Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Time to be Refined

There is a time for everything.
A time to stay and a time to go
A time to be and a time to do
A time to listen and a time to speak
And a time to change
Today the gentle breeze is whispering in the coolness of autumn and with it comes the anticipation of all it brings. 

Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Football games
Sweaters and Hoodies
Colorful leaves giving way to bare branches

I am embracing this moment.   Seeking the unveiling it brings. 
As the brilliance of the summer sun gives way and the space between day and night draw ever closer, I seek to be stripped bare.  I no longer wish to hide in the lush of abundance that surrounds me.
Rather, in this moment, I seek to be altered.
A time to be refined…

© A Sacred Longing 2009-2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our September 11th Story

It has been 10 years and the strange thing is that I can close my eyes and it feels like not a moment has passed.  And yet, so many have.
10 years ago I was sitting on my bed reading a devotion and enjoying a beautiful September morning.  When my husband called with the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, I turned on the TV just as the second plane was striking the second tower.   When I told him what just happened and that they were jetliners not small private planes, he immediately ended the call.

He was at the Pentagon.  I was home in Washington, DC.
My natural response would have been to find myself lost in the news reports - traipsing from Fox to CNN to MSNBC.  This morning it didn’t even cross my mind and gratefully so.   I put the TV on mute and returned to my morning prayer time. 

Not long after,  I vividly remember the windows in my home shaking.  At the time, we lived directly across from National Airport and often sonic booms would rattle our windows.  However, this time it was different and I noticed.  Minutes later, I would know why.
The next time I looked up to the television I no longer saw pictures of New York but a familiar shot of the Pentagon with dark black smoke billowing from its side.   I knew that building.  I had been in it many times.  My husband was there at that very moment and I wondered where. 

I began to frantically look for his business card and tried to desperately count off the rings and corridors to figure out where his office was and where he should have been.  Truly, I had no idea but it made me feel better trying.  The minutes ticked away silently.  The military community where we lived was locked down.   I couldn’t leave.  Phones lines were jammed.  I couldn’t call.
It was eerily and wickedly – quiet.

In the deafening silence, I felt a peace and a calmness.  Now,   I recognize it as God’s presence and provision but then, it felt odd – different.
It was a couple hours before my husband could call and tell me he was “fine” (as fine can be when evil comes knocking on your door).  It was hours – like 18 or more – before he made it home wearied, wet and smelling of a strange mixture of jet fuel and smoke. Wearing first degree burns on the outside and deeper, much deeper wounds on the inside.  I don’t remember many words.  To this day, we have trouble finding them when talking about September 11th.   In that, I doubt we are alone. 

As a first responder on that day, he didn’t evacuate but ran toward the horror.  He spent the next 3 months working in the crash site.  I can still vividly remember the smell of his clothes each day. 

Death and evil are not pleasant fragrances. 

But grace is.  It doesn’t always come in the package we expect or want but it always comes when we need it most.

On that day we lost neighbors – a husband and a new father; a young boy going on a field trip – just two of the many who left their homes that morning without an inkling of what was to come.

On that day, the cost was priceless.
We will never understand why my husband's meeting that was scheduled to occur at the exact moment and place where Flight 77 impacted the building, was cancelled at the last minute.
We will never understand why innocent people paid such a high price.
I cannot understand evil that causes such pain.  I pray that I never do. 
On that day, our lives were changed.
On that day our country changed.
Still and yet, on that day, our God - the One True God - remained the same.    That is what I seek to know and understand.  On Him I can rest my weary and heartbroken soul.  He catches every tear.  He calms every anxious thought.  He gives strength in the weakest of moments. 
He never changed and gratefully, He never will.
Where were you on September 11, 2001?

© A Sacred Longing 2009-2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Six years later...

In the days since I returned from this last trip to New Orleans, I have been asked more than once if the mission experience was different here in the United States versus in another country.    The obvious answer is yes.    In New Orleans, we spoke the same language.  In the Lower Ninth Ward, we could go to Walgreens every morning to pickup supplies.  Here we had an abundance of meal options.  It was easy to stay in touch with family.  In so many ways, it was different.  Yet, in many ways, it was the same.

Need and hurt do not respect boundary lines.  Frustration and desperation exist here in the “land of plenty” as it does in countries that hunger for so much.  People desire to be known and not forgotten here as much – maybe even more so – than in the third world.
In this land of abundance, we are besieged with information.    It is easy to be the first page news one moment and the forgotten story the next.  It is too simple to go about our daily lives and drive quietly into our garages while ignoring the life-stories surrounding us.  Yet, they exist.

When I was preparing for this trip I was given priceless advice.  I was told to not be afraid to “ask their Katrina story.”  So, I did and I will forever be changed. 

Each story – six years later – gave voice to the seemingly forgotten.   Faces gave way to names.   Each empty lot or broken down house became known as one whose family survived or tomb for those who didn’t.  Six years later, tragedy slowly releases its bony grip.

The heartbreak is not forgotten.  Those gone may never come back.  What once was will never be again.  

Still and yet, I hope. 
I hope that the stories will continue to be told.  I hope that people will continue to listen.  I hope that people will be moved to help rebuild hearts, lives and homes.

© A Sacred Longing 2009-2011