Children of Light #shereadstruth

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I picked up a crumpled foil gum wrapper by the staircase. Three steps up I found another one. And then another. At the top of the stairs I found a few more. Curiosity piqued, I turned the corner to peer into my son’s room. Under a maroon-colored blanket I saw the shape of a preschooler. In front of the mound of blanket-covered-preschooler, I found a pile of gum wrappers. I walked up to the mound.

“Michael? Are you under the blanket?”

The shape shook his head.

“Michael? Are you chewing gum?”

Again, the shape shook his head.

I lifted the blanket to find my son, cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk. His mouth was so full, he couldn’t bring his lips to close. Barely able to chew, Michael had managed to stuff an entire pack of chewing gum in his mouth.

When it comes to sin, I’m not so different from my preschool-aged son. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, my first response to sin is to hide and cover (Genesis 3:7-10). Instead of an actual blanket, I often hide under a cloak of defensiveness or rationalization when I sin. You know what happens in the place of hiding and covering? Rotting, stinky, cold, isolated living—that’s what happens in the darkness.

Paul brilliantly establishes in the first half of Ephesians our position in Christ and then spends the remainder of the letter addressing the practice of the Christian life. Our position should inform our practice, but often we confuse the order and attempt Christian conduct apart from understanding our standing before God. When we flip practice and position, we may seek to adhere to stringent dos and don’ts out of fear, or to earn brownie points. But living the Christian life through self-effort is unsustainable.

God did not abandon us to live the Christian life in our own strength. He is our Source and Provider. We invest time studying God’s Word in order to know Him, not just know about Him. As we know Him, we will love, trust, and obey Him, and our conduct flows out of this love relationship. We know Him by walking in the light, and we walk in the light by knowing Him.

(Finish reading the post by clicking here)

One Glimpse

**Migrated this post over from my old website. Timeless lesson. Needed this reminder today. Praying it encourages you.**

A few days ago my dear friend, Danielle, paid a surprise visit and stopped by after a home schoolers field trip in our neck of the woods. I had not seen her in over a year. I had just finished picking Jonathan up from school. Max, our dog, was still in the car and the garage door was up. I caught sight of a familiar face that I couldn’t place as her middle daughter walked  around the far edge of the driveway. I finally walked out the front door and saw Danielle. “Yippee’s” and squeals as I excitedly raced to her minivan and greeted her crew of three kids, six and under. In my mind’s eye, I saw snap shots of memories with Danielle: meeting her as a freshman at UCLA, talking in the dorms on summer project in East Asia, hearing her voice singing worship songs to Jonathan when she would babysit, laughing at her fun dance routines from high school, the Pledgewagon, hearing stories of her adventures on Stint in France… Ah, Danielle, always a special place in my heart reserved for her.

Her youngest had fallen asleep in the car seat and her two older ones wanted to play on the swing set in the back yard. We decided to open the front door and sit inside the house so we could keep an eye on the front and back simultaneously. I welcomed her into our house. Dog hair on the ground, sticky kitchen floor, BUT for some reason I had decided to straighten up the living room and clean up the kitchen earlier in the day. I also had pulled out the bread maker and was baking bread (uh, it’s been maybe a year since the last time I did that), had a beef stew going in the crock pot, had gone to the market so I was able to offer her kids juice boxes and brownies, bananas and other snacks. Jonathan went and picked up his siblings for me to give us more time to catch up. Julia returned home and willingly shared her toys and played with the kids.

And after they left I laughed.

It occurred to me how quickly I make judgements about others based on a glimpse. Danielle, could (I hope not) conclude that I was a wizard-super-organized, got it together mom because my kitchen was on the cleaner side and I had dinner going and it was only two and my kids were polite and helpful. Oh, BUT, if she had come the day BEFORE, it would have been a whole different story. Dishes filling the sinks and counters, no food, newspapers and junk strewn about the house…or even, like, RIGHT NOW (same EXACT description except the kitchen floor is now even stickier). But she happened to catch a glimpse at just the right moment between order and chaos, peace and conflict, helpfulness and complaining. I live in both and to conclude that I am doing either a good or bad job based on a glimpse is just not an accurate portrayal of the whole story.

Lots of times I read of great heroes and of people I want to emulate. But unfortunately, I only catch a glimpse of their lives. Susanna Wesley bore nineteen babies and ten reached adulthood. She was the mother of John and Charles Wesley, who are on many “Christian heroes” lists. John is the founder of the Methodist church, Charles wrote most of the most famous hymns. She homeschooled them all in theology, Latin, Greek, and often from a sick-bed. She was rigid, orderly methodical (ala Methodism) and her husband, Samuel Wesley, described as an easygoing, spend thrift was away for months on end. One book I read described that her strict ways drove him away. There was no money for decent clothing. Everything went to feeding the family and funding their dad’s get-rich schemes.  Their oldest daughter, Emilia, picked up the slack when her mother was too weak physically and helped with the children and housework all of her childhood. She married a man she didn’t love because she was sick of working and wanted to rest, be treated well and taken care after always caring for others. Unfortunately, her husband, Rob Harper, wanted to quit work, take it easy and be kept by a successful woman. He left Emilia after their baby was born, taking her savings and leaving her his debts. Now, I know that Susanna did have qualities that were admirable, but until I read about her daughter, I had always held her on a pedestal. Clearly, there were also some major misses. And without actually being there, I cannot play judge on either side because I only have a glimpse.

Before Danielle arrived I was out walking Max. An older lady in our neighborhood watched from her driveway as Max and I rounded the corner. I waved and she said, “What a beautiful dog! He sure walks well.” Max was loose leash, walking obediently beside me. I welled up with Dog Whisperer pride and replied, “We have loved having him.” And just then, across the street another lady was walking her little dog. One whiff, and Max was yanking me along, trying to cross the street, whimpering at the little ball of white fluff trotting along the sidewalk.

One glimpse.

I’m still laughing.

Guest Writing for She Reads Truth

Honored to be invited to guest write for She Reads Truth. This women’s daily Bible devotion is read by an estimated 300,000 women around the world. The premise is simple: women in the Word everyday. The photography is lovely and the team is fun and down to earth. They have a terrific phone app and all sorts of beautiful art. The timing for this first post came as the situation in Baltimore regarding the death of Freddy Gray escalated. I pray God will continue to use my words whether spoken or written to point people to Truth and help restore perspective. I’ve included the first part of the post below or you can read the complete post by clicking this link: http://shereadstruth.com/2015/04/29/honor-the-image-bearers/

 

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My arms ached from carrying his newly walking little brother. The 15-hour time change between California and Hong Kong meant waking while it was still dark and a predictable afternoon crash. With only one short week to spend visiting my parents, we determined to squeeze in all we could. The rocking motion from the ferry ride across the Hong Kong harbor put my younger son to sleep, but my preschool aged son knelt on the wooden bench. He strained his neck in order to peer out the window as the ferry carried our family across the dark green colored water. Jonathan watched, eyes barely blinking, as new sights, sounds, smells and an unfamiliar language filled his naturally inquisitive mind.

The long walkway brimmed with people as we exited the ferry. Jonathan skipped along ahead and then I watched as he slowed down, almost to a stop, and tried to make sense of what he saw. A man with no legs, no teeth, matted hair, covered in soot and sores, sat on a flattened cardboard box, begging. A few coins clanked against the metal canister he tapped on the cement. Scores of people hurried by him acting as if he was invisible. I watched Jonathan tilt his head; his young mind had no category for people living in such poverty.

I transferred my sleeping son into my husband’s arms as a quote from the Mystery of Marriageby Mike Mason came to mind:

“If man really is fashioned, more than anything else, in the image of God, then clearly it follows that there is nothing on earth so near to God as a human being. The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.”

Taking Jonathan’s hand, I pulled him over to the side. Once we moved out of the center of the steady stream of people, I knelt down so we could look straight into each other’s eyes.

