Faith, Family, & Focaccia

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


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If…a vision of a more fun world

Today I was speaking with a colleague about the crazy things our kids say, and how it gives such a fascinating glimpse into their lives. That thought stayed with me through the day, and eventually simmered over into a poem about my son’s crazy, wonderful, inspiring internal world.


If …

 

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… there would be lots more chocolate

… and no one would have to wake up early

… and he could play with guns and explosives

…because they would be utterly safe but still make big bangs.

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… toys would be unlimited and free

… and so would smiles

… and no one would be too poor or too rich

… because every one would have “middle money.”

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… ambulances would be just for playing in

… because no one would ever get hurt

… but if they did, they could have a Disney band-aid

… even with no visible boo-boo.

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… there would be answers to every question

… and the answers would change if he didn’t like them

… and never would distractions, or exhaustion, get in the way of a thirty second story

…stretched over forty minutes.

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… little boys could run around naked all the time

… and Mommies would be just as happy in their skin

… because the squishy parts are best for cuddling

… and jiggly arms make awesome toys.

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… hugs would be the most precious currency

… and everyone would give them generously

… and every problem could be fixed by “I’m sorry”

… or at least a cuddle and a book.

If the world really worked as my son thinks it should

… there would be less pain

… and more play

… and everyone would understand that we are all happier

… when we make each other whole.


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Imaginative Freedom: Day 7 of the April Poetry Challenge

Apparently the Gigglemonster inherited more from me than his brown eyes and his extreme sensitivity to tickling. He is clearly also a born story-teller. He loves to hear stories; he loves to act them out; and most of all he likes to create them out of the quirky delightfulness of his own imagination.

This penchant is most frequently displayed when the current reality does not line up with his preferences. It’s not that he is a LIAR exactly, but more than he has a complicated relationship with the truth – it is just so confining and uninspiring. Much more fun to explore the realm of possibility, where history can contain any experience his little four-year-old mind can dream up, and where his sister’s ever practical correction can’t intrude with withering assertions “that never happened!”

I can’t wait to start reading the stories he will write in a few more years…


 

Oh, To Be a Ghost Grown-up

 

“When I was a ghost grown-up…”

that’s my son’s standard introduction

to imaginative tales of things

he’s never done.

Professions he has never worked (a knight, a dentist, a mythbuster),

places he has never been (the moon, a pirate ship, Erendell),

lives he has never lived (dangerous, exciting, magical),

all breathed to life with the strong force of his boundless storytelling.

 

It is a carefully selected self that bars all contradiction.

A ghost cannot be seen,

so who can witness to its absence?

A grown up – in his 4-year-old belief – suffers no limits,

there is no one to say “No” where grown-ups have a will to do.

And so, these stories too can grow without constraint,

an outlet for a mind that yearns to live each moment to the very tip of thought.

 

I’ve heard of epic battles he has fought and won,

of ten motherless children he has raised with love and care.

(each has a name, if an unusual one).

I’ve marveled at the complicated web of tangled powers and desires that his mind evokes.

I’ve ached to see frustration in each tale of loss, of failure, or of woe.

I’ve learned to listen for the dream, the cherished hope

that needs this outlet for release.

To ponder how to keep him safe

while also giving room for dreams to grow into reality.

 

And… I have wondered.

Just what would it be like to be, myself, a “ghost grown up”?

No limits to contain my mind or will,

no drudgery of trapping practicality,

no fetters of responsibility to hold me to the one life I have chosen.

But… no reality either,

to make my life the fragile, precious, messy, beautiful mix of love and boundaries,

that grows each day,

even within constraints;

and with no dreamer boy to hold – fixed to the ground – while I listen to his wondrous tales

take flight…

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Chaos and Comfort

This will be a short one, I promise. It is basically just an introduction and then a short piece of writing I completed for a completely different purpose, that has since been hanging with me.

So, first the introduction. I have previously mentioned my small but wonderful Thursday morning bible study group, which has become a source of learning, inspiration, and friendship over the last 8 months. The format is fairly standard, but for those for whom this form of religious practice is not familiar I will briefly summarize its two elements. First, each participant completes the study preparation, which includes reading the text for the week and answering a number of questions about it that range from basic summarizing to deeper interpretation to personal application. Second, the group meets to share and discuss their responses, as well as to pray and just share our lives. It is an enriching part of my weekly routine, but nothing very unusual for those in church circles.

