Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

what we forget.

not much time to write today. i hadn’t even an inkling of what to say until a few minutes ago, actually, when a friend (whom i’d link to, but her site has gone missing) emailed me with a quote of my very own. she’d been (clearly very bored and) rummaging through the archives of my old blog, which date back to 2002, pre coming out, even. from this 2007 post, she gleaned these words:

“i am trying to say that if i can find my way back to the words, peace will only deepen within me. and if i keep writing as the peace deepens, maybe you’ll see it. recognize it. and peace will deepen within you too.

when all is calm, in heavenly peace, our breaths even out. steady. rhythmic. deep and sustaining. inhale. exhale. and rest. what more can we give one another?”

my own words were a simple reflection of a deeper call by one of my most sacred of muses, etty hillesum:

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.

i had forgotten all about writing that post, over two years ago now. so much has changed but that one constant: the need to write my way to peace, to belief, to hope. i don’t want to just be a chronicler, or god forbid, a mommyblogger. i want to wake to wonder, and tell it well.

…to all of you.

thanks for reading as i find my way.

happy saturday.

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choosing easter.

lately, i have been talking a lot, in therapy, and with h, about the possibility of going to church again. and i have been intensely torn about the idea. on one hand, the natural rhythm of my life has always been found in seasons like advent and lent, and my soul has ached for the spiritual grounding of ritual and reverence again. and community. how i’ve missed belonging to a community that loves and serves one another. on the other hand, however, it was the church that nearly broke me, that sent me to a psychiatric hospital, as i felt my soul split down the middle when i came out.

…reconciliation and healing have not yet come. and so i’ve stayed away. for nearly five years.

it has been my hope (and plan, i suppose) to lick my wounds, rise up more whole, and maybe find my way back to some sort of faith. it has been my reality that, of course, i need to find my way back in order to be more whole. it’s the whole “you need to trust to learn to trust” sort of bullshit truth. dip your toe in the water, my therapist has encouraged. i’ll think about it, i’ve said. week after week, i’ve said it. i’ll think about it.

so. easter. the mother of christian holidays, a day of belief and relief that God is bigger than death.

yesterday morning, h asked me if i wanted to visit an affirming/diverse/kid-friendly episcopal church we’ve been considering for nearly a year. on easter? i asked. maybe next week, i said. she asked why not easter. i waxed ineloquent about having missed the dance of lent, and how weird it would be to simply show up at the grand finale. she saw right through me, and said, well maybe it’s the perfect day to show up again. resurrection. new life, new beginnings, and all that. shit. she was right. i could keep saying “maybe next week” every week, or i could simply go.

and so it came to pass that we put some bloomers and a new dress on a napping jude, and attended an evening easter service. after waking up, j was in a stellar mood, and so very well behaved during the service. when she became distractingly squirmy, we took her to play in the children’s corner of the sanctuary. that’s right folks: this church likes you to keep your noisy kids in the service. and so i got to play with duplos AND participate in the eucharist.

wherever you are in your journey, you are welcome at this table, said the priest as he blessed the bread and wine. i don’t know what i believe to be true about God anymore; i only know the need to participate in the rhythm of the church. and so i carried jude on my hip, walked to the altar, and took my place in a semi-circle of the kneeling and standing faithful. a girl with blond hair and glasses knelt next to me, and tickled jude’s bare feet. jude smiled at her, and then–very uncharacteristically–leaned down to kiss the girl on the mouth. the girl–her name is laura, as i gathered from her sharpie-scrawled name tag–then kissed jude’s hand, and returned to prayer. soon, the priest came and offered me the elements, and blessed jude with the sign of the cross over her forehead. she grabbed his hand silently, and brought it to her cheek, at which point she nestled into it happily. blessing, indeed.

tears sat on my eyelids a lot during that service. it wasn’t that the homily was lifechanging (though it was thoughtful and good), or that epiphany swelled in my heart; i simply felt a little more home in my spiritual skin than i have in a long time. it didn’t hurt that the congregants were all genuinely friendly to all three of us. there was none of that awkward, “let’s greet the new people” awfulness. it was more like meeting friends of your friends at a party. how rare.

as for the overwhelm of easter itself? it is enough to celebrate my own resurrection. everything else will come in time. amen.

