A Deeper Story http://deeperstory.com It’s easy to tell someone your opinion.<br> It’s hard work telling them your story. Fri, 24 Apr 2015 13:07:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=334 Benediction http://deeperstory.com/benediction/ http://deeperstory.com/benediction/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 07:05:15 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22913 There are moments you remember, moments that are burned in your psyche like a watercolor tattoo.

The moment I found A Deeper Story is one of those moments.

Sarah Bessey’s Incarnation post had gone viral, so viral that it was even being shared amongst my mainline clergy friends. The Internet was a different place back in 2011. Evangelicals didn’t talk to mainline Christians. I had a handful of evangelical friends on Facebook, but they were people I’d known since high school. People who believed different things – about God, about sex, about church – didn’t read each other’s blogs or listen to each other’s music. They certainly didn’t pray for or with one another.

I didn’t trust evangelicals. On a purely theoretical level, I knew that they were my sisters and brothers in Christ. But I didn’t really think we were in the same family. Part of that was defensive; I’d been told time and again that my faith was insufficient, my theology unorthodox, my ordination illegitimate. I was tired of arguing with different Christians, and since it seemed that was the only way different Christians engaged with one another, I was done.

And then I read Incarnation. After I’d dried my tears, I kept reading. I read the entire archives of A Deeper Story, more or less. I was transfixed. Here were Christians who were all over the spectrum, hanging out in the same space, swapping stories. The sacredness of the space didn’t depend on everyone agreeing on a single version of the Christian story. The sacredness of the space was generated by the telling of countless Christian stories.

This website changed me. It changed me even before I was invited to bring my own stories to this sacred space.

God, what a joy and honor it has been.

Tell your stories, friends. Clear your throat, swallow your fear, and speak your truth. Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission; the Holy Spirit already has.

In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy.

Your young will see visions.

Your elders will dream dreams.

Even upon my servants, men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

But in the liturgy of storytelling, it isn’t enough to tell your story. Open your ears, close your mouth, and listen to your brothers and sisters speak their truths.

Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear.

Nish, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

On Sunday mornings, after I preach, I send the people forth with words of Benediction. It seems the right way to bid farewell here, too. So now, with tears in my eyes as I type:

May the love of God surround you, the grace of Christ transform you, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be your guide as you go from this place in peace, to love and to serve.

Amen.

 

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Erasing Voices, Erasing Bodies http://deeperstory.com/erasing-voices-erasing-bodies/ http://deeperstory.com/erasing-voices-erasing-bodies/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 07:05:49 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=23011 I dreaded preaching.

In seminary we had to take PR201 and PR202 and then eventually some kind of elective on homiletics. The professor I had for the intro level classes was a white, ol’ school, 1950’s type preacher with a Billy-Grahamesque radio voice. He was so critical of the women in the class, and particularly me, so much so even the students who were not supportive of women’s ordination (yes, we had those at Princeton) often came to my rescue during his feedback. I remember going back to my dorm room after one class and crying in bed feeling utterly un-called to the preaching vocation, and wondering should I even bother.

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Listening to others was a skill that I acquired early on. It was impressed on me as an important part of character and success. Listening to my teachers. Listening to my parents. Listening to my pastors. Listening to everyone but myself. However, discovering my voice and learning to embrace it was not an easy process.

Although my husband, Andy, had grown up in a church where all the pastoral staff were women besides his father, I had only recently seen a woman preach in the pulpit as an ordained minister for the first time. It blew his mind that I had not heard a woman preach before, while he wouldn’t even bat an eye at it. I tried on different voices, like so many pairs of shoes. I don’t think anyone noticed, but Andy often said that he thought I had two voices. One was my “cute” voice, and the other was my jundo (the shortened Korean word for student pastor) voice.

Apparently, I used my cute voice a lot with him, and it seemed pretty effective in terms of getting him to do what I wanted at the time. My jundo voice was a few octaves lower, and it was my serious, mature voice. I didn’t realize I had these two voices for different contexts and wondered if I needed to find a way to unify them, and be a consistent presence. How would I learn to do this honestly and effectively?

Once again, I was hard-pressed to find a role model that truly fit since my instructors were all white, male, and much older. No one had a voice that I could imitate in a way that would seem consistent with who I am. But I continued to experiment, not only in preaching classes but in all my classes, by pushing myself to speak up during discussions no matter how reluctant I felt at the time. When I began at my first call at the medium-sized church in New Jersey, I found I was constantly self-conscious about how I sounded to the congregation. I was nervous. Awkward, mostly. And squeaky. It didn’t help when many of the older congregation members tried to encourage me by saying things like:

“We’re just so used to [the head pastor] and his voice.”
“Just speak more slowly.”
“It might help to lower your voice.”
“I know you can do it. Just speak up more.”

And now, with Anna, I hear myself saying, “Anna, use your big girl voice. Your big girl words.” The cycle is unbroken.

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Chenjerai Kumanyika writes about his first experience producing a radio show:

While writing my script, I was suddenly gripped with a deep fear about my ability to narrate my piece. As I read the script back to myself while editing, I realized that as I was speaking aloud I was also imagining someone else’s voice saying my piece. The voice I was hearing and gradually beginning to imitate was something in between the voice of Roman Mars and Sarah Koenig. Those two very different voices have many complex and wonderful qualities. They also sound like white people. My natural voice — the voice that I most use when I am most comfortable — doesn’t sound like that.

When our voices are criticized and diminished they are essentially erased – and our bodies, too. The uniqueness, the meaningfulness of our bodies, our lives, our perspectives are wiped out when the normative of gender and race  (male and white) are transposed onto us. Our stories are subsumed and consumed – a violent stripping and burglary, and sometimes we do it to ourselves. We do it to be legible. Intelligible.

One of my favorite novels, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, speaks of this phenomenon. There’s a telling scene between Samuel and Lee, the Chinese servant who is with the family, about Lee’s (exaggerated) Chinese accent:

Lee looked at him and the brown eyes under their rounded upper lids seemed to open and deepen until they weren’t foreign any more, but man’s eyes, warm with understanding. Lee chuckled. “It’s more than a convenience,” he said. “It’s even more than self-protection. Mostly we have to use it to be understood at all.”

Samuel showed no sign of having observed any change. “I can understand the first two,” he said thoughtfully, “but the third escapes me.”

Lee said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but it has happened so often to me and to my friends that we take it for granted. If I should go up to a lady or a gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn’t be understood.”

“Why not?”

“Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they’ll listen to. But English from me they don’t listen to, and so they don’t understand it.”

“Can that be possible? How do I understand you?”

“That’s why I’m talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”

There are the rare moments though when the deeper story is given space to be heard and understood – and they are the communities that allow for challenge and provocation, and the ones that are willing to be uncomfortable and vulnerable.

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Seven long years that demanded of me their pound(s) of flesh. Seven years that abducted me from a life I’d once dreamed of (and was somehow blessed to actually be living), and thrust me into one I never saw coming. Not in those seven years. Not in a million more.

This new life is good—it is. I promise you I’m not complaining. It’s just that this new life was never on my horizon. I never imagined I’d exchange the South of Africa for the South in America (and most certainly not by myself). Never in my wildest dreams did I conjure up images even remotely close to what my life looks like now. I didn’t dream up or ask for this new life, I just landed in it—tossed about in the rough seas of change, and the tsunami waves of loss, and the murky waters far, far above my head.

The tide at last began subsiding, and my toes finally found the ocean floor. And now I feel less like I’m drowning and more like I’m sailing. This sailboat voyage is beautiful. Laborious. And completely out of my control. In so many ways, I’m simply along for the ride—with the wind and waves at the helm.

