"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

12 June 2012

"Giveaway" (Kathleen Norris)

I've been savoring a couple books of Kathleen Norris' poems over the past couple weeks. I loved the rhythm of life reflected in this one.

It reminds me to be thankful through the seasons.


In the desert
dryness promotes the formation 
of flower buds. This is not aesthetics,
but survival.

In the cancer ward, we laugh.
Solemnly attentive as a deacon
at Mass, a nurse prepares an enema.

Serena tells stories: Mrs. Long-Nose,
a childhood invention,
who moved by farting
in her voluminous skirts. The nurse laughs, too. 


There is a flame
at the center,
gold center
of each bud.
Sometimes we see it,
when blooms are spent.

For three nights I have been sleeping
in Serena's star quilt,
wrapped in a daughter's song of needle and thread,
a song the color of parched grass. 


Joy at the heart of things:
Serena in the home, sightless at last,
asks to sit by the window
so she can watch the moon rise.

Serena with her daugther,
spending the last money 
on bingo, and blankets for the funeral giveaway.

"Did you have fun?" a nurse asked.
"As much fun as you can have," Serena replied,
"playing bingo when you're blind."  

Speaking of thankful, at dinner tonight, Nich quoted something he heard on NPR today: "Food tastes better when you're grateful."

What truth.
Art Credit: With Needle and Thread

06 June 2012

Baby Steps of Faith

Something brought you to my mind today
I thought about the funny ways you make me laugh
And yet I feel like it's okay to cry with you
Something about just being with you that
When I leave I feel like I've been with God
And that's the way it ought to be

Cause you've been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
Cause you have spoken the truth over my life
And you'll never know what it means to me
Just to know you've been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you'll ever know
More than you'll ever know

You had faith when I had none
You prayed God would bring me a brand new song
When I didn't think I could find the strength to sing
And all the while I've been hoping that I'll
Do the kind of praying for you that you've done for me
And that's the way it ought to be

You have carried me
You have taken on a burden
That wasn't your own
May that blessing return to you
A hundredfold

- Watermark, "More Than You'll Ever Know"

Nich recently mentioned to me that I'm not as compassionate with people as I used to be and asked if I knew why that was. (I'm thankful for a husband who knows me well and loves me enough to let me know when I'm not being the best of me that I could be).  I've been reflecting on that over the past few days and mulling it over in my mind, and it makes me sad. I so desperately desire to be more like Jesus every day, and it's humbling to realize that in this new life of constantly meeting a little soul's needs, I've neglected to allow my own soul to be nurtured. Instead of thriving in motherhood, and despite regular Bible study and prayer, I've fallen into one of the traps that so many young moms unintentionally find themselves in.

I remembered the Watermark song because it was one of the most precious gifts anyone has ever given me. It was my senior year of high school, and a friend of mine dedicated it to me. I don't think I fully appreciated the value of it until years later, as I re-read the lyrics and realized the weight behind those words.

I want to be that kind of person again, someone whose faith is constant, who uplifts others, who prays without ceasing for new songs in hard times, who laughs and cries without condemnation ... who leaves others feeling like they've been with God.

So, in a rash moment of altruism, instead of being disgusted and irritated that the new neighbors are two young Navy guys who walk around their curtain-less apartment in their boxers and beers, watching incredibly inappropriate TV shows, leaving their cigarette butts and spit strewn on their patio, I walked over there during B's nap the other day and picked up every single one of those cigarette butts.

It hasn't made any difference to them. They're still leaving their dirty cigarettes lying around. But every time I see them out there, I'm reminded to pray.

It's a small step towards Jesus.


Trees gossip
in the ghost-light. Early stars
climb the sky
and a breeze descends,
touching my arm 
lightly, like my grandmother
at the last. I climb the hill
at the edge of town as
dust devils rise in the fields.

What is it for, any of it,
choosing to live
day in, day out,
in a parched land?

My grandmother's prayer, "Keep me friendly
to myself," has weathered badly
in the long crescendo 
of Romans 8. Her handwriting fades
on the yellowed page and I have failed to love
the river in the tree,
the stream in the grass,
the ocean of blood 
that moves in us. I am,
inexplicably, here
and now, already taking
the next breath.

