Waiting Well Is A Group Project – Advent 3

((Cheating: I wrote this on Sunday. But you get it today… because #interruptedbygerms))

I’m glad that the rhythm of church interrupts our lives.
It is both stabilizing and destabilizing force.

The Sabbath is a steady hand of regularity that meets us with a firm grip, no matter our circumstances. Constant, old, warm and true. Sometimes with bad breath and too much hair spray. So familiar.
At the same time, it is an interruption. A big awkward, anachronistic interjection into our running around. It so often catches my heart off guard! I’m so often soul shocked to be stopped. To be slowed. To be Sunday-ed.

There is an invitation to rest here. And also a challenge to wake up. Wake up to the truth of our own inward state. Have we been battling up hill? Do we find our margins reduced? Have we been running too long on too little? Have we been loving well? Have we been giving what matters?

Where are you? 

This is the comforting, yet unnerving, call of Sunday. It’s God’s Eden voice, beckoning his children into self awareness. “My own child, where are you?”

This morning… the first Sunday of advent… I found myself quivering again on the knife edge of despair. (Oh, why are we not surprised? Hello, my name is Blair, and I am generally not enough for this. I am not the strongest crayon in the box.)

I was so thankful for the gentle cradle of the liturgy which offers a tender retreat to every heart, even when all you can do is follow its lead routinely.

“To You all hearts are open and all desires known…” I whisper in concert with my people. Tears pushed up behind my eyes.

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest…” Father Joe reads.

On the way down the isle, I side squeeze Colby. Small boy. It smells like he washed today. He wandered in off the street once and now comes every Sunday morning to be loved and fed from the hospitality table. They’ve given him an usher’s sash. He’s marking pews for the Eucharist. This is the body.

I take the Eucharist from the pink sparkly manicured hands of Debbie who calls me ‘Sugar.’

On the way back to my seat, I hug Vickie, the perpetually upbeat. Sometimes I wonder if her glee hides a sorrow. But she is always smiling when you need a smile. Her hug is cosy and ample. Good medicine to my heart.

This is how we wait when all else fails. When our own little journey reverberates with broken moments until they accumulate into one big crash. When anticipation and strength are dead to us. When we need chocolate to be calorie free and a separate zone in the time/space continuum exclusively dedicated to naps. This is how we wait when we are wasted…

We wait with each other.

Leaning hard into grandma arms and the prayers of our fathers. Granting the great “Amen” to the struggles of our sisters on the road of parenthood. Coming empty handed to a communal table where we receive the good food of remembering Love Completed.

We wait together.

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When one Hopeful Heart stumbles, the sister beside her will lend a shoulder.
When a strong march turns into a weary stagger, the refreshed ones lift us up until we recover our strength.
We catalyze each other forward in a divinely appointed leap frog dance, from strength to strength. From strength to strength. And in-between are the weary resters being lifted higher.
We were never tasked with muscling up to a Courageous Wait without help, without community, without each other. This is too much for one. This is a job for all of us.

Lean in, dear one. I need to whisper these incredibly important words right to you so that you hear them and they change you… We’re waiting together.

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Waiting With My Head in the Toilet – Advent 2

A Thrill of Hope – Advent 2

Folks are decorating for the holidays. So, naturally, they’re posting pictures. Decorated trees. Beautiful wreaths. Immaculate decor. So much tidiness. So much minimalist beauty. How do these people with children maintain such perfection? Inquiring minds want to know.

And here I am… laying on the couch next to a bucket. Occasionally dry heaving. I was shivering, but too quivery to get a blanket, so I dug a hole in the unfolded laundry and scooted under it. Like a boss. All the while, my house is doing The Slide. You know that dance. The great slide into deeper and deeper mess and disarray.

The Plague has descended. Mom is out of commission.

This wasn’t the Thrill Of Hope I was hoping for.

