Friday, April 29, 2011

Freedom to Lament

Lament is a cry of belief in a good God,
a God who has His ear to our hearts,
a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.

Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment,
a distrust in the love-beat of the Father's heart.

... the more I learn His love...
the more I genuinely lament,
complaint that trusts His heart.

~ a. voskamp,
One Thousand Gifts

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


When Tucker was born, my heart was overwhelmed with a consuming love for this little person, this complete little boy, who had grown inside me, just beneath my heartbeat.

I studied him as a newborn, the cowlick that matches mine (straight up from the inside of his right eyebrow), the dimpled hands, the sounds of his cry that carried subtle meanings, a language all our own.

I fell in love. I began to wrap my mind around this enchantment, this undeniable bond that carried me through even our stir crazy days.

My heart was full.

And when I became pregnant with Tyler, I feared that my heart couldn't possibly contain any more joy, any more love. How could I love another one as much?

And then I met Tyler. And on the very day he was born, I realized how foolish my fears had been. Of course I could love this one - just as much.

I studied him as a newborn, the cowlick that matches mine (straight up from the inside of his right eyebrow), the long and slender feet, the pointed chin, the golden hair.

And my heart was full... fuller than before.

I am learning that the heart has no capacity for joy. There is always room for more. It's not made up of percentages, portions to divide and pieces to share accordingly. It is one big mess of affection, overlapping into one another, still with strands all their own.

Parents with many, many children say the same... your home may reach is capacity, but your heart never, ever will. There's always room for more.

But, I assert that pain is quite the opposite.

I think my heart has a capacity for pain, a limit to the hurt it will hold. Emptiness has its boundary; there comes a place where there is no more emptiness to pour.

I have read stories of people struck with hypothermia; they feel cold, painfully cold, freezing cold, and then they don't feel anymore. The limbs that are frozen stop hurting. They have been wounded too deeply to feel it any longer. And in the most severe cases, those who nearly die in the blizzard, say that a warmth comes over them, a cozy calling to sleep.

Burns to the skin are rated by degree: first, second, and third. Third degree burns are so severe that they destroy the nerve endings; the injured one stops feeling the pain.

The heart has its capacity; the body can only handle so much.

I am at my capacity.

I think of other things that could go wrong in my life, other dreams that may some day be shattered by death. While a different loss would present a different angle, a different lens, I'm not sure it could hurt more. I'm not sure I can hurt more. The brain and body must cope somehow.

I may hurt differently. But I'm not sure I could hurt more.

And there is a third facet to my contention: as the wound begins to heal, as joy begins to return, as I begin to feel again and anew, my heart begins to feel the pain that comes with joy. In the face of joy, in the warmth of healing, I realize just how deep this wound has gone. And it hurts.

As a person begins to thaw from hypothermia, as feeling returns, it brings excruciating pain.

It is part of the journey.

I am learning my heart's capacity: the spill of joy, the outpouring of emptiness, the pain of both.

I am learning. And learning has no capacity at all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

...who takes hold of my right hand.

For I am the Lord your God,

who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,

"Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

I look at those words.

I am the Lord, your God,

who takes hold of your right hand.

I picture this in two ways.

First, I picture Jesus across the table from me at this Starbucks table.

My right hand resting safely, gently, patiently in his.

I picture him meeting me here,

in my stillness,

reminding and inviting me to be still

and simply know

that he is here,

in my stillness.

I picture gentle eyes, gentle voice.

A soft, tender smile.

"Do not fear, I will help you."

But an entirely other picture conjures as well in my mind.

I picture Jesus, standing beside me,

at my right side,

at the starting line of a race.

My right hand firmly grasped in his.

He looks at me,

with fierce confidence,

perhaps even a twinkle in his eye,

since only he knows what beauty lies ahead.

And he says, "Do not fear; I will help you."

And together we run. We run the race.

You are the Lord, my God,

who takes hold of my right hand and says to me,

"Do not fear; I will help you."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Top Rankings

"Tuck, you should try these deviled eggs. They were Daddy's favorite."

"Mommy, you were his favorite."

They Make Me Smile.

The Already and the Not Yet

It is Easter. He is risen; He is risen indeed.

It's true. I believe it is true.

I choose to believe it is true.

But today was hard; I have felt torn between the already and the not yet.

He is risen, but I am not yet with him.

My husband is there, but I cannot yet go.

I believe, and yet my faith has no sight.

The battle is won, the victory is mine, but I assure you: I am at war.

