Monday, February 23, 2009

Blast From the Past

So, I'm getting nostalgic lately. You see, twelve years ago I was just falling in love head over heels. February 1997 was a confusing, exhilarating time. I was totally crazy over my best friend, Mark Sistoso, but scared to death for him to find out--until he told me he was crazy about me too! On February 2, 1997. Then, of course, we didn't know what to do with our new situation. Were we girlfriend and boyfriend? What would we do when I went away to college? Of course, as girls do in those circumstances, I was already practicing my signature with my new last name, naming our future children, and looking at wedding gowns with new interest. Shhh! Don't tell the boys! It would scare them if they knew what REALLY goes on in our heads. :)

Then came February 28, 1997--Mark told me he loved me! And, after some careful consideration, I told him I loved him too. He told me I was the sort of girl he would like to marry one day. This was serious stuff! This was more than gazing at wedding gowns. This was more than just a crush. This was real love...

I wrote this a couple of months later, just before Mark left for a month-long trip to visit his family in California. Note: Keep in mind, this is from the pen of a very lovestruck 18-year-old. :)


You hold my hand tighter tonight than usual. Is it because you are leaving tomorrow? I know it is. You will not be gone for long, of course. Still, I can sense that sweet touch that farewells always bring--a touch of melancholy, a touch of thoughtfulness. It brings to mind a vague question--"What is real love?"

"Ironic," I think, looking about at the unromantic scene--the busy street, the flashing lights...

At the convenience store on the corner I start to go on, but you stop. I see that look in your eye, that smile on your face and wonder... You pull me inside, and when we step out a few moments later, I'm the proud owner of a rose.

"It's beautiful!"

"But I meant to get you a bouquet!" you protest, "I really did, but I got hung up running errands and buying groceries this afternoon..."

You look at me a little sadly. Oh, but don't be! I like my single, convenience store rose much better than a hothouse bouquet. I hold it close as we walk along, hand in hand. Then that question reappears--"What is real love?" Is it so irrelevant?

Tonight we must say "good-bye". If you were Romeo and I Juliet, then our farewell would be said in love-struck words at a moonlit balcony--"Good-night, good-night. Parting is such sweet sorrow..."

But if that is the hothouse bouquet, then give me th single rose of reality. I would not trade that scene for this. True, we cannot see the moon for the towering, gray buildings. Yes, you could not get me flowers because you were busy looking for green onions. I know, you have to leave tomorrow and I have to work. I do not envy Shakespearean romances, though.

Ahead of us, I see a cherry tree in full bloom. It's spreading branches are covered with delicate, white flowers. I tug you towards it, and this time it is your turn to wonder... Reaching up, I pluck a sprig of cherry blossoms for you. You take it as if it were a treasure, a perfect gift.

"Now you can't say I've never given you flowers," I tease, squeezing your hand.

You laugh. We both laugh, and the night bursts with sunshine. Then I see it, the answer to my question. Yes, I see it, there in you hand and here in mine--real love--a single rose and a tiny sprig of cherry blossoms.

Romeo can keep his lovelorn speeches and Juliet her passionate looks. I have something better--reality. The callused hand that clasps mine is warm, the man beside me is my friend, and the joy in my heart is free of pretense.

You kiss my hand gently.

"I love you," you say, and I know it is true.

That is real love.

