Category Archives: Loved

Bee in a Cocoon

On the day we left Bolivia I got a tattoo of a queen bee on my arm. It was the third in a series of images I had placed on my arm with indelible ink over the course of one year. My first tattoo is a black lace butterfly. The middle one is a dragonfly. My bee is on top. I imagine there will come a day when the sleeve is complete with hexagonal honeycomb, a beetle or two, and leafy filigree. For now, I am content with my winged trinity.

Fourteen months after the acquisition of the bee, I find myself on my college campus listening to an entomologist give a lively lecture about bees. Dr. Roe doubles as my Anatomy and Physiology professor. She does a fine job teaching about the human body, but her passion for insects is quite evident. The discourse came about as an initiative of the garden group. Permission was granted by one of the leading Sisters of College of Saint Mary for us to run a beehive on campus starting next Spring. This will be a thrill!

Did you know that bees undergo metamorphosis in a cocoon? I didn’t. This fascinates me. Cocoons have been a reoccurring theme in my life over the last few years. I leaned in to study the images on the slide as she explained the three week transformation of egg, to larva, to pupa, to fully formed bee. The egg is laid by the queen. It hatches and is fed by nurse bees. As a larva it grows and fills up it’s six-sided cradle. Then the bees come along and cap the capsule, sealing the larva inside. What happens before the fully formed bee breaks out of this cocoon astounds me.

Did you know that inside its cocoon the bee becomes liquefied? All the cells, organs, and features that allowed that larva to eat and grow break down. “Gradually the pro-pupa becomes little more than a bag containing a nutrient rich soup,” according to this video demonstration of the process: Bee metamorphosis: remarkable internal changes. Do you grasp the sheer absurdity of this fact? The construct of a wriggling little structure becomes liquid. 

Then comes the reconfiguration. In that tiny, dark, soupy cocoon, the liquid swishes around to reconfigure and reshape into a pupa. It grows legs and hair. It’s brain and DNA formulate to give the little creature an instruction manual and purpose of life. The pigmentation of yellows, browns, and golds appear from that milky goo. It’s eyes bulge. Fragile wings grow which will allow that bee to survive and soar.

My eyes welled with tears. I am in a cocoon stage of life. This liquefied stage of a bee’s life spoke to me. In this darkness, safely capped off by my community, it’s okay if I melt. It’s okay, for this time, to submit to the reconfiguration process. It’s okay to feel like I am drowning for a little bit… because that will pass. My life is getting reorganized. I will emerge from this cocoon, resplendent and ready to fly.

For now, I need to be in a cocoon like a bee in a cocoon. 

Bravery, a Derivative

My Teen Girls in Uyuni

I really don’t feel strong or brave. Most days I jolt awake as the rush of nervous acid pours into my stomach. The aftereffects of the daily emotional roller coaster ride make me nauseated. The regrets choke. Thus, I have determined that bravery is not an emotion, it is a derivative.

As I share my story with a low voice, tears in my eyes, so many people tell me I am strong, that I am brave. They see me. They see the circumstances. Then they affirm strength??? I really don’t feel it. Oh boy do I wish I did!

I wince at their words, doubt trumps dauntlessness. I bury myself in my notebook. My hand trembles as I make it pull the jumbled words onto paper. My thoughts slow and calm comes as I think about bravery.

Forged in the fires of truth unhindered, time, and surrender comes forth words to define bravery. Definitions help me maintain realistic expectations of myself, and others.

> Bravery is not a stoic face to mask authenticity. Nuh uh.

> Bravery is not a bully who lashes out in fear. Nope.

> Bravery is not an ungodly holler from a maniac who runs reckless to sure defeat. Sorry Sparta, you can keep that crap.

Bravery: Life lived with strength derived from the assurance that 1. I am the beloved of God, 2. God loves everyone, and 3. His love in me enables me to love well.

So when my teenagers come to me distraught and fraught with emotions I can rely on the strength in me derived from the love infusion from my Father God. Then I can attempt to listen with empathy. I can speak, if I need to. Or shut up. I trust that God can love them well when my resources fail. I choose to engage, rather than cower and hide (which is my default mode, by the way).