Seven years.

palermo cathedral 2

In 2008, I traveled to un-touristy and rather quite unromantic Palermo on a pilgrimage of sorts. My Gram had grown up on the streets of that town, albeit they looked drastically different before the landscape was shaped by The War. When she was just thirteen, she left those familiar cobblestone streets behind, on a weeks-long voyage to unseen shores in the new world.

To that young teen, New York was unknown and frightening territory. But by the time she became my Gram, it was home to her in every way. She lived and loved on the streets of her Long Island town much in the same way, I imagine, as she would have in Palermo. She knew by name her butcher and grocer and baker, and was as beloved by them as they were by her. From her old streets to her new ones, her values remained: unwavering faith, relationships, good food (and wine), and loud and lively conversation with those she loved.

So in 2008, my then-husband and I chose Palermo for our prized, pennies-scraped-together getaway. Between the purchase of our tickets from South Africa to Sicily and the day of our departure, my Gram left home yet again. She departed for another shore unseen, exchanging the earthly for the eternal, making my first visit to Palermo both more special and more heartsore all at once. Added to the bittersweetness was my rocky marriage. Just a few months after our trip, my husband’s long-term affair came to light, and life as I knew it came to a screeching and heart-shattering hault.

Seven years.

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I returned to Palermo last month, seven years and an entire lifetime later, with my mom and brothers. Laughter, food, and wine abounded, and years’ worth of memories were made. Redemptive in so many ways and restorative in so many others, I would be remiss if I also didn’t acknowledge the gaping hole. My dad—whose heritage we were revisiting, whose mom we were honoring, whose family legacy we bear—was not with us. A year and a half ago, his long-term affair came also to light, and he left—choosing his new family over ours, the one he’d had for 40 years.

Two trips. Seven years apart.

The first, wasted on someone who didn’t deserve to know my Gram’s love or to follow her legacy back to her first home. The second, painfully marked by the absence of one who should have been there.

Oh, Palermo… Whatever will I do with you? You and your grandiose cathedrals, and your dirty streets, and your stunning city walls… You and your frightening drivers, and your unending wine, and your delicious, unpretentious street food…  You and your history, which is altogether my history as well…. Whatever will I do with you?

palermo beach 2

Maybe in another seven years you will call me home again. And maybe, just maybe, it will be a trip—and a year—of “jubilee”, marked only by gain, not loss. Joy, rather than heartache.

In the meanwhile, Palermo, you somehow—in all your mysterious, haunting, wondrous ways—hold out hope for me.

Hope in the life and love that can only be found on unseen shores…

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Love Shows Itself Strong http://deeperstory.com/love-shows-itself-strong/ http://deeperstory.com/love-shows-itself-strong/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 07:05:43 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22904 I.

The car ride was silent, with my Grandfather in the passenger seat, his work worn hands smoothing out invisible wrinkles on the knees of his Levi’s jeans.

“I’ve been living with her dying for a long time,” he finally said, breaking the silence I was trying not to fill with empty words about how I was sure everything would be fine.

I was following the ambulance I had called for my grandmother that morning, and not wanting my grandfather to drive to the hospital, I offered to take him.

“She almost didn’t wake up once, you know,” he said, looking straight ahead, almost as if speaking to the dashboard.

“The priest came and everything. Just wouldn’t wake up from the anesthesia. All the nurses were pinching her arms black and blue, trying to get her to come out of it. But she wouldn’t.”

I slowed to stop at a yellow light as the ambulance raced ahead of us.

“So I followed the priest into the room, and I took her hand, and told her that if she could hear me, to say something.”

Realizing that I had been clenching my fingers around the steering wheel, I relaxed my grip.

“And next thing you know, she says,

‘Oh Bud, I’d know your voice anywhere. It hurts like hell, Bud.”

II.

Love, it seems, is the only thing strong enough to pull us out of the darkness.

While love is both tender and kind, it is not to be confused with, as Brennan Manning says, gauzy sentimentality or schmaltz. No, not love.

Love is stronger than death, fiercer than the grave.

