Monday, December 31, 2012

Small and Simple

(It has been an honor to be a part of building a school in Haiti with the Legacy Project of Help One Now thanks to our friends who donated many bricks in honor of Webb. The project is now fully funded and the doors will soon open for the children.)



When I think about the Legacy Project of Help One Now, I imagine the bricks laid, the mortar spread, the walls slowly inching higher and wider. I think about the backs bent and the hands scraped, the sweat dripped and the knees cracked.  I envision the desks arranged and the books organized, the pencils sharpened and the doors opened.  I think about the uniforms pressed and the shoes tied, the teeth brushed and the hair combed, the child eager.  Small, simple parts of a big, beautiful whole.

I think about my son, the one who now lives among the heavenly hosts.  I remember the two dimples around the smile, the side part of the blonde strands, the eyes like deep water and the hands still chubby like those of a baby. I think about my time with him, the books read while he nestled, the tears wiped when he hurt, the two arms that squeezed my neck, the kisses given and returned. I look back on his life, the first steps, the words learned, the spirit tender, the heart proud.  Small, simple parts of a big, beautiful whole.   

I struggle with how to do it.  How do I honor heaven with my life on earth?...

Continue reading at Help One Now by clicking here:  http://www.helponenow.org/small-simple-parts/


Monday, December 24, 2012

This Christmas


May you catch a glimpse of God in the flesh this Christmas.  May you see the dawning of the light.  May you experience the birth of new life.  May you sense the merriment and cheer along with the quiet and the awe.  May you witness subtle reflections of Him in the faces that surround you.

But if amongst the lights and the laughter, the presents and the pies, you begin to feel the pangs of loneliness, may you feel also, the presence of Emmanuel, God with us.  If you cannot lift your heart, may you lift the Child.  If you cannot sing joy to the world, may you hum a lullaby to the King.  And even if you cannot go tell it on the mountain, may you whisper it quiet, to your own beating heart, that “Jesus Christ is born.”  

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Desperate Kneeling


I kneel beside the manger not because I am reverent, but because I cannot stand.  I bow low beside the Christ not because I am faithful, but because I cannot lift my head.  I have come to see His birth not because I am exceptionally spiritual, but because I am barely surviving. 

And I know that this waiting is good.  I know that this waiting is the refining work of budding holiness.  I know that without the yearning and without the thirst, I might never experience the light of longing fulfilled. 

But here I am, kneeling and bowing and barely surviving with two clenched hands on the side of the manger, while the last, wet drips of hope fall from my eyes.  And all of the knowing in the world cannot fill the bottomless hole of deep pain.  I come with no gifts of gold or offerings of myrrh.  My hands are the empty vessels of my spirit.  My wounds are all I have to show for my coming.  The Child lies so close that I can smell his skin and sense his warmth, but I cannot lift my head or raise my body.  I cannot see the Love of God come down...

The rest can be found over at SheLoves Magazine. Continue reading by clicking here: http://shelovesmagazine.com/2012/a-desperate-kneeling/

www.shelovesmagazine.com  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting and Walking


I thought that there was a dark wall in front of me.  I thought that before me was a mountain of stone, impenetrable rock.  I knew there was light on the other side of this wall.  I knew it not because I saw slivers breaking through the cracks or because I felt it growing inside of me.  No, I knew it because I could hear the distant cries of God in the flesh, those first earthly sounds of Love.  These cries of God, they have me stirring.  And when God stirs, I only need to step.    

Sometimes it is the simplest act that feels the most daring.  To move in the darkness, to step ahead while waiting, it sends my soul shaking.  But I walk, and step after step I realize that I have come quite a ways.  And those cries of God sound not quite so distant.  My feet are tired, and my heart heavy, but I keep walking, discovering that I am neither closer to the dark wall, nor farther from it.  I am seeped deep into it, and darkness still surrounds.  But perhaps this darkness was never a wall to walk through, but a world to walk among. 

For isn’t this how He came?  Born in the pitch of night, birthed in the middle of darkness, arriving at the height of longing?  I nod my head as I keep stepping.  He came not to rid the world of darkness, but to walk among it, to be seeped deep into it, to offer light in the very midst of it.

Perhaps this is the work of the slow, stumbling journey to Bethlehem.  This is the trek of faith, the walking towards the voice of God while waiting in darkness, eager to catch just a glimpse.  I have been called to wait.  Yes, the waiting is good.  But may I not forget to walk while I wait in the darkness, to put one clumsy foot in front of the other, towards the light of the manger. 

