North

Sometimes the beauty of the everyday graces make me cry grateful tears more so than the griefs and the disappointments that attune my vision and attach the desperate tips of my fingers to those very lifeline graces. Only because of the Good Shepherd can I spill over with thanksgiving after a whole glass of lament.

My environment is filled with beautiful lyrics, sweet-tempered boys, and kind friends. These things, and so much more, feed hope. They are the nourishing pauses that remind me to breathe, reminds me that somewhere, the heavens are touching the earth, and that, though I may be wired to feel things very deeply, grief is often a means to truth. Someday, somehow, I will feel less engulfed and more upright. Then again, I do tend to rush to conclusions and want to tidy up prematurely.

The last fourth of our twelve hour drive to Oregon last week was spent in the night. Climbing through the wooded areas that encroach upon I-5 in northern California, it was amazingly dark. During dusk, we saw more trees in one quarter mile stretch than we may see in a week or two of our daily lives in California. Once the sun had moved on, the presence of the woods and mountains was silent but strong.

I couldn’t believe the stars. Maybe I had forgotten but son-of-a-gun, there are still a lot of those things. For many stretches of car-lit freeway, the big dipper was straight ahead, on the horizon, as if a promise. It seemed bigger than ever, looming over puny I-5 and our sleepy trip. I looked awkwardly up through my window at one point and was in awe of the mist of heavenly envoys, as Emerson wrote, filling the space. So much radiance. So far away.

The darkness was so dramatic that we could not tell where Mt. Shasta was until we were right upon it. I peered and peered and could not discern where the sky started and the land ended. I felt that was appropriate. The mystery. My limits. The dark. 

I have sought to write in-process here. I have tried to keep up with the calling of openness and the middle of emotions. I have shared things part-way and aimed to insist and wonder that Immanuel, God is with us, here. It is hard, though, when you don’t know where you are part-way to. While I know that from here to there is unpredictable, I do at least know that we are headed towards adoption. But in other areas of waiting and feeling, I do not know where we are headed. I cannot see the big dipper. And all the terrible ugliness of the here is not very helpful to another’s journey. So then, I am just left saying over and over again, in broad context strokes, that still, again, yes, I am struggling, and at the same time yes, there is Hope. That I am in a muddy place and I am uncomfortable and He hasn’t much showed me what to do with that yet. I am fully feeling this life. And thank God, He accepts that and remains. Hope is not denying the present of its shadows; it is looking for how Love might move them. 

Going through the mountains of darkness, unable to trace the line of the horizon, was perhaps a truthful experience. At first my cynical mind found meaning in the ambiguity and confusion of the black; that like with everything else, I was not seeing what I was looking for and even the horizon was not clear. But now I wonder if that is what is most true. If the intermixing of the world with the sky, this old dwelling with the heavens, is best without the line of meeting. If they overlap and join and enfold the traveler’s way so that the dirtiest place is connected to, holding hands with, the stars. Maybe clarity would be a loss. Maybe I was looking for the wrong thing.  

At one point, when I was searching for an outline of Mt. Shasta, there was a great interruption. A huge shooting star strong across our bug-splattered point of view, and we were like kids, amazed and surprised. Those interruptions in the daily take my breath away and fill my at-times sore heart. Those spurts of grace–a child’s laugh, a touching song, a hot meal–those are the shooting stars  that help us catch our breath and keep driving north. In hope. 

Ultrasounds

It has been hard to write.

Too many loose ends, drifty ideas, disappointing moments. Too many books lying around half read, piles of commitments on our google calendar. Too many quick judgments, short nights, deep sighs. When I am quiet it’s usually because I’ve allowed just too many noises.

I have to wait until the dust settles, until my flailing calms and I begin to see the cream of life rise to the top once again. I have to wait until I find my way back to the path paved with forgiveness and accepted limitations and thisisimportant and thatisnot. I have to drop the rattles and tambourines that I have inadvertently been shaking with nervous, thankless energy. I have to again listen for the sound of a melodic, beautiful number called Grace.

