nothing hurt that couldn’t heal.

I told this story almost a year ago, over in Alise’s space. It’s a bit of story I have been thinking about a good deal lately, and I wanted to share it again, here with you. Blessed Feast of the Annunciation, happy birthday, Flannery O’Connor, and all my love to my Alia-joon.

—————————————–

 

I paced outside the party, pressing the phone to my ear, desperate, the way you are when you’re nineteen and nothing matters and everything matters. My longtime best friend was telling me about going through confirmation class, that she would be a part of the Roman Catholic Church come Easter. I’m not even sure if she was inviting me or asking me or what, but I was grinding my jaw so hard I’m certain she could hear it on the other end of the line.

You see, Catholics, had faith—maybe–but faith misplaced. They were, well, theatrical at best, conjurers at worst, which was most of the time.

I was grieved and shocked, as we had walked similar Charismatic-evangelical-tongues-afire paths together. She was the one I looked to for cues and signals, whose faith shaped my own.

And now she was going somewhere I couldn’t follow. I was already feeling a little lost in my own doubt, but now I felt left to fend for myself.

[You might note, here, the shift in focus, the real place of concern.]

I didn’t go to her confirmation; it wasn’t even a question in my head.

———————–

I was so angry at the guy she was dating at the time, this man who drank beer (gasp!) and talked saints (double gasp!) and brought her to this new church. I was sure to let her know.

Then a few years later, I found myself in a pew with a friend who drank gin and talked saints and brought me to a new church.

[She had told me once, patiently, that there was a distinction between doing something for someone and because of someone, but it wasn’t until I saw my own life that I understood.]

The details were quite different, but the scene looks similar. Similar, at least, to someone who doesn’t hear the whole story, who doesn’t even listen well to what she has in front of her.

———————————-

Several months after I start attending the Episcopal church downtown, I steal a fry from her plate and ramble a bit,

“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen well. It must have been lonely. I should have trusted you.”

I should have trusted You, too, I added quickly in my head.

We hadn’t talked much about that rough spot past, though we had effectively build a bridge over it. But saying it aloud, pointing to the hurt helped to heal something more whole, more than our other patchworked clumsiness.

I don’t know when the change came. A big part of it had to do with actually learning about the Catholic Church, and I think the rest had a lot to do with my own lonely in-between space of pilgrimage. A few fingers pointed at my would-be motives, a few people handing me distorted images of my transition. The echoes were deafening.

Something about walking a mile in another girl’s shoes.

————————–

This story still ends a bit mixed-up, though.

“A Catholic and an Episcopalian walk into a bar” sounds like the beginning of an interesting joke, but mostly it’s just reality as we’re often found toasting to ten years of friendship these days.

We’ve learned to be more tender with one another when it comes to faith, and yet somehow more honest. There’s a good bit we don’t agree on, but that’s the part we submit to Trust. We know we can take it now. It’s a give and take that’s stronger now than it ever was.

She tells me to go to confession, with all her heart; I talk with her about lady-priests.

She tells me about the days she can’t bring herself to church; I tell her about the days all I can bring is myself, to church.

We both talk about weeping at the Altar rail, how much we like Papa Frankie and Flannery O’Connor.

She’s the first person I called to shout Alleluia! to after Easter Vigil, while it is yet dark in the rest of my town.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!

—————–

Last month, in a heart-stopping, confusing car wreck, I totaled her Hyundai in the middle of the interstate on a Saturday afternoon.

Her tears streaming, my head swelling, I apologized again and again, dazed.

Alternately, we each kept saying we’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK. We’re alive, we’re together, it’s OK.

As Kevin The Very Nice Tow Truck Man told us,

Things can be fixed.”

She calls me this week, overly excited, to tell me about the Bluetooth and stick shift and hatchback her new car sports. I laugh nervously, still wincing at the whole ordeal.

We start to plan haphazardly the road trip that will move me to North Carolina at the end of the summer, and I’m a little shocked she is willing to risk getting in a car with me again, that she’s willing to risk any of this again.

I blink my tears into the bright, bald Texas sun, thankful that over the years, nothing that was damaged was irreplaceable, nothing was broken that couldn’t be fixed, nothing hurt that couldn’t heal.

there will be no baptists in heaven [at A Deeper Church].

if you know me on the Twitter or in real life, you might know that I engage in a bit of snarky smack talk about various denominations, including some self-deprecating talk about my Episco-people.

It’s really picked up since I started attending a highly ecumenical Methodist Divinity School last fall. (I’m afraid Presbyterians have received the brunt of this. Sorry, ya’ll.)

but if you talk to me about churches for more than five minutes, you’ll know I’m annoyingly ecumenical, in large part because my life has spanned a few different ways of meeting God.

So, I’m doing some cheeky-serious real-talk about the unity of the Church today at Deeper Church:

I used to believe that God only spoke my prayer language. Then I thought He could only hear written petitions. These days I’m pretty damned confident that God only knows how to interact with humans who address God clunkily, without gendered pronouns. That is, of course, until I hear a He-prayer that splits my heart wide open.

 

She always knows how to overturn my expectations.

 

join me today over at A Deeper Church?

to set you free [at Deeper Story].

Today, I’m over at A Deeper Story with some reflections on what it means to be a Christian truth-teller, to start with. 

———————————

It’s right after I’ve finally told the truth.

(To him. To myself.)

My little balcony sets me almost in the trees, sometimes I pretend I’ve build my house up here. Branches glow orange through the rain from the porch light, reaching up like desperate arms against the icy grey December sky. I breathe out warmth, and it feels wasteful. Will there be enough for next time? The clutching, creeping cloud almost entirely muffles what he says next–

“You are so very brave.”

It’s a sob before I know it, teeth clenched against what feels most like fiction.

“I am not.”

“You are.”

We usually fight like siblings that missed out on a shared childhood, but I don’t push it this time. I know on this he won’t back down. I squeeze my eyes against the now-swimming branches, pinching the bridge of my nose with my fingers.

“Okay.”

The haze is still there, but pushed back a bit to the corners. I breathe out again, this time sending out a bit of that cloud.

How long have I been pretending?

——————————–

I’m wondering if you can relate to any of the sketches of story shared over there, what your thoughts are on what it means to be a truth-teller. Read the rest over at Deeper Story?

what I’m into, December.

music:

  •  for corporate study-dance-breaks: Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Robyn and Beyoncé (the ’4′ album…I didn’t like the new one as much, don’t hate me. too late I already feel it.)
  • Noah Gunderson was a new find this month. Beautiful, broken, honest prayers of songs.

offline reads:

  • Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey. Ok, I seriously started writing a review of the book in the flyleaf as soon as I started it–not because I had to, but because the book compelled it. (Also–I know some friends have been skeptical of the title, so let me address that right here. It’s not what you think it is.) I’ll compile all my warm and fuzzy feelings into a post soon, but for now, I’ll steal Leigh Kramer’s words about it, because this is exactly why I love it:

Jesus Feminist bridges the gap between all of us, men and women, married and single, young and old, conservative and liberal, and so on. No matter how you define feminism, Bessey offers another look at the Bible’s view of women and invites us to have a better discussion.”

  • Preparing for Christmas: Daily Reflections for Advent, by Richard Rohr. I know the Advent season is over, but let me just tell you to buy this  $3 book right now and save it for next year because I may never use another Advent resource again. Rohr is great to begin with, but this little book is erudite, accessible, and extraordinarily compelling. The reflections are short enough to stick with you throughout the day, but not simplistic at all. New favorite.
  • My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, by Christian Wiman. This is another book I am still in the middle of, but I can already tell you it is going in my top favorite books of all time. Seriously, I am in love. I just don’t even know how to recommend this book enough, but I’ll say this–as I read, Wiman has been casting light into dark shadows while acknowledging his own, deeply convicting me and strangely encouraging me. This is going on my list of books that makes me a Christian all over again.
  • Holy Fools, by Joanne Harris. I am still in the middle of it, but I have a hard time reading much fiction these days and it has me hooked. Beautiful prose that surprises you.

around the web:

  • a few days before Christmas, Luke Harms, Preston Yancey and I got into a great, hours-long discussion on twitter about the overlaps and differences between Pentecostal experiences of God’s presence and Real Presence in the Eucharist, touching on several sacramental themes throughout. Chris Green joined us on the tail end with some wonderful insights, too! Anyway, I “storified” the whole thing so it would be readable. The whole thing was both fun and important for me; I hope you’ll read it.
  • “The conversation is increasingly non-incarnational. Whereas evangelical church-planting culture is often plagued by shallow pragmatism, the Progressive Christian Internet goes to the other extreme, philosophizing its way out of any substantial, practical ecclesial application,” Resolved: Quitting the Progressive Christian Internet in 2014, by Zach.
  • “Leaving fundamentalism is more about a laying down an irrational craving to be right [...] and a taking up of compassion and imagination and epistemological humility than it is about learning and using the right labels and theories,” The Ethics of Leaving Fundamentalism, by Hännah.
  • “Feminism is prophetic grief: a voice crying “All is not as it should be” & weary feet that bring with them good news saying, “Oh mourner! Redemption is yet nigh,”” Now I will Show You a More Excellent Way, by Hannah (not to be confused with Hännah above. mind your umlauts)
  • “Present over perfect. Quality over quantity. Relationship over rushing. People over pressure. Meaning over mania,” Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. (MAN has this bled into so many part of my life lately)
  • I don’t know who pointed me to the poem Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons, but goodness it is beautiful and painful. Here are a couple stanzas:

The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.

Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.
Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.
Oh, miracle of life.
Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.

  • I love Anne Lamott on social media. Just love. It’s like sitting down for coffee with a friend. I love this Facebook “status” of hers about New Years diets. Absolutely.

just-good:

  • 16 reasons why gin is the best. mostly for this quote: “SUCK IT, VODKA.”
  • this amazing short animation of Brené Brown’s words on empathy. EVERYONE watch this:

moments:

to be honest, December was a rough month in a few ways, finals bowled me over in an unexpected way, and I have been battling some personal darknesses in a particular way this month. I’ll be glad to leave it behind in many ways. But here are some highlights:

  • ok, I know I just said finals were crazy, but the experience heightened my awareness of the wonderful, caring people that I have found myself surrounded by–whether I am particularly close to them or not, I have received an overwhelming amount of support and grace from folks at Duke Divinity, and I am so grateful.
  • celebrating with my wonderful classmates after the last final was turned in, like four times over. We know how to unwind around here.
  • one time included my taking a line from Shauna Niequist when she writes in Bread & Wine: “This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter. ” I threw together some Magical White Bean Soup (I swear by this, oh my word) on a blustery evening and told people to bring drinks and fixings. “Present over perfect” (in the links above) turned into a beautiful night with laughs and truth-talk.

PresentPerfect-Instagram

  • good thing I made a double-batch of that soup because other friends opened their house up the next night and we kept the soup-party going with friends that didn’t know each other much previously. We killed a loaf of bread and got seconds and stayed at the dinner table for ages and asked hard questions and said good things. [these are the things I want to remember about December].
  • The week after finals was also the week of brunching. I hit up both Monuts and Elmo’s Diner in Durham with friends who composed the right cast of characters for a sitcom. This is my brain not-on-school. Resolution for this next semester might just be to brunch more.
  • highlights (in pictures) from being in New Mexico with family for the holidays:

visited my mom’s 3rd-4th grade split classroom and witnessing her amazing gift of teaching. It might be always especially sweet after the years when she was without a teaching position (I think one of her kids was stepping on her foot here, haha).

rediscovering bits of this beautiful house:

as well as the beauty of Southern New Mexico:

White Sands National Monument

the Organ Mountains, on the tail end of the Rockies

What I wish I was into:

  • buying my book$ for next $eme$ter
  • returning to responsibility this week.
  • making New Year’s resolutions. though I have one or two up my sleeve.
  • NYE plans.

Ok, your turn. No, really. What has been going on with you this month? What have you been reading/wearing/doing/whatever? 

Grab button for What I'm Into

descend to us, we pray.

photo by David Lienhard

This is for the shepherd who called in sick that night, the Thomas-one who just wasn’t there and can’t believe the sky was full of so many bright beings.

This is for the realization he’s just not the magic you thought he was.

This is for the time when you’re so doped up on painkillers you believe God is sitting right next to you Christmas morning one minute, and then think we’ve all made God up entirely the next. (But this is not so different from when you’re sober anyway.)

This is for Anna, who had to wait (after so much waiting) for Jesus to come to the temple–who, the day after the whole world changed, went about fasting, praying, waiting business as usual. When will you come, O redemption of Jerusalem? How long must I wait?  (I just wonder–was she able to sense the re-knitting of the cosmos? Did she feel it in her bones? or was the morning just as dark as ever?)

This is for the Christmas when it all falls apart.

This is for the year when your weird and terrible houseguests come to town and make that week known as the “Jerry Springer holiday” forever until the end.

This is for him, for her, without whom Christmas doesn’t make sense anymore.

