Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oops... (I did it again!)

Bahahahaha!!! Sorry folks. I just had to start that way! I went almost another entire month without blogging. Why? Life. To quote one of my favorite movies, "Two words: Therapy." It feels like if it hasn't been one thing, it has definitely been another. But thankfully life has been more full of blessings rather than curses. 
Anyhow, I am reflecting on loads of different things tonight. As I sit and type this, my children are anxiously awaiting our own little family Christmas tonight. We will open gifts and celebrate the wonder of our Savior's birth as a family. And I can't wait. I'm sure the kids are most excited about the presents, but if I think about it, that's what I am most thankful for... the greatest gift of all! Jesus!
Christmas to me means a lot more than just celebrating Jesus' birth. I'm going to tell a story here that I haven't told or even thought of in years...
The fall that I was 15, and about to turn 16 the following February, I had quite the wake-up call. My [insert name and relationship here], we will call her Penelope, introduced me to the world of shoplifting. We started small, swiping candy and cigarettes, and gradually moved up to bigger things like CDs (when they came packaged in those long rectangular white plastic anti-theft cases) and clothing. 
It was November, and Penelope’s brother’s birthday was rapidly approaching. Now, we had the money, but it was always such a rush to “lift” things from stores. I still can’t believe I lived like this... Anyway, we used our own little patterns and lingo in each store, talking about buying the things we would actually purchase, and “getting” the things we would steal. So on we went, through this store, lifting things, including her brother’s gifts: fishing lures. Seriously. Fishing lures. We were about to leave the store, having purchased the legitimate things we decided were too big to smuggle and, checking that our newfound booty was securely in place under our jackets and in our pockets, stepped lightly out the door. “Excuse me girls! You don’t happen to have any un-purchased merchandise, do you?” came the hail. We immediately stopped, cheeks flush with the hues of guilt, and turned to face something we had never known to exist: the plainclothes security officer. Our breath became shallow, as our throats swelled to an almost unbearable tiny passage. 
The plainclothes officer hauled us into the manager’s office and--yes, folks--called the police. We were arrested and taken to the big house. Well, okay, maybe not THE big house, but it was big enough, for sure, to scare every unholy place right out of me. Our parents were called, of course. And I distinctly remember my dad’s reaction. He was so incredibly angry at my actions. After all, this type of thing goes into the newspaper! And, being from a more prolific business-owning family in our area, well, he was pissed, to say the least. “What will people say when they read that a Hentschel was arrested for shoplifting?” etc. etc. etc. He was so angry that he didn’t want to pick me up. And after this, of course, would come the court date. Another slap in the face of our family’s reputation. 
Because Penelope was 17, she was tried as an adult and had to pay back the store and spend a weekend in jail. I remember when she got out how she complained because they didn’t get HBO. As for me, I was tried as a minor and not only had to pay the store back, but also received 20 hours of community service AND probation. I remember thinking how absolutely ticked off I was that the one who got me into this mess received a weekend away from said brother, AND got to watch cable TV; which was something that hadn’t yet made its way into the households of either of us two delinquents.
Christmas that year, I was told, would be nothing more than maybe a token gift, and certainly nothing of value, because they used up so much money paying back the store, and in court fees. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had become one of the Detroit Red Wings’ dearest fans, watching every hockey game I could, rooting from my northern Michigan hometown with as much fervor as someone sitting right in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. 
In my family, we take turns opening gifts, one by one, until everyone has had a turn, then go around again. I don’t remember how many gifts I actually had that year, but I do remember it was my turn, and I opened up this gift, in a typical shirt box from any Joe Schmo department store, and there, in my hands, was this lovely and perfect Red Wings jersey. I remember looking up to the sounds of my mother sobbing which I then, of course, found myself adding a harmony to her melody. It was one of total repentance mixed with total forgiveness. It was grace. 
Today, as I sit here and type this story from the recesses of my mind, I am reminded that we all--in some form or another--are like me. Not only have we fallen into sin and selfish living, but we have also tarnished the Family name. And no matter what place we are in life, whether we’ve never known our Father, or maybe we have actually walked with Him and have since turned a blind eye or a deaf ear in His direction... We all have that precious package neatly wrapped with a bow sitting under our heart’s tree. It’s something we don’t deserve, but in the same space, something that our Father is so lovingly desiring to lavish upon us: His GRACE. It goes a long, long way, my friends. It’s always the right size; able to cover a multitude of sins. It’s always the right color; complementing the natural beauty He has given to us. It’s always the right accessory for any event, any season, anything at all. God’s grace came down to this earth in a tiny baby named Jesus. He lived a guiltless life, blessing those who everyone else had cursed, calling the wise men of the world fools (and proving it), and reaching his hand out to the unlovely. And after all that, he went to a place no one else would ever go for me: a torturous death of beating, whipping, bruising, and finally, crucifixion... all to give me the chance to be welcomed into the Family which I rightly belonged before I stained myself with sin. 
Yes, this Christmas I will remember that Red Wings jersey as the symbol it really is: grace undeserved. And I do believe I have consequently picked out my Christmas day attire.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well, it has been more than a month since I've poured my heart out on this electronic page. Life has been more than busy, and I'm happy to report that #1, I survived, and #2, the busyness of business is a bit more manageable these days. Hallelujah!

