Saturday, December 27, 2014

People Matter. Stories Matter.

This morning, I volunteered at Helping Hands, a local food pantry and clothes closet. You may remember me sharing a bit about a previous Helping Hands experience over on Middle Places (click here to read that post).

Some days, it's a quick in and out... ask the questions, write the answers, turn in the form, move onto the next person. Other days, everyone has a story to tell, and I love those days. I love those days, because stories matter. People matter, and when you listen to what they are going through, you offer them more than food. You offer them dignity, and that isn't something you can find on a form or in a grocery bag.

Today was a story day. I had a woman with heart problems, doctor-assured that she will be dying any day now. And I had an elderly man who could barely hear and didn't see super well either. He reminded me a bit of my papaw, whom I adored and still miss dearly 22 years after losing him. As this man stood to leave, he pulled three bracelets from his pocket and told me he wanted me to take one. He wanted to give me a Christmas present.

If you know me, you know I don't wear jewelry often, and bracelets are a hindrance to my constant typing and scribbling in notebooks. They are too much sensory input for me when I am writing, basically. But I picked one of the beaded bracelets and put it on. It is made of fake pink pearls. It is not a bracelet I would ever pick even if I were to wear bracelets.

And I love it.

It is the prettiest thing I've ever seen.

I got a lot of lovely Christmas presents. My husband spoiled me with four Out of Print tees, a new Kindle cover, two new books, and a leather journaling Bible... not to mention gifts from church members and money sent by parents, etc...

But this little bracelet... It's like the widow's mite, and I will treasure it forever.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Merry Christmas - This Holy Story

This Holy Story

I love this holy story,
this broken image of a woman
shattered reputation scattered,
saved from stoning by a man
willing to see God's hand
in a hopeless moment, a faithless wife.
He didn't let her go, this man,
and another holy story falls,
words written in loose sand.

I love this woman's story,
her cloth robe worn thin by
so many eyes, so many hearts,
so many generations born and held
in her arms, her God
alive and suckling at her breast.
The man who reconciled
and the baby sent to reconcile
a world.

I love this mother's story.
She is heart and womb and blood,
milk, and flesh, and mud,
human birthed and breathing,
humility of the humblest kind
covering a royal throne.
Mary, here, advent of Christ
His home.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Don't Recycle Trash Theology

Sometimes, old ideas about God persist in hanging about. I'm sure I got rid of them, tossed them in the trash bin and put them by the curb, but then I discover I actually just recycled them. And recycling is great for physical waste, but harmful theology should never be recycled. That junk needs to be incinerated.

One of those harmful ideas is that I can’t have my dreams. If I hope for it or want it in any way, it must be bad and selfish. If I gain something I wish for, God will ask me to sacrifice it to prove I love him.

No one told me this in that black and white kind of way. It's a belief I picked up over time. Again and again, respected Christians praised those who turned away from what THEY wanted and instead pursued what God wanted for them. And that is not a bad thing. The problem is no one ever told me that what I want and what God want might be the same… that when God plants a dream in my heart, it could well be because THAT is the dream He wants for me.

In other words, dreaming dreams isn’t selfish.

Even typing this, I cringe, like someone is going to shove me down and tell me I’m wrong. Instead of waiting for them to do it, I mostly shove myself down and then sit in the mud, wallowing in self-pity.

I have dreamed, since a little girl, of being an author. Traditionally published, signing books, traveling for research, dreaming up characters and stories… And lately, that dream has been inching toward coming true little by little. But the evil voice whispers, “Selfish!”

There’s one voice in my head that insists I won’t ever achieve my dreams because I don’t write Christian fiction. This is the most ridiculous voice ever, because I don’t even like to read Christian fiction. Maybe if the voice stuck to calling me selfish, it would get somewhere, but it insists on throwing this whole Christian fiction barb at me.

Let me tell you who reads Christian fiction… Christians. I don’t believe following Christ is about serving other believers only. Jesus told stories to anyone who would listen. And I don’t believe telling stories is all about evangelism. If that is your calling, please answer it. *

My calling is different. My calling is stories… to make people think… to put a person inside another person’s life. Nothing in my life has built empathy in me more than reading fiction. 

Secular fiction. 

So there is my calling. Tell stories. Share ideas. Love people with word and action.

And toss that trash theology to the curb where it belongs.

This is not the blog I sat down to write today. But I suppose it needed saying. Turns out, until my fingers hit the keys, I am never entirely sure what I think… what I believe. Sometimes, God speaks to me through my own words.

Does that ever happen to you?

* Disclaimer: I'm serious. There are some great writers writing Christian fiction, and they are feeding a group of people who need feeding. Just because it isn't the group of people I feel called to feed or the method of feeding people I feel called to use or the art form I am most gifted at creating does not make those writers or those books bad. Like any category of books, they ran the gamut from formulaic and shallow and blah to deep and beautiful and amazing. Writing GOOD Christian fiction is not easy and I salute those of you who do it and do it well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Currently: December is Here Before it's June

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Current Books: I started A Farewell to Mars with my coffee in the mornings. I am almost finished reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. WOW! For a while, I have read books like my son plays with toys... secretly taking them apart in my brain and trying to figure out how they work. It's been a while since I have totally relaxed so far into a book, I forget it is a book and I write books and I need to know how this book works. We Were Liars is a "just one more chapter" kind of book.

Current Playlist: I've been listening to "Less Like Scars" by Sara Groves on repeat.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Yesterday, I bought donuts. For myself. I didn't share.

Current Colors: I've liked mustard yellow lately, and that's not a color I normally like. It's also not a color I wear. It doesn't look good on my skin tone. But I like it lately, nonetheless.

Current Food: Corey and I tried a new place called Amsterdam's. Though the name doesn't show it, they serve a few middle eastern dishes, and I got a gyro. They also have shawarma and a hummus plate. It was delicious and I will definitely go back. A lot.

Current Drink: I had a yummy sparkling berry lemonade at Amsterdam's. I don't recall the brand. It was a French import.

Current Favorite Favorite: Not stressing about gifts this Advent. I made a list and I have stuck to that list.

Current Wishlist: A bunch of books, some Out of Print Clothing shirts, a journaling Bible, a new bag for my Macbook...

Current Needs: Nothing huge. I'm feeling very content and grateful.

Current Triumphs: I just bought my husband's Christmas gift. It was expensive. I paid for it with Jamberry money I earned. :) We've never been a "your money" and "my money" kind of couple, but usually he is the only one earning any money. This year, it was fun to shop for him without him even knowing.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Hormones. Mine and those belonging to the tweens living in my house.

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Current Indulgence: I watch New Girl on Netflix while working on Christmas gifts.

Current Mood: Content.

Current Outfit: Jeans, spike-toed boots, blue shirt, purple Under Armor jacket

Current #1 Blessing: My husband

Current Quote: “Because I hadn’t known that I knew these things. Just having a notebook to write them in, and having someone to write them to, made them all rise to the surface.” ― Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Current Photo:

Title taken from: “How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Middle Places: A Wait Wasted

To enter the Church of the Nativity, I went through the “door of humility.” It’s called that because you must bend low to fit through. Once inside, I found myself surrounded by people.
So. Many. People.
I’m not fond of crowds, and this church was HUGE and FULL. We were crammed into one section, waiting. Far ahead, I could see the doors we would eventually go through. Beyond those doors, there was another room.
More people.
More waiting.
Our guide was flabbergasted. Other than on Christmas Eve, he’d never seen a crowd like that. On that day, we’d planned lunch after the church visit and an earlier stop had us running behind. Still, the line had always moved quickly before, and we had other activities scheduled for the afternoon.
So we stayed.
We waited.
Everyone was talking about the wait, about being hungry, about the priests allowing certain people (some of them foreign diplomats and some of them pretty girls in short skirts) to skip the line and spend as much time as they wanted inside the cave believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
I’m skeptical at the best of times, and I had plenty of time to be so over whatever this site was. 
If you would like to read the rest of this story, please visit Middle Places.

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