Awkward Questions We Must Ask During This Pandemic —  Even if It Means Losing a Friend

image from Politico

Awkward Questions We Must Ask During This Pandemic —

Even if It Means Losing a Friend

By Jane Tawel

July 1, 2020

 

When I first became a mom and had my four wonderful children, now all grown and adulting, I loved being with them, caring for them, watching over them like a mother hen. And so most playdates included me. I was always a bit cautious about dropping my children off with other people, even if I knew them, was good friends with the parents, or possibly even was related to them. It wasn’t exactly that I didn’t trust them but….. I didn’t trust them. I mean I didn’t trust anyone but their loving dad, to truly love and watch-over and protect and care about my kids as much as I would. I never minded other parents dropping their kids at my house and was always a hawk on the sidelines trying to ensure safety to all the children, even the ones who were not mine. If I had to leave the swimming pool as a lifeguard, ALL the kids had to get out of the water (“But Mom we’re teenagers now”. “Too bad, out.”) The one time my kids were in a hot tub at a friend’s house, and I asked her to watch my kids while I went to breast-feed the baby, my daughter almost drowned right in front of my friend. Luckily her sister was there to save her. So, call me overprotective, call me a worry-wart, call me a helicopter mom — all true — if it was about safety and protection. I didn’t try to protect my kids from risk or failure, or learning or fighting their own relational battles — but physical safety — heck yeah! I believed that as long as I could, I would do my very, very best to protect them. Now, since they are young adults, the most I can do is caution and pray (and they will confirm I do plenty of both — still my job).

 

But then all the kids started getting old enough to want sleep-overs. It would have been rather weird for them if I had insisted that if they wanted to sleep over at a friend’s house, their mom — I — would have to sleep-over too. And of course, I didn’t do that. But I did often have to say no to sleep overs, especially if I didn’t know the family or other kids or parents that well. But even if I did know them fairly well, I would always have to ask this very awkward question: “Do you have guns in the house and if so, where and how to you store them?”

 

Asking someone if they keep guns at home is a bit like asking someone on a first date if that’s a pimple or a cold sore on their lip. Awkward! However, this thing about guns in this country is something people think very, very differently about, and so when you ask a very reasonable question, it feels intrusive because people see it as political. For me it had nothing to do with my view of guns or my view of my friends — it had to do with, “will my child be as safe as possible at your home, and do you consider this an important safety issue like I do?” This was something I had learned to ask as a careful, discerning parent, and yes, some people got offended, and yes, some people might have lied, and yes, some relationships fell apart even, but at the same time, asking might have made not only my kids safer but made those families safer too, if they found out they or their own friends were not treating gun ownership and storage with the seriousness it should be. I knew without a doubt, that even if it was an awkward conversation, I would rather my children and I be “safe and not sorry”. You see, my children’s lives are the most precious gifts I have ever, ever received and I wanted to treat them as such. I would never get another one of J, C, V, or G — my unique and oh, so special four children — and so I didn’t mind being considered a bit overprotective, even if it cost us a “fun time”; even if it cost us a friend.

 

Fast forward to 2020, and some of us who would rather be “safe than sorry” have got to start being “the careful parent” of our own lives and the lives of others. As Corona Virus continues to rampage through our nation, we may not be able to control other people’s foolishness or lack of care about their own or our safety — but we CAN control their access to us, do our best to not be unaware of or ignorant of their behaviors both in our presence and apart from us, and speak out when necessary. We do have the right, awkward as it may feel, and the responsibility to protect ourselves and our children, and our children’s children. We must truly take seriously any possible threat to our well-being, even if “those people” do not. But just like guns, some people see the safety precautions and their rights to do whatever they want with the weapons of this virus as a political issue. Don’t let them do that to you. It is not — any more than gun safety is a political issue. It is a life-issue and a safety-issue and an issue about how much we care about each other. And so it feels intrusive and awkward to bring the subject up, but if we start caring more about our health and safety and the health and safety of others, more than we care about our feelings or egos or politics, then we will make having these awkward conversations just one more part of the new normal. We will make asking the right questions of others a matter of caring about them, and we will willingly share with others what they need to know before they decide to meet with us. We will be honest, even with our most casual acquaintances and we will be truthful with ourselves when we ask, “is this event worth my giving up something in the future with people I love?” And dear, dear folks — we need to start having these conversations before we get together with other people.

 

And sometimes the hardest conversations are with the very people who are your best friends and your beloved family. Having to ask your parent or child, “by the way, before you come over, what have you done this week, how safe were your co-workers this week, and are you still wearing a mask and washing your hands like a surgeon”? Last week, when we were lulled into a sense of security (false as it turns out this week) that maybe we could have another couple over for a socially distanced, outdoors, bring your own food and utensils, keep it distanced and keep it short little get-together at our house, we made all the arrangements until I mentioned the time. Then my friend (who is 70 years old and has been quite careful about following all the protocols during the pandemic / quarantine) asked if we could make it later in the day since the day before we were to meet, they would be hosting a party for a friend’s son who was graduating high school and she would be hosting 30 -40 other people. Yep. True story. I was rather flabbergasted and yes, blindsided. So my hubby and I discussed it and I texted her a very kind, sweet text asking if we could delay the get-together and she was very kind and texted back, ‘of course we could’. But here’s the scary part — if she hadn’t mentioned it in passing, I would never have known how many other households I would be exposed to through her the very next day. I never would have known if she hadn’t let it slip that her “gun was loaded in an unlocked drawer” so to speak.

 

So here is the gist, the bottom line, the stern warning, the upshot, the please, please, please let’s all commit to doing this. We absolutely must start quizzing people about where they have been and with whom and for how long and what protections they used when they did it — BEFORE we get together with them. Remember that old adage that every one your mate has had sex with, you technically have also had sex with? Well, corona virus is like that, y’all, but the thing is — if you’re asymptomatic or have just recently been exposed — you don’t even know that you’ve “had sex” with the virus. So, abstinence is finally the right solution folks — and we do that by sacrificing pleasure for the long term health of all us, and by masking up, social distancing, washing like a surgeon, telling each other the truth, and making good (even when tough) decisions for those we love.

 

We can’t be embarrassed around each other or irritated if someone asks us about our exposure or if we have been following protocols with the Corona Virus — this is killing us folks! We certainly cannot keep being offended if someone asks us to follow the safety guidelines when we are with them and we must stand up to those who act offended by our desire to protect ourselves and our children from them — (do I need to say it again? THIS IS KILLING US.) Just like asking if someone’s guns are stored in a safe, locked lockbox, we have to start asking people if they have been “locking down” the threat of their corona virus possibilities. Just like I never believed (without proof) someone who would say, “oh don’t worry, I’ll watch your kids” or “how dare you ask, my kids would never do such and such” or “don’t worry I’m very careful with the gun I keep loaded in my bedside drawer” we can’t pretend that all of us don’t stretch the truth to protect ourselves from criticism or from having to change our behaviors. We can’t really keep expecting to believe that others are being careful to protect their own health or mine, unless we are willing to converse, and communicate, and dialogue. And we should not shy away from a little bit of questioning and a commitment to get some reasonable answers on the part of those we would like to be with.

