Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What Is Annoying Me Right Now

That my hands still smell like chicken.

That my four-year old keeps stealing my toothbrush, and planting it upside down in the holder.

The Olympics are annoying, and nbc and all of their pretty people and the fact that they canned Ann Curry whom I love, and Hoda Kotb always annoys me- not that I ever even watch the show.  Honestly.  And it annoys me that I should even have to say that but it is annoying that people assume Stay At Home Moms just watch t.v. all day and that is not at all true I am on pinterest.

Haircuts annoy me.  I don't mean to insult anyone but it has always baffled me why a decent hair cut costs the same as a doctor visit . .. aren't we talking like six months of school compared to, I don't know, twenty years?  And when I have to come home and cut my own hair to fix that expensive bad haircut, that really annoys me.

It annoys me that I can respond calmly to a child's fits of rage 9,000 times, but the one time my voice raises just a notch or is even slightly less than soothing- is when the neighbors will hear me.  And when the child is throwing the fit that is my fault too.  It's annoying that no one can ever just say I remember those days and it was hard hard hard and you are doing just fine.

Phones.  If I have to see one more person glancing at their smart phone at a stop sign, or texting while driving I am just going to lose it.  I'd like to see a National Toss Your Phone Out the Window Day.

Money annoys me, and statistics, ironing, pessimism, competition, control, plucking, rice in a box, judgmental people annoy me.  Feeling judged is annoying, and people who I think are likely to judge me I'm just not sure what for.  Cryptic facebook status annoy me, I always spend at least the rest of the day wondering if it might have been aimed at me even if the subject is something I have nothing to do with.

Cool is annoying.  It is annoying when people do things just because it's cool and not because their gut is really telling them- like gardens, rain barrels, pressure cookers, theology, running . .. it's all cool unless you're trying to be cool and then it is just annoying.  But maybe I am being cryptic and judgmental.

And this is the thing that is really annoying.  Me.  What is annoying is me.

I am annoying because I waste time and give up and am insecure.  I am annoying because I can't let go, I am stubborn about all the wrong things, and indecisive and self-righteous and a hypocrite.  Because over and over and over I look for affirmation or approval or distraction to soothe me rather repentance, rather stillness and rest, to be the Beloved.  I am annoying because what I want to do I do not do, but the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. (Rom.7)
Unless you're getting fullness of life from God, you can't feed people with life, you can only feed OFF people to GET life.  -Greg Boyd

Thursday, July 26, 2012

what is saving me right now

Yesterday Sarah Bessey wrote a post, What is Saving Your Life Right Now? - one of those posts that makes your pulse race, makes words whirl in you and later I stood at the stove browning hamburger and scrawled a list in a notebook.

And today she suggests a synchroblog: In Which We are Saved, Right Now . . .  and Yes, and yes.

What is Saving My Life Right Now . ..

Five a.m. is saving my life. . . Because every night before I fall asleep I ask the Lord to please help me wake early and every morning about 4:30 someone in the house stirs so that I need to check on them, and it is just the nudge I need to keep moving, to force my feet down the steps and to the coffee pot and to ignore the choir of voices singing what is the point? go back to bed . . . 

and there is one blue chair and one beautiful lamp I bought at a yard sale for $5, and they are saving me as I sip my coffee and the house is calm, and I am reading through the Bible in a year with my church, chronologically, and this is saving me and this morning the story of Abigail saved me.

. . . and then about 5:24 I find my way back upstairs to my desk, and I pull up a document titled Jane and thinking I've got nothing . .. nothing nothing nothing . . . but I poke this keyboard anyway, and I remember Anne Lamott says to write a shitty first draft, just keep typing, and every once in a while an image will emerge . . . and somehow, miraculously, later while I am sweeping the floor or holding kids in the pool I am getting to know Jane, just a bit, and she is telling me her story, and story is saving me.

And french braids are saving me even as they are just killing me I don't know why they bring tears to my eyes every time I watch her with hair braided and ratty t-shirt, freckled nose, skinned knees, the perfection of summertime.

