Monday, June 05, 2017

The Neighbor of the Year Award





Only once before have I seen something similar in real life. That was years and years ago when I visited a friend for the summer in the English countryside.  But this was not England! And it was real life!

Although one might say that the house and the yard could have easily been transported from a different world or at least a different continent.  

The cascading river of blooms stretched across the side of the house…. It turns out BOTH sides of the house. The front was manicured to such intricate details that not even English countryside could match.

I want THESE people to be my neighbors! We blurted at the same time and laughed at our unanimous choice of the Neighbor of the Year award.

They must have yard service, this is impossible... Imagine how much it would cost...

But, the more I looked at it… the more I knew it takes more than yard service to have such garden in Florida. I shook my head…

This is not a work of a hired hand… I don’t think you can pay somebody to do this.  This is a work of a lover…Everything here shows that the secret ingredient for this amazing garden is love… Imagine the knowledge, the time, the attention to detail, the careful planning, the meticulous execution…. This yard throbs with passion….Only love can do something like this...

Without saying a word, we know we just don’t have it.  

Not that much love. 

Not that much passion... at least not for blooming perennials. 


It's bitter-sweet concession....

Never can, never will... 

and in the middle of it, something begins to dawn on me… like the first wisp of sunlight on the east horizon…

I look at her, my walking partner through thick and thin...  I think of all we’ve been through, joking at times that we are dead women walking... and I see her in this moment as if for the very first time… 

Just this morning she was standing outsides my house patiently waiting for me to get ready for our walk and I marvel at how blind and stupid I can been…


You know, I tell her, I already have the best neighbor in the world. I wouldn’t want any other one…

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Spectacular Neighbors






If I am to be honest, I venture as we peel away from our fantasies, I really don’t care that much for the perfect house. Sure, it would be nice, but what REALLY matters to me is the people who live inside.  And the people I would LOVE to be my neighbors are the ones on the other side of the lake.

Which ones? Anna is as much, or perhaps even more intrigued now by the people I want for my neighbors.

You know, the ones who decorate their house for Christmas and Easter… and Hal…

Oh, YES! A sand hill crane swoops up  into the air at the sound of her scream. Can you imagine being THEIR neighbors???!!!

No! But that would be incredible….

We walk in silence for a bit, each reflecting on what it would be like to know the people who decorate their house like that for the holidays.

Clearly they are soooo creative.

Clearly they are off-the-charts fun.

They are sweep-me-off-my-feet imaginative, extravagantly ingenious, and flamboyantly artistic. 

Their house decorations for holidays are world-class theme park worthy, and yet tasteful, although I know this sounds like an oxymoron. 

… To have them as my neighbors…

I would love to get inside their head… I muse…

I would love to get inside their storage shed!

We both laugh at the thought of space it would take to store the decorations, the logistical nightmare of putting on a show like that and the impracticality of such family enterprise.

Where do they keep all that stuff???? Anna has always been the more sensible one.  Man, it must be exhausting to put on such a spectacular show every time...

Hmmm, I never thought of that.

I never thought what would really be like to live next-door to people who always have to go all out, not just big but GIGANTIC… not just good but AWESOME….

For whom a simply good is never quite good enough.

The relentless, maybe internal maybe external pressure to outdo themselves each time, year after year… 

Are they ever able to descend?

Are they ever able to shrink themselves to small? 

Can they handle being... invisible? 

Can they tolerate the mundane, ordinary grayish days... ?

Or do they always have to command the stage and everyone’s attention by spectacular?… 

On second thought,… I start, but before I am able to finish, both of us are stopped in our tracks. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Story of Three Houses







Ever since my sister left last summer, Anna and I have been going for morning walks together, continuing on with the habit that somehow created itself apart from any intent, will or determination of our own.

We are not fanatical about it. We don’t go every day. We don’t have a set time.  Our morning walks meander through our lives, adjusting to its ebb and flow, rhymes and seasons  (even when there is no discernible reason).

Sometimes abundant, sometimes scarce, but every time these walks happen, they seem to hit the spot for both of us.

Our path takes us through our neighborhood, across a busy street into another quiet neighborhood with a trail around a lake skirting a small patch of woods the developer thoughtfully left behind after plowing down everything else to build the mini-mansions. 

