St. Louis: A City on a Hill? I Pray.

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I should be working. Grading papers. Or walking my dog. Or making dinner, hydrating myself, making a watering plan for my church’s new fall landscaping, or… a lot of other things.

Instead, I’m preparing myself for tomorrow.

I’ve been largely absent from media this week, especially mainstream media. I had decided to delete Facebook from my phone, post either seldom or more carefully on Instagram, and turn off the TV, for really no other reason than I had little to no time for it, and I seemed not to be using my time efficiently when I had very obviously too much to do.

Then, yesterday, the head of my school made mention of an impending verdict in his address to the student body, all 1,100 of them and the faculty surrounding them. Then my friends started talking about whisperings and questions. And, this morning, Ferguson was mentioned in a letter read to us from the Director of Diversity, a letter that he has prepared to send when the verdict is announced – the grand jury verdict that decides the fate of Darren Wilson and has the power to ignite the passions of millions of people all over our country.

So, afterward, as a small group of four who were processing those ideas, we listened, and we discussed, and we prayed.

We prayed for awareness and sensitivity to others, for deep understanding, for calming of fears, for peace… Most importantly, we prayed for the Lord to be with us. Be WITH us, God… Be before us and behind us and among us. Be at work, and in our midst, and allow us to SEE you and FEEL you with us as we open our eyes to a new day… a new day in which everything and nothing may change all at one time.

Tomorrow, we will open our eyes to a new day, and the verdict may be announced. Maybe. Some reports say 7pm. At that time, I will be home or possibly at a friend’s house enjoying fall drinks and spending time with wonderful women. I will have just finished teaching all day, oddly discussing To Kill a Mockingbird with my students on the heels of a really hard lesson about the Jim Crow Era and the systematic, racial caste system that our country experienced (and to some degree, still experiences) for so long… We will have talked about white guilt, about racial stereotypes, about the sad and incredibly wrong things that have been going on in our country for a long time, about the way the media is such a powerful force to be used for great good or great pain, about the power of our words and our actions and our very loud silence, about our responsibility to stand up and be advocates and leaders for change, about the beauty and fragility of the human heart. And I will send those intricate, wonderful souls out into the streets, to their homes, to their friend’s houses, to their Instagram accounts and Snapchats and Twitter feeds and coffee houses and theaters and living rooms and beds, and these ideas will be swimming in their heads while they receive the news in the coming hours or days… the news that may divide an already divided city.

I am full of fear and hope for this city, for these students, for myself…

I fear what we will do to one another, how we will wound one another in the wake of this verdict. I fear the words and actions and silences that will speak so loudly about the state of our hearts and our understanding and also lack of understanding. I fear for physical pain and vandalism and destruction that may occur to people in this city and in others, all of whom were made in the image of a peaceful and ultimately just God. I fear for friends in my city who are nervous – White, Black, Asian, and Hispanic alike – about how people will respond, about who or what is about to descend on this city, and when we will hear and see with our own ears and eyes.  I fear for the future… and yet I have so much hope. I see my city filled with so much beauty, so much grace, so much peace. I see adults and students everywhere who are peacemakers, who long to see our city united, who are pining for the day when we embrace each other even more than we already do, who are making real and concrete preparations for that. I see students who have wide eyes and open ears and soft words who speak confidently about what confuses them, angers them, fills them with sadness, as well as what brings them needed laughter and joy. I see teachers who love their students well and provide space for those conversations. I see adults who have deliberately placed themselves in situations and conversations and environments that would open their eyes and extend hands across deep lines and divides. I am so encouraged by these things, these stories, these lives, these words and hearts.

I am full of fear, and I am full of hope for my city.

So instead of working, or walking my dog, or making dinner or any of those very important things I could be doing, I am writing. And I am asking.

Will you be aware? Will you be sensitive?