It’s the only thing able to pull us back from the brink of hopelessness, the only thing able to heal our wounds and right our many wrongs.

It’s the ferocity of love——not guilt, not shame, not fear——that draws us to repentance.

It’s love’s firm pull that compels us to walk in forgiveness.

It’s love that gives us the courage to lay down our lives for the sake of another.

Without it, we’re clanging gongs or resounding cymbals at best——it’s stronger than any special knowledge or gifts, greater than even hope or faith.

It’s love that frees our souls from fear, with John writing that God himself is love, and that all who live in love, live in God.

It was love that beckoned Jesus from the grave, that dismantled death and all of his friends, and set the world on fire with the upside down ways of love your enemy and your neighbor as yourself.

It’s love, in all of it’s relentless fury, that shows up precisely when we’ve given up.

When all the options have been exhausted, & the priest has come in to say last rites.

Love shows itself strong, and pulls us back into the light.

(Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/belhaven2011)

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The One Plate Project (How To Teach Your Kids To Share) http://deeperstory.com/the-one-plate-project-how-to-teach-your-kids-to-share/ http://deeperstory.com/the-one-plate-project-how-to-teach-your-kids-to-share/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 07:05:45 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22878 I am not, under any circumstances, never, ever, not even in my sweetest fantasies, going to take any Major Awards for parenting. I mention that because this story is going to be about parenting, and I don’t want anybody to think that I don’t notice that it’s coming from a rather questionable source.

Even if I were perfectly even-tempered and unselfish (ha!), I have chosen to raise my babies off the grid, in a yurt, in the woods. With the wasps, the bears, the risk of forest fires. Also, without TV. Without iPods. Without allowances. How are they ever going to learn how to load a dishwasher? 

You see? I speak from no pedestal. But, it could happen, even to me, that I might have something useful to offer one day. This one is about sharing.

It is comparison of any kind that makes my oldest start to fall apart. He is the fairness police. They get ice cream. Am I getting ice cream? Why do they get ice cream first? Will there be enough for me? And what about the toy? Do I get one? What about the costume? What about the –?

I know, I know, I recognize it, too. You don’t have to tell me. Scarcity.

I know well the irony of this. That my choice to escape scarcity mindset – running away from the rat race to live the simpler life — doubles up the pressure on my kid. I know this well because my mother once made choices very much like them. And I was seven years old once too. I remember.

I’m done, now, blaming my mother for these things. One, because I think Mommy Blaming is an old, dumb game, and I don’t like to play it. Two, because my mother made me who I am. And I know how to think for myself, play by myself, and live on the change I can find in between the couch cushions. There are worse legacies to have inherited.

But my mother isn’t here, now, when my son is feeling afraid, and I can see his throat tightening up, and the question of WHY goes very nicely in a blog, but I can’t put it in the right words fast enough to rest my little boy’s heart. He likes the mountain. He likes the yurt. But why don’t we go to the store and buy new things? Like everybody else?

If I stumbled on a balm for this, it was by accident. I don’t knock feelings of anger and frustration, when they come, because sometimes they help you break through to the next thing. One day, I was just incredibly frustrated with my children. The two older kids, just fighting all the time. And they used to be best friends. I didn’t know what had happened. I mean, sure, we moved across the country and had another baby and got a dog and stopped having running water and electricity. So, okay, some classic stressors. But it was something else, too. It was something else, about how we were dealing with our STUFF.

At the height of my frustration I made this announcement:

There is no longer any such thing as personal property in this house. That is ancient history. Henceforth and from this day forward, we share everything. And I mean, everything.

Then at dinnertime I made them share a plate.

They thought I was kidding. When they realized I wasn’t kidding they were furious. “We have to WHAT?…What if the other one eats it all?…Isn’t this germy?…Do we have to share A CUP?”

I was in no mood to be talked to about germs. I turned my back on them and fed their little sister.

