More to Lighten Your Load

I remember the exact moment I realized that my Kindergarten teacher had lied to me: Lungs were not like balloons within chests made of cardboard.

I saw one. A lung. The lung of a smoker in that vaguely dehumanizing, but delightfully beautiful, Bodies exhibit. It was nothing like a diaphanous, fairy-wing-esque, wind bag laced with sparkling ruby veins. Nope. It was a giant filthy kitchen sponge. Squishy. Something middle-schoolers would stick a fork in in a dissection class and squeal. I marveled that you could fill a solid-ish mass, like a white slab of meat, with air that felt so light.

I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety, chronic pain, & chronic illness recently.
Mostly while laying on my back in the middle of the bed, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a very real struggle that I struggle to explain. Watching the fan in the middle of the ceiling go around and around and around and around. My squishy lungs going in and out, in and out, stubbornly persistent in this troublesome body.

Revelation always seeps into our stuff like a whisper. Except when it explodes in like a trumpet, of course. But mostly that thing that oozes through us, a totally new substance, suffusing the really sticky stuff of us and making the tight spaces go less clinchy… that thing comes softly.

I supposed that’s why they call it at “Ah ha” moment. Because revelation comes softly like breathe. Inhale “Ahhh….” exhale “Haaaaa….” and then there’s the smallest amount of new order in the messy swirling thoughts, in the middle of the mess going around and around and around and around. Stubbornly, persistently saving us… breathing us back to life in the middle of these troublesome bodies.

So here’s what it was:
You chronically limping… You precious ones who exist just a couple standard deviations off the mean of functional, cool, calm, and effective… Your disorder always makes you very aware of how you are less. And people are so quick to join the chorus.

You’re a less fabulous mother than you dreamed of being.
Less of a friend.
Less of an activist.
Less of a lover.
Less of the sort of woman they elect to the PTA…
Less of a homemaker.
Less of a poster-child of success for al ma maters.
Less the person that is quickly picked for dodgeball teams.
Less of a producer, an earner, a dazzler, a razzler.
Less of a shower taker sometimes. If I’m honest.

I am legitimately LESS because of my condition. There’s so sense denying it. Those who insist on always saying it’s only in my head and not somehow part of the real fiber of my experience are my worst enemies. I have mentally throat punched so many of them.

But here comes the breathe… the Ahhh… Haaa… Revelation to fill up the squishy solid reality of my limitations…

“Have I ever told you how your condition also makes you More?”

Revelation is always so kind. I think she is really actually God, but she sounds like the soothing voice of an elevator recording. “Level 1.”

You are More compassionate.
You are More tender with yourself and others.
You are More intentional with your energy.
You are More focused with your time… when you have any ability to focus at all.
You are More conscious of the spirit… and of seasons… and the sound of leaves in trees…
You are More empathetic with your children.
You are More engaged and reliant on your husband.
You are More merciful with mess. Yours, theirs, ours.
You are More aware of your body…
Maybe a bit more soft and fluffy because of it too, but More greatful just for life…
…Therefore MORE accepting of the good gifts of fat layer and plump cheeks and digestive tracts and toast.
You are MORE artistic…
You are MORE reflective…
You are MORE. You are MORE. You are MORE.

Oh darling, don’t for a moment refuse to accept that you are LIMITED. Oh yes you are. Don’t for a moment scorn it. You are limited. By so many things. And those things will legitimately make you Less of some stuff. But they will never make you LESS.

There is life here. Less diaphanous and light and airy. Less like fairy wings. More like a dirty kitchen sponge. Right here in the middle of a SOLID acceptance of the SQUISHY stuff we are, there is freedom! Sticking a fork deep into the mass of tissue and saying, “This is me and my stuff. Yes it is,” is right where God meets us clapping his hands, running and kicking up his godly heels in glee saying, “Oh my precious own! My precious, precious own! I have always loved you, you little kitchen sponge you! I really have. And I do have such super fabulous plans for your story.”

Unless we can look at our lives and say, “Oh my precious own!” we will never really know the heart that God has for us.

If we insist on fairy wings… we miss the true beauty. Right in the mess. My own.

Ahhhhhaaaa. More.

 

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Love, If You’re Listening

There are these little yellow flowers that always seem to grow near pavement. They are very exceptionally yellow too. Not a polite buttercup hue to be nice. Not a dandelion gentility. No. Yellow with startling conviction. Yellow with abandon. Yellow like post-it notes and Beyonce had a baby. Lemonade, without a fleck of orange or cream identity crisis.

And they grow next to side walks. Of all places.

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I would grow under a tree, if I was going to grow somewhere wild. Or maybe in an open field if the grass wasn’t too tall. But these odd ducks with their rangey ground-crawling stems, thistle-bristled leaves, and impossibly balletic blossoms meander toward the cracks in pavement.

This is the sort of thing that makes you wonder “Why” if you’re paying attention.

If you feel like your life is a bit hot and dry and cracked, pushed up in strange places by unfortunate roots that wormed their way into your story… if you feel that maybe you are bleached white, stuck in place, crumbling around the edges… like a bit of a bad sidewalk… then you walk a little slower and look and mutter, “Hmm?”

I paid attention to those wee flowers. I thought about them as I paced toward home.

There must be a practical explanation. Yellow flowers need a reason to love sidewalks. Sidewalks aren’t particularly lovable on their own.

They must grow here because we cut down all the trees to pave this road?
They must grow here because the landscape is weirdly obliterated of all it’s natural beauty… but it let’s the sun get in.
They must grow here because in a parched and weary land, they remembered to look up. To spot the light and draw life.
They must grow here because God just can’t help himself! He’s always sneaking resurrection stories into everything. Love, if you’re listening.

I’m not sure God ever exactly meant for people to slice giant asphalt highways through the earth. Maybe he likes them? I could imagine a God who likes fast cars. Or maybe he would prefer we walked a bit more gently? As if in a garden. That was the original blue print, right? I don’t have any sense of conviction on this. It’s probably both… but here is something I really believe: Whatever happens, there will spring up yellow flowers. And they are a sign of infinite mercy. A good sense of humor. A lot of patience.