Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Saving My Life, Just a Little

The nest of fish was crisp under a coarse snow of salt and smelled so simple and good I thought it might save my life. Just a little. Just for that moment. -The Paris Wife

I started a new book club this past month, and the first book we read together was The Paris Wife (the writing was exquisite, but I didn't love the book overall - mostly because of the ending -FYI). Anyways, we ate yummy food and talked about television debuts and our teenage boys and new houses, and it gave me life.
One of our family goals this year was to host more dinners that gathered together people we love and admire, and we had our second dinner this weekend. We are always more blessed by the giving than I think anyone else might be by the receiving. And our dinner this weekend, watching my husband love with his gifts of fabulous cooking and watching my children show hospitality to their new friends, gave me life.

I was thinking about life-giving this morning, and realized it has been forever since I shared links and books and told y'all what's saving my life these days (just a little, just for this moment).

My friend Katie told me I needed to listen to the Audible version of Tattoos on the Heart, and if I could only pick one thing that's saving my life right now it would be this. I feel so encouraged and filled up to remember the ways we can trust in the "slow work of God." I am moved to hear stories that sound familiar and make me laugh and cry at the work we are doing and the ways we are broken and healed by it all over and over again. Ps - in case you need more convincing to get this book via audible, Father G reads the book and does voices for all the homies. Just saying.

“Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask." - Rumi
Books I'm currently reading: 
The Door Keeper (the Kindle version is only $5!)
ps: Falling Free for Kindle is only $1.99, if you've been waiting to read it, now is your chance!

More (Required) Reading: 
My friend DL Mayfield's entire Lent series (trust me), but especially this guest post from my friend Sarah on marrying an undocumented immigrant. 

Sarah wrote about quitting drinking with grace and beauty and it moved my heart and made me think about some things that could use a little thinking through.  

When Shannan writes about her life in her neighborhood, I listen. Not just because she's one of my favorite humans, but because her words move and encourage me to no end with their beauty and pain and familiarity all mixed up together.
Finally, Adam and I (along with our kids) have been watching the second season of the Great British Baking Show which is now available on Netflix (yay!)

We have also been watching Poldark, thanks to a recommendation from a good friend and one of this month's dinner guests. Season One quite possibly was one of my favorite things I've seen in a very long time. 

What about you? What's saving your life right now, just a little?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lament from the Wilderness

This past Wednesday, our sweet little church had an Ash Wednesday service and asked me to write a prayer of lament to share. This is what I felt pressed into my heart, and rubbed in ashes on my forehead. Ashes which Isaiah couldnt stop pointing at, and Jayci asked to also have pressed into her own precious forehead. I am grateful for the reminders of the ways that the Lord is with us even in the wilderness, and the ways He can handle our questions and hurts with the gentlest of grace to our hearts. 

How Long Oh Lord?

How long will you hide your face from us, Oh Lord?
We are weary and the world seems gone mad. Our neighbors across all the nations cry with hunger and thirst unsatisfied. Wars and rumours and rumblings of pain fill our ears, while politicians offer unsatisfactory answers to our grief and fears, and our anxieties multiply within us. We try to catch our pain with words, or tears leaked salty from blinking eyes.
We are lonely and tired, we are isolated and angry. We want to hear your voice, Lord, to feel your nearness; but it seems at every turn all we find is silence. Silence covered by a relentless news cycle, silence marked mainly by all the noise. I find myself afraid of what lies ahead for our immigrant friends, what might heal these broken streets, a broken community, what future our children are growing up into. Our newsfeeds flicker with calamity and complaints, evidences of the ways we have forgotten that we belong to each other. We have allowed our neighbors to become strangers, and refused to allow the stranger to become neighbor.
Ashes wiped dirty across my forehead, a reminder to myself that I have come from dust, and to dust I will return. A reminder of the way Jesus lived in desert dust for 40 days, the way your people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. We need your nearness now more than ever, as we enter into this season of lent. Of ashes and dust and wilderness wandering on the path to the cross. We prepare ourselves for death, and for resurrection. Allowing ourselves in this moment to live differently, to start with the death and the emptying and live backwards to the birth and forwards to the resurrection simultaneously.

