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Archive for the ‘Gifts from Others’ Category

Things are not going my way. I need to reschedule, re-organize, re-prioritize. I need to re-something. And I chuckle snarky at my internal shift.

These are the days when I’m grateful my shirt is on right side out. If I can to that, I have said out loud, all is lined tidy.

Then my mom notices the tag. It’s a label truly, just stamped paint & not what I need, which is the flag of hard white flapping surrender, getting hung in my hair or tickling my elbow like a gnat.

I smile wide. “Dang it. Stupid label.” I toss my hands in mock exasperation.  “There goes the façade, Mom. I don’t have it all together.”

And we laugh together from the experience of tags out, unmet wants & unwanted mets.

Then her face gets stern. “Don’t fix it, Honey. It’ll be bad luck. Leave it as it is.”

“Sweet! One less thing,” I nod, laughing loudly.

Standing at the sink, watching the water rush away the remnants of dinner, I feel the hard swell rise despite. Then I pull her grace around me tight like the Holly Hobby sheets & quilt, the net from my childhood.

“I love you, Mom.” I say hands putting more dirty dishes into the sink.

“I love you too, Honey.”

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“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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I found it there mounded asymmetrical in the dirt. A heart. A dirt heart peeking through the litter of brown leaves and twigs.

I bent low to push them away & trace its edges.  When I called to my mom to come see, she gave the obligatory “Oh yes Honey,” which made me laugh & blush at my simplicity & easy distraction. There were other things to be truly tending, I knew.

But during the unpack & organization of a camp kitchen, a hearth, a dining room that would house the gathering family, I couldn’t keep from seeking it.

***

Eric Legge, one of my long time artist crushes, photographs them – found hearts. His flicker page is filled with them. A heart in the sky where tree branches meet. A heart of rust on scrap metal. A heart in a tossed banana peel. A heart made with fingers.

***

The next day, my mom told me the storm would pass, despite the dark clouds racing in. She said I was in the Midwest & things like this blow over. But I kept looking skyward, thinking of the children’s tents. I knew a storm was coming. The earth smelled different and the air although lazy summer hot was electric with anticipation for the first drops of rain.

***

He created a series of work in which he carved hearts deep & rough into cabinet doors & found pieces of wood then created a frame of sorts, wrapping each with extension cords and thick house wire. I asked him about the wires and he, in the softest secretive tones, told me how the heart must be filled with electricity, how that emotion described as “heart stopping” caused the hairs to rise on his arms and neck with intensity. He near whispered “bursting with strong energy. Love is the most important thing.”

I learned later that his father had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack earlier that year and I smiled despite myself.  Because here was this man who worked side by side with his dad daily, whose respect & admiration was openly present when they spoke together or he spoke of his dad, and he was using his grief and confusion to create this beauty, to come to terms with that craziness, in order to hang on.

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IMG_20130304_113014_583 (2)They’re dying, I know. The words are said as fact by those who pass by and I accept it as fact because it is so. I have watched the petals wilt and curl brown gently into themselves for days.

I slopped across a muddy back yard drawn by their boldness against a heavy concrete sky to touch their petals bright and wet. I slopped back again with shears & the dogs followed.

I told the story of when this home was new to me, I found these like a gift small & near the ground. I researched to discover name & need. With furrowed brow and sunken ear against the rain, they twisted their heads as if taking notes.

I drove the blossomed sticks to work in the cup holder, mindful of each curve and stop.

“They’re more beautiful in death, I think,” I said days later to a friend as I walked into her office. “But I guess it’s time to toss them.” I shrugged shoulders and twisted my mouth in the way that said ‘not yet please’ against fact. Then in that bright light, I spy the tiny white root, like a bright hair, from the woody stem and the words begin to trip over themselves. “Oh my gosh. Look, they’re rooting. Right here in the office.” And I hold the old spice jar up for her to see. “Oh my. Who knew from this randomly snipped branch? Really? Who knew?”

And standing there in a harshly lit office, with the heat of awareness rising to my face & neck, I nearly flood. From a woody stem cut comes this? I turn the jar around in my hand holding it high to see better. “Who knew?” I whisper. “Who knew?” I feel my skin and mind go cool light filling with the glory of it and I again am low to the ground, in the mud.

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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’m good at this – at this floating & smiling through thing.

She made mention once in a crowded Christmas dining room.

“And there she is floating through.” She sang the words then laughed. And I did too.

I don’t like crowds and the noise they birth. In the thick air, I begin to feel the pressure. Prematurely almost because sometimes the turkey hasn’t been carved and the children’s cups haven’t been filled and my body begins to tighten and my hands clench. I want to curl in hard then burst into outside space, stretching wide and gasping searing air. The thought of this action makes my skin prickle anticipation. I remind myself to breathe. I smile. I float. I fill cups.

No one wants to see this, do they? This inner struggle seeping outward into hard lines around my mouth and into my forehead?

It’s unsightly. It’s ugly. No one likes this. I’ve been told.

People respond better to a bright face and soft smile, as if there’s a secret held in my palm. It is more pleasing.

The secret is I think of clouds in blue white skies to battle those wrinkles. I feel my feet lift as if I’m painted into an oil painting of heaven, the kind discovered next to something rendered on velvet on the corner by the stop light. The kind whose color is grasping. But my body loosens all the same and the air filling my lungs seems less tight as if I am breathing in those rays of light and that blue overdone. Surely, this is a bringing forth, I think. Surely. And I float alone. I long for wings that work.

Then there are no crowds but just a handful of people around and I sink into that, floating and smiling because the air here is too restricted and not filling beating heart and pulsing vein. I battle the unsightly. Then I do it again in my kitchen. Again in my living room and in front of the mirror.

And what happens when some one sees that twist in my face when the sink in, the as if, doesn’t fully hide?

This is the part where the faking it is found out. This is the part where cheap paints smear.

What happens when that some one sees then reaches out and pulls me by the wrist down to where both my feet touch earth softly?

This is when I realize that being found, being earthed like this is a good thing. This is when I realize my actions moved from narrow perception and framed me cheaply . This is when I feel the feathers against skin and know the longing for wings that work was false too. They were there all along.

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