the leaving.

“Burn it all.”

That’s what I keep saying to people. Burn all of it. I’ll leave tomorrow with the clothes on my back and the books in my car if it means I don’t have to decide anything about another possession again. But I guess tomorrow is closer than I think even though I’ve been saying that for months. My Waco-days are dwindling– I count about seven left across the next few weeks of traveling.

I hate packing.

I hate that I have accumulated so much stuff, brought on by my distraction of being, but mostly I hate that I am faced with it. That I am faced with the leaving at all. That I have more worthless things than icons of the ones that really matter. 

And I hate that I cannot remember the exact thing the prof said in class that day–

Getting rid of all your crap doesn’t mean anything unless you are willing to do something about the shit that encrusts your heart.

Something like that. I really don’t know where to start with either.

I am angry that I am stuffing in another scarf and not one more hurried-but-sweet friend-lunch between classes, or folding another damn V-neck T-shirt and not a thousand heart-talks passed over our cups as the sprinkles melt into the ice cream. I’m packing books I should have read this summer, and dates I should have made with people I love along with them. The books I can read later. The rest I am unsure of. Do I make long-distance promises to people I forgot to call when they were down the street? The question itself breaks my heart.

And then there’s the muscle memory to release, the ten thousand past selves playing scenes over and over in that one coffeeshop, in that one corner of campus I swore I’d never forget, in that one tree that accosts me even though I made it no such vow.

I know I am not the only one to have ever left a place I really love, but God, it’s the first time I’ve had to.

—————————————————————–

About a year ago, I bought a library stamp for all my books. It seemed very important at the time to do this, to not only mark possession, but also place in the sum of parts. Somehow the composite collection was to make a sort of home. It seems pathetic at the end of the day, because it’s just a little front of control, I suppose. In truth, those books are ultimately not a monument to the information I have accumulated, but to the transformation that they offered. They mark the distance from one point to the next. They are almost as good as diaries.

But still, I find myself wanting to take another library, of memories, to take with me, to stamp my name in them. Maybe then I won’t lose them. And even if I do, at least the person who finds them will know to return them to me.

With every stamp, I yell, “MINE,” like the child.

—————————————————————–

I grew up with only one recurring dream (if you don’t count the ocean-of-cats motif that somehow found its way into other nightmares).

I am on a field trip, and considering I was homeschooled for a long while, it’s a mystery as to how the images of a farmyard full of children and a yellow school bus with cracking plastic seats so vividly play out in my sleep. I am so happy to be at the farm (this is a true part– I will never remember my grandfather without thinking of sheep and cows). We laugh at the squealy pigs, we name them. We feed the goats.

But the chickens enrapture me. There are scads of newly hatched chicks, so fluffy you could die, and so when no one is looking, I stuff one into my jeans. 

I want the farm to be with me forever.

Somehow, I make it all the way back to the bus and halfway home with the chick undetected. I finally decide to release the little thing once I decide the bus has gone past the point of no return, and suddenly realize that I have instead.

I find the chick to be crushed and suffocated in my pocket.

And then I’d wake up.

I think that’s what I’m most afraid of. The leaving is hard, but I am more afraid of holding what I love most too closely, and that it will all die because of it.

I am afraid you will find me months from now sitting on a dirt road, with muck in my hair and mangled treasured things between all my fingers.

such strange things [over at Deeper Church].

ImageToday at A Deeper Church, I’m doing something I haven’t done much of on the internet, not even around these parts, though I admit to doing it obliquely.

I’m talking about speaking in tongues and the like, about my past that others call pentecostal though that’s a name I learned much later–we only ever said charismatic, or Spirit-filled.

I’m only giving a snippet of story about something that is far more complicated than I could do in a much longer post, or even a series of them–so I’ll admit to you I’m nervous about it all.

I’m learning that there is still much of this to sort through.

Will you join me at A Deeper Church, with my fragmented tale?

Today, though, it’s the Holy Spirit who comes with fire, who descends like the wind of creation. Today, we plan to read the Gospel simultaneously aloud, in different languages, though no tongues dance above our heads.

It’s lovely and odd when the time comes, with a handful of myriad tongues loose with scripture, disparate paces making swells and lulls with an underlying hum, just like the cicadas that will take this place by force in the heat of the coming months.

When the last language stops speaking and we’ve bookended our reading with the bolded proclamation, Praise to you, Lord Christ, I look down to realize that I’ve been clenching the edge of the picnic table the entire time, the grooves leaving marks of anxiety in my fingers.

I’d love to talk through some of this with you.

to you on the brink of things [a handwritten exhortation.]

Today, another handwritten post, written to a past version of myself, perhaps. [Perhaps to a future one as well.]

Some of this is particular to, say, a graduating senior, but I hope you find something for yourself here, too.

I suspect this might go better for you if you click through each image.

————————————————————————————————————————

page 1

page 2

—————————————————————————————————-

this online thing [or why i am still here, with you].

We spread a leopard-print blanket across the table for the still-life art project Erica will teach the kids from the local mission later that afternoon. She asks me about the pinched forehead, what is wrong.

Oh, the internet, I say, dropping buzzwords from Impromptu Sex Week and the Superbowl Beyoncé Flare-up and so on. I’m not explaining well, I’m fumbling and frustrated and can’t decide how I feel about anything. My gut-reactions don’t translate to formulated thoughts until much later and sometimes I want the noise, inside and outside, to just stop.

You know, you don’t have to do this, she says, her eyes all honesty and looking to the deep like always.

The afternoon sun flecks through high windows above a wall with hand-me-down paint onto hand-me-down chairs that sit in this room that was handed down to Erica to make a bit of beauty and a bit of difference in a city whose poverty and violence is downright ugly and shocking. The context of her words isn’t lost on me.

I am standing in the middle of as-real-as-it-gets Waco, talking about what to most is only a virtual reality.

And I know what she means, at the heart of it–there is a danger in spending your life and love online completely. And maybe there is a temptation to construct an online reading and writing life as a venue to simply “make a lovely little speech to yourself,” as a beloved professor once quoted.

This I understand, struggle with some days. Do I talk a good talk and trample my neighbor? If I debate and spin poetry and retweet and  and have not love, caritas, agape, the kind of love that acts and habits and moves and shakes: sharing blessedness and wills the Good to my neighbor (both on- and offline), then I am only a gong or a cymbal; I am nothing, I gain nothing.

You don’t have to do this.

This online thing. I know.

—————————————————————–

But I do.

Because first of all, this isn’t virtual reality, a veneer, pontificating. The stuff I read and the stuff I hope to be writing is the stuff that composes your real life and mine, and it matters.

It matters.

Feminism, spiritual practices, abuse, relationships, parenting, growing up, sexual ethics, justice, racism, prayer and all of it. All of it affects and informs the way I live and love in that caritasagape way. It is the perhaps the matter itself of that living and loving.

Because here is another beautiful and difficult thing about this online business:

we come with our bad and good rhetoric as well as our bad and good stories;

with our tempers and with our grace;

with our education and experience and sometimes without it;

with numbered lists and paragraphs and randomly bolded words;

we come with our best theology and our deepest hang-ups;

with our passion and with our reason;

with typos and flare-ups and words we didn’t mean;

with a dash of sacred profanity and the temptation to make the sacred profane;

with our heresy and our holiness;

with our arbitrary semi-colons and run-on sentences like this one.

It’s kindof a mess but isn’t that how life is?

So that means it takes a bit of bravery to navigate these waters at times for one reason or another, and I’m not the only one who thinks about giving it up sometimes. But I guess I’ll just say I’m not altogether afraid to get my heart a little too involved with my patience, my prayers, my compass and the stars to guide me.

Because like I said, these things matter, and with the humility, tenderness, care, and whole-hearted truth-seeking I have witnessed in my blogroll, I think these things can matter and manifest in a holy and faithful way, to lead us to the good work that needs to be done.

On- and offline.

I’ve seen a bit of magic and a lot of Church here, and I want to join the effort to pass the peace with the person sitting in this pixelated pew with me.

—————————————————————–

when it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.

–Beasts of the Southern Wild

The rest of the story is that I keep reading you people because there’s a whole mess of URLs  undeniably threaded into this growth-history and future of mine and a big part of why I brush my teeth every morning next to the same God.

[and sometimes, every once in a while, online friends are real friends, too.]

So, cheers, Deeper Story and Prodigal and She Loves and Sarah and Suzannah and Micha and Rachel and Emily M. and Emily W. and Joy  and Alise and Alece and Nish and Dianna and Leigh and Seth and Amber and Hilary  and Margaret and Annie and Amy and Elora  and Addie and Elizabeth and Alyssa and Shaney and Kiefer and of course Preston and the other lovely, ragged, brave, hollering, gentle, hella smart, pastoral, preachy, comforting ones that I haven’t named or known yet.

Thank you and keep going–keep changing my life.

twenty-twelve debrief: part three.

The third installment of a debriefing of this past year. You can read part one here and part two here. I mean, really. I know this is getting long. 

It was a very Waco summer.

[Ok, before that, I had to pack up my whole life–dorm room and Dallas room–and move back down to Waco, bumming around with my now-roommate until we found an apartment. In the blazing Texas heat.]

I worked in the same office that started my college career–proselytizing for a program in the Honors College (with the number of the Great Texts department chair in my back pocket all the while.) Alright, other people call it recruitment.  My office-mate and longtime bud Maggie and I worked long hours, decided margarita happy hour was a definite benefit of postgrad life, and listened to One Direction on the sly when our bosses weren’t listening. Yeah. The freedom was intoxicating. We were so adult.

[Also maybe I wasn’t trying to think of the fact that Erica was in France for a month, and that a cluster of other good friends were in Houston.]

I turned 22 on the 19th of June. My roommate asked me what I was looking forward to in my twenty-second year, and I couldn’t give her an answer.

But that same week contained the sudden upswing highlight of the summer: my dear wonderful friend Jenni got married to her pyromaniac partner-in-crime.  [We are a blind Facebook friendship success story, ya’ll.] She made the most lovely bride. I alternated between squealing (pretty sure that’s why I was in the wedding party) and crying. It was a beautiful beginning to witness.

The next day, I got a midmorning call, a tragic report that one of my favorite professors died far too young. I carried the grief around.

In July, my job slowed down, my parents finally moved to New Mexico. I started to feel a little lost, a little lonely, a little bit unsure. Scrambling for Grace that was there all along.

Erica came back (I told her Duke Divinity was a thought. She said that sounded about right.) I got to see my family in NM (and say goodbye all over again.) Not one, but two jobs for the rest of the school year landed in my lap, right after I found out my mom finally got a job after a three-year forced hiatus. I took lots of lovely weekend trips. Freedom. Adulthood.

Jerry got into the MBA program at Baylor–he would be staying in Waco after all. I cried.

I said goodbye to Preston the day before he jumped oceans. I cried.

Waco was flooded with students all over again, and I saw shadows of my student self, my student life walking around beside me as I ran errands for my campus job and punched numbers at that favorite coffeeshop that practically defined my college experience.

As I kept telling people, I was circling the same places but with a different function.

And then I think one day I looked around and realized everything was alright. Somehow, He kept me afloat even when I felt floundering, thrashing about in all my panic and irrational darkness. Somehow, I found myself surrounded by the most amazing Waco circle, even amidst all the change. I woke up and went to work every day and didn’t fall apart (with no small thanks to that circle. and a lot of grace.)

I audited a Dante class (as anyone who pays attention to anything I do online certainly knows.) We talked theology and poetry and somehow Duke Divinity kept pounding in my ears. (It had been a long time coming.) A few choice divinely appointed coffeeshop conversations and a whirlwind trip to North Carolina later, it felt right. And I’m running with it. (I’ll let you know in February, OK?)

November happened, and then December happened. But you already knew that.

I know it sounds like I spent most of the year crying in my yoga pants, but would you believe me if I said I look back over 2012 quite fondly? That despite all the discomfort and growing pains…I’ve grown? It was the best year on the books bar none for friendships (like I said, I’ve already gushed about some of them here and here. Don’t make me get weepy. Again.) I moved off-campus, cooked a few meals, learned what a paycheck feels like. (And what bills feel like.) I have a glimmer of a next step, and maybe even the trust to make it even if it falls through.

