Guest Post: Planes

My friend, Amanda, is living quite the adventure lately. She and her husband have moved to an island and he is in medical school. She is finishing a graduate degree. It’s all sorts of fun and crazy and hard. She just started a blog (Middle of Somewhere), and I told her I’d love to share one of her posts with my readers. So, without further ado, Amanda…


Hi Ya’ll,

I had every intention of writing to ya’ll last week, but that week was a doozy, to be sure. I flew from the Caribbean to MS on Tuesday, and arrived home Wednesday morning! What should have been a 10 hour day, turned into a 34 hour day ( I have an elephant sized hatred for Atlanta; sorry ya’ll).

I had never slept in the airport until Tuesday night. And let me tell you, I’d be ok if I never had to do that again. There’s no sleeping in an airport, I don’t care what they say. It’s cold, and the benches are harder and more uncomfortable than the seats in the planes. I’m still recuperating!  It’s never such an adventure when Will is with me. I like it that way. Smooth sailing.

Don’t we all like it that way? Smooth sailing? When plans and days and moments go just as we had expected and anticipated,  and nothing crazy happens to interfere with what we think our plans should be? Yet, if we’re honest with ourselves, those intentional, extremely thought out plans are never as fun and fruitful as the times when the plans go awry.

I learned a lot about myself on my 34 hour journey home last week. I learned that I was, yet again, stronger and more independent than I thought. I needed that reminder. Island life has spoiled me…. Will is always there to protect me, to lift me up, and to encourage me.

The Lord reaffirmed, yet again, that He is always with me. He’s always holding me in His more than capable arms. I’m never alone. We are NEVER alone. The Lord promises to always be with us. Holy Spirit is in our souls. No matter where we are; curled up on a hard airport bench watching Outlander, a comfy and cozy couch with a down feathered blanket, or driving down a deserted road late at night, the Lord’s presence is right there with us. Loving on us, protecting us, guiding us, lighting the way in which we should go.

Perhaps the Lord orchestrated it just so, that I’d be curled up under two airport blankets, because I didn’t think I’d need my own blanket and left it at home, won’t be making that mistake again. Perhaps he made it so that I’d ache so much for Will’s warmth and comfort that I’d remember the Lord’s warmth and comfort is more than enough.

Maybe, just maybe, we need a detour every now and then to remind us who we are. Who our Father is, and how much He loves us and aches over us. I have to tell ya’ll, I’d never felt more lonely than I did in that ATL airport over night. I didn’t meet a single soul to converse with, to vent with about the crazy journey. It was just me and my Lord. I told him how much I disliked my situation, how much I wanted to be in my own bed in my cozy sheets and warm quilt. He told me all is well and I’d be there soon enough, and to release my frustration and be enveloped in His peace and comfort.

I went straight to sleep…. for a 20 minute power nap. Funny how those things happen, huh? When we let go of our plans and frustrations and anxieties. He is sufficient, and yet we rarely remember that when we plan and go about the routine of the days.

I’m sitting in my parents’ home, on the comfy, cozy couch with a blanket, and I know that I’ll forget this lesson and will need another reminder. But until then, I’ll pray that I won’t need another ridiculous reminder such as a 30 something hour journey in planes and airports to remind me.

Till next time!

Advertisements

Letting Go: The End of Deconstruction

Here’s the thing about deconstruction: eventually, you are finished.

At the end of my deconstruction, I panicked. There was very little left for me to hold onto, and I was terrified of letting go. The idea of deconstruction became my armor, my answer, my reason for not moving forward.

I was hanging there, swinging from a vine of every question I’d ever asked and every doubt I’d ever entertained.

I knew the next step was reconstruction. That was always the goal, right? Take it all apart so I could put it back together… better? I wanted to pull all of the stuff out of the closet so I could determine what was useful and what was junk. I needed to hold each belief in my hands and decide whether to discard the concept or add it to the stack of building materials.

It felt like a never-ending process. It lasted years and years. I was already years into the journey before I acknowledged I was on the journey at all. And then I was at the end, swinging from that vine, terrified of letting go.

What if I fell onto hard concrete and broke every bone in my spiritual body? What if there was nothing left of me… no way to begin rebuilding?

My fingers were slipping.

I had to make a choice.

I chose to let go.

I fell, but I didn’t hit concrete. I didn’t break my bones. Instead, someone caught me. A group of someones, actually.

I bounced first, the Liturgists podcast community and some Internet-based friendships slowing my descent, and then…

My own real-life church community caught me. They caught me and held on, because they are not the normal pretend-we’ve-got-it-all-together, here’s-the-church-and-here’s-the-steeple, kind of group.

Some of them are in the deconstruction process themselves. Some have already rebuilt. Some have never admitted to a doubt in their life, and some just naturally balance faith and doubt without falling apart how I did. Regardless, when I let go of everything I ever believed, I found myself cradled in this community.

What do they have in common?

They love Jesus. They love their neighbor.

