One of my favorite parables or well known sermon stories is the idea that our life is like a tapestry. When you work on needlework such as embroidery or making a tapestry or even cross stitch, the working side or the “wrong side” looks like a total mess. You may be able to see some echo of the colors or patterns, but it also has all of the tangles and knots and awkward criss crosses. The parable goes that during our life, we see the working side of the tapestry God’s creating, but He sees the gorgeous picture on the other side. I like it because I like the idea of using a metaphor of what is traditionally women’s work and undervalued to show God’s plan. I like it because it resonates with the nonlinear. I like it because when I think about when I do needlework, one of my favorite parts is looking at the wrong side and seeing the echoes of the right side.
In my first post about Lent, I wrote about how nervous I was to not go in with one set plan of what I was giving up. I’m finding some daily challenges and realizations from being open to this lenten journey. I’m getting a little better at looking at the patches of color instead of desiring a road map… well, I am sometimes. But for today, I wanted to write about those glimpses of the big picture or echoes of the final piece if you will. These aren’t all the moments I’ve had those glimpses, but there are a few big ones, and they are some that make me smile.
*8th Grade- I am in a show with my local theatre troupe. I am having a hard time in middle school (seriously, that’s the one period of my life I don’t think you could pay me enough to relive.) and I am already a proud nerd. I love theatre and reading and anything to do with words. A fellow cast-mate has noted this and asks me if I will come take an admissions test with her for a school she really wants to go to in a few months “since you’re a nerd and all, you probably like tests, right?” We laugh at the idea, but I entertain it. A little voice in my head or maybe my heart keeps telling me to do it. I ask my mom about it. The admissions test is for Xavier- a private Catholic school. I apply; I take the test with my friend; I get in and she does not. After that potentially awkward realization, I end up going to Xavier. My life is changed forever and I make some of the best friends in the world.
*I am in 10th grade. I am in a theatre troupe (I promise not all my stories start this way!) and the director has asked me to try out for a ridiculous adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk. I tell him I’m not sure if I’m interested or can fit it into my schedule, what with the absurdly challenging school I’m attending. He asks again, and I give in but tell him I don’t think my parents will want to drive the commute down to the theatre every night. Something in my head or heart keeps telling me to audition anyway. I get cast. I meet another cast-mate who can drive and happens to live about five minutes from my dad’s house. I pester him with questions every night on the drive home and eventually he becomes one of my best friends. I go see him in one of his first college plays and fall in love with the campus and the theatre program. I end up at the same program and I make some of the best friends in the world.
*I am a college graduate. I am living in New York City even though everything inside me told me to stay home after I came back to Arizona for Christmas. I am probably the most miserable I have ever been. I am isolated even though I have friends in the city. I am exhausted. I am broke. I am angry and scared. I decide, forget this- I’m running away from the real world. I’m going to become a nun. That familiar little voice inside me is pestering me about how much I want children (and also about how nuns still live in the real world) and I tell it to hush up, I’ll join the BVMs and work with school children. I inquire into joining a convent. I don’t tell my mother as the one thing she made me promise when she agreed to send me to Xavier was that I wouldn’t become a nun and deny her grandchildren. The BVMs let me know that you can’t officially join the sisterhood if you have student loan debt. Since I went to Pepperdine, I anticipate being in debt forever. I’m even more angry. I decide to say FINE GOD, if you won’t let me into a church vocation because student debt then SCREW YOU! I will just go to grad school and take on SO MUCH DEBT IT WILL MAKE YOUR HEAD SPIN! (I’m pretty sure God laughed. Seriously, He can take our anger. It hurts us, not him.) I leave the city to go to a graduate school I would never have heard of if a random friend from high school hadn’t Facebook messaged me about the program. I go to the program in spite of many warnings about the foolishness of the cost (and I would probably give those same warnings to my friends and family). In spite of the tuition and working while being a full time student and rehearsing plays, I make some of the best friends in the world.
*It is two days before graduate school starts. I happen to go see a play with one of my soon to be classmates. We start talking and we can’t stop. We can’t stop on the way there, at intermission, on the way home, and most of that night. A little voice inside me says maybe we could keep talking forever. By the time we graduate we still haven’t stopped talking and we share a last name. We still haven’t stopped talking today, even when our son makes us feel so tired we aren’t sure we’re coherent. Through our marriage, I catch glimpses of that beautiful, beautiful tapestry. Some people call that experience a sacrament.
The Jesuits have a word- discernment. “Discernment- a word that describes the process of coming to understand how the Lord is calling you and inviting you to serve Him. It is a spiritual and personal journey. It is a journey of understanding, of seeing and acting.” I like to think of discernment as a way of quieting all the noise around us every day and spending time trying to hear that little voice inside. Some call this voice intuition, others the benevolent universe, others the holy spirit. So far, my Lenten journey has been about getting back to a place where things are quiet enough to hear that voice again. I’ve been keeping my phone around less, cutting out pre-bed Facebook time, and seeing what it’s like to walk or drive in silence once in a while. It’s uncomfortable so far, but I have a feeling it will get easier.
Something else I’ve been doing is longing for community. Because meeting those amazing friends and sharing my journey with them doesn’t make discernment harder. Those other people make it easier. Most of my closest friends don’t live so close geographically. I cherish the community of friends I already have, but I’m hoping to keep building a local community too. The people I share my stories with are one of the most beautiful aspects of my life… and that brings me to one of my favorite worship songs. I don’t have a lot to say about it because I think it speaks for itself, but I hope you’ll take a few moments to listen to it. It was the song we chose to have as a reflection song at our wedding and it’s one of my favorite memories of that day.
Any favorite tapestry glimpses in your life? or favorite parables for God’s plan in your life? I’m loving cultivating this time to reflect and redirect.