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Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Did It

I did something a little nutty at the beginning of this month: I sold my car.

While this might not seem terribly outrageous, I should add one more thing: I'm not getting another one.

When people find this out, their first question of course is "WHY?" The short answer: I could not find a way to justify, as a single person, owning both a car and scooter. It seemed excessive, materialistic, wasteful and indulgent, especially if I continue to talk about living a life of simplicity. But in making the choice between the two, I liked my scooter way more! It's so inexpensive, easy and fun.

If you have time or interest though... here's the longer answer:

This was not a whimsical, spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decision. My roommate reminded me this week that I first started talking about it in the fall of 2006.

I experimented all summer with not owning my car, loaning it out to friends who needed transportation, or simply letting it sit in its parking spot as I took the bus, rode my bike, traveled by train, drove my scooter, walked or... here's a crazy thought -- stayed home.

I don't know where the seeds of this idea started, but most likely back in 2003, when I decided to ride my bike once a day in place of driving. The steps forward continue from there in a jumble: more bike riding, less driving, buying a scooter, job changes, gas crises, Gulf oil spill...

But it's more than that for me. It's also a spiritual decision.
On no subject is Jesus more clear than on materialism: a life focused on possessions is a poor and misguided life. Over and again, he urges us to seek a spiritual path and life of loving one another.... Real treasures do not rust, run low on power, become obsolete, clutter up closets and garages, or rack up credit card debt. One need never worry about a real treasure being stolen. Real treasures are never hoarded. They are shared. Simplifying means having less, wanting less, being satisfied with what you have or less than what you have. It does not mean boredom. People with too many things are the most easily bored. Matthew Sleeth, Serve God, Save the Planet
As I got serious about using my bike not just for exercise but for transportation, I noticed some things -- for example, that it took longer to get places. Brilliant, I know. But listen to me. As I slowed down, I started realizing how much I was driven by efficiency. By driving everywhere I was able to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time. But one day I asked myself a dangerous question, So what?

It certainly wasn't because this speediness gave me more time to lay on the couch or read a book or pray. My efficiency just gave me the ability to work MORE. Humph.

Don't get me wrong. Working is a noble endeavor and another part of my spiritual disciplines. But at the end of my life -- heck, at the end of each day -- I don't want it written on my tombstone, "She worked a lot." Anyone who knows me knows that I work hard. I just work differently now. I don't drive my days according to how MUCH I can accomplish each day. Instead, I am trying to be driven more by how WELL I do what I set out to accomplish. I'm trying to proceed more purposefully, with more planning and balance and faith.

I will also say that between the way I'm choosing to eat (organically, seasonally, with very little processed food) and the way I'm getting places that I'm spending more of each day in making those two things happen. In the 21st century this might sound a little crazy. But it's working for me. I'm opting for slow and steady over fast and furious.

How's it been these past 4 weeks without a car? So far, so good. I want to be the first to admit that it may not work out. I may discover it's too inconvenient, I suppose. But for now, I'm living as if I'll never own a car again.

People tend to have many questions, so here are Life With No Car FAQ's:
  • What do you do when it rains? There is a bus stop that is a 10-minute walk from my house. Yes, in the pouring rain I get wet walking there. I guess that's ok. I have to leave the house a bit earlier to make the right bus. That requires planning ahead.
  • What if you need to go out of town? I have been taking the train to So Cal for several months now, and enjoying it a TON. Two weeks ago I needed to get somewhere that Amtrak didn't go to, and the connection with MetroLink wouldn't work, so I rented a car in LA. It worked great. It's definitely cheaper to rent a car occasionally or take a taxi than to own a car.
  • What if you need to buy something that you can't carry on your scooter? I have patient, supportive friends (especially my roommate), but I also ask myself two questions: 1) Do I really "need" this? 2) Will it bring me closer to God? (thank you Matthew Sleeth, p 84). Riding my scooter or taking my bike or the bus forces me to evaluate whether the thing I want to purchase is necessary. Let's be brutally honest -- we lived for a long time without Costco. It's possible. I like this chance to force myself to ask those questions.
  • I am stoked it works for you -- but I've got 3 kids, soccer practice and piano lessons! (Not exactly a question...) No judgment from me. Absolutely it's easier for me to do this. But I would ask every family to consider whether they really need two cars. It will take more planning at times, but that doesn't make it impossible.
  • Aren't you afraid of getting hit? Sure. I ride carefully, and defensively. I have had one or two close calls. But I would guess that the risk of getting hurt is far higher when I'm in a car.
Final tidbits:

Do you know you can't maintain car insurance unless you own a car? Insurance rates are based in part on your age and driving record, but they hinge on what car you own. So now I have to purchase insurance when I rent a car, or make sure the person whose car I'm driving has supplemental insurance.

