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Forgive me

for not being all you wanted me to be:

the missing pieces in your puzzle,
the strength in your weakness,
the solution to your problems,
the happiness you could not find in yourself.

And I forgive you
for not letting me be me

"O God of peace,

who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Grace in the Structures

The spiritual tradition I grew up in doesn't allow for privacy, for internal space. Without symbolism, we can have no boundaries or interiors, and thus the outside (which can't really exist, as with a Mobius strip) comes in. We implode and are violated. There is nothing real inside.
Pastors tell us that Christianity must take over our lives; thus, we lose our grasp of who we really are. Appropriate and distinctive relationships are blurred into gray by the term fellowship. We are told that the Holy Spirit within us guides our consciences so that we know what is right; guided thus by three abstract, vague, and invisible concepts, we give way to the pressure of outside definitions of goodness.
My life has been a perfect expression of gnosticism.
***
My friend lent me a fascinating book once. Those Terrible Middle Ages addressed common misunderstandings about the Middle Ages, and pointed out that with Christianity came gradual emancipation for women, children, and slaves. That concep…

The Same but Different

So this weekend I was tired so I

slept in and just did what I felt like
and didn't feel guilty and i

was brave and talked to people and normally I'd be too shy,

and I didn't go to church. and bought a latte even though I'd already had tea
and bought a book for myself. to read. for fun.

And i have places I'm going and I'm going because now i know it's okay,
to do what I want
it's okay
to have a place

and all the things I thought I couldn't have because they were bad

The Happy God

Lately I have found myself drawn by crucifixes. I've never been the type to talk sweetly of Jesus and all He did for me. I prefer not to think in detail about His death agonies, and I'm tired of drumming up sticky sadness and slavish gratitude by contemplating my sins that held Him on the cross. If I've heard it once I've heard it a thousand times: The cross shows you how much God loves you. He came to earth, dirtied His hands, suffered and died for you, the human worm, so you could go to heaven when you died.

It doesn't make me feel loved. It makes me feel tolerated, sacrificed for, needed, controlled. Not loved.

But I've been learning a lot about love lately. Real love isn't performance based. People who really love you are just crazy about you, and they don't care if you're Hitler. People who really love you want you to be happy and they want you to love them back, but they don't want to control you or make decisions for you.

When I think about …

Why Be?

. . . because I buy flowers. And today one vase wasn't enough for them all, so there's one bouquet on my dresser and another on the shelf.
. . . because I got a new haircut.
. . . because it's fun to write again. So I'm writing a novel. And last night, working on it, I felt happy.
. . . because a friend told me to watch 30 Rock, and Alec Baldwin is flawlessly hilarious.
. . . and live chamber music in the evening and the acoustics were perfect, and yesterday I made a list of the people that love me. And a golden retriever who never gives up hope for an extra morsel of food from the kitchen counter. An autumn-leaved tree, straight-trunked, out my window. Finally admitting all the things that never made sense, and holding my breath, wondering, thinking maybe . . . all the things I once hoped for, could they be possible?

The Silence

For so long, a deathly silence. Whys piled on whys. Why won't You rescue me? Heal me, love me? Speak to me; give me one moment when I know for sure what You are. But He never spoke.
The whys that I ask myself. Why won't you accept the proofs that you are given? The little things, the "God things"? (How I hate that phrase, said by people who never asked for more.) People stood around me, holding their breath, watching. "Surely she'll see it our way now," they said, "believe like we do." The god in my head was as arrogant and manipulative as them - wanting to control me. So I kept silent, terrified of what it would mean to give in yet again.
I cannot pray. I cannot pretend anymore. I don't even know what I want; all I know is what I need - something real, a word that speaks to my soul.
Layers drop away. Before, did I even know I had a soul? Did it belong to me? Did I know who it was, what it wanted? My life becomes a gleaming silence of not-pre…

Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Alleluia.

I tend to think (along with many other Christians) in terms of questions and answers. I've been framing my current quest in that way - saying I have questions for God, I'm looking for answers. But today I was thinking to myself, it's not so drily intellectual. My questions don't even need words. I could lay out all the objects, the real tangible items, of my case: my body, the facts of my life, the real minutes that I have lived. And these courtroom exhibits would ask, "What were You thinking? Are You crazy?" And like the questions Job asked, these aren't really questions - they're accusations.
It annoys me when people talk as if the Christian life can be settled with propositional truth. I'm fed up with people saying to me that God is good and everything's going to work out, as if their words (which are definitely true, in an empty-shell kind of way) can put back together the pieces of a smashed soul.
So today in church, one of the phrases in t…

Against the Darkness

Who gets to tell you who you are?

The one Who said "Let there be . . ."

You woke up sick and stayed in your pajamas, putting in half a day on your laptop,
And the sunlight burst into every inch of the pink-walled roomand sank into your bones.

And then what else happened?

Ran into an angel at the library yesterday -
An acquaintance really, but somehow she saw
You
And inside her God was carried like an exploding sun inside a lantern.