Today is Thanksgiving, and I get to celebrate with family that lives about 7 1/2 hours from here. It's truly something to be thankful for. I am also thankful for the great food and smells that accompany this day of feasting. Prepping things is always a delight to my psyche. The crunch of the celery as my Santoku knife passes through, the aroma of a fresh head of garlic being chopped in two, the little tastes here and there to make sure everything's up to snuff... it all adds up to a wonderful experience for me. 

The kitchen is a comfort room for me. Maybe that's because I am comfortable experimenting with foods. Maybe it is because I am a bit of a control freak and know how I want my food to be prepared... But I think maybe, just maybe, it has to do with the fact that I LOVE giving to my family. I cook from scratch and use as much personally-grown garden veggies that I can, giving wholesome and delectable meals to my family. It's a joy to work in my kitchen.

A dear friend of mine wrote to me today about the wonders of Thanksgiving. It inspired me. She said that even the piles of dirtied dishes were a beautiful sight to her. I began to ponder that. Truly, if your house is filled with enough people to constitute piles of dirty dishes, then you are more than blessed with a large, loving family. Family doesn't always have to be blood- or law-relation, either. Two dear friends will be accompanying the Lam-Fam tomorrow when we celebrate our Thanksgiving. They are just as much family as my children are. God has joined us together in the body of Christ, and I am thrilled to no end that I can call so many people brother and sister. 

Truly, I am thankful for this day of remembering. And even more thankful that I won't have to go out tomorrow and fight traffic or crowds in the psychotic sales and early rising rituals of what has come to be known as Black Friday. 

Much much love from me to you. Each day, remember Who we are celebrating from now until Christmas day. (And beyond!!) For now that Thanksgiving is "over," there will be little on the minds of marketers and ad wizards from here on out. Be bold, be brave. Fight the urge to load up on the non-essentials! Keep it simple and happy.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. 
Leave the rest to God...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


While walking past a car the other day, I thought I saw a serene country scene, sort of resting on the dashboard. As I approached, eagerly straining to see the landscape that had been so wonderfully captured in this photograph, I realized it wasn’t a picture at all, but the rear-view mirror on the other side of the car. I was simply seeing a snippet of what was behind me. 

