Here – A Conversation 

Here – A Conversation 

“You are here.”

-“I am”

“You’re here.”

-“Yes.”

“I don’t even know what that means anymore.”

-“I know. It’s okay.”

“It’s just…hard for me to believe.”

-“I know. It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.”

-“Stop apologizing.”

(Pause)

“I believe; help my unbelief?”

-“Still apologizing.”

“I…don’t know how to talk to you anymore.”

-“I know. That’s okay, too.”

“How is that okay?”

-“We’re here, together. You don’t have to say anything.”

(Two beat pause…)

“Huh.”

-“Yes?”

“It’s just…I don’t know what to do with you but talk. And you know how I talk.”

-“Yes, I do. But that doesn’t mean you have to. It’s enough for me just to be with you.”

“But you know I have to talk.”

-“Yes, but you’re learning to listen. To just be with.”

“It’s just…weird with you now.”

-“Why?”

“Because I don’t know who you are anymore.”

-“That’s actually nothing new.”

“But it was easier when I thought I did.”

-“Yes.”

“I always wondered if you were just a voice in my head.”

-“Want to know a secret? – sometimes that’s exactly what I am.”

“Seriously.”

-“Seriously.”

“But then, how do I know I’m not just hearing what I want to hear, like they always said?”

-“Yeah, that’s not so much you. You’re better at hearing what you don’t want to hear.”

“I am?”

-“You’ve had lots of practice.”

“Even if that’s true, how do I know that you’re not just me?”

-“You don’t.”

“Well, shit. —Oh, sorry!”

-“Stop apologizing. I’ve said worse.”

“But how am I supposed to know what to do?”

-“Trust yourself.”

(Pause)

“Trust myself? I’m a mess – I don’t know what I’m doing!”

-“I know. It’s okay.”

“How is that okay? I don’t know how to figure out the right thing to do!”

-“That’s less important than you think.”

“It is?”

-“Yes.”

“But…how do I not screw up, then?”

-“You will definitely screw up.”

“That’s not okay!”

-“That’s why I’m here. I’ve got you.”

“What about everyone else, though? The other people that get hurt when I screw up?”

-“I’ve got them, too.”

“But…”

-“You’ll never trust yourself unless you can trust me.”

“Oh.”

-“You will screw up. You will hurt people. I’ve got them, and I’ve got you. Unless you trust me on that, you’re never going to do anything but but be afraid.”

“No. I spent too many years stuck there.”

-“I know.”

“I can’t go back.”

-“I know. Trust me.”

“Trust you – that’s why it’s hard. I don’t know what that means anymore either.”

-“Trust yourself.”

“Really?”

-“Yes – I haven’t spent all these years with you for nothing. And I’m not going anywhere.”

“Yeah?”

-“Yeah. And when you do screw up, I’ve got you. I’m here.”

“You’re here.”

-“I am.”

“Okay.”

The Beautiful Mess

The Beautiful Mess

I love shabby-chic. (I love new things with clean lines, too, but then, I have eclectic tastes.)

And let me be clear, if it’s sold at Target or Macy’s or Anthropologie as “shabby-chic,” no. That’s missing the point for me altogether.

It’s not really about an aesthetic. It’s a desire to live in a space that reflects who I am, that is an outward expression of my life.

That life has a history.

The brass bed that my great-uncle rescued used from the basement of a furniture store something like seventy-five years ago. After his early death, it came to my father in his teen years, and by the time I’d started school, became mine. Daddy, military school student that he was, kept it shiny and sparkling. I like its aged patina (and dislike constant polishing).

The narrow bookshelf with a clock face mounted on top. My grandfather, who I never knew, collected the wood (including the finials and clock) the day Prohibition went through and they tore out the bar on Main Street. He took it home and turned it into a bookshelf.

A bald eagle and shield needlepoint. In the early 1970s, as Daddy’s ALS began restricting his activities, he wanted something to do with his hands that didn’t involve arm strength, and decided to try the needlework my mother did so beautiful. He chose a bicentennial design (produced by AVON, according to the bag) and outlined and filled in maybe 20% before the disease took enough of his dexterity that he had to give it up.

Roughly thirty years later, I found it and finished his project. It now hangs over the Prohibition bookshelf, signed with both our initials.

The canister set that sat on my grandmother’s kitchen counter and held her baking staples – the ingredients for all her wonderful homemade cakes and cookies.

The funky printed, wide-legged denim jeans my grandmother custom-made for my mother in the 70s (and that actually fit my hips and sometimes my mood).

The small, personalized photo album – a high school graduation gift from Kenny, a popular upperclassman who befriended an awkward middle-schooler and in doing so, gave me the gift of acceptance and a sense of worth, just as I was.

And so many books – old friends and mentors in the journeys of my life.

Most everything in my home has a history, a history I’ve inherited or a history I’ve given them.

Things don’t match. But they belong. They fit somehow. The beauty is in the relationships between them, the lived-ness they reflect.

Like my life, it’s a beautiful mess – full of story and legacy and love and change and unfinished business and moving forward anyway.

I don’t want a life of matching sets.

I don’t want the registered china. I want one setting of your favorite design, a table full of the unique gifts of friends, mixed and matched for this particular celebration of togetherness.

I don’t want a life that fits neatly. Cleanly.

I want questions and discovery and the chaos of living in a world of surprise and revelation. I want the assumptions I don’t know I have disrupted, my expectations interrupted.

I want the beautiful mess.

A life – and faith – with cracks in the foundation, layers of paint and wallpaper that are worn down and showing through, corners that don’t meet at right angles, walls that don’t meet at all, doors that won’t shut right.

A drafty life where the sun and the moon leak in light and the holy wind is always whistling through and tossing things around.

Things get broken, but that’s what happens when you use grandma’s crystal rather than leaving it to collect dust in the china cabinet. When you stop saving it all for special occasions and celebrate every moment as a special occasion worthy of celebration or mourning – of honoring.

Things get broken, but then they get glued back together and the cracks become part of the story.

Things get broken, sometimes too broken to glue back together. But then it’s time to make a mosaic.

Antsy

Antsy

I feel antsy tonight.

I get that way sometimes these days. It feels like there’s a lull in the momentum of my life, and I get antsy.

I felt stuck for so many years, at the mercy of a life that wasn’t my own (after all, I was “bought with a price,” as Paul wrote). In order to honor the God who loved me, I had to keep my life a blank slate, so that all that would be written on it would be whatever he would write.

But he didn’t give me life so I could hold it for a few moments until he could take it back – so that I could keep it tucked away and safe until he comes for it. He gave me my life – this one life – so I could live it. So I could make things happen with it. That’s not safe; it’s risky. I could lose everything. But maybe that’s the point.

Somewhere over the past few years I discovered something: my own agency. The gift of my life, of making choices and messing up and sometimes soaring.

Choices used to scare me frozen. There were too many implications, so many ways to get it wrong (I must not get it wrong). So I would pray and wait for God to show me his will. It was like a celestial game of “Mother, may I?”

It’s hard to live when you’re always trying to avoid messing something up.

And it rang wrong somehow. In the middle of this amazing world God made, full of beauty and possibility and choices, it came to feel like refusing a gift – the gift of living my life.

So I’ve grabbed on to it with both hands and jumped in. And on this beautiful summer day, when there’s a pause, I feel antsy.

I know I’m not stuck. I know things will continue to happen and choices will continue to come. The next step – for my vocation, at my job, in my dating, into my future – will come. But something in me remembers the long stuckness, and that something doesn’t want it again. And I hold on to my agency, the gift of living my life.

And maybe eventually I’ll learn to feel the difference between stuckness and stillness.

Resurrection and Resolution

Resurrection and Resolution

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

It’s a phrase at the end of the creed we recite at church every Sunday. Part of the reason I love formal liturgy is because it brings me back again and again to the same things, as life gives me deeper and broader ways to understand them.

This Sunday it was this line that jumped out at me and sat in my head and heart, framing the rest of the service.

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

And the thought came: All the dead.

All the death.

My father and grandmothers and all of those who have died and aren’t here any more.

The dreams that have died. The relationships. The hopes. The possibilities.

Death always leaves things undone. Unresolved.

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

There was a conversation on a friend’s Facebook wall a while back about breakups. A consensus arose that, while the pain of a divorce or the breakup of a long term relationship may be deeper, the loss of a shorter term relationship is usually more intense. In the first, the relationship has played itself out – you know what’s there and what isn’t. But in the second, the loss is full of possibilities cut off and unexplored.

Things undone. Unsaid. Untried. Questions unanswered. Longings unfulfilled. Moments unshared.

Whole future histories wiped away.

But, “We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

My vision for that has always been visceral – literal. As a child perched on a big, gray tombstone in the church cemetery at the Easter sunrise service, I imagined all those people who were dead (daddies, grandmas, grandpas) one day rising up from those graves to hug and be held by again.

But life has taught me those other deaths now, too.

The death of unexplored possibilities is so hard for me. Sometimes my life feels littered with opportunities not pursued, relationships I know could’ve been more. So many things get in the way – baggage, hurt, stuckness, expectations, all our stuff. Sometimes, it’s as simple as timing and logistics.

And I feel the social deaths – community betrayed, justice abandoned, voices silenced.

Things left undone. Left unresolved.

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

All the dead. All the death.

I think of resurrection more broadly now. Not just people restored to life, but relationship restored – or remade. Possibilities reawakened. Hopes renewed.

Nothing finally lost.

Resurrection as resolution of all that has been left undone.

We long for resolution. In melody and story, as in life. And perhaps that longing bears witness to what will be.

Resolution. Wholeness. Shalom. All finally as it was truly meant to be, more beautiful than we can imagine.

But it isn’t all for then – though when I face those things I cannot change, I plant my hope in that future day when all will be fulfilled.

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

We look – present tense. Now.

Sometimes resolution is present tense. Available today, tomorrow. Every time I choose connection in the face of separation. Every time I choose to honor rather than forget. Every time I speak up for justice. Every time I choose not to walk away. Every time I choose love in the face of loss.

Love is stronger than death. Is. Even now.

“We look for the resurrection of the dead.”

All the dead. Even today.