09 December 2010

Thoughts on the Christmas Crazy

I've been thinking about the crazy that is Christmas, and I'm going to step out of my usual voice here to share some of my thoughts.


Christmas is always crazy and this year even more so, what with the moving cross-country two days later. We're not frenzied, just busy, and things will only pick up as we move closer.

It's not in the spirit of the season, some say, and I buy that. It's hard to contemplate the Christ-child when you're running hither and thither, like a jackalope in molting season.

Then again, I can't imagine the first Christmas was exactly a contemplative picnic. Think about it. What part of:
  • riding a donkey while pregnant
  • searching a full town for a place to stay
  • giving birth among the animals
  • all while trying to register your family in some #$^! census
sounds like a set of peaceful moments for you? Because I don't see anything there that looks like the restful time I always want for Christmas.

Now, there's something to letting go of a lot of the crazy that goes with this season, of walking away from some of the things that make it so nuts and making space for the peace and the quiet. But there's a reason why we do all of those things. It's different for different folks, and each person has to decide if they're going to parties/making cookies/decorating the house/buying gifts/singing in choir/etc. for good motives or bad.

For me, when I search my heart I find that I want both - I want to give gifts to people I love (and, heck, receive them, too), and celebrate with them at parties, and bake and cook up a storm, and decorate and see Christmas lights and wrap like a frenzied little wrapping-paper sprite, but I also want the peace and the quiet.

Clearly, I can't have everything I want.

Or maybe I can.

See, I think Mary had the right idea. Her life was crazy right around the time Jesus was born, but instead of trying to make it other than it was, she held on to the things she wanted and found her quiet later. She took them in, held them, and pondered them in her heart.

I'm not saying we should embrace the crazy without thought, that we should do things because we feel like we have to even if our hearts aren't in them, or that Christmas is everything it should be. What I am saying is that there's a way to make peace with the action. I think it's possible to be both Martha and Mary (the other one) this season.

What do you all think?


This doesn't fit very well with the usual tone of Imperfect Prose, but I'm linking anyway, because I love the community and the people there, and because it's the last one before January!


29 November 2010

And the Wind 'Doth Blow

Today the wind gusts, and I thank God again and again that I'm in here, where I don't have to take the gusts full in the face. I grew up with the wind and all the different gifts it brings, the rains in summer and the snow in winter, and the terrible things it brought, too, hail and tornados and rushing underground to wait.

A month from now, I will be in a car heading back to that land of the winds. I'll take my daughter, my family, so that she may grow where I once grew.

I want her to know so many things: the power of the wind, and that she's protected from it. The joys of rain and snow, and why spring is such a big deal after all. I want her to have a backyard and kids to play with in the streets and trees to climb and hills for sledding.

Christmas-the-day this year may be hurried and harried, but this year we're all getting a fresh start. What better gift can I give my daughter and my husband and myself than that?

Thankful, today, with Ann.

Thankful for wind, the way it hustles and howls.
Thankful for first steps, and tentative grins when she falls.
Thankful for family and turkey and friends.
Thankful for Firefly, and the Annual Thanksgiving Rewatch.
Thankful for feeling better, after a weekend of mostly feeling crappy.
Thankful for new opportunities, for moving forward.
Thankful for renewed relationships with old friends.
Thankful for husband who loves through thick and thin.
Thankful for the way the light creeps across the wall all day.
Thankful for beauty even in the midst of chaos.

24 November 2010

Christmas Beckons

The holidays are upon us. They do that, springing out of nowhere on their little cat-feet. But for the first time in many years, I'm ready for them.

What with the moving truck showing up two days after Christmas, without her I'd be tempted to let things slide. I'd be tempted to put in a half-effort, to figure that next year is time enough for us to get it together and have a real celebration. But now, even when I tell myself that she won't remember it, I know she'll hold her first Christmas in her heart somewhere, in the part of her that tells her what it's all about, and I want that to be a solid place for her.

She makes me ready, her fair face peeping out behind hair that could use the serious and dedicated application of some scissors. For her, I want more than decorations thrown up at the last minute. In fact, the decorations don't matter so much anymore. It's the heart of the season that I want her to feel, right from the very beginning.
-
I went on a retreat, once, and drew several pictures of trees. Most of them were green, even the one with the moonlight. But one was a tree in winter, naked branches surrounded by snow and grey sky. I shared the retreat and the pictures that illuminated it, and the most baffling commenter said, "The green ones are beautiful and speak of life and growth. But I don't know what to make of that [grey] one. It's so sad."

And I didn't get it, because winter is beautiful, too, all glistening white and warm lights beckoning from windows and getting to see the craggy glory of the branches. A different kind of beauty I could give him, a kind that reminds of longing and things that aren't complete, but beauty still. Like sadness is beautiful.
-
Nurturing is a kind of winter, asking my soul to give up itself for another. I am woman, but it doesn't come natural. It brings me to my knees, making Christmas for her in the places my feet rest right now. But there is life and joy and beauty, alongside the conviction that we are walking a dark path, a night path, one that runs through groves of naked trees.

We're waiting, the trees and I, for something to make sense of the snow. Maybe that's what he meant, my commenter - snow is beautiful, but if that was all we ever knew, we'd grow tired of it. The cold would overwhelm and our hearts would falter. Mine would, anyway. But I'm not sure I could ever grow tired of spring.

Though it's here the hitch appears to lie: Would I love a forever-spring if I never saw winter's bleak beauty?


Linking with Emily and the Imperfect Prose community.


22 November 2010

Open My Eyes, That I May See

I can't watch those commercials anymore. You know the ones I mean - the extended ones, with pictures and videos of children starving and dying, the ones with the helpful white people walking among houses filled with dark faces. The message is good and I wish I could help them all, but I can't look in their eyes anymore.

I don't turn my head because I want to deny what exists in the world, but because I cannot look at their faces without seeing my girl's face there, too.

This has been a year of softening. There's something about my girl, about giving birth and seeing fragile life become more and more robust, about suddenly knowing deep inside what it means when a child hurts, that has opened new places in my soul.

I first thought the feelings were the result of hormones run rampant, of new-mama-itis, and that it would fade over time. But as the girl inches her way toward toddlerhood, my heart is still wide open.

This Advent, I pray that Jesus will gather the little ones of the world to Him, that they will know His presence and His love even if they don't know His name. And when those commercials come on TV, I close my eyes tight and pray until they're over, for peace and justice and food, for Christmas beyond what they can even imagine.

And as I pray, I find thanks rising in my own heart, (for) . . .

