Salvation

I was sitting at supper, flanked by two children who each have wallowed their way into a deep, uncharted part of my heart. I was rounding out the day with a family who has become my own, after birthday celebrating and catching up and laughing and drinking coffee. I was feeling flat out happy to be alive, to be breathing and to be seeing and laughing, again. I was wading through the effervescent warmth of love and fear, the needed friction of a life, caught up in a strange sadness to be leaving them, to be going back to a world that feels a little wild and messy and unknown, a world that isn’t quite home.

And then, the littler one, that blonde headed cackler, looked me in the eye and said,

I have a schecret to tell you.

You do?

She pulled my cheek to her chin and whispered,

I lobsh you.

I love you.

I love you, too.

And I had to sit still for just a second, to catch the breath that carried salvation on the whisper of a child. I had to listen for the sacred to settle at the very bottom of my toes, because I was, in that moment, bathing in some voice of the Divine.

In the same way, I felt salvation in the acres beside my home, in the warmth of an afternoon sun slipping from a sky while I walked with Abe through a field. Simple, warm, beautiful, home. I could feel the gratitude of a particular deliverance wade through me.

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In these moments, I wonder about salvation. I wonder about God. If you have known me well over the past two years, you have watched me lose a faith so enmeshed in my personhood I seem to have lost my very self.

And, perhaps, this has been my greatest salvation. I have been silently angry, uncertain, apathetic, agnostic, and when all of that would leak out, I was apologetic, even repentant…because I did not value the doubt enough to give her space to breathe, to let her live, to let her grow.

These things we hide, these things we fear, they always find a way to be known.

So, when I felt love on the whisper of a three year old and in the warmth of the sun, I was surprised when I thought of Jesus, a being who I knew to bend toward the human, who no one else would, and hold the unknown again and again, and whispered, always, I love you.

I thought of the way true redemption rushes, like the light of the sun, into that which screams to be known but is hidden or abandoned or left alone. I thought of the way salvation is impulsive and compulsive to those who choose to be honest.

To me the courage of the whisper, the courage of the sun is proximity; we must come close, so close, that we touch the objects of our fear. We tend to spend our days drafting distance, to produce some sense of safety. However, we neglect the things, which need a whisper, which need the light the most; those scary, angry, ugly things, those sad, restless, painful things.

We can, continue, every day, for the rest of our lives to move away from those spaces. But perhaps to live, to really live is to seek, to find, and then to bend into those darkened hidden hollows and whisper on the very brow of the unknown.

And then, to move, to grow, to go close with the light of the fearless whisper…I love you.

I lobsh you.

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Ladybugs

I live in a house full of ladybugs.

They spend their days climbing up my white cotton blinds, moving on up toward heaven, clinging to the windowpanes, bellies to the sunshine. I spend most of the time in the shower saving them after they have hurled themselves into the collected pool of water at my feet.

I hate to watch tiny things die.
But I watched one survive tonight.

Back to the ground, little legs clawing at the air, she pushed with those thin fragile flap wings, and she flipped herself over. Her body, her very architecture, her nature kept her alive.

I work in a world of ladybugs, resilient little creatures whose lives are full of promise and guts and shit and courage, whose childhoods have been robbed, whose feet have never been washed. I see them, belly up, using what they’ve got to find the right side of gravity again. I watch them, watch the struggle, watch the fear, watch the fight, watch the victory and the cost. I get to offer what I can, but mostly, I let them feel their own strength, their own tenacity.

I see the way they move, their architecture and their nature, toward life.
I suppose we are all flipping and flailing, finding earth beneath our feet.

I think of the way I have felt my own back to the ground, the way my skin sometimes feels like a husk around an immovable darkness. I think of the way upside down feels, and I think I have done a lot of living on my back, thrashing around like a capsized ladybug. I have seen girls with razor raked arms, refusing to eat, sitting beside my body, wrecked with a binge and a purge. I have seen friends lose babies, lose mothers, lose homes. I have seen myself lose hope. I have seen cars slam into walls and bullets into bodies. I have felt displaced and confused, lost. I have felt overturned.

And yet, somehow, my architecture, my nature is beginning to expand again, to hope, to breathe, and I am feeling myself lifted, returned, restored.

Every day, we turn ourselves over with what we have been given. All of that raw life material moves in rhythm with some miracle, some mystery, pulsing toward life. We are breathing, beckoned toward something pushing our flap wings out and into life.

I say listen, feel, breathe; let your very nature, your very architecture be the saving thing. We are strong little creatures, pulsing and aching and loving, carrying beautiful hieroglyphs on our backs from the places where we have lain.

Ladybugs alive.

Commuters

Commuters on a train,
we watch a man murdered on the street from our seats
again. Again,
safely, we roll by capturing blurry imaged manuscripts
of his body exhaling one last time

. ….

…  ……

..

.

 

Erupting on our phones
because THIS IS OUR CITY,
THIS IS OUR HOME!
So, tell me, murder and riots and danger finally make us aware of our own?

Pharisees on street corner media,
posting our prayers like
salutations to the irrepressible swell of guilt seeping inside our guts.

Because, we know our sons will likely never encounter the same but
could rape a woman behind a dumpster simply because he can
again. Again.

Privilege,
that relentless, filthy indifference
to any human broken for the sake of gain,
to any human burned, beaten, abused, then raised as a banner to ease our shame.

We are commuters on a train,
safely watching a murdered man’s blood leak on the street from our seats again.
Again, we roll by,
blood on our hands.

stars

I stand under the night sky. Two feet on Dominican soil, thin rubber soles between. I wonder how my fingers would feel to reach up and scoop the stars from a leaking sky, light dripping holes in the darkness. They would never fit in my pocket, even my two blue eyes struggle to stretch wide and far enough to hold them.

I feel so small inside these skin walls, which hold my belly to my bones to my soul.

I feel so small when I see you, little one. Arms wide while you smile, star teeth shining between your dark brown lips, your dark brown skin, you reach up to me like the ache in my belly reaches for love. I pull you up, into me. You are growing, and I am stilled by the surprise in my muscles responding to you.

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Good morning, I say, as if we are familiar, as if I lived in your batey and you see me every day. You are sassy, little one. What have you seen since I saw you seven months ago? Through what have your growing feet walked? Are the other kids sweet in Cabeza de Toro? Do you have enough to eat? What do you love? Tell me all.

There is one full year of growing inside of you since the first time I held you through your first day of school. Your life is shooting up out of the soil of your soul like the sugar cane lining your long road home. You are bigger, all of you, your bones, your memories, your fingers, your nose.

I am holding you on the same morning I am holding scary words from my very best friend. She is sick, baby girl; she is so sick. The doctors think cancer; my mom had cancer too, and these things wreck us all in such strange ways. This makes me feel so small, little one, so sad and so small. I hold you with the same hands I hold them all, and I wish these hands could do more. I wish these hands, this mind, this heart could be so much more; I wish this body could heal her tumor and carry her pain. I wish my body could stand between you and abuse or shame. I would lay myself down to ease the ache of the world.

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And I would think of those Dominican stars, so big and beautiful, gas and dust expanding into light.

And in some quiet moment, on a Sunday night in late July, they raised my chin and made me stand stock-still between the whirling tension of rage and delight. We are not so different from those fireballs in the sky, collecting soul and spirit matter over time. As much as I wish to carry all the hurt and all the shame, I will only stand beside you, hold you and love you, because I would hate to take that glorious substance, relentlessly expanding dust and gas, aching into eternal light.

We are made to become such magnificent giants, stars in the night.

Your Crib is Empty

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Your crib is empty, baby.

You were due to arrive Monday; the date is marked on every calendar I own. My phone and work computer, graphite on calendar paper, everything holds the expectation of you, because you are precious, little one, and we couldn’t wait to meet you.

Did you know the name prayed over you means to explore, to go before, to discover? Your name meant to listen.

I hope someone gives you a safe place to explore. I hope every one of your senses discovers all the wonders of this world. I hope are you free, baby. And I hope someone will listen to you sing and cry and laugh. I hope someone will see the golden, sweet nectar soul you carry in your body.

I hope someone puts bubbles in your bath.

This world is beautiful, love.
Leaves and streams. Oceans and fireflies. Elephants and sunsets.

And for all of this, we want to be with you, to help you, to love you, to hold you, to sing over you, and to watch you grow. And there are three people who have been building home for you, who were waiting for you. Your future was already glowing in the hope of their souls.

I could pick a flower every day for the rest of my life, and the bouquet would not be as big or as beautiful as the way they loved you, already, before your tiny legs and toes and elbows were ever known.

And sweet baby, the world is ugly too.

In the eve of your birth, men and women were murdered, in ways so inhumane, so evil and cruel. You do not know what any of this means yet, and honestly, the grown ups have no clue too. We are such angry and sad and scared creatures. War tears through life on the other side of our aching circle earth and in our backyards, just as it does in our precious, ragged hearts. Every day, you will fight your own wars, and we all want to be with you, to help you, to love you, to hold you, to sing over you, and to watch you grow, baby girl.

So many lives have been murdered, stolen because we are such angry and sad and scared creatures. Their beds are empty just like the crib that sits in your brother’s room, waiting for you. Their children and partners and mothers and fathers are feeling these empty, endless, deep well spaces, too.

But what we do know is they are gone, and the grief has some concrete slab of knowing on which to hold.

But you, baby girl, you? Are you alive? Are you safe? Are you crying or hungry or lonely or scared? We do not know, and this is the most devastating of miscarriages.

We do not know.

How do I do this well? When all I want is you, to be with you, to help you, to hold you, to sing over you, and to watch you grow.

We love you, baby; we love you.

Let’s Fly

Our bodies split the circle of the sun, separated the air as we fell.

