finding the motherlode

- mining for a vein of truth in the stuff that matters -

Category: reflection

when the moon hangs low

honey

4 a.m.

moon hangs low

clearer than clear

backside in his easy chair

as if to say:

“I’ve done my part,

worked hard, time to rest.”

Honey dribbles from his chin.

And I think to myself:

Who will catch it?

This help, this golden muster —

the kind that gives strength in the night,

muscle to my bone,

reparation when I am weak?

(And God knows I need sight to my eyes.

Can’t see a thing without my glasses.)

If that’s my complaint,

then this is my boast:

I am no greater than the moon.

Every season, phase, tide roll — 

around and around

waxing and waning

in and out 

just like it did last year and again yesterday

except the waves don’t crash exactly the same way

and in the same place twice.

That man does not tell God what to do

but hangs listless,

waiting —

until the mouth of Him who speaks 

says:

“Take another turn

lift up

turn around

hide behind the sun

hang low,

shine.

I formed you to give light,

hang low tonight.”

And the honey that dripped from the chin of this faithful witness 

was mine to lick. 

In this thin air, I am sustained.

honey_____________________

©2013 Elizabeth DeBarros

 

when seeds split open

Ginkgo tree                                                        Photo courtesy of Blandy Experimental Farm

 

How fleeting are the years

they pass under the mistletoe

like steam

rising off the lake

— or was it just a pond?

The ripples,

there are so many now.

Some snows we waited for

never came 

Burning sands underfoot,

our lot.

Fall is a jaunt through the leaves,

telling us what kind of 

summer it’s been.

Of all the faces

none do I recall

so vivid

as when faith took root

and hope appeared

when love formed

in a moment’s time

and eternity’s seed split open

giving birth

to something beautiful.

And time is His, not mine

every ginkgo leaf that falls

is golden,

remembered by the limb

upon which it hung.

If sap then runs in spring

and the redbuds

a little fuller,

Can He not whistle in the wind

and work a wonder for you?

Can He not work a wonder for you?

©2013 Elizabeth DeBarros

Protected: turning fifty

session six: letter to my mother

Geraldine Mary Robertsky Clarke 

May 28, 1935  —  September 4, 2012

_________________♦_________________

Who are you apart from me? For so many years, I thought we were one and the same. Unfortunately, we made that mistake. But God, He changed all that — by setting us both free. How do I know? In my hands I hold the mirror you gave me and I see a perfect reflection of myself. Thank you.

__________________♦__________________

Mater. Madre. Mère. Mum. Mom. Mommy. Mama. Ma. Mother.

Greater than an ordinary sailing vessel, larger than a merchant ship — Mother — she exists for others. Her hull is commissioned with strength to brave the high seas of life, carrying goods from afar. She maintains the spirit of the ages, takes her cues from above, has eyes in the back of her head, and can tell a storm is coming by the way the wind blows.

Her arms are of borgana softness, providing for the heads of all her children. She remembers everything, including what she was wearing 20 years ago on a certain day. All her yesterdays are kept as memento and patina is her middle name, and by which time itself is framed. She perceives beauty even in blackness and trusts God for light when there is darkness. Her kitchen is never closed even if tomorrow is another day.

Me: But what about all those storms? 

Her: Oh, those? They were just stepping-stones to the mountains I learned to climb and the Rock I learned to cling to.  

Me: You taught me that. On my right hand I wear your wedding ring.

Her: Love endures all things.

Me: Thank you.

___________________ ♦  ___________________ 

In Letter to My Mother, Barbara Kingsolver delicately scans with a silent eye every stage of her developmental life, recounting how it was, who she was, and what she saw — from her earliest memory at 3 to her gawky adolescence and those fierce, independent college years and beyond to the time when she herself became a wife and mother — where ego’s bloom finally fell off and her arms opened wide to the realization that giving supersedes taking and love truly is possible.

She’s amazed at love, really. Amazed at how her firstborn daughter’s “tiny hand is making a delicate circle, index finger to thumb, pinkie extended…” just like hers did at eight weeks of age. Amazed at how loving and being loved by a man is not horrible and how willing she is to bear the cross that is motherhood. She celebrates the event known as coming full circle and when Mother receives her reward. Sort of. Let’s face it, the need for Mother doesn’t ever really go away. And mothers and daughters don’t ever actually retire from the mother-daughter relationship. As Kingsolver admits:

“A week past my due date you are calling every day. Steven answers the phone, holds it up, and mouths, “Your mother again.” He thinks you may be bugging me. You aren’t. I am a woman lost in the weary sea of waiting, and you are the only one who really knows where I am. Your voice is keeping me afloat. I grab the phone.”

