Wednesday’s Word — Edition 127
April 13, 2016 | My Jottings
I dreamed about Michael
April 11, 2016 | My Jottings
Ever since Michael died fourteen months ago, I’m been anxious to dream about him. I have had three or four dreams with him in them, and they’ve always been sort of fleeting and odd, rather than something I can try to remember forever.
In my dream I was walking down 58th Avenue East in the Lester Park neighborhood of Duluth, MN. I was walking on the sidewalk on the left side of the street, heading toward Lake Superior, which was less than a block away.
This area isn’t far from the neighborhood Michael and I lived in with three of our daughters for almost 25 years, so I recognized it right away in my dream.
It was summer I think, because there was green grass on people’s yards and on the boulevard by the sidewalk. I was walking at a moseying pace, looking down at my shoes, which were a light brown suede, like nothing I own at all. They looked a little like this, except they were shiny from being worn a lot.
As I got closer to London Road, which is right on the edge of Lake Superior, I heard two male voices behind me, going the same direction I was, and I could tell they were walking at a livelier pace than I.
I stepped to the right to allow them to pass, and looked over my left shoulder as they drew near. One man was a person who used to attend the same church many years ago, named Peter Niss. The other man was my husband Michael.
I dug out this photo of him, because this is about how Michael looked in my dream; in his late thirties, curly brown hair with hardly any gray yet, a bit of a beard. And strong and vigorous and always in motion.
I gasped and cried out desperately as he and I made eye contact, “Michael!!!” And he looked at me as he passed with his two-sets-of-teeth grin that I loved so much, and then I asked breathlessly, “Are you okay?” He nodded and said emphatically, still smiling, “Oh yeah!” Like, If only you could know how okay I am…
In my dream I knew this was some kind of visitation, that his presence was unusual and I was not to touch him. Neither one of us moved toward each other as he passed and he didn’t slow his steps.
I asked him three or four questions as he and Peter (who doesn’t figure into this dream aside from walking with Michael) strode along, and I can’t remember all of them. I can only recall the last thing I asked him before my dream ended. Michael was about 15-20 feet ahead of me now and I was crying, from joy and sorrow both, and I called out as I sobbed, “Michael!!! Can you see us?”
And he again nodded his head and responded cheerily, “Yes!”
And then I woke up.
I have told a couple of people about my dream and each time, I’ve wept. I’m wiping tears as I type this now.
I’ve often wondered if the people who’ve gone on to heaven before us can see our goings on, and if so, how much God permits them to witness here on earth. Hebrews 12:1-2 says:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I’m grateful for this dream, even if the source of it was my longing heart rather than from God Himself. It felt like a gift.
It was so wonderful to see Michael again!
Our First Assignment
April 7, 2016 | My Jottings
Today was my second class day at the University for Seniors. I feel my brain stretching already. It’s a wonderful thing. Our first assignment in the class “Memory to Memoir” was to write about a neighborhood I’ve lived in. I chose the second house I lived in, beginning right before I turned three years old. I lived there for 12 years and have very clear memories of that time. Isn’t that how it is as we get older? Someone in my class today said she couldn’t remember what happened yesterday, but all the events of her childhood are right there in great detail. I relate to that. I thought I would share the assignments I do here on the blog, and this is my first one.
We were to draw a map of the neighborhood we wrote about. Here’s my map of the block I grew up on in West Covina, California:
I put the last names of the neighbors I was acquainted with, and as you can see I certainly knew who had swimming pools on my block, since our family did not. You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you like.
I’ve written about some of this before on the blog, but this piece is slightly different. We all read our memoir pieces out loud for the class members to comment on today, and one of the constructive comments I received was that I might have wanted to include more smells. We are encouraged to write using all the senses — what did we see, feel, smell, hear, etc?
I didn’t title my paper, but I guess for now I’ll call it:
Water (I’m off to a stellar start!!) 🙂
One of my earliest memories is when I first saw our new house on Eckerman Avenue. I was almost three years old. I was holding onto the side slats in a rented, open tow-trailer as our copper-colored Buick LeSabre station wagon slowed to a stop in front of the three-bedroom ranch-style home numbered 1923. My dad was driving, my mom was in the passenger seat, my thirteen year-old brother Steve steadied me in the trailer, and our aging family dog Duchess sat with us among the boxes.
