Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween

It was a dark and stormy night.

(Or, it could have been. It was dark anyways.)

Okay. So... it was a dark and not-stormy night. Last night. I sat alone in Freeman House, decked-out in rubber-duck flannel pajamas. I sat in the dining room, contemplating my yearly Christian Halloween dilemma. Should I participate in the church's fall carnival? Watch The Birds and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, until I fall asleep? Sit at the organ, light only one candle, and scare children to death by playing the creeeepiest music ever when they knocked upon my door?

Mwa-ha-ha!!

(And I must say... last year, at Halloween, I had several parents come to the door. Their little ghosts and Disney princesses stood huddled together under the street light in front of the house, too terrified to come close. I think one passed out and another choked on his candy when "the lady in the scary house" came to the door. Priceless.)

Anyway, it was a dark and not-yet-stormy night, and I sat clad in rubber-duck pajamas pondering my 2006 Halloween situation... when....

...thumpthump...

Just like that. Two little thumps, back-to-back. I straightened up in my chair. The thumping came from the library. I would go check, but two things stopped me: one, there's no electricity in the library; and two, it was a dark and not-stormy night. No way was I opening that creaky door off the hall and venturing into that big, dark room. No way.

...thump... thump... CRAAAASH!

I jumped from the chair. The cat ran under the chair. The old house echoed with the noise.

...clang... swish swish....

I would have called the cops, but last time I heard screaming under the house and called the police, it turned out that a real, live donkey was trapped underneath. (Yeah. I couldn't make this stuff up.) I've never seen uniformed cops laugh so hard. In fact, I avoid making eye contact with any of them when I go to City Hall now to pay the water bill. They know. They all know.

...silence.

The silence was more terrifying than the thumping, crashing, clanging, and swishing. The thing... whatever or whoever it was... was still, too. Listening. Waiting. It was a stand off. In my house.

I lowered my duck butt back into the chair. I waited. And waited. And waited....

About 3 o'clock this morning, I awoke. Silence. I figured the fact I was still alive was reason enough to attempt to reach my bed. I tiptoed to the hall and stared across at the closed library door. It was dark. Silent. I looked down the long, empty hall. It was dark. Silent.

I ran.

When I awoke some three hours later, the house was still silent, but the dark was starting to crack a little. I crept to the library door and listened.

...silence...

I placed my shaking hand on the knob and flung it as hard as I could.

There was no one there. I smiled. Chuckled, even. I went in and sat down on a stack of sheetrock and felt almost giddy. No one was there. An evil hobo was not living in my library. An escaped murderer was not sleeping in the library. Why had I worried? I'd probably imagined it all anyway.

But then, I noticed. I noticed this trail of ... prints... in the sheetrock dust. They outlined a path out of - and back into - the library closet. Animal prints. Little buggers. Raccoon? Squirrel? Giant Halloween Eve rat? Maybe you can tell.

All I know is that it was a dark and almost-stormy night last night. And I in my duck pajamas, and my trusty old cat, were just settling down for Halloween Eve nap, when out in the library there arose such a clatter...

And apparently the creatures were stirring... maybe even, a giant mouse.




Friday, October 27, 2006

Showers... er... um... Bath... Blessings

OhgoshOhgoshOhgosh... Freeman House finally has a bath!

You couldn't find a happier person right now. Or a cleaner one. After bathing outdoors (or trying to bathe indoors - in a sink) for over a year, I have a bathtub. Freeman House finally has its old clawfoot tub back. It's newly restored, even. See?

It's funny; if you'd have asked me two years ago to name the blessings in my life, a bathtub would not have been among them. Today, it's Blessing # 4. I'm glad God cares about our everydays. It's nice to pray to the God who cares about baths. (Of course, I guess He can smell, too. He was probably just tired of smelling me....)

So, in honor of my bath blessing from above, I sat it in last night. I sat in it this morning. In fact, I only got out to snap this picture. My hands are so pruney I can barely type. I may stay in here forever. In fact, when I die, please just throw a towel over me and bury me in the tub.

