On Death and Resurrection

Newness always seems to inspire me. If you follow me on Instagram (I’m @colibri_homestead and you can see pictures here even if you aren’t a user), you’ll know we bought a used RV and fixed it up enough to take our first trip (to the Oregon Coast!). We had to come back mid-trip for a saline infusion (I talk more about that on a recent Instagram post if you’re curious to learn more), and decided this morning it’s better if we skip the second part of our trip. There was relief there, and sadness too. All these things together inspired these words from my heart. Cheers to embracing that which we are taught not to embrace!

Physical suffering.

It can literally bring you to your knees.

Deeper than your knees. Sometimes in a deep, deep pit where there’s just the smallest glimmer of something that’s not your body’s pain and the messiness spinning out from it.

It can bring shame or embarrassment:

At the parenting you cannot do.

The relationships you cannot maintain.

The independence you lose.

The doing you cannot do.

 For me, the toilet in my bedroom and “grandma” diapers in my closet that   yes, can be used by those much younger too.

        For others the very cane, walker, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bars – the            things that can bring freedom if you don’t listen to the shame of your pain.

I had a wise friend share what she had learned from another wise friend about chronic illness: Sickness can be a good teacher if you let it.

And I let those words sink in. Even at their first reading they feel immediately right, and my seeing – it started getting bigger too.

She says somewhere in that conversation: Illness is a chance to practice forgiveness and grace over and over for the things people say or the ways in which they unwittingly cause pain when trying to be helpful.

I now see it as a chance to practice grace for myself over and over too.

A once-avid gardener and backpacker, I look around me and back to what I know best: the ground beneath my feet. And all I see is death and resurrection. And I think: that’s the key. There’s death, but then from that death resurrection pushes up, like scrappy weeds growing from cracks in the ground to that beautiful unfurling into its fullness of the rhubarb. Even in the forest at darkest night, there is still life swarming all around, like the nematode my son just caught; a great dark-time surprise. My, what I – what we – can catch in the dark! Because there’s its own kind of beauty in the dark and in the dying too.

And I am brought to my knees, with pain still, yet a hope: All the earth’s deaths and resurrections and all the seasons of my suffering – my own little deaths and resurrections, bring me close to him, the One who was present at creation, who lived in an earthly body with its pains, and is the very archetype of dying and rising again.

So now when pain hits and brings me to my knees for days or weeks or months or minutes, I remember to listen and learn and bring with me all that I have gathered along the way:

To fall into death and remember it is always followed by resurrection, even if it is just a small enough break to empty that toilet by my bed.

How all those little resurrections build and they build and they build until they outstrip my fear of death; my fear of that pit.

How now, all that pit holds is the potential for new life.

And then the pit loses its death grip on me. And I am brought closer and closer through this dying and resurrecting that my physical pain brings to the One who embodied it resulting in deep, deep union. Ah, that sweet, sweet union. Union that only the co-knowers know.

And I realize all along what the Beatitudes have told me: that those things that look more to the world like un-gifts are really the greatest gifts of all. And I do the impossible, or what some would say is imprudent, foolish: I somehow embrace my physical suffering. Pain then becomes gift, even as you both wish it away and somehow rest in it.

 


 

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On loss and gain

Do you ever feel like you are losing so much and gaining so much at the same time? It’s a strange feeling.

We used to identify solidly as homesteaders. That’s half of the name of this blog after all! At one point (but not all at the same time) we had two gardens, rabbits, bees, chickens, our beloved dahlia row, fruit trees, suburban turkeys (ha!) and chickens. We used to preserve and make, make, make and even fed four different families. And slowly we’ve opened our hands and let those things go as we’ve made room for the time caring for my body well takes: First the rabbits, then the bees, then the preserving (except for drying herbs). This year we’re saying goodbye to the chickens, letting our hard-working garden of 11 years go fallow for a year or two (it’ll be so good for her too), and just growing some potatoes, easy flowers, herbs and maybe some dye flowers in the new bed. We’ll still be here making, but it’ll be different. Our hands will be less in the dirt, in the clay.

I asked my husband the other day: Can we still call ourselves homesteaders if our homestead is…gone? The bones are still here. The fruit trees – which will still flower and fruit and grow, and garden space, and a place to have our chickens and bees again one day (for what one of us knows what the future holds?). A lot of our herbs and medicinal plants will just grow back on their own, as will our wily dahlia row. I’m sure we’ll have lots of free lettuce with a mind to grow on its own. We have hearts that will still try to make more than we consume, like our lip balm made with a friend pictured here (and as a prelude to below, a surrender to the fact that the picture just won’t load and that’s a-ok, a link will do just fine anyway, plus you’ll get the lip smacking details!).

One part of our identities isn’t going away – our homesteading hearts are still there – but we’re turning down the knob to turn it up on other things. On a level of openness and slowness that will allow us to jump into our new (old) camper for trips on the go, we are hoping no matter how my body is faring. We are turning up space for more quiet making. Dan, with some help from Ash, just built a beautiful workbench to do more knife making and leather work on. Tomorrow I start a class on The Franciscan Way through the Center for Action and Contemplation and have a knitting and sewing queue a mile long. This feels like a time where I’m investing in my reading and learning and growth and all of us in our little hobbies that get lost in the bigger running of a homestead. It’s like our quiet winter season, where the death of the garden and the rains keep us knee deep in these other things, is being stretched longer and wider.

