For my birthday, my friend Meghan accompanied me to the Santa Ynez Valley (just outside Santa Barbara) for a day of exploring. Here's a photo taken at a lavender farm.
It was very hot that day at the lavender farm.
All that heat and lavender works up quite a thirst. Here is an amazing wine bar in Los Olivos, a town in the Santa Ynez Valley. Meghan and I enjoyed a flight of wine with a flight of mini-cupcakes. Pure genius, I tell ya.
The following weekend, I joined my friend Julie and her sister Lauri in Palm Springs for Labor Day weekend. Here's a photo from a night out. Mind you, our nights out revolved around delish food and usually ended early enough for us to make the most of the ac in our hotel room.
Apparently I need to master the art of Seven-Up Floats.
It is a rare moment when I can recite a poem or lyric, so when it comes to church hymns I usually get the chorus but not much else. There are three hymns I can almost sing entirely without the aid of a hymnal: “Amazing Grace” (an obvious choice), “Be Thou My Vision”, and a hymn I learned at university, “From the Depths of Woe.”
That last one, though a bit dark, is a cherished one for me even though I've not heard it since my school days. I had often thought of jotting down a request to hear that hymn and slipping it in the offering plate on Sunday, but I never did. Rather, I opted to periodically remind God that I'd really like to hear that song.
I finally heard my request this past Sunday, the 13th of September, the one-year anniversary of the weekend my sister fought an arduous battle with crystal meth.
I don’t recall the exact date my mother frantically drove from place to place desperately seeking help for my very ill sister. I don’t recall how my dad told me my sister had been admitted to the hospital. By phone? In person?
Instead I remember the grief of finding a charred spoon and crusty needle in my sister’s eyeglass case, the drive up Highway 14 to collect two Rubbermaid containers holding my sister’s worldly possessions, and the smell of cheap laundry detergent that permeated the house where she had been staying.
There was nothing to say, so I tried to provide my mom with a reservoir of energy and assistance. At one point, late in the night of that hellish first day, I was asked to buy new clothes for my sister. You see, a body expelling poison is not kind to the wardrobe. In the darkest of night, I headed to a nearby Wal-Mart. There, standing under blinding fluorescent lights, I stared vacantly at rows of bedroom slippers dyed pale shades of pinks and blues. I reached for pink, my sister’s favorite color, and allowed myself to ask the question I did not want answered: “What if, this time, she doesn’t win the fight.” I must have been a sight, crying over fuzzy slippers in a Wal-Mart at two in the morning. Or maybe not. This is Wal-Mart I’m talking about after all.
A year later, in the high school theatre that houses my church on Sunday mornings, I allowed my mind to return to that hospital room. My sister was in the bed, sleeping. My mom was in the recliner next to her, distraught, lost, and desperate. There were far more questions than answers, and fear constantly hummed in the back of our minds. I could see all of these things clearly even though I was a year older and now on the other side of the country.
And then the pastor said a word of encouragement from 1 John while the piano softly announced that God had indeed granted my request.
A portion of "Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe)"
From the Depths of Woe I raise to thee The voice of lamentation; Lord, turn a gracious ear to me And hear my supplication…
Though great our sins and sore our woes His grace much more aboundeth; His helping love no limit knows, Our utmost need it soundeth.