Tag Archive - Life

Man With Bicycle

I can’t stop thinking about the man with the bike. I passed him last night as I walked along the harbor in San Diego. He was not the first homeless man I had seen during the evening. There had been dozens. I suppose San Diego’s mild climate makes it a favorable place for those who must shelter out of doors. But it was the bicycle that arrested my attention.

Presumably, all that he possessed was contained there. Everything was thoughtfully arranged and strapped with great care. Flattened two liter bottles were pressed against the outside and I wondered if this was how he collected water. And where he found it. But, mostly I wondered, “How does he decide what goes on the bike?”

How would I?

I thought of homeless men I have sat at table with. Men who are part of the Room in the Inn program in Nashville. Of how ordinary they are. I recollected just how few things have to go wrong for someone to end up on the street. Why him? Why not me?

And if it were me, what would I try to keep with me?

If I could…

My grandmother’s quilt lovingly stitched during the cold months of winter? Photo albums that tell all our stories? They would be too heavy. I would have to pull the photos from their pages; maybe pack them in a plastic bag to protect them from the rain. What of the tiny clothes I sewed for my babies? They would be impractical. But how to give them away?

I did not speak to the man. It was late. I was alone. But I have not been able to stop thinking about him. Imagining him once swaddled and kissed by a happy mother, running with the carefree abandon of a little boy, dreaming dreams of the future. Maybe even as a young father cradling his newborn son. And now he sits, nodding, on a bench by the sea. All that is left to him makes two small bundles on a bicycle.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

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

Flight of Fancy…

The morning dawned cool and damp, like a renegade fall day. I knew it would not last. The atmosphere already strove to reclaim the cool along with the dew.

An accumulation of weeds had been tormenting me for days. Every time I crossed the porch or refilled the birdfeeders, they stared up at me with impudent faces, mocking me. I was glad to find an opportunity to attend to them, and even more glad that I could do it without being slathered in sweat.

hummingbird_butterfly_bushI buried the upper portion of myself inside the butterfly bush to get at a handful of offenders wedged between it and the iris. When I stood up to move to the other side, I found myself face to face with a Ruby-throated hummingbird. I immediately stopped breathing. I tried not to blink and even scolded my heart for beating too loudly. He was so close to me I could feel his wings beating the air. I don’t know what he asked me with his probing regard, but apparently he decided I was safe. He turned to a nearby panicle of blossoms and began sipping daintily from one tiny cup at a time.

My mind was racing like when you are in an accident or an almost accident and the whole of the world slows and your mind assesses the scene with surgical precision. I strained my eyes to see every precious detail of his beautiful body (which, incidentally, I took to be a female body at first for its lack of scarlet on the breast. I soon discovered I was mistaken.) I watched him move along the blossom like someone eating corn from a cob, a row at a time. Holiness hovered on his emerald wings and the heady scent of the blossoms might have been incense. I could feel the sacredness of this moment in my pores.

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Then I saw the other one.

He dived from the sky with a throb of wing and a pernicious squawk. The other rose to meet him and they hovered with their beaks only centimeters apart scolding, talking over one another. Neither was listening. One of them finally decided to retreat to the sunflowers, which seemed a reasonable and generous solution to me. But not to his aggressor. He pursued his enemy and they carried their dog fight higher and higher into the air until both of them fled.

And even this. Even the wild bravado of these young adolescent males establishing their territorial claims filled me with awe, and for a long time I could not stop looking into the sky at the very place where I saw them last.

I finally went back to my work, but there were a great many more visits from my winged friend, or friends, as the case may be. And this became just one more lowly, everyday experience shot through with the luminous. It happens all the time. Nothing is more common.

Be watching…

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*All photos (and the exquisite watercolor) harvested from other sources. I did eventually grab my phone to see if I might catch a shot, but the one time I tried, it frightened him away. I decided I would rather have his presence than his image. 🙂

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…

North to Alaska…

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20 May: We chase the moon to Alaska. She shines against an indigo sky that has no memory of black. Sometimes she slides down snow blanketed peaks to drop into the sea, winking up at us between floating blocks of ice, the ripples bending her light into a thousand faces, littering the sea with diamonds. When the sea is still she pours herself out like butter, soft and golden, puddling, then spreading. Languid. Easy. This is the first enchantment.

