• collecting stories,  facing grief,  prayers of the saints

    Opening a space for peace…

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    Advent is this way of holding space for a coming not yet fulfilled. We are called to put on wonder and hope. What comes so simply for children becomes increasingly difficult for us as we grow older. We look out on a very weary, weary world; we have known sorrow; we are acquainted with grief. And somewhere along the way, we forget that the very babe we hope and pray for is the very Emmanuel, the God-with-us, that suffers sorrow unto death for us, who knows deep hurt, deep sorrow, deep pain, far more than we could ever fathom. The lines get crossed somehow. This is what Advent does- what Lent does- (and Advent is often referred to in the Church as ‘little Lent’ with good reason)- it circles round and opens a space of peace where we remember. We connect the dots. We put on joy, peace, hope, and love through grief, remembrance, and sorrow.

    I keep thinking of this as I hear the news headlines. There is deep, deep pain right now. Crying out in the streets. So much hurt. So many voices wiser than I are speaking into these issues, but above all, I have felt so deeply in these moments that this is where we were meant to walk. We were and are supposed to be the Advent people, the Easter people, the people who know how to hold space for peace. I’m not sure how this looks all the time. Sometimes, it is giving voice for those who have no voice. Sometimes it is holding silence, because there are no words. It is always prayer, unceasing prayer. Sometimes it is caressing a child’s face, making cookies, and holding peace in our homes when the world outside storms. It is all these things and so much more.  Rarely does deep and complex pain have easy answers, and it above all takes time. and space. Can we hold space for peace in a world desperately in need of safe places? What does that look like? These are the thoughts that have been circling my head of late as I watch my children in their wonder at Advent-tide.

  • collecting stories

    On mendfullness…

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     A recent article by Katrina Rodabaugh in the most recent issue of Taproot has been wending its way into my bones. It was a wonderful piece in which she discusses her journey into sustainable fashion in which she “abstain[ed] from any new clothing for an entire year.” If you’re curious about how your clothing choices affect the world and vice versa, her article is a great place to start (and also begin to learn the art of mending clothing, as well). As a mama to a large family, I’ve been mending hole-y knees and cuffs and all sorts of things on my boys’ clothes for years now, but I’ve never really thought about the process in my head or my heart.

    It’s her closing section that wound deep in the sinews:

    In researching the definition of the word “mend”, I loved the long, poetic, inspirational list of synonyms: re-form, correct, repair, cure, heal, doctor, fix, patch, recondition, renovate, revamp, and rebuild. I love how the list conjures images of building houses, casting broken bones and going to the voting booths all at once. I see hammers, scaffolding, herbs, salves, notebooks, declarations, pencils, erasers, threads, needles, and even a trip to a nearby gym.

    But mostly I like to think of mendfulness as the intersection of mending and being mindful. That there is an intention in our repairs and that we are attempting to pay attention, to witness, to be thoughtful, and then to act from this place in our mending. That, through mendfulness, we can patch, darn or stitch, but we can also strengthen, heal, and rebuild.

    -Katrina Rodabaugh, “Mendfulness”, Taproot; MEND::Issue 11.

    What a powerful thought this is. I have long appreciated Makoto Fujimura’s idea of culture care- of being stewards and keepers of beauty- and this idea of mendfulness joins beautifully with it, does it not? Especially as a mama and a parent. So often we find ourselves stuck in reactive mode- this idea of mendfulness is helping me to shift my perspective to a more peaceful place when faced with broken-ness without and within. The falling autumn leaves remind me that even the seeming broken is beautiful in its own way, each a gift.

  • beautiful things,  collecting stories,  link love

    She who…

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    She who reconciles the ill-matched threads

    Of her life, and weaves them gratefully

    Into a single cloth-

    It’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

    And clears it for a different celebration.

    -Rainer Maria Rilke

    I haven’t jumped on the 31 days train this year, but there are a few writers’ series that have been truly helping me to reconcile those threads. Perhaps you’d enjoy them too?

    Hannah E. Vazquez- Good Grief: 31 Days

    Emily P. Freeman- 31 Artists Who Influence

    Elizabeth Foss- 31 Days of Running Into Myself

  • collecting stories

    out to sea…

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    The last few weeks have left me feeling unmoored, cast out into an unknown space. Despair has visited me in unexpected ways.

    My beloved and I, we were talking last night of the mountains we used to call home and how we miss their beauty and steady strength. It always seemed when I felt troubled that a glance towards the horizon and the smoky ridge of ancient stone would set me right again, remind me of the steadiness of Christ’s love. But at times, I wanted to rage against those stalwart giants for their very surety! My life felt anything but, so much of the time! Medical crisis after medical crisis, lost job, the recession hitting hard on my young, unlearned head. All so topsy-turvy.

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    And now we live nestled into the sea-side, where river and bay meet the vast Atlantic. The confluence and conversion of fresh to brackish to salt. By the same measures that I looked out at the quiet testimonies of stone, I now look out on water that appears to have no end, endless wave crashing on shore. The vastness of it all is by measures comforting and terrifying. How vast the Father’s love for us, how deep beyond all measure, the song goes. But when you stand at the shore on a stormy day, the very vastness of it all threatens to push you under. You realize how truly little and small your soul is- and you realize how quickly you can be lost.

