Resurrection Eyes

Give me resurrection eyes
to see the light of your dawning
and by this beam in my eye to see all else

Let me view every speck of existence
through the dancing gleam of your presence
lit and lifted by invisible breath

Till every gaze is glazed with glory
in the horizon of the east
and you encompass all in your shining wake

seen at last in the window of your soul. 

~ Lindsey Gallant

Happy Easter! The Lord is risen!

Easter Secrets Under the Bed

The day before Palm Sunday, one of our cats had kittens on my daughter’s bed. It was only barely morning by the clock. The natal activities woke and kept us up for a good few hours. We witnessed the emergence of the first kitten after a terrific yowl – a wet, grey bundle that looked more like a drowned rat than anything. Marshmallow let us peek in the dim light as she licked and licked the protective membrane off, licking the kitten into life and breath outside the womb.

We kept our distance, eventually drifting back to beds, my daughter bunking in with her little sister, my son going to the flustered rest of a new dad. Marshmallow was his cat. I fretted to sleep, one ear tuned to the noises that followed, hoping all would be well for our young queen and her first litter. 

In the morning, there were two kittens on the end of the bed, but no mama. My son found her under his bed, licking another kitten. I scooped up the two and brought them to my son’s room. At the first tiny “mew,” Marshmallow shot out from under the bed, straight to the sound. Mama instinct. They were soon settled together, and I went to strip the sheets from the birthing bed. Flipping back the corner of a blanket, I found a fourth kitten, who must have oozed its way under for warmth. Finally, mama had her full quartet under the bed, pulled in close to the warmth of her belly, and all we could hear was purring. 

Our other cat Luna had a litter one January, under this same bed. It too was a late night affair. A snowstorm raged, and the old floor was swept with draughts. Five kittens made their way into the world, but when I peered under the bed at the end of it all, I saw the little bodies lying scattered, and mama sitting near them, but not with them. I told the kids to stand back, and I stretched my arm for the farthest little mass. It was cold, and though I rubbed it, no life throbbed under my fingers.

The rest were still alive, but something wasn’t right. I gathered them all and placed them next to Luna. She sniffed them, gave one or two licks, and settled back into a sphinx position. We coaxed her into lying down, and brought the kittens to her ready nipples. One or two began to nuzzle, feebly. We brought old towels and blankets and arranged them protectively around mama and the kittens. My husband brought up a heater, and we pointed the fan under the bed, combating the wind that whistled through the floorboards. It was all we could do. 

By morning, another kitten was dead, and Luna sat aloof from the remaining three. The mother cat watched them, but she would not go to them. She would not warm them, or feed them. We brought them downstairs to a basket by the fire. Mama did not like this. She dragged those kittens back upstairs, and put them under another bed, guarding from a distance. Over and over, we rescued them from the cold corners of the second floor. I called a vet, drove to town, and came home with tins of kitten formula. I coaxed a few drops into the tiny mouths, whispering encouragement, holding them close to my chest. I persisted with the recommended feeding schedule, but most of the milk dribbled out the sides of their mouths. It was not enough. Over the next 24 hours they faded away, one by one. Mama had rejected them, for her own secret reasons, and they could not accept the substitute love we offered. 

My son had chosen one to be his own kitten, the strongest one, pure black. And I was helpless as his hopes fell. We tucked that chosen one into a box in the freezer, with a name on it, until the ground thawed, and we could bury it with a crown of dandelions. 

Each day this holy week I shine a dimmed flashlight under his bed, counting the squirming bodies with their wrinkly closed eyes. Four. Still four. Four are heaped together in sleep, or pushing over each other for the favoured feeding spot, or receiving rough-tongued baths. The mama queen flops contentedly beside them, a look of proud ease in her glinting eyes. When they cry, she runs to them. When she purrs, the vibration pulls them close to her heart. All is well in the give and take of the world under my son’s bed.

The rest of the world, well, that’s a different story. Why does a mother cat reject her kittens? Why are kittens born too weak, too sick to thrive? Why are these things irrevocable? Why do families fall apart? Why do missiles strike and manmade storms steal the warmth of homes? Why do we feel so helpless and alone?

Luna knew a secret. Something in her instinct told her those kittens could not be saved. She never let them out of her sight until the last one lay cold. She sniffed it to make sure, then walked away. It was finished. 

