with all due reverence for the speed bumps of the Portofino parking lot: today, at deeper story

We cut slowly across the parking lot, moving three stores down from the one we were just in. Were we anyone else, we would likely have abandoned the car at the first store and then walked to the second. But we are not like everyone else, so we took the car. We pulled out slowly, we gingerly made the approach. And we came to the speed bumps.

"Honey, it's alright. Just go over them slow," she tells me, but I can see out of the corner of my eye the flicker of trauma remembered shadow her face and wordlessly I take the wheel and turn it left, driving down to the end of the row where I turn right and then right again for the simple sake of avoiding the speed bumps.

The drivers behind us are slightly confused, as two cars that were waiting have already gone over by the time we are back on the other side. If we were like everyone else, we would have driven over the speed Bumps in the parking lot of Portofino like there was nothing to even pause and consider.

But we are not like everyone else.

Keep reading and join me over at Deeper Story today?

have i heard?: one word 2011 in retrospect

I sat in the midmorning light of that great armchair in the living room last Christmas and told God that I was planning on giving up on this blog. I had been writing sparingly, mindlessly, and I was considering that for all my labors to write, to be a writer, I had very little by means of content to show for the vision. I felt it was my calling, but that slippery gloss of feelings finds tarnish easily, and low readership and lower comments meant I spent my days wondering why I even bothered, to the point that I was ready to give it up.

I hadn't ever quite prayed about my blog before, I hadn't considered a need to. It, like all other deeds, was a kind of worship, but the worship was in the doing not in the preparation for the doing. Silly, for this is wrong, but I never had cause to really evaluate it. At least until that morning, when the thought drifted across my mind and I accepted it was time to be done and either it was a legitimate prayer or God overheard it and decided to interject, because I felt in the deepness of myself the bold whisper that I needed to keep going, for "It will not be like this next year."

Like all things with our Creator, that only makes sense now in perspective. At the time I thought it had to do with other things, the least of which was my blog. But somehow that word convinced me to keep writing, to keep striving, and most importantly to bring a kind of painful honesty to this space unlike I had ever done before. It was time to be vulnerable, to be transparent without fear. Appropriately, I stumbled upon Alece's meme, a challenge to choose a word for the year and intentionally seek God's working in it. Last year, the word came to me quickly: grow.

Grow.

Become more. Strive for better. It has been painful work, slow work, but I have. This year is a myriad of joys, too many to recount here, but I can say with conviction that I have grown enormously in this season of life, that I have come to a Faith more rooted and frightfully grounded than I have ever known before. This is beauty. Indeed, the words spoken into the quiet of my soul about things changing did come about. Readership here went up. Way up. In September I was offered to be a contributor at A Deeper Story. And just this past October I was approached about writing a book and am presently negotiating the contract. It seems ridiculous, it seems absurd, but so is the agency of grace at the hands of an indescribable God.

But that was this past year. What of next?

I have spent the past few weeks praying about the word I would choose. I wanted something long, beautiful, flowing. I wanted a word that rolled off the tongue and puddled in the soul. I wanted something in French or Latin that didn't quite have a translation into our vernacular, but needed paragraphs to explain just so. And I have waited for weeks for God to bring this word to me, which He did just last night.

Trust.

Trust.

He reminded me last night of several months ago in the early weeks of September when I was visiting a friend in Austin to celebrate my birthday. I sat in the light of the early morning on her couch, my Bible in my lap, and I slowly read the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke. I dwelled on the words about the coming Christ, the Sun breaking into the cosmic dark, and I pondered what it would be like to have Christ sitting beside me, to talk to Him about Him, about the words about the Word, and as I played at piety He broke in like a quiet fall of rain and said, "It's going to be about trust with you."

I have spent several months thinking I knew what those words meant. I thought it was about this thing, then that, and I subconsciously checked each event against the cosmic scales of trust and doubt, to see if I was weighing the odds in my favor. But, again, retrospect is perspective, and I see now what it really meant.

