The Stories They Tell

I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.

-Marilynne Robinson, “Gilead”

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I can’t get this idea out of my head. I don’t know that this is good theology, but I also don’t know that it isn’t. I mean, all this will not just be forgotten on the other side, will it? And so what will the tale they tell about me be? How will I be Helen of Troy? It isn’t hard to seduce a man, but it is very hard to enchant him, to hold him, to trigger an epic battle for the heart.

It depends if you read Homer or Faust about what happens for Helen. Was she filled with remorse? Did she revel in the deaths? I wonder what tales they will tell of me? Will I be one who bent the arch of justice in the right direction? Was I one who instigated peace? What stories will they recite of me on those golden streets?

I am not much of a heroine; my audience is small and I do not lead a movement, but that is not the point. For all my writing about our Great Purpose, I hope you always know a great purpose does not mean a great achievement or a great audience. You can lead an extraordinary life between four walls. You can have only an audience of One and still live a life of epic goodness, extreme gentleness, total peace.

I read once about a man who called his wife a saint. He said he did not know anyone better. Imagine that. To me that seems like a story you should listen to. A spouse who has seen you at your worst and yet still believes you to be a saint?

Will he say of me that I upheld him? That I, as he headed up his armies, made him stronger, braver, more able? Or will he say my selfishness hindered him? Will my children say that I prepared them and released them for good fights and love? For holy mischief and our own brand of anarchy? Will the small battles I fight reflect a tale of courage and grace?

When someday I become a myth -either on this earth or the far off one – what tales will they tell of me? I am not asking for the fickle applause of man. I am asking to be aligned with the mythology of heaven. God…let me join your story.

 

Let’s dance

(I turned 38 last week. And I always journal my way through a prayer and a hope, a marker for the year to come. This year? Let’s dance…)

No, but really, let’s dance.

Oh my Jesus let’s dance…

Set my feet to the rhythm of grace and the anthems of freedom. Let me move with intention, by your spirit, take every lead. Help me learn to step less often on your toes.

Appoint me to be the love song and rush these feet to justice. Let me move and step lightly. Move these hands to the melodies of mercy. A living, breathing, dancing poem in this dark world.

Help me to join in creation with the trees clapping their hands and let me raise my own in worship. Help me not miss a moment to give you all the glory. Never let my dancing for you detract from you; let me always be helping people to see you…the joy you released in me. The freedom you gave me. The passion you always stir.

Oh Jesus….and when the dirge plays and some among us are mourning let  me sway even still and hold tightly to the hope I profess. Rock these hips like a lullaby and help me to be your messenger to remind the world that in the end the monsters will not win.

Teach me also, to rejoice with those rejoicing. And when they call me undignified, let me be even more undignified for your glory.  You deserve all my praise.

Oh God. On the terracotta tile of my kitchen and the industrial carpets of my work, in the street and in the church. Oh God move my body and stir my heart to the movement of your spirit, don’t let me miss a single prompt.

Oh Jesus, give me the depths and breadth of my very own life.

38…Let’s dance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To watch you bloom

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I am the sort of woman who mourns the end of the balsam arrowroot season. And who, is already sad about the lupines dying (though they will not bloom here for two weeks at least). The season for those yellow wildflowers this year was exceptional…every hillside of the valley was covered in them.

I can’t help but think about you as I see those flowers fade. How much impact those flowers had on me as they brightened up each day, as I pulled over to take photos of the sun setting on them. How much more do you matter to this planet? Your short and sweet life…it matters to us.

The energy in every room shifts when you walk in. We sense you. For better or for worse we know you are here. You are impacting every space you inhabit…what is it you are bringing to the table? What joy? What peace? What love? What encouragement and grace are you responsible for? How will you bless? What is your everyday contribution to your space and place? What of the Kingdom come are you responsible for?

A friend said to me recently, “I need a shirt that says, It is what it is” and I said NO! It is what we bring to it!

I know we can’t control everything. Oh I know. But we do get to control what we bring to it, what we take from it, how we perceive it, how we manage it, what we let ‘it’ do to us.

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I have been tracing the lines of my sons hands lately, tracing his character as it develops. I want to know the depth of him so that as he enters his teens I can remind him of every good thing I know. I will teach him the impact of his courage, his kindness, his words and his love. I will remind him of his opposite potential also…how we are always growing towards one or the other.

Oh… my gorgeous wildflower…I love to watch you bloom.

Rest

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Once a week we do not set an alarm. And on these days I wake to dappled sunlight warming our duvet cover. This morning I just stayed there, stretched my tired body out further. I went to the porch, read some poetry, climbed into the hot tub. It is 9:30 now…the kids are still asleep.

Sabbath rest is meant for us.

Last night my boy hit ‘the wall’. Four baseball games in a week plus school will do that to a profound introvert. He paced and hid and shouted “I just need alone time”. He reminds me always. He taught me how to rest. He helped me to see when we need it. He showed me my sin of rush and agenda and output. He is still my thermometer. He tells me when the water in our heads is getting too hot.

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This week I was in well over my head. But the way I figure it…this is how we learn to swim. So swim I did and I kept my head mostly just above water. I know you are sure there is someone more equipped and better than you for the dream or vision in your heart. But it doesn’t matter. You were called for such a time as this, to such a place as your miraculously ordinary HERE. And so we step in, we serve to the best of our capacity.

And then…when you have done your good work, served the city to which you were called, loved with every inch of yourself;

You rest. You settle in with the peace that surpasses and you trust that there is nothing more required of you.

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You are built for rest…it is as necessary for you as oxygen and water. Find your sacred rhythm and keep it…

Home looks like this…

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Did you know the chorus frogs stop singing by two in the morning? They do. We listened last night. They chant and shake the silence out of our mountain every pinky dusk but when the dark comes it seems they hush.

One child was sick and coughed the other one awake last night. She snuck upstairs with me. We watched the clouds slip across the nearly full moon. I asked her how she would explain it to someone who was blind. She told me it was like a piece of silk falling off of a light bulb. Yes.

The child has perfectly round cheeks have you noticed? And just now, when you kiss her, you can cover the whole thing. My lips were built to kiss her face. My darling.

This time of year, our mallards return. They move from the small collections of water around our place. From one side of the road to the other. Always just the two of them.

There is a pair of crows that sit atop the dead tree by the mailbox. They are the sentinels waiting to call the others when there is something rotting…or it is garbage day. They always seem to know when the trash is out. There is a great grey owl who hunts from our fencepost.

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We had record-breaking heat this week and then rain fell and we know what our mountain smells like now when she breathes a sigh of relief.

Emily drew a picture of our house and it is so Suessical the way that house is perched so precariously on a mountain top. How every house was perched on its own magic hill. I can’t help thinking about it constantly. It is the perfect metaphor for the life we are building…the fine balance of building a home that shapes them, but of also blowing open the doors of our life to pour out our blessings. To know and remember that all of it is gift. And all of it…all of us…meant to be poured out again and again.

What are the ways that the home we make is shaping their hearts? How am I teaching them to yearn for Holy Wholeness…To break for all the broken?

 

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Three years ago we sat in northern Kenya in the middle of a wildlife reserve and listened to the howls and roars. We never saw any of the big cats during the day, but the nights were enough to make me feel small.

It was the end of a long day of dry roads and beautiful stories. We sat with a pastor who had been serving the same congregation for more than 30 years. He was still excited by it and we wanted to learn everything we could from him. He develops leaders and he told us there is nothing that kills more of them then their own insecurity. He said he was watched it 1000 times. We have watched it since. And we now too believe it. These are men who do not let people rise up beside them. Women who in the face of another alpha figure out a way to throw her under the bus.

Insecurity is the mark of the narcissist. The Achilles heel of pride. Nobody will attempt to wound you more often than an insecure man. No woman will attempt to reduce you more often then an insecure woman.

It doesn’t take much to impress me really. Bring your poetry and humanity to the office. Bring your brain and faith to the church. Don’t leave any of yourself out. Don’t edit yourself for one of the other. We want all of you. All the time.

Bring your questions and your emotions.

Bring your passion and your abilities.

Bring your heart and your head.

But you cannot bring any of it if you also bring your insecurity. You cannot bring any of your truth if you bring your wounds unhealed. Your wounds will tear open at every snarl and hint of opposition. You will bleed and you will react against your own better judgement. You will make up excuses and you will blame someone else. You will lie.

The beautiful truth is that you do not need to think much of yourself to walk in confidence. You were called and equipped for the space just in front of you. Just to the right. Only a little to the left. There is no one else on the planet that can occupy that space in the way that you can. The beautiful truth is that in humility you can know…this is not about your ability but HIS empowerment. This is not about your skills but because of your SUBMISSION to His calling.

Do whatever it is you need to do to feel secure in His hand. And walk in it.

 

 

 

To be both Dead and Alive

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Today the kids and I had some time to kill. We stumbled into a marvelous stand of birch trees circling round a small marsh. There was some mallard and wood ducks, two Canadian Geese. We sat and watched them for a long time. One of the mallards had a blue beak, the kids had never noticed before how the ducks walk on water sometimes, how they can be still swimming, but almost flying.

I have become obsessed with the how of things lately. In a world so obsessed with a product, an end, immediate results, I myself am newly tuned into the HOW? The process is the product in all things.

A good relationship is not a thing you attain, it is something you create, daily. It is never static and it never stands still. These loves of yours are always on their way one way or the other. Which direction are you headed?

In leadership…My favourite quote has long been that the best we can do is ‘let people down at a pace they can handle’. And when we do, we circle back. We say: “I know I let you down, I know we are not going the direction you had hoped but I hope we can build something new together”. As a Christian, it is a little easier (or should be) because we also get to say “I am only heading the same way you are…I hope I don’t kick any rocks up in your windshield…lets go together…fix our eyes on HIM”.

2016-03-25-01.07.03-1.jpg.jpeg And Oh. Motherhood. I have always told you how hard I find it. How difficult. I think the cause is the same. Motherhood is not something you can evaluate. It is not something you can check off at the end of the day, and you certainly do not get any recognition. And so. We check our process…what is it just today, that our system produced? What direction are we headed? Was there more love, peace, patience, kindness and joy in our home? Or…no?

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It is Good Friday today. I could not help but note the perfect metaphor as we walked. Most of the marsh is still dead. No leaves. But then. Just starting to bud and burst a certain tree was beginning to wake up, to resurrect itself to spring.

Here I am on Good Friday and He said “It is finished”, but there are all these rocks yet to be rolled off of me. There is all this dead in me yet to rise.

The sinner made saint…and yet.

I only want to be the Kingdom version of myself…if only.

To be both dead to self and alive in Him.

How it is always both/and. The process of our santification is always thus.

A process.

 

(Joining with Kate Motaung and her 5 minute writing community and if you want to think more about our spiritual journey as process…I came across this and loved it…)