Oh God, there is a secret in your kingdom too, a secret only Good Friday can show us. Let us look into the dark, cold corners of the places we hide. Perhaps we will see why bombs fall and young ones cry. Who doesn’t want a world where every child has a place near her mother’s heart, in his father’s house? 

We see the painful revelation in Jesus’ eyes.

We were shown a way to live that led home.
A truth about the desperate incapacity of our blind souls.
A life that radiated with healing, nourishing love.

It was in every step he took and word he spoke and breath he breathed – every moment of his being vibrating with grace calling us close. 

This long awaited king, the one we wanted to fix it all –  he spread his arms wide to reveal a kingdom of hope – and we drove nails through them. This is the secret. That love can come, and we can still refuse it. We refuse him. He will not force feed us a single drop. The only crown he accepts is the circling thorns of our rejection. All the suffering of the world is hidden here – in this turning away from love to cold and lonely corners. 

And does he retreat, stone-faced and silent? Does he keep distant? For three days, we wondered. 

But Easter Sunday breaks open the womb of a deeper mystery – that perfect love can bring what’s dead to life. That death-defying love births something new from under the bed – a secret that could vibrate us all back to his heart. 

My son stretches his arm to the mass of humming fur, gently touches each cradled kitten. He coos, smiling at the little family. Mama purrs and licks his fingers, and she is pure and glossy black. 

Homemakers In War

We never expected to see these sights. 

My eyes hurt looking at images from the other side of the world. If this is the pain of the image, what is the pain of the reality? At the beginning of the year, my eyes were thirsty for glory. Is it a hopeless enterprise? There is no glory in war, in homes destroyed, in millions of women and children uprooted, desperately seeking safety.

I look around my own home – a little scruffy, with last night’s dishes undone, but it is peaceful. We are all still here, and bread still rises on the stovetop. 

This morning I read C. S. Lewis’ words to a Mrs. Johnson, speaking to the oft-bemoaned task of homemaking:

“But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, governments etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? … We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”

The security of home is one of the deepest needs we have. Its protection and nurture is a worthy calling. Home should be a place of sanctuary. It is the heart of humanity. 

Today, I sit in the semi-quiet of an ordinary Saturday morning, surrounded by the familiarity of my people and and my place. Too often I have viewed this as burdensome. Now this mundane yet intimate beauty radiates a glory I can hardly bear to receive. I give thanks for all this in a rather bewildered way. 

The contrast between what I see here, and what I have seen there is jarring. But when I have seen enough of destruction and desperation (and it doesn’t take long), there are other images I keep coming back to. 

A friend in Moldova, Ukraine’s tiny neighbour, whose family and ministry are knee-deep, heart-deep, in this refugee crisis, opening doors to as many women and children as they can hold. 

A family in the city of Kherson, who, after emerging from their root cellar bomb shelter, open their apartment to hungry neighbours, crowding around the little kitchen table with food and music.

It is there I see it – homemaking of a different sort. The kind of hospitality that is willing to renovate all it knows to make a place of refuge for another. They are making homes in the midst of war, building structures of hope with their bread and bunkbeds and tears and prayers. Home is created wherever they gift themselves from a foundation of love. 

It is love-sprung tears that begin to wash the ache from my eyes. 

For the deepest glory of all comes in the revelation of love. Love that keeps making a corridor through death, keeps laying itself down for the brokenhearted, keeps breaking its own heart open to make a home for the other. 

Didn’t Jesus do this for us? Didn’t he show us this way? Look, it is still there. And wherever we walk it, we are at home with Him (John 14:23). 

So I will tuck my own children in with a weighted gratitude tonight, whisper intercessions while washing dishes. Tuck what I can into the hands of those helping. Give thanks for my own work, and the work of homemakers everywhere, knowing God dwells among us even now.

*

Feeling helpless in all this? Find someone who is homemaking in war, forging paths of love:

You can give to the refugee work in Moldova here
Or join my own small contribution here

Related Post: Midnight Prayer: Where Do Syrian Children Sleep?

Winter Breath

On Grandad’s birthday I wake to a snap of January cold. The rocking chair beside the fire invites me to settle in for a cozy start to the day, while I wait for the old house to warm up. We are in the thick of winter now, submerged in its muffled folds. And in another lockdown, too. When will it end?