There were nine houses on our street and I would eventually come to know every family. The Pelchers, Bouchards, Langs, Sooters, O’Neals, Spiros, Prestons, Rathfons and Wepplos.
Across from us was the back field and running track of Traweek Junior High School. Just inside the tall chain link fence surrounding the school block was a line of towering eucalyptus trees. For years I ran, skateboarded, biked, and later motor-scootered up and down the sidewalk and street under them; I can hardly recall a childhood memory without picturing the slender shadows of those trees, or how they filled my bedroom with the scent of Vicks Vap-o-rub when the Santa Ana winds blew.
I made my first friend when we lived on Eckerman Avenue. Her name was Tauni Booth, and she lived directly behind me in a house just like ours, except the floor plan was reversed. Tauni’s family was one of four on our block who had a built in pool. After I learned to swim at the Covina Park Plunge when I was five years old, being in the water was all I wanted to do. I took an old, rusty step stool from our garage and dragged it to the far left corner of our back yard, where I placed it against the pink concrete block wall that divided Tauni’s house from mine. When my chores were done I’d climb that stool and sit conspicuously on the top of the wall, hoping one of the Booths would come out to swim and invite me over. Many times they did; I must have spent hundreds of hours in their turquoise heaven. I never knew it was impolite and presumptuous to perch up on that wall, watching them swim and putting my yearning on display like that.
Over the years my love for water deepened. Swimmer’s earache, raisin fingers, and burning lungs from the mix of smog and chlorine never deterred me. I swam whenever possible, and by the age of ten I was swimming out past the breakers at Huntington Beach, then pouting when the sun would begin to set and my parents would say it was time to make the hour-long drive home.
At the beach my parents always wore their regular clothes; I was a lone participant in my swimming passion. Mom sat in the car and Dad walked to the water’s edge with me and eventually sat in the sand.
I used to tell him to raise his arm up in the air when he thought I’d swum out a mile. I didn’t know then that he wasn’t about to go along with that, but he let me believe he would. I would run into the greenish gray, opaque surf, wade my way past the little waves, front crawl past the bigger waves and the waiting surfers astride their boards, and just keep swimming. I would swim ten or fifteen strokes, and then tread water and look back toward the beach. There was my father in his brown pants and white sport-shirt, legs wide and knees bent, with both arms resting on his knees, watching me. I’d turn and swim toward the horizon again, noticing the pockets of warmer water here and there in the cold. My feet would brush against the slimy bulbs from the Pacific kelp forest and I would always shudder and hurry to swim away from them. This was before the movie Jaws, so the kelp forest seemed like the greatest menace I faced. A shark never entered my mind, nor my father’s, apparently. Swim… turn around again… look for his signal. I just knew I was a mile out because his shirt looked like a white dot against his dark pants now. There was his long arm raised above his head, slowly waving in a left-to-right arc, telling me I had reached the mile point.
Before I swam back to shore I always took a deep breath, squinched my eyes tight against the salt, and dove down, down to see how deep the water was. When I couldn’t touch the bottom I was satisfied I had gone far enough.
I liked coming home to the yellow house on Eckerman Avenue even though it didn’t have a pool. After a day of hard swimming in Tauni’s pool or in the mighty Pacific, I’d make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and settle down with a Nancy Drew book in my pink bedroom.
Years later it felt like the ground beneath that house opened up to devour our family, and we all moved away in separate directions, never to be truly mended.
Today I’m still irresistibly drawn to water. I don’t swim as much as I used to, but every morning I sit in my dining room and look longingly out onto the largest freshwater lake in the world. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to swim a mile out, and not look back.
* * * * * *
So now I need a title. “Water” won’t do, I don’t think. What do you think the title of this paper should be?
Thank you in advance for your suggestions!
