A Snow Story

The one thing that can shut a Virginian town down, or any Southern town for that matter, is a good snow.  By good snow, I mean just an inch or two.  This past Friday afternoon the snow began as faint little flurries that my middle school students were running through, screaming and waving their arms in ecstacy, at the between-class break.  At 5 pm, the grocery store shelves were out of potatoes.  Bread and milk were dwindling.  The check-out lines were each 4 carts deep. Approximately fifteen hours later on Saturday, 8 inches had fallen and the roads were pure ice.  Church services were called off 24 hours in advance, and families everywhere traipsed through the snow for sledding and snowman building adventures.

The snow of my childhood was equally enchanting.  The snow clouds of southwest Michigan, however, would start their descent in November, usually weeks before Thanksgiving.  The magical powder would sprinkle like icicle glitter, off and on, throughout the weeks of December.  It was a rare year to not have accumulated snow on Christmas Day.  I can think of only 2 times in my first 20 years of life that we did not have snow.

Snowblowers would be filled with gas and started vigorously to heave through the drifts.  By the time driveways were cleared, the mountainous piles alongside the pavement were almost as tall as I was; the pivotal foundation for igloos and snow caves.  One highly essential tip for shoveling in Michigan: shovel or snow blow all the way through the driveway into the street.  Also, do not park in the street. I repeat: avoid street parking at all costs.  Those two mistakes will cause a wall of solid ice and snow chunks to block your cars and driveways in, when the city snowplows barrel aggressively through your quiet neighborhood.  Unless, of course, you enjoy trying to pick-ax a foot or more of solid ice chunks with a dull-bladed shovel.

January and February brought blizzards that children would pray would give them relief from their academic jailhouses.  To have school off in the mitten state, the snowfall had to be unusually deep, in access of two feet in less than 12 hours.  Or, an ice storm had to rage through, covering the snow in a skating rink and turning the trees into a magical, fairy-like, winter wonderland.  Those were my favorite–trying to lightly walk on the fragile layer of ice before falling through to the powder underneath.  Another guarantee to have school cancelled was if the windchill fell below zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Any of those three requirements, in combination or isolation, was a pretty good bet for a kid in the upper Midwest.

In high school, a snow day didn’t mean we were confined to our homes to wait out the thaw.  Everyone drives on the snow and ice in Michigan.  I can still vividly recall driving the speed limit on a stretch of D Ave in Cooper Township– 55 mph– in my tiny, rusty, stick-shift, gray hatchback packed with friends, and skidding over the snow in glee.  Teenagers live for driving in the seasonal, lake-effect weather. The reason for the cancel was mostly so that children didn’t have to wait at bus stops in frigid winds.  Double layers, snow pants, parkas, gloves, hats, and scarves would be thrown into cars, Thinsulate boots laced, and snowboards packed for a day of freedom at the slopes.

If school was cancelled it meant deep, fresh powder at the Bittersweet ski lodge.  While our faces had to fight the frigid temperatures and whipping wind that left our cheeks chapped and red as we rode the lifts, the blanket of snow was pillowy, forgiving, and worth the chill. On warm days, we shucked off our coats and hats and felt the wind flutter through our longsleeve t-shirts.  When temperatures hovered near the 40s, the snow was still abundant and the cold wasn’t painful.  I could fly down the hill in just my snow pants and gloves.

All winter long we had our fill of freezing fun. Heading to the ski slope after school one day (night skiing and boarding was my favorite), hooking sleds up to fourwheelers and careening dangerously through frozen cornfields the next. One year we strung Christmas lights down the sledding hill behind our house and the church youthgroup came over for night sledding. There are major perks to living right next to a city park with a sledding hill that closes its gates to the public at dusk.

The winter is so long, and cold, and seemingly endless that one gets used to the obstacles. We’d chink out a 2 by 2inch section of visibility in our windshields and just crank up the defroster. It was not unusual to see our headmaster shoveling the roof at school to keep the melt off from leaking inside. Snow was just absolutely everywhere, for 6 months straight. One fine April weekend my friends and I headed up for a few spring days at the Lake, and by that evening we were chucking snowballs at each other and drying our clothes out by the woodstove.

