Our girl was born two months into my husband’s six-and-a-half-month deployment to Afghanistan. It was late afternoon there when she made her arrival, and his company was out on a mission. There had been a firefight, on account of which he hadn’t slept much and he needed to write and submit some reports to higher headquarters urgently. He didn’t have much access to civilian emails during that time. And the (typically reliable, typically lightning-fast) Red Cross message that a hospital nurse supposedly dispatched to him on my behalf never made it to the Middle East. The result of all this was that Nathan didn’t know about his daughter’s birth until two afternoons later, almost 48 hours after the fact.
Two a.m. local time, he finally called me. “I just found out,” was how our first parental conversation started. There was an uncharacteristic jitter in his voice, and it laid bare some of his feelings about the new and uncharted waters we were in. I could hear it instantly: he was curious, tentative, apologetic, proud, thrilled. But three minutes after I had answered the phone, duty called again, and he had to hang up. He hadn’t even had the chance to hear a Cliff’s Notes version of our first child’s delivery. Initially I was tempted to be upset about this: Wasn’t he at least entitled to a quick overview?
Then again, the more I thought about it, I wasn’t sure if anyone—certainly not I—could have properly remembered the events that had happened two days earlier.
Our daughter is 19 months old, and today she spent half an hour in our kitchen, squeezing herself into and out of a box meant to hold clementine oranges. All four sides of the packaging around her were emblazoned with the clementine brand name: Cuties. Appropriate.
“Mama, howp,” came the request whenever her little feet became stuck in the corners.
She is enthralled by soapy bubbles in the kitchen sink, by the recycling truck’s weekly visits, and by the multicolored twinkle lights our neighbors strung along their front porch last night. Falling rain produces more excitement in her than any little body could contain. She gets agitated about the vacuum, keeping her distance and keeping aware. When her fingertips get wrinkly after a warm bath, it baffles her that she can’t lick the creases away.
Reading today’s portion from Luke 18, the first thought that came to mind was her look of sheer wonderment yesterday at bedtime, when together we peered over the half-curtain in her bedroom to see those Christmas lights.
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:17
There was so much awe and thrill in her eyes. Her jaw was slack from one end to the other. Muted twinkles reflected off the curves of her cheeks.
She didn’t want to even acknowledge her crib. Not her PJ’s. Not the blinds as they closed in front of us. “Wites,” she kept saying, pointing back toward the window.
Colorado Springs, 1999. My first real job as a writer.
I was 17, and I had been chosen by the editors of a teen magazine to write a column every other month for a year. “Lisa’s Line,” they called it. They had flown me to Colorado by myself for a weekend photo shoot, to get the next January’s cover image and a few more pictures for accompanying my columns. The editor in charge of choosing me that year, Andrea, had flown in for the weekend as well. She and I were staying in the same hotel, and I was positively awed by her.
Andrea asked if I would meet her for breakfast at the hotel restaurant on the day of the shoot. So I found her at a table that morning, sat across from her, and tried to mirror her beautiful posture without being obvious about it. (Was it the way she held her shoulders? Were they forward or back? Or up?) I tried to say intelligent things and to not hold my fork awkwardly. I was embarrassed that my hair was still a little damp.
She told me why they had picked me: they liked my writing and it seemed I had solid faith. Since the magazine had a distinctly Christian focus, they were looking for a teenager who could be a distinctly Christian role model for their readership. That was ironic, considering what happened not moments later.
My friend Karen* has just had surgery, and her husband is away. (This is not uncommon for military folk like us.) We have spent three days holed up at my place—she as the patient, me the attempted nurse—so she can begin to heal. Now she’s ready to be back on her feet and at home, but her cupboards are bare. So we go grocery shopping on the way over to her place. She chooses the food, I push the cart and lift the heavy things.
We arrive at a seasonal display in the produce department. Bags of cherries are stacked up in piles: a couple rows of deep red, a couple rows of red-yellow, then a couple more of red. It is at this point when Karen reaches out nonchalantly and grabs a single Ranier.
“I always taste-test these to make sure they’re good first,” she explains, popping it into her mouth. Her official assessment is a slight pucker.
My internal response to this cherry-pick is instantly surprising to me, for two reasons.
My relationship with Marcie (not her real name) took several permanent steps backward when she called up my parents one day and told them she wanted to kill me. According to Marcie—who, up to that point had been a casual friend—the flash point for her murderous thoughts was a conversation from years earlier, which Marcie apparently had remembered selectively and fixated on.
That previous conversation was mildly memorable to me too, mostly because the question that prompted it had seemed to come wildly out of the blue.
Marcie: “Lisa, do you get A’s in school?”
Lisa: “Yeah, I get some A’s. But it’s not that important to get A’s in school, Marcie.”
She wanted to kill me, she was now saying, because of the A’s. According to a report given by authorities a couple days later, a bigger reason was that Marcie’s guardian had been ill, and as a result Marcie had stopped taking her meds.
On one hand, Marcie posed no plausible serious threat to me. It seemed reasonable to believe that with her medications back on schedule, her mind would sort out properly. Plus she was a tiny woman on a limited income who at that point lived 200 miles away from me and had no driver’s license.
Aside from concerns about my safety, though, there remained the issue of my sanity. That mental space had suddenly become complicated. How do you deal with someone who has shown such enormous deviation? How do you arrive at a scenario where you even want to deal with that person again? It agitated me, just thinking that Marcie and I might cross paths again someday. To distrust Dr. Jekyll for always, must you meet Mr. Hyde only once?
Which brings us, some would suggest, to the question of God’s character in a Bible passage like Ezekiel 5.
Links For Your Perusing Pleasure
Here’s a quick compilation of the articles I’ve had published recently. They’re all online, which hopefully keeps things handy for you.
If you’re a blogger who’s looking for me to guest post or an editor who’s looking to hire me for your publication, I’d love it if you’d email me and say so. If you’re a reader looking for more, you can subscribe to my blog and consider immediately picking up your copy of my latest book, Craving Grace.
Long, too long ago, I posted the first part of this series. Then, being in a state of general pregnancy, I never followed up.
At the beginning of this year, though, a former colleague of mine emailed with some great questions about how to get started writing. It prompted the second half of this “So You Want To Write?” series, and made me think that maybe in time I’ll add even more. But for now, you can find what amounts to part 2 over at the WordServe Water Cooler, because I’m one of those fortunate WordServe authors, and because I decided it was OK to double-dip.
Check it out: How to Get Started Writing: Hamster Wheels and Hurdles
You can also sample some of my former colleague Christina’s and her sister Nicole’s work at ATaleOfTwins.com. Cheers to writers starting out!
Related: So You Want To Write? Part 1
For all those who have been asking, Craving Grace is about to be released in the Southeast Asia!
With a cover-refresh and in paperback to boot, Craving Grace is heading off to the islands. Courtesy of OMF Literature, you’ll now be able to find my latest project for sale in the Philippines. Upon last check, it hadn’t yet hit the OMF website, but be on the lookout and you should find it there soon!
Special thanks to all those who asked for this—you’re getting your wish!
Thanks to the great folks at Berean San Diego for hosting these lovely ladies and me!
(Left to right: Pam Farrel, Marcia Ramsland, Susan Meissner, Lisa, Arlene Pellicane)
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a book signing with some local Southern California authors. It was a fantastic hour, and all kinds of fun. These ladies are fabulous—check them out, and buy their books!
Pam Farrel, co-founder of Love-Wise and co-author of Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti and many others.
Marcia Ramsland, Organizing pro and author of Simplify Your Holiday Season
Susan Meissner, Fiction author of The Girl in the Glass and many others.
Arlene Pellicane, author of 31 Days to a Happy Husband
A story of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish military chaplains in World War II.
Recently the folks over at Christianity Today asked me to interview Lyle W. Dorsett about his new book Serving God and Country. Hello, fabulous assignment. It was a pleasure on three levels:
One, reading the book.
Two, getting to talk to Dr. Dorsett about the book and more.
Three, getting to share a bit of our conversation with CT readers in print and online.
But since an author interview is (rightly) about what the author has to say, here’s what I as a reader thought of Serving God and Country.