Trees gossip; dark moves
like the ocean this land
once was: stubble, grass, ground,
turning in the last light
gold, green, blue.

- Kathleen Norris, "Taking the Blue"  
When I was 22 months old, my parents moved us to Africa.

I don't know how they did it. It seems like such a revolutionary step to take, especially because no one else in either of their immediate families lives outside of Korea. And with an almost-two-year-old. I am in awe of my mother's courage and strength of self, because I don't know that I would have been able to do it, had I been in her shoes.

To those who know me, I'm sure this all sounds a bit out of character, as I have now lived over a decade of my life away from my parents. When I moved out for college, I truly LEFT home. There was none of this coming-home-for-the-entire-summer or even worse, MOVING BACK HOME that so many college graduates seem to be doing nowadays. Returning to my parents' house after graduation was never brought up as an option, so it never occurred to me to consider it to be one.

Anyway, I'm off-topic here. So, because we lived in Africa, I didn't see my grandparents very much nor did I know them well. We returned to Korea once every two or three years for the summer, but because of the personalities and inter-relational dynamics, I was always closer to my mom's family.

Recently, a cousin from my dad's side of the family sent me a friend request on Facebook. It occurred to me how little we knew of each other when she commented on a three-year-old picture of me with a friend's little (blond and blue-eyed) girl, saying, "Wow, your baby sure has grown!" Other than the fact that Emma being my child would be a biological impossibility (punnett squares, anyone?), that particular photo was from 2009.

I glanced through her pictures and came across this:
Taken New Year's Eve 2011
My paternal grandmother is turning 88 this year. I am astounded that there is this person to whom I am related by blood, with whom I share family, from whom I get some of my genetic makeup ... and I know so very little about her. There are 88 years of stories in that woman; I know near to none.

I envy Norris's comparably intimate knowledge of her grandmother, that she knows her grandmother's handwriting, her touch, and especially her prayers.

04 June 2012

Good Things in May

Kari, the author of a blog I follow, is not only an incredible writer, but each month, she publishes a list of "Good Things" from the previous month.

Although I've been reading her blog for over a year, it wasn't until recently that I felt inspired to keep my own list of Good Things. It all has to do with some hard work God is doing in my heart (which I won't go into here, since that's generally not the sort of thing people seem to be interested in), but I have found that seeing my list of Good Things multiple times a day by my kitchen calendar has been an effective perspective check for me.

Obviously, because this is a list, I haven't gone into any of the background stories that may accompany some of them. If you want to ask, I'd be glad to share (probably). :~)

1. Planted iris bulbs (gift from neighbor)
2. Nich cooked dinner and it was incredible
3. Two things - Temporary relief from plantar faciitis pain, thanks to Dr. Keith; Little B says "Ella-budder" (elevator) afterward as we're leaving the building
4. Planted lavender, cilantro, basil, thyme, and African daisies
5. B slept in until 7:30
6. K's love for our family, manifested in the form of a book gift for Little B's dedication
7. Nighttime Bible study on deck with Nich
8. Time to crochet
9. Cuteness of B (and other toddlers) dancing at Kindermusik
10. Jen sincerely surprised at her baby shower
11. Good time with community group
12. Several things - a nice lady at the Farmers' Market gave us an enormous muffin for free; B's passport application went without a hitch; great family time at the Tulip Fest
13. Breakfast in bed for Mother's Day, long bike ride, nap
14. Finally! Access to our bank!
15. "Village" for water spillage
16. Dr. Keith's kindness
17. Much-needed chat with Ra
18. Ssekos came in the mail!
19. A morning spent sewing and chatting with Miss Jill
20. Took a nap
21. Nich and B were relatively unharmed from their bike accident
22. Clothes on loan for B from Zoe
23. Reminder that I am loved, even if those who love me are dispersed all over the world
24. B didn't need stitches!
25. Great dinner night with community group
26. Start of a 3-day weekend for Nich
27. Knowing we had another day of Nich being home!
28. Fun day outdoors at a friend's house
29. A friend at Bible study told me she missed me and wanted to schedule a get-together
30. Started working out again
31. Fun swimming with B