You can finish reading the post here:

P. S. My next post comes out tomorrow for the Fruit of the Spirit series!

P.P.S. Here’s a link to one of the IF:Equip bible studies Jamie Ivey and I taught on 1 Peter. Click here

Everyone Needs A Prisca

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who takes the time to truly listen and understand the struggles of the heart.

Someone who models an authentic life of faith and grace and prayer.

Someone who has survived the current life stage you are seeking to navigate.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the goodness of God and lives for eternal things unseen.

Someone who reminds us the ministry is unending, but the window interacting with our own children is small. And taking time to be good to ourselves is crucial.

Someone who applauds steps of faith and prays diligently. And then prays some more.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is humble, a learner, compassionate, and incredibly, incredibly wise.

Someone who doesn’t fix problems, but knows how to hold emotions.

Someone to model after because they so reflect the heart of God.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is mature, who speaks words of hope, who knows how to laugh at herself.

Someone who helps restore perspective.

Someone who loves well.

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Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) 

I have six names written in the margin of my Bible next to this verse. Prisca is one of them. I’ve been blessed to know her for twenty years. She is one of my heroes of the faith.

Who do you have written on the margin of your Bible?

Who has your name written in theirs?

First of the Lasts

I heard sounds upstairs at 5:45am this morning. Creaking floorboards, the shower door sliding open and closed. It was still dark outside. First day of school and my 11-year-old was wide awake and got up to get ready. The 16-year-old woke up shortly after his younger sister. It has been months since the last time he was up before the sun. Lunches packed followed by the first day of school picture by the front door. A flashback to when they both were too small to look out of the peek hole. I watched from my window as the high schooler drove off down the hill to begin his junior year.

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While buckling my seatbelt when it was finally time to take Julia, I looked over and asked,

“What are you thinking?”

She smiled and said, “Top of the totem pole.”

Sixth grade is the top of the totem pole. Julia has been on the grounds of this elementary school for 11 years. She’s watched two older brothers move year after year from classroom to classroom from her stroller. She waved to her older brothers during playground time when she attended the preschool which also met at the elementary school. She finally was old enough to have her own desk in first grade when I was diagnosed with cancer. We finished cancer treatment during her second grade and brought leftover cake to share with her classmates after our big celebration. Third grade and we explored Anaheim together when it was time to research for her Orange County city report. Fourth grade and she became an upper grader with two older brothers in high school. Fifth grade her oldest brother went off to college all the way across the country. Now in sixth grade, at the top of the totem pole, she is ready to launch.

And today was the first of the lasts.

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When Julia finishes off this school year, it will be the end of an era for our family at this elementary school. Fifteen years of homework folders, assemblies, field trips, class parties and parent teacher conferences. And just like getting attached to a physical house, the rooms in this school are filled with memories and significant moments. But now when we arrive at each event, it will be another last. Our last science camp, last biography report, last back to school night, last, last, last. Lasts seem so final.

When we arrived early at our normal drop off spot, she walked off down the stairs ahead of me. Confident, excited. Probably a good three to four inches taller from last year at this time. She fixed her own hair, with extra twists and a ponytail to the side. She noticed the new girl waiting by the door and smiled and introduced herself and then began introducing the new girl to each of her friends as they showed up.

I pulled out my phone to take pictures. She asked to see them, looked up and said,

“It’s going to be a great year.”

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Midnight. Death and the Cornerstone of my Faith

I lifted this off my CaringBridge site. I wrote this around Easter time while in the middle of chemo treatments. Death, pain, tears and the ought-not-be’s and why Easter makes all the difference.

Michael, our twelve year old, has been the proud owner of three hamsters. Most summers we are away on some type of summer mission trip or training time, so it hasn’t been conducive for us to be dog owners. The kids have had their share of pet fish, pet caterpillars, and some of you remember “Jewels,” Julia’s “pet” pumpkin. Well, we decided to turn the corner and enter the land of mammals by giving Michael a hamster for Christmas several years ago.

