Awakenings

Glimpses of the Divine in the Mundane

A poem I wrote the other night while grieving the loss of my hometown of Paradise:

I’m sorry – Please excuse the smoke.
It’s just the dreams and hopes of 27 thousand yesterdays.
It’s just the minuscule evidence of
That one baby picture,
That painting of the sea captain by my brother,
And those family portraits of the past 40 years.
It’s just the piano from my grandmother who passed away that my brother just brought back from Iowa.

Excuse the hazardous air quality.
It’s just the thousands of saved kid’s drawings and crafts, books, children’s toys from years gone by that had been unpacked for grandchildren, wedding certificates, diaries, the favorite pillows, that favorite teddy bear from baby years, the 1960s records and the VHS tapes of birthday parties and graduations.

It’s just the houses of my childhood friends where we would play in the late summer evenings and spend nights dreaming of what our grownup years would bring. Not knowing that our futures would all hold this moment in time as our collective yesterdays ascend to the sky.

Please excuse the falling ash.
It’s just the church where I grew up attending with all the children’s songs, VBS programs and the baptismal where I chose to dedicate my life to God. It’s just the aisle where I stood and looked at the man on the day that I said “I Do”.

The falling ash – It’s just Paradise.
A little non-destination town that’s not on the way to anything important. It’s just that end-of-the-road town where people settle and know each other and roots run deep. It’s just a place where the biggest news was that Taco Bell came to town 20 years ago – until Starbucks finally made it 4 months ago.

Paradise – it’s just the place where everyone is your neighbor, as backyards are shared and simple icons are known and loved. Icons that are now ashes falling around you (sorry about that).
Icons like Fosters Freeze.
Gold Nugget Days.
Honey Run Road Covered Bridge.
That one antique store, just to name a few.
Icons like Kalico Kitchen where my dad and I had breakfast on the day of my wedding, just the two of us.
Icons like Darlene’s Frozen Yogurt and Round Table Pizza where many birthday parties growing up took place, not to mention the take home pizzas to mom and dad on weekends we would visit.
Personal icons like the Lucas’s house where many days and nights were spent as we grew up from toddlers, to grade school, to junior high, taking care of animals, watching movies, going trick-r-treating, and discovering our first crushes together.
Icons like the Muth house, where we made brownies and talked about boys and got ready for banquets and wrote songs, and led out in different high school student leadership opportunities.
Icons like the youth room at the church where we discovered so many amazing things together and planned mission trips and prayer conferences and learned what it meant to be used by God right here and right now.
Icons like Rankin Way house where we would watch different phases of our family’s life every year as we gathered for potlucks, game nights or just hear some good music.
Or Country Club where huge gatherings would take place like the 4th of July party for the neighborhood, or just coming together for brunch, or talking about religion and politics.
Or Peterson’s house where we would eat the most delicious Swedish treats and have a visit from Santa.
Or all the houses around town that we lived in since age 2, (that are now all gone) and finally settling on what would become home: Boquest Blvd. Boquest, where breakfast was late, like nights, and eras of my life passed within those 4 walls – from preteen, to high school, and as the walls of my room changed their decor as they held my changing eras like a quiet, constant friend. The early mornings getting ready for school, the late nights studying or dreaming of tomorrows that are now todays. The Christmas eves and mornings where my brother would wake me up to go open our stockings. The night I spent in that room with my sister before the day of my wedding, our conversations waning into the early morning. The years and eras fleeting now in hindsight, as most recently these four walls had been a refuge for my aging parents. And not knowing that that one night would be my final farewell to my constant silent friend – my room – where I spent a few nights with my infant son as we cherished time with family. That last night, not knowing that we would be together for the last time…in Paradise.

… And not to mention all the lives that were lost: mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, beloved pets …

 

All of these things now ashes falling around you.

But please, once again, excuse our smoke.
It’s just what’s left of what was one of the most unique little settlements in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains: what was Paradise.💔

Copyright 2018 Krystalynn Martin, All Rights Reserved

“All of these events are signs of the times, and evidence that Jesus is coming soon…”  These are words and phrases that many of us have heard, especially recently with some of the latest news.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they seem to carry a very real danger that is seen lived out in the lives of many who profess to be followers of Jesus.