Scooters park for free in public parking lots. Massively convenient. There's always a spot available too.

It costs me $4 to fill up my scooter. (And it costs me nothing to fill up my bike!)

When I ride my bike I can hear birds singing, talk to people at stoplights, and feel the sun on my face. On my scooter I cannot listen to music or use my phone. This has been really good for thinking, watching, listening. Try it sometime.

This won't work for everyone. Please feel no pressure from me to do this. As Matthew Sleeth says, If you appear smug or holier than thou, you will be a positive witness to a party of none. But I share it as encouragement, and if you want it to be, a challenge. I continue to seek after ways to be a better steward of my resources and God's creation. I yearn for a simpler, slower-paced existence. And I value all of these as ways to manage anxiety and frustration. As my life becomes less about convenience and efficiency and more about charity, generosity, hospitality and spiritual discipline, I know God far better. And my neighbor too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

High Maintenance

OK, I'll be the first to admit it. I've become a VERY complicated, difficult, high maintenance eater. (Shush to all those who want to leave off the "eater" part of that statement...)

Last May 09, I realized that for whatever reason (I have my theories) my digestive tract could not tolerate gluten (read: bread, barley, pasta, pastries, breaded foods like chicken nuggets, flour tortillas, anything with "modified food starch," oatmeal...)

Let's not forget that I also have to throw in the fact that my cholesterol is easy to control IF I don't eat high cholesterol foods (read: red meat, hard cheese, shrimp... and honestly, you need to keep an eye on chicken because it's not really low-cholesterol - just lowER cholesterol than red meat, and not by that much). If I am not careful about this... hello, medication.

My favorite restaurant experience so far has been at Petrini's, a local "Eye-talian" restaurant, when I ordered an antipasto salad but asked her to replace the salami with grilled chicken. The waitress looked at me and said, "What, you doin' that Atkins diet or somethin?!" loud enough for literally the entire restaurant to hear her. "Um, no," I replied. Whatever.

Last of all, I'm finally willing to admit that recently I found out even more high-maintenance-ness during my physical in August. My gall bladder gets irritated by nuts (Lara bars, granola, almond milk, peanutbutter...), fried food (read: FRENCH FRIES, which I consider God's food from heaven) and whole grains (read: brown rice and quinoa).

Sure. I was sort of depressed. Beaten down for a day or two. But not broken. I have to tell you that I have discovered that I can still eat a lot of great stuff... for instance, in this past week I've eaten:
  • gluten-free carrot bread
  • breaded mahi mahi (made with gluten-free breadcrumbs that I made myself from a loaf of GF bread)
  • omelette
  • grilled chicken salad
  • tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich (yes, low fat cheese, but that's life) on GF bread
  • pasta salad chock full of vegetables (yes, rice pasta)
  • homemade bean soup
  • Greek yogurt (new BFF) and berries
  • Smoothies
  • Indian food -- nearly every kind
  • homemade hummus and veggie sticks
  • turkey burger and baked fries
  • naked burrito at Chicken Ranch
  • GF waffles
Perhaps most embarrassing to admit is that now I've learned how to eat the way I should have been eating my whole life: low-fat protein with lots of fruits and vegetables and plenty of calcium. I'm so thankful for string cheese, yogurt, soup, vegetables, fruit, eggs, and gluten-free products. But I really miss French fries. I may fudge once in awhile on those....

Eat healthy, people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you are feeling stressed, busy, overwhelmed, tense, this is a profound reminder:
The point is clear: there is to be no time, no thing, that absorbs us so much that we lose contact with the God of life; no stress so tension-producing, no burden so complex, no work so exhausting that God is not our greatest agenda, our constant companion, our rest and our refuge. More, whatever other people worship, we are to keep our minds and hearts on God. (Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict)

Psalm 118:4-8
Let those who fear the LORD say:
"His love endures forever."

5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD,
and he answered by setting me free.