Hammy, our first hamster, died from an accident pretty early on. Then Teddy joined our fold. She was a great Mensa genius escape hamster. We would duct tape down the opening of her cage, and somehow she would still mysteriously escape. Twice we found her downstairs in the guest bathroom trashcan. She was discovered at different times in the master bedroom, the TV room, and under the stove. We never could figure out how she managed to get down the stairs! Those who watched our hamster for us while we were out of town had their own stories of her amazing Houdini antics in their own homes. One day, after escaping for the hundredth time, she never returned home. I thought at one point this past October she returned after two and a half years, but it turned out to be a rat. I’ll save that story for another time.

More time passed and we adopted Midnight at Christmas two years ago.  Midnight was completely black and a very sweet hamster. Michael did a great job taking care of her and training her. On a Friday night last March, during a Not-So-Small-Group meeting in our home, Michael called me up to his room in tears. Midnight stopped moving and looked dead. Darrin was away at an Elder’s Retreat. I called him. Through choppy phone reception we decided I would take Midnight to Animal Urgent Care.

It was our first time visiting Animal Urgent Care. After waiting a long, long time the vet came out to us and explained they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She explained that for $500 they could run more tests, but it wouldn’t guarantee MIdnight’s recovery. Her voice was matter of fact, but her eyes showed compassion as she explained to us Midnight was suffering and probably wouldn’t make it through the night. We needed to decide if we would put her down. I tried explaining what all this meant to Michael, but I don’t think he fully grasped what was going on. He and I agreed it was better to not let Midnight suffer anymore. It was a brutal decision. After they put her down, they brought Midnight back to us wrapped in a towel inside her travel cage. Michael hugged the cage close and sobbed. I sobbed, too.

After we got home, Michael asked to sleep in the TV room. I decided to join him. He had a restless night of sleep and would wake up crying. Michael was not a big fan of hugs.  Even as a baby, he didn’t enjoy cuddling much. But on this night, each time he woke up crying, I would go over and hold him and cry with him–and he let me.

Death, grief, sorrow, separation…and the heart of a parent whose heart breaks with her child. We were not created to experience these things. This is why it is still unnatural and uncomfortable when we rub up against things that ought-not-be. Cancer and other illnesses fits in this category, too.

This Easter weekend, I am reminded how God’s heart breaks when He sees what ought not be. As I head into another round of chemo this week, I am reminded God’s love for me is fierce and compassionate. And like I was with Michael in the TV room, God will be with me. He will hold me and cries with me in my pain and discomfort.

I am also reminded this Easter how God’s perfect plan righted the wrongs and the ought-not-be’s. The hinge point of my faith rests on the truth that Jesus rose from the dead.

“and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead,”  (I Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19, 20).

If Jesus was merely a good teacher, and did not prove He was God by raising from the dead, then it’s true: my faith is worthless, I would still be separated from God because of my sin. Most to be pitied.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead…

And so we celebrate hope, new life, and a time coming soon when there will be no more tears, death, crying, sadness, pain.

Happy Easter to you and yours…

Use Whatcha Got Week 5: Change the World Birthday

I have studied her face even before she was born. My eyes would trace and retrace her profile on the flimsy black and white ultrasound paper I kept in my Bible while my belly grew and grew. Over the months and years after she entered the world on Valentine’s Day, I logged thousands of hours watching her face express a thousand emotions. Two weeks ago I could tell she wanted to share something out of the ordinary with me. Her eyes were bright and her head tilted slightly. She looked both mischievous and triumphant.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking about my birthday.”

I braced myself, ready to talk down some over the top party theme. Birthdays are a big deal for Julia. She starts talking about ideas for her next birthday sometime around August, before school starts, and I repeatedly request we get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year before we talk about her next birthday. I took a deep breath as she went on,

“I was up in my room and looking at all my stuff. I have so much stuff. I think for my birthday this year instead of getting gifts and more stuff, I’d like to ask my friends if they would be willing to donate to kids and families who actually need things. Maybe buy some goats or chickens or something.” 

I swallowed hard.

wow.

Was she sure? She smiled and I could see in her eyes her mind was made up.

