April Rools: breathing simple air

“Have a great day, and make sure you smile — because you’re the best thing ever and it’s almost Friday.”

Christopher

I try to remember those words of encouragement every day of the week.

A poetic sequence of words.

Composer: Aun Aqui

When the last breath

leaves me gasping for air

and my final step

finds me unprepared

When my beating heart

becomes very still

You’ll remember me

you’ll remember me

When the clock is running fast

but our hands are working slow

When we’re flying from the past

to a future we don’t know

When you’re looking

When you’re sleeping

When you don’t pick up the phone –

You’ll remember me

you’ll remember me.

When my final song

Is played for the world

And no one listens to it

or cares to hear more

When my last poem reads

“I’ll sooner die than bleed!”,

you’ll remember me.

You will remember me.

**

A short update, for the sake of continuity in chronicling

my 18+ life experience.

1.  The GED test.  It was shared previously that the college I applied to for admission (Jeff State) would not accept my nationally accredited diploma.  Resultantly, in an effort to salvage my twelve years of hard labor — the long study nights, the early and nausea-stricken mornings, the stressful (and unneedful) graduation exams and the smelly bus trips — I agreed, begrudgingly, to take the GED test.. something I never anticipated having to do.

To me, it seemed condescending, humiliating, shameful, and embarrassing.  To me – the honor roll student with a GPA of 3.96 and, perhaps, an ego that weighed a little too much – it was dehumanizing.

And it humbled me.

Stuff happens.  The truth is, I’ve found a new kind of respect for high school drop-outs.  I was driving, Tuesday morning around 6:45, somewhere on Acton Road.  I sat in the turn lane for a minute, enjoying Coldplay, and when the light turned green, I veered to the left.  Doing this, I passed a school bus, filled with a bunch of bored-looking, misery-stricken teenagers.

How many of them will graduate? I wondered.

Which parents are threatening (to subdue — pressuring)their kids to bring home straight A’s, or they won’t be allowed to go out this weekend?

Who is copying someone else’s homework right now?

Who has isolated themself into a corner, and is now staring outside of a window, wishing they could forward 4-8 years from today (like I used to)?

And the truth of the matter is, it sucks.  Every young person is told that they can be whatever they want to be — that “what the human mind can conceive, it can achieve..”  that they should chase their dreams, think big — think OUTSIDE of the box — and pursue the fame, fortune, and “happiness” that they crave – that is rightly, inalienably, theirs.

The truth is? Most of those kids aren’t going anywhere dreamlike or phantasmal.  How do I know that?  Because a man with a master’s degree is working inside of a gas station.   A lady with a bachelor’s degree in highschool education is working at Panera.  A girl with a degree in marketing is stuck in an hourly position, and gigantic herds of plucky graduates are flooding the job market to be hired for positions that just aren’t available.  By the way, those aren’t fictitious situations; I know these people.

Maybe the drop-outs are the smart ones?

“I’m not Miss Super Intellectual like she is.. why waste my time when, if it boils down to it, one job is available and it’s me applying against fifty girls like her?”

or

“My calling is music.  Finishing high school and getting a degree isn’t going to get me on stage.”

or

“I love art.  How is throwing a hundred thousand dollars away, in a period of 4-6 years, for a stupid piece of paper, going to further my dream?”

Yeah, high school is free.. but what’s the point of finishing high school when there are no plans for, no ambition to go to, no REASON to pursue, college?  Maybe that is what they are thinking.. maybe that is the insight, the wisdom (could we call it that?), that enlightens them, guides them, and causes them to make the rash and awful decision we all look down on.

Regardless, I wanted my GED, because I want to go to college.. because although I feel my “callings” (or, natural talents, likings and preferences) are music and writing, I’ve thought it through and I’m okay with just doing what it takes to live, so that in the 45 minutes of free time I stumble upon in a week, I can stop what I’m doing, remember who I am, and just maybe produce something a little individual and meaningful.

So I took the test.

During the drive to the college, I had envisioned, in my mind, a warm professor – standing at the front of the class and smiling as he acknowledged each person in the room.  He would hand each test out gently, as if his soft demeanor could somehow give the correct answers to the problems that would perplex us.  I had imagined him asking each student, including myself, how fully they had prepared — whether or not they felt ready — and how they were doing that bright, sunshiny morning.  I had conjectured that my reply would be,”I ate a good breakfast, said a prayer, listened to some Coldplay on the way here, and I’m ready.”  It wouldn’t be necessary to mention the hours of study spent in a 600 page preparation book, or the scores of note cards written thoughtfully and carefully looked over the night before.  The nausea I had experienced that morning, and the restlessness the night before.  No; I would simply and positively declare, “And I’m ready.”

No.  It was NOTHING like that.

As soon as the clock struck 7:30 – I mean, before the little “second” hand had made it’s way to  7:30 and 5 seconds – he had locked the door, posted the DO NOT ENTER: TESTING IN PROGRESS SIGN (a sign so familiar to me, after 12 years of being held in similar academic hostage situations), and turned to us with a quick step.  He barked out the orders, the rules, the threats — all the mandatory, repetitive crap he didn’t even bother to cover up that he hated.  We could all tell.

The test was to be self-paced, and this was good news.  My mind works quickly and the thought of being stuck, needlessly, in a cold, blank, white room for hours longer than it would require for me to finish the test, had been a disappointment.  So, I set my mind to finishing as quickly as possible and putting the whole thing behind me.  Once I stepped foot outside the door, I wouldn’t have to endure the awful anticipation and nervous jitteriness that had captivated my mind and energies for so long.  All that would remain would be walking to my mailbox, 3-5 weeks from then, and opening the secret little envelope with the long-awaited for results.

The test began, and for five hours I turned in packet after packet, until at last he stated, “Okay, you’re done.”  I had him confirm that I would receive the results – by mail – within the 5 week time frame, and then.. I left.

Something personal that I thought was really cool (and that brought me to tears), was that at around 7:10 that morning, once I had parked outside of the school and was preparing myself to walk in, I checked my email (via my mobile phone).  It happened that I had, but moments before, received a message in my inbox that came from a friend at church (I’ll leave her unnamed).  Her message read that she had been thinking about and praying for me all week — that, specifically that morning, she had felt compelled to claim a certain promise for me – and that promise was found in Ephesians 1:17: “I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally,..”  And it made me smile.  It was her warm friendship, and God’s wonderful, marvelous, and manifested assurance of His interest in me, protection over me, and love for me, that gave me the strength and peace of mind I so desperately needed that dreaded morning.

2.  The Drive-Thru Prayer Project

Pictures follow.  It was a neat idea our Pastor Zeke had:  we would stand by the highway with signs that read “Drive-Thru Prayer; John 3:16; Free Snacks and Drinks; Honk If You Love Jesus!; Jesus Is The Way, Truth, and Life.”  Arrows pointed to our church entrance, and upon entering, drivers were welcomed at a table our youth had set up earlier on in the day.  On this table were pamphlets, tracts and books (all priceless).  Also on this table was a pitcher of lemonade and a collection of brown, paper bags, each filled with a wholesome snack (an apple, a granola bar, and a bag of baked chips).  We honestly had fewer people stop than we had hoped for and anticipated; we all ended up taking one or two of the brown paper bags home for ourselves.. but the few people who did stop, did take a free book and did pray with our young volunteers, were blessed.  A young man (who actually lives in our apartment complex) stopped by and expressed his desire to begin coming to church.. and he actually did come!  He walked to our apartment, knocked on our door, and drove with us to church this past Sabbath.  God is good, He certainly blessed.

3.  Partaking in the Jewish Seder.

Saturday was busy.  We went to church in the morning, as usual, and after a potluck lunch with our friends, took Bruster on a hike through the Moss Rock Preserve.  Once home, we showered,  changed into pretty, dressy clothes, and prepared ourselves to leave for the evening.  Our errand was peculiar.

