Sharing Monday

 **Just a little note to say a humble *thank you* to all of you for your kind and tender words regarding my last series of posts. It’s been difficult to write since…I’ve felt a bit emptied out. I am so grateful for this community who loves with such abundance. You sure do look like Jesus. He sure is beautiful on you. My love to you all.

And don’t forget to join us over at The High Calling for the second week of our book club discussion on The Spirit of Food. There is some good conversation going on over there…

I am up at five in the morning so I can do my reading and practice Centering Prayer. It’s hard, but it’s worth it and I have been trying to do this since the new year began. Some days, I am not so successful, but I try and the effort yields better results than if I didn’t.

This morning there is snow still on the ground and it reflects an eerie light upward into the liquid sky. I look out the window, press up against the glass. There are no stars. The sun came out yesterday—a weak imitation of its summer self. Still, it brought joy unspeakable, and I spent some moments of the afternoon at the kitchen table watching the shadows of my Maple trees fall over pressed white.
The sun will not show its face today.
I read two chapters of Forgotten God, the book I have chosen as my latest morning read.  Francis Chan makes me weep with his innocent questioning…with his pure desire for God. And especially because I know the new chapter in his life, I pay close attention to his words about the Holy Spirit.
I close my eyes and pray the prayer of Keating:
Come, Holy Spirit, pour out the depths of the Trinity a ray of Your Light—that Light which enlightens our minds and, at the same time, strengthens our wills…
I fall asleep during my Centering Prayer and I dream of two hands held out with fingertips and thumbs gently touching. The space between the hands forms a circle and there is a light inside of it. The hands turn into stone and the circle becomes a cave—dark and cavernous. Then the cave turns into an eyeball and I awaken with a start…wondering if I really was asleep.
My time is up.
On the way to school I tell the boys about the journaling I’ve been doing.
At the end of each entry, I say, I make a list of the things I’d like to get done that day. And it seems to be helping me be more productive. Like my painting, I say. I wrote down that I wanted to work on it, and I did. I haven’t worked on that painting in months.
It’s a good thing, Teddy interjects. Because dad was complaining about it not being done and being in the way and stuff.
At his words, I try not to, but I have that fantasy again. The one where my beloved and I are happily married (as we are) but we live in separate houses. Side by side. In my house, my walls are covered with paintings and it is filled with quaint flea market finds. I have turned the office into a studio and I can paint anytime I want instead of having to pack up my paints every time we have company and need to use the dining room. He would rarely come to my place because he doesn’t like to move carefully. I would have lit candles everywhere in my house. (And I remember what Lauren Winner says about candles in Mudhouse Sabbath: You don’t find candles lit in frenetic houses; you find them lit in houses where people are trying to pay attention.) Things would be so much easier if we had a duplex. When I would want to watch a movie I would go over to visit his big-screen TV. He could leave the toilet lid up all the time. And because it’s his place, I won’t complain…
I shake my head.
The point is, maybe if you wrote down some goals each day, you would get more done. Like…READ YOUR BIBLE (I try not to preach) or practice your guitar, say.
I keep forgetting to do that.
But I know it goes in one ear and out the other. My friend Laure asked me not too long ago if I thought I could let some things go. I’m not letting others take responsibility for some important things, she suggested.
When she asked, I felt fear clawing at my heart.
But, what if…
Panic welled up inside of me.
Come, Holy Spirit, pour out your light…
So. I have. Let go. Of some things. Some things, I miss terribly. Some will rise to haunt me in on the dark mornings and fear taunts.
Come, Holy Spirit…
But I am trusting. And making lists. And now, I must go exercise. Because it’s on the list.
Sharing this Monday with L.L. Barkat. Join us?
On In Around button
Monday is also gratitude day (isn’t every day?) and I join with Ann in counting blessings.
**Sunshine shadows and muted colors matted in white.
**WinterJam—a rock concert festival we went to Saturday night.
Francesca Battistelli
David Crowder
The Newsboys
**Wonder on a boy’s face at the sounds of rock and roll.
**Lists of things to do. Dreams and realities, laundry and paints.
**Letting go and resting in Him.
**Our Centering Prayer group and watching thoughts sail by like the hulls of many boats.
**Today. I am so thankful for today. For my man and this house we share. For raised toilet lids and a TV always blaring sports when he’s home. For this love…I wouldn’t trade it (Or move into the house next door to it). 


The falling snow in her quiet is my kin. The way she comes, soft, and nests unheard on tree limbs and rooftops—this, my song. She spins her dance through pale sky and wind with silent grace—no thunder clapping prologue…no window tapping insistence. Just this—slow falling accumulation that takes one by surprise in the morning.   
Today we are intimates, my cousin snow and I. This morning she came calling with this gift of replevied beauty—the land all luminous and pristine—and reminded me that it is still Christmas. I awakened to the remnants of a week of feasting…cookie crumbs on the floor, half-eaten trays of confectioneries on the counter, the festive dishes stacked in neat piles. And laundry.
Full days of merry led to neglect of the washing and I awaken this morning to this realization. Mounds and mounds of it. There is a load of whites in the dryer waiting for my hands and I fill the other with colors—blue jeans, the new pajamas my mother-in-law gifted me with, Jeffrey’s Christmas robe…in they go. I carry the basket of whites in the living room and am about to feel the weight of it all when she comes. I see her twirling through the French doors and I sit the basket down, lean into the glass and let her hypnotic dance fill me. My breath is lace and I feel the cold press through me.
The light of morning has not yet come to full and the boys still dream upstairs. There is nothing in her dance to alarm or awaken them. Yet I feel the stirring of these tiny bits of heaven’s light divagating in the dawn.
Christmas coming down.
Sunday morning the pastor reminded us that there are 12 days of Christmas…this season is not over until the magi discover the Christ on Epiphany Sunday.
This I tend to forget, or disregard in my desire to return to the norm. Things need to settle down, after all.
But my heart strains against leaving this season behind. The babe sleeps soft in the manger. On Christmas morning Jeffrey plucked the Christ child from his hiding place and now the core of our nativity is complete. The wise men still wander.
There is nothing ordinary about the falling snow—nothing every day-ish. Her crystalline flakes float in the wind, carry shimmer to earth. My cousin snow understands how to go about the business of life and carry beauty within.
Can I see Christmas this way? Can I carry it like a snow-dance all year long? Fall back into the rhythm of life with quiet beauty that falls over all it touches—embracing, covering, spreading Christmas over all?
I back away from the glass and return to the basket. This quiet—this time alone is usually my prayer time. I stare at scads of white and determine this: this laundry will be my prayer. These balls of socks are my prayer beads, each soft fold a line of grace. I touch the stuff of life with my heart and I know that this is Christmas. The snow-dance lifts me, spins my every-day around. We dip and sway back into life in a quiet rhythm of beauty.
And I hum my prayer as the snow continues to fall.
I share this snow-prayer in community with L.L. Barkat to celebrate On, In, and Around Mondays.

 On In Around button

Monday is gratitude day too (isn’t every day?). I join with Ann in a recognition of some (there are far too many to list) of this week’s blessings:
**Winter white
**The clothes we wear—such a gift to wrap this temple in these prayer lines
**Christmas dinner at home…welcoming the whole family here
**Boys who still wake early on Christmas morning—lumber in sleepy to mom and dad’s bed before first morning’s light
**Abundant, crazy love
**The Christ child in the manger 
**Wandering wise men
**The last candle lit on our Advent Wreath–the red one.
**Endless gifts. Oh, yes. Endless.

Downy Days

It is twenty-six degrees outside and the paper tells it will get no warmer. I have a to-do list as long as my arm but this morning a downy woodpecker came to my feeder and now I am keeping watch for his return. He was stealing bits of the suet, hammering with his hard bill on that frozen block of lard. I briefly entertained microwaving the thing for his benefit, but even I realized this was silly. He returns periodically, hitches to the side of the wire feeder with his four toes, and takes my breath away. His underfeathers mirror the down of  the surrounding snow. I long to touch, to smooth fingers over that deep soft. His red cap seems like an exclamation point and I read it all to that end. I sit still at the kitchen table, barely daring to breath—fantasizing about birding expeditions and wishing life was not calling me away.

I have been reading Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk and she has filled my head with all sorts of adventures. She writes about exotic travels and the beauty of little known places. Last night I started the chapter about her time at Galápagos. I am filled with longing for a life of seeing when I read these things. But then I remember this article that I read last summer and I am grateful that I have choices.

I have chosen this life.

I remember this with sobriety this morning as I reflect on the events of my day thus far. There is the rising in the quiet. The making sure the lunches are packed and the coffee is made. Dogs out in frozen tundra. The gym clothes that are not ready and somehow it’s my fault. Forgotten backpacks and drop-off lines. Then back to laundry and this house and the downy woodpecker.

Well, it surely isn’t gazing at the palo santo trees on Galápagos. But there is poetry to it. If I allow myself to see it.

Last night, I told my friend, I am learning to think in poetry. I look for poetry in my day to day.

Yes, she said. Because she knows this too.

I think of those words said to me between the walls of the hospital where I work. The mother eyes, their longing–the deep pool of them.

I just want things back the way they were, she said. I just want our life back.

This is the life I live in. I choose this life. I choose to see each moment.

And pieces of my day lift up before me like lines of a beautiful sonnet. And my eyes are opened to beauty.

Today I am writing from where I am and joining L.L. Barkat in searching for a sense of place. Join us? You can link up here
 On In Around button
Monday is also gratitude day (isn’t everyday?). Today I am thinking of sweet blessings…
**Footprints in fresh snow.
**Running between droplets of “rain dressed in white feather coats” (oh, how I love that line by TALON)
**All four of us, gathered round the Advent wreath, candles shimmering.
**Youngest blessing us in church on Sunday. He played drums with the praise band! This mamma heart just knew that God was smiling at his too short legs amidst those praises.
**The smell of winter in the air.
**Warm home on cold night.
**Prayer partners.
**The arms of the one who loves me.
**So much more!

New Creation

I stand with my knees quaking and my stomach churning, not knowing…not understanding. This wild feeling of the world upside down…things out of place. I don’t hear one word of the sermon…grief and confusion and worry for Liz make my mind too crowded for anything else. Love does that.

Where is it here?

Let’s tuck into God, I tell him. Let’s pull away from all this.

It’s okay to bow out gracefully.

I only want to think about good things tonight, I tell him.

I can do that, he says, if we stay away from there.

I look away.

It’s my fault, he says. I should be bigger—more mature.

And I can’t stand the hole that grows. I think of all the times he was so much bigger—so much more mature. And I know Christ died for my sins and it looms large but I wonder what He’s up to, breaking things this way.

We are only human.

So we drive to a new place, dine overlooking the square–just the four of us…pretend we’re okay. And we go, because we already have the tickets.

And in the dark and flashing lights, a small hand reaches for mine and I feel the trust there and I feel the impact of it all on him.

And my heart dances.

We worship with hands in the air.

Today I give thanks.

For the strength to make it through.

For darkness.

For handholding in the dark.

For music.

And passion.

And a red-haired boy with passion.

Leeland Mooring of the band Leeland. That boy is on fire. And I’m not just talking about his hair.

And when he sang this song.

For deep faith stories and fathers who share.

Matt Hammit of the band Sanctus Real talks about his infant son’s heart surgery and how it has grown his faith.

And when they sang this song.

For this word, that sustained…through church, through Sunday school. I just kept writing it over and over on my bulletin.

That even in the hard stuff, He is there. And I feel Him there too. 

For my husband. That dear, long-suffering man who has given grace to those who are trying to show grace to another. No matter how much it has hurt him. Because he is bigger. And more mature.

For the way God makes all things new.

I am new today, friend. I am new.

holy experience

The Beauty of Grass

When I tickled Teddy’s feet to wake him up this morning, he opened his eyes, blinked, and said, “Happy birthday, Mom.”

It was so sweet.
I am having a perfectly lovely birthday.
The sun is shining, I just returned from a long (slow) run, and there was a surprise waiting for me on the doorstep. I just love surprises.
My mother even called me, which is unusual for her. She usually calls the week before, or the day after, but because of her faith, she will never utter those two words that have been showered on me today. But she called. And it made me happy. We talked about birthing days and when she couldn’t remember what time of day I was born it didn’t even matter. So when we finished our conversation I ran to get the boys’ baby books and to make sure I never forget. It’s not the most important thing, I know.
But I don’t want to ever forget. 
It’s wonderful to have a birthday in the spring, when all the earth is waking up. With each year I celebrate I am reminded that I am re-made—I am reminded of resurrection.
On this day last year I was in New Orleans on a surprise birthday trip. Have I said how much I love surprises? My husband knows this well. The memories of that trip I will savor my lifetime over. And last night, he surprised me again.
I was having a terribly self-pitying evening in which I made Jeffrey cry with ugly words. But he swallowed his tears and went to his drum lesson, leaving me ashamed and empty. So I walked. I walked around the bricked streets of the square and up on the Adena burial mound. I looked out over the city and felt like I was on Mt. Nebo, staring into the Promised Land but forbidden to enter. When I slowly descended a splash of yellow caught my eye. It was a lonely little daffodil, hanging its head in a sea of grass.
When the boys were done with lessons, I took them to the base of the Mound and showed them the flower.
“Sometimes God puts a flower in the middle of a bunch of grass,” I said. “It might seem a little bit lonely, but it shows off the flower’s beauty all the more.”
I was half-joking/half-apologizing for my moodiness earlier. But I was a little bit serious too. I was telling myself more than them. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Laura. Look at this lovely grass around here.
They understood. Sometimes it’s hard being the only female in the house. They don’t always get me.Sometimes I just need too much.
Fingerface said, “I’m a flower, see how beautiful I am?” And we laughed and all was forgiven. But I still felt ashamed.
And when we returned home…this surprise waited for me. A perfectly overindulgent, amazingly wonderful, terribly generous gift.
All I wanted was a new bird feeder.
Today I am feeling very spoiled. And very loved.
It still amazes me how God will bend over backwards to reveal that to me. I know that He has been there all along–that He has seen the entire making of the wreck of me. I know He held me when I was a wee one and He caught my tears in His wineskin. He knows why I say ugly things sometimes and He sees the scars on my heart. He knows why I doubt myself and am filled with self-loathing at times.
But He sees me the way He wants me to be too. He believes in me. And as I let go of those wounds from the past, I feel the freedom there is in loving myself…in seeing myself as He does.
It allows me to let others love me too; to be the grass—the solid ground I root into.
Oh, Happy Birthday to me.
The grass is beautifully green on this side of the fence.