Iced tea is saving me- such a violent act- these crushed leaves, this heat, this darkness, this waiting . . . and then I pour it over ice and it crackles like laughter and dances in the sun and grins in the glass and I pray Come Lord Jesus.

My grandmother's mixing bowls are saving me, the one treasure I dug through her kitchen to find.  I brought them home and declared her magic remained, though the blueberry coffeecake I made first fell and proved it untrue .. . yet I think of her every time I whisk or stir or sprinkle sugar over peaches I think of her hands and that all is love love love.

Notebooks are saving me, one stashed everywhere, and our new minivan, and The Creative Habit, habits are saving me, and Josie's sweaty scent and her bad breath because the girl loves garlic, and how she wraps herself into my neck and kisses me on the lips.  And tan legs and white tank tops and laughing with Jim and the eyes of friends, and Me Too, and walks in the woods and the way the light slants into the guest bedroom at 8 o'clock in the evening.  

Words are saving me.  Greg Boyd, Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, and this post saved me and now I know that Dan Evans is saving me too. 

And I could go on about the red pepper downstairs on my counter, how it leaves me speechless that such a thing exists- this red- that it could possibly be here, lying casually on my counter, how reverently I slice it-- and what piles of produce do to me-- I know why artists always have painted them; certainly they painted through tears.  I hold baskets of tomatoes in the grocery store and imagine the farmer carrying these tomatoes, chest puffed out just a little, tipping his hat to God and I think what holy work it is to be a farmer, and yes maybe too a mother, this work of kneeling down, of looking up, this work that saves us over and over and over again, this work that is saving me right now.

Friday, July 20, 2012

random Friday

I spent the morning trying on my old prom and bridesmaid dresses in the chest of dress-up clothes for the girls.  Proof that even our poorest choices can prove useful eventually.

Also this week Jim drove home in a sweet new minivan . . . and there was much rejoicing.  Oh, we tried to avoid the minivan but alas, it is time.

Here's some of what I've been reading this week . . .
In one of his dialogues, Plato talks of all learning as remembering.  The chief job of the teacher is to help us to remember all that we have forgotten.  This fits in well with Jung's concept of racial memory, his belief that when we are enabled to dip into the intuitive, subconscious self, we remember more than we know.  One of the great sorrows which came to human beings when Adam and Eve left the Garden was the loss of memory, memory of all that God's children are meant to be.  -Walking on Water, Madeleine L'Engle
Shane Claiborne's facebook status today:
Man, my heart is breaking from the violence infecting our world like a plague. All the folks killed in Colorado this morning in the shooting with weapons that should not even exist (these are not hunting rifles). 
Then I saw the cover story of Time magazine -- "One a Day" -- showing that soldier suicides are up to one per day, surpassing the number of soldiers that die in combat. The US military budget is still rising -- over 20,000 dollars a second, over 1 million dollars a minute spent on war.

Then -- more violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Syria, and the bus attack in Bulgaria. There is another way, if only we have courage and imagination. The new issue of conspire takes on exactly that -- VIOLENCE -- there could be no more timely moment. 

Then -- more violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Syria, and the bus attack in Bulgaria. There is another way, if only we have courage and imagination. The new issue of conspire takes on exactly that -- VIOLENCE -- there could be no more timely moment. 

I loved this Billboards post at Mount Hope Chronicles, about living a good story and do that thing . ..

I could so relate to the frustration and helpless feeling Sarah Bessey describes, In Which It's Business as Usual

 What do I know of real relationships with the suffering? I feel like a spoiled rich well-fed well-loved Canadian, far removed from my sisters and brothers in poverty, in despair, I feel guilty, I do. Am I doing enough with my money and my time? Am I spending my life in a way that reflects God’s heart for humanity, his nearness to the suffering, the widows, the orphans, the small ones, the least of these?
And then I want to kick myself for thinking of another human being as ‘least of these’ – how colonial and smug can one woman be?

