Sunday, October 21, 2012


Do you know what sounds just brilliant? Staying in today. In this moment, with all its awkward imperfections, with all of its questions and mysteries, with all of its fears. Today I can see the wind playing on the tree tops, and my hair is tickling my elbows. Today I am writing letters to five friends, and I'm drawing pictures on the envelopes. Today I'll sit in the garden at All Souls' and meet God. Today He'll have something for me.

No furrowed brow today. No wondering if I'm doing things right. I'll get back to that tomorrow. Today my mother will drive into town just for the afternoon. Today I'll eat whole wheat banana bread I made yesterday.  Today I'll enjoy the company of Christ and open my eyes that I might receive his gifts.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The One Thing

I've been thinking a lot about the "one thing." I think we all experience some degree of fragmentation in our lives. But I believe we are supposed to work toward cohesion, toward wholeness, toward shalom. Christ came to bring all things back to himself. And so I've been asking myself: Are my days filled with random activities? Am I distracted by whatever is newest and shiniest and most urgent? Or is there a 'one thing' that binds them together?

Jesus had these two friends, and I suspect both of them believed him when he said he came to serve and not to be served. They probably both wanted to be like him. But one of them knew the secret of being fully present. She kept her gaze on Jesus. We don't know what all that meant for her life. And the other took his message of service and painted the town. She became Queen Servant. In her zeal to obey her Lord she turned her gaze from him. She became distracted by her own productivity. By her own obedience.

And Jesus said something like, "Wait a minute. Just stop. The world is not going to fall apart." Later he said something similar to a group of obedient followers at Ephesus. "Remember your first love."

Remember what you are living for in the first place. The one thing. The good portion. Me.

Like you, I have many things on my plate. I teach seven classes at Veritas Classical Academy. I am about to be an aunt for the first time and we have showers to throw and baby gifts to buy. I'm guiding a college girls bible study. Sometimes I wake up in the morning ready to bolt. Oh, yes, I can get pretty frantic. But the one thing. What is this one thing?

Regardless of whether we are intentional about it or not, our actions are bound together even in times of deep fragmentation. Perhaps the binding theme is self-importance or maybe numbness. Maybe we run through the things on our to-do list so that we won't have to really think. And maybe Jesus is whispering to us, have you forgotten me? What is it all for, then?

This morning I woke and sat with my bible. I closed my eyes and saw the actions of my day, the words come out of my mouth, the items on my to do list tied together by an invisible ribbon. And what is that ribbon? It must be nothing less than God's love for me. He has loved me and called me according to his purpose. 

Our work here is not easy work. The farmer who wrestles the soil to get food so that we all can eat. The mother that cleans up children's toys for the millionth time for the sake of order. The teacher who tries to grade fairly and thoughtfully. The student who finishes well. 

And as it is God's will that we work and work with excellence, that we remain faithful in our many callings, the one thing cannot mean turning away from the plow, the papers, the children. Jesus, in admonishing his friend did not mean for her to stop her work. He meant, Do you see me? Do you see me in the dishes, in the toys you pick up, in the soil? 

It must mean staying aware of our Lord and bringing ourselves back to awareness when we find ourselves distracted.  Today I work toward awareness in gratitude. "Thank you God for this student, for this parent who cares enough to ask, for the thrill of learning truth about your world, for this call from an old friend. These are gifts from you, Jesus, and now help me to push back the veil of darkness in the small work you've given me. Your kingdom come."

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Elder Bugs

There are bugs in my house sometimes. This bugs me. I see something scurrying out of the corner of my eye, and it doesn't matter if I've been curled up with a blanket and tea and a book in a world of meditative serenity. I become lethal. I HI-YA them from wherever I am. Picture a levitating kung-fu Abby springing from my comfy chair with whatever happens to be in my hand (a coaster? A coffee mug? My journal?) You might want to check for bug guts before handling my things.

In college I used to try guide bugs outside. (Unless they were roaches. Roaches have no right to live).  I would pick them up and guide them out and not squash them. But now I live on the second floor and it's my home and I've got to many important things to do. I've been justifying my enter-and-die policy. So now I have guilt for the bug massacre that has been occurring without anyone's knowledge but my own and God's, and I planned a public confession on my blog. That would have been it, and then I could have kept killing because most of you would have told me to get over it. But then it got complicated.

I found out the other day that the bugs I've been killing are called elder bugs. Not roaches or black killers or scurry ticks. No, I have been visited by elder bugs. I felt bad enough killing them before, but now that I look at them carefully, I notice they are not really scurrying; they are walking in a dignified, tired manner. They appear to have little elder bug shawls and elder bug hats. To confirm the meaningful connection between name and creature, several bugs have just keeled over and died right in front of me without me doing anything. I'm convinced. They're elderly. So kung-fu Abby, (who never felt completely at ease as a bug killing machine), has become more of a geriatric bug specialist. I gently guide them out the door, thank them for coming and tell them I'm going to be really busy so it might not be the best time for visits.

"What's in a name? A rose by any other name..." Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore aren't thou here to convince me? I'm telling you, there is something in a name. As long as these bugs are elderly, I simply can't squash them.

I think life is hard sometimes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There's No Such Thing as a Fresh Start...

But there is such a thing as fresh. I know, because I'm in it. I am grimy and my hair is dirty and my face is sticky and my throat hurts, but there is freshness in me and in my world today. Things feel new and I can breathe deeply and write again. To commemorate the new start I wanted to start a new blog, but the name and the header and the background color and the links overwhelmed me. I needed them to be perfect, so I decided not to deal with it at all and just to write. Where to start?