…and happy easter.

happy belated easter!

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my dear friend, sarah wrote a song about 10 years ago which was based on psalm 139. she called it “love can overcome estrangement”, but (if i remember correctly) the powers-that-be at her label thought that was a little too…vague (?) for a “christian” song. and so, for all intents and purposes, it was called “psalm 139”.

it was a really, really great song in homage to a wonderful psalm: dear god, you know me. you’ve made me become me. what else is there?

that song found its way into the shuffle of my daily commute this morning. and its real title flashed through my head. and i thought of my pastor’s wife finding me on facebook.

my friend lisa wrote this comment on my previous post:

I wish I knew what to write. I keep thinking for some reason, of my father. I remember coming to the realization (and choosing to believe it) that he was doing the best with what he had. It sounds, perhaps, that your pastor’s wife is doing the same. It doesn’t mean it’s not hurtful, though.

moments after i finished writing here the other day, my pastor’s wife chatted me on fb. she was responding to my reply to her email, in which i said that i spent a lot of my life fearing rejection from people i loved if i told my truth. (how’s that for a poorly constructed sentence. i am so totally giving sarah palin a run for her money, like also as well.) her chat went something like this: i would never reject you. you are precious, and your daughter is precious.

i thanked her for her words, because i know she means them. we chitchatted a moment more, and then she had to go. she said she loved me. i said i loved her.

who knows where the conversation will go from here. i know without a doubt that she will pray for my deliverance from teh ghey, that my family will be seen as within the clutch of the devil. her church, in which i spent eight years, is all about the prayer circles, hands outstretched to god, pleading loudly for lost souls. it sickens my heart to know that my name will now likely echo throughout the sanctuary. and yet, if anything can overcome this kind of estrangement, it’s love.

as h said, when i relayed my sadness about being prayed for in such a way: simply accept the love-filled energy of the prayer itself. ultimately, it is my blessing and health that is being prayed for, and who does not want to receive that? i love my h.

non-sequitur, because i need a segue before gracing you with a photo of the judelet…

the child was up last night. a lot. whiny-sad. maybe it was teeth. maybe it was belly. we covered bases with teething tablets and gripe water. in the end, she spent most of the night snuggled up between us, which means not-so-quality sleep for me. blargh. and yet, this was the good morning photo sent to me at work:

playing innocent after keeping us up all night.

total innocence.

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out of the woodwork.

exhale. thank you all so much for the heartfelt, uplifting encouragement you offered on my words post. the subject matter is more delicate than i thought it was. and i think it has something to do with the fact that yet another person from my past has surprisingly surfaced. this person, unsurprisingly, does not approve of my life. for she is the wife of my childhood church’s pastor.

she, like the friend i wrote about here, is a strong woman who played an integral role in my becoming. when i was an awkward teenager, she helped me find my self esteem. she believed in my chosen-ness; she once told me i would “save millions of souls” someday. God had a plan for my life, she reassured me, and i was on his path.

fast-forward fifteen years, and here sits a facebook email exchange. the essence of it culminates with her saying:

From your email, I can see you’ve carved out a new life for yourself…It’s probably no surprise that celebrating your new lifestyle is something I struggle with, but it does not diminish my love for you. It just makes me pray.

there is so much to deconstruct in this sentence.
1. my “new lifestyle” smacks of the same stuff as “backsliding”.
2. she is trying very hard to be gracious in a “love the sinner, hate the sin” kind of way.
3. her prayers are obviously not for the health and wellbeing of my family, or for justice in our struggle for civil rights…

i have no idea where the conversation will lead from here. though, in my heart, i leap to the defensive, i remain calm on the outside, and remind myself: just because she disagrees with me doesn’t make me wrong. that’s my mantra, over and over. furthermore, i do not owe her, or anyone, justification for my life. i am living my life bravely and honestly, and i am a free woman who still seeks the divine. amen? amen.

if this kind of confrontation had happened as recently as three years ago, i think i may have emotionally buckled under the pressure. now, however, i am a whole lot stronger than i thought i was. i owe much of that strength to jude. my willingness to engage these people from my past who i loved so much is based on the pride i have in jude, in the family that h and i have created. and my unwillingness to play the “let’s argue what the bible says about homosexuality” game is based on my earnest belief that one cannot argue someone else out of their own judgment.

show me leviticus, show me romans, and my reply is: here is judith, the most joyful, peaceful child i’ve ever met. she is the product of my “lifestyle”. if ever there were a question about the wisdom of the life i’ve carved for myself, spend an hour with my daughter. she will define for you amazing grace.

