Thursday, November 24, 2016

I Have the Power

     I'm watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC as I do every Thanksgiving Day.  (Love the Parade!  Always enjoyable to watch performers Milli Vanilli-ing it down the parade route.)
     The commercials -- the message of them -- bothers me:  the power of science, the power of medicine, the power of the people.  I am saddened at the darkness that has shrouded this world, which causes us to believe that real power comes from created things.  
     Science is awesome.  Medicine is wonderful.  People can do amazing things.
     I had a friend recently tell me how they want to be a better person and then went on to list how.  But does this friend remember that they can't do all of that on their own?
     We are not strong enough.  Stronger together, yes, but we do not have the power within ourselves to move mountains.
     Only God has the power.  It is his Spirit in us that is our strength and our power.  Only El Shaddai (God Almighty), Yahweh Tsebaoth (LORD of hosts) is the True Power to move mountains.

Psalm 18:1-19 NLT

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.  He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.  Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals. He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; great bolts of lightning flashed, and they were confused.  Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me.  They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me.  He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.
(copied from biblegateway.com)

     That is power.

From Psalm 46 NIV

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging....Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.  The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress..... The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(copied from biblegateway.com)

      That is power.

     2 Kings 6:8-23 tells a story of Elisha and his servant.  Elisha, a prophet of God, had angered the king of Aram and the king and his army hunted Elisha down.  Elisha's servant saw the great army of king Aram surrounding the city in which they were staying, and the servant was terrified.  But Elisha said to his servant: "Don't be afraid.  Those with us are more than those with them" (v 16).  Then Elisha prayed that God would open his servant's eyes "'so that he may see.'  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (v 17).
     Following this, Elisha asked that God would close the eyes of his enemies.  And God did; he blinded the army of the king of Aram, and Elisha led them into the camp of enemy territory.  When God opened the eyes of the king of Aram's army, they found themselves captives of their enemies.

     That is power.

      There has never been a mountain that God could not move it.
      My church choir sang, "There's Never Been a Mountain," that I have on CD.  I call it my "battle music," and play it every Monday that I have to prepare payroll submission -- yep, payroll submission day is that stressful.  My power -- our power -- comes from the Lord, God Almighty.  My heart cries for those who don't believe it.








Saturday, October 15, 2016

Prayers for my cousin

Hello all.  My cousin Joshua is following God's call; through the International Mission Board (IMB) he will be travelling to Central Asia in January and will be there for six months.

Click on the link to read a letter from Joshua explaining his heart for obeying God and prayer needs:

Joshua's letter

If you feel led to give a small or big amount towards this missions trip you may:

-- Visit Joshua's GoFundMe page:  Click here

or

-- You may send a check to First Baptist Church, Roanoke
               Make it payable to:                  First Baptist Church
               In the memo line write:           Central Asia
               Attach a sticky note that says: for Joshua Campbell

Father God,  You are our Sovereign God, our King.  You have laid this plan before Joshua, and he is answering.  We trust you to prepare the hearts of him and his fellow worker.  Grant them strength and grant them courage.  They are working for your glory, to be a light in dark places; shine your glory, Father.  Through Joshua and his fellow worker, care for your people; strengthen the relationships that already exist where they're going and help them to build new ones so that the word of your Good News, the word of your glory and sovereignty may spread throughout the nations.  We trust you as Jehovah Jireh - the Lord our Provider.  You have given them this mission, and we trust you will provide for them financially, that the needed funds will be there, as well as spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  You are faithful and great.  In Jesus' name, we pray amen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ginnie & Sebastian: October 26, age 34

Ginnie & Sebastian, the first chapter: CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE for the previous chapter in Ginnie & Sebastian

October 26, Age 34
     
"In the shadows faces appear/ Warriors wearing full metal gear/ All join together one and all/ Before the glorious light."
- Sam Totman & ZP Theart


     I looked down at my husband, his eyes bugging out, mouth opening and closing like a fish, his hands shaking.  He managed to make it to his feet.
     “Seb, are you okay?”  


