Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Palms for Stones

Sunday morning we wielded our palms, waving them somewhat awkwardly while a tangle of kids did their best to show us how to rejoice and be human. The Martin pew was tighter than usual, the regular five of us along with our weekend sister, Avery, Robert (who used his palm primarily to torment a friend in front of us) and his twin boys.

I had woken that morning to a reminder of something I wrote last year on Palm Sunday, "I'm 40 years old and I only ever thought of Palm Sunday as mobs of people waving Jesus into the city. 'Hosanna! Save us!' Moments later, those same people screamed for his death. I've always thought of myself only as the one waving the palm."

It bugged me all morning as I poured bowls of cereal, peeled oranges, and dosed meds, kissing my youngest on the top of his silky head. It niggled at me through the hymns, and into the sermon. Why had I written "moments later" when it was actually days? Why had no one questioned me on this flub a year ago, or even now?

I must have had my reasons, and Instagram posts aren't made for nuance. Anyway, the truth still stands - the ones who praised him evolved into the ones who wanted him dead, worship turned to bloodlust.

It didn't take long at all.


A few nights earlier Cory and I stole away for two rare hours with another adoptive couple. Over burrito bowls and then coffee, we took turns commiserating about all we still don't know and the ways we aren't understood. She shared about the long days spent surviving, the evenings where her heart aches from the taxing work of physically holding anger and grief, sitting with it and in it because to set up camp there means all will not be lost. We tether our bodies to our sons and daughters, and all of us to the shaking ground. We're still here. Just watch us get through this. All will not be lost as long as we seek shelter in low places.

She talked about the dark nights of self-doubt, of shouting when whispering would have been better, of apologizing and believing in do-overs even when we feel most foolish.

I nodded along, remembering those days, those evenings, those nights like I remember the scent of home. Remarkably, their intensity and frequency have faded. It's good for me to notice the slow growth that pushed up through the soil in spite of us.

"It will get better," I promised.


It was Sunday lunch, then, that marked the beginning of the end. There were complaints about the grilled cheese sandwiches, complaints about the milk, complaints about the ranch dressing we dunked tiny carrots into - too tangy, not enough, too much.

Cory was working and though I wanted to relax, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the messes closing in on me, cold leftovers from a weekend where nine people, (three under the age of six,) made ourselves at home.

In quick succession, I went from Having A Plan, to Barking Orders, to Tossing Random Things Into the Trash. We will not live like this. We are not animals. 

One more sharp swerve and a minor argument bloomed into shouting and tears. Before long, I found myself down at eye-level, apologizing.

I wish I could end the story there, or maybe with my invitation to stir up a treat in the kitchen. Lemon bars - cozy shortbread, bright lemon, a dusting of sugar - everything our day had not been. Maybe we can fake it. Maybe we can bake it.

The bars weren't even cooled when we pushed the needle to the outer edge of the album and played it all again. More disaster. More rage. More of me choosing poorly, shouting when whispering would have been better.

More apologizing.

"But you already said you were sorry," he sniffled. "So it doesn't seem like it's true."

The adoring Jerusalem crowd attended to the mundane details of their week, turning imperceptibly from praise to persecution, their self-protection doused with the gasoline of shared fear, until the heat of their fury would be felt to the end of days.

Maybe it took nearly a week.

Or maybe, held against the light of eternity, a week is but a moment.

Maybe the time it takes for a parade to turn into a riot is only as long as it takes for breakfast to turn into lunch.


This year, holy week began with the reminders that I'm not so holy at all. Pride. Anger. Impatience. Discontent. I traded my palms for stones, and I hurled them.

This week marks the beginning of the end.
It is also the end of the beginning.

The best place to start is the truest place, and I am right there with the fickle crowd, triumphant and vengeful.

Savior, healer, redeemer, please rescue us from ourselves. Lead us through the terror and into the empty tomb.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

This is What it Feels Like to Talk to the Wind

Every Wednesday at 10 o'clock I meet up with my friend Kristen, a standing date. Don't be too impressed. After months of pinging texts around, trying to coordinate schedules amid intense deadlines all around, both of us juggling work and life, it was only last week that we decided to simplify and just set it in stone. Coffee, on the regular.

There are others like her. Becca, Julia, my friend Jolene. "Want to grab coffee?" "Let's meet for coffee!" "When can we have coffee?"

Just last week, Silas came in for his after-school hug and drew back with a grin. "Did you go to The Brew today?" he asked, like he'd caught me in a secret, the earthy scent still clinging to my t-shirt and hair hours after I'd been there.