So when the days topple on top of each other and mash with the piles to-do lists, and I breathe too quick, and my brain begins to spin like the tilt-a-whirl, I can stop the scared screamy sounds in my mind. I see the lips of my friends who tell me I am strong. Yes, I am strong, because this tangible weakness draws me to the source of my bravery. My bravery is a derivative of the assurance I am loved.

So when terrible scenarios of what-if replay on loop in the darkest corner of my heart I can crawl to that place and face the fears. In the past I have shut that part of me away as “bad” and “sinful” and “faithless”. With weak limbs and scraped hands I can do the next thing. Just do the next thing. And the next thing might be a simple flip of a switch on a plastic flashlight to shine a shaft of bravery on the damp, creepy parts of my soul. A simple task made nearly insurmountable by the paralyzed state created by my imaginations of what will be revealed. But my bravery is not brazen or foolish. True brave strength is surrender to Love. Love knows me. Love accepts me. Love sits beside that awful terribleness, and waits with me for the light.

So what do I do when I just do not feel so strong or brave? I cry. I fuss. I complain. I moan. And when I get that all over with I return to the assurance part of my definition. I can rest when I have been assured. Sometimes this blessed assurance comes from those around me. Sometimes the assurance comes from a song whispered in the recesses of my throat, sang with raspy tones. Other times gritty, holy stories or chunks of scripture assure me.

One prayer from the book of Ephesians has brought encouragement.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  –  Ephesians 3:14 – 21

Love and Peace.

 

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Expect Acceptance

Expect Acceptance birds 1

The sun hangs hot and low in the West and our neighbor feeds the birds. He shuffles out in his neatly pressed button up shirt and pleated polyester pants. His white hair ruffles in the breeze as he tosses the crumbs on the walk. Steady and sure, though slow and old, he turns and returns to his home. Maybe he watches perched from a window, but he doesn’t stick around outside. When I see the birds flocked for their daily feed I slow my steps and watch a while.

Expect Acceptance birds 2

Three or four kinds of birds come to eat the crumbs on the painted blue path on Pachamama Street.  Black, yellow, grey, and dappled they prove the old adage birds of a feather flock together. That saying came to mind during a conversation. We tend to choose to spend time with people like ourselves. This translates into a filter or lens which determines our worldview. It also builds the assumption that those around me think like I do.

Expect Acceptance Lost Lose Love 1

One of the core factors of my species of personality is a tendency to categorize and judge situations and people. I default to ‘black and white’ or ‘right and wrong’. This comes in handy at times when concepts need to be organized, goals set, or outlines made. It trips me up when I let it lose in my relationships. I am learning to appreciate the browns, golds, greys, polka dots, plaids, rainbows, and iridescence surrounding me.

In this discovery process a new way of seeing things came to me. Three strong women spoke to me truths that picked at my layers of suspicious cynicism. God hasn’t given up on me yet; for that I am so grateful.

“The majority does indeed extend to you grace, love, and mercy beyond condition.”

“You are loved by many.”

“I love you.”

Expect Acceptance Lost Lose Love 2

It sounds so simple, so pure. Yet, for me to lay aside my previous assumption that most people were looking at me to scrutinize, criticize, and classify (which I lament to inform you is my go-to mode when interacting with others, an error which I hope is corrected soon) does imply a difficult task. Because it is not a task! That’s the tricky part.

My task oriented brain wants to DO something. In this case I cannot DO anything about it. I need to BE. As I embrace the truth that I am loved I can BE the beloved. When I know in my soul I am accepted I can BE accepted. When I assume that everyone I interact with wishes me well I can BE well.

Expect Acceptance.

Accept Acceptance.

Extend Acceptance.

Live Expectant of Acceptance.

Anticipate Acceptance.

Grab grace.

Attract attitudes of acceptance.

Tractor beam trust.

Magnetized with positivity.

Positively magnetic personality.

Gravitate to goodwill.

Go with goodness.

Give grace and goodness.

Try trust.

Be beloved.

Be blessed.

Trust your True Love.

Surrender.

Assume doom no more.

Kindle kindness.

These catchy phrases need to be the crumbs that daily feed my belief belly. And it starts with being aware. I want to be aware of God’s unconditional acceptance of me. As that seeps into my soul I can then be a carrier of grace to others. So be it, Father.

