The Dark of Thursday


I trudged upstairs after putting my children to bed to write because I know what this night means and somehow I needed to address it.  This morning on the way to work I cried, not for Jesus but for my own weaknesses and insecurities, because at times I feel so fallible and small.

I had such a long day in heels, crafting language that passed muster under federal regulations and dictating to my paralegal the content of an agenda for a meeting in an hour. I ran around like a hamster on a wheel preparing and meeting and writing and drafting. I nibbled on salad and tapped messages into my bright shiny phone and answered emails as fast as they fired.

I sighed as my children refused to eat the dinner I set before them. And tonight when my daughter failed to listen when I told her to get out of the tub I yelled, my sharp knife-words cut as I scolded her to be respectful and pay attention.  Her heart was hurt and she sulked away.  But it felt good to yell, to demand respect. To show that I have some authority in this home.

I am also so painfully aware of how I started many of the previous sentences with I.  Because that’s the world we live in, self-focused and ego-driven.

Yet it’s the night before the dawn. When Jesus begged his closest friends to stay awake while he prayed a prayer so earnest blood likely drained from his tired eyes. The type of tired that is beyond exhausted, where you can barely move and yet you can’t stop praying because life is ripped out from underneath you and it’s all so damn hard. The thought of a slow agonizing death is simply too much for one to bear.

And yet these friends of Jesus, they walked so far. It was dark and it was late and it was Passover. The glasses of wine made them all tired. “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” he said to Peter as he sat sleeping – probably slumped over – because what-are-ya-gonna-do with all that wine. I can see it, Jesus shaking his head, like “I try to teach you fellas and every time I turn around you’re all missing it.” I’m sure my pastor feels that way most of the time with his flock, just a bunch of rich middle-class slackers.

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus said to Peter. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said this to the man who swore to never leave, or abandon, or betray.

But he did, three times before the dawn.

I mean to be kind and patient. I really honestly do. I want to get down on the level of my children’s eyes and talk peacefully about respect and consequences. I have chore charts that go unattended and morning routines that are half-followed. But what the hell with this guy who thinks he owns the road in rush hour and why is the dog barking again when I already fed him and DON’T THE KIDS SEE HOW HARD I’M WORKING AND IT IS ALL FOR THEM.

The spirit, it’s all charged up. On Sundays I hold palm branches and sing hymns and fist-bump online about pretty things. On facebook I put my best family pictures forward. On Easter I shall wear blue and sing Messiah. But oh, the flesh. It is ripped and torn by Thursday, when things grow dark and our pasts tickle our hearts and we are filled with passive aggressive rage. So we yell and sulk and it feels pretty damn good. For now we’ll just close our eyes for a bit and rest.

Tonight after I thought the kids were asleep, I heard my daughter’s voice. Small and beautiful, it called my name like a song as she lay there under her purple coverlet. The one with flowers and little lacy stripes. She couldn’t sleep, and I curled up next to her and encircled my legs in hers. I put my face next to her damp hair that I had braided into two delicate braids. And I cried, my tears so close to the body that came from me, out of me, a part of me. I said I was so sorry that I yelled, that I am so far from perfect. Sometimes we don’t act the way we tell others to act. And I asked her forgiveness. “No one is perfect,” she said in that elegant little eight-year-old way.

I am filled with such sorrow, Jesus, for falling asleep. How can you ever possibly forgive me when I’m so selfish and unworthy? For thinking you can wait until tomorrow, because of the wine and the meal and the business of life that sort-of interferes?

So I trudge upstairs, even though it’s been a long day and I yelled at my daughter in the bathtub and my childrens’ plates of ham and potatoes are half-eaten on the table. But I needed to document this succession of days filled with grief when the veil was torn. When heaven wept. When our Lord was tortured, and bled, and cried out to a father who surely hadn’t forsaken him.

Easter is coming. I know this because I’ve read the book jacket. Because my daughter has already forgiven me for the yelling. Because if my love for her is a tiny indication of the love our Father feels, I am protected beyond measure.   But this is a hard night.  It is a dark Thursday. A night of our own failures. A night when we betray even the one who loves us, because it’s human nature.  Because no one is perfect.  Because we need Christ more than we need the virtues of this world.