*     *     *

     We've been married two glorious years, Seb and I, and saved up our money to take this smashing trip to London.  Sebastian's been to England two or three times with his parents and brother visiting distant relatives, but they only spent a day in London, and that was years ago.  So everything new and exciting to me is new and exciting to Sebastian as well.
     Yesterday we walked around the Tower of London.  Got there before ten and immediately headed for the Crown Jewels.  Glad we acted on that tidbit because by the time we exited, there was a line that snaked halfway back to the entrance.  Hours later, I didn't think I'd ever be able to drag my nerd of a husband away from the fortress housing armor and swords and other military paraphernalia.  The memory card for the camera was nearly full.  Emptying all the pictures onto the computer took Sebastian a whole two minutes, and that was just transferring the pictures.  He spent another three hours organizing and labeling them.  I, meanwhile, shook my head and enjoyed the takeaway I'd found near our hotel.  Miraculously I discovered old episodes of Rosemary and Thyme and Midsomer Murders to entertain me.  By that point, I no longer existed in my husband's world.
     Today -- our actual anniversary -- was heaven.  We passed the morning in Regents Park.  The weather, for once, was perfect -- just the right chill and enough sunshine to warrant pulling out our sunglasses.  Hand in hand Sebastian and I entered through the wrought-iron gates pausing on a bench to languor next to the creek inhabited by ducks and black swans and other water birds.  Trees stood with arms upraised toward the sun, and locals jogged along the sidewalk or strolled by pushing prams or casually holding on to a dog's lead.
     My warm, cozy leaning post upset himself and stood.  Reluctantly, I followed, crossing with Sebastian over the bridge and around a bend, taking in the sights of people wrapped up in trendy scarves or sheathed in thick sweaters. 
      Then we came to Queen Mary's Gardens.  I'd never seen so many different shades of roses – all basking in the sunlight, majestic in their full-bloomed splendor. 
      Hours we must have spent among the gardens taking pictures, reposing on the benches, and drinking in the company of one another.
     Later in the day we had reservations for afternoon tea at Claridges, and after the sensational morning being entertained by the serene estate of Regents Park, taking tea at Claridges further soothed us into a state of royalty feeling as if the whole of London was at our beck and call.  We gorged ourselves on finger sandwiches and scones with cream and jam that was so delicious, I could have eaten it with a spoon right out of the jar, all followed by tasty, bite-sized desserts.  The tea itself was lovely too – and they had sugar cubes!  I noticed that none of the diners ever poured the tea.  As Sebastian took hold of his teapot I tried to warn him, but the waiter materialized before us and kindly advised Sebastian that he would serve the tea as Claridges observed the tradition of allowing the tea leaves to steep in the pot in just the right amount of water.  Sebastian sat on his hands during the tea lesson, while I looked upon our server and teacher with interest.  The waiter departed, and Sebastian and I went back to our game of "Name that Tune" trying to guess what song the pianist and violinist were playing.  Oh muzak.
     Once we exited the lavish hotel and stepped back onto the dirty, hard-working streets of London, the feeling of being rulers of the universe passed, and Sebastian and I were once again two ordinary nobodies melting into the hodge podge of the London crowd.

     We're now walking back to our hotel from the theater.  It's rather a long way, especially at night, but Sebastian insists on "a good stretch of the legs" rather than the muggy, stuffy air of the Underground.  Were I by myself, there is no way I'd walk the streets of London alone at night, but my knight in shining armor is here, and that makes me feel invincible.
     There are a few groups of people scattered along the street we're on.  Seb's hands are shoved into the pockets of his coat, his left hand encasing my right.  I study my free hand and wrinkle my nose at the dirt and grime that has become embedded under my fingernails.  I scrubbed them well this morning, but London has a way of clinging to one.
     We turn a corner onto a deserted street.  Where are we?  Why are there no cars?  No buses?  I find myself drifting closer to Sebastian.  Half a block later, I feel Seb wrenched from my side.  I blink at his figure on hands and knees on the sidewalk next to me. 
      Suddenly I'm caught in a vice grip and lugged into an alleyway. 
     Surprise has seemed to close around my throat as I can't find my voice to scream, but I can make out the sounds of Sebastian shouting, I just can't make out the words he's using. 
     The vice gripper releases me, and I fall to my feet so hard that I collapse into a wall.  I whip around searching for Seb; I see a tall dark shadow that is shoved to the concrete.  It's Seb. 
     To my immediate right I see a long piece of hard metal with a wedged head, like a crow bar, but straight, not rounded.  My fingers wrap around the grimy metal and take a firm, knowing grip.
     In seconds my feet form a box, my chin lowers, and I fix a firm stare on the two dark shapes before me.
     The sound of a snicker pricks the cold air but is cut off as I slash at the man, who jumps out of the way, but not without the head of the bar glancing him.  The other reaches out a hand to grab the bar from me, but I duck and pivot, and his hand meets air.  Thwack.  Thrust.  Pivot.  Slash.  Each move meets its target.
     I am slammed against the wall, but, again, I manage to dodge my assailant and swivel around, the bar smashing onto one of the men's shoulders.  He cries out in pain, a hand clutching where the unforgiving metal has sliced through the air to smack down on his shoulder, the impact pulsating through the bar and down my own arm.  Still my stance remains steady.
     I sweep the bar up towards the chin of the first man.  He rocks his head back to avoid contact, but loses his balance and stumbles into the wall.  
     My attack is relentless.  They dive at me, I duck and dodge and pivot and swirl and then glide into another maneuver.
     The only sound is the whip of the bar through the cold night air.
     And then the two men are gone, fled down the dark alley to the safety of the open street.
     I look down at my husband, whose eyes are bugging out; his mouth opens and closes like a fish, and his hands are shaking.  He manages to make it to his feet.
     “Seb, are you okay?”  I drop the bar and wrap my arms around his neck.
     He pushes me back, his whole face quivering.  “That – was Awesome.”
     “What?”
     His hands clench in my hair.  “You were like a badass medieval warrior queen.”
     “Whoa, a queen.”
     “Hell yes!”  He removes his hands from head; they hover in the air between our faces.  "My wife is freaking Zorro," he says in an awed whisper.
     I laugh shakily.  My heart pounds.  My limbs quake.  “I am awesome.  Can you hold me now?  That was terrifying.”
     He grins.  “Ginnie, I love you.”  He kisses me – rapid, delirious kisses, and then one long, deep kiss.  He releases my mouth but still clutches my head.  “You are my favourite person.”
     I smile.
     A sharp breeze hits me, and I look around.  The kiss has left me breathless and forgetting everything.  “Why are we in an alley?”
     He huffs on his nails and buffs them on his shirt.  “Still got it.”
     “You’re such a goober.”

