Monday, March 31, 2014

Lazarus Heart

I thought of how every day each of us experiences a few little moments that have just a bit more resonance than other moments – we hear a word that sticks in our mind – or maybe we have a small experience that pulls us out of ourselves, if only briefly…we would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn't even know was going on inside us.  –Douglas Coupland

We often say, one day at a time but I say, one moment at a time.  A day, all 24 hours is packed with so many planned and unplanned events.  So, I suggest you have the overview of the day, but take it in small steps, one moment at a time.  –Eveth Colley

Last week:  It’s Wednesday.  I’m leaving work right around 6, and the sun is peeking out after what seems like a year of hiding.  I am grateful.  It’s been a long week full of emotional triggers that have been hard to check at the door, and the week is only half over.  The sun, warm on my face and stinging my eyes through the windshield is like a tangible ray of hope, Shirley Temple style.

Unlike most days of the week, I have a passenger.  A small fourth grader occupies my backseat, his green and black coat tossed haphazardly across the seat, his backpack tucked between his feet.  I give this nervous boy a lift home once or twice a week – his mom doesn't have a car.  Despite the small inconvenience of the trip, on days like today when I have too much on my mind, I welcome the distraction.  I’m learning to find hope in my students too.

This particular boy always wants us to be first out of the parking lot, but I've never asked him why.  Rarely do I pull out of my parking spot before my boss, and he exhales an audible sigh of disappointment in the back.  “Man, she’s going to beat us.”  This day is no different; we are second.

He comments all the way down the road on how far ahead her white hatchback seems – will we ever catch up?  He wants me to drive faster.  His excitement is palpable as we pull up to the stop light and wait to turn – we are directly behind her.  I honk and she joins in the fun, playing a modified peek a boo game in her rear view mirror.  As the light turns green, I say out loud, “I’m not sure we’re going to make this light.”  The green doesn't last long and we are barely positioned within the turn lane.  I hear my student plead, “Please stay green, come on, come on, stay green.”

It’s not until later, as I reflect on my week and all it has held, that I wonder – why was he so intent for the light to stay green?  Who was he pleading to?  I remember being a kid and doing the very same, the promise of a game continued was exciting.  I wasn't concerned with how long the game would last; I only wanted to keep it going.  As we sailed through the still green light and his cheers of success leaked out the car’s cracked windows, I was struck by the simplicity of his request and the joyous result when it was granted.

The more I chew on this experience, the more I see God in it.  As I fought my way though each day last week, feeling the strain of life, I felt as if I were trudging through knee deep mud.  But I was reminded in this interaction that God desires to give us good gifts.  He hears every whispered request, no matter how big or how small, and he is overjoyed that we would come to Him and ask.  But we need to ask.  What a privilege to see a request so immediately answered, a game continued, a memory made.  I have no way of knowing how such a small interaction may have changed this small boy’s view of the world, or his relationship with us as leaders, but I am grateful for having been a part of it.

I've always been told that working with students isn’t just about you teaching them – it’s about them teaching you.  I was reminded not to be afraid to ask for what I need, no matter how big or how small.  It doesn't matter how urgently I ask, or how loudly, what matters is that I ask and then watch, in hope and expectation, for the answer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

True Confessions of a Dreamer

Dare to dream!  If you did not have the capability to make your wildest wishes come true, your mind would not have the capacity to conjure such ideas in the first place.  There is no limitation on what you can potentially achieve, except for the limitation you choose to impose on your own imagination.  What you believe to be possible will always come to pass - to the extent that you deem it possible.  It really is as simple as that.  - Anthon St. Maarten

Most mornings, I wake up in another country.

Each morning is different, although I'll admit it was easier when I was living in my last apartment.  The high vantage point made it easy to imagine quaint Italian villages, or I could just as quickly find myself among the rolling hills of Ireland or between volcanoes in Latin America.  My current apartment has bedroom windows that open to another building.  It's not the best, but I can still envision a small, sparse apartment within a bustling city in Africa, or a sleek high rise in Australia.  It doesn't have to be a country I've visited before, and for a while, it was a treat to wake up in the morning and open the blinds.  I wasn't sure what I would find.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in Nicaragua.  It was early in the morning, somewhere around 6:30am, although it felt more like 5:30am with the recent time change.  I'm almost never up at this hour, and although my mind was alert, my body was tired.  I laid in bed, listening to the birds chirping outside my window, and I held on to the idea that, if I opened my eyes, I would suddenly find myself back in 2009 on La Finca Magdalena.

My cozy, fluffy bed became a cot, the fabric tight and covered with my orange twin extra long sheets.  It's one of 15 exactly like it, but mine is positioned in the middle of the hardwood floor of the girls room.  The room has wide wooden doors that slam shut in the wind, and not enough electrical outlets to meet the demands of the American visitors.  There's space between the walls and roof, allowing in light and air and all sorts of four legged visitors.

It was easy to imagine waking up, stretching, and opening the heavy doors as quietly as possible.  The wind is warm, rustling the hammocks that hang on the porch.  My eyes are assaulted by the vibrant colors - green, red, and yellow cover my field of vision.  My ears perk up at the sound of happy morning chatter coming from animals and people alike, languages mixing among one another.  My stomach is tempted by the smell of breakfast - gallo pinto, tortillas con crema, huevos, and fresh fruit juices.  My coral colored Crocs squeak across the white tile floor of the co-ed bathroom as I head in to wash my face in the cold spring water.  I'm careful to keep my eyes down, not wanting to unknowingly step on a wandering critter.

The day is pregnant with possibility.  We don't know our schedule beforehand and operating on "Nica time" often means things don't happen as planned anyway.  I remember to step down as I make my way to the picnic tables, covered in blue tablecloths, that will serve as our dining room table for the week.  Many travellers are already awake, and I am welcomed with a "good morning" and the offer of coffee.

Just as I begin to invest in the moment, my eyes open and I realize I was dreaming.  My chest gets a little tighter when I come to and see I'm not in Nicaragua.  Instead I'm cocooned in my cozy, plush bed, the light streaming in between the blinds and the birds singing in the day.  While it's not a bad place to be, I am starkly aware of my heart's desire to return to small cots, crowded rooms, excitement and adventure.  I know my time will come, so for now I will sleep well and wake up to something unexpected each day.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
-Psalm 27:14

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Walking Two Moons

Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.  - Jesse Browner

A life of hospitality begins in worship, with a recognition of God's grace and generosity.  Hospitality is not first a duty and responsibility; it is first a response of love and gratitude for God's love and welcome to us.  - Christine Pohl

Today, I didn't vacuum the floor.  There are still little piles of dirt hanging out throughout the apartment, tracked in as snow melted and the ground stuck to the bottom of my Chuck Taylors.

Today, I didn't play catch up on work.  Despite two snow days, I feel like there are so many moving parts, so many what ifs, that I'm in a perpetual state of catch up.

Today, I didn't go grocery shopping, or put gas in the car.  I didn't clean the bathroom or do laundry or take care of the recycling.

Instead, I hosted one of my best friends for coffee.  We talked about life, ours and the new one she's carrying inside her.  We laughed and connected, talking of the past and the future.  I realized how refreshing it is to start my day with honesty.

Today, I laughed with a friend over terrible games of bowling, each of us taking turns barely breaking 100.  My skills, or perhaps lack there of, got teased by friend and stranger alike.  I tried sushi, good sushi, for the first time and marveled over the different textures found in similar looking rolls of rice.  I fumbled with chopsticks and giggled over inadequacies.

Today, I celebrated a student's birthday with her and her family in their home.  I ate homemade tamales and looked at family pictures eagerly shared.  I made new friends and smiled until my face hurt.  I left with plates of food and a small headache from trying to keep up with the Spanish flying between family members.  My belly, and my heart, are full.

Today, I didn't check one single thing off my "to-do" list, but I did connect with important people in my life.  I played and laughed and was reminded of the simple joy of being together, as friends and as strangers.  I experienced a beautiful picture of hospitality and a caring for one another in a way that is often lost admist the hustle and bustle of daily life.

As I sit and reflect on the day, I am reminded at how important it is to spend time with one another.  Being an introvert and living alone allows me to get comfortable with myself - that in itself is not a bad thing.  But it also breeds complacency, and I sometimes find that I seek solace in myself, by myself, instead of with others.  I realize it can be easy for me to forget how much I need community in my life.

Although I'm a few days late, perhaps I will spend this Lenten season investing myself in the company of others.  During this time of renewal and preparation, I desire to draw closer to the Lord daily.  Many times, like today, it is in the company of others where His presence is most noticeable.  Even though these interactions are likely to be uncomfortable or inconvenient at times, I am hoping to see the Lord in each of them.

How are you renewing yourself during this season of Lent?