To Wilmore

Wilmore

You are the second quirky little place I’ve lived.  The second quirky place where people liken the flow of transition to a revolving door. Oh, Wilmore, they say with  loaded affection. You’ll see.

And then, they welcomed us. Because that is how they are.

This is the second quirky place where there is an ethic of gentleness and faith is not a platitude-quilt. Rather, it is wondrous tension that pulls us deeper.

Conversation cannot stay shallow for long. It is hard, in this place, to talk about mascara and queso when there is so much at stake in our hearts.

They are risky, here.  People peel back the skin of things and say:  Here, take a look, pull on my heart-strings, because I would like to be changed. They tell me this is a formative thing: to spread our chests and yield, like this.

So, I trust them.  Because trust, I think, can wind up looking a lot like love. Yes, this place has taught me that.

This is the second quirky place where the mailman knows Greek and teaches us in our living room. Undelivered envelopes wave with his passion.

We sit at his feet, still and curious. He could go on and on but, you know, people need their packages.

Yes, we agree. They do.

And then he tells us something about the duty of the moment being filled with God’s presence.

In other words: We are all doing sacred work.

So we keep on, keeping on, together in this quirky place. Community happens, when you do this. When you do your job, deliver packages and speak a dream in a stranger’s living room.

This is the second quirky place that is more space, perhaps, than it is place. We have a space for you to grow here. Or,

Go On.

Find a third quirky place. An even easier exhale. And remember, there is always room, here.

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Art of Transformation

A teacher once told me that strong writers are expert collectors. We gather the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of our surroundings, bring them home to our wily minds and allow them some space so we might become curious.  We, along with Inspiration and Practice, sift and separate our collection: these valuable collectibles until there is a fit. Finally, when there is a fit, an arrangement, we’ve made something new. Novel, even.

This is art-making. And whether it is parenting, listening, cooking, composing or writing there is usually an untrimmable light in the artist’s eye–it’s the joy of the creative process.  It isn’t magic and it isn’t sentimental… it’s art-love, and usually, this kind of love has to do with re-arranging, emptying out, maybe chucking a few things before filling up with something a bit lovelier. Come and see what you do not know, artists say to themselves and to the world. And once you see it, we start again. Curiosity and possibility keep them in love and and open. Art comes out of a deep, deep unknowing which, let’s face it, makes anyone angsty, yet the creation somehow, someway, always gets at the heart of things and makes it lovely.

People-making,  people-working, people-helping…this is artwork too. I know I’m not the only helping professional who gets pegged as saint-like. I suppose it’s nice to be called nice, but I would also say that I don’t like my work because it lets me be nice. I would say that I like my work because it lets me be artsy. Relationships are curious and open-ended and really, really artsy. At least the ones I’m interested in having. The problem is, whether you see yourself as a helper-saint or a helper-artist both involve some serious ego so things can get a little dicey. Especially when you feel like your art is not unfolding itself like art should.
When someone tells me the deeply intimate details of his life and I listen, look, and try very hard to communicate an appreciation of their “collection”–all of its eclectic, human and relatable matter—from their beliefs to their eye contact to their self-image to their parents to their addictions to their style—all of it–and I say:

I see this!!! Here is an idea. What if we take this tiny, special, little piece of your collection and use it to support this other rougher part of your collection…what if we try that. Shift it. Just a smidge. Could we? We’ll do it together. This would be a small, creative, change—a tiny little change— and there would be just the slightest new arrangement. Verrrryy, verrry slight. It would be strange, but also, still, familiar. Remember, that is how art works. And remember? You are art. Let’s. Just. See. How. This. Fits.

It’s not been like that for me. Not only is it not like that, it feels impossibly like that. Instead the moment and the interaction and the whole creative process that I promise I am trying to trust feels closed up and unable to play out. And I know that running too fast and pushing too hard shortens moments instead of widening them, so I really am trying to go easy. But still, the moments feel abrupt and uninspired.

