You Have One Wing, I Have Another

When I first started keeping a blog, it was the year 2000 and blog was still called weblog and only .01% of the population knew what that was. My page was white and green (some things never change), and was called Like One Angel from a song by Burlap to Cashmere. A song I still love (even though the music is cheesy as heck now...). It's about being in the mess of life together, and my life was nothing if not a mess at that point. It's ironic looking back because there has never been a time I felt more alone in my life. That page was a bit like a message in a bottle for me, sending words out into the world, not knowing if they'd ever be read or ever come back to me or if they'd sink to the depths and I would too. 

The lyrics went like this: 

You have one wing, I have another
Seeking shelter like sister and brother
Through the winter and through the summer
Like one angel we'll fly far away

Hold my hand and we'll make it all right
From this hell that we live in
Cross the road until the light
Comes inside and lives within

It's a long and lonesome ride
When your friends have all gone home
But the roses in your eyes
They pull me in so I don't feel alone

You have one wing, I have another
Seeking shelter like sister and brother
Through the winter and through the summer
Like one angel we'll fly far away

Goodness, it makes me get weepy now, reading the words again, seventeen years later, seeing what God has done in me, ways he's grown me, surrounded me with his Church, and also what a gift you have been to me, my brothers and sisters. God has become my shelter, but in many ways so has writing and so has being read. 

I've been walking with a young writer recently, meeting weekly to challenge, encourage, love, and disciple her in some ways (It's a two way street, though, she's been helping the behind-the-scenes of Sayable run!). I told her yesterday that Sayable has been, in many ways, the working out of my salvation in public view. Nothing here is ever finished or perfect or fully sanctified. It's just I with one wing, you with another, and all of us seeking shelter under the Most High through every season. That's it. This is a partnership, and I hope you know how important you are to making this partnership work. Sayable would not be what it is today without you. 

My husband and I still feel it is right and good to continue on as we have been doing, with me seeking and being offered various writing jobs, and a few speaking engagements a year. As well as continuing to have the freedom of meeting with various women throughout the week, speaking with pastors and leaders around the country about how to serve their women and singles, and caring for the needs of our busy home. Last night, when we had fifteen minutes alone, I mentioned how exhausted I was of the constant activity and he said, as he always does, "This is us being faithful with the gift of the lack. We are called to lay down our lives to be with and serve others in the absence of children of our own. So, if we're tired, it's a good tired." It was such a good reminder to me. I have been asked by God to do this work today. 

I have never asked for anything from my readers in seventeen years of writing, but beginning today I wanted to ask, from you, my partners in this flight, if you read Sayable regularly, are encouraged by anything I've said, or simply want to support the continuation of this work and these thoughts, would you consider becoming a patron of Sayable and her overflow? It's easy, quick, and would bless the socks off the Wilbert family as this—and all it entails—is my full-time work.

Thank you for reading, period. Thank you doubly for giving, but thank you period for reading. It means the world to me. I am who I am because God, in his grace, has used you. I read Romans 1:8-12 this morning and thought of all of you: 

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.

I love that. You have encouraged me and I hope I have encouraged you. 

Become a patron by clicking on the button below. 

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Even Dying Can Be Beautiful

If you follow me on Instagram you're probably fed up with my exclamations of joy over the weather in Texas this year. If you know me in person you are definitely fed up with it. I made people physically get up from their chairs last night to go look at the sunset. I dragged my husband into the nearby golden woodsy area for family photos. I keep going on the same route for my walk every day because the trees are changing so slowly and dramatically and I don't want to miss a single moment of it. 

To understand this delight you must understand that fall in Texas is usually just fell. The trees turn from greenish brown to brown and then all drop in the span of a week. The weather moves from hot as blazes to bone-chilly in about the same time and the whole thing lasts about a month and then it's practically summer again. But not 2017. For all the other rotten state of things in our world, country, and, this week, our state, 2017 went gangbusters on the weather. So, thank you, 2017. We needed this. Humanity needed this. We needed to remember nothing lasts forever and everything beautiful dies in its time, and someday life will come again. 

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the dark mornings and dark evenings. I love the damp smell of leaves. I love the wind. I love the grey days. But I also love the things we do more frequently in autumn. I love dinner by candlelight and wool socks. I love heavier covers on our beds and warmer sheets. Fall bouquets and stews and soups. Give it all to me and I am happy. And, in the spirit of good-will, here are some ways you can enjoy your fall too. 

This habit. When the evening begins to dim by dinnertime, we light candles every night at our table. I prefer beeswax candles because they're better for you + they smell delish. These hand-rolled ones are great, but don't burn nearly as long as these. We have both though. 

This soup. This is a fall staple in our house. It is perfect on day one and day two and even day three if it lasts that long. I could eat soup every day happily, but especially this one. 

This moisturizer. If you're anything like me, once fall hits all the dry skin shows itself. I use a version of this and I love it. The place I get it from has discontinued theirs (plight of many small businesses...), but this one has the same three ingredients. I tried my hand at making body butter last week and so I'm going to attempt making my own version of this soon. I use it every single day on my face, neck, and hands. 

This bread. I make a loaf of this bread at the beginning of the week and it sustains our house-hold of three (two grown men and me) the whole week. You might need to make a double batch if you've got kids. The recipe is in the comments on this link.

This wreath. We haven't got a serious garden this year (aiming for it in 2018), but this little herb wreath is a perfect way to preserve those herbs you grew and you can just pinch off a bit through the winter for your meals. 

This stew. There is nothing better than a good stew on a crisp day. This is one of my favorite recipes, although I substitute Bragg liquid aminos for the soy sauce. 

This pie. I made this pie a few weeks ago and it was gone in less than 12 hours. I'll do a few things differently when I make it next, namely simmer those cranberries down a bit before popping them in with the apples, but otherwise this pie was the perfect fall desert, tart and crisp and buttery goodness. The recipe called for 3/4 cup of sugar, but we like things more tart than sweet, so I halved that. It was perfect for us. 

This bouquet. As much as I love flowers, I love their autumn iterations even more. When I walk I gather bits and pieces of brown and golden and purple and berries and have them in vases throughout our house. They'll last all through the fall since they don't have to be kept in water and they just continue to dry out. Here's some more inspiration. 

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The Membership of the Living: the common anxieties

Before I set aside my phone for the night yesterday, a friend and I were texting. We're two friends who try to be faithful in the life God has given to each of us, in the season in which we find ourselves, to the church to which we've been covenanted, to the people we love and who love us. Anyone looking in from the outside would probably say the same about each of us. They might see a few places we could be righted or nudged forward in, more restrained about and more disciplined in, but I think, overall, most folks would view us as two well-adjusted, acquainted with sorrow, faith-filled women trying to live within the goodness of the gospel day to day. 

Yet most of our conversations are not full of accolades about ourselves or pats on the other's back or lists of how well we're each doing. Mostly they're full of confession of brokenness, fears, anxieties, discomforts. They're usually brimming with the asking of precise questions and then really listening to the answers, rarely giving counsel to one another (although she is by profession one and I am not without plenty to give), but mostly just listening. 

Last night I vaguely confessed some anxiety and she asked me to name my top three and, dear readers, I'm going to share them with you here without regret.

My first is that I will never be a good enough wife (although my husband has never and would never say that to me); my second is that my body will always betray me, no matter how healthily I eat, how faithfully I exercise, and how tenderly I treat it; and my third is that I have peaked in life, ministry, faithfulness, writing, and it's all downhill from here. These are the anxieties that arrest my soul. And then my friend shared hers. They weren't the same as mine, but they were nearly the same; the first having to do with love and marriage, and the want of it, the second having to do with the frailty of the body, and the third having to do with living in light of eternity. 

It occurred to me that most of us, if we're honest, probably struggle with these three main anxieties: the anxiety of being loved, the anxiety of being alive, and the anxiety of being faithful. Fill in the blank of your anxieties and my guess is they will fall somewhere in there somehow. We humans are more alike than we like to pretend in our individualistic world. 

I have been thinking a lot about listening recently. How good and right it is to listen well and how awfully bad we are at it. Most of us are thinking of the next thing to say before the other has said anything at all. Many of us only ask questions to ascertain information for ourselves or to turn a conversation in the direction we want it to go. Some treat conversation as an opportunity to interrupt or monologue or catch the other in a moment of poor logic, frailty, fear, or false theology. 

Recently my husband and I were listening to a friend talk about a hard thing that happened in her life and I wanted to interject counsel or a good idea or to give quick comfort, and my husband only said, "I'm sorry this happened. It must have been hard." And then he was quiet, listening longer, letting our friend speak freely, without caveat, without question, without interruption. I thought to myself, I want to be more like this. Rarely do we stop to consider how alike most of us all are, deeply wanting to be loved (or even liked), deeply desiring the full experience of being alive, and deeply wanting to be found faithful. And how most of us just want the comfort of another person acknowledging the pain of life on this orb, and then simply saying, "I'm sorry. I think I get it a little, but not all the way, but I want to sit here with you in it." 

I just finished rereading Wendell Berry's essay Health is Membership from The Art of the Commonplace again yesterday. It's one of my favorites and it ends with this short illustration from when Berry's brother was in the hospital undergoing a triple-bypass operation. The whole essay is wonderful and should be read by anyone who is alive, but I wanted to share the last few paragraphs with you today: 

The most moving, to me, happened in the waiting room during John's surgery. From time to time a nurse from the operating room would come in to tell Carol what was happening. Carol, from politeness or bravery or both, always stood to receive the news, which always left us somewhat encouraged and somewhat doubtful. Carol's difficulty was that she had to suffer the ordeal not only as a wife but as one who had been a trained nurse. She knew, from her own education and experience, in how limited a sense open-heart surgery could be said to be normal or - routine.