That’s why I can’t say for sure how they started laughing. It might have been when they started building a tower on their plate with forkfuls of rice and beans. It might have been when they remembered that one of them really likes potatoes and the other one really doesn’t, so that was going to work out. It might have been when they finished the drink in their cup and held it out to me, together, for a refill.

After dinner they played time travel, and together they owned several millennia, and shared continents wider than the planets. I felt a little less guilty, for not having bought each of them another toy.

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This is my last post at Deeper Story, as the site winds down this month. Big thanks to Luke Harms, Sarah Bessey and Nish Weiseth, and all the readers and community. I’ve had a happy year of posting here. You can find me in the future at my own site, but also coblogging at The Mudroom. Hope to see you there!

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Still True, All the Way Through http://deeperstory.com/still-true-all-the-way-through/ http://deeperstory.com/still-true-all-the-way-through/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 07:05:55 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22935 The other night I sat in a meeting with five other church elders and my head pastor, listening to him share the hard realities of leading our church. As he spoke to us, I recognized (again) the gift of being lead by a person who is attentively listening to God’s spirit. Thirty years in ministry, and he is still willing to change his mind, submit to God’s movement in his life, even when it’s painful, even when it hurts. For what felt like the hundredth time, I came home to my husband and said, Being a pastor is hard.

I said, I’m so grateful he is the one who leads us.

I know all about the other kinds of pastors, the ones who do not love deeply, or grieve, or take risks. I know about the ways leaders can hurt their followers, especially when those leaders have the job of representing the great, mysterious God.

I wrote about it here once, the very first piece I published in this space.

I want to write this for you. You, the one who sits with your face in your hands and begs yourself out the door into the church on Sundays. You, who questions hierarchy and recognizes the broken tendencies of leaders. You who wonders how the church can ever be its true self, how Jesus’ dream for God’s people could end up so flimsy. I want to write a story for you about what is possible.

I want to tell a story of the pastors I believed, then feared, those whose real lives seemed fraught with empty relationships, those who spoke words from the pulpit that felt closer to manipulation than truth. I want to tell how my hope cracked under the pressure of my dreams for them. My world told me they were super heroes. Under their capes, it turned out they were broken like me.

I want to write a story about those years I scoffed and rolled my eyes, longing for answers, assuring myself I was alone in the struggle. I want to write about the conversations my husband and I had back then, the tears: “What is church supposed to even be? Is it hopeless?”

When I found out my beloved Deeper Story was closing its doors, I went back to the archives to remind myself of all I’d published here. And it was sweet to find I’d told a wide-spaced story, one with a long view. It was sweet to be reminded that these past two years, month by month, my posts have told a story of faith, one I’m honored I was allowed to tell.

That first post was about pastors, the hope of good ones. I’ve also written about pastors who fail. I’ve written about half-hearted faith and half-hearted thanks. I’ve written about how there is not a trophy for strong faith, a God-medal for the most perfect life. I’ve written here about the hope of failure and the grace of learning to become a priest-mama, believing that we will be made whole, despite our ashes.

I wrote here that, “beyond the fog our God holds us: Our theology, our fear, our broken burnt up lies, our needy bits of heart. Our healing.”

And today, in my last Deeper Story post, it feels right to end with the first words I shared here in this good space, where I’ve been asked to tell my stories, to walk through my past two and a half years of holding faith with open, grateful hands, where I feel that in some ways, I’ve written my way toward a new space of hope and faith in the story of Jesus and his Church.

I’m still writing the story of how church is hard and complicated and good, how following Jesus is always dangerous because it’s the realest thing. It’s true, all the way through.

Christine says, “If it’s real, it has to be real all the way through.” She points her finger through the air. “If it breaks down, if Jesus is not who he says he is, none of this is worth it.”

I’d just said how grateful I was for the space they had created within our church community: humility, genuine compassion, kindness. I’d said I’d never forget how she followed me out of the sanctuary our first morning at Christ Church, my embarrassing exit with crying six month old. She’d found me and sat beside me, said, “We love crying babies here…”

And she had meant it.

