Friday, July 26, 2013

These Things That I Know

I like to think He left these here just for me. #seenonawalk #shalomsessions #madecourse
I like to think He left these here just for me

I love to know things.

And by "things," I don't mean all things, but the important things.

The things upon which we hang the hopes of this life and what we long for here and after.  The things that stitch our hearts together and keep the blood from gumming up solid in our veins.

And . . . I realize that I don't know much of these things.  Not absolutely, because the things of faith and Life and holy are unknowable by their nature.

But I want to know.  Oh, do I want to know.

And cannot.

So . . . what do I know?  Or at least believe that I know?

I know that I am here and breathing (I didn't always).

I know that I am healed and healing and will heal, and that while I've done my part I don't have a whole lot to do with this Wholeness that's coming over me.

I know that there is a Something or Someone and that S/He is so very good, and breathes kindness.

I know that faith, as much as I want it to be born of fact, is a choice.  And I choose God, and believe that He chooses me (and you), as much as I seem unable to feel it.

I know that redemption is real.  I know that nothing is wasted . . . or at least, that nothing has to be. 

I know that the ember glow of the sun's fire bathing the voluptuous flow of the mountains at dusk is some kind of sacred.

I know that I am Made, that we all are.  I could never have imagined the sweetness of our son with the blush of his apple cheeks, much less have created him myself.

I know that death is not, cannot, be the end. 

I know that love wins.

I know that a woman's value is more than her body. 

I know that I am tired from tugging these uncomfortable questions around, and that's okay.

I know that it's okay to have questions, or Questions.  You know the ones.

I know that God is not threatened by our questions/messes/mouths loosing such anguished lonely howls.

I know that none of us are alone.  I know that you are not the only one that feels like this, or struggles with that.  I know that I am not the only one, too.

I know, even if I can't feel the truth of it in my marrow, that God is not angry with me.

I know that hope is never, ever impossible.

I know that light not only shines in the darkness, but is born in it, too.  That the dark is a womb, cold and uncomfortable as it might be.

I know that I want to believe, and that this is enough.  I know that Someone will help me with all this unbelief.  

I know that perfection is not required, but wanting to be brave is. 

I know that everything is going to be okay, even if "okay" is not what we expected, not what we planned for. 

I know that healing is scary, and worth it.

I know that sometimes, surrender is power.  Is the ultimate power.

I know that you are loved, and Loved.  So much. 

I know that I don't have to know to Know.  That Knowing is so much more than the ability to trip out the "right answers" on command.

I know that these chapped fingertips have healing in them still.

What do you know?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

20 Months Later

Moon risen, road clear
 {photo by Daniel Littlewood via Creative Commons}
It hadn't happened in a long time.  Longer than I can remember.  But last night, driving home under the swelling moon, the panic came again.

A few months after Eve died, my therapist shared that she thought I was dealing with PTSD.  One of the ways that this manifests is that, when I find myself driving at night the route my husband and I took away from the hospital that horrible night that our lives were instantly, shockingly altered, the panic rises.

Suddenly, it feels as if it has just happened, that my husband is driving me and my belly full of death home and the car is thick with silence and not-knowing and fear and fear and fear.  When I drive that one road past the hospital in the darkness, I have to breathe deep and press my eyelids shut, both welcoming and shuddering at the too-real memories.

Only . . . it hasn't been like that for some time.  Somewhere in the wake of our rainbow son's birth, the triggering power of that route began to unhook itself from my heart. 

Until last night.

I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot onto that road, marveling at the moon's bright beauty, when all of a sudden I could feel the hospital as if it was a monster hulking in the back seat of my car, breathing its hot breath onto my next.  And for the first time in I don't know how long, I found myself gripping that steering wheel and telling myself to breathe, just breathe, that I didn't have to be afraid.

But I was.  I was afraid.  My chest felt tight with the panic of it as I tried to drive away from reliving those old moments of dread and freshest loss once again.

I write these things to tell you that this is what grief is.  That grief is having the memories and pain slam into you when you are enjoying the cooling summer air toying with your curls, when you are happily anticipating being welcomed home by the arms of the man that you love.  When all you are planning is a bit of sleep and perhaps feeding your sweet baby in the too-early hours, and then you are right back there in that time before there was a rainbow or healing, when there was nothing standing between you and birthing your dead firstborn.

And you didn't want this.  You didn't want to be the mama of a dead child, and you certainly don't want to be unable to control when the grief and the memories flood in and grab at your ankles and pull you down in their undertow.

But this is how it is.  And you love that dead child just as much as your living one, after all, so you press in to the pain and welcome the memories, because really?  That's all you have of her.  All you have is how you live with her absence, and how you embrace the pain so you can reap the healing, or not.

I want to heal.  I am healing.  And sometimes -- or maybe lots of times -- healing looks like floundering about with the pain in the surf.

I have to remind myself that salt water, it stings and burns and it feels too scratchy against my skin. . . but it also cleans and scrubs and seasons.

Grief is seasoning me, and my life, and my parenting, and my faith.  I can't say that the life of my daughter wasn't too high of a price for this, and yet I am unspeakably grateful for the new flavor my days hold that could not have been possible without her brief living and traumatic dying.

What else is there to say?  I keep trying to write one, but there is no tidy ending to this story.  This is my grief, twenty months to the day after I held my sweet girl in my arms for the one and only time in this green and fading life.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wild Goslings: Engaging With Kids in the Mysteries of God

I am sitting at my kitchen table typing with my sweet son at my side happily eating his rice puffs, and I am teetering on the edge of tears.  I have been reading this wonderful book called Wild Goslings: Engaging With Kids in the Mysteries of God.  And it makes me want to cry with how beautiful it is.

Wild Goslings is a brand new book created by friend and world-changer Brandy Walker dedicated revitalizing and revolutionizing the way we as Jesus followers love, teach, and raise our children.  Brandy with a host of contributing writers (myself included) delve into such subjects as prayer, friendship, Sunday school, doubt, worship, sex, technology, gender, teens, abuse, tragedy, homeschooling, mental health, and more (seriously -- this book is epic).  I am currently paused on the chapters on doubt, which feel particularly relevant for me both as a person and as a parent. 

And even though I've been involved in this incredible project that every parent, teacher, kids' ministry leader, and childcare worker (and, frankly, anyone who plans to interact with children ever, meaning everyone) should read right now . . . I didn't realize just how incredible it was going to be.  So the final product?  It moves me to tears.

It makes me want to cry because I love to see the words of women who have become my friends and sisters changing the world.

It makes me want to cry because our culture does not value children.

It makes me want to cry because of the ways I have failed the children in my life.

It makes me want to cry because of the ways I was failed as a child.

It makes me want to cry because this job of parenting my beautiful child well is so, so big and hard.

It makes me want to cry because I know even more than I did before that -- I am not alone in all these things.  None of us are.

And so I give you Wild Goslings, a more than 550 page book inspiring and guiding you through the terrifying, exquisite trenches of interacting with kids with and about God.  It is now available on Amazon Kindle, and will soon be available as a hard copy as well.  And right now Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free

Want to know more?  Check out these equally tear-jerking video from Wild Goslings creator and my friend, Brandy Walker, or stay up to date with all things Wild Goslings at Brandy's site, Brandyglows.

*some of the links in this post are affiliate links...thank you for helping to support my writing work!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

When the Questions are Impossible

It’s been twenty months since our Eve’s stillbirth, and I still choke when I find myself confronted with one of those impossible questions.  You know the ones — the questions that make you avoid small talk with new acquaintances, the ones for which there is no easy answer.

This evening, I found myself facing down another one of these questions again at a party.  I introduced myself and our rainbow son to the group, and suddenly there it was.

“Your baby is so sweet . . . is he your first?”

“No,” I managed, and then — I choked.  It quite literally felt like all the words that I might say to illuminate our family bottled up tight in my throat and I could not manage so squeeze a single one of them free.  My husband had to finish for me, finish explaining why we both do and do not have another child.

How is it that, twenty months later, I still flinch and falter in these situations?

I remember, in the early months of grief and my subsequent pregnancy, rehearsing my reply to a fellow loss mother, trying to convince myself that I had the courage to boldly say, “I have one living child.”

I thought that by now, surely I would have been comfortable enough to offer the truth with the same confident love I feel for our daughter.

And yet, I don’t. . . .

Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Questioning Holy

This month, I came excruciatingly close to walking away from my faith.

It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that, also recently, my lifelong Christian husband told me that he is now an atheist.

His is not a militant atheism. His is not born of emotion or bitterness or pain. These things I would understand. Instead, his atheism has an intellectual genesis. After nearly a decade of investigation and research and reading -- research that he began in the hopes of strengthening his faith -- he kept whittling away beliefs that he felt he could not hold on to . . . only to find that, in the end, he found himself praying to thin air devoid of promise. And so he released his core belief in God, too.

We began talking about his atheism nightly, he and I, because we each want to understand the other, and to be understood ourselves.

And after weeks of this, my own faith felt thin and reedy in my hands.

Because I would have dismissed the things he said had they fallen from any other lips. But when you watch the words “I do not think it’s possible for there to be a god” drip from that mouth that you’ve kissed more times than you could count . . . it’s different. It’s earth-shattering.

Or really, faith-shattering.

Almost. . . .

This month, I have an article on doubt + faith in Sprout Online Magazine's faith edition
I don't usually plug my pieces that are not available for free like this, but this article is a piece of my own soul let loose in the world and I think it's important enough to share in this manner.  I love love love Sprout, and know that you won't be disappointed if you choose to join in the colorful, profound, beautiful offerings there.   

{FYI the links here are affiliate links, and I only endorse products I fully believe in and have been personally been touched by.}

Sunday, July 7, 2013

When Poetry is Like Coming Home

turquoise sunrise

It is far too early in the morning, and I haven't gone to bed yet.  There are words whirling through my soul that must be set down, so here I am, setting them down.

Today I remembered that I am a poet.  I tiptoed away to a coffee shop during naptime while my husband stood watch at home, and I drank the very best chai tea that I've ever had, and I remembered that I am a poet.

I don't know when I forgot.  When I was a teenager, I used to pen so many poems.  I don't know that it was true poetry; more of a going through the motions, a practice.  I did not understand myself or what I was feeling or how a poem ought to bleed, but I did it anyway and it felt good.

Maybe I forgot while I was in college, in the midst of earning my degree in (ironically) creative writing.  I still loved to pen-birth tiny glimpses of life onto paper.  Fragments of the sacred mundane -- of betta fish swimming with fins ever unfurling, of the non-sound of falling snow, of madness.  But there seemed to be so many rules, and it hurt when I tried to press my heart-words into molds of "good" and "should."

Maybe that is when I left poetry.

And oh, I have been missing it (I forgot that, too).

Last summer, when my womb was filling with our sweet son and I tried (and, mostly, failed) to keep my heart from filling with fear, I stole into the cool of the library and followed my feet to the poetry section.  I lingered there, savoring the act of selection, dipping in and out of this and that poet's worlds.  When I left the library, it was with arms dripping with books, and it felt like power.  I suddenly felt like a warrioress, that I could do anything, be anything.

Later, I read those books of poetry, drank the words in, and when I returned them to the library I forgot again.

Today, I remembered.  I slipped into that coffee shop and rested there, sipping chai, and pressed my soul to paper.  I birthed poetry for the [almost] first time in so long, and it was exhilarating and glorious and more than a little bit scary.  But it was mostly very, very good, this remembering.

I hope I will not forget again so quickly this time.

Because it feels like coming home.  It feels like destiny or fate or soul's purpose or the Master's plan, whichever you'd like.  It feels right.  It feels like God and my heart and this world all saying yes together.

And I wonder if this blog is tied into that soul-refreshing poetry, too.  Because what else do I do here if not share my experience of those holy, everyday fragments of living?  This blog, it is about the pieces.  And so is poetry.  My kind of poetry, anyway.

I don't know where all this is going.  And all that wanting to know -- the future, my purpose, the meaning, the end -- it is my weakness, my idol.  I am learning (or trying to learn) to be here, to be here now.  It is a hard lesson.

There.  I think I could sleep, now that I've threaded my arm through yours and drawn you close to whisper haltingly of all this blessed, messy wondering.  I feel lighter.

"In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary who . . . was obedient to the command. . . .  One does not have to understand to be obedient.  Instead of understanding -- that intellectual understanding which we are so fond of -- there is a feeling of rightness, of knowing, knowing things which we are not yet able to understand."

~ Madeleine L'Engle, Walking On Water (aff. link)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Creativity Is

Beth's work in progress

 When I am asked why I write, why I paint, the reply is simple.

I do it because I have to.

I bleed soul words and press my heart to canvas through a laden brush, and it puts my heart back in order.

And like many, if not all, artists, I long to provide for my family’s needs with my creative work.  But if it didn’t work out like that — if I never made another thin cent from what I create — I would do it anyway.  I would have to.

Creativity, for me, is life.

Today I am writing over at Thorns and Gold as a part of Tanya's Christianity + Creativity series!

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