Nevertheless, I am not called to give up on the art of transformation. This is how my work and my faith must be together forever because when my work and my God say, “Go! Break into darkness” and the people, this art before me say, “I much prefer the protection of this darkness. STOP MESSING AROUND WITH THE DARKNESS. I would like to make a very big hedge around my heart and you, crazy hopeful lady, are making me want to make it BIGGER.” And while the particular instance to which I’m speaking may be a professional one—the dynamic is perhaps, even more accurately a relational one—the one that happens between parents and children and friends and neighbors and husbands and wives and if it’s not happening it may just be that together, there is not enough push for true authenticity and true community. Because, art is also one of the grandest ways human beings have ever come up with to make the strange and the bizarre and the unknown BEAUTIFUL.

So if my patients are refusing to be beautiful for me I have no choice but to turn up the soil of my own heart and pray as organically as I know. Please God, could you recycle my human-matter and the world’s human-matter, and any other skunky matter that has crept in the past couple of weeks… could you please recycle into anything really, but it would be lovely if you could recycle it into something made of more wisdom made of more patience made of more goodness. Lilacs maybe? Could I grow a lilac bush in my heart please? If its truth, I need it. And not only does God have the license, but God, really can create the most beautiful out of the most inconceivably beautiful. I believe this. God can create tens of millions of lilac rows out of this pitted mulchy mess.

So, already, there is comfort in this. Isn’t there? Comfort in this for my unpleasant patients who despise others and themselves and the constant reminders that this is so, comfort for me who is beginning to dislike my unpleasant patients because they make me look at me and remember that my heart is not so big and certainly not creative enough for all of this. Comfort for the parent trying to protect uncontrollable children that they love to smithereens but must set free at the same time. Comfort for the woman trying to understand what it means to care for herself and love others with courage and kindness. It’s comforting not just because it’s possible but because it’s the same prayer all around. No one can say that they do not need the soil of their hearts turned up. In the hardship, whatever it is, there are invitations for even greater re-arrangement and masterpiece because we are all workmanship and we are all too sacred to ever be finished. Love works on things. And in love, God works on things. No one likes to be “worked on.” So, thank God, we are not alone. And thank God that love working on things might mean there begins to emerge within us an even greater semblance of truth.

The deepest reminder of this is the way God, who is beyond any kind of loveliness, sent a divine person, Jesus, to work on things. A person, Jesus, to be light in dark things.  A person, Jesus to re-arrange things. To majorly, majorly overhaul the soil of all things. And this person, Jesus, was strange because of where He came from, and who He sat with, and what He said. And what may have been stranger still, is how people clung to this strangeness. In droves, all of them, together, they went to him and clung to his garments and his strangeness. Jesus embodied the strange AND the familiar and these things together, made the Gospel truth. Truly. So they clung. They lingered. Because Jesus was grace and truth incarnate.

So, today, God is using people, and community and each other, so that we might cling with our hearts, to all of the strangeness, because there is speck of it that resembles truth. And then might we let ourselves see a larger speck and a larger speck and before you know it we we will totally shoveling out our heart soil….all of it….over and over again…even the lilac bushes….saying here, take it, each day, take it. We are giving ourselves up to God and each other, longing for more transformation. More art. There is always more art! These are the saints, to me. Not necessarily the big hearts, or the nice hearts or the creative hearts or even the most inspired hearts. They are not necessarily the most responsible ones, or most hard-working ones, or most passionate ones. The saints are the ones whose hearts have been so shoveled out that every day, they look up and give up and in faith, make more and more room. And say, yes, yes and yes.

Everything will be made beautiful in its time.

2013, Here’ s a Quick Top Ten to Remember You.

1. Of all the states there are, never thought I’d live in the one shaped like a chicken bone and known for whiskey, but as of July 4, 2013, here we are!

2. This year, I started my 5th clinical position I’ve had since graduation.  I’ve reasoned there should be a word to capture the profound overlap of joy and sorrow in my profession. JORROWFUL, maybe? Whatever it is, it must be all caps.

3. Luke and I have added paper-writing (him) and editing (me) to our list of evening activities. Words + meaning + theology + conversation= romance. I married the right man.

