Wouldn’t it be just the way of it? The morning I have this wonderful break-through thought, a certain breath from heaven kind-of-thought that transforms my affections and makes me ache with the longing to honor my God even as I cook breakfast for my family, all filling me up warm and bright inside—I burn the toast.
I don’t mean burn in the toaster kind-of-burn the toast, I mean, “Everybody open the windows before the fire alarm goes off!”, kind-of-day when I burn the french toast in the skillet and all the oil is rolling off in billows, filling the kitchen (and the hall, and the living room) with that lovely haze that it’s really fun to do a photo shoot in the early morning out in the fields, out-of-doors, but here it’s just stinging the little one’s eyes, and mine too. That kind-of-burn. Yep, that’s the way of it.And here’s the funniest part; that break-through thought? I found it in another mother’s prayer I was reading that morning and she was asking God to fill her up with love, enough to share. It was so poetic and beautiful, she was talking about the simplicity of slicing bread and the aroma of boiling milk and then imagined that the fragrance of all this work of her hands would lift like “the thanksgiving sacrifice and the daily sacrifice that I know not how to offer”.*
The fragrance of breakfast, my prayer? Yes! I was so ready to go make breakfast and let the fragrance lift! hahaha!
And the most most wonderful part? It did. Grace doesn’t see or smell like us.
“Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me…I am a sojourner…*
Shepherd my heart, as I freely admit my dependence on You to succeed at the discipleship You have entrusted to me and the building up of my home. Feed me Lord, so that I can feed; prepare me so that I can prepare. Fill me, so that I can pour out. Reveal to me the reality of Your love, so that I too can love,
truly love. I need You because I know no one can live on bread alone (especially mine) but on Your every word*.”
Seeing through the smoke of burnt toast and haze of difficult times are the whole reason for those break-through thoughts and moments of clarity. Weaknesses or lack of clarity aren’t the problem, they’re the opportunity. “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” Offering all my burnt toast, all my lack, etc for His praise today with you friends! Remember with me today? It’s not about perfection, it’s about perseverance. Tell our kids, tell ourselves and live.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love, by pain we learn
the extremity of love… —excerpt from Wendell Berry’s, The Way of Pain*
An Autumn Burning
In my line of paperwork
I have words to burn: leaves
of fallen information, wasted
words of my own. I know a light
that hastens on the dark
some work deserves—which God forgive
as we must hope. I start the blaze
and observe the fire’s superlative
hunger for literature. It touches pages
like a connoisseur, turns them.
None can endure. After the passing
of that light, there is sunlight
on the ash, in the distance singing
of crickets and of birds. I turn,
unburdened, to life beyond words.
— An Autumn Burning, by Wendell Berry*
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A Warning to my Readers
Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fists and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.
*A Mother’s Early Morning Prayer, from Hava Pinhas-Cohen found in A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book edited by Aliza Lavie
*my prayer book Pray, Like a Woman in Labor is citing lines/ideas from Psalm 119:12,19 & Deuteronomy 8:3
* Featured poems by Wendell Berry from Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems