I am from: a link-up with SheLoves.

I am from three hundred nacimentos–scenes of Christ’s birth, year round,

from santos watching over us on-fire Protestants, and a violin-playing goat.

I am from the big sky of the Southwest–God’s nave, my first cathedral–

big enough to hold my grief and all my gaping questions.

I am from the yucca and the bluebonnet, both.

I am from backbreaking sacrifices and loud interruptions,

from the reader, the teacher, the linguist, the lavisher.

I’m from the last bite of salt + savory and dinner-table history lessons

and really, every space turned classroom.

I’m from “why be anyone else?” and “a fool does not take correction”

and “I love you a bushel and a peck.”

I’m from the sarcasm that can disarm or pierce by my own hand.

I’m from the desert and a long boat ride,

from tamales y chile con carne and Nürnberger sausages.

From the time she sang on the piano and the time she prayed the prayer

and the time they told him his brownness was better off with sawdust than grammar rules.

I am from that one gold-leafed portrait we bought the week he died,

crying in the gallery because he would have bought it no matter what.

I’m from the ones who would buy flowers, not bread, if they were starving.

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...wait, other people don't have 7' giraffes in their entryways? weird.

…wait, other people don’t have 7′ giraffes in their entryways? weird.

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the crew, including a teensy me.

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Today I am linking up with some lovely voices over at SheLoves Magazine. I hope you’ll read along, or even join! Find the other pieces (and the skeleton for this one) by clicking here.

what i’ve learned, about voice.

I have a damn loud voice.

Like, real loud yo. I know, it might be hard to tell around here because of poetics and stories woven, but that’s the truth.

I am one of the loud girls, and that’s one of the reasons why I came to this three-day conversation about feminism. It was one of the stirring things because, well, a lot of the other things in this conversation was handed down to me without my realizing it.

I’ve been criticized for being loud my whole life and it’s not just about using my inside voice. It was about the category of who I am supposed to be wrapped up in how I am supposed to sound and what I am supposed to say. It was often about what was too intimidating or not mysterious enough for men. Sometimes it still is.

But, I kept laughing loud and cracking wise and sitting in the parlor instead of hiding in the kitchen. I still do.

Because though I have cried my tears over the years about being too loud and too much, I was never silenced. By my environment and my own stubbornness, I was given volume that’s more than about mere sound and I think that is a kind of privilege, too.

I guess my heart came into #femfest for the loud ones– the ones like me who, just by being, are too much to handle, even if it’s loud by just being different, by resisting gender stereotypes.

But now I’m thinking more and more about the stifled.

Over the past two days, I have read so many stories (still reading!) from those who felt silenced and unheard, and I’ve been blown away.

And I read this from J.R. Goudeau about her Burmese refugee friends:

They have voices. They have a lot to say. They have opinions and values and desires and dreams. And I can’t begin to fathom what those are.

I have no more right to speak for them than anyone has a right to speak for me.

And this from Esther Emery about fixing:

Don’t let me silence you by speaking your story for you. Let me make room for you to tell your own.

And many others who kept weaving voice in because it’s so important in a conversation about feminism.

Because so much of patriarchy is about who has the mic.

And who doesn’t.

It’s such an obvious thing, but so shocking to me all the same.

It makes this bigmouth want to listen, makes her hope she’s not talking over anyone who needs to be heard.

Today’s post is the third and final post as a part of Feminisms Fest, and we’re talking about what we’ve learned from the whole experience. Head over to Preston’s to get the rest of the action. 

But today’s meditation on what it means to have a voice or be voiceless leaves me with a lot of questions: how to advocate, without further drowning out the suppressed? how to make space, so others can build? how to leave our assumptions at the door, and walk offstage if needed? or, is this conversation about ‘voice’ just an abstraction?

I would love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve mused through, and how you’ve reacted to the voice(lessness) theme during #femfest. Let’t talk it out.

feminism & me, whether i knew it or not.

“I am a feminist.”

This, from a short, balding old guy in front of a room of about 150 college kids.

Everyone laughed nervously, the energy in the room saying,

 but you’re a dude, bro.

I’m not even sure how the rest of the lecture proceeded that day, but that first moment has stayed with me all this time. A stir that said, if a man can be a feminist, maybe that word contains multitudes.

