Time changes everything. Through the past years cultivating this blog, I have discovered many things about myself. I love to muse and write. What surprised me as I work to accept my value in this existence, I have other talents: art, sewing, crafting, photography and others continue to bubble into reality.
In order to have room to allow these interests to fly, a new blog was created. Frog In Paris is my new home. Please hop over for a visit as I continue this journey.
Praying for my enemy is a good thing, right? The word Enemy conjures an image of Celtic warriors, racing down a hill in kilts, screaming with blue war paint covered faces. In reality, an enemy is simply a relationship where getting along is difficult. Often it is a hurt that we avoid resolving, allowing hostility to fester, which creates complications. Placing "enemy" in this context inspired me to the action of praying. Little did I know the havoc it would render.
Answers to prayers are often not what we expect. I prayed for compassion, to understand how to love those who are difficult for me. The answer? Step into their shoes, listen to my words and experience the wounds they caused.
In "So Damned Heavenly Bound" some of words the younger sister says were inspired by my own. She was the character I was originally asked to play. When the project was cast, the part I was given was completely different, the middle sister. The type of "Christian" who is difficult for me to deal with. My enemy. The type person I often vented about.
For seventeen performances, I put her on. I became acquainted with her honest attempt to love those around her through encouraging them to rely on God. The shame she carried deep within her heart. One night I realized: the character I wore, was defending herself against my own words and unforgiveness.
Standing before the judgment seat of God, watching our lives flash by is a moment we all dread. To see the ugliness of our true nature is horrifying. In that moment on stage, I realized Father was giving me a taste of his judgment. In answering my prayer for compassion, I caught a glimpse of my own ugliness.
In the weeks since, I stumbled across Luke 6:35-38. The passage talks about loving our enemy, warns us about judging others and concludes with a promise. What I give out, be it a demand to be understood or forgiveness, it will be returned to me equal measure. I see where I was ungrateful and self-serving. I judged and condemned instead of offering compassion and kindness. The realization is, the instant hurt is felt I need to pray for wisdom instead of defending myself. At the moment of offence, I need to speak truth in love and allow for reconciliation. This will keep hostility from growing like mildew in my own heart. If an understanding cannot be reached, I need to accept the consequences with grace. Not ask why or demand justification. In allowing the grief of loss, the hurt will be allowed to heal. The result is, the freedom to express the compassion, kindness and forgiveness I asked for.
The balance in our checking account existed at zero for weeks.We lived on cash appearing out of nowhere and through miraculous circumstances.In the midst of our financial famine arose an absurd expectation:Scott's dad insisted on all five of us travel to Las Vegas for an Erwin family reunion.His Dad was on a quest to discover the family tree.He spent years in research and occasionally would travel the United States, looking for the branch of Great Aunt Millie twice removed who married Uncle Joe's niece's nephew, and add their story and pictures to the genealogy.Once he gathered enough of these twigs and branches, he would plan a reunion.
"We can't go!We have no money.You have to explain it to him."I begged.
"I can't tell him no!I have to wear the kilt.He is expecting all of us."Scott argued in his Dad's defense.
"Are you kidding me?"I thought, as I walked away from the pointless argument.
Scott worked out a way to go alone. His brother Rick offered him a ride. Rick was divorced and not over the death of his sixteen -year-old daughter, a year and a half earlier. Scott then could stay in his parent's suite. He wouldn't have to spend anything. Scott and I breathed a sigh of relief.His dad would be appeased and it would not deprive us of grocery money. When Rick came to pick Scott up on Friday morning, they seemed excited to spend time together.
Scott called that night to tell me that the dinner meet and greet went well.He said his dad was so proud of the new people he found. Scott was amazed to see what his Dad had done to find his heritage. To meet all of these people and hear their stories was humbling.He couldn't wait to learn more about them on Saturday.
On Saturday night, Scott touched base to say that the Erwin Day's activities were fantastic."We're all going to go check out the strip.It'll be great to see what is new around here. I wish you could be here."he said.
Around one a.m., they all arrived back at the hotel and headed for their rooms.Scott and Rick said goodnight to each other as Scott slid the key into the door. He watched Rick open his and enter.
Early Sunday morning they all gathered for breakfast. Rick didn't make it and everyone figured he slept in.Lots of hugs, seasoned with promises to keep in touch, were expressed as everyone began their treks home. Scott assured his parents, "I'll be fine. Rick is just sleeping in. We'll leave soon."
Scott watched his parents leave as he settled into the hotel lobby to watch Vegas television.
By ten o'clock Scott became concerned.He rode the elevator up to Rick's room and knocked on the door.No answer.Banging and pounding resulted in nothing.Scott explained the situation to the front desk. Nonchalantly they escorted him to the room and opened the door.
The bed, undisturbed, gave mute testimony of Rick's actions.The secret habit Rick practiced for years had come to call.
Scott dialed Rick's number countless times, but each call went to voicemail.
Scott decided to look for Rick's car keys so he could drive himself home.Rick created this situation.He could find his own way out of it.Scott found no keys and then reality set in: he was trapped in Las Vegas with little money and no way home.
He called his Dad.
"Dad, Rick's missing."
"Huh, that's too bad.Well, we're almost home, what are you going to do?" his dad replied.
He called me."You have to come get me."
"Rick is AWOL and I am stuck here in Vegas.You need to come get me."
I took a breath. "What do I do with the kids?Where do I find the gas money?" Stunned, I spoke with as much soft gentleness as possible.
Scott filled me in.Rick was on a binge and heaven only knew when he would turn up again. It was one of the Erwin family secrets. The only reason we knew about it was because the friendships I created with the women from Rick's two failed marriages. Once in a while, I would get a phone call from a frustrated sister-in-law needing emotional support.Now, Rick was alone.His marriage of ten years had ended two years before.He was single with no friends and no accountability.The rule of "keep all things personal a secret" was the Erwin Code.Even Rick's grief over his daughter was never spoken about.This Erwin guideline for living was the opened door to Rick's secret habit to descend in an epic spiral.
"Scott, you have to let your dad know that this is an on-going problem and Rick needs help.He needs an intervention and rehab."I said.
His response was a deafening silence.
"His lifestyle is now affecting others.There is no reason this needs to be kept a secret.Your brother needs help.You and your dad have to help him." I spoke into an abyss.
"Are you there?!"I begged.
"I will get back to you in a minute, Bek.My dad is calling," clipped Scott.
A few hours later, Scott called with a new plan. "Dad said I should take a bus home instead of having you come get me.I have a little cash, so I can take the red-eye. I'll just hang out until it leaves.Pick me up at the Grayhound Station in the morning."
"Scott, did you tell your dad what is going on with Rick?Are you two going to talk to him?" I asked.
Scott spoke softly. "He knows.Don't worry. Rick will work this out on his own."
Dumbfounded and grieved, I hung up the phone.
A few days later Rick called Scott and left a message on his voicemail. In it he apologized. Rick paid Scott back the money spent on the bus ride home.The subject was never brought up again.
Two years ago this week, Rick took his own life.
I often look back at that moment seven years ago.I wonder what would have happened if the Erwin code had been broken.What if questions had been asked, secrets exposed and, personal lives invaded upon because of the Vegas Fiasco... would it have changed anything?By the time the truth was uncovered, a year and a half later, Rick's job was on the line.Rick's dad was supportive and helped him through rehab twice: once as an outpatient and once as an inpatient.His sobriety after his inpatient stay lasted a little more than a year.
One day, the reality of loneliness that he created, and he augmented by the silence of the Erwin Code, came crashing in.He was alone, without support or family in Los Angeles.No one would miss him.Rick made his final decision.
My father-in-law found Rick, two years ago today, forty-eight hours after he locked himself in his bathroom and shot himself.
"Pray for peace in the City."The voice spoke deep in my spirit.
I jolted awake. Taking a moment, I laid there thinking.The weekend had been perfect.Our friends, the Rosanders, spent the weekend with us.We started the LA exploration with the IMAX film, The Blue Planet, The story of our big, blue marble as fragile as it is beautiful was its message.Computer animation explored the San Andreas Fault and what an earthquake looked like.It was similar to what happened when a marble is dropped into a bucket of water.The impact creates waves that move along until the surface reestablishes equilibrium. Greg, Lori and Scott and I finished our Saturday with sight seeing, dinner, laughter and warm friendship.
