West Meets East

We live in Asia and found this amazing field of flowers in a park next to us.  There is no time change here so in the spring the sun is up at 4:30-5 am.  So, my kids are too.  We decided to go out for donuts and coffee at the only donut shop we knew of but it didn't open until 8am.  So, we got set to go and stopped with camera at t his field I had been hoping to catch in the morning hours.  The sun came through the trees at the edge of the field and shown on Abby like a spotlight.  At first I didn't think any of these would turn out but I brightened this one up and I don't mind the bright sun look on her face. I think it adds to the shot.
Sending this one off for the Rock the Shot: sun flare challenge see over here for more beautiful sunflare attempts:  www.rocktheshotforum.com

Photo Challenge Submission
Read more at http://www.iheartfaces.com/how-it-works/grab-a-button/#Ox9V74pcJPfo3yGv.99 

You can't beat the colorful candy throwing clowns at the local parade/carnival according to my kiddo!  This pair were especially generous in their tossing of tootsie rolls.  The kids had a blast!   Entering this pic in a "SUMMER FUN" iheartfaces.com photo submission because how can you not heart these faces! 

Rhythm in Life

Five Minute Friday

He makes me coffee and listens to my worries
I pop the popcorn and make him home made McFlurries.

He gets up with the sun.  I turn in early for him.
I laugh at his jokes and he kisses my chin.

He sends me out for my daily run
And I try to make his birthday a ton of fun.

I set up a game night for he and his friends
It’s the little things upon which our marriage depends.

He works hard but still makes time for us.
He is patient and kind and doesn’t force me to rush

He heads out the door with a two second kiss
It takes time every day to find marital bliss

There is a rhythm that comes when you share your life.
This dance we dance as husband and wife.

He the saver and I the spender.
Yet his love is wild and gentle and tender

Sometimes giving or taking and sometimes receiving
Training the mind and the heart in what it’s believing.

He is a gift to me, God clearly says so in His word!
He is a prayer that I prayed, and that God has answered.

So day by day our song plays on
Some days soft and some days strong, but it plays my friends as sure as the dawn.

This rhythm of sharing a marital life
Is treasured by this happily married wife.

The view

Five Minute Friday
I  shiver underneath the winter clothes that I am wearing here in May.  Is it the cold or is it the view that makes me shutter, I am not sure.  “I see one!  I see a  North Korean farmer Mom!” he takes his binoculars down for a few seconds to make eye contact with me and motion me over.  

He is the only one of the 3 kids patient enough or determined enough to endure the frigid wind and cold.  “Hurry Mom! We’ve got to pray for them!”  We came on this trip to a border city to scout out the ministry possibilities here and to pray as much for North Korea and her people as we possibly could during a 3 day trip.  Yesterday we spent time with dear children and as a family debriefed and prayed for each of them by face and by names that we could remember and today we are standing on the edge of a river that divides these two countries.  We are standing next to the line of demarcation. I mean I could reach out and touch it, we are that close and on the other side of the river we can see farmers planting their fields.  Fields that may or may not produce much food and the food they produce will not be enough to feed the hungry mouths of those who are in need. . . but we stand here, Hudson and I, and we pray for these farmers he can see.  We pray their labor would not be in vain.    We pray God’s provision and blessing on their crops.  We pray their harvest would be plentiful and fruitful.  We pray they would know hunger and starvation no more.  We pray food for their souls and not just for their bellies.  We pray for those that are desperate today to be provided for. We pray for miraculous answers to their needs and prayers. We pray for God to be glorified in this field, in their homes, and in their lives. We pray a million other things for these dear souls working in their fields on this bitter cold May day and then we stand here together, him in front with his binoculars and me behind him with my camera.  I pull him a little bit closer and together we look out at the view.  

A Trip That Changes my Identity. . .