 

I will promise to never be offended if family or friends quiz me about whether I am doing my part for their safety. I won’t get my hackles up even if my very own children say to me, “Mom, we can’t come over this Saturday because you went to such and such a place and were with such and such a group”. I know they are saying no to being with me in order to protect me and because they know how much I love them. They may understand my choices to do “such and such”, just like I might understand their choices or a friend’s choices and we may be perfectly fine, even in agreement with — even applaud — some of those choices to do things with other people or attend something that is important. BUT approval and agreement for each other’s choices as important enough to perhaps do something that risks our health, means that we will not be able to do “our things” together if it means we won’t be safe together — not until this horrible plague is over. And God willing, someday it will be over. Then — we can all literally and figuratively breathe easy, and “let the parties and concerts, and museum trips, and play dates and sleep overs begin!!

 

What it means to do the right thing right now by all that we have been entrusted with, is that we must be willing to be seen as overprotective if necessary, even if it costs us a “fun time”, even if we lose a friend, even if someone is offended. We just cannot risk the worst by hoping for the best. We absolutely must not send off our lives to a risky play-date situation or entrust our health to an unsafe sleep over. We must prove that we can trust each other, by honestly communicating with each other. And — If we haven’t already, we must begin to treat our health and well-being as the precious gifts they are. We won’t be getting any other lives with which to replace these very unique and special ones we have, and just like our children, our lives are counting on us to protect them.

Time to Get Your Inner Child On

Time to Get Your Inner Child On

By Jane Tawel

May 13, 2020

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My darlings playing back in the day

 

It is time for each of us to plan for the “new normal” of our First Post Corona Virus Pandemic Lives. I say, “First”, because there will be more, not maybe, but definitely, if not Pandemics, then other world-wide paradigm-shifting events. My advice – Get Your Inner Kid Back On.

If we all begin to think and act like children again, I think we might have a better chance of not only survival but more enjoyment of life. If we hark back to attitudes, behaviors, warnings, and beliefs from when we were kids, we might deconstruct and then reconstruct where we have gone wrong as adults. Time to get our inner-kid and outer-child in gear, ramped up, and ready to roll.

 

I have included a minimum by the way of explanation or example in my list below of Lessons from Childhood.  I figure every reader will have their own of both. If you have forgotten what your parents tried to teach you when you were a kid, ask them; they will not only remember but probably still have your score sheets for how well you did.

 

A lot of what we learned as children wasn’t learned from our parents, but from our time spent with our friends, and it has been interesting during this Pandemic Sheltering-in Time, to find out who our real friends are, and what we can learn from each other. Popularity doesn’t matter so much right now and neither does being the teacher’s pet. So, we are all reassessing, maybe a bit. What cliques do we want to belong to when we get out of this “thing”? And what purpose do we want to find in life beyond “grades” and “praise”?

 

During this world-wide sheltering-in, we haven’t gotten as much play time with our friends and family, but we have learned a lot and found creative ways to stay connected. We’ve actually had to be a lot more like kids again. We’ve managed to get to bed on time, and make our own lunches. We’ve had to find something to do if we get bored. I think a lot of us have remembered how fun doing simple things can be, and how much we love the people we live with.

 

There are many lessons that we can learn if we remember the lessons from our childhoods. They will be very helpful – critical even – for our life in “the new normal”. Here are some I think we should start with.

 

Important Life Lessons Learned from Childhood

 

  1. Treat everyone close to you as if they might have cooties. They might.
  2. Don’t let the people close to you breathe your air. It’s yours and your little sister can’t have it.
  3. You can talk to strangers but don’t get close enough to them that they might grab you. Or give you cooties.
  4. Smile with your whole face.
  5. Enjoy every time you get to wear a mask by imagining every day is Halloween. Go up to people and say: “Trick or Treat” and see how much candy you can come home with.
  6. Treat your money like a stingy allowance your parents give you. Remind yourself that your parents only give you an allowance so you can “learn how to take care of your money”. Remember, you won’t get any more until next week, so save it up for something you really, really, really want.
  7. Save whatever you don’t spend of your allowance, along with any loose change you find on the sidewalk or in the couch where your dad usually sits. Keep it at home in a jar on your dresser. It will earn at least as much there as it is earning right now invested in the stock market.
  8. Make good choices. You almost always have a choice. Some are good, some are better, and some are best. Take time to make the best ones.
  9. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  10. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
  11. Spend every free moment playing.
  12. Get your work done fast, so you have more play time.
  13. Go outside and play.
  14. You have to include everyone and let everyone play, even if you don’t like them.
  15. Everyone gets to be on a team.
  16. It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you’ve played the game.
  17. Clean your plate. There’s going to be a lot more starving children “over there”. Think of them and finish everything on your plate. Which will remind you to not let your eyes be hungrier than your stomach. Take only what you can (should) eat.
  18. Eat your vegetables.
  19. Don’t chew with your mouth open. It’s disgusting (and spreads viruses).
  20. Clean your hands. You actually DO know now where they’ve been. Wash them. A lot.
  21. Stop picking your nose. In fact, stop touching your face.
  22. Practice makes, if not exactly perfect, at least makes you good enough to stay in the game. Keep practicing and you’ll get there.
  23. You have to share. Period.
  24. I call shotgun! (That has nothing to do with good lessons from childhood, I just wanted to call it first before we’re allowed to travel again.)
  25. Turn the lights out when you leave the room, do you think I’m made of money?!
  26. God helps the one who helps himself (and who helps others).
  27. Honor your mother and father so you can live long on the earth.

Parents, as long as they live, will never stop being totally irritating for trying to tell their children how to live. We owe it to our parents to irritate them right back so that they know how to live.

  1. Remember, our parents brought us into this world, and they can take us back out. Of course, now we know that we can take them out too, if we aren’t careful.
  2. Be careful.
  3. Do as I say, not as I do.

It is time for us, the “children” of the world to appreciate the lessons of the parents, and to do the right things they have tried to teach us to do (whether they actually did them themselves or not). We should all be grateful for what we learned as children and appreciate the life-lessons of our elders. We should grieve for all the people who didn’t have parents, or at least, have good parents, but all that means is that those of us who did have good parents, need to do the heavy lifting and the hard work. As the good parents told us, “we should know better”.

 

No matter who our parents were or are, we can try to believe that they tried to do their best with their children, and now we need to try to do our best for the future of our children, and our children’s children. It is a critical time for us to do much, much better. Better than our parents, but also better than we were all doing before this whole thing happened.

 

Whatever the unsettling, even catastrophic “thing” is that happens in our lives, our families, or our world, we need to remember and re- believe that human beings, like children, have an infinite capacity for creative do-overs.

 

Let’s call “do-overs”, okay, Kids?

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Adult Friends of Mine Playing – 2016

 

We are a world-family, and if we didn’t know it before, we should recognize it now. We can do great things, if we all work together like a happy, hopeful band of children. Let’s begin to look at the world with the same eyes and hearts that children do when they are rebuilding a fort, singing rounds in the back of the car, going on a team scavenger hunt, making breakfast to surprise mom, working in the garage with dad, making mud pies in the yard, selling at a lemonade stand, playing hide and seek, or jump rope or hop-scotch, or doing any of those things we used to think were fun and important because we were doing them with people who were our friends and our family.

 

If we get our “inner-child” back on, we might find that the greatest games in this Game of Life, are played best, when we play nicely with others.

 

Let’s love each other as if every older person were our very own beloved parent and let’s love every younger person as if they were our very own beloved child.

 

Let’s act like children again in all the right ways.