And when I do arrive, when I do finally see the face of God, my feet raw from walking and my heart sunk from hurting, I will raise my hands to the heavens as I hold the light of life. For I may be too weak to carry the old, rugged cross of Christ the Crucified.  But even a weakling, even someone who is tarrying through the thickness of dark, can lift the fresh, new body of Christ the Infant.  For this, this encounter with the living God, I will wait.  But not only will I wait.  No, I will also walk.          

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip

See this post

this poem
Made Flesh

After the bright beam of hot annunciation
fused heaven with dark earth
his searing sharply-focused light
went out for a while
eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
his cool immensity of splendor
his universal grace
small-folded in a warm dim
female space-
the Word stern-sentenced
to be nine months dumb-
infinity walled in a womb
until the next enormity-the Mighty,
after submission to a woman's pains
helpless on a barn-bare floor
first-tasting bitter earth.

Now, I in him surrender
to the crush and cry of birth.
Because eternity
was closeted in time
he is my open door
to forever.
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
find wings.
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
slips through death's mesh,
time's bars,
joins hands with heaven,
speaks with stars.

-Luci Shaw


and a night out




Monday, December 3, 2012

Come to Behold


Beneath the clamor of the season, I hear the faint cries in the quiet.  Above the noise of the hustle, I sense a new stillness beckoning in the night.  While I hurry and plan, do and make, the truth of God so loving this world lies swaddled in a blanket, waiting.  I hear the cries and I sense the stillness.  I desire the awe and I crave the wonder.  But my lists are long, and my calendar full, and my own blanket of holiday drapes over the truth of advent, muddling the gentle cries of invitation.  

I work to create traditions and memories, recipes and beauty, when all the while, Beauty rests in the dark of night calling me to come and adore.  My eyes are fixed on my family, these children for whom I long to know of God, and all the while, God waits in a manger.  I need only to bring them with me to come and kneel.  But I want it wrapped in color.  I want it to smell freshly baked.  And over all of it, I want the shiny glitter of perfection. 

But it has never been my job to create perfect.  For Perfect has already come. Perfect calls in the quiet coos of a Father become Child.  Perfect waits for me to stop running, and to start crawling, slowly and steadily by the side of Love, to come and behold. 

Yes, I hear it, the gentle cries, the soft coos, the quiet invitation to come and adore.  Yes, I see it, the light in the night, the star in the sky, the flesh of the Love.  But will I come?  As I rise in the morning and fall in the night, will I come?  In spite of the noise and the activity, the calendar and the lists, will I come?  Will I come to kneel, come to be stilled, come to behold?   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 28


On this day, the birthday of my firstborn sons, I am keenly aware of how deeply grounded I am to the beauty of this earth, to the light in this world, as I celebrate one son’s four years of life.  At the same time, my spirit is lifted high, as I remain mysteriously rooted inside the realm of heaven.  I also remember one son’s precious life on earth, trusting that he knows true birth more fully than any of us. And so I celebrate life today, life seen and life unseen, birth witnessed and birth beyond sight. 

We celebrate four years of life with Jack.












And we remember the joy of life with Webb, knowing we will one day celebrate eternally.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful?


Morning has broken.  The sun’s light creeps dim in the kitchen.  The trees stand still, at attention, waiting for the wind to wake them.  Inside the home, the family gathers around the table to break the bread of cereal and oatmeal, coffee and juice.  Whole milk dribbles down the chin of the youngest while the oldest scoops bites too big of yogurt.  Daddy swigs his last sip of black coffee as I add more blueberries to my oatmeal. 

A basket sits in the middle of the table.  It holds pieces of paper, words on scraps. It is a basket of thanks, a collection of gratitude.  It holds words from my husband and sons and words that crept out of my own pursed lips, words that slid through my own gritted teeth.   One son says, “I am thankful for Batman,” and I write it down.  The other son says, “My chickens, Mommy” and I copy his words.  Daddy grabs the marker and writes as he speaks, “I am thankful for my family.”  Six eyes shift to me.  “What about you, Mommy?  What are you thankful for?” 

I stare at our basket of thanks, scraps of paper piled high, weeks worth of gratitude mounting in the center of our table.  There is so much to say to the child’s question, so much for which to be thankful.  Yet, I am silent.  Perhaps, I do not know where to begin, and maybe I do not know how to end.  It feels wrong and empty to offer thanks for measly things when that for which I am most unthankful swallows Batman and chickens into the dark, bottomless belly of sorrow.   

But He says to give thanks, always, in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Could He mean this too?  This season, when I slam into birthdays and holidays with every new week, and each gathering is laced with undertones of sadness? Must I give thanks even now, in the middle of staggering pain, while I visit my son’s grave and drive home to dress a turkey?  Did He mean it when He said, “in all circumstances?”  Even this? 

The eyes around the table are still waiting for my offering.   “Mommy, what are you thankful for,” he asks again.   “This,” I say.  For this, I am thankful.  No, not for the grave, not for the death, but for this, this gathering around of a family with hearts broken, but hearts full, offering thanks on small scraps of paper as a trail to Him.  I am thankful for a family who sits down together in the thick mud of grief to give tiny, meager offerings.  I am thankful for the son in heaven who knows gratitude complete, and for the sons at the table who are learning gratitude in pieces.  And I am thankful for the One who sits on the throne, and the One who sits at my table, the One from whom all these blessings flow.  “Yes,” I say.  “I am thankful for this.” 

Did you mean it, Father, when you said, “in all circumstances?”  Even this? 

Yes.  Even this.

He asks me to give thanks in it, not for itI toss my words into the basket.  And there it is, my thanks in it all.  It feels small and unimportant beneath the weight of heavy loss.  It feels small and unimportant beneath the blanket of abundant grace.  But it is what we have, the offering that we can make.  And so we give thanks, even now, in the middle of this.  Yes, even this. 



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unknown


Toes grip the edge
Shoulders lean over
Looking for known, finding desire

I feel it; the stirring,
The breaking through,
The pushing back

I sense it; the rising up,
The swelling within,
The brimming over

Shattered heart rattles
Tired hands tremble
Edging towards Unknown.

Brain is dizzy
From soul stirring
Fumbling for solid ground.

Is this the way to new joy?
Shedding and shaking?
Purging and risking?

This? This life on the edge?
Flesh shouting for safety?
Spirit begging for adventure?

Is this the way to wholeness?
Doubting mind gathering heart pieces to protect?
Believing soul cupping heart pieces to scatter?

Is this the way to the Cross?
Toes curling and shoulders leaning?
Shards of shattered heart pieces rattling?

This? This promise of pain?
This stepping out?
This wondering if holy hands will catch?

image via pinterest 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ablaze


It happened in the most ordinary of moments, the most mundane of circumstances.  The block tower stood tall and the puzzle piece was found.  The sippy cup dripped steady water on the wooden floor while the brothers flipped through the pages of the dinosaur book.  But what happened inside of me was anything but small. 

I felt it low and deep, in a hidden, dark corner within.  If I had not been so still, if the moment had not been so small, I wonder if I would have even felt the flicker of the flame.  It started as just a spark, small as a star, but as I gave it space, embers of openness, the flames began to catch.  These flames stretched out their fingers and began to touch each nook and cranny of my spirit with their fresh heat.  A fire spread, gaining steam with every second that I allowed it.  I threw in only the kindling of wonder and awe, captivated by this new force, aware that by moving even slightly, I might somehow smother these precious flames.  Soon it was wild within me, melting through dense layers, then tearing down thick walls.  In no time at all, this fire that started so small, was rampant and out of control, singeing through darkness and roaring through silence.  And I sat on the floor, next to dripping water and turning pages, with my soul ablaze.  

I have often felt this way with grief- overtaken, consumed, hot with despair.  But this was different.  For these flames did not burn.  These flames did not hurt.  Their smoke did not blur my vision, but instead, allowed me to see.  What could ignite such a fire?  What could cause such a force to spread?  Only the clarity of such thick smoke could lead me to the answer; that this wild fire of my soul began with the smallest flicker of the flame of hope. 

My cheeks became wet with ashes and a smile covered the rubble.  My son noticed and asked, “Are you so happy, Mommy?” 

“No, son.  I am better than happy.  I am hopeful.” 

And the fire rages on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fear


I used to think that I needed more strength, more courage to fight the battle with Fear.  I thought that if I were bolder in my actions and bigger in my faith, I might finally squelch his looming whispers.  I thought of Daniel in a den with lions and David in a ring with a giant, the models of men who did not walk with Fear.  And I knew that I was certainly not big or bold.  I knew that I would surely run from a den of lions and flee from a giant in a ring. So I managed Fear the best way that I knew how – by ignoring his presence and waiting until he was ready to pass me by.

But I am beginning to believe that fighting Fear looks a lot less like battle and a lot more like surrender. And that bravery is not always accomplished in triumphant moments of glory, but in quiet moments of trust.  I wonder if Daniel and David also heard the taunting voice of Fear, if they too knew what it was to feel his arm draped across their shoulders, pressing down, attempting to paralyze.  Perhaps they did, in fact, walk with Fear.  And maybe this is exactly what made them brave. They kept walking, knowing and trusting that their battles were never theirs to fight.  For it was neither the moment that Daniel walked out of the den nor the moment that the giant fell to David’s rock that defined these men as brave.  No, it was in the quiet moments before, when their hearts screamed “Fear” but their lips whispered, “Father.”

