[lent 2016]

I’m not giving up anything for Lent.

I thought about it but I didn’t think hard enough, and I don’t like doing things just because. I’ve observed Lent before but for some reason this year I couldn’t wrap my brain around exactly what the fasting was for, why we remind ourselves that we are but dust, and what my participation should mean to me. This morning before the service started I even wikipediaed Lent. What am I doing? What should I be doing?

That’s actually a pretty common theme for a lot of my life right now.

An area where I’ve recently realized how hopelessly out of depth I am is reconciliation and intersectional justice. I’ve finally been been hit in the face with the fact that my whiteness matters. It matters because the color of my skin links me to a centuries-long history of oppression. I cannot be blind to it. So here I am and here I believe that black lives matter and our prisons are unjustly filled and our borders are oppressively guarded, but what do I do about it? I cannot be an expert on the experience of lives I have not lived; I do not believe in being a voice for the voiceless, because everyone has a voice, so how do I amplify?

These thoughts all crossed paths this morning for me as I stumbled through Rite I. After being exhorted to bow down before the Lord, these words were spoken over me.

Grant, Almighty God, that thy people may recognize their weakness and put their whole trust in thy strength.

To be honest at first take I was slightly offended, in the same way that I was last night in the IKEA parking lot when a stranger had to help me load my mattress in the car. I can do it myself!  Plus I grew up in a tradition where humility was key, where it was important to die to self and to subjugate the flesh, and I have had to retrain myself to realize that I am worth valuing (and not just when follow God correctly). I am not weak.

But that’s not what this is about. All of my helplessness can turn to hope when I recognize my weakness and stop trying to pit my own tiny introverted strength against the force of evil and oppression. I’d be silly to trust only myself to tackle systemic racism or poverty or transphobia.

So maybe this is the point of Lent. To remind myself that this isn’t about me. Not for the sake of put-upon humility and sackcloth and ashes, but as an honest reminder of who can be trusted when I feel the smallest.

And honestly, I should have known, right?

Isaiah 58:6-7, 9b-10

Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you  offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

I didn’t choose a particular vice to give up this year. Instead I think I am giving up on the idea that God’s strength can reach no further than mine.

[See also: my good friend Stephanie’s post about corporate confession for racism.]

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hatchet vs. axe

11 days ago, I realized I had no idea what the difference between a hatchet and an axe was. So I wrote myself a note on my to-do list and decided to write a blogpost about it. (because why not?) (and so here I am.)

First of all, it’s “ax”. Why is there no e? Merriam-Webster lists both spellings, but apparently “axe” is the more non-American spelling. Whatever. I blame that horrid body spray.

And it turns out that ax/e is an umbrella term.

A hatchet is a kind of ax that you can use with one hand. And apparently this guy.

The end!

PS: last week was apparently cephalopod week, and this is the darndest cutest thing, so I will create it for whomever wants it! (no guarantees on arrival date.) Let me know!

#CephalopodWeek #scifri

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Is this what “calling” feels like?

The job I’m working in is tough. I work with families in the midst of abuse, poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration . . . some of these in generational cycles. I sit in their homes for hours and I, the outsider, am supposed to know what to do. To be trusted, I dive deep into their lives.

I think nearly drowned when I first started.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have my M.A., or pertinent experience, or a drive to help others. But I thought I had found my breaking point. My experience had been with a different population, I couldn’t personally relate, I was working heavy hours, it was new, I was overwhelmed. I thought about other options.

I still think about other options. But lately I’ve also been thinking, Someone needs to do this work . . . and why not me? Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I get weary. But I can’t shake the feeling that what I do is necessary.

The word “calling” has always been strange and vague to me. I value emotion, but I’m also a huge fan of logic, and sometimes my all-or-nothing mind has categorized a calling as some sort of spiritual “It just felt right.” Callings don’t seem to follow rationally.

Which is why this current cognitive dissonance has me wondering, Is this a calling? I can see plainly why my position is not ideal for me. But I can also feel a strong push against that: What you are doing is worthwhile. And you are needed.

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A man approached me tonight.

I’m writing this because I haven’t always identified with those “Protect Yourself Against Attackers” warning articles or those “Harassment Is Everywhere” awareness pieces.

“Excuse me ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you.

This is a pretty impractical hole of optimism/blindness in my usually rampant realism pessimism. And while I do think that women have received the short end of the stick in many areas for an all too great majority of time, I’m usually not one to cry at every moment IT IS THE FAULT OF THE PATRIARCHY or LOOK HOW MUCH WOMEN HAVE TO PUT UP WITH EVERY MOMENT OF THEIR LIVES. I try to be balanced. I prefer individual stories to brush-stroke histories.

“I’m sorry, but last night I was beat up and robbed. All my stuff was taken.

He was polite, and well-spoken.

“I’m wondering if you have anything to spare tonight?”

It was the small, involuntary backwards step I took that put things into perspective. “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything on me.” (I really didn’t. I hate lying.)

“No problem, ma’am. I’m sorry to have bothered you. You have a nice night.”

“You, too.”

We walked away from each other and I looked back at him and wondered how he would get on, because I am (somehow) optimistic in that I want to believe truth in others. But also I remembered all the rapid neuron-firing that had filled the space of that small step. –he appears unassuming–I am in a public place–it’s not dark yet–is he telling the truth–he doesn’t look very beat up–he is still much larger than me–what does he really want– All in the space of a half-second. And I realized I had been (unconsciously, instinctively) nervous, because I Know What Can Happen To Females In Situations Like This.

It’s not an esoteric problem that I don’t face. These worries aren’t fringe extremism.

I’m writing this to say, finally, Me too.

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that girl

I’m suddenly that girl.
I’m the girl who lives up the spiral staircase
I’m the girl who’s got a bird’s nest for a balcony
The girl you’re always so curious of,
In the house you’ve always dreamed of.
Who lives up there?
What books does she read?
Is it dark and mysterious in that tippy top room of hers?
The girl I’m always so curious of.
Who lives in that house?
I do.

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selfie

So as we all know, last year was the year of the selfie. See the following from the Oxford Dictionary:

selfie

NOUN (PLURAL SELFIES) • informal

  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary

Origin

early 21st century: from self + -ie.

I just want to know why now? I mean, I have proof that people have been taking selfies for at least nine years now. It may not have been taken with a smart phone, but I present to you the vintage selfie:

vintage selfie

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season three

brightly crisp sun-leaves
warmth seeping outside to in
sweet tea in autumn

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{untitled}

I stare at my veins
the trees of my arms
roots going deep
And I think of my size
the massiveness of me
(I only feel normal
because I’m me)

Hemoglobin can’t fathom
being five-foot-three
and I can’t even begin to think
of nanometers as home
How could I be a mountain?
none but a mountain could say
and a mountain would call me an ant
But to some I am a mile-high cliff

I am gnat and I am giant
I am one in a family of many
I am populated by a city of cells

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