Last week, however, there was an unusual task included in the preparation section. We were reading Acts chapter 27, which tells the dramatic story of the shipwreck experienced by the Apostle Paul and over 270 other people during his transportation as a prisoner from Caesarea to Rome (If you’re interested in the context, here’s a link to the online text http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2027&version=NIV). As part of our reflection on this story, the study participants were asked to write a description of the emotional experience of one of Paul’s companions on the ship during the more than 2 weeks that they spent buffeted by a hurricane before being marooned on the island of Malta.

At first I hesitated at this task. In past reading I have thoroughly enjoyed some imaginative retelling of pieces of the Biblical narrative (The Red Tent comes to mind as a wonderful exploration of the feminine world that lies mostly obscured by the Biblical account of the patriarchs). I think it can be appropriate and illuminating to start from the limited information provided in Bible accounts and then try to “flesh out” the story with the human experiences and emotions that can sometimes be difficult to find in the theologically driven original texts. Nevertheless, I quail at the thought of attempting such an exploration myself. While I thoroughly enjoy the process of character development in my fiction, to engage in this process with actual historical events, and more than that with events that are part of the revelation of God, seems too far beyond my ken. How could I endeavor to achieve the necessary truth in such an enterprise?

And yet, the assignment was there, and after initial hesitation I couldn’t just completely rebel (I am a consummate rule-follower, after all). Once I capitulated I found that there were actually several points of contact to help with my engagement. The fact that the scene involved a ship-wreck helped provide a sense of background. I know from my seminary studies how in ancient middle eastern cultures the sea was associated with primordial chaos: the ultimate evil that is contained or restrained in creation, but which always threatens to break free. That would have possibly given a special terror to the prospect of death at sea. My own personal experiences of sea sickness also offered an entry point for my imagination. If I don’t take chemical aids to fight it, I am bent double within 20 minutes of riding even the gentlest swells — even the thought of two weeks of being buffeted by a hurricane makes me nauseous.

I had those two concepts in my brain as I set pen to paper, but not much more. Unlike my normal writing process I had no outline, no sense of where I was going. I just started writing. The result stunned me. It also reawakened in me a sense of awe about the power and deliverance in my faith; an awe that can sometimes be hard to hold on to in the tides of daily life. I hope it can offer a sense of anchor for you as well, or perhaps offer a sense of the screaming of the wind. So, with no further adieu…

This is worse than a nightmare, because it just goes on. Day after night, night after day, week after week. It starts to feel like this is the only reality there is, and all memory of land, of stillness, of quiet, of happiness, were all just a delusion.

I have vomited so much that I feel utterly empty inside. The smell of my own bile is part of my skin now; eating at my teeth; matted in my hair; I cannot imagine ever being clean again. The sickness is so painful I begin to long for death… until I look over into the water and I recoil back from its churning, gaping mouth. The salt stings my eyes as the wind lashes a wave into my face, and something in me screams, NO! I don’t want to be eaten up by that bottomless chaos!

The power of the smashing waves terrifies me, but it is the icy stillness beneath that grips my heart with a fear deeper and more paralyzing than I have ever known. How deep will I sink? Will I die before I am pulled out of reach of all light? Or will my last moments be the terror of total darkness and the scaly touch of unseen creatures as my lungs fight helplessly to draw oxygen from the water filling them? Even this current hell of sickness and fear is better than that fate.

Then I see Paul, that prisoner who somehow seems to gain respect even from his captor, the centurion, Julius. He has… peace. Somehow in this chaos of howling wind and biting rain… somehow despite the incessant creak of the boat’s timbers that cackle to my fears of the imminent cracking and tearing that will throw us all into the sea… somehow none of it affects him. He even smiles at me as he moves past and reaches out a hand to stroke the vomit-flecked hair out of my face.

His touch is miraculous. My stomach quiets. For the first time in weeks pain is not pulling my insides into a riotous ball. I turn and follow him, captivated, and see him take up a loaf of bread before turning to the mass of hopeless men strewn across the deck.

He doesn’t have to yell. Despite the despair that pulls each man in on himself, gnawing on his own misery and fear; despite the cracking, crashing noise that had battered our ears for days without end; when he speaks we all can hear. He speaks with total confidence of reassurance, of the promise of his God to save not just himself but all of us. It is unbelievable.

But I believe him. I feel myself mysteriously filled with the same stillness I see in him as he breaks bread and tells us to eat. I have seen him and his friends do this before, speaking words about remembrance of this Christ they follow. As I take a hunk of bread from Paul’s hand the words come back to me. “Do this in remembrance of me.”

I don’t yet know what I am remembering. But I will find out.