I prepared myself by thinking, “Now, Viv, don’t get all puffed up and proud. The whole Use Whatcha Got challenge is meant to be something for just you. The fact it spills over and helps others to reduce consumerism is not the point. Humble. Think humble thoughts.”

“Julia, I am so proud of you. This is incredible. I love the idea of you helping others. How did you come up with this idea?”

 “Oh, watching the Disney channel.”

Humbled. No problem with humble thoughts!! :)

So yeah for the Disney channel highlighting a kid who wanted to help other kids. Yeah especially for Julia for wanting to make a difference.

One of my dearest friends from college, Cynci Petersen, began in incredible organization called the Hope Venture.

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The Hope Venture is a non-profit organization existing to bring help and hope to people around the world through compassion-based projects.

Cynci’s character, integrity, and heart for changing the world through these compassion based projects makes the decision to donate to this organization a simple one. I trust absolutely in the soundness of Hope Venture. Cynci travels herself to India and Africa regularly to check in on the projects and to look for new opportunities. God has blessed and expanded the reach and influence of the Hope Venture and Julia is excited to be a part of changing the world through Hope Venture.

A few days ago Julia and I finished creating her evite for the birthday party. I added the Hope Venture link and we explained how the kids could bring checks written to Hope Venture. Julia would collect the monies and then decide which projects to support. I watched her face as she began flipping through the Hope Venture catalog. She couldn’t hold back her smile. She looked up with sheer joy filling her face.

“Mom, I think this is going to be my best birthday ever.”

(If you’d like to write Julia a note of encouragement in the comment section I will be sure she gets it)

 

Hatwalk Follow Up and Guest Post

The days have been full. I am earnestly seeking to finish writing the book by Thanksgiving in order to not go into the holidays all crazy. Well, not more crazy added to the normal crazy.

The Hatwalk Gala event was as incredible as the hotel it was hosted in. What an impressive and extensive labor of love. It was a blessing to see 700 guests dressed to the nines, supporting and giving so generously to help others battling cancer. The evening wrapped up with a powerful visual of the purpose behind the Hatwalk. We watched a stream of beautiful women of all ages, all cancer survivors, take to the catwalk modeling various hats. We cheered each of them on with grateful tears in our eyes. The strength and courage they exuded caused the bright runway lights to seem dim in comparison.

I spent most of the weekend giddy–romping around my room in the signature Fairmont hotel robe, trying to act all writer-like. Leila’s sister, Jacqui, was able to connect me with a hair and makeup person who came to my room Saturday afternoon to perform a magic transformation act. She used some kind of silicone based spray on foundation, then dipped her extensive array of brushes into rows and rows and trays and trays of Mac make-up. False eyelashes, a billion bobby pins and hairspray, hairspray, hairspray followed by instructions to not lie down, not nap, or cry, rub my eyes, move, and to use cold spoons to take down the puffiness under my eyes.

This was the final outcome:

It actually was a huge blessing to have the time away. The gals from a freshman Bible study I led back in 1989, when I first worked at the Cal campus, gifted me with an additional night at the Fairmont so I could focus on writing the book. The beautiful environment somehow helped to break through a mental barrier which moved me ahead significantly in my writing. I have two chapters left to write and then two appendices. My amazing agent, who happens to also be an amazing editor, will go over this first draft before I turn it in to the editor at the publishing house. We are nearing the end of part one in the writing marathon and I am starting to hear the faint sound of Taiko drums in my heart.

I was invited by my friend and fellow Redbud writer, Natasha, to guest post and share part of my journey as an Asian-American. You can read the post here. It’s a two-part interview which is part of a series she has been writing on racial reconciliation. Hope you will pop over to check it out.

 

 

 

Taylor Swift Red Release Party On Ellen

Sometimes it’s best to change-up the plans in order to capture a moment. In this case it was one day.  One day tucked away now in my daughter’s heart that will be long remembered. We seldom regret experiencing out of the ordinary events. And when an unexpected opportunity arises that falls directly in line with fulfilling childhood dreams…well, having part in magic-making really becomes a no brainer.

On October 11th I happened to see a tweet from Ellen DeGeneres. It read,

Want a chance to see @TaylorSwift13 in a live concert in my Burbank studio? Email TaylorOnEllen@gmail.com & you could be here! #TaylorOnEllen

For several years now, Taylor Swift has been Julia’s favorite music artist. Without thinking twice I emailed to inquire about the event. No information was given on date or time. I figured my email would be lost in the gazillions the Ellen show would receive. To my surprise, the following week on my way to the Evergreen Women’s Retreat, I received back an email congratulating me on winning two free tickets to see Taylor.

Two problems: the minimum age to attend was 14 and my literary agent, Karen Ball, had planned months earlier to come in the day before a writer’s retreat in San Diego she was invited to speak at so we could meet together. The concert fell on the same day as her arrival. I called Leila. She was and will always be the “fun aunty” and an adventure to see Taylor would be right up her alley. She was willing to try to switch her schedule and accompany Julia. I waited to tell Julia until after I returned from the retreat.

When I told Julia about the tickets and the minimum age and the possibility of Aunty Leila taking her, she started to cry. She wanted so badly to go. She wanted so badly for me to be the one to go with her.

I called the confirmation number on the bottom of the email to find out more information. The lady helping me on the other end gave the green light for Julia to attend. I went back and forth and finally left a voicemail on Karen’s phone explaining the situation.

Karen returned my call the next morning. Her words were like a balm to my anxious soul. She was excited for Julia and excited about this unexpected turn of events. Her philosophy of family first came to life as she wisely explained,

Being a mom is more important than being a writer. This is an incredible opportunity. Absolutely go! We will have other chances to meet and I am planning on and look forward to many, many years of working with you.

God blessed me indeed with an incredible agent. My gratitude continues to grow as I look forward to decades of working with this amazing woman.

The day of the concert I picked Julia up early from school. We drove to the Los Angeles zoo parking lot as instructed. Four hours standing in line, holding in our hands the confirmation email, Julia’s passport and my driver’s license. We were grateful for the overcast sky as temperatures were suppose to hit the mid 80’s. After receiving our red wrist band we went through a security screening. Two thousand excited fans stood with us as we watched 75 standby ticket holders receive the news they would be exchanging their tickets for wristbands. We felt sad for the rest of the standby fans who had to return home. The sun broke through right before we boarded the air-conditioned bus and the sky was brilliant blue.

The buses drove us three miles to the Warner Brothers lot. We walked single file past alleys and back doors of studios. Finally we arrived at an outdoor stage.

We were about six people back from the front of the stage, standing off to the left. Rows of bleachers marked the edges of the concert area. In the bleachers sat the yellow wrist band group–ticket holders who were much farther back in line at the zoo. Julia stood on her collapsible step stool and stood almost eyeball to me with a great view of the stage.

When Taylor finally came on stage and started singing, we screamed and waved our arms and sang out all the words to her latest song. Julia watched with awe as her favorite singer stood a stones throw away. Taylor played three different guitars for each of the three different songs from her new album. She ended by singing “You Belong With Me.” It was Julia’s first Taylor Swift song she learned by heart.

During the second song I noticed Julia wiping her face. At first I thought it was sweat from her brow from standing in the sun. Then I realized she was wiping away tears. Happy, overwhelmed, grateful tears. She looked at me with face glistening,

Mom, I can’t believe this is really happening. I can’t believe we are really here. I just feel so incredibly blessed.

I stood slightly behind her as tears formed behind my sunglasses. I didn’t know the words to the new song, but even if I did I wouldn’t have been able to choke out the words.

Yes, we were here. It was really happening. And several times during the second song, it looked like Taylor was looking and singing right to Julia.

After the concert, we returned to the zoo parking lot with only our red wristbands and the incredible shared memory of our time. Our faces were tired from grinning, our voices were hoarse from screaming, our hearts were full of gratitude and disbelief.

We drove past downtown L.A. as the sun set on our unforgettable, magical day.

**The concert will be aired on the Ellen show tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 27th at 4 p.m. Pacific time on NBC. Maybe you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of us in the crowd! :)

On Tiptoes

We moved from an apartment in West L.A. to a house with a big back yard in Mission Viejo the spring of 1998. I’m absolutely convinced the yard I look into while washing dishes everyday is a direct answer to prayers from a little three-year old boy. He faithfully prayed every night for over a year for three things: a big back yard, a swing set, and a red convertible (we don’t have the convertible, yet! :) ).

The boy was four when we moved. He sat tall in his booster as he took in the view of the world from the middle seat of the minivan. Clicking himself in and out of the seatbelt all on his own brought new freedom his barely walking younger brother could not enjoy. He looked forward to turning five in the fall. And sometime during the summer while we were on a summer mission trip in Kyoto, Japan, he taught himself to read. Naturally once the reading switch was flipped on he developed a love for books and learning.

We returned to Mission Viejo to discover the public library had recently undergone an impressive renovation. We spent hours in the children’s section picking out books. I pushed his younger brother in the stroller as we wove in and out of the stacks. His book bag would be crammed full of treasure causing him to tilt to the side as he walked to the check out line. It was a day of celebration when signed his name in big print on the back of his very own library card.

Jonathan insisted he return the library books all by himself. He stood on tiptoe as he opened the mysterious metal door off to the side of the main entrance to the library. He would reach into his book bag, remove a few books and slowly close the door. When he opened the door again the chute would be empty, ready for more books. Over and over he stood peering into the chute and looking on the sides trying to unlock the mystery of the contraption that magically ate up library books. I watched from the driver seat of the minivan. Sometimes in awe at how quickly he was growing. Sometimes with impatience when he took a long time trying to figure out the door.

And then I blinked.

On his last day here in Mission Viejo before he left the next day for college, he had books to return at the library. We were running a million errands. He could have driven himself, but I happened to be in the driver’s seat as I watched him standing at the book drop. Tears formed behind my sunglasses as I flashed back to him on tiptoes. A young man twice the height of the little boy now stood in the same spot stooping down when his hands touched the handle to return the books.

Our trip out to the east coast to drop Jonathan off the next day was from beginning to end  a comedy of errors. We woke to a power outage and had to finish packing and showering by candlelight. When we arrived in Chicago we learned the flight into Syracuse was cancelled. After standing in line three hours and then an additional hour with an agent, we were rerouted to Rochester. Then three gate changes in three different terminals, no seat for Julia, more delays. We arrived into Ithaca at 1:30am. Our luggage sat in the Syracuse airport but no one was available to answer the phone to help us the entire next day. Finally I drove the 3 hours round trip to pick up the luggage. We scrambled to get Jonathan settled and had to leave earlier than expected the next day for the airport. Julia was not showing up on the flight from Chicago back to L.A. The trip was exhausting. So many things I wanted to do and see with Jonathan, but our time went to more urgent matters. Sometimes in life things don’t turn out how you imagine.

Jonathan had a reception to attend, so we drove into campus to drop him off at the Engineering quad. The clock tower bells played overhead as we jumped out of the car across the street in the parking lot under some shade. Julia hugged Jonathan a long, long time. We took a quick photo.

I noticed when I went to hug Jonathan goodbye, it was I who was on tiptoes reaching my arms up to hug his neck on his six-foot frame.

A quick goodbye and he was gone.

The goodbye has been both gradual and shockingly quick. It began the day he learned to crawl and take his first steps away from me, to his first attempts at tying his shoes. I watched him walk through the doors of Kindergarten, then on to the school bus for the weeklong Science Field trip in sixth grade. I looked out my bedroom window as he drove away on the day he passed his driver’s test. Each time a little longer time, a little farther distance.

He was ready for this new adventure. We did what we could with what we had for this trip. And for his life up to this point. I was so excited for him, proud of him, happy for him.

But for the first ten miles driving away from the campus toward the airport toward home, Julia and I sat in silence in the car except for our crying.