Why I Love My Organic Church at Deeper Story . . .
We rely on 1Corinthians 14:26 as our map. When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Interesting . .. Thomas Kinkaid, Holbein, and icons
 In my first essay, I suggested that Kinkade's quaint and nostalgic images, as pleasant as they seem to be, are dangerous, offering a comfortable world that silences the two words with which God speaks to us (law and gospel). These images seem to say, the world isn't so bad, faith isn't so hard, grace therefore not so desperately sought. Following Michael Horton, Kinkade's desire to depict a world before the fall is Christ-less Christianity in paint.
I would like to go even further and suggest that it was Kinkade's work that killed him.
Fifty Shades of Complementarians at Practical Theology for Women . . . I always love what I find here, and once again I found her response to this week's sex controversy spot on:
 If conservatives don't correct themselves (and quickly) on the issue of Genesis 3:16, they will continue to step in similar piles of manure until the movement is so undermined they have totally lost any audience.   If you believe that the woman wants to control her husband, the interpretation of Gen. 3:16 that Susan Foh first promoted in 1975 as a reaction against feminism, then turning her over in bed and gaining back control seems to be beating back the curse. In reality, man's ability to do that very thing (and women's desire for it as evidenced in 50 Shades of Grey) IS the curse. And there's nothing redemptive in it.  Every woman who yells “rape” and flees sexual bondage, even in marriage, is defying the curse.
Gen. 3:16 of course transcends sex. The curse in Gen 3:16 is that women have a strong longing that they mistakenly aim at their husbands (which should be aimed at God).

A Silence of Mockingbirds by Karen Zacharias

A heartbreaking memoir of the torture and murder of a four year old girl.  I could hardly bear to read it, and yet I couldn't put it down, the entire book you are shaking your head wondering How could this happen???  The author is a journalist, and a close friend of the family, and so the book is both thoroughly researched and highly readable, and achingly poignant.  It was recommended to me by a friend, and I am glad that I read it as it has helped to make me that much more aware of the reality of child abuse happening all around us, how to recognize the signs, and the fact that we can never be too vigilant or over-protective of our children.

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, a novel of forgiveness by Paulo Coelho

Reviews describe this book as poetic and almost dreamlike, and I agree.  It was a little difficult to get used to his writing style but it grew on me and I did in the end like the story and some of the spiritual ideas he wanted to communicate were thought-provoking.  I had a hard time becoming attached to the characters.

This is the love story of two people who reunite after eleven years; the woman now strong and independent and the man now a charismatic spiritual leader.  As they journey together over the course of several days they are forced to examine their own feelings and spiritual calling, the mystery of God and love.

Happy Friday!  
Wishing you a soft place to land this weekend . . .

Friday, July 13, 2012

how to pass on a life

My grandmother left us a wonderful gift and that is the two thick three-ring binders that held her journals.  They tell the story of her life and faith, from the time she was twenty-three until her death at eighty-six.

I spent last weekend reading her journals, every word.  It is a story of a simple woman, who sought God, loved her family and community, and lived deeply.  I am so touched by how humbly she wanted to please God, from beginning to end.  

There will be another day, maybe another post, to give tribute to my grandmother.  They are most certainly fodder for my constant question; What will you do with your one wild and precious life?  Someday I would like to tell her story; of heartbreak and loss, faith and endurance, of the grace and pain of community.  Of a life spent in gratitude.  The healing power of home.  

Death rips a heart open wide and the rains of sorrow and beauty, winds of memory, the shock of existence, come in and soaks everything.  But the heart cannot allow itself to gape open, exposed, for long and eventually it must shift into practical matters to cope, to rebuild itself.  Board the windows, patch the roof.  Clean out the refrigerator, apportion the pantry.  Jars of beans and beets now jewels her hands have touched.  Bestow strawberry jam like fortune.

And just as the family is dealing with the practical issues of my grandparents' estate, so my heart is finding relief in the practical matters of my home and family, out-of-state grandparents visiting, chopping peaches.

I have been thinking about my grandmother's journals the past few days in practical terms; what made them so readable?  How does one leave behind the story of her life, telling only what is necessary and nothing hurtful, damaging, or superfluous?

