Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aren't I Pookey?

It was a long time ago. All my brother and I could remember of the moment was my friend’s face at our car window. Someone must have doubted that his name was what he said he was, and he came to me to settle the matter. “Aren’t I Pookey?” he asked, confident of my confirmation.

Pookey. Pookey Edwards. I don’t remember your other name, but yes, you are indeed Pookey and apparently proud of it.

It’s important to know who we are.

In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explores the wonder of naming things—how putting words to something you might have otherwise overlooked, makes the “invisible become visible.” I linger over the quote she takes from Alexander Schemann: “ Now in the Bible a name . . . reveals the essence of a thing . . . To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it. . . to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God.”

Adam named the animals.

God changed the names of his chosen ones to reflect their new nature with Him.

God revealed himself through His names.

Jesus gave me new name—no longer child of wrath but child of God.

Sometimes I forget. I let testy relationships or mucky responses convince me I am not who He says I am. I run to Him in the early morning hours and look for His confirmation, “Aren’t I Pookey?” Your daughter, your loved one, mucky and testy regardless.

And because He is who He says He is, I find comfort.

Each year I ask the Lord to reveal something of Himself to me through one of His names. Always, I hold Creator close to my heart because of the awe and wonder and worship His creation inspires, but over the years He has emphasized different aspects of His relationship with me. The first name He revealed to me personally as I sat desperate, penniless, homeless, in a church basement, was I AM.

That year I learned He is indeed I AM –all that you need or desire. I AM GOD.

Another year, at a time of frustration with myself and everyone else around me, I ran off to a lonely hillside to host a pity party and He revealed Himself as The Living One Who Sees Me.

This year I am asking for a deeper knowledge of Him. I will watch and wait and expect to hear Him flood my heart with His chosen name with which He will draw me into a closer relationship.

And I pray that the turn of year brings you, friend who has lingered here, a renewed, a restored, a refreshed understanding of who you are because you see more clearly who He is. May you hear the name He whispers over you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas lights and the decked-out deer

When it comes to decorating with Christmas lights my husband takes on the philosophy of one of our previous pastors: he who has the idea to do something needs to take charge of getting it done. And so the task of illuminating our corner of the neighborhood usually falls to me.

I can get a little OCD about it.

One year (this was a long time ago and my tastes have since improved) I became fixated with purple and aqua colored lights. I bought a strand of each and carefully replaced every other light with alternating colored bulbs, making my own unique arrangement, which I proudly strung over the yew bushes in my front yard.

 The next morning I noticed deer tracks trailing across the lawn—right up to my yew bushes. But it was the glimmering specks in the snow that really caught my attention—aqua flecks, purple one too. Upon closer examination I discovered half the strands of lights were missing, pieces of them trailing off to the nearby woods.

Apparently a young buck munching on my yews, bit through a wire, got shocked, and took off with my lights tangled in his antlers. Imagine some hunter’s surprise as he peered down his scope and saw his deer decked out in aqua and purple!

(There is really nothing enlightening about this story!)  But...

 This year, as I look out at the white LED lights strung around the dogwood in the driveway, decorating the Christmas tree in the living room, and brightening the fireplace mantle, I think about how comforted I am by every tiny beam of light in darkness.

Surrounded this Christmas by some of my children and grandchildren, I pray that I would be a reflection of the One who is the Light of the world, the One who brings comfort and gives hope to a darkening world.

Lord, You are clothed with splendor and majesty. You wrap yourself in light…great are your works. I pray that each one stopping by this post would drink from your river of delights, would see light in Your light, and receive hope in journeys through darkness.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A life for a life: the hitchhikers, the housewife, and the old man passing by

One of the memories my brother recounted during our week-long vigil around our mother’s bedside was of a time when evil came calling, but a providential encounter carried it on by.

We lived outside a village—two neighbors on the town side of our dirt road, a cow pasture framed by a view of Camel’s Hump Mountain in front of the house, and a stretch of woods between us and the neighbors a mile up the road on the right side.

An old man who often drove by would always wave. We didn’t really know him, but people who traveled the same country lanes shared a certain sense of camaraderie, so we waved back.

