The Coming

We emptied the stashed away boxes early this year, the girls and I, lugging, sorting out of the deep closet at the far end of things.

It wasn’t because I wanted to get on with the holidays. It’s that I was traveling this Thanksgiving and I wanted to come home to glitter and sparkle before I had to go back to work.

Besides it was one of those days.

A grass barren, tree naked day. All things broken, bent and cold.

The fickleness of mood kept trying to dodge all things broken, bent and cold in my mind and I purposed to be grateful.

I am not a woman inclined to blame all dark moods on a hormone imbalance even though it may well be the reason for the seratonin plummet. It’s just that I was raised not to wallow.

My mood elevator on the broken and bent, cold day was inside blue and gray totes.

Out came the christmas mugs which were properly shelved.  Top-hatted snowmen and mustachioed nutcrackers were set down into a winter wonderland of fake snow and twinkle.

 

Teddy bears and wooden snowflakes were swathed in lace and potpourri and there is even a Santa,  corner-tucked and pack- empty waiting for red twisted white sugar canes.

The manger stands alone.

On a table by itself it lays under brown hay string, only the stable shape, visible and common.

When I want to see inside I must bend.

I must come closer.

I must narrow my eyes so that all the periphery of Christmas Right Here And Now becomes blurred.

The shepherds, the camel, the wisemen, even the angel, show signs of brokenness.

They’ve been chipped. Knocked about. They all show the gashes of the inevitable bruising that comes with being around for a long time.  Only the Baby is without Blemish.

It is Advent and I am lighting candles.

Advent; a coming into place.

His Coming to All Things Broken.

Yet one day it is He who willing breaks for me, the one chipped and knocked about. Blemished.

It is he, who, after jeers, after lashes, after thorns, after nails, breaks for us all that we might be unbroken for good.

We know this now when we look into the stable, knees bent and eyes piercing focus.

All things bent, broken and cold are but shadows in the light of The Coming.

All things sparkling and glittering pale dull when He comes into place.

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Wanting The Giving and Forgetting the Thanking

 

I had the paper for the list and the recipe box and the fine pen and the whole day planned in my head.

It was sunny and I was directing my own steps.

So many other days spent listening and repairing and weeping and rejoicing and planning and arranging, this particular day I decided to own.

Then He whispered.

You forgot and you are forgetting.

I knew what He was talking about because that’s just how He is.

He doesn’t have to explain anything.

He speaks and you just know.

You’re going about your day thinking about how much turnip casserole you’re going to need and why is it that you can’t find the recipe for your favorite chocolate cream pie and He just walks into the conversation you’re having in your head.

The sun floods through the window and His whisper words flood into my being.

I had forgotten to say thank you.

Oh, I had breathed one quickly when I’d first heard of the blessing, but I was in a current and I let it sweep me on its course and I promptly forgot to take the time. The sin of gratitude neglect.

All these blessings and all these forgettings.

The Pixie Girl needed money and there was a portion, but not enough to get her to the next place in her schooling.

Summertime preparations and instructions to watch for faith builders were easy to hear when the birds were singing and the leaves were on the trees. It is when the trees go bare and barn is empty that she says,”Oh.., this is what faith is….not seeing and still believing…”

I prayed like I always do when I ask my Father for something.

“Father, You own the cattle on a thousand hills. All that is in the earth, all that is above and below it belongs to You. You can do this.

And if He doesn’t?

My baby girl stays home and finds God in that, too.

But she doesn’t stay home because the day before she is scheduled to leave someone comes in secret and writes a check for the rest.

And I give up a quick breathful thanks and float along the current of preparations for a Thanksgiving of another kind.

The fulness of the circumstances came to light a week later when I was told that a woman had had a dream that my girl needed a certain amount of money, naming nearly the exact amount, for which she wrote a check right then and there.

It was the next day during my list making and recipe hunting when He spoke His words to me that the magnitude of it all came down on me.

Someone is visited in their sleep and told to give, so another will give thanks. Jehoveh Jireh, our God Provider gives and we who have nothing, are nothing without His sovereignty, give thanks in return because it is He who holds all things, sustains all things, breathes all things.

This day I go to my knees and thank properly. It is the only right posture.

God does not want my civility, my politeness, my, “Thanks.”

He wants my extravagant, crazy, fall down gratefulness with thanking words spilling on the floorboards.

There is no just “thanks” with Jesus. It is and must always be “”Thank, You.

Earlier that morning the news showed lines of tents set up along the brick and mortar, some camping there two weeks before the shopping day called black. When asked why she would spend her Thanksgiving this way, one young lady responded, “Oh, we make this a family thing, and since we’re all together on this sidewalk it’s Thanksgiving.

I was sad for that woman and God tells me I am the same.

I am the same when I forget the awe and majesty of the One who gives a life to be lived.  Who helps me to live it well and with intentionality.

The intentionality of thankfulness requires the time to push the chair aside and get low.

The intentionality of thankfulness requires the humility to forget me and remember Him and all that He gave.

Jesus.

 

Rotten Apples

I am seven and I know things

I know that the decay of the apples under the solitary apple tree at the edge of the field is a good thing. Somehow I know the heady sweetness is meant to be.

I know that the stench of the nearby pig farm is not a good thing. I am familiar with farm life. It smells, but it should not reek.

I know a mother is not to supposed to sleep all day and a little girl is not supposed to milk the cow alone.

I know that something is up but I don’t know what that something is.

The cow knows something is up, too, because she doesn’t let me get but half a pail full, which I slosh lug to an empty kitchen.

I am alone in this memory.

None of my siblings appear in it which is odd because there are five of us.

It’s like they are mist or something. Perhaps it the quiet traumas that shrink everything else to it’s smallest common denominator; the person being quietly traumatized.

Every day before school I peek into my mother’s bedroom. I can hear her labored breathing so this is another thing I know:

She lives still; a still life body outlined under blankets.

There is no light in her room but it isn’t only the darkness that frightens me.

It is the whiteness.

It is whiteness of the bedspread pulled up to her chin. It is the whiteness of the curtains, the whiteness of the walls.

It is the whiteness of her.

Another thing I know…she is not supposed to look like that.

I have to go to school.

The pumpkins have gone soft and I breathe in the rotten smell of decomposing apples. I am not afraid of this kind of dying.

It seems right, all this plant stuff breaking down and feeding the earth.

Soon I come to the part of the road where the back of an old barn abuts the road and the weeds grow spindly bent and brown.

The stench hits hard and this is the part of the road where I run. The odor is just plain wrong and I know it’s because the farmer doesn’t care.

As I run I wonder who is taking care of my mother when I am at school.  There is no one in my memory that comes to look after her, but there must have been someone. I learn later that pneumonia, after all, can kill a person.

On my way home from school I run past the pig farm again, hating its filth, running all the way this time through the wet snow mixing with dirt and  broken apples sending up a fragrance, an offering of life, that, for some reason I take comfort in, even though I don’t yet know the One who had already given Himself as a fragrant offering for me. He is in shadow during this part of my life, someone I talk to while watching the clouds go from castles to horses to ships while I lay under the apple tree in the Spring.

There is no Spring on this day and I am running down the road, legs tired and lungs heaving, past the stonewall, hooking a right up the walkway and sprinting through the back door slam- shattering the quiet.

Some things are not supposed to be wasting.  This I know.

Jesus knows it too and proves it to his friends by bringing them through the storm darkness to a place of tomb whiteness  where a tortured man wails, cast off, cast out, decaying and wasting.  He is alone in his story, too.

Jesus is not afraid of the darkness or the whiteness. He is not afraid of the wasting and the filth and the chains and the fear.

Jesus comes and puts the man back right. Back right in his body. Back right in his head.

Later all the wasting and filth that tortured the man ended up belonging to the pigs that day. I wonder if the man remembered his torture.

At some point my mother leaves her bed, healed, and I don’t remember it all.

Perhaps it is something I didn’t need to know.

The Surprise of Apology

Marigolds and black-eyed Susan’s lay broken on the counter.

Dried up and glory faded.

I kept them in vases too long and now the water stinks.

It’s hard to let some things go. Hard to let some things die.

I move the stalks and marigolds break open and seeds spill and there it is again; that spilling thing Jesus is always doing in my life.

The Jesus spill.

He who spills His healing power into a woman years bent from her own putrid spilling.

He who spills bread and fish from simple baskets and mended nets loves to fill an earthen vessel with the impossible.

Yet, perhaps it is only I who think it impossible.

Broken words, forty years worth, sear deep into my flesh fabric, woven really, into who I am, who I have become.

When cynicism whispers in the midst of another disappointment its quietness belies its ruthlessness.

It speaks one word here, another word there.

Disfavored.

Forgotten.

Unimportant.

My flesh withers and I find myself fighting one of the ugliest of fights for a Jesus follower.

It is the one that ends with me saying, “Whatever.”

Such a soul-killing, joy-stealing, hope-crushing word.

Marigold seeds scatter on the counter  and I marvel like I always do when Jesus visits me in my kitchen.

Remember you planted these from the seeds of last years marigolds?

Remember how tall they grew this summer?

Remember you had so many seeds you had to plant marigolds all over the yard?

Scatter the seed again.

It is God’s nature to take me by surprise. To snap me back to His reality.

One night God’s surprise showed up in the dining room in the middle of a party.

I heard my name spoken one, two, three times before the apology came.

It was a look-you-in-the-eye apology without the cloak of excuse and all the broken words blurred and the sword pierced.

I felt the point of it as it slowly drove into my heart and the questions flooded.

How is it that the power of a sincere apology is such that any bitter thing I hold becomes like dust?

How is that God kills me and brings me to life all at the same time?

How is it that I always forget the one who needs saving the most in these moments is me?

He cut to shreds the “whatever” that had been trying to take root in my thoughts and brought forth the promise that, despite appearances, despite what I think will always be barren, there is life waiting.

There are still more seeds to scatter.