For I am His. And He is Good. And that alone is worth celebrating.

Cheers.

Happy 2013, friends!

Thanks for bearing with me through way more words than I bargained for.

What are you anticipating in the new year? Drop a line in the comments!

twenty-twelve debrief: part one.

 debrief (v).

to comb over the events within a given amount of time (i.e. a day, a year, a singular social event.) to locate the highlights, the dark moments, the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the parts that are already a part of what is unmistakably you. distinct from a crippling nostalgia. to cup the past in your hands and breathe. in. everything. [a term usually used by Erica and me; (among other primarily female counterparts? theory untested)]

This year started as the last one ended–with extremely strong painkillers, prescribed for tooth pain that started Christmas Eve.

Sexy, huh?

I only mention it because the work I had done on my teeth spanning the next four months or so required my driving from Waco to Dallas every other weekend, meaning that I spent more time at home my last semester of college than any other. With my family now (and probably forever) living another time zone away, I’m glad I got some good weekends in with my family, especially during some of our most uncertain months as a family.

[One such weekend, I devoured Lauren Winner’s Still on iBooks as soon as it was released, in a half-Novocained stupor. I fangirled all over her google search, and found out she had just been appointed as a professor at Duke Divinity School.  I spent hours on their website, but was too drugged or too much in denial to give credence to anything more than a passing curiosity. ]

Sometime in January, I was not selected to join the Teach for America crew. [You get news like this via email these days, so you’re stuck wherever you are receiving life-altering pieces of information.] I was in public, but alone. Upon reading the first line of “we’re sorry, but…” I realized that I hadn’t applied with the purest of intentions. I do have a passion for the types of communities TFA serves. I do think I would do well in them. (And have.) But the two-year security blanket of the program and the prospect of picking up and leaving for an adventure muffled out everything else that told me this wasn’t it. With the email staring back at me, and my phone buzzing with consolatory text messages, I breathed a feeble, panicked thanks. And hoped that something would happen to get me out of Waco. 

I spent most of my last semester in yoga pants. As soon as I try to defend myself by citing my yoga class, I’ll admit to you that it was a once-a-week audit. But then, Preston and I decided to take a few other easy classes to make this last semester ohso easy, too. Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Ceramics I almost kicked our non-art-major butts with hours out-of-class coiling, and maybe there was a 11 pm run to the library to practice knot-tying for Backpacking and Camping during the most stressful week of the semester. What. But I think in making we learned about our Maker, and some days the arm-waving treks across campus and the obnoxiously loud discussions of saints and liturgy flecked with clay are the things I absolutely miss the most about this slice of my past life.

[OK. And impromptu taco runs. And Wednesday wine at twilight and midnight grocery trips for bread with the guys.  There were also the hard nights: drives into the darkness and sad margarita toasts and angry orders of chips and salsa. We each took turns with one another, really. I oddly miss these, too. The strange mosaic.]

And then there was Great Texts capstone class. Nothing brought our weird little group of majors closer to tears or to laughter (or together) quicker than Brooks 170 at 9:30 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Just imagine a tiny group of smart-asses at the end of their academic rope, paired with the most infuriatingly even-tempered, pastoral professor with a penchant for correcting our sloppy word choice and logical failures. Yup. But sometimes there were doughnuts, always there was coffee and a lot of camaraderie and grace. These things make a difference. I think that small room and small group of people will be with me always. I’m not sure I can do it justice.

[I still wore yoga pants on those days. With no excuse. Senioritis, yes. Semester-long existential crisis? Also yes.]

And then there was that one day you might already know about. A back-porch intimation that I was to stay in Waco for the next year. It was something of an answer, yes, but I kept wearing yoga pants 24/7. Even to a job interview.

[I needed intervention.]

Preston found out he got into St. Andrews an ocean away. I cried.

Erica decided to stay in Waco longer, too. I cried.

I kept counting the staying friends and the leaving friends. More irrational tears.

