The Morning

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"The Morning" is a story I told to a crowd at a local community theater a few months ago. Today marks the three year anniversary of that morning.

The Best Birthday Gift

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The dock is narrow, jutting out into the murky water. Two weathered kayaks sit in the middle of it- crunchy autumn leaves cover the seats, oars nowhere to be found. It doesn't seem as if the boats have served their purpose for some time, but they're picturesque just sitting there. We laugh and shriek, scrambling over them, inching our way along the edge toward the end. She wants a photo and its her birthday, who are we to object? The phone is perched on a chair opposite from where we stand, capturing our moment of chaos afloat the muddy pond. An ancient oak stands behind us, vines traverse the hills, their leaves floating in the afternoon breeze. We lock arms and smile, half out of deep affection for one another and half out of self preservation.

The camera clicks, a moment frozen forever. We leap back to the safety of land, grabbing one another's hands sighing in quiet relief. Our cute grown up clothes are dry, we still know how to move in heels, or at least wedges. We pack away our picnic and drain the last few drops of wine from our glasses, smiles wide, hearts full. The sun begins to sink in the sky and real life beckons us home.

Back to the men who have our hearts, back to the children who light up our lives. Back to the homes where we've learned to dwell. To the hot showers that wash away the weight of the world and the beds where we find rest. Perhaps in a photo it looks so easy- we live in a beautiful town, our children are healthy and thriving. We have husbands who send us off on afternoons like this to celebrate one another.

But the truth is that there are much deeper stories that have woven us together, a single thread wrapped in and out, back and forth. Over the past year we've experienced loss and disappointment. Fear and uncertainty. Pain and brokenness. Forgiveness and grace. Expectation and hope.

And we've done it together. Through tears and questions. With chocolate and wine. Around a table and standing at a gravesite. With cold, wet sand between our toes and sitting under a bright sun warming our shoulders. Over text chains and lattes. At preschool pick up and park sandboxes. Asking silly questions and probing deep into our souls. Wondering and encouraging, silently supporting when words aren't sufficient.

This moment may be frozen in time forever, but when I stop to take it in on the screen of my phone, I see so much more than the photo reveals. I remember the stories we told today, the ways we vowed to live more fully in the year ahead. I recall how God has been faithful since last June and how we've come to know Him more, each in our own ways. I think of how my friends got their names and how their children are growing into theirs. I know a little more of what makes each of us alive, and I feel a little more known than I did this morning.

We leave that pond and that dock for the gangplank of reality. The one we will fall off of into the slimy waters of motherhood. When we lose our tempers and burn our dinners. Our boats will sink, but we'll swim to shore, clinging to the life rings we toss to each other every now and again. We'll text from doctor's offices, admitting we can't actually do everything we're supposed to do and need someone to pick our kids up. We'll share grocery lists and costco runs. We'll swap kids and bury our heads when they're screaming about their butts in the front yard. Tomorrow morning we will don the top knot, down our caffeine, and jump back into the trenches. But we will do it with a little more energy and conviction because of today. Because today we all enjoyed the best birthday gift there is- friendship.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Choosing to strike a match to light a flame in this darkness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Opening my eyes to take in its glow, permitting it to reorient me to the reality that surrounds me. Allowing myself the time to gaze upon the long shadows it casts, flickering through the veil of the night. Grieving what I’ve lost while clinging to gratitude for what I’ve been given. It feels like the dance between the flame and the darkness, fronting back and forth. One moment in balance, the next on the brink of being extinguished, finally leaping from the wick to chase away the dark in a quick moment of defiance. I’m still learning it, and I expect it will be a lesson I’ll learn for the rest of my days.

It is not lost on me that one of my greatest disappointments in life has fallen during this holy week. The one right after the day people cried out, raising palm branches high, “hosanna! save us!" They believed their light had finally arrived. But within a few days, all that would change. Soon they would scream out, “crucify him!” The man they thought was their messiah, the light in the dark, was nailed to a cross. The earth groaned and shook, and complete darkness fell upon the land. Yet curiously, when we read this account in John’s gospel, we get a spoiler alert.

I’ve got a bad habit, I’ll fully admit. I often read the last chapter of a book before reading the first, just to make sure its worth reading. Why waste my time if it doesn’t end well? And by well, I don’t just mean happy. I mean fulfilling. Maybe that’s why I like John so much. He knows that there will be readers like me who need to know the end before they read the whole story. So by the fifth sentence of his gospel, he lets us in on the truth that everything is going to turn out okay. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When I finally get to the climax of the story, where all hope seems to be lost, where the darkness has clearly overcome the light, I’m left a little confused. How could this happen? John said it was going to be ok.

A few sentences later, we find Mary walking in the dark toward the tomb of Jesus. Further into the passage it is revealed that Jesus meets her in the garden. Alive. For a moment, she doesn’t recognize him. But then he says her name and she sees him for who he is. I can only imagine that scene is much like one of these Santa Barbara mornings that begin completely socked in with fog. It obscures the sun entirely as I wake up and rise from my bed. I walk to the kitchen, turn on the hot water for a cup of tea, and peer through the windows checking for a break in the clouds. Out the window to the north, the east, the south. Nothing. Then, without warning, one ray of sunlight fights its way through. And within an hour, the sky is clear and the sun is shining.   

In a moment, Mary is bathed in light as she sees Jesus once again. Her friend, her teacher, her Lord. I think its pretty special that she was the first one who got to see Jesus. In a culture that didn’t give much value to women, Jesus revealed himself to her. But I also have to think it had something to do with proximity, she was near to him on that morning. On the darkest, coldest morning, she went to him. And she found him to be so more more than she could ever possibly imagine.

I guess where I’m left is sitting in front of a candle with a box of matches. Today is the day John Mark should've been born, April 11th. As we stood at his grave this morning, my husband shook his head. "This isn't where we're supposed to be today." He's right. This isn't how it was supposed to turn out, and I still have a million questions. But I also know that tomorrow I have the choice whether or not to strike that match against the side of the box. Tomorrow morning, like so many other mornings since my son died, will feel dark. Too dark. But I’ve read the whole story, and I know that the light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.

Chairs in Heaven

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Are there chairs in heaven?" he asked me, curious and hopeful.
"I don't know, buddy. Maybe. I mean I guess so?" my voice trailed off.
"Hmm. Ok. Because I'm going to need a chair when I see John Mark. Because, you know, he's a baby and you're supposed to sit down when you hold a baby," he replied.

For the past two months, I've been grilled about heaven. Where is it? What's it like? How do we get there? When is Jesus going to come fix everything? What are our bodies going to be like? When will we die? And why did John Mark die when he was too little? Is the cemetery full of babies like our baby? Why did Jesus have to die? Is John Mark's little box ok, even though its close to the hot lava under the surface of the earth? Why can't God bring him back to us? Can we pray for God to send him back to us? Can we take a helicopter up to heaven and get him back from God?

In their questioning and wondering, they haven't expressed anger at God. They are curious, but they expect that I have the answers for them. Even when I try to explain things in a way I think they'll understand, it doesn't always connect. They peer up at me with a puzzled look, shrug their shoulders and say, "okay, mama."

I've often woken to a little face in front of mine, a little voice, "I miss John Mark. I feel sad. Can we have breakfast now?" They have this amazing capacity to do such contradictory things all at the same time. To giggle and build legos together, then pause for such a short moment to comment that they're sad that John Mark doesn't get to build legos with them. They have a profound sense that something is missing, and they aren't afraid to acknowledge it.

Today Moses and I had a date together, he wanted to go to the ice cream shop by the zoo. During our drive he looked out the window and up at the sky.
"Hmm," he said, "I think maybe I see Jesus in the clouds"
"I don't think so, not today." I answered.
"But, maybe he's hiding up there. Maybe he's coming down."
"Well, the Bible says its going to be a big deal when He comes back. I think we're going to know for sure when it happens."
"Oh. Okay. Just like when he was all glittery when the guy who ate bugs dipped in honey dunked him in the river?"
"Maybe so. I bet it will be super bright like that."
"Yeah! What kind of ice cream are you going to get, Mama?"

And so for today, this is how we live. We remember the baby our hearts still love so deeply. We eat ice cream on blustery, cold days. We wrestle with hard questions while we build towers from blocks. And we look for the light in the sky, waiting for heaven to come. Waiting to see what kind of chairs God furnishes his kingdom with.

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