27 January 2011

Grey Day

Grey clouds, of heart and soul, and outside too, for that matter. It feels much later than it is, on this stretched day when I can't find the reason for the stretching.

"I want to be a better mother," I said yesterday, and I meant it. The new tech, with it's tiny glowing screen and oh-so frustrating conglomeration of competing buttons and applications ate the day, the day I'd meant to spend with her.

He's gone, three long weeks of soul-searching, and I love him all the more for it. All on his own, no tech, not even a phone, praying and thinking and feeling. I wonder how he'll come back, if I'll recognize the eyes or if they'll tell me how different he is. I pray she knows him, changed or not, and shrieks when she sees her daddy coming like she shrieks when she sees a puppy.

And so my days are grey, without him. Technology is small substitute, though one that fills the emptiness . . . with more emptiness that doesn't feel like emptiness, at least not until the day is over and there's not much rattling in the soul.

23 January 2011

Detoxifying Hiddenness

I've said it before and I don't mean to harp on the point, but 2010 was a difficult year for us. Seeing it there, in those black and white letters, "difficult year" seems so far understated that I struggle to connect it to the events of that last 15 months.

You may have noticed that I haven't continued my series of God in the Yard posts. It's not because I haven't been reading the book, trust me. I've read chapter 8, "Cycle:sabbath" over and over, but haven't been able to make heads or tails of it. The words tumbled into my mind, rattled around a bit, and then seemed to dissipate like so much ether. I couldn't grasp them, couldn't find meaning that didn't become mist the moment I tried to articulate it.

And then we moved, cross-country, embracing unknown because it seemed better than what we had but, more than that, because we heard the echoes of a call we couldn't yet understand but that we could still choose to follow. I read the chapter again, curled up in this new-old room (we're living with family for the moment), and the meaning became conscious, like tipping over an iceberg to find the immensity underneath.

L.L. Barkat talks about the Sabbath as an act of hiding, as opposed to absence. It's a day to "veil our work for a time, the way night hides the things of day, and it is okay."

Forget a day. That phrase, friends, feels like a description of the entire last year.

Ok, it's not perfect. We didn't exactly choose to walk away from our jobs (though in some ways we did). We didn't choose to send our dreams up in smoke, or even to set them aside. We didn't choose pain and depression and sickness and difficulty and fear.

But we have felt hidden. Oh, have we felt hidden! Shoved under the bed like the Velveteen Rabbit when the boy forgot about him, more like. Missed. Forgotten. Ignored. Unseen. Over and over and over again.

Our temptation - my temptation - runs twofold. Either God has better people, more charismatic people, more gifted people, people who represent him better, and there's nothing left for us when he's doled out tasks to them, or he's ashamed of us, somehow, hiding us under the blanket so the world doesn't see.

This hiddenness has not felt good. It has not felt okay. It has not felt like a gift. But I read Barkat's words and wondered if maybe, just maybe, it was.

Enforced Sabbath. It's not an idea I'm comfortable with, but it sends shivers up and down my spine that I realize are reverberations. Resonance.

"Sabbath is a weekly invitation to go nowhere," she says, "to believe that hiddenness is part of presence . . . in the sense of rhythm that sees nowhere-somewhere, presence-hiddenness, as inextricably linked, with God on both sides of the dance."

If Sabbath is a chance to see this once a week in daily life, part of the reason we have a Sabbath is to see how these cycles play out in the rest of life. So, while I don't think our difficult year is a Sabbath, precisely, it plays out this same cycle. Right now, we're nowhere, hidden from the world and success and even ourselves, sometimes. But that's not the end of the story. And maybe, just maybe, we are headed somewhere.

It seems, then, that two choices lie before us when we think God has forgotten us: we can claim hurt and anger, let them simmer into bitterness, and forget God right back, or we can remember the cycle, the one we're to live out weekly, and settle into the hidden time while waiting for him to come back.

For me, I choose the second. Living it out is hard, like living out anything that requires embracing paradox. But Barkat's words remind me of what I would have known if I was a good Sabbath practitioner: God doesn't leave, and He doesn't forsake, but sometimes He covers us for a time and asks us to trust Him for the uncovering.

