I’m delighted to welcome Kelli Woodford to the blog today as part of our continuing Everyday Grace series. I was astonished the first time I visited Kelli’s blog, Chronicles of Grace. Kelli’s prose is poetic, at times graceful, at times gritty, but always, always, written in truth. Everything she presents on the page is reflected in real life – and this I know, because I had the privilege of meeting Kelli in person at the Jumping Tandem Retreat last April. She is the real deal, friends. AND she’s raising seven kids. Need I say more?
It’s evening and the air I breathe gets stuck in my lungs. Thick and stuffy.
Last drinks of water have been delivered and kisses still tingle on cheeks, and I slip out of the house quiet. My rubber-soled shoes make a satisfying crunch as I head down the driveway. I feel each step as if it were both the first and the last. Which in some way, perhaps it is.
Night breezes play at my skin; they exhale the long day away until nothing is left but memory.
Sunscreen and the ancient scent of bonfires tickle my nose. A bit of watermelon juice still causes the skin on my fingers to stick together in a way that is not unpleasant. Oh, how I’ve longed for these summer lovelies to return. My shadow stretches thin and reaching in the moonlight. It is the imagery of a thirsty soul. Lanky limbs that seem to mock my craving to be alone, but I know it better than she – her presence does not deny my desire, it rather fulfills.
Stars blink above the pine trees on the west edge of the yard. They remind me of the many things in life that are both never and always changing. Those whose very presence is a witness to the fact that apparent contradiction does not make either one less true.
Like the way I’ve worked for all these years to sacrifice and love my family, thinking all along that what they need is a mama engaged, a mama involved, a mama who doesn’t abandon her post or leave the trenches. They need a mama who meets their needs, who is faultless in availability, who radiates commitment and security and who sets herself aside for the good of the many.
And these are true.
But no less true are these nights when that mama needs to remember how to breathe. Because the mama who loves and gives and serves runs the risk of becoming the mama who loses herself in her family, instead of finding herself in her God.
Stepping onto the porch, I feel the caress of spider’s webs around my chin and neck. Shock registers and then the hush of awe follows in its footsteps. I feel both ravished and disturbed. But I don’t brush them away, for this is always how I’ve found Him.
In the both/and.
Rational contradictions that only add up in the alphabet of grace.
The wide-slat swing is bathed in an ethereal light, calling me to sit a spell. I can hear the father-daughter voices from the open window above me and they waft into my sacred space fluid, like poetry. I didn’t know I was so hungry for this.
Because what is it about the daily habit of practical living that makes me rush past the glory waiting, twinkle in the eye, at every turn? Past the spider webs and the stars and the oxygen of the night air? What is it about responsibility and a life lived on over-drive that causes me to think I am so important? That I am what my shadow says – a lengthening force to be reckoned with?
I don’t pretend to know. But I do know that I cannot be other than one made of dirt, both poor and yet loved. I cannot be other than one who feels the Hand that holds most acutely in moonlight shadows and nostalgic reveries and the solitary song of the night. I must remain true to the crazy creative who from time to time must let go of the reigns to find the sanity that laundry’s eternal mountain and unpaid electric bills and ketchup-as-a-side-dish-dinners threaten to topple. I do my mothering work with all my heart, but it is a false dichotomy to say that it is all up to me. That without the unblinking purity of my devotion to the cause, the whole thing is a wash.
Because my first priority is to the surrendering work of creation. And the way that the Artist continues to create and re-create me. The breath of His presence that fills my burning lungs.
So, I sit a bit and bask in the starshine.
I feel the bright darkness and in it I am lost. Perhaps that doesn’t mean I am not also found.
“We cannot seem to escape paradox; I do not think I want to.” M. L’Engle
Kelli Woodford lives in the Midwest, surrounded by cornfields and love, with her husband and seven blue-eyed children. They laugh, they play, they fight, they mend; but they don’t do anything that even slightly resembles quiet. Unless it’s listening to their lives, which has proved to be the biggest challenge of them all.