♦   ♦   ♦

We cut our teeth on the figurehead of Mother — a developmental task that extends far beyond toddlerhood. Emotional growth is painful. But it’s teeth we need and a good mother knows that. So she offers her edge and bears the pain along with us. Cries for us, too. Then she cheers us on. Through a million and one little things, she shows her love, mirrors back to us who we are. How else can we know ourselves but through the eyes of another? Children need a face to look into to know they’re loved. And they need eyes that speak back to them, “Yes, you are loved.” Through our most significant relationships do we become that person of certain expression, disposition, demeanor, stature, spirit.

Mothers are God-given.

But I am only too aware that not everyone is fortunate enough to have been fed from the spoon of a mother’s love. Sin, brokenness, sickness, absence, narcissism, selfishness — how often the effects of the fall play their role, rob us of the good things. Inasmuch as we want her to be, expect her to be, demand her to be, Mother is not perfect. But love is. And why there is forgiveness. If we are looking to Christ, He redeems the faults. Heals the wounds. Fills the gaps. Works wonders.

Kingsolver does a masterful job in this essay at capturing and conveying vivid moments of her life and the genuine love she received from and has for her mother. She writes with depth and candor, both of which I can relate to on so many levels, except for maybe the phone call her mother made tracking her down at a remote café in Beaurieux, France. Amazing how mothers have a way of knowing. They just know.

A BIBLICAL LENS:

If there’s a single trait that binds mothers together the world over, it is the sacrifice of self.

I think of Eve, mother of all the living, and how she models for us the quintessential role — the woman of firsts: She was first to be second. First to be deceived, to feel guilt, shame, and fear for her sin. After Satan, she was first to stand before God in judgment to receive her sentence. First to receive a promise, to find mercy, to submit to her husband’s authority, to suffer pain in childbirth, to bear children, to lose a son. What did God require of her? Body, soul, and spirit, the sacrifice of self. 

And what of the other mothers who beckon to us?

Sarah was called to sacrifice many years while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a sonHannah sacrificed on her knees in prayer, asking God for a son, only to give him back to the Lord. Rachel travailed and died in childbirth. Upon the angel’s announcement, Mary said, “May it be to me as you have said.”

These mothers have not flatlined somewhere in the annals of history.  By faith, we can receive from them still today, be fed from their spoon, receive instruction, emulate their character. Mother love is synonymous with sacrifice.

Our spiritual DNA is secure.

___________________________

Next Thursday: Household Words by Diana Lovegrove 

-Please share comments, quotes, Scriptures, or views below-

 

return, pray, live

O LIVING GOD,

I bless thee that I see the worst of my heart as well as the best of it,

that I can sorrow from those sins that carry me from thee,

that it is thy deep and dear mercy to threaten punishment so that I may

return, pray, live.

My sin is to look on my faults and be discouraged,

or to look on my good and be puffed up.

I fall short of thy glory every day by spending hours unprofitably,

by thinking that the things I do are good,

when they are not done to thy end,

nor spring from the rules of thy Word.

My sin is to fear what never will be;

I forget to submit to thy will, and fail to be quiet there.

But Scripture teaches me that thy active will

reveals a steadfast purpose on my behalf,

and this quietens my soul, and makes me love thee.

Keep me always in the understanding

that saints mourn more for sin than other men,

for when they see how great is thy wrath against sin,

and how Christ’s death alone pacifies that wrath,

that makes them mourn the more.

Help me to see that although I am in the wilderness

it is not all briars and barrenness.

I have bread from heaven,

streams from the rock,

light by day,

fire by night,

thy dwelling place and thy mercy seat.

I am sometimes discouraged by the way,

but though winding and trying it is safe and short;

Death dismays me, but my great high priest stands in its waters,

and will open me a passage,

and beyond is a better country.

While I live let my life be exemplary,

When I die may my end be peace.


—Shortcomings, The Valley of Vision

_________________________________

If things were always a straight shot, we might get to where we’re going a lot sooner. But no path is perfectly straight. God ordains the contours as well as the obstacles, both measured and beyond us, oftentimes perplexing, leaving us to scratching our heads, if not banging them.

