life

leading questions, part two

We rolled up to the old school style church, one of only two Baptist churches in our small Minnesota city. I was three months pregnant with our first child and constantly making us late due to a combination of fatigue and wardrobe dilemmas, so it was a rare Sunday that we got to watch people go inside for a few minutes before jumping out. A trickle of older folks flowed through the front doors. No one our age, but we weren’t deterred. As we were new in town, we were determined to survey all our options. And I was the rare Baptist up here. Clearly, I needed reinforcements.

Though we didn’t know anyone, we were greeted warmly by some white-haired folks by the sanctuary doors, and they ushered us to a pew near the front. The pastor stood, greeted us, and then sat back down to play his trumpet for worship. I have been told that my face critiques whatever I’m hearing, so I tried to stop my eyebrows from tuning off-key notes and told my heart to simply worship.

“Today,” the pastor afterwards piped up from behind the pulpit, “my son will be sharing a passage from James.” He gestured to a row of people who Leif and I had been trying not to stare at. They were so…different. The church was primarily northwards of fifty years old and Caucasian, but this pew was full of children—white, black, and some in between—and one forty something white woman with a pleasant calmness about her.

The children tittered and giggled as their father stepped up onto the stage. He was a much younger version of the trumpet-playing pastor. When a family photo was projected onto the back wall, the children laughed at some private joke between them.

Then their Dad began to read.

I tried not to choke.

There are occasions in life when I feel followed around by certain verses. Like everywhere I go, they’re there. And this passage in James popped up a third time in the short span of a week:

You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

I thought of all the times I had blinders on regarding my own sin. And when I realized, how distorted a view I could still hold to, thinking “it’s not so bad” or comparing myself to someone else to feel better about what I was doing.

But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Do what the Law says, I thought, and don’t forget. I paused. What does the Law say?

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Ah, yes. I talk too much. I’ve heard that before. Definitely could use some work. Got it.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

A chord struck somewhere in my heart. Elsewhere, as in the gospel of John, the “work of God” was said to be simply belief. But James was expounding on the fruit of belief: if you really believe, won’t you work? And if you work, here is the work that He would have you do…care for the orphans and widows and fight the corrupting influence of culture and people apart from Christ.

The pastor’s son then shared about his family’s journey of obedience to this command, by an unexpected serial adoption through foster care. They had had one child on the way when a social worker had asked if they would accept a sibling group of four under four…for good. It was a flurry of diapers and excitement as well as an equal measure of trepidation, as his wife was eight months pregnant at the time and what would they do with so many babies?! But God had comforted them, and the church had rallied around them to provide and encourage.

“It’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done.” His voice caught, but it was without added theatrics, the truth of the statement resonating in the quiet church room. “But it’s been absolutely worth it.”

He looked around the room.

“Today, I challenge you. If you don’t have any idea where to start, go to adoptuskids.org and pray. Ask God how He would use your family to serve orphans in your community. Will you do that? Will you let your life be poured out for the sake of His little ones?”

Leif and I sat quietly in the car on the way home. I didn’t want to be the first to speak. Often in the past, I would rush to comment on whatever had transpired and ask leading questions that scribbled over what Leif’s original thoughts were.

When words finally came, Leif said that he wanted to rethink adoption. He wanted to learn more about the Christian organization that my friends had recently adopted through, and he wanted us to pray.

I felt lightheaded. Was this the man I had married? Were we really considering this?

(Italics drawn from James‬ ‭1:24-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

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life

the new year should start in march

Having tagged along for my husband’s conference, I now sit in a casino-hotel called “Mystic Lake” run by the Mdewakanton Nation of Minnesota Native Americans, and it smells like cigarette smoke and old coffee. Likely because the casino is across the way and there’s a Caribou Coffee right behind me (cue the squeal of steaming milk). The combination of smells is mildly inspiring, if only for the old song. And I realize in a jolt I’ve not written here for a good six months.

Let me give you a brief photo update:

After I left Thailand in July 2017, my street rescue Jet got a new home and a new best friend, a little chihuahua named Tinkerbell. They’re pretty close, close enough Jet feels she can push Tink around a little…

In late October, I got to see my best friend in her new home in Kansas City, where she’s working like a BOSS at Hallmark. We then roadtripped back to my house in Kentucky in time for Halloween. She even wore a witch hat for me (dress-up is SO uncool). I was Mavis, the vampgal from Hotel Transylvania, and somewhere mid-transformation, used way too much Hard Candy concealer. People kept walking up to the antique shop booth where I was working and jumping when I moved. “Wow! I thought you were fake!”

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Bestie pulled an illegal U-ee in Lee’s Summit, Missouri for me to snap this. She knows me so well.

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Mid-November, about two weeks before my wedding, I visited my in-laws in Wisconsin…and realized just how cold my new home was going to be. Proceeded to search Amazon for appropriate clothing:

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Speaking of weddings, my best guy and I were engaged in August! After two years of long-distance, a story I will have to share another time, he proposed to me at my family’s favorite beach in South Carolina and even used sign language to ask me to marry him.

I mostly worked the ANTI-wedding planning game, because when I had to sit too long and think about details, the mental atmosphere ran something like this:

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There’s a reason I work at a café now.

Our wedding was December 2, a mid-morning ceremony with twinkle lights, Southern breakfast foods, and the best cake any of us have every tasted (thanks to my best friend’s aunt!).

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It’s amazing how fast the wedding flew by. I think here, standing with my new brother-in-law and his gorgeous wife, who got married only a few months before us, I was in such a daze that the only thing I could think to be grateful for was that we were no longer standing in front everyone, getting stared at. The week before, I had started to Google searches like “how to not get sick on your wedding day” or “INFJ marriage terrified too many eyeballs.” While I was still nauseated and could barely eat all the way up to the ceremony, I calmed down as soon as I saw L. And then, surprisingly, he cried before I did!

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It’s still just as cold as I worried it would be, and most days my clothes are so puffy, I cannot even detect myself in them. Observe, how I wear the coat I bought for Nepal and Turkey, thinking I would never have to wear it again…

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But after some time learning how to dress, get around in piles of snow, and I don’t know, cook food*, I’m starting to get the hang of married life and am getting back to writing. (*In Thailand, I just walked down the soi to our neighborhood restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall joint with the most delicious yellow curry–served best with a plateful of rice and a fried egg on top. What was the point of cooking when I could get all that and a coconut water for under two dollars?)

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On another note, after hearing about my sadness in leaving my Thai kitty behind, L’s family gave us one of their cats, Millicent. Black like my street sass but with a tuxedo pattern of white fur and “gloves,” she is the bully granddaughter of the family’s first two cats, who like true barn cats just kept having herds of kittens until they were taken in for preventative measures.

Millicent apparently did not like people or other cats or anything really and so would hang out under the stairs in the basement like a troll. Seeing how unfriendly she was, I was at first resistant to taking her in. I like my cats to be mostly like dogs except able to properly employ a sand box. But after a few weeks of hermit life under the bed, she decided she could stand us. She’s especially affectionate in the morning, when her food bowl is empty. It’s a good thing we don’t have stairs nearby. I’m sure one of us would go tumbling, how she winds around our legs.IMG_0937

So life has settled in, green things are reemerging from their solace in the deep earth, and I too sift through the things I’ve collected in the winter and turn to my journals and keyboard to discover what I think again.

Stay tuned. Many words in the works. And thanks, as always, for reading.

❤ , dori.png

 

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the google definition :)
fiction

the thin portent of margaret and melvin

Margaret and Melvin met on a Monday in late March. Aside from the alliteration bridging their lives, the meeting made them feel fated: star-crossed, miraculously understood for the first time they could remember. It all started with that Look–that perfectly-timed meeting of pupils. And of course, both were deeply pleased with the color of the others’ irises.

Both of their sets of unhappy parents had divorced sometime during their middle school years. (They could even share stories about living out of cars.) Their best friends had already married and divorced (Melvin’s bestie, multiple times). And even their nearest-in-age siblings had found and lost the loves of their lives rather frequently. But somehow, Margaret and Melvin knew they would make it…

…until the day they, holding hands in Walmart, crossed the path of a tall, thin, and somewhat bodacious woman named Portia. Placing one hand on a hip, wagging the index finger of the other, Portia said, “There is only one formula for you two. And the chances of you getting it right…. well, that’s about as slim a statistic as the one smart people try to explain the universe with.” She flicked her curling red hair–an ill-chosen color for her dark tan skin–over her lean shoulder and sashayed back to her station at the Self-Checkout.

Melvin shrugged. “You can’t trust a Walmart associate, can you?”

Margaret looked less certain but shrugged too. “I mean… they only almost always know where the gluten-free stuff is.”

As they were of the more open-minded type, they immediately felt low about thinking ill of the thin, too-tan Portia woman, especially because she was a Walmart associate. But they were two devoted hopefuls with a bit of luck on their side (did not both their names start with M?). Melvin would learn to ask Margaret about her day and listen to what she said eventually. And Margaret’s being vegan was not that distressing to Melvin as he appreciated meat only on a deep spiritual level. No need to agree on everything.

Then one day, Melvin woke up with a slip of paper under his pillow. He studied it. He tried to understand it. He tried not to cry. But crying indeed, he called Margaret.

“Stop being so slobbery. What’s wrong?” Margaret asked.

“You have … to… You gotta get here. Now!” Melvin said, sniffling and wiping his eyes with the edge of a pillow.

This was what the note said:

life is full of bad stats, ain't it?

Scratching her head, Margaret looked at Melvin, looked back at the note, and looked at Melvin again.

“Well,” she said.

“Portia was right…” Melvin sighed. He had spent his tears, or so he thought. He was quite resigned.

“Well,” Margaret said again, “I guess… I guess we’d better just… call it quits. With these kind of stats, you know.”

Melvin, looking at the terrible 70s carpet of his apartment, nodded. Margaret glanced down too and sighed powerfully. She had imagined that they might have had a blast redecorating together, even if Melvin liked red and she liked the more peaceful blues.

“Perhaps we’ll have a bit more luck…” Melvin began and got caught by a heart-wrenching sniffle.

“…with someone else,” Margaret finished, eyebrows arched with a deep sadness she could not voice.

Melvin burst into tears then. “We even… even… finish one another’s sentences!” he said. “You would think we of all people would work!”

Next time they went to Walmart, separately of course, they both were sure to acknowledge their thin portent–the tall bodacious Portia woman–with a nod or a slight wave. Melvin was looking piqued; meat did not have the same taste these days. Margaret’s hair hung in a strange greasy knot at the back of her neck. But even as they mourned their loss, they both held to a shred of hope. One day, perhaps, there might be someone else. Someone with better stats. And by that slight nod or wave, they could only be grateful for Walmart associates like Portia. She really knew what she was talking about, didn’t she?

As for Portia, she was only surprised that Melvin continued to leave his door open at night. Things that go bump keep all sorts of daylight faces, after all. It really wasn’t wise these days.

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