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Through the Door

Last Saturday, we placed our Dad in what will be his last home. It was all things hard, all things right, and all things Life mixed into a jumble of wearied emotions and ‘next thing’ challenges. SO thankful to a God who loves us and ushers us gently through new thresholds – especially when their the hard ones.  

kaleidoscope

 

We said goodbye over coffee

and haunting silence

covered by the traffic going by

We created our ruse, and collected our thirty coins and left you

wondering

and wandering

in the hallways of your own mind

lost

And we were lost too

between right and wrong and choices that seemed so harsh and hard and right

tumbling together confused as we waded through the maze of truth and lies and made-up stories created to make you believe, to make us believe

that Life might bring us hope again – somehow

So we took the long steps across the parking lot, up the curb and down the walk and we pushed past the Doubts and Darkness that mocked our every step.opendoorPeterGeorgiev

We were bringing you to the “Old Folks Home” The dread idea used to set you off on a tirade when your mind had been whole, “If you ever have to take me to an old folks home, dagnabbit, just shoot me. I’d rather be dead.”

And yet here we were,

and here you were

and here

right around the corner, much to our weary surprise, we found Life

waiting patiently

holding the door

arms opened wide,

“Welcome home, Willie, come on in.”

Then nodding with a smile, He looked our way,  and spoke to us too,

“It’s a been a long hard journey, you two… You did good. I’ll take it from here.”

And just like that – with our hand in His, and our hearts snuggled in His care –

Life walked the three of us through the door.

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Calling All Ye Jolly Oxen!

Sometimes out of nowhere Life bubbles up so full and overflowing that it spills over into one deliciously messy puddle of delightful mud. An amazing mix of Deep and True and all of earth’s richness swirled together into a perfect pool where words splash brown – washed clean – unleashed in hard earned Joy that sparkles pure without them.

mudpuddlebyw

Indeed, a mucky glop of oozing goodness is this Life we get to love. Teasing us, drawing us, tugging us beyond ourselves. Bringing us to the edge of an exquisitely dirty choice:

Dive into the thick of ick? Or stay clean in sanitized, but muddy despair.

The truth is: Life is messy. It can get ugly and lonely, and desperately caked with all things grim.

cakedfeetNichameleon

And it’s easy to get lost in it alone.

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But what if I make you family, and you make me yours?

What if we meet Life head on and stop pretending these mud-filled potholes are easy to walk alone?

What if that is all it takes  to uncover Hope hidden in its depths?

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MudbirdSangudo

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~  We might even discover magic!  ~

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And in the thick of it all, when Good is hard to find, we’ll reach together

to the One whose hand is reaching back – muddied too – pulling us up, lifting us out…

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Showing us, in his throne-to-manger way, how to love each other clean.

…Bubble bath clean!

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So, let’s do it! Let’s jump in. Let’s fling off our shoes. Lift high our heads. Open wide our arms and find a hand to grab. Let’s welcome this Life in all its messy glory and dive right in with every brown splattered hope that’s left in our hearts.

MudSplashPeasap

Because sometimes there’s just no other way around.

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I think it’s time, don’t you?

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“Hey Ollie! Ollie! and all your oxen friends.” Together, we have all we need to live this crazy, hard, wonderful Life.

No more hiding! Come on in!

It’s free! Free! FREE!

mudscreamWesCutshall

So thankful for all these flickry, creatively in common photographic artists: (in order of appearance: w; nichameleon; jimee jackie tom and asha; Adam Cohn; Sangudo; fveronesi1; Ben Mcleod; Mark Dumont; my_southborough; peasap; Our Enchanted Garden; and last but not least Wes Cutshall

Morning’s Revelry

rooster

It’s icy blue outside – that shade of blue that paints itself cold between night and a dawning day.
And in the distance the roosters have begun their morning song.
Heralds of a new day, they crow in frantic urgency, “It’s coming! It’s coming! Wake up! Be ready!”

Every morning they cry.

A wandering frog joins in and the revelry strengthens, “It’s here! Look up! Be brave!…It’s time!” And quietly I’m reminded that just last week, in another land, I heard coyotes and Canada’s geese sing their version of this same song. “It’s a new day! It’s a new day! It’s a new day” … their cries beat strong.

Loud. Clear. Insistent.

         Funny, what can catch your heart’s ear when you listen to the stillness.

What do they see, these watchmen of the day? What music do they hear? What dreams lay swaddled in the arms of the warming horizon?
… Is there purpose beyond the scribbles on my planner?

At first the answer whispers, then beats loud, and pulses sure:

A call to forgive. A chance to love real. A day to live true.
A call to forgive. A chance to love real. A day to live true.

A call to forgive – the icy blue gives way. A chance to love real- the song echoes deep. A day to live true  – dreams stretch to Sun’s first beams.

Slowly in this moment between night and dawning day Life begins again.

Surely in this morning revelry there is

true and persistent

Hope.

sunriseikewinskiPhoto: Flckr Creative Commons: ikewinski

Look up

I get car sick

and seasick

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and any other churning illusion that paints itself Deathly Dizzy White.

I know its optical trickery.

I know Outside stands still beyond the car window… as I’m catapulted forward motionless

I know the horizon stretches beyond me steady and true … as I bob and weave among Life’s waves.

Yet try as I might, my head and my stomach can’t sort out what is still and what is moving, and I buy-in to the illusion every time. Every. Stinkin’. Time. I just can’t seem to reconcile what’s happening around me with what’s happening inside me

… and I’m left dizzy, nauseous and in desperate need for some sweet kiss-the-ground reality.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to fight this green-gilled monster. I know to guard closely, from the start, the smidgeon of balance that cowers in my inner ear. I know to let fresh air splash my face and fasten my gaze straight ahead. I know to lock sights on a distant point with the focus of a sharpshooter.

And I know to always. look. up. ALWAYS.

But Life’s choices aren’t always wrapped so neat and tidy. One day you’re looking out on the horizon of a calm and endless sea, and the next you’re gazing down mesmerized- hypnotized- by the Everydays that swirl at your feet. And before you know it, you’re pushed and tugged, whirled and churned, and left with your stomach in your throat, your head in your lap, and your feet stuck deep in shifting sand — praying to God for the spinning to stop.

Because you know all the regrets in the world won’t quiet the whirling madness that spirals in your head. Only the one who calmed the sea. With a word. And for this you hold on tight, and hold on strong,

and wait for the dizziness to pass

… because it will. It will.

So open wide the window and feel fresh the wind

It will pass.

Laugh. Cry. Dig deep. Breathe slow.

It will pass.

Look up. Look far. Look deep.

It will pass.

It will.

“I look to the hills from whence cometh my help? My help comes from the Lord
the maker of heaven and earth.”

Photo credit: Wendy Zukerman at Flickr

Photo credit: Wendy Zukerman at Flickr

Each Day

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 8.34.37 AM

 

A prayer in the wake of a tornado

The sun is going to rise today. Over the horizon. Covered by clouds or not, escorted by colors or not… the sun will rise. A relentless task master, a faithful friend. And ready or not, friend or foe, we move on together this sun and us.

Oh Lord, help us to number our days.

Help us count this day as one that matters. One that rises simply. One that cloaked by weariness or not, heralded with fanfare or not, shines with smiles that soothe, hearts that care and hands that work along side in the rubble of a fallen world that cries for answers, weeps for mercy.

Help us, Jesus, find in this day: our purpose.
A purpose bringing us deep into Lives of those You died for.
A purpose that sends us with love scarred hands to Lives that cry out in darkened places, hiding in despair…

Lives that need to know that

Each
Day
You wait for us, cry with us, yearn with us.

Each
Day
You wait to carry us on wings of eagles that rise up from the storms of Life that too often hurt, bury and destroy.

Each
Day
You come for us and carry us

whether we push hard against your hold and struggle wild in our grief
whether we pound your chest, and scream our pain and blame the very breath you give
whether we know it’s You who carries us from the rubble or not

Lives that need to know that

Each
Day
You rise to rescue.

The sun is going to rise today. Over the horizon. Covered by clouds or not, escorted by colors or not… the sun will rise. A relentless task master, a faithful friend. And ready or not, friend or foe, we move on together this sun and us.

Oh Lord, help us number our days.

Flikr creative commons: C Jill Reed

Today I Dig Deep

calm-before-storm-1

This day I rush home. This day I tear off the Sunday best that paints me cold and distant with all things fake, and shallow. All things that I loathe…. and all things that I am.