Stay awake, friends. As hard as you can, pry your eyes open wide. The Easter son will soon rise. 


(three w’s)


Every Monday, I take off my wedding ring and pull my hair back in order to mix, pound, and watch bread rise through the dark oven door.  I always need to control something, and my two-year-old never listens.  So bread has become my new muse since leaving the corporate world.  Watch out, Julia.  Here I come with this hard crust and soft center business, all up in your junk about how Parisians do it best. So says the woman who used muffin mixes and bought canned biscuits.  I shudder now at the thought of my former self.

The old me wore heels and rushed off to the office, saying things like “well that’s a bifurcated approach” and “I hope we don’t bust our E&O deductible.”  I never used yeast packets except for holidays, and couldn’t understood why things never looked like magazine photos.  I was harried, and short-tempered, and wondered why my husband didn’t pitch in more with the kids.  I was juggling a career and a novel and small children and, well, I didn’t have time to wait hours for things to rise, for goodness sakes. I scratch my head at that woman now.  I pity her a bit, running around and around the wheel at a dizzying pace.

My life is simpler now.  I am settling into a new routine.  I complain less.  I sigh less.  I try to hug my children more.  But most of all, I’m grateful.

I used to think staying home was akin to bondage, where men secured all the power and the women were forced to perform menial tasks.  Who is John Galt? was framed on my desk, as if to remind myself to keep fighting against the machine. Stay-at-home mommies wrung their hands about potty training and play dates and had nothing interesting to talk about.  They wore flip-flops and gym shorts and all went to Starbucks after carpool talking about reality television.  I went to law school.  I defended the Federal Government.  I’m a fighter.  Women before me forged a rugged trail for me to blaze through.  Plus – it was good for my daughter to watch me working, so she could witness first-hand one who could do it all.  I could buy bread at the grocery store.  Right?  Anyone give me a hell yeah?

But one day, I quit running.  I realized that my life was out of balance, and I longed for peace.  So I quit my job, and bake day firmly settled over our house like a bad coat of dust. Maybe it was to fill the house with an aroma of warm wheat.  Maybe it was so my daughter had memories of always having fresh bread.  But when I really dig down deep, I think it was just my way of working things out.  To put my frustrations into tangible form.  I punched and kneaded and watched the first few batches bubble up or not rise at all and wondered how I’d make it in this new life.  But I kept trying.  There was always next Monday, after all.

I’m so very thankful these days.  I piddle around the house.  Sometimes I take a bubble bath after I drop off the kids.  I take long walks and pray for wisdom.  I make up songs with my daughter and let my son pick me flowers on a Tuesday afternoon. I used to laugh at those mothers.  I used to think they were crazy.   I was built for more than this, I thought.  While waiting for a new batch of bread to rise the other day, I took a walk in a wooded area around our house.  I heard the snort of a deer not ten feet away before she went running off at breakneck speed.  I laughed out loud, scared to death of a deer.  As it turns out, this is enough. I’m finally hitting my life’s stride.  I finally feel ready to stretch myself in ways I never did before.

I’ve learned that one has to feel bread dough to know whether it will turn out okay, regardless of what the recipe says.  You have to pat and form and squeeze it beneath your fingers.  You have to knead and pull and give it time to grow. To let the yeast mix with the warm water and sugar.  To rise.

Sometimes you just have to push the pause button and take it all in.  Long measured breaths.  One ingredient at a time.  Then, you’ll start to see how God is working all around you.  How he softly calls you to do something greater, and bigger, and more glorious.

A friend told me to cover my dough bowl with hot tea towels, which was an excellent tip, and I rub risen loaves with water to form a harder crust.  Just for looks, I sprinkle the top with oats.  I love every part of baking bread, from the smell of the yeast granules to the way the molasses runs down the heap of sticky dough like dark rivers, to the moment I pull it out of the oven and my family comes rushing over, asking for butter.

I am so grateful for this moment in time to walk slowly with my hands behind my back.  I am allowing my words and thoughts and the meditations of my heart to slowly expand, growing into myself with each passing day.  I am praying.  I am listening. I am rising.