Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Surprise in the Familiar

Sometimes, I will reread a passage in a book or I will rewatch a movie, and it will resonate with me in a completely new way. I'm sure you know this feeling - an unexpected "ah-ha" in a familiar place that can take your breath away. 

Like this week when I was rewatching The Holiday, I had to catch my breath as Arthur made it up the stairs alone. Why? As I watched my 93-year-old grandmother suffering from Parkinson's over Thanksgiving, I saw her determination as she slowly steered her fork towards her mouth, not wanting anyone to notice the effort it took not to spill on her holiday attire and, of course, never retreating to the idea of having someone else feed her. While rewatching The Holiday, Arthur's determination to take on those 4 stairs felt so real and so Everest-like in the context of my own life, I was teary.

In a similar way, I was knocked over this morning by the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke 1. Yeah, yeah. It's always the same. They're both pregnant with super babies - one, John the Baptist, and two, JESUS. I don't mean to be sacrilegious here, but woah, those are power pregnancies. 

Anyways, I guess that's how I always thought of it. Super women following amazing callings. But this morning, I thought about this pregnant woman traveling to see her cousin for real. I thought about Mary...

A woman who everyone believes cheated on her fiance, a woman who's probably sick in her first trimester, and a woman who knows she has God on her side but who is probably feeling pretty lonely. A woman probably desperate for a friend.

And then, there's Elizabeth. Elizabeth's husband is, well, mute at this point, so that means no encouragement, no conversation, no way of really explaining this whole late-in-life pregnancy thing. Luke 1 also says she hid herself for 5 months. Not to mention, before she was pregnant, they had been dealing with years of infertility. God is doing really cool, wonderful things in their lives, but they are not necessarily easy things, and they're certainly not things I would want to be doing alone. 

Now, I am not a theologian by any means, so I'm humbly processing what I read, but it seems to me that God does this really neat thing where He puts these two women together, experiencing really hard, really different but similar things. We know that the Angel tips Mary off about Elizabeth's situation. Then, the minute Mary enters the house, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and she starts not only worshiping God, but also points out the blessings in this crazy situation. And then what do they do? They start singing! Okay, so you're probably like, yeah there's nothing new for me about this story, but I guess this morning I cannot get over the fact that God KNEW how tough their circumstances would be and gave them each other's companionship.

COMMUNITY. It is a deal-breaker. 

Both of these women have recently had experiences with Angels, both of these women are following hard after the Lord's call on their lives, but the gift of each other's company is still a major encouragement. God uses Elizabeth as an instrument of His blessing and grace the moment Mary walks in the door, and having those in our lives that can help us understand what God is doing and point out His goodness is important and awesome. Gosh, the idea is just so simple, and yet so great. Think back to the garden - the only thing "not good" about God's creation before the fall was that Adam was alone. And in this instance, Mary probably can't live with Joseph yet, and she's probably been rejected by most people. So, where does she go in haste? The Lord gives her a confidant in her cousin. Heck, she ends up living with Elizabeth for a whole stinkin' trimester. 

Maybe I'm having this ah-ha because of where I am in my life today... Walking with lots of friends through hard stuff, some of that stuff being pregnancies and infertility. Or maybe it's because I'm writing this on the eve of my first year in Rome, GA, and I really do feel like I've have been dropped into an incredible community of people who have made following God's call to live here that much more enjoyable. 

Last Sunday, we had a Christmas party at our house, and friends crowded around our piano to sing. We sang everything from songs about kissing under mistletoe to the good news of Christmas. But as I sat on the piano bench basically shouting the lyrics to familiar tunes, I felt so encouraged to be surrounded by this chorus of voices, evidence of people doing every day life with us. Our singing wasn't the magificat or anything, but reading about Mary and Elizabeth this morning made me acutely aware of the power of our community in our lives. 

Anyways, just had to process these thoughts in writing this morning. As you reread the good news of Christmas this year, I hope you too have a mind-blowing moment with this familiar story. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It comes in stages...

