We went out tonight to explore Multnomah village. A mama daughter date, to talk.
- A decision was before us. I asked what she might need for the conversation. Pen, paper, journal….?
- “I need only to listen”
I stopped, startled by the simplicity of her words.
There are many decisions in front of me, of us. Adult in size and weight, things like housing and jobs and schools. I can get caught up in the task, scrolling through data and going back and forth between supposed options.
- “I need only to listen”… comes with the whisper of Jesus’ invitation.
- Cease striving, and know.
One week ago we left our home. The car was packed with all our belongings, enough for a month. The kids were excited, scared, angry, sad. They were leaving behind everything they had known.
We headed west a bit, then pointed straight north. “El Norte”, the land flowing with milk and honey. Well maybe not, but we saw a lot of cows.
What was waiting for us there? I was pursuing a dream of education. But so much remained unknown. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would the kids go to school? Would they make friends, or would they be too “different”.
Three and a half days ago we arrived.
…and here the story diverges.
There were no borders to cross, no barriers. No fear of my children being separated from me. No skin to flag me for scrutiny.
All the possibilities are still unknown. But I woke up today and read this verse, in a meditation by Richard Rohr:
Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3
And so today we went. Not to the palace, but to a correctional facility in Sheridan, OR. The flag flew over the scene, encased by barbed wire and tall fences. We sat under an Apple tree, overlooking a fishing pond, and sang songs of solidarity. We sang for brothers and fathers and sons, 121 from 16 countries recently brought here from the border. They are missing wives and mothers and children, forcibly separated from them.
And so this seemed right and good to do, our first weekend in Oregon. Standing with Sikh and Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian and Quakers, praying as we held the chain links in our fingers. Hannah and I felt a strange sense of belonging, even in this strange cool green world populated with so many white folks.
There is hope for this family, my family, in this move north. We ache for our community in the desert. But, we stand together, with eyes open in curiosity and wonder. What will open before us in the days to come?
And for our brothers and sisters who no longer have the dream, we stand. And we will continue to pray, to protest, to write, to call. We choose to speak for those who have no voice.
I have been thinking a lot about Abraham lately. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, God is crazy!
He basically tells the patriarch of old, “Get up. And go. To a place which I will show you.”
In case he doesn’t get the picture, God spells it it out. Leave your home. Your people (kindred), your lands. And go….
Not go from this point A to point B. At least we have a geographical locale. Just go.
And so he packs up. His goats. His tents. His wives. His kids. His life. I can picture that.
Can you imagine the questions from the kids: daddy where are we going, how long til we get there, what will it be like, how many more miles, my feet hurt!
So many questions.
So few answers.
It’s a story I can enter on so many levels. After 40 years (literally) in the desert I know about Desert travel.
So much learning into the I. I will show you. I will be with you.
I sat surrounded yet alone as a journeymate was honored. Her long goodbye came far too soon, it feels to me. She lived in a broken body, but her spirit was strong and vibrant. It pulsed and moved with life as multi-faceted as the flowers in her gardens.
Her life calls to a deep place in me.
I know something of broken bodies. Right now, mine is strong and almost supple. But always there is the awareness that it could change in a day.
I am reminded again tonight that all I have is this moment. This breath, this day…
I want to hold my kids, in their teenage push-pull, a little longer than is comfortable.
I want to speak truth. Not the truth/beauty/goodness kind but the real deal. The messy, cut the cliché, truth. The kind that cuts through to harsh realities with grace.
I want to co-create safe spaces; in my home, in my world. Spaces with food that reflects artistry. Spaces where conversation flows like water.
I want to be present. Today.
It’s not the long goodbye yet.
This place has sheltered us for 24 years. We entered it as young parents, with a toddler. Our ideas of parenthood and life were clear and strong. We were leaders, planting in the inner city. Everything was in a neat box, tied with a bow.
And so this has been in place of learning, and of letting go. The process of unraveling has occurred here. Much pain has been revealed. There has been an invitation to continue to live into the space. To continue to live into the stories of our growing up years, and the growing up happening right in our house. That is a painful road.
It has been a place of joy. Countless birthday parties, Easter egg painting, games of “ha!”, and cooking experiments galore. Five of our kids have grown up here largely. They are desert kids. We have learned how to blend of family. We have learned to love here.
And so the invitation comes to step out. We say and we hope that we will be back to this desert, to this city, full of people we love. But much is unknown.
What is known is that someone steps out with us. And in that knowledge, into the swirling mist we go. But we do not go alone.
And so far this place, we ask that it would be found by someone who would need a space of refuge. A place to call home. A place for the heart. Perhaps, in it’s very walls, lies the courage and the invitation to go farther in and farther up.
May it be so.
Sitting at neighborhood this morning, I felt waves of emotion. The reality is hitting me. I am leaving this community where I have woven into the lives of now the third generation of this Neighborhood.
How do you begin to form a community in a new place? I know that it starts by being willing to open my heart. And then, the risk is, I don’t know where the journey will lead.
But that is the only way. The reality is, that’s community. I have to be willing to enter with my story, to listen to the stories of others. And it is in this sacred space of story that the bonds began to form.
I am in the midst of the grief, of goodbyes yet to come in the move and now the long goodbye to my dad.
And so this morning the song washed over me.
I am not alone. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me.
And my heart says yes. This is truth.
It stands in stark contrast to the cry of evil that resonated through my childhood; you are alone.
Truth says, I am.
I will go before you.
You are not alone.
Listen to the song Here
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I can tell a storm by the way the trees are whipping, compared to when quiet, against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend or love without a sister close by.
There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age, changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm, so earnest, eternal, and strong.
How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things and acquiesced to the force of the storm, we, too, could be ageless and strong.
For what we can conquer is only the small, and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument and played their low-sounding chords.
Whoever submits to this angel, whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright, and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead, by the ever mightier one.
Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry, translated by Annemarie Kidder. Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005. I am standing. I am feeling the movement of the wind of the spirit of God. I am standing. I am listening for the voice underneath. I am standing. I am speaking voiced truth.I am standing. I am keeping my eyes open, and asking for courage to see.I am standing.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our heats, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead
Act,- act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead.
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
a forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
with a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
The story beneath, the relentless pull to life. The hint that perhaps there a footprints of another.
These are the echoes that whisper in the dark corridors of my journey. And the voice speaks to my core lie and says “you are not alone.”
And that is enough. O to be accompanied.
Source: “A Psalm of Life” from The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1893.