By Phebe Granderson (Sistoso)
April 17, 1997

**Note: Just in case you were wondering--yes, I still have the sprig of cherry blossoms and the rose.**

Saturday, February 21, 2009

His Reward

--> -->
     Monday morning. Slick streets and snow to keep us home. The three-year-old has a wet bed. The one-year-old is getting into everything. Too many messes this morning. Too many kids in time-out.
     I begin to cast about in frustration. What am I doing wrong? If only I work harder, can I have a perfect house? Perfect children? Perfect marriage? Lord, what do You want from me?
     I see the world passing me by out the window. So many of my friends are moving on, getting jobs, going back to school, changing themselves… And here I am—snowbound at home with three children, frayed around the edges.  Oh Lord, what do I need to do to please You? To have an organized home? To make my children stop squabbling? To make my husband happy? ‘What must I do to be saved’?
     And then Jesus comes by. I hadn’t expected Him. But there He is, grinning at my door.
     “May I come in, Phebe?”
      Such a gentleman, I think, rushing to wipe the crumbs off the table and straighten my hair.
     “Oh Lord,” I apologize, letting Him in, “I’m sorry the house isn’t as clean as You’d like. I’m sorry I’m not as pulled-together as I should be. I’m sorry school is going slowly this morning.”
     He just smiles and I wonder if He’s heard a word I just said. He plops down on my couch and lets out a huge sigh.
     “I’m beat and frozen to the bone! Do you have anything hot to drink?”
     “Oh yes! Just a minute!”
     I hurry to boil water and pour the tea. In the other room I hear Jesus reading a story to the girls. They laugh aloud as His voice imitates a horse and then a duck. I reach for the communion cup for Jesus’ tea. But this morning is just…and my home is so not holy…and Jesus is lying on my couch for pete’s sake. I grab a Mickey Mouse mug and pour His tea.
     He sips it loudly and sighs.
     “Thanks, daughter! That hits the spot.”
     I sit down carefully beside Him and look around at the rumpled couch covers, the puddles of water on the floor where the seven-year-old and the three-year-old have been washing dishes. If only I’d known He’d be here! I could have made everything so much more God-worthy.
     “So, where were You going this morning? I mean, when You were cold and tired and stopped by my little place?”
     I think of all the places Jesus must have to be today—politically-decisive moments, crusade meetings, church outreaches, homes tidier and holier than mine…
He says the word so quietly that I wonder whether I heard Him right or not. Home where? Heaven?
     “Where is home…Sir?” I ask awkwardly. After all, how do you address the King of Glory who has one foot propped up on your coffee table?
     “Here, of course.”
     “I…I thought Your home was in heaven?”
     “’Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat—or have tea—with her, and she with Me.’”
     It makes me laugh to hear Him quoting Himself. He laughs too.
     “But Lord,” I say, “But Lord…”
     And I look at myself—so imperfect, so many sins, falling so far short of His holiness.
Who am I, Lord?
     He reaches out for my hand—and His is so scarred. Grace
     “But Lord, when You came by… Well, we were only washing dishes, and learning what starts with ‘A’ , and practicing the piano, and…and…”
     I burst into tears. How can I tell Him, ‘You’ve got the wrong house, God. You want the church down the road. But please stay. I need You here so much’?
     He reads my thoughts.
     “But I came here. And you didn’t rush off or ignore Me. You opened the door and let Me in where there’s warmth and love and peace and children—My children. I love coming here. It’s home.”
     And when His eyes look around, they don’t seem to see the fingerprints on the windows or the sins in my heart.
     “May I stay? Live here?”
     “Oh please do, Sir!” I say quickly, but fear springs up inside.
     “What is it, daughter?” His eyes are searching my heart.
     “But, Lord, what about tomorrow when I oversleep and don’t have devotions? What about when I eat too much for dinner, or forget to pray? What if I yell at the kids and You’re here? You don’t really want to be here for all the dirty diapers and math problems and runny noses, do You? Don’t You have more important things to do?”
     “No, I don’t.”
     A smile slowly spreads across His face at my look of bewilderment.
     “I died so that I could be in relationship with you, with your husband, with your children—excuse Me—My children.”
     His eyes grow serious again. I look down. There are those scars again.
     “I would consider it an honor to wipe runny noses and change dirty diapers with you, to teach My children, to disciple you and forgive you a million times a day. It’s what I long to do. Let Me in. Let Me stay. Please give me the reward of My suffering.”
     And then…no words…only grace… Incredible, amazing grace!
     I kiss those scarred hands and I beg Him to stay forever and ever.
     And now I know that tomorrow I’ll be horrible, but Jesus will forgive me. He will be there to slowly soften my heart, and I’ll grow and bloom in the warmth of His love.
     He’ll be here every day with me, caring for immortal souls of children and cleaning up messes like He cleans up hearts—one day and one amazing moment at a time. Yes, Jesus will be here—knee-deep in our need and helplessness and heart-yearning for Him. And He’ll be grinning because the longing of His heart is being satisfied—we are the reward of His suffering!

By, Phebe Sistoso
January 12, 2009