Thursday, January 31, 2013

T-shirts and Roller Skates

When I was seven I spent the entire summer wearing a light blue T-shirt that had a rainbow on it, cut-offs, and roller skates. I don’t know what it was about that shirt that made it my favorite, but I know it made me mad when I wasn’t allowed to wear it.  The skates had been a birthday gift and I wore them as much as possible, whether or not it was practical. (Have you ever tried roller skating in grass or on carpet? I don’t recommend it.)  I wore that shirt and those skates until they were far too small.  My mom finally had to intervene and hand them down to my sisters, and that was one of the few times I remember from grade school when I wasn’t happy to be growing.

When it meant handing down a favorite shirt or something as fabulous as red-wheeled roller skates, growing-up could be a pain.  But for the most part, getting bigger was fun.  I loved measuring how tall I was in comparison to my dad or older cousins.  It was exciting to get new gym shoes, to graduate to the next grade, and to achieve various milestones like learning to tie my own shoes or blow bubbles with bubble gum.  When I could finally reach something around the house that my little sisters were still too short to reach, I felt so grown up.  (Of course, they both grew to be taller than me, so that was short-lived. Pun intended.)

I think most of us probably liked the finally getting taller or finally getting to the next thing parts of growing-up.  At some point, though, we’re done getting taller. After that, growing becomes less about physical growth or milestones and morphs into something more difficult to navigate.  There are times we are more in control of this and can grow with purpose, investing in ourselves by pursuing education or life experiences or new opportunities.  Other times, the growing is more chaotic and out of our control, like when the unplanned happens or when are forced to adapt to the results of other people’s choices. 

Whether positive and deliberate or difficult and circumstantial, post-growing-up growing is rarely as fun as getting taller was – especially when it leads us to the realization that we’ve outgrown something.  Be it a relationship, a job, a belief, a practice, or anything else, it can be traumatic to realize that something that has been a part of our lives for years doesn’t fit anymore. Things that used to make us feel comfortable or grounded become constricting or impossible to keep up. We have to start rearranging our lives to accommodate the changes and it can be disorienting and distressing. 

Had I been an especially crafty kid, I probably could have turned that rainbow t-shirt into some kind of keepsake or fashioned it into a practical and functional item.  We don’t always have to get rid of things we grow out of, not if we can figure out how to make them work with where we’ve grown.  Relationships, jobs, beliefs, practices – some of these can be transformed into something worth keeping, in one capacity or another.  A very few of these things are even valuable enough (far more valuable than an outgrown t-shirt, obviously) that we should invest whatever effort is required to keep incorporating them as we grow, albeit in new and revised ways.

But old roller skates?  Sure, when they used to fit there was nothing more fun than zipping around in them, laughing and feeling the breeze in your face.  Yet when you can’t wear them anymore, they are useless.  I suppose you could have them bronzed so you’ll always have them around, unusable and taking up space.  Or I guess you could disassemble them and use all the parts to make some other kind of wheeled contraption, but it really is better to just get rid of them.  Some things would require infinitely more effort and resources than we have at our disposal to transform them, and even if we did, the results would be heavy and impractical.  This is when it’s important to realize there are things you have to stop trying to lug around.  Get rid of those things and stop allowing them weigh you down when you have other growing to do. 

I guess one of the biggest challenges of growing after you’re grown up is figuring out which outgrown things are the t-shirts and which are the roller skates.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Bonhoeffer and Finding Balance

I’m working through my resolution books (I’ve finished three already) and currently reading “Life Together.”  I started it a couple months ago and feel like I’m barely making progress.  I’ve realized that part of what I love about writers like Barbara Brown Taylor and Rachel Held Evans and Richard Beck is that they leave some room in their writing for discussion.  The voice in which they write is one of explaining an understanding at which they have arrived and inviting the reader to consider it carefully.  Reading their work feels like an invitation to an on-going conversation.  My experience with Dietrich Bonhoeffer thus far is pretty much the opposite of that. 

I know he is revered by many, so this is probably somewhat sacrilegious, but it is exhausting trying to keep my mind in this book while I’m reading it.  Maybe it is the tone in translation or how different much of what he describes is from my own life, but reading it feels similar to attending a lecture where the person speaking begins by saying that questions are not permitted, as there is nothing he will say that is open for discussion.  For the first two sections, I had to force myself to ignore what felt like being dictated to and continue reading.

Thankfully, now that I’ve made it to the third section, I think I’m getting used to it. I even found myself drawn in to the part where he explains the importance of silence.  The larger context of the passage is about silence in the presence and contemplation of scripture, but I also found there some inspiration for my overall pursuit of listening to gain understanding.
“Silence does not mean being incapable of speech, just as speech does not mean idle talk…. There is a wonderful power in being silent – the power of clarification, purification, and focus on what is essential… Much that is unnecessary remains unsaid.  But what is essential and helpful can be said in a few words.”  - Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together

The silence – the listening for the purpose of understanding, the quieting my mind – it’s really hard for me.  I kind of suck at it, actually. I mean, I just wrote three-and-a-half paragraphs and I'm still not to the point of this post. Was all of that really essential?

