Friday, April 28, 2017

The Scent of Water

August 30, 2012

Yesterday, I read a short blog about a woman giving birth. There was a picture of the young woman standing beside the ocean. It was simply of her belly, and then there were a few lines describing the birth. The mother was described as a warrior and stronger than she knew.

I was sitting there and then I was crying, just like that. I had this unexpected moment of clarity about my anxiety and shame. I remembered again why I feel broken and dry, absurd and childish.

It's not just tied up in my memories of repeated sexual abuse from before I could talk to grade school, the memories ready, at a moment's notice to twist my self-identity back to what I learned so early, the feelings of shame and brokenness are now because of my womb, my flesh and blood. I didn't just learn shame and worthlessness as a girl. I learned it all over again as a woman.

No wonder I feel so outside of the world, so strange. I'm not passing down through all those same channels, not passing by the same landmarks. I'm off somewhere in some field, a grab bag of broken pieces, watching the clouds.

My body won't catch life like a little spark, and warmly shelter it. I'll never know how strong I could have been, in that arena.

I comfort myself with the thought that we will adopt, and I will be a mother, regardless, but I can't seem to stay emotionally connected to this. It doesn't seem real. It feels like we'll be in the adoption process indefinitely- all this year and all next year. There's nothing but this tunnel.

As far as I know, we are waiting only on Colorado's background checks to come through. They sent us back the paperwork. Between the time we had sent it, and the time they received it, their fees went up by three dollars.

Some bureaucrat in the state of Colorado picked up their blue Bic pen, crossed out the printed fee of thirty dollars, hand wrote in thirty three dollars, stapled pink sheets to the forms, and mailed them back.

So that set us back two weeks, all for six dollars total. Spend it well, Colorado, spend it well. And who knows, maybe there is something else we are missing. Our homestudy agent keeps asking for more medical information on Keith.

I sent her his entire medical record and pages and pages of lab results. If she wants to know more about Keith's health, she is going to have to ask God, because we're tapped out.

Surely this process must end. Surely the reason why I haven't heard from her is because she is satisfied with the latest installment of my husband's medical information.

A soldier from Keith's old company texted him a picture of his new baby girl. She was adorable with these chubby cheeks, huge dark eyes and dark curls held back with a ribbon. It didn't hurt to see the picture. It was a little reminder of what waits at the end of this process.

September 6, 2012

Yesterday evening, I was sitting outside by the pool, marinating in melancholy. (How's that for an opening sentence?) It was almost a pleasant melancholy, the sort that fall inspires so often.

At first, the setting sun was lighting up all the leaves from underneath, so they were rich gold under and thick green on top, and this swath of gold shot almost horizontally through the grove of trees toward the low hills at the east. The sun set and everything was blue and green, and then mostly blue.

I was sitting there thinking about how stressful everything is right now, and how the stress has been unrelenting- pressing down and pressing down, and how it is wearing Keith and I down as if it were a grinding stone.

For some reason, maybe some sweet scent in the evening air, I remembered feeling exactly like that even when I was fifteen or sixteen, only at that time, my anxieties and stresses were based on completely different things.

This was a comforting thought. I remembered the critically important thing to remember at all times: life is difficult.

Life is difficult, but in my experience, it only approaches intolerable when one has gotten hold of the wrong idea that it wasn't supposed to be like that. Then one wonders what is wrong with oneself, that one's life is actually not like a bowl of cherries at all.

Sitting there, I had a sudden inclination to dig out my old journal from those early days, so when I went into the bedroom, I pulled the tattered, spiral-bound notebook out of its hiding place and crawled into bed to read it.

And what did I read upon first opening the page, but an enumeration of my internal suffering, which I had, for the first time ever, dared to scrawl upon a page. And there were pages of it. I dared even to be outrageously angry at God, in that first journal entry.

I was in awe of my boldness, my emotional authenticity. Apparently, so was I when I was writing the journal. In fact, I can remember writing it, and how I trembled, and how I didn't want to stop, because once I stopped, I would have to face God after having written all those horrible things about Him. I didn't even end the journal on a positive note. No, not at all.

However, a few days after that, I must have read, for the first time, The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Gouge. I copied several quotes about suffering, and thereafter, scattered all throughout the journal, I have written, somewhat enigmatically:

By which I meant, I will suffer. I will walk into the heart of this journey, this lesson, this sacrifice. As far as I can tell, that was the first time I learned that lesson, the lesson I would be relearning, in one way or another, all my life.

September 13, 2012 Telling Stories

I keep reading awesome blog posts where the authors are writing passionately about things- good things, great things, and I think, should I also be writing passionately about some things?

I got to feeling so guilty about it that I had ask Jesus about it- should I be... I don't even know. Louder.

