Tag Archive - Love

Soul Stink

One of the unfortunate results of a cleansing fast is the stink. Exiting toxins imbue every bodily secretion–saliva, sweat, urine–with the putrid, rotten odor of death. Death leaving the body……

I am SO over Lent!

It is making me stink.

Or rather, maybe, it is making me aware of the stink–the putrid, rotten odor of death–that dwells in me. A few days ago I sat across a table from friends–one Protestant, one Anglican, one Orthodox–each of us keeping Lent in our own way. We talked about how weary we are of Lent. How weary we are of ourselves. Petty, tired, irritable, hungry.

Consider this: In the poignant book, Unbroken, I just read about Olympic runner turned WWII flyboy, Louis Zamperini, whose plane was downed over the Pacific. In the 45 days during which he was at sea (before being captured by the enemy), he only ate every 7 or 8 days or so, IF he could snag a bird or fish. At first I thought, “How could I be so ungrateful while eating fresh strawberries and mangoes?” And then………then it occurred to me that while he was eating rancid Albatross on a boat surrounded by sharks under the burning sun on the edge of starvation, “At least he didn’t have to watch other people eating bacon!”

See what I mean?

And that’s not nearly the worst of it.

Selfishness…

pettiness…

weakness…

Putrid.

Rotten.

Death.

But….

….the earth is beginning to rumble….

Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday. If there was ever a guy with a potential stink problem, Lazarus was that guy. And yet, Lazarus defied death. Even the odor of death. Not by his own power. It was a gift. From One who loved him enough to weep over him.

And today….

Today, that One comes riding on a donkey…a parade of victory that belies the agonizing road that awaits Him. And yet, He carries LIFE with Him. I will greet Him with hope. Because I need Him. As desperately as Lazarus needed Him. I am wallowing in death. I am covered in its stench. I need LIFE

Hosanna in the Highest!! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!

 

The Things I Can’t Fix…

I remember reading somewhere that a baby’s cry is designed to be specifically uncomfortable to its own mother. In a hospital nursery where several babies are crying at once, it’s YOUR baby’s cry that will cause your milk to let down. It’s YOUR toddler’s cry that will propel you across a playground to rescue your little one and kiss his broken skin.

What nobody told me was that this never changes. That when my teenager or my adult child cries over a broken heart or over circumstances that are trying in the extreme, I would still feel my body course with adrenaline, ready to annihilate the enemy and make everything right. But, long gone are the days when the milk of my body or my kisses are enough to fix my children’s problems.

It is a difficult thing to not be enough.

Not wise enough. Not powerful enough. Not even whole enough to avoid mixing my own insecurities and hurts in with theirs.

Thing is, they have a Father who IS enough. Wise enough. Powerful enough. Whole enough. So why do I work SO hard to fix things myself? Why do I lie awake for hours stewing over them, worrying…repeatedly rehearsing ways I have failed them…things I wish I had done differently?

I don’t trust Him.

Not always.

I know God has used the dark, desperate places in my life to rid me of delusion, to create a fertile place in me for grace, to bring me healing. If this is true, why would I take every painful experience from my children if I could?

I am learning to divert some of my worry time to prayer. I wish it were my first resort. It is not. Yet. I am choosing to open my heart to the possibility that God has good for my babies in the hurt they walk through. To dream of what that might look like. I am learning to whisper hope over them as I hold their sobbing bodies. To gently remind them that there is One who loves them even more than I. Who is relentless in bringing beauty from ashes.

Some days are better than others. This has been a week of other.

Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.

Why Sometimes the Mommy Runs Away

“Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.”

~Henri J.M. Nouwen

Being a wife and a mommy is my favorite. It has been the primary focus of my life for nineteen years now. I adore my husband and children. I love making a home for them, listening to their stories and dreams and plans, welcoming their friends. I love hearing about their discoveries. I am grateful that they come to me in those moments when they are hurting. That they trust me. That they know I am safe. I hope they will always know that.

But every now and then, I run away from home.

Because I know…..to be the wife and mother I want to be…the friend I want to be…the person I was made to be…I sometimes need to be alone. I need silence. Outside and inside. I need to still the craziness around me, and the craziness that is me. I need permission to breathe slowly. To listen…to God…to my own soul.

My dear family has come to understand this about me. Whereas my children used to visibly grow uneasy when I left, they now encourage me to go. Not because they don’t like me. 🙂 But because they love me. And whereas I used to feel the need to defend these bits of solitude to my husband, he now pushes me to find time to get away. In fact, he is sending me away. Today. It is my birthday gift. Silence. Stillness. Best birthday gift ever.

So I will be off the grid for a few days. But I am leaving little gifts for you. Voices who sing silence into me, even in the midst of the craziness. Healing, nourishing, life-giving words. Pop back. I think you will like what you find.

~peace

 

Just Show Up

I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. But when God gently sings the same idea into my life over and over…..and over…..even I can’t miss that.

In less than a week, from three different sources, on three different topics, one message:

Just show up.

First, my sweet friend Anne poured her heart onto the page on behalf of those walking through the heart-rending pain and loneliness of divorce. She said the most important thing we can do when those we love are walking though this…or any kind of pain for that matter…is to be there.

“Here’s the catch. When a relationship is ending, especially a marriage, it physically feels as if your soul has been ripped out of your body. People going through this change will likely not have the strength to reach out to you….Not only do we not want to bring people down with us, we don’t have the strength to engage with others. This is why it’s so important you reach out constantly to your friends.”

It is cowardly to allow my own inadequacies to keep me from loving others. Just because I don’t have any earth shattering wisdom to share doesn’t mean I have nothing to give to those I love who are hurting. They need me now more than ever.

Just show up.

On Sunday, the Orthodox Church honored the great theologian, Saint Gregory of Palamas. Our priest confessed to us how intense and somewhat intimidating he finds the works of this brilliant man who was so important to the Church. He then gave us what he lightheartedly titled “Orthodoxy for Dummies”. Point number one: Just show up. The Liturgical life is a gift to us. God will use it to heal us, to restore us, to make us who He always intended us to be. But we have to make ourselves available to this process.

Just show up.

I have been slowly making my way through Julia Cameron’s wonderful book, The Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice.  This morning I was reading back through underlines and notes when I came to a section called “Rules for the Road”. Here is rule number one:

“In order to be an artist, I must show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.”

It is not necessary for me to know what I will write. I need not have everything worked out in my head. I know from my own experience that most of what goes on the page only reveals itself once words are already flowing from heart to fingers. But if I allow fear of the blank page to keep me from putting pen to paper in the first place, those words will never be released.

Just show up.

Three applications. One truth. It is not our wisdom, our effort, or our brilliance that is wanted. It is our presence. When we are available, the magic happens.

I have an idea this truth is not just for me. Where is your presence desperately wanted just now?

Remembering…

It was twenty years ago, today.

We were somewhere in the middle of the Kansas plains. Snow had fallen during the night, and dawn was breaking on an endless sea of white. We had been driving for hours. From Nashville to Denver to visit Mike’s brother and his family.

We were station surfing when we heard the announcement. In the mountains just outside San Diego, a private plane carrying members of Reba McEntire’s band had gone down. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. We stopped at the first pay phone we passed (you remember those?). Mike called home and there was already a message. Our friend Chris was gone.

Chris who shared my occasional cravings for fried bolgna sandwiches. Chris who played tennis every week with Mike. Chris who helped us muck out our basement when the water heater ruptured. Chris who was crazy mad about his beautiful bride, Trisha. Chris who seemed to see the whole world as a gift waiting to be unwrapped.

