Squinting (A Lenten Practice?)

Shine on me! Blind me with grace.  And to myself, I whisper – Wake up!

Breaking into the darkness – the sun lights up the world, the words light up the page – and I am awake.  A sleeper waking up literally – rising figuratively from the dead of a haunted, tossed up sleep, turning away from one thought only to be engaged by a vision equally strange and scary. Squinting, I make out shapes I recognize and my heart beat slows.

The sun really does just break into the morning and then it immediately stretches glowing fingers of light to fill the previously dark sky.  Previously, as in the second before, pitch black – can’t see my own hand in front of my face, dark sky; and blink.  Blindingly beautiful orange and deep raspberry sorbet pink fills the sky and the only darkness is that of the outlined mountains silhouetted in the distance.  Snap – a room that was seconds before only lit by candles which created a foggy glow – just barely enough light to see the words on the page – is now illuminated – the words are clear and easy to see.

Every weekday morning my first alarm goes off ta 5:47, the second at 5:53.  I am usually awake at least ten minutes before these alarms, but I let them each go off in turn – the repetitive metallic trilling tunes of an iphone and the vibrating off the shelf for good measure.  Each morning I wait for these alarms, swipe them away and wait a little while longer – putting off the inevitable press to get ready and out the door in time to be at school by 7:30 – a 40 minute drive.

Weekends though, with the belief that I will be able to enjoy sleep just a little longer – no alarm to ring over my head – no anticipation waking me before the trill – I wake up an hour earlier (at least). 4:45AM. Sometimes 3.  Always, always, wide – not-tired-at-all, no way to lull myself back into dreamland – awake.  Every pending responsibility – swiftly – smoothly -fills the dark silence around me.  Finish grading, finish painting, mulch the yard, do the laundry and get it put away, clean the house – inspire tired family to clean the house, and prior to this weekend: finish executive summary, edit poster, pick out professional looking attire to attend Master’s symposium, check all the things….. Check. All. The. Things.

Last weekend, I gave up trying to trick my tired brain into sleeping and decided to embrace the darkness.  Try for a Lenten practice I’ve been failing to even begin…and sit quietly with a cup of coffee and some reading, surrounded by candles in the living room – taking notes for posterity.  Two beautifully uninterrupted hours of reading on the couch; squinting at the pages because it’s much more difficult to read by candlelight than the movies would have you believe. It was from this position that I observed the sun’s triumphant entry and the start of a new day.

My confession to you readers?  I don’t have a Lenten practice at all this Lent. Four weeks in and I have not pegged any one practice as something that would be meaningful to my journey right now. Honestly, I think not having a practice has made me think about Lent more than having a practice that might distract me – so perhaps that’s some sort of subconscious spiritual success?  The last few years, I have really enjoyed the Christian season of Lent.  The season of preparing for Jesus’s death and resurrection – a season of remembering that I am dust and to dust I will return…..As silly or self-condemning as this may seem, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful practice for me.  Important to my understanding of my place in the world and the purpose for which I’m here.

I’m not here to raise myself to the best level – though being my personal best is important.  I’m not here to convert the world to my way of thinking.  I’m not here to prove how righteous I am, and how sinful all the rest.  I’m not here to be better than anyone else, or more educated, or richer, or more worldly.  All of those things are lovely and have a wonderful place in my life and that of many others – but they are not my main purpose.

From dust I come and to dust I will return.

My main purpose is to Love.  To live by Truth and foster Peace.

Every year, the one practice I do succeed in completing is literature related.  Literature serves as a good procrastination tool and therefore, I am VERY good at reading what I have set out to read.

About five years ago – as I was just coming to the end of my schooling at Sacramento City College, I took a British Lit class, in which we tackled William Langland’s Piers Plowman.  Passus 18 (and really most of the dream vision epic poem).  This is an allegory for the death and resurrection of Jesus in which the maidens Righteousness, Truth, Mercy, Grace and eventually Peace and Love debate the fairness and eventual success of a servant savior who intends and succeeds in saving mankind from mortal peril by basically tricking the system.  If you believe in Jesus, you believe this crazy story that a man of questionable parentage – the first half-blood if you will  – lives a blameless life and dies a sinners death.  His death does not fit the rules of judgement and therefore, the original covenant is broken.  We are forgiven for not being able to live up to the rules set before – we are forgiven because we are broken and it is recognized and Grace received.

