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Pace of Life

2020 for all of her shutdowns, cancellations, and isolations, has seemed to create a frantic stir within my soul. My inner life has been off-kilter. What seemed to work, at least marginally, prior to 2020 no longer does the trick.

I realized this year that after our youngest son departed (prior to his return for virtual college in 2020) I was prime for, not a pacemaker (thank God) but a pace makeover. Yes, long after the baby had grown up and spread his own wings to fly, I was still consuming food, conversations, texts, relationships at the pace of an aging soccer mom.

Raising our four children had been the primary role of my life. I was scheduler, short order cook, cleaner, organizer, concierge, informal sports and life coach, spiritual life director, laundress, family fitness guru–and I loved my life, especially because these duties simultaneously overlapped for a few years with the new and exciting role of Grandma. And as an aside, I earned a masters degree and began a new adventure working outside the home as an English professor. And somehow through it all, I still had an amazing (albeit neglected and imperfect) relationship with my husband.

Fast-forward to 2020. Fast-forward to tomorrow. Fast-forward to anywhere but now. My reptile-brain mostly functioned for many years in overdrive as I performed one task while planning the next. It was the only way survive. The strange thing is, I could still feel the edges of peace around my existence so I thought I was fine.

Until I quarantined for 12 weeks in 2020 and taught online classes for the fall semester. Not by choice, my life was shredded down to “bare bones” and it didn’t feel good to me. I reached out with my eager fingers for those soft edges of faith and inner nourishment and I couldn’t feel anything but the phantom limb of words I hadn’t attended to for so long.

So 2021 is going to be a year of replenishment for me, and specifically that will include immersion in the Word of God and writing about that, because, well, when I take in life force, that is what I naturally do. I don’t have big plans for 2021. I just want to sit around a fire pit and talk into the night with old friends. I want to be able to get within six feet of my precious students. I want to continue some of the positive effects brought about by staying home so much. For one: less Netflix. Has anyone else completely soured to the idea of watching television as entertainment? Cooking and eating in. Me, myself, and I around a table with my husband can still be a family meal. Driving less. Mediocrity at times is okay. I have always prized my ability to aim higher and do more than is expected of me in every facet of my life. For a new pace, God’s pace, to intervene and shape this year, I have to lower some of those personal standards and prepare for His higher purposes and attainments in my life. This is incredibly difficult to even write about, much less do. So…prayer. I’ll be praying more.

2020 has welcomed me with her thorny arms into an era of less-is-more. I can chew my food. I can linger over thoughts and conversations and books. I can spend time in quiet praise of all the wonderful I have almost drowned myself in, one drop at a time.

And….I’ll probably write a bunch about my daily failures and small successes along the way.

What about you?

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God’s reply: “Nonsense, my child.”

You are not enough.

Your nose is too long.

Your hair is too short.

You have thunder-thighs.

You have toothpick legs.

You are too strict.

You are too soft.

You speak with a funny accent.

You take yourself too seriously.

You are so traditional.

You are so avant-garde.

You live in a small town.

City-slicker.

You neglect your children, working outside the home.

You have checked out on the mommy track.

You don’t read your Bible every day.

Legalist.

You voted for _______!

You’re too quiet.

You talk too much.

You are so privileged.

You are so poor.

Your skin is so_____.

What would you add to this list?

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Noise

God, sculpt upon my tongue

the quiet prayer, for a meadow

can be burgeoning with noise, a cackle

of ideas like so many grasses vying for the sunlight.

Let us stop pointing out what isn’t Christ and stare upon

the still photograph of a mother and her child or the humble outstretched hand of the giver, the attention of the powerless

on pushing forward some kind of greater good, however small.

For there is nothing less Christlike than pointing out what isn’t Christ in others, whether left or right. This kind of judgement isn’t forward-thinking or progressive in any way except to diminish or censor or damn. This kind of judgement conserves nothing, preserves nothing that is worth remembering.

How are any of us truly among the slighted? We have been saved by grace.

I think today, I will drink a glass of cool water and I will walk in quietude and stew over the fewest of words: the baptism of my soul into the unspoken waters of life. Delete my thoughts, Lord, and fill my mind with love. Make my brain a heart, apolitical, not logical, just so ordinary, part of the human race, where everybody gets it wrong.

The great commission must now haunt Your Church. There has only ever been one thing to do. Let us be about the doing of it now.

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An untitled piece

Today. Jan. 7, 2021. So far 2021 has not produced the peace and resolution we are all so hungry for on so many levels. I just turned off the news and my writer’s mind feels like a jumble of glass mosaic pieces, abruptly shattered by a giant, anonymous hand, like I am in the midst of a terrifying fairytale in a fictitious country, not the United States. Right now, in this moment, only words are coming to me, so I thought I would record those:

Guard. Guard your heart and mind today. Think of words, yours and others, as potential blades that can harm others. Anything that is not an act of kindness is an act of violence.

Consume. Be mindful of what you bring into your mind and body. This New Year I have resolved to improve upon the parts of life that I can control, so I am eating as healthy as possible.

Fringe. What exists on the fringes of my life, of my relationship with God? Are there hungry people who need bread? Hurt people trying to touch the hem of Christ’s garment. Am I standing in their way? Am I anxious because I am trying to protect parts of my life and lifestyle that I really don’t need? Whatever is lost that doesn’t cause me to be lost in the spiritual sense is not really a loss, is it?

White. I don’t identify much as a white person but as a person of mixed heritage. Today my identity or identities feel fractured and bruised. Perhaps we need to, as a nation, recreate the Crayola box and designate some new colors. Disenfranchisement is a color. Those who feel powerless are a color. Anger is a color. Disbelief is a color. Unpaid bills is a color. Violence is a color. Addiction is a color. Educational inequality is a color. I want to heal our nation of these. Freedom is like Grace. She can’t be misused or she isn’t free. Unlike toilet paper in a pandemic, you can’t exhaust Freedom’s supply, but you must pay attention to both neighbor and self when deciding how to mete out the rights. Even after the playing field is made even (and I pray this happens) there will be some who are able to run faster and farther, who will succeed more than we do and we must refrain from the temptation to shame and blame. We can’t just rearrange the Hate. We must replace the Hate with Love.

Think small. Right now, think small. Rather than post–pray. This is both prayer and post. God says, embrace the hypocrite in YOU. Bring all of your layered and complicated social and intimate relationships to me this morning. Where there is brokenness, there is opportunity for great work.