Sunday we churched together.Jack Hayford, pastor of Church on The Way, spoke about our responsibility in creating peace around us.The Rodney King riots, only months before, impacted everyone.We all felt grieved at the social prejudices that still existed.Pastor Jack referred to Nehemiah 2 for his inspiration.Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes.The King noticed that Nehemiah did not look his usual self and asked what was wrong.Nehemiah politely told the king he was distressed because Jerusalem was in the process of rebuilding, yet lacked a city wall.Jerusalem was defenseless.Only when the wall was rebuilt, would there be true peace.The King gave Nehemiah permission to go and rebuild the wall.The challenge for us, Jack presented, was we were to build a wall of peace through prayer and actions if grace.It was our responsibility as followers of Jesus to lead, like Nehemiah, in restoring peace, tolerance and goodwill to those around us.At lunch we all discussed the beauty of this message and after, said goodbye. Scott and I set about our preperations for the coming work week that evening. Monday was Martin Luther King Day, January 17, 1994.Scott had the holiday off, but I did not.
"Pray for peace in the city." The voice spoke in my conscience again.
I rolled over and looked at the clock. The last thing I wanted to do was get up at 4 o'clock in the morning. I grabbed my Bible and snuck out of the bedroom, guided by ambient light outside our Woodland Hills Tennis Club apartment.One of our cats, Annie, followed me.
Sitting in the short corner of our L shaped couch, I looked out the sliding glass window. Only a few stars fought through the Los Angeles night sky. Annie began to pet herself with my feet and I turned on the light. I opened to Nehemiah and re-read chapter 2.I began to pray for forgiveness, renewed trust and friendship between ethnicities.
"Pray for peace in the city."
I paused.Read, and then began again to pray for peace between people in the city.
"Pray for peace in the city."
All right, I thought, I began to pray that a peace would flow over the city. People would help each other and feel a calm within them.I meditated on a sense of tranquility blanketing the whole Los Angeles area when I heard it.
A childhood memory flooded my mind.When I was a child, my Dad was in the Air Force.On one of the bases, our house was near the end of the airstrip. The rattle and hum of jets and helicopters' effect on my bedroom window was normal.I would feel the sound, long before I would hear them roar over to land.
I held my breath, as the rumble grew louder.
A flash of The Blue Planet's explanation and I knew it was an earthquake.I looked at the clock, 4:30.I stood, took two steps and reached the corner of the couch.The wave slammed into our building with a low, loud thunderclap. The room around me went pitch black.I felt myself land across the room.I began to crawl and somehow made it to the bathroom door.I clung to the jam as it rolled and pitched like a mechanical bull.I felt the building crumbling beneath me and I knew I was going to die.I prepared myself for the inevitable and thanked Jesus that I was allowed to live this long.
The ride slowed and then stopped.I sat, in shock, realizing the building was still in tact and I was alive.I heard Scott in our bedroom at the end of the hall, throwing things away from the door. The door flung open and in two steps he was on the floor next to me holding onto the jam as an aftershock hit.We rode the grocery store rocking horse until it was still.
"I need shoes." Scott mechanically reached over to the junk closet.
"Why do you need shoes?"
"To protect my feet from the glass."He said.
"What glass?We are no where near the windows and I didn't hear anything fall." I queried.We rode another aftershock.
He put on his shoes, "I need to find a flashlight."
I stayed put.Wondering why my back was cold.I touched it with my hand.Wet?How did it get wet?It was only an earthquake. Did a pipe burst?I don't hear water.
A light flashed in my peripheral.I looked over at Scott in the kitchen standing in a foot of rubbish.Dishes, plastic, pans, spices, food, everything that had been in the cabinets was now all over our small kitchen floor.
"We have to get the cats and get out of here."I spoke.We surfed another aftershock.I grabbed a pair of shoes.Scott found buckets from under the sink and began filling them with water.I grabbed a flashlight and the cat carrier.
"Scott!We have to get out of here.Help me with the cats."My emergency mode was kicking in.
"We need water.I am filling up buckets." He quipped.
With my beam of light, I surveyed the living room.The twenty-gallon fishtank that stood at the end of our couch was a paile of small glass marbles and gravel. How did I miss that?It fell right where I stood.I marveled.I walked through the swamp of carpet to see if I could find any surviving fish.I found one of the ten and put it in the untouched tank on the opposite side of the room.
