Monday, April 25, 2016

Seeing Better (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


"I could die tomorrow,” I told her.  “Without ever having pink glasses.”

The sales associate looked at me with her head cocked, eyebrows raised and conceded the point. 

I’ve had the same small, brown glasses frames since 2011. I chose them not long before the twins were born in that end-of-pregnancy flurry of getting everything done before life changes irrevocably.  Dentist? Check.  Glasses? Check. 

In the exam room the optometrist looked up, surprised, from his chart.  “This says I haven’t seen you since 2013?” he asks. 

“Yep.” I reply.

“And you bought contacts then?  How often do you change them?  Do you have any left?”  He voice conveys incredulity.

“Well, yeah.  I don’t wear my contacts much.”  I fumble through my memory bank, drawing a blank.  “I don’t know,” I finally reply, “I had twins, so the last couple of years are a little blurry.” 

The answer seems to satisfy. 

In the sales room, a young woman follows me around among the frames.  I ask her what’s “in” these days and she tells me bigger plastic frames. 

“What are you looking for?” she asks, calm and detached behind her half-framed lenses of dark blue metal.  Her dark hair is long and perfectly straight. 

“I want something fun,” I said, “some color.”

What I really wanted, before I even walked in the door, was pink glasses.  I wanted happy glasses, but I wasn’t sure I dared get them.  What if I made a mistake?    

I feel like a failure when the optometrist pulls up letters I can’t read.  Blinking, I watch letters flip and wiggle like so many small black ants waving their legs.  I make random guesses, occasionally upping my odds by offering two answers at once.  “Um, I think it’s an E . . . or a P?”  One line I cannot read at all.  The exam room is so strangely intimate, dimly lit, with the optometrist scooting around on his rolling stool, peering into my eyes with a little light that he moves in circles like a magic wand.   

My left eye, weak as ever, has worsened again, but, good news, I’m not yet in need of bifocals. 

Back in the sale’s room, the associate hands me purple glasses and offers red.  But I don’t want purple glasses, purple glasses don’t make me happy and red glasses bring to mind Sally Jesse Raphael (please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers THAT).  Then she motions toward an almost translucent light pink pair, but before she can pick them up, I say, “I think I had those glasses in fourth grade and I don’t really want to go back to that.”

In the end, I whittle it down to two pairs, identical in shape, one navy blue and the other a cheery magenta.  Both frames have funky squiggly patterns in complementary colors along the temples.  Both pairs are cute, but the blue look better on me.

Still, I hem and haw.  A second associate is called over.  She put the glasses on her own face for me.  “See,” she says, “these blue ones kinda blend in but with the pink ones, the frames are all you see.”  I see what sees and know she's right.  Then she adds a third pair into the mix, shaped like the others, but in a deeper shade of purple.  "These make a nice compromise," she says.  But her well-intended suggestion only further confuses things for me.    

I circle the room, I sit again and slip frames off and on. 

“I’m turning forty in a year,” I tell the original associate, “maybe these will be my mid-life crisis glasses.”  I'm only half-joking.  Do I like the pink glasses or do I only like the ‘idea’ of pink glasses? 

“You’ll want to think about the clothes you wear too, not just what you have one today,” the second woman adds. 

“But pink goes with everything, right?” I ask, “Except for red?”

The younger woman agrees. “Pink goes with everything in my book,” she says.  I find her patience endearing.

I apologize for taking so long.  Then, finally, “I want the pink ones,” I say, scrunching my face up as if to offer an apology.

“I knew you did,” she says.  

(I knew I did too.)  

(Friends - it's my birthday this week!  Hop over to my facebook page to see a picture of me in my new glasses and, if you haven't done so already, LIKE MY PAGE.  I've been hovering near 600 page likes for a long time now and there's nothing I'd like more for my birthday than to finally cross that 600 mark.  Thanks!)
   
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I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for 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.   

Sunday, April 17, 2016

How All Our Salvation Begins (#SmallWonder Link-up)


(For the past several months, I've participated in a group organized by Oasis Ministries that meets for monthly silent retreat days.  We meet one Saturday a month at an old farm turned retreat center near Elizabethown, PA.)

I arrive in the nick of time, lugging a bag of books, my purse and a packed lunch.  Inside the old farm door I exchange greetings with a few and make my way to the bathroom.  Then I throw back a quick cup of coffee – I’m not fully awake yet – and head in to join the circle of silence. 

After a period of silent prayer and some brief reflection, the nine of us split off in different directions.  I make a beeline for more coffee and then head upstairs to a bedroom alone.  I journal briefly before doing what I know cannot be put off any longer.  Tipping to my side, I curl up with an ugly blanket on an even uglier couch and, in seconds, I drift off to sleep.

