I Am An Alchemist

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.43.36 PMPsst . . . Would you harness all your extra energetic atoms and come close in here for a moment? I want to tell you a special little something . . .

For 32 years I’ve been walking around the sun and with every turn about the calendar I’ve learned that I’m unfurling into more of who I was born to be; discovering dots, connecting threads, sketching ideas, chasing the Spirit around all the places so I can ask him all the questions all the time – just for the joy of scribbling what I hear on the scratchpad of my soul and I’m sure I get to keep all the whispered secrets harbored safe within me for at least (or no less then) eternity.

Get this: I’m still learning new things about myself and some might find this strange and others entirely refreshing, but lately I’ve been rolling the air between the tips of my fingers just so I can touch what nothing-molecules feel like. I’m every which way bent on not missing a single ordinary thing because I recently discovered that I am, by nature, an alchemist.

What’s that you say?

Alchemist: A person who uses any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.44.41 PMHmmm . . . I wonder WHO the original alchemist was and is and is to come? You must know that I’m thinking now of that long ago dust-spread being woven and shaped into humanity by the magical breath of The Great Alchemist. And I’m thinking of every redemption story I’ve ever heard and all the tales of burned-down ashes turning towards raised-up beauty because that one true Alchemist spoke the magic-wielding words of value and love. I just can’t escape this urge to be under the tutelage of such wonder. So, I touch the air with the flesh of my hands and imagine it’s worth so much more then I often remember, this element I take for granted just as often as my next breath.

Alchemy, I think, is nothing if not the noticing of the practically un-noticeable. And by practicing noticement, the magic of value and love is infused into the most common of substances until they become, to the beholder, a substance of great value. Glory be! Who knew you could get giddy like this and watch the daily drudgery and typical times go by, rich and filled full with amazement.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.44.08 PMIn related news, I wrote this prayer in my journal a few weeks back and it speaks volumes of the place God has seduced me to: “A quiet and reverent good morning I would speak to You now . . . with rest and love and fullness in my heart. I’m breathing You in like a mystic, slowing all my molecules to look like miracles. They are miracles and I would remember today that You are holy and wholly, absolutely other. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand just one or two unfathomable mysteries . . . Would You let me touch the connections between this world and Your pulsing beat? Related: I want to drink You, every bit that I can. Is that possible? To sink into the celestial abyss? Right here in all my ordinary days? By the way, I love . . . I LOVE my ordinary days. You have built me for this, changed me to reflect the mysticism of the mundane and I am grateful, but more so: content. I am content. My God. Miracles never cease. Picking up scattered scraps of paper, filling a million cups with milk, doing the kitchen dance over a pot of simmering soup . . . I am content and AMEN I say to that.”

Now you know a little something more about the heart that beats inside my body and next time I go about making God-seed declarations, I’m gonna tell you why I am, by nature, also an anthropologist. In the meantime, I was wondering (and it would rock my world) if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me something about yourself? It could be a photo or a paragraph or a prayer or a link to a blog post – anything! What is something you are - regardless of whether you’ve been validated by man or certified by any institution? The anthropologist in me longs to know the inherent you and desires to see how we all intersect and connect in this beautiful interlocking circle of Kingdom contribution.

When A Cross-Dresser Meets An Off-Key Kumbayah

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 12.02.08 AMI quit all service-related activities this past summer when I burned out.

And I haven’t been back at them since.

But the thing is, when you go too long with your heart-values being unrequited, something different—but equally damaging—happens: your heart starts to choke on your own values because they just keep sitting there, stacking up inside you.

Until they come so high you can nearly taste them crawling inch by inch up the back of your throat, suffocating you for their need to be released.

So it was no surprise to walk into Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at butt-early o’clock on Saturday and feel like I could breathe again. I had come home. Home, I tell you. A place so familiar I can smell it in my sleep, with sounds and sights cascading dreamily through me like a favorite childhood memory – maybe the one where I sit on the counter in our growing-up kitchen, sneaking dough and keeping my mama company while she makes my favorite cookies. Comfort, contentment, intimacy, warmth down to my little white feet, that’s what flooded over my body when I travelled across the threshold of that church-basement pantry.

I’ve said it before and I’ll I say it again: there is never a greater sense of belonging then in this space, where my soul is catapulted to the center of an unwashed, undignified sea of quirky people. I love the loud-mouths, the misfits, the skin colors and wrinkle patterns. I love the offending scents, bad language and indecent behavior. I love the spectrum and volume of energy buzzing and pinging from wall to wall, the graceless chaos of pushing and shoving. I love the reluctant acceptance and show of community. I love the joy that still comes when someone starts yelling at me because I can’t understand the name he mumbles at the registration table. All this—even much more—and I feel like I’m the opportunist who found herself in heaven because she already chose to die.

Jay-Z and Kanye were wrong, you know. There IS church in the wild and I find it every time I’m there in that jungle of battered humanity, where I am chief of all the rabble-ish creatures. But, for absolutely dead damn certain the finest part of the whole [rethink] church service that morning was the moment when a lively cross-dressed man (complete with giant gold hoop earrings) flaunted in and started serenading the crowd at the very height of his off-key lungs. Round and around and around he would weave himself slowly through all the food-seeking bodies with an open hymn book in hand, singing song after song. He was so LOUD y’all, but in my estimation this man seemed like he represented The Glue that stuck all us kids together that day . . . not only did his off-color character invite you to come just as you are with all the strangeness and skeletons you stand up under, but because the first song he belted forth was none other then Kumbayah – the tune “originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion”. The whole eccentric event made me want to whoop and dance and grin as wide as the lousy limitations of my face would allow. And my spirit was so stretched with colliding and ricocheting sensations, the feeling you might have when something shamelessly pure and indescribably right and incandescently beautiful rises from an unseen place and expands your chest with all the good things. Bursting, I have heard it called before.

I am bursting. And all the craziness and Kumbayah singing doesn’t stop me from pausing within the bedlam just to inhale him, my Jesus. Pausing and breathing and shutting my eyes for only a moment and I can see his figure moving around the earthbound bodies in that fluid way – touching shoulders, bathing feet, bending close for every hug, delivering that celestial-sized smile he’s famous for . . . You see? The reason I go is selfish, really. I just want to be close to Jesus and remember who he is [especially] during this Lent season. Not only is he all over every person I smell and touch and serve, but his Spirit is also whorling between every piece of food and flesh. I mean, you literally and certainly CAN’T miss him. Of all the reasons for dragging my arse out of bed on a Saturday morning, that one is the absolute best.

{Image: SOURCE}

Wherein Parenting Takes An Unorthodox Turn

It was a Wednesday and I stopped and dropped in the middle of putting clean sheets on my bed because the weight of my mundane world crashed in a heap upon my shoulders and the tonnage of it propelled a forward bend, palms pressed open against the mattress, back arched like a bow and the heaviness of my head hanging careless between my shoulder blades. I told my Father that I was certain that He had made a mistake and that surely having three boys AND homeschooling them . . . plus this, that and the other thing was too much weight for any one person to stand up under and more specifically: TOO much for an introvert who craves solitude and stillness and quiet more then all the known things on God’s green earth.

Then I remembered that God only gives us what we could NEVER handle.

On.

Our.

Own.

With the brackish water breaking from my eyelids and spilling on the bed I’m bent over, I says to my God: “I ain’t got what it takes and my back is broken here. I need wisdom because I have no idea how to be a mom right now”

To be more specific with you, we’ve been aching and desperate to comprehend what to do with our oldest son who is transitioning from boyhood into young-manhood and seems to all of a sudden have pre-adolescent hormones raging through his developing body. Somebody told me one time long, long, ago that this would happen some day—the hormones and whatnot—and I’m going to tell you right now that there are some abstracts I wish would just stay the freakin’ heck away from reality. Because these boy hormones?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SOMEBODY, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, SAVE ME!!!!!!!!!

I digress.

Our boy, Gabe, has been monumentally struggling with disproportionate anger. And this anger can rise up inside him from just one big snot-sniffle coming from the nostril of a brother sitting next to him on the couch. And no amount of reasoning and deep breathing is enough sometimes to pull him out of his sudden hysteric space. Later, when the cool down finally comes, he makes his way so repentant-like to all the family members he violated and begs for forgiveness, with tears and sorrow and all the rest of it. He prays everyday that God would help him not to react to his sometimes frequently pesky little brothers or to any other thing that might get an immediate rise out of him.

