Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My One Super Power


Every day we battle, literally and figuratively.

“Stop arguing with me,” I say.  Then, as he continues in protest, I declare, “I’m not going to argue with you!”

Meanwhile, he points his little finger-guns at me and “pchoo-pchoo” in my face.

“Put your fingers away,” I say and he does, but his hazel eyes are still alight with the fire of battle.

Off he runs to man a pirate ship, kill a bear and battle the household pets.  But before long, he’s back in the kitchen, a little gnat buzzing circles around my legs.    

“Me have Super Powers!” he says, his arms raised and fists folded like a boxer.  “Me a bad guy.  Me destroy you.” 

Sigh.  This is almost-four-year-old boy through and through.  He wants to “take over the world.”  He “has a plan.”  I am the only one standing in his way.

Leaning down, I scoop him up by the armpits and snuggle him in as he wiggles and giggles.

“Me have Super Powers too!” I say.

“What’s your Super Powers?” he asks, leery.

“Me have Love Power,” I reply, triumphant.  “Me have Hug 
Power.”  Then, with finality, I declare, “Love Power always wins.” 

He’s pretty sure that love is NOT a Super Power, but surrenders anyway.   

Linking with #TellHisStory.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Center #SmallWonder Link-up


It's been a rough week here.  

On Wednesday my parents stopped by on their way home from wintering in Florida and by Thursday my Mom was in our local hospital having tested positive for both type A and B Influenza.  They hope to move her out of the ICU today, but it will be a long road to recovery as she is a cancer survivor and transplant recipient - her health is often precarious on the best of days.   

After rising to the crisis (she went into septic shock that first night), I found myself whirling and wrote to a friend, "I'm having a hard time holding on to my center."  In the writing of those words, this thought came like a love note slipped into my pocket. 

Truth has a way of flipping perception on its head, revealing the inside-out of a circumstance or, if you will, the often wrongness of my thinking.  Maybe you also are in need of such a reversal?  

//

You do not hold
the Center,
it holds you.
Do you see
the difference?

It is not your job
to grasp and cling.
Yours is to rest,
aware.  

Each sorrow,
each joy is a
passing breeze
swaying the 
hammock 
that holds you. 

//

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 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.  


  



Monday, April 20, 2015

When the %$*& Hits the Fan (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


Prince Humperdinck, "First things first, to the death."
Westley, "No, to the pain."
- The Princess Bride

O, I believe,
fate smiled and destiny
laughed as she came to my cradle,
know this child will be able,
laughed as my body she lifted,
know this child will be gifted,
with love, with patience and with faith,
she'll make her way. 
- "Wonder" by Natalie Merchant


Last Friday I sent up a call of distress. 

Early in the morning in the cold, dark living room I sent a message to a few friends on Facebook,

“Here’s the thing – I’ve become discouraged.  I have dreams and visions of what it means to live where we do – ideas about Spiritual Direction, Retreats and a life close to home filled with writing, speaking and tending souls.  But, and here I know it sounds a little ridiculous given God’s miraculous provision of this place, for some reason lately, I’m losing hope.  We’ve hit some very significant financial road blocks, we’re between church communities and I am weary of piecing things together.  So, will you pray for me, for us?”

//

Last Wednesday my husband called early in the morning to tell me the timing belt broke in his car on his way to work.  Thankfully it didn’t happen on the highway, thankfully it was within walking distance of his office.  But, really – this was just three days after we started urgently petitioning God for financial provision.  See what I mean – this was AFTER we started praying.

With that one phone call and the two or three phone calls after it, it was like someone, somewhere pulled a plug and all of our savings went “whoosh,” down the drain.  The little bit of money we had to help us get through to the end of summer just up and disappeared. 

//

The most natural thing you can do, the worst thing you can do, when stress sets in and life becomes laced with fear, is to seize up.  The most unnatural thing you can do is to relax, to rest, to hold your own peace of mind and spirit.  This is how infants and young children can survive terrible accidents without being injured – they don’t know enough to be afraid, they stay calm, relaxed and flexible.

//

When the %^&% hits the fan, my impulse is to “man up.”

I got out the computer and started a resume.

I organized a yard sale.

I took the little seeds of my own dreams out of my pocket and buried them somewhere in a deep, dark, place.  They no longer glowed with hope and promise – they were as good as dead to me.

//

Thursday night, I dreamed I was pregnant again – a fifth child, still tiny showed up in an ultrasound.  How did we let this happen? I asked.  That baby filled my dream-self with dread – seven more years at home I thought.  Seven more years until I can do what I want. 

