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Understanding Presence

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If words carry the weight of intention and illumination, presence breaks the sound barrier.

Presence.

Not long ago I had to undergo some surgeries. The doctors wanted to see if they could improve my hearing with repair to my ear canal. The recovery was unbelievably slow. My sister came to stay with me for both surgeries. She accepted no arguments. I didn’t even know she was there, really, or that my niece had tag-teamed with her for a few days. The two surgeries, both failures, occupied an entire year of my life. How deeply I needed the warm touch of friends. How much I needed to know all was going to be right again.

I think it was this experience that has heightened my awareness of presence. Following that experience, I’ve not been able to know someone was in the hospital, having a baby or a health setback, without just showing up.

I’m reminded of the way my aunt and cousin drove 400 miles to be with my family when my Dad passed. Time and again, they have quietly set aside their own lives to be.there. No fanfare. They’re just standing in the doorway every time something major in my life occurs. Over and over and over again. And every single time I think to myself, “They get this. They understand presence.”

We have such ability to change the atmosphere when we enter a room. The Godhead lives inside of us. Wherever we go, we have that choice to usher in love and goodness, kindness and laughter; or we can scowl and bring judgment, create schisms and cliques. I choose love.

I want to be that person. I want to be a person whose presence carries the weight of Heaven, the gentleness of “I get you.” And, “I can’t solve it, but I’m here.”

Ciao!

Hidden Places

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Heron Haven, Omaha
Copyright (c) 2011, Samantha J. Penhale All Rights Reserved

Rest: entered into, permits mystery to unfold.

Discovery releases what was, and reaches for tales untold.

Savoring strands of story, my Spirit-girl grasps, watching and waiting. Next things.

Dancer. Intercessor. Compelled, I spin Spirit’s cocoon. As with wings.

Draw near, whose feathers cover.
Where beneath its pleated places, in sacred moments and spaces
You catch your breath. Angels hover.

Rush a rest: flee Communion.

In Sabbath: Fully rise beneath the mantle that beckons within.
Meted in Glory, man alone cannot withstand its form.
Yet he who finds his name etched into its beams, care-worn;
When in due time, fully unfurled in the Glory of the King,
It is fitted to him as a breastplate, a coat of mail, a signet ring.

Rest.

The Words of Our Dreams

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I have a twin. Well, we might have been twins. We could have been twins for sure. But she’s always asking the difficult questions. Her favorite, “What would that look like?”

Erin humors me and basically spoils me rotten with affirmation and comforting words while I whine. But, truthfully, when I’m stuck she pulls out the big guns. “How do you see that working out?” she’ll ask. My friend forces me to put legs on my dreams. “Well, it doesn’t actually mean I’m moving to London. But I want this, Erin.” Or, “I guess I need to meet new people, then.”

In order to break out of a stuck place, we have to drag out the box of stripes and pin them on the zebra … to put our dreams into words. It’s scary, and yet beautiful. If ever we’ve been lost in a city or a heavily wooded area, we focus on where we want to be, compared to where we are now. Strategically, tenaciously we take unknown streets and footpaths, bridges and sprinting breathlessly until we find our way.

“What would that look like?”

Words give direction to ethereal ideas. They point to the student visa, or the flights back and forth. They strike a line of demarcation between a Bud Light and a Malbec. A Stilton and <shudder> Velveeta. Even as I suggest this, I can feel you repelling from me. All the disappointment from your last failure. It pulls you deep inside yourself. You go quiet and the moment of transparency is gone.

Another year passes. Maybe two.

I find you sifting through the grad school pamphlets again. Okay, no more pamphlets. But you’re scouring the school websites for the meaning to your life. You’re trying to justify grad school. You don’t justify a dream. You do it because you can taste the Malbec. But it does require that you engage, Sweet Pea.

Yet the potential for failure has never propelled any dream into motion. Most certainly it has snuffed out the smoldering wick of hope that you’ll one day Become.

Samantha your whole face lights up when you get lost in the meaning of words. Friend, your whole face takes on a glow when you talk about planning your next culinary creation. I believe in you. Why don’t you?

