A Few Ends

I thought I’d share a few snippets of what I’ve been working on so y’all don’t think I’ve totally neglected writing. I hope you find a line or a phrase or a word or a meter that you appreciate.

One for Amy…

Oh open your heart, love

To imperfect lives, love

Sometimes true beauty shines

In how we give

Of our time, love

And all that we are, love

You’ll never find another heart like her

And how about this…

You can smell it–

If you Breathe in slowly–

The cool and the crisp

Of Superior.

And if you silence your heart–

And you silence your phone–

You can hear Her soft whispers of love

To the shore.

One for the guy who doesn’t love me…

I’m  so aware

Of your whiskers and eyes

Your fingernails and

Your guitar.

Your warm, gentle fingers

So treacherously close

It takes all of my will

To keep mine where they are.

And one for a friend we made in Eau Claire in May, who is now eight months past her brain tumor removal…

Miracles happen every day

Every breath you breathe, every step you take

And every beat of your heart

It echoes the very heart of God, the steady pulse of Love

Each day is a gift

What will you do with it?

Pax, yo.

Sar

The Master & The Blueberries

My sister is a Master Blueberry Picker.

Two summers ago, I sat in the sand with Maggie and her son, and we picked almost as many blueberries as we ate. The company was wonderful, the fellowship tender. We spoke of the heart and how it learns to love, how it breaks, how it heals, and how it learns to love all over again. She asked about a friend of mine, a man friend that I had been interested in for some time, and in my anxious attempt to thwart the discussion, I stood, stretched, and sought a bluer patch. Maggie stayed right there, her knees planted among the sandy-hilled roots of the ever-spreading blueberry plants. She spoke of her husband, how she had dared to ask her Heavenly Father for a few specific things in her future mate, and how radically He had answered her heart. I had made a list, too, I said. Had I asked God, she challenged in her gentle way. I turned, unsettled, and looked for another spot to pick. Maggie suggested we make a blueberry pie from scratch for dessert, even though neither of us had done so before. 

All the while we sat in the warm sand, Maggie stayed in one spot. I chose a new spot every ten or fifteen minutes. While my nervous anxiety had me always looking for something new, something more comfortable, something better, Maggie’s patience touched every branch of every plant, gently searching for each berry as if it was the most important blueberry ever. She was content in that one space, always seeking and always finding another blueberry. 

I thought of this again tonight as I plucked the beautiful blues from their  stems. I took care to find each berry on a given plant before reaching for a new plant. And even then, I found that returning to a plant often yielded more berries. 

Isn’t it that way with God? So often we hurry from one “God Moment” to the next, looking for something bigger and better and more amazingly provable. Yet, when we do this, we miss so many tiny morsels of God’s real presence and provision in our lives. 

Sit quietly, friends. Allow your fingers to find each berry. And be content.

That is my aim.

Pax Christe.

Sar

The Tangled Sweater

This is a story about a girl who may or may not bear any resemblance to me. Let’s call her Shhhhhhara. Yeah. Shara.

On Friday, Shara was driving home from work, singing at the top of her lungs to the soundtrack from That Thing You Do (aka: Best Movie Ever). The afternoon was sunny and beautiful, but the air was cool enough to relieve the warmth. Shara lived for days like this. Having recently been diagnosed with Lupus, Shara had–as of late–been trying to dress in layers. The Upper Michigan weather had been so fluctuant, and layers helped her to manage the effects of the climactic extremes. On the day of our story, Shara had chosen a bright (not neon, but bold) pink three-quarter shirt under a lightweight black cabled sweater. Bold colors look great coupled with black, by the way.

So there was our girl, driving home from work with the windows down and the music blaring. She realized for the first time in a week that she was feeling good, and decided to celebrate by taking off her sweater. Now if you think that taking off a sweater while driving is a bad idea, you’re right. However, it is a well-established fact among Shara’s friends and family that she can do this without unbuckling her seat belt or taking her eyes off the road. It’s all about the steps, the process, she tells people. In fact, Shara has done this several dozen times in her life and has never had a problem or caused an accident.