Passus 18 ends this way:

After sharp showers,’ quoth Peace · `most glorious is the sun;
Is no weather warmer · than after watery clouds.
Nor no love dearer · nor dearer friends,
Than after war and woe · when Love and Peace be masters.
Was never war in this world · nor wickedness so keen,
That Love, if he pleased · could not bring to laughter,
And Peace through patience · all perils stopped.’

“Never a war in this world….that love could not bring to laughter – and peace through patience all perils stopped.”

That is my goal in Lent – and in my life in general.  The planting and nurturing of Love and Peace – fostering the growth of community and self-sacrificing care which creates so many connections in this broken world that the cracks begin to fade – sewn together with the roots of these gracefully given gifts – reflected indefinitely.

The foggy dawn slipping away, I no longer need to squint at the fuzzy words smudged on the pages; sunshine beaming brightly now through the slightly open window.  The chilly air of March tingling with just a tinge of winter – and the day is awake – I am awake.

Around 6:45, like clockwork, the littlest strolls down the hallway.  Her hair is a crazy  mess of collar knots and she is wrapped in a woolly blanket – a squinting sleep still lingers in her eyes -refusing to fully accept the brightness of the morning, but her refusal to fall back to sleep puts a little spring in her step and a resolute sweetness on her face.  My quiet time ends and a new day begins.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said:  ‘Wake up sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” (Ephesians 5:14ish,NIV)

 

Why not 2?

“It’s so hard to listen for six hours!” The littlest articulates tonight as she sits doing homework at 7:30 that she did not do over the weekend and did not do in the hour and half that was not spent in the car on the way to sister’s orthodontist appointment this afternoon.

This conversation comes after the middle one came home in tears because she was being made fun of all day for two reasons.  First:  the freshly made gap in her teeth that the painful pallet expanders have created and Second: she is a “conflict manager” at school – as a fourth grader – this is a perfect job for a girl who believes in rules and rule following but also believes in doing what’s right for the sake of being kind or helpful – The older kids think this is funny and tease her by “ghost” pointing across campus – “Look at that kid doing something against the rules!” and then laughing maliciously as my dear girl turns to look.  Jerks.

The oldest came home with stories about “friends” who call him “white boy” and are mean about his personality and downplay everything about himself that he’s been proud of until now – now he hears their voices and wonders what it is that he is good at.  They make fun of his broken arm by saying that roller hockey is easy and there’s no way they’d ever break a bone doing such and easy sport.

Bleh.

Why?  All of my children are under the age of 13.  Why are they having to face malicious comments and these jerk-face wolves of children who do not seem able to try and build each other up rather than break down every part of each other that might make them feel good and confident about themselves?

For the past 7 months I have focused my Masters inquiry on attempting to foster and build empathy in my classroom. For the past 7 months I have watched as my students break each other down. They can recognize and relate to one another’s feelings and experiences and in the same breath use that empathy to push their figurative thumbs in the eyes of an already hurting person – to squeeze that broken heart to see if the blood spurts faster – to turn away and feel better about themselves for being better than someone else rather than attempting to find a common ground and make a new friend.  They almost never choose to be kind.

Now I sit in my own home and try to encourage my own children to continue being kind – to continue caring and resisting the urge to return a negative comment with an equally negative response – and I know they’re walking into a world where the wolves are crouched and waiting to pounce.  Peers who believe that mean means strong and strong means right.  This is how stereotypes are reinforced.  This is why bullies are still being bullies.

And then I’m back to the littlest who recognizes that she is expected to be focused in class and when I asked her where her focus was otherwise, she said she just wanted time to talk to her friends behind her and that six hours is just so long…..and it is.

I keep coming back to the same question.  Why in the world are we punishing our children with school? With mean interactions that are supposed to make them better understand what the adult world is like? Why are we putting them in uncomfortable seats in situations that so very much do NOT to a match their social or cognitive development. Why are they not outside playing?  Learning to sew and fish and turn cartwheels?  Why six hours?  Why not 2?  Why not give them time to figure out how to relate to one another on a level outside of the 4 tired walls of a classroom – lets break this freaking hierarchical capitalist society and re-invent our priorities people.  How do we even begin to change this?

Follow the Leader

“write until your fingers bleed – tell stories until your voice runs out….”  

I think we all need this reminder now and again.

I don’t often find videos that I’m so sure I should share.  Often, I just link them in my bookmarks bar or if I’m feeling semi-share-y I’ll link them to my pinterest account – recognizing fully that most of my pins are only every looked at by me, myself, and I. So please, if you have 20 minutes and need a little encouragement, sit down and watch this –

Shauna Niequist speaks generally to a female audience here, however, I think her words apply to people of all gender, and I think it’s important we hear them.

She speaks about calling and passions and living into and out of those passions so that our entire lives can be filled to the brim with Goodness and Life.

I remember when all three of my children were under the age of 5 and I was pretty convinced my life as I ever planned it was completely over.  Any plans for piano playing, writing, teaching, travelling, reading, knitting, etc. had been beaten out of me by crying children, whiny toddlers, bedtime stories, sibling fighting, never sleeping through the night – all of the endless noise which reverberated through my poor introverted soul – and the realization that my life was not my own while these people needed me in order to survive on a daily basis.  I remember going to my doctor at the time – a good and well-respected doctor – and telling him how sad and depressed and tired and overwhelmed I was, and his response was only: “of course, you are the mother of three young children.  Don’t worry, it will get better.”  How many times had that phrase already been said to me. “Don’t worry – it will get better.”  No one ever said how, or why or when.  No one ever explained that the getting better was partially because I would realize that it was up to me to live.  Up to me to make up the grace and peace I needed in order for it to overflow into my kiddos and there be reflected.

I would like to throw in the caviat that unlike Ms. Niequist descriptions of her own mother’s experience, I did have help from my husband who worked hard and felt equally at a loss for his plans and dreams – we were drowning together in the pits family logistics – the need to work in order to survive – the need to survive day to day and the endless lack of monetary funding that was required to support our swollen family.

I’d love to say that we realized the need to find our passions and to start living into and out of them one day and that in a flash life became more bearable and even enjoyable, but man has this been a long road.

I feel like I’m rambling now and need to find the point, but I’ll keep rambling just a bit and maybe things will come around.  With all three kiddos under age 5 and Scott and I both working jobs that met the need to pay rent and buy food, but did not satisfy any necessary passion, I can honestly say that God must have decided to throw us a bone, and some of our best friends in the world (unbeknownst to us at the time), moved in at the end of the street.  A young couple with three equally young kids, struggling to figure out their own path had moved to the end of our street without a clear agenda but with the ultimate goal of starting a church in our town, and we thought that was pretty neat.

Scott grew up a pastor’s kid and I grew up sucking on Wherther’s Originals and drawing on the back of offering envelopes, sitting in golden pews and eventually inundated by the new-agey church of the 90’s with it’s flowing fabric reminders of “He is risen” and “God is King” and all that jazz.  We thought we knew the church drill pretty well and would enjoy the process of at least finding out how these things started.  Little did we know how much of a blessing that couple and that church start up would be in our journey to becoming more ourselves.  For me, helping plant a church made me aware of the deeper needs of the community in which we live – physical, spiritual, and emotional needs – it also helped me see just how connected I was to so many people within the community and how these connections could be useful to one another.  The other thing that this church plant did, was help me begin to recognize my need to let go of some things in order to become more myself.

Explaining fully the ways these friends and this church have so completely helped us become better able to be who we are meant to be, is a long story for another post,  so I will stick to the first thing:  we decided to stay where we were and to set down some roots in a town where we had refused to stay part of, but had been living for so long….

Scott and I decided to stop actively trying to move away from our town and to try to live better into it.  I cannot claim that this decision felt set in stone and it’s silly now to me that we did move away (albeit only 15 miles) and are trying now to move back.  However, letting go of one thing set us free to do so much more.  To plan, to live into the time and space given at the moment and to plan only as far ahead as to not take us away from the dreams of the moment.

While I’ve decided to post one video – might as well post a second  – this one was linked to an Ann Voskamp post I happened across today – but I think it resonates well with my feelings about leaving one dream behind and deciding to stay – to live into what is in front of me rather than what I’ve left behind:

A few years later ( 10 years after I originally started going to college), I did begin to pursue what I still believe to be my passions.  Literature and teaching.  And now – 4 years after that – I am teaching.  I am more whole, better able to deal with the craziness of family and the teetering balance that we call this crazy life.

Is it joyful?   -Mostly.

When I remember to be thankful.

Is it hard?  Freaking yes.

Every. Day. Is hard.

I worry that by pursuing what I want to do I’m actively sacrificing the needs of my family, and I know that while this is not completely true, sometimes I think it is.  My working toward my own goals and my own dreams and doing what I know I am meant to do well means that dinner is not always on the table, that I’m not always patient, that play dates are harder to come by, that my children are tired – that my husband is tired too.  BUT – it’s so much better than it was.  All of those people who told me “it will get better” – they were right, though, I’m not sure we had the same end in mind.  I question every morning as I leave the house whether I am ruining the lives of my family by leaving, and every morning I come to the same conclusion:  we were all miserable when I was miserable all the time – and love them as I do, being housebound with 3 kids who I may love to the end of the world and back – is my idea of a living hell.  In order to love them well, to appreciate them and to treat them as fellow human beings, for now at least – it is better for me to go teach 90 some odd other kids who need to be told they’re important too.

I think there is nothing so humbling as trying to figure out how to live for something besides yourself.  Whether it’s your partner, children, friends, neighbors, needy, church or God (or all of the above)- living with the realization that your life can provide peace to someone else creates space for you to realize just how much you need to be yourself in order to love and be gracious to other people.  To recognize the need to be grateful for each moment, sunrise, sunset, rain and drought, person, success and failure, each regret and each new adventure.

Ms. Niequist explains in her video how much her mother’s path to finding who SHE was played a role in Shauna’s own journey.  This part of the video made me sob.  I never meant to be a role model for anyone, and yet I have three kids who I know watch every move I make.  Every decision I make, whether it directly involves them or not – they see and they interpret into their own understanding of the world.  I never meant to lead and I never meant for my voice to be heard beyond the pages of worn out notebooks that I imagined would turn up hundreds of years after my own demise and would be used by historians to try and decipher the bland lives of town folk in the early 21st century.

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” pg. 718 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

My parents have acted as role models for me.  I think they already know that – they are quiet and faithful, stubborn and hard working, and they will work toward a need and a dream with equal strength and fortitude. They are honest. They love no matter what and choose good over all-even when it’s a harder road.  They raised my sister and me to believe that we were capable of anything and if given the chance will still remind us of this belief at every moment.  They have been my role models – leaders by grace and love and action, and I know my own children will follow my lead in the same way.

So  I guess I’ll wear my mantle.  Probably inside out and backwards for the most part, but I’m going to continue trying to live into what I believe. I’m going to keep doing what I know I love to do and I’m going to hope and pray that my life can act as a model for my kids to pursue whatever crazy dream they choose.  By choosing my dreams, I hope they can see how clearly their own are always going to be the best options – even when they seem the hardest and most unrealistic to achieve. Even when dreams take different shapes than they once so clearly held.

In a silent second

I lay in bed (tic)

Drifting in and out (toc) of consciousness (tic)

Waiting for dreams (toc).

So tired -(tic)- but somehow unable (toc) to let go. 

Tic-toc-tic-toc

The seconds move past (tic),

A louder click  (TOC) at the minute

Still. only silence surrounds. 

The methodic, metallic click of time is only a remnant – a memory. 

After all, cell phones do not tic-toc

But so ingrained (tic) is

My association (toc) of the second hand -tic- that I giggle a little as I keep (toc)

The time (tic)

(Toc) in my mind. . .

Tic- An imaginary metronome

Toc-keeping beat with my lullaby

Tic-toc

Of the days affairs (tic)

Toc-tic

(Toc) with the cat purring at my feet

(Tic) with the creaking house. 

The rain adds it’s beat- double time. 

And I am so caught up in listening that my eyes close. (Tic)

And I drift (toc) into (tic) a reverie (toc) – reverberating with (tic) a pointed pendulum (toc) swinging me (tic) gracefully (toc) to sleep. 

On Jesus and James Joyce

Preface to my publishing:

I often catch myself diving head first down the metaphorically bottomless pit of a rabbit hole – pulling together my thoughts and musings – and in so doing, completely forsake any actual responsibilities I might have looming (mmm hmm – my Masters work, laundry, dinner, you get the idea).  Along with this diving into the deep and endless, often crazily imaginative and disconnected trench of thoughts, I tend to begin rambling on and on to my poor husband and pretend that my ideas and thoughts are of real consequence to the world around me.  I’ll have you know, he is a great sport and smiles at me like he’s madly in love with me the entire time I talk – even if I’ve interrupted his train of thought to make him read a poem or a quote or a blog that I’m geeking out about in the moment.  He’s great.  I love him.

Anyway – rabbit hole to continue falling into and subsequently digging – I tend to geek out to Scott because I feel self-conscious about my ideas and when I come to this blog to write I vacillate between two crazy notions –

first: anyone who reads this will see through my thinly layered guise of intellect and laugh knowingly that I have nothing new or important to say

and second: who is really an expert on anything anyway?  we are each one only spouting our own opinions and ideas and can only add to the chaos of ideas past and present – I am no less qualified than anyone else.

The problem with these two notions is that the moment I hit publish I firmly believe the latter idea, however, it only takes about two seconds for me to begin second guessing myself and I revert to the former notion and fall into an agitated state of “crap, now they’ll all know I’m a fraud.” and I begin to worry that people will actually read this – so forgive my stream of conscious writing and entertain me with the idea that I have something to add to the millions of writers past and present who have had opinions strong enough to feel like they might publish them.

Blogging feels like cheater publishing to me (though I have no experience with any other format).  I am given the free will to publish anything I’d like and to hope that it reaches someone who might be interested in reading it.  Yikes.  All of this is a prelude to the fact that I have made a commitment to myself to write and publish more.  I have been writing a lot this week, in my preferred format of thin pen and brownish paper and I will make an attempt to communicate all of those thoughts as a whole here.


Epiphany – Jesus and James Joyce

Last week began the season of Epiphany within the Christian tradition and subsequently our church was filled with twinkly lights and candles – celebrating a season of light and the grace of God embodied in his son.  I found myself on the front pew about 15 minutes before the start of church, sitting next to two other friends, taking pictures of the lights – it’s a season I look forward to every year for two very different reasons than one would expect.  Ready?  I look forward to this season because each week I get to sit in church and revel in the biblical, historical, and contemporary ties to so much of my favorite literature – themes repeated throughout history – and I look forward to the lights.  Simple.

As the title of the blog might have hinted, I can’t help each year to try and connect the Epiphany of Christ to the literary technique of Epiphany used most famously by James Joyce.  I know it’s silly but I’m an English Major and I love words and opinions shared over history, and that coupled with the literary allusions made throughout time –  I just can’t help it.  So, without further ado, this is what I’ve come up with:

The Christian season of Epiphany, as I understand it, celebrates a manifestation of Grace – freely given – An action that shows the grace of God in us and for us.  It’s a season following Christmas, a time in which the Magi (or wise men, whichever you prefer) would have followed a star and presented gifts to Jesus – gifts freely given – to a baby promised to be our savior.   There are much better theologians in the world than myself and I only try to write here what I understand.  The sermon passage last week was centered around Acts 8:14-17 in which two skeptical disciples of Christ – Peter and John, hear reports from Samaria that people are being baptized in the name of Jesus and upon finding the news true – pray for a visible manifestation  – a baptism of the Holy Spirit for these people.  They prayed: “and they placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit”(Acts 8:17ish, NIV).  They prayed essentially for evidence of the Grace of God in these peoples lives and are given this gift .  This is a Heavenly Epiphany – it proves the gift of God’s grace given to a broken and undeserving people.  We all need this.

