Resolutions are about a bike; just ride.
A map, a home and a faith to believe.
This blog started as an idea, a prompting in my heart and finally a willingness to respond. Assembling the words from my website into a binder, I wrestled with continuing for yet another year, a third year, when I was encouraged in the unlikely whispers of Christmas ... all of which didn't happen on Christmas day.
His plan, not ours
I was flying out of State to visit my daughter in college when I received a text message that my bible study of nine was going to take a train ride in December. I responded to the text in a quick response to include us but that I didn't have time for the details.
Fast forward to a Sunday in December. A simple desire not to let others down turned into nobody going. I was frustrated that I hadn't paid attention to the details early on because only one other couple and ourselves would be on a vintage train all day at a time I had not yet ushered in the season of Christmas. I was cynical and over-burdened by the thoughts of consumerism, where the expectations and busied schedules seem contrary to the birth of a savior.
I write about my faith and yet I was not looking forward to Christmas. I didn't feel like decorating, buying gifts or even stepping into a church. I was skeptical whether my attitude would change before the arrival of Christmas. That day, however, an unlikely rain storm poured over me and a new attitude was born. After a two and half hour train ride along the Pacific Ocean, the train arrived into the station.
... A walk into town turned into a quick paced return back to the warmth of a boxcar but I, instead, opted for the solo meandering along the tracks of a train. With headphones, music and a light rain, my prideful exterior was being washed by the renewal of a hopeful spirit ... and without me realizing it, the whispered prayer of welcoming Christmas into my heart had arrived through the unlikely sound of a whistle on a Sunday in December.
The moment was preserved in an un-staged photobomb of me and the conductor with him on the train and me about to step on, unknowingly, creating one of my favorite pictures of all time and as I re-entered the vintage car, my attitude was different. The change was palatable. Open and vulnerable to the whisper of wind through opened windows, I walked along the corridors of narrow spaces with new eyes.
With the train at full throttle, I stood between the cars where a waist high door separated me from the platform of a train and the acceleration of the ground. Balanced between fear standing close to the edge and thrill as the trains power propelled us forward, I allowed the wind and sound to wash over me. A house with a red tiled roof and lighthouse along the ocean served as a beacon of hope and symbolically moved me forward.
This is what ushered Christmas in as freely as outstretched hands in worship on a Sunday in church.
Roll up your sleeves
San Francisco is not conducive to cars so when my twenty-something year old son was going to book a ride-share, I decided to drive him home. Bringing my own accommodations of a twin sized blow-up mattress, sheets and a thin down comforter, I settled in for a restful sleep after a nice evening of conversation over a bowl of Pho Vietnamese soup with he and his girlfriend.
Vistas of the Golden Gate bridge, the Pacific Ocean, Victorian houses amid skyscrapers, this town is made for stories. A vibrant imagination can soar through cobblestone streets of fantasy and fiction inviting relics of past and present into words sewn through years of people just passing though. Dreams swept across well-worned steps through the sounds of the clanging of bells on a trolley.
Location is everything. Three stories tall, the house is beautifully tall and narrow with dark rich wood, rooms with vintage french doors and glass knobs. Staircases that creak when you walk on them and tall ceilings and narrow halls. It sits at the top of a hill nestled alongside mansions with panoramic views of the wharf below. It is blocks from the lively neighborhood of little Italy and a motorcycles ride to the financial district where he works.
It is also expensive. Living with other guys, my son has a small room off the garage in the lowest part of the house. They have converted the garage into a hang-out spot. With a recent water leak, the panels above me were soaked and missing. I positioned my makeshift bed nestled between the pool table to my right, the motorcycle at my head, the refrigerator and wash basin toward the direction of my feet and a couch to the left. I saw hints of my breath as I snuggled under covers and with an outstretched hand into air, fell asleep to the sound of home. In a half drowsy state, I vaguely remember my son spreading out the thick down comforter from his bed over me as I drifted off once again.
I awoke early to the sounds of people getting ready for work but continued to snuggle underneath the covers to not only avoid the cool air but allow them some space to get ready. As I lay in bed, i was also thinking of a plan. When I thought everyone had left, I climbed the staircase to the kitchen so I could evaluate the depth of my plan.
A tiny Christmas tree with lights and a few wrapped gifts yet to be opened. There was a Warrior basketball poster, soccer ball, large TV, game center, coffee machine and the recent Vita-Mix high powered refurbished mixer I bought. Bottles, dishes and remnants of over-stuffed trash bags and layers of spills on the stove. It was what I would expect a bachelor pad to look like. The black and white subway tiles reminded me of a memory when I was little. "Nonna", my italian great-grandmother would occasionally come to visit. Not speaking english, her language was cooking, cleaning and doing some of the piles of laundry which left the feeling that we were truly loved; the best kind of language.
The rest of the day, I lived as a local: walking and carrying grocery bags, cleaning and laundry and walking to the old book store, stopping for a butternut squash taco- who knew? and blending in rather than being a tourist. This ushered in the second best part of Christmas because that night, after my son and his roommates got home from work or school (one is in a PhD program), we sat in sweats in front of the TV with stew, a glass of wine and a movie. It was better than the best restaurant in town because I felt good for having done something helpful and not only were they appreciative, I was included into their home as if I belonged.
The final remnants of Christmas arrived in a little book I read ten days after Christmas. My daughters had given me a tiny "fill-in-the-blank" book entitled "What I love about ... " mom. I read a page or two while everyone watched me read on Christmas morning but set it aside and then early one morning alone before work, I cried and laughed:
and that is when I was encouraged to continue writing. To get on the bike ... and ride.
This past summer, I got on a bike with kids where we rode fast... over bumps, around the track and through a forest, sometimes letting go of the handle bars and I felt free.
In each instance of letting go of my plans, I discover grace. It is a subtle choice to choose the cross as i think it is the subtleties of spilling love into the crevices of cracked cement through the people that surround us that create light in the darkness.
Emmanuel, God with us.
God heard the cries of his people and sent his son, Jesus. As I observe the people in and outside the church, I ponder how God looks at each of us from the inside, out. He has called us to be his hands and feet through listening, participating and being willing to surrender our plans. Two years ago, I began writing about my faith through this website and as I assembled a binder for the first time, I realized God was with me each step of the way, digging out the weeds to expose the tiny sprouts of life.
And... as a little drummer boy goes to the alter, he realizes he has no gifts for the King so he offers up a song and with a childlike faith, begins to play.
A map, a home and a faith to believe; three gifts wrapped in hope. If our sites our here, we may grow weary but if our sites are set on the "yet to come", we continue to ride.
May you too continue to ride.
Emmanuel - today and always.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.