Sunday is Coming


We are getting ready for Lent at our little church, working on the Ash Wednesday service and planning a small worship gathering outside to burn last year’s Palm Sunday palms to use for ashes. The Lenten season is one of my favorites—I come by contrition and repentance naturally, it seems. Usually the dark winter days lead into a time of slowing that readies my heart for reflection. This season, however, is fraught with busy as the dark days slowly yield to light.

We are still working on applications for Teddy’s college plans, filling out page after page of minutiae, dissecting my boy’s life and letting the value others have assigned to it mess with our heads and turn a process that should be joyful—hopeful, igniting dreams—into a dreaded exercise in competition.

The way our world does things sometimes doesn’t make sense. There is no place for a child whose mind is his best asset. We celebrate the athletes and the charismatic types, we applaud the artists, dancers, singers … but the introverted thinker is often overlooked. I tell him he must know who he is, he will find his place, life will welcome his gifts. But he looks at me and points to his forehead, “What I have is all in here,” he says. “It’s not … I don’t know how …” His voice is constricted, as if he doesn’t have enough breath. And I know his heart is breaking. Haven’t I also longed to be seen?

Remember you are dust …

The liturgy for Ash Wednesday rises up to meet me and I am reminded that I follow Jesus into the wilderness and all the way to the cross. For the stone to be rolled away, I must first embrace death; let go of the dirt and debris of this life and let this daily surrendering create resurrection in my heart.

This mumbo-jumbo makes no sense to an eighteen-year-old who stands on the cusp of life. It made no sense to me when I was his age. These things are too intangible, crumble in my fingers like ash.

How do I take my hands off of this?

I must embody. Let worship pry loose my fingers from all that I want, all that I dream. I remember that, yes, it is Friday. But Sunday is coming. Lord, have mercy. Sunday is coming.


New York at dusk from the Top of the Rock (2008)
On a day when we remember, it seems the right thing to dream. So many dreams turned to ash on this day twelve years ago. So many stories cut short. And yet…out of the devastation new dreams have been born. And we hold the ordinary moments closer to our breast.
It’s a quiet day here today. I am remembering. But my dear friend Alicia from The Overflow has invited me to dream over at her place today. You are invited too. Let’s dream together today. 

When it Hits You All-of-a-Sudden

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This morning before the sky fills with white light I lie in bed and hear a flock of geese fly over. March comes in honking and I can’t sleep.
I pad downstairs and pick up the conversation on the dining room floor. We started this talk yesterday under a dewy sky. The last glimpse of February brought snow all day—thick slushy strands of light that left everything wet and cold. Cold to the bone. I worked all day and came home to fix supper and then drive Jeffrey back the way I just came. Drum lessons.
Some days feel like a constant retracing of my steps—never moving forward…just back and forth, back and forth in that same span of twenty miles. I suffer to see the new—I fight for fresh eyes on these days.
So as February disappeared under snowlight, I sat in the van by myself in front of the music store—waiting for my son to finish his lesson. I always bring work to do while I wait—books to read, keys to type on. But I was tired from a Lenten fast—this sweet taste still lingering in my mouth; the burn of the rich feasting I’ve given up these past days.
The book I was trying to read piled on more tired—thick conviction pressed heavy on my chest until I dropped the leaden words in the floor. They fell beside the empty yogurt cup—the morning’s breakfast eaten in haste on the commute—and rested on bits of dried mud left from the wet day.
I stared glassy-eyed into the fast-falling dark. Suddenly, in front of the store window stood a young woman—in a lacy mini-skirt, fishnet hose with tube socks pulled up over them, and army boots up her shins. She gestured to the piano on display excitedly and turned to her companions.  Two skinny guys in hoodies materialized, both with cigarettes dangling between their fingers. All three stood in front of the window, cupped their hands over the glass to cut the glare, and leaned in to look at that piano.
I wondered what kind of band they might be in together, smiled a bit at her unusual outfit (stage presence, I mused), and tried not to stare.
That’s when it hit me. From out of no where.
Those three kids took off walking up the street, hunched down against the cold but laughing. Laughing and dreaming dreams. And I felt so old and tired and used up. And it occurred to me that some of my dreams are just not going to be realized on this side of eternity. There are going to be things that I want that won’t happen. I was already behind before I started dreaming and sometimes you just run out of time.
I was just about to the point of despair when I remembered Leaf by Niggle. That little story by Tolkien that helped him keep pursuing his dream.  And then I remembered what Byron said—about how the word disciple means learner. How Jesus calls us to be lifelong learners. I reminded myself that I was made for eternity—that God put eternity in my heart and that is where this longing comes from.
I will have more than this lifetime.
And just as I was telling God this is all fine and good but what about right now? What am I to do with this feeling right now? Just as I was about to shake my fist up at that white sky falling down, the face of hope appeared. He opened the door and tossed his drum sticks in the back seat. Then he sat down right next to me.
And on the way home Jeffrey asks me this:
Mom, do you think if I try hard enough I’ll be able to live my dream?
This question from my 14 year-old son took me by surprise and my tongue felt too thick to answer at first.
But as I guided that minivan down that same 20 mile stretch of road that I had already traveled three other times that day, it became fresh and new.
Well, I said. I think it will make God happy if you try.
I reached over and squeezed his hand.

So this is what I ask this first light on this first day of March with my face pressed to the dining room floor. Does this make you happy, Lord? Does this bring you glory? 

