Five Minute Friday: Ready

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Ready

I don’t know that we can be truly ready for the big changes.

Even those we gear up for and plan, anticipate or lay awake with in the middle of the night look different when we’ve come upon them, are able to finger their intricacies, behold them in the real light of day.

All we really have is the moment right here, so how can we be ready?

For more than sixteen years, I’ve walked through my days with little people. First the girls I mentored, who I worked with (and certainly loved) more than full time, holding hands and equipping for life challenges, helping heal from life’s pains.

And then my own three — always at least one little girl at my side as I did dishes and laundry, as we danced in the kitchen and gathered acorns, and I tried to carve out space, searching for an ever-elusive balance of me with her.

Without realizing it, I determined the worth of my days through a melding of their responses, God’s urges and my own, making mental stock of how I was doing by how my words, expressions and actions ricocheted against little spirits and flesh.

I was always so needed.

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Love around her neck, an end of sorts and kindergarten begins

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SpecialPouch

She felt afraid. Worried she wouldn’t know enough. Missing how she used to be a baby, she said. Not ready.

She felt excited. To meet friends and wear a purple backpack and practice numbers and read books with Ms. Foster. So ready.

The day before kindergarten started, we followed whims because my girl and I are sort of experts at that. We had just the kind of day we wanted.

We built a zoo for the Lego animals, dealt with that complaining and jealous
mama giraffe by making a community where they would all need to share. In the big house, they’d prepare meals together, take turns sitting at the table, watch the kids play on that lovely playground, cluck their thanks.

When we were done building, everyone was so happy they danced, and the polar bear even climbed to the top of the palm tree to celebrate.

At the store, we picked out giant chocolate chip cookies and ate them in the car. We drove fast and slow over speed bumps just for fun.

At home, we painted toenails and fingernails and added a thick grownup top coat so they’d stay extra sturdy as she crossed monkey bars and used a pencil all day.

In the afternoon, we read one of her favorite baby time books. I felt the line stretching between now and then, remembered how we rocked in the glider, the sound machine and our shared sing-song preparing the way for sleep I hoped would come.

Last Thursday, I read Only You as a promise she could take with her. I love everything about you. Your nose. Your eyes. Your hands. Your heart. No matter where you go, you and me, we’re made for each other. I always hold you with me, you know?

Before we picked up sisters from school, we stopped by the neighborhood secondhand store because Lala needed a little something to hold herself, to remember who she is, whose she is and how crazy much she’s loved.

My mama heart needed to be sure she knew.

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Five Minute Friday: Reach

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FlowersAtTheFence

At the beginning of the year, I found myself writing a lot about seeking and the unsettled ache and the continual true end: my home in Christ. It is the place where I am small in his shelter, where I am loved and treasured as the object of his affection, where I recognize the questions, answers and meaning as finding their end in him.

This morning, on the heels of much activity and travel and birthday parties for my summer girls and good things and warm weather life that’s filled me up and worn me out, I know the longing as a constant companion. And through the times of busyness, I feel the ways I’m reaching.

Several weeks (months?) ago, my friend Lori Harris said that she’s allowing herself to sit still in the question Jesus asks in Scripture, What do you want me to do for you?

This morning, my life looks like a cup of coffee that’s been stirred through with half and half, and it’s just beginning to slow (for a few moments at least), and so I’m asking myself this question again.

Allowing myself to answer that I am reaching, I am needy, and so what I want from Jesus is, honestly, everything. And also to become small again, for I desire that any light I shine in this world points the way back to the ever-gleaming Beacon.

This morning, I realize my desire for purpose, confidence, wholeness and peace, and so these are parts of my answer to the What do you want me to do for you question. I see as clearly as the hand in front of my face the ways I can never grasp them when I’m climbing and clawing.

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Five Minute Friday: Tell (And a Cry to Listen)

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Howard University photo300 Howard University students stand for Michael Brown, 8/13/14

There is no telling what it felt like to be in his skin in that moment. Was he afraid? Indignant? Was this one of those times his mama had warned him about?

And while we don’t know all the details of this particular shooting, this death, we would be remiss not to look at the individual life and to the larger reality to which this speaks.

#Ferguson is a flashing arrow for all that splays out again and again as unarmed men of color are killed on the streets they call home, as our nation’s jails fill disproportionately with young black men.

How many stories have I heard of “driving while black” in Portland? Or “shopping while black” or “riding an elevator while black?” and the pain that fell afresh as sirens blared and people crossed and clutched and store clerks followed through aisles.

I will not forget the expression on the black woman we knew as Sister when she told us how deeply afraid she was to have black sons, of her prayers and her hopes and fight to keep them alive in this world that made clear how much it hated them.

Years ago, Michael commented with sadness that he knew he could blast down MLK Boulevard at 70 mph and that his skin would grant him immunity, while a young black man doing 42 would be pulled over in a heartbeat. Because the flashing police lights always illumined the faces of black men.

Our black pastor told of the gun held to his head during a routine traffic stop, his fight everyday not to hate and to seek reconciliation, to look to God in both his pain and search for justice.

White folks cannot know what it feels like to be black (or brown) in America, or what this means for each individual person in his or her own skin. But not knowing does not mean we do not try.

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Five Minute Friday: Fill

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LightInWoods

I am needy and hungry, wanting more. Seeking more satisfaction, more knowledge, more understanding, more input, more happy memories, while all the while so full of demands and responsibilities and ideas and the living of life that I could burst.

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Five Minute Friday: Begin

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BeginningSomewhere

The sky flashes, light unzipping across the dawning summer morning. It is surprising in these parts, a morning storm without rain, and the unseen bolt is a beginning that spreads fingers across earthly skies.

 

She sits across from this new face at the table, and she is afraid. This is a risk to trust again, to present herself as worthy of being known, to let unroll that piece of her story that told her she was tarnished, inadequate.

She hugs the child close, whispers love and I see you, says what she needed to hear herself as a little knock-kneed girl, and it is unknown and frightening. This speaking what is into what was not.

She puts down the phone and the book and the to-do list, and she sits with the quiet. She feels devastatingly alone and wonders if she will be swallowed right up into the darkness.

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What happens when you pick up the brush

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MakingArt

I mix a splash of spruce green acrylic paint with the chartreuse, let my paintbrush pick up and lay down the two colors unevenly.

I do not know what will appear before me when I do.

I hold one of the raw wooden-handled brushes that sit in the jar on the shelf between our dining room and kitchen. The girls usually hold these, and they are covered with smears and drops of paint from years of use.

Often I’ve looked at the brushes and imagined the day I’d take a class to learn how to make art with them, when I’d feel free enough to let them really run and twirl.

I’m done imagining. I’m ready to paint.

I lay my brush down on the side of the plastic bowl in which I’ve mixed colors. I am unsure what to do next and can’t tell if I’ve done too much or not enough.

The middle is muddy. I keep painting.

This is the same canvas I started months ago in a moment of quiet bravery, hung up right away on the bedroom wall before I lost my nerve. It’s the same one I have pulled off the wall several more times, adding a stroke here and there. Never quite sure what I’m doing, it somehow feels both vulnerable and hopeful.

Each time I pick up paint on the bristles, my fingers and stomach pulse an excited energy tinged with anticipation and fear. I combine color, tilt my head, follow a whim and turn the canvas upside down to see I like it so much more than I did before.

This makes me feel like a kid, and so I wonder if I’m on the right track.

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Five Minute Friday: Finish

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MamaAndBirdiesCollage

I couldn’t have imagined
when you emerged
after that long labor, furrowed brow
and heavenly chunks and
soft breath against my chest
that we’d be here
drawing to the end of this
chapter, but I see the days fluttering
by like pages in the fan’s
stream.

And I want to yell out,
Stop growing, and so I do but not
scary voiced, more in that mama
way when I say what’s true,
but with a big smile and a deep swaying side to side.

Just don’t get any bigger, I say.
Stop growing. You smile big then,
No I won’t stop, no I won’t
you sing-song.

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Brave, brave, be brave

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BraveBraveBeBrave

Everywhere I look and in every word I read, I hear,

Brave. Brave. Be brave.

_____

We welcome in this dear girl, knocked around and emotionally roughed up by peers this school year, and she brings her self, an intact smile and quirky sense of humor as if she is not afraid, though she very well may be terrified.

The girls begin to spread their wings as they re-enter conversation, light giggles building to careening jumps and all sorts of games with a giant beach ball on the trampoline.

She is so brave, I think.

I can barely put down this book (The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown). It’s one friends have told me about for months, and then Monday I received it in the mail from a friend across the country, with her note a blessing of the good she sees in me, the hope she holds for me.

Brown’s words add to the brave, brave, be brave refrain, affirming life to waiting dry bones, stirring up what I’ve known, helping shake caked grime loose.

And as these things so often go, the timing couldn’t be more right, and I’m holding this book just hours after I am asked to be the speaker at a women’s retreat — my second such invitation in six weeks.

I’m stunned and excited and feel entirely ill-equipped.

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Five Minute Friday: Belong

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SunflowersBelong

I want to be one who holds solid, who hangs on for the bumpy, long road.

But it’s hot and sticky, and my body hurts from the jostling, and I want the short, quick fix so much more.

I want to grab for what I can see.

I want what I want, and I don’t want to swallow the horrible tasting medicine (even if you say it’s good for me), anymore than Lala does, as she spits another dose down her shirt, onto the floor, into her hair.

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