Comrade, I Salute You.

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Once upon a time there were three little girls. Just kidding, they were not little (except for maybe one in her heart). In various moments of recent history, they had all graduated from diverse homeschool educations in diverse countries (basically).

They met up in a neutral zone. In an attic in Poland eating pierogi. (One did not eat pierogi because she is stomachly handicapped.)

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From then on they had many grand adventures which included but were not limited to:

singing their aching, little hearts out
taking shots (vodka/water)
bawling their eyes out in goodbyes–in America, in Ukraine, in Bulgaria, in Hungary, in Poland, in ocean waves, etc (like Nevada, weird).

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a lot of not sleeping
rocking out in a gasping car
praying a lot of things
eating a lot of things. a lot.
sending a lot of emojis
writing a lot of messages, especially during sleeping hours
working on weird projects, especially on deadlines and with ink poisoning…

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feeling lost
feeling like dancing an Irish jig. also, conquering the world, sin, death, the devil.
watching all the dreams puddle around their feet
knowing everything was going to be okay

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knowing more and more that their Father was with them. With us. Each of us. And life was beautiful. Broken, broken…terrifying, wretched, miserable, and, most of all, wonderful.

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Recently, 19 days ago, one of this extraordinary friends got married. I didn’t think I would feel this way, but it was the best day.

I am humbled by her grace, her love, her bravery, her trust in a powerful, faithful God. Not just as she joyfully became a new version of her beautiful self, but in all the other days too.

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I know I only see my little world, but I think it is very few people who are given the deep, overwhelming gift of friendships like these.

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I recently read a blog warning against overly close female friendships. The point may have been a good one: don’t let others define your identity, don’t be crippled in your life by ties, don’t lose sight of God.

But this hardly seems the problem. These seem like cheap friendships, not close ones.

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A solid friend will affect your choices–they should. I am not a free moving entity. I have a lot of wayward moments. I have a lot of bad ideas. I am rough and red and grumpy all over.

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As much as I whine and hide and flail, living with people is good. Sweating alongside others in friendships is good.

I know I have a probably unhealthy phobia to the word “balance,” but why would we say friendships should not be this and that and this? That you must be careful to keep close rein on them?…in essence, don’t let them change you up too much. Be you. Stay focused.

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By all means, be you. Be the saved and beautiful one God calls you. Be focused. Eyes on Jesus.

But this doesn’t come from making sure other things in your life stay in certain okay perimeters. Doesn’t it come from dedicating all things to Christ? From loving and dying and living with Him as our energy and strength? From laboring to make those things, all things and relationships in our life the tiniest bit worthy, sanctified to dedicate to such a Savior?

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This is definitely the scarier route. For me, anyways.

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People hurt you. People mess with your heart. They expose new things to and about your soul. People are uncomfortable.

People make me very uncomfortable.

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Friends make me cry. In all the hardest, but also best ways.

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Comrades make me face myself, and all the icky slitheryness still trying to be part of me. Comrades send me memes telling me to buck up. Comrades make me flash cards when I’m scared and send me anchor drawings and passages of Scripture I don’t understand but need to cling to with all my might.

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Comrades wake me up in the middle of the night to pray with me. Comrades listen to me tell stories about goats that died in my arms when I was a tender youth.

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Comrades tell me separation, death is not natural.

Comrades remind me of what God calls me. And others.

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(Some comrades get me superheroes I don’t know and glue them to my dash. And, yes, this too makes me a better person.)

Comrades hammer me with the Psalms and buy me packs of frozen peas to soothe my broken chin (and/or heart).

 

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Photo cred to Miwaza

God can work in whatever way He wants, but He promised to work through His Spirit and His Spirit is in people that walk around me, pour into me, exhort me to pour myself out.

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There are a thousand ways that the Spirit strengthens us, is with us, grows our faith, but one that I’ve never been able to doubt is how it keeps us from being orphans. In the physical way. There is nowhere I can go where I do not have home.

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God has never put me in a place where someone couldn’t remind me of who I am–wasn’t there to reflect His glory back at me. It’s inescapable even being a reclusive introvert with a book in a tiny airplane!

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Can’t the problem be that our friendships are too shabby, not that they’re too grand?

Yes, I’m partial to the concepts of brotherhood, and comrade has some pretty rotten connotations itself, perhaps…

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But a comrade or brother is not facing me, they are not meeting my needs… Although they may in a certain sense. Catching bullets can be a big need sometimes and people have done it for me in a variety of ways. But it involves trenches and shovels and sleepless nights and days of rain and eating hardtack. At least it did when I played soldier as a kid, and it’s seemed to play out in a similar way in recent years. There is time and meaning to eating smoothies and making memes in the trench, to facing each other and discussing war paint, but it’s not the reason you’re in the same trench.

