Eucatastrophe: More Than A Happy Ending

We’ve been living the thang, friends, and time hasn’t waited for me to pause, even for a quick hello. So, here’s a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and an excerpt from my book Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown Up World. Enjoy, and may 2017 hold many wonders for you and your loved ones!

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On the day after New Year’s Day I strip all the beds in the house. The laundry room floor is covered with sheets and pillowcases and mattress pads and I am thinking about the clean slate. Somehow I can’t stand to think of our dreaming being done in last year’s dirt—little bits of skin and dog hair and lint littering up the sleeping.

I stand in the doorway with bedclothes billowing and I see that the dirt of life—the dirt of my life—is a very robust thing. We do what we can to write our stories well, to live a good dream, but there is always the stuff of life—the unforeseen interruptions, the distractions, the dirt of everyday necessities.

No matter what I dream, the sheets will still need washing.

Yesterday was J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday and in honor of one of our favorite storytellers, I wanted to have a party. But our youngest had percussion practice after school and his brother had to tutor some classmates and it was cold and night came early and my body hurt from the New Year’s resolutions and a fall down some stairs. So my firstborn and I took Lucy Mae for a walk in the dark instead and I dressed her in a leopard print sweater. At least the dog would be dressed for celebration.

The evening walk is a heart exercise and especially in the cover of night it seems our senses are tuned to the eternal. Each step has a way of loosing the strings that knot us up in what we can see. I feel around inside of him with questions and he smiles more readily than usual and we walk slowly—even in the cold. On this night, I am thinking about how we enjoyed The Hobbit recently and I remember how Tolkien coined this term eucatastrophe.

Wikipedia tells me that he “formed the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically-inspired literary criticism to refer to the “unraveling” or conclusion of a drama’s plot.

To me, eucatastrophe sounds like the happy ending, but to Tolkien, it meant more. It’s the way the hero’s fate is tied up in the entire story—it’s redemption in the end that the telling was building up to. It’s the happy ending only deeper.

Tolkien saw “the Incarnation as the eucatastrophe of human history and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation,” Wikipedia goes on to say.

And I think about the stories he wrote, how they embodied this term eucatastrophe, and I wonder how my life can do the same. How am I living my life that leads this story to the great Eucatastrophe?

I am likely never to face trolls, or orcs, or goblins. I probably won’t be on a quest upon which rests the fate of earth as we know it. But there is always the dirt of life that rears up against me—threatens to waylay this hero from the happy ending.

Am I able to carry this ring?

I smooth down the edges of sheets and fluff pillows into plump resting places. It feels good, this clean slate. But one thing I know—one thing I’ve learned from Bilbo and Frodo and Gandalf and life … the journey is a continuous series of stops and starts. There are joy days and dream days and good storytelling. But there are also interruptions, frustrations, and the dirt of life. I must choose which parts of the story will define me. What makes a good story?

Andrew Stanton, the writer of the three “Toy Story” movies and other animated masterpieces, says it well in his TED talk The Clues to a Great Story:

I walked out of there [the movie Bambi at age five] wide-eyed with wonder. And that’s what I think the magic ingredient is—the secret sauce—can you invoke wonder? Wonder is honest, it’s completely innocent, it can’t be artificially evoked. For me, there’s no greater ability than the gift of another human being giving you that feeling. To hold them still just for a brief moment in their day and have them surrender to wonder. When it’s tapped, the affirmation of being alive, it reaches you almost at a cellular level…the best stories invoke wonder.”

Isn’t the best play the one that tells a good story? The play that evokes wonder? And shouldn’t we be doing this with our lives?

I will keep pressing forward, writing these pages. Because I already know how that eucatastrophe will unfold. I already know the happy ending. And it is steeped in wonder.

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The above is a modified excerpt from Laura’s book, Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World, copyright 2014. Used with permission from Leafwood Publishers, an imprint of Abilene Christian University Press. All rights reserved.

An Excerpt from Playdates with God

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I’m excited to share an excerpt of my book, Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World at Cherished Magazine this month. Below are the first couple paragraphs of one of my favorite stories from the book, the trampoline story. If you’d like to read the rest, click this link to sign up for a free subscription to January’s entire issue. All you have to do is enter the coupon code “LAURAGIFT” in the registration form.

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It all started with the trampoline.

The day was white with February dawning and I stepped out into it—thick wet flakes falling one by one from a thin gray heaven and pooling on my skin, wetting my hair and making me blink. It was the in-between time, with the holidays well behind us and spring still six weeks away.

Walking in the snow has always been cause for celebration, but this day? Winter was tired. Icy fingers stroked my bones and when the season’s melancholy seemed to reach its deepest ebb…I heard them. Children’s voices calling through the snow. Their laughter echoed—sliding between those big wet flakes through the neighborhood streets until it found a home in my waiting ear. I followed the echo through the yard, across the street, and found its source at the house behind. I peeked. Two boys—soaked to their skin, jumping on a trampoline. As I watched those boys frolic and giggle and slide onto their backs on that trampoline in the snow, something moved inside of me.

To read the rest, click here and enter the coupon code “LAURAGIFT” when you register for your free issue of Cherished Magazine.

Playdates with God: Changing Calendars

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Every year for Christmas, my mother-in-law buys me the current Susan Winget Bountiful Blessings calendar from Lang, and I love it. Sometimes, when the year is up, I cut out all of Winget’s little painted birds and the scripture quotes from the calendar artwork and collage them into my own masterpiece. I love the bits of whimsy she paints and often see my own little garden in her vignettes.

After the holiday, when the Christmas cards have lost their luster and that last bit of glitter has been daubed away from the counter grout, I find a quiet corner and sit with the old year and the new to transfer all my important dates from one to the other. Yesterday, the second Sunday of Christmas on the church calendar, was just the day. To enhance the mood, I first filled my bird feeders outside the kitchen window. Then I sat at the table in a dapple of sun and let my pen be the bridge between the past and the future.

As I flipped through the months of 2015, reliving each appointment and special occasion, I noticed the snowbirds pecking around underneath the feeder. A black-capped chickadee flitted in and out of my vision, giving his bright chicka-dee-dee-dee to announce his comings and goings. I revisited wedding anniversaries and baptismal anniversaries and the birthday of Teddy’s preschool playmate. Some names had numbers written beside them in parenthesis: Olivia (15); and I marveled at how quickly the years have gone. Hadn’t I just penned her birth onto my calendar? I whispered the names of nieces and long-silent friends and family members whose birthdates I am not allowed to acknowledge because of their religious beliefs. I did. I acknowledged them. I celebrated them. I gave thanks for their births and their lives.

As I sat with my pen, flipping pages on two calendars, pouring over days past and days to come, my husband walked in the kitchen. “If only you had some electronic device that had a calendar on it so you could keep track of those things. And even get reminders,” he teased.

I do use the calendar on my phone quite a bit. But it can never replace this sacred New Year’s ritual. This practice has become a way of sanctifying time—of remembering and letting go, of praying into the newest year.

Do you still use a wall calendar?

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 Top Five Lessons from 2015

It is January, the month named after the Roman god Janus—that god with two faces, so depicted because he looks both to the future and the past. They called him the god of beginnings and transitions.

But as sit and look out into the meadow this morning, watching what I believe to be a rough legged hawk prey patiently from the top of a naked pear tree, I feel the presence of the One True God fall over me. I see the wisdom of looking back to look forward, and I know this is why our good God calls us “to remember” so many times in scripture.

I remember this morning. As I look back on 2015, it seems a year of transition, a year of change. This is the first lesson I carry with me into the newest year: Life is about change.

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It seems that old country song was right, life is about changin’. 2015 is the year our eldest left home for his first year of college. We’ve floundered in this almost-empty nest. Jeff started a new job, charting a different course for our life together. I lost my job at The High Calling, which has gone on to become something entirely different than it was when I cut my editorial teeth there. We said goodbye to the pastors who have shepherded our church for the past six years, and are preparing to welcome a new spiritual leader. We buried some dear ones, and pondered what it might mean to meet up with them again in glory. These outward changes sometimes appear good, sometimes appear bad but one thing they all have in common? They all require an inward shift.

That brings me to the second lesson from 2015: If I am not changing, I am not growing.

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To resist change is to resist growth. Wouldn’t I rather stay in my comfort zone? Dull the pain of the transition by sinking into monotony? Yet, scripture tells us that the Christian life is never static. It is a state of always growing, a journey toward maturity in Christ. We are to grow up to become more like Jesus every day, says the letter to the Ephesians, up into the measure of the fullness of Christ. This past year, the world has struggled with race relations, terrorism, and letting love overcome fear. The problems of the world can seem so big that it can feel like my small life cannot make a difference. But when I let love lead and try not to run from the hard places, change can bring good things.

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Lesson three is this: Faith comes first. By this, I don’t mean we must put our spiritual lives first, though this is certainly true, but that sometimes we must confess belief in a truth before it is visibly apparent. Believing in a promise despite a lack of tangible proof will stretch faith in new and unimagined ways. Walking through the darkness of depression with my husband has been one of the greatest challenges in our marriage and our faith. But we continue to hold on to God and to each other. By the grace of God the light moments are spreading over us the same way the sunshine spreads over the meadow in the morning.

