What you call Holy…A Marriage Letter


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Marriage letters are back with Amber Haines. I absolutely overshare with these but have loved the challenge of them and have absolutely believed that if we go hard after our marriage…if you see it…it might inspire you to go hard after yours too.

Dear Joel,

The coyotes howled like stuck pigs last night. It was not a romantic sound, no silhouette against the waxing gibbous moon.  This was all whelps, angst, and the biting among them. There was an outsider threatening or a battle for the alpha role. Our big dog whimpered at the door, then ran at the fence, murderous rage. Our little dog…barked. As ever. Life can sound like that. Obnoxious. Exhausting. Dangerous. Our marriage…your wife…can sound like that too.

It is in these moments where we are sleepless, the sermon notes are missing (and I am digging in the trash because I rarely clean but when I do I am ruthless), when the children fight, the bank is blank and the truck has no heat, that it is hard to make space for the Holy.

We do. Somehow we do. You look at me with the scales chipped off, you see the traces of Saint in me. I see you. All the ways he has made you over, made you new.

I laugh at the way you feel God’s pleasure on a motorcycle. How seeing you there makes me feel like Hell. How hellish you feel when I force you to walk in the ways that I flirt with the Holy. Filled up journals, slow walks, photos of beauty. You sense the Holy in the loud and powerful…crashing waves and crashing symbols, bold declarations of relentless dedication. I sense the holy in swaying pines, the strings at work, awkward prayers, whispers of chaotic hope from the poets. These are the places I meet with God…where I establish communion with Him, where my obedience, my submission takes root and is born under His gentle corrections.

We are just so different. That is the beauty of it…a marriage…a church…the way our crooked and broken brains, our mistakes, take shape into a body that can walk even when it limps. Together we get something closer to functional.

I watched a young couple this week…they are just in the process of falling in love and they make me happy. There is a subtle but sure, invoking of the best of each other. There is a settling of the trying-too-hard to be something, a calming of the discontent, a hopefulness. This is never about taming or changing. This is the gentle ways we can inspire the best in each other. The way you inspire the Holy to rule in me. The one who brings the best of me to the surface and lets the rest be pruned and burned.

So let the coyotes howl, the wind batter at the shutters, slam our screen doors. We will stand…calling this marriage…all it forces us to be…Holy.

Always,
m

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Days Like This

If you love poetry get this beautiful piece by Laisha Rosnau!

If you love poetry get this beautiful piece by Laisha Rosnau!

This morning I felt the way a coffee cup fits perfect in two relaxed hands.

I listened to the children have a conversation about what colour is more beautiful in the sky, how the snow was uninterrupted, how they could hardly wait to traipse across it, leave a mark.

I sat with poetry open, the perfect black pen, a journal itching to be filled up.

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The blue sky peeled open, the sun rose all pink and fired up to blaze.
Me too.

DSC_0286We rambled into the woods, let’s be the first explorers shall we? Notice the way the crystals blow from the tree, hear the squeals from the sled behind us, feel the wind in our hair. Notice the way that sun broke the trees wide open, as if it was a gift just for us.

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I should be scrubbing the floors, folding the laundry, washing the windows. I could be out visiting, returning important emails, writing a grant application. I could…but. I am glued to this seat by the weight of what feels like quadruple the gravity of a regular day on earth. The man asleep on the couch, the dogs napping at my feet, the children building snowmen outside. I am stuck by the beauty of this sun on my back, the words on the page. There are days we produce and days that produce in us. We must be wise enough to know which one we need and how to notice the chance for either one.

The Least I Can Do

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I am certain,

Someday when I rock a chair with my weathered skin, my worn out body,

that I will rock to the rhythm of these days.

That old chair, will click with the memories of bare feet on these plank floors,

the steady and predicted tick of irrigation running,

the anticipated sun on their eyelids as it rises over us,

the ebb and flow of the waves on all the lakes we have sat beside this summer.

All these memories will rock me to sleep, help me keep the peace.

But there is something else in me too;

I am terrified of these luxurious days.

In a world where bombs fall on schools and hemorrhagic fevers rage;

Where planes just fall from the sky and vanish,

is it still okay to spend an entire afternoon searching for the perfect swimming hole?

Am I part robot, all callous, if I can’t read another article about Syria but instead

read a poem by Wendell Berry as the sun rises, Annie Dillard as the sun sets?

I don’t know.

I make an offering of the huckleberries we picked.

A ceremony of the found fruits I hold and wash.

I celebrate the things that seem whole in a world so dreadfully broken.

Each one is a prayer for my friends in the midst of the rage.

To begin, I make all the peace I can.

 

15 years

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Tonight the clouds burst even though the sun was still shining. The thunder rolled in, as if from behind a tree. There was no ominous cloud on the horizon, no warning. The dogs cowered as the earth shook, the lightning struck not far off.

The rainbow it produced hung heavy above the roof of our house threatening to cave the whole thing in, so dense the weight of the colours. They gushed out onto the forest floor, those colours, the grass, the trees all covered in it. Vibrant green. The rainbow spilled itself crimson onto the tiger lily, the indigo onto the lupins. The clouds fell too, hillsides of daisies seemed to erupt and spread. The hummingbird is thrilled with the turn, sucks at the blood of the pink bleeding heart on our porch. The robin plucks at the worms the lightning drove to the surface. The birds resume their shower songs.

Us too. The oppression, the flashing lights. Then, somehow it ends, we move through to clear blue, new life, astounding colour as we perpetually fall in and back out of love. That rainbow, my promise too. You can have this bleeding heart.

 

When We Build Walls

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The mallards are back. The hen is on her nest, the drake there most days too. The two of them slowly paddling, they fly across the road sometimes, I think the eating is better in the marsh. Most days I see them.

On Sunday my little family took a raft on the pond. It is too small for much but a perfect place to search for snails or tadpoles. The kids took their butterfly nets, a bucket. We could not stay though. My dog, who is rather large, would not stop hassling that hen on her nest. And she would not flee. She would dive and squawk and flutter and flap but she would not go more than five feet away. This hen would not leave her eggs, would not cower to any old dog, she was willing to risk her neck for those ducklings. Samwise kept at it, tail wagging with the joy of the chase.

Mothers are like that. The way they throw themselves in harm’s way. The way they will do anything to protect their young. I’m feeling it this week. Feeling so much like they are sheep among wolves.

A few days ago, my daughter asked me if I knew the very worst word in the world. And I said, ‘no, what is it’. Up till now, the very worst word has been stupid so when she looked me straight in the eye and dropped the ‘f bomb’ in the middle of the living room, I was a little taken a back. There is nothing uglier off the tongue of a little person and I was amazed at how it sounded. How it rubbed some of the gloss off. “The boys taught me in the cloak room” she said. She wore two pigtails to school today, a shirt with kittens on it. Oh God let them be little…

On the way home from school last night, my boy told me that his little friend had to go see the judge because he ate too many drugs. “It is like what happens when you drink too much pop”, he says. This boy doesn’t live with his parents now, I guess this is why.  My heart is still up into my throat when we get home and I plan to hold up in the woods for a few days. Let us dig a mote, build impermeable fortresses. Let us imagine that there are dragons to slay and pirates to fight shall we? I don’t want you to know about the real beasts of our world.

Not just yet.

But I won’t stay here long. Safety only exists in fairy tales, the land beyond the sea.

Besides, am I not at least as brave as a duck?

You see every fence I build, every wall I erect throws another child to the wolves, creates one more wildling. Every time I think I am protecting my kids from something, could I actually be putting them at greater risk? The shootings and stabbings, the kids left outside our great fortresses are being ravaged, they can’t do it alone. We see it all the time in youth. The kids left lingering around the outside. The kids, who by no action of their own, have never learned to swim, have never played a soccer game, have never had a family meal, don’t know what homemade gravy tastes like. The kids for whom the world is too dark, too dangerous they get fierce there on the outside. But they don’t have to…

I am throwing open our doors. Putting down the draw bridge. That empty seat in my car? I want to fill it. That empty place at my dinner table? I want to set it. I want to be someone these kids can trust. I want to be a bright spot in their dark days. I want them to know that we believe in them.

I know this is too simple. That when gates are open, the wild sneaks in and sometimes unsuspecting sheep get eaten up. I know that a mind can corrupt even under the very best of care. Still. I think we can do better. I think we can be as innocent as doves even while the wolves are howling. I think we can teach our kids to be wise AND loving. Brave AND gentle.

We were sent. Let us not hide. Let us dance around these eggs, let us trick the wolves; shrewd and pure but NEVER afraid.

Your Calling

wpid-storageemulated0PicturesVSCOCam2014-02-20-04.53.41-1.jpg.jpgThere is a doe and two fawns I watch too closely. I see her most days, just past Huckleberry road, and before I pass Jackpine. We saw them first last spring when the littles were all wobble legged and spotted. They are yearlings now, almost her size but not quite. I count them out, “1, 2 oh where is the third?! Oh…there she is” and I sigh deep. I am somehow all tangled up with that doe and her fawns wandering around the Rich. If there is anything you can say about me, it is that I am a reckless romantic, finding meaning where there might be none.

That bush is on fire is it not? Burning up with the things of God. What, you can’t see it? Are you blind?

I watched “Big Fish” for the 1 millionth time this week and wept like a child again. Us storytellers do that. You can tell me about that time you went shopping for shoes and I will wonder what it taught you. How were you tossing light while you walked? What of the kingdom upside down did you bring along for the ride? What great character did you meet? Did they challenge your capacity for the peace or did you just come along side, see the gift of the co-created moment.

It freaks me out when people talk about calling as a far off thing. As something they are working towards becoming. A job they will someday get and then they will “BE IT”. You know that is all fading right? That none of it will stand? You can be a preacher but unless you are preaching all the time regardless of your vocation you ain’t no preacher. And I, well you know I love the words, as reckless as I am with them, as ill-equipped as I am to write, still I do. There is no book contract on my horizon, this will never make me an income and yet still I write, because it is the only place the whole world comes together in my head. I am in graduate school and I am having fun. Imagine if it was my job to sit and speak of ideas and healing and all the good things? It will put food on the table and adventure in my lap, but my calling will not be to teach. I am to mother these children well, to lay down my life, put it aside for the little people. Still that is not the whole of my call. A calling is not the thing you do, it is the way we move. 

My calling, and yours too, is to be the salt and the light wherever we walk. We walk in the way of the freedom fighters, and we are to speak the language of the prophets. I want my kids to see the big story that lies just beneath the surface of all the things we do. The way I want them to tell the stories of our strange adventures and the way I want them to question if they really experienced that…Did I imagine that fantastical evening? The way the skies burned bright with stars? I want them to sit around, moments before I die someday with all the people who brushed up against our life. The way I want them to celebrate a life lived to the edges, to the depths. I hope they will say something about the way I loved people, the light of God that leaked out of the edges of my life. The way we sought the glory laden in the mundane of these dailies and perhaps someday, when we return to the dust and the funeral procession is coming, there will be people there shouting about our freedom songs how it rang  from our rafters.