GIY button

Joining also with Ann in naming grace. Grace is . . . 

 . . . gappy baby teeth
 . . . friends who pray
 . . . an array of choices where there used to be none
 . . . living in the land of fabulous clouds
 . . . a cross-country network of friends
 . . . books that make it feel like home
 . . . tree symmetry revealed
 . . . how story reveals truth and truth is the best story 
 . . . he, who embraces the Hard in the name of the future

holy experience

09 January 2011


Hope is a funny sort of thing. It springs up at you, out of nowhere sometimes, to tackle you around the waist and hold you down until you listen to what it has to say.

I wrestle with hope, most often through early morning hours. I don't want it to claim me, don't want it to grab me from behind and I don't want to listen to what it's telling me.

Hope can cost quite a bit, Disappointment stings to the core, makes me wonder if I dreamed it all up in the first place. I've followed hope before, and tasted only gall.

But learning not to hope has it's downsides, too. Without hope, life is dark, dreary. It weighs more than it should, more than it needs to. And everything becomes anticipatory of Bad Things, the kind that lurked under bed and in closets when I was a child.

When Mirren was born, I lost sight of hope. I couldn't find it, not for her or for me or for the two of us together. I knew it was there, I could feel it, smell it, taste it, but I couldn't see it and I certainly couldn't grab it.

For months, hope and I fought. We wrestled, though that dark time when I so much wanted to feel like it was a new day. Like Jacob, I couldn't see what was attacking me. I couldn't feel the thing that so badly wanted me in its grip. Instead, I just tried to keep my footing through the next round, knowing morning had to come eventually.

Also like Jacob, I emerged from that fight with a strange sort of victory. A new name, a new piece of me, more resilient and positive than the pieces I've known before. And a year of struggle, so profound in some ways that I may limp from it for the rest of my life, though in the end I think it will make me stronger, not bitter and lost and sad.

For all that I couldn't find hope when things looked better than they do now, these days I find it everywhere.

Today, hope took the face of a little girl discovering balloons. Shrieks of joy echoed through the halls, and hope unfurled a tendril that played, gentle-like, through my hair. When I saw Dave go shovel snow for the sheer joy of it (he'd never done it before), the tendril began to wrap around me. And when I watched the sleepy girl giggling on her back on the floor because it was too much effort to get up, I gave in and let it hold me.

May you be held tonight, friends, no matter your struggle.

05 January 2011

New Life

It's a long time, I've been gone from this space. Long in days and weeks, but also long in distance from the previous life.

New job, new state, new rooms. We stuffed boxes, filled a truck, drove cross-country, had our car stolen, listened to the baby bark. Then we unstuffed the boxes, learned how to live with one car, watched it snow and felt the cold tingle up our arms and legs, and held the baby so she could sleep.

And now we're here. Down one car and some possessions we probably didn't need anyway, though my heart grieves the original art pieces we'll probably never see again. They're most likely in a dumpster somewhere, valuable only to those who could see with our eyes. But we're up a new life, a new start, a place to begin again, and I value that beyond the car and the TV and the microwave and even all of Dave's tools and his dress clothes.

There's power in beginning again.

I feel like I need to say that one more time, for me and maybe for you, too. There's power in beginning again.

I don't pretend to think that we leave everything behind, that the shadow of this last 14 months won't continue to influence how we think and feel and see and pray (or if we pray - I'm the first to tell you that it's hard to pray when God seems like a wall). But I feel like we can breathe here, like there's some space for us to heal and seek and, if we're blessed with it, to find.

And maybe that's enough - to live in these moments, to hold them close and let them be and just receive for a bit, where we've been struggling with what's been taken.

I think that's what we're to do this year - to live. Just live. To breathe in each day as it comes, each hour and each moment, and then move on to the next. To release everything that last year was and wasn't, and find what we have now. To let the hard, hurt places release and become soft again. To let it be what it was, without trying to make it into something it wasn't.

So here's to life, my friends, and the living of it.

I love that Imperfect Prose is back just as I'm posting again. Serendipitous.