{This Sacred Everyday} Suzannah Paul

I first felt a kinship with Suzannah Paul when I discovered her blog and our shared former youth minister status. Then I realized she grew up the same area of Philadelphia as my husband. Then I realized she not only believes in poetry, she writes it! (Also, she lives at a camp, which is my secret dream.) I had the chance to meet her this past April and she instantly felt like a kindred. So grateful to share her with you today. 

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“Are you writing, or do you want to come for a walk?”

The answer to the former was a definitive yes. I longed to keep writing, especially as the whining crescendoed in the kitchen. A half hour—or more!—of blessed quiet was a delicious temptation, but today was our sabbath. We’d driven home from vacation a day early to savor one Sunday here, together.

I put on my shoes.

I’m not one of those women, the people-pleasers who can’t say ‘no’. I appreciate boundaries and try to honor my gifts and limits. ‘No’ has been a harbor in this difficult season. A summer of camping ministry and oft-solo kid-wrangling found me firmly entrenched in survival mode. ‘No’ saved my sanity more than once.

But autumn is afoot. Wild grapes scent the air, and goldenrod paints the valley topaz. This season brought me melancholy other years, but this time it’s different. I’m choosing differently.

The leaves turn, and so do I. It’s a repentance of sorts. A baptism. The sacrament of YES.

“Maybe’s just a fancy way of saying ‘no’”

We keep some noes, of course, for hitting or rudeness. We limit screen time and junk food. But my lazy noes, born of selfish desire for comfort over service? Those I offer on the altar and bury, to be raised and recreated by YES.

YES, of course we can read another story.

YES, let’s sing two songs before bed.

YES, we’ll run fast, paint wild, and bake messy. YES, let’s cuddle, please. YES, eat peanut butter by the spoonful, sculpt with tin foil, and tape All The Things!

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

How many blessings did I refuse by my NO? Did my idol-making of comfort, control, and caution choose for me curses over life?

I listen for that holy stir whispering Go! and YES. I put on shoes, for today’s hallowed ground is a cable bridge and well-worn path. It’s cattails, grasshoppers, and small hands in mine. Wood ducks and “Look mama! I’m a hawk!” It’s feet that move and eyes to see.

The holy offering of unclenched fists primed for praise and service. Open palms eager to receive God’s abundance with a grateful heart and consecrated YES.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

 

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

 

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

 

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

(e.e. cummings)

 

Suzannah Paul dabbles in poetry and writes love letters to the broken, beautiful Church at the smitten word. She raises children and chickens with her husband at the summer camp in Pennsylvania where they met.






 

Comments

  1. Jeannie says:

    Your post spoke directly to my heart today. My son has autism and I weary of his repetitive questions & requests for his comfort games. So often I hear these words come out of my mouth, “No, I don’t want to do that” — i.e. play “hiding” again or do “one-two-three-yawn” (you have to be there) or say “yes, tomorrow’s garbage day” or “no, there’s no church today” or whatever, on and on from morning till night. Why don’t I want to? I ask myself — Well … I just don’t want to, that’s why.

    But these words in your post really (warning: Christian cliche ahead) convicted me: “How many blessings did I refuse by my NO? Did my idol-making of comfort, control, and caution choose for me curses over life?”

    In two hours I pick him up at school. I will try to say yes all the way home and laugh more and not refuse the blessings. I will ask God to help me not just say Yes, but want Yes.

  2. michaboyett says:

    Yes, I totally agree with Jeannie. That same question so moved me. What blessings am I refusing by my “no”? I’ll be thinking about that for a long time…

  3. Leah Colbeck says:

    I feel like you were spying in my house today lets ‘tape all the things.’ Really it is saying yes to joy isn’t it?

  4. Annie says:

    Oh, these are words of life for me tonight – trying to strike a new balance in a new season. This helps. Thank you, Suzannah.

  5. Mothering can be so taxing, and it can be so easy for me to try to wriggle my way out of parts of it. (“You’ve been bathed, clothed, and fed today; what more do you WANT?”) Thank you for helping me to remember: the little unnecessaries are the best parts.

  6. Lenae says:

    With so many littles running around, I catch myself more frequently than I’d like to admit saying “No” in succession. When I approach the altar and do say “Yes”… oh, the blessings. Thank you for reminding me that I have the choice –the gift!– to tread hallowed ground every single day.

  7. CAQ says:

    This is still my favorite definition of love, by (famously curmudgeonly) Philip Larkin, talking about jazz, but still–I think it’s widely applicable:
    On me your voice falls as they say love should, / Like an enormous Yes.

  8. Lovely, Suzannah – and so hard to do sometimes. I remember being just too dang tired to say ‘yes’ some days. But occasionally, I would make room for the blessings…thank you.

  9. ro elliott says:

    Oh this is just beautiful….I use to think God was a God of no…so no was easy for me…but as He came and won my heart to His love…I saw all was Yes and amen…Yes is easier now…but oh how I would have known this when my kids were young…blessings as we walk with consecrated yes in our hearts~

  10. tanya marlow says:

    Beautiful words – thank you :-)