"Yep. I met so-and-so for coffee."

"But I thought you don't like coffee?" he asked, confused that I would say something so obviously untrue.

He's right, of course. I say "coffee" when what I really mean is, "tea."
Social shorthand, I suppose. Coffee is the language most everyone else is speaking. Over time it has become easier to set my default at the common narrative.

It's only coffee.

It's no big deal.


Last winter, while the wind whipped raspy through skeletal Walnut trees and snow collected in the skies but never really fell, I spent a disproportionate amount of time sitting around oblong tables, drinking tap water from paper cups. If you know me at all, if you've read Falling Free, you know Cory and I somewhat reluctantly accepted God's grand calling on our lives to embrace the Ministry of Meetings. PTO, neighborhood association, probation, various boards, IEP meetings where we landed almost by accident. These form the pulmonary artery of our full-time ministry (which is to say our ordinary, daily life. Though the details vary, each of us has one.) It's not as flashy as we imagined.

A few meetings stand out in my mind, not because they were exceptionally well-run or because they had superior snacks, but because they almost broke me. They were the ones that nudged my paradigm on liberty and Christian love toward a more desperate, cynical direction.

The  worst one happened back during that steely, snowless winter, but I can still feel the blood pulsing behind my eyes today. I remember my face on fire, my hands gone cold in my lap, my heart lurching as I sat across from tender-hearted humans unceremoniously plunked down at the edges of acceptability like toddlers in time-out. There would be no egg timer signaling relief. No hug waiting at the end. No cold cup of juice.

I watched in agonizing proximity as stories were drafted for people I care about without their consent. I watched as these scripts were fed back to them, line by line. I watched the lump in their throats as they swallowed them down like junk nourishment. And I wondered - why is no one screaming? How is it that whole lives can be shattered without making a sound?

For the past year I've been on a fast-track to catching a glimpse of what it's like to be hated by people who hold all the power in their own slick fists. The powerful rely on different tactics, some take their shot at distraction with easy smiles and honey tongues, others go straight for the kill, refusing eye contact, talking over you, taking phone calls as you sit low at their mercy, rubbing it in that while it's your life hanging in the balance, it's of no consequences to them.

I am new to these meetings, but my friends are not.
I say some things. I listen. I watch.

I have seen that when your future is painted grimly enough, you might hold onto your life at the expense of the truth. When you are told often enough that you don't matter, that you're a problem, a liar, a mistake, that you aren't worth the air you breathe, it is only so long before you fold into yourself and try to disappear, storing up your voice in the storm clouds within. It is only so long before you believe your best shot for redemption is to speak only the words Power wants to hear.

"They kept saying you punched him, but you told us you didn't."

"No, I never punched him. I only grabbed his shirt."

"But in the meeting you said it, too. You said 'when I punched him'."

"Well, that's what they always call it. So that's what I call it when I'm talking to them."

What are you having today, sweeping devastation? Or relief? 

Coffee? Or Tea? 


They, the powerful, are louder.  Bigger. Fiercer, they believe.

They are the wind, and they'll carry the truth away, if we let them.
But we don't have to go.

Faced with destruction staged in the polite, midday sun, we can surrender or we can rise up together, a rogue garage band hellbent on breaking the sound ordinance.

We don't have to go.

We can insist upon having each other's backs at the expense of being on the right side of Power. We can grab hold of each other and sing like we mean it, letting their hot air swirl around us like redemption's flames, igniting our purpose - to stand for truth and for justice, especially when we're told it's none of our business.

What the wind forgets is that it actually makes us stronger. This is the resistance training of injustice. It bends us, but we snap back, our roots a little deeper, our stance a little wider.

We don't break.

We reach for the resilience born of struggle. We join the fight, because if our friends aren't free, we aren't either. If their voices have been silenced, we'll scream until theirs heals. We'll listen until they hear it for themselves. And then we'll hand them a megaphone.

Our roots thicken, tangling underground as we hedge together to break the howling wind.

I'm getting a bit existential here, I know. What I'm really trying to say is that even when it feels futile, even when we walk out of meetings with our faces on fire, even when we are patronized, even when we're given the side-eye, even when they doubt and disparage us, even when they imagine the worst of us and talk smack, even when they mentally check out or double down, we can can value the truth - everyone's truth. Shared suffering, even when we only get a taste, is the communion of kingdom vitality.

Standing next to each other, we keep talking to the wind, not because it changes anything, but because it might.