Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.
- Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter)
My house is trashed, but our bags are finally (nearly) packed – two skirts for the conference, a dress for the funeral.
Memory Eternal, Ray! God, give rest to the soul of Your servant who, this morning, has fallen asleep.
And dear Beth and Jared, we are coming! The many of us who love you are gathering, traveling to where you are to share in your grief.
Love covers a multitude of transgressions and sometimes hard to swallow flaws. All steeped in our imperfections we show up "as is" to weep with those who weep, experiencing a merciful foretaste of Heaven in our need for one another – in our comforting and being comforted.
Yes, I'll be gone a little while. Please keep the Johnsons in your prayers.
Peace, courage and love, love, love to you!
A Name for All
by HART CRANE
Moonmoth and grasshopper that flee our page
And still wing on, untarnished of the name
We pinion to your bodies to assuage
Our envy of your freedom—we must maim
Because we are usurpers, and chagrined—
And take the wing and scar it in the hand.
Names we have, even, to clap on the wind;
But we must die, as you, to understand.
I dreamed that all men dropped their names, and sang
As only they can praise, who build their days
With fin and hoof, with wing and sweetened fang
Struck free and holy in one Name always.
Yesterday, I hit Kohls, Target and Staples. Make forty copies of this, my to-do list instructed. Buy travel-sized toiletries.
This afternoon, its been:
Return these e-mails
RSVP to those parties
Wash my long dark denim skirt
On Friday I'm flying to Boston for a Women's Retreat. My husband and kids will go on ahead to my in-laws for Spring Break. I've been scurrying, hyped up on black coffee, packing for all of us.
Just when I'd sorted through the piles of dark clothes to be washed (two pairs of jeans and three shirts should be enough for each of them), I received a voicemail from my friend Beth's husband. You know, Beth, with the beautiful children, the beautiful blog reflections – the Beth I went to college with, lived with for five years in Chicago – the Beth who stood by me, holding me firmly by the shoulder when I thought I'd die giving birth to my youngest son, Benjamin. Beth, Benjamin's godmother. She is, for all intents and purposes, a full-fledged member of our family. And she is, as her husband's message conveyed, spending her afternoon saying goodbye to her father.
I've had my cell phone in my pocket, awaiting an update – still physically taking care of business but mentally engaged in an attempt to will my emotional presence, my support of her, past the miles that separate us and into the quiet of the excruciatingly profound moments currently encompassing my dear friend, and her mother, her sister. While I'd moved about, planning ahead, the soul of a kind and generous man approached the curtain dividing this life from the next. This is me pausing, standing still, out of respect for the magnitude of that impending passage. Lord have mercy.
Bound together as we are, both joy and grief reverberate, as they should, through the whole of us. Love means choosing willingly, purposefully, to absorb the impact.
* " So how are you doing?" asked (so sincerely) my homeschooling confidante with four children six years old and under - a hero in my eyes who spends her long days meeting her family's many needs and her evenings at the hospital with her dying father.
* "Your book brought me comfort," a mother wrote to me – a brave, brave mother – a mother who's endured a whole heck of alot – more than I have.
* "Mom, you're snuggly," my nine-year-old told me yesterday. "I see other moms and just can't imagine cuddling them."
* I received a text earlier that said "love u". It made my morning.
* My brother submitted the following to our parish's lenten recipe e-mail exchange:
Peanut Butter Sandwich
2 slices bread (white or wheat)
3 tbl peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
Spread peanut butter evenly over one slice of bread with butter knife. Add second slice of bread. (Also good with jelly, jam, marmalade, or preserves.)
so that made me smile.
* Sixteen years ago today, I read a Walt Whitman poem at that same brother's wedding. I got a sister whom I cherish more and more all the time out of that deal.
* My youngest child would not hear of me leaving the house this morning without at least a green necklace on. She got wind of some disturbing rumors about random pinching and was horrified. I'm glad she's got my back.
* Tonight is book club. My favorite.
* It is warm enough today to wear my femine white spring jacket instead of my coffee stained brown down coat.
* Speaking of coffee, I just drank some with a neighbor while our kids played.
* Our sidewalk is covered in chalk drawings.
* I was gifted with wise, caring advice from someone I would consider both a mentor and a friend.
My pick from the Lent Bucket was: "List ten things you are thankful for." I thought of twelve blessings (some more soul provoking than others) - a dozen reasons why my life is precious.
BY CARL SANDBURG
That first week of Lent, I was sweet as a lamb. You would have loved me, and my fountain of patience, my heaven colored glasses. Today I'm remembering wistfully that much more pleasant version of my now wolfish, irritated, less than lovable self. Oh good grief, can I not hang on to anything?
It's usually just at that moment I'm pretty sure I've overcome the bulk of my nasties I'm caught off guard by a karate chop to my most vulnerable parts (my thoughts, always my thoughts). Just three nights ago, I was jolted awake by "what-ifs" so violent they left my head ringing, and apparently my nerves frayed because I've taken to growling (grrrrr!) and snapping when what I should be, for everyone's sake, is silent.
Last Saturday, we sang during vespers, "allow me to pass over the battlefield of Lent without sin." Yes, that was telling – a bit of foreshadowing perhaps to prepare me for what was to come? Well, lookie here, despair, I may be wounded but I'm still fighting! And you know what I'm gonna do with your big old neon taunts about my weakness, foolishness, general unworthiness? I'm going to claim them.
Who needs the Cross? I do. Who needs Mercy? I sure as hell do. Who is just as susceptible to screwing up, falling flat on her face, forgetting her promises Apostle Peter style, as anyone else in this world? Me? Did you answer "me"? Well, you got it!
And here is where doubt and despondency cannot contain us: precisely because of my flaws, I come to you open handed - defying pride, logic, self-confidence. Who am I to close my fist in judgement? To shake it in your face while you duck to avoid the redwood protruding from my eyeball?
Up ahead is our Resurrection! I extend my asking, waiting, hand to you. Will you walk with me?Read More
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
The article on the living hell that's become of Japan shared space on my computer screen with an ad for "Hollywood's New Secret Diet" and tips for finding a haircut that works well with your face shape. "Ah," I thought, "how very telling."
It's crazy hard to meditate for long on the Greater Reality, namely that every one of us is in the process of dying, without becoming eager for an escape. It's remarkable how the magnitude of our universal vulnerability to any number of tragic scenarios, and of the powerlessness of our resources and accomplishments to combat them, can be so effectively muffled by You Tube, a bag of Doritos or a trip to the outlet mall.
Great Lent is asking of me to gaze upon the terrifying Truth in all its mind blowing wonder without blinking or turning my head, and boy oh boy if that doesn't make me squirm like a bug in the sun under a magnifying glass. It's overwhelming.
In this unnerving state of rawness, however, where theories and grievances melt away (in light of the Light) into irrelevance, the Resurrection emerges as the Everything it truly is. If I can just hold out – refrain from surrendering to the temptation to find relief from the intensity, of a Mercy far beyond our comprehension, in empty trivialities - anxiety will loosen its grip on my soul.
I'm not so naive to imagine this struggle to keep my faith in spite of it all won't tear me up, or reveal my ugliness. No, I know by this point it's going to hurt, burn, humble me, demand more from me than I feel capable of giving. I may very well end up crawling my way to Pascha, and oh how much more triumphant will that empty tomb be because of my utter desperateness for it – my keen realization that without it I am lost, all is lost?
For those who choose to see, earth is crammed with heaven. Love triumphs always.Read More