Between

I’m home. I am not unhappy about it. But while I’m figuring out a coherent line of thought on which to write about a normal summer at home – something I’ve never actually experienced – I thought I’d post this poem I wrote last August. You’ll figure it out; you’re all very intelligent. This one is important to me right now because as much as it deals with camp, it also deals with the odd feelings I’m mulling over about school and people. Funny (read: not so much funny but incredibly merciful and gracious and awesome) the way God uses my own words in a completely different way to teach me and comfort me almost a year later. This one.. yeah, it means a lot to me.

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Because it’s always impossible, once it’s over
no matter how done you were
or how ready you are.
It’s never as easy as you hope it will be.
It’s this illness inside of you, in the pit of your stomach,
sitting stagnant or welling up,
depending on the amount of sunlight
filtering through the clouds.
It’s this nagging, tapping the wall of your heart,
reminding you that something is
and then isn’t in a matter
of seconds.
Because it shouldn’t make sense
for life to be left then right,
running then walking,
there then here

in an instant.

Because the space between then
and now contains everything but
is made of nothing.
It holds a billion breaths in one
gust of wind,
a trillion heartbeats in a
single, blinking eye.
It’s the slamming of a car door,
it’s the descent of a hill,
it’s the turn signal and acceleration.
How do you drive away from a summer?
What does it take to be
content and pained?
Where is the sense between
summer and fall,
life there and life here,
trust and uncertainty?

Because the reality is,
you do drive away.
And then you have to deal with it.

Life is mere instants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You people need to stop being shy about commenting, by the way. Let’s talk. This can’t be just me anymore. It’s summer and you’re all too far away now.
You can make up the information WordPress asks for; I won’t tell.

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Pebbles and Promises.

I have a lot I want to write about.  God is overwhelming me with extravagance and goodness and peace lately, and I am just now opening my eyes to it.  He is so good.  So much more than I deserve.  If all the love He has for me was contained in a moment, and He gave me that moment, I would explode.  I’m seeing that now.  At the same time, I am scrambling out of this weird cave – a cave of questions, fear, pride.  And I think that collision – the climbing out and the opening eyes – is muting my words.  And that’s okay – I’ve been writing a lot of letters over the past few days, to people who I know deserve my words.  I’m okay with only having enough for them.  I am sorting out the big things.

Nevertheless, I wanted to post something.  I wanted to communicate some sort of the crazy that is happening inside me right now.  I wrote the following story about six months ago, all in one sitting.  I don’t normally do short stories, at least not ones I like this much.  But this story just came to me and I was so thrilled about it.  I wrote it with my 2-year-old cousin in mind, as a gift for her.  I researched every name in the story so that they all had significance.  I actually typed it up like a book and printed it.  I’m “illustrating” it right now, and hope to get it bound soon.  She can’t read yet, so I have some time.  :)  Anyway, as you’ll see, it’s very much a children’s story: princesses and fantasy and castles.  But it means so much to me.  This story was God talking to me – through myself.  I’ve kept it to myself for a long time now, trying to figure out how I wanted to share it, and when.  I know now is the perfect time: as I find myself speechless but so full of words, as I’m trying to let go and see the goodness of the Lord, this story replays in my head over and over.  He won’t leave me alone about it.  I hope it means something for you, too.

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Once upon a time, there lived a young princess in a faraway kingdom.  The princess’ name was Ayrien.  Princess Ayrien lived in Lenci, a kingdom far to the north.  When Ayrien looked out her windows, she saw rolling green hills dotted with tall pine trees.  Grand boulders lay among the trees, left over from long ago when the giant glaciers carved out the landscape.  The princess lived a pleasant life, and even though she was still a little girl, she knew what happiness felt like.  She learned how to feel happiness when she rode her pony across the palace grounds.  She learned how to feel happiness when she danced to the wooden flute and the harp.

But one thing made Princess Ayrien feel happiness far beyond anything else.

Princess Ayrien loved to collect pebbles.  She collected pebbles from the beds of streams.  She collected pebbles from the forests.  She collected pebbles from the paths through the fireweed gardens.

Now, it’s important to remember that pebbles in the kingdom of Lenci look different from the pebbles you might see in streams and forests and gardens where you live.  You see, in Lenci, the pebbles were painted in bright colors.  They were coated in bright blue, bright pink, bright purple, bright orange.  It was as if someone had dipped the gray rocks in the sunset.  Ayrien did not know how the rocks had been painted different colors, nor did she much care.  All she knew was that she was happiest when she was collecting the pebbles.  And when she arranged a new batch on her shelf, she knew nothing would ever make her happier than her collection had made her.