Where O death is thy sting? Where is thy victory? Oh, I feel your bitter sting, your intrusion upon my life. It sure feels like you're winning, or at least you gloat like you are.

Celebration happened all around me, and yet I really just longed to be where the real celebration happened today.

My mind knows how to celebrate, but my heart could not partake.

Perhaps this is the Easter when it all should mean so much more to me, when it should all make so much more sense.

Instead, I felt numb. Broken. Torn.

Torn between the already and the not yet.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day for Remembering

"Eat this in remembrance of me."

"Drink this in remembrance of me."

Remember. Recall. Revisit. Remember.

This is mine. I did this for you.


Is this perhaps the greatest calling any of us have?

To remember means it matters. To remember means it happened. To remember gives it value. To remember.

What is life without remembering?

I said to the boys this morning, over our Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies, "Guys, today is a pretty special day. It's called Good Friday."

"It's a good Friday? So we don't go to school? Is there a surprise??"

Hmmm. Not that kind of good.

"No, you'll still go to school. And your teachers will talk about it there, too. It's called Good Friday because it's the day we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins."

"But he didn't really die," Tyler says.

"Yes, he did, buddy. He really did."

"No, because he came back three days later."

"That's the miracle of it. He came back to life three days later, and that's how they knew he was really Jesus. That's how we know we can trust him, how we know we can go to heaven if we just believe in him and ask him to forgive us for our sins."

"So he came back to life on Sunday?"

"Yes, Tyler. He did."

His face lit up. "And so Daddy can, too! Tucker! Daddy will come back to life on Sunday and we can see him again!!"

Oh, sweet child. One good answer leads to three more questions.

"No, baby. Daddy's not coming back. Jesus is the only one who could come back to life. That's what makes him Jesus... he's the only one."

His face drooped to a gentle frown.

"I know, buddy. I wish Daddy could come back. But he can't. He just can't. But we can remember him. And someday we can go to him, if we believe in Jesus, too."

I am torn by sweetening the story of salvation (as if it can get better?) by telling the boys that Daddy is with God. And they can be too, with Daddy and with God, if they make the same choice Daddy made. I don't wish to entice my children to faith by saying that's the only way they'll see Daddy again, but I can't deny the truth: it is the only way. The only way they'll see Daddy, and the Only Way at all.

I don't wish to make heaven about Daddy. But we can't deny that the man who used to sit at our dinner table, in that chair right there, now feasts at a table in heaven. It's a truth of our family. He's there... and that somehow sweetens the deal. He's the most tangible piece we know of the next place we're promised.

I think every day about where Robb is, what he's doing, what is happening in his new, perfect world.

And on this day, as I am called to remember the cross, the gift, the magnitude of it all, I wonder what he's doing there. How do they celebrate Good Friday in heaven? What happens? My mind can't even fathom... but my husband is there.

And so I remember. I remember Robb. I remember grace. I think bigger than what I have lost; I think of the hope I have.

It's Good Friday. Jesus died on the cross.
I have hope to see Robb again; I have hope at all.

I try to remember.

The 2nd Anniversary...

Today, on Good Friday, as we remember what Jesus did for us, my family recalls what Tyler did to us.

Still, hands down, the very best doozy of a story Tyler has given us.

If you're new to the blog, this is a must read.

If you've heard it before, it's perhaps worth a revisit.

Two years ago today... this happened.

Man, what a day that was.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trash Man!

I heard the tell-tale signs of the garbage truck outside my bedroom window. And even in my half-awake place, I felt that implicit sinking feeling: It's trash day. I didn't take out the trash.

(I forgot it last week too. I assure you, our garbage can will only handle so much forgetting.)

I jumped out of bed and threw on a pair of shoes. All right, brown ballet flats. If you must know.

In my pajamas, I raced down the stairs, through the house, waited impatiently for the garage door to comply with my needs, and hastily pushed an unweildy trash can down to the sidewalk.

I raced down the street, my arms waving wildly, chasing the trash truck.

In my jammies.

They stopped for me. So gracious of them. They seemed sympathetic - perhaps for my appearance, my garbage plight, my vast measures to remember this one simple task.

(Guess whose job it was to take out the trash? Well, not mine. And I think the neighbors long for Robb's efficient productivity as well, as we are all learning now that we, as a collective neighborhood, do not look at the recycling calendar. We counted on Robb. He watched the 'every other week,' enlisted my help in collecting our last few items and taking the bins out to the street. And the neighbors then followed suit, as Robb sent them the cue by setting the example. Now that his mental checklist is not here to guide us, well, let's just say my garage isn't the only one filled with recyclables. Someday, somebody will remember. And we'll see the bins on the street and follow suit. Someday. It will be a mass exodus of plastics and glass.)

