Friday, August 23, 2013

Nada te turbe (Are we there yet? Home, home, home)

Nada te turbe is one of my favorite songs from TaizĂ©.

"Nada te turbe, nada te espante, quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta. Nada te turbe, nada te espante, solo Dios basta."

"Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, those who seek God shall never go wanting. God alone fills us."

It's true right? Have you ever been terrified of something happening? "I hope X doesn't happen. I can be okay through everything else, but if X happens, I just don't know what I will do."

I have thought this many times about things great and small. I sheepishly admit that most of the examples I can think of now seem quite trivial, but at the time seemed like much bigger deals. I've thought about it a lot during this season of engagement. One of the things I was very, very concerned about was where Caleb and I would be living. We had several options, but my big plan was this: I had to be out of my place by August 1. We are getting married on August 31. No problem. I would move into our new place and settle, then Caleb would join me.

This is almost our kitchen!
Welp. It hasn't worked like that. At all. All the way up until the end of July, all I could think of was how much I didn't want to move twice. But the world didn't end. I moved into Caleb's parents' basement and it's actually been great. As it turns out, I am not sure when we will be able to move. Probably not until after we get back from our honeymoon. (I really wanted to be moved in somewhere by the second or third week in August because heaven forbid we had to move on wedding week. And, I thought, there is no way we are moving in after the wedding, we need to have that DONE.)

But it didn't work out that way. And guess what? It's fine. The world is not spontaneously combusting because my plans did not work out.

I have learned a lot during this process about being assertive, something that is a bit challenging for me (unless I really want something, dang it). I have learned about holding my ground when something is important to me and not caving just to resolve tense moments.

I have also learned about letting go of attachments, the things that I think will cause the world to fall apart if they don't happen the way I want. I have learned this lesson the hard way, staying up all night stressed about it, calling Caleb in the middle of the night to review how my plans are not working.

I am in no way finished learning about the dynamic balance and interaction between these two: holding my ground and learning to let go, but I am learning about letting nothing trouble or frighten. I believe that because of this, when the dust settles and I have an extra measure of space to reflect, I will find myself stronger and a little more flexible in spirit.

"Nada te turbe, nada te espante, quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta. Nada te turbe, nada te espante, solo Dios basta."

Monday, August 19, 2013

First comes love, then comes marriage (but in between is engagement)

Some gratitude for all the little things that keep me keeping on:

  1. Mr. Caleb himself - because no one should have to undergo wedding planning without the person they are going to marry by their side. 
  2. My parents, who have been working their tails off. 
  3. A cozy bed to sleep in, in the basement - seriously. Why would anyone make their bedroom upstairs when it could be in a cozy, dark, cold basement? 
  4. Routines.
    1. Tongue scraping and warm water in the morning (sounds weird, but I love it)
    2. Lovely smelling lavender any time of day because it's the all-purpose essential oil: Stress? Need a pick-me-up? Can't sleep? Can't wake up? Dry skin? Bug bite? Pimple? Sore muscles? Lavender is the answer. 
    3. Monday night yoga with Caleb
    4. Church, talking with friends about normal, everyday life
    5. Tutoring my favorite kiddos
    6. Chocolate snack time. Yes, this is a (daily) routine
  5. Listening to my iPod at work. It's an iPod mini, remember those? It has a click wheel and only turns on a backlight when you manually select that option. The music keeps open a space in my soul. Current faves: Taize, Aradhna, Trevor Hall, Nahko Bear. And some occasional top forty to keep me bouncing on my exercise ball. (Also I am grateful for my exercise ball)
  6. WORK! I am so grateful that nothing new and crazy is happening in my work-life. I actually feel relieved to go there sometimes because it means I don't have to worry about if I should be wedding planning. 
  7. FRIENDS! Caleb and I have had a lot of help from our peeps. 
  8. I am happy I have switched from lotion to oil because it feels so luxurious to put on my hands. And right now, little luxuries are very much treasured. Also, it has less creepy ingredients. 
  9. Baths. 
I think Caleb summarized what this time has been like for us, "Normally under this much stress I wouldn't be able to sleep. But I'm so exhausted that I have no problem sleeping."

