Monday, November 16, 2009

My friend Vicki sent me 45 life lessons written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio. Many of hers were similar to my measly 21 given in an earlier post. I'm going to pick up a few of hers that I've learned but obviously overlooked on my earlier list.

22. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
23. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
24. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
25. Make peace with your past so it won't mess up the present. [As Nicole Johnson says...So you had a lousy childhood. Get over it.]
26. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
27. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
28. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
29. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
30. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
31. Over prepare, and then go with the flow.
32. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
33. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
34. When you are upset, ask yourself, "In five years [or five days], will this matter?"
35. Forgive everyone everything.
36. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. The best is yet to come.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doing One More Thing

When I went to a women's spiritual retreat, I forgot to take my Bible. Ironic, I know. I explained to my friend that I thought I had time to do "one more thing," and then I forgot an item central to my purpose.

The "one more thing" was typing a poem for my pen pal, Adrian, who is incarcerated in a Georgia prison. Last week was his 8th anniversary there, so at age 31 he has 22 more years to go. He is a writer, and I started writing him to encourage him in his Christian life and his writing life. It snowballed into requests to type his voluminous output--from 14-line poems to novels.

I can't keep up with his prolific writing. He cannot have access to a word processor, so those of us on the outside are his only way of getting his words in print on the road to publication. He has talent, but talent that needs to be honed and refined as only a good writing teacher or editor can do. Sometimes I give him suggestions, but for the most part I type it as he has written it. His grammar and spelling are excellent; there's no matter of corrections needed. But his metaphors are often mixed, his series not parallel, his description lacking in detail.

I see his struggles with the other inmates, with his family on the outside, with himself. What I do for him is miniscule in comparison to his needs. He has my prayers and encouragement, and occasionally I seize a few minutes to type some of his poems. It's the best I can do in response to Jesus' reply to the sheep on his right, "I was in prison and you visited me" (Matthew 25:36).

So here's Adrian's poem that was the "one more thing" I did on Friday.

The Death Not Seen

Fallen sighs in a darkened cube,
Hands groping for a doorknob, a windowsill, something or some way out.
Darkness is too much for the ones trapped.
Silence is compounded
Every sound is magnified.
Heartbeats become thunderclaps.
And all they can see are two orbs of jaundiced gold,
Staring at them out of the ebony veil.
No sound, just those two orbs
Piercing, probing, penetrating, petrifying.
Suddenly a scream shatters the darkness
And then another scream and another and another.
A new color pierces the black.
Splotches and splashes and spills of viscous crimson.
Shadows of limbs soaring.
The crashing of objects
The wails of the dead.
Then once again silence.
--Adrian English

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fighting the Daily Details

I just watched the garbage men fight with our large, broken plastic chairmat that Steve wore out wheeling his chair between his desk and computer table. My relief at seeing the old one disappear into the mouth of the garbage truck was based on the trials involved in getting the new one in and the old one out.

Wednesday night I told Steve that I'd picked up his new chairmat at the office furniture store from which I'd special-ordered it. I'd left it in my car because after seeing the hefty salesman fight to get it into my car, I knew I couldn't handle it alone.

Thursday morning at 7:15, I heard noises from the garage and then he came stumbling in with that enormous, heavy, studded plastic mat. It's only 5 x 6 feet, but the weight and awkwardness makes it a challenge to handle. We had to use towels to hold onto it because the studs are so sharp. We got it up the stairs and I couldn't help but wonder what prompted him to start this project 15 minutes before leaving for his 8 a.m. class. Fortunately for us both, I didn't verbalize those thoughts.

We had to move his massive desk off the old chairpad--not an easy task. I couldn't budge my end even an inch, but Steve's weight-lifting paid off as he was able to scoot it off. Then I lifted the leg of the computer table so he could pull the old pad the rest of the way out.

Somehow, in getting the old pad out, he managed for the studs to cut his knee without tearing his khakis. How? I have no idea. My own knees were only bruised from the battle. He shot from the room, shouting, "I can't do this! I've hurt my knee and I've got to take care of it before I get blood on my pants!"

He tore through various closets, drawers, and medicine cabinets looking for enough gauze to staunch the blood oozing down his leg. A mere Band-Aid would be like the legendary finger in the hole in the dyke. He finally got it wrapped to his satisfaction, apologetically leaving a trail of clutter behind.

When he returned to the office to get his school bag, I timidly asked if he would lift the computer table so I could slide the mat under it. "Not now!" he said, "Maybe not ever! I can't do ANYTHING like this! We have to remember to hire someone to do every single little thing around here. Hire someone to get the old one out. I'm not touching it again!" With a quick kiss, he was gone, barely in time to make it to class.

So I managed to get it under the computer table, but the desk stayed where it was. At least the mat was flat and in place. And, even more clumsily, I dragged the old one to the window by his computer. Grateful for the tall windows easily cranked open, I dragged it over the sill and let it fall to the ground. Later I dragged it to the side of the house until garbage pickup today.

And Steve repented enough to help me get it to the street last night, though we were laughing so much it was hard to grip it enough to get it propped between the garbage cans. So when I heard the garbage truck, it was with delight that I watched the two muscular men have similar challenges trying to get it in their truck.

Steve is right about our lack of ability on physical household tasks. A few years ago I complimented a workman at our house, grateful for his skills. "My husband can't do any of those things," I said.

I was taken aback by his vehement response. "Your husband can do lots of things I can't!" he answered. "Don't you ever forget that!"

And I haven't. I'm grateful daily for Steve, his many talents, and his loving ways. I'm grateful that his talents provide the means to hire done what we cannot do ourselves. I'm reminded of Romans 12:6: "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." And one of the gifts Steve and I share is a sense of humor, especially about ourselves.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fun and Feasting

The past weekend was a joyous time of fun and feasting--both physical and spiritual. A Halloween party that had outgrown the host's house was transferred to ours, accompanied by the usual food and frivolity. The theme was "A Family Affair" and everyone came as some family member. I was "Auntie Mame," which was great fun. I enjoyed swooping around in stilettos with my feather boa and cigarette holder.

Our houseguests for the weekend were Andy and Kathryn Miller and their children Sam and Reagan. They are the missionaries we worked with for six weeks in Bangkok over a year ago and it was great to see them again. They are on furlough in America to get more financial support and to recruit other Americans to commit to the Lord's work in Thailand. We relished catching up on the people we'd known in Bangkok and hearing how God is constantly blessing the work there. They immediately were family to Kelsey and Stephen, too, even though they'd just met. They all jumped in to help prepare for the party and were active participants in every bit of it. It was fun the next day to tell them more about the guests, for we could identify them by their costumes: "Family Tree," or "Uncle Fester," "Father Time," "Mother Teresa," "The Godfather," etc.

Best of all were the spiritual discussions. Being in the family of God connects us in ways far deeper than natural family ties. We ate together, played together, and prayed together, and were so sad for them to leave. At the same time, we are happy that we know such warriors for Jesus Christ. Being with them definitely made me want to go back to Bangkok with a Let's Start Talking,, team!

Andy and Kathryn spoke to our combined adult and teen classes on Sunday. I loved it that within their report was also a lesson for us all: work for God wherever you are, whether it's Thailand or Cincinnati. I couldn't help but think that every culture has its idols, whether it's Buddha or football, spirit houses or the World Series. Being with this family that has given up house and jobs to follow God's call to the other side of the world was both humbling and inspiring.