Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recreating the serene

Pond at Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. senk 2012.
Joey has recreated a water garden in the living room. Plump pillows serve as stepping stones, which meander in a circular path about the house. Grandma's no-sew blankets are now moveable boats, gliding about the non-rippling, wood-laminate pond. Little plastic fish - blue and red, yellow and green - having been tossed to-and-fro by my fisher-boys, inhabit the pond's depths. And the air is full of giggling and singing, instead of the smooth whisper of water.

"Look! Water lilies," says Joey. And, I imagine the water gardens and fountains at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, VA or the little lake teeming with water lilies at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA. The inspiring flora and landscapes in these gardens creates the kind of serene atmosphere of which we all need more exposure.

Are there places that impress upon your heart, too, friend? Perhaps an art museum or unique boutique or coffee shop that exudes life's essence for you? Or rather a moment deep in the woods or atop a hill's crest or by a cascading rill? There is also that serene moment between people: a shared experience, a returned smile, words from the heart shared and received. Have you had that today, friend?

If not, take a moment to recreate the serene. Let pillows plop where they will and hoist off into blanket boats - all for the sake of life.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So heaven can breathe

It would have been a beautiful day to have been born. Sunlight flickered shadows across the road even though the morning began with weeping. After noon, when the crying finally ceased, God peeled away the thick coating of clouds so that heaven could breathe again. And the shine lit the day like gleaming Mount Parnassos.

I remember roaming the stony streets of Delphi, with its treasuries and tholos tomb in ruins after so many years of physical and cultural weathering, and feasting on a purview of golden mountain as the dying sun cast a final gaze upon it. The landscape was familiar, yet foreign, too. Like the Moon's feel to the Earth, perhaps. Or the glisten of a fetal sac born too soon.

August 25th. Neil Armstrong died that day, too. His famous first steps resound around the world; a feat my lost child will never make. Today, I should have been touching tiny toes and kissing a newborn's head. Today, the shrill cry of new life should have burst from my womb. Today, tears of joy should be pouring down my cheeks. But, instead, I smile despite the shadows that spread thick inside; I hold my boys close, despite the empty void a new baby would have filled; I continue the Tuesday routine despite my body's vertigo as if it felt an appendage that wasn't there.

March 12th - what joy it should have held! Do you have days that hold close grief, friend? Perhaps you've lost a child or a parent or your best friend? Perhaps you've felt the wrenching of a sibling's hatred toward you or lack of love from a parent? Perhaps you were raped or beaten or unfairly incarcerated? Perhaps you've felt the true pangs of starvation or witnessed the slow death of such a one? Perhaps you've held the hand of a teenager whose tried to cut her life away or laughed over wine with someone that survived the Holocaust?

No one can answer the whys of life. No one can stifle the pain and anger and grief that strikes us again and again. But, unless we know the agony, how could we possibly understand the joy? Could we have compassion or hope if we did not know their opposites? Friend, I pray most ardently that you don't become desensitized. May hope and compassion always triumph over the parade of Rated R we throw into our societal and cultural Coliseum. May the long shadows of your life be balanced by the light that defines them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

God provides

I am often amazed how well God provides, even though I shouldn't be. Perhaps some would say life is full of coincidences, of luck, of fortuitous happenstances. But, it's more than that. No matter how desperate life has felt, God has always provided.

During leaner months, when simple food staples have run out and we're waiting a few days for a paycheck, God always seems to send an unexpected gift or meal our way. My mother is a conduit for this! Even though I don't tell her our needs, she always seems to send us a loaf of homemade bread or a bag of bananas at just the right time. Another friend, who happens to share my mother's name, gave us a bar of homemade soap the very day we had run out of the commodity. Even more recently, I was considering the spring purchases I was going to need to make. Among my list were new hats for the boys. The very day I made that list, my NYC buddy sent us a care package with tons of goodies - including floppy summer hats for the boys.

Most people think that teaching in the public schools is just grand - after all, teachers get two whole months off for the summer! Yet, consider - teachers are 10-month employees. So, it's more like they're laid off for the summer. Teachers with families often need to find other jobs to compensate for those summer months. And, as Russell considers his options, God again proves to be more faithful to us than we often are to God: for, he's already lining up bagpiping gigs, which we did not expect.

Do you have moments like this, friend? Moments that seem inexplicable, save that Someone is weaving your life together in ways you could not possibly imagine? Dare to consider what may seem inconsiderable to you, even if it goes against the grain of popular culture. After all, we're not all the same. And, God already knows that.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Floating mid-way

For Joey's birthday, five helium balloons - brightly-colored stars - sparkled in the light and seemed to spread good-cheer all about the room. Once fresh, over time they began to leak helium and sagged, floating mid-way from floor to ceiling. Now, a quick blast with the hairdryer excites the molecules enough to perk up the balloons and return them, if only momentarily, to their plump and joy-filled state.

But, is it not so for us, friend? There are many times that I feel hopeful and excited, only to allow the world's worries to form tangible weights in my life. Most often, it is those most dear or those whom we hold in the highest esteem that deeply scar us. Perhaps a comment or lack of love? Perhaps a broken relationship or negative criticism? Perhaps a wound covered over that never healed? The cause can be easy to pinpoint when we really stop and think. The worst part is the amalgamation of events, completely unrelated, that creates a painful void: one first to affirm the doubt you feel in yourself.

Yes, friend, we can find some hairdryer-fix that momentarily covers the limp in our gait. But, how much more powerful would it be for us to fill the void with God's presence? Pain's slow simmer, when placed into God's hands, can yield a more radiant, more lasting, and more fulfilling hope and joy than we have ever known. Will you put your doubts and desperations before God? And, in doing so, let the spark of True Light bring greater meaning to how you live, even when your spirit sags mid-way from floor to ceiling, too.