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.

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

Playdates with God: When Your Heart is Full…

 “It feels weird after being gone for a while to step back into the same old, same old,” I tell the boys this morning as they eat their breakfast.

I’ve packed the lunches, unloaded the dishwasher, taken the dog out.

“Welcome to the real world,” says my little one—who seems to have grown a couple inches since I left him five days ago.

And I smile as I wipe toast crumbs from the counter. Because I know that he’s partly right. But this—the “real world”—I often miss so much of it. It’s the going away and coming back home that opens my eyes to the beauty. I don’t know why it is in the stepping away that the everyday ordinary becomes the everyday extraordinary.

“I missed you,” I say, planting a kiss on the top of his head and breathing in the smell of cinnamon boy-skin.

I want to hold on to this, savor the sweetness of the happy that I feel when I look at the mess of this life that is my “real world”. And later, when they are off to school, I load the washer, unpack my suitcase, and wonder why it slips away so easily.  I sigh as I pour another cup of coffee into the mug that Marcus gave me and stick my nose down to smell the hint of spice.  I brought some of Tim’s coffee home with me—that blend they call Taste of San Antonio—and it takes me back to the canyon.  I slow, let myself walk through all that joy in my mind.

God used water hands to carve stone into one of theloveliest places on earth; but these past few days, it wasn’t so much about location as it was about people. What a gift to wrap arms around ones whose hearts I came to know before their faces. I read recently that the Greek verb splangchnizomai is the word the Bible uses to describe Jesus’ compassion for his people. It refers to the splanchna—the entrails of the body…or the guts—the place our deepest emotions are felt.

I wonder if there is a word for love that deep. That’s the love I’ve felt these past few days—deep in the inward parts of me. That’s the kind of love I find when I return home. In the going away, there’s always the returning.

Welcome to the real world.

My friend Jennifer Lee getting goofy with me as we drive through the Frio River on our way to Laity Lodge.
Dan King, aka Bibledude; aka The Unlikely Missionary and Jennifer Lee, caught in a fistbump moment.
Our hiking group
At Blue Hole
The Monarchs were migrating and graced us everywhere.
My workshop group

How about you? 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. And come tell us about it.

Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Sharing with L.L. Barkat today also:

On In Around button

What Does a Writer’s Retreat Teach? Or, Hobnobbing with Madeleine and Eugene

We were sitting around a table overlooking the Frio River, listening to Jeffrey Overstreet talk about how artful story invites the reader inside—invites the reader to discover what the story has to say to them—when he paused and had us go around the table and introduce ourselves.

My friend Marcus was seated to my right, Claire to my left, but the others were new faces. There was a retired photographer, two persons of the cloth, a young college student, an elderly woman, and Jeannie.

When it was Jeannie’s turn, she spoke about the nonfiction books she had written over the years, about coming to Laity Lodge to write, and about her dear, dear friend Madeline L’Engle. Immediately, my shoes felt too big.

We all tried to pretend like it was nothing but all the while, I’m thinking…Madeleine L’Engle! When I was a girl, this dear woman’s books opened up a whole new world to me. A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet … Jeannie’s casual namedropping sent me into a reverie of wistfulness, remembering the joy of discovering a series of books that aroused a deep awakening in my young self. How I loved Charles Wallace and Meg. They taught me through their story that anything is possible. And who wrapped science around fantasy in such a way? I’d never read science fiction before. I didn’t know people wrote like that.

We took a break and I went to the restroom and was startled to find Lauren Winner washing her hands and Ashley Cleveland exiting the stall. What’s more, they greeted me casually, engaged in a bit of small talk before going on their way. Back at our open-air table, I tell Marcus.

“I can’t believe she referred to Madeleine L’Engle as her dear, dear friend!”

He shrugs his shoulders.

“And Eugene Peterson writes here all the time.”

“Eugene Peterson? Really?” I am a bit star-struck. “But that makes me feel so … small.”

Marcus laughs.

Why? I don’t understand that. That should make you feel special not small. You’re here too. Laity Lodge is for everyone.”

I tell him about running into Ashley and Lauren in the restroom.

Right,” he says. “Because they use the bathroom too.”

We laugh but I am quieted a bit inside. Later, I walk down the road with my friends Verbieann and Ann (who has since become a New York Times bestselling author) and tell them the story. I turn Marcus’ words around in my mind.

Am I special? I mean, just because I haven’t held court with writers like Madeleine L’Engle or Eugene Peterson…does that mean there is no value in the words I share? My friend Elaine was recently at a conference in which the speaker posed the question, How do your words help solve the problem of pain? I’ve been thinking about that. Wondering. And I remember the young girl I was—wrapped in the pain of a broken family, uncertainty of self—and I know the question goes deeper than it appears at first glance.

Though Madeleine L’Engle’s story about a young misfit girl and her brilliant little brother and how they rescue their father using a tesseract and all the amazing things they encounter in the process…though these words may not appear to address the problem of pain directly, they surely helped to save a young girl who was drowning in it when she first encountered them.

I think about these things all these months after my conversation with my wise friend Marcus. I am learning to embrace myself as word-giver. It still feels fragile—I’m still self-conscious and clumsy. But when I look back, I see that time at Laity Lodge as a pivotal step in this acquiescence. Because Laity Lodge is for everyone. My time there was like a warm embrace; I was cradled in that canyon. Everyone there was someone special. This is because that riverbed and those canyon walls are saturated with the presence of God. Dan Roloff told us that the place was built to provide a place where people can encounter God. While there, I felt the breath of my Creator, I felt loved as a favorite child.

The truth is, we should feel this way no matter where we are, no matter what we do. But sometimes, gravity gets in the way and our earthbound nature blinds us to who we truly are. Laity Lodge is a place of transcendence for me.

We are gearing up for the retreat again this year. I’ll be there. Won’t you consider it too? There is a chance you could go for free. I’d love to meet you there. Would even share that table overlooking the Frio with you.