How About Now?

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 . . . 

fall-forest

 

. . . and stop, rather than pass by a playground, though it’s about time to make supper . . .

 

park

. . . 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.

 

 

 

 

The Common Thread of Chaos

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.”  

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?  

math-board math-page

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.”   

equals

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.  

kitchen-chaos

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.  

craft-mess

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.

heart-and-soul

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.

How to Make Rain

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.

20140801-155028-57028292.jpg

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.

Worshipping Tired

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.

Tired

Broken Houses

We were on our way to my parents’ place when Sabrina, at 2 years old and barely putting sentences together exclaimed, “We’re close to Grandma’s house!”

Surprised by her recognition of where we were, I said, “Wow Sabrina, you know where we are!”

The development was new and many homes were still open frames so she replied with, “Yeah, I see broken houses.”

I never wrote it down, but I never forgot.  Broken houses meant we were close to Grandma’s house.

While actively in the process of refreshing the siding and paint on our house, we’re praying for a broken “house” right now.  That’s hard to type out, and took a while to dare to pray.  It’s been quiet on my blog as I have waited for the courage to post such a thing.  It’s scary, but only when we forget what happens when hearts break.  We don’t know what we’re asking for, but at the same time we do–to feel the nearness of God and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

When brokenness, stemming from God’s kindness brings you closer, more surrendered to a different kind of wind in your rafters, you know you’re close to that new place of comfort, and you want more.

If you’ve experienced brokenness and found yourself closer to God’s heart, would you pray for us as we pray to be broken where we’re formed improperly, we understand wrongly, and love misguidedly?

Soup

Maybe you’re in a season of blowing, cold wind.  Can I pray for you?  Will you ask for His nearness and comfort?  Ask Him to show you that, stripped of false comforts, you are a vessel for the God of all creation to come near to?

If you would like me to pray for you, leave a comment below or email a message.  It’s no small thing to pray upside down–for brokenness that leads to wholeness.  But if getting down to the planks is where God is near, would you take the risk?  Is it really upside down when something like soup tastes better on a cold winter’s eve, and a blanket comforts when we feel the chill?  The mundane things of life like half-built houses and the misunderstanding of two-year-olds can have profound messages.  Don’t you think?

Heaven is my throne, and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hands made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares The Lord.
But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

Isaiah 66:2

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Psalm 51:17

The Sound of Summer

It’s that time again; the cicadas are using their “lungs.”  While reading bedtime stories tonight, Emily pointed to the window every time she heard one.  She doesn’t know what she did for me last year when she heard them, but hasn’t forgotten to notice them.

May I invite you back to our experience with the Cicadas?  How we praised with the bugs?  Be sure to listen to the audio at the end, at least a few minutes please!  Turn the volume up to hear the heartbeat at the beginning.  Listen while you read and then listen again.  If it resonates with your soul, you will love it!

Written July 5, 2012:

These summer evenings I’m often bent behind green in the garden, digging around for produce. Usually a little girl follows. She’ll play on the swings or ride the dog until she notices where I’ve drifted.  She enters the garden gate with questions . . .

“Mommy can I help you?”

“Can I step right here?”

“Is this a weed?”

“Can I pull it?”

Then exclamations, “Look at all these green tomatoes!”

“And the watermelon has lots of flowers!”

I feel like one of the plants soaking up joy like water in that garden we planted together.

I’ve noticed a new accompaniment to our gardening. The cicadas are out, making their sound. The other night, while Emily pulled one last weed she asked, “What’s that called again, making that loud buzzing noise?”

“That’s semi,” I answered (Cicada in Japanese is pronounced “seh-mee”).

“Oh yeah! They fly around and around and make the noise when they’re flying!” she explained as she traced a path with her finger in the air .

Actually,” I said, “they don’t fly around that much. When they make their sound they’re just holding onto the trees.”

“. . . Why?” She asks, as usual.

“Well, that’s just their job,” I answered . . . “What’s your job?”

By then we were walking hand in hand back to the house.  She didn’t hear me ask, but my own question stayed with me.

I pondered the shortness of a cicada’s life, at least above ground. They live as nymphs under ground for 2 up to 17 years. Afterward, they burrow through the ground to hang out and dry. Upwards they go, clinging to a tree with a job to mark time, the season of summer with their recognizable, would you call it,”song”?

What a hidden existence. Underground for most of life and not easy to spot for their short life above ground, were it not for their noise.

As I asked my little girl, “What’s your job?,” I thought of it’s simplicity and complexity. Her job and mine is to praise our Maker. She is doing her job simply . . . sees the world with wonder, giggles at bubbles flying around, wanting me to watch every new move she makes, dancing like a princess with a sparkler in her hand last night on the 4th, she is happy to be. I think about how difficult I make my job of praising to be, worrying whether I’m doing it right or well.

The sound of the cicada’s tympanum tells me that somehow my existence is doing part of my job, by simply being made, breath in my lungs.

I look down at her bouncing beside me. I have no skill of knitting cells in my own womb. Her heart began beating as unnoticeable and automatically as my heart is beating now, like the underground life of the cicadas’ around us. I hear their creaking and watch her skipping . . . and without effort, I praise Him.

Take a breath and know that He is pleased with it.

Please consider clicking the song below. “Every Breath” by Gungor, a very sweet sound.

My Gate Runs Red

We’re in our other home, but it’s unfamiliar.  Besides another country, the pace of a giant city is something to get used to.  Kids have one pace, they’re feel free to move as they like.  I’m edgy and frustrated by them and my failure to speak patiently, my unwillingness to be incovenienced.  I snap like it’s a relex.  Why can’t I get better at this?

After breakfast, we travelled by train a ways out to see Azalea bushes.  Nezu Shrine is surrounded by them.

Tsutsuji Festival

We arrive and I’m engrossed with “why?”  Why the red gates?  There is a tunnel of them here.  Do more of them make the path more sure?

Tunnel

There are coins clanking into a box, a bell rung by one person at a time, heads bow, hands clap.  Just maybe someone will hear.

I walk through the red gates, and think of the effort man on every continent has made to find a way to God.

Gates

I remember my downcast heart this morning.  A whisper in my ear reminds me no temptation has overtaken me except what is common to man, and a way out, a place to stand under is provided. 

My failure is not unique.  My gateway is.

My way out has been made by hands tired from cutting, nailing, smoothing, and painting.  The hands of a carpenter who used his building skills for things of this earth.  But when time came to build a gateway to freedom, his hands hung and bled.

Ornate

No effort of mine,
no carving or wood and stone,
no washing of hands,
no coins,
or ringing of bells. . .

Only belief, the simplest request, but not the easiest.

I stand watching and clicking.  The scenery is beautiful.  I still don’t know what those red gates mean.  Is it coincidence, the red?  Like the Israelites painted their doorways with the death of a lamb, death passing over them?

Among the flowers, I’m revived.

Twitting

I’m not here to ring a bell to wake Him, or drop an easy donation to earn God’s ear.

I’m here to remember the red . . .the gate that holds the weight of my everyday failures.

My way out . . . and in,
He is my hope and joy.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:9  

A Woodpecker’s Gift

Two months ago my daughter and I gazed out the window, so excited there was a woodpecker residing up close and personal. Then a few weeks ago, I noticed the pecking in the side of our house and he wasn’t so cute anymore. Four to 6 holes in all, I haven’t looked to recount. Two of them are gaping in the trim.

In the spring the whole chimney will need a good look over. The two gaping holes are that way for a reason other than the woodpecker. There has been moisture and possibly carpenter ants coming behind, dining on softened wood. This morning thinking over all of the repair and the extent of what it might entail, I was surprised to find myself thankful for that woodpecker. We’re not the type of people that go round inspecting every corner of our house for signs of something wrong. Should we be? I don’t know. All I know is that woodpecker who seemingly destroyed our chimney siding and trim has done us a favor. His pecking has revealed an inside existing problem. How long would it have been before we noticed without his help?

 

Siding

Isn’t that just the was it is with life? Destructive forces come along from any of several directions. Some we bring on ourselves, some are completely outside of us. It’s not easy to be thankful for them, but one thing they always do is expose what we’re made of. How long would we go on if the external stays in tact, the internal crumbling not exposed. The exposure lets the wind blow in, we’re cold, sometimes even shamed. And it’s grace that we can throw our arms up and then back down to our side. What to do now? It’s a mess. Only then can we get a thorough inspection. The carpenter knows what to do.

