Sunday, September 23, 2012

Freeze warning

Photo credit Josef Steufer via Flickr
 I covered the tomato plants
just for the night.
The temperature dipping low
another harbinger of winter,
blowing in overnight
with the geese crying
and the leaves turning and losing their grip.
September's end demands winter's reckoning,
but I can't let go;
don't want to see black and dead,
Not just yet...
Hold on to summer;
hold on.
Wrap it's remnants
with sheets of denial.
Keep the frost
from kissing death.
Keep winter dark at bay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Darkness

Photo by Eustaquio Santimano via Flickr
Come, sit with me in the darkness,
Where night soaks the skin
With heavy dew.

Sit with me in the silence
And wait.

Don't speak to me words and more words
under the harsh glare of artificial light,
they circle the room
they fly away before I can catch them.

Bring a candle,
I bend to the soft light, the promise.
Sit with me in silence.
Be present in the darkness,
and wait with me for dawn.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Losing my religion

Did I lose you in the chaos?
Love retreating
Extinguished by the noise.

Did I lose you in the cleaning?
Joy worn down
Scrubbed barren under dirt.
Did I lose you at the mealtimes?
Grace uneaten
Sitting cold on untouched plates.

Did I lose you in the silence?
Faith forgotten
Pushed aside with cast off toys.

Did I lose you now, forever?
Hope the seedling
Sleeping dark in drought-touched earth.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Eyes for the Father

Photo by rammorrison via Flickr
I have a friend/acquaintance (what DO you call someone you've never met in person when you still care about their struggles?) who just wanted to go to church on Mother's Day. So she and her family headed off to visit a church which shall remain nameless because my point right now isn't to call them out. They dropped the older children off at children's church and walked towards the sanctuary with their sleeping infant. And they were turned away at the door. Oh, not literally told to leave, but told that under no circumstances was their child welcome in worship. Directed to the appropriate 'place' for infants and all children under the age of ten.

There's so much room for anger there. So much room to rail about church and policies and slamming doors in the face of the seekers, and the irony of excluding a mother on Mother's Day of all days. But rather than talk about the wrong I want you to see what happens when churches get it right.

And so I want to tell you a story about another family, and another baby and what God spoke to me through all the messiness and distraction of letting children into the midst of our worship. Because children can wiggle their way past our guards and our logic and when that happens the Holy Spirit can speak truth in ways that we would never hear, never understand if he just told us "Thus say I..."

We have several babies in our church. Actually, it seems like a glut of babies. (A gaggle of babies?) Some of them are nearly eighteen months old already and I'm not quite sure how that happened and I suspect their parents wonder the same thing. The most vocal of these babies has a father on the worship team. And so one Sunday I found myself watching him watch his daddy.

"Hi Dad-dy! Hi!" he would call out. "Hi! Dad-dy!" His face beamed and his body strained towards his father with his whole focus. He had eyes for nothing else. I don't often claim to hear from God, but oh, God spoke to me in that moment. "This is what I want for you. This is what I want for all my children. I want your eyes and your focus fixed on me. Not in the rigid 'step off the path and I'll smite you' way. But in the way a child yearns for his or her father. Be joyful when you see me! I delight in hearing your voice call out to me. This is worship."

This is what happens when churches get it right. This is what happens when we give God room to work in all the mess and noise and distraction of our humanity. This is the message when we let the little children come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


On Mondays I change the sheets on the bunk beds. It's odd, this feeling of accomplishment that I get when I finally wrestle the fitted sheet over that blasted top mattress. Ten years ago I would never have dreamed of a life in which that was the greatest achievement of my day.

And yet, here I am. Just me. Mom. Wrestling sheets onto beds, folding load after load of laundry, cooking meal after unappreciated meal. I plug through my day doing all of the little things that moms do and don't get me wrong, I am so grateful to be here, so thankful that I AM at home. I wouldn't trade it to go back to that world of dress-up suits and heels tapping down long hallways and tracking what I did every single minute of my work day.

