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. 

GIY button

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. 


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 . . .