Monday, April 30, 2012

Baby Bestie

A younger guy at my new job snatched up a seat next to me before a meeting and struck up a friendly conversation. “Tell me about your family.” He inquired with interest. I expounded with brevity upon my older brothers, and figured that’s where he would be interested, when he politely interrupted and said, “Now, what about your sister?” he leaned in and smiled broadly. My stomach flipped. It has begun. I am a source file and portal for interested parties of masculine interest...interest in my baby sister. They have no idea who they are asking. My mother bear mental state was masked by a polite smile and a low-fat warning question.
“Do you know how old she is?"
“Thir-teen.” I responded with intensity.
He sat back in his seat with a slack jaw. Then we talked about other things.

Her current view of guys is here summarized
in her unsavory expression on the left.

Getting old happens to the best of us—and the very worst of us—all the while we stay the same inside in so many ways. I am learning that I am approaching this aged status with an annual regularity. (Stating the obvious occasionally is only one of many symptoms.) Before I hear the booing and hissing about my aging state, let me explain. This is how I know.

• People ask if the girls I have along with me for coffee chats or job assistants “are yours.”

• My business card is suddenly acceptable, when before it was somehow amusing.

• Teenage boys ask me girl advice and I encourage them to stick with finishing college.

• I approach a group of little people playing, they fall quiet, and I cannot join without receiving strange looks—from them.

• No one asks anymore, “So how do you know that?” when you know it the same way they do.

• Older people have begun to tell me that the longer I wait to bear children the more difficult it will be to do so.

• My advice is requested, chargeable, and taxable.

• Teenage girls may blush if they say “the wrong thing” while we are chatting.

• No one asks about school anymore, upon introduction.

• People assume I am in a relationship

• I actually need the eye cream I’ve been using since a young teen...

• My baby sister is turning fourteen today.

• My parents stop asking if I locked the front door—the one I always lock.

The last bullet point has not happened yet, however much my parents may trust me with their finances, vehicles, food, and lives. This, despite other facts, will be my insurance to render me forever young while they yet live. But, my sister turning fourteen today, is beyond impossible.

Out to lunch with my lovely sis
 on the Port Townsend waterfront.

I was eight years old and eager. My momma had been pregnant before as I recalled, but I had never had a little sibling to have and hold. I prayed for a sister every day for as long as everyone could remember. My deepest heart’s desire was for a sister to share every joy, sorrow, laugh, thought, and even—my clothes. I dreamed of taking her shopping, eating out together, finding cute stuff, hitting each other and finding it hilarious, merciless teasing, and sharing a bedroom. I figured it was impossible, since I was eight, even if she came along now, she would be excessively young when I was markedly old. We would be eons apart and never have that sort of friend relationship.

Then, she came. My dad called from the hospital, telling me she was “squatty” and “a girl” and I laughed until I could not breathe. My brothers and I collapsed in a carpeted upstairs hallway…and literally bounced off the walls rolling and laughing for joy. It was April 30th.

Even cats adore her. Now that's something.
Much happened since then: she almost died, I have almost died. But here we are and I know now that I have the best of all worlds in her lovable person. I have raised her and fed her, held her and babied her and get to remember it all since I was much older. And now as a teen, she’s my best friend and yet still my baby.

Seriously. It IS funny.
You don't get it?

We now laugh together in carpeted hallways until we can’t breathe, but often it is about nothing anyone could possibly comprehend. But the most recent humor stems from the fact that we still physically view each other as ages apart, but people looking in see two young ladies and think we are both around 20. When we hold hands frequently, she lays on top of me, or I snap my fingers for obedience, onlookers may find it rather awkward. I didn’t realize this until I became the source file among males for her availability status. (For the record, she will NOT be available, indefinitely: like for a period of time that extends past your interest’s expiration. Thank you.)

So the best of all worlds is mine. I have raised a baby sibling, and now I have a live-in bestie. She is my self-assigned relational coach, now gives me fashion advice, thankfully outgrown everything I have, loves Jesus too, and makes me forever young. I am beyond grateful for my sweet sister on this: her fourteenth birthday. 

