I couldn’t help but keep looking down at him as we walked along. His hand gripped mine and his thoughts poured out of his mouth. Four and a half and he is growing into this little boy full of curiosity, feelings, and imagination. Is it possible to grow in awe of Life every year that passes? Can my heart expand to hold it all? I squeezed his hand every few minutes as I felt the waves of time lapping into me.
As another year goes round and I add a number to my age, I can’t help but find myself lost in the vastness of it all. What is this life that I lead? With what, to whom, am I to live it?
From my front porch swing, a tall tree soars overhead. Its trunk sits on the sliver of grass between our sidewalk and the street. We park cars underneath it on our front parking pad as we rush around our lives going here and there.
How many birthdays has this tree celebrated? How many people has it witnessed go here and there? To where am I going? What is it that I am doing here?
Perhaps the sweet spot is the holding of a four-year old in my lap while I sit on the front porch under the shade of the tree. Perhaps the sweet spot is in the dwelling within the tension of it all – recognizing the great power and opportunity laid out before me AND in recognizing that this power and opportunity is not something I manifested nor something for which I can take credit; recognizing the days are long and the years are short; recognizing that my life is mine but it is not my own.
I bow before Life and pause to give thanks for the greatest gifts ever to receive…
…for the parents that brought it all into motion, for my mother whose own body stretched and exerted to accommodate these hands, elbows, legs, heart, and head
…for the parents, grandparents, and care-givers that held me close in their arms that built within me the foundational ability to love and be loved.
…for my community of faith that shaped me by offering their own lived experience before me as companions and guides, even as they knew nothing of what was to come
…for the friends that allowed me to blossom and unfold, to relax and revive, to sharpen and emerge
…for this beloved of mine who celebrates eight years of marriage this day, whose heart has found its resting place in mine and I in his; whose support has given me the strength to stand; whose companionship has granted me the mercy to live this brutiful life
…for my children who somehow allow me to be their mother – to shape them, guide them, care for their basic needs, delight in them, and simply be the one to whom they go for comfort
…for my best friends who hold me in tenderness, who forgive my weaknesses, and rejoice with me in the sweet spots; who reaches out hands so that we might walk into the darkest places knowing we are not alone
…for writers who leave trails of wisdom for me to follow, stories that unfold within me, and nature that beckons me closer to the Really Real
…for a God who I can only honor by truly pausing, bowing down, and leaving blank space on a page to honor all that is that could never be fully articulated at any age.
In these relationships, my life finds its own purpose and being. But ultimately, my life’s purpose and being belongs to a being beyond my own comprehension. My breath rises and falls in ways unknown to me. My emotions and thoughts whip through me like a wind unknown from where it comes and to where it goes.
As the old Hebrew metaphor goes, God is the landowner and I am merely renting my own little plot. I rise early and do my best with the resources before me. There are days I foolishly take credit for the blossoms that emerge and there are days I resent the work needed to do it all. And yet, I am always drawn back to the truth that disrupts and liberates… ultimately this short life of mine, in mystery and beyond comprehension, might be lived to the glory of the Creator and True Owner of it All.
breaks from the blue-black
skin of the water, dragging her shell
with its mossy scutes
across the shallows and through the rushes
and over the mudflats, to the uprise,
to the yellow sand,
to dig with her ungainly feet
a nest, and hunker there spewing
her white eggs down
into the darkness, and you think
of her patience, her fortitude,
her determination to complete
what she was born to do—-
and then you realize a greater thing—-
she doesn’t consider
what she was born to do.
She’s only filled
with an old blind wish.
It isn’t even hers but came to her
in the rain or the soft wind
which is a gate through which her life keeps walking.
She can’t see
herself apart from the rest of the world
or the world from what she must do
Crawling up the high hill,
luminous under the sand that has packed against her skin,
she doesn’t dream
she is a part of the pond she lives in,
the tall trees are her children,
the birds that swim above her
are tied to her by an unbreakable string.
– Mary Oliver, The Turtle
I pause and give thanks for life.
I pause and give thanks for all that has been and all that will be.
I bow before the Creator and stand in the sweet spot.