I had the experience of my first real Virginia snow in 2002, the year that my husband and I moved south for college.  The whole university shut down for 3 inches.  Meaning, classes were cancelled the night before the snow fell.  This was absolutely mind-boggling and unheard of for Michigan kids who waited on pins and needles at 7:45 a.m. for a snow day when we were younger.  Mid-morning, after sleeping in and lazily gulping coffee with cream, we decided to drive up to the mall and walk around.  Maybe browse the bookstore on our day off.  That is until we arrived and found out the mall was closed, due to inclement weather.  My boss, a pharmacist, called to make sure I was still going to make it into the pharmacy that evening for my shift.  I was confused.  Why would I call into work if I wasn’t sick?

Nowadays I bundle my toddler up and he waddles out to play in the new snow with his sisters.  His favorite thing to do is scoop it up in his mitten and eat it.   Although it snowed three nights ago, the temperatures stayed below 30 all weekend, and school was cancelled–at about 4 pm yesterday.  Snowplows down here always wait to come through until the snow has already fallen, leaving it pretty near impossible to clear the slick, packed ice by that point.  In another couple of weeks, snow will fall again, clearing grocery shelves and pausing daily life for a few days at least, to the delight of students and teachers everywhere.  The local news will have what I consider an endearing and quintessential report on how to attach chains to tires.

In fact, that reminds me of my years in college, when someone asked me when Michiganders put chains on their tires for the winter.  I replied that we….didn’t.  We didn’t even own chains for our tires.  Chains were for semi-trucks and tractor trailers traveling through Alaska and the frozen Canadian tundra. You know, extreme conditions. He just looked at me kind of stunned.  But didn’t it snow, like, a lot in Michigan?  I left him with this: all the kids in Michigan do donuts in the icy parking lots all winter long, no chains in sight.

Covenant

Adam had everything and still chose his Death, just like me.  Adam destined to face evil and now I am here facing my own demons, just the same.  I choose Death, but later Life comes.  How can it be that Life erupts in a thunderous shout out of utter destruction?  I’ve spent the better part of my life contemplating this.  Sometimes I wrap myself in it gratefully like a warm flicker flame burning wax to liquid.  At other times I throw my hands up in frustration because I can’t fathom it’s enormous depths and it makes my brain ache.  But it is always there and I always return to it.

God made covenant with Abraham, a forever commitment and unalterable bond.  A blood massacre contract etching out a promise unshattering: “I will always hold your descendents in my hand, and never let them go, no matter what it takes.  And I know what it will take. My people of faith I will transform their souls and take out wall stones around their hearts and put in soft humility, understanding, and love.”

That covenant He kept until rancid end: seeking out us.  People who turned on Him in unfaithful treason.  Leaving homeland for the wasteland to find and bring back those who were left broken by war and famine.  Giving perplexing but scandalous and wild hope. Dying in monstrous cruelty, horror, and ruinous betrayal in the wasteland after promising, “No one is greater than his master”.  These people He had created for glory and life and love, who instead chose death and sadness and utterly hopeless lives, He came to erase it all away from them and wipe tears from eyes and push out lies of torment.  Burn-searing our open, torn wounds shut that spew and spill our life source of blood….He closes and cauterizes and performs sawing-amputations and then offers His own blood, and let’s His own body be wracked by weapons and evils.   His hands, covering over deep, knifed wounds into the flesh and bright red liquid pours out onto His fingers and palms, stained.  All for Covenant He made with Abraham, the image He gave to Adam: these people He gave imprint to, and purpose, and value, a place in the story.  These humans He gave life, mind and soul.

I can’t escape it or get away from it….this triumphant thumbprint signature and Covenant stained with slaughter that forever binds me.  I need to be saved from this tragic wasteland of sweat, and muck, and graves.  I need my disease amputated.  I need to heal of scars and wounds.  I need redemption because the God who saves me from myself is the God I have screamed at to let me alone, and I’ve cried out…crucify Him.  Crucify His reality, be away from me!  A slaughter of my own hands and heart.  But this is the family I am born to.  This is the family we are given inheritance from.

