Beauty for Today, Too

I could not stop crying yesterday even as my kids hung around me and looked stressed, even after I stared into my HappyLight until it felt like I’d journeyed to the heart of the sun. Today my face is an old water balloon, like I knew it would be.

When I slammed my alarm off and opened my Bible this morning, this is what greeted me:

“All flesh is like the grass

And all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.*

And, friends, that’s truly where my hope lies–and my grandmother’s. It’s not in tightening or whitening creams, not in regimens or good lighting or even temporary good health. Our hope lies in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which he purchased forgiveness of our sins, and it lies in the promise of eternal life with him. The promise of himself as the ultimate gift. It really is more than enough for today, tomorrow, and forever.

*1st Peter 1:24-25 (ESV)

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Making It Home

So much happened in the world while I was away from my family last week.  I tried not to see or read about all the death piling up on various continents because I felt naked and small without the comfort of my children’s faces in my Paraguayan hotel room.

But I knew.

I’m home now and I’m sad and grateful.  Sad that so many will never hold their children again in this life and grateful that today I am holding mine.

Life is short and I’m choosing to be thankful for what is in front of me for as long as I have today.

It’s possible (normal?) to be both sad and thankful, I’m finding out.  Maybe the sadness makes the thanksgiving realer, somehow.  All I know is, I still have Hope.  And that He is good even when life is devastating.

Life Cycle

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I was young a few days ago, and there were things I didn’t know, so the soil under my

feet felt especially warm

and smelled like hope.  And this richness lined my mind with its fragrant crumbles,

made me believe that there are things worth saying, and that

there is some way

of saying them.

I’m not young today (this is how things go),

and the dirt isn’t black

anymore, but medium brown,

and we are both leached.

And I do wonder, now, if there’s any point in speaking fragile things

when the sun is high and

mid-life and

killing like this.

But I am not old yet,

and there are still things I don’t know.

On Surviving the World With Your Heart Intact

There’s a lot going on in the world these days, as there always has been, of course.  Before the rise of the Great and Mighty Internet, we only knew those bits of information hearty enough to make their way across the ocean by mouth.  We digested them, sometimes with fear and trembling, in bite-sized chunks, and then folded our papers.

Now we know things (whether they are true or not is beside the point) before they’ve even happened.  And it seems that most of them are bad.

A person can only handle so many heartbreaks, hers or other people’s, before she begins to curl inward.  And this is what I’ve done when I’ve become aware of too much.  I’ve felt my insides folding up shop like those illegal vendors with their tarps spread on Paris streets.  I’ve gathered the corners of my heart, all its heavy trinkets sliding to the middle, and I’ve thrown it behind me, the weight now on my back.

And, of course, I’ve prayed.  But my prayers have often been breathless and tight, not made of deliberate words, but of bile, of pure acid.  And as I’ve waited for peace to alight, I have felt the locusts scrambling for dominance in my chest.

My prayers are different now, mostly.  I ask for the strength to bear what I’m meant to, those hard things that will bring honor to the Lord, and make a difference on earth.  And I ask for the courage not to look too long at what I’m sure will destroy me.

After I’ve prayed, I think about things that are right and good.  I do this with ninja-like intensity.  What are the beautiful things in the world?  Who made them?  He is the Ultimate Good, and He is here, remember?

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Finally, because I’m a writer, I write.

And, of course, the earthquakes keep coming, and the bodies continue to hit the floor.  The Thought Police wield their intellectual billy clubs, and our neighbors look sideways at us.

But there is Hope.  Emily Dickinson said it’s a thing with feathers.  I say it’s the One who made feathers.

What My Daughter Thinks of Me

The living room is gentle in gray walls and we sit in our corners on opposite sides of the room.  My daughter is wrapped in a blanket on the couch and I sit across in the striped chair with my coat still on because I’m always cold.  We look at each other, same blue eyes, and then I let myself glance away to float on the sun stripes that dissect the floor.

I wish I could crawl into her heart, sometimes, to see what’s there.  She’s Rapunzel’s tower, tall and secure.  Let down your heart, I call from the ground below.  She is kind and nine, a mystery I’m left to solve.

She rubs a lazy hand over the triumphant dog perched on top of the couch, and her face is soft with private affection.  Her lips curl over braces we just paid for and that puffy mouth makes her look like a baby.  She murmurs something to the dog, then pulls out the bobby pin that holds her growing-out bangs and shoves it into the loose-weave of the blanket.  I open my mouth, check myself.

I am driven, though I wish to God I wasn’t.  She is a dreamer and I remember being a dreamer once, too.  If I let myself, I can still summon childish surprise at the physical world, feel the solid return to pavement after flying.

And now?

Now I press hard on the lid of the snake-in-a-can inside, hoping all the striving, and teaching, and trying, and dying will stay contained.  Yes, I teach my daughter but what does she learn?  I stare at her face to capture a glimpse of the truth before it darts away, that silver fish that eludes my net.

What I want to ask her is this:  Am I too much for you?  Will you keep dreaming?  Is my shushing and smoothing and  fussing and judging and defining ruining you?  Because I can only be me, and Jesus changes people, but sometimes he goes slow.  So?

But what comes out of my mouth is, Tell me something.

My daughter tilts her head to one side and says, Like what?  Then I tell her to give me advice on what kids need.  But what I need is to take our pulse, hers and mine.

She thinks, then says, “My advice is to go outside everyday if the weather lets you.  And dogs are important.  They are the best part of the day.”

Well, this isn’t what I meant, though a part of me is relieved.

“Also, it feels bad when you correct me.  I remember it, but it fades.”  She pauses.

Here comes everything else, I think.

“I know one thing,” she says.  “People should let their kids sew.”

She smiles at me and shrugs.  My heart contracts.  I still don’t know what she thinks of her mother, but right now I don’t care.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday Husband had no job.  He had the hope of a job, which is not the same thing.  Today he sat through an interview in which, during the first five minutes, the hiring committee said, “This job is yours for the taking.”  Then they all sat and chatted for two hours.

Scripture says that hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.  We know a thing or two about sick, anxious hearts.  Today, in a small way, our hope was fulfilled.  It somehow makes all the previous waiting seem worth it.

Of course we know that there will still be bad days after this; days where nothing is going right and we wonder what God is up to.  That’s why it will always be of utmost importance that our hope rests in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.  We know that no new job, new baby, new success, or relationship, or power, or fame can ever be hope’s final resting place.  As the old hymn says,

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ the solid Rock I stand.  All other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.

Still, thanks Lord, for a job.