Monday, February 22, 2016

How Long Oh Lord: A Lament

I started writing this a couple weeks back. Since then, the flu has laid me low (seriously, I am STILL sick over two weeks later), and we have shared our story of faith and one-step-at-a-time calling with a conference full of teenagers and adorable-awkward preteens. We had to remind ourselves a few times, we are not frauds. We told each other, we do what we do because we have been brought here step-by-sometimes-painful-step.

Even still, I keep fumbling my way through all of this life. Because these aren't our stories, completely. But they are our stories, because our hearts are all entwined, and they belong to us as much as we belong to them, and we all belong together (do you see how confusing this is? Welcome to my brain). The mind-numbing exhaustion of six months of sleep deprivation (why oh why don't I produce babies who like sleep?) stack right on top of heart exhaustion, perhaps. And so I hit publish with trembling fingers, certain I have no answers and leaning hard into the thinnest places where grace covers and fills me most.
In a few hours I will leave to attend a funeral for a nineteen year old boy shot and killed last week. I don’t really know what to say, so I start a load of laundry. For once, I carefully sort out the colors and darks, piling whites into one big load and turning the water to hot. I fold the basketball jerseys, still warm from the dryer. They still carry the slight scent of sweat and adolescence, despite the double wash and three bounce sheets I gave them after last night’s game. I kick our washing machine when it tilts off balance and bangs loud, waking Isaiah from tenuous sleep. I try to feed him hurriedly, sweeping mascara over my lashes and tucking some kleenex into my purse before we slip out the door. Gray skies begin to cast drizzle across my windshield, in just the right amount to defy any windshield wiper setting. I pick up the two boys we have known and loved for five years now, and I drive them to their cousins’ funeral. One tells me he is a pallbearer. Unsure about how to help teenage boys handle grief, I tease him a little for wearing acid-washed slim fit overalls for the task.

We pull up at the church and I shield Isaiah’s face from the rain while we run to the doors, slipping into a pew near the back. I try to avoid the open casket, and to ignore the sniffling row of little kids wearing t-shirts with the teen’s smiling face behind me. I turn around once to see tears running in rivulets down their faces, quickly facing back to the altar while the whole motley crowd sings amazing grace in halting sopranos and altos peppered by wails. Palpable grief settles on the shoulders of his friends, young men with broad shoulders and stoney faces who occasionally allow themselves to shudder with sobs. When his little sister gets up to sing Take Me to the King, I last as long as the first line “truth is I’m tired,” before I feel my own tears slip down my face. I am tired, I think. Tired of carrying so much grief, of contact burns.

I barely knew him, really. Nineteen years old and we met only a handful of times. Laughed together over pancakes and spilled syrup, and hugged after a football game where he played against the anteaters. But the loss gapes like a wound and I cant apply enough pressure to stop the bleeding. Mostly, I feel numb. Which scares because I wonder what that means about my heart. Numbness is a bad sign, right? When the tragic turns commonplace, and we tie a tourniquet to stop the flow of emotion and hurt that threatens to drown us. I hug both boys I brought after they lower his body into the ground while the crowd shivers and rain falls cold on slumped shoulders. They both cry into my arms, and I wipe my own tears mingled with the rain.

The more we experience, the less I know. This seems backwards, like my knowledge should increase with experience, with age, with life. But I find myself with more questions and less answers as each day spins by. A third child reminds us that all we thought we knew about parenting and getting babies to sleep in their cribs is mostly party tricks I can barely remember at 2am six months in.

All the things I thought I knew flit away on the notes of a song sung by a little girl at her big brother’s funeral. They tangle themselves up in church politics. They slip past the shaky knees of the teenager who rids herself of her third baby over a toilet. They slide into dark corners where the flickering light seems faint at best. What is left to hope in when nothing turns the way it should and I disappoint myself at every step. When my voice grows hoarse from shouting, my heart grows weary with opening my door to strangers. A crisis of faith, clinging to the heels of six months without sleep, seems the best way to describe the gaping silence that echoes from the other side of my prayers.

I stare into the darkness and ask in a trembling whisper,
How long oh Lord?

With shuddering breaths, I realize that the only way through the darkness is to go deeper into it. Deeper and deeper still, until perhaps we might start to see a small flicker of light on the other side. Grieving together as holy work, walking into the darkness with hands clasped tight in recognition of sacred space. To not fear the darkness and the questions it carries, but to recognize and embrace all the ways darkness might mark new beginnings. The mother bird whose wings flutter over the deepest dark to bring forth a spark of something new.

Because brokenness is not the end, but the beginning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

From My Sick Bed

After two days of resting (or writhing in misery, rather) in bed with the flu, I think enough is enough. Adam leaves for a meeting after getting Jayci off to school, and both remaining children climb into my lap. My skin crawls at their touch and I sit in front of the heater to ward off the chills. I sip a mug of hot tea and lemon, trying to soothe a new tickle in my throat.