We admire those mansions. But, we are more likely to be taken by the giant blazing fireball glowing on the east horizon and the interplay of its glory with the clouds in the sky above and the lake below. 

Or by angelic winged creatures unceremoniously wading through the shallows on their two stick-like legs, raking the bottom muck in search for a snack. 

Yuck!

Life is inhaled and exhaled between our breaths and steps, life is chewed, tasted and digested as it falls like crumbs off our breakfast tables on these walks.

Sometimes we fantasize about what it would be like to live inside one of those gorgeous houses in a perfect neighborhood with a lake and a path through the woods.

I LUST after that house, I moan.

Which one? She is suddenly animated beyond what is suitable for the morning hour. 

The one at the very beginning of the trail. On the edge of the lake. In the cul-de-sac!

Oh YES! Me too!

If that house ever goes on the market, we have to enter a bidding war over it.

No, we’ll just sell everything we own, buy it and move in there together. It’s big enough for both our families.

We laugh as we imagine life with BOTH our families inhabiting the house's secret interior. 


Its owners are as mysterious and invisible. 

We wish we could meet them and ask what it feels like to actually live the dream… Is it worth the sacrifice? Do their kids like the trade-off? Does their spouse love or resent this slab-and-concrete perfection?

But we never see them. 

So, our questions are doomed to remain unanswered as we continue on our walk, leaving the lusted-after mansion and it's perfect location behind. 



What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? Matthew 16:26

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Of Water, Vivaldi and Wine







Some may think they got the short end of the stick. 

That they are the second class citizens, the no man’s land dwellers. The lowly servants without a place either in the limelight or in the cushy audience seats covered in darkness.

Neither here, nor there... the backstage crew.

They are the conductors of empty chairs, the directors of beat-up music stands, the composers of chocolate chip cookies.

They are the shadows dressed in black, blending with the background because they are meant to be invisible.

They are meant to be unnoticeable.

There is no question in anyone's mind that they aren't the real gig. 

They arrive before the lights are on and leave after all the lights are out, not because they have to, but because they want to.

They are there when the only music heard is the scratching of the grand piano against the wooden floor and the clanking of the stands against each other.

Some may think they got the short end of the stick…

… maybe because they don’t understand…

...that their ear is the first to recognize...

... when notes become music…

… when syllables become a song...

Their lips are the first to taste water-turned-into-wine...

They are the first witnesses of the resurrection of Vivaldi and Mozart from the dead…

Still, some may think they got the short end of the stick…



When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!” John 2:9-10

Thursday, May 04, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You

I rarely revisit the oldies, but thought it would be fun to make an exception to the rule on this day. May the Fourth Be With You!



We can thank my mother-in-law for introducing Star Wars into our children’s lives by getting our 5 year old son his first Star Wars LEGO set. He ripped the boxes open and within seconds our home was invaded by the Imperial Stormtroopers and the Droids.

I was mortified.

Star Wars?!!! He is waaay too young for Star Wars!


It wasn’t the complexity of the building process I was concerned about, because that never seemed to be a problem for our pint-size engineer. What bothered me much more was a matter of introducing complex adult issues into his immature mind, and the challenge that creates for me as his parent. But, like it or not, the door was open and there was no going back.

From that day on, my son turned into a miniature Star Wars maniac. So far, he’s been mostly preoccupied with recreating cosmic wars against his little sister. Along the way he somehow acquired a prodigious amount of information about the characters and the plot and various twists and turns in the storyline. He learned the difference between the Imperial and the Rebel blaster, the who’s who and what’s what of the Imperial Army and the Rebel Alliance, and all the whys and therefores of the narrative that molded the worldview of generation after generation since the first movie was released. He bought a Star Wars Visual Dictionary with his own money(!) and would spend his free time memorizing its content.

Now, all this wouldn’t be so surprising if it wasn’t until this afternoon, years after the initial encounter, that he saw his very first Star Wars movie. Watching him watch the movie was as much (or more) fun as watching the movie itself. It was as if he had all these loose pieces of a puzzle, and he finally saw how they all fit together, he could finally place them in their exact spots in the larger, 4-D story-puzzle. His delight was quite contagious. During dinner, he continued chatting enthusiastically about all the fascinating trivia he picked up during the afternoon Star Wars extravaganza. In the course of the conversation, my husband casually mentioned George Lucas and what his intent might have been for the unfolding of the various episodes in a certain sequence.

