Wednesday, January 25, 2012

::Lament::


Psalm 88
For my soul is full of troubles. . . You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
I read an article the other day about faith beaten black and blue; more specifically, "how to give voice" to the bruising. Many would question the necessity of the dialogue, after all don't we prefer to put our best foot forward? When a gray-blue ache surfaces in our faith-lives, blemishing our post-conversion glow, we tend to keep it under long sleeves, pulled low over our knuckles. Hidden.

Any one who keeps a journal has benefited from the secret, un-inhibited translation of honest pain, confusion and shame from heart to page. Novelists have their own covert vehicle to communicate the darker bits of their lives: characters and plot. Song-writers embed truths inside their hazy and befuddling lyrics.These act as a legitimate, albeit opaque, methods for the telling of pain. A reader can only guess.

These days there is a thing called blogging, and people called bloggers. And the whole lot of us are a mite confused about where to draw our lines. On one hand, it is as complicated as you make it. Share a few pictures. Skim along the surface of life, and no one asks too many questions. This works quite nicely for me most of the time. (Big, happy pictures = small problems, right?) On the other hand, some of us sort our mess out best through writing. And a decision has to be made. Tidy up the inner-mess quietly or share the process, even if there are still dust balls tumble-weeding around under the bed, and the creases in the bed just won't lie flat. Pain-sharing: A beautifully-mucky conundrum.

The article refers to this sharing of the dark as "lament." That suits. Lament is classically OT. The prophets did it. David did it. His boy, Solomon did it. Lament is a type of moan that burbles up out of the pit of each of us and never fully tapers off. For that reason, so many of us just don't venture there-- creatures of catharsis, that we are. I mean, who really felt soul-satisfied when Anna Karenina jumped in front of the train? (Not the way to end a novel.) And who presses stop after Gandalf gets dragged down with the beast and calls it a day? Who wishes that messed-up cat would sustain it's bone-chilling baby-yowl all through the night? We aren't built to linger contently with the unfinished. The incomplete. The void of somewhere-before-the-happy-ending. Especially when the somewhere-void is a place that hurts.

But isn't that exactly where we finds ourselves 98% of the time? In the waiting place? Usually sharing space with confusion, longing and varying degrees of insecurity? I'll tell you, that is exactly where I live. There is nothing comfortably conclusive about a life of five children, myriads of relationships and the ebb and flow of faith and obedience. Except for the ending, that is. I know how it ends. For me. And I have hope lodged-deep in me for the ending of those I love. But between the waiting places and the end is a lot of heavy, un-defined, fray-edged stuff that could use a bit of communing.

Christians have been perpetuating a well-intentioned pain-sharing mechanism called 'testimony.' But the parameters are somewhat hard-lined, the "plot" predictable: Beginning (good or bad), Build-up (usually bad. Often, very bad indeed), Climax (conversion), Falling-action (a series up ups and down, trending towards good,) & Denouement (good, always good or you'll never be asked to speak at the youth conference ever again.) The same human psychology is at play here as in our book-reading/movie-watching habits. Make the thing work out in the end. Don't leave it all hanging over the abyss.

I just think that there is a place for this abyss-perching dialogue. It's called "mourning with those who mourn." And sharing the ash heap. And saying; "I just don't know." This is life. Not saying I like it. (I am very partial to princesses finding their princes and Hobbits destroying rings, etc.) But it is life, non-the less. We don't get to know how the unfolding goes. And the not knowing usually makes a mess of us. So let's talk about it, write about it and admit that it all sounds very familiar.

{Muse: "How Then Shall We Mourn" by Allison Backous
Photo Cred.: Torn Leaf}

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

::Can't stop listening::

Music is so personal, so I rarely share it here. But this is uniquely fantastic. I think. :


Monday, January 23, 2012

::How to make Chemistry fun::

I did not love chemistry. It grew to be a little too much like Math for my taste. However, all the memorization bits were ok. I said 'ok,' not fun. But what if it could be?
Make anything edible, and it gets more interesting:

Mmm. Ununtrium Cookie.


Yes, the entire Periodic Table of Elements in Sugar Cookie-form. I take ownership of the nerdiness required to actually bake and decorate this many cookies. But, I can not take ownership of the idea:
Not-So-Humble-Pie. {And she did it so much better.}


At the moment. 118 cookies+ are stored in the freezer. Each day, for snack, we'll pull a few out and read about them in these books:

&

This book is a gem. He's clearly a very bright man, who insists of splashing each page with humour.

"When not lounging in a hot tub, bromine can sometimes be found sleeping with children. Wait, wait, it's not what you think. Organic bromine compounds. . . are added to childrens' synthetic-fiber pajamas as a flame-retardant." p.91 "The Elements" by Theodore Gray

"Really, people should stop thinking of cubic zirconia as fake diamond and start thinking of diamond as overpriced cubic zirconia. There is no real difference in how pretty they are-- that's just the imagination fueled by having paid way too much for a plain, colourless rock." p.101 "The Elements" by Theodore Gray

Thursday, January 19, 2012

::Blue Eyes::

About eleven years ago, I began to share a wall with the guy I would marry. We shared that wall for months, along with a neighbourly wall-muffled soundtrack of our lives, before a well-intentioned somebody began to whisper in each of my ears; ". . . he's a Christian. . . he has the nicest blue eyes."

