Tag Archives: transition

What I Most Want To Be True: A Tattoo Story

For my twenty-ninth birthday, I wanted a tattoo.

Maybe with my thirties approaching I needed to do something a little reckless, but I also felt the need to pay attention to permanence.

I knew I wanted words, and maybe an image. Jesus’ invitation to the weary and burned out,  learn the unforced rhythms of grace, came to mind. And then, I remembered lyrics from a gospel song that had often caused me to stop and pay attention when I heard them: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. It’s a beautiful song that’s often sung at funerals–occasions that merit hope, that call for speaking and singing what we desperately need to hear.

If I’m honest, these words activate my cynicism and faith equally. Like all good poetry, they ask me to wrestle my way to a larger meaning.

I was learning to live with uncertainty. My faith was growing up: out of the chirpy God has a plan! stage and into something a lot more like the dark glass described by the apostle Paul. Someone I loved dearly had slipped quietly away from this life; it was cruel, quick, and strange. I felt I’d seen a righteous man forsaken; his children begging for a certain kind of bread. I could find no purpose in it, and certainly didn’t know how to reconcile the situation with the notion of a loving, personal God, or more specifically, with the God of my childhood who granted good parking spots and lengthened limbs, who filled dental cavities with gold and made suspicious lumps disappear. It was confusing–I thought I had left that particular notion of God behind (keeping other ideas that still made sense) but I can’t deny that I wanted Him to show up and fix things.

In the wake of this loss, there was a choice to be made: pine for the old God who works magic for those He loves, or move forward into the unknown, where God isn’t so easily explained. Like Elijah, I found that God was not in the whirlwind, earthquake, or fire, but in the still small voice. Sometimes, when our pain causes us to be very quiet, we hear that Voice–achingly familiar but missing elements we had in our minds before.

In the absence of easy answers, it was the quiet presence of friends that offered the most healing. I believe a sacred presence saturated those moments, too, that God (or something like God) is with us when we share a friend’s grief. Maybe what we learned in Sunday School–that God is up there and we’re down here–is incomplete. Maybe God is in, around, and through us, not part of us so much as tangled up with us.

The Book of Job, thought to be the oldest chronological book of the Bible, is often cited in times of sadness and loss. I’d heard my share of commentary on this book: that it’s a lesson to praise God in all circumstances, that God rewards the faithful in the long run, that God is God and we are not. I have no doubt that I used these explanations to attempt to comfort friends in the past. None of that was helpful, I discovered, when I was the one hurting. I had no stomach for the text until I learned to read Job as poetry rather than explanation. In Job, we find an ancient wondering about the nature of God. I took comfort in knowing that humans have been asking essentially the same questions about suffering for thousands of years.

Like Job’s friends, it’s in our nature to simply sit with people in their grief for only a short while before we start to offer explanations and solutions. Lest we feel too confident in our understanding of the state of things, it’s good to revisit this book and be reminded that God offers mystery in response to Job’s questions rather than reasons for his undeserved hardship. There’s a tension in the book that’s never truly resolved, much like the tension in my heart whenever I hear the words His eye is on the sparrow.

So I asked my friend, a talented tattoo artist, to design something around these words. He drew an elegant cage with a swung-open door and a bird flying free, I chose a font and gritted my teeth through the pain and made light conversation as the image, and the words, became a permanent part of my body, etched onto my foot. It hurt, but it felt good to be documenting something sacred.

The image serves as a reminder to me that God can live and breathe life through our actions, through our ability to sit with a friend in sorrow without offering explanations or tired promises we may not even believe ourselves. The bird is faith; the cage is certainty.

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With tattoos come questions. Understandably, people want to know what causes another person to do something so permanent. I never quite know how to explain mine in one or two sentences, especially if I’m doing something completely non-serious like getting a pedicure. Still, it’s a gift to be asked. We all need to tell our stories, don’t we?

I look at this message on my foot, and think  this is what I most want to be true. I want to believe that it’s in the nature of God to know of every fallen sparrow, every hair on the head of every abused child. Every hair that falls from the head of a cancer patient. Every vacant look in the eyes of a mother who’s just lost her child. Every person in a pew who attempts quiet bravery, no longer speaking or understanding the language that rolls easily off the tongues around them. The homesick who haven’t left home. I’ll be honest–I have no idea what to think about God right now–but I want to believe that God orchestrates comfort for them, in ways I don’t understand, simple and profound.

