"God showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand… and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: 'What can this be?' And it was generally answered thus: 'It is all that was made.' It was so small I thought it might disappear, but I was answered... everything has being through the love of God." --Julian of Norwich

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What life (and love) look like for us right now

"Dawn, Calgary". Photo Credit, Clinton Werezak.

Last night, for at least the third night in a row, the baby woke up screaming and restless at about 12:30 am and refused to settle back into bed until about 3am.  Teething.  Ugh.  She would doze in our arms, but as soon as she hit the crib sheet, she protested her unfair abandonment.

She has recently discovered her lungs and makes each scream as ear-splitting, and attention-getting as possible.  I remember our firstborn doing this, but I also see how the stakes are higher for this sweet second-born.  My attention is just that much harder to compete for.  And a fierce competitor she is!

Exhausted and disoriented by sleep-loss, we were not amused.

Neither Clint, nor I are exceptionally good at being gentle and kind when our sleep is interrupted. We have our moments, but awoken at 3am, three nights in a row we are not our best selves.

As the baby screamed, we took turns last night.  Holding her, rocking her with the creak of the wooden chair, swaying on our feet, her small body curled like a comma in our arms, bending over her crib, cursing the soother that she throws out of the crib (usually not with actual bad words).  The other of us would lie down just feet from the crib still in our room, attempting to rest and pray, generally unable to sleep.

We are dreaming for our futures again.  Tickets in hand to head to Oklahoma March 9th, to spend some much needed time with my parents and siblings, to wrestle with God in more prayer and hold out hope for the future.

Do you know what an utter failure I feel like as a person in my thirties with two kids, living with our parents?  We're not saving up for a down payment.  We're not yet actively raising support for full-time Christian work.  We're just completely and totally burnt out.  Sensitive people worn down by physical pain and mental and spiritual battles in the past few years.  We'd forgotten how to imagine.  We'd forgotten how to dream for our futures.  We'd lost confidence in ourselves, and in our weakest moments, in each other.  There were no jobs in the places we thought they'd be.  We felt frozen in place.

But God has his vice-grip on us.

There is no better place to be, than held by God.

That doesn't make it any easier.

Mercy was new this morning.  Tylenol soothed the baby into a long(er) sleep.  A cheerful preschooler knocked quietly on the door, rubbing sleepies out of her eyes at 7:23am and found me back in the rocker nursing.  The baby turned her head toward the light of the door and smiled.  We went upstairs, quietly to leave Daddy breathing quietly in his much-needed sleep.  She wanted her toast, baby wanted her Cheerios.  After the incense of my cinnamon bread toasting rose up, I cut myself a big slice of Guinness Chocolate birthday cake and watched the sun rise out the kitchen window in grey and purple, blue and green, pink and orange.

Knowing that I am fragile, prone to failure, and in need of grace is the best kind of lesson.  Hard but good.  Because most of the really good things are veins of ore mined out of the hardness of life.  Precious because they were hard-won.  What I've learned, more than anything, is that I am not alone.  It's okay to need help.  It is good, even, to be weak, to give up self-sufficiency, independence, and pride and choose love.

Thirty-two is going to be a good year.  Because grip or no, I'm in God's hands.  Hands I know, love, and trust from years of hard-won experience.  I'd much rather be gripped tightly than left to slip away.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The ache: a litany of gratefulness.

I've finally put my finger on one of the better reasons for the ache in my belly about leaving Vancouver.  I've written in the past months about the vertigo of packing up and leaving our lives in Vancouver behind for a new adventure and about the anxiety I feel in doing this.  But this week I've come across an amazing quote that shed new light on this ache.

(I feel the tears welling up.  If I were reading this post aloud to you, you would hear my voice shaking a little bit here, see my chin wrinkle)
The first and most famous of the desert fathers, Saint Anthony, was once asked, “What must one do in order to please God?” His answer had three parts:“Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes: whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.” (quoted from Amy Peterson's article Wanderlust: A Personal History)
Did you catch that, there at the end?   In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.

In the past few months, on a subconscious level I have believed that the sad, tight feeling I've carried around in my stomach is mostly bad.  It sure doesn't feel that great.  It feels like loss and grief and uncertainty and anxiety and lack of faith.  But according to St. Anthony's words it's not bad at all.  If I'm having a hard time leaving one place and heading out toward another, if I cannot easily leave, it's a sign of healthy spirituality.  It's a sign that I am pleasing to God.

