a letter to myself in times of uncomfortable growth 

Dear Jessie,

If you believe that your good Father in heaven knows what you need, and He knows when you need discipline and when you need consolation and when you need to be desolate because you run the risk of growing complacent far, far, far, too often, then who do you think you are when you refuse to run to Him in prayer when you’ve encountered your own failings?

You pretend you’re Him. You steal His name as final authority, judge, and mock His authority by acting as an executioner.

That’s not the name He gave you.

Look, the Lord doesn’t give you glimpses into your own heart so you can condemn it. He doesn’t do it to rub your nose in your mess like a puppy who’s soiled the carpet.

He shows you your heart for the same reason He has worked those miracles on the dusty streets of first century Palestine.

You take your cue from the crowd around the blind man: “Lord, why was this man born blind? Was it because he sinned, or because his parents sinned?” Surely he does not deserve to be healed.

“Lord, why is my heart like this? Was it because I’ve sinned, or because people in my life have sinned against me?” Surely I don’t deserve to be healed. I must have done something to deserve this wretched heart.

And like He answered that crowd, He answers you, if you’re willing to listen. “Neither… it is so that the works of God may be made manifest in Him.” So that the world may see a particular instance of my Father’s infinite glory.

Little one, your heart is the glory of God waiting to be revealed. He shows you the weeds and asks you to wait with the patience of the wheat farmer – letting the weeds and wheat grow side by side, else ripping out the weeds may destroy the wheat as well. Wait on His word; wait for His work.

Of the times He has shown you the wounds in Your heart, how many has He failed to heal them? Not once. Not a single time.

Of the times He has allowed suffering into your life to crucify this desire or that tendency, how many times has He failed to bring about resurrection? Not once. Not a single time.

Because, Jessie, you see – God is a God of relentless victory. If He has begun a work in you, you can hang your hat and bet your bottom dollar and sell-out for that promise, because He will bring it to completion. He will do it for you, because He loves you.

But if you ever doubt that He will do it because He loves you – because how could He possibly love you – you can have faith that He will do it for the sake of His own name. And believing in His name is the antidote to that toxic doubt that He somehow loves you, because His name is love and His name is your name.

By the power of your Baptism and adoption into the household of God, you bear His name. You house His Presence. To the extent that you have let Him transform you thus far, you look like His face: because He became man, not to look like you, but so that you could grow to look LIKE HIM. You reflect the glory of the Son back to the Father.

And so it is right to stake your whole life on this promise: for the sake of His name, which is now your own, He who has begun this work in you will finish it.

Your heart is the glory of God revealed.

Love, Jessie.

Ing.

These days and times all blur together in my head, like dust bunnies eating each other and giving birth to more dust.

Summer is lost in the LEDs of my TV and the breeze can’t be heard over the whirr of my Macbook’s too-loud-fan.

I hate unstable transition states, and that’s what these 3-odd weeks at home are. You know how you plot a reaction in chemistry class, with the reactants and the products? And most reactions have this special thing called a transition state, or an intermediate, in which some of the bonds in the product are breaking just as the bonds for the new product are forming.  The ‘ing‘ of breaking and forming is the same ‘ing‘ that is ring-ring-ringing around my brain these hazy days.

I am an unstable intermediate, neither wholly dark nor wholly light, neither saint nor sinner, neither fully whole but no longer completely broken. I am being made new, so that all my words mean new things and all my colors and smells and feelings are getting reset.

I can’t be done yet, because I have too much work to do, and I’m better than where I was, so I don’t regret starting.

But this ing is so uncomfortable.

Test Tube Girl

One day I fell headfirst

down into a centrifuge tube.

They screwed the cap tight

and spun me until I was all spun out.

They aspirated all the things

I was used to living in:

math, history, joy, fear,

art, music, and chocolate.

Here, look, I tried to say, I need those things.

But in came a rush of things so new

Knowledge and science and humming machines

O, what a noise!

You’ll be healthy, they said,

We’ve mixed this up special for you.

But I barely noticed because they pumped my tube

So full of new and broke me up with violent push and pull.

Some bits of me got stuck in the sucker

that they used to churn my water.

Oh well, I thought, I probably didn’t need those anyway.

Time passed by

And sat I in the dark warm incubator

Until I quite forgot just what freedom felt like.

