Friday, May 31, 2013

Five-minute Friday: Imagine

As a little girl playing often on her own, I had imagination in droves.  Always, always, imagining myself different than I was, I inhabited the worlds of characters I created or admired.  More adventurous, more beautiful, more exciting.  Even on vacations, we were never "tourists climbing a look-out tower in San Francisco" - I was being held hostage and devising a way to repel through the window and down the tower to find my way back home.  

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And I think it started off innocent and pure, as imagination always does, and somewhere along the way, it became my way of coping with loneliness.  With avoiding seeing my life for what it really was.  I grew up and tucked imagination away, in the way that I'd known it, or at least I thought.  But it was still there, a part of me, the lens through which I peered out at my future and held my fears at bay.   

I imagine, someday, I will be this.  I will do this.  My life, my worth, my identity, will be found in this.  Because this, it's better than what really is right now. 

Of course, I didn't really think that in a conscious way.  It was a much, much deeper knowing. 

And imagination, as an adult, always vacillates, seeking to find its place back home.  Between the childlike wonder of the everyday; the faith-informed eyes that dare to see something that is not yet; the avoidance of what is; and that dark, downward spiral of fear.

Even this - imagination - cries out for its redemption, and waits with hope. 

. . . . . . . . .

Joining with Lisa Jo for FMF

Friday, May 24, 2013

Five-minute Friday: View

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Most days and minutes and moments, he's flitting in and out of my view.  My eyes, they strain to focus in on his figure like the wind.  My hands, they reach to grasp him, but he slips through, grains of sand in an hourglass that has no beginning or end.  I simply can't hold him.

He's a breath caught in the back of my throat; a tiny gasp, and then, he's gone.

The other day, the veil pulls back, a moment in time, and I am a cup opened wide and tipping forward, receiving love and spilling over.  I lean my whole frame against the bedroom wall, my cheek pressing streaks of wet, and I close my eyes to see.

His frame, leaning in, toward me.  His eyes, focused, in a swirl of activity all around him, the one who is outside of time.  His ears, perked and attentive.  I whisper his name, and I see, in my closed-eye view, him shift in heaven.

He's there.  And I'm here.  But he's here, too.  And I am caught somewhere in between.

I slide my hands against the wall, feeling for his, and if I just seal my eyelids tighter, maybe I can even feel those hands warm on the edges of my palms and the tips of my fingers.  

We meet here, within and outside of time, and all I can do is cry, and if anyone saw this, I would look like a crazy person - and maybe I am. I just want to be held and he just wants to hold, and so I lean against this wall and rest.  

And the moment, it passes, but leaves its imprint, the wings of a bird against a glass window, while I peer through and remember: he came near. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Linking up with Lisa Jo and FMF community. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The unsilenced chorus from unexpected places

4:36 am.  

I open the door and step through to darkness and downpour, but it's a darkness pregnant with life, a downpour quivering with song.  It's a rare pause at the start of my day, when I'm aware that day has begun without me, before me, and I am nothing but a guest treading lightly on hallowed ground.  My feet seem to know this instinctively, standing rooted to the concrete porch, if you can call it that, that connects our home with our neighbors'.  I drink in songs from birds hidden in tree tops and the world outside my door is auditorium, and my heart bows low.

I want to know the songs they sing.  I want to stand here in the rain soaked air beneath this canopy to hear their voices instead of rushing to my car to sit in silence.  I want to kneel here as their worship floods the sky.  

There's otherwordly beauty held in these songs, carried in the stature of a bird.  

It's in the great blue heron along the shores of the lake, the way they crane their necks in graceful forward plunge as they stalk slowly through the water, one big, spindly legged step and then another.  The way their feathers ruffle down their chests, a long fringe cumberband.  And it's how they tuck their silver heads with the stripe down the middle and run pointed bills down their feathered bodies.

It's in the bald eagles, perched taut and still on each end of a log submerged as the tide comes in, slight head movements watching, waiting.  Aged hunters, from centuries of history and folklore, they sit and testify, of life cycling on, enveloping us in something older and bigger than we have seen with our eyes.  

