Love

Love's Record of Wrongs & How Do We Keep Loving?

Oh sweet roses and chocolate, it’s almost V-Day, which is not short for Venge-ful Day! This is about Love! I have many reasons to be smiling this Valentine’s Day. It’s my 41st

with my husband. (And I'm hoping for a 42cd---so I'm also hoping he won't see this post.) 

Here it begins, Love’s (mercifully short) record of wrongs, like this:

#1.

(

Three, count them! coats on the bannister, next to the coat closet. Everyone knows that men are genetically unable to hang up their coat, yes?)

    #2.    If a truck (or a tractor or tires or anything) was good 50 years ago, and it might be good for something else again, why would anyone want to get rid of it? It’s the Alaskan male way:

(Don't be distracted by the beautiful sky. It's still a 50 year old rusty truck full of junk buoys)

#3. Kitchen crimes! Here, notice the position of the silverware?

(Should be

down!

 So they stay clean when you take them out.)

       (Kitchen counters used as office space! Wrong! For further kitchen crimes, go here: 

Who Will Save Us From the Kitchen Wars?

)

And then there are the “Things That Happened”---like, 

#4. When I  was “volunteered” to ride behind an ATV on a piece of plywood on the ground heaped with the mess of offal from two beasts. (We raised our own beef for 35 years out on our fishcamp island.) I hung on for dear life, face inches from the warm guts, trying to keep them from spilling while Duncan roared the ATV down to to beach for disposal.  (no photos of that traumatic event. Here, as close as I get to cattle guts now.) 

#5.  The Banya. The banya,

 a kind of sauna, is where and how we bathe in the summer. But the year we moved to this uninhabited island to build a house, we didn’t have time to build a house AND a banya AND an outhouse.  So---someone in the marriage proposed a temporary solution: Ta daaa!!! A Two-Fer: To combine the outhouse and the sauna in one tiny building.  Yes, flies and smell and all.  I laugh now (after the eyerolls) when I think of hauling all my babies and children out there to get clean, while swatting away the outhouse flies . ..  And don’t worry---it was only for 12 summers.

      (How we bathed before the banya, oh so long ago! .. ..This is part of the record of wrong because when Duncan used to give slide shows of Alaska, he'd sneak this photo in, not telling me of course until I was blown up on the wall in front of 100 Ohio farmers. "Red" was not a bright enough color to describe my face.)

#6. The last: the storms. Yes, all the storms we've fished in, and what happens to the voice and to the marriage in such storms? (We don't fish together anymore. At all.)

      So, how DO we keep loving one another? How DO we keep forgiving one another? We all bear 1000 wounds. All of us. But don't take them back, though sometimes I want to. Sometimes I want to erase whole years. But I can't---and I won't even try. Who are we without those wounds, the places we've been, even the ways we've hurt each other? 

     Even now, it's not 

too late to forgive. It is not too late to heal memories. It is not too late to “remember well.” Each time we return to our past, we have the wonderful chance to reclaim it and tell a truer story. (Okay, I

did

 volunteer for that gut-ride, masochistically). We each can tell a truer story that begins with our human failing (Mine: my failure to communicate.  Yours: not wanting to listen.) A story that sees all the ways we've hurt each other. That recognizes we are sharers alike in what L. Gregory Jones calls the “universal disaster of sinful brokenness.” 

When we "remember well," we will find the presence of God even in the outhouse/banya, and especially in the dark and stormy places. Even in memory, we can find Him there shepherding us toward a better love, a love that can finally disarm the haunting and the hurt of what others have done to us.

Why, my friends, would we choose an emptied past over a healed, reclaimed one? Because we know, even with our mouths stuffed full of chocolate on Valentine's Day, that it is not pain itself that diminishes us; it is our response to it that determines the kind of lives we will live, the kind of people we will be, the kind of loves we will possess and give away.

How do we love each other? Let us count the ways. 

#7. 

Tell us, bless us with one way you have "remembered well"---or loved well this week??!!

Heavy Ash Falls on Kodiak: How Do We Survive The (Family) Eruption Again?


                           



On Sunday, in the middle of a blue-sky day in Kodiak the mountains almost disappeared.  




It was Ash. Volcanic ash.
The sun still worked to light the sky, but it was weary in all that ash.




Planes could not fly for fear of damaging the engines. No one in Alaska can forget the Alaska jet in 1989 that plunged 10,000 feet after sucking up particulates. By God's grace alone, the engines were restarted just  before All was Lost, and all survived. The plane sustained 80 million in damage.

And here is why this is about marriage. And other family eruptions that fill our own skies with ash---This ash is not fresh. This ash is 100 years old.

There are more than 130 volcanoes in Alaska, but less than 20 are active. (Which is plenty. They cause more-than-enough havoc!)  This ash came from Novarupta, a volcano that erupted in 1912. It was a massive eruption, the largest by volume in the 20th century, 10 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens, spewing ash 100,000 feet into the air, drifting as far away as North Africa. The ash swallowed Kodiak Island, burying it in deep drifts, snuffing out the sun for three entire days. And afterwards . . . 







