Her fate seizes her and brings her down. She is heavy with it. It wrings her. The great weight is heaved out of her. It eases. She moves into what she has become sure in her fate now as a fish free in the current. She turns to the calf who has broken out of the womb’s water and its veil. He breathes. She licks his wet hair. He gathers his legs under him and rises. He stands, and his legs wobble. After the months of his pursuit of her now they meet face to face. From the beginnings of the world his arrival and her welcome have been prepared. They have always known each other. ~Wendell Berry “Her First Calf”
Seized, brought down, wrung from, heaved out, pursued, then eased:
there is nothing gentle in what it takes to be birthed a mother;
once emptied, mothering becomes sweetness
as never tasted before,
a filling back up
in a face to face meeting
destined from the beginnings of time.
I have known you,
I knew each of you,
you have known me all along,
born in covenant promise
and set free at birth.
I want you to read this some day, 恵真
our new little Emma Sophia:
as you took your first breath in the dark of the night
so far away from this farm where your father grew up,
we bid farewell to the sun here
so God could bring it glowing to your first day in Japan,
that misty island where your mother grew up.
Your birth blesses so many all over this earth
and proves that war from two generations ago
exists only in history books now,
now love digs so deep in the genes
it overcomes what has come before.
You have sent the sun back today to us,
brand new grandparents,
to rise pink over this snowy morning,
and we will send it back to you tonight
to wake you for your second day
resting calm in the arms of your loving family.
Each day from now on
may we always return the Light you sent
and send it forth to shine on you.
and the harsh falcon its flightless young. ~Dana Gioia “The Prayer” (written in memory of his infant son who died of SIDS)
When we think of those who wait for us on the other side,
and who we will wait for when it comes our time,
I know there is One who watches over all these reunions,
knowing the moment when our fractured hearts
heal whole once again.
And now you feed your students the bread of knowledge
and piece together with threads of love
the brokenness you witness.
We cherish each day with you in our lives…
May the wind always be in her hair May the sky always be wide with hope above her And may all the hills be an exhilaration the trials but a trail, all the stones but stairs to God.
When it’s hard to be patient…make her willing to suffer When it’s ridiculous to be thankful … make her see all is grace When it’s radical to forgive…make her live the foundation of our faith And when it’s time to work … make her a holy wonder.
May she be bread and feed many with her life and her laughter May she be thread and mend brokenness and knit hearts… ~Ann Voskamp from “A Prayer for a Daughter”
Let us step outside for a moment As the sun breaks through clouds And shines on wet new fallen snow, And breathe the new air. So much has died that had to die this year.
Let us step outside for a moment. It is all there Only we have been slow to arrive At a way of seeing it. Unless the gentle inherit the earth There will be no earth. ~May Sarton from “New Year Poem”
Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.
I don’t pay close enough attention to the meaning of my leaking eyes when I’m looking for kleenex to stem the flow. During the holidays it seems I have more than ample opportunity to find out from my tears the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next, so I keep my pockets loaded with kleenex.
It mostly has to do with welcoming family members back home for the holidays to become a full out noisy messy chaotic household again, with puzzles and games and music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation. It is about singing grace together before a meal and choking on precious words of gratitude. It certainly has to do with bidding farewell as we did yet again this morning, gathering them in for that final hug and then that letting-go part.
We urge and encourage them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be, even thousands of miles away from their one-time home on the farm.
I too was let go once and though I would try to look back, too often in tears, I learned to set my face toward the future. It led me here, to this marriage, this family, this farm, this work, our church, to more tears, to more letting go, as it will continue if granted the years to weep again and again with gusto and grace.
This is where I will go next: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me or my children. They release a fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spills down my cheeks drop by drop like wax from a burning candle.
“May the hair on your toes never fall out!” — J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (Thorin Oakenshield addressing Bilbo Baggins)
Tolkien’s Hairy Toes Blessing has been one of my more popular blog posts when I have posted it before, most likely because our corgis are just like hobbits with irresistible hairy toes. Yet the message itself goes beyond cute: it is indeed a good thing to give and receive blessings.
It’s a safe bet my toes and your toes have never been subjected to such a blessing. But I like the idea of blessings starting from the bottom up, encompassing our most humble and homely parts first.
The world would be a better place if we rediscovered the art of bestowing blessings–those specific prayers of favor and protection that reinforce community and connection to each other and to something larger than ourselves. They have become passé in a modern society where God’s relationship with and blessing of His people is not much more than an after-thought. Benedictions must extend beyond the end of worship services to all tender partings; wedding receptions can go beyond roasting and toasting to encompass sincere prayers for a future life together.
Today especially necessitates a special blessing not invoking hairy toes: our daughter moves several hours away to start her first permanent teaching job, so I send the following blessing with her as she drives away to start her new life (shared by my dear friend Alice in New York):
…Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses. Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon. Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path…. May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame. May anxiety never linger about you. May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul. Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
~John O’Donohue from “Blessing for Presence” from To Bless the Space Between Us
The ten years between these pictures could not possibly have flown by more quickly. Our three children could no longer “fit” in a little cave on our favorite west Vancouver Island beach, but we still could spend a few days together appreciating each others’ company as five adults. The games around the table in the beach cabin were a bit more competitive, the conversation quite a bit deeper, the meals prepared by expert 21 year old hands, and much of the time everyone had their nose in a book. When we all climbed into the hot tub together, we displaced a lot more water. However, we still worked to build a sand castle with a moat in order to watch the incoming tide, much like the tide of time, collapse it with a few swiping crashing waves.
Now leaping forward six years, there are more wonderful changes, increasing the complexity of being all in one place as a family. With the addition of two daughters-in-law with our sons on either side of the globe, we can now gather “virtually” to break bread together. Building a sand castle to watch it wash away has become the stuff of memories.
There is much about our family that remains the same even as we have expanded and now dwell thousands of miles apart. I rest in that knowledge. I’m simply asking for the passage of time to take its time washing us back to sea.