I am born from immigrants.  Pilgrims who sailed the choppy and salty Atlantic one hundred years ago and pushed through the crowded throng at Ellis Island in threadbare clothing.  With a foreign tongue they trekked their way to the Midwest to scratch out a living.   I come from a man who abandoned his young family after his 24 year old wife died from childbirth and then left the four children for the orphanage and his second wife with three more and a pregnant belly and a meager dime to her name in the harsh Michigan winter of 1901.  I am from orphans who battled through abandonment, the Great War, and the Depression.  I am from a Swedish grandmother grown up in a children’s home in Chicago because her mother couldn’t care for her.  I am from a Grandfather who spoke Truth in firm gentleness.  I am from those who have fought in wars and fought starvation and fought death.  I am from a father who loves family, and history, and building, and creating, and classical music.  But I am ultimately from Covenant given freely, that wipes away tears and gives me children to fill with stories, and to fill with love, and to fill with Truth.

A massacre of blood running that covered over the permeating black stains.  Even if I ignore them, they still spread, and rise.  My fingers trace these rough edges, my skin remembering that there were sinister shames and evils here once, but the blood has covered over all of them until they are smooth and faded and gone.  This clotting liquid of heritage, a where-we-came-from genealogy.

Where we came from.

This man I am married to looks at me and I know that this is Covenant, too.  We signed ink to it years ago but it runs deeper than the legal document filed away for safekeeping.  It pulses in the core of my nerves and through me after agonizing and joyous years. A reality that is as real as his hand on my back and his face pressed to mine, but it is bigger…something much bigger than me that I am intertwined with.  I chose joyously and fully to say a breathless, “Yes” to this man and yet it came to me and covered over my heart before I could chose it.  The simple fact that we met for the first time one Michigan fall when we were young fifteen is nothing of my own doing or his doing.  Hearts and minds and souls that lock together in mysterious unity?  Was it merely this thing called chance?  How can such fathomless love and covenant come from chaos? It is not compatibility or personality, but a God who speaks and moves and writes that binds us.  After happiness and carefree youth and disillusioned and awoken niavate.  I walked in Covenant and chose Death instead, but yet I am still here because my Lord came down and redeemed what was dead and decayed in this epic war.  We are somehow not walking around mindlessly in bodies but alive.  And creating.  And knowing.  Like seeds growing to stalks, to thick root and buds, slowly blooming and waiting for this Spring, this Peace, that is to come.  But first we must battle.  Not because of rolling a die in chance, but because our story was written down in crimson ink.

When we were first married, I knew I was part of this covenant of belonging and owning, but my pride surged through me like a disease and I drank down poisonous arrogance.  Prodigal taking the inheritance and inventing the self.  There is this eerie Garden Lie that comes and tries to cover over the brilliance of flame flickering.  Surely you do not believe what God has said….  We had a little candle, a glow and glimmer of light and Truth, and it caught fire because we thought we could control it and master it ourselves.  It caught quick to the walls of our little house and burned it to the ground to mere dust.  Absolute massacre.  And God tenderly builds out of ashes and breaths in life is the way that story goes.  We must die before strongholds of life and legacy and genealogy can be built.

Who am I, that I should be a part of such a story?  Of such a covenant of love?  And all I can grasp is tears at the unqualified grace of it all.  Then I write it, because it is real.  I write it because it has happened, and is happening, to me.

What are tears?  And why do we cry at both those things that are good, and those things that are bad?   My husband tells me it is because it may be the only way our bodies can express the fragile grasp of reality while we are still on this side of the veil.  Both deep sadness, and extreme joy, expressed in tears that fly from ducts and whisper down eyelashes.  A sensitivity to, an understanding of, what is Real.  To let us know that there is more than ourselves.  God’s hand touching on us.

There were years when I thought that nothing could startle us and in those years I didn’t feel the sting of tears.  Those nights the summer breeze pushed through the window, warm and heavy, and my eyes would drift while I lay in his arms.  But despite our own wills, the bubble does break….and why?  Why? I would cry out.  When neither of us want it to?  When we both cry desperately for depth, and intimacy, and understanding?  Because we carry around the antithesis to these things we desire.  Evil and Good at war within us and all around us, pouring into our eyes and into our hearts.  And I always chose to side with Evil, and God comes in and slays it’s death-grip on my throat that is choking the life out of me.  THAT is Covenant.  “I will give them a heart of flesh, and take out their heart of stone.”  Saved from this sick and hopeless wasteland of souls.

I stood in front of a mirror, warm fingertips on glass creating five small circles of fog against the cool surface, and my eyes looked at the image reflected back at myself.  What is this person?  I listen to the beauty and the agony of music and both will make me cry, and make my heart beat, and wash over me in familiar intimacy, nostalgia, and pain.  Where does such a thing as beauty come from?  And my fingers move from glass to scars that are healing and they run over the softness there and I notice for the first time that they are healed, and I am breathing, and I am seeing, and I am standing, and I am alive.

Pretty Little Lullaby

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Pretty little baby, baby.  Pretty little baby planted deep.

Pretty little baby grows and stretches. Pretty little baby silent, sleeps.

Pretty little mama, baby.  Pretty little joy, down low inside.

Pretty little mama’s secret, safely.  Pretty, happy mama whisper smiles.

Pretty little carried baby.  Pretty buried baby hold on tight.

Pretty little baby, baby.  Tender little lullaby in the night.

Pretty little baby, baby.  My pretty little baby, all so new.

Pretty little baby, mama. Pretty little mama, daddy too.

Pretty little mama aching, throbbing.  Pretty little baby suffers through.

Pretty little baby torn from mama, pretty beating heart and body grew.

Pretty little baby sweetly losing.  Pretty little mama sick and cries.

Pretty little baby, baby.  Tiny little baby says goodbye.

_

Pretty little baby, baby.  Soft little baby, here then gone.

Never will we rock you in our arms, love.  Pretty little baby voice withdrawn.

Pretty little mama, baby.  Pretty little mama, daddy too.

Pretty little baby, baby. Haunted tears of heartache spill for you.

_

Pretty little daughters, daughters.  Pretty little daughters, hair so long.

Pretty little baby girls they were once.  Pretty little girls still sing this song:

Jesus, tender Shepherd hear us.

Bless Thy little lambs tonight. 

In the darkness be Thou near us.

Keep us safe ’til morning light.

Pretty little daughters, daughters.  Pretty little daughters so alive.

Pretty little baby girls are growing.  Pretty little miracles that thrive.

Pretty little hearts and minds and souls that pretty little mama, daddy love.

Pretty little family that was planted, and pretty little baby up above.

The Prodigal Inheritance

In the corner of eastern Tennessee, on the bordering edge of the Carolinas, there is a smoky, blue curl that rolls with twilight and it shouted Look! into my ears as it hovered the elevated mount the summer I was

pure seventeen.

Blunt, short, sunwashed tresses tousled, and voices of friendships whispered in the dark, smiling like warm.  Chilly nighttime air ruptured to a tiny wave of goosebumps and I opened my eyes to listen.

What?

Composing, constructing, erasing, and rebuilding….and words and language-art engineering; why does this thing always haunt me like a parasite, dwelling in me, demanding strain, hurdle, and to vault-ricochet toward it?  This propulsion kisses my skin, and tongue, and whisper-stroke skimming in my ear, and squeeze-locks around my muscle heart, a voice that is antithesis calm against my rigid, ruffled agitation.  Always since my childhood it says….keep writing it.   Speak aloud about Love, about Faithful, about True.  Speak aloud about the God who is there, who saves, who makes new.

Pen scribble

-fly,

pen, down-drop disgust,

walk away from it,

pen: goodbye.

  And no I don’t want to touch it and

bleed outside onto

pages anymore.  I flick it across the room away and choke-swallow vomit and watch that pen skid on dusty, creaky hardwood floors and land alone, because I am forgetting how this story starts and how it ends and it feels good to suppress it so it doesn’t convulse and relapse and lay me out.  With my own hands I reach up from pretty, painted pedicure to my heels through my legs to pelvis and into my gut and rip it out, ravaged with a jerk and bayonet hook, to be gone. Hot to the touch revolver in my hands, bang, bang, BANG, in roar-shouting burst succession.  Reload, cock, and unload again.  And I have blood on my hands, strewn over the pillow my head lays on to sleep.

A ghastly, first-degree sin.