I don't say this to toot my own horn.  This surprises me.  I don't feel pleasing to God.  Most days I feel like a colossal failure as a human being because I can't even do simple things like respond to my preschooler with patience or keep my time online under control or keep my house relatively clean.  Let alone huge feats of faith like packing up to take my family whithersoever the Spirit leads.

It also surprises me in some ways that I cannot easily leave Vancouver.  I have not particularly felt at home here.  It has often felt like a stopping place, a passing through place.  For the past three years, we've thought, "just a little bit longer and we'll leave."  In our minds, it felt like we already had one foot out the door, like we shouldn't settle in and get comfortable.  But even as an exile and a foreigner just passing through, I have so much to be grateful for about my life here.

God has been with me here.

He has been with me in walks along the windswept shore of Spanish Banks and the wooded trails of  Galiano Island.

He has been with me in the flash of red and yellow autumn leaves that set every common tree aflame.

He has been with me as I knelt to glean hazelnuts from a farmer's orchard, a tiny life pressing against my belt.  And as that life grew.

He has been with me helping me to find (and even grow) healthy, scrumptious local food to eat in the face of corn-allergy.

He has been with me through my courses at Regent College that have helped me to see his Word clearly again after years of dissonance and confusion.

He has been with me as I sat around so many tables with so many friends sharing bread and wine and excellent conversation.

He has been with me as I've knelt at the altar rail month after month with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, righteousness that I could never earn or deserve.  As I committed to teach my girls that hunger.

He has been with me through the struggles and through the accomplishments.  Where I am apt to look at even my biggest accomplishments here with a gnawing sense of failure and despair--he has enfolded me with love and spoken to me--oh so clearly!--that he doesn't see failure, he sees faithfulness.

For this and so much more I am truly grateful.

all pics my own.  all rights reserved. :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trust: Moving forward

My blog has been unexpectedly silent this summer, as you can easily see.  I've missed two Trusting Tuesdays and all those June posts I was supposed to do.

The truth was that I have been sitting here with those same butterflies I mentioned in my last post all summer, until I began to wonder if butterflies in your stomach can develop into an ulcer.  Only proverbially speaking, thankfully, but still.  To put it mildly: it's been hard to live in the Trust I set out for in January.

This summer was beautiful in Vancouver, everything that I could have asked for.  I made it my goal to enjoy my time-growing-short in this city.  Even though I've lived here twice as long as I lived in New York City, I have never felt at home in Vancouver, I have always felt like an expat, a student just passing through.  But with a lot of hard work, I have made a life here, and some semblance of a home.

Day after day through summer, I would pack up Lucy and Julianne and everything we could possibly need in our zippy red jogging stroller and head out--to the playground, to the wade pool, to the splash pad, to the beach.  The weather was incredible.  Day after day of sunshine and temperatures topping out in the mid 80s.  The sun sparkled on the water, glinted on bubbles on twilit evenings, warmed my chill bones, gave color to my skin, made growing things glow green.

Baby and I would sit in the shade of a tree and watch Lucy abandon herself in the joy of play (do you remember the delight of losing yourself in play?  It was a joy just to watch).  She would turn her wise brown eyes back to look at me, brimming with happiness or pride at a new accomplishment.  "I did it, Mom, I was brave!" (She's learning to be brave!  If that doesn't make you catch your breath, then check your pulse because you're not living.) Or Julianne would turn to her sister at dinner and laugh uncontrollably with delight that she had a front row seat to such an amazing human being. Or Clint and I would look to one another eagerly, our eyes saying without words "Did you see that?  Did you hear how amazing this life is?"  Our reality was almost too beautiful to look at.

I clung to that beauty because it felt like all I had in the vertigo of this waiting place.

I found myself slipping, by mid-July I felt clouds of anxiety, depression and panic gathering.  Joy would break in for a moment, like a blinding ray of sunshine.  But in the midst of the waiting, the everyday joy born of noticing everyday beauty was almost painful.

I tried to just keep showing up.  And showing up again.

I think, by God's grace, it worked.

Now we are packing up, making choices, moving toward the next rest stop on our journey: Calgary, where Clint's parents live.  And it will be a place to rest.  A place to catch our breath a little bit.  A place for me to write what will hopefully be the last major draft of my book, to find the voice buried deep in its bones and let it out.

But--oh!--Lord have mercy on my battered nerves while we pack.  Suddenly I understand what women down through the ages have been referring to when they spoke of their Nerves.  I have them too, and they are under assault.  But.  There are already twenty four boxes packed, twenty nine days until we have to hand over the keys to our tiny apartment, and a bucket list of things to do and see "one last time."

Here. we. go.