I used to write.

I used to write so much that other people called me a writer.
I didn't believe them, but that was how much I wrote.

I wrote in all lowercase letters.
They seemed approachable, unimposing, gentle.
I overused ellipses because periods seemed harsh and bossy.

On Thursdays, I met with a woman who asked me to choose a figure from a basket and place it anywhere I wanted in a small sandbox.  I chose a baby deer.  Then she asked me to add a second.  I chose a person swinging a stick and I buried it in the corner under the sand.

In a place I couldn't get at ease,  I created the coziest, tiniest nook anyone over five feet tall ever fit, and "fit" is a loose term, because my knees were too tall for the writing desk.  But the nook had soft lighting and muted drawings. If I faced forward, nowhere else existed.

I practiced having lowercase hands that patted and opened to every person I met.
I assumed everyone may be coming out into the world from a cozy nook, braving the elements, and anything but kindness might scare them back in.
Because, you just never know.

I dreamed about a new place where I could enter each room freely.
I prayed and searched and visited and waited.  I shopped for tables, coffee, kitchen and side ones, and realized that everything I wanted was circular.  Anything with the hint of a sharp corner, turned me on my heel and sent me back towards the furry blanket displays.

I dreamed about a place, but was doubtful.  You never know if your mind just can't handle sharp corners anywhere.  Maybe it's you.  Maybe you'll be fashioning nooks or nests anywhere you light the rest of your life.

The woman asked me to choose a figure to place near the fawn.
I chose a lion wearing a crown.  Not a scary roaring one.  It sat tall and serene and I placed her just in front of the fawn protectively.  She said choose another also, so I placed a tiny soldier behind the fawn for backup.  I named him Kevin.  I said he was small and in training, but feisty and had heart.  She said I didn't need to name him, and truthfully, this activity was supposed to be less verbal than I making it.

I made it to a new place.
I stood up to my full height (minus my shepherd's crook posture) the moment I entered.
I roamed through each tiny room and exhaled.
I wasn't sure where the cozy nook should be.  For weeks, I tried different areas.  Nowhere was just right.  Finally I realized, all four rooms were my nest.
I breathed and found I didn't notice whether there were sharp corners or not.
My coffee table is round, but frankly a rectangle would hold more books.  I'm considering.

When the sandbox was full, I asked what it meant.  What happened to the figures?  Who are they?
"You," she said.
"The fawn?" I asked.
"All of them."
I was skeptical.  "The soldier...the one under the sand...the lion in the crown...."

I didn't believe her.
Until today.

i went to the trees to tattle

i went to the trees to tell on you
for being happy without me.
they listened and let me cry,
but they didn't join in.
"we are taller, we see further,
there were two somethings in the distance approaching.
his just arrived first."

Building a Life

I have rolled along believing in a power who controls all and acts upon me versus within me.  I have comforted myself with the assurance that I am adaptable and, with enough prayer and assistance from above, I could take wave after wave of whatever happened to and around me.  Often, it felt bad, except for the certainty that this approach was god's will.  And that was enough...almost.

However,  in an effort to honor his sovereignty, or the universe's destiny, I think I skewed truth.  I don't think his will was for me to live passively - to be like an empty shell on the ocean floor moved about with waves and currents - or to be like a dead leaf detached from it's life force, blown from spot to spot, all the while saying, Thank you, Thank you.

Those objects have their own sort of beauty and purpose, but first, they had a life, that god or the universe gave them, and that was created with delight.  That shell held a creature once.  That leaf sprouted on a living tree.  THAT life - THAT purpose - that's what I should be doing and living and building.

I didn't know a life was something I helped build.  Regardless, life has been happening.  I've had sooo much.  I couldn't be more grateful for and in love with my kids and the people around me.  I just didn't know I had power or choices I was supposed to use.  I thought making choices was selfish.  I thought it was competing with or insulting god's power.  I believed he'd make all of the choices for me if I just sat still and prayed.  Sometimes, he did.  But when he wants you to choose or live, and you don't, someone else will.  And you can become lost in the waves and the wind. 

I don't think he's angry that I've been confused, but I think he's been waiting.
But, it's time.

from Mary Oliver's "Upstream"

A Tale of Two BIddies

Crystaline was fancy and fluffy and fly.
If she hadn't been a chicken, she'd have been the kind of girl who could pull off a Kanga and Hammer pants.
If she'd had ears, she'd have been the kind of girl who would strut down the street in 2017 wearing her uncle's old Walkman and people she passed woulda assumed it was the iPhone11.
Had god given her arms, they'd be bangled and jangling as her hips swayed left and right to her inner keytar rhythm.

Daphne was bookish and softish and shy.
She'd shoulda been born in the liberry stacks.
You could tell in her eyes, she'd have sneaked down to the poetry section on her breaks and crawled into the 811s to hide.
If she'd had shoulders, they'd be inked in Rilke and Dickinson quotes.
If she coulda held a pencil, the walls would've been covered with words upon words.

