We Haven’t Missed the Moment…

How are you doing this morning?

 

I find it a little silly, this blog that I turn to from time to time. I realize that friends read, but I think it is mostly a place for me to process my thoughts. Since it is more than a journal or something hidden, maybe I try to think a little more clearly. My grammar is still poor, but the thoughts get across. Today I need the push to think more clearly.

 

Today, I am finding that lack of connection to people heavy. And that need to process equally insistent.

 

And yet…

 

I have not journaled once during this stay-at-home order. How many days are we now? 24 days since I picked the oldest up from college. 24 days.

 

I am a journaler. I think best when i write, and yet…I have not thought very well in the last three weeks.

 

I have been distracted. 

 

How about you?

 

 

I’ve been following the numbers, but also not allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the news. Before my allergies went into overdrive, I walked with the kids through the neighborhood. We looked for bears in windows, we looked for rocks that had been decorated and spoke little messages of hope. Now I linger on FaceBook and read the stories of hope. I relish the conversations between neighbors online offering help, offering encouragement. I’ve been distracted enough to watch the Tiger King. I think even our neighborhood car burgler is adhering to the stay-at-home order because we have not seen him in three weeks. People are trying to behave.

 

We have not suffered in our house…we have been inconvenienced, but not suffered. We are accustomed to school at home, so that has not been a significant change. I am missing watching my soccer player, and Maddie only participated in one practice before everything stopped. We were coming out of Spring Break when this all began, and the rhythm of a relaxed schedule has continued. It’s almost 10 and three of the kids are still asleep.

 

And yet…

 

This is Holy Week. Lent got caught up for me in a forced austerity, at least of community, not an intentional fasting and focus.

 

I have neglected the readings. I have glanced at the slow progression toward the Cross, but I have not participated.

 

Now. Good Friday is upon us. I’m not really ready. I missed the preparation in my soul.

 

I’ve been distracted.

 

Have you?

 

I have friends who have done well. They have pressed in to God. They have prayed, they have thought well and they have pursued. I have prayed…but I have been distracted. I have friends who have also written well about the strangeness of this time, and the difficulty to process while we are in the midst of the moment.  This is an article worth reading, from Rebecca K Reynolds.

 

Distraction can be lethal to our spiritual health. Check out this quotation from G.K. Chesterton:

 

“For, though we talk lightly of doing this or that to distract the mind, it remains really as well as verbally true that to be distracted it to be distraught. The original Latin word does not mean relaxation; it means being torn asunder as by wild horses. The original Greek word, which corresponds to it, is used in the text which says that Judas burst asunder in the midst. To think of one thing at a time is the best sort of thinking; but it is possible, in a sense, to think of two things at a time, if one of them is really subconscious and therefore really subordinate. But to deal with a second thing which by its very nature thrust itself more and more aggressively in front of the first thing is to find the very crux of psychological crucifixion. I have generally found that the refined English persons who think it idolatrous to contemplate a religious image, turn up next time full of delighted admiration of some Yogi or Esoteric Hindu who only contemplates his big toe. But at least he contemplates something, and does not have ten thousand brazen drums to encourage him to do it. He is so far a real philosopher, in spite of his philosophy. He does not try to do two incompatible things at once.”  – Chesterton from On The Prison of Jazz

 

“To deal with a second thing which by its very nature thrust itself more and more aggressively in front of the first thing”! Yes! That is the sense of my thinking right now, thank you G.K.

 

One more from Chesterton:

 

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.”

 

We have to be present to the one thing right now. This week. This pivotal moment that we remember, that we embrace, that we ponder. Boy did I need help this morning to bring my attention to check. Chesterton has helped, he has pointed out the problem…how about a little help from Buechner:

 

In our minds we are continually chattering with ourselves, and the purpose of meditation is to stop it. To begin with, maybe we try to concentrate on a single subject-the flame of a candle, the row of peas we are weeding, our own breath. When other subjects float up to distract us, we escape them by simply taking note of them and then letting them float away without thinking about them. We keep returning to the in-and-out of our breathing until there is no room left in us for anything else. To the candle flame until we ourselves start to flicker and burn. To the weeds until we become only a pair of grubby hands pulling them. In time we discover that we are no longer chattering.

If we persist, every once and so often we may find ourselves entering the suburbs of a state where we are conscious but no longerconscious of anything in particular, where we have let go of almost everything.

The end of meditation is to become empty enough to be filled with the kind of stillness the Psalmist has in mind when he says, “Be still, and know that I am God”  Buechner from Wishful Thinking

 

 

 

 Guess what? 

 

We haven’t missed it. You who are distracted as I am. You who are having a hard time staying focused on reading anything. You who are having a hard time getting out of bed, for that matter. You who long to lean in toward God, and yet the energy and the focus are difficult to find at the moment….you haven’t missed it.

 

Today is Good Friday.

 

 

 

You haven’t missed it. 

 

Press in today. Find the space physically and mentally and spiritually and meditate. Stop the chatter. Need some help?

 

Start here, with some thoughts from Malcolm Guite  and then continue to this from Steve Bell with Malcolm Guite. These will help you think on the stations of the cross, with a link to Malcolm’s sonnets on the stations and a couple songs from Steve.

 

 

Then, this….this is a fantastic resource. This is a visual resource for praying through the Stations of the Cross. This will give you the steps to focus your mind, to prepare your soul for Easter.

 

 

Finally…find an online service. We have one at my church, The Village Chapel. Use the resources and press in. Push out the distractions, at least for today. Then again for Easter. Then again the next day…

 

 

This is a strange time, and distraction may be a saving grace for at least moments in this season. But not for this moment. This moment requires discipline, and requires focus. I’m a little more prepared now…how about you?  Let’s press in and not miss this moment. This very strange Good Friday and Easter which may just be a moment to meet Jesus in a new way that awakens our spirit.

 

You haven’t missed it.

Spaghetti For Breakfast: Sustaining Moments

I’ve been up since 2am. Trying to navigate a challenge involving one of the kids off on an adventure. I promise to tell about that soon, but not quite yet.

I can tell you this boy and his independence will teach Steve and I more about relying on God than many things we have experienced. We have learned to pray and trust and realize that ultimately these kids are God’s and He has plans we can’t even imagine.

 

Sometimes that education is  bit exhausting, emotionally and physically.

 

Like navigating challenges at 2am. After being awakened at midnight as well.

 

My response?

 

Spaghetti for breakfast at 5:30am.

 

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Now, I love spaghetti, but there is a deeper reason for turning to spaghetti for breakfast this morning.

 

When I was growing up my middle brother used to come home from dates and make spaghetti late at night. I would lay awake and wait for him to come home, then follow him to the kitchen and wait while he made spaghetti and eat with him. I honestly don’t know how many times this happened…as our minds play with our memories, it may have only been once or it may have been dozens of times. Regardless, it left an imprint on my brain.

 

Rarely do I make spaghetti without thinking of my brother. And sometimes, when a day has been especially challenging, a plate of spaghetti can bring a sense of comfort. A moment of sustaining.

 

I like what Madeleine L’Engle says about how we carry with us each age we have been:

 

“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages…the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on; to forget is a form of suicide… Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grownup.” 

 

We all know that there are tragedies many have lived through, and those continue to impact them as adults. There are moments of childhood which leave a mark that one would rather forget.

 

But there are moments which leave a mark, a memory…something that gives us strength. A fragrance or a moment of music can spark the emotion from childhood, from adolescence, and can bring strength. Spaghetti for breakfast. Comfort. Reminder that I have a foundation which is sufficient for the challenges of today.

 

 

So in our days as Moms and Dads, as brothers and sisters…remember today that we are creating these moments for those around us. We are giving them tools, we are giving them reminders…we are giving them comfort and strength for the future when they may need it the most. Rituals and rhythms which might spark the knowledge of a strong foundation.

 

I have a feeling Maddie and Sam will have some connection to the theme song from Great British Baking Show.

 

Today, though, as I finish off the spaghetti, I want to think of how to be intentional about creating these moments. I want to be more consistent with them. Life has been moving so quickly, I feel as though I have been holding the tiger by the tail. Time to slow that down.  Time to make the room to do something out of the ordinary. Time to craft a tool the kids can rely on in the future.

 

One other note. The kid that is off on an adventure is actually off with the middle brother mentioned above’s best friend. Confused? Well, this best friend has cared for my boy with diligence and kindness that is the fruit of a deep gratitude.

 

There have been bumps in the adventure they are on, challenges that were not expected. They have navigated them well, but again and again this friend has said that he is thrilled to be able to care for our boy because of the times my brother and parents cared for him. There is a foundation of kindness in that relationship of 38 years which is reaping a benefit for my teen.

 

So. Be kind. Establish some rituals and moments our kids can turn to for comfort and strength and reminders. And remember that the kindness we offer to those around us may come back in completely unexpected ways to be a blessing. Isn’t the crazy connections of life grand? Isn’t it just like there is a creative God who surprises us constantly in how our lives are connected with those around us?

 

Now. Go find your version of spaghetti for breakfast and be encouraged, comforted…blessed. You have the tools you need for today.

 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow Sent by God…

 

Whew. Sometimes the weight of sorrow surprises me.

 

I came online today, logged in to the blog, and tried to translate some recent thoughts to coherent words.

 

I made a very quick trip home about a month ago. I wanted to see Mom, and the rest of the family. There is a lingering homesickness that strikes sometimes, even when you moved away from home 24 years ago. Even when you have lived away from home longer than you actually lived at home.

 

That homesickness is amplified when you grew up in a place as unique as New Mexico, where the skies have a special shade of blue and nothing else will take care of the craving for red and green chile.

 

And it is amplified even more when one key, elemental, powerful force of your life is slowly inching her way toward eternity.

 

We all are, I know, but Mom is in her own way. She is holding her place physically here in our presence, while most of her is somewhere else. Her thoughts, her words, her connection…it has become hidden. Her laughter.

 

Her smile remains, and the twinkle in her eye.

 

I sat down and tried to put words to this nagging feeling, this sorrow, that has been present for years. I have several friends who continue down this road and I wanted to share something that would encourage…or at least remind that we are not alone.

 

 

And then this came up in memories on FaceBook…a picture from ten years ago.

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And the sorrow settled upon me.

 

An acute sorrow with this picture of a more clear minded person. A person who was able to interact and who still knew in some way.

 

There is a sense where mourning is set aside with a long disease like this. I don’t know what it would be like  if it was a long disease where her mind was present, but I know on this journey we simply cannot be sad all the time…it is exhausting.

 

I think of Mom as this place holder…this bookmark in life. Or maybe a pause button is more appropriate. She is present and not…and we continue with life, and yet we don’t. My brothers and my dad are more impacted by this, obviously than I am, as the rhythm of their days is dictated by her meals and her life.  But she causes this pause in life, she reminds us that she is still here, and yet she also reminds us of all we have lost.

 

She reminds us that we are broken. That sorrow is lingering around the edges of our joy. Sorrow because things are not as we know they should be. Sorrow because we long for something else.

 

G.K. Chesterton has a poem where he suggests that sorrow is used by God to bring us back to attention to the divine, to the eternal…

 

Sorrow

At last, at even, to my hearth I hark,
Still faithful to my sorrow. And inside
Even I and all my old magnanimous pride
Are broken down before her in the dark.

Sorrow’s bare arm about my neck doth strain,
Sorrow doth lift me to her living mouth
And whispers, fierce and loving like the South,
Saying, “Dear Pilgrim, have you come again?

“Whether you walked by wastes of upland green,
Whether you walked by wastes of ocean blue,
Have you not felt me step by step with you,
A thing that was both certain and unseen?

“Or haply is it ended? haply you,
Conquering and wholly cured of loving me,
Are but a wavering lover who would be
Off with the old love ere he take the new?”

But, seeing my head did but in silence sink
Before her ruthless irony and strong.
She gave me then that dreadful kiss to drink
That is the bitter spring of art and song.

Then with strange gentleness she said, “I choose
To be thine only, thine in all ways; yes,
Thy daughter and thy sister and thy muse,
Thy wife and thine immortal ancestress.

“Feed not thy hate against my rule and rod,
For I am very clean, my son, and sane,
Because I bring all brave hearts back to God,
In my embraces being born again.”

Thus spoke she low and rocked me like a child,
And as I stared at her, as stunned awhile,
On her stern face there fell more slow and mild
The splendour of a supernatural smile.

 

 

 

Sorrow is appropriate. The words are gone and the understanding is gone, but her presence remains. In the same moment it reminds us that this world is broken and it is painful, and because we know in our being that it should be otherwise, sorrow sparks hope that things will ultimately be put right.

 

The rest of my day was shadowed, though, as that picture intensified the sorrow. And maybe that is what I was to write about after all: it is okay to be strikingly sad that those we love dearly no longer know us, and no longer can speak to us. It is okay to take time in the long journey of a set-aside mourning to mourn with tears and acute sorrow when God allows sorrow’s stern face to bring us back to know our need for Him.

 

I think we all carry a sorrow with us that is part of this broken world, and sometimes God uses this acute sorrow to allow a true mourning that cleanses us. A good cry can be tremendously healing, so we can sit back up and be present in the midst of this broken world and bring hope.

 

So for today, if you took a picture of us together, I may not mirror her quite as I did in the picture above. Her expression has relaxed as her knowledge of me has slipped. If you ask how she is I won’t know quite how to answer…I wonder what whispers God is telling her that we cannot know.

 

 

And for those who are on this same journey…take heart. You are truly not alone, and God is moving even through this. Lean in to the sorrow and hear God’s heart. Do not try to ignore it or overcome. Allow the moments of deep mourning, and be reminded of the hope that all will be made well.

 

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An Inconvenient Work of Refreshment

There is a conference that happens the first weekend of October in Nashville, and has been happening for about eight years. Tickets go on sale in Spring and in the past have sold out in a matter of seconds. I was one of the fortunate few lucky enough to grab a ticket three years ago. I almost didn’t go, and I wrote about that here.  This year I didn’t even try for the ticket, because I just didn’t have the funds or the time.

Until the last minute, a few days before the conference and an extra ticket was offered up on FaceBook. I went for it. I splurged. It was a spontaneous moment. I didn’t really think through all the consequences, I just knew that I needed refreshment.  I needed to be among this group of people, represented by a pipe smoking rabbit. Crazy, right?

Hutchmoot. This oddly named, hard to define gathering of creative people desiring to foster wonder, desiring to instill a theologically infused wonder into our bruised world…this conference always refreshes. Filled with writers and painters, singers and songwriters, musicians and chefs, and people who appreciate all of this. Somehow it even refreshes those of us who don’t get to go, just by listening to the testimony of those who have gone. 

This year, though,  I jumped and decided to attend. Honestly? It was a bit of a challenge. The conference meets about 50 miles from my house. The husband and the eldest were in St Louis at a hockey tournament, while I was home with the other three kiddos. Which meant while the conference was happening, I was running between the conference and tutorials and soccer games and home and friends homes. I was not completely at home or completely at the conference. 

It was all a bit inconvenient. No. Not a bit. It was inconvenient.

You know what?

It was worth it.

The bit of the concert we caught on Thursday night, the bit my husband and two of the kids attended…completely worth it. They got it. They caught a glimpse of what Hutchmoot was about.  The  session Friday morning on hospitality and the importance of the table I caught, after catching a bit of ‘Muffins with Mommy’ at the tutorial (which was thankfully two miles from the conference) with the younger kids…completely worth it. Completely.  Lunch with a friend and a new friend, then driving home with kiddos and settling them in before running back to the conference for a bit of the dinner and evening conference? Well, that was kind of a pain, but worth it. 

Saturday…dropping some kids at the soccer field and other kids at a friend’s house, then watching hockey games and soccer games  on periscope while waiting for sessions to begin, then engaging in sessions and conversation? Yep…you guessed it. Worth it. Deciding to leave the conference before the evening session…difficult. Laughter at home with the kids was good.

I drove 350 miles over two days. I switched gears between parent and conference participant I don’t know how many times. I tried to take notes and gave up. I worshipped, listened to concerts and drove miles. It was inconvenient. It cost a fair bit of money. It was, honestly stressful. 

It took work.  Work for me, work for my friends helping me out with letting my kids hang out with them and coaches giving kids rides home. 

What is the point?

Refreshment is important, it was important enough to work to get there.

Find it. Search it out.

We are in a bruised and broken world.  The week of the conference was the week of the shooting in Las Vegas. The week of brutality and fear and sorrow. The weeks leading up to the conference were hurricanes and floods. Now there are fires.  Our world is broken, bruised and so in need of hope and wonder. Gospel. Refreshement. 

That refreshment takes work.


The conference took great effort and work…we benefitted from the effort and discipline and work of all the session leaders and the workers who put together beauty in words and music and visuals. Months of planning, disciplines that have been developed. Thoughts and ideas and lectures prayed over and discussed and edited and revised. A vision for refreshment and encouragement and hope…and inspiration. And we benefitted. From all this work. 

In some ways, this year was even better for me. I did not get to connect as much with people, but each time I walked in to the building I took a deep breath and had to intentionally change my focus. I had to set aside all the busyness it took to get to the conference…and take in the moments I had there. I had to make the most of the time I had in that setting of refreshment.  The conference took work for me this year…lots of planning and effort to make it to just two sessions and a bit of two concerts. It cost me a bit more, and I paid attention more as a result. 

Now, I am able to reflect and read some of the books I picked up. I’m able to take the time I need to think and to pray and to listen. I am able to hopefully allow what was begun at the conference to come to fullness…and to have an impact on those around me. The work continues now.  The work the conference presenters did continues in me so that I am prepared to offer refreshment to those who are in need. When those come to the door, or to our table…we need to have done the work so we have something to offer.

So…when a conference comes your way that sparks your attention, go. When a book grabs your attention and inspires you and the Spirit awakens you, pay attention. When you find a space that brings you refreshment, be thankful, and go there. Don’t feel bad about carving out spaces for reading and having coffee and finding beauty. Go for walks, and pray. Splurge and go to the conference or the concert. Sing loudly in worship each Sunday. Refresh your spirit and pay attention as God speaks…and make the spaces around you to refresh others. It takes work. It takes paying attention. It takes being intentional.

 Sometimes it takes being spontaneous and splurging and going to crazy conferences with goofy names in the midst of crazy schedules…but they might just give you the lift and inspiration you need, and refresh your spirit. You might just inspire someone else as a result.

(I grabbed the picture of the leaf and the “Every Moment Holy” from the Rabbit Room Instagram feed )