The year is officially halfway over and I’m ready to check in on how I did with my goals for June, what’s up for July, and a little more overview on the first half of the year. So let’s jump right in with a June recap: Continue reading
I have been having a tough time this Lent. I knew I would. As I said in my Ash Wednesday post, it’s easier for me to pick something concrete to give up or add, but focusing and reflecting and taking time to be a better disciple is much, MUCH harder. I’ve been spending most of my time grappling with crippling perfectionism, a struggle I bump up against again and again since becoming a parent. This month’s theme was belief and as the month draws to a close, I realize I didn’t write about it that much. It’s hard for me to write these kind of entries, mostly because I am wary of communicating deeply held spiritual beliefs and struggles via this medium. I don’t mind having long talks about it in person,where I can see reactions and more easily clarify thoughts. Continue reading
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.
***Originally Posted 2/5/15***
To kick off the theme of the month- beauty, I want to talk about how things that are beautiful are not always pretty. How I Learned to Drive opens tonight and if I haven’t beaten it into this blog enough in the last month, here it goes again: it is a staggeringly beautiful play. There are incredible depictions of the human condition along with a good dose of laughter, wit, and love. That being said, it is a hard play. If you are looking for flashing lights and an airy frothy golden age of musicals happy ending
– you aren’t going to find that pretty stuff. But the beauty is worth it.
Childbirth was a beautiful experience, but everyone in that room can assure you it wasn’t pretty.
***Originally posted 1/29/15***
One of the things I love about Jesuit theology is the idea of detachment. Detachment can sound like a cold word, but it really just means being “less fixated on the stuff that doesn’t truly matter- like money, possessions, or even technology” This does not mean that there is a carelessness or a lack of responsibility about those things. Budgeting and using tools and being a good care taker of what you have are all wonderful things. But this is how I’ve come to think about detachment, and how having a baby has fast tracked my practice of this spiritual discipline.
In my own experience, the opposite of detachment tends to be anxiety. When I’m too attached to something, I worry about it so much that I stop enjoying it. Sometimes, the anxiety is understandable- like when we just don’t have the income to meet medical emergencies. But the anxiety is NEVER helpful. Here’s a clear example: We were given a gorgeous pair of crystal champagne flutes for our wedding. They are so beautiful and they are from a dear friend and I know the thought behind it was even more beautiful than the flutes themselves. In her card to us, she said that we should use them to celebrate the everyday, not just special occasions. It took me a while before I could fulfill that. I was so obsessed with how beautiful they were that I was afraid to use them. I worried we might break them either while using them or washing them. It took my husband reminding me of the instructions in the card to ever use them.
Another example: About five years ago I had a single, clear, favorite pair of shoes. I didn’t want them to wear out… so I never wore them. DO YOU REALIZE HOW CRAZY THAT SOUNDS?! The point of shoes is to be worn!
(Pictured: My wedding shoes were sparkly and perfect. Photos from Katherine Miles Jones. Not pictured, the shoes I’m referencing. Because I couldn’t find a picture because I would not wear them!)
You would think that with the struggle I was already having with detachment, having a baby come along would only magnify that fear. Babies (and toddlers and children in general) are kind of known for getting into things, making messes, breaking things. But amazingly, it’s been the opposite. For the most part, knowing there’s a good chance that even if I put something away or up high and never use it, odds are that someday my child will break something special has allowed me to enjoy them for however long they last! It’s amazing how much we’ve started using special objects to celebrate the everyday since our child was born. I’m talking pizza on china, drinking out of my favorite coffee cup, wearing clothes that make me happy even though they will probably end up drooled on or spit up on, and yes, using those champagne flutes.
But I’ve changed my attitude towards more than just material things: Let’s give a nonmaterial example that was not mentioned above: plans. I definitely lean toward a type A personality. I was also praised a lot growing up for doing ALL THE THINGS. This was kind of the environment of the schools I went to and programs I was involved in.
I was used to scheduling out every day to the minute sometimes. If someone was late my anxiety levels would go through the roof because it meant my whole day might be thrown off. It was crazymaking (Rather, it IS crazymaking). I still struggle with this tendency sometimes, especially of overcommitting. Or making to-do lists for myself and then feeling they HAVE to get done. Completely. Today. When I am the only one expecting that! It’s important to respect the time of yourself and others. But meeting a friend for coffee should not be a stressful experience., even if they end up 30 minutes late. And sometimes now, with trying to get the baby ready and having unexpected needs to change him last minute or feed him before we go to avoid crying the whole way there etc. etc. I’m the one who ends up late. This used to seem like the end of the world. I would drive like a crazy person to assure I was somewhere on time if not ten minutes early. Now it’s something I do my best to avoid, but in the end… what is all this in light of eternity? I am trying every single day to look at my baby, look how fast he is growing up, and to SLOW MYSELF DOWN.
This is not to say that I’ve achieved some zen state of total detachment. NOT EVEN CLOSE. In fact, do you know why I wrote this post? Because we used a really beautiful baby gift for the first time recently, and I found it totally stained with bright orange carrot/squash baby food that I’m wasn’t sure would ever come out. I wanted to cry and tell my husband “this is why we can’t have nice things!” I had a terrible attitude for about 20 minutes as I finished sorting laundry and folding the load that had just come out of the dryer, and then I walked into the next room and found my husband rocking our sleeping baby, just like he did when our son was a newborn.
(Pictured: newborn status. Nothing like sleeping in dad’s arms!)
And I started to laugh at how WONDERFUL our life is and how thankful I was that I didn’t wreck this perfect moment by screaming about a stained baby blanket. God is continually trying to remind us of the things that matter. But sometimes it takes a little practice with detachment to see it.