Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Undone is my least favourite part of pretty much everything, but I am especially aware of this discomfort in myself when I watch fairy tales with my kids. I love the set up, the falling in love with the characters, the introduction of a challenge and adventure. But when the villain appears, the circumstances darken, and the music gets intense, I want to skip to the happily ever after.
Onward with our kids last weekend, Charlize crawled into my lap as the
sun threatened to set before the kids could hug the father they had been
missing for a lifetime.
“I’m scared, Mama,” she whispered.
“Me too,” I whispered back. “But what do we need to remember about movies?” (We’ve had these conversations before…)
“It always turns out okay in the end.”
“Right,” I breathed back to myself, as much as to her, “Or else it’s not the end yet.”
The five-year-old-heart in me beats just as fast as hers as we wait for some measure of resolution. We share a longing for everything to be predictable, peaceful, and good. And the real world is just as hard on our idealist hearts as Disney is.
The thing is, there is no happily ever after. There is only ever happy moments, gifts for receiving in the midst of whatever is right now. I am undone fairly often when the illusion of happily ever after falls apart – again.
There is an irony here too, though. My whole life, Creator has been my favourite name for God. I stand in awe of a One who not only made everything that is, but who also delights in remaking it all constantly. There has never been a perfect sunrise or sunset, only a sun that rises and falls continuously. The mountains and the oceans seem so vast as to be unchanging, but they bear witness to shifts that take longer than the human imagination can fathom.
And every morning, I rise to see a God who is ever remaking my heart too.
They said the first year would be the hardest after Abbie was lifted both into and out of the earth. They were wrong. The first year was endless, unanticipated heart breaks, being undone out of nowhere and everywhere with all the first things without her. The second year was worse because the first time had no space for the permanence of it all.
But somewhere in this third year, the absences became filled with presence. Every dime, every mention of her name, every memory brought on by some unanticipated trigger – each brought her closer again. The undoing itself has become the remaking somehow.
The world is coming undone right now in some fairly significant ways. It is annoying and frustrating when it isn’t tragic and terrifying. I am far from alone in noticing how much a pandemic feels like grief. We are all losing something, and some far more than others.
I have lived through enough undoing to know that just making it through from one sunrise to the next can be a battle. While my idealist heart longs to skip to the end, my grieving heart knows that the end is a long way off, and the only way out is through.
Right here in the middle of what is, there are profound moments of happy. Singing happy birthday to a beautiful girl through a living room window. Two kids soaring for the first time on their bikes. Soup and buns to fill my growling stomach and my aching soul.
The trial, which had been set for June, has been postponed. And there are selfless, brave, beautiful humans working beside me in a hospital. I am only rarely as kind and hopeful a wife and mother as I long to be. And the sky flared purple just for me last night and I heard Abbie laughing in the wind.
Everything that is undone will be remade. But living through it is the hardest part. Go gently, dear ones. We are being remade, and creation is exhausting work.
Abbie changed her hair almost as often as her clothes. We moved her between houses and cities more than anyone else I have known. She allowed herself to be remade whenever her plans came undone. In the weeks before she died, she got her first pair of glasses, and the photo is a reminder to me that I can see her – and pretty much everything else in life – differently, if I must.
Until each of us reaches the final end of our lives, undone is not the end. It is the beginning and the middle of the remaking. If it isn’t okay, then we aren’t at the end yet. I am watching out for you today, Abbie, with my heart ready to be remade.
Creator, may our undoing remake us more tender than hard.
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On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.