Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

It’s early Friday morning

It’s early Friday morning. Rain arrived
late yesterday evening breaking a short
oppressive heat wave. I have one hour
for a walk outside before the rain returns.

Morning smoothie safely tucked away,
I put on my rain gear and open the back door.
The rush of dense humid air assaults my lungs,
my face, and any part of my skin not covered.

It’s mid-summer. No rush of passing traffic
greets me as I turn left from our driveway.
No sidewalk here. Just a curb
and the sound of occasional tires
squishing over dark, damp pavement.

Quickly I turn left down a narrow side street
lined with neighborhood houses,
away from the flow of traffic to and from
wherever people go at this time of day
in midsummer.

I hear the sound of my shoes on wet pavement,
a few muffled voices inside a house or two,
and birdsong filling the air. Invisible waves of
of warm damp air magnify the chorus of bird calls
surrounding me from branches and treetops.

At the end of this short street I turn left
again headed toward more open spaces.
I’m now on a sidewalk, next to the grammar
school playing field on my right, and a church yard
just beyond. A white spire and white headstones
gleam beneath towering trees.

Turning right, between the school yard and
the church yard, I walk beneath trees still
filled with birdsong. Leftover rain and dew drops
fall rhythmically hitting damp ground
and empty parking spaces behind the school.

Circling around the school, toward a public park,
I start up the hill through another deserted parking lot.

My pace slows a bit. I notice
the dying hemlock now marked
with a large white X signaling the end
of its long fight against invasive insects.

Will it receive a proper burial?
A gleaming white headstone?

I circle another tree at the top of the driveway
then turn down a small path through
the park, back toward the school.
Tiny drops of water glitter on tips
of fir needles and low-hanging tree leaves,
brushing my face with cool water.

I turn left to walk behind the school, past
the athletic field on my way home. In the distance
I see the churchyard with its lush green trees.
The weeping beech towers next to rows
of white headstones rooted in earth,
soaking in summer’s gift of life-giving rain.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2017
Image found at pinterest.com

Why I haven’t buried God

I can’t count how many times people ask why I haven’t given up on God. Why I don’t curse God. Why I still call myself God’s beloved daughter-child.

Even though I’m a theologian, my reasons are deeply personal. Rooted in childhood experiences with my father who insisted I call him Daddy.

Daddy, a preacher, had his own kind of God. He desperately hoped his God would have mercy on him, though I never knew exactly why. Daddy also hoped his God would straighten me out into the submissive little girl and young woman Daddy thought proper and seemly for his #1 of 4 daughters, no sons.

So why didn’t I curse God, or at least bury God with honors? After all, Daddy kept saying he was following God’s law. God’s order. God’s instructions for parents and for children. And then he would beat me. All within a strangely church-like ritual that required my full attention, cooperation and submission to Daddy as God’s servant.

It wasn’t church. And it didn’t feel like a safe home. It was worse than being left out in the cold. Furthermore, I now know the God on which Daddy called was not God. He was more like a quixotic bully to be avoided and feared. Friendly one moment; cold and calculating the next.

So why haven’t I buried God? Because my parents did something for me, early on. My primers weren’t little Jack and Jill reading books. They were hymns, choruses, verses and entire passages from the Bible. All memorized and reviewed at home, and later in my grade school Bible classes from grade 2 through 7.

My father had a phenomenal memory and was eager for me, his daughter, to exercise her memory as well. Especially Scripture, but also hymns and poetry. I took to it like a duck to water.

My favorite was Psalm 23. Yes, it’s beautiful. And it’s more. It helped me endure many beatings. Daddy wielded his rod. But Jesus used his to comfort me. To shield my soul and give me strength to endure.

I also grew up hearing and reading the Bible. I loved the story about Jesus welcoming the children when large, grownup know-it-all disciples tried to send them away. Jesus rebuked the disciples, called the children to him and blessed them.

I don’t know what God looks like. But I know what God’s Son Jesus did with children just like me. The kind who seem to make too much noise. A distraction from the serious things of life. Always getting into trouble, or wanting to talk to Jesus about trivial stuff—not theology, or when the kingdom is going to arrive.

Like Jesus, God never sent me away, but offered a safe haven, especially when things weren’t safe. I never felt rejected or unwelcome. Nor do I today. I like to think that as God’s beloved daughter-child, I look a bit like one of Jesus’ sisters from time to time.

Why would I ever want to bury this God?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 July 2017
Image found at pinimg.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Bury

gritty monuments

gritty monuments to perseverance emerge from salts of the earth

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2017
Image of Bryce Canyon, Utah, found at Pixabay.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Grit

How to write my life backwards

No one ever taught me to do this. Not directly. Yet I find myself wanting to write my life backwards. And with a feather, no less!

