30 August 2010

Days Like Today

Day like today, I don't know what to write. 

Day after weekend overwhelming, crying because babe won't eat, our tears mingling, hers and mine, over a spattered plastic tray. Day after night awake because she's awake, teeth hurting and time-to-play, Mama. Again our tears, hers in her bed and mine in mine, praying that we both would rest. Day after beach party long, where we left before it was over because the wind came cold and little feet froze.

Day where back-to-work feels weary and I long, again, to make our house a home and not wilt behind this desk. 

Day where answering "how are you?" feels like a litany of what-went-wrong and I'm tired of living in that place. 

Day like today, I'm thankful for:

Air conditioning
Trinkets on my desk that remind me of friends who send love
Baby, curled and sleeping, when I left this morning
Finally beginning to settle into our fall schedule
Good conversations with new friends
Remembering to laugh with him
Fish tacos
Prayer that's like breath
How he calls to check up on me
This, because it made me laugh this morning

28 August 2010

Rules and Redemption

"God forgive me for that . . . and that . . . and that."

So went my thoughts, that year I turned 7. 

The way it ran in my head seemed so simple. Simple and terrifying.

Christians were supposed to be good. When they weren't, they were supposed to ask God for forgiveness.

But everywhere I looked in my heart and my life, even then, I knew I wasn't good. And so I asked God for forgiveness, frantically and constantly, so that if I died I wouldn't go to hell.

Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, but my young prayers weren't what he meant. Those prayers had little to do with being God's child and knowing him and everything to do with my little self striving to appease his anger. I was compulsive, praying and praying but feeling like I could never be clean.

Even then, I saw the good-and-bad motivations that made up the reasons behind most of my actions, and I couldn't reconcile them with what I'd learned about God and his expectations. It seemed clear to me that I wasn't good enough, that I never would be, and so I prayed on and on and on.

My relationship with God wasn't the only place where I tried to follow the rules. Rules have always played a strange roll in my world. I see them both as the path to success, approval, and achievement and as the most soul-binding things on this earth. 

I spent most of my young life trying to follow the rules and feeling so tied up in my trying that I felt lost. Everywhere I went, I'd find out what the rules for acceptance and success were in that particular place. I got so good at it, and so good at following them (or at least looking like I was following them) that I became a rule-chameleon. Whatever you were supposed to do at home-church-school-work, I did.  

As a mechanism for giving my sensitive little self the stability I craved and helping me succeed in social situations where my introverted self didn't naturally know that to do, finding and following the rules worked. It took an incredible amount of energy to watch people that closely and conform my behavior to the standards I found, but it worked. At the cost of knowing myself and engaging in life from my middle, it worked. 

Given all of that, I hope you can understand why, when it comes to spiritual practice and relationship with God, I don't do rules anymore. I can't. In fact, it feels like marked growth on my part that I didn't throw God in the Yard across the room when I saw that Chapter 2 was entitled, "Rules: the way."

I did brace myself, though, as I waited to hear about what yet another author thought I had to do to find God. 

Maybe you can imagine my relief when L. L. Barkat chose a wandering way, when she said, "my job is not so much to practice a rigid set of disciplines as to pay attention." Maybe, though I kind-of doubt it.

Inner-me jumped. Yes, please. Sign me up.

With all those years of scrutinizing others behavior to learn the unspoken rules, paying attention is something I can do.

I wish I could tell you how little me found freedom from her compulsive prayers, but I can't. I don't know. What I do know is this: one day, the compulsion was there, and I remember feeling like I was going to snap in two from the strain. And the next day it wasn't. 

I didn't do anything to earn my freedom and I certainly didn't deserve it. Instead, it was given as a gift from One who was paying attention to me. And if he can pay that much attention to one little girl, certainly I can pay a modicum of attention to him, the universe's God.

26 August 2010

May You Wander, My Friends

Sorting, lugging, lifting, carrying, folding.

Laundry day, in this household of three. Shirts and pants and blankets, all neat now, stacked and sorted.


I wish it stopped there.

But it doesn't, and for that I hate laundry. It's not the work that's so awful, but the fact that it's never done. So what if all of the clothes in the basket are clean, because now the ones we're wearing are dirty. And before I'm even done with the folding, before I've matched the corners and put everything into closets just-so, there's something else that couda-been, shoulda-been, woulda-been washed.

And the pile starts again.

Things that I can't check off my list bother me. Things like laundry and groceries and cooking and scrubbing. Some days, life feels like an endless loop of tasks that I cannot possibly finish.

I'm a shortest-distance-between-two-points-is-a-straight-line kind of woman. I'm not so big on the journey, especially once I've arrived at my destination. I don't rest well until the list is done, or at least until I've checked off enough that I feel like I might have earned the chance to relax.

But destinations are hard to come by in this life. When will I really be a writer? When I'm published? Well, that didn't happen. When I get a check for my words? Not then either. When I have a book all my own? I doubt it. 

In fact, some of the most important things we do in life are things we can't check off a list because they're things that are never done. Caring for a family. Loving people. Becoming whole. We're never there, just  wandering in a generally "there-ward" direction.

To wander is to see things differently. 

When I wander, while I may have a destination in mind, I'll stop and enjoy things on the way. When I wander, I can be distracted but it's ok because the distractions add a richness and a texture to my life that I wouldn't have otherwise. When I wander, sometimes I end up arriving somewhere other than where I'd intended.

Wandering is harder than going directly, because it means I might miss out on my goals. The Great Good that I see off in the distance might never be mine. I may get mired in the slop of everyday life, the mess that living life with other people brings. I might decide that the goal wasn't so important anyway, that the life I have is enough. I might even decide that I don't want it after all.

But when I wander, like a child wandering with her crayon across the paper, creating spirals and lines and freedom, I find today. When this day and this moment aren't just stepping stones to something more, aren't necessary but frustrating rest areas along the highway that leads to something better, I can enjoy them. I can let these moments fill me and sustain me, whether for further forward motion or just so I can find another day like today and enjoy it again.

So may we all wander and, in our wanderings, find the gifts this day has to offer. 

Wander on over to Emily's and dabble in wordsmithery with us. 

23 August 2010

Not Morbid, Just Grateful

One day I'll leave this life. We all will. The reality of that, the fact that I won't always wake up in bed next to Dave with a sleepy girl rocking in her crib next door, has been hitting hard lately. I don't know why. I'm not one to dwell on death, though I'm not one to avoid the thoughts when they come, either. But the realization makes these days, these moments, all the more precious. If I found out I was going to die in 30 days, I hope I wouldn't change a thing except to spend more time taking notice of and delight in the life that I get to lead every day.

for Earl Grey in the cup
for a scramble-crawling baby
that a friend and mentor is back and well
for Mirren's sweet face and rocking in her crib when I came to get her
for colored paper
for God's smile upon me
for the hope Dave and I have found in recent days
for water to drink that is crisp and clear and free of disease
for making new friends
for learning how I am with people (that I am deep and not wide) and learning to accept that
for cider
for Arrested Development
for Miles
for laughing with Dave and remembering how much I love that
for getting enough sleep
for the baby plastered in mangos and bananas, and for the one who rolls around in the night
for two cars that go
for things to write
for being noticed and seen just when I needed to
for Mirren's empathic little heart.

Join us at Ann's for more grateful days.

21 August 2010

Edge Spaces

In the first chapter of her book, God in the Yard, L. L. Barkat talks about edge spaces, "where one habitat meets another - where grass gradually gives way to bushes, which fives way to trees or vice versa."

Edge spaces are the places where change takes place, the spaces where one thing slowly becomes another. Small or large, they're spaces where more than one thing lives, where life of different shapes and forms can grow together and become parts of one whole.

I know what edge spaces are because, right now, my life is an edge space.

This is a year spent straddling different worlds. These are worlds filled with different roles, different callings and places and clothing and companions and food and colors and weather. And slowly, ever so slowly, one sort of life is becoming a different sort of life.

I don't like change. I'm bad at it and I don't like it. If it has to happen, I prefer it to come in one compelling, excruciating moment, and then be over. I like my change to leave me sputtering for air despite the pain that causes, because then it's done. No more anticipating, no more waiting and wondering and worrying about what it will be like, what exactly will happen. Just everything, nothing, and the need to get used to the falling sensation.

Instead I have this. A year (plus or minus) filled with small changes, with changes that I can see coming but can't deal with until they happen. A year of anticipation, and not always a good kind.

Walking through this edge space is tiring. On bad days, I get home from work and all I want to do is watch television, because the blinking electronic box is, at least, manageable. I wonder if this time will end, if we're going somewhere or if this is all an elaborate hoax with no reason or purpose. I want more than this awkward water-treading for my daughter: more energy to play with her, more time to spend with her, more of a life to usher her into. Not to mention wanting more for Dave and I.

But right now we're here, in our enforced edge space. It's the jumping off place of a new pilgrimage for us, I think, even though we're not at the place where we can jump off quite yet. And so I try to find the beauty here, in the sad, spiky gift of a year in transition. Because if God is everywhere, then he's here with us as we shuffle through these puzzle pieces and try to build something sturdy.

Even these days have beauty.
Even these days are glorious winged things,
if only I wasn't blinded
from the sideways glint of light
off shiny, feathered wings.

18 August 2010

Hanging On

A funny thing about this life:
It goes around.
like bi-cycles and tri-cycles
that children ride,
their feet a blur
for pedaling so fast.
and around
and around,
Spinning like the 
merry-go-round at 
summer camp,
and where it stops, nobody knows.

Sometimes we drag our feet,
so we can stop and savor and see.
The world is going
by so fast 
and we want to hold each 

Other times we 
wrap our arms
tight around metal bars
and hope we don't fly off.

Right now we're hanging on, Dave and I. Hope is our grip, and faith the strength of our arms. It's hard, riding this pell-mell tumble of a merry-go-round we've been on for the last 9 months. Our "and then" story, where every time you think you're done something else happens and you have to add another "and then" when you tell it. 

The end will be good when we get there. Worth the ride, I'd bet. I can't wait to tell that part of the story.

16 August 2010

A Dark and Stormy Weekend

Long weekend. Little went as planned, except the hard parts. Baby didn't sleep, the future felt dark, and roads didn't go where they were supposed to and what was supposed to be at the end of them wasn't. But we were together, us three, and that counts for more than you might think . . . more than I once thought it could.

In the aftermath of a weekend that I'd choose to do over if I could, there's still room to give thanks. Today, I'm thankful because:

  • I'm facing the future with him by my side
  • She's almost crawling
  • We have our bedroom back
  • God brings friends even when I'm in places I'd rather not be
  • There's hope for the future, even when I can't see my hand in front of my face for the dark muddle we're standing in now
  • He knows a lot about the weirdest things, and it makes me laugh
  • Love conquers sin and death and joblessness and a crappy economy
  • Morning light soothes my heart and holds my soul
  • Clothes that fit make me feel human again
  • There's space, when I look and listen for it, where I can tell we aren't alone.

Join the joy-song of praise here:

holy experience

11 August 2010

An Empress and Some New Clothes

Daily life is where there's real value. Normal days are beautiful and valid and to be cherished.

Yes and good and true, but it's all just words unless I live it every day, in MY daily life.

I say it. I even know it, on some level, but my bones don't know it. My bones and sinews still live to achieve, to experience, to make meaning instead of finding it. And they only follow my head when it's watching over them, making sure they follow instead of heading off in lockstep the other direction.

Goals are good, I told myself. They'll help you value daily life, help you focus and embrace each moment because you'll be using it to get to somewhere else.

I let myself have the excuse, and wrapped my grubby little fingers around yet another way to escape my own dailyness.

I started striving.

I made a schedule, filled it with all the good things I want to do. Simple things, the praying-eating- exercising-writing things of life. No wild trips to exotic locales for me. I value daily life now.