6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper.
I will look in triumph on my enemies.

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.

Focus on the things that last. That truly matter.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lovin' Limas

Yeah, you read that right. I have grown to love lima beans. When I was a kid my mom cooked them until they were tough and chewy and tasted like sawdust. Say NO to yucky, overcooked vegetables!

When I got limas in my Fairview Gardens shares, I was initially bummed. But I decided I could redeem my lima dislike. Which was easy. Here goes:

Salted water to cover
16 ounces frozen lima beans
4 garlic cloves
Zest of a lemon
Juice of 3 lemons
1/4 of a white onion, roughly chopped (this was important: recipe suggests red onion or a sweet Vidalia onion)
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (oregano, thyme or basil)
2 tablespoons olive oil (use more if you want it more creamy, of course)
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the lima beans and drain well. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process til smooth. I like my hummus with veggie chips or some raw vegetables. Goodness I'm healthy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Look up

As always, this has been a full week. But I have loved the soundtrack of Colossians that God has provided in the midst of it.

Each day I wake up to the temptation of letting my circumstances define everything: my day, my energy, my mood, my identity.

How can I respond differently? The Apostle Paul gives us a swift kick in the rear:
Colossians 3:1-4, 15-17
So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

These words get in my grill and insist that I step back and resist the lie of immediate circumstances. Instead I need to look up.

Then I am more alert to the holy. I am reminded of ultimate reality, and I can rest easily in eternal hope. Hallelujah.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Colossians continues to bless me (see yesterday's post...)

This morning's words, taken from The Message paraphrase, are marching orders worth following, plain and simple -- from Colossians 2:6-10 ~
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

So often people will ask, in the form of a greeting, "How's it going?" Rather than list off the various tasks that lay ahead of me for the day or the week, how great it would be if I just said, "Fully living."

Sure, that's pretty random. But when we camp on that concept, that reality, of fullness, it makes sense. Warren Wiersbe, the Bible commentator, says "fullness" is "the sum total of all that God is, all of His being and attributes." The great gift is that we share in this fullness, in a reliable, permanent way. One commentator translated verse 10 in this way:

And you are in Him, having been completely filled full with the present result that you are in a state of fullness.

THAT is good news. THAT is permanence of the best kind. Camp on that today and look at your life through that lens. Everything shifts into proper perspective.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Looking Back

This morning I started some devotional reading in Colossians. I have great affection for this small little letter (only 4 chapters) in the New Testament, for many reasons. First of all, chapter one contains the first sizable passage I memorized. At twenty years old, I went on a 4-day bike trip in the Sierras, and during that time we had Colossians 1:15-20 taped to the handlebar bags at the front:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
After 4 days of hanging my sorry head over those bars (riding 250 miles, often up very steep grades), I got it right. And it was life-changing... because these particular words are transformative. In repeating them over and over, I got the biggest thoughts about Jesus drilled in deep. And best of all... they remained.

Over the years I'd come to that passage over and over. Sometimes I would walk students through it to help them start wrapping their brains around the deity of Christ. Or I would linger over it myself -- especially that opening line. The Phillips paraphrase is poetry itself:
Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God...
Other times I have prayed these verses over friends or students:
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father...
In my first year after college, I memorized this passage from the opening of chapter three:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
I'll never forget the feeling in my chest when those words, handwritten on a beat-up index card on my desk, caught the eye of my boss. I was working as an editor and writer at a scientific research firm with a bunch of PhD's who were respectful but not terribly interested in a green college grad. "Hmm... what's that?" he asked. "Oh, just something I'm... memorizing," I mumbled. "Hmm. Interesting." I saw his eyes follow the words. Who knows what he thought.

But in my reading this morning, what I am reminded of most is my visit to Colossae in May 2005. We had visited so many remarkable sites already on our trip - we were touring key sites related to the Apostle Paul: Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Antioch, Antalya, Ankara, Laodicea... and we were heading to Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens... I'd seen so many remarkable places directly out of the Bible. I was having the time of my life!

Given my own history with the Book of Colossians then, my heart welled up with excitement even more. We stopped first that day at Laodicea, where we saw actual ancient water pipes caked with lime deposits, and we were told that the water was very hard and distasteful there. It was so full of particulates that it was neither cold nor refreshing. This gave completely new meaning to the letter to the Church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-16...
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
We hopped back into the bus, and headed to Colossae. Picture my face nearly pressed against the window as we approached... then imagine my dismay when we saw the dusty and unremarkable little hill pictured in the photo above.

