a swift current of sorrow

I hold the world in the palm of my hand.

Controversy, babies, weddings, travels, lyrics, rants, politics, cupcakes, frustration,  outrage, joy, relief, accomplishment . . . an endless stream of emotion.

Sometimes, the world in my hand becomes too much — scrolling, spinning out of control. Every day a new grief.

Two weeks . . . an airplane full of 239 living souls disappears in a remote sea, an apartment building explodes in Harlem, a mountainside slips and buries a hundred people 60 miles away . . .

Two weeks of nonstop mourning, punctuated by loss after loss. Of longed for babies . . . of cherished mothers . . . of beloved grandparents, including my own.

In my hand, I enter the heartaches of friends, of family, of me.

How do we process life so quickly? Can we possibly feel so fast?

Caught in a swift current, barely keeping head above, I fight my way to the shore.

Can we stop here even an hour? To rest? To grieve? To pray?

How? How do we do this knowing? How do we feel the floods of sadness without drowning?

* * * * *

I am a feeler. I know this. Sometimes, I can barely stay afloat. If you cling to me too hard, we’ll both go down.

I want to hide in bed, pull covers over and stay . . . to submerge sorrow in television, in laughter, in nothingness. To give my eyes a rest, my head, my heart. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and the world will be different. (Ah, but tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.) 

I am exhausted from swimming in and out of the current. I long for a boat of bliss, to float above grief, to get out of the river. Lord, help me back into the boat before I drown.

“We can’t absorb it all. We know too much, too quickly, and one of the worst effects of this avalanche of technology is the loss of compassion.” — Madeleine L’Engle, 1970

The only solace I know, the only way to keep my body in and my head above is a promise. And I cling to it for life.

Surely he has borne our sorrows, surely he has carried our grief . . . *

* * * * *

Some evenings, when I’ve used all the compassionate words I have to plead donations to help heal the hurts of a broken world, I have nothing left. I am hollow. And the most I can do for the ache of the world in my hand, is to turn it off and attend to what’s in front of me. To let the work of my hands, not my troubled mind, minister to my heart.

It’s an unusual afternoon . . . I walk in the door and the house is napping. So, I set to work, and I don’t mind doing the neglected chores. I tidy in silence, picking up scattered clothes and thanking God there is someone here to scatter them. I sip a glass quietly. I pray as I empty last night’s dishes and load the day’s mess. I cook a meal and set a table without a word, and I remember my grandmother’s voice announcing it was “time to take up the food” which meant to put it in serving dishes.

For a few minutes, a counter top is clean, a floor swept, laundry folded. Time and tide have stopped. And I have solitude and order.

I let tears fall again.

Here, in this quiet place, can we sit? Can we be still? Hush the words, the images, the world?

I cry out that my heart is full, is overwhelmed, is drowning. I cry for my family. For the losses of dear friends, of acquaintances, of strangers. For families whose loves are not buried in a cemetery in graves covered with flowers, but in the ocean, under a mountain.

And I feel Jesus’ mercy for this world, for all of us. For all the grief of all time carried on His back in one moment. I feel the gentleness of the One who knew my days before there was one of them, who gathers my tears in a bottle, who wept over the grief of His friends.

And in the cloister of my kitchen, He whispers that He understands. Because He feels it, too. And He holds out His hands to show me.

See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands . . . **

* * * * *

His thoughts said, Before me continually is the grief of wounds, confusion, suspense, distress.

His Father said, Behold there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock.

Then, as a frightened child on a storm-swept mountain-side would gratefully take his father’s hand, and stand on a rock in a place by him, fearing no evil – so it was with the son. For he knew that though the earth be removed and the waters be carried into the midst of the sea, that rock by his Father would never be moved. And he remembered words about things that can be shaken and things that will remain. And though no small tempest lay on him, he said to the multitude of thoughts whose voices sought to disturb him, Sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me. For as His majesty is, so also is His mercy.

His Thoughts Said…His Father Said…, Amy Carmichael

* * * * *

*Isaiah 53:4

** Isaiah 49:16

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Jack Delano, photographer, 1941. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-DIG-fsa-8a3564]

 

repost: a light between here and there

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

letting go of leaves

Hiding is instinct.

Because we feel wrong, because we we’ve done wrong, because we’re afraid.

Because the world is full of devils. And temptation. And deception. And hurt.

Because our eyes have been opened to our flaws. Our tragic flaws . . . hamartia.* His. Hers.

And we cannot close them again.

Our own skin is suddenly not enough. We are not enough. Exposure stabs, air stings. Branches scratch arms, stones gash bare feet, thorns stick, send shivers through us and stay.

We hide, attempt to make covers for ourselves with beautiful things, with leaves hastily sewn together to mask our acutely aware, raw selves. Alive and yet aching, free and yet cut off.

* * * * *

November 14th is an anniversary.

October, 2007    I dared to hope, as we approached the six month mark this time. Dave was in a 12 Step program. We both attended weekly meetings. With support and encouragement, I was slowly letting go of his recovery.

For months, I had been exposed to what dropping masks really looks like, and I began to long for real freedom myself. Not just in weekly meetings, but in all of my life.

I copied this quote into my journal from a book I’d been reading:

PicsArt_1384458095829“Hiding is a curse. It came into being after the fall. Hiding is motivated by shame. It involves pretending and deceiving. Hiding is the place of fear and anxiety. . . . Imagine what your life would be like if all pretense were to vanish from it. Imagine the freedom and relief of not trying to convince anyone that you were smarter or better than you are.”– John Ortberg

I spent October digging deep, pulling out hurts, wrongs, pain — writing them down, discerning what hurts were of my own making and needed confession and which were not my fault in any way but for which I felt responsible. It was a slow, painful bleed. But saying them aloud, calling each one by name, letting go of crushing sense of responsibility for sins that were not mine, admitting and confessing aloud the ones that were . . . it was so very freeing. Secrets, dragged into the light, were relieved of their power. That was November 5th.

Nine days later, Dave came to me to confess. He had been using again, made terrible choices, lost his job and our home.

Every page of that journal and the next is filled with mourning, with letting go and letting fall — a season of stripping away, sorting through shame, wrestling with bitterness. Until Dave told his story of addiction and healing to our church — eight months later — and I began to finally feel free.

Each month then and each year now is a milestone to celebrate.

He’s made it well past six months to six years.

* * * * *

Eastward of Eden, the world glows shades of amber.

Windblown chaff of evergreens sprinkles pavement gold. Yellow-brown pathways lead home.

Wind plucks, swirls golden leaves . . . suspends, whisks in dry needles . . . lets all fall, flickering in sunlight.

Stick figure silhouettes cling to dangling color that remains . . . dropping one by one . . . leaving them exposed, leafless.

Behind the house, autumn transforms woods, uncovers mountains beyond sea. Beside the house, neighbors, once voices hid by forest wall, take on form and face.

The woods betray us. We are vulnerable.

* * * * *

PicsArt_1384460381061 (1)A friend comes to visit. We laugh about this world — neither of us natives — you never know what the trees hide.  Til winter, forests conceal beautiful views . . . and rusted cars, and rotting couches, and old toilets . . .

Woods are good for hiding all sorts of unwanted . . . until naked trees reveal brokenness.

Sometimes you don’t see the mess until the leaves die.

Ah, but the stripping of leaves is only for a season.

And better coverings are being made.

* * * * *

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3

______________________________________________________________

* In literature, hamartia is a tragic flaw. In Scripture, sin.

** Step 4 We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Step 5 We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

a light between here and there

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *