Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lines from December, Part 1

Here we are! We made it! After such a long long day. It is delicious to sit still, washed and fed, in soft light from the Christmas candle in my window.
You were so kind to help me to drive, and teach, and keep good temper (even after the palette was tracked around the room).

Thank You for all these students. For R. For the privilege of being part of something that matters, that takes all I can give, but gives back.
Thank You for R cleaning the rug, bringing me coffee. The time to talk and wash out stale thoughts. For all the cars that let me merge. A (mostly) working spark plug. Mama hugging me and telling me she was proud of me tonight.
Small quiet moments like this.

Today we had the party. As often happens, I was a brute beast during the prep, trying to overcome my sour spirit and and be sweet and helpful. The little tiffs that precede these events often make me question the worthwhileness of parties. But when they happen, I (sometimes) change my mind. This was a good party.
We need to be reminded more often than we need to be instructed, eh?
Please sift my mind. My thoughts retrogressing six years.
You can do quick work, Holy Spirit. Turn me around. Use me as an instrument of truth and love tomorrow.

It is really December; cool, not frigid. Today was sweet. The play was interesting; pretty murky and satirical, though poignant and engaging at points. The end was enigmatic. But it was good to spend time with L and see J.

Give me my heart's desire. Give me You.

Oh, but this is life! This is real living!
To wake early, sip tea and read and write and pray in the flowering light, to laugh over breakfast, complete small tasks, drink hot chocolate with whipped cream dimpling into foam on the surface.

To drive out to run errands and visit a mother and newborn (and hold the baby and make faces and kiss her tiny cheek), to come home just in time to walk arm-in-arm with parents around the neighborhood, to have a hot shower, to eat granola standing in the kitchen, and drive out to a meeting.
To listen to Handel's Messiah in the car, to plan efficiently and cheerfully, and from there to spend a few hours at a luxurious little spa night for mothers, giving them back massages, rubbing oil into tired shoulders, talking softly (or not) and praying rest into deserving muscles.

This is a blessed day.

P.S. Also, it was so sweet to have Dad call me over to hear Psalm 116:1-2:
"I love the LORD, for he heard my voice..."

I feel very useless. Please help me. I am nothing but gloves; put Your hands into me and use me.

Dear Jesus,
You deserve all my love and devotion. May this heart grow and bleat for You. I say "bleat" because it sounds like "bleed" and "beat", and "blaze" and "eat" as well. It's because my heart throbs for You. And because I am Your wee sheep.

This has been such a full day; last day at school, plus the seminar. So much richness. Gifts upon gifts. Words of affirmation. Hugs. Beautiful artwork. Frustrations, too. But my phone waited until after classes to finally bite the dust. THANK YOU.
John 12:24.

It frightens me a little to be so far into the month already.
Today was insightful. I am not certain of all my thoughts. I need more love, and with imperfect love I may see only half-truth. But I must learn to see and name... it is important. Even though (perhaps especially because) everything can change.

It felt like I had to bail us out multiple times, or at least tip up the prow.  I am a balancer - I could have done the opposite just as readily, but this felt novel and uncomfortable. It's a bit of a mirror to me - reminding me how incomplete and non-definitive my own social graces and compassion can be. I need to remember that it is not about me. Self-absorption, one way or the other, causes 85% of social distress. That's a statistic I just made up.

I know my own eyes must be somewhat biased, and personal impressions should be taken con sal.
Oh, for freedom from this feebleness and sin. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, my Lord, who knew this word before I wrote it, and knows when I will read it next.

You are my merciful and veryfunny God.
Tender mercies, trustworthy mercies, mercies like thunder and thick jam.
Today a light snow fell, cold but not profuse enough to stick. I recorded "Northumbrian Lullaby", and came up against vocal limitations and piano potential. What a gorgeous instrument. Melodic and responsive. I, on the other hand...

I ate turkey and peas for lunch. And an oatmeal cookie. I turned on all the window lights. I want to enjoy this Yuletide Sabbath. And so I'm also swaddled up in my pink blanket, on my bed. Just finished a rich cup of drinking chocolate.
In all this luxury, I want to ask, what next?
How can I hold all this lightly, give all this up? Where am I lazy, and need a good firing up? Where am I weary and wounded, and need rest and convalescence? Funny how all these things can be present in one little body.
Like baby R on Monday, crying so hard it makes you wonder how so much intense emotion can come from a tiny peanut of a human.

But I don't think I've been feeling enough. I'm trailing behind in the procession. You, Kingly One, swing around and walk slowly beside me, kindly, not blaming me, and put my shame to rest by Your disarming friendliness and genuine love.

When did I start thinking I could blame You for other people's shortcomings? When did I start believing gossip, rather than the look in Your eyes?
Help my unbelief.
I know something's right when I confess my lasciviousness in dreams, and wake shriven and serene. When circumstances don't crush me the way they should. When I don't really care about making a fool of myself (if I am an honest fool).
Your Spirit is alive in me. I will bear fruit. I will learn, inch by inch, stumbling as I go. You will give me all the help I need.

Today was strange, no sleep until ~3am, and then sleeping in until ~10am. Praise You that I can do that, at least. I did paint, finished 2 panels, so I'm back on track.

I want to be really present, but it's hard. Help me keep things simple. Help me choose what really matters, what I really love, the habits I really want to form.
Essentials are life-giving. Non-essentials may not be. I'm thankful, though, for the time You spent with me last night, keeping me aware of You. You gave the time, You took it.

It's the week before Christmas... far into it, now. Prayer this morning was lovely.
But I'm so tired, I'm pretty off. Center my mind and heart. Help me trust You.
Debt and Aleppo and an off-color nickname have me uneasy. And my lungs are heavy as it is. Be my hope and light.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lines from November, Part 2

There are times You startle me with consciousness, when I am aware of my raw need of You. Maker, Savior, take me to Yourself. You are all there is to live for.
I love You.


There is so much that I want to remember about today - that I had just enough time to prep for class, that the first two classes went SO WELL and the students were SO ENGAGED and enthused that several of them came back at lunch to paint.
That S returned, and we've made pax.
That N said, "Thank you so much."
That J showed me his one ring, and I responded correctly with, "Keep it secret, keep it safe."

That there was so much joy, even in the crazy, back-to-back rush of things.
I delivered the B's portrait, successfully parking and leaving, and A gave me snacks, and the kids wanted me to stay and see projects and new beds, and the portrait looked beautifully at-home. And I've been paid 3 times this week, and my debt for the car repairs is already roughly halved.

And people were kind in traffic, and I read aloud to Mom and Dad, and Mom and I laughed heartily because she remarked on the "similarity" between our birthday cards for Dad (mine, Loyola's "Go forth and set the world on fire" and hers, a chipmunk at a campfire stuffing his face with marshmallows). Send forth the Jesuits! Eat s'mores! I don't see the similarity quite the same way. ;)

I can tell I need to sleep. My body is stiffening and my writing is becoming atrocious. Take all the glory from me. Be praised, Great Finder of Lost Things. Redeemer of the Lacklusters. Stone Heart Dissolver.

Love us into oneness.

I am choosing You. And You are choosing me. Yes.
I am coming. Seek me and find me. You are my One True Friend.

Mm, it's been a while since I wrote after midnight. But tonight was a contra night, and that changes things. It was a windy, sleety night, but we drove to the city and danced, long and hard. All except Q, who danced once with each of us and went to rest in the car. When we danced, we spun so fast my right earring went flying and bounced against the doorframe.

Thank You for 2+ hours of talking and praying with C. Catching up about K's passing, after 6 1/2 weeks without IV, so slow and painfully. Thank You that we could be honest with each other. Our needs are so real. We need You. To be really rooted and secure in You.
There will always be an overwhelming amount of need, sorrow, and cynicism around us. Help us to approach it ONLY from a place of rest in You. Protect us from our own tender hearts, our own laziness, pride.
Give us humility, love, and patience. Patience also with the feelings that may or may not accompany obedience.
There is a faith that is seen best in hindsight - it does not feel glorious or triumphant at the time.
As always, You must provide everything we need. Including synapses.