So today, as I walk with Fear’s empty threats ringing in my ears, might I have the courage to hear, instead, the full promises of God.  When my heart shakes and my spirit screams “Fear,” might I whisper “Father,” not just once in the morning or right before bed, but a hundred times a day: “Father, Father, Father.”   When Fear comes along side of me and rattles my settled soul, I pray for strength, not to fight but to surrender, again and again.  And when my heart begins to close to protect itself from looming Fear, may my hands begin to open, to receive the goodness of His holy will.  Bravery, for me, may not look like taming lions or fighting giants.  Bravery, for me, may look more like walking and living, moment by moment, with Fear’s taunting voice in my ear, but the Father’s mighty name on my lips.  And as I walk, may the whispers of Fear be not my battle cry.  Instead, may the promises of a good Father be my freedom song.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Today...


On a day such as this, there are no words, just the joy and pain marking one year since Webb's heavenly homecoming.   



William Webb Monroe
November 28, 2008 - October 22, 2011

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 22

Does the oak tree count the days
With the mother who mourns?
Does he, too, watch and wait
For the Earth’s complete orbit?

Does he look away,  
Afraid of and aching from, the date that looms?
Or does he lean into it,
Accepting and open to what a year might mean?

For he was also cut down, insides exposed,
When the little boy died too young.
Though he has weathered droughts of summer and snaps of winter,
The heat and chill of this death
Was too much for even an oak.
But he keeps growing,
In hopes that he will once again
Have shade to share.

Now as the Earth returns
To its place marking the day,
The mother inside the house
Casts the last of the stitches
Needed to knit together the broken circle.
The tears of the mother wet the yarn,
While the tears of the oak wet the ground,
As they remember all that was.

She stares out her window,
The fire of hell
And the dew of heaven
Still fresh on her skin
From this day, one year ago.
And she sees her mighty oak,
Now just a stump,
The remains of pain that slashed. 

So she counts, and stitches,
In the great shadow of this stump.
For it will take more than a year
For a mother and an oak
To stand tall again.

Mother and oak,
Cut down, but still alive.
Weeping while reaching,
Remembering while rejoicing. 
Crying while counting,
As the days make a year.  







Thursday, October 11, 2012

Beauty



I stand on top of a mountain in western North Carolina with the ones I love most.  I reach out to touch His canvas and the scene is so fresh, I swear, the paint is still wet.  The same reds and oranges that last week sent me hiding are now curiously hemming me in, behind and before, calling me, inviting me to abide.  So I settle into the colors that I once feared, open to the possibility that even they are from Him.  From this view, the creaking of the cracks and the ripping of the seams from earth’s brokenness are mere echoes swallowed into the beauty He sows.  Up here, the mourner’s groans and the griever’s wails dissolve into the open space of God’s hallowed creativity. Much like grief, this beauty cannot be pinned down with words or expression.  It cannot be tamed to description or tale.  Yet all around I feel the wind of His holy whisper, breathing life into the crooked lines of the cracks that crisscross the earth. 

Too often the screams and the moans of the world are all I hear.  In my own life, yes, but also in the lives that weave around me, lives I know and lives I imagine, so many stories pointing to how far we have fallen. I bleed from the shards of brokenness that I have felt and from the shards of brokenness that I have dealt.  And the wounds seem too deep to heal, too vast to close.  So I walk along the crooked lines that mark the earth’s pain, while feeling and dealing the ache of its unraveling.

Here on top of this mountain, it is not that I am able to make sense of all the pain.  Instead, I am able to make peace of all the sensing.  I have found in His creation a thread to stitch together the pieces that I hold, until He makes me whole.  Maybe it is not explanation or rationality that soothes the wounds of the broken heart and the broken world.  But instead, might it be His beauty that is ultimately the perfect balm?  Perhaps this is why, since Webb’s death, I have so fervently chased after beauty, in poetry and prose, in music and nature.  I have found it to be the only power that can match the pain.   For as I gaze out onto the paint-brushed tops of trees, I am silenced by a magic that presses in on all sides of me.  It rocks me and holds me, sings to me and speaks to me. The echo of the earth’s breaking is a distant whisper beneath the clamoring of God’s creative masterpiece.  I see my own pain woven into the intricate contours of this ancient mountain, a landscape bigger than my open wound and smaller than His mighty hand.  No, I cannot yet make sense of it, the crisscrossing and interweaving cracks of our brokenness.  But as I look out from this mountain at what He has done and all that He has created, I see a fuller picture, a widening light in the cracks, and from where I stand, it is beautiful.  