Just a few children I happen to know
April 3, 2016 | My Jottings
These pictures were taken last summer. My grandchildren have gotten taller since then…I keep wishing it wouldn’t happen so fast.
Here is Mr. McBoy, who was 13 at the time. He is almost six feet tall. (He’s still 13, but not for long….) He looks so much like a Sooter to me.
And here is Mrs. Nisky, who has made her Mrs. Nisky’s Biscuits famous. At least in our family they are. Eleven years old.
This is Li’l Gleegirl, also known as Moo. She was a giggly nine years old.
Below is Baby Shamrock, AKA Weezer, Louiser and Mrs. Baby. She was three here.
And here’s the whole family, on the shore of Lake Superior. Chris, Sharon and the four Mick-muhs. (It’s a long story.)
I hope you’re getting some spring weather where you are! We had three inches of snow yesterday, hail and bitter winds today, and snow is in our forecast twice for the coming week.
I’m off to make chicken curry with vegetables and coconut milk and lime powder and basmati rice for dinner…
April 1, 2016 | My Jottings
It’s still dark in the mornings when my iPhone alarm goes off on my nightstand, which I’m not crazy about, but I did notice a change this week: I can hear birds singing now. The robins have returned, along with the goldfinches. A couple of days ago I could hear rain hitting the roof when I woke, and the birds were chirping anyway. I can’t remember if I’ve ever noticed birds singing in the dark and the pouring rain, and I thought there was a message for my soul there. Are things dark? Sing to the Lord. Are there storms right above your house while other homes are in sunshine? Give the Lord your praise.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I love that last verse. The thought of exalting God’s name with sparrows and cardinals and finches and chickadees makes me happy.
Yesterday I set out on a new venture. I attended my first day at The University for Seniors at UMD. (The University of Minnesota-Duluth). I loved it. Loved, loved it. All the things I had an inner niggling about turned out to be nothing. I was surprised at how well attended it was. You have to be over 50 to enroll, and there were lively old people everywhere. Now that I’m 58 my idea of “old people” has changed dramatically, so it was refreshing to see so many seniors of all shapes and sizes and hair colors and ages. I admired the folks I saw with walkers, getting out to “live and learn,” as the US motto says. People were friendly, curious, and welcoming.
My first class is called “Memory to Memoir” and I learned more about writing in those two hours than I can ever remember from the classes in my youth. What a fabulous instructor we have. She’s retired from teaching high school honors English and she was so encouraging and dynamic. I’m excited to begin my first informal assignment (there are no grades or tests at University for Seniors) this week, which is to write 1/2 page about a neighborhood I’ve lived in. We were encouraged to write more if we could….har har har.
The second class I took is called “Great Books” and 25 of us sat around a large rectangular table in a cheerful classroom with huge windows, discussing the first short story we read by Margaret Atwood, entitled “The Man from Mars.” Some people didn’t speak, most did. It was a fantastic discussion and I learned so much. Half the folks brought their lunch and ate it while the discussion went on, so I might do that next week, since I’m at UMD for five hours on my class day.
I’ve wrapped myself up in a healing/grieving cocoon for the last 417 days, and have spent many days quiet, reading, crying, praying, grieving, wailing, staring, resting, writing, praising, wondering, and trusting God with the remainder of my life. I still feel the need for quiet, rest and contemplation. My friend Carey would say that part of this is likely the adrenal exhaustion my body is healing from after the sorrow and struggle of Michael’s last years. I believe that.
And I still do a mental fist pump and say a vigorous inner “Yessss!” when I look at my calendar and see a blank day, completely free of any appointments. I still cry every single day as soon as I have one thought about my beloved Michael. Even now just typing that sentence brings tears. What is he doing right now? Does God allow him to see us, to cheer us on like the “great cloud of witnesses?” Sara and I like to imagine that whatever he’s doing involves birds, building, and praising Jesus, but I know that our minds can’t conceive of how magnificent life is for him now. Our anemic ideas about heaven will be exposed someday and I look forward with hope to being bowled over by what Jesus has prepared for those that love Him. And my husband sure loved Him. One of my frequent prayers is, “Lord, help me to love you more!”