When I’m alone, I feel like my thoughts go a million miles a minute.  I’m always writing in my head.  Or thinking of how I should explain myself.  Or trying to analyze situations and figure out how I feel about something.  When I’m having a conversation, I find myself talking until I feel I make sense, often explaining the subject in several different ways until I feel like I get my point across.  Sure, sometimes this is all fine, but mostly that is the opposite of focusing on what is essential or listening to understand.

I struggle to find the right balance.

To use the right words to speak from my heart.

To listen with the intent of gaining understanding.

To write with purpose and weave with words.

And most difficult for me right now: To discern when is the appropriate time and what are the appropriate words for each.  I believe what I should be aiming for with my speaking, my listening, and my writing can be summarized from the Bonhoeffer excerpt above – To appreciate the power of silence and to say the essential in few words while leaving the unnecessary unsaid.

What a simple and overwhelming aspiration. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Boys and Girls

I have no idea what made me think of this, but as I was doing laundry this morning I thought of my first "real" boyfriend.  I write "real" because I guess he wasn't technically my "first" boyfriend.  My "technically first" boyfriend was a guy in second grade who asked me on the playground to be his girlfriend and then never talked to me again. I remember that guy had red hair and got in trouble for eating glue when we were in first grade.  I guess some things just aren't meant to be.

Anyway, my first "real" boyfriend was a guy I met at my first real (no quotes necessary) job when I was fifteen.  He was a grade younger than me and had beautiful blue eyes and hair like the kid from Terminator 2.  Other than seeing each other at work while we were working, we went on a total of three dates.  Only these weren't actual dates, they were things we planned to do with our friends and show up at the same place at the same time.  Did I mention I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend?

He broke up with me after the work Christmas party because I wouldn't let him kiss me.  That worked out fine because by this time I had felt guilty enough about hiding the "relationship" from my parents that I'd told them he was my boyfriend and they'd insisted I tell him we could only be friends.

After that, my parents took the approach that if I wanted to go out with a boy for an activity (not a date, I wasn't allowed to call them dates), said boy had to call my dad and ask permission.  I think I've written about this before, so I'll try to summarize.  I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend and I wasn't allowed to plan activities with boys who wouldn't ask my dad for permission.  It was also very rare that I was allowed to go anywhere in a car with a boy unless other people were present in the car as well.  In fact, I think it only happened twice before I was eighteen, both times to a homecoming dance with a friend, with strict instructions that I was to be returned home immediately after.

There were also several guys who I was allowed to go on an activity with and who jumped through all the hoops of calling my dad and finding other people to go too and then my parents decided they were too old or too fill-in-the-blank and there would be no future activities with those guys.  And my dad would tell them that the next time they called to ask if I could go out.  For me this was all was somewhat humiliating and socially limiting, but I can (mostly) understand why they did it.

All of this led me to thinking about the boys and.... ugh... girls. Or maybe it was thinking of the girl thing which got me started thinking about the old boyfriend thing. Not sure. Anyway, right now, girls are just other kids at the boys' school, other kids who sometimes come over to play.  I don't want to mess that up by breaching the subject too soon, so we haven't really talked about girls other than in the general, respecting-other-people way.  I keep telling myself I have time, but I know it's going to go so fast and we will be talking about girlfriends before I know it.

I'm not going to tell them they can't have a girlfriend.  I'm not going to try to control every decision they make.  But I kind of feel like I don't have a context for how this all works outside of the way I was raised.  And I kind of feel at a disadvantage because I've never been a boy.

As the boys get older, I worry about them feeling pressured to do things they shouldn't or behave in ways other than the ways they've been taught to behave.  I worry about them liking the wrong girls.  I worry about them not talking to me about what is going on in their lives.  I worry about them taking relationships too seriously or not seriously enough.  I worry about them getting their hearts broken and I worry about them breaking someone else's heart.  I just worry.  And I kind of feel that maybe the way the relationships of my youth were handled (for me) didn't fully prepare me for helping them navigate theirs.


Or maybe it did.  Or maybe it doesn't really matter. We're all doing the best we can. My parents were doing what they thought was the best thing for me just like I have to do what I think is best for my kids. It won't be perfect and I'm sure time will reveal mistakes I've made with them and ways in which I've failed them. But I'm doing my best. I hope and pray the way I'm raising them is teaching them to respect and value both others and themselves enough that they can make the right choices at the right times.

And I hope to raise them each to be the kind of guy who wouldn't dump a girl after three kind-of dates because she isn't ready to kiss him.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not Less or More

I have started many drafts about my church issues.  Almost all of these drafts detail stories about youth group or courtship or leadership or homeschooling or secular music or gender roles or authority.  Most of these drafts start off coherent, but then descend into jumbled thoughts in run-on sentences and emotional ramblings because all the things listed above were completely intertwined during the same period of my life.