The ash covered the floor of Katmai Valley to a record depth of 700 feet. Much of it is still there.






















(Rivers through canyons of pure ash.)

Whenever it blows hard NW, as it was still doing the next day  (gusting to 50 mph out there), we are breathing tiny shards of silica, tiny pieces of glass. And the beauty around us is swallowed up.






This feels personal to me. The volcano is in our neighborhood, just 60 miles from our fish camp island. And I cannot help but think of marriage, of our children, of our parents. We've all survived "eruptions" of volcanic proportions. We've seen the lava burning a path to our feet. We've seen the ash fall bury our house, the neighborhood. . .  Then time passes, and we think we're okay. The burns are healed, the glass in our lungs dissolves. We think we've swept the rest away, all that ash around our feet . .. buried it in the garden, in our journal, in the attic with our outdated coats. 
Then a sharp wind from just the right direction rises, and the ash we thought gone whips into the air, and we're choking again. . .  We look for the volcano, but it's not there. Nothing has happened but a little wind. Then we remember---oh yes, that ash. Again? 
How do we stop this? How do we end the bitter choking on distant memories? We feel SO powerless against these forces: earthquake, volcano, whirling winds.

But we're not. We're really not. Listen to what's been given to you. 
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened 
so you may know the hope to which he has called you, 
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 

and his incomparably great power for us who believe." 

What IS this incomparably great POWER for us who believe?

"That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead  . . . "

In a few weeks, my husband and I will celebrate 37 years together. One thing I know: the power God used to raise Christ from the dead---is given to us. Now.  And it's real. I know how weak we feel. I know how powerless I have felt so many times in my life. But I am not. You are not. 
The power we're given is mightier than any volcano. It can blow the ash away for good. It can tamp the acid dust with the rain of  compassion and forgiveness. It's the kind of power that births a baby, that keeps living "I do" even when you feel like "you don't," that keeps giving when others keep taking, that stays "until death do you part" . . .  I mean the kind of power that reaches a hand across a table, across the bed, across a burnt-up field to say, "I love you, still. And always" 




 We are not always good at this, but we cannot forget what God has spent for us so that we can. 









Today the wind died.  I went down to the harbor again. 








The mountains were back. The colors bright. The air clean.
This is the power we've been given, all of us:
"I love you still. And always."










I pray you KNOW the power of God in your life this week, in all the hard ashy places!! 





Love's (brief) Record of Wrongs+How Do We Keep Loving?

Oh sweet roses and chocolate, it’s almost V-Day, which is not short for Venge-ful Day! This is about Love! I have many reasons to be smiling this Valentine’s Day. It’s my 41st

with my husband. (And I'm hoping for a 42cd---so I'm also hoping he won't see this post.) 

Here it begins, Love’s (mercifully short) record of wrongs, like this:

#1.

(

Three, count them! coats on the bannister, next to the coat closet. Everyone knows that men are genetically unable to hang up their coat, yes?)

    #2.    If a truck (or a tractor or tires or anything) was good 50 years ago, and it might be good for something else again, why would anyone want to get rid of it? It’s the Alaskan male way:

(Don't be distracted by the beautiful sky. It's still a 50 year old rusty truck full of junk buoys)

#3. Kitchen crimes! Here, notice the position of the silverware?

(Should be

down!

 So they stay clean when you take them out.)

       (Kitchen counters used as office space! Wrong! For further kitchen crimes, go here: 

Who Will Save Us From the Kitchen Wars?

)

And then there are the “Things That Happened”---like, 

#4. When I  was “volunteered” to ride behind an ATV on a piece of plywood on the ground heaped with the mess of offal from two beasts. (We raised our own beef for 35 years out on our fishcamp island.) I hung on for dear life, face inches from the warm guts, trying to keep them from spilling while Duncan roared the ATV down to to beach for disposal.  (no photos of that traumatic event. Here, as close as I get to cattle guts now.) 

#5.  The Banya. The banya,

 a kind of sauna, is where and how we bathe in the summer. But the year we moved to this uninhabited island to build a house, we didn’t have time to build a house AND a banya AND an outhouse.  So---someone in the marriage proposed a temporary solution: Ta daaa!!! A Two-Fer: To combine the outhouse and the sauna in one tiny building.  Yes, flies and smell and all.  I laugh now (after the eyerolls) when I think of hauling all my babies and children out there to get clean, while swatting away the outhouse flies . ..  And don’t worry---it was only for 12 summers.

      (How we bathed before the banya, oh so long ago! .. ..This is part of the record of wrong because when Duncan used to give slide shows of Alaska, he'd sneak this photo in, not telling me of course until I was blown up on the wall in front of 100 Ohio farmers. "Red" was not a bright enough color to describe my face.)

#6. The last: the storms. Yes, all the storms we've fished in, and what happens to the voice and to the marriage in such storms? (We don't fish together anymore. At all.)

      So, how DO we keep loving one another? How DO we keep forgiving one another? We all bear 1000 wounds. All of us. But don't take them back, though sometimes I want to. Sometimes I want to erase whole years. But I can't---and I won't even try. Who are we without those wounds, the places we've been, even the ways we've hurt each other? 

     Even now, it's not 

too late to forgive. It is not too late to heal memories. It is not too late to “remember well.” Each time we return to our past, we have the wonderful chance to reclaim it and tell a truer story. (Okay, I

did

 volunteer for that gut-ride, masochistically). We each can tell a truer story that begins with our human failing (Mine: my failure to communicate.  Yours: not wanting to listen.) A story that sees all the ways we've hurt each other. That recognizes we are sharers alike in what L. Gregory Jones calls the “universal disaster of sinful brokenness.” 

When we "remember well," we will find the presence of God even in the outhouse/banya, and especially in the dark and stormy places. Even in memory, we can find Him there shepherding us toward a better love, a love that can finally disarm the haunting and the hurt of what others have done to us.

Why, my friends, would we choose an emptied past over a healed, reclaimed one? Because we know, even with our mouths stuffed full of chocolate on Valentine's Day, that it is not pain itself that diminishes us; it is our response to it that determines the kind of lives we will live, the kind of people we will be, the kind of loves we will possess and give away.

How do we love each other? Let us count the ways. 

#7. 

Tell us, bless us with one way you have "remembered well"---or loved well this week??!!

Report on a Near Drowning, and a Love Note to Self-Loathers



I was swept off my feet a few days ago. By the massive cold hand of a wave—an ocean wave twice as big as its brothers. I was there on the beach beside my house with camera in hand because of a certain desperation. A certain hate of the familiar.          

Rain and snow had lashed our houses and windows for days on end, which is usual for this island, no matter what the season. I was past weary with it. Along with the weather, I had a stupendous bout with self-loathing, which is much deeper than despising the merely familiar.  And If you are here on this page, I suspect you've had a bout or two yourself. At least I hope so. I do wish it upon you, even now, this week when all the world seems lost in fetes of chocolate and roses and romantic celebrations.  I am not of the cult who instructs people to begin their days standing in front of a mirror wrapping their arms around themselves chanting, “You are Beautiful! You are perfect!” (I have an article  in my files from a pseudo-Christian magazine urging just such a routine.) 



 I won't confess the details, but for a few terrifying hours, I saw into my cracked, pathetic heart and I was slain. I was stripped of excuses, the usual cover-ups. I was selfish, callous, a Cad without the “bury” to sweeten it . . .  I was pretty rotten.

In that mood of truth, and tired of cowering from the elements, I took to the beach behind my two youngest sons, 9 and 11, in a freezing rain. With winter coat, boots, hat and hood I followed them out to the black gravel beach a minute’s walk from our house. The days of storm and wind had brought massive waves, a thunderous surf crashing to our black shoreline.  

They had come to play. With my new camera in hand, I had come to work. They stood on the rocks and as each wave pulverized the shore, they lifted their faces to the rain and their arms to the wind and spray, as if flying. When tired of that, they played wave tag, me following them with the camera, snapping their joy in the relentless storm, a marvel. What brings me fatigue and despair brings them delight.

Then it hit. The boys warned me as they ran to the higher rocks. But I didn’t hear in time. The wave hit my knees, knocking me to the beach. Splayed and aswirl in seawater and kelp, I thought only of my  new expensive camera, and rolled over to my side in the water to hold it aloft. Imbalanced, and all my clothing immediately sodden, I couldn’t get up. The wave, retreating back to the water, began to drag me with it. 

“Mom!”  the boys cried, watching with alarm. 
“Abraham, help!” I called to my 11 year old, who stood too stunned to move.
“Help me!” I cried again, my voice weak in the roar of the foam and the wind. 
He ran toward me and held out his hand, eyes huge. As the wave receded, I heaved myself to my knees, grabbed his hand with my one free hand and stumbled to my feet.      

 My boots were full of icy water. I was dripping from the waist down and littered with pieces of kelp.  I knew I would be shaking soon. But home and dry clothes were nearby.

It was the best thing that happened that day. Swept off my feet by the familiar—the familiar grown strange and dangerous. I knew that beach so well. How had I forgotten? Like my own heart. How had I forgotten the danger there, the darkness, the force that can slay others, slay myself, when I see it true?

I was swept by another wave just two days later.  On Sunday I was part of a troupe that dramatized “The Love Chapter,” the most beautiful and most famous words about love ever written.   “Perfect love is not proud, it is not self-seeking, it does not boast, it does not envy, it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth  . . . True love hopes, believes, endures all things . …”   

 As I spoke and enacted these words on stage with others---giving food to a hungry man, bending down to tie a boy’s shoe, giving another my coat, I was nearly drowned with the simplicity and hope of this love---a love that pours from a heart that must first know its own darkness. 


"O stand, stand at the mirror
 until the tears scald and start.
You shall love your crooked neighbor
 with all your crooked heart." 




This is all I have, a crooked heart. This is all any of us have, a crooked heart. Knowing this, we can drown in our own salt tears---or we can run to the one who has fallen, and offer our own shaking hand.