Christmas Morning: Desiring Rest

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The child longs for perfectly presented objects of desire placed underneath the twinkling lights and all the time in the day; for normal life to cease and fantasy land to commence, the imagination alive with possibility.

Anticipation mounts the joy. Mystery multiples the wonder.  Hugs are sweeter. The air is thick. It is confirmed: life is good.

As a mother now, I work for this moment. I worry too much. I scurry too much. My mind races to the next thing, so as to keep the world turning with my preparation.

This Christmas morning, I desire not the perfectly presented object of desire. I desire to ensure these eyes still work for more than scanning the horizon; these feet still move for more than plodding forward; these hands can still be open, tender, and available enough to hold and be held.  I desire real permission to rest that allows this human flesh to feel new again.

God, the great transformer, chose human flesh to hold divine content.  This news grants permission to rest.  This news assures me that my scurrying is never heavy-laden.  My worrying and laboring are not to save the world, merely to help in its turning.

I rest for I remember that mothering and resting are not competitive activities.

I rest my flesh in honor of this truth which sounds like absurdity, but whose very absurdity is saving my life.

I rest in a Christmas truth that is more than a temporary fantasy land.  It is the reality whose truth, power and love insist upon dwelling among us.

This morning I pray for all who gather near the twinkling lights to seek rest, may God ignite our flesh to be filled with divine light so that the hugs are sweeter, the air is thick, and it can be confirmed: Life is good.

Advent Truths in the Liminal Spaces

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The house is (what has become) a familiar sight.  Boxes stacked in corners. Cabinets hold only a few essentials.  The to-do list ebbs and flows by day’s end.  We will celebrate Christmas this year in liminal space – with one foot in our first home and one foot in our forever home.

Stripped of any sense of settled, I have foregone even the dream of the idealized Christmas painted in the classic songs.  I have found myself most drawn in gratitude for the Advent truths in the liminal spaces.  Wrapped in the rough and worn packaging of ancient texts, I have already received the greatest gifts Christmas has to offer – time spent with a God who reveals what we have not known before, concepts that provide ever-constant openings to a new future, and truths that save me daily.

While I look forward to a settled Christmas next year, I throw no pity party now.  For the most important gifts have already arrived and they remain new every morning to unwrap with great delight.

These past eighteen months have been a time of disappearing, dissolving, evolving, and reappearing and I am changed by it.  My name (who I have been), my place (the way I have interacted with the world), and my posture of rest (in the leaving, being, and returning) has shifted under my feet and revealed the impermanence of it all.  What has emerged has been the special truths of liminal spaces.  My primary, eternal, “Really Real” name, place, and posture can never be defined by my surroundings, external assessment, or life stage marker.  I do not build my own house, my own lineage, nor my own legacy.

Are you the one to build me a house to live in?  I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great NAME, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a PLACE for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you REST from all your enemies.

Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Who I am, where it is that I reside, and how it is that I can be – all of it is forever defined by a God who builds me a house, a lineage, a legacy.   I am a servant of God, who abides in God’s creation and rests in God’s promises.

My real name comes from God’s redeeming.
My real place comes from God’s planting.
My real posture of rest comes from God’s rescuing.

Once life settles, I may slowly lose practice of noticing these truths. I may overlook or disdain them. But with the ebb and flow of time, I know they will always emerge again… and it will be Christmas morning all over again.  New presents with ancient truths that covers what was, colors what is, and already consumes what will be.

This Christmas, I pause and give thanks for the gift of an eternal name, place, and posture of rest.  Or in the words of David…

And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:28-29

ADVENT: One Step at a Time

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I find the path one step at a time.  The way forward is imagined but ultimately unknown until my leg extends and I place the sole of my foot on the ground before me.  From this new vantage point, my eyes scan the ground below and the terrain beyond.  My ears discern movement from that which goes unseen but whose presence can impact my next move.

Away from home during this sabbatical year, we are living Advent in an unknown land.  The way forward it not known until we extend our legs and find our footing.

Where do the Christmas decorations go in this rental house?
How do we still feel the Advent rhythms away from our church’s rituals?
How do we practice Advent in our small congregation of 5?

Who is this newest little one among us?  What will he bring to our family?
When will his nighttime hours extend?  How long can my sanity last on just accumulated sleep?
When will strength replace weakness within this body of mine?

What is this world we live in?  Will we even recognize this country of ours after January 20?
Where is the rescue to come from for the people of Aleppo, for immigrants, for racial discrimination, for journalists, for our environment, for our souls?
What are we to do in response to all the hurting in this world? Continue reading

The Time of Reckoning

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Before the mirror, I gaze upon this warped, swollen, scarred flesh of mine.  The sight of it fuels the pain I feel, uniting into a combined sensation that knocks me over with overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional fatigue.  The shower’s water strikes and I am overcome by the tenderness of my flesh.  Sore places cause slow movements, compensating as an attempt to lessen the pain.

In these days following my third c-section, the time I take to clean and care for this body of mine becomes The Time of Reckoning where I face the reality of what is.  The act of growing, giving, and sustaining life means wrecking this own life of mine.  It is a temporary time but that cannot deny its present power.

If I linger long enough in these moments, the Divine sneaks up on me and saves me.  The trembling calms and shifts its shape.  I remember the holiness of the Suffering Servant.  I remember the mystery that God uses human flesh to birth Hope into this world.  I remember the Eucharist truth that body nourishes body.

During these tender days, I am that body.  I am that human flesh.  I am that suffering servant.

Continue reading

HOPE: The Field of Life Wide Open

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Hope means that I don’t need to know.  I only need to yearn.

I only need to recognize how often I am asleep when I live today based on yesterday’s experience, when I interpret the next hour based on the knowledge I gained from the last one, when I let (what I have understood of) what has been dictate the form and shape of what will be.

This first Sunday of Advent, I light no purple candle in a sanctuary.  In between feedings, with boys wrestling around behind me and a husband graciously holding a sleeping six-day-old boy, I light a candle in our front room and find times for the scriptures and Rohr’s Advent thoughts.  I trust that something is there in those ancient words of scripture and contemplative words of a Franciscan friar that God can bring to the weary and wounded.

“Keep awake for you do not know,” Matthew says.

Continue reading

SURPRISE

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We rehearsed it as we went from house to house. “Merry Christmas,” we would practice. By the time we got to the next one, the anticipation of ringing the doorbell was too much and the words would fail him. He would just stick out his hand holding the bag of gingerbread to give to our neighbor.  Despite our rehearsals and our plans, our three year old is our wild card.  Our surprise.

I love the intentional time this season gives to shower those around us with love. The gifts thoughtfully purchased and delicately wrapped. The stove watched over as the gingerbread loaves reach completion to show love to neighbors. The decorations hung around the house to usher in the joy of the season.

The list that once caused me anxiety now gives me a sense of relief as each item is crossed off in completion

Now comes the real Christmas. Continue reading

The Christmas Alarm

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A new frame holds an old picture on my chest of drawers. Smiles beam on their young faces. Oldest has his arms wrapped around mother and father. Youngest holds on tight to mother. Mother and daughter’s hands intertwined. The photo speaks of promise and hope. Dreams and the unknown.

TIME rushes like a racing train through a tunnel as the voice of my youngest pierces the silence. I am no longer the young daughter clinging tightly to my mother. I am now the mother.

How is it that TIME can suddenly go off like an alarm – causing me to sit up and in the haze of sleepiness, wonder where I am and how I got here? Continue reading