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.

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.

Crossroads II

crossroads
I title this post as a sequel to the first one published almost 2 years ago. Then our trip to China still loomed before us, full of uncertainty and expectation. I feel like we’ve done a 360 degree loop since then and want to catch the story up. I recorded in my China post how we returned from our trip more united than we’d ever been on a location in central China, impressed by the local workers there, and ready to commit a year of our lives to the ministry they were doing.

And then the small voice of longing, the persistent whisper that can be ignored but not silenced, began again in my heart. A daughter. I really wanted a daughter, and I didn’t want to go to China without one. I imagined the insensitive comments: “Couldn’t you have your own children?” The pity, and even the shame, exacerbated by a different cultural environment. I couldn’t fix my infertility, but I could face these things with a full heart, and a full family. I asked Bob if we could start another adoption first, and he agreed, though later regretted he didn’t ask me to choose one or the other. Last year was a year of chafing, waiting for a process we (shouldn’t have) expected to move quickly and instead filled with delays and false leads. Bob stuck in a job he didn’t like waiting for China. The timeline was stretching too long for him, and he made it clear at some point if we weren’t going to do this we were going to give it up and start a practice here in America. In The Wildness of God I told the story of Noel and how God spoke to me and brought her to us in March of this year. He brought her at the last possible moment, as I had told Bob if we didn’t hear anything by March 31st I would agree to move and settle somewhere in the U.S.

But here we are- hopeful to finalize her adoption this year, and China is still an option. I feel more surrendered about going overseas than ever before. I hold it with an open palm. Now almost 40, I have lost much of the romantic idealism, the thrill of adventure for adventure’s sake, that I had in my 20’s and early 30’s. I know this will be hard. Our children will face new risks and deprivations. Our marriage will face new tensions. It will cost a lot to move overseas; financially, emotionally, relationally. There are times I have asked myself if I still want to go. My daily vision is as myopic as ever- the fruitless daily quest for adequate sleep, my mind consumed with disaster prevention, conflict mediation, responsive parenting and the meeting of a thousand little needs every day. When we started the adoption I stopped studying Chinese as much. My tutor moved back to China. I had been skyping our contact there, but this also ceased when we got baby Noel. I feel disconnected- China feels a world away. I’m also guarding my emotions, because I recognize Bob’s right to say no to this. I honestly don’t want to go unless he does too, because I need for us both to be fully on board, fully committed. Our marriage is pretty egalitarian, but I feel compelled to let him take the lead this time. I need for him to, because then I will know his feelings are real. Sometimes I control too much with the strength of my enthusiasm.

During this time of limbo I’ve realized some important lessons. I don’t need to move overseas to realize my spiritual potential. Nothing has shaken or rebuilt me like my experience of infertility and pregnancy loss. I doubt that any cross cultural challenge can compare to that. I have so many opportunities here to help, minister, love, more than I have time or energy for. If we stayed in the U.S. God would use me, and those opportunities would continue. Openness, not location is what matters. I needed to really learn this, to let go of that deep seated belief that I would always be inadequate without a missionary experience.
Bob says he wants to move forward soon, and is contacting our agency here. He is doing seminary training which he hopes to use there. He is discussing timelines. He wants to commit to one year, with the option of staying much longer if the right opportunities open up.
I’m not getting excited yet. We will have to raise thousands of dollars in monthly support. Another test if this is what we’re meant to do. Guarded heart.
Yet hopeful. I just called the library and reserved those Mandarin cds again. We’ll see our contacts when they’re in the U.S. That long held dream of living and working for His kingdom in another culture hadn’t died, just gone dormant to survive life’s storms. Like waiting for the spring, we watch and see what will burst forth.