One day when Mom was home alone with the kids, two guys came walking up the road and, seeing my mother, turned in the driveway. Although we never locked our doors and never worried much about strangers, these two wore evil like a stinking cloak. Mom was immediately on guard.

At that moment, the old man drove by. Whether he perceived a dangerous situation or whether, as befitted his friendly nature, we’ll never know, but he stopped and gave the two a ride.

There was a frog pond at the end of the stretch of woods, and that day two of our friends were mucking around in it. When they heard a car stop, they peered up over the edge of the pond in time to hear the shot and see the two men take off with the car.

A man died that day; a woman lived. A life for a life. Why one and not the other? I do not know.

The secret things belong to God. To the God who willingly, knowingly gave His life for you, for me.

And this I reflect on when life doesn’t seem fair, when trouble turns in my driveway, when lack of understanding drives me in a fit of frustration: He loved me when I was a sinner, how much more does He love me now that my life is hidden in His.

Jesus, Redeemer, Immanuel, God with us, sometimes I just can’t get my mind around what you have done for me, but this I believe, I cling to, I speak into the shadowy places:

My soul exalts in the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for the MightyOne has done great things for me and holy is His name.-Luke1:46-47,49

Today I pray for someone reading this, that your heart would lay down its sorrows and need for vindication at the feet of the One whose sacrificed life is the door to life. May you rest in the goodness of the Lord and rejoice in God your Savior.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A week of dying

Moms are tough to say goodbye to. 

Within six weeks of receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, my mom went on to glory.But in that time we got to enjoy her in ways that all our old roles and family dynamics had clouded.

In the process, I learned there are ways to give dignity in spite of the indignities of dying, there are times to laugh in spite of the sorrow of goodbye, and there are memories to be recounted in spite of the end of new ones.

During her last week, four of us, my brother and his wife, my sister, and I were present around the clock, each of us trying to minister comfort as we each thought best. (Sometimes conflicting, but being grown-ups and not wanting to cause a fuss and have our mother rise up and scold us, we settled our differences by going to our own corners until the cloud passed by.)

My brother has an incredible memory. He sat on one side of the bed, I on the other, and told story after story. Mom looked as though she were asleep or unconscious, but in the manner of mothers—she heard a whole lot more than we thought.

“Remember when we’d sneak into the pantry (which was stuffed with treasures) and take out Dad’s WW II bayonet?” Mike said. “We weren’t supposed to touch it but you and I loved to go in and get it.”

“Remember when we went up White Face Mountain and Mom crawled on her hands and knees cuz she was afraid of heights?” I said.

  “Remember when…” Sometimes a smile would escape her weary face, sometimes a raised eyebrow.

  At one point Mom opened her eyes and said in her raspy voice, “I have four eyes. Just thought you’d want to know.”

 My sister thought she was trying to tell us she was seeing double, but I wondered if she was warning us that we might want to be careful of confessions!

 Reluctantly she relinquished the care of her body over to her children. But at one point when my brother (who had been a medic in the service) told her he was going to give her a suppository, she rolled over and with all the authority of motherhood proclaimed an adamant          

“NO.” And no, it was. Sometimes you just don’t argue with Mom.

I don’t know why I never realized how funny she actually was. In defiance of the insidious disease marching through her brain, she’d gather strength to surprise us with her humor. One day we had a problem with the oxygen tube, and she was having trouble breathing. I stood at the foot of the bed with an electric fan.

 “Oh Queen Nefertiti, I am your slave,” I said, waving my fan like a palm frond. Mom tried to speak. 

My sister, Jan, bent over her. “Marcia, I think she’s trying to tell you something.”

Expecting some profound last words, I leaned in, at which point Mom raised her head up and said loud and clear, “Faster!” And with a satisfied smile lay back down.

We cried with laughter. Oh, Mom.

But now,  having gone way over my 400-word blog limit, I end my tribute for today. I still have a few things to say about goodbyes to Mom, like, “Remember the time the two men started coming up the driveway when Mom was all alone? . . .” 

Love your mom today.