When the verdict is released, will you process in whatever healthy way you can in a safe environment? Will you be aware that others will process this news very differently than you will? Will you be aware that some won’t care as deeply as you? Will you be aware that some will be hurt or sad or angry or confused or all of the above? Will you be sensitive to those reactions, and will you listen, truly listen, with the intent to understand? Will you protect each other? Love each other well? Be a body of people who supports and defends and unites, a city on a hill?

I pray that you will, and I pray that I will…

I will make every effort to do so, and I am already preparing myself to ask for forgiveness when I fall short. Because I’m a woman of good intentions, but boy, do I learn every single day, over and over, what a flawed person I am and how much I have yet to figure out. I will need to process, to listen, to discuss, to pray.

Bear with me. Bear with each other, and love one another well. Today, tomorrow, and every day.

Our city is crying out for it. The structures and surroundings, both manmade and Godmade are ready for it. The city is being prepped and prayed over. The verdict is descending. Will we be ready? Will we be aware? Will we be sensitive? Will we seek peace?

St. Louis, may it be so, I pray.

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Praying while Pooping [because both were overdue]

Okay, I’ll spare you the poopy details… but let’s just say that I’m in a season of life right now where I’m thankful for a few moments to myself to take care of business… whether that be Godly or bodily.

So, I suppose that it’s right and fitting that I’m waking up earlier than everyone else as of late (everyone being Brian and Brooklyn) to take care of things… like praying and pooping. Not that I can’t do those things when they’re awake, but yesterday at the shop, I was waiting for a customer to leave the store, then B needed to use the restroom, then he asked me to run across the street to get a gift card for a friend’s wedding celebration, and then I said, “NO! Not yet!” and ran into that bathroom-turned-sanctuary before anything else could claim my time. This is life… 😉

If you have children, (or if you’re a teacher like me or in the medical profession, perhaps), I’m sure that you know this feeling well. You’re just thankful to remember at the end of the day that you actually had to pee five hours ago, and you’re trying to remember more often and more quickly so that you don’t develop “teacher bladder” and start early incontinence at a not-so-far-off date.

I remember dancing just inside my classroom door this past year during MAP testing and peeking out the blinds for a principal or a counselor or support staff or someone (JUST SOMEONE!) to walk by so that I could hop to the restroom. I’d smile at that kid behind me as they looked up at me for assurance. That one would raise his hand… and I’d walk carefully over to answer his question and hope that I didn’t fart next to his desk… Back to the blinds. Look nonchalant. Anyone there?!? [*sheer panic hidden by a trained exterior*] Yep… that happened. **it happens.

My friend over at More from the Mohrs (Click here! They’re amazing!) posted the other day on Facebook,

My dreams have been reduced to just hoping to go to the bathroom uninterrupted one day… #motherhood #dreambig

I get it. We’re thankful for our lots. So thankful. There is life where there was not life before. I’m busy, which is probably really good in this season of grief and joy all mixed together (every season?)… it’s just comical… and at times exhausting.

The other night, I lay over-wearied in my bed. I was so happy to lie down. My back ached. Their hearts hurt. I couldn’t form the words that I wanted to type. Brian was going to be a few minutes after me coming home, with Brooklyn. And I ended up writing poetry, which is much more rare than prose… but the words and lines came out disjointed and harsher than I had meant. The aching was taking over, negatively. And I had to remember that doctors will tell you that the pain and the pleasure points in your body are quite closely connected. That sometimes, when it feels really painful, if you can just push through, you’ll see the joy on the other side.

Take this tangible example: I hate to get my legs massaged because it hurts so badly. But actually, what’s worse (first) is that they’re intensely ticklish… and that’s my body’s way of fending off attention. “Don’t touch here! You won’t be able to handle it!” “Nope! Bad idea!” my body screams! When actually, if I relent and grip the massage table for a few extra seconds and tell the massage therapist not to mind my squirming and uncontrollable laughing and spasms of “Oh, my gosh! Okay… that’s fine. Nope, okay… I can’t stand it!” “No, really, I can. Sorry! Oh, geez!”…. that actually the “pain” and intense giggling and tears-squirting-out out of desperation will actually give way to the best leg-soothing, muscle-relaxing massage that I’ve ever gotten, if I’ll only just relent.

