How We Can Navigate a Pandemic…

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I believe it was Anne Lammott who wrote a story about a friend of hers who rented a cabin to complete some time sensitive work. As I recall, her friend was a single mother to a young son at the time and she believed that by renting this space in the mountains for a few weeks, she could work, while her son (who as I recall was less than 2) slept at nap times and in the evening.

One afternoon during this small family’s time away, Anne’s friend put her child down for a nap in the cabin’s one bedroom and set herself up to complete some work. Unfortunately, as children often do, the child awoke from his nap and went to open the door only to accidentally lock himself in the bedroom from the inside where he had been sleeping.

The son started to turn the knob this way and that such that Anne’s friend, hearing it jingle from her work space in the other room, went to go see what was going on. At two years old, the little boy did not really know how he’d locked himself in. The mother, realizing suddenly what had happened, started, calmly at first, to tell her son that it was ok. She tried explaining to him how to turn the lock on the door knob. This, as you can imagine, was ineffective. Two year olds don’t follow directions. They run on pure emotion and have a limited vocabulary.

The situation unraveled from there. The little boy got more and more panic stricken and started to scream and cry for his mothers help. The mother became frantic herself on behalf of her terrified boy and ran for the phone only to find that she could not get through to anyone for help. Either the lines were down or no one would pick up the phone. The mom went back and forth between the phone and her now screaming son behind the bedroom door, as she tried to yell louder than his screams to assure him that he would be ok just as soon as she could figure out how to get to him.

I do not remember how the mother eventually got access to her child. What I remember from the story is this: in her moment of panic, the only thing this mama could think to do was to put her fingers under the door as an offering of touch for her terrified boy. At some point, the child became aware of his mama’s fingers in the crack between the bottom of the door and the floor and he put his tiny fingers under the door too. In this instant of brief touch, the boy began to finally hear his mama’s voice of reassurance that she would get him out, and the little boy calmed down.

My friends.

This is us.

We do not know how the Lord will get us out of this pandemic and its after effects. We do not know how he will open this door that is closing in on our faces, and making us feel so alone. But, I swear on my mothers literal grave, that his fingers are under the door. His voice is on the other side, and his plan is unfolding on our behalf.

Listen for his voice.

Reach out and feel his touch, even if all you’ve got are the tips of your fingers touching the tips of His.

The point is that He is there, and he WILL help us. We must only learn, in our season of trial, however it unfolds, that he’s the only one we ever actually wanted in the first place.

With so much love,

and a commitment to write and encourage as the Lord will allow in this season,

Courtney

 

The Household of Cosmic Trust

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The Household of Cosmic Trust

By: Courtney Beck

 

Oh

My

Soul.

 

What if I told you, that you could be free.

What if I told you that the doorways of pain

and the doorways of delight

over whose thresholds you have shimmied

and squeezed these last dozen years

have ushered you, quite capably, to this specific place:

 

your household of cosmic trust.

 

Here you stand naked, its true.

Yet somehow you are clothed, in comprehensible power.

In this place, the forces of despair

and the forces of delight

lie impotent and incapable of anything but a nudge,

in the direction of the One that you now know

you’ve always wanted.

 

Oh

My

Soul.

 

What if I told you that the only thing

that needs doing is to

trust the process of your unmaking,

open the door

and be free.

 

A Particular Faithfulness

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Something I’ve noticed about small kids: They operate in the particular.

On an evening last week, Andy arrived home and asked Ellie to get involved in the clean up of her toys. He had promised to take her out for dinner but our place was a disaster and we had some time before they had to leave. So he kept saying over and over again:

“We have to clean up or we won’t get to go out to eat.”

Ellie wasn’t picking up on what we were after. She’d say, “OK! I want to go out to eat” and then a few minutes later as we were all jumping into our respective chores I’d notice that she would get distracted. She’d move a toy from one side of the rug to the other. At times, she’d scatter objects around, making the situation worse. She didn’t seem to understand that the clean up process starts with putting one toy back where it belongs, and then following that up with another one, until all the pieces are put away.

I’m thinking about this very concept as I consider 2019. Or maybe I’m just asking for this small situation to shed some light on a really, really difficult year.

On January 1st, 2019, I was clear on my marching orders for the months ahead. God had thrown the word “faithful” in blaring lights on our path and I felt, albeit cautiously, that I knew what he meant. I wanted to believe that he was saying HE was faithful. That we hadn’t gone down this road for nothing. So beginning in January I forced myself to sing songs about faith and faithfulness, while heading into the new year with a timid and uncertain excitement.  I could feel there was something off about my interpretation, but I didn’t know what that was. Maybe if I sang about God’s faithfulness long enough, we could finally get to the things that I’ve really wanted in life.

This is kind of ridiculous in hindsight. I’ve never really believed in a God that caved to my every whim when I wanted it. I don’t think I could trust such a deity and frankly, most days I don’t really know the particularities of what I really want anyway. Which is why he has used the particular moments of this year to turn this call to faithfulness back around as our year has come to a close.

In February, we welcomed our son into the world. His birth story had its own challenges but his arrival was right on time and just as joyous as I remembered with our daughter. What a gift. He was seven pounds, seven ounces and has been such a fun kid to get to know. As wonderful as those first few weeks were, it didn’t take long for the hormones to settle down and the sleepless nights to follow along. Things get particular pretty quickly when an infant and his toddler big sister have continual and immediate needs for their sleep deprived parents.

We were just coming out of a summertime funk related to the stretching of our parenting muscles when my mom called to tell me she would be admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. Within two weeks her treatments would fail to stop pneumonia’s progression into her other lung. A few hurried round trips to Virginia and back had Andy, my sister and me sitting with her doctor for a very tearful conversation about the death process. What a complete and unexpected shock. We would now be required to help her home. What an ultimate particularity.

I don’t know that I have many developed thoughts on the death of my mother at the age of 64. I know that I wish she could have spent Christmas with us as she had planned. I know that on most afternoons I want to Facetime with her and the kids. I hadn’t realized that this was a common ritual of ours until I couldn’t do it anymore. She always had something up her sleeve for her grandkids, even if only an afternoon chat over the phone. I know that I cried through the Sound of Music while watching it with Ellie over Christmas break. We watched Maria sing on the hilltops of Austria over and over again as children. It reminds me so much of that beautiful season between two kids and their beloved Mom.

I suppose I am learning about the particulars of a loss. They are not insignificant.

As 2019 comes to a close I consider the word “faithful” and realize that it has not so much been a word about the Lord as it has been a call to me. To keep my eye on the prize in and through the particularities of my life. We are called to this because we follow a God who is already faithful. The scriptures tell us it is his nature and my experience shows me this too. And so we clean diapers at 2AM and clean the dishes for the thousandth time because we are committed to the story that God is telling through and around those very things.

Last week, with frustration building around the ambiguous “clean-up process” that was unfolding in our home, I pulled up next to Ellie who was getting frustrated too.

“Lets put the Legos in the box,” I suggested, and she began to finally engage.

“Lets put these books in the basket,” I said next.

Soon, she got the hang of what we were asking for and with a job well done she, Andy, and Ethan headed out for Atlanta’s finest chicken nugget and waffle fry dinner.

We are a generation of people that want big things: Justice, Community, Peace, Joy. It appears these things start with a commitment to follow a faithful God in the particular paths he has prepared for us. What a great reminder that he can and he will show us the way forward. I don’t know about you all but I have big hopes for this next decade. Can we hope for the “Roaring ’20s?” I think so! If the 2010s taught me anything its that we can avoid getting blown off course by keeping an eye on the map, or tending to a busted sail. Let’s keep alert. Let’s stay attentive:

“He who calls [us] is faithful; he will surely do it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:24

 

Poetry: It is Time

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It is Time

By: Courtney Beck

 

In our pursuit of everything

Have we forgotten to focus in

On the one thing

That just might steady our neurotic nerves?

The ones that say “I’m starving”

while sitting mere steps from the

“All You Can Eat Buffet.”

The ones that orchestrate indebtedness

on the account with limitless funds.

 

What if the only thing we really need

Is a watch.

Not the kind that tells us we’re late,

But the one with the steady hands

That reminds us to refer to our calendars

And the lessons of the long years.

 

Surely, we can keep time to a

far more enduring calendar.

Surely, we can look beyond December 25th

and all its glitter and unfortunate fuss.

I beg you not ask me how I know this,

But the truth is a gift if you’ll allow it.

 

There’s a moment in the future

when the body beckons your people forward

as a gift for the ones that would

brave your farewell.

If grace has been welcomed,

and surely it awaits your invitation,

We will surround your majestic oak

of a life, in love.

 

If grace has been welcomed

we’ll sit beneath your shade, and,

in an activated miracle, agree to

trade any hint of manufactured warmth 

for the depth of a fireside chat.

If only we would come as we are.

If only we’d absorb the cost of

this fine wine.

 

It is time.

The hands on the watch are abundantly clear.

You must prepare for Christmas, this Christmas,

in the wilderness. (Blase)¹

 

¹ Blase, John. “What Such a Claim Might At Last Entail.” The Jubilee, Bright Coppers Press, p.10

 

 

 

 

Poetry: Making Arrangements

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Making Arrangements

By: Courtney Beck

 

I remember the day that I learned you would die.

Just A child, pierced to the very center,

I contorted and screamed

and ran into your arms.

 

I strangled your every word of comfort and

Though you were thoughtful and kind,

found them utterly unsatisfying.

You couldn’t rearrange this new reality,

no matter how hard you tried.

 

And who of us wouldn’t try?

Who of us wouldn’t attempt to shroud

the loss of a god so large?

I’m afraid there are not enough

sheets in a global hemisphere

that could veil such a cavernous void.

 

So I made arrangements.

I put you at the corner of my heart,

And felt the distorted and sick sort of safety

That one must feel at the edges of an airplane,

Right before you dive.

Right before you trust the parachute,

That thin and corded sheet that we’ve packed just so

For that moment in the air,

In some distant future, or maybe later today,

When, because of our meticulous planning,

we’ll believe in the power of a rip chord

to keep us safe.

 

This did not do.

This did not suffice.

 

I’ve never liked the edges of an airplane.

I’ve always wanted the wide open spaces,

of the green and grassy fields of the earth.

I’ve always wanted full breaths of warm air and morning dew.

I’ve only ever wanted the warmth and comfort of your presence.

 

And so I re-wrote the flight plan,

The best that I could.

I closed that fearful doorway and

landed the plane in our field.

And either at a distance or close by

I suppose I made arrangements.

I worked at loving you

From the center of my heart,

And though human and limited

It was perfect.

 

Today I walk in the cold, cleansing rain,

remembering your ways and your words.

I feel your necklace as it swings,

side to side, step by step

On the edges of a heart that

loved you from the very center.

 

I decide that

Warm tears and a cool rain will

fill an empty cup, eventually.

I decide to make arrangements;

and hold this vessel.

I determine to watch it fill, and overflow,

Full of gratitude, full of fire.

Full of rest and full of life.