Tag Archive - Marriage

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.

Of What Value, a Life?

We laid her body to rest on a cool, clear summer morning.  Blackberries were just beginning to ripen along the fence rows.  Sweet pea blossoms nodded in the breeze.  The whir of insects, and the intermittent gossip of birds, supplied the only sounds.  The cemetery was an island of green in a great field of freshly mown hay, lying in strips, waiting to be gathered into bundles of winter sustenance.

I remember walking down there with my grandmother as a little girl to visit the graves of our forebears and to share stories.  And now she will sleep there in those mountains where she raised her babies…where she rose in the pre-dawn hours and walked with my grandpa to the dairy barn that provided their livelihood…where she carved a garden out of the earth, then preserved its yield so that her family need never be hungry…where her table was always laden with good things, and her chicken and dumplings were the stuff of legend.

She welcomed her grandchildren (and later her great grandchildren) to this world apart.  It was a life of simple elegance.  You could see a million stars in the night sky, and almost as many lightening bugs hovering over the fields.  There were barns, and corn cribs, and old pieces of forgotten road to explore. Here the dogs frequently smelled of skunk, and the water smelled of the iron that was heavy in their well. And when the summer heat was too much, there was a deep swimming hole nearby that was always cold.  Life was slow here.  And good. We got snowbound one Christmas.  It was the best Christmas ever.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”  Revelation 14:13

I have pondered this verse since the minister shared it at her funeral.  Even though she now abides in the Presence, I know that she has left bits and pieces of herself in us.  As I contemplate her legacy, the deeds that follow, here are some of the traits that live most vividly in my recollection, and I hope live, at some level, in me.

Extravagant Love She and my grandpa were married 71 years.  That, in itself, would be quite a feat.  The beautiful thing is that they were still crazy about each other.  He used a different voice when he spoke to her than he used with anyone else.  I have seen Grandpa teary before, but never in my life have I heard him sob……until yesterday.  He has lost his sweetheart.

All of us who sat on her porch yesterday, who gathered around grandpa and sang away the afternoon, have been the grateful recipients of that love.  That doesn’t mean she was oblivious to our faults.  She never hesitated to offer words of correction or advice when she felt they were warranted.  But she found ways to make each of us feel as though we had some singular value, as though we were special.

Exceptional Vitality She tilled her garden until she was in her 80s.  Quite frankly, I am in awe of that.  My mom laughed about the fact that when Grandma went along with the sisters on summer vacations they thought she would give them an excuse to move slowly.  They were wrong.  She and my grandpa visited my aunt in Germany when I was a teenager.  And I still have fond memories of a trip our whole family, grandparents included, made to the beach after I was already married.  Hers was a vitality of mind as well.  Always learning, always curious.

Perhaps this was one of the hardest things about watching as both body and mind betrayed her after her stroke.  We knew the vivacious woman who lived inside.  And even within the confines of a body that no longer did everything she asked it to, those sparks of ebullience, of wit and good humor, still emerged from time to time.

Extraordinary Generosity The line of mourners stretched across the room, down the hall, and out the door at times.  So many people loved her and came to say so.  She had given of herself to them…encouragement, advice, understanding, sympathy, courage.  Some of them she had taught, others she had fed, driven, served, mentored.  Grandma had a way of seeing people others do not see and drawing them into her loving embrace.  My daughter is very like her in this.  I loved hearing their stories.

“How does someone who lived so simply leave such a hole?” my cousin Amy asked through her tears.  My grandma was not famous.  I’ll warrant you have never heard her name.  But every life that intersected hers was made richer by her presence.  I would take that over being famous any day.  She lived a quiet life of ordinary, extraordinary beauty.  And that is profoundly valuable.  I am blessed to have known her.

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.

Two Tickets to Paradise

I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again….

Just how many song lyrics do you think I can steal for this post? 🙂

Tomorrow, Mike and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage. Against all odds. Despite all we both did to wreck it. It is nothing short of a miracle. So we are off to celebrate. Tonight we will sleep at the extraordinary Peace Lodge pictured above. It sits in the midst of the beautiful La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Over the next few days we will zip-line over the top of the rain forest, sit in volcano heated hot springs while watching Arenal spew hot lava and steam, ride white water through gorges and past waterfalls, take night-time walks through the jungle, watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean, all while surrounded by remarkable wildlife.