If I get to the point where my conscience demands I let go of religion altogether, and I think about that quite a bit these days, I will be left with this mark on my body. But shouldn’t things that matter leave a mark?

As for my questions, and there are many, I find hints of answers, not enough to sustain me for more than a day or so. When Jesus spoke of daily bread, maybe this is what he meant. I try to keep track of the hints. I’ve experienced love in this life–is that to say I’ve experienced God?

Whatever the force behind it all, I’m grateful for the pull of poetry, the healing presence of friends, and life-changing questions: these things have served my faith well–whether it’s a faith that holds on or a faith that ventures out.

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thin

In the morning, I lift her out of the crib. She rests her head on my shoulder, tucking her little body into the side of me. We whisper our morning greetings to each other. It’s Easter Sunday, and I stayed up last night to press her little denim dress with the ruffled skirt–one, two, three layers. I slip it over her head, and button the little white lace sweater over it. I carry her to the bathroom and comb her hair, telling her all the while how beautiful she is. (And she is! My goodness.) We’re almost done, and she slips a little toward the round sink. I catch her, but she’s felt the scare and starts to cry. It takes time for her little self to calm after things like this–five minutes of shhhhhh and pat and sway. My sensitive-souled girl.

Before, something like this would have stolen the morning from us.

Later, we eat breakfast at the church and wait while the big kids hide eggs outside. When they’re done, we march our three out the door. The boys are off in a flash with their buckets, having done this before. Aimee walks with her basket like she’s been practicing, stoops down to collect the eggs she spots. After four, she dumps them all out triumphantly and collects them again. We laugh, and take pictures, and shiver a little in the cold Spring wind. What is it about Easter, always chilling us in the thin outfits we insist on wearing?

I’m not trying to make anything more spiritual than it already is, and that feels good. This egg hunt, this celebration of Spring, is also a celebration of resurrection and all the rest of it. Whatever I may feel or not feel, it doesn’t matter right now. I am rediscovering simple, good things. Among them: I have a daughter who laughs and runs (runs!) with her Easter basket, I have two brown-eyed boys–one who still belly-laughs and one who goes deep into his thoughts and says, when the pastor asks, that Easter is about celebrating hope. I have a man by my side with warm hands and an imagination about life. We’ve dreamed together, and we’ve learned to let ourselves be tired.

I could never make these things more beautiful than they already are.

I’ve been holding two things side by side: great beauty and great sadness. I make inquiries about therapy, for myself this time, because I want to be happy. That is all, and it is enough: I want to be happy. I am worthy of happiness, I tried recently to say to myself in the mirror, and couldn’t quite look my reflected self in the eye.

I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to ask for this kind of help.

I talk through the hour-and-a-half session like it’s ten minutes, and learn to breathe into the spot in my chest where the pain throbs. It helps. Let me be your container for awhile, she says, and I agree. I feel like there is an ocean to organize into glass vials–to label and sort and store. I can’t fathom it, really, but it’s comforting to think that someone else can. You don’t just walk away from a fear-saturated belief system and have no cost to pay. But it’s time.

Time for new things to be born.

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Glitter, Green Converse and How to Get Red Wine out of White Linen: Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming Episcopalian

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a guest post; a whole lot of life has happened. But, today I get to host my friend Deborah Stambaugh, and that is a very exciting thing. I met Deborah officially when we were college freshmen–but I probably should have met her many years before that. We went to the same church camp every summer in Mountainair, NM (some of you know exactly what I’m talking about) and I remember seeing her and her three sisters and thinking how beautiful and cool they were (I was right–they are).  Deborah might be part of the reason I married who I did–I do know she saw the potential for our relationship long before I did. So thanks for that tremendous gift, Deb. And thanks for helping me laugh at myself, for modeling bravery, for glasses of “water” to drink around bonfires and glasses of iced coffee to drink in boring classes. I’ve always learned from your generosity.  

Hope you all enjoy her words today, and can find a way to breathe deep and trust the process you’re in. I’ll be doing the same. Happy almost Easter!

When James led us to the Episcopal tradition, many friends and relatives asked why.  His answer always started with the church calendar.  That was boring (and certainly the last topic that could ever be blog-worthy) so I often interjected my own response.  After many cycles of the calendar, I am beginning to understand.