But here I am, and when the greatest achievement of my day is wrestling sheets onto a bed I can't help but feel mediocre. Is this all I have that says who I am? A master sheet wrangler? (Not to be confused with sheep wrangler, because that at least would be unique and perhaps worthy of conversation.)

Not like my friend who takes stunning pictures and fills a room with her presence.

Not like the ones who ooze musical talent and artsy musician charisma out of every pore.

Not like the ones who can strike up conversations with every person they meet and leave having made a new friend.

Just me. Introverted. Quiet. Middle-aged. Mom. In a world geared towards the young, the extroverted and the hip I am quickly slipping into irrelevance.


And then the bus comes, delivering the boys home from school. Only it doesn't. Or at least, not both of them. Gates is the only one to come in the house and I can't figure out why he is asking me if Indy has also come inside. It takes at least a full 30 seconds to figure out that Indy was engrossed in reading a book on the bus and rather than just poking him Gates somehow thought it would be more effective to come inside and THEN ask ME if his brother got off the bus. 30 seconds of time that allowed the bus to turn the corner and by the time I slip on shoes and run out the door and down the block it is gone, turning down some other street carrying my child with it.

I know he's not lost, but I picture him looking up and realizing that he's missed his stop, or the bus driver reaching the middle school and discovering a 1st grader still on board, and what then? Just as I get the school on the line the bus pulls up in front of our house again, delivering a tearful child. He shuffles in the door and then sits sobbing on the steps, my arms around him.

And in that moment, when my child needs the circle of my arms to feel safe, I know that I am not yet irrelevant. No one else can take this place. There is nothing that I could accomplish in this life that would ever compare to what I have to give these children. Anyone could wrangle sheets onto their bed, but it's MY bedtime hug that they want. Anyone could prepare a meal for them, but I am the one who makes sure that they are fed each and every day.

For these years, at least, I am not irrelevant.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sometimes I start over

Photo by K. Praslowicz via Flickr
 In high school I ran track for several years, until the school dropped it for lack of interest. I was no future Olympian, in fact I'm pretty sure that I finished dead last in just about every single race, but I loved to run. And so I ran, in the evenings, in the summer, out into the country on the gravel roads past the Amish farms and the cows in the field. It was my quiet place; no demands, no expectations, just me, the cows, the occasional farm dog and the sweat on my back. Bliss.

But at some point I stopped running and I don't remember when or why. I just know that I stopped for several years until I picked it up again in the later years of college. Again I ran, just me, back in my quiet place with the rolling hills and the different gravel roads and new cows and new dogs to chase me. And then the pain in my knees and I gave it up for years, trying to pick it up again every now and then but quitting in defeat. Telling myself I didn't need it anyway, walking was just fine and only crazy people ran. But deep inside I was jealous. And I missed it.

I started running again this summer. Crazy, really, that at my highest weight ever somehow I finally managed to run without pain in my knees. I looked up the Couch to 5k plan, loaded some music on my mp3 player and off I went. Weeks of work and sweat and thinking I must be crazy, but by Halloween I ran a 5k. And by 'run' I mean propelled my body forward in a manner slightly faster than a walk, but just barely. I took comfort in the John Bingham quote, "If you run, you are a runner."

This week I'm starting over. Partly because between various illnesses I've gotten lax over the last two months. But also because I'm tired of putzing along at my near-walk pace and hearing everyone else talk about their 9, 10, or 11 minute miles. I want to be faster, and the best way I can think of to do that is to go back to the basics, back to what helped me to run again in the first place. Back to the Couch to 5k, only faster.

Sometimes I think my faith is a lot like running. (Well, Paul did compare it to a race, after all.) I'm going along and it's all good and just me and God and the open road. Bliss. And then life gets in the way and it kind of fizzles out and I remember the faith that I USED to have but it just isn't the same. Maybe it gets renewed sometimes, and maybe it gets knocked around a little and I get bruised and tired and don't really know quite why I'm sticking to these beliefs. Sometimes it hurts and I look at those heroes of the faith and decide that I'm happy not paying that price because maybe they are just a little bit crazy. But deep inside I'm jealous that they are so sure. Deep inside I miss it.