Our entertainment center was a Lego construction of cinderblock and compressed sawdust boards.An old 27-inch television rested on top and a stereo rested underneath. The last place I saw was walking behind the center.I pushed aside the television and planks of sawdust to reveal Annie cuddled inside one of the square holes of the cinderblock.The skittish cat, who hated to be held, climbed into my arms with relief.I put her into the carrier and went to look for our other cat.
"Scott!!!Help me get Bill.He is in the bedroom under the bed. I can't lift the mattress alone.We have to get out of here." I ordered as I walked by him, still filling a bucket with water.
"NO!We need water first." He switched buckets and began to fill a second.
Walking into our bedroom, I waded through my deconstructed crafting hovel.Crunching paper, I knelt down to look under the bed.Large glowing green eyes looked at me.
"Bill, it's alright.Come here."I cooed.
My friendly, cuddly cat looked at me as if to say, "Like Hell!Come and get me."
Standing up, I pushed the mattress off the bed.Picking up the box spring revealed Bill plastered next to a cinderblock that kept the bed from sagging.I coaxed him again.He looked at me and I heard the whistle. I was in the showdown at the O.K. corral. Pushing the box spring free, I grabbed Bill.He lunged as I held him to my chest.Convinced of escape, he dug a back claw down the center of my chest.I squeezed him and with the passion pain brings; shoved him into the carrier.
Cats safely contained, I grabbed a jacket and looked at Scott.Holding buckets full of water fresh from the tap he looked up at me.Ourtoes clenched the floor as another aftershock rolled the wooden structure of our building.
"Can we go now?I have the cats."I stated.
Scott looked into the bucket with his flashlight. A rust color glimmered back. "Yes. This is a lost cause."
We paused in front of the door.We had no idea what we were to find in the hallway. Like a band-aid, Scott threw the door open. We walked to the stairs and he flung the door open. We looked into the liquid dark and began our decent with a small, concentrated beam of light.A few small aftershocks juggled the building as we navigated the stairs.
Opening the door to the outside world, we paused.The city was silent. No traffic. No sirens. The night sky was breathtaking.Scott and I placed the cats were into the saftey of the truck and sat on its bed. The sound of twinkling stars inspired us to sing in awe of the clearly exposed Milky Way.Those milling around us voiced astonishment at the glittering heavens.
We visited and helped neighbors as we could for the next hour.The sunrise washed away the blind fears of night.Reluctantly, we all left to climb the flights back to our apartments and assess the damage.The one bedroom apartment we called home for three years looked unwelcoming.Bookcase contents were slathered all over the dining room.The refrigerator and dishwasher walked to the middle of the kitchen stood frozen.The only surviving dishes was the china we inherited from Scott's Aunt Dorothy. It sat proudly stacked in the top most cabinet dangling a half inch of the edge.
We worked for about an hour cleaning with no water or power.The phones worked suprisingly quickly.I called my boss and told him I would not be in.
"Scary as Hell, wasn't it?!That's fine, you can be off today, but you need to be in tomorrow." Bernie's voice soothed.
"Really?My house is a wreck, we have no water or power." I responded in shock.
"I know, but as Disney employees, unless it is completely impossible, you need to be there.Company orders." He dictated.
I told Scott and we both shook our heads.Typical of the industry, career first, personal life second.We decided to get out of the house and go for a drive.We meandered along Oxnard Street, across the Valley.The streets were dead, certain buildings were intact, and others were crumpled debris.
"Let's go check on the Kliewers." Scott suggested.
We drove in silence for the 20 minutes it took us to get to Studio City. Crossing a vacant Ventura Boulevard was eerie.We pulled up to their 1920s Spanish style house and breathed a sigh of relief.It was intact. We walked into the house and Julie began to tell us about their adventure.
"There is a gas main ruptured on Ventura.We walked by it to the grocery store. The air rippled while tiptoed and whispered.Gas trucks were everwhere!Jay pinched his cheeks afraid he would add to the problem." Julie said
"You know, I am pretty potent." Jay pontificated. "I didn't want to cause an explosion."
We all laughed.It felt good.
"You wouldn't believe the grocery store! They set up a register at the door and allowed no one in.The line was through the parking lot!We waited, how long, Jay?" Julie looked up at Jay.
