Monday, June 6, 2011

The kingdom's under siege!

Note: This was originally posted on May 12, 2011 but was lost in a Blogger crash.

It has been a tough few weeks in some ways inside me. There has been a lot going on in our lives, in our house, and in my heart and mind. Now, it hasn't been all bad. Quite the contrary.  There has been much laughter, much love, and there have been many wonderful moments as well. In fact, I can sit at my laptop and type with a fair amount of optimism and hope for the days and weeks ahead to be filled with more of these good things. But life won't be filled with only good things, because it never is filled with only good things. However, I am beginning to think that sometimes it is hard to tell whether things are good things or "not good things". Truly.

For instance, a few months ago, my in-laws moving in with us from Indiana so we could 1. help my mother-in-law recover from surgery and have chemotherapy for cancer, and 2. help my father-in-law continue to live with the effects of a stroke that twelve years ago left him quadriplegic and able to speak just a few words would have seemed like a "not good thing". However, now, after seeing "Grandma W" get to help my boys practice spelling words and help them do their math homework, and after seeing "Colonel" watch the boys ballgames and go hunting with Davis, our eight year old, as he shot a turkey, I am wondering if it is so cut and dried.

In fact, it seems like a life we never would have known, is happening. We have been able to see Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ed and the cousins far more in the past two months. My parents drove over a thousand miles and Holly's brother flew in from Alaska, so that Holly and I could get away for a weekend (with Ed and Lisa). And when I think of some of the emotional ground Holly and I have covered, first painfully apart and then growing together, I realized I had only dreamed we would be this close.

But I would be kidding myself (and you) if I didn't acknowledge that I have felt a fair amount of frustration and anxiety the past few weeks. The frustration has most frequently been directed at myself, and at times, at those I love (followed obviously by more frustration at myself) depending on the moment.  The anxiety is far more mysterious in its origin and its focus. They can, however, both come in waves. At times they are only a gentle lapping on the shore that I can work around or go to higher ground as they break. At other times they are big enough to wipe out the sandcastles I have built, the expressions of love I have created in the shifting sand that is our daily lives and relationships. Occasionally, for short times, the anxiety and frustration both disappear, only to leave me wondering if they are gone for good or if it is the drawback before the tsunami.

But this spring, the only waves in Lubbock are from 40 mph winds across what is left of the playa lakes. The only water here is in my simple analogy. It has been hot and dry, bone dry. It is certainly a dust land. The boys wrote "Happy Mom Day" to Holly in the dust on her car last Sunday.

Which brings me to this video and one of the songs making up the soundtrack to our lives these past few months. It is Dustland Fairytale by The Killers, and coincidentally (yeah, sure) this performance was two years ago tonight on David Letterman. I love the full orchestra, the sheer intensity of Ronnie Vannucci as he attacks the drums, and the way that the emotion hits Brandon Flowers so hard he has to get up on his toes to follow his voice as he sings of the kingdom. This song obviously means something, to him. Watch this...

There are a few lines in this song that moved me the first time I heard it.

"Change came in disguise of revelation, set his soul on fire
She says she always knew he'd come around
And the decades disappear like sinking ships
But we persevere, God gives us hope
But we still fear what we don't know. 

The mind is poison."

I thought this was describing my journey these past few years with the "soul on fire" stuff much of what I associated with being "tied to a rocket". A few weeks ago we were driving down Broadway's brick street to church. Holly confessed, while we discussed the changes we were facing, that the "unknown" was what she "feared the most". I played this song for her as we finished the drive to church, and by the time we got there, we didn't really even need to go in.

"Now Cinderella, don't you go to sleep
It's such a bitter form of refuge
Why don't you know, the kingdom's under siege
And everybody needs you"

Until recently, as I had listened to this, I had, in my mind played the part of Cinderella. The challenge was and is for me to not "go to sleep", but to stay "wide awake" as my friends, Bono and Matt, say. I think part of me "goes to sleep" when I begin to see myself, my circumstances, and eventually a bit of everything as "not good". I can see almost everything with a critical mind, but this kind of critical thinking is dark. This kind of sleep is certainly a "bitter form of refuge". I know the "valley of the great divide". I can spend a fair amount of time there, and when I let myself, my heart and mind go to this place:

"Out where the dreams all hide
Out where the wind don't blow
Out here, the good girls die
And the sky won't snow
Out here, the bird don't sing
Out here, the field don't grow
Out here, the bell don't ring
Out here, the bell don't ring

Out here, the good girls die"

A couple of guys I listen to (Ryon and Shane) both said this week that this is seeing the illusion of life instead of seeing its reality. Sometimes for me it seems just the opposite! They suggest that being "Dis-illusioned" is what allows us to be "wide-awake". As I understand them, this "seeing" lets me realize I am loved far more than I could ever realize. It let's me know that in my moments of anxiety and gusts of destruction fueled by frustration, I am carried even then. It suggests to me that maybe this frustration and anxiety inside is as much a part of the siege against the kingdom as those things that begin to get us down in the first place, and that the response of the kingdom to all of it, to every bit of it, is simply love. I can hold on to this, or be held onto by this, for a good long while.

And then the news hits again, this time that one of my best friend's wife has breast cancer. Though the fear and pain are palpable, I witness and participate in an onslaught of love, support, and presence in the midst of this pain. I haven't seen this much love and support since... well, since Holly's folks moved in with us, only eight weeks ago.We were bombarded with love from near and far. We still are. And now, we give back.

One source described the song Dustland Fairytale as the story of Brandon Flowers' parents. He wrote this song about their life and, specifically, the way he saw his mom's fight against (coincidentally) her cancer. His mom is Cinderella leaving the party to put on a nightgown, and he begs her not to go to sleep, not to give in to the siege of the kingdom, pleading "everybody needs you".

Clearly the kingdom is under siege. And love is its only defense. The siege may be both the sleep of death and the sleep of seeing the illusions of this life instead of seeing the gift of the reality of today, and the love that it offers. They both seem like to death to me. And at times I struggle to believe that there is a life beyond either one. Tonight, I pray that these beautiful women, Nancy and Amy, and their loved one's, myself included, can stay wide awake.

I am going to stay awake long enough to watch this video one more time tonight. On second thought, tonight, if I'm carried, maybe I won't go to sleep at all.

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