I am thankful for this long Sabbath Day at home. I am restless, but You are patient with me, and even though I cannot claim anything remarkably successful about today (my work or my small endeavors), You have been gracious. You are gracious.
I am accepted.

I'm still shaking, but thanks for bringing me home safe, for giving me courage.

Thank You for seeing fit to heal her leg and arm through the prayers of Your servant. I am lacking in faith. I am very wary, if not cynical. I am sulking like an offended child, and much of me still thinks I'm justified. Why is there such stupidity alongside such suffering? Why do some make quiet devastating sacrifices while others scheme and mock? Why is what is noble so often made foolish? Why does foolishness have its charm?

If I spin myself in circles enough, I will fall down, which is what I want to do. I want to be covered in sleep, and wake with answers as natural and new as the dawn.

"I have told you these things,
so that is me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world."
-Jn 16:33 NIV

Thank You for this good day that wasn't what I hoped for or expected. Grace was evident in it:
A turkey from the H's, S's stamps (so perfect and well-timed). Feist's "The Reminder".  Progress on J's face. A car bill I can at least scrounge up. Rides to/from Bible Study. Lots of good hugs, and people who care about me.
Draw us through even the smallest pipes back to You, like Santa through the vents. Despite our fighting, draw us.

Help me to come back into my true self in You. To love You first. I've been living as if I much rather love busyness, Netflix, and my own importance. Help me fear You. Help me be content in this season. Thank You for Your kindness in this day, even though I wish I had painted longer, with more focus.
I'm thankful to have the car back, and for the walk with Mom.
I'm thankful for Your second chances, and the simplicity of me and You. I cannot live for anyone else. Take me by both hands and swing me back into freedom. BLESS tomorrow.

It feels good to be alive tonight. To be a little brave, a little tired and creative. Just got back from a singalong in Lancaster City with H and the gang. I brought them jam. T and I talked. I drove home in the peaceful dark, reminiscing over similar drives two years ago. That route at night is a dream.
Thank You for helping me PAINT AND GARDEN today, and for the Christmas tree. I'm not very gentle or understanding. Help me learn to de-escalate, and to let go of my own wishes without bitterness or martyrdom. Continue to school me in this. Thank You.
Refresh my heart. Pierce me with Gospel. Please keep me praying and giving what I can give.

This was a lovely evening with Mom and Dad. Good banter and laughter at the table, looking at jewelry from Grandma, arranging the living room for the holidays, reading Sayers and watching "The Crown".

Lord, show me what You would have me do today. Already I feel "off" from my plan (or non-plan). Help me to be secure, prepared, joyful, flexible. Let me see You. Work through me, things of beauty and truth. Give me a great rumbling hunger for goodness. Lead me to the nugget of joy in creating, again. The freedom in giving. Remind me where I'm forgetful.

I think "diminish" is a beautiful word. I took note of it from Galadriel's lips a few weeks ago, but Mom has been using it recently as well. There is something very John the Baptist about it. .

Lord, I need Your help to be grounded and ready for tomorrow, and the day after. Good as today was, I left a lot of loose ends. And I don't want to be scattered between small tasks.
Keep my string taut, help me sway and dip, but not careen or buckle.
Help me give You my whole self again, whole and dense and flaming like a Christmas pudding.
Or smaller, calmer, like a green pea popped in Your mouth. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lines from November, Part 1

Today was topsy-turvy, and all the better for it. Work in the morning here, shopping in the afternoon.
I love the rhythms of Tuesdays, though they're tiring. They have their customs.
I had a friendly interchange with a gentleman customer and lady cashier at Family Dollar. I saw B at Wegman's, in front of the parking lot waiting to be picked up. It was very uncomfortable, he tried to hug me and instead we recalculated and I pressed a few fingers into the palm of his outstretched hand, passing quickly, sounding bright and evasive.

What I hate is that I don't even think I can explain to him without opening the door for more expectation on his part. I don't completely ignore him, as J suggested, but I'm not sure what is worse. Help me be a healer, not a murderer. Help me be shrewd, kind, wise, blameless. Not simply absorbed in my own comfort/safety, but no gullible and pointless martyr, either.
I do not need to feign friendship with men I do not trust. I am not their savior. But show me what I am, and should be, and help me be that, unflinchingly.

