Tag Archiv: grace
Photo by Denna, compliments of morguefile.com. Poem excerpts in text from “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus (a poem engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty).
I almost can’t wait until Lent. That colossal invitation to grace. That crazy idea that grace isn’t reserved for the deserving. It’s on special for anybody who walks in the door. There’s even a table on the sidewalk if you’re just passing by. If grace is dispensed by a vending machine, on Ash Wednesday someone jams open the slot. Instead of coming out one piece at a time, the candies shoot out piling up all over the floor.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Moving with intention in places that threaten and challenge us is scary. Attempting mad prison escapes, brick by brick with only a sharpened spoon for a tool, can seem lengthy. But Lent says we don’t have to stay stuck. We’re not condemned to remain as we are. Whether it feels like it or not, change, transformation and growth are possible.
Not effortless, but possible. Some disciplines don’t last past Thursday without requiring a reboot. Some get forgotten three or four times a week. Or day. But the candy machine slot stays jammed open. Lent isn’t for the faint of heart. But it is for the failures. Because Lent says that fresh beginnings and redemption are available in the midst of all the places we fail, and thus shall it ever be. So there.
We don’t believe it most of the time. Why should we? To believe that would be to embrace the terrifying reality of grace. And who knows what that could lead to. Who knows what would happen if we all grabbed on to this thing we didn’t earn and let it hold us undeserving in its arms. Take all our mess of failed intentions falling short, forever falling short. Listen to the voice of love sing softly until we stop screaming that it isn’t working and really listen.
This week, Ash Wednesday will stand there like the Statue of Liberty pleading:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,*
And this is our invitation. Not to get it right. Just to come. Ash Wednesday, the big, beautiful statue with open arms (from France no less). No lines. No cost of admission.
So there’s a long flight of stairs. So we don’t always make it 354 stairs to the top. Even at twenty or thirty, it’s worth the climb. Half way is better than having stayed at the bottom watching and wondering what the view might have been.
Lent is not for good people or people who want to do good things. Lent is for tired, grumpy, hopeless, frustrated people with good intentions they can’t stick to. And for people who aren’t sure they see the point. Ash Wednesday, our invisible statue of liberty, who comes every year. Who beckons us to a different land of the free and home of the brave.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door*
Ash Wednesday says we don’t know what is possible. But grace is raining and it’s promising to be torrential. We can take off our shoes. Take off our jackets. It’s okay to get wet. We can stand feeling awkward until we remember what children know. That we’re meant to dance in the rain. That everybody belongs there. And the rules are there are no rules about grace. You just show up with as much of you as you can and stay until you’re laughing out loud. Because grace is ridiculous and it’s for us.
Bitsabobs, by Boy two and the girls
Tuesday my lists were long, my spirit overwhelmed, and my brain sick of starving. Brain space is a problem around here. Heart space that lacks sufficient solitude gets satisfied in other ways, the magic of children, the joy of love. But brain space can be meager rations.
At breakfast I said I had a few quick things to do, work jobs began at 9:00 a.m. sharp. It was a plan. There was logic involved. On the porch, I wrote and thought. The kids don’t wear watches anyway, said I to me at 9:00. What’s it to them if we start late? At 11:30, I decided to run an errand, integral I determined to getting my ducks in a row. Besides, I could still hear them. I’ll be back in an hour. Make PB & J if you get hungry, I said to the children.
But why was there paint everywhere? They were squatting in a circle holding paintbrushes. And paint was against the rules without permission. I told them to clean it up, noted to be angry later, and left. I arrived home to apple cores and trails and piles of raisins on the table, happy sounds coming from upstairs. The raisins had been some kind of medicine or ammunition. I couldn’t understand the explanation, but whatever it was, it required them to consume great amounts with a great deal remaining, various piles belonging very specifically to someone. With great pride they told me of the triple decker, open faced PB & J sandwich that three of them had split. I was then asked to negotiate a battle involving a needle.
What needle, I asked cluing in half way through the diatribe of who did what. They had, I learned, forsaken the forbidden paints and gone straight to the use with permission only sewing kit. Amazing clothing had been produced, but they were terribly sorry about the not asking part. Someone should have done something really grim. But I couldn’t do it. I needed more space to think and didn’t want my entire brain power spent on speeches about rules and permission. I made them clean it up and promised out loud to be angry later. It seemed like the least I could do. Then I went back to thinking.
After dinner I sent everybody on a task that required them to be somewhere else and was somehow related to their crimes, although everyone preferred what they were asked to do to dishes. I did the dishes by myself in peace. Then I took pictures of their painted creation and their sewing projects.
One plus one is supposed to be two. Ergo, I should feel terrible about letting so much go . . . but if Bitsabobs and stuffed animal clothes were the cost of damn the torpedoes while the house crashes down around us so I can breathe some space to think, I accept with gratitude.
Another view of contraband laden, Bitsabob
Pants to accommodate tails available for early Christmas orders. :)
Yesterday was Palm Sunday. The bittersweet of love and death. The hope of deliverance and the painful roads we walk to get there.
Palm Sunday 2012, we carried a tiny box to church. I had miscarried 13 week old, Francis Xavier. He fit in the palm of my hand. I had spent the night on the couch, not wanting him and the box with the angels on the cover more than a foot from my head. We said prayers at church. The choir sang, “can a mother forget her baby, or a woman, the child within her womb.” Tears splashed my fingers as I played the piano.
Palm Sunday, 2013, we went to church hollow. The choir sang the same song. We had learned the day before that the baby who was healthy inside me at 9 weeks, was now dead, also at 13 weeks. My miscarriage of Baby Grace was a nightmare I try to forget. Nothing beautiful except her and her name.
Sometimes the babies I have lost are far away, not somebodys as much as something that happened and I remember I was sad about it at the time. Other times, Grace and Francis especially, are so close we almost touch. Like I can see a tiny finger reaching out to mine and I put my finger out to meet it. Only the thinnest of cloudy glass barriers separates us. For tiny bits of time we see each other, albeit dimly from my end.
Leading up to Palm Sunday this year, I ached a bit. For the hope that was them. The reality that is me. A nameless grief sang softly. But a sweetness too. I sensed their love. Their prayers. My lost little ones are a secret army fighting unseen on my side. I feel them smiling, hoping for me this week. Little fingers poking out to lift my grumpy chin.
I forget that love is stronger than death. I panic regularly about losing the people I love. But they don’t seem to.
Somewhere in the heavens it was decreed one day, that for me, Palm Sunday would be everything it ever was and more. That it would hold something especially for me. Hidden. Quiet. But very, very real. A persistent cry of Love. Like the daffodils pushing up through ice cold mud, year after year.
It’s -30C outside (-22F). Inside we are feeding the wood stove steadily. The stomach flu which meandered through the ranks at the end of last week, took a more direct and steady course beginning yesterday at 4am. All stomachs are now settled. The wan and weak are on separate couches in the livingroom. I am bringing toast and applesauce in small increments.
“Thank you for loving us so much when we’re so disgusting,” said a kneeling 13 year old fresh up for air from an encounter with the toilet last night.
His face from last night has stayed with me. My boy of boundless energy and not a small amount of cockiness these days, all humility, softness and gratitude. Some days I don’t have a lot of bold conclusions. Today I am pondering these things and not much more.
1. What it means to know we are disgusting and feel embraced by kindness in the midst of it. What it means to us to be loved and accepted not because we don’t have puke on our face, but while we do.
2. What this says about grace. How it might long to catch us up short and change us forever. Redeem us, with the vomit of our shortcomings still clinging to strands of our hair.