Saturday, October 29, 2011
Last night I went to the funeral home. Reluctantly. Hesitantly.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to acknowledge the finality of a passing that affected me far more deeply than I expected.
Instead I wanted her to wag her finger and look me straight in the eye and say, “What is going on with you? Something is not right, little Missy.”
I wanted to hear her pray. Just one more time I wanted to be present when she presented herself in the throne room. And that is certainly what she did. She was assured of who she was in the kingdom, not because of her own accomplishments or achievements, but because of Jesus’. She approached the throne room with a holy audacity that I want to experience.
But this audacity was born not out of pride or arrogance, but from suffering. This boldness was born out of sheer desperation—an utter conviction that she had only one place to lean. And lean she did.
Her name was Barbara.
Years ago Barbara was in a tragic car accident. The emergency team who found her thought her to be dead before they even reached her. She lost half her face. Literally.
She had no cosmetic reconstruction. The extent of what would have been necessary was too dangerous. And there were just too many infections. Twelve years later when I met Barbara she peered at me with one eye. And that one eye saw deeply into me; I couldn’t hide much from Barbara. She would take her hands and hold my face and make me look at her, and she would ask me questions that I had to answer, if not to her than to myself.
Disease also plagued Barbara. And yet, she had a deep, deep sense of joy. Not the frivolity of happiness which is often transient and dependent on outward circumstances, but joy established in a stout and relentless conviction that God had a plan for her—and that it was a good plan.
Once while Barbara was in church some younger children were snickering and jeering at her grotesque face. Furiously the mother attempted to shush the children, but Barbara turned and told the young mother to bring those children to her. She put aside her own self-consciousness and insecurities (if she even really had any at this point) and bent down to be close to the children’s faces. She began to explain exactly what had happened to her. She didn’t mince words. She didn’t exaggerate. The children never ridiculed her again.
If anyone has learned that our position in Christ is not based on any temporary, earthly thing—physical appearance, social status, academic achievements—Barbara knew.
When you first met Barbara her face took you off guard and you would have to avert your eyes or perhaps lower your head. After you got to know her, heard her talk about Jesus and her faith, your respect for her exploded and you couldn’t do anything but look her right square in the face.
Barbara had more vision with one eye than I do at times with both. If anyone should have suffered with the malady of tunnel vision, then she should have. She did, but Jesus was fixed at the end of her tunnel.
I still have both eyes, yet often my vision is limited, hindered or stunted because I don’t have my eyes fixed. I allow too many relatively trivial and temporary things to impede my sight.
The receiving line at the funeral home was long and filled with animated whisperings of stories and exchanges about Barbara. I listened—absorbing and tucking away the tid-bits of information for a later time.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to lose this woman’s influence in my life. The duration of her influence had been too short. I had questions I still wanted to ask. Prayer requests I still wanted her to pray. I still wanted to be snapped by her quick wit and encouraged by her keen insight.
I realized how selfish my train of thought was rolling. Barbara is now whole in heaven. Whole. All that the accident tragically took has been replaced. All that the ravage of disease had eaten away has been restored.
The reality of heaven belongs to Barbara now. Her faith is now sight. Everything that she preached (And preached she did! She and Paul would have made a great team.) to everyone she encountered is now an actuality.
I walked through the receiving line, pausing only briefly before Barbara’s shell. I didn’t linger. There was no need. Three nights ago she entered the throne room of God and I have a feeling that is where she still is.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
When I hit the publish tab for these words to upload this will be my 200th post. Two hundred times I have pulled back the layers of my skin and attempted to be real. As I scroll back through the months, the years, the posts are like the transparent, opalescent skin-thin walls of my beloved nautilus shell.
In these posts I recognize myself, and I have marked measurements of my growth and expansion. I realize this has often been a place I have been willing to look at and attempted to see myself soberly. Here in these spaces I seem to be able to identify the bits and pieces of the woman God was and is transforming. Certainly he has used this place, this virtual chambered nautilus, to enable me to have the courage to increase the size and capacity of my chambers.
In 2007 when I began this endeavor, born out of a challenge to one of my creative writing classes, I did not know who I was. There was a time before when I thought I did. In 2007 I most assuredly did not. Five years of chronicling my journey and two hundred skin layers later I know these truths: I know who I belong to and I know he does not change; these two facts determine who I really am. And I will continue to chronicle my journey here in this place.
Thank you for visiting me. I have no idea how many people see, read or follow The Chambered Nautilus, but two hundred posts, for me, are worth celebrating.
If you read this post please drop a line in the comment section (or message me on Facebook, if you read the post there). On November 9, 2011 I will compile the comments in a special drawing for two Chambered Nautilus gift boxes—gifts from me to you—and I will announce the winners in a post immediately after the drawing.
May His face shine upon you.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
(This is a long blog, but there were too many memories and wonders of the day to choose. Forgive and indulge this long-winded proud Momma)
October 1. The first wedding of my four daughters.
My second daughter got married the first weekend of October and I have wanted to capture the day and seal it with words, but the words have been lodged. They were wedged tightly in too tight of a space. They would not form full sentences in my head. Even now I am not sure the ones I have chosen will convey the true reality of the day.
On that Saturday I stood on the dock wrestling yards and yards of white tobacco cloth. As the wind caught the cloth it also whipped my hair across my face—the short ends stung my cheeks. The PVC pipe frame, made to resemble a Jewish chuppah, reared up toward the cold, monochromatic sky and waited for its wedding attire.
The wind had been a difficult entity all morning. Slicing through the tent and creating havoc wherever it went, it came with a cold so sharp my teeth clattered together. I stood under the great expanse of white tent bundled in a hoodie, three layers of shirts, jeans, socks and crocs. And my body still shivered. I was unaccustomed to the damp chill. The threat of rain hung heavy in the morning sky.
