Ascension Sunday: His Departure Hurts

“How many minutes does it take to get to heaven after we die?”

My son Wilder’s question comes quick off the heels of a litany of other questions that I, at the age of 38, still don’t know how to answer. The multitude of sermons and seminary lectures race through my head, “...today you will be with me in paradise”, purgatory and a cleansing period, chosen versus adopted as a child of God. I force myself to focus on his face tucked deep in the back seats of our van. How do we bring his curiosity and innocence to understand an unconditional loving God?

The details are a little murky to navigate with certainty, but my husband (Andrew) and I both prayed the salvation prayer when we were 6 years old and we turned out okay spiritually, I guess. So, now in the van on our way to the ferry we dance through the complexity of this moment. I don’t want death and heaven to sound too exciting and I don’t want it to sound too scary either.

“For something to die, something must live.” (Nikki Giovanni)

I think about it being the end of Eastertide this weekend, the middle ground waiting when we watch our Resurrected Savior ascend into the clouds, leaving us to wait for His return.

Our visiting pastor this morning was brilliant in all of her wisdom and teaching heart, Rachel Clinton described the Ascension of Jesus after His resurrection to be filled with the complexity of hope and longing. The followers of Christ, His disciples who loved and served a Risen King, one who defeated death was now leaving them, and His departure hurt. I imagine all of Christ’s followers looking up at the sky watching their Savior disappear like a balloon making its way into the unseen atmosphere. Twice in three months they endured the trauma of His leaving. The crucifixion and now the Ascension mark twice being left. Being a human that knows the trauma of being left, I feel a lot in these Sunday sermons.

I don’t know there to be more than a minute between death and eternal life or at least this is what I hope for. I want to tell my kids, don’t worry, when Jesus saves you, it is instantaneous that heaven is your reality. Truthfully, that is not my experience in my life; salvation, heaven and eternal wholeness takes a while to get to...not to mention it has to pass through some kind of a death.

“How many minutes does it take to get to heaven after we die?”


How do I explain to my children that death does sting a bit; not eternally, but in the minutes, hours, and years we must endure waiting, away from heaven. How do I teach my kids about being powerful in their powerlessness? How do I teach them not to fear the time lived between life and death and death and eternal life?

Andrew and I muddled through a salvation prayer, we actually get in a little fight as we offer the kids a few phrases to repeat after us; to which none of them did repeat. In the awkward silence that followed our prayer, we asked our kids if they wanted to pray and ask Jesus into their hearts. It was the pause led us to wonder if we had botched the moment in a huge parenting fail, when Wilder spoke up,

“Actually, I want to wait until the last day of school to ask God into my heart.”

I chuckled away the momentary fear and shame I felt when I heard his answer...maybe my kids know more about trusting God with their lives than I do. They don’t seem at all worried about it, they don’t fear something happening or the struggle of living in between the carnal and the eternal. They love God and at the same time are VERY okay waiting in the in between, they are at peace with God’s love for them and full of faith...and you can bet I am taking notes from them.

I am looking forward to the last day of school, I can’t wait to hear the proper way to ask God into my heart.

I plan to repeat the words after my boy as he prays.




God of Comfort, be near.

Selah my 4 year old called her brother “dumb” so she is now crying on the kitchen counter as I cook because she can’t watch the rest of the tv show they were watching.


We take words serious in our house. Words mean as much as, if not more than, a shove or a push. So when our kids use a word to tear down someone else’s personhood and spirit, we have consequences. Four-year-olds are no exception.


Her tears are hot and ongoing for the next hour and I keep walking over and holding her, comforting her through the pain of the consequence.


This is what mothers do, they comfort along the lessons of life.


After watching Rachel Held Evans’ funeral today, I feel my own need to be comforted. On this earth, the life, death, life cycle is not foreign to me, but when a mother, your age dies, you feel it. The heavy weight of death is more than my chest can bear after such a life has been stolen from us. I don’t weep for her resurrected body, I weep for her earthly one that doesn’t get to nurse her sweet baby before sleep tonight. I feel heavy for the empty pages she will never fill and I will never read. I grieve because she is a woman, daughter, sister, wife and mother and the idea of dying and leaving my family sounds excruciating.


Her funeral was painstakingly beautiful. The women who facilitated the service were exquisite in their knowledge of how to navigate a congregation around a tomb. Rachel’s essence and memory were so very honored. In the sermon, Mary Magdalene was a beloved archetype illustrated throughout the weeping, she was a Biblical character who knows her way around a tomb. Mary Magdalene hated death but was not going to let it stop her from living. After Jesus’ resurrected body ascends we are all left with the hope while holding the pain of living apart from Him. I feel the pain today of living apart from those who have I loved and I have had to bury. Today, my body aches and I need a Comforter to tell me that “this too will pass” and that we won’t live forever apart from our beloveds.


May my daughter in years to come, long after I am gone remember my arms around her as she wept through different seasons of life and my holding her weeping body and whispering,


“this too shall pass, we were made for glory, my love.

And glory is coming for us.”


Does God Know What It is Like to Be Pregnant?

“Yours is the kind of body I want, when I am pregnant.”

She says this so matter-of-factly to me at a rehearsal dinner last weekend, I forget for a moment that I was still trying to remember her name.

I am flattered by the compliment but not sure why she has revealed this information to me. Her tall slender body promises her hope to come true and so much more.

