Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lines from June, Part 1

Thank you, Good Spirit. Obedience is always worth it.
Teach me to let You have authority over my schedule.

Please take tomorrow's new plans, with N & E. Help me also work hard, listen deeply, love well.
Thanks for S helping me take down the show. Our coffee and quiche and conversation. People who were courteous and appreciative. For Dad cutting the slats for the sign, for C's mixtape (and tea and music), for failing at recording Roma Termini, but for the hope of second chances.
Thanks for the cornbread. Cashing checks. Writing letters. Z's possible commission. Lavender blooming.
That miracle of Holy Spirit prompting me to go back to Mom, and to pray with her for MM's operation. Thanks for nobody responding visibly to my blogpost, and the way it reminds me where I find my identity.

Take today, Deus. Help me live it in such a way that we sing together, that You sharpen me like a whetstone.

Thank You for hearing me and responding.
Today was beautiful and overall productive.
But unquantifiably good. Hibernia with N. Catching up, singing. AW met us, coming down to our spot to be a recluse and play worship songs and get out of herself. So we ended up all talking and then playing songs together. "Good Good Father", "Blessed Be Your Name", "Amazing Grace", "Revelation Song", "Come, Now is the Time to Worship". It was funny and sweetly serendipitous.

E came over around 7:30 for a walk and ice cream and catching up. It was great to hear what You are doing. Oh God, thank You for a man who cherishes her, who loves You first.
Thank You for A's call on the walk back to N's car, and the perfect faithfulness You've shown her as she goes through CELTA. Thanks for J & K and their musical collaboration and support. Thanks for M, Q, & B in Portland and at Stumptown today.

You really must love me something awful. I can't grasp it. I can't understand Your reality.

The world bleeds when you push on it. What does that say about the great heart of God? If we don't notice it, maybe it's because it bleeds inwardly, and the bruise is so wide in circumference that it looks to us like nothing but the landscape.
The landscape of our own suffering: felt and inflicted.
But the world heals, too.
Heals to time and faith and kisses.
(And really, only by Your love).
I'd like to be asleep right now, Jesus. But keep me awake for as long as You want. For whatever You have to say.

It's still the 3rd, just barely.
I feel like I'm seeing today through carnival house mirrors. Those distorted things. I think I'm getting sick. Or maybe reading too much Dostoevsky (though those parts of the day sometimes feel the realest).
Yet, Lord, You meet even my absurd days with strange beauties. Beauties in incongruity and in serendipity. Calling C to sing Happy Birthday, writing cards, starting the sign, big lunches at Harry's with the E ladies, and returning here for tea, fruit, prayers, and tears. That uncomfortable but beautiful brush with raw need and love.
With messy humanity bearing a holy image and housing a Holy Ghost.
The way we sweat and get stiff and our minds wander when we pray embracing others, but we find ourselves saying the most beautiful unexpected words, and meaning them. And feeling, sometimes, with our eyes closed and our legs half asleep, that maybe we are disappearing.

You helped me paint past duty into joy, and past pleasure into obedience, and into acceptance.
You let me enjoy old cucumber poems and sketches. You brought K to the front door with Harvey, F's lost chihuahua, ancient and a little mad. And You gave us the pleasure of discovering where he belonged. A few moments to feel both neighborly and heroic.
You gave me enough grace to keep with Friday night tradition, and the nausea to keep me from work and make me crave your company. So I lit a candle and shook in the dark, slowly chewing sauerkraut and praying, much longer than I planned, because You love me. And You want me to be bigger than my own head. You want me to actually look at Your creation, the flame, and actually think about my friends and kin, to talk to You about them.

And You gave me that dream last night. That oddball, delicious dream. Hillary Clinton; the sugary, shrewd, and probably treacherous hairstylist; the man who left his baby (wonderful baby) in my care; and his brother, who humbly recounted his life to me, using the tattoo timeline on his arm. I held his arm, I remember (I don't know where the baby was at that point). I think I even kissed it. He had my loyalty and sympathy right away, because I sensed his sincerity and saw how You'd changed him. And I also appreciate arms, and he had a very nice arm.
But everything You touch is holy. Even our awkwardness, or my crazed efforts at patience when I begin to think, what is this demon anger? You give us the gift of being wrong. And of being more right than we dared to believe... because we thought we were following an outcast teacher, with prices on our heads, and we woke up to eternal love and a kingdom.

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God."
-John 6:67-69 NIV

Exchange while walking...

Neighbor I haven't met before: "Ah, the infamous barefoot lady."
Me: (laughing) "I hope I'm not really infamous. Have a good day."
Him: "You too, dear."
Me: "Thanks."

I can't quite sleep yet. What, ho! Wot, ho! What, hoh! Mmm.

Today... friendly to my spirit. Genial Sabbath. Mi piace. Tanks. Oh, Daddy, thank You. Thank You for my Papa who drove me early, early, let me eat breakfast in the car and took home my dishes. Who picked me up late, late, because M and I got so carried away talking that we stayed an hour and a half past the cafe closing time. He was even willing to bring me back to church to sing in the old sanctuary, as I'd planned to do before getting swept up in blessed conversation.

But we went home, in order to catch J's Sunday call. And he did call. He commended Dad for his legacy of not giving up.
Help me entrust my brothers to You. We are all on our journeys...

