Friday, June 28, 2013

In between

I haven't always lived here, in this in between place, where the paradox of faith rubs friction against the realities of life.  We grow up - into complexities far above our heads and wrapped around the fabric of our lives and our world - and in spite of this, or because of this, we are invited to turn back our hearts to the simplicity of a child's faith while we continue forward in this place in between.  

I live in this place in between knowing Why or How; between Black and White; between Then, Now and Not Yet. 

And I read these words today, at the prompting of a dear friend, and they, too, leap out from a place in between two worlds:

"For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, 
above strength, 
so that we despaired even of life.  
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves,  
that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead."  
~ 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

I live here, too.

Burdened beyond measure, above strength, and honestly? Some days despairing even of life in a quiet, hidden way.

And it's here, in these ancient words, in this place between life and death, a flicker of light shines through the cracks of my faith.  

That we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

The dead of our hearts.  The dead of our circumstances.  The dead of our dreams, of our relationships, of our health, of our hopes.

Here, in this in between, I reach the end of myself and I wait, in growing hope, for the God who raises the dead.  And here, I awe.

He will come to you; he will come to me.  

He will come and raise the dead.

Joining Lisa Jo today and the Five Minute Friday writers.  This post, again, is hardly the product of five minutes, but I love the prompt today. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

When you feel you've lost your voice

Some days, I fear she’s left me, she’s so quiet, lying motionless somewhere between my brain and my heart.  My writer voice.  I call to her, and there is no reply.  But I know she’s there; or perhaps I don’t, I only dare to hope.  Today I cannot hear her voice, but I hope she’s there, tucked away in the folds of my heart the way courage tucks away in vulnerability. 

I hear the voices of others, raw strength and whispered prayers, lilting images carried on the wings of poetry and prose.  And I smile for them, draw strength from them, and watch them fly away.

They fly without me, it seems.  I watch them lift, higher and higher, until we are in two different worlds - they in the air, me on the ground.

It is not my time to fly, I say.  For everything there is a season, and mine must be a digging and planting, a breaking and building, a grounding not flying.  A time to keep silent.

And I wait, for words that reap life and grace to spring up from this dry ground scattered with broken seed.

We’ve planted, I say.  The rains will come.  My voice, she will emerge once more from within the folds. 

Yet, until that day, my soul, scoop the earth in your hands and feel the dirt slip through your fingers and hold the scent of tear stained ground in your heart.  Memorize the songs of birds at dawn and study the dance of swallows across the open fields, and at night, practice flying in your dreams. 

photo credit

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Songs in the cave

 "Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?" 
~ Song of Solomon 8:5

Sitting across from a friend this week, nursing margaritas over Mexican dinner, she asks me if I've been writing much lately.  And I frown at the answer because I don't like it, but I'm honest.  "No, not really.  Once, maybe twice a week is all."  I know she doesn't know the why behind that answer, maybe doesn't even need to know, but for some reason I need to hear myself speak it, because I'm not sure I've tried yet to put words to it.

"Life has been... overwhelming," I admit, slowly.  "Most of the time, I feel I'm barely keeping my head above water.  And because I write about life as I experience it, in the moment, these hard emotions can either fuel my writing - or they can cause me to clam up.  Like I have nothing to say, or nothing that can be said.  Or I fear sounding like a broken record."

She listens compassionately, saying little, but I feel a sense of relief with this small confession.  

When I'm not writing much, I feel some guilt - well, let's call it what it is, shame - in naming myself as a writer.  Your writing, this shame voice says, is never enoughYou're not enough, the voice accuses.  You're not even fit to call yourself a writer.  And sometimes, I push back, even if the voice comes through someone else - a customer the other day who, upon hearing I'm a writer in addition to my job, asked if I got paid to write.  I said no, and he answered, "Oh, you're a wannabe writer."  I jutted my chin out and surprised myself with my response - "No, I am a writer.  I just don't get paid."  But come the end of the day, I find myself often too weary to write and nothing is pushing its way out, demanding to be birthed in story, and so I tuck it all in for another night and go to bed and try to convince myself I'm still worthy of the craft.

And you know what?  I don't have any clear purpose for writing these things down today, except to say, I'm still here.  And I'm still struggling. 

