the candle of joy

Blowing out the candles after dinner, these three pause to sing and smile.

Incline Thine ear to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

the gifts of god, for the people of god

(Taylor Lake, summer 2011)
Around five, everybody clears out.  All the mamas say, “I’ve got to get home to cook dinner,” and the kids suck ice pops and bounce, shaking water out of their ears and sand out of their shoes, all the way to the minivans.

But not me, at least not today.  I leave my mama-spot in the shade, abandon my smart phone and my sun hat, and dive in.  Rosie and I have the lake to ourselves.  She runs out and runs in, jumping, saying “dino-ball”!  I swim deep into the cold, then flip and come back to her, pretending to be a snapping turtle nipping at her toes, just like my mom used to pretend with me in the pool in San Antonio.  She giggles, “Be a snapping fish again! Again!”

The wind is strong at the lake, the early evening air is mild.  It’s quiet and it’s peace on earth, it’s summer in its purest form for me, and I float on my back and kick my feet and feel like I’m fifteen at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Rosie jumps into my arms.  “I love you, Mommy!” she cries, passionately, and I love her too, and I know it’s not really just me that inspires that cry, it’s this me - the undistracted me, the wholly abandoned to the present moment me, the unashamedly swimsuited and swimming me.  It’s the clearness of the sky and the coolness of the water, it’s the wind and the sun and the daddy who is willing to cook dinner.  It’s the gifts of God, for the people of God, and it is for all of us, common grace, and there is nothing we have to do, and no one we have to be. We are just us, thankful.

i fell in love again (all things go)

Lately I've been revisiting places which have strong nostalgic holds over me.

Like Denver. For three summers during college I spent time living at the base of Long's Peak, watching the sun set on Twin Sisters, soaking in beauty and living an undistracted, singleminded, physically present life. Driving from Denver towards the mountains last month just made me sad. I wanted to be 19 again, hiker, camp counselor, unencumbered.

At first, Chicago made me sad too. Chicago was where I had always imagined myself moving after graduation: working for a publisher, living in an apartment in the city with Mollie and our spiky-collared cat Beowulf, going to jazz clubs and basically becoming sitcom characters. Clearly, that never happened, but Chicago did become a special place of deep richness for me during the three summers I spent taking grad classes at Wheaton.

Coming back to America after the somewhat stark, spiritually barren, monocultural landscape of Vinh, it felt luxurious to be in green parks, hearing live banjo music, surrounded by the beauty of ethnic diversity. For the first time in months, I could go out anonymously, rather than being stared at as the one obvious foreigner in the city. I could go into a bookstore and browse titles in my native language. And at Wheaton my soul rested in the presence of friends who understood - because they had experienced it too - where I had been, what my life had been. I felt known and nourished by them. They let me talk, or they let me spend hours reading alone. I was flooded with gratitude.

The following summer, after I came home from Cambodia, Jack visited me at Wheaton, and we spent a week in Chicago when we were just five or six months into our dating relationship (see picture in sidebar, taken at Millenium Park!). We saw Andrew Bird play at the first ever Pitchfork Music Festival. We went to the Art Indtitute, and we did go to that jazz club, with Derek and Mollie, and I drank one glass too much. We got lost (this was before smartphones), and Jack saw me do my crazy walk for the first time.

I have always loved Chicago, and as we drove into town Friday night, accompanying our ESL students from Taylor, I started to feel sad. You can never go home again; and you can never go to Chicago again, or Estes, or Florence, or Taize, or Chiang Mai, or anywhere, can you? There are so many places I have loved, and I can never return to any of them. Even if the city is unchanged (it won't be), I am changed.

What I have loved about these places is partly imaginary, as all memories are, and even if it once existed, it never will again. What I loved is lost.

But by Saturday I realized that even if you can never step into the same river twice, you can still love the river every time, because I still love Chicago, in its earnest, unpretentious, midwestern big city-ness, and I also love sharing it with the coolest kids of all time.