Put the Good in the Good Life

The more I live, the more I realize that if we wait for the good life to happen, it’ll pass us right by. And “the good life” is, I guess, contingent upon what is defined by “good.” After the basic needs are met, what constitutes good for me is paying attention. It is a paying attention to the nuances of life and people in my life that make it so rich.

This does not necessarily come easily for me as I am not a person who is inclined to pay attention to details. In this way, I’ve missed prime opportunities to complement people’s newly-acquired hair-cuts or perhaps notice that the bag of chocolate chips I just bought are of the mini-chocolate chip variety, rather than the full size… thus leaving me with regular size cookies with miniature size chocolate chips. I also recall purchasing garbanzo bean flour in a haste, rather than oat flour, then neglecting to read the label when baking; thus, the final product culminating with cookies that tasted like hummus rather than — you know– cookies.

Details are not my specialty.

Rather, I am inspired by the big picture stuff — you know– the new year’s resolutions type things. Dreaming big and so on.

But, as Ani Difranco sings in her song “As Is”,

When I look around
I think this, this is good enough
And I try to laugh
At whatever life brings
’cause when I look down
I just miss all the good stuff
And when I look up
I just trip over things

Tripping — ass-over-teakettle — is a tendency of mine.

For me, the big pictures keep me inspired and help me get out of bed each day, but it is the details that make life rich. It’s noticing the folklore behind a place that I have always lived near and only know for the gas station that is close to it. It is paying attention to the people around me, and taking time to sit on the front porch and hear stories that make up their lives that we had not shared before. It is actually taking space to be okay with not achieving for a while- and instead, resting into the rhythm of the day. It is watching for the nuances of a movie that often contain more meaning than the plot itself. It is stopping to watch a sunset for its uniqueness because I know that particular sunset will never happen again. It is learning the fiddle because I love how Appalachian folklore is carried through its notes. It is writing a blog post instead of a sermon because writing keeps me alive.

Life is rich when I pay attention. This, I am learning.

 

My Quarrel with Writing

The hesitancy of sitting down to write is one which wins most often between the choice of the busying of my hands with other more-pressing, more-important, more-satiating tasks, and writing. Writing is always time-consuming and sometimes energy-draining; it is a creation and thus, leaves the creator vulnerable to critique if it is shared with others.

If it is forced, writer and reader see through it immediately. If it is organic, it speaks for itself.

While I used to write somewhat prolifically, I now am much more accustomed to distracting myself with other tasks. Surviving life and trying to find an authentic, faithful, accountable way of maneuvering my whole self in the world takes a great deal of my energy. Couple that with my care-taking posture and I sometimes have little self to create.

Further, there are so many manifestations of unjust systems that are built to intentionally keep folks (both human and nonhuman) at the bottom; these manifestations spring up every day and become accessible to us via social media platforms if they do not happen to be local. There is always something to write about, or to let that space of creation be devoted to listening.

There will always be a truth and untruth in the creation that writing brings (teachings from the principles of nonviolence). If I cannot hold both of those realities, then I cannot give my whole self to anything, but especially the creation that writing produces.

In light of these elucidations of why I frequently claim writers block as a malicious disease with which I have been plagued, the irony remains that I am actually writing this piece and that my agency remains to take up the pen. Because it is in the writing, the creation rather than consumption, that I re-acquaint myself with the discipline of being faithful to who I am. I am a writer who, at her very core, believes that consumption, as a way of being, is the very worst posture one can take through life. A writer who will live alive and die believing love is the only way to be fully alive.

I will never apologize for loving. I will never apologize for being me.

That’s why I write today.

 

Hence, I write.

With exhaustion lingering, I am recalling the quote “take action first and let the insight follow.” I have been waiting to blog until I had the energy and space to pen a revelation. Lo and behold, with this modality, I have written very infrequently. So here is a very succinct post to call out the scarcity that I continue to function within; the scarcity that prohibits my creativity is the greatest enemy of all. Hence, I write.

I write of the beauty of my life as it is and the burdens I carry from the enlightenment I receive from Divinity School. Today was beautiful in many ways, one of which being that it was the advent of fall. I could not have asked Creator God for a more beautiful manifestation of Godself than what was displayed today. The wind made itself well-known, but it was a gentle enough wind that I could smell the changing season. The sunlight was equally gentle, allowing me to see the blue sky without squinting.

The day held me gently while I wrestled with the Doctrine of the Trinity, American civil religion, sacrament, and sexism.

Love, life, resonance, passion, an ah-ha moment, laughter — all these things I felt today. It turns out that I actually have little scarcity, after all.

Anne’s Call To Mobilize: Thoughts on Anne Lamott’s Nashville Talk

Recently, New York Times bestselling author, Anne Lamott graced Nashville with her presence; more specifically, she graced the Nashville Public Library’s Salon series, which seems so appropriate as she is a relentless advocate of the necessity of public libraries. If you are reading and are not familiar with Anne, I would suggest you pick up the nearest Traveling Mercies available. With all due haste. Make it a date night to go buy this book then read it with your significant other…

ASC End celebration 006

I promised that I would share some of Anne’s thoughts, which are really, all of our thoughts, said in a profound and hilarious way…

Anne spent most of the night conversing with another NYT bestselling author, Ann Patchett, who co-owns Parnassus Books, one of Nashville’s last independent book stores. The two were just hilarious, feeding off of each other, with elevated dialogue laced with grace and introspection.

Lamott covered the gamete of topics ranging from her new grandson, Jax, to faith, to writing, to activism. In her dialogue about writing a good story, she stated: “If someone will write about the mess with a sense of humor, I’m all in. Tell me a story. We are a species who is fed and enlivened by stories.” She also noted the discipline of writing is where the joy comes from and that being published is not (publishing makes you even more mentally ill than you were before, according to Anne).

Informing us about her grandson’s most recent sagacity into her slight tendencies to become over-committed, she quoted from Jax: “Nana, you are carrying too much and you are going to fast.”

By far though, my favorite part of the evening was her discussion of activism. “Listen young women, we [older, female activists] have fought for you to have the freedoms you have today… and our backs are tired and our feet hurt and our vision is failing. We need you to mobilize.”

Ultimately the evening ended because we were out of time and Anne had to use the ladies room. But I left with a sigh of relief on my breath, gratitude in my heart, and the fortitude to persist.

So Millennial women, what do you say? Can we elicit change? Can we carry the baton which is extended to us by generations of oppressed women?

Diners, Dives, and Sacagawea…

The road has been my home as of late. One day in the Appalachians and the next, the Rockies. My schedule has been rigorous and taxing, to say the least. All a part of the whirlwind of finishing up this degree and beginning another.

All that to say, I appreciate your patience, in my blogging absence. I often think of much I want, nay… I need… to write about, but lack the time to fully devote myself. Most of my writing lately has been given to my thesis. I hope to soon have a free bit to write…. I have much on my heart and much I want to hear from you.

I pray that Lent is treating you well. That you are praying and reflecting and taking time to find that which resonates with you. A song. Another soul. A sunset. May this time of waiting and fasting be one that brings you an other-worldly perspective.

May you feel. May you know. May you heal. May it be a miracle.

Fill me in on your Lent season. Do you celebrate Lent? What are you learning or unlearning?

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!