When age/grace sets in

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Earlier this month I went on vacation to a particular part of Wisconsin that my family and I have been going up to off and on for a long time. This part of Wisconsin was where I spent many summers with my family, a place known to us as “the farm”. The farm is where we got away from our Illinois lives for a while, to have fun, go swimming in Lake Michigan, and enjoy time apart from our very busy lives.
The farm is where R* and P* and their daughter and granddaughter also lived. We occupied the upstairs area while they lived in the lower area, and my memories of them aren’t many apart from R* seeming very grouchy at times, smoking heavily and drinking a bit. I also recall Baron their 3-legged dog, and he was scary and fast…for a 3-legged dog. There were times when they had animals on the farm and it was amusing and smelly, but it was for 2 weeks so most of it was bearable.

Having gone back to this part of Wisconsin my mother informed me that P* had passed away a few years ago and R* was living on another farm not too far away from where we were camping. I don’t know how it got coordinated, but we were able to spend time with R* one day.
I am very glad we did, because R* welcomed us to his place with open arms, and if I had not been the driver for my mother and myself I would have had the beer he offered me. R* offered us Diet Mountain Dew, which upon him talking about his wife who had passed away, I realized that he was probably serving us the soda she herself liked to drink. As he shared of what his wife had gone through leading up to her passing, the man before me appeared to be full of grace. Maybe it’s the years that have passed, maybe my perception of him was wrong all along, but even my mother grasped that age had made him into a softer and graceful man.
R* told us about how one of his regrets was that he didn’t vocalize I love you’s to P* more than he did. They loved each other dearly, but he didn’t always communicate it by words or by hugs or by kisses, and that is something he wished he did. He said all this sadly, but his gracious demeanor never waned. He shared with us with great pride what his kids and grandkids were doing, he talked as a man who embodied love- both in the giving as well as the receiving. When our time with him was coming to an end he told my mother and I where P* was buried and invited us to go visit her. That was endearing to me as well as to my mother. And as we were driving away he told us to text him and come visit him next year and the year after that, and God willing we do the latter.

***

Grace is…well, what can I say about grace? Personally, grace has set me free, it has enabled me to love and care more for others. It has unlocked the part of me that always was but unfortunately was tucked away because legalism bound my mind as well as my heart for a while. This binding was self-imposed as well the Christian culture I was a part of; both paired together led me to live out of fear and the law rather than love. Without giving too much away, grace given and received and extended out of love and even more grace reminds me of Jean Valjean from Les MisΓ©rables, whereas grace dismissed and not extended reminds me of Javert from the same play. I have been Jean Valjean my entire life, and yet the extending love and more grace has been but a fraction of my mortal coil…but still I press on with love and grace as my banner, I intend to wave it and extend it for the remainder of my life so help me God.
R* stirred the part of me that wants to be present to life, all of it, both good and bad, but to also be present to grace and to love. I realize so much of the the time…actually, all of the time, my demonstration for how much I love God is demonstrated in whom I love the least. When I am not loving, when I am not graceful, my love for God is not present or at the very least I mar the face of Christ with my actions.

I can’t wait to see R* again, to share life with him but to also extend the grace and love he extended to me. And that is what love does time and time again, that is what grace does time and time again; it gives more and more of itself with no shortage ever.

All is grace,
Nathanael

My vacation in photos (part 2)

One of the main pulls to going to Tennessee was Memphis Pride, I’ve already written about it here but here’s some photos…enjoy!

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There’s a lot of cool architecture in Memphis, including this church:
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Photos of our group that represented the I’m Sorry Campaign:
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Priding in Memphis off of Beale πŸ™‚
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The parade!
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(That’s another thing about this year’s Memphis Pride, it rained nearly the entire time of the parade…but the same came out and dried things off very quickly)

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Purple El Camino with purple rims? Heck yes!
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During my camping at T.O. Fuller State Park I grew restless. The woman who took care of adding a few days on to my Memphis part of my vacation in Memphis suggested that I give Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park a try, I did and it was fun! πŸ™‚

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The Mississippi River!
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Hobbs watching a barge go by.
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Hobbs and a 4 inch grasshopper!
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This sandbar’s mine! See, it bears my signature and everything πŸ˜‰
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More to come, soon enough πŸ™‚
~Nathanael~

My vacation in photos (part 1)

I recognize that a lot of my readers are also friends I know on Facebook, for those of you who haven’t been subjected to viewing photos I’ve posted during my vacation here are some with a bit of narration…enjoy!

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Obligatory 0 miles/tabla rasa automotive shot…I rented a car for my trip, just because. The rate was good, and I’m considering renting again for another extended vacation.

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This is Missouri, and on my car is Hobbs the Duck. It’s a lawn ornament/mascot of sorts at my work, he has been on cruises and enjoys traveling with Staff.

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Hobbs, dusk, Arkansas

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I didn’t know Arkansas was The Natural State, but now I do πŸ™‚

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Another shot of Arkansas at dusk.

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My tent…with the wrong shock cords! I was so pissed off at myself, but I made the best of it…what else could I do?

