Rediscovering the importance of story

tigers

When I challenged my home congregation to read Luke in the month of February, little did I know that challenge would leave me reading the whole book in the first three days of the month. I saturated myself in Jesus’ words the last couple of days.

I needed it.

The last couple of weeks, for me, feel like waking to some nightmarish alternate reality. Each day brings news reports that violate my core values.

I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs. The salient point about my personality: I delight in seeing the world through other people’s perspectives, and I hate conflict. Right up to the point where my core values are tripped, and then I am a rampaging tiger with roaring feelings and little logic.

I can handle disagreement and questions. I do not react well to shame, control or folks who bully or ridicule others, especially those who are marginalized or are weaker than them. I lose my mind. Poof. Out comes the tiger from normally placid me. Continue reading

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That embarrassing moment when I saw the thing about me everybody (but me) probably already knew

As I wrote the highlights of my reading from 2016, every part of me wanted to defend my reading choices, explain what I learned. Particularly choices I thought may be controversial. As the word count for the draft scaled 1,500 words after book four of twelve, something had to give.

Nobody wants to read that. Not even me. Probably not even J, who likes to read everything I write (God bless him for his enthusiastic support! How I love that man and the way he loves me!).

The words my friend Lo gave me from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” came rushing into my brain. I don’t have to be perfect. I can be quirky and strange, as I actually am. I don’t need to hang my head as though the books filling my sails with air and faith and hope last year needed to be explained. I am allowed to celebrate the books God used to mold me.

So I chopped and simplified the post, largely leaving the books unqualified and unexplained — minus two with disclaimers from the authors themselves. Perhaps it’s mysterious, perhaps not quite persuasive enough. Perhaps it leaves more questions than answers.

What matters most about that post is not the actual book list, but the vital lesson I learned about me as a writer. Continue reading

The scariest post I’ve ever written: my favorite reads in 2016

wild-geese

The title of the poem from which this quote comes is “Wild Geese.”

Discussing my reading highlights terrifies me. Much as I comfortably talk about my messy feelings here, sharing my reading highlights renders my knees wobbly. It’s appallingly intimate.

I’m a scared panda.

Maybe sharing your reading is nerve-wracking for you, too? If so, you’re not alone, friend.

I want to mark disclaimers separating me from books on the list, perhaps to make myself look smarter or more holy. But, those are cheap shots, and it’s cowardly.

I’m not going to apologize for my reading choices, particularly books that I loved and that challenged me to grow. I will, however, note disclaimers similar to ones the authors themselves often attach to their work.

Here are the books that changed me in 2016. Continue reading

Floating in the Sea of Grace

071916 Waters of Mercy

Recently I started reading Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Nearly immediately, betwixt laughter and tears, I found myself dripping with writer’s envy. The kind I’d heard other writers mention, but hadn’t deeply experienced yet. Could I ever write something like this? I mean, not exactly like this, but with the artistry in the book and simplicity of speech. I aspire to that. The levity and depth of thought. Getting at the sorrow and tragedy and wonder of the Gospel and human experience.  Weaving deep thought with tangible human experience and owning of my own foibles.  All of that rich tapestry in everyday, normal human speak. Even though we differ theologically, it was everything I hope to be as a writer.  It’s also everything I’m deeply afraid I never will be — whether that’s fair or accurate (or not).

I’d been wrestling with my insecurities yet again. Feeling small, insignificant, useless. I have crappy self-talk, and generally I am my meanest critic and naysayer. I’d like to think that one day I’ll have defeated these little thought monsters, but the reality is they’ll likely come and go for the rest of my life. Maybe, as a gesture of gracious acceptance of my entire self –naysayers and all — I should give them names at some point? I’d even take suggestions if you had some in mind, perhaps grumpy-sounding names?  Continue reading

Between Spaces

060916 land between.jpeg

Anxiety settled in during May, and I weathered a rough couple of weeks. Hence, the silence in this space. I don’t publish when I’m struggling to keep my head afloat. The clouds have lifted, for which I’m so deeply grateful I could click my heels like a leprechaun.

Still, I hate dwelling in the state of “between” things, the space where I’m not where I was and not yet where I want to be. I want to be at a final destination, in a settled place. I want stability in my grasp for an extended time. I want more than just bread for today. I forget there’s no guarantees in life. All I hold is this moment. I can’t fast-forward, rewind, or pause. Continue reading

On spring, writing and avoiding riotous thought monkeys

Twitter reminds me repeatedly through various posts, “writers write.” I want to be a writer.

Today, however, I don’t want to do the grueling work. Instead, I’d like to gloss over the mess gurgling in me. Lately, I’ll eagerly write other bits, Tasty Thursday posts, or things that feel somehow outside of me. I dutifully post to honor commitments I made to my accountability partner and my husband. Continue reading