Currently our thermostat reads 84 degrees. It could be worse. Outside, the temperature has risen to 102 — more than a bit jarring to our Northwest sensibilities.

Lala and a friend play store downstairs. When I bring them fruit and crackers, they tell me that someone nearly stole a necklace, but their security cameras caught them on tape. A few people are considering making purchases, they say, but no one has bought anything yet, in spite of all the great selections.

I let them know that if they find themselves in need of customers, I’m available. They look at me with expressions of confusion tinged self-sufficiency. “Nah, we’re good,” Lala says kindly.

J-Bird is next door, making (no bake, safe to eat) cookie dough with her good friend. She came home a few minutes ago to steal the last of the chocolate chips — my happy stash from the pantry. “We need chocolate,” she said, and then was gone.

Sici tours around the air-conditioned mall with her longtime friend, I imagine with a Jamba in hand and perhaps a new sundress flung in a bag over her arm. They take the bus to and from with no help. They are fifteen.

Clementine is hot, lays frog-leg sprawled across the cool floor. It reminds me of Michael’s and my first married summer, an afternoon much like this one. Too hot to leave, too hot to stay, we stripped down to our skivvies and laid on ice packs, wet washcloths thrown across our foreheads.

“The heat,” I kept saying. “Oh, the heat.”

On a day like this, any thoughts of productivity fall by the wayside. We roll around like sea lions, shuffle step when we move. We eat popsicles and let the juice trickle down our arms.

When the air gets thick like this, time slows, and it reminds me of the space that often precedes both creativity and rest. How grateful I am in this moment to be suspended in both.

This morning, I journaled for quite some time about my deep sense of depletion before anyone woke needing me. Interesting how often in the past, I’ve allowed my emptiness and neediness to be met by harsh words, another list to check. I wrote:

“This morning I am struggling under a burden that is not mine to carry. I hear voices of guilt and ‘should’ — voices of ‘you’ve failed’ and ‘not enough,’ and I recognize quickly (thank you, God) that this is not your voice.

Instead, God, your voice says, ‘cast your cares upon me for I care for you’ and ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.’

I recognize my need to be led, held, carried — to feel weightless as you lift me into Your care.”

This morning, as now, I envision God as a hammock, embracing me as I float free and weightless, allowing his cocooning to be pushed ever so gently by breezes that ruffle leaves.

_________

In my role at our church, I provide pastoral care to women and experience a deep sense of purpose and joy in helping to bear burdens. Over coffee and walks in the woods, I share tears and laughter, listen to stories of pain and wandering, see glints of realization. I purpose to train my ears and eyes to God’s movement, affirming the ways each daughter is indeed held by a loving God, though uncaring and distant he may seem.

Coming alongside women in this way fills my heart up in ways difficult to describe and yet I am reminded again this week of the tension I live within and the need to remain on watch, lest I hold too tightly in my concern and love and sink under a weight not my own. I am not the source, and I desperately lack what I need.

This morning I read, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

I come confident, knowing I belong to Jesus.

I draw near, knowing he longs to welcome me.

I come trembling to the throne, recognizing he is the King, and I am his servant.

I open my hands for the mercy and grace he gives, cleansing and lavishing.

I find grace through his saving, his gaze, his presence and provision.

_________

Grace feels shape-shifting mysterious to me these days, a meal that is sometimes overflowing table and other times manna in grubby hands.

Sometimes grace wakes me in the middle of the night and has me do battle in prayer for hours. Sometimes it asks me to show up tired, with little to offer but my own willingness to show up.
Sometimes grace is a phone call or an email dropped into my box with “You are heavy on my heart. I’m praying for you.”
Sometimes grace opens up an afternoon, encircled by thick hot air and a longing to be creative in prose, and it is longing met with a whispered, yes.

In this moment, grace is a fan blowing against my back, girls setting their hands to tasks and their hearts to relationship.

Grace is rest that is still movement, a heart that acknowledges need and the release from gravity.

Grace holds a hammock in tension while commanding the breeze that gently ruffles leaves.