Underneath

There are a lot of movies out there with a desperately single female protagonist. The woman is usually in her late 20’s and gorgeous, with few real issues, but several endearing quirks. That, or she’s got super ridiculous issues, but she’s so gorgeous that some guy would do anything to be with her.

One of my favorite movies dealing with the aging single woman is called Broken English. It’s more realistic than most, about a woman who is painfully single. She has a string of terrible dates and becomes leery of anyone showing interest, such that she finds it difficult even to be hit on because she feels this deep distrust of men who would be interested in her. It’s quite amazing to want someone to want you, but then distrust anyone who actually does. What’s wrong with them that they’re interested in me? And how quickly are they going to decide I’m not worth their effort?

It’s a mess. At some point the idea of being in a relationship starts to sound like the possibility of becoming an astronaut. You already know how much I fear outer space, but somehow I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a whole imaginary life that I can’t crumple up and throw away. It’s tattooed all over me with invisible ink. I know you think those are freckles covering my nearly-middle-aged skin, but they are actually hopes, and disappointed hopes. Sun kisses, or scars, or maybe notches to record imagined scenarios… Continue reading “Underneath”

Detours

I feel a bit sad and overwhelmed today.

Looking for the healthiest actions to take, I thought I could start with that confession and and then maybe some other things that should be said.

I was in a car accident Wednesday morning, on my way to Stanwood to meet with one of my pastors. We were going to talk about my current spiritual crisis and I 

was going to ask for his advice about various other pieces of dissonance within and around me.
But then I crashed. Specifically, while heading south, trying to avoid something going on in the northbound lane, I got my wheel hooked on the side of the road and this got my car swinging wildly out of my control, which sent me flying at a spin into that northbound lane full of cars.

Picturing this now to describe it gives me this achy tightness in my chest… Continue reading “Detours”

The Adventure of Armed Robbery

Letting go of fear can make anything an adventure.

Several years ago I was working at an espresso stand in Western Washington. This is becoming a more popular way to buy coffee beverages throughout the US, but it has been a kind of epidemic in the Pacific Northwest for decades now. I usually worked by myself in this little hut just off of a popular highway. To the East (on the window side), was the highway and to the West (the door side) stood an enormous and visibly abandoned building.

Within the course of several weeks we began to hear reports of other drive-thru espresso stands being robbed in the area.

Setting aside what kind of dope would risk jail time for the pitiful amount of money to be found in an espresso stand, it made all of us worry. I remember coming to work on several afternoons feeling fear that this thief would choose me.

What fear accomplished in me made me worse at my job. Instead of welcoming every customer that came, I felt super cautious and suspicious of certain men and all walk-ups. I smiled less, and engaged in much less conversation… Continue reading “The Adventure of Armed Robbery”

The Joy of Grief

It has become somewhat of a tradition to write a blog post on or near my daughter’s “day.” Grief is such a richly varied experience and I have found it to be a kind of beautiful gift. For this reason, there is always something to say beyond the obvious reality that it sucks to have your kid die.

I couldn’t say that I’m glad I lost her, but today and many many other days in the last 7 years I can say that while I lost more than I ever wanted to, I gained many things I didn’t even know I could.

The biggest gain is that I’ve seen God come through for me in a way that I only ever vaguely believed he would before. A week or so after Sarah died, when I realized that I could not grieve in a healthy way, I asked God to take all of it and give back only what is good. While I could recount many occasions in the last 2,555 days that I felt unpleasant emotions; screamed, cried, numbed up, felt sorry for myself, choked on the emptiness, laid in the cold mud of life without her, thought of who she would be now, felt anger at a passing pregnant woman… I have felt all of those emotions and more, but every one of them came at just the time I needed to feel it. Each one helped me heal a little more. Since asking him, God has been utterly faithful to carry all but what I was supposed to walk with in the current moment.

When people find out about Sarah they almost always say, “I don’t know how…” or, “I never could handle…” But of course they’re right and neither could I. Although it might seem weird that feeling pain has been a gift, it’s the way that I have been set free to grieve without guilt or shame, without wallowing or getting stuck too long. I haven’t made this happen, I have only accepted whatever piece came my way…. Continue reading “The Joy of Grief”

Like It Or Not

Life is on the verge of transition. I’m not speaking existentially for all, but specifically for myself. This coming week will be the end of a long and full season with the School of Biblical Studies. All of the celebrations will occur, students will graduate, millions of photos will be taken with strings of people side hugging and smiling, epic recap videos will be cried over, mini speeches will be made.

I pan out that way to invite you in to the universal themes of hard won victories and deeply forged friendships.

On a more personal level, I hate goodbyes.

Let’s be clear, many stages of life and relationship are difficult. I was talking with a friend earlier today and she expressed how much easier it is to be in our mid 30’s than it was to be in our 20’s, and yet emotions never seem to lose their vivid colors. We are much more likely to laugh together over a mistake than to cry alone, but mistakes still require the getting back up part. I’m not quite an old lady yet, but getting back up requires a bit more effort now than at 21… Continue reading “Like It Or Not”

Let’s Fight

When I was young I had a pretty bad temper. “Seeing red” was a figure of speech that I understood completely.

Back then, we also did our family fighting with really loud voices. When it went on between others and myself, it was cathartic, when it was other members of my family with each other, it tipped over into stressful. I remember one time going into my room, slamming the door and plugging my ears so tightly that I hurt myself, all because of an argument in which I was not involved.

It was for that reason that I began looking for “fixes,” or, more appropriately termed, “diffusers.” Jokes are my favorite- ones that make me the fool usually work out the best because there’s no possibility for things to be taken wrong. Every once in a while I found actual wisdom that calmed things. Not so much like Solomon, but more like the time I encouraged my sister to not stay stubbornly in the car at McDonalds because she’d be hungry later when her anger had cooled.

As an adult there is really never any yelling. I still sometimes get the urge to slam doors, but if I notice the urge in time, I can diffuse it by calling myself out as passive aggressive… Continue reading “Let’s Fight”

The Log in My Eye

Transitions often make it difficult for me to know who I am. I would like that to be different.

Oddly enough, one of my “Strength Finders” strengths is flexibility. I began to seriously question this “strength” sometime at the beginning of this year because I was flattened by a particular transition. Totally undone.

At that time I realized that what makes me flexible is my great intolerance for not fitting. It’s like a big splinter that I MUST get out RIGHT NOW.

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I’m not talking about morals or anything. I’m talking about cultural things which are not connected to morals- bed times, food habits, conversation topics, clothing, time orientation, what communicates respect or what is considered rude. All of these physical manifestations of culture come from underlying values and when I first enter a new culture those differences feel unbearable to me. So I have a tendency to wrestle hard with myself in order that those things not be points of conflict…. Continue reading “The Log in My Eye”

Don’t Freak Out

Last Monday I taught the book of Philippians to the students in our School of Biblical Studies. I get nervous before teaching- not because I have stage fright and not because I’m afraid of what they will think of me. I get nervous because I really want to do a good job- I don’t want to waste people’s time, but I also want desperately to convey something of who God is when I teach.

I know, I know- this is really only something God can do. At the same time, I am responsible to invest time in studying the books I teach so that I do have a foundation. God can speak through any donkey, but I don’t actually want to be an ass.

Teaching Philippians was a really good time. A few hours before the teaching started I had this wave of gratitude for the fact that I get to do the thing I’ve dreamed of doing! It’s ridiculous, people. I have no degrees and very little experience. But I get to spend serious time in God’s word and then I get to lead this awesome group discussion. This is what teaching mostly is to me. I love asking the students, “What do you see?” because even after studying for weeks and weeks they still see things I have not seen. It’s an honor and a joy. We laughed and we cried. Together we had a clearer picture, a fresh reminder of who Jesus really is and who God is really calling us to be together….

Continue reading “Don’t Freak Out”

Love the One You’re With

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about singleness, relationships, and marriage. Is it just me?

About a year ago I was in a church service and we were singing this song I’d never heard when one line zapped me right in my… hmmm… gut? Heart? Brain? Whatever. It was this, “My heart will sing no other name, Jesus, Jesus.”
As I sang it, the desire rose up loudly within me that it be true. At the same moment, God spoke something very clearly into my head, “Peggy, I want you to stop having crushes.”

I used to think that having crushes was just a high school problem. After my husband left me several years ago I felt pretty sure that I was done with hope in the area of Romantic Relationships. But I guess I didn’t count on God working the kind of healing that he worked. I didn’t count on so little residual bitterness. That’s good, I know. Without the shield of bitterness, though, I started noticing … well.. men. And just like some silly high school girl, I started having crushes again… Continue reading “Love the One You’re With”

Be Still My Soul

I just received a beautiful email from a friend. It read much more like a hand written letter and I’m tempted to copy and paste it into a document and print it on paper.

Besides sharing her struggles and joys, she ends her letter with a very simple statement which left me stunned for a moment while salty liquid rushed into my eyes.

“I pray for you, Peggy, that your faith would not fail.”

I sat up late last night trying to write a different blog post and then trying to write something for just myself to make sense of life right now. One metaphor that seemed fitting was that of being out in choppy water on a small pontoon. Just as I think I’m grasping what it means to be still inside, the scenery changes and I’m sliding toward a metal railing with pinwheel arms. Three things I forgot to do and seven things that need to be done right now, and several questions I’m not completely sure how to answer slam into me at the opposite end of the boat…. Continue reading “Be Still My Soul”

Withalittlehelp

Sometimes a bad evening happens and all you need is a person (or two) to hear you and sympathize. Nothing major, just friends who care.

Even friends like your own mom. (Thanks, mom!)

It’s a bit like shushing a frightened, crying toddler. Only a scrape… kiss the wet cheek, snuggle a moment.

Except today I was the toddler.

It was nothing. Really. Some crazy people, driving dangerously and flipping me off for not also driving dangerously (you know that strip between Co Springs and Denver where it’s narrow and curvy and everyone drives like maniacs!?). Then some technology issues, then running around and retracing steps because I did things wrong (without knowing the rules) to start…. Continue reading “Withalittlehelp”

Is it me, Lord?

This is a mini revelation I had the other day about how God loves and forgives me.

My friend Jodi has two small children. Brynn is four, I think and like all kids her age (and my age), she does bad things sometimes.
The other day I was talking with Jodi and we heard some crying from down the hallway. We headed that way and there was a neighbor boy crying and heading toward the room where his dad was sitting. Brynn was behind him with distress on her face. She headed straight for Jodi and simply said, “I pushed him.” It was clear from her face that she felt remorse. Jodi very calmly said, “Ok, go make it right. Go tell him you’re sorry.”

Another little girl was ready to tell the whole story to the adult and this was upsetting to Brynn. She came back and cried out, “I ALREADY TOLD HER WHAT I DID!” Jodi was still calm and dealt with the emotions. She repeated her kind instructions to go make things right with the little boy…. Continue reading “Is it me, Lord?”

The Guts of my Heart

Somehow we always want fairy tale endings even right smack in the middle of our lives. Am I right?

The last year or so I have felt a kind of fairy tale take-off  happening within my heart in a way that is, I think, slightly deceiving. This is what it is like to straddle adulthood. To try the balance beam of “going somewhere”.
But it’s kind of a lie, to be honest. Because here is the thing; after having several years blast the daylights out of me, blast so much soot and the childhood scars away and the unreal expectations and the misplaced fanciful hopes… AFTER such a few years, when I’ve rinsed off what had come undone (which was a lot), stand up straight (which feels like, and possibly is a miracle), and head back into the fray (and by that I mean purposeful living), I realize that the mini-Armageddon of the soul I had just experienced was merely round 1…. Continue reading “The Guts of my Heart”

The Cryptic Apocalyptic

We’re studying Revelation this week. I’m taking a breather right now to digest what we’ve heard in class and read thus far.

Just as the book itself seems to depict layers of the same “event” and from different perspectives, I have had layers of reactions to it and tried to view it from different perspectives. For a book with so much potential to confuse, I love one of the opening statements…

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” Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (1:3)

If you’re like me, you just don’t read Revelation ever… except maybe pieces. Over the years I have especially loved chapter 21 which talks about heaven. I have also loved the letters to the churches in the first 3 chapters because there are practical things in there I can relate to. Don’t be lukewarm in your faith, don’t give up, remember that enduring to the end leads to eternal reward… stuff like that…. Continue reading “The Cryptic Apocalyptic”

How the Mighty Fall

Yesterday I woke up and felt ready. Unlike many of the days in this last week, I woke up feeling prepared to take the day by the reigns and get things done. I think partly because Saturdays tend to be more rewarding days and because all of the work is followed by a day off.
Who knows why I woke up feeling prepared, but it led me to work out and then high tail it to the classroom. There was a lot to be done.

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Looking back on the day, I think the feeling of preparedness was mainly a head trip. It was a pretty good head trip until things started to go wrong. The class computer wouldn’t get online. Then once I got it to go online, it wouldn’t connect to the printer so that I could print out all the work I had to work on. Thankfully a staff person came in earlier than usual and helped me figure out how to connect my laptop to the printer…. but then this process also took a while because I had to install drivers.

And the clock was ticking…. Continue reading “How the Mighty Fall”