personal memorial day

This morning when I woke up, I went through my normal morning routine of scrolling through the internet (well after I got back from an early morning run. humblebrag.), and this routine of course includes Facebook. I see what notifications I have (or lack of) and if there are any new pictures of friends’ babies to look at, and I usually see whose birthday(s) fall on that day. Today I clicked on the birthdays and had a surreal moment, when my Grandma Anne’s birthday popped up, and Facebook informed me that she is 89 today. Grandma Anne died somewhat suddenly, yet also relatively peacefully in October, of respiratory complications. Her Facebook account lives on, and since October has been relatively dormant, until today – her birthday.

Seeing her name, and her stately profile picture, culled from her church’s pictoral directory, whirled me back to some untapped grief. My Grandma was a force. An unbelievably powerful, yet gentle matriarch. Anne loved fiercely and with her whole being. She absorbed the world around her, and observed other peoples and cultures and thrived on new information. She seemed to walk taller when surrounded by her family, so very proud of the cast of characters who shared her DNA.

I hope that when I am old – and first, that I grow to be old – that I have still have, and cherish, the inquisitive spirit that Grandma Anne had. She studied her Bible, and read books, and did crosswords daily. And I’m sure she continued to learn and be changed and challenged by the familiar words, continued to be made new. (I struggle for this now, at 30, after seminary, to be made new.)

Grandma Anne taught me to sew, to cross-stitch, to appreciate Gouda cheese, to find wonder in small things, and to really enjoy some good pound cake and chocolate syrup. I share a name with her, she and I are Annes-with-an-E, and both love Anne Shirley for the same reason.

There are many things that I miss about Grandma Anne, and many things I have learned from her, absorbed from her, that I cannot enumerate; they are, quite literally, in my blood. If there’s anything that I hope I learned from her it is how to love and love well. She loved my Grandpa Frank. Almost as much as she loved Jesus.  When my sister and I sat at her bedside on one of her last days, I told her that she would get to see Grandpa soon, and she’d have to tell him hello for us.  Her reply: “I’m going to see Jesus first.”  She loved her family deeply, and was so proud of all of us. And we have her to thank for helping shape us into the creative, funny, and curious people we are.

We miss you Grandma.

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a prayer for pentecost

Spirit of the Living God,

Fall fresh on us today.

Spirit of every tongue, of every tribe, and of every nation, Spirit who rushes in the wind, pour out yourself on us this day.

Come again among this people, like the flaming presence on the first Pentecost. Stir us from our rhythm and our routines; move us out of our ruts. May we know your presence and sense your stirring among us.

In the midst of our distraction, which we mask as our own importance, and in the midst of our busy-ness, which conceals our loneliness and emptiness, restore a right spirit of community and solidarity. Help us see with fresh eyes the need for lasting and true relationships. Stir us from the futility of seeking personal fulfillment and calling it salvation.

Spirit who comes as a wild goose, give us resiliency to replace our inertia, forgiveness to replace our bitterness, patience to replace our hurry, and understanding to replace our anger.

Spirit of flesh and tongue, of wind and flame, and spirit of flight, come to us today, not just as individuals striving alone, but as a church community that reaches beyond these walls. Give us unity deeper than ideology, give us clarity, wisdom and courage, that we might speak in tongues for all to understand. Recreate us into the church you imagined.

Through the risen Christ we pray, Amen.

Old folks

So I have lots more to say on this, but am about to be in our nation’s Capitol for the weekend and left the laptop at home (yes! Loose the chains that bind! What’s that? Did someone say iPhone?). So full post forthcoming. Until then, look at these sweet nonagenarians from church.

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pilgrimage: the road ahead

My life is changing. In a constant state of flux. At least it is when I’m being dramatic.

Through external circumstances, I will be unemployed come May 31. Okay, I guess “unemployed” is a tad misleading, as I will return to employed in August when classes at Baylor resume. Since I am not full-time, I will not receive a pay check for June or July. And my other job, the one that provides enough money so I am not fully aware of my poverty, is ending. I have been given a termination date of May 31. So, until mid-August I am job-less.

Off we go. On June 2, that is.

So instead of spending all summer in Waco, hot, broke, and bored, I am setting out. I am taking a road trip. Getting in my car and traveling, visiting people whom for the last two years I’ve not had the time or money to visit. Now I have time. Lots of time. Maybe not all the money I’d like, but I have a well-timed birthday to help out (June 3. Mark your calendars.).

I picked up a slim volume of Steinbeck off the 50¢ shelf at church, mostly because it was slim and Steinbeck. Travels with Charley in Search of America. Steinbeck’s road trip book. I think the road trip book is a quintessential American genre. (Okay, to be fair, people have been writing volumes of journey, pilgrimage, road trip, since time eternal (that sentence sounds like something from one of my freshmen, the kind I would scrawl “overwrought!” in the margins next to.).) Texts like Steinbeck’s and Kerouac’s On the Road seem to speak of this characteristic pioneering, escaping, questing that is riddled through the American experience. Journey ever westward, ever onward, continue discovering. (O Pioneers! indeed. Apologies to Cather.)

Okay, back to this happenstance find on the church shelf. Travels with Charley spoke to me because I like Steinbeck, though have read very little by him, and this book is exponentially shorter than East of Eden, the other Steinbeck book I need to get to. Eventually. I suppose it seems a little silly that I didn’t realize this book would be a road trip book when I shoved it in my bag. Then I started reading:

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the church of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.

When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man [sic], and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from. …

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process; a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person itself; no two are alike. All plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

Well said, Sir Steinbeck. And no more timely words could I have found on a quiet Saturday, after school-related duties are complete and I start to look in full-force towards this journey of mine. Fueled by restlessness, by a need for something – something different – and perhaps also fueled by ability – driven (mostly) by external factors, I can set out on a mostly open ended trip for the Summer. I can get in my car, drive from house to house to see people I miss and people I love and enjoy basking in their company and conversation. Life giving.

I am journeying with the stated purpose of visiting friends who are like family and family who are friends. I think I need this road trip on a deeper level as well. In talking with a wise colleague, the idea of pilgrimage came up. We were talking about the movie/documentary The Way with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. She was talking about how this idea of pilgrimage transcends specific “paths” to particular sites; pilgrimage doesn’t even have to be a literal, physical journey. Pilgrimage is a journey we take with ourselves for ourselves. So in many ways this is a six-week long pilgrimage.

I could romanticize the idea of pilgrimage and talk about revisiting my “roots” – friends from all different chapters in life who are now spread around the country (mostly the south and northeast) – which I will do, in many ways. I could talk about the real-life scrapbook such a kind of trip will offer. I think mostly what I need on a gut, spiritual, and emotional level is the kind of simultaneous escape and home-going each pause along my journey will offer.

Here I am, Internet. want to start writing again, keep writing, continue writing. Share my prayers, thoughts, grief, hope, stories, whatever. So maybe this will be my own little quaint attempt at a road trip book. Only it’s 2012, so it’s a blog.

To be continued…

Mom talk.

Mom-talk is everywhere.  Everywhere. Part of why is it everywhere right now is because Mother’s Day is now mere hours away.  That aside, it seems that maternal words saturate, at least my corners of the world. Many of my friends have children or are talking about kids.  The May 21 cover of Time Magazine sported a woman breastfeeding her standing toddler, with the headline “Are you MOM Enough?” (See the image, and others, here.) The cover image and its headline are intentionally provocative. Clearly this kind of thing, the editors hope, draws in readers. Beyond that, though, it seems provocative on a thoroughly destructive level.  As Rachel Held Evans tweeted, “The image and the headline seem designed to pit women against one another.”  And it’s true.  This pitting woman against woman is nothing new: should moms work or stay at home? When is the right time to have children? How do good mothers put their children to sleep? What if a married women doesn’t want children? I’m not a mother, and I am still saturated in these dilemmas.  These false dilemmas.

What I find most interestingdisturbing about all these right vs. wrong motherhood choices is how much of a stake I feel I have, or am supposed to have in these debates.  Over the last couple of years, as a result of conversations with and around me – friends, acquaintances, blogs, strangers– I have discovered deeply held and passionately worded opinions on discipline, working

My darling Mother. At my age.

outside the home, preschool, food and drink choices, etc.  To be fair, I am 30, and it is, as they say, the nature of the beast. Most women by the age of thirty are mothers or focusing on trying to become one.  I am not. I am not married. Lack of committed partner, for me, determines, at this stage in my life, the reality of being a mother, or not, as the case is.  A lovely little blog on Jezebel this week articulated this no-kids reality for many women in their thirties – both married and not. It’s not that we don’t want kids; it’s more that it hasn’t happened yet, mostly due to external factors (not (yet) being married in my case).  I do not have children, not likely to get knocked up anytime soon, and yet I have strongly formed opinions about what kind of mother I think I would be, hope I would be. Motherhood has, in fact, saturated my world.  And I do, with varying degrees of frequency, feel inadequate as a woman because I lack, not only the pictures of my fairytale wedding adorning my house, but the sweetly dressed toddler nestled in my arms.

Somewhat as an aside, it makes me wonder if my students, college freshmen, feel this way about dating. At a Christian university it overwhelmingly saturates their culture, and without any relationship on the horizon, do they feel they must already know exactly what they want in a partner, in a relationship, and exactly how they would behave in said relationship? Do they judge every one else’s relationship out of superiority and/or jealousy? Do they feel like their culture is telling them there is something wrong with them because they don’t have what they are supposed to have by now? I’m sure they do. I did when I was a student at a Christian college.  I do now. The game hasn’t changed; it’s just received an expansion pack.

All this was not intended to be a poor-me, culture-is-screwed post. God knows there’ve been enough of those recently.  It was supposed to be about my mom. In observing and reading how everyone else is doing it, I think about how my mother raised me. (Yes, my dad had something to do with it, but Father’s Day isn’t until June.) It seems many people (especially these Attachment Parents) parent the way they do out of some kind of (perhaps subconscious) rebellion from the ways they were raised: “I will make my life all about sacrifice for my child, because my parents were too busy to worry about me.” The more I reflect the more I hope I am able to be the kind of parent I had. The reflection and thinking that comes with this stage of life leaves me particularly grateful this Mother’s Day.  And not in the sappy Hallmark way. Continue reading