Five Minute Friday: Wait

Yesterday, I wondered why I had not received the Five Minute Friday email. Eventually, I tracked down the prompt (for another week). Well after I published my post, I remembered that the day was Thursday not Friday. It happens. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
yea, wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:13-14)

0 Lord_Ill_WaitI used to play Ouija board Bible. I’d randomly open the Bible hoping God would give me a message. Actually, I hoped for the specific messages I believed God ought to give me. Ultimately, I realized I was using the Bible as a spiritualist used a Ouija board, to try to peer into the future and be assured that the good things I wanted (to be reunited with my family) awaited me.

God may have read my script but He never followed it. Frequently, repeatedly, my Bible opened at Psalm 27. At times, I’d scream out, “But I have waited! I’ve waited all this time. When? When? When?” Eventually I just stopped using the Bible as a crystal ball. If God wanted me to wait, I’d wait. But I had grown to hate the word.

A few years later, when I told an acquaintance of my hatred of the word, she responded: “Wait is a great response. It means ‘yes’ but not at this moment. It means, You may have some cake after dinner. Or, You may go out and play when I’m finished and can go with you.”

More than ten years later, I’m still waiting to be reunited with my family. I know it probably won’t happen this side of heaven but I don’t mind waiting anymore. Because wait does mean, Yes. Wait asks me to trust that in the fullness of time, when God knows it’s best, I will experience a reunion that far exceeds the ones I used to imagine. For a long time, I’ve wanted to go home. God asks me to wait not because He delights in withholding from me or torturing me. He asks me to wait because He is preparing a glorious homecoming for me.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Share

At church on Sundays, I usually lower my voice an octave so that it blends in with the voices of al the other singing in the pews. I have a lovely voice, a trained voice, but I remember voices that screeched, boomed, or bellowed above every other voice in the congregation. I recall being embarrassed for those who possessed such uncontrollable voices. The jarring notes still resound through me.

Few who meet me would imagine how shy I am. But there are those who know me quite well who have never heard me sing in my normal range, never heard me speak French, don’t know that I really love math. Often it’s very hard for me to share myself, who I am, with others.

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Take heed what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”(Mark 4:21-25)

The Gospel I read today reminds me, again, that the gifts God has given me are not to be hidden away. That is my goal for 2015, to make sharing all that God has given me a habit. Even if my voice travels into the coloratura range — that’s the voice God has given me. Even if I make occasional errors in pronunciation — how else can I become genuinely fluent? Even if my nerdiness is revealed — I doubt I’ve done a great job hiding it anyway. It’s hot and stuffy under the bushel. Please Lord, teach me to share and shine.

As Winds That Blow Against A Star

Now by what whim of wanton chance
Do radiant eyes know sombre days?
And feet that shod in light should dance
Walk weary and laborious ways?

But rays from Heaven, white and whole,
May penetrate the gloom of earth;
And tears but nourish, in your soul,
The glory of celestial mirth.

The darts of toil and sorrow, sent
Against your peaceful beauty, are
As foolish and as impotent
As winds that blow against a star.

Joyce Kilmer

Suffering: The Questions I Fail To Ask

0 eager schoolgirl with hand raisedAs a child, when my teachers asked a question, my hand always shot up first and waved furiously in the air. Since I loved studying and was usually several weeks ahead with my homework, I really did know the answers. At times, teachers refused to call on me so that other students might have a chance. I even argued with the substitute who replaced our regular algebra teacher in the middle of the term. And I was right. She had an odd habit of giving us the problems that were already answered in the back of the book so I was able to prove my contentions. I was a truly annoying student.

Many people have asked me, ‘If God is so good and loving, why does He allow such awful things to happen to good people?’ How my hand itches to fly up into the air. How I want to cry out, “Ooh! Ooh! I know the answer!” An acquaintance once insisted that since I have suffered so much, if I couldn’t convince him that God is loving, no one could. Once upon a time, I loosed terrible tantrums at God because of the evil He allowed in my life. But those times seem to be past. I seem to have got it. So I ought to be able to write a clear, neat paragraph that explains why God allows suffering. I ought to be able to condense all I’ve learned into a few words.

But, after writing many pages and discarding them all, I realized I was stuck. I just couldn’t find the right words. Perhaps I’m finally learning that I don’t know everything. And too, some questions ought not receive neat, off-the-cuff responses. So I’ve sat on my hands these past few months (with an occasional, ‘Don’t You see I’m not writing, Lord?’ tossed out when I’m feeling particularly impatient) and waited. And longed to be that well-prepared, annoying student again. And waited some more. And finally realized I was bored waiting.

Since writing wasn’t working, I decided to work on improving my French conversation so that I might score higher on a proficiency exam. I’d like to become a certified translator. And I’d love to be as comfortable using French as English. After all, I spoke French before I encountered English and still read it. Since there are many free, online opportunities, I may as well avail myself of them.

And, for good measure, I decided to review Algebra II and Calculus to prepare to take a couple of Statistics courses. For me, university was like a world cruise. It whet my appetite and left me hungry for much, much more. There are so many subjects I want to study in greater depth. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other free online offerings make the internet a giant garden bursting with boundless opportunities to learn.

baby crawling & reaching 3Then, this morning, after praying the Angelus in English* my mouth suddenly curled into a happy smile as the image of a baby flooded my mind. He scooted himself forward, stopped, supported his upper body on one arm and hand and lifted his other hand to a toy that was just out of reach.

That’s how he learns to walk, I silently told my Friend.

His voice spoke within me: Why do you not ask, ‘How can parents be so cruel as to force a baby to learn to walk’? You can see how much work it requires.

I nodded. Another image filled my mind: A girl sat at a table learning to spell a list of words. A fresh, warm breeze through the open window stirred the curtains and beckoned her to come and play.

Again, He spoke: Why do you not ask, ‘How can her parents force her to learn’? Spelling is difficult for her, she’d rather be out in the sunshine.

Again, I nodded. A third image filled my mind: I was quickly donning my purple mohair coat as I instructed my assistant on the work they ought to begin after everyone ate dinner. The voice of another co-worker ordering food came to my ears; my stomach growled. I caught up my dance bag and hurried off to class.

I was 28, I mused to my Friend. And up each morning at six so I could get to my 7 a.m. dance class. Then skipped dinner every evening to go to another class and afterwards worked ’til 9 or 10.

His voice spoke again: Why did you not ask, ‘Why torture myself for three hours, six days a week’? Why did your co-workers think it an admirable thing to go to two classes?

I loved dancing. It was worth it, I replied definitively.

Then, I was aware of many souls reaching for heaven. It was hard work. They were each willing to suffer in order to make their goal. Life sent all sorts of suffering and hardship their way; they didn’t choose what they would suffer. But they did choose whether they would participate and reach heaven or rebel and miss out on the real purpose for their lives. And, like a baby forgets the discomfort of learning to walk, they each forgot their suffering once they were with God.

So now, I must remember not to answer but to ask questions I so often neglect: Why would reaching heaven be any different than learning to walk or spell or dance? Why should I expect that being transformed from animated earth into the fullness of Christ would be easy? Without pain? Without suffering? Why would the patterns of my life, or any life, suddenly reorganize themselves so that I can avoid the discomfort that will allow me to become what God created me to be? When He did not exempt Himself but rather, did it the hard way, why would God exempt me? If He did exempt me and I never became like Him, would that not be truly cruel? If God takes all the pieces of my life, all the brokenness, all my errors and failings, all the sins committed against me, all the sins I, myself, commit, and uses all of it — the good and the bad — to make me like Him, if He gives me the eyes to see it, why would I waste my energy fuming at Him because it’s not according to my script?

* At 6 p.m., I pray l’Angélus en Français.

Dear Grief

Dear Grief,

For long, you were withheld from me. I was prevented from welcoming you yet you hovered and impacted my life. Three times each year I became ill. By the the time I was 25, I had had strep 21 times, rheumatic fever, mononucleosis, countless bouts of bronchitis, conjunctivitis, tonsillitis, influenza, and a host of other infections. I wondered why I was so sickly. My therapist told me my body might be grieving. A close look at when illness came: before each Christmas, around the time of each birthday, and late May/early June, revealed that he was right. My illnesses came near the anniversaries of celebrations I had shared with my parents and at the time they sent me away to be safe. That was the time when absolute madness overwhelmed me and I was left a wounded and stunned, little foal fighting to survive. Once I understood what was happening, you and I, grief, began a new relationship and my health greatly improved.

At first, I didn’t want there to be reason to grieve. How passionately I begged my Friend to unmake the events that brought you to me. Had He done so, you would have been unnecessary or, at least, easier. But my Friend is a true friend and refused to exempt me from reality. So my family remains dead, my home lost, the abuses and assaults continued to be shredding, fracturing horrors. But then real horrors ought be acknowledged as such. So, reluctantly, I learned to accept you as a friend; you’re like warm water on frozen fingers.

griefGrief, you closed your hand about my heart and squeezed until memory, and rage, and excruciating pain gushed out. You laid bare the tiny pieces of my broken heart. You showed me my bleeding, desperate self. How I hated you and yet clung to you because truth had become more important than avoiding pain. And truth is what you gave me. Truth and tears. Once you pierced the tough rubbery membrane that had long prevented the well of pain in my heart from spilling over, more tears poured out than I ever imagined anyone could cry. And though there were many  brief respites, always, there were even more tears. I’ve spent a small fortune on tissues.

But amidst the torrents of tears, there were misty-eyed moments when the sun began to shine brighter, the edges of leaves became distinct and clear, and the sky revealed itself to be a colour of blue I had never before seen. Music became sweeter, more piercing. The beauty of life began to suffuse me, to hold me in tranquility, in peace, in joy. Even a genuine, from-my-toes smile began to light up my face and sparkle in my eyes. Where once I had hungered for death, I found myself discovering that life is rich, and sweet, and worth living. As a child, I dreamt of happiness. The real thing is infinitely better than any fancy my mind conceived.

Thank you, grief. I’ll never seek you out; you’re not that kind of friend. But when next you come my way, I don’t think I’ll fear you either. You’re like debrasion after a horrible burn. You slough away the charred flesh so that healing can begin. The pain is unimaginable but the alternative is a living death of distraction in an attempt to fend off you and the pain. Now I know, when you come, it is because the loss is too important to be ignored. You come to bring difficult healing, healing that requires us to experience deep wounds that will continue to be but that must not define us. And wonder of wonders, by welcoming you, grief, those deep wounds become a source of joy and new life.

Cross Cross Cross Cross Cross

 Kate Moatung is celebrating the launch of her new e-book, Letters to Grief. She has invited us to write a letter to grief and link up at her blog.

Five Minute Friday: Adore

Beloved,

adoration-of-the-shepherds-guido-reniI’m like the poor shepherds, sitting with the flocks, of little value. I know, nothing is mine. All comes from You.

It is so easy for me to stay sitting on the hillside, so easy to be stuck, so easy to distract myself with things that are important but not ultimate.

So You send angels who sing out: “Come see!”

Their beauty is overwhelming; I can’t resist.

And there You are: Glory constricted into an infant’s flesh, swaddled helplessness, placing Yourself in my hands though my hands cannot hold Infinity.

Your tiny finger grasps mine, holds me up. Forever will I adore You.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Dear

Beloved,

I didn’t realize, not until You showed me. It’s mind-boggling that You hold me so dear. I’ve focused so much on what I lost. But then I spent 10 days with people who were adult versions of the children I spent a good portion of my childhood avoiding.  You’ve given me a eyeful of what You preserved in me, what You saved me from, what You gave me.

You preserved my heart so that I know what cruelty is and hate it. You gave me distaste for the endless anger at a world that doesn’t do as I demand, doesn’t recognize my worth as I think it ought. You kept me innocent enough to be interested in everyone and everything around me. You held my desire to help in place until it became my default. And You made me hunger for healing. That’s where I invested my life because I knew being whole was a worthy goal. I knew I couldn’t do anything else well, no matter how smart and capable I am, unless first the gaping wounds were healed.

Thank You. And thank You for those who were welcoming and caring during those ten days. The contrast made the lesson that much clearer. And may I ask for one favour? Please convert the hearts of adults who believe that it is normal to be cruel, filled with anger, petty, and full of small, hatefulness. Please restore their innocence and joy and wonder. I know, they too are dear to You.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Still

A few days ago, I had to begin taking a low dose of medicine for fibromyalgia again. With physical therapy, exercise therapy, and changes to my diet, I had no longer needed the dreaded capsules that ease the pain in my muscles and the never ending fatigue but cause me to gain an keep on weight and, at high doses, are terribly sedating. While off the meds, I was so glad, hoped I was healed. Certainly, I  and others pray for my healing.

But over the past month, there’s been an increase of pain. Fatigue has crept in. The night came when I realized, I’ve been here before. My pressure points screamed when I touched them. My skin hurt. Sound had become grating noise.

It does strike me that I didn’t notice the changes. I never do but I’m always surprised. And there is no one in my life on a day-to-day basis who would notice that I was wincing and hugging myself and exercising less and not writing and just unable to get much done.

This is one of the reasons we need community. We need to be told when we’re not doing well: the eyes of family and friends often see what we ourselves do not. We need to be told when we are still not at the place we want to be. We need to be told when we are doing better than we thought, when we’re being selfish, that we are loved, that we are seen and valued and of worth. In our desire to be independent, we still need those who are involved in our life each day. We need to be involved in others’ lives. We still need to be two or three (or more) together in His Name in order to be fully human, in order to become like Christ.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung’s, at  Heading Home, provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Long Wait For Family

I have been alone for so long. Alone, but not alone. My Friend has always been with me. But there has long been a dearth of people. I have done without what most take for granted: a friendly face waiting while I undergo medical tests, a ride home after anesthesia, friends who discuss plans and offer guidance, family to share meals – simple things, things most never even think about. The weight of doing it on my own is heavy.

And now, an opportunity for family has been presented. It might work out. It might not. But the hope that the long, endless hunger for people who want to be involved in my life, who want me to be involved in theirs stymies me. Can I do it? Can I accept that there are people who love me that much though I don’t deserve it, have no claim on their love, could never even request it? Can I accept such a gift?

I don’t know. The possibility is heart breaking, in the best possible way. So we pray and converse and discern. God does set the solitary in families. Maybe after such a long wait for family, He has prepared me to accept one.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Five Minute Friday: Because

From Loved As If:

“I’ve had two abortions,” Rose declared. “And you know what I felt?”

“No,” Crissa replied gently.

“Nothing!” Rose shoulders hunched forward, her fists clenched.

Lines appeared across my forehead, “But oughtn’t you feel something?”

The room was silent save for the intent, regular breathing of five women. Rose’s shoulders and hands relaxed. After a moment she spoke, “I never thought about it that way.” Her head tilted to one side; she seemed to be reaching for something within herself.

A few weeks later, Crissa pulled me aside, “Please pray for Rose. We’ve been talking about her abortions. She’s considering a healing retreat.”

“I’ll pray,” I promised solemnly.

A few months later, Rose told us that her son’s girlfriend was pregnant. As we walked home together after Mass, I congratulated her.

“She doesn’t really want the baby but I told her I’d care for him,” Rose declared defiantly. The parish held a baby shower for the new mother, her baby, and for Rose. Rose cared for the baby until his parents for over a year.

This is the way Christian community works. We didn’t know each others’ back stories. We came together for Bible study, a meal, and community. Friendship grew as time passed; we became involved in each others’ lives. We came with open hands, hearts, minds, arms. Community opened us further.

Little-by-little, we revealed our wounds and triumphs and ordinary experiences. The hidden became public because attentive to Christ, we loved as He loves us without knowing what we did.

This is the only love that can heal our shredded souls. Natural love just isn’t enough. We need strong doses of extravagant, gratuitous, I-don’t-deserve-it, I-have-no-claim-on-it love. This is how God raises us to new life from suffering.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then publish the results. We don’t edit or engulf ourselves in concerns about whether our writing is worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Our new home is at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides a prompt on Thursday evening and we all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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