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.

hope springs purple.

The sun streaks long and lean over the back lot where I take the dog for a small run before returning him to the apartment probably too small for him.

I press in to the solar flare, to the wind that comes to bless us in the spring before it flies elsewhere and leaves us with the stagnancy of summer. [Texas summer, a season all its own.] This kind of thing has me thinking about the Ascension.

Why do you stand there looking to the sky?

I want to scream at that line I find so beautiful sometimes, like a child,

BECAUSE HE…HE SAID HE WOULD ALWAYS BE HERE. or. or maybe I dreamed that part. did he say that? where? where is He?

[by the way, I think I agree with my priest when he said that we live in the days between the Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, though I tend to say that about every church season.]

I’m sorry, I was pressing into the sun, the wind a moment ago. Let’s go back to that. [Thought if you ask me to tell you exactly what that image, means, I’ll just give you a look. I don’t believe you don’t understand, even though sometimes I just say things.]

I press into them because I’m trying to press out of my anxiety, trying to lift myself into the sky where I first learned how to pray. Maybe it’ll take me back.

I’m also trying not to think too hard about the way I casually wrote the word anxiety a moment ago, or how I might be using it to cover other words like depression and acedia, or how I can’t bring myself to finish Kathleen’s book on both of those words.

But also, I’m taking it all in deeply and slowly because I’m thinking about those things precisely, because sometimes they are healed bit by simple bit.

Though three hundred things have changed and blossomed since then, I feel like I am wearing a giraffe bathing suit in my kitchen and crying into my cupcake all over again.

It feels like a thousand things, all of them having to do with the simple act of living and changing, are out to get me, and even as I say that I realize I sound like a character on Girls I would normally yell at, but the truth is that it seems like walking through a cloud. It’s Eastertide, and has been, but I keep smelling smoke in my clothes.

I yell for the dog and he races ahead of me, eyes wild and tongue flapping, to the house. I laugh and follow, glad he’ll be my roommate for the summer, the fleeting months that mean something completely different now that I’m not an undergrad student anymore. It’s still a space between, but more of the same. In this between, I want to abide in Love and Grace and Peace. I want to read Flannery O’Connor’s anthology of letters, but mostly I want to not be afraid of reading Scripture anymore. Or, at least, to only be afraid in the ways you’re supposed to be. I want to sit at the foot of the tower of stones I once stood on firmly, study them, see if they tell me something new.

I want to pray all of these wants, but I might have forgotten how.

Inside, I spot my name on the most loving list of prayer requests. I am undone without really knowing why.

I collapse on the couch and the damn dog wants to play and I want to scream at him but then I am arrested by a swatch of medium lilac acrylic in a painting by a friend I have seen a thousand times and suddenly the cry is a healing one.

I meditate on the purple. Somewhere in the transport, I know, shakily, there is Enough.

detail of “Four Songs for Scripture” by Preston Yancey.

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.

Thy, will be done.

On Friday, I send sixty-one emails to strangers beginning with the line,

we regret to inform you

ending with

we wish you well in your academic pursuits.

I chew my fingernail to the quick, watching all sixty-one blink into my ‘sent’ folder on the little PC screen. A grad student walks in to check the mail, making odd noises as he enters. The copy machine is is out of staples, and insists on telling me so.

I try not to cry.

———————-

My friend Erica doesn’t tell people, not even close friends, about works-in-progress. She believes she is less likely to labor toward her goals if she gets the immediate relief of divulging her plans.

I am not good at following this line of action, but there are a lot of things Erica wins at.

I have told a number of people, even on this little corner of the internet, that I have applied to grad school.

But only one.

One school, one fragile egg in the basket.

—————————-

A year ago, around this time, I received a “we regret to inform you” email.

Three hours later, the guys and I were toasting what were probably French 75s in what was probably the incorrect glassware, and no bitters. (Waco, we sometimes asked too much of her.)

I told them I knew I applied for all the wrong reasons as soon as I read that line–that I wanted the two-year security, that I wanted to get out of Texas, and even maybe that I wanted it to at least sound like I was saving the world.

We were a little floundering together that night–one between seminary and a question mark, the other still waiting to hear on St. Andrews. We toasted to Plan Bs, some absurd, some not-so. We kept each other in mind.

Now, they’re both in the middle of being brilliant in their respective programs.

And I’m in the waiting place again.

I’m busy-making, two jobs and two classes and too much extroversion. When I’m still, the panic. The blank drawn at plan B. The shaky Thy will be done.

Sometimes in church I think about that still, I think maybe that is what we should be praying for, not just that God’s will be done, but that everything that is God’s everything that is His, everything that is Thy, will be done. Yours be done, I chant in my head. Yours yours yours. Everything that is Yours.

The irony that this, from Lauren Winner, floats across my head in this time, hits me later–it’s her school I’ve applied to, her book that even put it on my radar.