    I’ve found my language wrapping in the song of the sea. I feel unmoored, I say. I feel like I’ve been thrown overboard. I feel cast away. It is an unsettling feeling to find myself and my family in safe harbor for the first time in many, many years, and yet feel so untethered from the person I used to be. I can’t help it, these phrases and words- they are weaving into my soul the way the quiet mountains did in their season.  And in learning this new language, I am finding a new way forward. 

    Maybe I am cast off, out to sea. I’m starting to understand that it is where I am meant to be, that I must lose sight of the shore of what I’ve known and sail out into the next chapter of my life and what is come. It’s not to say it is easy, however.

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    Tevye says in the beginning of Fiddler on the Roof:

    A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance?

    I saw a great blue heron balancing on a chimney pot in our neighborhood the other day and I could not help but think of the line from Fiddler. This amazing, graceful, bird, so very large on land, ungainly, balancing on a chimney, probably looking for a place to nest, because the habitat of youth exists no more for him, and where will he raise his children now? I could understand his questioning.

    And so, here I balance, like a great blue heron on a chimney pot. And somehow, God still sees us both.

  • Art,  collecting stories

    Why Art Matters

    artmatters

    It feels good to be back in this space. It is a comforting presence; a companion that has kept time with me for years now. I doubt I ever thought that it would be around for so long; it was an ephemeral thing, a new way of interacting in the online world. And yet here it is.

    I found it interesting as I read and edited through my archives that I said very much and yet told little. This is a choice I think each writer makes as they begin to tell a story, but mine was an unconscious one in many ways. Of course there were certain choices: I didn’t tell all the nitty gritty, I tend to keep my children’s lives in vague references, I don’t really give locating details. This was for safety, sure. What amazes me, however, is how little I allow of myself to show.

    Perhaps the most notable thing you may not know about me? I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English and History, and I graduated in 2006. I did this while being mother to two, pregnant, and then nursing my third child, Lorelei. The blog was started about six months before I graduated.

    I’ve also not told you how much I loved the life I lived as a student of letters. How much writing sets fire to my veins. How much the puzzle of the history sends my mind spinning in the most delicious of ways. How swirling paint and paper with my fingers makes my heart sing. How when it all comes together my love quickly learned to stand back and supply me with hot cups of coffee. I haven’t told you any of this because- I thought it didn’t matter.

    You also don’t know how much music drives my days. You do not know that I sang four years with a Madrigal group, an alto, how the haunting tones of Medieval songs, Gregorian chant, and Celtic music wove deep within my soul. You don’t know that I play a hammered dulcimer (rather badly, but all the same). You don’t know my uncanny knack for naming most any piece of music by the first eight measures, or my ability to pick it up quickly and sing it back to you. I haven’t told you any of this because- I thought it didn’t matter. 

    You also don’t know how much of Shakespeare I can speak from memory, especially of Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing; nor how I can tell you the stage directions for nearly every Shakespeare play because I managed the stage productions of nearly all of them. I didn’t tell you about my training in lighting, costume, and stage design because- I thought it didn’t matter. 

    For nearly seven years, I acted like art didn’t matter. Oh, it seeped out around the edges. I wrestled with it, hard, and of that you can read in the archives (up in the right hand corner under paper and paint) but somehow I had convinced myself that the things that most defined me didn’t matter. In so doing, I took away the very language that helped me make sense of my world, of my faith, of the many decisions I made each day. Is it any wonder, then, that I lost my voice? I had silenced it by my own doubt!

    By starving myself of the things that made sense of my world, I also led myself into an inner life that scattered and shattered, a desert devoid of water. I abandoned the practices of my faith and my art, and while I lived calm on the surface my inner life became ever more stormy. I could not hear my own story being written; neither could I see the stories of others.

    Emily Freeman writes in A Million Little Ways in a chapter called Listen that

    The beauty of art is that it separates us enough from our own pain in order to make it safe to approach. This movie, this novel, this musical, this song isn’t my story, and so I can freely let myself identify with it. In the freedom, the tears have permission to fall. And in the tear-fall, I realize that this movie, this novel, this musical, this song holds pieces of my story after all.

    Maybe it’s the same way for other kinds of art we make. (p108).

    When we tell ourselves that art doesn’t matter, we buy into a pernicious lie. How is that we can understand the worth of a Shakespeare play and yet discount the stories in our souls waiting to be told? Hamlet was once just a story of a man wrestling with grief. A father loses a son at eleven years of age and so he sets about to write a play that makes sense of his loss, that lets him argue it from all sides. He makes art to make sense of the life that is his to live, and in so doing latches upon truths that we all resonate with, sit a little straighter in our seats, because we’ve faced loss and we know what it’s like to stare into the deep darkness of the things we know not. I would argue very loudly how devoid the world would be to not have Hamlet…and I find myself now arguing just as loudly how devoid the world will be if you and I do not yield to the story within us waiting to be told.

    My unabashed love for Doctor Who is somewhat known here on the blog. Now you know of my unabashed love for Shakespeare and of Hamlet. If you have watched any of Who, you know the story of the Doctor and his endless running. I’ve loved this fan-made video for a while now; it perfectly melds the story of Hamlet and the story of the tenth Doctor (both played by David Tennant). This is where art speaks- where a story keeps getting told, over and over, each time picking up fresh relevance to our lives. This is the reality- we will ever face loss. It is the truth of life, death. But no matter what we face, we never face it alone. Art (and faith) are there to bridge the gap. Hamlet questions with us. I don’t know about you, but that gives me tremendous hope.