The temperature is -29℃ this morning. I look at the screen which tells me this, then out the window, where the sun shines deceptively. There is ice on the tidal river, unusual except for these rare cold days. The fire roars beside me, but the snow sparkles on the other side of the glass. I look at the forecast once more. No wind. A glance at the motionless trees outside confirms it. There is an edge to the world out there, and yet, beauty beckons. I could use some fresh air. The window wins. On goes the puffy blue parka. 

In the yard, a brave bobbing head peeks out of the chicken coop. Keep those wattles in if you know what’s good for you! I warn, cutting through the side of the yard to the top of the packed snow-blown wall that borders the road. I wait for a car to pass, then clamber down to cross over. My nose tingles at the tip, cheeks stiffen. I tug down my toque and pull up my neckwarmer to meet it, till my face is only eyes. Nose and mouth snug, I breathe through this buffer of warmth. 

Something strange comes into view as I turn up Millboro Road – a rising plume of white from the base of the snowbank. Like a dryer vent in the ditch, or snow queen’s cauldron bubbling, a mist ascends from a mysterious source. Peering closer, I see a portal through the snow, down to the dark of the drainage ditch below. There is water running beneath, and this is ice fog rising. 

The snow crunches decidedly under my boots. I can see my tracks from yesterday afternoon’s walk, the snow untouched by plow or wind. It is mercifully calm this morning, and dressed as I am, I’m comfortable for a long walk. 

Today I will head up to drunk skunk’s hideaway, then down into the next little valley of the watershed, where a big stream flows under the road. The farmer is doing chores up at the open sided barn on my right, and the cows gaze out at me with placid, prisoned faces. I wonder what it’s like to be penned up all winter? I’m feeling a little bulky myself in all this protective gear.

I puff my way up the hill, breath escaping between my layers. I can feel the blood pumping through my body, bringing oxygen to my brain, expanding my curiosity. Frost begins to form on the top ridge of my neckwarmer, and soon I can see my own eyelashes blinking white in the sun. 

Easing into descent, I can’t help thinking of Grandad out here. It’s his second birthday in heaven. I miss him. He would have been out ice fishing on a day like today, or maybe getting the old skidoo running. I miss the grieving we should have done together as a family, laughing over memories, letting our love reach out to hold and heal. Time has passed strangely these two years. In some ways it has seemed like one long, cramped winter. 

Where the road curves into the final dip of the valley, there are dozens of crows perched in the trees of a yard. They are still as the sky, feathers fluffed, waiting for I know not what. Next to their silent gathering, a sparkle catches my eye. Just past their bare perches is a small tree entirely covered by hoarfrost. 

Attention is the beginning of wonder. Crunching boots slow, and I blink the crust from my eyes. I love hoarfrost, the way it transforms trees into crystal palaces, and straw into diamonds. None of the trees so far on this walk have been so graced. I scan the stream and frozen-over marsh that feeds it. More diamonds. Now I see – the trees and bushes that line the water are the ones which have been enchanted. 

Under the narrow bridge, the stream pours out of a giant culvert, and the quiet roar breathes slow roiling mists that swirl above the surface. The same magic of the ditch is at work here. I stand and stare at the rush beneath my feet. The warmth of moving water exhales its vapour to the crisp air, bestowing icy kisses on the trees in reach.

The beauty is in the breath. 

Where the branches hang over the stream, a crystal cavern has formed. Even the barbed wire stretched across the channel, remnants of an old cattle fence line, has received the touch of this charm. 

Suddenly I am aware of how stiff my neckwarmer has become. I yank its frozen folds down and gulp in the winter air, sharp at the back of my throat. I want to taste it, this living breath. If there is a portal here, I will fill my lungs till I find it. I feel the sharp in my chest as the water pours and the crows lift, searching. 

Oh Breath, are you here, rising from the valley?

I need more than my lungs can hold. I need oxygen for the soul. I press close to the guardrail, leaning over the edge till my breath intertwines with the ice fog. I am the spellbound crow. 

Listen, listen, the water whispers. There’s something below the frozen layers – hidden and deep and moving – and where it bursts out in ditches and drainage pipes and right through rusty fences it touches our bare and waiting branches and brings beauty to them. Beneath the blizzard, God is still alive, still in movement, not frozen out by the troposphere’s temper tantrums. 

The stream keeps flowing, even in the always-winter. In unlikely, mysterious places, He is still breathing. 

~ Lindsey

S. D. G.