Tuesday, August 13, 2013

come visit me on Sunburst Street

I invited anyone who followed and enjoyed my ponderings to join me on my new blog, just getting started:  Sunburst Street.

Friday, May 17, 2013

more walking, less pondering

I think this blog has breathed its last.  Not that I won't write, but new words need a new canvas.

The season of pondering has been rich for me; wrestling through issues and questions in writing, as I have - it never felt like a choice.  I had to do it.  When I failed to, it literally seemed as though I couldn't breathe. And so I pondered out loud., and some of you pondered with me.  And I'm eternally grateful.

Lately, gradually, there's been a shift.  Questions that so needed challenging and issues that so demanded my voice, have begun to settle.  I no longer need to argue those points, with others or with myself.  Not because all the questions are answered.  Some are.  On some issues I can give an assured, "This is done."  But most aren't ... (especially the big ones).

What's changed isn't necessarily profound.  If I'm completely honest, I'm just not that interested anymore. Maybe it's like your favorite song?  You can't get enough of it ... until you do, and then one day you find yourself changing the channel when it comes on the radio.  Is it like that?  Or maybe I've just outgrown certain things, or - more specifically - certain ways?  Sounds awfully arrogant when I say it out loud like that, but maybe that is a part of it.  I really can't say.

Some changes are obvious, though.  After 13 years as a "stay at home mom", I went back to work full time this past fall.  I support exceptional children (previously known as special ed) at our local public elementary school, and my first year is drawing to a close.  This has been a major life transition.  I enjoyed a window of time there where all four of our children were in school, and I was free - free to volunteer, visit, write, walk, even sleep.  Free to blog and to read, to walk labyrinths and hike trails, free to sit by lakes and under trees and outside coffee shops and just ... think.  And it was awesome!  I don't regret taking any of that time.

But things are different, now.

Bad different?  No.  I mean, I'm tired - God knows I'm tired.  But the truth is, I was getting kind of ... bored.   I'm finding that some lessons are learned only in the walking, and - this time - I don't mean a labyrinth or an easy stroll around a pond.  I mean hard work walking - exhausted, burden-carrying walking.  That's been the path, lately, as I'm challenged - daily - to show patience, compassion, and wisdom for 8 hours straight to people (big and small) who test me in every way imaginable (as I'm sure I do, them).  Don't get me wrong, I feel the best of me come alive when I'm teaching, I absolutely love it!  But the days are tiring as hell, and I'm also committed to love my own family well, afterward.

That part has actually been interesting.  I worried that I'd be irritable and annoyed with my own four children, after spending all day with students.  While I'm not going to lie and say that never happens, more often there's been something else - something I hadn't anticipated.  I come away from work with an actual longing for my kids; not just happy to see them, but grateful in the core of my soul.  Hard as it is sometimes, I actually know now that we're getting a lot of stuff right.  And I confess:  I'm enjoying that affirmation.  Even on their roughest days (and oh, have there been some this year!) a solid, weighty center of peace has grown within me, that the direction we're taking as parents is good and right and difference-making.  I'm so immensely grateful ...

I've also been humbled this year;  not figuratively, quite literally.  I am an assistant.  Not an administrator, not a team leader, not even a teacher - an assistant (at least, for now).  If you know me at all, you know that this alone, is humbling.  I've also faced specific situations that, despite all my dedication and diligence and determination, have been outside of my ability to fix. Rather than be shamed or defeated by this, I've had to choose to be humbled, which - I feel the need to point out - is a vastly different thing.

So, what's to come?  I'm not sure.  I may blog under a new title on a new site, less about pondering and more about practice.  About being.  About humility and reality and how our addiction to the ideal can make us useless cynics rather than dirty-handed world changers.

I may do that, I may not.

I'm also working on a separate project that won't be shared until it's complete.  I've never been much of a fiction writer, but stories are coming to me now - stories based loosely on actual experiences and characters, which (I suppose) begs the quote, "Careful, or I'll put you in my novel".

I will do that.

And if I forget ... if I start to doubt that I have anything at all to say ... I ask you not to nag me, but - instead - to remind me.  Remind me of the words of Frederick Buechner and Anne Lamott and ... well ... Michelle McConnell.

Finally, thank you.  In all seriousness and with heartfelt sincerity ...

thank you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

pondering grace

It's been a long while since I posted here. To be honest, it's been a long while since I wrote anything at all... of any length, anyway.  I guess sometimes you need a push - like your pastor asking you to share a little something about grace during one of the Lenten services.  I've enjoyed hearing from different folks in our congregation over the past few weeks.  This morning was my turn, and this is what I said:

When I was a little girl, I was told a story about grace. It went something like this...

God made a perfect world, but we humans are sorry, ungrateful creatures.  We disobeyed God.  In fact, we made such a mess of things that we can't even be near Him.  Then Jesus, His Son, said "Look, how about I go down there and live a perfect life, then die for their sins? That way, when you look at them you'll see me instead."   To which God huffed a resentful "Fine".  So Jesus did just that, and if we believe in Him, He'll save us from God’s wrath.  The End.

Amazing Grace, how ... sweet?  the sound...  

Granted, over the years - as I was introduced to various theological interpretations - my understanding of grace grew more sophisticated, but one core truth always remained:  God didn't like me very much.  He had no choice but to love me, but if it weren't for that deal He made with Jesus, nothing would make him happier than to drop me into a pit of burning flame (courtesy of Jonathan Edwards).  

There's a problem with this story.  Well, there are a lot of problems with this story, but the biggest one is this - it doesn't work.  When you really need saving, this grace is too small.

In 2002 we moved a 3 year old, 2 year old, and 2 week old from my home state of Virginia, to Charlotte. Just months before, our oldest had been diagnosed with autism, so before I’d even had a chance figure out how to get to the grocery store, I jumped into specialists' appointments and IEP meetings.  What we didn't know at the time was that I was also physically sick.  All I knew was that I felt completely inadequate. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. And eventually, Hopeless ... Ashamed ... Depressed.  

I needed saving - not from hell after I die, or from some theological abstraction we call "sin". I needed grace to get out of the bed in the morning, to put food into my mouth and swallow it, to smile at my husband, to not scream at my children ... to keep breathing.

I needed saving in the worst way.

What saved me wasn't the grace of a cosmic legal transaction or a magic prayer of conversion. I was saved - I am being saved - by a simple but profound truth.  I am dearly loved. Extravagantly, immensely loved. Freedom came in renouncing lies I'd agreed to and rejecting ugly pictures of God painted for me by others, and instead daring to embrace what I'd longed to believe all along:  God is Love.  And God loves us. All.

This is what is saving me today:  recognizing that Grace is Light, Love, Power from an ultimate source of Good that never runs dry, available to me at every moment.  Grace is the sun on my face, the wind in the trees – grace is the air I’m breathing in right now, then back out again as I speak these very words.   Grace is a force that literally changes the world.  Jesus LIVED grace, and invites me to do the same. 

This is often harder to believe than the story I'd been told as a child. As far-fetched as that one sometimes sounds, it’s neat - wrapped up and clean.  THIS grace?  It's scandalous!  And the more I grow in it, the more confused I become about what I know for sure and what I don't. So I try to stick to what I DO know:  Breathe.  Walk.  Love.  Pass what has been given me on to others.  

As I do, I continue to be awed by the sweet sound ... of amazing grace.