That Man

When my family moved to the South a number of years ago, my father was no longer in the role of leading a congregation, at least for the following season of life. This meant our family needed to find a congregation to be part of. After a time, we found one. Then I met him, he was the Sunday school teacher. He was always exploring deep truths and usually used lofty vocabulary that my young teen-age self could hardly understand. When meeting him I had no idea how much my life would be affected by him.

Aside from weekly seeing him, I didn’t get to know him too well. Then in 2009 I embarked on a journey to Israel with people from my school and he joined our group along with his brother. We had an unexpected layover in Rome and had to carry our carry-on luggage around the city for the few hours we visited. If anyone knows about Rome, they will automatically add in the ‘hill factor’ to the on-foot exploration. I grabbed his bags as we climbed up the first hill, more out of fear that he’d have a heart attack or some health-related problem. Yet during that trip we became buddies and had a lot of fun reminiscing after getting back.

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Then 2010 came along, it was January and I was riding in a large van, heading home from a conference in Michigan. My mom called to tell me that this man’s wife unexpectedly passed away. We were in shock; she was healthy and active—now gone. My heart ached, more for him than anything. I told my mom that to move on meant to be there to spend time with ‘Uncle’ Ed.

Thus began a new chapter of life. I’d sit with him on Sundays. We’d sing, doodle on our bulletins, and chat about the weeks happenings. Friday nights became a new favorite time of the week. After long days of studying and working—my sisters and I would go over to watch movies from yester-year. His brother would come over and we’d munch on snacks that Uncle Ed wasn’t supposed to eat. This weekly fun lasted for only a few months because the time came for me to pack up my life in two suitcases and move across the world.

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Leaving Uncle Ed was one of the more challenging parts of moving. I didn’t want him to be lonely. I was happy that he had planned excursions around the country and filled his time staying busy. He also kept busy learning and reading to know more about his Creator and Savior.

Then when I heard the news that there was a lovely lady in his life, I couldn’t be happier. It was the kind of love story that melts your heart.  He was her college professor back in the day, at a reunion for that school they were in a grieving seminar that was being led by her because she also lost her husband. They fell in love; they understood each other and enjoyed shared interests. Most of all they loved Jesus and that is the deepest soul bond anyone can have. I got to meet her on my first visit back to the states and was so thrilled. They were married in the summer of 2012, looking forward to several years together, at least.

In January my dad let me know that Uncle Ed was in the hospital. We thought it was his heart, but then it became apparent that it was his lungs. I texted him, as I would do once in a while, to let him know that I was coming ‘home’ and he needed to get better so that we could go have fun. My first night back my dad asked where I wanted to go, I told him to see Uncle Ed. Dad let me drive (brave man) and we went to the ICU to watch some super bowl together and catch up. He apologized for his appearance and wished he didn’t have tubes coming out of him. I was thankful, grateful he was alive. He told me he saw me daily. I smiled. That picture I took on his iPhone last year stayed there as his lock-screen background.

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He headed to a rehabilitation center to regain strength. I visited him with my dad several times. We’d pray and ask that Father would heal him. My dad reminded him that the previous year Uncle Ed told dad to fight for life (and dad is still here!), and now it was his turn to fight for life. I cried on my plane ride as I read a sweet email from his wife. I knew what was coming.

Not long after arriving back to my home on the other side of the world, my parents let me know that he was going home and was to be cared for by hospice. My little sister spent as much time with him as she could. My heart ached that I couldn’t be there at that time. Then he graduated to glory. He was at peace. His life made complete with Jesus himself. I can’t wait to join him.

Really, really

It’s everywhere; inundating our lives whether we realize it or not: love. Yet, do we really know what real love is? I’m learning that my idea of love wasn’t always really love at all. It was something manmade, something that I tried to muster up. Most times it failed, and failure is opposite of love because love is supposed to never give up. I give up, far more than I’d like to admit. I give up on so many different things that it would take hours to explain. Growing up I’d give up if I thought something was too hard, or simply out of my reach. Those bad habits that I fostered and held onto so closely have followed me in life and have been a difficult thing to change; especially when it comes to love.

I’ve been confronted with this aspect of my life so much recently. Realizing that love is the essence of everything I should be, and be doing. Love has to be my motivation or else what I do is a failure. Love also is not something that I can create in and of myself. My attempts are flawed, self-centered, and quite contrary to what I’ve been called to as a person and as a redeemed woman. I’ve been reading about unity in my study of Ephesians lately and have seen that we are called to be a loving, unified body. I fail because I’m looking to myself to create that love. I was never designed to create that love, but to have Christ’s love flowing through me. When I stopped to think about that some things started to click, again.

In one of my recent favorite albums (that I’ve been playing over and over since last summer and still love it every time) there are several parts that talk about love. One part compares a person flying a kite and the kites’ attitude towards the string holding it; thinking that it’s limited by the string.  But we all know that kites without strings are failures. Kites without someone or something holding them would either crash or just fly away with no purpose, only to eventually crash. Isn’t that how we act sometimes? We think that some things limit us in life and we don’t like the feeling of constraint, do we? I don’t. But the song goes on to say that Father’s love is like the kite string—everything we do matters and if love isn’t the string holding us when we “do” good things—those things are insignificant in the realm of eternity. It’s easier to read that or hear that and think wow, yeah—but then reality hits and our actions determine if we’re doing life with or without love.
[The song is The String that Ties Us Beautiful Eulogy]

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For each of our lives we’re doing different things. I teach—so my classes can be an avenue of watching my Father work. I can let go of the control I desire to have over that 90 minute period of time that I am with my students and ask Father to work through me and to love through me. Am I just going to go through motions? See this as just another mundane day of teaching? Or really grapple with life and think about the beauty of it and the utter inability I have to control any of it. I want to let the creator of love be seen by my students and the people who I interact with. I want even my ukulele playing to be done in love. Don’t forget the many meals cooked in my kitchen. I desire to love my Father first and foremost in each thing I do, because that will determine so, so much.

So after thinking about this a student arrives in class with some things that another student brought back to our school that I had loaned out during the winter. He also pulled out a box. I opened the box to find a bracelet [glow in the dark none the less!] that describes what Father has been teaching me. He’s the one that equips us and transforms us into the image of Christ. It’s not me. It’s not my strength. It’s His.

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I want to love, really. These people around me need to know what real love is. I want them to know the patience that has been shown to me. They can’t survive on the cultural lies about love, or the media lies about love. They were made for so much more. Their hearts can only be filled by this kind of love. I have that love, and I must not be a hoarder of it.

Touch

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I spent the morning working in my office. While in the office I was trying to find my water bottle that vanished last week. I was so sad that it wasn’t anywhere to be found because that was a gift I received at Christmas and I happened to like it a lot. I sat there and racked my brain to think of any possible place that I could have been between my home and office where I might have set it down. It suddenly dawned on me– maybe it was at the copy center? 

I left my office after the bell rang and was surrounded by a throng of students trying to get from one building to the next. It’s something like trying to fit tapioca pearls through a funnel.. they get stuck and squished in the process. But that’s okay. I got to see some of my students I taught 3 years ago. I love seeing those students and getting//giving hugs galore. I went to the copy center — (getting copies made here is not as easy as 123.. or maybe it is– we have to take our copies and have other people make the copies for us. We order what we need and come back in a few days to fetch the papers. This requires advanced planning which isn’t exactly easy sometimes.) I told my friends hello and tried to communicate to them that I was looking for a yellow bottle that I lost last week. I can never remember how to say “last week” correctly. Someday I’ll learn. The man was adamant that there was nothing there. The lady knew it was somewhere around. They looked around, grabbed a key and unlocked a cupboard and behold there was the cup that I had given up hope in finding. Bam. It was back in my hands. Off to class I went. 

After class I headed to the gate to catch the bus. You see, I live on the outskirts of city that is spread out. It could take 2 hours just to get through the city. I’ve never been to the far north. Anyhow, with other workers from my school we got on the bus. I like this bus because my school provides it making it free– and you get a seat! For this long-trek it’s not fun to have to stand the whole way which is usually what happens if I take public transit. I was planning to sit by myself and read a book that my mom sent over. Other plans were in the making as I was nudged in the leg. Whaa? Oh! It was the lady from the copy center. She scooted over and I sat with her. She speaks no English. We conversed about life, about the holiday tomorrow and our plans for our short vacation. It’s relationships that we’re made for. This is apparent. The ride takes awhile, I took a short nap and then we arrived downtown. We got off the bus and she grabbed my hand to go walking into town with me. This is normal for friends, this is a sign that you’re accepted by that person. Touch.

She went her way towards her home telling me to go safely and I crossed the major road. I jumped onto another bus, heading to my next destination. I got off a stop early but not far from my destination. Walking along I feel a tap on my shoulder. Touch. 

In a city of 7 million what is the likelihood that I would know someone in an area and hour away from where I live? It was my student. We were headed for the same mall. We walked along and talked about life and the day. We tried not to get killed crossing yet another big road and headed to our destination. For him it was to work, for me it was to meet friends to enjoy lunch together. 

People need other people in their lives. We’re not made to do life independently. I continue to learn that relationships are necessary. Relationships are messy, but we need each other. I’m so thankful that I haven’t been left to do life alone. In some ways life does get lonely here. I live on my own. I cook for myself and often eat my meals by myself. But even then I’m not alone. I’ve got the greatest companion with me at all times. That makes my heart sing just thinking about it! 

Well, I got some apples on the way home and need to go put em in the crock to make apple sauce. You mean apple sauce doesn’t come from the jar? Nope, not in these parts it doesn’t. — I peel and roughly cut them up, I don’t add water, just cinnamon and what ever spices I feel like adding then turn it on low. After a few hours I mash them with a potato masher. Bam. Applesauce not from the jar. And total cost for me? 65 cents. 

All is grace.