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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The Lent Mirror

Is this a Fast to keep

The larder lean?

And clean

From fat of veals and sheep?

Is it to quit the dish

Of flesh, eat still

To fill

The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,

Or ragg’d to go,

Or show

A down-cast look and sour?

No: ’tis a Fast to dole

Thy sheaf of wheat

And meat

With the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife

And old debate,

And hate;

To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent;

To starve thy sin,

Not bin,

And that’s to keep thy Lent.

-Robert Herrick

Ash Wednesday, today, the beginning of Lent. Another rhythm of the Church Calendar, drawing my attention away from news flashes and FaceBook notifications. This year it seems to come so early. That might owe simply to the intensity of the first two months of this year. I feel as though I have hardly taken a breath since toasting sparkling grape juice at midnight with the kids and Steve…

I have been looking forward to Lent this year, mostly because it provides an opportunity to lay aside some things and take up a focus my soul needs. I have ‘fasted’ from FaceBook before, and am doing so this year at least for the most part. I’ll post updates as I have a blog post, but the notifications are off and the apps are deleted. The season to settle down a little is settling upon me.

That does not mean, however, utter sadness or mortification. Lent has never meant that for me…it is more a narrowing of focus. A concentration for a season. It is difficult for me to concentrate on anything indefinitely…so this structure of 40 days brings borders I need. Lent brings this strange paradox of joy and hope with repentance and deep awareness of my sinfulness.

I am reading a study from She Reads Truth this year, along with a couple other books.

 

This morning I woke early anticipating some time to read and pray and think about Lent…only to find myself instead tracking storms and Steve’s progress to work. 80 mph winds. Tornado warnings. Garbage bins flying across the driveway. Little girls waking hours early…thankfully only to fall asleep again on the couch.

 

 

Somehow that seemed appropriate this morning: Lent calls us to look honestly at ourselves, to “Circumcise thy life” as Herrick says above. We cannot do that in isolation from the reality of our lives, though. The storms will still blow through, even as we turn our attention toward the salvation of our souls. Even as we discipline ourselves to look honestly at who we are, and then…thankfully…at who God is and what Easter is all about. We cannot think on these things without being touched by the storms all around us. This year probably more than most.
The storms are done here now. The cats are looking wet and irritated after being outside.

 

The youngest boy is playing piano.

 

    

 

Underneath all of that, at least for today, though, is the refrain from G.K. Chesterton:

 

“I have found only one religion that dares to go down with me into the depth of myself.”
I need the discipline of looking honestly at myself, of holding that awareness of my sin, and then of walking in the mercy and grace of God. In the midst of storms, and life…we need this season of pause, of directing our thoughts to the reality of God Incarnate crucified. Then, we can walk in the reality of Lent…meaning “spring”…and the joy and hope which comes.
Walt Wangerin said this in my reading this morning:

 

We have to see ourselves honestly in order to see the offer of forgiveness and redemption Christ offers as honestly.

I most likely will not post daily through this season, but will be posting some poems and thoughts from the readings. Take some time today…even if you do not feel the call to fast through the whole season…but take some time to look honestly at yourself in light of Christ. Oh, and if we could fast from “Strife and old debate and hate…” that would be lovely.

I do not understand…but I hope.

Indeed the Book of Job avowedly only answers mystery with mystery. Job is comforted with riddles; but he is comforted. Herein is indeed a type, in the sense of a prophecy, of things speaking with authority. For when he who doubts can only say, ‘I do not understand,’ it is true that he who knows can only reply or repeat ‘You do not understand.’ And under that rebuke there is always a sudden hope in the heart; and the sense of something that would be worth understanding.  — G.K. Chesterton

 

There has been so much dialog lately about strong women. Worthwhile dialog. Conversation happening between women I consider strong, and women I respect. Underlying all of it I cannot help but think of the woman who instantly comes to mind when I think of a strong woman.

 

Grant me a little grace on this post. I am not in the mood to define for you what strength in a woman should be, or how we should exercise our rights. In this moment, late at night on January 25, I am not interested in marches or or name calling. I am not interested in the vulgarity of a president, or the necessity of standing in solidarity.

 

Right now, I am thinking of a woman standing in her bathrobe just inside the the door of a bus. Remember the old buses with the door that had the handle the driver had to pull to close the door? She was standing just inside and the driver was pulling that handle for all she was worth, trying her best to slam that door on this woman. Didn’t work. Bathrobe. Coffee in hand, and rant about to begin.

 

I don’t remember what this substitute bus driver had done that so ticked off my mom, but it was a doozy. I remember coming home and telling her after the first day about our ride. I remember being upset, and I remember coming out that morning and watching my mother explain things in no uncertain terms. The bus rides were much better the rest of that week.

 

That was my mother. Strong woman.

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I remember so many situations when she walked in a room and filled it with her presence. She was elegant, intelligent and incredibly witty. She had a flair and charisma that drew people to her and a generosity of spirit and kindness which made her friendships last for years.

 

She had a wit and a humor that could absolutely leave you rolling on the floor laughing, or stop you in your tracks if you were out of line.

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Today was her 81st birthday.

 

So, why the Chesterton quotation? Because, I do not understand.

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It is not that I think we deserve any great grace or dispensation from a disease, or that because she was strong she should have been spared. It is simply that today is her birthday and it continues to break my heart that she is lost to us in her mind.

 

That the strong woman walks with a shuffle and hums her songs now without a tune, with lyrics made of words strung nonsensically together. She has not known us for some time. We have been on this journey of Dementia for nearly ten years. My brothers and my Dad walk it with an intimacy and strength I admire beyond words, while I watch more from a distance.

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I do not understand why we have to lose her to this dark place in her mind. I do not understand why she does not know her granddaughter carries not only her name, but the set of her jaw when she is determined, and the quickness of her mind and her wit.

 

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I do not understand, and God does not explain. He responds, “You are right, you do not understand.”

 

This is broken, and while it is broken there is still purpose. There is still wonder in the midst of the brokenness, and even here in the midst of this heartbreak, He is present and continues to work.

 

I don’t like it. I wish she could come to the phone and hear us wish her a happy birthday. I wish she could know. But still, I know that there is hope. I lean in on days like today and long for heaven. I long for the healing of the One who can make all things whole. The One who can make all things right, and Who can bring rest in the midst of all this chaos.

 

I remember late on Monday night I think it was, maybe Tuesday nights, listening to the tapping of the typewriter. Mom was the teacher for BibleStudy Fellowship in our city, and she would be typing her lecture.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap….and then that Whhhiiiirrr, SNAP! as she hit return.

 

Late at night, thoughts flowing. I inherited that from her, along with her strength and few other things. The setting of my jaw, for instance, when I’m really ticked off.

 

It’s almost midnight, but I will get this post in before your birthday is done. We need to hear about hope in these days. We need to be reminded…that even though we don’t understand, there is reason to trust and to hope. Not in man, but in God who has time and again proved Himself faithful. It is not easy, and some days we do it through tears, but we hope.

 

Happy 81st, Mom. I trust somehow you knew all the flowers that filled the house were for you.

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“”Let the sea roar, and all that fills it, let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy,”” says David (1 Chron.16:32-33). And shall is the verb of hope. Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us. Then the trees of the wood shall sing for joy as already they sing a little even now sometimes when the wind is in them and as underneath their singing our own hearts too already sing a little sometimes at this holy hope we have.

The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping. Praise him.” -Buechner

Our Homes Are Under Miraculous Skies…

I don’t know about you, but today has been a long day. Sometimes, on days like this especially, simplicity is the kindest thing for the soul.

 

No need to elaborate tonight…simply refreshment from the poetry of G.K. Chesterton:

Christmas Poem

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wife’s tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Take a Name. Pray

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Anyone who has read here for more than a day or two is familiar with this face. Miss Maddie. She truly has brought joy and delight to our home. She has expanded our hearts, all of us.

 

I cannot imagine what would happen to our home if she was taken from us. I don’t know how I would breathe, how I would function. I cannot imagine the terror…and I do not want to even attempt.

 

And yet…

 

 

These women know this terror. They know it too well, and they have raised their voices and they have caught our attention. I don’t have to say anything more. I only have to show that one image and you already know.

 

Young girls, kidnapped. Stolen to prove a point, to be used and to be sold…to protest against Western education. Brutally tearing apart families, and terrorizing these young girls to change the culture back to oppression.