"Maybe thirty minutes."
"They were asking everyone to only get what they needed.The people in front of us made the wait worth it.When it was their turn, they asked for bread.A clerk went into the store and brought out hot dog buns." she began to giggle. "The man began to yell, 'I don't want hot dog bun!I want bread!'The poor cashier tried to explain it was the same thing, but the guy just wouldn't let it go."Julie in tears, finished in fits of giggles.All of our sides began to hurt with laughter as we related.Stress inspires inane arguments.
We spent the afternoon with them.They had power, but no gas.Jay turned it off and had to wait for the gas company to come turn it on.We helped them clean and took a nap on their couch.Mid afternoon we decided we needed to brave our own home.
We filled garbage bags full and dragged them down the hallway.The manager came by to inform us of the lack of power and water.The management didn't know when it would be back on.We called the Kliewers and began to pack.Scott emptied the defrosted freezer into an ice chest and we left.
The Cats, sleeping bags and luggage arranged in their office, we stepped outside to watch the sunset.Scott pulled out the camping stove and set a wok on it. He dumped everything from our freezer in it.As we watched the first stars peak through the blue sky, a monster stir-fry was cooking.Steaming vegetables and meat flavored the air.The four of us stood in the lush back yard, we began to talk about gratitude.Laughing again about hot dog buns and trying to save brown water, things that seemed to be important turned actually futile.We savored the best stir-fry of our life and were encouraged.These things were important: friends who make the best of everything.Living in the midst of an adventure with no end in sight. Looking at a beautiful starry sky, the purpose of spreading peace and grace and the ability to live another day.
I love new beginnings.New Year’s Eve is my favorite. A day to meditate on what has passed and what is to come, excites me.Questions of what do I want to change or improve electrify my mind.My favorite way to celebrate this transition of time was in LA.The church Scott and I attended had a 11:00 service on New Year’s Eve.We would worship, and the pastor would talk about a focus word and scripture for the coming year.Stationary would be passed out and in the twenty or so quiet congregational minutes we would write a letter to ourselves.The letter was to cover three things; gratitude for something completed in the closing year, guidance in the current moment of growth, and what I wanted to see God do in the year to come.All would self address the envelope, and hand them to the ushers.Three months later, the church would send them out and I would be able to evaluate where I was in my year.The community seeking the divine through worship and prayer was perfect.
Sitting here, overlooking a sparkling lake which reflects an azure sky, I savor.This has been a year of endings.Austin is managing high school well.Zachary graduated from home schooling and entered public high school.A year of grieving my brother-in-law’s suicide concluded.Scott found a happy place in Corporate America again.A lifelong regret not only received closure, but forgiveness.Answers to voids in a significant relationship create possibilities.While parts of me dance with joy, a considerable part of my self wants to curl up and sleep for a hundred years.I feel exhausted!Eight years of fighting for optimism, striving for security, encouraging and cheerleading the discouraged around me, has left me drained.I hear the question floating in my consciousness, “What do I do now?”As I sit with my legs dangling upon the precipice of a new frontier.
Similar to what Persephone must feel every year, rising out of Hades to visit her mother Demeter, I feel wonder.As the cold and dead of the past lays before me I am excited for possibilities.I run to embrace a season of discovery and growth.I understand I must wait for spring green buds to appear on the trees around me.I will watch for daffodils, snowdrop and edelweiss to be nourished by the mulch left from fall.With the power of growth, they will push away snow in order to bloom.I find myself discovering me.My focus, for as long as I can remember, is to exist for the service of my fellow man.My worth and existence relied upon my ability to fulfill their every request.I would not allow myself to have desires, dreams or hopes.Joy is something I rejected and in fact it scares me.In this moment, I am curious about who I am.For the first time in my life, I have a desire to explore what I am able to do.Accepting my own limits feels freeing instead of suffocating.With the strength of a toddler, I step into this year of discovering joy.
As I totter into this new found self, I pause.Where will I go and what will I do?Holding the hand of my Creator and listening to his whispers, I will create goals and plans for myself with a purpose to fulfill them.Reneging on promises to me is out of fashion.I resolve to explore the kinds of art that lay before me.Writing, sewing, photography and empty canvases are hidden all throughout closets in the house.These projects will be found and played with.In some places I will have to start over because growth was distracted by grief.The Artist’s Way might have the dust brushed off, and revisited.
