Friday, January 23, 2015

How to Get a Backstage Pass *It’s Easier than You Think

...Invite them over. Yes, to your house. Yes, it works. No, I’m not joking.

(Taking them up on their invitation to their house works, too.)

My phone tweets to notify me of an incoming text. “Would you like to come over for coffee or a cocktail?” I can’t help but smile. I was hoping I’d get to meet J’s dad and stepmom. This friend who I met only a few months ago, she tells me her parents are coming from the States to visit and well, I tell her I’d love to meet them.

We arrive in the late evening. Her husband is standing at the stove, stirring melted chocolate in a pan as we make our introductions and J offers drinks. LeRoy takes a coffee. I decide on Gluhwein (traditional hot mulled wine). And then, as smoothly as pouring coffee or mulled wine or stirring melted chocolate, the conversation flows.

I find myself sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning first toward her father. He laughs when he tells me that his day job and his passion are two different subjects. But I’m interested. He says he’s a salesman by trade, has sold in various capacities for over 30 years. I ask him to share his salesman’s advice on life and he chuckles congenially. But it’s when he shares his lifelong passion for music that he lights up. A recording artist who writes his own compositions, he tells us stories of past projects and shares his dreams for the future. J leaves the room and when she comes back she hands me a gift... a CD.  

After a while, the conversation turns to her stepmom, an early childhood specialist. She shares her stories about her work in training teachers to teach better. Ah! I am in the thick of this and again, I am leaning forward, forgetting to sip my wine which is cooled to lukewarm by now.

She says she’s in her sweet spot in her career. That it doesn’t feel like a job she’s going to, but something fun she gets to do every day. She tells us how she gets the teachers she’s training to slow down, engage, interact. She helps them tweak their teaching style and curriculum in order to create curiosity in the children.

She shares a case study with me and she doesn’t realize that her words are revelation to me. Insight that I tuck away in my mind and my heart, figuratively filed and highlighted under the heading, “How To Connect With Your Child’s Heart.”

This last week, we invited people into our home five out of eight days. And it’s not because I have the “gift of hospitality.” (Anyone who has ever spent time with us in our home will testify that I’d benefit from a good course in the Art of Homemaking and Hospitality. I’m finally remembering to offer guests a drink when they arrive. Usually. Okay, occasionally. But I feel really accomplished when I remember this little detail.)

I read recently about this lame man who was carried to the Beautiful Gate every day to sit and beg for alms. How long did this go on? Did he ever consider that one day he might receive healing? What were his highest expectations?

In his wildest dreams, did he imagine that this one day… two men would walk by and speak a Name that would change the possibilities?

And yet, he gets a backstage pass. And in the encounter, he’s healed. His need exchanged for healing.

     If people are all that’s eternal…

            If relationships are all that I can take with me into eternity…

And all that matters in all these moments is the heart that opens wide to give and receive.

In my wildest dreams... that in all the interactions with another... the encounter, His Name whispered, comfort offered, victories celebrated... possibilites mentioned... dreams dreamed...  

this meeting up backstage.

Our Life Group gathers at five o’clock every Sunday and this time it’s our turn to host. So we add the extensions even though I’m sure we’ll scatter throughout the dining and living room. Yet, here we are, around the farm table. All of us. And I breathe gratitude for the long table and shared food and this glimpse into Eternity.

And this community? It’s a privilege indeed, this backstage pass.

There’s the birthday evening when beloved friends joined us to celebrate 16 years of Ezekiel’s life.

And another evening spent getting to know an adorable couple we met recently.

And the Saturday spent with sweet J and her littles and a family we hadn’t met yet, but I invited them over… because I met the mom briefly and was so enchanted that I just had to get a backstage pass. To spend time. To hear her story.

I’ve never had a backstage pass with a multi-millionaire. At least, not that I know of. I’ve never held a conversation with a celebrity. I’m pretty sure, anyway. And yet... I get a backstage pass with the Creator of the Universe every morning. He lingers long with me, shares His heart and listens to mine. And He heals the lame parts of my life.

And, you. Thank YOU for all the countless moments when you’ve opened your heart…   for giving me a backstage pass into your life. For allowing the exchange of ideas and art and inspiration and LOVE and HEALING to be a part of our friendship.

I am grateful

288. …for you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Let's Not Worry About This Party

These moments. All of them.

The moment in which we had a meltdown in our marriage last week. That was after LeRoy number-crunched, tallied totals and, well, hundreds of thousands, millions, gjiillions of dollars later... Then, we decided not to worry about it.