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autumn


A leaf, fire red, lies caked onto wet pavement
Flashing signs of autumn’s arrival,
While orange and brown and yellow rain down
From trees undressing.
Green kale twists and curls
Where the vines of cucumbers once gnarled and knotted.
The sun speaks kindly now,
Hoarse from the rowdy screams of summer.
Gentle and cruel,
Autumn is calling. 
Though I lock knees and dig heels,
October ushers me in with crisp air and warming hue.
Will you be gentler this year?
Will your winds whisper anew or yet again whip?
My words dissolve as leaves decay. 
Yellow floats and mockingbird migrates
While I wait for October’s reply. 
Silently he shakes the trunk of the oak,
Pouring down red and orange and brown.
I stand drenched in his melting colors
For autumn is upon me.  

image from Pinterest

Friday, September 28, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip

See this post


Jeff and I dressed up as wacky super heros (Captain Community and Soul Sista) for the children of our church small group.  I'm pretty sure it was the adults who got the biggest thrill.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mine


I sat cross-legged on the wooden planks of our floor last September.  A smile crept upon my face at the sound of the toilet flushing.  Webb was learning, slowly and beautifully learning.  The door sprang open and light spilled into the dark hallway.  He bounced out of the bathroom, and looked left, then right to see me sitting, waiting, at the end of the hall.  Our eyes met and he instantly shouted, “I did it, Mama!”  I remember his feet, pounding on the floor to meet me.  I remember how he jumped into my lap without warning, without request, pride glowing from his smile.  I remember his skin, softly wrapped under my arms, his body folded, a return to fetal.  And I remember wishing, searching for a new way to say what I felt deep in my bones, “I am so proud of you.”

I didn’t know that this would later become one of my most tender memories of Webb.  I didn’t know that I would one day count it among my treasured.  It was so small, so short, and so simple at the time.  How could I have known that it was its simplicity that marked it sacredness?  A boy learning a new skill; it happens all the time, every day.  But it was never his mastery that rattled love around in my bones.  It was never what or how he accomplished that sent pride shooting through my marrow.  It was never what he did, but whose he was.  And he was mine.  In the ways that matter most to me now, it best explains my love for him.  He was mine. 

In the past months, I have wondered how God is feeling about my slow, clumsy trek to Him.  How I have sat in church perplexed at all the thanksgiving, all the adoration.  How I have listened to words of exultations spoken aloud and have instead wanted for someone to speak words of anger or doubt.  How I have longed for songs of praise to be replaced with songs of lament.  What would He say to me, who seems to be failing at mastering spiritual fervor? 

Perhaps His gentle answer is found in my sweet memory.  I feel the floor shake as Webb’s little feet run to pounce in my lap.  I feel his body, folded and hidden in these arms that shelter with love and pride, for nothing that he has done, but for whose he is.  And I think that I am a long way from looking at my God with the same beaming face of pride.  And I am a long way from shouting, “I did it, Abba!”  But I am learning, slowly and beautifully learning.  I wonder if in His grace, He too waits with love, not because I have anything mastered, certainly not because I have become accomplished in faith.  But perhaps His love flows simply and sacredly because He says, “I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1).  


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Psalm 84



The chords of the harp pluck holy honey
Into air that drips psalm into soul. 
I reach for music, but like time
Full and invisible, it slips through fingers.
So I cling to words, repeatable, readable,
Sacred words that settle into the deep.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
Sings the psalmist to a God
And a girl who floats in longing’s current.
I am swimming free through
Streams of honey and strings of harp,
Riding the wave of thick and sweet,
Swept away by its rich melody.
Floating in longing’s deep stream
My grip on the familiar, loosened
My hold onto comfort, released
While cool ripples tickle my toes.
And slowly gold turns to blue
Honey to water
Harp to hope
Awakened to peace bleeding through,
As blue water rushes healing from the inside
Where His words settled into the deep.
I am surprised by a fresh sound
That grows and builds around the song of the strings.
A sound completely new, but strangely familiar.
It is the sound of clouds rattling to the beat of clapping hands,
And the earth quaking to the pounding of dancing feet.
It is the sound of mountains moving,
And rocks crying out.
It is the sound of my own voice shouting praise
To the current of a river flowing within me.
Again I reach for music, but like time it slips away.
So I cling to joy,
Tangible, palpable, rhythmic joy,
Sacred joy that settles into the deep.  



via Lindsay Caldwell on pinterest