How to Keep a Memory

It was Sunday afternoon; I needed a nap.  I got everyone busy with something and found the couch.  Singing as she placed her beads, all was well in Emily’s world.  A quiet little tune, she made it up as she went.  I couldn’t make it out, but it was like the sweetest violin.

My heart swelled and shrunk at the same time.  “How can I catch this?  If I go get the camcorder, she will notice and come off of her cloud.  Lord, will you help me not forget this moment?”  I’ve asked that so many times, but I don’t recollect them all.  Many a moment has drifted away like smoke rings.

Sweet Moments

Moments like this one bring me back to the Tale.  How can I deal with good things lost without it?  If God keeps our tears in His bottle, remembering them, caring for them and where they came from, surely He keeps our joys.

The thing is, my joys don’t fit in a bottle.  If I count and collect, they overflow a chest.  Ever watched a child try to carry all their treasures and keep dropping them?  It’s a fretful thing.  They cry and worry; they can’t get it all contained and carried.

This is me, overhearing from the couch a heart overflowing, spilling into mine too full and small to hold more.

I can’t take it.  I cry; I worry.  So much goodness I can’t carry.

Could this be some of what He meant about being like a child?  The kingdom belongs to those that are like them . . . A child cries when she can’t carry all her blessings, but all is well when bigger hands come and scoop her up along with her trickling treasures.

Hats

She knows the hands that help and cries for them.

This is a moment I preach to myself.  I preach the Tale and am caught again.  My tension releases into the couch.  I may forget this moment, but not forever.   If the Tale is true, I have forever to recount the joys I’ve already seen.  These are just the works of His hands.  What awaits is the hands themselves, to wrap me up completely along with forever joy.

 What are your greatest joys you’re afraid to forget or lose grasp of?

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psalm 16:11

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, 
where neither moth nor rust destroys, 
and where thieves do not break in or steal; 
for where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:20-21

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When Things Seem Wrong

Boarding was at 10:30 am for a quick flight from Omaha to Dallas to attend The Declare Conference.  I edged in my seat, ready to board as the speaker clicked on.

“Ladies and gentleman, we’re having some trouble with the luggage door on the aircraft. We apologize for the short delay this will cause us in boarding. As soon as we get the door open we will begin boarding. Thank you for your patience.”

I sat back again.

The next time the speaker clicked and I edged forward . . .

“Ladies and gentleman, the door issue is a little more complicated. The repair will take a while, but we’ll keep you updated as we know more. We apologize and thank you for your patience.”

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After 6 hours of updates, another aircraft was available. We boarded in a rush, but soon deplaned without going anywhere. Before we could leave the gate the pilot had reached his legal time limit for flying that day.

While waiting for the plane to leave the gate, a strange thought had come to me.“Was I the one keeping the place grounded? Was I headed to a conference I wasn’t supposed to be at?”

I remembered Jonah on a ship in a terrible storm. The sailors were crying to their gods for help. Jonah said, “It’s me! Just throw me overboard and the storm will stop. I’m not supposed to be on this ship, I’m going the wrong way.”

“It’s not all about me,” I thought. “I’m not special like Jonah. Besides, if I got off and just drove back home, nothing would make it obvious that it was me.”

The thought stuck with me, (I even told Jeff Goins about it later when meeting him for the first time. I felt stupid. “Did I always have to be so transparent??” ).

Shaking my head inside my head, we deboarded the plane and finally took off 2 hours later. Third time’s a charm they say! We were finally headed for Dallas! I was excited to at least meet some people after missing registration, dinner, and the first keynote speaker Mary DeMuth. I also had an agent critique waiting for me at 10pm I could still get too!

Before landing, a weather front moved into Dallas and we were rerouted to a nearby freight airport. We sat for 2 hours before flying back to Dallas in 15 minutes at 5,000 feet.

The shuttle friends I had planned to meet left long ago. I took a taxi in the dark, arriving at the hotel in time to sit in on an impromptu session with the agent. I sat quietly in the back. At almost midnight, waiting in line for my critique, I introduced myself to the person standing closest to me. We exchanged cards and made small talk. She was ahead of me in line and I overheard her story which took a lot of bravery to share.

I was kind of a lost puppy the whole weekend, not knowing anyone aside from their picture on the Facebook page. I introduced myself a lot and asked questions of others, but didn’t chum around with anyone. Here and there I went to say hi to Jacque since she was the first person I’d met after my late arrival. Still small talk really, but I was drawn to her.

I enjoyed and learned lots, and planned to exert myself until 10pm the 2nd night, then cut myself off. I needed a good rest for my early flight out.