Like the moment on August 11 when we received the call from friends who hoped to purchase our home. Everything fell so neatly into place a couple of months earlier. They had buyers for their house. We secured legal representation. House inspections were done. Earnest monies paid. The closing date was set for August 20, four days before our departure for Germany.

Until their would-be buyers called to say they were out of the deal. That they didn't want to buy our friend's house after all. Which was the contingency for them to buy our home.

So, we went to their house for dinner. And they told us the theme for the party was, "Let's Not Worry About This!" Indeed.

And it was a perfect, worry-free night. Because they put chicken with fancy spices on the grill... which continued to catch on fire in spite of best efforts to use the squirt bottle and then the garden hose. (Wait. 60% of their house was in boxes, ready to move. Now that I think back, I'm not sure they could find the squirt bottle. I think we had to immediately go to the garden hose.)

The bees refused to be left out of such delicacies as Blackened Chicken, so they hovered over our plates hoping we'd share. The chicken was delicious and, sweet Bella, she decided to divert the bee's attention with a special mixture she put in a baggie on the middle of the table... which leaked everywhere. Everywhere.

And the bees weren't interested. Ah well, there was plenty of napkins for the cleanup -- Christmas napkins since they were the only ones to be found.

A few minutes later, the children played happily nearby while the parents finished eating... until we heard a pain-filled shriek coming from Bella who had caught her toenail on something and... well, I'll spare my friends who get queasy, the details. Suffice it to say that it's a blessing to have worry-free parents on hand. Why, I wish you could have seen it! They brilliantly applied triage to Bella's toe like it was the most natural thing in the world. She was smiling in no time, her toe bandaged, and we decided to get ice cream around the corner. No worries.

You know what? I've seen enough to know that these earthly matters are just. so.



Well, painful toenails are important. But when it's handled by the experts...

And ice cream is great anisthetic for these situations.

We're a little discombobulated on a surface level. Sure, there's a few material details to figure out. Yet, in the grand scheme of things... light of Eternity.

We went downtown to Kaiserslautern with a tour guide today. Sabine is a brilliant historian and storyteller. One story she told was about the Stolpersteine -- "Stumbling Blocks." Do you know about this Holocaust Memorial? The more than 27,000 4-inch square blocks placed in front of homes throughout Germany and Europe that begin with, "Here lived..."

We visited Synogogue Square where candles burned in remembrance of the 400 Jews who were victims of Kristallnacht -- "Night of the Broken Glass." On November 9, 1938, throughout Germany, Nazis took to breaking the windows of shops owned by Jews. Sabine said it was reported that on one street near where we stood, the broken glass in the streets came to the ankles. 

How appropriate that we went on a historical field trip on Veteran's Day. Many moments throughout the day brought to mind the courage and sacrifice of our troops, then and now. These moments that speak into all the moments and offer the gift of perspective.

The priceless perspective that we live in a broken world where there's pain and injustice but that Grace pours in through all the disappointed, intimidated broken and I can choose the difficult thankful. That Joy poured in and thanks poured out are the triage for our souls.  It's what Ann Voskamp calls "the broken-hearted hallelujah."

It’s over the face of the deep and the hearts right broken that God hovers close.  
It’s the broken-hearted He binds up, swaddles near, the weak that He wields as His strength.
                                                                                                                ~ Ann Voskamp 

And in my moments when house deals fall through and numbers intimidate and there's an all-out argument between siblings over the last of the Doritos, I breathe thanks.

Germany celebrates November 11th, too. But it's not Veteran's Day here. It's St. Martin's Day. Tonight in the villages, children will follow a man riding on a white horse who is wearing a red royal robe. They'll carry lanterns and watch as he approaches a beggar sitting alongside the road, barely dressed in this frigid cold. And they'll celebrate compassion and kindness as they witness the man on the horse give the beggar his robe. Brilliant.

It's a "Let's Not Worry About This" Party because, in the whole expanse of the world and all the shattered glass hearts, and the temptation to forget the silly house and bills and the Doritos and... goodness sakes, let's go save the world...

We're granted the gift of an entire month of courageously offering the hard thanks. And I think -- I'm pretty sure -- giving thanks is where saving the world begins. This moment right now is the grace-moment. Redeemed. And the next moment, too.

And the next.

And when we decide not to worry,

...but we do our best and we feel it isn't much...


Monday, November 3, 2014

Ordinary Epic

"Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for!"-- Gimli, Lord of the Rings

Go, go, go!!! You've got this! {That's me, yelling wildly from the stands, cheering you on to the finish line, the end zone, the goal... your dreams.}

There's this everyday ordinary. The ordinary opportunity to choose.

