Thursday, July 21, 2016


It has been years since I was up before 6 a.m. for no reason. (I've documented the very life out of the fact that I'm not a morning person.)

I'm the type of woman who, for example, might stir at the quietest mouse-noise when her husband is up at 5:15 to drive an inmate hours away to the rest of his life. I'm the type who will feel slightly annoyed, then will toss and turn for the next 45 minutes, trying to recapture sleep when what she really wants to do is lay there wide awake and marvel over the fact that her husband (even less a morning person) counts it a high honor be the person who walks with men out of and back into freedom, the kind that takes different shapes and blooms unexpectedly, the kind very few of us understand.

But somewhere in the midst of that false start to my day I realized summer wasn't going to enjoy itself, so I boiled water in a barely lit kitchen while Calvin stood beside me with a wad of toilet paper held at his bleeding nose. "Why are you up so early?" Ruby asked, twisting her curls into a cornrow, biding her time until they could turn on a cartoon.

I was up because I know sometime around January, or even November, I'll look out on the slick, black morning and wonder why I didn't take this opportunity to sit on my back patio and drink tea before seven in a t-shirt.

I wish you could see my world right this second.
Lean in. I'll show you.

Across the alley, a neighbor I don't know at all is seizing these first hours of light to mow his grass. He weaves back and forth in his chain-linked postage stamp, ducking under the metal frame swing set each time. I have never noticed that swing set. How long as it been since a child played on it? Does he miss that?

One block west, I hear the morning commute. We live hemmed in by traffic, it's part of the soundtrack of our life now and honestly, I'm not so sure why I ever saw this as a problem. It's its own kind of quiet, sort of like the stillness of the farm, only less alone.

If you look to my left, you'll see our blackberry bushes unable to contain their enthusiasm. Hand to heart, we have never in our lives grown anything more successfully. And it happened here, where I once thought my farmgirl heart would be buried.

Wind chimes sing from the play house along with the birds, a black squirrel races the edge of a chain link fence-row. Steam rises up from my mug. It's supposed to hit 91 today, and feel nearly 100. I will miss this in a few short months. I will miss this.

Maybe later I'll sit and read on the patio bench Cory made me out of an old headboard and a crib mattress, fenced in by our neighbor's coneflowers. Maybe this breeze will stick around longer than they say.

We waited for all of this, through long icy stretches of crystallized breath, mornings where we needed flashlights to walk to school, those snow-boots days where we imagined this and were tempted to believe it was some sort of urban legend. But those months taught me brand new things. The winter of 2016 will go down as the one that made me believe beauty could be found outside of new growth. It's around us, always. It's not hiding. If I'm being honest, there's part of me that has missed its unobscured views, when my vision could stretch further, past bare limbs. and where my ears didn't have nearly the competition they do right now.

A train whistles down the track. (Some things never change.)

Cory has the van today and his muffler-less car is humbling to drive in a way for which I'm not always spiritually equipped. Aside from orchestra drop-off, we have no plan at all today. Taking inventory last night over barbecued chicken and a just-right pineapple, we agreed these days have been our favorites, but I have a hunch that part of their appeal rides in the fact that they're sandwiched between the going, the playing, the dripping-cone, sunburned, tired-out way summer always has with us.

This is the rhythm of life I keep learning to love, where all of it fits within the slow arc of actual living. Up, around, back down. Begin again. Slow then slower, now hurry up.

I'm telling you, if God can hold us here, if He can catch our eye and show us His bright beauty at every point, if He can promise us summer in winter and winter in July, then He can carry our lost sons and our heartbroken daughters. He can carry us.

It's 7:32 and the neighbor's lawn is mown. But look up from his yard, past his red pickup, past the cardinal that perfectly matches its hue, sitting high on a wire. Find the abandoned swing set and look up - right there. Do you see what I see?

Sometimes, if we bother, if we climb out of bed for no reason with sleep in our eyes and bedhead, we'll catch the unexpected. This world won't stop splitting our hearts and healing them up. We are living, breathing contradictions set into haphazard motion of awkward stops and starts from the foundations of the earth.

But if we're willing to wake up to the world pulsing around us, if we're paying attention, we just might catch the moon in the morning.

Happy Thursday, pals.

PS - Years ago, during our first months in this "new" house, I wrote an essay for a compilation book titled Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption. It includes essays from some of my favorite authors (Kris Camealy, Emily P. Freeman, Seth Haines, Sarah Bessey, to name just a few) and it's available now for pre-order. A couple of months ago, the publisher recorded me reading my piece, which then became the trailer for the publication. I'm honored to share it with you today.