Tag Archive - Endurance

Trail Song

Early morning exudes a distinct scent. Especially when the night has been washed by storms. Clean, earthy, dark. Cool.

Just beyond the bridge leading me away from the asphalt and into the woods, shards of sunlight stab their way through the trees to the misty clearing below. A warren of rabbits scatters frantically like we are beginning a game of tag. I, apparently, am to be “it”.

A swallowtail flutters over a thistle blossom. The hillside is covered with them. I think how many summer days my brother spent with a mattock eradicating these hazardous menaces from our cow pasture. Here they are welcomed. Nourishment for butterflies and birds. Context.

Queen Anne’s Lace forms a brilliant fringe all along the dark green edge of the forest path. Like a petticoat. As a little girl, I used to bring their cornmeal scented blossoms home to my mother. I remember tugging at their woody stems til my hands were raw. Most often, I ended up extracting them by the roots, leaving their grooming to my mother. I also remember that sometimes there is a single, tiny violet blossom in the center of all the white. I have never known why this is so.

A pair of mourning doves have planted themselves atop a fanciful bend in a very old tree. They look for all the world like an elderly couple perched on the front porch with coffee and newspaper. Surveying their world with aplomb. Underneath them, a busy squirrel skitters about frantically. I imagine he has been sent out on a breakfast run.

I have been pondering mushrooms. They distract me with their exuberant extravagance of form, texture, and hue. My favorites are the dark gray ones that nod atop slender white stems. Whimsical little things, they, with spidery tracery corralled by tight, gray curlicues. I am also intrigued by golden torpedoes that open into delicate, lemony parasols fit for a geisha. A very small geisha.

If silence could be gathered into melody and sung from one person to another, it would sound very like the music of Arvo Part. He has been singing his liquid silence to me since my run began. It is rather peculiar how the music screens out distant car horns and screeching brakes, but manages to admit birdsong and the beating of wings. Synergy. This music. This place.

As I run down the hill, my eyes wander to a spot in the grass, by the side of the river, where earlier this week a man took his own life. And I wonder, what caused him to despair? To whom did he surrender his last measure of hope? How deeply must one be hurting to come to this place throbbing with glory, and still want to die? My heart hurts for him. And for those who love him. Lord, have mercy.

And I carry all these things inside me. Grief, yes. And blossoms, and butterflies, and birdsong. Whimsy, exuberance, and joy. Gifts from the trail. Sustenance…for whatever comes…

23

Wedding

Twenty-three years ago two children promised to love “until death…”  It was folly, really.  They were babies.  He was 22.  She was 20.  They had known one another 9 months.  What were they thinking? They had no idea what they were getting themselves into…

Twenty-three years.  Three babies.  Better or worse. Eight homes.  Thousands of miles traveled.  Richer or poorer. Hundreds of acquaintances.  A precious handful of really close friends.  Sickness and Health. Six dogs.  One cat.  An infinity of memories and moments…

I was the wide-eyed, innocent girl.  And that naively optimistic boy has loved me better than I deserve.  I owe him a thousand ‘thank you’s.  But today, I will offer him twenty-three.  Twenty-three thank yous for twenty three years.

1.  Thank you for loving me all the time, no matter what.  I know it hasn’t been easy.  And I don’t pretend to understand it.  But I am grateful, all the same.

2.  Thank you for being a fellow gypsy.  I have so many beautiful memories of our family, and of the two of us, in remarkable locales all over the world.  Thank you for watching all those Rick Steves videos with me and listening to me wag on incessantly about mind-numbing minutia.  You are a very good sport.

3.  Thank you for being the sane one.  I have never been qualified for the role.  It has been nice to know that while I flit about erratically, experiencing my ecstatic highs and my abysmal lows, that somewhere there is a tether of sanity that will never let me be completely lost.

4.  Thank you for providing for our family.  I don’t say it enough.  How do I tell you what it has meant to be home with our little ones as they grew up?  To witness the little miracles and discoveries.  To teach them.  To open the world for them.  To read and play.  I could never have done that without you.  It means more than I can say.

5.  Thank you for surrendering your suspicious nature with regard to food.  Does this sound familiar? “I don’t like that.”  “Really, how have you had it prepared?”  Oh, I’ve never eaten it, but I don’t like it.”  Or this?  “I just can’t eat squash.  I don’t like the name.”  🙂  Thank you for triumphing over your fear to become a fellow culinary explorer.  And thank you for understanding how much it means to me to eat artfully prepared food in a beautiful place.

6.  Thank you for being god of all things technological at our house.  Thank you for providing me the opportunity to remain blissfully ignorant and still have computers, phones, iPods, etc… that work.  🙂

7.  Thank you for our beautiful piano.  Thank you for buying it when we were so poor.  When we had nothing, you knew I needed a piano in my home.  So many hours of pleasure and therapy it has given me.  And, of course, as each of our children has grown up playing, the joy continues to multiply…exponentially.

8.  Thank you for being a godly man.  You haven’t done it for me.  But it does matter to me.  I respect and admire your integrity and your piety.

9.  Thank you for every art museum you have traipsed through with me.  I know sometimes you did it entirely as a gift to me.  But it seems to me that over the years you have developed your own affinity for them.  Sort of.  😉

10.  Thank you for all the made up words you sing to songs.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me at first.  Being a neurotic first born who needs things to be right, and who happens to remember every lyric she has ever heard, I cringed at your inaccuracies.  But over the years, I have come to prefer your…ahem…creative take on things.  You make me laugh.

11.  Thanks for Pikes Peak.  I know you thought I was crazy at first.  But you were unwilling to let me be crazy all by myself.  Thanks for all those trail runs at the Warner Parks as we prepared.  For slanting rays of sunlight, wild flowers, chipmunks, deer, squirrels.  Those still comprise some of my very favorite running memories.

12.  Thank you for indulging my passion for books.  I am a pretty thrifty shopper with my Goodwill/clearance rack wardrobe, but I do go a little crazy with books.  Thank you for understanding how important they are to me and for not cutting up my credit card or exiling me from Amazon.

13.  Thank you for spending New Years Eve in Times Square with Kelsey.  What a glorious memory that will always be for her.  I know your bladder will probably never be the same, but thank you for giving her that gift.

14.  Thank you for snow boarding with Jake, and for dozens of cub scout camping trips with both of the boys.  Thank you for teaching them how to be men.

15.  Thank you for taking care of all things financial on behalf of our family.  Thank you that I never have to worry my pretty little head about that.  I trust you. I have complete confidence in your ability and your judgment.  That is a wonderful feeling.

16.  Thank you for opening your heart to Orthodoxy.  I know that each of us has walked our own road to the Orthodox faith, and that it means something distinctly different to each of us.  But I am delighted that we were able to go there together.  I look forward to uncovering the riches of our faith over years and years to come.

17.  Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you that, even when we had nothing, we gave to others.  I remember the first budget you drew up for us.  I remember that the first line item was our tithe.  It was never open for negotiation.  I also remember that it was your goal for us to increase, not just the amount of our giving to others, but the percentage of our giving each year.  This we have done.  I believe God has honored that, and I highly esteem you for it.

18.  Thank you for loving my family.  Thank you that I have never had to choose between them and you.

19.  Thank you for Bill Cosby, Himself.  I love the DVD.  But I have always loved watching you watch it even more.  When you start laughing so hard you can hardly breathe, it doesn’t really matter any more what he is saying.  It’s funny.

20  Thanks for being my partner in the delightful, magical, terrifying, difficult, bewildering, wonderful adventure of parenting.  It has been (and continues to be) the most challenging and most rewarding experience of my life.  You have been a worthy partner in crime.

21.  Thank you for forgiveness.  Seventy times seventy times seventy times seven times.  I wish I didn’t require it so often.  I hope there is still more where that came from.

22.  Thank you for memories.  Thanks for jokes only our family knows.  Thanks for the stories and experiences that have become so much a part of the warp and weft of who we are we don’t know where they begin and end.

23.  Thank you for loving me all the time, no matter what. I know I already said that.  But it is the most important thing.  You have astounded me with your relentless love for me.  I have fought it sometimes.  Sometimes I didn’t even want it.  And I know I don’t deserve it.  “And this is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us…” Thanks for showing me what that looks like.

I love you…always.

Family2

*Photo at the bottom of the post copyright Angela Davis.

The Martyrdom of Marriage

Corpsebride

Marriage is hell.

Sometimes.

I did not sign up for that.

I signed up for a husband who would understand me all the time.  He would anticipate needs without me speaking them so that I would never have to humble myself and ask for help.  He would be romantic and creative, regardless of the pressures of providing for a family, or responsibilities he might have to others.  But, more than anything, he would fill all the empty places in me.  He would make me feel beautiful, smart, and important.  Any unanswered questions I had…about me…about whether I mattered…he would answer.

My husband has failed me in this.

I imagine he had a list of expectations too.  And I can assure you, whatever was on that list, I have failed him.  More than he has failed me.

For a long time we limped along in our failings, too polite to say to the other how disappointed we were.  Too afraid to talk about the things that mattered.  Until all the resentment finally hit critical mass and exploded like a compromised container of toxic waste.  And the husband I had lived with peaceably, if not always passionately, for years, became an object of loathing to me.  I could no longer remember any of the things I loved about him.

And I made his life hell. I wanted to hurt him as much as I felt he had hurt me.  I was so angry at him for not being who I needed him to be.  Who I thought I needed him to be.

“The collapse of the family today, the rate of divorce–all this is due to the non-acceptance by man of marriage as martyria, and this means patience, endurance, travelling together along a difficult, yet ultimately glorious path.”

~Alexander Schmemann

For four years we have fought and scratched and clawed our way back to one another.  Our kind and able couselor taught us to be honest.  Generous friends loved us viciously and refused to let us give up–and I really wanted to give up.  And we learned to cling to God like a man lost in the desert clings to his last few drops of water.

Healing has come.  Is still coming.  And we have learned so much.  But perhaps the most important thing we have learned is to give one another permission to be who we are.  And to allow the other to fail us.  In those empty places where I miss him and he misses me, God is.  And we learn a little more about surrender.  And about the kind of love that gives without requiring response.  The love of a martyr.

martyr: a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause

Turns out, each of us was what the other needed all along.  And we are finding a rich, seasoned love that is worth every torturous step it took to get here.  If you find yourself in the hell season at present, PLEASE, don’t give up!!!  Ask for help.  Gather a band of brothers and sisters around you.  And ask God to meet you in the empty, broken places…and to teach you to love like He loves.

“…marriage, as life itself, is above all a journey, and its goal, as that of life itself, is the Kingdom of God…Then what will remain is true love, the one that overcomes death and gives us a taste of the Kingdom…It is this love that transforms through forgiveness, and so in the marriage, in this martyrdom,…we grow together as to constitute in the end the very image of that Divine Love between God and man.”

~Alexander Schmemann

I Choose You…

Dear husband of mine,

Twenty-five years together have taught us much. Perhaps one of the most important lessons is that love is not something that happens to you. Love is a choice. A choice you make…or do not make…every day. I have not always chosen love. For this, I am sorry. Sometimes I have chosen self-interest, novelty, defensiveness, lies….

This, I regret.

From here on out, so long as God gives us on this earth,

I choose love.

I choose you.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you to shape me. To make me who I am. By loving me, all the time, no matter what, you give me a safe place to become. How do I thank you for that? You also rub me the wrong way. Sometimes. You provoke me. You make me angry. You misunderstand. This I have hated. This I have resisted. But I have come to know this is gift. How ironic! That every time you provoke me, I am challenged. I am made…somehow… better. It is a solemn and difficult process. I can’t say I like it. Always. But I know it is necessary. I am glad I am walking this with you. You, I trust. You are safe. Thank you for that.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you to share the adventure….

…the adventure of parenting our three wild and crazy and infinitely wondrous children. Who knew we could have so much fun? Who knew how deeply we could hurt? Who knew how much we would worry? (How much I would worry.) Who knew that those little babies would grow into a lovely young woman and two fine young men that we would admire, respect, and immensely enjoy?

And…..who knew that all the brochures about being grandparents are woefully understated? That we would see one another in completely new ways. Through the wee one…

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for the explore. For all the world that we have not seen…..yet. You are my favorite traveling companion. I pick the hotels…sumptuous and romantic…or atmospheric and cheap. And you get us there. Flights. Rental cars. And I will regale you with history and trivia. And you will pretend that you are interested. And I will love you for that. And each of us will see something different. And you will tell me. And I will tell you. And it will be twice as good. Because we are together.

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for all that matters. For faith. For family. For friends. For stories no one else knows. For history that need not be explained. For the unsaid…but seen. How do you ever give twenty-five years of memory…of story…to someone else?

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

I choose you for the unknown. For all the unseen that lies ahead. Tomorrow. And the day after that. For everything that will be more wonderful than we imagined. For pain that will threaten to destroy us. I choose you. Because I know that with you is a thousand times better than without you.

I am not innocent. I know it will be more difficult than I imagine. I know that there will be times when I want to quit. When, for just one day, I want to choose me. When I do not want to care about you. But it is more important than either of us know.

God chose you.

For me.

To make me something I cannot become by myself.

I would know that someone.

I would become…her.

AND…

I would that you become who He made you to be.

I know I am the sandpaper that will rub you raw. I will provoke, and irritate, and discomfit. I am sorry it must hurt. I would that it be other.

It cannot.

To that end….

I choose you. Today and every day, I choose you.

Waiting…

“You don’t grow anything,” he said. This after he had asked which of us were gardeners and what we grew in our gardens, to which some had replied roses and others tomatoes or herbs… It was, apparently, a trick question. “You choose the sight. You cultivate the earth. You plant, fertilize and water. Then you wait. The growing is up to God. Your job is to create conditions in which the waiting is likely to be fruitful.

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It commemorates the day when Mary and Joseph take the 40 day old Jesus to the temple for the purification rights. There they are met by two people who have been expecting him…

Simeon

Simeon is described by Luke as righteous and devout. God had promised him he would not die til he had seen “the Lord’s Messiah”. He is moved by the Spirit to come to the temple on this very day, and he recognizes the child at once. He takes him in his arms and speaks prophetic words over him, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel…the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” He acknowledges his wait is gloriously at an end with the beautiful words that form the benediction of our vesper services:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Anna

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Today is a day of encouragement for all those who wait. A reminder that, though you may not see it yet, God is at work. That your job–my job–is to create conditions in which the waiting is likely to be fruitful. Perhaps we should take our cue from Anna. Worshiping, fasting, praying….

Hold on, dear ones! Spring is coming. Be on the look out for tiny shoots of promise.

*The garden illustration is borrowed and paraphrased from Father Stephen’s homily last night. The story of the presentation can be found in the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, beginning with verse 22.

Loving Humility: a Terrible Force

Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.
~Fyodor Dostoevsky

The whole page is filled with underlines and little stars and notes to myself in the margins. I have read it over and over. It seems such a radical idea. “Loving humility is a terrible force…” Really?

…whenever we give up anything or suffer anything, not with a sense of rebellious bitterness, but willingly and out of love, this makes us not weaker but stronger.

It should not be so surprising to me. I have, after all, experienced it…

If you are a regular reader, you know that Mike and I have had our share of challenges. During the worst of it, one of the things I most despised about him was his humility. I told him he was weak. That he did not have enough self-worth to assert himself. I was horrible to him, yet he persisted in loving me. I could not understand this. It did not fit my picture of strength.

By loving or hating another, I cause the other in some measure to become that which I see in him or her. Not for myself alone, but for the lives of all around me, my love is creative, just as my hatred is destructive.

Mike’s love….which at times I did not even want…created a safe place for me to deal with my own demons. To learn to allow God to fill the empty places inside me, instead of demanding that of others. Though he could not fix me, his love WAS creative. His relentless faith in who I could be nourished me, even when I was unaware of it. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

[Christ’s] suffering love has a creative effect upon me, transforming my own heart and will, releasing me from bondage, making me whole, rendering it possible for me to love in a way that would lie altogether beyond my powers, had I not first been loved by him.

When I see my children, my family, my friends making destructive choices, I want to fix them. But this usually lies beyond my control, even if I knew what was best for them, which I often do not. So I will love them. Without arrogance. Without manipulation. Humbly and generously. As I have been loved. And I will trust in the creative power of love.

Love is strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot wash it away. ~Song of Songs 8:6-7

*Unattributed quotes in the post are from Metropolitan Kallistos Ware in The Orthodox Way, page 82 (the page with the underlines and stars and notes and such…).

 

On Eating an Elephant…

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time.”

~African proverb

I suppose there is a certain wisdom that comes with age. Even without purposeful cultivation. A warfare wisdom born of much folly and error.

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons is the brilliance of  “one bite”.

I fought it when I was younger…and “smarter”…than I am now.

When striving to master a piano piece, I would “warm up” by playing the portion I already knew. Then work for a bit on the despicable part that gave me trouble. Then play the part I knew well again. And again. Then play it all. And predictably train wreck at the difficult part. Then play the part I knew again to re-assure myself. Etc……..ad nauseum.

If I had applied all that time to only the prickly part, I would have mastered it.

But it overwhelmed me.

Most tasks (projects…goals…resolutions…changes…you fill in the blank) overwhelm if we persist in seeing the whole of it in one glance, when it would yield to us if we would only take on one bit at a time.

I see it in my kids:

Piano scales played badly because mediocre and fast somehow seems better than precise and slow (which would eventually become precise AND fast).