Oh, to You. "Somewhere, anywhere we go, everywhere You are..." we finally recorded Roma Termini again, decently! That was a miracle. It was a miracle the first time, and the process of trying to re-record it was discouraging. It's a tough song to get all at once. The mood is so specific, but You helped. Thanks for giving that song to me and allowing it to carry weight years later, and have a depth and flexibility of meaning I couldn't have predicted.

Please quiet my mind and heart (T asked if I'd consider Costa Rica). Please keep being my only source of everything. Please keep the ants from crawling on me tonight. Carve up tomorrow and use all the scraps.

8.  Parker House
Here I am at Camp. Thank You, Lord.
For a day to ease in, meet people, reacquaint, count things (like those famous 626 pens).
Thanks for the letter Mom sent on Monday that was waiting for me on my desk this afternoon.
Please help me be excellent at this job. To bless others, not make more work for them. Please fill in all the gaps this summer. Fill it all, soak through everything that's "in-place" too. Nothing works without You. I'm picturing an aspic. :)
Make the work of all my brothers prosper. And their loves, too.
Thank You for loving me. For swinging and laughter and deep green goodness with You tonight, after dinner. And for this quiet haven I have for the next few days. Help me make the most of it. To pray. To rest. To be focused and prepared.

Lord, help me be prepared. To take care of myself SO THAT I can take good care of others and my work. I don't know, maybe it's an absolute good. Help me understand and retain, and be creative. Use me in people's lives. A lot of people are hurting. I am, too, but I'm not in a crisis. I know how it feels to be in one.
Thanks for L coming today, for her kindness and the M&Ms she left me. For J saying, "trash" like "tresche". His slightly lingering, gentle "sh" sound is delightful.
Thanks for putting me here, with these people, this year. Help me be myself. Ugh. I wish there'd be less of me.
(This is bringing to mind M's comment to D about the effect of eating Sank cake tonight: "More of me to love"). Thanks for the groundhog skull he put on my desk today, staring out from behind the phone. I put flowers in the eye sockets; I found forget-me-nots down by the creek. For some reason the image of flowers springing from a skull occurred to me; I must have seen it before.
And now I'm thinking of the parts of "The Idiot" that I'd heard about before reading: beauty saving the world, and the Holbein painting of the deposed Christ that could make one lose their faith. Or not... what a wildness that perhaps You made the earth just so You could show Your Son for everything He is.
"He must become greater, I must become less."

It is almost noon. I'm stretched across the bed, by the open window, and it's becoming a warm day. Layers of birdsong... though fewer than there were this morning, when I drank tea downstairs.
I had brunch at the Mill, and sat with I and T. Both of them have been heavily influenced by Camp. They plan to do it long-term.
I also got to talk with the Ms and Ss. The rest of the day is pretty much mine to do with as I please. Oh, what a terrible phrase. Now I feel hardly motivated for anything. Please... us. This day is ours, is Yours.
You are my greatest pleasure, so please Yourself in me.
Reawaken my sensitivity to You. Help me make the most of this, to rest and work and savor. Thank You for helping me do three small things I was afraid of in the last 3 days: use the propane stove, ride my bike, sit with I and T. Thank You that each instance had a joyful reward.

Last night miserable. Today was livable, all in all.
I suppose every day ought to be, though it doesn't feel like it.

Orlando... that happened today. And a baby bat, "lamb-faced frog" as B and J called it, languished on the pavement. It seemed too viable to justify the shovel, so I put it in the attic on a damp paper towel. D gave me Motrin. It's helping a lot. So, I think, are the many cups of decaf coffee I drank tonight. And the liquified cocoa+coconut oil I've been slathering on the schnoz.

Ugh. I had such horrible dreams, doubtless influenced by "The Mask You Live In", even though I blocked out the screen for whole minutes.
Please take me somewhere I can breathe.
Purify my innards.
"Please! Close the door,"
That sign always bothered me, and yet it is endearing. I hear it as the punctuation suggests.
A warming smokehouse
"A veil for a cupful of the world."

How did it happen that I am in a green room again? A room to "inspire" me, according to L. How is it that today I felt so much better? 80-85%, not 50%?
You, again, answer.
Why are You so kind, so kind to me? When I'm constantly blind to Your generosity?

God bless this home. And this room. Make it a place of rest, of vitality, of nourishment. Make it a place of real conversation, small acts of kindness, illumination.

Thank You for all the pretty things that seem to fit here so perfectly - even the tambourine and the hula hoop.
Thanks for the hotdog with "the works" in the M's fridge for me. And D buying Tylenol for the ladies. And all the laughter at our table tonight.
Please help me settle and process today.
Killing the baby bat between two stones, down by the creek (it appeared to have fallen down the attic stairs, was no closer to recovery). That kind of violence really does something to you - it calls for decisiveness, precision, callousness. And all in a moment the tender, naked, squeaking brown thing became a little mess of blood and crushed bone. Strange kind of mercy.
Thanks for helping me through my first day of ordering, without too much trauma. The Lance lady was nice, even though the credit card didn't go through and B had to fix things for me.
Help me know how to love everyone, even the people I've unconsciously (or consciously) decided aren't like me, don't like me, or I don't like. Your directions on this issue are very clear.
Keep me malleable. Also faithful.
Thank You for Dad's letter with a family photo today. For helping me dust the ceiling, with a scarf wrapped around my face like a bandit.
Thanks for L helping me sweep.
Thanks for the hushing of the creek, audible through my open window.
Make me a blessing.

Miss Elisabeth came home to You a year ago today. I called B, but only
left a message. It's so hard to think about anything but Camp once things get going, but tonight I left the grounds for the first time in a week, to Chili's with the ladies. I was worried about being treated like a teenager here, but this, this was special. Obviously I'm much younger, and in a different place in life, but it was sweet to be included. I need to remember that, for others too. Pass on the welcome.
Thank You for carrying me through today, and making it enjoyable. Thanks for my first ever ICE CREAM DELIVERY.
Please keep the focus on Yourself this summer. Help us perfectly, lovingly chip the edges off of each other. God, we need grace. Kindness ain't easy.
Please help me be less awkward. Or at least more loving. That.
Then it won't matter.
Keep giving Your Spirit without limit.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lines from May, Part 2

Thanks. I'm a miserably comfortable doofus. But You are so, so kind. You sock me with wonder just when I'm calcifying. You answer little prayers I didn't mean, or didn't say. You dress me like You love me. You give me perfect timing. You remind me of things I forgot, and make me put my mug down in safe places, unconsciously. You use shallowness to repel me back to You, and sophisticated trash to send me gasping back to simplicity, in Your arms.

Will I ever learn this? Give it time. Not just, "ignore and go elsewhere", but "pay attention much longer than you like, past comfort, past desire."

I want whatever treasures You have hidden out in fields. I want what's under Your tongue. What's running through Your veins. Please be patient as You teach me how to die and live with You.

Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 
If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own."
- John 7:16-17 NIV

I've read this chapter multiple times in the last couple of days, and 17 is underlined, but it seems to be the part I breeze through. Son of God. Make me slam into You. I feel heavy with the need to confess right now, and uncomfortable in my comfort. Where is this guilt coming from? Is something wrong? I will never learn to be faithful and true unless I look at You. And You can't help me filter this waterfall unless I hold up my end of the sieve.
Gory madness. Butterfly kisses. Breakdowns into sheepish humility. Never enough words, or the right kind. I'm trying to get at what I need to write...
I'd like You to help me not be distracted by what I don't know and can't know, anyway. "Here is the time for the Tellable, here is its home." (Rilke). Tomorrow looms. Weft and womb.
Please renew me and our bond. Help me wake to pray again tonight.

Things that made me happy today:

Reading chapter after chapter of "The Castle of Llyr" (I did finish it).
Putting my hair up. There's such pleasure in that taut, airy feeling.
The sun on my head & arms as I paced the deck and walked, reading.
Thick living green everywhere.
Sunset through rain droplets.
Watching the "Benton's Hallucinations" contra video, until I was giddy with it.
Pulling into the driveway.
Joking with Mom and Dad at lunch.
Sharing blueberry cobbler with Dad.
Psalm 23.

Please and thank You. Make me grow despite myself. Think through my thoughts. Want me, and love me, and make me love You. Make me like You: the gentlest & the bravest, the wisest & kindest. Funniest & most serious. Obedient & free. Help me cut loose every weight that would keep me from obeying You, acting swiftly and willingly when You ask me to sacrifice.
I could have an attitude. But I want humility. I want You as my only fragrance, my sole inheritance.
"Gracious and righteous is the LORD,
therefore will he teach sinners in the way."
-Psalm 25:7

Jesus. I'm asking You to replace me with Yourself tonight. I'm not in this. I don't know where I am... too many places. I want to be present, and self-forgetful, and full of love, and ready to listen. And I'm not ready. I don't know what You can do in 20 minutes, but... please do it. You know how I need You. How I'm nothing but a little cup for You to fill with clear water. Maybe You can even turn me into wine. Just don't let me get in the way of what You're doing.
Protect me. Delight in me. Use me.
(P.S. Thanks for the scones)

Outdoors (the world) was clean today. Fresh, and lissome. Under stars, it was luminescent, even without the moon. The air moved in currents like the sea: swathes of residual heat rising, tides of chilliness tugging from the shadows. The catalpa trunk was still warm and fragrant. Hickle's leaves spread out like the skin on the palm of a hand, taut and smooth. The earth smelled like hope. Down at grass level it moved gently, damp and musky, like the breath of a sleeping dog.


Hold lamb
Eat baklava (again)
Go back to Orvieto
Love & marriage & a baby wrap
Attend a "Challenging Contra" dance
Be present at a death
Be present at a birth (re- works too)
Paint using gold leaf
Memorize John
Weep passionately in public
Finish recording "The Princess and Curdie"
Write a will

"I miss you. Period."
That made me put down my phone awhile. Life charges on, and we spread different directions, and yet sometimes wonder if we've grown at all. My daily sauerkraut routine is reminiscent of senior year, when L laughed at me as I shoveled in a spoonful over the sink. Tonight I grimaced over a bowl, in the dim stove light, pacing in a circle under the circling fan.

It was a warm day today. But the early morning was lovely, and my nighttime nausea never blossomed, so I drove out at 5:15 for prayer. Only C came, so we talked a while and parted. Early-late mornings throw me off a bit. I was so tired most of the day. I want more joy for my tasks. I want to sit for a minute and think about what my current "not yet" looks like, and marvel: 11 commissions? 3 of them currently underway? Who ever knew I'd be so... employed?

