(is it just me, or is it you too?): why I’d rather go to the opera than church

Phenomenal writer. I couldn’t agree more.

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No Language But A Cry

Sometimes I think all living is the story of what we do with our wounds. When we ask each other, How are you? what we are really asking is, What are you doing with your wounds today? Maybe Jesus asks the same question, when it comes down to it.

The human narrative is the narrative of woundedness. How we felt the cut to be fatal; how we try to bandage it with technology and distraction, or else inflict the same injuries upon each other; how we do our best to escape it but also feel inexplicably that such woundedness is us, is us not just in our most honest but in our most beautiful, and all our attempts at sewing really just begs for surgery; how it all feels so very much like homesickness.

The Gospel narrative, as I understand it, is also the narrative of woundedness. It is the…

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(is it just me, or is it you too?): why I’d rather go to the opera than church

The Conversation Named Freedom

Today I had a really helpful conversation.  A conversation I desperately needed but didn’t fully realize.

Obviously some part of me knew I needed something, for I was the one who initiated the conversation.  But going into it I was thinking to myself: Why am I even doing this?  What kind of an answer am I looking for?  Am I just wasting his time, my time?  After walking in the front door, but before he knew I was there, I almost turned around and left.  I almost walked right out, thinking about the excuses I could send over text, how I would be able to avoid him for a couple weeks to let any awkwardness fade… See, but that would have been the easy way out; avoidance is almost always easier.  But something that’s been talked about a lot recently is courage.

Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.

Not fearlessness, but doing despite fear.

So I stayed and poked my head into the room and faced this fear.  The fear of reaching out.  Of asking questions.  Of admitting doubt. Of being vulnerable.  The fear of risking being burdensome or being judged.

And the answer was No, it was not a waste of time.

For during that conversation I was reminded of truth.  The deeply counter-intuitive truth that I am actually free.  No matter how many times I tie my own hands up, lock myself in a box, despise my mixed motives, fail to be all I could be, imprison myself with thoughts of striving, thinking I need to earn my worth… no matter what I do or don’t do, think or don’t think, pray or don’t pray, eat or don’t eat…. no matter if I am the most loving, admirable, courageous person on the planet or a despicable, cowardly worm… I am free.

No height nor depth,¹ excitement nor depression, self-loathing nor prideful arrogance can separate me from my Father and my God.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection I have this freedom.  Why did he work in me, softening my heart to believe in Him?  I don’t know.  What is the role of decision/free will/choice in this faith?  I’m not entirely sure.  Does this drive me absolutely crazy?  Some day, yes.  Yes it does.  Some days I sit creating scenarios where all of the pieces can fit together in my little finite mind…until I look to the side of my puzzle and realize I left out a few pieces… But nobody except me expects me to have all the answers, to “figure out” the things that scholars and theologians have discussed for centuries.  Does that diminish my desire to understand?  Nope, unfortunately it does not.  However, realizing that I really have been offered freedom, and being reminded that it really is for freedom that he set free² gives me a renewed desire to actually LIVE IN THAT FREEDOM.  Knowing that Christ bought me a seat at His table because he loves me, not because he wanted to guilt me into accepting the invitation (hey, look at what I spent on you to get this seat at the table with the King…do you not realize how much this cost me?  are you really going to waste my death?  those nails were not pain-free ya know.) Knowing that I can say to God, Hey I am struggling right now to actually believe you are good and not manipulative…What do I do with that? Sometimes I am even struggling to believe you exist… Can you help me see what is true? and knowing that this doesn’t disappoint him, this doesn’t cause him to look on my with less love, with frustration.  This is MIRACULOUS. His love for me is unchanging.

Do I want to take that for granted?  (Good Christian answer: No, no of course not.) Honestly, ya, sometimes I do.  Sometimes I want to say, Well grace abounds, right?  Nothing I can do to lose my salvation, right? And so sometimes I spend a couple months not reading the Bible.  Sometimes I skip church.  Sometimes I am pretty rude to God in my prayers, or in my avoidance of him.  But the thing is… the thing that I keep realizing over and over and over again… is that while this separation in our relationship doesn’t diminish his love for me or my salvation it really does affect my well-being.  I lose my sense of meaning and purpose, connection with community, I get more anxious and depressed, I feel lonely and empty…. Should those things be the reasons why I want to be with Jesus?  Is he going to be upset that I am coming to him because I want joy and I know he promises joy?  Is he going to look at me and say “I only want you coming to me for ME, not for what I can give you.”?  NO WAY!  He WANTS me to come to him with those requests!  In doing that I am acknowledging my need for my Father.  I am acknowledging that He provides.

In another conversation with a friend this evening she mentioned a book that talks about this neediness as a form of love.  The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.  I haven’t read it, but I think I want to.  I want today to be the start of me actually desiring the Lord again.  Will it actually be that?  Who knows.  Do I want that change partly because I miss the joy and meaning I felt those early years of college when Jesus and I were still in our honeymoon phase?  Yes.  And ya, I still feel guilty for that.  But one conversation isn’t going to change years and years of thinking and patterns.  I mean, I have been hearing about this grace and freedom since freshmen year of college but here I am still struggling to believe that is true and still struggling to live it out.  But if I had it perfect, well, I wouldn’t be human.

To be human is to be broken, flawed, finite, needy.
To be a believer, a follower of Christ, a child of God is to be broken, flawed, finite, needy.
Funny enough, none of those things change…

More processing to come…. as always. haha

Thanks for reading! :)

¹ Romans 8:38-39
² Galatians 5:1

The Conversation Named Freedom

the WHY

I am torn between writing some deep, rambling, insightful post about life and freedom and meaning and language and relativity and definitions…. and posting cute pictures of kiddos from this week…. Thoughts? Opinions? Comments?

[Too bad you can’t respond to my questions before I ask them…]

Well, I guess for starters I’ll update you on the day-to-day of my life and see where that takes me:

Summary:

+  gray and threatening  rain = playing in the children’s section of the library and risking a trip to the park where we met a new friend
+  mass chaos, wresting, practicing the art of sharing, indoor trampoline, watching Ezra cheer up Ivy, “oh, you do ballet?! I did too!”, thanking God for another set of adult hands…
+ FINALLY THE SUN IS OUT! another trip to the park, splashing in the river…the smile the garbage man gave us when he noticed it was a toddler sitting in the front seat pretending to drive the parked car :) the tantrum that followed after getting out of the car…
+  missing mommy, loving on the cat, missing mommy, eating a snack, missing mommy…
+ playing in two different sandboxes with two different kiddos  (also true of slides and bubbles)

In the time I wasn’t with kids I:

+  started a book called Wool by Hugh Howey that my parents bought for me after asking if I like dystopian literature, which I do.  Really interesting so far.  Definitely a page-turner.  As of now it is reminding me of a cross between The City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and The Circle.
+  hung out with two new friends :)  I even got to talk about art/design/making with them!!  Plus I got to hang out with some old friends too. It’s been a good couple of weeks in terms of my social life.  And it’s not often I feel like I can say that.  Being such an introverted homebody and all…
+  had one day of productively checking things off my TO DO list

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And now here we are.  A Friday night…sitting on the couch…trying to put a finger on why I feel so off.

I hate that there are always so many factors.

Is it just something biological?  Did I not get enough exercise today?  Poor food choices?  Is it an inner emotional turmoil?  Am I frustrated by the fact that I have time to do something creative but don’t feel up to it?  Do I feel unseen, unknown, unheard?  Is it my insecurity in relationships?  My insecurity in my artwork?  My worth? The typical feelings of meaninglessness?  …

Something I have come to realize about myself is I always want to know WHY.  I think that is something true of humans in general…but I also think that some people think about the whys more frequently than others.  And until recently I didn’t realize just how deeply the whys impact my thinking.

There are times when this is incredibly helpful.  When it helps me to see and perceive things beneath the surface, the motivations, the reasons, it helps me to empathize.  People have told me that I am good at asking the “right” questions… and for a while I was puzzled by this… I was just asking questions without thinking much of it.  What does it even mean to ask a right question?  But then, as is my nature, I started to think about why it may be that so many people have made this comment.  And I think it may have something to do with the fact that I subconsciously dig into the reasons for emotions, actions, reactions, etc. and simply ask questions based on this curiosity.  (my future career as a counselor perhaps?) However, there are also times when this tendency to ask why is incredibly dangerous and detrimental.  It has led me to doubt the motives of people who have no ill intentions – people who love and care about me.  (But why would he be offering to do the dishes?  He must want something….  But why would she buy me a gift randomly?  It must be because she must feel sorry for me…  But why…? It must be pity, annoyance, frustration, anger, deceit, personal gain…) It has caused fights in my marriage, barriers in friendships, misread body language/comments/facial expressions/gestures/questions… Because when I doubt the genuine, pure motive of someone, I insult them.
I unintentionally say: I don’t trust you.
I say: I know you and see right through you.

“Cynicism is the sickness of my culture
We undress each other with an evil eye”
Cynicism by Josh Garrels

Unfortunately, because there have been numerous times when I have called someone out on mixed motives and then these mixed motives have been confirmed (if not at first, then later after some thought) it is extremely difficult to have any desire to try and alter my cynicism.  And in doing this or saying this I am IN NO WAY SUGGESTING THAT I HAVE PURE MOTIVES.  That’s just it.  I see the selfishness, the greed, the envy IN ME.  I see the bitterness, the anger, the hurt, the loneliness, the desire to be seen, known, understood, important, heard, right, happy, comfortable IN ME.  Not all the time.  I’m sure I just see a tiny tip of the iceberg of those things in me.  But because they do exist in me I assume they exist in others as well.  And sometimes I am correct.  But sometimes I am so so wrong.  And that’s when the hurt comes in.

So what do I do?  (The question that is always asked at the end of these kind of realizations.)  Where to go from here?  Just because Love Always Hopes, does that mean I am supposed to ignore the reasoning for things?  Do our reasons and motives matter? Is my asking why actually a form of judging others?  Is it pure curiosity? A desire for empathy?  An innate attribute of my personality? DOES IT MATTER WHERE IT COMES FROM?

If I help out at a food shelter because it will look good on my resume, does that negate the fact that people who were hungry now have full stomachs? If I sing at church even though I don’t want to does that negate the fact that I am singing?  Does the why change the label: from selfless to selfish, from worship to deceit?  Should our aim be authenticity?  What does it mean to be authentic? Is it even possible to be truly, deeply, 100% authentic?  Would that be a good thing? (Yes, your butt does look fat in those pants.  And I am telling you this because it is true and also so you will give them to me. – harsh/rude/unfiltered truth? – authentic?)

Does the why matter?
[What do you think?  Let’s talk. :) Comment below!]

the WHY

freedom to dream again

So I think this 5 day challenge may actually take me 10 days…

(one) …because who knew watching kids every day was going to leave me absolutely exhausted?! I’m not complaining though.  It’s a wonderful type of exhaustion.  The kind where you know you’ve been doing things, using your muscles, laughing, watching, enjoying, giving yourself.  Chasing neighbor dogs back to their side of the fence, lifting kiddos onto chairs, consoling, reading aloud, playing simon says (and while having the full attention of three little ones (basically impossible) finding out that Simon can’t think of many things to say! ah! where’s my creativity?!).

(two)…and because I am realizing there are a lot of internal barriers making it hard to even do parts of this challenge.  As I tried to do Day 2 I kept unknowingly hitting these walls that would curtail my dreaming.  Walls like:

stings

  • that’s selfish
  • that’s impossible in today’s society
  • what will people say if you do that?
  • that’s not a real job
  • you aren’t talented enough to do that
  • remember last time when that failed
  • someone else is already doing that better than you could
  • you’re lazy for wanting that
  • is that going to make you a “productive member of society”?

And from there I typically end up in a philosophical/existential internal debate questioning the goal of society, the definition of productive, the meaning of life…

I won’t get into all of those tangents now…as I have the rest of my life to explore those things…  However, what I keep finding is that one of the things I most desire is a sense of freedom…And isn’t that what we all want in some capacity?  Freedom to be who we are regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, economic status… freedom of religion, of speech.  Freedom from discrimination and hate. Freedom to pursue our dreams… freedom to HAVE dreams.

