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!

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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

and the Lord was with joseph, with us still.

“Mom,” I begin with an almost-whine of childish inquiry, “why is Joseph your favorite?” It’s spring break, and I’ve been reading the story over again in bite-sized chunks by way of the lectionary. I know her answer; it’s one she’s told me since I was small, but I want to hear it again. Today, though, she’s a little distracted, and maybe caught a bit off-guard. It’s not like we’ve been talking felt-board Bible stories during this car ride. Her eyes have been on the road, while mine have counted churches.

So I’m not altogether surprised that it’s not any kind of a full answer, the way it would be in the Gilmore Girls/Grey’s Anatomy version of my life in which people drop inspiring, well-structured speeches every 20 minutes or so and always have the right thing to say mid-moment.

“Because he’s always obedient,” she says, matter-of-factly. My childhood self would have heard this as a pointed answer, and would have offered an eye roll at this yet-another attempt of hers to drill me with good graces and character quips.

“Mmm. He’s faithful, yes.” I read these things a little differently now.

“…Right.” She looks at me out of the corner of her eye. She hears the superior, Enduring Chill tone my voice takes on in these conversations, the tone we’ve talked about before. But in grace, she continues,  “He doesn’t lose hope, even though he doesn’t have the big picture.”

I remember something, a snatch of halted conversation between sobs from an outdoor bench on a mild spring night.

“Even though he doesn’t know the end of the story,” I quietly echo the memory.

——–

The past three years have felt like a dim version of a Joseph story for my family.

Something a bit like a betrayal chucked my mother out of a job, and the economic climate kept her there.

OK, maybe the analogy ends there (if there ever was one), because I’m pretty sure our story doesn’t come close to Joseph’s, and I always am inclined to say that money problems aren’t really real problems. I am sorry to tell you that I think there are worse darknesses, deeper wounds out there.

But I will tell you it hasn’t been easy.

There have been mornings that haven’t felt worth getting up for.

There have been questions and fears, after a long day of acting brave.

There have been all kinds of sacrifices, some we will live with for a while yet.

We have fiddled with our plates after a tense conversation at the dinner table about money and whispered to each other, I don’t see the good in this, knowing we don’t mean this bill or that, but all of it, the whole.

——

A Thursday afternoon in July, I’m driving down the middle of New Mexico in the middle of the afternoon. I go nuts for this big blue soul-baring sky– it’s the best part of the five hours between Santa Fe and Las Cruces, where my family has just relocated as an act of faith, trusting that my mother will get a teaching position.

Maybe this year, we said for the dozenth time.

On this stretch of I-25, it seems like you can see the distance from the East to the West, and a whole range of experience in between. Miles away, I see rain fall on thirsty earth, with the hot sun pounding on our car. I think of how Fr. Chuck  always prays one way or another for precipitation, in praise or petition.

We thank You for the rain,  I repeat words from a quite different locale, one smelling like old wood and old people.

Beside me, my grandmother scrambles to answer her iPhone, and I know it’s the phone call we’ve been waiting for all day.

Better than that, it turns out to be the phone call we’ve been waiting for for the past three years.

She has a job.

Mom has a job, and I don’t even know how to begin giving thanks and praise for this gift, this blessing, this grace.

I tell my grandmother in the car, watching the storm move across the landscape, it’s not just the money.

It’s the fact that it is rare to see someone so in her element as my mother is when she is teaching the magic of reading and writing. Call it vocation or gifting or whatever, but I call it positively electrifying.

My voice cracks as I say, that’s the best news.

She’ll be back.

——

I realize I guess we don’t know terribly much about the state of Joseph’s heart in some of the hardest parts of his story. He might have sung from the pit into which he was thrown like later disciples, but maybe his spirit failed him, as in so many psalms. In the Dreamworks rendition, he gardens a tree when he’s in prison. Sure, OK.

But do we know “the Lord was with him,” he walks righteously, he is faithful to use the gift God has given him (even when it hasn’t worked out so well in the past), and he is able to look back at the end of the story ridden with pain, waiting, and betrayal, and call it good.

I wish I could tell you we have been faithful every step of the way. I wish I could tell you we sang, we planted trees. I wish I could tell you that in the looking back, even from more solid ground, I can call it all good.

I think we are still learning what we have learned. I think there is still a lot of hurt to heal, a lot of room to grow in grace. I don’t know if I’ve made the same room in my heart for a Joseph kind of reconciliation, for the kind of embrace with the past he gives his brothers in the end.

But I want to make this very clear: The Lord was with us. 

Maybe I could have saved you a lot of reading by just linking to The Footprints Poem, but this is the story I have to tell. It is certainly by grace my mother got a job after a lot of waiting, and I can certainly say, “Thank the Lord, He is good.” Blessing, blessing, blessing.

In certain circles, or maybe just ones I find myself in, we are quick to point to the provision we have been waiting for, the well-timed whatever, and call it “a God thing,” or a “divine appointment,” so on. And I think it is, they are. Redemption, healing, breakthrough: certainly these we can call the works of His hand. The opposite, the property of the fallenness of the universe, the song of creation turned off-key, the glass we see through darkly.

But I wonder if by flippantly calling one thing God’s and not the other, we miss how He is working, moving, shaping even in the middle. We miss the grace right smack dab in the center of the mess. We skim past the phrase, “and the Lord was with Joseph,” to get to the end–we miss the gift of His presence. We think we know where He was and wasn’t.

And I scan the rest of that thirsty earth, and think what of the drought? Surely He is just as good when the rain doesn’t fall. Surely He is just as deserving of our thanks and praise. Surely no field is wholly fallow. 

—–

September, I call her early one morning before both of us have to work, just because. I miss the two-hour drive it used to be before they left. I cradle the phone against my shoulder deciding which of the dresses in the hamper is the least offensive to wear again, she is doing early-morning banter with my teenage sister. I ask her how school is going, the students, the adjusting.

Between get your lunch and your hair is fine, she tells me she’s just so tired. I nod, though she cannot see. Jumping back into a new, old life is taxing. Our Dallas house still hasn’t sold, my family is learning how to live on top of each other. And her class has a high number of at-risk and special needs students, most of whom need the free lunch. No breezy easing back in. Paychecks don’t transform everything– transition is still transition, the grind still the grind.

“But you know,” she tells me, “Yesterday, one of my girls looked at me at the end of the day and was just so amazed that school was already over.” I smile, unsurprised. My mother has always been known as one of the most engaging teachers. Her kids work hard, but they’re tricked into loving it. Magic, again. Grace.

“Sounds like you’re doing something right then, huh?”

“I guess so.” Then, away from the receiver, “I’m talking to your sister.” I hear Isabella’s early morning stress through the wire. I stifle a laugh, remembering a different rhythm of life, one that seems very far away.

We hang up, and I’m just praying thanks and asking, all at once.

It’s a rainy day in Waco. The Lord was with us. He is with us still.

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.

new mexico, my first church.

“But…isn’t it just desert?”

Yes. 

People are often a bit confused at why I love this place so much, and sometime (probably soon), I will wax poetic/nostalgic about it.  This place is as much in my family as they are in it. I am here all week with them, so writing may be a bit sparse.

For now, I will give you a piece of the sky, and tell you that this it is here I met Him first. 

Image

 

Image

 

and here, a poem from Maril Crabtree, written in honor of the state’s 100th anniversary this year:

New Mexico Sky

Looks like you could climb into its lap
and disappear. The stark blue arcs down
to meet brown desert, yellow-bloomed chollas

and all the room you need to breathe.

Feathery fringes of clouds –
a single breath could suck them up.
If this blue haze were liquid

I would be drunk with lapping