This year I’ve also learned how intricately My faith life and my physical being are yoked together. For much of this year I have been unable to run due to continued struggles with plantar fasciitis. During weeks of resting my physical self, I have felt my sense of wonder begin to wither. A lack of physical activity, for me, seems to have the peculiar effect of making me feel far away from God. Gradually, I’ve learned that it’s a precarious formula of caring for this temple of my body and making sure I am out-of-doors some every day. Running combines these two and being unable to run requires me to be much more deliberate in meeting these two spiritual practices.

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The fifth and final lesson I’m carrying into 2016 with me is a renewal of the awareness of The importance of my alone time with God. I’ve been working more hours at the hospital lately, which affects my freedom to plan more adventurous playdates with God. I’m still learning how to steward my time better in this new season. Writing, reading, and ministry have necessarily taken a back seat to other professional demands. This is a big shift for me. Even when I can’t leave the house for a playdate, I am learning once again to relish simply sitting with God. Such freedom in that simplicity.

So here are my top five lessons from 2015:

  1. Life is about change
  2.  If I’m not changing, I’m not growing
  3. Faith comes first during the dark seasons
  4.  God cares about my body and how I care for it
  5. Time alone with God must be a priority

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January may be named for the Roman god Janus—a name that comes from the Latin ianua, which means “door”. Mythology has him the keeper of doors, gates, bridges, and passages.

But this is the kind of door my God keeps—one made from parted waters, one that passes safely through tongues of flame, one that parts the heavens in a windstorm. These impossible, seemingly impassible doors; these narrow gates that the world whispers about, this is not the way, it is too hard—these are the kinds of doors my God keeps. He opens them wide and still, I squeeze through as if only a tiny crack.

But this Doorkeeper? He not only holds the door aloft, he reaches for my hand and pulls me through. Happy New Year, Beloveds. Praying many open doors for you in 2016.

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Before the cold comes, we walk our familiar beat—one of the few such times since Lucy Mae’s death. One son still struggles; his quiet nature was so much in orbit around her sun. As time has passed, he misses her more instead of less and I try to resurrect other bits of life; I try to kindle tiny embers. But to take a walk now is a memorial and we are quiet as our feet fall in step.

I’m struggling to tell them something—they must have heard the angry words earlier, heard their mother crying. So much of the past few years has been a torrent of ups and downs and I’ve been grieving that lately, worried about how it will shape them. No one said love would be easy. I remember how my sister and I cowered in our beds at night as our own parents hurled word daggers at each other; anger bouncing off the walls and ricocheting into our hiding places. I remember the fear and that wild feeling inside.

So I tell them how lucky they are, that their parents love each other. That we are committed to staying together; that even when things are hard, love wins. One son talks about a friend whose parents have split up, and I tell him that so many times it does happen. Sometimes it’s for the best. And God will use these hard places for good if we allow it. And they want to know how it was for me after my parents divorce. Was I sad? Was it hard? So I tell them the story I’ve told them many times before, the one they never grow tired of hearing. It’s like a fairy tale to them, and for this I am grateful. I tell them how I cried myself to sleep every night for a year. How I lived with my dad and older brother for a while. How I missed my mother and sister and baby brother terribly. But how Jesus came to me during this time and held me. How he became real as skin to me then, and only then.

The quiet one stays quiet and I fill the space with words. I talk about making good decisions, about planning, and priorities, and seeking God in all.

It is January, the month they were both born, the month named after the Roman god Janus—that god with two faces, so depicted because he looks both to the future and the past. They called him the god of beginnings and transitions. His name comes from the Latin ianua, which means “door”. Mythology has him the keeper of doors, gates, bridges, and passages.

But as we stand on the bridge together and look down at the water tumbling over rock, carrying debris from days past, I feel the presence of the One True God fall over me. I see the wisdom of looking back to look forward, and I know this is why our good God calls us “to remember” so many times in scripture. I toss a stone down into the current; watch it sink beneath those ripples. The weight that holds it there speaks strength and I am anchored in this moment. I remember the Israelites’ stones of remembrance—called thus so they would never forget the way the Lord parted the Jordan River before them.

This is the kind of door my God keeps—one made from parted waters, one that passes safely through tongues of flame, one that parts the heavens in a windstorm. These impossible, seemingly impassible doors; these narrow gates that the world whispers about, this is not the way, it is too hard—these are the kinds of doors my God keeps. He opens them wide and still, I squeeze through as if only a tiny crack.

But this Doorkeeper? He not only holds the door aloft, he reaches for my hand and pulls me through.

Joining Jennifer, and Lyli this week. Love you ladies.