Splendid Spinsterhood

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…

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My Favorite Ghost

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…

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Existential Absence

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…

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Paul’s Secret

During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.

It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.

The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.

Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul…

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When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years…

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I’m Only Sleeping

I‘m pretty sure I have jet lag every morning of my life.

I go to bed at night trying to tattoo into my mind the excitement I want to feel when my alarm goes off. In the morning, just a little too early, the cell phone song cuts through a thick fog of dreams, disturbing and addictive dreams. Whatever I thought the night before no longer ever existed. Coming up out of the water of sleep, my eyes sting and I suck in handfuls of air trying to find my phone in the dark. I sit up after turning the noise off and I take breaths that come from somewhere deep, like my body is the earth and some hidden cavern holds life, miles and miles from the surface.

Sometimes I check the media on my phone, little slices of affirmation or conflict that I feel dully, but feel more than understand. If I have enough wisdom, I refrain from looking at my phone because I know that all of those panting dogs will wait.

I blink, blink, close my eyes reminding them what it’s like to be awake. “Be awake!” I try to shout to my insides because they weigh so much more than usual…

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Trauma Brilliance

Some of the best moments of marriage to my ex husband were the weeks following our daughter’s death.

I won’t say that they were the only good moments, because that would just not be true, but they were some of our best.

The day of Sarah’s birth and death, we were both some kind of mighty beings. After all, I pushed a human being out of my body with no drugs and after over 24hrs of not eating or sleeping and undergoing unbelievable amounts of physical pain. I actually had burst blood vessels in my eyes and when she was finally on the outside of me, they laid her gooey, curled up body onto my chest and I thought, “Huh. That’s a baby.”

I guess it was exhaustion induced ambivalence.

It didn’t take long, though before indifference turned to wonder. Drained and bleary wonder.

We were, I think, too tired to do anything that day but obey whatever was happening each moment…

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I‘ve been thinking a lot this last year about hostility vs. hospitality.

A few years ago I began to have this hormonal imbalance issue which, when untreated, leads to varying degrees of unreasonable irritability (among other things). Of all of the side effects, this one is the most bothersome to me. Thankfully, I can recognize the difference between my own normal reactions and those that are caused by spiking hormones. It’s helpful that I can know something with my mind and act on that knowledge even when my emotions tell me to be verbally or physically violent. I’m thankful for this for many reasons.

At the same time, I’ve been noticing how much hostility there is within me that is not caused by hormones. These are the petty reactions, the selfish assumptions, the ungenerous decisions. They come from a deeper place that I can’t quite dig out.

Talking with a student and another staff person recently, we discussed how studying the Bible reveals what is really within us the same way that tragedy or opposition might. The student and the other staff person shared what had been uncovered about themselves and as I began to share, I was a little surprised to recall the main thing studying the Bible had brought out of me last year. Anger….

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Old Acquaintance

I‘m that lady who alternately weeps and cracks jokes. It looks like insanity, but it is actually exactly how to stay sane.

Today I met a 70yr old version of myself.

Every week, some of our students and one of our staff go next door to an assisted living home to lead a Bible study. Every week, whoever goes comes back with full hearts and good stories. Those people are amazing. Sometimes only of a few of them show up, sometimes more than 5. Sometimes several people leave in the middle. It’s not just a place for old people, it’s for anyone who needs assistance in living, so there are people as young as 18 and one lady who is 97 and many of them are noticeably “different.”

Today the 97yr old woman came (I’ll call her Beth), as well as two other women (I will call them Cindy and Lily). Cindy left early because her bipolar disorder was making it hard for her to sit with a group of people. She apologized profusely, but exited quickly. Lily was the old version of me and she spent part of the time cracking jokes, noticing random things (“Look out that window! There’s a plane that just flew over the peak!”), and the other part of the time, she wept openly….

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Holiday Equilibrium

The Christmas season is upon us. I think I’m finally beginning to reclaim some joy for this season.  It’s amazing what an idyllic childhood of Christmases will do to hinder and taint your attempts to enjoy the holiday as a single adult.

Christmases past are perfect in my memory and all of that had to do with my mom.She was way better than Santa Claus. Most of the year she was pretty stressed with work and taking care of three girls on her own, but at Christmas time she was the Happiest Little Elf version of herself. Her happiness would spill over to her three daughters in a way that caused us to fight less and love more. The weekend after Thanksgiving she would pull out the boxes and the whole house would be transformed. A stack of the best Christmas records would sit on the record player and when they  had played through we would just flip them all over and start again.

As the youngest in the house, I always got up first on Christmas morning. Sometime around age 7 or 8 I crept down the hall before daylight and there in the living room, in the magical glow of the Christmas tree lights, sat a shiny, red bicycle. I knew it was for me. After gaping at it for a few seconds, I slipped into my mom’s room to wake her up. Before I said anything, her sleepy voice came from under covers, “I missed The Face.” Of course she meant the face I made when I saw that glorious bike, so I replayed it for her….

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