The bus turns a sharp right and pulls into the driveway bumping over potholes and it's right then that I first saw her.  She was sitting on a bench and waiting for us.  She is holding a basketball in my memory that is tattered and worn and she quickly drops it under the bench and runs towards the bus.  Her black braids are flying behind her and I see her motioning to the other children that we are finally here and then I see them run out and up to the bus and I am feeling a little overwhelmed looking into their dark eyes through the window and wondering what their stories are.  Wondering and yet a little afraid to know.  But there is something about this girl that later on prods me to ask for her story but when I do, her story brings a depth to my grief I have never known.

Truth be told, when he said "We're here!" I didn't want to believe him.  I don't know what I expected but I think I thought it would be a little more modern, that there would be running water and I was not expecting an outhouse.  I think I thought that the rooms would have beds and blankets and such and yet they showed us their rooms and the concrete floors were cold and hard.  They showed us their little mats and how they sleep 3 across and I can tell they are pleased and proud of their small amount of personal belongings and I wondered if they knew what our homes looked like or how many pillows and blankets alone we have in our home and I hung my head a little bit remembering that we have 10 pillows and how I was just considering getting new ones for our bed because ours are "older" by my standards and lost their fluff.  And I hung it a little bit more remembering my home shopping list that I have been working on to finish settling our new home and how many times I have gone to Ikea for home supplies in the last year.

The kids wait with patience and eagerness for our family to get off of the bus and I look each child in the eye as we exit the bus and enter into their world, and with a groaning heart I pray for them to know how special they are and to experience love and acceptance.  I pray for the chains of shame to be lifted and for each child to be unshackled and released from the pain and the loss and the grief.  To look at them and play and jump rope and have them beat us at HORSE with that tattered basketball, you would never know the pain and horror of which they have seen and experienced.  I ask for the stories.  I listen to the stories and I hear the unspoken.

And here in this tiny corner of Asia, I am undone. Just like that.  Completely. Totally. Utterly undone.  If I could find a quiet place to sob my tears and to absorb some of the loss I see in each set of eyes I would but there is no such option right now and I ask for the strength to set them aside and to bless these precious ones while we are here and to bring joy and escape from the ache that I am certain haunts them.  Some have watched their father die and then their very own mother be dragged away from them with wires piercing their hands and shoulders, drug away to be "repatriated" into a country they themselves can never go - alone, unwanted, deserted.  Some of these precious ones have been abandoned as their mom returned to care for elderly, starving parents and grandparents and can not return for her child.  And one sweet 8 year old girl with the haunting black eyes, a toothless grin and two black braids that fly in the wind when she runs, watched the process of poverty and need after her dad's suicide turn her mom to desperation as she sold her self to buy clothes, food and supplies.  One nights sale led to a little girls worst nightmare - a tragedy leaving her alone. Completely alone in the world now.  Every family member that she has ever known has been buried and there is no one to call, no one to call her.  And as I hear this story. . . I.  Am. Undone.

We step inside and the smell is so overwhelming and uncomfortable for me, I can not describe what it is.  I know the house is clean. I can tell it's clean and orderly and that the house mom and dad do the best with what they have been given.  But a all 24 of these sweet kids, ages 6-17 and my family of five, and 3 of our hosts plus the house mom and dad gather, there are 34 of us in this small entryway/living room and the smell is overwhelming.  My kids have found their places nestled on mats close to me.  Hudson wants so much to be a brother to these kids for a few hours but he speaks neither of their two languages well enough so he smiles at each boy he has eyed up to be closest to his age and waves with one hand.  They smile and wave back and I learn that friendships can begin without words if love is present. And he loves them.  I can see it in each cheeky grin and they can too.  I think they love him back just a little bit.  The girls have sized Abby up and the ones closest to her age volley for position on the cold concrete next to her.  They smile shyly and out of the corner of my eye I see one 7 year old girl quietly touch Abby's long golden locks.  It's the first time she has seen an American girl her own age.  Abby shyly looks at her and they both giggle.  I learn that laughter crosses all language and cultural barriers and that when 7-8 year old girls laugh together, friendship is born.  They jumped rope together and laughed more later each time they missed the rope and shared that deep belly laughter together when it got tangled around me!  They would cry and hold onto each others hands when they parted ways  just 3 hours later.