Along with those unfinished stories are multiple attempts to write about how those intertwined things have affected me since that time.  I've done a lot of writing about things I've sorted through, from thoughts about why in college I let guys talk over me in class without calling them out on it, to listing out words I didn't mean yet said anyway because I believed they were words I was expected to say because I was a girl.  I've spent a lot of time trying to put into words all the questions and doubts that I learned from a patriarchal view of religion that became part of who I was back then.  I've spent a lot of time trying to explain how I eventually realized that I'd learned to question things I should not question and that I'd learned to avoid questioning things I should.

I’d learned to question my right to speak.

I’d learned to question my right to disagree.

I’d learned to question my heart.

I’d learned not to question contradictions.

I’d learned not to question when someone else “heard God” for me.

I'd learned not to question the notion that I was somehow less because I am a girl.

As much as all of those things still bother me at times, there is no reason for me to share those stories in any more detail than what I've shared in the past and what I've written above.  The details of the stories don't matter anymore.  I’m no longer involved in that community.  I’m not going to try to go back and talk to those people about what happened.  It’s all still there in my back story, but continuing to hash out the details is only going to distract me.   

What I need to focus on now is figuring out what to do about church.  What I'm currently doing with staying home on Sundays is fine for now, but I can’t stay away from community with God’s people because I had some bad experiences years ago.  I can’t keep avoiding it because my more recent (admittedly half-hearted) attempts to find a place to serve with other Christians have been dismal failures.  I can’t keep hiding because I’m afraid of being overwhelmed with my baggage and damaging my kids with it.

I realize communities are comprised of people and therefore no community is perfect.  I’m not looking for perfection.  I am not perfect and would not fit in any community where perfection is the goal.  I know I need to be willing to listen to people with whom I disagree.  I know there will be times my heart or thoughts will be wrong and I need to be willing to admit that and seek forgiveness if necessary.  I know I should always be striving to be a better version of myself and to learn and stretch and grow. And I know now that I need to find a place where all of those things are possible and encouraged.

Yet it must also be a place where my faith questions won’t be met with hostility and where my self-doubts won’t be fanned back to life.  I need to find a place where the way community is lived-out reinforces, to me and to my sons, that my heart is not less because it beats in a female chest.  That my words are not less because they are spoken with a female mouth.  That I am not less.  I refuse to raise the boys in a Church community where they are taught that having a Y chromosome makes them more or better or gives them the right to control anyone else.  We need to be in a place where it is understood that we can all serve and learn and grow together, with all our differences and despite disagreements.  I need to keep looking until I find that community – flawed and imperfect as it may be – where no one is taught they are less.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.
For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
-  Galatians 3:26-28

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I catch my breath when
I find these spaces,
the ones opened
in my soul by
all the ways in which
I am irrevocably flawed.

They no longer frighten me
as they did when I
pursued perfect,
yet I’m careful not to dwell
too long.

I pause
to take notice of the contrast
between all that’s there
and all that others see
and all I want to be.

Then I exhale
and resume the search
for truths that
transform imperfections
and illuminate the way.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Willing to be Wrong

I know homosexuality can be a divisive topic. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found that the differences in the way we approach the subject and differences in what we base our views on can make conversations about it heated and painful.  Words like "right" and "wrong" and "condone" and "agree with" and "choice" and "biology" are thrown around and often the discussion ends in frustration... or worse.

I've finally realized that for me, there is no sense in arguing.  From a scriptural perspective, there is so much debate over things like cultural context or which interpretation of what word was chosen over another and then how that was translated that I don't believe I can determine with one-hundred percent certainty what is "right" in regards to whether or not a person should be able to marry another person of the same gender.

And it makes no sense for me to argue over it because I've decided this is something about which I am willing to be wrong.

I believe in God’s grace.  I believe there are things the Church has gotten wrong in the past and that as difficult and disturbing as it is for me to wrap my mind around sometimes, His grace somehow covers even those things. I believe that if it turns out that I am wrong about homosexuality, God’s grace can cover that too.

I believe that telling an LGBT person that I don't agree with part of who they are would be like someone telling me that they realize I am a woman but they just can't accept that part of me.  I believe that telling an LGBT person that they should try to stop being LGBT would be similar to someone telling me that I should stop being a woman. I believe that if being "right" means advocating for or allowing discrimination and exclusion of LGBT persons, I will err on the side of love and inclusion.

I'm not trying to set myself as an example of what other Christians should believe.  That is something they have to prayerfully work out between their own heart and God.  I am simply saying that when I try to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and when I try to make it real in me that His love surpasses all knowledge, this is one of many things that kind of love looks like to me: it looks like treating my homosexual brothers and sisters the same way I would treat those who are heterosexual.