I wake to lunch time.  In the cold dining room, I eat around a long table with women who are mostly twenty to thirty years older than me.  I crunch red peppers and carrot sticks and crack my hard boiled egg too loudly on the table before realizing I can crush it gently with my fingers.  I drink hot tea at lunch, a follow-up to my hot coffee, because I’m cold and can’t seem to get warm. 

After lunch I find a sunny spot by a window and pile out my books and journals.  I thumb through a Birds and Blooms magazine cutting pictures and words that strike my eye with scissors I stole from my three-year-old’s office.  Then we gather again at the circle, for more silence and sharing around our reading for the month. 

During afternoon retreat time I head outside with more coffee and sit briefly on a bench watching bees buzz happy among the clover.  Then, still cold, I remember the black bed-liner in my husband’s old, red, pickup truck.  The black bed draws the sun like a magnet and climbing in I’m greeted by warmth and the smell of gasoline.  I unpack again, books and journal, in the bed of the truck, my back tucked into the corner.  I run inside one more time briefly for my sunglasses and trade my cup of coffee for a plastic cup of water.

In the truck, I read a bit and try to write poems that wilt, listless on the page.  I eat the perfect orange, slowly, beneath the blue sky of spring.  In all of this I wonder, what am I doing here?  I’m deliberately unproductive on these days, deliberately leaving behind the laptop, setting no firm expectation for the day.  There’s prayer, yes, but most of the day feels decidedly unremarkable, strikingly unholy. 

There are no angel choirs, no visions from heaven.  I do spy a pileated woodpecker outside the whirled glass window at lunch, but if he’s meant to deliver a message from God, I fail on the receiving end.  It isn’t until the closing of the day that I remember again a bit of reading, a quote from Thomas Merton, “. . . all our salvation begins on the level of common and natural and ordinary things.”

The word “all” is what gets me, sticks like taffy in my soul’s teeth. 

I marvel at how unholy, how unremarkable these days apart seem most months and, on the whole, they’re filled with “common and natural and ordinary things.”  This much I cannot deny – food and rest, silence and small chatter, an ugly blanket, the warm black bed of a pickup truck. 

But Merton, sly fox, tips things up-side-down in one short sentence.  These things, he whispers, these

Carrots and coffee and sliced red pepper, quiet moments flipping pages soaked in sun, that orange, the smell of gasoline, the happy bees drinking life one blossom at a time.  

These things, he whispers, these

It’s then, at the end of the day, that I accept again the invitation to surrender to God’s backward ways of transformation.  God’s proclivity for infusing the material with divine.  

The door is everywhere.  All our salvation begins.   

*   *   *   *

I'm super excited to be joining with Andi Cumbo-Floyd and Shawn Smucker to organize a weekend writer's retreat this summer at God's Whisper Farm in the beautiful mountains of Virginia.  Visit Andi's website for more info!


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for 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.   




Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hooked and Unhooked (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


God lies in wait for us with nothing so much as love, and love is like a fisherman's hook . . ." Meister Eckhart

Recently, a friend I respect deeply talked with me about a job opening.  He told me he knew I could do the job and that he would support me 100%, but that it would be costly in terms of energy, hard on me and my family.  Then he added, “Unless you feel like God’s calling you to it.” 

“He’s not,” I said, smiling and shaking my head.  “I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.”

He smiled.  “Well, that makes me happy,” he said, “I know that’s not always been the case.”

“I know!” I replied.  “I used to think I wanted that job, but I finally realized I felt like I should want that job.  There’s a big difference between the two and I’m so thankful for that clarity.”

//


Later I told a friend about the exchange.  “I’ve been hooked by that job in so many ways over the past few years,” I said.  “I can’t hardly explain how good it feels to know I could have it now and I don’t want it.  It’s like . . . ,” I closed my eyes, my hands paused mid-sentence and waited for the image to come.  “It’s like being a fish that’s been hooked on a line for years and suddenly you find yourself free, you can swim wherever you want!  It doesn’t feel like something of my own doing, it feels like more of a surprise, like someone reached down and cut the line.”  

//

I was thinking of all this today, about the hook and the line and the marvelous freedom.  Freedom from one thing only ever really comes when we shift our devotion to something or someone else.  And I know, in this season, that devotion to writing and caring for my children is helping me find freedom from the things I once thought I should be doing, but I also know I've been hooked by something deeper.  

Pulling the roaster chicken, crisp and golden from the oven this afternoon and putting rice on to boil, I remembered a passage from The River Why, by David James Duncan.  It's a quirky and profound book about a man obsessed with fly fishing who has an encounter with God while walking home after a long night of fishing. 

And then I felt it - a sharp pain in the heart, like a hook being set.  I whirled around: sunlight struck me full in the face.  My eyes closed. 

And then I saw it - the vertical bar - a line so subtle it must be made of nothing nameable.  And it ran from my heart of earth and blood, through my head, to the sky; ran like a beam of watery light; ran from the changing, flowing forms of the world to a realm that light alone could enter.  I sank to my knees on the white road and I felt the hand, resting like sunlight on my head.  And I knew that the line of light led not to a realm, but to a Being, and that the light and the hook were his, and that they were made of love alone.  My heart was pierced, I began to weep.  I felt the Ancient One drawing me toward him, coaxing me . . . beckoning me on toward undying joy.

