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)
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.