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?


sup, girl? [some kind of letter to my body, with SheLoves].

I think we know each other well enough by now to skip the formalities. See, I think people might expect you and I to hate each other. I mean, you don’t fit the magazine-cover-runway bill. Come to think of it, there’s a lot you don’t fit.

And I’d be lying if I said that I love every square inch of you,  that I don’t blame you for things sometimes, or that I don’t hem and haw about your jeans size. And I know that every time you get sick, I am wildly angry and impatient. I want you to work by my timeline, forgetting that those times are rather few, and I’m the one who deprived you of sleep or floss or something. But no, I don’t hate you.

I like the way you look in a great dress. I like that we decided to get serious about yoga last fall, discovering muscles and bends and twists we didn’t know we had in us. I like that your hips slope out at a great angle for carting kids around. (For now just kids on loan, but someday, I pray, yours too.) I am fascinated by the way you have healed since our silly little trip to the ER for stitches. On consideration, I even like that you have your own response when someone you love is hurting or happy. In those moments of truest empathy, you remind me tangibly to intercede, to praise.

So, I guess this isn’t so much a love letter, but (excuse the bad analogy) a chance to initiate a DTR, body of mine.

What are we doing here?

I know, I know. It’s a boomerang question. You’re the one who should be doing the asking. Because, well, you and I both know that I’m not the best at showing you love. We haven’t seen that yoga business in months. And it’s been even longer since we’ve done any cardio.

And let’s face it–last night’s dinner of salmon filet with a side of Nutella wasn’t the best thing I could do for you. Neither was today’s lunch of soda and half a bag of sour cream & onion chips, come to think of it.

[But at least they were baked chips, am I right?]

I’ll ask you to hang in there with me, please, as I try to make a routine out of my life. But this isn’t the first time I’ve neglected you, is it? We’ve been on one or a dozen diets, per doctor’s orders, and I’m pretty sure the puny free weights have been in separate locations for at least three years.

In part, I think it’s because the two of us are  just OK. If I hated you, I’d probably have more drive to edit away the bits I don’t like, by any means necessary.

But then, if I loved you, really loved you, I would want you to be the best you could be… or some other cliché.  Let’s “reach for the stars,” bod.

When it gets down to it, I forget to treat you as a temple, as the healthful gift you are, as a kind of incarnation, as sharing in the humanity of Christ. I say you matter, you matter a lot, in this life of faith we are doing here. I am quick to point out that cleaning the kitchen sink or baking cupcakes or folding laundry can all be spiritual practices, but I really really like to play the gnostic “just an Earthsuit” trump card when it comes to treating you well.

But you and me, dear? We are in it for the long haul, and I know I will learn a lot from you in the years to come. And if I believe that motions can be a way of prayer, that the Incarnation should change the way we live in this flesh, then I better take care of you, who does the moving.

Not gonna lie, totally eating chocolate right now, as I wind down this rambling letter (we both know this is not my strong suit).

But I propose that we face each other again, and start anew.




I have so been enjoying the “Love Letter to my Body” synchroblog with SheLoves magazine that I decided to add my voice to the chorus, though perhaps with a different tone than even I expected.

Definitely take a look at what other people have been writing!

yoga, soda, sharpies: a litany.

O Lord, open our minds to see ourselves as you see us, or even as others see us and we see others, and from all unwillingness to know our infirmities,

save us and help us, O Lord.

Winter break, and after long-awaited hugs around the neck I found myself attempting to explain how Eucharist, or communion, has changed for me–and has changed me–since I have started attending an Episcopal church in Waco. It is offered each week, and is the focal point of the service. These two factors alone require some explaining, not to mention what they mean. I stumbled over my words–as I often do when it comes to anything that matters–“I don’t know…er, Presence just means something different to me now.”

But this was not any kind of full answer, and there was no way to make sure the “P” was capitalized as it hung in the air between us; I simply wanted to say a reductionist version of all I meant and have it be enough, expecting the one I was talking with to instinctively take the leap with me.

Even then, how do I talk about such a mystery? So, I rushed. The loved one blinked back at me, pupils scanning my face.

If I’m honest about that moment, I will note the defensiveness in my voice, in the arch of my neck. The I knew it that buzzed behind my teeth. In the desperate instant of wanting to be known, I wanted to share, but I also wanted to prove.

Somehow, I also wanted to talk about yoga, about the moment at the end, after I have twisted and bent, when my instructor tells me to draw attention to my breath.

Suddenly, it feels like a surprise, a miracle, even though I have been breathing the whole time.

I wanted to say that the noticing changes everything. The quality, nature, and rhythm. I wanted to say that this oddly makes me think of the moment after Eucharist when my knees hit red vinyl and it seemed like the same kind of noticing.

But I was afraid of speaking Eucharist and yoga in the same sentence, and I’m not sure it would be the best kind of explanation anyway. So I let myself be stuck in between pride and passion, abruptly deserting the conversation–if you can call it that–altogether.

O Lord, give us nerve to overcome the shyness that fetters utterance, and ease for awkwardness of address; turn us from our sensitive consciousness of ourselves, that we may think with freedom of what is in our heart, and of the people with whom we are concerned.

save us and help us, O Lord.

A few months later, I’m standing to check out at the grocery store, my eyes wide and head shaking. She’s jokingly, flippantly made the sign of the cross.

“Not OK,” I retort.

“It doesn’t do anything, Antonia.”

“Listen, MOTIONS MATTER,” and this draws a little attention from the Dallas-suburb shoppers clad in track suits and designer bags, a meticulous nonchalance. She rolls her eyes a bit and presses her lips together, and I wonder if she is thinking, when will this phase be over?

I do not talk about how our bodies can be engaged in prayer, or about the strange infusion of symbol and meaning.

Instead, I huff and hoist cans of soda onto the conveyor belt.

From self-conceit and vanity and boasting, from delight in supposed success and superiority, raise us to the modesty and humility of true sense and taste and reality; and from all the harms and hindrances of offensive manners and self-assertion,

save us and help us, O Lord.

The last week of Lent, I comment on the premature Easter decorations around my residence hall. The person I’m walking with lightly remarks, “Just celebrating early, I guess.”

I whip my head around over my shoulder and nearly spit, “But you can’t just skip Lent. That’s like missing the whole point.”

Somehow, I can’t hear that I’ve missed the whole point.

And I don’t really talk about Lent or the things I’m learning or where my failures have brought me. None of that is in my voice. Instead, I feel like Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, walking around with a Sharpie pen, adding apostrophes and quotation marks everywhere. There are times when the mark may be right, and maybe even helpful, but I do not think it is the way of grace to walk around with the cap off.

From all hasty utterances of impatience, from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt,

save us and help us, O Lord.

I’m on my way home from a beautiful evening prayer service in Dallas on the day of Pentecost. At the stoplight, I try to look up the lyrics to the last hymn. I clumsily thumb “isaac watt hply spirit” into the search bar in the miniature browser when I’m interrupted by a phone call.

We chat, she asks me how church was, and I’m so ready to tell her. She hasn’t seen a church service in a while, and so a part of me gloats instead of glows. I even edge in a liturgical joke to demonstrate how “with” all of this I am. Somehow, I’m surprised and even a bit hurt when she doesn’t want to continue the conversation.

Tossing my phone to the passenger seat, I’m grieved by my idiocy. Tonight really was beautiful, and true, I think, but I certainly didn’t show it.

From all love of display; from the thought of ourselves in our ministrations, in forgetfulness of Thee in our worship, and of our people…hold our minds in spiritual reverence, that if we sing we may sing unto the Lord, and if we preach we may preach as of a gift that God giveth not for our glory, but for the edification of His people; and in all our words and works from all self-glorificaiton,

save us and help us, O Lord.


Quotations are selections from a prayer written by George Ridding (1828-1904),

found in Give Us Grace.