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Whenever I think, “that sounds like something that is too much,” I want to examine it. Is it too much, or is it simply the wrong direction? Am I just scared and want to keep the world at arms length? These are my problems, definitely not loving too hard or giving too freely.

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I have never loved too much.

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For my easily tired heart, I need people to light fires around and under me showing me what to do, not where to scale back.

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I wish I believed and acted on this stuff. What an incomprehensible gift to have others hold me to it, also hold my hand, my suitcase, my beef gelatin hot chocolate, sometimes my heart that’s trying to get away.

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These extraordinary blessings of comradeship are not limited to the pierogi sisters (we Seeds Three). There are bodies and souls from all over that have challenged, tossed, loved, sweetened, revolutionized my life. Brothers and sisters who have truly shown me what it means to lay one’s life down for their friend.

 

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Is it idealistic, or is there always another option besides a balancing act? What does balance mean when it comes to following Jesus? Is balance really part of the picture?

Is it okay to talk about allegiance? Your First Love? Your reason and energy for all these things that have been added unto us?

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I kind of want to go read some Lewis. I feel like he said some of this and so much more, so perfectly.

…but I still feel like there is even more.

 

The Broken Bones

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photo cred to Miwaza

I forgot that in what I have done,
you suffer.
To your burden
a rock is added
and in my unrepentance,
I fasten the buckle.

Quietly,
I thought,
alone,
forsaking love
I have transgressed both the commandments.

And, in both of us,
Christ betrayed.

and surely into another year.

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By kindly powers surrounded, peaceful and true,
wonderfully protected with consolation dear,
safely, I dwell with you this whole day through,
and surely into another year.

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Though from the old our hearts are still in pain,
while evil days oppress with burdens still,
Lord, give to our frightened souls again,
salvation and thy promises fulfill.

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And shouldst thou offer us the bitter cup, resembling
sorrow, filled to the brim and overflowing,
we will receive it thankfully, without trembling,
from thy hand, so good and ever-loving.

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But if it be thy will again to give
joy of this world and bright sunshine,
then in our minds we will past times relive
and all our days be wholly thine.

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Let candles burn, both warm and bright,
which to our darkness thou has brought,
and, if that can be, bring us together in the light,
thy light shines in the night unsought.
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When we are wrapped in silence most profound,
may we hear that song most fully raised
from all the unseen world that lies around
and thou art by all thy children praised.

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By kindly powers protected wonderfully,
confident, we wait for come what may.
Night and morning, God is by us, faithfully
and surely at each new born day.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1944

wp-1483506062752.jpgAnd now more poetry/a meditation with random pictures… this time just bad, disjointed, self-written… Prepare yourself.

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Another year past.

Did I doubt Your grace?

How could I when you would not let me grieve,
overwhelmed,
drowning in the contradictions of your
blessings.

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How I wish I could cry without laughing,
curse you, without clinging to you,
run without finding you my destination.

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I ache to fall to pieces
and, I think, to be forsaken.
And again You bind these fragments
and reiterate them to Yourself.

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Grace.
I did not doubt it.
I did not want it.

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Jesus loves me
this I know
for His song,
my brother,
the Savior
showed me so.

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I have been weak.
He has been here.

-me, Imperfect thoughts on Thanksgiving 2016

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If you did not receive a family Christmas letter this year, it was not because we didn’t wish to send one. It was because none of the drafts ever saw the light of day.

If you are part of my and/or our family’s life, thank you. It’s cliche and probably true every year, but 2016 was intense…in all the ways that hurt, but also in God’s grace. Which also hurt, but was beautiful and good and continues to open up the world and our hearts and makes every moment greater… Every breath more Life than we imagined. Life foreign to ourselves. This Life that knocks you on your knees and makes your eyes water and everything okay. Beyond understanding.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise God that you are a blessing in our lives.

Happy New Year.

An Ode to My Neighbor in my Sickness

To sick people and not sick people everywhere, and particularly to some.

If I try to run away,
it is from myself.

You ask me how I am feeling,
I wish you wouldn’t.
It is the same as yesterday
and the day before.
Although it might not be,
I suppose. It’s hard to remember pain,
it is always the worst when you are feeling it.
Which is why someday everything will be okay.

I wish, for one day, you would act like I was normal
and could climb mountains
and drink coffee
and talk about having money.

How do you just sit there
and forget that I am in pain.
Can’t you sympathize?
Can’t you ask me how I am?
To climb out of bed was like climbing Everest.