It's even here in the trees lining sidewalks and on the telephone wires above, the crows and the pigeons, the robins and sparrows, and all the 'common' ones I pass by without really seeing.  Nothing, no nothing, is common. 

It's as Tim Dee wrote in his A year on the wing, where the mundane to many of us becomes poetry and meditation,

"What they do and how they do it, 
the same over and over, 
gives their lives alongside ours an expression 
or a pattern in the air that can seem like art or ritual, 
as if they are deeper in the world than us, 
more joined to it, 
as we might dream it only."

And doesn't my soul hunger for this, to know and see and taste and feel the holy of God through the rain and the dark, the song and the seagull, the music blowing across tree tops in a language that calls unto deep?  

To know the songs of the birds and the artistry of God in creation, enveloping our world in beauty and grace, even as tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and famines, bombings and war, tragedies and terminal diagnoses sound a deafening roar. 

Even in the dark, in the rain, before the day breaks open, there sings an unsilenced chorus of praise from the humblest of places.   


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tearing, mending and turning

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

It's been a crash course in seasons this past year.  A turning, turning, turning, just like The Byrds sang.  And time, itself, can freeze as the world whizzes past, a figure bracing against the wind, yet somehow pressing forward.  

... a time to tear, and a time to sew.

I didn't hear the tear, but I felt it, like the kick of an invisible combat boot to the back of my leg, forcing me to the ground.  I had happily stolen away for one last boot camp class at my gym, four days before our wedding.  This wasn't a boot camp for bridal purposes, I genuinely loved the physical exertion.  We got to the final activity in the class, and three heavy impact steps in, I fell down, thinking my partner had accidentally kicked me following too close behind.

But I couldn't get up.  It hurt so bad, so much more than any kick I'd known.  In a daze, I hobbled on the shoulders of two others to a bench and propped my swelling leg up while we figured out what to do.  When I finally made it to urgent care, I heard a diagnosis I knew very little about, only that it wasn't good.  Torn achilles.  I didn't know what that meant until I saw my foot dangling limp below me, suddenly fragile and disconnected, and I heard the word "surgery" and began to weep in that hospital room.

Eight days later, I laid on an operating table for the first time in my life.  The surgeons cut my leg open and reattached my severed tendon to my ankle with a fiberoptic wire, then sewed me back together.

It's been a crash course in mending, too.  

It started off with a post-op cast, which I lugged around for ten days, and then traded in for cast that reminded me of an orange popsicle hugging my leg.  I wore this for four weeks, went to the doctor and came home with a walking boot I couldn't walk in.   Basically, a big robotic cast.  And I was still on crutches, for another four weeks.

... a time to break down, and a time to build up.

I returned to the doctor to find out I could just then begin to put weight - partial weight - on my foot, in this walking boot, still using my crutches.  This was the beginning of July, over two months after surgery.  I began with instructions to practice bearing twenty-five percent of my weight for a week, and then upped it to fifty percent weight-bearing for another two weeks.  At this point, I was still lugging my crutches around.  By the middle of August, I was finally walking around in the boot without the use of crutches.  And then came the day I slipped a running shoe on each foot and gingerly walked around the apartment, and this was a holy moment.  
This, nearly four months after injury.  I was limping a lot, but by the end of August, I finally returned to work for four hour shifts, and I came home each day feeling I'd been run over, my leg hot and swollen.

And all this time, I'm learning how to walk again.  How to flex my foot and move my toes and rock from heel to toe and stand with all my weight on my injured leg without toppling over.  

Over a year later, I'm still learning. The physical tear, just one of many in a year, teaching me how to mend in more ways than I bargained for. 

I walk for miles now, heading straight for the steepest hills and stairs I can find in the neighborhood.  The streets with the incline that forces me up on my toes to ascend, because without this, I can't walk up on my toes.  Up and down I go, and progress is slow, so much slower than I've ever known.  But I rub my hand along my calf and feel a tiny bulge of muscle growing there, where there was nothing. 

Each day I walk, it hits me, sometimes like a rattling in my bones that shakes my heart, shakes tears so close to the surface, peeking over the edge then pulling back.  

This weight of gratitude.  

One year ago, I was lying in bed with my leg propped up, taking pain pills and peering outside at the world.  Now, I inhale this air, those royal iris heads bent along the sidewalk, cry for joy at the blue heron by the lake and the bald eagle chased by crows, soak the sunshine in my skin down into my soul, taste the rain in the mild muggy air, savor this freedom I once lost - this gift of two working legs - and everything in me cries glory! even as I climb the hills with a hitch in my stride and hear the cracking in my knees and force my foot to rock from heel to toe instead of slapping the ground flat.  

The taste of this, all this, after having lost it.  It's almost more than I can bear.

...a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

We hit the dance floor last night, he and I, and it's a sacred time of remembering.  This place where we first met three years ago, this way we began to fall in love.  Our first language was not English or Spanish, but this - dance.

We haven't danced much in the last year, but somehow when the music plays, we fall into step together and it all comes rushing back.  His sixty-watt smile, the flecks of light in his eyes, the playful moves, the easy sway of his hips, the laughter, the heat between our skin.  I don't have to relearn this; my body remembers.  

And my whole being quivers with joy here, in this time to dance.  And the seasons, they dip in and out, and they keep on turning. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The me that was, the me that is - and what really matters

I remember during track and cross country in high school, the uncle of a good friend and team mate, training with us during hard practices and nine mile runs on the weekends.  In his glory days, he’d been fast, and years later he still ran faster than us.  We loved him.  And I remember, too, shrugging off some of his critical ways with a teasing smile, but feeling uncomfortable beneath it all.  The way he’d talk about one of our rivals from another school, how she looked like she gained weight since last season and we should have no problem beating her.  But she looked fine to me, and I wondered, sometimes, what he might have said behind my back, even as I knew he didn’t do it to be malicious.  I wondered if I stood up beneath his scrutiny as a runner; if I lived up to his expectations of my potential. 

I knew, I was never as fast as I could have been.

It’s how I feel, these fifteen years later, when I run into someone who knew me before.  Before my identity rattled and how I’d defined myself for years fell to the ground kicking up dust around my knees, where I knelt in the rubble of it all. 

There was me: the passionate, ambitious, idealistic, mostly black and white, wannabe-radical, larger-than-life dreamer, worship-leading, pentecostal-praying, performance-driven pursuer of God.  The girl who latched onto this vision of living in the slums in Africa, with or without a man beside her, and this is where she hung her worth.  I was scared to death of looking myself in the mirror and seeing who I was in the moment, so I fixed my eyes on who I wanted to be and ran myself into the ground toward that image.

And then, there is me: the mostly gray realist with a much too tamed passion, a hesitant dreamer, a tear-soaked grateful grace receiver, much simpler pray-er, rough around the edges follower of Christ.  The woman who is broken and messy and unfinished and tired.  The weary soul who leans on her Father and finds her strength renewed.  The one whose vision for her life is not much bigger than moments of love stacked upon moment.

It's not that I glorify the weariness, the brokenness, over the passion and zeal; the limping over the runningIt's just that the me that is is so much more honest than the me that was.  

And so I wonder, in those moments when I cross paths with someone from another time in my life, if I fall under their scrutiny.  I wonder, still I wonder, if I measure up, or if they think to themselves, “What happened to her?  She had so much going for her.”

I hate that I still wonder.

I see myself in the mirror, and I no longer hide behind an image, but neither do I love what I see.  

If I’m really, truly, gut-wrenchingly honest, my dim eyes see a disappointment.  They see a failure.  They see a sell-out, a side-lined lifeThey see a conflicted soul, no longer content with such a small and well-defined view of who God is and what it looks like to know and love him.  I see myself, holding stones in my hands, and I am the one to cast them at myself and shield my head as the glass breaks into pieces.  I know my eyes deceive me.

