Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.


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Sky Knowing

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The sky was painted for my soul tonight.

The sweeping strokes of color draw me up

away from gravity of daily life,

and draw from me a sigh too deep for words,

too real to be confined to lines of frozen verse.

But I must try,

must let my spirit’s lover know that I have read his message

writ across this little part of heaven –

the only part that I can see, for now.

It’s hard to wait,

with leaden feet that trap me here upon this broken earth

It’s hard to see only a little piece of heaven

when I’m longing for that sweet fulfillment when I’ll see it all

and know that all is well

not just for me, but truly ALL.

But until then,

I have this sky

And in this sky,

In this soft, momentary gift of light

I know the soul of God.


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Balance

They tell me I’m supposed to find a balance:

between work and play

between rest and responsibility

between activity and contemplation

between care for others and restorative care of self.

And

sometimes all this balancing just feels like one more task I must perfect.

Or else,

all the delicately balanced weights will all come crashing down.

But perhaps

the goal is not the static stillness of a balanced scale.

Perhaps the object I must balance on is actually a swing,

and my task is to kick out my legs,

and enjoy the ride.


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Spinning


Recently life has been more than a bit frantic. Working, parenting, housekeeping, wifeing… it has all been pilling up and pulling me round until I am wondering whether dizziness is just my perpetual reality.

And so, as an attempted remedy, I spent some time this morning in grounding prayer. Prayer in the  sense not of speaking, but of listening. Of sitting in silence for the still small voice to speak to me.

And today, that voice spoke to my soul in lines of poetry.


Spinning

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Like a child’s spinning top

I launch myself at frantic speed

seeking the velocity

to let me balance on a tiny point of contact.

 

But

in my enthusiasm,

or anxiety,

I push too hard.

No elegant display of spinning speed,

no ballerina poised on point am I.

I am the wobbling, panicked top about to 

CRASH

 

And

in my panic I reach out,

reach down,

my hand and heart both grasping for the solid ground,

for grounding, 

for a source of steadiness outside myself. 

 

There

in that contact 

I remember:

that I am spinning on a world that spins as well,

and the Master Spinner does not need my feeble speed

To make the world go round.

I can rest here,

and know

I’m spinning still in glorious mystery.

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Moving at Shutter Speed

This past weekend my little family got together with an old friend and her camera.

The friend is Sabrina Norrie, and the camera is a new off shoot of the website she began as part of her little family’s adventure of living at their own pace – a pace that lets them really experience the world they are moving through.

I scheduled this “family photoshoot” on a bit of a whim… because it looked fun, and I love pictures, and because it was a chance to get some great post-able snaps of my kids while also getting to see Sabrina for the first time in close to a year. That time lapse in our friendship a reflection of the pace at which my family generally moves – a rushing momentum so full of activity that it often precludes moments to just stop and experience… or connect.

While not much thought went into the decision to meet Sabrina at the park that afternoon, some thinking has come out of it – in addition to some really beautiful photos. [editorial note – this endorsement is completely unsolicited, but if you live in the New Jersey area, I highly recommend Family + Footprints!].

For an hour, the task at hand was to slow down long enough for the camera to capture our connections. There is real beauty in that slowness – a beauty that is capture in the pictures, but more in the recognition is has brought to my soul.


Moving at Shutter Speed

Before

The hurry of preparation layers on the daily pace of rush:

fights over clothes, and brushing teeth

attempts to corral childhood attention

to tune young minds and hands to tasks at hand

and set their expectations for the coming hour.

This extra step is meant to smooth over the wrinkles of a disconnected life,

to make it somehow shimmer with ephemeral beauty,

just like the colors that I layer on my face – a camera-ready mask.

Then we arrive

The sunset light is playing in the gently curving trees

a game that breaks the ice of shyness for my tinies

they understand these rules

without my adult explanations.

We’re here to play.

And so we are, although my instinct still is to direct:

“perhaps the posed shots first…

or we will never pull them back.”

So sweet young hearts comply with Mommy’s worry.

But

they bring the play along as well

and sing a bright duet of giggles mixed with camera clicks.

And as bright smiles and warm sunshine melt my cold perfectionists’ mask

I laugh as well.

The wrinkles might show through,

but so does Joy,

the joy that comes with slowing down enough to

just

sit

in this moment

and let the laughter linger on my lips

for long enough

to let the camera

and my soul

join with my family’s song

played in the meter of

slow-motion shutter speed.

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Monet Musing

I have seen more than a little beautiful art in the last two days, and I wouldn’t like to pick a favorite, but there has been a “most inspirational.” Or rather, there have been 8 canvases in 2 rooms that win that particular prize. The Orangerie Museum devotes the entire top floor to two light-filled oval rooms built specifically to display the most famous of Monet’s massive Water Lilies. I spent the better part of an hour in this magical space yesterday, and the product of this time is the two poems I share here:





Room 1: The Water Under The Lilies

Water flows through sun and shadow – it is unaware? 

And when sunset lights a fire, can it see the glare? 

Can it feel the floating lilies play upon it face? 

Is it proud to know it’s beauty? conscious of its grace? 


If I floated with that water, could I rest at ease?

Would I be content to wander with no thought to please? 

I think not, and yet I wonder, whose the better part? 

For, with consciousness and striving comes an awe-struck heart. 