But Levi, he comes to me from across the room and says in Chinese, "Mama bao bao." Which means, "Mommy, hold me."  and he snuggles up on my lap and is overwhelmed by the amount of people looking at him and maybe by the smell of the room we are in and he burrows his head into my arm.  I look up and I see his sweet ,dark eyes watching.  I know that he heard those words, "Mama, bao bao." and I imagine he is remembering the last time that he said those words to his Mama.  Later I ask for his story and I find out he was 3 when he came to this home, the same age as my Levi is now.  I wonder what he remembers.  His Dad bought his mom. She was purchased with cold, hard cash.  Did you catch that? He bought her, like one might buy a couch . . . or a car. . . . or a. . . a. . . . an animal.  He wanted a wife so he paid a small fee and bought himself one and they were "married" or had an arrangement at least.  Their son was born and life was dysfunctional but life was the 3 of them.  But his father got sick or maybe it was the drugs or the alcohol that made him sick but too much one night and he was gone, leaving his possessions to his family.  Somehow their arrangement was not upheld after he died and she was left as an illegal alien with no one to claim her.  No details of her repatriation were given but I'm sure it was not kind or pleasant and she was returned "to the proper place" inside her native country.  But the proper place should have been right here next to her little boy.  He was just three at the time and his world was turned upside down that day.  He is here now, and the people are kind, they are nice, they care for his needs but the kids at school tease him sometimes.  Not loud enough to get caught but quiet little whispered teasing words wound his fragile heart but he knows better than to tell on them.  He would pay a deeper price if he did that so he takes their whispered words and tries to forget.  But, I know. . . I KNOW. . . I can tell by looking in his eyes, although I didn't ask him, that sometimes he cries.  Sometimes all he wants in this whole wide world is for his mama to walk through that farm gate and bao bao (hold him). And he wishes even harder that she had never had to go in the first place.  I have never in all my life wished to be someone else but today I wished that I could be his mama. If only just to tell him how special he is and to hold him, to look at his art piece and to be amazed as only a mama can be over her sons work and I wanted to be his mama so I could tell him how I see his grandfather or his grandmother  in his eyes when he smiles.

I wanted to be his Mama whispering powerful words of hope and healing into his ear.  I wanted to have the history with this child to bring comfort and hope to him for his future.  To play a silly game that he likes, like the alligator game and tickle him silly when I caught him and to hear him call out "Mama" and to see the joy in his eyes return when I was there.  Again, I am undone today.  For as far as our world has come in international relations and technology and a million other things, my heart can not settle itself that these kinds of things still happen to  real people and to innocent children anywhere in the world!

We drive our little bus with all 34 of us on it to a restaurant and my husband and I team teach a short lesson on how they are beautiful and special and unique as image bearers of God.  He tells them they are deeply loved and how they are lovable children.  How there is no one else in the world exactly like them.  He has given each one of them different gifts, abilities, passions and burdens.  From their physical bodies down to their finger tips they were created with love and with purpose.  He tells them that God has  purposes for them and different roles for them to play in this world.  He tells them that they are each gifted and unique and special in many ways and how He wants them to use their special gifts and to live out their purposes.  They seem to eat up my husbands words the way my children eat up a bowl of popcorn on a Friday night movie night.  They are engaged.  When he is done talking, I bring out the paper and paint - lots of colors to choose from and I show them how to use their very fingerprint to fill in the leaves and framework for a tree.  Then I talk briefly about how our gifts and talents and unique contributions were not meant to keep to ourselves to to be used and shared in the context of community.  They each use their fingerprints on each others papers and walk away with a beautiful "friendship tree" that symbolically will remind them of how special and loved they are and how their willingness to live out their calling in the world with others in community creates beauty and is life giving like a blossoming tree.  And then the sweet little girl with the braids comes up and she brings me a beautiful painting.  They made me a "friendship tree " too and I am moved to tears that these precious ones who have (in their short lifetimes) been betrayed, abandoned, neglected, left without hope, and unwanted, would treat me (who they have just met) as a friend.  I was told "trust" is a slow process because of what the  have been through and because of the cultural issues surrounding them.  So, I am once again undone that they would trust me enough to call me a friend.  Maybe "undone" is becoming a new identity for me because in my state of being and feeling "undone",  I have not felt so alive and so full of purpose and hope.