Chris who never said goodbye. It astonished me at first. We would be talking on the phone, and suddenly he would just not be there any more. Perhaps we had finished what we were talking about but…well, you know…that tell-tale sign that the conversation is over…yeah, he never used that. He would just be gone.

Ironic, I suppose.

We said goodbye to him on a bright, windy day. Cherry trees threw an exuberance of blossoms against an Appalachian sky. We could see for miles from his resting place high on a hill in Boone, NC. The service concluded with a song Chris had written. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had lived his short life well and had engraved himself eternally on our hearts. The chorus says this:

So let’s drink from a cool mountain river,
And make love ‘neath a blanket of snow.
If we make a lot of memories
as we’re growin’ old
We will take a lot of memories when we go.

 

We remember, dear friend. Always.

 

Band Tribute from Starstruck Entertainment on Vimeo.

Gift…

I have a “keep it forever” box. In it are gifts. Drawings and early scribbles from my babies. Love letters. Notes from my students. Cards from friends. Bits and pieces of one’s heart placed lovingly on paper and given to me. To an insurance adjuster it is worthless. But to me, it is priceless.

Today my husband and I have been married for 24 years. I would like to give him a keep it forever something. Last year I said thank you for the gift he has been to me. I thought this year it might be time to give something back.

So baby, these are my gifts to you:

I give you the gift of being heard. Your hopes, your dreams, your worries and hurts, your stories and jokes, your Snapple facts 🙂 … Share these with me. I’m listening.

I give you the gift of belief. Belief in who you are and who you can be. Belief in endeavors you wish to pursue. Belief in you as husband, father and friend.

I give you the gift of shared adventures. Whether racing up some mountain, navigating strange foreign cultures, trying crazy new foods, running all night, or something so wild we have not dared to imagine it yet, these I share with you.

I give you the gift of kind words. Words to you and words about you. I promise to be your biggest fan. Not blind. Not oblivious to challenges or faults. But honest enough and intentional enough to choose to acknowledge all that is good and true about you, to you and to others.

I give you permission to speak. Permission to speak hard words to me when needed. I do not promise I won’t be hurt. Nor can I assure you I won’t lash out at you. But I say to you that I need your input in my life. So if you are courageous enough, and I believe you are, say on.

I give you permission to not speak. 🙂 I give you the gift of long silent hours shared on the porch, or the beach, or a run, without the need to say anything.

I give to you my vulnerability. My hopes and dreams, my fears and worries. Not so you can fix them. But so you can know me. I trust you with me.

I give you the gift of years. Years to know one another better. Years to add to the deep well of our shared experiences. Years of laughter and tears. Years of sunsets, and chocolate, and dinners with friends. Years of watching our children build lives of their own. Years of playing with grandchildren. Years of ripening and deepening and becoming.

Happy Anniversary, Mike. I love you!

P.S. The chocolates at the top of the post are yours as well. 😉

Coming Clean…

“The springtime of the Fast has dawned, the flower of repentance has begun to open…” 

I’m a reluctant housekeeper. This is not to say there are wild animals living in our home, or an accrual of partially empty food containers growing science experiments. Well, that might be hasty. I do have teenagers…

Most of the time, it takes the whole of my domestic skill just to stay ahead of the obvious piles. Dishes washed. Laundry dried and folded. But this week I am  dusting blinds, washing windows, and venturing behind furniture to battle dust bunnies (or in my case badgers). It’s “clean week” in the Orthodox Church. One of the accompanying traditions is a thorough cleansing of the home. It is another of the ways life and faith become delightfully, disturbingly tangled.

I drag chairs away from the walls and am astounded by spider webs, fuzzballs, filth. How many times have I sat comfortably in that chair with my nose in a book, completely oblivious to the  contamination?

Last night, during the Cannon of St. Andrew, a bit of furniture got dragged away from the walls. Putrid piles of pollution were exposed. In me. The chanters sang familiar stories of those who chose folly rather than faith, and I was reminded that the story is my own…

“Instead of the visible Eve, I have the Eve of the mind: the passionate thought in my flesh, showing me what seems sweet; yet whenever I taste from it, I find it bitter…I have stained the garment of my flesh, O Savior, and defiled that which was made in Thine image and likeness…I have clothed myself in the torn coat that the serpent wove for me by his counsel, and I am ashamed.”

“I alone have sinned against Thee, I have sinned more than all men; Reject me not, O Christ my Savior. Thou art the Good Shepherd: seek me, the lamb that has strayed, and do not forget me. Thou art my beloved Jesus, Thou art my Creator; in Thee shall I be justified, O Savior.”

Looks as though the both of us need some attention. My house and me. So I keep dusting and scrubbing. And as I dust, I pray. I ask God to keep unearthing the hidden things. It is a terrifying prospect, to be perfectly honest. But I would have Him restore His image in me. To rid me of that which is false. However hard He must scrub.

Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me.

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

*All quotes in the post taken from The Lenten Triodion.

So This is Love…

Love…the raw, earthy, sustaining sort…takes many forms. Recently, on a single weekend, several of those bumped up against one another in a most poignant configuration. I was so arrested by the beauty of it, the range, that I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Here, a snapshot…

Friends gather to shower my lovely daughter and her little one to be with gifts, with wisdom, and with love. Laughter. So much laughter. Knowing nods from young moms as she is given an enormous coffee mug. “Oh yeah, you’ll need that!” Cheers and amens for the gripe water. Ooos and ahhhs over ruffles, and pink, and soft, and sugar and spice.

And finally, a prayer. Hands on. Hearts open. Interceding for mom, dad, and baby. And my daughter is reminded that she is part of a community of women who have her back. Who are seeking God on her behalf…on behalf of her daughter. Who promise to be there for her, with her.

This is love.

Just after I return from the shower, we load up the fam and head for the airport. Bennett, Kali and Kaleb Green arrive this day. They will sleep this night in their forever home. It has been a long journey. Longer than the thousands of miles from Ethiopia to Nashville. For them. For their new family. Arduous. Costly. And completely worth all of it.

Love has done this.

Before ever I saw Rafik, I knew him. His was one of those names that showed up over and over as Kelsey talked about her first trip to Malawi. His was the solemn, cherubic face that somehow made it into so many of her photographs. The first time I saw him running toward us on his tiny little legs, I understood why. Ken Morris, the missions pastor who has led so many teams to Malawi, has this to say about little Rafik:

For the past three years, this child, this person with the purest of loves, did more to disarm teams of reticent, apprehensive, cautious Americans than any other single person in Adziwa. Rafik would quietly walk up to any team member who had empty arms. He would get their attention and then, with the warmest eyes and biggest smile, fling his arms over his head. Without saying a word his actions announced to the American guest, “I’m so glad you’re here, I really want to be your friend. Please pick me up!”

On February 18th, in the Lilongwe Central Hospital in Malawi, 4 year old Rafik died. Cause of death: “sores in the head”. Cause of death: Poverty.

Ken Morris again,

More than once I thought of Rafik and wondered what God had planned for this special young child. Would he be a teacher, a pastor, a community leader? I thought, “As we watch him grow up, there are some of us who could help him dream and consider options he otherwise would most likely never imagine.” Today I see that God had it in mind that Rafik would be the one to help us dream and consider options that we might not otherwise consider.

For many of us in America, the poor and vulnerable people of the world are little more than a statistic. For some of us, God has used Rafik to grab our hearts and connect us more deeply and personally with a community of orphans, widows and caring families who daily battle the many threats of poverty.

This too, then, is love.

Love is costly. Always. It is a cost worth paying. Always.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
~I John 4:7

 

*Shower photos copyright Angela Davis

Godspeed

Godspeed

Dusk is falling on the snow out of doors. It presses against the windows in shafts of deep indigo. Flames flicker in red glass before the icons. The stillness is deeper than night. We two are alone. He and I. A pillar burns at his head and at his feet. And I read…

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!

