Tag Archives: life

Emerging

Yes, I know it’s been months since I blogged.

I’m emerging this week from a world of homework, teaching, and translation. I have two weeks to take a deep breath before I dive under again.

Perhaps this next time when I go under I can do it a little more wisely. When balancing homework with ministry, I just simply have not got it figured out.

I like living life. But sometimes I try to live too much life all at once. So that’s why the past few months you didn’t hear much from me. And looking back at the past few months, there are several things that I would do over again and there are several things I would not do over again.

One of those things I wouldn’t do again was help an acquaintance with a Sunday afternoon children’s event/party. I didn’t know until I got there that I was supposed to be MC (master of ceremonies, or announcer, or moderator. Whatever you want to call it). In Thai and English. I have never been an MC in English, much less in Thai. It was terrible.

But I did many, many things I loved. And some of those things might turn out to be a lifelong job. I don’t know yet.

Here’s a glimpse of what life looked like for me the past 3 months.

I taught. The top left picture is of two wild, adorable children that I’ve been teaching English to on Tuesday evenings. The top right picture is a group of children at the Saturday morning White Elephant Club in San Kamphaeng. I haven’t been helping with this all the time; only at times they don’t have enough teachers. I also substituted for a friend at Chiang Mai City Church (CMCC) for a few months. The bottom picture is where we went to visit a student’s family at their home with Pastor Kiat, the Thai pastor at CMCC.

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I made a birthday cake for this young lady and took it to her school. She’s been a part of my life for the past 4 years, sometimes more so than others. I am so thankful that now she is able to go to school. That is an answer to prayer.

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We had a traditional Thai dress day at Thai church to celebrate the church’s nth anniversary (can’t remember the actual number).

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We said goodbye to some people and said hello to others.

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We helped with an English camp at a local high school in San Kamphaeng.

My favorite thing that I’ve started is volunteering a shift once or twice a week as a translator at the local police station. This has turned out to be something I love, being that bridge between two cultures. To be honest, I also enjoy the adrenaline rush. For the most part, my job consists of translating for people who have lost important items, such as a bankbook, passport, cell phone or wallet, or translating for foreigners who have been in traffic accidents. Every now and then I’ll translate for a case for a foreigner who has died in Thailand, or has gotten in trouble with the law or in an altercation with a Thai national. There are some intense times where I, as a translator, feel like a kickball being kicked from side to side.

I love getting to meet new people as they come into the station, and being able to give them at least a slight sense of security when they see another foreigner there. Most people who come to the police don’t want to be there, and not knowing the language adds another stresser. Speaking and learning Thai is something I enjoy, and I love the chance to use language as a way of helping others. I also love getting to know the people on the Thai side of things. Many of the officers I work with are close to retirement, so in Thai I refer to most of them as uncle. Then there are others that are closer to my age who enjoy practicing their English and just being friends. On the top right hand picture is a picture of two of my “uncles.” The one to the left has a very gruff exterior and a very soft heart.

One of my friends, Care, to the right in the picture on the left, was an intern the first few months I was there. She loved practicing her English with me. To the right is another of my favorite “uncles.”

So yes, I’m still alive. Other than the things above, I’ve mostly been doing homework, as well as some additional translation for acquaintances. And that all of that has taken up most of my waking moments.

Hopefully soon I’ll have time to tell you sometime about the time I got stuck in a phone booth during a rainstorm or the time when we ordered pizza at the police station. As well as my recent trip to my friend’s home in Chiang Dao.

Who People Think I Am

“She’s a teacher here, for sure.”

The low murmur followed me out of the room as I left from a meeting with my educational adviser. I turned halfway and flashed the speaker a smile and left, leaving her to wonder if I really had understood her statement in Thai to the lady beside her.

I get it a lot. Wearing a dress and a veil often gives Thai people the idea that I am some sort of important person. I’ve been asked if I am a nun, a sister, a nurse. I have been called an ajarn (a word often used for a professor) when I went in to registration at my university.