Shara gripped the wheel with her left hand and carefully maneuvered her right arm out of the black sleeve. Leaving the right sleeve limp on her shoulder, she took the wheel in her dominant hand and slithered out of the weaker sleeve. All that remained was her head. She lifted the sweater over her head and —

TIGHT.

Not good, Shara. Not good.

She slowed her highway speed to 40mph. There was no one behind or before her, or she never would have attempted this in the first place. Shara glanced down and saw the problem. Her left sleeve was caught in the back of the seatbelt. No problem. She reached back and pulled it free, then tried to pull the sweater under the shoulder strap of the belt.

TIGHTER.

Really not good.

A car appeared in her rearview mirror long enough to signal before passing her. The other driver glanced as he passed, double-took, and then shook his head with a laugh as he cruised by. Shara finally did the smartest thing in this story.

She pulled over.

It was there, on the side of the road by Marquette Mountain, in a tangled sweater-seatbelt with the Shrimp Shack playing on the stereo that Shara had a beautiful, unexpected, ridiculous God-moment.

How often do we look at our lives and think we understand what God is doing? We think that our understanding enables us to correctly (and safely) behave in a way that will bring about the (assumed) end result. The truth is, just like Sarah in the Bible, when we try to make God’s promises come about on our own, we mess everything up. We cause ourselves more heartache and grief simply because we forget that God is the Author of our story. And when we realize that we’ve done it–that we’ve caused more trouble than we’re worth–there’s only one thing to do: Stop. Stop and Untangle.

In more than one regard, this is where I am in my life. I’m untangling a lot of things–music, writing, theology, poverty, purpose, love, family, health. I’m stopped. I am overwhelmed with the realization that I don’t understand any of it. I want to understand, and I thought I understood–but I don’t. I’m caught in my own sweater, and every wrong move tightens around my neck like a noose. You can understand, then, why it’s necessary for me to take time and not rush this process. I’ll get it all worked out. I know I will. I just can’t promise it’ll happen as quickly as it should. I have always needed to do things in my own time, and this is no different.

I’m so thankful that God allows us to pull over and untangle!

Pax,

Sarah

No sweaters were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Distant

“You’re distant, Sarah,” he said. “Hauntingly distant.”

I answered, I questioned, I answered, “I am.”

How can I not be after the week I’ve had?

The year I’ve had. The life I’ve had.

And I’m so angry; I’m not even sure what about.

Maybe it’s my lovers, or my brother, or my father, or God.

But I keep losing everyone I love.

How can I not be distant? Tell me, friend–how can I not?

Cause there are some things you can never unlive–

No matter how hard you try.

So let’s stop pretending that Jesus will fix it.

He can’t undo the choices I’ve made.

And I’m so weary of the grief like I’m weary of snow.

I wish it would melt and flood me so I can feel whole.

But I’m so buried beneath it all.

I can’t feel anything anymore.

How can I not be distant?–I’ve lost everyone I love.

And I’m losing my mind here, in the chaos of it all.

So when you walk away, friend, I understand.

I’ll be here, distant and alone, in the end.

Counten Hands & God’s Voice

For the last week, I’ve been listening to a worship cd from 1988. It was my favorite as a child (more on that some other time), and it still resonates the strings of my spirit. One of  the songs tells us to “lift up your countenance,” and it has kept me smiling all week–not because I’m choosing to lift my countenance, but because I remember being a child and thinking they were singing, “lift up your counten hands.” I have no idea what that would even mean, but in a world of hand-raising Christians, it made sense to my 8-year-old brain. 

Isn’t it funny when we think we understand something, and later realize how mistaken we were? It doesn’t make us heathens. It doesn’t make us obstinate. It just makes us mistaken.

So often, this applies to my hearing of God’s voice. He speaks to me in quiet, intimate moments (like dreams), and I awake with this certainty of what He has said, realizing later that I misunderstood what He spoke.

There is a friendship in my life right now that has been the unfortunate recipient of such a situation. God definitely spoke to my heart about this person–even before we had met–and I misunderstood what God was telling me and why. My friend has been incredibly understanding, but it would be dishonest to say it hasn’t caused some tension between us.