You know, I've always said there's little a good book or brownie can't cure. Please add "bath" to that list, too. I should now read: "There's little a good book, brownie, or bath can't cure."

Awh yes. That should do it...

Have a good weekend, everyone, from my bath to yours!

"I will bless them.... I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing." -Ezekiel 34:26

Thursday, October 26, 2006

ONE WAY

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way. Walk in it." -Isaiah 30:21

I like Isaiah. I like the way the Scripture within that book seems to grab at you from its tissue paper-like page, promising victory and guidance and companionship via an all-powerful Deity. I love the assurances Isaiah often relates. I love the hope it gives. But tonight I'm dining with doubt. Tonight I'm supping with skepticism. After all, what happens when we can't hear a "voice"? What do we do when "the way" isn't self-evident? Or, horror of horrors, what if there's more than ONE WAY?

Not to snub Isaiah for the ramblings of Robert Frost, but, like the beloved poet, my life is diverging into two roads. I must make a decision - very soon - that will impact the course of the rest of my life. Really. And the way I see it, I have two choices: the road less traveled, and the road most traveled. And, like Frost, I'm also certain my choice will make all the difference. So where's my sign that points to my ONE WAY? Where's that voice behind me?

Remember that movie with... oh, it was Gwyneth Paltrow, wasn't it?... that had the different endings? (Something with doors or windows or revolving doors or .... Man! I'm getting old. Please pass the Ginkgo Biloba.) Anyway, remember the movie had vastly different outcomes that hinged on her split-second decision? I fear moments like that - those all-defining, life-encompassing moments that dictate the remainder of our future. I fear them. I loathe them. And yet, here one is, shattering my serenity....

Two roads. One choice. And no voice behind me.

When I was a kid, I wondered if I'd have a made-for-heaven movie waiting on me when I died. I pictured God holding the remote... angels passing out popcorn... and people who knew me best clamoring to get a good cloud-seat. After all, this would be a once-in-all-of-eternity viewing of my earthly life. The un-cut, un-edited version. (Here, I reasoned, my Dad would finally find out who really drove the 3-wheeler into the front of the house. And here, I realized, I'd finally find out if I really was supposed to take over for Barbara Walters.) But later, as I grew older, I worried: would my choice of colleges be one of those moments where God would stand, pause the picture, and elaborate on how my life disintegrated upon that very decision? Would my cloud-seated spectators wince and gasp as they viewed the alternative ending to my life... what I could have been... could have done... had I only chosen the ONE WAY?

Again, two roads. One choice. Where is that voice that's supposed to be behind me?

I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself in a hushed, ears-peeled state of prayer. That's why, when my Jeep rambled by this sign, I had to stop and snap a picture. ONE WAY, the sign says, go left. THE WAY, Isaiah says, walk in it.

If only it were that easy.

But, hey. Hey. Maybe it is. Just maybe it is. As I meditate on that verse, I notice how Isaiah tells God's people how "gracious He will be when you cry for help". (Isaiah 30:19.) How "as soon as He hears, He will answer you," and "whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice...."

You know, maybe the point isn't the ONE WAY. Maybe it's not all about the minutia of our lives or our tedious decisions. Not at all. Maybe it's all about whether we cry for help and then boldly choose a direction - right or left... traveled or less traveled - and then listen for that voice behind us and walk in it.

Yeah. Maybe that's it. Maybe Isaiah is onto something....

ONE WAY. ONE WAY?? It's something to think about. And in the meantime, I have a road to choose.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Autumn

Autumn is my favorite.

There's something about the fall that grabs me every year. Maybe it's autumn's stillness - the way trees whisper and leaves dance and new becomes old - that reassures me. Or maybe I sympathize with autumn's decay... its helplessness as it watches itself turn beautiful... then tattered... then gone. Whatever the reason, autumn is my favorite.

In fact, I'm thinking of taking a foliage trip. The idea of bundling up and wearing mittens and drinking gallons of hot chocolate and taking in the burning-colored leaves appeals to me right now. I guess I even got an early start Thursday when I took in this sight in the Ozark Mountains. (Hey! Maybe I could turn leaf-peeping into a younger version of bird-watching. You know... make it cool again. We could sell "autumn is cool" t-shirts and leaf-flavored bottled water and things.)

Or not.

Really, I think I like autumn the best because it's such a visual reminder that we have a gorgeous and glorious heavenly Father. A harmonious, all-knowing season keeper. And as I consider how today's leaves fall to make room for tomorrow's growth, I think, surely, surely, Someone who can orchestrate this season can turn the decay in my life into something new... something beautiful... again.

Surely He can. Surely He can....

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." -George Elliot

Friday, October 20, 2006

While We Wait...

Waiting, waiting, waiting. All my life, I've been waiting for my life to begin, as if somehow my life was ahead of me, and someday I would arrive at it.
-Camryn Manheim

Waiting. It is what we do. We spend our lives waiting. I'm curious what number God would offer if I could only tap Him on the shoulder and ask, "Please, God... do You know how much time I've spent so far just... waiting?"

Camryn Manheim may have a lot of holes in her ears, but not in her reasoning. I agree with her; we spend our lives waiting.

We wait at traffic lights and grocery stores and doctors' offices.
We wait until Friday, payday, and Christmas day.
We wait for a spouse, then children, then grandchildren.
We wait for guidance or patience or ... God.
We wait... and wait... and wait....

This morning, I waited for my bath water to get hot. Then (having left my hair dryer two states away), I waited for my hair to dry. At Sonic, I waited in the drive-thru before pulling out to wait for a wreck to clear. I waited for hundreds of miles to roll by. When a trooper pulled me over, I waited for him to run my tags. Then I waited for him to write me a warning. (And it says, under the violation part, "speed over 70". Umm... yeah. I think they should at least have to write your actual speed. "Speed over 70" seems like the guy was too busy gorging on jelly donuts and listening to his new Jeff Foxworthy CD to note my actual speed.) Anway, once home, I waited for dinner to boil (note to self: don't buy the Kraft Asian noodles again. Kraft does good cheese, not good Asian.) Then I waited for bathroom grout to be groutable enough to grout my new tiles so that tomorrow the plumber can come and install the clawfoot bathtub I've waited 13 months to use. (Just so I can get up another day and wait for my bath water to get hot....)

Waiting for my point?

It's this: that somewhere, in all this waiting, is life. My life. Your life. Somewhere... amid all our grocery lines and paydays and hopes for somedays... is the life we've been waiting for. Sure, it may not look like we expected. And sure, we may still be waiting to arrive at the life we always imagined, but in the meantime, life isn't waiting on us. It's here. Now. And it doesn't perch on park benches waiting for us to happen by and invite it to tag along.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. I'm waiting, too. And even though I should be good at it by now, it's the hardest thing to do...

"And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You." Psalm 39:7

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wanderjahr


If I was a true optimist, I would call it an "adventure".

If I was a poet, I'd call it my Wanderjahr... my time spent wandering or traveling itinerantly.

But today I'm not an optimist. Today I'm not a poet. So I'll call it like I see it: today, I am - lost.

This past week, I woke to find myself in a place I never thought I'd be. I've stumbled onto a road I never thought I'd find myself traveling. But my denial... my bewilderment... my disappointment... none of it changes the reality of my circumstances. I am lost. I am in the midst of an unpoetic, unwelcome wanderjahr.

And I'm not graceful enough - not polished enough - to deny it. There's so much pressure as a modern, educated individual... as a modern, educated Christian - to maintain the facade of a perfectly-blessed life. To maintain the ideal of a graceful existence and divinely-led walk - even when your life is seemingly in shambles and your very core is shaken. And sometimes, even when acknowledging that you are blessed... abundantly blessed... and you do live grace-filled existence, you just want to cry out: yes, but I hurt too! I struggle too! I wonder... and wander.. too!

