Wednesday, November 30, 2011

long waiting

We wait.

I find myself drawn to Advent
the greyness of this season
the hush and still
the echoing steps
empty trees
first plumes of woodsmoke

For it is only this once each year
that we acknowledge our groaning
our emptiness
our occasional disbelief

We are cold
and lonely
and far from home

Only once a year do we lay it all down in wonder-
the staggering weight
 of waiting
and the blazing star
the desperate ache
of hope

I cling to the long waiting of Advent
the long wishing
 courageous expecting
on the darkest nights of the year, waiting, we hang lights.

Linking up today with Ann and the Practice of Preparing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

miracle enough

I am a mother.

I do not raise the dead.  I do not preach to the masses or heal the sick or call down fire from Heaven.

I do not manage budgets or prepare proposals or find creative solutions for much of anything unless finding a new place to store the crayons is a creative solution.

I do not even wear lipstick.  I certainly don't bring home the bacon.

I sweep up cheerios.  I carry a child on my hip.  I stir the soup.  I sing them to sleep.

I turn out the light and pray big deep sighing prayers and shut the door and whisper thank-you thank-you thank-you- this prayer that is lifted- scooped from the very deepest part of me like the wand that scrapes the very bottom of the bottle to be poured out with a breath, and my whole insides, my very deepest thanks and aches and longing lift into hallelujah.  This is what I do.

And isn't this enough?

This daily picking up.  Daily stirring.  The daily hallelujah.

And every day, there is the dying.

Every day I die a little more, am raised to life a little more; isn't this miracle enough?

When I thought I had right to my body, my space, my sleep, my two hours of quiet in the afternoon; and one by one like blocks they fell and I complained and demanded, scheduled and disciplined and now am able to sigh and say it's okay; isn't this miracle enough?

When I was iron and he was iron and at two in the morning all we could do was clang and spark and sometimes we felt like giving up but slowly we are melting, molding together and into one another; isn't this miracle enough?

When I coddled wounds like kittens, against my breast.  When I lay awake too many nights begging God for the ability to forgive that I did not possess, and one day reaching into my pocket to stroke a stone I find they've turned to petals; isn't this miracle enough?

Daily, I am saved.  Daily, I am being saved, sanctified.

Daily, I call down fire from Heaven and it destroys me, cleanses me.

Daily mothering I die a little more and daily mothering I live.

It is miracle enough.

This post was inspired by "women saved through childbearing" - at Practical Theology for Women.

I am linking up today with Heather, "Just Write."

Monday, November 28, 2011

a wide open field

I wrote a post and then I deleted it, but if you subscribe to this blog it probably posted in your reader anyway.

The post wasn't anything original or controversial or all-that thought-provoking . . .  it just wasn't me.  When I read it I knew it didn't sound like me, and then when Jim read it he said, Yeah it doesn't really sound like you.  So I hit delete.  Only, in the internet world nothing dies but lives on into infinity.

I think what makes me uncomfortable with the post isn't the fear of offending someone (I don't think it would offend anyone), or the fear of publishing a dumb post, but the grating sense that I am trying to be someone I'm not.

Because I am learning, like my friend Misha described so well:
Say no to what doesn’t feel right (even if you can’t explain why yet) and fight for what does (even when it scares you to death.)It's freedom. And also trust. It’s living in a wide open field where anything can be built and new things, never before discovered, will be seen.
Finally I can recognize that wearisome, awkward feeling as being a me that doesn't exist; a self I am trying to fit into that pinches and pulls in places.

But the feeling of sprouting wings?  That sense of losing awareness of space and time, of chasing talking rabbits?  This is freedom.  This is to be deeply alive.

It is too bad that it takes us so long to find these wings, and even longer to learn how to use them.  It's too bad that we waste so much time feeling awkward and afraid, trying to be somebody else.

Last night I was fretting to Jim about writing and life, and finally he said, "Don't pay attention to the message or what you are trying to say.  Just listen to the rhythm of the words."

And I remember that this is the secret to writing- the secret to living: to be in rhythm . . . to be in step with the Spirit.  That is all.  We do not know what God is doing or where we are being led; we do not even know really what we are trying to say. But we are paying attention to the quiet voice within.

 I can recognize by now within me consolation and desolation; what feels like life, and what feels like the absence of life.  I love to write because it helps me to clarify those voices; to sort out whether I am acting out of my true, redeemed self, or a false self.

Misha described this kind of living it as a wide open field.  I couldn't agree more.

Let those who fear the LORD say:
   “His love endures forever.”
 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD;
   he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
   What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 118:4-6

We who try our best to live, why do we not live more?
-Vincent VanGogh

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

Is it sacrilegious to say that I was not incredibly moved by Jane Austen?

I did enjoy the story, but the happily ever after seemed a little too simple.  I was also surprised by how character-driven her writing is, with a lot of dialogue and light on description or detail.  The 19th Century English aristocratic culture and mating rituals were fascinating, and I definitely stayed up too late waiting for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to finally untangle their misunderstanding and fall in love.  But overall this love story didn't move me as Charlottel Bronte's Jane Eyre did.

Pride and Prejudice is the first novel by Jane Austen that I have read, maybe I need to keep trying.  What Austen book should I read next?

As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow I am deeply grateful for God's goodness and faithfulness, His tender mercies, His grace and beauty that fill our lives and the continual rest and peace that He offers.  I cannot imagine life without the Hope that I have in Christ.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2011

slowing down

It has been nearly a month since I declared a self-imposed internet rest; though I have been away from the computer more by circumstance than by self-discipline this month.  We just finished a month that felt like a marathon: Jim working crazy overtime+ sick kid + sick kid + sick kid + birthdays + party + vacation + in-laws visit + good friends . . . all good things.  Wondrously good.  Probably the best month of the whole year, also the busiest month of the whole year.

It was so much fun while it lasted but now I am craving a little bit of quiet, a little bit of routine, maybe even a little bit of snow?  In fact I am secretly excited about our first winter in the snow belt- it feels like an adventure!  (Ask me how I feel about winter in March).

Today my only plans are to drink tea and read blogs and search Pinterest while pulling the kids off of my computer.  And there may be something pumpkin-ish in the oven and soup-ish on the stove.

My online step-back fell at just the right time as life amped up and for a few weeks I didn't have a second to spare; I credited my abstinence from facebook for granting me a little mental clarity during all of the craziness.  I have found that I do miss some of my online friendships, the people who I only connect with through social media.  But I do not miss the constant buzz, the constant temptation to be always distracted from my real life.  I know that social media (facebook) can be used for good, that it has been a blessing for me during some seasons, but for me, for this season, the disconnection is what my soul (and my family) needs.  I don't miss it at all.  (Confession: I do pop on occasionally just to check up on a few friends).

I read two books lately:

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
This book is about the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter as the daughter discovers her beauty and sexuality, and how it drives them apart.  I enjoy Strout's frank, and witty style and the way she creates characters that are so complex and so real.

Lit by Mary Karr is a memoir, (Karr's third- this is the first I have read of hers) telling the story of her slide into alcoholism as a young wife and mother.  Written more like a novel than memoir, her story is searing; as Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times reviews, the book "lassoes you, hog-ties your emotions, and won't let you go."

Alcohol became a way for Karr to cope with the buckling pressure and guilt of motherhood, and her own mother's destructive alcoholic shadow; her self-destructive path eventually led her to a place where she could open to the faith that she had not only resisted but scorned her whole life.  As an academic she was practiced in dismantling any hint of belief, but after a lot of encouragement from her friends at AA she finally opened her heart just a little to the possibility of grace, and gratitude, and began to find a presence of love that she eventually would acknowledge as God.  Her faith journey is fascinating, marked by unexplainable small miracles and unlikely teachers, especially the broken, hurting and faith-filled friends she meets at AA.

My favorite passage from the book comes from a conversation she is having with Jack, a friend and fellow AA member.  When he refers to making boxes he is talking about his job at the box factory, and when he refers to setting chairs in a circle he is talking about his volunteer duty at AA meetings, to set up the chairs each week.
Instead, his eyes meet mine evenly and he says- as it seems everybody says- You should pray about it.  
But what if I don't believe in God?  It's like they've sat me in front of a mannequin and said, Fall in love with him.  You can't will feeling.
What Jack says issues from some still, true place that could not be extinguished by all the schizophrenia his genetic code could muster.  It sounds something like this: 
Get on your knees and find some quiet space inside yourself, a little sunshine right about here.  Jack holds his hands in a ball shape about midchest, saying, Let go.  Surrender, Mary. 
I want to surrender but I have no idea what that means. 
He goes on with a level gaze and steady tone:  Yield up what scares you.  Yield up what makes you want to scream and cry.  Enter into that quiet.  It's a cathedral.  It's an empty football stadium with all the lights on.  And pray to be an instrument of peace . ..  
What if I get no answer there? 
If God hasn't spoken, do nothing.  Fulfill the contract you entered into at the box factory, amen.  Make the containers you promised to tape and staple.  Go quietly and shine.  Wait.  Those not impelled to act must remain in the cathedral.  Don't be lonely.  I get so lonely sometimes, I could put a box on my head and mail myself to a stranger.  But I have to go to a meeting and make the chairs circle perfect.