28 April 2009

breaking up is hard to do

Not to be pessimistic, but it was probably the last time for such an occasion.
It's not that it's over, but really,
It IS over, in the way we knew it.

We met at His Mansion Ministries in the mid and late 90's. We all happened to locate (returning from some) in West Michigan. Hoping to hold on to some of the accountability and community strong practices from the Mansion, we committed to meet weekly. And we did. For breakfast. At 6:00 or 6:30a every week.
That is, until things started to dissolve. K & K got married and moved to Minnesota to complete their undergrad degrees. Our circle was broken. The breakfast meetings discontinued.
But then, K & K moved back.

Their journey of having kids--beautiful quads who arrived early--enveloped all of us as we visited in the hospital and then at their home. We started meeting Monday nights for our "small group" of dinner and conversation. Those nights expanded to include other "mansionites" as John was around, Teresa, Darrell, Rachel, and even Stephanie would occasionally join us. It was a sweet place of grounding, fellowship, and intentionally sharing our lives together. Mind you, it wasn't intimate spiritual conversations at all times. I remember one night where we programmed individual ring tones on our phones. Deep stuff. :) But the regularity and intentionality of meeting together in this space did continue to shape and form bonds between us and allow us to see how God was working in each other's lives. For this I am extremely grateful.

But then K & K moved again, and the group dissolved.

These seasons of friendship and community are such a gift. The above photo marks the "original" group as we met recently to celebrate a transition for Bonnie. She's moving...
and I'm happy for her to return to Colorado. But I will dearly miss this beloved friend. You are always welcome back, BB!! I'm so glad for the chance to have journeyed with you in this way.

21 April 2009

I spy...

Nancy Drew rarely enters my mind. Until recently when my sister asked me what Nancy Drew character I used to portray. (I love that her daughter, my niece Kate is reading Nancy Drew like crazy. The great mysteries continue!)

We "played" Nancy Drew constantly. We solved all sorts of imaginative mysteries as Nancy Drew. It was my sister, Carmen, myself, and our friend Christine, mostly. Sometimes Christine was given the boot when our neighbor's niece, Tiffany, was in town. (Tiffany might have landed in the "bossy-pushy" category.)We figure Carmen was Nancy, Christine was Jo, and I was Bess.
But really, we don't remember too much specifically about what character we played.
I do remember the schemes and the seeming hours of running, hiding, discovering, and sleuthing all through the neighborhood. We were good.

This spurred on several others mystery type loves in my life. Of course, the Hardy Boys was a natural next step, not to mention Remington Steele, and Moonlighting. (Does anyone remember Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting?) I loved those dramas.

I navigated toward similar reading--Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and the like. I loved James Bond and the Bourne movies, just to name a few.
And then, there came Alias.
A bit of me wanted to be Sydney Bristol, I confess. *Sigh*

I say all of that to say that a spy's life would not suit the needs of my heart and spirit, but everyone once in a while, I still imagine a romantic view of such an occupation.

Any other "wanna be's" out there?

19 April 2009

Poverty redefined

Tims are tough. We know that. The unemployment rate is discussed at least once a day if not more frequently. Budgets require tightening. Lifestyles as we've come to know them in the western world, in particular, are changing and in some cases dramatically.
Times are tough, but do we really know poor? Do we really know sacrifice?
Are we really aware of the richness and absolute wealth that we've become so accustomed to?

This "guest post" from a friend of mine causes me to rethink what I know and consider a different perspective. See what you think.


A Reflection

On Sunday morning before church, I got a call about a baby: a girl, seven months old, young mother, very poor, unable to care for the baby . . . “Can you help?” I agreed to meet with the persons involved today, Tuesday.The baby was brought in from her remote, mountain home. I sat down in a middle-class living room here in the city with the mother, the baby, the mother’s employer and her two children, the mother’s employer’s sister and mother, and two of my teenagers.

The mother of the baby is twenty-two years old, and she works as a house servant in the home of two young professionals and their two children. They pay her one hundred dollars per month, which is less than half the legal minimum wage in Honduras. She is a live-in maid, and is given two days off every fifteen days to go home and see her siblings and baby, who live several hours away. Both of this young woman’s parents are dead. In a household of eight, she is the only one with employment. Everyone depends upon her $100/month for food and education. For her family, her pregnancy meant another hungry child, and for her employer, it was an unwelcome intrusion.

I had been called by the employer’s mother, whom I have known for many years. On the phone, she described the baby as being in desperate straits, and the mother eager to have someone care for her. In reality, I saw a young woman who dearly wanted to care for her baby, but without a single voice in her favor. Her employer had just miscarried. I asked this woman, “Can’t you take care of the baby here?” It seemed like the logical, merciful solution. The mother could keep her little girl and continue working.

“Oh, no!” this young woman replied. “My husband would never agree to that. And besides, we don’t have enough room.” I thought of the closed doors in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. I thought of the miscarried baby who certainly would have had a special place prepared in this same home for his/her arrival.

But not this child. This child was a problem, an obstacle which needed to be removed. They would do “the right thing.” They would call Suzy, and she would make the problem go away. Their servant could get back to work, and they could get on with their lives.

I took the baby, because no child should grow up where he or she is not wanted. The mother wept. The woman who called me held her and said all would be well. And I’m sitting up, thinking about a world in which there is often, even today, no room in the inn.

15 April 2009

"Give me the presence or I die!"

Last weekend at the retreat center, the room I stayed in was called "Beth-el" -the dwelling of God.

As I read and prayed and slept in that room, I felt the blessing of God's presence melting my crust, drawing out the core of what is true about me, that I am God's beloved daughter. So much else in life tries to define my identity. But that piece, my core role as God's beloved is true no matter what.

In addition to a welcome space to rest, my room had some great resources to help guide my retreat time. One of them was the following passage which completely resonated with my heart and my desperation for retreating.

Let me know you think!

There is a practice of the presence of God
which is done on the run in the busiest of days,
in office, and schoolroom and kitchen.
Little prayers and communion;
ejaculations of surrender & joy and exaltation;
if it didn't sound silly to say it,
little snugglings of our soul moving nearer to God.
Most of our lives can be lived this way,
as divine conversation of our soul with God,
going on behind the scenes all the time.

But then come crucial periods in life
when the quest grows hot,
when the hot breath of the Hound of Heaven is at our heels,
when the heart cries out,
"Give me the Presence or I die!"

And these are the times when we get
beneath the conventional mildness of average religiosity
and find Him more fully, who is dearer than life itself.
From these women and mean will come the profound return to religion,
ie, the love of God and neighbor,
which is so desperately needed."

-Thomas Kelly The Eternal Promise (1938)

09 April 2009

It's time

I'm not sure how to explain how ridiculous this is. But I realized, my margins had expired. I needed space. Me, the off the charts extrovert, needs space away. The trigger that signaled the ridiculous? I had an exchange with one of our beloved faculty here in GR and felt personally slammed because she criticized the candy options in my candy jar. Yes. How that seemed so personal, I can't begin to explain. I realize, it sounds and IS ridiculous.

And so, for that, and other reasons, I'm retreating.
Just writing the word slows the exhale.

I know that my blog writing may seem to indicate that I've been retreating frequently. But it's much the opposite. Life, work, everything has been quite crazy.

Some might know that B's Mom died unexpectedly a little over a week ago. So I accompanied him on the trip to and from family for the funeral. It was long. It had moments of much tension. It also was a place of laughter and release. I wouldn't trade the experience, but the time was not what I "planned." Unavoidably, it "bled" into other schedules including work and school. And so, my soul is aching for alone time with Jesus.

I'm excited to unplug.

Blessed Easter to you!