“True all the way through,” she says in her living room, t-shirts crumpled on her lap.

And they bless us and send us out into night.

The good, hard things always end with blessing, don’t they? They always end with hope.

 

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Searching for Heaven on Instagram http://deeperstory.com/searching-for-heaven-on-instagram/ http://deeperstory.com/searching-for-heaven-on-instagram/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 07:05:17 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22829 Instagram is my favorite social media platform. I’m a writer, not a photographer, so I can’t really explain this. Facebook and twitter would seem to be more compatible with a love for words.

On Instagram, I rarely write more than a word or two for each photo. Sometimes, I don’t bother writing a caption at all. Perhaps Instagram has become a safe place for me to acknowledge that the world is saturated with messages for which I will never find the words.

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I recently went a week without updating my Instagram feed. The reason was simple. We’d had nothing but gray, cloudy days, and I don’t have the skills to take an interesting picture without sunlight.

It did prompt me to think about the stories that might exist in the blank spaces between my images. I am realizing that some stories (like the story of our recent weather) can only be discovered by paying attention to absence and silence.

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You could follow me on Instagram and not realize I have four young kids. My camera tends to record their presence in my life mostly through absence. I am more likely to take a picture of our kitchen table just after the kids have scattered than while we are all there gathered together.

I used to be embarrassed about this. What kind of mother finds more beauty in empty tables than in the faces of her children? But I wonder if I have been searching for a different kind of story. A quieter story that can only be found on the edges of our noisy, shared life and in the empty corners of our home.

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When I was a child, I heard the Sunday-school stories about our eternal home and imagined earth plus more. The sky would be blue-er, the grass greener, even water would flash and sparkle with more intensity.

But on Instagram I begin to see that the sky is blue enough. The grass is green enough. And the way water turns to snow is miracle enough. Perhaps the story of the kingdom of heaven is one of subtraction rather than addition. Water that is pure. A sky from which bombs do not fall.

Perhaps it is a world so richly silent, we can hear the trees sing.

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Poem: First Lines http://deeperstory.com/poem-first-lines/ http://deeperstory.com/poem-first-lines/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 07:05:33 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22899 first lines never cares what time it is
they nudge their cold noses against my ear, wanting to go for walks in the briskest part of the a.m.
they don’t care that I just went to sleep
that I’m lazy
that I no longer take to the habit of keeping journals by the bed for this very moment
that I want to shoo them away
but I’m too afraid of losing one
so I drag my right hand from under the covers
grab the pen that has long since riddled my bedspread with ink blots
and let the poem do its business
so we can both head back to sleep

some days I want to quit
afraid that the words I write or maybe even my own life just will never be good enough
but thankfully words don’t give up
they are ants, crawling in a line
sending out one at a time to scout out the territory
I mean they bring reinforcements
long lines of stanzas tracing the trail from floorboards, down the doorjamb, surrounding the perimeter of my walls
will not be stomped out or stopped until they find the sweet thing they’ve been searching for

so despite the decline of printing presses
or the fact that magazines, books, and newspapers are becoming an endangered species
or that words have historically been misused and taken advantage of
they will never grow extinct
will not be rationed or relegated to government assistance
words know no economic crisis
their stimulus plan
can be found in my grandmother’s scrabble tiles
searching for triple word score
or in the hands of a little colored girl
clutching the spine of for colored girls
hoping to find the backbone to be herself
in a world that would encourage her to be anything but

so as long as God is still speaking
as long as the story must be told
as long as the words hidden in your heart will always show up on your tongue
as long as a whisper still has the power to send the hairs on the back of your neck to rise in standing ovation
words will survive

they are really just like the rest of us
searching for a place called home
with strong arms and a warm heart to hold them
hoping for someone to take them in and accept them in their present tense
for someone to believe in them, that they can be something

which is why at the end of a long day of living
and an even longer list of things to do
I leave my worries outside this room
lay next to these words and wrap my arms around them until I can feel them breathing
and sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night just to share each other’s secrets
and after we both fall asleep
the pen slips from my fingers and leaves its mark on the page

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When London Taught Me About Endings http://deeperstory.com/when-london-taught-me-about-endings/ http://deeperstory.com/when-london-taught-me-about-endings/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 07:05:58 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22894 There are beginnings and there are endings.

