Can't Stop Looking At You: Friday Morning Coffee #76

I stared out across the lake. I had to focus to be able to absorb all the beauty. Sandy colored mountains sloped to the deep blue water. They were barren in the autumn chill, cut with the shades of deep crevices. It was as if giant fingers had run down their sides, pinching and pushing the earth into mesmerizing patterns of planes and angles. We’d followed them along the river, along the lake, captivated.

On our drive there the day before, we’d passed through the Cascades. The mountain pass greeted us with the first sight of snow of the season. The flakes swirled through the trees. The frozen branches looked as though they were made of glass.

I was in the kitchen now. My friend was talking about her son. She gestured to the window, to the view that continued to pull my eyes. “It’s crazy. I look at the beauty of creation—the mountains, the lakes, the sunset—but then I think about him, and it’s him I can’t take my eyes off of. I look at all this beauty, and think ‘Yes, but I just can’t stop looking at you.’”

A delicate sliver of moon glowed yellow in the night sky. But she was thinking of a tiny boy with pale hair, now fast asleep.

It came to me then, in a flood. Doesn’t that give us a beautiful picture of our Father’s love for us? I can imagine Him saying, ‘I look at all of the beauty of Creation, at all of the works of my hands, but, my child, I just can’t stop looking at you.’

"A Sliver Is Enough": Friday Morning Coffee #75

Happy Friday, everyone.

A couple months ago, we announced we were expecting our first baby. In that announcement, we shared briefly about our journey through infertility.

While we were in the trenches of it, I didn’t share much publicly. It was too soon, the pain too fresh and too raw. But I now feel ready to begin sharing more of our story with you.

Today, I am over at Elisabeth Klein’s blog in a guest post about the pain of infertility and a bit of what I learned about faith, hope, and joy in the process.

Head over to Elisabeth’s website to read “A Sliver is Enough.”

We were often told to “Just trust God’s timing.” Each time, the same response sprung to mind—and sometimes escaped my lips—What choice did I have? Like Peter, I asked, “Where else would I go?” …

Tiny Island of Home: Friday Morning Coffee #74

I shared this brief story a few weeks ago on Twitter for a project called StoryTweeting. Each week they host brief nonfiction stories based on a prompt. It’s an effort to flood Twitter with the beauty and empathy of stories and take a break from hot takes and news cycle reactions. If you’re on Twitter, you should consider joining!

What story would you share about a “table”? Share in the comments below.

It wasn't much to look at—cheap wood, simple stain. If you leaned on the edge, the top sprang loose, careening toward your chest. It was like everything else in the house—humans and objects alike—worse for wear but still standing.

It was rare to find the chairs around that table empty. Boards and nails kept quiet witness to dreams of bright futures and hopes of new beginnings. They kept secrets of tears and stories of heartbreak. We stared into fancy cups of American tea, with special sugar crystals that dissolved into swirling patterns of golden glitter.

They learned to sew at that table. I would peer over their shoulders as they carefully guided fabric under the needle. Each of them got a dress, and all but the littlest ones helped to make their own. How proud they were to show them off.

They started a little business at that table. The kitchen bustled with entrepreneurial activity. Cookies and cinnamon rolls baked by the dozens, carefully bagged in thin cellophane for selling. How excited they were to see the money trickle in, in profit of their hard work.

Every Saturday, a group of three or four came for dinner. It was an anchor to my week. I’d spend the day cooking and present them with a feast. They would arrive in their best clothes, clean and wet-haired from the shower.

It was a moment of normalcy, a bit of family life, to sit around the dinner table together. For a brief moment, they became my children, and I, their mother, and we talked about school and friends and life goals.

My kitchen was a tiny island of a home. It was a place nearly my own, when I wasn't sharing it with rats or scorpions. It was a place they could find a whiff of freedom in an institution, designed to lock out those who had hurt them, that sometimes became a prison.

The space around that table was my refuge, and I think, at least at times, theirs as well.

Be Not Proud: Friday Morning Coffee #73

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

- John Donne, “Holy Sonnet X”

“Death, be not proud…" John Donne’s centuries-old words came unbidden when we got the news of Scott’s grandmother’s passing this week. They’ve become a comfort to me when death provokes a primeval outrage deep within that screams, “This should not be.” Instead of stifling this outrage, I’ve learned to keep space for it as something sacred. I stand with the One, who is Resurrection and Life, weeping at a graveside. For, as those who affirm the Bible’s story of Redemption, death should not be. Death, suffering, separation, and pain. Sorrow, injustice, division, strife - they should not be.

And this is where we collide with weighty, glorious hope. They should not be, and they will not be. The hope Christianity offers is not that of escaping away from a broken earth, of detaching from corrupt physicality into an ethereal spiritual reality and washing our hands of the place. The hope we are offered is of a King returning to claim His Kingdom, of that Kingdom come fully and permanently. It is of our broken-beautiful creation made new, restored, re-enlivened. It is a hope of the remaking of the cosmos - the corruption of sin demolished, justice finally complete, light exploding darkness, pain erased, sickness healed, death sealed in the grave.

This hope shapes my behavior today, as I boldly live in light of this future reality. And it allows me to stand in the face of suffering untempered, justice thwarted, in the face of our enemy, death, itself and declare: “Thou shalt die.” Thanks be to God.

How Beautiful That We Exist: Friday Morning Coffee #72

The smell of old books greeted me when I stepped through the door. It was my favorite type of used bookstore. The shelves were heavy laden with old books. Haphazard stacks of them crowded my feet. It was a treasure trove. A museum in which I could touch the artifacts.

After a few minutes of browsing, the bookshop owner poked his head around the nearest shelf. He was tall, with an absent-minded spray of gray hair. “I’m running to the post office. Probably be gone ten or fifteen minutes. You guys are in charge.” He gestured at Scott and me with a long finger. “If anyone comes in and wants to buy something, just have them leave the money on the counter.”

And with that, he was gone. We suppressed our laughter until he disappeared onto the street. I will never fail to delight in such small town interactions.

After he returned from his errand, we paid him four crumpled dollar bills for an Agatha Christie novel and continued on to our destination for the weekend: Acadia.

It’s been on our New England bucket list since we moved here five years ago, and finally, last weekend, we made it there. So much beauty.

The highlight of the weekend was our hike up Gorham Mountain. As we stood on the granite shelf at the summit, we seemed to be on top of the world. My ability to absorb the beauty was inadequate. The words “oh, it’s so beautiful,” uttered for perhaps the thousandth time that weekend, fell short.

“With shortness of breath, I'll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.”

The words from Ryan O’Neal’s (Sleeping at Last*) song “Saturn” sneak in at such moments. [If you haven’t listened to Sleeping At Last, you really must. It is a frequent writing companion.]

How beautiful it is that we exist. And that we were given a world of such beauty. That we were set loose to explore its mountains and seas and meet its quirky bookshop owners. That in all its vastness we are seen and loved by a Creator who calls us friends. So much beauty.