Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Find the Way Home #TellHisStory #AtlasGirlBlogTour

Yesterday, some dear friends came over for dinner. They are everything that family is when we live so far from our blood family. Earlier in the day, I found myself in an all-too-familiar pattern of feeling the stress instead of the joy.
 The house is a mess! Samuel is running to every corner fascinated by everything from Little People to Legos, refrigerator magnets to salt running through a funnel. How will I ever clean up, cook and bake his (very belated) birthday cake in time?’
But the Lord asks me to think His thoughts; see what He sees. These are the days He speaks gentle, and wraps tight, and asks me simply to receive. He beckons me to the Gospel and His rest for all my weary burden. Through all Christ is and does for me, I live without apology or shame, as I become the one He uniquely creates, redeems and calls by name to bear witness to His Glory.

For me, this is especially true, as I learn to live with open hands and invite others into the visible mess of my home. I remember how I wrote on a Facebook status a few months ago, something like, 
There’s some tongue-in-cheek there, but a lot of truth that has the power to set me free. My dear friend, Amy, said she needed to cross-stitch and frame the status for her wall. My dear cousin said the opposite was true for her because keeping the external mess, made her a bigger internal mess. I love both responses.

Because, Home is saying ‘Come as you are and I will give to you and receive from you as I am’.  

A little while ago I wrote about my mama inviting others into her home, in all its mess and beauty.  She especially did this with younger mothers who found themselves far from home. She knew how to bring them into the heart of the living home she was. So many of those times happened in our farm house or somewhere between the barn or the back and front of our yard. There were seven pairs (plus a couple of extra for guests) of manure-encrusted work shoes in the entry. There was Dad’s recliner covered in questionable debris of what my Grandpa called ‘foreign matter.’ There were open canisters of flour and sugar on the mustard-colored linoleum. When we had the church, or family, over for a picnic, there were too many flies hovering over the potato salad. And there were all kinds of craziness jumping off the loft into mounds of hay. And there was incredible beauty in the midst of wild, earthy mess.

Those times are the purest scenes of Home that I carry with me. They are the memories of Mama at her best. When so many hard years of chronic illness and financial strain followed our leaving that farm, we all lost our way and wandered far from Home.

But that is not the end of the story. The next scenes I think of are from Mama’s last months of life. They are of the open invitation into a rehabilitation center in New Jersey. Here she rose shaky, determined with a walker. She would learn to use, for as long as she could, a newly made hip and arm of steel to replace the ones eaten by cancer. We celebrated Christmas there as I organized my nieces and tiny nephew in a Nativity play.

And these scenes flow through to Easter in another hospital room and the snapping of a picture of mama and I. My aunt Debbie held it close to her heart as she walked down the aisle on the morning of my wedding, in honor of mam. There are scenes, too, of the days near the end. As My dad and I were away working, mama’s friends were invited again into this now gut-wrenching mess that would reveal eternal beauty.  They came into a different set of walls, and cared for her or sat with her by her hospital bed. And, in these months, mama gave us all the greatest picture of our true Home.

When I became a mama without my own, I knew I needed to invite others into the mess. I asked my sisters and every mama I could to help me find the way. Their wisdom is seasoned. And not one regrets plunking themselves down 'moo' or 'oink' farm animal noises with their toddler. Not one says folding the laundry ranks higher than stilling and looking into the eyes of a friend to really listen, or to open to their own honest, broken. Not one says to close the door, because the mess is too great. They do not want me to miss the beauty. For life, is indeed, short. And mama heartily cheers these voices. This chorus sounds a lot like a song from Heaven.

The greatest loss of Home comes in living the lie that we are not okay, somehow, as we are. I have dear friends, like my cousin, who I may be tempted to close myself to, because they multi-task so well and are just too efficient and so, expose the weakness I want to hide. And oh, how I pray I won't be blind to so much beauty. I pray I will clasp their hands tight to hold onto the practical and so very helpful, and also the truly profound things they teach me as they effortlessly fill deviled eggs and live and speak who they really are.

I wrote my friend, who was coming to dinner and whose apartment I had complimented for its tidiness as I visited her on Saturday. I confessed how I wanted to clean my place top to bottom before she and her husband came. I apologized for not trusting her, knowing it was more important that I offer the honest mess that would open the door to the just-as-we-all-are beauty of Home.

I pray we circle this world with the truth of how we are all lost wanderers when we hide the mess and miss the beauty. I pray we find the courage to live in the integrity of the real; the broken. I pray we open doors to each other and so, too, the Love that holds the only true promise to bring all of us to the Forever Embrace of Home.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to find Your Voice and the Courage to Speak it #AtlasGirlBookClub #TellHisStory

I am so honored to have the post I wrote about #MyFaithHeroine , my beloved Swedish Grandmother, MorMor, Mildred Sandquist Martin (1913-2012) highlighted on my dear friend, Michelle Derusha's, blog. I was chosen as one of three winners in the contest she sponsored for the very worthy promotion of her book, '50 Women Every Christian Should Know' published by Baker Books. I am part of a huge chorus of the extended Martin clan who knows MorMor belongs on this list. Thank you Michelle. The greatest gift is to remember. :)

I will be walking through five weeks of the #AtlasGirlBookClub and the theme this week is VOICE. Join us in asking the hard questions as we walk through Chapters 1-7 of Atlas Girl.

