Friday, August 22, 2014

My parents

I've been at home in NC for about a month now. I don't have many friends my age to hang out with, and I'm still seeking direction from God about what to do next. So I've been spending a lot of this time with my parents.

My dad and I like to go out to breakfast together once a week, and mom and I have tea time together almost every afternoon. These are the times when we really get to talk... they are both good listeners and have a lot of wisdom that I need to hear, too. They've taught me so much over the years, and still have so much to give.

At home we play with the family dog, Beau, watch "Chuck" and "MASH" on TV, have picnics in the backyard, and do puzzles - right now we have a 1000-piece beautiful view of the Avon River in New Zealand. And Mom and I go consignment shopping, get frozen yogurt waffle cones on "Waffle Wednesday," and experiment with new cooking recipes. It's been fun to share this season of my life with them, and I will treasure the memories.

Most of all, I like watching them together... the way they joke together and serve together. They love each other, and love the Lord, and I'm so thankful that is my heritage.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

All the wrong questions

Earlier this year I read the first couple books in a series by Lemony Snicket called "All the Wrong Questions." It included "Who could that be at this hour?" And "Where did you see her last?" I think the next question is something like "Shouldn't you be in school?" The point is that a young apprentice  detective is learning not to waste time asking questions that A: don't have answers, B: have obvious answers, or C: have irrelevant answers. If you know the right questions to ask, you can find the answers that you really need.

I've done a lot of journaling lately, as it helps me process my thoughts and feelings well. And I find myself writing down a lot of questions to God. Thing is, he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to answer most of my questions. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in being frustrated by the silence and mystery of God, am I?

But today as I was reading over some of my biggest questions and bringing them to the Lord again, I realized most of the questions begin with the word "why" and are in regards to the past. And as I stared at the words on the page, I wondered if maybe I was asking the wrong questions.  How would I live differently if I knew these answers? How would my faith be deeper if I I understood everything in my own perspective?

I think it's been good for me to ask my own honest questions - even the wrong ones - to express my heart and cry out to God. But once they've been asked with all my anger and sadness and despair, and I calm down as I sit in silence while God just holds me, I wonder if he's waiting for me to have different questions... Ones he is waiting to answer if I just ask.

I don't know what the questions are yet. I'm trying to be still and rest in his arms for a while. I am asking him now to take my questions and transform them into the questions he would have me ask... Questions that will strengthen my faith in Him and deepen my love of Him, that would draw me into a closer walk with him. Because for all the things I think I want to know, I want to know more of Him most of all.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Doubtful One

I was listening to the new album by The Collection - "Ars Moriendi" - today... it's probably one of the most powerful albums I have ever listened to, lyrically and musically... the kind that only comes out of a lot of pain and brokenness and healing and joy and peace. One of my favorite songs on it is "The Doubtful One," and I wanted to share some of the lyrics with you today on my blog. I hope you will download the song (or the whole album) to get the full effect, but this is just a sample of the honesty and heart that reminds me so much of the psalmist, King David...

"Oh brother Thomas, did you walk away from Jesus,
wondering if it was all a dream?
Did all your doubts creep back and tell you that your fingers
hadn't ever touched a single thing?

'Cause I have read that story so many times,
when You healed that man and he could see perfectly again.
But in between, it reads that all he saw were men as trees
and that's all that seems to cloud my vision...

'Cause all the friends I know, have never ever heard You speak,
and I know that when You speak it brings up Life.
So would You, pretty please, come speak to all of them and me,
Growing us collectively into Your wife?

So lead me to the mountain, write it out on the stone tablets,
What it is that You decide is Truth.
But I think I want my hands to bleed from loving, not from condemning
Isn't Love what He would have us do?

Cuz all my friends and I, we have stolen, we have lied, and
We have looked upon each other full of lust.
But You carried Your cross when You knew that I was lost,
So I know that You can carry all of us."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Disability is not the end!

I learned some things about myself this year, and one of them is that I have a physical disability that greatly affects the way I live. Some of you who know me are probably pretty confused right now. You're thinking, "Connie, you've been in a wheelchair for most of your life... You were diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when you were a baby. What are you talking about?" 

But see, I haven't lived like I have a disability. I went to a public school and a liberal arts college and got a regular job for a while... then I became a missionary, moved away from home, traveled the country, and did everything I possibly could without much thought of my limits. Sure, I had to hire some people to do some things for me along the way, I've had to use ramps to get in places, and a wheelchair to move around; I've also had the wretched inconvenience of hospital stays and breathing equipment. But these things all were strangely detached, like they didn't have anything in common. I can't walk, I can't cook, I can't breathe all that well, and I can't fix my hair. But I am a pretty optimistic person, and I'm quick to list off all the things I can do - like write stories and teach and play games and go for long rides by myself on the river greenway. And I was convinced that God would use me to his glory, in spite of my weakness, not because of it. 

But at 30 years old, it suddenly hit me that I was disabled - that I had an incurable, progressive disease that would keep taking and taking my strength and independence from me, making my life harder and harder to bear, and that it was not going to get easier or better. I would need more medicine, more equipment, more personal care... I also realized that doctors look at my disease and expect that my life will be shorter than the average American woman... and all this affects my relationships, the urgency I feel in ministry, and my hopes and dreams for my future. And while these are things I probably should have slowly digested over 30 years of life, I kind of just swallowed it all whole, and the weight of it crippled my spirit. 

I had the opportunity to go out to California this summer, and decided that while I was there, I wanted to try to meet Joni Eareckson Tada. She has been someone who I have admired since I was a little girl, and I've always been excited to read her books, hear her speak, and follow the growth of her ministry, Joni and Friends. But now things were different. All I really wanted to do was sit next to her and ask, "Joni, how do you do it?" Not in rhetorical awe, but as a genuine question that begs for a real answer. How do you live with such passion and hope in the midst of such a maddening disability that only gets worse? How do you hang on faithfully in this life when you know heaven is going to be infinitely better?  

I didn't get to meet Joni. I didn't get to ask her my question. But I did get to visit Joni and Friends, and sit in the chapel room where she sings, and read the Scriptures on the walls, and shake hands with her husband, Ken. I got to hear and see how Joni's disability has given her a new perspective on God's kingdom, and how He has done great and mighty things in this world because she is disabled. Paul's words have new meaning when I put them in the context of all I experienced that day in California - "Now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me." 

Disability is not the end of hope - it is the beginning. If I was whole and healthy and perfect, I would have no need for hope. But when I realize my weakness, my helplessness, and my need, it must lead me to look up and see that the fullness of my strength, power, and ever-present help is in Jesus. And he will not fail me, and his work is not finished in me yet.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My special visitor returns

I was silent and alone in the darkness last night, when I heard a familiar voice at my window say, "Girl, why are you crying?" I sniffled and opened my eyes to see the curtain flutter in the summer breeze, and a young boy's freckled face leaning in to stare at me in wonder. I don't think he recognized me - I was in bed, not in my wheelchair, and I was in a different house in a different part of the world. And besides, it had been eight months since I'd last seen him, and I know how he forgets things so easily.

Anyway, I was crying - only a little - and in that moment I couldn't tell if Peter was the only person I wanted to see or the last person I wanted to see. Either way, I dabbed my eyes with the corner of my bed sheet and said, "Ohhh, Peter!" I knew it would only bore him for me to tell him about all the things I was crying about, so I just told him the one thing I knew he would care about.

"I've let you down, my friend. I moved out of my old house, and forgot to take your shadow with me, because you know, I kept it hidden... and when I remembered it today and asked around about it, I found out it had been thrown away... I'm so sorry! I- I feel so terrible, because I never meant to keep it forever... I promise I would have given it back, I just liked having something of yours nearby, because it gave me hope that you would return, and now-"

Peter gripped the windowsill hard, tuning out my blubbering apologies and working on a plan. "I remember the house. When does the trash come?" he interrupted me and asked.

