Sitting on the soft mound of dirt and sand, I carefully craved a long and narrow path with my hands in this sandbox. Digging deeper in some places, I created ups and downs for the water to flow. Then dragging the water hose over, I filled up this path and began to imagine and dream.
The summer of my 11th year I was obsessed with making sandcastles. Every morning I first threw on a t-shirt and shorts, ran out to the barn to feed the rabbits. Carefully pouring pellets into their bowls and filling the bottles with water for the day, I impatiently did my chores. Then I was off to the sandbox my dad created, where I’d spend hours building.
It wasn’t really a sandbox. It was just a pile of sand over by the shelter of trees protecting our property from the country road that would often kick up dirt during the dry season. The sand mixed with grass and dirt, and when I added the water so I could have the all-important moat, it nearly turned into mud. But I had figured out how to contain the moat to perfection and even create a bridge with a discarded piece of wood… imagining the bridge drawing up to protect the princess from the dragon.
Small buckets created the tower and painstakingly I would create finials at the top of each tower, creating places for those watching over the princess to hide behind and shoot arrows at the dragon. Smooth out the sides perfectly, I created towers and towers of different sizes and shapes. It was my dream home. I relished the moment when I filled up the pathway with the water, watching it rush through and around the castle I built. This would protect the princess even more.
I look back on that summer of building sandcastles and wonder if there was some kind of metaphorical dragon in my life. I was clearly the princess, but at 11 years old, living a very sheltered rural farm life, I can recall no dragons. Perhaps the dragon simply resided in the holes of my heart. But for one perfect summer, those sandcastles created happiness with my hands. And my heart.
I first learned about Rise back last Fall, thanks to a few tweets from friends. Then I had the first hand of experiencing the power of what they do in April, when I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids.
I had the pleasure of writing this piece for them on their launch day. They have re-branded and are continuing to do amazing things to equip women to serve the church.
Read my piece here, where I wrestle with the tension between grace and the law.
I was staring at my computer screen on Tuesday night, working on an article. I’d read through some feedback I got from a respected writer friend. He told me I had several places to move into the active voice.
(I’ve never been very good at keeping the voices consistent when I write.)
This week, I realized why.
As I read back through the parts I needed to change and considered what the active voice phrasing should be, it all rushed back to me. The moment I was describing, the moment of pressing, vulnerability, and the pain the followed.
Writing is pausing.
Good writing should be, I think. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I relived that moment. I couldn’t keep writing and rewriting. I had to pause and remember. The rush of feelings forced me. To pause.
(I’m also not very good at pausing.)
In a world full of distractions, pausing is so much harder than it should be. Because pausing means pulling out and putting away all those distractions and sitting in the moment, sitting in the pain, sitting in whatever we are trying to avoid with all those distractions.
Pausing makes us feel.
I’m in the heart triad of the Enneagram. But my wing crosses over into the head triad. Much of the research done on this type talks about how fascinating that cross over is for the person. For me, it’s a simple as what my counselor always says to me, “You try and think your way out of your feelings.”
I do. So I must learn to pause, for there is where my feelings lie.
I am linking up for Five Minute Friday a five minute free write with a word prompt each week. Today’s prompt is “Include.” http://fiveminutefriday.com
I think we spend most of our lives wondering if we’ll be included.
Wondering if we will get an invite to that thing we heard about. Wanting to be part of that one group of people that seems like a perfect fit for us.
And then our feelings are hurt when the invitation doesn’t come, and once again we see that group of people together and they smile and wave at you, but don’t invite you in.
What might it look like for us to flip the switch? To make room at our table for others rather than hoping to be included at the tables others have prepared? To buy that extra chair and placemat, to dig the leaf out of the closet, open up the table, and make it bigger?
There is rejection in both, surely. One makes you feel more in control than others, I suppose. Both involve a little bit of hope. One feels more empowering than the other, because let’s face it, when someone invites you to their table, we still aren’t sure how long we’ll get a place. We still might feel like the odd one out, the one with the different colored placemat and who doesn’t have the matching glass.
But the other opens your heart a bit more. When we include others rather than ourselves waiting to be included I’ve discovered it makes me much more open to hearing the other’s story. The other one always makes me feel like I’m trying to prove my worth in my own story. So what if we all learned to include others rather than worry about being included ourselves?
I’ve always been more comfortable in melancholy and sadness, more so that the average human being. It’s something that 2017 taught me to lean into more, but also be careful of, since it can lead to unhealthy ways of thinking and skewed perspectives on reality.
So I’ve been in a place where I’m learning to own this part of my personhood, but trying hard not to let it sink me deep into a place where I don’t belong. It’s a tricky tightrope, one I’m thankful to walk because it means I’m learning healthier ways to find proper perspective, rather than just the tried and true “snap out of it” attitude that is so prevalent in my culture. And I’ve never been more aware of that as I have this Advent season.
This advent season has so far been full of a lot of joy… but also a lot of sadness. It’s usually just sadness for me, so I’m thankful for those joyful moments. I’ve also learned to be thankful for the sad ones because in both I learn more about who God has created me to be, and who he wants to mold me into being.
And there are few things that help me see these truths in the way music does.
Christina Rossetti is one of the greatest poets of the 19th century in my mind, having written more than 50 by the time she was 16. (This is my story, too, those hers were much much better.) Her sense of longing and sadness has always resonated with me, and never more so than in the song In the Bleak Midwinter. I own several versions of the song, with my favorites being the Choir of Christ’s College and The Brilliance’s version from the Advent, Volume 2 album.
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
The beauty of this poem for me is how it perfectly juxtaposes both despair and sadness… the despair and sadness of being a follower of Christ. Every day I am wrecked by the ravages of the Fall, and yet every day I live in the reality that Jesus came, lived, and died for me. For the rescue and redemption of this world.
Our hope lies in the truth expressed in verse two, that heaven cannot hold our God… that he will come to reign. The ravages of the Fall have made me poor, living in the bleak midwinter.
So what can I give him? I can give him my heart.
This is Day 15 of a series of posts for the month of October. I’m joining Kate Motaung over at Five Minute Friday for the annual Write 31 Days challenge. I will write about themes found in the book of Joshua each day, with a different word prompt.
Today’s prompt word is: REMAIN