I grew up wearing dresses around women who always wore dresses, so our wearing dresses did not really reflect much of our personality. It is different in Thai culture. Thai people view ladies who always wear dresses as เรียบร้อย “riab roi” (proper) and along with that word comes a host of other presuppositions: you are gentle, you are organized, you are ladylike, you are the epitome of womanhood. I am none of those and sadly shall never be. I am not very “riab roi” either. I ride horses in dresses, I play soccer in dresses, I run races in dresses, I climb up waterfalls in dresses, I milk cows in dresses, and I go hunting in dresses.

But in thinking about all of this, I came to the humorous conclusion that few people understand me well and no one understands me perfectly.

And that is totally ok. I know Someone who does understand me.  I have imperfect perceptions about people around us as well.

So in thinking it over, here are some different identities people around me give me, or I think they do.

WHO THE GENERAL THAI PUBLIC THINKS I AM

 

WHO MY CLASSMATES THINK I AM

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WHO FELLOW NON-ANABAPTIST AMERICANS THINK I AM

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WHO CHRISTIANS FROM MY HOME AREA THINK I AM

 

WHO NEWLY ARRIVED EXPATS TO THAILAND THINK I AM

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

WHO PEOPLE IN NEED OF TRANSLATION OR EDITING THINK I AM

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WHO MY HOUSEMATES  THINK I AM

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Photo by 立志 牟 on Unsplash

WHO MY HOUSEMATES THINK I AM IN EARLY MORNING

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WHO MY FAMILY THINKS I AM

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WHO SOME OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM

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WHO OTHERS OF MY STUDENTS THINK I AM

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WHO MY TEACHERS THINK I AM

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Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

WHO I THINK I AM

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Image by Isa KARAKUS from Pixabay

WHO I REALLY AM

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These Days

These days are bright with heat, the humid, sultry weight of unreleased rain weighing down on us each morning. In the afternoon, clouds pile up high above the mountain, with the occasional growl of thunder punctuating the brooding heat. These days the skies are mostly clear of the insidious smog that covered our lives and souls in March, and in the evening, after the dusk rolls in, the skies release their rain. Each night we go to bed with the drumbeat of hope beating on our roofs—and in our hearts.

And why should we hope? Why should we dare to give life to this wild thing beating in our hearts, that gives way to the ridiculous, the kind of dreaming that leads to walking on water? Do not we know that walking on the water is unacceptable for bipeds of our kind?

But while hope seems to contradict every circumstance we face, it is conditioned in us. The very threads of our being are made up of hope. When we breathe, each breath that we inhale and each breath that we exhale are breaths of hope. Why else would we do something that borders insanity, this continuing to live and breathe in a broken world, except our bodies hoped? Why else do we continue to flip the light switch even after we realize the light is no longer working? Why else would we scan the skies with furrowed brows, unless our lives were not conditioned to hope?

When that hope is gone, life fades.

Hope is not optimism. Hope is not positive thinking. It is something stronger and frailer, more powerful and more delicate than we could ever imagine. It is rooted, planted into our hearts at birth, but without nurture it is like the succulent that my friend gave me–withered and dead, because I forgot to water it.

I faced days, dark days years ago, when I lived one day at a time, one hour at a time, on feet that dragged heavy. In the evening I would lay my head down and cry until I was exhausted–without knowing why. Now, I can look back and see some reasons for the darkness, but at the time I was only confused and tired, looking at the next day and dreading the thought of facing it. Hope was something I could only dimly make out, and I clung to the remaining threads I had. Friends walked with me. I scoured my Bible. I journaled. I talked with my dad. I held on tight to words that brought light.

And the light returned slowly. There were some physical changes, some emotional changes, some spiritual changes. We are people that are knit together tightly and our physical can affect our spiritual and our spiritual can affect our emotional and all the other ways around. Somehow that hope that flickered began burning brighter and brighter.

Hope hurts. It’s such a ridiculous thing. There have been so many times that I’ve seen my hope knocked to the ground, bruised and bleeding. I usually look at it and say, see I told you!

But I’ve met some people who keep on hoping against reality, who live with unfulfilled dreams, who hope for more despite the pain; those people are some of the most beautiful people I know. They live life with a deep, quiet rest, a trust that speaks of something more inside even while pain is mirrored in their eyes. They have hearts that have been ripped wide open, and perhaps never sewn fully shut. But they are strong and quiet and wise.