I was confused for a minute, but then said, "At the old house? Every Monday..."

"Then it may still be there!" he crowed and shot off into the darkness without another word. I was a bit shocked at his abruptness, and a little offended that he left me in tears... but then, it is Peter, after all, and I sympathize more and more with poor Wendy the more I get to know him.

I tried to calm down and go back to sleep, but I kept my window open for sentimental reasons... and it is a good thing too, because sometime a little later in the evening, I heard him laughing, and then he swooped through my window and into my room. "Look! Look, girl!" he pranced and posed at the foot of my bed. Of course it was pitch dark, so I couldn't see anything, but when I reached over and clicked on the lamp, I saw what made the little bird crow - his shadow stretched from his feet up the wall, mimicking all his clever moves! "You found it! Oh, how did you manage to find it!"

"Well, I went back to that old house - I remembered you, once you said that you had moved and that you had my shadow - and I jumped in the garbage cans and sliced open all the bags until I found it! It made a beautiful mess all over the alley! Then I held it by the heel until I found something to stick it on with..."

"And what did you find?" I asked, completely charmed by his childish joy.

"Well there were all these boxes piled around the place, kept closed with some pretty strong tape, so I pulled some of the tape off, and wrapped it around my ankle and my shadow's ankle together, and we bumbled along like we were in a three-legged race, until I managed to get the other ankle secure, then we came together again nicely like- like-"

"Like a man and his shadow?" I suggested.

"No! Never a man!" he proclaimed.

"Of course," I said. Silly me. "Well, that tape is strong, but it won't last forever. What you really need is someone to sew it on for you. Now, if you go in my mom's sewing room and find a needle and thread..."

And he did. Of course, he picked out a nice bright green thread, which he claimed matched his eyes, and I couldn't disagree. Nor could I bring myself to explain that it didn't match the dark grey of his shadow, I just gently and quickly stitched them together and snipped away the packing tape. Then I sat in bed a little longer, just watching Peter and his shadow dance and play in the lamp light.

Just as he was about to jump out the window again, I said, a little desperately, "I know you don't really have a reason to come visit me anymore, now that you have your shadow back... but, well, would you please come back?"

He hesitated and thought for a minute. "Do you know any stories?" he asked, doubtfully.

"Oh, I know lots of stories! Yes, please, come back often, and I will tell you as many stories as you like!" I said, and he grinned.

"Good! Then keep your window open, and I will return for your stories." The last thing I saw as he flew out the window was the bright green stitches I'd made in the soles of his feet...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nephew time

Last week two of my nephews came to stay with us. They are awesome - funny and creative, with plenty of energy. The week was full of pools, slip-n-slides, superhero action figures, Legos, Disney movies, Doritos and M&Ms. But my favorite time was after they had their baths and got in their pajamas, when they came in my room and climbed into bed beside me for story time. I wrote a story for them, in which they were "The Brothers Courageous," and even though it didn't have any pictures, they actually liked it - especially the end, when they all got swords and were knighted by the King for their acts of courage that saved the kingdom. I love these guys, and continue to pray that they will grow up to be mighty warriors for Jesus... and they are well on their way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A little woman with a BIG God!

This week I had the privilege of being a part of the annual Vacation Bible School at my home church in North Carolina. It is one of the best things we do at the church, because everyone shows up with their creativity, organization, great attitudes, eagerness to serve, and all the energy they can muster - it is definitely a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together for the glory of God in our community. 

We don't use any packaged or pre-designed VBS kits... our group always makes up their own theme, memory verse schedule, games, snacks, crafts, songs, contests, and prizes. This year, the story for the week was about the life of the missionary to China, Gladys Aylward: "A Little Woman with a Big God." (Amazing story that I highly recommend, if you haven't heard it!) 

I was a "floating" volunteer, so I helped with check-in, memory verses, prayer room, and counting money. The kids had a "penny march" - brought pennies every night, to raise money for Samaritan's Purse: Operation Christmas Child. They were supposed to put their pennies in two buckets - for the "Boys" and "Girls" - and weigh them to see which group won each night. Superhuman things happen when you set up a contest between little boys and girls! Thing is, the last two nights, there were SO many pennies, the buckets were too heavy to weigh! These 60+ kids raised over $1600 for this great ministry! In the end the boys won, and got to throw cream pies in one of the girl volunteer's faces (not mine!).

Me, Richard, and my nephews at the VBS registration table!

The story of Gladys was really refreshing to me... God was able to do some pretty amazing things through her just because she was obedient to him. She used every opportunity God put in front of her to share the Good News because that was what her whole focus was - she wanted people to know that God loved them, especially people who had never heard it before. She was small and not very physically strong, and not what anyone would consider ideal for an uncharted mission field. But by telling the story of Jesus to mule drivers, and women whose feet she unbound, and children she rescued from the streets, and prisoners who were rioting, and monks in the mountains, she was able to spread the Good News all over the world!

I want to be like that. I want to be so focused on the Good News that I take every opportunity to talk about it, and share it with everyone I meet. Most of all, I want to honor the Lord by obeying his call to go and make disciples to the ends of the earth, and see him do great and mighty things because of his great love for us. I'm a little woman with a big God too!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Short Rest... much like the Hobbit

Of course, the question now is, if Connie isn't in the Hobbit Hole anymore, where is she? Well, after living and serving in Fort Wayne for four years, and after a summer of travelling the country (quite literally), I am back in North Carolina, staying at my parents' house for a while to rest and get refreshed, so I can regain some strength and energy, and be ready for the next big adventure... kind of like in chapter 3 of The Hobbit, when Bilbo and the company of dwarves went to Rivendell (for the Hobbit fans out there).

In fact, the account in Tolkien's book, of the respite with the elves, sounds amazingly similar to my own experience in coming home, from the warmer air, to the people who knew Bilbo so well, to the place being a bit out-of-the-way for their journey, to even the silly songs and long stories told by the elves - in my case, by my awesome nephews.

"All of them... grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers and their hopes. Their bags were filled with food and provisions light to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were improved with the best advice..." 

I have a pretty good idea of where my next adventure will take me, but like Bilbo, I don't quite know what route to take or how long it will take me to get there. I feel like I have a sort of map and a sort of plan, but the directions are confusing and mysterious to me. So I am here to rest, breathe, listen, seek the Lord, and receive wise counsel from people I trust. I intend to do a lot of reading and writing during this time as well, so check this page regularly if you want to know how the "secret runes" get deciphered and where the map leads...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Farewell to the Hobbit Hole

I said good-bye to the Hobbit Hole yesterday for the last time.  Pictures, books, dishes and music were packed in boxes and bags, so that by the end it didn't look like home anymore... but homes are made of so much more than the stuff that hangs on walls and sits on shelves.

I still remember the first week we moved in, and didn't have any furniture. The people who came to visit didn't mind, they just made themselves at home on the floor, and said we were living "African style." Soon, Jared brought us some tables and Todd gave us some chairs, and who could have possibly known how those gifts would be used until they literally fell apart! Over the past two years, this house became a place of celebration, fellowship, and growth. Brilliant ideas were birthed there, and also carried into reality there; stories were told and art was created and tea was brewed and songs were sung and love was cultivated there. As you can see, we did a lot of eating, laughing, praying, studying, learning, and partying around that table, with friends from all over Fort Wayne and the world.