Heh. I remember that moment of regret when I spoke foolhardy. Clumsy passion fueling my questions. It was hot. Really hot. And we stood crammed into a tiny ramshackle building they called the office. Four teachers wearing dirty, torn suit coats with mismatched trousers. I asked if they were living the life they dreamed and they smiled meek as they wiped beads of sweat with filthy handkerchiefs. The room amplified a long pause while about 200 children, a chorus of yells and laughter, pushed and shoved to get closer to the door. After all, Azungus -- the white foreigners, are pretty popular out in the African Bush.

One of the teachers looked long at the floor before he turned his humble expression toward me. His voice almost a whisper, "In our country we go to school and then take a test. If we score well on the test, we can be teachers. It is one of the best jobs we can get."

And that room in the stifling heat. The fumbling faux pas and the rhythmic voices outside. Everything slowed just then. I tried to process the stark possibility that the "American Dream" ...well, I stood there naive and... stupid. And ethnocentric.

Life is full of those freeze frame moments. I walked away convicted.

Grappling with this belief that I've grappled with since as far back as I can remember. That we live a certain life because we're meant to live beyond ourselves. That we live in abundance for the sake of loving those around us. It's the mantra my children have grown up with: Live beyond you.

This ordinary day, ordinary moment... choose to see it, live it, epic. Because all around you are people who are simply doing the best they can today, with the best they've been given. If you're blessed with the extraordinary gift to choose risk, by all means, don't pass it up! Don't take ordinary for granted.

We don't have it mastered. We're in the trenches. And it's muddy and messy and dangerous here. But we believe it's worth it -- and we're inviting community to join us.

Your life has purpose. It's something bigger than what you can accomplish on your own. (Our Father God does that on purpose -- He wants us to adventure with Him. And we're more likely to want to journey with Him when the invitation looks impossible on our own.)

So, go! I'm cheering you on. My children are cheering you on! Live beyond you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Another Stake Along the Journey

Hi! {me, throwing arms around you to embrace you! My! It's been a long time!!}

You can't possibly know how very much I'd love to pull up a chair across from you, lean in, and hear every. single. detail of what's gone on in your world since the last time we hung out.

It's a weird moment when I'm out and about and I see someone who looks like you. But I love it. Here I am, half way around the world and suddenly I find myself reminiscing about you, our friendship. Something you said that made me laugh. A question you asked me that challenged my paradigm... or a story you shared that changed my worldview and improved my perspective.

What's that you say? Ah! You're curious about what's happening in my little corner of the world?

Well... since you asked...

I have a conundrum. You see, last night LeRoy took me to a movie. (Side note: Just the two of us!! Sans sweet kiddos!! Woohoo!) And you know how every once in a while, you see a movie or read a book and it shakes you to the very core of who you are? Well, that's what happened last night.

Here's the thing, it was yet another stake in a very long journey. A journey that isn't new, but instead one I've traveled for a long, long time now. It's this passion for words. For communication. For sharing ideas and battling injustices in the world. I came home rattled. Okay, actually, that's an understatement. To use a cliche... my heart was racing.

And that brings me to my conundrum. I live in two worlds.

Perhaps you relate. The immense gratitude that we live these amazing days with all the resources necessary for a fulfilling, abundant lifestyle. And... the knowledge that living a truly fulfilling and meaningful life means giving it all away. That I am blessed with health, life experiences, education, dreams and passion... and a voice.

So that I can be a voice for those in the world who don't have a voice.

Which is where the two worlds... collide? Nah. Maybe connect? No, they don't really, do they? Or, maybe they do. What do you think?

Here we are, living the American Dream in Europe. Our days are exotic. Hurdling over language barriers, strolling -- or driving -- down cobblestone streets, dining in cafes in which the stone at the entryway says it was established in 1062.

But the vision that "keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning" is knowing about the metaphorical "natural disaster in the next town over." That the neighbor is wounded and bleeding. That I have resources to give away. That the abundant life is found in standing in the gap. That it's not in the being served but in the serving where joy irrepressible bubbles up and over the edges.

What about you? What do you think? What "keeps you up at night and gets you out of bed in the morning?" What movie or book have you read recently or in the past that ignited the fire in you?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below or you can email me.

PS - The day-to-day "newsy" part of our lives: I'm in the throes of building a website, restructuring my writing life, and setting ambitious goals for homeschool, travel, and getting to know the community we live in. We signed a contract to rent a house this last week and move-in day is scheduled for November 17th. We'll keep you posted.