Some rattles are not bad I get off beat. I have been in the thick of thinking about grief. I am in the middle of a book I love but that makes my life difficult (isn’t that always the case?)–a book about God and innocent suffering and what in the world to do with both. I am swirling in a cycle of pleading prayers, for my sisters, for my friends and our work, for my family. Short prayers, question prayers. I don’t know very well what to pray. They are scattered throughout my days, like cheerios and crumbs that find their way throughout the house. Soggy offerings from soggy days.

In the midst of the Daily, we are also in the middle of adopting. Correction, in the middle of getting approved to adopt. Very different tales but I would like to think that we are farther than we probably are. We are not in a hurry but I am falling in love. Instead of ultrasound pictures and elastic jeans, we have paperwork and inspections. Behind the checklists, there are more of those prayers. The harmonizing with the song Grace, where we refrain from panic but add in our two cents. Notes that hang and sustain and seem dissonant at times. Notes to be resolved later. I wonder more and more, when, how, Lord, will this story unfold? Is she growing even now? Is she okay?

It has always been a dream to adopt. My family of origin’s influence including my own adoption obviously aided my vision. I was old enough to realize the miracle of adoption when my three youngest siblings joined our family. I was 13 and 14 at the time. They were our family but we had just met them. We belonged to one another but nothing explains the mystery.

Perhaps even more than the miracle of conception – which is just plain unlikely yet startlingly commonplace – and aiming to have a child biologically and the rush of emotions, questions and possibilities that all of that entails, adoption is not friendly to the control-freak. I’ve heard. We are at the mercy of the county. We are at the mercy of the state. And we will then simply be waiting, hoping, more praying–for our daughter’s safety, for her birth parents, for her arrival into our family, for her adjustment. It is all very much beyond our control.

In my own life, adoption is an archetype for the against-all-odds power of redemption. Of plot twists, inbreaking love, a Good Shepherd, and a cosmic connection that surpasses DNA. Adoption has not defined me but it has certainly been a cornerstone that tells me that there is a Provider, there is a Comforter. That grief and disorientation are not conclusive and that children’s hearts are turned to their parents and what rules them. I pray that this is true for my birth mother–that somehow she has lived in peace and known God. A God who has unrelenting solidarity. Who does not exist despite suffering but enters into it. A God who extensively and frivolously cared and cares for the child she could not.

“He found them in a desert land and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled them, he cared for them, he kept them as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided them,” Deuteronomy 32:10-12.

What a lullaby. All the action is on Him. Attentiveness drips from the story of Israel, which we have been told is our story too. He loved them and opened Himself to grief. And me too. And her too. Whoever she is, she is His. His love encircles her. Her grief is shared. Our hearts are stirred as we wait and pray and trip and forgive and wait.

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Sisters.

Floating Stories

Some of our stories cannot be told yet. Like a splinter that takes a day or two for the skin to move outward, we just have to sit with them, accepting their irritation until they can be properly plucked. We know our vision of ourselves gains clarity with distance. We can reject or embrace what we can see; we are powerless to comment on what we are blind to.

Other stories cannot be told by anyone but observers, third parties, who, of course, cannot tell them very well. Even the third-party stories can be important though, for they may recount that which the characters in it cannot. Perhaps there is shame, or guilt. Perhaps there is just a complete lack of wherewithal. Perhaps there is a victim who is simultaneously working so hard at not defining their life by that particular narrative and yet really needs in an existential way for their story to be told. For health, they cannot be its author; they are too close, and too fragile. This is why the third party is welcomed, however limited. No one else can write it.

I feel like I have been a third party storyteller at least half of the time.

Despite that beloved quote from Thoreau warning us to not sit down to write until we have stood up to live, I have a lot to write about that I haven’t exactly lived. Much of what I have written has been noticed, sniffed out, felt as though a residue on my skin. I wrestle with these stories, aware of my inexperience and inadequacy. Yearning to do their characters justice, yet usually unable to ask them questions. I am awkward and eager, perhaps the most annoying of combinations.

One of the biggest, most unobservable losses that I have experienced is the accidental deletion of files in the My Documents folder on my computer. A couple of years ago, all files with names that began with letters past the letter M were affected by the silent bomb. On the electronic journey from one computer to another, the last half of the alphabet disappeared. Have you seen them wandering around? The old computer was swiped clean, the drive used to transfer was terribly silent on the issue, and the new computer is conspicuously and painfully light on files named anything between N and Z.