Ciao!

Copyright 2014 (c) Samantha J. Penhale All Rights Reserved
Descanso Gardens Tree

 

Buying the Field

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I’ve a journal in which I record dreams, visions, ideas. Sometimes people will share words or reflect the way my life has influenced them, and I’ll jot those things down and ponder them. I saw an entry that I wanted to share with you.

In July of 2010 I’d had a picture of concentric circles with my heart in the center. The circles around my heart represented things that I owned which were of value to me: my house with a big grassy yard, my Jeep because it reflected the sassiness of my personality; my cat whom I utterly adored; and other luxuries that I was able to afford at the time, like manicures and pedicures, et al. My life as I knew it then felt hollow. I was working insanely hard to maintain a house whose value was in the toilet because of the housing market crash.

After three incredibly long years of waiting for my house to sell, I rented it out, quit my job, and up-ended all my roots and headed for LA. I had a good job here in LA, and an apartment so it wasn’t a complete debacle. On the one hand I knew and understood the cost of my decision and yet, on the other hand, I don’t think I had a clue. How truly that reflects nearly every choice we make!

Through a convoluted twist of circumstances I lost the house through foreclosure. I sold my Jeep and leased a Mini Cooper. My cat died. And a radical cut in salary from Nebraska, plus a sharp increase in the cost of living in LA leaves me at a place where I can honestly say those concentric circles don’t exist anymore.

What does that really mean though?

I can only speak for myself but my journey was about faith, and letting my heart take on something bigger than myself. For most of my life I’ve struggled in my ability to dream. What do I want my life to be about? I can give you some spiritual sounding answers but I can feel God piercing that lack of sincerity in my heart until I begin to own an idea, and let it become my own.

Here’s what the journal entry said:

Concentric circles around my heart. Things I treasure form walls which block the presence of God in my life. I lean on them instead of Him. In order to hear God more fully I lean on the walls to see if there is a door. I step into the creative process and press the story out from within the circles nearest my heart. The Pearl of a great price. Selling everything that I have in order to gain Christ.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” — Matthew 13:44

So often we think of the man in that parable as Christ, and that we are the treasure. And indeed we are His treasure. But we enter into His same joy when we emulate his decision and consider Him to be our treasure. Our dream.

I would never joke about the price I’ve paid to pursue Christ. I would have moved to London, New York or Sydney but He led me here. A seasoned dreamer learns that when Christ is at the center of the dream no cost is too steep.

Dreamer, I encourage you to buy the field.

Ciao!

 

 

Joy in the Coming Home

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Fear in the journey,
Joy in the coming home.
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road.

Along the road, your path may wander.
A pilgrim’s faith may fail.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger.
Darkness obscures the trail.

This is an excerpt from a 90’s song called, Along the Road, by Ashton, Becker and Dente.

The rural countryside was like a giant playground to my siblings, our friends and me. Together and alone we walked and rode for miles. We knew every stand of trees and every creek bed, those belonging to our own families as well as neighboring families. Big Al had a natural spring on his property. We often stopped with our bikes to splash a bit before heading home.

Late into the nights my siblings and I would play games like flashlight tag or climb in the rafters of the barns. There were so many places that we kids knew by heart. We hid behind hay bales and played with kittens there. Stacked cord wood served as a post office. We slept under the blanket of the Milky Way and awakened to June bugs crawling over our dew-covered sleeping bags.

We sat in wild blueberry patches and munched berries under the blazing sun. Our parents handed out pails and empty hats in which to collect blackberries beside the road. Adder’s tongue sprouted in the woods by the creek while snow was still on the ground. Morels were ripe for the picking after the frost was gone; Crab apples grew in the orchard and strawberries were ready for jam in late Springtime. Each was a signpost that marked time and place for kids raised on homegrown beauty and imagination.

