Tag Archiv: prayers
Girl Interrupted at her music, by Johannes Vermeer. 1660/61. Public domain.
Not too long ago, I went for a walk with a friend. She linked our arms without asking if I wanted to, although by the way, I did. If there was a plan, it wasn’t mine. My plan would not have chosen then to talk about my list of insecurities, the number of rivers, or how deep they run. But one thing led to another and that is what happened.
We were by the water. The wind was blowing. I didn’t bother zipping up my coat. What was the point? Could a coat have made me any less naked? For good measure and because why not, I threw in some comments about clothes. Not a lot mind you. But I acknowledged that they existed and perhaps the ones I owned were not my favorites anymore.
My prayer for you, she said as we walked home. What I’m going to pray, she told me, is that somehow you will be able to see yourself the way I see you. As beautiful person that you are, and . . . she said a lot of other things but I got stuck there. On that word.
Tears filled up most of me except my eyes. Our walk came to an end and we went our separate ways. I appreciated the kindness of her prayer. But the hoping was beyond me. Not that I doubt the power of prayer exactly. It’s just I’ve been me for a long time. The idea of someone wanting to pray that for me moved me, but I can’t say I was thinking it would make a difference.
Okay, I said to my husband that night. I know this makes no sense. Even I don’t know why I’m saying it. But the thing is . . .I’m, well, it’s just that . .. well, I think I’m going to buy some clothes. And nobody is making me. I actually feel like it.
The practical man said he didn’t much care how or why or who was getting through to me, but it sounded good to him.
There is so much I don’t know. How we get to places where we live in closets for so long that we’ve long since given up even trying to see if we can turn the door handle. What I know is that when the door opened, the light was blinding and unexpected. I might have felt shaky, but I wanted to stand up and walk out.
The miracles we most need take place not in shining iridescence, but in the here and now that we can touch. In earthy, messy, broken places where we love well and poorly both. In between fear, frustration, and not knowing how to fix it.
Love calls, inviting us to rise. With little acts of courage we go out. My little act is a confession. (Here too, grace simplifies the matter. One need not have courage for the last step, merely the next one. That act begets the grace for yet another and so on.) So I confess. I liked the prayer my friend prayed. Replayed it in my head. Drank it like a thirsty woman handed a glass of cold water after a long walk in the heat of the day. I confess. I want that same prayer answered. To love’s great beckoning. Anointing. I want to rise.
And so, to the raised eyebrows of my well developed social conscience, I’m going shopping. I’ve two failed attempts to my name so far in the last week, but that’s okay. I’m not sure it matters that I can’t quite manage this one alone. What matters is that I know what I’m doing and why. I’m buying clothes because sometimes love needs a marking. Needs an anchor thrown down along the portside to remind us of its presence. To stake a claim on its other-worldly power to heal, undo, make right, redeem, and raise our tears from ashes into strong, and free, and beautiful.
Some prayers take a long time to answer. When I was 18 and couldn’t cry, I would beg God, please, please, just let me cry. Ache. Stare. Nothing. Seriously. I’m broken. Let me cry. Mostly, nothing. He must have been saying, “just a minute,” and I couldn’t hear it. At 42, I cry for reasons including but not limited to:
* School is not out yet. I cannot take another note about anything and I cannot pack another lunch.
* It’s the last day of school and I realize they will never be in that grade again. It’s gone forever. They’re growing up and they can’t go back.
* Someone else’s child I’ve never met just made a great play on the soccer field and everyone is high fiving them.
* My husband is late coming home from work and I worry something has happened to him.
* I startle a few seconds into watery eyes over husband’s demise to realize I’ve started making a checklist as to how we will manage. The guilt of starting a list before you know, the funeral, or an actual death, well it doesn’t feel so good.
* Girl two tells me she wants her hair like mine.
* I hear Boy one pick up her sister and call her pretty princess.
* Boy two says thank you to someone without me prompting.
* Girl one helps with dishes because she says she likes to be with me.
* I read about old age, childhood, loneliness, hunger, rejection, abandonment, joy, accomplishment, triumph, victory.
* I have no ideas. Life is flat.
* I have a new idea. Life is bursting with possibility.
* We weren’t able to have more children.
* There is too much laundry. It won’t go away and there are like a hundred years left until they’re old enough to leave home.
* One of the children is crying.
* The children are laughing so hard they are peeing their pants and I’m just so happy that they’re happy.
* I need quiet and I can’t get it.
* Everybody is distracted by other things and not into talking.
It’s getting downright mortifying the things that can flood the ducts and well up the throat. I think I can confirm not only God’s compassion but a wicked sense of humor as well.
Hawk’s View: The personally crafted paradise of Boy two and Girl two. So named, I am told, because when you are in it (4 or 5 feet off the ground) you see what a hawk sees.
More quirky things from the kids, or a few things the fly on the wall observed lately:
Intense voices followed by absolute silent and a lot of clicking. Then a voice would yell that the time was up, followed by more intensity. Some cheering, some shouting. What in heaven’s name, I wanted to know, were they doing? Boy one held up a calculator.
I am so good at this, you would not believe, he said. It’s a game. You add one as fast as you can and try to see how high you can get before the time is up.
We do it all the time, said Boy two. It’s great.
I have not been tempted to try the game.