James Joyce wrote about the epiphanies of his short story collection Dubliners, describing them as such:

“By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation whether in vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of mind itself.  He believed it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.”

And in the Norton Anthology of English Literature: Major Author’s edition, a critic wrote that Joyce’s stories were “built around an epiphany – a dramatic but fleeting moment of revelation about the self and world….leaving multiple possibilities in suspension.”

Before even beginning to make connections, I think it’s important to note that Joyce’s stories normally end in suspense filled moments of self-realization which are most often interpreted through a rightly cynical and often hopeless lens.  Unrequited love, expectations completed shattered, desires unmet – all of these epiphanies are presented as naturally occurring events which the audience, if not the characters, should have expected.  At the end of each reading, one is left with a feeling of pity for the poor characters who expected happiness, hoped for grace or love or joy – for greatness.  This type epiphany strikes me as quite similar to the Jesus centered Epiphany, not because of the outcomes (which are more similar than they seem at the onset), but because of the desires and expectations leading up to these epiphanies.  In both cases, the characters – whether Magi following a star, or young boys hoping to go to Araby to find a form of heaven – both of these sets of characters are following a prophesied greatness, their expectations are possibly skeptical to begin with, but they brush them aside and embrace the excitement of hope.  In the case of the Magi, they experience a physical manifestation of grace in a most unexpected form, where as the boy seeking the allure of Araby, finds only a disappointing slum-like scene of a near over flea market – worthless gifts and a waste of time.

Suspending my belief that the Magi truly were excited to meet Jesus and to present this baby surrounded by livestock with priceless gifts, I flash to T.S Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi for a moment and wonder how the Epiphany would have been for these wise men, had they paused long on lines 19/20:

    With the voices singing in our ears, saying

     That this was all folly

What if these voices were to be believed, that it were folly and the Magi, on their journey became disillusioned by the voices which really only echoed their own cynical thoughts.  Would the final moment of the Magi finding a baby in a stable have looked more like Joyce’s epiphany? Had it been a Joyce epiphany, they might have been underwhelmed by the extraordinary simplicity of a baby.  The cut scene might have instead looked like this:  the Magi, tired from walking, decked out in their beautiful foreign clothing, carrying the heavy burden of their decadent gifts, looked dejectedly at the scene before them – berating themselves for not knowing better, for not expecting the worst.  These would have been the Magi unwilling to have eyes filled with hope or hearts filled with joy.  Their expectations of glory unmet – carelessly selfish, casting aside a gift without recognizing it’s worth. An epiphany which causes the reader to question whether the effort of the journey was worth the sacrifice. Human thoughts of cynicism toward grace undeserved are easy to imagine because it’s hard to believe in a grace given freely – humanity isn’t programmed to believe that anything is free when our entire society is coin operated by capitalism.

The problem with our broken humanity that creates easy acceptance of cynicism and expected disappoint stems from many things, but I think one thing that I’ve notices a lot lately is that we expect gifts.  Christmas, Birthdays, Valentine Days, Anniversaries, and just as many and more such days contrived to support our economy – all of these days spark questions and statements like these: “What do you want?  what do you need?  Make a list for me so I know what to get you…..”  We feel the need to get each other gifts – this is lovely – but we feel like the gifts should be determined by the wants and needs of a person and I think this goes directly against the giving of a gift.  Yes, of course it is nice to get someone a gift that they want – even more it is nice to get someone a gift you KNOW ahead of time they’ll like; but, what does this do to our understanding of gift.