This is for the two bills you keep peeking at in your wallet, counting and recounting: dividing, adding, but mostly subtracting, mostly needing to multiply.

This is for the stranger, heavy-hearted, longing for someone you know.

This is for when you just can’t.

This is for the three years in a row where you try to cut a deal–no more presents ever again if she only gets a job this time.

This is for the year they stop calling.

This is for the paper on the Incarnation you wrote in the middle of a deep cloud during Advent, the one where you hoped your heretic-heart didn’t show, where you hope you hid the question then why are we still waiting?

This is for the weary world. (Rejoices?)

I’m with you. I hear you. I get it. (I mean, I might not get it, but I totally get it.)

I’ll pray, fast, weep, and sing with you–

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Amen.

so great a cloud of witnesses [at Deeper Church].

The sparkling circles of the heavenly host. by Gustave Doré. engraving, 1868

The sparkling circles of the heavenly host. by Gustave Doré. engraving, 1868

I say shit about three times on my walk to morning Eucharist on the morning of the Feast of All Saints. We’ve changed the time, the buses aren’t running yet, and I bewail the short legs my father gave me. I am only going to get there as fast as they can carry me, my limitations pounding the cement one step at a time.

can’tkeepup.whycan’tiwalkfaster.whycan’tipraylonger.whycan’tipray.whycan’tihear.whycan’tispeakup.whyamitooloud.whyhaveinotsoldmypossessions.whyamithinkingalwaysofmyself

I am a good bit late, finding my seat next to a man in a suit during the Old Testament reading. My breath is ragged, heart a little ragged, too. But I am proud that I know the service well enough to not need the paper program I missed on the way in. I know when to say, “we lift them [our hearts] up to the Lord,” my evangelical hand rebelliously lifting up, too. I know when to bend 45 degrees, when to cross myself. My, I’ve got it down.

But we get to the confession of sin, and I realize quickly that the form has changed for the feast day. I am kneeling, face hot, wondering if man-in-suit is judging me for not confessing. And I have so much to confess.

Join me for the rest over at a Deeper Church today? Click here!

what I’m into, October.

This month’s What I’m Into is coming to you rather late because, well, we are in that part of the semester, so here are the bare bones. Apologies for cutting out some of my favorite sections, but that’s how it is right now.

{Also, you might have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around here since school started, as I have pretty much only been keeping up with writing over at Deeper Church. I am thinking that will change next semester, but for now, I am making no promises about the next several weeks in particular.}

no further ado–

music:

I bought The Head and the Heart’s new album, which is slowly growing on me. Not quite the love I have for their first.

MOST recently, I have been on a Robyn and Beyoncé kick. Don’t judge, just love.

offline reads:

  • to retain my sanity, I started re-reading Dante’s Commedia, Anthony Esolen’s translation. 1) Esolen’s version is beautiful and accessible. 2) if you have only read the Inferno, then you haven’t read the Inferno. 3) Dante is one of those really dead guys that makes me a Christian again and again.
  • I just started Poetic Theology: God and the Poetics of Everyday Lifeby William Dyrness. I am using it as secondary reading for a class, though I have had it on my Kindle bookshelf for a while. So far, a great, nuanced read. It is an academic text, I warned you.

blogposts:

  • I Here Surrender my Golden Calves, by Hannah. I returned to this post again and again this month. She really just sucker-punches you at the end there. In a weirdly freeing yet convicting way.
  • The God Who Holds, by Margaret. Margaret reminds me I am not alone in the painful parts of faith; I love her vulnerability and truth.
  • To Be Inconvenienced, by Kristen. I was challenged and heartened by this story of opening her home to the stranger and finding Jesus there.
  • Why I Cry in Church, by Mallory McDuff. oh MAN did I love this post. What she writes here has been a big part of my story, and very recently so. Let’s be honest, I mean last Sunday.
  • When God is Unfaithful, by Peter Enns. “Maybe if you’re angry with God now and then, you’re normal. Maybe that’s part of being the people of God.” SNAP.
  • Bravery, by Christy. I love this little post–it brought clarity to why people call me brave when I mostly am scared, and served up some solid inspiration, too.

just-good:

oh my Lord:

I swear I have had conversations like this:

oh, xkcd:

Stove Ownership

THIS THIS THIS:

 

What I wish I was into:

  • working on papers ahead of time.
  • actually updating this blog.
  • 5 pm sunset.

Ok, your turn. No, really. What has been going on with you this month? What have you been reading/wearing/doing/whatever? 

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh