For Elaine

Dear Elaine,

My darling, the world is so big for you.  I am so excited for you, and you are not even twenty-four hours old.  But, my love – my dear cousin, you are already destined for mighty things.  The God who knit you together did so with such care.  He spent millennia fashioning your precious soul.  Your toes and your lungs and your elbows consumed His thoughts for longer than we could imagine.  He has never and will never grow tired of you.  He longs for you to come to Him with all the musings, desires, and thoughts buried deep within you.  He will always hear you, no matter whether you sing or cry or scream or whisper or laugh or talk so quickly that no one else understands.  He will never grow weary of you.

My darling, our Papa is gentle and perfect.  He is on your side.  You can never go too far out of His arms that you can’t turn back.  He will always welcome you back.

This life you’ve tumbled into is not always simple.  Your path will be twisty at times.  You will scrape your knees and get headaches from too many tears.  Sometimes nights will feel endless here.  You will get scared, and probably sometimes you won’t understand even your own heart.  People will be mean to you, and you will be mean to people – even people you really, really love.  You will lose people who you don’t want to lose: this journey has many paths, and we do not all travel the same one at all times.  Those you love sometimes go one direction, and you will go someplace else.

But listen to me, my dear: this life is so, so glorious, too.  You will learn to run someday.  You will taste freedom and know joy.  You will laugh at goofy jokes and ridiculous movies and even yourself.  You will discover that which makes your heart beat a little faster – those passions created inside you may be many, and they may not make sense, but it is your job to notice what you love and decide to do something about it.  It might take lots of time.  That’s okay.  You have time.  You will find your people – the ones who get you, who anchor you.  And you will see the Father, even before you know Him by name.

Oh, dear heart, you will learn so much.  You will learn of forgiveness, that mysterious and holy gift.  You will learn of grace, an infinite wellspring in a dry-desert life.  And you will learn of love – so many loves, but each one an ultimate and divine expression of the very Essence of our Rescuer.

My love, you will be taken care of.  You have found your way into a good home in this world.  This is a family full of strange and beautiful love, and oh my goodness we can be an odd bunch.  But we fling our arms wide here.  So run into the house – make a mess, in any sense of the term, and allow your soul to be a little wild and unpredictable.

Do not forget that you are loved, supported, believed in, and valued.  I pray the great worth you have rings true within you every day of your time on this earth.  And I pray you live in the spirit of that worth.

I have run this race for only a short distance, but I have noticed this: this life is a grand adventure.  And I have not always lived it as such.  But you, my lovely cousin, were born at a time in my life when I came to yet another agreement with God.  I want more adventure, I told Him.  And in a tempest, in His infinite grace, He answered me: Yes, My child.  Your heart is ready now.

May you ask for the adventures sooner than I did.  And may you trust Him to make your heart ready, again and again and again.

With love always,

Courtney

September 12, 2014

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The topic of all our conversations seems to be the future.
When we all come together,
we laugh and pray and talk about any number of things
but we are not fooled.
Whether we say the words or not,
we are talking about tomorrow.
We are talking about all the days we will have together
and all the days we will not.
With our specific loves for one another,
we secretly grieve a parting,
one we cannot predict
but are sure will happen.
And maybe we are not sad;
maybe we can grieve without tears.
Maybe we are ready for whatever life our tomorrows hold.
Our strange family,
meshed together out of mutual friends
and shared interests
and some desperate need for people to call our own –
maybe this strange family has prepared us for unknown worlds.
If we found each other once,
we can find each other again.
Maybe next time,
we’ll be different people.
Or maybe we’ll be the same.
Who can say?

Some night,
we will let our conversation twist and turn it’s way to next year
and ten years
later.
With my feet on his knees and her back on his shins and his hand curled over her’s and all the others –
maybe, without words, we will understand the meaning of tomorrow.
We will wonder on love.
We will wonder how many small ones the years will bring.
We will wonder if our us will remain even if some of our pieces melt away.
Time may bring new people to our shores,
haggard and in need of a door to walk through.
Perhaps another will take our place at the table.
Perhaps we will find another table,
and take the place of someone else.

We are not stagnant people.
In our laughter and our conversations,
we have always known that.
We have only found ourselves woven into a swatch of fabric that was already part of a quilt.
So when the proverbial seam ripper tears us away,
we must understand that the future does not mean to harm us,
but to carry us.
These nights,
these days,
will always remain stitched together at the edges,
though holes dot the middle.
Let us take heart –
some of us can sew patches.

In the quiet spaces between dinner and a movie,
in the ruckus of people and the energy of youth-on-the-cusp,
we will hear the faint beating of the one heart within our one chest.
(And as it’s been said)
Come hell or high water,
the one faint whisper that remains:
Who will I be?
The one faint whisper that knits us into this patchwork of people who found ourselves remaining:
Who will I be? Who will I be?

