Saturday, September 21, 2013

spend it all

It was the end of something and the beginning of something, and me sitting on our old chair, that in-between place, our dark living room after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet.

I am thinking about a page turned, trying to sift back and sort out and find something . . . what is it? Some lingering shadow I am needing to gather before moving on, before I can leave this good thing to go to another.

Why must I learn how to live always by looking back, after it is done? It is here that I can see the forest for the trees. It all is beautiful, looking back. 

Looking back I usually identify some guilt, some misgiving, some layer of doubt. I see the ways I failed at loving, opportunities missed.

Most of all I realize the question I am asking is, did I live fully? Did I give myself, fully? 

And maybe life gives us these small deaths to show us how to live.

I find myself for some reason pulling up my drafts for this blog, the pages written but never published. And there are good things here, I'm wondering why didn't I publish them? It was fear of course, or doubt or imagined perceptions. Why did I care?

And this is what I regret most, what I always will regret most. With every good-bye I have regretted most the things I could have said but didn't, the risks I could have taken but didn't, people I could have loved better but drew back.

I don't want to die with a bunch of unpublished drafts: unused talents, compliments unspoken, things hoarded that could have been given, false selves, timid hope, pathetic prayers, beautiful truths I'd grown skeptical of. Love tempered by self-protection. I don't want to wait until looking back to see the glorious goodness and potential in the people and place I'd been given.

Wisdom for writing, and life . ..

One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”   ― Annie DillardThe Writing Life

Good words this week:

Surviving Whole Foods: Huff Post ----this made me laugh hard.

Why I Won't Let My Kids Have Cell Phones

Anne Lamott's facebook status

Thinking: The Sun Magazine

How to Stop Making Excuses: Glennon Doyle Melton for Woman's Day

Monet Refuse the Operation (love this) via Ruth

I Which I am Among the Spanish Oaks Again: Sarah Bessey.
Wake up, wake up, wake up, I would say. Look around you: you’re being broken here I know, but this is embarking point for your wilderness and in the wilderness he will be your God. You gathered everything you needed for the journey among the limestone and the bluebonnets.
Maybe healing stains backwards, in the same way that sorrow stains backwards through our lives.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Disclaimer: I have an aversion to any public discussion of squeamish bodily conditions, which is why I've debated about sharing this one. I'll spare the details.

Several months ago or maybe even a year a stupid cyst developed on my back. I ignored it. It was a little unsightly when I wore a bathing suit but oh well, it wasn't bothering me. Then it began to grow larger and larger and finally I reluctantly scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist. (Find a sitter, spend money). She injected it with Cortisone but within a few weeks it was even bigger. So I made another appointment (find a sitter, spend more money). More cortisone, soon an even larger cyst.

The lump by now had grown way beyond a little unsightly. It became angry and bruised, extremely tender and swollen. Eventually I couldn't sleep on my back, yelped if it was touched it, etc. But it was just a stupid cyst. Nothing life-threatening. I had already bothered this doctor twice with my problem, I'd scheduled a follow-up appointment in a few weeks and so I just would wait until then.

But the cyst became uglier and more and more painful and so finally, reluctantly, I called and apologetically explained that the treatments she had given me weren't working and "it's really not that unbearable, just uncomfortable, I mean I think I can live with it until my next appointment, but it's pretty big, and, well, I hope I'm not overreacting . .."

She had me come right in, and, in order to avoid the squeamish factor I will leave it at that.  I had probably waited too long and it was a good thing I called the doctor when I did. Taking care of it hurt, but now it is gone and I'm not living with this painful thing any longer.

So I am always wondering what I am meant to take away from these kinds of random events. It was nothing serious, and the problem has been taken care of, but is there something more here? These are some things I learned from a big stupid cyst . ..

I want to believe things will just take care of themselves, and go away.

I hate to overreact. We are trained to downplay our experiences.

I tend to prefer discomfort more than change.

The way this plays out in life is . ..

As a parent, I often defer to distracting, redirecting, or soothing an issue rather than a firm No. Jim helps me to see how this is not helpful to my children in any way.

As a friend, I avoid messy subjects or confronting misunderstandings in hope that the issue will just go away.

I don't always trust my feelings.

Spiritually, I tend to think of doing the right thing as being the pleasanter, least offensive route rather than the often painful work of healing or disruptive work of peacemaking.

I feel responsible to keep peace and make sure people are happy (control), rather than trusting God's work both to tear down and to build up.

This week I had to deal with a painful situation. There was this thing that wouldn't go away- it wasn't life-threatening, I could have continued to live with it possibly. But it was becoming more and more uncomfortable. I avoided dealing with it for a long time out of hope that it would just work itself out. Finally I could ignore it no longer.

I dreaded- grieved, struggled in prayer- over how dealing with this issue would cause disappointment or possibly pain for others. But avoiding it was only creating more pain.

In the end, it hurt, yes. There was a breaking apart, a wounding, but there also was healing. It was healing not only for me but I think too for the relationships involved. Even though I still don't understand all that happened or why, I feel a sense of health and love being poured in.

I do believe however that there could not have been healing were there not also grief. Acknowledging pain is the beginning of healing.

While I find petty complaining just as unbearable as anyone, to not complain is entirely unbiblical. The Bible is full of complaints, tears, grief, conflict, sorrow. Being in touch with pain is the way we cry out for healing and blessing, both for ourselves and for others.

I also tend to avoid reckless truth-tellers, the people who feel so compelled to distribute Truth that they seem to have small concern for hurt they might cause.

Neither avoidance nor reckless confrontation bring healing. The only way to heal is first by admitting this hurts.

Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness.
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts

In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision, God of love

Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother.
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing.
Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.

(Marty Haugen)

(I often think of Paul as a blunt truth-teller, but I was struck this summer as I read 1 & 2 Corinthians by how deeply Paul's correction to the Corinthian church grieved and distressed him).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

eternally curious

To be wise is to be eternally curious.
Frederick Buechner

We were young- seven? eight?- a childhood friend, Jenny, who has remained a lifetime dear friend. Climbing to the attic of her home we found ourselves in the presence of books. Stacks and stacks of books, towering, and we thumbed the covers and whispered for we knew we had stumbled upon wonder. And this is where I first was drawn to books, and the small sparkle of mystery they contained.

I was drawn next to people who read. I believed that they were the wisest people, and had arrived somehow, and I wanted to be around them and to learn what they knew. I know now that people read because of all that they don't know, or because of how alone they feel, and the more they read the deeper the mystery and the more curious they become and the less alone. They line their walls and stack their attics with questions and carry them in their arms.

Recollections #16 of 36

the surrendered life

 If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily "ours" but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinguish, ours to lose, ours to let go of, if we want to be our true selves. Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes. ― Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ's Control
Passion and Purity remained for many years on my nightstand along with Shadow of the Almighty. These were early formative books for me. (I wonder now whether I will give my daughters Passion and Purity to read- I'm not sure anymore about a "right way to find your mate." I suppose I would need to read it again, it has been many years since I last read it.)

The story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot and especially the autobiography of Jim through his journals was a clear and powerful message of what following Christ truly means- the surrendered life. I wonder if the concept of full surrender is slipping away in our age of self preservation. I need to be reminded of this often.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

soup Sept.14

Trust that if God is anywhere, God is here, which means that there is no telling where God may turn up next - around what sudden bend of the path if you happen to have your eyes and ears open, your wits about you, in what odd, small moments almost too foolish to tell. If God is ever, God is now, in the in and out of breathing, the sound of footstep on the stair, the smell of rain, the touch of a hand on your shoulder where you kneel at the door.   -Frederick Buechner, The Eyes of the Heart
This week I read The Eyes of the Heart: A Memoir of the Lost and Found. It left me all week daydreaming about God and death and the beauty and pain but mostly the beauty of life. I love Buechner's writing and the way it opens up new landscapes of imagination and hope and wondering about God. I love his honesty and curiosity and the tenderness and vulnerability and even doubt with which he writes about death and life and God. This is the first book by Buechner I have read- what should I read next?

Today we went for a hike and discovered this lovely little guy . ..

Mental Neat Freak: Conversion Diary ---this is so me.

Why You Should Stop and Remember Your Life: Storyline

The Obituary of Mary A. "Pink" Mullaney 

How to Live Through the Hard Weeks: Holy Experience
Drink the thankful sweet out of each thistle —because this is how you fly.

I wish . . .
And I wish all the people I love the most 
Could gather in one place 
And know each other and love each other well 
And I wish we could all go camping 
And lay beneath the stars 
And have nothing to do and stories to tell 
We'd sit around the campfire 
And we'd make each other laugh remembering when 
You're the first one I'm inviting 
Always know that you're invited, my friend 
-Sara Groves, Every Minute

Saturday, September 7, 2013

soup Sept. 7

I am at Starbucks this morning early to write. Next to me a lady sat down and spread out crochet blocks. Well, to each her own right? I come to Starbucks to write you come to crochet. Except that I am only at Starbucks for the free WiFi and lack of children. And the pumpkin scones. That is all. If I were going to, say, crochet, I could think of a thousand places I would rather do it. A cozy front porch? A bench on a hill watching the sunrise over the city? In front of my television watching House Hunters? There are many good places to crochet. Writing, not so much. Even this Starbucks is too noisy and pretty soon I am going to have to use the restroom and what will I do with my computer? Ask the crochet lady to watch it? Maybe.

