Dirty Socks and Beauty

Oh the difference a week makes!

 

Last week I was still humming in the glow of the conference I had just attended. Tired, yes, but still warm and filled with thoughts of beauty. Filled with hope and with an eagerness to stir imagination in my children. Filled with refreshment from conversations and music and feasting.

 

Today? Well, today there are dirty clothes strewn about the house upstairs. They haven’t quite made it to the laundry room. The laundry basket is overflowing with clean clothes which need to be put away…I was tired after the third round. There are still a few dirty dishes in the sink which couldn’t make it in the load last night. Sweatshirts and shoes are in various places around the family room.

 

Library books are stacked on the kitchen table, next to the decoratively cool turban squash. And an empty Jones Soda can.

 

Somehow there is an empty hair gel container also on the kitchen table…Maddie has been emptying out the bathroom for me.

 

We have a leak in the fireplace that has come under the marble and soaked the carpet during the days of Noah we had recently. Beginning to dry out, but it left an interesting smell and we had to wait until the rain stopped before someone could come to look at what is wrong. Hoping that happens soon.

 

Ah, basking in the beauty.

 

Life is busy; crazy busy. Steve is swamped at work with a project which will culminate the first full week in November. Until then he is working seven days a week. Sports are in almost full swing. Practices are happening and games being attended. Biblestudies are happening and church events. Field trips. Tutorials.

 

Life.

Full and busy and constant. 

Dirty dishes and laundry and leaks.

 

Beauty and afterglow has a hard time elbowing for room. I would love to sit and read for hours, but I have lesson plans to figure out and grading to tend. Where do I fit in this imagination and wonder and creativity?

 

Some seem to do it with an elegance and grace that amaze me, while I feel disheveled and harried. Tacking on my wonder while I hide the dirty laundry.

 

Deep breath.  

That was what I needed.

Mondays are generally a bit messy. I find it difficult to get my rhythm back after the weekend, and I want to start with some silence. The house always bears some battle signs from the weekend, and I know I need to tend to it, but first…I need to tend to my soul. That is part of what I learned last weekend.

 

Beauty, and tending to beauty and imagination and wonder, is not a luxury nor an extravagance. It is a necessity. A priority.

 

That deep breath that gives the strength and the calm to face the litany of things needing to be tackled. It’s not just dirty dishes and laundry. It is parents aging and friends struggling. Jobs with great stress, or friends with no jobs and the great stress of ends not meeting. Deep breath.

 

I need the strength I find in the beauty and the wonder to carry me through the tasks at hand. All of them. Loving well, tending the things in my care…living well. 

So the dirty dishes and the laundry and tidying will wait just a bit longer.

 

A strong cup of coffee and the porch and ancient words of prayer await.

 

Messy Monday….meet a resolved heart.  There will be beauty and wonder here in this house this week, even if a dirty sock is poking out somewhere.

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The Necessity of Luxury

Rarely in my life do I have moments when events with significantly diverse elements happen simultaneously. The anticipation of one event filled me with anxiety while the anticipation of the other filled me with hope and excitement. The result? A realization of how I am so often caught in my fears, along with how vital beauty and wonder, and what might even be considered luxury, is to this walk of faith in a broken world.

 

The eldest boy’s hockey team had a tournament in St Louis this weekend, the same weekend a conference was happening which I eagerly had been awaiting since April. My very gracious husband planned to take all the children to the tournament, leaving me free to completely enjoy my conference. This was the plan and it was great.

 

Until the harsh reality of our brokenness shouted for attention in St. Louis. The weekend was dubbed The Weekend of Resistance in protest of police violence after the shooting death of Michael Brown. Another young man was shot on Wednesday leading up to the weekend. Tempers were flaring and the violence of our world was on display.

 

Police Shooting Missouri-1

 

The call for protests led to anxiety for this mama. I began to make alternative plans for my weekend, trying to find ways to keep the younger three children home. Trying to pull in close those I hold dear and protect them from what I anticipated would be a violent and unpredictable weekend. The riots surrounding Rodney King happened during my college graduation weekend; memories fueled my fear. The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh.

 

The first game was 10 pm on a Friday night, only 10 miles from Ferguson. Ugh. 

My much calmer husband was not worried. He was aware and planning alternate routes to keep out of the fray, but he was not worried as the ice rinks were not in St Louis proper. The final decision was to stick to the original plan. And ultimately I trust his wisdom and I prayed and sent them off.

 

My conference, called Hutchmoot, is a conglomeration of artists and musicians and creative souls alongside those of us who appreciate the art and music and beauty. An intentionally small gathering,  desiring to lean in toward God and His stirring. Leaning in toward those things that are beautiful we hope to be changed, being ignited and refreshed with the incommunicable grace of community.

 

In the midst of what has been a rather chaotic life lately, this weekend brought refreshment. There was music and storytelling, art in the decorations and all around, and amazing food which brought it all together with feasting.

hutchmoot

 

Steve’s weekend was filled with avoiding violence born of our brokenness. People desiring to be heard and understood and spilling over into anger and frustration, clashing with those who are trying to reign in the violence and keep order to our lawlessness. Plus, Steve had to contend with a sick 3 year old and Zach had some food poisoning thrown in on Saturday evening. Still…they survived despite all my fears. They encountered none of the violence I anticipated. Zachary was able to do what he loves, and do it well. They were weary and ready to be home by Sunday afternoon, but happy and content.

zachpic

 

I almost missed something significant, however, because I focused on what-ifs. I almost missed a weekend of new friendships, of challenges to open my eyes and see more (more than just what frightens me? ). I almost missed seeing Luci Shaw who had encouraged my soul 13 years ago at Regent; almost missed conversations with her that again encouraged my soul.

hutchmoot1

 

 

I almost missed the call of Welcome Home which stirred in me desires for our home. Stirred in me desires for my children. Stirred wonder and excitement. Stirred hope.

Dinner

 

 

Honestly, this weekend was close to luxury. When I registered I was one of the lucky few able to get a ticket, and I wondered at the time why I needed this. The fact is, I have been more weary than I thought and I needed this more than I knew.

WelcomeHome

The fear drawn out by the hockey tournament’s location and timing showed me how much I am caught by fear. How often I miss good things because I am so focused on the brokenness and the unknown. The brokenness and the unknown are always there; the wonder and richness of home help us walk in the midst without fear.

The luxury of the weekend was not luxury…it was necessity. Necessary in this moment to refocus and refresh.  Necessary to remind me of how wonder and beauty and love push out the fear and the anxiety, leaving room for life to happen. Grace to happen. I almost walked away from a weekend that was a gift.

 

At the coffee shop on Sunday morning Over The Rhine’s song Called Home came up in my playlist. Fitting, isn’t it?

 

Just shy of Breakin’ Down
There’s a bend in the road that I have found
Called home

Take a left at loneliness
There’s a place to find forgiveness
Called home

With clouds adrift across the sky
Like heaven’s laundry hung to dry
You slowly feel it all will be revealed

Where evening shadows come to fall
On the awful and the beautiful
Every wound you feel that needs to heal

And silence yearns to hear herself
Some long lost memory rings a bell
Called home

Old pre-Civil War brick house
Standin’ tall and straight somehow
Called home

Mailbox full of weariness
And a word of hard won happiness
Called home

Leave behind your Sunday best
You know we couldn’t care a less
Out here we’ve learned to leave the edges wild

And stories they get passed around
And laughter – it gets handed down
Read it in the lines around a smile

Our bodies’ motion comes to rest
When we are at last
Called home

Grace Brings Glimmers of Hope….

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I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop, sipping great coffee and listening to good music mixed with the chatter of happy folks. I have a pen to use in my journal, but the pen is not cooperating; the ink just won’t flow very well and I find I have to re-trace the lines. I am, however, stubborn.

I want to use this pen, and when I am done I want to slide it back into its flowered sleeve. Because the lilac pen and the flowered sleeve hold more than a simple writing instrument; they hold the memories of the woman who used to write with this pen. Back when it flowed well.

The pen and the holder are stylish and I can remember Mom pulling them out of her purse and using them. I can remember even that act being done with a sort of elegance.

Mom was always stylish, and she carried herself with this confidence and elegance. Everywhere. People noticed her.

momdad

Dementia has stolen her thoughts and some of her elegance. Not all, though. She still carries herself with dignity and she still speaks with an innate politeness and compassion.

However, she simply is not completely there…she is a shadow of herself. A physical reminder of the strength of character, sharpness of wit and commanding presence she once had. We catch glimmers.

I realized that sometimes I am not much different.  Some days I am a shadow of myself. I am caught in the mundane and the demands of the day, the trivialities and the noise, and I am lost. Sometimes the broken world is stronger than the creativity and the wonder that I desire to develop. The strength of character and the intellect I inherited are stifled by a weariness of a broken world.

I catch glimmers of who I could be, of who I would like to be.

Those are the moments God graces me with a reminder.

A lavender pen tucked in a floral case. Words of grace and beauty from authors who live more fully in the moment than I.

Words of grace from a Creator who understands the weariness because He took on the flesh we wear and He walked:

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

Words of reality that although this world in which we walk and live and breathe is marred by brokenness and by sin, there is still healing and there is still hope. Words of reality that although sometimes we only see the glimmer, there is One Who sees more and Who knows the whole of the story. He sees the result of the storm we walk through and sees the result of the long obedience.

He sees the ultimate healing and the ultimate glory that we only long for in this season.

“When I asked my mother why the trees were so much larger on the ridge than anywhere else, she replied that it was because the winds were the strongest and the storms were the fiercest on the ridge. With nothing to shelter the trees from the full brunt of nature’s wrath, they either broke and fell, or they became incredibly strong and resilient.
God plants you and me in our faith as tender saplings then grows us up into “trees of righteousness,” using the elements of adversity to make us strong. And He leads us to endure, not just somehow, but triumphantly as we choose to praise Him, regardless of the storms swirling within us or the winds howling outside of us.” -Anne Graham Lotz