Today I will grocery shop, buy some concert tickets for one of my Fosters and her boyfriend (the Beach Boys and the Temptations are coming to town), and start on my essay about my old neighborhood.
Have a nice weekend, dear friends and family….
The awwws and ughs of Schnauzers
March 28, 2016 | My Jottings
If you’ve visited my blog much you know that we have two Miniature German Schnauzers. Edith Elaine Bubbleloo (Edith) and Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum (Millie) are 14 and 10 years old, respectively. We are schmitten schnauzer folks without a doubt, and the small breed’s traits of affection, loyalty, cleanliness (no fur and no shedding) and devotion to their owners has won us over four times now, as Millie and Edith are our third and fourth foray into the schnauzery world of über vigilance and shrieky, high pitched barking.
There are so many awwww moments with these little girl doggies, like this one below. I took this photo with my iPhone a while back, of Millie stretched out on a plaid wingback chair in our living room, head resting on the arm, looking at me the whole time as if saying, “Do you have anything fun planned next?” I couldn’t resist putting it on Instagram as you see here, and calling Millie a doggie diva.
Isn’t she just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? She had just been to The Bad Lady (their name for the groomer) and her beard was short and puppy looking.
A while later, I started following a superbly talented artist on Instagram who draws schnauzers. She randomly picks photos from her schnauzer owner IG followers and surprises them with a sketch of their dog. Yesterday I woke to find this on my instagram feed, her drawing of the photo above:
What a likeness! It was such a great surprise and gift, and it made me say “awwwww” and then show it to anyone else I felt sure would also say, “awwwww.”
Now we’re moving onto the “ughs” of schnauzerdom. Edith, our 14 year old elderly lady schnauzer, has a huge, benign tumor in her left thigh. We’ve been to the vet and it has been biopsied so we know it’s not going to spread systemically. But it’s a lipoma that is infiltrating her leg muscles and her thigh is about three times the size it should be. She walks well albeit stiffly, and has to be very careful how she lays down since her leg won’t bend easily. I keep an eye on her for three things: lack of thirst, lack of appetite, and pain. So far, she hasn’t shown any of those, so we take it day by day. As hard as it will be when the time comes, I believe in her own way she is trusting me to make sure she doesn’t suffer more than she can bear, and to make the final decision for her. I can’t think about it much, really, or tears come. She has been such a patient, faithful doogins to our family and to her younger sister who came in and demanded to be Alpha when Edith was four years old and Millie was only six weeks.
Because Edith’s lipoma presses up against her urethra, she has to go potty outside a lot now. Gone are the days when we could let the dogs out morning, noon and night. Now it’s more like 5:15 a.m., 7:30, 10:00, noon, 2:00, 4:30, 6:30, 8:00 and then right before bed. No exaggeration. We have had an accident or four, and since I am more than a little OCD about my carpet, I try to stay on top of the task of letting the dogs out frequently. Even so, I’ve stepped in a few wet spots on the carpet before, so I decided to buy an inexpective black light flash light designed to help you find old urine stains in your carpet that aren’t showing up normally.
The light arrived recently and I waited until dark to walk around our living room and my bedroom to see if there were a few spots I’d missed. And I said to myself, “Oh. My. Gosh.” Because Edith’s urinary offerings don’t smell much and don’t discolor the carpet, I’ve missed a lot.
Here’s a photo I took this morning (black light photography is not my thing), and the very bright spot in the middle of the ring is part of a urine spot about the size of the palm of your hand. Take away the black light, and you can’t see one iota of the spot. Who knows how long this has been there?
I found at least six stains on our living room carpet this way, and about ten in my bedroom with the deep, off-white shag carpet. I wearily groaned, “Uggghhhhhhh!” I’ve already learned that scrubbing and soaking and wicking and rescrubbing and rinsing doesn’t do much. I need an enzyme cleaner apparently, which was ordered about an hour ago.
Later this week I’ll be starting my first day at the University for Seniors, and I’m quite looking forward to that. And I’m also considering a huge lifestyle change that is making me cringe often enough that I may not have the courage for it. But at least I’m praying about it.
That’s always a good place to start.
One day and dream at a time
March 18, 2016 | My Jottings
I have a blessed morning at home planned, with only puttering to do today. I love looking at my calendar and seeing white space on a given day. When I think ahead to when I’m finished with this post, the thought of cleaning the kitchen, folding a load of laundry, writing out a few bills, and putting something in the crock pot for dinner, a contented sigh forms in my heart. Then, sitting down with a cup of tea and my CBS lesson, my Bible and journal in hand, seems like riches untold.
Yesterday we had some snowfall and this morning the wind is whipping our across-the-street neighbor’s Norwegian flag to tatters. The sky is low and grey, and every branch and twig is outlined in white against the dark, drab colors of tree bark everywhere I look. Minnesota may be known for her lakes, but there must be ten trillion trees in our fair state as well. I can see the steely blue choppiness of Lake Superior from my bedroom window as I type, perched on my bed with Mildred the Schnauzer breathing heavily next to me.
Do any of you listen to Pandora radio online? I do now and then, especially when I’m in my office doing paperwork for our foster gals. Well, I happened upon a new Pandora station, and if you like old music, you might like to try the Pied Pipers station. Click here for a sample of the kind of music it plays. I’m not sure why, but this kind of music is absolutely transporting to me. I love it.
Now that I’ve finished reading Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place again, I’ve felt compelled to immerse myself in all her books. I didn’t know there were so many. I bought at least eight, and they’re trickling in from different used booksellers now. I’ve started with In My Father’s House, which is all about Corrie’s young life before the years of The Hiding Place began. This photo is of Corrie in her old bedroom in the Beje, her home in Holland, standing in front of the tiny bricked up “room” where the ten Booms hid Jews during World War II. Her home is a small museum now and oh, how I would love to visit someday.
The family life which Corrie’s loving, wise and godly parents provided for every member is absolutely inspiring. Such a rich heritage she had! It’s so clear to see how she was being prepared for the extraordinary and difficult life God planned for her. The way her parents taught Corrie and her siblings to pray makes my heart wrench. They taught them to pray not by lessons, but by living lives of prayer. They talked to God in front of their children in loving, constant, lively and effortless ways, instilling in all of them how deeply loved and secure they were in God’s will. I don’t know what God is preparing me for, but I certainly feel as though I must, must, must soak in everything He might want to teach me through this blessed servant. I want to talk to Corrie and Betsie ten Boom in heaven someday! I want to hear their stories first hand, want to rejoice with them about the ways Jesus became more and more beautiful to them. I know these might seem like silly daydreams to some, but I even wonder if Michael has met them yet.
I’ve taken a leap of sorts, and enrolled in The University for Seniors, at our local University of Minnesota-Duluth campus. I know a couple of people who’ve attended for years, and they rave about how enjoyable it is. One must be over 50 to enroll (I’m 58), and there are many interesting and quirky classes offered, three quarters a year. Some are brainy classes, like the one this quarter about the Higgs boson particle. It only costs $140 per quarter to attend, and you can take up to ten classes each term, so that’s quite a bargain I think. I signed up for two — “Great Books,” which covers some of the best short stories ever written, and “Memory to Memoir,” which is a writing class. I love the academic setting even though it’s been years since I’ve been an official student, and I’m very excited to begin. I’ve never stopped being curious and I love to learn, so hopefully this new frontier will bring enjoyable challenges.
I’m off to putter now. God’s peace to every one…
Wednesday’s Word — Edition 126
March 16, 2016 | My Jottings
“It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.” — C.S. Lewis
And these are only some of them…
March 11, 2016 | My Jottings
I love decorative pillows. I like solid color couches and beds that are dressed up with colorful pillows with different prints. I like plaids and florals paired, buffalo checks and toiles, solids and different shapes and styles. I think throw pillows add texture, richness and whimsy to a room. It would not be out of my decorating realm to get a Schnauzer pillow one day, either. Something super classy, like this. 🙂
Here is what the pillows on my bed look like this week — and there are three or four more I didn’t grab:
I think I might have to put a schematic drawing in my nightstand, to help me remember how they should be placed. I like them just so. Although this is not my favorite arrangement.
