Not Quite

Her post
           What is one thing you were taught you needed
           to do or be as a woman or non-binary person
           to be good or worthy or loveable?
Has haunted me
For days now
One thing…one thing
I couldn’t decide

Then I realized

It was never one thing to be
Or one thing to do
It was – always – one thing to avoid
Avoid being “not quite”
And there were millions of ways
To be not quite

Not quiet pretty enough
Not quite obedient enough
Not quite dressed right
Not quite religious enough
Not quite thin enough
Not quite lighthearted enough
Not quite small enough
Not quite careful enough
Not quite serious enough
Not quite ladylike enough
Not quite good enough

Exhausting
And not quite helpful

Almost Romans 8:28-30

Incredibly, unbelievably, miraculously
All things work for good
For those whom God loves
(And her love knows no limits
Of person, time or place
Infinite love from our infinite God)
We are called according to her grace
For she foreknew everything and everyone
She predestined our salvation
She gave us her own son
That we might conform to his example
And not the expectations of this world
So that he might be the firstborn
Among all her loved children.
As she predestined our salvation
So she calls to the ears of our hearts
And as she calls to us
So she bestows her grace for justification on us
And as she and only she justifies us
So she and only she shares her glory with us
(The only glory worth having
The only lasting glory)
Now and forever

On My Heart

What is on my heart this morning?

This morning
I put on a sundress
underwear
sandals

Those are on my body

But on my heart?

Always under my heart’s clothes
Are decades of Catholic school
Sacraments and rosaries
Pagan babies and Mary, Queen of the May
Memorized prayers and Latin rituals
A fearful God, harsh Father
Ready to condemn me to everlasting torment
Should I break a rule
And fail to be forgiven
By one of His men

But then
With the swing of a cosmic rolling pin
God struck me down with unearned grace

So I rewrote the psalms
In the image of God, loving Mother
Because now
My heart wears grace as a sundress
Fitting lightly
Flowing comfortably
Whether I run or sit
Stumble or fall

My heart wears love as sandals
Protecting my tenderness
From rocky disappointments
From sticky expectations
From burning falseness

This morning
Lady Wisdom
Is on my heart
And I am grateful.

They Left Everything?

When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him. Luke
5:11

Peter had a mother-in-law
Who got up to serve them
As soon as Jesus healed her

Presumably he had a wife
Probably children

Did they eat manna from heaven
While Peter fished men for Jesus?

Then those sons of Zebedee
Were their parents old?
Did they depend on their sons’ fishing?

I am too much daughter, wife, mother
Grandmother
To understand this sparse verse

All of my unanswerable questions
About their families
Their quotidian necessities
Must remind me
Not to depend upon answers
To life, the universe, and everything
Before I accept
Before I believe
Before I worship

Scrutiny

The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. 1 Cor 2:10B
Does the spirit of God scrutinize our depravity
One to another?
When a young woman is murdered in her sleep
By policemen
Does the spirit of God scrutinize her blood soaked sheets?
When a young man is shot seven times in the back
By a policeman
Does the spirit of God scrutinize his screaming children in the back seat?
When a mother drives a 17 year old with his rifle to a neighboring state
To kill people
Does the spirit of God scrutinize her hands on the wheel?
When the President of the United States makes excuses for the 17 year old
Does the spirit of God scrutinize his thoughts?
When I lie awake at night
Too scared for our country to sleep
Does the spirit of God scrutinize the depths of our need?
I long for the comfort of the spirit of God
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

After the Phone Call

I walk carefully
Through the phone call
Because the ground shakes
And the path seethes with snakes

There is so little light
More is unseen than seen

I have a flashlight
But fear too much light
Will cause her to stumble
When I want her to walk
On her own

Confident
Knowing herself loved
Cherished
Guided but not led
Helped but not dependent

Through weeds and thorns
Brambles and briars
We have come so far
With so many scratches and bruises

Along the way
We lost sight of each other
We call out
Through the dark
As we stumble shumble on

How much of our rocky path
Cleared before she was born
Does she need to know

If I hand her a machete
Will she use it to clear brush
Or to cut off his head

If I turn her around
How much will she see
Through the years of smog
Through the tears
Through the fears

Will my words be wings
To lift her high
Or tethers
To bring her down

Please, God
Help me help her
This young stranger
Dearer than life
My granddaughter

Scribes, Pharisees and Other Undesirables

I am Scribe
Filling myself with Bible trivia

I am Pharisee
So often
With more pride in my faith
Than others’ religion

I am faithless servant
Sure of my own independence

I am foolish woman
Forgetting the balm of forgiveness

I am Israel in the desert
I am Pharoah
I am my own worst enemy

But Good News!
Gospel Truth:

Never
Never never
Never never never
Am I lost
Never forsaken
Never destined for weeping and gnashing of teeth
In the dark outside of grace

Because Jesus
Because love
Because God’s perfection
Is so much greater than my imperfections

And not just me
You too
For
“God is faithful,
and by him you were called”
(1 Cor 1:9)

Mint and Judgment

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.”
Matthew 23: 23-24

The mint spills everywhere
Grows without restraint
Barely domesticated
It is the garden gazelle
Leaping and bounding though my puny plans

I forgot to plant dill this year
How could I forget dill
With its fairy fronds?
We planted cucumbers
We love salmon
And I have to buy dill

Cumin, I have never grown
Though I use garam masala, chili and curry
I read that cumin is of the parsley family
Needs long hot summers to flourish
And is an ancient herb of the Middle East

So I plan next year’s herb garden from a Bible verse
I will grow mint in pots
Plant dill and cumin in my garden

I am in more doubt
About judgment, mercy and fidelity

How should I judge?
Who offer mercy to?
To what need I be faithful?

I barely manage to grow herbs
Somewhat haphazardly
Letting mint run too wild
Forgetting dill
Ignorant of cumin

I feel totally inadequate to dole out
Judgment, mercy and fidelity

How about if we make a deal, God?
I will work on doing a better job of growing herbs
While you work on growing
Wise judgment, sweet mercy and rooted fidelity
In me

Deal?

Oh the Depth

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! Romans 11:33

The couch in the living room is old
Comfortable
Shaped to my body
After all these years
Sometimes that is good
But sometimes
When it sags
Just here
Under my left hip
I hurt

The sky is light blue
Today
Framed by leaves
As I lie on the couch
Looking up and out
Through the picture widow
To the left, red maple
To the right, glistening magnolia
Ahead, smaller golden green dogwood
Peaceful today
And I am grateful, in quiet awe

(But sometimes
I lie here wrapped
Inside myself
And see nothing
But mistakes and misery)

My living room has warm
Café au lait walls
Painted by a friend
A decade and more ago

A bouquet of zinnias
Painted by another friend
Hangs on one wall
Above the old library table that holds
My mother’s silverware chest

On another wall, a quartet
Of paintings by a local artist
Of some renown
Husband of another friend
Hangs above the sideboard
With its miscellany of objects
Birthday present to be mailed to a grandchild
Stockings to be returned for Mom
A couple of bowls
A few things from the home that my husband shared with his wife, Ruth
Ten years dead and today is her birthday

My collection of icons
One rescued from my mother’s garage
When she sold her home
Too old at 92 to continue alone
Hangs above the smaller sideboard, made by my husband,
The one whose drawers and cupboard hide the grandchildren’s toys

Ah, the fireplace mantle
Small antique vases from France
A skier resting on a log – gift from my skiing and climbing partner
All those years ago in Canada
A tiny beautiful reclining full-bodied woman in bronze
Purchased from a Cotswald artisan
In the village on the bicycle route
The slender Italian marble vase
Gift from friends sharing their trip to Italy
Below the mantle, in front of the unused fireplace,
The natural edge table my husband made
Holds the carved wooden rhino from South Africa
Summers working at the University of Venda
In Thohoyandou, with red dust and monkeys

A small silver wrapped horn from ancient Mogador
Bought at the music stand of the small round man
With the big smile and little English
In Essaouira’s souk
Hangs on the wall in the small space
Between the fireplace and the dining room’s arched entrance

I turn to the wall behind me
A bookcase fashioned by my husband to snuggle into this space
Holds carefully painted duck decoys from his trip to China
And one whimsically painted by our zinnia friend
My cookbooks
And pottery vases from friends

My grandmother’s glass-fronted china closet
One of her wedding gifts
A hundred and more years ago
Stands bracketed by my mother’s marble topped tables
A picture of an African mother nursing her child
Gift from another friend
And a small oil painting in the style of Turner
Reminder of my years in England

My mother’s favorite chair

On the couch wall, next to the picture window
The small picture with verses of The Apple Tree
Lovingly made and framed by the now grown daughter
Of a good friend
So many years and tears ago
I asked her daughter, then a young teenager,
To sing at my husband’s funeral
Below it hangs
The small painting of this house
As it was when I bought it
Given to me by my real estate agent
But the real treasure I added
The note from the seven year old son of the previous owner
Asking me to love the house and please be careful
Of the ground under the Japanese maple in the backyard
Where his cat is buried

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and history in this one room!

Grant, dear God, that I may know you as well
Rest in you as comfortably
Shelter in you as securely
Feel such quiet joy in your presence
Amen