 

And finally, the most important lesson of all that we can take away from this time, and that we need to believe as sincerely and as deeply as children do is:

 

  1. You are the very, very, very best gift in the world. You are loved to infinity and beyond.

 

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My son, Gordon and I playing, wearing noses he made for us

The Wonderful Thing about You, is You’re The Only One

The Wonderful Thing About You, is You’re the Only One

By Jane Tawel

September 2019

 

I took a personality test today. Well, a pathology test they called it, which, I don’t know, sometimes in our modern era, personalities and pathologies seem sort of like the same thing. My results didn’t surprise me but I guess they sort of flummoxed the researchers (see below) and skewed the statistics, both results which definitely do fit my personality. Ha!

Here are my results:

MULTIPLE RESULTS: “You appear to have two or more equally prominent Pooh Pathologies. It is possible that you are an equal fit for all of those characters. On the other hand, it is also possible that you simply answered the questions in such a way that you ended up with tied results, even though, in reality, you do have a definite Pooh Pathology. Whether you really are an equal fit for all of these characters, or you just happened to get an equal score on all of them, we are unable to say; we are therefore also unable to give you a more personalized description. But you can consult the chart above to see which of the characters you scored the strongest on.”

Well, I could have saved everyone some time, because I really didn’t need to consult this particular chart. I have already scored myself and all my family members, years ago, on my own personal Winnie The Pooh Personality Test.

I don’t put much stock in either tests or statistics, but I had to take this silly test because any thing remotely related to brilliant worldviews, psychological delvings, and thematic explorations by great artists, like A.A. Milne, are to me, like drawing a magnet across the face of an old Wooly Willy Toy.

 

My children and I loved the “Winnie-the-Pooh” books and every single one of us had (and have) Pooh character names. I even had a Winnie the Pooh poem read at my wedding. It was called “Us Two” and my grandfather (and we could never be sure with Grandpa if he was being serious or making a joke) asked out-loud during the service why my sister was reading a poem about “poo”.

The reasons for each of my family member’s nicknames, seem obvious to me, but then, it’s my story melding with Milne’s, much as Milne melded his adult-view stories with his own son’s children’s tales. My husband, even before our wedding, has been long my own “Winnie the Pooh”. My eldest daughter, dubbed herself “Tigger” early on. We still call my second daughter,“Roo” to the point that some people think it is her birth name. When my third daughter came along, she was our own cute little, anxious sounding, “Piglet”; and my son, well, I must admit there are many days he sounds exactly like his nickname implies, as the grumpy, pessimistic “Eeyore”. As the best mate of the silly ‘ole bear and the mother-figure to my children, I have had a role with many of the same skill sets and jobs as Christopher Robin. And just like Christopher Robin, as my children have grown up and left my story to start epic tales of their own, it has been hard for me to grow-up and leave my stories with them and my best-est, most beloved playmates behind, and find another “me” to be. Maybe that is why this test failed to tell me who I am. I am not sure myself who I am yet, in this new chapter.

It is funny how all the names rather suited all of us Tawels, though I do not think any of my family members have pathologies. Tendencies though… well, it is rather flukey how the nicknames fit a bit of the person each of us is. A.A. Milne in “The Winnie-the-Pooh” stories, was definitely onto something about adults versus children. But Milne also knew that adults and children could have so much more in common, if only the adults had a bit more imagination and the children had a bit more say. Milne recognized that adults always have the same fears and foibles that children do and that children have the same abilities and wisdom that adults do. It’s just that real children, no matter how old, know how to laugh at themselves and how to admit they are wrong so they can try again. Adults, no matter how young, forget, but children know that there will always be enough if we share, and that the world needs more celebrations than it needs more money. Children know that intelligence without humility is a sure way to end up lost and rambling alone in “The Scary Woods”. Children know that being “stuffed” full, but without empathy, makes one an animal and a pretend animal, at that. Children know that if you go through life without love, the Heffalumps just might catch up to you. The great thing about Milne’s characters is that each was just a little part of the great big “whole” that we call being a complete human being. We all have a bit of Tigger and Eeyore and Christopher Robin and Pooh in us. And to play along with my Grandpa’s pun, we would all get along much better if we could just accept that everyone has Pooh.

But as Tigger said of himself, The wonderful thing about my own loved and very individual family members, Tigger and Roo, and Piglet and Pooh, and me and Eeyore, is each individualistic one of us is “the only one”. And today, although according to the test, I may not have a discernible Pooh Pathology and though I may have multiple personalities, each struggling within me and wondering which of them I’ll choose to manifest today; the wonderful thing about me is, I’m the only one.

Be the you, you are today. Not the “best” you; not the “favorite” you, not the “dream” you, just “The You” that makes this great big “Hundred Acre Forest” of a world something that needs you at the table. After all, the wonderful thing about you is, you are the only one.

A Fair By Any Name is Still So Sweet

A Fair By Any Name is Still So Sweet

by Jane Tawel

September 2019

 

Going to the Los Angeles County Fair always gives me a giggling “superiority complex” when I compare it to the “real” fairs of the Midwest I grew up going to.

 

I will never forget the first time I took my four young kids to the L.A. Fair. They had already been to our Indiana Kosciusko County Fair by then. Our Kosciusko Co. fair is small potatoes compared to the gigantic, wondrous, and multitudinous State Fairs of the Midwestern States, but it’s still a real fair, with barns of competing 4H entries, with scores of animal and crafts barns, and a midway to rival the Mouse’s, and all that. The first time that I, with great excitement, took my young kids to the L.A. fair, I remember so clearly that we had been strolling around a while and my children were already hot, and sweaty, and cranky, and hating the whole “fun” day. And of course, my kids were kinda hating me by then for “forcing” them to go to a Fair. You aren’t laughing if you have never been a parent of young kids, and you aren’t laughing if you currently are parenting young children whom you are forcing fun things on, like going to fairs and amusement parks. BUT if you once upon a time were a parent of young kids, and you have survived them, then you are laughing with recognition at how much your kids once “hated” you for the fun things you took them to.

 

So the first time I took my four young children to the L.A. Fair, I finally walked up to and asked one of the Los Angeles Fair workers, “Where are all the animals?”

 

I was standing in what I thought was a little kiddie petting zoo area and I had been looking for the gigantic row upon row of horse and cow and sheep barns. And this young worker guy looked at me like I was crazy and pointed to the four small pens of dejected looking guinea pigs, the three pens of wilting in the heat rabbits, and the five scrawny goats and two sarcastic looking cows in a small enclosure, and he said as if speaking to a blind idiot, “They’re right there”.

 

If you have been to a “real” fair, you’ll understand my concerned amusement. 

 

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Yesterday my hubby, Raoul, and I trudged off in typical 95-degree SoCal-in-September weather, knowing what we were in for, and we still had a blast. We don’t eat the unbelievably expensive and completely always deep-fried foods (sorry all you deep-fried pickle and Snickers lovers); and we don’t ride the rides. But we love sitting in the blazing September heat and being amazed at the talent apparent in the little shows put on in cramped arenas by the jugglers and gymnasts and yesterday, by this super delightful Wild Bill Hickok Western Show. We like petting the animals that they DO have, and seeing the cow milking demonstration; and we always have to see the pig race show where the audience members get to cheer for their side’s pig as it races against other pigs — Hilarious! We enjoy strolling through the crafts barn (Although I have a sneaky suspicion that the crafts are the exact same ones every year, dust-ily displayed year after year, pretending to be newly made by young and old crafters lurking throughout our megalopolis. I think they just switch up the winning ribbons). And of course, you can’t beat a fair for people watching, although almost everywhere in Los Angeles is ripe for that.