This year I’m embracing the word surrender. Have I already shared that? My memory has been a challenge lately. But instead of pushing it to remember – or to go back and look – I am just going to risk repeating myself. Ahhh, another small way of surrender in action… But surrender to not look for all the health answers and try, try, try; surrender to focus more in on the living and moving and breathing and doing what we can and want but won’t push us farther into our margin; surrender to accept my body for what it is and what it can do on any given day; surrender to embrace and feel the losses and embrace and feel the gains.

Life feels strangely good. Psalm 18 has always captivated me; the depth of despair that we all feel but hardly admit to ourselves and especially others (find your people and do it!!), and full of the awe-filled power and the fierce, mighty glory of God even in the midst of our seeming destruction. There’s the promise of things big and small, like drawing us out of the water, setting our feet securely on uneven places so they don’t slip, helping us feel like we can scale the walls in faith that his strength is under, over, and all around us, and my favorite: him bringing me out in a spacious place simply because he delights in me.

Maybe this year is more about surrender, and surrender being that spacious place whereas before it looked more like our happy, homesteading, live simple lives, but now is getting to a smaller but bigger place of delight; delight in a life marked by unpredictability and disability, delight in the spaciousness that having to slow to such a level brings, delight in the goodness that still surrounds and fills me and inside. Just some midnight (or later) musings. Surrender and delight, you are welcome here. Change, you are welcome here. Lord, have your way in me. Take me from the miry clay. Set my feet upon the rock. I put my trust in you. I trust you. You are in the depths with me, and you have a spacious place for me and for us.

When Ash moved in, I used to sing to him before bed. His favorite and most requested song: Jesus Lover of my Soul. It feels apt to end with its words.

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the rock
And now I know
I love you
I need you
Though my world may fall
I’ll never let You go
My Savior
My closest Friend
I will worship You until the very end

On thanks despite circumstances

I appreciate these words today from Shauna Niequist: “…when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

I find life is more a mix of the two, but yes, the response to God can always be thank you. For example, #disabledmamalife (my new, humanizing and humorous hashtag on Facebook): Physical healing? Thank you. No healing? I praise and thank you yet. For are the sick, broken, poor, weak any less beloved? Oh no! And the Sermon on the Mount calls out the mourning as blessed. There’s a thanks to be experienced and lived and uttered even there, in those hard places.

It got me reading and thinking about Scripture: Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the charge “to give thanks in *all* circumstances ” (from 1 Thessalonians 5:18), and remebering Jesus’ suffering.

(This popped out to me too, from 1 Thessalonains 4:9-10: “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. *Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.*”

There’s a call to more love and more thanks ringing in my ears and pounding in my heart tonight, and I’m listening. Do you feel the pounding rising in you?

And for those in the bitter-sweet more than the sweet-bitter, oh how Psalm 13 (BUT I trust in your unfailing love) and Psalm 18 can be our encouragement and reminder: “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord…but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me…Exalted be God my Savior!” For there is spaciousness even in the suffering. I’ve experienced it to be true. It’s what Psalm 23 talks about – that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God has me lie down in green pastures, leads me beaside quiet waters and *restores my soul.*  And as my friend Shannon Evans said: “A life that bears suffering is not what we should most fear – our Lord modeled that for us Himself.”

More tidbits come to mind. Call this my suffering stream of consciousness…

A prayer from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals: “Lord, as the seasons turn, creation teaches us of grief, patience, and renewal. Make us good students of these rhythms that we might not hurry the work of grief but receive the gift of your presence in our time of need. Amen.”

And words from a sister in Christ, @wildrootsparable: “To be sure, holding the griefs of the world in one palm and the joys of God’s providence in the other is a heavy burden; do you feel it too? But there is grace yet, my friends. And laughter. And peace. And beauty. If anything, these sacred gifts from our Creator shine brightest when found where they hide, tucked into the icy corners of the world’s darkest corners.”

And Cynthia Bourgeault on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “The haunting prayer woven into Teilhard’s (T) reflection of faith in The Divine Milieu makes clear that it is no cheap optimism that T is dispensing here, but a wrenchingly honest acknowledgment of our human predicament and an unfailing fidelity to seeing God in *every* aspect of the earth, even in our human suffering.” A final “prayer” by T himself:

“Ah, you know it yourself, Lord, through having borne the anguish of it as a man: on certain days the world seems a terrifying thing: huge, blind, and brutal…At any moment the vast and horrible thing may break in through the cracks – the thing which we try hard to forget is always there,  separated from us a by a partition: fire, pestilence, storms, earthquakes, or the unleashing of dark moral forces – these callously sweep away in one moment what we had laboriously built up and beautified with all our intelligence and all our love. Since my human dignity, O God, forbids me to close my eyes to this…*teach me to adore it by seeing you concealed within it.*” – Amen

I’ll let my stream continue on in my head as I drift off to sleep, suffering but held close by my intimate Abba Father. Or maybe I’ll focus in on the words to this song, one of honor and thanks, that just came to mind (my brain, friends, it never stops…!):

Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are filled with your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

If you aren’t feeling the sweetness now, in your life or when you look at the world around, grace and peace yet to you. May our mouths be full of thanks, wherever we find ourselves in 2018. We’ll get their by walking with Christ, our Suffering Servant, who is our “me too” gets it Saviour and friend. We’ll get there by looking for him in our bitter-sweet, with a spirit of thanksgiving, heart remebering his past faithfulness and his promises, and eyes wanting see.

“I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad.”

Peace and love, friends.

(And clearly I’m into the oldies but goodies of songs). All stream of conciousness responses welcome on the comments. 😉