Running Like an Inflated Drunkard

It is no secret that it is Tim Fall’s fault encouragement that got me blogging. I always enjoy Tim’s words, and am delighted to welcome him here today with his usual blend of funny, warm and robustly encouraging insight.

Running Like an Inflated Drunkard

Contrary to the impression I might have given with posts on running a 6 mile obstacle course and a half-marathon in the Happiest Place on Earth, I am not wont to join a few thousand strangers in order to traverse long distances in company.

But I did it again.

This time it was a 5K through a bunch of bounce houses. Three miles and a dozen inflatable obstacles made for a fun-run in the truest sense. It also made me feel like the folks in this verse:

They reeled and staggered like drunkards … . (Psalm 107:27.)

Tim Drunkard

Me reeling and staggering, but not falling down.

 

We signed up along with a bunch of people from the gym. As the day approached the young guy who owns the gym – and whom we looked to as our fearless leader for the race – went and blew his knee out and ended up having surgery.

That didn’t stop him from taking the course. He said he’d do it, and he did. And we did it with him. He couldn’t run so we all walked with him 3.1 miles from obstacle to obstacle. He hobbled through the obstacles along with the rest of us, laughing and joking around. It wasn’t the way the course was designed to be taken, perhaps, but it was the right way for us to go.

The Right Way to Go

Which reminds me of another verse:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24.)

This group of friends stuck together for the sake of the one who could not run full speed. It’s the same with the church, the people of God. We are called to come together, to be with one another, to love each other in the good times and the bad times. In fact, it’s this love for one another that shows people who we belong to.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35.)

How can you love one another so that people will see you belong to Jesus? Good question, and one I hope you’ll help answer in a comment. For me it often means encouraging people. I don’t restrict this to fellow Christians, of course. Jesus’ love is something I can share with everyone God puts in my life.

When we love those outside the body of Christ, we do it without expectation of reciprocation. When we do it with each other, though, it should be a mutual care and love for one another. It is this bond of love – the back and forth, the give and take whether everyone can run at the same speed or not – that shows people who we are.

That’s what Jesus said.


Tim Fall pointsTim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 28 years with two grown kids, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He blogs, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook too.

 

 

On conquering the world

My friend Cara Meredith invites people to write guest posts on her blog, and she always has the best prompts. Last year she had us write about unexpected moments, and I got to tell a bit of my love story. This year the prompt is rituals, and I loved getting to write about one of the sweetest things that has developed in our home: the unexpected ritual of world-conquering. Here’s a snippet (and here’s the whole link..)

clotho98

It’s 8:11am, and there’s fussing by the front door:

“Where are your shoes?”

“I can’t find my library book.”

“Why didn’t you unpack your lunch bag yesterday?”

“Hurry up! I don’t want to get another tardy note!”

In the flurry, zips are zipped, snacks are packed, and finally, my husband and older kids tumble out the door. I stand with my youngest—both still in our pajamas and slippers—and call out to them: “Bye! Love you! Conquer the world!” My three year old echoes in a voice that echoes down the street: “Conquer! The! World!!!” and his Daddy rolls down the window as he backs out the driveway and shouts back, “bye! Conquer your little world, too!”

Tail lights disappear down the street, and we click the front door closed.

This is how it happens every day.

(Read the rest here)

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Clotho98

Building My Marriage One IKEA Bookcase at a Time

marriage

Maybe this sounds weird, but I find assembling IKEA furniture to be a profound marriage-building activity.

Actually, I know it sounds weird.

I know couples who bond on marriage retreats, or through deep-and-meaningful conversations, or share hiking, or photography, or puppy/pony/ferret-taming. To each their own, n’est ce pas? For us, two things stand out as significantly maritally-enriching activities: first, cooking together. Second, tackling a box of interlocking particleboard planks—armed only with a leaflet of wordless instructions and ambiguous cartoons and a couple of Allen wrenches—and turning it into a piece of furniture.

Over the years, we have developed something of an assembly-rhythm: we know who opens the boxes (me), and who lays out the pieces (him). We know where we put the screws and bolts (in the bag or next to it?) We have developed a sense of when this is a one-person step while the other finds the pieces for the step-to-come, or whether this particular step requires both of us to grab a tool and work on opposite sides tightening bolts.

There’s something about the symmetry of lifting something heavy at the same time without it toppling, of one holding it steady while the other fastens the joint into place that reminds me we’re a two-as-one team. We work quickly, with little-to-no haggling, and somehow, assembling furniture together makes me feel gorgeously in sync with him.

Perhaps it is a throwback to the early years of marriage, when many thing were difficult, and talking was hard. We were setting up house and figuring stuff out, and yet somehow, in the rhythm of building bookcases, we found a sweet spot: an hour of togetherness as we were literally on the same page, literally building our home.

In the space of an hour we could transform our space: on bended knees with tools and particleboard, we could work side by side and arise more together than we had been before, as if we ourselves were being joined, tightened, better fit in the process. “Some assembly required” is something true of relationships, too.

Our home was more homey at the end, and not just because we had better storage space.

(Aside: If Ikea had a name for this perhaps it would be Mårrïj: their design names being hilariously funny, as Darna discovered.)

There was a season when we assembled a lot of furniture. These days, with a house full of kids and ample book cases, those opportunities are rarer. But when they come, I relish them, for the nuts and bolts of relationships are not just shared responsibilities, but shared wins: Look! We build that! We did it! Together!