There is a pull within me to equate production with value. To believe I am only afforded a certain amount of me-time before I'm just being selfish (even if me time = in bed with the flu).

Its the first day of lent, and I don't have plans to give anything up exactly. Instead, I want to use these 40 days to remember my identity in Jesus. As Shane Claiborne says, lent is an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again. . . So whether it is giving up an old bad habit or take on a new holy habit, may we each use this Lenten season as an excuse to do something that empties us of ourselves so that our lives make better music.

This past weekend we had the (crazy) opportunity to share our story at a youth conference for a couple hundred middle and high schoolers. Besides being way outside of my comfort zone (Adam is the one who likes speaking to crowds), it was a really sweet time for our family and an amazing reminder of all the ways that God has called us step-by-step into this life we never would have dreamed up for ourselves. Also, I just wrote that it was a sweet time for our family and then remembered how many times I nearly lost it yelling at my children because they would not stop fighting for the love of everything. I only pulled it together because I thought "you are the keynote speaker, pull it together."
But seriously, I remembered some things I needed to be reminded of: that we didn't mentor Zack and Sabo because we wanted to start a mentoring program, but that God led us to mentor Zack and Sabo and that's why we ended up starting a mentoring program. Our end goal never skipped past the people who were right in front of us, and I want to keep living that way. To recognize the holy ways that God slips people into our lives (for a season or forever) who we will learn from and with.
Since I'm about to read some more and then perhaps nap while Isaiah naps, I leave with you with some links I love and a few books I'm going to preorder (and I think you should too).

First of all, Adam and I also shared a story with a friend of mine from UGA (which was apparently over 10 years ago, crazy). She came to our house and interviewed us about our lives and Blueprint 58 and shared the whole thing on her cool site (ATL 1X1). I'd love for you to pop over and read it if you're interested. And be sure to spend some time looking around the site, because she has shared lots of stories from really cool Atlanta change-makers, of whom we are beyond honored to be included. Its a great resource to find something you're passionate about in Atlanta and find out how you can get involved. Of course we would love that to be Blueprint 58, but really would be thrilled for you to find any way to let your passions meet the needs of our city.

I have rarely been as excited about a book as I am for these next two. Although if you've been around here long, I've linked to their blogs often enough that you've probably already preordered their books too (I hope!)

The first is my homegirl Shannan's book, Falling Free (Rescued from the Life I always wanted). Their story is so much like our story, and the time that Adam and I spent with Shannan and Cory cemented my love for them forever. Sorry guys, you'll never get rid of us now! But seriously, her story will inspire you for sure, and I've been meaning to tell her for days that I think her writing is only getting more beautiful and holy every single day. For real.

I'm also super-pumped to get DL Mayfield's new book Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith. I mean seriously, I feel like I need to read it right this very minute because I currently feel exactly like a failed missionary who needs to rediscover some faith, please and thank you. Her writing is some of my very favorite, the kind that leaves me ready to both love my neighbors better and hand over my pen, because I have read very few people who can write like she does.

A few more books I'm excited about:
Renovate: Changing Who You Are by Loving Where You Are - by our dear friend and pastor Leonce Crump (our story is tucked in there somewhere too!)
Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark - Addie Zierman
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles).  Confession: I got this book for my friend for Christmas and then made him let me borrow it before he even read it. I feel a little guilty like perhaps I basically bought myself a Christmas present? Oops.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ordinary Loaves and Fishes

At night I lie beside my child and sing.
Last night I sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."
Her back was pressed against my chest,
and the smell of wind was in her hair.
Before I'd finished singing she was sleeping,
but I sang on softly of you faithfulness,
faithfulness that made you pursue your people
even after the green of Eden faded.
At first you came in cloud, in fire,
feeding, leading, sealing
covenants with rainbows, oaths with flames
that passed at dusk between halves of heifer,
ram and goat. Your raw presence was too much for men.

Then, when time was right, you
who were cloud and flame came closer,
and the glory that before could not be looked upon
settled on your son, asleep in a woman's arms.
And in him men saw that the God who fathered them
longed for them, loved them.
There were thirsty deserts, waffling followers.
Yet, faithful to your love for men,
he went your way, another son following father
to the stony place of sacrifice.
This time though, no ram in thicket,
no staying of the father's hand.

And now, as your strange ways would have it,
the Spirit that is you has come to me
and I, not ark, bear you through the world.
Bearer of your image, I? I do no miracles -
make no manna, sight no blind eyes.
I tie laces, make beds, bake bread.
But your equations, like your ways, are strange
adding oil, multiplying meal, making one lunch
food for thousands. Take my acts,
ordinary loaves and fishes.
Bless, break, multiply.

(Sanna Anderson Baker)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...