Time and the Peonies

Aside from family birthdays and anniversaries, I am terrible at keeping track of dates. I do calculations to figure out the year we moved, the last time we traveled, the year we planted that apple tree or when my husband had surgery on his shoulder. But I remember the year I started blogging: 2012, January, at a coffee shop in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It’s so random, but I remember the birth of this space as if it were another child. The way I form regrets and should-haves around my writing is very much like my reflections on parenting, and I have to purpose to not look back too much. I have great kids, despite my failures. I’ve written some words I’m happy with, despite my short-comings. And both of those things are impossible without God’s help.

This blog has always been a place for me to work out what I think. Strange, I know, to do this “publicly”, but I could easily be a hermit in the woods who forgets what human voice is like, even my own; writing my thoughts helps me speak, and doing either of those things publicly keeps me "close to the earth” and human, humus, like soil. I can almost embrace the fact that embarrassment, or the potential for embarrassment, is good for me. I can almost let go of my pride. 

(I have never liked the word “blog” or the terms blogging or blogger. There has to be something better, more beautiful, more reflective of what’s happening here than a mash-up of “web” and “log”. Logs are boring calculations of time spent, and I’d rather think this space is a collection of narratives, released and redeemed from the inner stories I tell myself. You have ideas; let’s create a new term!)

Tonight we’ll have people over to eat a simple meal with us and discuss ideas around what it means to be created in the image of God. We did this in January and intended to do it each month of the year, but it’s always hard to put things on the calendar. It’s easier to think about it as a future, far-off thing we might do someday when we have the time and the house is ready and the kids are occupied. Our future-selves are always less busy and more hospitable. This way of tracking time doesn’t work and my present-self knows this, so I am filling in the dates on an already full calendar because my mind forgets what my spirit knows: time stretches to fit every good thing and we can choose to have the time. 

We can also choose how we think about time. Twice in the last week I’ve admonished people who were grumbling about some future thing they had to do, something they were dreading. You’re not doing it now, so stop ruining the moment with your grumbling about the future. In certain seasons, that feeling of dread has come to me first thing in the morning, as my eyes adjust to a fresh 24 hours and my mind flicks through a rolodex of to-dos. It’s not the way to wake-up. Revelatory for me has been grasping the concept that if I faithfully do the things I must do, there will be time to do the things I want to do, without guilt. My husband doesn’t understand this struggle I have with guilt—I can’t sit down to read or write in the middle of the day because people are working hard out there in the world—but it’s always been there. I’m glad he doesn’t understand; it means he thinks it’s silly to have guilt over those things, and that’s the validation I need. I am silly. 

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The peony gives all its gifts and leaves nothing behind but greenery. Every bud blooms, every petal is enjoyed, until they fall to the ground outside or fall all at once in a sudden flouse to the table, dropping whole flowers in one descent from the vase. Even the way they land on my old, scarred up table is beautiful. I can’t describe my love for the peony but I bury my face in the dark pink ones, breathe deeply, and debate whether to bring them all inside or leave a few outside. This is my biggest concern today.

I wish peonies grew all year but they don’t, and this fact of time and seasons and quotidian rhythm prompts me to enjoy the heck out of them right now.  Right now, as I throw out an imperfect “log” about time in this space on the “web”—the space I neglect because people are working hard out there in the world and the to-do lists are fluttering in the wind.

Work.

And flutter.

And flouse.

The peonies won’t last forever.




Life lately

The damage from our epic and unexpected storm in February is still seen around homes and in the forests here. On my walks in the woods, the brush is rubbled-up like leftovers from a huge party, blocking the creek in places and changing the landscape. Fir trees, strong and established, came completely unmoored by the surprise weight of the snow that fell. The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth and so many of them completely let go, gave up, and their bodies all lay neatly pointing downhill. 
There wasn’t a lot people could do about the mess until the season had passed, but now the sun is out and it’s time. 

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There is really no good way to describe a season while you are in it. You don’t understand the full extent of it till it has passed.  So we describe what we were and what we did and how we thought. We tell it as though it was either the worst of times or the best, because nostalgia creeps in and makes us victims—either the past was great and now, here we are; or the past was terrible and there I was. Distorted. Hyperbolized. Inflated.

Knowing all that, let me try to describe our present season in one sentence: On Thursday we took the trash to the dump and we didn’t have another bag-full of garbage until Sunday. 

Or this sentence: Friday there were only three of us so we had dinner out. 

You’ll need to get used to this mom, my daughter said when I noted the trash situation, and that’s another sentence that could describe our season—my daughter, explaining things to me gently, letting me down slowly.  She has two months in Mongolia this summer, a full-time job, and plans to move out soon. Is eighteen years really enough time to prepare?

I had already changed our chore chart from a daily trash affair to every other day, and then I removed the chore from the chart altogether because it was so random and chore charts need regularity. Someone just takes the trash out when it’s full and no one gets to check it off a list anymore.

We still run a load in the dishwasher daily, but I wonder when that changes. When do we switch from six gallons of milk a week to four, to two, to a tiny, cute half-gallon? When does the milk spoil? I can’t remember the last time the milk spoiled in my fridge and I think it's maybe never happened; maybe milk spoilage is a myth to perpetuate repopulation: have more kids or your milk will spoil.

Time is the same. God is the same. We think it’s logical that our bank account should begin to increase now as children work and learn and leave, but even that is essentially the same. 

The sameness of God is what counteracts our (mock) despair in a season like this. He is same and steady and sure, the way a tree rooted to the earth and reaching to the sky should be. But He’s not boring in His sameness. He’s not fully discoverable, still, after so many seasons.

God is the center of a concentric circle we rotate around, rowing our boats, forgetting our bread, still not getting it. He increases the surface tension and we don’t even realize we could walk right to Him and touch Him and see Him steady, unchanging in Himself but new to us in every season. We think we’ve discovered something new when we unwrap a mystery, but He has only just pulled back the cover on what has always been. The only new thing is our understanding.

I need to think about these things when all my things are changing things, because I am a woman whose definitions and titles are changing. But I am who I always am.

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When the disciples forgot their bread, somewhere on the shore behind them were twelve baskets full of fragments leftover from a miracle—twelve baskets from a feast prepared for the hungry who would be hungry again. On the one hand, no one thought to bring bread for the trip and I think they were men focused on a task. On the other hand, wasn’t Jesus exasperated that they still didn’t get it? “Don't you understand yet?” He asked them. They didn’t and I don’t and we attempt to cover our lack of understanding by trying harder, but it never works that way. We laugh at a joke we don’t get and wonder how our bellies will be filled in this next season.

I don’t understand yet how God meets all our needs but sometimes we still feel a lack; how the spiritual dangers we can’t see outweigh the physical ones we can; how preparing for a season is even possible when we don’t know the start date, the itinerary, the return flight schedule. I don’t know how to prepare for something I’ve never been or done or seen.

All I can do is what I keep doing: gathering the fragments for the trip between feasts. There are miraculous provisions in my past, baskets full to carry me through the present.

The fragments for this season must be the memories: a toddler and an infant on the carpet, one reaching for a toy, the other starting to take it away but holding back, looking at me, knowing to be gentle; scrunching up a baby sock, rolling it over tiny toes; a baby in a room full of un-held babies, one of those orange plastic jewels stuck to his finger, eyes large and black and drowning; all of us on the floor Christmas morning.

I have a sketchy memory full of very specific snapshots I’ve intentionally frozen—remember this. I am mad about so much I don’t remember but the fragments are enough to fill the boat, and if I forget, ultimately, it’s ok. It’s never about the lack, the forgotten things. It’s always about the present provision.

The trees grow roots to hold on to the earth but so many of them let go this winter. I am changing, but I am not like those trees.  

On the resurrection and our faithful repetition

For several months I’ve been serving as an editor for The Joyful Life Magazine, a beautiful piece of work that features honest essays, great recipes, and some fun DIY ideas. The magazine prints quarterly and would make a great Mother’s Day gift. It’s truly excellent.

Yesterday, the blog portion of the magazine hosted an essay of mine titled “Resurrection” and I’d love for you to read it here. They are doing great work at The Joyful Life and I’m happy to be a part of it

We want to be extraordinary, to live outside of the trap of time and space, but ordinary life requires so much from us and we forget.

Maybe what resurrection really calls for is that every day be a remembrance. Every crawl out of bed is the resurrection to a new day. Every task repeated from the monotony of quotidian life is the bearing-again of everything that gives life or is the result of living. The cleaning up, the putting away and getting out again, the daily opening and closing of books and doors and laptops can be a resurrection and a remembrance: we are not ordinary people, and this is not an ordinary life. We faithfully repeat the same things as we practice rising again, and again, and again.

Read the full post here.

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