Who will we be?

Coming to life

I used to think that death extinguished life.
I thought it was a weed,
creeping over the breathing things,
crippling the moving things.
I thought it dragged us into the desert,
slowly –
slowly for a long time,
until it sped,
until it tore and ripped us.
I thought dying was a savage thing –
overpowering.
I used to think that death was a taker
and that it took what was dear
and hid it in the thorns and underbrush.

And then I watched it at work.
And it was a weed,
and it crept over what I loved
what we loved
loved
And it crippled what once sprang and shuffled.
Death was not slow,
though I imagine it had been slower for 67 years
(we just didn’t notice then).
But in it’s speed and unforgiveness,
despite the taking –
I saw no savagery.
And though I was lost,
I was not lost alone.

So then I began to think that maybe there was more life in death than I thought.
There was laughter
defying the dimness and the silence
of sickness.
Tears and smiles and sighs of relief
from nestled-together family.
Whispered prayer.
A Healer who long ago cast out the fear.

We are found people
He found us in our grief
and mourning.
He found us tearing our clothes
and rolling in ash
and He
lifted us up
and draped us in white
and fed us clean water
and returned us our joy.

Restoration

I feel useless here.  I know I’m not useless – I know.  But I saw him in the hospital – small and weak and sleepy.  My grandfather was fine in August.  He was young in August.  I left for school the same way I always left: with a hug, and an “I love you.”  If I would’ve known that he would be so small and weak and sleepy in November, I would like to say that I would’ve said something more, in August.  But how could I have known?  How does something take over an entire person in just a few months?  I have never seen my grandfather look old.  And now, he looks old enough to make him like a child again, frail.  Breakable.  But all I am doing is sitting in a classroom, staring a computer, putting together hypothetical projects and trying not to complain too much (and failing, I think).  I could be at the hospital, keeping him company.  I could be at home, making dinners and doing laundry and putting up Christmas decorations.  I could be doing so much more.

But I am giving presentations, rehearsing scenes, making up fake nonprofits, and studying for gen-ed exams.  For the first time in my life, I don’t understand how school makes a difference.  I can’t see how this matters.

I am such a Martha, always moving, always busy – and I think in my mind I am convinced that if only I could just be done with this semester, then I would be less Martha and more Mary, doing what really matters.  I could take care of my family.  I could be present and helpful.  Surely, Martha is concerned with things that do not last, but Mary is content with the meaningful, busy with the important details.  If only I weren’t so busy, if only I weren’t so stuck in a place where I feel useless, then perhaps I could be a better daughter, a better granddaughter, a better servant of the Lord.  I could be more like Mary, if only.

Mary was busy with important things, like family and Christmas decorating and laundry and hospitals and –

Oh.

“Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught.”

Even if I thought I could be like Mary, I think I would be an awful Mary.  Because all I’d be doing is trading one busy-ness for another.  One stress for another.  One I-can-do-this-on-my-own mindset for another.  It’s not to say that being with my family isn’t important.  It is.  And yes, maybe school is rightfully on the back-burner.  But something is broken inside of me, and being in another place, even if I would be better off there for now, isn’t going to fix me.

Martha was stressed.  She was concerned with the world: with fixing dinner and tidying the house because oh my word the Lord was in her home.

The Lord was in her home.  But her mind was in a thousand other places besides.  So is mine.  I feel useless because unless I am sitting at the feet of Christ, I am.

So what do I do?  I listen when he tells me that I need to glorify God in my schoolwork.  I trust God to have perfect timing.  I believe my mom, who reminds me that next week will come quickly.  I whisper it to myself over and over: The Lord is with you.  You are going to be okay.  You are going to be taken care of. 

And I pray, with fervor from some dusty corner of my heart, for healing and miracles and peace if miracles do not come.  I pray for my hurting friends, by busy friends, my patient, loving, beautiful friends.  I am loved in different ways, and I do not understand how I deserved any of it.  And I am allowed to love, too.  I am selfish and broken, but I am loved and I love.  As death and stillness hang over me, abundant joy surrounds me, engulfs me.  Nativities appear around me, delicate porcelain babies placed in tiny mangers meant to remind me of the One who vanquished death and stillness.

It doesn’t feel vanquished.  Right now, it feels powerful.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

So until I find the feet of my Lord, setting aside the projects and the exams and the hospitals and the laundry, I will find purpose in none of it.  The desert is getting tiresome now.  I have been here for too long, dancing on the edge of the mirage and convincing myself that I spend enough time in the oasis to justify my wanderings.  Lead me to the well, draw up a bucket of the good stuff, the living stuff, and pull me into the living room.  I will pull up a patch of floor, and I will listen to Him here.  This will not be taken away from me.