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Shimmers…

In the ancient practice of lectio divina, one reads a passage of scripture until a word or phrase “shimmers”. The reader stops reading, and begins to meditate on the word or phrase, rolling it around and sucking all the nectar from it. Not studying, really. No outside sources. Just living with it and letting it seep deep inside.

My house is quiet today. All around me are echoes of Christmas. Shimmers. Vignettes that linger in my memory; inserting themselves over and over into my thoughts. Ordinary moments with threads of the extraordinary woven through them.

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“This is my very beautiful present,” Kenzie whispers in awe, clutching a foil wrapped copy of Where the Wild Things Are tight to her chest. She has chosen the blue bow. She runs her fingers over the shiny paper like it is silk. She does not know what is inside. It doesn’t matter.

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This.

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Christmas Eve. Expectation hovers in the air like incense. Candles, Nativity Icon draped in green, little girls turned out in smocked lawn and velvet. We read all the prophecies, all the Nativity passages. Father Stephen fairly sings the homily. It is too good to be true, this! Incarnation! God with us! The reality of it whirls around us like wind. During the Great Entrance, a whole warren of acolytes spills out of the altar. Father Stephen has told them they can all serve on this most auspicious night. Their faces glow. And God is with us, moving among us, in the Body and Blood. And we sing. We sing a truth that is deeper than we will ever fully understand.

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We named our farm after Tolkien’s mythical land because it was hilly and beautiful, and because we hoped it would always be a haven of hope and restoration to those who lived there, and to those who were our guests. We made the name part of a stone wall that framed the entrance to our long driveway. Five and a half years ago we bade farewell to Rivendell and moved back in to town.

A month ago, we learned that a neighbor had a seizure while driving and ran into the wall, leaving it in shambles. Without a word to any of us, our 16 year old drove out to the farm, knocked on the door, and asked the current owners if they were planning to re-use the stone that bore the name. When they said no, he asked if he could have it. He dug through the rubble to extricate the pieces and loaded them into his car. On Christmas morning he led us out into the garden where he had lain them the night before. And I cried.

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 Happy Birthday Jesus! Love, Kenzie. (Click HERE)

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We can hear the music leaking out the door before we cross the porch. My mom sits at the piano, and my dad, my brothers and their families, my 97 year old grandpa, and my aunt and uncle are singing their way through old church favorites which eventually give way to Christmas carols.  I am home.

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My mom has asked all the grandkids for Christmas suggestions, but has said nothing to my brothers and me. I wonder what is afoot. Each of us is presented with a lumpy, unwieldy package, variously corralled. In them, we find treasures. Quilts made by my grandmother (who is 20 Christmases gone from us, now). String quilts for one brother and myself–Mom, Dad, and Aunt Janice help us find fabrics in them we recognize and remember. A dress of granny’s, shirts for the boys, an apron… Many of them old flour sacks–And for my baby brother, a red and white Drunkard’s Path that my grandmother stitched the summer my mom was carrying him.

Amazing, all that gets accidentally sewn up into quilts. I hold it in my hands, and I hear the treadle of Grandma’s sewing machine. I am a little girl playing under her quilting frame, a legacy from her own grandmother, that hangs from the ceiling like a table, while she pushes the needle in and out with her thimble. One tiny stitch after another. I recall the smell of her: line dried laundry, coffee, Bruton snuff, Juicy Fruit.

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I am curious. What are the shimmery moments from your Christmas? The ones that make you smile every time you think about them. Please, share. :)

 

Wounded by Love

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I have run to the fragrance of your myrrh, O Christ God,
For I have been wounded by your love;
do not depart from me, O heavenly bridegroom.

I knew I was going to like Elder Porphyrios when Father Stephen told me he had said, “Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet.” I bought the book, Wounded by Love, and poured over the account of his life and his wonderful words. I find him easy to connect to because he lived in times so very like my own. I admire his gentle humility and his ability to laugh at himself. His sense of wonder and his goodwill toward all living things, are beautiful. His accounts of divine eros and spiritual ecstasy make me hungry to know God like he knew God. But mostly I am drawn to the great expanse of his love.

On Wednesday of last week, Elder Porphyrios was elevated to sainthood. Today, on the 22nd anniversary of his death, he is commemorated by the church. On this occasion, I thought it fitting to share some personal favorites among his many challenging and lovely sayings. I hope they will invite you to come to know him yourself as a guide and friend.

On Divine Eros:

porphyrios2All ascetics long for this divine eros, this divine love. They are intoxicated with divine inebriation. With this divine intoxication the body may grow old and pass away, but the spirit becomes youthful and blossoms.

The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wings, to be constantly in flight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence.

On prayer:

If your soul repeats with worship and adoration the seven words, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” it can never have enough. They are insatiable words! Repeat them all your life. There is such life-giving sap within them!

On Spiritual Struggle:

Do not fight to expel darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear.

Attack your passion head on, and you’ll see how strongly it will entwine you and grip you and you won’t be able to do anything…Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God, and adhesion to God. In this way your release from evil and from your weaknesses will happen in a mystical manner, without your being aware of it and without exertion.

A person can become a saint anywhere…Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified.

On the Mystery of Repentance:

Every day I think that I sin, but I desire that whatever happens to me I turn it into prayer and I don’t keep it locked within me. Sin makes a person very confused psychologically…Only with the light of Christ does the confusion depart.

Despondency is the worst thing. It is a snare set by Satan to make a person lose his appetite for spiritual things and bring him to a state of despair, inactivity and negligence.

When a person makes confession, grace frees him from his psychological wounds…Don’t let’s turn back to sins we have confessed. The recollection of sins is harmful. Have we asked for forgiveness? Then the matter is closed.

On Love for One’s Neighbor:

Love toward one’s brother cultivates love towards God…No one can attain to God unless he first passes through his fellow men.

We, with our love, with our fervent desire for the love of God, will attract grace so that it washes over those around us and awakens them to divine love…What we are unable to do, His grace will achieve.

On Creation:

All things around us are droplets of the love of God…The beauties of nature are the little loves that lead us to the great Love that is Christ.

For a person to become a Christian he must have a poetic soul. He must become a poet. Christ does not wish insensitive souls in His company. A Christian, albeit only when he loves, is a poet and lives amid poetry. Poetic hearts embrace love and sense it deeply.

On Illness:

I thank God for granting me many illnesses…My illness is a special favor from God, who is inviting me to enter into the mystery of His love and try to respond with His own grace.

Whatever you want, my Lord, whatever your love desires; place me wherever your love wishes. I abandon myself to your love. If you wish to place me in hell, then do so, only don’t let me lose Your love.

On the Church:

When we set ourselves apart from others, we are not Christians. We are true Christians when we have a profound sense that we are members of the mystical body of Christ, of the Church, in an unbroken relationship of love…When Christ unites us, distances don’t exist. When I leave this life it will be better. I’ll be closer to you.

May it be so.

 

 

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Last night as we drove home from early Thanksgiving in East Tennessee with my family, my sleep deprived son laid his head on my shoulder and slept. And I wondered how long it had been since I pillowed that beloved head. There in the dark quiet, as mile after mile slipped away underneath us, a treasure trove of images came flooding into my mind. Bits and pieces of a life. My life, with this darling boy of mine.

I saw him as a wriggling bundle of soft. Always hungry. Hungry for milk, yes, but hungry also for life. Voraciously drinking in everything around him. Storing it away. Making it part of him.

There was an image of him hunched over paper and pencil as wondrous pictures took shape under his hands. We were astounded by them. So was everyone else. Dragons, robot warriors, complex pieces of machinery, staggering in their detail and precision.

I saw him brandishing a sword. Usually of his own making. Ferocious grimace on his face, eyes blazing, leaping off something.

I remembered my dear boy, tender and serious, telling me that when he grows up he is going to marry me. I could never bring myself to explain to him why that was a problem.

There was Jake the explorer; stick in hand, dogs at his feet, traipsing up and down hills, across creeks, and over the wide expanse of our farm.

And Jake the Lego master, fingers flying as he gathered a gaggle of loose pieces into some extraordinary creation.

I thought of the many, many friends my boy has accumulated over the years. It is almost impossible to not like Jake. Ask anyone who knows him. Loyal, gregarious, funny, smart. What’s not to love?

I saw Jake the musician coaxing marvelous sounds from piano, guitar, mandolin, melodica, banjo…. And singing. Singing with the family on long car trips. Harmonizing with friends. Pulling something from deep inside himself and translating it into a language that we could all hear, and feel, and understand.

How many times has he told me, “Thank you for supper. It was delicious.”? How many long, deep conversations have we had about life, and love, and hurt, and joy? How many sweet hugs? How many hikes and vacations have been better because his delight made them so?