Some voices tell you to hate yourself;
You'll never be good enough, do it right, deserve good things.

But then when you got out of your car there were more stars
Than there ever were in your whole life put together
Orion peeking over the trees
And stars you didn't see before because it wasn't dark enough or clear enough
There are so many stars.
Big and bright ones, shooting stars, tiny ones,
A little handful of pinpricks suddenly discovered
In an inch of sky
These stars, these stars

Singing into your ears the truth of who you are.

Don't let any other v…

I like reading Ecclesiastes.

It says there is a season for everything. Sometimes things are bad, and sometimes they are good. Different responses suit different events. It's a peaceful thought. I get tired of black and white - things are always this way! Or always that! Always do this! Here's the answer, all the time!

Not so, saith the Teacher. Sit back, evaluate the situation, decide what to do. Eventually things will change whether you want them to or not!

Ecclesiastes Experienced

On Friday I finished my first full-time work week in over three years, literally. It took effort to get to this place. A year ago I had given up on ever having a normal life; at the beginning of this summer, when all I looked for was escape and survival, my counselor asked me what it would take to get back to full-time work. And here I am. I eked up my hours over the summer - praise God for a boss and an HR department that were willing to work with me on this - and hammered out a weekly routine that would enable me to weather the work hours. At the moment, the routine is roughly half work and half rest. From eight at night till eight in the morning, I'm completely focused on storing up energy for the next workday. Weekends involve trying not to dip too deeply into my energy reserves. This is a reality of Lyme recovery. You don't just bounce back from it like after the flu. It's a war of attrition, or a siege - you either pick off or starve out the enemy, and it takes time.

Coming Back

Hey there. I have the urge to blog, and that's a good feeling. There are signs of life in me - little green scared shoots, deciding they want to find the sun after all.

There's a lot that's coming together/coming apart for me right now. Good stuff, light surrounding the darkness. Hard to detail each last little bit, so I'll just stick my hand in and see what I pull out for this entry.

I go to an Episcopal church now. To get there on Sunday morning, I drive west toward the Appalachians, and think how soon I'll cross right over them, cross the continent, land somewhere with real mountains. These I'll trample. But for now I'm not there yet. I drive through a pretty little town and crunch into the gravel parking lot and inside is the organ, and the smell of wooden pews, and people wearing vestments. Candles and stained glass and sunlight pouring in. We say a liturgy, kneel to pray, stand to sing, eat His body and blood (gluten-free communion bread for the first t…

Contest Entry/Blog Post

Don Miller is holding a contest over on his blog for a free trip to his Living a Better Story seminar in Portland, Oregon, next month. To enter the contest, you write a blog entry about what kind of story you want to live and how you hope the seminar will help you achieve that. (For more details on the contest, go here -- and please hurry because the contest ends this Friday.) This is my contest entry. It’s doing double duty for my faithful blog readers as an update on where I’m headed next.

First, though, watch this video which explains a little bit more about the conference and makes you really want to attend.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.
Here is the story I want to live: I am going to move across the country -- from one coast to the other. This is going to happen sometime between January and June of next year (2011), depending on when I am able to find a job. I am looking for a job in book publishing because, in about ten years or so, I want…

Re-creation

It's as if

the glass was shattered, lies splintered and glittering
at the bottom of my heart
- - - a pile of flaked ice, the shards clinking and scraping one another

i'm picking up the pieces, turning them over
trying to understand and maybe put them back together

but it's impossible. and the edges are sharp.

but still I notice
how they sparkle, how the light i didn't know was here

bends back and forth, makes golden paths and rainbows all around me.

Inside Looking Out

when i stop pretending that all this
(black and sordid little universe,
two-dimensional two-penny-novel ghost-town nightmare
with its flat rainbows and paste diamonds
and petty-dictator god) is okay,

then i know

that outside is the velvety darkness of a bigger universe . . .
the aching glitter of stars and
. . . cool ripples of air, Japanese maples . . .
everywhere the flashing hints of a different God

and frantically i tear down these paper walls surrounding me

to find that light seeping in

Creative Destruction

"The Destructors" by Graham Greene captured me from the first sentence, as some short stories do, and I reread it every so often, to dig deeper into it and reexperience its events. It's about a gang of children that utterly destroys a townhouse, demolishes it piece by piece - from the furniture to the fixtures to the floors and ceilings and walls to the utilities to the roof and sides - till it is quite literally a pile of rubble. The de facto leader of the gang, T, directs the whole operation with fascinating resourcefulness. One of the boys asks T if he is destroying the house because he hates the owner, "Old Misery."
"Of course I don't hate him," T said. "There'd be no fun if I hated him. . . . All this hate and love," he said, "it's soft, it's hooey. There's only things, Blackie," and he looked round the room crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things.T's father is an…

The Void That Is Me

It sounds dramatic, doesn't it, when I say that I don't know who I am? But notice that sentence. It started off with some self-deprecation and an accusation: You probably think I'm just being dramatic when I say this. Because I expect you to think: Oh, she's overstating the case. How could she not know who she is? She has such a strong personality. She's just having one of those bad days or weeks or years. She'll come along.

One of the ways that I am learning who I am is by taking my own feelings seriously. Trying to leave off disclaimers like, "This probably sounds silly, but . . ." or "You're probably right. I don't really feel that way."

My counselor told me, "I admire you for staying with your pain." Taking my pain seriously is what got me into this mess in the first place. So it must be a good mess. It's a me mess. Somewhere in this mess of emotion and experience and what I've felt and what I was supposed to feel…

Still Me

My blog has a new name and lovely new colors, but it's still me posting. I needed a new way to express the questions I'm exploring and the person I hope I'm becoming.

A half-life is "the time required for half the nuclei in a sample of a specific isotopic species to undergo radioactive decay" (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed.). In other words: At a midpoint in life, enough change has occurred for us to draw reasonable conclusions about something's identity.

I have reached the point of realization that the life I live is not full (another kind of half-life). In looking back and evaluating my identity, I see that much of who I am has decayed in a desperate, involved, time-draining attempt to pretend that everything is okay, protecting the half-truths I know and trying to please the half-God I worship.

Fact: Everything is not okay. Saying so does not disprove the Bible, it's not blasphemy, it's not heresy. Admitting my feelings does not mean that I am …

Seeking

I am experiencing profound change. Over the past year, I have faced fear and frustration so deep that I didn't think I could go on. All my old coping mechanisms stopped working. Pain welled up in me that I've pushed down for years - since I was 23, since I was 17, since I was 12, since I was 9.

For too long, old questions have gone unanswered. Who am I? Who is God? It recently occurred to me that I have no idea who I am. I've made myself into the Lee Ann that everybody wants to see. When you strip away all those layers woven by compliance and the craving for approval - there is nothing. When I look into myself to see who I am, there is a terrifying emptiness.

But how can I know who I am if I don't know who God is? I am realizing that the God I think I know is boxed in by my own brain. He has been preached to me in church and modeled to me by human beings, and He frightens me. I can't change this image of God in my head. And yet I sense that the real God is someone st…

Again you come

back to the beginning:
to the same center of fear that birthed you, that reels you in
whenever you think you've escaped.

You are ever being returned to the same prison.

Do not struggle, my child --
Pause and consider this place to which I have allowed you to return.

Instead of fleeing, look up.
Instead of rescuing yourself, reach out to Me.

Allow Me to
obliterate your loneliness

For only I can do it.

"For what we need to know, of course,

is not just that God exists, not just that beyond the steely brightness of the stars there is a cosmic intelligence of some kind that keeps the whole show going, but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but in one way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world. It is not objective proof of God's existence that we want but the experience of God's presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get."

~ The Magnificent Defeat, Frederick Buechner

Read. This. Book.

In Stumbling toward Faith, Renee Altson describes how the process of healing from a sexually and spiritually abusive background began. A lesbian couple who lived next door to her treated her with great gentleness and gradually she began to know love and kindness. After she attempted to kill herself, the couple got her to the hospital and later told her that they were getting ready to move. Would she move with them? Here is what she says about the decision she made:
I knew in that moment that if I went, I had no chance for redemption. I would have been happy, I would have believed in myself, and I would have known love, but I would not have been redeemed. I would not really have found peace.

All that they offered me, the love and kindness and friendship, was only the beginning of my becoming whole. It was only a birth to my healing, not the completion of it. If I had gone with them, I would never have really found myself, never really found the wounded broken part of me. I would have sim…

First Things First

I wonder if, to truly rest and be satisfied in God, you have to submit to Him before demanding satisfaction. I seem to expend so much energy crying out, "Prove Yourself. Before I will trust You with my life, You must prove You are trustworthy, prove You'll do right by me." The problem is, God can't possibly pour Himself into us when we are closed off to Him. It's a lose-lose situation, until we give in and go to the only source that can fill us.

Love and Cabin Fever

It's the third day of being snowed in. On the first day, I saw the weekend through a sentimental haze: family time, playing in the snow, watching movies, cozily talking and sipping tea. Now I just want out. All our worst qualities are emerging and are magnified.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the two greatest commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. How often I distract myself from them with grand questions. How do I serve God? What is my calling? Who will I marry? What great things should I achieve today? Wonderful questions, indeed. They make me feel important and allow me to focus my energy on my own satisfaction.

It's when I try to answer the real questions that things get painful. How can I love God today? How can I love others? So often that means small things that I don't want to do. Review a Bible verse. Refuse to complain. Help with the dishes. Be patient with my siblings.

Why is it that the hardest things are the humblest, and why is God so adamant …

"Can it be that you really don't understand?

Do you think we mortals will find you gods easier to bear if you're beautiful? I tell you that if that's true we'll find you a thousand times worse. For then (I know what beauty does) you'll lure and entice. You'll leave us nothing; nothing that's worth our keeping or your taking. Those we love best - whoever's most worth loving - those are the very ones you'll pick out. Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse and worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow."

~ Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis, pt. 2, ch. 3