Awkward

Awkward is such an awkward word
Awk awk awk
Awkward
like a bird
crashing into a telephone pole
Awk THUD ward
Awk Awk Ward
Awk Awk
Waaard

Awkward Bird

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On Watching a Storm

I am like a storm. I blow and moan and throw myself around. I lash and rage. I try to strip the elm, try to tear off all its leaves. I try to make it bend, fall, break. I cry and make lakes in the mud, lakes with islands of patchy grass and weeds.

I flash bright sparks across my eyes. Then thunder my emotion. My breath is hot.

I am like a storm. I calm down; the flashing stops, and I cry in silence.

But then I’m overwhelmed again and cry again aloud. I strip the elm of more leaves and branches, sending them swirling, spiraling to the muddy lakes. I throw blankets of rain, beating off its leaves to make it bare.

My voice drops and I send icy hail, pelting everything in reach, pounding against the elm. I must push it more, push it harder.

My once-hot breath is now ice cold, and I let it out harsh. I drop my warm embrace and send fearful touches instead. The young sapling cannot stand me. He breaks and falls away. It takes a strong elm to resist a storm, to resist my threatening, raging, changing. It takes a strong elm to rustle in the stillness, in the calm before I storm, to rustle his promise to not fall away, to stay steady, to weather it out.

I am like a storm. My voice softens and warms as my weeping slows. The muddy lakes stop rising up the patchy-grass islands. I fall quiet and let the sun come out.

Variations on a Theme: My Friend

CoffeeThe Coffee Shop
Two people—one tall, one short
Two coffees—one decaf, one caffeinated
Two laptops—one PC, one Mac
Two people—one friendship

The Conversation
We sit, facing each other on the couch.
The short hand crosses twelve.
The cat yawns—we do not.
We talk about the future.

The Compliment
Curled up on my couch and watching me—
“I love your apartment,” she says. “It feels safe.”
I am glad.
Who wouldn’t want a home that’s a refuge for a friend?

Poolside Thoughts

There is something lovely about lying out at a pool on a Saturday morning all alone. It’s quiet. Even the sun is not wanting to wake up and stays tucked behind a cloud blanket. I don’t begrudge its hiding. I didn’t come here to tan—I gave up on tanning years ago. I have embraced my paleness. I’m no longer frustrated that I don’t turn tan after a sunburn. I no longer cringe when I notice my legs are paler than the sidewalk when it’s cold. I no longer care if my skin rivals Edward Cullen’s in the sunlight. Pale is its own beautiful.

Lying out at the pool with no one else around gives you time to let your mind wander. You notice the many different bird calls that you hadn’t noticed when you were swimming in the pool. You feel the breeze brushing over your exposed skin and shiver as it runs over your wet hair. You watch the trees lining the pool—they never stop moving, leaves and limbs serenading me.

I think about people—people I love, people I miss. I think about my plans for the rest of the day. But mostly I just sit here and let my mind wander. I feel the same as when I floated on my back in the pool a few minutes ago and let the water carry me. I absorb this beautiful world God made. And I thank Him for it.

On Removing Life-Support

For some, death is fast—a split-second jump from temporal to eternal.
For some, death is slow—a journey few have returned from.

My grandfather has been on this journey.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

My grandfather has been walking through the valley, toward the river, for several days now. I think Jesus is walking beside him.

My grandfather was a quiet man. I imagine he is still quiet—strolling quietly with Jesus through the darkness with mountains closing up around them, with looming boulders and fallen trees, along an old path.

Where are we going? Home.

What about Charlene? I’ll take care of her.

What about my kids? They’ll be okay.

What about my granddaughter? Don’t worry, Ross. I’ve got her too. And she knows that you loved her, even if you didn’t always know how to show love to her in the ways she understood best.

A cry from a wolf, a screech from a hawk, a cold wind blowing past.

She loved you too, Ross.

The valley opens to a dark meadow. The evening flowers open and fill the air with their fragrance. Jesus walks with my grandfather through the meadow.

I am afraid. So was I. But the river is just up ahead. We’re almost home.

Will it hurt? Not while I’m with you.

Will you stay? I will never leave you nor forsake you, Ross. I’ll be with you the whole way.

The sound of water, the smell of damp earth.

On the bank of the River Jordan, Jesus turns to face my grandfather. My grandfather looks away, looks at the river, looks at the mist.

Is it time?

Jesus steps onto the water. It responds to the familiar step and buoys him up. He takes another step, then turns to face my grandfather.

Ross, did you believe that I loved you?

My grandfather’s eyes fill with tears. Jesus reaches out a scarred hand, and my grandfather takes it.

Walk with me, Ross.

My grandfather steps out and meets Jesus on the water. They walk quietly through the darkness and mist. As they walk, my grandfather’s weak body grows stronger. His frailness melts into the river, and he stands straight once again, shoulders back, head high. He looks at Jesus through clear eyes.

