Saturday, May 29, 2010

a love letter in lyrics (with links--click the asterisks should you prefer a soundtrack) because i always have a song in my head

lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.*

it all started sometime in 1995 when we went to see rouge*, a french film, together. it was an extra credit project for french class, and we were two brown-nosing students looking for our a+ grades. or so i thought. i was at the time--i kid you not--actually jesse's girl.

jesse is a friend, yeah, i know he's been a good friend of mine.
but lately something's changed that ain't hard to define.
jesse's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine.

once upon a time, quite literally half my life ago, i fell in love with a boy. it wasn't at that film that day, which i left still thinking we were just two friends looking for our a+ grades. it may have been on that long walk with jack the black lab to the football field very close by. it may have been over phyllo chicken with my family on my sixteenth birthday, my gift those black leather string necklaces with the one colorful bead--remember? it may have been on the screened porch, when all our plans for surviving the fall of the globe light overhead failed. was it on the walk to westcott theater with the jaxon co. to see il postino*? i'm not sure.

the only boy who could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man. *

sometime between rides in the tank and prom night, between college applications and a gym class drowning, between freshman orientation and 4:30 dinners, between diner equivalency and slices from tony's (or roma's?), between hot pot ramen and junior spring across the pond, i knew i would marry the brilliant, pensive, handsome boy with the strawberry blond curls.

i was a baby then, i know. am i grown up now? somewhere along the way, we grew up together.

it's been a long, hard road to hell and back. your love meant trouble from the day we met.*

i know now that loving someone fully and completely, wholeheartedly and forever does in fact mean trouble from the start. i know that marriage is asking for a challenge. doesn't paul warn against it? but God is after our sanctification, and how better to sanctify us than to create us with the desire to be one with another, to give our whole selves and lives to each other even as He invites us to wield the chisel in sculpting each other to look more like Him?

we have--and i daresay i do not exaggerate here--been to hell and back over the last ten years. we have grown up together in ways no one ought to have to grow. we have been chiselled together and by each other, and even as a sculpture emerges only as much of the raw material is destroyed, we have emerged--are emerging--through and because of much pain.

but of course, that block of marble is better for having been chiselled, is more beautiful for having its original form destroyed.

my sam-mule, my bayba, my hus, my love: you have always been beautiful. today, ten years after we made it official and fifteen years after we knew we would, you are more beautiful for all the santification you have endured. you are more brilliant, more thoughtful, more intense, more passionate, more tender, more loving, and far deeper than the boy i loved for all his depth and passion, his brilliance and intensity half a lifetime ago. your curls are blond-er than they are red now; is that a symptom of sanctification? you are being washed white as snow even as we continue to slog through the mud together. i would have it no other way. that is to say, of course i would prefer another method of sanctification to chisels and mud...but in this world in which those are the only Way, i would endure it and fight through it with no other than you.

why does the past always seem safer?
maybe because at least we know we made it.
and why do we worry about the future when every day will come just the way the Lord ordained it?

so i'm excited to rush into tomorrow with you. the past sometimes does seem safer, the future scarier. but our past is anything but safe--and we know we've made it. so let's celebrate half a lifetime of yesterdays, my love, but let's celebrate a lifetime of tomorrows even more. let's delight in what's to come, safe or otherwise. i cannot wait to wake up with you again tomorrow.

and every time i ask you assure you're doing fine,
but your heart looks good by smiling.
you couldn't fool mine.
and by the end of the night your pillow sits to dry.
in a crowded room you're singing, but on the inside you sigh.

and i'll still love you beyond what words can say.
ill take your every suffering moment and bring a better day.
i'll still love you more than what i hope to be.
let me wrap my arms around you.
let me take your breath away.

to you who know my heart, smiling or otherwise; my pillow, dry or otherwise; my every suffering moment: thank you for taking my breath away. happy anniversary, my love.

love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart,
like why are we here? and where do we go? and how come it's so hard?
it's not always easy and sometimes life can be deceiving.
i'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together.

i love you more...than anyone else. ;) jinx fizzy fizzy fizzy.

(the pictures, a somewhat random selection of favorites, in case you're curious, clockwise from top left corner: high school prom, 1996; Greyledge on Lake Ontario, 1998; wedding, 2000; same; two weeks ago, in Baltimore at friend's wedding; summer 2000, our first in NC. and yes, i'm sure some photograph-worthy stuff happened between 2000 and 2010, but pretty much all of those pictures include children. which was not the point of this collage.)