Freedom has been on my mind for a while now. I remember in elementary school, when we were sitting in the car outside of the Blockbuster (back when we went to actual stores to rent VHS tapes and DVDs…man, won’t that shock my future children) and I asked my dad a question I had been thinking about for quite a while… I said “Daddy, are we all just God’s puppets?”  And looking back, I think there was a lot more wrapped up in that question than anyone realized, even me.  For over the years that question of freedom kept coming back and it has continued to remain at the core of some of my deepest struggles…my search for meaning, purpose, hope…  It has led to many tearful conversations (with others and with God).  And it’s not just my question.  People have been asking this question for…well…seemingly forever.  The idea comes in numerous forms: fate, destiny, predestination, soul mates. Has this story already been written? Or are we writing it as we go?  The question of time: how past, present, and future interact and impact one another.  Do the characters influence the plot? Or was the script written long ago?  Are there eraser marks?  Can things change?  Or through the precise creation of the characters did the author predestine all that will come to pass?  Trust me, I know these are not new ideas.  And I tend to trip over my own feet when I start wading in them…Do they affect the day-to-day?  Maybe not. But I think they should!  What I believe matters for how I live my life, what I teach my future kids, what I believe, what I value, how I spend my time…doesn’t it??  See, even now I was supposed to be doing this seemingly simple task of answering some questions about my future and I end up on a philosophical/theological tangent…

I know you don’t have all day, so here we go:

Day 2: Clarify Your Vision.

Basically, in the email I received about my second task, I was asked to create a clear vision of what I would want my future to be like… What is there?  Who is there? What is my morning ritual like? What have I stopped doing? What do I do for a living? How much money do I make? How much am I giving away?  How are my core values being realized?

At first I couldn’t think of any answers to these questions besides knowing I want my husband by my side.  I sat staring at a blank piece of paper… I had been so stuck certain questions for so long (“What do you want to be when you grow up? Where are you working after college?  What’s your major?”) that it took me a bit to switch mindsets. However, once I got started I found that I do have things in mind when I think about my ideal future.  They don’t necessarily dictate a “career path” as I kind of hoped they would… but I do think they have helped me to see what I value.  Namely: creativity, learning, and people.  Here’s what days 1 and 2 look like in the scrapbook I created to keep track of this post-college journey:

1b2b6b

Thanks for reading!  and for joining me on this crazy journey called life! :)

Now, I want to hear from you!  What are you passionate about?  Do you have a vision for what you want your life to look like?  How do you balance living in the moment with goals for the future?  Comment or email me. :)  I would love to get to know more about you!

 

freedom to dream again

journal / unedited grief / days 1+2

dandelions2.JPG

Wednesday

This is shock Is this shock
tingling in my limbs my fingers
that celery bad idea. it’s in my throat something coming up the vibrations in my body bring it, bringing it to the surface my legs walked me here, well, legs, were they mine? crumpled to the floor, how did I get there?  hand on mouth a sob escapes the voice still speaking. They say that’s what it’s like..speaking but not hearing. I understand now. I feel it now. Is this grief? Welling up pushing up forcing up my esophagus which is what started the problem but on the other end going the other way that started the tear the chain reaction the hospital waiting room waiting waiting but we thought they said… no but the dream… the hope… the end… the beginning…no the end “the uncomfortable truth”
“there might be other factors in motions”
I am in class and they are talking and I am here and I am not and “that’s what he says by his body”
“adjacent to, alongside, within the space”
“it’s always gonna belong to that person”
should I be in the car? on the way to roanoke? I haven’t taken my meds. Do I make food? Buy flowers? Sit here? Keep writing. I can’t breathe. My eyes are stinging.
“the disconnect between the literal action and the imaginative (?) action is so wide” / “erased them” / “bold of her to do this”

“if you let in the excess emotion you will recall the Atlantic Ocean breaking on our heads.”
“a strange reverie”
“sit down and pull together”

such a sunny day for her to die. Is that God smiling? Does God smile? Is the sun happy? Is God the sun? Where is she? Who is she? Is she being born? Is she who she was? Eternal self still self reunited, never un-united. Can a mom be a butterfly?
This isn’t actual processing because it still feels fake and I’m making the motions that seem like healthy motions because you’re supposed to process, right? You’re supposed to sit on a bench in the sun and just write about your feelings, right? Gotta do all those steps of grief quickly so you can be sturdy for everyone else… you aren’t even her daughter, she wasn’t even your mom…but yes, she was and is and…
she’s in heaven right? Celebrate right? hope right? rejoice right? death…dEATh…death…saying it enough will rid it of emotion right?
-guacamole
-hummus
-biscotti