As if self portraits ever made sense...

Ha. Being creepy to spook each other to laughter
 is our private sense of humor.
Sometimes we forget people might be watching...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Her: His Love

Source: via Johanna on Pinterest

“How will I make sure she really knows how important and loved she is, while she lives in this world?” I stared up at the ceiling and leaned back on the air mattress on the floor of her room. That very morning I had suddenly ran from my bedroom at 5:30 am, gathering personal effects, groceries, and home goods into bags as I rushed to the car. She was coming.

Pushing open their front door, I heard my brother and sister-in-law in the other room. I peeked my head in to check in, and read, “Pain” on her face, and the letters spelling “Love” on his, as he held her hands through each ripping contraction. They had been there all night.

“Is the midwife coming soon?” I asked, concerned.

“She’s on her way now.” My brother replied.

My instincts plainly told me “cook food.” They always say that to me, when other people are under pressure. I just cook food. I stumbled into the kitchen wincing back burning tears and that awful associated twinge in the jaw. I wanted to be so strong, but in the meantime, I could I hear and see the agony—and do nothing. Oh how I wanted to do something: to take it away.

Hours passed. Now I leaned in close on the bed beside my brother and wife, as little Erin was brought into our world. Following the commands of the midwife like a disciplined recruit, I used my hands, voice, feet, smile, strength, and breathe to be on deck. When my sister needed to make noise, I did too. When she breathed loud and fast, I breathed loud and slow. Soon, I saw the top of a perfect little head. How was it possible? Then with terrifying strength and the motivation of life itself, I watched in absolute disbelief as a miniature human fell into the hands of the waiting. The tiniest of faces, fingers, toes, vulnerability, and human exactness had arrived, just like that.

Tears of joy and wonder involuntarily choked through me, and I looked at my brother still holding onto his wife tightly from behind on the bed smoothing back the hair from her heated forehead, and saw his tears were also catching the early morning light from the window above. The skilled hands of the midwife moved and directed quickly as she beamed at Jessica, “I knew you would be an efficient mother. You didn’t even mess around for a minute, there. Here, hold your little girl.” I sat back on my heels on the sheets in absolute awe as I saw the tiny form lifted towards the eager hands and joyous eyes of her gentle mother.

Baby Erin is in our world now. She will live as a girl, grow as a teen, and walk as a woman. And as if that wasn’t enough by itself, she will someday feel the pressure to be “someone.” She may even wonder if she is “good enough.” As I stared at the ceiling in the moonlight that night, I knew what I wanted to tell her. The moment she became a life endowed with who she is, was the moment she became “enough.” That was the moment she became “someone.” No matter who she is or what she does, God Himself chose her to be here for Him to love, save, and hold always. Through that, He has defined her. No shadow of peer pressure can darken that. No cutting words that burn to memory can erase that. And absolutely nothing can separate her from the zealous love that has always been meant for her. As I closed my eyes, I realized I don’t have to do something to make her understand. He will. However, I will tell her—and I will tell her how honored I was to be there the day she was born.

Source: via Johanna on Pinterest

Source: via Johanna on Pinterest

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Target Your Paint

After three recent reader requests to share one of my numerous “man on the street” stories, I comply. Perhaps you will find it amusing. Perhaps it will reveal something of yourself. Perhaps there is something we can learn…

This is the anecdotal record of a sad little man. Somehow, the threads of my life have been intertwined into his through the banal necessities of life that take me to…Target. “Why is he sad” you ask? The answer is found inside of my mind: plainly in the fact that what he wishes me to be thinking, is not reflected by my brain waves. “Why is he little” you ask? I suppose that may be because he is a little bit Asian, even with his preppy look, slick hair, and indigenous tongue.

I frequent the local Target occasionally and one day I fatally was called over into his checkout line. Instantly, he beamed and said, “Now, I haven’t seen you in my Target before! Come here before? You should always use my checkout in the future. What’s your heritage? Girl, are you for real? ” He trailed off on subtleties and jovialities of every strain. When my eyes dilated, it was probably from surprise mingled with fear, despite whatever he interpreted. I used Ice Queen 101 with evasive frankness while my brain said “Your Target? Never use his line again. Avoid Target.” He walked me to the door with my purchases.

A couple weeks later, I buzzed through some shopping early in the morning. I didn’t see him. But maybe that was because I kind of made myself really short, under my hood, behind a magazine rack. The young woman with dark eyelids who scanned the barcodes, kept glancing at me for a bit and then said, “Oh, you must be the girl he was talking about. I am supposed to give you an employee discount—from the manager.”

I looked up a little startled, “No, thank you!”

My brain said, “I want the discount. I don’t want his discount.”

Then came the day I wore paint and all its accoutrements over my clothes. It was house paint in white and aqua tones. My sister-in-law and I were pulling together the best nursery ever that day, and I forgot all about the sad little man, until we got to the checkout line. “Oh my.” I laughed quietly. “Let’s stay away from that guy and his line!” I told my sis, as I referenced previous experience. We were called over to an empty lane of a sweet middle-aged employee who took care of Jess’ purchases safely. All of a sudden, the little man waltzed over from his line and dismissed the other employee declaring he would now operate her register. “Are you sure?” she asked, a slightly surprised. “Definitely.” He grinned at me. Sweet Jess blushed for me, towards the cart. This time I did a pre-emptive strike, wondering if I lamely talked about nothing if it would combine with my slovenly appearance to create a desultory air of unattractive stupidity.

“We’re getting ready for the baby today. Just have a few more crafty projects to go.”

“Really now? I can’t do things like that. You must be so skilled!” as he scanned my items with flair.

“No. I don’t know how to do it.” I said blankly to the cart.

“Well all you need is some alcohol and that will fix that! You all should try it. Do you dance? I love to dance. Karaoke, too. I’m super good at it karaoke. Must be my Asian-ness.” His voice winked blatantly.

I decided to pull the Ultimate Awkward move, and just stared silently at the purchases as if I didn’t have complete comprehension. He kept talking excitedly about activities that supposedly demonstrate fun-ness. He followed us to the door to “return our basket” as the rest of the customers behind us…waited. We escaped, hacking with amusement. My brain said, “Poor little desperate man.” In his brain, I believe I was meant to be thinking, “What an epically cute dude.”

I thought I had been appropriately lame and rude previously. But then…I picked up an item from Target, on behalf of my big brother far away for my sister’s birthday. I snuck into line. But the slick manager popped out like a Keebler elf and strolled over to me and took my items and started laying them out on the belt. I think I was supposed to be impressed by massive customer service skills, being juggled while commanding orders were spoken with long codes to the food department, checking a price check for someone’s potato rolls, while answering “Sally’s” question about the cash drawer three stands over…while practically stepping on my foot and taking the hangers out of my purchases with ample compliments on my choices. I think I may have been intended to be thinking, “Swoon. He’s a masterpiece!” But, for the sad little man I was thinking, “He’s a piece of work. I shall regretfully never be able to buy anything personal here ever again...if I come back.”

So. The long awaited moral of the story has come. Art, no matter how fantastic, in the wrong place is called “graffiti.” Girls and guys may be made to be impressed and impress, but in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is just plain strange, inappropriate, unattractive, and awkward. My big brother said that next time I should say, “I am so out of your league that I could step on you and little white stuff would come out that tastes like chicken.” I informed my brother that that would not work for several reasons that came to mind immediately, and perhaps you just thought of some, too. But, perhaps there is misused art in your bag that evokes a similar response from others. Perhaps we need to redirect our skills toward their intended time and place in an effort to bless and encourage, whether it’s a spray paint can, charm, knowledge, abilities, or brawn. Why use your God-given skills as a manipulative tool on others or at the wrong place and time? It is our day to build up, for God’s glory. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crowds of Individuals

There’s something inspiring in anonymity the morning of an event as a speaker. You slide through the masses and enjoy being there, watching the crowds. Saturday morning while doing so, I ran into an old acquaintance who was working hard to put out breakfast for all the conference attendees and I paused on my way to set up a power point with a “Why, hello! How is your family?” She looked me over kindly and surprised and said, “What brings you here? Are you teaching a skill class after today?” “Yes, I am, in fact!” I smiled back. I didn’t mention that the board of the church invited my friend and I to bring the day’s conference to their church, leaving me wearing microphone headgear most of the day, until that skill class late that afternoon.

I left the Speaker Room in search of water, and ran into a dear little lady who seemed to be an expert on the subject. I asked if I could take water to the room and maybe have a cup, myself, when she said, “I just tried to serve the speaker some water, actually. But she was kneeling there, so I didn’t want to interrupt her. Yeah, you can take it to her if she’s done praying and ask if she needs anything. Its over there.” She pointed hurriedly as she rushed off to prepare a plate of goodies for…the “speaker.” Oh, how I smiled inside and wondered how many people there are who look just like me…

As I stood in line in the bathroom, a kind woman commented at my black notebook and little pile of stapled notes, “My, you like to take notes? Yeah, I guess it is good to take some notes at these things.” I laughed inside and replied out loud, “Yes, you’re right! I do love to have good notes on days like today.”

But why do I tell these silly vignettes? I tell you because things change by afternoon into what my little sister dubs “coolness worship.” Because people treat people differently depending on whether they are considered as “somebody.” Why do we do this? Should we not treat everyone with the same respect, polite regard, and excitement to see and speak with them? God asks us to, and that should be enough. And imagine how much fun it is anyway, to light up brightly and say “hello” to everyone! Every person God brings across our paths is an opportunity to be kind, thoughtful, and loving – yes, every one.

A young lady named Alivia comes to mind at this exact moment. From my desk at work, I can see her from the corner of my eye as she greets everyone individually, sweetly, and brightly as they come through the door, despite their appearance, behavior, or station. She seems to draw no lines, as she makes everyone’s day brighter. It is not just because she is a paid receptionist: I have seen many in that position who seem unable to afford a smile. At Alivia’s wedding, I followed behind with a camera and watched her respond to everyone and everything: that same sweet calmness acknowledged everyone else on her day. When at times I wanted to step in and say, “Everyone out! Please leave her alone! Take care of it yourself!” she graciously made all feel special.

I also think of Jesus. How many people missed being His friend as He walked on earth just because He looked so normal? We know the glad-hearted, lively children who rushed Him to say “Hello!” were honored and set up as an example. We all desire the love and respect of that perfect greeting, yet do we miss our opportunities to pause and extend the same to others? I don’t want to miss seeing Jesus where you least expect to meet up. He’s usually in the crowd, watching.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Surf's Not Waiting

I could read the dedication in their faces. It was a Monday morning. Being from out of town and in no real desire to be kidnapped, assaulted, or robbed I had decided to run my five miles that morning on the astroturf of a soccer field across from my hotel California. As my coaching app declared “workout complete,” twenty men arrived one-by-one onto the soccer field and began rigorously warming up, arguing, and planning their game for the morning. The crisp, excited South American accents flew around faster than that last lap, “You all wear the colored shirts and we will wear the white!” I subconsciously wondered what kind of men have time to play like this on a weekday morning…

Only a couple hours later, more Santa Cruz sun warmed my face and a sea breeze swept back my wet, salty hair. I leaned back on my elbows on the beach blanket and watched the crowds through my aviators. Today the surf was reported to “be at its best for the year.” If I hadn’t heard it on the television in the breakfast room, I could read it now on the sun-tanned faces of men and boys running, rushing, and racing down towards the waves, donning wetsuits as they went. Their eagerness showed in their feet, hands, faces, and wave-craving eyes.

Laying my head down on my leather satchel as another set of bare feet pounded down the sand towards the surf, I asked myself, “What does my face show? What makes me excited and eager? Do I sacrifice my weekday morning responsibilities or work or family for something that I think I love?”

Before I knew it, I was talking to an older homeless man, sitting nearby. I assumed he was in that state by the leather of his skin and the quantity and variety of belongings in a huge duffel by his side.

“You surf?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. All my life. Born and raised here. There’s nothing else but surfing, really.” He turned and smiled at me through the holes in his teeth.

“Nothing else to do, or nothing else to life?” I asked, a little puzzled.

“Nothing as important.” He paused. “Sure, people die—two guys, pros too, last week. But it is the best a man can do. You can’t imagine…” I watched his wrinkled, bearded face as it scanned the waves with intensity.

What do you think is the best a man can do? What would you live for, and make the ultimate sacrifice in doing? For what cause would you forsake all, and even live under a dock? I hope you know. And I hope you are living it today, and not just thinking about it in an abstract, sub-committed trance. We’ve got all kinds of waves to catch—and they aren’t waiting. I hope yours will change the world.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Babies, Bodies, and Your Brain

I sat cross-legged on the rug, listening intently, notebook open, pen in hand. I watched her chins bob up and down and she gave the class on…childbirth. Yes, I have been plunged into the world of birthing as I await the anticipated arrival of my niece, and for now, there is nowhere else I would rather be. This is despite the detailed depictions of delicate data that apparently humans have known for centuries—or I wouldn’t exist.

My brother sits on his living room sofa lovingly tangled up with my 36-week pregnant sister-in-law, and I can’t help torturing them with meaning glances at the most personal of moments of our little class. Next we’re all on the floor doing pregnancy yoga to practice breathing through “concentrated effort” (i.e. PAIN). As I sit back on my heels I can’t help but think of our strange American culture.

We enshroud our bodily nature in mystery and confusion, and exalt the means above the end. How can we be so silly to find the miraculous birth of a complete human being out of a woman’s body too disgusting and private to discuss much despite its unbeatably euphoric conclusion, while the means to similarly create that little human is titillatingly glorified, dissected, and depicted? I can’t help but find that somewhat painfully amusing. If I were to list a series of words need fully associated with birthing a child, you would squirm and hope nobody was looking over your shoulder. If I were to talk about the other end of the baby business your brain, likely Americanized, would eagerly sweep up the details, occasionally checking over your shoulder. And I laugh. What’s our deal?

Perhaps this doesn’t apply to you. Perhaps you’ve never tittered about the human body as if it was something mysterious, isolated, and weird. I cease comparison with other cultures, and instead steadfastly hope that you are simply one of those that view the body for what it is: a miraculous, irreplaceable, created gift to be respected and used only as directed in the Manual. It is just that: completely amazing—and profoundly normal.

Today is neither Queen Victoria’s 1900, nor the modern age of assumed comfort with nudity. There is nothing as silly as what we allow ourselves to culturally embrace in subliminal ignorance. It is our turn to realize what we think about sex and birth, and change it to what is actually plain and simple truth. We need natural respect and ingrained belief in the Creator and what He has made, and our body language will be right on track. So, what does your behavior say you think?

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Jesus Thought...As He Died

What if the Jewish cultural habit was to begin a known thought, leave the middle out, and say the last phrase in conclusion? When done like that, it would use the beauty of implied thought, leaving the listener to contemplate with self the unspoken inferences on a whole different level. If with short breathe Christ cried out as He hung on the cross for us, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me…?” then minutes later breathed His last with the words, “He hath done this.” or “It is finished.” then He would have given us all of Psalm 22 to ponder…

1 (To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.) My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

Wait…That is how it works! That is the Jewish way of thought. Jesus did think all that as He hung there.  He praised God, poured out anguish, and declared our future. Isn’t it thrilling to be able to know the unspoken thoughts of our Jesus the Christ as He suffered and died? Read it again! Imagine the twisting feeling in the stomach of those who looked on and realized what He spoke from their treasured Psalms. His example is so perfect and full of love, though He plainly expresses His human sensitivity and experience. Hallelujah! What a Savior. And I like how He thinks.