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two years ago, i began a masters degree in writing. after a semester, i dropped out, largely due to the fact that my classes demanded i write, and i had nothing to say. every time i sat down to compose an essay or story for an assignment, i drew a blank. i shrugged my shoulders, and all but wrote the words, “um, i don’t know”, if for no other reason than to keep the page from being so blank.

the following is a messy bit of writing i did wrote my last assignment, just before i took the first F in my whole life.

i want to preface it by saying this: wearefambly, and the nablopomo challenge specifically, is waking up the writer in me.  more on this theme soon.

If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act–truth is always subversive. (–Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird)

I used to write about God. I wrote about God because I knew God. God was intimately with me, and I was in constant communion with Him. (God was always a Him with a capital H.) I wrote prolifically about hope and redemption with authority, because good conquered evil, always: this was both Truth and Fact.

I used to write about God because I was a believer, a Bible thumping member of His Church. I could tell you the exact order of the books of the Bible, as well as quote from each, verbatim. Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh, I was taught from age three. I fell in love with words the moment I figured out how to put letters together to form them. Jesus was the ultimate Word: a word that was alive. If I wrote about Jesus, I reckoned, maybe my words would come alive too.

“God is really among us,” St. Paul writes in I Corinthians (14:25).

God is really among us. I banked my whole life on words such as these. Every single decision I made, from vocation to vacation, was based on the fundamentally true and constant presence of a God who knew my name. He was as constant as stars. Two blue stars were tattooed into my shoulder blades as proof and painful reminder of such constancy.

Despite my seeming confidence in a God who never left nor forsook, I also understood that if I told my truth, I would lose my God. After all, the Bible I knew so well preached abomination and promised alienation, often on the same page as amazing grace. I reconciled this duality as “paradox”: The Bible never contradicted itself. My own truth was a lie when compared to the Truth of God. And so, I wrote and edited according to God’s Truth. Maybe if I wrote enough, I hoped, my truth would become one with that of God. And maybe if I wrote well enough, my words about God would be published. My logic was simple: a published Christian equals a Christian who knows what she is talking about.

The Bible never contradicted itself. If I wondered about the wisdom of listening for God while silencing myself, I had words to buttress me: “Has Got not made the wisdom of the world foolish?” (I Corinthians 1:20) When I worried that my devotion was not worth the cost, I taped these words onto my bedroom mirror: “…I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). When I felt like writing, “I’m trapped. Help,” St. Paul made me feel guilty with his words of absolute devotion.

I knew God like the back of my hand, or at least the back of His book. My little struggles and secrets paled in comparison to the Bible’s end, the Book of Revelation. Jesus Christ had died for my sins. He had been resurrected on his third day in the grave, and was seated at the right hand of God. He would come again to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom would have no end. I would be judged.

I wrote prolifically about redemption. St. Paul endured the metaphorical thorn in his flesh. Despite the fact that it gave him constant psychic pain, he never sought alleviation. He pressed forward, and never complained, because he loved God. If God were to pluck the thorn, what would remind St. Paul that life on earth is suffering? The thorn brought him closer to God. If he could endure without wavering in his faith, I wrote, I could—I would—do the same.

I endured for fifteen years. And then I plucked out the thorn myself.

Maybe it had something to do with announcing to my Christian world that I was gay, and then crossing my fingers as I hoped it would suddenly be okay. Maybe it was the fallout after I fell in love with: A. a woman who B. was not a Christian. All I can say is that the Word simply became a word one day. I awoke to find all my own words gone. A woman lay asleep in my bed, and I loved her more than myself. For the first time in my life, I was confident that I was no longer alone.

Every word I had ever written disappeared.

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