I Am (click and scroll with the words of the song)

He spreads the skies over unformed space.

Hung he earth out in that empty place.

Pours water in cloud-bags, then blows them along,

Speaks but a word and the storm is gone.

Listen and say, let’s just see God.

Listen and say, let’s see God his way.

At His gentle gaze, the moon waxes and wanes,

Showcasing lightshows and lunar displays.

When sun meets the moon; horizons unfurl;

A palate of colour splashes the world.

Listen and say, let’s just see God.

Listen and say, let’s see God his way.

Nails were driven into his flesh;

He made it clear we don’t need to fear.

Punishment has been taken away;

Through nails and tears our debt has been cleared.

Listen and say… let’s just see God, let’s just see God.

Thunder in heaven crashes and roars;

God defends His family forevermore.

Listen! It’s God! He’s raising his voice!

His children cry out; justice arrives.

Listen and say, let’s just see God.

Listen and say let’s see God His way.

Nails were driven into his flesh;

He made it clear we don’t need to fear,

Punishment has been taken away;

through nails and tears our debt has been cleared.

Let’s just see God.

—from Job 26:9-14

God’s Story in the Skies – Psalm 19: 1-6

God’s splendour is a tale that is told,
written in the stars.

Space itself speaks his story
through the marvels of the heavens.

His truth is on tour in the starry vault of the sky,
showing his skill in creation’s craftsmanship.

Each day gushes out its message to the next,
night by night whispering its knowledge to all—

without a sound, without a word, without a voice being heard,
yet all the world can hear its echo.

Everywhere its message goes out.

What a heavenly home God has set for the sun,
shining in the super dome of the sky!

See how he leaves his celestial chamber each morning,
radiant as a bridegroom ready for his wedding,
like a day-breaking champion eager to run his course.

He rises on one horizon, completing his circuit on the other,
warming lives and lands with his heat.

Snoozing until daylight was a treat, but at dawn, unfamiliar noises seeping through our window made me sit up. A strange honking and squawking, foreign to our ears. The thuds and bizarre crashing of branches sounded like an elephant. My husband and I rubbed our eyes, looked at each other, and then hurtled out of bed toward the window. I gazed into the towering amla tree outside our window. Not an elephant, but a herd, or more correctly, a flock of Oriental Pied Hornbills. To call them a flock, however, completely misses the mark.

To me, it was a haggle. Haggle as in bargaining, bartering, quibbling, or arguing. Because that’s what they were doing. It was an “I got there first!” “That’s my bunch of amlas!” All the honking and squawking and commotion was a true haggle of hornbills. The amla tree was spanking full of bright green, round amlas, ripe and tasty, and the hornbills were really keen on them. Crunching away on the amlas, they rubbed their beaks on the leaves and branches as though they itched, or needed to sharpen them for eating. They were a gang, and chomped like gangsters. Three feet long, and having no way to gracefully slip through, they crashed through the branches.

Their enormous double-decker beaks are centred between their eyes. If that doesn’t make them unique enough, their huge bodies are draped in tuxedoes. They stand out like no other bird—except for penguins, with whom they share exceptional tropical/north pole similarity!

When I looked at the sky, the hornbills were there, too, flying as though they were having a lark in the park.

As for the hornbills feeding on almas, they finally lifted off and I watched them rise into the sky and land … Well, I’m not sure where.

But I did see one in the pear tree.

Creation has many mysteries. I love Hornbills.

If there were no birds, we may have to be resigned to flying foxes.

They like the pear trees too.

Hebrews 13:2

“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

It was September 12th, 2022, Dixie Mall, Port Credit, Canada.

After a 5-year gap, my husband, Yip, and I were able to visit Canada again. Enjoying the “foreign market,” we were roaming a large shopping mall with our daughter, Sheva, who had connived with another sister to buy us shoes. I tried to convince Sheva I didn’t need shoes. “Spend your money on Dad. He can’t get his size at home.” And that was true. In India, where we live, size 13 is nearly impossible to find.

Tired, I waited inside the door of a shoe store while Sheva and Yip shopped. Standing behind my wheelchair, I gripped the handles firmly in order to stabilize myself. A man suddenly appeared before me. Noting the wrinkles on his face, I guessed him to be about my age (68). I also noted the vibrance and sparkle in his eyes. Dressed in sport pants and a T-shirt, his eyes locked in on mine, ignoring my surprised expression. His noticeably fit body matched the animated way he bounced as he spoke to me.

“Do you always use that?” He meant the wheelchair.


“Then you need Nike-Zoom X shoes.” He ignored the confusion on my face and carried on.

“The Nike Zoom-X are the most aerodynamic running shoes, scientifically engineered for athletes.”

It was a verbal onslaught—a lot of information coming fast right in my face, and I’m embarrassed to say my mouth dropped open. I could barely mumble, “I don’t know what you’re’ talking about.”

That didn’t stop him or even slow him down.

“Nike Zoom uses every muscle for every step. Nike-Zoom has a legacy and athletes use it for its renowned quality. It’s the most popular racing shoe world-wide, though you’ll find this particular make in almost all the top brands, not just Nike. The responsive cushioning in its soul will kick-start your day, and after 24 hours of wearing the shoes, the only thing you’ll want to do is mambo.”

“The sturdy support breaks records, whether they’re world records or personal records—you really need to get this shoe.”

And there he ended with a smile, and popped out of existence—or at least from my view. You see, he could pop in and pop out, because my neck doesn’t turn. It is “fixed” with 13 screws and rods, which is why I never saw him coming or see him leave—but Sheva did.

“Mom,” she said, “Who was that man?”

Still bewildered, I could only shrug. I retold his pep talk, described how confident he was, and how he encouraged me to buy the Nike-Zoom shoe. It all seemed bizarre and unlikely to Sheva, that someone I didn’t know would approach me and question my need for a wheelchair, and then tell me what I need to buy.

We kept going and tried another shoe store, but no luck for size 13. We continued our stroll, and further down the corridor I saw a sign: NIKE SHOES—CLEARANCE SALE. I couldn’t help myself and aimed my wheelchair toward its doors. “Let’s go check it out. I want to see the shoe that man was going-on about.”

I rolled down the centre aisle and was soon talking to a salesman who directed us to the Nike-zoom shelves.

“Size?” He asked, and soon returned with glowing neon-orange shoes. I cringed inwardly, doubting whether I could be seen in such a colour. “Any other colour choice?”

“There’s only one other, I’ll get it.”

He returned with a beautiful aqua-blue-green shoe. Bending over I put them on and took a few steps.

“You can walk!” cried Yip and Sheva at the same time.

It was true, and absolutely amazing. The way the shoe pushed me off and kept me walking at a good speed; how it steadied and balanced me. Unbelievable! It was so unbelievable that I had to do it again. I removed the Nike’s and put on my own shoes. They had the opposite affect; I was unsteady and unbalanced. I laced the Nike’s up again and walked with such ease. I couldn’t stop saying “Wow!” and, “Who was that guy?”

There were no second thoughts—I was going to let my daughters buy me these shoes—I needed them! What a mind change! Sheva was very excited. The clearance sale made them significantly cheaper, but they were still expensive. Sheva was over-joyed and happily bought them. I really wanted to find that man and tell him I’d bought Nike Zoom shoes. Sheva helped to keep an eye out for him.

We shopped until we dropped, and then took a coffee break. Eventually Sheva and Yip went off again while I remained seated in my wheelchair. Then, directly across from me, coming out of a mobile phone shop, was the man. But it couldn’t be—all his clothes were different. He now wore long baggy pants, a collared shirt and a work jacket. Why did this man look exactly like the Nike-Zoom guy? I watched him walk back and forth around the area. I was staring at him, hoping he would look my way and give me a gesture of recognition. Then it happened. He looked directly at me, starring, while he took a half-dozen steps towards me. Then he stopped. He continued gazing at me for what seemed like minutes, though it must have been seconds. Then he turned and walked out of the mall.

I was confused. Did he recognize me? Was it him? Trying to figure it out was getting very weird and exhausting. It was impossible, so I gave up and another thought took hold—how do guardian angels work? Perhaps they wear specific clothes needed for their specific assignments. Nike needs sporty fellows, but the shop where I spotted him a second time was a mobile phone shop … it could be anyone. It gives scope to the imagination. Angels are God’s servants. What a gift God gave me. Yes, the shoes cost money, but it was that invisible gift-card from God saying, “Don’t worry, spend the money, it’s on me. Get up and walk.”

