Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Humming Hive: Life-giving Work (#Small Wonder Link-up)


Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error!-
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.

- from Last Night as I Was Sleeping, by Antonio Machado

Two batches of oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies.

One box of brownies.

A double-batch of Zuppa Tuscana and another double of Lentil- Spinach Soup.

Cleaning the yard, cleaning the house and mopping for the first time in (gulp) “a while.”

These are the things my husband and I did on Thursday and Friday as we prepared for this weekend’s two writing events.

It was a lot of work.

//

Thursday morning the twins’ preschool hours – the time in which I usually write – were filled with activity.  Late into the afternoon I scooped teaspoonful’s of cookie dough onto well-greased pans.  Into the oven they went, then onto the stovetop to cool, off the pan and into a large Tupperware container. 

I chopped a bagful of potatoes and several onions.  I sautéed and simmered, while washing an endless stream of dishes.  We had frozen pizza for dinner because I was so busy cooking ahead.  The twins were relieved to know all of that soup was not meant for them.

The entire afternoon and on into the evening I spent spinning from counter to stove, sink and oven in that small corner of the kitchen.  At some point, on one of those rounds of cutting and sliding things into a pot, in the midst of washing and rinsing I felt it – something like a happy hive of humming bees buzzing inside my chest. 

“I love this," I thought.

The feeling continued on into the next day – through scooping up the piles of “dog dirt” scattered around the yard, cleaning the toilets and plotting the arrangement of chairs and tables. 

Then the people came.

First Andi – the writer/editor I met last summer.  Andi, who inspired our search for a dream house with the vulnerable sharing of her own dreams.  Andi, who showed me last summer how simple a retreat could be. 

Next came the kids – eleven total.    

The kids were off-the-wall with Friday night fever and a little dose of sass, but when they started writing things grew quiet for a few splendid minutes while colored pencils scratched ideas to life.  

Later, with shinning faces they shared their stories.  My son came to me, leaned in close and whispered his in my ear. 

After they left, silence crept into the corners of the house.  We tucked the folding table and chairs away and slept in the unfamiliar stillness that is a house not filled with children. 

Saturday, more people came, new faces and familiar ones, published authors and people wondering what they were doing here.  Everyone carried hope and doubt, everyone had placed a stake in the ground by the simple act of arrival.

Seated in a large circle in the living room, I was grateful.  I was not stressed. I was not anxious.  I marveled at the gift of presence shared among a group for a few short hours.  I wondered at the way people, when given a chance, open and blossom like bright flowers; how we are all more beautiful, more gifted, and more broken than we might ever dare imagine or admit. 

Afterward, when the grownups left and our kids came home from a friend’s house, the peacefulness prevailed.  There was a calm in our house, a quiet buzz of contentment.  And I wondered if it wasn’t because we’d spent it all, and spent it well in a way that fit just right for us. 

//

For each of us there's work that leads to death and work that leads to life – work that depletes and work that replenishes.  While we cannot always chose between the two – life unfortunately demands both – finding and settling in to work which gives life even as it is spent is a gift beyond measure.  Something sweet like honey.

Frederich Beuchner calls it, “The place where our own deep gladness meets the world’s deep needs.”  Others, like Parker Palmer, call it Vocation – or – “the thing that we cannot not do.”  

However you put it, however long it takes you to find it, no matter how much must be lost in the process, do not forget my friends - 

There is a hive inside your heart, 
golden and still.  It whispers 
in the quiet of the night, 
in the stillness before wakefulness.  
It is no dream.  It is the gift 
of who you are, the seed, 
the soil and sunlight, 
the sticky sweet pollen 
that spreads and changes
into golden light.  Listen,
if you can, and you will 
hear its happy hum.      

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Bad Boy (Love Calls Us By Name)


Every day they give some report of what he did or didn’t do.

"The bad boy was there today."

“When he lays down while the teacher reads, they say, ‘Don’t do that.’”

“He got a red face today.”

Preschool is their first foray into the wide world beyond our doors.  I imagine “the bad boy” is both fascinating and frightening in some way – he’s clearly caught their attention.  

