(86) it’s a wonderful life-cycle {flashback}

When they left today, Grandma said goodbye to my niece, saying “Have a wonderful life.”

I realize suddenly that I am not ready to lose my grandparents, to bid them goodbye. I realize that I hurried through my goodbyes today. What if those were my last?

It is strange to watch as one generation prepares to depart as another enters. The world as I know it is changing. I will lose my remaining grandparents someday soon and my niece may not even remember meeting them. They will be a story to her, not real people.

As I see Grandpa fading, I realize they are almost stories to me. Who they are is not who I remember them to be, not the grandparents who took us shopping and out to lunch, who let us spend the night in their hotel room when they came to visit, then took us to breakfast at Marie Calendar’s across the parking lot, who lived in the gorgeous old house made more wonderful by the huge dollhouse, the muddy creek along the spacious back yard, the big trampoline, and the tire swing, who let me carry away 50 pounds of apples off their trees and delighted in stories of my newfound interest in canning, who came to piano and dance recitals, school presentations and end-of-the-year parties, college graduations, and weddings.

Today my niece, just 5 or so months old, sat with Grandpa and gnawed on his big thumb and fingers. He looked at her with this sort of softness and muffled delight. Maybe he was remembering her mama, his granddaughter, sitting on his lap a couple decades ago. Or maybe even his daughter, her grandma sitting there once.

***

I wrote the above on April 10, 2013. I saw Grandpa again in August and he passed away in September. This April visit was the last time my niece spent with Grandpa. The life cycle continues and the challenge is to live in the moment.

He would want us to have a wonderful life, to play a lot of music, to work hard, to travel well and often, to love our families, to take care of each other and of people less fortunate than us.

I think of him often, but I anticipate I will especially when I vaccinate my future children and remember his fight against polio, when I drive by the Clackamas shopping center and remember how he almost-single-handedly tackled the project of convincing homeowners to sell their land so they could build a grand new shopping center, when I pass by Marie Calendar’s or Shari’s (although I probably won’t stop!), when I come across lemon meringue pie (his favorite), or happen to have donuts and coffee for breakfast.

This life is strange, thrilling, terrifying, so full of love, so full of relationships, so full of sorrow. This reflection is all the more poignant in the wake of Zack’s grandpa’s sudden passing on Friday. I actually wrote a draft of this post on Thursday night and then on Friday night I was helpless on the other end of the phone, unable to reach out to comfort my grieving husband.

I am writing this to remember Grandpa, but more than that to struggle through these seasons of growing up, growing older, watching generations cycle and families shift. The transitions are sometimes slow, sometimes sudden, always laced with a intense spectrum of emotions. I don’t always understand it, but I am caught up in the unbearably beautiful swirl of it all.

(74) a mosaic of victory

It’s Veteran’s Day again.

The one person who comes to mind out of the millions is Mr. Neil Carey, a charming regular guest at the hotel where I worked for a year and a half in Anacortes, Washington. He was in the Navy during World War II, attached to the only battleship (as I understand it) that was not at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. I never met his wife Betty, but I understand from Neil that she was quite the catch. When the news came about Pearl Harbor, Neil was allowed one day of leave before they shipped out. Betty came down to Seattle for the day and they were married, then he left for war and she took the bus to Mount Vernon and then hitch hiked to Anacortes. Neil told me he knew he had to snatch her up before someone else got to her!

Over the many interactions that we had, he would ask me how my husband was doing in the Navy and reminisce about how things had changed. He told me about how quickly he was promoted in wartime, described the different odd jobs he did along the way, like running the ship store for a while. He glossed over what it was like to see a lot of friends die, but you could still catch a glimpse sometimes that that experience also made him who he was. (Both Neil and Betty Carey wrote books about their life experiences, which you can find online).

The title of this post comes from the inscription on a headstone in a World War II era North African graveyard:  “Into the mosaic of victory I lay this priceless piece, my dearest son.”

I feel you could dive into the phrase a long way. The meaning in the context of lost lives during wartime is obvious. But maybe there is other, more subtle significance in it as well. I think what I loved most about Neil is his unquenchable spirit, his endless enthusiasm for life and stories. He seems perpetually selfless, bent on improving another’s day even when in the midst of a rough one of his own. It is as though his way of living is his ultimate priceless piece in the mosaic of victory.

Maybe we are the mosaic of victory. That regardless of the outcomes of the various circumstances we face, even with things as large as wars with munitions and wars with words, the way we are living through it becomes the mosaic of victory.

Please understand I do not wish to oversimplify or undervalue the immense sacrifices of our veterans in any degree.

I’m just thinking out loud. And I like the feel of that phrase:  Mosaic of victory. A cooperative, collaborative creation of something meaningful and beautiful. Perhaps in some ways this is why we pause to honor our veterans, with special recognition for their particular and highly-sacrificial collaboration in this massive mosaic.

(69) enough

how will I know when I’m enough
when I’ve done enough
when I’ve accomplished enough
I’m living in a waiting room
and trying oh so hard
(as always)
to do that right thing
to be that right girl
and I see that this is my trance
but I don’t know how to live through it

and then I hear from the outside
“just do one more thing”
just one more good thing
and I try to think about what I could do
or how to fit it in
and I feel oh so full of one-more-things already
and yet so empty
some part of this is just not working for me
I think I’m doing everything I can
it doesn’t seem to make a difference anyway.
what if I can’t do “just one more thing”
what if I already am living in a to-do list as long as my body?

 

how does the rain know when it has rained enough?
who closes the floodgates
and tells the rain to pause
what is the link between “enough”
and longing?
do I long for intimacy, for hope, for healing, for things-made-new
because there isn’t already enough of all that
or because I’ve tasted just enough to make me long for more?

 

and what does it mean when we say
that Christ is already enough
and when He says that his burden
is easy
easy!

I do not know what this means
or really how to live it out
although I have seen some examples
but I don’t know how they do it
and sometimes I am ready to give up.
which, of course, I won’t.
give up, that is
and I am sure that this is all part of
learning to live in the gray space
which, I’ve been told, is part of my current life work
but the gray space feels very unsafe
when dealing with big stuff like
salvation and eternity and
Living Life Really Well

 

 

Heavy Downpour --- Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

Heavy Downpour — Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

this is not easy for me
I feel unsteady and tired and
not-enough
but maybe it will help me to remember the rain
it knows when to start and stop
it understands enough
it understands that enough is sometimes
a flood
or a drought
but that is still enough
which doesn’t make sense
but still might be true

and maybe since the rain and I share
the same Maker
I also know more about
when to start
when to stop
and being enough
than I think I do.

 

I don’t know.
It’s just an idea.

 

 

(I decided to turn off comments for this post, but feel free to contact me personally with your thoughts or responses. thanks for reading/walking with me.)

(65) thoughts while traveling by bus

It has been about a month since I’ve written here and almost that long since I’ve written at all, I think. I just haven’t known what to say. Or maybe I’ve just been talking so much I haven’t had any words left. That seems unlikely. Or maybe I’ve been listening so much, I haven’t taken time to think. That seems more possible, given my current occupation.
I’ve been doing a lot more thinking out loud lately, I think. More than usual? And my words sound loud and tumbling and repetitive. Like I’m fleshing out the same issues as always. The endless processing doesn’t resolve the angst as well recently as it has in the past, it seems. I might be making that up.

***
I’ve taken up amateur couch-surfing of late, spending the last 9 nights in 4 different homes. Most recently, I was on an air mattress on a playroom floor. I turned over last night and a small toy car tumbled out of the bed and scooted away.
I notice how different relationships bring me out of myself differently. Is this normal? I imagine it must be. But the “who am I?” question slips in and out of my thoughts. If I am a bit of a shapeshifter, adjusting diet, habits, language, in different groups of friends and acquaintances, am I still an honest person, a person with integrity? Is all of that still me?

***
I think I want a cause. Something to really work for. Like immigrant and refugee rights. Or something. Maybe what I really want is some direction. To move consistently one way.
This thought is sparked by just listening to a couple podcasts. I annoy myself by caring about the cause of the oppressed, but apparently not enough to do anything tangible, even to do the research to learn more.

***
This seat is unbelievably uncomfortable. Only 99 miles to go…

(62) for god’s sake, write (1 year later)

“Am I too ridiculous, trying to write on this blog…again? Am I just doing it because “everyone is doing it?”

For now, my goal is to simply write. Not gain followers…certainly not to impress anyone. Just to write. Yes, some of those other less attractive motives are also lurking… [but] I am attempting to deny them satisfaction or disappointment by keeping this endeavor a somewhat-private one for now.”

And so my blogging journey began (again), a year ago today. Again because I have definitely flirted with blogging before (here’s a blast from the past…), but usually after a while I have given up. I am proud of and grateful to myself for sticking with this so far. I am often uncertain of my motives, the validity of my ideas and even the necessity of my words in a world already so filled with so many words. But I am absolutely certain in this: Writing allows me to live and grow connected with and aware of my soul. Which is why I’m doing it.

Of course, I do love having an audience as well. (This post really resonated with me!) But I didn’t even give my husband a link to the blog until I’d been writing at least a month, maybe more. Knowing that real people are reading (particularly people I know and whose opinions I value!) has challenged my resolve to write honestly and without fear. It’s good for me, albeit often intimidating. Thank God for sisters who text about how amazing a particular blog post was when it was “the one” I felt was shabby and unkempt and ridiculous. It’s true though, that I am most blessed by others in their authenticity. I don’t want to hear the right words about a topic. I want to hear real words. And so I want to write real words.

But enough of writing about writing. In celebration of a year of blogging, here is a recap of some of my favorite posts [(26) letter to my niece, (23) longing, (55) this strange gift, (57) palm sunday eve, (37) a bit of everything] and some favorite moments, phrases and questions from this year of processing/journaling/writing:

The knobby tips of carrots just rounded above the soil, a million nasturtium blossoms crawling everywhere, the damp fuzzy smell of tomato plants, bunches of chamomile and lavender, towering sunflower, bright sunset-colored dahlia blooms, a multitude of roses on the bush that looked like it was dying… The garden is saving my life right now. [from (12) what is saving your life right now?)

 

We celebrated victory, listened to stories, laughed at funny jokes, accents, and general silliness. We touched my sister’s belly and whispered love through the greenhouse walls where the newest member of the family is preparing to burst forth into our lives…We came together as family, as friends, to feed each other and share life together, even if only for a few nights. [from (11) catching up]

 

What if this “being,” this “who I am” is not the mistake, but rather the meant-to-be? What if the messiness is exactly where I am meant to be, exactly who I am to be right now? What if Jesus is in the mess with me? [from (5) tears in the dark]

 

Longing, longing, longing for Jesus, for hope, for everything to be made new, for a long, long table with laughter and friends and stories and food and sharing, where I can hold their babies and sing and get up and dance and never leave…I cannot wait to sit at that long table. [from (14) hold. on.)

 

We gather to hear more, to listen longer, because we have all already heard just enough of the music of grace to whet our appetite for more, in laughter, in stories, in care expressed, in tears shared. Look at how grace brings us together. [from (34) grace]

 

Thank you for joining me in this strange and beautiful journey.

(60) longing for wholeness

I think at times when I feel too much longing, I stop writing for a while.

This doesn’t make sense, really.

Maybe I’ve postponed writing because of all the time I’ve spent in front of a computer screen, typing for others, hoping to rack up enough lines to make a decent income, propping sore wrists in a supportive manner, escaping from the computer to the garden, only to come back for an episode of Friends or Battlestar Galactica.

Or maybe I just stop writing because I do that sometimes when I feel too much longing.

Life feels deep. Complex. Painful. Sweet. Textured and multidimensional. Rhythmic. Cyclical. About as difficult as a 1,000-feet-of-altitude-gain-per-mile hike. About as simple as the toothlessly charming, slightly askew, wordlessly eloquent grin of a wee baby girl.

Sometimes I feel I cannot bear another moment of this bittersweetness.

And yet the moments tumble on, one after another. So much routine, so many unanswerable questions, so much silence, so many words, such delight, such sorrow. And I am hardly keeping up, barely aware of who I might be while carried in this torrent.

And I ache with longing.

This C. S. Lewis quote resurfaced for me tonight as she and I talked about what a loss it is to only be in a single place at once. I’ve only lived a few years longer than she, but I tell her what I’ve noticed so far: With the sweet, comes the bitter. With the hello, a goodbye. With the yes, a no. To me, this rhythm has been inescapable. The foremost example right now is deeply personal: I’m given the precious gift of closeness with her, with her family, at the extraordinary cost of living far away from him, that sweet man who I love so dearly.

I realize that maybe this is a common thread through the wonderings and conversations and silence of the past days, weeks. I long for restoration in fractured relationships. I long for wholeness and freedom and space — open space even bigger than Texas — in my heart, in my mind. I long for oneness and a knitting-together of soul in marriage. I long for healing and justice and hope and laughter.

Maybe all of this simply points to another place, the place where my heart is truly at home.

I feel that one of the big questions in the show Battlestar Galactica is exploring what it means to be truly human. And maybe these longings I stumble over and by turns embrace and ignore are part of the answer to that question. Maybe to be human is to long for wholeness. Maybe my heart remembers the truth I cannot see, “that I was made for another world.”

(52) conocer {to know}

conocer – to know; to have an idea of or to understand (capture) intellectually the nature, qualities and circumstances of people or things; to understand or perceive someone/thing as distinct from others; to feel or experience…

***

We were playing a “game” in a marriage book by John Gottman, answering questions about each other and, as Gottman says, expanding or filling in details in our “love maps.”

I asked #49, “Name my major rival or enemy.”

He paused a moment before responding, “Your self.”

“I was going to say you don’t really have any major enemies,” he explained, “but I think the only one would be your self.”

***

I finally took the plunge and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: I signed up for an advanced Spanish class through a community continuing-education program. The first night I was terribly nervous. I guess I typically am nervous about going into a new/unknown situation. But by the end of the night, I was excited. I love this language. Beyond that, I am terribly fond of grammar and phonetics. I am deeply intrigued by mutual influence of culture on language and language on culture (is it significant that the complete sentence “I love you” or “yo te amo a ti” is terribly redundant in Spanish? or that many other Spanish sentences employ similar redundancy, probably to emphasize the subjects and objects?)

***

I hear in surround sound the whispered challenge to “know thyself.” From one side, a sister encourages me to hold still and say yes to Jesus. I protest that I do not know how and persist in unending busy-ness. From another, the practice of Lent swells with unending reminders of the stark juxtaposition of our sinfulness and God’s grace. I am tempted to obsess over the rules of fasting, neglecting the invitation to deeper prayer and recognition of who I really am, simultaneously True and Good and full of sinful leanings.

***

I have experienced how meaningful it is to be known, to have my husband pin down an aspect of my self that I hadn’t yet recognized,  to honor my own dreams. See, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

Why, then, am I so terrified to continue down the road of “know thyself”? If I have the potential to be my own greatest rival or enemy and also my own great advocate, if in knowing my self I have the opportunity to also see God’s faithfulness and grace revealed, if, if, if…

then why not?