“The hardest thing about the road not taken 
is that you never know where it might have led.”  
Lisa Wingate, A Month of Summer

My Get Up and Go, Got Up and Went
It’s a line from a song; it made my plans bend.
I’d planned to go further, but my vehicle stalled
And I had to make that fatal, 911 call.

I called up my Bro, to tell him the news
“You can’t push my wheelchair for the dinner or cruise,
I have to cancel the date we planned for years,
Cause my get up and go, just got up and went.”

I have 13 screws placed in my neck, 
connected by 13 rods in one set.
I put my foot in my mouth when my neck doesn’t bend… 
It’s an achievement I’d rather not try again.

Thankfulness comes in a pushy way
You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s taken away
Until I’m ashamed and my soul feels betrayed,
When dark corners get lit, I’m content to say…

That my get up and go has got up went
And that’s really okay, because there comes a day
When the gift God gifted does the same thing
And you are left with the grace of that very first day. 

Now my get up and go has got up and went;
I’m headed home, where I’ll be content.
My vehicle stalled, I made that 911 call,
Now I’ll say goodbye, and won’t see you again.

Please send me your photo of ‘72, 
Include your name tag in, bold, gold letters, too. 
Have fun at the 50th Highschool Reunion, 
Remember the good times we had at school.

Moments in memories make a reunion.
Ask Mr. Emmert or Miss Dyck,
Who are never mistaken,
What was at the end of the road not taken?

Do write to me: frieda.mcrae@gmail.com

The fun is explosive; it can’t be just mine. 

You on your side of the world and me online. 

If I take a flight, in the dark of the night

I may think up new stories, or else cause a fight.

Pause and take a few weeks or even some months,

Have something to eat and go out for lunch.

Parting is really such sweet ‘n sour sorrow,

But don’t you fear, there’s another tomorrow.

Juni spent all night crying into his pillow and devising his escape plan. He was drastically homesick. His mother dropped him at the school campus where he lived 11 months of the year with 11 other boys. Juni, 12 years old, had been part of the hostel for nearly 4 years and enjoyed the other boys, ranging 5 to 18 years old. But that night his pillow grew soggy. Every tear brought memories of his mother who lived in a crowded colony of rag-pickers along the city’s railway tracks. For Juni, “home” is “Mom.” The ghetto filth, the abusive language and life, the violence and poverty are all accepted parts of the “home” he loves. He missed her, even though her last, loud, scolding words to his hostel parents were, “Next year I’m not taking him home for the summer. He’s way too much trouble.”

Four years earlier, Juni’s father was drinking with his neighbours. Then the inevitable happened. Obscene language echoed in the narrow streets. Shouting and the sounds of rioting were heard. Suddenly, inebriated neighbours converged on him, beating Juni’s father mercilessly.

The reason? Money. Always money, debt, or greed. But that wasn’t the end for Juni’s father. A rope was tied around his neck and he was hung. When it happened, Juni and his mother were on a bus heading to Punjab to visit relatives. When the phone call came, detailing his father’s death, their journey ended. Juni and his mother turned around and went back. Juni was seven years old—old enough to have learned survival skills in the ghetto.

Juni grew up hearing conversations about money and understood money was life’s priority. Money meant survival. And he knew more than one way to earn money. At six, he would often board newly arrived trains to clean the floors, disposing of the garbage people thoughtlessly scattered during their journey. He was given a small sum for his cleaning. Juni learned what kind of trash would sell—the work of a rag-picker. Depending on what he found, or what he could steal, he could make a fair amount of money. This work was always done in the early morning hours, before dawn, in darkness, when it was easier to avoid the police. And then there was the chai shop where he could earn honest money serving chai and washing pots and cups. Juni was still a child, but he knew a lot about survival. He knew how to keep safe, and who to avoid. Which is why his escape was so perfectly planned.

When Juni’s father died, his mother was left without a way to care for her young son and work as well. She was well aware of the trouble Juni would get himself into if she was not with him. From neighbours she heard about our school and admitted him when he was eight years old. She wanted him to have a bright future.

After that night of tears, Juni appeared ready for the usual Sunday meeting at 10:00 a.m., Juni, the school staff, and the other hostel boys, had returned from a month of being with their families. In a large room everyone gathered for a time of sharing. A special activity was always planned for the children, but this Sunday included a snack for everyone as well. The younger children were excused for their activity, and it was at that precise moment that Juni’s plan kicked into action.

Before the Sunday meeting began, Juni asked a few boys for money. Then he placed a few things in his bag, including the goodies he’d recently brought from home. Early in the morning he hid the bag among some bushes. When the children were called for their activity, Juni turned into the bathroom. Who would question that? His teacher wasn’t aware that he was absent. Juni waited in the stall until there was silence, then slipped out. Ducking beneath windows where he knew adults sat, he headed for his bag in the bushes. Without slowing down, he slung it onto his back. It was 4 kilometres to the bus stop and he never stopped running. When the bus appeared at the same time he reached the stop, he scrambled aboard.

Back at the school campus, the Sunday morning meeting went on longer than usual because of a special after-meeting snack. Finally, Juni was discovered to be missing. His house-parents plopped themselves into the chairs in front of Yip and I. It was obvious from their faces that something was wrong.

“Juni has run away!” And before we could respond, “We just had a call from his mother who is asking, ‘Why is Juni at home?’”

“What? He’s already home!” I was astonished.

Slowly, the pieces began to fit together.

Juni had been a ringleader in the younger boy’s hostel. He planned what they could steal from the school and how it would be done. Biscuits, cell phones, and purses began disappearing. He’d observed what items there were on the campus, including the trash, and decided what could be sold to earn a little money. With the younger boys enlisted to help, they started collecting trash, and even did some stealing. And finally, Juni taught them how they could successfully avoid detection while breaking rules and running away. He told them the plan of his great escape and asked them, “Who wants to come with me?” He had no followers. They’d been punished before because of Juni’s escapades.

He left undetected. His plan was a success. From the time of the children’s activity until the snack afterwards, Juni had travelled home. He’d run 7 kilometres, and rode 34 kilometres on the bus to the city. Juni knew how to survive. He knew how to succeed.

Our immediate thought was to get Juni back and help him to understand that the school where he learns is for his benefit, for his success. It may not be “home,” but is a place that offers him and his mother a positive, alternative chance in life. We wanted him to understand that he could learn to navigate, and achieve success in a world that demands education. He could succeed in a career and be able to provide for his mother. He would be able to get her out of the ghetto. But that didn’t happen.

Juni’s mother sided with her son, believing his lies of being mistreated… Or why would he run away? She threatened us: If her son returned to the hostel, and attempted to run away again, she’d hold us accountable if he didn’t make it home. She declared loudly, “I lost my husband, and now can’t face the possibility of losing my son as well.”

Knowing Juni’s proclivities, we had to let go. “Mom,” is universal for “home.” Wherever Mom is, the heart is. The ghetto filth, the abusive life, the violence and poverty are all part of the “home” Juni loved. We had to trust God for Juni who wanted to fit into his dad’s shoes and care for his mother. He had executed his escape plan faultlessly, but could he survive in a place where his dad couldn’t?

We will remember Juni’s tears, and pray.

Complete Audio Story with songs

Falling in love is like falling off a cliff.

In fact, I heard of one couple who did just that. They had fallen in love despite large differences. Their families were staunchly against the marriage because of huge differences in religion. The couple determined to overcome them, for they were in madly in love. In their determination, they became distraught and overwhelmed with the difficulties. The path they took was meant to teach their families a lesson, including a Romeo and Juliet style ending.

They went to a cliff overlooking a large river and vowed to “love each other unto death.” With tears streaming down their faces, they held each other in a final embrace and counted to three… and then she jumped. She jumped, he didn’t. Far below, in the cold, fast moving water, she looked up at him and yelled, motioning for him to jump. He refused.

Exasperated and exhausted, she swam to the edge and climbed out. A short distance away she found a policeman and insisted he arrest her fiancé who had broken his vow to her.

Traditional Christian marriage vows use the words, for better or worse, which doesn’t make marriage look very appealing. Instead, it makes marriage look like a leap of faith off that cliff.

Yip and I have been married for 45 years. Our first year throbbed with heartache and misunderstandings. We needed a private mediator—God was perfect. Even when angry and not talking to each other, we could talk to God. It was a release; like letting the steam out of the pressure cooker.

The Deep Deep Love

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Vast, unmeasured, boundless free,

Rolling as a mighty ocean, in its fullness over me.

Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love;

Leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.

God compares His relationship with us to a marriage. Being the bride of God sounds heavenly and romantic, but when He chooses us as His bride, we should expect a long, hard road. Face it, being married to Divinity is not going to be easy. Though we are far from perfect, God covers us with love, forgiveness and grace. Otherwise, we’d never stand a chance. It’s hard to believe Yip and I successfully crossed all those raging rivers, deep valleys, and avoided falling off cliffs. Looking back, there were so many hidden mines ready to blast us into oblivion. We couldn’t always see them coming, but tried to work or way through them as they flared up.

We had just met each other when we encountered Jesus. Meeting Jesus changed us; our character, our perspectives, our vision and aims. Meeting each other changed the course of our lives. It all happened simultaneously. As a threesome, the road ahead was not completely visible, but we went headlong down it. Jesus died on the cross for us, and Jesus was just what Yip and I needed to begin new life. Marriage showed us just how much we needed God. Without Him, we never would have been “Yip and Frieda.”

I never imagined I’d find my perfect guy. So, when I met Yip, who was everything I wanted in a husband, I never considered marriage. Yip was out of my league. Why would such a wonderful man consider me? Given my high ideals, who would be interested in me? But Yip also had high ideals, thinking he’d never find a girl to marry him. Happily, we both were quite wrong.

We had been working in a children’s home working as mom and dad to the kids. When Yip finally got down to the question of marriage, he was very unsure of himself. I could see him squirming around inside himself. He hemmed and ha-ed’, until he finally spit it out, “You are mother to the girls, and I’m father to the boys… seems like a good way to run a family. Do you want to get married?”

A friend had given me a head’s up on Yip’s intentions, so I had already prayed over it thoroughly; “God, if you don’t want me to marry him, you’re gonna’ have to stop me.”

Looking into Yip’s deep eyes as he stood waiting for my reply, I realized that as yet, I had not been struck down by lightning—nor had divine intervention stopped me. So, I confidently replied to Yip’s question, “Yes.”

In the past 45 years, I’ve discovered the “for worse” was regularly used out of context in a sort of blame game when we didn’t see eye to eye. Marriage doesn’t mean automatic perfection; in fact, perfection doesn’t have anything to do with marriage. Our commitment of marriage meant we agreed to accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses, support each other in our shortcomings, hold each other accountable and encourage each other. Ove the past year illness and surgery turned my independent way of life upside-down. I’m now dependant. Yip has taken me on once again, with renewed vows, the new me, with all my shortcomings.

For better or for worse couldn’t be more of a misnomer. Regarding “for worse,” the harder the going, the deeper the commitment and personal sacrifice. And with sacrifice, suffering shows up. Suffering is transformed into the gold of growing together, and growing closer to Jesus; being made into his image. Commitment, sacrifice, suffering. That is the way of the cross. That is the bride of Christ.

Marriage. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Of course, there is the inevitability of death which ends earthly marriage. Looking at my present poor state of health, I wanted to assure Yip that he has my full permission to marry when I die, as long as “she” isn’t 20 years younger. His reply was, “But how would I be Yip and Frieda?”

So, far beyond looking at the pain, the sacrifice and suffering, I try to stay focused on Jesus. I hold on to my vows from:

Song of Songs: 4:6
The “for worse” is always a “for better,” because suffering love pitches us into an ocean of deep, very deep, love of Jesus.

Our Song of Songs

I’ve made up my mind. Until the darkness disappears and the dawn has fully come, in spite of the shadows and fears, I will go to the mountaintop with you—the mountain of suffering love and the hill of burning incense. Yes, I will be your bride.

Veil My Eyes

Lord my eyes are veiled to Thee

Still brilliant radiance captures me
Lord veil my eyes to Your holiness

For I’m bound to your love mysteriously
Lord, like a child I see Your face

Like a child I feel Your embrace
Don’t lift the veil Lord, awesome God
Till by grace I’m clothed with You above

Don’t lift that veil Lord, lest I die
I know I need to be wholly sanctified
Let all creation announce your love

That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come

Lord my eyes are veiled to Thee
Still brilliant radiance captures me
Lord veil my eyes to Your holiness 
I’m bound to your love mysteriously

Lord, like a child I see Your face

Like a child I feel Your embrace 
Don’t lift the veil Lord, awesome God

Till by grace I’m clothed with You above
Don’t lift that veil Lord, lest I die

I know I need to be wholly sanctified
Let all creation announce your love
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
Let all creation announce your love

That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come
That unveils Jesus, who face to face will come

Composed by Frieda McRae
Produced by Christopher Hale and Peter Hicks

2011 marked the 25th anniversary of our school, and art made it happen.