I’ve noticed the “bad boy” too, on field trips and at pick-up and drop-off.  He sometimes breaks down and won’t listen to his weary mother, he seems to have some behavioral issues, probably a diagnosis. 

This morning, tugging rain boots and coats on, they tell me again about “the bad boy.”

“Does the “bad boy” have a name?” I ask.

“Me don’t know it,” Levi says, crinkling his nose in thoughtful concentration.

“Is he always bad?” I ask.

“Usually he nice to me, but one time he take-ed my toy,” Levi replies.

“Isn’t his name . . . .? Let’s call him . . . . , let’s not call him the “bad boy,” I suggest, remembering the boy’s name.  “You wouldn’t want to be called “bad boy,” would you?”

The moment passes in the rush to get out the door on time, but I continue to think about “the bad boy.” 

He’s no more than four years old and already my boys have labeled him based on his behavior.  I wonder how the teachers’ responses may have influenced the way my boys perceive him, and I’m aware of the almost imperceptible sense of comfort they seem to get from knowing that they are not bad like him, they are good.

My heart breaks for this boy, for the burden of being “bad.”

And my heart breaks also for my own children who bear the burden of needing to be “good.”

I want them to be known by name, not by deed.  

I want them to remember to see themselves and others in light of wholeness rather than brokenness, to understand in some way that they are loved and that love casts away all labels – love calls us, always and only, by name.  

Linking with #TellHisStory.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

God Was Everywhere (#SmallWonder Link-up)

Today I'm happy to share a guest post from Ed Cyzewski.  After reading a copy of his newest book, "Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together, I knew he would have something good to share with our community.  Ed practices a type of prayer called the Examen which focuses on awareness and daily reflection concerning the movement of God's spirit in our lives.  Today Ed shares about how his son helped him become more aware of the presence of God.  

When I started praying the Examen, I struggled to answer the question that prompted me to identify a point when I felt God’s presence. Some days I sensed God’s presence, but on other days prayer felt like merely reciting words and waiting in silence. I didn’t have anything in particular I could nail down as a moment when God felt particularly present.

That started to change when I prayed with my young son one evening. After my wife and I read books with him, we started taking turns to pray with him before saying goodnight. Turning the lights off, I usually kneel down next to his bed where he’s tucked in and eager to share everything he’s thankful for. We usually begin with saying thank you for things like his friends, family, church, and the local children’s science museum. He’s also thanked God for “daddy’s shirt,” “people watching hockey,” and “mama holding brother.” After he’s exhausted every possible thing and person he could thank God for, I pray for him.

The prayers are always short because he’s a toddler with a limited attention span, but the first time we prayed together, I sensed an immediate connection with God. It was as if God wanted to love my son through me. Recognizing God's love for my son opened me to a greater sense of God’s parental love. The simple ritual of praying with my son eventually opened my eyes to a deeper sense of God’s love for me and my love for my son.

I started noticing that prayer wasn’t just a matter of saying thank you or issuing requests, even if it could be those things. Prayer gets us on the same page with God. It shifts our perspectives. I saw how God loves me and loves my son. My eyes were opened to the possibility that God could be found in other moments too. In fact, many of the moments I’ve spent with my children since that epiphany while praying have led to particularly powerful experiences of God’s presence when I least expected it. 

Responding to my children with mercy or compassion became a kind of prayer in and of itself.

As I prayed through each of the questions in my Examen each evening, I started to recognize God’s presence in the moments when I loved my children. For all of the times I’d sat down with prayer books or tried to quiet my mind to meditate on scripture, God felt most present while I spent time with my kids, whether praying or playing. The more I see God in these relationships with my children, the more I’ve become aware of how easily we can wall God’s presence off from very important areas of our lives.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Ed’s new book: Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together which is on sale this Monday and Tuesday for $.99!

Ed Cyzewski is the author of Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together, A Christian Survival Guide and Coffeehouse Theology. He blogs about prayer, writing, and imperfectly following Jesus at www.edcyzewski.com and offers two free eBooks to newsletter subscribers.

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we might gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  



While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   



Friday, March 20, 2015

Canine Prayers

This isn't our dog, but you get the idea, right? Photo Source.

Be still, and know that I am God . . . Psalm 46:10

She’s nestled at my side right now, sleeping with great, heavy sighs, her long legs tucked and curled in a fetal position. 

I’m still learning the stillness of dogs.  They don’t purr when happy, don’t flap their tales angrily when the petting becomes too much.  Their language is altogether different. 

//

I wake up early every morning intending to ingest caffeine and find time to pray, journal and read.  Too often, though, once the computer’s on, I’m off and running - making lists, commenting, writing and, in the worst of circumstances, reading depressingly bizarre articles on Yahoo.  Sitting in an old wooden Adirondack chair by the wood stove, I hit the ground running, bolting into the day on a caffeine driven wave of activity. 

I notice the early morning darkness, the stillness and calm, but I don’t enter into it.

This dog, though, she sleeps curled on the worn, leather couch at the bottom of the stairs.  A blur of black and brown, she blends in and only her deep snores give her away. 

She is warm, she is still, she is calm. 

Walking over to say good morning with my tall cup of coffee in hand, she invites me, wordlessly, to sit and snuggle.  Settling on the couch, I pull her into my lap and she presses her head against my shoulder.  

Now I am still, warm and growing calm. 

There’s no room for the computer with a dog in my lap.  It’s too dark for a book, no room, no light for journaling.  So, I pray in a quiet, wordless way, settling in to Something More like that pup curled on the couch.  Slowly, the sun rises across the field, covering the landscape with its wordless, changing light.  

When my husband comes walking through the darkness to kiss me goodbye, I’m there still almost hidden on the couch.  And every morning now, I choose – to work by the fire or to enter into the quiet call to prayer that arises from the soft sounds of our silent, sleeping dog.   

//

Sometimes I find myself called to prayer in the most surprising ways - what calls your heart to prayer?

This post is linked with The High Calling for their series on Spiritual Disciplines. Click on the link to read more stories.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crazy (Maybe My Mother-in-law Was Right)


“I have two bad things to tell you and one good," he said.  "Which do you want to hear first?"

“Bad news," I replied.

“The bad news is, my Mom read your postcard AND she hates the word ‘crazy.’ It’s like a swear word to her.” 

What?  Really? I thought. 

“The good news is, she liked the bible verses you put on the back.”

During the first summer we dated, I sent John a postcard.  One side showed the cover photo for the musical “Crazy for You” with the play’s title in large letters.  I was completely dumbfounded and not a little offended by the "bad news" and also pleased in a secret way that I’d managed to both impress and offend his mother in one fell swoop. 

But really, ‘crazy’ as a bad word? 

That’s just crazy.

//

“We’re just as crazy as them,” my husband said, bleary-eyed in the late-night-kitchen calm, “only our crazy is different.”

He was talking about our good friends, the ones who have three kids and keep a busy schedule of sports, scouts and all manner of fun activities.  I’d never thought about it that way, but immediately I recognized it as true. 

Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve gone through two dogs in the past month, or the way that more than one person has suggested we charge admission to our little “zoo.”  Yes, the upstairs of our house is torn to pieces, with exposed beams and wiring in the walls, holes in the floors where our littlest cat (who we strongly suspect may be pregnant) hides. 

But crazy? Us?

Of course.

That’s when I realized - you can’t see your own crazy.

It’s like we all have a mirror we look in to check for signs of crazy, but our mirror’s flawed with incredible blind-spots for the activities, dramas and investments we value most.  Holding the mirror up to others it’s obvious, “Man, they’re CRAZY.”  But us?  

No way.

//

Turns out we’re all a little bit crazy, in someone’s opinion. 

Over the years, John and I have developed a little code language regarding our own individual levels of crazy - think of it as the equivalent of a subtle hand gesture telling a close companion they have a glaring piece of spinach in their teeth.  This works because, even though you may not be able to see your combined familial level of crazy, a spouse can be very helpful in determining another spouse’s individual level of crazy. 

“You’re doing it again,” he says

By now, fifteen years in, I usually know pretty quickly what he’s talking about (depending, of course, on how far gone I am).  By “it” he means “crazy eyes,” this habit I have of talking loud and fast while my eyes ping-pong around in their sockets.  Crazy-eyes are a warning sign for me, a symptom of sorts that I’m heading for the edge.  

And you know what?  He does it too. 

Maybe he got it from me. 

Maybe that postcard really was the warning sign his mother thought it was. 

Maybe a certain type of crazy can be transferred from person to person like the plague.  

No, that just sounds crazy.  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

As Good as it Gets - Work and Love (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Yesterday afternoon, the setting sun tinted the fog a rosy pink and the trees, darkened by the rain, stood out stark against a backdrop of cotton candy.  It looked like a scene straight out of a fairytale. 

Today great gusts of wind work to sweep away the clouds, huffing and puffing along like a janitor behind a giant push broom.  In the wake of winter, in the snow’s receding, a day, a week, a month of yard work emerges. 

Two huge leaf-piles, abandoned where they lay last fall. 

Bushes to be pruned, old growth to be broken and tossed aside. 

There are a lot of carcasses too.  Decapitated birds surface and the skins of squirrels, their vital organs consumed.  Who knew we had so many predators, so much death lurking around while we and the ground are sleeping our way through winter?

Everyone I talk to is eager for Spring, ready for this long, cold winter to be over.  It was a hard winter, they say, but all I know is that last winter was so. much. harder. for us – this winter was a cake-walk in comparison. 

To be honest, when I look at spring, I see work. 

I see the need to re-oufit the kids in new sizes and weights of clothing – out with the corduroy and in with the denim.  I see the need for more than one pair of shoes each, so the inevitably mud-caked pair can be left in the aptly named mud room to dry for days before being clacked together like chalk-board erasers over the sidewalk.

The chicken coop needs repair, the porch needs to be washed, and the wood pile should be moved.  Did I mention the grass, the garden, the unfinished home improvement project we meant to wrap-up in winter that still straggles along? 

I could make a list as long and wide as the wind-swept sky and there’d be nothing fairytale-like about it.  Unless, of course, it included a fairy Godmother with a sparkling magic wand to make it all just disappear - now THAT would be something.  

Instead, though, I think I’ll join Laura Brown over at her new space, Makes You Mom, in listing twenty things I love:  
 
1. A tiny, perfect pinecone.

2. The sherbert-y concoction of blues, pinks and oranges in the impossibly soft quilt that covers my bed.

3. The inquisitive tilt of the dog’s ears as she puzzles over our family life.

4. The way clarity after a period of indecision settles everything into place, like a safe door swinging open when the right combination is spun.

5. Getting a great deal on a little luxury.

6. Feeling the vibration and listening to the rattly engine of my kitten’s purr.

7. Seeing the hearth after it’s swept clean of wood chips and ash.

8. Mindless work that requires focus, done in a calm, quiet setting.

9. Tending plants, walking into the “little house” to see that my Great-great Grandmother’s Christmas Cactus in bloom.

10. Spying the first signs of spring – the green buds poking out beneath a barren shrub, two blue birds flocking by the Holly bush.

11. Napping on the bare floor by the wood stove.

12. Letting my husband handle Sunday meals.

13. The churring sounds our big cat, Blackie, makes when looking for his little friend, Perfect.

14. The feeling of coming home.

15. Carb-y snacks.

16. Fresh fruit.

17. Laughter, humor, and irony.

18. Reading.

19. Dancing with the kids at the end of an animated movie.


20. New beginnings, new ideas.       

My husband and I were talking in the kitchen the other day about the likelihood that one of us would one day get Cancer and the unsettling fact that Alzheimers is America's number six killer - you know, typical end-of-winter, rainy-gray-day chit-chat.  

"So I guess this really is as good as it gets," I said and he agreed.