4. This last month was hard. Our beloved dog had a back injury and we didn’t know how things would turn out. I spent many December nights so very restless and worrisome I wanted to crawl out of my own mind. The experience gave me a raw and renewed sense of compassion for the dark and lonely places the human soul can inhabit.  Advent felt quietly desparate. It looks like she is going to be okay and we are still rejoicing. She is so, so, so dear to our hearts.

5. This year, I have sunk my teeth into the book of Romans, Paul Miller’s “A Praying Life” and Dave Benner’s “Surrender to Love.” I find myself increasingly full of faith that there is nothing better on this Earth than bowing and bending to God’s sacrifical love.  Romans 8 is like this beautiful, winged, blessing that I remind myself of every morning. A blessing with wings is like a benediction. And a benediction wraps us up before we are sent out– just like love should. This is precious and self-shattering.

6. Every summer, I have family reunions in Wisconsin. Never, has it been driving distance and this year it was! At 29 years old, I believe: genetics, family and tradition are very powerful and shan’t  be undersestimated. That is all.

7. If this is God’s green Earth, Kentucky is the capital. Think of an expanse like the Sahara, or the sea-bottom and then picture green, grassy carpet rolled out over top. Those are the meadows here.  The brightness and the beauty make me very happy to be alive and sometimes, it’s true, I feel like the frolicking horses. Right now, the frolicking horse in me says, “I CANNOT WAIT FOR SPRING”!!!!

8. I miss hearing Luke’s voice every Sunday. When he does sing, it is as warm and earthy and full as ever. And my  heart is still sing-songy for him.

9. Materialism has been a difficult area of spiritual formation for me. But, this year, simplicity seems to go down easier than ever before. We are not on the corporate, secure your retirement, invest in stocks, travel the world plan. We just aren’t. Sometimes, I am still jealous of the people that are. But mostly, I am very much okay with it and on some days, even grateful.

10.  We bought a van on Craig’s List this Fall. It is large and blue. And not quite cool enough to be Retro. But still: it has a bed, a sink, a microwave and limo-lights. The three of us, Aja, Luke and myself travel places in it.  Not all things are as adventerous as they sound, but I think this is.

Kentucky Thresholds

So, there was time, (say last week) that I was trying to push July along so as to feel “settled.” And then, I realized, in talking to many folks, that I kept saying something along the lines of, “it’s strange not being in some sort of routine.” I’m sure I said these words because it is strange to be on summer vacay in my new nest, but it’s also way fun. We are loving the quiet in this sleepy hollow of a town, any “heat” just isn’t when you’ve done Texas in July for the past six years and in addition to all that, the dusks are glorious. Every evening the sky seems to get ready like it would before a thundershower, but instead it busts open with all kinds of peachy colors. I wish I had a poet like Mary Oliver to come sit with me on the front porch and narrate everything because it looks per-fect. She would especially be wonderful to have when the fireflies came out. They don’t stop coming. They don’t stop blinking and twinkling their little selves and giving an extra dose of mood and energy to the whole dusky scene like smooth jazz music or a big bonfire might.  These fireflies– they are very good at their jobs and it’s more than enough–definitely more than those routines I was lamenting the absence of. So, I stopped doing that and resolved to press in hard to these God given days and all of its tremendous Kentuckyness because that is where we are.

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Now July is almost over, I turn 29 tomorrow, I’ve found that my tree-hugging/van-building Luke writes really heady, smart papers (knew it. proud.),  we go to Farmer’s Markets a lot and I start work on Monday, August 12th.  Aja has some doggie playdates in the works, I got lost in a novel and also had a garage sale in the rain. You see, I could write a lot of these disjointed, listed sentences because life has been really list-ish and scattered. I think it’s because I get stressed out by list rigidity and become scattered. Luke tends to think that it’s not sticking to these lists that makes me scatter. Myers Briggs people: it’s a total P/J thing. Insight welcome. Whatever the case– over the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself looking for the spice rack while deciding where the lipstick plant should go all the while tiptoeing around the pile of dirt in the kitchen because I STILL CAN’T FIND THE DUSTPAN.