The talks with these women plus a good dose of journal writing landed me on an interesting word trick. One of my journal sessions ended in one little word at the bottom of the page: lost. A couple journal sessions later a word appeared on the bottom of the page: love. How did I go from ‘lost’ to ‘love’? We used to play those word games where you change one letter at each step to go from one word to another in the fewest steps possible. For me to go from ‘lost’ to ‘love’ took two steps.

Expect Acceptance Lost Lose Love 3

lost –> lose

When feeling lost I need to surrender. Lose the self-righteousness, pride, and self-sufficiency. Lose the strenuous trying. Put tying on trial and choose to lose.

lose –> love

When I lose myself in surrender True Love tells me, “I love you” and gives me back myself with value and worth. I am accepted just the way I am. I am free to accept others just as they are in true love.

Expect Acceptance birds 3

Do you struggle with trust? Do you assume, like I have so frequently, that others are constantly judging you? What has helped you to connect with others deeply in unconditional love? 

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Putting Duty in its Rightful Place

“Angie and DaRonn are so ambitious… in a good way!”

“DaRonn and Angie are driven and passionate!”

“The vision the Washington’s have is so great!”

If I had a nickle for every time someone recognized these character traits in us I would be a rich woman. Two decades ago when he and I were volunteers for the Sunday school program at our church in Midwest U.S.A. those accolades felt so good. My ego was sufficiently stroked to encourage me to “dream big” and “attempt great things for God whilst expecting great things from God” and “go for it!

As time has worn on I hear people make these fateful assessments of our character and I steer the conversation in a different direction. I blush. I cringe. I worry and fret and my footing becomes shaky on the little pedestal upon which I proverbially have been placed.  And I look for a way to sneak down and find a nice quiet corner out of the spot light. God help us, but these well intentioned comments feel like an indictment against the true us.

People love heroes in this day in age. Dare I say that people would say they need heroes?

Here’s a thought for you about the hero status of Jesus. He was such a “nobody” that when the company of guards came to arrest Him Judas had to give Him a kiss on the cheek to indicate who He was. Even after He miraculously fed thousands. Even after He regularly hung out with multitudes of every kind of person. Even after a broad traveling ministry. Nobody could recognize Him. That’s how much of a “superhero” Jesus was.

Sometimes I wish I could grab my family and escape to the safety of “just” that Sunday school class room when we were nobodies. Sometimes I want to go back and snip that cord that tied us to a trajectory of greatness.

We heard a call to a duty. The irrevocable gifts and talents that had been placed in us by our Creator demanded that we embark upon a mission of helping many. Our character responded to this call and we sought out a path in order to fulfill our duties as special folk. We became missionaries. The front lines! The ultimate testimony! The sacrifice that will award you the most crowns in eternity! We believed it all.

For better or worse DaRonn and I share very similar personalities. We are both driven by duty. We obey because it is the right thing to do. We serve because that is what is expected of us. We perform at a break neck speed because of the urgency we sense from the needs around us. We work, and we work hard.

We began with a bang. The fire sizzled for many years. Now the bursts of bad winds blowing over our red embers threaten to extinguish the heat of driven passion.

Performance led to pride. Doing out of duty led to disappointment and disillusionment. Resentment grew out of fatigue and exhaustion. Our souls began to fill with curly, smokey question marks: why? what’s it all for? is it worth it? to what end are we headed?

My motivations came under personal scrutiny. I examined the purpose of our efforts. I began to challenge the validity of my core reason for pursuing a life of purpose.

Can an active response to a sense of duty sustain a lifetime of service?

I know it’s a good starting point. It would seem that the Word of God supports this obedience as a positive route. Those closest to us advising our life plans patted us on the back as a sign of approval. I don’t deny the power of such a bold recourse.

But now, twelve years into this lifestyle, I find myself craving more… or less. Can there be a deeper call? Can their be a simpler expression of service, yet still effective? Might my definition of success and accomplishment need to be revised?

The answer that keeps whispering in the recesses of my soul says, “Yes. Love.”

Yes. Love. Blows and the embers crackle with renewed life.

Yes. Love. Moves my essential identity with steady truth.

Yes. Love. Arrests the very beating of my heart with eternal purpose.

A tide of love began the deconstruction of my sand castle creations by the evening heat of a dying bonfire. I walk slowly away, my feet heavy with the ruins of wet grains, my empire dissolved. I crouch in the chill of night as the sun sets over the ocean. I stretch my hands out to the ashen pile of burned out logs.

The dark comes.

I wait for the sunrise.

I wait for the Son of Love to arise in me anew. 

iquique, chile, nightfall
iquique, chile, nightfall

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Waiting to Fall in Love

How can one know what issues one will encounter?

I could not foresee what would shake me to the core. I did not know that I would have to wait for the feelings of love.

Then this night came.

My hand went to my mouth and my eyes got big. Did I just say that? Did my lips really just form that word?

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Read my whole article at http://www.nosuperheroes.com by following this link: Take Hope

Chris Lautsbaugh, a fellow adoptive parent and veteran missionary, has graciously invited me as a guest on his blog today. Click on over to read the whole story. You also might like to read some of the article Chris has written on the subject of grace. “Justice or Grace?” is a good one. I especially like “Grace is not a Girly Message“.

You Have My Permission

When you see me having fun,

            you have my permission to have fun too.

When you hear of my success,

            you have my permission to be successful too.

When you perceive me to be happy, well liked, and confident,

            you have my permission to be happy, well liked, and confident too.

When the photos, blurbs, and videos display us enjoying life,

            you have my permission to publish all the wonders of your life too.

When you feel on the back of your neck the breath of that jealous, skulking, critical ‘older brother‘ grumbling about how it just ain’t right and just who do they think they are anyway?

           you have my permission to ignore him and join the party.

You have my permission to like yourself.

You have my permission to express yourself.

You have my permission to be your wonderful, amazing, unique, powerful, creative, and altogether desirable self,

            in all your glory that is YOU.

[Try reading this aloud. Listen to yourself. Let others hear you, too.]

Inspiration Trail

Sometimes the trail leading to an inspired idea lays clearly marked and identifiable. Others wind mysterious and unknown over obscure destinations and through scores of portals through time. A new idea I launched about a month ago came to me by way of an inspiration trail lined by neon lights.

Sarah DeSalvo who lives in the Indonesia did a daily photo feature on her blog, Junglewife. Looking at those snapshots in her life brought a smile to my face and brightened my day. I’ve gotten to know Sarah online and she is a neato person.

Bill Pevlor, a long time friend, turned his hobby into a business. His daily photos, posted on Pops Digital, of nature, the Algoma pier, and an occasional unidentifiable bug celebrate God’s handwork. His confidence and care as a photographer challenge me to take the time to enjoy taking pictures.

Alece Ronzino, a friend I met in Africa years ago, started a movement to help people focus their lives. One Word 365 encourages participants to prayerfully select one word at the beginning of the year and let that be a guide. Those joining in share stories online about their progress.

Ann Voskamp, author of best selling book ‘One Thousand Gifts’ and blogger extraordinaire, shares about her life with humility and authenticity. Her daily posts on A Holy Experience weave poetic words through gorgeous photography and draw me into a moment of meditation and reflection.

Mandy Thompson, another online friend, took creative expression and smooshed it together with journaling and Art Journaling exploded into existence. Her pages full of raw life give voice to the depth of her beautiful soul. You can peruse her esty shop here to see what I am talking about: Mandy Thompson Art.

Finally, the online curator at Colossal, confirmed what I had started in secret when he posted a spectacular image of an actual neon sign in a piece of art by Lee Jung.

http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2012/05/neon-text-installations-by-lee-jung/

The inspiration trail led to:

loveoutloud365

365 days. 365 ways. to say I Love You.

I started it on my love’s birthday, May 8. Check it out if you like.

What did you do to Love Out Loud today?

Missouri Lady

Our caller id registers a number from the state we used to live in, Missouri.

The groggy, shaky, low and slow voice of an elderly woman starts the conversation right when I pick up our magic jack line. Her side of the conversation went like this:

“I’m about to crawl in bed and I was just calling to say I love you all.”

“What honey?”

“Nola?”

“Oh, okay. Well, I love you all.”

“I love you and don’t hesitate to call if you need anything.”

“Well, I’ll just be crawling in bed now. Bye, now.”

With my side of the conversation added in:

Missouri Lady: “I’m about to crawl in bed and I was just calling to say I love you all.”

me: “Hello?”

ML: “What honey?”

me: “I’m sorry I think you have the wrong number.”

ML: “Nola?”

me: “No, I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong number.”

ML: “Oh, okay. Well, I love you all.”

me: “Oh… okay then.”

ML: “I love you and don’t hesitate to call if you need anything.”

me: “Alright then.”

ML: “Well, I’ll just be crawling in bed now. Bye, now.”

me: “Goodnight.”

I hang up the line as I whisper my heart’s prayer after close up encounters with people born many decades before myself:

“God, when I am old may those around me show me kindness and respect. Amen.”

Covered

Kitchens and backyards of relatives fill the corners of my summer memories.  More than a dozen cousins played in the houses, banging doors and peeking through drawers. Aunts chatted and uncles prattled on while grandmas fiddled around with the food and grandpas smoked the pipe or sat in their stuffy chairs and watched the buzz with a proud grin. Sunsets of the hot days brought out jars for catching fireflies and sleeping bags thrown anywhere for the best slumber parties ever.

Then the cousins grew out of those overnight days and the aunts still yearned for family times. They let the young ones go to the boyfriends and ball games and all things ‘better’ than what was. They put their hands to work, busy stitching thread into fabric as they spoke of the fabrics of their lives all stitched together through time.

Those same hands I see at the ends of my arms. I see the creases of my Aunt Joyce and I remember brownies, chili and the voice of a patient teacher. I note the curve of the nails of my Aunt Kristy and I remember the rebellious hair stylist giving me my first perm. My Aunt Linda, the mother of my childhood best friend, was the wife of the sisters’ brother. Though her hands are not a part of me by blood I watch my hands care for children and I remember the summer she dug a bloody piece of glass out of my knee after a bicycle spill. Then I turn my hands over and around and see the smooth skin is never still and I remember my mom. She taught me to keep my hands moving, working on projects or puzzles. The dent on the ring finger of my left hand is nearly identical to the one she has. That dent that speaks of the heritage of marriage, a value worth more than gold passed on to me.

These woman watched their babies grow and a magic idea came about during one of those chatty spells. A cover would be fashioned for each cousin to be thrown over them as them stepped away. That cover would spread over the stretching out limbs of their little ones as they made new lives. Theses woman foresaw families being created under the care of these covers. With each meticulous stitch their hearts were sown into the life fabric of the cousins.

My day came. All excited and bold thinking I knew everything I pledged to marry my love. The cover was chosen and wrapped up for us. Wrapped with the pain that only the mothers of children who have outgrown the reach of their arms but not the reach of their hearts could know. Wrapped in the joy of a job well done mixed with the sorrow of a season ending. Wrapped up and released into the anticipated unknown of a starry-eyed bride and her beau.

Scrapbook page of Wedding Shower

I hugged that cover knowing little what it meant. Now it has laid over my love and me for almost a decade and a half. The fabric of the cover displays the frays of a life fully lived. The tears tell of tears both happy and sad. The broken threads tell of relationships come and gone. The colors fading tell of youth left lingering yet soon to give way to the soft pale years to come.

Their cover making season drew to a close and now the care of the cousins rests in the hands of my sisters and me. With what shall we cover this branch of the tree sprouting out in about a dozen directions? What shall our hands fashion to throw over our children as they begin to step away? I wonder if my aunts would suggest the quilts. I wonder if the other cousins love their covers as much as we love ours. Like the much desired final chapter of a book you don’t really want to ever stop reading we are turning the page. I wonder what happens next.

Trail Mix

Now on with the crunchy, munchy, mixed-up life I lead…

  • Pomegranate season has begun! For the the next four to six weeks my fingers will be tainted purple. Yum!
  • Third week of the 2011 school year started yesterday.
  • Due to strikes in the city two days of school were canceled last week.
  • The city is also gearing up for the yearly week long festival called ‘Carnaval’.
  • After Carnaval comes the birthday of my eldest. We will be parents of a teenager!
  • After that momentous occasion our interns will have their baby.
  • I’ve got babies and birthdays on the brain since the 27th of this month marks 9 months since we brought Kaitlynn home. Need to journal my thoughts about the significance of that date.
  • Do you read the blog we do for the orphanage? Three times a week we have stories going up about The House of Dreams. Here’s the link: http://houseofdreamsorphanage.wordpress.com/
  • Last night I taught a group of people how to eat sushi.
  • I keep replaying in my mind a sentence that my husband said to me yesterday that made me feel so very loved.