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I went to the funeral this weekend of a woman I had met only once, but who has changed my life forever: my husband’s Nana.

While I’ve hardly met her, I know so much about her from her family.  I know that she and Papa went to a movie theater on their honeymoon, but neither could remember what movie they saw (“I wasn’t watching the movie, grandson”).  I know that she sewed my mother-in-law’s wedding dress.  I know that she loved flowers and gardening, and that her favorite color was pink.  I know that she painted her dining room mural, read to her grandchildren, and dominated at 42.  In her handwritten notes under pictures dating back to her own childhood, I feel I have come to see some of her personality.

Though I know many things about her, I can feel her love for the Lord.  She was a passionate lover of Jesus, always serving, often rejoicing in song.  I know that my father-in-law learned his steady, faithful love for God from his mother, who enveloped her daughter-in-law in this love, too.  My in-laws then nurtured that love for God in their son, my husband.  (And all of them can sing – oh, can they sing praise!!!)  I know Nana is so proud of the way her grandson serves and talks with his Lord every day.

I have been blessed to have not attended many funerals in my life.  The one I remember most vividly was so sad – a friend’s mother taken much too young.  We did “mourn with hope” because we knew she had gone Home; still, the mourning for her leaving so soon overshadowed other emotions.

This weekend, there was so much joy.  Nana has gone home!  Her long suffering with dementia and short, painful suffering with cancer are gone.  Nana’s family mourned the long “see you later” that her death means for them here, but rejoiced that she is finally in a place of healing and rest, a place where she can look on the face of the God she has loved so long.

My father-in-law gave his mother a wonderful send-off on Sunday morning.  He reminded all present that heaven is real – God’s promise for those of us who believe – and that Nana is where she most wanted to be.

He read this passage from Narnia’s Last Battle:

Then Aslan turned to them and said: “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.  And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan.  “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leapt, and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was  a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadowlands–dead.  The term is over:  the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended:  this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

After the service, tears streaming down my face, I wrapped my mother-in-law in a hug.  She said, “I wish you could have really known her.”

I will.

Thank you, Nana, for having children and for teaching them so much about life, love, and the Lord.  You have changed my life forever through your son and grandson.  I so look forward to meeting you – mind whole – in heaven and dancing for our Lord together.

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Tater tots, Snails, and a Lion

I nearly ordered tater tots in a British accent.

This was at a Sonic halfway (4 hours) between my boyfriend’s home and my own, as I wrapped up my whirlwind tour of Texas that included moving home, driving back to Waco, two dear (one little) friends’ wedding, and a spontaneous road trip east. When I pulled in to that particular Sonic, I’d been listening to the Chronicles of Narnia for four straight hours. (Well, not entirely straight. I had to turn off Aslan’s beautiful speech to Shasta so I could go back and find the highway I missed. Woops.) It just seemed natural that I should be ordering tater tots in a British accent.

The combination of much traveling, deep and wonderful conversations, and being once again steeped in the language of Narnia got me to thinking about the concept of Home again.
Every where I went this last week felt like a little bit of home. Moving home and having Greg there was perfectly natural. Going back to Waco so soon of course felt like returning home, even though I slept on an alien couch. Spontaneously ending up in Greg’s family guest room felt like home, too.

They say home is where the heart is.
I have entrusted my heart to God, and God is everywhere, therefore (by syllogism), I can find a bit of my true Home everywhere.

Maybe that is what I really need to learn about home. Moving from place to place across the state and the planet isn’t like completely uprooting myself and being replanted each time. Rather, I am like a nomad or a gypsy, or even a snail. I take my tent with me and set up a temporary home wherever I go. This ability gives me great attachment to each wonderful place I stay (have you ever tried to pull a snail from the wall to which it has attached its shell?), but lets me be just as attached to the next place I go. Though each site is wonderful, it is only an echo of my true, permanent Home.
When we get There, the change will be like the one you feel when you return from a camping trip, a delightful one nonetheless, to a house with four walls, and a bathroom, and a couch. You sigh as you plop into the couch and say, “Ah, it’s wonderful to be Home.” Though sleeping among the trees and the critters was great fun, you feel as if all’s right when you’re in your big bed under a sturdy roof. Getting to Heaven will be like finally reaching the Home we’ve been trying to return to all along.

Thank you for these wonderful beaver dams to stay in and lampposts to mark the way. I’m on my long way Home, Aslan.

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I know my leave-taking is getting bad:
Tonight, while rinsing out the aromatic liquid, I realized it was my last time to clean the college ministry coffee pots.
I’m gonna miss ’em.

God, when I get to heaven, will we still get to do things like clean coffee pots?

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People-Watching in NYC

“Oh Brave new world that has such people in’t!”

People in NYC are, well, different. Getting to know some of them on our adventures was fascinating.

Our strategy in passing out HIV cards was to simply be ourselves. We smiled, gave a big, “Good morning!”, and handed passers-by a card. People at City Uprising had told us, “New Yorkers are not rude–in fact, they’re some of the friendliest people you will meet. But they are focused.” Coming from West Texas, I laughed a bit, but tried to accept the advice. When we said Good morning on the street, people would continue walking past us for two steps. As I continued to make eye contact, you could see the thought process of, “Oh, that girl is talking to me.” They would stop, turn around, and reach for the card in my hand, even though I was now three or four feet past them. Quite amusing. The reaction time to “Good morning!” is a good three seconds longer in New York than in the South.

The man at our first clinic taught Rachel and me his strategy. He is familiar with the neighborhood and told people, “Hello! How are you doing today? Free testing down at the clinic–here’s a card. Do you want some more for your co-workers?” It was so comforting to watch him really interact with these people. I suppose I had expected people to give me the same reaction that I often give to people passing out cards: a slight smile and a no-thank-you or complete indifference.

