Faith, Family, & Focaccia

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

A Psalm for a Rainy Day

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I had no intention of writing poetry today. I had far too much to do. Today marks exactly 4 weeks to zero hour for our anticipated/dreaded move to New Jersey and departure from Milan. I have Italian contracts to cancel, and insurance inventories to complete, and preschool programs to research. I don’t have time or emotional energy to even read any poetry, much less to write any.

But, today seemed determined to draw from my soul a psalm of lament. To begin with, it began far too early, after the twelfth or twentieth night cut short by the demands of life. And as I opened the shutters to let in the daylight, there was precious little light to see. After a few blessed days of daylight savings sunshine, the grey Milano overcoat of approaching winter had descended again to cloak the city in melancholy.

Then, at pre-school drop-off, the Gigglemonster staged an unexpected and unexplained anxiety episode. He didn’t want to go into the classroom; he didn’t want to play with his friends; he just wanted to go home with me. I really don’t know what was underlying his sudden clinging (his teacher promises he was fine all day), but regardless of the depth of his emotional display he certainly knows how to push all my buttons. The peace I have felt about how we’ve dealt with some recent bullying episodes evaporated. Was he trying to tell me he didn’t feel safe? Was there some trauma he hadn’t yet told us about? Should I even make him stay at school? Eventually his lovely teacher distracted him with a helping task, and he let me leave with a smile, but I could still feel his little arms wrapped tightly around my neck.

Then my morning women’s Bible study exposed more raw emotions. Most of the two hours of talk was good, but very heavy. And then there were a few comments with which I strongly disagreed but which I didn’t have the emotional energy to fight, including an assessment of the recent tragedy in the Philippines. I can cognitively understand the position that all pain in the world is just judgment on a fallen world, but I cannot believe that is the full story. Not from a God who hung on a cross to take judgment that would otherwise have fallen on us.

A little light Facebook scrolling was not the palliative I was hoping for. So much vitriol and hatred and political wrangling! Is this the culture to which I am returning? Remarks that three years ago would have elicited passionate, rhetorical response from my socially engaged conscience now push me toward hopeless tears. This was not the balm I needed.

So, finally I turned to scripture. I thought about the psalms, but my fingers paged a bit farther to a book I’ve only read before in snatches. Lamentations. This might not be the obvious choice to dispel heaviness from my heart, but for some reason I began to read and I couldn’t stop until I had read the last verse, out loud, in the solitude of my living room. It’s not that it was comforting exactly, although it certainly put my first-world, white-girl, lady-of-leisure problems into perspective. It is nearly five chapters of utter devastation, interspersed with confessions that this fate is deserved. And yet there is one interlude that placed a value on the weight in my heart.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3: 22-26, NIV)

OK. So maybe I could wait quietly with this heaviness of heart. Maybe there was something to be gained, something to be learned about faithfulness from letting the pain stand. And as I stopped resisting it, stopped trying to push it away, instead it poured out, overflowing in a poem. Just as the clouds began to release their heavy weight of rain, so my heart released the weight of words that couldn’t heal my vague, painful aching until they were expressed.

To feel that cleansing wash would have been gift enough. Then, miraculously, I found that a poem was exactly what I needed when Princess Imagination dissolved into tears tonight just after her bath, sobbing on my shoulder about her sorrow in leaving friends for a home she longs for, but only dimly remembers. Instead of my usual mommy-talk of encouragement, I shared with her my own pain and the revelations it has brought to me. I shared, and she smiled. Sometime words that speak in images are easier to understand.

So now I share those words with you. May they bring some light if there is rain in your day today.

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

The grey sky droops above my head, grown tired before I left my bed.

Clouds steal the color from the world, and chill my heart, cause it to furl.

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

*

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

Yet, thoughtlessly, I’m unprepared. I have no shield, my head is bared.

I should have known the days of sun could not survive the year near done.

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

*

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

A drizzling patter is first to fall, a soft, slow moan to my heart calls.

Then, growing stronger, beating down rain wets my face and paints my frown.

The clouds are full of rain today, they can’t but overflow.

*

My heart is full of pain today, it can’t but overflow.

My sighing soul, weighed down by grief, for coming loss but not in chief.

More heavy is the grief of world torn up by storm, and hate, and words.

My heart is full of pain today, it can’t but overflow.

*

My heart is full of pain today, it can’t but overflow.

I read lament and misery. I reel from wrath, so stark to see.

I can’t embrace the angry claim, and yet I know the truth of shame.

My heart is full of pain today, it can’t but overflow.

*

My heart is full of pain today, it can’t but overflow.

How can my God of love require a pain that makes all hope expire?

Or nearly so, until, undressed, I see it grows from faithfulness.

Not faith I make, but must receive and finally rest in full reprieve.

My heart is full of pain and hope, it can’t but overflow.

*

My faith will rise anew each day, a gift from Light who cannot fail

So I must look beyond the clouds, must trust in grace to tear the shroud;

The sun and Son now just concealed. The world, my heart, will both be healed.

My faith will rise anew each day, a gift from Light who cannot fail.

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Author: Serena Gideon Rice

In early 2011 my family moved our home, temporarily, from New Jersey to Milan, Italy. In the process I quit what had been my dream job conducting policy-directed social science research, to focus on my other dream job, raising our two young children. The three-year adventure was exciting, exhausting, disorienting, fulfilling, and countless other contradictions. It also birthed in me a desire to share my reflections on life's joys and challenges with anyone who cares to reflect with me. Now that we have returned to the US I'm finding that the new perspective I gained in Europe has come with me, and gives me a whole new way of interacting with my home. There's still so much to learn and share! I hope you'll share the journey, and add your own lessons to my daily education.

3 thoughts on “A Psalm for a Rainy Day

  1. I have been having an anxiety filled two weeks with my husband sick and hospitalized. I read your poem, and just felt it was perfect…right timing for me!

  2. Serena, I love this poem. It really goes with some things I have been learning lately. I think it started with reading Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian but God has really been showing me that we may not know why God is allowing suffering but that we can know he is not absent in suffering and he doesn’t want us to be absent either.

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