I hope that everyone who came into the Hobbit Hole felt welcomed and loved. I hope each person knew the grace and peace and love of God a little more when they left. He is the reason this house became a home, a refuge, a classroom, a coffee shop, a work shop... a center of life and community, and it's because of Him that we became a family. I love you with all my heart, and will never forget the beautiful moments we have shared together. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Inspired by a conversation with my good friend Mandy...

So beautiful in color
So magical and
Full of joy and hope.

And I try to hold on
But one by one
They pull away
And float out of reach
I grasp and clutch
But can't keep them here.

"Let them go," my Father says.
"They are beautiful but
They are not eternal,
They are magical but
They are just full of air.

"Don't hold on so tight
Don't try so hard.
I am the balloon you need!
I am bigger and stronger
And I will hold you -
I will lift you up
And carry you by my grace.
Watch and see where we will go together!"

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My own private adventure

It was a magnificent thunderstorm - lighting up and rumbling across the canyon walls, dark and bright all at once. From the top of the Grand Canyon I was in awe of its depths, but a week later, I sit in a lodge in the bottom of the cliffs of Zion, and can't comprehend the heights, and the way I feel sheltered and protected within these massive colorful stone walls. As much as I loved watching the summer storm I was anxious to be outside again, independently exploring another trail. The minute the rain slowed down, I was out the door and took a shuttle to the trail.

When I got out, the path was quiet and lonely, and the rain had stopped and was already steaming off the ground. The trail wound around a bend, and excited to find where it led, I followed it. But what I found made me hesitate: a bridge. I hate bridges. I have this weird terrifying fear whenever I go over anything suspended - a bridge or even so much as a vent in the sidewalk - that it will collapse under the weight of my chair and I will fall. Falling... that's my real fear. So I avoid bridges as much as possible.

But I hadn't gone 20 feet on my so-called "adventure" before I was faced with a bridge. And this bridge was definitely over troubled water - the river was swollen and foamy and high and noisy and fast, because of the storm and the flash flooding it caused. And the bridge was made of wooden planks, the kind that wobble when you move on them... I hate wobbly wooden planks! I sat there, annoyed at the obstacle before me, for about a full minute. Then I felt like God said, "If you want to live the adventure, you're gonna have to cross this bridge." And I felt the weight of that challenge. And it pushed me forward, slowly at first, until the rush of the water and the creak of the bridge made my head spin, and then I bolted across with my eyes closed.

On the other side, my heart pounded and I gasped like I'd run a mile, but it gave me an adrenaline rush and I laughed out loud. I took off down the path, thinking well now that we have THAT out of the way... I looked around me at the beauty of the mountains, darker red stone and darker green trees, accented by the dark slate-grey sky. I heard the thunder roll in the distance and felt the hot and cold atmosphere hit my face in a dramatic alternating dance and I breathed in that fresh moist scent that hangs in the air after the rain. It felt good... it felt... like it might rain again.

I saw a flash of lightening between the mountains ahead of me and it sparked a thought: what if that fierce storm comes back around again? I stopped on the path to pay attention to the direction of the wind - and it was coming right at me. Oh my, I am going to get caught out here in a downpour and be all alone and- and who cares? So I might get soaked. In the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life. Again I laughed and started forward at top speed. "Bring it on!" I challenged the clouds.

I was feeling pretty good when I rounded another bend, and came upon another bridge. The stupid trail was zig-zagging back and forth over this stupid river! I was ticked off. How many more of these things would I have to cross? Well, I'm not gonna! I don't have to put myself through that! But Adventure called my name, and I knew I couldn't turn back now. I held my breath and prayed as I eased on to those stupid wobbly planks, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a sign on the side of the bridge. I quickly reversed and got off the planks, certain that the sign must say it was under construction or had rotted out or was unfit for use. When I squinted at it, it read: "Capacity: 5 tons." My chair is only 600 pounds. Again, I felt God nudging me. "It can hold you. It's held up a lot more than you will ever be, and it will continue to be that strong. You are not too much for this thing." A very convicting object lesson, so I took a deep breath and rattled on to the bridge. And guess what? It held me.

There were three more bridges after that. But there was no more hesitation. I felt so free - flying around curves, scattering lizards that were sleeping on the path, even meeting a doe on the edge of the path who just watched me smile and laugh. The burden of fear was completely gone. And that's when the adventure began.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grand thoughts in a deep canyon

Yesterday, my friends, Mary and Anna, and I spent the day hiking around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Whenever they wanted to climb down a little ways or out to an outcropping, I sat in the shade and journaled. Here are some of the things I wrote...

"For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him..." ~Psalm 95:3-4

Father, your Word says that you hold the depths of the earth in your hand. It also says that if I tried to make my bed in the depths, that it is not too deep for you to be there with me. And later it says that nothing is too high or too deep to separate me from your Love. I'm thinking of these things because I'm sitting here on the rim of the grandest canyon I've ever imagined, looking into its vast depths that take my breath away. And as I hear the wind sing in the abyss and rustle in the tree tops and then sweep up to loosen the curls and strands of my hair around my face, I am comforted... because I have been lost in the depths for a while now, and the darkness and weightiness of it has threatened to crush me, body and soul, and at times I have wondered if I have gone too deep to be able to return... to hear your voice like I used to, to have joy and delight as I used to, to have the kind of hope I used to have. Will life ever be the same? Will you and I ever be the same?

No, I don't think it will, and I don't think we will either. And at this moment, I think you are trying to let me know that that is a good thing. I could stay on the surface, or in the shallower valleys of your love, and feel safe and confident in what I know of you. But it is here in the depths that I begin to realize and be amazed at how big, how deep, how vast, how grand Your love for me really is... and how grand you are. If I didn't experience the depths, I would never know that you were there too, and that you were holding even the lowest, darkness, most hopeless moments of my life in your hands. Your presence and your faithfulness are all the more awesome from this point of view.

The sun is setting now... I can see it visibly sink behind the far edge of the canyon, until only a golden haze and a dusky pink blush remain. I was wishing that You would speak to me out here today, that in the silence I would know exactly what you want me to do about everything that is holding my heart in the depths, that you would tell me how to get out of the depths, that you would show me where to place my feet and the paved path you want me to walk on. But today you didn't... you just reminded me that you see me in the depths, that you are with me and you are holding me... that no depth is beyond your reach. And that is enough for me to be sure of today.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On the verge of another adventure

I've packed my bags, gotten my van tuned up, reserved some hotels, and printed out directions (yeah I know, I'm old-fashioned). Tonight, Mary and Anna and I are fading West. We're heading out to California, and driving through 14 states in the process. I think we're bound to see some cool things and have some cool experiences along the way, and whenever I have internet access, I'll try to update you with stories and pictures... so stay tuned!

My west coast trip last summer was powerful and beautiful, and I think God was trying to use it to prepare me for the crazy year that followed. And now I find myself at another crossroads, and I really have no idea what the next year will hold for me. But I know Jesus holds me and the plans he has for me, so I'm trying to trust him with all that. And I'm trusting that he will use this trip to prepare me for the next steps. Praying for refreshment, peace, and clarity... And also lots of joy with my friends - laughter, singing, hiking, eating, and memory making!

Friday, June 13, 2014

"You are Tea Time"

"Who is Connie Chandler?" my friend Joyce asked me over our traditional Japanese luncheon together. We try to get together for lunch whenever I come home, and she always finds good ways to challenge and encourage me. This time it was with a seemingly simple question with seemingly profound implications. I think I frowned a little and sipped my tea to avoid answering right away. I knew she was asking what makes me unique, what is my special "ingredient." Well, I'm a teacher, a writer, a mentor, an encourager, a listener, a researcher, a collector of stories, an organizer, a puzzle solver, an adventurer, a dreamer, a romantic, an international at heart... none of these are particularly unique things to me, nor do they really encompass who I am entirely, and I'm not sure anything ever could, but I was trying to think of a shorter, more succinct, more holistic response. Joyce doesn't ask questions without hoping for a meaningful, thoughtful answer.