We are so close.


Same love.

I heard this song today. I don't know how long it's been on the radio, but I think it could lead to some really interesting dialogue... I didn't watch the video actually, but just listened. It's not often that we hear a reflective song on the top 40.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Solitude.

Some seasons, I must drink in solitude only during the stolen, in-between moments. 

It is never sweeter.

Breathe on my friends. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cornered.

Have you ever been backed into a corner by snarling dogs who were just trying to get a bit of you and you had to kick and punch to get out?

Yeah, me neither.

(Though there was that one time that two boxers attacked me on my bike a couple weeks back. But I digress.)

Now, have you ever felt backed into a corner? Emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally? Whatever-elsely?

This post is about to get real.

Going into the month of May, all I could think was, "I wish we didn't have to celebrate my birthday this month. Because this month is going to give me a metaphorical black eye." I have always had a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, and May was a prime example of that. I committed myself to too many events, too many relationships, too many jobs, too many causes. My sleep suffered. My relationships suffered. It was bad. When May was over, all I could think was "PHEW." I had survived and I waved my champion flag. But then June came. And I hadn't really cut back all that much. I think, and I'm just sorting this out really, that if May gave me the metaphorical black eye I was expecting, June metaphorically sucker-punched me in the stomach.

Back in the day when my little brother was still, well, littler, than me, he was chronically very sick. He would be quite pleasant with the doctors and then scream at my parents and me all the time. My parents once mentioned this to a wise nurse. She was unsurprised. "He feels safe with you," she explained. "With you, he can really express the way he feels inside, the pain he is feeling."

Bless you, wise nurse.

Isn't that true? When something is hurting us or bothering us deep down, the ones we snap at first are our family members, our best friends, our loved ones. And my poor love has been hearing a lot of my misdirected anger the past month.

I've been angry, you guys (and girls). That's a difficult emotion for me because it feels out of control and scary. I think, deep down in my heart, I am craving space. nature. beauty. slowness. ease. grace. peace. early bedtimes, slow morning routines. time alone. kairos. But that's not been happening.

So as June draws to a close (AND THERE'S ONLY TWO MORE MONTHS TO WAIT UNTIL I MARRY MY BESTIE AND MY LOVE), I am taking a deep breath.

And another.

And another.

Maybe one more.

I have been feeling backed into a corner. Because of that I have been fearful, irritable, and lashing out whenever something starts to encroach on my teeny weeny space. But guess what?

There's no corner. It's all open fields and grassy plains.

Open fields of July. And the sun is shining.

My dear friend Amanda recently stayed with me. She suggested that I sign up to receive the "ennea-thought of the day." The enneagram is a whole 'nother post in itself. That I probably will never write. It's sort of like a holistic personality assessment thing. Without going into more detail about it, let me share what it sent me for today:

 For real change to occur, you will always need awareness, dedication, and perseverance. How much are you really interested in these things?


And so, for this month, I rededicate myself to making space to ponder, pray, wonder, be slow, trust that the birds won't fall out of the sky if I stop worrying. It will require awareness, dedication, perseverance. But maybe, just maybe, if I allow my soul to rest, I can stop being so angry, And start being real.

Love and hope dear ones.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Is it just me, or do you run out of words too??

Sometimes when I've been talking
talking
talking
for days on end,
I run out
of words.

Just.like.that,
I have nothing to say.

And so I must read voraciously,
filling my mouth and my soul and my mind
then
be quiet to digest.

Then I find words to speak. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On snow and spring flowers


I awoke with a start. I slid my head under the curtain and parted the mini blinds with my fingers. Still no snow. "We're definitely having work," I thought. By the time seven thirty rolled around, fluffy flakes were pelting the ground. As I pulled on my boots, I decided to use the bathroom before beginning what would certainly be a long, soggy journey. While I was washing my hands, Carolyn's phone rang. It was Caleb. "Don't go to work!" he exclaimed. "What?" I couldn't believe it. Work was cancelled and I had been so close to heading out in the blizzard. I flopped on the couch, grateful, but wondered what I was going to do next.

