october freewrite (hey there, it’s been a while)

At some point, you just have to start writing again. And it’s helpful to stop worrying about what you can’t do and ask what in fact you can do. And that applies to everything. Everything.

So hello there, little corner of the interwebs where I have written in the past. Yes, it has been a while. It’s hard to explain, but I think the new job is mainly to blame for the long hiatus. Yep, new job. And not just any job, but a job I felt barely qualified for and yet was hired for anyway. A job with the learning-curve-of-a-lifetime, another job where I’ll always work too many hours and make too little, but hey! I actually like it. It feels like a tremendously perfect fit for my self – skills, talents, all that jazz. And that is amazing.

I’ve been teaching 6th grade since August 19th. Twenty-one adorable infuriating 6th graders are my life companions for 30 hours a week. It’s delightful. Invigorating. Maddening.

And so on a night when I could be using this extra-long weekend to fit some extra planning in, I’m surfing the web and deciding to head back this way after quite a while.

I’m supposed to teach them how to write. But that’s difficult to do, isn’t it? And what do I really know about writing? We’re using this lovely curriculum by Lucy Calkins and in her teaching script, she insists on calling the students writers. She tells them, When writers like you do this-and-such, they often use this technique. In other words, I am channeling this epic writing instructor and speaking these confident words over children and myself – hey, y’all are writers! So do what writers do!

***

So we’re living in this weird slice of in-between life. We were both looking for jobs, then I got one out of the blue. He started school and is learning Latin names for plants and basic genetics. I’m relearning basic pre-algebra and the science of light and sometimes getting a little ahead, but mostly scraping together lesson plans as I go. We’re looking at houses, ready to buy if we find the right one. This is both scary and exciting. And we’re getting ready to move out of this house…but it’s unclear to where at the moment. There are a couple options. I’m commuting an hour and a half round-trip each day and listening to Spanish-language podcasts to practice my language skills.

We’re living together again in the same country, same house even, and it feels totally normal, except for sometimes when I realize I actually still don’t really know how to do this marriage thing well. Go figure. One friend is moving to Finland and invited me to come visit, another family member is moving to SLC, maybe to live with us. The holidays are coming right around the corner again and, yet again, I am caught unprepared, scrambling to weigh and decide on travel plans and gift ideas at the very last minute. My circle of friends and acquaintances is producing precious new humans at an unprecedented rate (at least in my experience), which is thrilling and heart-flooding and distracting. There are so many choices to be made each day and I hardly pause to wonder if I’ve made the right ones. There just is so little time.

***

And that’s where I am tonight. Maybe this will start a new season of a bit more writing here…

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(95) restless

This is quite a time, is it not? This is the intersection between what could be said, what needs to be said, and all the things that are simply and not so simply lived.

These are days when I may not deserve to reach the end of my rope, but I still do. When I have to step away from a conversation that I just don’t want to take part in and maybe that’s okay. And maybe it isn’t.

These are the days when the smallest member of the family feels the unsettledness of transition most keenly and wails her angst without ceasing. Life is changing, everything is changing, nothing is changing, and she knows it.

One season ends and another begins. I still expect him to leave and not come back for a while, in a way. Yet, I’m never surprised to see him come into a room. I am needlessly impatient with him, as I always have been. And I am more deeply grateful for him, more than I was before.

Ah yes, and then there was that little thing of a weekend together. It was big, actually, and I may write more with pictures later. We went through water together and were blessed with a weighty grace again and again. And at the end, when our feet were numb from standing for hours and we were flooded with hugs and congratulations, I felt differently toward him, more tender, more bonded, more interwoven.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m the last one up. The neighbor’s sprinklers are on. The living room is a wild collision of 2 households coming and going and no surface left unemployed.

You know what is perhaps strangest of all? Of the five people involved in all this moving and reorganizing and transitioning weekend, my life changes the least. I’m basically staying put. But I still feel unsettled and restless. I am caught up in the surge of this transition and change is inevitable, as always.

So, here’s to a new season! May it be blessed.

(93) rumblings

Like the roaring of a waterfall you can hear from a half mile away, the joy of Pascha (Easter) is rumbling  somewhere deep already.

Anything I’ve accomplished this Lent seems tiny compared to that roaring.

In the midst of those final days of Lent last week, this Holy Week,  it feels like my whole life is being shaken up and thrown haphazardly into the air. Even the event I’ve looked forward to for so long – he’ll be back in a month – feels unbelievably life-shaking. Maybe it’s an appropriate time to throw plans to the wind and then intermittently beg desperately and hope confidently for some kind of new plan to take shape.

The questions surfacing are way too big for these final days – aren’t we supposed to figure everything out before the grace of Pascha rains down on us?

But no, no, that isn’t the way. As one abbess puts it, the grace of God is always raining down on us and all we must do is turn up our hands to catch it, to receive. Or as my brother-in-law explained, the whole struggle of Lent, in the end, is our struggle to just turn around, to just turn toward God. He travels all the distance between us, He removes all the obstacles, and in truth, He even helps us turn toward Him. The struggle is important, the struggle is soul-shaping, life-blooming, but it is always such a small effort, a child-like effort, in response to the Big Gift. Or as I’ve heard elsewhere, we are like children who want to buy a $10 gift for our parent and have saved up a glorious 25 cents, but must ask our parent for the lacking $9.75 to make up the difference, to buy their own gift.

Do you see? Do you see the beauty hidden here?

And the big questions, the ones surfacing, well, they are the same as always. Who am I? Maybe a plan-changer, one who plans ahead, plans to not change her plans when tired, yet does it anyway. Maybe a wave-maker, who thinks she’d rather live quietly, gently, unnoticed, but actually  can’t seem to live a year without splashing tremendously and sending out echoing ripples. Maybe a homemaking wanderer, who loves being home, but who has many homes and who can’t seem to really ever move back home.

O God, be gracious and let the seeds of love be sown and flourish in the wandering, the plan-changing, the wave-making, the joy-rumbling, the sorrow, the struggling, in the grace-raining. Help me to turn toward You, to turn up my hands.

(78) this not-very-merry-go-round (I want off)

bigstock_Merry_Go_Round_176951

I have to do something about this _____ job. Fill in the blank with an expletive of your choice. Or no expletive at all if it doesn’t seem necessary. Words like “ideal” and “wonderfully flexible” might also fit in some instances.

People tell me that I can do bigger and better things, that I am smart enough and skilled enough to make more money. People tell me that I need to get a job where I can speak Spanish. And I feel like crying because I feel like I can hardly put together a sentence in Spanish anymore. I don’t dream in Spanish. I don’t think in Spanish. That was just a beautiful part of one very challenging season of my life and I have no idea how to resurrect it in this current season.

The thing that gets to me is that sometimes no matter how hard you try to push ahead, it still feels like treading water. I spent 2 hours on the phone this morning checking things off the to-do list, mainly making appointments and taking care of financial issues. But there are still a few more calls to be made. I tried to sit at this table all day, I had excellent intentions, I even felt like I was being focused and working hard sometimes, but then at the end of the day, I’m still behind.

I do not want this job. But I should be thankful for it. I should be able to apply myself to it. There are a lot of shoulds.

Mind over matter, Anna. You can master your thoughts, you can choose joy, you can choose constructive language.

Yeah, probably.

I am ready to be done with the negativity that I feel about this huge 40 hours a week of my life right now. I’d really like to move on. I need this job right now and that’s that. With an upcoming move in just a few months and a very uncertain next few months after that, it would be great if I could really buckle down and work hard where I am.

I haven’t come to terms yet with this:  that I’m almost 30 and I don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up. Don’t laugh at me, it isn’t funny. They always said I could do anything, that I could change the world. But I can’t even change myself sometimes. And my world feels so small. I don’t want to dream big because I’m too tired to make any dreams happen. Sometimes it feels like all I have to show for my college degree is a heavy monthly payment on an unimaginably huge loan.

I know there is more to life than things like jobs and money.