Girl one returned from walking grandma’s dog with the following sentiment:
Walking Jasmine is so nice. I can sing the whole time and work on my songs. The bad part is that she can’t tell me how good it is, but the really great thing is that she can never say she hates it.
And on nice quirky, one of Girl two’s bedtime prayers:
I pray for Syria . . .and what’s that other country?
Sudan. And I pray for Mom’s friend . . . what’s her name again?
Her name is Stephanie, but I don’t really know her.
Yeah. I pray for Stephanie . . . but mostly I’m going to call her your friend because I can’t remember her name . . . Please help the people with their big rain and help all the people in the world that have bad bathrooms to get good ones . . . I think that’s a good prayer, do you think that’s a good prayer? I think everyone should have good bathrooms.
My childhood was the age of records and tape cassettes. We didn’t listen to the radio, so popular music was only vaguely known to me. I loved whatever we had, the Carpenters, Roger Miller, and the Gaither trio. I almost wore out our Keith Green cassette. Green was killed in a plane crash at age 28. This gave his music an added mysticism to my young mind. The tragedy fascinated me and tugged at my own sorrows both. There was something untamed in his gravelly voice that I loved. I sang all the songs on the tape, but my favorite was Rushing Wind.
Rushing wind, blow through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
I must never have actually read the words. For the last 30 years, I’ve been singing, “Rushing wind, Lord,” (instead of “Rushing wind, blow . . . “) Close enough. Rushing Wind sang in me when I was happy, depressed, angry, hopeless, excited, worried, wondering, sad, and inconsolable. It was the kind of thing to sing when the tears were all spent or worse when I couldn’t find them. I fumbled for something in the heavy dark of empty. I mouthed the words, my voice would crack, and I would sing until I found my voice again. It was a prayer and an anthem both.
A plea for help.
Please, I’m not ok. Let me feel something. Anything. Tell me it won’t always be like this. Don’t leave me here alone.
And a declaration.
I accept. By circumstances I would not choose, I will allow myself to be altered, the dust of me blown out, and another breath breathing into my own.
I have a picture of an afternoon, my teenage body leaning against a tree, knees tucked up against my chest, the wind tearing madly around me. I had gone to the woods hoping that I would be able to cry, or to feel ok again. My sad was accustomed to strict exterior management. When I wanted to give it voice, it often remained silent, and I was left with numb. Then and now, I would take tears to the vastness of nothing any day. But tears were not to be. Neither did joy find me. In the bombastic wind my song came and so I sang. Rushing wind, Lord through this temple . . .
Hope found me in the wind, that day and on countless others. I still ache for wind when I don’t know which way to turn. I picture myself on a hill, the barren trees wild with wind. And the wind still calls forth my song. Spring agrees. The cry for new life never does grow old.
Rushing wind, Lord through this temple, Blowing out the dust within;
Come and breath your breath upon me: For I’ve been born again
Putting girl two to bed last night, she finished her very creative prayers, unclenched her eyes, and turned to me with her face full of new wisdom.
“I bet robbers don’t say their prayers at night.”
The numbers of people potentially offended or irritated by this post grow in my mind with every passing second. Nevertheless, it happened on County Road 21, and seemed to me both true and beautiful.
Dinner time was drawing to a close. My son thought he remembered that it was All Soul’s Day. I explained that All Saints Day was Nov. 1, All Souls Day on Nov. 2, and therefore past. Remembering the dead is not something I do easily. Sometimes I celebrate my mother’s birthday. Sometimes I do not. Although the dead I know now include my mother, my paternal grandparents, and my miscarried children, it is only on some days that I find myself comfortable loving across the chasm that divides us. The loving seems too often to come with aching.
This difficulty with the dead does not exist for my children. Maybe because they have tasted death mostly in farm animals, or maybe because they are children and see things differently. My son didn’t worry himself with fine lines of time and place.
“I’m going to say a prayer anyway,” he said cheerfully. Chewing. Thinking. We waited.
“Ok everybody, get your glass. I’m asking this prayer for all the people in palliative care right now. Cheers.” He raised his glass and waited for us to clink glasses with him.
“Do you know what palliative care means?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s people that are dying.” He smiled and raised his glass to clink against mine.
The idea was very enthusiastically received. Other children’s prayers and glass clinking quickly followed. Their father tried valiantly to maintain the dignity of the occasion while being asked to clink his beer bottle with everyone after each of the prayers. We made it through without laughing until we cried by avoiding each other’s eyes until it was all over.
My worries about how strange we are got the best of me. “Ok, so this was really nice,” I said. “It was a good thing you all did, saying those prayers, doing cheers. But just so you know, there isn’t anywhere else in the world where people do it like that. You won’t ever find a place where people are praying and raising glasses to say cheers afterwards. It’s fine. It’s good. I just wanted you to know that people might not get it if you tried it somewhere else.”
Quizzical looks. Shoulder shrugs. Mom is strange. Business as usual. Are there any more Doritos?
“There’s something right about it, you know?” my husband said when it was over. “I mean I know it’s different. I can’t really explain it. But there’s something good about it. Something that’s the way it should be.”
He’s right. They’re right. So may God bless you, my readers. May love hold each of you gently and tenderly today. Pour the milk. Pour the wine. Cheers. Raise a glass.