 

We have all seen many of the images. We have heard the cries of the women, and hopefully we are following the story and raising our voices as we can. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how we “help” in these situations.

 

This morning I came across something I could get my arms, and my prayers, around.  I came across this article with the names of 180 of the 276 missing girls, calling for us to pray for them by name.  I thought I would add one further step…pray for one by name, and one who is nameless.

 

I apologize in advance that I will be quoting a fair bit of Chesterton in the coming weeks as I make my way through a few books on him, as well as many of his writings. This was in my reading this morning, and it struck me deeply as I thought of these girls:

 

“The world is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more….Love is not blind. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

G. K. Chesterton – Orthodoxy

We are not blind, even if we cannot and would not wish to imagine the terror these girls are facing. And now we have their names. To pray. To speak their names and to pray. As was suggested in the post I read this morning, take a name and share it…you can share here in the comments or on your FaceBook or Twitter…but take a name. Pray.

Lord…have mercy on these girls. Protect them. Shield them. Guard them. Guide them home.

I am praying for Docus Yakubu. And the nameless one with her.

Who will you pray for?

 

 

 

 

Deborah Abge, Awa Abge, Hauwa Yirma, Asabe Manu, Mwa Malam Pogu, Patiant Dzakwa, Saraya Mal Stover, Mary Dauda, Gloria Mainta, Hanatu Ishaku Gloria Dama, Tabitha Pogu, Maifa Dama, Ruth Kollo, Esther Usman, Awa James, Anthonia Yahonna, Kume Mutah, Aisha Ezekial, Nguba Buba, Kwanta Simon, Kummai Aboku, Esther Markus, Hana Stephen, Rifkatu Amos, Rebecca Mallum, Blessing Abana, Ladi Wadai, Tabitha Hyelampa, Ruth Ngladar, Safiya Abdu, Na’omi Yahonna, Solomi Titus, Rhoda John, Rebecca Kabu, Christy Yahi, Rebecca Luka, Laraba John, Saratu Markus, Mary Usman, Debora Yahonna, Naomi Zakaria, Hanatu Musa, Hauwa Tella, Juliana Yakubu, Suzana Yakubu, Saraya Paul, Jummai Paul, Mary Sule, Jummai John, Yanke Shittima, Muli Waligam, Fatima Tabji, Eli Joseph, Saratu Emmanuel, Deborah Peter, Rahila Bitrus, Luggwa Sanda, Kauna Lalai, Lydia Emmar, Laraba Maman, Hauwa Isuwa, Confort Habila, Hauwa Abdu, Hauwa Balti, Yana Joshua, Laraba Paul, Saraya Amos, Glory Yaga, Na’omi Bitrus, Godiya Bitrus, Awa Bitrus, Na’omi Luka, Maryamu Lawan, Tabitha Silas, Mary Yahona, Ladi Joel, Rejoice Sanki, Luggwa Samuel, Comfort Amos, Saraya Samuel, Sicker Abdul, Talata Daniel.Rejoice Musa, Deborah Abari, Salomi Pogu, Mary Amor, Ruth Joshua, Esther John, Esther Ayuba, Maryamu Yakubu, Zara Ishaku, Maryamu Wavi, Lydia Habila, Laraba Yahonna, Na’omi Bitrus, Rahila Yahanna, Ruth Lawan, Ladi Paul, Mary Paul, Esther Joshua, Helen Musa, Margret Watsai, Deborah Jafaru, Filo Dauda, Febi Haruna, Ruth Ishaku, Racheal Nkeki, Rifkatu Soloman, Mairama Yahaya, Saratu Dauda, Jinkai Yama, Margret Shettima, Yana Yidau, Grace Paul, Amina Ali, Palmata Musa, Awagana Musa, Pindar Nuhu, Yana Pogu, Saraya Musa, Hauwa Joseph, Hauwa Kwakwi, Hauwa Musa, Maryamu Musa, Maimuna Usman, Rebeca Joseph, Liyatu Habitu, Rifkatu Yakubu, Naomi Philimon, Deborah Abbas, Ladi Ibrahim, Asabe Ali, Maryamu Bulama, Ruth Amos, Mary Ali, Abigail Bukar, Deborah Amos, Saraya Yanga, Kauna Luka, Christiana Bitrus, Yana Bukar, Hauwa Peter, Hadiza Yakubu, Lydia Simon, Ruth Bitrus, Mary Yakubu, Lugwa Mutah, Muwa Daniel, Hanatu Nuhu, Monica Enoch, Margret Yama, Docas Yakubu, Rhoda Peter, Rifkatu Galang, Saratu Ayuba, Naomi Adamu, Hauwa Ishaya, Rahap Ibrahim, Deborah Soloman, Hauwa Mutah, Hauwa Takai, Serah Samuel, Aishatu Musa, Aishatu Grema, Hauwa Nkeki, Hamsatu Abubakar, Mairama Abubakar, Hauwa Wule, Ihyi Abdu, Hasana Adamu, Rakiya Kwamtah, Halima Gamba, Aisha Lawan, Kabu Malla, Yayi Abana, Falta Lawan, and Kwadugu Manu.