Gabriel and I were having a post-fraternal-war conversation on the couch the other day and with cry-streaks all over his cheeks he says to me: “Mama, I’d rather be able to change then have a million dollars. I don’t understand why God isn’t helping me”. Let me go ahead and confess to you that my heart split to slivers while watching my son hunger for a transformation that felt so far-reaching for him. Especially since he’s been praying for [what feels to him like] a very long time. And mama don’t have the answer to his big-boy question.

That’s the gist of our repetitive struggles. And by “repetitive”, I mean: more then once every day. And I am so tired of hearing myself talk and all the teachable moments that I just CAN’T pass up. He’s tired. I’m tired. We’re all tired. At the same time, you need to know that Gabe has such a gigantic heart of goodness and strength inside his chest and we are constantly affirming who he is and building his character up and reminding him of who he is in Christ Jesus and anyone who isn’t his mama would still marvel at the way this God-son spreads seeds of love all over the land around him.

In the midst of all this, Austin and I have—at times—messed up massively in the ways we responded to Gabe’s challenges, getting angry and shout-like just as the good scriptures tell us not to and we have sorrowfully sought his forgiveness and somehow by a Grace higher then ours that process has knit our hearts even tighter together with our boy Gabe.

So, that day when my mattress became my confessional, I had reached the most stretched-out shred of myself – for things mentioned and unmentioned. But, what I was most despairing for was a way to help my son through his breaking s and transitions.

The next day Gabriel’s anger came back, it couldn’t stay away . . . with wild eyes and clenched fists he tornados around his brother Jude for barely any reason at all. I’m in the kitchen elbow deep in sugar cookie dough when the tyrant-tune reaches my ears and the first thing I do this time is all the deep-breath-taking I can possibly suck in, all the way to my belly and back up again, while whispering my “Oh, God . . . help.” And I call for the angry son to “come here please” and I quietly ask him to “go somewhere alone just until I can wash my hands and come talk to him”. The good Lord knows I didn’t need time to wash my hands. I needed time to wash my heart so I could enter into a space with my son and see far beyond the surface issue being repeatedly expressed.

That’s exactly when I had this helpful idea fall into my thinking space and I rushed to meet Gabe in the guest room where he was being quiet and took his hand in mine and guided his body gently to lay down on the rug, positioned his limbs in the most relaxed pose, placed a palm on his forehead and a palm on his stomach and felt the Spirit literally whoosh in on the wings of my urgent pleas. What follows is the record I wrote in my journal the second I was done ministering to my boy, because I didn’t want to forget even an atom of it.

Me: “Ok, Bub. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths all the way down to your belly. Breathe . . . Relax your face. . . Loosen your limbs . . . Breathe.”

(One minute pause while Gabe stills down.)

Me: “While keeping your eyes closed, I want you to tell me where your anger is located in your body. Is it in your mind? Or your heart? Or your stomach? Is it in your left thigh?” (Seriously. You NEVER know.)

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “The anger is in my stomach.”

At this point I move both my fire-hands to rest softly on his bare belly.

Me: “Ok. The anger is in your stomach, what does it feel like?”

Gabe: “My stomach feels tight and really tense. It hurts all over.”

Me: “Ok. We know the anger is in your stomach and is making your stomach tense and painful. Now, I want you to imagine the anger in your stomach and tell me what it looks like.”

Without missing a single beat . . .

Gabe: “It looks like a dark, red cloud.”

Me: “Imagine for me this dark, red cloud sitting in your belly and taking up all this space where it doesn’t belong. (Pause) Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Now imagine the dark, red cloud being sucked out of your belly until it’s all the way gone.”

Almost immediately, Gabriel’s eyes POP open and bug out of his head while he exclaims: “HOW did you do that?!?! I CAN’T believe it!!! My stomach hurt SO bad and now it’s all GONE!!! It’s a MIRACLE!!!”

I’m smiling over his wonder and joy, but tell him: “Hang on a second, we’re not done yet . . . close your eyes and imagine the space in your belly where all that anger was . . . now that it’s gone, you have all this empty space inside you and I want you to envision that empty space. Do you see it?”

