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.

not just bread, not just wine [over at Deeper Church].

creative commons.

I’m so thrilled to be sharing my first post over at A Deeper Church today!

It’s a story of Sacraments and sacramentals, and through the sacred and mundane moments, I’m wondering how we piece it all together–

It was a few years ago now that we three were gathered with red wine bought in a hurry and cheap water crackers to carry snooty cheese. Back then, the guys brought the stories and I simply gathered them into myself, knit line by line into something I could wrap myself in for a long time to come. We were in somewhat disparate spiritual spaces then, but located here each week by a fire, by wine, by strands of Gospel-truth nonetheless stringing us together. We spun sacrament and wondered at holy judgment and marveled at the created order telling the same Story over and over again. This night as we talked, I reached over the cheese and absentmindedly broke a cracker in two.

Suddenly before me, it was as the Host, held high above the altar, split down the middle, Body broken for me and for many, wine and Blood to follow.

Will you join over at A Deeper Church, and enter into the mosaic of faith stories? Click here.

on trespasses.

the curse burns easy out of my heart but trips once, twice on my tongue.

this, not two hours after the sermon centered on reconciliation, about the older brother.

this, after weeping over those I love who harden their hearts to the Feast.

this, after the whisper to my own stand-in-the-cold heart:

come back inside, love.

not two hours ago.

I say it to his face, to one from whom a wrong perceived, though halfway known.

[I realize later this is the Old Ones’ definition of wrath.]

what began as that comforting righteous indignation ended up in bed with

the self-righteousness, the actual wrong courted by bitterness aged,

true injury gouged in old scars but left to fester.

if you are seeking the Doctor’s attentions, you must uncover the wound.

but how?

how to crack open my own chest, peel away my own slipshod dressing?

how to heal, not just “get over?”

how to forgive as I have been forgiven?

how to set free the debtor, set myself free in turn?

is it action or emotion: a grace to feel or to do?

I know the end of that parable.

…if you do not forgive your brother or your sister from your heart.

I know what it means to pick the scab, to lick and relive,

to burrow into shadow until the speeches we make to ourselves

are all we see, finally dancing before us.

even if I knew how, I’m not so sure I could do it:

to relinquish what I’m owed, to waive even the one day’s wage?

I’m not so sure I can do something as radical as Light.

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.

fragment, one.

Here is something about myself: I will write little bits of thoughts on bits of paper, in backs of books, receipts, boarding passes. I find them long after I forget them, what they were for, or why. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Anyway, I’m thinking of sharing them as I find them, starting tonight. It’s like finding a photograph.

—————

I want to tell you that there is another way.

the way of grace.

I want to read that Corinthians passage slowly, like a prayer–

to remind you it’s not really just about weddings, or even just about

the way He loves.

I would show you the rebuke between the lines.

I would tell you there is something to sharing scars—

here I was cut, here I cut.

but you know what else?

here I was stitched together.

here the bits of skin reconciled,

here they found each other again.

and here, this bit, just on my ribcage.

that is the one still bleeding. 

the one I’m not sure will ever heal.

here is the truth, honest-to-goodness:

I called my mother for the 5th time to ask how to cook the fish.

 

 

 Image

———

yeah, I don’t get the fish thing either.

After posting, I realized that this could read along the lines of self-injury– that is not my story, but it could be yours, or a friend’s. Read this post by Tamára Lunardo, and check out the organization To Write Love on Her Arms.

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!