Month: October 2011
It’s funny how fast it happens.
He was lost in the blind spot between the curve of the door and the rim of the bumper. For a second, it’s like he didn’t exist. But he does, and he reminded the other driver with the crunching curl of metal into the side of the car.
But he doesn’t remember that. He only knows Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon among friends at church. It was a pretty afternoon. Warm for fall.
Then his mind skips a day and a half, like a record skipping a song and lurching into the middle of a second. Now he’s in the hospital, his body rejecting meals he doesn’t recollect. That second song isn’t so pretty.
It’s moments like this, people come together or fall away. And I’m grateful, as a bystander, for the friends we share. They have cycled in and out of the hospital’s doors since soon after he entered them himself. They have come together and prayed. They have marveled at the miracle that it wasn’t worse.
He lies tucked in a blanket, his arms wrapped in bandages, cords coursing from his chest to a dozen electronic measures. He is surprisingly upbeat. He gives a rundown of his injuries like a first-year hospital resident ticking them off for an attending. Broken arm. Broken hip. Broken clavicle. Road rash. Concussion. Sprained ankle. Sprained knee….
It’s sobering. It could have gone differently. Seeing him there, his usually large presence seeming almost small in the hospital bed, is a reminder of how fragile we are. Like glass.
And frailty is an equalizer.
Yet, sometimes, God cups his hands and cushions the full brunt of the blow.
I love laying in the grass in the sun.
I love laying on the beach in the sun.
I like hot chocolate, a book and a blanket on a rainy day. I love it when it really pours.
I wait every spring until I can wear flip-flops, and I love wearing them with shorts best.
I like blasting music when I clean. I like blasting music when I drive. I love music.
I love surprises. Little ones. Big ones. I’m not picky, as long as they are good.
I like lilacs and Gerber daisies, the orange and plum and bright pink ones.
I love going home. I love the feeling of anticipation as I catch sight of the lake and the airplane descends between the shoulders of pine-tree draped mountains.
I love water. My favorite kinds are lakes and rivers with swimming holes carved out of granite. But I have a soft spot for the ocean too.
I love a run on a good day. One where my breath comes easy and I feel like I can run forever.
I love the feeling after exercise, the saltiness of sweat and the clearness of my head.
I like barbecues and campfires. I like them best if they occur while camping.
I love seeing the trees of a forest from a snowboard on a powder day, with a fan of snow feathering off my back edge. I love defrosting in the lodge at lunch.
I really like soup.
I love the feeling of piano keys beneath my fingers — particularly when they are attached to the long strings of a baby grand.
I like writing, often about something sad. Not that I like being sad, but I like to explore heartache with words.
I love other cultures and other languages. I want to see the whole world. Twice.
I love seeing God change lives. I love it when He changes mine. I love missions for both of those reasons.
I love sunsets and thunderstorms.
I love hiking to mountaintops and drinking in stunning views.
I love girls nights. My favorites are the ones where we laugh ourselves silly and talk about outrageous stuff I could never repeat.
I like giggling. I like being tickled, even when I act like I don’t.
I love intimate prayer times with God. I love it when one verse echos through my week in different ways and directly applies to whatever is going on in my life.
I like dresses and heels.
There is something about a latte made right — extra hot with caramel syrup.
I like romance. Not the sappy kind. The sweet, thoughtful little things. And occasionally, the stunning, unexpected big things. I think being pursued is every girl’s weak spot, if it’s the right guy, and sometimes when it’s not.
I love kissing.
I like scarves and mittens on frosty mornings.
I love fireplaces on cold nights.
I love milk and cookies and chocolate and cheesecake and ice cream.
I love sleeping in — the delicious feeling of semi-consciousness upon waking up and not having to get up.
I like people watching. I really like people.
I like white Christmases.
I like a lot of other things.
When I think about it, I like living.
Here under the lights, I feel the bass— rather than hear it.
From here, I see only outstretched palms. The faces that belong to them to are but stencils in the dimness. Further back, only shapes move to a beat that drives from beside me.
“My life is a life for your cause
My will laid aside for your call
And reserved are the depths of my heart
Only for You.”
They are lyrics that have been circling in my mind all week as I practiced the chords that go behind them. I have turned them over in my hands a dozen times. I have prayed for them to be true for me. I have meant them.
There is a point in this song where all seems to stop, like a heartbeat on a monitor flat-lining.
The near silence after this point spans eighth bars —a near eternity when the next part depends on you.
On the ninth, it is the drummer and my turn. We revolve each other’s parts in patterns completely independent, yet complimentary. Clashing, yet matching.
I feel the riff close in on me, so the only thing I can hear are the circling of these notes. The beats rippling out from the glass beside me go silent, yet I still see the motion in the corner of my eye. For about 30 seconds, it’s just me and these five notes, cycling in triples.
The singer joins us. Soon our crescendo dawns into a complexity that becomes simple.
For these six minutes there is nothing else but Him and those of us in this room. It is an unlikely unity, but it falls into sense as it happens. About 50 young men and women chorus in an anthem with words I wonder if we even fully comprehend. Even the song writer recognized it:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard
The depths of your love, Lord
No mind can fathom the love you deserve
How great You are.”
For these six minutes, I think I understand what the songwriter calls rhythms of grace sound like.
She was wearing pink sweatpants and a pink velveteen zip-up sweater when I first saw her on the side of the road.
We looked up at each other briefly and nodded before passing.
For the next half hour, I continued on, over a hill, up a path, around and back. I swung my arms by my side and tried to keep my gate even.