It means supporting the right of two consenting adults to marry. It means acknowledging and opposing discrimination whenever and wherever I encounter it.  It means showing love and working to gain understanding.  It means realizing that even if there are things that I may not fully be able to explain, I'm going to keep working to shift the balance to love and strive for understanding.

Of course, the other part of making this real is that it also means love for the people who disagree with me -- and not just the ones who respectfully disagree.  It means that I must make every effort to show the same respect and the same love to the people who say things that to me sound nothing like God's love or who advocate a position I think is wrong.  It isn't okay for me to err on the side of love for only one group or one school of thought and then behave as though God's love doesn't apply to the others.

My heart must cling to grace for every one of us and pray that regardless of which side is right, His love will cover over it all.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weave: Wrestling With My Word

I know we aren't even a month in, but I'm already wrestling with my word.  It's difficult to describe, but the closest I can come to explaining how I feel about it is "disoriented."  Weave.  I know it was supposed to be one word for one year, and that was honestly my goal when I chose it. Yet somewhere along the way I realized this can't be just a fling and I began to think in terms of settling in together long-term.

Maybe I'm over-thinking it or overwhelmed or just overtired, but I feel borderline-anxiety when I stop and contemplate how all of it is going to work out.  I guess that isn't completely uncommon at the beginning of any serious relationship. After the initial exhilaration of the newness and potential, the realization that your life has changed forever by simply deciding to see where it goes can give pause to even the most confident of hearts.  It is exciting to think about all that could be, but also difficult not to wonder if it will be able to live up to the high hopes. Identifying the direction to pursue and the effort required has caused me to have similar thoughts about this whole "weave" thing.  It's a bit thrilling and intimidating all at once.

I realize now that I'm not going to end this year with some kind of finished product.  It was a bit naive of me to think that I could string together a collection of months on this effort and end up with a completed "coherent whole."  Admitting this realization is slightly freeing, but also unnerving. Even though I'm letting myself off the hook of having this wrapped up in the next eleven months, I feel an enormous amount of self-imposed pressure to get this year right, to not mess up what feels like laying the foundation of a long-term effort.

I guess that is where the disorientation is creeping in.  I'd entered this as something to live out and write about for a collection of months, but I can already feel a shift in the way I approach so many things.  This year can't be about having reached a specific goal by the time December 31st arrives.  I can already tell it is more about learning how and what to weave every day -- learning to be intentional about what I choose as the overall pattern of my life.  Sortingreflectingcompletingspeaking my heart, helping others, and learning to listen are things I've only begun to delve into and I know there is so much more I still have to learn.

I'm still getting to know my word, still wrestling with how it will fit into my life and how my life is going to look as it changes to accommodate the commitment.  This may be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but I'm already feeling the weight of knowing we're in it for the long haul.  I'm already feeling the weight of committing to be a weaver.

Anyone else having unanticipated struggles with their word?  Also, I talked my friends Jenny and Jessica into joining me in the OneWord 365 effort.  Check out how their words are going to shape their 2013.

Friday, January 18, 2013

3 AM and Proverbs 4

I know I wrote recently about words and learning to use them well and speak from my heart.  That is important.  I want be able to honestly express what I think and feel.  I want to be understood.  I think many of us would agree that when we feel deep down that another person understands us, it is beautiful and we can feel the balance shift just a little in the right direction.

Here on this blog, it is okay if I focus on explaining the things in my head and heart.  That is a large part of why I started it.  I appreciate the effort of trying to work things out in written words and I love to connect with other people who do the same.  It is appropriate for the point of this space to be where I try to explain what I think and what I mean and what I believe. 

But at about three o’clock this morning, as I was thinking over several things I wanted to explain, I realized that I need to balance my pursuit of expressing myself with discernment for the times I need to check my desire to explain.  Outside of this blog, there will frequently be times when it’s not about people “getting” me, not about telling people what I think. 

I need to pay attention for the times in life that are more about gaining understanding, than giving it. 

And there is a lot I do not understand.

I realized that I have to work to be present in a place of trying to gain understanding.  Conversations are not simply about launching into what I think or how I disagree or what I'd like others to understand that I mean.  When I engage in a dialogue with someone, it needs to be from a place that shows that what I think or want to explain is not my main goal.  Many times, setting aside those things for the sake of listening and really hearing the other person should be my priority.  And that means listinging and thinking about what is being expressed without being preoccupied with what point I want to make next.  It means focusing on the other person.

Even if that means listening to the hard stuff. 

Even if that means listening to words that seem like criticism of me and what I think and how I feel. 

Yes.  I know there will be times it is right for me to state my case.  There will be times to stand up and disagree.  There will be times to walk away from a conversation.  There will be times to say that a response was unwarranted or inappropriate.  There will be a time when I won't gain understanding no matter how earnestly I try. 

