Bookended by grief

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Image courtesy of Caroline Attwood

O Lord, how long? I wonder silently, busying myself in the kitchen so perhaps it’s not so noticeable to my family, that I am really worrying way too much lately.

“Mom?” The littlest says, “Why are you quiet?”

I’m a quiet person by nature, but at home–he’s right: it’s an overflowing fountain of words of advice, funny songs, silly sayings and all sorts of things that just sort of fall out of my mouth all day. Which, depending upon things, can make me the best mom in the world some days, or the most annoying ever.

Most days, it’s the latter.

I should have known better than to keep quiet. They are so quick, so sharp, know me of course, better than I know myself.

“Mom,” he asks, “are you sad?”

Yes, I think, sucking in a big breath and heaving out a long sigh. I am sad. I am heavy with all the things of this life.

O Lord how long with all this, I pray.

I try to be a good person and a good Jesus follower. But lately, I wonder. I wonder, on days like these, emotional days or bad, bad news especially, if God is with us at all.

A thought, of course, that good, strong Christian people are not supposed to have.

O Lord, how long.

With all the things that have been unearthed. With death. With destruction. Another, another, another. I know better, to look at the news when I’m already tired and worn down.

It’s a new world He’s forming, I remind myself. It’s rebellious, it’s gloriously subversive, it’s a good thing, shaping new things out of trash, out of the utter you-know-what. That’s art if I’ve ever seen it, the true definition of redemption. 

But for the birth pains.

Eventually I will rejoice, but for the pain. But for the marks left on all of us. But for the marks left on my heart by the exquisite pain we’ve had to witness, to endure. But for the grief and anguish and confusion of these times.

It’s a wonder we can hold on at all, as for the sharp, marring edge of the shell we’re breaking out of.

In that, of course, that eventually, lies hope. A great, big hope.

But in the meantime, so much, Lord. I’m feeling bookended by grief upon grief. Anxiety upon anxiety. I forget I’m hemmed in before and behind with care.

O Lord, how I long to remember. To recall deep in my heart that I’m lovingly hemmed in before and behind, looked after. And O Lord, YES, your kingdom come. The sooner, the better.

But O Lord, how long?

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On purpose

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Some days I wonder my purpose, my reason for being here. (Not those dark thoughts; I’m talking about those other thoughts I take out for a spin on the constant merry-go-round of my mind.) I find it mostly happens mostly when I’m doing something menial like dishes or laundry and wondering about grand lives and people and the big things they’ve done in life.

My purpose was so clear when I was working full-time, out of the house: earn money, maybe enjoy yourself a little, keep the family alive.

Which of course meant more chaos than I believe I can handle: late-night grocery runs or weekend grocery runs during nap time, emailing and calling all the people–schools, plumbers, exterminators, husband, my writing group friends and committee co-chairs. I frequently remember -not sure if this was the turning point for me or not- 11p nightly, finally starting up the washer and going to bed. Knowing when I got up around 5a, I would move it into to the dryer while rubbing my eyes, grateful for coffee and the quiet. Looking back, perhaps I could have been a bit more organized. Looking back though you see sometimes a lot more of what you could see in front of you at the moment.

I wonder about those days sometimes. Did those days, busy and full of things constantly, have more purpose than these days?

I had a sense of purpose working, and I have one here, in this new role too. Though it’s much milder and more easily manipulated — one day, purpose is getting the house clean; the next, it’s returning all those forms signed to school and making sure that everyone gets out the door on time and dressed. Which seems simple and well, a lowly thing until one doesn’t want to get dressed and the other is having a breakdown about what to bring and the other is in the bathroom and I’m still working on trying to take deep breaths and be patient. Some days, the purpose, the end goal of being on time is about all I can handle.

But that’s not my sole purpose; to make sure everyone leaves the house on time with shoes on. That’s not the only reason I’m here I know. But of course, I question this deeply on the days this and other minor things go badly. On those days I also question a great deal of other things too, like how can we read and write but not know where we left our shoes?

I don’t remember where I read it, but it was a blog post somewhere on the kinds of purposes (yes, many) that women have. The theory was that there are many purposes, both big and small, and most running parallel to each other. For example – mother and doctor. You can be both; both are probably Big P purposes. Mostly, purpose–with a small p is mainly your roles (mom, parent, aunt, etc–though, those are no small things!) and your big P purpose is your life calling–what you were meant to do; what you were put here to do.

I’ve been mulling that one over for a while.

And then I wonder if my opinion of what I feel about my purpose even matters.

But our work matters very much so more than the opinion of what we think of that work itself.

But the work–the act of doing it, and the act of putting it out there in the world, most of the time matters so much more than we think it does. Whether that be your Big P like motherhood and writing, or your little P like being a good aunt and planting a garden.

But we base it upon how we personally feel about it, as opposed to maybe, perhaps what God is doing with it. Which is far greater. And stranger. And lovelier than we can imagine.

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Part of Esther 4:14 comes to mind:

“…Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”

So much potential in those words.

And truth in those words. Knowing all the while, that is full to the brim of moments to feel this. To wonder if this, in fact, is the moment we’ve been created for.

Brave day

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Yesterday, a solemn day.

We remember, those of us old enough to experience it and those of us young enough to sense the enormity of it from our family’s and friends emotional, brow-knitted retellings.

It was a day you wondered where God was. I had wondered many times that day and the days after, had he let our collective foot slip?

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

  Psalm 121: 3-4

I recounted these words yesterday and remembered this feeling of fifteen years ago. That perhaps this loving God had fallen asleep; that somehow He was caught unaware, in the throat, like all of us were on that day.

I remember, most days at least, that He’s with us all along.

But we were all questioning it on September 11th.

Today, I think about the day after all this. The day also, in my opinion, of the brave.

Of those that had to face the first morning alone in twenty years. Of those who had to face the children without their father. Of those who had to make sense of their husbands and wives rushing into calamity and chaos instead of running away. I think of the children that never had a chance to know one or both of their parents because of this. Or the older business owner whose whole life, business, was smashed and covered in smoke and soot the day before.

I pray there was a reason, a something for this pain. Because I can’t grasp a pain this deep and this big without any purpose. A pain and suffering of this level without any purpose would shake my faith to the deepest core.

Today feels as solemn (or maybe it’s just me) as the 11th. The day after feels just as painful; the day we all had to make sense of what had happened and work to move on. To figure out how to live again. To figure out just how to get up out of bed again.

How to muddle through the ordinary the day after. How we were and are brave in the ordinary days after.

Those parents that rose to take care of children, spouse-less, the day after. The firefighters and first responders that woke up and put on their gear for another day of searching, the day after. The parents of missing children that tried calling and calling and praying and praying again the day after. The kindergarten teacher that returned to work the day after. The postman that still delivered mail the day after. The airport and airline staff and security that still returned, the day after.

All of us, the brave and the ordinary, that showed up, even though bloodshot eyed, heartbroken and confused, the day after.

The Church

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Recently, a friend of mine in a writer’s group invited us to share our thoughts and opinions about the church with her, as she wanted to do a series of essays of different views about the church. Views about the church as a whole; what the church gets right, gets wrong and any and all things in between.

I wrote a piece about why we need church…and specifically why I need church.

Here’s an excerpt:

I cannot express that enough; we need it, I need it. Some Sundays I need it to get through my week with my pre-pre-teen daughter who has strong opinions about all things, including my mothering and down to exactly how her school lunch should be made.

“But it’s so boring,” she complains, that long drawn out drawl of a whine that all mothers live for. I counter with words about how boring can be good for us, make us grow, stretch, and then say “I understand,” remembering a great deal about my church growing up and a countless number of committee meetings, dry sermons, and all the other things I’ve sat through over the years.

“Why church?” I start, “Because, sweet pea,” I say….Read more here, at Creating Space for Rhythms of Grace

 

Airplane Ride

Author’s note: I’m trying my hardest to consistently post on my site. Which is a lot harder than I thought, being home now.

Which means that today, with little time to actually write, I’m posting something from the archive. Which you’ve probably never seen. Since it’s in the archive of my old drafts. You’re welcome. And enjoy the un-edited random thoughts on life, God, gratitude and airplanes.

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Thanks to Sira Anamwong and freedigitalphotos.net for the image.

Thank you Lord, for not leaving me how you found me.

Thank you Lord, for long trips, soft beds and people I love to work with yet at times cannot stand.

Thanks you for little baby pudgy knees, for toddler tantrums, for hearty chuckling child laughter and toddler woes and cries.

Thank you for the things I cannot say thank you enough for, the things that seem thankless and a little bit like hell on earth like car rental shuttle buses, tangles, exhaustion and all the small irritating things that do not go my way.

Thank you for the things I cannot change.

Thank you for the gift of figuring out what my gift is.

Thank you for books, recovery, slippers, hot tea, chocolate. For my husband to snuggle next to at night, for all the things that are beautifully imperfect and still need a little work, including me.

And thank you for the discipline to resist ordering from Sky Mall. Although truthfully there were about three things in there that I truly wanted and I’m not so sure I’m proud of that.