What was the difference? Cropping. The mirror had so cunningly cut out all of the houses, power lines, and any other bits of city life that were so obviously surrounding me. It’s quite astounding to think about what a little cropping can do for perspective.
I recently was not diagnosed with any particular condition, concerning some strange muscle problems, and all I could do was feel frustration, anger, and the unknown, looming over my weary body. My aching and burning muscles seemed to scream in desperation for something, anything... to put a name to their pains; all to no avail. No answers... yet. 
That day had been filled with multitudes of tears and complete anguish. All I wanted was to have a solution to my problem, and what the doctor did say brought more frustration than anything: the one thing she hypothesized, has no fix. Again--anguish, desperation, grieving to the nth degree. Tears were overflowing, spilling down into my brand new blue pashmina, and visible, physical sobbing took place while I drove home. 
Now I think back to that cropped “picture” of my surroundings. What a work of art. And if we really look into our own situations in life, whatever they may be, I bet we could find little masterpieces all around, surrounding us, waiting to be discovered and reveled in. God, our most loving and sovereign Creator, has hidden clues to His greatness all around us. He has given us little puzzles to piece together throughout the span of our lives, whether they are around us physically, or maybe somehow the pieces have been woven throughout the fabric of our very lives, traversing the many days and months and years that number us. 
I feel so very blessed to know that the many blood tests I did go through came back normal and not problematic. I really couldn’t see that at the very moment of the great revealing; that these results meant great things, marvelous things. I don’t need a kidney transplant, I don’t have chronic blood disorders, I have normally functioning organs, praise God! 
So whatever situation arises in our lives, whether they are small, or seem to be larger than anything this side of the atmosphere, remember to take out your tools and start looking for snippets to crop and frame. Those are the elements in life to remember. Those are the pieces that will always glorify God, that will cause a smile to form upon His fatherly face. It’s a glorious thing when your child is able to look outwardly, from a broken inward situation, and see the proverbial silver lining. And how much greater is it when that person uses this gift--this cropped portrait from within the larger, possibly uglier picture--and gifts it to someone else. A glimmer of faith arises, a soul is reborn. Finding God in common situations is beautiful. Finding God in difficult ones, a miracle.

As the apostle Paul said:
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 
“It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:6-18

Saturday, October 16, 2010


There are certain times in life when driving is a mundane and monotonous activity. Then there are other times, when one can have the most enlightening and revelatory moments while sitting behind the wheel. Of course, there are still other times when things can come to a crashing halt... but that's not the topic of today's blog... however it can apply...

I was on my way home the other night and came upon a stoplight as it yellowed. The five or so cars sharing this stretch of four-lane road with me all lit up the night simultaneously with the bright red hues that brake lights are famous for. I, of course, joined in the ritual as well. Almost instantly I realized that we had all done the same thing, because of a signal
Signals, or signs, are commands. They show us where to go, how to act or respond, or what to do. Often times in our Christian walk many signals come our way. I wonder... how many signals have I seen/heard/felt loud and clear, and have completely ignored them? 

What would happen if we were to equate our lives to driving a car? "I'm in a hurry, so I can't really pay attention to the red light up here/BAM! What just happened?" You get the point. How is it that we, people professing Jesus' lordship in our lives, can so easily ignore the commands, or signals, that He gives? Now, we don't always ignore Him. This is good. But how many times have I actually heard Him so clearly, but felt that my needs were more important? It sends a tidal wave of grief to my spirit to think of how often I have rebelliously chosen myself over Him. 

Now, I do know that because of Jesus and His immensely beautiful sacrifice, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Him. (Romans 8:1) But something else I know is this: When I was approaching that stoplight with my fellow travelers, and we all hit our brakes in a moment of synchronicity, I felt an immediate sense of togetherness--we belonged together for that one moment in time. I know it sounds corny, but I also know that God was using that moment to reveal Himself a bit more clearly to me. For that I am more than grateful. 

There is such a beauty that comes from the body of Christ coming together and actually moving forward in what the Lord God has spoken to them. When God speaks to His church, we not only need to listen, but we also need to DO what He says. When we actually DO what He says, something wonderful happens: we get to move on in maturity! Together, as one body, the way Christ has called us to move. It is a lovely thing to see people--together--not only seeing the signals, but then to see them doing what those signals tell us to do. Breath-taking. 

Keeping our eyes and ears open... and our feet willing to walk where He tells us. That's where I want us to be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn's Olfactory Hues, etc.

Happy October, everyone. Time for crisp breezes, watching your breath escape, savoring mulled cider, donning warm sweaters and scarves, watching fires crackle and pop in the fireplace and sharing close-up moments. Mmmm, pumpkin farms, apple picking... everything to make a girl swoon...

This was my Facebook status this morning, and I thought I would share here, as well, and maybe expound a bit on why this time is so important in my life.

