imagining again

We have been casting vision lately.

Though we wrote a marriage manifesto in the weeks leading up to our wedding and our marriage vows at a basement bar several nights before we spoke them in front of God and friends, our first eight months of marriage have been heavy on the doing and light on the planning. Not all bad and not all good, but kind of like the icy cold blast from a garden hose on a hot August day in Iowa… or like the last 100 feet of a winter sprint to the front door of a NY apartment in February. There is no time to think or plan or consider, but enough time to feel the giddy tingles of the moment – the energy that catches in your chest when the shock of cold water hits you or the allure of a warm apartment lobby comes into view.

Nobody casts a vision in front of a spraying water hose or while jingling keys outside an apartment on a frozen February day. Well, I don’t anyway.

Meanwhile, I think all that stuff has been rumbling around. You know – the stuff of “what we want our lives to be like in the first year of marriage, for being a good neighbor, for being a good friend, for when we have kids, for community development, for when we do Lent, for Saturday mornings, for groceries and planning dinner parties and pancakes.”

You know, visions.

I overheard a young, coarsely stubbled man express his fears to a friend at the Starbucks on 51st Street. He said, “Dude, you gotta get me in on your next trip. I mean, I’m 24 and it’s like, I see my cousin – she’s married and has kids. And I see my friends who are married and they just disappear. I need to go to Iceland, Argentina – yeah, man you’re like my friend that is still, like, doing active stuff and living life. I mean, like, this is our prime and I want to do everything you know…”

There was more, of course – talk of places to eat and trending neighborhood and updates on where old friends are now – but I only half listened because I was trying to find a few square feet of quiet city space to sit between work and home group.

I kept wondering what that young man is so afraid of and what has made him afraid.

Last Saturday, as Patrick and I were reading “The Good Life” by David Matzko McCarthy for our Brooklyn Fellows class, the dust settled a little on all the doing and chasing and rushing. We would read a few paragraphs and then let the words tumble around between us and our baby in my belly. We are really very different people, Patrick and me – the way we approach challenges and the way we express sorrow and the way we show love. But, we are similar in that we fear a safe and sheltered life – the kind of life that is insulated (as much as we can control) from struggle and invites others in only when it is convenient. We didn’t really have the words for that to make sense until we let those paragraphs tumble around our Brooklyn apartment.

Comfort is not the goal. Loving is the goal.

How can we love the Lord best with our routines? What neighborhood allows us to live in slow community and love our neighbors with our time and resources? What do decisions about schedules, apartments, baby, and dinner invitations look like when we are not trying to protect our image or our comfort?

We don’t necessarily know the answers, but that’s why there is vision casting. That is exactly why imagining together with community feels so sacred – because God is involved in the mystery of saying “yes” to his heart. He is trustworthy when there is no obvious path for our “yes,” when we are not calm and collected and ready for anything. He is trustworthy when we do not have a plan and do not know how to find one. He is trustworthy when we imagine things that don’t make sense.

Dreaming and delighting in God’s vision for renewal has been a hard thing since William died. I don’t believe it less, but I do participate less. And I have so missed the sacred participation of trusting God to hold steady so all the unknowns of imagination can make wonderful happen.

I think I am ready to start imagining again.

watch over us

In the past couple days, I have:

  • eaten a bag of popcorn for lunch
  • stood out on my fire escape in a snowstorm (a very underwhelming one)
  • used the mom voice to co-workers who are twice my age and raised my mom’s teacher eyebrows at them
  • gone to sleep early
  • had weird dream/nightmares about a giant pizza
  • eaten a personal, Brooklyn organic pizza for dinner (with a side of mint chip ice cream)
  • squatted in the middle of a crowded train after shedding a few winter layers – whatever it takes to prevent the unthinkable, folks
  • sang in every room of the apartment
  • talked for 1.5 hours with my uber wise grandparents
  • wrote and performed a rap over skype to my mom’s 6th grade class (who are in the middle of a hip-hop unit)
  • spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to coax Baby K into acrobatics with folk music
  • read a bedtime story to my favorite Michigan family, who were all snuggled into my nephew’s bed
  • sent a million urgent emails that my office won’t read, about what they are supposed to have done by Friday at 3 pm when the plug is pulled on our current office and we move into our new space

And that’s just the past couple days and that’s not even all of it. I just want to let you in, friend. I wanted you to know it’s not all saltines and sadness over here in the big city. Even though it’s been awhile since I’ve successfully buttoned my pants (let’s be honest, I haven’t done that for a LONG while), we’ve been able to fit a good amount of laughter into these winter days.