Last night, as I pillowed the head of my baby boy, my heart nearly burst with gratitude for the gift of knowing him. For the weighty responsibility and privilege of caring for him. For the way the world has been different because I have experienced it with him.

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Happy Birthday, Jake!! Welcome to your twenties. I predict it is going to be your best decade yet. I love you. Always. God grant you many, many years.

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Once Upon a Time…

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Once upon a time, in a not too distant land, a baby girl was born. She was the delight of her parents. She had a great shock of hair on top of her head, but the hair on the sides was not long for this world. Still, the mother and father loved their little mohawk baby.

Sometimes the baby girl would curl up in a ball on daddy’s chest and fall asleep. This was his favorite.

The mommy loved the baby’s sleep drunk smiles, and the smell of her, and the little sounds she made when she was mostly awake, but not quite. She loved the way the baby would push her tiny fists against the air when she stretched, like it was heavy.

The baby girl grew. Her hair was golden and her eyes were blue. She told stories, and sang songs, and created imaginary worlds. And when her little brother came along, she used to sneak into his room and fill his crib with toys. She liked to splash in puddles and catch raindrops on her tongue.

Then the little girl became a teenager. Her eyes were still blue, but her hair? Well, it depended on the week. :) She traded dolls and legos for a camera and a saute pan. She collected music and films and tried to educate her mother about both. Her heart was wide open and always seemed to have room for those who were on the outside.

Almost before anyone knew what was happening, the teenager became a young woman. She finished school, got a job, and bought a car. She had become her own person with her own distinct opinions about pretty much everything. She bought a phonograph and a food processor. She became a juicing fiend, and made her own bath salts and soaps.

And then, that young woman had a baby girl of her own. Her heart was so full of love that it spilled out on everyone around her. She loved snuggling with her little baby. She took about a million photos. She forgot how to buy anything for herself because she always ended up buying things for the baby instead. She took her baby girl to the beach and to the zoo. She taught her to like vegetable juices, and smoothies, and curry. And Batman. And hockey. :)

She made those difficult decisions that parents make. She rose early and worked hard to provide a good life for her little girl. And then, one day, she and her little girl moved into a home of their own. And they were glad.

And the mommy and daddy looked at this daughter of theirs and were so proud, and grateful to have been given the privilege of being her parents.

And they all lived…

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Dearest Kelsey, it is dizzying to think of all that has happened since I first held you in my arms 22 years ago today. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. Happy Birthday, Beloved!! God grant you many, many years!

 

When Little Birds Fly the Nest

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It began at birth, really. Even while I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time, while the scent of her was becoming an imprint in my brain and tiny tendrils inextricably wound themselves round my heart, the dance of separation had already begun.

A push and a cry and a snip of a cord were the first steps.

Over the next few years we cheered her on as she learned her own peculiar military style of crawling, then took her first steps. We video taped her telling stories at her second birthday party. She learned to feed herself; dress herself. She spent an hour away from us. Then a night. Then several days at Mammaw’s house in the summer. And I cried as we drove away. This crazy mix of pride, and joy, and loss.

And she learned, and grew, and thrived.

We wrote wonderful stories with those years. Travels and explores. Slumber parties, butterfly gardens, secrets, friends. She took photographs and wrote poems and learned to cook, and bit by bit the young woman she was made to be revealed itself.

And she was lovely.

There were growing pains. All of us figuring out how to walk in new seasons. Conflict. Anger. Tears.

But from that, a deep knowing. An understanding stamped on all our hearts of what it means to love one another relentlessly. To fail one another. To forgive.

She finished high school. She got a job. Or two. She bought her own clothes, did her own laundry, dreamed her own dreams. She collected classic films, artisanal teas, and gourmet cooking implements. She cooked us some fantastic meals.

And then, my baby girl had a baby girl of her own. And she grew some more. We watched her love this little one fiercely. We saw her make sacrifices. We saw her rise before the sun, work hard, spend wisely and save. She was driven to make a good life for her daughter.

Today, Kelsey is buying a home. And over the next few days, she will move all her belongings out of our house. And she will wake up somewhere else. And I have never been more proud of her. Never.

And my heart hurts.

Just a little.

I help her pack things up. She hums like she always does when she is happy. And this is so right. And I would not wish it other for a minute. But our family as it has been for a very long time will be no more. And I am grieving that.

And thinking about birds. Who do this every year. And giving thanks that I only have three.