There is a lot to be thankful for this week. Most important is the now conclusive result that Annie is going to Kindergarten. Which means she didn't sob when I dropped her off every morning, didn't run out into the parking lot looking for me, no phonecalls from the school. I had some serious doubts about this one. I imagined kindergarten lasting about two days. But I drop her off in the morning and she is smiling and I pick her up in the afternoon and she still is smiling and this is something of a miracle.

A lesser and but just as noteworthy wonder is that she begs to buy hot lunch! (Oh mom, the hot lunch looks so delicious! Please can I buy hot lunch?) No more packing lunches! Our likelihood of making it to school on time just increased by fifteen minutes. Miracles abound.

This week Sam had her first day of Classical Conversations. I am struggling to find the right cliche to describe it. Fabulous fantastic awesome wonderful? We love Classical Conversations. It is an intense three hours, but so so good. It is exciting to be a part of such a rigorous academic program based on the values of homeschool.

Our first week of homeschool went well but I confess I had a few of those foggy-brained/ in-need-of-grace days and you know I did what I need to do: fall flat on my face and pray God you are Big and Holy and Love and Forever and I am not. Clean my house top to bottom. Read something transporting. This week it was Gap Creek. Good read.

Today is beautiful. Every day this week has been beautiful. September in Ohio is beautiful.

This week the Buecher quote I posted got a lot of hits and my first reaction was, Oh no please don't be mean to me. And then I remembered it was only his words, not mine. Having a popular post has become one of my fears. It seems as soon as somebody writes something a lot of people agree with, there will be even more people who strongly disagree, and then their strong disagreeing posts will go viral and there will be a lot of tsk-tsking and internet glaring. I am clearly too fragile for blogging. I may be too fragile for the internet. Why are overly sensitive people cursed with this need for expression? Why not just be quiet and crochet something?

Leaving you with these lovely places to visit . ..

Cafe Tandoor: The very best place for Indian Food in Cleveland. (We overheard another customer say that it may be considered one of the best in the U.S.) I am not an expert, but my tikka masala was fabulous fantastic awesome wonderful.

Rabbit Room Discussion: Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?  Fascinating discussion, and comments.

How Living an Ordinary Life Becomes Extraordinary: storyline blog
When we let nothing draw our eyes and hearts and hands away from the word love, the most ordinary becomes blessedly extraordinary. We can hear our Lord say share a meal, consider a flower, and be like a grain of salt. It is then that we know we are being invited into a sacred kingdom.

'Sing yourself to where singing comes from': Remembering Seamus Heaney

When it's too big (a reflection on Syria): Rachel Held Evans

Two lovely souls I am adding to my sidebar:

I met my friend Jennifer through blogging. She and her husband are churchplanters in New Orleans, and she is wise and genuine. I love her. You will want to follow her new blog: Hasty Feet.

Next is my friend Tana who I met in Haiti. She and her family came to visit this summer and we had such challenging conversations for days about what it means to serve God and live a meaningful life. I am so thankful for her, and glad she has opened up the discussion into a blog, Keep Open House.

This week a dear friend of mine lost her mom. In a strange way I became friends with her mom before I met her, and have always felt a fond connection with her mom even though we hadn't met face to face in years. Her daughter Amanda is a fellow artist and I think of her mom as an artist too, in the way she lived with passion and gusto. She was one of those people I respected so much for having opinions about things, strong opinions which she researched and learned and understood, and even if I didn't share all of her opinions I respected her so much for knowing and learning and living with heart. It was an honor that Wanda read this blog.

And now friends, I am going to go buy a fall candle.  Peace . . .

Friday, September 6, 2013

Best-Loved Poems

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you- Nobody- too?
There there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise you know!

How dreary- to be- Somebody!
How public- like a Frog-
To tell one's name the livelong June-
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson

I wish I still had my copy of Best-Loved Poems. I believe it was my Aunt Sharman who gifted the book to me, at the time when I was likely yet receiving Barbies and unicorns. 

It was a startling moment- to open this book at age eleven or twelve and discover the language of poetry. What it means to be human, to be alive- those first questions and emotions rising so strong in me and finding that others had experienced them too and given words to them.

Recollection #14 of 36

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

we would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather be ruined than changed 
We would rather die in our dread 
Than climb the cross of the moment 
And let our illusions die.


Sunday, September 1, 2013


Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy…. What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter….” —Frederick Buechner

Recollections #13 of 36