Every year we begin with a climb. Right up the hill and back. We’re joined by crowds making the pilgrimage to a better self, and a new calendar. We don’t find a better self, but the calendar pages keep flying by, and each year we remind ourselves who we are on this hike. We are together and we are lovers of the sky and sea and wind. We are stragglers just walking weary and awestruck. And we are journeying hand in hand through every dark challenge and across magic shores lit pink by setting sun. This is a new year, beginning anew right where we left off. Click over to Childhood Unplugged to see more adventures.

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12 Christmas Box-35-2

I have been quiet lately.

I have still taught my children, talked to acquaintances, worked, laughed and argued with my husband… but inside I have been slipping down into stillness so that I can hear. I sit here tonight as the joyful din of Christmas subsides, the lights twinkle wordlessly and I wonder what is there to say.

I’m probing the depths by sinking quiet into them. I’m letting down line and lead and it’s falling farther than I could imagine. I wanted to chart a course and so I thought I would take soundings along the way, a rope let down and drawn back up to show how deep the sea is. But the spool spun heavy out of my hands, a continual letting down, a line just drifting out into forever. And I have gotten curious, gotten desperate. I have sent cries into the void, into the darkness. Suprisingly they do not go on forever, but they come back quick and sure, a whisper in my ear. Devoid of answers and full of love. I thought there could be a map, a course, a path through the waters, and I thought maybe there was no one left to speak. Maybe the God of my childhood couldn’t stand before what we grow into. Maybe death and heartache had shrunk Him down to a size less than immortal, less than personal, less than named. But I was wrong. There’s no perfectly charted course, if there was I would have found it by now; the waters wash away every trace of a trail and we distort the maps when we try to lay them flat, splitting apart continents to hang them on our walls.

But there is a voice.

I read some books, and stole minutes to lay on my yoga mat day after day. In the quiet I asked for a mantra, a meaning to breath in and out. Because I’m just here on the edge between life and death. It’s a waiting place. Each morning I wake up to cereal, toast, orange juice and bouncing little boys. Life life life. But I’ve held death over and over, my head on my Grandmother’s chest as she gasped ragged last breaths, my friend’s hand in mine as she slept while the tumor took her mind, three children passing through my body, the gateway into existence, life then death for them. We’re all in this waiting place, right on the edge, with simple joys and daily disappointments. And the edge looks so fearsome that I wanted my faith to be mystical and magic. I wanted a mantra to sink me right into the center of meaning, but more than that I wanted to be created, heard, held, wanted, protected. Known. More than anything I want a hand to hold, not a universe to sink into.

And then at Christmas this year the most unlikely of teachers shared with me how the baby that we place in our nativity scenes and celebrate with advent wreaths and carols is the same God that from ancient times has been called Yahweh. He told us how the ancient Jewish people pronounced this sacred name of the uncreated one in a way that sounded something like yod hey va hey, and they believed that each time we breath we are saying his name as uncontrollable and regularly as our hearts beat.

A mantra, a prayer. In, out, in, out, the name of God on our very breath.

His signature because our Father never stops speaking, and He can’t get close enough to His beloved. And with that knowledge my heart let out a sigh and I relaxed into this new mantra that I have been living from birth. Jesus in my very breath. A hand to hold because His is a story that walked where I do, through pain and death, small beginnings, and heartbreaking endings that were no endings at all, but redemption in disguise. I don’t need to understand where I am or control where I’m going when it is enough to just be, my very breath worship. The baby we sing of round our twinkling Christmas tree is the God that tells us I am that I am. I run down to the ocean the day after we rip through gifts and share meals on a bright red tablecloth. The water stretches out, governed by a moon and sun pulling its swaying waves, and this can’t be an accident – that moon and sun hurled into orbit and millions more beyond them while we snuggle close in our homes and feel a universe of love and bittersweet loss surge through this holiday. I want to walk into my Grandmothers’ houses one more time to see big colored bulb lights strung round the ceiling and a white Christmas tree with sparkling brass ornaments. I want to reach out and scoop my lost children into our fold, all gathered round stockings and cocoa. I want the ache for all that’s lost to stop, and I want its weight to be fully felt. But I can’t do any of this, just like I can’t set the boundaries of the sea or cause my heart to beat.

Because I am a child.

A child of God, and this is the greatest gift to rest as my son does and let my life be parented. To grow still on my Father’s lap, in my Father’s house and breathe communion. As quiet as an inhale, exhale and again. Every act worship when we breath Him in and out, my hands kneading bread, tying shoes and tucking children into bed.

This silent, holy night and all the rest to come.

  • Greggory Park - Beautiful writing Sharon. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - Beautiful words. Wonderful, mighty God. May He bless you and keep you as you whisper in and out His mighty name.ReplyCancel

  • Kia (McKeeman) Albano - I can feel your words. God has truly blessed you with the gift of writing & photography. I’m so thankful that you share your gifts.ReplyCancel

    • Charlene Kerchevall - …..and Grant You Peace….ReplyCancel

 

My boys all dressed up, running around in the golden hour. You can head over to Childhood Unplugged for more imaginative moments this month…

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  • Childhood Unplugged – November 2015 | - […] Sharon McKeeman | Sharon McKeeman […]ReplyCancel

  • ashley - Gosh your boys are so adorable and handsome and I just love the natural way you capture them – always feels very true to who they are and what they enjoy, never forced or staged. You make me look forward to the very real possibility of having three boys. And I love it.ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Aw thanks so much Ashley! They are def unique kids and I love seeing their story unfold :)ReplyCancel

In September we spent a few weeks back in the midwest, and my heart came alive – home, trees, bluegrass, fresh grown food and long dinners. These photos are from a morning we spent with our youngest at the same farmer’s market I went to with my parents when I was little. You can also view more unplugged moments over at Childhood Unplugged this month.

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  • Childhood Unplugged – October 2015 | - […] Sharon McKeeman | Sharon McKeeman […]ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Beautiful images! xoReplyCancel

  • Monica - I felt like I was there. The colors, the people, the way you captured the details. I just loved this. I was feeling quite nostalgic seeing the Amish, or were they Mennonite? For about five years of my life growing up, we lived in a rural township in Michigan that had a large Amish community. I was obsessed with them. Their way of life. To the point that to this day I still have lots of art that hangs in my home from a photographer by the name of Bill Coleman. He is famous for being one if not the only photographer that was allowed into their world in Lancaster Pennsylvania to photograph their way of life through generations. You should check him out. Beautiful work. The images of that yarn…drool. And, is that a portrait of your Mom? Such a great portrait. Glad you had a good time.ReplyCancel

 

I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time last fall right after I turned 36. My kids were 11, 9 and 4 seeing it for the first time. Photos just don’t do it justice. Also if any parents have gone and not had a few mini heart attacks in between the amazement and wonder, let me know because you are a special breed. There was a rickety fence for about ten feet and then a ledge just tall enough for kids to trip over and then nothing, and three crazy boys running around and asking if you can skydive into the Grand Canyon. But it was worth it, so worth it.

You can head over to Childhood Unplugged for this month’s batch of outdoor and unplugged moments from the other project contributors…

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photos of me taken by Jesse

  • jackie - Yes!! It was the most beautiful and anxiety causing experience all wrapped in one. My kids were 4 and 10, it was February, SLIPPERY snow everywhere, not sure how I even got one image of our time there I was so nervous. But wow, it was a priviledge to stand there once I moved passed all of that.

    Thanks for another wonderful view of such beauty.ReplyCancel