Letting go

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Everything that comes to us will mar

Perfection an ideal

Resigned, we live without

When precious careful things

Get scarred and chipped with time

Life tests and breaks and shatters

But secret dreams remain enshrined

Hallowed cherishings of youth

Transcendent sparks, calling divine

Images of who we might become

First pure, distort under a grasp too tight

The thing we can control, protect

Yet in perfection they remain unreal

Translucent shadows that obey too well

We each may craft our gods and fantasies at will

Sequester in our matrix games and private worlds

They shimmer in the fog we have become

And sparkle in soul’s lamplight, but we cringe

To bring them forth, in case their tarnish shows

And even we are found unglorious when all have seen

But here’s the cobbled space on which our destinies are spread

Where we may risk, and grow

Hold flickering spark to wind and watch it flame or die

It’s here that God meets man

Holds out a hand, receives our flimsy glory now

Then lets it fall, while horrified we watch

Perfection splinter, shards drop to the earth

We wait in loss…accept

The risk we take to make it real

 

 

 

The Halls of Wisdom

elderly woman
(On my experience working in a nursing home)

 

Every youth should walk these dank halls for a day

Hearing Help and staring into dead eyes

Slurred stories swirl and blend

Reimagining the past

Fermented beauty like aged wine

Translucent skin and liquid eyes

Skeleton once hidden now emerges proud

Body that has weathered ninety years

Can boast it’s strength, while youth can just presume

Pictures on walls speak

You see us here, just like you

Our minds intact, vocations strong

Our futures full of hope

A strange regression happens at the end of life

Hobbling in their second infancy

Obsessed with bowels

Clutching a toy cat or doll

The need for warmth

Sensation becomes primary

Scream for no reason, toddler’s rant

Anxiety and agitation, we write, and call for pills

But maybe they’re just trying to go back

Back to the coiled repose of a neonate

Because the end comes too fast

For others not fast enough

There is a reason will to live is lost

Body,mind, potential gone

Gone are dreams of what might be

Past is best, and savors safe

For being here is not enough

In doing we find meaning

Yet all is not futile

And meaning can be sought and found here

Some have found the joy in dying

Exist by being loved when memory fades

Some are content with life lived well

Avoid regrets, and can accept

They find a faith for what comes next

I cringe and seek retreat

By contrast being busy, being needed is a gift

Reminded now to cherish, but not fear

Yet know the day will come when I become them

 

 

A Mother’s Day Confession

holding hands

I am nestled in a cozy sunny window of a busy Starbucks, my bloodstream now replete with sugar, fat and caffeine. I have 3 hours to myself, to surf Facebook or stare out the window or journal or just think. The air is thick with coffee powder, and outside the sky is an interesting shade of cloudy grey. Serenity. We spend most our lives working toward goals and self evaluating. Today I feel writing should be less like running a race, and more like an aimless ramble that may get us lost, but also take us somewhere interesting. If we really love something we will do it without the reward of accomplishment at the end. It’s sad to think about how many things we do for the purpose of pleasing or impressing someone else, or to prop up the self image we are projecting. I feel like this applies to motherhood as well.

Motherhood was hard to come by for me. This journey was potholed with tragedy, but reminds one that the harder journeys sometimes yield a sweeter arriving. I remember  skipping church on Mother’s Day, unable in my bitterness of soul to hear other mothers congratulated for something I desperately wanted. But today I dressed my boys in button down shirts and put my baby in her Easter dress.  I felt just like all the others- so strange how time really does heal some wounds. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been chosen. I shudder to think of that road to motherhood stretching to the present. Some people wait 10, 15 years. I’m glad I didn’t have to.

The journey to and experience  of motherhood is often polluted by wrong motives, expectations and assumptions. I wanted to love a child, but I also wanted to keep up with my peers. I felt ashamed because I couldn’t achieve a pregnancy. I felt left out, left behind, inferior, even cursed. It was so hard for me to accept infertility as a part of my unique journey, to accept that my story would stand out. I wanted so much to conform to the expectations of others, and this desire blinded me to the new thing God was doing in my life.