I wrote back in the fall about this sense that I'd been in a cave and was finally beginning to emerge.  Yet if I'm honest, I have tried to come out of that cave and it seems to follow me where I go, no matter what I try, attached to my back like a shell to a tortoise.  I'd love to think, instead, I'm a butterfly in a cocoon, beating wings against the walls until she's ready to push out, but is this wishful thinking? I ask myself.  I'm weary of fighting - the darkness, the onslaught of negative thoughts, the urge to withdraw, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the hopelessness.  Fighting for joy.  Fighting for a marriage.  Fighting to receive the love and acceptance of God.   

Alone in our apartment several nights ago, I pace the dark living room, not bothering to turn the light on, singing softly, "Holy, holy, you are holy.  Holy is the Lord."  One of the lines from a song I loved (and still love) in another season of life.  My voice quivers, I can barely get the words out above a whisper, and the tears sting warm and salty in the corners of my eyes.  I feel it gently pressing in around me, the presence of God, and I drop slowly to my hands and knees, continuing to sing but mostly weeping (I think I left a pool of tears and snot on the fake wood floor, but I couldn't see it in the dark).  

Truly, there's nothing like being in God's presence, but it escapes my ability to translate into words.  For me, I think it boils down to this intense knowing, I'm not alone here, in this space.  I am seen.  Accompanied by tears (big surprise), gratitude and the tiny hairs on my neck standing up, not in fear but in the sense of being near the holy. 

As I sob out my gratitude and love, I find myself returning to a prayer that's haunted me for this long season.  "God, I'm so sorry... for what my life is, for who I am.  It's probably not what you had in mind for me."  

It tumbles out, but I often see it coming down the pike before it escapes my lips.  It rumbles from somewhere deep within and I feel it rising up.  This shame.  This agonizing pain I want to keep buried because it threatens to tear me in two as it comes up: I've let God down, the one who matters the most to me.  My whole life, it's a big disappointment and disgrace to him.  And hence, the shame talk spirals, until I'm no longer lost in the gracious presence of God, but drowning in a river of accusation.

At least I catch it this time, for the lie it is, and I'm no longer surprised by it.  So I pray into it instead.  "Father, show me who I really am in you.  Help me to know, really know, that this is not what you say of me.  Help me to believe."  It's a small prayer bursting with desperate hope.

The tears begin to slow and my body quiets, and I keep breathing out this prayer until I sit in a hush in the dark, knowing I am held and somehow, accepted here, as I am, even if my heart struggles to receive it.  

Knowing, as long as I'm in this cave, I'm not alone.  He is with me, and when the time is right, we will make our way out into the daylight together.

So, as a precious friend shared with me recently, the words of a song sung by creation in her daughter's Children's Storybook Bible, these, too, have become my song of faith.  I'll sing them, until they are the voice rumbling from deep within, steady and childlike, and the truth begins to bind up this broken heart.  And I rest, in grace.   

"...the birds and the flowers hadn't forgotten - they still knew their song. It was the song all of God's creation had sung to him from the very beginning. It was the song people's hearts were made to sing: 'God made us. He loves us. He is very pleased with us.' It was why Jesus had come into the world: to sing them that wonderful song; to sing it not only with his voice, but with his whole life - so that God's children could remember it and join in and sing it, too."

. . . . . . . . . . 
* P.S.  I'm reading an incredible, unsettling book by Brene Brown, called Daring Greatly.  It addresses this topic of shame and how becoming resilient to shame helps us toward the courage of vulnerability.  So, while I really didn't want to hit publish on this post, this is one small step of many to come in learning to dare greatly. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Five-minute Friday: Fall(ing)

Friends, I've been so afraid of falling.

Falling short of expectations, dreams, potential.

Falling out of grace, into judgment.

Falling in love.

Falling out of love - or being fallen out of love with.

Falling forward, in faith, in the dark, off the proverbial Cliff.

Falling apart, in a hundred shards of broken glass.

Falling into someone's arms.
Of prayers falling flat and lifeless. 

But I've been there, in all these places of falling, and I see now, falling is all about facing fear.  

Fear of failure, rejection, heartbreak.  Fear of not being caught, of smacking hard into the ground.  Fear of never recovering all those shattered pieces.  Fear of not being heard, of not mattering, of not being good enough or faith-filled enough.  Fear of wounding the ones I love, of being wounded by them - of never really loving well. 