They emerge from the mist into warm sunlight. The fragrance of the morning flowers fills the air. As he steps onto dry ground, my grandfather looks at Jesus.

Jesus meets his gaze with ancient youthful eyes, with eyes that know all things, with eyes full of self-sacrificing love.

Welcome home, Ross.

Approaching Another Birthday

My birthday is on Saturday. I am proud to celebrate it. Reaching this birthday is a triumph for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I battle depression. It is a constant part of my life, and I fight to not allow it to consume me. Some times are better than others—and this past year of life has been hard. So I want to share what has gotten me through the past year(s): God’s grace.

My favorite Christian song is “Amazing Grace.” Hearing it is like catching a breath while drowning. Hearing it is like being wrapped into the most secure hug, the hug that protects and that doesn’t let go. Hearing it is like time stopping to give a glimpse into what eternity might feel like.

I have come to tears so many times while singing or listening to “Amazing Grace.” No other song has ever resonated so strongly with me. On days when it feels like depression is winning, I listen to it in a desperate need to remember hope. On days when I’m feeling better, I listen to it in praise and thankfulness.

It is a simple song, yet so complex. It has lines of pain and of hard times, and it has lines of peace and of joy. But in each line is confidence.

May I share some of those lines with you?
(This is a rhetorical question. It’s my blog and my birthday. I can do what I want!)

Okay. Here you go.

Amazing Grace

’twas grace that taught my heart to fear: God gave me grace when He taught me that I needed Him. He showed me that I had sinned, that I couldn’t do anything to make up for my sin, and that my sin doomed me to separation from Him. He gave me grace by teaching me fear so that I would seek Him.

and grace my fears relieved: God gave me grace by showing me that He would do whatever it took to make sure that I didn’t have to be separated from Him. He gave me grace by dying for me and then coming alive again to make sure that I can live forever with Him. Physical death is not my end. Instead, my gracious God made it possible for me to live after I die. That promised life will never end and will be free from the pain I have right now. There will be no depression, no darkness, no tears. No pain.

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come: Life is hard because we live in broken bodies on a broken earth with broken people. Broken things hurt. It all broke a long time ago, in a perfect garden. We are the shards of the beautiful thing God created.

But not only are we the broken, we also do the breaking. Cruel words and actions from one broken being chip away at other broken beings, and we hurt each other.

The “dangers, toils and snares” that we have walked through have been different for each of us, but each of us has walked through them.

’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far: But God walks through the brokenness with us. He feels the pain with us. Safe here doesn’t mean untouched. Life will beat us up at times. But God keeps us through it all. Sometimes I wonder why it is worth staying here on earth when I know that my pain will end when I die. With the promise of Heaven . . . why should I wait? God isn’t afraid of that question, and He answers me when I ask. For some people, God allows their appointed time of death to come at their own hands. But so far, my time hasn’t come. God gives me grace to see that I still have a purpose on earth, to see the people who love me, and to trust His timing for my life and my death. His grace secures me.

and grace will lead me home: God will care for His children. He will never let go of our hands. And when we’re just too tired to keep going, He will carry us. He takes our brokenness and heals it. When our time here on earth is complete, He’ll take us to our forever home, a place where we will belong completely. A place where we will be completely whole, not broken anymore.

God promises good to us. He speaks hope to us. He promises peace.
He has amazing grace.

This birthday is a triumph. I am proud to celebrate it. Here’s to another year!—I don’t know what will happen in it, but I’m confident that God will walk with me through everything.

Rising

 

Grief is such a strange thing. You can feel it even before you lose something.

A college friend has been battling cancer, and I heard today that she has only weeks left.

I’m feeling a strange blend of sadness and peace. Heaven will be a little brighter, but Earth will lose a beautiful spark.

This friend and I didn’t keep up much after college, but I have nothing except fondness for her.

Sometimes people say that “So-and-So was always smiling.” But we all know that’s not actually true. So I want to say it differently. This friend reflects God’s nature. She and I survived some difficult classes together. Math 101, for example. (Math was not our strong point. Don’t judge.) Sometimes she and I were frustrated, trying desperately to understand the algebra concepts. We were sleep-deprived. We were hungry. We weren’t always smiling. But she kept a positive outlook and would catch herself when it turned negative. She would re-frame her situation and remind us both to see the good. She seemed to live in the knowledge that God loves her, and she seemed to draw confidence from that knowledge. I saw so much peace, joy, and love radiating from her that it felt like she was always smiling.

I’ve been listening to the song “I Will Rise” today. It is comforting to know that when God calls her name, she will go to Him and live forever without any more pain or sorrow. There is hope even in death, and that hope is Jesus.

Thank you for your example, Marissa. I love you, and I’m praying for you and your family.