5 minute friday: imagine

The first breadcrumb word that Parker Palmer put down. . . the first breadcrumb phrase Madeline Le’Engle decided to write. . . the first breadcrumb step that Henry Nowen took to put his ideas on paper, a form that would stay. 

Each crumb led to the next and the next, until five loaves and two fish sentences came to a writing basket busting at the seams.  Words overflowed into other lives as sentences strung together challenged, encourage, edified, and shifted the reader in present tense somehow with the author across time.  This reader is thankful they took courage and wrote.

Their words live outside the spines in my colorful bookshelf.  They become thoughts and shift new words, mine, now yours.  This writing reading thing is soul-mingling stuff.  When one can find a way to write at the edges, pushing the box just a little farther, then retreating, then pushing just one more inch.  Their courage to enter that uncomfortable space leaves us all less alone.  Imagine the meandering treasure thoughts never discovered if not for that first bread-crumb word.  Imagine the void left.  In his old age Michangelo said to his apprentice, “Paint, paint and don’t waste time.”  Imagine if we all got about our words or painting or living that way.  All it takes is one willing crumb.

Five Minute Friday

rocking chair thunder storm

Thunder just shook the house, and I’m sitting here rocking back and forth as rumbles hug the air.  No, I’m not scared, just gliding in the cushy chair and ottoman we bought when we were expecting Charli.

It’s been a long weekend, filled with car miles, family and fishing.  And here I am again after packing and unpacking–back in the normal–with a book mark moved a little farther along in my book club novel over the weekend.

It was nice to find myself sucked into the story, slipping pages into every free minute, regretfully closing the cover when anything else required my attention.  A story addict, I love any world that isn’t real.  I can’t wait for my next hit, zooming into conflict that I know will be somehow resolved in so many pages.

If only we could hold the remaining pages of life between a thumb and index finger, seeing just what remains, somehow knowing where the plot is going to turn, which key characters will change or leave, and what new conflict will test our courage.

What if we could know?  Would it make a difference seeing just how many pages turns were left for us or the ones we love most?  Would it help us to attune today with its proper zest?

I did not zest my life well today.

A friend called needing comfort, my help, my listening ear.  Feeling wiped from the trip, I gave the bare requirements for phone conversation, “uh huh” and “oh really,” as I tried to console my fussing daughter with my left hand and hold my phone to my ear with my right.

The conversation ended abruptly, shaking my sense of normal the way that this thunder is shaking our house.  I so often fail to recognize that life and relationships are fragile things, deserving of care.

No, life’s not always so zesty or so balanced, and we don’t know what’s on the remaining pages.   Sometimes there’s nothing to do but lean into the grace that’s always there, like the smooth glide of a rocking chair, the unshakable foundation underneath the things that rattle me like a thunderstorm.

5 minute Friday: view

It’s late and chilly.  My one-year-old nudges my thigh and points out the screen door.  We’re just letting the dog out, but my daughter’s got a hunger for playing outside.  Hearing a whisper nudge that seems to say, “Why not?” I slide out of the way holding her tiny hand as she has more bravery than balance for steps.  With a Lego block in one hand and a kazoo shaped like red lips in the other, she sit-shuffles down the three cracked-paint steps.  Our dog stands on point at the edge of the grass, somehow stopped by the cement barrier, and my pajama feet girl skip-runs up and down the sidewalk dotted with whirly-gig seeds from the Maple tree.  Dusk settles over the windless leaves, and I step my socked feet down to sit on the second to last step smiling at the whirring kazoo dotted by giggles.  Breath slows, confident that the two are playing safely past the danger of the steps, so I look up and to the left to the bright white circle set in contrast to the deep purple-blue of the sky framed in a perfect arch by the leaved branch.  And I think, I might have missed this moon.

Five Minute Friday

prayer for summer 2013

While classes have been over for a bit, I’m on the cusp of “just summer” as I close the book on my last task of the school year with my friend/writing buddy/colleague.  I’ll still have work to do, but here is my prayer for summer 2013.

Less grading. . . More poetry. 

Less lunch at my desk . . . More picnics. 

Less TV. . . More campfires. 

Less pictures. . . More memories. 

Less running around. . . More napping with my one-year-old. 

Less things. . . More people. 

Less list making. . . More song making. 

Less e-mail. . . More letters. 

Less coffee in the car . . . More beer on the deck. 

Less devotions. . . More Bible. 

Less me-focus. . . More others-focus. 

Less computer. . . More stories. 

Less worry is me. . . More calling is me. 

Less fear. . . More strength. 

Less anxiety. . . More contentment. 

Less “just get through”. . . More “embrace today with hope and joy”.

Less doing . . . More being. 


Mr. Goodcents, labor and the holy spirit

My daughter was born just before midnight on March 21, 2012.  During my pregnancy, some moms told me that the labor memory would ease with passing years.  Feeling filled with baby and worry, I didn’t believe them for a second, but now, looking back, I see what they meant, as I try to piece together the night. . .

The Mr. Goodcents sub sat on the counter, now twenty minutes old.

Normally, it wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with that perfect smear of mayonnaise, but my appetite withered with each passing contraction.  I looked at the clock.  They were getting closer together, and I was getting closer to needing help.  Uncertain, I pretended to know one thing: it was time to go to the hospital.  A small fear branched in my mind, even as I worked to look away from it.  A new loneliness left me worried that even with the support of my husband and people at the hospital, when it came down to it. . . I would have to work through this labor alone.  

The tattered memory hinges on a few crisp images from that darkened room. . .

  • Ralph’s hand rested on mine, quietly offering support when wanted, but moved quickly away when I simply couldn’t have anyone touching me.
  • Marsha (my doula) spoke right at my fear with words of truth with her firm hand on my knee.  
  • Melanie (the nurse) quietly filled the background, a helper, bringing water and staying on even after her shift ended.  
  • Jill (my midwife) cheered me on, furthering my efforts, and when fear threatened, she strengthened my purpose.  
  • My mother prayed through the night, a dear and true friend, far away, yet close at hand. 
  • Each one in this circle was deeply with me holding the fear at bay until little Charli’s first cry could shatter it.  When it came down to it. . .  I was far from alone.

Motherhood and labor are weighty terms–sometimes difficult, wanted or taken away–so please know I offer this short vignette of my own experience in hope that it points to the Holy Spirit that can help us through each challenge we face, be it around ideas of motherhood or otherwise.  In the portrait above, all of the underlined words are used in different translations of John 14:26 to describe the nature and action of the Holy Spirit.  This human experience certainly can’t scratch the surface of this un-nail-down-able portion of God’s character, but my hope is that it can point toward it, and help us to see.

five minute friday: song

The notes are bouncing around us, and we run.

We run down front to the throng of people, my husband 30, and me not-quite-30.  The group’s energy is pulsing, younger than we are, but we run down anyway.  It’s all moving and the song is swelling, and it’s so alive, and we’re lost in the music.  For a beat I forget that I’m at the Pinewood Bowl in little Lincoln, Nebraska, as I’m part of the Mumford and Son’s bigger song, Little Lion Man, and there’s a dance in me that just has to get out and meet the music, and I’m not a dancer.

We should be getting tired, and we’re not.  Instead, we’re dancing and screaming lyrics, and my thoughts flit away to my desire to hold onto this, to be in this here, this now forever.

But, eventually the song stops, the band packs up, and garbage is strewn about the packed down grass.  But a song was there, and we were a part of it, and even though it can’t last, we’ll have it in our minds, and when I pull it up on YouTube, I’m back at the PineWood bowl dancing with my hubby to more than a song.  For it’s not the dancing that I want to hold onto, or the beat, or the venue.  I loved the with.  I loved the this.  But I can always step back knowing, I’m not alone, but with.  I can always step back and say what I was saying right then, that this, this is what I’ve been waiting for.