More days without real pants.

To be continued. Read part two here.

Depressing stuff, huh? I promise it wasn’t as dark as all that. I’ll fill in more later, but as this recap is getting longer than I expected, this is as good a place to stop as any. 

Also, do you use the word ‘debrief’ as I have ‘defined’ it above?

a dark sunday.

Actually, lights streams through the blinds to wake me up on Sunday morning with an inordinately strong need for cinnamon rolls, several hours before I have to be anywhere or do anything.

Church, in other words.

It takes me a bit of time to do something about it. Instead I scan the wall opposite, the one filled with pictures of my tribe, my places, my colors. Yesterday I added two angels to the throng: each plaqued, one Italian, one Spanish, both old. Finally I settle on watching the seconds tic until I can’t stand it anymore, as per my morning habit of late, stubbornly in place of prayer.

For days, I have counted tics more than I have counted graces, letting the tiny sound replace the silence, instead of true rest, true quiet, true stillness.

So today I continue to watch and listen to the clock only, until the cinnamon bun thing is stronger than the bed’s magnetism. Somehow, I propel myself all the way to the grocery.

My cashier tells me her teenage daughter is pregnant. I listen, she tells me the hypocrisy is the lowest blow. She’s not sure how they’ll move on.

I tell her I’m sorry, that she’ll be in my prayers this morning. It’s quick, just as she’s saying, “It’ll all turn out alright.”

I’m at my car before I realize I might’ve said a true thing.

As I’m icing the pastries, I think of the old practice of fasting before receiving Eucharist that I fell into without knowing it several months ago. The idea is that the small fast reminds us for Whom we are truly hungry.

I lick my fingers and polish off two warm, overdone rolls before getting dressed.

——-

Slipping into the fifth row from the back at St. Paul’s, I juggle with the hymnal to jump in on the last line of the first song. I’m late, the cross has passed. We begin the Gloria, and I notice the mascara stain on the tips of my fingers. Somehow, I knew, looking into the mirror half an hour ago, that it wouldn’t be worth it. And I was right–the eye makeup didn’t make the car ride.

It’s been a low week.

But I think one nice thing about an Episcopal church is that you don’t have to be decent, not really, ’til halfway through the service. You can afford to be a total mess through the songs, the scripture readings, and even the sermon. It’s a long way to the Passing of the Peace. And anyway, if I lost it during all that peace-passing? Here, I think it would probably  be alright.

And that’s good, I guess, because I choke through the psalm–

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God…

Amma Jo happens to address the psalm reading at length during her sermon. She talks about Kingdom in terms of home–the one we wait for, the one we cultivate now, the table we lay with Christ.

She tells us in her endearing audiobook lilt,

“The irony of a life with God is that home is not for us a static place. Rather our home is a journey–the psalmist calls it ‘the pilgrim’s way’…Our home is a walk that will take us through desolate valleys and up mountains. But always, God, Who is our Home, will walk that way with us.”

The peace of this waits to wash over me until Jo says nearly the same thing when she prays over the parish’s children starting school:

May they know that wherever they journey is never far from You.

Oddly, these two small moments address the little heresy that crept into my head in the form of a question earlier in the week, on another tic-counting, bed-staying morning:

Is it the same God? The same One Who met me in the glorious desert as on the staircase of the English building, as on that creaking, coffee-stained back porch? Who sat at the foot of my bed that morning?

Is He the same God? My childish heart whispered to the turquoise clock.

In church, I lift my eyes up to the stained glass at the altar. I gasp small, realizing for the first time ever that the descending dove set in a cross with arms of equal length almost exactly mirrors the pendant given to me when I was baptized years ago. The one I just found again in my dresser drawer, the one I’ve thumbed over a fifty times this week. I can’t breathe for the overlap.

Remember your baptism.

I realize the symbol is old, and not altogether rare. [I mean, I have a wallful of crosses with doves in the middle, collected over the years–a story for another time.]

But I needed the reminder–the reminders–that He completes the circle always, that He is the same God who sits at the foot of my bed even when I have trouble leaving it, that He really is the one for Whom I hunger on the journey, the journey Home.