Truthfully, I'm a bit of a nerd. I loved school. Each fall, buying school supplies (not in July, like they do nowadays...) brought excitement to my heart; smelling the crisp, fall air while I would walk to school, every moment was savored. Friends would walk together to school, maybe talk or throw a ball around. I was sort of a tomboy, so throwing a ball around was not uncommon to me. I found that I could run around and play much easier in the fall, because the heat wasn't a factor. I wouldn't get all sweaty as fast, and that meant more play time. It was also amazing to curl up with a good book and enjoy the faraway places that were expertly hidden among the pages. And the smell of a good book! Oh yes, I loved the smell of those pages. 

Another smell I adored (not sure why) was the smell of the wrappers from the fund-raising candy bars that we would receive from our classes. We would walk up and down the streets of our small town, peddling these delicious treats. Back then, schools did not sell the normal, "name-brand" candies, like Hershey's. I have since forgotten the name of these delectable goodies, but the wrappers are forever burned in my brain: shiny, white, and thick, with a thin foil underneath that made a crisp metal-tearing sound when opened. The little cases of candy bars had built-in handles for carrying ease, of course, and each student probably ended up eating more than they actually sold. I think my parents paid a whole lot for those fund-raising outings!

Another smell that is amazing is the smell of a nice, big leaf pile. Raking up the castoffs from the giant trees that stood through the years, collecting bits of the year's history in each new ring, that was something spiritual. The smell of the decaying flora somehow brought a new energy and life to my bones. 

It is interesting to think about that. Death and decay brought excitement. Hmmm... There is something there, I know it. I think of how we, as the human race, can become so frantic when a part of our lives come to an end, when really, it is also symbolizing the beginning of a new chapter. Quite the ponderous statement. Maybe this is why fall is so well-received by the masses. It symbolizes the end of one season, and ushers in a new hope; a new hope of things to come. Wonderment: How many NEW flowers will sprout up in my perennial garden in the spring? You see, with the end of each season, there are seeds that have been dropped everywhere, to lay dormant through the dead of winter, and will hopefully reawaken with the renewed, warm weather. 

It is like this with our souls as well. So, when a certain season is ending in your life, how will you approach it? Will you look at what you are losing, grasping effortlessly while these passing "things" slip through your fingers? Or will you allow God to warm you from His light, keep you safe through the cold months, and then help you to re-emerge as the newly transformed, fuller garden that He wants for you to become? The seeds are always there... And they long to sprout up. And when they do, I pray you will be there, watching with excitement, as each tender little stem and leaf push their way through the newly-warmed soil.

Peace, love and cider mugs to you all!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Today was a great outdoors day. We harvested many things from our garden including some great looking carrots. As my hubby was removing the leaves and cleaning them up for dinner, he found a special treat--a caterpillar. We of course went right to work making a home for it so our girls could enjoy discovering the many changes that would occur through the next several months. Shortly after completing the home, we went a-Googling to see just whom we had found: a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar.

After the excitement died down tonight, I went to work, learning more about caterpillars, cocoons, butterflies and the journey these miracles take to get from one form to the other. Oh, WOW. I  happened upon a 13 minute film of the life cycle of a Cecropia Moth. It was a BEAUTIFUL moth, not like those pesky ones that flit about above your dining room table, trying desperately to be absorbed by the light fixture just above. This one was spectacular with its colorings, shapes, and fullness of form. It was something to behold!

The thing is, the process and timeline of this beautiful creature's life was extremely interesting and somewhat sad. Allow me to expound...

A caterpillar goes through up to 5 different phases, called "instars," where it will shed its skin and take on a new look--coloring and all. I never knew this. After all of these phases, it then of course spins itself a cocoon, where it actually spends most of its life. This particular type of moth I was watching only lives a few days as a beautiful winged creature, to lays its eggs and then die.

Something sparked in my brain and spirit when I was watching this short film. Many people--myself included--have eluded to how a person's spiritual conversion is much like a caterpillar coming out of its cocoon, transformed into this amazing and beautiful entity... but now I see that this view is a bit naive. It is the view of what a child believes happens when his mom gives birth to a baby brother or sister. He has no clue as to all of the development that has taken place over the last nine months--he just knows that his mommy went to the hospital and they took out a baby, plain and simple.

