Tag Archives: promised land

Eagle’s Point…

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Over Christmas my sister was able to visit us in San Francisco for a few days. The sun was shining and the kids were restless, so we decided a walk was in order.

The sunshine can de deceptive. Especially in my little corner of the peninsula. When we stepped out onto the sidewalk I hesitated. It was rather more chilly than I had expected. But, I decided that warming up over the walk was far better than carrying three children’s jackets. So, onward we went.

We zigzagged our way through the extraordinary houses of the Sea Cliff neighborhood, admiring the expansive fronts of the colonials and moderns, each in turn. The last block of houses before the trailhead is low and modest facing the street. But through gates and between houses you can see stairs descending sharply down the hills, widening and opening up their ornate balconies and tall windows to the sea. The dark blue of the ocean sits cupped in the space between with the muted green hills of Marin across the bay, shouldering down against the wind.

I’ve said before how much nature hides tucked in and between the urban in San Francisco. The Land’s End Trail is no exception. The sidewalk ends, all of a sudden, giving way to cracked asphalt carpeted over with pine needles and the long faded leaves of the overhanging eucalyptus. They call it Eagle’s Point.

It was here that the wind hit us full force. The stoic houses owing us no favors, had given little indication of the wind they were entertaining in their arms. We gasped collectively. And I immediately regretted those three jackets, and all those hats and mittens, too. We walked the dozen yards to the lookout.

We watched the children lean into the wind as they let it push them back. They danced and squealed in a frenzy that at times approached panic. We watched the wind cut short white gashes across the face of the water and bend the cypresses back to such a degree it explained their normal angle as one of generous averages.

We stood as close to the edge as we dared, looking down the cliffs through the clinging shrub to the foaming rocks below, feeling the wind made bold from its unchallenged trip across the wide Pacific. The sound through the eucalyptus was a deafening roar, sounding so much like pounding surf.

But the day was sunny. And the light was bright on our path. There was such beauty in the magnitude of the violence, the trees that bent but didn’t break, the stripped leaves that were surprisingly found superfluous.

I laughed and shouted to my children, “Aren’t you glad to know that there is something so much stronger than you? Isn’t it nice to feel how little we are?”

The baby was in a carrier on my chest, his tiny fists curled into the warmth of my belly. My six-year-old and four-year-old were running down the path ahead, squinting into the wind and laughing. Yes, laughing, but at times nervously.

Book Release (!!!) for Natalie Pagel’s RUINS…

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I met Natalie Pagel a few years ago. I heard she was a writer and so the invisible spark of camaraderie bound us together almost instantly.

I soon learned from our circle that Natalie had written a book. She had finished it, bound it at Kinko’s and passed it around to her friends and family. I got her phone number from a mutual friend and she soon received a phone call from someone she barely knew (me) encouraging her to not spend any more money at Kinko’s when she could go to Create Space and publish her little book for free, and maybe have all those friends and family actually buy it off of Amazon.

(Please, authors! You are better than Kinko’s!)

Her story has lived through several transformations since then and is now (hooray!) available on Amazon.

I would like to introduce Ruins: The Perfect Place to Build Indestructible Life by Natalie Pagel!

I have read it through twice now, and have begun a third time. It by turns makes me cry and laugh out loud. I just made my husband listen to a particularly funny page. I won’t tell you what part (parts) makes me cry, because that would be a spoiler. But I will tell you the funniest part for me is right around rock bottom when she also gets ants. You know the kind of day she’s talking about, people.

It is Natalie’s story, and her family story. It begins with Natalie in a place of righteous self-assuredness, financial success, and a very sure view of God and the world. And, then life happens, as it does to most of us. But it seems to avalanche over Natalie and her husband all at once, tragically and, at times, comically.

To give you a sense of her journey I give you a piece of hers that I love called “The Grand Canyon”. She tucked it away at the end of her book:

 

The Grand Canyon

Everything was working against it, and yet for it. Violence and isolation, woven into endless stretches of time, were a part of the very intentional and very intricate process of its coming-of-age.

Shifting and reforming from below as foundations moved, and from above as suffocating deluges added insult to injury, its absolute rock-bottom gave way to new depths.

Relentlessly the elements persisted. Even its own crumbly-clay fabric was used to carve out its deep, deep chasms.