After a couple minutes of thinking out loud with her, she said, "I think Connie Chandler is Tea Time." I thought about it, and slowly nodded and smiled as I understood what she was saying. I wrote a book a few years ago, a collection of short stories and poems that I called Tea Time (a link to buy it is in the right side panel of my blog!). It isn't so much about tea, as it is about taking time to deepen relationships and live fully in the smaller, quieter moments.

Of course, as much as I love my book, I am not my book. What Joyce meant in her simple but resonating statement is that the way I view and interact with the world is the way I expressed it in my book, and how I live out "tea time." See, when I have tea with someone, it is a process... We have to wait for the kettle to whistle, then wait for the tea to steep, then add in cream or milk and sugar or lemon or honey, then wait for it to cool as we warm our hands on it. And we can't gulp down hot tea - it is meant to be drunk slowly, savoring the flavor.

And some people think I'm a "tea snob" because I have and consume a LOT of tea, but actually, I don't pay that much attention to the number of minutes it steeps or the exact amount of sweetener we add, or even the distinguishing quality of different teas. That's because I'm letting the steam of the cup relax my muscles and melt my tension, I'm letting the time slow me down and allow me to be still and listen and just know, I'm pausing to give my attention to small, secretly beautiful details... I'm letting fellowship happen: heart-to-heart conversations, face-to-face encounters, story telling in real time and with pure authenticity.

So yeah, I'd love to be able to say that I am Tea Time... that this is what my life is about, or at least what I strive for and what I thrive on...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Adventures - Part 3, The South

After Florida, Mom and I returned to North Carolina, where I got to have a ladies' tea party and speak in front of a women's group of about 55 people at my home church. It was so fun, and I got to see some very dear ladies who have been a part of my life at different times and stages, and who continue to bless and encourage me.  

I also got to share at another church in town, to a mission board that has been very supportive of my ministry for a long time. My friend Tim is the leader of the board, and he was my Bible teacher/spiritual mentor through middle and high school, and because of his background and passion for missions and God's Word, he had a huge influence on the decisions I've made with my work. He got up to introduce me to the group last week and said, "For those of you who don't know her, this is Connie, and she is my favorite missionary." Well, I hardly needed to say anything after that - what a recommendation!

Besides speaking, I did get to just have some fun while I was home with my parents too - doing puzzles, having picnics, watching old tv shows, and eating ice cream. Anna and I went downtown Friday night for the gallery hop and all the craziness of street performances (Winston-Salem can be a pretty hopping place in the summer!), and Hayden took me to get "southern soul food" (which can be identified when the "vegetable" category of the menu includes macaroni and cheese, apple sauce, cole slaw, and fried okra).

I got to catch up with a few other friends too, and it was actually kind of hard to leave this time. When life is changing and I don't know what lies ahead, nothing is quite so comforting as being at Home.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer adventures - Part 2, South East

Last week, I came down for a quick stop in my hometown, and got to connect with my friend Richard, who has made the Hobbit Hole his home away from home for the past two years. He told me about his plans to go to Africa in the fall with YWAM, which I was just thrilled to hear. While he's still at home, he isn't wasting his desire to serve in ministry - he's been volunteering with World Relief and also has had good friendships with the exchange students at his school. We talked about Fort Wayne, and all the people we both love there, and he took me over to visit the World Relief office in High Point.  I got to talk to the volunteer director, and hear about the refugees who have settled in the area, and how the local Church has been so involved in reaching out to them. We asked about any needs or concerns, and got to pray with the director before we left, and once again it was good to be reminded of God's work in even unassuming little places like this.

Next day, Mom and I went down to Florida and stayed with my Grandpa Jack in Jupiter. My Aunt Lori had invited me to speak at her church small group, so I did that Saturday night. I shared about what God is doing in Fort Wayne, and after the meeting many people wanted to share with me what God has been up to in their lives. It was a "mega-church" - the kind I'm always pretty suspicious of - but the things I got to hear and see and be a part of for a few hours were very encouraging. The group leader talked to me for a while, and then impulsively reached in his pocket and stuffed some dollar bills in my hand. "I just feel like God wants me to give this to you," he said. "I don't even know how much, He just said to give you what I have. Not really sure why, except that your story blessed me." I waited until we left to even look at it and count it, and carefully tuck it away.

The next day, we got to visit with Jenni, a dear friend and mentor to me, someone who has greatly impacted me and my desire to live in organic, intentional ministry. She told me about her family - her kids, who are like cousins to me, and her 16 (and counting) grandkids - and about the ongoing ministry she has at her house, as an open door and a safe place for people in need. I always love my visits with Jenni, though they are never long enough.

That night I hurt my ankle pretty bad, so the next day we drove back to NC, where I went to the doctor, got X-rays, and learned that I had sprained and bruised it, and with ice and elevation it would be ok. Of course, my insurance is in Indiana, so I was going to have to pay for my visit. And would you believe it, when the receptionist told me what I owed, it was the amount that the group leader at my aunt's church stuffed into my hand. What a blessing and relief that I could count out the amount in cash right there and have it taken care of!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer adventures, Part 1 - North East

You know what I really love? I love travelling around and seeing how God is working in different parts of the world. I've driven 4,000 miles in the past 4 weeks. In my van, of course. My wheelchair, Svante, is about to reach his 1100 mile marker though, so I think that's worth mentioning too. I've had a hard time knowing how much of this travelling I should report "vacation" or "business," because it all feels related to my responsibilities as a servant of Jesus, but to me, my work is fun and a dream come true.

Hannah and I took a trip to New England recently. We started by driving to New Jersey and visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty - amazing places that I definitely wanted to see since I love and serve international refugees. It reminded me of two important things - that for a long time, America has been a place of hope and freedom and new life for people all over the world, and that as great as America is in that respect, my home is with Jesus and he is the truest source of hope and freedom and new life for anyone who turns to him.

From there, we went to New Hartford, Connecticut, to visit our friend Amy, who is home on furlough from ministry in Uganda. She's raising support and getting ready to go back out later this summer for another long stretch of service. Her dad is the pastor of a small church family that meets in an old historical building, and we got to worship with them on Mother's Day and share lunch with her family. It was a lot of fun, but also very good to hear from Amy about what is going on in Uganda and learn more about the needs there so we know better how to pray for her and support her. We got to talk through some things she's struggling with, I helped her come up with some fundraising ideas.

We left Connecticut and went on to Portland, Maine, which I think is the furthest northeast corner of the world I've been to so far. It was so refreshing to be by the ocean, and the seafood was incredible. But we went there primarily to visit a ministry called The Root Cellar. Located downtown, it offers a lot of different services to the people directly in that community. We got a tour of the facility, I got to visit the ESL program, and talked with a few of the staff members for a while. Again, it was good to hear how the ministry has grown out of the faithfulness and prayers of the workers, and to hear about ways we can pray for and support their work.

We drove back to Fort Wayne, ending the first part - the NE part - of this summer's adventures!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The daffodil post of 2014!

This week I'm in New England! It's so beautiful here, and I will share more about my adventures in the next few days. But the other day we went to a daffodil farm in Connecticut, and I realized I hadn't written my traditional annual daffodil post yet (daffodils are my all-time favorite flower), so what better way to post about it than with this unique opportunity!

I usually try to write a poem about daffodils, but at the farm, this poem by William Wordsworth was etched in a stone slab on the ground... and I think it's better than I could have written this year:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Of course, inspired by Wordsworth...
Fields of Daffodils!