It starts to rain on our way back to their home and they slowly get off of the bus, there are tears as my kids say goodbye and one cute little girl with those two black braids just won't let go of Abby's hands.  The doors begin to close and the driver turns the bus around.  Abby is crying.  Levi has his nose pressed against the window trying to make the boys laugh at his squished up nose and farting noises and Hudson is waving with that cheeky grin.  As we pull away we all take one last look and as we do, they begin chasing our bus and waving to us.

And I don't want to leave. I have not felt so alive and so full of purpose and hope in a long time.

Rest. . .

Five Minute Friday
I become the spoon and he the dish
and I lay down my head in deep need of some rest.

The days they all blur in the chaos of life
and I forget to count my blessings instead of the trials and the strife.

It's this laying down of my burdens as I lay down my head
then counting the gifts together as we lay on the bed

And curling up beside the love of my life
and telling him how thankful I am to be his wife.

Oh there are days I am wicked - how I wish I were not.
I yell or I scream and sometimes put him on the spot.

Then the guilt and the condemning voices I hear,
scream like a siren in both of my ears.

But here in the dark curled into his arm,
I remember our vows and I take no alarm.

Then he says them these words that silence the beast-
There is no condemnation - not even the least.

So, I snuggle in closer, the spoon I will be,
but in this marriage bed is not 2, but counting Jesus - there is three.

"Home" - I am utterly speechless

Five Minute Friday

The pitter patter of feet down the hall, I hear him round the corner and patter down the wooden staircase that has aged well considering the many feet that have certainly run up and down her in her lifetime.  This is his first morning on her though and teddy in hand and sucking away at his wrist, (yes he chose his wrist and not his thumb as an infant) like he does only when he sleeps or is scared.  He looks way smaller and younger than he really is in this great big house.  He crawls up on my bed and says he needs to snuggle with Mommy.  I can not resist, I pull him up, pull the covers up and whisper good morning to my sweet three year old boy.  He takes the wrist/thumb out just long enough to say, "Mommy, I miss home." then he pops the wrist/thumb back into his mouth and looks at me with these big, vulnerable eyes.
We moved yesterday and because we are in full time service through a Christian organization and as a result serve abroad, we are not strangers to traveling or friends moving here and moving there.  We, as a family, in fact, have to travel quite a bit considering the ages and stages of our young family.  But in this little guys lifetime, we have always come "home" to the house we lived in until just yesterday.  The home we shared so many happy memories in, the home we brought him home to straight from United family hospital 2 days after he was born.  He has always had this same place as his reference for home - and he misses it on this first morning and to be honest, I do to.  I miss the familiarity of it, the way I had learned the sounds and smells and flaws of it, I miss how his feet sounded on the wood floors when he came in to great me every morning.  I miss the familiar lay out and knowing where all of my things were and weren't.  As I lay here and can hear the house waking up,  I miss how my older sons lego's sounded when they hit the carpeted floor every morning.  I miss the way parts of the old house would trigger fun memories of family dance parties and slow Saturday mornings, wii contests, birthday parties and Christmas mornings.  But as I snuggle this sweet little guy and wallow a bit in the sadness of exchanging a home we enjoyed for this place we hope becomes a home to us - he pops his wrist/thumb out just long enough to speak into my mixture of grief and hope, "but I always have you. . . And Daddy. . . And Abby. . . And Hudson. . ." he pops his wrist/thumb back in temporarily.  Just as my eyes become moist with emotion at his realizing the very  presence, love and familiarity of family, the memories and warmth that comes from that is not contained within the walls of any building or structure,  he pops that wrist /thumb out as if it were a lollipop and says, "and poop. I can poop in both houses - and in this one I can poop upstairs and I can poop downstairs." I am stunned.  True.  This is true.  Maybe this will be one of those first memories you never forget in a new place and  yet somehow I am utterly speechless.

