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…

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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…

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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…

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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….

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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…

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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…

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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….

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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….

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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…

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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….

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