Petrified.

I am petrified to write.  I am petrified that I will sit down, my fingers will move, and the same words I’ve spoken a thousand times will roll forth again.  I’m petrified that I have nothing of worth to say.  I’m petrified that I have nothing at all to say.
A friend of mine was over the other day – she said she was embracing time with God as it came.  That she was taking the quiet moments in her day and giving them to him, consecrating them for communion.
That petrifies me too.
Because I ache for a life that moves in rhythms of abiding grace.  And abiding comes in the quiet moments of the day.  It comes when sacred bleeds into every breath and every green and brown encountered is holy.  And yet, I am petrified to spend time with God.  I’m petrified that I won’t have anything to say.  That the words I do say will be weightless and empty. I am petrified that he will not have anything to say to me.  That I’m done. That he’s not actually teaching me anything at all – and what, then, will I answer when people ask what I’ve been learning.  Heaven forbid I shouldn’t have an answer.
Fear is a lie allowed to enter when love is not the voice you hear in the stillness.
Love, please do not give up on me. Please do not heed my screaming  – over my own fingers jammed tightly and trembling in my tired ears – screaming that I cannot hear you. Forgive my trembling fingers, forgive my weary eyes. Forgive that I blamed you for my sick heart.  Heart, forgive me for running from the arms you cried for day and night. Forgive me for the lies I let seep in and choke you. Love, please do not give up on me.
I will be still. I will be still and know you. I will be still and let you know me.

 

 

 

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(smallish) Adventures in Adulthood

Once upon a time, I woke up before the sun with the express intent of doing responsible things all the day long. I showered and cleaned my room and spent time with God, and then ventured downstairs to eat a most grown-up breakfast of fried eggs with avocado while I waited for my laundry to dry. I finished up said laundry by 8 o’clock and left the house feeling entirely productive and generally good about the day.

Then there was traffic – a thing which I had entirely forgotten about until I sat still on the interstate for half an hour longer than anticipated. I did eventually reach the street where my coffeeshop is located and here found a new dilemma – parallel parking.

I can parallel park. My dad taught me how. I passed that portion of my driver’s test with flying colors. I’ve parallel parked before – beautifully, I might add, a parking job worthy of a gold star. Today? Today, I found a parking space that gave me plenty of space on either side so that I had room for error. I flipped on my turn signal, stopped when my steering wheel was aligned with the steering wheel of the car in front of my parking spot, and then, I realized a line of cars was waiting for me. I know this is okay – I know this is what happens when you parallel park, but I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was keeping all of those people from getting where they needed to be.

I could be the reason someone was late.

I felt like getting out of my car and personally apologizing to everyone. Of course, that would make them even more late, not to mention that it would be all around illogical. So, I just resolved to park as quickly and efficiently as I could. I slowly backed up, turned my wheel at just the right moment, and ran over the curb.

I then waited, with the back two feet of my car lodged on the sidewalk, watching, mortified, as dozens of cars glided past and I imagined everyone of them pointing and laughing. I’m pretty sure none of them even noticed,  the girl with her car on the sidewalk, or cared, for that matter, that she was there. My imaginings were vivid nonetheless.

The light up the street eventually turned red, the vehicles of mockery stopped, and I pulled out and re-parked my car. Twice.

This ordeal was followed by two rather uneventful and mostly productive hours at the coffeeshop. And from there, I went to Whole Foods, where I accidentally tried to buy the tester lotion.

I ended my morning with the carwash I’ve needed for a week. Dad told me about this carwashing-place… I guess it’s just called a carwash… near the house that does an excellent job for not a lot of money, so I stopped there.

Apparently, going to a car wash is an exercise in social skill. No one told me this.

I pulled up to the lot to find several little stations equipped with vacuums and other frightening looking tubes and spray bottles. I wanted something cheap. And generally, stations with frightening tubes do not translate to cheap. Unsure of what to do, I decided just to drive about 3 miles per hour around the lot until I found some clear direction. Then, fortune of fortunes, I saw the entrance to an automatic wash. Relief flooded as I drove up to the little box that takes your money, and dread flooded as I realized the box was taped off. Did this mean I had to face the expensive stations and their vacuums?

I backed up in dismay and was simply going to drive away with a dirty car, but just as I turned my wheel to leave, a worker jogged to my car. I felt increasingly awkward. First, because the poor guy had to jog to my car due to the fact that I do not know the rules of fancy car washes. Second, because it took him a ridiculous amount of time to jog to my car. He asked if I wanted a car wash. I was strongly tempted to say no and leave. Instead, I said I wanted something simple and cheap, he wrote something on a receipt, handed it to me, and directed me through the entrance I had tried to use before. “Just drive through,” he said, “then pull around, and you can pay inside while we dry it.” Sounded easy enough.