Finally, toward the end of our wait, two nurses came in. The operation, they said, had been a success. They explained again what had been done. And then they said that after the completion of the bypasses, the surgeon had found it necessary to insert a "balloon pump" into the aorta to assist the heart. This possibility had never been mentioned, nobody was prepared for it, and Carol was sorely disappointed and upset. The two young women attempted to reassure her, mainly by repeating things they had already said. And then there was a long moment when they just looked at her. It was such a look as parents sometimes give to a sick or suffering child, when they themselves have begun to need the comfort they are trying to give.

And then one of the nurses said, "Do you need a hug?"
"Yes," Carol said.
And the nurse gave her a hug.
Which brings us to a starting place.

Listening can be a hug. Asking questions can be too. Confession can be. And mirroring confessions can be too. Conversation is an art. It is a commonplace one, but no less worth the attentiveness of a master artist and maybe worth it more than all the canvases of the world hanging in all the museums of the world. 

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The Wilbert Household's Favorite Fiction/Poetry of 2017

Our friend Barnabas Piper relinked to one of his old posts this morning on why men should read stories. Since I'd asked Nate last week to compile a list and a few sentences on his favorite five (he picked six) fiction/poetry reads of the year, I thought today would be a good day to post them. I've also given you my favorite five fiction/poetry books I read this year. 

Before we begin though, I'd like to add a few words to Barnabas's, namely that reading stories is important for all of us, not just men. We are becoming more and more of a sound-byte culture, basing our opinions, facts, and even fiction, on quick hits of beauty, truth, or goodness—or not. Stories help us listen again.

A friend of mine told me yesterday she reads fiction faster than non-fiction and I think most of us might find that true of us too. Once we are engrossed in a story—especially a well-told one—it is difficult to stop. And I think this is actually what more of us need, to listen and to keep listening until the story is finished, and then to think, for days or weeks afterward if we can. Yesterday I wrote about listening with the intent to listen on my Facebook page and I think some of what I wrote there might apply to how we approach fiction and poetry (Don't forget poetry!).

Now, below, are Nate and Lore Wilbert's favorite fiction/poetry reads of 2017. 

Nate

The Buried Giant. Kazou Ishiguro (author of Remains of the Day and Nobel Winner) wrote a story that left me incredibly satisfied. Many of his themes such as aging, bitter memories, forgiveness, and family hit me close to home, and I appreciate how he dealt with them. 

My Name is Asher Lev. Chaim Potok gets into the intersection of faith, family and a calling that did not fit the norm of a conservative religious community in mid 20th century New York City. It's a coming of age story I found moving, challenging me both cognitively and emotionally. 

Peace Like a River. Leif Enger writes with a rhythm about miracles and tragedies, faith and its leadings, childhood and maturity. His characters form a family from the Dakotas and the story is driven by one act of the oldest son which changes everything for them. 

Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead mingles truth and fantasy to show us a life under the severe affliction of American slavery. He describes many aspects of this terrible sin of our history weaving them all into a haunting story. 

The Day the Angels Fell. Shawn Smucker brings us a young boy who has tragically lost his mother and would do anything to get her back. The story darkens even more when a fantastic, spiritual battle is revealed. 

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, was something Lore and I listened to on our trip to the East Coast this fall. I love post apocalyptic stories but finding one with good writing can be challenging. This one has it all, including a recognition that survival alone is insufficient. 

Lore

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. Friends told me for years to read this one and this year I finally did. It was more than I could have imagined and left me marked. It was the kind of book one holds their breath reading, not because it is edge of your seat action (the contrary), but because time slows in a deep south crawl. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I honestly haven't known where to put this book in my mind. I cannot tell if it normalizes the Nazis or not. I think what it does most is show us the conflicted nature of every human to do right and good and wrong and evil, regardless of nationality or party. We are complex individuals and this book is nothing if not complex. 

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. I have just finished Lila and I have found it to be the most perfect of Robinson's Gilead stories. I choked up several times while reading because it is just a story but it is also the story of the gospel, and therefore the story of all of us if we will let it be. 

New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Never forget poetry when you veer from academic and informative reading, and into creative writing. Oliver, in particular, will always be a favorite of mine and this collection is brimming over with reasons why. 

New and Collected Poems by Richard Wilbur. Richard Wilbur has died. It pains me to write those words because he has always been my favorite poet and I am sad the world has only what marks he left with it and no more. I supposed none of us could ask for more, though, so I recommend you start with this volume and move around within it until you find a poem that reads you thoroughly, as poems are wont to do. 

