Tuesday, November 5, 2019

the secrets of simple things

standing still for a few moments by the window, I force myself to notice the world outside. And my heart is warmed-- a touch of healing.

There's been rain this week, and we finally raked an entire tree's worth of leaves from the yard to the curb, so now the birds are in Paradise-- our barren muddy yard their cornucopia of insect delight.

There are still one or two scarlet leaves in the towering maple, slowly floating to the ground, here and there, on a breath of wind in the early morning sunlight.

Birds flitting. Leaves falling.

I shift my weight from foot to foot, resisting the urge to get moving, be doing, and undoing, the pressures of work, family, life. The floorboards creak, protesting. In their voice, I hear the hundred year old bulwark of this house reminding me that there is nothing new under the sun. No new threat to my peace and security-- this is all part of the human condition: condemned, redeemed, renewed.

and the birds dance across my window

An old man strides down the sidewalk, intentional, but unhurried. He has that upright, lanky movement men sometimes use, every leg joint contributing to increased forward energy-- like a marionette, freed from his strings to pursue an independent purpose. Men's purposes are forever the same: love, security, fame, and sometimes evil. But only sometimes.

and the leaves are spinning lazily down

a downy woodpecker hangs head first from the dead limb in the dogwood. There must be a buffet of insect life in that old rotten branch I meant to cut off, but never seem to get around to. The bugs eat the dead dogwood. The woodpecker eats the bugs. Death to life, and death to life again. Ut semper.

and the whole flock riots joyously from limb to grass

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

You might not know what you think you know about me

(April is Autism Awareness month, so this post is specifically about the experience of neuro-challenged parenting, but I want to high five all the moms out there dealing with the so-called "Silent", or "Invisible" disabilities. Just because you can't see a difference, doesn't mean there aren't massive challenges in a parenting relationship.)

Before you judge the anxious, hovering mother... before you roll your eyes at her circling, helicoptering: ask yourself if you know how long it's been since she watched her child fall apart-- bursting at the seams because someone inaccurately described the flight patterns of various raptors, or made a certain noise frequency at the wrong time. It may have been yesterday. It may have been five years ago. Some things take a very long time to forget.

She may never forget her five year old throwing himself over the side of the Costco cart, nearly hanging himself by the seat belt in the process, because he dropped the empty sample cup that had somehow, in an instant and without warning, become the ultimate talisman of security and safety; its sudden loss signaling the end of all comfort. She may never forget her child's sudden dash from safety into far, far away-- whether it was physical, mental, or emotional. 

You become somewhat gun-shy after years of one completely unpredictable crisis after another. You tend to hover; circling, ever-vigilant. The warning signs are minute: the sharp intake of breath, the stare, the increased frequency and intensity of the knuckles drumming against the door frame, and there's a brief moment where the crisis may be averted. If you get it right, say the right words, follow the correct protocol, you may prevent the head-banging, the wailing, the running... or maybe not, after all. Sometimes there is no right way.

Before you call her permissive, a push-over, lenient-- judging her conciliatory, comforting response to a child seemingly out of control; ask yourself if you know for sure what that child is experiencing. Has a malfunction in your autonomic nervous system ever left you gasping in a wash of adrenaline-fueled terror because one of your shoes was tied tighter than the other? Have you ever been betrayed by your own brain chemistry, in an instant when an otherwise typically human variation in schedule, flavor, texture, or expectation triggers rebellion in the ranks of neurons and that variation suddenly looms, colossus-like, threatening all that is good and right in your world? Have you ever found yourself attempting to quell the three-ring circus of a creative brain stimulated by too many options and thoughts, never quite able to settle long enough on any one topic to express yourself fully?

Probably not. Probably your neuro-typical brain has never betrayed you to the nightmares of sensory processing disorders, autism, ADD/ADHD. Unless you are part of the 2%, you take your cognitive function more or less for granted. Unless someone you love is among the 1-in-10, you may have never considered the blessing of single-minded focus and smooth mental transitions.

So what can you do? 

Assume the best, or nothing at all. Smile. Be aware. Be willing to listen, ask intelligent questions, educate yourself, reach out. But most of all, remember; things may not be what they seem. Be kind. Be patient.

(these are all my words, they are not all my stories)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Lessons on Faith from Michelangelo's Pieta

One of the highlights of our trip to Rome last week never made it to photodocumentation on my Facebook feed. There are some experiences too deep to capture with electronic means and I find myself turning back to the ancient art of the thousand words...

On our third day, we toured St Peter's Basilica. I hadn't done a lot of research for that trip so I was caught off guard by the sudden appearance before my eyes of Michelangelo's Pieta. I recognized it instantly in spite of my ignorance. There was quite a crowd in front of it, but I pushed my way to the rail and stood, utterly captivated, entranced for several minutes. The next day we came back, and again the magic of that serene, pure white monument to the deep peace of complete faith, even in the face of tragedy, captured me entirely.