Jesus keeps assuring me that everyone has their part to play, and they don't all look the same, but they all reflect a part of who He is. I am a quiet part, and that is okay for me.

I remembered a few other times when I struggled with this sort of self-doubt. I remembered last fall, first realizing the mind-bloggling array of ways in which people followed, served and loved Jesus- the complexities of their different doctrines, anecdotes, stories, metaphors, religious books.

It was overwhelming. When I offered this up to Jesus, He was quite firm. He said not to wonder about how other people were with Him- that was between Himself and them. As for me, I must keep my eyes on Him; He was enough for me.

It's kind of like that C.S Lewis quote- that we can only know our own story. We don't know the other person's story. We come to God as ourselves.

I remembered another time, when I was completely awed at another person's ability to describe God using logic. That was humbling. My bumbling, vague, emotional rendering of God seemed, in contrast, so not useful to anyone else, possibly even off-putting.

"I can't glorify You using logical arguments," I pointed out to Him, guiltily.

That's okay, Jesus said with His good natured humor. You're not a member of My debate team.

That is actually what Jesus said. It made me laugh out loud. I was walking in the park when this was happening.

"You mean, I haven't majored in Apologetics?" I asked Him, daring to extend the little inside joke.

Just so, He said, warmly. I walked on a little further, and then He asked tenderly, Who are you to Me?

I knew right away the answer Jesus wanted.

"I'm Your dove, Your dove in the clefts of the rock," I answered, though it made me shy to say it right out like that.

Just so, He said, and that was that.

I'm still not sure if Jesus was serious about actually having a debate team, or if He was just making a point. I suspect He was just making a point. He did have a tendency to make points using illustrations.

But I bet in a sense Jesus does; those are the people who are making excellent and well thought out and much needed points, who are clarifying the issues.

Sometimes I wonder what exactly the point of being me is. I seem superfluous in His plan. I don't seem to have a raison d'etre. I mean, what good are doves? They're large, soft and messy. They don't earn their keep.

But wait a moment. Sometimes doves carry messages- little messages, usually meant for only one person at a time. They are used by lovers and by people in the middle of a battlefield somewhere. They carry necessary information, encouragement, clarification- all of this goes on sort of under the radar.

The point is, doves carry messages from one person to another person. They are quiet missives. And, actually, I find myself doing a fair amount of that sort of thing. No one would ever know, because they aren't public messages, they are personal. They are tailored to whom I am speaking.

I am always flying out from the clefts of the Rock, because I am so frequently hiding out there. I always return there, because I am a dove and that's what I do. He feeds me, what can I say. I know a good thing when I find it.

According to Wikipedia, doves are capable of homing, but only over short distances. So long as it is a short distance, they will always know very well how to find their way back home, although they may get distracted by a predator.

Hm. That sounds familiar.

"I almost got lost on the way," I told Jesus one night, after a brief struggle with condemnation that had almost kept me from resting in Him.

I knew where you were, He said tenderly.

And doves are symbols of peace. That sounds familiar too. Another time I was walking along, minding my own business, listening to the song, "How Beautiful are the feet of those who Preach the Gospel of Peace," from Handel's Messiah.

It was a sunny day, I was enjoying the quiet presence of Jesus, who seemed to be beside me, and all around me, and within me, and within the music, and shining off the leaves and moving with the wind.

Then, into all this peace, He spoke. You are one of those who preach the Gospel of peace, and your feet are beautiful to Me, He said.

I was horrified. He could not have said a worse thing to me, for several reasons. One, I couldn't believe that He would mention my feet. But worse was this awful idea of my preaching anything at all. I was pretty sure that I had not been preaching and I had absolutely no intention of ever preaching anything.

So I brushed this whole message right away- I pushed it right away. I refused to consider it.

I walked on.

Then I began to get this sinking feeling.

I began to wonder if there could be any truth at all in what I had just heard. Of course, I thought of the story of Jesus washing His disciples feet. It was obvious that He did not have a problem with feet. In the Song of Songs, the Beloved actually points out how beautiful are the girl's feet in sandals.

The sinking feeling got worst.

I thought, "Oh my goodness, I was rude! I was rude to God! Oh dear."

Then I thought about my blogs, and how, over and over again, I had actually been talking about Jesus, and who He is and who we were in Him. I had been preaching peace, a peaceful rest in Him, quite unconsciously, simply by talking about the things I was learning or thinking about.

"I'm sorry," I told Him, in a very small voice. "And thank You for...  about my feet."

It was as though Jesus put His arm around my shoulder and drew me up close to Him, and we walked along together, like comrades in arm.

So, when I think about it, there are lots of reasons for me to simply be myself, even if I am a quiet one- Someone's dove, a quiet murmur of peace.

September 18, 2012

This month is flying by. It's disconcerting.

