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Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

“It’s just going to take a lot of Grace from both of you. A whole lot of grace given by both of you to get through this.”

~ A. B., November 2012

I was busy. I didn’t want to talk, to answer. To open up to seek & find because I knew my own cracks. To hear again all of the ways I was “not.” I had the list in multiple forms from multiple times given. But I did, at first moving boxes with the phone pressed between shoulder & ear, because I was working & there were deadlines. Then while lifting tub filled with serving tools & napkins, the air shifted inside the humid shed & I sat heavy with unspoken apology, in unseen humility, towards him.

His voice was genuine. His concern authentic.

He spoke of a role, of covenant, of grace.

I heard him tell of his burden to teach, to lead. I know this rightly is his gift.

I counted the slats in the ceiling, listening, inhaling his words. Using a broken pen to scrawl his words on a cocktail napkin to carry, which I did in my pocket for weeks, well into holiday, before it pilled and ink from the broken pen stained my hands when I touched it.

I’ve read that when Jesus was stabbed by solider’s sword on the cross, the Holy Spirit was released, Grace came rushing, into the battlefield of our lives.

And that’s what I think of now. I hear the rhythm in his voice, the words unfiltered, speckled with the language of men now when I must recall to steady myself in the world’s wind blowing up threatening storm.

And I whisper “Hey” to him for the volume of his voice to rise. I whisper prayers with each exhale acknowledging Satan in the list being given again, in my never ending desire for Grace to move in. I whisper, quiet inside, “Dear Holy Spirit, I know you’re here somewhere. You are welcome here. Please wrap us tight in armor, gird us so we can remain open, fearless.” I near whine, drawing out the word ‘Please” again and again because words left me. But all I hear is a haunting echo as I look to the ceiling, counting slats. I remember the pilled napkin. The one whose ink stained my hands.

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A Missing

I changed fabric softener. It is a nod, a nuance almost, towards. This movement from the unpopular purple lavender to traditional bold pink. I recall the statistics & rebuttal of my disregard for trend. I recall the laughter.

Now each time I load the washer with the dirty and the dryer with the soggy mess, I am surrounded by that scent familiar. Remember, it says.

So I twine together pieces tight & gentle until the story is made and remade close to daily. Then I lift with all I am into love and light bound strong what I hide here in palm.

It is here in that certain slant of morning light in the laundry room I find & tap deep beauty. Such is my habit, I think. This moving in the shades of shadow. This moving of ordinary chore into sacred recollection. This putting on of sweater freshly warm & soft. This lifting.

Dear Friend, I hope the snow falls in sweet whorls that whisper.

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When he stated fact in church on Sunday, I remembered it took 42 minutes.

I know this because when I walked through the screen shoulder & heart heavy, I looked at the steady green numbers & stood quiet before stepping leaden from the kitchen sink to the oven to the refrigerator until finally I surrendered to a slump. Into an orange jewel painted chair, like a bird, I thought, to remind me of feathers & wings & soaring great heights.

He said 70% of human waste is expelled through the lungs, through breathing. Through something we take for granted, I thought.

I remembered how I looked out onto the winter worn yard filled with twigs and branches strewn by weeks of storms. To walk across it barefoot would be ridiculous, but the mud and wet leaves would feel like cool silk to my toes and soles weary. But I didn’t move. I sat.

He said he thought that our bodies ridded ourselves by other means. People laughed in that pitch that showed their wonder at where exactly he was going with this.

I don’t know when I realized how sharp my breath felt moving in and out  but the shallow jagged motion gathered my attention.  Tiny shards of glass like frost, I thought. I imagined the tiny molecules snowflake shaped and spinning moving into and throughout lungs hardened by the sheer force of the heart center also hardened.

But what if it was simple? What if this slightly chilled air coming through a door that pushed itself open was like the mud and leaves? What if it was silky & smooth to breathe in and out?

And I followed the trail of air into my lungs, each aorli opening like blossom sending tiny puffs of dander and dust out with each exhale. I saw in my mind’s eye the jerking pump of muscle plateau out as if the climb was over for a moment. I felt the freshness feed veins and arteries down through arms to fingers, legs to toes and swirl in the dance of ribbons here messy below navel where I can see the pulse of all.

He gave the direction that today was the day to fill with God. To breathe Him in and exhale the disappointments, the morning, the week. To breathe in God and know Him.

It’s His name, isn’t it? Hebrew, unrecognizable even there. Something I learned in college after a walk across frozen grass to the basement classroom. Then I relearned in my late twenties. Then fought to learn in my thirties. And here again.

And his face brightened as if in sun and the eyes rimmed red in awe and I wanted to touch my friend’s arm gentle because I was relearning, remembering it again. It was brought to my mind too, days earlier. That to know Him is like breathing in and out with intention.

This is when on Friday I looked at the clock. This is what I have carried with me.

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She smiled and told of her days, of the pills given to remove pain and curve towards normal, of the sleep that was meant to rest a purged body, of the procedure coming where ash would be made inside places once fertile then swept clean.

I watched her face and those blue eyes. Her lips were still the color of delicate baby bellies, I thought, that have never felt the sunlight burn. And I wanted to scoop her up like that baby and rock her in such a way, to such a place sweet and filled with flowering vines and green whorls, where clear admiration and love comforted tired places and lifted on wings.

“In hindsight, I can see how he tried to take care of me,” she said with a bright open tenderness. “He made chicken and spinach with thick cream sauce and roast beef and brocolli. He kept telling me to eat.” She giggles and tosses her hands out from her body. “I didn’t know until last night that he was so worried. He told me I looked like shit when I got out of that shuttle.” She laughed again with water in her eyes.

