The Conquerer

 

He tells me “I’m Arthur King, and you’re mine princess.”

I have been studying the Middle Ages with his brothers, the good, the bad and the ugly. I tell them the truth and I read them mythic tales. What is life without the story? And the little one, still in preschool has soaked it all up. When I thought he was playing with Legos, he was listening. And now he is a brave knight, a legendary king every moment of the day. He dons his cape and armor over pjs, picks up his wooden sword and saves the day. I don’t feel like a princess right now, but he is rescuing me.

The fairytale has grown dim, and my soul is weak. All those things you thought as a child, don’t quite turn out like you hoped.  And then even in the mess of what has come to be, I realize it’s even better than I imagined. I never dreamed this elfin boy, golden hair and magic eyes, never could have written this story with his father and two brothers. I would have left out all the hard parts. I long to hold his brother, but Jeremiah would not live if his brother had not died. But now another precious child of mine is gone, and I just don’t know what to do.

I try to read the Bible. I know it’s my Father’s truth and I cling to the words but they are hard to keep a grasp on. My heart has holes and everything keeps leaking out. Still I read…

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” –  Romans 8:37

I don’t feel anywhere close to conquering, especially not overwhelmingly.

But those words say our Father loves us. Maybe that is enough. I remember reading that in our weakness we are strong. Blessed are the poor and broken.

My three old is weak, he can not slay the dragons stalking us. Yet all his life is story, and so he saves us. Every hour of every day since our baby slipped away and he saw his mommy cry, he has put on shield and cape to battle darkness. He is winning because he still knows simple love and faith.

C. S. Lewis knew of dragons and the magic children wield. I lose myself in his writings as I watch evening light play along the floor.

“That cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessing compared with “the means of grace and the hope of glory.” But then they were manifest. So far as they were concerned, sight had replaced faith. They were not the hope of glory, they were an exposition of the glory itself.”

THEY WERE NOT THE HOPE OF GLORY, THEY WERE AN EXPOSITION OF THE GLORY ITSELF

I’m having trouble clinging to hope. But Lewis says that on a walk in the forest, soft moss under his feet, light across a waterfall – these were not just hope, they were our Creator’s glory MANIFEST – our Father’s glory evident, obvious, apparent, readily perceived. An exposition – “an explanation of difficult material” for our eyes that have trouble seeing.

I struggle to look past the questions and the sadness hypothetically. But I can see this golden light dancing, and the magic of three years of bravery with sword and cape. THIS is God’s glory dancing in front of me. CONQUERING. All the darkness, all the pain. Through Him who loved us, Him who is loving us still and always will.

This son dressed as King Arthur is in His Father’s house. He watches morning light dance quiet across the floor, he fights and he conquers. Overwhelming glory itself.

Evidence of what is to come, of what really IS

 

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Made of Mud

“I am a mother of three boys so I spend much time with mud. I have become convinced they know something we have forgotten.

We are made of mud.

Made from this earthy, messy stuff. Made to sprout and grow, fall and return to the earth much like the plants rooted in this mud. But we are always cleaning ourselves up, polishing the edges. Washing and cleaning and primping, just to look a little less muddy, a little more ok. And when the storm comes we pull out umbrellas and put on galoshes. A little protection against the rain that has the power to make us melt right back into this dirty stuff. We forget that the nutrients, everything we need, has been lying on the surface and the rain has come to wash them in. You can walk across dry, cracked dirt without getting your feet wet, but you cannot grow a garden in it. There is no life there. The life lives in the mess.

I thank my Father for the storms dumped down hard, so I don’t grow parched and hard, so I can’t scrape away all the earth I was made from. So I can’t trick myself into thinking I am something I am not.

So we play in the mud together and I wonder at it’s beauty. I kneel down next to my sons and paw through wet sand and dirt, searching for the gold. And we always find it, buried deep within the mess.”

I wrote the words above a few days before we found out that our precious baby’s heart had stopped beating. I wrote about holding vigil when I thought God had healed my body and the danger of losing our child was past. I was wrong, not in the writing of it, but in thinking we would hold our child. And now I wonder at all these words He gave me. I read my Bible as I wait for the doctors to take my dead child from my body, and sometimes the holy words help and sometimes I can’t make sense of any of it. But these words I wrote before I even knew, He gave these words a gift to me. I keep looking at Him as God, trying to console myself that He knows best, His plans and design are perfect. Except that right now I don’t like them. I see beauty coming from brokenness even now, but I don’t want to be broken anymore. I just want my baby. I just want my body not to be torn to shreds. I want to keep walking full and fruitful, enjoying every second of life growing strong inside my body, but instead I lie shaking and sweating in bed, walking dazed through the world and so afraid.

I am made only of dust and I am afraid.

My friend prayed “for the presence of a weeping Jesus to be close to us” and I am reminded that God’s Son was made of mud just like I am.

I “know” that my Father, my Maker loves me, that He holds me tight and will somehow work this for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purpose… I am trusting my frail body and my broken soul to His forgiveness and protection, but it is still hard to find comfort in this. It is hard to feel loved right now. But Jesus was made of earth and dirt and He was broken more than I will ever be, and still He was loved. He is weeping here with me now. He knows how this body hurts, not in theory but in excruciating experience. He has seen His own blood spilled and felt his own heart forsaken and empty. He has seen all the life He had to give poured out and rejected. He did not want to die, He did not want to leave those He loved and He carried a burden heavier than He could bear.  He suffered all of this because of His Father’s good  and loving plan, a plan that broke His body and filled Him with pain. Because of this, Jesus holds me weeping and whispers how His Spirit can calm the storm. His Life lives in my broken body made of dust, facing death, assured of new life. Because our Father loves us enough to bring us together, Jesus bore not only the brokenness of my body, but of my soul and now I am hidden in Him. There is so much comfort in being held by a Friend who knows and weeps with me.

My child is no longer made of dust. We named our baby Beacon, and Beacon has put on eternity, more real and solid and alive than anything I have ever touched on this earth. I am still here in the mess, held in my Savior’s arms as He cries out with me, asking for strength to live these words that I wrote…

“And this is what I want to hold, from now until forever. A vigil of wonder. Not of death, sadness or fear. A quiet vigil of wonder. Where, in the waiting and the stillness, I can hear and see.  To observe with wonder His redemption this world speaks of.”

 

He doth give His joy to all, He becomes an infant small. He becomes a man of woe, He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh, and thy Maker is not by. Think not thou canst weep a tear, and thy Maker is not near.

O! He gives to us His joy that our griefs He may destroy. Til our grief is fled and gone, He doth sit by us and moan.

- William Blake

 

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but my lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and my covenant of peace will not be shaken says the Lord who has compassion on you.”  - Isaiah 54:10-12

 

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VIGIL

 

“How do we learn to see in the dark? It begins with a vow of watchfulness. By standing still – we bear witness to change.”  - Terry Tempest Williams in Still

 

Despite all the goodness given, the world had grown dark for me.

I sat knees knocking white against the paper sheet as the doctor told me what was wrong.

Slowly over the past months it seemed the spring of rejoicing had slipped away, gone once and for all. Because now I knew. Knew that even the most precious treasures were temporary, slipping out of my reach before I could know they were gone. Now I knew that for every baby born, a body will die. Every innocent child’s smile will grow into stormy confusion. For every flower bursting to life, the end comes quick and shriveled. And yes they tell me the death nourishes, makes way for the new. But what is the use in this ever spinning wheel? I chattered on, busying myself with nonsense as I grew silent. How could I speak to Him? My Father who had left me here amidst the pain. Myself a spoiled brat, with a home and family, a warm bed to rest my head on, food always to fill my stomach.  My prayers were like balancing a checkbook, I could not reconcile any of it. The disease ridden mother and her starving children, my full belly and selfish heart. The wars and the weddings. Triumphs and failures. Greed and need. And over all death. So I grew silent.  What do you to say to a God you can not understand, in a world where you can only find Him for a moment?

But in this moment sitting half naked and afraid, I had only Him. Him who kept my heart and the little one’s within beating. A flicker on the ultrasound screen reminding me I was not alone. A flicker and a dark spot, a spot they explained would either heal or grow worse and bring my baby’s life to an end in a flow of blood. Go home, rest, don’t worry and live life as normally as possible. Impossible words they spoke to me.

So I went home in silence and tears. Breathing out a cry for help. Please heal me. Please protect our baby. I don’t deserve Your healing. I don’t know what’s ultimately best for my story or this spinning globe, but this is what I want. More than anything I want to hold this baby safe. Please make it so. Because I know you can. Because in all the darkness I know You must reign. Because this miracle within me had to have a Father.

I went home and I held Vigil. Because if these were my last and only moments with my child I wanted to be awake. I wanted to feel and know them, however much that might hurt. And so I slept, long hours giving in to rest, because everything else could wait if only I could still hold my child. I slept with my three year old’s eyelashes brushing my cheek. And when I could not sleep and my mind raced, I read, withdrawing into my oldest friends. These books know how to keep my heart from plunging right off the edge of panic and despair.

I stood vigil – sleeping, hungrily devouring words of life and watching. I watched the light play across the floor from my place on the couch. I watched my children run through the house, hair bouncing, wondering  if this wound within could take my life as well as my child’s. I watched to see if I could make them smile, to see if they were still young enough for me to reach right inside their hearts. I watched the sun set and prayed for just one more morning without an empty womb. And then I watched the blue skies and breathed the air and prayed for one more day with my child.