In my life, I have experienced this. I had a gaping hole, covered up and oh was it windy and cold when the shell was pecked off. To think of the crumbling that was yet to happen had it not been painfully, but mercifully pecked open . . . It’s an understatement to say that I’m grateful for the carpenter that repairs hearts and lives at their core. We’ve got an expense ahead, but I love that even a wood-pecking, bug-hunting bird is telling the story of how grace can break in.

 

A Bug’s Praise

Written July 5, 2012

These past summer evenings I’m often bent behind green in the garden, digging around for new produce.   Usually a little girl follows a few minutes behind.  She’ll be playing on the swings or riding on the dog, until she notices where I’ve drifted.  She enters the garden gate with questions . . .

“Mommy can I help you?”   “Can I step right here?”  “Is this a weed?”  “Can I pull it?”  Then exclamations come, ” Look at all these green tomatoes!” and “The watermelon has lots of flowers!”  I feel like one of the plants soaking up joy like water in that garden we planted together.

Emily & Carrot

Recently I’ve noticed a new accompaniment to our gardening.  The cicadas are out, making their unmistakable sound.  So the other night, while Emily pulled one last weed she asked, “What’s that called again, making that loud buzzing noise?”

“That’s semi,” I answered (Cicada in Japanese is pronounced “seh-mee” and we often use that word because our language at home is often a pidgin of English and Japanese).

“Oh yeah!  They fly around and around and make the noise when they’re flying!”  she explained as she traced a path with her finger in the air .

Actually,” I say, “they don’t fly around that much.  When they make their sound they’re just holding onto the trees.”

“. . . Why?”  She asks, as usual.

“Well, that’s just their job,” I answered . . .  “What’s your job?”

Cicada

By then we were walking hand in hand back to the house.  She didn’t hear me ask, but my own question stayed with me.  I pondered for a moment the shortness of a cicada’s life, at least above ground.   They live as nymphs under ground, for 2 up to 17 years for some varieties.  Afterward, they burrow up through the ground to hang out and dry.  Upwards they go, clinging to a tree with a job to mark time, the season of summer with their recognizable, would you call it,”song”?  What a hidden existence.  Underground for most of life and not easy to spot for their short life above ground, were it not for their noise.

As I asked my little girl that question, “What’s your job?,” I thought of it’s simplicity and complexity.  Her job and mine is to praise our Maker.  She is doing her job simply . . . sees the world with wonder, giggles at bubbles flying around, wanting me to watch every new move she makes, dancing like a princess with a sparkler in her hand last night on the 4th,  she is happy to be.  I think about how difficult I make my job of praising to be, worrying whether I’m doing it right or well.

The sound of the cicada’s tympanum tells me that somehow my existence is doing part of my job, by simply being made, breath in my lungs.

Cicada 2

I look down at the little person bouncing beside me.  I have no skill of knitting cells together in my own womb.  Her heart began beating as unnoticeable and automatically as my heart is beating now, much like the underground life of the cicadas’ around us.  I hear their creaking and watch her skipping . . . and without effort, I praise Him.

Please consider clicking the song below.  “Every Breath” by Gungor, a very sweet sound.

Slipping into Tomorrow

I took this photo in the frost of February this year.  It bothered me that I could only capture it this way.  Why doesn’t a snowflake last?  The beauty of it, forming as it falls through the atmoshere, only to land and many times not be noticed for it’s specific, individual design.  Just quietly adding itself to the pile of other flakes, before it melts into the dirt again.

At every year’s end, it’s a day like any other, but the feeling is heavier that a whole 365 days have slipped by.  Why doesn’t it last?  That giggle, a look in the eye, quietly overhearing a little voice perform for an invisible audience, not knowing that I am the audience enjoying her from the next room.  Joys I can’t hold onto and often won’t remember, every day keeps slipping through the fingers, mostly unnoticed for it’s specific, individual part of the Story, before it adds itself to the pile of the year before, “2011.”
But if God collects my tears in a bottle, surely He is collecting up my joys 100 fold and the moments I just can’t hold onto–many times the best ones happen when there’s no camera.   I’m learning to soak them in and let them be collected elsewhere when I have no shutter to click.
So we melt into a whole new year of moments, all slipping through our fingers and some from our memories, but collected and cared for by the Loving and Ever-present . . . and one day perhaps He will share them with you all over again.  As the days and years go by, I look forward to a day when the joys never cease and no longer slip away.
You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Psalm 56:8
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 16:11