And so I pray that today, we will be reminded that though we are tired, heartbroken, yearning for more, settling for less, afraid, rejected, addicted, lonely, or doubting; no matter who or what we are, we find hope together in the promise that You are the one who formed the very dust of the earth and our bodies alike, and that you love us desperately and offer grace to us all.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Consider this my Voxer message

You know that thing when you haven’t talked to a friend in a really long time, and then it takes you even longer to connect because you know you need a good long uninterrupted stretch where you can talk on the phone? That’s how I feel about my blog right now. Like I never have enough time to do a catch-up justice, so I just never call. So instead, let's pretend this is a boxer message, which is a much less intimidating way to catch-up, particularly for introverts who avoid phone calls at all costs.

2017 guys. Somehow it seems like a whole other world than the one we left behind just over a month ago. Somehow it’s already February, and somehow the cherry blossoms are trying to push out of their winter slumber oh-so-early, like the whole earth is in a rush.
I decided to do another 365 project again this year, and I told Adam that over 50% of my pictures are just our kids playing in the backyard. Because our world is big and small, wide and ever-closer-to-home. We are doing our best to live out big things like peacemaking and bridge-building, reconciliation and faith; but to do it in decidedly small ways, right on our street, with our neighbors and each other (this is much harder than it sounds).

Yesterday, we were lucky enough to get a tour of the pediatric heart research facilities at CHOA, where Caden had his surgery just a few months ago. Caden, in fact, required much assurance that we were just looking, that no one was going to give him medicine or poke/prod/slice him. On our tour, we saw a 3D printer working to print heart valves to put inside children. We saw the work they are doing to study the hearts of rats, beating in quick tiny pulses. They explained the ways they are studying ever-smaller pieces of the heart, the ways they break everything down to individual cells, in order to find solutions for the whole hearts of kids.

And this, of course, is exactly what we have to do. Raise our voices for things that matter, while every single day breaking everything down to its smallest parts. Loving our family, loving our neighbors, spending time on the tire swing with folks who look nothing like ourselves. Sharing meals across tables, reading less BuzzFeed and more books.

This year I also officially went on staff at Blueprint 58 (our nonprofit). This feels embarrassingly like non-news. I mean I have been a part of things all along, I have never not had my life and our home and family entwined profoundly and inextricably from the “work” our nonprofit is doing in the community. But we decided in 2017 that sometimes “wise choices” and health insurance and raising more support are actually just another way of labeling disobedience to our calling, another word for fear. And this year seems like as good a time as any to choose obedience, to choose courage, to step out in faith.

If you want to know more about what I’m doing at Blueprint, and the ways we are trying to grow this year, PLEASE send me an email or message or phone call. I would love to chat about it more, particularly over chips and cheese dip and diet coke or margaritas, please and thank-you.

All of this to say that we are still here, still living in our community and family in the most faithful ways we know. Listening to the voices we trust on all the (potentially scary) things that are happening in the world, both big and small. We are making ourselves lower and less, in order to figure out how to make bigger changes in the community and world we are rooted in. We are committed to justice and to peace, to life and laughter, and having all-the-people over for dinner (get on our invite list!).

So there's my Voxer message/update, now it's your turn! Feel free to leave me a long, rambling message about what's going on your life (ps - want to actually connect on Voxer? yes please!) Or you can just comment or email me, I'd love to connect. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Though (Because) it is fleeting

Today is the day. When the next four years begins. When Trump becomes president.

I was trying to find a poem to post, someone wiser than me who spoke truth and life straight to my soul. And I found only this:
“Resistance is the protest of those who hope, and hope is the feast of those who resist.” (Jurgen Moltman)

For me, this day at least, resistance means taking middle school girls from my neighborhood to see Hidden Figures. It means praying with my daughter and together opening our eyes to the hurting around us on both sides of every issue. It means always standing for truth and goodness, for welcoming the stranger even as leaders build walls to keep them out. It means actively working against greed; and it means moving down the ladder as often as we can, gently placing our feet alongside those we love who don’t look like us. Because the Jesus we love always works mightily in the soil of oppression and fear, moving His people towards justice and peace in ways unseen and powerful, right there on the margins and at the bottom. Because we do not fear the powers and principalities of this world, but rest in the knowledge that the one who holds all our futures will sustain and carry us through even the most frightening political climates and careers. We will choose not to despair, to believe God has lost control or the world is going to “hell in a hand basket,” but to actively remember the ways that God’s people are fighting for what is good and true. We will believe in goodness and in what is right, and we will march towards it no matter what happens today.