I’m their neighbor.

I’m finished deconstructing. It’s time to rebuild, and I’m standing here on an ancient foundation.

Relationship.

Community.

God.

God is relationship. God is community. God is the mystery of Trinity, the metaphor of incarnation, the Spirit of creativity…

God is so many things, and my need to stuff God into a church-box is finally gone. Whatever I build on this foundation will be open to the world that originated in the heart and mind of a God bigger than any of us can ever dream.

My walls will always be made of doors.

The Red Umbrella

6768377

This book, y’all!

Every summer, Audio File gives away audio books weekly. I have a really bad habit of downloading them and then forgetting them, because I never had room to store them on my phone. Now, with a newer bigger phone, I do. I am so glad I did not download The Red Umbrella and forget about it.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is going on my list of must-read writers. Her novel is set in Cuba and America, circa 1961. The main character, Lucía Álvarez, is a young teen at the beginning of Castro’s reign. Her parents are not part of the revolution and want to get Lucía and her brother, Frankie, to safety.

As the story unfolded, I learned a lot about Cuba and also saw similarities to aspects of America’s current political atmosphere. It was a scary realization, that thoughts in my head match the thoughts of people watching Castro take over their country. So many people were certain communism could not win, that the whole thing was a political phase that would fade into memory soon enough.  They were wrong.

The writing was beautiful and dealt with fear and tragedy in a poetic and heartbreaking manner. I loved the American couple in the second half of the story, despite Mrs. Baxter’s ignorance of Lucía’s culture and what the world is actually like outside of small town America. Her heart was pure, and the mix-and-match family created by the situation was beautiful.

I just cannot say enough good about this book. Go buy it. Right now.

Currently: Es Junio

Current Books: I am reading and loving State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, thanks to a friend suggesting it. I am listening to the audio of Home by Toni Morrison in the car. I love hearing her read her own work. I’m also reading Living Buddha, Living Christ.

Current Playlist: The three most recent Gungor albums on shuffle

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I grabbed fast food after work today.

Current Colors: Todos de colores

Current Food: Cheddar Peppers from Sonic

Current Drink: Cherry Limeade

Current Favorite Favorite: Color coding my vocabulary lists for Spanish class

Current Wishlist: An extra two hours in my day

Current Needs: Time for my dental cleaning and to make an appointment for my yearly check-up and some extra energy each afternoon

Current Triumph: I made a 100 on my first math test of the summer!

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Juggling work for five hours after my classes each day. I’m exhausted by the time I come home and I still have homework.

Current Indulgence: I bought a canned Starbucks Refresher for tomorrow morning.

Current Mood: Tired but mostly content

Current Outfit: It is Nattie Day, so I have on my tee that reads, “Kiss my Tiara,” with jeans, and tennis shoes.

Current #1 Blessing: Friends who help me juggle this crazy schedule

Current Quote: “Because you are alive, everything is possible.”  ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Current PhotoPhoto Jun 07, 7 25 46 AM

 

Leaving my Blanket Behind

My mom is a strong Christian woman who embodies the fruits of the Spirit in ways I can only dream of. She’s amazing. So I know, when she became pregnant with me (probably even before) she was praying for me. And I know she prayed long and hard over my multiplying cells and lengthening limbs, even as I rolled and kicked and made her miserable from the inside.

As she prayed, threads were woven all around me. The more she prayed, the thicker the yarn that spooled from Heaven and wrapped me in protection. I arrived in this world cocooned in my mother’s faith.

Church, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Bible… these were the words of my life from the very beginning. So thick was this knitted blanket of faith that the atheist/agnosticism of my father could not penetrate it. I balanced the intellectual curiosity he instilled within me only on the outside of my faith cocoon.

And then, one day, I pulled a loose string.

One. Loose. String.

I don’t regret pulling that string. As the buffer between my world and myself lessened, I became more connected to the Divine in nature, in others, in everything. I gained a new sense of compassion and passion for those who did not have mothers who prayed them into this world, for those who are lacking so many things that always seemed a given to me.

Eventually, however, I ran out of loose string to pull. All I have left now are threads spooling away from me. They are pretty, their rainbow colors flying behind me like ribbons.

But my skin is now exposed. I have never felt this much of the world on my soul at one time.

I question everything.

Nothing is sacred anymore. All is up for discussion and confusion and wondering.

I am making this all sound very beautiful, and most days, it is very beautiful. I am learning a new way of walking in faith, walking in faith without using it as a wall to separate me from other people, people not bundled in the same blanket as me.

However, my old beliefs have turned on me. The things I used to say and sing and believe unquestioningly are like small daggers. They are like sandpaper on my newly exposed skin.

They hurt.

And I live in the South. I live in the Bible Belt. My husband is a pastor and I work in a church preschool. But every scripture verse is dagger-ended and every child’s Bible story is a landmine.

Too many people around me wrap themselves up tight in a blanket that is covered in thorns. The thorns are on the outside though. They can’t feel them, but when they walk near me, speaking Christianese, assuming things about me based on my husband’s career, using their faith blanket to justify the oppression of those they are supposed to love and sacrifice all for… The thorns stab my flesh and I come home bloody.

I cried on the closet floor, last week. I told my husband, “I am just so tired. Everything hurts. I feel like I am walking around with my skin peeled off.”

But it isn’t my skin I peeled away. It is the thickness of blind faith. And I need to learn to live this way, because I think Jesus lived this way.

He never truly turned people away. He drew them to him, prayed for and healed them, taught them and sought them… He did not bundle up in faith like a buffer between Him and the world.

I do believe we have a Comforter, but I don’t think it’s a blanket. I think it is the piece of God that lives in us, that guides and keeps us, that helps us funnel all the hurt into compassion.

It is the peace of God that lives in us.

But living with peace inside my soul is different from blocking everything from outside of my soul.

So, it seems, I am learning to live again.

I am learning and hurting and sometimes the result is not pretty. Sometimes I lash out, because I can’t take another pin prick, cannot hug another cacti-argument. Instead, I need to hideout in a blanket-fort with a book and my crayons, be a child again…

heal.

It hurts, but I do believe, deep down, the hurt is worth it.

You are worth it… being connected to all of you is worth leaving my blanket behind.

Review: Blood Rose Rebellion

31020402

Yesterday, I alternated practice equations for my math final with chapters from Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves.

When I first started reading, I was slightly disappointed by the British setting, though I am not sure why. I normally adore all things British. But, the setting quickly shifted to Hungary, and that was gorgeous. I don’t know a lot about the history of that part of the world, so I got to learn and do my own research to check out new tidbits. That is my favorite part of historical fiction.

My favorite favorite was the poet in the story. I loved learning that he is a real person and actually did participate and even help spur on revolution with a poem. I firmly believe poets ARE revolutionaries. Words are power.

Another favorite about this story is the mix of real history and alternate history and the supernatural – the richness of magic meets the lushness of culture.

There are so many tendrils of web woven together in this story that I hesitate to share details. I loved the characters of Gabor and Matyas the best, and there is plenty of allegory to me constructed from the plot if one wants to compare societies and histories.

All in all, Blood Rose Rebellion is well worth the read. Check it out.

 

*I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FROM BLOGGING FOR BOOKS FOR THIS REVIEW.

 

Go Back to the Last Place You had It and Look There

I’ve been listening to an audio book from Anne Lamott, her newest. It plays while I drive my kids around and while I commute to work or school. I love her voice, like an old friend calling shotgun to talk about the good the bad and the ugly of everyday.

Yesterday, she was talking about finding lost things. She said something along the lines of, “When you lose something, you go back to the last place you had it and look there.”

This is obvious mom advice, right? If you can’t find your shoes, try to remember where you were last time you took them off. Where were you when you last had your keys or your phone or your wallet…

or your faith.

That is what I asked myself, driving down 305 to drop my son off at youth choir. I kept asking myself as I drove back after he was safely deposited at the church.

Back in Tupelo? Did I just not bring my faith to Olive Branch when we moved? No, that didn’t seem right. I was struggling with deconstruction in Tupelo, though maybe in more subtle ways. In Brandon then, that far back? That was ten years ago.

I know I have felt God’s presence, felt at peace, in the last ten years.

So… when? Where?

I moved on to running media for worship at The Well, correcting sermon slides and greeting visitors and sipping a Coke for the caffeine infusion needed to stay alert. All the while, the back of my brain was spinning, searching… where did I last see my faith, my peace, my certainty that God, whatever God is, was with me?

Then the band started playing and the words that filled the room were, “Holy Spirit, you are welcome here.”

I closed my eyes. I went back to where that song took root in me, to Jamie singing those words, no guitar or piano or drums needed. Just her voice rising in an empty church, an old church, a church that has looked over the valley for 600 years.

That is where I saw it last.

That is where I last felt at peace.

In Honduras.

My eyes filled with tears, because I can’t go back anytime soon, and when I do go back it won’t be for as long as last summer. This time last year, I was plotting how to pack for my summer in under 50 pounds. Whole weeks stretched before me, weeks without any of the worry that plagues me here in the States.

Last summer, I did not worry about money or my health or health insurance bills. I did not worry about grades and scholarships and computers.

Last summer, I sat in an ancient church and listened to Jamie’s voice seeping into clay walls that had held the prayers of centuries. I stood on mountain tops, literally and spiritually. I laughed with children in broken languages. I sipped coffee while the birds of paradise were in bloom.

And all was well, and all was well, and all manner of things would be well.

How do I find Honduras in my heart without getting on an airplane?

That is the question I begin my summer with this year. How do I find Honduras in this life even while going to 8 AM classes and learning algebra and working at a daycare and trying to rewrite a manuscript in verse?

How do I find Honduras in my heart?