what i’m into, December.

OK, so I only did the last what I’m into hosted by the great Leigh Kramer a few posts ago–December’s been a bit bare around here. But I couldn’t pass up a chance to share the happenings and loves from this month: it’s been pretty full!

music:

  • a new song from David Ramirez. He breezes through Waco every once in a while, and I love getting to see him live. 
  • I pretty much just add on to old playlists as a listening habit. But here are the songs I added to last month’s playlist. Enjoy. 

books:

  • still working on Acedia & Me. I find that I get my best reading done on planes…and I haven’t done as much traveling as last month. Still loving it, though!
  • I love a good YA. My bedtime read has been The Thief  by Megan Whalen Turner on my iPad. Apparently it’s part of a series, under a slightly different name. I like Turner’s prose a lot, as well as her charming boy-protagonist.

blogposts:

TV:

  • my only addition from last month is Monarchy with David Starkey. Because this is the kind of thing we watch in the post-gift-opening haze. 
  • [but OMG 30Rock was ON FIRE THIS MONTH.]
  • and ok I’ll admit to a Kyle XY ep. Fine.
  • and I’ll also admit that I’ve stopped watching New Girl religiously. I’m just kinda over it.

things to wear:

  •  this month’s lipstick: Revlon ColorStay Overtime in Nonstop Cherry. I mean. This is serious. stuff. They’re not kidding when they say 16 hours. So make sure you want it on for at least that long!
  • I’ve got this freaking amazing chunky purple sweater-cardigan-thingy that I wear all the time. It’s turning into something of a security blanket.
  • …when I’m not wearing my chambray.
  • and I mean, scarves again. My sister gave me one like this for Christmas, and I’m obsessed.

moments:

  • lovely times with the Epsicopal Student Center in Waco, including the start of Advent party. I’m not technically a student, but they’ve accepted me anyway!
  • The Croft Gallery’s show displaying all the artists who rent studio space there, including my lovely and good friend Erica Wickett. She’s a big deal, guys.
  • a number of get-together’s at Lula Jane’s. Fellow lady-barista dates, longtime friends, new priests, quick catchups… it has been a month full of good conversations and yummy things to eat. 

    knitting with Mags. love.

  • one of my favorite humans ever came to visit Waco a few weeks ago: the indescribable Blake Trimble. He is probably the least likely person to read this post, but there’s a good chance you already know him. No? I’m surprised. He makes friends and creates a ridiculous amount of joy wherever he goes–good for a laugh and a great conversation, guaranteed. If I could just find a way to make him stay in Bear Country…
  • The Common Grounds staff Christmas party. There was much dancing and fancying to be had. And time for my soon-to-be-vacating-the-country friend Katherine to take this favorite picture of Erica and me:

photo cred: Katherine Walker. [Don’t go to France.]

  • got to see Jenni graduate! Wedding, graduation… 2012 has been a big year for this girl, and I’m glad I was there for both!

Erica and Jenni on one of our lunches. I have great friends.

  • I had the chance to catch up with my fearless leaders from my days as a Community Leader (or RA, pick your poison) in the freshman girls’ hall, North Russell. Lisa, Leslie, and Jamie played a huge part in my life as a college student, and I hope to hang onto them as friends for a good while longer.
  • scheming scheming scheming super-secret exciting things.
  • And hey, did you know Preston’s back on this continent? Like, not an ocean away?
  • my post entitled ‘to the girl who wants a boy for Christmas‘ was my most-read post ever. [go figure.]  I loved getting to hear from people who read, and talk about it with people in real life, too.
  • in case you didn’t know, my mom is serving in her first teaching position since 2009. I was able to come to New Mexico early to join her third-grade Christmas party. I wept for a number of reasons that day. There was the grief of being in an elementary school so soon after Sandy Hook; there was the incredible joy of watching my mother truly in her element, with a ragtag classfull of hilarious kids who clearly adore her. All day pondering gift given, gift lived. It’s a day I will remember for a long time.

    She’s just magic, ya’ll.

  • oh, you know, Christmas. My grandmother’s cousin and her family came to visit from California, and there was much laughter and loud and food to be had. This is a part of the family I have only really come to know in recent years, and I’ve treasured every moment with them. And did you know we routinely have four Christmas trees? And, um, 200+  Nativities/Creches from all over the world…displayed year round? yup. That’s us. Perhaps my favorite Christmas tradition is a strong one in New Mexico: Luminarias. The idea is that you light candles in simple brown sacks weighted  with sand to light the way of the traveling Holy Family on Christmas eve, to beckon the Christchild into your home, your life.

    The pictures are never much. In person, with no other lights but the stars, it’s breathtaking.

  • Les Miserables. Just go see it. Right now.
  • making this cranberry-orange-pecan coffee cake from Joy the Baker. I mean.
  • And TODAY my longtime friend Alia turns a whopping 23…AND is zipping over to NM for a visit! Let the wild rumpus start!

what I wish I was into:

  • actually finishing this Duke Divinity application. As you can see, December has been quite full, even my work schedule aside.
  • actually slowing down enough for Advent.
  • actually knowing how to observe the 12 days of Christmas.
  • eating like, veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I love all this New Mexican cuisine [pass the tamales!] but my body is tired of it.
  • actually finishing any book lately.
  • pulling myself away from twitter.
  • keeping my crass, snooty mouth shut. when it needs to be.

what were you into this December? No, really. Tell me in the comments. Or link a post of your own!

 

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh
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to the girl who wants a boy for Christmas.

Oh, honey.

Let’s sit awhile. I’ll put on a pot for tea.

I know, I’m more of a coffee girl, too, but I think tea has something to teach us here, about this, right now–teaches us to steep, to bleed into the quiet peace of waiting. Coffee–how I love it!–is the violent caffeinated cacophony of force, and we need a little less of that for the moment. Tea it is.

I’ll cut you a fat piece of orange-cranberry-pecan bread, and between bites I’ll tell you I think next time I’ll ditch the crumble for the glaze and that I’ve been single for a lifetime.

For my whole life. All that time.

You’re startled that I’ve blurted this, but that’s how I do things. If we’re to be friends, you should know that. I’ll try to skip past the whys of self-deprecation; I’ll spare you the bad joke about being a tall order in short stature.

OK. Maybe I won’t skip all that, because maybe you need someone to squeeze your hand a little and admit that it’s hard sometimes, that yes, hurt is there.

Because it is hard being the excited friend all the time, feeling all sidelineish. You’re scared to admit that the fact that you are genuinely ridiculously overjoyed to get save-the-dates in the mail and to wedding-scheme with your friends and to walk before them down the aisle almost makes the way out a little more tricky.

If you found bitterness to wrap yourself in, or to paint over your skin (layer after layer of brittle, impermeable shell), eventually it would crack and I think you would have to deal with that pink exposed flesh all at once. BAM. No other way.

But here, where the joy is real? It’s lonely and it’s wonderful all at once.

And maybe if it was later in the evening, with wine instead of tea, I would look away and admit that there have been plenty of why not mes accompanied with my own composition of answers.

I’m telling you this so you know I get it. I do.

I understand that you want to be loved like that.

I understand that you have so much to give. That you want to love like that.

I understand that marriage is one big eschatological metaphor for union with the One who made us, in Whom we have our being, and you kindof want in on that.

I also understand that sometimes you really just want someone to kiss.

But honey. Dearest daughter.

It cannot be all you live for.

It cannot be the only thing you dream of.

You might not even think that is how you do things, so look again while you press your thumb into bits of that crumb topping in question. Examine the way you’ve planned in secret, the imagined wedding date you’ve charted the rest of your life around.

The I’ll-be-married-by-thens and the not-married-untils.

Because here is something hard: that boy of your dreams is no guarantee, and not on any timeline of yours.

We think the falsehood of the prosperity gospel is just about the nice cars and big houses, but it goes deeper still to hot wives and guitar-playing husbands to make us whole, and perfect life plans to give us purpose.

[Here’s something risky: marriage is not the only happy ending, the ultimate eucatastrophe.]