Incidentally, Jake is going with her. As, of course, is Kenzie. So our household of six is becoming a household of three.

New season.

Godspeed, dear ones. Fly far and true. I love you. Always.

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…
He hath made everything beautiful in its time.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:1,11

 

*Painting by Cari Humphry

Be Kind

It is like a weight in the chest. Pressing in. Threatening to steal the breath. And you carry it with you everywhere; to work, to the grocery store, even to church. No one may ever know it is there. You wish you could forget it, lay it down for a moment. The grief is so deep. Sometimes you wonder if it will kill you.

You seem to be late everywhere you go. And you forget things. And you know people are frustrated with you and you wish you could think clearly but there are so many things to remember, so many decisions to make, so much that could go wrong, and a precious shortage of solutions. And you are tired. So tired. But sleep does not come. Will life ever be better than this? Will it ever be “normal” again?

I know this feeling. Intimately.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had in the past couple of weeks with friends who are up against something so big that it threatens to undo them. My heart hurts for them. Yet they get up every morning, get dressed, feed their children, and go back at it again. Their courage inspires me. And as I watch them walk in the world like the most ordinary heroes, I wonder how many of the people I encounter every day are carrying burdens like these…

She is making excruciating decisions to insure the compassionate and competent care of her mother who can no longer care for herself. Her mother doesn’t understand. She is furious.

She and her husband have completely reordered their lives to accommodate the unique needs of their precious son who they love more than life. It is a choice they make willingly. But it comes at a heavy price.

She wonders if the divorce was a mistake. But he has already remarried. And her children adore their new stepmother. She has never felt more alone.

Earlier this week, my friend Laura related this story:

This morning I mentioned to a check-out clerk at a local business how happy I was to see her back at work (she had been gone the last few times I had stopped in and I had missed her). As her eyes brimmed with tears, she shared that her daughter had died unexpectedly and she was just getting back after receiving custody of her grandchildren. We talked a few minutes longer until the next customer came to the register and she thanked me for asking about her a couple times. I would have missed such a blessing and an opportunity to share love with this sweet lady had I hurried in and out this morning like I sometimes do – a powerful lesson I won’t soon forget!

Today you and I will live our lives among people who are hurting, whether we know it or not. We have the opportunity to be dispensers of grace and generosity.

Let us be kind.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~Philo of Alexandria

The First 50 Years…

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Dearest Mom and Dad,

To live with the same person for 50 years is an extraordinary work of grace. Ask anyone who has been married more than a minute. To love long is also an extraordinary gift; to one another and to all those who love you. For this, I thank you.

As this auspicious day has drawn near, I have wondered: when you look back over 50 years, what is it you remember? When the film reel plays in your mind, what are the images you see?

Here is a little taste of what I remember.

Music. Before any of us kids were born, maybe even before you were married, you were the song leader and piano player. And as soon as we were old enough, each of us joined you singing in church. It was like a right of passage. We sang in the cornfield and in the car, and for whole evenings around the piano. Dad had Don Williams and Merle Haggard on 8 track and mom liked WEZK on the radio, and everywhere there was Southern Gospel and bluegrass. Now your grandchildren gather in your living room with guitar, dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, and piano and sing like we sang. And your legacy continues…

Faith. God and His Church were the axis upon which our whole life as a family was oriented. We fitted our week around it; leaving the garden or the field on Saturday afternoons to wash and dress for the evening service and consecrating Sunday as a day of worship and rest and family. And though all of us serve God in different places now, the thread of faith still binds us together wherever we are.

Travel. I suppose I owe my gypsy wanderlust to the two of you. We grew up camping in the mountains or on the river. So many trips to the beach with cousins. The Great Smoky Mountains, New Orleans, Washington D.C… As retirement has given you more time to travel, I find myself following you to places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Alaska. Thank you for stoking my curiosity.

Magic. In a thousand different shapes and forms. Birthday cakes you bought us from the bakery; Snow White on mine, horses on Marvin’s. Every year. Huffy trail bikes that made us masters of our world. Piling in the back of the truck on a hot day and heading for the river. Swimming til we were exhausted, then eating watermelon and peanut butter and crackers while the cool of the water still tingled in our skin. Catching lightening bugs on summer evenings. Walking barefoot in soft earth, still warm from the plow. Watching calves be born. So. Many. Stories. Tramping through the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree. The Raggedy Man. Snow sledding. Gathering wild Muscadines….

For Better or Worse. You had a fight once. On a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if you remember it, but I do. I remember what it was about and even some of the exact things you said. Marvin and Monty and I sat out in the back yard deciding who we would go live with if the two of you split up. I mention this mostly because it was such a singular event. In all my growing up, it was the only time I ever thought, even for a minute, that I might be one of those kids shuttled between homes. Certainly you have disagreed and hurt one another from time to time, but I have always known you were in this for the long haul. It means more than you know.

For Richer or Poorer. The early years were lean. I know that now. I don’t think I thought much about it then. Dad worked extra jobs in the evening and mom made all our clothes. But in the process, Marvin learned the electrical trade he practices today and I learned to sew. Gifts. In the time of plenty, you have been generous with us and with others. Thank you for making the most of both.

In Sickness and in Health. When I was a kid, I thought adults never got sick. The two of you didn’t. In recent years, that has changed, of course. I have watched you love and care for one another through Mom’s battle with breast cancer and Dad’s open heart surgery. A team. I remember coming to help after Mom’s surgery and being a little hurt that she preferred Dad’s care to mine. But that is how it should be. And I am glad. You tended both your mothers with kindness and dignity as their health failed. And when little Tucker was born needing extra special care, you gave him your all. I know Monty will never forget that. None of us will.

Til Death… I sometimes wonder if the two of you are aging backwards. Yes, I know that your bodies don’t always cooperate like they used to, but your minds and your hearts seem to keep expanding. Your curiosity knows no bounds. Listening to you describe your trip to the Panama Canal this year was almost as good as being there. Mom is always adding some new flower to the garden and dad is always finding some new, old fruit tree. New grand babies and great grand babies keep coming who need to ride Papaw’s tractor and eat Mamaw’s chocolate gravy and biscuits. Life is full of so much possibility. I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years hold. :)

Happy Anniversary!!

I love you!

God grant you many, many more…

For I Will Consider My Granddaughter Kenzie…

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FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY GRANDDAUGHTER KENZIE

For she catches sunbeams in her hands and puts out her tongue to taste them.

For she looks at me just before plunging both feet into a puddle and she is all mischief and wonder and delight and I try to remember why I shouldn’t let her but I forget.

For she must spin if the grass is green and the lawn is large.

For sometimes she pauses just at the top of the slide to gaze at the lawn and I know she is spinning in her heart.

For she buries her whole face in a blossom to breathe its scent and emerges blissful and flecked with pollen.

For she loves her mommy.

For she awakens a sweet radiance in her mommy, soft and gentle and all joy.

For she is generous to all, especially to old people.

For she holds her head sideways when she poses for a photograph.

For after the photograph, she says “awww, cute”.

For she loves her Pops

For she loves music and making music and people who make music and instruments that make music.

For music makes her dance.

For she wields both fork and spoon with dexterity but prefers to eat with her hands.

For when she asks for candy she always says “just one”, but does not mean it.

For she loves Josh and Jake.

For sometimes she holds her cup with her feet just because she can.

For she tucks one corner of her paci inside her lip.

For she colors with mad, bold strokes and makes no apologies about that.

For she loves books.

For she is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For she greets every morning, every moment, with expectation that something wonderful is about to happen.

For sometimes when I hold her she puts one hand in my hair and one on my face and I know what it means to be truly happy.

For she has a shoe fetish, yet prefers to be barefoot.

For her toes are soft and round and make sweet wet footprints on the porch after she has walked in the dew.

For she loves to pray.

For she laughs easily and often and always out loud.

For she climbs everything.

For she loves water and perceives it as a personal gift to her from someone who loves her.

For sometimes she kisses me first.

For there is nothing sweeter than her peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than her life when in motion.

For she is of the tribe of angel.

For she loves me.

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*The form of the poem is borrowed from Mary Oliver’s “For I Will Consider My Dog Percy” She, in turn, borrowed it from Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.” Lines in italics are borrowed from both.

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For Joshua…

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Dearest Joshua,

We almost missed you, you know. We thought for a while that maybe two children were enough. But I began to have this awful feeling, this sense that someone was missing. It was never about having three kids really. I just knew we weren’t all here yet. And then there was you. The moment you were born, everything was right. Our family was complete.

