Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trees on the edge

Hours pass and still the rolling patchwork fields of green rest under the bluest sky. A spilled container of marshmallow clouds are scattered and hang as beyond what my eyes can see.   As the minutes tick away, tree lines are page breaks in the endless corn that stands tall slightly golden in the August sun.  My eyes catch silos and delight in grand old barns. There is something so incredibly disorienting about this space. The fields go on and on like markers on a map constantly announcing how we’re deep into uncharted land.  I’m certain change has never been so startling. 

Fences run along the interstate that once sliced through farmland in the name of progress.   Queen Anne’s Lace, Black-Eyed Susan's and a delicate purple flower  adorn the roadside.  The occasional cluster of bursting green trees on the edge of the fields stand boldly against the squares of sameness. I’m reminded of  the thin, spiny trees that grow with their roots exposed along the jagged cliffs of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Eastern Redbud with its pale lavender blossoms that softly hang in juxtaposition to the dark shadowy lines of rigid rock.

The trees on the edge express a language that I understand the most.  I welcome their presence in this season, like a dear friend standing in solidarity.   I feel the vulnerability of the winds that sweep across the vastness and the rattling that reaches so deep. I feel known.

As we drove all around Kansas City this past weekend,  my eyes caught sight of a bedroll and backpack high in an underpass of the busy interstate.  I’ve seen it before, countless times, especially in Los Angeles, but that green sleeping bag is still vivid in my mind. And as we drove away, I lingered in the stark air of displacement. Place is such a powerful character in our story. It’s been three weeks and I haven’t a clue where I really am.  I can tell you the zip code. I know that if you take two simple turns out of the neighborhood, town is just down the road, but I’m lost somewhere in this setting of fields and farms under the great open sky.

I picture a farmer gazing out at his land, a plot of earth so familiar.  Knowing where the sun will burst forth each morning and the silhouette of the trees that it will illuminate.  Aware of how all the living things tilt when the winds blow from the west or the habits of a summer storm. His eyes detect when the fields reach the perfect hue of harvest.  His connection to the land so sacred and true. In this great world, he has found his place. And where he finds belonging, I feel an expanse of uncertainty and bewilderment. 

Far from the edge, where the sea roars and greets my wild.  Distant from the rising and majestic mountains that reach high to heaven.  The sky feels bigger here exposing every hope and fear. The winds sweep over the land demanding surrender.  I cannot stand in this place unaffected.  It’s terrifying out here in the open.

And I’m ready to consider that the home I seek cannot be found.

To be continued…

Monday, August 3, 2015

the one with grace

We sat on the deck as the sun dipped below the trees and farther still.  The air was warm and not heavy.  Four green Adirondack chairs were arranged in an oval and the baby, the one who is eager to grab a hand and stretch those little wobbly wings crossed back and forth.  

It’s been a day.  A two hour attempt to remove tiny splinters from the hand of a six year old boy, who is as still and stubborn as Everest  Another day of that whole unsettled game, where the kids ask when we’ll go home and where is our new home. How do we really make them understand time and the process of it all.  Their questions turn up the volume on our own, where is our new home and when will we get there.  How do we begin all over again? The temporary housing isn’t bad, ever so sweetened by adoring grandparents, but is the loss of home already such a strong feeling at ages four and six and one. The flood of emotions is constant as the sea with high tide and low tide.  Help me Jesus, it’s been mostly high tide these days. 

I think we always forget this part, because a portion of us is always dangling in this semi-uprooted existence, while softened by the rhythms of our days which play out within the walls filled with our things and ways. However, for our babies not yet plagued with the gift of the restless adventurer, there’s no place for those feelings to go, so we catch them, and keep them afloat the best we can while treading water.  

We went to the beach one last time before leaving the East coast and the waves were so beautifully fierce that we had to clutch their wrists with all our might to keep them from folding into the power of the waters that pulled upon the shore.  It’s like that, but if we are honest, the waves shake our footing, too.

We forge on with eternal optimism because what else would we do, there is no other way to play the roles we’ve been given, that blessing curse that beckons us onward.  Hoping that the emotions of now three young children will go easy on us.  Surely, they won’t, but we’ll make it through. We’ll make it through, we always do.  Surely, we’ll do it again, right? 

All that and it’s only just bedtime.  Three kids who woke early and barely napped must be wrangled into bed, all in the same room. 

Will you read us a story? He asks, you know I was kind of hoping to skip it. Will you read us a Jesus story?  He asks, not well enough versed in the rhetoric to call it a Bible story.  I like it better that way, don’t you, because don’t all the stories point to Jesus. Even the story of today with its trials and heavy clouds of growth and faith.  Especially those.

Sometimes when I read their children’s bible, the poetry of the words catch me off guard and I almost feel him reaching out to us.  Adam and Eve were sent from the garden, that perfect home, propelling all of humanity on a painful journey, catapulting us into an existence of searching for home where our hearts are whole again.  Now all our days and labor and yearning and creativity cry out to the only one who holds that which we seek.  Sure, they disobeyed God and trusted the snake, but this human story is no tragedy, because all our wanderings are marked with this, I am with you, wherever you go. 

