Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Children who love

Children have often been a source of light for me. I have admired their sense of purpose, their kindnesses, their creative ways of coping with life and their wonderful senses of humor. I know there are countless similar acts out there among you.

A few that have touched me this past week:

Ezra, 5, whose ankles and knees were aching the other night. As his mom massaged his legs, she explained he was having growing pains and they should pray to ask God to help him with the pain, he paused in his tears and said, "ok, let's pray for Margie too cause her ankles hurt too." He also sent me a “get well” card. Thank you Ezra!
Various hospital & doctoring illustrations by Ezra
Kaiden, our 12 year old grandson, told his twin brother, “No, you go first, you’re older.”

Ava Lou, 5, brought her mom two sealed envelopes to mail to us, her grandparents. About the same time, her dad noticed his stash of quarters was missing. On questioning likely culprits, Ava began to cry. She had taken them to send to us because, in anticipation of seeing us this weekend in Fargo at the hockey tournament*, she wanted us to have money we could give her for treats. (It’s our habit to buy them treats and she was trying to generously help with the cost! NOT steal the money from her dad.)

Granddaughter Isobel, 9: “It is important and good to say ‘thank you’ for the presents you send. I love the earrings with cuffs and the nail polish and jeans. Thank you.” (She hardly ever uses contractions.)

And finally, this from our son when he was five. It recently made its way back to the refrigerator door.

Self-correcting Priorities
 “God’s kingdom is made up of people like these” Mt. 19:14. (The Message)  So thankful to be part of this great troop of children. What privileges we share! What joys and sorrows!

*Sadly, after all, we will not be able to join our family for Anson’s hockey tournament in Fargo this weekend. My back went out. When it takes you twenty minutes to get to the bathroom and back? You’re in trouble. I guess from horsing my kneeler around and shifting to crutches and walking boot. Whatever. Trying again to be “spiritually philosophical” about things out of one’s control. 

Thanks for stopping by. If you have any children acts of kindness encounters you'd like to share. Send them to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

While waiting for bone to knit

 We have a new piece of art – Heavenly Bodies – a painting acquired from Shaun LaRose. The fact that he is our son-in-law has nothing to do with how accomplished he is and how beautiful his work. This particular painting is in a place where I can look at it everyday and be reminded that none of us are alone in the brokenness we bear in our bodies. It also reminds me that no matter how pitiful I think my life – this is not the end of the story as we wait along with so many others for the restoration and healing of all things.
Heavenly Bodies
Heavenly Bodies detail
Shaun explains:
Both my wife and son suffer with chronic illness. At an early age my son has to experience pain, fatigue and sometimes a resulting depression. We pray for healing, longing for healthy bodies but know God’s story often coincides with our suffering. Yet, we long with eager expectation for the heavenly bodies we will receive when all things will be made new.

I painted this over a paint by number of Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ to signify the divide, or as my wife puts it The Fog, that lies between those who are in good health and those who are dealing with pain. Bordering each side of the image are x-rays that depict lower esophagitis, the chief source of pain for my son Kaiden. As I worked on this design I considered the regrowth of new flesh through cellular reproduction and thus you will see the pattern of cellular growth in the background. Lastly, the frame itself was constructed with the idea of icons or objects of prayer in mind. I thought about the small catholic prayer petition stations and desired to make an object that evoked intercessory prayer for those around us who experience chronic pain and broken bodies.

This week I had to come to an unwelcome decision - I’m not going to the L’Abri conference in Rochester where we reconnect with people each year. There have been some complications with healing - the incisions on my ankle have become infected and the bone regrowth is slower than we hoped so I’m not yet allowed to put weight on my leg. I thought around all the angles of how to make it work. Perhaps it was the vision of that long hallway with a slight downgrade that runs from the elevators to the ballroom where the lectures are held that made me face reality. I could see myself on my kneeler, brakes smoking, people jumping out of the way as I careened past. The logistics of being there ended up not being feasible.

I am disappointed. At times I have managed to be content with immobility and pain and I tell myself I am determined to learn more about accepting that this is where God has me for now, so relax. But the next moment I say, what the heck? And I toss it out in favor of being depressed with this mess of rotten bones.

Shaun’s painting proposes that we look with a keener eye and heart at bodies that suffer brokenness in this life. I’m looking.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Making a room for love and writing

It  always encourages me when I come across a writer who writes more slowly than me. One year at the Festival for Faith and Writing at Calvin College, I went to a workshop given by a man who had taken twenty years to publish his book. I left snapping my fingers saying, yessss. For my first book, The Exact Place, took seven years from start to finish. 
Jake & Joie Meador
 So what to do when you come across someone who writes so fast his pencils smoke?
Well, I think many factors are woven together in a person that makes his or her writing style unique. Personal habits, stage of life, natural talent. And it helps to be someone who doesn’t wait for ideal conditions in which to write. (I am expert on that topic. I often avoid putting words to paper because I am waiting for my body, the pantry, the weather, the stars to align before I get down to business.) So I applaud this young friend, Jake Meador –  as he pours himself wholeheartedly into the art of writing. He has a fascinating array of interests and is able to write well about each of them. From theology to soccer columns, journalism reports to blog posts about the demands of love in Harry Potter, they all pour out of his head. I once asked him how he managed to write so prolifically and yet do it well. He answered like this – and I have permission to share:

“My wife and I joke that I have undiagnosed Asperger’s, which is actually a real possibility, and so being in a place with noise is actually awful for my working. I need silence b/c I want to focus super intensely on whatever I'm doing, but I hear everything at the same time at close to the same volume, so being able to focus is hard for me if I'm in a place with a lot of noise. So I either work in a home office or in the stacks at the local university's research library. The upside to the Asperger’s is that I'm able to do a ton of writing in a fairly short amount of time at a level I'm happy with, which is probably the only reason I can write for four soccer sites while also doing work for Mere Orthodoxy, Fare Forward, and whatever freelance stuff I pick up.”

Yesterday Jake posted a piece about the work of Wendell Berry on Fare Forward. It is so insightful that Jake had me wanting to go back to read all of Berry’s work in order to explore this particular theme. His piece is a summary, in a way, of Berry’s understanding of what it means “to daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation.” Clearly, the burden of learning to live in creation lovingly and knowingly is suffused throughout Berry’s essays and works of fiction. Jake’s summary is done with such tender insight I had to share it with you. Go to the site, read the post. You’ll be blessed.
“In Berry’s work, marriage isn’t simply a social contract or an emotional bond; it’s a way of orienting oneself to the rhythms of creation. It’s the process of undergoing an organic “breaking,” much as one would break the earth when plowing, in order to produce a harvest. Seeds are planted and in time we reap a harvest—Paul might say a resurrection. For Berry the language of marriage is never far from the language of health, flourishing, and beauty.”  - Wendell Berry’s Room of Love by Jake Meador.