We Are Still Here

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The neighbor children are tracing around each other’s bodies with sidewalk chalk. From my desk, I see them through the window taking it in turns to lie, still as a stone, on the driveway, offering their perimeter. It is a serious task, requiring the tracer to move her entire body around the placid figure she outlines.

I watch the girl thread the chalk between her brother’s feet, up the long path of his legs, around his arms, along the rugged terrain of shoulder and neckline. He smiles up at her and waits his turn as artist, plucking the thick stalk of color from her chalky fingers as they switch roles. They leave behind evidence in pinks and blues, yellows and greens: they were here; they are still here.

Later, I walk the dog under slow-moving clouds; the moist heat of the summer evening becomes my second skin. The neighborhood streets are quiet, hushed by the coming of night. In the fading daylight I dare to visit their chalky mural and let it tell me a story.

I see that each outline has been colored in with detail—a rainbow-striped skirt for the girl, the boy’s bright red hair in short-cropped curly loops, and long eyelashes and wide, full-lipped smiles for both. But the thing that tells the story is the way the children have joined their hands. I know they weren’t holding hands when the outlines were traced; I watched the making. But here they are, reaching out to each other in Technicolor, clutching tight with hands that look like tennis balls.

The writing life can be so Benedictine—we live cloistered, set apart, dedicated to tapping out words as prayer. And yet, in Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, “Writing is not just writing. It is also having a relationship with other writers … It’s much better to be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices through us, than to be a cloistered being trying to find one peanut of truth in our own individual mind. Become big and write with the whole world in your arms.”

How do you say goodbye to a community who has become your tribe? To the people who bring you the world and offer you their hearts in story? Over the years, The High Calling has become just that: a place of relationship. The voices and friendships I have found here have helped me fill in the details of my chalk outline, coaxed my writing voice into a rich, wide-lipped smile.

The day after the kids drew their chalk figures, one of those sudden, driving, summer storms blew through. I watched from the window as all that color ran down my neighbor’s driveway in rivulets. When the sun came out, the mural was gone. No rainbow-striped skirt, no wide-lipped smiles, no outstretched hands clasped together; every speck of color scoured clean.

I felt sad, until my neighbor’s screen door banged open. Out skipped the little girl in a rainbow-colored skirt. As he always does, her little brother followed close behind, red hair glinting.

Halfway across the drive, she reached out her hand. And when he reached out to take it, I felt my heart swell.

We were here. We are still here. Hands outstretched toward one another. Nothing can wash that away.

Don’t forget, in honor of Hannah More’s extraordinary life and the contribution she made in support of the founding of the school we left Teddy at this weekend, I’m giving away a copy of Karen Swallow Prior’s beautiful book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, Wednesday, 8/26.

edited by Ann Kroeker. image by Steven Depolo, used with permission, sourced via Flickr.

Playdates with God: Chasing Butterflies

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Green thickens on nearby hills and the yard has become a lush terrarium in which to lose myself. Lately, we have noticed large numbers of butterfly visitations—mostly the Tiger Swallowtail, but also some Black Swallowtails and smaller varieties too. These pilgrims seem tired, and I have noticed many are missing parts of their wings and their scales have been rubbed off until the wing is translucent. These raggedy guests seem a marking of the coming of summer’s end, and I watch with bittersweet emotion as they unwind their long tongues to taste my purple coneflower.

Always curious, I’ve been reading about the butterfly, which—like moths—are in the class Lepidoptera. Lepidos is Greek for “scales” and ptera means “wing.” I remember as a little girl my mother cautioning me not to touch the butterflies, for to do so would be to rub off some of its wing scales and endanger the beautiful creature. One source confirms this, telling me the scales “protect and insulate the insects and aid in the flow of air along their wings as they fly.” And they may also help the cold-blooded butterfly absorb heat into its wings. Butterflies cannot fly unless their body temperature is above eight-six degrees.

I read that there are some 28,000 species of butterflies worldwide and hosting the Tigers in my garden is the sweetest of all hospitalities. Something in their raggedy countenance this time of year awakens in me desire—desire to care for, desire to protect. At the least, a desire to provide comfort in their last days.

Endings are never easy. Some of you may have heard that The High Calling has decided to end its relationship with the editors who have worked for them these past few years. This is a hard goodbye, one we did not see coming, and so we are working through that grief, together and separately. I started volunteering for The High Calling back in 2009, when it was still a fledgling. In those early days, we made it our priority to make space for the small voice—to encourage new writers and mentor them in growing. As we changed our direction numerous times, I carried that mission with me, always trying to use my position to give voice to lesser known writers and provide platform opportunities. I know of few other online places who do this—so many spaces vying for the big names. This is just one of the unique qualities of a special place that will be missed. For me, this letting go is compounded by preparing to send our eldest off to college in a few weeks. I have felt such sadness in my spirit—it feels like my wings have a few less scales. But at the same time, there is beauty.

For to sorrow over a goodbye means that there was something of immense value that one is being parted from. And there has been so much to value in my time at The High Calling. It has been a lovely experience, one I will forever be grateful for. The connections I’ve made and the ways that I’ve grown through them will be a slow reveal, I think—something I will continue to live into for many years.

I may have more to say about that later, but for now, I will keep chasing butterflies.

Every Monday I share 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 God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

The Sanctified Imagination

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I recently read the story of the Laetoli footprints. In 1976, archaeologist Mary Leakey was digging in the Tanzanian plain when she made an amazing discovery: a single footprint preserved in what was once volcanic ash. Further exploration yielded more footprints—an eighty-foot swath made by three people, fifty-four in all—all that was left of companions walking together, 3.6 million years ago. Leakey’s team studied the footprints for three years and when finished, reburied them for preservation.

As I read that story I began to wonder how much of the sacred is buried under the soil of the visible in this world. In our day-to-day lives, we pile on layer after layer of things we can see, things we can touch, mistakenly thinking this is the way to happiness and security … all the while losing sight of a priceless treasure as we bury it deeper and deeper under the soil of excess. How easy to lose sight of an unseen God when so many visible, lesser gods clamor for our attention.

Will you join me over at The High Calling for the rest of this reflection today? We’re finishing up a series on Imagination over there. If your curious, I think you’ll enjoy the other articles too. 

Playdates with God: The Eyes of the Heart

 

 

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This morning, I was up before sunrise for a run. The air was cool and a dewy mist settled over the low places, cloaking the trees and surrounding fields in white. I listened to songs of unseen birds as I ran, the world awakening before me. A spotted fawn in a foggy meadow stared at me with liquid eyes. As the deer startled away into a nearby wood, I marveled at the secrets the daylight keeps.

If I overlook these visible things, how much harder to remain aware of the unseen spiritual world?

Will you join me for the rest of this reflection over at The High Calling? This week we’re discussing the theme Imagination.

Every Monday I share 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 God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Advent in Us

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On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the purple candle on our wreath, and hope is kindled anew. We wait for a savior. But even as we strain our necks to see the manger, we wait with the knowledge that we are already saved. The saving has already been done, and we carry the light of this truth inside of us and out into the world. The grace of God is at work in us.

And yet, so much of our waiting has lost its value—this holiday marred by materialism and sentimentality.

Over at The High Calling this week, we’re talking about Advent in Us–how the grace of God through Jesus Christ is at work in us. Will you join us