 . . . the way she only lets go and walks when she's distracted and forgets that she can't do it,
 . . . writing again, words filling fingers and pages, stories that I didn't even know unfolding,
 . . . the chance to start over in our lives, and the invitation to live deliberately
 . . . the fact that, while we can't afford much, we can afford Christmas this year
 . . . that the credit card thieves didn't get away with too much
 . . . good endings and new beginnings
 . . . that family and good friends will gather, once again, to fill this Thursday with thanks
 . . . the chance to teach her about Thanks and Advent and Christmas
 . . . the rising desire in my own heart to choose things that highlight meaning this year, instead of rushing around trying to do it all
 . . . for peace and settledness of soul about our decidedly not-so-peaceful nor settled future.

Joining with Ann today.

21 November 2010

The Presents of God

It's about time I write about the next chapter of God in the Yard. It's not that I haven't read it, or that it doesn't touch me where I am, but that I don't have much to say besides, "Yes."

I'm not hearing from God right now. I reach out to find him, and I feel like I'm grasping at air. He disappeared a while back and things haven't been quite the same since.

But here's the thing: I've been around this block before. I don't say that to blow it off, to deny soul's pain or act like there aren't still questions. But these things have a way of working themselves out.

I don't know yet what God's invitation is to me in this. I don't know if there's a call to something beyond steadiness and prayer even when there's more darkness than light. But I know this: He is still there. And that is enough.

As I wait for Him to reveal Himself or his call, I can't help but think about where I was this time last year. I was at the point of actively awaiting Mirren's arrival. We were six weeks away and had already rushed to the hospital once to see if my water had broken.

I have that same expectant awaiting arising inside when I think about what God is doing right now. He's active even though I can't see it, and in due time his work will be born in me and through my life. Just because I don't know what that's going to look like doesn't mean I can't anticipate it.

And so I have my own season of Advent this year, internally as well as externally. After all, we don't only await the birth of the Christ child during this season, but also his coming in each of us. 


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18 November 2010

Thinking About Quiet Days

Handwriting - free texturephoto © 2010 Crafty Dogma | more info (via: Wylio)



I crave silence. I want the words to cease. At night, I lay in bed and tell myself, over and over, “No words.” And I feel tense muscles relax and tired thoughts still and anxiety abate.
__


To think is to use words, if you are me. Thinking is all well and good most of the time, but there’s such a thing as thinking too much. Such a thing as too many words.
__


Instead of spinning, I want to be silent. I want to see and rest and be without analysis and without apology.
__

I’m in the business of words, learning to string them and to strew them, loving their sound and image and intensity. But if all I’m left with are words, if I can’t make them stop, I’ve fallen off a horse of another color.
__

Words make for easy answers. In a world without them, in that place between where I usually take a breath so I have the air to say more, things are complicated. Murky. Hard to hear and to hold. But beautiful.
__

Words can usher people in, can offer hospitality and the warm fire of love welcoming them. But they can also put up walls, keep people and their hearts at bay. Sometimes the line between the fire and the wall isn’t so clear. You-can-come-this-far-but-not-farther is something of a mixed message.
__

When my words cease, I wonder if anyone will love me. I wonder if I can make them all see who I am and why they should care I wonder if they’ll bother with the quiet girl. I wonder if they’ll remember that I stood here, that I lived and watched and tried to make sense of it all.
__

God is still there, even when the words are not. I don’t feel him right now, but I know he’s there, asking me if I can look at him without thinking of him, if I can make space for him when he isn’t speaking.



I offer these imperfect words alongside the Imperfect Prose community hosted at Emily's.





Last Weekend

Words fail.

I spent a way-too-short weekend with Kirsten and Terri, remembering Ewan, grieving him, and just being together, and I cannot sum it up.

Some things are un-summable.

But I will say this: people who dismiss the Internet and electronic communication as a way of finding true community are wrong. They aren’t always wrong or wrong in everything they say, but they only need look at last weekend to know that you can find true Anne-and-Diana bosom friends online.

That is all.

10 November 2010

Musings on Separateness and Togetherness

She cries when the other babies cry, and I know well a heart that works like that.

There are days even now, when I've learned of boundaries and separateness (things she knows nothing about yet), that the world weighs too much. I feel tired for the carrying, for the loving and the holding and the amount of sorrow you can fit in a pound.

But I wouldn't trade my heart, and I won't trade hers either. There's something to be said for being with, for walking alongside and holding hands and letting your hands be held, too.
----
The days are shorter and that's a good thing. Winter is a lonely time, they say, though I can't help but think that when naked branches reach towards the sky we get a chance to see what's really there, under the fancy red dress that's fallen off piece by piece over the last weeks.

Lonely, maybe, but only in the way that soul-sharing is lonely in that moment before one hand, then another, reach out to give support.
----
Winter is nature's introvert. Summer is the extroverted sister, and fall and spring are the twins that mediate between them. 
----
I hope she loves the snow like I do, loves looking at her extra-big footprints as she leaves steps behind her. I hope she learns to watch the leaves fall and feel the changes in her heart as the seasons change outside.

I pray she can embrace the winter times, in her life and her soul, with grace and beauty and peace. They are but a moment, here and there, where she gets to stop and lie dormant. 

I pray that I learn to embrace them, too, to make my peace with absence and lying fallow and gestation, just as I've made it with presence and fullness and growth. 

Amen.

Joining with Imperfect Prose, over at Emily's.

08 November 2010

Words that Fly

I'm writing fiction again, and I feel the joy of it bubbling out of my soul into everything I do.

It's true: I'm a better person when I'm writing fiction. I'm gentler with my daughter, more giving to my husband, more willing to do tedious tasks at work without complaining. I have more energy, I don't mind being tired nearly as much, and I deal better when things don't work out right.

I'm surprised most of the people in my life don't push me to write more often.

Writing fiction . . . well, I'm tempted to say that it's like crack to me, but the truth is that it's better than that. It's like a million roller coaster rides, one after the other. It's like having a pile of the best chocolate chip cookies in the world and knowing that the calories will fall out as soon as I take a bite. It's like something that got knocked over inside is set right again.

It helps that I love this story. I love the complicated back story, the multiplicity of complex characters and how their complexities interact. I love the changes that need to take place and how they happen. I love the fun of it, the joy and the awkwardness (because there's nothing I like more as a writer than putting my characters in awkward situations), how writing it, even when it's hard, feels like a romp in the snow.

And so today I'm grateful for the writer's high, for Elizabeth's comp book covers, for fountain pens and colored jewel-tone Levenger ink. I'm grateful for my little MacBook and its purple case, and for words with wings, that take us places we couldn't otherwise visit. I'm grateful for stories that stand the test of time, ideas that grow as the weeks pass instead of shriveling. And I'm grateful for all the books I've read as inspiration, and that my own journey leads me here.

Adding my small stack of gifts to the pile over at Ann's place.

03 November 2010

Musings on Last Times

I'm in a season of last times, a season where I'm starting to notice every time I drive that road and pass that house and see this sky. Sometimes I know: I won't be here again. And other times I just have to wonder, to let the warm autumn light stream through the window and hold me as I try to remember, just in case I don't see these moments again.

The first time is always fun and new and exciting. And then there are all the middle times, the ones that run together, that don't seem important at the time but that make up a life and that make it worth living.

And then there are the last times, the ones where I wish I could remember every single other time I've been here and done that, but I can't and so I'll remember this one: the last one.

It isn't until the last times that I realize just how much I've lived in this place, just how I've inhabited these roads and these buildings and this chair. Just how much they are a part of me.

It makes me sad, this long goodbye, and it makes me happy. At least I get to say goodbye.

At least I get to say goodbye.

And in truth, it's all goodbye, goodbye and hello. Each moment is a hello and a goodbye, for even if I have this place and these walls again tomorrow, I don't have this moment to be in them. And so the moments are a rich savory soup of vegetables jumbled together, hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye, and if I held all the hellos and all the goodbyes I'd lose my mind.

So I let God hold them. Release them into his hands, his big wide open hands, and ask him to keep them for me, to give them back if I need them, but mostly to keep them, somewhere safe and warm. Because they're treasures, these moments, precious, precious treasures and I don't want them to get cold and old.

And in the meantime, I will live in each moment. I will find what there is to feel and to savor, and I will drink it up because it's the moment I'm given. And my job is to be faithful with what I'm given. No more and no less than that.


Again I join Emily and her precious, imperfect community.






PS I may be around here less, these days. I have another writing project I'm throwing myself into, because it's time and my soul needs some good work to do. Rest assured, I will be here, and I will be on your blogs and I will be back when I'm done.

01 November 2010

One Day We'll Wake

Girl giggles burble up from her middle. That little laugh is music, balm even, to a stretched mama soul. Of all the sounds, that's the one I choose night after night when he asks me which was the best moment of my day.

And then he reaches strong, warm hand to me, and we pray. Simple words, asking for rest and peace, praying that it all gets done, and that there's more rest on the other side.

I won't say that the days I'm living right now are easy ones, ones I would put on "Repeat" and play over and over and over again. But I wouldn't wish them away, either. I wouldn't wish us secure and oblivious to the larger questions that loom. I wouldn't wish that we would choose safety over possibility. I might wish a more gradual slope for our ascent (or is it a descent now?), but I wouldn't take the climb away.

After all, the night is not forever. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. The night is not forever. And afterwards, there is morning.

Thank God for morning . . .

 . . . and for baby giggles
and husband strength
and the monkey suit
and how much she loves pears (like her Daddy, this one)
and family who say, "Come and stay"
and for Julie Bee, who I will miss
and new relationships, flowering even as we plan to leave
and homemade pizza, warm and heartening
and for enduring love.


With Ann today . . .

28 October 2010

And it isn't Only in Dreams that we Fly

In the midst of all this change, we dream.

I jumped off a cliff once, into a river. Maybe I had a moment of craziness, to exchange solid ground for the thrill of the drop and freezing water. In truth, I felt terror. But I also felt exhilaration and sensed the possibility in the moment. I could have stayed, but that's not who I am, for I'm nothing if not the one who takes that leap, who gives possibility the chance to become more.

There are days when the prospect of moving looms over us and I try to remember that jump: terror is not the end, just a step on the way to more.

God comes close to those who stand on the edge, and he catches those who jump. And sometimes, when love and need run together, he provides winged horses to catch them mid-fall and watches with delight as terror becomes joy beyond imagining.


Join the Imperfect Prose community.


25 October 2010

Praying in the Cathedral

I've been thinking a lot about what to write in response to Week 6 of God in the Yard. Notice that I said "thinking" and not "praying."

Ironic, that, since week 6 is about prayer and God's presence.

Ironic, too, that since I've been pondering prayer, it's gotten harder for me. To make sense of that, I have to explain.

I, like many, pray on a lot of different levels. Sometimes I just sit with God, appreciating presence and silence. I usually do this in the dim light of early morning, when the day's hustle hasn't started and I can still find time to sit with my tea and practice just being. Other times I give him my heart in words, walking through the situations I know of where his help is needed, sometimes asking for specifics, and others just holding the names of the ones I'm praying for before him, because he knows what they need. And sometimes I pray short, desperate prayers, "Please help the baby sleep, please, please, please," and "Jesus, what do I do?"

One link between all these types of prayer is that I often have the same image come to mind when I'm praying them. I'm in a large, greystone cathedral. Sometimes I'm alone, sometimes there are others. Jesus is sitting on a stool in the crossing, on a small platform with steps all around. Those who want can come sit or kneel on the steps to touch his hands or his robe as they pray. Sometimes I go, and other times I sit in a seat where I can just see him.

It was in the midst of one of these short prayers last week that the image changed in a way that shook me. I looked up while I was praying, as I often do, to see his eyes. But instead of eyes, there was nothing. Just a robe draped over a chair. No one was listening, no one could hear me, and I might as well have been talking to the air.

Now, I know that having images for prayer can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, images help imaginative people like me gain a better understanding of what they're doing. On the other hand, no image of God is perfect, and so there's nothing that can represent the fullness of him. In my own prayer life, I've found that these images come and go, that one that helps me pray for a while won't be there forever, and might disappear quite suddenly.

But I've never had one go bad quite like this one did. I felt startled, to say the least, when I looked up and didn't see Jesus there. And now I wonder . . . will he be there when I go back?

There's a lot of things that could have happened here, and I'm taking my time to discern what I'm to take away from this experience. I'm praying through it, without images because I don't feel like I can trust them right now. But in the meantime, I don't have much to say about prayer.

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20 October 2010

Opening Our Chutes

Walking. Taking tentative steps forward, foot following foot, hoping that we don't topple at the end.

I wish I was talking about the baby. But no.

Today, and for the next several months of days, we'll be preparing our home, our lives, and our hearts for starting over. Opportunities have dried up here, dried into nothing until we can crackle them in our hands like the leaves that fall off the trees outside. And we don't want to stay, here in the land where they worship concrete, where the sun is wonderful but the green patches are too small and have too much space between them.

We want more, for ourselves and our girl and any littles who will follow her. Life, rich and clear and full, like good running river water. And so we leave a land that has dried out, as many have done before us when the sun baked their patch of earth, and head into we know not what. But we go, flinging ourselves into a faith that we're not quite ready for, hoping the stories we've heard will carry us when our own hearts fail.

We've made our final plans (or as final as they can be over two months in advance). We know where we're going and how we're getting there. We know when the truck is coming and when we'll pack our things. We know where our girl will lay her head for this next season.

Beginning anew brings hope. Some days it feels like an adventure, like standing on the edge of that cliff I jumped off of when I was 21, and we know the chute will open and we'll land somewhere fresh and new.

But we say goodbye to so much, and so much is unknown . . . so much is unknown.


Linking with Emily today.