I remember today, as I flick off the news, that the days are fleeting. I only have to look at my children to understand how quickly four years can pass. I know too that in the midst of long nights rocking babies who won't sleep, this time-warp seems difficult to fathom. And when we lose sight of the long arc of the universe, we can forget our role to be bridge builders and ones who stand always in the gap. We will do our best today and tonight and tomorrow and the next day to bend the arc towards justice, even a little. To resist the empire and stand for love, always love.

A week or two ago (I can't know exactly because like I said, time moves quickly), Atlanta was threatened with an ice storm. Like good southerners, we bought out all the bread and milk from the store. Instead of a few inches of snow, however, we only ended up with a world encased in a fragile layer of ice. Not enough ice to last under the warmth of the sun, not enough to stop dripping and soaking Caden’s boots straight through, not enough to skate on or stick your tongue to tiny icicles; just enough to glitter for a moment, showcasing the beauty and encapsulating all the sun in brilliance for a few hours one morning. Quickly though, the boys stripped off their heavy coats to shoot hoops in the backyard, and the little ones dropped their gloves into mud puddles left behind as the ice reversed its way back through the states of matter.

Time will always fly, I suppose, and it will provide brilliant moments of light and glitter, followed by mud puddles and cold drizzle. Whatever the next four years brings, we will hold fast to the beautiful pieces and always stand rooted for the causes of justice and hope, even when the ice melts and the glitter fades.
Love and hope and resistance always, 
Becca

Monday, January 2, 2017

When the Christmas Cactus Needs a Little Light

We took down all our Christmas decorations today. Ashton was appalled that we were doing it so soon, even as we pointed out the droopy Christmas tree limbs showering the carpet with brown needles. Adam took the Christmas cactus off the mantle, and when I went to lay blessedly on the bed for a few minutes, I noticed he had put it on the windowsill where it could soak in the light. Because even on a cold and gray first day of 2017, we all night to find a little light to help us grow. To perk up our tired branches and breath life into the parts that seem dead. This year, I'm determined to find the light and park myself in front of it. To soak in the presence and words of the Lord who offers light and life to even the parts of myself that I am uncertain can live again.

I took a picture 324 out of 365 days in 2016, mostly with my actual camera and not just my phone. Admittedly, I might have cheated a time or two and used pictures from a different day, because whatever man.
But my goal for 2017 is less perfect pictures. More grain and blur and all-the-mess because life leans chaotic rather than perfect, and I'd rather capture it exactly as it is rather than how I think it should be. A wise friend reminded me via email today that Jesus isn't waiting for me to be better; that He is quite content with me right now. So my goal for my photo-a-day project in 2017 is just to capture the right-now. The way things really are, sometimes too dark, often blurry and out-of-focus; but somehow beautiful nevertheless.

Ashton also told me today that I should write every day this year. That he thinks I should write a book, and that my goal this year should be to write a page a day. I laughed, while Adam nudged me in agreement. So perhaps this year I'll make my writing goal the same as my photo-a-day goal. To write even when things seem hopelessly dark and tearful. To put words on the page that capture life exactly how it is, rather than how I think it should be. Because I don't always (or rarely) know best anyways, and sometimes a Christmas cactus grows less in a pretty mantle display than perched on a windowsill where no one but me will ever see it.

Friday, December 30, 2016

In-the-Between

Between Christmas and the New Year is mostly suspended animation. No school, warm temperatures and rowdy kids filling the streets, waiting in lines to return the things that don't fit quite right, filling our time with "fun family activities" while silently counting the days until school starts back up for the new semester.

The message of Christmas, I suppose, came mostly in an emptying, the swelling and birthing as an emptying of divinity for the sake of our souls. And yet, we have spent the season scurrying around doing the opposite. Filling our calendar and our trees and our stockings with all the things we think we need or mostly just want. We fill and fill, and I am sick to death of all the ways I stack things under the tree whose branches grow limp and needles pepper our floor with spikes. I am snappy and grouchy and my fingers itch with the impulse to buy more things for delivery right to my turquoise front door. Adam is out of town and I yell at my children, words I cannot even bear to repeat as I imagine the ways they have torn holes in Jayci’s soul. I apologize and she apologizes, and I fear the worst for all the brokenness that never gets hidden by all my doing and buying.