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I swallowed the air between earth and sky. I let you carry my life on your chest. I let you push our bodies into a great gravity from ten thousand feet in the sky.

Still, you were with me, held tight to me. Your chest was at rest on my spine during the moments I felt most free. The fall felt like your nature, like your home, and you welcomed me. Our arms and legs spread wide toward the horizon lines, airborne.

And when we fell, I held nothing in my hand or mind; this was a thirty five second reckless adventure, and I was fully surrendered to gravity, to maybe.

That morning, I woke to news of one man murdering forty-nine human beings, wrecking so many others. He was pure hate leaking from an acid soul to the ends of his guns, ripping the flesh and bone of bodies built from love. How?

How?
How do we wake?
Or pull our shirts over our heads?
Or send our children away, to school or to play?

How do we pray?

We are such fragile and sick creatures, the tenderness beat from our souls. We hurt one another and ourselves. We are selfish and poor. We are filled with cancer and hatred, grief and fear. We busy ourselves to help us forget and avoid, to neglect that feral ache. However, that pulsing, feverish longing is there, somewhere between our bones.

So, we build new houses, make more babies, memorize more scripture, or begin new projects to quiet the nagging insufficiency of this whole life thing full of the cries of our neighbors and the violence in our own homes.

Surely, acknowledgement is a terrifying place in which to fall headlong.

I could have sat on my couch all day.
I could have refused to leave the ground.
I could have remained inside the cabin of the plane.

But as we fell I heard in the howling thick, white noise a gentle seam of laughter, cracking the furious sound in two. And perhaps that was the best prayer I have ever prayed, the beauty of a wildly divine tumble of joy pouring from my belly into the sky as I abandoned myself to Maybe.

I think Maybe is begging me to become a child, to trust and to fall again and again. Maybe is asking me to humbly acknowledge and refuse to avoid, to sink and to soothe the darkness in others and myself with the sound of an unmanageable joy.

In childlikeness, to live becomes to fall, full-hearted and full-bodied into the tension of human gravity and to pray simply, crying and laughing into the violent fury. I have lived many days staying, holding, tightly grasping. But moment by moment, I am pushed to the fall, held to his chest, listening for that prayer of laughter spill from my wild fire tenderness.

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Let’s fly.


An Epilogue

In response to some frequently asked questions:
Yes, my instructor was attractive.
No, I did not inquire if he was single or not.
…perhaps I will ask next time.

Hope, that risky substance

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Hope is a risky substance.
…a reckless child, unaffected, stubborn and wild. Sticky fingered and swinging, full force, pumping a body above the heads of friends, who stand with feet planted in the sand. Hope begs me to play, to swing, to live or die, to breathe.

“What’ll you have, Cora Belle?”

Elgin stood on the other side of the bar, and I had to shake your memory off my skin to give him an answer.

See, you were biscuits and gravy, baseball, and Mississippi. You called me Cora Belle first, and I really should have loved you. You were real sweet, and you drove me down Okeechobee in a fifteen passenger van to find the ministry sites we would share through our summer. I felt safe with you.

For those of you who did now know him, Jake taught math, coached ball, and had this southern drawl that pulled words from his lips like taffy. He was real steady, real still, like a solid cement block. I imagine life could put things on that man’s shoulders, heavy and painful, and he would have held up. And when cancer broke his bones, the strongest parts of him, his soul full of gentle love, remained and spread across those who held pieces of his earth memories. I think the goodness in his heart did not follow him into the ground; he held up.

In my estimation, he is hope, holding up regardless; he stretches me into eternity, raises the stakes and gives me the kind of perspective that reminds me to breathe, and then breathe again. The wily audacity of a breath, that one powerful sweeping motion of wind in lung or not is hope, both death and revival, unpredictable. Hope is that nameless pain and indescribable ache, that feral undercurrent, relentless and pure, holding us all up through spacetime.

And when there was nothing left of him, except what has been etched into me, that good hope remains, immutable and powerful. And I think, what keeps us all going is not the residue of dreams or memories; it is not the construction plans of swing sets or the prayers for pancakes on a Saturday morning with a family of our own or new shoes. Hope is not an architect but rather the raw material of a simple breath, the matter and substance of life, rockslides, and waves.

That iridescent, whimsical thing hung on the lips of a man who called me Cora Belle pauses me, and I think the most beautiful shade of hope has no definite hue but rather exists, raw and pulsing, aching on without regard for my limited demand.

Hope simply is.

an unfettered mass

Though I convince myself I will not endure another broken heart or the relentless eating disorder or this absolute sadness, I see it there on the windowpanes, outside of this finite life chaos.

I remember that translucent substance carrying the laughter of a dead man, the light of another dawn, the frame of a hummingbird, a leaf, and a storm. Fingerprints. From that sticky hope stuff on the fingertips of a wild kid, reminding me the very air is hope, nudging me on into wonder, again and again and again.

That risky substance dancing on my open palms.