22 May, 2002

What a Web we Weave?

The spider in the window of my office, a basement window well, spins her web with intricate detail. She walks delicately up and drops down from the window leaving behind her a trail of fine silken web. She’s careful and she’s determined. She has in mind a vision of what the web will look like. She maybe even salivates about the insects she’ll have for dinner.

But the neighborhood cat has other ideas. She likes to sleep on cold nights in the window well. She drops herself into the well and sleeps against the warmth of the window. And in so doing, she upsets the spider’s web. Ms. Spider is undaunted. She just starts again and renews the broken strands.

I feel sometimes like the spider. I spin and spin with a vision in mind. I think things are going a long well. And while I’m least expecting it, something comes along and spoils the web. I’ve spun and spun and am left with nothing. I lack the spider’s tenacity. Or, maybe I’m not as hungry as she is.

The problem is I’m not a spider. Ms. Spider can do it all alone. I can try, but ultimately the vision will only come to reality if we have many undaunted spinners. That means finding others who have the gifts to make the vision become reality. That means finding workers who can make the silk and are willing to catch others who will work to make the vision a reality.

Building a church is not for everyone. It’s for entrepreneurs and risk takers. It’s for people who can live with an idea – a vision -- not full service church. It’s for people who are willing to risk their family’s comfort, their Sunday morning comfort, and their weekday boundaries. It’s for the folks who can leap beyond the comfort zone of their own journey and invite others to walk with them. It’s for people who can stick with it for the long haul and make due without.

Maybe church building isn’t for me. Or, maybe my expectations for church builders is too high. I need others to be as committed as I am. I need others who will take the risk I’ve taken. I need others who are as willing as I am to walk out of the box and into the unknown. I need others who will invite everyone they know, everyone they meet, and then go further and meet people intentionally to invite them. Invite to the banquet those who don’t yet know that party’s being held for them.

The spider spins her web despite it’s regular destruction. I wonder how many times the vision will be thrown away by others before I too will let it go as a dream I cannot fulfill.

19 March, 2002

Drought, Rain, and New Life.

It rained here this week. The ground has been bone dry since November. So dry there can't be any septic perk tests run. So dry the winter wheat isn't green. So dry that the soil turned last winter has been windblown across the yard like dust dancing in the sunlight. It's been very dry.
It was a slow, soaking rain. Three days worth. Not enough to catch up all the rain we're behind, but enough to remind us of the sound of rain falling upon the roof. Enough to bring the daffodils out of their buds. Enough to swell the buds at the ends of the trees twigs. Enough to show off the colors of the rainbow in the west sky this morning. Enough to let the ground taste hope again. It was a good rain.
It's been a dry winter for my soul too. I've questioned and doubted, fussed and whined. It was a winter cold with loneliness and adjustment. A dark chill swept through me and left me stiff and immobile.
But Spring rain has fallen on me too. A gentle rain of hope and assurance. Enough to dampen the dustiness of my faith and awaken my thirst for more. God’s Spring showers new life, new energy, new awareness of all the blessings that have come my way: The rain of people praying for us, for this new endeavor we call Spirit of Joy Community. A shower of cards and calls and e-mail that bring hope. God’s gentleness rains upon me and glows with the colors of anticipation and expectation: Of a new faith community budding out from a mere twig. Of joy finding its way through the questions and doubts I’ve thrown at the wind. Of the relationships yet to be formed.
Natalie Sleeth wrote a resurrection anthem whose verses call out:
There’ll be joy in the morning, there’ll be joy on that day.
In the light of dawn the dark is gone.
There’ll be joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.
There’ll be peace and contentment evermore
Every heart, every voice on that day will rejoice
There’ll be joy, joy, joy, joy, joy
And glory, glory, glory of the Lord will Shine
And glory, glory, glory of the Lord will bring the truth divine.
There’ll be joy, joy, joy, joy, joy.
Easter is the hope that God’s glory does shine and bring the dawn of joy to those who live in the midst of darkness. Easter is the dawn of God’s truth divine offers to us peace and contentment. Easter shines God’s assurance upon our parched hearts so that we might rejoice and feel the joy again.
God shines upon us. There is joy in the morning. There will be joy on this day. Let us rejoice!

18 January, 2002

Yes, Mother, I Know

"Yes, Mother, I know."

It was my usual response when she'd try to tell me something obvious. "You've got to be careful with boys. Girls your age don't need to be sick or pregnant".
"Yes, Mother, I know."

Those were the days when I knew it all, had all the answers, and surely didn't need someone 40 years my elder telling me the facts of life. And why did she think I did? I was, after all, 17 years old. If I didn't know by then what the monthly cycle was, she probably would have known about its absence. Did she think I wouldn't tell her if it hadn't happened?
We were in the laundry room. She was moving clothes from the washer, where she'd wrung them out by hand so she could re-use the rinse water for the next wash load, to the drier. I was hanging around trying to look busy by looking for matches in the box of single socks.
"You know, Carla, you're going to start having periods pretty soon."
"You’re becoming a young lady."
"Well, you're old enough now to have periods. That's all."
"Mom, I starting having periods three years ago."
"Oh. I didn't know. I guess I missed that"
Yes, Mother, I know.
It wasn't that she missed it. It was that as I was reaching puberty, so much else was going on. With siblings: Tisha's marriage was rocky. Ricky's wife died, his kids moved in with us and then out to his house again. Then he got re-married. Emily had a baby. Kenny got married and they had a new baby. Paul got married. Wayne went off to the Air Force. Marcia went off to college. Cindy was engaged to be married and moved out. Glenn was dating.
With all that going on, how could she have noticed me, the youngest.
The youngest and the last. Beneath her radar scope. The one who at three years old got left at the lake after swimming. The one whose baptism was forgotten about. The one who wore all the hand-me-down shoes and dresses. The one who had heard all the rules repeated to all the others so many times they didn't need to be repeated again.
Yes, Mother, I know.
So much time has slipped through the fingers of life since. So much has changed. I stopped knowing everything somewhere along the line. I'd call Mother and ask for her custard pudding or some other recipe.
"I don't know what's so special about it. It just comes out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook."
"But your edition is different than the ones they print now. Mine has the recipe using cornstarch and yours with flour is so much better."
So she'd write it out on the back of an index card in tiny but perfect handwriting. Then she'd write a note on one end of the other side. She'd put a stamp in the corner and my address on the bottom and mail it to me. It's signed in the corner "Love, Mother."
So many recipes she sent me. Or dictated to me over the phone. She'd wait less than patiently while I wrote down her every word. "Isn't this going to cost you a lot of money? Can you afford to call me for a recipe? Why don't you just save your money and buy a good cookbook?"
But it wasn't just her recipes I called for. Or even her suggestions on how to do this or that. It was the piece of ground she gave to me when I called. Her calm voice and her motherly wisdom could steady the ground under me when everything else was slipping away. I could depend on her to look at any situation for it's literal reality. That's what she understood best.
Her voice was calm still last April. I'd gone to Florida to help her get ready for the trip back to Cape Cod for the summer. She was on oxygen most of the time. With only one lung left and it full of the cancer that took the other, her energy was low. But her wisdom remained. That wisdom was the ground that steadied me amidst the realization that I might never see her again. She patiently gave me instructions as I washed down the walls with bleach water to prevent summer mold. As I put Borax around the sills to keep the bugs out. As I emptied the cupboards and closets the contractors would need to get into to replace the plumbing and the floors after we left. As I planned meals that would use up all their left over food. As I tightly packed their bags so that everything Dad wanted to take would fit along side the clothes. As I closed up the home she would never see again.
So many instructions. How would I remember them all when she was no longer there to call? Who would I call then? Who would steady the ground beneath my quaking feet?
It was a terrible transition. Both of us changing jobs--career focus even. Changing homes. Moving to another state. The boys were changing schools for the first time in their memory. I had surgery in the midst of it all.
And then there was Mother.
The week between leaving our old home and moving into our new one, we spent with Mother. The boys spent time riding their bikes on the flat Cape Cod terrain, or walking the salt flats at low tide. I spent mine with her. Feeding her little bits of tapioca pudding and creamy yogurt. Sitting at the end of the couch with her feet on my lap. Rubbing her feet. Holding her hand. Giving her frequent hugs. She was getting weaker. But she still gave me instructions on how to cook for my father. I couldn't bring myself to say, "Yes Mother, I know." I wanted to hear those directions. Write them in indelible pen in my memory. The ground under me was slipping away. Her voice was my calm. Her wisdom steadied me.
The night before we left, as I tucked her into her bed, she hugged me firmly.
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too."
"Yes, Mother, I know."
As I scrape the leftover dinner from its dish, her voice rings in my ears. "That will be good in soup."
"Yes, Mother, I know"
As I rinse dishes to put them into the dish washer she whispers, "You could wash them by hand and not waste the electricity."
"Yes, Mother, I know."
As I toss into the recycling bin an empty margarine tub with its lid, her wisdom echoes, "You could use that for keeping leftovers."
"Yes, Mother, I know."
As I rub my arthritic knuckles her advice is still there. "You need to keep those hands moving or they'll get stiff."
"Yes, Mother, I know."
As I stir the bubbling milk, sugar, and flour and ready the beaten egg, her steady voice remains. "Stir some of the hot liquid to the egg first and warm it up. Then add the mixture back into the hot liquid. It won't make lumpy pudding that way."
"Yes, Mother, I know."
I know because you've taught me well. I know because you showed me how to save every penny and how to skimp to get by. I know because you dared to teach me-- a girl--that I could do anything I put my mind to doing, and do it well. I know because you never took my knowing for granted. I am who I am because in me at least some your wisdom lives on. It steadies the ground under me while everything else is slipping away.
Yes, Mother, I know you loved me.

In honor of my Mother,
Evelyn Myrle Camp Stucklen
d. August 31, 2001