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.

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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.

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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.


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


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.