I’ve been Missing In Action around here for days and days (and days and days) because my family’s been ralphing. Puking. Vomiting up their guts. Hurling. Upchucking. Barfing. GAG.
I haven’t joined my family in illness, though, because a) I’ve decided never to get sick again (<— this is, of course, useless but it makes me feel proactive, so whatever), and b) I’ve been hiding out at work (you’re welcome, work friends!). Now, I THOUGHT I was coming down with it on Tuesday what with the overwhelming nausea that attacked that morning, but after I left home and could no longer hear the vociferous rumbling — the cacophonous thundering — of my husband and my teenage son praying to the porcelain god, I felt markedly better. Totally well, in fact, so, in addition to never getting sick again, I’ve also decided never to listen to anyone else do so, either; I have five kids, so that should work out well.
This week has been … a week. Busy and Messy. Like life, where it’s tricky, sometimes, to see the Beauty in the Busy and the Magic in the Mess. Sometimes, we just… can’t. Sometimes we’re just… tired. Sometimes it’s all Busy and Mess and we forget to even keep an eye out for More and Deeper and Brighter and Bigger and Lighter and Freer, you know? Which is why we need each other. To sit in the mud together, yes. To just lay down in the mess and look at the clouds and rest together, yes. But also to point out the Beauty. To whisper, “Psst… I see a little Magic over there.” And, “I’ll share the Magic I have so you can have some, too.”
That’s what my friend, Kim, did for me this week. My friend, Kim, who lost two family members in the last 6 months. My friend, Kim, who’s grieving the loss of her dad and the loss of her brother-in-law and trying to help her family grieve and remember and love each other well in the process. My friend, Kim, who has every reason to see the Mess right now and miss the Magic and the Mystery and the Magnificent. My friend, Kim, who saw Magic and Mystery and Magnificent anyway and shared them with me.
Kim sent me the message below after being with my eight-year-old kid at church on Ash Wednesday. Kim runs the church programs for our kids and had events planned for them this Wednesday like she does every week. The grown-ups, though, were participating in an Ash Wednesday service — a time for our small church family to prepare for Easter, to pray, to reflect, and to walk the Prayer Labyrinth together. To be clear, I was at a brew pub, drinking vanilla porter with my cousins, so I don’t count as “one of the grown-ups” in the last sentence, but preparation, prayer, reflection, and being together as a community come in different forms, so I’m OK with that.
It’s just that this story was a gift to me. A gift of Magic and Mystery. A gift of Magnificence. A gift of reflection. And no matter what you think about church (why, hello, HUGE Mess and Profound Magic) or about Faith and Doubt or about Jesus, I think there’s something here for all of us. Something valuable. Something precious. Something familiar. Something deeply essential to the way we live life and See each other and learn to listen to Love.
Enjoy, friends. And know I’m thinking of you and me and us, as we go around again.
Going Around Again
by Kim Boyd
He is Eight. He is a fiercely loyal, intelligent, kind Eight and as far as I know has been this way from the beginning. He wonders well with questions that rival the best of them, and he is patient beyond his years in waiting for the answer.
At least, this is what I know of him from being a part of his community. Recently I have had the honor to call him one of my People. He shows up, ready to be present in whatever is happening: play, worship, friendship, waiting.
Tonight the kids were doing their thing and playing in the gym. He found me next to the labyrinth, which was set up indoors for our Ash Wednesday gathered meeting. It was early and preparations for the service were happening around us.
“What is this for?”
“Why is it set up for today?”
“What is Ash Wednesday?”
“What is the ash part of Ash Wednesday?”
“Are we going to do the ash part tonight?”
“Can I do it too?”
Some were easy to answer. We crowd-sourced the room of pastors for the others. With certainty, he asked to skip kid programming for the night and join the adults for the service. “I like singing and quiet, too, so I think I’ll stay here.”
And he did.
I gave him plenty of outs, in case he felt trapped. He confidently answered, “No, I want to stay here” to each offer. There was singing and facilitated words, then the room quieted to give folks space to center and arrive to the queries. Those who wanted to took off their shoes to walk the labyrinth.
His shoes were already off. He was ready.
With confidence he joined the other travelers while they each walked their personal journey to the center, together. Some were many in years, one with a new babe, professionals, singles, tall, short, all in a messy mass going around the maze in prayerful contemplation.
Let me tell you how he walked.
He walked with certainty. He walked with kindness. He walked alongside.
He stepped out of the way. He bowed when others passed. He came up right behind and matched the steps of the one in front of him.
He made it to the center and paused, but not long, and then gracefully journeyed back out again and sat next to me.
I admit my face was wet with weeping. I want to walk like him, with certainty and kindness and alongside.
I want to bravely get so close to the one just ahead of me on the journey and watch their steps and copy them exactly. I want to be watching out for the ones heading the other direction and bow as I step aside to let them pass. I want to be confident in the process, in my steps and in those traveling alongside me.
The gift of his journey was not over, though. Just moments after he sat down, he got up and walked right over to begin it all over again.
He didn’t know that We Don’t Do That. We don’t start over a journey we already finished. We don’t do a worship exercise a second time. We don’t for all the reasons years and experience have taught us we don’t. It’s just that he didn’t know all that.
The music was still playing. Adults were still on the path. His shoes were still off. So he started again, and he walked with the same certainty, kindness, bowing, and matching.
But this time, there was more. In his barefoot steps there was a dance.
It was a subtle, non-distracting, reverent dance and the joy in the step could not be missed. He twirled a turn on a toe. He skipped this step, and then that step. His second journey around the crowded, messy maze was a dance.
I know that I am not ready yet, but someday, I want to walk the way this Eight walked: strong, kind, dancing.
Photo Credit: Darryl Brown