And I am. I do.

I won't speak for all modern, education Christians out there. I wouldn't dare. But I will speak for myself: life isn't perfect. My life sure isn't. Even as a Christian, life is hard. I hurt. I struggle. I wonder. I wander.

Some days, I wake to find myself in my own personal wanderjahr. Is my life divinely led? Yes, maybe. Is it divinely accompanied? Yes, assuredly. But you see, my comfort for today and my strength for tomorrow hinges on one ever-present, never-changing fact: that my itinerant travels - like those of the early nation of Israel - are never time spent alone.

I snapped this picture one day when I found myself starting out on a new chapter of my life. I liked the way the heavens nearly broke open above the barren landscape... above that desolate road. It reminded me... and reminds me to this day... about God's promise to Joshua. About God's promise to me. The promise that says that no matter the struggle... no matter the hurt... no matter the feeling of being... lost... no matter where my unwelcome wanderjahr leads ... I am divinely accompanied.

We wanderjahrers (!) are divinely accompanied.

I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. -Hebrews 13:5

Monday, October 9, 2006

The House Helper... with Pattern

Ah, the knitted, round cloths. These are a staple at Freeman House - so much so that I've begun calling them House Helpers. I use them for everything around the house. I dust with them. I wash and dry dishes with them. I scrub windows with them and wipe mirrors with them and clean, clean, clean with them. They're perfect, and oh so pretty drying beside the sink or hanging from the clothesline.

Do you knit? If not, do you know someone who does? Find them, or find your knitting needles, and whip up a few of these. Make them for yourself. Make them for friends. (Christmas 2004 was all about three of these tied with a bow and a bottle of Bath & Body Works Anti-Bacterial Soap and given as gifts. Big hit.)


House Helpers

Worsted Weight Cotton (100% cotton)
Size 8 or 9 Knitting Needles


Pattern:

Cast on 15 sts
*Knit 1 row
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 1 st on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 2 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 11, leaving 3 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, k 2, yo, k 8, leaving 4 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 8, leaving 5 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 8, leaving 6 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, k 2, yo, k 5, leaving 7 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 5, leaving 8 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
k 3, yo, k 5, leaving 9 sts on needle
Turn, knit across
bo 3 sts, knit to end*
Bind off all sts

Repeat sections * to * six times more (for a total of 7 sections or 21 points). Draw up center of cloth and sew together first and last rows. Weave in ends.



Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Immutable Moon

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. -Mohandas Gandhi


I was looking at the moon last night. I was thinking... praying... hoping I was being heard - hoping this particular prayer wasn't getting stuck in God's inbox. This prayer was important, and I needed God's ear.

I stood there - underneath that brilliant moon - for some time. It was strangely comforting. I was comforted because even though my problems and prayers have changed with the circumstances in my life, that brilliant moon never changes. I mean, sure - some nights the moon is barely a sliver in the sky, but regardless of how big or small (or near or far) it seems - its presence is constant. It's always there. The same moon I played under as a child, wished upon as a teenager, and married under as an adult... it hasn't changed.

That's something. When you think about it, there are very few things in life that are permanent. Think back five years. Ten years. What's in your life today- or is not in your life today- that wasn't (was?) there then? More than likely, you can think of something. Like one of my favorite singers says, everything is temporary if you give it enough time.

But I'm glad. I'm glad some things are fleeting. Life would be unnavigable if everything and everyone stuck around forever. And yet... and yet... I'm thankful some things are immutable. Like the Creator. The Creator who decorated His sky with a sun to guide us by day and a moon to comfort us by night.

So as I stood last night... looking at the moon... appreciating its enduring beauty... I gave thanks for the temporary - and the permanent - in my life. [Change is nothing to fear, and constants are nothing to snub.] And just as I did, I felt my soul expand... expand in worship, and in awe... of my Creator.