Between My Closed Eyes and the Tip of the Spear

Most days, I live inside a fantastic free fall of optimism and delight.

Don’t believe me? Check out Car Moments with Jeff and Brooke. We could entertain ourselves through the entire state of Utah and wipe out world hunger if food was measured in puns and laughter.

Reading consecutive road signs out loud to each other:
Watch for strong crosswinds
Well YOU watch for falling rocks
No, you watch for wild animals
Why don’t they just make a sign that says Be Alert?
Why don’t they make a sign that just says Watch It, Buddy?
Why don’t they just make a sign with a big eyeball?

Hiking in the canyons:
How did those holes get in the walls, I wonder.
Prehistoric fish swam into the walls and bumped them.
I know what they said, do you?
What.
Dam.

___

But then there are other days, and weeks and entire months, when I can feel it bubbling up inside me, the discontent. It starts out slowly—a steady drip in the same thin spot, until my resolve caves and the sadness pours in.

When my third brother announces my fourth little niece or nephew, and I am equally through-the-roof ecstatic and doubling over from the sucker punch.  When we make it through Mother’s Day unscathed, and get blindsided by loads of infants and adorable first dads infiltrating the internets on Father’s Day. When a 101 y/o Nepali prophet and host mom—neither of whom know our story—claimed blessings and Exodus 23:25-26 over our lives…

25 Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, 26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.

…And it doesn’t work, for the 30th time. Literally, the 30th time.

A wave of grief builds in my stomach, grows through my chest and crashes over my head.

For a split second, I’m floating, unanchored. Hopeless. Confused. Bewildered.  This is not who I am, I think, in that bluish underwater twilight.

But at the same time, I just want to feel it. The pain and sadness and despair, raw and scratchy, fierce and scary, suffocating. I don’t want to rationalize or sublimate or uproot it; I don’t want to deny it or spiritualize it. I want to let it roll me up and drag me across the sand. We are broken. And this is what brokenness feels like.

I believe every right thing about God because I know it’s true.

But I don’t understand it, and nothing makes it okay. Not Rwanda, not Cambodia, not even Nepal or Cupcakes or Cuba. Not new friends, not old friends.  Not stories of adoption, not tiny Chinese babies flung across the ocean in slingshots straight into someone’s heart, or miraculous spontaneous naturally occurring pregnancies from people post-adoption or post-IVF or from people who thought they might never conceive. In fact, your stories are the worst because they’re not mine.

(Sorry, you.)

Mostly I reach for antidotes from the sandy floor. I dig deep to find What is Saving My Life Right Now—in July it was an unexpected visit from intern Anna and the coke she brought that day. I put on my Heartometer3000, or at least sit on my heart’s porch with a shotgun. I pray away the bitterness in Jesus’ name like I saw that guy do at the Leadership Conference. Last September I wrote in my journal that I was 30 days clean of bitterness. I knew it would come back, but in the name of Jesus, I had planned to rip that shiz right out again. Here I am only three months later, and my garden is overgrown.

Eventually I’ll burst through the surface, spitting and flailing. At these moments you can find me eating donut holes in parking lots and yelling at people for spilling dillweed.

Or I may simply wash up on the shore when it’s all said and done, quiet and curled up in the Nook.

Either way, we are living this maddeningly complex life where God has provided for all our hopes and needs in measurable and mind-blowing ways, and where he has simultaneously withheld our single greatest one.

My writing group buddy wrote a breath-stopping piece once about the sweet moment in the morning right after she opens her eyes and before she feels the tip of the spear at her chest. This is where I live most of my life. Between my closed eyes and the tip of the spear.

Why does God not either remove the spear or remove the pain?

I don’t know.

In the meantime, I guess J will continue to carry the torch of hope while I weed the bitterness out of the garden…

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I Am (Father’s Day Edition!)

I Am my dad’s namesake. I am college-educated, a direct result of the Indiana State Police construction zones and Mike’s Car Wash—his 2nd and 3rd jobs when I was in college. I am a game of basketball in the driveway every evening that one summer between 7th and 8th after he got home from work so I could make the school team, and I am Pistol Pete, basketball between each step the entire length of the driveway.

I Am the opposite of rib-eye sandwiches from the State Fair and some kind of seafood soup that stinks up the whole house. I am not mayo and pickle and peanut butter all in the same sandwich. I am not the Super Delicious Chinese Buffet any chance I get. But I am a big Christmas eve breakfast, my dad’s BBQ ribs and burgers on the grill, and a poolside cooler full of snacks and wine. I am a Colts party black & stormy, a glass of apothic red or chilled white, always welcome for dinner.