Room 2: Melancholy friend

In this room

There’s a reflection of my sometime mood – 

the darkness and the languor,

trailing branches dipping down to taste the water’s tears. 


There’s something of twilight and of mist

that does not look for dawn to rush in quickly

before the night has had it’s time 

to whisper necessary secrets with the voice of darkened waters. 


These waters know a subtle kind of light – 

a kind that mixes into murky water

ill-content to merely dance upon the waves

it sinks beneath – absorbs into the depths.


And in that secret, silent, submerged world

creates a healing, understanding beauty

that sits quietly with me

In this room. 

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On Ashes and Boats: The Comfort I Find in Lent

Lent is not exactly supposed to be the most uplifting season of the church year – confronting my brokenness, remembering that I am dust and to dust I will return, preparing for the darkness on Good Friday … it could be a bit of a downer. Pile that resume on top my recent descent back into the quicksand of depression, and you might assume that I would be staying as far away as I could from church these days.

Actually, I have been bathing my soul in Lent at every opportunity and finding it very healing.

I want to share just two of the ways in which this season of reflection in the darkness has been a balm to my soul.

10983401_10152846484564635_5061977917613180810_nThe first came two weeks ago at the Ash Wednesday service. At the service my wonderful pastor spoke about the words that come with the ashes as a gift. “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” Seeing this denigrating statement as a gift might seem counter-intuitive. But my ears, re-tuned as they have been by depression, heard this like the sweet exhale of release. “You are dust” – yes, I feel like dust, and the struggle of trying to not be dust is almost unbearable. But to be affirmed in this, to know that dust is how I was created, and that my dust is blessed and loved and used as an anointing… that is an incredible gift. That is an absolution from the strain of needing to be gold. I am so, so glad to be told I am dust.

The second source of healing was an invitation to share my reflection at the mid-week Lenten service last week. The suggested text was familiar – the story of when Peter walks on water and doesn’t quite make it. I’ve heard countless sermons on this text, but yet again I saw a different story from the perspective of the quicksand.  Rather than explaining exactly how, I will instead use the rest of this post to share that reflection:


“Fear in the Water”

Matthew 14:22-33

 2 Right then, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. 23 When he sent them away, he went up onto a mountain by himself to pray. Evening came and he was alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat, fighting a strong headwind, was being battered by the waves and was already far away from land. 25 Very early in the morning he came to his disciples, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” They were so frightened they screamed.

27 Just then Jesus spoke to them, “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 Peter replied, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.”

29 And Jesus said, “Come.”

Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind settled down. 33 Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!”

The thing about fear is that it feeds itself. Fear alters our perspective so that what we see – the facts or perceptions that stand out in bold relief to our wide, staring eyes – are the threats, the dangers, the horrifying possibilities. When we are in that state of fight or flight heightened awareness, somehow that awareness filters out the light of hope and all we can observe are the surroundings that reinforce our fear.

When I read this story of the disciples in the boat, in the storm, already far from the security of land, I can feel their fear. I curl in on the awful tightening in my chest as my pulse quickens and my breath becomes shallow. I taste the salt spray on my lips and try to strip its clinging chill from my skin. I fight the tearing tug of the wind on my hair and clothes – pulling me toward that black, roiling, angry, suffocating water.

This is the terror of the night – the sense of helplessness as I am tossed about like a despised and battered toy by the forces of the Darkness.

And then a light appears – moving smoothly –undisturbed by wind and wave – a beam of hope if I had eyes to see.

But I don’t see hope. I see only fear. I, with the disciples, see a ghost – a further terror to exceed even the fury of nature with a supernatural threat. “They were so frightened they screamed.” Me too. When in the grip of fear there is sometimes nothing else that I can do, but scream.

Jesus answers that scream. “Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Don’t be afraid. That’s a hard one. Maybe the sight and voice of Jesus could reach me through the crashing waves and howling wind. Maybe I, with Peter, could step out in faith just moments after I had cowered in fear. Maybe I could walk upon the raging waters and bring myself within the saving reach of Jesus’ arm. Maybe… but I kind of doubt it.

I think I am still clinging to the boat. I think fear still has me in its grip. I think the best that I can do is turn my eyes toward the crazy bravery of Peter, and hold my breath in terrified prayer that he will make it.

And when he almost does. When he comes so close, only to fail at the last instant, I gasp to hear the Lord’s reproof. “man of weak faith?” “why did you begin to doubt?” This is the worst fear of all. If even Peter has fallen short… if even walking out upon the storm-tossed sea cannot earn approval, then I am lost. My only hope is to cling to my battered boat, the tangible but fragile protections that I can build for myself … my only choice is to cling to this inadequate security… and scream.

But here is the hope in this story. Because Jesus does not let Peter sink beneath the waves. Nor does he turn with Peter and walk away, leaving the terrified others, leaving me, in the heaving, creaking boat that can’t keep out the waves of fear.

Instead, Jesus brings Peter back to the boat and steps in himself with all of us. He gets into the boat – the weak, inadequate, human construction to which I cling. He gets in with me. And he calms the storm. He doesn’t magic me away. That is not the hope he offers. He climbs into the center of the fear with me. And then, and only then can I finally understand.

“You MUST be God’s Son.”


I am not quite out of the quicksand, but I am dust, and I am in the boat, and I am not alone.

Thank God for Lent.

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