19 October 2010

Blessings for My Girl, I

For a while now, I've been wanting to record a series of blessings for my girl, so she has them for the rest of her life. This is the first.



The text, in case you can't hear:

My darling one,
I have no doubt that you will excel
in the things our world calls feminine,
that you will
nurture the future when it lies in your arms 
and make your peace with 
the daily tasks
that give small ones a place to grow
and encourage him
to get out of bed tomorrow. 
But if there ever comes a day
when you must fight,
by word, or wit, or weapon
against injustice,
to defend the ones you love,
in the name of those who have no name,
know this:
the warrior-spirit
can call a woman's heart its home
and lie at peace beside
the quiet spirits
you also find inside.
There is no inherent contradiction
to rest in one moment,
work in another
and fight in the one after that,
and there is little that can stand against
the fire in a woman's heart.
May you tend the flames
and control the fire within
so you can say,
when you dust your hands on your apron
and sheathe a knife in your boot,
"This is woman, too."

Small one, I hope you never have to do true battle. But if you do - no, when you do - may you fight well and never feel like your fight is in contradiction to the rest of your nature or your life. May you feel as much peace changing the world with Eowyn and Cordelia as you do with Anne and Emily. May you learn, like Jo, to live in harmony with yourself, all of yourself, and may you love the life you lead, treasuring every moment, even the hard ones.

18 October 2010

Now That's Dedication

Baby is dedicated. In case we didn't know, she belongs to Jesus. He made her, he holds her, and one day she'll wake up and find herself in those arms once again.

It reminds me of the (made-up by mama) song that I've sung to her all these months:

I love you little Mirren,
who God made out of us . . . 

(it goes on, but I'll spare you).

We thought we were losing her when she was just weeks-old, just after we found out about her. Amongst wake-up-sobbing cramps, I prayed. "Jesus," I said, "hold my girl."

And he did. I felt, though how I can't explain, his arms around her, holding, always holding. And she lived, our blondest little one, and I've always felt her relationship with him as something separate from mine, something beautiful and good, but that I cannot ever, ever touch. Sacred, like a burning bush or a pillar of fire.

I'm grateful for her life, her little emerging personality, her solidness and stubbornness and the determination with which she faces challenges. I'm grateful for how she's beginning to see walking as a possibility, how she clamps her mouth and "mmm's" when she's done eating, how she manages to stand up in her bed with her legs still swaddled. 

And I'm grateful for time away, for 24 solid hours this weekend with Dave. We're making a lot of big decisions and change hangs on our horizon, and we need the time to rest together, and to talk. So I'm grateful for rainy days at the beach, for the way water drops on blossoms and how Earl Grey hangs on in my soul even when the cup is empty. I'm grateful for jacuzzi tubs and amazing dinners (especially when I just happen upon them) and that we can choose what's best, even when it's also hardest. And I'm grateful for him, that he doesn't have to be perfect or put-together but can just be who and where he's at.

Blessings, all. May your lives be rich this week.

(Joining with Ann to praise and pray.)

14 October 2010

Choose Blessing

Baby smiles fast become little girl grins as biggerBiggerBIGGER hands grip mine and growing feet learn to step. My heart jumps, to proverbial throat and then threatens to exit body entirely as I look at what he made out of us.

The girl is a triumph, our triumph in this difficult year. She promises victory, reminds us that no matter what, no matter how all of the uncertainty and difficulty fall out, life triumphs over darkness and death.

God wins, as a friend of mine once said.

God wins, and we are struggling right now, he and I standing together to fight things mundane and yet wrenching. God wins, and we are making decisions that involve drawing back, drawing in, making a move that seems for all the world like going way, way backwards. God wins, and I know my love's heart is aching with the choices he can't make right now, and mine aches for him, that the choices he wants aren't among the offered options.

But we take her with us as we go, our spring-hope flower, the little one who smiles and grows in spite of rocks in the soil and whose pixie-face brings sunshine to the socked-in soul.

Our promise, our blessing as we Jacob-wrestle through the night. Even though we walk away limping, we have been blessed.


Joining Em, at my home-away-from-here-on-Thursdays.

11 October 2010

Venturing Out

Inspired by 31 Days to a Better Photo and an encouraging email exchange with sweet Kelly, I'm venturing out with my camera again. I've been scared of it for ages, and frustrated and overwhelmed and lots of other things besides. For now, I'll be posting my photos here, if you're interested in taking a peek. Be warned: many of them will be of my girl, because she's my inspiration for wanting to get better at this. Also, I happen to think she's beautiful.

Now and Forever

Today is a gift and the future isn't a given.

I've been mulling on that phrase since I thought of it sometime this week, somewhere in the midst of sending my heart to Issaquah a million times a day, praying mercy grace rest peace presence hope tears family community bread strength and more for Kirsten and James, and in the midst of holding together the million or so threads that seem to comprise my life right now.

When sleep doesn't come and the baby babbles across the monitor way too early, I remember: today is a gift and the future isn't a given. 

When I'm juggling two jobs and motherhood (which is so much more than a job), on top of being a wife and a friend, my mind turns it over: today is a gift and the future isn't a given. 

When I find myself saying goodbye, unexpectedly because time passed so much faster than I counted it, to yet more friends, more people who've wound themselves into my heartstrings, I hold the truth: today is a gift and the future isn't a given.

It's an uneasy truth in my mind, simple and beautiful, but with the ability to tear me to shreds if I let it run rampant inside. So I touch it, the spiky bits and the soft bits, and try to find a home for it in my soul, a way to bring it in and a place to bring it in to that will change without destroying. I want to hold it and make peace with it, but without fear and without anger. I want to give it a home so it doesn't have to wedge itself in someplace hurtful and hard.

As I walk with this new place in my soul, I'm thankful:

  • watching him, working harder than he's ever worked to make life work for us
  • the prospect of rest, of space for us to make some decisions and find life again
  • we're holding body and soul together in spite of . . . in spite of a lot
  • sweet Julie and her Brandon, moving out into their future
  • 18 pounds of climbing, teething, hold-me-mama bundle
  • online friends, and knowing I have proof that these relationships are real, despite what skeptics say
  • a full night's sleep
  • knowing fall is happening somewhere, even if it's not where I am
  • morning quiet, even when I have to come to work to find it
  • a growing glow of excitement about the future, uncertain though it may be
Linking with Ann today.

10 October 2010

I Wonder About Flight


Trying to figure out what to write for Chapter 5 of God in the Yard has been like trying to describe music in terms of colors - I can do it, but I don't always feel like I'm talking about something real. 
Gratefulness is hard for me, but not for the same reasons that it's hard for Barkat. It's not that I don't trust the sky. It wasn't until I put my thoughts from GitY  together with a quote from Kathleen Norris's Acedia and Me. Norris says, "being rejected, I learned to reject." 
I knew childhood rejection, and I resonate with the idea of learning there not to let the good things in. And so I stopped trusting, stopped thinking I could make friends and people would like me, stopped believing that I saw what was real. I became suspicious of people and scared of them, scared that they would pretend one thing and then become something else, scared that they would seem to like me but really wouldn't. And gradually I became suspicious of all good things, came to touch and embrace them tentatively, wondering if they would really be there when I needed them, wondering if they were really good, or if they would turn and bare their teeth when I needed to lean into them the most. I pushed away good because it hurt too much to have it turn into something else.
But there's more than that: I also pushed the good away because it wasn't, not even ever once, perfect. It was a lot of things, good things, even great things, but it wasn't perfect. And I was taught high ideals for experiences. I was brought into a world where things were supposed to go right, where it was normal to have high expectations and be disappointed, where ideals were extolled and everyone, including myself, felt like they fell short all the time, felt like they ruined otherwise "perfect" moments with their self and their mess.
So I also learned to reject the good because it wasn't the perfect, to not be grateful for what I had because it wasn't the best I could imagine and it wasn't what I wanted it to be. I learned to be disappointed with the good because it wasn't the best. I learned to be picky instead of happy, frustrated and disappointed instead of satisfied and full.
Between the two, it's hard to overcome. It's hard to trust the good, to trust that God is good and that the things he puts into my hands aren't going to bite me. And then it's hard for gratefulness to not feel stifled or stilted, because I'm trying to be grateful for things that still don't seem good enough to me.
The first of these is the most painful. It's hard to trust, hard to believe that things can be different than they once were, that it's ok for me to wonder and wonder and wander and wonder some more. It's hard for me to want to reach out and embrace something when I'm afraid it has spines on the bottom instead of a tender underbelly.
But the other is the most damaging, I think. It takes them joy out of even good things, things that I love. And it's always there, sitting at the back of my mind, wondering why things couldn't be just a little different, wondering what would make this better, wondering if I'll ever by as happy as I want to be, wondering why I have to make do with these small goods in my hand when I see so many other, bigger goods that could be.
The first makes it hard to embrace good things, but the second makes it hard to WANT to, and that seems more harmful and dangerous in the long run. It's one thing to reject out of fear, and another to reject out of pride, to say, "That's all well and good, but it's not good enough for me." The second brings on the feeling that good is never going to come the way I want it to, so I may as well just reject it and be done, and then resign myself to never having anything as good as I want it. I may as well just decide that I'm never going to be happy, that things will never be the way I want them to be, and live anyway,
But that allows me to nurse my pride, to nurse a dissatisfaction with the world that means joy can't come in, that's self-watchful instead of self-giving, and I don't want that, either.
And so I end this chapter feeling stuck. Not hopelessly stuck, but at least momentarily so. I suppose that's the good thing about envisioning life as a journey: you just keep walking, even when you don't know where to go next. And eventually, God leads you to victory, whether in this life or the next.

GIY button

06 October 2010

Two Pilgrims

The world is heavy, and we pilgrims are cold and tired tonight. But we keep walking, because what is a pilgrim but one who puts foot in front of foot even when those feet ache and we're far from home.

So we shuffle forward, not even seeing the world around us because we're focused on the ruts and the dust and wondering how we'll ever wash the dirt off our feet.

Step after step on this dark and weary night, with little hope of reaching hot food, warm fire, and soft bed. Those aren't the tools of our trade, as they say. They aren't things we much hope for anymore.

We have a secret, you and I, one that's been lost in this shuffle of days and feet. If we bring it to mind, now and then, the bringing is not our own but something that is done to us, something that swoops in and captures our thoughts for a moment.

And then it flits away, like the white moths we paused to watch by the river that day, the ones that darted around us so long, we wondered if they'd been sent. Messengers of a sort, to remind us that we are all beautiful and we are all frail.

Tonight, somewhere amidst the shuffling and the longing, we remember again. I can tell you see it, too, because you're looking at me when I remember it, and not at your feet.

The meeting of eyes is enough. Words might take too much effort and we could run out of energy and stop where we stand simply because we cannot continue any longer. It is enough that we remembered for a moment: this world is not the end.


SDG.




Linking with Emily, a fellow walker on this pilgrim-path.

04 October 2010

. . . even if he does not . . .

 . . . even if he does not . . . 

A little over two years ago, three beautiful women and I spent a beautiful, heart-searching, restful, exciting time together. I'd seen all of them before, in college, but we didn't know each other until we met blogging.

When we came together, we were all at crucible times in our lives. There were big decisions, daily struggles, important questions, and we came together not to find answers or to make it better, but to figure out, together, how to live in the pain, the crunch, the stress of that place.

We found community. We found rest and forgiveness and a place where we could each be ourselves in the fullness of what that means. We found that a community God had joined together could be strong, even if it didn't make sense, even though some of us hadn't been sure we should really get on that plane, go, and reach out.

Kirsten was one of those women. It was her home we invaded, her food we ate, her wine we drank, her town we explored and came to love.

Eleven days ago, I stayed up late to pray for her son. Ewan was born beautiful, and with a broken heart. Eleven days ago, so many around the world gave up sleep and work and prayed him through a surgery even the doctors weren't sure he'd survive.

Over the last eleven days, I have cried great tears. I've prayed, beseeched, sent love and peace and rest and clarity and strength. I've spoken words and simply told God that he has to pray for me because I can't find the right language to say anything at all.

Last night, we prayed again. I fell asleep with Ewan's name on my lips and woke with it in the same place. But he was gone by the time I rose, safe in Jesus' arms, knowing love the rest of us only imagine.


I've looked at pictures of him off and on all day. I love his spirit, how he knows his mama and the baby wisdom in his eyes. I've focused on the photo above, where he sees her eyes and grips her finger. This was a precious baby, a loved baby, a little one who knew who held him and how secure that hold was. When I remember Ewan, I'll remember that.

And I'm left with a phrase that came from that special weekend two years ago. Three men, about to be thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn't worship falsely, asked if they were really that committed to their God. Could he save them?

They replied that he could, that he was great and worthy and he could do it. But even if he did not, they would choose to follow him. Even if he let them die in the heat and the flames, the would choose him every time. Even if he didn't show up, even if they looked like fools, even if he let the situation play out without any intervention, they had made their choice.

Eleven nights ago, God intervened. He made a miracle. Last night, he did not. But even here, even when he did not, my friend is choosing hope. That's no small statement. That's a huge, world-shattering statement, and a precious, tender one, too. What a legacy for the tiny one they love so much!

Pray for Kirsten and for James, as they bear this burden, as they bear pain and emptiness and the weight of questions I cannot imagine. I wish I could hold her tonight.

These last two weeks, walking alongside in my small way, following from afar a story that had taken up residence in my heart, has changed me. I don't know how yet. But I know this: my friend has a heart that can say even if he does not . . . and I aspire to have that heart, too.

