Tag Archives: mourning

Those Moments

Those moments when you can feel the spirit like the breath of a lion pushing you to the edge of real and tangible, panting and gasping for the supernatural more real than breath.

Those moments when you know what you know by the Divine in you, the essence of truth, the light that hasn’t faded, the rich vastness of eternity telling you what you see with your naked eye….is not all there is to know.

Those moments when prayer ascends like a baby descends. Gripping writhing agony of purpose and destiny. On behalf of another. For another. For life. For hope. For the promise that awaits in the holding.

Those moments when you find your voice is not alone. You are surrounded by a chorus of keening tears lifting  you by the strength of individual sorrow shared in community. Those moments.

Those moments when your faith is something more than a declaration of creeds, it is a life moving in tandem with eternity.  It is real, in those moments when you feel prayer leave your lips and kiss the face God.

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The Beam

We have lived five seasons on the old homestead.  Five seasons of  extended grace to fields, and furrows, to garden and shed.  Five seasons of running into myself as nine, twelve, sixteen, twenty one with five in tow…a blended family that found shelter under The Old Oaks welcoming shade, and my Father’s watchful gaze.  Five seasons of longing for time to slow it’s relentless march. Five seasons of learning to embrace loss, and discovering joy in the way new life comes from hard grounds.  It was time to change. Time to make the old new, the broken whole, but where to start? This spring, under the weight of wet, heavy snow the Old Oak tree split at the top and a large heavy branch crashed to the earth.  I trembled that morning upon discovering the branches lying separated from the root source.

“Don’t leave me too”, I whispered, running my hands over the scarred ancient bark…”not yet…not ever”

I remember when Dad rattled the oaks last July with his passing, “Squeak” said it was like a hurricane in the tops of the trees, and she knew her “George” was gone.  I felt paralyzed to touch anything lest the memory of my parents be forever altered, or worse…lost.  I was stuck between the forward and the backward swing of a pendulum of emotion. Deep down, I knew to keep grasping and trying to hold the past together  was not living, it was more like being a curator in a mausoleum. Yet, everything felt sacred. The old wood stove with the burnt out box, Mom’s dishes, Dad’s shoes.  It was in holding these things, that I was reminded that it was love that built this house, and the one before that and the one before that. It was a desire for family to be together that drove down hard roots in unrelenting soils. This was a homestead. A place to call the children and their children back to. An anchor in the storm of restlessness,a place where love would reign. So I breathed and whispered to the Gardener that it was time…time to change.

“Where do we start?”  The old porch that wouldn’t see another winter without bracing?  The roof where the tin was peeling back, the walls that needed insulation, the barn that was needing closed in?  The answer came dressed in oak cabinets that had survived a fire, but needed a Master’s touch.  Like our lives, and our hearts.  It was decided.   The kitchen would be first.  The question then loomed,  “how do you make what belonged to another family fit yours?”  I could feel my parents nod in approval as The Gardener sketched, and planned and pondered.

“That is what we have always done, that is what you will do.  ”

The old homestead had a long history of being a  modge-podge of blended hearts and bloods that called each other home, it only made sense that  we would start in the heart of the home, making the old oak cabinets fit. It was on a late summer day, as we sat around the living room dreaming out our  plans that the Boy,  the Light Bearer with the universe in his eyes dreamed a dream of open spaces and walls being torn down, and room being made.  I trembled as I felt the magnitude of the remodel of his vision….tear out the wall separating the kitchen and the living room? I glanced at the Gardener who surveyed the plan with quiet intensity. “It is possible” he said. “It would change the way this whole area looked…”  He glanced my way, waiting…”but, we would need to find a beam to support that long of a span”

I saw myself at nine, running through the house after Dad had framed the walls of the kitchen, it was a great big loop, I laughed at the thought of Mom literally going in circles to clean. I remember the way that opening into the kitchen was the perfect place to nail up sheets for a curtain as my brothers and sisters and I created a special romantic dinner “out” for the two of them one anniversary.  Get rid of the wall? As I sat staring into the kitchen, I felt for the first time the weight  and the joy of living here. Of making it MY home, instead of just my parent’s place.  This would be my touch to a long heritage. “Let’s do it!”  I declared with a lump in my throat. The Boy smiled and spoke gently, “I think Grandma would have loved it!”.  He smiled, I smiled and the Gardener sighed knowing the journey of transformation was going to be long and  hard. The kitchen waited in silence as The Gardener began his search for just the perfect beam. Long enough, strong enough,and  old enough.

The day he brought it home was a cold October.  Working swiftly in between the rain, the Gardener’s strong hands carefully unloaded the grayed, weathered beam.  and with a smile and a nod of respect he patted the side of the beam with his chisel.  “Oak!”   He smiled, as his eyes took in the craftsmanship that created this massive timber. ” You don’t find them like this anymore.  Over 100 years old! ”  The declaration was almost a whisper as he ran his chisel over the hand carved surface of the beam.  “Came from an old Amish barn in Pennsylvania.”  His hands moved over the rough sawn ridges and edges sensing the strength and the potential of the wood.  “Look at those marks, the way they carved this from the tree.  Turned the dowels by treadle, what stories this beam could tell!”