Hannah, me, Amy, and Janna

Monday, April 14, 2014

Do you believe that Jesus loves you?

I got to see the Ragamuffin movie this weekend. It's the story of Rich Mullins life - a life that I was too young to remember or appreciate in real time, but also a life that has strongly impacted me in the past 15 years. I highly recommend the movie to... yeah, everyone. It's gonna be on DVD in Walmart for a limited time next month. 

I basically cried through the whole movie, not because it was sad, but because so much of it resonated with me. My friend Pam and I were talking about it last night, and wondering about the paradox of his message that was so simple and so difficult: Believe that Jesus really does love you - he even likes you. If that is all the gospel is, then it sounds really simple. Just believe he loves you! But "knowing" and "believing" are two different things, and when you zoom in and look closely at how that belief plays itself out in life, it is so difficult. Confession: it is amazingly, ridiculously hard to believe Jesus loves me when I face each day with pain and weakness and dependency on people for tedious and critical things all day long, and lies constantly trying to attack my mind about loneliness and the limits and conditions of love.  And I'm sure you have things in your life too that make it hard to believe He loves you. It would be easier to believe if everything was perfect and right in the world, but I think He wants us to believe it regardless of what happens to us and around us. His love isn't contingent on anything except His steadfast, unchanging character. It's a truth that is slippery - hard to hold on to, hard to really grasp. But in the workout it is to try to grasp it, I think we become stronger and steadier in our identity as his children. 

Pam asked, "If it is so hard for us to believe in His love, what hope do we have of helping others believe it?" And I have been struggling with that question today. It certainly changes the concept of evangelism for me. "Just believe Jesus loves you" starts to sound in my head like a munchkin voice saying "Follow the yellow brick road!" At first, the yellow brick road is obvious and simple, so confidence rises as the traveller repeats the instructions - oh I can do this! And then the road gets confusing and dangerous, and things off the path are distracting and more exciting, and before you know it, the basic instructions are difficult to remember and follow and believe in.  But the instructions haven't changed - the truth stays the same. 

I don't think anyone who initially chooses to believe in Christ's love has any idea how hard it will be to keep believing. But the incredible thing is that at the same time, no one has any idea how beautiful and powerful and overwhelming it is when we do. We just need to choose to take that first step of belief, and then the next, and then the next... and let Him take us deeper and deeper into the understanding of his love for us.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Opposite of Fear

Week 4 of fasting from my plans, and today the message from Ruth 3:18 and Philippians 3:20 for me is "wait." Wait for what? What for the Lord. To do what? Just... wait for him. But what am I waiting on him for? Nothing but himself. He's all I need, so my waiting, hoping, and expecting needs to simply be for him... Ok, Father, today I'll wait...

I've been thinking about fear this week... and how my sin is often rooted in fear. And do you know that the Bible commands - commands - me to not fear, not be afraid, and fear not, over 100 times? So, fear is a sin, and apparently one that is common enough and serious enough that God reminds us over and over again to just not do it. And I think one reason for that is that fear has a lot of power to cut us down, cripple us, and make us forget who we are. It's a stronghold that has a very... strong hold.

So what's the opposite of fear? If I choose not to fear, if I give my fears to God and sacrifice them on the altar of my heart, what will replace it? One of my craziest fears is that if I let go of my fear, I'll not have anything left... but I know this is a lie, because God never leaves a void in us. Emptiness is meant to be filled by him. So... how does he fill the newly-vacant throne of fear? Crazy enough, the words that came to my mind were the titles of the stories I recently posted: Joy, Trust, Hope, Grace, and Peace. Aren't each of these the opposite of Fear? I also think of Courage and Freedom (so maybe I should write a couple more stories?).

So this week I feel like my prayers are stronger... instead of just asking God to wrench fear from my hands, I've been asking him for an exchange - my fears for his hope; my fears for his joy, my fears for his peace... It seems like an unfair trade, but his resources are endless and he is so generous, I don't think he minds. In fact, I get the feeling he is pleased... And guess what is starting to fill up my heart?!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

coffee pots, broken spells, and fasting from my plans

It's a classic rainy day in Fort Wayne. The raindrops pattering on the windowsill sound to me like a percolating coffee pot, and the swish of water under the tires of cars passing my house on Columbia Ave sounds to me like the magic sound effects on "Once Upon a Time" - the sound of a curse being lifted... sounds of everyday enchantment. Today is Thursday, my day to be alone at home and do things that are quiet. I want to sit by the window and write poetry, or curl up in a blanket on the couch and take a long catnap. But I need to grade papers today. But not quite yet... right now, I need a minute to listen to coffee percolating and spells breaking. And I need a minute to be still and quiet before the LORD.

I am trying out this discipline of going six weeks without trying to figure out my life - sort of a fast from making my own plans. I'm on week three, day 18, and it's tough. It seems backward, I know - normally people will take a set amount of time to pray and fast to seek direction and guidance. But I'm a planner by nature, and am much happier when I know what is happening and what to expect and what I should do... and I've been restless and anxious for the past eight months because I have no idea. I've been given some suggestions, and have some ideas of my own, but haven't been able to make any decisions or received any solid answers. And it is driving. me. crazy.

And I realized how much this reveals about my lack of faith in God. I want him to tell me things and show me things, and he really just wants me to sit in the backseat, enjoy the ride, and let him drive. So that's what this six weeks is about - just practicing the discipline of trusting God. That means when I read the Bible, I'm not combing the text for clues to answers I want; it means when I pray, I worship instead of complaining about how confused I am; it means I spend my personal reflection time on all the ways he has been faithful and trustworthy in my life so far, instead of worrying about how he'll be faithful tomorrow and six months from now.

It's hard to not plan and not know - it's a part of my brain I have become so aware of because I have to keep going back and telling it to calm down and take a break. But I think this is what is necessary in this season of my life... and I'd be so grateful for your prayers during this time.

"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart, and wait for the LORD." - Psalm 27:14

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"This is not dead!"

"If thou could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell, dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf, 
And say, 'This is not dead,'
And fill thee with Himself instead..." 

I read this in a book recently, and have been pondering it most of today. I find it hard to empty all of myself of self... just when I think I have accomplished it, I find more "self" that has to go. And the wrestling match begins again. Because getting rid of self is so very unnatural, and it feels like if I throw it out, there will be nothing left of me, and I will die. Self-preservation instincts kick in, and my mind and heart strain against the truth that there will be nothing left of me, and that is the point. That is the point! If I want Jesus to be the Lord of my life, then I need to get out of the way; He must increase into everything, and I must decrease into nothingness.

And that is not just a one-time prayer deal, when I can say some magic words and be done with all of me and filled with all of him in the blink of an eye. It's a commitment to a daily journey... it's giving permission to God himself to recreate me. But I'm such a sinful mess, that for him to recreate me, he has to break me first - weed out bad roots and demolish strongholds. I can't empty myself of my self. All I can do is release control while He digs deep and pries self out of me, like a bad tooth or like rusty nails out of a plank of wood. It's hard - it hurts, and it is not fun, to say the least. And sometimes I wonder why I gave Him permission to do this in my life... it doesn't make for a great sales pitch for a missionary girl to give to those she loves.

And then I remember what he is doing in me: He's cleaning me out, making me new, making me more like himself, preparing me to be able to know him more and deeper. When I am empty, I will not be dead, because He doesn't leave me as a dishabited shell - He fills me with His grace, mercy, peace, joy, and hope. The truth that he is taking all this time and attention to set me free and bring us closer together is amazingly profound... His love is amazingly profound! I know that he doesn't delight in making me bleed... I think he cries as much as I cry. But He can also see what lies beyond the pain, and he squeezes my hand and tells me to hold on, because something really beautiful is ahead. I don't know what it is, but I trust him.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fairy Wings (13/13)

The sun was setting as the fairy left the town. So much had happened in one day, and she was beginning to worry that she would wake up and find it was all a dream. How could life possibly continue on after this? Could tomorrow hold a fraction of the wonder and joy of today? She was so deep in thought that she was almost trampled in the fading light by a clumsy, oversized foot.

“OH MY!” shouted a surprised giant. “I am so sorry, tiny creature! I am afraid my feet are too eager and my eyes are too weak.” The voice of an elderly woman rumbled high above, and all Lynn could see were two huge stalks with feet, and a shadowy mountain. But then the woman stooped low, and Lynn came face-to-face with a large round head frosted with fluffy white hair, and big brown cow-like eyes which looked kindly at her behind spectacles the size of window panes. “I am following the magical path to the Great King,” she said in a whisper that nearly blew the fairy away. “Have you met him? Is he as good as I have heard? Does he… help people?”

“Oh, yes!” Lynn said, and she enthusiastically shared with the giant the beauty and glory of His Majesty.

The giant sighed whimsically. “I’ve wanted to meet him for so long, and I think I might be getting close.”

Lynn encouraged her, “You are quite close now! Do you know in which direction to go? Those woods can be confusing.”

“Of course I know where to go!” the giant cried, and in her excitement the ground shook. “I didn’t know for a long time, and I could not have found it alone, but as I said before, I am carefully following the magical path-”

“Magical path? What is this path?” The fairy questioned the giant’s meaning, for besides the tug in her heart, she’d had no guide, compass or path to lead her.

“Why, that path!” she pointed with a large stubby finger. “It’s the one that I found a few days ago, and it was so pretty and intriguing, I had to follow it!”

The fairy peered around the giant and found, on the dark grass beyond, a path made of twinkling lavender spots, just the size of a fairy’s footprints.

“The path is tiny, but bright and constant enough to guide anyone – even a great old ogre like me!” The woman laughed heartily and stood up again. “I must be off, tiny creature. There is not a moment to lose! Good-bye, and thank you for telling me the truth!”

The fairy barely heard the traveler leave, because she was staring at the lavender spots, then at the lavender shoes on her feet, then behind her, at the giant, lumbering down the long, glistening trail. “How remarkable!” she thought. Then, as she turned around again, she saw in the distance the silhouette of others coming down from the forest. Rabbits and squirrels, knights and ladies, giants and dwarfs - creatures of all sizes and shapes, lands and languages, abilities and disabilities - were walking the same marked path.

Could it be true? It seemed that the slippers of Mercy had paved the way for others to find the Great King. Was this the role she was meant to play? But this was more than a drama, a play, a story; this was real – amazing, baffling, and thrilling. How extraordinary were the plans and dreams of the King: that such a small creature, with such a small dream, was called to be part of something so much bigger, so much Greater, than tiny fairy wings.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fairy Wings (12/13)

Then the King told Lynn of wonderful things… of mansions in his kingdom made of crystal and pearl; of the many adventures of his son, the Great Prince; of marvelous creatures of the Old Worlds, and the New Worlds, and the Worlds to Come; of the vastness of His kingdom which reached beyond the northern hills and across the eastern sea; of the wonders that surpassed even the Faerie Realm and the Elvin Country, and magic that exceeded all wizards and sorcerers.

As he spoke, Lynn wondered more and more why she had ever desired something so small as fairy wings. She thought that maybe if she’d been able to fly, she would never have come on this journey, never met the good wizard Judson or Flutter or Rusty, never met this Great King, and never known there was anything more than the tall flowers and fairy songs. How amazing were the thoughts of the King! The more she learned, the more she wondered at the love which the King lavished on her. Why should he care for one as small and insignificant as she? What role of any consequence could she play in such a divine drama?

With a voice that assured her that he knew her thoughts, the King said, “The enchanted slippers you wear are called Teremai, which means Mercy, in the Elvin tongue. You see, I have not left you vulnerable and alone; I have given you this gift of mercy, to carry with you through all life’s journeys. It will help you to not grow weary, it will keep your feet from stumbling, and it will never wear out or grow old, for my mercy is new every morning. Together with the visions I have just shown you, they will guide you and guard you, and give you strength, courage, hope, and joy in all things. Remember my plans, my promises, and my love will never fail you. Go, my beloved, and discover how much I delight in the small and weak things, for through them I can do great things.”

As the fairy left the magnificent castle, she saw Rusty, leaning against the castle gate and playing his songs. He nodded and smiled to her, and she recalled what he had said before. She began to understand that the Great King gives gifts that are far above what she could ever ask or think. She knew the road home would be long, and she wondered if she would even return home, or if the slippers of mercy would lead her down other paths.

“So Elensila,” Rusty asked, “did He heal you?”

“More than I could have ever imagined.”

He smiled and said, “I knew he would. Farewell, until we meet again.”  

Lynn retraced her steps down the garden path, stopping to splash in the stream and rest among the flowers and swing on the willow boughs. Her wings did not weigh her down anymore; in fact, she hardly considered them at all, and then only as a reminder of her fantastic journey and the wonderful climax – her time with the King was not the end, as she always thought it would be, but only a turning point in the fairy’s tale.

She reached the village, today alive with activity, but not frightening and crowded as it was before. This time, she strolled lazily along, looking at all the goods to be sold. As intriguing as they seemed, Lynn thought that they were meant to try to fulfill some desperate emptiness that only the King could fill.

As she pondered, she heard a familiar tune played on a mandolin, and a voice sang the words that had first sparked her dream. “Have you heard of the Great King, the One beyond the Sea?…” A traveling musician appeared from between the market stalls, and nodded to the fairy, then continued his song and fixed his eyes on the castle that now stood in the distance behind her, where she could hear an angelic harmony to the song playing on the finer instrument of Rusty. How much she loved him, and yet now she realized how little she knew about him. Why had he lived among the elves? How had he met the King? Perhaps someday they would meet again, as he said, and she would hear his story.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fairy Wings (11/13)

Through those two great doors the King sat on his throne. Lynn trembled at the thought of it. She knew that many people had stood there before, but at this moment she felt like the first and only to do what she was about to do. Rusty spoke softly to her, “Here is where you and I must part ways. Trust me when I say that He loves you and will give you more than you could ever imagine. Never forget that.” And with that, the young man gently set her on the ground, turned, and hobbled back to the courtyard.

The throne room was huge and beautiful, with a thick, crimson carpet running from the doorway to the foot of the throne.  Tall and elegant lamp-stands illuminated the aisle, alive with light that glanced off every polished and glittering ornament in the room. And there, upon the throne, was the Great King, royal and radiant. Lynn could not move for a minute, so overwhelming was the sight. She was seized with fear and desire all at once, knowing her weakness and shame made her unworthy to even see such majesty.

“Come, enter in, my child, and tell me what you desire,” the King invited, with all gentleness and strength. The sound of his voice did not surprise her; it seemed somehow familiar to her heart. It was the Voice - the Spirit - that had called her all along the way, guiding her steps and leading her unto himself. Such love was too amazing for her to understand, and it compelled her to draw nearer.

As Lynn took one step, the enchanted slippers carried her quickly forward, in a lovely little dance all of their own. The candlelight sparkled on the shoes, and such joy filled the fairy that she felt as though she had already been blessed. She knelt at the throne and said, “Your Majesty, I’ve come to humbly ask you… to grant me wings that will fly.”

