A Humble Parent’s Bumbling Belief

It’s Mother’s Day, and it’s complicated. Most of us have mother issues – because of the kind of mother we are or wish we were or because of the kind of mother we had. We might be overwhelmed by multiple kids, longing for kids we don’t have, missing kids we did have, or grieving for our kids who are suffering. A very loaded day indeed.

As a Mom of 3 kids, one thing I can relate to is how desperate we can be for our kids to be healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually. There is nothing quite like watching our kids suffer. I think that’s what drew me in so deeply to these 2 little verses this week.

Mark 9:23-24 “Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!””

I never stopped and thought through this passage properly – these raw and exposing words spontaneously blurted out by a Daddy desperate to save his son. Jesus tells him all he has to do is believe. He lands on the only thing the man cannot force, cannot pretend. Belief. It’s all on the line. Can you feel his panic?

He wants to yell, “I believe!” and leave it there, but his heart checks him as he rightfully sizes Jesus up as a man who will know the truth (whether he’s divine or not). Every ounce of his conscious mind wants to believe, and yet… all those years watching his boy suffer have chiseled away at hope and belief, leaving chasms of doubt flowing with a sludge of disappointment tinged with bitter rage. Any belief that is left is weak and hollow.

He is unsure, and now his lack of faith might be what stands between his child and wholeness. So he stammers with a hoarse voice, “I believe…” then he looks down at the ground, tears swelling in his eyes. Finally he lifts his eyes to stare directly into the loving yet stern eyes of Jesus and cries, “Help my unbelief!” And it’s done.

Jesus already knew he couldn’t fully believe. What normal, rational human would? To believe means to hope, and hope is dangerous. I don’t think Jesus was really looking for belief or recognition. I think he was looking for connection. He drove this man to the deep, authentic part of himself. He probably drove most of the onlookers to a deep, authentic part of themselves, too.

God’s primary business is honest, loving community. He wants us to have honest community within our own hearts, minds, and souls. He wants us to be in honest community with Him, even on the days when our honesty feels more like fury than faith-fullness or love. And he wants us to reach out in love and truth to each other, especially when we are in the dark.

Sometimes he heals the son. Sometimes the son is lost. The point is that we are connected to God no matter what happens. And no matter what happens, we are, through our joy and our suffering, called to walk through it all with each other.

Holy Human Communion

I wrote this a couple years ago but never shared it. It was a little raw and rough at the time:

I’ve been full of fear lately. My kids are struggling.  It’s more than that – they are suffering from loneliness. It’s not like I want them to fit into this crazy world, but I long for them to have connection. Some days this completely breaks me.

2 nights ago, I couldn’t settle down. I went for 3 things that might bring me a little quick comfort – bread hot from the oven, a goblet of red wine and Netflix (yep, I’m super healthy and self-actualized).

I grabbed half a loaf of hot french bread and my wine and headed for my room, but before I could get Netflix loaded, I just lost it. Sobbed and screamed into a pillow and asked God where He was, if He was. Then I ripped off a hunk of that delicious bread and took a gulp from my goblet… and He was there. I can’t explain exactly what that felt like, but I knew Jesus was right there in that room with me.

Take this bread, my body, broken for you. Take this wine, my blood, willingly given for your rescue, for your heart and your connection.

Jesus stands with us in emptiness and despair and offers us not a solution, but his deep and abiding presence in every type of circumstance.

That night, I had communion with God in a way I never had before – holy, human communion. I raised my fists fighting, and He took that as an opportunity to wrap loving arms around my aching body and bruised heart. My confusion met with His peace. My sorrow collided with his boundless compassion. 


“…in the Eucharist you have the most amazing symphony of complete presence based on the ultimate absence and the ultimate kind of emptiness.” ~John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder


 

An Excellent Reading List, Revised

I read so many books last year, I had to update. Still would love to hear from any of you what you books you are loving!

100 or So of my All-Time Favorites

Sorted by genre, in no particular order…

Novels and Stories:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Godric by Frederick Buechner

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (whole Kingsbridge series)

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Hawaii by James A. Michener

The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (everything by Jane Austen)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mythology:

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

Cross Roads & Eve by William Paul Young

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

His Dark Materials series and Book of Dust series by Philip Pullman

Ender’s Game (whole series) by Orson Scott Card

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Circe by Madeline Miller

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

 

Science:

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

Finding God in the Waves by  Mike McHargue (science and memoir)

 

Wisdom and Poetry:

Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Healing the Wounded Heart by Dan Allender

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard (and Maytrees)

Walking in Wonder by John O’Donohue

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

The Pocket Pema Chodron by Pema Chodron

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship by Coleman Barks

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Spiritual / Christian:

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner

A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Love Does by Bob Goff

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (also The Way of the Heart)

Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr (also The Divine Dance & Breathing Under Water)

A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (also Leaving Church)

Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael W. Benson

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

A Way other than Our Own by Walter Brueggemann

How I Found God in Everyone and Everywhere: An Anthology of Spiritual Memoirs edited by Andrew M. David and Philip Clayton

Learning the Vocabulary of God by Frank Charles Laubach

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

 

History, Biography, Memoir:

A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Night by Elie Wiesel

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

On Writing by Stephen King

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Educated by Tara Westover

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie

 

Mystery series authors:

Dorothy Sayers

Agatha Christie

P.D. James

Patricia Cornwell

Scott Pratt

Louise Penny

Nevada Barr

Stephen King

Migration Celebration

The first of the migratory birds are showing their bold colors. Here’s a little poem to celebrate.

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Kinglet with a Golden Crown

A bright stripe of gold pops through a grayish-blue day

     On cue, announcing your presence with careless joy

          Rightly judge me as slow and gentle –

               As a creature deeply tied to gravity

 

     In safety and laughter you jump ever faster

          From leaf, to limb, to trunk

               Pause on occasion to pose and show

 

           Your bold, lucky colors – even in winter

                You’re something to behold

Unready, Unsteady

I spent last week sorting through thousands of family photos, which explains this week’s burst of parenting poetry. As I told my Aunt Lisa, the writing keeps me sane. I’m posting as I write, so no doubt this will see some editing in the future. I write a lot about vulnerability, so I’m trying to practice what I preach and put it out there. Maybe there is a parent in the thick of it who will relate.

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Unready, Unsteady

I wanted it, wanted you

Wanted to know

If I could love

If I could matter

 

The flutter surprised

A minnow released

In the quick changing bump

Of my young, nervous belly

 

Only thirty-six weeks

Not the forty they promised

I was unready – really

Who could be ready?

 

You took what I had

My time, mind, and sleep

What was left of my confidence

A trembly beginning

 

I did what I could

Did most of the things

Rock, sang, and fed

Did I love? Could I?

 

Worried and laughed

Tested and read

To understand need

To plan and protect

 

There is no place safe

In this world for a child

I watched them hurt you

Steal my favorite smile

 

Sat outside your door

2:30 a.m.

In a panic because

Your shell was too thin

 

Oh it was too thin

And your heart was too large

Your mind was too sharp

Taking everything in

 

You wanted to die

I understood why

I wanted to join you

My love was true

 

Love stays that hard

No relief, small reward

But most days we live

And most days we want to

 

~Alyson Hinkie, February 25, 2019

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The Hive

Parenting teens is not for wimps.

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The Hive

In close quarters of

The place you call prison

It is bound to happen

 

The wrong day, the wrong room

The wrong dress, the wrong face

A smile full of freedom

 

Angry hive, unattached, waiting

To land their desperate sting

A swarm with no queen to guide them

 

You stumble out

Alive but marked by

Fear and weak poison

 

Knowing tomorrow I will send you

To fly the same path and I

Will say ridiculous things

 

Like

 

They’re only bees

Lost insects – no mission

Thinking their job is to sting instead of

 

Spreading beautiful things

And I’ll say to you, “Love them,” for one day

They will make honey

 

~Alyson Hinkie, February 24, 2019

Observations from My Offspring

IMG_0265I wish I’d had my voice memo flipped on, because she said this better than I’m about to write it. And how I wish I’d understood this at 16, or at 40 for that matter!:/

On our long drive home from a miserable tennis tournament, this is what she said (have I mentioned that everyone should try to spend lots of side-by-side time in the car with their kids?):

“A couple years ago, it occurred to me that I spent most of the time thinking about myself: how I felt, what I needed or wanted, wondering if I did something right or wrong and what people thought of me. Then I thought: probably everyone else is also walking around mostly thinking about themselves. That meant they didn’t have much time to be thinking about me. So I was wasting my energy worrying so much about what other people thought about me.

At the same time, it does matter a lot what I say to people because most of them are like I used to be and might worry too much about what I think about them (even though I’m not really thinking about them much after that moment). Words that don’t mean much to me might mean more to them than I realize.

So, I try to be careful what I say and remind myself to take what others say with a grain of salt.”

Right on, girl.

We Don’t Know Much

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Bret and I finished watching the 2018 film First Man last night. What drama and cost of life it took us to land people on the moon! We haven’t been back since the year I was born because the expense is still astronomical. We know a lot more than we did 50 years ago about space, our own biology, physics, particle science – a lot of things. What grips me is considering what we don’t know.

According to World Atlas, humans have explored approximately 5% of our ocean’s floors and about 3% of the oceans in total. We have not seen 97% of our own oceans. Every time these brave divers go somewhere new – they find stuff that they thought would be impossible: molten sulfur pools at the bottom of the ocean (with creatures living right above them), underwater waterfalls, life where there should not be life.

Here is a fairly short video with some fun footage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: https://vimeo.com/264435524 – they are traveling deep with new 3-D technology, and my bet is there will be some explosive discoveries in the next few years. ON OUR VERY OWN PLANET.

Away from our planet, things get really crazy. 2 spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have left the protective bubble of our sun called the heliosphere and are technically in interstellar space heading towards the outer reaches of the solar system. The outer boundary of our solar system is the Oort Cloud. The spacecrafts will run out of power around 2025, but if they could be endlessly powered, they would reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud in 300 years and finally get beyond it in about 30,000 years. Yep – that’s just our solar system.

Scientists have confirmed 500 solar systems in our tiny neighborhood within the Milky Way, and they estimate that there are likely tens of billions or even hundreds of billions more solar systems in our galaxy alone. With the fastest travel on the “near” horizon (ion propulsion), it would take a spacecraft 81,000 years to reach the nearest star. The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and there are approximately 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe.

Assuming there is an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy (probably low), there would be an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion, if you’re wondering how to say it) stars in the universe. I know that number doesn’t even take an entire line of this post, but it’s big, people.

The next closest galaxy to the Milky Way is a mere 146,643,601,368,010,816 miles away.:) The farthest observed galaxy? It’s 76,254,048,000,000,000,000,000 miles away. Or it was. Since our universe is expanding and our visual information on said galaxy is 13.3 billion years old, well…

When I dip my brain in this sea of numbers, when I see videos of fish swimming on top of liquid sulfur lakes at the bottom of our ocean, it seems ridiculous to think that this universe is not teeming with life forms that far exceed our wildest sci-fi books. I suppose this makes me feel very small, but it also makes me feel a part of something very big. What about you?

Time to pull out C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy again.

 

 

Mama Bear Mary Gets Her Way

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I spent some time with the story of Jesus’s first miracle last week. In several books I read last year, authors referenced Ignatian Contemplation, or Imaginative Prayer. Sounds fancy, but it basically means putting yourself in the story. I was reading through John, and was stopped in my tracks by the interaction between Jesus and his Mom at a wedding party, so I decided to give Ignatian Contemplation a go.

Jesus had left his home and had been out collecting disciples. I have some idea of how Mary was feeling with her first born son suddenly pulling away from their family. It was likely a wedding of family friends, since they were both invited and made the effort to attend.

Mary was already there, likely with the mother of the groom (the groom’s family would have been in charge of the after-party), then in strides Jesus with a bunch of ragamuffin new friends. I wonder if there was a sudden mix of pride and a little embarrassment at what her old friends might think. It’s also interesting to consider how much the people in that room already knew about Jesus if he grew up around them. We aren’t privy to those stories, but don’t you know there were some good ones?

Mary suddenly realized that her friends were about to face a significant embarrassment of their own – no wine at their son’s wedding celebration – what would that signal to the bride’s family and to the community? She got the social implications in a heartbeat, and from her human perspective, there was a lot on the line.

Then, somehow, she and Jesus were in the kitchen. I’m guessing he was summoned. At least one of his new friends came along (the end of the passage states that “his disciples believed”, so someone was in on it). Mary was in a tizzy – probably familiar to Jesus. Did he roll his eyes in playful respect? “They are about to run out of wine!” she said. He knew exactly what she wanted. “It’s not my time yet,” he calmly replied.

She was having none of it, turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now this is really something – because either Jesus didn’t know it was his time (unlikely), or Mary, in her motherly determination, changed the mind of the man who was God in the flesh. I wonder if that is why we are told so often to pray – maybe God really wants to know what is important to us – maybe it changes things sometimes.

All of the both/ands of God can be confusing. He is sovereign and we are free. On that day, his sovereign plan came up against his mother’s fervent and free desire, and the God-man was moved. The sovereign plan shifted. Wow.

I love that his first miraculous interaction is such a human one and that it involved a want rather than a need. He saw their desire to celebrate as a holy thing. Humans enjoying wine together to rejoice in community was holy. It was very good.

I also love that the first people who interacted with miracle-performing-Jesus were the servants. They were the nobodies in the room, and the miracle was dependent on their help. The servants were his people. He loved his Mom. He wasn’t afraid of women in leadership.:) He loved his friends. He loved their small, yet complex, human hearts. And he loved good wine. Cheers.

Moon Mysteries

Throwing it back to a couple moon poems from the past in honor of last night’s astonishing beauty.img_9265

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinder Light

Pale silver blue light

From the smaller globe

Birthed by ancient earth

Broken off and perfected by

Fire and force

Lopsided like my mind

At rest reflects illuminating

Ebbs and flows from within

For death follows life and life follows death

Not weak or less — only other

Strong in softness, because of softness

Sourced waves move tight in formation

Hugging the curves

Boring deep into places where

The wide red waves skip by

See the forest clear-eyed when

There is time and quiet for

Eyes and soul to adjust

Still, hold, ponder

Wander

Exposing the path without

Blinding the wild imagination

Disappearing, reappearing

Pain and joy

Groaning and laughter

The kinder light of the moon

Shines on without burning

 

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Night Sky Liturgy

I gazed upon the blood red moon

Hung bravely in planet shadow

Imaginations long grown fallow

The prophets of fear cry our doom

Words of desecration strewn

I brace my soul from their bellow

For though my deepest self may know

Lies oft repeated confound the truth

Spring free from the bitter minds

Grabbing power in others’ misery

Search fiercely for another kind

Whose hearts embrace the mystery

Poison words will make us blind

Tune fast to night sky liturgy