I was home alone with our 6-month-old, Leo. It was a dark January night, cold and wet, the kind of night that calls for a hot drink and a good book. But Leo wasn’t having any of that, so I paced the house with him, singing made-up songs and bouncing to intermittent rhythms.

A knock at the door. I hadn’t been expecting anyone, so I peeked through the blinds. It was my dad, bundled up in a coat and scarf. Steam clouded from his mouth as he waved to Leo thorugh the glass.

“What are you doing?” I asked him, but at first he didn’t answer, just snatched Leo from me and headed into the living room. He put Leo on the floor and played with him for a little, then answered my question.

“I was walking back from the hospital,” he said with a sad kind of disgust in his voice. “The cancer’s spread. She’s on morphine now, and hospice will be with her in the next day or two.”

A friend we used to go to church with was coming to the end of her life. She was in her early 40s, a wife, and a mother of two. My dad and I didn’t say anything else, just stared at little Leo as he laughed and made his first halting efforts at crawling.

Abruptly my dad stood up, gave me a hug, and walked back out onto the cold streets.

* * * * *

There are beginnings, and there are endings.

Beginnings sweep us up in their beautiful chaos, their excitement, their promise of what the end might bring. Beginnings are both hopeful and exhausting. They’re flashy. We love to announce them.

“I’m starting a new book!”

“My wife is pregnant!”

“We’re opening a new business!”

Beginnings are so cool.

Endings, on the other hand, are bittersweet. It can be difficult to move on, especially when the ending didn’t live up to the beginning. And even if it did (especially?), moving on feels like some kind of tearing away. Pieces of us are left behind. Always.

Perhaps the most difficult part of endings? The unknown future.

* * * * *

My brother-in-law and I once made the difficult decision to close a small food operation we had opened in Victoria Station, smack dab in the middle of London. In 2001 we had poured our hearts into opening that store, working 16 hour days, seven days a week. We made friends with customers as well as our employees. That little 200-square-foot store represented our hopes and dreams for a huge business, something we could be proud of.

Then came a late night in 2005. It was muggy in London, raining off and on outside the station. Trains wheezed into Victoria, some finished for the day. The store had never reached our expectations, and the landlord was raising the rent. We could continue to struggle, to fight for a few more years. We could keep taking two steps forward and one step back.

Or we could close.

I still remember the feeling I had as we moved out all the equipment, as we cut the wires that attached the massive oven, as we carried every last thing out of that small space. I remember thinking back to opening day, all that hope, all that excitement, yet there we were, four years later, hauling everything out. We turned off the lights. We closed the gate one last time.

We drove away through middle-of-the-night London traffic, and before we knew it we were reliving all the old stories: how we stayed in London for a week when the store first opened. We remembered the employees we loved and the ones that gave us a hard time. We laughed at all the mistakes we had made.

To be honest, I think we laughed with relief. It was over. We had given it our best shot, but now we could move on.

I think that if I’ve learned anything important about endings, it’s that we have to give ourselves permission to move on, to be happy for what we had, and to look ahead with hope

There are beginnings and there are endings.

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All I Needed to Know about Life I Learned Playing Solitaire http://deeperstory.com/all-i-needed-to-know-about-life-i-learned-playing-solitaire/ http://deeperstory.com/all-i-needed-to-know-about-life-i-learned-playing-solitaire/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 07:12:34 +0000 http://deeperstory.com/?p=22860 I know, I know — playing solitaire is a time-waster, a filler, mindless self-entertainment, I can hear you shaking your heads in mild disgust clear across the internet

However, I beg to differ. Just for a moment or two, okay?

To begin, a little history . . .

I distinctly remember when I learned to play basic solitaire — with actual, physical cards. We were on an all-family vacation with my husband’s family, fishing in the High Sierras. And my sister-in-law found some cards in the cupboard and proceeded to teach me and her mother how to play this game. You need to understand that my MIL had NEVER played any card games except Rook (anyone here remember that perfectly-acceptable-Christian-card-game from the long-ago past?); my FIL did not approve of this activity one little bit. Not ever.

But Mom LOVED it, and every trip after that, the cards came out and she enjoyed herself.

Fast forward a few decades and I purchase my first smart phone, and a little later, my kids give me a Kindle Fire. Lo and behold, there are FREE solitaire apps. Because I don’t particularly enjoy watching television without something in my hands, these new toys became my go-to favorite thing to do on TV nights. And then my favorite quick distraction when I hit a block in my writing, or an easy time-filler if I find myself with ten extra minutes between appointments in my study, or a too-long wait at the doctor’s office. Because I have a notoriously hard time falling asleep at night, moving cards around on the screen becomes a valuable asset, easily promoting sleepiness in the dark of night.

Who knew there was such a rich variety of ways to play cards by yourself? My current favorites are Spider, Russian and Thieves of Egypt, all played with two decks. I have an app that lets me keep a running tally of consecutive games won, and believe me, I make a serious effort to keep that tally L O N G. And in order to do that, I have had to learn a few important life truths.

Wouldn’t you love to know what they are? Yeah, I thought so. Well, I’m gonna list them for you anyhow:

1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And again.

Your best friends in solitaire — and often, in life — are the ‘back’ button and the ‘re-start’ button. If you get it wrong the first time (or the twentieth!), play the dang game again. If you place the wrong card in the middle of a game, just take it off and try another one. Trial and error truly are how we learn to do anything well.

Closely related to number one, but more finely nuanced, is this truth:

2. There is more than one way to work through an impasse.

Yes, there is. Almost every bloomin’ time. You’re stuck. You can’t see a way out. You’ve tried very option you can think of — except — you probably haven’t. You just haven’t seen the right one yet.

Which leads me to this important observation:

3. Finding a good move takes time and attention.

You have to remember where you’ve been, what you’ve tried, what’s underneath. And you cannot do that without paying real, intentional attention to what’s going on around you.

So that makes this one fairly obvious:

4. The details are important.

Those small, repetitive shifts in focus, the turning of your eyes one.more.time to each stack in front of you — this is what creates the opportunity for change, maybe even for success.

And if you should win, then you just might have the joy of discovering that:

5. Successfully finding the solution is a boon to creativity.

When you wrestle through a tough quandary, multiple times, trying this and then trying that, you will sometimes stumble across the answer — quite often when you least expect it. There is a small, but vital, surge of adrenalin, a sense of pay-off — and right in the midst of that good stuff is where the creative juices can begin to bubble and hum. You think I’m exaggerating, I know you do. But I have found this to be true, over and over again. If I stick with a tough game long enough to beat it, I can shut off the device, return to the computer and all of a sudden, the words are flowing again. Strange but true.

But, of course, there is one last, difficult lesson that is just as important as the rest of them:

6. Knowing when to quit is an important part of the process.

Sometimes, no matter how many times you start over, it just does not work. And tough as it is to do, you have to hit the ‘new game’ button and start all over again. Believe me, this is painful, but sometimes, it’s the only way forward, ya know what I mean?

So tell me, what have your distracting hobbies been teaching you lately??

A small note: This post was written and submitted just before discovering that it would be my last post in this wonderful space. Lesson #6 is being lived out right now, in my own life and heart. Nish Weiseth has done a magnificent job of creating and curating this space but the time has come to hit ‘new game.’ Thank you, Nish, for your leadership, your great heart, your writing chops and your commitment to storytelling. You created an oasis here, a welcoming space and I will be forever grateful.

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