Faith, Family, & Focaccia

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


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Moonspasms: Day 30 of the April Poetry Challenge

On the final day of the 30-poems-in-30-days challenge it seems fitting to close my month-long spasm of creativity with a poem that mirrors the opening. My first, light-hearted little offering described a morning wake-up in the soft surroundings of my sunlit bed. At the close of this adventure I am offering another haiku that also deals with my bed – or rather, the missing of it in the late hours of the night. Considering how many hours of sleep I have donated to this poetic outpouring, it could end no other way.


 

Oh, inspiration

must you so often visit

after my bedtime?

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Be With: Day 29 of the April Poetry Challenge

No introduction today. Sometimes the soul can only speak in poetry.


 

 

Be With

 

“I just want to be with you.”

my child’s plea

so sweet,

so simple.

a stutter trying to interrupt the fast-revolving wheel

my spinning presence

in no moment standing still.

It feels unnatural to stop

with no objective

no self-validating task.

to only be

be with.

And later, open journal in my lap,

I grope for prayer,

for words to wake a passion in my soul,

to feel connection to a God I’ve walked with for so long

but feels tonight so far away.

Then, as my pen spills ink across a page

of spinning words, I feel an urge

a child’s longing

simple words that spell themselves

into my prayer.

I just want to be with you for a while

be with.

An image that my daughter loves

presents itself to eyes closed more in weariness than prayer.

The sister who sat at her master’s feet*

eschewing spinning,

whirling,

soul-consuming tasks

to sit and learn.

“She chose the better part.”

Rebuke refused, and welcome given her instead,

the disciple who knew how to be

be with.

I want to be that eager girl

whose eagerness leads not to movement, but to peace

to patient sitting,

waiting,

listening,

knowing I will

find all that I seek

and even more

if I can simply learn to be

be with.

 

* The sisters referenced are Mary and Martha, whose story is told in Luke 10:38-42.


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Worth: Day 28 of the April Poetry Challenge

The week has arrived. After nearly four years, an incredible European adventure, and a truly priceless opportunity to soak in my little ones’ tiny years, I am going back to work.

I am very aware that I am one of the lucky ones, not only because I had the freedom to take these years away from paid employment, but also because I am returning to an incredible opportunity that seems almost custom-made to fit my skills, interests, and family commitments. On second thought, luck is an inadequate descriptor for my career and family path. Fate seems more appropriate, or divine intervention.

I am going with divine intervention because that reminds me how much I will need continued intervention in the months to come. Of course my circumstances do not dictate any real variation in my reliance on God, but I am especially aware of the need to recognize this dependence now. My time away from the status of career taught me how much self-worth I have drawn from my work in the past. It was a relationship that I unlearned at the price of real emotional turmoil, and the perspective that work provided me is something I do not want to lose. The very wonderfulness of my new job is, for that reason, also a threat. It would be so easy to slip back into old shoes that offer the illusion of so much comfortable support.

But I want to walk a new path this time. And so, today’s poem is a prayer.


 

 

Where Does My Worth Come From

 

Three years ago I struggled with the loss

my markers of

identity and worth.

In giving up career I gave up more

than just the paycheck

and the daily grind.

I had to learn to live within my means

not in my budget

but my sense of self,

to find my value not in what I did

to earn a name

or make my voice be heard.

I had the chance to learn how, with new eyes,

to turn and look

upon to Psalmist’s mount.

“Where does my help come from? It comes from You”

who loved me, fragile,

in my mother’s womb.

It’s not the change that I can make or be

that gives me worth,

gives meaning to my life.

My value is best seen when I am clear,

transparent for

the light that burns inside.

And now a new beginning, new career:

a chance to shine,

or cover up Your light?

Lord, let me not be tempted now to strive

for worth I make,

but find my self in You.


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Breathing My Baptism: Day 27 of the April Poetry Challenge

Today Princess Imagination is being baptized. She is almost seven, more than a year younger than I was when I made the same decision. She’s quite proud of that – something she’s doing before I did it – but that’s not her motivation. She is being baptized because she loves Jesus and wants to fully participate in the family of God. As dysfunctional as I sometimes feel that family is, I am nothing but happy that she wants to formalize her membership in it. For one thing, she can only make it better. For another, the simplicity and beauty of her desire reminds me of the simplicity and beauty of a sacrament that turns plain water into a powerful, identity-changing symbol.

It’s so easy to forget. But today, I am remembering.


 

Breathing my Baptism

 

The slightest drop of your immensity

floods over me

and lifts me off my self-sure footing.

The ground on which I stood

a labor of thoughts

dissolves in swirling currents.

There is no place for kicking feet to stand

no life raft to  construct

from illusions of my self-sufficiency.

A baptism of consciousness

and I am drowned

beneath the surface of a sea of Love.

I am inside the waters now

and fear is gone,

or in the least it does not fill my lungs.

I find they are transformed to breathe anew

not cold, thin air

but Breath of Life that makes me new.

And when I rise again above the waves

I do not gasp

or gulp for what I craved before submerged.

New life, a Truth both real

and beyond words

flows through my veins like water through the world.


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Dividing a Heart: Day 26 of the April Poetry Challenge

I have heard it said that if you allow a child to draw anything they wish the result will give you a view into their world. If that is true, then I am a very proud and happy Mommy today. Princess Imagination chose to draw a picture of her heart the other day, and what’s inside her heart had me tearing up.

And then, it had me writing poetry… about what the world could learn about priorities from my little girl.


 

Room In My Heart

 

The survey asks me to define,

to give a number,

to apportion value twixt the things the world tells me to love.

What is most important to you?

  1. love
  2. family
  3. education
  4. health
  5. money
  6. career
  7. power.

The question assumes a spot for each.

The only variant

is how much space I give each “what”

in the landscape of my heart.

But when my daughter draws her heart,

there is no room for “what,”

there is only room

for “who”

and “who”

is big enough for God,

and people in need,

and everyone.

 

 


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Dancing: Day 25 of the April Poetry Challenge

Thursday is little girl dance night. This means a bit of organized chaos for our family.

The chaos results from the combination of the location of Princess Imagination’s dance class (the town to the north) and the start time (6:30 pm), which turns a normally 10 minute drive into 20-30 minutes, during which the kids eat sandwiches in the car because there is no way dinner is going to get itself cooked, served, and eaten before 6:00. The commute is followed by 45 minutes of Mommy trying to entertain the Gigglemonster while simultaneously maintaining polite chit chat with the Dance Dads, and then the rush back home to get the kids into bed before Mommy’s dinner-less blood sugar levels dip into irrationality territory.

Despite the rush and the questionable nutritional balance involved in this weekly ritual, it is worth it for the smile on my daughter’s face when she comes rushing out of the dance studio after her class. She isn’t just happy; she is glowing.

This is despite the fact that half of the time it’s a nagging struggle to get her changed into her jazz clothes and into the car by 6:03. Dance is not her life passion. It is not what she was put on this earth to do. She is not even especially talented. (I know its sacrilege to say that about one’s own child, but I am a firm believer in only lavishing praise that is actually deserved, and she gives me plenty of opportunities to do that in other fields of endeavor – don’t even get me started on her math!). The first few months of the class I was wondering why we were even doing the craziness of Thursday nights. Watching on the closed circuit monitor she seemed distracted and unfocused during the class. She wasn’t really picking up the choreography, her timing was about a half-step off, and she nearly fell over every time she tried to pirouette. Exactly why was I paying through the nose to put us all though this once a week?

But then she comes running out of class and there is that bright fire in her eyes, I know this is the evidence I would offer to silence skeptics who don’t believe in heaven. It is right there – in the beautiful, brown mystery of her eyes.

She doesn’t care whether she is a good dancer, or whether she is learning the routine. All she knows is that she has spent 45 minutes dancing and it is more glorious than anything on this imperfect earth should be.

So now, Thursday nights are worth it not just for her, but also for me. Because I get to watch her dance, and learn what that really means.


 

Dancing Like a Little Girl

 

I want to dance like a little girl

free and happy in my own skin,

feeling nothing but the thrill of moving

through the space that hugs me,

as air becomes my joyful dancing partner.

I want to dance like a little girl

completely unaware of watching eyes,

unconcerned with looking graceful,

or sexy,

knowing that I dance not to impress, but to express.

I want to dance like a little girl

with a rhythm that erupts out of my soul,

and with a loose relationship to beat and time,

because the music is a friend

and not a task master,

a friend to join the play, not to set rules.

I want to learn to dance like a little girl.

and once I learn to dance like this.

I want to learn to live this way as well.


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Prayer on the Wind: Day 24 of the April Poetry Challenge

Yesterday I learned about a new form of poetry: Tanka. Tanka is like the big sister of Haiku, a little bigger and maybe a bit more grown-up. Although I understand the syllable count is not a strict requirement, the Tanka adds two lines (each of 7-ish syllables) to the 5-7-5 structure of the Haiku. While offering more freedom, Tanka is also more focused – presenting an image from the natural world and then expressing emotional meaning through that image.

I read that description and immediately knew I wanted to try it. Thankfully the day’s weather offered a perfect manifestation of the natural world to inspire me. The picture window off my dining room presented the picture of a warm New Jersey spring, but the wind that wrapped around my legs and tossed my hair the moment I stepped outside felt more like a mistral – the cold, strong gusts that tug at the Mediterranean coasts during this seasonal transition.

It was disappointing. The Winter that greeted our return to New Jersey has been so cold and long and – frankly – unwelcoming, that I am longing for Spring to really and truly arrive and tell me that this is where I belong. I don’t want to be blown back across the Atlantic when I am trying so hard to build my life here.

But then a memory of another Mediterranean wind blew into my mind and stopped my grumbling. It was the Summer wind that enchanted my daughter and I on the Greek island of Tinos and inspired one of my first ever blog posts. (That post is still one of my favorite things I have ever written – click here if you are curious). Sometimes the power of the wind cannot be measured in physical force.


 

Prayer on the Wind

 

The wind blows today

harder than I want, but then

I remember when

island wind blew through her hair

and taught my soul a prayer.