Advent Reflections – Falling

On Thursday night I fell. It was dark, wet, and my arms were full of bags. I had been in downtown Boston for a meeting, and I was so ready to be home. Parking was difficult, but I finally found space a couple of blocks down the hill. I had almost reached home when I lost my footing and splat – down I went.

I spontaneously cried out but there was no one to hear me. I was shaking badly as I tried to get up. My whole body ached. I knew my left knee was hit the worst as it took the brunt of the fall. Tears began to fall as I finally regained my balance and began trying to pick things up from the ground. Little chocolate stars with white dots were strewn all over the ground, the leftovers of a beautiful afternoon tea at my daughter’s house shining in the light of a gas lamp. It felt like they were mocking me “See – just a couple of hours ago you were having a wonderful time, but it doesn’t last. It will never last.”

I finally pulled everything together and limped my way to my door. Sniffling, I walked into warmth, light, and a husband who was deeply concerned for my wellbeing.

The tears continued to fall. I felt like all the pain in the world was wrapped up in that one fall. All the displaced suffering that I know exists around the world. All the extended family struggle and pain, death and betrayal that has been a part of our family for the past couple of years was in that fall. All the difficult nights and angry days were represented in my bleeding hands and knee. I cried and I cried.

We are all just one fall away – one fall away from tragedy; one fall away from illness; one fall away from a life changing event. No one goes to work on a Monday morning expecting to fall, or to die, or to hear that someone else died. Yet, every single day people go through events that change their lives.

One Fall Away

In truth, my fall on Thursday night was not life changing. Though my knee has turned all shades of pretty colors, I didn’t break it. I skinned my hands, but they will heal with minimal scarring. I bruised my body, and it brought me to my bruised heart and soul. And that’s why I cried and cried. That’s why my tears fell. They were my expression of looking to God for comfort, looking to God for healing.

In the classic book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, author Eugene Peterson talks about the honest expression of suffering found in the Psalms. The model in the Psalms is far removed from the platitudes of comfort that are often offered to us by friends and acquaintances. Instead of telling us to get up and dust ourselves off, the Psalmist cries out against all the pain, suffering, and evil in the world. The Psalmist cries out in agony asking God why he has left him. It is a tremendous comfort and challenge to me that we have this model. The Psalmist doesn’t look at God as someone who will scold him and tell him to try harder. Instead, the Psalmist begins in pain.

Help God – the bottom has fallen out of my life!….By setting the anguish out into the open and voicing it as a prayer, the psalm gives dignity to our suffering. It does not look on suffering as something slightly embarrassing that must be hushed up and locked in a closet (where it finally becomes a skeleton) because this sort of thing shouldn’t happen to a real person of faith. And it doesn’t treat it as a puzzle that must be explained, and therefore turn it over to theologians or philosophers to work out an answer. Suffering is set squarely, openly, passionately before God. It is acknowledged and expressed. It is described and lived

Eugene Peterson – Psalm 130 in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

I don’t know what is going on in your lives right now. That is the reality of writing publicly. But I know that Advent, the time of waiting, can give rise to hard emotions. I know that when all around looks shiny with bright lights and sparkles, the things that are hard seem magnified. And that’s why we have those beautiful Psalms. They invite us into honest dialogue with a God who loves us so much. They allow us to cry out to a God that hears, that sees, and that dignifies our suffering by allowing us to express it. And when it’s all cried out, written or voiced in lament, we end in the same hope that the Psalmist did.

I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.*

*Psalm 130: 6-7

[Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash]

Blog Talk

Communicating Across Boundaries hit 600 posts published in less than two years of blogging yesterday! A continued thanks to all of you! That you spend time reading and commenting on Communicating Across Boundaries when there are so many choices on the web is huge to me.

You may have noticed that on the home page I have added a category at the top labeled Robynn – this will allow readers to go straight there if you want to browse and read through the posts by Robynn Bliss. She has been an amazing addition to Communicating Across Boundaries and her reading has resonated with you as shown by the number of views and shares on her posts.

I also want to give out a call for holiday posts. I’m looking for posts with a focus on Christmas and Christmas traditions around the world. So no matter where you live worldwide, if you celebrate Christmas, I’d love to hear from you. The post should be no more than 700 words and focus on a tradition unique to the place you live. Email with submissions. I plan to pick 4 to 5 to feature in December. Cannot wait to hear from you and publish this series on Communicating Across Boundaries.

Lastly, whether you are in Kuwait, the Maldives, Scotland, the United States or anywhere else, I hope you are enjoying this season. These photos taken at the farm where we picked apples in New Hampshire will give you a glimpse of my fall. Would love to hear where you are this season and what surrounds you!

Have a great weekend! 

Warm Kitchens, Little Hearts

These days as I get up there is mostly darkness. The glow of fall mornings doesn’t arrive until I am well on my way to work.

As I get up I wrap myself in my sweatshirt, normally reserved for cooler summer days by the ocean. I curl tight against the pillows of the couch, guarding against a melancholy that threatens to overwhelm. The sun and apple picking of yesterday feel far away; the day ahead feels long and rainy.

These are the days when melancholy seems to make its home in my soul, where I feel my heart start to harden around the edges anticipating a cold winter.

It often scares me – my need for sun and warmth. As though the cold has too much power over me. 

I head out the door to wait for the 64 bus and as I wait my eye is drawn across the street to a Victorian home. The house has been split into condominiums as is common in this area. Through a clear glass door a bright light shines, cutting through the dim morning light.  Fully visible on the other side of the glass is a little person – a toddler in onesie pajamas with tousled bed head.

The warm kitchen and toddler take me back to my days as a younger mom, to warm kitchens and oatmeal cookies, to tables dusted with flour and homemade bread. I’m taken back to five little ones who each had their place in a warm kitchen.

Amazing how the scene pushed the melancholy right out of my heart. For it’s in warm kitchens that little hearts and souls develop. It’s in warm kitchens where confidence is born and love takes root. It’s in warm kitchens where courage is planted and watered and fed, so that we can go out into a world that is anything but warm. It’s in warm kitchens where faith is birthed, grows, and learns to launch.

It’s in warm kitchens where little and big hearts lose their bitter edges and warm to relationship.

The 64 bus is around the corner and the moment is gone but not without its lasting imprint. I sigh and board the bus with a curious resolve to hold this warm kitchen moment until the brilliant colors and breezes of spring blow away the sadness and bring in the front porch moments.

Have you had any warm kitchen moments lately? Would love to hear in the comment section?