.

.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The veil is thin between this life and the next

Processing much. My aim is to separate our trip to Mexico into small, digestive pieces. Heaviness, pressed down, is what we felt. These are the tip top thoughts I'm feeling now. Will bring more to you as I process each moment. This blog will be published next week in The Bargain Hunter column, but I'm bringing it to you a bit early. 

I hope to someday not sit in a quandary, or a tizzy, or a moment of abject disgust with myself and the momentum I fail to have at times. My life is wasted in small moments, tiny and thin, that bring bigger and bigger amounts of time passing by me like so much of a life gone. I have come back from the edge, older yet not so much wiser. This plane of life is so transparent it takes my breath away so that I cannot think to even fill my lungs with air. I have found what I desire in life – my love, my kids, and my home. Yet still, is it enough to make us whole? Enough when my entire soul is yearning for more and more of what I can’t say. Is it enough when we sit at our tables and gaze out the window hoping to see what lights our souls on fire? My last two weeks were spent ethereally drifting through a solitary plane of existence, life and death on display heavily, until I could breathe no more.



It’s fragile, this existence we have here on earth. Our days are filled with things that will mean nothing in the eternity, yet we labor on because that’s what we’re here to do. We are here to make meaning out of things that are meaningless. We are to dance, to love, to sing, and to cry. We embrace life and death as they come because what else is there to do but accept? We bury people we love and we go home and love the ones that are left just a bit harder. Left behind are those who after unthinkable circumstances become semi-lost souls that have been directed lovingly, yet without recourse. Floundering, gasping for air without the one who has given them direction their whole lives.

We must learn to swim alone. We must learn to grasp what is put before us independently.




To love is to have, to feel, to breathe the air more richly. When we decide that one person is all we need to live then we become dependent on them to be our all. There exists an umbilical cord stretching from person to person. We must cut this. We must embrace love yet know we can be, do, and feel without it. The veil between this life and the next is tissue paper translucent at best, yet we don’t realize it. We go on living day by day never acknowledging how close the other side is. We must see it and peer through to understand that this life won’t last forever. We must be ready and adept, with a knowing that what we accomplish here is wonderful. It is wonderful but we must know that it doesn’t last. We need to achieve yet know, accomplish things with vigor yet with humble attitudes. Maybe what we’re searching for when looking out the window for more is the knowledge that we are a fragile and strong race ever-searching for an absolute meaning. 

Maybe the meaning is found in accepting what we are and doing it well. Until the time comes for us to leave. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

You make me brave.

My daughter Selena recently participated in a mission trip to NYC. She has written about it and I found it so moving that I wanted to share. Here it is, in her words.






You Make Me Brave
I’ve found that I am someone you would call a dreamer. I hold these burning passions in my heart that make me anxious, anxious to get out into the world and do something. There is a psalm in the Bible that keeps reoccurring in my head when I try explaining why I know what I am supposed to be doing in this life and it reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This past year I earnestly sought out the Lord, experienced Him in indescribable ways, and truly fell head over heels in love. God has shown me this light that radiates from within me, it longs to shine on areas that sit in darkness. I’ve been called to a mission, one that is dedicated to ministering to lost areas of the world who have never heard of the Most High. Whether that be spreading the Word to my neighbors here in the safety of my hometown or throwing myself into a country that rebukes Christianity and risking my own life, so be it.
“But God, how am I supposed to prepare?” I asked.
My close friend from school was organizing a trip to New York City to partner with Street Life Ministries and serve a week doing street evangelism, homeless outreach, food truck services, etc. Unlike any other type of missions’ work I had ever done, this opportunity sparked my attention. God, is this where you want me? Keeping it in the back of my mind near a month before the actual trip, the financial weight kept hovering over my head, restraining me from getting excited in fear that I wouldn’t be able to cover the cost. I was praying continuously, yet openly, knowing whatever God’s plans were in regards to this trip were just. Near a week before the trip my mom walked into my room and said dad and her wouldn’t be able to support this trip because of future vacations and other family finances. Knowing I couldn’t cover this trip alone, I settled in understanding I wasn’t going to NYC. A couple minutes later, a friend from IWU texted, saying they suddenly had this overwhelming desire to pay for my entire mission trip to NYC. They went on to say how the Lord had blessed them abundantly in their last paycheck, almost too much, and they knew they wanted to bless those around them.
And just like that, I found myself traveling to New York seven days later.
Ministry is not a perfect work field by any means. New York City presented its challenges to the small town girl with a big heart and definitely succeeded in discouraging her in what she thought she was capable of doing. After living in a fairly quiet town all my life, stepping one foot into New York City felt like I had just stepped into another country. The diversity that resided in the apartments and streets slapped me in the face. Each individual walked with such purpose leaving no room for a quick hello or a warm smile. The concrete walls of NY were decorated in colorful, yet sometimes destructive phrases. Conversations overheard in the local coffee shop were polluted with countless words of profanity. This all was not just a quick snapshot of what I would be encountering during my time here, but a quick snapshot of how the world looks when it seeks itself. God am I ready for this?
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.   Joshua 1:9
I clung to these words this week. The Lord, our GOD, is walking with us, at all times. Not sometimes or some places, but always. We served in downtown Manhattan through a food truck and gave free clothing to the homeless. Here I learned drug addicts do, in fact, smile. Old guys eating avocados with their hands speak the most polite words, even in Spanish. And sometimes the hard truth is that some may believe in God, but don’t really know anything about Him. In Jamaica, Queens we set up a station simply for prayer. It was here that I was blown away by the respect and love given from believers of Islam, Hinduism, Atheism and many others despite our blatant differences. It was also here that I recognized the value in knowledge of the Bible. In Elmhurst, Queens we face-painted, drew with chalk, played basketball and “The Floor is Lava” with seemingly hundreds of kids in Moore Park. It was here that I was shown the simple joys of blowing bubbles up into the sky and the freedom in being a child of God. We may not have control over much in our life, but this is no reason to become weary, because our Father is all-knowing. In Flushing, Queens we set up another prayer station. Despite the lack of interest in this part of the city for prayer, it was here that I discovered the importance in asking people how they are doing and simply offering a sincere smile. It was also here that I learned the older generation of homeless aren’t as scary as we make them out to be. They have hearts. They have beliefs. They need the love of the Lord just as much as the rest of us do.
And through it all, God spoke.
There were days I came back to the house feeling defeated, broken, and at a loss for presenting God’s love. It was in the quiet that I gave my worries and my cries to God that He moved deep in my heart. You are rooted in me, He spoke over and over again. You represent a tree that has flourished and is seen high up on a cliff for all to see, where you reflect Myself. You’re huge in the Kingdom. But to me, seeing what lies beneath the soil is where My heart finds so much joy. I see the roots of your heart firmly in Me. Don’t be discouraged by this world, they only see you externally, but Me, I know you intimately.