Help me to love. To look at myself "the way one looks at distant things" (Milosz). To be content and brave. To believe "there [is] something other than this bog."
Pour all Your sweetness into tomorrow. All Your maple syrup, luscious devastating honey, so carefully collected by sacrifice. Let our dance be true welcome and communion, focused and self-forgetful, a wild worship, a healing contact.
Spin my words out of me and put Your cup to my lips.

What a beautiful and costly thing it is to love, and be loved. To be connected in such a way that tremors are felt across miles, across oceans. Bride of Christ, grow strong.
Lord, You'll have to teach me how to be needed. How to be free in the midst of it. I'm stuck on my own notion of independence. But I have nothing that I did not receive. And I will never be happy serving myself. Be my LORD & Brother & Bridegroom all over again.
Make me a friend You can trust, Jesus.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lines from May, Part 1

This is the earliest I've gone to bed in... a very long time. Probably sometime in January.

Pilgrim Church was beautiful. Seeing people really care for each other. It is so good to see all kinds of people welcome at a church. And provided for. BAGS of leftover Panera bread, a full lunch of barbecue chicken, potato salad, fresh vegetables, banana pudding. The kids involved in the music (drumming) and collection of offerings. Little C's proud, crinkly smile at being chosen to pass the basket was priceless.
Ashamed to find myself protective and self-justifying in a church like that, though. Reminded with such grace and beauty that we are all abject sinners in need of the same Savior. Glory. And they made me very welcome.

G drove me to Amherst.

The hours with GB & GK so far have been lovely. A tour, wine and cheese and crackers, a long luscious meal. We watched birds. We talked aging, politics, food, art, family and friends.

Lord, thank You.
God, this is real.
I am Yours, Jesus.

Lord, there are such flavors. The flavor of belonging is one of them. There is such sweetness, that makes the eyes little pools.

I had breakfast late again this morning. Heard GB sing, "Good morning to you" to the tune of "Happy Birthday" when GK came out, but I drifted in and out of sleep a while longer. Later A came to work on the sun porch.
GK took me to the Peabody Essex Museum, which was really enjoyable, and dropped me off at Hendrickson, where I got to tour and meet a lot of people.
It was a joyous experience, and flatteringly embarrassing as well (many of them had heard of me). Fun talks with C's coworkers.
We walked by "Turtle" and "Oblong" Ponds, and came back to the apartment for a bit, before going out for Portuguese & talking lots. S was HOME and FINISHED with her exam when we returned. She made amazing cookies, we all had peppermint tea and talked and laughed and listened to S read "The Art of Eating" by MFK Fisher.
Mm, famerly.
We prayed and nestled down. I'm so glad I'm here, even though it's hard to miss things back home. Please knit me closer.
Thank You for what You're teaching me.

"Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say, 'Our gods'
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find

"I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me."

- Hosea 14:3, 8c

Hello Ageless One.
How is it I care more than ever about my roots, my context, my family? I don't feel so much like a floater now. All this richness. People who somehow love me and make places for me.

THANK YOU for all the gifts embedded in this day. Sibling love. Good things to eat/drink. Fresh air. Laughter. MM standing and waiting at the door as UT drove off. R conking out. MM singing to him. The story of the woman with 99 kids. The offer to do laundry. And the natural way MM included me in meal prep and cleanup.

Make my heart true. I'm overflowing, but maybe cracking too.
Heal me with Your potter's hands.
My Lover.

5. (C's BD, Cinco de Mayo, Ascension Day)
I love being cared for, but not molly-coddled. And I don't just mean by people. You're so good to me, pushing and comforting, challenging and consoling. Giving me flavors I've never tasted, or had forgotten about. The smells of my kin. Damp woods. Dog tongue on the soles of my feet. Exquisite paintings, wherein you begin to sense the soul of the artist. Did I forget that could happen? Did I forget that You delight in me, actually singing? That You remember more than I ever could in my careful keepsake brain, and weave back motifs?
Jesus. Please place me in the thick of this trip. Take and make the most of each day, centering me in You, channeling Your love through me. You know all I want this to be. But I know You want more. Do it. Give us YOU.

Thank You for GE's gracious, patient nature. He drove us to the Isabella Stewart Gardner and back. That was rich & consonant. Satisfying. It hurt.
We had dinner ~10:15, but impressively, GOODNIGHT.

Do You know how sweet & dear You are to me?

"Did you get enough love my little dove? Why do you cry?" (Sufjan)
Because you meet me and fill me like a floodplain, like a sail in the wind.
How did this happen, again? All over again, traveling the best way:
from arms to arms.

MM & GE this morning (MM waiting at the door, beautiful and blue, R mimicking her stance from the side yard). M buying me lemon tea for our hour+ at Sunnyside, R picking me up to take me back to the seminary, and a beautiful afternoon catching up.  Lentil soup for the soul. Hard, heart-wrenching news. Quiet conversation, laughter, soft music on the record player. Their miraculous flowering plant.
And the Ws. Enjoying their home, their pet rabbit, cooking and eating chili, sharing books, talking and praying and making my bed on the couch.
What treasures, cheapening gold and diamonds.
Bless them, Father. Answer our prayers.

Please fill us with Your peace tonight. Fit all the pieces of tomorrow into place, as faithfully as You did today.
You are our one true delight. My eyes & my mouth & my soul are hungry for You. Purify us, bring us Your truth.

