Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Thoughts

*Image via Frolic

It was the day before Good Friday; the air was cold, the sky gray and utterly dismal. It felt like the kind of day on which a horrid crime might occur; the kind of day on which, for example, a person might be crucified.

As I looked outside at the pouring rain, my imagination drifted back to that day two thousand years ago, and I wondered, what must it have been like for Christ's disciples, for those who knew and loved Him best? On the natural level – that is, in terms of what the human senses could perceive – the day was certainly anything but good - its significance for mankind as enigmatic to those who saw it happen as its name is to modern people now.

That Good Friday, His disciples having abandoned Him – that is, all but one, and the women who were devoted to Him – Christ, the Messiah – the one who was to save Israel – carried His own cross to the place called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and there was crucified. Three large nails like spikes were plunged through His hands and feet. His outer garments were divided; they cast lots for His tunic; and after He received a drink of bitter wine He bowed His head and breathed His last.

And then – ostensibly, it was all over. Even His last words, “It is finished!” rose up to affirm this seeming truth. Christ, the Messiah, was dead. Dead. His body, cold and lifeless. And a spear pierced His side.

What was there to do for the few that remained but to take the Body down? Remove the nails and bind it in linen wrappings with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, as was the burial custom of the Jews. This second Adam was then buried in a garden, in a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

What does it mean?
they must have asked themselves. Is this the end? And if so, how can it be?

What, I wonder, must the Sabbath day that followed have been like for the disciples? For those who had forsaken Him, there must have descended a spirit of shame, confusion, and despair. Uncertainty, and an almost dizzying sense of anti-climax. Stupefied, they must have walked about in a stupor. Sick with grief, they couldn't make sense of what had happened – couldn’t even distract themselves with work. Instead, their burial rites interrupted, they were compelled to sti still, mulling it all over.

But then – the tomb was found empty. The women who had gone there with spices came back to testify that they had seen angels, been visited by the Risen Christ! No matter. To the disciples – their words appeared as nonsense. It wasn’t until Christ revealed Himself to them personally that they understood – it was only after they had seen that they could believe.

When you think of it, not much has changed. We live by the light of revelation – and must cling to this revelation when nothing, not even nature, seems to affirm its truth.

Today I woke up and the world was unaccountably changed. Dutch was home. All the dark clouds, which had hovered fitfully above the trees for so many long days, were gone. The sky was clear and blue and brilliant.

All the neighbors emerged from their cocoons. The children across the street, whose faces I had not yet seen, were out on their front lawn, joyously engaged in the act of making a fort using a child-sized picnic table, a porch umbrella, and some old sheets. Even the insects – most of them just hatched – had come out from their hiding places to play: a white butterfly hovered above the blooming rhododendrons, its two white wings trembling like little scraps of paper in the warm, thick air. Swarms of bees circled the ranunculus, buzzing cheerfully. Two doors down a chicken clucked, warbled, sang.

The four of us, reunited at last, couldn’t help but pack a picnic and join in the revelry. As we walked past an endless succession of jewel-bright lawns, and I began to describe to Dutch the agonies of life without him – I had to interrupt myself: for in that setting which was suddenly so beautiful, so idyllic and splendorous, I began to question the credibility of my own story.

How can it be that here, today, a new world is born where yesterday there was only rain and gloom, and everywhere a spirit of dissolution and torpor?

I don’t know. It is unaccountable to me – and yet I rejoiced to see how well nature served to illustrate the point that appearances can be deceiving. At first glance, victory may present itself as defeat. That which today may appear hopeless, irredeemable, gone forever, may tomorrow find new life, new birth, and the promise of redemption.

I couldn’t help but reflect that the Christian life – that is, the life of the disciple – is often filled with these kinds of stunning contrasts and reversals. One day, the sun breaks through the clouds, bathing everything in the light of revelation. One can nearly see the Risen Christ, and feel His Presence in every created thing, man and beast and bush. The next, the light of the vision vanishes – and one is left to wonder when, if ever, it will return again.

Like Lucy after she has first discovered Narnia, one learns that there is no telling when the Wardrobe will open itself again to worlds unknown. The magic never works the same way twice – and never on command. One cannot walk back to the same place and expect the same result. Instead, one must wait and believe, recognizing that we are not in control of the magic – but that the magic is in control of us, and that it is a Person, Jesus.

"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see..." ~Matthew 28.6

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way…
Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.” ~ Psalm 142.2-3, 7

Time moves very slowly as we await Hessel’s return. Whatever attempts we’ve made to venture even a little distance from our rented “home” have more often ended in disaster: a burned hand, a hailstorm, crying, and losing our way.

I am very tired.

Nap-times, which I usually reserve for restorative activities such as reading, writing, and exercising – are now typically spent laying prostrate in bed, reading the Psalms, or staring listlessly at the shadow-patches on the blank beige walls.

Again and again, my mind goes back to the analogy Cynthia Heald offers in one of her books – how being a mother of young children is like being in the trenches. I was pleased to discover several intriguing facts about trench warfare this afternoon, while hiding my head beneath the quilt that is spread across Audrey’s bed, and conducting painstaking research on my i-phone:

1. Trench warfare is essentially a defensive, not an offensive, type of warfare. Platoons of soldiers used to literally camp out in trenches which were dug directly into the battle lines. Their goal was simply to endure by staying put - and keeping the enemy from gaining any of their ground.
2. Because trench warfare was essentially a battle of endurance, “winning” required wearing down the enemy’s resources – food, supplies, ammunition – or organizing an assault on the trench that was discovered to hold the brunt of the supplies.
3. Disease due to poor sanitation or a lack of proper supplies was often as big a killer as an enemy assault.
4. Trench warfare was so taxing on soldiers (physically and psychologically) that they were typically only relegated to serve in the trenches for 15% of their overall deployment time.

Mothers of young children will doubtless find myriads of metaphorical “gems” in these facts, as I did. My four take-aways: first, Christ fights – and wins – the battle on my behalf; my job is to stand firm, not letting the enemy overtake my ground; second, “merely” enduring is an incredibly valuable component in winning a war – I may not be called to actively fight, but I must have enough spiritual grit to hold out until help arrives; third, it’s not enough to keep the enemy from assaulting your trench – I must be properly equipped inside in order to endure successfully and fend off disease; finally, no one can sustain the kind of acute pressure that is called for when in the trenches – it’s temporary, and relief will come eventually!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
~ Colossians 1:15-17

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I have been working with my dear friend, Betsy, to design a wedding invitation suite for my brother and his charming fiance. The project is finished - phew! - the invitations all assembled and in the mail. I am so excited to post some pictures - I just want to give them a few days to arrive to their designated destinations.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rooms with a View

*Wilhelm Bendz's "Interior From Amaliegade With the Artist's Brothers," around 1829 via NYT

I noticed that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently showcasing a series of 26 works of art all revolving around a single theme: Rooms With a View. Journalist Roberta Smith's review of this exhibition in the Weekend Arts section of last Friday's New York Times left me spellbound. She calls the collection "passively subversive" in that the works it showcases "determinedly say no to established authoritative statements: formal portraiture and large-scale history painting, or depictions of grand structures and even the stark or overwhelming landscapes characteristic of a more outdoorsy Romanticism." When so much of the world is preoccupied with external events - political clashes, wars, entertainment news - I find it refreshing to consider the importance of interiors.

I think that is part of Ms. Smith's point: that by representing interior scenes of quiet domesticity - subjects engaged in ordinary activities, such as embroidering, combing hair, reading, or merely peering quietly out a garden window - these artists were saying that these scenes mattered. Perhaps not as much as the Napoleanic Wars, but still, they mattered. A home. A quiet place to retreat. A room to dream and rest and think in. These things mattered. And still do.

*Georg Friedrich Kersting's "Woman Embroidering" (1811) via NYT

Tim Keller (quoting a scholar whose name I can't remember) says in one of his sermons that "religion is what you do with your solitude." In our moments of solitude we show not only what we value, but who we are; not simply what we enjoy, but what we worship. It can be taken too far, but I think this is a point worth considering.

*Caspar David Friedrich's "Woman at the Window" (1822) via NYT
I wish New York weren't so far away. I can think of no better way to spend the afternoon than wandering down the oyster gray hallways of these exhibit rooms. Instead, I'll try to enjoy the view from my own window - green tree tops jutting into gray clouds, cracked with sunlight, and the occasional silhouette of a black bird cutting across the sky.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hi, Dad!

Today we're starting a "Hi, Dad," series: one snapshot for every day that you're away. This one is from yesterday. We went to the park - two of them, actually. One was Oaks Amusement Park where we celebrated Audrey's birthday. Again. All the aunts and uncles were there and we ate cake and opened presents before going on the carousel and half a dozen stomach-lurching rides. We missed you. Especially for the stomach-lurching rides part. You would have liked that.

Then, this evening, we went to the park nearest us, the one with the rose arbor and the teeter-totters. Evie fell in the mud again and we were all freezing so we drove home. In the car, Evie said, "I miss Daaaad," in her throaty little mouse of a voice.

That night, when I was tucking her into bed, I asked if I could sing her a song. She said, yes; and I asked, which one, and she said, The Hessel One, and I said, The Hessel One? She said, Yeaaaah. The Hessel sooooong. I shamefully admitted I didn't know The Hessel Song and began singing the opening lyric to Jesus Loves the Little Evies, Go Tell it on the Mountain, and Baby Mine, each in succession. No, no, no, she said, very emphatically. So I told her I would ask you to teach me The Hessel Song and sing it tomorrow.

Don't wonder whether we miss you. We do.

Lady Bug

Enduring with Joy

Life has been a bit of a whirl lately. I am spending most of April in Oregon while Dutch is in India. We girls have temporarily exchanged our bathing suits for galoshes and winter coats. The morning we arrived was gray and cold; as we turned onto our street, gray clouds clustered above the triangular tips of all the houses; gray drops dripped from the tips of all the leaves of the trees; gray sidewalks shivered with rain; later, as we crept outdoors, the puddles trembled hello. When we reached the park Audrey gasped. "Follow the moss path!" she said to Evie, and they jogged ahead of me. I haven't been able to catch up with them since.

Monday, April 4, 2011

March Teen Collage