Storytelling

sunflower crowns

Are you telling the stories I gave to you?
It is a haunting and ever-present question,
buried deep in my heart and pounding the air around my ears –

Are you telling the stories I gave to you?

Does your heart open up,
do you bleed the words and the feelings and the
emptiness,
are you sure that this life is not lived
in silence?

And the fear comes here:
I have become so much and so little of myself in the past two months.
I am ten thousand miles into a journey
that is ten billion miles long,
my life a plain stretched wide across the canvas of
some great celestial painter.

I have lived so much life in the span of two
silent
months –
new job, new house, new life, new people, new ideas, new experiences, new
depths delved deep within.

My heart, harried and tired and raw like new skin,
beating a hundred different rhythms as it once again finds its own,
is bursting with stories that have only unfurled their
delicate
story
wings
before a few.

And that same question,
filled with the guilt and the grace of every god who has offered either:
Are you telling the stories I gave to you?

Because that’s the thing you don’t know about me,
that’s the kicker,
the punch,
the twist in the plot and the slash through the canvas –

There are too many gods asking me for my stories.

They beg of me:
Tell the world the story of the girl who lives to work, who dedicates herself to the job
that she is still making sense of.
Tell the world the story of the student who graduated from the place that taught her all at once
that faith can never be simple or difficult again.
Tell the world the story of the daughter who is struggling to make
her own home.
Tell the world the story of the girlfriend who so desperately longs for
he who makes her more herself.

Tell the world of the anxieties, the fear, the hope, the peace, the racing heart, the fumbling fingers,
the mind
always ten steps ahead
and ten leagues deeper than it should be.

And those gods,
who demand all my energy and my time,
self-created and inundating
my brain and my heart –
The gods who heave
blame and shovel
shame and take back all the

grace that is offered to me –

Those are the gods I deny my stories.

And now,
I will tell the one story that reaches,
words like spindly fingers
and words like sunflower crowns –

Reaches into the sky like bravery made solid:

Give me the breath again, my God who breathes,
to tell the story
that oxygenates all of me.

I am more
than I think I am.

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The reconciliation of a wolf girl.

dark wolf

Today, one of my best friends called me and told me the thing I needed to hear:

It sucks that you didn’t get that job. You should have. It is okay to be upset about it.

My boyfriend texted me the thing I needed to hear:

It sucks that you didn’t get that job. I know you really wanted it. Don’t give up.

I am glad I have people like that in my life. Because it sucks. And I want to be upset. And I don’t want to give up.

I started searching for jobs in September. I was proactive: I met with career services, I started paying attention to my LinkedIn profile, I made dozens of copies of my resume, I wrote cover letters until my eyes crossed. I was light years ahead of my classmates. And that made me proud.

So when people ask me, two weeks before graduation, what are your plans? I tell them, I’ve had countless interviews, three rejections, and no offers. And then I stare at them, waiting for the words they’ll say next, the words that come from well-intentioned hearts, the words that everyone says, the words that I know, at my core, are probably true:

Oh, don’t worry. It’ll happen. You’re so amazing. It’s all in God’s hands. Trust God’s timing. God has something great planned.

And I think, yeah. That makes sense. That’s pretty easy to say. Because you’re employed. You have a place to live. You’ve done your time trusting.

As soon as I think it, I want to cringe. Because it sounds awful. It sounds faithless, angry, and envious. It sounds like someone who doesn’t deserve a job, or a plan, or a God who gives good things. It doesn’t sound like me.

But it’s what I feel sometimes. And I’m not sure how to reconcile it all – the things I feel with the things I know.

So I tell myself stories. I remind myself of the times I fell apart, the times I felt like dust. I tell the stories of the times God found me, when I was crouched crying on the floor of my bedroom, or driving too fast away from what made me angry, or lying in a field veiled in darkness, staring at stars and praying for time to stop.

The stories remind me that I am sometimes a faction warring against myself:

Look at all those times God plucked you from the ashes. Look how much of God’s time you’ve already used up. You deserve to wait and worry.

It is hard to silence a voice you’ve allowed to shout for so long.

When I was at camp, I used to hear this old story from a Native American tribe. A boy told his wise grandfather that sometimes he feels as though there are two wolves battling within him: a light wolf and a dark wolf. He asked his grandfather which wolf would win the battle.

The one you feed, said the grandfather.

I always thought the story was too simple. Surely life was not that easy – food is just one factor in a wolf’s strength. There were genetics, training, size – maybe it was inevitable that the light wolf lost. Maybe it was just too tired to keep fighting. Maybe the dark wolf was just too strong.

I do not want to let the dark wolf win my heart and strength away.

I am still learning how to believe in the simplicity of feeding the light wolf and trusting that it will win.

Perhaps the still learning is reconciliation enough, for now. I believe we have a God who allows us to lean into the still learning. So that’s what I’ll do, if I find it hard to say that I’m trusting, I’ll say that I’m leaning.

Leaning into the still learning. The still, quiet learning. The still, outstretched hand of a girl, holding food beneath the muzzle of a wolf who hasn’t truly eaten in a long time.

That will be my reconciliation, for now.

sunbeam.

sunbeam

And I know that He promised me.
He promised when He told me
whether I walk to the right or to the left,
my foot would fall in the light.
He promised me wholeness and beauty
and He promised me adventure,
whether it was scripted in the Good Book or not –
between the lines, I know there was an adventure there.
He wouldn’t have made the promises otherwise.

We needed those promises.
I needed them –
Right or left, I would find the Light.
He knew it would be hard for me to trust.
Because I am in a bright room now,
and the lights here are predictable:
On for twelve hours,
off for twelve hours.
Like a clock and like the sunshine –
I can predict this, I know where I am at, I can
see
this
far
ahead.

So now the bulbs here in this space are dying out
And I must go searching for new ones
And that is terrifying
And that is exhilarating
And that is
Life.

He promised me that I would be in the Light.
Stumble into the Light
Run into the Light
Fall into the Light
Hurtle into the Light
Blaze into the Light
Melt into the Light
Jump into the Light
Back into the Light
Creep into the Light

Dance
into the Light.

He promised me Light.

What I learned while waiting.

grandpa blog post

It was a year ago today that my Grandpa passed away.  I haven’t seen him whole and real since last August, so though it was only a year ago that he was here and then not, it feels like longer. He wasn’t himself for all those months that he was sick. And what I miss is his Self.  His laughing, smiling, slow-driving, made-up-language-speaking Self.

My dad drives Grandpa’s truck now, which is strange and practical and disorienting.  Since I don’t live at home anymore, every time I come home on break, I see the truck in the driveway, the truck that picked me up from band camp and brought me to middle-of-day doctor’s appointments. For a second, I think I’ll see him behind the wheel. It’s funny; my sister says sometimes she sees Dad driving it and he looks vaguely like Grandpa, hunched up behind the wheel.  My dad has been doing Grandpa-y things lately.  I like it.

We had my Grandpa’s memorial in July this year.  I read the piece I wrote last year after he died – it was so much fun to tell that story of him again.  I’m glad I got to do it, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely excited about waiting until July to have his memorial.  I remember being upset about the waiting, upset that we weren’t going to end what felt like months of stress and grief and busy-ness at the time when they should end.

(Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I often feel like the shoulds of my life need to be the same as the shoulds in everyone else’s.  If something should happen a certain way for me, it should happen that way for everyone else.

I’m usually kind of short-sighted when it comes to my shoulds.)

In the end, it was good to wait to have the memorial, for practical reasons and for symbolic ones.  Practically, considering last winter, it was easier for everyone to get up the hill to the cemetery where we buried his ashes when there wasn’t three feet of snow on the ground.  Symbolically, it was beautiful, because summer personified my grandpa.  He was all sunshine and darkened skin and tattered summer tank tops.  He was more lawn mower than snow plow, more light breeze than stinging chill.

And the wait itself was good for us.  It gave people time to patch up a bit. For months, life had been hospitals and doctor’s visits and stark white walls and trips to Cleveland and where is the joy I thought this was Christmas?  It had taken three months for my grandparents to go from being well to one of them being sick enough for Hospice.  There needed to be time before putting a definitive end to all that.

I learned a lot about waiting last year, but I’ve only just begun to really think about it this year, during this Advent. Advent is about waiting – it is about joyful, patient, hope-filled waiting for the King, for the Immanuel.  Last year, I didn’t care much for Advent waiting.  The defiant optimism of Christmas, while in many ways welcome, comforting, peaceful, was also full of hurt and stress.  I don’t know how others in my family felt about it, but for me, it was like putting Neosporin on a fresh cut: It was meant to help. It was meant to heal. But all it did then was sting.

This year, I have been stoked for Christmas.  I have loved Advent, loved re-learning how to wait with joy.  Last year, I was waiting for death. And while I tried desperately last year to focus my attentions on the hope that Jesus brought, the sheer wonder and brilliance of God-with-us – I couldn’t unstick my mind from the waiting for something I dreaded happening.  It was hard for me to really understand what God had begun to try to teach me, ever so gently, so lovingly, as He does. This year, I’m beginning to see it.

There are two ways to wait for anything. We can wait with hope or with dread.  And maybe sometimes it’s both, because life is full of bad things – but life is more full of good things, of beautiful and awesome and magnificent things.  Jesus came here. He didn’t come as a pig for slaughter; he came to show us a life well-lived. A Full Human Life – that’s what we were waiting for. And that Human Life led to death, but not forever-death. There is no greater love than the love that lowers it’s head to the guillotine, that jumps in front of the gun, that crawls up on the altar itself, that gives up his life for his friends. That life was one spent loving the poor and the forgotten, raising up the oppressed, lifting the beggars and adulterers and lepers up from the dusty path and calling them blessed, wanted, chosen, remembered, precious. When we wait in Advent, we are waiting again for that Full Human Life, that life that saved us by dying and returning, that life that promised us that we would wait with dread no longer.

Wait with dread no longer.

Even for the bad things. Even when we are waiting for death, what we are really awaiting is new life, Full Human Life. We are awaiting a day when the people we love, and someday we ourselves, can step out of these shadows and figure out what it’s really like to live in the Light.

So, yes, today I am sad. Today, I miss my Grandpa a lot. But what I want, what I desperately want, is to remember how to wait with hope. To be sunshine and darkened skin and tattered summer tank tops in the midst of winter. To give myself and others time to heal. To anticipate the beautiful, the King, the Immanuel.

May my Advents be ones of hope.

Hope Fully

hopehere

There is hope here,
she said
eyes expectant
heart beating
heart waiting.

There is something coming,
and the truth of it sped through
her veins.

Perhaps,
she said,
perhaps you will make something of yourself
yet.

And what’s more,
said a deeper voice
a voice living further down in her soul,
and what’s more,
perhaps it has already begun in you –
the making of yourself.

Would you listen to
the voice
telling you that you are
already something,
that you are becoming more and more
the something
that you have always
been.

There is hope
here.