Friday, July 26, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Broken

So, it's Friday. Which means I'm blogging. (This is only one in a flurry of recent examples where I'm learning to appreciate rules I adopt for myself. After years of embracing freedom and "grace," which in addition to its truth can be a euphemism for tolerating or even embracing my lack of self-control, I'm starting to fully get what Paul meant in Galatians about the Law being a guardian for us.)

So even if I have nothing else to say am too lazy to blog the rest of the week, I suddenly seem to have blogging ambition on Friday. I typically go over and see what my buddy Ruth wrote, and then head over to Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to make it official.

[Drafter's Note: I cheated a little this week, and this is more like Six-and-a-Half-Minute Friday... I am presently typing on an iPad, on a train, and so I allowed myself some extra time to counteract the autocorrect- and turbulence-related backing-and-filling...]


In feeling my own throat, in considering that TV show I was watching involving a serial killer who strangles women, I find myself wondering why this sacred place, this passage for voice and breath, should be so scandalously vulnerable. Just skin and a thin veil of muscle, poorly guarded, an undefended keep.

The heart, too--Ingrid Michaelson's voice warbles in my wonderings--so vaguely enshrined in thin ribs, too easily accessed, punctured, broken, lost. It's tempting--unavoidable, inevitable--to second-guess the craftsmanship. Where are the plates of heavy bone, layered like marble slabs to keep us safe? 

In short, why are we breakable? Did He not consider all that we might lose in an instant, a sudden sacrifice to misstep or violence? But He chose to make us fragile, to let us be broken, whether it's a stubbed toe, bent and bruised, or a fractured heart, murmuring and fading. He designed us this way, and encourages us through every means available to leave ourselves that way: easy to accessed, effortless to hurt, but open to a world of wild emotion, compassionate even in the face of darkness.

It's possible, to some degree, to choose the other path. To become hard-hearted. But it's preferable to fracture and then be mended; to break, and be remade unbroken.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Belonging, continued.

On a different vein from my post earlier tonight, I'm going back to where I grew up next weekend. I don't say, "going back home," because home is my apartment, and the other "home" is where my mother is. (More on this back in March of 2012.) But I'm going back, and I have surprised myself and others when I say that I don't really have many plans for my brief visit. (I keep using "brief visit" as an excuse... We'll leave unturned the rock that asks whether I'd feel differently with a longer trip.)

I have long been connected to certain places, as they in turn connect me to certain moments or phases or feelings. And it's not that New Jersey doesn't have those places, but, I think, that those places are closed off to me now, and shy of significantly violating basic trespassing law or using a TARDIS, I can't revisit them. This is part of life, of time, of change: that while I would love to walk down the stone steps, tracing my hand over the sphinx statues and peeling-bark trees that guarded my childhood play area*, I cannot. That while I miss the feeling of possibility and joyful unknown I knew as a teenager waiting under trees in the back acreage of my childhood church, I cannot recreate it by revisiting them--I have tried. In every case, either the place or I have changed too much to summon what was.

This is a mood I find myself in occasionally: melancholic, which is not to say sad or depressed or regretful. You can miss things without really wanting them back, especially because with all these pieces of selective memory, there are shadows, too: watching friends fade, feeling hope revert to resignation. I don't actually want to be 7 again, or 17. In fact--and I do hesitate to say this, but--as I approach 30 at the end of this year, I find myself, if not entirely content, more content than I have been... maybe ever. There's nothing specific about this contentedness, which is maybe why it's remarkable: it's not based on circumstance. (To quote C. S. Lewis, "don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose."*)

I still love returning to certain places that bring the past back to life--to my mother's kitchen (wherever it may be), to the farthest-out sand flat at Kingsbury Beach on Cape Cod, to the orchard of my grandparents (now my cousin's) house--but for whatever reason, the idea of belonging, of home has shifted away from where I'll be next weekend.

This, here, where I am, is home. And while there are pieces of the past that still resound with fluctuating emotions, this is where I belong.

* Never have I typed a phrase that so thoroughly screamed, "this girl went to private school." Dang.

** Clive Staples, paraphrasing St. Augustine, in his The Four Loves: "This is what comes... of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away." [Note: that same love funnels to people, too. No hate.]

Post script: I feel like I frequently end with a song, so why break a pattern? This.

Five-Minute Friday: Belong

A word of warning: this will initially be a five-minute Friday challenge (yay for Ruth Ayres & Lisa Jo Baker), but as this has been on my brain lately, I may go on after the 5 minutes...


I had imagined belonging to be easier. Aided by TV shows that demonstrated moving only involved a scene change, and that all your friends (with the occasional instant new one or guest star from the old show) came with you. Moving to Portland was going to be like that: an artsy, foodie, bookish town on the coast where I would blend seamlessly into a group of intellectual, funny, compassionate people who would love me instantly as we shared microbrews and Shakespeare.

It will be seven years in October, and I've had this community I was aching for... for about four. I didn't see it then, and couldn't see it as it was happening, but moving is easy; meeting people is unavoidable; belonging is hard. It was two years before I had someone local who I felt like I could call in the middle of the night with a broken heart. It was longer before I had a local family I now spend Christmas with. It was only recently that I caught myself, stopping for a moment in the midst of a church picnic, being thoroughly submersed in a place of laughter, of acceptance, of imperfection, but most of all of belonging.

And that's the rub we want to skip over: belonging is being known--and that means being real. No masks, no pretending, no faking it. Real community, real belonging comes from vulnerability.


I'll write the other bit separately, I suppose, to avoid novel-lengths... :)

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Out of the Habit -- Five Minutes.

...This might be a record on the blogging dry spells... No further comment. :/

I wandered over to ye old Blogspot to write some deep, intellectually moving piece on how we see ourselves, where we think we've screwed up when others see us succeeding (and, let's be honest, vice versa). But A) it's been a loaded 24 hours of ministry work and I don't think my brain is up for that, and B) it's hard to get back into the hang of writing after 4 months of drought. (You may notice, this falls into the category of "further comment.")

Writing is habitual, as is, well, not writing. And of course I write emails and policy at work, but it's not the same. So in an effort to get back into the habit, I'm going to go hunt for something prompty to get my creative juices flowing.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

AHA! Cue Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday community--thanks for the direction, Ruth! (I'm aware it's Saturday. If I'm four months late in blogging, I figure I can be 12 hours late to a fun bloggy party...) This week's word: present. Setting the timer now...

I don't know what I ever expected, sitting cross-legged in the vicinity of a Christmas tree, my 6-year old, 11-year-old, 17-year-old self somehow still hoping, far away past the cynicism and jadedness, that bright paper and cheap ribbon could contain some piece of what I'd lost at three. That even in the confusion of adolescence and the frustration of high school I thought I could find it, earn it, restore some part of myself that broke before I knew the word for it.

Between rolling eyes, deeper than the sigh of exasperation, ever-childlike fingers would wreck the present's perfection, and as the paper fell, the inevitable fall: it was only a -----. It never mattered what. It wasn't a brokenness mended, it wasn't presence, it wasn't him. Just a thing, too late, too wrong. It had been better, perhaps, unopened--a constant promise, a possibility.