re-membering

Today is the seven year anniversary of our miscarriage of my first pregnancy. The loss is still there, but it’s not like I need a day off and flowers for it. (Not that a day off and flowers would be sufficient for grief and loss, but… it would be more than I got when I miscarried. Hunh. Anyway.)

trees on my walk

And here is the interesting thing about this anniversary this year. It’s also the last full day of my eldest born daughter’s first year of school. Calendars have layers upon layers upon layers. 

In the years to come I also want to remember last night. Because last night marked an incredible change and neither I nor the other person involved knew it for what it was. 

Last night I hugged someone who wasn’t a family member. 

For the first time since early march 2020, probably Sarah Howell the day I got my first tattoo, I hugged someone outside my family. 

And the main reason it happened is because I said I was moving. 

I was reflecting with a friend recently about how open or not we’ll be with people around us and hugging them. And I told her I was going to be very discerning… and I think that’s true, but I forgot that my discernment is not always what I expect it will be. 

But here is what it means to live in a place where half the time you lived there was during a pandemic. Your neighbors know you because you walk down their street every single day. They will know that you were the one who has the kids who started on your back and they moved to the stroller and now they can walk beside you.

But you won’t know your neighbor’s name because your mind is a sieve for names. But you will know them, and you’ll appreciate how the seasons change and how the porch is decorated for the holidays and how they care for their plants and keep their yard cute and inviting. You’ll remember a conversation you had with her over a year ago about how she retired from nearly 40 years of teaching but didn’t get to say goodbye to her last group of students because they all went into lockdown.

And you’ll stop on the evening walk when you’re by yourself before the sun sets but after the kids are in bed. You’ll say “oh I guess I should tell you that we’re gonna be moving” and she’s like “oh well then I guess we will miss you” and then she’ll ask about your neighbor who lives across the street from you and who they go to church together so they know that your neighbor has incredibly aggressive cancer and you didn’t know exactly what was going on because who knows how to talk about these things when you don’t exchange phone numbers when you arrive and you didn’t know that was what you would need to do because they’re just across the street surely you’ll have a conversation again, you can see into their kitchen from your bed and so she’ll say do you know about her and she’ll still be crying because she’s just said hello and she’s gotten to see her  friend and she’s been there and she still tender and so she will come to you and she will mutter “don’t worry I’m vaccinated” and she’ll pull you into a solid embrace.

A hug that lasts five or ten or twenty breaths. 

And she’ll go back to talking to her neighbors and her husband, and you don’t know her name. And it will occur to you as you begin to crack as you walk past the magnolia that you see every day that this was the first hug you’ve shared in fifteen months from someone who’s not in your family.

And you’re leaving in less than a month and this. All of this. Happens the night before the seventh anniversary of your miscarriage. 

And maybe the hug was just as much for you as is was for her. 

tattoos and why I’m ok sharing a hug again (tattoo by mallory blaylock)

New Things

Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.   –Isaiah 43:19 CEB

My Grandmother loved daffodils. She collected them. In all their various forms. Drawings, prints, sculptures, tiles she had painted, prints from artists, photographs, needlepoint pillows with Shakespeare quotations, and, of course, the bulbs themselves.

At my grandparents’ house, especially at this time of year, there are literally hundreds of daffodils blooming, from nearly fifty years of stopping at the roadside and collecting them, and purchasing them, and having friends give the bulbs to the family.

It’s a funny thing about the bulbs, you plant them in the fall, when the flower has died, and when the bulb has drawn back into itself, protecting the parts that grow again. And then you put it in the ground, and hope that you’ve placed it right side up, and wait.

You have to wait.

And then it blooms.

At 216, there are hundreds of blooms. And there are thousands of blooms, everywhere, because it is daffodil season. A new way is being made. See, my Grandmother died a week ago, at her home, with all of her favorite blooms out in her front yard. And these words from scripture, about new things, I read these words at the service in celebration of her life, and I believe them.

Because even when it is hard, even when it seems that I am going to miss her so terribly that I cannot figure out what is next, I know that there is a way being made in this wilderness. A path even in this desert.

Dancing in the wind
Dancing in the wind

And so, I smile, sometimes through the tears, at all the daffodils that I see around me, every time I drive somewhere I see more of them.

I see them out my kitchen window. And they are bright and beaming and saying: Rejoice! We were hiding, but now we celebrate! Come, Dance with us!

Think, think, think.

Think. Think. Think. Think. Think.

It is as if Winnie the Pooh were in the room, thinking heavily for such a small bear. Thinking very hard indeed, trying to come up with the next solution to the ever present question: how to get more honey.

Think, think, think.

And usually it may be very cunning, considering the fluffiness of his stuffing. But even with all the thinking, and all the scheming, and all the new and different ways that he comes to hover under the honey hole, but then he falls, and fails, like always. At the end, Christopher Robin is there. And it is Christopher Robin who brings him the honey, so that Pooh can be satisfied.

Think.

How often are we like Winnie the Pooh, straining all of our brain cells, striving ever harder to get the unattainable goal. And we come up with the analog to dangling under a grey balloon, singing a song of disguise as a rain cloud. Too often, it is too easy for that balloon to pop.

And then we fall. And we nurse our wounds, and we, unlike Pooh, think that we need to try again. That only if we had planned more, thought harder, followed the plan closer, then we would have succeeded beyond human capabilities.

We’re wrong. We can’t just try harder, pressing against the concrete wall of whatever seems to be in our way, and expect anything different than a shoulder out of whack and bruised and bloody knuckles.

Perhaps we need to be more like Pooh, after he has fallen back to the ground, stung by those who produce his most valued treasure. See, Pooh may have fallen, and Pooh may have been stung, but when Christopher Robin shows up, Pooh is happy just to have him. Pooh is happy to be loved by Christopher Robin, and the honey that he brings is a treat, yes, but only a small part of the joy that he feels.

How much more do we need to be open to the love that comes? How much more do we need to accept that we cannot do it ourselves? How much more do we yearn for the acceptance from our Christopher Robin?

As Christmas comes closer, we hear much about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and how she “pondered the news in her heart.” She thought. Deeply. She kept having new things added to what she would continue to learn and new ways of seeing the different expressions of those who came to find and praise this baby that she had carried and then born into a messy world.

And as she pondered, as she thought, I wonder what she thought about. I wondered if she thought that she could protect her son. I wonder if she thought about the things that she had heard from readings of the scripture in the temple, and overhearing what the men around her said about the Messiah and the current Roman occupation. I wonder what kind of games she played as a little girl. I doubt that she played games that were able to prepare her for bearing the promise of the world.

And, I wonder. I ponder. I think about her, and about Pooh, and about the honey, and about the rain clouds. And I wonder about the love of Christopher Robin, who only wants the best for Pooh. They are fictional characters, they are players from a children’s story book.

How much more, does Christ want to share love with us?

Comfort: An Advent 1 Meditation

Comfort oh comfort my people.

I have a love/hate relationship with being comfortable.

Comfort allows us to heal when we are broken or tired or worn out. But we can be too comfortable?

Are you comfortable? Are you easy in your skin? Are you resting well? Is the bed right? Why do we call the comforter a comforter? You know, that thing that goes on the bed to keep you warm. Are we only supposed to be comfortable in bed, and so that is the only thing that we can call the comforter in our homes?

Where is the great comforter? The one who wipes our tears away and promises that all oppression will cease. And can we really relate the Messiah to a thick blanket that goes on the bed?

So, where do you find comfort? Holding hands with a loved one? Cozying up with a warm blanket in front of the fire? At a concert listening to your favorite band play your favorite song? Sitting in a pew while the celebrant recites the liturgy of grace and Eucharist?

I’d imagine that most of you don’t really find it at the last one. Even if you grew up in the church, do you feel that Jesus our Messiah gives you comfort? Even those who are around you, as members of the church, do they give you comfort? Or do you have to put on your church mask, pulling it out of the collection of the masks that you continue to collect?

O God, comfort the afflicted, those who cannot find rest or peace. And God, afflict the comfortable.

We can become so comfortable that we disregard the struggles and worries of others. If our lives are comfortable, we can get to a point where we will not be able to see the needs and hurts and pains of others.

Why can’t they snap out of it? Pull yourself up, by your bootstraps, aren’t you strong enough for that? Be stronger. Then you will be able to be comfortable.

That’s the message that our culture tries to tell others.

It’s a lie.

One cannot simply snap out of it. Those who are privileged and comfortable have no place of reference for the systemic brokenness that prevents the oppressed from rising above oppression.

This is not intended to be an affront to those who are comfortable. Well maybe a little bit. This is intended to open eyes to the possibility that handing someone a Bible and telling them to believe it, and accept it, then walking away is just the exactly wrong thing to do as a witness for Christ.

Those who hand bibles out on street corners do not spend the time and energy necessary to build the relationships that are needed to help others find comfort and strength.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the Church.

And so, maybe we do need to go to the street corners. And stand there, with the drug dealers and the commercial sex workers. Not criticizing their sin and declaring that the only way out is conforming to our way of life. Rather, standing there, learning and building trust. Forming a relationship with them, and loving them, as the image of God.

It’s called living the Gospel. And maybe, you don’t know where that street corner is. Maybe there is somewhere else, where you can shove yourself out of your comfort zone, and grow.

Stop being so comfortable. When you are too comfortable, you get fat. Fat on the spiritual junk food of self righteousness and milk of surface level theology.

Instead of growing spiritually fat on those things, go out. Force yourself to be uncomfortable. Only then will you grow. Only then will you be part of the Gospel people. The Kingdom of God was not made to be kept closed up inside a brick box with a pointy roof. The Kingdom of God is out there. And in our love for others, and in our sharing of meals and seats and relationships with others, the Kingdom of God becomes more and more real.

So if you need comfort, if you are hungry for more, even if you don’t know what it is more of, seek it. Go to someone who can help you find comfort. Not cheap comfort. Not comfort for one night only. Instead, the ultimate comforter is Christ our Lord. That is where real comfort is. But cuddling up with a hard heavy book that is difficult to understand may not be what you are looking for. I pray a person, one who can offer help and healing through Christ, will be open to giving comfort. Even if you don’t agree on politics or economics. Even in brokenness, even in the midst of despair, you can be a gateway for others to receive the love of Christ. As it is felt, real, present, and open. The good news of the coming messiah is that we don’t have to have all the answers before we love each other. As we learn how to love each other, we learn more and more about loving God.

Eventually they will be flipped, we love God and so we learn more about loving others. But first, to feel and know God’s love, to learn how God loves you as formed in God’s own image, we learn through the love and friendship from others.

The Gospel was not proclaimed to make us all comfortable. Indeed, the Gospel itself is quite unsettling. The Gospel was proclaimed to declare the coming of God, and the presence of the Kingdom of God. Here. Now.

Go. Be unsettled. And if you are in great need of Comfort, know that the Comforter wants to share peace with you. A peace that surpasses all understanding. It will be then that you will find rest.

The Bad Foot Blues

my foot hurts…. my foot hurts… oh my foot.

 

duh-na-ne-na-ne

early one morning, duh-na-ne-na-ne

or was it late at night, duh-na-ne-na-ne

I was tossin’ and turning, duh-na-ne-na-ne

with no sleep in sight.

 

I said I could stand it, duh-na-ne-na-ne

but it was a bit rough, duh-na-ne-na-ne

my foot kept on hurtin’, duh-na-ne-na-ne

oh what a bad rub!

 

this foot, this foot, just won’t stop a achin’, duh-na-ne-na-ne

you’d think it was bored, duh-na-ne-na-ne

for every time that I’m breathing, duh-na-ne-na-ne

it always seems worse!

 

my foot is just achin’

just achin’ it goes.

this foot just keeps achin’.

right down to my toes.