I see him in other days. Reverently standing before the icons. His body weary with years, but his countenance radiant. Illumined from within. I hear his gentle voice in the liturgy, “For Thou art a good God Who lovest mankind and unto Thee we ascribe glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.” And I read…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I remember him sitting across the table, eyes twinkling, as he recollected his childhood in Austria, and his vagabond days as a young man traipsing across Europe and India, collecting stories and seeing God with new eyes. I read…

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

I did not know he was a potter. An iconographer. I wish I had known him better. This I do know, he was a man of great humility. Softly he moved among us.  I read…

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

For almost twenty-four hours someone has stood where I stand, reading the words of the gospels over him. A last gift to this man who has given so much. Standing with him…accompanying him on his journey…to the Presence of God.  I read…

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

In a couple of hours, the church will be packed with mourners. Six priests, some from neighboring parishes, will pray the funeral service over him, assisted by a host of deacons. We will sing of memory eternal. Then we will file before him one last time. We will bow before him as he has so many times bowed before us. We will kiss his hands, his face. Speeding him on to the great cloud of witnesses who beckon to him.

Godspeed, Father Seraphim! May your memory be eternal.

Father seraphim
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. ~Psalm 116:15

*Unattributed Scripture quotes taken from Luke 24 and the first 6 chapters of John, the portion it was my privelege to read.

A Blessing Unsolicited

It is not at all the way I imagined it would be…in those moments…when I dreamed for my daughter…recklessly…without bounds.  It is not the way I dreamed it for myself.  I always envisioned myself as an obnoxious grandmother…of the sort who would relate, in excruciating detail, each moment of the pregnancy, birth and childhood….to my long-suffering friends, as well as to blog readers, mere acquaintances, seat mates on planes, unfortunate cashiers….   Instead, we have eased into it…with fragility, and uncertainty…timidly feeling our way…one…step…at a time.

My daughter is having a baby.  She is eighteen.  She is not married.

I grieve for her.  I grieve for the fact that sadness and regret have wrapped their murky tendrils around a moment meant to radiate white-hot with joy.  I grieve because raising children demands so much of you in the best of circumstances.  And now, it will demand more.  And I grieve for her dreams.  Dreams that must be amended…or postponed…indefinitely.

And yet…..

Life is a gift.
ALWAYS.
Unanticipated. Perhaps.
Not asked for.
But Wanted.
Oh, yes!
Most assuredly
WANTED!!

And JOY persists…nudging, warming, and sometimes erupting into glorious raptures.  Because we have made a space for it.  Because we have learned, through follies of our own, that God takes a peculiar pleasure in transforming what seem to be impossible situations into vibrant displays of His glory.

I watch my precious daughter as she becomes particular about caring for her body to protect the baby.  I watch her dream and study.  I see her unfolding…like a blossom…the sweet, fragile beauty that has been clasped so tightly…unfurling.  I see the intensity of her love for this tiny one who she has never met growing her…stretching her.  And I know this will continue to call something out in her…will help her to find things in herself…she does not even know exist…yet.

I am not naive.  I know this will demand more of her than either of us can imagine.  But I keep asking myself my friend Gail’s favorite question, “What does this make possible?”  And, I confess, I find the possibilities exhilarating.

Friends and family members have exceeded our wildest imagination in the extravagance of their grace and love.  It has been good to see the people of God walk in their roles as lovers and redeemers.  It is another lesson in the power of community and in the futility of living alone.

So, we embrace our unsolicited blessing.  We see it for the marvelous gift it is.  We dream, and we giggle, and we indulge cravings, and we buy stuff, and we celebrate.  Be fairly warned; you have not heard the last of this little one.  I have a whole lot of obnoxious to make up for.

Little bit is to be a spring baby, due April 14th.

Meet my new love:

Baby

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