Monday, February 27, 2012

Marriage Thoughts II

Days blow by and the house is a mess and our friend Daniel, a gracious house-guest who doesn't mind, but not really guest, more like a family-member who doesn't live with us all the time, who cooks tasty food for us. My to-do list racks up. I have not written in many days.

I have been back to Colorado, wondering if I could creep back into the old life for a few days, but then I woke up in the morning in my sister's queen bed because my old twin bed wouldn't fit my husband too. The old life and the new life collide, and our marriage is a means of grace that pours out in ways I do not understand.

I wake up in the mornings and sometimes I am still surprised, even after eight weeks, to find the Pilot there. Joy! Oh, the joy of prickly chins and unshaven legs and I love you. Socks and boxers on the floor in the bathroom, and someone who takes out all the trash, and I look up from my book and there he is, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, husband, forever. Fall asleep beside him, turn in the night and hear the soft murmur of his sleep, wake up, and there he is

I confess, I am in love with our wedding pictures. They were waiting for us, on that return from Colorado (still feels funny saying "going-home-to-Texas!) and I looked and looked and looked again, eyes hungry to see what our love looked like in a photograph. I make slideshows and put them to music; I post on Facebook and read all the comments; I email to parents and parents-in-law. This is love beautiful, this is love picture-perfect. But love comes in messy kitchens and boxers on the floor, too; in brief goodbye kisses and hello-grins. We danced on our wedding day, but we can dance in the kitchen too, spinning on linoleum in sock feet, skating for balance, giggles.

How much laughter smooths the way for marriage, softens the sharp edges of two lives melding together into one. The Pilot's grins are good for my heart, they remind me that life is joy, thanks to Grace, that cleaning bathrooms and washing dishes are not the things I will remember but giggling to his jokes will be. The daily life spiced with smiles is a tasty dish. 

Sometimes I still lie in bed, awake, listening to slumber-breathing of the husband next to me, trying to understand. I am in the presence of a mystery that is awe-filled and holy and I don't understand. "Marriage is living with glory," Mike Mason wrote,
It is living with an embodied revelation, with a daily unveiling and unraveling of the mystery of love in such a way that our intense yet shy curiosity about such things is in a constant state of being satisfied, being fed, yet without ever becoming sated. It is living with a mystery that is fully visible, with a flesh-and-blood person who can be touched and held, questioned and probed and examined and even made love to, to our heart's content, but who nevertheless proves to be utterly and impenetrably mysterious, infinitely contemplable.

 I am in bed with mystery, and it is the mystery of my husband, and it flashes on me how did we get here? Is there anything more mysterious than another person? Is there any adventure more unique and exciting and challenging than bringing in another person to the blocked-off, barred, secret places of our lives, and letting them be at home there? We have curtains and locks on our doors and day-planners and excuses to keep all the rest of the world out when we find it inconvenient to let it in, but marriage plants Mystery in the middle of our lives, our beds, our bathrooms, all the places we have hitherto kept private, and it will not go away. Precious invasion! Can I see the Mystery for the grace that it is? I am living with love and pray, pray that wonder, that awe-filled space in the night might not go away, that my heart will not pull back from this contemplation of the grace of the Pilot in my bed, that I will move into the glory and the mystery and the grace. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


You are the weave of my dreams and the pattern of my life.

When I first saw you I had no idea, but by the end of an hour I knew I liked you, and who's to say that wasn't on purpose, that somehow something deep down within me knew. There you were, and I thought that I was looking for the missing puzzle piece, and it turned out you were the puzzle. You were the riddle that kept me awake at night, you were the song I couldn't get out of my head, you were the one that an empty part inside of me had known all along, and recognized you when you arrived, and welcomed you in.

You are my serenader, my reasoner, my logician. You eat pancakes and peanut butter and you thank me for making you breakfast. You are not a prince charming: you are better. You are real. You are my Pilot and you have swept me up into the heights of adventure.

You know the language of my heart and you whisper it to me, in ways no Valentine card could ever capture. You learn the codes of my mind and I stand in awe that you would strive to know me so deeply. You are my partner and my friend and my fellow dragon-slayer. You are my love, and you have made me yours, and our dance will make rhythm and our story will make adventure and our love will make a song for the rest of our lives.

Lover-Pilot-Husband, my fingers stumble and my heart's tongue falters, but you know the language of no words. Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I miss you, little friend.