But I have to begin by not jumping in with my responses before I've listened.  I have to begin by working, with humility and a sincere heart, to gain understanding. I realize that sometimes this will mean not being able to explain myself.  I realize that may mean foregoing the opportunity to state my case.

But that is okay. 

It's the listening and the understanding I need to be working on anyway.

Though it cost you all you have, get understanding. – Proverbs 4:7

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sidenotes and Ramblings

When I was writing yesterday's post, I did a search for scripture verses about helping.  I had some vague impressions of old Sunday School memory verses I was trying to locate, but nothing was what I was looking for.  I kept coming back to the 1 John verse.  I've been thinking about that one A LOT as I've been sorting ever-so-tediously through my unravelings.  Even though it doesn't include the word "help," I think that many of us would agree that Jesus did a lot of helping in his life on earth.  I went with it.

Work has been insane lately.  I can't catch up.  I've been stressed.  I've lost weight.  My already strange sleep patterns are messed up in a different way now than they were a few weeks ago.  I know it goes in cycles and I just have to get through this absurd patch, but right now I can barely keep track of my assignments.  It doesn't help that I'm preoccupied with all the stuff my brain is trying to sort out, but I'm trying to manage and trying to learn to switch back and forth.

An hour into the official work day, but already into my second hour of conference calls today, I checked the YouVersion Bible app on my iPod.  This is the verse of the day: 

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." - Hebrews 6:10

No joke. 

Sometimes I look for something and can't find it to save my life.  Sometimes I'm not even looking and it finds me.  Life is funny like that.

I have a feeling "helping others" is going to be a vital component of my One Word this year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Please Help Your Brother

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:6

This weekend I was bemoaning to myself how many times a day I have to say "please help your brother" to the boys.  I usually have to follow this with some sort of reason – He is too short to reach it. He is already doing something else. He has his hands full. He is scared. You helped make the mess. I need you to help him because I can't help him right now because my hands are covered in noodle dough (can’t you see that!?), etc., etc., etc.


Gah. So frustrating. When will they learn to help each other without my intervention!? 

Nothing like a good internal rant about the shortcomings of others to get a kick in the ass about your own behavior. My very next thought was something like this:

Trischa. How often do you step in and help your brother?

Oh. Um.

I am not one to say "God told me..."  Phrases like that are thrown around far too often and can do a lot of damage when people say they are acting on God’s directive and end up in the wrong place.  I do not feel that I am qualified to discern with one-hundred percent certainty where thoughts come from.  I do, however, think that some whispers and realizations come to us from outside ourselves.  Considering that I have no male siblings, I don't think that thought above came from my own brain.  Who am I helping? 

I do try to be a generally helpful person.  I try not to inconvenience people.  I take advantage of the opportunities to help that are so obvious it would honestly be bad manners to not help.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Good manners are… good.  But when was the last time that I inconvenienced myself to offer real and necessary help to someone who needs it?   

It’s been a while.  And that has to change.

To be continued....

PS. For the record, my kids can be surprisingly helpful to each other and to others.  We just had a rough weekend.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When Words Are All I Have

There are times in life when words fail me.  Sometimes they fail my heart.  Sometimes they fail my mind.

When it comes to interactions with others, it could be for any number of reasons – from physical distance to overwhelming circumstances.  Whatever the reason, I often feel that letters and syllables cannot possibly encompass all that my heart wants to express.

If I’m lucky, life allows for alternate methods of communication, like physical presence or standing in or helping out.  A way to show, instead of say. A way to shift the balance to hope, to life, to good with action instead of words.  These opportunities should not be wasted.  I know from experience the regret of letting such an opportunity go by without seizing it.

Yet, sometimes, I can’t be there and there is nothing I can do, no matter how much I care. This is more reality than a matter of missed opportunity.  Life and circumstances can be too messy or too limiting or too distancing to allow for action or presence; all I have to offer are words, when words seem useless to my heart.

I'm learning, however, these are the times to stop trying so damn hard to find exactly the right thing to say and let my heart figure out the words.  Yes, it is incredibly frightening to be vulnerable and to risk saying the wrong thing.  I do worry that the words will come out wrong or be taken in a way I don't intend or ultimately won't communicate what I actually feel.  Yet I'm striving to discern the times when keeping the words in my heart to myself is another form of missing an opportunity to shift the balance.  I'm trying to make myself let my heart speak despite my uncertainty.

Words can also fail me when I try to explain what's in my head and come up short. This can happen when I'm trying to explain something to someone else, but also when I'm trying to work something out in my own thoughts to gain that elusive prize of understanding – a deeper understanding that can be defined and set to words instead of remaining a half-formed gut-feeling I don't fully comprehend.

Considering my limitations when it comes to words, I realized that as I figure out what to weave, words have to be my partner as I sort and separate.  Once I begin to weave, words will help me avoid relying too heavily on emotions I can’t articulate and which can be easily swayed or disturbingly fickle. Focusing on getting the words right will help me stay present and focused.  Of course, I can't entirely ignore the words from my heart, the ones I need to sustain my hope of shifting the balance.  What I weave must come from my heart as well as my mind and it will come to life in letters and syllables and sentences.

I'm still not sure I will be able to live up to these expectations I've placed on myself.  I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to strike the right balance and find the right words.  My baggage, my unraveled mess – I don’t know if I can make them make sense to me, let alone to anyone else.  But I think that if words are all I have to work with, they have to be enough.  I have to keep trying.

cast aside
the filters
and the synonyms
to let the
as they form.
facades and
string together sentiments
from where they exist
carefully guarded.
the space between
with honesty
and fragile thoughts.
words are all you have,
you must speak your heart.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Resolution of Sorts

I know I’m doing the One Word thing this year, but I realized something yesterday and I need to write it down.  I’m pretending that if I know that other people know about it, I’ll hold myself to it because I don’t want to be embarrassed if they ask me and I haven’t followed through.

At various points over the past couple months, I started reading one of eight different books and then stopped.  Eight.  I know working through multiple books at once is probably not unusual at all for scholarly types or hard-core bookworms, but I am usually a one-book-at-a-time person.  If I’m reading something weightier, I will sometimes read some fiction or a lighthearted memoir in conjunction for a break, but eight books?  That’s ridiculous.  For me, anyway.

These are the books I've started:

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
Right Here, Right Now – Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford
Home: A Memoir of my Early Years – Julie Andrews
Life of Pi –  Yann Martel
Bossypants – Tina Fey
Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Gospel Medicine – Barbara Brown Taylor
Home by Another Way – Barbara Brown Taylor

My resolution is this:  I will finish at least six of the above listed books before I start any other books. Other than Gospel Medicine, I have not read more than one-third of any of them.  I have no reason or excuse, I just got distracted and didn't realize that my reading queue was so out of control.

Now I've written it down and now I have to do something about it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Carrying My Own Suitcase

1. suitcases, trunks, and personal belongings of travelers
2. things that encumber one's freedom, progress, development, or adaptability

We all know about baggage.  We all have baggage of one type or another.  Of course, in this post I'm referring to the encumbering kind of baggage and not necessarily the kind that goes in the cargo hold -- despite that both types can be accurately described as the "personal belongings of travelers."  My mind has been racing lately, taking stock of my baggage, testing the handles, feeling the weight, wondering how I accumulated such a mismatched assortment.  I am still working on how my baggage, full of my unraveled or unraveling messiness, is going to work its way onto this blog.  But right now, I'm thinking about one of the major things I need to address this year: what I'm going to do about church.

When I explained previously that I'm not attending church, I wrote,
If there is one thing I've learned over the past year it is that if you don't learn to own your faith, to truly understand what you believe and why, then you may as well not believe anything.  When your faith is based only on what other people have told you that you should believe, you have to close yourself off from people who think differently from you, lest they ask you questions you can't answer or find gaps in your story.  I don't want that and I don't want it for my kids.
But here is what I'm questioning: can we choose our kids' baggage?  Of course I know that part of being a good parent is doing everything in our power to raise our kids in an environment that grows them into healthy and well-adjusted people and that there are obvious things parents should avoid to prevent the baggage that results from things like abuse or neglect.  I'm not talking about those obvious, universal things.  What I'm worrying about is if by trying to avoid something so specific and not-universally-avoided, if my kids are just going to end up with the same baggage I have anyway?  Or are they going to have some kind of opposite baggage (is that a thing?) because in trying so hard to make things different for them they will pick up something else along the way?

I honestly have no idea.

This is just one of many reasons I need to work through my church issues.  At this point, I'm completely unclear about what it is all going to look like on the other side, but I do know that I need to make some decisions.  I don't know if we will be regularly attending a church by the end of the year, but I know that Christian community is one of the foundations of the Christian faith and that I need to figure out how to incorporate that into our lives.

Into my life.

That's really what it boils down to.  These issues with church are my issues.  Sure, when my kids are older, I'm sure there will be discussions we have where I will reference some of my baggage, but at this point, it is my responsibility.  My job is to live out what I know is right and bring my kids along with me.  Some day, they will have their own baggage about something, as much as I try to prevent it.  But this church thing, this is mine and they have no obligation to it.  With this church thing, I need to suck it up and carry my own suitcase.


All this thinking and sorting is a bit overwhelming.  I believe it calls for some poetry.


ripped off,
exposing wounds
to salt.
Disregard the
impulse to
hide the
as they resurface.
avert your eyes.
in the mirror,
do not
dim the lights.

Friday, January 11, 2013


I've been a little preoccupied the past two days thinking about why I decided to participate in One Word 365.  I've churned out a variety of half-finished drafts on non-One Word topics -- including a confession/resolution, some thoughts on not having a daughter, and a bit of a rant on why we care so much what other people do even when it doesn't affect us -- but haven't been able to finish any of them.  I want to, but I'm kind of hung up on my one word at the moment.

