Monthly Archives: August 2009

tonight: and then, change

“We none of us knew for sure what kind we were, exactly, but as long as we were the kind that could sit around eating together and having a lovely time, that was enough.”
-Julie Powell (p 114, Julie and Julia)

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these gray things
easily interpreted when they were black and white
held loosely then pocketed like change
to toss in the tip jar later
a quarter or two is thanks for coffee hot enough
and day comes with
open handedness
these things pondered and flipped between fingers
change, loosely required

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today: these photographs

These photographs keep me alive.
-Joshua Radin

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Joshua Radin?!? Yeah, I went there. Let it go.

Occasionally an image or two reminds me of how one day I realized I loved photography. And then I am thankful I stuck it out and kept learning a thing or two. Those things or two stack up, you know, and sometimes those stacks are the stuff of purpose being guzzled and absorbed, shaping identity.

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today: time

“The good news was that the buzzing in my head and queasy but some how exhilarating squeeze deep in my belly were reminding me that I might still, after all, be something else.”
-Julie Powell (p14 Julie and Julia)

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Time has passed in such a way that come September, five years will have passed since I moved back to Texas after a couple of years in Toronto. My friend and mentor Paul bought me coffee just before I left. Paul listens well and tells stories. He knows about people. He looked me in the eye and said this: “Stay five years.” He chased those words with an explanation, that it would be good for me to put down roots after a lot of years of jumping around. He thought it would help me understand community and how to see people.

Five years, then, lived in the back of my mind for a long time as the target for this season. Texas (Austin excluded) and I are at odds in many ways, and I say that without intending to discount my amazing family and friends here. But my wiring-culturally, artistically, spiritually, and at the core of me-fits better in an assortment of other places. As this five-year mark approaches, I cannot help but wonder what happens next.

And honestly, I have no idea.

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Last week I pondered the passing of time just north of Seattle with Carla, one of my besties. We have changed a lot over the course of our friendship, but a constant has been our willingness to listen to each other. Everyone needs a few people who get them through and through and who keep showing up, over the phone and coffee, through emails and chat, in bars and alongside of others. It’s a gift to have friends with whom the context doesn’t matter. We are.

Carla doesn’t have answers for me regarding what happens next. I don’t need her to. What I, what people need, need is time, to think and pray and listen and wonder and wander and fail and succeed, and this is the process of working things out. That is life happening. Put me on an airplane and let me out hundreds of miles away, and the fog of perception lifts to reveal that reality.

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Life is happening. Sometimes I fear missing it, and fear cripples life, preventing the heart and mind from connecting and hearing God. It blares like a loudspeaker: You are missing it; you will never figure this out; you will never be content/rested/joyful; you are alone…

And honestly, I know better.

And honestly, that perspective makes me expectant and hopeful, putting that which was lame back into joint and smoothing the ground for feet to move not without effort but with ease.

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tonight: and scene.

wait

maybe the mountains on either side
provide the clarity to look beyond pockets full and weighty
and that compass points elsewhere all together
and unexpectedly this pause
with mountains on either side
might be needed if unasked for
curtain call, just right

tonight: ascent (the stories told, the Story’s told)

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
-G.K. Chesterton

“I think I did the right thing, but George fired me and punched me in the face.”
-Ira Wright (Seth Rogen’s character in Funny People)

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the philosophers sat around and sit around and ponder what is truth,
all right and good and important.
the storytellers sat around and sit around and dance around the question,
with it’s seemingly fragmented mysteries of semi-answers.
we- or at least i- so, so, so need them.

henry runs; clare waits.
both confused; love aches.
the boy sits, an old man now, on the stump of the tree.
the tree never wandered; she remained, free.
we don’t need safe but we need good.
harry lived and down death stood,
but the scar still burned; troubles still churned,
they grew up and took their turn
stepped up to the plate and kicked death’s ass.

when we can’t know up from down the storytellers keep dancing around,
pedaling realities lost and found.
and we- or at least i- so, so, so need them.
it is an echo that they sound:
life happens, story
unresolved and messy stride discovered
reflecting the possibility of glory
ridden with oft costly consequence
life translucent, light immense
and towards truth feebly
we slowly ascend

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today: kid #12

“In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”
-Dumbledore to Harry p 743, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling

Cause she’s the brightest thing I got…
-John Mayer

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He had the roundest, most symmetrical head any of us had ever seen, our Jono. He toppled over when we set him on the floor as an infant, the weight of that head surrendering to gravity. Eleven years ago today he became a part of our world. As I ran this morning, I thought about him and started crying. You should know that I don’t usually cry when I run, but today I was thankful for my sunglasses. It was an odd experience. I started out pondering this wonderful gift of a boy our family has been given, and, well, I ended up in tears.

