Monday, November 28, 2011

Raven Street Notes no. 8

My blog is ugly and outdated. 
To the right, my blog lists “current faves.”  These are over a year old.  I don’t have time for web design.
I know, JBeyer, you have offered to do this for me.  I’ve been too lazy to take you up on the offer.  Yet, I wince with shame at the ugliness.
Also, my printer is slowly printing coupons from the web site. One sheet at a time, every 20 seconds. 
The saying comes to mind, right at this minute, in regard to productivity (mine and the printer’s): Off we go now like a herd of turtles.

Want to know something?  I thought of something really deep and meaningful that I wanted to say last week, for a minute. And then I forgot it. But take my word for it: it was deep. And meaningful.

I think I forgot that very deep, meaningful thought because I have been so busy, like you all have been.  I’ve been packing and traveling for a family of five.  Been doing lots of church work. And laundry. Lunch packing. Reading. Studying. Praying. Fretting. Mopping Floors. Cleaning Bathrooms. Grocery Shopping. Clipping Coupons. Baking Pies. Gingerbread-house Building. Cooking Dinner. Reading Aloud. Watching Alias. 
Yes, watching lots and lots of Alias because I have to finish all five seasons now that I’ve started re-watching the series from the beginning. It’s almost a curse, I tell you, because I can’t don’t want to stop until Sydney and Vaughn can live happily ever after with their two children, Jack and Isabelle, on a sandy beach in what appears to be SoCal.

I tell myself that watching this series is about more than soul-soothing entertainment.  No, I dream to myself, metaphors abound in Alias, the profundities of which I am still in the process of ferretting out. But WILL.

I WILL, mind you.

And if I don’t, I’ll just like it and like it forever and ever, like how some ladies still like (and wear) that same big frosted hairdo they loved in the 80s.

We can’t help what we love.
But then, I think, sometimes I have to help myself to love--or do the loving thing. Like getting up at 5 a.m. or dark-thirty to soothe a crying Tiny. Or making those lunches. Signing those school papers. Washing someone’s favorite shirt when I’d be happy never laying eyes on a washing machine again in my life. Practicing patience. Practicing hope.  Helping the children practice patience and hope.  Refereeing conflict. Instituting discipline (because I love them, I say).  

Maybe it’s all the “helping ourselves” to love--every choice in a series of choices that conveys the message I love [you]--is what leads to things like ugly web pages and outdated reading lists and having to print out stupid coupons from Target at 9:30 at night when I’d much rather be wait for it watching Alias.

Then there are the other things love makes us compels us to do. For instance, I’m going on a trip. At least I think so.  A trip to Africa all because of a bad case of love.
See, once, a long time ago, I heard a woman talk about her love for Jesus. She talked about the Jesus I already knew in such a way that made me wonder if I really knew him. She talked about knowing him where she lived in Pemba, Mozambique, and how one day she hoped to and believed she would  I know, this sounds crazy dance on the waters of the Indian Ocean with him. She meant it in the most biblical way, alluding to Peter, his walk of faith in the middle of the storm, Jesus just yards away, eyes on him and so nothing else mattered. When she said this, I knew I wanted to know a Jesus whose eyes on me could make all my fears stop mattering, stop overpowering my puny body and soul.

I wanted to know that Jesus like nothing else.
This woman was not flaky, although you might wonder. No, she spoke of gritty realities and of living in a place where she and a team of others cared for the needs of widows and orphans—the children of Mozambique who came daily to their missions base for food, physical contact, love, prayer.  Pemba was a place, she said and so have others, where for so many God was the only hope, the only solace, the only excitement, the only entertainment, the only joy.  And strangely, ironically, perfectly--because of the raw need for him in a place so bereft of other comforts—the woman said that in this place she saw God. Well, not in the flesh, exactly. But she saw his handiwork in the ears of deaf villagers who suddenly could hear, in the sight of mothers who’d never seen their own children.  She knew God in the exuberance of miraculous provision of food for the children who came for their daily bread.  And when she spoke of this kind of God, this God I claimed to love, I knew I really did not know him in the same way, yet I wanted to so very badly, so achingly badly—a far worse ache than my need for Sydney and Vaughn to arrive at just closure to their narrative.  This was far more serious than my need love for Alias.

And so events have scrambled to this moment, now:  It seems I’m going this summer to serve alongside an organization that serves the people of Mozambique, near the boundaries of the Indian Ocean.  I am going, God-willing—and by that I mean that (I think) God is willing but I’ll know for sure once I miraculously have in my possession the eight thousand dollars required for me and Oldest to go.  And yes, Oldest is going (we think).  She hates the idea of immunization shots, of long plane rides.  In fact, these factors reduce her to tears at least twice weekly.  But when I tell her she doesn’t have to go, that I’m not making her, she cries even harder, setting her jaw, and says I have to, I’m going as if she’s been hardwired for this decision her entire life.  Then I ask her why, just to check, to double check, to make sure that my Oldest realizes that this is not Disneyland we’re going to, that the toilet situation is far from glamorous, that rice and beans will be our only daily fare.  And every time she says unapologetically for some kind of irrational can't-help-what-she-loves love: “Because." She sets her jaw, "I want to play with the orphans.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Grace for Middle

Middle has been saying lately, “I feel like I’m the only person in the world.”  She offers this refrain in a tone of wonderment, awe, and a little bit of confusion, as if expecting an explanation from her mother. Silly me, I’ve been thinking that what she’s suddenly aware of is developmentally appropriate self-centeredness—the kind that everyone grows through and hopefully out of by the time they reach their later years.  
I’ve offered my most reasonable explanations for her feelings: “Well, Ev, it makes sense that you feel that way. After all, you can only see out of your eyes.  You can only hear out of your ears, and feel with your body. It makes sense to me that you feel like everything is happening to just you—like you are the main character in your story.”

Both times I offered this explanation, I was countered with a rebuff—a long exasperated sigh. “NO! That’s not what I mean. I don’t feel like I’m the main character in my story. I feel like I’m the main character in the whole world! Like there’s nobody else and everything is just happening to me.”  And then she elaborated, “See, when I go out to play and knock on the door of my friends’ houses, they are always home. And it almost seems like God has made them be at home, just so I can have someone to play with.”

Then I got it:  If God has gone to the trouble of arranging such things as playdates for Middle, she must indeed be very important.  He must care about her very much. So much, in fact, that it might feel like she is the only one in the world to be tended to.

So it wasn’t what I thought--not just developmentally appropriate self-awareness, but awareness of divine favor. Of Grace.  Middle was moving through the world with a growing insight of the existence of divinity so invested in her life and well-being that natural situations were altered, were custom-tailored just for her.

It wasn’t thirty seconds after this last conversation that Middle began fretting over a lost pencil. See, we were going to park in front of the junior high and wait for Oldest to finish up her orchestra lessons. And Middle wanted to use the waiting time to work on her homework—but no pencil.

As I sidled the car up to the curb in front of the school, an object in the street caught my eye. “Ev, I think I just drove over a pencil? You can get out of the car and get it. I’m not sure if it’s sharpened, though,” I cautioned.

Middle leapt out of the car, snatched up the pencil from the street, and climbed back in, announcing triumphantly. “Of course it’s sharpened!” And then, with a giggle, “It’s like God just put it there for me!”