Book of the Lost: Prelude

An excerpt from the rough draft I am working on:

I am twisted and old, but once I was young and my hands held no blood. Long before I came to this waiting place, I was a girl. And once, once upon a time, the fiery Uridim did not chase me in my dreams.

I remember being a child, trying to get my dress to twirl like those of the village girls celebrating the Jube Day. We did not celebrate festivals in my city of Garden, no, that sort of display was better left to the ignorant. We were scientists, after all. We were the reasonable builders, the innovators, the True bearers of the heritage of the first colonists of Eden.

It was another perfect, bright day in Garden, the capital city of the southern province. You’ve never been to Eden, I’ll wager. No, not now, when all that lives there is death. But when I was a child, what glory! What perfection! Babylon was but a pale shadow in comparison. Our city was carved into a mountain. It was like an enormous stone ziggurat, a series of broad steppes. And O! The glories of the gardens. The lowest levels of Garden began in a rain forested valley. Our engineers found a way to bring that moist humid air all the way to the top of the city. Those brilliant engineers, not only of wood and stone and metal, but with flesh and bark and root. All of our structures were bio-engineered organics, free form works art and circuitry.  Our city was advanced, so advanced, millenia beyond anything on the home world. Nearly a million humans and assorted genetically modified hybrids worked together in this great center of learning.
My Father and I lived in a palatial villa near the top of Garden. From the porches, I could see  leathery reptilian Fliers soaring through rainbow mists, carrying messengers the length and breadth of the province. Below us lie lush tropical rainforests. On three sides, I could see the white caps of the Enoian mountains, and with a spy glass I could just make out the nimble Saanen mining gold for our circuitry near the pass. In the North, on a clear day, I could see all the way out to the Great Sea, where the fabled KnKeth were said to live. I could spy the tiny fishing villages, and imagine the boats setting sail for the day’s catch.

One day, driven by curiosity, I pulled up some vids about the villages on a Screen in one of the gardens. I must have been about five years old. I finally found a recording of a village festival. The music entranced me. I practiced spinning like the sun bronzed girls in the images. When I was sure I’d perfected the technique, I ran to show my Father.
My father, was tall, with fine features and a steady demeanor. I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice. He didn’t need to. His eyes could see the very depths of my soul, I was sure. He was a learned man, a respected man, even an adviser to the Abgal. I was one in over a dozen girls he was grooming to take her place one day.

“Father, Father,” I cried, rushing into the sunny porch he used as a study. It was actually an elegant columned portico. Father spent a great deal of time here, surrounded by multiple ancient communication devices, keeping track of many threads of politics and thought. Unlike the organic screens grown throughout Garden, these were ancient devices, mirrored surfaces on silver stands, set at a variety of heights throughout the porch. Messages urgently flashed across several of them. My father paced, touching a Screen here, swiping messages away there. Across the porch the Master Groomsmen, a fussy man who attended the noviates, reclined on a stone bench, looking perturbed.

“Look at me! I can do it perfectly and I only just learned today!” I spun on the tiled mosaic floor, the edges of my ecru tunic and robe fluttering around me.

I saw one eyebrow raise on Father’s stern face, and perhaps only imagined the hint of a grin. He spoke with a mild thoughtfulness, sitting on a bench so that we could see eye to eye. “ That is one way to spend your day. Can you think of any ways you could have spent your time more profitably? “

I lowered my eyes, embarrassed at my childishness. “I should have been studying, Father” I traced a design with the toe of my slipper. I knew what was coming next. It was that catechism that underscored my entire childhood.

“Why is it important for you to study?” I remember the cultured timber of my Father’s voice.

“That I may serve my people, either as a under priestess, or if I am truly Wise, the next Abgal.” It was the reason for my existence, my sole purpose in life, the only reason that I should be allowed to live or occupy space or breathe air.
“Do you think the next Abgal will be a girl who squanders her time in lesser pursuits? I always knew I wasn’t his favorite. Thea was more studious, Zigal sedate and wise. I was one of the younger initiates, a constant disappointment to my distinguished father.