That line's stuck with me ever since - this is as good as it gets. 

This moment, right here, right now, with the yard work waiting, the children growing like loud, lanky weeds.  These stolen moments typing under my sherbert-y quilt, the kitten at my side.  These hours with the wind howling, the chickens foraging in the leaf pile, the dog smelling all of the good dead smells there are to be found in a yard laid bare of one season, open and waiting for the next.  

This is as good as it gets and, looking at it that way, I can see how the work and the things I love mingle together, almost inseparable, two lists made one in a swirling fog - love, presence, and attention to what is turning this gray world an almost magical shade of pink. 

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we might gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.   


Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'm Not Powerless (Tales of a Young and Pregnant Chaplain)


I didn’t have a cleric’s collar, a long robe or rosary.

I lacked a book of formal rites and a heavy, dangling cross.

Because of this, I envied the Catholic chaplain (a priest) who strolled the hospital halls with confidence, the concrete symbols of his authority displayed for all to see.

I was young, female, wearing a small collection of casual-professional attire.  Later, I was visibly pregnant, wearing an even smaller, less formal wardrobe. 

I carried a notebook with a few prayers inside and wore a bright blue tag that said simply, “Chaplain Kelly.”

I wanted something to fall back on, some symbol to carry with me as I waited and prayed with the family of the latest Code Blue or visited with the parents of a preterm baby. 

That was early in my residency as a Chaplain at a Level One Trauma hospital. 

It was before I learned how to argue well and calmly with a surgeon, before I held family members back from rooms they could not enter.  Over time my hands stopped shaking when dialing the numbers of loved ones and I prayed calmly and clearly around the bodies of the recently deceased. 

By the end of the year – when I left to give birth to our first child, a daughter – I’d incorporated a new mantra into my thinking, “I’m not powerless, I have authority.”

Somewhere along the way I realized that authority isn’t held or conveyed in symbols, but is instead endowed by nature in who we are – in who God made us to be.  It’s our presence that carries authority, our ability to rest sure and certain in the truth of our own flawed and gifted being.  The closer we live to this center of God’s making within us, the clearer we ring with the fullness of our own humanity. 

I offered myself to the families and individuals I met and they welcomed me.  With time I saw how, in certain contexts, the very symbols I envied could also be barriers to intimacy. 

Toward the end of my pregnancy I was called to pray with a family whose loved one was preparing for major surgery.  I met the large, extended family in a waiting area and the patient’s wife, clearly surprised by the extremely pregnant young woman before her, exclaimed, “I’ve never seen a PREGNANT CHAPLAIN before!” 

After an awkward pause I smiled and laughed and one of the grown children kindly explained that the wife was “more used to priests.”

“Well,” I replied, “we come in all shapes and sizes these days.”  

With that we moved into prayer, our eyes closed and my voice rising with its own song, its own authority. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Grace Notes (#Small Wonder Link-up)

I love this image of Christ in the Wilderness gathering Wild Flowers painted by Stanley Spencer.

I decided last weekend that I would try to write 500 words, five days a week for the month of March.  

And I nearly did this past week.  But still, I came up short, not having anything finished enough to post today.  Some weeks are like that for me, lots of planting seeds, lots of beginnings, but no real tangible harvest. 

Yesterday afternoon I took a nap and the sun came out, sending the temperature up above fifty degrees.  The kids swarmed coat-less in the driveway and later in the still-snowy field.  I sat inside by a dying fire working on a poem, then did the dishes and made a cake. 

We met some new friends for dinner and it amazes me always – how new friends can be made when you least expect it.  Since leaving the church we helped plant almost seven years ago, there's been a lot of grieving and letting go.  It's almost been enough to make me forget the life that always follows death - the way surrender opens our hands to receive something new. 

Sitting around a new table with new faces and listening to us talk, I felt keenly aware that we're not the same people we once were.  I heard a spaciousness in our lives, a reaching out beyond ourselves that feels so big and lively. 

“It’s just so much fun,” I heard myself say, over and over again, trying to explain the appeal of owning chickens. 

This weekend we celebrated the one-year anniversary of buying this good and spacious place here in Boiling Springs.  As far as we're concerned, the fact that we live here is a complete miracle, a good old fashioned act of God.  

One year ago we held our breath until the papers were signed, while drinking water out of bottles labelled "Trust Matters".  We left the lawyer’s office like two foxes leaving a hen house – wide grins on our faces, hardly able to believe we got away with it.

I'm learning that this is what grace feels like, this spaciousness, this bubble of joy that rises, this scandalous abundance unearned.  

May you be blessed with grace this Lenten season - 
may your emptying be followed by abundance, 
may your surrender make way for the new things 
already being rooted within you.  
May your grief be fruitful, 
may your joy be full. 

*   *   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we might gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment. 




Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Box Full of Kittens (The Power of Presence to Heal an Anxious Heart)


“What this place needs is a box full of kittens.” 

This is what I told my fellow patients, my therapist, and anyone else who would listen in the psychiatric hospital this summer.  I wasn't really kidding.

My kids were spending a good bit of time at a friend’s house where kittens were in high numbers and they were enamored, but not as much as I.  Sitting on my friend’s couch in those stressful weeks leading up to the panic attacks and hospitalization, I felt the old familiar calm sweep over me as I nuzzled a snowy white ball of fluff who purred and clawed against my chest.

My last night in the hospital I sat talking with my husband via an old black phone with the classic silver cord and buttons –like something straight out of a 1980's phone booth.  

“You’re never going to guess what I saw tonight,” he said. 

It was late August and after tucking the kids into bed, he noticed a small animal scurrying across the kitchen toward the laundry room and back door.  At first he thought it was a squirrel, but following slowly he realized it was a small, gray kitten.  Then the little scamp was off and running out the same open door he crept in, disappearing into the dark night. 

“Really?!” I asked,  “Are you serious?”  

It seemed like a sign, a good omen, that little gray visitor padding in quietly like fog in the middle of a dark night.  He never showed up again, though my husband called and left food by the back door.

The following day, after my discharge, we drove to pick up our kids.  They piled out of my friend’s house, tumbling and climbing on me like love-sick puppies.  On our way out to the van they showed me another pair of kittens who’d shown up during my hospitalization, two more strays. 

Are you surprised that when my friend called the next day to see if we wanted the kittens, I said yes?  

She delivered them herself, like one delivers soup to the sick and we drank them in as the stress and worry of weeks slowly worked its way out of our family system.

//

I always had a cat as a little girl, always. 

I used to list them by name to impress and wow friends with tales of their adventures and unfortunate demises.  We had indoor-outdoor cats and they all, invariably, slept in my bed.  They were my babies, my companions.  I mothered them before I knew what mothering was.  Their calmness and acceptance of my quiet, slow ways nurtured me before I even knew I needed nurturing. 

I have a picture of me as a little girl holding some of our first kittens.  In it, I am sitting on the stump of a log with one cat tucked under each arm, squinting into the sun.  Thinking about it now, it occurs to me how many pictures we have of me holding the twins in a similar position - one on each side, two lovable lumps of little boy. 

Both, the kittens and the twins, opened me, opened my heart, my body, to love.  Both brought healing and resurrection in their own mysterious ways.

//

We got two kittens this summer when it didn’t make sense and brought them into our chaotic home, our anxious hearts.  Soon evenings in front of the TV included a pile of kittens in my lap.  Cooking dinner was not complete without someone climbing up my pant-leg to beg or riding tucked into the front of my hoodie, a little furry face peaking out, a soft purr humming against my heart. 

They're our children’s pets, but no one seems to need them as much as I do and my children, in their intuitive wisdom, seem to know this too.  Every day, multiple times a day, they find a cat and, carrying it through the house, present it to me like an offering. 

“Special delivery,” they say, lifting the cat toward my waiting arms.  With open, outstretched arms I welcome them, drinking in again their sweet, unexpected grace.   

Linking with #TellHisStory.