And so I pick myself up off the couch and I go back to the beginning. I strip away all of the extra stuff that gets tangled in my brain and I go back to the basics. Back to "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) Back to "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith." (Ephesians 2:8) Each time I go back I'm stronger. Each time I go back I learn a little bit more. Each time I go back I race just a little bit better.

Sometimes it's good to start over.

Photo via Flickr

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent, finally.

Photo by Jarod Carruthers via Flickr
It is 11:00 in the morning and I've just stepped onto the scale for the third time today. There was the early morning weigh-in, the post-breakfast weigh-in, and the post-workout (and half a bagel with cream cheese) weigh in. None of which varied wildly from each other but all of which produced a number that was decidedly NOT to my liking.

And there, in the bathroom with that ugly number staring back at me, I got it. That little whisper-voice I've been waiting to hear for weeks. "You need to give this up for Lent."

I know, I'm a few days late. But you see, I've been waiting. Waiting for God to tell me that thing I needed to give up or add on. And nothing seemed quite right.

Chocolate? Sugar? Both good things to give up, but I knew they were wrong for me. Wrong because I couldn't make my heart be right to do it. Wrong because they'd put the focus onto myself and how many pounds I might lose if I gave them up. It would be a diet exercise, not a surrender one.

But this, this is the ultimate surrender for me. Taking the focus off of myself, off of trying, off of believing that I am no more than that number that stares back at me every day. Isn't that the purpose of Lent? To stop focusing on ourselves and turn our focus to God? To die to self? Of all the ways I can think of to die to self, this is probably the most difficult for me.

So I'm stepping off the scale for the next 40 (or so) days. And I'm not putting it away (because I always know where it is) and I'm not asking my husband to hide it (because he's really bad at hiding it). I want it there staring at me every morning as a reminder that when I am focused on myself so intently I lose my focus on God. When all I see are my short-comings and the things that I want to work on in my life I miss seeing the things that God wants to work on in my life. I start to think that what I do for myself is more important than God working in me and through me. I forget that my weight does not determine my worth in God's eyes.

Photo by Josh DiMauro via Flickr

Can I admit that right now I'm scared nearly to tears? Can I confess that I'd rather God told me to give up something else? Can I be honest enough to say I want to ignore this whisper as a figment of my imagination?

This is where I'm broken. This is where I need a resurrection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinterest, and a love song

Pinterest. That great scrapbook of the internet where we go to plan our dreams of houses, weddings, children and a 5-star gourmet kitchen. You can learn a lot about people by spending a few minutes looking at what they pin. This one dreams of urban homesteading. That one loves all things old-fashioned and romantic. Another wants to travel the world. Edgy, soft, bold, quirky...all of these come through when you look at what interests people.

Pithy quotes and bumper sticker philosophy abound. Sometimes I see something that I agree with wholeheartedly and pin it to an inspiration board.

From the lovely via Pinterest
Sometimes I see things that just make me roll my eyes and move on because of the superficiality, misspelling, or really poor theology.

And then there are pins that I see that irritate me so much I decide to devote a blog post to them. Why? Well, because I CAN!

This is one of those pins.

via Pinterest
Oh, this bugs me. I suppose it particularly bugs me because it is the time of year where we are told that love must be summed up in grand gestures of flowers, cards that cost almost as much as flowers used to cost, and jewelry. Because she doesn't know you love her if you don't buy her something from THAT store.

Yes, in order for love to be worth it there must be passion! It must be superlative! Big! Exciting!

Hogwash! (Because I use old fashioned words like that.)

Do you know what love looks like? Love looks like me, waking my husband the other morning and asking "Can you get the boys up and ready, because I'm not feeling well at all." And him doing it. Just getting up and doing it because I asked.

Love looks like a kiss goodbye in the morning and me truly hoping and caring that he has a good day.

Love looks like him when the first was tiny, holding him in the middle of the night so that I could sleep.

Love looks like him trying to find the right words to tell me how much he loves me and always worrying that he's not good enough at saying it. And I would take ten fumbling words from his heart over the most eloquent poetry any day.

It doesn't always look mad and passionate. Some days it looks like just getting by, just putting food on the table and getting the kids to bed. And if I ran away looking for mad and passionate I would miss the truth. And the truth is this: real love is extraordinary in ALL its forms. Never think that just because it doesn't look like a Hollywood screenplay that it isn't real love. Never think that just because your love story doesn't have fireworks and your toes don't tingle that it means your love is less than perfect. Look at your love on your own terms, not what someone else tells you it should be.

In the end we all find our own definition of what extraordinary love is. And I wouldn't trade this love for all the world.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The 5 stages of sickness

Stage 1: Denial. A scratchy throat? Nah, it's allergies. Or...something. I'm not getting sick. I don't have time to get sick. I'll just drink a lot of water and tomorrow it will ALL be gone. And look, I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables today so all of those vitamins are swimming around in my blood doing their job. Free radicals and antioxidants and all that stuff. Yep, by tomorrow morning I'll be just fine.

Stage 2: Anger. All right. WHO gave this to me? Did one of the boys bring it home from school? Was it that child who coughed without covering their mouth? Someone out and about who SHOULD have been home? It's not fair. I don't have time to be sick. Why can't people just stay home and keep their germs to themselves?

Stage 3: Bargaining. If I just get better I PROMISE I will clean the house from top to bottom! Everything will be clean and beautiful and fairies will dance over the sparkling surfaces of my kitchen tossing rainbows and joy everywhere. Just PLEASE let me feel better.

Stage 4: Depression. I will never feel better. I have always been sick and I will always be sick. There is no health. Pass the chocolate, it is the one joy I have left in life. Except I can't even taste it.

Stage 5: Acceptance. OK, so I'm sick. I've been sick before and it passed, so will this. At least I can stay home and work in the comfort of my robe and slippers. I think my cough is turning the corner into something slightly less miserable. I'll go drink another mug of tea.

Happy cold and flu season, ya'll!

By Andrea Joseph via Flickr

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Old school

"I had an argument with one of my friends in class today," he says. "We were talking about businesses we would create when we grow up and he said he wanted to have a weapons store. I said I didn't like that because it is about killing people."

"Some of the kids tease me at lunch and say I am old school because I say a prayer before I eat."

Photo by vakoom via Flickr

"I don't think I trust those science people and their evolution stuff."

Oh, God help me. I'm so not ready for this. I'm not ready to handle even one of those issues let alone all three in the span of a fifteen minute ride home from church when it is already past their bedtime. Can I please go back to the days when all I had to do is sing 'Jesus loves me, this I know' to them? Back to the days when we weren't on the 'read through the picture Bible in a year' plan and I didn't have to try to explain why all those people had to die and reconcile that with a God who loves completely.

I'm still trying to wrap MY mind around issues of deep theology and ambiguity and being okay with questioning, I'm not ready to deal with it in a nine year old. How do I explain that there are things we don't know to a child for whom logic has an answer for everything? How do I explain that there isn't anything bad or evil about scientific fact and that it is perfectly all right to weigh everything and come to his own conclusions? How do I explain why some people don't believe in God, or why they think it is silly to pray before a meal? How do I explain that two people can love God with all their heart but believe very different things on so many issues?

photo by Sylvain Masson via Flickr

I want it to be easy for him, but it isn't. It will never get any simpler than it is now. All I have to offer is the heart of a broken mother on her own long journey.

All I can do is pray every day, "God help me."

I take his face in my hands and look into his eyes. "I don't know the answer on this", I tell him. "But this one thing I do know for certain from the Bible. That God loved YOU so much that even if you were the only person on earth he would still have sent Jesus to die for you. THAT I know, even when I'm not sure of any other answers."

And for now, just for this evening, that seems to be answer enough.