Start small, Ann Lammott says.

I tend to operate on a pendulum. I know this is unhealthy, but while many have helped make me self aware, few have attempted to show me the exit door from the pendulum swing. And so, I ride. I've been living with a wonderful family for the past ten months. I was in a very tough place and they welcomed me to their home, their hearts, their dinner table, their weddings, their joys and fears. I felt it all and I had a home there. But this summer the time came for me to move into my own space. I prayed for a lovely space and God gave me one. I am sitting in my new home now now. It was built in the 1930's, quirky and quaint. It has arches for doorways and hardwood floors. The light is softish yellow mostly, and there are trees tickling the windows. I'm being hugged by a house that's being hugged by trees that are being moved by God and he reminds me of how he loves me, how he cares for me, how he hears me.

The pendulum swung. I have not been able to invite people over to my house for so long. I moved into this beautiful space and the hostessing energy that has been pent up is now bursting forth like a giant sparkly firework that is mostly pretty and occasionally catches things on fire. I can't stop inviting people over. The food has multiplied like the fish and the loaves... I honestly don't know how I've fed so many people. I have precious quiet time in the mornings and evenings, but I have had people over for at least one meal a day since I got here.

Tonight I had a family of six over for dinner. I googled "kid friendly healthy food," came up with bbq chicken burgers, added my own sweet potato fries and a watermelon to go with it. When they asked what they could bring I said... chairs. I loved having them over. Their six year old boy spilled his ice cream all over and and things are a little stickier now, a little more lived in. I talked to the parents about life and education and kid's books as their kids explored my home and played on the furniture.

And so, I live by myself, but I am not alone. God wakes me, he guides me, he forgives me for being self-absorbed and he helps me. This space is ours, and visitors are welcome!

After tomorrow I'm grounded for a little bit from having people over because the next week I start school again. Teaching, round two. After in-service this week I can officially say I'm so glad to be back. To have another chance at helping students to see and to love what is true, good, and beautiful. No, this is not a fresh start. I've certainly made very visible mistakes. They've been seen and noticed, but in my workplace they have not been cataloged to be used against me. No, they've been forgiven (where forgiveness was needed), and even celebrated when there was a lot to be learned from the mistake. We've laughed together. And so there is freshness in me, in this un-fresh start. And I have hope that the one who has called me is faithful and will strengthen me.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

From the Deep

I went to see for I had traveled deep
Inside myself my hurting self to keep
Wrapped up alone and cold and seeing there
Through telescope that reached to eyes and air.

I read just fine I walked and did not fall
What once had loomed and screamed grew quiet and small
I heard my words and saw them nod and smile.
Sufficient, I could rest inside awhile.

So weeping cries, they settled to an ache.
No longer did I fear that I would break
The tender me curled up and lay quite still

I went to see for I had traveled deep
Inside myself my hurting self to keep
And took note that the thickness of her skin
Kept scary clutching claws from getting in.

But noticed too, the sunsets ceased to gleam
The moon fell flat without her reaching beam
Dogs licked. Annoyed, she pushed them out of sight
Friends called. I could not laugh. I said goodnight.

I saw the balance weighed and knew my choice
Climbed back inside despite a windy voice
And curled up watching life from far a deep
With one great tremor laid Myself to sleep.

Asleep I lay and numb contented I
had no intent of waking death to die.
But scent of safety woke me from the gray
And out I looked to softish warming day.

Awake! already asking, was there fear?
I found only a longing for the sky.
Lured I reached myself into my skin
Longing to Taste and See and know again.

Without hoorah without ceremony
As if helped by a power outside of me
One step one look one stanza at a time
Slow and steadily I made the climb.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Little Lady Katie

My sister's name is Katie. I have three sisters and I refer to them all as "my sister" when I am telling stories. This really bugs my friends. Katie is in charge of the family, and we all know it's best that way. No, "in charge" doesn't really do it justice... she is the master of ceremonies. Yes, that's good. Our family progresses as one big ceremony; my dad stable with love and amusement, my mom magic, me having visions and panic attacks, Ali simple, cooking and laughing and praying, Danny listening and advising and brothering, Keila as the entertainer and prophet. and Katie is the master of ceremonies.

I think I'm supposed to have some older sister driving force, but as far as I see it, (Katie, correct me if I'm wrong), my job is to love Katie, to protect her (I am still the older sister, and if you mess with her, I'll mess with you), to advise her when she asks, to take care of her when she lets me, and to go along with the plans she makes.

This works well because Katie, with her twinkling eye and stubborn assertiveness and ability to make anything fun, knows best. She puts together outfits, parties, and adventures with a wave of her hand (often holding an iphone, of course, but in her case she is its master, not the other way around).  She makes family reunions fun. Going to lunch is an adventure, getting dressed a festival. She coordinates with grace, effortlessly spreading prettiness and laughter everywhere she goes. She's been smiling since she was a baby. And the more she learns she doesn't have to smile, the truer her smiles are.

But Katie is not a silly girl. She is too loyal and competent and self assured for that. She says no when she needs to and she trusts the voice inside her. She prays and she obeys when she understands what to do. And she's one of the most generous people I know.

If you happen to tumble into Katie's world, if she happens to meet you and glisten and tilt her head back and laugh, you should know now that you are about to fall in love. You are going to want to take her on a date or hire her or be her new best friend or make her your maid of honor or best man depending on your current situation.

And she is my sister. Dang, I lucked out.