What Mama did. . .

Five Minute Friday

Once upon a world so bright
She cupped my face in the deep dark of night
My lips were blue on that September eve
Minutes seemed like hours and I did not breath
But a breath I took and my little life began
Under the motherhood of an amazing woman.

I remember the nightmares and I remember her there
I remember that my bad dreams and fears I could always share.

She calmed my fears
And wiped away the tears.
And always made the silver lining appear

She taught me how to sew and knit
How to ride a bike and stay physically fit

We swam in the summer and we fished at night,
Camping trips and Christmas time was always a highlight

She made home made meals and taught me how to cook
She also taught me that I was more than the sum of how I look
"The heart is the place where real beauty can live,"
And it grows day by day with every sacrificial give.

At 13, when Grandpa was very sick and we thought he might. . .
She brought me there and through tears she and Grandpa made it right.
They made their peace, and I did too.
 "real" forgiveness was modeled and nothing less will ever do.

Goodbyes were said in those early December hours
I was unprepared for the pain and the funeral flowers
but Mama was there as I cried tears of sorrow, tears of loss and Mama's own tears would soon follow
She was there, did you hear that? "There" right where I needed her.
through the painfully lonely days of Christmas that year that now are a blur.

The years flew by for her too  I'm sure,
She made chicken noodle soup and home made bread in a pan
And I clearly remember conversations about how to recognize a "good" man.

She laughed a lot and sometimes she cried
Looking back now, there were times being brave for us was what she tried.

She worked so hard as a single mom: 3 teenage girls and the dating scene
We often times accused her of being mean.
"The curfew was too early, and I was not late!"
I was almost 15! "Why couldn't I car date?"

But Mama always did what was right, she did what was good,
It was for these ingrained morals that she always stood.
The car keys were a privilege not a right, I soon understood.

Sometimes, I said mean things, and I wrote them too
words of kindness towards my mom in my teens, were few
But Mama didn't give up although she had every reason to

She grounded me once, no maybe twice,
I take that back, the groundings were many and inter spliced
between seasons of different issues in my life.
But she never gave up, no she kept on loving
Kept on protecting, caring and forgiving.
Well,  time marches on and now we live oceans away
But Mama is still Mama and her influence in raising me this way.
She's Nana to mine and Grandma to others
But one thing I know, she has always been one of the most amazing mothers!

That's what Mama did. Actually, words can not fully contain it.
I am so thankful that Mama did what she did but mostly just thankful that Mama is who she is.

I love you Mom!

Thailand 2013 and Home Again!

When my husband first suggested that we stay in Thailand for an entire month. . . the ENTIRE duration of our free "on arrival visa", I think I might have laughed out loud.  Don't get me wrong, that sounds FABULOUS (yet exhausting) all at the same time.  I enjoy traveling, I love cultures and learning and I knew (from past trips to Thailand) that I would thoroughly enjoy Thailand.  I think I told him that we shouldn't be away from school, routine, and daily life for that long and caught myself saying this to him and wondered what in the world had gotten into me!  He calmly baited the hook with simple words, 30 days that you don't have to cook or clean up, 30 days you don't have to wash, dry or fold laundry, 30 days that you can be in the sun and breath clean. . . clean air.  And that's where he got me.  Hooked!  See, the air quality here in the city I live in was near 800 the day we left. Higher than 300 and they say you should not go outside.  It had been steadily climbing and my throat burned when I would wake up and my voice was hoarse when I went to bed.  My eyes would sting when I went outside and the pollution in the air is one of those triggers to an auto immune disease I've been wrestling with the last 2 years.   This 30 days was to be a gift to get out of the bad air and into the fresh clean air and sunshine of sunny Thailand otherwise known as the land of Smiles and let my body recoup and the kids relax.   We stayed the entire 30 days and although (obviously) it was not all vacation, we had a ministry conference and development meetings for portions of the time (this was our main purpose of going- but my kind husband saved the cash so we could stay longer and get enough time to refresh us before we came back), we did have good vacation time and all of it was refreshing in one way or another.  Here are some of the things we did, sights we saw and things we currently miss now that we are back in our home in Asia and fondly remembering how refreshing it was to step onto the beaches of Thailand and climb aboard tuk tuk's and elephants and drink fruit smoothies for breakfast and lunch and dinner.  It is good to be home though. . . hoping the kids and I still think so when we start school on Monday. ha!

 The Gulf of Thailand in Cha Am

Walking for miles upon miles looking for sea life and sea shells

 Building and Destroying all things in the sand is the love language of this 
(and probably most) 3 year old boys

 Sometimes a girl's just gotta do handstands and cartwheels in the Gulf of Thailand! 

 Our last night at Dolphin Bay in Thailand we joined some friends in setting off these beautiful lighted lanterns. It reminded all of us of The Rapunzel movie and the annual search for the princess on her birthday.  It happened to be  Levi's birthday this day so it was a very special end to his night. 

 Mesmerized by the Sea

 All boy. . . dirt, water, and a lot of noise!

 A quick picture of the girls of the family!

 Our lanterns floating away

 An awesome ride in a song tao

 We spent some time in Chiang Mai, Thailand (northern Thailand) and of course had to visit the elephants! This was  a dream come true for my kids. 

This friendly elephant almost slimed my camera!  I pulled back and he slimed me instead of the camera!  My boys say I should say that correctly, he kissed me instead of the camera. . . but truly it was sliming! 

There are so many stories to tell and thoughts to share and maybe I'll get some time to post some of them in the days that come.  But all in all, I am so glad for the time we had to breath clean air, soak in the sunshine,  to take a break from ministry, to meet with God in fresh ways, to be together as a family and to fellowship with some friends.  I am so blessed!

He is mine. . . and I am His

Five Minute Friday

“You are His beloved.  Do you believe that?  Really and fully believe that?” He stood before us with humbleness and conviction. A week ago today I sat in a room with 70 other moms and dad’s who are in full time Christian service in an overseas setting in Asia. We were there to learn about educational and parenting methods and to receive encouragement from each other and a host of other reasons.  But we began each day with heart felt worship that reached down and touched a tender chord in my heart that hadn’t been touched in a very long time. My head nodded yes towards him but my heart shook it’s head no.  I felt paralyzed by the discrepancy between my head and my heart.  He spoke about His tenderness, His grace, His desire to commune with us, to see us in true community and to commission us forth with our heart’s fully embracing his love as our fuel.  The rest of the day I wrestled with this term “beloved”. . . what does it mean? Why is it hard for me to truly  believe that I – am – HIS - beloved?   Is it the broken home I come from that cripples me?  Is it the kilometers that have separated me physically and emotionally from my Dad since I was 10 that disables me?   Why is it that I can’t seem to experience the beauty and joy of being His beloved? And He being mine?  And there in those last 4 words I discover my answer.  I have not fully embraced Him as being MY beloved.  So, I sat my weary and confused heart down before Him and in silence and the hours that passed in between told it that we would  just stay there with Jesus. . . stay there until we let Jesus penetrate into each and every cell.  Sitting in solitude was one of his suggestions  to embrace this truth and it was in the solitude that I experienced the sweetness of my Beloved for the first time in a long time.  There is no greater love nor no greater joy than to be his beloved and for him to be mine.   

Temporary Amnesia

Five Minute Friday
I let out a loud sigh and shake my head in disbelief at the child standing before me.  A breath prayer, "Remind me right now Lord.  Right now I need to be reminded of who you are and how precious he is."