I took my ipad to bed to set the alarm and Jacque was still on my mind. I peeked at her blog, read her story in 11 parts, and cried. Her story was written into a series of several posts chronicling her marriage, affair, divorce, and second marriage. I read all 11 parts of her story and cried.

I cried because I knew. I knew what it felt like to realize you’re the worst sinner. I knew why Mary Magdelene cried over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, not caring what others’ thought.  My story was like hers, but different. Every story is about a wandering heart looking for the right place to settle.

Tucked under the fluffy white hotel bedding, I shivered. My feet were like ice and my teeth chattered. I knew something else . . .

Wing

I knew why the first plane’s door wouldn’t work, and the second one had enough of a delay to boot the pilot off. I knew my silly thought made sense and that I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane at 4:30 and why our 8-hour delayed flight was comically diverted by wind and rain. I arrived in time to meet Jacque when she told her story loud enough for me to hear.

There I was, alone in a hotel and He was there giving me shivers. I lay there in the sheets, my heart lay exposed. It’s done its share of wandering. He wanted more of it and was giving me more at the same time. This was the time and place He wanted me to see.

The next morning, Jacque unexpectedly joined my group on the shuttle. Out of 6 of us, she and I were alone in the AA terminal for an hour and I told her my stuff. Small talk was over; we were friends. We rejoiced together to know what mercy feels like, to have our “good girl” shells cracked open to know it up close and personal.

So was the day all about me? All that drama that sent people into a tizzy? More than my mind can take, I’m sure the chaos could’ve been worked out for everyone in a different way, a different story, if they were paying attention.

But there’s another thing I know . . . A shepherd who says He’ll leave his 99 sheep to find the one that’s lost her way.

And that’s not all.  Check out Jacque’s account of how we met!  We were at The Declare Conference: One Message, Many Voices. Our message?  There is one watching and waiting to show love to you!

Next time things go “wrong,” start watching. How have you seen God’s love more clearly through inconveniences or struggles? Have you felt the pursuit of the Lover of your soul?

Thirty-Five For a Moment

I swept the hair I clipped from my husband’s head tonight. The dustpan isn’t as full as it used to be. It’s peppery too, not all black. We’re in process; the process of aging. Every once in a while we say to each other, “Oh honey, I’m aging,” but the countdown began long ago, before we drew a breath.

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In Japan with our first baby, nearly 10 years ago

It’s shocking to realize your skin doesn’t bounce back always when you rub lotion on it. Lines are slowly beginning to form and there is no way to stop them. There are certain things about life you have no choice but to let happen. There are other parts of aging you can join in with and embrace.

Last weekend, Hiro and I went away to a quiet lodge; the place where Arbor Day began. We had one purpose; to plan backwards from the end of our lives. We’d talked about it, read about it, but this was the first time we were actually doing it.

Lied Lodge

I was nervous. What if we couldn’t agree?

What if we’re too different and our lives will always cross and not travel parallel?

How do you plan a life anyway?  Especially when you believe there is a God directing your steps and you’re supposed to trust Him and not yourself?  How do you dream when you’re supposed to die to yourself? How do you plan financially when you’re supposed to give everything? It all confuses me. I want black and white and that’s just not the kind of relationship He offers.

Hollyhocks

So off we went, first sharing our own dreams with each other. At one point he says in 10 years our first baby will be turning 20. Thinking of how fast the first 10 went . . .

Wow.

What do we want life to look like then?  What do we want her to be like?  We dreamed like there were no weeds in the world, nor in our hearts. We smiled at her, a vision of our imaginations.

flower

And we counted backward . . .

All the ways to invest year by year and day to day. What to change and what to continue strong.

We went through pages and pages, going from big to small. Disagreements were great discussions, different points of view were eye-opening, we fueled creativity in each other as we delighted in what may come as we grow older.

We returned with joy and hope and a realization that our differences and where we cross had sharpened us.

bench

Our journey to the park bench in Nebraska City was an action we took, directed by a loving God . . .

the plans we’ve made have made our eyes more open to see where He will redirect and show His hand . . .

and sometimes sharing your unadulterated dreams with another is like dying.

It’s painful; it’s raw.  You don’t how things will go when you take off the lid.

How much I wish I had known to do this 10 years ago. I remember reading about it, but it didn’t register. I had thicker, browner hair; he had wiry black that filled the dustpan, but things were very black and white to me then.

I sprinkled the peppered hairs into the trash, the color of age mixing in. By grace, the black and white understanding of my gracious God is newer everyday as my heart and  plans grow closer to Him. By the time we’re all white-haired my heart may just feel the youngest it’s ever been; waiting to stand, not dreaming, in the weed-less, ageless kingdom He’s been planning since the beginning.