Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the world is waiting for the sunrise.

on friday i went to west beach; i had to.
the weight of school mixed with a dreadful dose of apathy hung heavy on my shoulders. i had to go, to walk and breathe in the soccer practice air. runner's knee or not, i had to walk the length of west beach. i had to go listen to the waves crash to remind myself that life is a whole lot bigger than me. to remember that God is BIG and he is near. i had to know that life is more than school and tests and grades and books. more than friday nights with no plans and a closet full of clothes.

and as i walked my eye spotted little shards of sea glass that soon found their way into my hands, and in my pocket after that. glass worn smooth by the consistent lapping of waves, glass dulled from the rush of water and the rough grains of sand soon turned over and over in my palm. the glass did not shimmer and shine, boasting in all of its reflective glory- but still it stood out, a colorful contrast against the neutral shades of brown and black strewn across the shore.

as my hands passed over the smooth back of brokenness - a miniscule piece of a once resplendent bottle, i remembered: i too am broken. i need the consistency of God to wash over my edges, dulling all that is pride.

knowing i am a broken little shard, i'll trust that God also scours the shores of my life - walking up and down the coast, eyes anxiously seeking broken pieces of me, pieces that have been scattered as i stumble along - and when he finds them in their contrasting colors, he too will scoop them up in his hands. he'll run his fingers over them lovingly and place them in his pocket - dreaming of all that they will become.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise."
Psalm 51:17

In other news: 

1. Last night in pottery class we were making mugs! Let me tell you, mugs are hard. I have a new appreciation for each mug I drink out of and the way they fit into my hand so perfectly. My mugs... they have character at best. They are optical illusions at worst. Our teacher was "amazed" at my ability to keep my mug centered on the wheel, and yet at the same time entirely uneven in shape and form. haha 

2. I am ready for spring and bare feet and picnics and frisbee and grass and running in the gordon woods and open windows. mmmmmmmmm.

3. My family came to visit this weekend! : ) [ it was a little cold. ]

Monday, February 14, 2011

the ache remains.

Not a day goes by (and yet 3 years have...)

we remembered you today in different conversations, in the same room. i with myself, her with her dearest friend from high school. she mentioned that frightful february afternoon when our hearts died with you - that day that turned into a night that i spent sitting on the floor of that barren hospital crying more tears than i could have imagined that morning. i sobbed as the doctor in his cold white coat with equally cold hands carried the most horrid news. 

there's nothing more we can do. 

my father stomped his foot and moaned in agony - i watched and listened with clouded eyes and ears as the slow motion horror film rolled on. (you can never find the stop button when you most need it.) the hours of tears dragged on into days. the crying and holding and yelling traveled to a hotel room, to 4083 rockfish road, to the cemetery -- and still today, three years later... the echoes of the lifeless hospital, the stomping feet and groans that meant nothing and everything play loudly in my mind. because she mentioned it today and i caught sight of the tears in her eyes. my feet carried me to the kitchen, away from the pursuit of tears. because sometimes it still seems 

there's nothing we can do. 

nina asked if it gets easier, if you adjust --- 
today the answer is no. it still sucks. it still hurts like hell. i still miss you; i still wish you were here. i wish i could have known you better. i still cry, sometimes weep - about it. i still ache when i think of your absence, when my fingers gently fall over the hole you have left in my heart, in all of our hearts. i still kind of hate valentine's day. i still wonder why.

but mostly, i still love you. 

i still admire and respect and look up to you. i still cherish the way you lived - and desperately try to remember moments spent with you conversations that spoke to my heart...

so today i dug out the letter you wrote to me. the dearest thing i have left of you. today i read it, and again my eyes filled with tears. that thanksgiving sunday , or maybe it was saturday - coming down to my room and finding those words written to me on that yellow piece of paper; i was awe-struck, humbled, thankful. (and today, i am even more thankful than i was then.) because you spoke the truth. and the image you described in my life is the image i continually return to, the image that most clearly represents my life...

"the picture the Lord gives me for you is that you are standing directly in front of your life's treasure chest and it is slightly open. shining out from it is the reflection of the Great store of golden treasure. The Lord wants you to know it's all yours and the treasure he gives never runs dry. Open the lid wide and see and take from all that he has for you. As you remain in him, all you put your hand to will be blessed and prosper. (now and in the future!) I am so excited for you and what lies ahead for you Ashley!"

it was prophetic. it is truth. and if only you knew how many times i come back to those words. 

so on this gray day i'm remembering. 
i'm dwelling and re-living and crying and thinking and praying. 
and i'm clinging, still clinging to this: 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes." 
Romans 8:28

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


sometimes home is so concrete... it's the way six bodies fill six spaces around our kitchen table built by the hands of my father. it's the worn quilts piled on the couch for a spontaneous sleepover, it's driving stick shift and dancing in the kitchen. it's sleeping in bunk beds. it's a trampoline. it's the soft thud of wood floors. it's a stone driveway that refuses to be paved and blue shutters that offer welcoming winks every time i return.

but sometimes, sometimes we find home in the hearts of others. sometimes home is found in moments...in cafés and bars and snow-covered beaches, in car rides and laughter and a tad too much liquor. (haha)

on thursday night i found home - - -

in Gulu-Gulu café with Genny, Sarah, and Hannah. Eating a nutella strawberry-heaven-on-earth crepe and reading birthday toasts. i found home, in arms clasped, traipsing past the closed-for-the-season gate and straight on towards the coast. in the sky hanging heavy with stars, more stars than these little eyes have seen in a long time, and in ears that heard nothing save the crashing, bone-chilling waves and crunching of snow beneath bright colored boots. i found home in being a passenger. in the voice of sam amidon. in a beach blanketed in 3.5 feet of snow.
i found home in the perfection that was thursday.

we don't mess around with birthdays up here. Genny turned 21 this week and we celebrated two days in a row. a small surprise party, make-shift dancercise, a pancake breakfast, a night out in Salem, birthday poetry/toasts, and Crane Beach. Perfection, my friends. We've got this party thing down.