     “So, GW?”
     My head is nestled into the curve of Seb’s shoulder, and my cheek sticks to his jacket.  The vibrations of his voice and the lub-dub of his heart dance through my ear.  His pine scent mingles with his real smell and the sickly, sweet clinging stench of London.
     Our legs poke out in front of us.  We hadn’t even bothered removing our shoes once we arrived back at the hotel, just gathered onto the bed and snuggled up against the pillows.  No television; just one lamp illuminating the room.
     “Yeah, Seb.”
     “Where’d you learn those moves?”  He tries to suppress a smile, but the hum of it flows to me anyway.
     “You sleep like a rock.”  I curl my legs in and pick at the tattering hem of my jeans.
     “That’s an interesting non-sequitor.”
     “A lot of nights, while you’re sleeping, I practice.”
     “That’s not really answering my question.”  When I don’t respond, he continues.  “Where do you practice?  And why not practice while I’m at work?”
     I sigh.  “I taught myself: watching Youtube, reading books, watching videos.  I went to a workshop once.  A lot of LARPers were there, a few people like you who were interested in the history.”
     “Okay.  And why not practice while I’m not at home if you wanted to keep it a secret?”
     “I do other things during the day.  Every once in a while I’ll go at it, but usually just when I’m angry and need to blow off steam.  I have a hard time falling asleep; it helps to burn off energy.”
     “Well, if you need to burn off some energy, I’m all for more sex.  That knocks you right out.”
     I grin and shove him gently.
     “How long has this been going on?”  His breath disturbed the hair on the crown of my head.
     “Since we moved into our house.”
     He laughs.  “And where on earth do you sneak off to practice?”  He traces my hand, front and back, with his calloused fingers.
     “There’s an old bomb shelter under our back yard.”
     He startles.  “What?”
     “The entrance is in our kitchen.”
     He doesn’t respond.
     “You can pull the end cabinet out from the wall.  It’s not attached.  Behind it is a concealed panel that opens to a staircase.  I don’t remember how I found it, but there was a light and some empty shelves.”
     “I don’t believe it – you even have a lair.  I’m filthy jealous and really hot for you right now.”
     I wrap my arms around him and dig my nose into his side.
     “My own, Xena, warrior princess.”
     “Queen.”
     “Yeah.  Badass warrior queen.  Mine all mine.”
     The school girl in me titters, and I bite my lip.  Sebastian’s smile sings.
     “So, how good are you?”
     “Saved your butt, didn’t I?”
     “Motherfrickin’ queen.”
     And his smile bursts into symphony.
     

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ginnie & Sebastian: November 30, ages 31-32

Ginnie & Sebastian, the first chapter: CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE for the previous chapter of Ginnie & Sebastian

November 30, age 31, turning 32     

"Come in, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm."
-- Bob Dylan

     It’s been hard being “just friends” with Sebastian Haepst.  My “idea” of him wasn’t too far from reality.  But the “power couple,” as his musician friends call Sebastian and Gwen, seem still to be going strong.

     Although, about a month ago, Sebastian was driving me home after watching Magnusson play at Potter’s House; I didn’t live far from Seb.  Gwen was out of town, on vacation with her family.
     “Ginnie, can I ask you something?”
     My feet were on the dashboard, and my arms were tucked around me.  He failed to notice I was cold.
     “It’s about Gwen and me.”
     Damn. 
     “She’s great.”
     My heart stopped. 
     “There’s nothing wrong with Gwen.”
     My ears perked. 
     “She’s beautiful and smart and funny.”
     I held my breath.
     “She’s great.”  He paused.
     “Yep, she’s great,” I mimicked.  “So…?  What’s the problem?”
     “We’ve been fighting a lot.  And…I don’t know.”
     “Okay.  What have you been fighting about?”
     “Little things.  Stupid little things.  She got mad at how I ate my sandwich the other day.  And then I argued with her over the best way to get somewhere.  Just things that don’t matter.”
     I rubbed my cheek.  My window had fogged, so I cleared it with the sleeve of my bomber jacket.  On the other side of the glass, the yellow line snaked back and forth.  I rolled my eyes to the ceiling of the car.
     “From what I can see,” I said, “you two are good for each other.  She cares for you, yeah?”
     A beat.  “Yeah.”
     “Does she make you want to be a better person?”
     He threw me a withering look.  “Yeah, guess so.”
     “You guess so?”
     “If I knew you were gonna get hokey about it….”  He grinned.
     “Maybe.  But – do you like yourself when you’re with her?”
     “Sometimes.”  He wiped at his nose.
     “More times than not?”
     Sighed.  “Yeah.”
     “Do you love each other?  And I don’t mean, are you in love with each other.  I mean, do you genuinely love each other?”
     He quirked his lips.  “What’s the difference?”
     I wormed my hands into the pockets of my jacket and studied the soft denim of my jeans – the threads running diagonally, stretched over my knees.  “Being in love is a feeling.  Love is something you do.  Like, even if you’re mad at someone, you still hold an umbrella over her head when it’s raining.  Or fixing her a to-go cup of coffee when she’s running late.”
     A warm smile spread over his face --
     
     this was the first time I heard his smile, the hum that no one else believes I hear, though I didn’t realize it at the time --

     I swallowed hard.
     “Yeah.  Gwen and I love each other.”
     I smashed my lips together, nodded and twisted my head to watch the houses pass.

     Tonight I sit next to Seb in the coffee shop; he and I are hanging out with some friends.  Gwen isn’t here.  “She’s working late tonight.  Her office has some sort of charity thing this week.  She wanted to start setting up for that,” Seb says.
     I sit next to Sebastian because I don’t know the other people as well, and none of the Magnussons are here.  Sebastian smells of pine.  His long hands lay clasped in his lap and his torso curves against the back of his chair, his waist meeting the lip of the small seat.  One ankle is crossed casually over the opposite knee.  He and one of the other guys are discussing famous musicians or maybe they have moved on to swords, but at one point in this conversation, Seb’s eyebrows draw together, his lips purse and he cocks his head.
     I gasp audibly.
     “What?” Sebastian turns to me with a wary smile, while the other guy joins another conversation going on at the table.
     “Nothing.”  Seb isn’t buying that.  “I just had an ‘I see the boy I knew in the man that stands before me’ moment.”
     “Okay, one – I love that movie.  But don't tell anyone.  And two – what are you talking about?”
     I sigh and grip the sides of my seat.  “It’s my favorite movie,” I say feeling the heat pinking the skin of my neck.  “And: you still make that face.  It’s that look you made when you were a kid that said, ‘I’m pretty sure I’m right, but I don’t want to make you feel bad for being wrong.’  I remember that look very well.”
     He makes the face again, and I laugh.
     “That’s it.”  
     I pull my buzzing phone from my pocket.  The caller id flashes Helena Haepst; she is probably calling about the birthday party for her sister I am helping her plan.  “Your mom,” I say to Sebastian.
     “I’m not here,” he says.  “Not dragging me into that party planning mess.”
     I snort before answering.
     “Hey, Ginnie.”  Helena’s voice is at a higher pitch.  “Is Sebastian with you?”
     “Yeah.  What’s up?”
     “It’s John,” she says.  There is a pause, empty air.  “He’s had a seizure.  The doctor doesn’t know what caused it.  He’s fairly stable now,” her voice shakes at the end, “but they’ve admitted him to ICU.  I can’t seem to get through to Seb on his phone.”
     “Okay.  Hold on.”
     I hold the phone in my hand covering the mouthpiece.
     “Seb.”  I lean closer to him.  “Your mom’s been trying to get hold of you.”
     He feels in his pockets.  “Damn.  Must have left my phone at home."  He seems more upset about this fact than the situation warrants.  "What’s she need?”
     I wrestle with whether or not to tell him or let his mom give him the news regarding his father.  Back and forth I consider the choices.  One.  The other.  Tell him.  It’s a family matter, so keep it that way.  Hearing bad news in person is better than hearing it over the phone.
     “Your dad’s in the hospital.  He had a seizure.  They don’t know what caused it, but they have him in ICU.”
     Trying to make his fingers behave, Sebastian almost drops the phone I hand him on the floor.
     “Mom?”
     I watch as he takes in everything his mom tells him.  His face is still.  “Okay,” he says finally.         “I’m coming.  I’ll be fine, promise.”  He slips my phone into his pocket.
     “Seb.”
     “Sorry, guys.  Gotta go.”  He relays the short version to the group.
     Everyone gives their well wishes as Sebastian hurries for the door, key in hand.
     I follow him.  “Sebastian.”
     He turns, a distant expression on his face.
     “You have my phone.”
     “Oh.  Sorry,” he says and hands it back.
     I offer to drive him.  His dark blue eyes scan my face before he agrees.  
     It is a quiet drive with nothing but the sounds of Eddie Vedder playing.  I grip the steering wheel, and then relax my arms and hands.  I fight to breath normally.  To slow my mind.
     “I’ll sit in the waiting room,” I say once I have parked.  “In case someone needs a ride.”
     Sebastian says nothing, only stares at the dashboard.
     “Do you want me to call Gwen?  Have her here?”
     He shakes his head solemnly.  “Gwen and I aren’t really together anymore.  She’s been seeing Dan.”
     “As in your roommate?”
     “Not my roommate much longer.”  He glances at me out of the corner of his eye.
     I take a sudden interest in the street lamp that stands at the head of the car.  A light rain falls through the straining beam of orange-y light.  My car smells of old cheeseburgers; I had forgotten to toss the trash from lunch with Beth and her kids the day before.
     “Dan’s not really to blame.  Gwen and I don’t really bring out the best in each other anymore.” 
Sebastian rubs his hands together, and before I can talk myself out of it, I take hold of one.
     “Whatever we find up there,” I say, “I’ve got your back.  You ready?”
     “Okay.”  He frees his hand and then tugs on the door handle.
     I splash after Seb, following his black Chuck Taylors.  I am wearing a modest ruby ring on my right hand, which I slip to the ring finger of my left.  The rain now pounds on the pavement.
     A slate stone entry leads to a blue and gold tiled walkway surrounded on either side by well-kept carpet.  Behind a massive U-shaped desk sits a suited receptionist furiously typing things into a computer and answering a phone.
     Both Sebastian and I have our hands jammed into our pockets as we step into the elevator.  Cold rivulets from my rain-soaked hair drip down my neck.  Seb wipes the drops from his face with the inside of his coat.  Two nurses enter at the second floor.  One makes a joke, and both laugh.  At the ICU floor, the elevator doors open to a pristine-white nurses’ station.  A couple nurses are behind the desk making notes and studying charts.
     “This way,” Seb says.
     Our wet shoes squeak on the floor.  Machines whir and beep, and hushed whispers come from rooms with open doors.  The scent of rubbing alcohol assaults my nose and grazes along my tongue.  I try breathing only through my mouth, but it burns, so instead I attempt breathing without smelling.
     Seb finds his father’s room and nearly collides with a doctor exiting.
     “Are you family?” she says when Sebastian inquires about John Haepst.
     “I’m his son,” Seb says, “but--.”
     “His fiancĂ©.”  I point to Sebastian with my left hand.
     She nods taking note of the ring.  “Your mother is sitting with him now.  He’s sleeping.”
     “I’ll just go in,” I say excusing myself.  “Helena?”
     Her curly brown head sticks out of John’s coat.  Her fair English skin has lost all its color, and her brown eyes loom.  Yet even as she is, even under the harsh fluorescent light, even under such horrid circumstances, she is beautiful.
     She manages a smile when she sees me.  “How’d you get in here?”
     I show her my hand now adorned with the ruby ring and wink conspiratorially .  “Pulled a fast one.”
     I meet her quick hug, and then her boy walks into the room.
     “Mom?”  Sebastian leans down a little allowing his mother to wrap her arms around his neck.  “Mom, what happened?”
     I find a cushioned fold out chair in a shadowed corner and pull it closer to the bed.
     John Haepst is a big man, six foot two and stocky.  Full of life is John, but seeing him with tubes and wires connected to his body, his silhouette beneath the thin sheet and white blanket, his hands not quite the same color of life and work -- he looks delicate.
     And, suddenly, I know, as I just know things sometimes.
     Helena’s fair hand slides beneath her husband’s, palm to palm.  His lids open revealing eyes blue like Sebastian’s.  John's eyelashes though are normal.  Seb must have gotten his criminally long eyelashes from some other distant relative.
     “John dear.”
     “Hello, beautiful.  What the hell did I do this time?”
     “Papa?”
     “Hey, son.  Okay?”
      I excuse myself to find the waiting room.
     “Ginnie,” Sebastian stops me at the door.
     I grip the door frame.  The sickly, sweet smell lays in a thin layer just below the thick layer of freezing air.  My jaw aches; I gently separate my clenched jaws and stare at Sebastian’s waist; just past him, Helena and John speak softly, the light behind the bed shining down upon them.  The same light illuminates Sebastian’s head when I look up at his face.  If only I can make it to my car, I will be okay.
     “Please don’t go.”
     Air flows in and out of my body again.  My heart picks up to its normal rhythm, returns from the slow, pounding that it was.
     Sebastian’s eyes squint, and his lips purse.  He looks away.
     “Seb.”  I take hold of his shoulders.  “He’s going to be okay.  I’m not just saying that,” I say when he starts shaking his head.  “I know.  Look at me.”  His face is still turned down, but his gaze locks on to mine.  “Your dad is going to be fine.”
     “How do you know?”
     I shrug.  “I just know.”
     Sebastian resumes his normal, everyday face for the moment.  We sit with his parents for a few minutes or a few hours.  Then Helena orders Seb home.  Elliott, his brother, will be here the next morning.
     In the elevator, I push the button for the ground level.  There is a muttering.  I glance at Sebastian.
     “Can I hold your hand?” he says louder, his voice pushing past a lump in his throat.
     I quirk my lips in thought.  “I don’t know.  Can you?”  I hold out an open hand for him, the quirk in my lips sliding into a smirk.
     He returns a small smile and envelopes my small hand in his, his thumb glancing my skin before forming around the shape of my knuckles.
     “Geez, you’re freezing,” he says.
     “I swear, hospitals are like meat lockers.  Must want to keep the specimens fresh.”
     “Good lord.”  He tucks the captured hand under his armpit.
     I giggle.  “What are you doing?”
     “Seriously, have you felt your hands?  How are you still moving and talking?  Here, give me the other one.”  He swipes my other hand from my pocket and encloses it in both of his blowing into the opening he’s created.
     “’I’ll n-n-never let go, Jack.  I’ll never let go.’”
     “Shut up,” he says rolling his eyes and releasing the hand he’d just been heating with his breath.  He replaces the hand trapped under his arm back into the embrace of his own hand.  “You try to do something nice for someone….”
     I snicker.
     Hand in hand we jog to my car.  Sebastian opens my door for me before going around to his own side, his shoulders hunched forward and head bent against the rain.
     “Home, Charles?” I say in a mock British accent.
     Sebastian pauses wiping his face with a towel I keep stashed in my car.
     Of course, the matter of Gwendolyn and Dan.
     “Or, I have a nice couch?  Enough blankets to cover a boat load of people, and if you’re very good, maybe some coffee or hot chocolate.”
     He laughs a little.  “Okay, thanks.”
     The twenty minute drive to my house is eternal.  I hit every red light.  The car crawls through a road reduced to one lane due to a fender bender.  The whole time my stomach twists in knots.  It’s no big deal, I tell myself.  He’s only sleeping on your couch.  Then my thoughts travel to supplies.  Do I even have coffee or hot chocolate?  What about breakfast?  Cereal.  Yes, I have cereal.  But is the milk still good?  Is there even enough left for one bowl?
     “Penny for your thoughts?”
     I just smile and shake my head waving the question away with a hand.
     Finally, we make it to my house.
     Sebastian places himself on the middle seat of the couch, his wet coat soaking the cushions.  I advise him where the multitude of blankets are and pick out a couple of choice ones that will cover his long frame.  I run to the hall closet and grab an unused toothbrush and a tube of paste.
     “Do you wear contacts?” I call out to him.  Yes.  Grab a travel-sized bottle of solution and a container.  Put all of these toiletries in the guest bathroom.  “Towels and rags are beneath the sink.  Body wa-soap, shampoo and stuff in the shower.  Need a glass of water?” 
     My verbal diarrhea halts.
     Sebastian is slumped on the couch staring at the carpet. 
     I slide onto the seat beside him and take his hand.  “That was really scary,” I say.
     Tears plummet down his cheeks.  Then he turns to me and pulls me to himself leaning his head into the crevice between my neck and shoulder, his hands wrapping about my back clinging to my sides.  I slide my arms around him and squeeze as tightly as I can.  
     I can feel my face chapping.

