Identity

One afternoon I drove mountain roads only 30 minutes from home. They were new roads to me. I’d never traveled them before and I realized again how easy it is to miss the beauty that is right in front of us.

It’s easier in springtime. The daffodils light up dark corners, green creeps out of the branches of the forest and birds and frogs find a voice that had been silenced for the long winter.

Perhaps I too, can find a voice to say the things that stirred inside my heart but struggle to find words to say.

I’d like to hold the moments closer, to see the value in everyday things, to recognize the fingerprints of God all around me and to believe that spiritual connections can be found in all the mundane parts of life.

And I’m learning.

I’m learning that my work can be God’s work.

That laughter can be worship

Tears can be a prayer

I’m learning that a hug can be sacred,

A cup of water filled with grace,

A cup of coffee a sacrament,

And any place with a child of God is Holy Ground.

When I remember that all I have is given. That earth is intricately connected to heaven. That what is created by God, is inherently part of God, than everything becomes sacred. We do not bring God down to humanity, we raise humanity to become one with God.

I am a partaker of His holiness.

I am a coworker with God.

I am His.

That My Eyes May See

I was first introduced to lent when I read The story of the Trapp Family Singers. (Yeah that’s right, I read that book before I watched The Sound of Music. Probably the only person who has done that since the movie came out.) I thought it was a funny catholic thing to do and wondered what not eating dessert has to do with being a Christian.

I didn’t think any more about it until I read Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. For some reason this book fascinates me and for the first time I began to appreciate the significance of lent as well as many other orthadox practices. I understand the power of ritual. I was quite young when we left the Amish and yet those customs from my early childhood have a strange draw for me. I understand her longing for the ritual and tradition of her Jewish childhood.

And I was fascinated by how she found Christian ritual to take its place.

I chose the one I found the easiest to understand.

Lent.

I would practice Lent.

That first year I followed Lauren’s example. No reading. Nothing except scripture. I found myself with an odd amount of time on my hands. I found myself sitting doing nothing. I fidgeted. I don’t like to be still. But I found myself thinking and praying and meditating.

And the next year I did it again.

Last year, I decided that instead of no reading, it would be no watching anything. No movies, no YouTube, no anything.

It was harder than I thought it would be.

But I love it. I love the ritual of choosing something to sacrifice. The opening of time usually spent unthinkingly. I love the emphasis it puts on Easter. I love the anticipation, the awareness, that we sacrifice now to better rejoice later. I love the connection to God. I love reaching for my book or my phone and remembering that this is lent and instead of reading, I’m going to pray or I’m just going to be still.

And here we are again. It’s Ash Wednesday. My sister and I dug ashes out of the wood stove and drew crosses on our foreheads.

I delete apps from my phone and stack books into my closet.

It is preparation for Easter.

For the Lord to appear.

I don’t want to miss Him.

Into the Forest

It’s a story we’ve all heard.

The story of a tree alone against prevailing winds. A strong tree with deep roots.

When we see a tree like that we step back to admire it’s strength. The thickness of its trunk and the way its leaves stay fresh and green on the hottest summer days.

But there are things that no one ever tells about the lonesome tree. They don’t tell you that one tree alone will never grow as tall as the one in the middle of the forest. They don’t tell you about the scars and the twisted places on its branches. They don’t bother to say that if you cut this tree down, its lumber would be used for solid practical things.

The fine and dainty things are made from forest wood.

Protected wood.

They don’t tell about the times of horrific drought the tree endured to grow those massive roots. They don’t tell about the dead parts, killed by lightning strikes. They don’t bother to tell you that the earth around the strong tree is hard and dry and dusty.

Not cool and moss-covered like the forest tree is surrounded by.

The strong tree is admired for its courage, its strength, and endurance.

The forest tree is admired for its beauty and its height.

I feel like the lone tree sometimes.

I’m thankful for the life that God has given me and the gifts it holds.

But sometimes I mourn the cost.

And being at faith builders for the last five weeks felt a little like being transplanted into the forest for just a tiny bit.

A bit uncomfortable. Not quite what I was used to. But lovely.

Going On

A new year always has us thinking about the future.

About the next step.

About what is ahead.

I’m spending the first five weeks of 2021 at faith builders. Spending time learning, and thinking, and growing closer to God.

But one thing about going forward is that we leave things behind. But we must also carry them along.

The things behind us always shape what is before and every year I realize this more fully.

Sometimes there are things we wish we could truly leave there.

That they would never follow us.

Others we are thankful to carry along.

I grew up in a christian home with parents who taught us about God and e Bible.

I went to a christian school with teachers who modeled what it looks like to be a Christian.

But choosing a faith is different than being in a culture and while we can be both we are not neccesarily.

I lived in fear as a teenager.

Also quite a bit of bitterness towards a God who required so much and gave seemingly so little in return.

I didn’t realize that it was I who had not received what he was trying to give.

I remember making the decision. It was a choice I made deliberately.

I would give God a chance.

I started to read the Bible seriously. I prayed sincerely. And I started to believe.

I remember finding the story of Jarius and how he said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief!”

And I prayed that prayer many times.

Sometimes I still pray it.

It is something I am happy to carry along.

.

Mishmash

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything that it seems difficult now. The thoughts I think do not readily transform into smooth sentences or even coherent thoughts.

Many times over the past months I’ve thought “I should write about that” but then I don’t.

For no good reason.

I had time, I had things to write about.

But I didn’t.

Recently one of my friends said, “Next year we should both write a book!”

And we should.

Not because we are so good at writing but because writing would make us better writers.

It’s so easy to let life go by while we are working and never stop to wonder if this is what we want to spend our lives doing.

The end of a year, and especially a year like 2020 is a good time to reflect. Maybe a simpler life with less would actually be more.

Maybe we’re so focused on the trees we can’t see the forest.

Or Maybe,

Maybe we should just focus on the tree in front of us and step by step we’ll make our way through forest, always enjoying the spot we’re in.

Maybe we’ve been so focused on getting to the other side that we forgot how welcoming the shade is right here.

Maybe what we really need to learn is contentment.

And maybe what we really want is right in front of us.

If only we could see it.

Missing

I didn’t know I’d miss you so much. The day would be so ordinary if it weren’t for the droplets spilling.

The heart has scars still.

Barely healed.

I brush against roughness and the pain is sudden and sharp.

You went willingly.

It is my heart that bleeds.

The beauty of the night compounds the ache.

The moon shines down.

The same moon above her.

But do you see?

Knowing

I’ve climbed this hill a hundred times

There is no hesitation in my steps

Although

The stars are hidden in expansive darkness.

My toes stretch out to feel the hidden line

Dividing grass and gravel.

I walk around the unseen tree

Because

I’ve walked this hill a hundred times

Before.

Madmen Never Doubt

I’ve been reading Chesterton. I haven’t enjoyed anything this much in a long time. So many things I’ve been thinking about put into words that I can understand and process and than I came to this:

“The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.” ~ Orthadoxy

And the last line caught me. “Madmen never have doubts”.

And I thought of another quote I heard recently

“Doubt is the fading light behind the mountains of faith, accenting their strength.”

I read through one of my old journals recently and I realized as I read that I miss fourteen year old me. I miss the over-confidence, the idealism, the rawness. And oddly enough I miss the doubting.

That’s not arrogant. Confidence is a direct path to complacency. Perhaps I’ve become Laodicea. Perhaps I’ve lost my first love.

Poets don’t go mad, Chesterton says, Mathematicians do.

“But poets do go mad,” I said to my brother. “Most of them do.”

“But perhaps they only go mad because they try to be logical instead of being poets,” he answered.

Chesterton also said :

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have my head in the heavens.

The Great Expectation

I was so excited about actually going on a trip again, I almost couldn’t wait to start packing. Usually my packing consists of throwing a few things into a backpack last minute but not this time. I treasured the packing experience. I enjoyed the journey and I was ready for a weekend at literature camp.

We gathered again, in the beautiful castle in Pennsylvania. Things changed and shifted due to Covid but there was an added thankfulness that we could be together at all.

And then Kenneth Godoy starts out by telling us that the anticipation of a thing is always greater than the thing itself.

A strange way to begin a highly anticipated event.

Perhaps he is right but than again, perhaps he isn’t and perhaps we cannot separate the anticipation of a thing from the thing itself. Perhaps we create our own reality in that we live out our own anticipations.

I don’t have the answers for my questions and quite possibly this weekend has given me more questions than it has answers but that’s ok.

Sometimes what we really need is room to explore and people to understand that sometimes an idea is simply something to discuss and not necessarily something to believe.

Matt and I talked for several hours straight on the way home discussing the things we learned, the people we met, and the things we disagreed on. Finding a delight in the abundance of ideas we had gathered.

I am most amazed by the complexity of the people we met. Different backgrounds and cultures and personalities bonding over a shared love of ideas, creating a beautifully open place to say the things you normally would only think.

In the silence of the chapel between the soaring hymns and chanted prayers I knew hope once more, catching glimpses of a way forward.

Some things are not meant to be understood, some things are simply meant to be felt.

“I dont agree with Kenny,” Lynn Martin said at the end of the weekend. “But than, I dont agree with most of my friends.”

And while I think that’s funny I also find it strangely comforting in this, our increasingly polarized world.

You can visit the curator blog to find poetic words of life and inspiration.