On a non-scattered, clear-as-day note, we went to a new church on Sunday and had lunch with some very funny, kind and talented couples who seem to love Jesus and community and each other a whole heck of a lot and oh, how that makes my heart swell with all kinds of things, but mostly peaceful hope. Peaceful hope is clear as day.  And I think it can also be blinking like fireflies. Or busted open with peach like the Kentucky sky. Peaceful hope is happening, even when we are in the middle and tiptoeing around the dust pile and moving locations which is the ultimate “everywhere and nowhere” feeling like my friend Jennifer says. I also know it is Divine, always– but especially for someone like me, who, can be a little rushed, a little fretting a little disconnected and a lot anxious. A lot more anxious than she likes to admit especially when this transitional journey has been so imperfectly beautiful and every day I seem to forget that we have been led.  And so, once again, I find myself in the soft and mysterious folds of my spirit, my mind and this transition. Are we not always at this kind of threshold?  Trying to break through–to the other and more certain side– organized spice rack in one hand, lipstick plant in the other? So this day, this new day, in the tiny, before-the-threshold and very liminal space, I am quieting down and taking up residence.  As is the case with all true and worthwhile things we must have the courage to press on and in AND the courage to say–  not too hard, now. Ea-sy. Not. too. hard. And here is where the peaceful hope walks in with another sunrise.  Or, this morning, it was a prayer that I had once written in one of my journals.  An old-old benediction sounding prayer from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:  Christ be with me /Christ before me/ Christ behind me Christ in me /Christ beneath me/ Christ above me/Christ on my right /Christ on my left/ Christ where I lie/ Christ where I sit/ Christ where I arise/Salvation is of the Lord. 

So simple and grounding and so very perfect for the threshold.  Walk on. Go forth. Stay still. Welcome in. blog 1

Thank You for Moving Us

Moved!!!! Yeeessssss.

This Thursday is a lot different than last Thursday.  This Thursday: there are seven (note– just 7, not 27, or 77 or 700) boxes left in the living room, our doggie is content dominating her new squeaky toy, my husband is doing such strategic office organization that I am beginning to rethink his vocation and I am saying to myself, “Yes, I think you have time to go ahead and update your blog.”  Last Thursday, on the other hand, was a rainy, 4th of July move-in to our new home in Wilmore, Kentucky. After weeks of preparation best summarized by cardboard moving boxes and that packing tape roll-y/smack noise I was feeling pretty zapped.  I know it’s dramatic, but my mental picture of myself on that move-in morning is with little slit-eyes, a coffee IV, some kind of matted hairdo and weird shoes. Yep.

So, I’m not writing that you might have the unfortunate image of me looking like a mover–zombie. Instead, I’m writing to let you know that the Body of Christ has been ANGELS. True angels. All of those sacred phrases like “being the hands and feet” and “being known by love”  and “feeding and clothing and taking care” weren’t just phrases, but were walking, moving, talking GINORMOUS hearts and we were the receivers.  I have never had nor seen brand new neighbors come over to help you unload after 1. you pull your diesel truck into their sleepy-town and SLEEPING neighborhood  at 12:30 am 2. the rain is not stopping 3. it’s their day off 4. The moving ramp is steep, slippery and somewhat of a death wish.

But they did. Five new neighbors, they all came over with broad smiles and peaceful dispositions and Wilmore welcome brownies and they did.  And even as the rain kept doing its thing and the Gatorade ran out and their glasses got wet, they were easy and light.  Those were/are our Bluegrass angels.  East Texas angels, you are next.