This was a day to remember. Thick and sharp and shifting. I don't have many words for what I feel. I don't really know how to think about this, or You, and I'm troubled but tired, and I trust You, too.
This morning you woke me early, sweetly, after a satisfactory night (despite the rabbit's noises). C took me to breakfast at the diner and to an old Jesuit retreat center to walk and talk till our shoes were soggy.
I had just enough time to rest and write in the library before R picked me up. I made our lunch, we came back for the show. It was amazing. A rush. I actually barely finished looking through it in the 2 hours, because of all the people. And I didn't eat or drink.
S picked me up, we went back to pork loin and scalloped potatoes (Julia Childs style), with fermy veg and a movie, and chocolate. C drove me here, where I had a lovely time L & V, catching up. Now sleep... if You're willing. Help me. Bless my Mama.

Dear High Priest,
Plead for me. Speak on my behalf.
Now is when I value Your jealousy; don't lose me.
But let me lose myself, utterly if necessary. Bring me to the bottom if need be. Just don't let me out of Your sight for a moment.
Let me feel Your hands. Let me not deceive myself. Let me see truly, even if that means it's only a few things, nearby.
This was a grace day. Clinging to grace.
Beautiful sleep, showering & eating scrumptious mushroom&onion&cheese scramble and toast and cappuccino with V & A(!). Bestefar sending C to the door to find me. Meeting neighbor S, going to First Congregational and finding it so life-giving.
I loved being with Bestefar. Organizing, talking. He showed me the new arrangement upstairs, had me look through old photos for the portrait. Shared his stash of honey (including Norwegian honey circa 1991). He wanted to send me back with something, so he gave me a Shaw Publishing mug that had been given to Miss E. We had tea and went to meet G at Captain Dusty's.
G and I enjoyed our drive, despite traffic. Got a tour of Boston, including the financial district, and saw the portion of the Berlin wall. We enjoyed "family dinner" here, it was a Roman meal. Pontius Pilate food. We finished with Haitian liqueur and ice cream with syrupy Italian almond paste.

I hermitted up here for a while, and drew an anime logo for G while we sang and talked. Hair playing and back massaging. Prayer. Bed. Tears first.
Guide me. You are gracious to me, Jehovah Jireh. All I have is Yours, You know. Do whatever You want with me. Destroy me. I know You won't waste me, careful Maker.

9. (On the Megabus)
After the coma brought on my a thick chocolate milkshake and a week of 6 beds, I'm waking up to Lincoln Park.
The phone-talker behind me just finished their 2nd conversation punctuated with squawks of laughter.
The trees outside are fleshing out with leaves, full but still tender. We passed a small cluster of homes, and between them and the highway I saw two brown arms sticking out of the tall grass, holding up a newspaper. I discovered it to be a 50s-ish Indian man in rust-pink shorts, his head propped on a rucksack.

G walked me to the Upham's Corner T stop this morning. I found myself wanting to capture scene after scene of the house, before I left. Sunlight on the fustian decadence. Fading, cluttered elegance. Old Puddingstone lurking behind the wall of chairs. G's fresh face. The little bottle of maple syrup someone left on the front porch.
Very glad we sent me on the early train. I was completely discombobulated by the MBTA area, and had to ask directions to the buses. The drive has been mostly pleasant, dozy. I've found I love the upper level, midsection, on the right, and the view it proffers of the trees, or of tombstones encrusting a slope like barnacles. I've been trying to pray. Letting more thoughts come, trying not to fear them. Savoring the voices & embraces of my loves.

I dared the salmon yesterday, unscathed. While he prepared our food, Bestefar remarked how nice it is to have another presence in the house, making noise (mostly paper rustling as I organized piles of mail; we were both humming/whistling intermittently as well). The gnomes still cling to the bathroom mirror and by the front door. Even notes I left the caregivers are still upstairs in the closet. It smells the same. Sea salt, perfume, old furniture.

We are all human. Adam and Eve, glory and shame, and miles upon miles of grace.

And like that, here I am again at home. You were so gracious, so jolly, giving me a 30 minute advantage so I could use the loo and still catch the Great Valley Flyer, getting me home an hour earlier than anticipated!
Home. To people, and mail, and wonderful familiar things. Studio clutter. Old shirts from J. Mixed greens heaped with tuna salad. Corny old "Battlestar Galactica" with Dad. A long big hug from J. Catching up & prayer with Mom.

This empathy is a gift and a curse. Why, God?
You promised. Don't hide from us. Don't give up on us. I am even processing anger at You, and confusion. And fear. Show me the truth. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
So help me God.

Your Word is full of familiar secrets. Secret familiars. Lamentations 3 was the most comforting thing You gave me.

Thanks for YAs too. For "Great is Thy Faithfulness" with N and L.
Thanks for the friends You've given me. My Lover. Don't stop.

My eyes are shrinking and my face is sagging. It is time for bed. But not before these fierce and stubborn blessings.
Sinned have I. Father me bless. You are the original Father, and the exceptional One: You understand Your children, always. And I need that. I don't understand myself. My room might be the top of a pyramid, sliding down from any direction. Only You know if this season is succulent or full of mold, but whatever it is, it's Yours. It's Your problem now.
As am I. Help me stop trying so hard.
Please, please comb through this head of tangles. Even if it takes all night. Even if my scalp gets raw, and bleeds, and I scare myself with my own neuroses. I feel You. You give me things I don't know how to name. You make the wisest psychology laughable. There is no other, there is nothing else. Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

YHWH, Messiah, Paraclete,
You're going to have to help me through all this loss. You wooed me, from a child. Why has my spirit been so sensitive to Yours? Why can't he feel You? Am I, too, deluding myself? Seeing, feeling, thinking only what I want to? Letting in only what confirms, counting it a virtue to be ignorant of any contrary claims?
There are so many branches to this.
You'll also have to teach me to pray again. I feel betrayed. And I can't really pray to You without trusting You.
I don't know how we get grace (or "get" grace), apart from You.

Oh, You are the best friend and kisser a girl could ever ask for. A just called. Just called. We prayed. About the jamboree, about me & You. You do let me know You're there. I love You.

Thanks for the chance to pray with A again tonight, covering her first night in the new house. Please do protect her. Purify my heart and mind, my intentions.
I'm really twisted; I justify myself. But I want to be clear and true as crystal, as water, as air. The things we love clean. Help me keep my word, and trust You to keep Yours. Please, arrest me. Move in and through me.

When you write a poem / I know the words / I know the sounds / before you write it down / And when you wear your clothes / I wear them too / I wear your shoes / and your jacket too.

Thanks, Suf. God bless Vito, wherever he is.
Thanks for renewed blessing today. Simple and unmistakable. Hope.

Continue to fool me, to prove me wrong. Surprise me. Thanks for being my Rescuer and leaving no doubt of Your love. It would be bald stupidity to deny how badly I need both.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lines from April, Part 2

We're halfway through April. More than. My heart.
How did I get so old?
It's actually true that 25 feels like downhill; I'm stiffer than I used to be. ha.
My knees hurt more easily after kneeling. Hands get achy. Glutes get stiff. What?
I'm waiting for more gray hair. I've often thought I'd enjoy it. Hope I actually do.

Thanks for telling me secrets, for romancing me. Giving us inside jokes and winks and pure, happy pleasures. Giving me a song about Your "Grand Love" and then making me forget it (so it's really and truly Yours, alone). Dancing with me when no one else would. Working it out so Mom could come with me to the conference today, and the money for my second ticket could bless a woman who came late, who called it a miracle, who'd had to borrow money for her ticket. You're a hoot. You are so much fun. Please don't hold back. I can't handle You at all, but I want to try. I know You know my limits better than I do. Thanks for making all the people born today.
Help me nestle into You tomorrow, not be so jumpy and insincere. Give me desire, purity of heart.

Put people in my path that need to hear the Gospel, and use me.

I don't know when I've ever been speechless like that before.
Angry. Guilty. Confused.
I'm still trying to figure this out. I need Your help, Abba. Help me see clearly, myself first. The situation. Him. Help me submit to You, not let this bug me unreasonably, "inordinately".

So, I appreciate this a lot. The fact that You know and see everything, and You're not soft on me because I'm a girl. You hold me accountable for whatever it is: pride, idolatry, judgmental attitudes, selfishness, cruelty. Be as hard on me as You need to be to bring about truth and repentance in my heart. Please make me an acute sinner, not a chronic one. Catch me fast, and kiss me quick afterward, I can't stand displeasing You. Please guard this restless tongue.

Jesus. My Holy Spirit, counselor, I'm a joke. I need You to help me get over myself so You can use me. Please speak light and love through me. Please help me clean the oil off the windowsill (thanks) and the urine off the bathroom floor (ugh). In other words, to address what I'm responsible for, and what I'm not, but can do something about.
Seriously, that stall in WalMart was so gross I didn't even want to tell someone about it and make them responsible for it... but I did nothing...
Humble me so I can be a home for You, humble King. Please forgive me.
I love You.

This isn't how I wanted to feel tonight, but I'm glad You're taking me through it.
I hate seeing my self-righteousness rear up, and seeing how easily and deeply I can hurt other people. It scares me. Take all this, reform it. Thank You for using Mom to speak truth to me tonight. To show me a mirror. Please forgive me, Lord God, for my catty, cynical, bitter attitude. It's crazy how what we least want to be, we can be.
There I was, singing about grace and mercy, and not extending it. Lord, show me, show me, I don't deserve it.
I am so bone-dry empty of mercy, shriveled. Soak me in Your fountain of it, the only explanation possible of why this earth is still spinning.

Lord, mitigate the wounds I inflict. Heal my own. Help me come to You, Your Word, more often. Help me to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Help me stop trying to find my own pathos in everything. Make me a Magdalene.

Dear Jesus,
Thank You for this day that was actually startlingly productive, despite the ache in my heart and the knot in my stomach. Thanks for the pleasure of driving, the simple, straightforward accomplishment of repairing the backdrop. For dancing with me in the empty room. For progress with four commissions.

Thank You for a sensuous, refreshing walk. For those tasty violets, and the horses that didn't come. For mayapples spreading their leaves. For the steamy rotting potatoes, and the thorn in the side of my foot. For soup and grilled cheese, salad and hummus.
For Dad's beautiful hands. For the last chapter of "The Last Battle", and for V's unexpected letter and gift. It made me cry and laugh. Convenient timing, since Mom and Dad had just left. They didn't have to hear my strange helpless sounds.
Thank You for "Home" and "Ragamuffin" too, these reminders of kindness, kindness, kindness. Nye's poem. M's email. N's text with a song.
A new commission.
Thanks for yoga and soap and frosting. For A's invitation to the Chinese theater production.

