September 24, 2010 § 6 Comments
This story begins with an ending.
In the end of 2004, I was a broken girl with a stubborn heart and a bruised sense of hope. Around that time, I picked up a little book called Blue Like Jazz and found comfort in stories about Portland, a faraway sort of place for me at the time, and an honest look at spirituality, which wasn’t yet en vogue and certainly outside of how I’d been relating to God thus far. I read every Don Miller book I could find for the next few years and filed their contents away in my mind.
Two years later I found myself in Oregon, in a little house in my parents’ brand new big backyard, and began the slow and painful process of learning how to be alone, how to mourn the life I’d anticipated and face the life I had, how to be content with the woods and a family who loves me and a God who knows my name. I made friends who hadn’t known me as I had been, reworked my relationships, watched and protested as God rewrote my story.
Two years later I found myself in Portland, lonely for a church family, standing in front of a book case with a copy of Blue Like Jazz in my hands, scanning the pages frantically for the name of that church, you know, the one Don Miller talks about, the one with the football player pastor and the new idea of religion. In only hours I found myself seated alone in a high school auditorium, unaware of the significant moment of my body in that chair, my heart in that building, my first day in a new home that I couldn’t yet recognize.
Nearly two years later I found myself at a party, a celebration of the birth of the incomparable Annie Skroski, one of the many amazing people who have become my Imago/Portland family. I’d been to dozens of parties like this one over the last year and a half, full of laughter and costumes and belonging and love. Parties with dancing, and friends, and food, and photo booths.
Since that beautifully orchestrated night, photo booths have been a strange sort of motif in our relationship. For example, here we are on the day we officially became an item:
We’ve been photographed together at weddings, parties, and in numerous arcades and bars and aquariums, squished together in old school booths that take our $5 and hand us a memory.
More importantly, I’ve been loved gracefully, wholly, and unrelentingly by the most amazing, generous, and intelligent man. He has never allowed me to hide, never let me feel less than beautiful, and invited me into every corner of his life, his space, his time. He has given me an extraordinary gift – the privilege to love and be loved in a way that acknowledges God, respects the journey, and inspires me to be a better follower, to love more, to give more, to open up.
Last Friday I uncovered my eyes and found myself in a photo booth that Favorite had set up in his house. And, after a bit of goofy photo taking, Favorite found himself down on one knee.
Oh, you’d like to see? Well, go figure, I have pictures:
This story ends with a beginning. Five months from now, I will stand in front of friends and family with the man I’ve chosen who so wonderfully has also chosen me, and we will be married by our cherished friend Tony, who was once only a beat poet in a book that brought me to my new family, and is now someone I call friend and share a table with every Sunday night. If God is in the details, and you know I believe He is, He is most certainly in that one.
What I would say to you is this: This story you’re in, I’m in, we’re in, is a symphony. It’s so much bigger than all of us, the plan is so much greater than we can fathom, and the pieces come together in ways we can’t begin to imagine. The miracle will come, grace is yours to accept, God wants to bless you. Watch for the tiny patterns, the echoes of amazing love. You’ll find them. You’ll feel them. God takes broken edges and marries them like puzzle pieces. Hold on. Stay in. Wait for the miracle. And when it comes, and it will come, try to take a few pictures.
September 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
September 16, 2010 § 4 Comments
Next week it will officially be autumn.
The days here are still oddly sticky, warming in the late afternoon in that Oregon way that I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to, but the mornings are arriving with the tiniest suggestion of a chill, a whisper that yes, fall is coming. I am beside myself with anticipation.
One of the many perils of the hopelessly romantic is our ability to become madly, passionately enamored of things like flowers and oceans and entire seasons. But seriously, is anything better than fall? I’d have never guessed I could love a time of year as fiercely as I love fall in the Pacific Northwest. There is a part of my soul that lives only in smoke spirals snaking out of chimneys and the bitter softness of wool on the skin of my neck, and it stumbles out of hibernation in the early days of September, squinting in the light and quivering with the sheer fantasticness of it all – months of uninterrupted loveliness, color, joy.
I grew up in a place where it was perpetually spring – consistently somewhere between warmish and too warm with a smattering of rain and a month or two of summer heat tossed in for good measure. I loved autumn then, but not with the distracting fervor with which I crave it here. Because here, here there are leaves and fabulously unexpected shivery breezes. Here, hats and scarves and gloves begin to sheath the hurrying bodies on sidewalks, gift wrapping the city in handknits and coziness and fuzz. Here the seasonal totems are abundant and unmissable – pumpkins growing in yards, turkeys running wild through my family’s pastures, Christmas trees lined up on the sides of the highway. Here people will begin to stand closer together, will let the light of the coming holidays begin to ignite them, will huddle for warmth and snuggle for the simple perfection that is being tangled up with loved ones as the world cools around them.