Monday, May 24, 2010


maybe it's because i've got the library on my mind.

our nearest library branch closed a year and a half ago for major renovations, and it reopened today. library-loving nerd though i am, i avoided the crowds and fanfare (a mariachi band, even!) of today's reopening celebration. but you can bet i'll be there before the week is out. and anyhow, i've been talking about it with my friends with much anticipation. so i've got the library on my mind. and overdue books, too, which never ever ever happened to me until a year and a half ago. never mind that i can renew online; somehow, i've always got books overdue now. i just renewed some today, in fact, two days before they were again overdue. whew.

so maybe that's it. or maybe it's this article, written by my friend who, unfortunately, knows the pain of losing a child. she recently reposted it on her blog, and i read it again and found it to be very true, indeed. you should read it, too.

or maybe it's the book i'm reading, jayber crow, and the part i've just read tonight about sons going off to war and not coming home. and how their fathers are changed, made somehow inaccessible and distant, as a result.

whatever it is, it got me thinking.


the day eliza died, i had some library books that were overdue. returning library books--or even just renewing them online--wasn't much of a priority for me in that last week of eliza's life, so the books were overdue. this was, mind you, the first time this had ever happened to me. ever. (legalist, yes. i know.) i'm always on time, early usually, and my library books are no exception. they are never overdue. i remember gathering them up from their various locations around luke's room and stacking them on the bookcase by the front door, ready to be returned. but by the time i finally returned them, they were way overdue.

after eliza died, and even as she was dying (heck, throughout her whole life!), we were amazingly well cared for. if you've read any of her story, you know about the endless meals, the house cleaning and painting, the gifts, the childcare, the financial support...our great big, worldwide family grew and grew and grew over the years she lived and after she died, and we could not be more grateful. friends and family and even strangers were endlessly creative, astoundingly selfless, and absurdly generous to our family in ways unimaginable. they met so many needs, lavished on us so much love, opened their hearts in so many ways. so many people knew well not to ask, "what can i do?" but just did what they knew and what came naturally, and it was so very, very Good. i cannot even describe how well loved we felt, and even now it brings tears to my eyes to try.

but here's the thing, the thing my friend's article explains, the thing this book i'm reading describes of the families whose sons have been lost at war: my library books were overdue. i seem to remember mentioning to someone that they needed to be returned--no doubt someone who was already busy caring for us in so many ways--asking if someone might return them for me. even as i was surrounded by people asking what they could do, by people doing so many amazing things for me and my family, no one knew that my library books were overdue. no one knew how troubled i was that they weren't being returned.

it sounds foolish, i know. and really it's what the library books represent that i mean to point to. but you knew that, right? no one--not even sam--could know that what i needed was for my library books not to be overdue. because no one--not even sam--was experiencing what i was experiencing in those days and weeks. this is the isolation of grief, that not even your child's other parent experiences what you do in the loss of your child. no one knew that maintaining that little bit of order, of returning my library books on time, meant so much to me.

which is not to say you shouldn't follow the advice in my friend's article and love on grieving people in any and every way you can think to do. but know even as you do that you will not understand. you will not meet every need. you cannot go there with them, wherever there may be. no one knew that there for me was the library, and no one could have known. physically, emotionally, i couldn't communicate that to anyone, nor could anyone have found out by asking, "what can i do?" that what i needed was for my library books to be returned.


i returned the books and paid the late fee, of course, and did it within the few days between eliza's funeral and our christmas trip up north. i probably could have explained away their lateness and had the fine excused, but there was no way i was subjecting the poor librarian to that (literal) sob story. and perhaps i was cured--just a little bit--of my obsessive tendencies concerning library books, as i have paid quite a few more late fees since then. (or maybe it's just because our local branch has been closed and returning the books has been such a pain. yes, i think i'll go with that answer.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

words i love

appropriate, in a pentecost sort of way, that i would come across these words in my book this afternoon:

As soon as I shut my eyes, I could see the river again, only now I seemed to see it up and down its whole length. Where just a little while before people had been breathing and eating and going about their old everyday lives, now I could see the currents come riding in, at first picking up straws and dead leaves and little sticks, and then boards and pieces of firewood and whole logs, and then maybe the henhouse or the barn or the house itself. As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea, the water rose and filled all the airy spaces of rooms and stalls and fields and woods, carrying away everything that would float, casting up the people and scattering them, scattering or drowning their animals and poultry flocks. The whole world, it seemed, was cast adrift, riding the currents, whirled about in eddies, the old life submerged and gone, the new not yet come.

And I knew that the Spirit that had gone forth to shape the world and make it live was still alive in it. I just had no doubt. I could see that I lived in the created world, and it was still being created. I would be part of it forever. There was no escape. The Spirit that had made it was in it, shaping it and reshaping it, sometimes lying at rest, sometimes standing up and shaking itself, like a muddy horse, and letting the pieces fly.

--from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

the scriptures describe the descent of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. but the Holy Spirit is so often associated with water, too, as in the words of the baptismal rite prayed in church just this morning:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into this fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again through faith in Jesus Christ may continue forever in the power of his risen life. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

what do fire and water--generally regarded, it think, as opposites--have in common? power. it's no accident that, in that fiery sunset photo up there, it's difficult to tell whether you're looking at the sky or the water. the apparent chaos the character j. crow describes as he describes the flooding river, the strength of that water and the human lack of control of it--that's power. i imagine the situation at pentecost may have been similarly overwhelming: tongues of fire, people speaking in foreign languages, the multitudes rushing to hear. clearly, Someone other than the disciples or any new wine was in control. and it was powerful. "And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). like a flooding river, the sound of such a mighty wind from heaven must have been powerful and awe-ful. and beyond control.