The google definition of a gift reads that it is something “willingly given without payment”  synonym?  an offering.  These allude to the giver and the gift only – no where in the definition does one get the idea that a gift is something requested and fulfilled.  I happen to think that in the grand scheme of gift giving, this might just miss the point.  Had the Magi gone on their journey, following a star, and expected a savior at the end, they might have had something very different in mind than what they found.  Their epiphany would have been that of Joyce – a humanly cynical epiphany.  I happen to like the way Eliot ends the Magi’s journey and while I know it is fabricated, I can’t help but hope that this is how the Magi ended their journey.  Experiencing Birth and Death, Eliot finishes the poem:

 40-44: We returned to our kingdoms,

      But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

      With an alien people clutching their gods

      I should be glad of another death.

I like this ending because it doesn’t end in the stable, Magi surrounding the Christ child and presenting gifts.  It ends with the Magi returning to their kingdoms, changed forever.  No longer do they understand the wold from whence they came – they look forward to it’s renewal.  Eliot and Joyce both end in Epiphany – Joyce with cynicism, Eliot is arguably cynical, however, the bent of the cynicism is not centered on the unfulfilled expectation, but instead upon the manifestation of grace and the effect that that grace had on the lives of the characters involved.

In this season of Epiphany, I hope to incorporate my literary and biblical understandings of Epiphany.  To recognize the brokenness of humanity and the cynical observance of the reality of human truths, while also recognizing that grace has been given – a gift which I might not understand, feel that I deserve or can ever repay.  I hope to really try to understand that this, after all, is the entire point of a gift – no repayment – an offering.  I did not ask for grace in a way that I knew how.  I could not have, no matter what time in history I might have survived – I do not have the capacity to understand the scope of the grace necessary to love no matter the failings, the faults, or the disbelief’s, and so I will, in this celebration and following of light – seek to accept that I don’t have to understand, and to be thankful for gifts freely given.

Goodnight Friends.  I would love to know your thoughts on Epiphany and/or epiphanies – whichever strikes your fancy.

Epiphany2016

My Heart Swells

Windy roads and towering trees. The mountains disappear around the next corner.

My heart swells.

Blinking the sun out of my eyes and continuing the drive, it’s so easy to forget why we left. School, jobs, to experience the world, etc. And always looking back. linked by past, linked by family, linked by future. Seems silly but I can’t shake it and I don’t know if I ever will.
Opportunities ever only fill half a need, only ever provide for half – does that mean we jump in and go or hold on tighter to what has taken so very long to build from nothing?

            We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw          gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre; rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.

– C.S. Lewis – Preface of The Great Divorce

Frozen in time and choices, and the fear that all will be lost.  Constantly and continually we are faced with decisions to be made.  Each choice demanding that it has more significance in our lives than anything else – and then the moment or the week or the month seems to pass and those seemingly significant choices have merged into the fabric of our every day living – our lives have become swollen with them and instead of the thin flesh of our ballooning lives bursting; it expands and creates space for more, and my world becomes larger – fuller. Not the circle after all, but miles and miles of forked roads which create a path yet untraveled.

And so I refocus again and attempt to build a mountain of my own to climb – to lay down in the dry grass under a shady tree and watch the quiet wind ripple through the leaves.  The world spinning below and above and refocusing helps me hold on to that whirling sphere – a small speck of life in a vibrant place.

In my daily commute to and from work this year, I’ve begun listening to books on tape. This has been previously a completely unacceptable form of reading, however, I find that in the 40 minutes I’m sitting in the car I’d much rather listen to someone badly pronounce the words of a book than to some radio station trying to sell me something I don’t want or need just about every 5 seconds. In this way, I finished reading C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce”, and while I knew I’d love it after listening to the preface, I didn’t know I would sob though the last 15 minutes.  I do that when I read books quietly to myself – I didn’t know I would still cry while listening.  The plot of the story is simple and redundant if you’ve read any prior British literature or Dante’s Inferno for that matter – but still thought-provoking in a beautifully imagined way that Lewis seems always capable.  While my own thoughts didn’t especially relate to the literal translation of the allegory (that is funny as I write it) of heaven/hell, I did love this part of it and instead focused on the idea that to better inhabit a space, it takes time to become better acquainted with the atmosphere, the people, the experiences. These things may initially be sharp and painful and I might long for things that once were, but the entire time I am longing for other things I am becoming better able to survive in the sharp, beautiful surroundings in which I find myself. A better formed, more discerning, expanding balloon of the very same me that began this journey. So bring it on 2016, where shall we end up?