So, I decided to try some soothing and see what happened the other night. I stayed up later than I wanted to, because all I really, really wanted was to curl up on my bed with my face smooshed in that wonderful pillow that Brian introduced to me in college (stealing someone’s pillows, much?), and I would have just sunk right in and never wanted to come out… but as fate would have it, I couldn’t sleep. And that’s weird. Because I can always sleep. I could sleep curled up under a subway bench at the busiest time of day, given the right fetal-position and warmth. I could sleep in that bush, on a walk home from wherever, and I won’t even have alcohol in my system! And it’s like 2pm in broad daylight! … I could sleep on your most uncomfortable chair, or at a rock concert (yes, that’s happened, several times), or on your dog or your sleepy, sweaty face… but in my exhaustion the other night, I couldn’t sleep…

so I relented…

And I drew a bath, and I began to marinate… and God brought me relief and hot tissue-massage and a lovely peaceful thirty minutes or so… and also inspiration…

and when I got out of the now-cold-water, I had a new novel idea that I couldn’t wait to sketch out and put to note-form before it slipped out of my mind. In fact, I should probably take baths more often because that’s where my last novel idea was born… in a notebook, bathtub-side, trying not to get the notebook pages wet while I scribbled and sketched furiously.

That’s my spot, maybe… well, that and the bathroom. Apparently, I pray there. That’s where this blog idea spawned, today.

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(It’s a tshirt… for realz)

So, whether you’re near a bath or a bathroom, or you’re not, take a few moments and get what you need. Ruminate on your day, fizzle some ideas, excrete some not-welcomed thoughts, use that think-tank, rage against that latrine…

…or reach up in prayer from your body and bowel-laden position, and find some relief.  Because apparently those doctors are right… pain and pleasure are closely connected. Grief and joy are inter-mixable and can be experienced simultaneously and with depth of both. And I’m just trying to make sense of this world and its height and its humor while holding on to Him… and God’s bringing me prayer… and pooping.

Amen?

Many, many Metaphors and Meanings

It’s funny. I “geek out” on literary connections often. My poor husband and family and friends get to listen to me make connections and laugh heartily at ridiculous things, nuances of language, the way that something sounded, the way that my very vivid imagination illumined it and put pictures and video to that phrase. I’m a dork, but I love it.

Lately I’ve been on a pun-kick. I’ve been kickin’ them puns and reading and thinking them. I’ve been giggling over them and suggesting them to @talkingfood. Poor Laura. She’s probably getting quite the fill of me! 🙂

Here are a few puns that got my funny bone yesterday.

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“I have the necessary koalifications.” “Your koalifications are completely irrelephant.” “Don’t listen to him. He’s lion.” “This arguing is become unbearable!”

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And, yes, I was looking up a hashtag feed by the name of #punny. Try it. You’ll like it. Especially if you’re anything like me.

My students get to “benefit” from this humerus funny-bone of mine too. Our metaphor unit is just ridiculous. Some kids ride that ride with me and laugh til their bellies hurt and create metaphors and break them down all day long, and other students are glaring at us like we’re ridiculous and “when will this ever end?” Or, they just plain don’t get it. But it will come, young one… it will come.

One of my favorite things is to break metaphors down. It’s hilarious to me, or really cool, to take things literally when they were meant metaphorically. Take, for example, “you, sly, old fox.” I’m imagining, right now, a Fantastic Mr. Fox, a mangy fox, one who is shrewd and sly with dark eyes, and yet his reddish-brown fur is graying at the chin. His beard is long and scraggly. His ears are pointed curiously and menacingly. He’s pushing away your affections and your laughter. He doesn’t take it the right way. He’s wearing pants. Yellow ones. He has a cane and an accusing look in his eye. He used to be slyer, in his spry days, but lately, he’s just a “sly, old fox.”