I have amnesia or short term memory loss or something related to a faulty memory because I sometimes forget how cherished this bundle of a boy is, not just to me or to our family but to the one who created him.  I forget that this 30+ lbs of spinning, whirling child whose feet don't frequently still unless he is sleeping or reading, this one who sometimes spins out of control (or maybe it's me that feels like she has lost all control over what he does or what he finds funny or how he interacts with the world around him).  Yes, this one was made this way (woven together in my womb) and entrusted to me to enjoy, to cherish, to treasure for this short time in this earthly skin.  This tiny package that kisses me a million times when I pick him up from school, who flexes his arm muscles to impress his daddy and anyone else he can catch looking bears God's image.  He who grins from ear to ear with pride that he can read 3  letter  short vowel words these days IS cherished.  This little prince who still insists I am the girl he will marry someday and who plucks flowers for pretty girls and elderly women in our neighborhood, "just to make them smile," and finds heart shaped rocks he can bestow to his sister with love. . . he. . . this amazing child. .  is beloved to God. And truth tells me that he who sometimes (always at the most inconvenient of times) behaves as if his MIDDLE name were a 4 letter acronym that except for in the dark while we are lying in bed whispering, we are afraid to name out loud, in fear that saying it out loud will attach them behind his given name all to soon and for the rest of his life - yes, it is this little one - he- is - cherished and loved and created in the image of God with a purpose and with gifts to share with this world.  Please don't give him or me "that look".  You know the look.  And please with hold your statements that trigger my amnesia.  The ones that say, "he has A LOT of energy." "Boy, you have your hands full." because we both hear what you are really saying and it's not helpful but actually quite hurtful to this little 5 year old's idea of himself.  We need your  help remembering how uniquely created his is and how cherished he is - we don't need your help forgetting.  We do that just fine on our own.  Please help us to remember to see that he too is an image bearer of God - because he is.  He truly is and I can not bare to think of what this world would be like without him.

He Gives Me That Look

He gives me that look from across the table that makes my heart flip around so wildly inside this chest of mine that I almost reach up to touch it.  The corners of his mouth playful with me and I can't help but let out a tiny giggle and we are smiling and laughing and life should always feel this good.  The kids are grinning from ear to ear and they love this playful banter and laughter at breakfast so much it makes them all a little goofy too.  I get up first for a refill and he follows me to the coffee pot and I can sense he is right behind me.  As I turn around, coffee cup in hand - he gently takes it out of my hand placing it on the counter, his fingers lace through mine and he asks me for this dance.  I notice we have an audience peaking at us from the other room, I am laughing out loud now and looking up at him, I dance with him right there in the kitchen, completely un done yet - jammies still on, bed head hear and coffee breath but he doesn't care.  I get the distinct impression that he sees a different "me" here in this kitchen right now than I do. And it feels so good to be loved just as I am - undone, mess of a person that I am - I guess that's "love" isn't it?  Love dances and embraces and accepts and sees what is inside.  How did this day ever come to be?  We are both pushing 40 and that seems so old and yet here in this kitchen, this morning, I feel anything but old.  I guess that is what love does for a person - it rekindles the part that makes us feel alive.  His love also brings me coffee in the morning and gets up with the kids in the night, "so I can rest", he sends me out with my friends and with my camera so that I have room for the relational, creative "me" that needs to make an appearance every now and then and then when I get home from all of that creative girl-friend time he tenderly takes my feet up on his lap, rubs them as I go on ad on about who I saw, what we did, which aperture setting I used or tried and I am sure he does not know half of what I am talking about - but this man knows "me".  I guess that's what love does - it serves beyond what is convenient or interesting to itself.  And he does a million other really sweet things to demonstrate his love for me.  How does one ever "love" back enough when you are loved and taken care of so well?  I have absolutely no idea what the equivalent is in his man's world - but I am trying hard to learn.  Trying hard to figure out how to cheer on his favorite football team and how to get into March madness or super bowl season in a way that is a blessing and not annoying.  I am not exactly sure how to love him but every day is a new day to try and express it in his language.  I guess that's what love does, doesn't it?  It tries and intends to bless.  Now just to bring some "real" to this picture I am painting, I have no grandiose ideas that my marriage or my husband or myself have this love/marriage thing all figured out.  In fact, not even close!  We struggle ad fight and I subconsciously want control and yet have none.  He forgets to hang up his bath towel and around we go again.  But love is a choice that we make day in and day out.  The "choice" part is what makes the little things actually big things, big deposits that ground us and keep us dancing in the kitchen in our jammies - coffee breath and all.  I am so thankful for another year and another fresh start to love this man I call my husband and my best friend.