But the 2nd Coming of Christ is such good news, right? So what is the danger of this statement? In short, the danger is that many use this as an unconscious excuse to not get involved, not get their hands dirty in helping those around them.  They keep the concept of Christ’s coming as theology and rhetoric, and do not have any practical ways of what Christ’s message of hope lived out in the real world looks like.  Following Christ and looking forward to His coming becomes mere platitudes with no real-life application.  It becomes a sort of feel-good pat-answer to any crisis at hand.

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Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the message of a soon-coming Savior, but isn’t the Gospel more than that? Isn’t the concept of the Kingdom of God a reality that begins right now, in the way we live our lives everyday?  It is according to Jesus, as He began each parable with the phrase “The Kingdom of God is like…” and then went into discussing what a culture of God’s love looks like right here and right now.  The concept of the 2nd Coming of Christ is so much more than a future event.  Yet so many people treat it as a separate occasion that is the end-all answer to any crisis.  In fact, when someone says, “don’t worry, these are signs of the end of the world!  We should rejoice that we are living in such exciting times…” This is almost a slap-in-the-face for those who are living in horrible situations, situations that maybe you and I were placed on this earth, by God, to help alleviate.

Let’s break this down into a few real scenarios where I have heard this phrase be used:

  • Environmental Issues
    • When those who have a passion about the environment speak out about the importance of recycling, going “green”, etc., sometimes they are met with this phrase “well, Jesus is coming soon, so of course the world is being destroyed…”.  It’s as if those who say this forget the part in Genesis where God commanded us to take care of the earth and the animals, etc. (Genesis 2:15).  In fact, this is perhaps our greatest form of stewardship.  So to use the phrase that Jesus is coming soon, (as if He’ll come quicker because we let the earth go to waste faster), is actually to squander the natural wealth that God has given to us to protect and enjoy.
  • Helping Refugees
    • If anyone has watched the news, you have seen the wave-upon-wave of refugee families fleeing their country, longing for a place of safety where they will not be killed.  You’ve seen the mothers carrying their babies for hundreds of miles, or worse, you’ve seen or heard the stories of hundreds of people drowned at sea in overcrowded boats that have capsized.  When supposed followers of Jesus see this and use the phrase, “see, Jesus is coming soon, and people are being persecuted…” but do nothing to actually help these desperate souls, they are aligning themselves with those from the parable of Jesus, where Jesus says “whatever you didn’t do for the least of these, you didn’t do for Me…” (Matthew 25:45)
    • Those who claim to follow Jesus and then say that we cannot help the refugees because they might be terrorists, forget that Jesus and His family were refugees.  They forget that if you live in the U.S., we all were once refugees.  So to use the phrase “this is a sign that Jesus is coming soon” and they keep going to church and worshiping a “Refugee”, is not this the greatest form of hypocrisy you could have?
  • Racial Violence & Injustice
    • Recently, there was a statement that went out by a church organization that encouraged its members to not get distracted by events happening in our country, but to keep persistent in preaching a soon-coming Jesus.  This statement primarily came out after some of the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Really?  How can we, as followers of God, separate preaching about a God of Love, and not actually show what that Love looks like in public?  How can we proclaim that Jesus is coming soon, but not start to live that reality of His Kingdom now?  How can we claim to worship a man who stood up for the injustices of those who were not being treated as equal, and yet not stand up for our sisters and brothers who are not being treated as equal?  How can we claim “all lives matter” and turn a blind eye to the ways that certain people are not treated as if all lives matter?  And then, if some who do get involved in raising their voices for the inequality of others, they are encouraged by certain churches not to get involved!  How can one claim to follow a God who got His hands dirty with saving our world, but not get their hands dirty in helping to save the communities around us?  How can we claim to be a part of the Body of Christ, but then reject parts of the same body when they are being mistreated?

These have just been a few of the examples I have seen, where the 2nd Coming of Christ has been used as almost an excuse to not get involved, or worse, as a gleeful reminder that it’s just a sign that He’s coming back, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of the world falling apart.

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What if certain people throughout history had taken this stance?  What if Esther, who had the courage to go before the King and request safety for her people, had used the phrase, “well, this is a sign that the Messiah is coming soon, so…”?  Would she have still gone before the King?  The whole phrase that comes from that story, “you have been created for such a time as this…” (Esther 4:14) screams the fact that we are meant to be people of action, not people of rhetoric.

What if Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 thesis, would have believed this idea that since “Jesus is coming soon, I don’t have to get involved” – would we even have churches today?  Would there have been a Reformation?  Would we understand what Grace is?

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had believed this misconception, and had thought that the injustices of the 60’s were just a sign that Jesus was coming back, so preach that message even more…would there have been the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the marches?  Would there have been the strides towards equality that he helped start?  As he mentioned in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”,  “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid…”  Martin Luther King realized that when we are a follower of God, it means that we live His Kingdom NOW,  and not just merely refer to it as a future event. (To read the entire Letter From a Birmingham Jail, click here).

What if Jesus Himself used this – “well, I’m coming again soon – I don’t need to preach the gospel to the world.  I don’t need to heal this blind man.  I don’t need to train these disciples.”  Obviously that’s ludicrous!  Then why is it so acceptable for us as followers of God to not get our hands dirty?  Why is it so strange to get involved and actually love people in action and deed?  Why is it crazy to step out and actually be the church to our communities?

What if we started living like the Kingdom of God was real?

What if, instead of saying we are living in the end times, we actually lived like today was our end time – our last day, and got involved in changing the lives of others?

What if we actually believed what Jesus said, what we would DO greater things than He did?  (John 14:12)

What if we began to believe that perhaps Jesus created us for such a time as this?

What if we began to realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t want us to talk so much about His 2nd Coming – but maybe He wants us to live it out?

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Sometimes putting my baby to sleep can be the greatest test in patience.  Last night was one of those nights.

She had barely slept all day, so I knew that bedtime would be early, and maybe have some tears.  But, to my delight, she went to sleep quite quickly, and I was able to continue unpacking boxes, or just sit for a minute to myself.

30 minutes later, however, the baby monitor began to scream, alarming us of Aevri’s awakening.  Sighing, I got up from my activity that I’d been waiting all day to accomplish, to go and soothe my baby who needed to just sleep already.  Ear-piercing shrieks jolted me back to mommie-hood as I picked her up, but she was inconsolable.  Tears streamed down both sides of her face, as she literally screamed for the next 5 minutes.   She began working herself into such a frenzy, that it began to sound rhythmic and I was pretty sure she was hypnotizing herself.

After changing her diaper, the screaming continued for a time, and then subsided as I took her outside for a moment.  The cool air cascaded around us both, reminding us that there were other realities in the world.  But I really needed to get back to what I was doing before, so I returned to her crib.

My second attempt to put her down lasted quite awhile, with me swaying, bouncing, singing.  After sometime, it looked like it was working, and so I went to lay her down, being careful of every movement.  As I lay her in her crib, my knee cracked.  You know when your bones crack, and it’s not a big deal – well, when you’re trying to put a baby down, it’s equivalent to shattering glass.  Her eyes flew open, and the whimpering began to build..  Here we go again…

So by the third attempt, I’m exasperated – which isn’t very relaxing energy to be trying to put a baby to sleep.  I return to the medicine ball (which is a great tool to help put a baby to sleep as you gently bounce on it).  At first I begin thinking about all the things I could be doing and that need to get done.  But then something changed.

I began to sing the song “Be Still and Know that I am God…”.  As I sang it over and over, I began to realize I was singing this to my soul, and my baby just happened to be the witness.  As the lyrics descended around me, I began to ask myself, “why am I in such a hurry?  And for what?  These will be the moments I long to relive one day.  So be still. Be present. Open your eyes.  Open your heart. Savor this moment.  Life is more than doing.  Sometimes life is about Being.”

As I watched my daughters eyes begin to become heavy and lull into dreamland, and the lyrics continued to cascade around my impatient soul, I realized something else:  As I was holding my daughter in her restlessness, I needed God to hold me in my restlessness.  That in this moment, as I let go of my agendas, as I became aware that the highest purpose of this moment was to stop, be still, and be present – and that this was the most sacred thing I could be doing.  To know that something bigger was holding me, and I could rest in that.  And in that knowledge, peace began to seep into my being

She finally eased into a deep, peaceful, sleep.  And I realized once again, that parenting is sometimes more for us than it is for our kids.  That moments like this in parenting are the moments that we are brought back to our true selves, our true purpose in life, and the fact that peace is more about a personal choice than we realize.  I also was reminded that sacred moments surround us every day, and we usually miss them due to our supposed need to accomplish some task, or check something off our to-do list.  Maybe the most sacred thing we can do is to be still and know – and hold those closest to us as they cry or laugh or live or die.  And when we get to that place, peace is there waiting for us.

So today, regardless of what is happening in your world, make a choice to stop for a moment.  Be still.  Let the One that is greater than you and the circumstances you face, hold you, cradle you, sing over you, and whisper peace and grace into your life.  And join me in this mantra “Be Still and Know…”

One of the biggest changes of having a baby, other than different sleep patterns, is the renewed realization of how precious and miraculous life is.  All life. I’ve always believed this and held true to this, but having a child has solidified this truth to a whole new level.

And in that deepened understanding, I’ve also come to feel the heart-wrenching sadness when life is abused and mistreated in others.  I’ve sensed it at a new molecular level when watching the news or hearing of a story of abuse or loss.  It’s as if I’m the mother of those refugee children.  Or I’m the little 6 month old abandoned by her parents.  What’s crazy to me in a whole new way is how most of these atrocities are done by fellow human beings who contain life and the ability to love within themselves, but they end up choosing a different path of death and hate.

One day, while trying to get my baby girl to sleep, I was in her room, holding her and playing a lullaby CD.  One of the song’s lyrics struck me deeply.  Here are the lyrics of this well-known lullaby:

“Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part, baby of mine.

Little one, when you play,
Pay no heed what they say.
Let your eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear, baby of mine.

If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But, you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be, baby of mine.”

The part that really grabbed my attention as I was snuggling with my little one was “little one, when you play, pay no heed what they say…”  If only this were so easy, right?  As I looked down at my daughter’s peaceful face awaiting slumber, I felt sadness at the fact that there will be people who will say hurtful things to her.  I thought of all the hurtful things that have been said to me, whether as a child from other children, or as an adult from well-meaning broken people – mostly church-goers, who have placed their demented pictures of self and God on me.

And then I wondered, do I pay no heed what they say?  Do I let my eyes sparkle and shine, regardless?  Do I find my identity in something greater than mere human opinion? Because if I don’t, I will only teach my daughter to let others define her worth, and then she will do the same to others in defense of herself.  And thus the cycle will continue – the cycle that is at the bottom of all wars.  The cycle of hurt. The cycle of love lost.  The cycle of death of human spirit.

Then this next part struck a new chord within me:
“If they knew all about you,
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.”

Wow.  Let those words sink in…

If we knew all about the other, would we end up loving them?  Instead of scolding, judging, and killing (be it words, thoughts or in literal terms), once we heard each other’s story, would we long for the right to hold each other, to love each other, to protect each other?

Think about what would happen in our world if we viewed each person, or group of people, or country, this way!  Whether it was a differing political view, religion, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or belief system. If we really knew all about each other, perhaps love would reign supreme.  What if we slowed down enough to really hear another human soul?  What if we opened our eyes to see, really see, the beauty in the other person, apart from our biased views (which, ironically, come from our own brokenness)? If we knew the story of each other’s brokenness, I believe healing would begin to happen.  If we pictured our enemies as helpless babes, needing to be held, needing to be protected, needing someone to dry their tears.  If we saw each person on this earth longing for a home, a hug, a smile, imagine what would happen to this world…

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As we left the hospital over 3 weeks ago, we felt so unprepared, yet so ready.  We hobbled out onto the hospital curb, blinking back the sunlight, so ready to rid ourselves of nurses disrupting our sleep every 2 hours.  We crammed the new little bundle of our DNA into her car seat, and drove the familiar road home, feeling like we had just got back from traveling to outer space and had returned to an alternate universe.

As we walked into the front door of our house, our dog met us, excited at first and then confused as we introduced him to the new family member.  We took her into her room that we’d prepared while she was in gestation.  It was a surreal moment, as the tiny body lay in her gigantic crib, and stared at the decor we had chosen.  She was here.  We could see her features, feel her tiny grip on our finger, hear her cry, see her breathe.  Wow.

Seeing her room for the first time

Seeing her room for the first time

What followed that first week was an exhausted, blissful seven days, the three of us living mostly in our living room, where our existence consisted of feedings, sleeping, rocking, cuddling, changing diapers, and staring at wonder at this new tiny human who didn’t exist prior to our exchange of love.  Time didn’t exist, just light and dark and sleep and eat.  Our sanctuary was each other – the 3 of us – figuring out our new schedule of living as a family, our new routine, our new rhythm of life and love.  The week after, neighbors and friends brought over meals and oogled over our new little earthling.  Parents came to stay for a few days getting to know the newest grand-baby.

And so we’ve oozed into our new reality for the rest of our lives:  parenthood.  It’s weird.  One day you’re a singular human being, the next day you are a mother, or a father and your life is suddenly not your own.  You are suddenly thrust into a culture shock of living for another human being and the used-to-be small details of everyday life suddenly are very huge hurdles to detour through.

What I am learning is the gift and reality of being present.  And this new creature is my mentor on this epic new journey.  I thought I knew what it was to be present.  Parenthood has definitely upped the ante.  Sure I knew bits and pieces of the power of presence, but not to the extent to which parenthood brings you. For example, any time we’re going to leave the house, it takes a whole lot of planning, as if we were leaving for the weekend on a camping trip.  We have to make sure we pack the car with everything we may possibly need, and then I have to feed our little one, sometimes multiple times.  And then the changing of the diaper, and as you’re changing the diaper, another mess occurs, and so you can go thru up to 5 diapers in one changing, not to mention all the cleaning that now has to take place of the changing table and anything else that got splattered on.  Time really kind of disappears as the new challenge becomes just to get out of the house to go to Safeway – an hour trip that used to only be a quick run down the hill for 20 minutes or so.

Let me give you another example that just happened today.  I was determined to get out of the house for a walk – something of a luxury as of late.  And at this point I knew it would take some planning.  So the planning started with the feeding – which took about 40 minutes.  Meanwhile, our dog has gotten wind that there is a walk coming soon, so he’s now whining and ready to go NOW.  So the next thing on the agenda is to figure out how the front carrier works.  After figuring out that cool contraption, now to change the diaper.  Which triggers another feeding.  After some time of eating, she looks like she’s done and about to nap, so I lay her down while I get changed.  I get my pants on, and she is still hungry.  So pause for a feeding.  She’s done – so I lay her down and get my shoes on.  She’s now hungry again.  So pause again for a feeding, upon which she looks drowsy again and I think “this is it!”  So I run to pee, come back and she still needs a bit more of a top-off before she’s finally satisfied.  At this point, my dog is laying exasperated on the floor, with the most hopeless look on his face.  So I put on the front carrier, get her situated inside, and we finally are able to leave on our adventure!  Which made the walk that much better!  This just isn’t a walk – it’s a freakin expedition!  4 weeks ago, in the time it took us to get ready, we would have gone on the walk and been back for a while.  But that was then.  This is our new reality.  And it’s all about being present.

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Before we embarked on our adventure

Time kind of disappears as reality is all about being present to the situation at hand.  Feeding.  Changing.  Cleaning.  Playing. Feeding.  Cuddling.  Sleeping.  Hopefully showering.  Feeding.  Sleeping.  Feeding.  Changing.  Did I mention feeding?! Whew – Being present.  I’ve noticed that stress enters the equation when I have an expectation of what should happen when and how much time something should take.  If you take time out of the equation, and let go of your expectations, the whole experience is actually quite enjoyable.  Because all you are is present.  And isn’t that the real challenge for us?  We’ve learned to not be present, and in the moments we could be present, we’ve learned to think of mental to-do lists, or to check our social media, or run errands.  Faster cars, quicker meals, more tv channels, longer hours at the office, smarter phones, drive-thru windows, and many other “conveniences” that have stolen our ability and desire to be present.  Parenthood, in these past 3 1/2 weeks, has taught me the power of being present.  And, to be honest, I am not as good at it as I’d like to think.  But my new teacher, this tiny human, is persistent and I’m learning more and more everyday to let go and just be … present.  As i finished typing that last word, she has just awakened and sounds hungry. And so my new teacher returns with the invitation to keep practicing presence and to embrace the power that is found in NOW…

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