Even when the compass points to True North, and Truth has been grafted into our hearts, even then we lose our way. We pin our expectations on people around us. We do, and then we vilify them … only to realize the failing is our own. We take risk after risk, like the pioneers we were born to be. Then we are surprised by failure as if expecting a perfect pole vault; our hopes get dashed with every setback. Yet humility, courage and a spirit of overcoming marks the life of a true pioneer.

There’s joy in the coming home.

I can never recreate what home once was but I can be at-home in my heart. I can never confidently climb into the rafters of the barn that has been gone for years. I’m grateful, though, to walk beside courageous people whose roar stretches my capacity to dream. There are people whose inner beauty pierces my heart. They challenge me to love the City more authentically and to embrace nations. To love justice and exhibit mercy.

May your dreams and endeavors reflect the true Beauty to which you are called. May your dear ones bask in your authentic love. May you radiate the King’s heart and purpose.

 

Shame Meets Justice

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Truthfully, Justice expects his warrior-like ways will win the day,

When in fact his prize retreats with all that fierce bluster and fray.

One shrouded in Shame knows only the shadows and fear.

Unexpectedly Justice kneels and whispers in her ear.

“No longer shall you be bought and sold. I’ll pay your way.”

Slowly she lifts her head and dons garments of Grace and Peace. It’s a new day.

A warrior she shall be.

And she’ll adopt freedom as her cry. You’ll see.

Like the Glory of God, are these great waves of mercy.

Courageous acts of love will cover the earth … as the waters cover the sea.

Vaults of Mysteries: On Hearing Loss

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Have you ever seen one of those star maps they sell here in Hollywood? Supposedly they lead you to the hidden homes of all the A-List Celebrities. A map revealing hidden things … sounds vaguely familiar.

When I think about my life as a person of profound hearing loss, there are vaults of mysteries that I cannot begin to explain. Why does having a disability make a person more compassionate, more demanding, more intense, less secure, more loving, more fragile … than the average bird? I want to shed a bit of insight on the world of the hearing impaired.

Parts of my heart are shattered.

By alone-ness.

I can’t hear.

There are conversations — every.single.day — where I have no idea what was said. So I walk away without knowing, and without that buzzy feeling like I got to be a part of it. I sometimes leave the conversation angry because I didn’t hear, and I misunderstood (and I don’t realize it yet). Sometimes I’m so busy trying to hear the words that I miss the chance to focus on a person’s heart.

The inability to hear is exhausting.

Humiliating.

The pain of failing AGAIN. This day, this conversation, this person. Them misunderstanding me. Or judging me. And they do.

There’s an alone-ness that is a bit like standing on the other side of the glass at the car wash. There’s a whole lot of living going on in there. Intellectually I know that I belong. Parts of my heart can even connect and relax within the realm of the hearing world. But parts of my heart don’t get it.

Ah, you say God can fill that. Yes, He can. Until He does though, millions of people remain misunderstood. They are between the Now and the Not Yet. God is big. And we are small. “His eye is on the sparrow … and I know He watches me.” But we let Him be in charge of the mysteries.

“… the mystery, Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” — Col 1:27

Those who are hearing impaired are incredibly sensitive to the world around them; constantly assessing a room, a situation or a person to determine if they are going to be able to hear. The need to focus on the words being spoken … the right words and the right conversation … affects ones facial expressions. We are focused, and not usually mad or upset. Picture yourself perpetually trying to thread a needle 12 hours a day.

It’s not uncommon for me to reside deep inside myself because hearing requires more effort, more engagement, and I forget to come out and connect with the world. People draw conclusions then too.

Observer: “You’re aloof, Samantha.”

Me: “No, I have a hearing disability, and you don’t comprehend what that means.”

The thing that is the most painful is that a hearing impairment is invisible to the world. A white cane, you’d know there’s a problem. A wheelchair … you wouldn’t expect sprints from the wheeler, barring the spectacular. But there is small grace for hearing loss. May I challenge you today? As you are conversing with people think about whether or not your listener can actually hear you. Don’t throw yourself headlong into the street to protect them from oncoming traffic, just enunciate. 🙂

Cheers!