The life stages of a born-again believer in Jesus Christ are much like that of the caterpillar. Every so often, we must shed our old self--maybe a way we think, act, or believe about certain things. What I do know is this: in order for the full metamorphosis to take place, there must be many instars, or sheddings, of our former selves. This is how we grow. It is meant to be this way.

This is not to refute the fact that when one is born again, they are a new creation. This is truth. It is biblical. The problem is that we are still living as human flesh in this sin-tainted world. We tend to hold on to what we "know" and traditions of old, even if they prove to be more harmful than good. This is where the shedding must occur. We must continue to take off our former selves--our ways of thinking, acting, even feeling--and assume our new identities in Christ Jesus. This happens over and over until we reach the point of physical death. It is then that we can become truly what the Lord had intended for us to be all along: that beautiful, uninhibited butterfly, soaring through the fields with glorious abandon to the earth and its troubles below.

Now obviously, this idea, this writing, has many loopholes that I would love to work on... however I am not trying to write a book on this subject at the moment... My prayer is that you would simply take what is here and ponder on your own just a bit about what your next instar will be. What will you shed next? How will you look during and after this breakthrough? Remember that these transitions are all part of our wonderful journey and not only do we get to live them, but we also will surely influence those around us as we move through each stage...

...more to come.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

9/11 ponderings

On Saturday, we will be remembering the most tragic of events on American soil ever to take place: 9/11. I remember it like it was yesterday. Nine years ago, I was very pregnant, a Christian School Chaplain, and had an out-of-work husband. I remember walking back to my office when a student came running to me, claiming there were planes crashing into buildings in New York... How we set up rabbit ears with the VCR in the church sanctuary (where the school had its weekly chapel services), and we sat, as a school, and watched on the big projection screen as the second tower spilled down into the city below... I remember hearing how the Pentagon was also targeted, and thought about how only a few short days before this attack, my own father--and hundreds of other local politicians from around the country--were walking the halls of that “fortress”... I remember the counseling that took place... The lives forever changed... How hard it was for my husband to find a job... The list goes on.
So now there is talk of a Mosque being built near Ground Zero. Of course, where there is talk of this nature, there is exponentially more controversy, swarming like an angry legion of hornets. I don’t--nor will I ever--claim to be an authority on most things political. I don’t claim to be someone who is fit to comment or advise on anything government-related. What I do proclaim, though, is that I am born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and can only testify to these things which I know to be true. Many will question my statement, saying, how do I know these things to be true? Well, my response can only be answered with a question. How do you know you are breathing air with an appropriate amount of oxygen? Well, for one thing, you’re not dying. You’re not gasping for breath.  You are, in fact, very much alive, and feel right. “How I know” is something that is a gift. Like the air we breathe. When someone receives the gift of faith, that person is forever changed. Okay, back to the topic...
Many people who have weighed in on this controversy have done so very boldly, opposing anything having to do with Muslims. People are acting out of pain and fear: pain they still feel from this near decade-long injury, and fear that it--or worse--may happen again. We, as Americans, have been injured. 

