A poem for the heaviest days

Do you love me today?

Of course you do.

Every day.

All day.

Before my creation.

After my breathing slows to silence.

When I do it right.

When I screw it up.

When I love you back.

When I spit in your face.

When I fall for lesser things and when my obedience smells sweet like release.

Do you love me. But of course. From the first moon to the billionth star you love me and I cannot escape it. It is fact, reality, and every beautiful thing, a tightly woven fairytale of truth.

But will you love me today.

Another story.

And will I let you love me today, a trilogy.

Will you love me…. my need laid bare in front of your glory.

Will you love me…. because pitch loneliness from the depths out to aching fingertips spans the moon and stars and blankets my nest for four.  All of the nests.

Will you love me….because apart from today’s dose of unleavened bread, I have nothing to give to the sick, the sad, the wandering, and that only covers the folk in my own four walls.

The death out there? Too much.

But then you’ve covered that already haven’t you and you don’t ask me to walk a road other than the one I’m on.

Will I let you love me.

Release and surrender and unclench my expectant fists.

Can I unroll the secret places within, desires unspoken for their sacredness, the depth of their connection to who I was created to be. Their sacredness, desires poured into my core before I was flesh.  Can I trust you to love me raw and ratty when I’m nothing but need. Do you see my desires as foolish and selfish, flesh destined to be killed or worse, distilled down to a fragrant offering.

But you formed me.

You.

Formed.

Me.

And so the shape of me is beautiful to you whether it’s been killed or distilled or run over by the Big Mac Truck of Life.

Desire, born of the soul. Dreams, authored by you.

Not flesh to be killed or sacrificed, but hope.

Belief in predicated assignments.

There is always more to give.

Always more to sacrifice.

Always.  My days.

Refining the me that you gave me.

With empty hands I will let you come to me. You already have.

When you’re ready to give up, do this first.

My sink needed caution tape.  There was a lasagna pan filled with cold water, a few rogue noodles floating, one corner black from a re-warm.

sponges and sticking to it

Hardcore life before 8 a.m. for sure, but last night we were determined to make progress on a puzzle manufactured by sadists, so the pan spent a dark, wet night in the sink.

The  Kitchen Fairy skipped our house (something about working conditions) so I scrubbed the cold, slimy mess while I talked myself though.

Fire up the hot water,  we can melt it off.  Hot water negative,  noodles holding on for dear life.

Switch to scrapers.  But the gunk left on the end of the dish scrubber!!

Better gunk on hard plastic than grease filling up the sponge.  I think I’ll let it soak a while longer, finish after I pay the bills.  

You’re almost done now, keep moving. Shower door tracks win hands down over gross pans.

But you’re almost  D.O.N.E!  I can’t do this anymore, too.much.blackened.noodle.slime.

Don’t Stop Now, you can handle this!  I just want it clean.

Switch to manual sponges.  But they’re gross!!!!

Target is locked and loaded, steady now, you’re almost done. Switching to manual spongeesssss.

There’s something about dirty pans and slimy showers that bring out the quitter in me.  You’d think that  I would have learned by now to flip the autopilot switch and just do the junk of life without a whole lot of fuss but for whatever reason, I don’t.

I listen to the whiny baby inside my head  far too long before I actually get down to it and do the gross work.

Really, for the amount of time I whine in my head about  something, I could have finished it and three more disgusting jobs.  I mentally quit before I even start and  have to put all my energy into self-talk just to break even.

It’s one of the things I’m constantly working on.  When it comes to toughing out the rough things in life, finances, relationships, even sometimes faith, I’m usually committed but not before I’ve thrown a fit-fest sure to out-fit the most expressive three year old.

There are relationships that are difficult for me right now, a whole group of them.

