Piercing the tapestry of all that has been of our lives for the past ten years, the winnowing fork does its work. The Divine Hands rake the winnowing fork back and forth, over and over, pulling out the threads of the tapestry that has been. Threads loosen. The tines of the fork carry out the threads that remain intact. The threads that have snagged and disintegrated fall to the pile of scraps. It is the baptism that Jesus promised – the kind that does not just immerse us but promises to eternally transform us.
Oh, it hurts. The tugs and the pulls.
The process of dismantling the tapestry that has been in order to prepare for the tapestry that will be has been one of the most difficult ones to endure. There have been times when I tried to cling to the tapestry that has been in order to protect it from the winnowing fork’s work. But each time, the Divine Hands waited in persistence until I realized my efforts were from fear’s taunting. Fear tries to keep intact that which should be dismantled. Each time, the Divine Hands paused the process to pass on enough trust so that I might move aside and the work might continue.
Change always seems to feel most palpable in January, right at the same time as weather draws me in and keeps me contained at home. It’s all part of a wider pattern. I see it as I look back, like the waves behind a boat reveal the way only after traveled. The first month of the year comes and it brings with it a time of rest amidst a season of restlessness.
Change feels most threatening in January.
But its mercy is powerful in equal measure.
A new year begins here. While boys sleep and the light rises outside, blue gray winter skies promise another year. Routine is adjusted with a later alarm but it is all the same. Cereal, eggs, coffee, quiet.
365 days stretch before me, all named by 2016. Some of them have already been claimed. Work trips. Wrapping up. Saying goodbye. Moving. Kindergarten. Beginning again. Birthdays. Anniversaries.
Many are left untouched, awaiting life to fill them and grant them their greatest desire – purpose.
On a Friday morning, once I’ve pressed “send” on the composed-on-Thursday-sent-on-Friday weekly email for youth ministry; once I’ve posted the global missions offering blurb to social media; once I’ve rattled off a few emails, I sit back down to my journal. Already open and one page filled out with my random thoughts on the lectionary text, my journal sits open and waits to determine how I spend the next few minutes alone. It is the morning before my day off with the boys at home begins. It is during these morning moments that I am not wife or mother or minister but simply just me.
The wind picks up and papers flutter. That which holds no weight finds itself floating and shifting. Moving from simply a breeze, the winds increase and become a united force. A great gush from the skies funnels down and circulates itself. It begins its work of not just shifting and shaping but dismantling and destroying.
The funnel encircles the known structures and that-which-has-been becomes a pile on the ground. As the wind softens and fades, the brick wall has now returned to its former life as building blocks.
That-which-has-been now is that-which-will-be.
Where once he lay quietly while staring at me and discovering this world, he wiggles and lurches and almost tumbles off. I wrangle clothes on him and stand him up on the changing table to pull his pants up. Before I am even ready, he lunges into me, wrapping arms around my neck. Squeezing me, he exclaims joy in his indecipherable words straight into ear with his wet kiss staining my cheek.
I set him down on the ground and he bounds towards the toys. He plays with abandon. As I move rooms to continue the morning routine, he follows me. He brings me objects of interest – balls, trucks, airplanes, and markers left on the floor by brother who is furiously composing his next book (Mater Tales, part 4). Desperately trying to speak, he waits for me to confirm the objects’ name and respond with his ritualistic, “right.” A verification that he’s on the right track. Or perhaps a quiz to make sure mommy still has it to together.
My two boys,
A spring Saturday with Daddy on call on Louisville’s most accident-prone days, I knew it was a day for the three of us. I indulged myself with a 6:45 am alarm. You slept in enough for coffee to be made, eggs to be scrambled, and my eyes to open enough to greet the day happy at its arrival. I vowed that this Saturday, I would try to truly honor a Sabbath. I would not attempt to accomplish anything other than be with the two of you.
This is not to say being your mother is a restful task. You failed at sharing within moments of playing together and you squealed when things didn’t go your way. As I make my way through this journey with you as your mother, I give of myself, my personhood and my body, my daily tasks and my daily worries as means to grant you life, sustain that life within you, and nourish its growth.
Soft green bundles hang outside our upstairs window with stringy tufts dripping below. Our grand tree in our backyard is coming back to life. It has been a long winter. Its bare branches have survived the winter winds and freezing temps. The tree’s trunk has survived with the melted snow, even if it took weeks to seep into the frozen ground.
It has not yet reached its full maturity of summer leaves that will sway with the summer winds and give shade to the summer play of young ones below.
These soft green bundles speak the promise of its coming. They whisper to me that even if not fully formed, there is already promise of summer. There is already resurrection.
The two men carefully bend sticks and tie them in place. Held together with scraps of clothing and rags, the sticks create a frame for a tent in the midst of the Gourougou Mountain. Random pieces of tarp tied onto the frame transform into a shelter. Meticulously, with patience to execute it well and urgency because their well-being depended on it, they turn nature’s leftovers and human leftovers into a home. The Land Between, a documentary we’re showing at Highland on Sunday as part of our Moroccan partnership, tells the stories of those who are stuck between the home they have fled and a future they cannot grasp.
I sat in my office as I previewed the film and I marveled at their survival skills, ingenuity, and teamwork. Then I marveled at their suffering and resiliency when the journalist takes us back a few days later to see the bare bones of the shelter. The sticks stand but the tarps so carefully tied have vanished. The men share the story of how the authorities chased them out of the camp and burned all their things.
The journalist leaves the camera unnervingly on the framework of sticks. Hollow. Empty. Bare to the bone. It tells of the death chasing after them AND the life enduring despite it. Continue reading
I fill my days rushing around, worshiping the gods of efficiency and productivity. I thrive off of checking the boxes on my to-do list and I plan my day down the hour. I value a clean house and an empty counter.
So when the morning comes with the child hot with fever, my whole day feels ruined and I spend the next hours attempting to work and watch kids, aware that any attempt to juggle kids, my computer, and all the germs spreading is impossible.