I will let you in on a little secret, my friend.  Ayrien’s pebbles were not any more special than any rocks you may find.  Their colors came from the paintbrushes of man, not any kind of magic.  You see, long before little Ayrien was born, the people of Lenci liked to buy hand painted stones.  Very talented artists made the stones, painting them in all the colors of the sun, and the people of Lenci bought the stones.  They set them on their windowsills and admired them for a time; then, of course, they would grow tired of them.  So they threw them out – out into the streams and the forests and the gardens.  Ayrien had never been told any of this, because she had still not learned that sometimes, people fall out of love with the things they once held dear.  She would not have understood why anyone would throw away the beautiful little pebbles.  To her, the colorful little stones were perfect.

One bright day, for it is always bright in the kingdom of Lenci, Princess Ayrien’s father, King Caerwyn of Lenci, met the young princess as she was admiring her pebble collection.  Caerwyn was a good king.  He ruled the kingdom of Lenci with fairness and love.  The legend in Lenci said that ever since Caerwyn became King, the days were long and full of sunshine.

“My dear Princess,” the King said to Ayrien on that bright day.  “Why do you love those painted stones so much?”

“Oh, Father,” Ayrien sighed.  “Aren’t they the most lovely things you’ve ever seen?”

“Ayrien,” the King said gently, smiling down at his daughter, “I have indeed seen things more lovely than those pebbles.”  Ayrien’s eyes widened in shock.

“That’s impossible!” she laughed.  “Nothing could be more beautiful or make me happier than these pretty stones can.”

The King took the Princess’ hand.  “Ayrien, my love, why don’t you let me have those painted stones?”

Ayrien was truly shocked now.  Why would her loving father want to take her favorite things?  They were the most beautiful stones in the world, Ayrien was sure, and she did not want to give them up.  But her father had always done kind things for her – why should this be any different?  Ayrien was very confused.  She did not want her father to take her painted pebbles.

“Oh, no, Father,” Ayrien said.  “I can’t do that.  I love these stones.”

“Very well,” King Caerwyn said, a sad smile on his face.  He gave Ayrien a kiss on her head and wished her a happy day.

From that day on, though, King Caerwyn made sure to find little Ayrien in her room, admiring her pebbles, and would ask her to give them to him.  But every day, the Princess would pout and tell him no, she could not give up her precious rocks.  For days and days, the King kept asking kindly, and the Princess kept saying no.  She became more and more upset with each day.  It first shocked her that her father wanted her stones, but soon she became angry, then angry and scared.  And before long, Ayrien could think of nothing but guarding her pebbles, even though the King had never once tried to steal them from her.  He always only asked, and he was always only kind and loving and gentle, and he never became angry with Ayrien’s stubbornness.  He was never angry, even when she was.

Because Ayrien didn’t feel happiness when she rode her pony anymore.  She could only think of her pebbles.  She didn’t feel happiness when she danced.  She could only think of her pebbles.  Her pebbles didn’t even really make her happy anymore.  When she went to admire them, she only thought of protecting them.  She hid them away in a drawer, where they became dusty.  The paint began to chip away.  Some days, she didn’t even look at them anymore.  She forgot why she loved them so much – she only knew that they were hers.

One bright day, for it is always bright in the kingdom of Lenci, King Caerwyn met little Ayrien in her room as he always did.  She was sitting on her bed, weeping.

“My lovely Princess,” King Caerwyn said when he saw her.  “Why are you crying?  Why are you so sad, my child?”

Ayrien looked up at the King.  His eyes were bright, brighter than the bright Lenci sunshine, but they were full of sorrow.  She looked at his eyes and she only wept more for the sight of them, because she knew his heart ached because her heart ached.

“Daughter,” Caerwyn whispered, pulling the shaking little girl close to his warm chest.  “Why is your heart broken?”

“Father,” the Princess sobbed.  “All my life I’ve only wanted to please you.  All my life, you’ve only been good to me, and to the whole Kingdom.  But now I’m so afraid you’re going to take my pebbles.  I’ve been so afraid you’re going to take away my favorite things, that I’ve hidden them away, and all their color has worn away, and they’ve become so dirty, and every day, I just worry and worry about protecting them.  My heart is broken because I cannot be happy anymore, because I all I ever think about are my dirty, ugly pebbles.  I don’t even love them anymore, Father.  I don’t love anything anymore.”

The King held his daughter close to him for a while.  Perhaps he held her all that bright day.  Perhaps it was only a few minutes.  To Ayrien, it didn’t matter how long it was.  When her father held her, it felt like forever.

“My daughter,” the King finally said.  “Can I have your pebbles?”