And I want to be like that.

These days the sun is bright and the heat is oppressive, but hope comes to us at night when the rain chatters on the roof and the wind gathers up fistfuls of the scent of green. We sleep the sleep of those who remember the days of darkness and rest in the new life that each droplet brings, knowing that the Maker of the seasons is also the Maker of hope.

Random Snapshots

There are a number of things in my mind that I keep on thinking would be fun to write about. However, they don’t really fit into one logical theme, so here are some random snapshots of life in the past month or so.

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  1. We killed a snake. It was in front of the house one afternoon after my sister and I got home. We were positive it was a poisonous snake since it was lifting its head above the ground and spitting. Melissa stood inside the kitchen window and entertained it while the rest of us tried to figure out what to do or hid in the house or climbed onto the small shelter outside the house. Sara (my sister) and I armed ourselves with hoes and sticks, but didn’t dare go close since we were afraid that it was a cobra and would go after us if we attempted to go after it. I called our landlord and he sent over two of his workers. The one man took a look at the snake, grabbed Sara’s pole from her hand and with one fell swoop, knocked the snake on the head. It was an immediate and sure death. He then, with great mirth, draped it around his neck and told us that it was a harmless water snake and he was going to go home and eat it. A few minutes later as we stood still shaking and chattering from the episode, I was distracted by something falling out of a tree beside me. It took a few seconds for it to soak in that it was another snake! I was still holding the hoe and took a swipe at it, managing to chop off the latter third of it before it escaped into the canal. This one ended up being mildly poisonous. It is unnerving for us to discover and kill a snake we believe is poisonous; it is horrifying for us to find two snakes in the space of 15 minutes; and it is entirely and unbelievably traumatic for one of those two snakes to fall from the sky.DSC05794.JPG
  2. I made donuts twice, once for the IGo students and once for Melissa’s farewell. Thumping dough and making good things to eat are both things that bring me into my happy place.
  3. I went out to eat with a gentleman. The ladies in my immediate household jumped to wild conclusions when I told them my plans, and then were crestfallen when I told them that the said gentleman was about three times my senior. I was helping an elderly Korean missionary edit a book of his and then went to dinner with him to discuss the progress of the book. However,  I was struggling with a variety of things on the evening I met him, and God really cared for me in a special way that night. As I walked into the restaurant, which is a restaurant that caters to the foreign population in Chiang Mai, I caught the notes of a familiar song being sung. I was blown away. It was a song of which the lyrics had been “my song” for the past few months, when the breaking inside seemed too much to handle. Normally a Christian song would not have been playing in a place like this. Here are the lyrics:

When the shadow won’t leave
When the battle won’t stop
And every breathe that you breathe
Takes all that you’ve got
When you wonder if you’re always
Gonna feel this way
Hear the Lord of heaven say…

Ch. I will hold you when you’re breaking
Like a father and a friend
And I will carry you through darkness
Till we see the sun again
So rest your head and cry your tears
Know that I am with you here
When you can’t lift that weight
Believe me when I say…
I will

I know you’re feeling overwhelmed
Before the day even begins
But I can see beyond the now
This is not how your story ends
And when you’re at your weakest
Oh I’ve never been more strong
So let me be the one you’re leaning on…

  1. I was leaving for a supper appointment, and needed to take my laptop with me, but I couldn’t find it. I was getting that familiar feeling of some mysterious evil force being infinitely against me. (This feeling occurs usually when I am trying to find something or untangling something messy). Finally, I found it– in the freezer where I left it.
  2. It rained. It really did. Heavenly Corridor_190408_0023.jpg
  3. I went to the heavenly corridor three times in a week. The heavenly corridor is a mountain ridge that looks out over a valley to the left and a valley to the right on Doi Pui mountain. It’s quiet, lonely, beautiful and cool after the heat of Chiang Mai city. I had the privilege of taking my mentoring group there one Tuesday, and the next Saturday at the last minute spurned my homework and drove up again. I sat, cried, journaled, prayed and listened to the silence. And as I did that, some of my anger and grief that had been bottled up somehow came out. The problem with going up the mountain is not wanting to come down. I left, promising myself to be back the next day. I went back the next day with friends.
  4. I said goodbye. To a lot of people. I said goodbye to my mentoring group, I said goodbye to students I had been acquainted with for the past 4-8 months, I said goodbye to my housemate and dear friend, Melissa. I will say goodbye to longtime friends tomorrow, and another family in a month and another friend in July. I said the hardest goodbye to my sister. On the evening Sara left, I left our annual IGo retreat that was going on, and we bought our favorite Thai meal at the Big C market and went to Serene Lake. We watched the sunset and talked and were quiet and played harmonica and made hearts of our hands against the fading sky. And wished it wasn’t our last night together.DSC05649DSC05657.JPG
  5. I had my last class of my second year of school! Now, only an exam and brushing up some final papers!
  6. I climbed into the freezer. It was so hot outside (and inside) and I wanted to see if I could. I could.
  7. In three hours, I get to go meet a longtime friend at the airport. She’ll spend a few weeks with me and we’ll go to Vietnam to see another friend. We’ll drive some mountains and lose ourselves several times and have long, late night talks with each other. And I will rest.

Hope

come

 

                                                                                      down

 

wash

                                                                                                                             away

 

             thirsty                                  dirty

 

                                           dry                                                                  gray

 

              leave                                               green

                                                                                                                                                hope

gleaming

                                           while                                                              each                                                 drop

 

              sprinkles                                                        drips

                                                                                                                                 washes           splashes

 

                                                                        lift

 

                                parched                                                        hearts

heavenward                                   dreaming

               hoping

                                                                                                                                                              dancing

                                                                         hope         spills              on

       cracked lips

drink   in             liquid joy

                                                                                             scent of                                            hope

comes                singing          on                              the                       night breeze

           while           hearts             soak       in          streams        of

                                                                                anointing       life is     hope      and      rain gently       sighs in   every inch                    of my            cracked heart and           every breath    is    joy and           every step of          this       dance       in        the              rain      is a grateful thirsty heart’s praise and tears  mingle in  this rain and I can believe againinhopeandYouaremyhopemyhopeisinYouandYouaretheMakeroftherainandhope

 

photo credit: pixabay.com

Ten Benefits to Wearing a Mask

If asked to describe my week in one word, I would have to use a word I am quickly becoming to hate:

SMOG

When you read the title of this post, your first thought may have been, oh, this is going to be a deeply insightful post about the invisible masks we wear.

It’s not.

This past week has been a long week of waking up every morning to a dirty brown sky covered in ash and PM 2.5 and dust. It’s been a long week of trying to do homework, stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, and balance 29 other things at the same time. It’s been a week of checking AQI levels and seeing numbers over 400.

But I am tired of talking about that. If you want to read more about the smog, go here.

I found that during this week, in order to stay sane, you need to take measures. That means wearing a protective mask where ever you go. It means staying in air conditioner as much as possible. It means not getting too active. It means drinking lots of water. It means intentionally doing things that keep you from getting depressed.

And it also means finding humor in the sm- (that bad word).

So, in doing that, I made a list of ten things that are benefits of wearing a mask (besides helping with pollution).

  1. When you need to do things with people you feel awkward around and both of you are wearing a mask, it feels a bit less awkward.
  2. When you are tired and meet someone and you want to smile but you don’t have the energy to, you can just squint your eyes at each other. They get what you mean.
  3. You can talk to yourself and practice your dramatic presentation for next class while waiting at the stoplight without people thinking that you have gone totally crazy.
  4. You can sing loudly on the way home on your motorbike without being scared of swallowing a mosquito.
  5. Eating snacks is a pain because you have to take off your mask. Therefore you eat less snacks. Which saves on money.
  6. You can stick out your tongue at people or make other expressive faces at them and they never know what you do. This gives high inner satisfaction
  7. You can eat chocolate behind your mask and no one knows that you are eating chocolate.
  8. Wearing a mask and protective sunglasses while driving a 110 cc motorbike can make you feel like you are driving one that is 500 cc. Formidable, powerful and competent. Even when you are feeling tired, helpless and incapable.
  9. It creates a sense of being in a community. I am a mask wearer. You are too. We wear the mask.
  10. And finally, the best part of wearing a mask is taking it off!!

 

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Margins

Written upon finding my phone in a backpack pocket, smeared with chocolate that was forgotten in a deep dark corner; thereupon reflecting on my life, the lack of margin therein and the “if only’s” of life. 

And were the hours in a day

Twenty-five, not twenty-four

And in the folds of my wallet

Hidden only a dollar more

Were the workings of this intellect

Only a faster, sharper power

Then oh world! then would I rise!

Rise to soar, to conquer, to — !

 

But no, no, this life has limits

And lips that so many times

Say yes; while the hidden “no”

Breaks the dollar to be less than dimes.

The hour fails; the sharpest brain changes not

Without the training of the mind;

And the innocent phone still lies forgotten

                           Among the fruits of spaghetti brain,

                                                                          covered in chocolate.

A Year Later: My Baanies Part 2

Just recently I have been reminded of the importance of community. I am by nature not someone who gravitates toward community, but I have learned and am learning how important it is to surround yourself with trustworthy people. These ladies, the Baanies, have taught me so much. Where I fail, they make up for it. My weaknesses are their strengths, my strengths are their weaknesses. Alone we could never do what we do now. They have taught me about friendship, about sharing, about beauty, about strength, about trust. Close to a year ago I blogged a poem about my “baanies.” Click here to read it. Now it’s close to a year later and with several of them leaving, I find myself a bit nostalgic. I don’t post these poems because I think they are masterpieces in the realm of poetry– they’re not. But even if the rhythm and rhyming is stilted and simple, it embodies some of what these ladies bring to life here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

 

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs

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Judi on the left.

Judi went home, she said, “just because”

But we all really know why

There’s a guy named Mike she thinks she likes

Even though she’s back in Chiang Mai;

This Mike, we think, may be ok

But we’re keeping our eyes trained tight:

He’d better be good, and do as he should

Or we will all put him to flight.

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Kim and a Thai friend making cookies

Kim is well and busy as ever

And next week she is saying goodbye

To the tropics of Thailand for the snows of the North

For the handshake instead of the wai;

We’ll miss her heaps and all of her songs

And her passion and kindness as well,

But she’ll shine her light wherever she is

That we can surely foretell.

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Crystal on the left.

Crystal keeps life in this house refreshing

When naps in the bathroom she takes,

She likes to push others into the pool

And finds in her bike long skinny snakes;

She’s got a heart that is made of gold

(So her students would gladly say)

Coffee makes her happy (and of course us too)

She is just fun to be with all day.

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When snakes are around

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Ask Crystal if she enjoys chicken now… :/

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks,

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Melissa on the left

Melissa is as sweet and understanding as ever

And just in the weeks that passed

She bravely called a man to come kill our rats

(Even though her heart beat fast)

Her Thai is better than ever before

But she is going home in May

This makes us wonder who will clean the kitchen

And makes us sadder than we can say.

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Nancy: second to right

Nancy has learned how to speak Thai

And she’s really good at latte art

We all like to listen when she laughs

And hers is a kind, sensitive heart

She drives a funny, yellow Fino

A lot like a bumblebee, I’d say

She zips around corners and weaves through traffic

While we hold on tight and— pray.

 

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A Lawa friend’s wedding

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs.

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Brit on the left

Brit will be an aunt before too long

We’re all happy for her sake

She doesn’t lose her phone as much anymore

And you should see the fires she makes

She’s smart and selfless and loves little kids

And really, she’s almost Thai,

And when we think of her leaving for home

The only thing we want to do — is cry.

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Lori in her happy place

Lori’s still here and her hair is even grayer

And she’s slipped down her stairs a few times

She’s got itchy feet and she dreams of the mountains

And she still makes weird little rhymes

She’ll still be in school for another two years

And then watch out, she’ll be free

To travel away, to teach or to train,

Or be whatever God calls her to be.