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The Hidden Grief of Singleness

I caught myself staring at my husband the other day. Gray is creeping into his full head of hair, small wrinkles forming at the corners of his eyes, a tiny patch of white in his beard. There is a dignity in aging for men, I think to myself, as I think ahead to my next cut and color, dabbing vitamin E oil onto the darkening age spots of my face. Men grow more attractive the older they get and I think women do too, but the world is telling us our bloom came and went, it is time to droop and drop and become the ground from which the next crop will come. 

The name Eve means "the mother of all living," but it does not mean "always mothering all that is living." There is not a woman among us who does not feel the age of fertility closing, the gap between fully alive and to dust we shall return ending. Most of us have a monthly reminder of one more opportunity lost. We are all coming to the last chapter of motherhood, whether we bear children or not. 

I am leaving in a few hours to pick up my oldest friend from the airport. There is no one in the world who knows me as well, as deep, as long, and as wholly as she does. How could anyone, even my husband? She held me through fitful nights after my brother was killed. I have listened to her for years mourn things she cannot control. She was equal parts older sister to my youngest siblings and I to hers. There is no scent in the world as familiar to me as hers. I have always assumed she would marry first. She is cute, vivacious, tiny, adventurous, nurturing, full of life, bringing joy wherever she goes. She gives of herself in every possible manner, always pouring out, never lacking in love to give. I have learned more about motherhood from her than anyone in my life. And yet, she is not married, and I am and it pains me. I physically ache for her in this sometimes. She was made to mother, to be a wife. I don't know anyone made for it more. 

. . .

It occurs to me more and more recently that the barrenness of singleness is a silent pain. In our singleness we feel the lack of a partner often and others' suppose it is our deepest ache. It can be tempting to see it as the only barrier between today and joy. Yet there is another, sometimes more difficult, pain unmarried women face and this is the pain of barrenness. Some find ways around this ache, adopting or fostering children. But for most unmarried women that monthly reminder of aging reminds them again and again that time is running out. Men can prolong marriage as long as they like, but women know there is a deadline and it is half of a man's life-span. Men wonder why, sometimes, some women are anxious to be united? It is no mystery to me: we are dealing with only half the time and must move doubly fast if we are to become mothers of what is living. 

The older I grow, and the more familiar I grow with my own body's failure to make and hold a child, the more I talk to my unmarried friends, the more I hear it is not the lack of a partner that pains or has pained us all most, it is the lack of motherhood. 

There is a very real ache for children that cannot be replaced by mentoring, discipleship, practicing hospitality. Nothing can be substituted for hearing the words "Mama" or "Daddy" from the lips of a child. Yet, I think, we cannot look at the substance of our being mothers as only within the gift of children. Nurturing others is not some consolation prize for the barren, it is the call for every Christian. Our problem is not that we are being withheld from, it is that we view the gift of nurturing too narrowly. We think it is only—and best—done with children we bear, but that is not the call to the New Testament family. In the Old Testament the family of God was nuclear and extended, but limited to one lineage. In the New Testament, the family of God is corporate and available to all, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters—this is the language of the New Testament Christian. We are all family now. 

Eve was created to be a helpmeet, but she was named to be a mother. She was called to a man, but called mother. Her very identity, the way she specifically imaged God, was to conceive, birth, mother, nurture, grow, care for, and gather her offspring to herself. We may feel called to marriage (even if we have not been given the gift of it yet), but our identity, our substance, who we are is not some future event: it is now. Mother. Now. 

If you are unmarried today and the secret pain of barrenness haunts you, I want to encourage you to face that pain. It is a very real and legitimate ache. You were made to ache for this. A friend of mine talked recently about how the pain of singleness/barrenness doesn't haunt her, but sometimes it hits her and I loved that. I think God wants all of us, regardless of our season in life, to be hit by true, real, and good longings, but not be haunted by them. This friend went on to talk about a situation in which I've found myself too: buying a baby gift for a friend and going out to her car in tears. 

John Piper said, "Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you."

The Bible gives us permission to weep deeply over the life we hoped we would have, and to not feel ashamed of that hope or disappointment. It is okay to grieve those losses and feel that pain. Go out to your car armed with tiny onesies you just bought for your friend, the scent of powder and sweet baby things still on you, and weep, cry hard aching sobs. You were made to mother. You are built for it. And it is not happening for you right now. And that is sad. Deeply sad. And that is okay. Really okay. 

. . .

I'll pick up my friend today, my oldest and dearest friend, and for the next ten days we will do all the things we love to do together, make, create, laugh, cry, be, dream, cook, talk, or not. She will nurture me and I will hopefully nurture her. It is our identity to do so. We are daughters of the post-fall Eve, bodies broken, dreams unrealized, fears alive, but we are also the daughters of pre-fall Eve, imaging God, tending to life, nurturing growth, mothers of what is living. 

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