Friday, April 29, 2011
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
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
Friday, April 22, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
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, 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
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.
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
"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."