keep it holy

This Christmas my nuclear family began a new tradition: the advent wreath. With four candles each representing Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love (and sometimes a fifth for the Christ child), the Sundays leading up to Christmas are acknowledged and celebrated. This is not something I saw growing up. None of the various denominations I floated between had the advent wreath in their list of kept rituals. I have a cynical history with rituals in the church. I didn’t fit in at church and I was wary of its people – that extended to the weird things they did. Baptism was weird and worse it was public, in front of people – in front of people I didn’t trust. Worst of the worst, they said I should do it. And really there is no quicker route to digging my heels in the ground than for someone to tell me I need to do something. (“Or else? Hahahahahaha I’ll show you!”) Rightfully so, it wasn’t until I found personal meaning in baptism that I went through with it. As my now husband and I got closer to engagement I made the connection that a baptism was like a wedding. You don’t NEED a wedding to be married. And having a wedding doesn’t mean your marriage will be healthy and good. But from intimate elopements to grand 400+ events, it can be meaningful and lovely to share and celebrate your commitment with the world.

I decided I wanted to be baptized, in spite of my nauseating public anxiety. I was in college and so I searched my college town for a church I felt connection with. It took a few months (and dodging several voice mails from the local megachurch), but I found it. It was aging and small. The sanctuary was beautiful with its dark wood and stained glass. No more than 25 people filled the pews on Sunday. Every week they served free spaghetti on paper plates to broke college students and young families in the yellowed basement with flickering lights. The preacher was young and black. He took me out to coffee and we talked faith and square pegs in round holes. I still doubted church people too much to feel at home, but I didn’t feel uneasy within those walls and it was an improvement I was eager to grab hold of. I was incredibly nervous that day. As I stood in the back room I physically held my legs to try and stop them from shaking but my white robes fluttered for the entire fifteen minutes I waited for my turn in the tub.

I went home for winter break and when I returned the megachurch had bought the building for secondary use.

Despite one parent rocking a fussy babe and the other preventing a toddler from touching the flickering candles, lighting the wreath and sharing verses became my favorite part of the Christmas season. It felt weird and sacred and just right. It is these very same reasons that we have decided in the new year we will begin honoring the Sabbath.

2017-12-30 05.22.56 2.jpg

Christianity and Judaism have differing views on the Sabbath, or Shabbat. I find myself falling in the grey area between the two and that’s alright with me. I’ve read about the Lord’s Day superseding the Sabbath, and Sunday versus Saturday. Honestly? I’m not touching any of that with a ten foot pole. I believe we should do what draws us in to goodness and stay away from what pulls us from it – that is going to be intimately different for each one of us. If you want your Sabbath to be every Tuesday except when Thursdays fall on the 14th day of the month then good grief you knock yourself out, ok? Shalom. There’s something to be said for doing the “wrong” thing for the right reasons. Jesus was a bit subversive regarding the Sabbath and I like his style. Not everyone will agree or understand this – that is ok. They aren’t necessarily wrong, either, if what soothes me chafes them. I’m searching within different denominations and faiths to find what resonates with my heart. It’s not about self righteousness, but about intentionally seeking out God, finding Him in the nooks and crannies of my life, and bringing it out into the sunlight.

For us, for right now, that means Sabbath and Saturday. Sabbath is meant to be a day free from burden. Truth time: going to church is a burden. It is something I wholeheartedly want to do of my own volition and it is HARD WORK getting little arms and legs dressed and out the door before the last hymn is sung. Spending the rest of the day without housework or cooking would be a hugely stressful shot in the foot of my Monday. This is not a recipe for having praises of the Lord or my husband or my children on my lips. But Saturday? Yeah, we can do Saturday.

It was a great joy and privilege spending time reading about Shabbat and how Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Atheistic alike find and cultivate rest. What does Sabbath look like and what does it not? This is my Sabbath. No work, no shopping, minimal technology, minimal cooking. Family, friends, rest, joy. It looks like fresh flowers and warm bread – fairly universal symbols of life, joy, comfort, peace. It looks like four lit candles – three for each family member and a fourth for every small body who has been with us in differing degrees and reasons of temporary. It looks like letting the dishes and laundry lie and trying to pretend I don’t care. It looks like praising God for it all.

Friends, what is your Sabbath? What does your holy taste like? What feels sacred? No matter what doors you do or don’t or never walk into on Sunday morning there is Sabbath for you. It will probably look a little different than mine. And God, isn’t that beautiful? Weave yourself into the tapestry.

2017-12-30 05.22.55 2.jpg

animal

what an honor it is

to be

half barbaric

half divine

animals made in the image, the heart, the strength of God

what a burden

what a reckoning

what a legacy

chosen to be partly of the heavens, partly of the wood

greasy, gritty, holy

licking our bloody chops clean before communion

washing the muck from our white robes; god-beast

 

can you be wholly anything when you are a half-breed?

i think we have it wrong

we do not have to tame anything

water crushes in waves and cushions your brain

fire comforts and ravages entire cities

divinity is just a different kind of wild

loaves and fish: on showing up anyway

I don’t know. I don’t know their names or their faces. Or why or what home they come from. I don’t know what they’ve been through or when or if they’ll go from here. I honestly don’t even know how we’ll do this at all. All I know is that we have to.

The day I found out I was pregnant with Margo I knew something was wrong. Hand to God the very second I looked down at those devastatingly blue lines, these words scrolled across my mind: “Something bad is going to happen.” But I swallowed them down and opened the bathroom door and on shaky feet brought the test to my husband. Five months later when we went to the hospital because I was leaking, the midwife tested the fluid and looked up at me. Not a breath passed by before once again, I knew. “We’re going to lose her. She’s not going to make it.” I knew, I knew, I knew and it did nothing. Knowing does nothing.

Two days later I sat empty and sad, hollow and soft in the thin, starchy, pink gown. The one with buttons for nursing your alive and well newborn. Hours before I sat crying alone in the dark, my arms wrapped around myself like a prayer. Like maybe if I held on tight enough I could stop my backstabbing uterus from contracting around my fragile daughter. Eventually my ever so steadfast crisis mode clicked on, the tears stopped, and I stood to pack my things for Labor and Delivery. And somehow my heart kept beating. Ever since that day it has been a whisper and an ache in my bones – foster. 

I don’t know how, but I know I have to. There have been things in my life that I wanted to do. In fact, my anxiety makes anything I want to do something I want to do badly; I don’t like waiting. Even with all that urgency in my veins I have never felt anything like this. This is not a “thing I want to do”. I mean, it is. But, it’s not a thing. It is a calling. I like that word. Calling. I use it a lot in regards to my faith. We are called. We are called to do that, and that, and that. I am called to do this.

Call. It has become a heavy and fervent word.

Since beginning the process to get our license I have second guessed myself a thousand times daily. Save for the days when everything is magical and easy and I think to myself, “Oh hell yeah I’ve got this. Look at me – parenting the shit out of this tough cookie. Well done, Rachel.” Very quickly however, the universe realigns itself back into chaos and I wonder as minutes and routines pass by, “Where is a stranger’s baby going to fit into any of this?” At 8pm when my toddler is running naked through the house, being chased by her father wielding a toothbrush, I look inward and upward to ask, “How?” Faithfully the answer always comes, “Just show up.”

And you know what? Thats exactly what I am capable of doing. I don’t get it perfectly. A lot of the time I don’t even get it well. I curse and I shop at Target too much. Our house could use some new carpet and we have frozen pizza every week. But I can show up. Ragged, but here. This has become my mantra when I can’t possibly understand how my meager offerings will be enough. Just. Show. Up.

Just show up. With your store bought muffins and your dying plants. With your endless fatigue and no bra. Bring your OCD, your anxiety, your depression. Come with your car on it’s last legs and your walls with peeling paint. Bring your debt and your yoga pants. Show up and watch God feed the multitudes with your tiny townhome pantry.

They are here now – right now. They don’t have the time to wait around for perfect people. But they can make do with me.

“Learn to do right; seek justice.

    Defend the oppressed.

Take up the case of the fatherless;

    Plead the case of the widow.”

Isaiah 1:17

water

how can broken people heal a shattered world?

maybe we can’t.

maybe we’re not 

supposed to.

what if we just wait for the flood?


it cannot be much longer until God regrets, undoes

what we’ve said They’ve done

our veins pulse with shame, for shame

we are the drought

f o r    s h a m e.

dear daughter: a letter to my wildfire child

Dear daughter, the world cannot and will not love you like I do. It is simply not possible. You see, your veins are continuations of mine. When I was growing in my mother’s womb I held you already inside of my own, matryoshka nesting dolls of women.

Dear daughter, you are golden like honey and also flame. People will try to consume you then pull away, scorched. Do not let them douse you to ashes. Do not let them have your sweetness and not your heat.

Dear daughter, you are not broken. At least, not any more so than the rest of us. You are not to be fixed. You are to be taken whole and loved entirely.

Dear daughter, I have patience enough for you and when my stores run low I will dig deep and find more. You are worthy of time and understanding and effort.

Dear daughter, know your flaws but neither justify nor apologize for them.

Dear daughter, listen to the voice in your belly when it prods you to speak louder. Understand that passion can scare people who are not ready for it. Get loud anyway.

Dear daughter, there is peace and goodness in silence, too. Understand that reserve can scare people who are not ready for it. Be still anyway.

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of the world. Intelligence is far superior to beauty. Pretty is not your purpose.

Dear daughter, do not subscribe to the mistakes of your mother. Kindness matters far more than intelligence. Superior is not your purpose.

Dear daughter, know that God is love and love is God’s work and above all, above all, above ALL it is what we are called to do. Your self, your family and friends, the man who cut you off in traffic, and the people you cut out for your own peace and health. Let love humble and restore you with the rise and set of the sun.

Dear daughter, balance is a facade. Behind its serene mask a toxic perfectionism is haunting. Let yourself bounce freely and at times wildly from one state to another. Label your days good or bad but never yourself. Allow yourself to be human – hung intentionally between animal and divine.

Dear daughter, remember wherever or however you wander there is a place for you by my side or in my arms. Come what may, I have always been and will always be a home.