A fragrance of joy will fill my life.What will bring your life joy this year?I challenge you, dear reader, to pause.Ask yourself three questions.What have I done? Where am I?Where do I want to go?Make peace with regrets.Touch base with the present.Face the future.The clock is ticking and the adventure waits.Where will it find you?
"But WHY my phone?!"Was my son's reaction.His honesty about homework was lacking and my husband, Scott decided that something needed to be done about it.Austin resolved on the way to school to sulk the whole day.He promised himself that he was not going to laugh or smile the entire time.He would revel in anger and misery.In first period his friend asked why he was upset.He told her and she made a really good joke.He really tried not to laugh, but couldn't help it.Eventually he figured out that God was not going to let him get away with it. "He just was not going to leave me alone! Every 30 minutes or so something funny would happen right in front of me, it was the best day ever." He told me.Austin felt that God was making him laugh even though he didn't want to.Austin made a plan, yet God interrupted. Austin didn't ask.He didn't invite his Creator in.God just created interruptions and Austin recognized what they were.God's goodness and existence in that moment was tangible.
As I would sit in church, I have often wrestled with "am I good or bad."I understood from our Christian culture that I am not good. In church I often heard that without God I cannot be good, ever.I would hear teachers wonder how a good God could love something so terrible as humanity.How humble we should feel because we are enemies to God. How can a God who created me want me, a bad thing?I also applied this to mean that I did not deserve good things. A wall of shame was between God and I.I would spend feverish time with Him in prayer and reading, striving to feel some sort of connection and all I could feel was void.I would read all of the "good" in the Bible and reflect on how "sin" made me "bad" and untouchable to Him.If I accepted Jesus, then I could go to Heaven.I believed as fact that I would only know peace and goodness in Heaven.This brought me to think, why can't I just go to Heaven now and live in goodness?What is the purpose to my living?I lived in this logic for years.
A counselor challenged this concept.She said when I was born; God looked at me and said, "She is good."She informed me that what God spoke over the Garden, still referred to me.How can this be?I was taught there was only one good. Only God was good.This way of thinking fed my insecurities.It nourished my self-condemnation.It was a promoter of my eating disorder.It aided in my suicidal thoughts.Why should I exist if there is no good in me?The only good possible was when I was in Heaven, so why couldn't I hurry up and get there?Why was it wrong to want death so badly?
I first had to address this idea of a Loving Creator who wanted a relationship with me.I began searching. When God created the world He, "...saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)I looked up the word good from Genesis.It is the Hebrew word Towb, an adjective, and it means: pleasant, agreeable, joyful, and favorable. God saw what He created and described it as Very Good.Similar to an artist who looks upon a work and feels satisfied, he says, "It is as it should be."
I turned to Matthew 19:17. Jesus is answering a man who called him a "good teacher." Jesus replies,"Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."In the Greek, this word good means: of good constitution or nature.This word good is talking about essence, intrinsic nature, being.God's very core is good.Think in terms of the sea:the sea is salty. The core of it is its chemical makeup.Our idea of perfection is a complete good, something in which there are no faults.When Jesus says there is only one who is good and that is God, He is saying that God is the standard for good.He is the origin of good and everything else is His expression.His goodness is tangible.In Exodus, God meets Moses on Mount Sinai.God puts him into the cleft of a rock and passes in front of him.He tells Moses that, "I will make all my goodness pass before you," (Exodus 33:19) God's goodness is overwhelming.It is His essence.Jesus was stating who God is, not describing Him.
In examining all of this, I realized what my counselor said was true.When I was born, God looked at me and was pleased.I was created with all of the gifts and talents I needed to add to this world. He described me as good.Because of the nature of this, He wanted to have a relationship with me, his artistic creation.He wanted me to know Him.He wants me to look to Him for my perfection instead of trying to create my own.He delights in giving me good things, because it creates a joy we can share.He created me to be happy.I deserve to embrace this good happiness within me and feel His joy.I make a choice to see the good that He has created around me and celebrate it. My reason for living has been answered.He gave me the gift of life and it brings Him joy to see me live it.