Our questions do not threaten God, but He reserves the right to not answer them. And I don’t believe God seeks to frustrate us, unless, of course, we’re in need of frustrating. But what He does desire is that we depend on Him more fully — not just for forgiveness and eternal life, but for the everyday trudge, the totaled car, the failing grade, the betrayal of our bodies.

Nobody escapes this fallen world.

When the landscape is all drought and thorns, there’s water up ahead, otherwise He wouldn’t toughen the soles of the feet. Surely there’s grace for the path, the one that wends its way back to Him.

Trust.

_________________________________________

vantage point

Supreme Ruler of the Visible and Invisible Worlds,

My heart is drawn out to thee

for thy amazing grace and condescension.

Thou hast kept my conversion fresh before me,

that season of my first spiritual comfort

when I passed through the Red Sea by a way

I did not expect.

I rejoiced then for that unthought-of passage,

that delivered me from the fear of the Egyptian

when I had almost despaired of life.

I rejoice now as these things are

fresh and lively in my mind.

My soul melts when I think of thy days of old with me,

when a poor worthless creature without wisdom to direct or strength to help myself

was laid under the happy necessity of living upon thee

and finding thy consolations large.

Thou art my divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells,

my life, hope, joy, peace, glory, end;

May I be daily more and more conformed to thee,

with the meekness and calmness of the Lamb in my soul,

and a feeling sense of the felicity of heaven,

where I long to join angels free from imperfections,

where in me the image of my adored Saviour

will be completely restored,

so that I may be fit for his enjoyments and employments.

I am not afraid to look the king of terrors in the face,

for I know I shall be drawn, not driven, out of the world.

Until then let me continually glow and burn out for thee,

and when the last great change shall come

let me awake in thy likeness,

leaving behind me an example that will glorify thee

while my spirit rejoices in heaven,

and my memory is blessed upon the earth,

with those who follow me praising thee for my life.

-Retrospect and Prospect, The Valley of Vision

________________________________

There are days when my tongue clings to the roof of my mouth and it seems as though I’m dumbstruck. I suppose I am, when I look at what God has done. And while I cannot fathom what He will do next, I am certain of this one thing: The earth is His footstool and Heaven is my home. And I know that He is good, and I trust in His wisdom to allow what He will for His divine purpose. 

Soli Deo Gloria.

fat portion

But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering —

Genesis 4:4 

We don’t always get it right. Our measure is off, our scales are out of whack. The heart is reluctant. We get tired, want to throw in the towel. Give up just a little.

But the Spirit of God searches minds and hearts, and He sees in the dark.

His grace is sufficient.

When we come to terms with our depravity, we realize we have nothing to bring Him. God is not looking for a token. When we come empty-handed, mercy finds us and we are received. When the mechanics of being a Christian show signs of wearing thin, it’s the fat portion we must put on the altar. Even our lives.

Meet Him there.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

-Romans 12:1

zeitgeist

The only thing more dangerous than the spirit of the age is being unaware that you’re caught up in it.

Like Times Square after New Year’s in the rain, America today is full of the aftereffects of a party gone bad, but many are too intoxicated to notice. To the level of distraction and amusement we’ve stooped, we have sunk to new lows and the mood is dark. Sobriety only comes at a price the morning after.

Thumbing through TIME magazine (Monday, Jan. 16, 2012) the other day, an article caught my eye — 10 Questions for Chris Kyle, a candid interview with former US Navy SEAL sniper turned author who earned three Silver Stars in Iraq for expert marksmanship with the deadliest record in American military history. The lines between his brow and the edge in his words:You live in a dreamworld,” both pointed to something truer than my comfort zone was used to.

One question the interviewer asked was why he could kill a woman with a grenade in her hand but not a little boy in Nasiriyah with an RPG in his. “That day I could not kill a child,” was his reply. Something higher than the brass command to kill was informing Chris Kyle the day he let that boy go free. A reminder that rules not of this world play into the hands of a Sovereign God.

No dreamworld there.

Meanwhile, atop our lime-treated soil on this slightly tilting planet, our isms keep us busy clicking away online and picking from shelves of well-stocked stores, feeding off pig slop on TV and allowing our app-hungry devices to consume us while we treat our pets better than our neighbors. We’re split right down the middle — an angry couch of fiction readers, softer than marshmallows, living in the land of Diversion with two fists raised in the air. National pride faces its own dichotomy amid pleas for someone to rescue us from moral decay without having the collective conscience to uphold the standards necessary to recover them.

