i’m leaving the church

that let me hide out in the beginning,

like a stray animal for which you feign ignorance,

dropping spare crumbs from the Table, so it can

ease into breathing this kind of air before approaching you.

i’m leaving the church

that passed me Christ’s peace in eyes and mouth and hands,

not hurried, embarrassed, or even surprised to find me there,

even happy to see me in a pew becoming regular,

forgetting and learning my name a thousand times.

i’m leaving the church

that called me songbird when my voice grew strong again,

and has that funny upward lilt when we hit the part that goes,

we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

and says it like all other words depend on it.

i’m leaving the church

that sobbed honest through the prayers of the people

when children were shot down in Connecticut,

and steeled itself for action as the rain fell

on the fires of West, just 17 miles north.

i’m leaving the church

that reads the Bible in 90 days because scripture matters,

that asks the hard, wild, beautiful, terrifying questions,

but doesn’t act like it has all the answers

[though you’ll never be left all alone in the dark].

i’m leaving the church

that is a little clumsy sometimes,

not always knowing exactly the right thing to say,

or how to serve the least of these, or how to ‘build community,’

but God, it never gives up the fight.

i’m leaving the church

who understands the rhythms of the river,

 not once pressuring me to confirm my place in its walls,

but enfolded me anyway, a vagrant, knowing that

even if I was passing through, I’d need food for the journey.

i’m leaving the church

that rejoiced when I decided to adopt them back,

that commissioned me in confirmation,

empowering me for service, taking my hand to say

let us go in peace, to love and serve the Lord, Alleluia, Alleluia!

———————————-////———————————-

thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia.

In case you couldn’t tell, I wouldn’t leave St. Paul’s, my church in Waco–my ‘home church, if you will–if I could help it. As I’ve said in painstaking detail here and elsewhere, I’m moving to North Carolina next week, and will find a new place to worship there. I am so incredibly thankful for the community of St. Paul’s that offered grace in a thousand small ways over the last two years, safe space for the Lord to move in.

I am especially grateful to Fr. Chuck, Amma Jo, and Amma Erin Jean for their ministry to the parish, and to me, in ways they couldn’t even guess. I am in awe of the ways in which they are faithful to God and the church.

Incidentally, I am adding this post to a throng of stories over at A Deeper Church as part of a larger conversation about church. I hope you will read other stories in the comments there–they’re stunning.

grace and peace to you, friends. may you find a house of prayer to love and be loved in.

The altar in Ordinary Time, under a canopy of painted stars. John, shepherd-Jesus, and Paul, from left to right. photo by St. Paul’s Episcopal church, Waco.

The [recently built] Chapel of the Four Sisters, where midweek Eucharist is held, as well as other prayer services throughout the year. When Sarah Bessey writes, “calm your heart,” I think of this chapel, exactly. [though I wish I had a better picture].

the leaving.

“Burn it all.”

That’s what I keep saying to people. Burn all of it. I’ll leave tomorrow with the clothes on my back and the books in my car if it means I don’t have to decide anything about another possession again. But I guess tomorrow is closer than I think even though I’ve been saying that for months. My Waco-days are dwindling– I count about seven left across the next few weeks of traveling.

I hate packing.

I hate that I have accumulated so much stuff, brought on by my distraction of being, but mostly I hate that I am faced with it. That I am faced with the leaving at all. That I have more worthless things than icons of the ones that really matter. 

And I hate that I cannot remember the exact thing the prof said in class that day–

Getting rid of all your crap doesn’t mean anything unless you are willing to do something about the shit that encrusts your heart.

Something like that. I really don’t know where to start with either.

I am angry that I am stuffing in another scarf and not one more hurried-but-sweet friend-lunch between classes, or folding another damn V-neck T-shirt and not a thousand heart-talks passed over our cups as the sprinkles melt into the ice cream. I’m packing books I should have read this summer, and dates I should have made with people I love along with them. The books I can read later. The rest I am unsure of. Do I make long-distance promises to people I forgot to call when they were down the street? The question itself breaks my heart.

And then there’s the muscle memory to release, the ten thousand past selves playing scenes over and over in that one coffeeshop, in that one corner of campus I swore I’d never forget, in that one tree that accosts me even though I made it no such vow.

I know I am not the only one to have ever left a place I really love, but God, it’s the first time I’ve had to.

—————————————————————–

About a year ago, I bought a library stamp for all my books. It seemed very important at the time to do this, to not only mark possession, but also place in the sum of parts. Somehow the composite collection was to make a sort of home. It seems pathetic at the end of the day, because it’s just a little front of control, I suppose. In truth, those books are ultimately not a monument to the information I have accumulated, but to the transformation that they offered. They mark the distance from one point to the next. They are almost as good as diaries.

But still, I find myself wanting to take another library, of memories, to take with me, to stamp my name in them. Maybe then I won’t lose them. And even if I do, at least the person who finds them will know to return them to me.

With every stamp, I yell, “MINE,” like the child.

—————————————————————–

I grew up with only one recurring dream (if you don’t count the ocean-of-cats motif that somehow found its way into other nightmares).

I am on a field trip, and considering I was homeschooled for a long while, it’s a mystery as to how the images of a farmyard full of children and a yellow school bus with cracking plastic seats so vividly play out in my sleep. I am so happy to be at the farm (this is a true part– I will never remember my grandfather without thinking of sheep and cows). We laugh at the squealy pigs, we name them. We feed the goats.

But the chickens enrapture me. There are scads of newly hatched chicks, so fluffy you could die, and so when no one is looking, I stuff one into my jeans. 

I want the farm to be with me forever.

Somehow, I make it all the way back to the bus and halfway home with the chick undetected. I finally decide to release the little thing once I decide the bus has gone past the point of no return, and suddenly realize that I have instead.

I find the chick to be crushed and suffocated in my pocket.

And then I’d wake up.

I think that’s what I’m most afraid of. The leaving is hard, but I am more afraid of holding what I love most too closely, and that it will all die because of it.

I am afraid you will find me months from now sitting on a dirt road, with muck in my hair and mangled treasured things between all my fingers.

on yellow leaves & words in the wind.

The official tour of the Divinity School ends, and I wander across the street to the glory of the sprawling Duke gardens. I wander and wonder. I pace beneath a tree heavy with shocking yellow sharp against the crisp blue sky, almost as azure as the one in New Mexico. Chest tight, teeth grit.

And if peace can hurry, it came in like a rushing wind. Or maybe it snuck in like a breath; I’m not sure.

Four months later, the letter came. The tears, the heart set to burst with so much right.

Then I lost the letter. Then I lost track of time. Then I counted down and realized that there are only so many sunsets left in this wonk-town, the cushion of this little year dissolving before me. The thought of leaving home after home left me aches in the ten minutes of extra darkness that keeps me in bed that much longer; I refuse to stir until hope peeks through the blinds.

I told someone recently that a big part of me wants to be free of all these anchors. I’m realizing again, that this means I must be pushed out to sea.

1,200 miles away, I return often to that space beneath all that golden canopy, to walk the carpet gilt. I wait to find the wind, my heartbeat then–again. The calm of that certainty, the terror of it, too.

The single leaf arrests me, arrested, at the end of a branch.

How difficult it must be to be so much beauty only in order to fall, to fall only to make way for newness of life?

But perhaps, no matter what sky you’re under, this is the great glory:

to make room for Resurrection.

No matter how small.

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?

filled with naming.

“I fill you with Naming.

Be!”

A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle

Jenni’s wedding day. This was right before we made dino noises.

————

Freshman year, when we were roommates-but-not-roommates, and you would stay through the wee hours to hide or study or just be or listen to me sleeptalk about bubble-guns. And then when I was really, finally sleeping, you would turn out the light and whisper,

Goodnight, Kiddo.

I helped lead the way down the aisle for you this summer, and all I could hear was the love reverb you stacked inside that word with each barefoot step I took: kiddo, kiddo, kiddo. 

Three months into your marriage, and five months into my middling “real life” we cozied up in your big chair and talked big-girl budget while my laundry spun. I sink my head in your shoulder, thanking you for being my Waco-mom.  Any time, kiddo, you say.

This time and care and giving means more to me than you know.

——-

Goofy, awkward affection.

My mouth is moving faster than anything, faster than my heart, faster than my brain can weave these words together. You know this is not how it normally goes; when it matters, I feel the need to edit and sketch them in the air in front of me, so I can cut, paste, and patchwork to tell you what I really mean.

You listen well, always wide-eyed, and graciously take another loop around campus because you know I need the time.

Or maybe I’m just telling you about my debilitating awkwardness seizure du jour, because you might know better than anyone that for me they are really real, and that the ones I don’t tweet about make me want to hide under the covers with a kitten.

I could also be curled up on your bed, close to tears about what feels like the latest disaster, and I know it hurts you, too. You want to protect, and be angry with me, for me.

Oh, Little One,

you say through it all, again and again, reaching into the heart of things, and speak the truth about myself that I refuse to see. Over and over the same tears. Little One, like a balm, to make me feel the right kind of small.

——

high school speech meet.

Joon.

This one you had to teach me years ago, dear one, along with giggled foreign curse words long before we would dream of daring our own. But it found its way into our friendship early, and stays with us still. Joonam: my dear, my heart, my life.

[I think you told me once it can even mean my liver. We probably laughed loud and long over it.]

Eighth grade pep rally. Yikes.

It’s steeped in time. I said it at fourteen–hair wild, braces clinking, locker next to yours.

I said it at eighteen–mortarboard askew, loud and always close to reprimand, prankster marble in hand to trade for a diploma.

I say it now at twenty-two–hair still wild but wrangled, smoke settling into my shirt as we juggle sticky s’mores, your hipster beer, and sadly separate lives.

It’s the kind of thing you say in a family, to those you hold close to you one minute and ask to set the table the next. It’s the kind of thing you say to someone who gets it already, whose presence is like that go-to broken-in well-worn whatever. There’s only just enough explaining.

I think these days we use it most in greeting, like an acknowledgement of the setting: joon, my dear, who knows my heart and my life so well.

——-

“To be given a name is an act of intimacy as powerful as any act of love…To name is to love. To be named is to be loved.” –Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

I read this in reflection and ponder the names–gathered not only as treasure to hold, but as lexicon, as a vocabulary of love to hand out again and again.

Kiddo. Little One. Joon.