All because I didn’t understand what God was speaking to me, so I used my best logic at the moment and tried to make sense of it.

Still, I have to tell you…there is no shame in mistaking. 

There’s a verse in one of the Pauline epistles (I can never remember which) where we are encouraged to “only let us live up to what we have already attained.” I have loved that exhort for many years now. It reminds me that God does not expect me to have everything figured out; He doesn’t expect me to walk according to some truth I haven’t yet learned; and He doesn’t expect my fallible self to perfectly understand His infallible self when He speaks. He expects me to live according to what I’ve learned and taken to heart.

For me…today…that means a shift in how I respond to His voice. It means prayerfully considering His words and asking His Spirit to make clear to me what He is saying. 

Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you hear God clearly and seek to understand His words.

Pax Christi.

Sar

Broken Beauty

A poem. 

Alone in darkness,
void — Her shame,
a longing gaze
through time outstretched.
She searches, searches
long — and finds
no star can
hold Her fury, wretched.

She yearns to know
and to — be known,
Her waxing, waning,
pulsing tide,
bound to a Rock
She does — not love.
Her lifeless, listless
course in stride.

He finds Her cold
and — wandering,
engages Her
with steady gaze;
No shifting love, but
certain — True,
with hope and warmth 
for every day.

Revealing all the things
She’d — lost —
the things She is,
both joy and strife.
And in His eyes, 
She finds — Herself,
brings broken beauty

now to life.

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1

A new year is the perfect time for a Genealogy Do-over! Many of us were genealogy addicts long before we had learned anything of the process, the resources, the citing of sources, etc. A do-over allows us the chance to go back, to start from scratch and implement some of those techniques and habits that (we think) would make our research more effective.  So let’s get to it. I invite you to join me (and countless other genealogists and bloggers) on this incredibly exciting and frightening 13-week journey. Be sure to follow Thomas MacEntee over at geneabloggers so you know what we are focusing on each week.

Week One Goals:

1) Setting Previous Research Aside

I’m pretty sure I can do this. One of my primary reasons for embarking on this adventure is my frustration with my previous research! After losing my digital copies of all the records I have (thank goodness for hard copies!), I thought this was an excellent time to start over. This do-over is quite timely for me. My folders and binders aren’t exactly inaccessible, but I don’t feel any particular draw to them at present.

2) Preparing to Research

As I think is true of many of us, my research habits have been sort of…seat of the pants. I research when I have time, when I have energy, when I have an inkling, or when someone asks me a question I cannot answer. This, sadly, does not work. It makes my research lack the uniformity I desire. One of my biggest problems is that I’m not organized about my research.

In other crafts/hobbies/pastimes/obsessions, I tend to gather the materials at the beginning of a project and keep them together until I’m finished. I confess, I have not been so diligent about this with genealogy research. My goal here is to gather the items I know I will need, and keep them together in a tote bag so I know exactly where they are at all times (and so I don’t have to hunt for them every time I want to work on research). Thomas encourages us to “make a list of items that you must have available when you are researching.” These are the items I will keep in my tote bag!

  • A new genealogy research notebook (because who doesn’t need a new notebook?);
  • My genealogy flash drive;
  • A folder with blank forms (pedigree, individual & family group record, research log, correspondence log, and source log);
  • A folder for forms-in-process;
  • My trusty BIC (because no other pen will do);
  • A copy of my research goals, as listed below.

3) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Here, we are challenged to list five most important tenets by which we will research. This is difficult, because researching often becomes so exciting or frustrating that we forego all form. Perhaps all the more reason to commit to a process! Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Begin an end with a “to do” list;
  • Cite and log all sources;
  • “Track all work, even dead ends, negative evidence and non-productive searches;” (thank you, Thomas!–what a great reminder!)
  • Stick to a twice-weekly schedule: Tuesdays for research, Fridays for processing and preparing;
  • Name and date all work.

There it is! There’s my Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over. I’m super excited about next week! Can I hold out until then? Sure…I suppose I can spend some time preparing my bag and locking away my old records… :)

Good luck! And let me know if you’re in!

Pax Christi,

Sarah