~~

In eastern Tennessee are moist, wet rocks that graduate upward like stairs, rising out of the tumbling whitewater and some of them circle around and up in a spiral to the trees.  The sun bakes the rocky places dry until they fold out extended and jut over as a cliff hanging over the patch of calm, deep water before it turns turbulent.  More rocks litter the deep, wide, mountain-river floor bed, water crashing and swimming over them, a flurry flight.  Droplets hang in the air and sunlight bursts through and you can see it like a curtain hanging in the atmosphere, creating prisms of color over swimming bodies.

Wet hands on wet rock, palms slapping, gripping, and biceps flexing. Lifting torsos, feet joining, and leg muscles appearing until whole bodies emerge and water rolls and drips from them.  They jump up flexing and scatter the rock staircase, gripping hands, ducking under pine.  Soft needles stick to wet feet and they pat-pat pitter over the sunned cliff and soon hands lock together, clasped in tight and knuckles grip hard, and calves tighten and spring up in anticipation, feet run, and tips of toes push off the very last bit of rock.   Push hard and out as far as possible, screaming ecstasy through white teeth and soft pink throats, and fly.   Hands separate and loose to free.  Arms open up and twirl mid-air and feel the breeze flash through wet lycra and the curtain mist droplets spraying darkened, summer skin. Spinning and looking back and friends smiling and calling and living and life, star stretched floating, this fly-falling joy and gravity fastening and locking down.

Crash.

The water erupts and opens to encircle bodies again and again.  There is a Truth.  And my head submerges into crisp, cool depths and I feel for hands and kick hard up until my head explodes on the surface, hair wet against my shoulders and water dripping over eyelashes and lids and lips.  There is another Truth.  We usually look for hands to hold and security to find us when we are in the depths, but I’ve only ever found one Constant there securing me.  That is when I stop to listen.

What?

When I was ten sat in a wooden church pew and I prayed to God and told him I would do anything, anything, as long as He didn’t send me far away.

It is a call I’m trying to avoid kill.  Why am I the one who has to write it?  Why am I the one who has to stare and observe it and touch it, walk it and burn within it and tell it and scribble it and click my keyboard fierce?  All the good parts yes, but all the bad parts too?  This love and hate, this war in myself, of writing and Truth.

~~

I am almost 32 years old now and there is a man that knew my husband and I once; I fall into his wife’s arms first and then into his, smelling their shoulders as I sink into them.  And he tells us…..those were good years.  I force tears down and away as I nod my head because he sat in his office strewn with papers and soccer cleats and hockey sticks in 1997 and looked straight into my eyes and told me he was proud of me when I was sixteen.  Half my lifetime ago.  And he cried when my heart was broken-betrayed and he offered, “Tell me”.  And those were good years.  And sometimes we’ve been away so long, I forget that the people there

know us.

It is home, to be known.  And so–

Pen scribble,

-fly.

Click, sticky keyboard

-rush.

Breathe in, and out, those word thoughts, bittersweet and lyrical.

Wisdom is a muscle that needs to be built.  Calling is a thing that we seldom get right on the first try.  Truth is the thing we must learn to accept over and over again.

It has been years since then, the start, but I am a girl turned woman needing to grow up who has tried to erase these parts of her memory I’m telling. I’ve tried to rewrite it by forgiveness and then by forgetness and change it to never happened and turn it back in time and eradicate it down to nothing. And all our flaws that push to the outside I bury deep inside to dissolve them, flux and fuse to disintegrate.  But they explode back out of my small frame because I am not meant to hold them in captivity.  They are the antithesis to Theos, and need to be told.  Need to be redeemed and rescued.  The bad parts are part of the story, too.

Tell daughters and sons to be patient, pure of heart, and stand guard because it took more than a decade to reconcile. The heart crushed diversely and several, but somehow still beating, these boys intrigued with girl hearts and these girls looking for something that doesn’t exist yet but carries them away anyway.  And the parts where I plugged my ears to God and took to my own; those damning parts need to be told as well.  Because there is no such thing as neutrality.  Because “living in the moment” is often sinister code for apathy in my life.

There is evil outside of us, yes, but it is there inside all of us.  And we come to one another broken clay pieces trying to touch each other’s rough edges that cut deep on impact and we attempt to bandage them up and kiss them with our own brokenness to heal but it doesn’t work that simple.  How do we rid ourselves of this evil?  I am prodigal with an inheritance I’ve dashed to the rocks and burned and then laid in the manure  with the pigs in my rags and crawling back to the homeland I’ve cried out, Abba.

When I was fifteen I begged God to let me be.  It is a vivid memory:  standing in a downpour of rain in the dark, my soaked shirt sticking to my chest, my back, and my abdomen as my knuckles slam into the tree: bleeding.  Anger surfacing because I knew I could never get away.  He would always keep me in the palm of His hand.  I tried like a sledgehammer breaking through concrete to escape and I couldn’t.  Unbreakable covenant of love that won’t let go.

True love, we are told, will never disappoint or make us cry or cling, or beat away.  But it does; and it will.  Don’t believe those lies that say a man will not make you cry, a woman won’t make you bleed. Don’t believe those lies that say God won’t make you die in mountain rivers, with rocks at the deep parts, and submerge into the cool pools, and that you won’t crush inside to surrender to Him.  Don’t believe those lies that say love is easy, or that you won’t have to slay-fight deep down.  Love is the cruelest death.  It will hurt and burn and kill you.  Obliterate in poisonous slaughter and asphyxiate.  It will tear away the disease and the demons and hurts buried deep. It will hold you and peace-give you and intimacy surround you and never let you go and then push you to the surface to gulp in oxygen as your head breaks the surface.  Life risen out of death-ash.  Finally—the meaning, the interpretation, the purpose.  Life.

It is an ouch-no pleading, a touch searing, petition Stop. Begging.  Please, no more.  Please.

I stopped fighting Him who loved me to death and He ripped out my terror fears.  Dear God, please show me.  His scarred hands that reached out to mine and I stretched for them in the plunging depths.  Found.

I am pride-fool prodigal personified in real time on a mountain I didn’t create.  Inheriting a kingdom I don’t know how to run.  And the tragedy of it all was that the summer I was seventeen, I thought I knew everything.   I asked for my inheritance and ran: God, let me go.  I have my own life to invent.

Carry me.  Carry me from lakes and rivers of the Great Peninsulas down away south into mountains, and valleys, and peaks, and summits, and forests, and rocky depths to up again.  Down in hot, sweltering Dixie, to journey and come back again someday.  The rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the ecstasy summit and the despair pit.  Carry me back to home; pilgrim in lands that change me and turn me over and break me and burn me and turn me back toward. An immigrant that receives the gift of returning to the homeland.  Prodigal gained wisdom to handhold the given inheritance, with humbled frame low.

It doesn’t happen the way that you think.  It is harder, and grander, than that.

Love Aging

2013-07-27 09.16.34-1

He speaks with his hands, fingers spread and grasping the air with one palm, the other tucked under his elbow. And he paces and publishes oral language, trusting me with first draft pings and scatterings, a book of mind thoughts expelling loud-furious.  His eyes have a smiling, a flashing, inviting.  His brow furrows and I can taste the logos he passionately teaches.  My iris and pupil focus on details like his nail beds, etched white gold that circles round, his straight tooth, and his deep, dark facial hair against olive skin; animated axis revolving.  This anchor that surrounds his soul, his deep thrusting heart, I see it in him, locked in ballast security.  A stirring, a rousing of intoxicating thought adventures, winding.

It is a witness I’ve stood to since we were young.  This old soul teacher, a marrow-vitality, inviting me to join him in the aging forest with sunlight streaming through.  In it, fragile veins stretch outward to five corners, photosynthesis overdrive.  Reaching, reaching to heaven.  An intense, green shadow populates the slim, smooth arms that grow out of the trunks.  Layered, one over other, feather-fanned out in sprawling lime.  Transparent, midmorning Light transmits through our paper thin orbs.  It is a floating canopy made alive by a freshwater Breeze, a spirit that rustles our growing green like rippling silk, and then the leaves settle again, like a protective mother hen with tent-wings draped over the granules of cold sand around trunk bases.  This is my painted mind-picture; us.  The Light illuminates and gives Life to what the Planter put in place and motion, and the Breeze rustles.  And I entered into the range of trees of this forest with my love when we were still teenagers; young.

Growing up I used to go to the lake house on the peninsula every summer.  The Lake and surrounding forest is a captured replica of my childhood grown to adulthood, layers and pages and duplicates and drafts.  The blue expanse of ripple-waves, swell-stretching beyond the horizon, further than one can grasp with their squinting eyes, prevailing.  The tide, moving in and out like song during the day and leaving little rivulets on the lake floor.  A tiny ocean without salt.

It is a real place that permeates a tiny corner of the world, near the rock-caves my cousins and brother and I used to jump from into the clear, cool water, and also lives and moves in my memory.  A treasure place of comfort-clutched, swaying repose.  I can close my eyes and hear the lake lapping the sand shore littered with footprints and tiny, transparent, white shells, breezing through the cottage windows in summer twilight heat, smell the musty oak of the walls, lulling me to sleep under vintage floral sheets.  Because it is seared to my soul, cauterized.

It is aging, and fermenting, this bound together love we own together.

And I surge backward to him when we were young, sitting in class and scribbling on paper, prompted by teacher: he journals exposed thoughts in my peripheral vision, scrawling with lead and smudged eraser.  Sometimes I wish that my today self could go back in time, to him in the past.

One day my daughter asks her Daddy, solemnly, how chopping down with axes, how divorce, can happen.  Why, Daddy?  And he looks into her eyes, and talks calmly, always so calmly and articulately, smooth fluid like wind-whispers through leaves, explaining to baby green ears that have been planted and growing– explains to her pain and hiding and running.  And then he reveals this: that it can’t happen to her parents because vows braid together like tree roots deep, and they once bound a man and a woman forever to one another.  Only once and forever, to grow intertwined.  One cannot live without the other.  They have scars, and rivuleted gash-trama lacerations, visible on bark.  I know that wounds alone do not cut down, but heal.  They will drown together, burn together, die together if they must, to a fresh new life but not to expiration.  A rebirth, a saving rescue like Christ and his Church.  Like Hosea and his bride.  Melding and melting together to refined.  Soft, smooth gentle in the universal God’s hands.  Planted strong and planted deep.

I translate his words spoken out to her and it jump starts me again, pushing up to the surface and gulping oxygen and buoying.  I know I did not chose this on my own.  It came to me and owned me and took me inside, enveloped, and pulled him in too, and he and I will forever be two persons, but one existence.  A picture of the reality of our Lord.

And our children grow up high and strong beneath us, and our siblings grow round us, our parents and grandparents grow above us, harmonious unity, this forest.  And all of our trunks bear the mark of the Planter.

And a drum beat-pounds deep in my gut, up through the hollow of my ribcage and surge-charges my insides with a voltage, a stomp-pound marching, a battle-cry Gospel that rips out the disease and lays out slain the despair that latches to me black and malignant.  And it rises up and up, a shout and cry of war that bashes my devasted and dead insides apart on boulders before God’s hands refashion them back together in Life; hope-waves undulant.

I watch my grandmother’s broken heart bleed rivers at the passing on of her beloved; I know it comes for us too.  It will come all too soon.

I move to invent independent and his voice jerks the string, placing his hand over me and says, “No”.  I remind him to etch out his despair with the Truth of cross nails of the Savior and he wades out of the murky depths.  From shifting sand to solid rock and lifts my hand to beside himself.  Iron that sharpens iron.  I am not to run sideways out from him, but to latch hands and hearts and minds and souls and walk with him.  This William I am locked to, even his name means resolute protector.  This Erin he has been made to grow intertwined with, her name means exalted peace.  And when I suffer exposed he is angered and comes to fulfill the essence of a bulwark, and we are given Peace over and over and over that does not wear out.  Because our Savior secured it and now it lives and breathes in our lungs.

It keeps aging, but it doesn’t wear out, this love.  Like thin, web-roots that thicken and fatten and deepen to strong.  That weave to unbreakable.  A wild and comforting forest of sanctuary, commitment, rescue. Ransomed, and bought, and owned always.

2013-07-27 09.16.41-2

When Men Cry

Tears;

the outpouring breaches the surface and

twirl,

inside-out–

crash-shattering.

