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.

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

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

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

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

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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?

to the girl who wants a boy for Christmas.

Oh, honey.

Let’s sit awhile. I’ll put on a pot for tea.

I know, I’m more of a coffee girl, too, but I think tea has something to teach us here, about this, right now–teaches us to steep, to bleed into the quiet peace of waiting. Coffee–how I love it!–is the violent caffeinated cacophony of force, and we need a little less of that for the moment. Tea it is.

I’ll cut you a fat piece of orange-cranberry-pecan bread, and between bites I’ll tell you I think next time I’ll ditch the crumble for the glaze and that I’ve been single for a lifetime.

For my whole life. All that time.

You’re startled that I’ve blurted this, but that’s how I do things. If we’re to be friends, you should know that. I’ll try to skip past the whys of self-deprecation; I’ll spare you the bad joke about being a tall order in short stature.

OK. Maybe I won’t skip all that, because maybe you need someone to squeeze your hand a little and admit that it’s hard sometimes, that yes, hurt is there.

Because it is hard being the excited friend all the time, feeling all sidelineish. You’re scared to admit that the fact that you are genuinely ridiculously overjoyed to get save-the-dates in the mail and to wedding-scheme with your friends and to walk before them down the aisle almost makes the way out a little more tricky.

If you found bitterness to wrap yourself in, or to paint over your skin (layer after layer of brittle, impermeable shell), eventually it would crack and I think you would have to deal with that pink exposed flesh all at once. BAM. No other way.

But here, where the joy is real? It’s lonely and it’s wonderful all at once.

And maybe if it was later in the evening, with wine instead of tea, I would look away and admit that there have been plenty of why not mes accompanied with my own composition of answers.

I’m telling you this so you know I get it. I do.

I understand that you want to be loved like that.

I understand that you have so much to give. That you want to love like that.

I understand that marriage is one big eschatological metaphor for union with the One who made us, in Whom we have our being, and you kindof want in on that.

I also understand that sometimes you really just want someone to kiss.

But honey. Dearest daughter.

It cannot be all you live for.

It cannot be the only thing you dream of.

You might not even think that is how you do things, so look again while you press your thumb into bits of that crumb topping in question. Examine the way you’ve planned in secret, the imagined wedding date you’ve charted the rest of your life around.

The I’ll-be-married-by-thens and the not-married-untils.

Because here is something hard: that boy of your dreams is no guarantee, and not on any timeline of yours.

We think the falsehood of the prosperity gospel is just about the nice cars and big houses, but it goes deeper still to hot wives and guitar-playing husbands to make us whole, and perfect life plans to give us purpose.

[Here’s something risky: marriage is not the only happy ending, the ultimate eucatastrophe.]

And I want it to be clear that I am not telling you this so you’ll be content dating Jesus or becoming marry-able and-then-he-will-give-you-the-desires-of-your-heart. While sometimes blessing comes just when we’re not hunting it down, I’m not so sure he’s a God of reverse psychology and rhetorical questions. It is not a cosmic dating formula or trick.

We are to be faithful because of who He is, because He’s worth all of it [whether we feel it or not], not to get what we want.

There is a God to know now, and we will participate in that eschatological metaphor whether there’s a ring on our finger or not, when it is more than comparison.

There are people to love now, to listen to, people to clothe, to care for, to feed.

There are even lepers to kiss.

[They are both your dearest friends and total strangers, both next-door neighbors and brothers and sisters across the sea.]

There are cups to pour, hands to get dirty and to hold. Another loaf of bread to bake.

And we circle back round here again, don’t we, love?

It is all grace anyway, the giving and the gift–grace, grace, grace.

We ask, and He always gives.

And gives.

Sometimes now, sometimes later. Sometimes the same, sometimes something different.

But always more.

i am tired of saying

“I don’t know.”

But I am not even so tired of the uncertainty.

I am more scared of my mouth’s shape

when I say those three words

[what a friend once called my perennial state],

and I think they hang ugly, always about to fall.

If it was just the two of us, plus a select few,

maybe it would be simpler. [Or so I say].

I would be more at ease with this cloud

of unknowing, this platform between trains.

[Maybe I would even stop saying between,

and just call it life.] Instead I reduce, reuse, repeat

the same old phrases, with that same old shrug.

All at once, I do not want my throwaway answer

to be the end of it–there is more to say–but then

I am tired of saying “I don’t know.” So maybe,

smiling, I will just say nothing, at least for now.

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Life: Unmasked