In the dream, the baby was also a tiny dragon.  But, you know, that’s how dreams often are.

//

Friday morning I sat on the love seat by the cold, empty stove with tears streaming down and sent up a call of distress. 

“I’ve become discourage . . . I’m losing hope.”

The kids woke up and I built a fire, because wood is free, and we moved into the day while I still swallowed tears down. 

Around eight, my kids started humming and buzzing with excitement.  “Why’s he here?” they exclaimed.  I looked out the kitchen window while my kids ran out the door and saw my friend, one of the few added to that Facebook call of distress, climbing out of his car.

He hugged and toted my kids around, watched them climb the small Japanese Maple tree and we stood in the yard talking about chickens waiting for the bus to come.  After the older two climbed onto the bus, I pulled up Cat in the Hat on Netflix for the twins and we sat in the kitchen and talked over coffee. 

“I’m losing heart,” I said.

“I know,” he replied.

This friend of mine has the look and build of someone straight out of Sons of Anarchy – a giant of a man complete with pony tail, beard and a Harley Davidson.  If he was a stranger, I would be afraid at best to see him approaching on darkened street or even in broad daylight. 

This friend has a Masters in Pain, a hard earned degree in life and loss and resilient hope.

“I could see this coming,” he said and I believed it to be true, because this friend and I resonate on a deep level.  More than anyone else in this world he has helped me understand myself, has given me new words and insight into my own brokenness which often provides just enough of a tweak to set me on the road to healing. 

Here are just a few of the things he said to me that morning that helped clear the fog of fear, things I remembered well enough to write down in my journal a few days later,

“Provision wouldn’t solve the problem.”

“It’s not hard, you can do hard, you’re a hard worker – it’s painful.”

and, “Pain is part of your gift.  You have pain in proportion to your gift and your gift is great, so you experience great pain.”

Talking together I saw that I’m again rounding a blind corner in my journey – I’m being asked, again, to trust. 

To trust pain can be a gift.

To trust God cares.

To live loosely, to lean in to the bend in the road, to believe seeds buried in darkness and fear can sprout and live again and the life that follows death is always greater than the loss.

//

Not much has changed.  Everything has changed.

We had a great yard sale.  There’s the dim prospect of overtime work for my husband.  I put my resume on hold.  We told the kids we would have to pray about a vacation for the summer. 

In the midst of the pain, faith is sprouting again, the tiniest speck of green.

Later that day one red tulip opened in the garden and the rest of those friends on Facebook sent their own thoughtful, compassionate replies, most of which consisted of some gentle version of, “Me too.”

I'm not writing this to garner sympathy.  I'm writing because maybe you also have been gifted with pain.  Maybe you too are rounding another blind corner in your journey.  I won't tell you it's going to be ok, but for now, I will pull back the curtain long enough to give you a glimpse of my own pain.  I will give you my pain, my life as I know it, in hopes that it will help you in some small whisper of a way.  
  
*   *   *   *

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 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, April 17, 2015

Two is Greater Than One (A Bike, A Stroller and the Things We Think We Know)

Bare chested, my three-year-old twins ride, stacked, in the low-rider bike.  Isaiah can’t pedal and Levi’s legs are too short to reach, so they tag-team.  Isaiah sits in the back - a place-holder, and Levi in front - the engine pulling them forward.  Flesh pressed against flesh, they zip around the driveway, giddy with speed, shouting their little-boy slogans, planning to take over the world.

I pulled out the double jogging stroller this morning, preparing to sell it.  They climbed in and begged me to push them around.  I walked them up and down the driveway, flat tire and all, remembering the feel of the handle on my hand and the presence of my older son as we walked all over town in the early days and years of their lives.  Day after day they sat facing the world together in that stroller, side-by-side, a binky-toting, onesie wearing, unified front.

This is back when the two of them were small enough to share one single shoulder.  They often slept tangled together in a cozy knot.

Pretty quickly they graduated into the double stroller.  Look at those sweet little bundles!

There they are - a "binky-toting, onesie-wearing, unified front."
//

Yesterday, rolling through the grocery store, side-by-side again in a giant cart, they made a joint decision to move their birthday to Spring.  “You can’t do that,” I said, “your birthday is what it is.  It’s the day you were born.”

Passing customers grinned as they often do – these boys talk with their volume set on LOUD all. the. time.  
  
I remember sitting at a lunch table once, discussing twins with friends.  A kind-hearted soul bemoaned how difficult it would be to never have a birthday of your very own – to always have to share that day with someone else. 