I suppose one of the greatest gifts you can give a person is your belief in them.  And that’s where things started for us, Texas angels, with your belief in us.  When we started saying, “I think this is it. I think we are called to this ministry-thing for the long-haul and need to pursue formal theological education.” People can say lots of things when someone speaks out of their heart like that. They can say things like, “Hmm. That’s interesting.  I hope that works out for you!” They can leave things at, “Good Luck! We will be praying for you!”  You gave us more than that. Instead, there were lots of knowing smiles and sincere head nods and almost winks. Phrases like, “Of course you are! We were just waiting for you to figure that out.” It was the best because it was sincere and made us feel like we weren’t crazy, and maybe, just maybe, we were listening to the voice of God with the clear ears and the soft hearts I pray for. The Pastors, the staff, our whole community really were quiet fans declaring into our lives big, God-filled dreams like loving parents do for their children. To this grand community of dream-believers and us-believers:  thank you.  I speak for both of us when I say your words have burrowed their way deep in the soul of this journey and we feel them. We feel the way you have told us that we are a team and we complement each other well. We feel the way you told Luke he can be a great Greek scholar and I can be a devotional writer. We feel the way you tell us our ministries have spoken to you. And in times of doubt and the inevitable jerkiness of transition we will cling to God and your send-off chorus:  Have Faith. God is making a way for you. This is your path and it’s GOOD.

 And what’s incredible is that these words were just the first part. That moving week you were angels in word AND deed, who clapped and flapped your wings, flew behind us, packed our boxes, brought us lunches, filled our gas tanks, scrubbed our oven, weed-wacked our lawn, touched up the ceiling paint (serious saint), did our laundry and raised tuition support. The list is endless. And truly, it is because of you, this divine momentum and this Holy Spirit-push that we are here. Texas angels, you have sent us off with buckets, and I mean BUCKETS of self-sacrificing, Christ-like love. No wonder it was raining buckets when we got here– it was just reminiscent of the buckets you sent us off with. Love-Rain.  Sorry. I didn’t quite recognize it in my mover zombie state.

So now here we are (we’ve been saying that a lot lately) and to make this finale/beginning even grander, we recently received word that a number of personal contributions are being sent to Asbury for Luke’s tuition. Again, I say the heartfelt and inadequate words: thank you.  In faith, you have believed in us so much so, that you have opened your hearts, homes, time, words and wallets for us. I am head-to-toe honored to call you our friends and very unsure about an adequate expression of my gratitude. So, Ill tell you this: in 1 Samuel 20:41, the writer Samuel captures the intensity and humility of David and Jonathan’s friendship when David kneels to the ground and bows, three times before Jonathan. Even though I am not near you, I am before you in so many other ways, and as David bowed before Jonathan, I bow before you. And after I get up, we get up, after we stop unpacking boxes and saying things like “here we are” and “I’m not sure there is a shirt/shoes law in Kentucky” we will begin to live ourselves into this new work God has begun in us. We are in this together- you and us- an angel army of cheerleaders, of teachers, of mentors and scholars. An army of ceiling painters and cooks and organizers and lawn mowers and peacemakers.  A hospitable army, a merciful army, a wise army, a God-fearing one. Blessed be YOU, the angels who work for the Glory and the Kingdom of God.

Oh, and one more thing: we really miss you. All our Love, Sarah and Luke

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Redemption Song

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a lot of glorious things, but at this moment, I’ll call it the most CRAZY and most LOVING thing that has ever happened.  Ever.  Still, culture slips Easter into happy holiday garb with great ease and some of its glorious strangeness has been lost to more comfortable phrases like hope and new life. I certainly love the inspiration and warmth of these things, but still, they are too mild for the real Easter.  Pastel maybe. Pastel next to a Cross and a Holy Story and Gospel News that is Glory-White. I had an art teacher who once explained to me how the color white has all the colors of the visible spectrum. It has no hue. It is so bright and so blasting in its purity that we can’t really get it, but we try, because it’s white and we just need it.  Pastels are really no substitute. This is how the Glory and the necessity of resurrection is.

Good Friday, of course, is a hard one to make happy.  Whether I remember the day growing up with such poignancy because of its sadness or because of its strangeness, I don’t recall. It was probably the combination. I remember that an usher would slam a hymnal down in the back of the sanctuary to reinforce the END-NESS and Jesus’s heartbreaking words: “My, God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The drama intrigued me.  Then, we left this funeral-feeling service in silence. I remember feeling like a lot was at stake right then– that evening, on the car ride home and especially as the words of that hymn, “Were You There When They Crucified my Lord?” stuck to a strange tightness in my throat.  I treasure these deep feelings of loss, neediness and awe because I think it was my small self coming to the Table and taking a bite.

