Friday, May 30, 2014

Shopping with my Friend (A Mother's Gaze)


She stands, arms
outstretched under
fluorescent lights,
holding up
the empty shorts,
the t-shirts and tanks.

Her mother-eyes focus
on what is not there,
gauging the cloth's
ability to hold, to hug,
the ones she loves.

Her gaze is fixed
just past the things she holds,
imagining the shape
of belly, theigh,
chest and shoulders,
practicing the maternal art
of reconstruction.

We cannot see
the child she sees,
we do not know his dimensions,
all we can see is the love-struck gaze
that brings someone into being
out of nothing. 

This post is linked with Five Minute Friday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For the Doubtful Gardener and Precarious Beginnings




The paper seed packet read, “Mesclun Mix” and pictured a leafy assortment of lettuces.  The seeds themselves were miniscule, small balls the size of a pin’s head, little shards and spikes in a variety of colors. 

I shook them loose into the ground, filling-in short lines where the buttery Boston Bib failed to sprout. 

I was doubtful at best, pulling back the matted layers of dead grass that covered the dense soil.  This is our first year of gardening in this field that has grown grass, dense and soft like carpet, for years now. 

Using a power-house tiller that belonged to my Grandfather, my husband turned the earth two, three times over.  But still, I had to stand on the shovel and jump to dig holes for the small tomato and pepper plants.

Crumbling moist dirt gently around them I remembered my recent introduction to the traditions of Celtic spirituality, how they had a blessing for nearly everything – a blessing for lighting the fire in the morning, a blessing for washing one’s face, a blessing for the planting of a garden. 

I’m afraid we modern peoples have lost the practice of blessing. 

We live in a world hungry for and deprived of good words freely given.  We gather, grab and cling to the good in our lives, forgetting it takes an open hand to give, an open hand to receive.

I was kneeling already, my knee poking through the rip in my jeans, chilled and scraped by the dirt, so I said a blessing.

I prayed that this small plot of earth would remember, be re-awakened to its potential for growing more than grass.  I prayed for precarious beginnings and pictured the spidery webbed roots of each plant merging with the darkness around it. 

Come wind,
Come spirit,
Come sun and rain,
Come bless this place
and the life that grows in it.

I laid my hand upon the earth, the seeds, the plants and whispered goodness over them.

How long has it been, dear friend, since you received a blessing?  How long since you spoke goodness into your own life, into another? 

May you be blessed.
May you be re-awakened
to the potential of your life,
the potential of you.  
May every beginning you make
be a doorway to life.  
May you grow deep roots
and open hands so that you also
may bless another. 

This post is linked with #TellHisStory.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trust Matters

 


It was mid-April 2013 when we sat at the kitchen table with our realtor discussing price points and all of the other details of listing our house for sale. Timing was important to me, I wanted to sell and buy quickly, to have it all said and done by the time school started again in the fall.  That gave us about five months.

But we had to list our house and get it under contract before we could even really start looking for a new home, ie. we had to let go of one thing before grabbing on to the next, and this had me worried.

As the meeting was winding down, the realtor tucking our details into a nondescript manila folder, I let the smallest bit of my anxiety slip out.  "I'm just afraid we won't find something," I said.

I don't know why I said it, I knew no promises could be made.  Maybe I thought saying it aloud would be enough to make the fear go away. 

Our realtor spoke up then, in a move that surprised me.  "Don't worry," he said, "you're in good hands."

(I think he felt like he had to say something.)

I looked at him then, this man a good bit younger than us with no wife and no children and knew he couldn't begin to understand the weight of my concern.

But his words did help.

It wasn't his hands I pictured, but His hands and that was enough to remind me of the One we were trusting as we leaned and leapt toward something new.

//

Maybe you know the story by now, how we didn't find a house in time and nearly missed finding an apartment before that same realtor welcomed us to rent one of his.  I'll always wonder whether he remembered what he said at that table, whether he felt any obligation because of his words.

He was hesitant and we were desperate and so he played the dual role of realtor and landlord while we continued to hunt for houses.

As time passed and we failed to find a home, people felt the need to point out the obvious - that it benefited him for us to continue to rent.  They asked gentle and leading questions like, "Are you sure you trust your realtor?"


//

When we lost the farm house, the one that felt perfect, I sent John an email:

"I know this isn't helpful, but I'm not sure I can work with him any more . . ."

I didn't think he'd cheated us, didn't really think it was his fault.  But sometimes when you can't do one thing (i.e. buy a house) you really want to do something else (i.e. find a new realtor) just to feel like you still have a little power left.

We hung in there though and he drove us to see houses in a wider and wider circumference from the places we really wanted to call home.

//
   
A month later he called with the impossibly good news - the fail-proof deal had fallen through and we now had the exclusive opportunity to bid on the farm house before it went back on the market.  Within days we were under contract and seven weeks later we met at a local lawyer's office for closing.

It all seemed too good to be true, it WAS too good to be true and I felt strangely giddy as the room filled with more and more official looking people dressed to the nines.  Our lawyer, two bankers, a lawyer and realtor for the estate and our realtor and mortgage broker filled the room with quiet chatter while my husband and I signed a hefty stack of papers.

I wanted to giggle (and nearly did) and then I wanted to cry.  Looking up, my eyes came to rest on a water bottle I'd picked up in the waiting area - one of the fancy ones with a special label advertising for the business that handed it out.  Beneath the lawyer's name was their slogan in big, bold letters, "Trust Matters."

I thought back to that evening at our dining room table, to the fear I felt then and the worries that hovered for nine months straight.  We hung in there though, because we trusted.  We trusted our realtor, we trusted each other and most of all, we learned in newer and deeper ways, to trust in God.

Trust matters, my friends, trust in the One who holds us, trust despite the fear and worry.  Trust is the road the leads us on shaking legs beyond the reach of our own sufficiency.

I have dear friend and sister in Christ who's starting a long and difficult journey toward health and healing -  she is being invited to grow in trust.  Click here: Help me be half the woman I am today to read her story, share it, offer words of encouragement or donate.  How is God inviting YOU to grow in trust?  

This post is linked with Playdates with God and Unforced Rhythms.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Growing Season



“I’m feeling the invitation to sow seeds,” I said to a friend and mentor.  

//

Every year my husband plants the garden.  

The children swarm around him like insects, digging and dumping seeds and then, later, when what has been done has been done, I tend it, making the most or more of what is. 

As a “maximizer,” this is what I do best, improving upon what is.  I’m not a starter, not a planter, I do not want to face the blank space alone, to feel the weight of all of that potential. 

But as I told my friend, I recently felt God pushing me on that. 

//

The key to sowing, is the open hand, the willingness to let the potential and possibility of each seed fall and scatter; the key to sowing is in surrender and letting go, then waiting to see. 

No wonder I’m not keen on it. 

//

“But what if ALL of these seeds grow?  It'll be too much.” My voice rises in challenge to the task at hand.

God and I stand in the open field beside our house, freshly tilled soil at our feet, rolling hills scalloping the sky in the distance.

“It’s not the plants I’m worried about Kelly, open your hand,” God replies. 

“There must be a right way to do this,” I add, turning toward the house, “Let me go check on-line.  Maybe it’s still too cold.”

“Hey!” God says, with firmness now, “plant the seeds.”

Back at the garden now I bend, seeds in hand, but hesitating still, “How deep should they be?  How far apart?  I don’t know enough.”

God reaches down to where my fist is frozen shut, sweaty, and pulls my fingers open.  The seeds fall in a clump, some sticking to my hand.  

We continue in this way. 

God shakes seeds from the paper packets into my open hand, the impossibly tiny carrot seeds, the large, lumpy cucumber and zucchini.  Then we bend and my fist that closes reflexively is gently pried open and we sow the seeds together.

“See how the ground catches and holds them?” God says, “See how many there are?”

God moves steadily as though the seeds will never run out, as though it isn’t where or how they land that matters most, but simply the fact of throwing them. 

Slowly I begin to believe it too, that this motion of sowing, scattering what is and waiting with faith, THIS is what matters most. 

A steady rain starts just as the last seeds are in and God and I stand watching from the porch. 

The sowing is done.  Some seeds will grow, others will not.  Some will be food for the birds and squirrels, others were duds to begin with and some will grow into the hardy plants that will feed our family through summer and fall. 

But, for now, it’s the sowing that matters, the opening of the hand, again and again. 

//

Later in the season, I excel at the close-handed jobs – the quick slashing of the hoe, the tight grasping and sharp yank needed to pull a weed out by its roots.  Pleased with my work, I look up to see if God is watching me. 

Lounging in the shade with a tall glass of iced tea at his side and book in hand, God seems unimpressed. 

“’Lotta weeds out here,“ I call.

God glances my way and smiles before returning to his read.

I continue, sweating and slashing at weeds, taming the wild garden until the blisters rise and break in the soft flesh of my palms.  Exhausted at last and a little peeved with God’s nonchalance, I toss myself down on the grass nearby. 

A few minutes pass before God speaks, “You are good at those things, good at tending the chaos, at discerning between weed and vine.  You tend your garden well.”  

There’s a heavy pause as the long-sought praise sinks in. 

“But I am concerned,” God says, the words unfolding slowly like a flower's bud, “with the one necessary thing.”  

//

So it goes, year after year.  Some years the garden flourishes, some years it does not and most years it is a terrible mixed-up mess somewhere between the two, but always it starts with the one necessary thing, the opening of my hand.  

What part of gardening do you prefer?  Planting, tending, harvest?

This post is linked with Playdates With God , Unforced Rhythms and Trusting Tuesdays for OneWord 365  (my OneWord this year is 'Open').

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We Don't Lick Each Other (The British are Coming!)


 

There are times, as a parent, when you need to establish norms. 

Simple things like the appropriate surfaces for disposing of boogers, whether one may or may not fart on other people, and whether spontaneously licking another human being is ever appropriate.    

So when, for instance, I see Levi lick his brother’s check, I make a firm and direct proclamation, “We don’t lick each other!” 

Or when someone picks their nose while I’m reading to them at bed time and proceeds to wipe it on the wall, I might say, “We don’t wipe our boogers on the wall.” 

As I said, sometimes you need to establish norms. 

While other families may do as they please (Licking? Why, yes, please.   Booger’s on the wall?  Of course, that’s fine art to me!) we here are choosing to dance to a different drum. 

//

“Only 19 and ½ more days of school!” my daughter said.

She may as well have been Paul Revere screaming his midnight warning, so great was my alarm. 

Good God, I thought, where have I been? What’s happened?  The hour draweth nigh!

The British, indeed, are coming. 

The British are coming and they are demanding to be entertained, to be vacation-bible-schooled and swim-lessoned, to be play-dated and day-tripped and, good Lord, I am unprepared. 

Nineteen and a half more days and me without a plan.

//

So I decided to establish some norms.

We are doing SLOW this summer.  We are eating ice cream on the porch and watching storms move through.  We are catching fireflies (if we let them stay up late enough) and getting bored enough to use our imaginations.  We are camping in the back yard because it is FREE and state-parking because it also is FREE. 

We are doing KINDNESS, which is a spacious sort of thing that pairs well with SLOW and the NON-LICKING of other people.  It will take practice and there will be sure-misses, but KINDNESS is also free and I plan to help us all be prodigal in its dispensation by the time fall rolls around.

We are practicing GENTLENESS which, good Lord, is a long enough word to be out of fashion these days, but necessary also for when our KINDNESS slips and SLOW starts to feel like stagnation.  We will not hit when we are farted on, though we may hit (its reflexive) if we are bitten. 

We are doing HOME this summer, because we’ve waited so long to find one and because having a home means making one which isn’t something that can be done without a little presence.  We will be HOME and unhappy and scraping the boogers off the wall.  Then we will still be HOME and laughing as we tell about the ones who ate their boogers and the ones who used them to decorate.  We will be HOME when the first hail storm tears through and when the first peas are ripe for picking.  We will be HOME for skinned knees and sibling frustrations, HOME for sharing and collaboration. 

We will ALL work hard, because I'm not a martyr in the making and we will knock-off before the work is done because, let's face it, it will never really be done. 

We will do vacation bible school and swim lessons and vacation, but they are not our norms, not the hub that holds the spokes of our summer together. 

The British are coming, but don’t worry, it’s ok.  There’ll be almost no licking, I promise. 

What are your family’s summer norms?