Lenten Devotional: Hold Gently by Kathy Holeman

Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.

Here is the next submission:

Hold Gently

Childhood is tucked away in the dank and dark cinder block corners of my mind. Its long afternoons and dusky evenings patiently waiting for me to resurrect the finer points of lessons learned. Pig-tailed summer days with tiny toes scrunching in newly mowed grass; sit back and inhale the balmy lilacs and hyacinth. I do not want to analyze the patient yawning days of yore. Instead I want to smile ice cream laden grins and dance in man-made rainbows; I want to curl up on the couch for sandalwood stories and bask in the buttercup glow of fires in the sand. Down pillows, open-windowed breezes, and grandma’s homemade lemon cake find me holding on tightly to the warm memories of daffodils and woolly bears springing from the sedge. I am wasted on the picnic lunch at Ballard’s Pond, the fish are biting, the frogs are squishy, dragonflies are darting overhead; the cattails are leaning.

Don’t you remember walking barefoot on the dried-up creek bed or picking berries into the dusky warm twilight? I remember. I remember the gravel roads kicking the moil of swirling bits of heated earth, the chocolate bars melted on my fingertips and chin, the deep throng of the passing plane reverberating on warm air currents, the stillness of the hot midday sun. At night my scorched skin radiated, wrapped in the stifling sheets made wet with perspiration. And as summer leaned on I stuffed myself with the ripened succulence hanging from the trees and bushes: the cherries, plum, and apple trees, the blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. In the darkness we would hunt the mighty Night Crawler by flashlight. Ghost stories and lightening storms fueled our adventurous ambitions. We were infected with lusty wanting of all things grownup.

Like lacy webs of dew across the meadow on early morning walks the mourners’ veil is drawn across my face as memories grow deep, the inevitable movement of things forgotten and what we have pushed aside. The tear-stained face of a mother’s grief, the disappointment of finding out your father is only human after all. Mistakes tarnish even the finest memories when they are not forgotten. The yelling, screaming, hunger that is never fed, firmly plants itself on those dusky days of youth. The pain of blame is our undoing; the holding on to that which was meant to be let go. The tear-soaked pillows of divorce, of poverty, of abuse, of ill heath; they sit and rot on the bed of younger days; piling upon the finer things, on the details of bliss and tender stalks budding, composting our glad season to be turned into the soil of some vacant lot, lost and forgotten.

Do not let the glad tidings go. Listen for the trilling crickets, the fluting songbird, and the gulping toad. Watch the clouds tangle, weaving the sky, and patiently wait for marshmallows and wieners to roast in the fire, slowly and tenderly, until just right. Stroke the golden silk of corn and gently hold the twittering downy chick. Walk the dewy fresh-faced walk of your green season, and carry with you the sarsaparilla dreams that popped into your fancy on a whim; for the rotten and crabbed recollections will infest and drown our youth unless we are vigilant, persevering, sentinels, ever on watch for the dark thoughts and the dour sentiments. Be still as the night. Be the watcher, and tend the bright flickers of your beginnings. Construct a parade, or a valiant cheer, as if calling the light and easy saunter of a child with mud on his face, or the dog-walk of the children in a game of mother-may-I. Nurture and grow the tender vine from which the clusters of all good things emerge; hold gently the beacon of your blooming.

–Kathy Holeman


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