You think I don’t know what living is like
but I do.
Because much of life is dying
dying dreams
dying suns
dying teeth
decay. I know about it.
Why don’t you tell me about the rest?

I am a normal person
with normal hopes and dreams.

Frustrated.
Can’t hold more than one thought at a time.
multitask no

It is so exhausting
The normal things
I spend 15 minutes willing myself to go brush my teeth
It took this whole donut that will make me throw up later
to smile through church.
I close my door
and there are so many things to do
I want to write you and ask how your baby is growing
I want to catch up on work to pay bills
I want to read to train my mind
I want to change the world.
I lay down
and I cry
because I am not strong enough
Not my body–
my mind.
I know I could do it.
It would be hard
But I could
And so I hate myself.

Please understand that I love you
I am just thinking about my pancreas
and I am very selfish.

I don’t know what I want.
Less what you can do.
I wish you would help me figure that out.
But quit asking questions.

You pity me.
You seem to think my life would be so much better
if it wasn’t this way
But I wouldn’t be me.
If there hadn’t been all the ways before that you wish to eliminate. Would I?
How could I let go of everything?
(But sure, if you’re offering your life, I’ll take it.)

Home is not a place.
Not where the heart is.
It is where the PJs are
and the pillow that lets you cry into it without either of you trying to be the strong one.
And people who at least know not to expect too much out of you
and know that you are okay sometimes.

When you try to cheer me up,
I feel like you’re not taking this situation seriously.
When you help me wallow in self-pity
and half-gallons of ice cream,
I feel like I will never be anything but what I am
And you don’t care I am failing.

Would you tell your best friend,
after her husband has left her,
to try essential oils?
I appreciate the detective work,
I wish my doctor would try it.
But could you, for a moment,
acknowledge the grief?

I can’t imagine anyone more faithful than you
more understanding
more loving
more dogged.
I have not put up with me.
You have.

Just keep loving me please.
And tell me to buck up sometimes.
And sometimes to lay down.
Tea helps.
Hugs without squeezing sometimes.
Forgiveness all the time.

Help me to learn…
Find my west.

Sometimes when I need it
on a foggy day
put a compass back in my hands.
Don’t tell me what I must feel like
or ask how I am doing
or say everything is going to be okay
just show me where the sun sets
and remind me that the race will end

Give me Jesus.
Give me an always want for Jesus.
That never gets sick.


And from Real Poets: 

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.
-Bob Dylan

Long and Wasted Years
-Bob Dylan

Ultimately this Hymn to God, my God in my Sickness
-John Donne

writer not writing [summer]

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Night off on the town Part #1.
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Night off on the town #2.
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The better half of my room…
Harrison enjoys that North Pacific shore.
Dog vs. sand.
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Our fridge after moving into our apartment. All you need for life and luxury.
Some dreams come true.
Jobness.
Green beans from the apartment pot garden. (Also featuring our various roadside furniture finds.)
Grocery Outlet meal days. Also, sometimes your dad doesn’t recognize you if you try to run him down in the store wearing scrubs and coming off of a 16 hour shift.
When you swing by your parents and don’t want to roll off the bed and they bring you a hamburger… That’s nice.
Ukraine stamps. ❤ Also fake rat because mine are now in Idaho. Also, this plant. Also, very happy my window faces west.
Yaжevoo contemplates life in the Lviv airport. He was having a hard time saying goodbye to the tree and his secret-soul-land.
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Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine.
Climbing mountains with pneumonia 😛 and Ukrainians. 🙂
You beautiful country.
Wild blueberries got us this far.
Carpathian glade mid mushroom hunt.
Okay, back to the Pacific Northwest.

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Now the East Coast.

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Brooklyn Heights.

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And back home again.

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I wish I was more like my [brother’s] dog.

Recently, we got a new puppy. It is my mom’s dog and not what this story is about.

In May, I had the first two weeks of life without a family dog. My family has always had dogs. They mesh well with us. This is probably because we are like dogs. But is this because we have always been around dogs? Or just because we hold common values?

Anyways..

Henry was the best dog.

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Henry looking uncharacteristaclly forlorn while I drove off to the airport. Photo cred: LMS

But the first dog I remember was a poodle mix. She was black and chose our neighbor over us when we moved. This is understandable because six children between 12-2 are not as luxury friendly as a retired gentleman with liver treats. But I will never forgive her. We never had another female dog.

Henry was our last “family” dog. He grew up on our mini-farm with Rebel, the pig-vet cornering, sprinkler chasing Blue Heeler, and Bobby, the pig-like Border Collie and something-else-unfortunate, good-natured earth crawler.