There will be a little anniversary post tomorrow. Then, over the next few days, a couple of posts from the archives with something to say about marriage and loving long. I will also be tweeting the occasional photo as I have access to internet. But do not hate me if I do not respond to comments for now. I am otherwise occupied. 😉

To all of you who are making the choice to love…every day…hang in there! It is more important than you know! Do not lose heart.

Best Beloveds

My favorite cards are those that bear an image of the giver…hand-cut, perhaps, with scrawls of crayon or heaps of glitter…or with words, carefully chosen from someplace deep inside.

In honor of the day, a few words…hand cut Valentines, if you will…for my best beloveds. And a question: What are the words your best beloveds need to hear from you? Words only you can give them? They do not have to be flowery or fancy. They need only be yours.

Mike my love for you is an Old Vine Zinfandel, the yield of gnarled vines much twisted by the wind, and irrevocably entwined by the many years of growing into one another. The grapes…crushed and bruised and left to rest, ferment and age, forming an intoxicating nectar. Rich, delicious, warm, potent, lively. I drink to you today, best beloved. Salud!

Kelsey my love for you is a warm frothy cappuccino, sipped slowly at an outdoor cafe in Salzburg. Its dark bitterness, the depths of you which must be sought out, deep calling to deep. And the rich softness of the cream, your tenderness, your gift for seeing the unseen, your generosity of spirit. I look forward to a lifetime of lingers with you, best beloved.

Jake, my love for you is a box of dark chocolate truffles. Even now I can see your face as you savor. Everything. Wonderful food, a glorious sunset, a painting that pierces to your depths. And music. So much music. Thank you for long talks, profound ponderings, and for extravagant love. I treasure you, best beloved.

Joshua, my love for you is ice cream with syrups and candies and sprinkles, served in an elegant stemmed bowl at a table set just so. It is all curiosity and celebration. It is making things grand and lovely. It is enthusiasm and creativity and joie de vivre. You are an inestimable gift to me, best beloved.

Kenzie, my love for you is a bowl of ripe berries. So sweet it almost hurts. You are everything fresh and wild and springtime and delight and new. Happy first Valentines Day, best beloved! God grant you many more.

Happy Valentines Day to all of you, my friends! I am grateful for you. May you have the courage to love boldly and extravagantly, and to give yourself away, today and every day.

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…).

 

11 Moments That Have Made My Heart Skip a Beat

Happy 11.11.11! This is the last of the 11 posts. It has been fun, but I am exhausted. Don’t expect to see anything new from me for a couple of days. Just read back through any of the 11’s you missed. And maybe leave a comment. 😉

Thanks to Bryan who suggested this topic. It was, I believe, the most fun to write. I find myself, at the end, very grateful.

Giving Birth to My Babies  I think it is safe to say I have never encountered anything so transcendent…so astonishing…so absolutely unbelievable as the miracle of life emerging from my own body. Sure I was working. But I felt no pride. Only the most profound sense of having…for a moment…touched the otherworldly. Of standing in a rift between time and eternity. Out of which came this remarkable little bundle of life. I saw it. I felt it. But I do not understand it. And why God allows us to be part of it…I do not know. It is an extravagance of grace.

Sunset, Florence, Summer 2007. (see above) We stood on the Ponte Vecchio and watched a Master artist at work; painting the sky in an ever evolving fury of color. It wrapped itself around us and we were inside it. How do you plan a moment like this? What would you do to attain it if you could? It is gift. Lavish. Reckless. Glorious.

Stepping into the upper chapel at Sainte Chapelle  We wound our way up a dimly lighted stone staircase. It was impossible to glimpse any hint of what awaited til we were spilled out into the room. And then, Oh My!! Three soaring walls of stained glass. Floor to ceiling. The room vibrated with color. It splashed onto the floor. It hummed in the air. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I could only stand there, helpless, tears running down my face. I was undone.

Long had I resented popes and priests who built such extravagances as these from the tithes of peasants who could hardly feed their families. Until that moment. At that moment, I knew I would gladly starve to be cloaked in the glory of God like this. Just once. To feel His Holiness rest on my face as a shaft of colored light.