Strangely, the request sounded shallow to Lynn when she spoke it, and didn’t seem as crucial as it did when she first left the Faerie Realm. She wondered if she really needed the wings as desperately as she always thought she did. As she waited for the highly anticipated response, she found herself wondering if the King could give her something even better.

The King, with a kind look in his eyes simply replied, “What charming slippers you are wearing. Where did you get them?”

The slippers? Lynn was puzzled and flustered. Why did the King care about the slippers? She said, “A friend gave them to me as a gift. He is the good wizard in the northern mountains.”

“Ah, Judson is a good man and very wise. I am glad he knew to whom the gift should be passed on at the perfect time.”

“Do you mean that you were the one who gave them to him first?” Lynn said, still perplexed.

“Yes, they were made for you from the beginning. Now tell me, what have you heard, and what do you believe about me?”

Lynn thought for a long moment, considering all the things she heard throughout her journey:

“’Tis also true He’s kind and good…” 

“We cannot truly experience joy to its fullest until we have faced suffering… and allowed His powerful love to overcome it…” 

“He always knows exactly what he is doing, and always carries it on to completion…” 

“I don’t know what he has in store for you. But I do know that he is good, and all good desires in our hearts come from him, and he will fulfill it at the perfect time...”

“He knows what your greatest need is, much more than you do; he gives the best remedy, which may be something you don’t expect; and he does what will bring you true joy and him the most glory.”

“So wonderful, so magical – the greatest King of all!” 

Reminded of these things, she responded, “I believe you are good, that you love me, and that I can trust you. I believe your plans are better than mine, and you do all things well. That is what I had heard, and somewhere along my journey, I learned to believe it.”

“What you believe is true. Will you live in this truth, even when you do not understand?” As he spoke, the King stepped down from his throne, lifted the fairy in his palm, and held her close to his heart. “Beloved, I have given you wings, and they are full of more life than you will ever know. But I created you for a purpose much greater than wings can accomplish. Flying is a gift that can be enjoyed only by the one with wings and others who can fly like them; you were made to share your wings with many different kinds of people and creatures. You want to fly because it is the greatest thing your mind can imagine. But what if I showed you even greater dreams – what if you saw what my mind can imagine? Then, I think, you would not be so concerned with merely flying.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fairy Wings (10/13)

“Good morn, Elensila,” Rusty said, and the fairy blinked awake. “We may begin the last day of your journey. Here, climb upon my shoulder and I will carry you for a while.”

As promised, he woke her at the first light of dawn, and excitement and anticipation tingled through Lynn as she scampered upon the boy’s shoulder and held on to his old coat. “What was the name that you just called me?”

“It is an Elvish name, which I learned when I lived among the elves… it means ‘the star that shines.’”
Lynn was pleased with the name, and wanted to ask more about the elves, but then she was surprised. As the young man rose from his place on the ground, he picked up a staff and gripped it with both hands for support. They began to slowly hobble along the path, and with unspoken struggle, he worked his way up the hill. For a while the fairy said nothing; his disability was obvious and she was terribly confused by it. Yet the longer she was silent, the more disturbed she was, so finally she approached the subject.

“Forgive me, but what happened to your legs?” She blushed at her own question, because it was so reminiscent of the ones she had been asked all her life. However, Rusty seemed not bothered by it at all.

“Oh, that,” he shrugged. “I’ve always been lame, ever since I was born. Now that it’s brought up, I might ask about your wings.”

“Why, I have the same answer as you! But tell me, didn’t the King heal you? You said he did, didn’t you?”

Rusty paused a moment and gave her a curious look. “Of course he healed me. He always does. I was miserable and lost without a song in my heart, and he gave me the most beautiful of songs, and the ability to play it for others to hear. I could not have asked for a more valuable gift, and he was more than generous to me. Why do you say he did not heal me? Didn’t you hear the music for yourself last night?”

“I did – I mean, I didn’t realize – but you see…” the poor fairy was so troubled that she had no words to say. There was silence for a few moments, and Rusty became quite solemn, sitting down on the path and setting Lynn down beside him.

Then he said, “I see the questions and doubts in your eyes – I had the same thoughts at one time – but do not fear. He knows what your greatest need is, much more than you do; he gives the best remedy, which may be something you don’t expect; and he does what will bring you true joy and him the most glory. He will not leave you or fail you. So trust him.” With that simple statement and a kind smile, he lifted Lynn back to his shoulder, picked up his crutch again and continued up the hill. Strangely, his steps - which felt coarse and jerky before - now seemed to have rhythm and grace beyond any other person’s stride, like a magical dance.

Step by step, slowly and yet with great confidence, the two drew nearer to the grand castle. The garden along the path was beautiful and abundant: purple and red blossoms that reminded the fairy of her home adorned the path of fine white sand; sprays of green danced and waved welcoming hands to all who passed by; willows bowed low to the ground and touched the water’s edge in homage, and tall manicured cedars stood at attention like giant sentinels at the King’s command. As they passed by the water, Lynn saw lily pads and blooms languidly resting on the gentle current of the silvery stream which chuckled at its good fortune to be so near His Majesty. It boasted not in its own beauty but only in its position, by reflecting back and showing off the colors of the beloved garden and the mighty walls of the castle ahead.

By late afternoon they reached the entrance to the castle, graced with untamed ivy that twisted and climbed up the ancient stones and framed the gate which stood wide open, exposing the majesty and royalty of the King’s home. Inside, the syncopated beat of Rusty’s gait tapped on the marble floor and echoed around the high vaulted ceiling. Tall and narrow stained glass windows gave character to the sun’s rays that shone through and highlighted the treasures of the King: giant portraits of his only beloved son, as well as smaller portraits of men and beasts and other creatures who were close to the heart of the King. There was not much in the way of furniture, but Lynn could imagine great banquets and parties filling the room on occasion. Candelabras of glistening gold now stood waiting for evening use, and fine silks framed the windows, adding beauty and creative expression to the massive stone hall. To the right and left were staircases, detailed with ivory and pearl and carpeted with red velvet, and they rose and curved out of sight into the private chambers of the royal family. Straight ahead was a pair of wooden doors that were intricately carved with the script of ancient wisdom, and guarded by a man who wore a sword and stood solid and unwavering. The two travelers did not linger nor wandered about the open court, but approached the guard who asked their business.

“If you please, we must see the King,” Rusty said, panting a bit from his trek.

Lynn held her breath, unsure how the guard would respond. But immediately, he smiled, pushed open the heavy door and said, “You may enter. His Majesty has been expecting you.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fairy Wings (9/13)

“It’s pretty, eh?” a voice broke through the magical silence and made Lynn jump. She spun in a circle, squinting in the darkness to find her companion. Sitting outside a little shoe shop nearby was a young man, gangly and a bit dirty, who wore clothes that were mismatched and too big for him. He raised a hand in a wave, and she saw that his long, skinny fingers extended past the worn ends of his blue gloves. Though she knew nothing about him, she liked him instantly.

“How did you see me?” Lynn asked. “No one has noticed me all day.”

“Well, I’m used to looking for little things – mostly shiny things like shillings that drop from heavy pockets. Besides, no one really sees anyone in those busy market streets. Out here, away from the bustle, it’s much easier to breathe and think and move… and gaze upon the Great Castle, which I’d venture to guess is what you were doing.” He glanced down at her and flashed a lop-sided smile. Rusty-colored ringlets bounced around his freckled face, and his endearing grin caused the corners of his eyes to crinkle and two dimples to crease his cheeks. All the abundance of life overflowed from his countenance and the fairy was irresistibly drawn to him, longing to know the mystery of his joy. Yet for all his boyish charm and his spirit of uninhibited child-like purity, there was a certain ancient wisdom, a deeper understanding of Truth, behind his eyes that sparkled silvery grey.

