Summer kisses

Besides being a saver, a sewer, a survivor, and a farm woman of the Nebraska prairie, my grandmother was a hider.

An expert hider. What she hid was unlikely to be found. Sometimes even by her.

She hid presents. She hid treasures. She hid tidbits. She hid this-n-that.

She hid it so well that, come Christmas or birthday or tax day or cleaning day, there was a chance that the hidden thing – no matter how essential to the celebration, task, or event –  sometimes never did unhide itself, no matter how much searching or looking or seeking.

The end result was that sometimes when my grandma was looking for an important hidden bank statement, she found instead the previous year’s Christmas present for a distant relative. Or when she was looking for an important Christmas present, she found instead next year’s birthday present (already wrapped but without a recipient’s name indicated anywhere). Or when she was looking for a new box of baking soda she might find an important letter that she’d needed last year.

I learned a lot of things from my grandmother. One of them was to not be a hider, mostly because I know I would be even less successful at finding hidden treasures than she was. (I struggle to find even the unhidden treasures.)

Still, her blood runs thick in my veins.

So on this hot, humid, miserably damp July day, it was quite a treat to reach back into the cupboard in search of honey and find this instead:

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

In all their miniature glory, these two lost-and-founds are my grandmother (who hid things), my grandfather (who loved sweet things), and the incarnated babe (whose birth was the beginning of finding all lost things).

These two lovelies have been patiently waiting alongside the Pyrex bowls for eight months, ready since last December to unexpectedly brighten someone’s day.

Mission accomplished.

What’s old is new

When you come from a long line of penny-pinching cost-saving repurposing thrifting immigrant farmers, it only makes sense that old suitcases become corner display units,old suitcases

old porch doors become vine trellises,

old porch door

old birch trees become coat trees,

old birch branch

old jars (not new jars that look like old jars) become canisters,

old jars

old barn rakes become shelves for other old things (and for the “R” surround-sound stereo speaker),

old barn rake

old bushes become living room art,

old branches

old windows become textile frames,

old window frame

old salon tables become corner kitchen desks,

old salon table

and old shed doors (with the help of a neighbor child and some crayons) become coffee tables.

old shed door

This inherent need to recover, refashion, repurpose, and remake things that I had absolutely no part of making in the first place is perhaps a tiny reflection of why the Maker of all . . . the Maker of me . . . is so set on recovering and remaking what He not only made but what He designed and fashioned with loving care.

What was lost is now found. What was broken is now whole. What was made is now remade.

And for that, the stars rejoice.

Planted where you’ll grow

I used to think that trees had deep roots – that if a person could see the underground part of a tree it would be a mirror image of the tree itself.

Turns out that’s not true. Most tree roots are in the top three feet of soil, and a majority of those are in the top twelve inches.

I suppose that’s why this can sometimes happen:

Unrooted (Photo: CKirgiss)
Unrooted (Photo: CKirgiss)

A big ole’ tree, just up and tumbled down in a wind storm, roots and all.

It left a mighty big hole behind, but not near so big as I used to think the root hole of such a giant tree would be.

Unrooted (Photo: CKirgiss)
Unrooted (Photo: CKirgiss)

Jesus’ parable about the seeds makes it clear that deep roots are necessary for a fruitful life.

But deep roots don’t just happen.

They require regular watering (in with life) and diligent weeding (out with death).

But in another sense, deep roots do just happen.

When Christ makes his home in our hearts and when we trust in him, our roots will grow down into God’s love and keep us strong (Ephesians 3:17). As we continue to follow him and let our roots grow down into him, our lives will be built up on him (Colossians 2:7).

In one of the many ironies of Christianity, I have no power on my own to grow deep roots in Christ, but I do have every freedom to prevent deep roots from growing –

– by not drinking deeply of his living water

– by not soaking up his brilliant light

– by not welcoming his gardener’s care

– and mostly by not redirecting myself from self towards him.

