Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Sweetest Thing

My mom called me last night with the news that my brother is in hospital,
with pneumonia.  He is getting the care he needs
and all is expected to be well soon, thanks be to God. 
My mother was so struck by the surprise of her little boy in this situation,
she was dumbfounded.
How can Eddie be in hospital?
I remember him in diapers!  We laughed...I told her I remember that too.
He is my 'baby brother' and her 'baby boy'.
It's not right, she said.  She's the one whose health is a mess. 
And she's not old enough to have a son in hospital with pneumonia,
or a daughter old enough to get the senior discount at the ARC store!
(She had come with us thrift shopping in November -
in part to make sure we would get the senior discount -
and was rather stunned when I 'qualified' on my own.)
What ensued was a tender conversation full of childhood memories -
me teaching him to read, and everytime I'd read
'Oh, Oh, Oh,' he'd say 'No, No, No!'
laughing and sharing the goodness of the man he has become. 
After I hung up I called my Dad. 
My brother & his family had been in Missouri
to celebrate my Dad's birthday with him when he took ill.
I had missed the date and Dad kindly presumed I must have been
out of town when he didn't get a call...
'maybe in the desert', he said.
I admitted to the desert of my mind which gave us both a good laugh.
My Dad filled me in on the details and then, more quietly,
asked to no one in particular, "How can Eddie be in hospital?"
I told him Mom had said the same. 
My brother had been stoic - insisting he'd get better, just give it time.
We laughed at his stubbornness and wondered aloud
where on earth he got that personality trait!  Ha!
He asked about the kids, glad for good news all around,
said he hoped he'd see 7 year old again soon, they grow up so fast.
Memories poured out here too
as we shared how funny/odd it is to get older 'on the outside'
and still feel so much ourselves 'on the inside'
full of the life & thoughts & humor we've known since our youth.
Can't judge a book by its cover!
I have a clear image of my Dad out in the driveway
eternally washing and waxing his car, bent over the side
rag in hand, young and strong,
wearing shorts in the sunshine.
I remember his guitar playing and making up silly songs
in the afternoon under the carport
and softball games in the field by our house
with the car radio turned up, playing tunes he'd sing aloud
'Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees
and the flowers and the trees, and the moon up above,
and a thing called love!"
while Mom hit all the homeruns!
'Hey , hey, good lookin'
what ya got cookin'?
How's about cookin' something up with me?'
He said the first picture that comes to mind when he thinks of me
is a little girl, 5,6,7...and every time someone came near me
with a camera, how I'd pose. 
He said it was the cutest thing he has ever seen in his life,
and he laughed.  Then I had stopped doing it, getting older.
Told me he's always missed that.  It was the sweetest thing...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh mama

7 year old sings and I listen.  She sings her heart...sings it to my heart.
Last weekend, she sang this...accompanied by 31 year old(est) daughter.

My heart thrilled at their lovely duet, with their joyous melody,
regaled with laughter & poise,
playfully performed in funny hats and rock-star sunglasses.
7 year old wrote down the lyrics so they could practice
and this paper lying on our kitchen table all week gave me pause.

What does my life speak to those dearest ones whose lives are on such intimate terms with mine?
What is it I want my children to see...
It is all here in her song, and I am grateful for its affirmations, read between the lines. 

Be a mama (metaphorically)
  • Give and receive. Nurture life. Love with generosity and sacrifice, knowing they  (whomever God has given you to hold) are a part of you always.
  • Cooperate creatively in shaping the world, from the world in your heart & head to the world that gifts itself to you.
Get your hands dirty
  • Kneel down. Plant something. Watch it grow, tend it, learn its lessons as each season comes.  Realize how much and how little you can do. Be humble, from humus; stay grounded.
Accept and honor your beauty
  • Smile. Enjoy the gift of life God has given you. Be you.
Tell those you love that you do
  • Touch them, speak love, take the time.  Let them know they are your ‘favorite thing’.
Be kind
  • Honor the fragility and tenderness of the human heart. Honor God’s life in your soul, which is also in everyone.
Be helpful
  • Lend a hand. Leave space in your life to reach out a hand.  Accept help too, let others help you.
Fall in love
  • Stay in love. Choose your mate carefully, and then with wild abandon and full commitment give them the gift of yourself. They will be, as the original Hebrew translation in Genesis says of that first marriage, your ezar kenegdo, or a strength opposite you, a power facing you, a rescue that looks you in the face.  They will know you, love you and help you become fully & gloriously & maddeningly yourself.
  • Let words fail you. Allow yourself to be amazed.  Witness to wonder. Let life astonish you. It will make you grateful, which makes all the rest possible.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I spent a brief time away last weekend at Old Mission San Luis Rey.  The old pavers are worn and uneven, the very substance of the place minding you to watch your step.   It was good to walk again those grounds, recall the many encounters there of grace and light that somehow were hovering among her arches when I arrived under a blanket of stars; everything, everything urging me to hear in her resonant silence the beckoning voice of God.

