Friday, February 21, 2014

This small space where story dwells

More than five years ago, I claimed this address online and moved in, this small space that is home to these words woven into story.  With such a long name for such a small space, I had a vision for how I wanted it to look, but it's taken me awhile to unpack and decorate the walls and add the flourishes and touches that feel like home. Some pictures, too, have gone up on the walls, only to be taken down.  My style has changed, even if I haven't been able to pinpoint clearly what it is.  It passes, too, with the seasons.   

I know what home feels like when I visit other peoples' homes, where their words find a place to live and give life.  It settles inside me like the ache of a dream not yet fulfilled, wraps around me like a sweet memory from years past.  In their homes, I might be at my favorite bed and breakfast at the Oregon Coast, wrapped in a blanket with a fire crackling, mesmerized by ocean waves consuming the beach sand.  Or I might be sitting at an old farmhouse table, savoring bread fresh from the oven in a room with butter walls and children laughing in the background.  I might be laying on my back in a field, staring up at two eagles dancing through a turquoise sky, listening to the sound of the wind bending grass and tree branches swaying. Their voices sing to me, like the birds outside my window, in the pause just before dawn.  In these homes, I kick off my shoes and settle in for long conversation; for the gift of being seen and known without a mask.  

Yes, I know home when I enter it.

But what about those I invite into my own home, is it home for you?  

I confess, I’ve wanted my writing home to be a safe place where you can curl up on the couch or pull up a comfy chair, with a pot of coffee on the kitchen counter or the tea kettle on the stove and some tasty treat to savor.  Where we can speak the hard things and listen to each others’ stories and not turn our eyes away or hurry along the pregnant silences.  Sharing laughter over the silly things and not apologizing for our tears or messes or lack of answers.

But I know the truth is, it can seem a little dark around here.  Sometimes the home I've felt at home in is not the home that is my space.  My space has been, at times, a cave, and the place I've had to offer is a seat beside me on uneven, rocky floor.  Here I've written from candlelight, squinting hard to see and voices echo through tin cans and across cavernous ceilings.  The truth is, I've written more from the ground, in the dark, in the middle of the night and just-before-the-break-of-dawn, in the downpour and in the barren winter months, than I've written from a cozy space and crackling fire and springtime flowers. 

I don't necessarily have a warm blanket to wrap around you or words to warm your heart and make you feel good, but I do have my arms.  I will sit beside you and hold your story in reverence and share in your tears and joys and wrestle with your questions, and I'll remind you you're not alone. I will offer you the bread from my table and whatever food is in my cupboards and give you a cup of water to drink. And I know that kind of welcome into a home can be intimidating or unsatisfying for some; maybe for most.  But it’s what's inside this humble dwelling space.

And I invite you in, because I'm not sure you know how much I want you here.  How much I want to know you.

Perhaps when you step inside my home and find a place to sit and rest, we might turn a light on in the living room together or light the candles on my painted wooden chest, listen to the sounds of the neighborhood passing by outside the door and wrap our blankets tighter as we huddle in close.  Perhaps here we create our own cozy in the space where we wipe off our painted faces, lay down our contrived answers, and tell each other the beauty we see here, in the dark, with the candle flames flickering hope across the walls. 

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Joining Lisa Jo for a (well-beyond) five-minute friday post.  The prompt today is "Small."

Friday, February 14, 2014

The stuff of gardens and compost

photo credit
I wrote yesterday about the ascents and dips of life, of how quickly these change and we are thrown into movement, from one moment to the next.  And life is not always like this, I know, but maybe if you've been there or live here, as I have the past several years, you get it.  It seems the more I practice abandoning myself to the moment, the more I open myself to both richer joys and deeper pain. 

The tricky part is how to find a steady place in these highs and lows, so we're not continually tossed about.  

And though yesterday's post wasn't necessarily uplifting or wrap-you-in-a-blanket cozy, it was in the moment real, reaching for hope.

The process of growth isn't always linear.  In fact, it rarely is.  I see it traced in words, etched through my posts of the last two months, this hope bubbling up from darkness, and I know it's there.  Growth and life and tender shoots of joy.  And I know, too, as it is here in Seattle, there are many lurching steps to spring.  The transition between seasons is never linear here.  It's twenty degrees one week, snow the next, and back to fifty degrees.  It's snow dusting on cherry blossoms in January.  

A customer who knows about my blog but couldn't remember the name of it commented recently, "You should change the name.  It has something to do with garbage, right?  Kinda weird."

No, dear customer.  That's not weird at all.  It's the life behind the words I write, this glory trail of highs and lows, mundane and wonder-filled, composting together in a heap of earth, until what saturates the soil is hope and what shoots up is beauty.  

It's the stuff of vibrant gardens, fragrant flowers, rich soil and food that nurtures souls.

Beautiful rubbish is what I call it, because it is how my eyes are adjusting to see life through all its seasons.  And all these moments?  They're fodder for this compost heap that saturates the plot of land where our garden grows. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Joining Lisa Jo, to the prompt of "Garden." 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The view from above and below

photo credit

I'm sitting after work in a cafe on top of one of the hills of Seattle, savoring time with my laptop as I wait for my husband to pick me up.  I feel my shoulders loosening from the day, the stress of the week, and I sip my coffee and suppress childlike glee as I indulge in my latest diversion: searching for a dog for our family.

I can barely contain my hunger for this, almost taste it in my mouth.  I ache for a dog.  It sounds silly, perhaps, to be aching for a dog instead of a child, but that is where my heart rests at this place in time.  

I want to expand our family, and my animal loving heart wants to begin here.  For the first time in our marriage, it feels like this desire is on the verge of possibility, and so I search with fervor among the listings of dogs in need of rescue.

And it fits, doesn't it, for don't I love to rescue? But a part of me knows, it is I who needs the rescuing, too.  Somewhere out there, I just know it, is a pooch who needs me as much as I need him. 

But then I open my email.  

And the roller coaster that has been my life these past several years, the one I'm so familiar with, pulls my stomach down the tracks so fast I feel myself catching air.  I read the newest email with growing horror, my heart in a knot of fear, my stomach clenching.  

How quickly it turns, I breathe to myself.  From up to down and down to up.  From walks in the afternoon sunshine and sipping lattes to quiet crumbling to pieces in a coffee shop.  

I close the browser on my dog search.  This is not a dream that will be fulfilled now, I say, and I want to cry, right next to the man on my right scribbling small in his notebook, pen in his mouth, typing intently on his laptop.  Next to the man on my left leaning back reading a newsletter with a mug of coffee.

Breathe in. Breathe out. This, too, shall pass. This is how the moments go, I remind myself. 

And I remind myself, too, I didn't leave God behind at the top of this roller coaster.  He isn't waving down at me or waiting for me to make the loop back around. He's in the seat, right beside me, just as he was a few moments before at the top of my excitement.  I close my eyes and reach for his hand, in my mind, and the tears fog behind my eyelids.  

We're in this together.  

The prayer that began this past weekend, after another drop on the roller coaster, slowly fills my heart.

Show me how to see, God, beyond this world we divide
into 'possibilities' and 'impossibilities', 
to where you dwell beyond.  
Help me to catch sight of hope 
beyond this seemingly endless stretch of sameness, 
beyond these circumstances that refuse to yield to change.  

I trust you, God, I say, before I feel it take root in my heart.  I trust you.  

And I lean into his shoulder, right beside me, and breathe deep through the downward curve.  

. . . . . . . . . 

Joining up at Heather's. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

How writing changes me

Sometimes I feel like that little girl in fifth grade who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, once replied "Shamu's trainer at Sea World." I still don't feel I deserve the title of "grown up." And while it's getting a little easier to say "I want to write" when people ask what my job aspirations are, it not only feels as elusive as my fifth grade dream, it doesn't quite seem honest.  

My 'job aspiration,' you see, is not writing.  Writing is what I do because it fuels my tank; because the fire lighting up my insides has to have somewhere to go; because, without writing, I might as well walk around with my eyes shut.  If one day I happen to find a way to make some money doing it, I will consider myself blessed, but no, this is not what I strive for. 

The more I write my journey these past six years of blogging, the more I see: this is not about job aspiration.  The truth is, I don't have job aspirations.  The term, itself, sets my nerves on edge.  

My vocabulary has changed.

I used to be driven by career aspirations, but at some milepost on this six year journey, I looked behind to see my old self wasn't moving with me.  I used to say I lost my ambition.  Now I see, the ambition is still there, it's merely morphed, the way river rapids eventually taper into softer flowing waters.  

