Friday, April 18, 2014

Are we amazed?



The holiest of days.  Good Friday.  
It's hard to breathe.  Words do not come easy.
It was the third hour when they nailed Jesus to the cross.

From the sixth to the ninth hour an inexplicable darkness covered the land.
Jesus then cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

What to do with awful loss . . . ripping apart . . . feeling forsaken?
Is there not amazement, in experiencing great loss; life going on?
That everyone is not stopped in their tracks?
Gazing and somehow knowing life is forever altered.
Does it not show on the face, in the eyes?
The rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms; emotions swirl and eddy.

On that Friday the sun stopped shining.
God turned His back.
Jesus was forsaken.
Hung there on the cross.

It was evident in their faces; 
his loved ones, hovering nearby, 
bent low with grief.
Weeping.
Mary, his mother.  Her sister.  John, his best friend.  And others.
Sorrow beyond words.  Confusion and hurt.  Death and darkness. 
Life had been forever altered.

They didn't know that was the plan.  From the beginning.

But, today, we know.  It was always the plan.
Restoration, redemption, reconciliation, to bring back, repair.

Around the ninth hour Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Saying, "It is finished."

The words hung there too.

For the religious leaders, 
the Roman guard, 
the enemy of this world, 
Jesus' loved ones and us today.

It is finished.

The most astonishing gift the world has ever seen.  
That He would die in our place. 

Life is forever altered.

Does it not stop us in our tracks?  Show on our face?  

Are we amazed?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Is it really so simple?



 
I live in an average house in an average neighborhood. 

And in this house and the ones before that.  Painting. In love with it even. 
Walls, ceilings, trim, cabinets, chairs, tables, even the kids, they would laugh, if they got in my way.  Ladder and roller and paint can full.  Music turned loud.  Coloring my world. Racing the clock to return normal, as a gift, to my family at the end of the day.

And to me, in the doing, average is transformed.   

My eye simply delighting in painting the front door of our white two story a deep shade of teal blue.  Such a glorious hue and, frankly, the talk of the neighbors before getting the color just right.  Having to repaint.  Tone down just a bit.  Carried away as I was with the vibrant joyous hues of Jamaican doors.  The ones that seem to shout "beauty" and "come in" and "love" all at once.  Thrilling me.

I was also born into average.  In a small town. 

My having arrived years too late to be included in the one "family portrait" but filling the old empty house with childhood again.  Messes and projects strewn across the floor and the tables and my bed in those growing up years.

Decoupage on old bottles and dolls from yarn.  Felt ornaments and cloth mice with whiskers.  A newspaper with stories and ads in handwritten font.  Clothes made for trolls and dolls. And cardboard houses with exquisite detail. 

Imagination running wild.

And I remember how much I loved those cloth mice with whiskers.
Having painstakingly sewn them freehand.  Stuffed with cotton.
And they looked like it. 
Without a plan.  Crude and ugly.
But to me.  The wild pursuit of creating something.  Thrilling me.
Just scraps from the sewing chest.  Becoming mice.

Then.  Just doing what made my heart sing.

For there are no critics in childhood.
Freewheeling and full of abandon.

But, slowly, over the years, something is lost. 

We listen to the voices.  The culture. 
Comparisons falling hard and being pushed around by fear. 
Seeking permission even.  To be ourselves.  Shame showing up. 
And it is ugly.  Uglier than the mice and the thrill disappearing. 
The beauty slipping away.

For life is beautiful.  Even in the ugly.  Even in the broken.
But I wasn't seeing it. 

Because for a time I tried to hide.  The striving and the measuring up exhausting me.  Exhausting others.  And always with a paint brush.  Painting too many rooms at once.  And too many projects.  And moving the furniture again.  The quest for perfection loud in my ear.  My eye never satisfied. Just ask my husband. 

Teetering on something dangerous here.  I admit.  The wild chasing.

Nothing wrong with painting. 
So glad to have taupe covering my walls. Proud even of my work. 
But it's the thing driving it - for years.  Obsession.   

The being driven.  Not attractive.  Doesn't feel good.

And I finally saw myself.  And stopped.
It was not a screech of the brakes but more of a slow pulling over to the side.
Searching through the roadmaps. 
And asking myself. 
How do I really want to travel?

The wild hanging on filling with excitement. 
But now.  Running on empty.  Something broken.

