Faith, Family, & Focaccia

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


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A Psalm of Hope

It has been a REALLY long time since I posted. Lots of reasons, and that is not the point of this post, but I am very conscious of how much I need this medium for words today. I need the healing of exploring my own soul and sharing that exploration in the belief that I am not alone. And, what is more, I need the belief that this sharing can be a way back to humanity, and compassion, and most of all HOPE.

And so, this is me sharing my soul. It is written in the form of a Psalm, because a psalm is what I needed today. So, I read the first 24 verses of Psalm 18 (I am very inconsistently working my way through the psalms as a self-care practice at the moment, and this was the next one up) and from that inspiration, I wrote my own.


Psalm January 29, 2017 (Loosely inspired by Psalm 18:1-24)

I said “I love you, God, my source of safety.”

God is the one I can always rely on – the one who is always there, who never rejects me.

God is my support.

I don’t have to prove myself to God.

God protects me from myself and from my need to demonstrate my worth.

I am safe with God.

Because God is so completely trustworthy, I came to God in prayer, begging,

and God filled my soul with the assurance that God is bigger than everything I am afraid of.

I was scared of so many things –

of pain for myself and for others,

of failure,

of coldness in my soul,

of people feeling abandoned and my guilt for that abandonment,

because I am relatively safe.

In my tears and fear, I prayed.

I cried out to God, “HELP!”

And God heard!

In the truth of God’s glory, and power, and perfection, my  fears and tears were NOT too light a thing to claim God’s attention.

God paid attention.

 

And when God responds, that response cannot be ignored.

God’s power, and truth, and righteousness are far beyond control.

God it not tame.

Even when I might get nervous about God’s righteous anger, it’s not for me to hold it back.

God’s love is fierce.

God’s commitment to creation and to each precious person will not sit back;

God will not wait and see;

God will not be conciliatory where there is evil in the world.

God’s love can burn like wildfire when it needs to.

And God’s truth can be as invasive as the darkness –

working where we cannot see

in preparation for the painfully revealing light.

When loud voices speak lies, God will speak louder,

and the enemies of God will be scattered.

They will be exposed in the places they thought they were safe –

in the center of their assumed power –

they will be shaken.

Nothing can resist God’s righteous anger.

 

God does not stay remote.

God has already touched me, grabbed me, and pulled my spirit to safety.

The quicksand cannot pull at me

when God has hold of me.

It tried –

it surrounded me with lies and fears and memory-scars of pain.

But God is stronger and God saved me.

God loves me and shows that I am worth saving.

God knows my failings, but God also knows my heart is turned toward love.

God has given me faith,

and so I seek God’s will,

and I reject fear and self-protection that denies God’s sovereignty.

I seek to know and understand how God’s way of living works,

and then I follow that way, imperfectly, through grace.

And so, God has protected me and given me this life –

to live in joy with love

keeping God’s way.

AMEN

 

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Broken Body, Resurrection Hope: Day 18 of the April Poetry Challenge

Today is Good Friday – the culmination of the Lenten contemplation of our personal and communal brokenness and our need for the Resurrection that comes on Easter Sunday.

I am feeling, pretty desperately, the need for that resurrection hope after the past few months. Ever since returning to the States in January from our European sojourn I’ve felt compelled to re-engage in a way I had been resisting while I had the excuse of a separating ocean. Specifically, I’ve been re-engaging with the American Church. In a blessed and wonderful that has meant re-engaging with the congregation that sent us out three years ago, and what a homecoming that has been. I have never in my life felt so grateful for a church family.

More broadly, however, this has meant re-engaging with the Christian Culture Wars that are rending the American Church into mutually despising pieces. I have a side in these wars, and I can’t pretend they are over petty things that we should just agree to stop fighting about. Scriptural Authority and the Love of Neighbor are really major issues that go to the core of people’s beliefs – I get that. There is no easy solution.

And yet, my heart has been breaking, each time I read a new Kissing Fish article, or blog post about the World Vision policy switch, or personal story of a former student at my Alma Mater, that all reveal just how broken, and sometimes hateful, my larger church body has become. This Lenten season for me has involved a lot of grieving, and crying out to God for answers – for hope that this supposed “body of Christ “can be saved.

Those are hard prayers to pray, hard questions to ask. But, I’m glad to have gone through this Lenten season, because I have heard an answer. The great thing about Lent is that is ends. And it ends with resurrection. And that is a powerful answer to questions about brokenness and death.


Broken Body, Resurrection Hope
Forty day journey nears its end,

time for reflection and remorse,

a time our hearts are meant to lend

attention to a change of course.

 

And yet… these weeks have witnessed pain

not of repentance, but of pride

that marks white robes, already stained

by ripping wounds caused from inside.

 

This Church, this body, meant to be

united by one Spirit’s breath,

appears, to tear-soaked eyes, to me,

to be a witness more to death.

 

Death of love, and death of grace,

unable to extend a hand

when its own member’s wounded face

asks faithfulness to understand.

 

“I can still love the God you serve

but disagree with you about

five scriptures that expose a nerve,

about the sanctity of doubt.”

 

But wounded hands pull back in fists,

defensive, curled around the pain,

with closed-off ears, both sides insist

“I am the right, you are to blame.”

 

Self-righteousness that tears and rends

a body meant to live as one.

Contracted muscles can’t extend

to open arms as did the Son.

 

For soon we’ll see another form

broken, hanging on a tree

Good Friday calls us near to mourn

the sacrifice on Calvary.

 

Oh, may that memory impart

return to humble brokenness,

give healing balm to bleeding heart,

heal lips that struggle to confess.

 

We all are broken, every one,

and all imperfect in our faith.

By the one Truth we’re all undone.

There is no credit we can take.

 

And brokenness like this is blessed

if it can cause us to return

to love, where arguments aren’t stressed

for we all know grace is unearned.

 

And, despite the bloody trail

the evidence of Church undone,

we can still rise in joy to hail

the Whole and Resurrected One.

 

He is our hope, alive and true

that broken body can still mend.

A dying Church can still renew

leave fear behind and rise again.


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My Hope Hole: Day 10 of the April Poetry Challenge

As part of the Messy Beautiful Warrior Project, I’ve been reading many of the thoughtful, inspiring, and vulnerable stories of fellow contributors over the past several days. I have been deeply moved by the courage that so many of these women have shown in painful situations, including some situations that connect directly to a piece of my own story. Their words have evoked my memories of the darkest time in my life, but those memories have brought not fresh pain, but rather an awareness of healing.

Today’s poem is for all those warriors who are fighting the pain each day. Here’s to hope.


 

They say “time heals all wounds.”

I think that’s true.

Near eighteen years past loss, and I’ve moved on,

lived nearly half my life,

and I am healed.

Yes! Even blessed.

No longer mangled by the ripping pain…

Dad’s suicide.

 

This week I’ve read so many tales of loss

by messy, beautiful warriors carrying-on

through the agony of darkness, barely gone:

a failed parent,

a bi-polar diagnosis,

a father died too young.

And each could be a trigger,

a sharp slap of memory:

of a Dad who couldn’t love me back,

of tortured, hurricane emotions,

of the final and irreparable loss.

 

And yet…

 I find that I am not undone.

I read the stories with deep empathy,

knowing the pain involved

from inside,

from experience,

but when I write my own messy beautiful tale,

Dad’s death was only a small footnote,

not the controlling center.

 

Ten years ago, it certainly would have been,

but

time heals.

 

The healing is not quite what I’d expected, though.

It has not made me whole,

returned my heart to its uninjured shape,

perhaps with just a scar to show the hurt.

Instead, the hole remains, unfilled.

Dad was and is still missing,

from my wedding,

from eighteen Christmases and birthdays,

from my children’s memories,

and that “missing” is a gap within the fabric of my life.

 

The miracle of time, of healing, is

that broken threads of love have been rewoven,

the edges of the hole no longer frayed.

My heart is not the same, how could it be?
But… it is whole.

The hole of loss has grown to be a part of my heart’s shape.

And in that hole, that space that can’t be filled with life that carries on,

there is now room to carry

Hope.


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A Psalm for a Rainy Day

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.