Thank You for waking both Mom and Dad this morning, and timing things just right so Dad could make the early train.
I am NOT ready for the rest of this week. But You can make me so. Be my only comfort. Remind me that You are. Give me breathless bearhugs, give me courage.

Thank You for seeing me safely through today, all of today, in Your faithfulness.
Sweet notes from Mama to start off the early morning, sweet words from You, less than an hour's commute. The fog lifted in the parking lot as dawn broke, robins layered the world in song, fiery trees glowed in the grey.

And every class went well. I felt the most rapport with the 6th graders, had the most difficulty with the 10th +. But it was good. M & R helped me clean up, I left just before 4 and made it home just after 5! Miraculous!
Thank You.
So I made potato soup, and I'm chillin' in my room.
Oh Lord, I want You. And I need Your help to be faithful. Help me believe You, pray hard, pray free, pray joyously.

Well, Lord, I had hoped to be asleep right now. But help me believe in You, instead. Help me work through whatever needs to be worked through, here. As I pray, as I eat bread in bed (bliss- it's still that fleeting combo of soft & crusty).

I need to learn to love like a woman, not a girl.
And I need to be mature and circumspect in the relationships I really invest in right now - where they're headed, what they mean.
But, Lord, I'm not one who knows how to love better by loving wiser. I humanly respond with, "Well then, snuff the love!"
Show me, instead, what true, tough, tender love is like. Willing to cause pain if necessary for wholeness. Willing to hold fast in discomfort. Patient and faithful to the point of absurdity. But not naive.
I'm a real human being. I'm honey and dung.

I could get used to this. Succour days like this. Mom provided a "birthday" breakfast gratis, Dad shared pumpkin spice coffee. Paintings finished - !

Reading Alexander on the deck, in the sunlight, with cool traveling air. A thank-you card from the Ms, which I carried in my lips up the apple tree to read. Dinner with K and C at a fancy Tapas restaurant.

Thank You for Middlemarch while gessoing. For helping me decide how I will vote. Remind me of the preciousness of life. At the same time, help me let go of mine. Help me not count my life too precious to spend in service of others, or to sacrifice so that someone else can live.
I already have You. You are the flavor in any pleasure - even bread is anticlimactic. But I don't have anywhere near enough of You.
I need You tonight.

"But I want You more, I want You more, as if I'd never said before..."
(Jordan Klassen)
"I love you... like kick drums on your bedroom door."

I'm a bad Sabbather. I'm afraid of the deep end, I splash in and out of the shallows, and maybe float a bit, but I haven't learned to trust myself to dive, to let the air burn in my chest, and not panic.

Lord, I am still too distracted. And whenever I try to be mature and adult, I only notice how pathetically childish I am. If You are applauding me, I suspect it is the way we applaud children who are attempting a riddle, or a magic trick, or imitating an Olympic athlete: this is adorable - the concentration is so cute.
I can almost see me with my tongue sticking out, hands poised dramatically.

Thank You for a sense of humor, and thank You for saving me by grace, because otherwise I'd be awfully discouraged right now. I'm incapable of any real love or power or wisdom without You. I'm flighty, and self-absorbed, and ignorant.
Please take me in and train me, however You can, to be foolish for You, weak for You, unselfconscious for You. Just looking at You, thinking about You, in love with You.
Scrub out the fears and the persistent lies. Strap truth securely around me, Jesus.

It is so sweet to be alive again today, Lord. Help me live to the fullest. Help me worship You, whatever I feel.


Kiss You for today. A very productive, hopeful day. Finished off with the Advisors' Meeting and reading Sayers aloud to Mom and Dad, and reading "The High King" to myself.
Tomorrow is election day. Make us Christlike in our votes and in our attitudes.

Sustain us as the weather grows steeply cooler. As we prepare. Thank You so much for all the home time I've had recently. I've needed it. Be my nest.

We still don't know who won... I don't, anyway. Avoided news and social media. But it looks like it could be T-.
These verses You gave me the other day are coming to mind...

"The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most Hight is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men."
-Dan 4:17 NIV

Help me trust You in whatever happens. As Mom just said, if he wins, we have deserved it, and there are lessons we will have to learn. You will have to help me to be clear-eyed, and not a mocker. Prayerful and respectful and yet not avoiding the truth or making excuses. I still don't think he could last 4 years. Impeachment, if not something worse... but then again, You can humble the proudest heart. Let Nebuchadnezzar be the case study - and let me pray for humility, repentance, and kindness to the oppressed (v. 27).

Savior, help me. The future looks so bleak right now.
Somehow, turn us into a country that loves the world. That embraces the "other". Where the unwanted of every nation can find a home, and a new beginning. Can find You.
Bring us Syrian refugees. I didn't make that welcome sign for nothing. We haven't been praying for nothing.
But I know I haven't been praying enough. Or listening for You. Help me now, here in this lonely beautiful house, while salt clings on my eyelashes and my vitals ache.
You, Maker of everything that exists, are the only peacemaker. The only hope we ever can have. Give me Gospel, and nothing else. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
Reap Your harvest.

"It is to me indeed 'Victoria'"! (Chesterton)

Best Friend, this was a plentid day, as I see now I am come to the end of it. Varied, rich, and sweet. Psalms. Paintings. Potato soup alone, by candlelight. Finishing "The High King" while pacing the back deck, in the golden glow, until my fingers and feet were numb with cold. Going to the S's and watching Fellowship, and munching and sipping goodness, and enjoying each other's company.
I glazed and painted. Listened to music and "Middlemarch", finished the Albania/Kosovo/Montenegro Dispatch over lunch. Responded to G's article. Mailed off C & S's recording. Called Papa. Didn't call E.

Oh... I don't know how to decide what matters, because You seem to take such precious care of details, and I don't want to miss anything. Like how You help me drive even when I'm off. Like making me uproariously gassy when I'm home alone, but politely controlled out with friends. Like no snow, after all. Like deviled eggs, spinning in the kitchen. Like F texting for prayer, and You answering. Like a few true words hitting their mark.

I can trust You beyond everything. Stir up our desire, our zeal, our love for You. Heedless of ourselves. Be my reputation. Love me out of this funk, into something wiser, kinder, bigger. Take me in Your arms and carry me that way, all tomorrow.

I'm thankful for this day. It began with a noble pheasant poking around under the pear tree. I began a new song on the piano. And tonight I re-recorded Psalm 10.

Although I wish they were more deeply connected to You, I was thankful for the times of rest I had, outside, flat on the deck while the sun was warm enough, and inside on my bed, listening to rich sad soundtracks. I ate supper to B's music. That was very good.
Please go before me this week, weave all the threads, make something beautiful and honoring to You. Guide me with bit and bridle; I must not be impetuous.
The LORD, the LORD, is King forever and ever.

Dear Jesus,
This is my last day home alone. It has been precious. I spent most of the daylight hours at S's, cleaning and baking a very little, and talking and eating and praying and being blessed much more.
I baked chicken, printed paintings, read and paced, ate. Worked out, ending with wonderful sweaty dancing and yoga. I showered and finished the movie, which is frustratingly difficult to skip through cleanly, but which is worth the struggle. I did cry.
I cried during Pastor B's prayer yesterday morning. These are good signs.
But something the tears tonight revealed to me is that I want to be wanted. Meaning that I long to give myself to a love that has waited and fought and trusted. I want to bring pleasure and joy and fulfillment, to love back fiercely and loyally. To be someone's answer to prayer.
I do appreciate Bathsheba's character in the movie, but most of the time she's only exasperating or convicting me. Gabriel Oak is the one I really want to see happy (ti voglio bene). So that's You. Because it's such a picture of You, and Hosea, and You again. I hate Gomer, but I will love her and be her if it means Your praise in the end. If it means Your inexorable love is displayed, resplendent.

But Jesus, help me now, to love You with all truth, purity and passion. With my whole howling heart, scandalously, recklessly, breaking my jar and pouring myself out to You.

Make me faithful to You from start to finish.