Gabe: “Yes.”

Me: “Alright, now that you have this empty space, what do you want to fill it back up with?”

Gabe: “God’s love. I want to fill it with God’s love.”

Me: “Good . . .that’s beautiful, Gabe. What does God’s love look like to you?”

Gabe: “God’s love looks like Jesus’ face.”

Me: “Ok. Imagine Jesus’ face coming to you and filling all the empty parts inside your stomach.”

And he did, he took Jesus’ face right inside him and with so much gladness and appreciation coming out his eyes, my boy throws his adolescent arms around my neck and fervently whispers against my neck: “Thank you so much, mama. I feel FREE!” And mama says: “Oh, honey. Jesus set you free, He just used my hands and my heart.”

I learned an invaluable lesson that day: in many situations that seem like a punishment would be in order for negative behavior being chosen and displayed, maybe the offender isn’t always begging for . . .

Time-outs.

Or privileges revoked.

Or firm words.

Or extra chores mandated.

Maybe sometimes he only needs to be touched where he is hurting most. Maybe being a parent means less about correction all the time and more about offering ourselves as a medium of healing for our children. The healing process can take more time then we are willing to sacrifice when life is full and busy, but for the 20 minutes I spent on the floor with Gabe I felt like I was in an alternate universe with my son and I couldn’t even feel the clock ticking.

(Note: I don’t think Gabe received some magic cure-all. BUT. It has been two weeks since this interaction with the Spirit on the extra-bedroom floor and we have not had ONE outrage. NOT. ONE. Sure, he still gets mad here and there – it’s just not even close to the same anymore.)

 

:: Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose ::

 

Adoption: An EPIC Update

The 200-year-old wood floor is unyielding beneath my bent legs; I’m writing this one from my knees, neck and fingers arched low and right now I have the kind of body that makes big Spirit-noise. Listen . . . God has something in His sleeve and thread by thread He’s pulling that sleeve back and the small amounts of His skin being revealed chokes me up and falls me down. Soon we’re going to see the whole cosmic arm stretched before us and behind us and moving earth with giant sweeping motions to make a way for His will and our destinies. And this may be the longest post in my blog history, with a bazillion back-story links to boot . . . Maybe you need to journey with us today? Because my Mr. and I never imagined that our adoption story would continue like this, that the Kingdom would SO redefine and expand our conditioned ideas of certain things . . . Would you come close, my dudes and darlin’s? Grab some coffee if you want and travel with me for just a microscopic slice of your eternity while I retell some important pieces of the adoption narrative before moving on with what’s current.

Have you been with us long enough to remember how it all began? How life with three-kids-in-three-years had finally reached a rhythm that flowed with a bit more ease and a lot more grace. And somehow the ease and grace promoted an expansion to the walls of our daily-life capacity and why did my arms suddenly feel so empty? Do you remember how the empty-arm-feeling brought our family to the threshold of a thread that we chose to follow? Yes, we picked up the adoption thread, walked forward and prayed on.

In THIS post I swallowed the Son and confessed to the Father that my little Light-full heart yearned for more, and while we chose as a family to pursue adoption as an avenue of expressing “more“, we also committed to leaving the “more” open-ended in definition – remembering from previous life experiences that sometimes our ideas and expectations look like yellow bananas next to God’s green apples. (A.K.A.They’re NOT the same thing.)

And we prayed a specific and pivotal prayer in front of you all: “Our Father, what is real family for us?”  We spread this sentence around heaven because we believed that the way family has been defined by our western, white-man’s dictionary is not the truest or deepest definition of the word. On the alternate hand, we won’t make our statements like a blanket and say every family’s should be a mixed-up, kaleidiscopic collection. But, what in this world does it mean for us to be family? On the other side of Jesus the margins are stretched, definitions are upside down (and you may just need to stand on your head to see the world right-side-up) and family just might be is most assuredly global, but how that plays out in each of our stories is as multi-hued as the earth itself. So we rent our fisted fingers and invoked the Kingdom’s commentary, “Father, what is real family for US?”

Somehow, in the midst of some very constant and intense emotions, we still had the wisdom and wherewithal to say: From refinement of time and trial, we know better then to fold-up, over and around our own expectations, because it seems that quite often the catalyst which launches a movement in our lives is not always the same as where we end up, but we do believe that something life-altering and New Kingdom advancing is present inside each tiny fiber of this upward-moving thread.

