I Just Know

I often wish we could go back to simpler times.  Back before the internet was a thing.  Back before social media changed the fabric of society.  Back when the best part of my day was sitting quietly with my little boy in the sandbox for a lazy hour of pouring, molding, sifting... with nothing but songbirds and frogs and Canadian pines making noise.  That was inevitably followed by falling asleep together in the hammock without a care in the world.

I watched a movie last night called The Circle.  It's been on my mind a lot today.  No one ever saw us doing these things.  There's no picture of it and no video... and I don't have a hundred comments telling me that it's adorable and awesome and some of the best moments of my life.

I just knew.

I really don't always think we're ok down here.

Set Free

Remembering...

And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
— John 8:32
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Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
— Oscar Wilde

He stood at the door to her cell quietly, willing her to look at him.  It was cold in the room and she was shivering, the blanket beside her still folded neatly on the bed, untouched.  The thin mattress was covered in plastic and it rustled slightly as she shifted her weight.  His heart went out to her but he hadn't been invited in, so he remained outside.

She looked up at the small square window above her head and he could see the tracks of her tears glistening in the single ray of sunlight illuminating her face.  Her hands were clasped in her lap and her lips moved in silent prayer.  Her shame was palpable.  But to him... she was beautiful and precious beyond measure.  He would stay as long as he needed to. Until she was free.

He sat down against the far wall, his back against the cold concrete and remembered the day she was born.  All the plans he had for her, the gifts he had bestowed upon her, the times he had whispered to her in the dark and held her when she was afraid came back to him, each one a part of who she was, who he was.  She would grow up and forget... but he... he would always remember.  That's what love does.  It remembers the song long after the song is forgotten.

Days turned to weeks, and then weeks into years.  Seasons changed from winter to spring and then started all over again. He visited her every single day, often leaving a gift behind, some small token of his affection for her.  She eventually found her rhythm and she did the work expected of her; no more, no less.  Once in awhile, she would stare up at the stars through the window in her room and wonder if she'd ever be free.

As she drifted off to sleep, the lights on the cell block winked off one by one and he knelt beside her bed, praying for her. It was midnight and she opened her eyes.  Sitting up, she saw the door to her cell was open and in confusion, she stood in the space and peered down the corridor. Every one of the doors on the block was open, as far down the hallway as she could see.  He was standing in the light at the end, holding his hand out to her, a genuine smile on his face.  

She ran to him then, shouting for joy.  It had been so long!  Her cries woke many others, who found that their doors were open as well.  When she reached him, she threw herself into his arms and said, "Where were you?  Why didn't you come when I called?"

He gathered her close and said softly to all of them, "You are free to go.  All you ever needed to do... was believe it and walk out."  

Several called him crazy and said they'd only be caught and returned to the prison.  They turned away from him sadly and went back to their cells, closing the door behind them, and listening as the locks clicked shut.  But she held tight to his hand, and made the choice to follow him out.  

The next evening she returned and stood outside her old prison cell.  It was occupied even though the door to the cell was still open.  She sat down against the far wall, her back against the cold concrete and remembered the day he was born.  All the plans she had for him, the gifts she had bestowed upon him, the times she had whispered to him in the dark and held him when he was afraid came back to her, each one a part of who he was, who she was.  He would grow up and forget... but she... she would always remember.  That's what love does.  It remembers the song long after the song is forgotten. 

She would stay as long as she needed to.  Until he was free.

*****************************************************************************************************************

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
— Luke 7:36-50

Born of a Story

It was a beautiful night and the stadium was completely full.  The smell of popcorn, french fries, pizza and hot dogs mingled on the night air and the chanting of the cheerleading squads led both sides in some good natured ribbing.  The game between arch rivals promised to be a challenging one and everyone felt nervous and excited. Friday night lights were already glowing and the homecoming court would be introduced at half time on floats the student body had worked on tirelessly right up until the very last minute.  There were decorations everywhere.

In a little room to the side of the field, a young girl stood feeling somewhat out of place, wearing a dress that made her feel beautiful, even as it made her feel strange.  Pulse fluttering, she could smell the fresh roses in her hair and reached a hand up to run her fingers over the tiny buds tenderly... hoping to find some sense of calm in the gesture. Her hands were shaking.  She hated being the center of attention for any reason... her usual place in the game was on the sidelines with a clipboard in her hands, marking stats and keeping score.  Older sister to many brothers, she felt entirely at home surrounded by this group of guys who made up the high school football team.  Not quite sixteen, she had already learned to put on a brave face, while inwardly battling her emotions.  Placid and cool on the outside, scared and shy on the inside. Looking around at the other girls, she felt way way way out of her league.