Writing has helped shape my vocabulary, given voice to my evolving priorities. 

As long as I remain at my current job, I will continue to receive the questions, the raised eyebrows of "Why?"  Why waste your talent, your education?  Don't you want to advance your career?  Perhaps I'll be writing this same thread until the most natural thing is for me to answer them honestly, without self doubt or criticism.

My aspirations have little to do with my job these years, and I'm edging slowly into acceptance of this truth.  

Because, you see, I aspire to be a wife who loves her husband without keeping score; who forgives quickly, lets go completely, admits her faults readily; who gives the benefit of the doubt, bears all things, hopes all things, refuses to give up in the darkest of nights.

I aspire to be a friend who is true to her word; who gives sacrificially; who walks beside others for the long haul and helps them know they're not alone; who speaks hope and life, truth in love, and always grace. 

I aspire to be a daughter who cherishes the time she has with her Mama, however long or short it is, because this, she knows, is one of life's greatest gifts.

I aspire to be a writer who is brave in vulnerability, with eyes turned not only at her own story, but outward and upward.  A writer who seeks not her own glory, but the glory of the Author and Giver of words themselves, who dares to breathe on them and light the fire in her belly, to lay the trail across the pages of her life. A writer who helps others believe in beautiful redemption and hope, in the courageous living and telling of their stories.

These, you see, are my aspirations.  And because I write them out, again and again, I know them in my knower more than I ever have.

One day, they will be a second skin.

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Find me - and a group of wonderful writers - over at Lisa Jo's place today for this beautiful Friday tradition called Five-minute friday (the rules, of which, I shamelessly break every week). 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Lessons from Fernandito

It's the last day of January, and I know in my heart, it's time.  Time to let go, say goodbye, but I've been putting this off all month long and I'm still fighting it.  I tune into Pandora and turn, reluctant, to the task at hand.

Taking down Fernandito IV, my beloved Christmas tree.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Our first tree together was four Christmases ago.  We'd been dating six months and decided to put the tree in his apartment.  On our way back from the tree lot, the smell of fir needles filled the car, and we made a spontaneous detour to Goodwill to search for ornaments, because we had none.  By this time, most of them had been picked over, but we gleaned enough to spread sparsely across the branches.  

"He needs a name," I said, leaning back and studying our tree, waiting for something about its characteristics to jump out at me.  Finally I suggested "Fernandito."  After all, he was a Mexican tree, I'd decided, and he was also a fir tree.  And that's how Fernandito Fir Tree came to be, and how every one of our Christmas trees, in the consecutive three years, have beared his name.

. . . . . . . . . . .   

I can't really say, how my heart gets so attached to things that I name, to inanimate objects, especially ones like this tree - that were once, themselves, alive.  From the time we unbound him at the tree lot, shook out his branches and declared him ours, I've felt it.  His numbered days.  This testament of life that once was, slowly fading in our kitchen window, all lit up with four strands of lights and weighted down with as many ornaments as we could find space for.  And then the final touch, our tattered sombrero on top his head, animating his presence in our home.

He was the first one I greeted in the morning, plugging him in, and the first I said hello to coming home.  In some strange and pleasant way, for almost two months, he was family. 

It all sounds ridiculously sentimental and, let's just say it, maybe more 'mental' than anything.  But this little fir lit his way into my heart, from the beginning of December until now, and I have dreaded taking him down.

I'm singing along with Pandora, plucking ornaments from nearly every branch, and some of his needles fall to the floor like offerings and the sap still coats bare spots on his trunk, leaving remnants on my fingers.  Needles once pliable and deep green, now brittle and rust-tinged, he's more fragrant than he was at the beginning.  And I think, that's how I want to be.  The most fragrant when I've reached my end.

The song I'm singing brings me to tears (I say that as if it's a rarity), at these words, even as I'm laughing at myself for this foolish attachment.

When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
You're beautiful

And in the space of a blinking Christmas bulb, my tears are no longer for Fernandito.  Maybe they never were.  I'm remembering another tree, another love, a home I've never seen but somehow known in shrouded waking dreams.  My ache is for him, for Jesus, for home, for the day when death is just a memory and goodbye is no longer part of our vocabulary.  The day when beauty is unfading, the air that fills our lungs and coats our fingers, because everything, everyone, revolves around this Source that is him. 

A day when even trees never lose their glory.