What a day for an outdoor wedding.
Everywhere there was the fury of work.
One of our dear friends stood beside me under the great white awning and we surveyed the scene. Around us the tables were covered with fresh flowers. Thick cream, pale ivory and light white blooms stood in tall buckets of cold water. Airy greenery splayed across the narrow rims. Scents wafted through the air wrapping around us like mist.
Just beyond us under the tent my husband and my brother and the groom were fitting and adjusting the tongue and groove pieces of wood to create a dance floor—a jig saw puzzle with no instructions.
The whole crew of us was preparing for my daughter’s wedding. We had all come from different towns and congregated in this stunning backyard to create a wedding celebration.
The memories are tucked and stored like flashing jewels. There are many of them. And they flash across the back of my eyelids like an old black and white movie.
My daughter looked like a beauty from one of those black and white classics. Her auburn hair was twisted into a simple, low side knot and wisps of hair floated and fluttered. Her pale creamy skin shimmered. Her sea green eyes, inherited from her maternal grandmother, were soft and clear.
Her dress was tailored just for her by one of my dear and oldest friends. And she was so comfortable in her own skin that the dress was a part of her. Only a few minutes before it was time to walk down the aisle (path on the lawn) she was playing ping pong with the groomsmen.
She was so lovely.
And she married a beautiful, beloved man.
I call him beloved for several reasons: his name is David— a Hebrew name that when translated means beloved. He is rightly named. He is beloved to his family, my daughter, to my three other daughters and to me. I am so grateful for the way he treats my daughter. I enjoy the way he interacts and cares for her sisters. I respect the manner he watches over his own mama and the way he respects his father and grandparents. We have loved and prayed for this boy since he was sixteen years old.
So, the wedding wasn’t just about my daughter; it was also about David.
The whole day was a string of pearls strung together by God’s grace and orchestration. Things happened and were said and acted on that could have never happened without his grace. And wonder of wonders I recognized them.
October 1st was a mixture of tradition and non-tradition. The bride and groom did not follow protocol; they chose to see each other before the ceremony. Normally I would have objected to the dismissal of this tradition, but watching them changed my mind.
While we were in the tent with the flowers my daughter arrived—in sweats and no make-up. And I watched the bride and groom as they embraced. They just wanted to say good morning to each other. David wrapped my daughter up in his arms and buried his head in the crevice between her neck and shoulder. The whispers were audible, but not decipherable. How incredibly sweet of a moment to be privy to—briefly I felt like an intruder, but that passed quickly.
For the better part of the day they would drift in and out of the places they were working and see each other, talk and share about what was unfolding before them. The willingness to let go of tradition enabled them to actually share the whole day—pockets of intimacy tucked in the oddest of places.
At one point a no-walk zone was created. David was no longer allowed in the downstairs of the house. Sadly I missed this event because I was changing into my wedding clothes, but I heard about it from others’ perspectives. When David and my daughter were finally in their wedding attire, the sisters and photographer took David to the dock and then blindfolded him. My daughter, in all her finery, walked down to the dock to meet him.
She pulled the blindfold away and his face was priceless to behold. They were able to experience that moment alone and together. No audience.
Everything unfolded wonderfully. The ceremony was tinged with laughter and an informal ease. There was an intimacy present that can often be lost in formality.
Later Emily, the photographer and on-the-spot wedding planner, announced it was time to cut the cake. You must understand this daughter of mine had been a professional wedding planner for ten or twelve weddings. She knew how this should all unfold. She and David cut the first piece of cake together, pushed cake in each others’ mouths, but then when it was time to cut the cake for all the guests, my daughter donned a black apron over her wedding dress. On the front panel of the apron embroidered in large white script was her new name.
She proceeded to cut the cake and serve it to her guests. The caterers were appalled. A bride was not supposed to serve her own cake. When my daughter explained this idea to me, “Mom, this is how I want this to be. This is what I do. This is who I am. I serve.” There was something so real and substantial about this gesture.
There are too many vignettes of the day to share them all—snapshots all day and evening of the wonder of when something is right and good.
At the end of the evening all the remaining guests lined up in the front yard. Sparklers had been passed out a little earlier. We formed an avenue and when they were ready we were told to light our sparklers with the candles placed at intervals on the ground. The candles were snuffed and the dark avenue became a lighted path for the couple to leave. The sparklers twirled and danced in the air. Patterns burned through the air for the briefest of moments. As David and Katherine ran through our parallel lines—cheers lifted and the couple’s faces were illuminated and utter joy was revealed.
Many people have asked me if I cried that day. Not once did I cry my usual Tamera tears. I am a crier—easily and often. But, that day there were only two moments when the tears almost spilled.
During the ceremony the wind was wild—whipping and pulling anything unmoored. The wind pulled Katherine’s hair around in her face and David lifted his hand and carefully tucked the strays behind her ear. This precious gesture, so like David and so what Katherine needs, almost caused me to cry in the ceremony. But the Kleenex remained in my hand.
Earlier in the day, during the photography session, I stood on the dock with Katherine. She wanted a photograph with her momma.
I was so honored, so touched. Even as I type these words now, the tears swell up in my eyes and the screen blurs. But that day, I whispered to her that I wanted her to be happy. I wanted David and her to have a marriage that lasted. And I told her that was what I was praying for them for always. She looked at me and said, “Don’t cry now, Momma.” And so I didn’t. Me.
Instead, two weeks later the tears pour. Now I need a tissue and they are across the room.
October 1, 2011.
An incredibly lovely string of pearls.
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