Blessings · Body of Christ · Christian · Fellowship · Meditation · Musings · Oxytocin · Relationships · Unity

I. The Shepherd and WiFi – A meditation on Psalm 23

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake. I take several very deep breathes to relax my body and mind, hoping to drift back to sweet slumber. But I can tell I won’t soon be falling asleep. I’m learning to tune in to when He wants a hang out with me. I open the eyes of my heart. I look up and our eyes lock. I smile knowingly. I love these times. I should have known He would be waiting. He wants to take a meditation walk. I choose a familiar passage. Do come with us…

shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd (1) 

One.

Not one lord among many – but THE Lord. Singular. His name in the Hebrew is the formidable Tetragrammaton – YHWH. The name is deemed so sacred it is not to be pronounced. One of its vocalizations is Yahweh. Yahweh was then Latinized and became Jehova, a commonly used proper name of God. Another title used by the Jews is Adonai, my Lord. Yahweh is derived from hayah which simply means to be or to exist. Thus, He calls Himself I Am.

Jesus boldly made this defiant, ground-shaking statement to the established spiritual leaders of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM! (2) ”  In so doing, He signed His own death sentence by declaring Himself God, equal to Jehovah.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (3) .”

That one, and not another, is my ra’ah, my shepherd. My personal shepherd. He belongs to me and I to Him. We recognize each other. Call to mind the anxiety of being alone in a crowd and the antipode – the powerful feeling of being in a crowd and sighting someone you recognize!  My shepherd and I have fellowship with each other – a symbolic and practical unity characterized by a tight bond of belonging and incredible intimacy. 

We evoke oxytocin release in each other. We are so one that we are identified with each other. We resonate with each other. We understand each other, though He boggles me. He is my guide, my protector, my defender, my provider, my healer, my keeper and sustainer, my owner. He receives me, waits for me, fights for me, tends me, listens to me, nurtures me, comforts me, grooms and enjoys me. I was wired for Him and we are in phase, on the same frequency.

A shepherd is a professional. He knows His job. He is all about sheep. He thinks sheep, eats sheep, sleeps sheep so to speak. He is watchful and tender and  would die for his sheep – my shepherd did die for His sheep. He put His money where His mouth was:  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (5) I have learned to trust Him. It is like needing a brain surgeon and finding myself in the office of a renowned and experienced one who was confident about taking on my case. I would automatically and gratefully trust him.

Yet what does a sheep know? The shepherd must initiate and sustain this relationship. No matter how smart I am, I am just a sheep. I know not much, just that I am loved and that I belong. I know to follow Him. I must remember every minute that I am not my shepherd nor anyone else’s, other than a young child under my care. I can be a model sheep to other sheep but I am no shepherd. My job is to point all others to Him.

I love the words “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (6).

He is no real shepherd who only owns one sheep. Mine owns multitudes and of many shades and stripes. He places me among them for my benefit and that of the fold. I am not an only child. I am not a lone-ranger. I am part of a family. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God(7).”

 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ(8).” How, you ask? It is nothing short of a mystery! “The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus(9).” (emphases mine)

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (10).” When I traveled to the United States for college, my wise parents gave me many treasures but one stands out: “Find God’s people!”

I belong as tightly as a building stone in a wall among other stones.” “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (11) .”  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (12) .” If others are suffering and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd. If others are rejoicing and you aren’t feeling it, come closer to the shepherd.

celtic

Triquetra Heart-knot

To a hostile group of accusing Jews Jesus said, “But you do not believe , because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one (4) .” Much like a Celtic knot, this is a “relationship of oneness”- they in each other, I in them, them in me, me in the body – it’s enough to make my head spin!

My shepherd is the head of the body, the church – innumerable believers, past, present, and future. Nor is He at risk of fading out like a trend. The irritated Jewish leaders tried to silence the apostles after Christ’s ascension.  “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothingbut if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and flogged them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (13).”

This same good news that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace (14) .

In my meditation, I only got a couple of verses into this amazing Psalm, yet it lasted hours. I’m delighted to bring you along through my writing. I think this part is the longest because He was laying a foundation of understanding in my heart. When I walked into church later this morning, Mike was teaching on fellowship – the unity between God and His church, and between sheep among each other. So bleet little sheep. Relax into your “sheephood” and relish your ra’ah.

References:

Unless otherwise noted, all references are from the NIV

  1. Psalm 23:1a
  2. John 8:58
  3. Colossians 1:15-20
  4. John 10: 26-30
  5. John 10:11
  6. Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
  7. John 1:12
  8. 1 Corinthians 12:12
  9. Ephesians 4:4
  10. Ephesians 2:19-22
  11. Romans 12: 4, 5
  12. 1 Corinthians 12:26
  13. Acts 5: 34-42
  14. Colossians 1: 6 (NLT)

Sheep and shepherd image retrieved from:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiJy4uzqKjiAhXnxFQKHZOzCS4QMwiLASgxMDE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbeingfreenow.blog%2F2017%2F08%2F31%2Fdaily-inspiration-august-31st%2F&psig=AOvVaw0RhpWdKvbUkgILeZ0Txsz2&ust=1558380099411747&ictx=3&uact=3

Triquetra heart-knot image retrieved from:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Triquetra-heart-knot.svg

Forgiveness · Maturity · Musings · Personal Growth · Relationships · Silent-Treatment · Vulnerability

Me: The Emotional-Abuser

BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

His words and gesture hit a nerve. An internal wound. It’s been replaying in my mind all week – in slow-motion, in fast play, when I’m busy, when I’m quiet. I see it in nauseating detail. I could describe it all pixel by pixel.

I immediately battened down the hatches.

Battening down the hatches means to prepare for trouble. A nautical hatch or hatchway, pictured below, is an opening or doorway in the deck of a ship, covered with a door or wooden grating to allow for access or ventilation to the lower decks.

wooden hatch

Fig. 1 Hatch on old wooden ship (VOC)

“When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, known as battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Not surprisingly, sailors called this ‘battening down’.” (Martin, 2019)

I’m pretty good at foretelling a storm and bad weather was certainly imminent last Tuesday night. I swiftly slipped into my deck before he could say “Ahoy mate!”, and securely battened my hatches.

I do regularly-scheduled emergency drills and have gotten pretty good at this. I have done my due diligence and prepared for such events. Down here, it’s cozy, warm, dark, and dry. I have emergency supplies that could last me months. I am in my safe place. I even have a contingency plan for my contingency plan. That’s what it looks like on the inside.

That’s rather different from the outside, where it looks a lot like the ole’ silent-treatment. He hurt me and I shut down. Physically, I am ignoring him. I am avoiding the subject and even eye-contact. When he enters a room, I leave. I use a different tone with him than I do with others.  I withhold attention and affection.

Emotionally and spiritually, I’ve gone from hurt, to sadness, to anger, and entered vengeance-mode. I will have the last word, literally. I think I am better than him. I’m holding him in contempt to make him squirm. I know it bugs him and I hear myself cackling the gleeful anthem of revenge.  I aim to shame him into changing and cooperating with me – or else. I am manipulating. I’m trying to play the parent and make him the naughty kid. I am withholding forgiveness. I’ve locked him out and I’m fondling the key in my pocket. I am punishing him. In my passive-aggressive craze I foolishly think I am winning.

This is emotional abuse!

“They battened the hatches,

But the hatches didn’t hold.”

Bob Dylan, Tempest

I may very well have started off with a good point, but I turned left on Main onto this well-worn back-alley to hell. He hurt me and I had trouble communicating that. I became the victim. I propped up my persona, flipped things on him, and expected him to take full responsibility for the problem that he created.

“Don’t be dramatic, Hannah. You can’t be an abuser,” I hear a well-meaning friend quip, “you’re so sweet.” Wrong!

It’s interesting that this – fundamentally – has little, if anything, to do with him. It’s a lousy coping mechanism I’ve adopted and honed over the years. I’ll save you the details about my adverse childhood experiences and why I am like this. At the end of the day, it’s like hearing from the guy who can’t pay his rent – only the last line matters.

It’s time to call it what it is. I’m unhealthy and immature, even crippled in this area. I have engaged in very pre-adolescent behavior and been driven by fear and shame. In the process, I have hardened my heart.

They say the fish is the last to see the water. Decades ago, he called me out on giving him the silent treatment. I didn’t consciously know I did this. I’d never even heard the term.  After I realized it, I justified it as just a small thing I do.

Recently my friend Patti said the silent-treatment is emotional abuse. Whaaat??!! I was frying other emotional fish at the time so I stuck that one in the freezer. Today, I opened my freezer hatch and it hit me between the eyes like an anchor – this is a HUGE problem I need to be rid of.

I have the resources I need to handle this and need to grow up in this area. I can state I need space. I can process the information and my emotions and come back to it in reasonable time. I may not like how he addressed the problem but it’s on me to respond maturely. For me, this abusive behavior walks hand-in-hand with other avoidant ones such as procrastination and evasiveness, but I’ll stick that in the freezer for now. As Michelle Caswell, of Purely His Inc. states in her book by the same name – which is changing my life – we can choose to have this take 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months, or 7 years. I’m going with the 7 second option!

My husband has come a long way in learning how to handle me in this. He no longer stands above and bangs on the hatch to ask if I’m okay or when I’m coming out; or worse, what’s wrong with me and when am I going to learn to communicate. Paradoxically, all this questioning somehow made me rub my hands in satisfaction. He realizes he can’t change me and has chosen to walk the high road. He doesn’t have to play my game. He is the stable one. He continues to say what he needs to and refuses to walk on egg-shells. He finds things to do during times we would be spending together, since I’m not available now. He continues to show affection as I allow.

Today I listened to Dr. Les Carter on his YouTube post “The Silent Treatment” and journaled, “Thank you Lord that he is his own mature adult despite my behavior.” I’m also happy to note that, over the years, I’ve gone from having a massive automatic hatch, pictured below,

massive hatch

Fig. 2 Massive hatch (Folding type, 2017)

To the medium sized hatch pictured below. Note how much muscle it takes to open it. I was willing to do that hard work rather than change.

medium hatch

Fig. 3 Medium-sized hatch also called a dog-hatch

(howlingpixel, 2018)

To this little guy:

small hatch

Fig. 4 Small hatch

I’m done being the hatch queen. The batten queen. It is a fruitless work of darkness, regardless of its size. As I strain towards maturity, I am learning about and living the power of vulnerability; and stripping the false security of shame and fear by unmasking myself. As a powerful healing tool, the Lord gave me a picture of a big red button on my forehead. It says “Expose It”, as driven by the words “Everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (NIV, Eph. 5.13).

red button

The “Expose It” Button

So I just pushed that button. I’m doing the arduous work of stripping my safety cabin of its supplies and charm. I’ve spent too much time making it cozy. I’m packing up the comforts and bringing them on deck. I’m locking that last little hatch and tossing the key overboard into the sea of forgiveness.  I did the best I did with what I had. So long little room. It’s a new day. I’m growing up… I’m going up.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. VOC  ship old hatch cannon port rope wooden http://m.imageafter.com/image.php?image=b3_woods023.jpg
  2. ‘Batten Down the Hatches’ – the Meaning and Origin Of This Phrase
  3. Gary Martin – https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/batten-down-the-hatches.html

Dylan, Bob. “Tempest.” Tempest, Columbia Records, 2012.

4. osprey-marine.co.uk. “Folding Type” https://www.marineinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ospera.jpg, Tanumoy Sinha, Naval Architecture, Different Types And Designs of Hatch Covers Used For Ships, 2017.

5. A hatch on USS Blue Ridge with the hatch dogs clearly visible. https://howlingpixel.com/i-en/Dog_(engineering), 2018.

6. “Construction of ship hatches.” http://www.crewtoo.com/crew-life/helpful-info/don’t-play-with-hatches-construction-of-ship-hatches/

7. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Zondervan, 2011.

 

Africa · Brothers · Dad · Daughters · Memoires · Musings · Relationships · travel

My Brother, The Red-Indian

My father was larger than life.

I was a shrimp of a kid and he, a stately 6’2″. Everything about him was gargantuan: his body, his booming voice, his gigantic spirit… He made his presence known before he was seen. He inspired deep seated anxiety without saying a word. In his presence I averted my eyes automatically and my ears pounded at the thumping of my little heart.  Fear and respect meant the same thing with him – he wielded them as one.

He knew everyone and was known by all in our little town. I never met anyone he was afraid of.  I have memories of him frequently holding court in our living room. Disputing relatives or friends sought him out for mediation. He heard every side fairly and declared swift judgements, his was the final word.

I had an insatiable need to stare at  him. I would hide behind a piece of furniture or person and study him, wide-eyed with awe: his flaring nostrils, the wrinkles on his regal forehead, his perfectly lined ivory teeth, his grand hands that moved with calculated grace and regency. He had a fabulous sense of humor and a cannonade of a laugh. I would lean in when he laughed, and find myself smiling. He spoke his mind with confidence, wisdom, and fantastic wit. He was never afraid to offend.

Now that I’m an adult we have fostered a great friendship. We are separated by thousands of miles and decades now.  About ten years ago, he and mum came to visit me in the States. Before their arrival he repeatedly told me that he had a plan.

“I want to visit the Red Indian.” Not till the day I die will I  ever get used to crazy things he says.

“Dad,” I said. “You can’t say Red Indian. Say Native American or just Indian.”

“Okay,” He would say.

When they arrived after hours of air travel, we hugged and laughed and hugged again. We had an animated chat on the way to the car as he regaled us with accounts of their travels. “They were the skinniest bloody Pakistani man and woman I have ever seen,” he said, describing fellow travelers. “She talked non-stop like a machine and I had to keep getting her luggage. She didn’t eat any of the food in the airplane. Three meals! Can you imagine? She brought their food. And when the air-hostesses brought out our food, I had to get theirs from that dirty green bag in the overhead. There were 8 identical lunch boxes. No sooner would I sit down then she would say, “A thousand apologies, not this one, Bwana, other one!”” He mocked her namaste and bobbing head.

“Here I am folded in my tight seat like a pretzel,” he continued, “and I have to unfold myself, get back into the dirty green bag and find the right lunchbox. Can you imagine? And do you know she had the spiciest curry which she ate talking the whole time. She took a bite and her nose started running. Then she put her spoon in the dish, loaded it with curry and handed it to me to eat. Can you imagine? All I could think was, ‘that’s going to hurt going in and coming out.’ I didn’t touch it.”

“Then the next meal I had to do the same thing, I hand her a lunch box and she says,  “A thousand apologies, not this one Bwana, other one please.” But when she opened it, it was the  bloody same curry.” He threw his hands up in exasperation and we laughed our heads off. We stuffed his luggage in the trunk.

“Next time you must bring a big boot for my bags, Hannah.” He chided as he folded himself into the passenger seat.

“I love Oregon. Now Hannah, you remember I need to go and see the Red Indian.”

I leaned forward from the back seat and grabbed his shoulder. “Dad!” I said sternly, “I told you they are not called Red Indians.”

“Oh,” he said. “A thousand apologies…” namaste and all.

Every morning I awoke and made them breakfast, so grateful for the dream of having them in my home. The days were flying and I was already dreading their departure. Each day we would have some version of, “Is today the day we see the Red Indian?”

“Dad!” I would  glare at him, “First of all, you can’t say that. Second of all you don’t know any. It’s not like you just walk up someplace and find Red Indians waiting for you, sheesh!”

“Oh, sorry,” he would say with exaggerated humility. Everyday for 2 weeks

During their stay, he and mum discovered garage-sales and loved them. He was amazed that individuals just set out tables and their stuff and people came to buy it. He bought loads of stuff at each one and was always very pleased with himself. He would hold up a new-found treasure and say, “Can you believe?” His favorite find was a coon-skin hat that he proceeded to wear everywhere he went. Both he and mum became extremely astute at spotting garage-sale signs. “There, there, garage!” They would say excitedly at the siting of a roadside sign. I started to worry about all the stuff they were collecting and how they were going to get it home.

Regarding the matter of the “Red Indian”, my husband and father-in-law decided that what we needed was a day trip to the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon to visit Kah-Nee-Tah, an Indian run resort. Dad had a long sleepless night. He was like a kid the night before Christmas.

We left early and had a great trip east towards Mt. Hood. We stopped at Timberline Lodge to show him the magnificent building and area. He didn’t pay much attention. After a few photos and a bathroom break, he was back in the car. “I don’t want to keep them waiting.” We all laughed at him that “they” were waiting for him. He marveled at and kept a running commentary on the change in terrain and climate as we descended on the east side. Dad got quieter when we pointed out the reservation sign and as we drove the last few miles. He stared at the beautiful cliffs and the desert scrub-brush. “Just like in the films,” he said quietly pulling a little plastic comb from his shirt pocket. He combed his hair and readjusted his coon-skin hat. Stroking its tail and studying every bush and rock, he muttered, “Just like in the films.”

When we finally arrived at the resort, he waved enthusiastically at the lady at the pay booth. He noted that she wasn’t very friendly. ‘No matter,’ he thought, ever hopeful. We were tired, cramped, and ready to stretch.

“This is nothing like I remember as a kid,” my husband remarked, worsted, when we got out of the car.

“No,” my father-in-law agreed. “It’s all concrete and metal now.” Even the row of tee-pees were of metal.

We were woebegone. We’d expected to find Indians everywhere,  living their life, but only a handful of regular looking, bored young-adult workers milled around on their cell-phones. We had a quiet disappointing lunch, moped around the dry, dusty property and piled back into the car an hour later, chapfallen.

“Why would they bloody make us come to a place like this?” Dad said, as he shut the car door with more force than was necessary. No one bothered to answer him.

We couldn’t believe we’d driven several hours just for this and would be returning home disappointed. No one said much, each one nursing their own grudge at this plight. All of a sudden, from the back seat, mum erupted, “There, there, garage!”

The car had learned to swerve into garage sales and it did not fail us this time. We turned a tight right onto a gravel road where the red paper plate with shoddy hand-writing directed. Their spirits rose significantly.

“More junk,” I thought to myself, disgusted. “Just great!”

We bumped along and presently came up to a small run-down house beyond a rusty barbed-wire fence on which sat a large blue-jay which scolded us then took wing. We pulled in slowly and gazed at a single plastic folding table with a few items on it. Dad was  out before the car came to a stop. I scrambled out after him to remind him not to the say the darned words.

There were little children everywhere, kicking a ball made of stuffed plastic bags. They came racing to the table at our arrival, yelling, “Customers, customers!”

A very large woman stood promptly behind the table and straightened her ample skirts and long silver hair at the arrival of customers. She reached forward nervously and rearranged items on the table without looking at them. She had large eyes that sparkled and a huge smile that lit up her wrinkled face.

“Hi,” She said and cleared her throat.

I finally caught up to dad and tapped him on the shoulder, he took off the coon-skin hat and held it in deference, bowing his regal head slowly. He was entranced.

“My name is Thuku,” he began, standing so close to the table that he bumped it slightly. The lady rearranged it absently.

He dropped his voice an octave and said, “I have come to see The Red Indian.” He leaned in further, raised his head, and reached out his hand to shake hers.

“Oooooh God,” I groaned. “I don’t want to die like this!”

The rest of our group was just getting to the table. The kids gathered around and circled us curiously, staring from one person to the other then chattering excitedly to each other.

The lady gasped and clutched her bosom, taken aback. Then, absent-mindedly rearranging the table again, she hollered, “Hawk!! Go get your father.” She whisked a fly off her sculpted face with a nervous hand.

How many times had I told him?? This was terrible and about to get worse. I tried to nudge him and make eye-contact but he wouldn’t look at me.

One of the kids darted off like an arrow, flying through the thin door, which slammed and rattled the whole house. It swung freely one way, then made a dull wham as it opened again. “I told you not to slam the…” She yelled but I didn’t hear any more.

The doorway was suddenly darkened by Goliath. He wore a sleeveless undershirt and held a beer can in his hand. He stooped at the doorway to avoid hitting his head and scratched his belly as he took a giant step over the threshold. I became very light-headed  and everything started to happen in slow-motion.

The lady pointed awkwardly at dad, not sure what to say. Before I knew it, dad stood before him, clutching the coon-skin hat to his chest in deference. “My name is Thuku. I came aaaaaaall the way from A-fri-ca to meet my brother – The Red Indian.” He dropped his head in a dramatic reverent bow and reached out his hand. He had said “Africa” as though it had a hundred syllables and was accompanied by  a thousand thundering drums from the motherland.

The man paused and stroked on his long silver braid then got a strange look on his face. He put the beer in his left hand and reached out his massive paw to shake dad’s hand, which was stroking his coon-hat tail.  They shook hands for a long time, eyes locked, then  grabbed each other in an embrace.

“My name is Fire-Maker Wings. I welcome you, my brother.”

I was dumbfounded AND stupefied. Can you believe?

Dad was ushered into the house and the rest of us were invited in. Our eyes took a minute to adjust to the dark room after the bright sun. Fire-Maker turned off a football game he was watching on a wall-sized television and sat next to dad. The rest of us looked around at each other rather dazed and shrugged our shoulders. He turned to introduce his wife Ayita who stood at the doorway, wringing her hands. “It means first to dance,” he added beaming.

He spoke to her in a language I didn’t understand and she hurried out of the room followed by the troop of children. In no time, they returned with glasses, sodas, and a couple of beers; and proceeded to serve us.

The children sat among us and Ayita sat by mum. I looked around as though watching a movie. ‘This is crazy,’ was all I could think. My eyes came to rest on dad. Presently, he and Fire-Maker were leaning forward in their seats talking to each other in hushed tones. They looked intently into each others’ eyes, listening, then speaking, all the while nodding their heads, then listening again. I caught snippets of their conversation and was transported many miles and decades, to being a child, secretly watching dad from behind a piece of furniture, entranced by his large presence, his big spirit. It was a sacred interchange. Their large hands gestured as in a solemn dance. They discussed politics, history, and culture. They talked about reservations and colonialism. They talked about the past and the future.

Time was flying and soon it was time for us to leave.  Fire-Maker sent Hawk to the next room. Hawk returned with a wooden chest from which our host unpacked items wrapped in tissue paper. Indian dolls, miniature totems, pieces of decorated leather, and beads. He showed them to dad then to the rest of us. Then he walked us to a shed outside the house where he opened another chest. He slowly unpacked his porcupine roach head-dress, placed it on dad’s head, and showed him how to dance in it. He unfolded a gorgeous red shawl with an eagle emblem and draped it on mum’s shoulder. It was simply magical!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad beamed from ear to ear all the way home.

Who knew?

Africa · Anxiety · Childhood · Cows · culture · Faith · Family · Farming · Fear · Goodbye · Grief · Memoires · Military · Parenting · Prayer · Relationships · Separation · Spiritual · travel

Together Forever – Thwarted

goodbyeI.

Today the Rancher separated the 3 calves from the mothers to wean them. They are across a fence from each other. The mothers moo forlornly for their young who are frolicking carefree in the next field. Even while they chew, the heart-sick mother’s moo. It’ll be a long week hearing their pathetic bellowing.

Curly

II.

Precious family friends bid farewell to their dear son today. He joined the US Army. They dropped him off at the recruitment center, were able to stay only a few minutes, and that was goodbye. He was instantly distracted with protocol and procedures, his eager heart racing as information and orders were flung at him in rapid fire. His life will never be the same. Thank you for serving our country Dustin.

usarmy

They must be reeling. Was it a silent ride home. Unspoken fears. Is anyone even able to  complete a sentence? What a long ride, everyone engrossed in their thoughts… Their world now plays in slow motion, pauses and rewinds erratically. They are transported to a new existence without him.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles are all breathing deeply and sensing an undefinable loneliness. Their faith and love hold them strong. They know he will be strong. They know he will be used to be a source of encouragement and strength to many. They know he will hurt, and grow, and serve, and grow. They pray they will see him again. The tears flow freely.

 

It will never be the same.

III.

lufthansa

It’s midnight and I sit in my airplane seat athwart the aisle from an excitable lady who speaks loudly to anyone who will listen. She sits and stands several times, each time taking down her massive luggage from the overhead bin, retrieving an item or other, then asking the next person walking up or down the aisle to return it for her. Each time she held her hands in Namaste at them and bobbles her head in gratitude. She would settle in and get comfortable but in no time, she was up again. This was going to be  a long trip!

It was my first time in an airplane and here I was flying clear across the world. I looked out of the narrow window at the twinkling lights way, way below. The engines whirred in the background and my ears hurt from the pressure. I saw my face in the reflection and I remembered my dear family at the airport, noses and hands plastered to the other side of the cold glass when they’d taken me as far as security allowed. I’d touched my nose and hands to each one, and we mouthed our farewells. So close, yet so far. My mind swirled with mixed emotions as I clutched my blue carry on-luggage with BOAC written on it in large bold letters. My dad had owned that bag for close to twenty years and took it on all his oversees travels.

I couldn’t believe I was leaving. Where was I going? Weren’t there colleges back home? How does one even navigate an airport. I would be navigating 4 international ones in twenty four hours. How would I know if I was flying the wrong way? What was I doing? Who’s great idea was this? I had turned back to see them for the last time. Some were crying, some where covering their mouths in shock, some staring in disbelief. I pulled down the white plastic window cover and tried, in vain, to get comfortable in the small seat. I fiddled with the the seat belt and watched the safety videos studiously.

Dustin leaving today make me think of what that drive home, twenty four years ago, must have been like for my family. A couple of quick decades and a child is ready to take off on their own into the big wide world? What on Earth!

Did they say much in the crowded car? Did dad try to break the silence with bad jokes that fell flat and they returned to the strained silence? I remembered my parents’ words: Find God’s people and you’ll be okay; you are strong; the Lord is with you. I knew they were praying and that was like their collective arms around me, blessing me, sending me out into what was unknowable to them but part of a beautiful plan of an all-knowing God for my life. And He could be trusted.

What was it like to pull into the gates at home? I know how it’s been when I pull into the property for the funeral of a family member. Even the air feels different. It’s just not right. A huge piece of the whole is missing. What was it like for them to walk into my mostly empty room? I’d given most of my stuff away and packed my essentials into a green and black plaid suitcase dad gave me. Did their hearts feel like my sparse room? It’s like an empty shell after a critter molts and leaves it.

In the words of Ritu Ghatourey, “Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”
And life is never the same…
Attraction · Emotions · Feelings · Intimacy · Marriage · Poetry · Relationships

I Have Feelings For You.

Image result for feelings

You thrill me, enchant me,

Scintillate me, excite me,

Fascinate me, enthrall me.

Make my heart throb, hear my soul’s call,

Glad we’re in this, for the long haul.

 

You annoy me,  irritate me,

confound  me, frustrate me,

You vex me, aggravate me,

misunderstand me, berate me…

I have feelings for you alright!

 

Image retrieved 4/6/18 from:

https://www.facebook.com/feelingsldn/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/haul/

chickens · Country Living · Farming · mothers · Nature · Parenting · Photography · Relationships · Single parenting

New Mama

chickens

We call her Naked Neck. Everyone that sees her says, “What’s wrong with that one?”

I have nine chickens and she is the smartest of them all. One of my huge white chickens, Big Mama, was sitting on a pile of 6 eggs for about a week. Next time I went to the coop, Naked Neck was sitting on the eggs. I don’t know how she worked her way into this position. Big Mama was sitting on 2 eggs in the next box. Trickery? Negotiation? Did I say she was smart? No bird-brain here. It seemed this faithful little mama never moved. Every time I was in the coop she was in the same position, night or day.

I was borrowing the space where my chickens were living and I had to move them to my own coop when it was ready. Big Mama had her 2 chicks. I moved the rest and saved Naked Neck and Big Mama for last, not wanting to stress them and the babies out. The moving deadline was fast approaching. I moved Big Mama with the 2 chicks and she took a licking, even though it was just a few days since all the hens were one happy family before being separated, and she’d been high in the pecking order. I was nervous about moving Naked Neck, suspecting the other chickens would attack her and that she would be more vulnerable while defending her chicks or eggs.

Not only was I  unsure how Naked Neck would take to sitting on her eggs in a new location, my mother’s intuition told me they would hatch any day. The final day came and I had to do the dastardly deed. At that point I didn’t even know how long she’d been sitting on that pile. Seemed like 6 months to me. Chicks hatch in 3 weeks. I’m the genius that had no idea when my own babies’ conception or due dates were. I’d looked at the calendar and made very wild guesses. They came sooner or later, though I could swear one was way over-cooked. I’m not saying which one.

The Rancher and I wondered if the eggs were duds and she was just wasting her time. So he judiciously grabbed one of the eggs and cracked it open. Dag-nab-it! There sat a fully developed chick ready to hatch any time. I wanted to kick rocks but there were none in sight. So painful, too late.

He gently picked mama up despite her protests. There, under her, were 8 eggs and the tiniest chick I ever saw!

No sooner did we settle her into the new coop than she scattered her eggs all over the place and proceeded to follow her meandering baby around. It was a frigid morning so El Ranchero collected the eggs and promptly set them in an incubator to maintain their temperature and hopefully bring them to term. 2 days later, a loud little peep-squeak hopped out of its shell in the incubator, stuck her head way up in an attempted stand and yelled, “Are you my mama?” She flopped over right away. Now what were we going to do? I wasn’t going to have chicks in my house again after last spring.

HE had set them up in MY closet claiming it was their best chance at making it. MY closet. In no time, they stunk to high heaven. I mean odious. In MY closet. I decided there and then not to get attached to the little loud tyke as his chances of a long fulfilling life were nil if it had anything to do with my closet.

The Rancher came to the rescue again. He took the little thing and set it under Naked Neck. Mama walked away and hunkered down on the first chick. The Rancher set the newbie under her again. And again. He’s a stubborn one and she’s a smart one so she let the little squatter in after a few more tries. They were a happy little family.

2 days ago, another little dinosaur hatched. Man they are loud. It was a mini-naked neck and the cutest thing ever!

No closet!

I knew we were pushing our luck with the little yellow guy since it had been several days but I marched it to the coop. I hoped mum would recognize herself in it till I realized she probably had never seen herself. Hmm. The new chick instantly started following Big White Mama.

Big Mama was having none of it. She pecked hard at the chick which was the size of her own head. I shooed her away, indignant, and she flew across the coop. Little Naked took off after her. This wasn’t good. I scooped her up and followed Naked Neck. Mhhh… How to approach? Was this going to be a rear or front entry? I thought rear would be safer for me. Mama scooted away with her two babies in tow. She then hunkered down and I ushered Naked Necklet in. Mama scooted away again. Oh dear. This was a creature only a mother could love and here was mama rejecting her own ugly likeness.

5 tries later, Necklet marched right in and did whatever they do under there. Success!

Later in the day I paid them a courtesy call to see how things were going. I took the picture above – and look, there’s Big Foot in the background in his typical pose, except he’s normally going the other way! Necklet is all fluffy and happy on the left, she is saying, “I found my mama!” She keeps casting longing glances at Big Mama but I suspect that will abate with time. Maybe she can have aunty time down the road.

I have six more eggs in the incubator. I don’t know how much more of this Naked Neck with tolerate but I’ll keep trying. She is being awfully gracious considering I don’t know what I would have done if people kept sneaking me new-born infants just because I had just had one and was in the mode.

If all else fails, I hear there is a recipe out there for fully developed chicks in the egg. Hmm…

 

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This guy was hatched this morning!

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/frigid/

Christian · Intimacy · Personal Growth · Relationships

Deep Waters

depths

Have you ever said or done something in the spur of the moment and thought, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

The other day I sat with a brilliant group of people I love and discussed this wonderful proverb: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” Proverbs 20:5.

In it, “purposes” pertains to plans.  Anatomically, the heart refers to the “hollow, pump-like organ of blood circulation, composed mainly of rhythmically contractile smooth muscle, located in the chest…”. In many ancient cultures, including the Hebrews, the heart refers to the very soul of who we are. It also refers to our will – our inclinations and our appetites; as well as our emotions; and our understanding.

Is it fair to state that the purposes of a persons heart are as deep, mysterious, and unsearchable as ‘waters’? I emphatically say, “Yes!” The fish is the last to see the water. My own heart can be  enigmatic even to me. What a graphic metaphor! Deep waters conjure up images of the unknown, of wrinkled creatures with savage fangs lurking for a killing. Many a relationship has gone sour at the unleashing of this monster in a partner who, at first blush, seemed as attractive as gentle pool on a hot day. Unfortunately too many are foolhardy enough to plunge into deep waters without the skills to navigate them.

There is nothing like a relationship, on any level, let alone an intimate one, to bring out the purposes of ones heart. Being herd creatures, we long to know and to be known. (https://thukumainen.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/meant-to-belong-to-a-herd/) How difficult this is when we harbor recesses of ourselves that even we don’t know! If we think it is easy to understand people, we are wrong. Even people we have known for decades are still capable of surprising us. Even when we’ve heard all their stories and know “all about them”.

We all harbor things in our hearts that no one else knows – positive and negative. Those may be fears, dreams, resentments, habits, past actions, and various other aspects of who we are. These  are borne in the deep dark recesses of our hearts and are sometimes invisible even to the bearer. We guard them carefully there and they are well trained in not surfacing. We consciously and unconsciously feed them and tend to them. We know how to quell them when they thrash about wildly in the murky depths.

This arduous internal work is attained while externally we look rather well put together. My sister in law tells me of Sheila at her work who regularly breaks down and cries “the ugly cry. ” Full out loud and dramatic – in a professional workplace surrounded by hundreds of people. That’s messed up. We recoil at people who fall apart in our presence. We need them to contain themselves, or keep it together. We don’t have to be as theatrical as Sheila either. Meanwhile the monster grows and grows in the dark.

Intimacy is “a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of” another person. Blessed and few are  relationships where people are on the road to being completely known and completely knowing the other person. This can take a lifetime. Many of us have felt the thrill of sharing our hearts with another and still being loved and accepted. I would define intimacy as the gift of being with “one who has insight” to draw out the purposes of our hearts. This can be God, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or any other significant other. 

May we aspire to have the insight (skill, intelligence, understanding) to effectively navigate and draw out the purposes of the hearts of those we are blessed to have in our lives. That involves time, active listening, investing in people, compassion, and grace. We must hold each other’s hearts gently. May we have the courage to help them sight, catch, land, and slay their monsters. May we row them along in their dreams and aspirations. May we dare

 

 

Bibliography:

  1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/heart?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018
  2. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intimacy?s=t retrieved March 21, 2018

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/blush/

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/invisible/

 

Aging · Caregiving · Dad · Daughters · Elderly · Family · Grief · Relationships · sad · Short story · Tribe

The One You’re With

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

The two captivating desires of elderly residents I’ve cared for over the years have been to be in their own home and to have family visit everyday and care for them. They are almost obsessive desires. My job security rests on the fact that these two desires can’t be met. It’s fascinating to me that while they wish their loved ones were caring for them, I too have a secret desire: to be back home caring for my elderly father. Unfortunately today is not the day for that dream to come true.

The ironic flip side of that coin is that while these residents love their family members dearly, the majority of them, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t really want their family taking care of them. I’ve heard the lines: She’s so impatient… She’d rather die than wipe my butt… He’s always been so selfish… She’s so rough…. They are actually grateful that the family isn’t caring for them.

Well, there’s a flip side to my desire too. Dad is difficult. And demanding. And selfish. He has to be the boss and things have to go his way. He is loud and has the worst boundaries in the world. It’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor and can take a good jab when he goes too far.

AND he raised me. I don’t necessarily owe him, seeing as I didn’t ask to be born and raised, but I remember he put himself out repeatedly, faithfully, deeply (did I say loudly?), so that I had the best I possibly could. I remember all  that demonstrated consistently from the time I was knee high to that mountain of a man. He was on time for my appointments, present for my rehearsals and performances, involved in my education, drove me to college hours away so he’d see where I’d be.

And when I boarded a plane to fly across the world, he held me close and told me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and that he’d be praying for me. And when I graduated he flew 10,000 miles to see for himself the first of his children to receive a university degree. He spent the whole time jet-lagging and trying to work out the cramps in his long legs from the long trip, and finally on the great graduation morning, he landed in the hospital with pneumonia. When he wasn’t kidding with and bossing the nurses, he was apologizing for missing my big day.

Two weeks later he walked me down the aisle and held me close again, and reminded me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and he’d be praying for me. And that he was ever so proud of me.

We talk on the phone a couple times a month. I call him Daddy Blue. He calls me Mummy Blue. ( See the story behind the Blue https://wordpress.com/post/thukumainen.wordpress.com/3729). Four years later he flew to my grad school graduation and was ever so proud. He wore his favorite blue shirt, strutted like a peacock, spoke louder than normal, and looked so handsome.

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I think I’m his favorite and he doesn’t know he’s my favorite. He’s my first thought when I wake up in the night. I think of him throughout my day. So why am I not there checking his medications as he takes them, slowly massaging his stump, holding his barf bag when he needs it, and sitting in on his doctors appointments? Why am I not there trimming his nails, reading Psalms to him, soaking in his amazing wisdom, and laughing at his fabulous stories?

Why am I here instead, doing your mother’s pretty nails, massaging her stump, hearing her awesome stories for the hundredth time, making her favorite dessert, looking through her picture books, and tucking her in at night with the pink and purple blanket just the way she likes it, with the little pillow over the long pillow angled just so?

I can only pray that the one who’s caring for dad knows he likes the lighter sheet off to the side so he can pull it over him if it gets cold at night and water set close to but not blocking the clock. And that wherever you are, you are taking the time to help the lady get across the street, or telling the kids that little Teddy doesn’t want them pushing his wheelchair any more. Or that you’re checking books out diligently at the library where you work, and teaching class in a fun and engaging way. That you’re being extra humane as you pick up the garbage on your work route, raise your babies at home, and as you do brain surgery on your patients, or fill tanks with gas, do landscaping, or adjudicate cases.

All this while I am with the one who would rather be with you; while I can’t be with the one I would rather be with. That’s the way of the Global Tribe.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/captivating/

Attraction · Hopelessness · Marriage · Relationships

And Then There’s Us

They sit there giggling,

staring into each others eyes,

whispering empty nothings.

 

They talk easily  for hours on end

obviously relishing each others company.

 

And then there’s us.

 

They take on life together,

tackle trouble and relinquish it.

Determined, sure, secure.

 

And then there’s…

 

Us wondering, doubting, struggling.

Choosing to stay,

in this, the mature work of intimacy,

when the spark is gone.

On a path lit by growth upon difficult growth,

and depth of love.

So at the end of the day,

there will be…

Us.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/typical/

Image retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/115756652898140750/?utm_campaign=category_rp&e_t=e2c1795b1a9f4211a13a7dec9bee49f3&utm_content=115756652898140750&utm_source=31&utm_term=16&utm_medium=2012 on March 7th, 2018

Aging · Anxiety · Christian · Death · Family · Health · Heaven · Relationships · sad · Short story · Summer

Grief Gauntlet

Free stock photo of night, dark, halloween, horror

Today marks the end of my annual grief gauntlet.

It starts subtly enough with the passing of summer, my favorite season. The weather gets cooler and the days shorter. Then I know it’s time to get my game face on. On September 29th five years ago, my sister passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 49. October 13th grandma passed away from Congestive Heart Failure. October 20th is my sister’s birthday. October 22nd is my deceased brother’s birthday. October 26th 2014 my mum passed away from a massive heart attack.

So it is that the end of September feels like diving into murky turbulent waters and that I have to wait till the end of October to exhale. I experience a profusion of emotions, some at the same time. They vary from a punch-in-the-gut breathlessness to exhilarating hope, and a million in between.

I thank God for His ministry of comfort to me without which I would be a wreck. It continues to blow my mind that the Holy Spirit is called our Comforter. He personally attends to healing our broken hearts. He prepares us, buffers us, and endows us with grace to endure the pain. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He then continues to shield and teach us about our hope in eternity. This is not a wishful thought but a certain expectation that we will see our loved ones again, whole and restored. We will also see our beloved Jesus face to face.

Death is our final enemy 1 Cor 15:26. And it is a formidable enemy indeed. He strikes a terrible blow. But after we have overcome that, if we know and loved Jesus, we will never die again and pass from death to life.

Receiving news of a family members death is surreal to say the least. If you’ve never had to endure it, let me tell you that nothing can prepare you. It sucks like crazy. But One stands with you. That’s the best you can hope for. If you are in the thick of it, He stands with you still. In many, many, many days it will get a little better. Then a little more. The sun will shine again.

To read through mum’s medical report on her final day, I am further saddened that we as a family had not made the necessary steps to protect her in the even of flat-lining. I thank God for the crash team that rushed to her side to help her. Yet they were at it far too long and I hate to think of her beholding her Savior yet being surrounded by experts attempting to jolt her back to life. Not necessary. We, especially as believers, must take steps towards believing that we have a fabulous place we are going and to do what we can to eradicate unnecessary medical heroics. Though she’d had a rough last year and we were devastated by the thought of letting her go, so we didn’t plan on what the end would look like. Please take the time to talk with those you love about what you’d like and what they’d like. Better yet, write it down.

So I look outside at this fantastical fall we are having and feel ready to exhale. I thank my spiritual family for their priceless support through prayer and other gestures of love. I’m so honored to walk this road with you and can’t wait to be finally home forever.

Mum, Irene, Mick… plus all others who have gone before us, we’ll see you all very soon.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/surreal/

photo retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/night-dark-halloween-horror-782/ on 10/26/2017