When it came time to walk out onto the field and up onto the float, her friend and classmate, and quarterback on the football team held his arm out to her and smiled reassuringly.  She took it and found it steady and comforting.  The band began to play and they ascended, halfway up the ramp.  

And then... everything shifted.  

The ramp gave way beneath them and she fell to the ground first.  It knocked the flowers from her hair and she held her breath, bracing for the impact of the 6' 2, 200 pound football player about to land directly on top of her, hard.  Somewhere in her heart, she registered that the entire stadium had gone completely silent, collectively holding their breath as he came down on top of her, crushing her flowers, as he rolled sideways and did his best to avoid crushing her.  To a fifteen year old girl... it felt like an eternity.  I'm sure it did to him, too.

Somehow that girl mustered every ounce of dignity she could find within her that night, picked up her pride and the smashed flowers off the fifty yard line, and gently placed them back in her hair.  To her great relief, her escort brushed her off first and then himself, and they both turned to the crowd, who had still not made a single sound... and smiled.  She never forgot the ensuing roar, but she barely remembers the rest of that hour.

How I would love to go back and hug her on that night... tell her that it was only the first of many times she'd fall down and that she would always somehow find her way back up again, just as she did in that moment. That someday, her mother would find this photograph in a box, and give it to her and tell her that those silent moments were an eternity for her too. That when she was 48, she would pull out the photograph taken of her shortly before she fell... and decide to tell her story. That she wasn't fat, or a failure, or clumsy or any of the number of negative things she told herself in the years following... only human. That she wasn't the only one who struggled with those thoughts or felt out of place and that she could save herself a lot of heartache if she'd simply believe me. That eventually she'd look back on it all with a wisdom that can only come from years of experience and finally, finally love that little girl for how brave she was.. for how brave she is and for all the times she fought through hard things, instead of laying down on the playing field and giving up.

And then buy her a vase filled with perfect tiny pink roses.... and set her free.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves...
— Cheryl Strayed

All these years I've wanted to say so many things to her.  This morning, I realized she's been singing to me all along and I didn't need to talk to her... I needed to listen to her.

I Promise

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb my peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person I meet.

To make all my friends feel
that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything
and make my optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature I meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds. To live in faith that the whole world is on my side so long as I am true to the best that is in me.

- Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

It's My Son

About two weeks ago, my youngest son and I had a day together alone, which rarely happens. So I asked him out on a date and he said yes!:)  How lucky am I?  I took him to see the movie, When The Game Stands Tall, which turned out to have quite a few more life lessons in it than I ever expected and stirred both of our hearts to really think about the ways that football is more than just a game for him. I knew little about the film, other than that it was a movie about an undefeated football team and the extraordinary coach who led them.  Turns out it was about a whole lot more... faith, love, heart, emotions, brotherhood, what it means to be part of a team, dependability, sacrifice, leadership both on the field and off, sorrow, joy, and ultimately... what it means to grow up and  be a man who is able to feel and to love, in life.. as well as he is able to love the game.

I've watched my Eric grow by leaps and bounds in the past three years.  He is a freshman in high school and it is his third year playing football.  This year, the coach made him a wide receiver which is something new for him, and something he takes pride in.  I think we'll be spending a lot of time tossing a football with him in our backyard, this fall.  I found his playbook on the kitchen counter, open as if he had just been studying it and it drove home to me again... how these boys are growing up into lives apart from me... full of experiences that are uniquely their own and not mine.  I'm trying so hard not to blink but it's blinking by anyway. 

I have such a mixture of feelings when I look at this child.  When he smiles, he has a dimple that is so endearing and he has no idea of its effect on people. It adds a special warmth to a gentle smile. He is already so very good... at loving.  I wrote a post about his journey last year titled, Making The Most of the Daylight Hours.  Still applies today... maybe even more so. When I look at that photo of him from just last year, it tugs at my heart.  They change a lot from 13 - 15... passing from boyhood into something deeper. He's come such a long way in three short years and in my eyes, it isn't so much the game that stands tall... it's my son.