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With Thai friends from church

Oh, we live in house that leaks when it rains

And spiders have tea in the cracks

But we are the Baanies so we don’t mind

Cause we’ve got each other’s backs

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giant waterfights
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And of course, we couldn’t forget Diego

When Fireflies Dance

This is the lazy man’s way to blog: recycling homework. While I am not allowed to recycle homework for my classes, I can do it on my blog. Below is a Creative Writing story I wrote this week. Currently, I don’t have time to blog much more than this. This story is fiction. Any names you might recognize are simply because I like to draw from my own experiences and the people around me. It makes the story “me.” And no, my grandma did not suffer from Alzheimers (just to be totally clear). 

I am never quite sure if I like Grandma or not.

When I was a little girl, I thought all grandmas were like this. Until one day I am rolling out cookie dough at Regina’s house, and Regina’s grandmother walks into the kitchen. Once she leaves, I ask Regina who she is.

“Why it’s my grandma!” says Regina.

“You mean she can talk? How can she talk if she is a grandma?”

Regina stares at me in incredulous surprise. “What do you mean? Of course she can talk!”

I don’t know what to say. I just say “oh” in a small voice and tuck it away to think about.

That was a few months ago. Now I know better.

My grandma Emmy lives in a little house with Grandpa John right beside our house. Sometimes she comes over to our house when Grandpa John has to go to town to do errands. Some days I am glad when she comes. On those days, we play doll together. Grandma Emmy dresses up her doll in the nicest clothes, and she is the best at making pretend baby noises. We pretend to be riding in an airplane with our dollies, and even though Grandma Emmy can’t talk, she makes the best airplane noises.

But most days Grandma Emmy isn’t like that. On those days, she walks around the house like she is looking for something. When I was smaller, I would ask her what she was looking for. But now I don’t.

The worse is when she cries. She sits down on the floor beside the toybox and holds her doll tight and cries. I am always scared when that happens, because her crying doesn’t sound like a baby. It is thin and wailing like the lost kitten we found under the pipes in the back of the barn. And I don’t like watching big people cry.

Keith and Amy can remember when Grandma wasn’t like this. When she was like a normal person. They tell stories of the delicious cookies that she made and how she would let them lick out the bowl after she had made cake. She would play checkers with them on winter evenings, and let them make snow candy by pouring maple syrup on snow and letting it harden. She would read books to them, using different voices for different characters, in ways that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

But that all changed one day when she began to forget names and faces. She did funny things like put the silverware in the fridge and the cake in sink. At first it was so funny, Amy says.

But soon Dad started watching her with a furrow on his brow and things just kept getting worse and worse until they were as they were today.

Sometimes when Grandma comes over, I watch her. I like playing with her most of the time, but sometimes I wish I could have a grandma that lets me lick out the bowl after making a cake, and reads scary stories to me at night and plays checkers with me on winter nights.

Sometimes when she is sitting quietly, I go to her. I reach and touch her, just to see if she feels like other people. Her hands are wrinkly like other old people’s hands, like my hands look when I take a bath too long. But her eyes don’t look like other old people’s eyes. They are blue, but when she looks at me, she doesn’t really see me.  Amy says grandma has Al Seimer, but I don’t know who Al Seimer is. I only know Al Miller. After Amy says that, the next time he comes to talk with Dad about the price of hay, I watch him carefully. But he never even talks to grandma, so I don’t think it is him. Perhaps he comes in the night to visit grandma and grandpa.

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I am chasing the last cheerio around in my bowl of milk with my spoon. I like to pretend that the cheerio is a fish and the spoon is a shark. This morning the windows are open and a slight breeze pours in through the window. It is June, my favorite month because it is my birthday month. The shark has almost caught the fish, and I am just ready to ask Mom how many more days until my birthday when grandpa comes panting up the steps.

His white wavy hair sticks up like it does when you rub a balloon over the carpet on winter days and hold it over your hair.

“Grandma.. grandma… there’s something wrong,” he says. “I thought she just wanted to sleep in. But she’s not responding.”

Grandpa’s eyes look worried, afraid. “I think she’s gone.”

I want to look away.  I don’t like to see grandpa upset. Grandpa and dad never get upset.

Dad leaves the table without a word and runs out the door. I can see grandpa follow slowly, his shoulders slumping.

“But mom,” I say, “where did Grandma go?”

My mom hugs me, her long arms drawing me close. “I think she died, Anna. That’s what he means.”

I saw a dead cat once. Amy’s cat. It was lying on the road by the mailbox when Dad went to get the paper one morning. It had probably been hit by a car while it was hunting for mice in the ditch, Dad said. I remember seeing it a little, but I didn’t like to look at it much because it was bloody and messed up. It didn’t look like Whiskers anymore.

But I have never seen a person dead.

Aunt Dorothea comes the next day, but she doesn’t laugh as much as she usually does. Then come Uncle Roger and Aunt Nellie, Aunt MaryLynn and Aunt Lorena, and Aunt Barbie. Mom says they came for the funeral.

Other times, I like when they come. They bring good food and candy, and tell stories all afternoon and evening, and everything is jolly. But this time, nobody seems to pay attention to me. Keith and Amy go outside to help Dad with the barn chores, acting important that they can do something to help. But I am too little.

The morning of the funeral, I wipe the last bit of egg from my bowl using the buttered middle of my toast.

I ask Mom, “Where is Grandma, Mom?”

Mom stops spreading the glaze on the cinnamon rolls like she is surprised and looks at me.

“She went to heaven, Anna.”

“But where is heaven, Mom? And how did she go? Did she want to go?”

Mom waits a long time, and she looks out the window.

Then she speaks. “Anna, I don’t know where heaven is. All I know, is that it’s with Jesus. And Anna, I really don’t know how it works. All I know is that only Grandma’s body is here, but she isn’t inside it anymore.”

“She isn’t inside it anymore? But how could she go without her body? How could she walk?”

Mom comes over across the room and sits down beside me. Her hands grasp mine, hard and strong and a little sticky from the cinnamon roll glaze.

“I really don’t know, child. But I do think she wanted to go.”

“Why, mom? Why would she want to go? How do you know?”

Mom sighs, and she looks out the window again.  “Anna, you remember hearing stories of how Grandma used to be, right? When I was young, she was the best mother I could have asked for. She was kind. She was strong and healthy, and could walk and talk like other people. But then she got sick. Like her mind got sick. And even though we took her to the doctor, he couldn’t help her. But now, she is like she used to be again. Her old mind and body that were sick are left behind and she went to heaven.”

I nod. And swallow the lump in my throat. I feel funny and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  So I pretend to understand. But I don’t really. How could Grandma not be in her body anymore?

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The funeral is long and warm. I see Grandma in the box, but she doesn’t move. I think about what Mom said about Grandma not being here anymore, and wonder what it means. There are so many people. I can’t breathe because there are too many people, and I don’t know where Grandma has gone. I hold Mom’s hand tight, tight the way Grandma used to hold her doll when she cried. I watch them put the dirt over her. How will Grandma go to heaven if there is dirt over her? I don’t want to cry. Big girls like me don’t cry. I try and try and try to hold it back, but suddenly I can’t. Mom picks me up and holds me. I cry till her shoulder is wet. I don’t care anymore about being a big girl.

*********************************************************************************

That evening, I sit on the wooden steps. Mom is making strawberry shortcake for all the aunts and uncles that are still here. They are laughing now.

I like the night like this. It is quiet and safe. I feel tired from crying so hard. I put my feet down on the grass. It is soft and wet. The darkness comes creeping over the lawn, like it has a secret to tell.

Suddenly a little light blinks on, and then off, right above my head. A little bit later another light blinks on and off.

I stand up in wonder. It’s fireflies! I remember last year when the fireflies came! Keith and Amy and I chased them over the lawn and caught them with a net. One time we put them in a jar and watched them fly around.

Their lights blink on and off all over the lawn, above the wet, cool grass. Quickly and quietly, I run into the kitchen and climb onto the counter. I grab an empty glass jar on the shelf. I don’t want Keith and Amy to see me. I don’t know why, but I want this to be my secret.

Out on the lawn, little lanterns blink by the hundreds above the dewy grass. I have never seen so many. I watch, and chase them. They dance over my head. I catch one and watch as it crawls over my hand, its light slowly glimmering on and off. I put it in my jar and screw on the lid. I chase the others. Sometimes I almost have them in my hand and then they flit away. Finally, the jar is filled with tiny lanterns, blinking, flitting. Mom is calling me to come eat strawberry shortcake with the aunts and uncles. I run upstairs with the jar and put it on the windowsill.

After supper is over, mom makes me go to bed. She says I am tired and need to have a long night of sleep. For once I don’t complain. I lie in bed and watch the fireflies in the jar. Amy comes up. I decide to tell her about the fireflies, but she doesn’t really listen. She is getting too grown up and is getting boring. I am never going to grow up.

After she is asleep beside me, I lie still, very still and think. The crickets are singing under the wooden porch again. Outside, a new sliver of a moon is coming up. It looks like a boat that floats crookedly through the sky, like if you would ride in it, you could almost fall out. A few feet on the windowsill is my jar of fireflies.

The fireflies are flying inside the jar. I see them from here. They fly against the glass and bounce off. Silly little fireflies, I think. They don’t know what the glass is. They don’t know that they can’t break the glass. But still they fly against it and bounce off, again and again.

Where do they want to go, I wonder? Why don’t they like it in the jar? I wonder what it would be like to be a firefly. To dance across the lawn at night when the sun goes down and turn my light on and off. I would be the fastest firefly. And I would dance all night long.

I wonder where grandma is. I wonder if she likes fireflies. I wonder if they have fireflies in heaven. I wonder if Grandma caught fireflies and put them in a jar when she was a little girl.

I sit straight up in bed. I look at the fireflies again. They are still flying in the jar, bouncing off the glass, wanting to get out. I wonder if they are scared.

I crawl out of the bed, the floor cool to my bare toes. I tiptoe to the window, trying not to wake Amy. I take the jar off the windowsill and screw off the lid. The window is open and I hold the jar outside. The fireflies pour from the jar, fairylights gleaming. They fly into the night, free from the glass that held them in, dancing and dancing and dancing, until they are lost in the night.

I laugh to myself, a happy laugh.

As I tiptoe back into bed, Amy stirs.

“What are you doing?” she mumbles.

I wrap the covers around me and snuggle down.

“Nothing,” I say.

 

photo credit: Pixabay.com

I Dream of Spring

I dream of spring with shafts of light

Shot through clouds with hope-giving sight;

I walk the freeze of January’s night,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with pale, pink flowers

Lilacs awakened in their scented bowers;

I listen to the shrieking of winter’s powers,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with greening fields

Red suns dying over promised yields;

I trudge through passions that January wields,

But I dream of spring….

 

I dream of spring with blades of grass,

Meadow-sweet winds that through it pass;

I embrace the pain of winter’s blast,

But I dream of spring….

-January 2013

 

I must give an explanation for this poem, since right now I am in no place where I wish the winter were over. Here, our winter consists of cool nights and sunny days, and even though the houses do get chilly because of tile floors and no heat when it hits the 50s, I hate to see every bit of winter leave as February rolls around. 

I came across this poem tonight in some of the ones I had filed away and it brought back so many memories, that I felt like I had to print it, and I realized that many of my readers might be able to resonate. 

The background behind this poem is what makes it such a special one for me. In the spring of 2012, just after a difficult, weary winter in which I was teaching school, I needed to go to school to print off some things one Saturday evening in May, just before the term ended. The sun was setting in the west over a greening wheat field. Spring was glorious that year and the rains we had gotten greened and grew the wheat fields more than normal. I remember standing there, worshiping, watching the sunset over the wheat, and feeling the stress and tension of the past year slipping from my shoulders. My throat still gets a lump when I think of the way that God healed me and grew me that summer, even though it was a painful one in some ways. 

The next winter of 2013 found me again teaching school. It was another challenging year and my mind and heart often went back to that moment I so clearly remember of standing out behind the school, looking over Paul Nisly’s wheat field, watching the sunset and the green and the glory all together. I longed to go back to that point, not just because of the spring, but because of the feeling of having passed one of the most challenging years of my life. January and February 2013 weren’t easy months either, and spring came late that year. I wrote this poem in January of 2013 and even though it is a simple one, for me it always brings back those colors and feelings vividly. 

That is why I am posting about longing for spring from a tropical country. 🙂