01 October 2010

Empty

O 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 Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!


Empty of words today, but praying so hard for baby Ewan and his family. You may remember the he sparked a celebration of life for me. Yesterday marked a victory, when he got off the machine that had been keeping him alive. This morning, he had to go back on it and no one knows what's in store. I've thought of him and his parents all day, praying as I breathe. Join me, if you feel led, contending for the life of this tiny boy.

30 September 2010

Quiet

I'm quiet now, inside and out. Tired, thankful, and quiet.

External silence is something I love so much that I crave it, but internal silence takes some time to get used to. I'm not much of a talker, but I usually have words to write, to share, to give. Finding myself wordless always makes me stop sharp, stop and look, to play with the color of life and put my hands back in the water and play.

I've been trying since last night to find the words I want to write today, to pick them out of the great cloud that is the English language and put them in the right order. They keep escaping, and finding words when they aren't ready to be found is like trying to hang on to a handful of sand. So I'm quiet today, waiting for the words to spill again.

Sharing my quiet with Emily today.



28 September 2010

My Favorite Monkey

I have a monkey. Most of you don't know that, but I do. She hides her prehensile tail in those cute little diapers, but I know it's there when I watch her climb up on the couch all by herself, then haul herself up onto the arm of the couch and crawl around on the back.

I wish I had a picture, but every time she sees the camera, she smiles at me and tumbles on to the cushions.

People say I'm a fearless mama, because I let my girl climb and gnaw on the backs of chairs (who knows where those chairs have been!) and play in the dirt. But I say, how will she know what she can do if I don't let her try. And how will she know how well she is held if I don't catch her when she falls?

Unwrapping Tuesday . . .

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


27 September 2010

Starting Again

I pulled my novel out of the drawer yesterday. It's sad, feeling intimidated by a 3" high stack of paper, but there you go.

Don't get me wrong - I love this novel. I love the story and the characters, and I love where it goes and what they do and how they handle themselves. But I've written two full drafts, now, and a bunch of other false starts, and I just haven't been able to solve some of the problems inherent in the story.

After getting entirely fed up with contradictory critiques, I put it away. At that point, I didn't know if I'd ever take it out again. Solving the problems seemed impossible without compromising either the story or the characters, and I felt confused about the better direction giving the feedback I got.

Also, I don't like starting over.

I'm also beginning again when it comes to art. Several years back, I had a ton of creative energy and picked up painting for the first time in my life. I painted consistently for a year or so, but got fed up with my lack of knowledge about technique and the fact that I'm SO SLOW at it.

But something in me calls to making lines on a page, and so I'm dipping my feet back in, remembering how color soothes and how even painting a background can ease the soul.

It's ok to start over, no matter how many times it takes.

I keep telling myself that, in my creative pursuits as well as in daily life. Because normal tasks involve starting over all the time. Take laundry, for example. As soon as you get a load done, there are more dirty clothes. It can seem never-ending, a long, long cycle of starting over, over and over again.

We have to make peace with the starting over, or life will always feel like a failure and a drag and we won't be able to embrace it. We have to open ourselves to seasons, to the ebbs and flows of work and energy that mean sometimes we'll be able to conquer the world, and other times we'll barely keep our mouths open above the rising waves.

It helps me to remember that I serve the God who offers us all a second chance, and a third and a fourth and so on. If I'm not willing to start over, then I won't move back into relationship with him when I need to.

So a'starting over I go. Wish me luck.

Thankful today for:

  • new beginnings
  • baby Ewan's miracle early Friday morning (and praying for more as we speak)
  • solutions to some of the novel's problems
  • my wee, climbing monkey of a baby
  • air conditioning (it's 114 degrees here today - yuck!)
  • green, growing things, especially indoors
  • getting to be on the news last Friday
  • entering a slower season
  • getting to pray for people close to me, and hold them when they cry
  • the lightness of knowing I'm not alone



holy experience

23 September 2010

And I, the Night Watchman

A flame
in the darkness
is as beautiful to this pilgrim
as sunset colors on canvas
or spring flowers
uncoiling
inch by inch in 
April's warm rain.

Winter is long,
and still,
a season for growing
to fill tight spaces
until,
long limbs akimbo
new life scrambles
into the outside world.

We study life,
the how and when and where,
and forget
to sit and watch,
that watching is action
that will wedge its way into our souls
making us different
than those with closed eyes.

So I wait,
for life and light
to draw me 
through a door
into the warm kitchen
where people raise
their glasses around me
and celebrate life
with cocoa and champagne.




Linking with Emily and other friends who will be part of that kitchen celebration, that home-y dance party where everyone is welcome.

19 September 2010

I thank you God . . .



Words tumble, some days freely, some days rhythmically, other times pell-mell over rocks and around pebbles until they finally come to their resting place. They can communicate, share, give, take and move. Saying something or putting it on paper makes it real and, sometimes, articulates thoughts I wouldn't have known I had if they hadn't gotten said, irreversibly, in an awkward moment over coffee.

Today is my 100th day in a row writing and journaling over at 750 words, one of my favorite sites on the entire Internet. I thought I wouldn't find time to journal after the babe was born and I grieved it, but this site has given me back that time and space. And so today I'm thankful for words, for their power and hope, for the joy of language.
  • the ability to write and speak and thus to love the people around me
  • rediscovering poetry as snippets of bliss
  • conversations that resolve and heal and love
  • baby babbles, incessantly telling me about a world I almost remember
  • God's words, written in the Bible and spoken by the tongues of those around me
  • books, full of words that note ideas, adventures, and dreams
  • letters, the too-little-had nowadays experience of words on paper from loved ones
  • handwriting, how forming a word says a lot about a person
  • how writing, the act of it, makes me human, completes my existence here in a way little else does
  • how writing is prayer, is joy and peace and being with God
  • how putting words on paper means I no longer have to store them in my head and so create space
  • spoken-word poetry, and the rhythms I could listen to all day 
  • this poem, specifically, a recent discovery that helps me find the riches in everyday life



holy experience

Joining with Ann to create a cacophony of praise today.

Celebration



I believe in telling the truth, and the truth is that I'm no good at celebrating, at least under the traditional definition of the word. No good at all, in fact. If you need a realist, I'm your woman, but celebrating comes like pulling teeth.

That's why writing about week 4 in L. L. Barkat's God in the Yard feels like such a monumental task to me. I don't have much to say about celebrating, because it's not something that's a habit in my life. Thinking about it feels a little like trying to visualize a tesseract - I can almost see it, and then everything dissolves again.

There's one time in my life when I remember celebrating well, and that time it felt like a command straight from God. The situation was crazy: Dave and I needed money to get married, he'd been promised a job, and it feel through. We either needed to postpone the wedding or get some cash. 

I prayed like I'd never prayed before, with faith I didn't know I'd had and words I would never have said if they weren't given to me: God, there's plenty of money out there. Help some of it to find its way to us. 

