the umbrella novel

[first paragraph]
Where I grew up, summer began with the first week of May and ended with the first week of October, a hundred and fifty days of picnics and swimming and beestings. The sun came down, the grass came up, and between them, the wind fit sideways like a baseball player sliding into home. On wet days, we watched the wind carrying the rain on its back, but for most of the summer we only felt it, taking the edge off of the sunshine, spreading the smell of the apple trees that clustered behind our house, and tugging at the edges of the bright yellow umbrella over our heads as we ate dinner outdoors. My dad always said the umbrella was trying to go home, but we were old enough by then to know it was just another story, and old enough that when the war started, my brother Patrick was one of the first to go.

[last paragraph]
I left my umbrella to dry on the front porch and went up to Patrick's room. He wasn't there. He would never be there. The simple reality of it hurt more than having the bullet in my arm or watching dirt fall by shovelfuls into an empty grave. I wondered how long it would still be "his" room, when it would change from Patrick's room to Patrick's old room, and when we would stop saying his name altogether. I wondered whose the room would become when my parents left for the last time.

He was gone. And I, I was finally home.

The chinup bar was still there. I gripped it with both hands and hung on tight, lifting myself slowly. Someday, this war would end, and I would fly again. But not yet.


Follow your heart.

One of the occupational hazards of nannyhood: Barbie movies. It's been a few years, so their details are fading blissfully into the hazy reaches of forgetfulness, but they have left me with a deep and lasting aversion to a number of the popular catchphrases that have replaced Christian morals in the media: "Be true to yourself," "Believe in yourself," and most importantly, "Follow your heart," which are spoonfed into our childrens' hungry minds as quick and tasty recipes for happiness. Of course, I knew better. True happiness comes from following God, and in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Tonight, I got a new perspective. Yes, we are sinful; yes, our sinful hearts will lead us astray. But God promises, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). This is sanctification. This is why David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10).

Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." David isn't just saying that if we love God enough, He'll give us whatever we pray for. Rather, He will give us the desires behind the prayers. "Follow your heart" may carry a lot of trite, pop-culture baggage, but on a fundamental level, it's exactly what only Christians are able to do. Only someone who genuinely trusts and serves God is free to follow the desires of their God-given, purified heart. Martin Luther said it himself: "Love God, and do as you please."

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
~ Psalm 119:9-11