(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.)

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(68) baking in a storm

While it thundered and poured rain and hail on Saturday night, I made cake. Three cakes, to be exact, along with a really great dinner. It was nice to know that I haven’t lost my knack and that I actually do still enjoy being in the kitchen. I often wonder is this food-loving Anna an authentic part of my identity? Or have I just put it on as a crowd-pleasing persona? Maybe a bit of both. But I baked and hoped the power wouldn’t go out while the cakes were in the oven and it didn’t and they were golden and smelled sweet and warm and like cardamom.

plum torte

If you ever need a cake recipe that is both easy and awesome, the purple plum torte from The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Amanda Hesser) is the perfect solution. I made it with tiny squishy yellow plums that surprised us on a tree in our own backyard this time, but I’ve made it with purple plums before with equally amazing results.

***

Every class session of life lately has been about trusting Jesus more. Even going to church is that same class, again and again. I hear the refrain everywhere, about everything. I am not exaggerating. Will I entrust this loved one to Jesus? Will I trust Him with finances? Will I trust Him when I see the places where we need to grow, but we’re just in the process and the journey is taking a long time? Will I trust about health and genetics? Will I trust again and again and again that I’m in the right space at the right time and just rest here? Will I trust that He will guide me as I seek to be a Christ-follower, probably even regardless of what church I am affiliated with?

After my last post, someone told me that we don’t often get answers to our questions, but we do receive grace to live in the questions. Which of course reminds me of what may very well become my life quote, given the way it keeps circling back to perfectly explaining where I am: “Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” (R. M. Rilke).

***

Lately the struggles feel repetitive. It’s the end of August and I’m disappointed I haven’t read as many books this year or learned that piano piece I thought I wanted to learn or… You know that even the things that could be fun and relaxing leisure activities become goal-oriented exercises for me? I can’t just read for fun (because I’ll never sit down and do it), so I set a goal to read a book or month, but still feel ashamed because I used to read a book a week (when was that? maybe that was possible because I was 12?). There might be a better way for me to set myself up for success in life.

Does anyone else feel like instead of growing straight up like a sunflower, growth feels more like the dizzying monotony of a merry-go-round?

***

I feel like I have been living in life’s waiting room for a while now and I’m making the best of it, I think. What a perfect place to continue learning to live the questions in.

 

(67) live well in the chaos

“All deaths were accidental, or none was, for disease was just as random an accident as injury, and all die. None died prematurely, for death battened on only the living, and all of those, at any age.

“It was all the same and predictable except in detail, whether a heart collapsed and seized in an old woman, or a runaway buggy crushed a growing boy: the people took the boy’s death harder, for they longed to have him with them longer, and to see him grown and fruitful. They were not ready for him to die, but they knew for a fact that death was ready. Death was ready to take people, of any size, always, and so was the broad earth ready to receive them. A child’s death was a heartbreak–but it was no outrage, no freak, nothing not in the contract, and not really early, just soon.”

(from The Living, by Annie Dillard)

 

I woke up Sunday morning to a Facebook post sharing that the baby daughter of an acquaintance had died Saturday night. She was only about 4 months old, I think. Her mama and daddy are both active duty Navy, which is how we know them. Grief for this tiny life, seemingly extinguished too early, was overwhelming all day Sunday. In church, I rocked and remembered their names. And I remembered the other children I know and have known who struggle so valiantly. Why do some live and others die? Annie’s words rang out in the confusion, “not really early, just soon.”

What really makes me crazy is the need to keep living, keep going, when I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that things are falling apart. How can I sit still and type nonsense when a child is gone and parents are empty? How can I focus on work that feels meaningless and continue to eat regular meals when, at any moment, grief will rip through the world again?

Where is Jesus in this painful, beautiful, bittersweet, piercingly captivating life that we are caught up in? Where are You? I know that if we could just catch hold of the hem of your clothing, we would be healed (Mk 5:28). And healing is what we so desperately need. Maybe not healed from the brokenness, but within it, because of it. Healing is what I need.

I want so much to figure things out. I want to know “how” to live well in what feels like chaos. But You aren’t giving me any how. (And I hate this, it infuriates me, but I sense You are holding on to me even when I’m wrestling with a question You don’t seem inclined to answer). The only how is  to love and keep loving even when I weep over a child I never knew. And to keep living faithful to you, even in ridiculous jobs. Maybe the healing is already here in the brokenness. That would be so like You, I think, to hide Yourself here in the middle of our mess.

(55) this strange gift

where are you God? where is the mercy in all of this?

my heart is too tired, too brittle to hold and carry and grieve again and again.

i am ashamed of my relief, embarrassed that, despite the repetitiveness of it all, i still cannot manage to maintain a simple level of gratitude for the ease and blessing and safety of my own life. none of this feels easy, although in retrospect it may someday seem to be. 

i am tied up in knots. i avoided a particular grocery store today because i couldn’t bear facing the homeless standing at each parking lot entrance and exit. i have only been reading the headlines of the news because i don’t have space for detail. instead of joy at a glimpse of his face on a computer screen, i only feel longing and sorrow at the tremendous distance that prevents me from reaching out to take his hand. i want to pray, but i have no words. i want to climb the mountain of Lent with persistence and delight, but i stumble on the question, “it is vegan, but is it Lenten?” i do not know what is in my heart.

i look at my niece’s face and am filled with joy. what boundless wonder! what endless possibility! how is this beauty woven into the same cloth along with such cruelty and unfathomable wrong? if life is a gift, then how can all of this be part of a whole, all part of the same gift?

this latest tragedy among tragedies is not about me. I am untouched, unscathed…once again. and the emotions I feel about this are so mixed, so confused, that I cannot even name them, even as they take on the form of tears. am I crying for those in Boston? or all the billions of others suffering around the world? or simply out of my own griefs and sorrows?

there are times when i have no answers, when most of the basic offerings of elementary Christian faith seem hollow. except that even when all else may be called into question, i do not seem to doubt that somehow my voice is heard, that my hoarse cries matter.

***

God, God!
Come and rescue us!
We are so screwed up,
so far beyond the reach of reason, of diplomacy,
so much in need of healing.
Please hurry!
Please rescue us.
Be merciful,
please God be merciful.

(39) write anyway

sometimes there are no words. yet i feel compelled to write anyway. in all lowercase. in incomplete sentences. as if somehow this lack of “correct-ness” could capture the mixed up heart, the heaviness, i awoke with and to this morning.

to the mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters and children who have lost what must feel like everything: i am so deeply sorry. on behalf of the human race. as a member of a race who has perpetrated violence upon violence, wrong after wrong upon itself, upon its brothers and sisters and children and parents. i am so sorry that we have robbed you of your innocence, of your dearest treasures, of your lives. why do we as humans turn on our own?

even when i cannot expect these fellow humans, these brothers and sisters of mine to forgive quickly, i beg of you, God, forgiveness. forgive us for being “entertained” by the news media at their precious expense. forgive us for capitalizing on their pain for ratings and increased “viewership.” forgive us for remembering the name of the killer and not bothering to learn the names of the tiny ones who died. forgive us for seeking someone to blame, for desiring a scapegoat to escape our own responsibility and guilt. forgive us for seeking easy solutions in more robust laws rather than true healing of our broken hearts where wickedness hides so easily.

and forgive me, as i continue on with life-as-normal, making a cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday, agonizing over the endless messiness of my home, the piles of boxes, the piles of laundry, the piles of dishes. heal me, for i am impatient, wanting my husband to help with the dishes, forgetting my resolve to honor him even in my thoughts, to remember that each day with him could be the last day we share.

release me from my desire to understand why, why, why, and give me more faith. let me trust You on behalf of the suffering families who maybe cannot glimpse you through the painful fog. let me practice blessing Your name now, knowing i too will suffer someday. today my heart feels broken, not quite as if my own tiny one was lost, but perhaps something close. let me always live in that broken place. i am sure their hearts will heal, but never quite all the way. don’t let me forget and bounce back too quickly when i need to be in the brokenness and mourn with those who mourn. guard my mouth from explanations. sometimes suffering has no meaning and it is not good. but You did promise to bring good out of anything. and You are good. and You are With Us in the middle of it all.

***

I also recommend Sarah Bessey’s beautiful, honest response to the tragedy Friday (it does contain strong language, as seems appropriate given the circumstances).

Some of my thoughts were shaped by this article widely circulated around the Internet of unknown origin (it has been falsely attributed to actor Morgan Freeman, but is insightful regardless of its author).

(31) grumpy pants

I guess I wore my grumpy pants to work tonight. Oops. Except I was wearing a skirt…so maybe I accidentally put on my mean-girl panties today.

I literally got off the phone with a customer and slammed the phone back into its cradle with so much force that, after I had retreated from the desk to pout for a minute, I returned to make sure the phone still worked. That woulda been a bummer, eh?