A jagged ache and throbbing beneath, under-internal, that forces the tiny distresses violently to their birth then to a sudden, dry death.  Erupted exposure, then suffocated.  Tears are not just drops that fly from ducts and slide through eyelashes toward their doom, caught away by the loving hands of family.  First, I feel them like long, vibrating, lightening fingers–reaching electric through my neck, the plates of my skull, my finger nails. Swimming through my body before they arrive to–visible.  An ominous churning in the foundation before breaking.  A jolt and a burning.  A perpetual buzzing and clenching and twisting and tension through dense muscle fiber.  An agonizing and uncontrollable constriction and contracting of the body.

These buzzing and tingling sensations interrupt the surreal state.  Looking out of my eyes, like through smudgy, dirty windows, it looks like hazy, looks like clouded.  But these exposures and fingers tell me that the pain is very much actual and absolute and indisputable.  And they also tell me that I’m not outside it, but whirling within it.  Like a knife burying slowly, steady into the chest and the consciousness of pain comes on, not immediately as one would think, but several seconds later, delayed.  A live-streamed reality where the audio comes shortly behind and never quite matches the physical motion of parted lips.

But somehow I stand on a Rock in the midst of the whirling storm around me.

Strong, steadfast men sit uncovered.  They grip hope and they own it in sadness, and I see them suck in their breath and hold it and let it out in exhale and wipe their eyes, integrity and vulnerability mashed together.  They weep openly, with soul-tearing cadence. These sons, these grandsons. Then quietly, quietly. They are like faint echoes and inflection.  A sweet, vibrating hymn.  A pulse and a lilt. Tears. A psalm-song plays in these bodies surrounded.

His aged, broken, and paralyzed body lay.  And my grandmother prayed for mercy under a dark sky and moon from God, and He heard and He answered. Slipped from here into a newness, a glory-life built, in a whole body, waiting for all of us who are here still, restless but trying to be patient.  A very loved, compassionate soul, leaving a void that aches down low and hollows thunderous in hearts that called him their own.

When I witness men cry I come undone; needles of reality become and they center into my flesh, and sorrow mingled with joy arrive and puncture.

I watched him use his hand to wipe his own tears mere days before, as men flew on airplanes and drove in cars to come to him and pray with him. I stood and watched as a man slowly passed from this life into the next over days.  Slowly, so slowly, but terribly fast.  A tear, and a hard squeeze of the good hand, and a paralyzed half-smile, and an I-love-you-whisper, and a “wow” from his lips as he looked upward, and his children on his shoulder, and forehead to forehead with his soulmate wife, and a–gone.  It will be a long time before I see him again.  That is why men cry.  For the time between the goodbye and the welcoming, comfort of love-embrace.

In an instant, bricks can crash, and crack, and smash, and sound suddenly lurches to meet the live-streamed motions–a rupturing, a weighted severance shouts with deafening shrill, in garish finality.  My mind rummages frantically to memorize in haste, to replay, replay replay until it is automatic:  his familiar, gentle voice, his soft limp and gait, his eyes filled with love and compassion, his hands clasped over mine, his curved down smile, the tiny beat and inflection of his laugh, his fresh cologne smell, and his devoted presence, before I forget them.

This tearing removal, this harsh division from a self so loved, is a testament, a confirmation.  A terrible glimpse into the Father and Son cut-severed during bodily death, before final Life.  An arduous, but humble willing— this tearing apart hurts and burns and scars forever like a branding, and frees.

Love.

This is a death that must take place.  A death that leads to life.  To real.  A death that will come for us all and only One Way to cross over into.

Funeral roses actually smell sweet, and fragrant.  An unusually soft and velvety comfort.  We pull them from the casket and rub them on our cheeks and they hold and melt and absorb the tears, these soul aches, into their death and we hang the stem and petal to dry and remember.

As if through a mirror dimly, faces smudge on frosted glass.  And I smell him when I walk into my grandparent’s house, mingled with the smell of my grandma, because he really was there once, and now he is not.  A veil that cannot be crossed until it is our turn, but I can see him turning and looking, his familiar blue eyes and his smile that turns downward and I know he would say:

The one that you loved, cherished, embraced; the one you now weep for, ache for, and recognize; that feeling, a void deep down, for the man that you knew to be compassionate, slow to anger, forgiving, loving, steadfast, faithful, true….it was not me!  But it was Him.  It was my Jesus whom you ache for.  It is what he told us while he was even still with us.  Not I, but Him.

And this is the legacy of my Grandfather….that God is real, and greatly to be praised.