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21 May: They tell us it has been a late spring. That there was a snow fall of 11 inches just 4 days ago. And I wonder why it never occurred to me to wish for this.

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We get our first glimpse of Denali (Mt. McKinley) down the endless stretch of roadway ahead of us, framed by trees. We pull off at an overlook to drink in the glory of her. To be with her. It is a pristine day. She is wholly unfettered by clouds and altogether magnificent. We do not learn until later that these views only happen 60 days or so each year. Gift.

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Denali does not make trails, however they do recognize community trails that have formed naturally and point you toward those. On this day, we follow footprints in the snow across frozen streams that begin to crack with thaw, across bridges where only the handrails are visible above the snow (barely), along cantilevered shards of ice that are melting from the bottom up, through an enchanted wood that is very Narnia.

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22 May: There is a quiet in Denali so deep you can feel it on your skin. You breathe it in the snow scented air. To stand in this is to know something profoundly important about life and the world, a knowing that happens in your bones. And even the ptarmigan’s bluster, the soar and swoop of nest building magpies, the snort and huff of grizzlies as they frolic in the river bottoms, seem to lose themselves in the endless expanse of blue sky and mountain and frozen lake.

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Denali is generous to us this day. We see a moose cow who has just calved. She is still tidying up number two while number one begins to test out wobbly legs. All of us press against the bus windows with binoculars and cameras, and no one says a word. Later we see a bull moose in all his glory, a herd of caribou, Dall sheep (for whom the park was created, incidentally), as well as the aforementioned grizzles, ptarmigans and magpies.

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The call of the mountains is too much for Jake, and he determines early in the day that we must climb something. So we have our driver leave us off near an approach that appears reasonably navigable.

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The going is steep and precarious at times with dense shrubbery, rock slides, and snow fields that are packed solid for some expanse, then suddenly drop you 12 inches in and fill your shoes. But the vistas from up here are spectacular and it is good to plant our bodies in the middle of all this without the insulation of a piece of machinery, and no sound but our breathing.

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I take approximately a million photographs, even though I understand the futility of trying to capture this moment with a lens. To stand inside the grandeur of this place, to once be here, is an unrepeatable wonder. But I know that when I look at the photos, I will remember…

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We are, for a time, held hostage by this guy who plants himself squarely  in the road ahead of us just after we descend from the mountain. We are required to give him 70 yards clearance, a directive which is superfluous as we know Dall sheep are sometimes known to charge when ticked off. This photo is taken after he finally decides to clear out.

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23 May: Our last experience in Denali is a visit to the Canine Rangers who patrol the park all winter. They are beautiful and strong and sweet. One of the rangers tells us that they occasionally adopt out puppies if a litter is too large or if a dog does not have the characteristics necessary to make it a good dog sled dog, and Josh wants very much to bring one of them home, but we can’t figure out how to make this work…

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All photos taken with my iPhone. No editing. The colors you see are the colors we saw. If you would like more photos and less talk, check out my Facebook album HERE.

For Joshua…

Josh Baby with Hat

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.

Thin Places…

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The walls of the ancient church are impregnated with incense. Candles flicker before the icons. Faded frescoes of Saints crowd round us; on columns, walls, ceiling. And in this moment I am aware of a palpable Presence. Centuries of worshipers have stood where I stand. Liturgy. Eucharist. Body and Blood. I hear them still…

The storm raged all afternoon. Dark as night. Rain hurling itself against windows. Thunder shaking the house. Explosions of lightning. Now, its fury is spent. And like a child who has cried itself all out, the world is soft. Clean. Curls of mist rise toward a sky that is painting itself in swirls of violet and azure, with flecks of gold. I stand barefoot in the wet grass and am completely lost in the extravagant glory of this…

We fall to our knees, faces to the floor, as the priest intones a lament, “Today is hung upon the Tree, He who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A crown of thorns crowns Him who is King of Angels…” When the singing ends, silence lays heavy…like a blanket. Then the silence is rent by hammer slamming against wood. And I feel each blow like a kick to the stomach. And I am there, kneeling in the mud of a Judean hillside as the sweet body of the Lord is brutally nailed to a cross…