And then my friend and co-worker was trying to read a business-related Facebook post over my shoulder and I was scrolling too fast and then she asked me to slow down and I snapped at her, something mean that I (truthfully) don’t remember. But then I felt bad about 2 seconds later, sought her out and apologized. Double oops.

What happened, Anna? At this moment, while writing this post, I am thinking, Yeah, what did happen, Anna, and why the heck are you going to post about it on the Internet, this unresolved, messy little piece of you-kn0w-what?

I’m impatient, you know. I don’t want to walk across the parking lot in the rain to figure out why you can’t connect to the WiFi. I don’t want to wait around while you restart your computer; and did you know that googling the random error code your computer is producing is definitely not in my job description? No, I don’t want to wait on hold while you talk things over with your (fill in the blank). And did you know, Mr. Call Center Representative, that I already entered that identifying information into your phone system before it transferred me 7 times? And by the way, when I leave a note on our employee communication board that certain tasks need to be done this weekend, that means I figure they’ll be done when I get back to work a couple days later, seriously people.

It’s astonishing, embarrassing. I’m getting paid by the hour to do stuff just like this, help customers, make business-related phone calls…yet I’m impatient, as if there are more important things I could be doing. More important stuff like what? The social media marketing your boss wants you to do, but you so strongly dislike? Clipping coupons from the grocery ads? Surfing Facebook?

I just couldn’t talk myself out of that bad attitude tonight. My co-workers don’t know Jesus like I do, so I am conscious of wanting to, you know, be a good example. I am thankful to have a job and a paycheck. Lots of people want a job and can’t get one, right? Or at least I can say I’m thankful. But no matter what I said, it didn’t make a difference. It’s now that I’ve been home for an hour and had the chocolate and wine I was craving that I see the ridiculousness a bit more clearly. I guess I should have brought a change of nice-girl panties.

 

(15) intentional self neglect.

I am afraid I will come out of this summer, arriving at the long-awaited completion date of September 14th, and realize that I actually went about this poorly. When I take the time to think about it, I am pretty sure that all of life will continue to be fraught with busyness, with big projects, with powerful emotions, with intense deadlines. I have handled all of that one way this summer, but I probably would do well to l learn another way for the future. Like the future…as in tomorrow, the next day, next week, etc.

Intentional self-neglect. I know better than this. I know how to care for myself. At least, most of the time, I know how to care for my self, my soul. Sometimes my powerful internal unrest eludes even my own fragile attempts at self-caring, though. Add to that powerful internal unrest the crushing deadline of this labor-intensive online course, the threat of yet another financial expense (to extend my deadline to finish the course), not to mention the ongoing stress of personal/marital finances…and I simply chose to neglect my self, my soul, in the interest of simply finishing. the. (damn). course.

All that remains is the final, which I will grind out today and tomorrow. Then the waiting, breathless hoping that I will pass it the first time (please God).

And yesterday I sat on the kitchen floor with tears in my eyes, overwhelming chaos of emotion threatening to spill over the carefully-built dam that has kept me functioning all summer long. August has been the worst. At least in June and July, I was still journaling a bit, still blogging a bit, still feeding myself somewhat regularly. In August, I worked on my class. When my sister came to visit mid-month, a tiny incident sparked a flood of tears and a frightening wave of questions, doubts, terrifying emotions. We had a good conversation, then I put it all away to continue working. I told my friends I would hang out again in September. I postponed dates with my husband until after September 14th. I told a friend I would do a slideshow for her wedding and I finished it the day before her wedding, managing to put aside my own conflicted inner life to celebrate with her for a weekend. I lost 7 pounds, I think just because I wasn’t taking the time to feed myself regularly.

How is one supposed to manage and experience the life of one’s soul within the context of everyday chaos and busyness? I’m almost done with this class, thank God. But what about when life gets busy again? Will I shut my heart up into a tiny icebox every time I’m assaulted with overwhelming life events and situations? Not only does that sound unhealthy, but I’m realizing that I will now need to face the aftermath of that decision. At some point in the near future, I will probably fall to pieces and tears, feeling all the unfelt emotions of the last month plus some.

I am not really sure how to do this better today, tomorrow, next week. But I hope I figure out alternatives to this path of self-neglect again. And now for the hard work (also not sure how this will take shape) of nurturing my soul and processing this summer as I enter this new season of fall.