It was nothing.

Colossae was nothing more than a beat-up sign. We climbed up over the steps you see in the picture at the top and walked along the flat area. With our shoes we could easily find pieces of broken pottery. This was clearly an archaeological goldmine.

Instead, it was just sitting there. The tour guide went on to tell us that the country of Turkey, a secular Islamic state, had absolutely no interest in excavating an ancient Christian site like Colossae. Not only that, but it was very reluctant to give permits for others to dig there. (Read a little more about it here.)

I was heartbroken. With my bare hands I wanted to start digging. We piled back in the bus and drove on through the Lycus Valley. I really couldn't shake the image of that rich trove of knowledge, buried under centuries of soil and rock.

But later I realized that perhaps that is a great reminder of life for each of us. When it comes down to it, over the long haul we won't be remembered for anything we build or any material items we leave behind. On this earth, we too will merely end up as a forgotten pile of dirt! (Sorry, I don't want to sound so bleak. Keep reading...)

What we will be remembered for are the lives we have invested in, which then in turn pour into others. That is how the faith spread throughout the Roman Empire and the rest of the world. It flowed through Epaphras (see 1:7) and Paul in Colossae, and his words to them later spurred them on as a church to ongoing fruit and labor.

If all of my efforts are spent in building markers and material wealth, it will all come to nothing... I'll just be a neglected hill with a beat-up sign :) But if I focus my energies on people and their deeper lives, the potential is great joy beyond words. As Paul says in Colossians 1:6
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.
That is our purpose. So as it says at the end of chapter one:
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Amen and amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coming Back

In church today we studied Luke 17:11-19, where Jesus has a fascinating encounter with ten lepers.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Admittedly, I've spent little time digging into this passage. On first glance, it seems like an obvious example of why it's important to be thankful. Done and done.


Sure -- on the surface, that is a logical conclusion. But today we learned that most scholars think that is a rather shallow reading. What is the far more important point is that of salvation.


First of all, I needed to pay attention. Earlier parables about ten virgins tend to make me reflexively respond to this story as yet another parable. But hey -- this was an actual event in the earthly ministry of Jesus.

As Jesus instructed them, the lepers head off to the priests in order to testify to a miracle of God. But interestingly enough, only one comes back to thank Jesus. Here is where my bell got rung.

Previous readings had never made me notice some important details:

  • the one who returned was a foreigner - a Samaritan.
  • the Samaritan was united to the other lepers previously, because they all commiserated in their malady. Since they all had leprosy, they were thus united as outcasts. But now that they are healed, the Samaritan is no longer one of them. Ironically, in his healing he is then shut out, because the Jewish priests would not have received him, and Jews (the other lepers) would no longer associate with him as a Samaritan.
  • his faith made him well. In the original Greek, the phrase made him well is actually ("sohd-zo"), which is translated most other times in the New Testament as saved.
What does this tell me? That the outsider, the foreigner, is the most sensitive to Jesus. Those who respond to God may not be the ones we expect to respond. How often do I draw conclusions and think I know who is the one most likely to follow Christ?

Once I realized the exclusion that the Samaritan experienced upon physical healing I was grieved. How often do Christians huddle together in exclusive "clubs" for the sake of fellowship? How often do we shut others out of deeper blessing because we want to enjoy our own blessings by ourselves?

The Samaritan came back to his Lord in praise, repentance (he threw himself at his feet) and thanksgiving. Then he receives salvation! Yes, the others received great blessing. But it appears that only when we throw ourselves at the feet of Christ, acknowledging our profound needs not only physically but spiritually, that we are truly made well. I was humbled by this.

In response during today's service we were invited to bring those things in our lives that require deeper healing -- regrets, wounds, resentments and the like, and fall at the feet of Jesus in praise, repentance and thanksgiving. It was a rich time of humility and worship.

Ask yourself the same question I asked myself in silence, on my knees, today: Are you like the nine lepers, or like the Samaritan one who came back?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

White Bean Wonderful

It's Sunday night. I've had a nice mellow day (SO grateful for the muggy heat to end) full of church, bike ride, coffee & Bible, and now MLS soccer on the tube as I make dinner.