No living thing takes to injury very well. Think about a dog who maybe has his foot caught in a trap. When a compassionate soul happens upon such a situation, that typically kind-natured animal will lash out, trying to attack its would-be savior. Most often the victim is so inwardly focused that anything external seems threatening. Snapping violently at the hand that could help is a natural tendency. And natural as it may be, what it truly is is selfish. This is not to say that “selfish” is a nasty term; sometimes the pain is so excruciating there is no seeing past it by ourselves. This means looking only at your pain and doing everything in your power to at the very least, maintain the status quo. It means not looking out to anyone or anything for help. It means festering. It ultimately means loss.
While there is something to be said about pain and suffering, there is also much to be said about peace and love--God’s love. As someone who is striving daily to inherit the love that is God while still here on this earth, I had a revelation today. I would like to share it now, as an illustration of the bigger picture, whether that is in response to a proposed Mosque in New York, a homeless person in a small town no one has ever heard of, or within your own family. 
I was driving through my city today, running various errands that took me through some of the more colorful, or interesting areas that I don’t normally see. I began looking at the many people out and about on this windiest of days. I watched: a young man rushing across a street to the nearest liquor store--his long hair whipping across most of his face; an old woman with missing teeth, extremely outdated glasses and a filthy jacket standing idly while waiting for a city bus; a long line of school children processing from the museum downtown; the librarian, watching an obviously drunken man checking out a book; a family taking a walk along Lake Michigan.
While driving, I was listening to a sampler CD playing Kim Walker’s “How He Loves Us,” and two other songs. As the time ticked by, the CD kept rotating these three songs, and the words became overwhelming to me. I am a singer. I sing in the car, like many people do, I admit it. But today, as I was singing, I realized something. I was singing this song with the greatest passion for all of these people.  As I sang the words over them, this tremendous love for each of them exploded from my heart. I realized that most of the time when I have talked or sung about God’s love, I have been thinking of His love as for only those of us who call ourselves Christians. (As I write this, I can’t get past what I have just declared. I am floored.) 
“Oh, how He loves us, oh, oh, how He loves us, how He loves us, oh.” 
God looks down on every individual here on this life-sustaining planet and calls out, 
“I... LOVE... YOU!” 
It is for this reason that we, as born again believers are here, in this place, to reach out and send that love in the most tangible of ways to the ones who have not yet received this gift. Oh, how He loves US ALL. 
So regardless of brick and mortar and what it could stand for, what we do in response to anything should be this: love. Micah 6:8 says it best: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
We must remember that this is not God’s heaven. This is sin-infested earth. It was tainted by the fall, and will not reach perfection until Jesus brings it about. And whether a Mosque is built close to Ground Zero or not is irrelevant in the grand scheme of eternity. Is it insensitive? Yes, I believe so. Will many people lash out, like the wounded creature that they are? Yes again. But how will we, as those called by Christ, act at that point? Will we stand beside them, shaking our fists in the air, and perpetuating hate, or will be be the ones standing there, not ashamed to say, “Look, I know the pain you’re in, but I know a GREAT Physician,” move in boldly, and remove the paw from the trap.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A New Day

A school day, to be precise. Day two of my two eldest daughters' school year. And the tension was high today. Let me preface today's entry with this: We have been homeschooling now for 3 years, and this year, we decided that it was time to get out into regular school. I never intended on becoming one of those "lifers" in the homeschool world, so we knew this day would come. There simply was a season for it, and now that season is over... but I digress.

My Miriam. Young--could be the youngest in her class, as her birthday falls one tiny day before the state cutoff. Bold. Daring. Excited. Ready. She has been quite the trailblazer thus far, but let's face it--every kid in that class is the same thing: new. They are all embracing this fresh thing called school with the same naivety, the same enthusiasm, the same wide-eyed wonder. Their teacher is expectant of first-day jitters, embarrassing accidents, even the occasional teary-eyed trooper who just can't seem to fit in. 

Then there's my Abigail. My first love, maternally speaking. Abigail will forever hold that place--where my very first motherly instincts rose up from deep within the confines of my selfish heart, broadening its horizons to include other little souls who's lives would fully be dependent upon my actions. She forever will be the one who engaged my heart in one of humankind's greatest journeys: motherhood. This is why today--our second day of school--was worse than yesterday.

You see, Abigail is entering a new school, too. The difference here is that most every other fourth grader has been at this school now for three or four years. Here is what they know: Each other. Teachers. Rules. Building layout. Pretty much everything that matters, they know. And if they don't, they know just how to fake it. Her teacher is wonderful. I can already see this, and for that I am thankful. However, I understand that he probably hasn't dealt with the "new" factor much in his career, like the Kindergarten teachers who face a different batch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbies each year.

Today was the day she felt the nerves rising up inside that slender stomach of hers. She felt sick. Literally. Identifying the problem doesn't make it go away. I knew that it wouldn't, but I had to reassure her that everything would be fine. Second-day jitters, I fear, are worse than their more well-known counterpart: the first-day jitters. With the first day, there is a delightful aspect we keep right on the horizon. We know that the first day is just that. A day. There is a beginning, and a few hours later, an ending. With day two, there is not such hope. Day two is simply a day, and will most assuredly be followed by another, and another, and so on. There is no real short-term end in sight and therefore can be gravely foreboding to any novice.

