jordan almonds and jesus christ

into the woods

i’ve been thinking about jordan almonds lately.

and how the weakest among us take the brunt of our anger.

and how jesus is both.

he’s the jordan almonds and the weakest among us.

chilly

children

it was my dad’s cousin’s wedding where i first tasted jordan almonds.

or maybe it was before that.  maybe it was my mother’s best friend’s wedding where jordan almonds were spilled out all over the table with squares of lace and ribbon.

we were making things.

i put one in my mouth and life got better.  and stranger.

there are parts of life that lift us up.  that show us that there is more than we’d known. things that make life better than before.

jordan almonds were like that for me.

like jesus.

with it’s thinnest, white shell over the meat of an almond making me feel the teeth in my mouth.  making me an instant addict to the quality and the promise of a good thing.

a simple, good thing.

unsafe

and my grandfather in his hospital bed at the assisted living facility.

or my son, doing everything right in the backseat of the car, but on the receiving end of irrational anger because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

like an unarmed teenager or a child with a disability or a six-year-old that can’t do anything but accept your unkind words.

like jesus on the cross.

these weak, thin places in our world where we pour out our wrath.  these receptacles of how unfair, how frustrated, how crooked and wrong our souls really are.

they receive our broken messes like shards of glass flying straight towards them.

but only one takes it on purpose.

and he teaches us that those other weak places in this world are meant to be honored, not placed under our boot.

he teaches that the weakest among us don’t exist for us to do whatever the hell we want to because we can and they can’t.

he teaches us.

winter

jesus christ.

jesus christ, you are both.

you are the sweetest, simplest quality endeavor of my time here.

and you are the broken, weakest before me willing to take my screaming rage, able to receive it all and not be diminished.

i’m thankful again today.

Posted in grief, jesus, outside, thanksgiving, weakness | 1 Comment

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the memory of the heart

elle

it’s late at night when my mind and heart are vulnerable to old words spoken.

words that were jumbled together any way you like, but always say the same thing.

“i reject you.”

“you are unwanted.”

“you are unloved.”

these stupid words from a person who has no memory of speaking them, they can stick around like burs, growing years and years older.

miss mazzy

i look my child in the face after apologies have been made, after i’ve come to my senses.

i keep my distance out of respect for their person, out of fear with the knowledge of the damage a parent can do.

i look in their eyes and say this –

“what did i say that hurt you the most?”

they look away.

they stare at a spot up there on the ceiling.

and you know what?

there has always been something.  every time.

and they repeat it back with eyes full of this question –

“is this true about me?”

abrahm

i hear the words said aloud again and i bear their weight and the responsibility.

this is no vague apology, child.  i will stare right at my wrong against you, sweetest one, and i will say the only thing i can say.

no.  no, that’s not true.

that is a lie.

i was so, so wrong.

can you forgive me?  and if these words come back, you can tell me if you want and i’ll tell you again how wrong i was and how loved you are.

so before those words grow too old tonight, let me pry off the burs that you can’t see, but are there.

let me tell you new words before the sun sets another night.

 

photos by amykimballphotography

Posted in forgiveness, grace; free gifts, mothering | 3 Comments

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and then he took the cup saying

yellow

a bee fell into my wine mug.

i went to take a drink and there he was set to drown.

i grabbed a twig, stuck it in and expert that he is, he climbed his way out along it and soon found himself in the grass.

and there he is.

wings soaked, legs red.

yellow and black head like a robot wiping of antennae over and over and over again.

face

i know how he feels.

my expectations of god went a little something like this.

too close to the intoxicating center, i lost my footing.  i fell in and swam in dark red waters that stained every part.

every part.

brother bee

get away

but i can see his wings.

the wine has made the filigree pattern discernible and i look at the lace of god on a wine soaked bee.

i like it.

i suspect he’ll dry and fly off, albeit a bit cockeyed.

he might have a near miss or two when flying too fast near a tree or a rock.

brother bee

i suppose that’s where i am still.

in the grasses, robotic and nearly forgetting that wet wings once dry will again search out what seems best, what seems good.

wiping my antennae, oblivious to the beauty offered to those close up, those who can see the handiwork of god when i’m soaked to the gills on the offered cup.

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failing at jesus stuff

IMG_9940
she told me their church had split and that people were saying terrible things about them. i nodded my head and listened.

silent, i nodded.

churches are trouble, i thought.  churches are the problem.  they’re so messy, i thought. and when i looked out on the landscape of faith, i felt hopeless.

but i was wrong.

i tried to be a church planter a couple of years back and more than churches being unsafe or poorly run, i realize now that i have bigger fish to fry.

it really isn’t churches that i don’t believe in anymore.

it’s me.

i don’t trust myself.

still

it is odd to go from sprinting into a church to not bowing your head when everyone else is praying.

it feels like a jacket that doesn’t fit.

it’s strange to look at the very spot you once waited for the holy spirit to come and speak to you, to speak to others and to walk down a different row now to avoid it.

it’s not easy to hear someone say “jesus” and wonder at their backstory, where they’re coming from and what they are missing.

because they have to be missing something.

just like i missed something.

just like i didn’t get it somehow when i was so sure i was doing it right.

IMG_9889the woods

“maybe they’re just hurting, too.”  i said to her.  “maybe they don’t know which way is up right now, just like you.”

and she smiled a little and shook her head.

“yeah.  maybe.”

when things fall apart it takes a long time for the dust to settle.

when things of eternal value fall apart it can take years.

it’s going to take a new creation, a thousand years of evolution, to bring about a single cell to start again.

sometimes it feels that way.

waitingbut it’s alright.

i walk through the woods and think about the god endeavors once so big that have vanished like morning mist.  i see my husband up there and our kids climbing on rocks, staying still as leaves float down on top of their heads.

and i’m here, too.

it’s going to take some time.

it’s not the church’s fault or god’s fault or even mine really.

it’s just people.

just people out in the woods, trying to find a way to say how thankful they are for this one beautiful life.

Posted in outside, the church, time | 3 Comments

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hope and harry potter

hope
He wanted it to be true.

He read all seven books.  He watched all eight movies.  He needed Hogwarts to be so.

He got his parents to take him to the train station in Chicago.  It was the closest one to Detroit.  But there weren’t any platforms.  That didn’t stop him from running headlong into the wall.  He ran and hit and fell.  He ran and hit and fell.  He ran and hit and fell until his dad told him he must stop.

He pulled out his wand, his exact replica of Harry Potter’s wand, in the same box that Olivander pulled from the shelf that first time in Diagon alley.  He took his wand and said “Expecto Patronum!” at his father, but nothing.  Just like every time.

No Patronus.

He needed it to be true and it wasn’t true.  He knew that.  He sort of knew that.  He thought he did.  He didn’t know that at all.

pie

He thought maybe he should crack his wand in half.

He told his mother that and she asked him not to.  She told him his wand had cost them a lot of money and she’d prefer if it remained in one piece.

But if there is a Phoenix feather inside, mom, if there is a feather in here, then I’ll know it’s real.  I’ll still have a chance of getting to Hogwarts, mom.

She sighed and looked at the small brown boy beside her.  This boy of hers that wanted to be a wizard and for the wizarding world to be true like nothing else mattered.  She thought it through, if she allowed him to crack the wand in half that would be the end of it.  The revelation of no Santa Claus.  It would be over, just that much closer to ending and he’d have no wand to wave around.

But if she said no.

church

Fine she said.  Fine.  Go ahead and crack it in half if you want to.

And he hadn’t expected that.  He didn’t have the feel of deciding bigger matters for one’s self quite down yet.  But he saw that she was serious and that he was allowed to give it a crack if he wanted to.  He wondered why she’d said yes.  He looked at the beloved wand, last year’s Christmas present.  He thought of its inability to produce even the simplest charm.

He wanted to know, didn’t he?  He took its weight and balanced it between two hands. He felt it give and before he could over think it, he snapped it hard over his knee right in half.

only
It all happened so quickly.  His parents felt the shock of the act like violence in a loved one they’d never thought possible.  They moved to console him but then they stopped.

Slowly, he drew it out like a message in a bottle.  Slow and steady the barbs fanned as he withdrew the feather from the wand.  His eyes were smiling and his face was smiling and it was true.

It was true!

He looked at their astonished faces and laughed.  He stood then and looked again at the grey stone walls holding up the station and got up and ran like he never ran before.  They called to him; afraid he would really be hurt this time.  And they were right.

He hit the wall and he was gone.

Posted in childhood, doubt, faith, writing | 5 Comments

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kicking through the ladybugs

temple

our first day in ohio hundreds of ladybugs swarmed the front porch.

they landed on each ledge and all five metal chairs.  they swung on the porch swing.

and then they died.

i crunched out onto the porch to be in a quiet place.  the trees bare and the purebred birds flitting and calling.  the sun on the rust leaves, on the rust cans.

but more ladybugs flew up.

their uneven flight patterns made me uneasy somehow.

i turned around and went back inside.

coveringa prophet once asked god’s people how they could live in well-paneled houses while the temple lie in ruins.  i checked through the windows each morning and wished their dead, winged crunch weren’t still there, but it was.

so i did other things.

i had other things to do.

but this is how temple walls get rebuilt.

quiet places.

i got out the broom.  i faced them head on.  i swept dead ladybug carcasses off the end of the porch to join the gravel below.

this is how temple walls get rebuilt.

to go out where hawks circle and bees hum close to your mug of warmed wine.

you fight for your quiet places.

ladies

i have better things to do, lord knows.

so do you.

but if i don’t kick through the orange and black kernels dotting this porch today, right now, then i’ll keep on paneling well my own walls.

i’ll near to obsess over my lack and forget about the gold and silver leant to those who labor to bring a temple from ruins.

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lord, to whom can we go?

heaven
O Lord my God.  Teach my heart this day where and how to find you.

You have made me and re-made me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you.

I have not yet done that for which I was made.

St. Anselm

signs

treefriend

I thank you, Lord, for knowing me better than I know myself, and for letting me know myself better than others know me.

Make me, I pray you, better than they suppose, and forgive me for what they do not know.

Abu Bekr

children

O Christ, our Morning Star, Splendour of Light Eternal, shining with the glory of the rainbow, come and waken us from the greyness of our apathy, and renew in us your gift of hope.  Amen.

Bede the venerable

Posted in contentment, family, patience, rest, thankful | Leave a comment

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the ghosts of october

seeds

we drive from orchard to orchard, yellow leaves falling and we end up in a nursing home, cider and donuts in hand.

my grandfather was born in october and this year he turned ninety.

his wife died twenty nine years ago in another october, three days after his birthday.

he’s outlived nora for almost thirty years now.

i bet he never saw that one coming in the early octobers of their life together, twin babies in their arms, oldest son so strong and tall.

sunflower
there is nothing like a dying leaf or a dying man, for that matter.

did you know that when leaves change into their glory color that they are just showing what was there all along?

the infusion of green, of youth, of vitality – it is always mixed up with the yellows and the oranges of who we really are underneath.

weak.

dependent.

unable.

suffering.

every tear

a world with no october color is a robbed place.  a place where a thief has come in and played a cruel trick indeed.

joshua takes his hand and pulls my grandfather up to sitting.

i give him a back scratch.  we sit close.  i kiss his face and i laugh in his ear.

we bring cider and donuts and i swear i am jealous to know what it tastes like when he drinks it down.  i wonder at cider’s skill to taste sweet in the midst of suffering and after ninety years.

low

we try to bring heaven to earth through the back door.

eliminate suffering.  

eternal life.

justice to the unjust.

we want heaven now.  but it seems heaven isn’t meant for earth.

just like we’re not.  

sufferer

a woman comes in to give my grandfather his pills.

he used to give me twenty bucks here and there when i was growing up.  i thought i was a rich as midas or that he was, but he says it with our kids sprawled around his room in a nursing home in plymouth, michigan.

“you guys are alright.”

and it is better than twenty dollars.

it’s more akin to the bluest sky, just like his eyes still clear and sharp, and the reddest leaf  of october.

if we wipe every tear away ourselves, what exactly is heaven for?

sunflowers

i don’t know why we suffer.

but i do know that it points to another kind of place.  a place where we don’t have to manufacture or kill or die or cry.

a place where the sunflowers stay upright, where our hopes and dreams and prayers are met, answered and exceeded.

we all know this place could be, but we can’t quite make it fit here.

so a working man can’t make it no way – heaven is the coolest and the cruelest of them all.

and i’ll drive to the orchards and watch my children meet their great grandfather and i’ll cry real tears full of real pain and i’ll wait for the one who can wipe them away.

Posted in jesus, real hope, real suffering, weakness | 6 Comments

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and the shepherd is the gate

october

we’re sitting in a mexican restaurant and one of us or the other says it.

“we sound hurt.”

when the words of a person who’s been hurt by the church and the sentences coming out of your mouth match up it can be awkward.

but it’s a start.

color

fall

jesus says he’s the gate and the good shepherd and it’s always confused me.

how can he be both?

but way back when in good old shepherding times and probably still today, shepherds were the gates.  they let you in to safe places in the night and they remained at the entrance way to keep you in.

to keep you theirs.

the church isn’t the shepherd.  many pastors are the hired hands jesus talks about.  the ones who get the paychecks and look after their own interests because – hey they’re only human.

the church can’t keep you in.  and it can be the wolf itself, the robber and the thief.

churches are out there hurting people this very day.

tiny

but the gate hasn’t changed.

the shepherd is still the same.

i’m still his.

and jesus loves us too much to let me and my friend remain in mexican restaurants licking our wounds for another ten years or so.

somehow he still has more.  it might even include the church.

he really does make all things new.

Posted in christian culture, community, forgiveness, healing | 2 Comments

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what i’ll do instead

string section

“the normal kids use these.”  

mazzy’s classmate says this to me.

she says it in the music room.  she says it without much thought because there is normal and then there is her – her friends, her class.

i am kind of stunned and so i don’t say it quick like i should, the response that shows up in your brain four or five hours later.

“you look pretty normal to me.”

what i wish i said.

close

closer

and sometimes i hate this world.

with its glass walls of what is normal.  the walls that exist but you don’t know are there until you run smack into them and find out that, oh – i can’t go any further.

i’ve watched mazzy navigate the invisible barriers of this world and she’s good at it.  but that’s it.  that she has had to become good at it.  that she has to navigate them at all.  that is the stumble into a bottomless black that would overwhelm me entirely if not for jesus and the hope of a world that doesn’t work like this one does.

cellos

i’d like to take a hammer and break all these walls that i can’t see.

but i can’t see them.

so i’ll pick up a cello and i’ll write you a song instead, mazzy.

i’ll play it so well, so beautifully, that the ugly world might quiet down and listen.

when i’m asked how did you write that?  i’ll say that you taught me how to write it, mazzy and i’ll pray that changes invisible things and that this world can begin to look a little more like the next.

Posted in disability, faith, mazzy, writing | 1 Comment

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