Five Minute Friday

David, Goliath and a new car

“Mom, I’m driving off the lot.  I’m putting mile number 10 on my first, ever new car. . .”
Even as I buckled my belt while hanging up the phone, my excitement felt forced.  I was thankful for the blessing of a car (with a loan), but I squirmed in my new-car scented seat as a gal who had previously driven three of my parent’s Silver Ford Taurus hand-me-downs.  This car was new, and not just because of its miles, it was different in its choice–mine, something that I wanted for myself, something I (grossly) felt I deserved.   
Fast forward a week later and (long story short) we’ve returned the car–luckily we hadn’t completed the purchase when I drove it off the lot.  I felt terrible returning it, but for practical reasons (ahem, our car seat that didn’t fit and our child that didn’t fit) my spunky, new little gas hound wasn’t a good fit.
With car thoughts in the background, I heard the story of David and Goliath on my Daily Audio Bible.  Slingshot.  Big Goliath.  Small David.  Rocks.  Slingshot.  Dead giant.  I knew the story, but not the rising action.
Before any slinging, David’s decked out in a coat of armor, bronze helmet and a sword over his tunic.  He ambles around and says simply, “I cannot go in these because I am not used to them.”  He doesn’t make excuses, he doesn’t fake it to prove something to the fellas.  David owns who he is and realizes when he’s over-stretching.
When the Israelites saw Goliath, they “fled from him in great fear.”  David moves in spite of this fear.
When David’s brother hears David talking about Goliath, he says, “David, why are you here?  What abou the sheep–did you forget them?  You’re conceited.  You have a wicked heart.  You only came down here to watch!”  David moves in spite of what others are thinking about him and saying about him.

How often are our lives stumbling to hold up the heavy armor we choose to wear?  Why is it so hard for us to make it plain?  “I can’t _____ because I’m not _______”?  Just how many giants could we knock out if we truly embraced who we are–even if we’re just a shepherd boy with a few stones, or a farm girl cruising down the road in her very practical, new-to-her-but-used-in-real-life Silver Chevy Cobalt (that looks annoyingly like a Ford Taurus).

so they may be one

Scene 1: Five summers ago as a camp counselor. . . Sixteen left feet fail to synchronize yet again as one middle school camper lifts the wrong leg and sends his whole group off balance.  They topple into a pile of giggles. . . and they get to start over with the Co-Op(eration) challenge. . . again.  Each time I would pull out the 10-foot extended-square planks, thick ropes swinging off like centipede legs, I would wonder, “Will this be the group who never gets it?  Who knows, maybe they’ll take it like a toddler to Cheetos.”  Repeated rocky attempts usually would meander through fits and starts and finally meld into a smooth group action, usually led by a group vocal chant.  The many would become one.  Smiles would seep across faces as each began to realize more with each lugging step, “We’re doing it.  We’re doing it!”

“The glory that you have given me . . . “

Scene 2: At the farm with family this afternoon. . . Spring is flambuoyant with Mother’s day tulips.  Some arrive early, some late.  Numerous mis-matched chairs and garden chotchkeys dot the gathering space bordered by the sprout-lined garden and home.  We gather, each one moving a bit slower with jovial greetings and banter.  My one-year-old is met with smiles and adult voices, sweetly high pitched.  Later, sun is bright and her giggles bounce from the trampoline.  Following my toddler at a family event can leave me drained, but today the tightness in my normal response loosed as grandmas, aunts, grandpas, uncles, and cousins stepped in, tagging one after the other for a delicious dose of one-year-old energy.  Wanting to be a good mom, my eye is always out, ready to respond when needed, but the steady and strong hand of one family lightens my load with a stamina that can outlast even the most energetic little one.  

“The glory that you have given me I have given them . . . ” 

Scene 3: This morning as an adult in my childhood church . . . I lick my finger to pinch the graying pages of the green country church hymnal.  My turning lands on the hymn: For all the Saints, a familiar title, but the eight verses line up before me like a sink filled to overflowing with dirty dishes.  I take a deep breath and ready myself for the long haul, praying for the organist to pick a fast tempo.  The familiar tune ignores my unwelcoming reception and leads me to verse after verse connected like links on a chain.  I see saints in a spiritual battle.  They take up arms.  They endure.  The battle swells, and I stop singing. . . I can’t for the lump in my throat as “the strife is fierce. . . and hearts are brave again.”  Brave hearts endure the test.  They emerge melding into a crescendo of voices, each different and yet the same, swelling to glory singing the only fitting word, Alleluia.  And my little Alleluia becomes part of one bigger voice, and it doesn’t seem little at all.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one . . .”

Final Scene: The not too distant future or past . . . I scroll Facebook and Twitter and read passionate polarity growing.  I think on life experiences that have led to posts that cause me to bristle, I try–and fail–to get behind the eyes and hands that typed.  Instead, I scroll more quickly, lingering on train wrecks for all the wrong reasons.  I wonder on the possibility of a digital diet that brings together, one that nourishes.  I hesitate, hating the word “de-friend,” but I click, and somehow smile and frown all at once.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.” – John 17:22