The Next Thing

This summer has been a doozy.  I lost a grandmother, rode the rails of the cancer train with another grandmother (still riding), had a grandfather fall and break his hip–and this while he suffers from late-stage Alzheimer’s.  I’ve been on an extended family vacation, finished a manuscript, tried to sleep at night (and found myself unsuccessful).  I’ve done my level-best, along with millions of other Americans, to ignore our political candidates and their latest absurdities, but found myself horrified anyway when I peaked through my fingers.

All in a few weeks’ time.

DSC_0690This summer has been a doozy, yes, and I’m almost ready for it to be over, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t necessary.  Everything we go through, each day that passes, is, in its own mysterious way, a necessary part of the whole that makes up our lives.  Our experiences shape us and we shape them (which is what writing is, in the end, the shaping of events into stories we can tell until we begin to understand them a little).  God helps us with the shaping, and that’s a good thing since he’s the one who holds everything anyway.

Still, I look forward to the coolness of fall, the reassurance of routine.  I prepare to kiss summer goodbye this time without a hint of nostalgia.  It’s almost time and I’m ready.

 

 

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A Defiant Hope in 2016

We put away our tree yesterday without regret.

Christmas was warm and simple, the way I hoped it would be.  After opening presents, we visited my grandparents in their separate care centers, and both were in high spirits.  The kids played the piano in the rec room for my grandmother, which I think she liked, though a younger man in a wheelchair muttered that we were interrupting his Christmas Sports Center experience.

Often we feel wistful when we put decorations away after Christmas, but not this time.  There was nothing sensational about the season, but it was enough.  We had holy, quiet moments where we reflected on the birth of Jesus, on his life, death, and resurrection, on the salvation that he offers to those who know they need it.  We listened to Christmas music (the kids begged for international renditions as well as electronic remixes this year).  We ate loads of chocolate and spicy sausage.  We opened presents and created hazardous fires with piles of discarded paper.

And now we’re ready for 2016.

Last year was an anxious one for the United States and the world.  We struggled for perspective, finding ourselves caught up in an endless barrage of bad news along with everyone else.  It looks as if the new year will continue to present us with compelling reasons to lose hope.

But we’re ready, and we refuse.

Jesus is both the reason for Christmas and the reason for the hope that is within us.  (Which is not to say he’s the author of some pie-in-the-sky optimism that won’t look properly at the dire straights we’re all in.  On the contrary, his mandate to love others means that as his followers we’ll likely feel and see more sorrow–not less–as we seek to clasp hurting hands wherever we find them.  More sorrow and more reality).

We’re determined to carry on in 2016 without hand-wringing and panic because he promises that he will never leave us, never forsake us, never stop remaking us.  And not just us but, someday, everything.  Until then, we will join him in telling people Good News–news that hurts in the short run but heals in the end. And we will love boldly because we have been loved.

Yep.  We want to face 2016 with defiant, humble gladness, like people who have read the last chapter.  Because we have.  And it’s very good.

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

DSC_1123

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.

An Addendum

People think that if you’ve been up close to suffering, human or otherwise, that it puts things into perspective for you.  That you pick your battles carefully, that you don’t get bogged down with petty sorrows because you know how bad things can really get.  They assume that you’ve had to grow a little tough, or else go crazy.

Maybe all that’s true, to some extent.  But I’ve found that experiencing the suffering of others (in India, and in other places) along with some of my own, has given my heart stretch marks, instead.  It’s made it baggy and soft and able to hold more–more sadness, probably, but I hope more love, too.  My heart’s weaker than it used to be, and less efficient.  I cry too much about things that used to escape my notice.

But that’s ok.  It’s a price I’ve been willing to pay in order to get down low, and I don’t regret it.  And, anyway, it just means that things like this,

DSC_1452are more apt to make me smile.

So here’s to those of us with worn, flabby hearts that can’t keep things in proper proportion.  I’m trusting there’s a reason for softness.