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.

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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 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.

a hiatus and a hopeful start.

All nerves and a trying-too-hard accent scarf, I lock my eyes on the question in my lap: “What life experiences or crises have shaped or changed the way you read the Bible?” as I blurt with a tongue prompted oddly by Spirit, “Well, right now.” I tuck my legs more firmly into the chair and sit on my hands, like a small child.

This is not normally an issue for me–the talking in front of people, the new faces. I am a people-person, an extrovert, a charmer.

But somehow, that’s not how it works today. Today, I fought the feeling that I need to go, that this showing up may be a part of my staying to follow. I got in my car, turned the key, and half-sped to the church parking lot, still arriving late. Maybe it’s the lateness that makes me overly aware of how loud I am breathing, the tempo of my speech, the flush of my ears. Maybe.

In the circle, I babble about the gap year, the discernment, the listening, the faithfulness question, the staying, all in halted piecemeal, without the grace of hyperlink or draft. I just say it’s happening, the changing of approach. The heart I bring to scripture is different than it was even a few months ago. When I bring it at all, I add silently.

Part of the shaping I am fighting of late is the feet-dragging.

The first time I really confessed this aloud was under a taco stand awning a few weeks ago, after he made a passing half-joke about his “quiet time with Jesus.”  [It’s a phrase we’ve both heard a lot. It needs changing, I think.] He nodded, knowing this means something to me. For a long time I actively avoided reading the Bible on a regular basis because I had heard one too many sermons on turning devotion into a checklist. Not me, I had said, in favor of total spontaneity, which at the time sounded like the most loving way. Last spring, that changed. Some strange combination of class and books and friends and Holy Ghost helped me realize that there was something missing, and it was scripture.

Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ Himself, I read somewhere.

I think the Incarnation means that this is not the end of it, that there are manifold ways He reveals Himself [ten thousand places, even]. But finally I knew that there was something about the words on the page to teach me about the Word, something about the stories that would teach me about who He is. Go figure.

That said, I haven’t touched the stuff in weeks.

Except on Sundays when someone says, The word of the Lord, and I respond with the rest, thanks be to God. 

Some thanks.

In a letter from a beloved longtime friend this week, she writes about a recent revelation: that her perpetual busy-ness is a method of avoidance. What am I avoiding? she asks, guessing at Confession, wondering at more. Reading this, I smiled with love, because it’s been true for a long while now. Stopping, I consider, But it’s never been true for me. Until now.

The whats of avoidance I have a guess at. It’s finding out the whys that terrify me.

If I had to guess, it’s something to do with trust, with fear, with a wounded spirit.

And in the midst of transitional uncertainty, I find that approaching a Book of which I know so little daunting to say the least. I’m not sure what I will find.

Now I’ve trailed off at the end of what has turned into Sharing Time, and I find the young priest beside me nodding, along with some of the older students in the room.

“The Bible can be hard to turn to when you are trying to listen. After all, it’s full of people hearing things they don’t want to hear.”

That too. 

She glances around the room, and says, “Well, maybe this is a good place to live some of that story together.”

That may be.

When it comes time to pray, I find out, with terror, that we are supposed to pray our requests aloud, around the circle.

Friends can tell you I have a hard time with praying in front of people anyway. (I hope it’s something I get over some day, much like my former issues with talking on the phone.) Not to mention that “prayer request time” has always looked way different to me.

But praying for myself, my world, with everyone listening? Goodness.

Of course I’m up first.

Embedded in the halted, shaky litany was one of the most honest things I’ve prayed in a while: Help me to follow You instead of my own rebellious heart. 

We say our Ah-mens, and the young priest rushes out to process in Rite I.

I pick up my “Book of Mark Bible Study” packet, thinking, maybe beginning again doesn’t have to be so hard.

so i say it humble.

Tomorrow, if you ask me what I have to say as a young person, you might get a different answer.

Today though, I’ll readily admit that most anything I have to share comes from a place of uncertainty.

If you asked, I would tell you that the things I know are few.

[But maybe it’s not really uncertainty after all.]

I might quote my favorite line from that Sleeping at Last song:

“I don’t have all the answers, just a little light to call my own…”

[I even wonder about that line sometimes. Is “light” capitalized? And what does it mean to call it mine?]

I might tell you that this not-knowing is OK, that after all, my faith hinges on a small word that starts with “m.”

And now we proclaim the mystery of faith– Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

[Every Sunday, I say the verbs punchy, like a protest, in the face of everything I see. ]

I would tell you I recite the creed in chorus, knowing that every line that begins with “I believe” does not always mean the same thing as “I understand.”

[I pronounce it week in and week out, so it is in my heart like a catchy song, an earworm I hope I never lose.]

But they are “I believe”s I cup in my hand, stealing peeks between my thumbs whenever I get a chance. Sometimes, they are big enough to swim in.

Besides that, I’m not sure about a lot. I’m not sure why some mamas cannot have the babies they ache for, or why the earth is full of violence. Most days, I don’t know what church is all about or the ways in which the Lord speaks to you or to me. I couldn’t tell you if it is better to be excellent for the sake of Christ or a servant of the least of these. I don’t know exactly how to be a champion of the poor and save the planet, too. I don’t always know what to do with the fact that the word that translates to “steadfast love” in scripture can also mean “rebuke.”

I do not mean that the questions do not have answers, that the Truth is beyond our grasp. I only mean to say that I’m not there yet, that maybe none of us are, and so if I say anything, I hope to say it humble, and I ask you to do the same.

I pray for Grace to bridge the gap, to change my heart and make it one of wisdom. I pray that one day I will have enough gray hairs and good stories to temper these wild wonderings.

So, now and forever, I stand and say the “I believe”s, knowing them to be true.

And I remember the rest of that Sleeping at Last lyric:

“A speck of light can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.”

—————————-

Though this post is perhaps less than what I promised last week, this is the one I count as contribution to my dear friend Preston Yancey’s synchroblog directed to young people.

[However, I may be the only one who cares about the distinction.]

Please, please read the beautiful words others have written, by clicking the image below:

 

Screen Shot 2012-08-07 at 2.19.15 PM

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.