I wish I would just embrace this damn job and do my best at it. I’ve thought of all kinds of charts and graphs and motivational techniques to try and push myself harder. Why does it even matter what I’m doing? I need to work right now and this job is as good as any, right?

And also, I don’t even know where I’d look for other work. Or what I’d look for. It’s easy to look around at my friends who are finishing shiny brand-new Masters’ degrees or otherwise working in “their fields” and feel jealous. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?

I think maybe the Big Thing (or one of them) under all this is that I don’t really know who I am. That sounds dumb. But it feels like 30 is right around the corner (14-ish months away, so a kind of big corner) and I still feel like I’m feeling around in the dark, groping around for something that feels real, something that I can grab onto and say, “yeah, this, this is what I want, this is what I was made for. I can do this!” There are probably lots of helpful questionnaires and books and ways to figure this stuff out.

Jesus, where do I go from here? I feel like I’ve been on this merry-go-round for too long and it isn’t very merry. If it’s just an attitude adjustment, a challenge to embrace where I am, then good, but I need a lot of help with that. Maybe a broader perspective is the trick? Or if I need to research and ask questions and fill out stuff and try new things or whatever, then I need a lot of help with that too because that totally freaks me out. I may not really know who I am, but I definitely don’t want to be a whiner.

So there you go. Some real stuff tonight. Not very nice, but I’m posting it to the blog anyway because I think it’s good for me. Because it’s good to be real at least, even if real is repetitive and unresolved.

(70) close to the ground

Humility is the real Christian virtue. It means staying close to the ground (humus), to people, to everyday life, to what is happening with all its down-to-earthiness. It is the virtue that opens our eyes for the presence of God on the earth and allows us to live grateful lives. (Henri Nouwen)

In certain standing yoga poses, I’ve often heard instructors say to “ground down through all four corners of your feet.” And so I wiggle my toes and bring awareness to the outline of my feet, planted firmly into the mat, remaining steady, relaxed, balanced. I need this rootedness in regular old life too.

This kind of deep, close-to-the-ground rootedness reminds me of Jesus saying, “Remain in me.” Stay with me, steady now, plant yourself here.

Sometimes, humility is admitting that I have no clue what I am about, what I’m doing here or what might be the best next step. And sometimes it is really deep crying when there is no “best thing,” just a lot of dreams to let go of, and hoping that the letting go will leave space for Jesus to be bigger.

When I am closer to the ground, more rooted in this moment, then I am also closer to God’s heart, to the remaining, abiding, that I so greatly desire. So that I can love without hesitation or reservation, and let go more quickly and embrace more fully.

I hope that God will find me with my hands deep in the dirt, smelling of sweat and fuzzy tomatoes. I hope He will find me with all four corners of my feet planted into the earth and my heart planted in the present moment, willing to be all there. And I hope I will find myself rooted in His heart.

(69) enough

how will I know when I’m enough
when I’ve done enough
when I’ve accomplished enough
I’m living in a waiting room
and trying oh so hard
(as always)
to do that right thing
to be that right girl
and I see that this is my trance
but I don’t know how to live through it

and then I hear from the outside
“just do one more thing”
just one more good thing
and I try to think about what I could do
or how to fit it in
and I feel oh so full of one-more-things already
and yet so empty
some part of this is just not working for me
I think I’m doing everything I can
it doesn’t seem to make a difference anyway.
what if I can’t do “just one more thing”
what if I already am living in a to-do list as long as my body?

 

how does the rain know when it has rained enough?
who closes the floodgates
and tells the rain to pause
what is the link between “enough”
and longing?
do I long for intimacy, for hope, for healing, for things-made-new
because there isn’t already enough of all that
or because I’ve tasted just enough to make me long for more?

 

and what does it mean when we say
that Christ is already enough
and when He says that his burden
is easy
easy!