 

All in all, a summer fair is tradition. And whenever and if ever you can, traditions are worth keeping. We missed you at the Fair, yesterday, my kiddos, but Dad and I are keeping up those traditions for you, even the ones you hated.

 

At the Fair, my husband I strolled and talked about how much we miss being with our kids, all now adults, and how slightly weird it feels to do things sometimes, just us two; things that we used to do with (and for) them. But we also confirmed that we are deeply happy to have all that we have and for our children to have all that they have, including the memories we share. And that’s the same way I feel about the silly, funny, small potatoes Los Angeles County Fair. I’m truly glad to have the fair that I have.

 

So take that, Midwestern Mega-Fairs. A Fair by any name, is still sweet.

 

Thanks for another fun day, Los Angeles County Fair! And until next year…

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Verses 2-4 of A Mother’s Poems

***Verse 1 of these poems was published separately on February 10 under the title: “This Small Heartbeat”. These poems are for my thriving adult children.

 

A Mother’s Poems

By Jane Tawel

 

Verse 2- A Haiku

by Jane Tawel

February 11, 2019

 

Metaphors slide skew

When I try to write of you.

Only love will do.

 

 

Verse 3 – an Ode

 

Beyond and Above Aphrodite

by Jane Tawel

February 12, 2019

 

Now I, the geek,

Will mimic the Greek.

But Odes to love of children

Are false gilden, not real gold.

Or so I’m told.

 

I strive like Psyche

To see you, hidden from me.

And in the process, burn you

Then angst ‘bout why you flew.

 

Wondering why

And wandering nigh’

I hold coins in my mouth

To keep the devils out.

Yet before long,

My righteous strength is gone;

Opening forbidden boxes that you might see

A mother’s lasting love in me.

 

 

Ah, Aphrodite’s  love of child can not compare

To the cupidity of my every prayer

That you, my dear divines,

My treasures, as long as sun does shine,

Will find more Love, than all I’d give

And find True Love within you lives.

 

 

Verse 4

This is a poem I wrote several years ago that I thought I’d end these with for Verse 4.

Whoa

March 11, 2015

By Jane Tawel

To Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon

 

Whoa, slow down, where you galloping off to?

A second ago, you were a useless collage of limbs.

I had to raise your hands to clean.

I had to raise your head to drink.

I had to ask you questions then answer them for you,

You, without a word, or sound that anybody knew.

But I.

 

Whoa! Take care! You’re running much too fast.

You’re going to slip and fall — I know.

I’ve seen it happen in my mind

A thousand times a day.

Did you hear me? Can you hear?

Have fun! Be safe! Too fast!

Rely on me and all my knowledge present, future, past.

Love you.

 

Whoa…slow down… I missed what you just said.

I see the buttons, levers, gears.

My fingers fail where yours speed on.

I hear the words that used to mean

A different thing. A different thing.

Did I already say that?

You tumble forward, catch yourself.

I used to catch you when you fell.

I’m still here watching, waiting– holding out my helpless hands.

Too much.

 

 

You’re gone and I can’t hold you here.

My whoa’s are just my own.

Remember—no, you don’t, I guess.

I clutch the memories, now — no more.

I once held you, my baby, child–

And now you’ve flown,

A Pegasus with wings of dreams

Not flaming myths,

Not lullabies from me.

I’ll sing your story old and new

Not mine, not ours. All you.

I’ll never seek to slow you down again.

My joy in you and your bright flight

Is how I can explain these blinding tears.

Blurring my sight

Of your fast ascent.

Forever.

 

 

This Small Heartbeat – Poem

A Mother’s Memories

Verse 1

To my beloved children

By Jane Tawel

February 10, 2019

 

This small heart beat of mine,

Pounding down aisles

Of memories,

Reconstructing the blue prints

 of your now built temples,

As they once stood trembly

Scaffold-ed only by my love.

 

Ah! The sight of your accomplished domes and arches

Thrills me in my voyeuristic tourism.

And yet, to me

You will always be

That childish little chamber

In the house of my heart.

 

 

 

Love On a Cow’s Stomach

Love On A Cow’s Stomach

By Jane Tawel

June 12, 2018

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I was rereading a Facebook post that was regurgitated automatically for me.  This is done thanks to Facebook’s ability to cow-like keep my entire life in separate Facebook stomachs and then sometimes daily, vomit those posts back out onto my current Facebook page, where I can chew on them again, deciding if I would like to re-post and thereby re-swallow the relative truth of said regurgitated post from days gone by.  Here is the post hurled out for me today from 2012 – Six years ago:

Thinking of my kids and their changing lives: Quote by Buechner:”You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”

 

Last week I took Gordon to sign up for classes at a college where he will transfer next Fall.  This weekend I will watch Verity graduate from UCLA. Last week Raoul and I were talking and mostly listening, with Justine and Clarissa about their thriving careers. When any of my kids are speaking about their respective fields, knowledge, work-days, etc., I sit there nodding but inside I am thinking, “Well, dear Fruit of My Womb, I am delightedly and completely punch-drunk proud of you but I don’t understand your specialized field of expertise at all So I will let your words wash over my head and heart but Child of Mine, you may as well be speaking Croatian because I don’t understand a word of this”.

Wow — my kids! They truly do amaze me.  These are the beings who, as Buechner says, actually were carried in my stomach (okay, technically womb). But Buechner is too miserly in his analysis. I think I carry each of my Beloveds in  every single pore of mine.  Sometimes, I worry and I carry them in what I assume must be my metaphoric sweat pores –sweating my stinking worry like a work horse.  Sometimes I fear for my children, who are never really completely adults in a mom’s heart. Fearing for them is when I carry thoughts of my kids in the cow-like stomach that is ready to vomit the fears out, knowing I will just regurgitate the anxieties in order to cow-like chew on the cuds of those fears again tomorrow.

But when you really, really love someone, you are, like Buechner says, not only aware of what the world holds for them but you are holding the world of them within you.  I hold my children in my Buechner-esque stomach like a delicious warm meal that never gives me a love-stomach upset,  no matter how full I am. I am daily filled by the world I carry inside of me – a whole world of love and admiration and thankfulness for my children’s and my husband, their father’s, continued presence in memory and reality in my heart, mind, limbs, and stomach. And once you have this kind of love-feast, well, then you tend to find gleanings of it in whatever field you roam. I have found it in my classes of students in loving learning together, in my friends in shared meals together; and even occasionally in a random snack of mutual understanding with a stranger.

Yesterday I stood in line at Target, a place I used to haul those four kids of mine to; and a mom of two had her little baby in one of the wraps that I used to attach my own babies with, tight to my chest. The baby was making that lamb-like crying only a brand-new minted infant makes. You know, that tremulous bleating that hits a new parent in the solar plexus.  It is the cry an infant makes against an incomprehensible injustice. It is a sound that seems both so new and so old. It is the deep trembling wail dug deep from the depths of the world and raised up into the lungs of a brand new human being.  And like old human beings tend to do, I turned to the new mom behind me smiling and said, “Love every minute of that sound.  Someday, like I, believe it or not, you will miss it.”  And that mom smiled back and for a brief instant, she and I were united in the warm love that understanding can fill even total strangers with, like shared repast fills stomachs. The baby kept bleating and the mom continued her traditional mom side-to-side dance to quiet the little baby wrapped tight against her stomach.

And I turned back to wait in line and even though no one could feel it but me, I still held in memory my little babies, crying and gurgling and cooing,  wrapped against my memory-stomach.  As those babies of mine go forth into the world, they are out there bleating new cries against the injustices still being dug from  deep in the world.  And I listen when my children let me, to their cries of joy and sorrow, their gurglings of gain and loss, their cooings with  energy and weariness.  And I hold those grown-up children of mine so  very, very close to my heart.

Sometimes, now, when no one knows, and I am out there living in my world – maybe when I am lying awake at night, or standing in line somewhere; or when I am walking the old walks I used to take with my kiddos; remembering holding two of them by their hands, with one strapped on my back near my heart, and one wrapped tight against my stomach – Sometimes then,  I pull up a memory from when we were all young together, my four children and I, and I chew on that memory like a cow with her cud.

AH! and my stomach is full. And my heart is fuller. And I am grateful for the meals of memory and satisfied with the feast of this life. And once again, I remind myself, that thanks to those I have loved, a whole world lives inside me.

 

 

On Honeybirds and Hope

On Honeybirds and Hope

by Jane Tawel

March 28, 2016

Yesterday was my religion’s High Holy Day and what for years we called Easter but now some of us call Resurrection Sunday. On our front porch up in the ceiling on a hook that used to hold a porch swing but now doesn’t, a humming bird has made a nest. When my tall, handsome “I’m a man, Mom” son first saw the grey sack hanging there with something swarming around it, his Dad said he got scared and freaked out. Maybe he was thinking it was a bee’s nest or something. I was at work, so they had to show me the nest when I got home that day. Two days ago the bird was sitting still as a statue on the grey sack. If you have ever seen a humming bird can you imagine how hard it must be for momma bird to sit still? I thought – I know that look, you are getting ready to birth those little waiting lifes, aren’t you little momma? I don’t know how many bambinos humming birds birth or how long the gestation period is or what they look like when born, but I knew the determined expectant, fearful, hopeful look of that mamma’s every fiber.

 

This morning at 6:20 I went out to check on the nest. Momma is not there. I looked up all around the nest and didn’t see any tear -aways or holes so I’m hoping mamma bird just went out for breakfast. I hope nothing is amiss. I hope every thing is all right.

 

My children used to think humming birds were called “honey birds”. My four children were so adorable. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think Heaven might include a lot of do-overs – I get to do all the good parts over and over again. And then again.

 

I have discovered that many of my Western World Peers do not do anticipation very well. All of those great Anticipatory Church Holidays, like Advent, Lent, Good Friday – a lot of people don’t even know what they really are or mean any more and if they do, they really want to skip to the punch. Sort of like people I guess now do designer on -demand cesarean section births – I’m ready, so let’s get this over with and get to the baby part. Christianity has gotten to be where every one just wants to sing one praise chorus of “Just As I Am” and skip to the designer good baby part. New birth fast. Hallelujahs on demand, Tivo-ed every day. My husband and I see our son fighting the need to wait on things as he rushes to grow up. It is natural and it is also natural for parents who love him, so say, “Son, some things you need to wait on.” Because we all make mistakes when we get tired of waiting.

 

I wonder if Mama Honeybird got tired of waiting? I hope not. I hope she just went out for breakfast.

 

Can you imagine if God got tired of waiting?

 

One way the bible can be read is of a long, long story about centuries of people who get tired of waiting and the God who never does.

 

I think The Church is getting tired of waiting. Like Adam and Eve did. Like the Hebrew children in the Exodus did. Like Judas did.

 

And I think we daily want to skip right to the joy of Easter via the caesarian section of cheap born again life. We don’t know how important it is for that life to be born of cross carrying gestation. We want to skip Good Friday and all that it means about our sinfulness, our weightiness, our infirmities, which only Christ could carry to term at the cross. We want to shout “He is risen” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and so we miss what the anticipation of “Sunday’s Comin’” could mean in our lives, in the world, in Eternity. Because if we aren’t carrying our cross to term, then we can’t really love others and we certainly can not know, worship and love a holy God who wants to carry us to term into a new, re-created, perfect eternal life forever. Jesus doesn’t offer to birth us free from pain and mess, but He births us in and by the bloody placenta of the Cross. God banished Adam and Eve from a perfect world with many offerings of His grace, and the extreme pain of giving birth was one of those graces. Because without understanding that because of fallenness and sin, we must with some amount of pain birth all human creation — children, art, clean dishes, fields of fruit, microchips, vaccines, novels–birth with sweat, and toil and pain– if we didn’t have that pain, then we wouldn’t need a Savior and we would forever give up the anticipatory hope of a new creation in us and in the whole world. The very, very best part of Resurrection Sunday, is that Jesus willingly had to die to get to it.

 

If I am not dying to something in myself, daily, making every day a Friday, then I will never know the glory of being resurrected into new life on Sunday. “I am crucified with Christ”…. Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…….

 

“NEVER THELESS I LIVE!”

 

Jesus did not skip the cross to get to the glory. And neither can I. But He carried the Lion’s share for me, for us. Christ had no idea what the end of the suffering would bring, there was no “spiritual heaven-sent sonogram” to predict the ending. But He knew the Father and He knew that He had to carry the kingdom to the end of it’s gestation period, no matter how agonizingly horrible and painful and lonely it was. He saw the pregnancy through to the bitter end, and birthed a whole new world, a whole new creation on Resurrection Sunday.  And just like I long to do with my little birthed biological children, He longs to daily offer us do-overs – He is walking along, holding our hands, carrying the heaviest parts of our crosses, warning us to be careful crossing the street, laughing and holding and snuggling, and disciplining and admonishing and guiding and investing in our futures. If we rush to grow up, we will make mistakes. If we trust in our Father,and let His Son guide us, live in us,  we will have eternal life.

 

And that is why we anticipate The Christ’s coming once more in the flesh, in person to reign in the world forever. Because that Resurrection Sunday, when Christ’s children are eternally resurrected to live with Him. That Sunday will mean the end of all anticipation – all pain, all sin, all sorrow, and all death. That Resurrection Sunday is what we are preparing for. That is the end of Good Fridays. That means Hallelujahs every day. He is risen. Indeed. Easter Morning my husband made this English nerd’s day by coming up with synonyms of the “indeed” part of that liturgical phrase.   He played around with, “He is risen also.” Nope. “He is risen in fact.” Okay. And then he hit on it. “He is risen, Kapow!”. And so we joyfully throughout the day, would proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen KAPOW!” It was after all, a very Kapow thing for God to do.

 

I was hoping to see Honeybird give birth. But all I saw was her waiting vigil, her anticipatory expectation. That is my world, sitting vigil on a planet of people groaning in expectation of something better, something cleaner, something more loving, and more just, and more true. A world groaning to be born again. We, Christ’s church, Christ’s body, are called to wait vigil for Christ’s return and to midwife the new birth for the whole world that He died for. However you are called to do that today, know that as Paul discovered when he turned his whole world upside down for Jesus and helped midwife Christianity in the process, know as you go about your life today, as Paul says in Romans 8: 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

 

Just like in the agony of childbirth I could never have imagined how wonderful it would be, to be the mom of such four wonder-full children, so too, do we see only vaguely how wonder-full the world will be when it is fully gestated and brought to new birth, new creation when Christ comes again to reign forever. The paradox remains that as we strive to give the world new birth, Jesus longs to be born in us. That is the glory in us He died to reveal. That is what our present sufferings mean if we live into His Story, waiting patiently for all Christ’s birth, death and resurrection mean in our lives and in the world. “But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)

 

Come, Lord Jesus. We wait and hope.

 

God is still waiting – with the anticipation and joy of a loving, doting father to celebrate for eternity –our birth. YHWH is the suffering God, who through His Suffering Servant Jesus, and His death and resurrection, offered each of us Life – real life, abundant life, not just 15 minutes but an eternity of all we now merely dream could be real life. This world of pain will seem like some weird Reality Show compared to our real life in Christ’s kingdom, and our souls will realize that life outside the womb of these present sufferings, is all life was always meant to be, a wonder-full reality of relationship with our Creator and Lord, an eternity of walking hand in hand in the Garden with the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

 

Like my son, once you know the reality, then faith keeps you from freaking out. Like the Honeybird, once you take up the task of painfully gestating God’s love in you and in the world, you can live daily with anticipatory hope in the Pregnant Pause of Christ’s Kingdom. He is Risen. Kapow!

 

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Because it never gets old:

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” By Emily Dickinson

 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

 

 

Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

By Jane Tawel

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Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline, advises to “hold things lightly in your hands”.

I’m trying to visualize what that might mean. What if my goal was: Instead of buying, borrow from the library or a friend; instead of owning, rent; instead of grasping at more, let go of more; and instead of being busier, become less needed.

I have a couple of friends, Deanne and Richard and Florence, who are trying to help me let go of the thousands of books I have.  I love books. I mean, I really love them. I love holding them, snuggling with them, touching them, writing cute notes and serious notes inside them, laughing with them, crying with them, thinking through important stuff with them, delighting in them, digesting them, getting excited by them, and fondly telling others about them. I have read books with my children, I have taught books, shared books with book clubs and small groups, discussed books, and written about books. Books  are the first thing I like to see (after coffee) in the morning and the last thing I like to see before I turn off the light at night ( I don’t need to technically see my cute husband, he just spoons right in when he comes to bed).

Some of my books are here to stay until I see if I have grandkids to read them to. Some of my books, I read and use over and over again, like Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or  The Phantom Tollbooth.  But some books I could and should let go of but I just don’t want to.  I like them.  They are like childhood friends, or mentors — we’ve grown up together and are still growing up together. Books are like children who are always well-behaved and  who always like me.

But speaking of children, what I am really having a hard time with  and always have and fear I always will,  is holding my children lightly in my hands.  There is that constant throbbing underneath the surface that if I do not hold them secured by the three tightened strands of worry, prayer, and good advice, that there will come that knock on the door followed by the worst words any parent ever hears from the officer on the other side.  Loosen just one of those strands tying my child to safety, good choices and eternal happiness and the whole balloon of her or his life will float wildly into the path of onrushing metaphoric air traffic, and burst into a million pieces scattered upon an uncaring, unfeeling earth.  A good parent is the constant securer of tethered lines.

When I first began the journey of motherhood, I made a pact with God.  I said, “anything, anything at all, God, but my children”. Well, wouldn’t it be nice if God-pacts worked?  Wouldn’t every parent who ever lived, say,” anything, anything at all but my children, God”.  Wouldn’t the parents of Rwanda and the past parents of the Holocaust and the future parents of  kids with leukemia  be happy?  Like Abraham, a parent could sacrifice a sheep, cut it in half, spread the blood down a line, and then walk in between the cut sacrifice, forming a covenant with God that our offspring would multiply and live long on the earth and forever in the heavens.

When I pray for my children, I beg God to keep them safe for another day and then I beg God to let them walk in relationship with Him so that we might spend eternity together in His presence.  One morning lately as I was praying and begging for my children, God sent one of those piercing arrow moments to my heart and as clear as day, I knew He was saying, “Jane, this agony and longing that you feel for  your own children’s safety and salvation, this is what I want you to feel for every child of Mine.”

So maybe God doesn’t really expect me to hold my children lightly in my hands.  Maybe He just wants for me to hold every child of His as tightly, as tethered, as cherished, as agonizingly beloved, as I do my own child. Maybe God wants me to keep grasping all of the ropes that bind His children to Him, and hold on to His God-tethers  until  my hands bleed. As His God-hands bled out His life when He tethered my life to His cross.The cross was and is The  Savior’s three strands, holding me tightly, and never, ever letting me go.

So I will pray and train to hold things lightly– things like houses and clothes and washing machines and car bumpers and even salaries —  okay, I’ll work on holding the books lightly as well.  I will hold all The Stuff  so very, very loosely, that my hands seem as if they have been injected with helium, floating freely and carelessly above the pleasures and wants of this world and present life.

But I will clutch to the heart of Christ in me, the children of this world.  The children from my womb, the children in the streets, the children scarred by war, the children wasting in nursing homes, the children in the churches and the children in the Pentagon, the children in Russia and North Korea and Central America and San Francisco, the homeless children and the multi-homed children,  the Republican children and the Democratic children, the children with cancer and the children with trust funds, the children who know Him and the children who seek Him — I will ask God to secure the tethers of their lives, and I will worry, pray and when possible, offer advice. Mostly, I will ask God to help me love each child as He has so dearly loved each of His children– firmly, tightly, with a hold as hard as nails.

I will make a pact with God.  I will make a covenant and it is this: God, I don’t know. I simply, don’t know much at all. But You do. I will trust You, to care for and deeply love my children, because they were never really mine. My beloved children have always been first and foremost, Your beloved children.  I will not wrest the ropes binding my children to You from your nail-scarred hands because I somehow foolishly think I love them more than You love them.  And I will beg You to help me treat my children, as You have treated me, with truth when I know it, with help whenever I can give it, with guidance when it is accepted, with my presence when it is asked for, with my silence when they need to be still, and with love that knows no limits and  which is never, ever, ever loosely offered. I will ask You, my Father, to make a way in me to love each of Your children as I so love my own flesh and blood. Create in me a Love like Yours — Love that binds a child so tightly to the Parent’s heart, that nothing can separate them from that Love, not even death. “For neither height, nor depth, nor anything in all creation can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39)

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Traveling Dreams

Traveling Dreams

May 10, 2015

By Jane Tawel

For my children on Mother’s Day: Keep in The Dream Way

 

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I had one of my traveling dreams last night. I have always had traveling dreams and they are always stressful, slightly scary, and silly, and pretty easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dreams I am always trying to get somewhere. It is always dark, even if it is happening in the daytime. I am always driving or being driven somewhere in a car of dubious merit. Since becoming a parent, I often have my children with me. I am almost always lost and can’t find my way. Told you this would be easy to analyze.

 

In my traveling dream last night, my cousin Emily was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had another woman with us in the back seat who was a friend or second cousin twice removed sort of person. She was a Ginger. We were trying to get somewhere so Emily could catch a plane. We were travelling all those little back roads and highways that used to be so common in the Midwest but every once in a while we would hit a terrifying freeway and have to get off. I took over driving and got lost and pulled into someone’s driveway to turn around. We ended up in a small town and the police started following us, then another police car came along side and pulled us over. They made us get out of the car. They thought that we were kidnapping the ginger-haired girl in the back seat. The female and male cops pulled the unnamed Ginger second cousin twice removed aside and then asked Emily to tell them the first name of the girls’ father’s father. Neither of us knew it though we racked our brains trying. Even though we didn’t know the name that would prove we knew the Ginger and were not kidnapping her, for some reason unexplained to us, the cops realized we were not kidnappers and let us go. We went to a cafeteria line where suddenly my cousin Amy and my sister Janet appeared and the second cousin twice removed disappeared. I put a plastic container of salad with edemame beans on my tray. Emily asked for the two taco plate. I decided I wanted tacos as well but did I still want the edemame salad? Emily insisted she was treating all of us. The dream ended before I knew what I decided to eat.

 

Sometimes all you can say about a dream, is “Life is like that.”

 

Life is full of choices. In life, you are always trying to get somewhere. Life is confusing and you often feel lost. You have companions on the way, some known and loved and some that are just along for the ride. Bad things do happen to good people and good people do often do bad things and sometimes the cops catch the wrong people and sometimes the bad people get their just desserts and sometimes the cops don’t show up at all. Sometimes the cops in real life actually shoot you dead for no reason. And some times the cops get shot dead for no reason. Just like in their nightmares. And Life is like a dream because we so often are just asking, “why did that happen?” and we are in it having to keep driving forward without ever knowing how it ends. Ever try to get back into a dream after you wake up and find out how it ends. Life is like that.

 

Sometimes, in real life just like in dreams, we seem to have no idea how we got to the place we find ourselves in. It is often because we weren’t paying attention to the choices we made when we started that particular journey. Just like in dreams, suddenly you are there. Sometimes we end up somewhere in life because we are dreaming when we should have been paying attention to what we were actually doing at the time. “Did I leave my keys in the car when I locked it?” — sort of attention deficit things.

 

The end of a day or a month or year is sometimes like waking from a bad dream because we got lost on the way. Sometimes we push the gas instead of the brakes or the brakes instead of the gas. Life is stressful because we just keep driving even if we don’t know how to get to where we think we want to arrive. We often refuse to stop and ask directions.

 

And Real Life is always slightly scary, at least once you take the wheel of your own life. Life was much less frightening when your mom was driving you home and whenat the end of a day you found yourself snuggled up against your parent in a warm bed after a large meal and a cup of cocoa.

 

Also, to be honest, our lives are frankly always a wee bit silly. Most of our life’s journeys should be relegated to the “I went to Target and the post office today” sort of journeys, not the crossing the Rubicon or the “It is a far, far better thing I do” sort of journey. But then since none of will know until the next life, the true meaning of each day’s journey, we should never image that our silly selves are not somehow also living out an epic journey full of unseen battles and quite a few seen ones.

 

If you read some of the great books that show in equal parts, humans as God-imagers and frailly ridiculous beings, you get a better idea of how spectacular and silly we all are. We are heroes unawares. Explore characters like those in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or Anne Tyler’s or Jody Picoult’s women heroes and you will hopefully see humanity in a light that our dreams often try to reveal to us.   I am not talking here about the brokenness / heroic element in a Sydney Carton or a Billy Pilgrim. I am talking about tilting at windmills and a thumb to hold back a flood. I am talking about flying dreams and being famous dreams. I am talking about silly disciples walking with The Christ and arguing about who gets what chair near the future King’s throne. And Jesus responding by both laughing at their silly hubris while recognizing the heroic efforts to follow God that lay around the unseen bend for these human beings. Jesus must have some good chuckles at our silliness as we slap-stick through Life. And yet, just like the disciples who confused gaining a throne without carrying a cross, God has an inexplicably dream-like desire to help us humans drive towards the brink of heroism. Sometimes, we even leap over the chasm of “quiet lives of desperation” into something gloriously God-like.

 

I am talking about Life not as a linear attempt at accomplishment but as a traveling dream. I am talking about dreams in real life if not necessarily what we consider real time and place.

 

Dreams always have their own sense of time and place but aren’t usually what we consider factual time and place. Quite often they do not end up how and where we imagine they will or should. In this way our dreams illuminate something of God’s view of time and reality. A dream begs the question, what is Reality? Am I seeing this as it is? Is the meaning of what is really going on inside me more revealed when I am awake or when I am helplessly, innocently asleep?

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I like to mess with my husband about my Native American heritage. If you know anything about the Native Americans you know that dreams are an important part of their belief system, much like they used to be for Judeo-Christian folk in the Bible. The Native Americans believe that it is your soul that dreams dreams, not your mind or your body. In this philosophy, life is one big Dream and in that the impermanence of this life is recognized. Steven Bancarz writes of Native American philosophy, “It is by experiencing the realness of the dream world that we appreciate the dream-ness of the real world”.[1] The Bible talks about the reality of dreaming versus the reality of what we imagine is only in our waking this way: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28)

 

 

Eugene Petersen in his book Tell It Slant, talks about Christ’s use of apocalyptic language. Petersen notes that Jesus uses stories to reveal to us Kingdom reality which is not a future apocalyptic dream or a past historical accomplishment, but a present reality behind an almost dreamlike curtain of the world we try to see with fallen eyes. The kingdom world can often only be approached not with eyes wide open but through eyes closed, as in sleep, to the oncoming traffic of the world and open to the dream world that exists just beyond our consciousness. Just beyond our small egos.

 

Much like the telling of dreams, Jesus’ stories are not easily understood nor analyzed. Parables have a dreamlike quality because they reveal the world behind the curtain. When Jesus is telling the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 17:20-37, Petersen writes,“he does it by introducing a radical reorientation on the nature of time and place, kingdom time and place.” Peterson goes on to say, “Jesus is training our imaginations so that we will be able to participate appropriately in the great salvation drama that is taking place right now – not world events of the future but the presence of the kingdom right now. Apocalyptic is a language strategy for breaking open awareness of the tremendous energies of good and evil contending with one another beneath the apparently benign skin of the ordinary.” [2]

 

Apocalyptic language gets our attention, like a dream might abruptly wake us from sleep. Apocalyptic awareness says, “Repent”, which is another way of saying “Turn around, you are driving the wrong way.” Apocalyptic awareness, like a dream, reveals what is under the surface of our world and often wakes us up to a different reality.

 

It is like the first time you reach out your arms to hold your newborn child. Though it seems like a dream after all the planning and striving and fears and work and hopes, your deepest being knows immediately that reality will never be the same again. You will no longer see reality as you did before you became a parent. The world has changed forever. You have turned a corner and the road will lead you in a whole new direction. And you are desperate every day thereafter for the rest of your life and his or her life, to find a perfect map that will take you and the most precious being in the world in the right direction. So she will be safe. So he will be fulfilled in a career. So she will find the right soul mate. So he will be brave in the face of disaster. You scour maps so you can help this new little entrusted life drive the straight path and find The Way.