One year ago.

——————————

Annie Barnett writes a small but jam-packed thing that wrecks me:

In this present moment.

I am due to find out about my admission and funding for this graduate program at the end of February, possibly the second week of Lent. Soon, somewhat.

That’s my limited sight, for now. But really, it all is, isn’t it?

Now we see through a glass darkly…

Our professor reminds us again in a class on St. Thomas Aquinas and caritas that the difference in our sight and God’s, in our knowing and His, is not even just distance and time, but in manner and mode. We know through lists and steps and bits and pieces and even stories–discursion. But He knows in full one fell swoop, in a breath, by absorption, intuition–and even these comparisons are small heresies. 

Our sight is all limitation, on this side of things.

So I find myself in another Advent in the middle of Epiphany, and I am praying for the showing-forth of Christ, for ears to hear Him, for eyes to see Him, however deaf and blind I may be.

For even now, even in the fear, there are doves descending and water turned to wine.

I want to wait well. Pockets emptied of Plans A-Z.

I pray to be faithful even if disappointment, even if the we regret to inform you.

—————————

I read a prayer written by a woman centuries ago, and I know it is mine:

For I am His. O then take care of my Soul and Body, for both are thine. Conserve, increase, and nourish all the good purposes thou hast inspir’d into me, for they are also thine.

I am all thine, save me; my Understanding is thine, illuminate it; my Will is thine, govern it; my Memory is thine, fill it; my Life is thine, preserve it; my Friends are thine, bless them, and secure them all to thy self, for all is thine.

Amen.

Thine, Thine, Thine.

Yours Yours Yours.

Amen.

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 two.

you can read the first part of this debrief here.

I gave up social media for Lent. 

It was not, after all, all that spectacularly difficult. I didn’t even “cheat.” I checked once on Sundays for notifications and mentions, just, you know, to be polite. I didn’t have many; I had, after all, announced my  “fast.” The quiet was nice. I found myself not obsessing over dings and buzzes on my phone, found the halt when I typed in “tw–” or “fa–” in my searchbar to be nice, too.

Nice. Neato. Not much more, if I’m honest. I wonder if I entered in wanting to be transformed, instead of to be faithful in observing the season, in grieving, in worshipping–and letting Grace transform me in the process. [I was fumbling for bright instead of the Light.] I paused once or twice in forty days to pray instead of tweet, to thumb a homemade chaplet in the middle of a coffeeshop. I didn’t do much of the real work, the heartstuff. Though there is something to be said for praying even when you’re not  paying attention, there weren’t even many prayers to yawn through. No repetition to lean on.

It was, in the end, a very nice exercise.

[Spring Break was nothing much to comment on. I spent the first four days completely in bed reading a book about mental illness and some other book I can’t remember but had been trying to finish for ages. This might have been the apex of crisis.]

Easter weekend came along, to be spent with the guys in Houston. I’ll spare you the gushing about what a weekend that was because I think I’m turning into the very worst mommy-blogger who brags about how awesome her kids are. What a blessing they are and how she can’t take credit. Just replace kids with friends.

[Except my friends ARE awesome AND a blessing AND I can’t take credit.]

But I will tell you that it was my first go-around of observing Holy Week in its entirety: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, Easter morning. And I will tell you that when the light came in on Saturday evening, when the sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal was suddenly overcome with new adornments and Resurrection-song, something of the Resurrection happened in me. As I write this, I wonder if my half-assed Lenten observation was the right juxtaposition with that Easter. That maybe the point of that Holy Week (and maybe all of them) was the redemption despite, not because.

We drove home to Waco with due assignments on our backs, and thus began the series of unnecessary all-nighters that marked the end of my college career. There were late-night baking frenzies, taco runs, library stakeouts, verbal drills for our Great Texts verbal examination, piles of articles and books on my desk that ended up amounting to a crazed and pathetic academic end to the semester.

I dreaded graduation week. It felt like the end of everything. It felt like I had nothing to celebrate.

But thank goodness for those wonderful people to end it with, to remind me of what we had accomplished after all. And we celebrated a lot. Early graduation morning, we sat in the living room of our favorite coffeehouse, favorite drinks in had. Months later, I would sweep beneath the chairs we sat in, wondering if I was gathering any of the last words we spoke as undergraduates, sacraments and pop culture references in the same breath.

We walked across the stage, greeted by cheers and the very best professors at the foot of the stairs.

I took a walk with Erica as the sun went down that evening, with my gifted pearls on, because neither of us could unclasp them. [The things you remember.] We circled around campus, tasting the word “graduates” for the first time. Both of us were staying in Waco, desperately thankful for that “both,” but not knowing how to proceed.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sunset.

To be continued, again.

So, this has turned out different than I expected. I’m writing without edits, and that means longer posts, I guess. It’s not really fair to you, but you know, read what you can. Here’s part three.

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?