Zeitgeist.

The spirit of the age has swooped down like a giant bird to carry off in its bill this suffering generation, convincing us that we’re fighting for a just cause — namely, our rights.

The spirit of the age has swooped down like a giant bird to carry off in its bill this suffering generation, convincing us that we’re fighting for a just cause — namely, our rights. Look around. Every institution is under siege. Marriage is in the hopper, getting redefined. The term “family” can mean anything you need it to mean. Parents can choose their baby’s sex beforehand and children can decide their gender afterward. Our churches are in crisis, schools need policing, leaders from every sector are dropping like flies for doing unspeakable things. And the economy sustains a head wound that won’t heal while backpacks set up as portable living rooms in the public square. Ideological ire is everywhere. Around the globe, protest and unrest have become a way of life.

For the Christian, things are dicier than ever. While intolerance is a sitting duck, tolerance is a ticket to hell. The Word of God is Truth, but if discernment isn’t rooted in faith working by love, entitlement is a silent creeper and soon your judgments will subtly begin and end with you. The fog of spiritual battle can be thick, may even cause temporary blindness. Things are getting harder and harder to separate and figure out.

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when asked if He was King of the Jews?  He answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Soothing words. Terra firma. Rules not of this world.

Still, the clanging of cymbals can be attention-getting loud. Knowledge abounds while Truth declines, Anti-Semitism rises as judgment falls, and walking circumspectly may mean keeping quiet when everything in you wants to scream. You may have knowledge, zeal, and confidence, but they will mean very little if you do not have Christ.

Tumult in the city, tumult in the Church — one thing is clear: The Zeitgeist is a very big killer bird.

    The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven;

his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

-Psalm 11:4 (ESV)

______________________♦______________________

For further meditation

Psalm 11

2 Timothy 3:1-7

Isaiah 11:2-4

Isaiah 24

Author’s Note:  Reference in this blog post to TIME magazine does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by the author nor is the article meant to be a political commentary on war or exploit the horrors of war. Use of said article is strictly anecdotal.

Retired Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was called “Al-Shaitan Ramad” (The Devil of Rahmadi) among insurgents and is known as “the legend” among his SEAL brothers. He now lives in Mid-Texas with his wife and two children and considers himself to be a better husband and father than he ever was a killer. 

________________________

PostscriptOn February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle was shot and killed, along with veteran companion, Chad Littlefield, at the Rough Creek Shooting Range in Erath County, Texas. 

chart my course

O LORD,

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed
in thy presence
in thy service,
to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes,
follows,
guides,
sustains,
sanctifies,
aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth thy praise;
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbour,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.

—New Year, The Valley of Vision

___________________________________________

As the calendar New Year 2012 offers fresh hope for yielding more fully unto Him and seeing from new angles and perspectives, I’m reminded how little I am in control of so many circumstances. As a Christian, living in a fallen world is hard enough, learning to navigate on the high seas; an act of faith. I can but hoist my sail heavenward and trust Him for momentum, that I might gain by seeing from an eternal vantage point.

And I rest in knowing that my Sovereign God, from before the foundations of the world, has ordained the waves, ordered the opening and closing of the locks, fixed the buoys, and set the boundaries. By His glorious and omniscient design, He alone knows the course I am to take. Yet, still I must pray:

May all my moorings be found in You.

thou art good

O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE,

Thou art good when thou givest,

when thou takest away,

when the sun shines upon me,

when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,

and in love didst redeem my soul;

Thou dost love me still,

in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me another year,

leading me through a twisting wilderness,

in retreat helping me to advance,

when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;

I hoist sail and draw up anchor,

with thee as the blessed Pilot of my future as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,

thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,

I shall not drown;

If I am to die,

I shall see thy face the sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot,

grant me grace that my faith fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,

I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,

as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

–Year’s End, The Valley of Vision

___________________________________

At the end of every year for as long as I can remember, I find a few hours, or maybe I should say the hours find me, to hang up my hat and draw a curtain on the last 11 months, resigning myself to the fact that next month will be a blur and I will never pass this way again.

What’s done is done.

I then get quiet and pensive — until I rest in knowing that what hasn’t been accomplished this year will perhaps be in the following, remembering that it’s not so much about what I’ve begun or finished as it is the good work God began in me and promises to complete.

Feeling suitably small, I give Him thanks.

_____________________________________

Fall Dogwood -Photo by Louise Noakes

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