An Opportunity in the Rear View Mirror

Five Minute Friday
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap tap. I saw him in the rear view mirror approaching and am fumbling now, trying to find the right change and some food. I know there is some food in here somewhere I’m thinking to myself as I rifle through my big “mom” bag stocked with water bottles and snacks for our trip to the museum.  Peripherally, I can see him still standing there next to my car, he raps on the window a little harder and a bit franticly as the window of opportunity for a hand out gets smaller as time ticks on the red stoplight ahead. I quickly look up at the stoplight, there is a countdown in red next to that little light and it currently says 36 seconds until the light turns green.   “Hurry Mom, the light’s going to turn green.” I hear from the backseat.  I don’t reply, I know it and I feel the urgency to give this man something to eat and something to keep him warm.  All I can find are my $1 gloves, a few rmb and an apple that was intended for our morning snack today.  I turn to the window and thankfully he is still there.  I look the Asian man right in the eye as I roll the window down. He quickly looks at the ground and begins to nod his head up and down, a sign of humbleness and unworthiness in this culture.  I use both hands to hand him this “gift”, (using two hands is important in this culture- it is a symbol of respect) what I hand him is not much mind you, I feel embarrassed to even give it to him. But I think it’s better than nothing and I don’t know what he will receive today and what he will be allowed to keep.  It is said that the majority of people on the streets begging here are either pimped to do it or have been disabled with that purpose in mind.  (blinded, disfigured, etc) The food and gloves wouldn’t be taken away from him, although the money might be.  As he takes my small offering, he looks at me and I look at him, right in the eyes we look at each other for what feels like 10 minutes but in reality was only seconds and I see the laugh lines up by his eyes, and the scar on his cheek. I wonder briefly what this man has laughed about recently and what has made him cry and how the scar got there. Was he a child or an adult when it happened? Did the gray hair come before or after he had children? I know mine came after.

Then, I tell him boldly that he is made in the image of God and that God loves him and that I hope this gift helps him today and please don’t forget that Jesus loves you.  He thanks me quickly and all of this in a 36 second encounter at a red stoplight that too quickly turned green.

 I drive on, but I see him in my rearview mirror limping to the side of the road, looking after our car with a look of confusion, joy and wonder, then sitting down and taking a bite of his apple.  And his eyes haunt me all afternoon. I can’t forget them. I can’t forget the humanity of them.  I wonder, “Whose grandfather is he?” “Whose husband has he been?” Will he ever be reunited with a family that embraces him and laughs with him? Cries with him?  Will his wife ever again run her fingers over that scar and know the story behind it? See, here there are a lot of men, women, and children who are taken from their homes, disabled in some way and for various reasons put out on the street to beg for food, clothing, money to eat. Very few people ever stop and nobody ever speaks to them. They are the downcast, the downtrodden, the looked down upon portion of society.  They are lumped together and (I am guilty of this too) not seen as individual human beings who have had dreams and plans, hopes and sorrows. But the humanity in this humble man’s eyes will change my perspective forever. All I had to give today was an apple planned for our snack time, some change and some really cheap gloves from Target but what I received back was a tremendous burden to play a bigger part in humanizing some of the social justice issues that are so prevalent here in this country and in our world.  Today,  I encountered an opportunity to change my perspective. . . and judging from the view in my rearview mirror. . . maybe his too.