It all started in Advent.  Looking for coffee in the great hall at St. John’s Cathedral, I found the smell of cut pine, families bustling to assemble their advent wreaths, glitter and cut ribbon all over the floor, and bystanders drinking coffee and enjoying the hubbub.

“You should make one,” James (my husband) offered.  He drank coffee and chatted instead of helping me.  So, I vindictively put glitter ribbon all over it.  He hates glitter.   He said it was beautiful.  I thought, “There must be something to this Advent thing if it can make him like glitter.”  Inspired by the wreath, James invited our neighbors to our house.  He said a short, but lovely, prayer and cooked a beautiful meal, which we enjoyed by the light of the first candle–a tradition we continue.

I paid no attention to the calendar until Lent approached and people asked what would be my Lenten discipline.  I retorted that I would stop “walking Central” and smoking cigarettes, but only for Lent, and that I would not give up the pole dancing gig!  Secretly, or not so secretly, I was repulsed by the idea of Lent.  Sometime during that first Lent I do remember thinking that Rev. Goodman was finally preaching proper sermons—about abstaining from sin and committing your life to God because Jesus sacrificed so much for you.

On my first Pentecost it seemed every woman at church wore a red hat, except me.

There are colors to coincide with each season of the church calendar.  Ordinary time is green.  James likes to wear Converse All-stars to match the color of the season.  Ordinary time is the longest season, so his feet smell awful by the end of it.

The glitter wreath, my abstinence from abstaining, my black dress in a sea of red, and James’ stinky feet were all I truly understood during that first cycle of the church calendar.

When Lent came around a second time, Rev. Goodman’s sermons sounded familiar (like real church) again.  This time, equipped with the experience of feeling (though in a rudimentary way) other seasons, I understood why the sermons were familiar—because it was Lent.  Then I realized, “I hate Lent because I’ve done 20 years of it.”  An evangelical emphasis on holiness combined with my own religious ambition resulted in a continuous effort to memorize scripture, pray, abstain, and otherwise improve myself so that I could be the best Christian possible and obtain a lofty status in the Kingdom of God.  It exhausted me.  Instead of becoming more Christ-like, abstinence made me judgmental and proud.

I gave myself several years of ordinary time.  Thankfully the Cathedral completely and utterly welcomed me in spite of my lack of enthusiasm.  Slowly a thirst for renewed spirituality burgeoned within me.

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James was assigned to help at a small parish that did not have volunteers to prepare and clean up communion.  After service he wetted the wine-stained church linens, put them in a plastic bag, brought them home, and left them on the counter to rot.  Three days passed.  Then four.  My options were to throw out the whole mess or attempt to salvage it.  I dug out my Oxyclean and an old tooth brush.  While working on the linens, it dawned on me that I was participating in an ancient tradition.  Though separated by 2,000 years of time, I was working together (in a symbolic or possibly more than symbolic way) with the people who performed the most honorable task of preparing the corpse of Christ for burial.  I thought about them.  I participated in their grief.  I wondered what thoughts they had as they tended the vacant and mutilated body, whether they were mad at him, knowing he didn’t even put up a fight.  Were they mad at the authorities who caused his death?  Did they dare hope for a resurrection?   How horrible it must have been to grieve without the hope I have in the resurrection.  Luckily it was only three days.  I wished I could share my Oxyclean and washing machine with them.

Somehow cleaning linens made Christ and his people more real to me.  I understood the value of early church traditions, and decided to participate.  Each year as we circle around the calendar, I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the celebrations.  Each year my participation is seasoned by my own life experiences.

This year we celebrated Advent right after I experienced the longing and anticipation of waiting for the birth of my own child.  I thought about all of the people who shared with me in the joy of anticipating my daughter’s birth.  I considered the Virgin Mary’s anticipation as she felt the Child quicken in her womb, as she waited to meet him, to introduce him to the world.  I felt anticipation of Christ’s return and longing for His presence in my daily life.  Advent is “the fast that feels like you’re just too excited to eat.”

Jane, the Cathedral’s former Christian Education director, hung a bell on my son Edmund’s wrist the year he had the role of Jesus in the Christmas play.  Nora, my daughter, had that honor last Christmas, and I stole a bell from the Cathedral to put on her wrist.  I will hang those bells on my Christmas tree every year until I die, and remember with joy the births of my children and THE BIRTH we used the bells to celebrate.

When we started planning our move to Virginia, I desperately needed reassurance that God would guide.  Epiphany provided great comfort.  Epiphany is “a star from God to guide the Magi.”

Last Sunday we waved palm branches and processed around the neighborhood.  I told Edmund about Jesus coming to Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and about how everyone was so excited they put palm branches on the ground for his colt to walk upon.  I refrained from sharing the rest of the story.  He will hear it in due season in accordance with the calendar.

My mom celebrated Easter (in the Protestant tradition Easter is death, burial, and resurrection all on the same Sunday instead of breaking it apart over Lent and Holy Week) by hand-sewing dresses for each of her four daughters every year.  As a child, I knew Easter was important because of the way mom prepared for it, and because I felt beautiful on that day.  I wonder if Mom’s tradition came from my great-grandmother and her Anglican/Episcopal ancestors.  I share the colors with the children in my life because I think dressing in accordance with the season is a way of preparing to understand what is happening at church.  I have dismal sewing skills, but I enjoy buying purple dresses for my niece, Ella, during Advent, and talking about why we wear purple. (I am sure someone in the family will correct all of the misinformation I’m probably giving her.)

I will probably wear jeans on Pentecost as a way to welcome others who don’t know about the red hat thing.  But you can rest assured I will have a beautiful green hat for ordinary time…and maybe some Oxyclean for those nasty green shoes.

DebandNoraPalmSunday2014

Deb is a wife of nine years, a mother of two small children, and an attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico who drinks way too much coffee.  She enjoys estate sale shopping with her husband and long walks.

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A Force Stronger than Fear: A Book Review

I downloaded my copy of blogger Elizabeth Esther’s memoir Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future on Tuesday morning. By Wednesday morning, I had finished the whole thing. This is not common (or even possible, usually) but her words were so riveting that I snuck moments in whenever I could. Throw in a load of laundry, read some, put the baby down for her nap, read some more, build train tracks with my toddler, read again.

The Girl at the End of the World

In her first book (and I hope there will be more) Elizabeth Esther tells the story of her childhood in a spiritually abusive fundamentalist cult called The Assembly, founded by her grandfather, and her slow escape from the cult as a young mother and wife. It’s not easy material to take in–I cried more than once and even stopped to beg-pray at one point. God, help me not to take advantage of the power I have over my children’s view of You. Please.

Power and fear are major themes in the book. At a young age, we see Elizabeth enduring “discipline” from her elders, and nothing but contrite submission and total surrender is accepted in return. She suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks related to her fear of being left behind if the rapture should happen and she hasn’t properly confessed all sin. Her family doesn’t accept mental illness as a reality though, so she never receives treatment. She believes, because she has been taught, that The Assembly is the way to God–and essentially this means that her grandfather and his followers are the way to God. The only empowerment is unquestioning obedience, because it will get her to heaven–even if it means her earthly life is miserable.

The motif of mothers and daughters is woven skillfully throughout the book. Tender and impulsive, Elizabeth learns to keep a safe emotional distance from her grandmother and her mother, as they are responsible for what seems like the majority of correcting her “character flaws”. She endures daily spankings–reminders that she’ll never be good enough.

Adulthood offers no freedom. Elizabeth marries a kind young man named Matt. The relationship offers some solace because the two are friends, and because Matt isn’t domineering, but Elizabeth soon realizes even their relationship isn’t safe from the scrutiny of The Assembly. Ultimately, they don’t have the power to make decisions about what their life together will look like.

I pray until Grandma is satisfied. She thinks I am weeping for my sins, but I am weeping because I finally realize that I will never be free.I see life stretched in front of me, and I weep for all the dreams I’ll never fulfill and for the children I will bring into this oppression. I weep for naively hoping my marriage could be different from all the other marriages in The Assembly. (Kindle ed, p. 127)

It takes motherhood to give Elizabeth the courage to leave, even though it doesn’t happen right away. In a pivotal scene, she’s expected to spank her daughter on her first birthday, a punishment for reaching for a bowl of chocolate. Children are trained to obey to the point that they won’t reach for sweets or toys without their parents’ pre-approval. Her mother dutifully fetches a wooden spoon, her grandmother looks on approvingly. Elizabeth shuts herself and her baby girl in the bathroom, torn between her own maternal intuition and the powerful pull of the cult’s teachings on child discipline–a misnomer because the purpose is to coldly break a child of any notion of preference or individuality.