We were about in the same spot going the opposite direction when I saw her again. This time, her right arm was looped around a bag of oranges. In her left was a loaf of bread and some canned vegetables.
It was then I really looked at her. She was older, but not old. Dark wisps of curls framed her olive face, round but not so round as many other Latina women. Her lips were edged in the parenthesis of smile lines. Her eyes were warm.
I looked back at the oranges and it dawned on me that she had walked the ten blocks to the Mexican market and back for her groceries. I felt my eyes brighten and the edges of my lips begin to twitch upwards.
It was a refreshing glimpse of life in another time or place, where people go to markets for three items. And they walk there.
Here in California, people swing into their SUVs and drive two blocks to load their trunks full of Costco-sized items.
She saw my face and smiled widely back. Through the music on my iPod, I couldn’t hear her, but her mouth made the shape of a “Hi.” I broke into a grin.
After I passed, I wished I would have said “hello” back.
Funny how time seems so erratic, when it’s supposedly steady and predictable.
Lately, it speeds by in a blur, so that I can’t even recognize the hands on the clock. It’s exhausting trying to track them. Dizzying.
I keep thinking about that birthday I missed 30 days ago. I sat and watched it come and go so quickly, paralyzed by indecisiveness and a desire to do something exceptional. So I didn’t do anything at all.
There’s a check in my wallet someone gave me in August. I just can’t seem to get to the bank, even for money I need.
I bought two pairs of jeans on sale in April, intending to hem them. They are still tucked in my dresser with the tags still on.
I just turned 30 in May. In about six months, I am turning 32.
The pace at which time moves seems to force me to react to any and all situations by tossing water on the flames, instead of sitting back and roasting marshmallows. I wonder if there is anybody who knows how to do it the latter way.
Yet there are a few things that seem strangely oblivious to the passage of time. They are the things that I wish would keep pace with everything else.
A couple of injuries which seem undaunted by weeks and months. This cold, which has nestled itself into the corners of my lungs and refuses to come out. And an old heartbreak, which baffles me with its resiliency. Two and a half years later, it’s still waking up from hibernation at random and inopportune moments. Every time I am surprised. And a little annoyed.
All of this comes down to the control and independence I hold onto with white knuckles. I try to hand it over. I have before over and over. God has his hands out waiting. Yet for some reason, I figure it’s easier for me to take care of it all than to surrender it to the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the Universe, who has a better idea of the big picture than I do. When I stop and look at it like that, I’m shaken by my arrogance and distrust.
That realization scares me into tossing it over. And the clock resets, the second hand slowing down. The absence of the weight makes me totter briefly. I can breathe.
My human nature seems to be determined that it’s just the cycle starting again. But, if so, I know He will be there waiting the next time.
It started with one singular ant, so harmless and unassuming, navigating between my calendar and stapler.
Later another joined him, with the nerve to stroll across the screen of my lap top.
From there, they popped up intermittently.
Where are the coming from? I wondered, twirling back and forth in my chair to peak at the wall next to my desk. I expected to see a trail of them coursing up the chipped paint.
For most of the day, I pretty much ignored them, blotting them off my desk here and there. The onslaught came after lunch, in the midst of rolling over my 401K.
On my third phone call, after ping ponging back and forth between two financial institutions, I saw it.
“Ma’am, can I get your social security number?” he said with the token customer service representative accent.
They were streaming out of a hole made by a dip in the carpet against the wall.
I followed the line with my eyes, bent over in my chair with the phone cord taunt across my desk.
Finally I was able to spit the number out.
“What’s your mother’s maiden name?” he asked calmly.
I was anything but calm. The trail of ants was marching from that hole, across the carpet. Leaning closer, I spotted their route. Their little bodies were a mass of motion amid the blotches of tones in the carpet.
Then I spotted the ladder they were using to ascend to my desk. They were flooding up my lap top’s power cord.
Those little brats…
“Your mother’s maiden name, ma’am.”
This guy’s going to think I am trying to break into this account, I thought. I tore my eyes away from the ants, then spat out the information.
He began to talk me through financial decisions I was not prepared to make in the midst of an ambush. I kept trying to come up with he wise questions, the ones about taxes and timing. I used words like “liquidate” and “pre-tax status.”
All the while I was watching them troop across the carpet, like soldiers on their way to war, fearless. I tossed the lap top cord off my desk and onto the floor in between filling out the fields of an online form opening an IRA account. That should slow them down for a minute.
Suddenly it dawned on me. My soup bowl from lunch. It still had the traces of tomato soup on it that must smell intoxicating to a colony of ants, drawing them like bees to a flower. I peered over the bowl’s edge. It was crawling with them.
My stomach turned.
“Will that be all?” he asked with all the customer service bravado they had trained him with.
“Yes! Thank you!” I chirped and slammed the phone into its cradle.
“OH MY GOSH!!” I yelled and pushed back my chair from my desk.
The two other girls in my office looked up surprised.
There was no bug spray under the kitchen sink in the break room. The supply closet only had hornet killer. I’m not sure what that entailed, but I wasn’t going to take the chance.
I stormed back into my office armed with a spray bottle of Windex, with all the indignation of a pageant mother whose child had just been named second place.
I’m not one to get squeamish over a few bugs. I’ve shared bucket showers in Africa with spiders the size of quarters. I’ve hovered over scorpions that I found under bricks I was hauling in Ecuador. I’ve rescued beetles from indoors and once ushered a mouse from my office.
But this was different. They were invading my territory by the hundreds, possibly thousands.
It’s safe to say, a little Windex and a vacuum assured I won the war.