Bobby got puny at a ripe old age and held out long enough to die in my arms a few hours after flying back from Ukraine several years ago (and you ask me why I’m morbid?!).

During my following trip to Ukraine, Rebel outlasted the vet’s prediction by half-a-car-chasing-decade and passed on to a place where biting duck heads has no consequences.

Henry was the lean and mean fighting machine (okay…he didn’t fight and he wasn’t mean, but he was lean and fast and the best that’s ever been). He was the only animal to make the move with us to suburbia. At age 12 or so, he was probably ready to retire from UPS alert and critter chasing, but for a fit boxer/lab, the change was probably as rough on him as it was to my mother-hubbard’s view-needing-soul.

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Henry had already had a long journey with us, listening to at least all the females’ problems in the family, taking long walks as we got ready for Mount Saint Helen’s hikes, getting dragged to agility classes despite is laid-back sensitive personality, sitting up all night with me on my last day on the property, etc.

What was great about Henry (and about any dog that does not abandon you for your liver-treat-feeding neighbor), is their ability to listen without interrupting. Henry never interrupted. And he understood everything. (I’m sorry, but it’s true. He was very intuitive.) He never told me what I should do. He never even said it would be okay or that it wouldn’t be okay. He just looked at me and I knew that I was loved and would never be rejected as long as we both breathed on this mortal orb.

Well, we don’t both breath anymore. Henry got cancer. And, like you would expect, he never complained, he didn’t give up but went on with his loving life, he never told anyone their problems didn’t compare, he never blamed anyone for moving from country air or switching to cheaper dog food or not getting a $$$$ treatment. In fact, he didn’t have any important last things to wrap up because he had done them all as they reached his ears and his nose and his big, grubby paws. He had never turned his back on a loved one and he had never snubbed a stranger. He did not need to ask any apologizes because he had always met those who mattered to him with love (sometimes too much). When he had seen something to do (like chase a cat), he had done it to the utmost.

He didn’t need closure or a chaplain at his bedside. He had been who he was supposed to be and he had done what he was supposed to do. He had obeyed his Maker to the word. He had been named DOG and had acted and loved like a dog.

He had sat in the back of my stupid old Honda patiently, breathing in the air of the countryside on his car ride to the vet. Enjoying it, even though he couldn’t sit up. And he had not been angry or bitter at the lady in the vet office who made remarks about how pathetic his once powerful self seemed.

Even though his track records with vets was filled with anxiety, he had been the calm and collected one for my sake. And he laid down on the blanket and sat with me and tried to get up and lick my face whenever I sobbed. Which, of course, made me sob more. And then he didn’t want to kill the vet (like I did) when they put a muzzle on him to give him a relaxant. And he didn’t ask us what we were doing when they gave him another shot, he only moved his head from my lap and laid it where I couldn’t see and stopped being there for me.

The end.

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Last night at ye olde’ homestead.

Well, to make a tidy ending to my sob story that would have been something I would have shared wordlessly with Henry for some closure and now I have to make you endure it instead, I just want to say happy retirement Henry, from loving so hard, and I love you very much.

I’m not one of those people that thinks animals can be human or that they should be treated like children. (And when you are talking to me, you should interupt sometimes and tell me I am being an idiot!)

All of our dogs were outside dogs. Henry was a farm dog. He tromped through ice and he sacked out under trees in the heat. He was a dog. But he was just so much better at being a dog than I am at being a human.

He knew no pride.

And I guess that’s what I want to learn from him. And what mattered to me. That pride thing.

I want to look at people and listen and love them, even when what they say, in the grand scheme of existence, is stupid. To love them when they come after me with a PVC pipe and I don’t understand. To be freakishly loyal and cheerful, even when leaving could mean a much more comfortable (liver-filled?) life. To not know what bitterness means.

To be good at being human. And not freak out about the rest.

And, never to go to bed at night thinking about myself and all the things I did wrong or did right or how much of an idiot I am…trying to chase myself in a circle all over the map pride-filled-self-worth feelings. Henry knew what chasing your tail was. It was a joke and pretty soon you should stop and go chase a squirrel or a car or find someone to make happy.

 

“It is sweet to think I was a companion in an expedition that never ends”

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A real lunch break last weekend. Tried to quite one job, isolate, and focus… So far it has just meant doing three jobs. Awkward.

And it refuses to end, Czeslaw Milosz. And I’m so glad I met you recently and you allowed me to fall in love with you. Even if you are already (technically) dead.

“I am composed of contradictions, which is why poetry is a better form for me than philosophy”
Czesław Miłosz