“ No, Sir. The next Abgal will be a girl completely devoted to Knowledge and to the Good of the People. She will guide and rule the central province in all matters civil and moral. She will be the Keeper of the spirits of our ancestors, the Most Trusted and Trustworthy of all the people” The words shamed me every time I spoke them. I would never measure up. I’d learned my lessons well.
“It’s good you remember at least that lesson. Our city is increasingly troubled, and we require our future leaders to be uncommonly wise. Perhaps if you devote yourself to your other lessons…”
“Yes Father.” I never danced again.

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The Adventure of the Stinky “not-a-Tardis”

So, I began mailing Christmas cards last night, sure to include the ubiquitous yearly newsletter, chronicling our year and highlighting the kid’s accomplishments. If you know me at all, you know that the rosy moments are only the boring half of the story. Today was one of those adventurous days…

It all began with the idea of hosting a petting zoo for my Kindergarten Farm class at co-op. Another family volunteered to bring most of the animals. I was to bring our goats. How hard could that be? They rode all the way here from Connecticut in a hatch back. Surely sticking them in the back of my blue suburban would work fine. Unfortunately, the goats did not like the idea of climbing into the back of my suburban. Some scuffling, heaving, and a bit of hay and goat poop later we were good to go. Once the girls realized that if they put their hoods up, the goats wouldn’t “taste” their hair, I was set to rock my blue SUV through Bridgewater with 5 children and 2 goats.

That surreal, “I can’t believe I got this and its working feeling” lasted almost until Dayton. Then, the baby started to puke. She kept puking. She heaved and sputtered the entire rest of the way, with our destination being the first good place to stop and check on her.

We scrambled, Em got the goats set up in the petting zoo area, and my sister in law volunteered to sub for me. Someone brought my well children to class, and I thanked God the grandma’s house was nearby.
Annie got a bath while I hosed out the car, and washed her carseat cover and clothes. I had a lovely visit with Grandma Shank, and was off again to pick up kids and do a grocery store dash.

Kids and goats and groceries safely stashed, it appeared our adventure was done. Until Maggie cried out “Where are the goats!?”
I nearly got in an accident before realizing they were just lying down where she couldn’t see them. Overwhelmed by a tide of irrepressible bad Mommy sarcasm, I told her that they were raptured, or eaten, or maybe fighting Daleks with the Doctor.

And then, amidst the stink of goat and vomit, I realized the moral of the story: I drive a suburban, not a Tardis. Despite the fact that the clock is always wrong and I think it takes 10 minutes to get places when really it takes 30– my car is not a time machine that is bigger on the inside then it is on the outside. I, and my car, and, metaphorically, my life, are all finite things. There is only so much you can stuff in before the shit starts to fly.
The End

Heros

This post was originally for All Saints Day, and then for Veteran’s Day, but wasn’t until today that I got all my facts checked and wrote it.

Is there a historical period that captures your imagination? For some, Victorian England stirs the spirit. I have seen a lot of products for children that memorialize our nation’s early history. For me, it is the generation that endured and survived World War Two.

When I read of the Blitz, when I hear the stories of the city dwellers who flooded the countryside and grew crops that would sustain an entire nation through wartime, I am inspired.

When I hear the stories of those who survived the concentration camps, who endured persecutions, who fled with their families to start a new life, I am inspired. My grandfather, Jeremias Lewin, and his family were among some of those, and I am proud.

When I read the stories of faithful people who defied their government in the name of all that is good, who did not turn their brothers away, who risked their own lives for what was right, I am stirred. I know a man who, even as a young boy, was part of the Dutch resistance, and I count myself fortunate to have known him.

When I hear the stories of women who did whatever was necessary to further the War effort, I am glad that this form Biblical Womanhood didn’t stop with Jael. My grandmother, Carol Lewin, was one of these women. She joined the army at a time when women were first being accepted, and served in Panama during the building of the Canal. She left her home and everything she knew and made a difference in the world. Her stories are among those that I want to fire my children’s imaginations (although I may edit a few of them 🙂 )

My Grandfather, William Beecroft, served as a Marine during the war, stationed in Panama. He returned home after losing both of his brothers. Lawrence William Beecroft and John Peter Beecroft both lost their lives in the war. One died as a Japanese prisoner of war. The other died rescuing his entire crew when their plane went down. Their mother, Hazel O’Brien Beecroft not only lost two sons in the war, but served tirelessly in the Red Cross.

