Posted on March 21st, 2013 4 comments
It’s spring here, officially, although you wouldn’t know it from the twenty degree weather. A thin layer of snow covers everything like dust in an attic. Where the grass pops through, it’s brown and wilted. A season of plowing has left tire ruts in the ground along the driveways, a bent sapling, stray rocks on the lawn. A months-old snow pile sits at the end of the parking lot, shrunken and black with exhaust.
It’s still cold enough for scarves and gloves but I leave them at home. I’m tired of the barrenness. We walk out in the mornings and breathe through our noses, waiting for the scents of pollen and buds and soil. Our spring clothes are ready, sealed in plastic bins in the corner of the closet.
I long for children running and shouting in a place that is not my living room.
I long for forecasts that don’t use phrases like “wind chill” and “lake effect.”
I long for news stories that don’t use words like “victimized” and “unconscious” together.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, and I long for arrivals: for lush green palms to cover the dusty paths, for sun-kissed knees and shins and forearms and ankles, for breezes thick with life. For hope.
Come, Lord Jesus. Save us.
Posted on April 4th, 2012 7 comments
It hurts a little to share Easter with you.
Not the bamboo baskets and the plastic eggs and the bonnets. That’s the fun stuff. But sharing Easter with you, the real Easter, the Easter that would still be there even if the Dollar Store and Target closed – that means sharing Good Friday with you, too. Letting you take a small, three-year-old step into the story of darkness and sadness and death. You’re sensitive. I know your heart will hurt a little at the story.
You’re just beginning to deal with scary dreams and scary stories. “Tell me two stories,” you asked last week. “A happy story about a dragon and a scary story about a dragon.” I like to keep you sheltered. If you hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have told the scary one, with the dragon’s fiery breath and big sharp teeth. But you asked, and I know you need to learn to work through fears in a place where you are safe – a place like my lap. I want you to know you are brave and capable… that you will sometimes be scared, and that is OK. So we journeyed together through the dark forest with the dragon at our heels, and at the end of the story, we were alive, safe, OK.
And here we are at Holy Week. There are people who will tell you that this story was spun in someone’s mind too, but sooner than I’d like to admit, you will find out that the world is full of hurt and sorrow breathing down your neck. It’s real. It’s OK to be scared. I like to keep you sheltered, but the thought of you getting hurt by the awful things in this world – it scares me too.
I need to share this story with you because it is your story. It helps me to remember that the story’s end was written long before we ever crossed the threshold with you in our arms. You shine so brightly, but you’ll have some very dark times in life. I want you to know that even when you are not brave, and even when you are less than capable – because that story has been written, you have Jesus. You have everything you need. He did the conquering already, so you can have hope and forgiveness and light and happiness and someday, no more darkness or pain.
We will journey together this week – to Jerusalem, to the garden, and even to the cross. I’ll hold your hand. It’s OK if it makes you feel a little funny and sad inside. It is sad. There are some dark and scary parts, but what a beautiful story it is. At the end of the story, Jesus is alive, safe, OK. We are, too.
Just wait. I’ll wait with you. And come Sunday, we will celebrate together.
Happy Easter, baby.
Posted on February 22nd, 2012 1 comment
Today is Ash Wednesday.
Honestly, I have never been a fan of Lent. In the past I’ve given up things here and there, but it was mostly because I like a challenge. That’s not a very good reason for practicing what is supposed to be a spiritual discipline. Also, while I realize my theologian friends will be quick to correct this, Lent always feels a little like we are pretending we don’t know how it ends. Like we’re making serious faces and being all emo and refraining from saying “Alleluia” (which means “Praise the Lord” by the way – and, truthfully, seems a little silly to stop saying or doing).
This year… I am into it. Not in a gloomy black-turtleneck sort of way, but in a way that says “OK God, open my eyes. Remind me of who you are. Remind me of who I am.”
And Ash Wednesday answers.
