Impenetrable Time

2/24/15

The cold drags, and snow sleet falls, and preschools close, and I can't help but feel as though the whole country is holding its breath, waiting for winter to leave Narnia for good.  (Or at least until we can all decorate for Christmas again.)  And though the white blanket is lovely, and significantly improves my luck with photography, it's hanging awfully heavy on the roof of this house lately.

I know I'm not the only one who's sitting a little slouchier under the weight these days.

When we lived in Indonesia, one thing I missed was the changing seasons that I could always rely on to come just in time, to breathe new life and new hope right when I was settling in to that familiar wedge between itchy and weary.  In East Java, there was rainy season and dry season.  But even between the two the line was thin and always a bit blurry to me.


It was there that I realized I had grown up with an internal clock that bends and sways four times a year.  Without the rhythm of its ticks, I always felt a bit fumbling, a bit... off.

What was harder to remember was the way it rubbed you downright raw when the season took too long to change.  When summer break will NEVER come, when the heat will NEVER give way to autumn, when the snow we long for will NEVER fall, when we will NEVER again know warmth.  Since there was no hope or expectation of change, there was no angst over it either.


I hope you know by now that this post isn't much about the weather.

(I also hope you know that while in Indonesia as missionaries, we did not live in that particular location that you see me in above.  Unfortunately.)

The changing of the seasons is knocking loudly on our door.  But every time we open it the wind howls its laughter, eggs our car, takes off running, and leaves us with nothing but time.  But that time, he's a fickle fellow and I had a lot more patience with him at 26 than I do at 31.  But he's not worried about that at all.

And so we wait, Eric and I and the kids, though they don't realize it.  We try to make room for time inside these four walls, inside the four of us.  We wait and we talk and we think and we pray and we say things like "God has a plan", but inside our hearts are so very tired.

We ache for stability, we ache for a home.  We ache for passions to be given an outlet and something to finally feel like forever.  Or at least for a long while.  

But we were never promised that.  



We were never promised comfort or permanence or good jobs or the absence of depression or anything else under the American sun that seems like an awfully good deal right about now.  We were promised a Companion who could carry our weary bodies when our feet feel like lead.  We were promised goodness and peace and magic and a lot of love.  

Some days taking the latter over the former is joyfully easy.  I'll be honest with you, today was not one of those days.  And neither was yesterday.

But if time wants to make me a bitter shrew at 31, it's going to need a few more tricks up it's sleeve. Because if there is one thing I know, it's that the snow always melts in Texas.  And if there's grace enough to rise at 5:30 am to a crying baby on a day when the preschool is closed, well then there's grace enough to open wide and catch some snowflakes in my mouth.

There is grace enough for us to catch snowflakes in our mouths.





The Long Loneliness and Surprising Hospitality

2/23/15

I walked through the rotting door with my 3 week old baby in my arms, my husband by my side. We had left our 3 year old at home with Grandma so we could stop by and see what this place was all about; the simple email exchange of days prior had lit a flicker of hope in our desert-dry hearts. The past two years had been a lonely exile and our empty tanks were choking on fumes.  We had nothing left to give but our barest bones, unsure if such fare even merited a place at the table, but sure without a doubt that we would sit under it and catch the crumbs that fell to the dirt.


It was January and cold, and I was wearing UGG boots and feeling embarrassed about it.  When gaps between human beings take up space in the room, it's nice to have something tangible to blame it on. It gives us something to look at.

I talked to Becky the longest.  She was one of the few women at the house that day.  She cooed over Moses and I felt my insecurities slacken at the gesture.  She held him with all the tenderness of the Virgin Mary and considerately turned her head aside when her smoker's cough attacked, which was often.  I wondered if this was crossing some unwritten maternal line of protection, and should I be ashamed of myself for exposing him to this, to all of this?  But my postpartum brain couldn't even fully form the hesitations because it was so clear that

this was right.

It was good and right and profitable for all three of us, and I have never looked back because the voice of God was clear and lovely.

It's a gift. All of it.  You to her and her to you and don't let fear come like a thief...

(He's 14 months now and has never had more than a cold and a lot of built up immunities.)


We fell in love with the Day House.  So we went back.  And we kept going back.  And more quickly than we could have ever hoped it became a piece of us, this house of hospitality, this landing place for the war-torn and the lonely.  We found family there; we found acceptance and laughter and folks who would shrug it off when our traumatized son kicked them in the head because they'd seen a hell of a lot more than that.  We were loved, and welcomed, and we were taught new things about the world and that what is required for friendship is so much less than we think.

At the Day House almost all of our friends were homeless, some by choice and some by hard knocks. It was there that I first prayed the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and it was there that I danced with ex-convicts to the tune of a Spanish guitar.  It was at the Day House that my son learned to compost, and it was there that he witnessed his first fistfight.  It was beautiful and it was awful, it was simple and it was so very dramatic.

It was people, and people is exactly what we had missed.

In her autobiography The Long Loneliness*, Dorothy Day's closing words are these:
We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more...  We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.

I believe in love because I believe in He Who Is Love.

I believe in community because for love to be real it must go forth from something, towards something.

I believe in the long loneliness because I have lived it and so have you.  But that doesn't have to be the end of our story.

I believe in fighting for love, and for community, and for breaking bread together.  I believe in doing it when it hurts, when it's hard, and when it's inconvenient.

I believe because I have tasted and have seen, and I refuse to forget.

a few, but not all, of the people we first met at the Day House who have become beloved friends and godparents

the Day House has since closed
but new things are in the works
and it's gonna be good

(all photos, except the last, taken by Allyson Pollman)


*affiliate link

When You're Still Looking for the Kingdom of God

2/16/15

He stopped what he was doing there in the kitchen, there in the middle of our world, and said simply, "I'm sleepy.  I'm going to have rest time."  My breath caught in my chest but I tried not to let on, tried to just open the door to my bed and watch him crawl in, snuggling into the smells of us. Tried to do it like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Four years into this and he finally feels safe enough to take a nap.

And I'm sitting in the silence bawling like a baby because it's not fair.  Because it shouldn't be this way.  For any child.  But it is, oh it is.  The complexities of the human heart and mind know no bounds.  We can be safe for years before we believe that we are.  Maybe some of us never really do.


I don't know what it's like to work so hard to believe that things like love and trust are real.  I'll never have any idea.  But I do know what it's like to carry tension in your body everywhere you go, to feel your heart race when you step out in public, to live in hyper vigilance in your own home.  I don't have to work hard at all to believe that secondary trauma is real.

I don't know what it's like to have my earliest life experiences mold my brain around fear.  My first weeks and months on this earth were filled with comfort, care, and nurture.

But I know he hasn't been the only one that's scared.


I know I've locked myself behind the closet door, sobbing in the dark to a God who I know is there but who won't answer me.  Telling Him He made a mistake; that I'm not who He thought I was. That I can't do this, I can't parent this child.  I am too broken, too sinful, too full of rage, too untrustworthy.

When I say I have been as broken as anyone, when I say I'm just as sinful, just as messed up, please know that this is not false modesty.  It's not even humility.  Humility would be detailing all of the times I willfully chose not to meet my tormented baby inside his pain because it was just too hard and I was just too tired.  But those details are still safely barricaded behind what's left of my pride.

Hopefully someday the barricade will burn.  If I know anything about the Consuming Fire, I'm thinking it will.


You've heard of the "fight or flight" stress response, the part of our brain that triggers an instinctive reaction to seek safety from an outside threat, whether by withdrawal or by aggression.  Your brain and mine would default to it if we were to be mugged.  My son's defaults to it when he walks into Kroger, or when he can't seem to fit in to social mores, or when it's time to take a nap.

All God's children gots their problems but some of us suffer a heck of a lot more than others of us. It doesn't seem fair, but what do we know of fair?  There is Good News to be heard, and the Good News is this: the Kingdom of God is for the broken, the hurting, the suffering - these are the ones who get in first.  The rest of us get in clinging to their coattails.  And that seems fair to me.


I've spent my whole life trying to catch a glimpse of what this Kingdom looks like with skin on; long before I could even understand it and long after, when you would've thought I was running from it. I've looked for this Good News in 24 hour prayer rooms, on inner city American streets, and in volcano-ravaged villages in Indonesia.  But until this little boy cracked me, it was always "us" and "them"- no matter how much I wanted it to be otherwise.  I've never been more thankful for anything than I am for the pieces of me that chipped and scattered and are blowing all over Texas.  Good riddance to some very bad rubbish.  Because now when I look at your face, whoever you are, I can see a bit of myself there too.  The Kingdom of God will invite us in together.  Never alone.

I don't know what it will be for you.  Maybe it will be a little boy with a gap in his teeth and love in his scared little heart.  Maybe it will, but probably not.  Probably God has a different story for you, and it will be beautiful and it will be ugly and it will be fun and it will be terrible and it will break you to pieces and it will be everything you ever wanted but didn't know to ask for.  There is a Kingdom of God for you to see too, loved one.  May you never stop seeking to find it.

*All photos by Kathryn Krueger Photography

Karis

2/5/15

photo credit Allyson Pollman
I moved seats to sit beside her at dinner even though she was nursing that sweet baby girl.  I had a hunch she wouldn't mind.  Two weeks postpartum and she was radiating that glow; the one that invites all of mankind to draw near and marvel at new life, at Creation.

We talked easily, each of us sticking to topics that could bind us together rather than venture into the more glaringly obvious territory that would tear us apart.  We talked of childbirth and nursing, hand-me-down clothes and cold weather.  We smiled and laughed and enjoyed the thread of grace that can tie any mother together.  At least for a little while.  Our mutual friend chimed in nonsensically, she misunderstood and turned to me with eager eyes, "you were a heroin addict too?!"  No, I had to admit.  No, I was not.  She laughed it off but I couldn't muster up such generosity.  I wished I had been, Karis.  As unfathomably ridiculous as it is, in that moment I longed to be able to say, "yes I was a heroin addict".  To have our unity left undefiled.  To not seem so very different.  Because Lord knows I don't feel any different.

Our friend continued on, with the purest of hearts but most painful of swords.  "Shannon would be a good mentor for you!  She's a great mother! And they have been through some stuff!" Karis shifted uncomfortably in her folding chair. I tried to melt into the metal of my own.

If only you knew the truth, Karis.  If only you knew that I'm just like you.  

Lest any man should boast.

Karis doesn't need a mentor mother.  No, that's not true.  Karis doesn't first need a mentor mother. She first needs someone to believe she can mother.  Someone to believe that this baby in her arms won't be taken out of her trembling hands like the one that opened her womb.  And the one after that, and the one after that. Someone to look past all the ways she numbs her pain and see the best parts of her, the parts that deserve to sit there with dignity and nurse that baby.  For awhile she had it there at that dinner, with the shivering people crowded around mismatched pushed-together tables and hay bales.  People who love her and want her to overcome.  But when the other shoe's been dropping your whole life it's hard for folks to not have one ear tuned for the clatter, as much as they hate themselves for listening for it.

There are no easy answers.  This is humanity, after all.  A race with such difficulties that it required the blood of God.  But maybe that's answer enough: that God had blood.  That He wrapped Himself in flesh to share in our sufferings.  Maybe the only answer is to believe that we can give each other dignity and hope and the benefit of the doubt, because He was one of us.

Maybe it's answer enough just to root for one another.


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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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