I walked into the boy’s study room. It was quiet, but would soon turn into a noisy supper-time dining hall. I sat down beside Paul, an American who came to volunteer for a few months. He is an artist. We had no idea of his talent when we invited him.

One of his passions was drawing on whatever he found. What was trash to most, was for him, an opportunity. When I walked into the dining room that evening, he was busy with a torn piece of paper and a pencil stub he’d found on the table. He was totally absorbed. I peered over his shoulder to see the drawing. An old man leaning over a young child. The old man seemed to be mentoring the child. The child was absorbed in his work, concentrating on the work in front of him.

“Paul, Wow! That’s Shishya!”
“That is what Shishya means. It’s a Sanskrit word and means to disciple someone; a one-
on-one relationship.”
Paul was excited. He went to check it out in the dictionary. The dictionary definition confirmed his art, and the drawing has represented our school vision for many years now.

Paul kept an eye out for materials to paint on and found quite a few. One day he found a very old rusted piece of tin, 9 x 4 feet. To him it was gold! A treasure! To us it looked ike garbage. In hardly any time, using only white paint, a masterpiece was produced. The tin had rough edges, dangerous for school children, so it was hung on the garage wall— the only safe place for it. It’s message about make-up speaks loud on the backdrop of rusted tin.

It’s not about make-up. It’s not about appearance at all. It is about beauty… beauty made from clay, beauty from ashes, beauty from sharing suffering. Beauty surprises us; it comes in many forms.

One day we hosted a sports day for disabled children who were not students at Shishya. It took serious effort to organize, but with the arrival of the kids, the atmosphere changed. Our students were glowing—oozing with love and welcome for their visitors. They offered a supporting hand, or walked or ran alongside those with disabilities, guiding the deaf and the blind. Friendships were formed, love was found.

We have one student in Shishya School who has no arms, and only one leg. He sits on a special table that gives him enough room to write his lessons with a pencil between his toes. He writes very well.

Another high school student is in a wheelchair. The older boys carry him up and down the stairs happily. His teachers asked if he wanted to do something in the Christmas program. He replied, “Dance.”

That is what he did. In his wheelchair, he moved, spun, threw his arms in abandonment and was wildly happy. Everyone loved it.

Because it was the school’s 25th anniversary, I asked Paul to create an art gallery at our school. The kids were enthusiastic like never before. Paul had ignited a dying spark within the students—a fire of creativity we never knew existed. It was an art attack!

“Paul, can you make a sculpture to put in front of the school to celebrate our 25 years?” “Sure. Let me think about it.”

(Shishya Public School, Atak Farm, Village Kheri)

A few days later Paul returned. “Is it okay if I make a heart?” Knowing Paul’s talent and unique creativity, it seemed trite. “No. That won’t be so good.
Keep thinking.”
He left and never came back to ask again… he just began working on it. A heart. When I saw the sculpture, I was embarrassed. The heart I’d envisioned was more of a valentine. His heart was the artistic interpretation of a living, beating heart. In the centre was the shape of a cross. Twisting around the cross were the words, For He Loved.

It was Shishya.
It was the one-on-on relationship that spins on the axis of love.
It was God bringing beauty up from ashes. His speciality.
God, thanks for Paul, and for art.

Video Folk Dance

Video Independence Dance

*Find Paul online at: Paul Crouse Art

It’s already 50 years down the road—unbelievable! Concord High School class of 1972 celebrates its 50th reunion this year. Will I recognize faces? I messaged Jolene and asked her, “How will I ever know who’s who?” She assured me everyone will wear name tags. My memory is bad, but a few memories I recall vividly. When I share some of them, a frequent response is, “That’s not how it was.” My heart drops, I feel like the dunce in the class again. I’m 68. Why does walking down memory lane turn you into the unconfident, unpoised, ever-awkward teenager?