So today's pondering is a hard truth that we all must deal with at some time or another. In life, sometimes we are forced into situations where we feel completely alone and afraid. Sometimes the excitement wears off and we are left with a bundle of frenzied nerves where our stomachs once were. And if there is one piece of advice or wisdom I may lay at the feet of the trembling, it is this: 

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:3-5

Be at peace friends. Tomorrow is another day to wake up and face it all again. I pray that through all the sufferings, our character is built up and full of love and moxie. And the main vehicle that takes us there, my friends, is perseverance. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Evan (A short story)

Evan took a long, drawn out look across the dusty road. He knew this day might not ever come again and he wanted to be the first to take it all in. His sandy hair frolicked in the wind--the same wind that was stirring up the powdery, dry dust. As he stood there, his frayed denim overalls hanging a full two inches shy of his ankles, he began to notice the patterns in the clouds. Maybe it was the intense heat. Maybe it was the lack of inspiration. All Evan could see were waterfalls and springs up in that vast, hot sky. Oh how he longed for something to quench his thirst! But he would not leave his post. He dared not, even for a minute. He might miss it! The main event--the reason for such exposure to the arid and dusty hotness that swarmed around his very being--was more important than a mouthful of sweet, cool water from the stream that passed behind the log house that he called home. He would not falter. He would not miss it. 
Almost as if in a dream, his kid sister, Betsy, was standing next to him instantly. Where she came from he did not know, but now he was not alone. This moment--if it was truly going to happen today--would be better shared with a friend by his side. She gently nudged her brother and with a sheepish grin, he acknowledged her presence. Betsy had always admired Evan. Even when he found himself in the most defeating of circumstances he always found a way to bring about joy and contentment to his surroundings. 
There was the time when he accidentally let the neighbors horses out of their corral and ended up spending the entire Sunday morning helping to find them. Ma was the least happy in all of this, for Evan had ripped his new Sunday trousers and had missed the meeting that day. Betsy was the one that stayed after and swept up the meeting room. It was Evan’s job to do so, but he had missed, and she didn’t want him to lose his job. He always shared his earnings with her in the form of penny candy. The townspeople usually had some remark or another about Betsy’s endlessly sticky cheeks, but she didn’t mind.    
When Evan came home that late afternoon, his face smudged with mud, shins scuffed and bruised, and trousers torn, Ma nearly came undone. Betsy remembered the heavy, disconcerted sighs coming from the dining room while Ma mended the new trousers. She knew Ma was going to give Evan a real stern talkin’ to, maybe even a whoopin’, and wished Evan could go back in time and keep those horses penned up! Betsy always had a strong sense of camaraderie with her only sibling. He had four years on her, but that had always proven beneficial for this fledgling pioneer. 
Evan had walked into the dining room and looked at his Ma. Then he spoke for the first time since he had come home. “I know you are mighty upset with me Ma, and I don’t blame you. I’m real sorry I tore my trousers, and missed Sunday meetin’. And I don’t blame you for bein’ angry with me. But Ma, I had to find those horses. It was my fault. And I couldn’t let Farmer Bennigan lose his only two horses. That’s all he’s got. I did what I had to, and helpin’ our neighbor is a mighty important part of livin’ like Jesus would have us to live, right Ma?” Evan had paused. He knew the best part of the morning’s events was about to escape his mouth and he was a little excited, despite the trouble he should be in. He continued, “And guess what? Farmer Bennigan said I could come over and borrow the horses come plowin’ under time. And with Pa gone and all, well, that seems like a mighty nice thing for him to offer.”
Tears welled up in Ma’s eyes and for the next few minutes she sat in silence. Finally she spoke. “Evan, you’re a good boy. Now get on up to bed, son. Get on up to bed.” Even in those times of seeming troubles, Betsy was always amazed at Evan’s ability to turn things around. 
Just then a sharp, hot wind kicked up and blew gritty sand into the faces of the two children. Hands shot up to cover eyes and backs turned into the wind for protection. Evan felt the hot sand sting his dry lips and once again wished for a cool drink of water. “What are you doin’ out here anyway, Evan?” Betsy hollered. “It’s so hot and windy! Why don’t we go find a shady tree to sit under at least?”
