Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Stone for the Altar

According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, an altar is "a structure used in worship as the place for presenting sacrifices to God or gods."  Many times, altars were built out of the stones available at the site of some significant encounter with God, as a place for worship and as a reminder to others who pass by the place again in the future.  Altars helped the Israelites remember their story.

My altar isn't made of stone.  It's made of time, I suppose, because every year on this day, February 18, I come back here to it.  I come to worship, to remember, to be grateful.  And every year, as I come back to this place and meditate, it gets bigger.

Fourteen years ago, I woke up to chaos in my trailer.  Again.  Screaming, yelling, fighting, threatening.  Fear, anger, uncertainty.  Those were the bricks my life was built from.  And I was tired.  So tired.  So I threw up a prayer, in the form of a poem (somewhat of a rip-off of "Interstate Love Song" by STP, but hey, I was 16), wondering if anyone was listening to me, seeing my pain.

That night, I didn't come back to that trailer.  Barbara Jester, my alternative school teacher, offered me a room in her family's home, and that night I went to sleep in a bed (not a mattress on the cold floor) for the first time in over a year. 

If an altar is a place where sacrifice is offered, then mine was built that day.  I left my old life behind, all my friends, my family, my world, and nearly everything that was familiar, and I stepped into a complete unknown.

Those first weeks are pretty much a blur to me, but I know there was a lot of discomfort for nearly everyone involved, even though everyone was gracious about my presence.  I had never experienced a family, and that's the only word that describes the Jesters, then and now. 

I have never taken for granted the huge gift Mom and Dad gave me by taking me into their home, into their family.  Every year, on this day, I come back, and every year, the altar grows.  At the time, I appreciated them for getting me out of a horrible home life, out of a dangerous living situation, and out of a world where drugs and sex and violence were just a normal part of life.

Then I went away to college and had wonderful experiences, and I appreciated that I would never have made it there without the Jesters' intervention.

I spent a summer in China, teaching and sharing my faith, learning and experiencing a totally different culture, and I could not have done that without a solid foundation and a loving place to come home to.

When I fell in love with Greg and we decided to start our own family, I knew I had witnessed a great example of what marriage is supposed to be, and it gave me hope for my own.

When my daughter was born, I was terrified that I would somehow mess her up, but my Jester family was there to support me, by example and by advice.  I don't know how I'd have managed without their words of love and prayers for me.

I am so grateful for each and every one of them, especially my parents and siblings.  Matt is the cool older brother; Shannon is a hilarious and loving sister who hugs you when you need it, and sets you straight when you need it; Brad is the greatest big brother, warm and ridiculous and solid; and Richie is a really cool person to know.  Their spouses (Lori, Lindsey, Stephanie and Angie) are all wonderful in their ways as well.  Barb is a mom not only to us, but to pretty much everyone in the entire world, too, because it's just what she does.  And Phil Jester was the most outstanding man I have ever known, and he was an amazing father.  I am blessed beyond words to have known him in the way I did, to have had such wonderful time with him. 

And so here I am, on February 18th, leaving another stone of pure gratitude here at this altar, remembering, reflecting, and worshiping the God who gave me this great gift.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sophie and the Vacuum: A Timeline

Early infancy: Sophie ignores the vacuum

8 months: Sophie cries when she hears the vacuum

18 months: When Sophie hears the vacuum, she runs toward the sound, then glares at the vacuum/vacuumer until the job is finished

2 1/2 years: Sophie repeatedly asks, at least 5 times every day, "Are you going to use the vacuum?"  As she asks, she looks panicky and terribly sad.

Yesterday, as I vacuumed the dining room with my baby son strapped to me in the Moby wrap, I was surprised by 2 things. 

1) Joel stayed blissfully asleep.  He didn't even flinch at the noise.

2) Sophie didn't say anything, just slammed the playroom door.  When I turned the vacuum off, she peeked out and said, "Mommy, you finish using the bacuum?"