If you are reading this for insight or wisdom, I'm probably not your girl. I've gotten to a point where writing in this space is therapy, confession, a way to remember and learn from my mistakes. It's a written version of those homemade growth charts. Like sharpie marks on a door frame, I can come back to this space and go, "Wow. I've grown. Look what the Lord has done OR holy cow, every year around this time I'm acting like a chicken with my head cut off.

I'm at the chicken-with-my-head-cut-off stage right now. I know this is a common phrase that people use to describe busy life, but really, it's not the busyness that I'm trying to get at but the idea that my body is in one place and my mind is in another entirely. I find myself driving somewhere thinking so hard about something else that I end up at the wrong place. I make myself lunch/to-go coffee and leave it on the counter. I have a treasure trove of other people's things in my car right now with the full intention of returning them, but when I finally see the person, I totally forget to get that book/sweater/movie/etc. out of my car and hand it over. Not to mention, I have lost both my car keys and my sunglasses this week. Are you getting the picture? 

  • STAGE ONE - The interesting thing about this version of myself is that at stage one I try to play it cool. I try to pretend I'm that super laid back chick where I'm kind of a hot mess and I'm proud of it. Laura enters, "Hi friends, I'mm hereee (sing-songy)! And I'm a mess and it's hilarious! LOVE ME ANYWAYS. Yesterday, I wore my dress backwards to work accidentally, and it looked awesome. YALL, I actually walked into the boys' bathroom without thinking today. That happened."
  • STAGE TWO - Then, I slowly move from "this is hilarious and awesome" to total self-loathing. I find myself giving that "get your sh*t together" talk in the mirror every five minutes, and then most of my actual conversations with other people consist of apologies. "I'm sorry I'm late... I'm so sorry I forgot...I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry"
  • STAGE THREE - Then comes the darkest of darks, where I feel like a total failure, cry, and bake cookies. I don't actually want to eat them, I just know when I mix sugars and add flour, I can make things come out okay. A last hope for control. 
Chicken-with-my-head-cut-off-edness. Doesn't it sound a lot like a dumb sheep without a shepherd? A human trying to play God? I was brought to my knees in the quiet of the morning when I experienced the most beautiful, foggy sunrise. It was an awakening; a reminder that there IS a God who has a plan and doesn't need me, that I don't have to be the perfect one, that I am not loved for keeping it all together. It made me feel so small and yet so comforted to know that the day is new and the sun keeps on shining whether I do my job or not. I know all these things, but in my chicken-with-my-head-cut-off-edness and pride I don't live like I know them. 

I don't know who you are reading this, and you probably never put on your clothes backwards, but from a girl who often tries to control everything - rest in the knowledge that you don't have to be anyone's savior today, tomorrow, or ever.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Have you ever felt this?

Sometimes we just do things that don't make sense.

Since David and I moved to Rome, we sometimes walk to the grocery store closest to us. Most of the time, it's for essentials like beer and cookie dough, and a stroll can be a nice way to end the day. Today, however, I was just feeling cooped up and hungry, so I decide, despite the look of the ominous sky, it was time for a walk. 

Have you ever experienced summer rain that feels like relief? I'm not talking about when it's been dry and blisteringly hot outside, but the other kind of pre-storm that feels pregnant with moisture and pressure. Like a lid on a jar that just won't give in, just won't, and then suddenly, it does.

It's the kind of rain that makes the whole world feel wet, and the raindrops sound and feel more like a water balloon ambush. This was the kind of rain that started coming down just as I decided to walk to the grocery store. It ran every where, and it was so all at once that the ground couldn't lap it up quick enough. Little puddles were quickly big puddles, and the rain kept coming so hard and fast that soon I wasn't sure what was bouncing off the ground and what was falling from the sky. At first I tried to cover up with my rain jacket, but soon the world was so wet and soggy that the wispy pieces of hair that escaped my jacket were dewy cobwebs across my face. So, I pulled down my hood and bathed in it. 

It wasn't a cold and refreshing rain, but a steamy one that tasted like the green, summery June it frolicked with. In those minutes, I time-travelled. I no longer worked at a college, paid a mortgage, or cared whether the laundry was put away. I was approximately 9, freckled, and free. 

And then it was over. The grocery store's fluorescent lights and motion-censored doors released an attack of cold air, and I came to my senses, dripping. A large, middle-aged woman at a nearby check-out counter let out a cackle and hollered over, "Honey, you pick the wr-awww-ng tiiime to walk." "Yes, yes, I did mumbled back," trying to stifle my grin. I had definitely not picked the wrong time to walk. 

As I began to walk back, pretty waterlogged and now carrying groceries, the novelty of the moment began to wear off, that is, until I saw three children sitting at the end of their driveway sprawled out in the nastiest of puddles. One had a cup and was dumping the water on the other, and they were singing. I waved and yelled, "Y'all having fun?" "YEAH!" They yelled in unison. "Me too," I replied.

From somewhere came giggling, and I looked up at the house to see two mothers huddled in the front door, witnessing all the glee. I waved and they waved back.

And now I sit here, not sure what to make of this moment, but knowing I want to capture it before it's swallowed up as a yesterday. And I know if I say or think too much, it might start sounding like some sappy, made-up country song. But I will say this, it's been a really strange and really beautiful summer afternoon.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"What's in a name?"

Recently, I have written a lot of drafts and not posts. I get halfway through a post and get distracted by a paint job or just the busyness of life. I think my drafts-and-not-posts have also had a lot to do with the fact that I don't really know what to make of this new phase. I sort of feel like I've just come off the tea-cup ride at Disney, and I still don't quite have my bearings. Not to say that I haven't enjoyed the tea-cups. As a matter of fact, I was probably spinning the wheel with all my might trying to make it a more interesting ride. But with that said, I'm still feeling a bit dizzy.

Or maybe it's the fact that I have been reading a lot of articles out there about blogging and social media that have made me want to be extra careful when considering my motive for blogging. For me, writing in this sphere has always been about telling stories that makes someone else say "me too" or "I'm with ya." I do think that sometimes (like now), I just begin reflecting and try to get somewhere by the end. It's not the kind of writing I was coached to do in grad school, but that's what I kind of love about blogs -  the messy, reflective nature of them.

So, where am I exactly as I write today? I have just moved to a new town and to a new job, and I am back living with my hubby again (full story here). I cannot help but laugh at my ridiculous self as I read back over that list of blessings - job, husband, etc. - and I write knowing that I have been feeling unsettled and fidgety even with all those blessings in tow. The fidgety part is probably just a case of the January/Februarys, but what is the rest? 

After walking through shifting communities a few times now, I have come to recognize a serious craving in my nature. I like to be known. Not just the "Hi, how are you" kind of knowing. I like for people to know my name, to know my history, to really get me, to recognize my worth. I don't think this is an introvert vs.extrovert struggle really. I just find myself saying the same thing on the phone to long-time friends, "I just don't want to do freshman year of college conversations over again."

And maybe this is not one of those moments where all readers are saying, "Yeah, me too. I totally get that feeling." But let me put it this way...

Titanic Exhibit

I will never forget going to the Titanic exhibit when I was 12 years old. I had heard about the unsinkable boat that sank, but at 12, I still wasn't sure what the big deal was - boats and planes crash. But at the beginning of the tour, I was given a passport of a little girl just my age to walk through the story of the Titanic with. I touched the iceberg as this little girl. I saw her living quarters and her toys. And at the very end of the tour, I looked for her name among the survivors. It wasn't there. I was stunned. Mary Burns had not made it. I began to cry for a long lost girl I never knew. Maybe you have been to a similar exhibit where an unfathomable tragedy was made personal with a name. It really begs us to ask Shakespeare's tragic question, "What's in a name?" And I guess too, we see life experiences so differently when we walk through them with someone.

Throughout history and literature, names are repeatedly significant. It's what has people searching for their family trees, and it's what keeps people "name-dropping." It is what's so endearing about nicknames and knowing your best friend's middle name when other people don't. Names hold cultural significance and intimacy. There is really something to knowing someone and being known.

And it is this very fact that makes a God that searches and knows me so very comforting; a God that has "written my name on the palms of His hands." And I guess that's where I've been headed all along tonight; I am working on resting in the comfort of a God who knows me and has plans for me instead of feeling the need to find my identity in being "known." Truth be told though, I think Cheers might have been on to something:

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name. 

Just a little food for thought.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...