Imagine if that happened in real flesh and bone life. For the sake of simplicity let’s use people (I cannot think of any other imaginable context in which that statement could be said truthfully). Oh the morbidity. If everyone named Rachel and Bob and Tina and Maria were missing, what gaps would happen in our lives? Well I start getting sad at the thought, no matter how ridiculous. If we went by last names, the effects would be catastrophic. Whole chunks of people would have vaporized. And they would be connected to one another and the person who could best remind us of the one person who had gone would also be gone because they’re likely related. Systems, no more. The church potluck, ruined. It would be awful.

My files were inanimate and finite. They were no Marias, let me tell you. But they included many of my stories, and the stories I’ve tried to tell for others. (It seems I had a knack for titles beginning with a letter found in the last half of the alphabet.) Sometimes I forget about the loss and I’ll go and look for a story. Bits and pieces might be stuck on my old blog… others perhaps in a file folder from an old class. But it would be impossible to know when I first wrote them and what my most recent revisions were. (Cue demonization of technology.)

When I think about story writing and the ones that I have been able to write since the Incident—both as a third party and as one involved—and the ones that I have now lost, I wonder at the progression. Does the accidental deletion of the accounts symbolize a breaking free—as one might scatter ashes, donate clothes from their former size, or move without packing? Can it? Could I wear those glasses or are they cliche? Is it ever appropriate to delete a story? The telling is a healing process, no doubt. No reader is required, no revision especially revelatory. Perhaps some writing can just be functional and then forgotten. Just as lots of extra weight is often functional for people—to provide a reason for loneliness, or an obvious “thing to work on” so others do not arise, or to feel more protected. And then, that person may come to a point where they no longer need that weight on more than they need it off. So they lose it; they grow to be free from its burden. Could stories be similarly temporary?

I don’t know. And I realize I do not have the liberty of choosing at this point what happens to my former NthroughZ even if I did. I am glad, at least, that I wrote them. I know they were worthwhile. I know that putting an account on a screen is a sort of honor and tribute. Perhaps time, just as it manipulates stories out of us—out of the crevices and cracks, sometimes causing us to bleed—may eventually quiet their telling. Perhaps a large grace of life is how memory is laid to rest, with fewer details and less accuracy, until it disappears. Until we release it like a helium balloon, no longer something we have to commit a whole hand to holding. The story may settle and reincarnate, in another setting, with different characters, and the process begins again: a writer with an itch, an experience in need of embrace. And we’ll say, I’ve heard of something like that before, but know we cannot remember.

Hello Again

A new start. A fresh look. Ehh, not going to stop me from posting things from before Wide Places on Wide Places. 🙂 Welcome if you’re new. If you’ve read before, thanks for jumping over here.

If I could meet my sophomore-in-college-self, I would tell her so many things. So so many. Like don’t eat all that bread and be careful around that guy and whoa, American Eagle is not that cool. One of the top things on the list though would be, hey, you’re going to keep up with this blogging thing you’ve started. Don’t use xanga! It’s already outdated! Choose something that at least can be imported into WordPress in 9 years!

Buuuut, hindsight is 20/20, right? Well, lame blog or not, it did serve a purpose for eons, wherever I went, from Azusa to Nairobi to Portland to Los Angeles. Some people have mistaken my static blog for loyalty to xanga. The truth is that I’ve been gearing up for the past, oh, eversinceforever, for a change but it all seemed very daunting and low on the priority list. But now, in one of the most workaholic weeks of our lives, I decide to get going on this idea. (I have crazymaking coping mechanisms.) So here we are. I feel a little disjointed but as an organization freak, I also feel that familiar anticipation of cleaning something up–freezing the old, reclaiming some parts of it, and sharing it again alongside new chapters. My life has changed drastically since I first started blogging but some of my goals in writing are the same: to remember, to learn, and to open up. Sometimes for me, sometimes for the reader (and there really could be just one), ideally for both. The About page linked above will explain much more but for now, this is a beginning.