I think about the glimpses of Good Friday with which I suffer. Indeed, this is just my portion, but a portion to which I can speak.  And this Good Friday evening, I am thinking about the weight of sin. The heavy cross. The black, bruised bloody night.  I am thinking about darkness that does not go away; that stays and hovers– cursing the silence. I am thinking about violence that wrecks havoc on generations, knocking sons and daughters silently to the ground.  I am thinking about love growing cold, un-defining itself, and turning its own pages in perfunctory silence.  So, we clench our jaws and our fists, striving and working, but still, things fall open and stay that way: wide and gaping. Pain and loss can just be sudden and impossible, can’t it? And the truth is, some people recover and some people simply, do not.

This is depressing. In the truest, rawest, saddest most non-flippant way: these realities are truly, truly dark.

It’s all the stuff of Calvary, isn’t it? Good Friday.  I think about the way followers of Jesus: men and women thousands of years ago must have questioned everything as they turned to walk away from Jesus’ body hanging so dead on the cross. Their heads must have been low, their feet and their spirits dragging on the ground. We thought you promised redemption Jesus. This is it?  Jesus, you have confused us.  I never imagined goodness to be so broken, Jesus.  I never imagined your perfection to be so full of shame. I thought you came to save us!

I was not there when they crucified my Lord, but I imagine this kind of desperation between heaving sobs and the trauma of the whole, bloody, God-awful scene. I imagine it with ease because I ask my own, hard Good Friday questions now. I feel confused by the swallowing sin. I feel these sharp, shiny fragments surrounding my own heart and others’ hearts and society’s heartbeat and wonder about the jaggedness of it all. Jesus, I am confused.

And here, I think, is part of the Easter-answer: We must know these jagged edges to know His great Love. It is essential to our confession of faith.  All of the jagged edges for all of Christ’s time and this time and the time to come slammed into that one awful, hallowed night and killed Jesus. And then it was finished. He whose loving might and glory holds all of time and all of Earth together, sealed eternity for us.  But that Easter morning, that Glory-white morning, marked the most finished-beginning the world has ever known.  Anyone can say that Jesus’ life and ministry was full of grace. But to acknowledge His death and resurrection is to believe that the conversation has now turned from Water to Living WaterEverlasting Water. Flowing, abundant, clear, cool water.  And it has a glorious, changing, off-the-radar, off-the-spectrum force that outdoes any sentiment.

Jesus, how I underestimate how this grace can flow! So in faith, I take this invitation and step in. In faith, I abide in this current that meets me in my stagnancy and silt– the same stagnancy that kept the Earth still and the women weeping Good Friday night. And I will be carried in this current, cleansed of my silt, abiding in Your love and knowing this, this is THE story and I will sing this redemption song to others in the best ways I know how.

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Swaddled: A Response to Sandy Hook

There is a wise lady at church, Sister Avis, who tells me that I am so young and how time goes so quickly especially as we get older. I think it was just after the Easter lilies were cleared off the altar that she said something like, “Christmas is coming!” And here we are. She was right. Christmas is here and 2012 nearly accounted for. The pages of the calendar have been full this year and of course, there are twenty bajillion things for which we can and must bow our heads. Luke and I are filthy rich when it comes to material and spiritual blessings: moving arms and legs, people that love us and cheer-lead us, employment that is meaningful and a Savior that we believe has come to deliver this weary world and secure our Hope.

Speaking of immeasurable blessings, scrolling through my Facebook news feed is better than peering through the windows in a maternity ward. So many lovely people I know are bringing life into this world.  Seriously, it feels like there are bellies popping out everywhere.  And next, the babies: these tiny hes and shes with perfect names and toes and expressions on their faces. They come out alive and  kicking and in a matter of moments, bam! love wins. Things are never the same. I have never held a tiny person I grew inside me and felt my soul change, but I do believe I have an itsy bitsy baby idea of what mothering might be like.