Standing at an intersection in Harlem waiting for the light to change, I handed out cards to people crossing the street. One person was wearing a long, cotton dress with a womanly haircut and a three-day-old beard. I was very relieved to note that I felt no disgust or discomfort; rather, I smiled at this child of God and handed out a card.

New Yorkers were surprisingly open with private tidbits about their life history. As I handed one woman a card, she informed me that she didn’t need a test because she had been celibate for two years. Another informed Rachel that he already had AIDS.

Walking through the housing projects was almost peaceful. Groups of neighbors gathered on benches or in the small yards between tall, red-bricked apartment buildings. Sometimes we were warmly received by these groups; other groups believed that the only reason for our friendliness was to recruit them for testing. Between these buildings one could most clearly see what day-to-day life is like for these people.

One young man walked up to Rachel along a relatively empty street in Harlem. “So, I was wondering, could I get to know you a little better?” (I envisioned her flashing her engagement ring in his face. “Bam!”) She handled it beautifully. “I don’t think so. But there is free HIV testing at the clinic down the street.”
We saw him throw the card in the gutter directly in front of us a few steps later. Oh, well.

The construction workers in Manhattan were quite an interesting group. Of all the people we spoke with, these workers had the most candid reactions.
“HIV testing? I don’t need that.”
“Oh! Here comes Joe. Go give one to him. He needs it.”
“What are you giving out? Free food? Free workouts?” “Actually, free HIV tests, sir!”
“Nah, nah, we don’t need any of that.” One man bravely contradicted him. “I’ll take one.”
“Do I look like I need HIV testing?” “I don’t presume to judge, sir. I have no way of knowing who needs a test, so I hand cards out to everyone.”

While we were in Manhattan, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between tourists and locals. After he had taken a card, I realized one man was definitely touring the city with his wife. Oops, I thought. He turned around to question me about what the card was. He asked if I had been tested.
At our training meeting the first night, the pastor had encouraged all of us to get tested. Whether we had possibly been exposed to the virus or not, it set an example to the people of the city. All who work at the church had been tested. That night, my roommates and I discussed it. There’s no chance I have HIV, but I had decided to take the test if it was offered at the clinics. There was never really a clear opportunity and after we learned that clinics were running out of tests, it seemed selfish and pointless to take a test for myself.

Overall, we learned that we were completely unable to predict who might take a card. After our first few lessons in our ineptitude, we started offering cards to everyone. Only God knew who might need one.
Surprisingly few people declined a card when it was offered to them. Most people who refused were very polite, either responding to our Good morning or saying, “No thank you.”
A few times we passed people without offering a card. They rapidly corrected us by turning around and extending a hand for a card.
Businessmen with one hand on a cell phone and the other around a cup of coffee would take a card.
Women with hands full of groceries would take a card.
A few half-asleep men and women sitting on the sidewalk would take a card.

The pastor at church said something this morning that resonated with these lessons. He said we often don’t strike up a conversation about God with a person because they “don’t look like church people.” He asked, “Well, have you invited them?”
We so often judge by appearance. I definitely judge literal books by their cover, but my meager life experiences are slowly teaching me not to judge people by how they look. Heaven will be filled with people of all nations, tribes, tongues, colors, hair cuts, clothing styles, accents, tattoo preferences, piercings, and smells. God will make us all holy; we are all His children.

“How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beautious mankind is!”

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Air of Heaven

The phone buzzes across the room. I jump out of my dreamy state and answer it: 7:33am.
“Hi, Meaghan, this is Tangie at the Hippotherapy Center. We’re short on volunteers for the 9 o’ clock class this morning, would you be available to make it?”
“I will be there,” I reply, in what I hope sounds like a cheery, if not entirely awake, voice.

I reset my alarm to three hours before my normal summer wake-up time and lay back on the bed. Oh goodness, I sigh. Those kids and their horses sure have a way of getting me up.

I make the long trek out to the barn. Blue gallops across the arena and pokes his head through the fence to tell me good morning. The west Texas sun is shining bright and starting to hint at the warmth of the day.

We saddle the horses. As we wait for the children to arrive, I stare at the unexpected beauty of this collection of brown dirt, biting flies, green weeds, and a hot sun. My goodness, Lord, what a glorious day!
I feel a little like an outsider around all the horse gals. I walk over to Luke. He smells my outstretched hand. “Hey, boy.” I rub that soft, velvet nose. We talk about food, flies, and the sun. He continues to stare at me politely as I scratch the mud off his face.

Taylor arrives, with a grin as big as this west Texas horizon.
“You ready to get on Blue?” “Ya!”
And so we ride. We go over the bridge. We crest the hill. We weave through the grape arbor and wave to Woody. We learn how to sit, how to steer, how to trot, and what happiness is.

Micah bends over to kiss Lola on the neck. He grins and giggles. “Wings! Bird wings!” Micah is fascinated with wings today. “I want wings!” he croons. “Me too, buddy,” this often quiet sidewalker replies. They laugh.

Out here, there is nothing else. No thesis to worry over, no graduate programs to find, no deadlines, no sickness, no stalkers. Just big ponies and small children, happy to be on the back of a horse.

The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.
Arabian Proverb

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Glimpses of Heaven

I really like our campus lamp-posts.
One day, I walked out of my new dorm to run an errand. An hour later, I came back to see lampposts bursting out of the ground. Ever since then, every lamp post I see here reminds me of Narnia.
There is one that seems to float above the water at just the height of the bridge. Magical.

As Aslan tells Lucy, “This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

When I see bits of Narnia in my college go-to-class, hit-the-snooze-button, stay-up-on-facebook world, I remember that HE is here, and Home is coming soon.

“I am home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.” -Jewel the Unicorn

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