Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Singing Bird Will Come

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.

Chinese Proverb

The above picture doesn't indicate such but on this morning we had the freakiest snow shower I have ever witnessed. Some described it as a "snow tornado" as the wind would blow first one direction then in a completely different direction a moment later. It certainly made for an exciting show first thing in the morning. And just as quickly as it blew in, it blew right out, with sunshine on its tail. At its thickest, the snow created a near white out.
In my parents' front yard there is the most interesting flowering tree that, when bare and covered in snow, provides a beautiful contrast in darkness and light. It was on this tree, when the snow was falling at its fiercest, that this cardinal lighted on the deepest branch. And as the snow blew and swirled and threatened to cover the world, the cardinal began to sing. And sing and sing and sing.

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?
Rose Kennedy

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Slight Detour

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

--From Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change God faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake to guide the future, as in ages past.

Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

--Be Still, My Soul

It truly is an amazing thing, putting your faith in God. My journey of faith has seen many twists and turns, ups and downs, questions and answers. And the last year and a half of my life has been no exception. Making the decision to move to Missouri has involved much deliberation, discussion and debate. And ultimately, much faith.

I am now beginning to understand, in a new way, why the Lord can be trusted.

This week we learned that my mom has breast cancer. This, we absolutely did not see coming. Why would we have? True, one of the big factors influencing our move was my parents’ known health concerns (my dad’s heart and my mom’s Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, or CLL) but those were, for the most part, issues that weren’t life threatening. Their health concerns were more issues related to general aging and they simply served to remind us that life is short. We wanted to make sure that we could enjoy time with my parents while they still “had their health.” Of course, by moving closer, we would then also be in a position to be more fully involved when and if their health required assistance from others.

Now, suddenly, everything seems to have been put on fast forward.

But I am so grateful.

Grateful for our decision to go ahead and move before John had a job lined up, even though, in some respects, that could be viewed as unwise.

Grateful for my parents’ willingness to take us into their home, despite the close quarters and many sacrifices required on their part.

And simple gratefulness for the everyday minutia that, at times, can seem stifling, but in hindsight, is a comfort and a joy.

Throughout this journey of the past year and a half, when we didn’t know when we would actually move or where we would stay when we got here or where John would work or… the list goes on… I have clung to a verse from Acts 17:26b that reads:

“…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”

But I think I need to add the verse from the hymn above to my daily mantra:

Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change God faithful will remain.


As much as this move has been hard on many levels, I look at this picture and I remember why we made the decision that we did. “Hanging out” with Grandpa is now an everyday event, not just a seasonal treat. Although August and Grandpa have their differences from time to time—August being his strong willed self and Grandpa being set in his ways—they still have strong affection for one another. When I think about how far apart their life stages are I’m amazed that they are able to connect in as many ways that they do. But that’s the beauty of this little arrangement that we have. My dad brings to the table a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad, that make him an incredible source of stories, lessons and general magic. And Mr. August, well, he just can’t help but infuse every day with electricity and all around mischief and that just serves to help all of us take ourselves a little less seriously. I hope that moments, like the one captured here, are being tattooed onto August’s young brain. They are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dancing Grandma

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room. ~Kurt Vonnegut

I can't tell you how much this picture reminds me of my own childhood. There is my Aidan dancing with his grandma, but rewind the clock thirty years and that would have been me and my mom. I still blame my mom for my inability to master social dance as an adult because, although she taught me the jitterbug, the chachacha and the waltz, I was always the "male" to her female. When John and I took a short tango class it was incredibly frustrating because I kept stepping off with the wrong foot, not to mention I was always taking the lead. My grown-up problems notwithstanding, I loved dancing with my mom. She had a song for everything and she would sweep you up in her arms and twirl you around the kitchen while she sang. Now, watching her dance with my two boys, I see that she obviously just can't help but dance. What has been so neat to watch is how her complete lack of self consciousness frees up Aidan to find his dancing feet. And find it he does. We found him doing soft shoe with a cane the other day! What in the world? I hope the confidence he gains from letting his hair down with my mom stays with him for a lifetime.