I finished reading. The baby was already asleep, how exhausted she must be.  I sat on the edge of his bed until his eyes were small slivers.

 But, mama, how come we can’t see God?  Where is he? 

Well, baby, he’s everywhere. 

But, how? 

I don’t really know, but I know he’s so big and so great that he’s everywhere. 

You mean, he’s by the ocean and the jungle and in America? And outer space? You said he was in the waves, but we can’t see him?

I told them how there are special places where we can see and feel God the most.  I told them that there will be a special place where they may not be able to explain it, but will feel God so close that seeing isn’t important.  I said that God has a special story for you to live and it’s going to be wonderful and brave and creative.  I told them I can’t wait to see what that story is.

What will that story be, mama?

I don’t really know, but you’ll see.

The dark room was silent, two little heads with eyes half open, fully alight with a world of thoughts more radiant than the sun. One little baby in footy pajamas closing out day 364 of her sweet life.  I could have kissed their heads and left the room, but I didn’t dare move from the presence that needed no introduction.  No one spoke for minutes or was it seconds?

I don’t really know what that story will be, mama, but I think it will be good.

Grace clutches our wrists, as we take those first wobbly steps. Grace holds us in the crashing waves and carries us through the story.  I don’t really know what the story will be, but I think it will be good.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Tale of Mama Bear and the Block Tower, as told by an idealist

My darling,

Today we went to the Children’s Museum for the last time. We’re moving this weekend and if you kids were stuck roaming the house full of empty walls and boxes one more day, it may have been a horror story--for me.  You needed a change of scenery, things to climb, and tools to create. 

We played near the baby pond, a soft area for babies to be safe from the whirlwind rodeo of children who move without awareness.  You began to build this elaborate structure from the soft blocks. A mother and her young son approached.  Clementine threw blocks out of the circle.  Harper practiced her ballet along the sides.  The little boy wanted the blocks that you were, but his mother saw how your head was reeling with a plan and she asked him to wait for you to finish.  I thanked her with a smile. 

Just as you were done, a reckless storm blew on the scene in the form another boy.  Almost instantly, his sent your walls and tall arches to the ground. You watched in devastation as tears welled in your eyes.  I looked at the boy, who was already bored with his surroundings.  His mother and her friend watched him without the slightest raise of an eyebrow or mischievous smirk.  They didn’t shrug their shoulders, suggesting that boys will be boys.  They didn’t even react.  They were gone.

Her blank face caused  a fire to grow inside me.  I held you close in your sadness and saw the first mother and son, who witnessed the whole event.  Their faces were heavy with the injustice of it all.  I wanted to confront the thoughtless villain of the story, I really did. Sadly, even as an idealist in a full mama bear moment, I don’t think it would have mattered.  Instead, I wiped your eyes and took a deep breath.

Baby, I hope you always create amazing things.  I love the way your eyes glow as your mind works.  I wish I could see all the greatness that is happening up there.  We only get a glimpse out here.  I hope you never stop seeing the materials before you with unlimited potential to become something new.  Never stop building.  Pour your heart into your work, let it dazzle everyone with imagination and truth.  Creativity is our gift that changes the world.  I know this to be true.

And just as easy as we can create, we also have the ability to destroy with that same great force. It’s huge and otherworldly; it’s powerful and fierce. The world is full of people who will take one look at your masterpiece, all your heart and passion and stomp it to the ground.  As sure as breath flows through their veins, they will ruin whatever they find.  I can’t yell at them all.  I wish I could. We can’t always take up arms against the sea of troubles.  Some battles are not worth fighting, although many are.  This is something we keep learning our whole lives. 

That child didn’t pause to see what you were doing.  He didn’t notice how each block was placed with intention.  He didn’t imagine what it could be or ask to join. Maybe his world little room for potential and possibilities, a mere existence, a force of survival.  We can’t always know the story, we only get to live ours.  Let it be one of awareness, goodness, and heart.

My son, our sadness can be a gift, so that we remember how it felt, so that we don’t bring that same feelings to others.  I can’t keep you from sadness.  I can’t stop the thoughtless destroyers, but I can tell you this, so that maybe on the hardest days, when you need to find the good in the world, you’ll have these words planted somewhere deep.

The world is a beautiful place, but it’s also pretty ugly.  You’ll meet all kinds of encouraging people who will help you along the way.  Remember them and be like them.  You’ll meet all kinds of people who have yet to discover how their power can be used for good, it will be heartbreaking and sometimes, they are hard to forget.   They’re actions and words will stick in your head for years.  Don’t let them win. You may want to give up, so many times.  You may wonder if what you do matters.  Sometimes, I ask those questions too, but think about this, light eradicates darkness, that means, if there is even a sliver of light, it will penetrate the darkness.  Like the stars that shine so boldly in the huge sky above us.  They look so small from where were are, but they are bigger than we can imagine. So when it all feels like a big, dark night, look for the stars.  And if you look everywhere and see only darkness, take something into your hands, tell a story and create the light you need.