Like the tallest tree, I will surely tumble and fall if my roots are sunk into the stinky, rotten, stony soil of me rather than the sweet, rich, saving soil of Jesus.

The noble phrase “grow where you’re planted” is subtly undergirded with self-importance and achievement.

Better to “be planted where you will grow.” Where true Light shines (on even the darkest days). Where living Water flows (through even the driest lands). Where utter Truth prevails (in even the murkiest worlds). And where a loving Gardener does all the necessary work to produce fruitful lives.

Freely dependent hearts

This tumbled out of my backpack the other day when I was with a group of friends:

Little blue capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

There were a few gasps. A few giggles. A few tsk-tsks.

Apparently, none of those people had a real childhood. Else they would have known this little blue capsule was nothing to tsk over. They would have known it was a Magic Capsule. They would have known the thrill of watching a seeming blob of nothingness be set free by a cup of cool water.

I like to keep these handy for the under-10 crowd. Or me.

Last night I decided to set it free.

At first it looked like this –

Magic Capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

– which is just boring. No action. No magic. No change. Except that it’s afloat – resting gently, suspended weightless – rather than hidden in unseen corners of the dark and closed world that is my backpack. Encapsulated-but-afloat may not seem like much, but it’s a beautifully far cry from dark and hidden corners.

After about 30 minutes, it looked like this –

Magic Capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

– which is just creepy. Like a mutant beetle struggling to shed layers of slimy skin. Or maybe like a heart that’s been smashed and caged and suffocated for years inside a soul that is lonely and lost and brittle. The inherent inner beauty can take a mighty long time to reveal itself.

After another hour or so, it looked like this –

Magic Capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

– which is just weird. Like a cockeyed baby pterodactyl screeching in its very first flight. Or maybe like an unfolding heart that is learning to trust and breathe sweet air for the very first time. The steadied balance can take a mighty long time to discover.

A little later, it looked like this –

Magic Capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

– which is just confusing. A plane? A sword? An inverted mythological thunderbird? Or maybe a bundle of unknown possibilities, like a heart that is just starting to unfurl its wings and sip the promises of love and life and re-creation.

Finally, it looked like this –

Magic Capsule (Photo: CKirgiss)

– which (as best I can tell) is a magically-capsuled-sponge-version of the delicate miracle known as a dragonfly.

Its proportions aren’t quite right. Its details are sorely lacking. Its shape is rather fuzzy. Its color is all wrong –

– much like my heart that will need a lifetime of pruning and shaping and transforming and refining before resembling anything close to what it was originally meant to be.

The more I learn of God and draw near to Him, the more aware I become of just how tightly and terribly encapsulated my heart really is. What a bittersweet irony.

But what a sweet opposing irony is this: the more dependent on Him I become, the more free I really am.

The end result of my heart’s transformation is a lifetime away. Until then, each and every stage of the process – whether sorrowful or sweet – is a miracle of my re-making.

Welcome to Love. Welcome to Life. Welcome to Freedom.

© Crystal Kirgiss 2013

The one where you meet Ryan

Meet Ryan, Assistant to the Area Director of Greater Lafayette Young Life.

Young Life friendship

Basically, he’s awesome. True story.

8 years ago, Ryan was a high school student. He attended every home basketball game. He came to every Young Life event. He filled wherever he was with his enthusiastic energy.

6 years ago, Ryan went to a week of Young Life camp. He zip-lined. He para-sailed. He did the climbing wall. He made people laugh and smile and dance for joy.

3 years ago, Ryan served on summer staff at Young Life camp. He ran the gear locker. He organized, inventoried, and distributed athletic gear to nearly 400 campers each week. Seeing as how he works in the athletic locker room of Purdue University, he pretty much rocked it.

2 years ago, Ryan was handpicked to be the Assistant to the Area Director of Greater Lafayette Young Life (the man I call husband). He waits promptly on his front steps each Monday night for a 7:15 personal pick-up. He evaluates each element of club both kindly and candidly. He graciously and honestly shares his feedback, which is almost always spot-on.

Today, Ryan is an established member of the local Young Life leadership team. He’s seen it all. He’s known by all. He believes in all.

And we are all richer for knowing him, wiser for hearing him, and more joyful for loving him.

Basically, he’s beyond awesome. True story indeed.

Coming Home and Going Home (Post-Michindoh Post 1)

For the past month, a printed camp schedule has told me when and where to be, all day, each and every day.

That might sound dreadful. But in fact it was quite wonderful.

There was no need to decide whether to do laundry on day 3 (yes) or day 5 (no). The schedule dictates.

There was no need to wonder whether or not you really want to get sprayed off with a firetruck hose (yes) after playing in a mud pit (woot!) with 350 middle schoolers or 100 teen moms. The schedule dictates.

There was no need to debate the pros (lots) and cons (none that matter) of a late night dance party that required trekking to a building on the far side of the lake. The schedule dictates.

After being home for exactly 42 hours, I desperately miss the dictator.

I want a cabin bell to send me to bed at night. I need a staff meeting to wake me up in the morning.

Most of all, I want someone else to decide when and what I will eat three times each and every day.

Last night I spent 75 minutes in the grocery store during which I was essentially paralyzed by all the choices and responsibility.

I don’t want to plan and shop and cook for two. I want to eat my meals with thirty fellow work-staff friends. And I need a saner person than myself to set a weekly menu.

I’ve done the camp thing enough times to know that when it ends, I will deeply miss both the sense of purpose and the close-knit community.

But I’d forgotten how lost and aimless the first few days back home can be. Sure, it’s nice to be back in my own bed. But it would be even nicer if I could bring my own bed back to camp where I just spent a very sweet month indeed.

So here’s to Michindoh. Here’s to Wyldlife. Here’s to Young Lives. Here’s to community living and common purpose.

I quite miss them all because coming home, though lovely in its own way, doesn’t hold a candle to Going Home, which is what the last month was really all about.

“When the younger son finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” So he returned home to his father. and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (from the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel)


A three-dimensional gospel (Michindoh Post 20)

[This post is twentieth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

On the last day of Young Lives camp, in the final minutes of the last club of the week, almost 350 people – all the mamas, babies, leaders, mentors, childcare workers, and work staff – gathered together as a group. Because the work staff was, well, usually working during the week, and because the childcare workers were usually, you know, caring for children when mamas were busy during the week, this was the one and only time for such a collective gathering.

It was beautiful to behold.

Breathtaking, actually.

So much life, so much love, so much compassion, so much passion, so much energy, so much promise, so much of God’s beautiful creation, all in one place.

I wish I could describe it to you. I wish I could give you just the smallest glimpse of what it looked like. I wish I could help you feel for just one moment the Spirit’s overwhelming presence in that place.

But I can’t.

The special lens that allowed me to compress all of those seated folk in the whole of that seating arena into a single viewing frame did just what it promised: compressed all of that life and love and passion and energy and promise into a flat, squished, distorted, lifeless image.

Last gathering (Photo: CKirgiss)
Last gathering (Photo: CKirgiss)

It’s like a futuristic class picture gone awry.

In truth, the side-sections of the room are sharply angled, not flush with the middle section.

And the people seated in the side-sections are normal size, not miniature mashed versions of those in the middle.

And the faces are radiant images of hope and joy and life, not stoic plasticine molds of the real thing.

And the babies are wiggling, giggling, screaming, cooing bundles of babyhood, not lifeless and silent dolls.

But truth isn’t easily contained in a finite, two-dimensional space.

Certainly Jesus, who is truth itself, is much too incomprehensibly marvelous and indescribably wondrous to fit into any two-dimensional space.

So we do our best to wisely comprehend and to humbly describe Him in three-dimensional ways…
by being his hands and feet…
by telling his story…
by living his love.

Because of grace, there is every hope that our reflection of Jesus will be more true and beautiful than my camera’s reflection of the last great gathering at Young Lives camp. And let me tell you – it was true and beautiful indeed.