I feel a little more at ease, that I am not the only woman who has feared what they will look like pregnant. I wonder to myself if I will be able to master the pregnancy glow, those few women of power and assurance, who wear their protruding belly like an icon of glory in it's most compelling moment.

There has been no initiative on my part to engage with this jutting abdomen of mine. My husband's accolades have fallen short of my insecure glances into the mirror.

“Lord, what did you want me to feel about my body in these 36 weeks?”

“In these 252 days of wrestling my belly against gravity, did You hope that awe might be my only thought?”

I would not change this baby growing within me, I want him there, bumping up against my internal organs, pushing them into my chest cavity to make room for his precious little body to form. And should my tegument mimic his stretching limbs across abdomen, I will mourn the unchosen tattoos against my toasted skin and hope to one day wear them proudly without thoughts of erasing them with modern aesthetic lasers.

My husband often banters with me by offering to “hold” the baby, as he puts his hands under my stomach. I am both envious and relived he does not carry this baby within his body as there would be both comfort and disdain to his experiencing this without me.

I would not choose not to feel this little one's restless growth reminding me of a Creator who is secretly crafting a little human that looks something like where Andrew and I come from, a surprise structure from our family lineage and perhaps a personality that might lead us to laugh with him long into the night.

And I know if I go where He invites me, I will learn much of the ways of a Master as He creates masterpieces...this is my exclusive invitation to be a part of who God is as the Creator.

Yet.

I am human, and even more specifically, woman.

Cursed with the desire to offer beauty in its purest form.

To which I wonder out loud again to the Father, “Really. Is pregnancy what You call beauty or curse?”

I fear His answer, I already knew.

“Both.”

“Welcome my daughter.”

Blue Frost Gatorade, Memaw and a Hospital Tour.

"I'm going to step out and get some water."

 

These were the only words I could muster out loud to the group as I awkwardly interrupted the hospital tour of the birthing unit this morning.

 

I coached myself, much like when I give blood, to breathe deeply and put my head between my knees. It was all too much though, the interrogating lights in the delivery room, the hideous stirrups tucked under the bed, the cords and monitors hanging so invasively near as if they were pretending to be interesting books on a night stand.

 

Whether it is the pain of the event I truly don't know yet, but more so, I am aware in this moment of the longing inside of me to be taken care of, a place to hide and have someone safe come and rescue me.

The problem is I am not one who often allows myself to be found when I am afraid.

 

So, after exiting early from the evil tour, I sit in the car with tears running down my cheeks, as Andrew goes into the grocery store to attempt to buy me a little comfort.

 

I want Frost flavored blue Gatorade.

 

Simple. It reminds me of running into the ocean or of playing in the snow. If I close my eyes and I take a sip and hold it in my mouth, I often think, that was like skiing or surfing in my mouth. It's brilliance is not in the product but the feeling it incites in me. Somehow it sweetly brings me back to play and simplicity...to feeling carefree and happy.

 

We drive a bit in silence until he offers his thoughts.

 

"I was scared too....you looked like you were going to cry in there...the feeling like you have always parented yourself through these times, but this one is too much?"

 

This is what you get when you marry a therapist. Yet, his words were too poignant for my normal rebuttal and my tears quickly affirmed his insight.

 

But what if you have had many parents parent you? What if coming from a broken home meant that you were only allowed to be a kid in certain people's presence for only permitted amounts of time? I can't call up all the women or men who spoke into my life, cared for me in different seasons...do I ask them all to come to care for me now?

 

337.783.4150

 

That is the phone number that saved my life growing up. Even though it is not the number Andrew called to reach my grandparents, it was their number for so many years, one of the only consistent things I knew if ever I was in need.

 

Memaw.

 

I needed my Memaw. Her safe, sweet voice is etched in my mind and I can hear it before she ever picks up the phone. I know the smell of her house so vividly that even thousands of miles away I can recall its comforting attributes and they bring me warmth.

 

So, as Andrew dials the number and I hear such a familiar sound, my tears cascade down my face in relief because I know now I will be comforted.

Burying the Last of the Four

 

My grandmother’s funeral has begun, I can picture all my male cousins in black suits carrying her casket down the aisle near the altar. The same mosaic stained glass image of Jesus towers over the back of the Holy of Holies.

We always attend mass when we return to this little town. In my early childhood, I grew up going every Sunday to this place, playing recklessly with my siblings around the huge Southern oak trees. If our parents talked to long, we knew where my grandparents empty grave plots were near the back of the church and we would gather there to climb on them and wait. Those grave plots have been filled over the past 30 years, as I lose a great grand parent or grand parent. Today marks the fourth and last grandparent on my paternal side. It seems finished and deeply empty to have this fourth and last tomb filled.

I know the funeral service will begin by the eerie silence of the massive space being broken by the organs blaring sound or the squeak of a kneeling bench being pulled down by the late attendee. I can hear the monotone voice of the priest as he begins the mass, the lingering smell of incense waved over her as she is prepared for burial.

It is all so clear, because I have been there to bury my dead. I know the mechanics of a funeral procedure. Yet today, I am sitting 6,000 miles away from this service, encouraged not to fly because I am trying to build a life within me. It is heartbreaking to be separated from this event, yet I know I am being committed to my family’s legacy...to create life even in the face of death. And whether it is with pregnancy, laughter or simply breath, I know my grandmother would be leaving us all with this wish: Live well and create however you are able; for what is life if it not fully lived?