I'm sure you all have, as I had, seen this work of art in magazine and newspaper photographs, in travel blogs, on documentaries over the years. But let me assure you that none of those can capture the emotion of seeing it up close and in person. Michelangelo has broken with previous tradition and represents Mary as a young mother with her adult son, crucified, lifeless (for the moment) in her arms. But her gaze is not full of anguish-- she is not grieving, merely solemn. She does not clutch her son's body in despair, but rather her hand is outstretched, open, ready to receive. The expression on her face is one of peace, surrender, trust.

Our guide pointed out that experts have surmised that Michelangelo intended to portray not necessarily the middle-aged Mary, actually holding her dead son; but rather the young mother gazing at her infant son, yet perceiving what must come-- the vision of a second sight personified in marble.

When he said that I felt an instant connection with that concept. Aren't we all like Mary in those moments when our children are young, safe, loved, protected in our arms? Who has not looked down at their sleeping infant, in a moment suddenly burdened with the realization that in that precious bundle is contained a whole life, a future that needs must contain much sorrow, struggle, and grief?

May we respond to that realization with the humble faith of Mary of the Pieta-- hiding all these things in our hearts, in faith that the God we follow shapes their future. May we hold our children with outstretched, expectant hands; trusting His will for their lives.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hello there...

I read an article, years ago, about how women frequently have their self-identity wrapped up in some way with their homes. So a messy, cluttered home makes a woman feel herself to be anxious and disorganized, etc.This resonated with me and part of why I love this house so much is that I do feel that it in so many ways represents Me.

Would you like to come and see my house? Would you like to visit it and hear her story?

She is old now and a little scruffy as to yard and shutters,
The wood siding covered with vinyl-- less glamorous, but more practical.
Don't we all turn to the practical as we age?
Her yard is lush and welcoming, but there are the scars of many happy hours of
Kickball, soccer, tag, and garden-of-statues
She has always welcomed children.
Come on in.

The front door has been replaced. It sits a little sideways in the frame
And the doorknob tends to fall out when guests attempt to leave.
As though she were saying: no, don't leave yet, 
Chat a little while longer, have another coffee
What is out there that you need so badly? 
Stay and rest.

Stepping across her threshold in the morning or in the evening, in particular, 
Light pours through the windowed walls, the french doors, the transoms.
Dust motes and dog hair dancing in sunbeams.
The light is the first thing that drew me to this house.
I thought, walking across this threshold will always lift my spirits
Here is joy.

"She's built like a tank, this house" the inspector told us.
There is an old crack in the foundation, you can see it,
But whatever geological catastrophe caused it has been well-weathered.
The floors creak, and there's a definite slope in the upstairs hall,
But she has settled well and rests on solid ground,

Her walls are silvery gray.
Underneath are layer upon layer of past fads of garish blues and greens,
But here in her old age, she's taken on the restful colors;
Gray, silver, wood, brick, and beige.
She is a calm cocoon of light and gray,
A wise blend.

And out of every window you can see a dogwood tree,
Or a cherry, crab apple, lilac-- abundant blossoms.
I sit on the back deck, high up in the dogwood, and write,
And ponder, and dream, as old things do. 
My thoughts wandering out over the railing, across the mountain,
At peace here.

Monday, January 8, 2018


I've finally found my word for 2018 and I"m excited to share about it, but first, a review....

The word for me in 2017 was Steadfast. When the Lord put that word on my heart a year ago, I could never have foreseen what was in store for us, nor how significant that word would be. 2017 was apparently a rough year for a lot of people, if FB statuses in my friend groups are any indication... It was rough for us, too. So much heartache, so much brokenness, so much stress and grief around us at every turn. But the Lord remained Steadfast in His graciousness to us. And He upheld me in my commitment to remain Steadfast in my various areas of responsibility (marriage, parenting, business, self-care, friendships, etc). It was a good word for a year full of difficult, but rewarding growth. And even in the midst of the raging storm around us, our little family was sheltered and kept safe.

Unfortunately, as a flawed human who tends always to over-correct in every direction of growth, I think I have let the difficulty of this year sink in a little too deeply. I think my Steadfastness has begun to harden into stoicism, even tinged with some resentment, as I've persevered under pressure. I was particularly convicted recently by a brief conversation with a family member. She said, in the midst of a conversation, "you don't seem very happy." Not in a scolding way, I read compassion in those words. (Not to worry, M.!) But the Lord was pricking my conscience... That brief comment came as a lightbulb moment at the end of a week or two of subtle hints and pondering-- and then at breakfast yesterday morning at my aunt's house, pulling this coffee cup at random out of the cupboard, the final confirmation: 

Psalm 126:6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

There it is. My word of 2018. Rejoice. I'm meditating on small moments, simple mercies, the everyday beauty-- noticing the Joy in the midst of the brokenness. But I'm also looking forward and rejoicing in the hope of the day that all is healed, becomes new. I have been bearing precious seed, I've been planting and tending and in many cases, watering with tear. I will hold fast to this promise that I will one day see my harvest.

I want to combine what I've learned about Steadfastness this past year with a trusting lightness of Spirit, casting my cares on Him, resting on His promises. His loveliness, and His love, is all around me.

Lord, teach me to find the joy.