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Image: http://www.eisforeat.com

But I’m remembering something… something that makes me shake my head and smile…

Yesterday, after receiving Communion from the glittery pink manicured hands of Debbie (who calls me ‘Sugar’), I slogged by way to the back pew where the charismatics sit. The Prayer Ministry people. I choked out these words, “I’m just so tired. I don’t want to go on…” before bursting into embarrassing tears. Ms. Anne Marie pressed me into the warmest hug and laid her weathered black hands on my shoulders. She prayed, “Lord give her rest.”

Sometimes we pray for rest, and then we end up spending the whole day on the couch sipping preservative laced chicken broth from microwaveable containers. Sometimes we pray for rest… and everything grinds to an absolutely irrepressible halt.

Sometimes we think rest looks like everything being done, being twinkly and neat, being calm and bright. And then it looks like a cocoon of laundry and a waste bin at the ready.

Sometimes we wait well. Sometimes we live each day as if it is our last.
Sometimes we look ahead with expectation and discipline.
Sometimes we confidently think, “Should Jesus come again, he will find my house in order.”

And sometimes we get the flu. Sometimes waiting looks like hunkering down for a hurricane while everything slides into chaos around us.

And this is part of the story.
This, He does not scorn.
This is in his hands, from his hands, in his mercy…
This, I sudden realize, even this, can be a beautiful sacrifice of praise if we receive it with thanksgiving.

Thanks for the rest. 

Whatever your waiting season has in store–maybe Merry and Bright, maybe Messy and Bucket Puke–we can really and truly do this: We can rest in His victory. This is no cliche. This is no religious truism to shrug away. We can rest here. Under the laundry while the kids spent the ENTIRE day watching Story Bots. We can eat instant soup and throw away all our good plans for the day. We can rest in the waiting for the fulfillment of a story. We know the promised ending: He will make all the broken New.

The project is already underway. He came. Even pukey and exhausted, we are being loved back to life. He is coming again. And if he finds us on the couch, he will not turn away.

Tiny as that light may be at this moment for you… I hope it is even the smallest thrill of hope in your heart.

A Thrill of Hope: Advent Reflections for Mom Life – DAY 1

The church marks time through the year by retelling episodes from the life of Jesus. The new year starts with Advent: a 4 week season leading up to Christmas. Our year starts with anticipation. Four weeks of anticipation. For four weeks we feel the ache of longing mixed with the glee of certain joy to come. We experience the coexisting realities of the Already (Christ came) and the Not Yet (Christ will come again). This is Advent. A season ripe for reflection. For new beginnings.

So here’s my plan:
I want to write one reflection/story/thought a day during this season. I want to translate Advent through the lens of the motherhood experience and make something you can use along your own Advent way. Just a little discipline for me. Just a little tool for you. Cause I love you. Win/win. I could leave it in my notebooks… but life is for living together. Even when it’s messy. Even when it’s imperfect. Especially when it’s embarrassing.

So. Ok. That’s the goal! There you have it.

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I’m calling this personal challenge, “A Thrill of Hope”… because, if I’m honest, I’m in a bit of a drought of Hope these days. My whole self aches to be Lit Up by real hope. I ache to be thrilled.

Mom life can be a long train of ridiculous and unpredictable abuses. Those little abuses can pile up and weigh us down. I think the tonic for our battered hearts is Hope. A light. A coming brightness. A Not Yet. A steady emerging of joy.

So, I promise this for the next 30 days: I’ll walk my tired little spirit toward Hope. I’ll share what I see along the way. And hopefully, together, we’ll find the light growing within.

Oh, and I’ll try to tell funny stories. What’s more hopeful than that?

 

Just Another Trau-magic Monday

There’s something sticky on the door knob. The blood of some poor gummy bear? The chocolatey flesh of some hapless bunny? I cringe as I touch the tacky sweet evidence of Son’s subterfuge.

I wipe my hand down already breakfast-and-booger-splattered jeans.

I tried to get dressed this morning. Pausing in the doorway with my hand on the sticky knob, I momentarily wonder why? Why did I bother? It’s not even 9am and I already look haggard.

My heart sinks a little lower. I don’t even have the energy to be angry.

Fortifying myself for yet another small trauma, I follow the trail of carnage.