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I don’t know how this happens. My mind just starts rolling, and I see it – the image, the movement, what they would say, their personality and history. I liken them to people I know, personalities I’ve come across, stories I’ve known.

Or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Let’s just imagine that for a second. So, stylish and ironic, that wolf. Take off that sheep’s clothing. It doesn’t belong on you!

One of my favorites was a metaphor one of my students, Rafael, made a few years ago. I asked students to write their own metaphors and try five of them. I gave them suggestions: write about this class, about a sports team, about fireworks, about… whatever you want.

I circled the classroom to check on kids’ progress as they worked, nodding my head as I went along. “Good!”, “Oh, interesting…” “How cool! I don’t know that I would have thought about that.” “That sounds like a fun memory.” And then there was Rafael, with his long surfer-blonde hair to the nape of his neck, his dark eyes thoughtful, his posture slouched, and his paper read, “This class sucks.”

I paused, and then I smiled. I got it. “Oh, Rafael, so this class doesn’t literally suck, like a vacuum, but it just sucks.”

He smiled slowly and looked up at me. “Exactly.”

“I’ll take it.”

You might be rolling your eyes like Rafael, but I’m smiling at you, because I feel like I’m tapping into something great and profound when I use metaphors in my life. I feel like those puns and metaphors and alliterations and oxymorons are powerful. They’re language in motion. God believes in language. In fact, he used it to create. He spoke, and it was.

I was both encouraged and chided this morning in my quiet time, behind the Simpsons’ house, trying to find out what God would teach me, how He would care for me, this hard morning… this morning of seeing grandpa again and praying with him while he slept.  He seemed, in his instinctual yet non-responsive way, to struggle against our affections… and Nancy and I were laughing through tears when we finished praying… because it’s time for you to take all that love, grandpa. There’s no escaping it now. We’re just going to keep smoothing your hair and holding your hand and whispering in your ear. We’re going to keep chuckling at your quirks, at the way your breathing changed as we prayed, the way you seemed to be resisting our love and yet relenting. It’s time, grandpa. It’s time to submit to that. To the Lord.

That’s what I want to say to him, that I do say to him, that I do pray for him…

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So this morning, I gazed up at the leaves of the trees rustling overhead, their lime-green brightness shining and drifting calmly as the sun began to shine through, and I was fumbling for words. Brooklyn nudged my hand. I scratched under his ear and stroked his back. I stared up… and a breeze came swiftly through those trees. The sun shifted. The leaves tremored, but with more of an awe than a real fear. A few leaves fell around me. One caressed my left arm as it fell. I breathed in. And I was thankful. Thanks, Lord. I don’t have the words all the time, but you do. You comfort, in ways that I can’t fully express. You give and you take away. You are strong. You are loving. I’m residing with you; I’m resting in you this morning. You eased me, you soothed me, you spoke comfortingly to me through that living metaphor, through your Spirit. I can’t express what that meant, fully. You are God, and I am not.

May Your will be done, today and every day.

And me? I will keep reveling in you, being amazed by you, and breaking down the metaphors and puzzles you provide. I’ll write about them and talk them out and imagine them, in full color and motion, and I’ll share. I’ll share what I learn and what makes me laugh. I’ll share your words and your encouragement, Lord.

Just give me the words.

Amen.

If the world were perfect…

If the world was as it should be, if we had Eden, and God reigned glorified in every heart, if sin had not pervaded, if the apple had not been eaten, then:

– Brian’s grandpa would not be suffering

– Brian and I would be together tonight, not across the country from one another

– I would be able to hug him.

– C.H. would have a baby, NOW

– My friends would not have experienced divorces and deaths of family members and loss and loneliness

– All of my family members and friends would already know the Lord (?)

– Riley would not have had stomach cancer

– I would not fear

– We would trust wholly, and confidently, unwavering, without questions, that God knew best

– I would pray in God’s will and really, really mean it every time

– There would be no separation, no loneliness, no guilt, no shame, no self-centerdness, no doubt

– I would know what to say…

… but sin did happen, and Christ was needed, and the cup did not pass from Him. He lived, He died, He was buried, and He rose again and was seated at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf.

Intercede, Spirit, intercede tonight… It is needed. And I have such a poor view of your work and God’s plan. But move, Spirit: move, move, move. Move swiftly, move powerfully… move.

Things are not perfect, and sin did happen, and it does happen, and sometimes evil wins little battles… but You won the war already God. You sent your son. It is finished. So thank you that you knew what was needed then, that you know now what is needed now. That you will grant us measures of wisdom and some words to say… that You will be made much of, because your plan is perfect, even though life on earth is not. I’m trusting that You’ve known this day was coming for a long time, that You’re moving, that You are shaping us.

I’m trying to trust you. Help me to see Eden a bit more.

Grandpa and Gardening… Lord, Hear our Cry

This morning, we were able to visit grandpa for about an hour. He is sleeping, peacefully, it seems. He had two seizures last night, and the second one was pretty bad. He is on medication for that which has sedated him heavily. He also has a fairly large, solid blood clot between his skull and his brain which is putting pressure on his brain and probably causing some of the symptoms that the family saw when they found him and put him in the hospital. We are not sure, but the family and the doctors believe that the symptoms and the clot are from a fall that he took a few days before. In typical grandpa fashion, he did not tell anyone that he fell, and it was not until a few strange phone calls that the family was alarmed enough to go check on him.

This morning, we held grandpa’s hands, we held onto his shoulders, we caressed his head, and we whispered to him how much we loved him and how much the Lord loves him. It was hard. Really hard. Probably least for me, being the grandaughter-in-law. We cried and hugged each other before we left, and we’re all praying, very much, for his comfort and healing, but mostly for his salvation, for a lasting peace.

At this point, there is still a chance that he might not make it through this last fall, but there are also some options. The rest is in the hands of the doctors, the minds and decisions of grandpa’s four sons, and of course, the sovereignty and will of our Lord. May He move powerfully, in His perfect will.

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When I arrived back at home, Brooklyn came to greet me. He was excited at first, and then clearly sensing my mood, slowed down, and sidled up to me very softly and sweetly. I scratched his chest and nuzzled his face, and he let me dote on him for a few seconds before seeming to sense that I was okay and going to lay down and bask in the sun. A few minutes later, we trotted together into the front yard to water the flowers, and then I began yanking weeds – some grass that is trying to grow over into my garden area, some pesky ones trying to look like flowers and trying to tangle their roots with the plants I’ve planted, some invasive weed that was cropping up under the back deck that I had been neglecting for days.

There’s something about seeing a man lying in a hospital room, watching his chest rise and fall, hearing him breathe, holding his hand, that makes you want to rip out weeds. Something about seeing someone not thriving that makes you want to see growth and the right things thrive. I want to rip out all of the invasive-ness, the weeds, the sin. I want to see flourishing. I want to see beauty and peace. My heart cries out for healing.

And as I type, of course, God in his goodness, provides a song on my ITunes, “All I Need” by Enter the Worship Circle. He often speaks to me through music. Almost daily as of late.

How long will my bed be made with tears?
How long will You leave me here?
Don’t leave me here

The grave is too late to sing Your praise
The dead man has no breath
So while there’s beating in my chest
My heart will sing this craziness!
You are all I need!
You have set me free!

-from Psalm 6:1-10

Yes, Lord, you are all I need. I am praying that grandpa would know that too…that he would have time and awareness and soundness of mind to make that decision. That his sons would have time to tell him what they need to, that they could speak to him sweetly, that grandpa, with the Lord’s grace, would speak sweetly back to them, that he would tell them he loves them.

Our God is great. He can do amazing things. May his power be used today through the nurse’s hands, the family’s discussions, the doctor’s wisdom and expertise. And would the Holy Spirit move.