My earliest understanding of the word is wrapped up in a strange conflation of bra-burnings, no makeup, penis envy, and some female rockstar pulling out a tampon onstage. Some of these have nothing to do with one another, but basically, any time a woman did something off the wall crazy-sounding, it got reassigned to the brain-file marked “feminist.”

Not a well-educated middle-aged man with a wife and kids wearing tweed in an outdated lecture hall.

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Maybe it was because my connotations with the word “feminist” were so extreme and misguided that it wasn’t until recently I realized that I was one, that maybe I had unconsciously been one for a long time, in a lineage full of powerhouse women.

The marriages in my family to which I have borne witness are ones of equal footing, equal opportunities, flexible roles, teamwork, and mutual support, respect, and grace. Normally gendered issues such as professional ambition and domestic responsibility were never exclusive to one side of the bed. At least, not in my memory.

I had an aunt who was a Boy Scout, a mother with an M.B.A., and a grandmother who decided to start her own wildly successful literacy consulting business after retirement from decades as an educator in southern New Mexico (and still does this kind of thing as a ministry to missionary schools in Central America.) These were also the same women who threw tea parties and baked pies and handmade clothes from nothing. I mean. Eshet chayil.

And the men in my life? Engineers, businessmen, educators, but also nurturers, crafters, criers and cooks, lovers of art, romantic comedies, and musical theater.

Now, there’s more to these stories, and these characterizations are certainly sweeping. I still think most of my family would cringe at this five-syllable F-word, even the ones reading this (hey guys!)

But we are all loudmouthed creators and cultivators, protectors and caregivers. Men and women alike.

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And then there were the prophets and the preachers: high-heeled at the pulpit, with manicured hands to lay. They were beautiful, smart, strong, and spoke with authority.

Because the Spirit moves where the Spirit moves. 

I was taught a fiercely loyal Ruth and a wise Deborah; through the bravery of Esther a nation saved, through the bravery of Mary, a world saved, a multitude reborn.

Because the Spirit moves where the Spirit moves.

There’s a lot of my spiritual past I still have to sort through, even as it relates to women in the Church. It’s not all so tidy, but it does mean that when I approached the rail for the first time to receive the Eucharist, it was the most unconsciously natural thing for there to be a woman with the Body and Blood in her hands, just as a woman held the Body and Blood two thousand years ago.

It means that pursuing Divinity School as a woman didn’t faze me until someone asked me about it.

Likewise, someone had to tell me that the way these pictures of my past informed my present made me a feminist. 

But, a feminist is a woman who does something off-the-wall crazy-sounding, remember?

It took some exposure to realize that for a lot of people, crazy-sounding includes having a voice, sharing rights, owning a business, being an authority on a subject or in a sphere, being an adventurer, standing behind a lecturn or an altar rail.

I guess if advocating for these things makes me a feminist, so be it. Call me crazy.

There’s a lot I’ve left out of this post, and Shaney does an amazing job of covering some of the definition bases I wish I could have. But that’s the beauty of this link-up, eh? We’re creating mosaic of posts over the next few days, so head over to J.R. Goudeau’s space to read what others have said about some of the definitions of feminism.

But now I want to hear from YOU. Is what I’ve said shocking, or not enough? Bring your own definitions and stories, friends. I want to hear them.

the f-bomb synchroblog.

That’s right.

Feminism.

It’s a topic I’ve been dancing around behind the scenes for a while now: behind the scenes because, well, feminism is another f word in my neck of the woods, but for a while because I really have been walking around with feminism in my pockets for years, since before I was aware of it or knew how it intersected with my faith.

So. I am thrilled and terrified to announce that next week, I am joining in the three-day synchroblog cohosted by three amazing bloggers on the subject of feminism.

feminism

Prompts and links:

  • {Day 1} Feminism and Me: On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog, loveiswhatyoudo.com, and write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?
  • {Day 2} Why It Matters: On Wednesday, February 27, link up at Danielle Vermeer’s blog, fromtwotoone.com, and write about these questions: What is at stake in this discussion? Why is feminism important to you? Are you thinking about your children or your sisters or the people that have come before you? Or, why do you not like the term? What are you concerned we’re not focusing on or we’re losing sight of when we talk about feminism? Why do you feel passionately about this topic?
  • {Day 3} What You Learned: On Thursday, February 28, link up at Preston Yancey’s blog, seeprestonblog.com, and write about these questions: What surprised you this week? What did you take away from the discussion? What blog posts did you find particularly helpful? What questions do you still have?

Be sure to read along as well as link up your own posts as they relate to one or all of these topics. It’s going to be big and messy and wonderful, and I can’t wait to see where the conversation leads.

Oh, and use #femfest when you’re talking about it on the Twitters.

So happy Wednesday, and here’s fair warning about the F bombs around here next week.

Cheers!

so i say it humble.

Tomorrow, if you ask me what I have to say as a young person, you might get a different answer.

Today though, I’ll readily admit that most anything I have to share comes from a place of uncertainty.

If you asked, I would tell you that the things I know are few.

[But maybe it’s not really uncertainty after all.]

I might quote my favorite line from that Sleeping at Last song:

“I don’t have all the answers, just a little light to call my own…”

[I even wonder about that line sometimes. Is “light” capitalized? And what does it mean to call it mine?]

I might tell you that this not-knowing is OK, that after all, my faith hinges on a small word that starts with “m.”

And now we proclaim the mystery of faith– Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

[Every Sunday, I say the verbs punchy, like a protest, in the face of everything I see. ]

I would tell you I recite the creed in chorus, knowing that every line that begins with “I believe” does not always mean the same thing as “I understand.”

[I pronounce it week in and week out, so it is in my heart like a catchy song, an earworm I hope I never lose.]

But they are “I believe”s I cup in my hand, stealing peeks between my thumbs whenever I get a chance. Sometimes, they are big enough to swim in.

Besides that, I’m not sure about a lot. I’m not sure why some mamas cannot have the babies they ache for, or why the earth is full of violence. Most days, I don’t know what church is all about or the ways in which the Lord speaks to you or to me. I couldn’t tell you if it is better to be excellent for the sake of Christ or a servant of the least of these. I don’t know exactly how to be a champion of the poor and save the planet, too. I don’t always know what to do with the fact that the word that translates to “steadfast love” in scripture can also mean “rebuke.”

I do not mean that the questions do not have answers, that the Truth is beyond our grasp. I only mean to say that I’m not there yet, that maybe none of us are, and so if I say anything, I hope to say it humble, and I ask you to do the same.

I pray for Grace to bridge the gap, to change my heart and make it one of wisdom. I pray that one day I will have enough gray hairs and good stories to temper these wild wonderings.

So, now and forever, I stand and say the “I believe”s, knowing them to be true.

And I remember the rest of that Sleeping at Last lyric:

“A speck of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.”

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Though this post is perhaps less than what I promised last week, this is the one I count as contribution to my dear friend Preston Yancey’s synchroblog directed to young people.

[However, I may be the only one who cares about the distinction.]

Please, please read the beautiful words others have written, by clicking the image below:

 

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writing young.

It’s kind of a funny story. I meant to sit down and write a post for Preston Yancey’s synchroblog, but somehow I ended up writing about it, around it. Here I share a tiny piece of the mosaic of hangups I have about writing, creating. I share this now, with the promise (eek!) that I will actually answer P’s prompt before the synchroblog ends. 

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She orders an omelette, and I’m not sure whether I should warn her that the restaurant we have come to for this Pulitzer-winning-author-student breakfast is notorious for overdone eggs and slow service. Not only would her meal be mostly brown, but cold, too.

I decide against it. I’m nervous, and there’s no way I’m telling Marilynne Robinson what she should order for breakfast. I’ve already made a fool of myself by bumbling through a conversation about Nicholas of Cusa, making it painfully obvious that I hadn’t finished my class reading for the week. Instead, I had worried about meeting her.

We make some small talk, the group of us, while a row of redundant plain coffee mugs keep watch from a high dusty shelf, far out of reach. Very. Small. Talk. I crack a tired joke about the bustling metropolis of Waco. Someone finally asks something about gendered writing. Oddly, she seems more entertained by the former. It’s really not even a very funny line.

A question that has been forming slowly for months now bubbles to the surface, quietly, while she talks about writing male characters.

I think it began with that creative writing professor, the one that scared me away from composing much of anything for over a year. Almost as if he thought he was at a cocktail party rather than a room full of students, he mused that young writers don’t make anything worth much. He scoffed at the naiveté of those who think otherwise, fiddling with the thick pinky ring on his left hand.

That moment, and his highest praise for a poem I wrote in five minutes about thai noodles, made me question writing anything ever. I still have my doubts about modern poetry as a whole.

And then that day when Mom and I visited that prestigious writing center. I wore a too-trendy, too-tight belt and we got a ticket for parking illegally. The lady from admissions shifted in her seat when she mentioned the age thing.

“While age isn’t necessarily a factor,” she began, “most of our students do come in older. You know, after they’ve had more experience. After they’ve lived some life, you know.”

I was expecting this, I told my mom in the car. She thinks it’s crap. I think some is, but not all. Mostly, I use it as a way to put off creating anything. I’ll just let it all age, like wine, I think. Conveniently, I neglect the fact that the whole thing starts with picking grapes.

Back at the breakfast table, I finally ask my question–Marilynne is a writing teacher, after all. I nearly blurt,

“How would you respond to those who might say that a writer needs to be older? That she needs to, you know, do things first?”

I start to babble.

“But then, I guess there are plenty of great writers who were quite young, like…”

Oh no. Which John is it? Keats? Donne? Keats?

“…John Donne, who wrote everything he did before he died at 25.” Not much older than I am now, I think defeatedly. Somewhere along the line, I think it entered my head that all good artists are freak child prodigies or eighty years old. No in-between.

Marilynne Robinson squints at me a bit. She knows it’s a loaded question for me. I’ve gone on longer than I have transcribed here, and later Wikipedia would tell me that I did get the Johns confused.

Finally, she quiets me by opening her mouth. She’s calm, but also seems confused as to why I’m bothered by my own question. It’s an easy answer.

“If you have a story happening inside you, then tell it. If you have something to say, then say it.”

I lean back in my chair, staring, as if to say, that’s it?

The waiter finally comes by with her omelette, and it looks just right.

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If you have something to say, then say it. Won’t you join in Preston’s space to do just that, young ones?

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the land of enchantment, saving me.

Today I am joining the synchroblog over at Sarah Bessey’s (one of my favorite writers). So I share with you some unedited thoughts on New Mexico, and how it is saving my life right now. (Forgive typos and the rest, I’m on the fly today.)

This sky of azure.

Oh, that sky. The sky that seems painted close enough to touch one moment, then seems utterly unknowable, uncontainable the next. Like, how does it even belong here?

It taught me the same thing about God before I even knew it.

I miss it when I’m gone, like coastal people miss the ocean. I ache for that expanse. And when I’m here, I’m reminded why it’s my oldest thought-picture when I hear the word “glory,” and when Psalm 19 comes up in the lectionary.

And it’s saving me because I feel like I can pray a little more honestly here, and it feels like the peace in that little chapel at St. Paul’s. When I see how wide it is, my heart wants to crack open my chest from the inside out and be wide and open, too.

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And then there’s the turquoise. Everywhere.

It’s painted doorways, it’s the centennial license plate, it’s the murals and the dishes and the shoes and dresses and stones pressed into silver. (Jewelry I have rebelliously chosen to wear before I turn into a vieja.)

It’s another piece of glory, but on a selfish note, it is nice to wear turquoise and a swath of other colors and not be the brightest spot in the room. And I promise I’m not that self conscious about it all the time, but every once in a while, it’s nice to feel a little more in step with everyone else’s drummer.

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And my family, whom New Mexico drew back like a magnet.

They are saving my life and driving me crazy. As it should be. Maybe when I am one hundred years old, I will write exactly how weird we are and all of our functional dysfunction, but for now I will tell you that they are all mine and they were the ones to teach me about unconditional love and sacrifice.

They are loud and hilarious and dramatic and generous and inappropriate and kind.

They sit across from me with their coffee cups and Mexican housedresses and cry when I tell them what’s broken my heart recently. They listen to me babble incoherently about my best friends (who are saving my life all the time), and ask me every question I hadn’t thought of. They laugh at my anecdotes and press a hand to heart when I’m done, saying softly, “I’m so glad you have them.”

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And then there is right now, with my gluten-free muffin and cup of coffee, framed against another turquoise wall, marigolds stark against those big blue heavens, patchouli and piñon always in the air.

This is saving my life right now.