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“A sacrament is when something holy happens. It is transparent time, time which you can see through to something deep inside time…you are apt to catch a glimpse of the almost unbearable preciousness and mystery of life.” ~Frederick Buechner

The Celts called them thin places. Sacred thresholds where the veil between us and the world beyond dissolves…for a space. Much of the time, they just happen. They are gift. We cannot construct them. Or reconstruct them. Most of the time, we cannot even adequately explain them. All we can do is ready ourselves to receive them.

“Is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?”
“As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”
“Then of what use are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?”
“To make sure you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”
~Zen master to his disciple

Herein I recruit voices of wise ones to speak to some of the practices and ways of being that tend to make us ready for these up close encounters with the Holy.

Silence

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals…
~Henri Nouwen

The Father spoke one Word, which was his Son, and this Word He speaks always in eternal silence, and in silence must be heard by the soul.
~St. John of the Cross

Stillness

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.
~ Richard Rohr (from Psalm 46:10)

Awareness

We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery.  God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.
~Kallistos Ware

…Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes…
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Humility

Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me the humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens.
~Thomas Merton

The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality.
~Richard Rohr

Contemplation

Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.
~Thomas Merton

…I don’t know exactly what a prayer is
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

In the beauty of God’s own economy, these encounters are not gift for us alone. As these moments spent in the Presence permeate our being, we become gift to others.

If our lives are truly “hid with Christ in God”, the astounding thing is that this hidden-ness is revealed in all that we do and say and write.
~Madeleine L’Engle

God utters me like a partial thought containing a partial word of Himself. ~Thomas Merton

If the idea of thin places appeals to you. If you crave a space to be refreshed and inspired…to converse, to commune, to be… I invite you to join me at Luminous. I am especially excited to hear from one of my artist heroes,  Makoto Fujimura. I have written about his remarkable illuminated gospels HERE, and his intriguing talk on Liminal Spaces (a prophetic/creative slant on thin places) HERE. The painting at the top of the post is Fujimura’s “Still Point Evening“.

*This post was inspired by the Luminous Project. Luminous is a creative spiritual event in Nashville May 1-3, 2013. To find out more, check out luminousproject.com. You can use the promo code ‘BRINGitHERE’ to get 35% off the registration price.

The Next Right Thing…

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. ~Michelangelo

The year of empty was a year of whittling away. A year of freeing. Not the beginning. It is a work that has been going on for years. Most especially the past 5 or 6. But the chisel struck even deeper this year. It was painful at times. Disorienting. Much of what I have used to define myself has been stripped away.

I am learning to hold all things with an open hand. To find my worth outside of my abilities or accomplishments. It is a cleaner way of being. But raw, too. Exposed. Uncomfortable. Still.

As I have pondered one word to give shape to 2013, I have thought much of the story in Luke 11. A demon is cast out of a person. He roams about for a bit, comes back and finds the “house” swept clean, and brings in a whole posse of his friends so that “the final condition of that person is worse than the first”. While I am certain there is still much about me that needs to be carved away, I would also be intentional about what is permitted to enter.

Of late, I often find myself feeling as though my life is an ocean. I stand near the edge of it. Circumstances roll toward me like waves, and I am tossed about from one thing to the next like so much seaweed.

I don’t want to be seaweed.

I would be more like a buoy. Able to bend with the waves as they come, but grounded. A fixed point for those around me.

With all this in mind, one word keeps echoing in my brain.

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A lofty word, this. It sounds good. I am still figuring what it looks like where the rubber meets the road. (And if this year is anything like last year, there will be plenty of surprises.) But here are some of the thoughts I have been jotting to myself on scraps of paper and rumpled napkins, and the occasional morning page…

Focus. I have only about a billion pursuits that capture my interest at any given time. Incurably curious. But, this causes me to begin, then abandon, too many projects. So one of the first action points has been to identify only a few precise goals for the coming months and shelve the rest for later.

Get. Up. Early. This is one of the more odious components of the plan. But necessary, I believe. Once the household starts buzzing, I have responsibilities to my family and others. Getting up early gives me silence and head space.

Boundaries. Because my life is mostly other centered, it is easy to completely lose myself in the lives of those I love. While it is honorable, and delightful, to care for my beloveds, there are contributions I believe I am to make to the world that require me to sometimes separate myself for a few hours of undivided attention to a project or a class or a writers group, etc… I am not good at this. So very not good. But I am putting these on the schedule. Because, what gets scheduled gets done. Right?

This is it, really. So far. If I can be faithful in this, I will be considerably less sea-weedy.

Just for kicks (and maybe a little accountability) here are some of the things I am purposing to do…

*Morning prayers. EVERY day.

*A disciplined study of ancient Church music. (at least 2 days/week)

*Become more durable; less vulnerable to injury. Run (a little) less. Significantly ramp up core work. No major running event this year. (first time in 6 years) Instead, a hike. Grand Canyon. Rim to rim. To rim. Roughly the same distance as a marathon one way. With packs. But we will give ourselves a day for each direction. Mike and I both look forward to training on the trails this year.

*A more consistent approach to the mandolin. (at least 2 days/week)

*Complete all 5 levels of Fluenz Spanish. This I am doing with my youngest, and we love it! (5 days/week)

*Write. The main reason I began blogging was to keep me accountable for writing something on a regular basis. As you might (or might not) have noticed, I have been a slacker of late. There are many (pitiful) reasons for this. And it is an exponential equation. The longer I do not write, the harder it is to resume. So, I am allying myself to a writer’s group to keep me accountable for producing some sort of content, and to receive (and hopefully give) valuable criticism. Blog posts will probably be somewhat less frequent than in the past as I focus on a couple of other writing projects. But there will likely be something here at least once a week. Please pop by every now and again. Or, better yet, subscribe and you won’t miss a thing.

How bout you? Do you make resolutions? Have you chosen one word to give shape to your year this year? I would love to hear about them.

**This post inspired by the One Word 365 project. Check out hundreds of like posts (and leave your own) here.

***The title of the post is a phrase my beautiful, wise friend, Gail, often uses when one or another of us becomes overwhelmed by a situation that is too big for us. All that is ever required of us is to do the next right thing. Thanks, Gail.

This year…

This morning you sleep in my house. I will cook for you. And wash your clothes. There will be music. And conversation. And laughter.

Once, this was the stuff of our everyday. Ordinary.

Not any more.

Some years grow us more than others. Such has been this year. So much has changed. And all of us have had to grow into the new of it. Today I honor you, my son, and remember…

This year you got your first real job. The kind you go to everyday. You learned to handle some pretty stressful situations. You took pride in your work and made many new friends.

This year you accumulated a whole bevy of musical instruments. And the crazy thing is you can play all of them. Your curiosity and chutzpa know no bounds. I love that about you.

This year you have wrestled (are wrestling) with big decisions about your future and how it is that you want to spend your life. You have asked important questions and looked deep within.

This year you have said a great many goodbyes. I know goodbye is not your favorite. But I have seen you seek ways to stay connected with good friends. And, of course, you have added a great many new folks to your circle of friendship.

This year you fell in love. It has been beautiful to watch you grow into love with this precious young woman. To see your tenderness and kindness, your creativity and generosity, take precise aim. She is a lucky girl.

This year you moved away. I won’t pretend to write this without a catch in my throat. But I am so proud of how you have handled yourself. I knew you were ready. I knew you would love having friends just outside your door, and you do. I knew you would sit out on the grass and play your music into the night. I did not know you and some friends would buy hammocks and erect little hammock highrises for your moonlight forays. But I am not surprised.

For nineteen years I have had the privilege of watching you grow. Watching you discover all that it means to be Jake; find the hidden nooks and crannies of the self God created you to be. It is a process that will take the whole of your life. But this year you have made some giant strides. I have never been more proud of you.

Happy Birthday, Beloved! God grant you many, many, many, many, many years! (Is that enough “many”s? 😉 *inside joke*)

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