Jono is one amazing kid. When you are in a super-sized family, everyone’s identities get mingled in a mess, and some kids work really hard at being distinct. Not Jono. He has this ease with himself, and I think it is this: he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It is also this: he doesn’t care and yet he is good. It’s like he didn’t get that dose of insecurity that makes kids fight for top billing sometimes. He knows he’s okay.

Jono goes to bed when he’s tired even if it’s hours before bedtime. He reads instead of watching television (not always but sometimes). Once when I asked him if his (very greasy looking) hair was dirty, he said, “Oh, I only wash it when it gets crunchy.” Crunchy hair. Right. I love this kid.

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I love all my brothers and sisters. Jono holds a special place in my heart. We are similar in that we are quiet. Much of our family is loud. He plays the piano. I love that. He still plays with Legos. I love that too. He’s hit the age where questions requiring an answer that might be remotely emotive feels awkward. His response to such questions comes in shrugged shoulders followed by “I’m bored.” Bored might be the description he chooses, but he is a soft-hearted kid with a laid back approach to life… And sometimes his conscience functions in overdrive.

The world is a better place because Jono is in it. That’s what made me cry on my run today. As a sibling in a large family, kid #12 wasn’t high on the list of things I wanted to add to my life eleven years ago today. I repent. I was wrong. I cannot imagine life without Jono. He is just the best thing, the brightest thing I got.

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today: Phoebe

We don’t have may answers save the one you brought us today,
as your mom and dad stayed up all night
to painfully receive you from the hands of God:
The proper grieving of a fallen world, is joy.

“The Proper Grieving of a Fallen World”, Donald Miller

A couple of years ago, my friend Julie and I drank coffee and talked about life the way you do when you meet in the morning and chase caffeine with a walk in the park. Evening conversations marry to beer and walks around city blocks, but I digress. They wanted another baby, Julie and her husband. That want combined with trying had resulted in the ache of frustration, disappointment and hurt. This had gone on for some time. It continued to go on. Conversations would shift from that point to doctor’s visits and consideration of options. Time, in this context, taunts and teases longing. Desire can shift from the dreamy wonder of what could be to the heavy hand of what is not…

Julie, though, is a pragmatic woman, perhaps my most pragmatic friend. We sat there that day, and we prayed. We prayed for a baby. We asked God for help. For a long time when I thought of Julie and remembered to talk to God about her (not as frequent as perhaps prayer could be…), I prayed for a baby. A lot of times prayer seems one-sided. People who are sick don’t get better; they die. Abuse continues. War does not cease. Anxiety robs me of sleep at a maddening rate. People do not change. I do not change. The world does not change. That is my perception.

That perception can be believed as reality. Understanding the seeming lack of resolution for so many things prayed for with earnest does not come on demand. I do not have answers for those whys. Trusting God is all I got, and when there seems to be more mess than redemption, well, that’s not the easy way.

A few weeks ago, though, I met Phoebe. Julie cradled her wobbly frame as she passed this little bundle of a girl to me. She nestled against me and slept, her tiny chest rising and falling to fill tiny lungs with oxygen giving life to this person who did not exist last year. And now she is here.

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When I met her I remembered that day in Starbucks and how we prayed. We asked God for help. A couple of years later, the tangibility of this one baby, this beautiful girl, exudes hope every time I see her. We prayed for her, and she is here. She is here, and she is life.

Phoebe does not bring answers or understanding to other circumstances and challenges. The realness of her, though, refreshes faith and hope. We don’t have it all worked out, this seeking of God and his way. But here is this baby, this very real baby, and she who was not here right when she was wanted… she needed to come this way. A fragment of her destiny is a page of my story: we prayed; God heard; she is here.