I have always kept a journal of some kind or another, but if I died would I want them read?  I'm not sure.  Would anyone want to wade through the endless embarrassing pages of crushes and heartbreak, the sniveling pages, the random good days or bad days, peripheral information?  Would they find anything cohesive among the scattered books, computer files, and google docs?

Several people told me about journals they had from a grandmother or relative, full only of details about the weather, their daily tasks, and very little honest matters of the heart.  Sometimes journals left behind can be shocking or worse, devastating to discover what a person felt about another.

My grandmother was a wise woman, and she was wise in how she kept her journals.  In reading hers I have found some very good, practical tips in how to write my own.

does anyone else have this problem?
It seems very clear that my grandmother wrote her journals expecting that they may one day be read, and she was careful to not write anything hurtful or incriminating.  Even in the hard pages, where I knew she must have been filled with heartache or righteous anger, she was discreet.

Often people begin a journal but fizzle out because it requires too much time, or they do keep a journal but nobody cares to read it because there is simply too much information.  My grandmother kept her journal for sixty-three years, but I was able to read it in several hours.  This is because she only wrote about three or four times a year, often on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, and one day in the spring.  I do not know if she did this purposely, or if these were significant days to her that inspired her to pick up her pen.

She did not give too many details, but just enough.  She would mention the weather, and I loved reading this knowing how much the weather affected her, as it does me.  She always recorded the menu she served at family meals, and who attended, and at Christmas she would list the gifts everyone gave and received.  These details are valuable because they tell so much about the year, the family, and even their financial struggle or prosperity that year.

In these entries she also told the highlights of the year; marriages, births, deaths, major life events happening in the family.  She was often sparse in her writing, and I loved most the entries that gave her own reflections and feelings.

Her writing remains upbeat and positive, but she does not gloss over the hard times, and these passages are to me the ones that speak loudest across time; what made her heart ache, how she coped with loss and death, the way that she fled to God with her anxieties and grief.  "I'm sure He never fails us," she would write, and how I need to cling to these words today.  I am so glad she passed them on to us.

Most significant are her prayers and the rich life of faith that she recorded.

She kept her journals neatly together in one place.  What is the best format to keep a journal?  I have always kept notebooks, but it seems that I have too many kinds of notebooks- one in which I write scripture and prayer, one with lists and details, one with funny things the kids say, a moleskin that also serves as a sketchbook but is just kind of a mess, and one where I record major events.  I keep a journal for each of my kids.  And there are others!  I tend to write my personal thoughts on the computer, and then there is this blog.  But will computer docs last, and should I go back and delete the entries I don't want read?  Should I print them?  Should I make sure that someone knows my passwords, or do I keep the passwords private so no one ever knows?

Does anyone else have this problem?  I would love to know what are your journaling techniques?

I think that if anything happened to me, I would want my friend Sally to have my journals and try to make them cohesive for my kids.  With all of these thoughts in mind, in seemed appropriate that she and I read The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nicole Bernier this summer.  I follow Nicole on facebook and her first book looks great, I can't wait to start it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

lived well

I am still not quite believing that today we buried my beautiful, wise, strong, kind grandma- just nine days after my grandfather's funeral.  The only cause of death we have been given is of a broken heart.

This time feels more tender, more final- when Grandpa passed there was still Grandma to love.  And yet we are gratefully aware of God's mercy.  They had been married for sixty-seven years; she was only a widow for nine days.

They lived such a simple life- in their closets hang so few clothes, many made by my Grandma.  My grandfather made most of their furniture, most of their drawers are empty.  The only room that is full is the kitchen, where my Grandma performed her magic, and the study where she kept her books.  She had a fancy sewing machine.  They both had only an eighth grade education.

When they moved from the farm 17 years ago my grandpa built her her dream house- she had a pink kitchen, in fact nearly every room in the house is in some way pink.  Frilly curtains hang from the windows.  They designed it with family gatherings in mind, so that all the dozens of us could fit comfortably around tables, with a long, narrow closet off the dining room to store folding tables.

They grew up poor and were poor most of their life, and yet how rich they were!  They were rich in faith, rich in love for each other and for people, rich in good works, and died without regrets.

She lived her one wild and precious life well.  Very, very well.