And here’s little Phoebe the parakeet, who is the house chatterbox and flibbertigibbet.
She’s wishing everyone a good weekend, even though we’re all going to lose an hour of sleep on Saturday night.
When love is blocked
March 9, 2016 | My Jottings
Yesterday I went to my Community Bible Study class and came home so grateful for all it has meant in my life. If I could stand out on a corner (like they do on election days) waving and smiling at people as they drive by, and holding a sign that says, “Community Bible Study today — you should try it!” and I thought it would bring one person to CBS, I might do it.
CBS gives me more than church ever has, and I’m not in any way denigrating church. The deep, personal study of God’s Word, challenging, practical questions that help me see that what Isaiah (the book we’re studying this year) had to say has everything to do with my life today, the joy of getting to know women of all ages in a quiet, non-threatening setting, gleaning from each other in our core group discussions, and the nuggets of truth we take home from the short lecture that sums everything up — this is what nourishes me week after week, year after year. I’ve been going to CBS nineteen years now, which means I started in my thirties, went through my forties, and have continued on into my fifties. If the Lord should give me many more years on earth, I hope I can journey through my sixties and seventies in Community Bible Study. I’m hoping to be in heaven before I see my eighties, though. Here’s a little video with a few people saying what CBS has meant to them.
My next door neighbor Martha invited me over for tea yesterday after I got home from CBS, and we had a nice visit. She’s a very young sixty-nine years old, and is also a widow. We trade books, chat about our lives and hopes, and I (yes I did) invited her to Community Bible Study. She has another commitment on Tuesdays but said if it ever changed, she would come to CBS with me. I showed Martha how to use her DVR then came home to make a dinner I’d planned with ingredients I knew I had in the house, except after I got the meat prepared I realized the main ingredients I thought I had were gone. You can’t make a taco casserole without tortillas and cheese and chilies, in my opinion. So I improvised and no one died.
Tonight we’ll go out to dinner to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of one of my foster gals. Each year on my fosters’ birthdays they choose which restaurant they prefer, and their parents and friends are invited, and it’s usually a fun time for all. Since dogsledding last Sunday was a total blast, having a nice dinner out will be the icing on the cake for our gal’s BD, and I know she will talk about it happily for a long time to come.
Did you watch the last episode of Downton Abbey? Sara and I did, and we were so happy about most of the endings the characters were given. I was thrilled for Edith and quite inwardly smug that she was going to outrank Mary (and her whole family) after being mistreated by her sister for most of her life. I was not a great fan of Edith’s new husband Bertie, but that’s okay. I also loved Mr. Mason’s veiled assurance to Mrs. Patmore that romantic things were ahead for them. Yesss! And when Barrow was given the position of head butler because Mr. Carson had to step down due to his palsy (Parkinson’s disease), I teared up. Somehow I believed that the new page Barrow was attempting to turn in his life would cause him to treat Mr. Carson with much more kindness than he was ever given. And all those Happy New Year kisses at the end, with Mrs. Hughes/Carson starting them all off singing “Auld Lang Syne?” So wonderful. If you watched, what did you think? Did anything surprise you or delight you? Would you have written someone’s ending another way? I read online that someone said, “We’re all a little Downton in the dumps today, since the show is over.” Indeed, I thought, what in the world will I ever watch now?
I’m about half way through my fourth reading of The Hiding Place, and I’m going to share a quote with you that was so wise and powerful, so painfully beautiful to me. Corrie ten Boom fell in love once in her life, with a young Dutch man named Karel. They talked of marriage, what kind of house they’d like to live in, and their relationship was innocent and tender and full of hope for Corrie. But Karel’s parents had intended for him to “marry well” and he was going to do what they wished. So when (insensitive) Karel came to the ten Boom door one day with his new fiancee on his arm, introducing her to Corrie and the rest of her family, she was devastated. Here are her words:
“Somehow the half-hour passed. Somehow I managed to shake her hand, then Karel’s hand, and to wish them every happiness. Betsie took them down to the door. Before it clicked shut, I was fleeing up the stairs to my own room at the top of the house where the tears would come.