Autumn is coming, and I’m wishing you mugs filled with warm things, hands to hold, and cozy sweaters. I’m wishing you the smell of chimney smoke and harvest and rain and the time to recognize it. I’m wishing you sharpened pencils and apple cider and holiday kitsch. I’m wishing you the faith of children and the ability to see this season through their eyes. I’m wishing something deep within you to begin the celebration of gratitude, the spirit of giving, the desire for peace on earth. I’m wishing you people to love, and those who will love you. I’m wishing you autumn and magic and joy.
September 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
To be fair, this week’s Cheap Thrill is not a new idea. I’ve heard it suggested in many different forums, read about it in a few books, and watched it play out in a movie or two. That said, it is sort of a fun challenge, and I’m daring you to do it sometime this week. That’s right. I dare you. Double dog.
Here are your steps:
1. Choose a buddy. I especially like the idea of doing this with someone you see regularly in a way that could be perceived as “routine.” This person could be your significant other, a coworker, a close friend, or a sibling or parent or child… someone with whom you spend some time doing the sameoldsameold thing. It also helps if your buddy of choice is, well, down with crazy. Because they’re going to need a bit of a can-do attitude for this one.
2. Choose an activity that has an appropriate time and place, like eating breakfast or dinner, or rollerskating, or sleeping, or sitting on a couch, or watching a movie. You’ll be wise to choose an activity that doesn’t require help from professionals – for example, getting pedicures won’t work out so well here. Unless you DIY it up.
3. Choose a completely incongruous time and/or place to perform your activity of choice. This is where it gets fun. Get together and make pancakes at 2am. Go rollerskating in the snootiest neighborhood in town. Stage a sleepover on your front porch. Load a loveseat into a truck and take it up a hill to sit and watch the sunset. Form a knitting circle in a popular bar on a Friday night. Grab your laptop and a DVD and have a movie afternoon at the beach. Go for a walk in the pouring rain. Agree to meet for coffee at 4am, bring a french press and a blanket, and chat until the sun comes up. Get all dressed up and go eat at McDonald’s. Do something in a way that you’ve never done it before.
4. Enjoy seeing your chosen buddy in a new context. Laugh about that time you met for hamburgers on the roof at midnight for years and years to come. Learn something about each other, form a bond, mend a distance, create a moment.
5. Tell me what you do! I’m dying to know if you’ll try it.
September 12, 2010 § 5 Comments
Favorite thinks I’m dating him for his car and his ability to apply a quote from UHF to nearly any situation. I’m actually dating him for his ability to recite the following piece of loveliness… among other reasons too copious to list here.
If You Knew
by Ellen Bass
What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm
brush your fingertips
along the lifeline’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt,
They’d just had lunch, and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?
Ellen Bass has a book out, The Human Line. I vote we go get it. Who’s with me?
My prayer for you, for us, this week is that we remember to touch each other, remember to notice, remember to see.
September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’m fairly certain that the following is common knowledge, but just in case you haven’t checked your email in the last several years or have just returned to blog reading after a stint on a reality television show or an island somewhere, I’ll make sure it’s perfectly clear: I am the biggest cheeseball on the face of the planet.
I’ve tried at different phases of my life to act somehow less ridiculously cheesy than I natural am, but despite valiant efforts at the ages of 14 and 22, the cheese eventually finds its way to the surface. I am a total cheese fest. I like horrible movies. I am routinely moved to tears by YouTube videos starring animals and small children (Christian the Lion?!? Please. I’m welling up just typing about it). I can find the bright side of a nuclear war and I genuinely believe with every sparkly fiber of my cheesy being that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. I can’t help but clap my hands when asked if I believe in fairies. I’m practically carved out of cheddar.
Which means, sometimes, when I’m feeling a little off or a little headache-y or a little blue, it requires the cheesiest of something to cheer me up. Today, it was country singer Jessica Andrews. Jessica had, like, one hit song ever, and on the cheesy meter, it’s a total chart topper. But the best thing about this song is that I can change the lyrics so that they directly apply to MY life! Oh joy of cheesy cheesy joys!
So this afternoon found me in my car, in the rain, driving down the highway and singing at the top of my lungs:
I am GENEVIEVE’s grandaughter
the spittin’ image of my MOTHER
and when the day is done
my DADDY’s still my biggest fan…
… like the complete fool that I am. I got all choked up and everything. It was pathetic and beautiful.
All of which to say…
Thank God we were given spirits that delight in ridiculous things. Thank God that we all have our silly, tiny moments of cheesy joy. Thank God that we can laugh at our lame little selves and have a good cry when we need one over nothing more than a deer smelling a cat on a computer screen. And thanks, God, for delighting in ridiculous us.