The State of Having 32 Flavors

Some of my favorite lines of one of my favorite songs of all times:

Squint your eyes and look closer
I’m not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I’m beyond your peripheral vision
So you might wanna turn your head
-Ani Difranco, 32 Flavors
I’ve had a lotta years to think about why these lyrics resonate with me and I with them. And in various iterations of my life, known as seasons to me, I think they resonate differently. But one thing that I can consistently count on resonating about these lyrics is that they speak to the complexity of the human mind, body, and spirit. And it’s this complexity that attracts my curiosity and wonder, which is why vulnerability works for me. Usually vulnerability [in the appropriate context] provides a window into someone’s complexity. They aren’t just one, two, or even three flavors. They are 32 flavors and THEN SOME!
It’s this capacity for mystery and depth in the human spirit that gives me hope. Hope that our complexity will be nurtured to health by love, and that this will lend itself to creative and compassionate responses to systems that want to keep us simple and un-thinking.
I’ll evade your definition of me every time it’s placed on me. I hope you will too.
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Floodplains and Dis-ease

Sara Groves is a Christian songwriter who I can get behind. I often find her lyrics to be incredibly vulnerable (and creative), which allows an easy connection for me to be able to say, “woah, me too.”

Her most recent album is entitled “Floodplain” and the song, “Floodplain” is one of those tunes that I have come to over and over to learn, to identify with, to be changed.

She sings that “Some hearts are built on a floodplain. Keeping one eye on the sky for rain. You work for the ground that gets washed away when you live closer. Closer to the life in the ebb and flow, closer to the edge of ‘I don’t know,’ closer to ‘that’s the way it goes.’ Some hearts are built on a floodplain.”

Now I know I’m writing this in the wake of many friends who are suffering from flooding in Louisiana and many who are currently, as I write, buckled down for the storm approaching the eastern coast of the states. And I hold you all closely now. My writing of floods here is metaphorical, though I myself have lived through 1000 year flooding in Nashville, and I recall its devastation as I remember canoeing through my former high-school and cleaning mold for months.

The older I get, the more I realize that so many of us do not live on high ground, but on floodplains.  None of us have all of this together, none of us have life figured out; sometimes, we are way closer to “what brings us to our knees” than not, and way closer to “Lord, please send a boat” than not. (Sara Groves, “Floodplain”)

And I’ve realized that life happens on that floodplain. Life happens in the uncertainty, in the anxiety, in the doubt. Our best selves often flow forth from the floodplain because we do not have the ease of high ground to remain safe upon. Life on the floodplain requires a rawness and reflection that cannot happen the same way when there is no struggle.

Some folks are steadier than others, but whether you’re steady or not does not change the geography upon which you stand. You can be steady on a floodplain. You can show up and be fully present on a floodplain. You can be so alive, so raw, so vulnerable, so able to be changed on a floodplain.

And life changes…it does not remain certain; it is ever-evolving. Why else do we live in seasons? They are reminders that life is always change.

Dis-ease, unease– it is not always an enemy. Sometimes it can be a friend. Sometimes it is much more a friend than certainty. Sometimes it can open us up to new life, new possibilities, new mystery.

Not unto the Critics…

Holiday break affords much needed introvert reflection time for me and as I dive into my thoughts/ feelings/ dreams, my gratitude increases by exponential leaps and bounds. I recall who I am at my most basic, yet ironically complex, self. The layers of deadlines and to-do lists make cloudy the image that I have of who I am. Then technological gadgets make it so that I can go throughout the day with literally not a second of alone time.

So space to come back to myself is needed like the sun is needed after weeks of clouds.

The space that this 2015 holiday has provided has been both difficult and productive. It’s necessary space, but it often requires one to pick up those things that one has pushed aside in one’s spirit because of how hard they might be to think and talk about.

It’s a kind of “re-collection space.” Space to recollect that which I know is true about myself and to center my mind, body, and spirit around that, as well as a time to re-collect my priorities, my work, relationships that I have neglected, etc.

One guide whose work I trust to accompany me through this recollection space is someone who is not new to the blog, but whom I’ve written about before, here and here. During this break, I have been reacquainted with Dr. Brené Brown’s sociological work on shame and vulnerability. She has centered her most recent work on a quote which she came across years ago by Theodore Roosevelt. Before sharing the quote and elucidating my thoughts on it, I want to first say that while I believe this quote to be extraordinarily significant to the truth of her work, I have major issues of much of what Teddy did as President and do not support his actions by posting this quote.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

This quote has been poignant to me in my reflection on what is to come in 2016 and the manner by which I plan to carry myself. The main point of this quote and of my writing today is the vulnerability that it takes to be in the arena: to put yourself “out there” and expose yourself to the weathered elements of criticism. Being vulnerable almost always involves creating something, be it poetry, a blog or book, or beginning a program of study, getting out of an unhealthy relationship or getting into a new one, using your privilege creatively to dis-mantle unjust systems, allying with folks who are doing the work from their communities, doing the work from your community, forming new skill sets, pushing your body into something healthier, and so many more ways of creating vulnerably.

Though this list of activities varies widely in scope, two common themes unite it: creating and vulnerability. Creating means bringing something new into the world instead of solely consuming. You know, like consuming social media, TV, Netflix, magazines, people, sports games, and the list goes on. Rather than consuming practices, these activities of creation require one to stand in the arena surrounded by many critics who are quite comfortable sitting on their butts critiquing you. And it can hurt incredibly because you are so exposed. This is where Brené’s work comes in (see video below) because it is at this point of vulnerability that she suggests acknowledging the critics (both human and your own self doubt) and even reserving their seats, and then she suggests: “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Some critics are trolls whose sole purpose is to inflict doubt and criticism because of their own lack, but some are family and friends who, for whatever reason, cannot get on board with this growth, change, and creativity in your life.

“Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Because it doesn’t really matter who you are, if you aren’t also in the arena getting your butt kicked as hard as I am, and creating something in this world instead of consuming all the things, then while I respect your opinion, it is irrelevant to me.

I’m going to do this anyway.

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You can see the full video of Brené Brown’s: Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count, here. I highly recommend it!

This Country You

My good friend SaraBeth Geoghegan has been singing me through the years since we met in 2004. A few moons ago, I was able to make it to a concert where she introduced a new song, which now entitles this blog post. Browing and Davis IL-- Sept 2012 052Beautifully written, the song speaks to her ability to write music that puts into words many emotions which are difficult to otherwise verbalize.  You can check out SaraBeth’s site, here and I’d highly recommend it!

Here are a few selected lyrics from “This Country You,” which guide my post:

My train takes me into this country you,
to see the sprawling hills of people and places.
The face of your mother there in the field of irises
and in the aspen trees, your father smiles at me.
And I ride through, this country you.
I love the people here who take my hand, invite me in.
They speak to me with fire about living.
And I ride through, this country you,
I close my eyes and ride through, this country you.
And I never stop feeling wonder for the land, the people, the creatures in you.
I am Columbus in a brand new world,
the world that feels a lot like home.
And I ride through… this country you.
And I love this country you.

People, in and of themselves, are foreign countries. They are lands which house abyssal complexities, mysteries which are layered like Mother Earth’s crust. They are deep, for good reason, for it should not be easy to learn all of the roads in another’s country.

Relationships, whether they be romantic, platonic, familial, or friendships, connect with an unspoken covenant to allow the other to ride through you. To allow the other party admission into your soul, the country that you have created, is a large task and honor indeed. What will they see? And will they identify; will they approve? We allow them in and we hope that they come in peace and treat us with tenderness.

A modern English word for this is the dreaded “v” word…

Vulnerability.

It can be frightening to let down those maximum-security walls you have constructed for the express purpose of emotional, spiritual, mental protection. We have those for good reason; some folks cannot be entrusted with entrance into all things you. But some can and are not given the chance.

It’s hard to remember how beautiful, and I do mean beautiful, it can be to know someone. For them to have invited you and you to have gently accepted. To explore everything that makes them who they are with awe and wonder: the roads, the twists, the sunsets, the thunderstorms, the mountains: the good things, like joy, passions, knowledge, inspirations, hobbies, grace, kindness, and spirituality and the bad, like prejudice, fear, shame, malice, and loneliness.

If someone in your life has given you that privilege, please, don’t take it lightly. It’s a beautiful thing, a rare thing, a necessary thing, to be let into someone. It’s what humans deeply long to have. It’s the stuff that gets remembered, much more than the tangible things of this earth.

And the funny thing is, when we do this, even though we feel like foreigners, we often find that we are home.

So today, I close my eyes, and I ride through this country you.

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Where have your travels taken you and what stories do you have to tell?

Do Not Be Fooled

Do not be fooled, oh no friend, do not.

Do not mistake my vulnerability for weakness,
or my pacifism for apathy.

Do not mistake my inclusiveness for waywardness,
or my faith for certainty.

Do not mistake my love for an agenda,
or my prayer for ritual.

For there is a hurricane in me,
a ferocity only quenched by equality.

When sweat for peace flows down, mingling,
with tears of joy at its long awaited arrival.

When diamonds no longer have blood covering them,
and balance replaces patriarchy,

When children no longer shoot AK-47s,
and women preach in pulpits.

For the day is coming when swords will become plows,
when the pen will break the gun,
and fear that feeds hate, will lose.

Do not be fooled, oh no my friend, do not.

Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

As the beginning of 2013 approached, I was feeling some internal pressure to write an obligatory New Years blog post… stating all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments of 2012 and then conversely all that I look forward to in 2013. And though I think reflection is incredibly important, I didn’t quite get that written in time. So in typical drive thru fashion, I’ll quickly state a few things that stuck out for me (and I’d love to hear some that stuck out for you too), and then move onto a topic that’s been heavy on my thoughts: scarcity. More to come on that in a second.

2012 Highlights (in no particular order):

1) A trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A city of activists… a place I’d love to end up.

2) Chopping off my hair: Having short hair is the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Saves time and hair product expense. And it helps me to not look so nerdy all the time. I can use all the help I can get.

3) Writing for BioLogos: A organization that explores the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

4) Shaking Anne Lamott’s hand

5) Hearing Ani Difranco sing “32 Flavors” live

6) The Our Emptying Church blog series, which has brought more joy to me than many other things in 2012.

7) Exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with two of my favorite chicas in the world (and getting to reunite with a long lost friend).

8) Meeting the very cool and talented Chris Adams at a conference and later joining in on a Lifeway Women’s Generational Discussion, which taught me how productive graceful dialogue can be.

9) First reading Rachel Held Evans blog and then getting to have a conversation with her. What a beautiful, beautiful woman. I’m so thankful for her voice, which has given dignity to folks… especially women, encouraging and empowering them to love God and love people. Eshet Chayil!


10) Sitting down to many coffee dates with ministers who are working towards justice, peace, and love. And then having the privilege of sitting under their instruction.

So there’s a couple highlights for me though the list could go on and on… I have met some absolutely beautiful people in 2012.

Now I should probably dive into the obligatory New Years Resolutions, but I’d rather talk about something a little less discussed, but that I’d like to focus on big time in 2013. Scarcity. The feeling of never having enough. Enough money. Enough love. Enough time. Enough security. Enough success. Enough power. Enough perfection. We live scarcity everyday.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book about her research on vulnerability and shame, called: Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brown quotes Lynn Twist, a global activist who writes about scarcity:

“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it…. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” (The Soul of Money, p. 43-45).

We are very aware of how much we lack. Our culture, via the media, perpetuates unattainable visions of perfection and those pervade our thoughts and dictate our worth. I love what Brene says… which is, that we are comparing ourselves to fiction!

I think worrying about scarcity can take many different forms. Most obviously, we worry that we don’t have enough money. Maybe just as frequently, we worry about our physiques. But I think the elephant in the room may be that we worry about power. Does our church have enough power and political influence? How can we control culture? Will my children listen to me? How can I control the people in my life? How can I control my significant other? We relish control because it gives a false sense of security. Control makes us worried and scared and frankly, at one another’s throats.

Dr. Brown’s research shows that the counter-attack on scarcity is not abundance, but rather, wholeheartedness. The idea of living with vulnerability and worthiness, facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks while knowing deep down, that I am enough.

I want to make a clear distinction between fighting scarcity and being content with the status quo. There are some things in this state, this country, and this world that I am not and will never be content with, most of which include inequality, patriarchy, discrimination, and injustice. Regarding these things, I have no excuse to remain silent or content. However, I completely identify with Brene’s research. In 2012, I tried to cut out a majority of time spent on TV, news, the radio, and even movies because I felt a little bit angry about the images I was being fed. I was angry about the way the media portrays women’s bodies as objects, about how the news channels frequently feed hysteria, hype, and fear about anything and everything you could possibly imagine, about how video games and movies are incredibly violent and portray war as something glorious. I was angry about receiving subtle messages about how I should think or vote. Isn’t this my obligation to research, reflect on, and decide for myself? I was angry about the amount of time I spent listening to someone else’s fictional life.

It turned out to be a good decision for me. I plan on cutting back even more media in 2013 because I want to live. I don’t want to salivate at fictional representations of perfection and then claw my way through life trying to match them.

To define my worthiness by how I love, how I treat folks, how I listen to people who I disagree with, how I give up power and invite in vulnerability… these are the things I am interested in. I want to be able to accept that I’ll never be extremely wealthy, the most trendy chica on the block, or the best statistician in the bunch. I want to be content with that.

And I think it’s possible, with great intentionality and discipline, to slap scarcity in the face.


What are some of your beautiful 2012 moments? What are you resolved to do in 2013?

**If you’d like to check out Brene’s new book, Daring Greatly, here’s the link. I’d highly recommend it!

A Prayer for My Future Spouse

From my bedroom floor, I’m on my knees, praying this prayer… for you:

-That you would have the courage to cry when you need to
-That hugs would be plentiful
-That you would be generous in giving yourself to others
-That you would love until it hurts.
-That travel would be frequent and memorable. And you would love the journey, knowing God is with you, and you’d come home safe and sound
-That you would be kind to yourself when you know you’ve made a huge mistake
-That you would speak your mind and communicate effectively
-That would you see injustice around you and fight it with persistence, intelligence, and a loud voice.

-That you would live with gratitude
-That you would realize your own strength and use it to make a difference
-That you wouldn’t be too cool to dance
-That you would regularly put yourself in your brothers and sisters shoes
-That you would fight for equality
-That you would let yourself be amazed by the beauty of a sunset
-That you would have the courage to be vulnerable
-That you wouldn’t let a business card or bank account dictate your worth

-That you would laugh heartily and eat exotically
-That you would delight in life’s small pleasures
-That you would learn the constellations as you watch the stars
-That you would know who created you and praise your Creator
-That you would read liturgy like poetry
-That you would embrace simplicity and frugality
-That you would be able to fix the flat tires you’ll have and maybe even a broken toaster or two
-That you would be a peacemaker, trading the sword for the plow

-That you would meet love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in the morning as you wake and welcome them as dear friends.
-That you would have the time to get lost on day long hikes
-That you would be merciful
-That you would persist during hard times
-That you would seek mutuality and not dominance
-That you would believe in yourself

-That you would be soaked in the sweat of living passionately

-That you would embrace doubt as a part of faith’s journey
-That you would create more than you consume
-That you would forgive even when it hurts to do so
-That you would not cherish pride as a close ally, but an unwelcome stranger

-That most of all, you’d know that I’m loving you more and more every day of my life & that soon, I’ll come alongside you, take your hand in mine, and we’ll walk each other home.