Something is going on in my soul, like a brewing storm. Something dark. deep. unknown. And I fall to my knees.

I’ve been in this place before. I’ve heard these distant rumblings and felt the churning winds, and I’ve been caught in the deluge – unaware-  too many times to count. But not this time.

Not. This. Time.

This time I step into the comfort of my grungiest jeans and sweatshirt – like best of friends – and I rush outside to the garden, the dirt, and I dig deep.

I’m not looking to plant seeds or pull weeds or pretend I care about anything except the in-the-thick dirt of earth jammed deep beneath my nails, immersed to my elbows, and wiped in the sweat of my brow. No gloves. No tools. No caution. This is what I need. This is what my heart demands: plunge deep into this fallow ground, churn this earth too long neglected, bring it to the surface, remove the rocks … and feel. Just simply feel.

This is what I know.

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But in seasons past I didn’t know. I’d face these seasons of the heart and to try to fix things by burying all the ugly. Like this garden that now lay dormant in my hand, I’d layer on the manure, heap heavy the compost, sprinkle light the peat moss and call it good. Sure, I’d dig a little here, stir a little there. But mixing deep and mixing true is hard work and makes pale the black, rich soil so desirous. “Why dilute all this goodness with such poor soil?” I wondered. “Why waste my time with what lies beneath?” I mused. “I’m only worried about the top six inches anyway, right?’ I argued. “The rains will come, the goodness will seep down. It won’t matter.” I decided. “It won’t matter.”

But it turns out that it does matters. Turns out Life can be burned in shallow, layered goodness. Turns out, like me, new roots can wither in the midst of all things holy – silent and desperate for all things real. Like me, they cry out for all of Life’s messy fullness. ALL of it.

All of humanity that cries out for Truth to burst through the layers and light the fire that has iced within.

All of Truth that stands immovable- unafraid of dirt, or ugliness or the messiness of Life.

All of Life that finds its beginning in dark, hidden places, planted firm and deep and holy in this sinner’s heart

So today I dig deep. I thrust in my hands. I crush the clods, finger the humus, I work gently together the good with the bad. I turn Life on its end and make room for Hope again. Ugly churns with Beautiful. Anger tosses with Forgiveness. Holiness makes peace with all things frail…. Mixed together. Mixed deep. Mixed True.

Life is messy. Life is holy. We live and we thrive and we are healed when we make room for both.

Today I dig deep.

Today I make ready for rain.

Storm_Brewing_by_MikeyStudios

Alleyway Vigilantes

Alley1

Down a darkened alley way I walk
 Suffocating
 in the gloom
 of familiar shadows
 that threaten from within

Suddenly footsteps resound behind me
Racing with my heart
 They run faster
Reaching for my soul
 They draw nearer
In a moment of frenzied madness 
They have come for me 
~and I stand frozen~

there is nowhere left to hide

Suddenly silence explodes behind me

Gladness and Joy leap from the darkness
 Wrestling with Hope 
 Restraining with Peace
 Handcuffing my soul to Truth
Sorrow and Sighing have taken flight 
I am overpowered by Love

~and I am free~ 

Rescued once again
by
God’s Alleyway Vigilantes.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
     and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Is. 35:10)

Purrfectly Understood

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Meow.

MeeeeeeeeOOWWW.

Me Me MEEEooooow.

mew

Loud, soft, constant, intermittent. No matter what the variation my cat only screams one thing: “Listen to meeeeee. I neeeeddd. And I neeeeed neeooooow. Serve meeeee NOW.”

Most of the time I know exactly what he wants: that perfect ear scratch, that comfortable spot on my lap (or computer), or maybe the door opened to his napping chamber. And most of the time he gets what he wants. (One notable exception are those 0’dark thirty early morning yowls that have me sending sock bombs his way to get my point across.)

However, there is one cry that has us frustratingly baffled: our senior feline meows for food that’s already in his bowl. Crying and carrying on, he moans until we follow him to his place setting and assure him: “Yep, there it is.” (At which point he always happily eats. Again.) …Um, was he not there when his yowl brought food to his bowl in the first place? And was he was not there a mere 5 minutes ago, when he purred and chowed and pretended life was cool? And was he not there the THIRD time we escorted his highness to his dish to show him that yes, in fact, his feast was still there, awaiting his presence?