And I've seen, that falling is where the weak can begin to know strength and those who thought they were strong can know their weakness.  

In falling, we can know flying - and we can know the taste of the earth caked on our lips.  And the tenderness of God picking us up off the ground, cleaning and binding our wounds, kissing pieces back together.  

photo credit
The only place I have ever been truly comfortable falling face down is at the feet of Jesus, pouring out my heart, in all its brokenness and attempts at loving the Divine.

And maybe, this is where our falling begins and ends, so that we can face the fears and know that we are still held.  

 . . . . . . . . .

Linking up with Lisa Jo.  

I rarely follow the "five minute" part of this exercise, and maybe I need to fall into that (hehe) a few more times, to get myself in the groove.  But for now, giving myself a few more minutes to follow where the prompt leads is working well for me.  Thanks for being here, friends.  Peace and grace to you, in all the steps of your journey.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On walks with Mom

From my car window, I saw them walking slowly up the sidewalk, a white haired son leading his white haired mom by the hand.  And I don't know why it hit me right then, why the veil slipped down for a few moments and I stared face to face with the reality I tuck away, unconscious, nearly every single day.  

My mom won't be young forever.

I know, of course, that she adds a year to her life, the second of every September.  But it's as if her age increases independent of her body.  In my mind, she's timeless, ageless, her smooth face forever framed with short auburn curls.  I cannot envision her old.

But she speaks increasingly of pain in her body, and I try not to worry, though her pain hurts me, too, deep in my heart.  Arthritis in fingers and hips and knees, pain that burns through her all throughout the day and into the night, stealing her sleep.  And I listen with one ear and push it out the other ear, because I don't know how to hold that feeling of helplessness, that incongruity.  Her body is supposed to hold up, my heart argues against logic and nature, because she's my mom.  She's too young for this. 

Yesterday, I drove to her apartment and we walked to one of our favorite old haunts in downtown Ballard, savoring conversation nice and slow over coffee and slices of hazelnut coffee cake.  From there, we walked to the Locks and she squealed with joy over small, shiny black fish shooting in schools from the pipes and looked eagerly for our beloved heron on the shore or hidden away in concrete crevices.  And I soaked this in, all of her, thinking how I love this woman. 

We crossed the Locks to Discovery Park and hiked the three mile loop around, pausing to inhale at the beautiful sweeping views.  Along the side of the trail, she stopped to pick a buttercup and asked if I remembered, how years ago we'd hold them up beneath our chins to see if their reflection foretold a love of butter on our skin.  If I remembered the chains of daisies and buttercups we'd knit together in the grass.  And I didn't remember, any of this, but I tucked this memory away for another time. 

On our walk back home, seven miles total, we passed by a garage sale and chatted with her neighbors, and she gave her phone number to the woman, saying she'd love a walking partner in her neighborhood.  At home, we fixed heaping salads for lunch and she was so delighted I didn't need to slip away yet, and her excitement to share another meal with me, at her home, shot through my heart.  

We shopped the afternoon away in search of a dress and heels for two weddings I'm in this summer, and we found both, along with a pink and white ruffled top for her that looked just right.  And I stayed for dinner - takeout Thai from another favorite spot - and we watched Father of the Bride II for the ninety-ninth time. 

Since losing my dad nearly five years ago, I have had time to ponder the possibility of losing my mom in an instant of time, as we did him.  Even to ponder the eventuality of losing her, period.  But rarely have I thought of watching her, the one who is my closest friend, age before my eyes, until she is but a shell of herself.

She is the one person in my life I know I can call any hour of the day or night and never be a bother.  The one who will drive across town to go for a walk with me and listen to me pour out my heart when I call her in tears, lonely.  The one who listens intently, holds me with her eyes, covers me with her prayers, spills her tears with me.  The one who kept me company the first days after surgery, sitting in bed with me as I dozed in and out, helping me hop in pain to the bathroom.  The one who spent a Saturday helping me pack our apartment and scrub cupboards and bathtub and sinks and toilet.  The one, I know, who is always content just to be with me, as I am. 

One day, I may be white haired, leading her slowly along the streets on a brief walk, instead of briskly covering miles together, up and down hills.   And I will love her then, as I do now, the woman who came before me and gave me life and has walked through life with me, my closest friend.

Mom and Sis at the coast

Linking with Heather for another Tuesday of Just Write