Subconsciously we choose our memories. We keep some and throw out the ones we don’t like. Two of my sisters insist that my memories are correct, even though they recall the same incident entirely differently. Details are unimportant. The meaning and emotions of what is remembered is what counts. Everyone’s recall of an event is perfect, and as important as the next persons. I write stories and send my memories across the world, hoping a classmate, a friend, might read it. I’ve had some responses:

Looking back, I wish we would have been more supportive to you, but we were also kids, and just as confused.

Yes, now it’s easy to understand that as teenagers, many of us were confused. And not, as I thought at the time, only me.

From 1969-1972 the teenagers of Concord High School processed life through varying stages of personal crisis and muddled misunderstandings. It was the hippie era, peace sit-ins, anti-war protests, learning to make marijuana brownies, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart… trends and influences within a culture we were trying to emulate. For me, the world became darker and devoid of color. Grey took the forefront. I was searching for that bridge over troubled, raging waters. It seemed like the end as I witnessed children losing their mothers, parents losing their children. Accidents that injured or claimed lives; all at the tender age of searching for life’s purpose. The math didn’t add up.

When my mother was murdered, Dad aged overnight. He was transformed into the exact replica of my grandfather. He was a walking sack of bones, and every muscle in his face drooped. My sisters and I were irrevocably altered, moving through our lives with ghost-like faces. Our close-knit neighborhood was masked in anxiety, frozen in their own shock and fear. The choking lump in our throats left us speechless.

From childhood I intended to go to India. I hadn’t counted on the mess my life would be in by then. I thought I’d skip over to India and take care of orphans in the same manner that the wonderful Flying Nun did in the T.V. series.

In 9th grade, while sitting on the bleachers at a football pep-session, I heard my name announced over the loudspeakers. I feared I’d been caught doing something wrong with my friend, Jane, but instead, found all the girls closing-in to congratulate me. I was clueless.

“Why did they announce my name?”

Jane said, “You’ve been elected Homecoming Attendant.” I didn’t want to show my ignorance, so I waited until later to find out what that meant. It was an honor to be elected, and my mother pampered me with such obvious pride. She took me shopping and picked out my dress-suit for the occasion. She styled my hair, and then sprayed it until the curls around my head were stiff enough to support a banana. Not a hair would blow out of place—even in a hurricane. It was the last time I would be so pampered in by her. When she was murdered, grief and anger turned to teenage rebellion.

I tried for a while. One day, Mr. Lowery had a board drill in Algebra class. My turn came and I marched to the front of the class. I hated algebra. We wrote the problem down as he read, and we each worked on the board as fast as we could. I finished first. Mr. Lowrey’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe I got the right answer. Not only was it correct, I beat everyone!

I played on the girls’ basketball team, and during the last seconds of a game, we needed one more basket to give us a victory. Suddenly, the ball landed in my hands. With no time left, everyone yelled, “Shoot!” I was in the middle of the court. With a mighty heave, I “shot.” The ball was in the air when the buzzer sounded… Whoosh! Cheers erupted across the stadium. What an amazing stroke of luck! And what a great memory. Please don’t correct that memory because I like it very much.

I also remember taking my driver’s training test. It was a summer course, and most of us were keen to get a license. I was beyond nervous—I was terrified I’d fail. The test official had me drive into the country to see how I’d maneuver 4 way-stops. I pulled up gently to the stop sign and stopped. I was in a manual car. When the car came to a halt, I realized I’d pulled too far into the intersection. I panicked. So, pretending to be calm and in control, I shifted to reverse and moved back a bit. The teacher seemed to approve. I gained confidence. I looked every direction, and then pressed the gas to cross the intersection; alas! I went backwards! I was still in reverse! Luckily, I jammed the brake before I hit the car behind me. Somehow, that teacher had mercy. Perhaps he saw my nervousness, or remembered being a teenager himself. Whatever the case, I passed.

Until then, I had gone by the books, done everything right and went by the rules. At school, teachers trusted me… and I knew it. I took advantage of it by putting on my coat and hat and strolling out the door, nodding pleasantly to teachers on the way out. It was easy.

One night I brought an African American friend to a basketball game. I was stared at… he was stared at more. Later, a teacher informed me that I was kept off the Honor Society because of it. Concord, in those days, was a very white school. Later, I brought my girls club (African American girls from a poorer area of town) to drape the school’s trees with toilet paper. (Apologies for that one.)

