Category: Family

Quiet – Five Minute Friday

O GOD of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength; By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Pray For A Quiet MindNearly 18 years ago, I stopped looking for my family. I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to find a relative who wanted me in his or her life. My head ached from the stress of finding just one cousin, one aunt, one uncle, anyone. I heard His Voice ask, ‘Can you be happy without knowing any more?’ And I responded, ‘Yes.’ He is my very best Friend. He condescended to befriend me had remained with me and brought me through hell. I knew I could be happy as long as He is with me. And my head did ache so badly. So I worked to quiet myself and develop confidence. Over and over I prayed the collect for a quiet mind. Years later, occasional chatter appears in my heart but attention to my Friend quiets me.

Fast forward to yesterday when I was reading the biography of the new Bishop for the Personal Ordinariate in the USA of which I’ve been a parishioner for some times. I had heard his name pronounced “Lopes” as in “hopes” but for some reason, that didn’t seem right. He doesn’t seem Brazilian. Yesterday, I learned Bishop Lopes is half Portuguese. His name is pronounced, “Law-pez.” I read more eagerly only to discover a few sentences later that Bishop Lopes’ father had emigrated from Portugal to the “vibrant Portuguese community” in northern California. <Timer Rings>

All at once it struck me. Whenever I’ve been asked, “Why northern California?” I had no response, was left confused — it didn’t seem a reasonable choice. Perhaps my parents had spun a globe and randomly chosen a haven for me. But in one paragraph, their choice suddenly made sense. They sent me to my mother’s people. They may not have known me and when my parents were killed, I wasn’t raised by them. In fact, I didn’t know there was a Portuguese community all around me, our paths didn’t cross. And I’ll probably not know this side of heaven, if they had emergency plans to have me cared for by someone in that community, plans that were thwarted. But I do know that my parents chose a place where there were people like me. I know their choice was an act of love and care.

That knowledge brings a new quiet and a new happiness to my heart. My dearest, dearest Friend has provided me an opportunity to know my parents and myself a bit better. How fortunate I am that when I was lost, He never let me go.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/source/overcomeroutreach.com

Happy Again – Five Photos, Five Stories – 5

feast 2“Three pirouettes!” I cried out. “Three pirouettes! For the first time, God!” I took a series of quick steps and executed a grande jeté. My hand reached for the barre. A huge smile lit my face; my eyes sparkled. I took a deep breath, “That’s what it needed, three pirouettes!”

“Can you be happy without knowing everything?”

Time stopped. A rich, white noise masked the strong, driving beat of 38 Special’s “If I’d Been The One.” The question hung in the air. I blinked away the tears that suddenly pricked my eyes.

“Can you be happy without knowing everything?” The Voice spoke again.

“Y-yes,” I found myself responding. Tears surged past my attempts to blink them away. The mirrors reflected my crinkled forehead, of eyes sparkling with tears. I did not ask, Why are You asking me? What does it mean?

For much of my life, I have kept in check a very young part of myself who longs to squat keening in the marketplace, “Look at what they did to me! Look! Look!” as I toss dirt and ashes on my head. Her deepest desire is that my losses, my wounds, my pain be acknowledged. Beyond that, she doesn’t know what she wants. Some losses are so great, it’s impossible to imagine any recovery.

So when my dearest Friend asked if I could be happy without knowing everything, I could say, ‘Yes.’ Hadn’t I just turned three pirouettes when I’d never imagined myself turning more than two? Didn’t that make me happy? Didn’t singing, swimming make me happy? Hadn’t designing a pencil skirt that fit a narrow waist and wider hips made me happy? I didn’t know that I didn’t know what happiness was. I was willing to go along for the adventure.

But the keening child in me knows happiness. She remembers everything. She holds within her the absolutely delicious experience of belonging to specific people, of being loved by specific people, of being at home with them because they are hers and she is theirs. And through the adventure, she has often noted that this is all very nice but…

It’s grand that these people are accepting my invitation to dinner but they’re not my family. What a lovely time I had with my girlfriends but I don’t really belong to them. How grand that they threw me a surprise birthday party but they don’t really know me and so can’t really love about me. Then I unexpectedly found myself waiting five months for my insurance company to begin paying on my disability claim, wasn’t allowed access to my profit sharing account, and had already spent all my savings on being ill. Friends (and even strangers) swooped in and provided the funds I needed to pay my bills. At the same time, they continued to be my friends. The young, keening child in me was flabbergasted and dazzled. But she insisted there was at least one person my friends could never replace. She knows the place in my heart I never go, the place to which I never invite anyone.

I have no auditory memory of Marmar’s voice, no auditory memory of Portuguese. I do recall the sound of German, French, Italian, Spanish, and several other languages. Though I read Portuguese quite well, each time I hear it as it’s the first time. Each time I want to wail. Perhaps it is mercy that hinders my memory. Her loss is beyond telling, a pain I will carry to the grave. Perhaps my Friend has granted me the grace to forget because memory would bring more pain than joy.

“‘Helen was happy here,’ said Phronsie decidedly. ‘And she never–never would want to leave her mother alone, to go off to a nicer place. Never, Polly.’

“Polly drew a long breath, and shut her lips. ‘But, Phronsie, don’t you see,’ she cried presently, ‘it may be that Mrs. Fargo wouldn’t ever want to go to Heaven unless Helen was there to meet her? It may be, Phronsie; and that would be very dreadful, you know. And God loved Mrs. Fargo so that he took Helen, and he is going to keep her happy every single minute while she is waiting and getting ready for her mother.’”*

Fallen Sparrow learned to drive recently and set off on an adventurous motoring trip from Maryland to his home state of Minnesota. Some planned meet ups didn’t work out. I was concerned that he might be disappointed. When I gingerly inquired, he told me he wanted to let one of those he missed know, “I will always fail you and disappoint you, but Jesus never does.”* We cannot escape entropy. Life fails and disappoints but Jesus never does. Christ holds us together, holds all that we are. And just as He held my innocence until I could receive it again, He holds Marmar. And perhaps I long for heaven more than I would have had I never lost her. Though her voice remains just beyond my memory, the sight of her fills my heart. I see us in heaven some day. We will dance before God, her extremely long, dark hair flowing freely and my (not quite so) long, dark hair bouncing in the breeze.

In the meantime, I am happy again. The young child within me longs to keen on occasion but I know, friends love me; I belong to people who belong to me. There are feasts on earth even though there is also famine. While earth was never meant to be heaven neither is it hell. I can be happy and long at the same time. We’re not an either/or people; life is not a zero sum game. Christians are both/and people. Even as we wait, we know we are “heirs in hope of eternal life.” And “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

*Margaret Sydney, Five Little Peppers Grown Up: http://www.readprint.com/work-5664/Five-Little-Peppers-Grown-Up-Margaret-Sidney/contents

Image: An earthly feast – Grilled chicken breasts with a balsamic and garlic glaze; Baconated kumatoes with fresh basil, garlic, and spicy pepper oregano; Old Bay Shrimp (with butter for dipping).

Blue – Five Minute Friday

blue ridge mountainsThe blue sky against the deeper blue mountain as the sun rose on the second morning of the drive signaled the end of the low-level dis-ease that had haunted me for nearly five years. Those wide open spaces of Houston, so beloved by so many, had been a never-ending, current that shocked me each time I went out. New York City, though chock-full of tall buildings, only required me to avoid looking up. There was no hiding from the wide open spaces of Houston. They went on forever and ever and ever with no amen, no selah, and, except for a few neighbourhoods where I rarely had reason to go, not even the slightest diminuendo. Those endless distances wore me down, heightened my agoraphobia, intensified my sense of isolation, kept me inside far more than was healthy.

But now, the painful current had stopped. I felt my shoulders relax, realized how tense they had been, how painful the uneasiness had become; I could not begin to feel it until it was gone.

Today, I sit on Bridgett’s mid-century modern sofa in her living room that is smaller than my bedroom in Houston and gaze at the dark blue, glass pitcher that lives atop her kitchen cupboard. Another friend from Houston texts to ask me if I am settling in.

“Still settling,” I reply. “But it’s very good to be here. Last night, I slept well for the first time; feeling more and more at home.”

Suddenly tears have pooled in the corners of my eyes. They threaten to spill over. Those words, “at home,” dissolve some barrier in my heart. I’ve needed to be at home for so long, since Marmar and Papa died, since before I was five. How have I lived all this time without home? Only now can I begin to hear the message the blue pitcher tells me: ‘Your hunger, starvation, dis-ease has always been valid. You always knew it, you needed home.’

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

U is for Unclench My Fist, Beloved

Raccoon TrapSee, it’s this way, Beloved. I can’t do it. I try. I really do. But I’m like a raccoon that has stuck it’s paw in a trap to grab some shiny thing. The shiny thing is in my fist but now I can’t pull my hand out of the trap. The more I pull, the more I hurt myself. If I unclench my fist, I could pull my hand out. But I’m stupid. Really, really stupid. My hand just won’t release that shiny thing. It’s not even real gold! It doesn’t have the weight, the heft; I think it’s melting or oozing in my sweaty palm. Still, I hang onto it for dear life.

You’ll have to do it. You’ll have to pry open each finger and unclench my hand. You’ll probably need to pull my hand out too; I’m sure to grasp that shiny thing again.

I wish I was strong and capable, but I’m not. Insisting that I must have at least one relative who wants to know me is like banging my head against a brick wall. My head is one endless ache. But I don’t stop. I don’t know how to stop. If there’s a rock, I flip it and look underneath only to be disappointed. Let’s face it, I’m a stupid raccoon. But You’re not. You knew how to work forgiveness in me. You used my curiosity to get me to pray for the soldiers. Then the rest just came naturally. You know how to unclench my hand. You know how to make me release the shiny thing that, at first, seemed so wonderful but brings only pain.
Please do. Please unclench my hand. Please help me to reach for things that don’t hurt me.

K is for Kern

His plane is landing soon. I rush to the airport; I must see him. When I arrive the gate has been changed. I run to the new gate. Now, the terminal has also been changed. I run through the airport to the new terminal. Each time I arrive, there is a change. I’ll never find him, I mutely tell my Friend as I continue running. Finally, I see him: salt and pepper hair, heavy on the salt, tall, tanned, ice blue eyes. He is dressed in a tan safari jacket and khaki cargo pants; he’s been traveling a lot.

I approach him, reach out a hand, and touch his arm, “Are you…?” He turns. My heart leaps. He pulls me into a strong hug that lasts and lasts and is still too brief. We sit in the waiting area and talk. “I have been looking for you for a long time,” he tells me. “Where have you been,” I want to know. He is about to answer. A voice announces his connecting flight, “I must go.” “But… at least tell me my name!” tears steam down my face. A huge hole has opened in my heart. He taps his index finger against the center of my chest as he slowly pronounces each word, “You are Kern.” The morning sun awakens me: “Kern?” I ask my Friend. “Is my name Kern?” I sat up and looked at the old chair with its faded slipcover. “Who was he?”

“My dream…” my vice trailed off into soft breathiness. I cleared my throat and began again, “I told you about the dream of meeting my father at the airport, and him telling me, ‘You are Kern.'” I swallowed and took in a sighing breath. “I’d asked Professor Cumberlan to help me look into names. She didn’t think Kern was viable but she helped me anyway. I’ve completed the research and she checked my findings. Kern isn’t my family name. I’m beginning the research Professor Cumberlan advised me to do before I suggested Kern.”

I sighed. A tear threatened to fall from the corner of my left eye. I quickly brushed it away. “If Kern isn’t my name…” More tears welled up and spilled over than I could hold back. I sniffed, “If Kern is not my name,” I began again in a small, breathy voice that then descended to a whisper, “what did the dream mean?”

“Do you know what kern means?” my therapist asked.

Wiping away tears with a shredded tissue, I nodded slightly and answered in a small voice, “It’s German. It means heart.”

“Yes. It’s the center, the kernel or seed, the heart of something.” He stopped speaking for a moment until I looked up into his eyes. Then, “I think your dream is telling you that you were the heart, the center of your family.”

“But how can that be,” my lower lip curled; I tried to sniff and blink away the tears. I failed. My voice was a shrill whisper, “How can that be when they sent me away?”

Dr. Vogwall spoke softly and precisely, “I think they sent you away because you were the heart.”

I bowed my head and looked at my hands resting on the chambray blue skirt of my dress. Sniff. Sniff. The tears left stinging salt tracks on my cheeks.

He spoke again with the same soft, preciseness, “They loved you so much, you were so important to them…” My lower lip curled of its own accord. My shoulders began to tremble. “They wanted you to be safe. And they did the best they could do to make certain you were safe.” I took in a moist, snuffly breath. My eyes would not look up at him. “It’s what I would do if my children were threatened. And I’d do it because they are my heart.”

A choking sound forced it’s way from my throat, “Unh. Unh. Unh. Unh.” I blotted the river of tears with a handful of shredded tissues. After a time, my shoulders stilled, my head lifted. Dr. Vogwall’s impassive eyes gazed into mine. I took in several moist breaths and sniffed twice. “It’s what I’d do too-oo,” the words were a moist wail; they shocked me as I spoke them. “It’s just so hard,” I pleaded.

“I know,” he replied. “There was no easy answer. Maybe not even a right answer. Except you are alive. You’ve been hurt but you are alive.”

My head nodded as my mouth twisted with pain. Tears coursed down my cheeks. Dr. Vogwall placed the box of tissues in my lap and waited.

Five Minute Friday: Real

Beloved,

I will not leave you as orphans 1You’ve not returned me to my family but, in returning me to the Church, You’ve led me to family. There are others who know they are reaching for the same salvation as I, others who walk the same road as I. Some are acquaintances. Some are distant. But Bridgett and Robert are just two of those who love me as their sister. That’s mind-boggling. I still don’t understand how anyone who isn’t related to me, who isn’t my real family, would choose to make me part of his family. It’s the exact opposite of what I experienced with the minister. Though he lay claim to me, tried to control me, I was never a real part of his family. I was always an outsider and that’s what I’ve always expected. But Bridgett not only contacted me to offer me a plane ticket so I could attend Helena’s wedding, she and Robert paid my expenses while I visited. I didn’t think I’d be able to go but Bridgett wanted me there and made it happen. I’m still overwhelmed by the love and friendship she showers upon me.

On my nightstand, sits a card Robert recently sent me. He admires my faith, admires that I freely share it. He’s been my friend, my brother for more than ten years now. I never fantasized about a brother. I was either an only child, alone, or Aschenputtel, at the whim of the wicked strangers who delighted to torment me. But You didn’t follow my imaginary script. You did not leave me an orphan. I just didn’t know all the ways You “set the solitary in families.” (1) But You’re not limited by my lack of knowledge. You’ve given me what I never expected. Your love far exceeds my imagination.

(1) Psalm 68:6, AKJV

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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.

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