And I have found that it is in acknowledging my own brokenness.
The being fearlessly honest about myself.  With God.
Understanding heartache, shame, bewilderment and regret.
And He in the business of rescuing.  Redeeming.
His deep compassion bringing wholeness of soul.

Goodbye endless striving.  I'm moving on without you.

Not necessarily the cessation of activity but an attitude of the heart.
A relaxing into what is and into being vulnerable.
Accepting myself.   My own brokenness and that of others.
Into which we are all born.

And I am a child. Once more.  At His feet.
Full of delight.

So that I no longer need to hide who I am and what I am called to do.
The wild pursuit quieting and grace transforming.
This, my average life.
Creating something beautiful out of the ugly.
Coloring all the edges gold of this life sometimes so difficult.

My husband so relieved.  For his average girl and our teal blue door.

Doing now what makes my heart sing. 
In the unfrantic and the unhurry.
Freewheeling and full of abandon.

Where average is transformed into the good-enough.
And glory is left to the Glory-Maker.

And we.  Throwing open that Jamaican-toned-down door.
Sharing lives.  Being real.
Around a table and on a keyboard and behind a camera.

Simply delighting.  In Him.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nothing like Chipotle




I think about it a lot.  The bittersweet.

And I'm not talking about the saccharin kind; a movie or a book tying up everything
perfectly in the end and you feeling manipulated for having cried or angry for having watched.  Anything Jane Austen maybe the exception.

But the truest form.  Of bittersweet.
I experienced yesterday.

Hear me in that it has been a hard season - almost a year - my back stabbing with pain and sidelining me for months.  Procedures and therapy and now maybe even the surgery unsuccessful.  A day falling hard.  Hope diminished.  Disappearing even. The view from my window moving swiftly from winter-lingering beauty to stark reality and me catching my breath.  Unable to accept more disappointment.  Unable to understand the whys.  Wanting my life back. 

And I knew then and I know now others have worse. But for me, right now, it is taking my breath.  For the pain and the fear that it will never go away.

In the anguish, the dishevel, the bitter - not the sweet, a friend offers to bring over lunch.  And I caution loudly; probably not a good time.  For her that is.  But she is resolute and simply undeterred by my warnings of ugly.

Showing up shortly with a large brown paper bag brimming with Chipotle and throwing arms around me.   An incredibly sweet moment.  And then the food and the telling and the listening beginning to unfold those edges of despair lurking within.

Yes.  Sweet.

Oh, she would deny and find funny that of being sweetness.  To my bitter.

But she does the hard stuff.  Listening to the pain yelping; coming out sideways and backwards and confused.  But understanding.  It's just pain talking.  Helping to push me through to find healing in the connection and in the grace.  Helping me upright, regain perspective and birthing me back into hope.

Because life is often bitter.  Sometimes these experiences, the hard times, are later described as a gift.  But not today.  Not when the wound is deep and angry and healing seems far away. 

Isn't that what all good stories are made of?  The bittersweet? 

The telling of a protagonist having to overcome conflict.  Struggle always part of story.  And we relate and are inspired.  The reason stories are life changing. Helping us know how to live.

But when it hits us.  In real time.  The story looks different.

The bitter making us stronger but almost needing a narrator to get us out of our own story to see the picture better.  And our story good too.  Just not finished yet.  And that adversity - the bittersweet of life teaching if we allow. Within community.

Community.  A recurring theme for me.  The search for and the sacrifice required worth helping another through adversity.  Connection healing me.

This is why I scribble grace.  Because I know the answer in this life. 

But sometimes I can't find it.

Lives often so fractured when close friends and family move away.  And though their story and adventure is to be celebrated and embraced, those left behind must find a new normal.  A new friend.  A new community.  Those things taking time and commitment and transparency within grace.

In order to be known in the ugly and in the real.  And loved anyway.

I thought later.  How is it that someone can show up and see my messy and not be afraid of me?  That I am too much or not enough.  All at the same time.

It is a challenge.  A discipline even.  To come alongside someone else in their hurt. Or to be vulnerable within our own story. To embrace the bittersweet; those things in life we cannot control.  Things we would rather not have to endure.  But things that usually make us stronger.  And relationships deeper as a result.

Because when your heart is really broken - facing a death of any kind.  Someone is needed to stand beside us, carry us if only for a moment, and help us remember there is a sweetness to life even within the bitter.

Celebrating the bittersweet and deep friendship and grace that sees us through.

To hope again.  On the hard days.