And I watered too in the presence of such a love story. Him, man of the earth, using skilled hands and all his strength to protect, nourish and comfort the weariness coarsing through her veins. I can see his hands chopping and clipping and adding leaf at the precise time needed. I can see the tendrils of steam rising from plate, whispering the messages in air in the language they share.

There are no great things, only small things done with great love.

~Mother Teresa

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“Oh my gosh, your hand is so soft!” The words exploded from me without thought. And I flushed bright. She offered an explanation, but I don’t recall it.

We stood together in this crazy organic circle, listening then offering names outloud and in silence, her hand in mine and mine in hers. I wandered there, offering up faces and hearts. I tried to recall the last time I held a woman’s hand.

I thought of how I watched her stoke a tired fire alive in the cold morning air, how she without hesitation dug into drawers to produce things needed, how she had opened up her home wide to us, how she shared simple single line stories of abuse and redemption and hope, how she smoothed the cover of her book when talkingand how warm she felt standing next to me. All of these things are so small. They seem so practical and necessary, even mundane. After all, the large spoon was needed.

But to stand and watch her body move through these rooms and hear her voice lilt with delight and compassion was indescribable beauty like one receives when seeing the full moon rise rusty orange after hours of driving in the dark.

There are no great things, only small things done with great love.

~Mother Teresa

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I read the words at work and was undone in that way that scattered me and gathered me up tight and free in complete paradox.

And I watched the screen move to watery wave and knew I had to pull it in and focus. Focus – a word I said over and over again as those typed words drifted in and whispered soft while doing other things. A description of me, of all people. Amazing? Me, who has been told and reminded I don’t belong, am not near worthy, am not enough.

I knew a reply was expected and required and felt impossible.

How do you tell someone the depth and width of such an emotion?

How do you give breath to something when breathless?

I failed twice – back spacing my way out with machine gun fire. I reminded myself to focus. I moved onto other things like accounting and lists and schedules. I reminded myself to breathe.

And then when I was called out, the sin of omission brightly flagged, all I could offer was the two failed attempts and a stuttering incomplete explanation sung to the whine of please mercy and please grace.

I don’t know when I realized the word, felt it and knew deep as blood. Perhaps it was in that insistent bright light. Perhaps it was the flurry of my mind trying to wrap around, but not grasp at the proverbial straw.

Branded.

And the moment I replied with that word, shaking deep and chest breathless tight, is when I opened up wider than desert sky because it was true. Words drifted in reminding me of who I still was, erasing the world’s bruises, balming weary bone and skin. Typed words became vestibule for letters from Paul and Peter and Psalms then ended with Mother Teresa.

I remember the letter I found with no return address opening with her words. They were proclaimed as those I already knew, had written on a post-it and taped to the refrigerator, tatoo-ed in ink on my hand. This anonymous knew me, habits I owned and practiced quietly.

There are no great things, only small things done with great love.

~Mother Teresa

I hoped one word would be that one small thing.

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I was laughing in that loud echo-ing way with a friend on the phone about a poem thanking makers of corn. It was pure silliness and babble from me like a stream’s joy. I felt light and tingling.

Then the littlest came melting and bowing under a weight I know well. The tears were real; the fear in his face was real.

And I reigned in my laughter and kneeled to listen to how a game went all wrong. “I made his mouth bleed!” came the hard words in a rush.

“Then let’s go check on him.” I reached for his hand and stood, but he shied away like we all do when faced with circumstances like this. “It’s okay. I’m going with you. You’re not alone.”

He grabbed my hand and together we walked heavily across the cul-de-sac.

There was an ice bag on the lip and dogs barking hello and a little sister repeating loudly “It’s okay, Jack. You just made him bleed. He’s had busted lips before.”

But all was silent in his head, I know this because this is the same face I have when I realize I can’t erase what’s been said or done, when all feels lost, when I long for a vacuum and a do-over.

“I’m sorry,” he said, fighting tears and tightening the look of horror on his face as he watched his friend stand up and come towards him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean.” His words trailed and I could feel his arm brace for the impact. I wonder if he feared hate words or a pay back punch more.

“It’s okay, Jack. Really. It’s okay. It was an accident. You’re forgiven,” he said shaking Jack’s shoulder. And Jack began to shudder under this different weight and his body said it was time to go. I know the words well – “Let’s run. Let’s run away now. This is too much. This undeserved grace.”

His mother came into the room laughing and I stood between she and Jack. “We just came to check on him,” I said.

“He’s fine. I don’t understand why everybody’s crying. It’s not a big deal. Geesh!” she laughed.

“Ah, well, I get it,” I shrug. “We’re headed home. Gotta figure out what food to sling at the kids. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And we close the door behind us. Jack lets go of my hand at their mailbox.

I do get it. I understand that it was outward injury inflicted, not the take 2 days to heal buried soreness of body or the unseen bruised places of heart. There was blood. There was a definitive cause. There was regret and longing for an undoing, a take back. There was a fear of the other storing away one more thing to shine-up and shoot back later, of secret permanent rejection. There was fear in the realization of personal power and impact, too, that lesson of I have the power to hurt and harm. Yes, I get it.

“Okay, Buddy?” I ask as we climb our driveway through the bounds of a dog.

“Yeah, I was scared.”

“I know.”

“He forgived me.”

“Yep. You said it. And he accepted it. Both of you are so brave,” I say, holding the door open for him. “You guys are good friends.”

“Best. Friends,” he smiles at me large.

And now across the table from me, his lip on the left side is still swollen red with the thin perfect teeth lines of purple. Seats chosen so they would be close at the table. They’re talking about favorite pizza toppings and which desserts will be picked. They walk to the buffet together, bumping into each other the way we all have so we know the other is still there.

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