That's one way to start the morning. Whew.

(A girl should wear a bra before she meets her garbage man face to face. Just sayin'. Keep that information in mind.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Potter's Wheel

I've never worked with a potter's wheel. But I've been learning about it recently.

There are two different kinds of wheels: the 'old school' kind that the potter kicks gently to keep it in motion, and the 'new fangled' kind that rotates electrically.

I'm learning that skilled potters know that this is really the only control they have over the process: the spinning of the wheel. Everything else must happen on its own, in gentle submission from the one who seems in charge. As the clay rests on the wheel, the potter gently holds and molds the clay as she 'throws' the pot.

But the whole process is about participating. Not controlling.

I've learned that if the potter tries to manipulate the clay, tries to create it into something she has in mind, then it can throw off the entire piece. Not simply alter it... this kind of forceful intervention can derail the process, sending clay bits flyinig, creating quite a mess.

I'm told it's a very magical experience, letting clay form itself in the hands. It is as if the clay knows what it is to become, it simply needs guidance and balance to stay on the wheel. But with gentle hands, it can evolve into something the artist may never have imagined.

I probably will never try my hand at throwing pottery, mostly because I have texture issues and the idea of wet clay in my hands makes me gag a little; I can't even really think about the after effects of dry clay on my hands and under my fingernails. Nope. No can do.

Still, the process fascinates me and the parallels are many.

Tucker's babyhood and toddler years were complicated in a few ways, with unexpected surgeries, breathing issues, multiple hospital stays, and limited language requiring therapy for several years. Every season presented a new something to learn about this little boy, a new way to help him, a new way to know him.

And this journey allowed me a rare privilege: I learned early on that my children were separate from me. Their abilities were not a reflection of mine. I could neither control them nor other people's perceptions of them.

(This goes both ways; when Tuck could not speak, when only I knew how smart he was, I had to resist the implicit and explicit assumptions that I had not done my best. That his language was the result of my mistake. On the flipside, as Tuck kicked three soccer goals last weekend, I can assure you: this had nothing to do with my influence on his ability. I've never in my life scored a goal, point, shot, basket, first base, or home run. Never. He seems well on his way to all of the above. And I delight in that: it's about who he is, who he was born to be, not who I have created in my image.)

Their experiences and abilities have quite little to do with my control and intervention.

Some? Sure. And I take my repsonsiblity very seriously. Very, very seriously.

But the whole act of parenting - and of life in general, I am learning - is about participating, not controlling.

My husband died; more than ever, I am faced with the facade of control. It really means nothing.

Control means nothing. Participation means everything.

I'm in. My heart is engaged. My mind is alert. I will raise these boys, with grace, help, and wisdom from God. I will do every single day of their lives with them.

But with grace, help, and wisdom from God, I will not seek to control them. Because really, I can't.

And perhaps, with gentle hands and submission from 'the one who seems in charge,' this masterpiece - these boys, this family, this life, this journey - will evolve into something we never imagined, neither Robb nor me.

The ones who were once 'in charge.'

(Even now I smile at the big joke we played on ourselves. In charge. Ha.)

Control is nothing. Participation is everything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is Another Day

This is another day, O Lord.

I know not what it will bring forth,

but make me ready, Lord,

for whatever it may be.

If I am to stand up,

help me to stand bravely.

If I am to sit still,

help me to sit quietly.

If I am to lie low,

help me to do it patiently.

And if I am to do nothing,

help me to do it gallantly.

Make these words more than words,

and give me the Spirit of Jesus.


~ Book of Common Prayer, p. 461


I watched this movie with my little guys on Sunday night.

"The best Disney movie yet," the reviews said. In addition, some of the boys' very favorite people have claimed this as their newest favorite flick. Well, by all means. Pop the popcorn. Let's snuggle in.

If you haven't seen it, it's the story of Rapunzel, with the classic Disney brilliance. She is born a beautiful princess, but on the day of her birth, a witch steals her out of her cradle in the castle, hungry and greedy for the power in her golden hair. She wisks her off to a tall tower, where Rapunzel spends the rest of her days, forbidden to leave.

As her 18th birthday draws near, Rapunzel wishes to leave, to see the world, to venture out, to know more. Her "mother," the evil witch who has betrayed her from the start, forbids her to leave. And so Rapunzel is left with only one option: to venture out on her own, to steal away, to see what this world might have for her.

I have to tell you... I identified with Rapunzel, more than a little.

As I watched, the parallels began to unfold in my mind.

Grief is my tower. Holding me captive.

Just as the witch fed lies to Rapunzel to keep her imprisoned, so does the Enemy plant lies within me to keep me from spreading my wings.

"You're not safe. You're not smart enough. You can't do it. Just stay inside. You're safe in this world of darkness. This is where you belong."

And yet I beg to leave. Not to leave Robb behind, but to embrace the joy and newness that might be waiting on the other side of this healing.

And everyday, Grief and I exchange a silent dialogue. "Can you set me free today? Can I take Robb in my heart and venture outside the tower?"

And often, Grief says no. And sometimes I give in. And I live in darkness of another day, the chains of withheld wishes and broken dreams, the belief that I'm really safest if I don't try anymore.

Still, on stronger days, I fight back. I say, "Not today. You don't win today. I'll take him in my heart, and I'll do this thing. Back off, you. Today, I say yes."

There is a scene in the movie, shortly after she leaves the tower, when adorable Rapunzel is torn between her conflicting emotions. "I'm freeee!... This is horrible! What was I thinking?! ... This is the Best Day Ever!... I'm a despicable person... I love today!..."

Back and forth she bounces, in her mind and on the screen.

I get this, too.

The conflicting emotions, the mess in my head: "Robb would want me to do this. But I'm doing it without him. But he would be proud of my courage. But I wish to tell him about it. But it feels good to make a decision, but he might have made it differently. But if I'm happy, then I'm not sad. And if I'm not sad, then maybe I'm forgetting. And if I'm forgetting, then I'm not faithful. And if I'm not faithful, I'm not keeping a promise. But it feels good to breathe fresh, clean, joyful air. But my heart burns within me. This is a beautiful day... oh my, what on earth was I thinking."

I get you, Rapunzel. I get you.

There is certainly no power in my goldilocks, but there is a stream of joy that runs within me, a city of God that brings gladness. And that, that right there, is what the Enemy wishes to hold captive. High in a tower. Locked up tight.

In the end of the movie (and I don't think I'm ruining it for you), she finds herself. She finds joy, she dances, she laughs, and she is reunited with those she had lost for so many years. She learns she was the lost princess, all along.

I'm not at the end of my story - far from it. But I'm in pursuit of myself, of the self God has for me - the glory he has for himself - in this journey of leaving the tower.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."

I believe today, I shall.

I promise to try.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dream Encounters

My brother sent me an email...

I had a dream about Robb last night. It was very short. I don't know what to make of it, if anything. But I wanted to tell you.

In my dream...

I was in the concourse area of a large stadium crowded with people. I was just walking aimlessly, and suddenly the crowd parted and Robb was there with his back turned to me. He turned toward me.

He was wearing a red button down short sleeve shirt, and shorts.

He had lost weight, but looked very healthy.

He just stood in place and smiled at me.

I didn't run to him, but I certainly had a purpose in my walk toward him now.

We had a strong, fierce hug.

Then he leaned back out of the hug, still holding my shoulders,

and looked me in the eyes.

"Is she ok?"

"Yeah," I said.

Then I woke up, with tears in my eyes.

There is so much to love about this… it's so very easy to imagine. Robb wouldn't need to use my name with my brother. "Is she okay?" They would both implicitly know who 'she' is.

And, the crazy thing, Robb was wearing the same clothes in a dream I had of him a few weeks ago.

Last night, I dreamt of him again. We didn't talk very much, and I didn't ever look directly at him. But I knew he was there. It's like we were walking alongside one another, strolling and chatting. We ate chips and guacamole (we tend to eat mexican food on our dream dates).

He showed me his new home: spacious and palatial. And I just remember saying, again and again, "I can't believe this is yours! I can't believe this is yours!"

I don't know how dreams work. I don't know what they mean; I'm not an analyst.

But I like to hope he has the same memory this morning.

Rearview Mirrors

In time, years, dust settles.

In memory, ages, God emerges.

Then when we look back, we see God's back.

God reveals himself in rearview mirrors.

And I've an inkling that there are times when we need to drive a long, long distance, before we can look back and see God's back in the rearview mirror.

Maybe sometimes about as far as heaven - that kind of distance.

~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Didn't Go To Church Today.

At Starbucks this morning, I stood in line behind a woman in her yoga gear, her stretchy pants and top complete with damp rings and circles of sweat. Her curly hair is pulled up in a loose ponytail, with damp, frizzy ringlets escaping here and there. Clearly, she has just finished a Sunday morning workout. Perhaps one of those 'hot yoga' classes that might as well take place in a crockpot. She's done her time this morning.

On the back of her neck, she has a tattoo of bold, thick letters: FAITH.

She orders her drink; I order mine.

As we wait for our beverages, I (unintentionally) eavesdrop on her cell phone call.

"Can you tell me - is today Palm Sunday?" she asks the person on the other line.

She, with the tattoo on display, calls someone to make sure: Is today important?

It is.

The truth is, I am only barely ahead of her with my own awareness. Two weeks ago, I asked my worship-planning, pastoral leading, professor friends, "Hey, when is Easter?"

"It's April 24, Tricia," they said, with grace.

Miss Tattoo On the Neck and I could have nearly missed the whole event.

So yes, it's Palm Sunday.

And I didn't go to church today.

I've gone to church nearly every Sunday of my life, barring illness or the occasional family vacation. But I was certainly in attendance on every Palm Sunday. It's an important day on the Christian calendar: it marks the beginning of Holy Week.

The children often parade through the aisles of the church, waving palm branches. Adults and children alike sing our favorite songs, and we wave our arms, singing, "Hosanna! Hosanna!"

We celebrate the day when the long awaited King arrived in Jerusalem, the day that marks the end and the beginning, the fulfillment of prophesy, the walk to the cross, the death, the resurrection, the ocean of grace, the answer to life.

It's a joyful Sunday.

And today, I didn't go.

It's not because I didn't want to; it's not because I don't care. It's not because I didn't know what day it was.

But as I felt the pull on my heart - the awareness of the calendar, the call of the evangelical culture, the beckon to the fanfare and celebration - I weighed it against other truths.

Public scenes induce panic. The church, however safe on a personal, relational level, incites memories and physiological response that distract and discourage, to say the least. I hope this will not always be true, and I long to fellowship and worship alongside the community I love so dearly.

But right now, I cannot.

To go would be to push through, to conquer an emotional milestone, to add my notch to a checklist of legalism, to simply survive the experience.

I'm pretty sure Palm Sunday isn't supposed to be about any of that.

So I resist. I resist the call to the fanfare, the tradition. Although it is beautiful, it may be numbing instead of celebratory, especially as my tender heart seeks to protect itself - even as I massage it to remain vulnerable.

Authentic thought calls me to pay attention. To engage.

Today, as I begin this Holy Week, I aim for something new. I'm not at church; I'm not sitting in a pew. I'm at Starbucks, in my regular spot at the corner table. With my laptop, my iPod, my Bible, my journal, and some studies on Holy Week, I wait for God.

Holy God,
Meet me here. Show me where you are.
Show me what this is about.
Show me how to celebrate.
Where you are.

There are no palm branches. There is no fanfare. But there is a heart in search of truth and life, goodness and grace.

"It's tempting to bolt through Holy Week--to hear the starting gun at Palm Sunday and race as fast as possible to the finish line of Easter morning. Such a sprint is really not possible. . . Our Lord didn't race through the days. Each came in succession with purpose. Yes, Easter is glorious. But if we don't slow down and walk the way of the Cross with Jesus, it is really little more than a party with no sacrifice, a celebration with no understanding.

"Scripture shouts our own fickleness as humans--our own human tendency to go from declarations of praise to pronouncements of deception. When we take our time to walk slowly through the week called 'holy', we must see ourselves: we are happy to cry 'Hosanna!' as long as the King meets our needs, our perceptions of what is good and right and best for 'us.' When he falls short of our expectations, we cry, 'Crucify him!'

"This week called holy brings us face to face with humanity. . . who am I in the story? . . . Am I perpetrator or victim? Am I Pharisee or disciple? If I am disciple, am I Judas or Peter? When am I Pilate, washing my hands of the trouble making Jesus? And when am I Simon of Cyrene, willing to carry the Savior's cross for a few steps?

"Woe to us this week. Woe to us, the people called Christians, if we fail to slow down and examine our hearts, our attitudes, our actions. . . . Woe to us if we dash to Easter and fail to walk this way of the cross through the Passion of our Lord."
~ Elizabeth Sausele,
Buhoro, Buhoro: Step by Step Slowly Through Holy Week

It's Palm Sunday. I didn't go to church today.