I sat recently on the floor, on my yoga mat, playing a song on my guitar and singing until my voice was too choked for words.  And I spilled it all out, all of these feelings and fears about myself to God, while my whole body shook like an earthquake, full of sorrow.  “Let me see, just a glimpse from your perspective,” I cried, hugging knees tight to my chest, “That I might know, all is not lost.  That it is never too late with you.” 

Why is it, I demand of my soul, in spite of what I say I believe to be true, that I continue to crawl to God and beg him to forgive me for being a big disappointment 

I thought of her, that broken woman with the tainted reputation who dared to come into an intimate gathering of men, beneath the scrutiny of them all, and knelt to bathe Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and tears, wiping them with her hair.  Of her, broken and unfinished and ashamed, how Jesus saw her beauty behind the glass and delighted in her worship.  She was no disappointment to him.

I bent forward, pressing my arm out to lean against the sofa, and ached with all my being to lean into Jesus, to touch his skin.  Ached to give him something precious.  My soul hushed.  And gently cutting through the stillness, I began to sing.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

Though Satan should buffet
Though trials should come
Let this blessed assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

My sin, Oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well, not because any one else - or myself - looks at me and declares it so,  declares me good or living up to my potential. 

It is well, because I have a Father who looks at me straight on and sees the reflection of his beautiful Son in this image I see as marred.  And he calls this good; he calls me good.  And then he asks me to put down my stones.

So yes, it is well, I sing to my soul, sing beyond the crushing weight of feelings, to touch my hand to truth and kiss his feet and know that I am loved and accepted, as I am. 

This, and only this, begins to open hands and drop those stones at his feet, one by one.  Nothing else matters but this - that I am not a lost cause to him, but oh - I am found in him.  

I am approved. 

. . . . . . . . . .
Linking with Heather and Emily

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Comfort

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Before I became Mrs. Cadenas, I thought I understood what it is, that saying I'd heard over and over from pastors delivering messages at weddings, taken from those recorded words God spoke at the beginning.  To those two who stood and beheld each other in wonder, he said that the two shall become one.  

It's a mystery.

I always envisioned on my wedding day, this as a mystical, spiritual transaction.  Somewhere between speaking our vows, being pronounced husband and wife, and the wedding night, we went from two people to one.  Though of course I knew, we would still be two physical bodies, two spirits, two souls.  I couldn't envision what this oneness looked like, fleshed out.  

On our wedding day, I learned it was much like a birthday.   I went to bed and woke up with this awareness - these are the final moments as Single Me.  Tomorrow, all will be different.  And it was, but also all was mostly the same.  I was the same.  No mystical transaction - I was me and he was him and I did not feel much like one.

I've pondered this a year now, and I shake my head with a private smile, how naive I was.  I didn't know.  

How oneness doesn't take place in a moment.  It's not vows or signing papers or official pronouncement or sexual intimacy.  It's worked out, every day, negotiated and chosen in moment stitched upon moment.  One stitch and then another, over a whole lifetime.  This is how two become one.  

It's not an arrival.  It's always a becoming.  As loving selflessly is never an arrival, always a becoming.  A two-steps-forward-one-step-back, keep leaning into each other, leaning into God who is Love.

And this, I see, is frustration.  And it's comfort.  It's both.  

It's a glimmer, a shadow, of something bigger and deeper, this oneness.   

Joining Lisa Jo and the group of Five-minute Friday writers, for the prompt of Comfort.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Five-minute Friday: Brave

Recycling this picture from my last post...

I think of my mom, living on her own for the first time in her sixty years, coming home to an empty house, learning to find her way through uncharted waters.

Of my brother in-law's mom, beginning the battle against breast cancer, how it cuts away but cannot take her beauty.

I think of my grandma, looking back on her nine decades of life and choosing to continue to grow and become, until she takes her final breath.  

Of the sixty-year old man I met in a wheelchair at the nursing home, wearing a smile on his face even as he tells me how he came home from the hospital with only one leg after an operation that went bad; of how he works out every day and hops around with a cane under one arm to build strength.

I think of my beautiful friend, struggling each day through the darkness of depression and illness and grief, how she gets up out of bed most days and shows up to love on her little son anyway.

Of my husband, coming here from Mexico nine years ago with fifty dollars and so little English, working labor job after labor job and building life again from the ground up.  

I think of my friend in our community group, a resident at Children's Hospital, pouring her heart into her work to serve families, many with children fighting to live, how she keeps that heart open to the pain of love.

Of all the souls I know and love, who get out of bed in the morning when sometimes this is the hardest thing; who get through the day breath upon breath, prayer upon prayer.

I think of the ones who are willing to break, to bare their souls in the presence of another, or even in written words; who offer a glimpse of grief and wrestling and questions and healing, in process, and let us see their journey of hope.

All the ones who offer sacrifices of gratitude as life storms around and inside them and things come crashing down.

I think of all these.

Of how many forms "brave" can take.

Joining Lisa Jo for a FMF post to the theme of Brave.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When courage doesn't roar, but tries again

It was the way his eyes held her, completely held her, in adoration.  The way his hand slid tender down her arm as he leaned in to ask her a question.  This ninety-year old husband of a beautiful woman in the nursing home I visit each week, he's there so much he became a volunteer.  Nine hours a day, seven days a week, he comes to be with his wife, pass out the mail and the newsletters, help with anything he can.  I stole glances at these two and blinked back unexpected tears.  I had to look away.

Pure, holy, aged, selfless, tender love.  

How I ache to give that love, and yes, to receive.

Oh, but how?  How did they get here and from where did they come?  This is their story to tell and I only know but pieces of ours. 

. . . . . . . . . . 

Four consecutive, uninterrupted days we had to ourselves this past weekend.  A luxury we haven't had, ever.  Days to cruise quiet beach town roads on bicycles; to walk barefoot in silky white sand and chilly Oregon coast waters; to bundle up in early mornings and watch all the people digging for clams along the low tide and walk to the local bakery for pastries and coffee.  Days to browse antique stores and garage sales and thrift shops for little treasures; to hike trails along the coast; to climb rocks with waves breaking around us; to explore caves and marvel at creation and unabashedly take too many tourist pictures.  To share breakfasts, lunches and dinners in each others' company and fall into bed at the same time and not wake up in a groggy rush. 

We both felt it, more than a page turning.  A new chapter beginning.  And this is where new begins, sometimes, with forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead.  Not because we really do forget, but because we'd rather build something new.  Sometimes, we just need to tear it down and start over.

Can we just start over?

. . . . . . . . . . 

I felt like my hands were melded to my brakes, felt the whole frame rattling along the streets, this afternoon as I ventured out for a ride.  Seattle's streets are not for the faint of heart, and maybe I haven't wanted to admit after several tumbles off my bike and still recovering from last year's big injury, how faint of heart I really am.  I'm downright, high blood pressure, tense forearms, hyper-vigilant paranoid on this old, creaky bicycle, on these streets.  I navigate cracks, crevices, cement drop-offs, roughly grated strips of road, full-on potholes and everything in between with my eyes scanning hard, my heart pounding, like I'm riding through a field of land mines.

I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this, I'm pruttering (half praying, half muttering) to myself and God and whoever else might be in my path. 

I'm so nervous of falling, because I remember how much it hurts.  I remember the road rash, the cleaning out of raw wounds, the burn and the sting, to avoid infection.  And I remember the scabbing, the stretching and pulling of healing - the scarring.  

But I know this, too: if I want to dream of triathlons again, I have to get on that bike and ride through, ride past, that fear.

So I steer my way back home, a short ride, and I dismount to walk down the steps.  I can't do this today the way that I want to, but tomorrow.  Tomorrow, perhaps, I will ride just a little bit further, with a little less fear.  

. . . . . . . . . .

Yes, today we lean in, and tomorrow, we will write a few more sentences; write our story a little further out, what we live that day in love.  And there will be days, it's a pruttering, a dismounting and walking, but always, we pray with feeble hands clasped together, let it be a trying again tomorrow.   So that one day, whether we're ninety or fifty or thirty-nine, our love pours out in that gentle courage of presence, of service, that look that passes between us of complete acceptance and adoration. 

Joining with Heather and Emily and Jennifer.