They are a part of a generation that learned “we will survive”, that no matter what evil, what hardship, what tribulation, we can go on. They are the generation that grew Victory Gardens, buried their loved ones, left homes to face the unknown, and kept hope in the face of overwhelming hopelessness. I would be blessed to have such an epitaph.

When the bread is burned and the fruit flies swarm…

We invited company for supper last night. I love company. However, there is some sort of bizarre Murphy’s law at work in my life. The more I want to make a good impression, the more I somehow manage to trip over my own feet.

It was a chilly day, and I had envisioned a hearty bean soup and brown bread. I tried cooking the bread on the wood stove, and it burned. I made bean soup, but I didn’t make enough, so I threw in a can of rather firm garbanzo beans in at the last minute. Somehow everyone managed to choke down the soup and rock hard bread. Thankfully we had an interesting beer and some good wine!l Thankfully the the practice of hospitality is not limited to those who know how to cook 🙂 And in getting over my mortification at putting such a sorry foot forward, I got to enjoy sweet fellowship with some amazing people.

Letting people into your life is a risk. When people get close, they can see the swarm of fruit flies around the slop bucket, the clutter on the desk, the discipleship that your kids still require. We live in a society that works hard to keep our private lives private, and put our best image forward.

We were made for more then that. We were made for relationship. We are not automatons, but part of a body. Christ’s body. We all have different giftings and callings. The measure is not each other, or Better Homes and Gardens, the measure is Christ and our faithfulness in walking in the calling He has for us. It is hard to not fear being judged when it doesn’t seem like my act is together. Relationships are worth that risk.

Freedom, Tulips, and Methods

I had been exposed to Calvinism for a while when I stumbled upon the current wave of “patriarchy” that can be found in many Reformed circles. I was actually far from any of my Reformed friends at the time. It seemed like a wonderful ideal.

When I met Shane, I asked him about his views on courtship, submission, child rearing and the like. He warned me that these could easily become “methods” to a righteousness that is not found in Christ. A good marriage would be based in Christ and on preferring one another in love.

Shane and I married. We attended his church. There was a strong desire for practical application of scripture, and good methods were taught. Somehow, for a while, I confused these methods with righteousness. Wisdom, rightly applied, is a good thing. Modesty, well run homes, and strong marriages are God honoring things. At the time, though, I needed to know that there was nothing I could do to earn God’s love.

The bedrock of the Reformed faith is Christ. It is not homeschooling, or family integrated churches, or how we take communion. It can be summed up as this
T:total depravity: we can’t be good on our own. Sin affects every part of us
U: Unconditional election: God chooses us in spite of ourselves
L: Limited Atonement: Christ sacrifice on the cross was for the purpose of saving those God had chosen from the foundation of the word
I: Irresistible Grace: We can’t choose Christ in our own strength, He chooses to save us and carries it out
P:Perseverance of the Saints. God’s people are God’s people no matter what. They may sin. They may be in error, but He will utterly save and sanctify them and conform them to His image.

This belief needs to play a HUGE role in how we run our families, a much greater role then whatever the newest “fad” within the church is. It means, I know that my children will sin, so I show grace to them, because I can freely acknowledge that I sin too. It means they are not “my” children, they belong to God, who will hold me accountable for the ways in which I demanded their obedience. It means that I don’t need to micromanage my family, but can trust the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I can trust that as I teach them, it will not return void. I don’t need to “control” my older  children so much as nurture and admonish them in the faith. (There may be a need to “control” a very young child or one that is particularly unruly- I am thinking more of a child of reasonable age who has been reared in the faith)

Submission doesn’t mean that I am Betty Crocker or Donna Reed or that I have the same giftings as my sister across the aisle. In our home, it means I show love to my husband by making sure he gets his coffee in the morning.  He shows love to me by making sure the woodstove keeps going. It means that we have spirited discussions on a wide variety of theological and social issues, but avoid demeaning or attacking each other. It means that I love our children well, watch Dr. Who with my honey instead of tackling that last housekeeping task, and try to spend more time keeping up with the house then on facebook.  It means that we both use our abilities to the betterment of our family and community.  It may look different in your home, and that’s ok.

And suddenly, my yoke is easy…

Pieces

One day I stood in a room full of rioting prisoners and saw them knocked to their knees in repentance.

One day I stood helplessly by as a woman starved. We tried to plant a garden, but she was too week to haul water (We did not have food with us, only seeds). We recited some Psalms for her. She was beautiful, endued with grace and I will never forget her.

One day, I held a urine soaked child in a Romanian orphanage. There was only funding for 1 worker for every 20 small children. They were doing the best they could.

One day, I was with a group of teenagers performing “gospel drama” in a towns square. We were surrounded by bars and mariachi bands. Someone started pouring themselves shots on the stage while we performed. After our performance, a man came forward to give his life to Christ. He had a gun. He told us that he was on his way to rob the bank across the square, when he stopped to watch our drama.

One day the lady in our church that was in a wheelchair with MS suddenly wasn’t in a wheelchair anymore. She was healed.

One day, while visiting a church in Barbados, it became known that one of the members was in the final stages of lock jaw and expected to die soon. My father challenged the elders and deacons of the church to go pray for the man. He was healed.

Over decades, I’ve seem people I’d written off as totally without help come to restoration in Christ. Those I’d written off for dead find healing, as hopeless find hope.

Wrecked

There is a place in my spirit that had been dormant for years. A passion I thought I had “grown out of”.
A couple weeks ago a missionary came to speak at my church, and it was like a switch flipped.  I was reminded of who I am.
Suddenly I am wrecked. Not just emotionally moved. Not assuage my conscience by throwing a $20 in the plate. I am wrecked.
I am the 19 year old who left the premed program at EMU because the world needed Jesus RIGHT NOW. I am the 21 year old who left my family and a dream job behind to make phone calls for Teen Mania just so I could be close to world missions. I am the 23 year old who came back home to a difficult family situation because I thought God told me to. With years to settle and good doctrine, I thought I had grown out of some of my “charismatic flakiness”. I haven’t. Over the past 8 years in the Reformed faith, I have learned to love the Lord with my mind and good judgement. Now, I am remembering now how to love Him with my whole heart.

No, I am not packing up my family for a move to Haiti at the moment.  I have become a little more grounded then that
But suddenly, the promises seem real again. The words on the pages of my Bible are relevant, immediate. Prayer is not a chore. I am still not sure what hit me, but I hope it is contagious. Anything and everything is possible with God.

The Flesh is Weak…

I won’t presume to write a theological treatise on sin. This is just an observation from my own life.

I used to be a very productive person. Then I started having children. For each child I had a c-section and just when I would start to feel normal again, my hormones went a little crazy and I would deal with months of bleeding and depression. I would see projects that should be getting done, and I just didn’t have the energy. I would intend to exercise, but I did not have the strength. I would try to lose weight, but I was constantly, ravenously hungry. I would pray about these things, and feel bad about these things, and try and fail to make changes. I hated that I was tired and irritable what felt like all the time. I tried to have a good attitude, but sometimes I wanted to scream for no good reason. Every time I started to feel better, I would be blessed with another pregnancy and the cycle would start again. I held on to verses about Jesus leading those who were with young and how his power is made perfect in our weakness.

After 4 c-sections, Shane and I decided that it would be wise to be done giving birth to children. My youngest is 13 months and weaned. I am regaining my strength.  Hormones are in better balance. I started taking 5HTP to help with low serotonin levels. I started a low glycemic diet called “Trim Healthy Mama”. I sleep at nights. I have productive days. I exercise. I am no longer ravenously hungry and am much less likely to overeat. I feel good and have lots of endorphins flooding through my system. I am a kinder person, a less stressed person, an easier to get along with person.

Am I more righteous? No. My righteousness is Christ, and nothing changed about Him. He is the same now as He was when I was a grumpy, overindulging sloth. The only thing that changed was the outside of my cup. If, by faith, Shane and I had more children and once again my flesh was weary and weak–Christ would still be my righteousness.
I never realized how much I judged people by external things. It is easy to look down at someone who does not have their act together. Sometimes I wonder though, if the work of sanctification is even that visible. Sometimes I wonder if the healthiest attitude to have towards our brethren is “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.