 

 

 

 

Allergic to Wonder

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Everything is in bloom. There are, it seems, a limitless number of shades of green all around me at the moment. The trees and the grass and leaves on the flowers and the plants…everything is crying, “Life!”

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The temperature has warmed, and the desire is there to be outside. The pull is there to work in the garden, to add a touch to the beauty that is natural.

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The only problem is…I cannot breathe when I go outside. The allergies this year have been brutal. Not only does my chest tighten and I begin to cough and reach for my inhaler, but my eyelids break out in hives. The back of my knees break out as well, and my eyes become red. I last for just a few moments before I have to return to the shelter of the house and reach for something to help stave off the effects of pollen.

 

The beauty around me draws me, and yet because of this flaw, because of this brokenness, I just cannot take it all in.

 

I cannot enjoy the wonder.

 

Some are not bothered in the least by allergies, but thoroughly embrace the changing of the season.

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Today we blew up the inflatable water slide and Sammy, Maddie and a buddy had a ball. They didn’t notice the colors of the leaves and the grass and the flowers. The didn’t notice way the water splashed and caught the sunlight.

 

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They didn’t stop and contemplate.  They just jumped in and enjoyed the wonder. The feel of it all and the delight.

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They played in the water, and they broke apart a “fossil” Sammy had made in Science class.

 

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“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” -G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

 

I love this quotation from Chesterton, and have used it often, probably because I need to hear it myself. We need to kick around in the water slide a little with an almost three year old and a few boys. We need that prompt of childhood that doesn’t have to analyze the wonder, but steps in and tastes it and feels it and delights.

We have to learn to belly-laugh again!

 

There is something deeper, though. There are times when wonder takes our breath away. There are times when something is so beautiful – whether it is a sunset or an infant – that it brings an ache to our heart. That ache, I think, tells us that we know we cannot fully take it in because we ourselves are not completely whole yet. We cannot give ourselves completely to the wonder around us until we are whole, and we know that somehow.

 

Sometimes, the brokenness we have and the wounds we have gathered hover around us and cling to us. They become a boundary like the allergies in the Spring. We can see the wonder from a distance…maybe even gather the strength to embrace it for a moment, but we start to break out in hives if we get too close something beautiful for too long.  We are more comfortable with pain and with chaos and with suffering…we are more familiar with crisis.

 

There is much around us to weep over. The state of the girls in Nigeria. The situation that continues in Ukraine. The ongoing saga of Pastor Saeed. The abuses of children that continue to make headlines. Brokenness. Sin. Wounds.

 

There is, however, much around us to bring delight. There is wonder, and it is not wrong to delight in wonder….even when there are wounds around us.  This life will always be a balancing act.

This week is leading towards Mother’s Day. Like billboard reminder that my Mother is present and yet…not.

 

Another marker and reminder of brokenness. Hindrance to the wonder, or another opportunity to reflect?

 

And yet…I have four little wonders right around my feet delighting in life, and calling me into wonder and laughter and life. Balance…the awareness of the absolute wonder of love and life and spirit that God has blessed, alongside the awareness of brokenness and need for His grace and salvation.

 

So…we run into the wonder as we can, and we know that sometimes it will overwhelm with the very richness that makes it wonder-filled. The reality of wonder may highlight our pain at times, and may heighten our awareness of the need for healing. We may only be able to delight in wonder for a moment, and then have to run back into our shelter and recoup. Sometimes the wonder itself will bring healing, will bring refreshment.

 

Some day, we will be healed and whole and able to splash and delight and embrace and love whole-heartedly and with abandon. For now, maybe our artists and our singers and our children will be those who help us learn to move in our brokenness and embrace the wonder. They can draw us from our brokenness, and from our habits of hiding, and give us the voice to delight in wonder. Even when we are in pain.

 

 

 

The Color Green

“And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop
And every house must have it’s builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

And the wrens have returned and they’re nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now
And I’m amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house
And with the rocks I cry out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise”

Rich Mullins

Arduous Contentment on a Monday

Contentment. 

You know those days when things feel too busy? When the house is a mess because you had to get the kids to change clothes on the fly, and all the dirty clothes are still in a pile and the dishes are still piled up in the sinks. The groceries are slightly depleted because the trip the store had to be postponed since, well, you were just too tired to go.

 

Or is this just me today?

 

We have just finished up a crazy busy weekend, complete with hockey games where we screamed until we lost our voices, and we ushered the Oldest to an all-nighter event between his games. Funny, I think he skates better at 2am than during his regular games!

By Sunday morning Miss Maddie, looked like this:

 

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This morning, though, I woke up thoroughly happy about all the craziness.
I woke up content, and I remembered some words from G.K. Chesterton about being content…

 

 In some accounts of contentment it seems to be little more than a meek despair.

But this is not the true meaning of the term; it should stand for the idea of a positive and thorough appreciation of the content of anything; for feeling the substance and not merely the surface of experience. “Content” ought to mean in English, as it does in French, being pleased; placidly, perhaps, but still positively pleased. Being contented with bread and cheese ought not to mean not caring what you eat. It ought to mean caring for bread and cheese; handling and enjoying the cubic content of the bread and cheese and adding it to your own. Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it. It ought to mean appreciating what there is to appreciate in such a position; such as the quaint and elvish slope of the ceiling or the sublime aerial view of the opposite chimney-pots. And in this sense contentment is a real and even an active virtue; it is not only affirmative, but creative. 

This season, I know, will pass too quickly. I know that there will be many days ahead when i can sit quietly and enjoy a book and a cup of coffee without having to reheat the coffee three times.  The sports days, and the play, and the activity, will eventually be done. There are frustrations in this season, and I have my days when I wish we had less on our list…but

 

As Chesterton says, I want to be content in the true sense…not content in a sense of resignation, but content in the sense of creativity and of embracing all of the moment.

 

That takes effort. It is not a passive resignation, but an immersion into the season and walking through this time with eyes wide-open…taking it all in.

 

“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare. The absence of this digestive talent is what makes so cold and incredible the tales of so many people who say they have been “through” things; when it is evident that they have come out on the other side quite unchanged. A man might have gone “through” a plum pudding as a bullet might go through a plum pudding; it depends on the size of the pudding – and the man. But the awful and sacred question is “Has the pudding been through him?” Has he tasted, appreciated, and absorbed the solid pudding, with its three dimensions and its three thousand tastes and smells? Can he offer himself to the eyes of men as one who has cubically conquered and contained a pudding?” – G.K. Chesterton

(You can read the rest of the essay from Chesterton, called The Contented Man, here.)

Paul said this about contentment:

Philippians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There are times it is easier to be content. When we are struggling to pay the bills, or when we are facing health issues…it is hard. When we don’t understand why the ones we love diminish before our eyes, or why others are facing enormous struggles…it is hard.

That is when we realize that the true heart of contentment is from trusting that God who strengthens us can help us to be content even then. Not resigned…but content with the knowledge that there is One who holds us in the moment, and One who is sovereign and has a plan.   I don’t think  Chesterton would argue that it is easy, but he would argue it is necessary.

So, this morning has been a breather for me. I needed to catch my breath and to realize how full my life is. Mondays can sometimes be good for bringing perspective and attention, especially after over-the-top full weekends. I think that is a key of contentment…finding those moments that are breathers and allow us the space to reflect and take it all in.

To be thankful. In the busyness, and the crazy schedules, and the frustrations…to have “the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.”  

Celebrating today this season and this life.

Content. On a Monday.