One day.

It lasted one day. Less than that, actually, before my body screamed and I saw that I was banging my head against the same wall. Different bricks, but the same wall.

Goals are good, but they say, inherently, that now isn't good enough as it is, that the present isn't something to be contented with.

So I slashed my list, leaving the barest skeleton where once it lay fat and growing fatter. I cut the good and the great, leaving only the things that my heart will scream if I erase. That's better . . . now . . . now there's room for the dailyness I'm looking for.


But nothing fit when I got dressed this morning. Nothing work-compatible, anyway.

And trust me, I tried. I tried everything that might work, everything I could possibly fathom spending 6 hours at a desk in. Nothing.

I could have cried. Exercise was on the list, but it had to go. Wife-mama-worker-writer stretches me too far some days. But the baby weight doesn't come off by itself and the clothes still don't fit.

I looked at my list again. Maybe I could fit it . . . no. But there's half an hour . . . no. I can take the baby with me . . . no.

So I wore something uncomfortable and went shopping after work. Because God is the only one who can do it all, and it's a lie that sucks joy out of days when I let myself believe otherwise. Later, maybe, when there's space to stretch and I've let go a little bit. But for now, bigger clothes and some space to grow a bigger heart.

05 August 2010

Where I've Been

They put her on my belly and I waited. I waited for the rush of love and peace and joy and the willingness to throw myself in front of a bus for her that they'd said would come. I watched her, held her, examined the place on her skull where she beat her head against my pelvic bone for an hour, and waited.

It didn't come.

I passed her around that night and the next day, watched family, friends holding her and treasuring her. I held her when she cried and did my best to feed her and help her sleep.

It didn't come.

I took her home, bundled in the precious fuzzy suit with bear ears we'd reserved for the day. I saw her, so small, in her car seat, and adjusted the straps so maybe it would hold her in if we hit something. I watched her sleep, changed her diapers, tried to convince her to eat like the doctors said she should. I bounced and rocked and sung, and felt nothing.

That's not entirely true. I felt more than enough anxiety. She was so small, so needful, so helpless, and I realized in waves of quiet panic that I didn't know what was best for her. I read and talked and tried but books couldn't tell me and neither could anyone else.

Afraid I'd make the wrong choice, I didn't want to be left alone with her. I was afraid I'd miss her cries, that she wouldn't eat, that something awful would happen and she'd get hurt and it'd be all my fault.

I sat with her in the hospital through her kidney infection, watched her learn to smile and laugh and coo, taught her to bat her toys and introduced her to books. I wrote her letters and kept her baby book and dreaded going back to work because I was afraid of what it would do to her, not because I couldn't get enough of her.

I couldn't talk about it, couldn't even find a voice for the waves inside. I kept waking up, walking, going, made it through the days and the weeks. I reached out, reached in, reached up, but the best I could do was tread water. I don't think I knew how hard it was until I'd started to come out. Until I remembered normal, I couldn't see how not-normal I'd been living.

The worst part: I knew I loved her. I could locate love in my soul, I just couldn't feel it. All I could feel was anxiety and dread and fear, and they loomed like an ocean between me and my mama-love.

And then.

And then.

Then it broke. I don't know how or why, just that. Maybe hormones stabilized, maybe I found perspective, maybe I learned she wouldn't break as easy as all that. But I prefer to think that He stepped in, that he intervened and held the waters back so I could cross over and find my love, like Israel crossed the Jordan.

**Find more Imperfect Prose here, on Emily's beautiful blog.**

03 August 2010

Choose the Laughter

Last night, I remembered to laugh with him, to appreciate his trying to be funny through the tired that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us both in this crazy year. He made his joke and I felt the choice rise: to laugh, or push it away, too tired for funny to be funny and for him to reach me.

I chose the smile, let it grow into a little laugh, and watched his eyes. It held him, the reaching me. Humor let the souls touch where they hadn't been touching before. I chose him, in part, because he makes me laugh. And he chose my laugh, this whole-life through.