an Easter[tide] post.

This.

This is when we glory, when we shout our ALLELUIAS.

This is when we turn the lilt of our voices up to cry out,

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

indeed.

This is when we raise our glasses to the already-and-not-yet

of all the sad things becoming untrue—

the curtain torn now,

the anticipation of the life to come where

every moment shall be a toast:

we will sing with angels and archangels

and with all the company of heaven

Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD…

This is the True essence of which Lent shadowed.

This is when it is right to, yes, force the joy for 50 days,

just as we forced ourselves to sit

in silence and stillness and hunger,

to trudge in the wilderness and dark doubt.

Now we dance and dance and dance

until we are almost dizzy  with our shouts:

THANKS BE TO GOD.

[even {especially} If it is a cold and broken one, practice

saying the alleluia to yourself, to people you trust

and maybe even those who don’t know you.

yes, there are wounds and burial cloths, but

this is where we hobble first steps again, love,

out of our tombs, this is where we invite our

neighbors to touch our healing scars.

this might be when it matters most, counts most

in the currency of grace—when our hearts are still

out in the cold dark of the night: alleluia. alleluia.]

This is when we Practice Resurrection most of all.

This is when we wear bright lipstick like grace and

bake to give away out of our abundant hearts.

This is where the cross is traded for an empty tomb.

This, when a woman—let us feel the gasp—is the first

to cry out Resurrection and we find the new world

of the Risen Lord to be the upside-down-rightside-up

grace of the Kingdom beginning to be beginning,

fulfilled in the life to come. Already and not yet.

This is where we walk with God in the Garden again,

now and forever, Amen. This is it—

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

[He is risen indeed!]

Christ will come again.

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.

——–

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.

———

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.”

——–

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.

a phone call, the cupcakes, & something about grace.

She answers the phone as I’m clumsily pulling out the muffin tin from the oven. I’m not very good at this anyway, and my injured hand makes my movements even more awkward than usual. So, it takes me a moment to discover the safe way of juggling phone, tin, and mitt as I’m standing in my giraffe-print swimsuit in a tiny kitchen with zero counter space, and I’ve forgotten why I’ve called my mother to begin with.

“Oh! Right. So I’m making the cupcake version of the “Best Ever Chocolate Cake” from that one cookbook, Mom.” [Apparently, other people refer to it as “Texas Sheet Cake,” but I grew up simply calling it my birthday cake, because that is when I requested it, and that is when my mother conceded to making anything with that much butter and that much confectioner’s sugar.]

“Anyway,” I begin as I try to swallow my missing her, “I just realized that you’re not here to drink the rest of the buttermilk.”

I hate buttermilk. She knows this. She tells me to make homemade ranch dressing, because “that’s how they used to make it, you know,” and then hands the phone to my grandmother as she handles a potato salad crisis. It’s Independence Day, after all. I explain the buttermilk thing to my grandmother, who advises me to make homemade ranch dressing, because,

“…that’s how they used to make it, I know,” I laugh. I spread the rich, nutty mixture atop each cupcake as we talk about the party they’re throwing and our family’s inability to keep anything just red, white, and blue. We talk church and desert, friends and blessing. Eventually, the frosting sets, and they have guests to greet.

I climb the stairs to my bedroom, triumphant with my cupcake and glass of milk, not caring much if crumbs get in the bed as I eat there. What I am not so prepared for is the total sensory rush of the past, of feeling so much like a child as I take the first bite. It’s a recipe that I’ve only made myself once before and I am suddenly alone and very small and lost.

And I’m almost instantly angry.

I’m furious that this is the dozenth time this week that I have felt this way, that it’s cupcakes and bill paying and can openers and grocery shopping and mail keys and gas caps that make me want to scream whatamIdoing and hope to heaven that I’m in the right place. I’m mad that I just cannot seem to cope with the change of the past few months, that I am just not yet fully at peace with the diaspora of my friends and family.

Why can’t I get over all this? I say into my pillow, half-eaten cupcake now abandoned on the nightstand.

And I feel foolish for wanting to lay this before Him, for somehow thinking I can align my passing angst with the psalmist’s “deliver me, O God.” I turned away from the image of a personalized Jesus, right? From a Holy Spirit who only consoled and never corrected, from a Father whose love always looked like what I wanted.

And I have fallen into a tradition of faith (at least for now) that beautifully pushes me out of the way—ordered worship in pursuit of ordered love. No room for me and all my fickleness.

Despite my protests He said, in grace, as I lie there with batter and frosting and powdered sugar all over me—yes, even here, even now.

As in, even here, He meets me, even now, He knows. Yes, He is Other, beyond. But He is also “closer than my skin” (a lyric I will always love). Both center and circumference, and everywhere in-between.

I wonder if this is something I will ever stop learning. Sometimes it is easier to remember in instants when the veil is very thin between here and glory, when He is known in raindrops, in chords, in hue.

“The Divine in the mundane,” we can say. Somehow more near in all that Beauty.

But what about the mundane of the mundane? If He is God of the small moments, then surely it must be all the moments. Even the parts that do not feel like gift, the frustrations and the melancholy, the somewhat silly parts that I don’t want to call sacramental. The parts that make me angry at myself.

My struggle now is admitting them enough to meet Him there. To sigh that yes, these little things are my undoing, to hold them up to the Light and see what can be done.

And maybe that is where I will start to be remade, again and again, in Grace.

a wedding and a funeral.

It’s Saturday, and I’m up early before I’m due at the Earle Harrison House in Waco to rehearse the wedding ceremony of my dear friend Jenni and her groom, Colten. The coffee brews, and I’m overwhelmed by the weight of glory in this day, one to celebrate two lives and their union, to stand with friends at an outdoor altar and bear witness to such beauty. I consider the loyalty and love of us sitting together during hard months, of sticking it out through different paths. I weep joyfully, I pray over their life together as the morning sun makes its way through the blinds.

Sunday morning Caroline and I sit in the quiet of my newly decorated house. We are recovering from the happy exhaustion of the day before, hearts still full with congratulations and soul-stirring poolside conversations lasting deep into the night. We talk church and journey, Caroline mentions Kant and I roll my eyes and shrug, as I always do when the graduates from my program go somewhere intellectually where I can’t follow. Preston calls. He doesn’t know I don’t know yet.

Monday, I tell my mom the news–that a beloved professor has died from the same cancer my father battled in 2006. I weep as I walk into campus for work, hoping my sunglasses will keep me decent. I cry because of the mark she impressed on me in my small time of knowing her, for the grace and beauty of her life, for the untimeliness of her death, for the young family that survives her, for the drawn and sad faces of her colleagues, for the cruelty of cancer, for the brokenness of this world, the gash in the fabric that sends the melody askew. It seems I cry for three days straight.

On Wednesday morning, I make my way into a little baptist church that was not made to fit this many friends and strangers, and certainly not this much grief. We remember her. We sing of the life we have in Christ, of future glory, of life everlasting.

Everything is gift, she said that day in class, palm held upward, eyes searching around the table, everything is gift.

The ones who speak address my professor’s widowed husband, and I think of another wedding day, one I did not attend. I think of the one I just stood in (only four days ago?), imprints of soulful embraces and celebration still fresh. And I know that one informs the other, that marriage describes again and again the sort of holy union we will one day share with our Creator and Lord, and every tear will be wiped away.

Maybe it’s too easy of an answer, a cheap eschatological bandage against a present, bleeding wound. In my moments of hurt and anger, my heart pricks at how throwaway this sounds, however true. In both the light of day and shadow of night, the unabstracted tragedy catches the words in my throat.

But if it is a simple answer, it is a difficult practice. To live in light of the Resurrection, with a hope both for the present and the future, requires a courage that I am not always sure I contain, a shield of faith I do not always hold well.

It strikes me suddenly, that both my friend and my teacher have, in their own ways, shown me how to live in such a manner, to do that very thing I feel I cannot do.

And so in this moment, though all is not reconciled and the tears are streaming, I am grateful for the communion of the saints, and the life of the world to come.

but then, it is easy.

I will admit to you that some days, I cannot do it.

Praise or pray, read or be read.

Sometimes, it’s the chaos, I say, the busy.

But then, it’s the hush, the kind that isn’t peace.

It is both lists and listlessness, clamor and quiet

          that keep my heart far.

It is not even tragedy or untimely loss that shake me,

          it is shell-pink soup ladles and pendants found in drawers that are my undoing–

           closed throat and caved collarbone.

But then in sudden and strange moments of grace, it is easy.

Tonight, with the swelling storm and the rain that is saying everything I feel,

falling, falling, falling,

         it is easy.

It is easy to sit out here, lightning and all,

with a second-hand prayer book and a brand-new Bible,

          to abide.

It is easy to take in Scripture with a raw and grateful heart,

to want to read it fast and slow all at once,

          and not just because it is good medicine.

It is easy to read a psalm about how great His works are—

          and mean it,

about His majesty—

         and know it like I know my name.

It is easy, on this night, when the frog surprises me on the back porch,

to tell him that he is God’s glory,

          and ask isn’t he so glad to be a part of it?

He looks back at me, wide-eyed but suspicious, and I can’t tell if he thinks I’ve lost it,

          or if I’m telling him a secret he already knows.

Either way, he hops on into the darkness, into the rain.