“How long I lay on my bed sobbing for the one love of my life I do not know. Later, I heard Father’s footsteps coming up the stairs. For a moment I was a little girl again, waiting for him to tuck the blankets tight. But this was a hurt that no blanket could shut out, and suddenly I was afraid of what Father would say. Afraid he would say, ‘There’ll be someone else soon,’ and that forever afterward this untruth would lie between us. For in some deep part of me I knew already that there would not–soon or ever–be anyone else.
“The sweet cigar-smell came into the room with Father. And of course he did not say the false, idle words.
“‘Corrie,’ he began instead, ‘do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain.
“‘There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
“‘God loves Karel–even more than you do–and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us the perfect way.’
“I did not know, as I listened to Father’s footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this–places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all.
“I was still in kindergarten in these matters of love. My task just then was to give up my feeling for Karel without giving up the joy and wonder that had grown with it. And so, that very hour, lying there on my bed, I whispered this enormous prayer:
“‘Lord, I give You the way I feel about Karel, my thoughts about our future–oh, You know! Everything! Give me Your way of seeing Karel instead. Help me to love him that way. That much.’
“And even as I said the words I fell asleep.”
If ever something called for a pause, this does.
Aside from being overcome by the beauty of this pure and shining truth, I began to ponder all the ways love is blocked. Or the ways that allow it to flow freely.
Pride blocks love. Divorce blocks love too. It dams it up for our children and sometimes only lets little trickles come through. War blocks love. Selfishness blocks love. Anger blocks it. And greed. And lying. Busyness blocks it too. Anything we do which is contrary to what God has designed, blocks perfect love. Sometimes I wonder how God, who IS love, bears it as He watches His people fumble along in their selfishness and sin, being impediments to His love instead of conduits. And I also wonder how His great smile looks when he finds someone trying to let that love flow to others, however feeble their attempts.
I thought about all the ways in which I’ve allowed love to be blocked in my life, and the ways I have blocked love in the lives of those I love, and of course the tears fell. In my own family of origin, all of us had this great capacity for love, I believe. Some of the wider channels for love to flow were the traits I saw in all of us…like generosity, words of affirmation, physical affection, time given to people in need, and a desire for God.
But the deep and wide channels God built into my family’s lives for His love to freely flow, were often clogged by the negative things mentioned above. And of course destruction followed. And the saddest thing of all is that many of those ancient familial channels are still clogged with sin’s debris. Dried up rivers full of pride and anger and arrogance and bitterness. And nothing will ever make those bone-dry channels flow with love again, apart from a colossal move of God.
Maybe this is why most everyone is so satisfied with the ending of Downton Abbey. Could it be that simple? Yes, we loved the clothes and the attention to detail and the glimpses into the lives of the English aristocracy, but we all just longed for love to flow for all of them. And I’m not talking about mere romantic love. I mean kindness and respect and deference and humility and reconciliation and selflessness. The love described in 1 Corinthians 13. There’s something innate in all of us, placed there by God, that yearns for love and good to flow unhindered, and we feel real, wrenching pain when that love is blocked.
Maybe one of the reasons I love CBS so much is that God’s love flows freely there. His love for His people pours from His Word right into our hearts. We learn to love each other in our core groups, many of us experiencing a “debris removal” as we sit around His Word week after week.
I think Casper ten Boom’s words of truth and comfort to his grieving daughter Corrie ring out with a beauty that pierces the heart. Certainly God used them to help equip her for the the extraordinary future He had planned for her.
When love is blocked, it brings such pain.
When God’s love is allowed to surge through our lives, joy and hope and strength come.
These are just some of my fragmented thoughts today. I’m praying that God will forgive and remove the sin that clogs my life. I want to love, but often look back at a situation and see I’ve missed it.
Community Bible Study and Corrie ten Boom’s story are making way in my life, I pray.
“Let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.'” –John 7:38