When Worlds Collide…or just meet over Dunkin’ Donuts

Meg in her glory

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

Recently, I wrote an article for Think Christian magazine, My Daughter’s Muslim-Christian Bible Study, about the coming together of Christian and Muslim students in the Bible study my daughter started at her local public high school.

A better title would have been “When worlds collide…or just meet over Dunkin’ Donuts,” which better illustrates the unique dynamic formed among these teenagers.

But outside this small group of friends of different faiths, worlds do collide.

And it is in to these worlds this same daughter seeks to extend her innocent hand and a heart longing to befriend Muslim women. 

To support my daughter (and me) as she decides the best route for serving overseas, I asked a few friends who know us best to commit to be her prayer warriors. One friend reminded me of a passage from Jeremiah where God calls a youth to be his voice.

6“Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”

For now, I won’t go into the effects that the choice to serve has–and could have–on her, me, and our family and friends.

I simply encourage each person who reads the article, no matter your beliefs or ethnicities or experiences, to choose to do one thing to break down barriers that is a tenth so brave.

 

 

 

 

Who comes in when the world goes out?

friends

Photo Credit: vintage ladies via Compfight cc

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

Tonight at House, Pastor Chuck talked about one of the most common regrets of the dying…that they didn’t spend more time with their friends.

He focused on the friendships of Jesus and the traits good friends possess. The theme of friendship was also the focus of my recent guest post on author Jamie Janosz’s blog.

In it, I share two conversations with best friends that reminded me of grace during the most devastating time of my life.

One Confession, Two Conversations, and One Story of God’s Grace was inspired by study questions in her book When Others Shuddered, Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up.

Why are [women’s] friendships so crucial? How have friends ministered to you in times of need?

How would you answer?

 

 

In which I meet a man with a time machine…

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

This photo was taken right before I met a man with a time machine.

treeseat

In the spirit of that, let me back up.

I recently discovered an off-the-beaten hiking trail that winds along the banks of a lovely little stream and detours around a tree that reaches like the fingers of a cupped hand into the glare of the sun.

strange tree

You can’t help but sit inside it.

The following week I led my younger daughter along the same path so she could take in the babble of water over slick rocks and sit in the palm of the five-fingered tree (which my elder daughter pointed out also appears to have a penis).

Anyway…back to the future…or rather, present.

As my daughter snapped this photo, a brown-leather man with hair like cottonwood seeds stopped his bicycle beside us and said that his friend believed the tree was an energy vortex.

He hesitated a bit–either embarrassed or afraid my answer wouldn’t affirm his hope–and asked if I felt any energy.

I did bring my daughter to see the tree, I offered…and it did beg to have its photo taken.

He nodded, weighing my answer. “Well…I have a time machine…”

I’m pretty sure I succeeded in maintaining my expression as much as if he had said, “Well, I have a timeshare in Boca.” After a quick sideways glance at my daughter, I asked, “Have you tried the time machine?”

He hadn’t. That’s why he needed to find an energy vortex, but he just wasn’t convinced this tree had the juice. “When my wife was alive, we used to…”

I didn’t hear the rest–something about a special place he and his wife used to enjoy–because I was picturing him setting the dials on the time machine. Maybe to that place so he could hold her hand again or maybe to a year when they were young and looking toward a much distant future.

“So if we are hiking this path again and see a bike with no rider, we’ll know what happened?”

He chuckled and explained that this particular model only traveled the day before or after a full moon and offered only a seven-hour excursion.

I figured that was plenty of time to screw up the present.

He looked at me a bit beseechingly, as I stood at the crux of the tree roots, hand on the velvet-y bark. “So you don’t really feel any energy?”

I considered more carefully how to answer this time, because I hated to let him down. Should I lie? Should I encourage him to instead put his hope in Jesus? Should I jerk like I just tongued a light socket? I decided on the truth. “I am re-energized every time I walk through the woods.”

He smiled as he climbed back on his bike. “That’s for sure,” he said, then called back as he peddled away, “Remember, if you see a bike with no rider, you’ll know what happened!”

I am hoping that’s exactly what happens.

So what place and time would you travel to? Why?

 

 

Build it, and the fairies will come

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

My youngest step-daughter and I knelt under the huge pine tree in her yard in Kentucky. We were building a house for the fairies. Sticks, leaves and rocks formed walls, a door and places to sit and rest your wings.

I hadn’t been with her dad that long, and this collaborative construction also built a small bridge between us.

That memory came back to me while my elder daughter and I did the same thing this weekend.

We built a house for the fairies.

fairy garden

Why would we spend two hours repurposing a clay pot that busted during the exceptionally harsh winter into a pretend house for make-believe creatures?

Because it’s fun.

Fairy gardens are so popular now that the plants we used for ours were actually sold as “fairy” foliage. Genius marketing. And a far cry from the sticks and leaves my step-daughter and I used years ago.

Taking a detour from my veggie adventure last summer, I filled our small plot with herbs and flowers this year. This project adds some whimsy to our patio space, makes use of what would have otherwise gone into the garbage, and is much more economical to make than to buy pre-made at the garden stores.

What you’ll need…

For the plants, you can use various ground covers, mosses, miniature trees and succulents.

Containers can be anything from a broken clay pot to an old wooden drawer.

We bought a ceramic “pitcher” at the craft store and a small bench for this garden that will be a birthday gift for my sister-in-law. The stone “path” is made from the rocks we collect each summer at the beach.

photo 3 copy

This is a wonderful project for parents/grandparents and children to do together.

Even when your child is 21…

Fairy garden

fairy garden

fairy garden

Off the coast of Savo Island my grandfather floats

USS Quincy

USS Quincy

by Amanda Cleary Eastep
Clinging to a barrel, my grandfather floats in the Pacific Ocean.
His ship, burning, sinks into dark water.
A Navy man who has never learned to swim now puts his hope in wreckage.
Men he loved, men he didn’t, men he fought beside, die.
Some, only brief survivors, escape the vortex of the monolithic cruiser to become the victims, not of the Japanese, but of sharks.
He hears the screams of his shipmates, dismay and disbelief rising above gunfire and waves.
I never asked him what he thought about while floating in the water. If he prayed or wept or made deals.
The ship sinks in minutes.
To the bottom of what becomes known as Ironbottom Sound.
To the top rises Ernest August, son of German immigrants.
Today we remember those who died.
I can’t help but be thankful, also, for one who lived.

THIS Is Your Life–5 little ways to live it better

by Amanda Cleary Eastep

I may have to dub this a “glorious weekend.”

Between the weather, hours (!) to write, lots of digging in the dirt, and hiking planned for the last day of a four-day weekend…well, just…*heavy sigh of satisfaction.*

Last night at church–which we moved outside among the trees–Pastor Chuck asked us to take a moment to look at the people around us, to be especially cognizant of “now.”

“This is your life.”

house-of-saints-sinners

House of Saints and Sinners

Funny he should mention that, because I’ve been thinking the same thing. I may have even said it aloud to myself in the last week.

Hey, Amanda. THIS is your life. Stop living for the weekend or the year you finally buy that house in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At 47, why rush through it? Why not enjoy the life in each day?

How can we raise our awareness of life’s moments? Here are 5 simple ways…

live your life

1. Chew your food more slowly. Remember your mom telling you this? Maybe she was preempting a tummy ache or choking incident, but the true wisdom lies in the fact that food should be enjoyed, not inhaled. I still remember a fiction writing class in college where a student described the way a piece of chocolate tasted and felt on her tongue. It sounded almost dirty. But, yeah, eat like that…

2. Pray before your feet hit the floor in the morning. Before coffee, before dressing for work. Lie quietly and say, “God, don’t just help me get through the day. Help me live it. Help me add value to someone else’s living. Help me enjoy my morning oatmeal like it’s the best sex oatmeal I’ve ever had.

3. Don’t fill your quiet time with Facebook. I’ve started putting the phone down when I’m sitting in the living room with my family. It’s the LIVING room. We actually have designated rooms for that.

 4. Listen. In the grocery store yesterday, a young boy was pushing a cart around and whistling some made up tune. I thought to stop and tell him what a great whistler he was, but I just kept shopping. But an elderly woman halted her cart, leaned over, and said, “My, you are such a wonderful whistler, who taught you to whistle?” His father, he answered, and the conversation continued as I celebrated that someone wiser seized my missed opportunity to listen and to make a child feel proud of himself.

5. Breathe. Yes, it’s true our bodies do this automatically, but have you ever caught yourself holding your breath when you’re stressed? I’ve nearly passed out. Only my over-active teeth grinding kept me alert. Take a deep breath. It’s kind of irritating because it forces you to slow down, but it also gets more oxygen to your brain and leaves you a bit giddy.

So in between all the busy-ness this holiday weekend, take time to slow down, pray, listen, and breathe.