We ought to dance with rapture that we might be alive... and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. ~D.H. Lawrence

Ahhhh, Lubley's

The above picture is one of the things that I hadn't thought about when weighing all of the reasons why we should move to St. Louis. But if there had been more serious doubts about whether we should relocate, a whiff of gooey butter pecan danishes or cinnamon twists would have sealed the deal, I'm sure. Lubley's, from which we purchased these delectable goodies, was first opened in 1937 in south St. Louis. But in the '50's, a new development in Webster Groves (where I grew up) got the attention of Mr. Lubley and he relocated the business. It is there that they have remained. We have visited them twice now and, believe me, it has taken great restraint to keep from going more often. Our last visit was on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday and, believe me, I left feeling fat alright. I'm sure this is exactly what the Church had in mind for the day before Lent.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Snow Snapshots

Winter Wonderland

In an effort to make our big move more enticing to our boys we went to great efforts to talk about all of the snow they would get to see and play in once we moved to Missouri. We really started sweating it when weeks went by with no sign of snow. And when we heard that Atlanta, GA got snow, well, the boys were about to pack it up and move back with or without us.
Well, this week the big snow finally came. Actually, the biggest snowfall in one day in St. Louis in 15 years. For three days straight, John, Aidan, August and I played in it in every way imaginable. Sledding was by far the favorite activity, but the boys also helped out with the shoveling, as well. We introduced the boys to the glory of a great sledding hill, not far from my parents house, and a new generation of sledders was born. At least as far as Aidan was concerned. He was relentless in his desire to master the hills and experiment with the different sleds that we had at our disposal. But August, our dare devil August who knows no fear, would have nothing to do with sledding. He was content to sit at the top of the hill and watch us have all the fun. Yeah, no sledding for August. And then we learned what the deal was--he was holding out for a snowboard. There were a couple of young boys who were attempting to navigate the bumps and drops of the monstrous hill and August was taking it all in. That's right. August was not going down any hill unless he was on a snowboard. That's our August. None of this pedestrian sledding business, no. Bring on the reckless, daring snowboarding. So, John found an abandoned, broken down plastic sled, cut it up just right, and fashioned August his own "snowboard." Now we have two snow bunnies. Too bad it's already starting to melt.

Finally, a post

Well, seven weeks later... a post. I've been avoiding this for so long because I felt like I had so much to say but it was too overwhelming to imagine getting it all down in a way that made sense, not to mention in a timely manner. But finally I've realized that I can't keep thinking about the great big everything and continue to compose only in my head all of the things that I want to say--and never actually write it down. The greatest novels are products of small, disciplined efforts, not explosive purgings, except maybe for those writers who are mad. And I am definitely not mad, at least not yet.
So, here I am. Not in the emotional state that I imagined I would be at this point, but nevertheless, I'm here.
"Here" is St. Louis, Missouri. In my parents house. It's kind of strange to be without a home of our own. Granted, we shared a home with one or more families for 8 years while living in community and, thus, did not have a home of our own that whole time. But living with your parents is a whole different ball game. And to be living in temporary quarters in the place you moved to in order to start a new phase of life is just, well, weird. I've had temporary quarters before, just like everyone else, but this is different than summer camp or college dorm room "temporary." It really feels like a holding tank. And just like it works when looking through the thick glass of any tank--everything just seems magnified and somewhat distorted. My emotions, my perspective, my well, everything.
So, I'm learning new ways of looking at things. I look at my parents differently now that we live life together 24/7. I now look at this city that I grew up in from the perspective of my experience in Atlanta. And I now look at our future with a new faith, one that is dependent on God for absolutely everything, not just the things that I can't take care of myself.
I'll keep you posted.