As a senior in high school, I was again one of the four girls elected Attendant, and one of us would become Queen. My name as Attendant was announced over the loudspeakers during one of my classes. It was basketball season, which meant attendants wore formal gowns. I was a dedicated, rebellious hippie. A formal gown was not doable for me.

As soon as I heard my name, I turned around in my seat, my cousin, Steve, was sitting behind me. “Do you want to be my escort? I’m wearing a jeans skirt and a white baggy shirt and climbing boots. As my escort you’ll have to wear jeans and a matching white T-shirt with running shoes. What do you say?” He looked at me with rascally eyes, while his eyebrows rose up playfully. It was obvious. He couldn’t resist such a mutinous offer. “Okay.” That settled that.

On that auspicious day, Steve and I walked onto the Homecoming court arm in arm, wearing our cheap second-hand clothing. Half the crowd booed, and half cheered. It was a rebellious victory and stamped a happy image into my memory. My apologies to my other attendants and the Queen; I meant no harm. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone; I was just trying to find my way. It didn’t help that I was a pressure-cooker about to blow.

The night mom died, my family and church friends had gathered at a relatives’ house. Police detectives had monopolized our house, investigating and fingerprinting everything. I couldn’t sleep, so I roamed closer to where the adults sat talking in whispers. I was not visible to them in the dark hallway. Someone said: “It must have been God’s will!”

I was taken-aback. “God’s will?” That surely wasn’t true. It contradicted everything I learned in years of Sunday School; God is Love, Jesus saves, God sends angels for protection and only does good. But those words resounded and echoed through my mind like an arrow through my heart. They hurt not only me, but stamped out the faith my mother had taught and raised us with. I decided right then. God was no longer the good guy and threw Him out.

Our friends and classmates saw our pain and grief and avoided talking to us, because, they were also confused. We sisters were becoming that event, and, the event itself was confusing. It made no sense. What could they say?

I arrived in India in 1974. I was 20. My ambition was not only to help orphans, but to find God. God and I had a mutual antagonism towards each other. He killed my mother. He killed my friend and classmate, Mike. God was the murderer who held the whole world in His hands. That’s a lot of control. I wanted truth; whether it be in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhs, Jains or other. India had every religion. I’d surely find truth in India (and a refuge from Christians).

My classmates in school know that my high school years were tarnished with crisis. But you should know that the reason I went to India was not only to “serve,” but also to find God, to find purpose, to find a reason to live. If didn’t get out of grief, trauma and self-pity, I’d have died. I’m quite sure. At that point of life, unknown to me, the plan had been laid out by my mortal enemy, God. I have no idea why all the bad stuff happens, except that God is able to turn it into good for your life. I began serving children whose vital need was love.

The cure to my soul was serving with love. To do that, my eyes were off myself. Selfishness disappeared like water evaporates; disappointment turned into deep satisfaction. It’s amazing just how simple it is. I stepped out of the victim role and moved into being someone else. I had to have a different perspective to see that I was running away from life, from truth, and from God. From this new perspective, from across the world, I had to look, once more, at Jesus.

One day, I met him. I never confessed my sins or even admitted I was a sinner. I simply, gave up running from Him, and said, “I want to be your friend.” That was when life re- entered my spirit. And I knew Him. There was nothing hidden, nothing to be worked for. Jesus is love, and through Him I learned how to love.

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. I Corinthians 13: 4-7

When I place God centerstage, I am free. He frees me from being the 1969 event— Mom’s murder, for which classmates remember me. He taught me forgiveness and love. He showed me I’m no better than anyone else; not even a murderer.

That’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t mean to stay so far away for the last 50 years, but India is far away from Concord High School. I cherish all the memories and all the relationships. Sorry for hurting anyone, and sorry for any pain many of you faced in our school days.

I never expected to have anything to do with school. But in 1986, Yip and I started a school. Exactly 50 years down the road, our first graduation. The Class of 2022.

Hurting each other was never intended. Being 68 is good. My perspective has matured, and I still have time to grow. Through all the hardships, trauma and grief, life has been rich; it’s been amazing. Thanks, classmates, for being part of mine. You’ve given me memories and friendship.

Can you find me?

See you at the 50th.

P.S. Please wear your name tag!