Truly, I don’t think a week went by in the past two years where we weren’t praying or processing what it might mean for our family to adopt. But, also during that time God started playing a new melody on each of our souls and singing more of His song over our heads and would you know that what we started hearing was the hymn of revival and the notes were full with vision and spark. Our heart-kiln’s were stoked and the Fire-Starter was blowing against the coals, igniting us all the way. And I wrote one story that illustrated how the flames were affecting us and how the boys chose to respond to what God was doing. I communicated at the end of this story that our family had chosen to adopt a revolving family member into our hearts, that every time we met our most basic needs or even indulged in our “wants”, that we would also include one more person in our bounty each time. And by doing so, all five of us felt the Divine hand Cross-stitching our love to the people of our city.

And just when we were contemplating a move out to the Connecticut country, that semi-exposed Arm reached right into the middle of our choices and brandished some magic like we had never seen before and I told that alchemic-tale in Prodigal God . If you haven’t read it yet, please – you MUST. It may be the most integral component – or rather, it is the foundation for the rest of what I’m about to tell you.

Following that truth-tale of a recklessly-extravagant God, we had 10 cents less then a dime’s worth of doubt that the great Him gifted us with the house where we abide now and damn if we don’t love every crack and cranny, creaky floorboard and curvy angle (not to mention the steam shower!!!) of this colonial cape.

But, we barely settled in our new river casa, before my adoption-bent heart prompted a phone call to the social worker, telling him we were ready for our fresh digs to get the state-required “check-out”. Two afternoons later Carlos came over and we tarried and scoured property and home, he meticulously inched his way inside and out with a tiny-fingered comb. Then, the inspection was done and I may or may not have been biting my nails while sitting on pins and needles and when the verdict came? He only itemized three improvements that would need to be completed before our home could meet government approval and our adoption could take another pace ahead. Three EASY-ish things!!! No big whoop! We were prepared for at least as many speed-bumps as the ones Carlos communicated that day. However, having just crashed into BURN-OUT, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to fathom any house projects until we returned from [what we hoped would be] a very restorative family holiday in northern Michigan.

Before vacation and one week after that appointment with Carlos, I took our 9-year-young boy on a “his turn” date. And this is what you need to know about these occasions with Seth: whenever he gets alone with either parent, the dude canNOT stop kissing our hands, squeezing our bodies, and . . . monologuing. The. Kid. Will. TALK. And talk, and talk and talk. His excitement is so profound and he expresses it through non-stop touch and chatter – chatter about any and every and all the things on earth – this particular date being no exception. So, Seth and I were driving home from a Panera Bread/Froyo World consumption combo and he is doing some EPIC commentating in the backseat and I’m listening with most of both my ears when all of a sudden he stops spieling mid-sentence. Wondering why he broke speech, I made a quick glance in the rearview mirror to see him cock his head a little to the east right before saying, “Hey Mama . . . We have six people in our family. You. Papa. Me. Gabe. Jude. And the city of New Haven.” Then he picks up his monologue right where he left off, like nothing unusual or profound had just happened. *I*, however, felt chills fall from face to feet and an aorta knocking double-time against rib and flesh and just as immediately my mouth let-go the slightest prayer into the atmosphere, “Father, what does THAT mean?”.

For the next three weeks and through vacation my mind would turn at strange points to ponder that one sentence projected by our prophetic son and I would wonder what meaning it cradled. In addition, Austin and I processed and prayed and shared the story with family and close friends, inviting any and all wisdom to be spoken regarding. But mostly I just sat with it close to my chest, content for the skin of His arm to be revealed at the right time.

During our two weeks in the night-cool, quietly-clean country air and with the comfort of being circled with family and feasting on  nourishment from my mama’s kitchen, I felt completely restored from my soul tasting like ashes. HOWEVER. Our road-trip back to CT, altogether and almightily changed that wholeness when some kind of devil-stewed flu virus crawled in and corrupted my body – laying me flat for two weeks. This sickness totally stripped me of any feeling I had of being lit-up and I would drain tears for being unable to sense even the smallest vestige of my previous restoration. (Wah, wah and boo-hoo, someone get our their violin.) [Devil-virus notwithstanding] on day 12, my sapped-out self was standing under the spray of a steamy shower when a Who-sized prayer rose up from the fire buried way deep down under all my ailments: “God, I do NOT care if you want us to adopt a child or an entire city, we’ll adopt whatever You want us to. But, could You close one door and open another because I don’t know if we can do both right now.”

Just as I stepped beyond the shower to towel down, I heard my phone signal the voicemail ringtone and for reasons now known, my spirit surged with a sense of urgency to find out who called. Rushing through the post-shower proceedings, I quickly bare-footed over to see who was on the other side of my message and heard the voice of our social worker. With a swiftly tattooing heart-beat, I listened with all my ears to what he had to say: “Hello Erika, this is Carlos. I just wanted to touch base with you because there are some regulation changes if you want to adopt in the city of New Haven and they will effect your application. So please give me a call as soon as you get a chance and we can chat about it.” I set my phone down and knew. I knew in that moment, with a certainty that I will rarely claim, that as soon as I talked with Carlos, we would know one way or another what or whom we were adopting; which door would swing open and which one would shut closed.

After a short game of phone tag, Carlos caught me the following afternoon and quickly dispensing with formalities, we got right down to business. He tells me that specifically in the city of New Haven, the adoption rules have changed. He tells me that if a house was built before 1970 (which is ONLY every single house in the whole dad-gum historical city). . . And he gave me a list of new requirements longer then the devil’s own lies. And by “things” I mean, we had to do stuff to “un-historic” our historical house. And by “we” I mean that a specialized team would have to come in and accomplish those things for us because we are neither licensed or qualified or even ALLOWED to do them ourselves. And I’ll just give you ONE example so you hear what I mean: Every window in our home would either have to be replaced (cha-ching, cha-ching) or we would have to pay thousands of dollars to have every window removed, encapsulated in a special LEAD-coating paint and then replaced and repaired. (You can imagine the nightmare and horror). It doesn’t matter that this entire house has been restored and all the windows repainted, you would STILL be mandated to have it done by professionals. And it’s really not the canyon-load of home-improvement-headache or catastrophic cash cost that closed the door on our adoption.

The door closed because God unarguably, magically and boldly gifted us with this house so we would know where He geographically wanted our hands and hearts to be . . . and having given us this house, it came with the exspense that our landlords (who meticulously restored all the historical details of this home) would NOT and NEVER!!! allow us to do the things to THEIR colonial cape that Carlos said were now required in order for us to adopt in New Haven.

In shorter terms: God gave us a house that we couldn’t adopt a child into. On the other hand, God gave us a house that radically positioned us to adopt a whole city and tying our hair back is second on our list of “to-do s”, right after learning how to spend more minutes on our knees.

Among a few other sentences of how I really felt, I very kindly told Carlos that the “system sucks”. (Because it does.) (Do I hear an “AMEN”?)

He said “I know” and “I’m sorry”.

And with the ending of our conversation, the only response I had in me was a quiet and surrendered, “Okay”.

We had an answer to a two-year-long sojourn and subsequent question.

“Okay” and we’re diving into deep, Living waters here, swimming with our eyes open, trying to know all the sensations touching our skin . . . Drinking the Divine aqua down as much as we’re able. Dear Jesus, did He ever blow-up our prescribed understanding of adoption. Who knew that we could also adopt an entire city? That I could be a mama to so many? That I would rock New Haven to sleep at night, crooning prayers over her head while she lies in the crook of my arms? That our Gabe would supplicate these words on a Monday morning: “Teach me how to be a good brother to this city and to the people who live here . . . Yes, God! Roger is my brother! Help me to be a good brother to Roger and Joe and all the other homeless people in New Haven.”

G.A.H!!!!!

Never did we imagine this outcome two years ago when we learned that there was more Love inside us and wanted to adopt a child to share that Love with. But, you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to gratefully and gladly receive an entire city into the fold of our tribe and this isn’t even a roller coaster we’re riding anymore – no man-made vehicle could be this wild. Definitely not. This is transcendental tidal wave we’re surfing here and it keeps turning and rolling and wakes us in the night and has all our eyes watching the horizon and staring at the Son.