The Kiss

I stand by the bed where the young woman lies, her face post-operative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed.

The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and altogether they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.

Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?

The young woman speaks. 'Will my mouth always be like this?' She asks.
'Yes,' I say, 'it will. It is because the nerve was cut.'
She nods and is silent.

But the young man smiles. 'I like it,' he says. 'It is kind of cute.'

All at once I know who he is. I understand, and lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close, I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works.

(I do not know where I first heard this - I had scribbled it on a torn piece of paper and tucked it away - to find it today, tumbling out of a book.  I had to kneel down to retrieve it, and when I saw what it was, could not rise, my whole self reacting, recognizing God had just dropped in, as casually as a drifting piece of paper falls to the ground where we stand, just like that!)

Friday, January 14, 2011


I have been asked to share on trust with a group of moms from my parish. 
I have pondered and prayed and prepared. 
I keep mumbling to myself that TRUST is a lesson I am learning
more than I know how to teach. 
Learning to trust God who is Good - all the time - as we say.
I have learned my lessons on a long hard road of trust,
and today I can see how Gods own hand has held me.  
I have a simple prayer when I see like this...
see God present in my blessings and my need,
when Gods love is tangible, recognizable, enlightening. 
It is simply "Hide this in my heart Lord." 
I retreat there for recollection,
and review the long list of graces to encourage this sometimes weary heart. 
I am here in the dark, the morning light just breaking in -
light from the window on my shoulder as I sit, coffee in hand, praying in its comfort. 
And I am overcome with Gods goodness. 
How profoundly God has been (and is) present,
especially when the circumstances have seemed to insist on Gods absence.
I have glimpsed the hidden work of God, grace in a soul,
the slow transformation that cannot be forced, the unfolding in Gods time. 
In my own lived experience, as my fear and worry,
my sorrow and confusion have grasped the hand of hope,
have insisted in faith on the promises of God hidden from my eyes,
I have come to trust.  God has smiled on me! 
I keep crying, overcome with good-ness, with Gods fidelity and mercy. 
My spirit rejoicing in God, my savior! 
Back to the preparations at hand, I see the title for my talk today -
taken from Mother Teresa
"I know God won't give me more than I can handle...
I just wish He didn't trust me so much!" 
My instinct is to duck and cover, but then I laugh out loud.
Ok Lord, I'm yours.  Again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shower Power

7 year old resists getting into the shower each night -
so enthralled by everything that is going on,
so determined to not miss a thing,
she delays until we insist,
then with reluctant drama
strips down fast and hops in.
She is instantly herself,
unencumbered in that space on her own.
she is singing in the shower at the top of her lungs.
Lyrics spill out from her in free form
and drift out to our ears.
She is in full throttle praise
of the God who made
Each night we listen,
we laugh and linger
within ear shot,
touched by her unbridled spirit.

Tonight I jotted down the words as fast as I could
I don’t want to forget their wonder.
This is what she sings...

“I love you Jesus
you are my God
you are the best
you are my everything
because you made everything
and it is beautiful
and you made me
and I am beautiful
You made the dogs and the clouds and kings
and you can move the mountains.
My God is mighty to save,
He is mighty to save.
be my friend
and I am yours,
dance with me
and be with me
cause I was chosen
to shine the light
to show the way
to our lord Jesus Christ.
you are my friend
because you are so loving
and always you are my friend because
you are love and kind too.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you and my family
mommy, papa and me.
I love christmas and easter too
thank you.
alle alle alleluia
alle alle alleluia
I feel so wonderful
and you are wonderful
yeah, yeah, yeah”

and in our hearts a hushed refrain
yeah, yeah, yeah.