My New Life

Every time I sit down to write, I lose courage. On the “before” side of achievement you tend to think, “If I could accomplish that, I would be confident.” But it’s a big, fat lie. I’ve written and published a novel, but to sit down and update my blog after nearly a year’s absence seems impossible.

Every transition in life changes you. And I have gone through a humdinger. Marriage does that. Not that I haven’t enjoyed it! I love being married to Jonathon. But I feel changed, nevertheless, and so it’s difficult to know what to say…what to say…

All the same, I have felt a drive to write for a couple months now, so here I am.

This last year and five months, I’ve wrapped myself in a cocoon and sort of observed and rested and basked in what life has become. There have been so many transitions. First, I moved from the North to the South, and not just to the South. I moved to the first state that seceded from the Union. People, I live just a half an hour from the first county in the first state that seceded from the Union. Just in case you wondered, the War of Northern aggression is definitely not over. Second, I went from being a half-hearted voter to being thrown into politics head first. Third, I used to teach music to forty kids. Now, I sit in on legislative sessions and watch politicians bloviate. (Except for Jonathon. He doesn’t bloviate. He says a lot of good stuff. But the bloviaters generally think he talks too much.)

Here’s Jonathon in the House, “bloviating.” It was a mighty good speech.

And fourth, I used to stay happily at home as often as I could. Being the introvert that I am, I love solitude and I’m a consummate homebody. Nevertheless, I have traveled more in this last year and a half than I have in my entire life, and that includes one very long international flight to the Philippines.

I’ve learned a lot. Before, I knew there was a lot of corruption in government and politics. Now, I see it first hand. I have learned that there is very little difference between the two major parties. They spout and fume and fuss, but underneath everything, many of the politicians representing both sides are loathe to depart from the status quo, with rare exceptions. I have also learned that the politicians on both sides are just people with hopes and dreams and faults and sins and sadness. They need accountability, yes, but they also need unconditional love just as much as their constituents who fuss and fume about “those durn, corrupt politicians!” People are people, and there are no innocents among us.

Sometimes I sit with Jonathon on the House floor and “watch the fights.” The gas tax fight was a doozy, let me tell you.

I have learned to love the South. There’s some beautiful country down here. It may be hotter than Hades most of the time, but the mockingbirds sing sweetly just the same. Its people are bull-headed and stubborn. They’re the kind of people who’ve maybe never flown a Confederate flag before, but by George, they’ll fly one just for spite if you tell them not to.  Sometimes, you just have to chuckle in admiration for bull-headed, stubborn people.

I have reaped the blessings of love. Jonathon has loved me so fully and completely, knowing all my faults and my weaknesses, that I feel I’ve grown a foot taller. Not in pride, I hope, but in confidence and freedom. Perhaps you have often wondered, as I used to, whether your friends and acquaintances would still love you and want you if they knew everything about you? If they knew your sins, your struggles, your faults, your fears? Well, it’s simply not possible to expose your inner self to every friend and acquaintance. Not possible or wise, I might add. But when a potential marriage partner comes along, you must not only let that person see you but also see deep down into you. Anything less would be dishonest. It’s terrifying. The threat of rejection is imminent. But early into our friendship, we opened ourselves to each other and saw: past ugliness, future struggles, present pain, and beautiful promise. And we both chose to love the whole person. To this day, it still amazes me. I have always known that God loved me like that, but I so often doubted that any human could. I was right. No human really can. But God can love me through the human He empowers to do so. God has given me a great gift in Jonathon. More than ever, I need the approval of people less today than I did yesterday. I am more free to love and care for people without being shocked by their darkness because I am loved and cared for in spite of mine. The best part is that the love of God is more powerful than any mere human darkness. Not only that, but it’s the only antidote. I have learned that marriage is a picture of the Gospel.

He’s a sweet man.

I have also learned not to make promises I cannot keep. So, as I close this update, I will not promise to write again in another month. The last two promises I made here were dismal failures. But I think it safe to say that I may be writing more in the coming months than I have in the last year and a half now that I’m settled in my new home and feel like marriage isn’t quite as new as it used to be.

God bless, friends.

 

He Remembers I’m Dust

psalm-103.12

Sometime last year, I was pouring my heart out into my journal, expressing my frustrations over my faults, foibles, sins, failures, stupidity, weirdness, etc… I have since then lost that particular journal. (Good Heavens! I hope no one finds it.) Anyway, I remember writing something along these lines, “Does God look down at me and shake His head when I stumble over the same stupid things again and again and again? Or does He look down at me in pity, knowing that I am but dust?” Continue reading

My Favorite Non-Fiction Part 1: The Girl With the White Flag

the girl with the white flagWhen I was a little girl, I lived out in the country by a dairy farm. The closest town was a teeny-tiny place called Pittsford, MI. And in that teeny-tiny town was a teeny-tiny library run by two middle-aged ladies who were usually engrossed in watching the soaps whenever I came in on my great book search. Small though it was, I loved that library. It had a pretty nice collection of books. One shelf was groaning with the weight of the complete works of Sir Walter Scott. What a combination–soap operas and Ivanhoe! Anyway, every summer, the ladies found the wherewithal to put aside their soap operas long enough to run a summer reading program for the kids. That first summer, I read enough books to qualify for a grand prize. Spread out on a table was a large collection of books I was allowed to choose from and take home. Among them was The Girl With the White Flag. Possibly because I was being urged to hurry up and make a decision, I picked it out over the other fictional options available. I don’t think I even read it for a couple of years as it didn’t look that interesting to me. But once I did read it, it’s themes stuck with me and made quite an impact.