I do not know what this means
or really how to live it out
although I have seen some examples
but I don’t know how they do it
and sometimes I am ready to give up.
which, of course, I won’t.
give up, that is
and I am sure that this is all part of
learning to live in the gray space
which, I’ve been told, is part of my current life work
but the gray space feels very unsafe
when dealing with big stuff like
salvation and eternity and
Living Life Really Well

 

 

Heavy Downpour --- Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

Heavy Downpour — Image by © Anthony Redpath/Corbis

this is not easy for me
I feel unsteady and tired and
not-enough
but maybe it will help me to remember the rain
it knows when to start and stop
it understands enough
it understands that enough is sometimes
a flood
or a drought
but that is still enough
which doesn’t make sense
but still might be true

and maybe since the rain and I share
the same Maker
I also know more about
when to start
when to stop
and being enough
than I think I do.

 

I don’t know.
It’s just an idea.

 

 

(I decided to turn off comments for this post, but feel free to contact me personally with your thoughts or responses. thanks for reading/walking with me.)

(63) not what it seems

“Listen to me, Derek. It’s not what it seems! It’s not what it seems…”

This line came to mind (without the Derek bit) as I scanned Facebook tonight and at first (because I lack the lightening-quick movie quote identification mental directory that my sisters have) I thought it might be from some really profound source. You know, C. S. Lewis or something. But no, this line is from a children’s animated film called The Swan Princess. Go figure.

This is the line that came to mind, though, as I was sort of trying to process some of the Big News Items of the day via status posts and vehement comment interchanges in the context of my earlier conversation with my brother-in-law and all the other thinking I’ve done on the pertinent topics without any real conclusions.

This line, “It’s not what it seems!” stands out because it’s partly why I’m hesitant (read: terrified) to take a stance. I just feel like I don’t know enough. And I’m strict about who I’ll mentally allow to take a stance. Everyone else, I’m happy to just be mad at. Myself included, really. I don’t know what I think and I’m mad about that. It’s laughable, really. But the thing is, what I’m trying to get to is, it’s not what it seems. I am certain that I don’t see the big picture here and I’m even missing a lot of the nuance and detail. And I’m also painfully certain that the Supreme Court (along with a good deal of other people, both strangers and friends who I love and respect) are missing aspects of the big picture and details here too. I suppose that selective blindness might just be part of being human.

But what if the pieces that we’re missing may lead to a society in 50 years in which speaking out against certain practices or relationships could be considered hate speech and could result in an organization losing tax exempt status or being shut down or worse? What if by trying to affirm the “rights” of all we are diminishing our future constitutional freedoms, like that of religion?

Or what if my starting point in understanding a Biblical perspective is too fresh, too recent? What if Sola Scriptura is, in fact, not really enough to fully understand this faith that I long for and adhere to? How am I to love my neighbor in truth, in total compassion, and yet in total integrity and faithfulness to a God who never changes even when I’m surrounded by a culture that never stops changing?

Or what if I really don’t even get what marriage is about, even when I am in the middle of trying to live it out? Should I be concerned with other marriages that form the fabric of my society? For a long, long time, I think, we’ve heard this cry of “be what you want to be! do what you want to do!” But that way of living can go on for only so long before my being/doing will be at odds with yours. Can we weave our societal fabric together? Or will we quietly tear ourselves apart?

The other thing is that Facebook is a simply terrible place for these kinds of conversations. (I would be happy to buy a friend coffee and have a real conversation about anything, truly. But I absolutely do not like to enter into Facebook debates.) Which is why I came here to blurt out all my unfiltered angst and scrape together shards of my big unmanageable questions, just so they are outside of me and maybe I’ll begin to understand better.

On the one hand, I am anxious because I just don’t know how to live the right way in this crazy, upside-down world.

And on the other hand, I am tremendously hopeful. I mean, did you see my niece smile earlier this evening? God knows, she could save the world with that smile. And I am a little less blind than I used to be because I know that it isn’t about living the right way, but about living like, in, with, filled by Jesus. And He is expansive and broad and endless. Which is a very, very hopeful thing to remember.

But I still want to understand. I still want to know what I think or what I perhaps ought to think, if there is an ought.

So besides that thing about Jesus that I wrote a couple sentences ago, I’m sure of one other thing right now: It’s not what it seems.