But alas...
They were just chickens.
Pecking at the ground, dodging the rooster Caesar, bokking and squawking, and being startled constantly by that lady's new Bichon Frise.

use your daughter-voice, because that's what you are after all

if you want to know how
to speak to yourself
when your heart
has been sprained,
ask yourself what you will tell
your daughter one day
when her heart aches...
then your words stream out:

"do you know that
you are a MARVEL?!
with sun in your face
and stardust in your heart!
i do.
i know.
i've seen.

you are a blast of
light and love on this earth
with art streaming out
i was going to say something
about that person
that hurt you, but
let's not puzzle over them.
i decided they need not
be addressed after all.

who do you tell secrets in the blanket fort?

I share this because I know I'm not the only one.  Maybe I can take the pressure off someone else.
I've met a handful of humans with similar experiences, and I don't even get out much. If I frequented somewhere besides coffee shops and laundromats, I'd probably know even more similar humans.

Some of us were deep in conservative Christian churches, deep in the bible, totally committed to the gospel, even teaching it to groups. 
Then something happened. 
The people I'm thinking of underwent some sort of life tragedy or a significant experience that made them question their theology.  Again, I only know a handful, but I have big hands. The ones I know, for one reason or another, began wondering if they'd mixed up their beliefs about god in their own minds.  They aren't always sure whether they sat under confusing bible teaching, or just skewed it in applying it to their own lives.  These friends aren't always anti-religion, but they are wary.  I hear them say things like, "I may go back to church in the future...but right now?  No.  I'm just not ready."

The friends to whom I'm referring, end up feeling more open to the idea that god can be in more than one religion, or in no religion at all.  They find themselves using terms like "tolerance" and "spirituality even outside of god," which frankly would been taboo in the past for them...signs they were "back-sliding" and "watering down their faith," traveling down a slippery slope to no good.  The new feelings for them are simultaneously good and weird and naughty.  That's confusing, because these were the "good girls and boys."  In the past, their only intentions were to follow god and try to do his will in their limited, "sinful" ability.  But at some point, they feel like they got burned by life, and wonder if they had their doctrine mixed up.

As someone who has taken a break from church for awhile, I admit, I both revel in the break and miss it at times.  I feel right; I feel wrong; I feel neutral, depending on the day.  And that's okay.

At times I have felt guarded against god, afraid to read the bible, and untrusting of myself to be able to discern and apply what's in there.  But because I was such a committed bible student, without that regular study, I feel lost at times not trusting myself to to live.  It feels like having a rug yanked out from under you, but knowing you don't want to re-tuck that rug exactly as it was.
That's an uncomfortable feeling, but that too is okay.
I don't want to talk about reading the bible really; I want to talk about Jesus.

I wasn't raised in a conservative church.  I really only delved into conservative doctrine in my 20s and forward.  But boy did I delve.  Because when I delve, I DELVE.  For the last two decades, I was taught and believed, you have two choices in dealing with Jesus:
1)  You can believe he is the messiah and son of god; or
2)  You can believe he was a mad man who was crazy and just claimed he was the messiah.
The idea is that you choose him as savior, or you don't because he was crazy.  The teaching is to point out that religions or people who say they respect Jesus as a person, but don't believe he died for their sins are wrong, i.e., "You can't have your cake unless you eat it" (or something like that).

This has caused a lot of angst for me recently.
Until Friday morning.

In the past year, as I've been leery of the bible and doctrine I believed so fervently the last two decades.  I've shied away from Jesus.  When I pray, which I do even though I feel a bit confused about prayer this year, I haven't really addressed Jesus.  I used to picture him standing at the right hand of god, listening and advocating for me.  Now I'm not sure where god is...where Jesus is...whether god is just everywhere or specifically in heaven...whether Jesus is everywhere or specifically in heaven. Or maybe he roamed off to the break room to get a snack and give me some alone time with god, because he knows he's making me feel squirmy.

But see?  That's the thing I've decided about Jesus.
He's the kind of guy that would understand if you feel squirmy.  People might say, "NO.  HE DEMANDS YOU MAKE A CHOICE ABOUT HIM.  YOU CAN'T STRADDLE THE FENCE."  And you know what I say to that?  Screw you.  Even if you're right, you aren't in charge of his timetable or mine.  You've got a book, but you aren't him and you aren't me.

This is what I do know.
I've been squirmy for months.  But Friday morning when I was really struggling and kept thinking, "No one knows exactly how I'm feeling this moment.  I know some great people, but there really is no one I want to tell about how I'm feeling just now."  I pulled the blanket over my head and cried and smelled my smelly dog and talked to Jesus.  And whether he heard me or not, whether he is the son of god or not, from everything I know about him as a person, I just know he'd come right under that blanket fort and smell that dog and not complain.  He'd say, "Keep talking.  I get it.  I understand the pain and the filth in this world." And I do not believe he'd stand outside the blanket saying, "First tell me your theology about me before I decide to come into that fort."

And for the first time, I understood why Christians and non-Christians can feel comfortable with him.
I don't know how I'll feel about religion or church in another month, year or decade.  But I think I feel good about Jesus again.

And that's enough.

*footnote:  my dog smells exactly like Old Bay seasoning because I tried a new flea medicine.  while it's not the worst smell, it's disconcerting.  however, it keeps in theme with the fishes and loaves I suppose.