Wrong.

Before you get any sort of cleaning done to your car, there are these precarious tracks that you have to maneuver your tires into. There is a kind attendant to laugh at you as you try in vain to guide the beast that is your car onto those tiny tracks. Once you undertake that feat, that kind attendant pelts your car with a water gun and slaps pink, sudsy stuff all over it. Meanwhile, you sit in your car trying desperately to remember if the receipt guy had told you to stay in the car or not. About the time you’ve convinced yourself that he said not to stay in the car, it lurches forward and you’re sucked into a machine designed, I’m sure, to clean your car. What the machine actually accomplishes is making you feel like you’re going to throw up. And die. After this torture devices finishes its work, it spits you out into the middle of a lot without so much as an arrow on the ground to direct you. Here, I resorted again to driving 3 miles per hour as that seemed to work last time. Sure enough, the receipt guy spotted me in my confused state and waved me over to one of the frightening stations I had been trying  so hard to avoid.

I parked my car. What now? Pay. Pay is what you do now. How do I pay? Inside, he said go inside to pay. Okay. This is doable. I got out of my car… and left the door open – I still don’t know why I did that. Paying took all of five seconds. What now? No.Idea. I just hoped they’d be done and went back to my car. The door was still open. I’m an idiot.

Did you have a question?” asks one of the gentlemen wiping down my car.

Yes. What do I do? I’ve obviously never left my house before. Had I actually said that, they may have laughed. I didn’t say that though, I just held up my receipt, “She said you’d need this.” He took it and I looked around for a second, then got into my car, shut the open door, and immediately wished I’d chosen to do something else. I had to sit behind that finally closed front door for the three minutes it took them to finish drying my car. I had to sit there, and just keep thinking about how I could have done so many other, less awkward things instead. In those three minutes, however, I did come to the very important life decision to use the carwash at the gas station for the rest of my days.

Food for thought (lame pun, I know)

When eating is something that happens only three times a day (or two times, if you wake up at 11) it becomes a sacred thing.

It has only been two days since I started being intentional about eating meals and nothing in between, but my perspective on food has already begun to shift. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are objects of great anticipation. They have become a gift.

And because they are a gift, I savor them. They bring joy.

Better still, they become times of communion.

This was God’s instruction to his people when they entered the Promise Land:

“There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” — Deuteronomy 12:7

What if we embraced that – and eating a meal became a way of claiming the Promise Land, a way of proclaiming God’s goodness?

Lent. Eden. Soil.

“Simplicity takes us back home, to the Garden of Eden. There, in our Eden-like life, everything is quiet, simple, and even. There is a little bit of pleasure, but not too much. There is a little bit of pain, but – again – not too much. We aren’t consumed by the need to have more, and we are able to be thankful for whatever comes our way, even if it’s hard. This quietness in our soul, this freedom from the loudness of fear and the boisterous noise of always watching out for ourselves, gives us a calm contentedness. … Live here. Live in Eden.” – – Winn Collier, Let God: the transforming wisdom of Francois Fenelon

That sounds like the life we were created for, don’t you think? My soul, tired as it is today, rises up in me and shouts that this is the life it was designed to have. I long for it.

And Christ tells me I can have it. Here and now. Not just when he returns to make everything new and right again. He says I’m seated now, in the heavenly realms with him (Ephesians 2:6), so seeking Eden is not in vain. Chasing this hope is not a fool’s race. I am designed for it. right now.

This is what I long for Christ to make manifest in me through Lent, this Eden-life. I am aware, however, that death comes before life. Lent is a season marked with ashes.

And I’ll embrace the ash, with my face set like flint.

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness on you.” — (Hosea 10:12 – emphasis added)

It’s hard work, preparing hard, dry dirt for a seed. I’ve tried before – breaking up the hard, dead places with a shovel until sweat poured and my back ached. And the thing died after a week. It’s such a hopeful thing, though, to consider my heart this way. It’s such a hopeful thing to anticipate – after the pain and hard work of preparing the soil – sweet rain. Rain of pure goodness and delight, to sink deep down and make fruitful the hard work of preparation.

I made a list, on Wednesday, of all of the clutter I would remove, so that simplicity could enter. A list of all the hard work I would choose, to force the plow forward. A list to make way for Eden. 

And it will be hard. I know it will. But, I’m trusting it will also be sweet.

I’m sharing it with you so that I can have some sense of accountability, and so that you can pray for me and journey with me. I plan to expound on each piece more as time goes on, but for now, a list is all you get.

Removed:

  • No media outside of what’s absolutely necessary: including, but not limited to Facebook, Spotify, texting, internet, movie and television watching (outside of family time)
  • No spending outside of bills
  • No food that is not whole
  • No food outside of meals (essentially no snacks or desserts)
  • Only one cup of coffee or tea a day

Added:

  • Writing everyday. (prepare yourselves)
  • Exercise three times a week
  • Keep to the daily office (thank you Bloom)

The end. I’m eager to see where this leads, and I’m eager to share the road with you.