Paralysis to clean a room run amok, when tackling one corner…one shelf…just the floor…would, over time, slay the beast.

Every now and then I still see it in me.

A teenager infested house that “refuses” to be put to order.

Chaotic days…a frantic schedule…that seem out of my own control.

An inability to “find time” to write of late. Which makes me uncomfortable and ill tempered.

Today I began learning a new piece of music. An acapella vocal work with unusual harmonies. Almost without thought, I began dividing it into little bits. I rehearsed each til I knew it, then added the next little bit. Remarkable how soon I was making this very difficult work my own. One bite at a time.

It made me eager to take on another project. Just so I could practice dividing it into tiny, conquerable bits.

In this season when many of us have set audacious goals for ourselves–when attendance levels at the gym will tell the story of grand resolutions made and abandoned–when juicers, and pilates videos, and self-help books will fly off the shelves like gang busters (and show up on eBay in a few weeks)–I challenge you to stop intriguing and buying stuff  and plotting how to eat the whole elephant at once. And just make one change.

Take one step.

One bite.

Then take the next.

And the next.

And watch what happens…..

*Drawing at top of post by Sean Gallo. See more of his fine work HERE.

The Way

It is the last place he ever expected to find himself. He comes to St. Jean Pied de Port to claim the dead body of his only son. A son he hardly knew. Who refused to fit his mold. Who left his doctoral program in anthropology to travel the world and live among the people who were just faces in a book.

How many times had Daniel begged him to join him? To be part of his world?

It had seemed so reckless. So irresponsible.

He sifts through Daniel’s belongings. Bits and pieces of a life. Photographs from far flung places. Of a young man fully alive. A young man worth knowing.

Tom decides he will accompany Daniel on his final journey.  The one he had only just begun. A pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. He will carry Daniel’s ashes, leaving them all along the way.

“I’m doing it for Daniel,” he says to the gendarme.

“You do not walk the Camino for another,” he replies. “You walk it for yourself.”

It will ask more of him than he can imagine. He will come to know his son. He will come to know himself. He will not be alone in this. There will be a motley assemblage of comrades. Who find one another. Who need one another. More than any of them realize.

Yorick “from Amsterdam” is here to lose weight for a wedding. This, despite the fact that he seems to know the culinary specialty of every region through which they pass, and insists upon sampling it. But there is another hunger in Yorick. A sorrow. One that can only be shared with those who have walked long and lived deep with one another.

Deborah is bitter, belligerent, and guarded. She walks the Way to stop smoking. She says. But she too is fleeing dark demons. She has forgotten how to trust, to be safe with others…how to forgive…how to forgive herself.

Irish writer, James, is brash and loud. He has some serious problems with the Church, who has been the cause of much bloodshed in his homeland. He has writer’s block. He is here to find a story. The story will find him.

The Way is an artfully made film from Emilio Estevez. The story is compelling and rich, with characters who get inside your heart. The cinematography is stunning. And the invitation…to slow down, to breathe deep, to open ourselves to God and to others…is for all of us.

I implore you to see the film. It will be gift to you. You will laugh. You will cry. You might dare to dream big dreams. And with your ticket, you will cast a vote for the beautiful and the true.

Buen Camino!

To the Field of Stars

…if you have no interest in adventures of the spirit, or if you have no desire to ramble on foot across a fair piece of this earth’s lovely skin, then the story I am about to tell you will not matter to you. If, on the other hand, the very thought of seeing stars dance piques your curiosity at some deep level of your soul, then pay attention to what follows….

Thin places, they have been called. Geographic points on the earth where the space between God and man lessens, and the Presence is a breathable, touchable reality. Often these bear some connection to a holy person or persons who lived there once, or whose bones lie there still.

And so, the pilgrimage. One walks across one’s threshold and keeps walking…for weeks, even months…until he comes to the sacred place. Here he prays. But not here only. For every step along the way becomes prayer. And the journey is a shaping of the soul. A readying for the Presence. And perhaps, if there were no journey, the Presence would be indiscernible. It is the journey, the trouble and pain, the giving of oneself to others along the way, that prepares the soul to pray. To receive. Without demand. With only gladness. And humility. And joy.

In July 2003, Father Kevin Codd begins his own pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. He tells the story of this journey artfully and vulnerably in To the Field of Stars. I am captivated from the first page. And I sob my way through the last couple of chapters, feeling almost as though I, myself, am entering Compostela with these dear friends who have loved well and shared so much of themselves along the way.

I leave you to discover the story of Compostela, the third most traversed pilgrimage in all Christendom (after only Jerusalem and Rome). Herein I propose, instead, to give you a taste of this marvelous story and why you want to read it. My choices are strictly subjective.

Of the commencement of a pilgrimage: The author confesses the motivation only reveals itself clearly along the way. However, most begin as a longing for something other. Something transcendent and bigger. Something that matters.

We want to see there one little sign that there is more to us than just us…We want to see there an extravagant God who does not count or measure but just pours and pours and pours, grace upon grace, stars upon stars, into our sky, into us.

Of walking as prayer and the earth as sanctuary: Father Codd begins the day with morning prayers. The rhythm of the prayer becomes the rhythm of his feet and he finds that walking becomes prayer. And the slowness, the earthiness of feet against soil makes him a citizen of earth, keenly aware of its mysteries. And God is there.

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. Bidden or unbidden, God is present…

The heat of the morning makes the pitch in those pine trees give off a strong scent; this is the stuff of which incense is made. I inhale its aroma and remember as I did the day before that out here, too, I am in church.

Of his journey with the Church: Not the least of Father Codd’s wrestlings along the way have to do with the Church. He answers the questions of intelligent young people who feel the Church has lost touch with them. He winces at liturgies perfunctorily performed in some of the tiny towns through which they pass. He also sits in the sweet coolness of a Romanesque chapel and contemplates the Savior. He meets hospitality poured out in Jesus’ name. He watches an old priest drop his briefcase to dance with young people around the zero kilometer marker in Compostela. He sees the Bride of Christ as she is…

…grace made flesh, but flesh it still is: soft and hard, young and old, new and worn, all at the same time. It is so close to God, yet so far from God, yet so close to God.

To the Field of Stars is a pilgrim story, told honestly, with humble grace and great good humor, and a fair measure of poetry. It is laughter. And silence. It is community. And solitude. It is invocation. Contemplation. And invitation….to a life that is…more.

In Deep Nights…

In deep nights I dig for you like treasure.
For all I have seen
that clutters the surface of my world
is poor and paltry substitute
for the beauty of you
that has not happened yet….

My hands are bloody from digging.
I lift them, hold them open in the wind,
so they can branch like a tree.

Reaching, these hands would pull you out of the sky
as if you had shattered there,
dashed yourself to pieces in some wild impatience.

What is this I feel falling now,
falling on this parched earth,
softly,
like a spring rain?

~Rainer Maria Rilke

There has never been a time in my life when God was not a principle character in the story of me. I have spent much of my life attempting to apprehend Him. To know Him.

And He has eluded me.

I came to a place where I very nearly hated Him. I felt He had made a promise to me. To all of creation, for that matter. That we might know Him. Intimately. As close as breathing. Yet, I had nearly killed myself trying to be good enough. Trying to prove my worth to Him. Volunteering for everything. Practically living at the church.

Somehow, He remained untouchable. So very far away. And I had these cavernous empty places. Since He would not fill them, I began to grasp at other things. Trying to make it not hurt.

And sometimes they helped.

For a while.

But the empty did not go away. And now there was guilt and regret piled on top of the empty. And I was angry. Angry at God. Angry at all the people in my life who did not love me well enough. I needed someone to blame. Someone to be responsible for my pain.

Then God gave me a gift. Unexpected. Unwanted. He taught me to die. It was a bloody, excruciating experience. I had to let go of all the things that I thought made me me. Everything I was proud of. My gifts. The service I provided others. My striving and digging.

And stand before Him.

Empty.

Naked.

Alone.

It was terrifying. I felt as though I were melting. Like the wicked witch, you know. In The Wizard of Oz.

It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

It was the beginning of healing.

Once I stopped blaming others, and defending myself…once I was willing to be nothing…then…we could begin.

And grace became that soft rain, falling. And I had to do nothing, but receive.

I am done hating, and blaming. Mostly. I am learning to revel in being nothing. Because in this place…where I bring none of my striving, or digging, or proving myself, or being right…God is. And all I must do is fall into Him. Receive the rain of grace He pours freely over me.

He is still far away. Above me. Outside me.

AND

He is as close as breathing. A reality I taste when I approach the Cup. I breathe Him in the incense. I hear Him in baby girl’s laughter. I feel Him, soft, in the wind.

And the empty places are not so empty any more.

I am wordy. It is too much. Rilke said it best. And Job. We are, the three of us, of the same cloth. We have known the death…that yields life.

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.  ~Job 42:5

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