Everything falls in its proper place and I can hear the geese honking in the distance. 
Sharing with Holley and her God-size dreamers:

Playdates with God: I Dreamed a Dream

The days have been warm and clear for late January and yesterday when I went running I noticed the bulbs waking from their sleepy beds—pointy green fingers reaching up. The sun left a memory of its summer strength on my face and as I took flight I wondered about sleeping dreams and the way the earth turns silently through time.
My boys have been on a short winter break from school and we have had many adventures. I’ve been scarce here but fully present with them. They both mark their birthdays this week and there have been friends and sweets and presents. Yesterday we went to see Lincolnand I studied their faces in a dim theater for traces of understanding. On the way home we talked about the movie—about how things might have been different if the 13th amendment hadn’t passed. And we wondered together at what human beings are capable of. And how time—this thick thing, as Abe said in the movie—has erased the urgency of freedom.
We forget so many things.
Today there is a march from one of the churches downtown to our state capitol building. There the freedom bell will be rung and speeches will be made. And the boys and I will watch the inauguration on television and I will tell them how the President will be sworn in on two Bibles—one that used to be owned by Martin Luther King, Jr. and one that was Abraham Lincoln’s. We will make our own march and recite pieces of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech—shout it from the top of the little bridge in our neighborhood.
Last week my agent sent my book proposal out to several publishers and it was a good feeling—a surreal feeling after all this time. I was so grateful. And last night when the boys and I walked I told them how I can’t stop thinking about the thirst for justice that Abe Lincoln had and isn’t it funny how a dream changes with this thick thing called time? How something that used to seem as necessary as air can become a means to an end—a way to open oneself up to the bigger dream that God dreams?
When I watched Les Miserable a couple weeks ago, my first tears fell when Ann Hathaway sang I Dreamed a Dream. Because an unrealized dream can be a heartbreaking thing. Especially when it comes to justice. And something a mentor said about 1 Corinthians 12:1-11keeps sticking in my mind.
It occurred to me for the first time, he said, that all the things discussed in the scripture are carried out by human beings. For these things to happen, a person is required to fill them.
And when I think about Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. and anyone else who has stood up in the face of injustice…it makes my dream bigger too.
Let’s keep dreaming for each other, for this world, for shalom. And hold these dreams for one another with love through the thick turning of time.
They tell me a cold snap is coming on. 
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him

Today, over at The High Calling, we continue our book club discussion of Karen Swallow Prior’s Booked. Will you join us?

The Playdates button:

Linking up with Holley Gerth and her God-Sized Dream community …

Grace Glasses

It isn’t in anything that he says.
The words are helpful, instructive, encouraging.
So why do I want to curl into a ball and weep all day?
When the snow comes, I am relieved. I watch out the window as frail flakes bump up against each other in the white of the sky. The wind drops into our little valley in angry rushing sweeps, banging about bits of life and causing me to grip my sides firmly.
I might blow away.
I fall asleep amidst this sound of branches bending and loose bits of the world swirling in the current. But it’s not a restful sleep and I am awakened at five a.m. by a nightmare. I check on my boy, make sure it was just a dream, light a candle, and go downstairs.
I sit before the wind with no words, listen to the howling and see glimpses of glitter blowing by—mirrored in the light of the snow.
I have no words, so I move to the couch, fall back to sleep with my face pressed between two cushions.
I am not allowed to stay in this sorry state long. The boys are home on a long weekend and I’ve taken the chance to schedule their well-visits with the pediatrician. Here I learn we are behind on vaccines. And my eldest still has those big holes in the top of each eardrum. And he can barely see out of his right eye.
The doctor shakes his head. And I feel my stomach drop. He tells me how, if one eye is stronger than another, the brain will shut off vision to the weak eye over time.
“Better get this taken care of soon,” he says.
And then he starts talking about surgery for the boy’s ears. Six shots and two flu mists later, we leave, armed with an order for blood work and a referral to a local optometrist. The boys want to go out to lunch, plead with puppy dog eyes.
“We’ve just had all these shots, mom.”
We get home in the afternoon and I do more laundry, try to write a little, someone has stopped up the toilet, and I’ve promised a friend to stop by to hold her beautiful new baby.
These are ordinary things. The stuff of life. And I know that when you want to be successful at something, the ordinary gets a bit left behind–you have to work hard and worry about branding and have a marketing strategy and sell yourself.
I know these things.
Don’t you? Don’t you know that when working on a dream you have to put the ordinary things in a different place for a while, make sacrifices, and step up to a different side of who you are?
Don’t you know?
Don’t you know that that dream you cradle requires stepping out of the ordinary…if only for a season?
It does. It’s true.
But don’t you—not even for one minute—don’t you believe that this is what defines you.
Who you are is in the ordinary moments. The ways you breathe in and out of the day. This is how they will remember you; this is your legacy.
And it’s a beautiful one. Sometimes that’s easy to forget when the dream looms large.
I want to weep when I listen to that voice—the one that says, “You will never be enough. You cannot do this thing you desire.”
Hear this, dear heart—hear this, my heart: You are enough.
You are enough because His grace is sufficient.
So don’t fight it. Live into each moment. Because, just as the brain needs help sometimes to steward vision best…sometimes the heart needs help to see too.
Grace is the best lens to look through.
And there is nothing ordinary about that.