Baffling. Frustrating.

(Could he possibly have Kitty Alzheimers? Not even kidding here.)

Yes, I know –in more ways than I care to admit — I’ve been duped. But lest you totally thing I’m that typical cat person. I’m not. My dad did a thorough job making us a “We hate cats” family. And quite honestly I will always choose a slobbery, devoted dog over a finicky, aloof cat. But somewhere between high school and adulthood I found myself short on canines, and in desperate need of a furry beast to pet my way through a crisis. And somewhere between despair and more tears, my sister’s deaf dingbat feline wormed her way into my heart, and I became a reluctant cat love…er…tolerater. Okay, so I’m not all cat mushy but over the years I’ll admit: there’s something obnoxiously endearing — and all too suspiciously familiar– about these “me” creatures.

Which brings me to today, because in the midst of a very one cat-sided conversation, I suddenly wondered:

Do my prayers sound all the same to God? Loud, soft, constant, intermittent and no matter what the variation, do they all say: “Listen to meeeeee. I nEEEddd. And I neeeeed  neeOOWW. Serve meeeee NOW”? Do I wander through this world with seemingly the same request, trying to lead God by my little string of commanding persistence to show him what’s the matter? Does He sometimes lovingly throw sock bombs my way just to make his answer clear? Do I yowl at a full dish, thinking my cry and his showing up, have made it somehow magically appear … when it was there all the time?

And seriously, when all is said and done, doesn’t God show up anyway, just like me … simply because I love the stupid cat?

Me (eeowww) thinks so. (Isn’t that just so purrrrrfect?)

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Kaleidoscope (A New View)

kaleidoscope

Recently I wrote a post about one of my kaleidoscope days — One of those days I tumbled through life feeling disjointed and scattered. I almost deleted it. But then I stumbled on a poem I wrote that First Summer when Dad came to live with us. The summer when I was so desperately trying to find more than just a remnant of the man I once knew. I had named it Kaleidoscope too. Funny.

So I reread them both – my post and my Dad poem. And I realized that sometimes it’s just too stinkin’ easy to look at what’s broken. Sometimes it seems the only show in town are the shattered pieces tumbling in the constant of shifting sands.

So I decided NOT to delete my broken day, and I decided TO share that First Summers’ poem. Because, really, so much of this Life IS broken, and lost, and needs to be searched for.  And the tragedy of this Alzheimer world where Chris, Dad and I live IS tragic, and sad, and churns with fractured images that I’d gladly trade for just one whole complete one.

.. So, yes, I’ll share.

BUT…

But today, I wasn’t reminded of tragedy or sadness or brokenness. Today I wasn’t even reminded of Alzheimer’s. Nope. Today I was reminded of the kaleidoscope’s miracle. I remembered the excitement, and the joy, that was re-created with every turn. I remembered the simple hope of unexpected beauty and transformed images. Today I remembered that we are promised beauty for ashes — a colorful, twirling dance of indescribable beauty, formed with all the fragments of our shattered, wonderful lives.

Today, I hope you are one twist away from the miracle you hope for.

Kaleidoscope

In a kaleidoscope

of fractured time

you fall

a fragment of memory

churning

a shard of shattered life

twirling

Captive in this

house of mirrors

where shifting shadows

and waking fears

are forgotten faces

turning

a fragile life

swirling

Frozen in this kaleidoscope

of fractured

time

I look for you

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Creative Commons by Maia C. and ark Photostream

On your mark, Get set…

TrafficSignal         In the beginning…

I learned pretty early in my time here on Earth, that I don’t like beginnings and endings. Beginnings brought the ever-looming reality of endings that inevitably caused pain. Whether those beginnings were for projects, or stories to be written, or new recipes, I decided I would avoid them as much as possible…

like I’m doing right now

Take Two

In the beginning…

I don’t like writing beginnings and endings. They can make or break a piece; the responsibility is too much. I remember in high school I’d procrastinate until the 11:59th minute. Not because I didn’t do the research, or put in the time, but because of those darn beginnings and conclusions.

And it wasn’t just in writing. It was everything. I didn’t know how to begin a friendship — so I wouldn’t. I didn’t know how I would possibly finish a project — so I never started. Or I started so many stinkin’, imperfect times that the motivation peetered out and I was left with an unfinished mess…The end.

