Knowing Joy, Knowing Woe

DSC_0128 (1)

The tag line for my blog could also be my life’s theme:

Solid joys, deep sorrows, aggressive hope.

Last year a persistent, present grief pressed down my heart. I knew, though, that I couldn’t abandon joy. Grief would need to make room for a roommate: joy was moving in. They would have to cohabit.

I remembered that metaphor as I read this line from an early C.S. Lewis poem:

Be as the Living ones that know
Enormous joy, enormous woe.

The poems are in Spirits in Bondage, a collection of 40 poems written by Lewis between the ages of 16 and 19.

 

Advertisements

The Little Things

DSC_0695

It’s the little things, right?

One autumn a friend closed her café and gave me a restaurant-sized bag of Big Train Chai to thank me for my help. That winter I had a delicious, steaming, comforting cup of chai every night. Without changing any other eating habits, I gained eight pounds in two or three months. One little thing.

I’m done with diets.* It’s easy to believe I can take off twenty – thirty pounds if I focus hard on a plan—pick one, any one— and execute it. But I know that as soon as I go “off” the ‘plan’ that weight huffs and puffs, red-faced and straining, and catches up with me.

So I’m looking for little changes that over the long haul will add up to loss. This summer my daily drink is Mint Lime Water. I clip some mint and put that at the bottom of my 32 oz. cup. I squeeze a half a lime into it. (Or, pull a snack bag with the juice of one lime out of the freezer.) I add one package of Truvia. (I know, I know, it’s not healthy, but I’m going to finish my supply before I give it up.) Fill the cup with ice and then water. Suddenly, it’s easier to drink my water. And I’ve taken a leave of absence from caffeine.

Curt’s cousin encouraged me to try a sprig of rosemary in my water. I like it!

What is your little thing? I’d seriously like to glean some other ideas that friends/readers have found helpful.

Do you have a fun substitution or a new twist on something? Does anyone out there use a standing desk? My friend at work does squats while she blow-dries her hair. I’d love to do that, but I’m not willing to give up reading a book and I don’t think I could manage both!

I’ll wait for your comments. Thanks!

* Until the next new one seduces me.

Lila

DSC_3801

Wow. The audio edition read by Maggie Hoffman enshrouded me, made this not merely listening to a book, but an experience. I listened while driving, but when I was home, I found it difficult to do anything beyond listening. Setting the iron upright, drying my hands, leaving clean clothes in the basket, I basked in the cadences.


The writing is spare, the words short. This is a story of abandonment, of survival, of transience. Provision and grace make spattered appearances, but they are layered and torn and patched. Lila finds herself alone but she steadfastly refuses to consider herself needy. The story pivots when she steps into a church on a rainstorm.

Quotes that captured me:

I got shame like a habit, the only thing I feel except when I’m alone.

There was no way to abandon guilt, no decent way to disown it. All the tangles and knots of bitterness and desperation and fear had to be pitied. No, better, grace had to fall over them.

Most of the time she thought she understood things better when she didn’t try. Things happen the way they do. Why was a foolish question. In a song a note follows the one before because it is that song and not another one.

If I were leading a discussion of this book, we would talk about the knife; geraniums; gardens; charity; baptism; adoption; King James language; Psalm 22. And Ezekiel.

I was unmoved when I first read Gilead. What changed my response was hearing the audio. I can still remember what I was doing when I listened perhaps five years ago, it made so deep an impression. Now I want to return to the print book and read it with Lila still fresh in my mind.

The Last Verse

old_handThis post is dedicated to dear Sally W.,
who is singing her last verse with grace & peace.

One of the glories of old hymns is their last verse. Singing them was a weekly reminder that death would come, that life follows death, that we have promises on which to stand. The regular drip irrigation of those last verses watered our hope and confidence.

Here’s a few that I found in my hymnal.

Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Through ev’ry period of my life your goodness I’ll pursue;
and after death, in distant worlds, the glorious theme renew.

E’en down to old age all my people shall prove
my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.

He will keep me till the river rolls it waters at my feet:
then he’ll bear me safely over, made by grace for glory meet.

Jesus loves me, he will stay close beside me all the way:
if I love him, when I die he will take me home on high.

Now by this I’ll overcome—nothing but the blood of Jesus;
now by this I’ll reach my home—nothing but the blood of Jesus.

He will gather, he will gather the gems for his kingdom,
all the pure ones, all the bright ones, his loved and his own.

Then he’ll call us home to heaven, at his table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee:
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

And when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil a life of joy and peace.

While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyelids close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown, see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.

When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side;
songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee, I will ever give to thee.

And when my task on earth is done, when, by thy grace, the victory’s won
e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, since God through Jordan leadeth me.

I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death;
and praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
and say, when the deathdew lies cold on my brow;
if ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’m so glad I learned to trust thee, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
and I know that thou art with me, will be with me to the end.

Jesus lives and death is now but my entrance into glory.
Courage, then, my soul, for thou hast a crown of life before thee;
thou shalt find thy hopes were just: Jesus is the Christian’s trust.

Rethinking Winter

photo credit: National Audubon Society

photo credit: National Audubon Society

Ought not
WINTER
in allegorical designs,
rather be represented by
such things that might suggest HOPE
than convey a cold and grim despair?
the withered leaf, the snowflake,
the hedge-bill that cuts and destroys—
Why these?
Why not rather the dear larks for one?
The lark, the bird of the light is there
in the bitter short days.
Put the lark then for winter,
a sign of HOPE,
a certainty of
summer.

…the bud is alive in its sheath;
the green corn under the snow;
the lark twitters as he passes.
Now these to me are the allegory of winter.

— from Out of Doors in February
by Richard Jefferies

A Reduction of Tears

 
Nellie Stover Harper, March 23, 1920 – May 7, 1968

Sorrow has no shelf life.

There is, however, a difference between the jagged edges of fresh grief and the patina of an old grief worn smooth like a faded flannel shirt. The splash of hot tears and spasms of sobs wind down, and eventually become sighs and wistful smiles.

A reduction, in cooking terminology, uses heat and evaporation to get the essential flavors, the best bits, into a thicker base.

Grief–the healthy kind–can make a reduction of our tears, concentrating those salty drops into a savory flavoring.  Cardamom, by itself, is sharp and bitter, pungent and overwhelming. Reduced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black tea, it becomes a vital ingredient in chai.
  
Revelation (last book of the Bible) promises a day when God will wipe away all the tears and Psalm 56 speaks of God storing tears in a bottle.  

I know that God sees our tears.  And if he knows the hairs on our head, surely He knows every tear that falls. 
 
I know that God–the One who Redeems–transforms our sorrows, giving us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. 

I imagine that the oil of joy is a reduction of our tears, redeeming our sorrows and transforming them into praise. He gave the tears; one day we will offer them back to Him.

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

~

More thoughts on grief.

Some letters my mom wrote.