Apr 222010

Seeking His Face, Seeing His Shoes

Hi, Monkees. As a bit of intro, this post is heavy on the G-man references, without (I hope) being heavy-handed. Also, I want you to know that I completely understand two things: 1. That there are some Monkees who just don’t get amped about posts about God, and 2. that even for the Monkees who do get amped about such posts, I could never write them as well as G. That said, I love you all and hope you’ll stick with me. Onward we go …

We’ve been talking a lot about God lately at our house, because my 4-year-old son AJ is old enough now to kinda grasp what I kinda know about Him. To be honest, his blind childlike faith probably means AJ understands God a lot better than I do.

Anyway, part of our bedtime ritual each night is reading a book from the library and a story from the Bible. His favorites so far are about how Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, because he likes the idea of living outside with animals and not wearing clothes, and when Jesus walks on water – because, really, who wouldn’t want to do that?!

As we read each night, AJ listens very intently, alternately looking awed, interested, excited, confused. I read away, praying that he’s getting it, that I’m not scarring him for life, that he won’t ask me any hard questions. Sometimes he does, but usually he just says, “I really like the Bible, Mom. What story can we read tomorrow?” And then I exhale with relief, kiss him goodnight and say, “I’m glad you like it sweetheart. We can read whatever story you want tomorrow.” And we do it all again the next day.

We also have been praying together. It’s incredibly sweet to listen to AJ’s tiny voice mix in prayers for Mommy, Daddy and Mia with “thank you God for juice, my racecars and books.” Usually, it’s my favorite moment of the day (apologies to my husband).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking with AJ about trying to see God in everything – trees, animals, people … and juice and racecars, too, I guess – so we can keep Him in our hearts. “It’s called ‘seeking His face,’” I told him.

My sweet AJ considered this for a moment and then said, “That’s really hard, Mom. God lives all the way in the clouds. Maybe we could just see His shoes.”

I chuckled, but I keep thinking back to it. Maybe my little man is onto something. Lately, I’ve been feeling like the woman in the Bible who was sick and believed that if she could just touch Jesus’ clothes it would be enough to heal her.

I wish I could be the kind of Christian that could have my perspectacles “lasiked” on permanently, so I could see God’s good work in everyone and everything. But, more often, I’m the kind that just catches glimpses in between commuting, carpooling and cooking. In reality, I just grab Jesus’ shirt tail for a few moments each day, squeeze hard and hope it’s enough.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite ever, least of all in front of my kids. But one of my favorite things about Jesus is that he always just met people where they were – whether they were homeless, blind, prostitute, murderer – and worked with what He had. This is my public prayer that He’ll keep walking with me where I am, until I can truly

“Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.” –1 Chronicles 16:11

Meantime, the view of His shoes ain’t half bad.

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Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Apr 212010

With the obvious exceptions of everything that Chimmy and Diane write, this is my favorite poem.

Saint Francis and the Sow

By Galway Kinnell

The bud

stands for all things,

even for those things that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on the brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as Saint Francis

put his hand on the creased forehead

of the sow, and told her in words and in touch

blessings of the earth on the sow, and the sow

began remembering all down her thick length,

from the earthen snout all the way

through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,

from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine

down through the great broken heart

to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering

from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking

and blowing beneath them:

the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Excerpts from Roger Housden’s review of Saint Francis and the Sow

“If you have the genuine feeling that everyone, yourself as well as your lover, your child, your parents, even your enemies-everyone in your life- is already flowering from within, then the person you are with may feel that too and begin to remember for themselves their own truth and beauty. You cannot “re-teach a thing its loveliness” if your motive is to change another person. This would suggest that how they are is not good enough, and you can do something about it. It is not in your power to enlighten another, make them better, or even bless them. All you can do is remind them, by your presence, of the flowering that they already are. Love is an environment more than a set of principles. An environment that, simply by existing, draws out another into his or her own fullness….However good your principles and intentions may be, they won’t reach far unless it is love that places your hand upon their brow.”

“Like many of us, she (the sow) has a great broken heart. Broken, perhaps, by the weight of the curses heaped upon her since time began, by the lowliness that others have foisted upon her, by the feelings of ugliness and self loathing that cling to her like second skin. Some of us know how the sow feels. She comes, despite all of this, and through the blessing of St. Francis and the earth to remember

The long, perfect loveliness of sow.

She remembers, not just in the sense of memory recall, but “all down her thick length” – in all the cells of her body- that she is perfect exactly as she is, slops and all. Not that she is better than anyone else, or that she measures up to some external measure of perfection, but that her very existence is enough in itself to validate fully her being here.

This poem itself is a hand on our brow.”

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Apr 202010

For M, Who is Starting Down a New Road…

As you know, I had a rough go at life for a while. I spent a couple of decades lying and cheating and fighting and scowling and hiding and chugging and eating unbelievably huge amounts of food and then throwing it up.

These things might be hard for you to read, but they’re not hard for me to write. I think that’s because while I’m a different girl these days, I don’t judge the girl I used to be. I don’t think it makes much sense to judge other people or my past self with the ideas I have about life today.

Addiction is a funny thing. You seem to find yourself living one big lie, and nobody can, or should, trust a word you say. But that’s not how it starts. There’s something about addiction’s beginning that’s about truth telling. When my bulimia, which eventually morphed into alcoholism began, I sometimes had this feeling that there was something very wrong with the world, and that wrong thing was hurting my feelings and scaring me and making me feel like crawling out of my own skin forever. I had to tell the truth about how I felt somehow, so the truth came out like puke and booze. I may have been acting out, but at least when I was binging or purging or drinking, I wasn’t acting. I was sayingsomething’s wrong.

I know that addiction always ends badly, with lots of innocent and semi-involved bystanders getting hurt. That’s how mine ended. But that’s not how it started. It didn’t start with the intention to hurt anyone else. It started with a little girl who hadn’t found her words yet. A girl who didn’t yet have the courage to say, or write out loud, “Something’s wrong with me. Or maybe with everybody, actually.” So she just said those things by herself, secretly. But at least she said it. A girl has to tell the truth somewhere, if she’s going to keep a tender soul. If she’s going to be able to keep thinking and feeling and trying to understand things.

Now that I’ve found my words, things are better. When I feel like crumbling, or numbing myself because the world is so mean, I come here and use my words. Not to write about how mean the world is, but to write about how beautiful it is too, because that’s also true. Now when I feel like crawling out of my skin in the world I’m in, I come and create my own world in my writing, where things are better and more beautiful and often make sense. And it’s still an escape, but it’s a less lonely and scary escape than all those bathrooms and bottles of wine. Still, here in this world, I’m sure I’ll accidentally hurt people, too. Telling the truth seems to do that occasionally. But it’s healthy for me. And that’s what’s most important to me these days.

I understand what the girl I used to be did and why she did it. I love her . . . I’m proud of her, even. And the woman I am today is grateful to her. Because she walked that lonely road, I learned to forgive myself and be forgiven. And to be gentle, always, because everyone is just as fragile as those little hand- blown glass swans. Actually people are more fragile than those.

Most importantly, she taught me that a girl can be an ugly, scary mess, and still be doing her best, and still be capable of and worthy of saving. She taught me that nobody is so far gone into the darkness that love can’t sneak in and shed a little light.

So really, I think that little girl taught me everything I need to know, ever. I think she was sort of brilliant, to tell you the God’s honest truth. If I could take her for a walk I would tell her, Hang in there, little one. You will find your words.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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