Monthly Archives: May 2014

Negative Space…

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We were driving along the high rocky coast of the Presidio. The Golden Gate was at our back, the large mirror of the Pacific at our feet.

“The light, it’s blinding,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“The light off the water, it’s blinding. I love how it sets off the negative spaces between the trees.”

I watched the tall cypresses for a moment, turning my head to one side and the other to catch the trees in color, easily delineated from each other. Then back to the middle, low into the sun I looked, to see the lengths of them fuse together into a mass of black cracked only by blinding white splinters. I wanted to carve it, to gouge the long slivers of light out of a block.

“Do you ever think God works backwards?” I said.

“How so?”

“Creates the negative spaces first and lets them determine form.”

“I don’t think it matters,” he said.

“No?”

“No. Either way, it’s not unintentional.”

It’s not unintentional. Like the edges of a thing and the shapes it creates in relationships are of no surprise.

And I wonder about my edges, the details to which God committed in my creation and the ones that were left to be defined by experience. I wonder at the beauty of the negative spaces between me and each of my friends, each of my children, my husband, how the edges of me and the edges of them form a new shape between us, sometimes as tangible as the stuff in the middle.

How much can you tell about a form from the bumps and hollows of its edges? Does the fact that I love the wind speak of something in my soul? Or does my soul speak into me a love of the wind?

And I wonder at the beauty that is the negative space between me and God drawn in detail from the heights of my victories and depths of my weakness, Jesus, the perfect shape between us.

Does it matter whether God created my details for you or for another, or if my essence or experience determined them, inward or outward, negative or positive? It’s not unintentional.

By My Name…

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My baby has started saying, “Momma”.

I’m not sure if he’s actually communicating or just repeating a sound. He says it all the time in the direction of everything. He yells it at his water cup, his food dish. He says it when he wants to nurse, be picked up, or go to sleep. So I didn’t think it was talking, until today.

Today, I realized that I am Momma. I am everything, and that “Momma” could only more accurately be translated as “need” or “want”. I am the only way to water, food, nursing, my arms, or his crib. I am the way. I am Momma and the answer to everything is Momma. He asks for everything by saying my name.

It’s much like the study of Job we just finished. Job asks a lot of questions. Why me? Why this? Did I do something wrong? Where are you? Can you hear me? Why don’t you just kill me? Why was I born? Why do I have to live through this? How is this love? Why is this justice? How is this ok?

And God finally answers him. He answers with himself. God is his own answer, by his own name he swears, to everything. God’s answer to every one of Job’s questions is, “Let me tell you who I am.” And he goes on to give Job the only answer that Job ever needed, needs, and will need. God tells Job who he is. And it works. Job is satisfied with one name, one answer, for everything.

Supercitizen…

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San Francisco is the city of the Supercitizen. As a citizen you follow the laws and are conscientious about the space you share. But the Supercitizen’s heart is larger. It has the capacity for more. The Supercitizen is aware that there are also many unwritten laws that you must follow and do your part to enforce wherever possible. You don’t just recycle, you recycle and compost. You tote reusable water bottles with you wherever you go. You bring your own bags. You eat healthy (Supercitizen himself is vegan) and organically. You take public transportation. As a Supercitizen you must even have a responsible amount of children.

(I often get guarded glances from Supercitizen as she looks, looks again, and then counts my children. The resources are everybody’s resources, after all, and reserving more than your fair share for your drippy nosed progeny is just greedy. I have never been referred to as a “brood” more than I have in the past two months.)

Well, one of these unwritten laws is that we are brother to all creatures, not a bad one, yet, it often lies in direct conflict with the written and, mind you written everywhere, law of “Dogs must be on leash”. Somehow this rule seems to be generally ignored by everyone in San Francisco. That is to say, everyone’s dogs in the entire city of San Francisco are so special and well-behaved that the rule does not apply to them.

The first time I took the kids to the beach by myself I spread a blanket and nursed the baby on the sand while the other two danced in the crashing waves. It was a blissful moment marred only by the sudden appearance of three dogs who ran around and over our blanket, sniffing my baby while he was attached to my boob, getting sand over all of the shoes, clothes, water bottles, myself and baby. Sitting and nursing is a rather vulnerable position to be found in when approached by three fearless strange dogs. I looked helplessly around for the owners who I discovered behind me, sitting quietly, leashes in hand, indulgently watching their dogs say hello.

It causes problems occasionally as my daughter is rather terrified of dogs, well, just their heads. She’ll pet their backsides all day long. But she’ll run right out into the street to avoid their heads. So when your big jolly dog comes up and sniffs her and she runs out into the street because I don’t have any hands free it doesn’t much matter how friendly your dog’s intentions.

Now, I realize it sounds like I have a big problem with this and I don’t, for the most part. I understand some people see their dogs as their children. And I have seen many extremely well-trained dogs. But sometimes the rules are not just there to be restrictive, people, but protective.

For example, at Ocean Beach there are many many leashes, and none of them are actually attached to anything. We were there once and it felt like it was going to be a problem. Like so many preschoolers unsupervised. And the little dog next to us was asking for it, yapping and nipping at the heels of every dog that went past. Sure enough, after a while we saw a large dog grab the little pup and wrestle it under the water trying to drown it. There was splashing. There was yelling. There was a whole crowd of Supercitizens who rushed to save the little dog, who glowered at the owners of the big dog, who protested outrage and disbelief. There was no way to reach the little dog or pull off the big dog because neither one was wearing a leash. And, mind you, neither dog walked away with a leash on. My kids were lucky enough to witness this outbreak of survival-of-the-fittest, with all of its subsequent inquiries. “Mommy, why was the dog doing that?” The owner of the small dog who was camped out next to us tried to initiate an indignant conversation with me about the big dog’s behavior. I settled on squinting dubiously.