Yet despite its cursed existence, it is anything but a futile wasteland. No, it is a wonder of creation-inspiring and majestic. A banner of beauty. A fingerprint of salvation. Breathtaking from every vantage point.

Bidding still, that nature run its course.

Engraved by the hand of destruction at the hand of the Creator, it is not empty. Patiently and skillfully sculpted, it is not forsaken.

Its gashed and gorged landscape is full-teeming with color and light and life.

I absolutely love this. Because people come from around the world to see the beauty of a place so harshly brought about. Are we prettier for that which has been carved from us? Is the rebuilding of Jerusalem sweeter for having been in exile in Babylon?

And I like this version of testimony best, that tells the whole story, not just the pretty parts, which my honest and beautiful friend Natalie certainly does.

I’ll be popping on here this month to give you excerpts as I read through her book again.

In the meantime, head over to Amazon and buy it for yourself! And then, please, leave a glowing review! Also, head over to her blog at http://www.illuminatethetruth.com and follow her story as it continues to get written.

Newness…

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Happy New Year’s Day.

We went down to South San Francisco last night. A friend down there has a place with a yard and a puppy. The kids and puppy were one unit of energy, bringing to mind an electron with it’s dual qualities of solid particles and waves, everywhere and, yet, nowhere.

At one point, my husband turned to me and said, “Man, if we had a yard they’d be playing out there all day long.”

I blinked slowly at him.

We made it back by ten, the kids conked out, and the husband and I made some whiskey sours and settled in to watch an episode of our current program.

Living in a city is funny. Sometimes you can forget just how many people are snug up next to you, how many lives really fit into four units over a garage. At midnight there was a roar and we paused our program to listen.

We went to the open window and listened to the celebration of so many lives, different parties, different places. Others, like us, silent and backlit, leaning out their windows into our common space of air, just listening, people whose interiors I had glimpsed, who couldn’t be called complete strangers.

The ships in the harbor blew their horns and the sound was surprisingly clear on the chill wind.

I like New Year’s, the holiday that looks forward. It’s one of the only holidays you don’t typically spend where you came from, with your family. You spend it with your chosen people, those who will be there, where you’re going.

Happy looking forward! Happy newness! Happy New Year!

Bound…

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Last week I got into a fight with my husband. I said something. He said something. I said something else when I probably shouldn’t have. Then he REALLY said something.

The next day there was a bit of resolution … an unsatisfactory bit.

And then a few days later I said something again.

Now, here I am on Sunday morning sitting in church and I realize I have a fistful of strings clenched tight in my hands. This string is tied back to the moment he said this. This string leads back to the moment I said that. This string is from the moment that he didn’t understand. This string is from the moment where I was uncompromising.

And I’m picking at the bundle, trying to keep them straight. Counting the tally, who owes who what? Who has been vindicated? Did I come out ahead?

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past six weeks since my son started school it’s that I’m not good at multitasking. I’m late for pickup. I’m late for soccer practice. I forget the library books. I forget the teacher’s birthday.

And it works to my benefit now as I get confused by this tangle in my lap, trying to keep track of my debt, my desserts.

I have to drop it. This could go on for weeks or months or more. I could hold tight to this little string or that one and save it for the moment when I could say, “See here. Remember when you said this?”

But they drop from my hands in my sudden inability to keep it all straight. And I gasp a little and grasp a little. Because I’m pretty sure I was coming out on top. But in that moment I feel free. And I can breathe. So, then I decide.

I toss them away, throwing the jumbled ball to the ground and wiping my hands down my arms as if to brush off the clinging spider webs of sour memory.

And I drink my communion cup slowly, letting it flow down my throat to coat, like the pink Pepto Bismol in the old commercial, redeeming every bitter thing as it goes down slowly into my gut.

How ‘bout that? There was resurrection in the morning! What a glorious surprise is a new beginning!

And the last song we sing is, “We are bound, we are bound, we are bound for Promised Land.”

So, I leave church without strings binding me backwards, but bound by one leading me ever forward into promised places.

The First Birthday…

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My baby had his first birthday a couple of days ago. We didn’t do much. In fact, I couldn’t find the birthday candles, which was okay because I don’t have any matches. He still enjoyed the singing. But the first birthday is less for the baby than it is a celebration for everyone that loves that baby of keeping him alive for a year. Whoop! We made it! We kept another one alive for a year!

I wrote this little bit of thought after he was born. I didn’t have a forum for it at the time, but thought I would put it here now.

So, here it is, this is where I was one year ago:

I am three days out from the birth of baby three and it’s official. The endorphins have moved out and the postpartum hormones have moved in. I’m sitting in my cool dark room like a mother wolf in her den, with a sleeping baby on my bed and lanolin on my angry nipples. I hear my other two children getting ready for bed with Dad but I can’t seem to break out of my room to say goodnight. It’s the perfect place right now to explore the reeling sensations left over from the wonder of another birth.

I’ve been very fortunate to have beautiful home births for each of my children. And just as my children are different their labor stories differ as well. Of course, no one is ever prepared for motherhood. I knew birth would be a “spiritual” experience, but I had no idea of the parallels I would see between this life and the one I have been adopted into. With each of my three babies I have learned different spiritual truths hidden couched in our circumstances and situation from conception to delivery.

My first, my son, was conceived not two months after the death of my dearly loved Daddy. As fall and winter went on I grieved much and learned to hope for spring. With greenness and life came those first fluttering kicks that weren’t as surprising as much as they were exactly what I might have thought they were going to feel like. And in the summer he came. The whole experience was full of the contemplation of life out of death, the pain coming before the resurrection, salvation coming from laying oneself down. I couldn’t get away from it, the new wonder of the goodness of God that would not let death come without clearing a place for new life.

With my second, my daughter, I was resolved to do it again, not to have an only child, though my son had thoroughly made me aware of my lack of knowledge and energy for parenting. I doubted my ability to do this whole “mother” thing well. I dreaded the pain of labor in those brief instances when the amnesia lifted and I was able to remember. But God was teaching me much at the time about work, the work of being a mother, working harder and more selflessly than had previously been required of me. Work was the curse, but in it also was the blessing.

I ran across this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Get leave to work in this life, ‘tis the best we get at all, For God in cursing gives us better gifts than men in benediction.” And how I knew what a blessing the curse of work had been to me. I was more capable, more efficient, knew how to get an incredible amount done in the window of a two-hour nap time. And I applied this to the labor of delivery. Was it not also a curse, the pain of labor? But hadn’t I already experienced the blessing in that particular curse? The knowledge that kept me going through the first two difficult weeks of my first son’s life was this: If I could do that, I can do anything, the labor of babies, the labor of children, the labor of teens, the labor of life, etc.

The second I felt I had to have, the mandatory sibling. But the third I decided to have, I asked for.

With my third, another son, the phrase kept coming to my mind, born of blood and water. There’s a verse that talks about being born of blood and water. Having done two births already in my midwives’ water tub I was fascinated by the parallels it brought me to.

As the time for me to deliver grew close I experienced three painful exhausting weeks of pre-labor. I realized I was terrified to go through it again, the labor part. With my daughter it had been more intense than with my eldest and there had been a few times when I had barely been able to stay on top of it. I knew this would be worse. My lovely midwife who was crazy enough to have nine kids commiserated and reminded me of Jesus’s prayer in the garden. He was so concerned he took his friends with him to pray. “If it be your will let this cup pass from me.” But there is only one way to be born, isn’t there? There is only one way to get our babies here. And I had signed up for this, a thought that did not bring me much comfort during those early transition contractions when you realize that everything is getting away from you very quickly.

And so I descended again into labor and this much more intense. The groans that emanated from me were new to my birthing experience. And then it was too much. I couldn’t stay on top of the pain. And I realized I would have to go through it, under it, let the pain roll over me in hopes that the resultant endorphins would do their job. I clung to the promise of a baby and lovely mommy amnesia at the end.

And I thought about the sacrifice I had known ahead of time that would be required of me to have another baby. I had chosen it willingly to have my body break for another because it was the only way to get my son here. And I thought about Jesus breaking his body because it was the only way to get me there with him. And his body broke and poured out blood and water. And then my boy came out, into the tub that was quickly growing red, and my midwives told me, “Pick up your baby.” And I reached down and brought him to my chest hearing his first cries. And I remembered my baptism brought out of the water to new life. And I heard the words of Jesus say to me even as I said them to my son, “I got you, you’re safe. This new life is just beginning. You’re already on the other side.”