CLICK HERE for the next chapter in Ginnie & Sebastian
     

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prayers Bouncing off the Ceiling

I've heard and read often the phrase "prayers bouncing off the ceiling."  I've been there.

I remember when I was going through depression in high school, the nights lying in bed, the room dark, crying out to God but feeling like those prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.  I remember those nights feeling like God was in the next room, and I was screaming for him to help me, and it felt like he could neither hear me nor, scarier still, could he get to me.

However, the Holy Spirit filled me with the power to cling to the knowledge, the truth, that my prayers weren't bouncing off the ceiling, that God could hear me and was with me.  It was during the depression I suffered in high school that I learned that sometimes I, we have to live by what we know and not by what we feel; following our hearts is not good advice.  Sometimes our hearts lie; sometimes our hearts are stupid.

When my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, I have to cling to the knowledge of who God is.  He is El Roi -- the God who sees us, and he is Emmanuel -- God with us.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.  Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above."  -- "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

Those times when one's prayers are bouncing off the ceiling can be terrifying, but we have no need to fear.  No matter how far we wander from the path, we are his, marked with the King's seal.  We are his, safe in his hand.  2 Corinthians 1:22 (NIV) says, "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."  He set his seal of ownership on us; we are under his banner; we are marked with his sigil.  In Isaiah 43:1 God says, "Fear not for I have redeemed you.  I have summoned you by name.  You are mine."

Those nights (and days) of having to cling to who God is were scary and hard, but I am his.  We are his.  He is Jehovah Nissi -- the Lord is our banner.  There is nowhere we can go that he is not with us.  He sees us in our pain and suffering as well as our happy times, and he knows, and there is no where we can go that he is not already there.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ginnie & Sebastian: October 1, age 30

  Ginnie & Sebastian, the first chapter:  CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE for the previous chapter of Ginnie & Sebastian  

October 1, age 30

"You will never know/ The one who loves you so/ Cause you don't know me."
-- Cindy Walker

     Christopher Magnusson – Mudskunk.
     The whole time, he knew...
     
     “Hey GW, come meet August and me,” he said.
     It's the day after the Local Band Review.  I still can't believe he threw me on the stage, and I still can't believe I didn't throw up.  I wasn't sure I'd had enough high-sugared tea this morning to go out into the world.
     “Christine will be there, of course.  August and me are meeting up with some old musician friends.”
     “Why?”
     “Because we like hanging out together.”
     I sighed.  “No, why do you want me to come?”
     “Are you busy?”
     “As a matter of fact – no.  I’m having a girl’s night with my friend Beth, but, unfortunately, I’m not busy right now.”
     “Will try not to take offense at that, and I will see you in an hour,” and he gave me the name of the restaurant.
     I put on what Beth dubbed my “trauma-armor.”  Some people prefer to wear sweats and hoodies the day after a traumatic event; I prefer gray Chucks, a black t-shirt and a leather bomber jacket that had belonged to a cousin. 
     “Bit overkill with the glasses,” Beth remarked the first time she saw this outfit, but the aviators help.  One pleasant memory salvaged from a mostly unremarkable childhood was my dad wearing aviators religiously.
     At the restaurant, August holds up a hand.  I sit deliberately in the chair before taking in the faces around the table.  Chris and Christine are on one side of me while August sits on the other.  And across from me – the tall, dark stranger from the night before, with his arm around his Natalie Wood look-alike girlfriend.
     “That was you last night, yeah?" I say to the stranger across from me.  "The one Kyle and I ran into, literally.”
     “That was me.  You knocked me right off my feet.”  He grins, and the school girl within me twitters.  The girlfriend flashes a fake smile.
     Chris makes introductions around the table, reaching last the handsome stranger across from me.
     “And this is Sebastian Haepst and his lady Gwendolyn Motts.”  All of my insides have disappeared.
     Chris, you dirty, filthy, rat mudskunk.  Be cool, GW.
     “This is Ginnie Wood.  If you’re nice, she may let you call her GW.”
     “Gin Wood?” Sebastian says.
     August and “Mudskunk” exchange a look and get ready to crawl under the table for cover.  No one calls me "Gin."
     “No.  Well, I was at one time, but, no.  I’m Ginnie or GW now.”
     The boys relax.
     “It is you.  When they said your name last night, on stage, I thought it was familiar.”
     I feign a quizzical look.  “Sebastian Haepst…from Hardy Road Elementary?”
     “Yeah.”
     “Wow.  How the heck are ya?  What happened to you?”
     His family moved a lot.  After he’d completed first grade, they moved for the third time, and they’d moved one more time before finally settling in the house where his parents still live.  Though his older brother, Elliott, still moves around a lot, Sebastian was thrilled to lay roots somewhere.
     While Sebastian recounts this story, his ridiculously pretty girlfriend shifts to lean closer to him, rests her hand on his arm and interjects a few comments.
     Gwendolyn.  Or Gwen, which is what people around the table call her.  Horrible name, poor child.  Though I’d never been fond of the name Gwen, it is kind of medieval, like a King Arthur or Robin Hood character.  Sebastian had been seriously into knights and dragons and swords and castles when we were kids.  I guess he still is.
     The Magnusson cousins have been friends with Seb since college, when, as a bassist, he had played with them every now and then.  So Chris has been friends with Seb since college, which means Christine knew Seb since Chris’ college days.  Et tu, Christine?
     Someone else pulls Sebastian into a new conversation.
     Sebastian and Gwen act like any close couple.  There isn’t anything off, yet, I can’t put my finger on it, but I get the feeling they no longer make each other happy.
     Members of the table slowly leave for other engagements.
     “It was good meeting you again, Ginnie.”
     Sebastian and Gwen exit, his arm over her shoulder and hers around his waist, smiling and lost in their own conversation.
     Only the Magnussons and I remain standing at the front of the restaurant.  August splits leaving “Mudskunk” and his wife to wither beneath my glare.
    “What?” Chris says.  Christine remains silent, but then, she usually allows her husband to take lead in conversation.
     “You know him," I say.  "You force that story out of me, I confess his name, and you know him and said nothing.”
     Chris stares blankly at me.
     “You know Sebastian Haepst,” I whisper, almost in a hiss, “but you don’t bother saying you know him?”
     “What are you talking about?”
     I slap my thigh.  “I told you he is my ideal.”  So it was three years ago I had told Chris that Sebastian Haepst is my ideal, but still, the whole time?
     “Oh, that conversation.”  He chuckles.  “I didn’t know he was the same guy.”
     I scoff and turn to exit saying “Mudskunk” under my breath.
     “What is a mudskunk?” Chris says.
     “It, apparently, was the ugliest name my four-year-old self could come up with to call my mother when I was mad at her.”
     I turn abruptly on my heel to face him.
     “Woah, GW.  Are you mad?”
     “’Didn’t know if he was the same guy’?  How many Sebastian Haepst’s have you heard of?  How many Sebastian’s for that matter?”
     “Yeah, well, the whole story was weird.  Okay?  I didn’t want to say anything, but it’s weird.”
     “It’s not weird, it’s roman--.”
     Christine is staring hard at the “Please seat yourself” sign.
     “Oh fine,” I say and shove the aviators on my face.
     Chris snickers.  “Later, Gin.”
     “Such a punk,” I say before pushing open the door and leaving.