Earlier on that week, Chris had been at work as usual.  Having finished his catering preparation early on in the day, he helped the front-line with basic duties (food prep, drink refills — restaurant maintenance).  There was a middle-aged woman for whom he was making a latte, and she and he soon began conversing on religion (Chris’s favorite theme, and the subject upon which, I imagine, he meditates during the quiet moments of the day).  Spontaneously, she produced two tickets to a Messianic-Jewish Seder banquet (for Saturday evening), and urged that if he and his wife were able and desirous of going, she would love for him to accept them.  Chris asked me, and, of course, I assented.  We eagerly anticipated sitting in on a special, cultural festival.  (It will be mentioned that these tickets usually ran for about 45 dollars each.  So yes, it was an honor to accept them, and very gracious of the woman to offer them.)

And here we are, Sabbath evening.  We drove to the Cahaba Grand conference center, found a parking place (arriving 40 minutes early, it wasn’t difficult), made our entrance, presented the tickets, and took our seat at the lovely, elegant, well-decorated and round table in the “general seating” area of the banquet hall.  Throughout the course of the evening (we arrived at 5:30 and remained until 9:30), we took part in the ceremony.  Unable to recall details and to explain symbolisms as well as my husband, I’ll share that it was a simple, but detailed, significant replication of what took place between Christ and His disciples on the night of the Passover.  We all washed our hands (instead of our feet), partook of the Mahtzah (which, if you notice, is not only striped in appearance, but also pierced, as was our Savior), the parsley (dipped in salt water, representative of the sadness and bitterness of the Children of Israel’s experience in Egyptian bondage), the sweet apple spread (which symbolized the sweetness the presence of Christ brings into our lives, and how sweet the victory was when the Israelites finally obtained their freedom), and other singular items.  We drank grape juice (the symbol of His blood, shed for us), read Scripture, and said prayers.  Then, we partook of the “banquet meal”: this consisted of salad, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a dessert.  Unfortunately, the plate was placed in front of you with the creamy mashed potatoes and sweet, soft vegetables covered –utterly dominated– by the large, drippy chicken breast.  So, Chris and I did our best to remove the chicken to the side of our plates as inconspicuously as we could (we’re vegetarians, but didn’t want to make a scene/ appear rude/ demand special treatment) and to eat that small portion of the vegetables that wasn’t covered in chicken pieces and the savory gravy the meat was served in.  We enjoyed the salad and dessert thoroughly, and although Chris had promised to buy me french fries from Purple Onion on the way home, we were both so tired by the time we left the conference center that sleep was the only thing on our minds.

The most impressive part of the entire ceremony took place when the rabbi presented before us a tiny, baby lamb.  He held it in his arms; it squirmed and cried.  He spoke of the innocence of the lamb — of the manner in which the Children of Israel bought it on the 10th day of the month, spent 4 days bonding with it, and then, on the 14th day of the month Nissan, slaughtered it.  The lamb was roasted in front of the family.  Everyone had to eat it.. and the doorpost was spread with it’s blood: their protection from the plague — from death — was secured.

Then, he spoke of the innocence of Christ.  Of His great love for us.  Of the amazing sacrifice He made.. and a point that I found significant, was this:  the Jews beat him.  The Romans struck his side with the sword.  Both Jew AND Gentile placed their murderous hands on Jesus, the Lamb slain for the sin of the world, and thereby (were they conscious of it or not) they transferred their sin to the sacrificial offering: to the precious Jesus.  Jesus died for the entire world – for all men – so that “whosoever believes, may have everlasting life,” and “life more abundantly.”

It was awing.

Now, the most exciting part of the evening was the Messianic Jews’ praise service.  A guitarist (who was also the singer, and quite famous, it seemed) and a pianist stood up on stage — rocking it — while the congregation jumped out of their seats and began clapping their hands, shaking their hips, and waving their arms.  Yes.  They danced the davidic dance.  (But kept their clothes on.)

But they didn’t just dance.  They waved flags, they blew trumpets, and they formed a konga-line.  It was.. beautiful.  The joy and love, expressed so vulnerably and openly, touched my heart.. and made me wonder, why doesn’t my church express itself so enthusiastically?  Why aren’t people excited about Jesus?  I’m not saying that we need to dance, wield banners and do-the-wave in the sanctuary.. but we do need to allow the Spirit to move in us in such a way that our love for God and our passion for Jesus are apparent to all around, are an encouragement to all around, and are made stronger through expression.

Somewhere in-between all of this, Christopher had to go potty.  I walked with him into the open foyer and there, whilst I was waiting for his return, my eye, observing the crowd around me, settled upon a familiar face (and unforgettable hair: long, braided, Native American hair), and my ear, perking up, tuned in to a voice that had long ago drilled itself into my head.  I walked over hastily, lest my acquaintance, somewhat distant from where I stood, should travel elsewhere, outside of my reach.  I stopped in front of him, smiling.  “Welllllllll!”  I sang out.  “Do you remember me?”

“OF COURSE I do!”

He didn’t call me by name the whole time (I suppose it wasn’t necessary..), but Mr. McCall did indeed remember me.  We spoke for but a few moments and caught up on years.  He was my 10th grade history teacher while I was in the 11th grade (yes; I took two years of history at once.. it was a home school-public school credit transferring disaster).  It was neat seeing him – a very unexpected surprise – and it was an honor to introduce to him my wonderful husband.  Before parting ways, Mr. McCall shook Christopher’s hand, gave me a warm hug and assured Christopher that he had “gotten himself a gem.”  It always make me smile when people I used to know meet the man I’m now with and speak fondly, kindly of me..

I suppose that me being there, in their presence, prevents anything else from being said or done.  🙂

4.  Birthdays on Easter

Yeah. Chris and I, do not celebrate Easter.  And to us, it isn’t a big deal!  But to some people (as I’ve learned, over the years), it really is.  The common understanding is this: if you don’t celebrate Easter, you aren’t happy that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, there to officiate as our High Priest, Mediator, Savior.  “Yes,” I’m positively assured, “if you don’t celebrate Easter, it is a sure sign that you are legalistic and very un-Christian-like.”

Well.  We don’t celebrate Easter – and despite this “divergence from the right,”  we actually don’t believe ourselves to be legalistic (I, personally, don’t have a checklist lying on my nightstand that I go over every evening and penalize myself for if something is “missing”).  We just find it difficult to see Christ in a chocolate bunny, a colorful egg, and the statewide homage paid to the Assyrian goddess, Ishtar.  The deal I have is this — I don’t judge or think harshly of people who DO celebrate the day and who find nothing harmful in it; I just don’t appreciate being accosted and having my character maligned for not participating in something I feel to be counterfeit Christian, irreligious and.. silly.

Regardless –  we enjoyed spending our off day with Chris’s family.  The day after (Monday) was both his mother and sister’s birthday, so we celebrated with them, enjoying lunch, cake, ice cream, and conversation.  Afterwards, we drove to Walmart (one of the only establishments open on the “sacred day”) and bought the supplies we needed in order to fix Chris’s brake lights (he had been given a warning ticket on Friday and needed to have the problem corrected by Monday).  Bruster tagged along with us all day, and wherever we went, he behaved himself as would the best-trained dog in the world (so he is).

5.  Wonderful Memories and Beautiful Prospects

Life is a gift.  Love is a gift.  Chris has given both to us freely; and we are to enjoy every moment – be it still or bursting, loud or tender, fleeting or slow to pass.  I treasure all the blessings that have been given to me: a caring family, that I’ll see once again in June.. a cute dog – faithful and loyal, obedient and affectionate – who follows me from room to room.. and a loving husband, who provides a companionship more perfect and complete than I could have ever imagined.

The world isn’t all sorrow and misery; there are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses.  In a world where quality time is swallowed up by hours on the clock, birth control is too expensive and musicians store away their guitars so they can go “get real jobs”-

there are still beautiful moments in the present,

still wonderful memories from the past,

still very much to look forward to in the future..

and plenty to keep one busy in the meanwhile.

“Work whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

John 9:4

Aun Aqui

2 thoughts on “April Rools: breathing simple air

  1. I sense your angst about a college education. You are balancing your sense of what is reality and reasonable with your passions. Amber, I just don’t think it has to be either/or. I think you are right in that a degree in music or journalism (your passions) make it difficult to get into the job market. I believe that in a “practical” job you can find venues for living your passion. God can use you in a big way. Think big. Think practical too. But God is big and He has big jobs on earth for us to do. I truly think God can help us find a spot where we can be in the flow while in our careers. Courage. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. 🙂

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