Other things that are reminding me that love is still alive.

1. Sunsets that melt all over the sky. 
2. Thunderstorms in the heart of winter.
3. Babette's Feast. (it's a movie.) 
4. Sarah Haile.
5. Apple Cinnamon scones and good conversation.
6. Snowshoeing! 

(the weird red fuzz could quite possibly be a red zombie about to attack us. 
or it might just be a mitten.)

snowshoeing is a really good Sunday afternoon activity.

i am thankful for these girls and their adventurous souls.

there is a lot of snow here...

which causes us to walk around all squinty and smile-y. 

in other news, last night was my first pottery class.
last night another tiny dream of mine came true.
two hours down and i am already loving it. it's so therapeutic, so life-giving, so messy and beautiful and challenging. so hard, and yet oh so fun.

pottery is filled with all kinds of crazy metaphors and analogies for life as i'm sure you're aware. and so after my first class i thought i'd share two thoughts i came home carrying in my clay-stained hands.

Thought Number 1: 

So, never having taken a pottery class before I had absolutely no idea what to expect the first night. Honestly I did not even really expect to do a whole lot on the wheel, let alone create anything "real." 

I was wrong.

After about 15 minutes of instruction and demonstration we were told to grab a wheel and start trying, begin learning by doing and asking questions along the way. Begin learning and messing up and trying again and learning, and in the process, attempt to make some bowls.  

So I started. I began to center and spin my clay, desperately trying to remember which hand was supposed to do what and if I was supposed to keep it really wet or semi-wet, straining to recall if it was supposed to be a narrow cylinder or more of a cone shape... etc. etc. Pottery is a lot more technical than I ever realized. 

As I was sitting there struggling to get my clay to mold into anything that began to resemble a bowl, our instructor walked by and immediately saw my continued failed attempts. He took over for a second to get me back on the right track and then began to explain to me that my clay was really hard and definitely not the best quality to begin on. His voice was filled with hope and patience however as he reassured me that I could do it. He left me to continue and simply said, "it needs consistency. don't change the pace of your wheel a lot, don't apply different amounts of pressure, don't do quick motions - be patient and consistent, it will mold." 

And so consistently I tried, to apply the same pressure- to spin the wheel at the same speed, to move my hands in the same fluid motion...and gradually a little bowl started taking shape. Slowly, and with much consistent effort and two very sore arms, my stubborn lump of clay began to open up and transform into something useful; not quite something as noble as some clay morphs into, but something useful nonetheless. 

Working with that clay made me wonder at the patience and time God invests in each of us. Like that little mound of clay i too am often hard. i am a girl who needs consistency. God's faithfulness and consistency in my life are two things i am absolutely in love with. He continues to hold his hands, to spin me around ever so gently - to apply firm and constant pressure on my heart, to slowly mold me into something he can use for his purposes. I may not be ready for any noble purposes yet, but I pray God's hands are beginning to shape me into something useful for his kingdom. 

His consistency despite my rebellion- his faithfulness to me even when I fly off the wheel and refuse to take shape, even when I refuse to let him hollow me out so that he can fill me up... Astounding. 

(note: this photo is not from pottery class. it's from a "paint your own pottery" place two years ago.)

Thought Number 2: 

After making my first bowl last night I set out a bit too quickly to make my second one, foolishly assuming I knew what I was doing. (I didn't.) My bowl was completely uneven and before I could decide what to do about it, the whole thing crumbled in my hands. Ready to shake it off and start over I squished all of the clay back together and began somewhat feebly, to force the clay back into the desired starting shape. My instructor again walked by and without hesitation pointed out my mistake. 

"Once you start a piece and it crumbles, you simply can't shove all the clay back together. It won't work."

Don't ask me the technical reasons but it has something to do with the particles in the clay, air bubbles, the combination of slip and clay and all kinds of things. So in order to begin again, you first have to take out all of the messed up clay. You have to totally start over - there is no moving on until what is broken is discarded. The broken pieces will have to be wedged again, pressed patiently and firmly back into something useful...but if you keep it with the rest of the clay, nothing good will come. 

And that my friends, that's like us too. We have to let God take all our broken pieces, all our failed attempts, and let him in his strength and consistency press them back into something good, redeem them. [Brokenness and humility are two things heavy on my heart these days; two things I'm pondering and longing for.] It's not easy, it takes time and patience and care, but in the end - something beautiful and useful will remain. We may not turn into cereal bowls, but perhaps we'll be vessels of love and joy and encouragement to others - vessels of hope. And that's better than any cereal, even Cinnamon Life cereal, my new favorite. :) 

"'O house of Israel, can I do not with you as the potter does?' declares the LORD. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.'" 
Jeremiah 18:6