There were days I just wanted be back at the house and flood the rooms with worship, yet I was in a car driving home with my team from supper that evening. Selena, He said, you can worship Me right now.  Coincidentally as I peered out the window looking for something evident of God’s presence in that moment, vulgar graffiti plastered the walls we were driving by, completely destroying the moment. Selena, He said again, this place you’re in right now needs my disciples. I am like a crystal buried deep beneath the dirt of this city. Like a treasure, I’m awaiting to be found. I want you to dig. I want you to dig and find me. And when you find me I want you to show me off. To the people of these streets, the people of your community, your friends, your family, this world.
There were days I was completely overwhelmed by the sea of people flooding the streets of the city. I asked to see how the Lord saw this all, and for a brief moment, He did. As I walked the crosswalk, He amplified the heart and purpose of every person I walked by, showing the love He sheds on each and every individual person. Whether lost or found, we are all His sheep. He pursues us each with such specificity that none wander without Him following close behind. He is here in this world, doing work, dwelling where He loves.
And after all, He is GOOD.
Serving in New York City was an experience that I will never forget. It was one that challenged me to recognize where the world stands. It was one that challenged me to recognize where I stand. God has planted an endlessly growing heart for missions within me, one that I hope never wilts. An opportunity to do ministry in Ireland has come up and I’m praying continuously on that one, so who knows, this could be the next stretch in God’s plan for my walk. As for now, my heart yearns to tell everyone within the church that, in reality, we all are here as missionaries in some way, shape, or form. We’ve committed to the Most High, the All-Knowing, and Ever-Present. Don’t fear, be bold, and follow where this crazy awesome God we serve leads you next with arms stretched open wide.

Will you die clutching your fist tightly?

Hate. Encompassed by idle words. 
Too many people, they say. 
We have no room, they say. 
But our land is vast, I say. Let them in. 
Love. Love.
Life is too short to hate.
We will all die with debt. Having spent too much.
Have we shared our wealth? Have we loved?



I would give everything to help one soul.
Or will we close the door?
Our lives remain the comfortable same. No more. No less.
We can rant and rave for either side.
But have we loved?
Because that's all there is.
Will you die clutching tightly? Or will you open your clenched fist?
Your words, which fall like so many fire sparks. And burn.
Open the door. And love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I don't care if you don't like soccer. My take on The World Cup.

In the spirit of the beautiful game and the upcoming semi-finals and championship game of the World Cup this weekend, I am posting my newest column (which hasn't been posted online yet). I'm also posting this with the original title. Haha. What can I say?


I don’t care if you don’t like soccer. The World Cup has taken over my household and everyone in it and around it. Daily televised games are turned on whether I have housework or writing to do – it must be playing in the background. It has taken hostage of my Twitter account and as well my Facebook. It holds me in its thrall as I watch nation after nation stride proudly out onto the pitch and sing their national anthems with a fervor I’ve little seen anywhere else. I wait impatiently to see the fans in the stands wear their colors and crazy uniforms signifying love for their team. I hang on every world those lovely Euro announcers say. The world, at least from what I see on social media and on TV, comes together for one month in June. Every four years. They come together for love of a game that holds not enough love in the country I call my own.

I’ve written before on soccer and how my love for it didn’t come until I met my husband. Of course, we all know that Hiland was the only area team to have soccer because we didn’t have football. I can’t count how many jokes have been leveled at Hiland players because of our “lack” of American football. Lack? Sad day indeed for those, I think, to not have been introduced to soccer. Without the beautiful game there would never be words and phrases like the pitch, set pieces, velvet touch, or “This could be a clever ball!”

 My husband was an amazing soccer player. He gave up a tryout in the Mexican leagues to come to the USA permanently and get married. To me. For that, I owe him a love for soccer like no other. I believe I yell louder than him during games. I get more angry than him when we lose. I pout in a corner and tweet the night away when I can’t accept a loss. He knows me and lets me have my time. Then I move on. He told me that when fall comes, and I have no children in high school soccer, that he would play on a team so I could watch again. He said, “Don’t worry, babe, I’ll join a team just so you can cheer again!” All kidding aside, he knows how much soccer means to our family. It’s a bond that brings us together, made us fight and have heated conversations, brought tears, and also brought the greatest joy. We weren’t the family that made our kids play year-round soccer and do everything imaginable. We felt that would take the joy out of it. The love would disappear if it was mandatory. These were the right choices as our kids now move on to bigger and better things, yet retaining that love for soccer they felt so deeply. All we have to say is, “The game is on!” and everyone comes running.


The World Cup, as you read this, will enter its final week. The championship will be held on July 13th and an entire globe will hold its collective breath as they crown a world champion - not a national champion. The beautiful game brings people together. It makes fans out of people that swore a dislike for soccer their whole lives. I believe it’s the camaraderie that is shown in the fan base, the oneness and singular passion that bursts through the TV screen. It is also felt on the local pitches, those patches of green and dust where little feet scrabble and kick. Those feet who grow up to learn how to bend and weave the ball like magic as it slices through the air. The net that kicks back with a whoosh to receive the ball and the scream, as one, of the fans who breathlessly await that long worked for goal. Those goals that come in very small numbers, because you must work tirelessly to achieve one. Like life. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Remember.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” - FDR



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Love is louder.

Tears are hot this morning as the rain threatens, heavy dark clouds looming.

I'm at a loss. 

What have we become? 

This big country full of pride and patriotism. 
This, on the eve of our nation's birthday. 
I am ashamed. My tears run unchecked.






Battles fought. Battles won. The over-taking of a country that wasn't ours.
Tribes and nations and proud peoples reduced. 
Herded like so many cattle onto patches of land. Stay there.
                                                                    
So we don't see you. 




As well the lovely ebony-skinned people taken. Taken from their beautiful shores and shoved in boats. 

Brought like non-humans into a land that they didn't ask for.
Humanity and the heavens cried hot rivers of emotion. 

I see more people. 
Children. Women. 
As well men. All searching for what?




That intangible place they can see and feel in their feverish dreams. 
A place they can find where they are safe. 
And free to dream without the trappings of a crushing reality.



Their homes. A love so strong. But leaving to find
what they can never, ever find in places brought low by corruption and vice. 

Not a few days ago I was chanting USA for a
team and a ball in the lush jungles of Brazil. 
      
Now I see hate. I see chanting full of hate for buses filled with human souls.




Faces, filled with hatred and evil
Faces that have brought me to my knees this morning in prayer. 
Liquid prayers in tongue and the saltiness of tears. Streaming. Unstoppable.



                        
What is this hate we have? What is this right we feel?
Did God not command us to love? Unconditionally? 
Without strings? Without questions? 

I'm sorry. I can only love you if you have a paper. 
A paper saying you have come here the correct way. 
A paper. A paper. A paper.


When did being undocumented become the unpardonable sin? 
When did people become illegal?

I see pictures of a boy. A man now so dear to my heart. 
A man I loved not knowing about a paper. I see him in the faces of these dear ones.





The ones you scream at. The ones you say LEAVE. 
The ones you have deemed unworthy. Because of a status. 

I want to gather them in my arms and feed them. Warm broth and crusty bread. 
I long to whisper that the world is full of good
The world is not all hate. That there is love.

Love is louder. Love is LOUDER




Put down your flags. Quiet your chants. 
Rein in your unrealistic view of what belongs to us.

In God's love there are no borders. 
When he views us from above he sees no lines that separate.
Nothing belongs to anyone. 
We exist here for a time. 




What will you take with you? 
A lifetime of hate? A wishing for anyone not like us to disappear?

               Love is louder. 
                                               LOVE IS LOUDER. 




                                         

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Write.

Staring at the blank page knowing it's time.
My head wants to scroll mindlessly.
But You have told me it's time. 
I must listen and find the courage.