a circle on the face

He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
at the boundary between light and darkness…

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The sun shone clear and bright on that morning in May, the one when mama took me and Em out to the sea. “A girl’s day,” she said, “is exactly what we need.” I would be working down in the mountains all summer again, unable to join in such ventures for the next two-and-a-half months; Em was in school, busy with homework and projects and exams. Mama, she took that beautiful sister of mine right out of school, plopped us in the car, and drove us to the shore. We wandered and laughed and splashed and photographed its deep, grey-blue expanse that, out immeasurably far, turned into that other blue expanse, the firmament stretching high and long above us. I have always thought firmament a funny word, one that should reach right down through my toes into the earth below but somehow instead soars over my head, swooshing above, under, even right through the clouds.

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And when the summer rolled on through and I was left spluttering, out-of-breath, worn down, worn out, bruised and broken by the toll of this lovework I did, this work that requires a servant-heart and infinite patience and a smile and that can only be done by grace – when all of this had come to pass, I sat in the back seat of our car and cried.

Because when people act without thinking and paying the consequences means hurting others even more, and you were on the receiving end of that hurt and watched your friends ache because they were, too – when that happens, but somehow things are alright because his grace is sufficient and his power made perfect in weakness, because  we are the body and I was — still am — surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, those girls that held everyone up because they could, because if I love you more, am I to be loved less, and mostly because he is the stability of our times and he daily bears us up, he calls us by a new name and we are no longer termed forsaken…

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When you’re on the receiving end of all that brokenness, grace, sadness, and love — what is there even to do but, as that song says, dissolved by Thy goodness I fall to the ground weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found? After all, he has kept count of my tossings, put my tears in his bottle.

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But before all that — before I knew I would be tossing and struggling and somehow still smiling (because grace, all is grace), before I went back to the mountains and the job that I love — I stood with these women on the brink of the ocean and breathed deep. I walked up a lighthouse with them, I marveled at the design and the view from the inside, I gaped at the lookout from the top, I smiled at the contrast of the bright-windows and the otherwise dark staircase.

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And when summer ended, I thought of our trip again. I remembered the fun, the traffic, the seagulls that swooped dangerously near, and I added to my list of eucharisteo – because this list of blessings is longer than ever, and I can only ever remember by writing and staring in something like awe at how much I missed before I started consciously trying to remember at all places and at all times, in everything, with thanksgiving

Because beauty, you know, is in the eye of the beholder. This life we live can be broken, yes, but it can also hold moments of beauty that will force you to stop everything, even breathing, and for a split second you might not even think of yourself at all. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

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Sometimes, mama said to her daughters as we stood gazing at the sea, sometimes you need to get right up to the edge of things, search the infinite and beautiful and remember how truly small you are. I nodded and thought of the stars, nights spent gazing up and far into the navy-black to find star-patterns with names I always forget.

Sometimes, you have to step up close to infinity. To be honest, it’s something like what I imagine C.S. Lewis meant when he wrote, “Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me.” You need to feel the water lap at your feet, the sand squish beneath your steps, the wind whip your hair into a frenzied mess of curls (okay, maybe that’s just my hair), the salty air make your lungs breathe deep and clear — You need to ponder the eternal weight of glory in light of this seemingly infinite blue.

By his power he stilled the sea…

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Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!

But the thunder of his power who can understand?

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