Fluffy coil of tail like a furry snake sunning itself on your rump. Your eyes constantly playing peek-a-boo behind your fur. Your jut-jaw smirk. Long rumply ears. A puddle of fur on your chair, where you lounge the day away, rousing yourself for comings and goings, for another dog outside to gruff and whuff at, warning the house. Most of the time you sleep, head hanging off the chair, eye only twitching when someone passes and says your name. You don't like sharing the chair but we squeeze in anyway. When the daily walk comes your tail starts to wobble back and forth like a badly-made hairpiece coming loose.

I called you names and I scratched your ears and we wandered our neighborhood together. I was the one to give you baths, but I think you forgave me. Sometimes we were solar-powered together, sunning ourselves in front of the window or on the deck. Sometimes I lay flat on my stomach in front of you, and you, Sphinx-like, gazed unblinking back at me as my fingers splayed along your skull and I wondered if you could understand, could share the nectar of affection.

I don't even know how much you've ever really liked me, but at least you didn't dislike me, (except when I was giving you baths) and you have been there for six years. And now I come home and it's different and you're not there on a chair, sunning yourself; you're six hundred miles away and I doubt you still miss me, if you ever did.

Does God give us animals to teach us how to have affection for something that from a purely utilitarian perspective is completely useless? To love something incapable of returning the same equal, human affection?

You would not be interested in such philosophical or theological speculations. You would yawn wide and roll a lazy eye at me before going back to sleep. You are a part of the family I've left behind, but the only one I can't keep in touch with. I write this for my own sake, not for yours. You are not a literary dog, even if you have slept with your head on my textbooks before.

Little friend, you're small, often you're ridiculous, but you're missed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Thousand Gifts

For Christmas my parents gave me a copy of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. I started reading it on my honeymoon, and I cried the very first chapter, sprawled on a big fat easy-chair in front of the gas fire in our honeymoon cabin. The Pilot, across from me, was reading his Christmas present; I hid behind my book, shy as I wept, unable to combat the beauty and poetry of her words. Grace. And gift.

Now I gather with other pilot-wives on Tuesday nights, and (surprise!) we are reading One Thousand Gifts, to see and explore and be changed by the grace within. Last night was only just Chapter Two, and already we feel our hearts beginning to stir, our eyes to blink open, and the song in our souls begin to swell. Soul-food makes soul-music.

Ann dwells on the simple act of thanksgiving– eucharisteo in the Greek– and in her pages she wrestles with it and ventures into it and finds there deep life, welling up and over. Thankfulness for the gifts that God daily gives, thankfulness in all things, at all times. Living palm open instead of fist clenched tight. Everything is a gift.

Do we, do I, believe it? Everything in my life, my haphazard, normal-extraordinary, beautiful, messy life, everything everyone every happening every emotion every event– all, a gift from the hand of my loving heavenly Father. Is it possible to believe that? To find the gift in the grunge? An essay on Ovid's Metamorphoses is as yet just a scant outline scribbled in a notebook; the guest bathroom still remains unclean; back pain has wrenched me out of sleep too many times now; a new friend is coming for dinner on Friday and I don't know what to feed her. All that– gift?

The leader of our little group has given us the same challenge that a friend gave to Ann Voskamp– make a list. One thousand gifts. Every day, practice thanksgiving. There is always a gift. And let our hearts be changed, let the discipline of eucharisteo change complaining into gratitude, open our eyes to see the love in the gifts God gives us every single day, let our hearts be transformed by knowing that love.

So I have begun: my thousand gifts.

Big ones: the Air Force suddenly changed its mind, the Pilot's survival training dates changed, and he can come, after all, to his brother's wedding in Georgia next month! Gift.

Small ones: a warm, companionable kitchen smelling of mint chocolate, as I bake cookies and the Pilot sits and plays his guitar for me. Gift.

Not random, not God pulling out a scatterbrained grab-bag, dumping a daily piñata of assorted goodies for us to pick up as we chance. No, gift implies intention, individualization, relationship. Everything in my life, lovingly  perfected and selected for my good, for His glory. It’s small moments and it’s grandeur, and God is in both, and in both He beckons, woos, whispers. “The only place we need to see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now,” Ann told me in Chapter Two. That is the desire of the human heart, and it is thanksgiving that can lead us there: see the gifts, and they will lead you to the Giver. My desire, my prayer. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

For the Girl-Slave

You broke my heart the other night.

Have I ever seen you and sauntered on, unknowing? Unmoved? How often has my gaze slid over you on the street and slid off just as quickly, banishing you back into the shadows, the alleys, the benches and bars, as my soul curls up tightly afraid to see and so I stop looking?

But the other night grace granted me the gift of seeing you truly, the words of your story, your stories, thousands and millions of your stories coming back to me through the light of the laptop screen, through my memory, reverberating through my veins until the blood pounded and the tears flowed. And now I just wish I could find you, in the flesh, touch you, reach out a gentle finger to your face and whisper to you my soul to your soul that you are beautiful, you are precious, you Matter.

What bruising you have endured is beyond my feeble comprehension; the mind revolts at the images of twisted suffering, refusing to really allow the imagination to delve the depths of hot-iron pain. They have not just battered your body, they have battered your very soul, and it shows in the deadness of your eyes that seem incapable of carrying hope.

You were young once. You are young now, my little sister, the littlest, the weakest, the most vulnerable. You are just a girl-child, your body fresh and forming like a rose unfurling petals, your soul even more, and they have taken you and they beat you and they violate you and it is acid thrown on this tender lush landscape, and everything lies in ruins, a dead place, the vacancy of no-man's land. They tell you you are nothing, you are less than nothing, good for nothing but to be taken and taken and taken again, by force, by stealth, by violence, by evil. They speak to you and punctuate with bruises and blood, and your soul is withering and you believe them.

Little sister, can you hear me? They are liars!

Every man who ever looked at you with lust like a snake, slithering over your body, every man who ever bruised you, every man who violenced the beautiful mystery of you, raped your soul, your mind, this evil mockery of intimacy, every one of them is a liar. You have believed their lies, little sister; they have been ingrained in you by brute force until you bleed them, but they are lies.

Listen to the truth, if you can. Sometimes it is too difficult to listen. If you can't, just hear; allow it to drift by your soul, and maybe if enough people tell it to you you might one day have the strength to listen. You are beautiful. You are precious. You matter. You are worth everything. Do you hear? Your worth is limitless! You are worth diving into the ocean of the evil surrounding you to save, dragging you out, and then you are worth however long it takes to heal you, to bring you back, to help you live and laugh and bloom again. You are worth limitless love to lavish on your wounds, the only ointment that can ever really heal, to rub it on again and again so that your poor bloody heart, a mass of wounds and scars and more wounds, can start, ever slowly, healing. You are worth love and truth and grace being poured out, you bathed in it, day after day, so that your ravaged soul can start to come to life again.

Worth it. You.

The next time I see you, see you with my eyes in the flesh on the street, see you in a newspaper, on a television, in flickering laptop-light, will I have the courage not to look away?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tea-Bag Friends

I just want instant friends! Rebellious-ridiculous thoughts, storming through my mind as the storm builds in my eyes and overflows onto the Pilot's t-shirt. He cuddles me on our new fake-leather couch, his arms that safe haven opening wide for me, as I cry from overdose of rich-sugary-delicious cupcakes, and being tired, and wishing for Colorado friends where I knew everybody and everybody knew me and I was at home.

I can't even explain why I'm crying; I had fun, I had a good time at the cupcake lounge, I like these new girls and I know they like me, but there's something more I want. I want to nix the feathery buttercream icing and bite straight to the middle of the cupcake, I don't want to lick the lollipop to get to the Tootsie roll, use whatever sugar-laden metaphor you want, I just want instant friends, instant depth, instant intimacy.

"Meredith, friends are like tea-bags," says the Pilot gently. He knows similes always get my attention. "Why don't you just let them steep for a while?"

Novel idea! There's no such thing as instant tea– at least I hope there isn't, because I'm sure it would be fake and bad for you and distasteful. The longer a tea-bag steeps, the more intense the flavor, and (in my opinion) the better the tea. Warm, fragrant, poured into a favorite mug, add sugar or honey and milk if you like, sip slowly, with a nice cozy book. A good cup of tea. And time and patience and care is involved, same with friendships. Intimacy by its very nature cannot be rushed, must unfold gently, naturally, and intentionally. The time is always worth it.

Tea-bag friends. We're steeping together in this small-town pot, flavors increasing, but we shall not rush.