"As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea." awe-some. it is Good to be swept away.

(and yes, twosquare, i'm finally reading it! finally reading...)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

as for what's up there

it's pentecost sunday tomorrow, the end of the easter season and the start of ordinary (as in "ordinal" or counted) time. thus the new blog header. (i never did intend for my blog headers to keep up with the church calendar, by the way, but i take a lot of pictures, and so it doubles as an excuse to use them somewhere!)

i will perhaps have some thoughts on pentecost, i imagine. but for now, that's what the header's about.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


my boys are out to dinner, having some "man time." to the gym, said my mental checklist of things-i-should-do-today. to the gym was not checked off yet. but i'm tired, and it's chilly and rainy, and i haven't read a book in weeks. so after seeing the boys off, i headed upstairs to change into sweats, get my favorite fuzzy blanket, and curl up on the porch with a book.

forty minutes later, i haven't changed into my sweats, and i haven't made it back downstairs to the waiting book and chilly porch. because, as i passed the computer, i realized that this was my perfect opportunity to get a little work done that has been waiting, waiting. so forty minutes later, i have finished that work...and checked in on facebook, a couple of blogs, and four email accounts. i have not changed into my sweats, i have not gotten my fuzzy blanket, i have not started my book. and my boys will be home soon. there's laundry to do. there's glitter on the rug in the living room, evidence of the earlier project that distracted me from checking off to the gym, which needs vacuuming before we host a soccer team party tomorrow night. there are dishes that need washing from the girls' night i hosted last night. there are school papers to put/throw away, legos to clean up, bathrooms that need scrubbing, sheets that need changing. there is mail to be sorted, clutter to be--what? how does one ever finish doing clutter?--dealt with, and on and on and on.

if i know who you are, faithful reader, and i think i do, this is not news to you. this is your life, too. so why am i compelled to sit down at the computer and work when i could be reading or resting or making my home the pleasant place it ought to be?

i have a dear friend who grieves my inability to rest. even as i am excitedly telling her about my latest doings and plans and schemes, she is tearing up at the lack of space in my life. why, she wants to know, am i compelled to be busy all the time? am i afraid to slow down? am i afraid to be quiet and listen? what will i hear if i'm still?

but, i have argued to my friend, i am a failure at stillness. i believe--i really do think i do--that my type-a-ness is innate, that the restlessness i feel if i try to rest is natural and truly something of who i am.

but, she argues--and here she's arguing in my head, and i can hear her voice in there--didn't i learn anything from eliza? didn't i learn the value of slowing down? because--and she's right--i spent so much time with eliza just sitting, just being still. that was all i could do for her, for the most part. didn't i learn to delight in that stillness?

although i do not grieve one minute of that stillness with eliza and in fact would take any more of it that i could get, even still, a year and a half later, i feel like i'm rediscovering part of me that was temporarily and unnaturally stilled by life with her. there was a busy type-a person buried under enforced stillness for three years and then some. did i learn to embrace that stillness? absolutely. but does that mean that my compulsion was eradicated? no. and, i think, naturally so.

but now my boys have just gotten home. and there's still laundry to put in. and a few emails that have arrived while i've been here blogging. i guess that book stays put until another day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

seven quick bits...& just one more

(alternatively titled, "quotations that, though they may contradict one another, all describe why i haven't been blogging lately...and why unread books are piling up on my coffee table")

1. "May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion." - thomas jefferson

2. "A lot of our 'busy ness' is a way for us to avoid thinking about what is most important. There's a difference between being busy and being productive." - kristen lippincott

3. "It's not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy. The bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted." - marie o'conner

4. "In a word, I am always busy, which is perhaps the chief reason why I am always well." - elizabeth cady stanton

5. "Who begins too much accomplishes little." - german proverb

6. "If you are too busy to develop your talents, you are too busy." - julia cameron

7. "Busy as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest." - stephen king

& just one more: confucius say, "No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance."

(amen, confucius.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

words i love

(from the devotional Come Away My Beloved by frances j. roberts, happened upon randomly--if you believe in that sort of thing)

"Write those things I say to you. Write and hold back nothing of all I shall say to you. For I shall speak to you in the darkness and shall make your way a path of light. I will cry to you out of the confusion round about, and you shall hear My voice and shall know that which I do. For My way is hidden from the rebellious, and from the disobedient, and from those who seek to walk in their own wisdom.

But look to Me, and I will be your beacon in the night, and you will not stumble over the hidden things. You will walk in a way of victory though turmoil is on either hand, even as Israel marched through the Red Sea on a path My hand hewed out for them. Yes, it shall be a path of deliverance, and My Spirit shall go with you, and you shall carry the glad tidings of deliverance to people who sit in darkness and captivity."