“Yes, looking and wondering about the man inside…”

“Aye, the Great King. Do you intend to see him?”

“Of course, that is why I am here! I have come very far in order to speak with him. I must: he is the only one who can help me… if he will.”

“I’ve met the King,” the lad replied wistfully. “He healed me and he gave me the gift of music and inspiration, and now I travel around the kingdom and play music for his pleasure and for the hope of those I meet. Yes, he can help anyone, and he will - this I know most assuredly… And if you want to get to him sooner, I would be glad to take you to him myself.”

“Oh, would you? That would be wonderful! Thank you!” Lynn felt such relief that she nearly wept with joy.

“You’re welcome. My name’s Trust, but most people around here call me Rusty. Now then, I’ll give you my scarf as a blanket for tonight. It’s not much, but it will be sufficient for this evening, and at the first light-”

“You mean we must wait until morning!” Lynn cried.

“I’m afraid so, but the night won’t last forever, and I shall play you a lullaby to help you sleep soundly. Rest easy and listen to my song…”

As Rusty spoke in gentle and soothing tones, he leaned back against the wall of the shop, and drew a small silver instrument from his pocket and put it to his lips. A soft, humming tune warmed the evening air around them and stirred indescribable hope in the fairy’s heart.

“What is that?” she asked, snuggling into the folds of the worn blue scarf given to her. “It’s splendid, but is like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard before.”

“That’s because it is a special gift from the Great King, perfectly designed by him for my use in expressing the things he has put in my heart. Sometimes I don’t even know what it all means, but that’s when I know beyond all doubt that it comes from him…” Rusty did not look at the fairy anymore, but up to the castle on the hill, then closed his own eyes and played a melody that seemed to flow from his heart as he simply breathed into the instrument. The fairy also closed her eyes and allowed the beauty of it to melt her fears and anxious thoughts, and she was soon fast asleep with a smile on her lips.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fairy Wings (8/13)

The kingdom looked full of activity and excitement, and the colors and noises shocked the fairy, who had grown accustomed to the peace and solitude of the great forest. In fact, she happened upon this street during the busiest day of the year – the Spring Equinox Festival. This was the day for craftsmen to show off their work, and for merchants to sell their products to visitors from the surrounding lands who enjoyed the bustling chaos of a bazaar. The view from the hill was a thrilling flurry of rainbows in motion: tents and shelters draped in red, blue, and green fabrics and crowded almost on top of each other, competing to be the biggest, brightest, or fanciest, and competing for the attention of a thousand strangers with bulging purses and pockets. The open-air stalls were hemmed in by the regular shops, with doors and windows wide open, inviting browsers to come further in and linger a while. The whole scene was beautiful and adventurous.

However, as Lynn descended into the street, her fascination turned to fright. The noise that sounded harmonious and layered from above now clanged and clambered within, clashing in discord and echoing off the walls of the shops in the background, amplifying, reverberating around the packed street. Musicians played their own songs on whistles and lutes on the corners and in the alley ways where people gathered in clusters and dropped shillings in amusement. Lynn felt a sense of aimlessness among the people as she dodged feet and weaved around baskets and jars, always fighting to keep her focus on the castle in the distance. While everyone else was content to dabble in fine or cheap merchandise, she was hopeful that a far greater treasure soon would be found if she persisted in her quest. The shoppers wandered in every direction and turned and stopped with no consideration for anyone else, especially the tiny winged creature who felt trapped in a pulsing wave of giants. And to add to the noise, buyers and sellers talked over each other, making bids and propositions, arguing and urging until they decided it was too much or too good.

“Fresh fish!” a beefy, hairy man claimed in a loud voice. “Today only, a special on flounder - two for the price of one! Get two flounders for one!” Lynn was startled by the overwhelming presence of the man and the even more overwhelming smell of his product, which seemed to her not so very fresh.

The odor lingered at the next stall, where an elderly woman tried to out-shout the fisherman: “Hand-crafted rugs! The best quality and finest dyed materials! What am I bid?”

Lynn crossed the street, and the smell of fish now blended with the scent of fresh pies sitting on the window sill of a bakery. “Apple Cobbler! Gooseberry Pie! Cherry Danish!” the baker shouted out the upstairs window, welcoming any and all to enter in.

The enticing smell followed the fairy to the little tent that had an elegantly painted sign advertising magic mirrors and other enchantments. And just as quickly as her curiosity in the magic came, it went again as she felt the heat of the blacksmith’s house, where she glimpsed everything from tiny charms to farmer’s plows. Then again her attention was diverted to a stand where dozens of little glass vials held spells for beauty, true love, and whiter teeth. She could scarcely pause at any of these, as hurried feet surrounded her and carried her along as if in a current.

By sunset that day, Lynn looked behind her at the chaos that was being closed up and carried away, and then she looked before her at a long, inviting path that led to the castle. It wound through a garden that looked wild and perfect all at once, and ran alongside a pleasant stream that flowed down from the majestic fortress to the busy village.

The castle was brilliantly decorated with the pink and gold highlights of the fading sun, and fog settled round its gates and blanketed the surrounding hills, coloring them with the purple hues of dusk. She shivered as the heat and light of the sun sank behind the trees. Then she looked again to the castle and paused in wonder at the sight.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fairy Wings (7/13)

Days passed, and Lynn seemed to be hopelessly lost. She’d turned back in the direction she thought she came from, because her fear and doubt urged her to return to everything in her past that was certain – the flowers, the dances, the eternal Spring... but the woods were so twisted and perplexing that she feared she was going in circles and she would die here in a weary and helpless place, far from the glory and beauty of the Faerie Realm. She danced and sang no more. Though her shoes continued to provide strength for her feet to carry on, the burden of her lifeless wings hung heavily on her shoulders and the weight of her sadness bent her head low, so her heart now struggled to keep moving one step in front of the other.

The longer she traveled, the heavier the burden of doubt and despair became. She dreaded that she would wander the world forever, never seeing the King, never knowing his good purpose for her, never being anything but a lonely, broken and useless fairy. More than once she collapsed and cried and slept, longing for home and for a King who would truly love her. She dreamed about him, speaking words of blessing and honor to her heart, wrapping his giant arms warmly around her, wiping away her tears… and she would awake with such a desire to be in his presence that she could scarcely breathe. Still, a thread of hope remained, and without her even realizing it, the Great King was calling her unto himself. The wooded path that the fairy thought she aimlessly traveled, randomly chose, and often doubted was all the time carefully and purposefully ordained for her by the One who knew the best way.

Several weeks after wandering through the thick trees, she came upon a clearing, which opened to display a wondrous sight. Before her lay a great kingdom of winding and narrow streets and small buildings tightly packed together, and in the distance on a hill was a majestic castle of stone, with purple banners unfurled and waving in the wind, and she could only guess that it was the home of a mighty ruler…. Or the mighty ruler, she thought with both joy and fear.

Where to go from here? Lynn could see the road ahead but did not know what she would find there. She knew what lay behind, but as hard as she tried she could not return, and looking back she wondered if she really wanted to after all. Hesitating on the top of the hill, she shifted from one weary foot to the other and considered her choice.

Finally she shook her head, “There is too much at stake,” she told herself. “What if the King is not as good as I thought? What if he cannot help me – or won’t help me? What if I am meant to live in this weakness and loneliness forever? I couldn’t bear his rejection. It’s better if I leave now, give up the dream, and spare myself that pain.” With that, she faced again the dark forest.

But while everything in her body and mind told her to leave her dreams there and go home, her heart screamed louder than the logic of despair, the lavender slippers turned her around, and against every reason she had invented for herself, she stepped toward the castle of the Great King.