Friday, November 23, 2007

Man of the House

I don't have words to express my emotions about yesterday. Anxiety. An ounce of dread. In the twelve months since last Thanksgiving, life has changed dramatically. I wasn't sure I was prepared. I wasn't sure any of us would know how to handle ourselves and each other.

We always knew as we grew older that traditions would change. We would make new ones, old ones would dissolve, as we grew out of what we were and into who we are. This year, some of us are taller. Some of us have more lines on our faces, new ink on our skin, new experiences and more wisdom than we did on Thanksgiving of 2006.

Half of the Vaughan family is halfway across the country. The part of the family that balances out the male:female ratio. The beautiful limb of the family tree that will eventually carry on the family name. And I miss them. I miss Phil and his sarcasm, his teasing and tickling (although it's been years since he's tickled me enough to make me fall to the ground). I miss conversations with Donna, especially since my trip to their territory almost four months ago. Austin's voice has changed and I have to look up at him when he stands beside me. Carter is still learning who he is... and my heart resonates with his. It will be almost 2008 before we see them again. And I felt their absense yesterday.

We have a new addition. Somehow, the transition was seamless. A beautiful blonde who has stolen my handsome uncle's heart... she slipped in, quiet and unassuming. And before I knew it, she was sitting beside me on the floor while Olivia played with our hair. It is a special thing to be invited to a Vaughan holiday. We would have missed her had she not come. She's a keeper.

Dad had to work. There was a two hour window filled with picture taking, instructions, sandwiches, and Ray Charles. Later, I will realize that was what was missing yesterday. The piano was not played... and when Dad left, part of the holiday left with him.

But it was you who saved the day. I remember the years when you had plans of your own; "places to be", reasons to sneak out as soon as the food was eaten. You had your own time, and we loved you dearly. But back then, we had no idea who you were. The "cool" uncle? Some time between November of 2006 and yesterday, something changed. And I got to Severn Way and you were already there.

I watched you cook, scold the dog, love on Grandmom. I watched you hug a beautiful young woman when she walked in the door... I saw the look in your eyes when you talked to her. And then you sat down at the head of the table. In Granddad's seat. A sacred seat that, even on a normal day, few would dare to sit in. The man you are is no longer a stranger to me. There were moments when you sounded like Phil, moved like Dad, looked like Kat... but in reality, you were simply the man of the house. Filling the role of uncle, brother, boyfriend, youngest son... the only son who could really make it home for the holidays.

You had big shoes to fill yesterday.

I don't know what I would have done without you. When it seems like there are so few good men left in this world, I only have to think of you.

I left, thinking about next Thanksgiving, knowing that things would continue to change. We will continue to get older, wider, taller, wiser, hardened and softened and seasoned by life. Relationships will develop, our family will get larger.

And so, despite that longing in my heart for snow flurries, having to dodge arrows and bullets shot from slingshots, and the sound of the piano, played by two brothers...

I am thankful for you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Empty Places

When we were all younger, six Vaughans living under one roof in Winchester, we would spend a few nights a week eating dinner together. The littlest, Abby, was a picky eater. We used to tease her, saying if she ate any more chicken, she'd grow wings. But every night after dinner, Dad would tell her to stand up and he would poke her belly. "Do you have any empty places?"

This weekend, I drew a new analogy about my Father God. As thirty hours ticked by, sometimes whizzed by, and I felt the growling of my stomach and the weakness in my head, I saw Him lean over me."Do you have any empty places?"

I swear I could feel Him poking my belly.

"Yes, Father... too many."

"Let Me fill them."

We must let Him fill your empty places. The places that no amount of food or drink can fill... the holes in our hearts and the hidden crevices of our souls. Let Him come, pouring His grace all over us, until we are overflowing.

And so, after thirty hours, I understand a new ritual. The discipline of attaching a physical hunger to a spiritual one. Understanding the level of need and still... being so blessed. May your cup run over tonight.

May your empty places be filled.

He is enough.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Legal Pad Notes (pt.3)

You'll get sick of these by the time I'm done. But this is what happens when you work in a cubicle so far away from the windows... your mind has to find something to keep it alive... so I brainstorm. I brainstorm and then tear the page out of my notebook and bring it with me. And by the time I sit down to write it all out (so I don't lose it... all ideas are precious), the paper is tattered and torn. It's a system.
Psalters. Psalms. Poor wayfaring strangers. Gypsies. The way I resonate with them cannot be put into words.
Today is my half-birthday. The anniversay of meeting a best friend. Today is three years from then. From that one night. Of promises and assurances. Three jam-packed years of loving, growing up, growing apart, leaving, stretching, hurting, finding, seeking, seeing...
I need to find a VW van/bus. We need a diesel engine so we can convert it to vegetable oil. I saw one driving down New Circle this morning... I'm taking it as a sign.
Bad Company, "Burning Sky".
Upper room.
My heart is an empty room... I'm starting new. You do not put new wine in an old wineskin. I cannot make this new theology (dare I call it that...) fit into my old lifestyle.
It is not easy. God bless us

Legal Pad Notes (pt.2)

Church. (Immediately, you see a steeple.)
The church, I think as it was originally intended, was meant to be an army. A rescue team (think rescue dogs and parachutes and dangerous missions where you fight the elements and save lives). In the same breath, the Church is called to be a family. To be a comfort, a provider, a lover. I think we've hardened the spirit of the church with mortar and brick... caged up a beast that was supposed to be as dangerous and as good as the Lion himself. We've become lazy... immobile, with a concrete foundation. We are too clean, too designed, too safe.
My soul is wrenched every time I drive by and the lights of a sanctuary are dark and the doors are padlocked.The Church is flesh, not brick.
What do we call ourselves then? Tell me.
"We get it wrong when it becomes anything but love, and simply doing life together."I feel a beautiful desperation, a yearning that is foreign to me. I feel myself, my heart, stretching and reaching... just to touch Him."Love is always relevant."
Read Hosea. Redeeming Love.
Our best, most spiritual, organic, blessed experiencs usually do not take place in a pew. They happen over coffee, double cheeseburgers, while smoking on the front porch, while buttering bread, sitting around campfires, over fried chicken.
We've tried to replicate, manufacture and treat what was once "Christianity". Consequently, what was once the church has turned into little more than body, brains, and soul or heart. A little like the Tin Man.
"Don't forget to be in love."
It all seems too much right now.
Just breathe.


I got away this weekend.
This was one of the first times since my trip to Colorado that I've been able to be outdoors for long amounts of time.
So about thirteen of us escaped out to a farm in Montgomery County.
Caleb and I went grocery shopping the night before to prepare. Who knew the feeding college students would feel like feeding the 5,000?
The weekend was full of campfires and dying ATVs and low, November temperatures. Saturday morning we woke up to a cabin that was 50-some degrees... so we all piled onto the couch and stayed there for a while, cuddled up together, trying to keep warm.
We went on a long hike on Saturday. It might not have taken so long if we hadn't decided to try a short cut home. Which consequently led us onto another farmer's property beside a landfill, only to be greeted by mad coon dogs and unidentified, white, flying birds (CHICKENS!).
The sky was full of thousands of stars every night. And a few times I would stop and stand very still... and hear nothing. Silence. Do you know what quiet sounds like? You probably haven't heard it in a while. It's deafening.
There was nothing spectacular about the weekend. No great epiphanies.
Except for when I prayed to feel God's presence...
And the wind blew.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mirrors in the Dark

There is nothing funny about fear.
I got to thinking about this because of Halloween.
Why people pay for other people to scare them to death...
There's nothing funny about fear.
There's something hilarious about people's reactions due to fear.
There's something incredibly funny about what people are afraid OF.
But that electric terror that courses through your veins... no, man, that's not funny.

And so there is a man in my life who wrote about fear last night. He asked us what it is that we fear. My list? 1) Failure. 2)Being lost. 3). Mirrors in the dark. 4) Security alarms. 5)Being alone. 6). Myself.

Myself? Even as I wrote that, I wondered where it came from. And even as I wondered, I got the answer. I am afraid, because most of the time I do not understand myself. I don't understand why I do what I do, or say what I say, or feel what I feel. I don't understand this radical transformation that is taking place...

I am afraid that when it comes down to the wire, the weak part of my soul will go into overdrive. They say when we are put to the test, we more often than not revert back to what we know.

When Jesus extends his hand and gives me my instructions...

My gut reaction is not going to be: "Well, of course, Christ. I've always wanted to live below my means, love beyond my ability, and I don't mind being dirty and cold. Sure, I don't mind if people hate me or scorn me. I'll love them anyway, no problem."

Yeah, right.

Why do I fear myself? Much for the same reason I am afraid of mirrors in the dark. More often than not, I get a sudden glimpse at my reflection... and don't recognize myself. And then I thought of this quote... which I am sure that some of you have heard before. But as you read it, I want you to think about this. Are you afraid of yoursef? If your answer is yes like mine, why? This fear I am feeling is not a funny thing. But it could be such a good thing... signifying change and transformation that is not my own doing.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, georgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually who are we not to be? You are the child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Legal Pad Notes (pt.1)

Just some thoughts that went through my mind today at the office... I will need you, my family, to help me elaborate and expand on these:

My prayer: "I will not lie. My heart needs to be changed just as much as anyone's. Father, take my heart and make it new."

Guilt wears off. This is the reason why donations flood in during the holiday season and then trickle off by February. We could show the public pictures of starving children, campaign for change in church services, and dish out statistics all day long. Something's missing to keep that conviction in the public's heart... a lifestyle change must occur. Guilt is not the avenue.

Part of the tragedy of the homeless is that so many of them have lost respect for themselves; they've lost their dignity to a state of utter desperation. It is our job, our calling, to help restore them.

Bus fares.

The least of these.

Giving my heart away (I am Yours, not my own).

The point is not to create an exclusive community, but to create a community that is big enough for the whole world.

What can we do to keep the public from accepting our flyers and tracts and throwing them into the next trash can, or onto the floorboards of their cars? Activism needs to become something far more than protesting and advertising... surely there's another answer.

We have to understand that we cannot change a whole generation over night. Mentality and behavior are modified over years and years... to change our mentality, to change our behavior, we must change what we believe. So pester the hell out of the adults who are stuck in their ways. And immerse the children in a new way of thinking. Teach them what our parents didn't teach us... maybe a new generation will rise from the ashes.

Our hearts are as hungry as our bellies. Our souls are as weak as our bodies.

Light in the Darkness

My heart is burdened tonight.
I'm in desperate need of some good company.
A good cup of coffee, perhaps.
I am learning that along with God's presence, with a called heart, when you are given a mission, when your soul is stirred...
It seems Satan likes to give us some special attention.
I'm trying to take a lesson from Mr. Price. I'm trying to laugh, brush it off, and press on. Persevere.
Tonight, he's attacking my self esteem.He's picking at my loneliness.
And I've asked for protection.
I am not the sort of woman that sees evil lurking behind every bush.
But I believe that one of my biggest mistakes is ignoring evil completely... disregarding it as supernatural or dramatic.
May the light outshine the darkness tonight...
Reminding me that I am glorious because He made me.
Validated by His love.
Be real tonight, Father God.