I have officially finished my first semester teaching, and it has been a wonderful adventure. I have truly been blessed by my co-workers and I’m so thankful for where I’ve landed. The 7th graders I’m teaching are a mixed bag of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. They’re loud and rambunctious and mostly trying to figure out who they are. They make me thankful for my own kids and for them too – and I hope all of my students are all safe and warm this winter break – but I have a nagging knowledge that many of them are neither of these things and for them I look forward to the start of school next week – the re-establishing of some semblance of consistency and met expectations in a world that is otherwise mad. (Who let me become an English teacher?!  look at that crazy run-on)

Beyond wondering where my students are and what they are up to this break, I have truly truly enjoyed this much needed break from the daily work schedule.  The necessity of commuting is not my favorite part of my job and to just stay home in my pajamas most of the days on break has been a lovely reprieve.  My own children have taken this time to drive me absolutely crazy, but I’m a little sad to see them go back to school tomorrow (even if I do have an extra week off).  They too have enjoyed the lack of schedule and while they probably wouldn’t agree, I like to think they enjoyed that their rooms became just a tad bit cleaner….might just be me really.  This next week I will spend sometimes resting, sometimes reading, sometimes attempting to calm my crazy planning self down as I see the days speed by without lesson plans and grad school work being up to the snuff I’d like them to be, but I do plan to try and enjoy week to it’s fullest extent.  I’m going to enjoy the paths chosen and the roads I’m travelling now.

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists of being put back on the right road.”

-Lewis, Preface again

I have chosen so many roads in this life.  So many forks and intersections and cul-de-sacs. Even the occasional round about where I don’t know when to stop spinning in circles, but for now I think some decent decisions have been made. So I begin the year like most people – making resolutions. I find it ironic to need to be made in January – I’ll do so anyway and probably fail and revise and continue on throughout this year making new resolutions with new plans.

So – I end with a pithy list because I cannot think of a beautiful way to write it, but, as always I am writing to keep myself accountable – even if it’s only because i know more than just myself has read and knows these resolutions exist.

My pithy list of goals to which this New Years finds me resolute:

  1. Write more (I will again be attempting to write once per week at least via blog, more on paper)
  2. Finish the Whole30 (started January 1….only 27 more days until Chocolate!)
  3. Plan light
  4. Listen more
  5. Respond with grace and love
  6. Recognize when I feel guilty and just let it go – Feeling bad doesn’t make anything better
  7. Be thankful

Happy New Year everyone.

Grace and peace to you all.

I hope that wherever you are, you find small bits of life to be thankful for – they do add up.

Writing

…sometimes I write in books.   My own and those of others.  Sometimes I write notes to my future self because I know that what I remember today, I will forget in just a moment. All of the plans that I’ve made will be revised and demolished – reconstructed or forgotten – and the revisions will mean that I inevitably leave out some of the good parts in order to make room for the whims of a moment or my all too logical thinking self who forgets to make room for sentiment. 

    
This year I feel more confident in my stance.  Grounded in the reality of having a beautifully crazy family who fights and loves with equal stubbornness. A reality in which I can officially call myself a teacher because I hold a degree and a job and a classroom to prove these things.  A reality in which I’m comfortable answering questions and even more comfortable asking them and not knowing the answers. 

Halfway through a year or teaching – 3 months away from finishing my masters degree.  Still trying to figure out who I am and how that plays into all these things.  

Musings for a moment.  
Merry Christmas friends.