I adapted a recipe from Vegetarian Times (whose recipes are always great -- I just didn't have all the ingredients) and am now sitting in a food coma on the couch.

This was a classic fall seasonal meal, if you are prone to sticking with what is growing in your garden or local CSA...

1 can white beans (I used cannellinis from Trader Joe's)
2 roasted poblano chiles (roasted mine this afternoon over my gas stove... thank you Fairview Gardens for beautiful chiles)
1 cup vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
favorite hot sauce (I use Picamás, which I bring back from service trips in Guatemala -- and now get from my friend Michelle... Picamás is all flavor, no fire, for this white girl)
1/2 c fresh or frozen corn (I cut mine off a cob of corn from Fairview)
1/2 c fresh cilantro (again, from Fairview)
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 c sour cream, milk or plain yogurt
white cheese

1. Bring beans, chiles, broth, oregano, cumin to a simmer in saucepan over medium heat. Cook 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

2. Stir in corn, cilantro, lime juice, hot sauce. Season with salt & pepper.

Right before serving, stir in some sour cream/milk/or yogurt - maybe 2 tbs. Your preference. Top with more cilantro and some grated cheese.

If you are a planner-aheader, make some corn bread, or in my case, eat some gluten-free bread. It's a happy bread week for me -- I discovered a VERY reliable bread machine mix: Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix. Not gonna lie -- I nearly teared up when I pulled it out of my machine last night... nicely browned, solid (but not leaden, like many gluten-free breads), full (not sunken in the middle, like my past attempts). WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Life of Love

Today marks four years since my beloved friend Matt Steele succumbed to brain cancer. As I still float in the wake of Claire Carey's death on August 14, I can do nothing but shake my head. There is nothing to say that truly communicates the deep pain of such loss.

To have loved two friends so much and walk with them through terminal illness and into death has been dreadful. The tragedy of their youth (Matt was 34, Claire was 35) makes it all the more awful.

It would be easy, even understandable, to become bitter as a result. What's the point of loving others only to lose them in such agonizing ways?

These days I cry easily. But I'm not sure that is so bad. To have my feelings always right near the surface feels risky, but also healthy. The emotions that come from the death of close ones are too strong to stay down. They well up whenever they want, whether I invite them or not. So I have gotten used to living with my heart being raw and unguarded. That is exhausting, to be sure -- so I'm grateful for the gift of time, which heals the top layers of the pain and gives me new skin to protect the deeper levels.

Though there is healing, I know I will never be the same. To have known such abysmal pain makes me much more sensitive to that of others. I see it, smell it, feel it, touch it. How do I respond when that happens? I can take my cue from what I read this morning in Ephesians 5:1-2 ~
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
While I would not recommend Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message, for rigorous bible study, it is lyrical and refreshing for devotional reading. This passage is no exception.

I learned this "life of love" from other faithful mentors and friends who were patient with me when my ability and capacity for love was broken. One in particular, Ruth Schmidt, was like a mother to me. She was consistent, kind, generous to a fault, yet firm as well. I knew her for several years previous, but walked with her through the last three years of her life once she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). When she died I was devastated. She had been a sure anchor and well from which I drew often. I was very tempted to wall off my heart and never truly lean on anyone again...

Eventually, I asked a few wise ones for help, and one gave me a simple tool that helped more than anything. She told me to create some rituals that would help me settle down, especially at night when my sadness was the most acute. So I started playing the same CD each night, half an hour or so before I went to bed. I would then climb into bed as the last songs started playing, and eventually was able to fall asleep to the same song each night for weeks. I risk sounding like a Hallmark commercial when I tell you that it was an instrumental piano CD by Jim Brickman -- but there it is.

The last song actually had lyrics that functioned as road signs that walked me out of the pit I was in, because they put words to my groaning. Here is the chorus:
Until the stars fall from the sky
Until I find the reason why
And darling as the years go by
Until there's no tears left to cry
'Til the angels close my eyes
And even if we're worlds apart
I'll find my way back to you...
By heart.
This life is not all there is. Someday I will be reunited with these beloved people, in Christ, for eternity. I feel their absences so frequently. But I am glad that they each left such deep impressions that I cannot forget them. Meanwhile, I live as fully as possible in this earthbound life. My grief is not appeased by other relationships... instead, I simply press on and continue to learn about what it means to live this risky, yet worthwhile, life of love. Christ is my model, my strength, my goal.