So The Garland Grows: leaves by mail

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We received a shoebox full of fall leaves.

My sister-in-law and I have a thing about mailing gifts to each other, though she’s certainly done it more times than I have, kind soul.

The box was full of fruit leather and a few pumpkin spice oreos, even a fall candle. And an abundance of crunchy yellow, brown and orange foliage.

They came at just the right time, because even though it’s fall in Georgia, it’s a bit more fall-like in the cold of Indiana.

Eliot asks to go run in the fall-winter [leaves], even if it’s 75 degrees outside.

But to get a box full of autumn from 684 miles away? That’s a lot of seasonal magic.

So we gathered our blue string and Eliot piled his pens and markers and we made 2 leaf garlands.

And one hangs above the couch in the living room, the other over his bed.

“So fall can be in your room!” I said.

They are more than just crinkly, colored leaves.

They are an act of love, and a kind reminder that beauty can travel across state boundaries and from one mailbox to another.

My mom mailed a Missouri leaf to Eliot, too, and so the garland grows, and so fall asks us to cherish her beauty again and again.

Do you have an envelope handy and a tree nearby?

Go outside.

Hunt down a leaf, crinkled, golden, green, with veins of bursting color.

Send a letter, send a leaf, and cherish both seasons and relationships.

Especially when our season is hard, we must learn to cherish.

Send a leaf.

And fill your home with the quiet colors of autumn’s welcoming beauty, any way that you can.

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When We Admit It: the season we’re in

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There’s something really wonderful about bringing a piece of a former world and home into your new one.

Because it’s not just hearts and worlds colliding, but the seasons we’re all in, as well.

The night before they were to leave, Cody and I sat in the living room and sort of admitted to ourselves and each other the seasons we’re in– theirs and ours– different, hard, but real and beautiful in the shadows.

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And the beauty of seasons colliding is that it forces honesty and reality out of all of us.

We come together and it’s bits and pieces of us flying around like shrapnel in a storm– but it’s all good.

But when they left after three days, I said things like,

Well, now you’ve seen every facet of stress in my life.

Thanks for loving on our crazy boys, even when they pull your hair.

 

I sit on my couch in the quiet of the late afternoon and drink the coffee I started this morning, and I admit with my heart that this is my season and lot, and I admit that it’s hard.

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And all four of us are on the brink of something– jobs, relationships, school, child-rearing, faithfulness in marriage, joy in the adventure.

We saw it in each other’s presence, and while we all long for the future things, this weekend taught us that the present– hard, complicated, unexplainable, and beautiful– the present is where we need to be, where Jesus is and where His voice speaks wonders and promises not yet understood.

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We laughed and drank coffee, we gutted out our hearts like we gut out a pumpkin before the hard work of carving begins, and by the end we are released from burdens and we breathe deeper than before. We smile and we say a million thanks– thanks for loving me in my parenting failures; thanks for being okay with husky hair all over you; thanks for the hugs; thanks for the tears; thanks for the beer and sweet conversation; thanks for understanding; thanks for loving the honesty in us that just can’t be hidden or covered up, no matter how hard we try.

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Once again, it’s the story of humanity–

We are not alone.

Every season, struggle, forced smile and deep sigh–

We are not alone.

Maybe it takes a 700 mile trek and a few days of tender craziness and companionship to realize it, but there we have it, and we wander on in peace and in assurance–

In our seasons, we are not alone.

 

 

 

The Best Medicine

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When you’re close to running on empty, there are beautiful things that can fill you back up again. When you’re sleep deprived and brain-frazzled, there are experiences that can comfort the soul.

There are tables of chili and cornbread waiting for you. There are new friends with open hands and hearts anxious to hear your story. You’ll sit by a wall of books and tell those little anecdotes that make life real and livable, while you drink sweet tea that’s everything wonderful.

You’ll find people that remind you of people you love, and the world will become a tiny place again, a warm spot before a glowing hearth. 

There are little hobbit shires made of Legos for your toddler to explore, mini pumpkins for your one year old to throw across the room because he thinks it’s a ball.

There are laughs to echo across the table, secrets to share, souls to lay bare in the infancy of community.

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 It’s all beautiful, but perhaps the most beautiful thing about it is how undeniably needed those few hours are. How a prayer before the meal can bring pools of tears, how the human heart, the human marriage, the human family, the human life, all need the simplicity of shared community.

We were filled up again. We were reminded, ushered into the presence of a history long lived and longer told, of people and food and table and sharing; of the comfort of couches and the playfulness of a puppy who fetches the orange pumpkin that the infant throws.

It seems magical, and maybe it is. But last night, for us, it was simply medicine for our weary bones, some of the best medicine the world has ever known.

 

A Lesson in Sickness: And You Were Here All Along

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We’re attempting to get over about 4 days of sickness.

It began with Eliot and worked its way through Travis and into Isaiah in fever form.
— A fevered baby is a sad sight to behold, and my arms were kept full all day and night.

When all my boys were sick, I consulted those holistic mommy blogs, the ones that brag on detox baths and honey-garlic concoctions.

I added triple garlic to every meal, veggies and fruit for every snack.

No one shared bites. No one shared kisses. I was anti-germ, and those germs knew it.

I sat down on Thursday in the midst of it and thought about all the physical ways I cared for our bodies–
the herbal tea popsicles;
the chest rubs;
the honey-lemon water;

and then I sat back and asked how our hearts were being cared for, all of them.

Sickness is a cloudy mess, everyone lost in a haze for days on end.

And when we finally all get back out into the sunlight, we breathe fresh again.

But today the sickness still lingers, and even though it’s been 80 degrees on FALL break, it’s been more of a time of quarantine for us.

I read a friend’s blog this morning, tears pooling my eyes, nearly drowning my vision completely.

– today I dearly miss the Ozark Fall.

This place is still new to us, and we’re still learning our way and exploring new coffee shops and finding community.

And when our tired bodies recover and Isaiah’s chest stops rattling with coughs—

Well, what then?

It’s a lie to say that living can’t happen here, now, in this germy place. No, peace abounds, indeed, and God’s voice is not muffled by our stuffed ears. He cannot be blurred by our tired eyes.

And we’ don’t just find Him when all is clear and all is “normal”– no, He’s actually so visible when life and routine are shifted upside down and sideways and absolutely backwards, when whole seasons of life are new and unknown and downright scary. He’s so visible when we’re unsure and feeling unsafe in the realization that we can’t always just trust ourselves.

So let us ask our hearts to seek Him, even when our bodies are frail. If we must, we gather knees to chest on the floor and rest like babies in His presence. We close our eyes and savor His voice in the stillness, in the sickness. We look out the window and see that life abounds in all ways, in all seasons.

And when we plunge back into story time at the library, when we welcome dear friends from Arkansas into our home this weekend–

Oh, then we see His presence in so many kindnesses, and we remember that He’s been here all along.

In Death’s Hovering

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I don’t understand much about Death. In fact, I barely know his face or the smell of his breath. I’ve never experienced him close enough to feel the constant hover of his shadow, but this week he’s been nearer. A friend’s mother died suddenly; my parents lost one friend to a failed heart, and another breathed irregularly in the comfort of hospice until he quietly went home.

I am swimming, flailing, really, in overwhelming empathy, and it feels uncontrollable. And I wonder how God possibly handles the grief of the world, how He collects our tears when they are so, so many.
Here in this household we have life. In this bed I lay by warm bodies and I hear breath and I watch chest rise, fall, rise, fall. A dream-wimper. A twitching finger. Life.

One day, though, it will all be gone and it will all be quiet in the shadow for a moment, until great light takes us and we see breathing turn stagnant in lungs. We fear the day, but we think on it. Of the last moments, we think, “What will we think? What will we say and promise and do? For how long will our eyes meet and how tender will our embrace become?”

I grieve with these friends, pray over them from the Georgia border, and trust that peace spans all boundaries- especially fleshy ones. A friend said that in the face of this Death, she holds her loved ones a little bit tighter to remember the life that passes between them.

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The light of the sun beamed over Isaiah and me, and we felt the warmth on the cool, breezy day. We walked the chilled paths of grass and poked at each other with weeds. We smiled and he cooed “BALL!” and all was cherished.

We choose to pass life back and forth between us, and we make all of this living brighter and kinder, even as Death hovers, and we prepare for all of it.

We prepare for all of it by living now, our hearts and flesh joined together in embraces unending.

I don’t understand much about Death. But life’s been pretty sweet. I’m hanging onto that nectar a while longer.

The Pursuit of Seeing: the surrounding living

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Once a month, we’re pursuing sight and viewing the dailyness of our lives with fresh vision and fresh spirit.

Join me by posting the link to your journey of seeing in the comments section below…

 

 

Today I looked around our apartment and saw things differently.

I saw toys. Lots of toys strewn in every direction. I held the army green truck in my hand and realized that lots of toys means lots of play, and two joyful boys.

I saw four grapes in a bowl. That means a full belly.

I saw wipes in bags: clean bottoms, clean water.

I saw piles of laundry, and remembered the piles of gifts we’ve been given by older boy cousins and friends.

I saw the husky hair scattered on wood floor and smashed into cream carpet– a place where he can rest and be loved.

It’s all perspective, isn’t it?

Oh, I’ve been given much…

I’m prone to sighing without even realizing I do it.

So today, I’d like to smile instead of sigh.

To recognize instead of becoming flustered.

Let us gain the gifts of joyful play and full bellies, clean water and safe places. Let us recognize the blessedness of life as it manifests itself in daily routine, as it fills every tiny space we call home.

This is pursuit.

This is seeing.

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What do you see?

 

 

A Prayer of Ache: from the wordless hurting

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Jesus, Forever Friend,

A world of pain surrounds us–

open wounds and raised scars, shortness of breath.

Children are not children and parents lose their steps and we all fall, fall, fall.

Death takes our heartbeats and flings open the floodgates of “We should have” and “I never forgave…”

We are paralyzed in the kneeling position, because nothing else makes sense and words can’t even fail because they weren’t there in the first place.

Our grief is a blanket around us, and we cannot uncloak ourselves.

We break our bones and mistrust our hearts.

We mock each other’s grief and lose ourselves in our wildernesses.

Our blood doesn’t clot, or it clots in all the wrong places at all the wrong times…

And we are undone.

Humanity beckons for You.

Lean nearer.

Lean nearer and hear with the deepest part of Your love.

Answer us with the presence of Your flesh, as tangibly as You can hold us with air and space and spirit and warm peace.

We light the candles and the flames throw themselves in our hearts, and we sit in holy remembrance of all that’s been, in holy hope of all that will be.

We ache.

Relieve us, we pray.

Amen.