One fall, I agreed to drive a couple teenagers from our church to the local corn maze for a youth event. I was seven months pregnant, so I wasn’t up for a walk through winding pit-filled paths in the dark, but I parked the car in the lot and got out for a moment to say hello.
When I returned to my car and went to leave, my wheels spun ruts in the mud. I was stuck. Passers-by gave all sorts of suggestions – turn the steering wheel to the right. To the left. Reverse. Hit the gas quickly. All of their suggestions just made the ruts deeper and splattered mud further up the sides of my car. My husband came and jammed some cardboard under the tires. No luck. I was feeling pretty pitiful, the giant pregnant lady stranded in the dark.
A friend called Triple A, and the most gigantic flatbed tow truck I’ve ever seen came out. It navigated carefully through the narrow dirt lot before the driver told me that my car was, officially, too far from the actual road for a tow. As he left, I went to walk back to where everyone was gathered, and I tripped on a rut and fell into a puddle. I landed on my knees and palms, but I splattered muddy water from my head to my toes. Clumsy, crying, mud-splattered, exhausted, hormonal. Still stuck.
That is who I am. After a tow from the tractor at the corn maze, after the birth of that baby, after a car wash, after all the mud flecks have been washed from my hair and from under my nails – I am still that person on their hands and knees in the puddle. I would like people to see my intelligence, my creativity, my wit or my loving spirit – but most days, I am stuck. I’m stuck in selfishness, in a life that is too focused on my own house, in judgy-ness and lack of discipline and a host of other things. I can’t smart my way out, create my way out, or love my way out. I need more.
And I am reminded. Of sacrifice. Of love. Of how I get un-stuck.
Of forgiveness. Thank you.
Posted on February 19th, 2012 1 comment
When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, it was a long, dark night. I remember thinking that I would probably never sleep again. I kept sitting up, trying not to use my recently caesareaned stomach muscles, to peer over the wicker sides of the bassinet. I worried about her breathing. I was worried that she was too cold. Mostly, I worried that no one would be watching her if I slept.
Finally, I picked up my tiny little girl and carried her into the hallway. I stood there, sniffling and feeling utterly helpless. My husband and my mom heard me and came out to see what was wrong, and I raggedly explained that I couldn’t go to sleep and leave her unguarded. What if she needed something? What if she stopped breathing?
I am so thankful for my mother. She took my daughter downstairs and held her so I could sleep. For hours, my mom stared at my sleeping daughter – her soft hair, her wideset eyes, her full cheeks. For hours, my mom held her in her arms, and in doing so, held me too.
Obviously, that wasn’t a long-term solution. I had to come to terms quickly with the fact that there would be times when an adult in our home would not be awake. That is when I learned to pray for my child. Every night, I would pray and mentally place my daughter into God’s arms, trusting him to watch her while we slept.
This week, we will go to church on Ash Wednesday. Someone will dip their finger in a bowl of ashes and rub it on my forehead. It’s a humbling experience. They’re dirty. They itch after awhile. And the message given is, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Even with our church’s lovely addition of “…always in the arms of Jesus,” it is a sobering message.
After my daughter was born, I realized that having a new baby on Ash Wednesday changes everything. I wondered if they would put ashes on babies’ heads, too. I decided that I would decline if they offered. As a new parent, humility was already my friend – any grand ideas of self quickly dissipate in those first few months. But to hold my sweet little pink-hued baby, so fresh and life-filled, and to have her marked with a reminder of death – to remember that someday she would return to dust – was more than I could bear.
At the same time… I love Jesus more now that I’m a parent. I know this whole season points to Easter. As much as I love that Jesus died for my sins, I love him even more for dying for my daughter’s sins – even now, when they stretch ahead of her, guilt and pain and suffering lined up like hitchhikers on the road she has just begun to travel. Christ died for that. For her. No amount of dust or dirt or sin will separate her from God. I love knowing that through even the darkest night, she continues to be always in the arms of Jesus.