George… Lucas?!!
 Our son muttered hesitantly… And who is this George Lucas? 

There was no doubt that he was utterly confused. You could tell that he was scrolling down the imaginary database of Star Wars names and faces, from Emperor Palpatine through Chewbacca and Ewoks, but there was no suitable match for the name “George Lucas”.

It was now our turn to be confused. How is it possible that with all these years of borderline obsession with the Jedi and their pecking order, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and R2D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi, our son never ever heard the name George Lucas?

We looked at each other and burst into laughter.

Hmm …George Lucas…. George Lucas…. Well, he is kind of like God to the world of Star Wars. Without him, there would be no Star Wars, nor the galaxy, nor anybody or anything else belonging to this galaxy far, far away. He created it all. This amazing world exists because it first existed in the mind of George Lucas.


It took several minutes for the news to settle in his shaken-to-the core 9 year old mind screaming for a paradigm shift. Until this moment of revelation he was so preoccupied with the fascinating universe which George Lucas had created that for a brief while he simply couldn’t compute the information about the existence of the creator of that universe.

There…there is a George Lucas… there IS a George Lucas and I never even knew it!


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Resurrection Duck






We watch him, a tormented soul, standing on the grassy easement of a narrow two-way street near our house.

It’s Easter morning. The sun has just risen so the traffic is light.  Those who were going to the sunrise service are singing hymns celebrating the empty tomb.  The sleepy-heads are still sleeping in their beds waiting for the second resurrection.

He waddles to the curb and as he is about to step onto the street, the car comes from around the bend so he hops back to safety.  He hesitates for a while, gathering courage for the next attempt.

On the other side his three friends look helplessly, waiting for him to join their party.

His next attempt is interrupted with the speeding motorcycle zooming from the opposite direction.

He races back as fast as his short webby feet would allow him. Back onto the green. Back to safety. 

With each failed attempt the road grows wider and more menacing to his unblinking eye. Practically impassable.

I can’t stand watching his tortured existence any longer.

I look to the right and to the left -  the road clear - I spread my arms wide, a  featherless monstrosity flailing furiously, bearing down on him full speed.

The prospect of becoming an unexpected addition to the main course of an Easter banquet, overrides his paralysis of fear.

For a split-second I think I gave him a heart attack, before he lifts off and flies across the road.

When he safely lands among his friends, I don’t think he fully realizes yet that he has wings… that he can fly. The adrenaline is still rushing through his body, a whale of a story forming inside his little head to tell anyone who is willing to hear. 

His terrifying attempts to cross the road. The feeling of being stuck. Alone. The hopelessness. The paralyzing fear. The ugly mean giant who viciously attacked him... 

... when it finally hits him,


I can FLY!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Missing Child of Easter






Tucked between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is mostly overlooked, largely neglected middle child of Easter.

Saturday, also known as Sabbath.

The Day of Rest.

In this country, it is a day jam-packed with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, church potlucks and carnivals, Easter egg hunts and other fun activities to kill the time between Good Friday and the sunrise service on Sunday.

I often wonder, though, about that first Sabbath, the first day of rest after the crucifixion of Jesus.

After the drama, the chaos, the noise, the horror – the nightmare of the day Jesus died, how in the world did the friends of Jesus find it in themselves to honor the commandment of God to keep the day of rest as they obviously did??

Everything happened so fast.

Everything happened so unexpected.

Were they reeling from all the thoughts and emotions that swarmed inside them, drowning in confusion and the turmoil that they were simply spent? Emotionally, physically, spiritually exhausted, so they entered a coma of sort, shocked and disengaged as they reached the threshold of human limit to bear grief.

Or did they, while going about their day, slowly, gently, quietly wrap in burial cloths their hopes and dreams, and lay them to rest alongside Jesus’ dead body, remembering with shudder the rolling of the stone, closing on the grave with the final thud?

Were they gathering the little strength that they had left to prepare for facing unimaginable, facing the new week, the first day of the new Jesus-less era, wondering how were they going to survive a minute, an hour, much less an entire day with him gone… knowing its forever?

Or were they somehow, someway able to receive the rest that God gives to all those who trust His goodness even in the darkest, longest night?

I wonder what the friends of Jesus felt on that day...  that must have felt like a thousand-year long sleepless night of rest...