I Am my dad’s backyard—both Pinesprings and Birdkey—chasing my nieces and ol’ Lily dog with bubbles. I am around his dinner table and lounging on his couch for Colts parties. I am a Belize vacation, cannonballs at Cahal Pech, a sea breeze and musical chairs at Captain Morgans, a Belikin at Old Belize, snorkeling and pool-floating, all on the house. By “the house” I mean, my dad. I am a summer evening Indianapolis Indian’s game and the mouse roller coaster at Old Indiana Fun Park.  I am moon-dancing with my dad the night before my wedding on a beach in Destin as he choreographed the next days “moves” including a section he referred to as “the hip-hop” J

I Am “Oh fooey!” And “Gee-miny cricket!” And “What a bozo!” And “You know what assuming does?” I am “10% in the bank and 10% to the church and the rest to spend.” I am “Hey-lo little girl! So what else is going on?”

Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Cannonballs at Cahal Pech
Belikins at Old Belize
Belikins at Old Belize
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Hot Dog at Indians Game
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
Wedding Dance Rehearsing
DSC_1694
Wedding Dance Rehearsing

IMG_40851 6 5 4 3 2

So. Who are you?

Berny hotfingers

While I was in Belize, my greedy little brother pawned all my books.

I didn’t discover the books missing until an hour before my dad’s wedding, which is just like him. He had been MIA for at least a month and had shown up the day of the wedding to get some clothes. It just so happened that my dad had changed the locks that morning, and Brandon all but jumped out of the bushes as soon as we pulled up. He smiled a sparkly smile, raved abut his great new job at the pet store, threw his clothes into a trash bag, gave me a hug, and promised he’d stay in touch.

Twenty minutes later, I found my empty book boxes. My poor, pillaged boxes. Hundreds of books. Gone. I stomped around the apartment screaming about what an idiot he was and threatening to throw him out a two-story window if I ever saw him again. My dad thought I was overreacting until he went to get his camera, which was also missing. It was the camera we bought my dad for Father’s Day—and by “we” I mean “me” since I paid both Ben and Brandon’s share. So, to recap: he stole my books, and then he stole the camera he himself gifted, at my expense.

Had he shown up for the wedding, he would have been uninvited. But that’s what makes him so frustrating. He is so unreliable you can’t even exclude him.

He finally called me about a week ago under the guise of “I heard you had shingles, how are you feeling?” which turned out, in the end, to be “I need a bed can I have yours?”

I told him I was feeling fine, except that I was broke and had to depend on the free clinic to treat my shingles since I have no money and can’t even pawn my own books for prescription drugs.  Then I threw in something about food stamps just to make him feel guilty, and ten minutes later I was fielding calls from various family members alarmed about the food stamps.

“Are you on food stamps?”
“No, who told you that?”
“Brandon.”
“You talked to Brandon? Did he call you or did you call him?”
“He called me.”
“To tell you I was on food stamps?”
“Well, no. He said he was trying to buy dad’s furniture but that you might need the money more than dad. Do you need money?”
“No.”
“Do you need groceries?”
“No. I’m not even on food stamps. I was just trying to make a point.”

“Berny.”
“What?
“Did you tell mom I was on food stamps?”
“Yeah, because she said you might be selling your couches, and I thought you would need the money for groceries. And I need some couches. And a bed.”
“Brandon! I don’t need groceries. I’m not selling my bed. You can’t afford my couches. I just want my books!”

Do you know what he said next? He said, “Brooke. I left your yearbooks.”

As if all other books are merely ornamental.
As if he were a classy enough pawner to leave the things of real value. As if I am not a smart enough sister to understand the translation: “Brooke.  The bookstore didn’t want your yearbooks.”

For the record, the bookstore did not keep a record of books bought. There is no list of books sold. If I want my books back, I have to manually go through the shelves and pick out the ones I think might be mine and then re-buy them. Re-buy them. Hundreds of books. He managed to get my dad’s camera back, though. He originally used it to take out a loan at the pawnshop and then paid the loan and reclaimed the camera. But books? You should see the way they look at me when I whine about the books. Come on, Brooke. It’s not like they’re yearbooks.

Well. Today I bought three books. Now I am the proud owner of three books and 4 yearbooks. If you would like to give me a parting gift for grad school, please buy me a book.

Unrelated: I have a bookshelf for sale