     I am at Beth’s recalling the story to her while she places a jar in front of six-month-old Emma and a plate of food in front of three-year-old Paul.
     My best friend knows about my “If ever I were to marry someone” thing.
     “Wow, so you actually met him again after all these years?  That’s funny.  Paul, you throw more peas and no Daniel Tiger after dinner.  Okay, Em, here we go,” and Beth swoops a spoonful of mushy something claiming to be green beans into Emma’s mouth.
     “How are you not appalled?  It’s awful?”
     “What, was he a jerk?  Justin!  I thought it was just the idea of him you were into anyway.  Justin!  Can you grab my sweater on your way down?  It’s on the foot of the bed!”
     “No, he’s fine.  I meant Chris having known him the whole time and not telling me.”
     “Oh.  Yeah.  Well, maybe he doesn’t know him that well.  Thanks, sweets.  Okay, you finish this.”  She stands and hands her husband, Justin, the jar of green mush.  “And if Paul throws peas again, no Daniel Tiger.  Mommy loves you.  Bye, sweets.”
     “They’ve been friends since college.”
     “What movie are we seeing again?”
     “Oh, fine.”


CLICK HERE for the next chapter of Ginnie & Sebastian

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Journey of Isaiah 12:2

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation."
-- Isaiah 12:2 (NIV)

I like how within two or three lines an entire journey is taken.  That's very much like our lives to God, is it not, but a mere breath?  As I read this verse to form it into a prayer, I wondered at the first line and the last line.  At first glance they say the same thing, but actually reading the verse, they are not the same.

The author of this verse begins with head knowledge but not heart knowledge:  "Surely God is my salvation."  He goes on to say that because of this head knowledge, "I will trust" (because I know God is my salvation); I will "not be afraid" (because I know God is my salvation).

Then his head knowledge expands going deeper to discover that Jehovah Majesty -- the One who created the heavens and earth and everything in them, who places each of the billion-trillion-zillion stars and planets and so forth in the sky -- who has the power to crush the author with just a word, a mere breath, this great God is on the author's side:  "The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense."

And by living with faith the head knowledge ("Surely God is my salvation") of who God is has become heart knowledge:  "he has become my salvation."

Beautiful.  All that long journey in but two or three lines.

Thank you, Father, for being true and faithful during all the times I had to struggle clinging to head knowledge.  Thank you for being my Good Shepherd, the Great Physician and King of kings: for your guidance, protection and provision; your healing; and your faithful sovereignty and leadership.  Because of who you are, I will trust and not be afraid.  Unfathomably, Jehovah, you are my strength and my defense.  Yes, you have become my salvation.  In Jesus' name, I pray amen.