Those who trust in the Lord

Are a strong mountain
They will not…not be moved

Those who trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion
They will not…not be moved

Christ the King, He sets my feet
On a firm foundation
They will not…not be moved

Though the world moves like mad
You alone are faithful
Jesus, you, you will not be changed.

 

-Enter the Worship Circle, from Psalm 125

Show up, God, if You will

My heart feels a little numb right now, like I’m in the eye of the storm, but I somehow didn’t really notice the first storm zooming in quite so fast…

Brian’s grandfather is in the hospital (grandpa Alex, his dad’s dad, for those who hear me talk about family). He’s been there since last night… The short story, while still preserving family privacy, is to say that he is a very stubborn man who is getting older and weaker and who does not take the best care of himself. Very similar to my grandfather, Buzz, who passed away a few years ago. Similar to Buzzy, Grandpa Alex had a twinkle in his eye. He would chuckle when I hugged him each time that I saw him and seem to act surprised like, “Oh, are we doing this again?” He would say politically incorrect comments quite often, though his bark was always worse than his bite. He would joke with the grand kids and tease his wife and hug me, every time that I made him hug me. 🙂 He even tossed a compliment my way once or twice and made his daughter-in-laws feel a little like “chopped liver” when he said, “Gosh, I wish my sons had brought home girls as sweet as Lizzie and Lauren.” And then when they guffawed, he said, “Oh, whoops! I didn’t mean it like that!” He was a sweet man, but a complicated one. I say “had” and “was” because he hasn’t been himself in a while… and that is probably one of the factors that led to him being discovered yesterday, very weak and disoriented, and being brought to the hospital to find a brain bleed.

Please pray.

Pray for healing in his body, if the Lord wills it. Pray for words that need to be spoken between family members before he passes, if he does. Pray for his soul, for salvation and assurance of pardon, not out of fear or “oh, no it’s the end”, but that somehow through his confusion and pain and even sleep, that the Lord would minister to his heart… that grandpa Alex would experience that transforming love. It’s a love that should be experienced here in this world, a comfort and peace that transcends all understanding, and not something just for the afterlife. Pray for that, please.

Tomorrow morning, Lord willing, Brian and I will go visit and see grandpa. I hope that we can hold his hand, and that Brian can have the time that he needs with a grandpa that he loves, one who talked sports with him for many years, one who joked and showed love as best he could, one who opened his home for Thanksgivings and Christmases, hockey games among all of the boys, one who ate his bred-on-the-Hill-Italian wife’s homemade ravioli for so many years that holidays just didn’t feel the same in the Simpson family without ravioli from the Hill. One who would be the first of Brian’s grandparents to go, if it’s time.

Here in the ninth inning, I’m praying that the Lord shows up in power and with grace, and that He helps grandpa (and his sons, especially) have the time together that they need, whether that be a few minutes or a few more years. And I’m praying that whatever time they get would be sweet and well spent and full of God’s peace.

So be it.

Yawn, Stretch, Water, Sip, Charge, Live: A picture of my day, in pictures

 

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Prayed for the guy holding Brooklyn, this morning. Love you, brother mutt.

 

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Thought of a few ideas for this wild job. Summer gives me time and space in my mind for more creativity.

 

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My tall phlox are just blooming in the last week. They’re getting watered as I type.

 

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Got some water for this pup and for me, and then we both had some peanut butter. Mine came with a frozen banana and some almond milk in the form of a shake. Yum!

 

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Recharged with the Word first (Ephesians 3, 1st half), and then we started charging up our new FitBits that my sweet husband so thoughtfully got us with his birthday money!

 

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And now that we’re recharged, it’s time to go live curiously and confidently in our day, enjoying the time to wander together, see this sweet nephew and his parents, lay by the pool in the bright sun, and celebrate the birth of some fantastic, gift-of-God people (like Danny and Micah-boo!). Bring on the day!