Tell me about your Lenten journeys – the hopes you have, the plans you have. I want to hear about them! I want to journey with you! I want to pray with you and for you! (comment, e-mail, etc.)

… home. to the Garden of Eden.

Coffee and Carl Sandburg

I sipped my coffee, felt its burnt adrenaline ease its way into my mind, and once I was thoroughly steeped in what it had to offer, I set the mug down. Coffee takes on a different nature altogether when it is room temperature. And I most often drink it when it has reached room temperature. I cannot actually remember the last time I drank a cup of hot coffee. I have formed the habit, or way of life, really, in which I pour coffee for myself and set it on my desk or the coffee table or kitchen table or floor, and then scurry off and become distracted by at least twenty-six things before I actually return and get to the business of drinking my coffee. And drinking coffee stopped being an actual business long ago. No longer do I sit and savor every single ounce that passes through my lips, over my tongue, down my throat, into my stomach, my bloodstream, my heart. No longer do I revel in every hidden flavor, no longer do I play hide and seek in earnest longing to find something new. Coffee is my almost-constant companion, and I am disappointed to discover that this has moved its identity from that of “religious experience” to “commonplace.” Commonplace is not bad, simply different. It is somewhat like my siblings.  How when they first came into my everyday, they were new, undiscovered. How then I “oooed” and “ahhed” over every part of them, delighting in their cuddly selves, their gurgling mouths, their footy-pajamas. But their newness wore off, and they became a fixture – still wonderful, still complex, still mostly undiscovered, just usual.

My head throbbed now, tired of the coffee I was forcing into it at a relentless pace. I tried to apologize with large amounts of water, but the ache would not be so easily dissuaded. Headaches over the likes of coffee are a stubborn lot. I decided to try engaging my head in an activity other than aching in hopes that it would decide the other activity was more worthy of its time. Imaginary conversation. I have them often. I pride myself on being rather good at concocting and carrying them. Naturally, this was my distraction of choice. I whipped up the imaginary setting of a park and set an inquisitive, professional version of myself on one end of a green bench and a musing, mysterious version of myself on the other. The interview began.

“How do you write poetry?”
“As it comes.”
“And it comes?”
“Like the rain.”

That was as far as my cleverness would allow and the interview ended, the scene evaporated.

It’s really no wonder I am somewhat insane, I spend my days locked away in “The Nook with a View.” A cup of once-warm coffee, a glass of water, and music are my permanent co-residents. I imagine sometimes that this is how authors live – though, most of them probably have brandy or some other spirit in place of water. I do school work, here in my Nook with a View.

My current task? American Literature. I must study it. I view studying as diving into something and swimming around and choking on the water until I can emerge with enough knowledge to at least pretend I know about the subject of the pool. That was essentially today – splashing hungrily in American Literature until I could come out dripping and saying things like “did you know Emily Dickinson wrote over 1775 poems?” I’ve read many poems while fiddling in that pool. They’ve filtered into my brain and taken over my own poem-forming skills. My muse has been altered to resemble something not my own.

I sometimes write poems on coffee-stained index cards as the day goes on. This is for two reasons. One – that random flow of creative something keeps me from going completely insane, which would be the case if I kept it pent up. Two – it looks really artsy. Today I wrote two poems and both tasted of Carl Sandburg. I can’t say that I mind Carl Sandburg, it’s just that I’d rather he didn’t take over my poetry. He did, though. At least to some extent.  I changed tense and tone at least twice. Did any of you notice and think me an awful writer for it? I did make effort to include less run-on sentences and that should be counted in my favor. Here are the Carl-Sandburg-tinted poems:

The First –

Fly-away petals
Make spring-time snow.
My coffee-mug’s green,
its contents cold,
the radio plays January
songs, as if they belong.
Radio doesn’t know the weather,
unlike my neighbor,
taking advantage of March-time warm
to clean his car –
water finds its way
through my window,
a curious thing.
Competing with the radio
is a basket ball, and my brother’s friends
singing songs of their own.
They know the weather,
but care not for my cold coffee –
they did maim a flower
and mourned for its loss
by throwing the ball again,
singing their song again,
scuffing, laughing, lively
song.

The Second –

Giggles, squeals, and rain-drop footsteps
herald her sun-yellow hair,
sunrise-pink skirt, rosy-red face.
Behind her is a raspy-voiced boy,
well-dressed and short.
He tries in earnest to catch her,
but her legs are longer, her feet faster.
“This is fun!” she calls,
he wheezes in reply.
Down the hill, round the bend,
Up the hill, gone.