But, about eleven years ago, a wall is, arguably, the only thing I had to offer. I had bleached-white hair and wore leather and a bright lip-sticked smirk-- a tactical foil: colourful distractions, with which to hide an ingrained distaste for one's own character. A practice, might I add, indicative of too much time spent thinking of one's self in the first place. Also, indicative of being in no position to care about anyone, even if he did have nice blue eyes.

Why, then, did a profoundly sober awareness of 'the Christian neighbour' settle in right about then? The unseen was doing it's thing. Giving me insider information that was in no way rational. This neighbour and I had a path to walk. Together. And I knew.

About eleven years ago, a blue-eyed guy started to look out his window, hoping to catch the streak of blond. And I continued to be inexplicably tugged in his direction. We made such a mess of our overtures. His tongue was good and tied, and I was good and confused about-- well, about everything. But there were always the things that kept us within arms-reach, like snow-walks, warm pubs, skate-dancing, that invisible tugging-thread, and God. Especially God.

We used to spend hours studying Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We would read together and then pick away at every detail, uncovering gems and unwinding snarls in our understanding. The things I learned about him, head-bent over Holy pages, are the things I still love most: His granite-like commitment to what is Good. His unyielding resolve to walk into the unknown without fear.

About eleven years ago, each and every member of my family fell in love with the boy next door, and eagerly waited for me to catch up. Thing is, love wasn't the problem. I had found it there at the beginning. It hadn't been manufactured along the way. It always was. Placed there. In me, to give to him. In hindsight, I can see that eleven years ago my heart was officially introduced to God's love and how it works. He breaks in and loves through. He took a mere scrap of the love He had for his son, Aidan, and He placed it in me and asked me to do something with it.

The doing bit, however, is where I got snagged. I got snagged on my own self. All the lost and confused bits were still alive and well. And a debate was taking place inside. I had words to say to the Spirit in residence, who was busy loving deep and uninterrupted. I said things like 'wait,' and 'hold-up,' and a whole lot of 'me, me, me.' He just kept on loving through me and for me and despite me, suggesting that the hellish holding-pattern I was maintaining would end if only I would look beyond the wall of self-love & loathing to the blue eyes on the other side.

Ten years ago I said 'yes', and 'I'm over myself.' And, 'skate with me forever'. And other equally romantic things. And I said them in a white dress, with pearls in my hair. Said them looking into very blue eyes. Said them as more and more of the lost bits began to click into place. It's that thing called resonance. When run-aways come home to an open door and rebels stop fighting what they already know. Click. My spirit found resonance with The Spirit. That's when all the good stuff started. Ten years of it, so far. And I've been thinking about the next ten, and the ten after that, and how hair turns white, and skin wrinkles, but blue eyes always stay blue.
Apparently, a gift of tin is customary on a 10th wedding anniversary. Thankfully, my daughter and I have been baking the periodic table: Tin (Sn, not Ti)

Monday, January 16, 2012

::Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins::


I had extra cream cheese in the fridge and decided to use it to make these:

Friday, January 13, 2012

::Lug Nuts::

There are some questions you just can't be expected to have an answer for. Like, what do your lug nuts look like? Yeah, the big question. Here's my answer; "They are hexagonal and nearly the size of a quarter-- I think." Typical me. Answer with authority in the absence of ANY knowledge on the subject. An inner compulsion that is surely part of the Fall-- no good ever comes of this habit of mine. I remember, once, sending a nice couple far, far, far in the opposite direction they had hoped to go, simply because they'd asked. The implications of what I'd done only occurred to me hours later when I spotted them at the local corner store asking for fresh directions. I ran away.

There's a story here. It begins with a bit of shaking and ends with lug nuts.

This weekend our van developed a tremor. Minor, but detectable. This kind of thing happened to our car once and it was just some mud caked to the inside of the wheel-wells. We figured this was the same thing. Maybe slush turned to ice. But that theory literally fell apart today.

I was driving the kids home from a visit with a friend when the tremor turned into more of a helicopter-like rumble. LOUD. The steering wheel started to shake and I heard myself uttering things like, "Oh, mother!" (Mother?!) And, "Crappity crap!" etc. We made it onto our road somehow, but when we hit the railway tracks something sort of crunched and the brakes quit and we sailed along until the van felt like stopping.

When I got out, all the wheels were pointed forward accept the fourth one. It was turned sideways. Out of the five or six lug nuts that hold a tire on, only one was left. That can't be good, was my first thought. I also thought it looked expensive. These were crowded out by other thoughts like, we're alive! Along with, we could have ended up in a gorge or a river!

When a school bus lumbered over the tracks I made that universal sign with my hands. You know, the 'call me' sign. She kindly open the door and I scrambled up the steps. A handful of bored-looking teenage boys eyed me as I made a call to Aidan. "Bad news. The tire is about to fall off the van." And as I was talking, the most convenient thing happened, my neighbour drove by. I waved out the bus window. He saw. Backed-up, and we all jumped ship and hitched a ride home.

At the moment, the van is parked half a block away and Aidan is e-mailing me questions about lug nuts. We're wondering how this will end. Maybe a plow with pummel it off the road. Maybe we have thousands of dollars in repairs ahead. Maybe I am going nowhere for the next few weeks. I don't know.

But I do know the meddling hand of God when I see it. And He was all over this. We made it home. We're alive and unharmed. A friend was drifting by when we needed help. We were cared for. You could say we were one lug nut away from a much bigger mess.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

::Toe-sucking fragility::

I don't think about the fragility of the human body very often. Never, actually. Unless, of course, I'm sick, then my world falls apart. Mostly, though, I have taken the health of my family for granted. We're from 'sturdy stock,' I tell myself.

Truth is, we are never ever very far from completely shattering. A breath away. Yesterday Annorah was only a step away from good health and a fractured clavicle. One step and now she's wincing every time I pick her up the wrong way. She skipped the last step of the stairs and now there is a crack in one of her shoulder bones.

There is a balance here somewhere. Live boldly, but be ready to break. Such a short sentence. So difficult to grasp.

Not much grappling with the big questions over here though. Just some toe-sucking and lots of cookies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

::Honey-crusted Doom::

I know a girl who loves to bake bread. She says it makes her feel like she has accomplished something of value, even if she has done nothing else with her day. I finally get it.

For years I have been using my trusty breadmaker to pump out mediocre dough. And it suited me just fine. I have long-since learned that bread travels on a direct path from my mouth to my thighs, so who cares if my whole wheat roles don't make me giddy? But then, as appliances are want to do, my breadmaker broke. Black sludge began to seep out from it's guts onto my counter. R.I.P, to mediocrity. With it's passing dawned a new era: the era of The Kitchen-Aid Mixer.

It took weeks of breadlessness to finally looked my Mixer up and down with any real intent. I eyed it's wicked-looking dough hook with some trepidation, flipped through the manuel and finally went for it. . . Only to find that doom is upon me. Now that I have tasted the buttery crunch of my crusty Honey Oatmeal Bread, I expect to grow by one clothing size per week until no plus-sized store will be able to hold me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

::The boat::


"Stay out of the boat!" Joyce Meyers

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite sounds was the indistinct roar of the stadium crowd, filtering through the speakers of the downstairs television up to my bedroom, during football season. The reason I loved the sound was because I was not a good sleeper, and at night I often felt terribly alone. By nature, I have always thrived in community. Never apart from it. And there is something very apart about sleep. Worse-still, the exclusion from it. To my young ears, the sound of football meant one thing: Dad was awake. I wasn't alone in my awakeness.

But there were nights when it wasn't enough. My aloneness consumed me, even with my sister asleep in the same bed. I would pull back the covers and walk carefully down the steps to snuggle next to Dad on the couch. And somehow Dad knew that he couldn't be the cure. So, bless him, he reached for his Bible:
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?" 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Calm.

It was enough for me then. Do not be afraid. Jesus calms storms. He is with me always. Even in awakeness. To a seven year-old, it was enough.

Now I am a woman. And as I have grown, God has asked things of me. You know what I mean. He puts a thing in our minds. And then He sends messages to re-enforce His desire. Be willing, He asks. And we either are. Or we pretend we can't hear Him. We pretend He never asked. And then, because our spirit knows the truth-- that we are in rebellion-- our peace is stolen.

I have been reading about boats again. This time, it's Peter who has a choice to make.
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33
Calm. Again the calm.

But this time, I do not see the calm as the desirable end. Because it was out in the storm that Peter got to touch Jesus. The act of moving out of safety and into the uncomfortable mess is what brought him within reach of Jesus' hand. Back in the boat there was calm, yes. But the better thing was back out in the storm: God's hand.

I have been in the boat for awhile. It is calm. Comfortable. Relatively pain-free. And even though my hands are always busy, they are restless. God has been asking again. Be willing. Get out of the boat, take my hand and say, "Yes."

{Photo: Matt Myers}

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

::2011 in Photos::

Let's face it. As much as I love to write, this blog is really about photos. Writing just wrings me out. Guts me completely. It feels worthwhile when I complete a piece that has meaning. The ones that manage to capture the scrap of stunning revelation I have just grasped about my God. Memorial pieces. Sadly, those are few and far between. Not because God hasn't revealed His beautiful Face every single time I have asked, and often when I have not. But mostly, it's because I just can't muster up the determination, nor the energy to put words down.

So, I take photos instead. Here is our 2011 in photos. They are my favourites from month to month. And, by the way, thanks for reading-- er, looking.