'It is a beautiful fall', this finding your voice, says my friend, Emily. I met her four years ago in my early days in blog-world through her Imperfect Prose link-up and a poem I had written called 'this broken one.'

Poetry was my first real fall into creative voice. Mrs. K. at my junior high wore a teacher-smile as she tried not to cringe reading about 'the peace of love, like a dove, that spring brings after all of the strife of life.' I was proud of my rogue notebook filled with these frivolous words and pondering not directed at any of the perfection of straight A's I was running hard after. And while I see from the eyes of a literary critic the rigid confines of rhyme that almost mock the true art of poetry, my truest notes of voice always find their running rhythm back to it.

The poetry changed in the heights of my reaching bid for independence as I gave myself the freedom to question and find the God-seeker beyond my conservative religious tradition pushing the bounds of Christian faith. Then there was the mystery-laden when all my dreams turned to dust amid the pain of heartbreak, and I wrote a journal full of things like this ::

I wonder when
        this pen~
           cil point
                     will break
                         and create
                    a time 
                       of prime
                       ment as
                                      fades and
                           leaves only
                     a lonely

Confused and a bit dark as I wrote, this voice seemed strange, but the rhyme remained. It was like I was someone new who struggled for a fullness of words. I would look back on this time as a single hinge in my life re-directing understanding of what it means to walk in faith and integrity as a pilgrim longing for Home. 

When I returned to my high school alma mater as a math teacher, I found my former English teacher and showed him these poems. He interacted with them as someone who knew me and was kind and encouraged me to share my art. So I sent some of my 'new poetry' somewhere very unlikely to publish it ;) and received the rejection as a full indictment of my emerging voice. But Mr. Smith also said something that stayed with me : 'math-types make the neatest writers.' He saw math in the form of order and rhyme as a unique representation of my voice--something I had never seen.

Then mama died and the heartbreak that still ached lanced into rivers of muddy and murky and no little blood flow. My only dream that hadn't shattered two years earlier was the one I had been praying for mama's full healing from her chronic illness, beginning a year and a half before the cancer came. All of the well-meaning yet misguided importance that had inspired me became so small in the light of the mystery of grief in this veil of tears. And I lost the beloved voice I trusted most whose letters and spoken wisdom threaded together a multi-lingual, rhyming, math-geek who waxed poetic in the rest between far away adventures. 

But as with every story the Great Author promises to bring to  completion, I found that this voice was never really lost. Through Emily's Atlas Girl blog tour, and the soul-desperation of a life with myriad transitions that almost unnamed me, I found the unmistakable yearning to find and embrace the one-in-all-the-world voice God created and redeemed me to speak. (He is calling you to this too, friend.)

I read an e-book Emily and her friend, Mick Silva, wrote called 'A House that God Built'. (it will soon be available to the public and is highly recommended :) The longing converged into the desire to know and worship God through writing an inspirational memoir. Then Emily introduced me to Jo Ann Fore and I have been walking through a workshop Jo Ann designed called 'Free Your Story.'
I outlined the story arc and chapters of the memoir and began to write. I did not know, but I was pretty sure I had not yet found my voice. I prayed for God to show me this unique face that brings Glory to Him and wrote in anticipation of that 'beautiful fall.' I asked God to weave together a math-geek, Spanish and Hungarian speaker, identical twin, farm girl, urban dweller, theologian, teacher, lost-girl wanderer and long-time youth minister grown from daughter & sister to wife & mama. To the human eye underscored by hissing lies I have heard all of my life it seemed a random jumbled mess of impossible request. But these are not the eyes I have been given. Rather, it's the faith-eyes to see there is a new name the Eternal Abba Embrace has already given me and the words of this voice are growing up into that name.

I wept yesterday as I read Brittany Maynard's story. I wept for the terror of cancer that kills and steals and destroys along the way. And I wept for all that despairs in the clinging to ultimate things bound in this life. I wept in the face of what I know--the death of dreams falling limp through hands on the slippery silk of fleeting days. And I wept for all of the hope that longs with pregnant yearning to be born in the lives of the living dead.

I felt it too. The weight increasing as I write a memoir moving towards a uniquely-voiced memorial of the journey I was graced to walk in caring, along with my beloved family, for my mother. I let the ache pierce deep. Looking fully into this yawning chasm, I prayed for the courage to speak the voice I have been given. I laid down clinging doubt and frivolous desire for fame in a name that begins and ends with me. I picked up the promise of the voice in the wilderness, preparing the highway of our God who is light shining in every darkness and He will not be overcome.

Because it's a world in desperate need of hope that comes in the raw & real, grace-filled & truth-speaking of the Word wrapped in flesh. Those who rise relentless, the fools that will not stop believing and giving voice to the Gospel. The ones who live knowing they are not their own and are willing to die to pride, or being understood, or fear, or the shallow that entices. The ones with courage to lift voices in the harmonic strains of story that bring fullness to the melding song of generations marching through milennia toward the sure light of Redemptive Glory.


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