It's unusual for me to do something like One Word 365 and I've been questioning myself over why I committed to it.  I realized this morning it wasn't the participation giving me second thoughts, it was the stress over how in the world I was going to fit all my unravelings back together.  Even though I know I need to do it, I feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of trying.

I've been mulling over warp and weft and some of my other research, working on how to approach those topics for the year.  Then I realized that isn't where I need to begin.  Before I get into trying to determine how it all fits together, I need to understand what I even have to work with. I'm not sure how long it will take to sort it all out, but I don't want to start weaving together whatever happens to be lying around only to get halfway through the year and discover I've been working with the wrong pieces.  Just as much as the characteristic of the fabric is determined by the manner in which the warp and weft are woven, the raw material used for each also determines the essence of the final product.  And since I don't know exactly what to include at this point, that is where I must start.

This is not going to be easy for me.  I still have uncertainties about much of what I've unraveled over the past few years.  I sometimes find myself feeling envious of those who are so sure of everything that you can mention any topic and they will tell you with absolute certainty exactly what they know to be true about it, regardless if you've asked them or not.  I can tell you what I believe to be true about almost anything, but you will rarely hear me say that I am one-hundred percent certain.  My mind simply does not work that way about a lot of things. Just when it seems I've figured it out, I come up with a different perspective or a different thought process that stops me just shy of confidence.  Because of that, I've decided I should start with what I am most confident about and work my to the things I'm less sure about.

It's still overwhelming, yet slightly less stressful, now that I know that the first part of this year needs to be focused on sorting through all the unraveled piles and choosing what is going to be included and what is not worth saving.  I know I have my work cut out for me, but I also know it is going to be worthwhile.  And even if some of what I'm weaving with is partial doubts and lingering questions, at least I've figured out where and how to begin.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


When I was in college, I took a class called “Christian Understandings of the Human Experience.”  The majority of my grade hinged on a massive term paper I was required to write on a single word chosen from the Bible.  I decided on the word "light," which was an excellent word for such an assignment.  There are many references to light in the Bible, most of which are wonderful for expanding our understanding of spiritual matters.

I have been looking at some of the other One Word 365 blogs and there are some inspirational posts out there.  Weave, my One Word for 2013, kind of sticks out like a sore thumb among all the beautiful and deeply meaningful words chosen by others.  "Light" would have been a much more inspiring word to choose, but I've already written somewhat extensively about light, so that would kind of be cheating.  That and I would feel kinda bad for abandoning my word before I really gave it a chance to reveal its potential.

I can tell you right now that I have found zero inspiring passages in the Bible about weaving or weavers or anything woven.  Every scripture reference I’ve found is either instructional, like in Exodus and Judges where commands are given around the type of fabric required for priestly garments, or they are references to woe and despair, like in Job and Isaiah. 

No matter.  I am resourceful.  And while I do believe that all scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training, I do not believe that scripture is the only place we can learn about God or the only resource we can use for learning and growing and shaping our lives. 

That’s right.  I looked up “weaving” on Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, weaving is "a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth.... The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling."  Okay.  I’m not going to summarize the rest of it here, however anyone interested can click this link and read the thrilling explanation of weaving for his or her self. 

I don’t plan on giving a linguistics lesson in every one of these posts; I’m simply trying to get all cozy and personal with my word so I can work on how a word like “Weave” can be sum up how I want to live in 2013. I have a feeling this is going to turn out quite different than I’d first thought when pushed myself to try this whole One Word thing, but that’s okay.  I did manage to find a few lines in my research that stood out to me:
Warp means "that which is thrown across.”  Weft is an old English word meaning "that which is woven."  The method in which these threads are inter woven affects the characteristics of the cloth.  Because the warp is held under high tension during the entire process of weaving, warp yarn must be strong.
There we go.  Potential. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

One Word

Let me begin by saying that I am already second-guessing myself and this is only the first sentence.  The thought that someone I don't know may be reading these words soon after I post this makes me have all kinds of second and third (and, heck, tenth!) thoughts about doing this.  I have never before done any kind of link-up that might purposely bring people to read my blog.  Yes, I do understand that posting to an online blog instead of writing in a diary I keep under my mattress means there is a greater chance people will happen upon my writing and read it, but this is new and different for me.  Only a limited number of my friends and family even know that I write a blog.  So this is all a bit nerve wracking for me, but a new year calls for doing new things.

Now that I have that out of the way, I'll also say that I realize I am a bit late to the party.  I only found out about this two days ago when it showed up on my Facebook news feed from the "A Deeper Story" Facebook page.  At first I was going to follow along without participating, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it.

Quite a while back I wrote a post in which I explained that I felt as though I was unraveling in more than one sense of the word.  I wrote, "I might be unraveling in the sense that I feel like I'm coming apart, but I am not going to continue that way. I'm making an intentional effort to unravel the complexities of my life, faith, and decisions into something clear and understandable."  That was in 2009 and I feel as though along the way I've become stuck on the taking apart to the point that making the complexities clear and understandable went by the wayside a little.

When I saw this One Word idea, the word "Unravel" immediately came to mind.  It didn't take long, however, to rule it out.  This is a new year and I need a new word.  I need something to show that I am ready to turn a page and figure out what to do with all the threads of my life I've unraveled into these "strands of something" that somehow need to fit together into a clear and understandable whole.

And then my word came to me:

transitive verb

- To interweave or combine (elements) into a complex whole.
 - To introduce (another element) into a complex whole; to work in.
 - To produce by elaborately combining elements
 - To unite in a coherent whole

Of all these definitions, "to unite in a coherent whole" most powerfully represents this word to me.  I've spent all these years trying to unravel, to question, to deconstruct what I think and what I believe, and it is time to start figuring out how it fits back together.  Not that I will be complete or that the questions will disappear or that I won't still be on a journey, but I need to start trying to see the bigger picture again before I start losing some of the vital components.  I need to begin uniting these various strands into a coherent, albeit complex, whole.

Yes. Weave is my word and to weave is my goal.  I will weave with words and with thoughts and with experiences.  I will interweave and introduce and produce and unite.  And even though there may be the occasional need to rearrange or reevaluate, my hope is that by the end of this year I will have something more coherent than these armfuls of unraveled strands.

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. - Psalm 18:20 (MSG)

Whenever and Wherever

"We are creatures made in the image of our creator, after all, which makes us partners in God's plan. We too are allies of creation. We too are lovers of life, which means that we too are wounded by the brokenness we see around us, the brokenness in which we ourselves participate. We are both the breakers and the healers, set into relationship with a God whose covenant calls us to shift the balance from death to life whenever and wherever we can." - Barbara Brown Taylor, in Gospel Medicine

Lately I've found that I have to stay busy to keep my mind off the circumstances of other people.  That may sound horrible.  I don't know.  I've had to stop reading and watching the news almost completely.  It's too much.  And it is not just some of the recent mass tragedies that prompted this, but also individual heartaches that are just as much a part of life, yet shouldn't be.  It seems that everywhere I turn, someone I know or a friend of a friend or a real person I don't know but who is on the news, is experiencing something horrible.  Something that no person should have to experience, yet there it is.  I want to turn it off and block it out, but I know deep down that is not possible.

That is the thing about life -- about death, heartache, brokenness, reality -- that gets us, isn't it?  No amount of looking the other way, distracting ourselves, staying busy, focusing on other things... none of those efforts changes any of it.  Even if we can forget for a while, it's all still there.  The brokenness doesn't heal or go away by ignoring it.  We can try to not think about it, but it is all. still. there.  

So what can I do?  

I can't work miracles:  I am not Miracle Max (From The Princess Bride.  Please tell me you got that reference before I explained it.)  

I can't save people's lives: I am not a superhero.  

I can't make suffering go away:  I am not God. 

It's difficult not to feel helpless and hopeless and useless.  Then I started thinking about this line: "shift the balance from death to life whenever and wherever we can."  I read that and realized that when we are doing the very best we can despite all our shortcomings, this is what is happening.  Sometimes it is biting back a sarcastic remark and mustering a smile.  Sometimes it is going out of our way to do something kind or helpful.  Sometimes it is just being there even though we have no advice to offer or words to say.  Sometimes it means showing up even though we don't know why.  

When we persevere against that helpless feeling and do SOMETHING that pushes back the gloom and offers a momentary reprieve from a harsh reality, we are working to shift the balance from death to life.  When we manage to brighten a day or lighten a burden or dry even one tear, we are nudging life ahead of its opposite... even if in the most minuscule, almost unrecognizable of increment.  

Something about the idea of "whenever and wherever" sounds like something I have been having a difficult time grasping lately.  Something about shifting the balance to something good any time that I can and anywhere that I can -- that sounds a little like hope to me.  I'm not certain.  It could be wishful thinking.  I know in my heart that some things are so terrible that there is no escaping them.  I know in my head that a momentary reprieve is just a break and doesn't actually make circumstances different.  But, oh.  Despite all the despair,this does seem like a way to foster hope.  Even if that hope is such a tiny glimmer we can't be sure if it is anything at all.

That's what I want.  I want to focus on shifting to life, shifting to good.  Maybe then I can start seeing hope begin to reveal itself where there previously seemed to be nothing but darkness.  Actually, I'm not going to get overly-optimistic about it.  I'm going to keep thinking, "shift the balance" and keep working on that.  

Any hope or life or healing or positive outcomes are not up to me.  All I can do is show up and try to shift the balance.  

And that is what I intend to do, even if I can't see the results.

From death to life.  Whenever and wherever I can.