 

There are many options today for getting directions. I am old enough to remember the giant tome called The Thomas Guide that was your traveling bible when you moved to Los Angeles. Today I prefer Mapquest, but my children swear by Googlemaps. All religions promise to provide a life map. The Judeo-Christian Life-map is revealed in the Scriptures, the lives of those who have tried to follow the Life-map, and in the Life of the Son of God who came to live the Life-map to the fullest. Early Christians first called our Life-map simply, “The Way”. Now we often get a bit lost in what we think is Christian Reality and we start calling The Way things like theology, Arianism, Calvinism, Wesleyanism, hermeneutics, and Vacation Bible School. These often help but they often simply encourage us to define other humans as going the wrong way. Sometimes all the technologies and labels and secure findings trap us in a sort of Christian couch potato life, watching Rick Stevens live the journey while we only talk about it. Not travel it.

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I fear sometimes with all my knowledge about The Way, that I have lost the joy in the journey on The Way. I think I know where I’m going but it’s just in my head. It’s a dream, not a reality of living in The Way.

 

Remember when you were a kid and you just hopped in the back of the car and let your parent drive you someplace. Even if the place had a name you recognized like Grandma’s house, or The Mall, how you actually got there was always a mystery. You couldn’t see much as your little child self, looking out the back seat window. But you weren’t afraid, because Dad was driving. Mom was reading the map and telling Dad, “no you missed the street, turn around.” Your sister was pulling your hair and you desperately had to pee but didn’t want to tell the parents because then they’d pull over and make you crouch behind a bush. So you looked out the window, tried to avoid your mean sister, and trusted you could hold it long enough so that Your Parent could get you to Grandma’s bathroom.

 

The Way is best traveled if you sit in the back seat, hold on, enjoy what you can see out the window, avoid the mean sisters, and let Your Parent drive.

 

 

The Way. Sometimes when I read about The Way or hear about people who have lived The Way, I think I must be dreaming. Who could live like this and get any where? I mean it can’t be real. You must be dreaming to think you can live out The Way on this earth, at this time, in this place, with these people, with that going on, with all the this and that and those. You are living in a dream world, girl friend to think you can do what Jesus did, follow God’s instructions, trust the Holy Spirit. Get a reality check, dude. Smell the coffee, honey. Wake up! Jane, ole thing, you gotta get in the driver’s seat, sit up front, take control of the wheel, and never stop to ask for directions or turn around and start again. Don’t admit defeat, don’t admit you are lost. Just drive, girl, drive!

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and He will direct your path.” Prov. 3:5,6

 

I am The Way, the Truth and the Life.” – Jesus –John 14:6

 

 

 

This is what the kingdom on earth as in the heavens, looks like. Kingdom Life is a dreamlike reality, open to our imaginations, beating on our hearts like an unseen guest at the door, alive in the souls who do not crush the dream for a blind, tasteless portion of “reality”. The journey towards the Kingdom is full of adventure, full of choices, full of bad guys and good guys, and filled with moments of heroism and moments of hubris. Just like the journey of childbirth or adoption, Life is full of pain and angst and fear and bad choices and good luck and you would do it all over again because at the end you get a prize.

 

At the end of childbirth, you get to see that little face and you know that every step of that hard dreamlike journey was worth it. You dreamt about this moment of having a child for so long and at last you know the real meaning of what it means to be a parent.

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At the end of Life’s Journey, Jesus promises a prize. We will see the face of our Savior. And the real meaning of the dream of this chimeric world, will be gloriously revealed to be something similarly dreamlike and really quite different after all. And that is why following the Life- map of The Way is worth every thing. For what does it profit me if I gain the whole enchilada, but lose my soul’s way? What profit is there in gaining what I dream I want if I lose the reality of what God wants for me?

 

Have you heard that theory that we never actually die in our dreams? That we always wake up before we hit the ground, or get run over by the bus or crash the car? That is the promise of Christ’s dream if we follow The Way. We will never die but simply wake from what we thought was reality, to find it was always only a dream.

 

Once upon a time a young woman named Caitlin, saw her boyfriend named Raoul, take off for California to work for JPL. She stayed behind in Boston, a city she loved and where she had acting gigs and friends and a free place to live. It was also where she began calling herself Caitlin instead of Jane because it would make her famous enough to achieve her dream of getting on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show as a famous actress (Did I mention she dreamed of being famous?).

 

But a funny thing happened after Raoul had been gone for three months. Caitlin began to miss Raoul. She began to dream of him. So Caitlin hopped in her un-airconditioned Mazda GLC Hatchback and with Triple AAA flip-maps on the passenger seat, began to drive all the way across the big ole’ country of the United States of America. No GPS, no cell phone, no laptop, no gmail, no companion. Just Caitlin and her AAA maps. She made it to her mom’s house in Indiana for some loving and free food. She made it to her Uncle Marlin and Aunt Sally’s house in Kansas City. The morning Caitlin left, Uncle Marlin snuck out and filled the tank with gas and the tires with air and the whatcha ma thingy with oil. Aunt Sally snuck a packed lunch with cookies for dessert into the back seat.

 

Our heroine Caitlin got seriously lost in Omaha but eventually turned around and found her way. A flat tire made her swear. Once when she stopped at Wendy’s for lunch, she left her watch that her grandma had given her, in the restroom and someone stole it before she went back and could retrieve it. That watch was gone forever and it still makes her sad.

 

When Caitlin finally hit Phoenix she was a bit bedraggled and shell shocked and did not at first compute that it was blizzarding in what she had assumed was a part of the world that was always hot. Caitlin thought she must be dreaming. She managed to pull of the road in time to buy the tire chains but when she got to the part of the road that said “no tire chains, no go”, she was defeated. So she sat in her little tin can of a car, a bit teary for a heroine, who was going many miles for her man. Then an angel of the Lord dressed up like a trucker stepped out of a chariot that looked like an eight-wheel semi, and said “Fear not, I bring tidings of great joy!” And he asked if he could help. Caitlin never saw that trucker again which proves he was an angel.

 

After two nights in a Motel 6, our heroine Caitlin, outlasted the Evil Blizzard and began the terrifying trip flying on the dragon’s back of The 10 and The 210 into Los Angeles County. She arrived, eyes still stuck open with fear after her first near death experience with LA traffic, and she stepped out onto the sidewalk of Brent Avenue, South Pasadena. Caitlin realized as she stood, her legs numb with days of straight driving, that she was getting wet, and thought that it must be raining, not realizing it never rains in California. She was instead, standing in her first ever sprinkler system.

 

Behind the warmly lighted windows of the ground floor apartment, the inhabitants must have sensed the heroine’s presence. Out of the door flew Sophia Fifi Caesar, and Scott Warner, and their newest housemate, Raoul Tawel. And when Caitlin saw her Raoul, the one for whom she had traveled long and suffered much, she thought she must dreaming.

 

But it was real.

 

 

And the journey’s end for Caitlin was accomplished. And she deemed it Good. And there was peace in the land and in her heart and there was much love and joy for many days.

 

The End.

 

But of course it wasn’t the end but only a new beginning. And soon a new traveling journey was begun.

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I pray for you my children, that you will dream the dreams God has for your life. They are more exciting, more joy and peace filling, and more real than any thing you could possible dream on your own. If you follow the Life Map and keep on The Way by letting God plan the journey and Jesus take the wheel, you will arrive at Life’s end and wake up to see the Face that makes you sing out, “Oh, so that is what it all meant!”

And then the journey begins anew.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/where-our-soul-goes-when-we-dream-according-to-native-americans/#sthash.PXCziz1e.dpu

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. Tell It Slant. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. Pp. 129 – 131.