Cookies for neighbors, thank-you gifts for donors, and Christmas cards for everyone, complete with a smiling picture with Zack holding Jayci while Isaiah laughs, and Caden’s hair grows a touch too long over his eyes. Our life is full, we declare, and it is true; except I have forgotten the emptying. And I feel empty, but not the good kind. More like hollow. Like we only missed one Advent reading all season, which is somewhat of a miracle, and yet we may have missed the whole point.


We busy ourselves soliciting year-end donations we desperately need, and coordinating gift-giving for all the folks who have an abundance and feel charitable this time of the year; after all, we know intimately all the ones who have the need and so we straddle both worlds, us stretched thin between.

We bring the gifts to their apartment and I hope that no one notices the fancy Mercedes we park outside. You’re giving out gifts? someone yells, we need some too! I laugh and joke that these kid-clothes won’t fit her and sorry, before trudging up sagging steps and pushing open the door without a knob. And there are grand-kids and cousins bursting at the seams upstairs, leaving hand-prints on the walls while grease bubbles on the stove, and they want to know which gift is for them. There’s never going to be enough to fix the whole broken world.

Which, of course, is why we need the one who broke Himself to fix the world. The emptied womb to fill us all and save us all and forgive us all.

Christmas is already gone. Another year spent with the getting and giving and gifting, and we pack it all up to haul back into the attic in red and green plastic bins.

And so we will try in this new year to live differently, to start with the death and the emptying and live backwards to the birth and forwards to the resurrection simultaneously. We will make the kind of choices everyone calls crazy, because perhaps the thing we really need in a world gone mad is a different way of doing everything. To empty instead of fill; to say no instead of yes, and to say yes when instinct demands we say no.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mary's Song

She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger  -Luke 2:7
Her new baby wails tiny mews through barely open eyes, she shushes him and wraps her cloak against the cold while he suckles noisily at her breast. Her uterus contracts and blood stains mar the straw beneath them, a reminder of the messy ways life wrestles itself into the world. Eventually she hands baby Jesus to Joseph, who wraps him tightly in swaddling cloths expertly, his arms pinned to his side and his lips sucking while he sleeps. Joseph presses his lips to Jesus’s wrinkly forehead, his scratchy beard making his son’s eyes twitch and nose scrunch. Mary gazes quietly with joy over her son, with unknowing and knowing, with fear and hope, and with the kind of expectancy that brims with all the promise of new life. Finally they all three recline and surrender to sleep beneath the holy noisy peace that night.

Everything is ordinary and extraordinary all at once, just like for every new parent; Mary's muscles sore and hearts full from the excruciating joy of birthing something new. The weary parents wake too soon to baby coos and the bleats of lambs carried by shepherds, arriving with angel songs on their lips. They are unlikely subjects for an unlikely King, for the son she swelled with and carried and broke herself open to bring forth. She nestles Jesus closer into her still-soft young curves, bending herself into the crook of Joseph’s arms while the donkeys bray and the stars blink bright overhead like one million times the sky failed to contain the brilliance of heaven.

Mary breaks off a piece of unleavened bread and gives thanks for the scandal tucked in the crook of her arm and the man snoring beside her who married her anyways. She glances over and locks eyes with her donkey and offers thanks for the things that carried her through, as stubborn and grouchy as they might be. She slips her shoulder from her blanket as Jesus blinks his eyes open. She imagines she sees herself in the slant of his nose, in the particular shade of his brown eyes set beneath thick dark brows. She strokes the down on his cheeks, follows the curve of them down his neck, wondering if she sees his Father’s wisdom set behind his eyes trained somewhat unsteadily on her face. Wonders if perhaps it’s his Father she discovers in the perfection of his tiny fingers and toes, He who she notes in the strength of his wail. She smiles lightly and winces equally in pain, lifting Jesus back to her breast and she begins a new conversation with the flesh of her flesh who has come to rescue them all.


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