//

When I think about Duncan's story, I see how I've been hooked and unhooked all at once, how being captivated by Love can and does set us free.  Not an easy freedom, but one hard won that, after all of our fear, fighting and struggle, comes as a surprise, like a hand reaching down to cut the line when we'd almost forgotten what freedom felt like.  


*   *   *

We finally have a #SmallWonder button!  If you want to use it, simply copy the image, then add it to your post or sidebar with a link to www.afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com.  



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for 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.   

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I Wanted and What Love Offered (Grace and the Salt and Vinegar Hang-Over) #SmallWonder


Wednesday morning I wanted to get 3000 words on the page, or at least 1500.  I wanted to practice yoga for twenty minutes, to enjoy the sunshine and silence of the Little House after a week of kids being home for spring break. 

But the night before I popped open a tall can of Diet Coke when I should have been winding down for bed.  In full disclosure, there was a bag of chips involved too, a late dinner of sorts and when John went to bed at 10, I didn’t.  Instead I searched the house, three, four times until I found the novel I put down earlier in the day.  I prowled the house hunting for it repeating the words, “This is so annoying,” over and over in my head like a chant.  Finding it, finally, where someone else had put it, I crawled into bed and turned on the reading lamp. 

At 10:20, I thought, “Just ten more minutes.”  

Then, at 10:30, “A few more pages.”

It wasn’t even a good book. 

At any moment last night, had I paused to listen closely to my soul, I would have realized (in fact I did realize) I was tired and sad and looking for comfort.  What I really needed was rest and compassion.  Snuggling with my husband would have been a good option.  Instead when he asked how my appointment was, I mumbled “fine.”  I opened the can and pressed a handful of The Worst Salt and Vinegar chips I've ever had into my mouth. 

When I next looked at the clock, it was 11:30. 

I finished the book.  

I finished the can of soda.  

(I did not, I repeat, Did Not, finish the bag of chips.)  

I slid down into bed, head jangling with caffeine, regret whirling and slid the alarm clock on for 6:00 am.

In the morning I crawled out of bed with the weight of a reading-diet-coke-hangover dragging behind me.  My eyes felt like hacky sacks.  The kids got out the door on auto-pilot, the twins made it to school, but driving home after drop-off exhaustion, frustration and regret followed me like a shadow. 

Doggedly, I headed to the little house, breakfast, water and the computer in hand.  I sat in my usual chair and warmed up with a few emails, then I opened a word document to let the writing begin.

My mind, my fingers, moved like molasses, heavy slow syrup slogging over the keys as I searched for words and thoughts that refused to come.  The dog, Coco, watched, her eyes half closed, from her chair across the room. 

I wanted 3000 words.  I wanted to practice yoga for twenty minutes. 

I desperately needed a nap. 

I had ruined that which I was looking forward to, my morning of writing and stretching, the feeling of forward momentum and accomplishment as I checked off my list of goals.  But it was what it was and I worked hard to not attach to the thoughts of judgment and condemnation that flew around my brain like a flock of scattered birds. 

Instead, I asked myself what Love would do, what I would tell my kids if, when, they find themselves in the same predicament. 

Love offered a nap. 

Love said, “It is what it is.”

“But this is my time to write!” I told Love, “I didn’t write yesterday and I have a meeting this afternoon, parent conferences tonight.” I pointed out to Love that there were no other options, I had, in essence, Ruined Everything.

Love said, pointedly, “What about grace?  Maybe there's enough grace in this world to make up for this one mistake.  But, for now, all you know is what you know.  You need a nap.”

I also heard the words of a counselor I met with four years ago, a counselor whose constant advice and need to fix things pushed me away.  “Love what is,” she had offered one day.  How I hated those words – they weren’t the right words for me at the time, but now, four years later, they’re the only words that make sense some days. 

What other option do we ever really have?  We can change "what is," of course, but change, if it's to be lasting and fruitful, must be rooted in love, not fear or hatred of self or others or even "what is." 

Love your tired, sleepy self.  Do what is needed in this moment and the next.

Is that not what I failed to do the night before?  Diet Coke, Salt and Vinegar and a novel are okay.  But they don’t really address what is.  (Unless “what is” is the sincere desire to stay up late, to enjoy the feeling of fire on your tongue, to savor and enjoy words put together on a page, then they’re Exactly what’s needed.)

I set the computer aside and laid down on the floor of the little house, my head on a pillow, blanket tucked up tight.  I slept.  Love said that was fine. 

*   *   *

We finally have a #SmallWonder button!  If you want to use it, simply copy the image, then add it to your post or sidebar with a link to www.afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com.  


Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for 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.