She stares up at me, smiling and innocently unaware of what is happening. It is her first birthday. She is my baby, and I am doing this to her. I am training her the way I have been trained. Indeed, to break her will, I’d begun spanking Jewel at six months old.

Oh God. Help me. Help me now. I wait, the tears still coursing down my cheeks.

And there it is. A small shift. The tiniest point of light breaking through my darkness. It is revelation. You don’t have to break your daughter the way you were broken. (p. 137-138)

In this moment, the trajectory begins to shift. It’s the slow gathering of courage through Elizabeth’s relationship with her oldest daughter that builds into a new kind of strength over the years. She and her husband confront her grandparents for multiple abuses of power and finally leave the cult. They spend years acclimating to the outside American culture and trying to find a new way to worship and connect with God. She’s drawn to the safety and beauty of Catholicism, even though she strongly disapproves of it at first.  She finds strength through Mama Mary, explaining that when she couldn’t find Jesus, she went looking for his mother. She gains the strength to parent according to her own conscience, to be gentle with herself and seek the treatment she needs, and eventually even the strength for reconciliation with her parents.

As I read Elizabeth’s story, the goodness of God became more and more evident. I was reminded that we’re drawn to the Divine in many different ways, and what matters is that we bravely seek as we are led to. As she puts it so well:

God is big enough

This book shook me up, I’ll be honest. I’ve felt emotionally raw ever since I finished it. I think this is a testament to Elizabeth Esther’s ability as a writer to transfer her real life experiences to the page. Her voice is warm, candid, devastating, and at times hilarious (love me some King James-flavored humor) and left me feeling grateful and hopeful for the power of love.

It’s stronger than fear. Praise be to God.

You can pick up a copy of this book herehere, OR leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy, on me! You can just say hello, or share a thought on this post, or maybe tell me about a time you were brave in your spiritual journey. I’ll pick a winner on Monday.

*UPDATED: The winner of the book is Erica B, who left a comment on my Facebook page. Congrats Erica! Look for more reviews and giveaways soon.*

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differing graciously

Last night, Ricky and I had the opportunity to hear Brian McLaren speak with Amy Butler, pastor of Calvary Baptist in DC, as part of their Compelling Conversations series. Brian’s books have had a meaningful presence in our lives for quite a few years now, ever since our friend Heath lent us his copy of A New Kind of Christian. I didn’t know at the time just how much I would come to appreciate progressive Christian voices, or how much of a lifeline they would be for me.

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The conversation centered largely around the tension between evangelical American Christianity as it’s more commonly practiced and the folks who have grown increasingly uncomfortable with it…emergents, progressives, post-evangelicals, or whatever else you want to call them/us. I had to laugh when Brian mentioned that when people accuse him of heresy or falling down the slippery slope, he can only respond, “it’s much worse than you think.”

It’s been painful but liberating to realize I’ve spent most of my life entrenched in two types of Christianity that tend to fancy themselves the only type of Christianity: fundamentalism as a child and evangelicalism as a young adult. Those systems are not all bad or all good, of course, but there are good things outside of them. There are other ways to be faithful, to seek, to serve. I think that’s good news for all of us.

I’ve realized something big lately–I desperately want to be understood, especially by my friends who are still “in” systems from which I’ve stepped out. This desire grew so much over the years that I wanted to scream out my thoughts sometimes. Brian spoke some words last night that helped me to see how I might handle this better.

He offered this suggestion: when a friend, family member, etc. says something that you disagree with, maybe even find wildly offensive, say this: Wow, I see that differently. Then, leave it alone. If they ask you to explain, do so at another time, but not right away. In this way, you show that you’re willing to speak up but you don’t have to try to convince them of anything. It’s refreshing, and it opens up some space for dialogue. I think my favorite line was this: it’s really a gift when you can be different and not uptight about it. I have some work to do in that area.

In the same vein, he spoke of what an African theologian once told him: “Have the courage to differ graciously.” Brian noted that because this man approached theology from an African perspective, it might be called African theology, as when a woman approaches theology it might be called feminist theology, or when a gay person approaches theology it might be called queer theology, but a white European-based male approach is simply called theology (probably with a capital T). People approach theology differently, but some think their way is the way. We differ, meaning we are able to voice our disagreements, but we do it graciously, not defensively, not to prove a point, but as an effort to build something over time.

Not everyone can or will acknowledge their own bias and influencing factors. We should try to, and we should have grace for those who can’t see it yet. We should have grace for all the things we haven’t realized yet, too, as well as all the obtuse things we may have said in the past (yeah, that would be me).

I think I need to work on contentment with this: I am understood well by a few people. That is a gift, and it is enough.

Listen is my word for 2014. I’m learning that there’s nothing passive about listening–it’s a daily choice to acknowledge that whoever I come into contact with has a point of view that their life has given them, and to treat that gently. It doesn’t mean hiding my disagreement, but it does mean seeking to understand, and discerning well when to speak and when to refrain.

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supple

My first big girl Bible was a pale pink Precious Moments NIV softcover. I drew ballerinas on the inside cover and doodled my name and a few verses in colorful marker. I faithfully studied my memory verses for Sunday school. I could sing all sixty-six books to a catchy tune by age three, I’m told.

It’s packed away in a cardboard box, with a tiny blue willow china tea set and other mementos of a simple, sweet time.

In the awkward years between child and teenager, my parents gave me a thick, dark brown leather Spirit Filled Life Bible. That was my Bible all through high school. I carried it to school, camp, conventions, and church. I wrote enthusiastic, sincere notes in the margins, followed by exclamation points. I highlighted favorite passages, and then underlined them when I came across them again.

By the time my senior year of high school was coming to a close, the spine of this Bible was broken and chunks of pages would fall out easily. The highest grade I ever received for a college course was a 98, for The Bible as Literature. I attribute that to my time of intense study as a teenager.

It too is in a cardboard box, along with letters folded into interesting shapes (relics from pre-texting days), pictures from mission trips and youth conferences, and passionate journal entries. Those were the days of eagerness and sincerity, days of blissful unknowing.

Next came a navy blue slimline New King James Version, given to me upon my high school graduation by my pastors on May 20, 2001, with the inscription may the Lord bless you and keep you scrawled in the front.

Unlike its predecessor, its cover remains intact, and the notes are a bit quiet, followed by more question marks than exclamation points. This is the Bible with which I’ve struggled.

Its supple leather cover remains intact; I’ve been the one in pieces.

I’ve read this Bible and wished I could go back– to when the words were nothing but beautiful, to when I didn’t see the harshness of humanity in them;  to when I could get lost for hours, drunk on a kind of love. Instead, I’ve been soberly examining, and when I find writers who’ve been able to find precious things between the lines, I inhale their words like I used to inhale the other ones.

It’s taken many years to understand this: the Word of God is first and foremost a Person. When I read ancient words keeping Him in mind, they take on a new color, a new meaning. I believe I’ve known this Person for most of my life; that many things have clouded my view, that many things still do.

I can mark the seasons of my life by these books. I keep them like the treasures they are, but I think I’d like to get another one soon.

For the new season.

A different draft of this piece was originally posted on Noting Now.

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Epiphany

There’s a fair amount of second-guessing going on in my head as we settle into our wooden chairs on Epiphany Sunday. I’m preoccupied with thoughts about human stubbornness and the mysterious movement of the Holy Spirit ; how we force things and also how we can be too passive. Our family takes up a whole row, save one seat. We break the ice: we who braved frozen driveways and cold rain now jokingly congratulate ourselves, and when the pastor asks what church season we’re in, Nicky pipes up, “Winter!”  I laugh easily, and leave off the pondering for now.

Managing to remember a few phrases without consulting the printed service, I notice for the first time the closed eyes around me, the words being recited by heart.

I feel like a kid peeking out from under the covers. It’s hard to tell how much I’m super-imposing my own issues, but I sense that I may be in the company of seasoned question-lovers, which helps a great deal with my breathing. Actually, I’m not reminding myself to breathe at all. Huh.

Funny how it works: while I’m busy noticing the space left for the unknown, Belief herself slips in and sits in that extra seat on the end of the row, kind eyes and hair all a mess, and I hear her voice harmonizing with mine as we sing about thorns infesting the ground and wonders of His love.

She stands by my side as I hold my hands in front of me, I daresay eagerly, for bread. Earlier this morning I chose a shower over breakfast; now the generous portion placed in my palm satisfies in more ways than one. Fed by this, warmed by wine, I return to my seat and find my place in the hymnal.

It occurs to me that all of my hunger has met at this one point. I’m not sure I’ve ever allowed it all to exist in the same sphere before. Reverent, ravenous, here I am. Sitting next to Belief in this row of wooden chairs.

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