Are you a cat lover, a dog lover, a wild ferret lover?  Tell me about it, I'd love to hear how animals bring healing in your life.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Named and Known (#SmallWonder link-up)


(I'm happy to welcome Jody Lee Collins here today with a #SmallWonder guest post.  Jody is part of the team that helps coordinate and support this community.  She is a writer, poet, Grandmother, and substitute teacher who lives Seattle, Washington.  You can read more of her words at her blog, Three Way Light.  I really love the story she shares today - there's a sweetness to it that keeps it tumbling around in my heart.  Enjoy!)

I silently knock on the Kindergarten door - helper for the day in my Assistant Teacher role.  I love Kindergarten.  I did my student teaching there—sang a LOT of songs, played games, and sat on the floor and learned words.

Today is one of those days—a learning day—except I am the student.

I teach in a very diverse school district.  The population we serve has changed significantly in the past 7 or 8 years. Our students are 85% immigrants—mostly African, primarily from Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Needless to say, school is a challenge for these immigrant children.

Today the teacher asks me to take time with Mamoud and Khalid who are only just learning English. 

Mamoud is silent as he follows, but Khalid’s first words to me as I reach out my hand, are, “Good morning, teacher.”

I am warmed at the thought of appreciative parents who have taught him this important phrase. They know more than anyone the power a good education has and the place of a teacher in that process.

Out in the hallway at a small table, Khalid, Masoud and I look at picture books. One in particular is called ‘Rain’, suitable for our Seattle area day.  I begin with Khalid. He is delighted he knows the word ‘umbrella’ and repeats it every time the picture shows up.

“Umbrrrrellla” he says rolling his ‘r’s. It’s a purple umbrella.

I point to the car in the rain; ‘car’, he says, ‘car.’

I point to the tree in the rain; ‘tree’, he says, ‘trrrrree.’

I point to the flowers in the rain; ‘flowers’, he says ‘flowers.’

But the second time around he is mixed up and says ‘tree’ for ‘flower’ and ‘car’ for ‘tree’ and ‘flower’ for ‘frog’. There’s really no connection between these pictures and my words.

We are both a little frustrated and the boys are yawning and squirmy.

I remember Maria Montessori’s cornerstone words about meaningful work. Changing my strategy, we venture into the classroom. I point to a spot on the floor near the cubbies and the boys sit quietly. 

I know they can tell me their names and probably can spell them.

Names have meaning, especially to the owner.

I grab 3 whiteboards, markers and erasers and join them on the floor, asking them to each write their name.  Masoud is successful and proceeds to add a treasure map to his picture. Correct letters in the correct order, even a capital-ish looking capital ‘M’.

Khalid is stuck.  There is a capital ‘K’, an ‘a’, no ‘h’ at all, an ‘i’ but no ‘d’.  There are also several o’s and m’s.  I assume he’s a little mixed up and hand over hand, help him write his name correctly.

He tries it alone; still ‘K, no 'h', no 'a', an ‘l’, but no 'd', many ‘o’s and an ‘m.’ He is adamant about there being an ‘o’ and an ‘m’—not with words but by the way he furiously erases or pushes my hand away when I try to correct.

He of course isn’t conversing with me; he doesn't know how to communicate what he wants but his actions are speaking volumes.
  
Aha—Well, I’ll step over to his desk and read his name tag (yes, I was learning, too.)  Around the corner from the bookcase at the round table, there it is, “Khalid Omar.”

Oy. For Heaven’s sake—no wonder we got ‘o’s and ‘m’s.

I return to my spot between the boys on the floor and write Khalid’s first and last name out for him to copy.

The frustration vanishes, his eyes sparkle and he calmly and clearly announces in perfect English, “Thank you!” As in, 'what took you so long? you finally got it! THAT'S who I am!'

It was a simple, small moment to remind how powerful it is and how deeply touched we are when we are named--named and known.

And how life-changing it can be when we are known by our Father God most of all. 

Did I tell you I love Kindergarten?

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Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we might gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. 

You're invited to link-up a brief post of about five hundred words or less about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.