This is how we see it in our culture, isn’t it, a loss to have to share something?  But I wonder if we aren’t the ones missing out.  Maybe these boys are the lucky ones, always having someone to share with, someone to pedal when you can’t. 

//

Yesterday was the last day of their first year of preschool and they arrived home, oblivious of the brief evaluation tucked into each of their little backpacks.  They don’t know their letters or numbers, cannot identify common colors or shapes – apparently, they’re behind.

But I am learning from them still – the way they know instinctively, two is greater than one.

//

Earlier this week I purchased a fifty pound bag of chicken feed.  After trying, unsuccessfully, to hoist it over my shoulder, I walked to the car with it wrapped precariously in front of me, a bulging sack cradled in my spindly arms.  I remembered then, as I often do, how I gained about sixty pounds when I was carrying the twins and the mere thought, the mere memory, of walking under all of that weight was enough to cause my pelvic floor to groan.

I carried those boys, tangled together, Isaiah holding his place at the bottom and Levi riding on top.  For nine months, they led me, bulging out in front, their flesh pressed together, growing in their knowing.  And they lead me still.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Hear a Voice



When fear creeps in, clinging,
I hear a voice say, “Open.”

When I leave, by well-worn mental paths,
the time, the place, the space I'm in,
I hear a voice say, “Return.”

When I watch the boys on bikes
chasing round and round the van
in the driveway, when I see my daughter
smile secretly at the dog in the yard,
I hear a voice say, “This is good.”

When tears rise at the mere thought
of an act, when my heart somersaults
in my chest and the muscles of my legs
clench tight, I hear a voice say, “Pay attention.”

This is the voice of knowing,
the voice that leans whispering
Truth.  “This is light.  This is darkness,”
the voice says, “It matters not where
you are, for I am with you, always.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Grandmother's Lap (#SmallWonder Link-up)


Easter weekend I made my favorite icing, tinted it pink and worked with a wide butter knife to spread it across the gentle curves of lemon cupcakes.  It was my Grandmother's recipe, the only icing I've ever really liked.  The recipe got me thinking again about my relationship with my Grandmother who died this past summer.  Later in the week, as I thought about my relationship with her, I felt God lean in close and whisper, "It was a gift."  So, with gratitude, I return to the memories and feel them for what they are and were - pure grace.  

I sat in my grandmother’s lap
in a long, wooden pew
in her old, ornate Methodist
Church.  The shiny pipe organ
breathed in and out and a man stood
up front in a long robe.

Sometimes we children 
made our way also to the front
and sat gathered at the feet
of the man in the long robe,
like ducks, heads tipped
up waiting for the hand that
scatters bread. 

Returning to the pew, to my
Grandmother’s lap, I felt the summer’s
heat rise in the old building.  Light
poured in through stained glass windows
and my long brown hair clung to the back
of my neck.

My Grandmother’s small hands, always
cool, lifted my hair, gently gathering it
up and to the side.  Then she blew her own
breath onto my exposed neck and air,
cool like a fresh spring, trickled across.

'Man cannot live on bread alone,'
Jesus said and those hands, that breath,
were grace to my love-parched skin,
the simple act of comfort-given and received
while I sat in the church, in the worn wooden pew,
balanced on the shore of my Grandmother’s lap.

Photo Source.

*   *   *   *

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, April 8, 2015

What Keeps Me


I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. - C.S. Lewis

What keeps me
from the joy and wonder
of This Day, This Moment,
is the Dream, the Longing,
to be in some Other
place - maybe the Past,
a possible Future or
Alternate Now.  

I want so badly to Escape
that I'm unwilling 
to turn the key 
of Surrender, 
to set myself Free
by dropping into
What Is and so I remain
locked apart, Absent.

If, as Lewis said, 
the Doors of Hell are Locked 
on the Inside, it's possible also 
that Life is one long
lesson in Learning
to Turn the key.

Linking with Playdates#TellHisStory and Give Me Grace.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Love's Frayed Tether (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


This week it's my great joy to welcome a guest post by fellow #SmallWonder host Amber Cadenas.  Amber blogs regularly at Beautiful Rubbish: everyday art of learning to see.  In her own words, Amber "writes with the hope that others might be inspired to see their own lives through different eyes."  I want to encourage you to take a little time to poke around her blog and get lost in the stories there - stories as deep and painful as they are beautiful.   

*   *   * 

When I cannot bear to sit a moment longer 
alone in our quiet home and the din 
of disquiet within me

I find him -

resting upright in the dark of our spare room
and on the futon beckon him to lay down
and stretch my body the length of him
tucked in snug as a ship at dock
one arm latched securely around his chest
my head resting a top 
the space where his heart pumps

Slowly, slowly I open
floating in the tide of his heat
my cheek rolling and rocking
with the pulsing life beneath 
his skin
and I surrender
to the deep of sleep in this rhythmic lull
of wonder

What I have not been able to see 
or hear
or taste
or feel
in these sensory-over-loaded-and-numbed-out 
day to days of late
breaks through the veil to once again proclaim
life

Right here 
right now
Wonder and I become one
as the moment rocks and breathes
pauses and turns
anchored in love's frayed tether.


*   *   *   *

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.    


Friday, April 3, 2015

To Experience Resurrection (A Poem)


You have to return to the tomb
to experience resurrection. 
Return to the place where once
you knew without doubt
all hope was gone, the last
dying gasp of breath expelled.
Then silence, stillness
and the great tearing open
of sky and earth. 

The first sign of spring
is the revelation of all
that’s died.  Snow’s clean
slate hides decay,
but when the sun’s warmth rises
its first disclosure is the depth
of loss – the grass,
brown and trampled, barren
broken limbs scattered, earth
exposed and the empty stretch
of field filled with brown stalks
of decomposition.

This is the time of waiting,
the time in which we grow
weary and lose heart. 

You have to watch the barren
earth, pull back brown leaves,
lean close scanning the hidden
places.  You have to stand beside
the stone, Martha would tell us,
your trembling hand pressed against       
its cold, hard surface.  You have to enter
the dark cave, Peter whispers, not knowing
what you’ll find. 

You have to sit through the long,
dark night to see the first light of morning,        
to feel the sharp intake of breath
as the sky’s closed eye, cold and gray
cracks open slowly, then with growing
determination.  This is what you must do
to experience resurrection. 

This post is linked with the High Calling.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Seeing the Psychiatrist (I Don't Want to Forget)


“The babysitter’s coming tomorrow.”  I say as we shuffle back and forth in the bathroom getting ready for bed.  “I have to see my Psychiatrist,” I add, drawing out the word in a way that makes it sound fancy.
 
Even now, seven months after hospitalization, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of being one of those people.

“When was your last appointment?” my husband asks from his seat on the radiator, speaking over and around the toothbrush in his mouth.

“Um, I’m not sure.  Maybe February?” 

At the sink, I pull my toothbrush from the cup and squeeze out a daub of toothpaste.  “It’s kinda silly, I still have prescriptions I haven’t filled because I’m not going through them as quickly as I could.”  In fact I’d been tempted to cancel the appointment this week – it felt inconvenient, coming on my kids’ first day of spring break and unnecessary as I really didn’t need any refills. 

After a pause, I add, “I think it’s important, though, to help me remember.”  Then, in case he doesn’t know what I mean, I continue, “I was in the hospital, ya know?  It was a big deal.  It is a big deal.  I don’t want to forget how hard it was, how close we were to the edge.”

The edge of what, I do not say, but I feel it.  The edge of darkness, the edge of all-consuming fear.

“Do you feel like you forget?” he asked. 

“Yes, I do.”

I forget because I don’t want to remember.  I forget because no one wants to talk about it, hardly anyone asks.  I forget because I’m afraid – afraid that it happened in the first place, afraid it could happen again.

The pill bottles help me to remember.  Pulling the two red bottles from the cabinet, putting in the extra time to cut pills down to size for the days and weeks ahead, feels like a welcome humility.  

I continue to see a counselor, perhaps more often than she thinks I need.  Those hours set aside on the calendar remind me to look at myself, to come up for air and do a systems’ check. 

And the appointments with the psychiatrist who listens briefly before handing out her scripts, they help too.  Driving up to the building, I enter the same door I excited that bright August day.  Every time I face that place, I face the past; I face a part of myself that paid a price for being neglected for far too long and I remember.  

I don’t want to forget again. 

It may seem counter-intuitive or self-punishing in some strange way, but in the Christian tradition we acknowledge remembrance as a necessary part of the journey toward healing, toward resurrection.  This is what we do in Lent and Holy Week.  We re-walk the steps, re-read the texts, take, break and eat the wine and the bread.  We re-enact the suffering and saving so that we will remember.  

We don't want to forget.  

We tell the story of our own bondage and salvation; we return to the tomb if only to remember how cold and deep the darkness was before we saw the first piercing shaft of light. 


May your remembering be blessed.  May you find the courage to not forget.