The Invocation in the Eucharist to make the Bread and Wine, Body and Blood  We are supposed to be singing at this moment. But I frequently find myself unable. It startled me the first time. So weighty and profound, so marvelous and mysterious. I thought, perhaps, that over time it would lose some of this power. I was wrong. Three years later, my eyes fill with tears and my throat closes. My it always be so.

Watching my daughter give birth Don’t even begin to think it is the same thing as number 1. Not even close. Yes, there is the miracle of life begetting life. Of ten fingers and ten toes, and breath and blood. But there is something else. Seeing your daughter become something else. A life giver. She who brings forth. Brave. Strong. Determined. All love. All sacrifice. A miracle of a different sort.

Standing in front of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night  I am a great lover of art. It is not unusual for me to have strong feelings about works I see. But only a precious few have inspired a visceral reaction. This was one of them. The curious thing is that I knew very little about van Gogh when I encountered it over 20 years ago. It’s as though some of the immense passion van Gogh poured into his work was able to communicate itself to me directly, without translator. Gut to gut. Soul to soul. Understanding his story as I do now, I can give words to some of that. But all I had in that moment was the intense pang in my heart that told me there was far more here than swirls and stars and paint. And that bound me to the work, and to the artist, forever.

Watching Jake draw  It has fascinated me since he was a little boy. Art seems to pour out of him. Like water. He picks up a pencil and begins. No hesitations as he thinks long about what to draw. No draw erase, draw erase, til it’s right. The picture is already in his head (or in his heart?) and his hand knows precisely how to translate it to paper. It is a wonderment to me. I am in awe.

Being in Monet’s Garden at Giverney  Perhaps it all comes of having read too many fairy tales. The ones where someone gets swept up out of his day to day world and carried off into some fairy realm. When I was in Monet’s Garden, I felt that I had stepped into one of his paintings. As we meandered over the grounds, I kept finding myself facing a perspective that I knew only too well. But now the fronds of weeping willow swayed with the breeze. Bees hovered over blossoms. And there were ripples between the water lilies. And still, there was this sense that I must be dreaming. That this was too extraordinary to be believed.

Josh singing Amazing Grace at his school talent show  He was a quiet seventh grader. None of his friends or teachers suspected he was so talented. He stepped onto the stage, I gave him an introduction, and lyrical incense flowed from his mouth. Pristine, clear, sweet. Nobody moved. Everyone was completely silent. As though no one dared sully the sacredness of this moment. And I knew how much it would mean to him. And my mother’s heart swelled with gladness.

Up From the Grave…  When I was a little girl, Easter was a new dress, Sunrise service, and a song we only ever sang on that day. It began, appropriately, as a dirge. “Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.” The whole time we sang this my heart beat faster and faster because I knew what was coming. “Up from the Grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes…” Even when I was too little to understand all that the song meant, something inside me knew that the whole world was turned upside down between verse and chorus. I sang the song many times as I grew older. Even as a cynical teenager. But it never lost its magic. Even now, just typing the words, I have butterflies in my stomach.

The Proposal  It’s not like it was a complete surprise. We had already talked about marriage. We had even looked at rings. Just in case. 😉 But when it happened, for real, I was giddy and scared and excited. And a little piece of me seemed to float over the whole thing and look down on it, like it was happening to someone else. And it took wearing the ring and telling people for a few days before that little piece of me crawled back into my skin. And I was able to believe. And it became true.

 I would love to hear about the moments that have left you breathless. Do tell….

 

My Friend, Hannah Coulter

My grandmother would blush like a schoolgirl…when I asked her questions I had no business asking. She and my Grandpa told us wonderful stories about their life together. About their courtship and about the early years of their marriage; hard, lean, and good. But if I began to push too far for the romantic details, her eyes would twinkle, her cheeks flush, and she would say, “I guess that’s kind of private.”

Not all the particulars are the same, but the world of  Hannah Coulter is very like my grandmother’s. Same era. Both of them farm wives, wed to the soil as much as their husbands. Both with a tenacious, indomitable spirit, and a feminine grace.

