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Reader’s Choice ’12: Leah

Roy Knapp was in my husband’s high school class.

Roy Knapp

Roy Knapp

I didn’t know him until this year when he began reading everyday epistle. Roy is no ordinary reader. He doesn’t merely observe; he fearlessly comments here and on Finding (Un)Common Ground.

Thank you, Roy, and all the readers who dialogue with me on the blog and privately.

Together we commemorate a woman who would have turned 75 years old today. Her husband was the subject of a post that was selected in last year’s Reader’s Choice.

This year, I wrote about her. Roy’s Reader’s Choice is:

Leah

Leah

click to read Leah

Reader's Choice

 

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Ghost in the Machine

This past Monday was the first time I’ve cried over technology.

stone woman's face KC Plaza

stone woman’s face, Kansas City Plaza

Don’t know exactly what happened, but for a short time my blog site went down, refusing to show anything but post titles. If it hadn’t been for Bluehost, it might still be down.

Nick the Bluehost tech guy and I ruled out the GoDaddy hacking debacle. We suspect it had to do with a WordPress update. But who really knows what technology is capable of these days? The more we worked on it, the worse it got.

Alas, I’m a ghost in the machine.

If you’re of a certain generation, you’ll remember The Police album Ghost in the Machine. If you’re younger, I’m sorry you missed it. Just kidding. The Police were Sting’s former band.

My new best friend Nick restored my blog from a copy saved the day before. All I lost was what I’d written Monday and, for a few tense moments, my sanity.

What does that mean, ghost in the machine?

Are we merely spirits outfitted in flesh and wandering haphazardly through the mechanics of this world? In my heart I know despite what Madonna says, the material world doesn’t matter. It’s going, going, and someday will be gone.

But I live in the here and now. I breathe the physical. As much as my soul is me, so is my body me. And so is my work, my family, my home, and country, all part of the material world I inhabit. The time and space. The machine.

When the machine’s broken, it’s desperately hard to remember the machine isn’t all there is.

Times Square blur

Times Square blur

What poor creatures we are, living with one foot in the decaying world of trolls, cancer, and terrorism, while the other stretches for a world yet to be made new.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV

You knew this was coming: Spirits in the Material World by The Police.

Ever feel like a ghost in the machine?

 

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Get on the Bus

Some things should go without saying. When in doubt, you can usually find a sign to help like this one I spotted last week.

no boarding after bus leaves curb

no boarding after bus leaves curb

Cracks me up. Of course there’s no boarding after bus leaves curb. Theoretically, it would be moving! Doors closed. Game over.

Life’s like that.

We have one life and one death. No reincarnation. No do-overs or second chances from the grave. We die and face judgment. We face God.

But Christ also died once. In Him there is salvation without condemnation, the assurance of eternal life.

What? No one ever told you?

Consider this is your sign. Your ride is parked at the curb. The doors are open. Get on the bus.

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT

Funk musician Frankie Smith says, “Get on the bus!” The Double Dutch Bus.

Will you sit with me on the bus?

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The Curious Case of Transferential Homesickness

Homesickness must be a result of The Fall. How else did it become so ingrained in my psyche?

Welcome to Wichita, Kansas, All-America City

welcome to Wichita

I haven’t cried much over our move from St. Louis to Wichita. That is, not until we visited St. Louis two weeks ago.

I cried in church and at the hotel. I cried for the people we visited and the people we missed seeing this trip. I teared up at Ladue Nails, the zoo, and the Galleria.

When I lived in St. Louis, I couldn’t wait to leave. Whistle me Dixie and send me packing to North Carolina where I was raised. Where life is normal.

Now that I live in Wichita, I’m still homesick for The South. But I also long for the Lou, where life is normal.

“I’m homesick,” I said to my husband. “But I’m not sure for what!”

“You’re homesick for everything and everyone we’ve known,” he said.

Well, that about covers it.

Sometimes I think my husband could be happy living in a van down by the river. Or on a farm. Or in a city. Or a small town. Or just about anywhere else you can imagine. His parents gave him luggage for graduation if that tells you anything.

But I pine for a sense of place. I feel a need to belong somewhere.

Chicago downtown river view

my kind of town, Chicago is

I’ve belonged several somewheres on our tour de relocation, and now I miss them all. Even Chicago looks inviting.

If there ever comes a time when we leave Wichita to go home, where will that be exactly? Will I miss Kansas then the way I miss my former homes today?

Transference is a psychoanalytic concept meaning the inappropriate redirection of feelings from one relationship to another. Sigmund Freud came up with it, so take it with a grain of salt.

Transference occurs between people. I wonder if it can happen between a person and a place, too. Like Scarlett O’Hara and the red earth of Tara.

Those struck by locational transference struggle through life in a never-ending episode of homesickness. Missing, missing, always missing. A framework of loss their only constant.

Reframing is another therapy concept. It dares to find a different way to look at things.

Maybe the never-ending episode is really a pursuit of Home. The people and the familiar. The smells and seasons. The moments of contentment, love, and belonging taken for granted. The state of normal once found in a place and time.

We forge new relationships as life moves along—we have to. But this lingering homesickness accompanies us. It reminds us to embrace contentment where we find it because things may change tomorrow. It drives us on to recapture a place we left behind a long time ago. A place called Home.

They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that… from Hebrews 11:13-16 The Message

me and Steven Curtis Chapman at the airport in Nashville

me & Steven Curtis Chapman

Long Way Home is the latest from my favorite singer with three names Steven Curtis Chapman. Remember the time we were on the same plane to Nashville?

Have you ever been homesick? How did you move forward?

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Leah


garden statue of a girl

My Aunt Leah was rarely sick and always bounced back. Fell and broke her hip this past Christmas. Returned to work by February. And she was 74 years old.

Quiet, gentle, dignified, but tough as nails when it came to perseverance. Leah was steady. Without pause, always there, sure and steady.

A nurse by profession, she once took in my mother and I when we needed a place to go. Years later, when my mom was dying, Leah came to be with her youngest sibling for a week. She stood in my mom’s kitchen stirring soup made of carrots and celery she’d diced into tiny cubes.

Leah was the first person to French braid my hair. I’d come to visit that summer. I may have been 10, perhaps younger, so I don’t remember sitting still as she weaved the plaits tightly, an exercise she missed with her three sons. A picture remains to bear witness to those perfect braids.

Most of her life she lived in an old house with a rambling yard and a vegetable garden so big that I never did walk to the end of it. Her youngest son and I traversed that garden one evening as children. We navigated between squash and cucumbers and bushes of beans.

We climbed to the top of the compost pile. Then he said, “Snake!”

I never saw it. I bolted out of the garden all the way back to the house. Aunt Leah yelled from the yard for me to stop that ridiculous screaming.

Last summer, I returned with my husband and son to visit my Aunt Leah and Uncle Abe in their newer house. Their big garden was left behind, but the table was forever full. Salads and sauces and pasta to eat in the late afternoon.

She was the eldest of six children. The mother of three. Grandmother of six. Faithful wife of Abe for 53 years. She was unwavering in prayer for our family. The pages of her Bible were falling out from use.

It happened this spring, a cascade drawn out over weeks that started slowly and picked up speed as days rolled along. Leah had trouble breathing. Leah went to the emergency room. Leah developed pneumonia.

Leah was hospitalized. Leah was given oxygen. Leah was in critical care. Leah’s lungs sustained damage. Leah was on life support.

Then this past Tuesday, at 2:34 p.m., my Aunt Leah died. Surrounded by family here on earth, she was ushered into the arms of family there.

another view

It’s been almost 16 years since my mother died. Sixteen years since my family last experienced death. Years filled with so many challenges, but such a long stretch without funerals.

I wonder what they’re talking about now. Has Leah told my mom she saw me last summer? That I have a son with hazel eyes? Are they sitting with my Grandma and Grandpa V?

Are they sipping cups of tea while Grandma has coffee? Is Grandpa wearing his fur coat? Are they gushing and waiting with ease for the rest of us to meet them at the table? For dinner to begin in the late afternoon?

Over the next few days, I’ll be off the grid. Look for me in real life as I travel alone to gather with the family that’s left. To pay tribute and grieve our loss of Leah, steady and true.

We’ll miss you, Aunt Leah. Wait for us there. Unwavering, wait for us.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 NIV

This past Monday, we celebrated National Poetry Month here on the blog. The response to Poetry Slam Party has been intelligent, thoughtful, and moving. Ariel Price graced us with poem by John Donne in the comments. Seems fitting to end this week with another of Donne’s most excellent works.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Who is waiting for you in heaven? How do you grieve here on earth?

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Hills of Heaven

My husband and I traveled to the California wine country for a work conference last November. The things we do for his career.

One afternoon, our group had lunch at Kuleto Estate situated high on a steep, rocky hill. Looked out over vineyards afire with fall color. The sky seemed larger. Our feet lighter.

our view from Kuleto Estate

Dined outdoors on the side of the mountain at a long table. Ate vegetables picked fresh from the gardens that morning, delectable meats and desserts prepared by the resident chef. It was so perfect, I kept looking for Martha Stewart to step out from behind a tree.

Couldn’t help but think this must be what heaven is like. Friends, food, fresh air, mountains, vineyards, olive trees.

That day left me longing for a place where I’d be with everyone I loved, eating and talking and laughing. Savoring each moment, followed by ten thousand upon ten thousand more. Finally safe. Finally home.

On the way back to our bus, we passed a pen of poultry. It was there I came face to face with a most majestic creature.

Heaven is filled with laughter that satiates the soul. I just know it is.

The best of the now is a hint of what’s to come. An assurance of the place He has for us.

Meet me there. One day, meet me there.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4 NIV

Going Home by Sara Groves: I’ll meet you at the table.

mr. potato turkey

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers.
I am thankful for you.

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