I was so used to being broken in a million pieces

That being whole was just too scary.

But one day now

a hand picks me up and holds me towards the

– O what’s the word? –

LIGHT.

Enough, I cried, as I found my voice.

I’m tired of surviving.

The hand tips me and pours me out onto its palm.

Calloused and rough – a hand of a man who knows wood well.

We left the lab, my warm-handed savior and I

and we went outside.

The birds, the bees, the perfect trees,

O God! I am alive.

Technology and sterility will render us fruitless

and limit the freedom of our days.

You’ll laugh, maybe, but I speak true – I know, I was there.

Don’t forget about the breath taken by sunrise

and the breath given by mountain air.

A stupid amount of stupor.

I know the heady, pleasant buzz from a glass of red wine that softens the edges and harsh tones around me.  I know the weighty warmth of a thick comforter that pushes back the cold morning and holds in the silence. I know the voluminous puff of just-enough layers of winter clothing that is my body’s shield against the wind.

These my wintertime companions offer me comfort and safety. For wintertime is a lonely time; even, it seems, the sun has decided he needs to take a holiday. My new books are my new coffee dates, and my coat hugs my shoulders in place of far and away college friends.

All these things offer me an escape; a safe haven; a forgetting.

Wine that I may forget the harshness; blankets that I may forget waking; clothes that I may forget cold; books that I may forget persons in the now.

But the persons in harsh, cold, waking now are the ones who will remind me that I am alive, just as I remind them.

I don’t want a world without edges.

I want a world that with each icy blast, each piercing word, each harsh realization reminds me that I am real and I am fighting.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am. – Sylvia Plath

An Old Sweater

It’s easier to be broken than it is to be whole.

We know what brokenness feels like.  It’s like wearing an old, moth-eaten sweater against the chill of the harsh world because it’s better than nothing.  And people offer you their coats when you shiver, and the Evil One whispers, “It’s because of your sweater.  They feel bad that it has holes in it. That’s the only reason they’re paying attention to you.”

Believing that is what causes us to rearrange our faces into a semblance of melancholy when that friend walks by.  All of a sudden we need to be noticed, and melancholy is attention-getting.  And if we’re consistently sad, people work to make us happy.

And that’s downright addicting.

Our Lady stood then at the foot of the Cross.  She likewise stands now in quiet witness when the Evil One whispers lies to us – that we are only worth paying attention to until we’re fixed; that we are the sum of our weakness; that someone or something has taken our dignity away; that that we have given our dignity away and that it is forever lost.

You cannot lose your dignity.  It’s not possible.  But I know I lost sight of it for a while.  The expectations of society, the thief of peace of mind whose name is Comparison, the pressures of school and grades and athleticism… they laid a thousand deadlines on my back until I was deaf to anything except for the ticking clock that passed judgement with every second that I remained imperfect.

A new cloak.  A new wineskin. Clean ears. A clean heart.  That’s what the Beloved is giving me.  Garments of praise, He offers.  And he offers again, ‘Let me wash you in my blood and adorn you with my love.’

‘Let me show you a freedom you’ve never known.’

And I found my freedom at the only place quiet enough to hear his heartbeat beating louder than the relentless second hand of judgement.  I found my place with the good thief, knowing I was justly condemned for my sins, and knowing only He had enough mercy for me.  At the foot of the Cross, my broken and bleeding Good Shepherd lifted this lost sheep of His onto His shoulders.  And our hearts began to beat as one.

I believe that He is enough.

It takes the same radical faith to see the pure, unadulterated good that flickers inside the dim and sooty recesses of the fireplaces of our brothers and sisters’ hearts.  That same radical faith moves us to say with Christ, ‘Friend, this day you shall be with me in paradise. Let us together approach the coming glory of the Father. May our hearts beat as one.’

O Gilded Leaf

sunlight drip drops in on

brightingly green leaves to begin the song that

the shadows sing:

a performance man’s hands had no hand in.

 

o shaded tree, o gilded leaf thou canst not

speak but thou whisperest to me

news of realms of light and shadow

which flourish beyond my reach.

 

sparks fly ever

upward the smoke andsteam twist roundandround

some dizzyingly dance set to a wild tribal tune

the universe is crying out

for all the world’s a stage

lights; actionsilence

 

applause.

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when i can't keep my thoughts inside my head

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