on fear and middles and writing

When I was younger, I did my writing on the edges, in early morning and early evening. On the porch step outside my house.  At the top of a trail under an oak tree. My time was largely unclaimed, and I read and wrote with greater abandon. There were fewer anxious thoughts clamoring for my attention, penning in the pastureland my mind needed to ruminate and wander and pause.

What happens when you can’t wait for unclaimed hours?

Lately, I am writing in the middle of things. In the middle of the summer. In the middle of a long to-do list. In the middle of a messy house. In the middle of working on Winged. In the middle of full-time teaching. In the middle of anxiety. In the middle of an endless middle of grief.

Prayer happens like this, too. I read bits of Matthew and Mark on my MAX ride downtown. I close my eyes and pray silently, beside the Thai woman on her cellphone and the big man snoring across the aisle. This week I’m reading passages from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book of sermons, God in Pain. She writes:  “God is stronger than death. Way past where we can see how it works, God is able to take our weakness, our fear, our trembling, and turn it into fullness of life.”

I am focusing on this, in the middle of painful questions about my own fear and sadness. What if I never have a child? I am trying to focus on God’s strength, not my own weariness, when I feel the weight of others’ sadness. For drought and women walking miles for water. For my Japanese student’s friends hit by typhoon Neoguri. For the 80 children who died on that shot down plane. For my friend grieving the loss of a dynamic father-in-law. For the single women in my life, and for the apprehensive mothers-to-be and the weary mothers of young children.

Way past where we can see. I imagine the fullness of the ocean and the mystery of horizon. I speak my fears into that unfolding wideness. I speak my sorrow there. I tell everything I want. I try to look back on this place with God’s eyes, from a place where this is all understood.

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