on the inside, so this is the best I can do.  He's worked many nights after work in addition to the weekends for months and months, and will have plenty more ahead before it is finished, but I'm pretty sure he will say it was worth all the planning, stress and hard work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gratitude Dancing

Thanksgivings have filled my heart but not my blogs in recent days so I return to the happy discipline of public posting of gratitude for ...

171.  rhythm of rain remains, dripping from spout, metronome ticking

172.  quiet room in quiet house for connection with mate

173.  hand-drawn placard from 5 year old hands, cheering his team in Super Bowl contest

174.  those eyes all asparkle with pride and delight at the letters and logo which he has penned

175.  memories re-visited of his father as child, pencil in hand, focus intent, making his own baseball cards

176.  simple pleasure of fixing fun foods for relaxed evening of family together

177.   daughter-in-law's furrowed brow and strong will to TACKLE, LEARN, CONQUER  certain "adult duty"

178.  her husband's shake of knowing head and laughing eyes

179.  as both her husband and mine offer specific help with the task

180.  gym and elliptical and substantial weights to push this body, heavy with so much recent rest & reflection

181.  for the sweaty satisfaaction of pushing myself through to complete the duration of cardio

182.  and the remembrance of past gym challenges, dreads and conquerings

183.  and the confidence it gives me now that "I CAN DO THIS"

184.  for BOISTEROUS boys bursting through door ready to PLAY!

185.  that grand-daughter can see, though she can't hear

186.  and whose heart and brain has healed enough

187.  to sit quietly and turn slowly through pages of magazine, looking, truly looking at each page, not blindly flipping through pages in big clumps just to get to end and grab the next book

188.  for ping-pong table alive with a three generation game

189.  and paddles given names by boisterous boys to commemorate their past performances in games

190.  chalkboard that becomes a "tally board" beneath small fingers with fat chalk penning large numbers

191.  for son and daughter-in-law who continue to share joy by their willingness to endure looong protests from tot in infant seat during their drives across the bay to our weekly meal together

192.  for grandson who emerges from car with deliberate ten-month-old wave of greeting and loud, practiced "Hi!" that shakes the laughter from brim-full cups of delight

193.  for tired body and joy filled heart after day of cleaning and cooking for this hungry appreciative crew of children and grands

194.  for daughters-in-law - different in so many ways - who are building their connection with deliberate attention, appreciation and respect

195.  and are growing in enjoyment of their husbands' verbal courting :-)

I am thankful:

196.  for weeks of days steady with trying and continual returning to my lists of "must-do's"

 197.  for  calm acceptance (finally!) of certain odius tasks outside my desires and skill set

 198.   for freedom to be flexible and peace to push tasks aside to make room in "my day" for others' needs, and concerns

199.  for the hard-won calm of heart that can finally focus (some days:-) on what has been accompished and given and not just what remains to be done

200.  for long training to learn to accept my inadequacies as gift, as ever-present proof of creature-li-ness and invitation to delight in others' gifts and accomplishments

201.  for training to see my performance mistakes and inadequacies as chances to give the gift of "MODELING IMPERFECTION" with humility, laughter and grace to those around me who push themselves so hard.

202.  for the end of a decade-long responsibility which I have at various times resented and stressed over, accepted and stressed over, "seen the good side of" and stressed over, loathed and stressed over, and, finally, turned over to others :-)!!!