For some,  theirs is a story told by vacation photos, or a successfully tamed ferrets. For me, there are bookcases and sets of Malm drawers that serve as milestones in our marital journey. Here we are: Team Us. Making our home.

This Is Just To Say (William Carlos Williams)

plums

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
by William Carlos Williams,”This Is Just to Say” from The Collected Poems: Volume I, 1909-1939
illustrated by Corrie Haffly

*****************

This poem is in the Norton Anthology of Poetry, the hefty tome I bought for my first year English class at university, and which still sits on my shelf. I remember first reading this poem at school, and wondering “how is this a poem? If you just wrote it in a sentence—without the short lines and stanza breaks—it would be a run-of-the-mill post-it note.”

And yet, twenty years later, I still remembered this poem (although strangely, I remembered it being about peaches, not plums), and I still think of it from time to time if I grab the last piece of fruit from the bowl and wonder if someone else had their eye on it.

But it does raise the question: what makes poetry poetry?

When You Are Old (William Butler Yeats)

Old and Gray Yeats

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep, 
And nodding by the fire, take down this book, 
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look 
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; 
How many loved your moments of glad grace, 
And loved your beauty with love false or true, 
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, 
And loved the sorrows of your changing face; 
And bending down beside the glowing bars, 
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled 
And paced upon the mountains overhead 
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
By William Butler Yeats
Illustrated by Corrie Haffly
********************
Once upon a time there was a boy. He had asked me out and I—reeling from a breakup after a 4-year relationship—could hardly comprehend it. I was in a daze, and he was one of a number of blurry figures saying blurred things to me in the maelstrom.
A week later, that same boy stood next to me in the buffet line at a campus ministry dinner, and began with these words: “when you are old and gray and full of sleep…” I didn’t have a clue what he was saying. He kept talking, and at some point I think I realized it was poetry, but I didn’t understand what was happening. I remember his face being dignified and his voice quiet, and then he walked away and didn’t seem to expect me to say anything. Which I didn’t.
I remembered the words “full of sleep”, and “the pilgrim soul”, and some time later went hunting for what I could only assume had been a poem. I found it, and for some reason have treasured the honour of being esteemed by his gentle, kind young man so many years ago, when all he got from me was a blank stare and mute disbelief.
I wish I’d at least been able to say thank you. 
This, in hindsight, is my thank you. To a girl whose heart was shredded, your words made me feel seen.

Your Laughter (Pablo Neruda)

Your Laughter Pablo Neruda

Your Laughter

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die. 

Illustration by Corrie Haffly || Made with Paper/fiftythree.com

************

How have I never read Pablo Neruda before? I don’t even know.

But this poem—Oh this poem!—undid me as I read it and I wasn’t half way through before I had a lump in my throat and tears welling. For it reminded me of a time, years ago, when I walked into a coffee shop tucked away next to our bible-college-on-sea, and tucked myself away in a corner: a cove within a cove. Usually I came with a friend, but on that day I was alone. Someone new came over and welcomed me as a first-timer. Just then, the older waiter called over: “oh, she’s a regular. She’s the one who laughs.”

The thought that this wild, untamed, often-inappropriate laughing habit of mine could be not just a hallmark, but a beloved one, leaves me breathless.

Ugh. All TMI. You see what reading poetry is doing to me, friends? I’m a WRECK.

a love song for a quiet man

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I remember the exact moment I knew.

We had been dating for less than three weeks, and an old flame had just arrived in town. The old flame was exotic and romantic, a dancer and sonnet-quoter. He said wild, passionate things which made me feel wild, confused things. And then, there was the quiet, new guy – who didn’t say much, who didn’t quote poetry, who didn’t dance. But he was present. And he encouraged. And with him, I felt at home. He met Old Flame’s verbal barbs with gentle words. He waited patiently while the storm raged on.

And so it was, driving past a windmill on the leaward slopes of Table Mountain, that I knew. This, THIS, was the man Ephesians 5 was talking about: the one who could love self-sacrificially, whose behavior was not selfish but aimed at the other’s flourishing.

This was the man I should marry.

Ten years ago today, we did just that. The quiet man and I said our “I do’s”.

It didn’t take long before the quiet man’s quietness became frustrating. It seemed passive; neglectful even. For a chatty girl who placed a high value on “talking things through”, his silence in the face of conflict was infuriating. His quietness was sometimes hurtful: I felt unseen, dismissed, forgotten at times.

We faced decisions, and I wondered whether we were on the same team. We faced opportunities, and I wondered how he could just let them pass by. His quietness seemed like a failure to lead, and I feared it would result in a failure to thrive. He is a gifted man, a brilliant thinker – but his quietness meant he was slow to assert himself. In his quietness, he was overlooked – by others, and by me.

(Forgive me, love.)

But the years have gone by, and the children have come, and on this tenth birthday of our little family – I am overcome with gratitude for his quiet strength. His quietness has meant our home is a harbor: where the waters are still even when the surrounding waves are unrelenting. His quietness has meant safety: I do not fear caprice or wrath or selfishness from him. His quietness is not weakness, it is meekness: a willingness to change diapers at 2am, to weather my moods without snarky retaliation, to return kindness for insult, to serve rather than be served. I know now I was called to love and serve a quiet man, whose passivity in some things does not mean he lacks passion in others.

I do not love him despite his quietness. I love him all the more now for his quietness. This quiet man has been as Jesus to me: a stalwart, an anchor, a bulwark; and I am so very grateful to the God who saw fit to entrust us to each other.

This is my love song for my quiet man, whose kindness has spoken louder than words ever could.