The Gardener began to whittle, and carve, and chisel the beam to his specifications with the same care he gave the earth when planning and planting his harvest. Methodical, precise, patient, intentional movements brought the massive old oak beam to rest securely upon the ceiling of the newly opened expanse.  We stood back in awe at the revelation of how one old beam, given new life, gave new hope to a tired space.  I went for the phone to call my Dad to celebrate, and remembered too late to stop the tears, that I couldn’t do that anymore.   The Gardener wrapped his arms around me, and whispered. “It’s ok, he knows”.  Somewhere outside, just past the oaks an old owl calls from the trees, and the wind picks up a bit and tosses more of the golden leaves to the ground.  A reminder to me, of how beautiful letting go can be.

 

The Sum of 77 years

I added up my mother’s life today.  Tearfully categorizing piles of cancelled checks into tax deductions, filing her worldly identity into a plain manila envelope.  It should have been pink, or turquoise or purple.  Her life was so full of color and sass and passion that the last years seem to be a dim reminder of the vibrancy that followed her. Yet, in the midst of a life haunted by sickness and chained to insurance premiums, was a powerful stack of receipts with the memo:  “For the poor widow of Israel”

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.–James 1:27

There in her shaky handwriting lay moments of worship as she paused to consider others in their plight of distress.  Worship as she reached across the world to bring another woman aching the loss of love and laughter and marriage a warm smile, and a shoulder.  Her small offerings each memo-ed with care and intentionality.   “for the poor widow…of Israel”

She believed The Lord when he said of his friend Abraham from whom his people Israel would come :  ” I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you ” Genesis 12:3

I sat there staring at the pages and realized with pride, my mother practiced pure,faultless religion.  This revelation would have brought her great joy I think.   She lived so much of her life in shame and fear trying so hard to please everyone and her God.  How fitting that this tender act of monthly mercy, unseen and unsung would be what the Lord would highlight to me as the summation of her 77 years.

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Heir To A Grave

I opened the official looking envelope from the county and stared at the title deed to the plot of ground where my mom is buried- I am heir to a grave.

The weight of this inheritance sat with me through the days as I pondered the necessity to prove ownership of my mom’s bones.  Would there ever be a time when someone would dispute my right to mourn my dead on the land purchased and titled?   There across the news the battles in the the Holy Land of who owns what places to put whose bones in blare across the screen. Riots over ancient sepulchers  seemed a bit close to home in my meditations this Holy week.

Bones.

Abraham’s petition to the sons of Heth:

Gen 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

Joseph’s Godfather like command:  “Carry my bones”

Gen 50:25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Even Jesus’s life evolved around the tomb.  The healing of the demoniac that lived among the tombs, the miracle of Lazarus, the care of Christ’s own bones.

Mat 27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.
Mat 27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.
Mat 27:59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud
Mat 27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Joseph had title to his own tomb, and laid another man in it. A man who would not stay dead.  Who would not leave his bones in a borrowed tomb.

Seed.

1Co 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1Co 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
1Co 15:38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

I know my Mother and Father will experience a resurrected body. I am strangely comforted by the fact that they will rise together and experience transformation together. In life they strove to grow as a couple, to be intentional in “doing” life together.  What greater satisfaction can there be than to have the one your soul is knit to, and cleaved to experience the most dramatic physical transformation with you that there will be?  I have pondered how they cared for the dieing kernel of each other’s earthly bodies often with despair and frustration. I think of the days that we sang them and  sowed them back into the Earth they came from.  I look towards THE DAY when the ONE who is the first born from the dead will give their mortal bodies a new life, a new form, and the rejoicing there will be when what was once sickly, and weak, knows resurrected life.

So, I close the envelope and place it with the other important papers that define life and I know that death is not the end for those who believe.  It is only a seed. falling into the ground, shedding it’s kernel, only to be called again into the eternal life giving purpose for which it was created.

1Jn 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I thank God, that Jesus had bones. tomb-2

 

 

 

 

We Are All Just Squatters-

You know how everyone is always telling you to listen for God in the everyday?  You know in the grandeur of a sunset, the promise of a sunrise, the awe of a storm, the gentle whisper after the rain?  Well, the other day, I got yelled at by the chicken lady.  She waved her arms and shook her stick at me as I maneuvered past her hundred chickens trying to cross the road.

“Slow DOWN!”

I wasn’t driving fast, the chickens were just walking slow.

They say she is just squatting there, that she doesn’t really own the place, she is carving out a life off the grid from an abandoned trailer and an old camper, a dog on a chain and at least a hundred chickens.  It must be like Easter every day come egg collecting time.   She held off the wild fire this summer, and refused to leave her plot of earth.  Brave, or   desperate?  I smile politely waving at her angry face and chuckling at the chicken jokes in my head when it hit me.  God just yelled at me in the face of the chicken lady.

“Slow…Down!”

I have been on the run lately, finding it much easier to busy myself with stuff, and plans and doing, than to sit quietly in my sorrow and learn how to walk in the empty spaces.  I took a deep breath and told myself the truth.

“You have lost both of your parents in a matter of months, you have permission to grieve.  You can’t run from this.”

The tears came then as I felt the weight of their absence and the weight of my existence.  The longing to share moments, and jokes, and how Dad would love the chicken lady.   I could hear the Holy Spirit nudge me to re-examine the encounter.   We are all just squatters here really. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and this is not our home, not really.  We may be brave and we may be desperate but we are all looking for the eternal city where  The Lamb is the light.    Mom and Dad are citizens finally.  No longer wanderers in a world full of hardships, toil, and lack.  It is my time to sojourn and leave the plots of earth better than the abandoned wrecks I found them.  I am to make my space matter in the moments of Earth time I am given.  Love carries on.  Nothing else.

I am the squatter now, herding my chickens off the road so some clueless motorist doesn’t smack them with the front end of their vehicle while driving blindly past a lesson from God.

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Dimah-The Weeping

A wooden carving of Virgin of the Seven Sorrows is displayed in a church in the Andalusian capital of Seville

Dimah

The Weeping

There is an ancient word for tears, a woman word, a feminine word, a womb word-

Dimah

The bitter shedding of the blood of the eyes.  The kind of bitter that comes from hearts ripped open by the ravage of divorce, death, addiction.  The kind of bitter that comes from wrong roads wrong loves, wrong gains and the feast made from them.

Dimah

The way the mother heart spills out all over the place like a gut pile from a kill, helpless to defend against the vultures unable to put itself back into its body, laid bare to the picking of its pieces.

Dimah

The sound that moves in the emptiness of home, that echoes in the ashes from the cold hearth shadows of life sounds that has been shattered by the violence- the violence of dishonor, departure, divorce.

Dimah

The blood of the eye that drips down with each glance at the babies the ones who never get to be. The ones who are but don’t know why, the ones who are but think they aren’t and so they disappear from the earth taking their beautiful life force with them, nd we wade in a river of blood that comes from our eyes…

Dimah

The blood of the eye that is ever present as we watch the ones we’ve held to our hearts and our breasts be flailed against the rocks of life in a relentless pounding of pressure. We long to give our bodies to the ragged edge, to weld for them a bridge of peace, but our hands don’t reach that far, all we have is the scream.  The here I am where are you? The scream we hurl at God, to God, desperately groping the blackness for the thread of light begging for his ‘here I am, I see you’ in the silence of the crucible.

Dimah comes unsummoned from the depths of us as we put one foot in front of the other and live because that is what we do. Dimah comes in the circle of the tribe as we lift weary heads and trembling hands to wipe the blood from another’s eyes away.  Dimah comes in the collective life lived and the common bond of sorrow as we raise one voice, shed one consolidated tear.

Yes, we know the ancient word for weeping.  She is with us an integral part of the living and breathing of mothering.  Yet, she comes with a promise, that the valley we have cut out from the torrents of our tears will one day become a door of hope. And so, we weep with you who weep, we mourn with you who mourn, we wipe the blood from your eyes through the haze of red in ours.  Together, we wait for the dawn and the day star to arise in our hearts and we hope.

 

Living On The Circumference

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”  The recognition that one’s life is meant to be lived from the inside out is a milepost on our spiritual journey.  In a society which lays such great stress on outward appearances, labels and symbols of success it will take an earnest concentration on our part to free ourselves from this highly touted living on the circumference. “–Bob Benson, Disciplines For The Inner Life

Living on the circumference.

By definition:  the enclosing boundary of a curved geometric figure, especially a circle.

By association:  synonyms:  perimeter, border, boundary, edge, rim, verge, margin, fringe
By etymology:  This word comes from the Latin, it means to carry, or bear around or about…
As I sit gazing at these words, I realize I am beholding the place where lepers dwell.  The social misfits, the spiritual outcasts, the religiously impure, the broken bodies, minds, spirits of the strangers… the ones no one gets…the angry ones.  The deeply soul sad, the fearful and cautious ones who look for stones behind every passing cloak.  The thought comes to me of Yeshua The Rabbi’s response to the walking dead.  What was His interpretation of Leviticus?

The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, `Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.

Leviticus 13: 45-56

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 Grief can make you live on the circumference.  Feeling like an electron slowly moving around a nucleus of sorrow that won’t let you go.  Pulling you ever inward.  I am discovering in my orbit an internal language for loss.  I never knew such words or phrases existed until I found myself walking ragged through the ashes.
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and again:
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 I turn to the Rabbi’s invitation and question whether it is for me.  What is the garment of mourning supposed to “fit” like?  at the moment it is tight and constricting and I can’t breathe most days.  But I can’t take it off.  It is like being strapped into a dress that the zipper has broken on.  To tight to go over your head, to small to slide over the hips. Only way out is the scissors-but the price tag keeps my hands at bay…I have paid so much for this dress.
No one ever told me that grief would feel so much like fear.