******************

The second time was less stressful. I had a working cell phone and work was called off a day in advance. I slept in and marveled again at the way the new snow laced the trees and softened the world around  us. Winter gives me life. The way that snow delicately covers even the finest leaf is a poetry more beautiful than I could ever explain. It would take an entire book to explore the beauty of looking out your window while the snow is still slowly falling. The softness nestles into my heart and changes me a little. 




*****************

I look out my window again. Snow is long melted. Rains have come that last for a week, let up mercifully for the weekend, then return again to start Monday off on an extra sleepy note. Where once there was snow, now there are flowers, delicately blooming against the grey sky. Trees are coated in blossoms. The temperature is unpredictable and as finicky as an old oven at Christmas time, but it doesn't matter because there is so much GREEN everywhere. Nourished by the snow days, spring has come again. I feel it in my heart too.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poetry and Ferocious Termites

Life's been really busy lately.

Everybody says that. Including me. My tendency is to make the merry-go-round go faster and faster until I can't see straight and everything looks like a blur. When I was little, I only liked going on merry-go-rounds if the person promised to spin slowly. I've been trying to listen though, because I believe that life is poetry, but poetry isn't loud or invasive. Poetry is a quiet whisper that we can only hear when we slow down and listen for the breeze.

Recently, I've been feeling really empowered. Really strong. I wake up ready to face the day. I am not sure where this attitude came from, other than receiving a lovely compliment on Friday and the spring hinting at being somewhere close. I've been riding this wave, enjoying how strong I feel, how much I can get done.

Tonight I spent the evening with Caleb. When it was time to go home, I found myself inexplicably frustrated - at the time, at the fact that I had to go home (as I'd much rather just stay with Caleb), at the fact that I didn't bring my coat inside and I knew it would be cold out. My coat. It was the tipping point.

I got in the car and ate a bar of chocolate Caleb had shared with me. With my coat on. "What just happened?" I asked myself. "Why did not having your coat make you feel that way? Get it together. You're strong, remember?"

The anxiety surged. I think if anxiety could make noises, it would sound like if you magnified the sound of termites eating away at the strong wood "Numnimnemnumnem".

"What's your deal?" I said to the anxiety, this time a little less nicely. "Get out of here."

I remembered being quiet and how sometimes poetry is found in the most unlikely places. I stopped feeling sour at myself and tried a new question for the feelings inside. "I feel you. I see you. What do you need from me?"

In that moment, the anxiety ceased to make that termite feeling/sound. It was like it stepped out from behind the mask and said, "Thanks. I just needed to be seen."

We drove home, listening to the classical music they play sometimes at night on the radio. 

A Story

It was Sunday, and we'd just gone out to eat for Caleb's sister Marissa's birthday. We spent some quiet down time that afternoon at my house, then headed to the evening service at church. As we were walking inside, Caleb turned to me suddenly and whispered, "I love you." We say this to each other pretty frequently, but walking into church is not a typical moment for this to happen. It felt... extravagant and came as a surprise. Before I could respond, I had to catch my breath. Once inside, we sat in church, a few rows back from where we normally sit. As we proceeded with all the usual church activities, I had an arm linked through Caleb's arm. During a song, Caleb reached his other hand around and squeezed my arm that was linked through his. He smiled down at me, beaming with love. I felt my stomach whoosh upwards, and wondered what was going on.

Halfway through this sermon, Caleb leaned over and told me he wasn't feeling well and was going to step out. I had been craving some alone time and so I tried not to worry about him, focusing on the service and enjoying the space. After Communion, I went downstairs to find the restroom. I wondered where Caleb might be, or if he was okay. He sometimes goes downstairs to think or pray during a service. As I opened the door from the bathroom, I saw him slipping into the community room under the sanctuary. I thought about following him, but decided against it. "If he needed me, he would have texted," I reasoned, as this is the normal pattern. I made up my mind not to follow him, letting him have his space. I went back up and started composing a text on my phone, "Are you okay?" I typed. Before I clicked send, I got a text from him. I opened the message.