Wendell Berry tells the story in Hannah’s voice. And when she speaks of the love she and Nathan shared, I sometimes feel like I’m peaking behind my grandma’s twinkling eyes and rosy cheeks, to a story women of her generation just didn’t tell. Of a tenderness that thrust it’s feet into the soil as they wrested a living from the ground. Of lovemaking that was a culmination of long days of gathering hay, and feeding the animals, and sharing meals. The all day kind of loving that grows and seasons with years.

You may have a long journey to travel to meet somebody in the innermost inwardness and sweetness of the room of love…The meeting is prepared in the long day. In the work of years. In the keeping of faith. In kindness…

You come together to the day’s end, weary and sore, troubled and afraid. You take it all into your arms. It goes away. And there you are, where giving and taking are the same. And you live a little while entirely in a gift.

The words have all been said, all permissions given. And you are free in the place that is the two of you together. What could be more heavenly than to have desire and satisfaction in the same room? If you want to know why, even in the midst of telling of sorrow and sadness, I am giving thanks. This is why.

I will miss Hannah’s voice. As I miss Grandma’s. She has been a worthy friend; telling stories of folks very like those I grew up with. People who take care of one another. Who sit a spell on the porch, and talk deep. Who share in the labors of the day, and also in celebration and grief. People who understand the land and its wants and needs. Who sorrow to see the demise of the small farmer and the slipping away of a life that has been good to them.

Thank you to my friend, Ian, who recommended Wendell Berry’s Port William novels to me in the Lost Books post. I can hardly wait to pick up another one. And thank you to www.christianaudio.com for offering the audio download FREE this month. I encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Get to know my friend, Hannah. I think you will be glad you did.

Stained Glass Hearts

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

Diminutive dynamo. Teller of tales. Wearer of audacious designer boots, including at least one pair in red. She who can captivate a whole stadium full of women and keep them breathless, on the edge of their seats. All are apt descriptions of Patsy Clairmont.

But it’s only part of the story.

Contemplative. Poet. She who has a deep ache for beauty, transcendence, truth. Weaver of words who can turn a phrase with a delicate, fragile loveliness that pierces the heart. This too is Patsy Clairmont.

I’m known for my playful approach to life, which is fused within me; but to those who are closest to me, I’m also known for my need to pull on galoshes and wade into a thought. I guess when you’ve lived 60-plus years you collect a lot of heartache from this wind-whipped world that causes you to search the shadows of the forest. In my childhood I would have skipped through the woods oblivious to anything more than the path ahead, but today I’ve learned to check the secret places for the treasures of darkness.

Patsy’s new book, Stained Glass Hearts, is a sweet washing of the soul, with stories true and deep. With generous transparency, she takes us inside some of the more excruciating places in her life. She gives a courageous, vulnerable account of fear so paralyzing that it kept her housebound. Difficult to imagine if you have ever seen her on stage. But that is the beauty of the story. She shows us how, if we let Him, God will take the broken shards of our lives and solder them into luminous works of art.

…even though the stained glass pieces are artistically designed, they still have been broken, sanded, and soldered. They didn’t naturally fit the redemptive pattern without holy repairs. Also, stained glass art doesn’t begin to show its beauty or its inspiration or release its story until light touches the dark. The light transforms an otherwise subtle picture into a brilliant, dimensional experience.

Along with her stories, her experiences, her great loves and her great woes, Patsy introduces us to some of those who have shed light on her path. At the end of each chapter is a gallery in which she shares poems, paintings, songs, prayers, artistry of all sorts that have nourished her spirit. I implore you to google each of these as you read. A sumptuous feast for the soul.

Many of us have come to love the ones who have left lovely lines that fit inside us, that help us to see our world more grandly and ourselves more kindly.

Don’t all of us wish we had more wise voices in our lives? Those who deal with us winsomely and honestly, helping us find our true selves. Patsy is such a voice. As she walks with us through gardens and galleries, thunderstorms and snow, she gently points out things along the way. “Did you see that?” “Listen!” And our parched souls drink the liquid grace of the moment. And we are refreshed. And inspired. And emboldened.

Rescue us from small speculations. Enlarge our hearts. You alone, Lord, can attend to our desperation. Silence us with your peace. Comfort us with your tenderness. Mend us with your love. Amen.

Amen.

 

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