It did - a friend wrote Dave a $1000 check out of the blue, because God told her he needed it. Then he got a job out of nowhere, and I felt commanded to celebrate.

It rose up inside of me with an imperative tang. I needed to do it and we did: I took Dave out for one of  the nicest dinners of our stint as a dating couple, where we feasted and drank and built an altar of remembrance for what God had done there. 

And I do remember it, vividly. In fact, if that story teaches me nothing else, it's that celebrating is important because it helps us remember the things God does, the things He once did, even in a season where it's hard to hear his voice. 

I want to remember, and so I need to celebrate.

Now I struggle with my normal days. I find it hard to want a normal life, to want this home-and-family existence that doesn't involve running around doing fun, exciting things all the time.

And I wonder if I struggle with them because I don't know how to celebrate them. If I knew how to mark the little things, the baby's developmental milestones, the way the light comes through the windows in the morning, the things Dave and I do to love each other on a daily basis, maybe I would appreciate them more. 

Celebrations are hard for me because childhood celebrations came with expectations. When I was a child, celebration days were supposed to be perfect. People wanted to have fun, to get along,  to be happy spending time together as a family. 

Since perfect days are rare, expectations were almost always disappointed. In fact, I did most of the disappointing. I put so much pressure on myself that I would snap and get upset. I'd yell at my brother, cry when something didn't work out the way we'd planned, or get upset with someone else who didn't meet my expectations.

I came to believe that I ruined good things, good celebrations, and so in some ways I came to dread them. 

I want celebrating to be something different for my children. I want it to be something they love, but I want it to be human, real and messy, like everything having to do with people is messy.

As luck would have it, Barkat expands the definition of "celebration" in her book, from something that not only marks a happy time or an act of God to something that notes or highlights things of importance, even when those are hard things. This makes celebration into something I'm more familiar with. 

Most of my celebrations are little things: daily writing, a prayer that I pray almost every morning that reminds me of God's presence, Dave's and my ritual before bed of recounting the best and worst moments of every day. They don't have much in common except that they're regular, they're important for me, and they usher me into the presence of God.

They're not enough. I want more celebrating, more marking and noting and deliberate focusing in my life right now. But I suppose where I am is a place to start, since being with God is never a bad thing.




GIY button

(I finally found the button!)



16 September 2010

How I Know I'm a Mama

Little faces haunt my TV screen. Hungry faces, faces stretched old by illness and strains that small people shouldn't have to carry. Sobs rise, unbidden and uncontrollable, hardly mine yet coming from my mouth and shaking my teeth until they chatter.

Pictures, online, of little people chained to beds. We don't always handle disability well in my country, but we often do better than some places, where the sheer workload disabled babies create overwhelms. I see them, and I can hardly speak for hours. I pray, over and over, "Jesus, be with those babies," because there's nothing else to say that makes any sense.

A friend, one of the first I connected with in blog-world, writes of her own broken-hearted baby. Safe now, still inside her, soon that will change as they're whisked into the world of surgeries and tubes and heart monitors. There's a hard ball in my stomach when I read her posts, anguish that words and tears and even pounding fists can't ever, ever say.

I'm not one of those girls who always knew I'd make a great mama. I wanted kids, wanted to hold little hands and change little diapers and play silly games, but I never felt quite sure that I'd be any good at it.

The feeling only intensified when my daughter was born in January. I've written before about the bewildering months after she was born, months where I knew I loved her but I couldn't feel it for all the anxiety and fear that crept in. 

I didn't feel much like her mother at first. I didn't feel like I knew her better than anyone else did, and I wondered, in the quiet stillness of many dark nights, if she should have been given to someone else, to a mama who was meant to be a mama, to someone who could hear the difference in her cries (I still can't), and to someone who spoke "baby" as a native, because it was all I could do to fumble around and ask for the bathroom. 

As the bewilderment wore off and I began to find my way around motherhood, I thought the intense feelings surrounding children's pain would wear off. They began with my daughter's birth, with the flood  of hormonal changes that accompanies it, and I thought they'd wane as things settled. I thought I'd lose that sensitivity, extreme even for a soul that's been sensitive since the beginning, as my heart settled in.

Feelings, though, are a gift. They hold something for us, even when they're negative and overwhelming, some kernel of truth that we need to know and accept to life a life rich and full. My feelings haven't waned, haven't even lessend in intensity, and so I went hunting for that kernel, for something to make sense of the fact that seeing or feeling children in pain can send me reeling for days. 

When I see babies hurt, I want to take them in, to my life and my heart and my home, and ease their pain. And I see my own girl's eyes in their faces, her hands and her ears in theirs, and I can't stand the thought of her hurting that way. And I think of mothering hurting children, of holding hands and trying to ease pain and confusion when you can't take it away. 

Turns out, I'm a mama, as deep and wide as any that's ever been.

Linking with Emily and (a day late) with Ann . . .








holy experience

10 September 2010

Better Late than Never



Labor Day we spent in the sun, soaking it and each other in. We walked by the sea, and by homes so large we realized we wouldn't even want them, and we were thankful for our small lives, for normal and daily and little and good.

I'm also thankful for these:

  • the amazing little personality emerging in the baby
  • how he always thinks I can do it, even when I'm ready to walk away
  • how she sleeps on her tummy now, knees curled under like she's about to crawl away (and sometimes she does, across her crib and in her sleep)
  • the clouds that didn't burn off today
  • the joys of "hot" in the fall: hot tea, hot coffee, hot soup
  • that we're finally all sleeping through the night
  • finding new "favorite places" even after I've lived here more than 10 years
  • anticipating a move to "I know not where"
  • new connections and meanings for my daughter's name (Mirren = Mary)
  • Thai yellow curry with potatoes
  • little turtle faces poking out
  • my soft pillow every night

08 September 2010

The Lived-in Life



There is a peace and a rhythm that comes with choosing to live in today's moments without trying to escape them or make them into something they're not. It's a slow, settled feeling, more akin to earth than heaven, that creeps up so slowly I don't realize it's there until I feel a golden, heavy feeling in my middle.

Compassion comes, for the drippy-nosed babe who doesn't understand why she can't breathe. Love comes, for he who holds my hands and doesn't fail even when we forget that walking on quicksand isn't normal. Contentment comes, between one folded shirt and the next.

The fruit of a life lived-in, not lived-around or lived-near, mirrors the fruits of our Savior-God himself. And those fruits fill the soul from the center out. I imagine, eventually, it will overflow, sending rivulets and then streams and rivers of fullness to all who come to partake.

All this, from a life I would change so much about if it were up to me. Truly, all's grace.



The prose may be imperfect, but you may find your heart there anyway.

07 September 2010

Contemplation is a Dangerous Thing

In Chapter 3 of God in the Yard, L.L. Barkat talks about contemplation. And I'm here to tell you today that contemplation is a dangerous thing. 