For the blessing You spread out over my shoulders, Your gentle electric hands, willing me to understand Your love. Help me let go.
Lord, You've been bringing so many people to mind to pray for. Help me respond to all Your impulses.

"People can change. Everything can change." (M. Robinson)

Praise the LORD, O my soul.

Help me not take anything for granted.
"A man learns what he needs to know." Is that also true of women?
I'm having a hard time. I need new eyes. I'm covering everything in my own shroud of hurt and self-pity.
But thanks for all the sleep. And getting A on the phone. Good interaction with Mom and Dad. Thank You that I'm capable of washing laundry, that I have food to eat, that I can write and think and create - even though I'm afraid of my own words. What they are, what they lack.
I'll be gone soon. The world will go on without me. Everything, everyone is extraordinary, and they don't need me to tell it to them.
My failures are predictable. That's a hard one for me. I'd like to not be a sinner, or at least not to sin in predictable, common ways. See my arrogance?

Rabboni, I want Your words. Make me lose everything, even this journal (forbid) if that's what it takes for me to follow You with all my heart, nothing withheld, nothing dear but You.

Your mercy endures forever. How is that possible? And how do I begin to worship You?

Free us from captivity. "Who bore me these?"
How like the body the emotions are...the one part in pain gets all the attention. Put everything in its proper place. Don't let me realize too late how I love all these people. Help me act on it, pray according to it, now. It doesn't matter that there are too many to count. Help me start with those across the hallway.

Bring greater truth, clarity, and grace into his life. Help him forgive deeply, from the heart, and love with patience and creativity and intensity. Magnify Your Name through him.

Glad today happened. Thank You. Good to act free, even if I didn't feel it.
So in-between. It's hard not to sour. Not to fade out & crumple, or be bitterly contrary. Just keep equilibrium. Breathe. Remember the name I've been given by the One who made me. No other name matters. Things will justify themselfs sevels selves ha! in time. You'll put everything to rights, and sweeten my soul, and help me make sense. Or not, but at least You'll use the goop for something.

Thanks for so many phone calls. For G, who wants to drive me around. Whose car is fixed. Who is my friend, even though I've been so spotty with her so often.

Aw, guts. Why am I so evil? Why is Eve in me, and Jezebel, and Delilah (and Michal)? Show me what this woman thing ought to look like, for me. I'm too interested in my own charm & cleverness. It's disgusting. Show me. Weed me, sow me. Stitch in Useful Pockets and French Seams.

I love You, Lover. I'm choosing Your grace.

Give me courage. I'm so afraid. I'm rotting in here.

Make me into a poet. Help me write You a letter with my life, something You'll understand even if no one else does.
But use me, if it pleases You, for others, too.
Show me whether I'm meant to stew in this funk or shake & dance out of it.

Thanks for redeeming tonight. I was so miserable, after driving up the hill and down, scraping the car, and then not even sure what kind of party I was going to. Was almost ready to go home when S called.
I feel so out of it. Out of the in-crowd. And lonely. I shouldn't really, but it feels like everyone I've been close with in the last year is far away, or otherwise wrapped up in a relationship or obligation. It's pathetic of me, really. My job is to keep opening my arms. How long ago was it that I felt so overwhelmed by love? Not two months.
Remember that, child.
And remember tonight, nuzzling the sticky little leaves in the light of a low golden moon, and shaking with tears in the apple tree, while small creatures shuffled below in the darkness.
Remember the warmth of Elisabeth's sweater, and the firm trunk of the catalpa, and the wind, chill and wild with wanting. Remember those who have died, remember the wandering, and the true.
Remember your childhood, how perhaps this little plot mattered more to you than to anyone.
Holy, holy, holy, God who meets the lowly in a nondescript backyard.

There might be only a few things I want to say about today. But I won't know until I write.

I fell asleep shortly after 3am. Needless to say, I went to 2nd service. And Sisters' prayer before that. Lunch at J's, where I didn't do much except be... I left early to read and pray in the parking lot before L's surprise shower.
I tried to nap, but that didn't work. In part for the delightful reason that early family were on the premises, including grandma and grandpa S, walking with and serenading little great-grandson A. Their voices trilling harmony to him were achingly sweet. A song about children who love their Redeemer being jewels in His crown. A "go to sleep" refrain, improvised with commentary on the surroundings. It was a sacred moment. I tried not to disturb them, kept still and dozy, but grandma did eventually notice me in the car, and they moved to a more discreet distance to sing and walk.
The solidarity of that family is astounding.
It was also good to be part of things, a little. To be with my friends. To feel the pull of the net I'm part of - to remember that I am part of it.
Thanks also for mellow, homey planning, reading & prayer with mom and Dad. And the prospect of real sleep tonight.
Thanks for putting me behind that SUV with a Muslim family, for the opportunity to pray. Keep opening my eyes. Keep helping me pray absurdly big prayers.

Daddy. Babbo, grazie. Caring for those 15 kids with H, for just an hour and a half, was so revealing. 4-7-year-olds. Little humans. Such capacity for kindness and loyalty, compassion, justice, sacrifice, selfishness, betrayal, cruelty, mocking... all of it played out. Modesty. Vulnerability. Arrogance. Delight. Thanks for letting my life touch theirs for a brief moments. These fosters & bios & adoptees. Secure them in Your family, Lord. Build up their parents, who are doing so much, loving so well, answering Your call so faithfully.
Thanks for the time with H. For the perfect, barely inconvenient way the Honda broke down on 30. You protected us. Thanks for E loaning his car for the night. For H's easygoing personality. She's a good one to have around in an emergency.

Bring light and truth, not darkness and hurt and Satan's lies. Hound out every one. Devour them. Keep us loving.
There are a lot of things I don't know how to do. Too many to list. Please help me do one thing really well: love You. With everything.
Thanks for being there. I can't live without You.

Remind me (if it's true) that sacrifices of praise when we don't feel like it are pleasing to You.

So yesterday.
Don't let me take a single day for granted. That double rainbow was, I believe, peerless. And I was maddened and relieved that I could only catch glimpses of it while driving, no picture-taking.

THANK YOU for C's testimony. That she came early and was ready and eager to pray. Thank You for the words You gave her to speak, and the testament to Your power and salvation, and Your use of the young and imperfect.

How do I absorb the fact that that was my last study with A? Our last prayer meeting? That I might not see her again, to really visit, until she's a married woman? It feels like a story ending too abruptly, although I know it's a series and will end well.

Thank You for the real work and transformation You are doing in our lives.
Help all my battered little feelers cling to You. I'm tired of putting hopes in people only to be disappointed. I'm tired of my Gomer's heart, de facto preferring anything to You.
And Lord, I need new breadth and depth. I'm not big enough to hold all this.
The 4-year-old killed on 340, that Mrs. C saw. You held all this.

You have a way of making things OK. Better than OK. Of surprising me by taking what is tiresome and making it glow. Or, more likely, You just twirl my heart around a bit until I see things afresh.
It was so special to go to Hibernia with Dad today, even with the runs and a grey mood. You covered me in my favorite color, gave me damp scents & solitude. And company, too: a hand to hold, an arm to link with. You gave me two chapters of Anne Lamott and crackers to share in the car.

And somehow, it was a productive day. Even thought it's midnight now, and my stomach is still heavy with pie, and turning a bit from the lingering smell of fried fish, I'm light. My clock is running again, and ticking loudly to prove it. $30 of the $50 I sent for the projector is tucked up in my Travel Funds drawer, thanks to Mr. S. The Honda is back in the driveway, thanks to the shop. I have strength for today and hope for tomorrow, thanks to You. Everything, thanks to You.
Help me choose margin, as we prayed this morning for the church family. Not to push everything right up to the edge.
O Perfection. You have not forsaken me. I'm too stupid to realize You never will. Teach me patiently; it's all You.

Give me a new dream, fresh desire for You.

I don't think I meant, by a new dream, a dream about the king/president and his baby boy. That was strange. And funny.
I slept in this morning. I did no painting. I packed, and this afternoon I drove to West Chester in the rain to have a crit with C. This evening I attended the congregational meeting and voted yes to everything. At home I did yoga, showered, and changed my Amtrak ticket.
God, bless You.
"When I called upon thee, thou heardest me; and enduedst my soul with much strength." (Ps. 138:3)
I read it as "enduedest" in my head.

The West Chester trip was smooth and holy. The time with C was priceless - real and refreshing, challenging and comforting. Thank You for her honesty with me. And her story of painting ~"Hell Needs Hope". Something raw and dark and yet so beautiful emerged. Thank You for giving us Yourself, and for giving us each other.
Thank You for J's magnificent and sensitive art, her poetry. For "O Magnum Mysterium". For the "Outlanders" soundtrack N recommended, for a (yet to be read) letter from A.

Thank You for Dad's jokes and Mom's sweetness. For "the perpetual virginity of the soul"... until You appeared. Don't let me forget what a romance this is. You are loving, and kind, and merciful, and You do not despise me.
Awaken all of me to You. Give me complete trust & confidence, whole reliance on You as I enter the fog, the uncharted waters.

Domine, clamavi.
Breathe deep. It's gonna be OK. You're gonna get there. Even today was a "there", this threshed & jittery day.
Wrapping things up. PAINTING. Mailing a painting. Watching "Star Wars". Trying to sit still long enough to pray.
This is dizzying, this spinning world. Stare into my eyes, be my still point again, always. Jesus. Your sweet, honey sword Name.

30. (On the Amtrak train to Philly)
I'm really looking forward to a long ride today. Fringed with nerves, of course, but ready for time to think/write/pray/read. The gift of an earlier morning in the Psalms with You was lovely. And the timing of getting everything done was perfect: pancakes, packing, backing up my Mac, moving the studio, cleaning the bathroom. Thanks.

Pulling out from the Secaucus bus stop. The trip is going really smoothly, and I'm thankful. Nothing out of the ordinary grievances: sore bottom, stalker types*. But I'm trusting my HOPE/FORTRESS/CASTLE/DELIVERER/DEFENDER.
Obviously, this bus is even shakier than the Amtrak. I've enjoyed the height, though. The rest. Dozing, watching people in cars below, soaking in all this new green. I like to fixate on one passing leaf, and remind myself that You made it, You know it. Some trees are already fortified with wisteria. Wysteria? I like that better. Like mystery. Mystical Myst.

*lonely men I don't want to talk to.

Here at the wonderful library Spare Oom. It's been a good, good evening with G. Comfort, talking, prayer. Such a hard day for her and many others, with an accident resulting in a death. A horrific situation... and all we can do is leave it there, in Your hands, and trust that You really do heal the brokenhearted and call the stars by name.