I love September, and it's already half gone and October will slide by just as quickly and then boom, it's Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then everyone is exhausted, hungover and never wanting to see another Christmas ornament again for the rest of their life.

Except for those neighbors that never take theirs down.

Anyway, September is half gone, and we haven't heard from our adoption homestudy agent. I sent her an e-mail this morning, wondering where we were in the process.

Surely we are towards the end. The year is sliding by and I'm starting to feel the pinch of it. We have to get this show on the road, who knows how long it will be before we're matched with a birthmother.

The nightmare scenario is that we'll be matched at the same time the Army moves us to another post. It's not a deal breaker exactly but it does mean we'll have to do the homestudy all over again in another state, and in a massive hurry.

I keep remembering our homestudy agent lifting her hand in the air and snapping her fingers. "You'll be matched like that," she said, with the easy confidence of twenty years’ experience. That seems too much to hope for, but it has happened like that.

Yesterday, Keith opened the door to the nursery, in order to store something in there. He paused in the doorway.

"Hey, this is a nice room," he said, surprised by the sight of it. I sometimes forget that it's there, too. It's part of surviving the process.

Mothers are getting younger and younger, have you noticed? They are beautiful in their young strength, those mothers. They are an entirely different generation from mine. They were in grade school when I was in high school; they were below the radar, running around in ponytails and now they are populating the world and looking stylish and beautiful at the same time.

As for me, I have been hollowed out and polished thin. Persistent longing has worn me down and softened all my edges, like water that runs and runs over stone, wearing it as smooth as silk.

God has some mysterious inspiration in mind for the shape of me. He keeps me always on the wheel, spinning me out, elongating me, pulling and smoothing the edges.

I wonder sometimes that I don't hate Him for this. Why wouldn't I? Isn't He my jailer, isn't He the rock wall behind which hides all the treasure I desire, treasure He is storing up and jealously guarding, unwilling to let even the one good thing fall from His fingers into my empty lap?

But I find that I can't. I trust Him too much.

Where did this trust come from? It doesn't make any sense. Maybe the pleasure of being in His hands is greater, in its own way, than the answered desire.

Anyway, how much do I suffer, really? Sooner or later, there will be a baby. I must simply be in the process and it will come about. God is weaving the brokenness of my life into the brokenness of someone else's; I am being woven into the larger picture.

And He does open His hands and treasures are constantly tumbling out. There is the blue of my husband's eyes as he looks at me shyly from under his ball cap, the warmth of his shoulders under the soft cotton shirt. There are all the colors hidden behind my cupboard doors; I open them and my eyes are filled with the glow of orange, green, red and yellows.

We went to a small town rodeo on Saturday night. We sat on the metal bleachers and watched the cowboys get tossed out onto the soft Georgia soil, their hats spinning away.

There was one horse, he was cream and white and wild and he kicked his rider off in a fury of offended dignity and then went surging and plunging by the fence, still kicking, still tossing his fierce head.

"Oh no, you won’t," I knew he cried. "How dare you dream! I'll toss you all off!"

That stallion was also my gift. As he went thundering by, my spirit rose up in fierce joy with him.

Everything in that moment got all tangled up in joy: the evening sky that was melting into night and the hazy wooded hills and restless crowd, the children huddled in rows near the fence like sparrows, wide eyed and chattering, all the lights high up on the poles shining down onto the tossed soil, the gleaming chaps of the cowboys, their faces shadowed under the broad brims of their hats.

Maybe that's why I trust Jesus. He's the only one that can take me in His hands and spin me into shape without breaking my spirit.

September 19, 2012 Unpublished

I'd been thinking about something last night. I'd been thinking about how people who were very close to God were so very often vividly themselves, sometimes to the point of eccentricity.

I see this in the Bible and in history and also around me. The world is full of zany, eccentric individuals who almost glow from the sheer goodness of God. They are simply themselves and they no longer fit in anywhere but in God. I think I'm becoming one of them.

So last night, I was talking about this with God.

"I'm not ready to display that sort of love, in my writing or in my life. It seems too scary, too risky, to be that much myself," I confessed to Jesus.

Then simply write about Love, He suggested, with His usual lovingkindness.

"Yes... of course, love,' I answered, thoughtfully. "But how? How does one actually capture or demonstrate Your love? How does one live it out?"

By simply being who you are, you demonstrate a living trust in My love, Jesus answered. Others will see it, and reach out in longing for a similar foundation for themselves. They will dare to be loved more deeply.

"Ah ha!" I said. "That makes sense, but I'm on to You! I happen to know that we've just come full circle, and You are pointing out that I should do the very thing I was reluctant to do at the first."


"How beautiful and delightful on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace,
Who brings good news of good [things],
Who announces salvation,
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

-Isaiah 52:7