I don't know what Mary was doing when the angel came, but I like to think that she was taking a quiet moment, maybe somewhere between breakfast and lunch, maybe hanging up clothes to dry and appreciating how the rhythm of the work set her mind free to roam. And then an angel appeared, like that, and changed her life.

I can't help but think that Mary didn't plan to carry the Christ-child. She didn't plan to be pregnant before her marriage, and she didn't plan to always have to live with that. Her dreams were probably modest: maybe she wanted to be married, to have her own home, to have kids running around in a few years. Maybe she wanted to care for her parents into their old age, to learn as much as she could about God, to learn to mix a mean hummus.

I don't know what she wanted to do and who she wanted to be, but I do know that it all got turned on its head when that angel was done making his proclamation. Gone, probably forever, was Mary's good name. For all she knew, Joseph would go, too, and with him her dreams of home and family. And she'd have a baby, but not in the way or the time that she wanted, and he wouldn't be much like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.

Her future looked pretty dark, too. Without a husband and having gotten pregnant before she was married, she'd be a pariah. She'd probably stay in her father's home, until he died, and then get some grudging care from a brother or a male cousin. She'd be among the least, though, the ones most in need of love and charity (and the ones her son later cared for so tenderly).

In spite of the muffled crashing sounds her dreams made when they hit her dusty floor, she bowed her head and said, "Yes, Lord." Actually, she said, "May it be unto me according to your word."

I don't think Mary was an idiot. Stunned, maybe, and shocked that an angel would come visit her, but not stupid. She knew what her words meant and the cost her submission could exact up on her dreams, her life, and her future, and she said them anyway.

If you know the story of Mary, you know that God put things back together. Joseph didn't abandon her, so she wasn't shamed. Whether you believe she had any more children depends on the particular tradition you follow. Eventually she watched that baby, the one who rocked her world, die humiliated on the cross. And I'm sure she saw him raised again, walking and moving among his people.

But her life changed that day. And it changed not only because God chose her, but because she was willing to release her dreams and grasp on to his. That's not to say that we shouldn't have dreams and we shouldn't do what we can to make them happen. But it is to say that we don't know the whole story, and that the life God calls us to, even if he doesn't do it through the booming voices of angelic messengers, may have gifts that we won't see if we don't submit to him and be present in it.

So contemplation is a dangerous thing, because it opens us to what God is offering right now, in this present moment. And if we talk hold of that, who knows where it will lead and how many dreams we'll have to sacrifice to follow it.

03 September 2010

Summer Storm

You speak of love
and your words are wet and heavy.
Silver runnels slide over
shoulders, back, buttocks, thighs,
cleansing cobwebbed self-doubt
from places I'd forgot.

Fat and cool,
dropping like summer rain from a storm that
boils up over the mountains in the afternoon,
soaking skin before
I even think to hide.

I am drenched,
beyond hope and power,
hopelessly soaked,
though skin to bone,
and beyond,
to the center and I-know-not-what.

The day's plans ruined,
I can run inside,
where dry clothes and
protection from the elements await,
and forget the drops
that splash across my nose.
Or I can stand out here,
silent and alone
and let them run down my skin in
rivulets and rivers and streams,
world without end.

Amen.

02 September 2010

Wrestling On

Several years ago found me deeply involved in practicing martial arts. Eventually, I got a 2nd degree black belt in a fairly obscure art, got married, and quite practicing. But I loved almost every minute of being there.

I loved the freedom of karate, the feeling it developed in me that I could handle whatever came my way. My body loved it, too, as I constantly pushed its limits and found that it could do more than I’d ever thought. I loved all of it - the tradition, the discipline, the camaraderie, the workout.

All of it, that is, except the sparring. I was never more than mediocre when it came to meeting others in the ring. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the technique or even the ability, but that the energy scared me. Aggression could fly, and some people had better control of themselves and their feelings than others. I did spar, because I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to advance, but I would rather have done almost anything else.

All of that to say that wrestling with God isn’t one of my strong points. And yet wrestling is where I find myself lately.

If I do say so myself, I've done a rather good job talking up normal life recently. It seems so clear to me how polluted my own mind has become with the ideas that I need something exciting or adventurous to happen in my life so I can create some meaning. And it seems even more clear how our culture is permeated with these ideas, how most westerners of my general demographic feel these things, at least to some extent.

It's so clear that normal days should be our focus, but it's so hard to actually focus there.

I find myself in an situation where the temptation to look beyond my normal days runs rampant. My husband lost his job in June and we're for-sure moving in December, when he's done with his Master's degree program. It's so much easier for me to imagine us doing something exotic and exciting, like taking our savings to travel the world, rather than thinking about him getting another job, us settling somewhere new, and finding more normal days wherever we end up.

I see him getting a world changing job, or at least a world traveling one, and Mirren and I following along in tow. I see God calling him to something big and fun and exciting, where he'll get a lot of recognition and even more praise. I see exotic locales, substantial sums of money, and never having to wonder again what we're about or why we're trudging this path.

It doesn't help that I find myself more and more dissatisfied with where I am professionally, spiritually, financially, and physically. I thought I’d have done more by this point in my life and the fact that I haven’t leaves me confused. And the more dissatisfied and confused I become, the more I look to something outside of my normal days to bring what I’m looking for.

And so I’m struggling against the life God has for me right now. It feels like a fight that I'm losing and I don't quite know why I can't just accept what I have and what is in front of me when I know it to be so good.

Maybe this is why the story of Jacob wrestling with God feels so apt. Right now I’m trying to push against what I know God is doing and the places where I know he’s working. And I don't know how to give up. I don't know how to let him win. Maybe that's why God touched Jacob’s hip - that was the only way Jacob would stop fighting and move on into the life God had for him. I'm afraid, though, of how I'm going to be wounded, of how things are going to come and hit me, of what I'm going to have to carry throughout the rest of my life because I can't stop fighting now.

The thing is, though, I don't ever see that story as a bad thing. Maybe there was a better way, but Jacob couldn't take it. Maybe there's a possible world where he trusted God and walked across the river to meet his brother knowing that the Almighty was at his back. But he couldn't do it in this world. And that's where I'm at - I think there's a better way, but I can't currently take it. No matter how much I see that it’s the normal days that are important, I still want more. I still have this sinful heart that believes lies and, while telling myself the truth is well and good, it's not making much of a dent right now.

So I'm wrestling with God through the twilight and into the night. My life isn't what I want it to be, and that ideal life doesn't seem to be coming. I don't like what I have. I want something else. I don't feel like God is here, like he cares about me and where I'm at and where I'm going, and I don't want to live the life that he's calling me to. And I don't know how to move forward. I feel like it's somewhere between midnight and 4AM and we're still wrestling. The dark reaches of the night, and we're wrestling on.