Monday, January 31, 2011

Making it real

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. ~John Wooden

I believe that you will remember me mentioning August's deep and genuine concern for a homeless man that we often see in our town.  In fact, there are a couple of these men around.  Several of them own a dog or two, which is what originally drew our eye to these people in the first place (what does that say about our proclivities?) and piqued our interest in these men's lives.  So many questions have been asked regarding these guys as well as deeper discussions about the bigger problems of homelessness, economic disparity, social justice, our own fears...
August's first foray into personal and audible prayer was prompted by his deep seated desire to "do something" for these folks.  And as Jesus was so prone to point out regarding children, his natural inclination was to walk right into the presence of God, look up and ask Him for help.

He hasn't stopped asking.

Around Christmas time when I was in Target (whatever would I be doing there?) I noticed some packets of hand and foot warmers in the dollar bin.  We had recently had a decent sized snow, along with sub-freezing temperatures and I immediately thought of how these would have been helpful when we were sledding.  And then, like a laser beam, I thought of "our" homeless man.  I thought of how sledding and playing in the snow were probably a lot further down on his to-do list but that keeping his hands and feet warm were right up there at the top, along with making it through the night.  I cleaned out the bin.

I showed my purchase to August, whose eyes immediately lit up.  Then, he leaped up to hug me.  Here was something very tangible that we could "do".

No fewer than two days passed before we saw him walking.  August saw him first and called out to me.  "Mom, there he is!  We need to give him those warmers!"  But I didn't have them with us.  I had followed the prompting to buy the darned things but I hadn't followed through with the most important part of the deal--getting them to our friend.  I made a mental note to put them in the car so that we could give them out next time we saw him.

And I did.  Put them in the car, that is.

But the next time that we saw him, we were inbetween destinations with things to do and people to see and places to go.  Not this time, August.  Next time.


But just this past week, on one of our weekly trips to the library, where we were able to score one of the parking spaces right next to the building, we saw him.  He was right there, with his dog.  We were right there, with the goods. 

And the space between us suddenly seemed like a gorge, slicing deeply into the Earth, threatening my firm footing, daring me to go forward.

This was it.

This was when what we professed to be true, to be right, to be noble...needed to put on skin and walk.

This was when the lessons that I really wanted August to learn, to absorb, to burn into his soul might become

something real.  Alive.

I flinched.

And then, as grace flowed from somewhere other than my heart, I moved.  I tried not to think because thinking only complicated the matter and caused me to focus on myself rather than the task at hand.  Sometimes you just have to move.

I grabbed the bag from the trunk and, with the boys, approached the man, slowly.  Very slowly.

For there were words flying.  Ugly words spewing from a deep well of bitterness and frustration, aimed at the only thing that he had control over--his dog.  Words that, I'm sure, had been hurled at him, time and time again, by those who believed that they had control over him.  "Piece of sh#t!"  "Shut up, you damn fool!"

The dog recoiled, finding the only thing lower than himself...the ground.  He looked up with eyes, like deep pools, reflecting the ire of his assailant while hiding a darker underside of untold horror.   He acquiesed, as was his usual custom, I'm sure.

And then we were there.  Amongst the sh#t and damnation, we stood.

The boys instantly went to the dog, who, in turn, was instantly drawn to them.  The broken hearted became the ice breaker.  An opening.

We struck up a conversation about the dog, what kind he was, etc. The usual banter that occurs when you are a dog person and you encounter someone with a dog.  A bit of silence and then...

Me: "We see you walking around town..."
Him: "Yeah, I'm always walking..."
more silence...
Me: "Well, this is my son August and well, he often asks me about you.  He's concerned about how you're doing and all.  Worries that you are cold."
The man pauses, looks at me, takes in my person and my words...searching.
Me: "And well, we got these things for you and we wanted you to have them."
I handed him the bag.  He took it, still looking at me, and then at August.
Him: "Thank you.  Thank you very much."

We turned to leave and then I realized that I hadn't even asked him his name. 