“No way,” Evan countered. “I’m not gonna miss it!”
The wind finally gave way to a much softer breeze and the children turned around again, facing that familiar field across the dirt road in front of their paltry farm. “How long you suppose it’s been, Evan, since the last time?” Betsy couldn’t remember, because she had just been a baby when Evan watched for the first and only time the great event had taken place. 
“About four years. Now quiet, please,” Evan implored. “I just wanna watch, okay?”
Betsy didn’t understand what today was all about, but she knew it meant something to Evan. What was so special about watching men walk through a field? But Evan knew. He knew exactly how important this was, and wasn’t going to miss it for the world. And then it happened. It started!
Evan heard the sound of at least a hundred feet, marching in time to a drummer’s cadence. The bobbing heads of nearly five dozen men broke through on the horizon. They cut through the arid, dusty air, marking the path for the men who followed behind, marching, marching. It was truly a sight to behold. The uniforms weren’t much to look at, but the fact that they were marching home was what mattered. Some were bandaged, some were limping. Some hadn’t come home at all. 
Evan stood, still as a statue, as they came closer and closer to the road. It was a terrifying sight to see all those men carrying weapons, but Evan knew there was something of a peaceful resolve because of the very weapons in question. It was finished. The war had ended and the men had come home. How beautiful it was to see familiar faces! 
“So what now?” Betsy had broken the sacred silence that Evan had been reveling in up until that moment. With a bit of indignation and even more sorrow, Evan replied. “Now we wait.”
The two children stood still, watching as every last farmer-turned-soldier passed by. Evan spoke in a voice so small that Betsy thought as though she had imagined it. “Bye Pa. Thanks for giving your life so that we could have ours.”
All at once Evan felt an urge, a need, to run away, to cry, to scream at the top of his lungs, to fall down from sheer emotional exhaustion all at once. He had once lived the life of a care-free child. Playing in the fields, rousing the horses, squirting fresh, warm milk straight from their cow into his mouth, and laughing so hard his sides and cheeks ached with happiness were all a thing of the past for him now. 
It seemed the only thing certain in his life was the little sticky-cheeked girl at his side. Betsy was such a bright, bobbing little tot; always rich enough to give away every smile and hug that welled up from within her. She possessed a heart that Evan knew had no equal and he was thankful for his sister. 
Ma had fallen into a deep sadness the very day they got the news that Pa had fallen in the war. He was such a strong man and a loving husband and father. Evan knew at that moment that life had changed forever. Ma was now his responsibility and he wouldn’t disappoint his Pa. As the days passed into months, and months passes into years, Ma rarely looked on life the way she did before the war. It seemed almost as if Betsy had adopted all the joy that once dwelt within Ma’s beautiful heart. 
But Evan knew that Ma could be revived. She only looked hopeless. Every night, this new man of the house would kneel by his bed and pray into the vast midnight sky for her sake. And every night he went to sleep to the sad melody of his mother’s near-silent cries. He had to believe that she would get better. It was true that he had lost Pa, and there was nothing he could do about that. There was no way he would lose Ma too. And so he became her pillar of strength. At seven years of age, this youth had given up the whimsy of childhood to became a man.
The last soldier stumbled past the somber pair as Evan executed a shoddy salute. It seemed as though even with his practicing, when the time finally came to raise his hand, all energy was stripped from him along with the rest of his composure. He slowly lowered his hand as a sorrowful and heavy sigh escaped from his dry lips. A few moments passed as the children stood, listening to the memory of the drums as pangs of grief washed over them both like stormy waves in the night sea.
Evan and Betsy silently turned and walked into the house, closing the door behind them. They found Ma, sitting at the fireplace, weeping. Betsy ran to Ma’s side, sat down and began stroking her hair. Evan mustered up every ounce of courage he had in his nine-year-old self and said, “You know, Jesus died so we could live, and now Pa has, too. In a way, Pa got a real honor, to know more of what it was like for our Lord. We’ll see him again, Ma. We’ll see him again.” And with that he fell to the floor and joined Ma in remembering the great man who was once husband, father, and friend; who would always be a child of God.