People kindly say my kids are blessed to have me, but when I speak of them it is in the language of gift, rescue and mercy. I was rescued from the barren desert of childlessness. And this rescue has made the experience of motherhood a little different; more infused with wonder, a daily awe that they are really mine.This is the pure experience of motherhood, the moment when the gates are opened and the pain of blocked desire becomes a new love that bursts from your heart to inundate this little person. It is a transcendent experience; we become better than our normal selves, willing to make any sacrifice with joy, to give our lives. It is falling in love again. And every day that experience is open to me. To wonder. To enter their world. To give affection and praise and love.

But just like so many other aspects of my life, and my journey  to motherhood, I let the wrong reasons creep in.  I obey the urge to accomplish something I can check off, and chafe when they ask me to come play. I allow irritation  and impatience  to build up, clouding the way I see them and respond. I come under the expectations  of others, and worry why my wild boys don’t behave as well as my friends’ kids. I compare milestones and giftings, and start worrying about genetics and their futures.  I am tired, and this makes me fearful that my needs won’t be met, that I must fight for myself. My gifts become the adversary, the ones who steal my sleep and mess up my house and rob my peace. I feel that I must get them to mind, because I don’t want to be that mom who can’t control her kids. And because  loss of control is frightening. I feel superior when my child excels, and ashamed when he falls short. I have mostly avoided the mommy war issues, but these thoughts above slide effortlessly into my mind and poison motherhood.

Today on Mother’s day I want to do the right thing for the right reason. To remember that they are still an undeserved gift.To love and draw out the glory in my child at this moment, without using him or her to further my status or accomplish something or build up my self-esteem. To simply enjoy being with them is to love without ulterior motive. When they are not enjoyable I want to see this as an opportunity  to grow in love, not an attack on myself. Instead of wondering if they will become someone who brings me admiration, I want to leave a heritage of shared memories. I want them to remember me as someone who really saw and understood them.  Who invited God’s grace into our imperfections. Who simply loved them for who they really are.

Past the Crossroads

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Well, we’re moving forward at last. We have been seriously researching and pondering an international move for the past 4 years, and the time has come to make it happen. The first mountain before us is the raising of support, the process by which we become financially dependent upon our friends, acquaintances, and church. I have dreaded this stage for a long time- the awkwardness of asking people for money, and the feelings of rejection when they don’t write back. This is a unique experience for Bob and I, as we have previously been on the receiving end of these requests. I have been warned to avoid expectations; that my good friend I expected to support me will look away, while a stranger responds enthusiastically. I have been told that this is a spiritual journey in which we will have to trust God like never before, and our faith will grow when he responds. I have been exhorted to see myself as a minister of Christ wherever I go and seek to serve and bless others rather than raise money.
All helpful advice. But this introvert has to find her own way to navigate the exhausting emotional minefield of support raising with 3 children in tow. I want to find myself on the other side of this mountain excited about the work happening in China, closer to my friends ( and not bitter at anyone), and with a fresh sense of divine calling and provision.
When I give our presentation people sometimes ask me, “Are you excited?” I know the right answer. When I began this process I wasn’t that excited, I just felt that it was time to start. Honestly, we’re in a stage of life right now where we pray for enough energy to make it to the end of the day. I remember my trips overseas. I remember the sense that God was moving and calling; the joy with which people received Truth for the first time. The sense of being fully alive, of fulfilling God’s destiny for my life. And yes, there was some youthful passion and romance woven in there too.
Life looks different as I approach 40. When I am really tired and dysphoric, I would say that I don’t feel that kind of passion anymore. But that’s not really true. As I talk about the work that is happening in China and see people engage and get excited, my joy returns to me. When our friends decide to come beside us in support, I feel honored and challenged. It makes me want to be a better person. To be worthy- and that thought leads me back to a place of total dependence on God. Ultimately, He is the only one who can make this happen, and the one who makes us worthy and fruitful. We are at a stage in life where we are better able to count the costs. We know it will be hard, and we will sacrifice a lot. We also believe that it will be worth it.
This is a strange time of life to move to China, with 3 children 6 and under. And yet, it feels the time is right. My excitement is like the hopeful expectation one feels when facing a new day after a good night’s sleep. Not the giddy energy that comes from too much coffee.

Universe (for Sakal)

God broods
over the vast moors
and the silent hills
the desert places where no grass speaks
the orb of moon in crimson sky
the winged flight of ocean flocks
Death has come, but we will face it
silent as the bloom of spring
we will hope
while we know
this is an end, real and bitter
slicing and changing this mortal life

you came into this space so alive
and grew and found your destiny
set alight and burning with His glory
filling others with your joy and life
then suddenly, like fire
you were consumed
struck down by greedy flames
your vibrancy and confidence were singed
yet hope stood firm
and faith held to the end
today we honor you and see your form
cleaved from its essence, strange it looks
we ponder as we see
our future too

but then we are consoled
we feel the pulse
of life within, without
outside the breeze is fresh
the sun another fire
of life, not death
and now we know
that spring will come
and Love has found you
that you will live again

Kochav

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Bethlehem’s star

illuminated every alley

of injustice, death and fear

crisply slicing into our night sky

the angels came

finding a portal on one holy night

a human face reflected in the double mirror

of time and eternity

an icon that shatters it

aching, longing, groaning

the world weary as it turns

our God image splintered again and again

by loss

our time feels endless as the sky

as another face fades from present to eternity

glass breaks and our spinning globe stops

only stars hold true

for the mystery beyond is glorious

but here we are

awaiting another shattering

longing for incarnation’s Light

Loss

leaf falling

There are so many ways we can build a cocoon of safety around ourselves. Financial security. Friendship with safe, prosperous people. Only attempt what we have tried before and been proven good at. Make sensible excuses not to take that risk that is calling to you. Tell ourselves that a logical reason exists for the tragedy that befalls someone else.

God is good, we believe. Unless… Until…

For several years, I felt singled out for tragedy. The world stopped working according to my rules. I had thought they were God’s rules. I was angry because I had done most things right. I prayed faithfully. I trusted…believed. And yet we were pummeled with one loss after another. So many thoughts come rushing into the pain carved chasm. God is distant. Is this my fault? God really doesn’t care. Anger, bitterness, jealousy, grief- they flowed in to fill a space a loss took from me. Fear, depression, disillusionment. Life is not what I thought it was.

There are many ways to deal with loss. Give up. Escape through denial and self-indulgence. Keep walking even though you limp. I considered all of these, but I kept going, and found in time that the loss transformed both me and how I frame my world.

Transformation is not change. Change is dyeing a fabric a new color. Transformation is the caterpillar to the butterfly. The shedding of one’s old identity is a great risk, yet only then will the new emerge.

But loss is so hard. After I emerged from the fog of my own grief I realized how much loss permeates all our lives. In the past month I have had two loved ones diagnosed with cancer. Sudden unexpected diagnoses.One of them is 35 with young children; told to order his priorities because he might have 1-2 years. His wife watches their future together wiped clean and faces a dark and unknown path. A friend loses her father 3 weeks after diagnosis. Another young “healthy” mom of four watches her health crumble as her autoimmune condition worsens. A facebook friend writes about her heart failure during pregnancy and the sudden death of her unborn child.

Autism. Divorce. Genocide. Laid off. Abused. Mentally ill. Demented

Losses that touch people that touch me. We can all be found somewhere on the continuum of loss. This most painful and universal of human experiences. We fear it and spend so much effort to avoid and insulate ourselves from it. Yet somehow we find ourselves unwillingly in this crysalis. Sometimes there is redemption of loss, often there is transformation through it, but always it is hard. And I find myself in that place tonight, offering up prayers and feeling sadness for so many in my life.