Getting Through

Getting Through

Life is so hard.

I have friends facing so much right now. Friends with cancer diagnoses. Friends facing seemingly unending obstacles in their life’s work. Friends reading words of condemnation and rejection from former mentors and colleagues. Friends struggling with depression and despair. Friends wading through flood waters of many kinds, including the literal.

Friends facing so much that is discouraging, demeaning, and overwhelming.

All my life I’ve tried to fix problems. My brain sees puzzles everywhere and looks for solutions instinctively. Sometimes that’s helpful, but I’ve slowly (too slowly) learned that the things that really matter aren’t puzzles to solve or problems to fix. They are just life. Messy, painful, sometimes beautiful life.

And life is not meant to be fixed or solved. Life is meant to be lived.

I’m beginning to learn.

I used to feel so helpless and useless in the face of pain and problems I could do nothing to resolve. But I’m beginning to understand that even when I can’t fix a thing, I’m not helpless. I still have agency. There’s still something I can do.

I can choose life.

I can choose to sit with pain and confusion and still love in the midst of it. I can name what is wrong and refuse to redefine it as okay. I can have faith for and in friends. I can believe there’s always something more, that nothing has to go the worst way it could. That love is never wasted.

Don’t get me wrong, I still wish I had a magic wand to make everything better. And in its absence, I will still do what I can to heal the wounds of this world and intervene in the violence that creates them. But whatever else I can (or can’t) do, I can be present. Present to this world in all its chaotic pain and beauty. Present to my friends and neighbors as they wrestle with what life has presented them with. Present to each moment I am given.

And one moment at a time, we will get through.

Here, Part 2 – A Conversation Cont.

Here, Part 2 – A Conversation Cont.

“I’m here.”

-“Yes. I’m glad.”

“I’m not sure why I’m here, but I am.”

-“I know.”

“I love these people. At least some of the time, I’m here because of them.”

-“That’s a good reason.”

“And I have history with these words, but…”

-“Yes?”

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s all really just empty – a big, old empty building, however beautiful.”

-“You’re here.”

“I am.”

-“So it’s not empty.”

“Technically, no.”

-“And if you’re here, that means I’m here, too.”

“Yeah…and I still don’t know what that means.”

-“I know, and that’s okay.”

“I’m trying, but I’m not always sure I know what the point is anymore.”

-“Showing up.”

“Showing up is the point?”

-“Can’t that be enough?”

“What do you mean?”

-“When you show up, really show up, you bring all your needs and desires and gifts with you.”

“I do, but I don’t know what to do with those needs. I don’t know what you do with those needs.”

-“I know. It’s part of the mystery of trust – that in the midst of that not knowing you still show up.”

“Does it really matter?”

-“It’s only when you show up that others can meet you in your need, and that you can meet them in theirs.”

“Yes, that matters. Even if I always wish we could do more.”

-“And that’s where I am.”

(Pause)

“What do you mean?”

-“You are my Body, broken one for another.”

“The bread…”

-“Yes. When you take the bread, don’t miss discerning my Body. That’s where I am.”

“Each other…. I think we mess up really seeing each other on a regular basis.”

-“Yes, but showing up is the beginning.”

(Pause)

“Breaking hurts.”

-“I know it does.”

“Is it really worth it – being broken for each other? Does it do any good?”

-“No one avoids it. That’s why I came, and that’s why I’m in the broken bread, too.”

“But where’s the good? For you or any of us?”

-“In the love that spills out, if you let it.”

“In the love….does love always have to mean breaking?”

-“It did for me.”

(Pause)

“Alright.”

-“Alright what?”

“I’m here. I still don’t understand, but I’m showing up and saying yes.”

-“I’m glad. I like your company.”

The Beautiful Mess

The Beautiful Mess

I love shabby-chic. (I love new things with clean lines, too, but then, I have eclectic tastes.)

And let me be clear, if it’s sold at Target or Macy’s or Anthropologie as “shabby-chic,” no. That’s missing the point for me altogether.

It’s not really about an aesthetic. It’s a desire to live in a space that reflects who I am, that is an outward expression of my life.

That life has a history.

The brass bed that my great-uncle rescued used from the basement of a furniture store something like seventy-five years ago. After his early death, it came to my father in his teen years, and by the time I’d started school, became mine. Daddy, military school student that he was, kept it shiny and sparkling. I like its aged patina (and dislike constant polishing).

The narrow bookshelf with a clock face mounted on top. My grandfather, who I never knew, collected the wood (including the finials and clock) the day Prohibition went through and they tore out the bar on Main Street. He took it home and turned it into a bookshelf.

A bald eagle and shield needlepoint. In the early 1970s, as Daddy’s ALS began restricting his activities, he wanted something to do with his hands that didn’t involve arm strength, and decided to try the needlework my mother did so beautiful. He chose a bicentennial design (produced by AVON, according to the bag) and outlined and filled in maybe 20% before the disease took enough of his dexterity that he had to give it up.

Roughly thirty years later, I found it and finished his project. It now hangs over the Prohibition bookshelf, signed with both our initials.

The canister set that sat on my grandmother’s kitchen counter and held her baking staples – the ingredients for all her wonderful homemade cakes and cookies.

The funky printed, wide-legged denim jeans my grandmother custom-made for my mother in the 70s (and that actually fit my hips and sometimes my mood).

The small, personalized photo album – a high school graduation gift from Kenny, a popular upperclassman who befriended an awkward middle-schooler and in doing so, gave me the gift of acceptance and a sense of worth, just as I was.

And so many books – old friends and mentors in the journeys of my life.

Most everything in my home has a history, a history I’ve inherited or a history I’ve given them.

Things don’t match. But they belong. They fit somehow. The beauty is in the relationships between them, the lived-ness they reflect.

Like my life, it’s a beautiful mess – full of story and legacy and love and change and unfinished business and moving forward anyway.

I don’t want a life of matching sets.

I don’t want the registered china. I want one setting of your favorite design, a table full of the unique gifts of friends, mixed and matched for this particular celebration of togetherness.

I don’t want a life that fits neatly. Cleanly.

I want questions and discovery and the chaos of living in a world of surprise and revelation. I want the assumptions I don’t know I have disrupted, my expectations interrupted.

I want the beautiful mess.

A life – and faith – with cracks in the foundation, layers of paint and wallpaper that are worn down and showing through, corners that don’t meet at right angles, walls that don’t meet at all, doors that won’t shut right.

A drafty life where the sun and the moon leak in light and the holy wind is always whistling through and tossing things around.

Things get broken, but that’s what happens when you use grandma’s crystal rather than leaving it to collect dust in the china cabinet. When you stop saving it all for special occasions and celebrate every moment as a special occasion worthy of celebration or mourning – of honoring.

Things get broken, but then they get glued back together and the cracks become part of the story.

Things get broken, sometimes too broken to glue back together. But then it’s time to make a mosaic.