Written in Japanese and translated by Dorothy Britton, The Girl With the White Flag is narrated by Tomiko Higa, and relates her childhood fight for survival in Okinawa during the final days of World War II. After losing her mother to natural causes, Tomiko and her brother and two sisters lived with their father on a farm. Charged with providing food for Japanese soldiers, he left on business shortly after American ships assembled off the coast of Okinawa and began a sea and air bombardment of the island and sent 60,000 troops ashore. When their father did not return, the four children hastily gathered the few belongings they could carry with them and headed south, trying to get away from the fierce fighting. Only a few days into their exodus, Tomiko’s nine-year-old brother, Chokuyu, took a stray bullet in the head and died. The girls were forced to bury him right where he lay and continue on. In the panicked crowds of refugees, six-year-old Tomiko got separated from her older sisters and wandered alone. Foraging for food in the knapsacks of dead soldiers, escaping death by narrow threads, and facing horrors that we can barely imagine, little Tomiko not only survived, but faced her situation with a bravery that’s hard for me to comprehend.

One of the many things that touched me about this book was how Tomiko often tried to comfort and help other people even while she ran for her life and searched for her sisters. She writes of one instance, “After walking a long time, I found myself on a wide road where I could see the sea on my left. I had no idea where I was. The road was muddy, and the canvas sports shoes I was wearing kept sticking in the mud. It was hard going as I picked my way, trying to avoid the worst places, and then right in front of me I saw a soldier lying in the road. Poor man, I thought, as I started to walk past him, he must have been killed by one of those bullets. By that time, I had seen so many dead bodies here and there that I had become quite used to the sight and was not frightened. But the soldier I thought was dead suddenly reached out his hand and grabbed hold of my ankle. As I let out a scream, he looked up at me with a grim expression and said, ‘Little girl, how’s the war going?’ I thought for a moment, and then replied, ‘I think Japan is winning.’ Whereupon, the terrible expression on his face gave way to a gentle smile. ‘So we’re winning. Thank you. Banzai!’ he said in a rather hoarse voice, letting go of my ankle. Then his face fell forward into the mud and he did not look up again, nor did he move any more. I did not really know whether we were winning or losing the war. I was simply doing as my father had taught me. ‘Tomiko,’ he had said, ‘it doesn’t matter what you hear or who tells you, you mustn’t ever say that Japan is losing, even if you’re wrong.’ But even if my father had not told me to do so, I don’t think I could have had the heart to let down a dying soldier with bad news. Although I was in a desperate situation myself, I still wanted to comfort him.'” Her life reminds me of Proverbs 20:11, “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.”

It’s a story that reminds me of the kind of courage and kindness of which even the littlest people are capable. Every time I read it, I am inspired and also thankful for the relatively peaceful life I’ve experienced. I pray that if hard times should come to the United States, I would have the courage of Tomiko.

God is Best

red_coatMaybe it’s just me, but it seems that there is something terribly lonely about life. I began to have a vague glimpse of just how lonely life could be when I was a little girl, running home in tears because my little friends decided they didn’t want me to play with them anymore. Later, it got lonelier as I grew into my teens and felt that unmistakable sensation that I just wasn’t quite fitting in, wasn’t really wanted. Lonelier still as I watched people verbally tear into someone I loved–at church where it’s supposed to be safe.  There’s nothing terribly unique in all of this. It’s as common as dirt. Lots of people I know have been through far, far worse. But like the common cold, whose miseries are no less painful than they are common, the loneliness that sets in after trust has been destroyed over and over again is still excruciating no matter how common the circumstances.

I often ask myself, “Why am I so disappointed? I know these people are sinners like me. They almost can’t help but do damage. It’s what humans do best.” I think it hurts so much because, deep down, we know that’s not how things are supposed to be. God didn’t create us to maul and wound and destroy. But that’s what we’ve done ever since the Fall. Even Christians can hurt people. They’re supposed to repent and mend the breaches they’ve caused, but sometimes they don’t…for years. Why? I don’t know. Pride, I guess.

Even though we know it’s pointless, we keep hoping to find some people, maybe just one person, who won’t do that. Who will love us like God meant for us to be loved, conveniently forgetting that we can’t even love the way we’re supposed to. As I think about it, my mind always goes back to God, the perfect lover. God, who is best.

God, who wants me. Wants me for His glory, not because of how wonderful or charming or beautiful I am. I never have to worry about keeping His interest or falling out of favor. He will want me when I’m obedient and chastise me when I’m not…still wanting me. He won’t ever leave me, and He doesn’t get tired of my prayers. He’s made Himself available to me every hour of every day and night. For crying out loud, He’s commanded me to talk to Him without ceasing. Not too many people I know want me like that.

God who hurts but not without good reason or purpose, who only inflicts pain as remedy, never for harm.  God who is safe, who I trust with my secrets and my sins, who will never spit them back in my face in frustration. Why would His will be frustrated? It’s always good and inevitable. God who never wields my struggles over my head as a sword, like some kind of power play. He doesn’t need to. He holds all the power anyway.

God, who loves me, loves me enough to keep after me. I forget Him, disobey Him, can never love Him the way He deserves to be loved, and He still loves me.

God is best.

 

So, I’ll be alright and so will you. If we have God, we have everything. Loneliness, after all, only lasts a lifetime.