It leads to the stack of books next to my bed. And the lotion bottle. The evidence suggests it has been tampered with. And by evidence, I mean, scented goo. Everywhere. Just… it’s on everything. Yet somehow I know in my heart that the worst is yet to come. Setting my teeth, I grip the rumpled comforter. I pull.

I half expect to see a horse head bleeding up at me. Maybe a gummy horse head. My fears aren’t far off. Chocolate hand prints, spit dribbles, and the spat out remains of a few pulverized almonds. All over the white sheets. Like a Willy-Wonkan forensic nightmare.

It’s clear: Evil has been done in these dark times.

This is my Monday. Only fractionally better than Sunday.

I spent Sunday morning on the floor of the church kitchen. Tucked in between the trash can and the industrial ice maker. I cried long overdue tears.

I courageously gave corporate worship a fighting chance, my best attempt, but as the priest prayed, “Lord, to You all hearts are open and all desires known, and from You no secrets are hidden…” my secret tears burst their dam. I barely made it to the back pew for the tissue box before delicate tear spillage was turning into ugly choking sobbage. Clearly there would be no worship I could offer the Lord but my weary spent soul’s utter brokenness. Ah, but he already knew. To him all hearts are open. So he prepared the quietness of the kitchen floor.

Sometimes the Sabbath is for the celebration of the communal body. Sometimes it’s for victory songs and hospitality tables and children making craft pages with glue sticks. Sometimes it’s for the holy work of putting the kids in nursery and breaking down completely.

So here I am. Weeping with abandon over every small and large thing. And somewhere between the nose blowing I say, “Thank you, Jesus, for sanctifying this little square of red-brown tile. This tiny corner next to the walk-in freezer is a tabernacle. This is holy ground.” And I partake deeply from the sacramental box of Kleenex. The Kleenex of Christ, pulled out for us and for many.

I am not enough. That is so abundantly clear. Also clear to me, as I sob over the sound of a rousing congregational hymn, is that he so often makes enough out of not enough. He makes food for 5000 out of a few hamburger buns and fish sticks. And there’s food enough, but now there’s also wonder! You, Lord, break Not Enough open and pass it around. And it always makes ends meet. Broken ends always meet. Always. This is the essential mystery at the heart of the whole story… that when things are broken and Jesus is in the pieces, we get more, not less.

In my house when we break something, we cry in a voice of victory, “One less thing to move!!!” It started when we really were about to move. Now it is just part of the liturgy of our family life. A little ritual to lighten the sense of loss.

But that’s the magic, right? That the broken thing brings with it lightness. And when we enter into our own broken places willingly (or maybe unwillingly, but at least we show up) we leave lighter.

It took a full church service worth of tears and snot to find the lightness. The lightness of being beloved in the middle of broken-heartedness. But I found it. In tiny fragments. Tiny flecks of hope like sunlight on dust particles in the air, beautifying the whole view.

Here’s an example of the More than comes from Broken places: I couldn’t write about brokenness without walking my own miles here. God never wastes a single thing. He’s the original recycler. There are just zero throwaway things in the Kingdom. He writes his best stories in the margins with the marginalized. He paints the most beautiful murals in the mess. If only we trust him with the pieces and believe in the promise of the process: That he makes all things new.

Monday greeted me with more of life’s little traumas.

My very forgetful heart had already lost it’s grip on the hopes I clung too on the kitchen floor 24 hours ago.

I desperately thrashed out to my people. I am the queen of hyperbole when I’m desperate and I wailed, “I don’t want to go on! I quit! This is the end!”

They faithfully offered me the sacramental Kleenex. Again. We joined hands of communion in the sacred space of the Chat Thread. Together we Re-Membered the fragmented hope we have received. The hope that every single broken thing—me and you and the broken hope and the chocolate spattered sheets—will be redeemed. Will be enough. Will multiply into more. Will produce wonder. Will be washed.

And so, I begin stripping the bed.

The Gift of Terrible Prayer: For Such a Time as This

Praying terrible prayer is a forgotten art form. We’ve been taught how to pray good ones. Sometimes I think that’s a great tragedy. We know the words to say, the names to invoke, the caveats that holy-erize our bumbling wish want wails. We even know the tone of voice to wrap around our words to make them Prayer Words instead of just Word Words. And when all else fails we know that we can sum it all up with “in the name of Jesus” and at least it will be nicely concluded. P.S. When in doubt, the more adjectives, the better: “In Jesus’ precious, holy, all-powerful, loving, holy name. Amen.” (Shit, I used holy twice. Ugh. Prayer fail.)

But prayers without bows of resolution… Awkward prayers… Raw blathering… Prayers when all we know what to say is one simple thing over and over like breathing… Selfish prayers… Angry prayers… Insulting prayers when we ask God what the heck is wrong with him? Doesn’t he know! Doesn’t he see!? … And terrible, truly terrible conclusions. Endings like, “Ok. I don’t even know. That’s all I got. Bye.”

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I love those prayers. Love ‘em so hard. Those prayers are exquisite to me. Like raw crystals clamoring over some damp rock in a holy hollow of sacred space. They are beautiful by accident. They are beautiful in the midst of mess and decay.

Aren’t those prayers a bit more reflective of our true place? Our true circumstances.

David prayed those prayers. “Oh Lord I love you… now kill that guy! He totally pisses me off!” Oh yes. He went there.

Don’t those prayers echo a music that is more honest? A song about the limbo space we so often find ourselves in. Without beginnings and endings and conclusions and clarity.

Messy prayers are the “Working it out with Jesus” prayers instead of the “Worked it out already, now I’ll tell Jesus what he needs to do” prayers. They are the Walking Together Through Mess Prayers instead of Traveling Alone and Calling Home For Money Prayers. They are Heart Prayers instead of Head Prayers. They are Relationship Prayers.

Uhhg, they’re so messy and beautiful I can’t stand it.

This year, for the first time, I started praying in public. For years and years, I wouldn’t do it. When I opened my mouth to pray I sounded like some weird cocktail of Christian-Illiterate, Fumbling, and Profoundly Irreverent. I’m allergic to catch phrases. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have a strong sense of privacy about my intimate love of Jesus. So I just couldn’t bring myself to wear the polished forms of prayer when my heart was a rugged sea grappling with a Seeing Savior. For me, that felt tantamount to lying. Can we agree that lying to Jesus is bad. Or at least a waste of time? Ok? Ok!

But this year… this year, friends… Oh boy. My people have gotten to hear me pray. My children have heard the worst prayers you can imagine. Side note: They are going to grow up thinking that Jesus has quite a sense of humor. Only someone with a sense of humor could tolerate and make sense of my terrible prayers.

I’m inching toward 30. I’ve accepted all kinds of weird things about myself. Like my tummy roll, my depressive tendencies, my poor armpit shaving technique (why am I always missing one?), my caffeine addiction… and the fact that I say prayers to Jesus that come from my heart space. And my heart space is rugged. Rugged, rugged, rugged.

Sometimes I don’t “say” prayers at all. I pinch them between my teeth and scrunch my face and give Jesus “the look” with my ferocious inner turmoil. Then I just know he knows.

Sometimes I exhale them. Like a lion with my tongue out. Just Bleeeeh. Letting it go.

Sometimes, when I’m really empty, I hold my breath and let the wind do the praying. Wind prayers have become a favorite of mine in really rocky seasons.

I let the wind just push me and lift up the whatever. The wordless. The deeply felt but not yet understood. The “yes ok” surrender to the “this right now” of God’s sovereign love. His eternal with-us-ness. Sometimes only the wind can say these prayers for us.

I have a feeling we all might need some wind prayers right now. We might need to make a little sacred space in our damp, rocky world and let the wind lift the true things we feel off of us while we listen to the way the earth keeps moving no matter what.

He has given us that: That the earth keeps moving.

He has given us this: That we seekers are deeply seen through all the stages. Seen in the sorting out seasons. Accepted in the mess. Sometimes it just requires that we stop reaching to receive. That we stop performing and just pray.

I hope you pray bad prayers today. Messy, muddling prayers without conclusions. Because we aren’t there yet. We’re still walking home. And we can’t walk home alone.