Dear Jimmy

jimmy-63

Dear Jimmy,

You are amazing. An Anomaly. Dad said so just the other day, talking to someone at a wedding.

Four and a half years you’ve been here in our country. Four and a half years you’ve been here in our home. A fraction of a lifetime. But a lifetime of change.

You were shorter than Ingri the first time we met you. We have pictures to prove it. Ingri who stands about five foot nothing. That was Camp of Dreams, and for the next thirteen months I’d dream nonstop of Two Skinny Brothers, waiting in Colombia for us to bring them “home.”

You had a home there. You remind me often. And I know. I get it. A Mom. Foster in name, but the real deal in all the ways that matter. Her love was real, and I’ve always been grateful. So. So. Grateful.

Next week, Tuesday, you’ll board a plane, destination Yopal. Your first time back since that January day, a lifetime ago. A lifetime and twelve inches. I keep trying to imagine what Doris will think when she sees you. Towering above her. So tall and so handsome. A little boy when you said good-bye. And a rascal at that. She told me as much, over ice cream. We sat across from each other at an outdoor table, someone translating. I don’t remember who. But I remember Doris. Wise. Devoted. No-nonsense. Love. 

You’ll need to keep an eye on Jimmy. The foster mom looked right into the eyes of the rookie. And no kidding.

Keep an eye, and no wonder. Those first days. Those first days were hard. Hard keeping an eye on a kid who’d up and walk home from wherever he was no matter the weather if he made up his mind. Hard keeping an eye on a kid too cute for his own good, and every girl knew it. Hard keeping an eye for that rough patch when guys will be guys and prone to trouble. Early on I learned it was God’s eye on you, and not so much your Mama’s.

But now. Lately. Lately I’ve had my eye on this kid turning young man, and OH WOW. Just wait until Doris sets eyes on you.

Finished high school, and with flying colors. Heading off to college this fall. Playing soccer. Dating Sidney. (Of course, the dating won’t be such a big surprise for Doris, based on the stories you tell about all those Colombian girlfriends.) But this is different. A lifetime different. I can’t wait for Doris to see it, too.

Will you go to church with Doris? All those stories you’ve told me about your church, and how it was there you first encountered the Spirit. Baptized here, but awakened there. I always wished we’d ignored the rules of those Bienestar ladies who said we shouldn’t go. I’d like to have gone to your church. And for some reason, church is the one thing you haven’t really found here. Which might surprise Doris. And sometimes, to be honest, it surprises me, too. Not that church is the only evidence of a heart’s devotion, and I see your devotion. But yet. If I could wish for something, it might be this.

And yet. You do know the love of your Father. Your Heavenly Dad who loves you to the very heavens. (More even than your earthly one who writes you letters and gives you a home and pays your tuition.) Your Heavenly Father has kept His eye on you every single one of your nineteen years, and He has plans for you, for a hope and a future.

Jimmy, you’re an Anomaly. A new word to add to your English. You are a person who defies the odds, and does the unexpected. The rascal kid who turns out to be an honorable young man. The rebel teen turned respected adult. The scared little boy whose heart is transformed by a life of love.

Next week you’ll go back home to see Doris, your Colombian Mama. I can hardly wait. I’m excited for her, and excited for you. But know this, too, Jimmy. Here. In Minnesota. There’s another Mama who’s waiting for you.

I love you, son, with all my heart.

Mom

Everything at Once

file3-5

How are you doing with all of this? Everyone asks and I hardly know what to say. I’m not sure, to be honest.

Years ago, when the boys were young, we did this thing at the Science Museum. It was a contest to see who could most effectively think about nothing. I can’t really remember the specifics now, except two opponents went head-to-head, electrodes measuring brain activity, and the one who could most effectively shut it off came away the winner. And it was Grant. Every time. No contest.

“I think I’ve learn to shut off my brain. Kind of like Grant.” I said this to Nils in a phone conversation, me enjoying an outdoor lunch, and he was road-tripping his way through Nebraska. Thursday. He’d loaded his car the day before, said good-bye to his childhood home, Colorado bound for the summer.

“You mean like when Dad was up on the roof?” Yeah, like that. Last weekend, painting dormers, one ladder hooked over the peak, another stretching up from the ground, and from my perspective, more than the length of a man between. All day Saturday, I’d back down the driveway, trying not to look. Or think.

But that’s the least of it. It’s all these swirling thoughts of a house officially on the market, and Jimmy graduating from High School on Friday, and everything’s happening all at once. I’m telling Nils, and he’s agreeing, feeling it, too.

And then Friday night we’re pulling into the Legacy parking lot for one last high school graduation. 21 years straight at this school. We park, and I’m hustling to get inside to save our row of seats, and Kyle’s cell phone’s ringing. I hear enough to know it’s Rick, our across-the-street realtor neighbor, no doubt calling with news from the buyer. Six showings yesterday, and an offer by nightfall.

“They accepted.” Minutes later, Kyle squeezes between two sets of grandparents and Felipe, the back row our only option with 40 minutes still remaining to Pomp and Circumstance.  Grammy leans close as we talk about potential closing dates, and of course she’s as eager as any of us to have a plan.

“What’s your plan?” A couple of weeks I’ve been answering the question. Jimmy graduates. We sell the house. Move late summer. Felipe into Uncle Brian’s apartment. Kyle and I with Pop and Grammy. Jimmy joining one or the other. Break ground at the lake sometime next spring. God willing. All of it. God Willing.

This morning. Saturday. We sleep a bit later, making up for a late-night shift at the Senior Class Party. Still in PJs when Rick calls to say he’s on his way over. He’s crossing the street, and I’m dressing quick to sign papers. Papers saying This Thing Is Real, and of course I’ve known it. But now it’s official, and we’re pulling out calendars to sync up our summer plans with plans for closing, and everything is happening all at once.

It couldn’t be more perfect. Every detail the best possible outcome. Price and move date, and “Rick says they have kids.” All this emotion, kept in check, and this fact, finally, bringing the tears. “It’s a great house for a family, and I’m glad about the kids.” I look at Kiana’s hand-lettered sign, hanging above the front door. And for their children a refuge. Rick says something about an opportunity for ministry, and there’s a lump in my throat. Can a home be holy? I’m already praying.

All of this, God willing. Yesterday, before Acapulco, pre-graduation celebratory dinner, my own parents arrived with bikes and just enough time for a couple of loops around the neighborhood. “Are you sure you should do it?” Mom’s wondering if we’re having second thoughts, and I tell her what I’ve told myself a dozen times. “God has orchestrated so many details. It feels like His plan.”

And then, last night, our last graduation, taking pictures out by the pond. Kyle and I are talking to the Head of School, our lifelong friend and former neighbor. “You told that story, years ago, when you spoke at chapel.” Twenty years back, give or take, we’d put the house on the market another time, too. “Your dream house, and you felt like God told you to lay it down.” Jake retells our Abraham story, and I catch my breath. And He gave it back.  

He gave it back, a lifetime ago. This house. I remember now, I was pregnant with Nils.

And now it’s Saturday afternoon, and I sit at Starbucks waiting out two more showings and a Realtor’s Open House, already scheduled. Allowing my brain to reengage while I process thoughts the best I know how. By telling the story. This crazy story, everything happening all at once, and every detail feels like His plan.

Dance (by Luke Anderson)

a_l-reception-148

Luke Anderson blesses his mom with a Mother’s Day post.

Mom likes stories. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that; you read her blog. You know as well as anyone how she’s a sucker for a good story. They are indeed her chosen art form.

Dancing– on the other hand– not so much.

Mom’s dancing experience has been mostly confined to mother-groom and husband-wife obligatory slow dances. You know, the ones which mostly involve standing still save for the slow, vaguely rhythmic turning in circles. Now I’m not saying Mom can’t dance. I never said that, stop putting words in my mouth. All I’m saying is that if she can dance, she’s been tremendously withholding of such a talent.

One of Mom’s favorite stories (again, I’m sure you don’t need me to fill you in) is the story of Covenant. A relational God revealed throughout the ages. I’ve been reading a book which describes this relational God as a dance.[1] Apparently there were these guys who lived a long long time ago called the Cappadocian Fathers, and they came up with a word for the mystery of a three-in-one God. Perichoresis. A divine circle-dance. Because God is three, the very essence of God is loving relationship. This is why the apostle John could write with such unqualified boldness, “God is love.”[2] And this is why you and I are here. This divine love-dance simply cannot be contained, spilling over into the creation of the universe, spreading outward and drawing inward, begging each creature to start boogying. Holy Moses.

Speaking of Moses.

Have you ever seen a couple dancing in one of those can’t-look-away-from-the-car-wreck type scenarios, where you can physically feel the awkwardness somewhere in the depths of your gut? This typically happens with middle-schoolers. The girl has had her growth spurt but the boy hasn’t, the placement of hands and bodies looks to be anything but intuitive, and the four minutes and twenty-three seconds of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect can’t seem to tick away fast enough. I’ll tell you what you won’t see in this kind of dance: eye contact.

“Three times,” writes Richard Rohr, “Scripture mentions that Moses was the only one who knew YHWH face to face.” Story goes, Moses looked straight at God, and left looking really shiny.

Which, obviously, brings us to Mom. This is a mother’s day post after all. Ever since I can remember, Mom has spent a whole lot of time getting to know God face to face. And she glows. Seriously. She has felt deeply the flow of this Divine Dance in her morning quiet times, in her lingering coffee chats with dear friends, in her speedy yet contemplative walks through the woods (just ask Dad– keeping up is no easy task), and in all the unpredictable moments in between.

For Moses, spreading this divine glory to the rest of the Israelites came with mixed results. Mostly not great results, actually. People kind of freaked out about the shininess, so Moses put a veil over his face. After Jesus came, giving his people something significantly more tangible to look at, some of his followers had pretty remarkable ideas about this whole face to face business.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.[3]

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.[4]

Here’s the thing about Mom. She’s never been content to veil the glory she reflects. For those of us lucky enough to call ourselves her children, it’s mind-blowingly obvious that she’s seen and felt this deep current of love. What’s more, she doesn’t just tell us about it. She’s never been all that interested in providing us with all the right answers about what it means to gaze at the divine. In her words, in her actions, and in the still, confident peace she carries with her, she simply invites: look for yourself.

I think Mom might be the best dancer I know.

 

[1] The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
[2] 1 John 4:8
[3] 2 Corinthians 3:18
[4] James 1:25

Why Worry?

Maple with frisbee

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 

It was the right question at just the right time. Jesus asking, in Matthew 6, and me writing the study questions for our Small Groups at church. Our sermon series this month is all about Freedom, and wouldn’t it be great to be free from this?

Just moments ago I prayed with my husband, early morning and wrapped in a blanket out on the porch. Yesterday we woke to gloomy weather, flurries of snow overnight. But today is glorious. Clear and sunny, bird chorus heralding spring. I take coffee and a favorite book of meditations to the old dock swing, east facing and deceptively toasty. A glance toward the street, and here comes Maple with her favorite human, dog carrying frisbee, Kyle jogging at an encouraging clip with his pain-free hip. Minutes later husband scooches to share my seat, pup sprawled on concrete under feet, and both in unison exhale. SIGH. One content. The other…

Of course I know I shouldn’t worry… 

Of course, we know it.

We’d rushed home from Des Moines, week before last, rushed right into all those projects. We’d thought we had until June, or end of May at the earliest, Jimmy’s graduation party perfect timing for having the house in tip-top shape. For Sale sign going up a week or two later. But then all this whirlwind of all those buyers, house down the street selling in hours, and How soon can you show it? Realtor calling, we’re still in Iowa, boys at home holding the fort. We’d asked for a week.

One week to finish the cleaning and tackle the yard. Kyle staying up half the night replacing a microwave oven, and of course it would pick this month to die. A nephew and two brothers coming to the rescue for weekend projects, putting in doors, painting trim. Jimmy and I hauling garbage out to Bagsters, stacks of wood to a backyard fire. It’s 50 degrees and Felipe’s sporting swim-trunks and a bro-tank, power-washing the deck. And it’s all-hands-on-deck for six days straight until Monday evening when we all clear out for our first big showing. And another on Wednesday. And then.

Nothing.

Nothing at all after all that fury, and the thing is, we’d expected something. Some kind of something after all this rushing, and now we sit side-by-side on porch swing and what can you do but SIGH?

And of course I know I shouldn’t worry…  

He says it, and it’s what I’ve been thinking, too, all this week. Me, the one to write that study, perfectly timed. And Jesus said this, too, there in Matthew’s Gospel. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. And don’t we know it.

Yesterday morning there in my office at church, I read over questions I’d written myself.

Is there any value in worrying?
What does Jesus say is the root cause of worry?
What evidence of your Father’s care do you see all around you, all the time?

I think about Pastor Greg and his wife, Lindsey, two young boys, one special needs, babe on the way. Greg and Lindsey have this game they play. Worst Case Scenario. What’s the worst that can happen?

Later I’m back at home, basking in projects finished, house never cleaner. I love this house. Haven’t I said it a hundred times? And THIS is worst case? This house never sells and we stay right here with neighbors we love, and boys thrilled, no doubt, because which of them wants to leave it anyway? Not to mention the dog. And this is worst-case, even though we all know chances are still real good it WILL sell – because truth-be-told it’s not even officially on the market yet, those showings this week were just “Coming Soon” – whatever that means, other than a whole lot of frenzied panic for nothing. Which. About explains it.

Frenzied panic over nothing.

Two-thousand years ago and aren’t His words about as apt today as they’ve ever been?

Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?* 

And it’s late morning by now and I can still hear My Father’s birds outside my window singing, and it’s a glorious morning. And right there in the very same text, the antidote to worry, in Jesus own words.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

And I breathe an Amen.

*Scripture throughout from Matthew 6:25-34