Playdates with God: The Night Between Two Days

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This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here. 

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Yesterday afternoon when Jeff returned from three days gone, we went for a walk together. In this season of the almost-empty nest, we have been doing this most days we are together: walking. We did not settle into this easily, both longtime runners. Jeff has always said to me, “If I’m going to walk, I may as well run.” But we have both had injuries lately, and running has been way of testing recovery rather than a regular practice. In some ways we have been forced into the walking. But God has come along, and he has surprised us with the joy of being together as our bodies move through space and time.

We have been moving through what Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls the Life/Death/Life nature. The Life/Death/Life nature is “a cycle of animation, development, decline, and death that is always followed by reanimation.” All relationships experience many deaths, she says, and the way to deep, fulfilling love is to not give up through the seasons of death.

When lovers are able to tolerate the Life/Death/Life nature, when they are able to understand it as a continuum—as a night between two days—and as the force that creates a love that endures a lifetime … Then together they are strengthened, and both are called to deeper understanding of the two worlds they live in, one the mundane world, the other the one of spirit.”

When I began planning playdates with God, he called me into his presence alone. But lately I have sensed him leading me to give up my alone time and spend it with my husband. We are emerging from a dark season, and some days, the night is still upon us. But most days, the dawn spreads through the moments with ever-increasing light.

So many fear the many deaths in relationship. I have feared the slow emptying myself. I have believed that the death will be followed by more death—that the ending of one thing means the end of all. Through faith and trust, I held on, even when I felt like running away. And I have discovered the truth: our God is a God of resurrection. He is always fostering new life.

Rather than seeing the archetypes of Death and Life as opposites, they must be held together as the left and right side of a single thought. It is true that within a single love relationship there are many endings. Yet, somehow and somewhere in the delicate layers of the being that is created when two people love one another, there is both a heart and breath. While one side of the heart empties, the other fills. When one breath runs out, another begins.”~Dr. Estes in Women Who Run with the Wolves

In this time of the almost-empty, God keeps surprising me with my own emotions. That my heart can still quicken at my husband’s return, that there are still mysteries within this one I thought I knew completely, that love is a creature that thrives when it is cared for tenderly.

As I turn more toward my husband during this season of the almost-empty, I feel myself turning more toward God—leaving behind the fear of the night.

And there is beauty in the dying.

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.


Almost Empty

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.