Also: pray with us? And tell me your thoughts?!

{PHOTO by John Wimberly :: SOURCE}

Roger And Our Dirty Skin

{Taken right outside Froyo World.}

I would love to show you a photo of old Roger so you could see what I see: that he’s just the most beautiful. His leather-like face is thickly etched with time-lines, his hair is unhygienic, lousy . . . his skin wears pockmarks and blackheads like some woman wear pearls and polka dots. He doesn’t have any top teeth that I can see beyond his overgrown mustache and whew! if he doesn’t smell like an unwashed decade. He wears baggy velour track pants, three jackets, scars across his heart and no less then a globe’s worth of guilt on his back. Maybe he’s 65. Or 90. Who can tell under all the layers of filth and fault he bears?

Our family was getting concerned about Roger and started asking around town because we hadn’t seen him in two months, when we usually intersect stories weekly. We asked and asked and all five pairs of eyes would go left and right and all in circles scanning crowds and alleys looking specifically for the tall, homeless man with that distinct gait and bushy beard of his.

He loves Froyo World more then anything so we always brought him there. For a while, EVERY time we took to town to treat ourselves—out of all the places he could be in New Haven—Roger would magically walk right across our path like we were telepathically connected and destined for friendship and Froyo. We would take him inside and all the curious watchers would wonder at our ease of relationship, love and laughter with this bum-looking character. The kids would get their small allotted portions, but Roger? I always told him to FILL. IT. UP!!! And he would pour $8 worth of vanilla yogurt into his container. That’s it, no toppings. Just plain vanilla. Maybe he likes to keep it simple because life has been so complicated?

Roger talks of the crazy wife he wanted to kill, his time in jail, his two children—a boy and a girl. He gave them up for adoption because he was so strung-down on drugs and too busy suffocating the life out of himself that he couldn’t meet their most basic needs, let alone offer any kind of nurturing. He says that he constantly checks on them, (maybe to assuage his heart?) to make sure they’re not “turning out the way he did”. But to hear him talk of it will sure-as-anything-sharp, slice-your-soul-right-up because when he says it, his eyes are full of fathomless sadness, sadness so strong that a person could be sucked right into the vortex of his pain and drown inside if they weren’t careful.

He once told me he was “an undesireable” and with all my heart I told him that was a lie.

Last night we were driving to Froyo World to meet our friends, Justin and Chrisy, when we pulled up to a red light and Jude yelled from the back seat: “THERE”S ROGER!!!! I FOUND HIM!!!!”. And I rolled down my window so fast to call his name so loud and with all the thrill of a Christmas morning, “ROGER!!! HI!!! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!? WE’VE BEEN LOOKING EVERYWHERE FOR YOU!!! WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET ICE CREAM WITH US?!

Because, you see? I’ve missed my friend and I wanted to make sure he knew it.

Roger tells me right back that he’s missed us, that he’s been looking for us too!!! “I thought maybe you moved to Texas!!!” I laughed so big and just like that we fell into our camaraderie and moved as a unit to get dessert together, but before our friends even showed up or we could get our frozen yogurt, Roger said he had a present for the boys and took off at a trot towards the stash of stuff that he keeps somewhere. 20 minutes later he came back holding out a big, colorful hardcover “Birds of Prey” coffee table book and he gifted it to Gabe, Seth and Jude. And, can I tell you? It was one of the sweetest moments in my personal history, to witness a homeless man giving something to us when he, essentially, has nothing. Oh, it was like being transported to ancient times and witnessing the widow give her mite. What a sensation, to feel (in little) what it must’ve felt like for Jesus to watch her give from her poverty, everything she had.

Mercy. The whole event moved mountains in me and the rest of our time together was filled with the Spirit while we ate and shared questions and stories and near the end Roger asked me to read some Psalms over him and our friend Justin had a prophetic word for Roger regarding the guilt he carries and how God actually sees him like a beloved son in spite of the lies he hears. Then we bowed our heads and Justin prayed for him and I held his hand, dirty skin to dirty skin – Roger’s and mine.

 

{Austin Morrison – my Mr., my Him, my Love . . . I was SO wishing you weren’t out of town for this. Miss you.}