Sometimes, I think about my counseling room as an incubator all its own.  A little cocoon. Womb. A place where the babes I see get to be born some more, explore the world some more…alive, kicking, and wondrous like they were when they were two days old.  “I said that!” they get to say. ” I want more!” they get to dream. “I am okay,” they have sorted out. And I get to listen and say Yes. I have heard with all of my ears and all of my eyes and all of my heart what you have said and I acknowledge what this means. You do not know how my heart and tear ducts swell when I think about this very precious kind of swaddling I get to do.

And no matter if we are 3 or 11 or 27, don’t we all kind of need this at some point or another?  To be reminded of who we are like the  people that ooogled over us when we came out in that hospital room?  Don’t we all need to scream without abandon and be held that way too?  To be celebrated for the beautiful work, the beautiful life that has begun?  For gosh sakes, we are the same exact human being we were then. Bigger brains, bigger bodies. But still, vulnerable spirits and delicate.  Some days, we all need swaddles.

Last Friday, we felt vulnerability in the very worst-in-the-world kind of way.  And still, I feel pretty dead inside when I think about Sandy Hook. Everyone tells me to turn off the news and stop looking at their faces: their sweet picture day, jack-o-lantern, familiar looking grins.  So, sometimes I do. I do turn it off  because it is too big for me or it is time for me to go to sleep. But sometimes, I do not because we must grieve this together.  This tragedy belongs to us, friends.  Those families cannot be alone.  And if my horse-loving, craft-making comedian of a six year old was shot, I think I would want people to swaddle me, and to care.  Like, really really really care. Not in a, “oh that’s so awful I can’t think about it too hard”  kind of way.  That’s shallow, and if December 14th, 2012 taught us anything it might be that we cannot afford to be shallow.

In times of tragedy, I know we try to make a teensy bit of sense out of senseless things. I want to know, like everyone, if there was anything that moved this 20 year old boy to these actions.  I think of the kids I work with in my practice who are suffering emotional distress on a lesser scale. Most of the time, they have no blessed idea why. If I sat a child in my therapy room and said, “Now tell me why you are kicking the other kids in your class,” it wouldn’t work.  They know something feels uncomfortable, they hurt, they don’t like it, and their response is, well, less than stellar in our adult opinions.  The emotion runs deeper than the reason: this is a neurological fact in young children. In the same manner, we do not ask a boy with a fresh gash in his arm why he screams in pain. We figure out what he needs, what kind of wound it is and how his body responds to certain medicine. Next, the medication stings, he resists, but slowly, with help, he begins to bear the pain. Then, perhaps, he might be calmed down enough to tell us what in the world he was doing to create such a gash in his arm.  In the same way, we must give our children the tools to feel before they develop their self-insight.  We must teach our children to bear their own emotional pain and to help others do the same. We must teach them to use all of their hearts. And we must teach them with all of ours. 

Of course I don’t know what was going on with this monster of a shooter.  But I do know, he wasn’t always a monster. At one point in time he was our baby just like the victims are. And in my humble opinion, I might venture the guess that the shooter didn’t know what was wrong with him either, but by gosh, something was wrong, terribly wrong and now all we have is a horror story to tell.

I have searched Scriptures these past couple of days desperate for hope. Desperate for the light that people are talking about this season, the light that can’t be shut out, that flickers on. I have lit candles and read the names of the victims out loud. But most of all, I have clung to this verse from The Message translation of Hebrews 13:3  “Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.”  

In Chapter 13, the writer of Hebrews is telling recently converted Christians how to be Christians. He is giving them practical guidelines. He is saying that we must lean into our brother’s suffering and musn’t ever, ever begin with judgement, but with pure heart: the really, really pure 7-year old, freshly swaddled kind of heart.

So let us start here. Let us all be mommas and daddies and professional swaddlers and givers of  light. And let’s teach our babies to do it, too. And their babies. And their baby-dolls. Whatever. But, please, let’s make this the most important thing. More than the rat race and the degrees and the enlightening experiences is knowing how to love. Please. I know this tragedy makes God weep. I also know that God loves to give us hope in the most unexpected ways, and we must be looking. We must be looking for babies in barnyard stables, lying in mangers in swaddling clothes of His own. May you experience the redemptive grace and love of this Peace Baby in your homes, in your hearts, in each other. May we all.newtown