Thursday

its the weight of this death
and the death of your grandfather
and the twin you did ballet with
and the glassiness of his eyes and the quiver of her lips
and the shaking of their shoulders
pressing in and down and causing the sigh
breathing is not enough
or too much
or maybe I am holding my breath
waiting for the news
because this isn’t the end
though it is
for them
no, it’s only the beginning
of the sighing, crying, goodbyeing
somewhere in us we know
we know this one
and that one
they are all were will be
everything
and nothing
they change everything
and nothing
because life goes on
they say
tomorrow will come
they say
but what they don’t say is this weight
this weight of all you’ve loved and lost
the weight of seeing him in the wooden box
peering over the edge
your sister on tiptoe
touching his hand
cold
standing in a room of caskets
“this one’s pretty”
watching tears shed
the weight of the dirt
and the tears
and the newly bought plot
the weight of the shuffling feet
and the “I’m so sorry”s
and the hands on shoulders, knees, arms…
the weight never really leaves
it just piles on
keeps piling
(how will the grass ever grow?)
until one day I, we won’t feel that weight anymore will feel all that weight always will be that weight.
We’ll be weighted and floating and nothing and everything. We’ll be on our backs in that room with the man with the teeth too spread apart whose job is to make up our face make up life and peace and rest make up enough color, not blue, enough color, rosy, so we can greet everyone coming…coming to see and cry and put their hands on shoulders and knees uttering so so sorry’s…

sliding the matchstick back into its matchbox
feminine though, it needs to be feminine
it needs to be sturdy to keep the weight of the feet and the tears and the grief of the children and husband and parents from pressing in and crushing her already frail frame
(always put your toys away when you’re done playing with them
back in their boxes. buried treasure. time capsule)
what will he do in this house all alone?
what will be do without his bride?
’til death parts up. then what?
you see someone, half someone, half there because their other half has a hair appointment tomorrow…and plans to get the mortician’s makeup.

journal / unedited grief / days 1+2

……………………..

desert2

the sound of spitting camels at my back

I start to walk (to trudge, to clamber)

sinking with each step;

it is not simply my feet

searching for substance,

but as my toes are sifting sand

all I find is shifting land

Bottomless

this sandbox was poured

(is poured, will be poured)

here and now and then and always

Bottomless:

they call it,

as their fathers called it

and their fathers’ fathers called it

wandering;

before,

when they marked this spot

with a stone

worn to sand

which once was stone

marking this spot worn to sand

by the wind-driven rain,

meaning sand,

that blew through this spot marked with sand

in this mountainous desert

of time,

meaning sand

here, I am
Jonah drowning

But a kitchen sink to you,
is not a kitchen sink to me

……………………..

of freedom

crying to Jenny & Tyler this morning.  not entirely sure what it is that is hitting me so hard…maybe their raw emotion and honesty, maybe the way they harmonize in a way that really makes it seem like their souls have been joined as one, maybe their abounding love for their daughter…

specifically the album Of This I’m Sure and this song in particular:

My Dear One, find freedom / Forfeit not hope … I listened to the logic / Fixed all the problems in my head / You didn’t know who to trust then / Didn’t know who would love you in the end … I’m not giving up on you, love

I started this morning with ordering some of the chaos that continually fights to overwhelm our apartment (a.k.a. mostly hanging up the pile of clothes that always tends to accumulate)… letting the sun rise and stream into our little home…and then doing something I never do:  yoga in my living room.  Yoga itself isn’t new for me, however, doing it by myself with just a light wordless soundtrack in the background, is novel. It made me want to start every morning that way.  To be still and know. To close my eyes and feel the way my muscles are interconnected, the way they loosen as I give them time.  To actually feel some semblance of balance, in my body and limbs and breathe, but also between my mind, body, and soul.  The typical Christian “quiet time” isn’t something I have been able to do recently without falling into the pit of my mind, however this felt free, peaceful, life-giving.  I didn’t feel pressure to reach a certain goal.  I didn’t have the distraction of comparison.  I could listen to my body, calm the voices in my head, and just connect.

Then I was listening to Jenny & Tyler while working on a collage and drinking coffee…and that’s when the tears came about.  Not the usual tears of bitterness or despair or hopelessness or loneliness… but tears of… freedom.

of freedom