He had asked many times before now, and the Princess did not know exactly why it was different this time, but it was.  Maybe her heart had just become too full of a darkness that wasn’t supposed to be in it.  But this time, the question did not feel scary.  This time, the question was a relief.

“Yes, Father.  You can have them.”  Ayrien opened the drawer, scooped up all the dirty, chipped pebbles, and dropped them into the King’s open hands.  He dumped the stones into his left pocket.  Then, his hand slipped into his right pocket.

He pulled out a handful of the most beautiful gemstones Ayrien had ever seen.  Indeed, no one in all the world had ever seen such magnificent, shining, glittering, perfect gemstones.  They were radiant blue, radiant pink, radiant purple, radiant orange.  It was as though someone had dipped them into the most stunning sunset that had ever existed.  No, more than that – it was as if the gemstones were part of that sunset.  As if they had fallen from the sky as the sun retreated to the unseen heavens.

“Ayrien, my Princess,” the King said, holding out the gemstones.  “These are for you.  I’ve been waiting to give them to you for so long.  But first, I wanted you to give me your painted pebbles.  These gemstones will never get dirty or dusty.  Their color will never fade away, for the color goes all the way through them.  They are far better than any painted rocks you will ever find in streams and forests and gardens.  These are yours forever, and they will forever make you happy.  I would not give you anything that would not make you infinitely happy.”

All her small life, Ayrien had thought she knew what happiness felt like.  But when her father handed her the gemstones, a new sort of happiness filled her heart, and her bones,
and her veins.

If you were to ask the Princess, to this day she would not be able to explain this new happiness.  She could only show you the gemstones, so you could feel it too.

Space

He grabbed a handful of stardust
and cradled the glimmering powder in his hand.
He exhaled softly,
and the remnants of the star twirled into a person.

She was pale and lithe.
The dust from which she rose settled into her cheeks,
flecking the bridge of her nose.

When she was twelve, she tried desperately
to hide the star splattered across her face.
Her powder would wear off by midday.

As she grew into her sky-spun body,
though,
she found new things to cover up.
In her heart, she buried the ideas that seemed too big for the world.

She had trouble realizing her homeland.
She didn’t know that she came from another world.
And when she looked at herself,
all she saw was an overflowing glass –
too many words for so small a person.
Too many dreams for so small a universe.

The alien girl would fall to her knees
and beg the stars for freedom from her thoughts.
make me easier she whispered.
No one balances a spilling cup for long.

But years went on and on and
on, and she did not become smaller.
The stars on her face had long since faded
but the fire in her bones was alight.
Blazing,
consuming.

She whirled round the flames,
and the breeze only brightened the embers.
The star in the star girl was shining too brightly.
She was not easy.
She couldn’t make herself easy.

The alien girl fell to her knees
and begged the stars for freedom from her thoughts.
make it easier she shouted.
The alien girl with her alien words.

He grabbed the stardust
and cradled the fading powder in his hand.
He exhaled softly,
and the remnants of the person twirled toward the stars.

Glimpse of her homeland.
Grace to contain the fire of a galaxy.

Pith

I do not have anything meaningful within me,
she mused.  Mostly it is this shallow blackness,
deeply rooted in some rocky heart.
I don’t know if you want it.

I looked up the definition and they told me
it was a muscle that contracts and dilates,
bringing life to where life can’t reach on its own,
shriveling up and expanding to the tune of some
tireless divine drummer.

A tangled web of contradictions is nestled
in the cold waters of a soul long-dead.
You may use what you can of me,
but be warned that it is not much.

In the shadow of that tree trunk cross
she sat, fading away into the trees and the air around her.
I don’t think this wrung-out mind can think much more,
she mused.  Half the time it sings praises,
but usually it just exists.

She was a broken stained-glass window,
dirty and cracked but filtering some sort of dusty light
through her marbled pane.
She faced outward, overlooking the cars that drove past the church,
afraid of who she might find if she turned around.

In the woods she found him,
waiting at the edge of the lake.
She thrust her dried-out heart at him and swore he would find it lacking.
High above the glassy water,
she wept for something she didn’t understand.

I don’t understand why love is so contradictory,
she mused.  How it can breeze in and away like a storm
or a scent.
This isn’t how it is supposed to be.

I don’t understand why people are like love,
too inaccessible and temporal.
Why do we promise a love we neither see nor believe?
This is wrong, she says.

And then this: some loud whisper of solace.

She was a broken stained-glass window but she was bright nonetheless.
Too colorful for her own good but
too close to shattering with the right amount of sun.
Her eyes are losing as the brilliance awakens the night.

If it means living forever, I can die once,
she mused.  If it means this torn-up heart can be patched anew,
I will let you own it.
They told me it when it expands it is only preparing to shrink again,
but maybe with you it will be different.

Maybe the pumping of one Heart can suffice for all the life that must circulate.
Maybe, she mused, there was a difference between being undead and being immortal.
Splitting the glass with a water-worn stone,
she let the light all the way through.

If this was love that could be seen through,
she believed she finally wanted it.

Antithetical.

And I am desperate for Your grace.

I need Your provision like I need air.

When I dream, I dream about drowning

in a sea of water, thick with salt and pollution.

And I gasp, because light does not reach the bottom of the ocean.

My lungs whisper frantically.

Don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of the ocean depths,

of being lost in the Mariana Trench, one thousand eighty miles below anything terrestrial.

The hardness of your stone heart and lead feet pull you there.

If any of us were being honest,

you would know the world’s population claims residency in the Trench.

And so when I am honest with myself

and I allow myself to sink below the waves,

all the way down to the waveless black,

only then can I truly long for the taste of air.

Mostly nitrogen, though everyone had us fooled that what we breathed was oxygen.

They spin many tales about the air and the waters.

From my seat at the bottom of the planet,

I can tell you that there are no pineapples here

and there are no blue fish who sing mindless songs

and it is too cold for mermaids.

When you sit at the doorstep of the hot mantle of the earth,

on the threshold of the underwater volcanoes,

it is easy to remember the feeling of nitrogen in your lungs,

interspersed with oxygen and some carbon dioxide.

But it took sinking to appreciate the feeling of full lungs.

And only here, floating in the depths cold as ice and yet so much closer to the fiery core

do I cry out for the air.

We are broken, they told me.

We are pale representations of what we were made to be,

watercolor paintings grown moldy and yellow after years of hiding in the attic of some old spinster.

Cracked and shattered.

When a vase falls from the mantle and five pieces scatter across the floor,

(because it was thick porcelain, not glass)

it seems easy to glue it back together.

So you do, and you are careful about it.

You buy special porcelain glue from the five and ten shop

and you spend a whole Saturday morning at your kitchen table.

And then you put your once-shattered vase back on the mantle

because it looks so perfect, you see,

and while fixing it you thought perhaps you’d relegate it to some dusty corner in the den,

but it looked good as new so you changed your mind.

And it sits on the mantle and people forget the day it fell down,

and one spring day you saw some purple wildflowers on your drive home,

and you picked them.

They’re only weeds and you know that but you picked them anyway.

You arranged them in your vase,

and you put some water in it too,

water from the depths of the Mariana Trench

probably

and your mantle looks perfect.

Maybe you walk away to make dinner or go for a run or something.

But when you look again at your once-shattered-once-glued vase,

your eyes are drawn to the puddle of Mariana Trench water dripping onto the floor.

We are broken, they told me.

And when I break into five pieces,

you can glue me back together

but you can’t find the trillions of dust particles that sealed the miniscule gaps between the porcelain fragments.

We may not look broken,

but I’m telling you there are cracks.

And if you were honest with me

you would not try to make the cracks

more significant or more insignificant than they are.

We are like wounded doctors, all of us.

We run around trying to fix everybody

and we forget the gashes on our foreheads and the holes in our chests

because we are bleeding just as bad as the rest of them.

So antithetical in our own existence.

Catch the blood in the vase, dump half of the Mariana Trench onto our wounds.

So fragile and yet so resilient to the depths.

Lambs who sleep with wolves,

whoring after money and fame and power,

slaves strong enough to break our shackles

but not stupid enough to remove the fixture we should be chained to

because in the depths of our hearts or our brains we know we are only fit enough to be in one place.

Flimsy and floppy, traversing from here to there,

from content to greedy,

making a poem about drowning into something about doctors and whoring.

And I don’t know what comes next

but if I did I know I would still be afraid because aren’t we all?

I don’t look for questions and I ask not for inquiries as to my health or my sanity.

I promise you I’m just as normal as you all

which is both a comfort and a terror, but one that I’m okay with.

But I want you to hear

because that’s all that matters.

And this time I’m going to be brave enough to say it.

About time someone did.

I am desperate.

To wake up.

To breathe.

I don’t even care that it’s mostly nitrogen,

nitrogen that my body does nothing with, only breathes back out,

clinging to the oxygen.

So scattered.

So fragile.

If humans were eggs, the guy at the grocery store would have dropped us all.

I am an egg,

and I need the scalding boiling water of grace.

Hardened but not for hardening’s sake.

Made unbreakable again is all.

I need Your provision like I need air.

Mercy like air.

Peace like air.

Wrap my wounds with love

and be the unfound porcelain dust in the groves of my fallen-off-the-mantle heart.

Chain me back to You.