And I want it to be clear that I am not telling you this so you’ll be content dating Jesus or becoming marry-able and-then-he-will-give-you-the-desires-of-your-heart. While sometimes blessing comes just when we’re not hunting it down, I’m not so sure he’s a God of reverse psychology and rhetorical questions. It is not a cosmic dating formula or trick.

We are to be faithful because of who He is, because He’s worth all of it [whether we feel it or not], not to get what we want.

There is a God to know now, and we will participate in that eschatological metaphor whether there’s a ring on our finger or not, when it is more than comparison.

There are people to love now, to listen to, people to clothe, to care for, to feed.

There are even lepers to kiss.

[They are both your dearest friends and total strangers, both next-door neighbors and brothers and sisters across the sea.]

There are cups to pour, hands to get dirty and to hold. Another loaf of bread to bake.

And we circle back round here again, don’t we, love?

It is all grace anyway, the giving and the gift–grace, grace, grace.

We ask, and He always gives.

And gives.

Sometimes now, sometimes later. Sometimes the same, sometimes something different.

But always more.

filled with naming.

“I fill you with Naming.

Be!”

A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle

Jenni’s wedding day. This was right before we made dino noises.

————

Freshman year, when we were roommates-but-not-roommates, and you would stay through the wee hours to hide or study or just be or listen to me sleeptalk about bubble-guns. And then when I was really, finally sleeping, you would turn out the light and whisper,

Goodnight, Kiddo.

I helped lead the way down the aisle for you this summer, and all I could hear was the love reverb you stacked inside that word with each barefoot step I took: kiddo, kiddo, kiddo. 

Three months into your marriage, and five months into my middling “real life” we cozied up in your big chair and talked big-girl budget while my laundry spun. I sink my head in your shoulder, thanking you for being my Waco-mom.  Any time, kiddo, you say.

This time and care and giving means more to me than you know.

——-

Goofy, awkward affection.

My mouth is moving faster than anything, faster than my heart, faster than my brain can weave these words together. You know this is not how it normally goes; when it matters, I feel the need to edit and sketch them in the air in front of me, so I can cut, paste, and patchwork to tell you what I really mean.

You listen well, always wide-eyed, and graciously take another loop around campus because you know I need the time.

Or maybe I’m just telling you about my debilitating awkwardness seizure du jour, because you might know better than anyone that for me they are really real, and that the ones I don’t tweet about make me want to hide under the covers with a kitten.

I could also be curled up on your bed, close to tears about what feels like the latest disaster, and I know it hurts you, too. You want to protect, and be angry with me, for me.

Oh, Little One,

you say through it all, again and again, reaching into the heart of things, and speak the truth about myself that I refuse to see. Over and over the same tears. Little One, like a balm, to make me feel the right kind of small.

——

high school speech meet.

Joon.

This one you had to teach me years ago, dear one, along with giggled foreign curse words long before we would dream of daring our own. But it found its way into our friendship early, and stays with us still. Joonam: my dear, my heart, my life.

[I think you told me once it can even mean my liver. We probably laughed loud and long over it.]

Eighth grade pep rally. Yikes.

It’s steeped in time. I said it at fourteen–hair wild, braces clinking, locker next to yours.

I said it at eighteen–mortarboard askew, loud and always close to reprimand, prankster marble in hand to trade for a diploma.

I say it now at twenty-two–hair still wild but wrangled, smoke settling into my shirt as we juggle sticky s’mores, your hipster beer, and sadly separate lives.

It’s the kind of thing you say in a family, to those you hold close to you one minute and ask to set the table the next. It’s the kind of thing you say to someone who gets it already, whose presence is like that go-to broken-in well-worn whatever. There’s only just enough explaining.

I think these days we use it most in greeting, like an acknowledgement of the setting: joon, my dear, who knows my heart and my life so well.

——-

“To be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love…To name is to love. To be named is to be loved.” –Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

I read this in reflection and ponder the names–gathered not only as treasure to hold, but as lexicon, as a vocabulary of love to hand out again and again.

Kiddo. Little One. Joon.

because sometimes joy is a fight.