And today, we went to Mountain Lake Park. I was down by the lake watching the kids and conversing with Supercitizen who was watching his kids. Supercitizen was very concerned about a small container of cake that had been left for the pigeons. He made reference numerous times to the sign stating “Do Not Feed the Animals”. But, remember now, a citizen may be concerned about the rules not being followed, but this was Supercitizen. And Supercitizen was very concerned about the unhealthiness of the cake for the pigeons. “I mean, are they supposed to eat cake?” Like in the wild, Mr. Supercitizen? No, I doubt they eat cake in the wild.

And along comes a jogger, leashes wrapped decoratively around her arm. Two dachshunds and beagle pup ran along beside her. The beagle pup, though, decided suddenly to go the other way. She had to run after him yelling his name as if he were a runaway toddler, only with two more legs and faster. We entertained the dachshunds for the lady until she returned with the beagle that at this point saw the pigeons. He did what any beagle pup would do when faced with a cooing pile of pigeons. Indeed, he did what my five year-old son does when confronted with a cooing pile of pigeons. He ran at them. Only, the beagle’s instincts run a little deeper. I doubt my son would know what to do with a pigeon if he actually caught one, but the beagle knew. The beagle was all teeth and going for lunch.

Supercitizen intervened immediately. Defender of pigeons, their diet, and all laws pertaining to them, written and unwritten placed himself between the beagle and the birds. The words were sharp. As well, the looks exchanged between the jogger and Supercitizen.

Supercitizen shook his head at the dog’s behavior. Jogger lady shook her head and took her dogs further down the shore. Supercitizen took a parting look at the gluten-loaded-trans-fatty cake that would be the death of the pigeons. Jogger lady adjusted the leashes around her arm. And we went home from the park, just another day in the city.

Stellar Parenting Secrets…

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My children get compliments frequently on their behavior. Just yesterday someone said, “My, but don’t they play well by themselves?” I nod like it’s complicated and has taken great effort, but it’s really quite simple.

Would you like to hear my perfect parenting secret? Would you like to know why my children are responsible, capable, and can entertain themselves?

It is because their mother is a flake. But, seriously though, it’s true.

Yesterday I went to register my son for kindergarten. I loaded up all the kids and drove down to his new school. I parked and put two dollars in the meter for an hour, just in case it took that long. I thought I’d take the handicap entrance with the stroller which led us on an inadvertent tour of campus and to an elevator tucked in a closet. I ended up asking directions from a very helpful fourth grader and finally found my way to the office only to discover that I had forgotten to bring the requisite paperwork.

That is correct. I did not forget one paper, nor two, but three separate pieces of paper that were required.

The office lady apologized, “I’m sorry, I should’ve told you.”

She looked so genuinely abashed I had to tell her the truth, “Oh, you did. I just forgot.”

When we went back later my five year-old son said, “Got the forms, Mom?”

He’s going to be responsible, see? And this is the key to stellar parenting. Well, and being lazy.

And there’s no faking lazy, if you’re concerned about a mess it won’t work. You have to really not want to get off the couch.

So that when they ask, “Mom, can I have a glass of water?”

You can sincerely say, “I think you can get it yourself.”

“Mom, can I have a snack?”

“Only if you get a bowl of raisins and bananas for everyone.”

It comes easier to some. And that is why my kids are especially self-sufficient, because I’m lazy.

And, then, there’s that bit about me being a writer. Which means all day long I’m walking around with a vacuous look on my face listening to the voices inside my head and agreeing to everything my kids say with a dull murmur. My kids read books to each other. All arts and craft supplies are fair game and they can get out and put away everything all by themselves. My five and three year-old can make their own breakfast and lunch. Why? Because Mom’s writing.

Don’t worry. I still get a chance to screw them up. Because at some point I manage to get involved, play games, take them to the park, and say impulsive words that mark their delicate egos indelibly.

Let’s see … flake, lazy, preoccupied. I have so much wisdom to give! Who knows? Maybe someone will come along, read my blog, and give me an offer to write a parenting book. Maybe? Anyone?

Hebrews 10:14…

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My favorite Bible verse, currently, is Hebrews 10:14: “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Since I have admitted my need and accepted Jesus he covers me. When God looks at me, whenever he looks at me, he sees Jesus. I am perfect as Jesus was perfect every minute of every day, in dark, in light, I am Jesus, he’s my brother.

I have been perfected. Even as I am being made holy, even as I get angry and lose my temper and am cruel and selfish, even as I strive to conquer self and bring all my little wills into submission to God, even as I am in the process of being made holy. God did not withhold his fellowship until I became perfect, he made me perfect and is in fellowship with me even now as I am being made holy.

Just as the Israelites found themselves in the promise land but still had to conquer the land, grow to fill the land, and drive out the unrighteous. So I am in the promised position of perfect sanctification, even as I drive out my own will and replace it with Jesus’s.

And this is what it means to me to say his grace is sufficient. It is enough in any given moment to bridge the gap, whatever amount there lies, between me and perfection. Not that perfection is something I attain to, in and of itself, but that in perfection is the only place where I can boldly approach the God of all perfection, all morality, all justice, and truth and rest with him in his presence.

This is my God, who by his very nature could not compromise that part of himself that required perfection of us, despite his great love and longing for us. This is my God, who sent a river of life in Jesus to the desert of Earth to give us a way to be perfect in every moment because he didn’t want to wait anymore.

So we could dive elbows deep together into the messy work of making me holy.