I am frightened. I am doubting. On what I sincerely believe to be the direction of the Holy Ghost, I have only applied to one place for graduate school. I have one job application. I have a tentative book contract. A tritium of hope that can unravel with a single, "No." Funny, how the cosmos was created by words and our own tiny cosmoses can be so easily destroyed by the same. And while I know that should all these go up in flames there is still God and faith and trust and plan, it does not negate that to live this journey is a wearying thing, a hardship that makes it difficult to breath some days. I don't worry like most people do, I don't sit and think about it and feel anxious. My worry only dawns when friends---and I hate to admit this---sometimes tell me about their uncertainties when they already have so much handed to them and worked out. My eggs, for better or ill, are placed in a small basket of hope. I felt so directed, I felt so called, but even Moses tested I AM as he stood before the burning bush and asked if He was certain. I have taken off my sandals, I have placed my feet on the hallowed ground, but that does not take the tremble from my legs when I consider the consequences of what happens in the after if what I thought He showed to be the direction of after doesn't come to be.

Because then it's a question, quiet but true, that haunts me from time to time. Have I truly heard Him? Have I, mortal that was thought into being, who was in the mind of God when He laid the foundations of the universe, actually heard the voice of God speak within me? When we speak of this in abstracts, quickly, and by running a hand over the details so they smear into blur on the canvas, it's easy to nod simply and say that this is how God communicates. But when you are at the mercy of His words, when you could have perhaps heard wrong and you discover that all application deadlines to other schools are coming too quickly and you may be too inexperienced for the that job or that publishing house could be struck by an asteroid, then comes the terrible test of trust.

I wanted a pretty word. I was given a true one.

So my new word, my One Word for 2012 is a confession as much as a hope.

I never doubt God, but I do so very often doubt myself.

But He began a good work in me, He shall see it to completion. So in a way, to learn to trust that I am truly hearing Him is in a way learning to actually trust Him. It's dangerous, it's easy to get wrong, and I could list too many ways in which this thinking can go awry. But for today, for today I need to simply raise hands in surrender and tell Him that I understand I'm not to understand.

"It's going to be about trust with you."

Yes. Yes it is. Each and every step.

repost: we are all but wounded children

I''m taking some days off on the blog to spend time getting ready for the New Year and to reflect and write. Today, I bring you a very popular post from November, one in which I had to answer for twelve hours after I posted, when a loving and wise friend asked how I could write these words and still support something that wasn't affirming what I had said here. The next day, I blogged about humiltiy, faith, and coming back to trust.  

 

I sip coffee slowly, eyes wandering down the last page of Nehemiah, the appointed reading for the morning. It is the Feast of All Souls, a day that I admit is yet another aspect of the great Tradition that I have grasped gently, woven into the fabric of my belief, the day in which the faithful departed as a whole are to be remembered. Yet, I find myself not thinking alone on those gone into Light, but those of us here still journeying, those of us who see through a glass darkly, even those who are not yet turned unto Him. All souls, every soul, each and every one. To these my thoughts turn.

By happenstance or Providence, I am spending my morning devotion in a room adjacent to where a gathering of faithful have convened together to sing and to pray. I admit they are a group I have a hard time sympathizing with. Their theological posture oftentimes alarms me, using words in prayer like "allow" when referring to the power of God, as if He were in need of permission. Then there are the songs, full of lines equally unsettling.

An odd place to find oneself on the Feast of All Souls, or perhaps the most fitting place.

We are all but wounded children, carrying around bows and arrows and swords, shooting and swiping at each other as if we knew what it meant, as if we knew why we fought, as if we knew the consequences of the blows.

I come to the end of the passage and look down at the words before me. The pulse in my heart has quickened as the delicate balancing act I have tried to maintain between drowning out the sounds around me and hearing the inner voice whispering to my soul within me erodes and is lost, tangled up. I can't recall the words from Nehemiah I have just read. I complain, I groan against the groan of Holy Ghost.

The words of L'Engle that I read earlier come to mind: "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred."

A cry of Abba come from the other room.

Abba, who I have time to time explained as Daddy God to those for whom the term Father does not mean something beautiful.

Abba is the God who hears, Abba is the God of wounded children.

On the Feast of All Souls, there is no room to draw the lines of doctrine and posture. Righteous indignation, however justified, melts into righteous brokenness. I want to scoop them up, these wounded souls, hold them close, cradle them, whisper the promises of God into the innermost of their being.

We are all but wounded children, even I, even them, and how much more so this world? Today is a day to lay aside the bow, the sword. And why not the whole of it? Why not the tunic, the belt, the girding?

St. Francis stripped himself of all to be completely given over to the service of and trust in our Lord.

On the Feast of All Souls, are we not in need of a naked child? A wounded child like ourselves who stands before us and refuses to fight but dares to be, dares to heal by being?

Or were the words of Isaiah but fable and of no hope to us?

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."

the 11 11s of '11

As I did last year, this year I bring you lists that reflect the journey of the past twelve months. These are all recommendations of things I loved, found inspiring, or consider particularly significant to this past year of wandering. This means that some items may be old to me, reread, or watched again. But somehow they mattered, mattered a lot. I could explain each, but that becomes a bit tiresome. There's always the comment section for that. Except, I will interject and explain, briefly, that in the TV section you may run across a show that makes your jaw drop open that it's on there. Look, someone get Leighton an Emmy nomination, OK? This isn't the turn of the century when it was cool to snub Buffy. We've come a long way with awards, right? So, without further ado, 11 lists of 11 things in 2011. 

11 Movies (links to trailers)

11 TV Shows (links to trailers for the season or clips)

11 Albums (links to individual songs)

11 Works of Fiction, Poetry, and Theater (links to Amazon)

11 Works of Nonfiction (links to Amazon)

11 YouTube Videos

11 of My Best Posts

11 13 of Your Best Posts (because there are too many good ones)

11 Moments Held Close

  • the book contract
  • Sunday night dinners
  • old lady brunch
  • a fast, looking for Easter
  • working on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant
  • brandy alexanders, late night laughs, and Kalamazoo
  • becoming a contributor at A Deeper Story
  • the interview, the lack of a job offer, and the tears of acceptance
  • meeting blog friends in real life and making life come from it
  • pie in the middle of the night and warning grace
  • poems in the mail

11 Words I Tweeted the Most in 2011

  • thank
  • friend
  • read
  • post
  • love
  • people
  • time
  • story
  • blog
  • writing
  • wonderful

11 Words and Phrases (this may feel like an inside-blog joke to some of you)

  • cosmos
  • liminal space
  • hallowed
  • incarnation
  • +1 attack!
  • theological imagination
  • to my future wife
  • graduate students
  • gherkin
  • Proverbs 31
  • pooled grace

the thirty-fourth formica friday

It's that time again, another Formica Friday, a treasure trove of hodgepodge, random tidbits, and a bit of this and that. In particular, it is the place where I can celebrate the best posts I read this past week and want to share with you.

 

A quote:

I celebrated communion last night at 12:30 AM over coffee and blueberry pancakes.

-- Alise Write, "Repost: Let's Do Lunch"

A list, in which I describe what I am thankful for:
  • Morning Rites at HopePointe Anglican
  • Four hours of laughter, grace, and hope with Anna on Skype
  • Lamb burgers and moscato with Emily marveling at the strangeness of grace
  • Midnight in Paris and Provençal apple cobbler
  • painting in the quite of the night
  • Father Elijah and learning to read for purest joy again
  • Young Adult, which may be the funniest movie I saw all year

Posts, websites, trinkets, and the Internet week in review revue:

  • for stretching her wings in orthodoxy to cover many and for always trusting in Him more than in her own faith, Tamara with "Every New Christmas"
And, as always, an old post from me:
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Have a post from the week you'd like to share? What was your best post this week? Or did you read someone else you just have to let us know about? Leave me a note in the comments below!