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Big modified State of Liberty, even bigger church…this is in Memphis and nothing really rivaled its size church-wise.

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The church was off this street…heck, the church was the only building on this street.

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Best Vietnamese buffet I’ve yet to have! The dishes were primarily tofu-based, and they do a heck of a good job with marinating it thoroughly. By the second time I was there I was a familiar face πŸ™‚ Hi again! I love it.

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The site of where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated which is now where the National Civil Rights Museum is. I stated it was heavy in a previous post, and it feels heavy still just looking at these photos again.

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“The idea began with just one person” I like that, and sometimes you have to be that just one person, can I get an amen?

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A panorama from the balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

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Outside Martin Luther King Jr.’s room from the ground level.

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My only photo of Graceland. It was somewhat of a Presley compound, and cost $30+ to get inside! I’m a fan of Elvis, but not that much πŸ˜‰ Maybe some year, but for the time being postcards and talking to people about their experiences in the gift shop[s] parking lot was enough for me.

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Beauty in creation shortly before the sun set.

More to come, but at a later time!

~Nathanael~

Stepping into history can be heavy; Martin Luther King Jr/Memphis

On Friday last week I went to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. As soon as I left the parking lot it felt heavy, as this was the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

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Before even getting here, I the lover of history knew about this site from what I learned in history in my younger years. But reading about such places has a different weight to them, going to such sites can be so heavy.

In case you’ve never been to the museum it goes like this. You park, you walk in the parking lot outside of Martin Luther King Jr.’s room, you go into an underpass of sorts, go into the museum, make your way to the a higher level and there you are in the area where James Earl Ray was staying and conditions of this place are such so it’s presented as it was back then! The bathroom and cracked window in the above photo is where he was when he fired his rifle across to the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out…it is eerie for many reasons, it is very matter-of-fact as to what happened.

It was heavy for me because I think about a lot of things, and when I think about individuals who have moved in the direction of progress, a LOT of people die in their prime for what they believe and stand for; Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr…the list goes on.

There’s something to living for what you believe, and I truly try to live out what I believe as a follower of Christ on a daily basis. Yet there’s also something to living what you believe even if it costs you your life. I don’t think I have any threats against me, I’m a peaceable person and don’t get into a lot of arguments. I passionately dialogue and discuss things out, and so I don’t think I’m someone worth targeting despite perhaps coming from a different stance from different people.

Still those who are martyred for what they believe hold admiration on my part, now suicide bombers who martyr themselves do not hold any admiration, perhaps that’ll be another blog post for another day.

***

Martin Luther King Jr. studied the peaceful protesting methodology of Mahatma Gandhi, and he was also a follower of Christ. His words and speeches are prolific and well-known, and he exemplified St. Francis of Assisi’s words “make me an instrument of your peace”. Being where he was when he gave up his spirit and passed on was awe-educing, the silence of that place was deafening. I too want to live out a life of being an instrument of peace, as well as progress for humanity. How will that all look? I don’t know fully know yet, but I am getting to where I need to be in life and I have God to thank for that.

~Nathanael~

Memphis 10-10 to 10-13

I’ll stay in Memphis – Elvis Presley

Thursday morning at 9:05am I left Oswego IL for Memphis

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9 hours, 540 miles later I arrived at my friend Jimmy‘s apartment. He was already chillaxing on his porch in wait of me (perhaps). I was quickly introduced to Andrew, Cory, and Gabe. Ate dinner, built community, laughed a good deal…and before I knew it, it was nearly 2am!

I jumped in my rental car and headed to T.O. Fuller State Park, 20 minute drive I arrived to my campsite and…cleared out my backseat and fell asleep! Reader’s note: The back seat of a 2012 Toyota Corolla is more spacious than it seems, especially when it comes to sleeping.

I woke up to a barred owl hooting above my car, freshened up and set up camp and then headed out to Pho Hoa Binh for some inexpensive Vietnamese food for lunch. Best $6.22 I have ever spent on Vietnamese buffet!

Memphis being a town chockful of history, I decided to go the Civil Rights historical route and went to the National Civil Rights Museum, the site in which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was heavy being there, getting an overview of the Civil Rights movement, the bullet shell/pellets/rifle used by Lee Harvey Oswald…it was heavy, and almost for me too much.

The following day I was a part of the I’m Sorry Campaign at Memphis Pride.Β  Now as someone who’s used to a large crowd and large parade ala Chicago Pride, I wasn’t really expecting that small of a parade.Β  Still the element of it ending in Robert R. Church Park and there being booths for all different groups/vendors that was enjoyable. I made the rounds to the various churches, I was given a lot of thanks for my participation in the I’m Sorry Campaign and several invites to visit them the following day for church.

Sunday morning I went to Corey’s house church and had a good time. They asked a random question; “what is your earliest memory?” While I didn’t give mine, I did give the one surrounding being on America’s Funniest Videos with my sister at the mall in the early 90s.

All in all it has been a good trip thus far πŸ™‚

~Nathanael~