When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are the days of auld lang syne, Pa?”
“They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep now.”
But Laura lay awake a little while listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She thought to herself, “This is now.”
She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods
These last few months I have wrestled tired with a lack of margin. Earlier this week I pondered how to make some of it happen. Crunched up in the bathroom corner while Emily popped up over the tub between scrubbing and rinsing, I read aloud these last words of Little House in the Big Woods. They reminded me.
That 3-letter word led me to put down my lesson planning while waiting for the older girls’ art lesson to finish and walk through the trees . . .
. . . and stop, rather than pass by a playground, though it’s about time to make supper . . .
. . . and we’ve had more sunshine and laughter this week because we are remembering,
and will need reminding again and again,
that it is now.
I watched my daughter’s piano lesson, her teacher talking through a song note by note. They reach the end of the page and it sounds plain wrong. She asks the question, “Why do we end on this note? It sounds wrong, doesn’t it? It sounds conflicted. That’s because it is. This symbol here tell us that the song must repeat.”
She demonstrates how the ending comes around to resolve itself and when it does, it’s obvious. Even an untrained ear can tell; there is resolution. “Such a beautiful thing how that works,” I think to myself, “a song demonstrating the need for and recognition of rest.”
Another day, I teach my girls the language of numbers. Maybe not as obvious to the untrained, but the numbers want to be reconciled. They must equal something. We learn to balance the sides, even from the beginning with 1 + 1 = 2 The equal sign tells us there is something hanging. What could it be? This can be a struggle and so hard to make them agree. It’s easy to decide it must not really matter. Some of us just aren’t good at reconciliation right?
Yet another day, my children are curious about wind. They ask me where it comes from and how it is made. My simple response is, “Isn’t it amazing?! We don’t know how it’s made or where it comes from. We can’t see it, but we can see its effects. It’s like God; we can’t see Him, but we see His effects.” Every bit of my response mattering and truthful.
Later, they ask daddy and he so scientifically explains that warm air is always seeking a place of lower temperature and will move to fill it, balance it. That movement of the air is the wind. I listen with admiration at the things he knows. Maybe I heard that once in a science unit and it never came back around. Maybe I’d never heard it at all. No matter, I’m hearing it now.
In every one of these conversations, I was taken back to what I had once read, in The Children’s Blizzard. David Laskin wrote of a tragic day that marked history on the plains of The United States. It was the story of farmers, teachers, and children caught up by surprise in a blizzard and frozen while at work in the fields or walking home from school. As he explained the details of meteorology and the elements present to create such a storm, he wrote and etched in my mind,
“The atmosphere is in a constant search for equilibrium.”
I thought of the occasions a storm has blown through our house. Everything shutters, the children bend low. The roof seems to have been ripped right off our heads as the winds rush in, mocking our illusion of peace.
This kind of storm is no respecter of seasons. This storm is me, trying to make something balance that isn’t so. The mess that just happens when life is present. I suddenly saw a common thread between myself and the atmosphere. Whether we’re talking music, math, meteorology, or peace of mind, all creation groans for equilibrium.
Vanity, vanity, it is; this chasing after the wind.
Are we chasing after the wind?
Are we the wind?
Or are we wind chasing wind?
It’s tempting to think we are one with all that surrounds us, and in a way, yes. We were made from dust and then a rib. We are but a breath; a flower that blooms and is gone. So one could say we are one with nature, but what of it? The winds are in search, and so are we.
Somehow this brings comfort. It reminds me even the gales and gusts are small. This power we can see only by the leaves it blows and branches it breaks, is in need just as I. It is searching. As I trample over young ones in my care, carelessly spew words over those I love, and return again to a place of apology and repentant awe that I am capable of such destruction. I see that searching force, whether in a soul or a squall, knows it’s not home yet.
Standing in the congregation on a Sunday morning, honestly feeling the mundaneness of getting up early on a weekend and going through the motions of mustering up worship and attention to the Words, from devotion and commitment, I sing along,
“Sweet Jesus Christ my sanity,
Sweet Jesus Christ my clarity . . .”
With the rhythm and words, the stirring of the Spirit which is over the currents of the globe, rises up in my soul, waking and refreshing my heart. Those words become bigger than the space they encompass on the screen we are prompted from. As I sing those words, I am swept up in gratefulness as I am reminded of my constant search for equilibrium; at how my waves have learned to heed his voice. Through the many fluctuations between high and low, He has been my Counselor, my Prince of Peace, and has filled my low places with a different breeze.
We and the wind continue in this story, this longing for home. The repeat sign appears again and again in the language of music to remind us, we are not yet at rest. Do you wonder why you just can’t carry a tune? Do you wish you would stop searching for that state of “just right”? Consider that just as the winds wander in search over the earth, its force a testament to God’s power and beauty, how much so your living off-key is a testament to the same. Don’t be afraid of that searching force feeling unsettled in your soul. Let it open your eyes to the horizon. Keep watching, keep listening, stay awake. When that last note plays, when the revealing appears, even the untrained ear will know that resolution has arrived. Life will equal peace. We will be home and at rest. The wind itself may have nowhere left to go because His glory will cover the earth, all low places filled, and end the song of all songs with that perfect, restful note, and calm the cry of chaos in our searching souls.
Scattered pieces of tracing paper graced our home much like the misplaced or missing socks were also doing. My girl had traced the lines of many a princess. This wiggly little one could magically sit, all dolled up, under the spell of paper and pen. Looking back at tracings from two years before, I saw a big difference. The ability to follow a line and obey the shape had become stronger. Lines more refined, she had almost moved on to drawing these beauties from memory.
Tracing got me thinking of how we had grown in learning how to learn. I remembered when this little artist would feed helpless—tracing the lines of my face, studying my eyes. A minimum of 1500 times we sat down to give and receive nourishment and in the meantime, trace faces. She memorized early the curves of my nose and lips, the boundaries of my teeth, the sound of my voice. In those earliest days, I was teaching her, unaware.
What seemed to be years away, hopped right into my lap: the school years. It was time to start learning! The first day came with no big fanfare; I don’t recall the date, but there we were “doing school.” I felt the need for our schooling to be run by a published list of lessons on a specific timetable and I was tense. Learning wasn’t quite as fun as I’d thought it would be . . .
Find my complete article, published earlier this week, over at Classical Conversations’ The Writer’s Circle!
I had the privilege of knowing Ann Absalom during the brief 4 years I lived in Japan where she led a bible study at our international church. Back in our home countries, we reconnected over Facebook about a year ago. I came across these words she posted this past Saturday just before Easter and she gave me permission to share them here . . .
I have been thinking about Easter – how it is not really ‘good’ Friday until Sunday – how we won’t really, truly know until we see Him face to face on our resurrection day. Meanwhile we wait and we hope – we live in the in between – we have His promises that we have been born again, that heaven is waiting – that it is glorious, that He is there now preparing a place for us. We are given tasters of joy and peace by His Spirit who lives within us but the tasters are found amidst a life that is often difficult and hard, relentless and tiring. We are asked to trust His Word that He will rise on the third day and that we will rise with Him and we are encouraged to put our trust in that – to believe that He is now – in the time between Friday and Sunday – causing all things to work together for our good, that He is for us and that in the end we really will rise with Him and live for eternity in a place without pain and sorrow and tears.
But it is all unseen, it is a confident hope, but hope nonetheless. That is what makes it faith – that is what makes it so difficult for those who need to see and touch and taste and feel.
It is still Saturday and the voices along our path cry out on the darkest days ‘really, are you sure – wouldn’t it be easier simply to stop and give in? The voices cause us to ask ‘why me’ and to question His love and His compassion. But we look back and have decided to put our trust in the One who died in our place on Good Friday – we believe that He is God, that He paid our price, that He made it possible for us to walk through Saturday into a glorious Sunday. We have decided to trust and to wait and to hope in the Lord and as we do we hear His soft small voice call out ‘well done beloved child, well done – I am rejoicing over you with singing’.
It will always be Saturday whilst we live on this planet – Saturday with its trouble and trial, it’s pain and its doubt but Sunday is just around the corner – hang in sweet and precious child of God He is waiting to greet you with open arms.
So we’re back in the “In-between;” the “Already and still-not-yet” of this life hanging between the down payment of the bride of Christ and the final appearing and wedding feast of Heaven and Earth together again. I have no well-pondered thoughts, but I miss posting so I’m sharing some photos from our celebration this year. I’ve been thinking for a while now that Easter lacks a focused beauty and coziness like we experience at Christmas. So, I got my sister and mom to go in with me to make a little more of the celebration and this is what we ended up with . . .
I don’t usually pull these kinds of things off because I’m not willing to stress myself out to make things picture-perfect. And it wasn’t. The day before I thought I should’ve planned some kind of special breakfast so I got up early the next morning and whipped up a REALLY fast coffee cake recipe and fried some bacon. How can you go wrong? Only the table we sat at, with a tablecloth covering the scratches and candles glowing in the middle was tidy and it was delightful. The rest of the kitchen had clutter and dirty dishes. And I didn’t sweat, I let it go.
When I was tempted to think “poor me,” for having to get up earlier than everyone else in order for anything beautiful to happen, I thought of the work God has done to give us His abundant beauty and rest. It is hard work to feed people multiple times a day, keep a house clean when 4/5 of us live in it all day everyday, and just plain being a distract-able person in general. In the scheme of things it is so small, but I was reminded that nothing is ever free. Yes, His grace is free to us, but it was not free for Him. It costed. And though His grace is free, our lives are not free from the debt of service–not to secure His love, but to carry it out, to incarnate it right here, right now. So I was tired, but I was joyful as I sought to serve my family in creating beauty that could bring a little of God’s beauty to our senses.
And our sweet Oreo died this past week. She died suddenly and quite traumatically for us and on cue, rain and thunder rolled in as Claire began to dig a grave. We cried many tears over this 5-pound fuzz ball and felt the groans of creation in a small way, on our own little piece of earth once again.
A little delayed for the season, but I couldn’t make this one happen before October 31st . . .
I enjoy the season of autumn as the cooling air calls people in to warm soup, hot chocolate, blankets, and fires on the hearth.
What I do not enjoy so much about the season is the ugly side of Halloween. My children are less effected as they grow up, but they generally haven’t enjoyed the store and yard decorations, though they can’t seem to stop looking at them. In this season I’ve dealt with night-time fears over something ugly and I’ve been in a fight for the right imagination in them. Still, I’m intrigued by Halloween. I’ve seen and heard of traditions similar to “All Souls Eve” in Japan and Mexico (sans the costumes and candy), and I’m sure there are more elsewhere; essentially, days of the dead. I’ve spent a little time searching out the beginnings and beliefs behind these traditions, and frankly it’s confusing. In the end, it’s obvious, they have to do with death and souls of the departed and the belief of living on after the shriveling of their shells.
At some point, a church holy day collided with the dark side and some of us aren’t sure what to do with this “holiday.” Some boycott Halloween altogether and don’t do costumes or trick-or-treating. There are harvest parties meant to be an alternative, either to protect our children from nightmares or to free our consciences from somehow associating with the wrong father, worshiping the very one we’ve been rescued from. A harvest party sounds better; non-creepy, kid-friendly . . . a celebration of abundance (maybe of candy more than corn and squash these days). I admit, I would rather have pumpkins and squash lining my mantle and porch steps to celebrate harvest than skulls and spooky things. But have we overlooked something on the safe side of the season?
I have a picture on my wall of my girls one past autumn. They were sitting in a pile of orange, brown, red, and yellow leaves we had just gathered. As they sat centered in shriveling colors, death was the backdrop behind their youthful faces. Every leaf that falls, every squash and gourd picked, is severed from its life source in this lovely season of harvest. Life has ended, yet their colors decorate our lives for a while. The squash finds its way to our tables in soups, breads, and pies and their dying pulp feeds our flesh for a season. Call it Harvest, not Halloween, but it’s still a season of dying.
Only a world which knows death can keep walking without surprise at what is happening to the leaves. It has become normal. Things are supposed to die. But really? We don’t really believe that. Maybe the gore is there to remind us of how ugly death really is. It’s the ugliest, smelliest thing there is . . . when it is final and hopeless.
And only a world that knows hope can admire the colors which come in the process. Harvest shows us a death that gives life. The leaf returns to the earth, but the tree lives on. The seed must die to produce the next yield. I must die to myself to find where my life really is. There is dryness, crackling, pain, and in the end, beauty and new life.
We live and move in a world of death every single day. One doesn’t have to look far, even if you don’t watch the news. We buried a tiny mouse in our back yard three weeks ago. It was sad and ugly (the experience, not the mouse). It mattered because nothing is supposed to die. Death is ugly and no one will argue but death itself. And just as crazy as believing in the living on of souls, is a crazy promise to which I cling:
“Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead . . . and . . . The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” *
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” ” **
Death has been collecting the debt of this world from the time we fell from the world that knew death not. But it has already been severed. Its colors of dark and ugly are simply lingering as it dies slowly and surely. The One who bought our victory has plunged to its depths and awaits for all to see what He has done . . . given us victory.
So with a clear conscience, my children wear costumes and we move among the world that has come to know death, collecting candy in jack-o-lantern buckets . . . because we have the light of life and nothing to fear. We walk along with neighbors present and neighbors past, knowing that any light, however small, will always overcome the darkness.
I cannot spend my life worrying about the obscure ways holy days might collide with the darkness because I am meant to be a light in it. And if the few images of death scattered around the beautiful colors are scary now . . . wait until death dies and the ground can no longer contain those who have shriveled before. They won’t be walking like zombies, but rather fully alive like we’ve not yet seen; in the world that knew not death. This is the imagination I instill in my children. And that, my friends, is possibly the creepiest, most colorful thing death will ever see as it breathes its very last.
*I Corinthians 15:21
**I Corinthians 5:54,55
I wish I could remember where I recently heard or read this:
the wise man speaks because he has something to say.”
I had a wordy post ready to share back then and never felt like following through. So here I am checking into a dark and empty auditorium, wondering if this microphone is even on. Like that clumsy squeak piercing the emptiness, I’m stepping up to say, “I’m still here!”
I’ve been asking the questions, “Do I have to say something or do I have something to say?” and “How do I order the minutes in a day to get it said?” I think I’ve become more skilled than I was last fall in the daily management of life. Writing is still something to figure out. This blog will remain on the quieter side until that ever gets settled. One thing I’ve frightfully concluded is that this writing thing isn’t entirely my own idea. I’ve tried to get away from it and, for some reason, I don’t think I’m supposed to so I’m choosing to obey.
If I ever must leave here for good, I will say so. But if it’s just plain quiet for a while, it’s because I’m working at becoming a mother in multiple facets since acquiring such fortune 12 years ago, chiseling away at mental marble, or just letting things sit until I truly have something to say.
She was angry with no intention to change. Her sister was mean and wrong. She wants to be right and others to be as well. But there would be, “no enemies at our table.” I pulled this out when they were smaller and forgot about it. The fighting had been escalating for months. I’ve read all kinds of advice. My mind and heart spin and don’t settle on any piece of it for long. I know no author is perfectly wise, but this reader is far less. Books in the hands of a foolish woman; I am unfit for this role.
I declare the study to be the new peace-making room, “There you will go to make peace before you may eat at this table.” At breakfast it was simple, laughter came quickly.
Later, before lunch, a bigger dispute broke out and the peace-making room was thick with hatred with no plans of departure. I intervened with questions, mining for the heart of words and actions. Both sides were hurt, both sides were stubborn, both had a point.
I was tempted to take the easy road. I could just take the iPad away from everyone. That would cover things up for a while. . . I closed my eyes and begged. “God, what do I do? What do I say?” I stayed there with eyes shut.
The girls were quiet, wondering if I had fallen asleep as I waited for something to bring out of this fight.
It was time pull out a book I had ordered two weeks before, but tucked away. I began reading as the one who refused to forgive sat in the farthest corner. Two pages in and she was closest to the book. Drawn in to the story of a man drawing circles in the sand, praying boldly for God to send rain.
The story ended and I was out of things to say again. We were back where we started; one willing to reconcile, the other still couldn’t forgive, and me with my eyes shut and no clue.
So like the man in the story, I circled. I took her in my lap, imagined a circle of sand around us, and I told God I would sit there all day, all week and longer, until He rescued her heart. I declared that she was made to display the love and beauty of God and begged Him to restore her to that purpose. I demanded that evil would have no power over this house, that this child would choose to obey what was right and be free from its clinches. I prayed like I didn’t know who I was.
Then I felt them. Big drops on my arm as I held her tight, sitting on the outside, standing boldly on the inside before the throne of God. She broke like clouds over a dry and weary land; desperate for refreshing, hungry for release.
This led me to note a few things:
Written advice lead me to create a peace-making space and insist peace be reached, but it was God who met us in that place when we couldn’t figure out how.
Discipline and faith made me expect good things from my children, but it was God who broke rain inside our roof.
My daughter, who wrestles with anger, spoke the rest of the day of wanting to obey God and not be angry. Do I think she’s cured? No. Anger will likely be a default struggle for her, but her heart experienced a power than goes beyond mommy’s shadow. She saw God with us, reaching down to her heart. She heard a prayer for rain and felt it fall deeper than her skin.
Since that day, there has been more anger, but you know what else? I have heard through cracked doors, a little girl crying out on her own, begging God to help her in her anger.
This is what I’ve learned about prayer . . . it’s clinging, begging, drawing a line in the sand. Not to demand that God does what you want, but preaching to your own soul there’s no where else to go; that this is where you wait if you want to see great things. No one else is really listening. No one else can do a thing about your frailty or your child’s. It’s not wishful thinking, throwing pennies in a fountain hoping there’s “something” out there. It is life with God.
And this is what prayer does . . . opens your eyes to see Him move, rain sometimes falling on your head, affecting your soul with greatness, causing you to sing.
We’ve succeeded at an earlier-than-usual bedtime, but I’m ready to collapse. I lean into the top bunk and she whispers, “Can you scratch my back?” I try not to let my face fall and my voice fails to hold in the sigh, . . . “Just a little . . .” I start in scratching and 5 seconds seems long.
For a moment I catch myself. If I knew this would be the last time I would hold onto it, scratching every cell and wouldn’t feel the tired, maybe.
The next moment I hear a whisper; a name so pure and untouchable, needing no vowels, a vapor on the tongue. We had just learned this Name at breakfast. “YHWH,” The Self-Existent One, needing no one and nothing, not even a nap or early bedtime. As we crunched toast, what surprised them reminded me. I am not the Self-Existent One. I need sleep; hours of it every setting sun. I explained there is only One with this name, and why it’s not me. Their faces softened as they saw some sense to the shortness I’m left with post 8:00 pm.
So there I hang over the top bunk, wondering if I should hold on and scratch forever. I scratch a little longer, run my nails a little softer the way she likes. But I know it’s not my place to pretend to be all she needs. I kiss her and remind her she is loved. I wonder why it’s so easy to rush through the moments . . . if it’s because eternity has been placed in my heart so I expect another day to always come . . .
And I know it’s ok when I just can’t hold on . . . because I’m not the keeper of forever, nor the keeper of her heart. That’s the job of a Name that whispers, in no need of sleep, freeing me from filling impossible shoes, to lie down and sleep in peace.