I’ve been putting some healthier ways of relating into practice over the last couple of years but there’s some baked-on junk still sticking to the sides and I’m over it.  It’s taken a lot of strategic work to remove bad habits I developed mostly because my relationships were rooted in different kinds of fear.   But finally, I hope, the majority of my thinking and relating is more healthy than not and so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m have to work a little harder to keep myself motivated these days.

I think that’s how the disciples felt in Luke 5.  They’d been fishing all night with nothing but grimy gunk caught in their nets and they were over it.  Hungry.  Ready to hang up their nets and order take-out.  Their feet were cold, hands were dirty and stomachs were growling and I’m quite certain they were on each other’s last nerve.  The lasagna pan had more baked-on crud than they could handle and the thought of switching to sponges was just too much. They were ready to call it a night,  go home.

And then Jesus.

They dropped their nets one more time at his command.  I imagine a collective eye-roll as it sunk.

Their job was simply to do what he said, even if it was something they’d done a hundred times before.  It wasn’t like he gave them a new idea, he just simply added his authority to their process.  If they would’ve quit , they would have missed out on a miracle that would fuel their faith for the rest of their lives.

I need that authority and that kind of power to sludge through right now, and I’m sure you do too.

Whatever you’ve got going on today, and however sick you are of dealing with a mess that just won’t seem to come clean, stick with the honest work believing that at some point, Jesus will add his power to it. When we finally come to the end of ourselves….again, what happens next can be powerful.

The list of not-quite-finished in my life is long, but I’m switching to sponges.

The Way to Really Know Your Own Self

Darkness and the light

In the dark of morning before floorboards crack and pipes fill, I’ve found I write more freely.  It surprises me that I find peace in a place that often leaves me feeling so very lonely.

In the dark there is silence, a swallowing still.

A current lulls and rocks and washes refreshing, steel-blue.

It’s consuming yet intimate enough to curve into the slivers of the soul that fade,

still whispering, with the rising

of the sun.

In the dark, we hear.

In the dark, we listen.

In the dark, we find rest.

In the dark,

the most shadowed corners of the soul are

free from hiding,

free from playing dress-up,

the dark is where our souls rest.

The light shines in

distractions,

refractions,

downright distortions of what is real, of what is true.

But in darkness lies hidden beauty,

glimmering in the pitch of night.

 

There’s  an absence of hiding that  happens at night. An acute knowing of the spaces within ourselves that are not yet what we hope for the fabric of our souls.  It used to frighten me to be that alone with myself.  It was a time and space where fears left unspoken in the daylight, fears of who I was and who I was not, would fill my lungs.

In the light of day, the demands that stream with the sun and the coming and going of a life allow for a measure of distance from fear. But when darkness tucks in around the edges, in our most truthful places we can hear what N.T. Wright calls the echos of a voice.

At night, we’re left unclothed by the demands of daylight and given countless opportunities to make ourselves at home with all we cannot see, cannot know.

I’m learning that making peace with what appears the most frightening by walking straight into it,  is the way to overcome it. Not because darkness disappears once the sun starts to rise in the morning, but because within the darkness, within the hurt and pain, at the very center of the absence of control there is a new dimension of light. A dimension that we hear with our hands and feel with our eyes.

I believe we can spend our whole lives maintaining a measure of distance from our fears but that we can’t escape them completely, because they curl up tightly and rest in the small of a back, the curve of a neck.  They nudge us with a continual insistence that we’ve forgotten or neglected something important.

Does the stillness in the middle of the night unsettle you? Have you found comfort there?  Have you learned things about yourself or things about God that you might share?

 

For the day when you lose a baby

 

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We were looking at her calender after pizza on Sunday night when she asked if I remembered the date.  October 14.  The kids were wrestling in the living room, but we were a distracted audience.  For nine years, she’s remembered  that particular miscarriage and for some reason I just don’t.  I felt caught, found out.  I mean who doesn’t remember something like that, with the exception of someone who wants to forget.

She’s a pro at empathy, trained in social work, and she’s heard some of my toughest junk  but she’s a good friend and even so,  there was no way I could look her in the eye. Baby days are behind me and sometimes that makes me really sad but I will never, ever miss the days I came home empty and I still want to hide when I think about them.

I can tell you every detail about the first time.  How the timing was a few months early so it took me a few days to adjust.   About the two excruciating weeks when there was the slimmest of hope, but we still held on tight.  About the baby kicking safely inside the sonographer’s belly as she asked when I was seeing the doctor, she knew my baby would never kick, I didn’t know enough then.

But mostly, I remember the doctor.

I didn’t know he was handing out condolences when he walked into the room. I’m sorry, he said before the door latched.

Foolishly, I thought it was for my two hour wait. I brushed off his apology, no problem I understand,  and then he tossed me a word, denial.  It linked cold to my hope when I realized he was chaining it to me.

Chaining it.  To me.

That word  pulled heavy, and hard.  I  started to fall inside myself,  out of verbal firing range.  I saw his mouth keep moving and then my husband’s, but the next thing I heard was the door unlatching, followed by, how will you pay today.

For real? They were going to ask me to pay for something I didn’t even have?  I’d storm out of the office like a pro the second time, slam some doors to keep from screaming don’t you people know I just lost my baby, but I was only silently indignant the first time.

I’d felt foolish for worrying my way through the entire two weeks we waited for my HCG levels to rise.  Women have babies all the time, why should you think this pregnancy’s special.  Get over yourself, suck it up, get back to the grind.  

Foolishness turned to shame the moment he accused me of refusing to accept a detail he’d neglected to share.  My sixth pregnancy, or my seventh, I would have understood completely that I’m sorry meant no baby.

But it was my first.

And I didn’t understand.

And it sucked.

Shame hid beneath intense recurring pain the morning of the procedure.  They afternoon before, they’d inserted medication to soften my cervix and I should have known that softening the cervix was just a schmanky way to say labor.

But it was my first.

And I didn’t understand.

And it hurt.

Recurring pain turned to a referred ache that hovered over my heart and started to stab as people tossed around all kinds of careless cliches, sometimes all in one breath. You’re young, there must have been something wrong, heaven needed another angel.   They summed up my life-wide devastation in ten second sound-bytes they dropped between blinks. I’d been kicked out of the Baby-Making Club.  Everywhere I turned was a Baby-Carrying Member.  And those well-meaning but careless words made it worse.

In my first rush of maternal intuition or maybe I had just hoped for a girl we chose the name Isabella Kathleen for its grace and beauty.  I still have feelings of foolishness about this because so many of my friends lost babies they actually held.

Babies in blankets.  Babies with beautiful silent lips and soft cool skin.

Heather and baby Hope Renee.

Ashley and baby Mary Rose.

Cheryl and baby Rachel Lynn.

After our first loss, I wrote for the first time in years and put together an informal gathering with a handful of family.  I can still hear the words of one who couldn’t understand. What are we remembering…..there wasn’t anything…..right?  

There were kind words too, words that knew.  Older women I’d known for years shared their losses, tucked away for seasons,  and women at a support group gulped out  fresh stories of leaving the hospital empty-armed.

I listened to a few songs over and over during dark midnights and read every page I could find on miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

I walked around numb and lonely, feeling like a freak show because I wasn’t pregnant and because I couldn’t just get over it.

I looked for answers in my faith but  theology ground deep into my bones wasn’t worth smack in the middle of the night. Let me tell you what was though.

Jesus.

He’s  worth smack in the middle of the night.

He met me sitting lonely on my green velvet sofa.  He sat with me while I sobbed and tucked me in with his peace.  He held my head when I could only stare at the twinkle lights on my stupid plastic tree hour after hour.  It was the beginning of the first years in my life that I understood he cared about me.  Not just what I did, but who I was, who he’d made me to be.  It was the beginning of the journey that would bring me to write in this place I think……

We didn’t name any of our other children or commemorate their losses.  I think I grew tired of holding the uncomfortable gifts of silence people handed me when they didn’t understand.  I’m wired to swallow everyone else’s feelings.  The only way I knew to escape their awkwardness was to drink my own pain down so deep they couldn’t see it.

Distinctly different feelings wrapped unique DNA around each miscarriage, but my survival strategy was the same loss, after loss, after loss.  Target, to buy new lounging pj’s for procedure day and  Lowe’s, to make sure I had something to do with  my hands.

I found mindless repetitive projects that would pass  time between sentencing and execution although the second time, I wanted nothing more than to bust every window in the  house with a giant sledgehammer.  Most of the time, those stupid jobs distracted my thoughts while I  stripped wallpaper, sorted pictures, or painted walls. More importantly, they held parts of my heart I feared would drop off and disappear until I could manage to begin to put them back together.

I don’t  talk that much about my losses.  They feel private and honestly I don’t know if I’ve processed them as much as I’ve wanted them to go away which is funny to me, considering I process every other last shred of life to it’s bitter shriveled end.

I recognized, just this week that these feelings I’ve been carrying are shame.     It’s a hot, sick feeling that makes me want to hide and I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  I’m thinking it’s not coincidental (since I don’t believe in coincidence)  that last week I picked up a book I’ve wanted to read for a while. Yeah, it’s on shame.

We walk alone a lot of the time as women.  Carry the disappointments of our lives hidden from the crowds, often hidden from ourselves.  I heard William Paul Young say recently that we’re only as strong as the secrets we keep.  I’m learning here how to tell some of mine.  Thank you for treasuring them with  me.

I love music so I linked  below several songs that meant so much to me that first go round.  They look goofy because they’re old, but I still love them.

 

When the voice inside your head is wrong

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My own voice echoed as the list rolled. 

Remember when you…….

and then you had the nerve to say……..

I bet she thinks………..

and you seem like………

why did you say that………

you should have ………..

you shouldn’t have…..

yep, you’re doing it wrong.

I made a bold statement, said that God thinks you’re some of his best work.  Said that he cares about every detail of your day and speaks to you all the time if you’ll listen, if you’ll look.

I went on with my week and forgot to remember……

That when I make progress in any area of my life; when I live, on purpose, out of the bold yet vulnerable places in my soul, there’s a shady voice always waiting, hellbent on the back-door destruction of my heart.  I mistake it for my own voice if I’m not careful and I bet you do to.

My soft spots always include relationships, people, all kinds of them.  They hurt me young and left me early and I still hold onto the belief that I can be a good enough friend to avoid conflict altogether. Conversations incessantly loop and the voice insufferably auto-corrects with one rotten subtitle:  you did it wrong.

Maybe it’s different for you.  Maybe  you feel the flash of shame when you think about your marriage or your parenting, or maybe it’s a full-blown lightening show.  A burst of insecurity about your education lights up a rod of  dying dreams, blazing a grand finale of deep disappointments from high school to the present.

It makes you feel like you’re in trouble, like when you were a kid and your mama used your full name.

It steps on the softened place that connects to your heart, yanking you backward into a muddy pit of degradation while angry accusations blare from the perimeter.

It triggers a flash that burns hot in the notch behind your ears shooting into your spine, dropping into your stomach or filling up your eyes as the disappointment, failure, or shame physically becomes part of you.

The voice I heard sounded like my own and it took me a while to remember that it’s not.  It’s a lying voice of opposition, not authorship and it contradicts, admonishes.  The one goal of this voice is to drown out the voice that’s Truthful.

You have to remember to close your ears to the lies that want to wreck your soul and begin to speak (out loud)  the truth that’s been whispered into your soul. Truth about who you were created to be.

It begins with a whisper of thanks for Hope and ends with the decision to choose the Voice that speaks life.  In the middle of the night it’s hard for me to remember, but I’ve learned the difference and it’s a game changer.

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