I’ve decided to act like a grownup for Christmas this year. I should have done this long before age 39, but you must understand that I didn’t realize I’ve been acting like a child until some time in the mid morning of today.
When you’re a kid, your parents make holidays- from scratch out of love, and special parent magic. When you leave the house, you transition through stages: holidays with friend’s families, holidays with just friends, one horrible New Years Eve spent alone, several happily solitary Thanksgivings. And you enjoy the freedom, thinking that one year, not long from now, you will begin your own family; you will start your own traditions. You will tap into the parent magic for yourself and start building holidays as a gift to your own children. Your heart will be made of chocolate and your spouse will know just where (and how) to hang the stockings.
That is, unless you remain (mostly) single and (mostly) childless. If this happens, you will one day get an email from your boss asking you to work more in December, you may briefly compare yourself to Lucy Eleanor Moderatz from While You Were Sleeping, and then start sobbing in the middle of some house you are cleaning in Bellevue… Continue reading “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out”
The pain scale is possibly the worst way to measure anything. First of all, there is genre to consider; quality, duration, impact. If ten is the highest number, then I have to put childbirth there (something I say from experience), but actually, childbirth didn’t cause me to pass out. So maybe leg amputation, or a gun shot is actually worse. But then I would factor in duration, quality and impact. Giving birth felt like water skiing my undercarriage over sharp metal spikes… but not the whole time, just for a few seconds during each contraction. Actually childbirth is a good example of many genres of pain: burning, aching, sharp, sudden, subtle, dull.
So yeah, if we put childbirth as a ten (winning out over leg amputation based on duration and diversity, sorry to those of you that have experienced both and maybe think differently), then how am I supposed to tell a doctor about my neck pain? Compared to childbirth, in it’s feel at the moment, it is a .02, or something. But then if we add qualifications, it goes up. It’s like the feeling you get between your shoulder blades when you spend too much time reading; like that, but spread out from the top of my spine, to the lower middle of my back. And it’s also like giving someone, who is a little too heavy, a piggy back ride, or like a very small, and constant volt of electricity.
I went bra shopping the other day and did not factor in how exhausting it would be to take my shirt on and off so many times. The store clerk who was helping me didn’t understand my dilemma, and so she started by bringing me one size at a time in these large wooden drawers. After allowing this “customer service” to go on for a while, I finally got fed up with having to take everything on and off, and I just went out into the store and grabbed 7 or 8 different styles and sizes: the thing I should have done from the start.
And don’t get me started on physical therapy… Continue reading “Arbitrary Designations”
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”
If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.
Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.
For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it… Continue reading “Can I Get Back to You?”
It’s the day before Christmas Eve, and I’m sitting in my cluttered living room while rain lashes the bushes outside against the glossy, wet windows. Fireplace aglow, presents in a glittery heap, a half knitted sock (that I’ve been working on for a few years, which loses its needles every time I put it away), the book I just finished lies exhaling next to me on the couch.
I’ve started so many posts in the last few months, some of them getting no farther than an intriguing title. There’s plenty to say (always), but how much of it needs to be said here? As 2015 comes to a close, it feels right to make some account for myself, so here is a list of the main events:
January: came to Lynden to work with Rise Campaign.
This was the best start to a new year, though I didn’t know it at the time. Staying connected to YWAM in this low-pressure way, working with kind and passionate people who champion me despite my sometimes excessive lack of productivity… this is the reason I’ve been able to leave survival mode and start tackling the world again… Continue reading “Pretty Good Year”
We’re all trying very hard, aren’t we?
This morning I was awake an hour before my alarm was set to go off and I was filled with both excitement and anxiety (I start college today!). I decided to work out with that extra time and while working out I had so much inspiration about this specific post. I was going to title it, “Work: Burden or Blessing,” and it was going to help us all get a better view of God and who He has made us to be.
Not surprisingly, I managed to get really tangled up in stress before I could sit down and start writing. Instead of that calm inspiration I felt on the elliptical machine, I was staring at a white screen and I was filled with wordless frustration… Continue reading “Faith Part 2: On the Ground”
This morning I sat down to “hang out” with God. I barely opened my Bible where there’s a flyer marking some random book, saw the title of a book and was suddenly flooded with revelation that sent me writing feverishly in my journal and flipping back and forth between books of the Bible, recording, processing, crying.
You probably already know the things I’m about to share, but let me tell you anyway.
The book fell open to Joshua.
First of all, as background I’ve been chewing a lot lately on the idea of holiness. I used to have the view that because it was obviously too hard to be really holy, God didn’t expect perfect obedience from me. He loves me, after all, and isn’t some cosmic police officer. But I’ll be honest- I have often swung between “striving” to please God then giving up exhausted, and falling upon grace. There was a real sense of my unworthiness and God’s goodness and the mystery of his acceptance, but I have never really understood that non-legalistic holiness existed.
Back to Joshua. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little sum up. The Israelites wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years. On the brink of The Promised Land, Moses gives an epic speech and then croaks, handing the leadership over to Josh… Continue reading “Audience Participation”
It feels good to be small.
This is my main take-away from six months of sabbatical.
Recently I described the year like being lost in the woods .
It felt like I
ceased to be myself for a whole year. I ceased to know the things I thought I knew well and stopped connecting with many things that had previously given me joy and life.
It freaked me out to be unsure of everything I used to know. To add another metaphor to the pile, I was drowning.
And kept drowning… Continue reading “Perfecting Weakness”
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”
Having lunch with a close friend after church yesterday I said,
“I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.”
It sounds both more shocking and less extreme than I mean, but they are the only words I can find to explain myself.
I love Jesus. Even when I’m twisted into some weird, navel gazing obsession over the point of my existence… even when I’m catastrophically overwhelmed by the clash of world news and daily personal hostilities I have this unshakable hope that God exists and that He is good.
At the same time I have totally forgotten the why and the how of so many rituals. When I try to pray anything fancy about healing or spiritual warfare, I can’t get out anything beyond, “Help, God.” or “Please, God.” I say a lot more stuff to Him than that, actually I say all of the things to him, but I no longer understand why we concoct prayers that sound like magical incantations.
Last winter when I got this strong feeling that I needed a sabbatical I also sensed God giving me a heads up that this season (that I’ve just walked through) wouldn’t be any easier than the last season when I was piled under an unmanageable amount of stress. When I say I “walked through” this sabbatical what I really mean is I’ve crawled through, often just laying on my face in the mud pouring out of my heart.
I’m super broken, guys… Continue reading “The Odd Couple”
A year ago I was keenly longing for my own place- a kitchen in which to bake, a living room to invite people into, wall space to hang my prints.
Three months ago I was making detailed plans for getting an RV to live in so that I could have my own home while still being able to travel.
I’m pretty happy staying in guest rooms and sleeping on couches, but at the same time, I find myself mentally decorating some imaginary home of my own. I spend a little time here and there “shopping” for things like area rugs and arm chairs. My dream house is the coolest thing you’ve never seen.
Maybe I talk about this a lot?
If it seems like I’m repeating myself, it’s probably because I’ve been in this flexible state for the last 4 years- not at all what I expected from life so near to 40. While I’m waiting and waiting to find out where “home” is, I learn more and more deeply how comfortable it can be to be homeless…
Continue reading “Splendid Spinsterhood”
My daughter Sarah is not alive anymore, but sometimes she lives so vividly in my thoughts it’s as though she is alive. But she’s not. It isn’t sad, but it is.
When I’m driving in the car she sits in the back seat and kicks her legs and laughs at something silly I said. Walking down a long hallway, she may skip beside me, she may hold my hand. And sometimes, when I’m sitting in a chair, she gets up into my lap and lays her head on my shoulder for me to pet her hair like I loved to have my mother pet my hair when I was little… Continue reading “My Favorite Ghost”
A Father’s Love: Father to the Fatherless
Guest Post by Thad Nelson
I was on a construction jobsite a few years back listening to a conversation between two of my co-workers about how terrible their fathers were and I interjected quite insensitively how awesome my own father was. This stopped the conversation and Charlie says to me, “Hey stop it. You’re spoiling our pity party!” It was at this point in my life that I really stopped and took stock of who my father is and what I had learned from him. Peacemaking, patience, joy, sticktuitiveness, self control, frugality, gentleness.
My dad never had an opinion when it came to eating out. He is generally not a picky person but it’s not like he doesn’t have favorite things:
Lasagna, 1000 island dressing, and carrot cake, to name a few, but I realized in retrospect that what he really wanted for dinner was for us to be happy and not to fight. When I was young I wanted a certain wood toy and so he set out to build it for me. I was so distraught by the noise of the saw that he stopped and never made it. I think about myself in a similar situation and I think I would say, “If you don’t like it, then go in the house” Turns out, I am not my father. I began to recognize that he had consistently modeled the art of peacemaking by setting aside his own wants and desires for the wants and desires of others.
I would say that I learned patience from my father from countless hunting and fishing trips, but it would not quite be accurate. At least not in the sense that I typically think of his patience. He is patient with people. He was patient with me and my sister and my mother and our stray cats and all our shortcomings… Continue reading “A Father’s Love”
Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.
When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.
Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.
What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012) have taken place… Continue reading “A Plan to Lose it All”
Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!
Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?
Apparently not me. Cool.
Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted… Continue reading “Existential Absence”