It’s an old Sunday-school lesson on joy– maybe you’ve heard it.

I think it goes something like,

Happiness is a changing emotion that is dependent on circumstances; alternatively, joy is both a wellspring and a fruit of the Spirit, a state that is a byproduct of the love of Christ. We are to have joy instead of happiness, so that we may be rooted in it, despite our present condition.

And I think mostly, in the bare bones, this are fine, maybe even good definitions. I often wonder if the feeling, the sensation of joy versus happiness can be described. [Unfortunately, I think I could do this better with different kinds of sadness.] And I have questions about what it means to simply “have joy.” Somehow, to my mind, this is in the same category of oddity as when a photographer instructs you to “be candid.” I’m not really sure it works that way.

And sometimes, joy feels like a fight.

For one reason or another–and some days perhaps even no tangible reason at all–for me, this joy thing doesn’t always feel so natural, so automatic. Sometimes it’s a season or a day, sometimes in the throes of an empathy crisis or just in the spiraling weight of self.

It came into focus towards the end of the first hymn on Sunday, one I hadn’t been really paying attention to, one whose rhythm wasn’t in step with my emotions of the morning.

Suddenly, sharp and clear:

Still lift your standard high,
still march in firm array,
as warriors through the darkness toil,
till dawns the golden day.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.

As warriors through the darkness toil: Rejoice!

Here and elsewhere in the song, rejoice is both a banner and the battle, both the means and the ends. It is toil, it is marching. It is not always easy and all-of-a-sudden.

It’s a battle cry.

What’s more is the twofold meaning of the word rejoice. The first, that we may know better, is an expression of something that already is, in some way. an outpouring of an emotion we already have.

But the other, old meaning is to bring joy to. In gift, in cultivation, in the fight–to bring joy to places where there seems to be none, even if it is my own core.

Re-joy, if you’ll forgive the terribly crude wordplay.

I’ll admit that it’s still hard to know where to begin. What are my implements in this fight against a settled darkness, against anxiety, against a whirlwind of sorrows?

I’m not entirely sure. For me, right now, I think it might be in returning to those things that gave me joy once before (the stones I stood on firmly), in counting the gifts, in talking it over with people I trust to sit with me when I need to just sit, in realizing that the fight itself is worth it.

And maybe even just asking, asking the One who can rejoice my heart.

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joining, again, with Life: Unmasked. Won’t you read along?

Life: Unmasked

life, unmasked: i am the older brother.

Last Thursday, I linked up with Sarah Bessey’s brilliant synchroblog, and wrote about what is saving my life right now. Or right then, rather. That week, it was New Mexico–everything from the earth to the sky and back again.

You know what else saved my life that week, later that very day?

My mom got a job. 

She’s been waiting, my family has been waiting, a cloud of beautiful witnesses we have filled our lives with has been waiting for three years.

[And here’s a little more about that story, if you’re interested.]

But can I tell you something else first?

Even with all the blessing, even with the open hand that has been this week, I have been the other brother.

You know the guy I mean– the older one in the parable, the one who cannot share in the joy when grace is extended to his prodigal sibling.

One of my favorite paintings. Rembrandt captures the moment of reconciliation between the prodigal son and his father, but also chooses to include the brother (on the right) in this particular scene. Notice the elder’s placement in the frame, his posture, his face.

There is a feast, a fatted calf, but the older brother cannot bring himself to come to the table. It is a grace too extravagant, it is just too much.

He doesn’t deserve it, the older one silently muses, positioning himself on a higher plane, as he imagines himself superior. He cannot bridge that space.

And that has been me this week, in more ways than one.

I have looked on the triumphs of others and begrudged, I have looked on these my own extravagant graces and named them burdens. 

I have chosen cynicism and unforgiveness.

I have clenched my grip on possessions this week, like a toddler yelling mine.

I have conveniently forgotten that I don’t deserve it, and none of it is really mine to hold.

I have not looked on with joy, and so I robbed my own.

And sure, these things are both the property of my fallenness and the condition of the broken world on any given day. The particular ugliness of my heart isn’t all that special.

But what of the long-awaited blessing, the miracle we began with, the grace of it all, so imminent?

It is all that darkness curled up with that much light that makes it hard to breathe.

Life: Unmasked

for the fellas [a certain two].

I fumble my way out of bed, resisting my body’s reminder that last night was a late one, replete with stories and laughter and mild abuses. But the truth is that finding these guys in the big, airy house takes priority over another minute of shut-eye. A half-hour later, and one is sitting across from me, balancing the morning’s scripture and coffee in the same lap, while the other takes the piano with force, filling the place with music, like it’s the most natural thing to do.

And I’m quickly overwhelmed by these gifts, these boys I cherish.

And I really mean “boys” in the most endearing of ways, for they are men. These two are fiercely loyal, abundantly generous, punch-in-your-gut wise. They tell the hard stories, they seek to protect, they cultivate, they create. They wrestle with Truth, pursue Goodness, and treasure Beauty. They love, and love well.

We are the most likely to make a scene anywhere—museum, grocery, coffeeshop, bookstore. We easily dance between music and theology and running shorts, circling back often to grace.

From them, I learn that chasing big dreams can be a sort of faithfulness. I learn that God constantly surprises us, that He is making all things new, that He weaves and shapes and bends and speaks. Here. Now.

They have shown me how to cut lemons and how to make the sign of the Cross, how to ask for help and how to fall in love.  They give me the tough answers, nudging and nodding. They hear what I am really saying, when I don’t even know what that is. They teach me how to walk with questions, how to loosen my grip on things that are not mine to hold forever.

They see me when I do not want to be seen, they speak words that build.

And, well, they are just as likely to tease me for being a girl or photo-bomb my twitter—some kind of twentysomething version of tugging on a ponytail, as brothers are likely to do.

I love them still, even though I often do not know how, even though my words are failing me.

But I know that now, in the brief repose of Jerry’s playing, as he reaches for his coffee and Preston underlines another verse, that my only response is to offer feeble thanks and praise. For the beauty of this friendship that undoubtedly seems odd from the outside, for this strange and undeserved grace I have been given, for this love that often looks like hair-pulling.

————————-

dudebros. [stolen from Preston.]

color, cacophony, communion.

My colors are loud today.

At least, they seem so in the quiet of the chapel bathed in neutrals. In here, there is no stained glass to add to the banter, to wash everyone else in jewel tones, too.

I’ve already wiped off my coral lipstick as I made my way through the church. It’s the kind thing to do with a shared Cup, I think. But I cannot subdue the turquoise shoes, the canary clutch wallet. And then there’s the siren of a neon-orange manicure that I cannot hide as I pass the peace, or cup one palm in the other, waiting for bread.

And to think, I was just giving eucharisteo thanks for all those tones and shades.

Now, here, they are blaring. And I am being arrogantly self-conscious about it, but it feels like a sign of something else. I know I should instead drink in the grace in Amma Jo’s eyes as she meets mine, beginning in perfect meter, “the Body of Christ…” I know I should instead soak in our peace-passing as it become onomatopoeic, our soft “c’s” brushing against each other’s faces and echoing in this little place.

But I am tired of feeling loud and new and out of rhythm here. I want to skip all the steps of learning how to be in a place and with a people, how to “do” church. I am not willing to see the little things as they come as beginnings. I want the house to be built, but I do not want to build it. And mostly, I do not want to admit the fear.

I am impatient.

And here, at this midweek service, I am waiting for Eucharist to not only be communion with Him in mystery and beauty, but also an enactment of Faith and Life in community, unabstracted. I want to know names and stories, to know for whom this Body breaks, for whom this Blood pours out.

And really,  if I’m honest, I’m the one who wants to be known—well, at least by a different name than the girl with coral lipstick on the back of her hand. 

————

————

two links about communion that are worth clicking:

* Holly Ordway’s wonderful podcast, weaving in truth and beauty of her own: “The Gift of Love: the Eucharist in Poetry by Malcolm Guite and George Herbert.”

and

* “Bread and Wine” by Josh Garrels, new to me. 

Life: Unmasked