I can actually remember when the first laughter happened, after the very dark night of early pregnancy and the flu. I felt okay when I woke up that Saturday and we woke up slowly, smiling. We ate a bit and I still felt okay. (And all the while inside I was saying, “So far, winning!”). I remember, several times, hearing myself giggle and being surprised. What an unfamiliar sound – that laughter – and oh where has it been?

We ran a few errands and I still felt okay, so we got really ambitious. We went to Long Island City with our heads down against an unforgiving wind to get to my coworker’s birthday party. After mingling with the Irish, English, Polish and Spanish accents, we hit up a little cafe in the West Village where our friends were playing. By this time, it was getting respectably late and we were both impressed. On the way to the subway with our silly friends, we stopped to buy what I was craving (Cooler Ranch Doritos) and then took up the whole sidewalk like the younger version of ourselves – up to clean mischief.

I remember thinking how strange it was to be so surprised by my joy – surprised by the sound of laughter and surprised by the feel of a smile stretched across my face. It felt good and illusive all at once, like the longing the C.S. Lewis always talks about.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller recently, at the suggestion of my therapist. It was called, “Praying our Tears” and I should probably listen to it again. “Expect tears, invest tears, and pray your tears,” he said, after reading Psalm 39:12-13 and Psalm 126:1-6.

If we’re talking Psalms, there are more lamentations than any other kind. That makes sense to me – the weight of sorrow needs a place to land. The world is brimming full of it, with the words of even one story. And I have a hard time believing there will be a harvest from my sorrow (Psalm 126:5), if I plant my tears. I am okay to let my sorrow be an end in itself – that thing I crawl up inside when nothing makes sense. And I have been struggling to let sorrow and joy live together.

But God says I have to plant my sorrow. As Keller says, “to see my tears as an opportunity for fruit and growth.” That’s a far cry from where I am now, but I can hear it and that feels like progress. Joy will be the harvest when I plant my tears in compassion for others, in prayer, in love, in patience. Tears actually produce joy, he says. Again, I’m a critic. I believe tears can produce joy (2 Corinthians 4:17), but I am a critic in my weak flesh.

“There’s a kind of joy that comes through avoiding tears – that doesn’t really change you. Then there’s a kind of joy that comes through the tears that does.” – Keller

I’m learning.

His last point answers the question, How do we plant our tears? Prayer. Pray everything – all the biggest and worst and most confusing emotions. Pray them with shaking fists and pray them in the hot shower and pray them in confession kneeling in church on Sunday. Pray. Pray for opportunities and direction and fields and the right soil. Pray for strength to throw out the sloppy, wet messes and pray for belief in what is planted. Pray.

Praying has been hard for me. I’m a steadfast, headstrong believer … but praying is hard sometimes.

This song has been helping. It feels to me like a prayer – one without answers or a lot of boldness, but a prayer that is honest and believing. A prayer that lets me laugh and cry in the same day without having to sort it out.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

shaken and stirred

Kris Orlowski is not in the indie/folk Nashville crowd I usually electronically network to mine for new melodies, but maybe that’s why I’m hooked to his arrangements.

They are not simple – they didn’t just accidentally happen in someone’s garage (nothing against spontaneously inspired music in the middle of the night after friends reunite). These notes are artfully placed – pulled by strings and strums and voices and drums.

Maybe I’m just in that kind of place where music has more sway, maybe I am vulnerable to greater affection. Maybe. But maybe we are designed for such affections to stir us awake. Maybe we are far too easily pleased with the aesthetic menu of the top 40.

I think it’s more than maybe.