Me: "I'm so sorry, I didn't even introduce myself.  I'm Holly.  What is your name?"
His response:



I haven't joined in the count for awhile.
It's time....


to quote August's prayer just the other evening: "Thank you for the delicious food that I had for dinner.  Thank you for this cozy bed for me to sleep in."
a husband who cares for our family in ways that are unique to him alone
daily bread while tomorrow's weather threatens 
blankets on top of blankets
plants that bloom in the middle of winter
dog chewed slippers
lost friends found
the love of a couple who has just suffered an unimaginable loss
the generosity and hospitality of friends
strong coffee on a gray afternoon.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Live in rooms full of light. ~Cornelius Celsus

After I finished putting away the breakfast dishes this morning, this is where I found August.  He had climbed up into the gloriously deep window sills that our stone house provides, surrounded himself with blankets and cushions, and settled in for the day. 

You know, the day that we first saw this house, before we had even made an offer on it, one of the first conclusions that I came to was that someone should do this very thing.  Moreover, we should be the people to do it.

I'm glad that August heeded the call. 

With the morning sun pouring in--buckets full--he settled in.

What is it about the sun that calls to something so deep inside of us? 

Is it the gentle way that it seeps into our skin...reaching even deeper still...warming places that we didn't even realize were cold?

Or is it the way that it, literally, changes the skin we're in...leaving tattoos of its face across our bodies?

All I know is that on these mornings when it is still dark when I rise, when I don't know whether to curse or bless my dog for getting me out of bed and moving soooo is on these days, especially, that I look to the East with such expectancy and anticipation.  Practically willing the sun into the sky is one of my first productive acts of the day.

I need that Sun

And it always does.

This morning, after tinging the edges of night's cheeks with pink, it jumped up, full of fire and energy.  It flooded into our living room, through those very windows that August settled into, and filled the room with its power.

Slowly, the chill wore off.

The cushions of the sofa absorbed its radiance.

The patterns of the carpet played in their own shadows.

And then
you could see it.

Dust.  Dirt.  Dinge.


It hit and stung like a slap on the face that came out of nowhere, catching me completely off guard and utterly defenseless.  And suddenly I felt so very vulnerable, exposed, revealed.  The reality of my home--the one that I had so successfully hidden in the dark nooks and crannies--was immediately brought into the fullness of light.

You see, I am not the greatest housekeeper.  Some days I'm better at it than others.  Some days I get my act together and I manage to clear surfaces, tidy up floors, maybe even scrub a toilet or two.  On days that my parents are coming, or a playdate or... well, those days I am almost always competent at it.  I lean into the task headlong and early, and I twirl throught the house like a whirling dervish.  Like a woman bewitched, I transform my house into something it normally is not. 

I dress to impress.

But those kinds of days are the exception and I'm not proud of how I arrive at the outcome anyway.  It's all very pretentious really. 

But on the regular, ordinary, quotidian day...

there is dust.

That's what that persnickety sunlight will do.  It reveals too much.

"He shines a spotlight into caves of darkness,
hauls deepest darkness into the noonday sun."
Job 12:22 (The Message)

I think about this.  I look about me, at all that is revealed about me,
who I am, really,
and I am tempted to despair.

But then I read it again.  He chooses to fetch his brightest spotlight, the one that could blind the eyes if he wanted it to, and he begins the hunt.
To reach into my deepest, darkest places and


It's no accident.  It's not a trick or conniving behavior or tomfoolery.

It's what he does.  His nature.

He brings darkness into light.

"I will lead the blind on roads
they have never known;
I will guide them on paths
they have never traveled.
Their road is dark and rough,
but I will give light
to keep them from stumbling.
This is my solemn promise."
Isaiah 42:16 (CEV)

He has promised to.

But I would really rather he keep the dust hidden, for it doesn't reflect well on me.  I like that he reveals the way for me but, as far as I am concerned, that pesky dust can just remain behind me, in my shadow.  Light and shadow, as it should be.

But I can't have it both ways.

With my darkness comes light.  In fact, the deeper my darkness, the brighter the Light.

I have a choice to make.  Keep the dust hidden and risk bumping into something else that is hidden right beside it.  Something that I didn't even know was there, even.  Or I had forgotten.  Chose to forget, actually.


I can tear open the shutters and throw open the sash.  I can let him into my caves of darkness.  Let him haul out all of the bags and boxes of darkness, into that noonday sun.

Today, and everyday, I must choose light.

"...sun is shining, the weather is sweet
make you want to move your dancing feet
to the rescue, here i am
want you to know just if you can
where i stand, no, no, no, no, where i stand
sun is shining, sun is shining..."
Bob Marley