Gentle Cords

My kids and I listened to a passage from Hosea this morning that instantly convicted my heart.

hosea

I can think of so many times in my life when God’s presence was so real, when He was obviously with me, sustaining me, giving me grace that I did not deserve. It is easy for me to look at the dark places in my story and say “See, I survived this”.

On Monday the wind caught the hood of my car, blowing it into my windshield. I am not entirely sure how I made it safely off the winding road to close the hood, or several miles back to the shop with the glass caving in. In talking to the shop and our insurance company, there was  damage to the frame around the window that insurance will not cover. It may not be worth fixing. In an odd little turn, the problem with the hood may have been caused by hitting a deer back in November. That the insurance may cover. Who knows? Do I need to? Or can I trust that, like many other situations we encountered this year, this will also work out to our good.

Or turning it another way: I am worrying about losing the vehicle that I used to carry around the children whom I should not have been able to have in the first place. The ones who faced some scary medical stuff this year and are now mostly well. The ones I had with a husband who I didn’t expect to still be alive in 2019. I am trying to figure out transportation logistics for the summer graduate class that I should have in no way been able to afford. After going back to college, which I also should not have been able to afford. Not to mention the fact that I left highschool after 9th grade. God has been good to me, and has done for me what would have been impossible for me to do for myself.

How often do I acknowledge the Lovingkindness that carried me through dark places, the people that offered refreshment along the way?

How often do I acknowledge that there are many others who are so much less fortunate?

(and that my problems are largely first world problems)

That I don’t need all the things that I think that I need?

(Like, even my maybe totalled car was one of three in our household)

That my life is relatively easy, and punctuated by the miraculous?

Today is a miracle. My children are well. There are flowerbeds to weed, Chickens to catch, and at some point the sun will set, painting the sky with glory.

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Do You Believe in the Resurrection?

IMG_20190306_132159 I am only a small thing in the world after all, at least, that is the testimony of the mountains, smudged against sky that must be at least 57 separate shades of blue, depending on where you look.

Backlit tangerine clouds nod thier assent. A plane winks in the distance.

But I am not in the sky. My feet travel a well worn path as my face grows numb in a piercing wind. The wind– it groans and travails and crackles through frozen pine needles, hinting at a Melody that my ears are too dull to fully make out.

But the birds know. Those blood red Cardinals flit from branch to branch, offering bright punctuation to the song.

So I strain to hear,

with no injustice to fight, or wrongs to right–no fires to light– i  am just an awestruck wanderer in a sunkissed wood.

A Land for Gentle Heretics

I tire of angry orthodoxy

policing the specks in eyes and guarding manna from heaven

that was once freely given for the life of the world

the broken world

the fallen world

while it was still broken, He broke too

That body, broken

I KNOW HIM!

He walked and spoke with me when I was a child

and when I was afraid, and when I was utterly alone

and He never brought up my muddled understanding of Him

He only sat with me while I cried and cut and vomited

I know Him. He is real, and gentle, and GOOD.

and I want to be with Him and be like Him

I do not care for the religion of “DO and do and do and do

and don’t and don’t and don’t and don’t”

Don’t get me wrong

I am not an angry feminist, or your caricature of a social justice warrior.

but I know that

Jesus wept

with the victims, and still does

and that He was not the one dragging the adulterous woman off to her judgement.

I know that He wrote in the dust, and still does

Not “Might makes right” but humble, gentler things

of an inclusive Father rule that called me —and every other barbarian willing to return love for God and neighbor— his mother and brother and sister

And He knew that women also carry God and don’t need a man to

priest, police, or even populate

We are born from above!

We are all born from above!

Born of light, of love

of very God

Neither male nor female

Chains and labels meaningless. In our poverty, free

I know whose I am

who I am

I know THAT I AM, the I AM

because He lives in me

(or to be more theologically precise: I know transcendent God because He is immanent Emmanuel. I know Him apart from me because I know Him in communion

and, to answer the perennial question, when I get to heaven and Saint Peter asks “Why should I let you in?” My answer won’t be a carefully formulated dogma, or even the finished work of Christ.

“No, Peter, the kingdom of heaven was always INSIDE, and Jesus has been here with me all along.”

I know Him, here, in this place

be it a land of gentle heretics.

Certainties

I awake to bird song

in a fallen world

An unseasonably warm winter day

calls me from my hibernation

with promises of growing things

A polar vortex

broken by sweet strains

warm breathy wood winds

promising tomatos and strawberries and honeybees

It is not a sweet lie

but a certain future breaking in to

Today

Abortion is not the Answer

I write this, not to the scared young woman trying to figure out the next step, nor as a condemnation to the woman who has already made a hard choice for better or for ill. There is no condemnation in these words. This I address to would be policy makers and  social engineers, to some day senators and statespersons.

My earliest recollections are of a childhood spent surrounded by the mostly nonverbal autistic children that my parents worked with. They were unique individuals that cost their caregivers and society a lot of time, money and patience. In return, they made us better. More compassionate. More patient. More freaking human. Abortion is not the answer.

I have spent the entirety of my adult life surrounded by children. Children are not always easy to care for,  though they are easy to hurt. Parenting is by far one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Maybe my life would have been easier without them. More productive. Maybe I wouldn’t be so poor. But then what is the purpose of a life? Is it to be productive, to gain wealth, to amass things? Would I be better off with less children in my life and more stuff?  Abortion is not the answer.

As a therapeutic foster parent, I have often despaired over the horrors the children in my care have experienced, of the trauma that they are forced to overcome. Would it have been better for them to have never lived?  In their tragic stories, the worst of humanity is on display. In their overcoming is Glory: The finest tribute to what a person can be: an defeater of darkness and the Shadow Realms. We owe them the dignity of existence.  Abortion is not the answer, but what of these children born to parents ill equipped to care for them? They belong to us, to all of us, as part of our human inheritance. It is time we claim them.

The weak among us cost us resources. What would those resources otherwise be used for? To fund the military industrial complex? Start another war? Put off taking on adult responsibilities a few years longer? It is the weak, the fragile, the poor, those requiring special consideration that teach us to lay aside our own egos and agendas and join the family of all that is. They are our most precious gifts. Abortion is not the answer.

 

Hours

Matins

The children cry “Happy New Year” from their rooms. Shane and I made it to 11:30, then sent everyone to bed. We drift of to sleep to the pops of fireworks in the distance

Lauds

I am up to do the woodstove. This is my time, the time I take to do my reading for the day, soaking in the still, dark hour.

Prime

Shane is up to stoke the fire and soak up the sunrise, I roll over and return to my sleep.

Terce

Today is Shane and I’s anniversary. He sits next to me sipping cocoa as I write. We still have Christmas lights up, lining the rafters of the living room ceiling. The kids got up early to spiffy up the house, well, some of them did, anyway, and now they are carelessly tossed throughout the room on a variety of screens.

Gracie isn’t up yet. It will probably take me to actually rouse her out of her bed. The fatigue is just one of some concerning symptoms she has dealt with over the past few months, but I think we are on the mend. We haven’t nearly the intense struggle experienced by the cousins.

Belle is playing a puzzle game on the xbox, as her sisters patiently advise her. Even Emmy looks up from her phone every once and a while to offer advice, which I will take as a win. It has been a long road incorporating another tweenager into our already big family. The past few months resentments flared a bit after our dear girl’s “sprained ankle” refused to heal, necessitating lots and lots of physical therapy and other appointments. The sprained ankle was a growth plate fracture, and is recovering with proper treatment.

And the Lord provided a special mercy for some of the other kids. With all of the other appointments, my individual dates with the girls fell by the wayside. They missed it more then I realized, but by the time that hurt came to light, our budget was already tight in anticipation of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, some visitors to our church handed me a jar of coins. It was enough to take each of the girls out in the following week and spend some special time with them individually, and it was just the cure their hearts needed.

I haven’t written much this past year, but there has been much to treasure, much to ponder. As the children grow and become, I find that I also am challenged to grow, to become. There are questions of my life long unanswered, strings left dangling as I jumped from one thing to the next. In this season, I find disparate threads beginning to come together. A Pentecostal upbringing meets a current liturgical context in the form of contemplative prayer. I see a future in my mothering vocation as I look to a ministry and training in spiritual direction. I am free to embrace my “life that is” as a vital, integral part of who I am becoming. Its struggle and suffering are only kind instructors in the Way.

Sext

Shane wakes from a dozey sleep beside me. It is time for the children to come off screens, and for me to make lunch. Today is a rare day off work for him, and I will feed my dear, hobbit man, and perhaps even bring him a pipe. He continues, in spite of the physical exhaustion that accompanies his ataxia, to get up early each morning, to check the fire, to go to work. He stays up late with me each night, to bank the stove before bed, discussing with me the various books I am reading, bringing to our talks a wealth of historical and theological insight. He is wise, and kind, and 14 years later I am still quite fond of him.

He has surprised me, and delightfully so. He puts feet to my crazy leaps of faith. Years ago, it was in coming up with a table of repairs so that our home would be suitable to take foster children. He budgeted, planned, and executed all that was necessary for us to realize that dream. This year, I brought him a niggling idea of taking some seminary classes. Today, we eat cheesy rice and beans for lunch, a concession to the budget Shane came up with in order to make that happen. I couldn’t imagine a better traveling companion or more suitable spouse.

None

I write as the teakettle whispers from the stove. In a moment I will sit with my dear one and drink peppermint tea…Normally, we go out on an anniversary date on New Year’s Day, and take an afternoon to dream and plan. This year, we are planning a trip for the coming weekend. Today we rest some and tidy our offices and unclutter out minds.

Vespers

After supper, when the dishes are done and the floor is swept, Shane will watch a show with the kids as I take an evening walk.

Compline

We curl against each other with our respective books. It is still, and quiet, and so very good.

 

 

Seeing Him here

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I was going back through this year’s journals, looking for themes in this past year. My word for the past year was “Occupy” with a mental image of the busy workings of sparrows. What has become abundantly clear is that truly, truly, sparrows are seen by a loving Heavenly Father.

If I wrote all the instances here, you would hardly believe it. Answers to questions and prayers that came in sermons, in whispers, sometimes like a mighty rushing wind, and most recently in a jar of coins that found their way into my hand at the end of a candlelight service.

In 2017, God worked amazingly, miraculously in the lives of loved ones.  These were the answers to decades long prayer.

In 2018, He came for me, in a thousand persistent, life altering little ways

I’ve tried to write it out, but it would take a book. Basically, imagine a domino like series of events. Innocent interactions that were hinges, redirecting my path. A whim  to strike up a conversation became an introduction, a nudge towards a new way of understanding, which in turn became a map towards more than I would have ever known to ask for or imagine. But more than that, a freedom from the constant fear and worry that had plagued my life.

And always, always, little reassurances. Little signposts along the way. On Saturday night I journal a question or pour out an anxiety, on Sunday morning that very thing is mentioned in the sermon. Or I find a bible verse that is particularly meaningful, and it starts popping up everywhere. Or I think, gee, Lord, I really wish… and he answers that small desire, as He lures me, further and further, into the desert with him. This morning, I sat through a Disney movie sobbing, because of a particular lyric that spoke to me of Him, of a truth that I needed to hear and remember on this particular day and time.

And I begin to wonder if maybe those signs were there all along? Was I too preoccupied to see them. Were my ears too full of stuff and nonsense to hear Him?

The more I see Him, the more I am undone. (Seriously, by this time next year I may just be a puddle)

And so I  tell my children to look for the signs. Everyday. Can they see Him in the glint of light reflected in a raindrop resting on the variegated curl of a leaf? Is He there, just now, in the hint of woodsmoke on the wind, or the biting promise of snow? Time slows to an eternity between heartbeats as He rises in brilliant magenta on the first rays of morning sun. The world and its moments are full, pregnant and teeming with very God.

I have no word for the next year. There are none that remain, but Him.

The Sea

One day the sorrowing sea

shall be

no more

But until that day she

heaves and sighs

rolled and pulled

roiled, billowing, never at rest

 

That prince, O Pride, sets up his jewel encrusted throne

distressing, oppressing

That prince of fools!

Your Victor foe reclaims a bride

One-Only-Wise

hovers and covers

calls to her deeps, caresses her face

reflected, neglected

Ransom of peace

 

STILL, the sorrowing sea

shall be

no more

She will give up her dead,

Offer up salt tears

And return to the depths

Perhaps there

she will gather

mother, nurture

little streams

that make glad the city of God

 

Still

With the coming of the colder winter months ahead, when bulbs sleep and little blooms, and snow may blanket all in peace, I turn my attention to thoughts of stillness. What does it mean? Why is “stillness” so hard for us?

What would it look like to be comfortable with not knowing?

I faced a situation recently where my best laid plans went awry. I don’t know what is going to happen. I still don’t. I fight the urge to extrapolate an answer based on every new piece of information. To take control.

Or, to avoid thinking about it all together. To not be emotionally present with my own discomfort, but to crowd it out with business or frivolity or things. What does it look like to experience our winters? To let the cold and the snow come. To wait in darkness. Why does this seem so counter-intuitive?

In The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia, under the rule of the white witch, experiences  a seemingly unending winter. “It is always winter, but never Christmas,” says the sad Mr. Thumnas. As the witch’s grasp begins to weaken, Father Christmas comes. This is the long awaited sign that Aslan is on the move.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

Stillness comes with the hope of Christmas. We wait, not just numb with the cold and the grip of earth, but with expectation, longing even. For those who are His own, this not knowing is not a forever death, but a wrapped gift under the tree. It is the groaning for Christmas morning, the sure knowledge of goodness to come.

Spring always comes, and there is a sweet joy in the waiting.

Invitations

 

But what did it mean?

In this living dreamscape

What were You trying to say by

a baited answer,

The broken washing machine

thrice spewing water,

a girl in the boot who was late for school,

the deer I hit this morning,

the calendar full of appointments,

and at the edge of the woods: coyotes (or deer)

depends on who you ask,

Moses with a staff held in the air,

arms trembling.

Four Noisy children

sent out to see for themselves

“look for God”

I said as I shooed them out the door

“and watch out for coyotes”

(or deer) depending on who you ask.

One came back with a bowl full of mint leaves and berries

” taste and see ”

Two came back, covered in mud,

they checked for themselves, and decided it was deer

One furtively slipped in through the door,  heated water for tea, and invited me to drink.