I know, not everyone feels a shift in his or her soul at the same sound, it would be silly to expect such a thing in a world with so many glorious differences. But, I do think we were created with a soul that senses beauty and greatness and … well, the fingerprints of the Creator in this created world.

When we have those moments of sight or sound or touch, I think our soul is shaken out of the far too easily pleased rut to desire more of the best the Creator offers. The beauty and earthly glory in music is a signpost that awakens my heart and points to what is most beautiful. Lesser things start to sound flat and dull and pale.

My musical preferences may not be for everyone, but I do believe God is inviting my soul into wakefulness to appreciate what He has made beautiful when the world settles for far lesser things.

This past weekend, I heard the acoustic version of this new song by Leeland and the story of how the song came about. The original words were penned by Lawrence Tribble in the 1700s after he was inspired by the famous preacher George Whitefield (more here) who preached revival during America’s Great Awakening with Jonathan Edwards.

Are we ready to be awake again?

Here are some of my new favorites, shaking my soul from its “too easily pleased” stupor.

Kris Orlowski – All My People
Myles O’Mainnian – Incandescently Happy
Cody Fry – Underground
Sea Wolf – Old Friend

What music shakes YOUR soul into wakefulness?

wake up, wake up

“We have seen the hope of Your healing
rising from our souls – Oh, is the feeling
we are drawing close
Your light is shining through”

This morning, I am singing my heart into wakefulness. I am singing my soul into serenade to the One who gives me voice, the One who gives me notes, the One who gives me breath –

the One who wakened me.

What a glorious thing to be AWAKE in this life – to feel the wind gripped by Autumn and see the sky painted in shades of blue. What a glorious thing to be AWAKE and how desperate the call to wake the still sleeping.

turning up the stones of my own discontent

Today feels like all my hidden sorrows have huddled to make aching war on my lower back. It’s just one of those days where the question, “Oh, how long?” seems to be the only appropriate thing to say, followed by a decided and desperate, “You won’t let me go.”

Isn’t it strange how you start to think the world is falling apart when your body aches / your brother will have face surgery / national politics looks to spin out of control / there might not be enough food this winter for the breadbasket / you’re still trying to figure out how to let love fly like crazy / the song in your soul sounds a little sickly?

No, I guess I don’t think that’s strange at all. Maybe the world is falling apart.

I better start singing this line, “You, You won’t let me go.” And then I better sing it again.

this & that

This will be a day for this equation: music+words=happy Monday! Enjoy these links and pass them along, if your little hearts desires. But most of all and as always
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
even if you aren’t dressing up or filling candy bowls for festivities tonight, there are ALL kinds of opportunities and I know you know it.
  • Are you a fan of Jars of Clay? Please check this out!
  • If Jars of Clay isn’t your cup ‘o tea, you should definitely check out Neulore. I became familiar with this band and frontman Adam Agin through Brite Revolution, in its earlier days. You’ve GOT to check out this album right now! Here’s one of the songs:
     
  •  Let’s see… something to read. Well, on a recent road trip with a very special high schooler, she asked me, “What’s this ‘Lamb of God’ stuff about? I mean I hear it a lot and it’s in songs and I’m just wondering is it a real lamb?” LOVED the question and LOVED the fact that we had several hours to sort it out. At the end, I said, “I know I’m getting worked up about this, but it’s only the beginning – there are SO many ways the Bible speaks that we gloss over! There are all sorts of prophecies in the OT that are later fulfilled in the NT that are simply MARVELOUS. Here is a great list from Peter Cockrell’s blog (he actually got it from Dane Ortlund if you want to re-trace the internet steps). CHECK IT OUT!
  • Have you ever heard of International Justice Mission? Well, you should hear about them. Here is an interview from Qideas, “An Apologetic for Justice.” That’s a good place to start.
  • And Can it Be? Truth, friends.
  • I think I’ve already posted this once, but I ALWAYS need the reminder. What is God sovereign over? A few countries? The weather? My family? Friends? Jobs? The beginning? The end? Evil? Good? Check out this post by Justin Taylor.
Okay, that’s it for now. Enjoy!