I’ve already written many posts on my childhood, youth and beyond. I drew on memories, records and old photos to describe my interior life along the way and how all that affected me as an adult.

It’s one thing to describe and reflect upon my experience as a traumatized child in a Christian family. Just doing that has been more daunting and rewarding than I ever dreamed it would be.

Yet when I read what I wrote three years ago, I’m aware of perspectives I didn’t consider back then. I want to name and explore them. Not for my sake, but for the sake of the little girl and young woman I was back then.

Here’s a small example from one of my first posts. In The Shopkeeper, I describe what happened to me that day, how I felt, and how I concluded that I didn’t really need to tell my parents about it and why. I dreaded, for good reason, that the consequences for me would be grim.

Yet now, over three years since I posted that memory and my reflections on it, I have at least one more question. Not for me, but for my parents. It’s simple.

Why did you send me into that shop in the first place?

This was the only shop near the campground we stayed at during those summers. More than likely, one of my parents had already been buying milk there and collecting the deposits. One or both had likely seen the filthy environment and experienced first-hand the unkempt, uncouth old man who ran the place.

I never thought about this back then. My job wasn’t to question my parents. It was to answer their questions—and accept the consequences.

Yet the question remains, and looms large today. Larger than dread about questions my parents would ask, and the possible verdict that I was, as usual, somehow at fault. Or that this wasn’t really all that important when I knew it was.

In going back, I don’t want to retell what’s already been told. I want to give a voice to this young girl that I am. She already seems to believe that no matter how she talks about what happened to her, she’ll be found guilty.

I believe she deserves to be heard, especially at this distance. Her courage astonishes me, even though she didn’t feel brave most of the time.

How to do this is the great discovery I have yet to make!

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 July 2017
Image found at pinterest.com