 

Geesh!

Take Three

In the beginning…

Sigh.

Beginnings suck.

Take Eleventy-billion

So, here I am. On my mark. Getting set. Still wrestling with this ‘interesting’ character flaw and I read:

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Bah-dah Boom, bah-dah Bing!  Ouila! Done deal! (Insert a little happy dance.) No more worrying about beginnings or endings! No more false or floppy starts. No more faltering or fall-flat endings. What a relief! And now all I have to do is the ‘in-between’ stuff. NO sweat.

So yes,  there’s this beginning in January.  There are hopes and dreams and heart-felt commitments to make them come true. And yes, soon enough we’ll see the ending approaching and there will be December again. And we’ll look back and see all the ways that we succeeded and failed. We’ll see that we tried hard, and loved big, and if nothing else we tried hard. But in-between? Ah, in-between, is the good stuff. In between is Life: God-given, wonderful, glorious, messy Life.

Wahoo! Bring on the good stuff. On your mark, get set…  (I’m good to go. How ’bout you? )        

ButterflyGirl

photo by stevendepolo (creative commons @ flickr)

The Perfect Gift

I’m a recovering perfectionist.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been dancing this particular step called Not Good Enough: Not tall enough, not cute enough, not social enough, not ‘Whatever’ enough. And I spent a lot of years blaming it on my dad and his perfectionist ways.

In my early adolescent memories, I have these laser-sharp images of my dad listening to me play the piano, and at the end of each song he’d say, “That was beautiful, honey, but you could have…” Then he would critique whatever it was that he thought could have been better.

I never heard the “That was beautiful, honey.”  I never heard the love in his voice, or see the pure enjoyment on his face when I played. I never heard the heart that was giving me the highest praise of trusting me with gentle suggestions.  I only heard, “It’s not good enough.” I only heard “You should have…” Consequently, I spent a lot of years trying to play that perfect song for him.

I never did.

After a while, I just stopped trying. Instead, I got A’s in school to try to tip the perfection scales in my favor. But by then, Dad was preoccupied with plans of his retirement, and not quite the gung-ho cheerleader for good grades that he had once been.

And to be honest? I was done. I thumbed my nose at all things Dad thought perfect: Catholicism, Education, Order. I didn’t even fight for “Better” anymore. Instead, I fought for “Why try?” and “Who the hell cares anyway?” I became the perfect rebel that didn’t care.

But the sad truth was I did care. I always cared. And the sad truth was it wasn’t Dad’s perfectionism anymore, it was my own. I just didn’t know it.

So outwardly I rebelled, but secretly I strove for Perfect in those deep-down dark places where no one would see the desperation of how much I cared. And when I couldn’t find perfection in me, I tried to find it in experiences. And when that failed, I looked to others. And when people failed, all I was left with was a bankrupt soul. Imperfect. Ugly. And flat on my face.

And it was there on my face, he found me– my Prince Charming, my sweet, Nazarene rebel. He took my “Not Good Enough” monster and slayed him right in front of my eyes. It was there, he lifted my face, and showed me Love in those big, brown, beautiful, caring, Mideastern eyes . . . with not even the teensiest hint of critique.

It was there I finally found all the perfection I would ever need.

It’s been thirty years since then. Everything changed that day, and yet sometimes it feels like nothing changed. I’m still Jane. I still wrestle the monsters that shout, “Not good enough.” I shake my fist at this fallen, imperfect world, all the while reflecting its ugliness every time I judge, or point my finger, or shake my head and mutter in self-righteous indignity.

And I still try too hard to play that perfect song for my Dad again …

But then comes that gentle suggestion that whispers I might be judging my heavenly Dad the way I used to judge my earthly one. I am reminded that God isn’t waiting to hear a perfect song, or critique an imperfect life, and he isn’t occupied with thoughts of retirement — Instead, He’s waiting with love in His voice and enjoyment on His face.

He’s waiting to help me find my way to that simple Bethlehem stable, hoping I’ll unwrap again the Love that lay bundled in the manger.

The unbelievable Truth is:

He waits for me, and He waits for you, every moment of every day.

Perfect Love. Perfect Peace. . . The Perfect Gift.

And for this recovering perfectionist, this is definitely news of great joy!

 

Merry Christmas everyone.