A favorite band sings… “Souls cannot, souls cannot be fooled”

Finally my soul was growing still. Growing still amidst all my questions born of pain. Growing still and knowing that He is God. Awakening

I thought of Jesus and His friends, the night before His death. What do you do when you’re not sure what comes next? When you have seen life and death and miracle, but you’re still trapped in time and space and don’t want to give up this tragic home? When more than the unseen you just want to be with those you hold and care for and love in flesh and blood? When you’re afraid of what lies ahead?

You stand vigil. Stand still and watch things change. You grow quiet so that the white noise of this world won’t lull your soul to sleep. You rest so that you can remain awake. You watch the sun rise and set, and rise again.

And as I sat still, as I slept and remained awake – I felt healing. I saw redemption. A baby growing healthy and my body beginning to heal. Nothing I had done, just a gift received from a Father who loves me. Who I must believe loves me just as much if the answer would have been different. But for this moment I rejoice in life taking root and begin anew to look for redemption everywhere. I read now of vigils and try to make sense of these weeks. I read of vigils of nighttime prayers. Of staying awake when most are asleep, unaware. I read how vigils are kept for holy celebrations, times of remembrance of miracles past. Traditionally these vigils do not begin in the fresh light of morning. They begin as the darkness grows close and heavenly lights go dim. The wakefulness remains through the long night, silent and waiting in the dead of midnight. Waiting, watching for the light that will come sure as day. The vigil ends with light, the morning of the feast. Reading this, I see how this world isn’t an ever spinning globe, it’s a night drawing close to dawn. Death is in our story now, but every glimpse of hope is truth peeking through, telling that the true day will come, full of life. And it is ok to not understand. All the platitudes about what is best fall silent when you stare death in the face, and often day does not seem worth the dark dark night. But I would not want a Father who knew less than me, and I know that I have not made my children or the sea or the mountains. I know they are real though and chance could not have fashioned their glory. I have seen over and over despite my best efforts, how instead of these miracles, my hands fashion failure, chaos and strife. So all I can do is quietly receive His goodness. Waiting for the light to come. Watching the seasons change. Knowing He is God.

And still I am afraid. I do not know what this journey holds for me or my children. But I know in stillness I can rest in Him. I read of a knight’s vigil. How he stayed awake, kneeling through the night. When the morning came, rising to be knighted, clothed in white for his work, with a mantle of red to show his readiness to be wounded, his acceptance of the wounds that would come. I am no knight, but I know of work and wounds and so do you. I read of vigils beside deathbeds, and remember our nighttime watch a few months ago holding my Gran’s hand as she breathed her long ragged last breaths. I remember a living room crowded with brave loved ones gathered round my friend, asleep as the brain cancer took her. I remember holding my son’s still body, trying to make the moments last and will them away. And I think of all the myriad moments I have known filled with life and joy, daily monotony and silly frustrations.

I hold a large heavy book full of abstract oceanscapes, bought at a little seaside shop a million miles from here. I bought it for my Gran whose heart was full of the sea. Her living in a prairie, content with a pool. I took it from her coffee table a few days after she left, opened it at Christmastime in my mother’s house during weeks that I just sat and watched the snow come and go, holding the secret of new life inside me. I bought the book years ago, because these photos of ocean horizons seemed a perfect birthday present for my Gran, and because their simplicity called to something deep inside of me. I had not noticed that the book was called Still. I had not read until now, how the artist, Debra Bloomfield, set her camera up each night and waited with shutter open wide for the light to come and seep onto the film. I had not read how she returned quietly to the same place again and again after losing her sister, to wait for the light to arrive, to hold vigil and make these photographs. It was not something she decided to do, this was something that in the deathly quiet she found she must do. Yet she did not see it as a vigil of grief. She spoke of finding the sunrise, the moment the light returns, finding it as a child finds the world, as a mother looks at her newborn baby. She called it a vigil of wonder.

And this is what I want to hold, from now until forever. A vigil of wonder. Not of death, sadness or fear. A quiet vigil of wonder. Where, in the waiting and the stillness, I can hear and see. A vigil is an observance. To observe with wonder His redemption this world speaks of. To watch and see, listen and hear, and know what I am to do with the time I am given here.

 

polaroid of my love, taken at sunset . sx70 . impossible project film

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Oh… it’s a Rangefinder!

 

An afternoon of archery, adventuring, forts and good friends. I was shooting Nate’s Hasselblad Xpan and didn’t realize for a few hours that it was a rangefinder – oops! So the focus is hit or miss (mostly misses) for the first few images, and then they get better…

 


 

Spring 2013 . Hasselblad Xpan . Tri-X . Idyllwild with the Kaisers

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Their Ritual

Every month my boys go on a campout with their Dad and tribes of hundreds of other Dads and their boys. So thankful they do this. Mom’s aren’t allowed but since this one was walking distance from our house, I snuck over for a few quick snaps…

 

9-13 . Del Mar Beach Campout . Canon AE1 . TriX . developed and scanned at home

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