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where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Tag: decisions

when grace comes tumbling down

there are chapters in a life where with all your might you want to pick up the phone, spout out the question, and have a voice on the other end of the line fill in the blank.

tell you what you need to know.

point the way down the long, dark hallway.

heck, shove open the very door you need to walk through.

trouble is, there is no such voice. no human one anyway.

my mama, always wise in such matters, even in her minimalist, straight-to-the-point ways, advised simply: “this is when you pray.”

yesterday morn, rumbling downtown to work on the rickety, rail-swinging el train, i felt myself reaching deep down to what felt like a bottomless pit, and coming up without a clue. so, i did as mama said, i figured, all right then, i’ll shut my mouth and pray.

right there, amid the iPads and the tangle of cords plugged into ears and the starbucks mugs threatening to slosh all over my puffy snowcoat, i clicked my inner-tuner over to the God channel. i coughed up my motherlode of questions. i clung to the cold metal pole that’s there for riders like me, ones holding on for dear life as the train sloshes and slurs along the tracks.

i never did hear a squeaky voice in my ear (besides, i was one of the rare ones, not plugged in to dangly wires). i didn’t even hear a deep low bass.

but i listened with my whole heart.

and by the time i got to the grand avenue station i found myself climbing up the stairs with some measure of conviction. by jove, i began to think, i can do this. i can stare my fears, my trepidations, my full-throttle self doubts right in the eyeballs, and i can say, “move back, busters, i’m comin’ through.”

sometimes, prayer is like that.

sometimes the answer lies deep in the quiet of our oft-shoved-aside soul.

we are deep in big decisions over here at our house, and it’s enough to wear me out.

but — how curious life is — at every turn there seems to be a hand extended, a gentle word, a kleenex when needed. we find there in the dark woods other travelers, asking the same questions, trying to find their way too.
i am so deeply grateful for the grace that’s all around. for the wisdom that seeps in through the cracks beneath the door. for the light that shines from down the block in the deep darkness of the night.

i don’t yet have my roadmap. don’t know which path i’ll claim.

but i do know that i’m not alone. and one way or another, i’ll come through these dark and piney woods.

forgive my veiled words. specifics aren’t the point here. everyone’s life is a puzzle, some passages more than others. the point is that we find our way through our own formula of grace and stumbling. and when we get confused, light comes. dawn after dawn, it’s the promise of the heavens.
how do you find your way when you are lost in the woods?

pushing buttons

like that, the other eve, index finger reached and pressed the clicker pad: college, applied for.

after all the years and months and weeks. after all the endless dinner conversations about this class or that. this grade or that. this trip to here or there. after endless hours typing essays. after calculating GPAs, weighted and unweighted, it was a click barely audible.

so much transpired in that fraction of a second, the pushing down, the weight of fingerpad against the brushed silver clicker pad of the laptop.

if not for my eyes that misted up on cue, if not for the gallump that might have walloped in my firstborn’s heart, you’d not have known how much had just occurred.

how much of one boy’s life had been condensed into five short essays, a page or two of transcripts, a data sheet of name, address and biographic stripped-down who-when-where.

and so it is in life: we lift a foot and put it down in a whole new chapter, one that measures mere inches away, but in fact is miles and miles from where we started, or where we might have gone.

we say, “i do,” and suddenly we are someone we have never been.

the doctor yells, “push,” and next thing we know we are head over heels in love–not with fuzzy outlines of a dream, but deep dark eyes that pore over us as if they’ve always known us, known us since the dawn of time. how can that be, so new and old at once?

we grab a door handle, and walk into a workplace that will be our daily exercise for years and years to come.

we drive past a house, slow to an idle, open a car door, meander up the walk, and there we are inside the walls and windows that will be the ones we call home till the day we die.

thresholds aren’t such noisy things, don’t come with clanging cymbals or chiming bells.

but in your heart, oh yes, you know you’ve made the crossing.

so it was the other eve.

i could not shake it the whole next day, after my firstborn clicked the college button. nor that night, when my dreams came boldly and jarringly. i kept reading college essays. i recall papers being pulled from my hands. i’d not finished reading but the page was yanked away.

maybe, come to think of it, that’s how a mother feels when she is trying to wrap her head around the notion that her firstborn will soon be going away, for semesters at a time: wait, i’m not done yet. there is more to write, more to read, more to teach and learn. more to love.

i’ve not yet gotten to the point where i worry of all the things i’ve not yet added to his list of i-can-do-its: hospital corner on the bedsheets; ironing a shirt collar without singeing your fingers; getting out of bed without a bucket of water being poured over your sleepy face.

no, i spent the whole day-after simply trying to wrap my head–and the deep-inside part of my soul–around the fact that we now have a kid who has actually applied to college. done. did it.

where’d the years go?

weren’t we just racing out the door, little backpack on his three-year-old shoulders, late to preschool (mere preamble for a life of racing out the door, on the brink of late more often than i care to count)?

what about that little-boy sing-song voice that i still have saved on my phone machine at work, the one from back when he was two, and called my office phone to practice asking what time i might be home (even though i only worked one flight of stairs away)?

and farther back still, where went the endless days when i cringed at 5 o’clock for i knew the crying would begin any minute, the unsettled belly-aching that could only be soothed by running water from the bath, and rocking in my arms till those biceps yelped to drop the load?

i held on. through all of it, i managed to hold on.

and now it’s ancient history.

but not so long ago i can’t remember.

there is, this year, so much rewinding of the skeins of life, flowing back and forth in time. trying to grasp, retrace the years. like a crooked finger put to a map, tracing the route along blue highways, red interstates, how’d we get from here to there?

some of us like roadmaps.

some of us trace and re-trace, sift through grains of hours, minutes, months.

some of us mark time in loops, forward and rewind.

we come to deeper understandings of where we are in time, by circling all around our lives and the lives of the ones we love, to measure and mark just how it is we got here.

it is as if in sifting, re-sifting, i am holding up each blessed frame of the time we have had so far. i am holding it up to the light. i am marveling. i am soaking one last drop.

i am savoring.

i am stunned.

the buttons have been pushed now. one more to go before the waiting starts in full pursuit.

and as the year unspools, i will keep close watch, forward and reverse, circling round and looking top to bottom.

i will live and relive the chapters we have had, so when he leaves, i’ll know i have savored every drop.

the subject of course is turning pages in the book of life. how do you turn yours? do you look back closely over chapters past? or do you flip swiftly through and absorb the page you’re on?
the photo up above is from the moment monday night when the button was pushed and the screen shot back: you have successfully submitted your common application (which is college-talk 2010 for way to go, bub, your letter’s in the mail.)