I smiled, and typed a quick reply, affirming that I would. I savored the rest of the service, but as I put away my phone and stood up to sing, my intuition whispered, "This could be it." I tried to brush it away, but my heart beat faster, my palms grew sweaty. I tried to shove my intuition in a closet in my mind - I wanted to be surprised, darn it! - but to no avail. After the last song finished, I burst out of there and clattered down the stairs. The doors to Banner Hall were closed.

I stepped inside and Caleb stood up quickly from his position near the door. I searched his face and saw joy and a little bit of nervousness. These are not the normal emotions I see when I meet him to pray after church. My intuition elbowed me in the stomach, causing me to unconsciously giggle nervously, though I didn't realize this until much later when Caleb recounted it to me. Caleb turned off the only light in the basement and led giggling and arm-gripping me to the stage where I had taught everything from Isaiah to Kids' Yoga.





As we passed through the parted curtains, we were transplanted to what felt like a magical forest grove. Caleb had set up candles, pillows, and blankets.  It was there, surrounded by trees and candles with pillows underfoot (and under bottom?), that he professed his deep love and asked me to marry him.


I obviously said yes. And then we hugged for about 5 minutes before Caleb showed me the ring, which was tiny and perfect and has a little white sapphire. We then proceeded to bask in the moment and take it all in. Caleb shared all the little white lies he'd told over the preceding days and I congratulated him on how sneaky and calm he'd been. Then he said, "Also, I have dinner warming in the oven." 

 BAM! Engagement paella, made lovingly by Caleb over his grill that morning:

We couldn't eat very much because we were too excited, so we ate a little, stayed in our magical forest land where a few weeks earlier, I'd showed elementary kids what frankincense smells like, and wondered at the gift of love.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Stability

Something I love about the church calendar is that it marches on regardless of how you feel. Something I don't really like about the church calendar is that it marches on regardless of how you feel.

The ecclesiastical year begins about a month before the calendar year, with Advent. The years go by in a three-count circle, creatively named year A, B, and C. Advent and Lent are remarkably similar times of waiting, preparation, and reflection.

For a number of years, I felt like I was in a perpetual Advent, always waiting, knowing that something good was at hand... but not here yet. Every year I wanted Advent to be longer, I sunk into it and knew I was at home. This year and last year, I waited with great anticipation for Advent, but it no longer felt like my season of life. It will probably come back around in the "year B" of my life and then again in "year C", whenever those start.

I'm not sure what liturgical season I feel connected to now. Maybe Pentecost, a time of fiery activity, rejoicing, confusion, general chaos and newness. I don't think it's an accident that a celebration like Pentecost marks the beginning of what, liturgically, is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary - you know, chaos, people eating things that were once forbidden, Jesus having left them, the disciples making a lot of messes and then beautiful things rising anyway.

Today is Good Friday. Three years ago, I spent all of Holy Week at a monastic community in France called Taize. Good Friday was the incredibly powerful climax of the week. I had questioned monks, been in dialogue with people my age from around the world, meditated and prayed.

At 3:00 pm, bells tolled around the grounds marking the hour of Jesus' death. Everyone stopped and was silent for five minutes. Hundreds and hundreds of people. Silent. Remembering the story that we are all connected to and contemplating it. And some of them were probably thinking normal thoughts like "Has it been five minutes? Is it okay if I sneeze? Gosh I have to use the bathroom. My leg itches."

I was silent though, letting the wind on the hill whisper through my open fingers.

I understood the mystery of this day in a way I hadn't before and haven't since. I wish I could feel that way every year, but emotions are pretty fickle. The church calendar brings us through Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost no matter where we feel we are. And so today, I hold closely the memory of that day on a hillside in France and know that it is holy. 

Monday, March 11, 2013


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

(P.S. This is a great blog. http://momastery.com/blog/ )

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Caleb Cat!

I get to marry this guy! This one. Right here. See him?
He doesn't mind taking silly pictures with me.


 Plus,  we like to pick wildflowers. And he has the best hair ever. Look how awesome it is.

He is very kind-hearted. I like that a lot about him. So does Ruby (Carolyn's dog). She is almost as happy as I am when Caleb comes over. But I (usually) don't yodel quite like she does.

He didn't even mind when I had to dress like a man for a murder mystery dinner party.
Aren't my eyebrows manly?
We used to look different, back when we first started dating.


Nowdays, we're a little hairier and we've been a lot more places together. (Like Michigan in the winter. You guys - go to Michigan in the summer.)
We can both sport pony-tails now.
And our adventures are just getting started...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

2. Spain

While I was in Spain, growing and learning and being transformed, I missed my newfound friends. I thought about how I'd driven to a mystery themed party at Amanda's with a guy named Nate. He'd been really fun. I thought about my long conversations with the two Erics and about how nice all the girls had been. I knew they still got together sometimes, and they kindly continued inviting me through evites and Facebook events. When I learned that I was going home for Christmas, I was excited to spend New Year's Eve with them. I went over to Jon and Eric's house and we were required to email, in advance, a song we were embarrassed to like. (Listen to mine here.)
It was wonderful to be around my friends, if only for a short time before diving back into Spain. I was happy to go back to Spain, but one morning before I left, I knew I needed to return and be in Kansas City. Even if I had no idea why, that conviction stayed with me, and brought me home in June without any plans to return to Spain in the future. 

1. The Pilgrimage

I sat down to write with the intention of telling the story of how Caleb and I got engaged. But life is full, and we are so deeply connected with others. And so, I must begin before we met...

**********************************

It was the August after I had graduated from college. I packed up my bags with three days worth of clothes and headed south for a camp, where my church was hanging out for the weekend. We do this to celebrate the spiritual practice of pilgrimage. We get away from it all, make space for each other, play games, jump in a lake, and have belly-flop contests. We practice listening to God and to each other and we see new faces. That year, 2009, we also had a dance party. A 1970s themed dance party. There were people wearing leisure suits, giant fro wigs, and high boots. And in the midst of it all, some people were dancing. I danced around, in and out of small groups of twos and threes. Two guys I had been bopping along with for some time, introduced themselves. "I'm Jon," said one. "I'm Ellen, nice to meet you!" I said. "Ellen, I'm Eric," said the other. Eventually the three of us rolled into another group and another until there were about ten people, and we shut the dance party down.

The next day, being the social butterfly that I can be sometimes, I didn't want to eat with the group that had quickly formed over busted moves under a spinning disco ball. I wanted to keep meeting new people. For one reason or another, I always came back to that small group. Even after the pilgrimage was over, we hung out at each other's houses, met up to chat at church gatherings. One girl, Carolyn, had even lived in Spain, where I was moving in only a few weeks. I grilled her for as much information as possible. 'How will I make friends? Where did you live? Did you find a church? How late did you stay out? Did you avoid punk teenage kids who steal things?"

This group of people was different than any other group of people I'd ever been around. They were inclusive, welcoming, in many different life stages, and had this extravagant way of being with each other (and with me). It felt expensive, no one was texting when we hung out, everyone was interested in learning more about each other, and we were able to laugh easily one moment and plunge into deep conversation the next.

Thus, it was with mixed emotions (but weighing heavily on the excited side), that I boarded a plane in late September for Spain. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

good afternoon.

"You're an old soul."
they told me when I mused about not fitting in.

As I reflected in the parking lot, apple in hand, arms outstretched like airplane wings as I balance-beam walked on parking lines, I knew it was true.

But as the rain misted my face and I whispered hello to the trees, I knew I was also a young soul, a very young soul, and I wondered if the two were the same.