Not in this World to see his face —

~~~~~Antique Primer, School Reader  ca. 1923, Bolenius Illustrations

Here’s a clever piece by Emily Dickinson. In it she comes she comes to a well-considered outcome. One that happens to suit her immensely. Who says you can’t strike a bargain with Himself? My comments follow.

Not in this World to see his face –
Sounds long – until I read the place
Where this – is said to be
But just the Primer – to a life –
Unopened – rare – upon the Shelf –
Clasped yet – to Him – and me –

And yet – My Primer suits me so
I would not choose – a Book to know
Than that – be sweeter wise –
Might some one else – so learned – be –
And leave me – just my A – B – C –
Himself – could have the Skies –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

The setting, not described directly but alluded to, seems to be a Library. One that contains a rare Book, Unopened, on a Shelf. I imagine Emily standing there pondering her options.

It seems she longs to see his face, but doesn’t want to wait until she’s in another World. By the end of this short poem, she has adroitly moved to a solution that solves not one, but two problems! What could be better?

I think her logic goes something like this.

It seems I must wait to see his face in another life, another World. Yet haven’t I read somewhere that this life is a Primer to a life as yet unseen? Unseen because it hasn’t yet been opened.

In fact, this life is hidden over there on the rare Book shelf. See it? There’s a Clasp that keeps the Book tightly shut. Not just to me, but to Himself.

Hmm. You know, the more I think about it, the more I like my small Primer. After all, it introduces me to whatever comes next, and it’s filled with lovely things that point toward whatever comes next.

How about this for a solution? I keep my Primer, and leave the more mysterious Clasped Book for Himself. And maybe for the learned theologians! Surely they would love to figure out the other-World secrets locked within the Book. Then one day they can all see Himself in another World and find out whether they were correct!

As for me, I’m more than content to stay with my simple A-B-Cs. The birds and bees, butterflies and flowers, oceans and sunsets. I already see in them more than enough glimpses of Himself and of me.

Is Himself content with simple A-B-Cs? I don’t know, but if he’ll let me be content with my Primer right here on this earth, I’ll gladly leave the Skies and all other locked mysteries to Himself and the learned theologians.

Something like this. Maybe….

Hoping your Sabbath Primer is filled with mysteries that point to Someone greater than ourselves and to the persons we’re invited to become.

Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2017
Images  found at pinimg.com (Primer), and edenworkshops.com (Rare Book with Clasps)

writing life backwards…

The past
a muddled conglomeration
bits and pieces
scraps
in colors drab
dripping red
rags

Socks with holes
that hold no water
no deep thoughts
nothing worth saving
but my embodied soul
such as it was
small
scared
scarred
hypervigilant and
anguished

Dressed for church and company
Awkward, unseemly nice
Plain and forgettable

I will not forget

I write obsessively now
since the dam burst

Is this my confession?
Relieved capitulation to truth?
Sorrowful search for a little girl lost?

Yes Yes Yes and Yes –
All that and more

Written with a feather–
Backwards

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 July 2017
Image found at salon.com, previously featured in Crazy Happy Lady
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Quill

an untethered life

Annie J. Flint, Poet (1866-1932)

I like being in control. Or at least thinking I’m in control. Yet the older I get, the less control I have over my world, much less yours. I don’t relish feeling tethered by circumstances beyond my control.

Annie J. Flint, composer of the well-loved song below, lived a tethered life in her later years due to severe arthritis. Her ability to work or function as an independent adult was limited. She experienced what it means to ‘reach the end of our hoarded resources.’

Yet she still touches us with grace-filled lyrics such as these. Here’s one of her most-loved songs, unedited.

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Words by Annie J. Flint (1866-1932)
Found at CyberHymnal.org

Today, six months into this year, I’m tempted to despair. I struggle with discouragement about national and international issues. I don’t know what I can do, or who I’m to be in the midst of growing chaos gone crazy. The options seem tightly restrictive.

Happily, these lyrics don’t lull me into spiritual make-believe land, as though I could escape all this. Instead, they invite me to keep an open mind and heart, stay engaged, and loosen my hold on that tether I think is binding me.

After all, Flint’s lyrics are about receiving, not about giving.

I’ve lived most of my adult life as a giver. Though it’s exhausting, I confess some addiction to it. Especially now that I’m not able to feed the giving habit as regularly as I might like.

Perhaps I’ve reached the end of my giving tether, and need to cut it loose. Annie Flint would likely agree. In fact, when her options became severaly limited, she picked up her pen and began writing her life in poetry. Not primarily for us, but for herself.

How selfish? No, how wise. I can’t think of a better way to receive gifts than to unwrap, admire, and use them.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 July 2017
Image found at CyberHymnal.org
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Tether

born yet again

born yet again
loving and leaving
peeling growing itchy
skin too tight

between lurches
a hatched pattern
unfolds
creases rise edgy

birth canal angular
made to order
a fearsome adventure
unrehearsed

a snail’s pace
catapults me
inch by sub-inch
toward light

***

And that, my friends, it what this plucky woman felt when I woke this morning. Keenly aware of my age and of the many times I’ve said goodbye to ‘me’ and hello to the new, exciting (?) unknown ‘me.’

Today nothing is set in concrete except this: I am God’s beloved daughter-child. Along for the ride, and learning to relax my way into it.

Happy Wednesday!

Elouise♥ 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 July 2017
Image found at pinterest.com
Daily Prompt: Pluck

Dear Clouds,

Forgive me for interrupting you
On this sunny, slightly cloudy holiday
When you’re extra busy above the scenes.

I don’t have a speech,
Just a breezy note
In passing:

Thank you!

You show up day and night
Working in earth’s atmosphere
A massive, moving panorama.

Highlighting, lowlighting, hovering,
Dancing, rippling, undulating
Before and around the sun and the moon

Darkening, thickening, showing your muscle,
Announcing impending flashes of lightning
and thunderous torrents of rain.

I wonder, do you feel affirmed and needed?
Or do you dream of sailing off into the sunset
And never returning?

Please know you’re loved and respected the world over
And that every living thing on this planet
Counts on you to show up and do your thing.

Also, if you’re wondering,
Some of us down below are doing what we can
To make sure you live long and prosper.

From a Fan

~~~

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain:
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!….

St. Francis of Assisi, ca. 1225

***
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 July 2017

Photo found at carlwozniak.com
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Sail

one split second

One split second frozen in time captures my eyes.

***

This is a shout-out of gratitude to my dear husband who captures so many stunning photos. No matter where we are. No matter how much time it takes. No hurry. No worry. I sit in the shade, relaxing, or walk around and then come back, knowing his attention to detail will be rewarded.

Not every photo is picture perfect. But then there are the others, waiting to be discovered. This is one of the standouts.

D took this last week on our visit to Longwood Gardens. For me, the payoff comes in photos like this.  They evoke wonder, and invite me to ponder life from a different angle.

They also remind me of our many trips together through life. Memories captured and resurrected each time I return for a look-see. Or post them right here for you.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 July 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser, 27 June 2017
Longwood Gardens Lily Pond, Kennet Square, Pennsylvania

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Dash

%d bloggers like this: