Saturday, August 1

seeking comfort

In our house, talks of Fall, pumpkin everything, college football, and cozy blankets and sweaters are on the rise.  I even purchased a new fall jacket today...on August 1st.  Our home really does flourish in the Fall--we celebrate an anniversary, a puppy birthday.  We run to Dunkin' Donuts for Punkin' Donuts every brisk Saturday (thank you, Counselor), and stop by for the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte.  We join in pursuit for corn mazes and picking fields, the best fall colors, and we cozy up with cocoa, popcorn, and Scrabble.  I say we in the all-inclusive sense--the dogs are finally cool and back to their bouncy selves and we rejoin the world as a team of five, once again.  Fall is just our absolute favorite.

Then, today we met Alex's cousin before she leaves for her journey to Boston, where she'll play basketball, attend college, visit New York City, and explore all that is New England.  In the Fall, no less.  I can see the excitement in her eyes, that 18-year-old sense of adventure, mixed with a tinge of fear.  Her voice sounds of unrelenting expectation of all the world could be, how big it still is, how much new-ness there is out there.  I hold nothing back in expressing my jealousy.

Later, Alex asks if it's about her being young, having a new, great adventure before her, and the uprising feeling of independence.  He knows me well, has heard the stories about my first apartment, exploring the city, living in a different state, seeing the East Coast and ocean for the first time.  But, that isn't it.  I do a little inner-inventory and realize I'm looking for more.  I've been to the Boston airport and loved it.  I've heard many a story about the old buildings, the harbors and boats, the pubs and sports fanatics.  Yes, I am jealous of the exploration of that city and being in New England this fall.

But it's more than that.  I think what I'm looking for is comfort.  The kind of comfort that comes with fall, when long pants are tucked in boots like small children tucked under covers.  Sweaters and scarves enveloping the shoulders and arms like newborns being swaddled.  I'm looking for the joy of hot coffee when it is no longer hot outside, warming the tongue, trickling down your throat, into the  chest cavity and stomach.  I'm seeking the cool air that is toasted by the sun, like a gentle kiss on the cheek.  I'm looking for coziness, for warmth, for a little peace.

And I won't find it there.  Not on the calendar when it says October, not in the change of the air and the leaves.  I won't find it in Boston, in a land that seems far, far away, nestled in the goodness of year-long Autumn.  What I'm looking for won't come this season or the next, won't come next year after graduation, with a job offer or a move.

Comfort certainly comes in little moments and whispering thoughts.  I have a wonderful home, an unstinting family, and a life that continues to surprise.  I have lots of small and big things which bring comfort, help me to feel coziness.  But in this life, they just don't last.  The comfort I'm seeking won't come from down here.

"The man comes near Jesus—but not too near. What does Jesus do? He reaches out and touches him. Jesus doesn’t need to come in contact with the man in order to 
heal him. There are many accounts where all he does is say the word and people are healed, even people a county away. Yet he touches him. Why?! Because this is the one thing the man needs. No one has touched him for a very long time."

I'm looking for a touch, for a healing that doesn't come in beautiful cities or perfect seasons.  I'm looking for the one thing that comforts not my arms and legs, not my growling stomach, or whirling mind, I'm looking for a touch that comforts my heart.

Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge:

Saturday, June 6

a storyteller

After what seemed like months and years of papers, deadlines, meetings, appointments, counseling, counseling others, grades, and critiques, I decided it was time for a visit to The Ranch.  This place in the middle of nowhere--close enough, anyway--without cell service, wi-fi, tweets, news, and schedules.  Also after weeks and months of examining myself, discovering what it means to be me, and what that means for my marriage, family, career, and life, I decided a little unplugging was due.

What I hadn't planned on was truly meeting my grandmother.  A woman of many years and cattle, she has grown accustomed to speaking to the four-legged rather than the two, which means lots of hollers, shouts, quick, abrupt noises, and gruff verbs and adjectives thrown about.  However, I heard something new.

My grandmother is a storyteller.

When she speaks, though much more quietly and reserved these days, she speaks in time periods long ago, where she finds herself recalling a birthday, a day at school, a night with her baby, adulthood shenanigans, and so on.  Rather than just stating the lesson she is teaching or verbalizing the glimpse of yesterday she's had, she tells you the story.

One involved her baby, the youngest--and naughtiest--of five.  He was acting out in a store and she sat on him, simply to get him to stop.  The school-arranged visit to the orphanage hours later scared him out of ever having another tantrum again, for fear my grandmother would ship him right off (which, by the way, she might have).  The story is not without small details of the storefront, the toy he wanted, or the place where she wrangled him to the ground.  Details about the tone of voices, the words used, and her own fears of how other mothers were thinking of her are also there.

There is a story about her mother and her sister, about the house she grew up in, about the simple meals she used to have.  There is another about my father, and how wonderful he is at giving gifts.  She says, "I would take each boy out to the store after school one, individually, and they would choose gifts for their brothers, you see.  I wanted them to know a budget, to know planning for gifts, and to pick out gifts for other people. Your dad, I was so impressed, has always been the one to buy thoughtful gifts."  Yep, he sure has. In fact, I'd like to think he's given some of that to me.

I learned a great deal in a few days, about who my grandma is, where she's been, and what's important to her.  I see things I have because of her--my hands, a shorter body, the will to be a woman in this world, and, now, a deep love of stories.  And that is almost as valuable as the words she gives as gifts to the past and rich foundation of our family.

My grandmother is a great storyteller.


If you want to get to know someone, you need to know their story. Their life is a story. It, too, has a past and a future. It, too, unfolds in a series of scenes over the course of time. Why is Grandfather so silent? Why does he drink too much? Well, let me tell you. There was a terrible battle in World War II, in the South Pacific, on an island called Okinawa. Tens of thousands of American men died or were wounded there; some of them were your grandfather's best friends. He was there, too, and saw things he has never been able to forget.

-Ransomed Heart,

Monday, April 13

Seminary Diaries: time for delight

Last week, NPR did a radio show on the effects of play, especially in adulthood.  Studies show those who play have less depression and anxiety, and stronger, more fulfilling interpersonal relationships.  I have seen this to be true.  My three dogs are happiest when they are romping through the grass, bounding over the sheets on the bed, and chasing hard after their favorite ball.  Find them dog-piling one another, biting each other's ears, or growling like fierce bears, and you're sure to see the image of joy.

I thought about this only briefly during my busy and stressful week.  I contemplated what "play" even looked like for me.  Then in class this morning, the assignment was to take 60 mindful minutes with God.  We were to sit, alone, in the quiet, and wait for His response.  No analyzing, no worrying about registration, no planning.  Just resting.

As I sat, I looked at the nearby stream, small pond, and bullfrog watering hole.  I saw many birds and geese, the new grass waving in the wind, a clear sky as blue as the ocean, and a lone tree full of new flowering buds.  I felt Jesus sit next to me and say, 'My Father made this'.  I delighted in that idea and delighted in the beauty of spring.  I adored the warmth of the sun, the newness of spring, and the creativity in birds' wings and songs.  I thought, 'The beauty of God--the part I forget to think about--is reflected in nature, in the images around me'.  Then, He said, "My beauty is reflected in you'.

I hadn't thought about it ever this way before.  No, instead I worry about my new haircut, the speech I've been writing for weeks, and sitting with clients.  I worry about my classes and grades, my clothes and shape, and I miss the fact that just being me reveals the beauty of our Father.  When I sit in nature or watch animals, I don' think "what can you give me today? Or what can I get out of you?". I think "you are beautiful, just like this".  And, so does He.

So, with reckless abandon, I kicked off my professional high-heels and traded them for the farm-girl feet of my youth and headed for that beautiful tree.  With bare-feet, I smashed my toes in the mud, kicked the wet grass, and looked up high above me for the birds overhead.  Though it wasn't the assignment and though there were people all over to see, I stepped into the freedom of God's beauty within me, frolicked toward the tree, and sniffed her flowers. 

For a few, short minutes, I played.