I love your passion. You have this way of settling into a moment and drinking its nectar to the dregs. I think of you when I read these words from Jack Kerouac:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

I envy your audacity; your willingness to dream BIG dreams. I exult in your joie de vivre. It is contagious, you know. You are a celebration waiting for an excuse. And I love the way a person’s face lights up when he or she talks about you. :)

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Do you suppose there is anyone in the world as curious as you? Hotel room, new car, hiking trail, doesn’t matter. You are always up for an explore. And you do not stop until you know everything there is to know. For you, the world is a wondrous place, full of possibility. Never lose that.

Your creativity inspires and delights me. Whether you are decorating the table, arranging food artfully on a plate, redecorating your room, or assembling an outfit, you are compelled to make things beautiful. I like that about you.

You are one of my very favorite singers. I enjoy singing with you in the car or around the house. But I especially love seeing you on stage. You belong there, you know. I remember the first time you sang in the talent show at school. You sang Amazing Grace. Clean. Clear. And when you finished, no one moved. They just sat there letting the last echoes hang in the room, afraid to breathe, afraid to disturb the magic. It was a marvelous moment.

Your skills as an actor seem to have grown exponentially in the past couple of years. Seeing you in Legally Blonde was remarkable. I was so caught up in your storytelling, I sometimes forgot it was you I was watching. Keep telling stories, my love; in your art and with your life. The world is hungry for them.

I love that you give your talents to God. And I love that you have the courage to try new things, things that scare you: auditioning for shows, leading worship at church. I am eager to see where your art takes you.

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Seeing you with Kenzie is gift. You have always been pied piper of the littles. Younger cousins love to be where you are, and children who visit our home always remember “Josh”. And now there is this niece who adores you; who comes in the house asking for you every morning. You will be a wonderful father someday. Of this, I am sure.

I don’t remember exactly when it was that you started giving me three kisses at night or when we part. It seems like it has always been so. When I am an old lady and can’t remember my name, give me three kisses and I will remember you. :)

I am so grateful that I did not miss knowing you, beloved. Life is more vivid, more vibrant and vivacious because there is you. Blessings to you on this, your 16th birthday!

I love you.

Always.

joshgatlin

 

The Fiction of Speed

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Yesterday was a day for talking about love. Facebook and Twitter were full of sweet tributes. Two of my favorites were unlikely stories. Couples who shouldn’t have made it, but have.

K talked about the gift of being married to the love of her life. This, in the midst of a heroic, difficult battle against cancer. A battle they are fighting TOGETHER. And this in spite of the fact that there was a time when she did not cherish him and what they had together.

W spoke honestly of her personal hell year. The year she hated her husband. In the thirteen years since, she and he have worked to build a beautiful, real, deep love that only seasons and grows with years. They have added three chosen children from Ethiopia to the two born of blood. Theirs is a radiant, vibrant family. It is impossible to say how many lives have been changed…are being changed…daily…because of them.

Both of these women were important voices in my life during the season when I wanted to chuck it all and have done with being married. They were generous enough to tell their stories. They were kind enough to listen to the nonsense that I believed at the time…all my arrogant, petty protests about what I “deserved”. Then, they were wise enough to tell me the truth. In love. To challenge me to do the hard thing. And the hard thing after that…

There is something lovely about young love. The giddy excitement. The breathless wonder. I have a friend who is living in this world at present. It is great fun to watch. But I have come to have a high regard for old love. The sort that is fermented. Tested.

Not everyone goes through a season, like Mike and I did, where they can hardly tolerate the very presence of the other. But everyone who is married will have periods when something is more “urgent” than tending the marriage. New baby. Illness. Job loss. Death of a parent…or a child. Something that seems to take all you have. This is where the battle is won or lost.

This is when you give without demanding return. This is when you daily throw yourself on the grenade for the good of the other. This love is not sexy or convenient, but raw, and rugged, and real.

This kind of love creates a safe place to become. A safe place to dream audacious dreams. A place to dare that which you would never have dared alone. A place to be chiseled and refined into something glorious. Where life reigns regardless of circumstances.

I want a love like that.

Don’t you?

I have these young friends. Too young to be as wise as they are. But they sing a song about this very thing. I kept playing it yesterday, and reading the stories of long love, and my heart celebrated men and women who are courageous enough, and stubborn enough, to hang in there long enough, to tell a great story with their lives. I share the song with you. I dedicate it to K and G, to W and B, and to all those who daily choose to die to self in order to love well. May your tribe increase.

*Post title borrowed from the song by Lulu Mae. If you like this song, you will love their album The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree.

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