Archives for category: Autobiography

  
Our son arrived at 11:35 pm on August 21, 8 lbs 1 oz and 20 inches of kicking, deep-throated vigor.

Briefly, here is our birth story.

Pregnancy wasn’t too bad, and by 3 weeks out from the due date, he was well-positioned and things were progressing. But a week later, he had moved. In fact, he kept moving up until delivery. We had several ultrasounds which showed his range of motion – from breech to transverse, even moving significantly between the ultrasound and the doctor’s visit minutes later! My doctor moved him into position a few times, but he never stayed long. We agreed to wait, watch, and see.

His due date came and went. He still flipped! But labor was nowhere near. Finally, we scheduled a c-section for a few days after 41 weeks.

That morning emotions were intense. Surgery was set for 4 pm. At 3:45, my doctor came in for one last ultrasound – and Baby was in position, head down!

It took a few minutes to develop a new plan, but we agreed to induce. Pills, pitocin, panic, and an epidural later, I was pushing for an hour, my husband holding one limp leg, our fabulous nurse holding the other. And then, through myopic eyes (since no amount of Nerd Wax could keep my glasses on under the oxygen mask), a slippery, wriggling thing spun into the world and defiantly claimed his stake in life.

I am skipping some of the details – the bruises on his head from hitting my pelvis with each push; the NICU personnel on hand since we discovered meconium in the water when the doctor finally broke it; the emotions and second-guessing that eventually led to choosing every intervention despite being well-informed on best-case natural birth scenarios. I don’t want to dwell on those unpleasantries but rather be thankful for a safe, healthy baby and a speedy recovery for me.

Life has changed. We are grateful for every supportive friend, family member, and awesome medical professional. Never have I felt so helpless, dependent, and needy. Never have I seen my husband in such form. I have fallen in love with him like never before. 

Everyone says it gets easier, but it seems a slow death to a previous reality. I miss fabric as much as I miss sleep! And I don’t know what I would do if this kid weren’t so cute. But every morning means new mercy, and we did choose a name to declare God’s kindness, meaning, “God’s grace is my rock.” That’s grace to go minute by minute, grace to forgive myself, grace to take pleasure in a moment and let that be good enough.

I don’t know when I’ll sew again. I don’t know when I’ll post again. But we will make it. This is God’s adventure, not mine, and the less I see of my own plan, the more is His – and thus the more He has responsibility to see it through! And we know He is working all of it together for good, and He who promised is faithful.

“He has given me my heart’s desire and has not withheld the request of my lips.”

“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Sometimes I have things to say that have nothing to do with sewing. This is one of those times.

I have two personal goals for my life that, if I accomplish them by the end of it, I will consider myself successful. First, I want to learn how to love. Second, I want to be kind. If all you ever know about me is that you felt love and experienced kindness through me, then I will be satisfied.

That is the lens I am doing my best to use as I address the topic of gay marriage.

Two more things you need to know about me: I follow Jesus Christ, and my brother is gay.

Please understand, I do not relish conflict. I grew up in a culture where it was demanded that personal beliefs be rigorously researched, and inferior arguments reflected the inadequacy or illegitimacy of the belief. The results of said arguments left the losing party feeling rejected, misunderstood, and unloved. So my reticence to engage with controversial topics is, by admission, a learned, self-protective behavior.

But when someone I love more than words could ever express came out a decade ago, I was sent on a journey into the depths of my own heart, my own fears, and my own faith. Now, in light of the polarizing nature of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, and recognizing that behind many vehemently-expressed beliefs is real pain and some confusion, I think it is time to speak.

There are several principles that guide my perspective on the matter of gay marriage. First, each individual person does not exist alone but represents his or her family, culture, whatever groups he or she belongs to, and his or her ancestry. So as much as I am my own unique self, I am also a female, White, Southern, Christian, middle-class, university-educated, English-Scottish-Irish-German-Cherokee American 30-year-old pregnant newlywed in 2015. The values of these groups, both good and ill, have nurtured my innate genetic composition to shape who I am, and though I might not exhibit all qualities associated with these groups, I am comfortable representing them.

I believe this principle is important in addressing gay marriage because the complexities of the issue depend on the interplay between individuals and groups. As with any controversial issue, cases might be made to defend individual situations, thus allowing for the creation of arbitrary, exclusionary criteria on both sides. But such criteria only further confusion between sides, and as it is a much lighter cognitive (and, in this case, emotional and spiritual) load to generalize the characteristics of an opposing group rather than understand its nuances, an individual, case-by-case approach is seldom used. Hence the parades, demonstrations, and stereotypes.

This reflects my second principle: multiple realities exist depending on how individuals experience the same situation. What is inoffensive to one person is extremely hurtful to the other. One party may not intend to hurt the other, but the innocence of one’s motives does not negate the consequences (i.e. experience of pain) affecting the other. (I am sure that few drunk driving incidents are motivated by people desiring to cause suffering, yet no one begrudges victims and their families the right to strong emotional reactions, however penitent the sobered driver may become.)

I don’t think Christians who publicize their Biblically-based beliefs about homosexuality do so with the intent of causing pain. I would imagine they are applying the phrase “speak the truth in love” to the best of their abilities. But the motive to love can get lost in translation (ask any pregnant woman with an aversion to belly rubs), and I postulate that it is rare for a gay person to feel loved when, for example, Bible verses are quoted at them.

This relates to the fundamental question which divides sides: is homosexuality biologically based, or is it learned behavior? Each side has its reasons for believing the way it does, solid evidence and proofs based in experience and third-party input (such as the Bible, research journals, or anecdotal evidence from others). These perspectives are, I believe, both valid, for if I can say that my personal experience with the Love of God through Jesus convinced me of His truth, then I must also allow that others’ personal experiences are equally valid in drawing them to their conclusions. Beliefs shape realities. The failure to validate or acknowledge a different reality negates the possibility of relationship.

And relationship is key. It is, in the end, the only thing that matters in a Christian worldview. The phrase “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” motivates evangelists and believers to continue in their faith, to “preach the gospel”, “go forth into all the world, teaching them to believe”. The Bible reflects a resurrected Christ who has delegated authority to those that follow Him, such that, as much as Almighty God limited Himself to become a human capable of experiencing suffering and death, so He has also limited Himself to partnering with people to accomplish His will. It is God’s desire to demonstrate His love through people who love Him.

That puts the proverbial ball in Christians’ court. If we are interested in following the Father of Jesus Christ, then we are interested in loving. It then behooves us not just to love from our own perspective but to learn whether what we consider loving is actually effective in accomplishing our intent. (Does that mama really want her belly rubbed, or do I take the time to respectfully ask if my touch is welcome? Maybe she’d consider $10 for diapers a more salient means of expressing affection for her child.)

Sometimes the hardest question to ask is, “How are you experiencing me?” Does my behavior make you feel safe or defensive, accepted or rejected, happy or angry? What about my words? Trust is the foundation of relationship, so if someone cannot trust me, then there is little chance that person will listen to what I have to say. My well-intentioned Scripture quotation is a “clanging gong” – there is no love detected by the listener.

Best practices in conflict resolution often refer to making “I-statements”, but it takes a tremendous amount of courage and trust to articulate the tenderest parts of one’s heart, especially when the person one is addressing has not demonstrated trustworthiness, but often the opposite. I cannot say I have had many frank conversations with my brother about how my faith makes him feel, or even how he experiences me, but I can make an educated guess. To simplify the exchange, I like the sentence, “I feel _______ when you ______.”

I imagine him saying something like this: “I feel rejected when you tell me homosexuality is a sin.” Or he might say, “I feel hurt / confused / angry / defensive / unsafe / afraid / sad / alone / annoyed / misunderstood / misrepresented / unable to relate to you / shut down / disgusted / unloved / helpless / judged / belittled / accused / grieved / ashamed / hated / apathetic / numb…” If my expression of love – “speaking the truth in love” – is eliciting any of those emotions, whether or not I as an individual caused them (here is where group identity comes into play – I acknowledge that as a representative of a group, I appear responsible for things which I personally had no hand in instigating), then I have failed to communicate love. If I love this person, then the impetus is mine to change how I am communicating until I have accomplished my goal. And that can begin with something as simple as an apology: “I am so, so sorry that you felt those things as the result of my behavior. That was not at all what I wanted. How can I help you to regain your trust in me?” In saying so, I invite Jesus to partner with me to express unconditional love to this person. It is His responsibility to change hearts. It is mine to give Him the opportunity.

But how can someone experience love without trust? And how can I be trusted when I represent the enemies of one’s heart? And if I am not actively pursuing the demonstration of an opposite reality than the current one (i.e. “Christians hate me, so God must hate me”), then I am working against the One whom I profess to represent.

The Bible asks, “What shall separate us from the love of God?” God forbid the answer be, “Christians.” So as a follower of Jesus Christ, let me take the time now to examine my heart, to make relationship my highest priority, to acknowledge and validate the pain of those whom Christians have rejected, to “bind up the broken-hearted”, and to create an experience of kindness instead.

My ability to love has nothing to do with the Supreme Court, nor whether the Bible I believe in condones a dissenting perspective. The New Testament is full of stories in which Jesus’s best friends disagree with Him, yet He continued to love, even until the very end, even this very day. How much more is He accepting of people who have every reason to dismiss Him, having no experience of the love He embodies. How dare I approach Him in any other manner than to say, “If I’m going to fall, let it be from leaning towards learning to love.”

Because this is one of my life’s goals: to learn how to love. If I do not take into account the fact that my expressions of love might be ineffective, then I have ceased to learn, and I have failed.

Jesus commands two things: love God, and love others. This fulfills the Bible. This is what life is about. Anything hindering that is not worth mentioning.

P.S. To J & A: I love you. That is all.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile, but now we are one month into marriage, it seems appropriate. This is a sewing post, I’m happy to say, though art reflects life, so there is a metaphor to explain first.

You know, I remember going to weddings as a twelve-year-old and my mother pointing out the programs, guest book, accoutrements, drawing my attention to the details so I could start getting ideas for my wedding. Seventeen years later, I didn’t have an elaborate plan for a dream wedding, but I had done plenty of work designing a dream man and a dream marriage.

First was the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. That hit Evangelical youth groups while I was a teen, newly rededicated to Christ, around the time I trashed all my faerie and renaissance festival paraphernalia, as well as my secular CDs. I took my powerful adolescent emotions and threw them head first into my religion. I wanted to be the most extreme Jesus person I knew. That meant embracing radical purity and archaic courtship practices. I was told by a crush that I was “a living testimony to the book” (though I never read it) – but that crush was not interested in courting me.

So I made a list instead! In fact, I made many “husband lists”. And I went to college, becoming involved in the most sold-out-for-Jesus campus ministry around. It was awesome! Surely I would find my mate! But then that one guy actually kissed me right after I said I only wanted to kiss my husband. I cried with the girls in my Bible study when we broke up. He really loved Jesus! I didn’t understand.

I changed my list. I heard more sermons on marriage and dating and purity. And I met someone else, someone who shared all my ideals, including the hyper-religious identity I’d adopted. Then this guy informed me that God told him I was his wife. My eager, hurting heart believed him, and I accepted his proposal, only to come to my senses three months before the wedding.

More hurt and confusion. This guy matched my criteria, but after that experience, I needed more items on my list! I could not risk repeating mistakes. I refused to gamble my heart again.

But I was needy, and I was smart. Over the next few years, more men came into my path. I adapted to become a version of what I thought they wanted. I made it seem like they pursued me, though all the while, I called the shots. Some followed Jesus, others did not. Some adhered to the rigorous rules I trusted, and when those relationships ended, my heart felt pulverized – all the worse because these men had no excuse for their bad behavior! And my list grew. And my expectations grew. After all, if God was taking this long to bring me my husband, he must be extraordinary! He must be as close to perfect as a man can get!

It looks ridiculous in print. I mean, how could I not have known I was manipulating men to get my needs met? Of course, at the time, I thought manipulation had to be sexual. I had impenetrable walls of self-righteous rule-following that supported my beliefs. I was blind to the state of my heart, completely unaware of how I used spirituality and emotion to spin scenarios so I got what I wanted – a temporary “love fix”.

But then something began to happen. I started to meet men who were everything I was looking for. I could check item after item off the list – strong relationship with God, educated, well-mannered, fond of dancing, cat-lover, financially secure, kind, passionate, single (a surprisingly rare combination, I found!) And as I got to know these men with joy and hope and expectation – because surely God wasn’t taunting me, surely He wasn’t dangling the proverbial carrot – something inevitably went wrong. Some kind of personality disconnect became apparent, some huge flaw manifested, and my hopes shattered in disgust.

Throughout this process, I did all I could to keep my heart open to God. But it was a complicated relationship because as an omniscient Creator, He ought to know how I felt, what I desired, and how I was sacrificing to follow Him. All my disappointment in men really came back to disappointment in God. I had come to believe that if I trusted God, I would never be lonely again. I would be spared from pain and heartache. And yet this is what I knew as normal, time after time. I didn’t know who to blame – was my faith too weak? Had my husband stepped outside of “God’s perfect will” and married someone else according to “God’s permissive will”? Or was God not really interested in fulfilling my heart’s cries after all? Maybe He was not as good as people told me. Maybe He was nice to others, but I was uniquely and helplessly flawed. He could take care of the weak, but I was strong. I could earn His best because I knew better.

And other such drivel.

So I turned my energies to cultivating faith in a fairy tale instead. I lost confidence in lists, and I threw myself into creating items for a hope chest. I took up patchwork quilting, enamored with the idea of blocks named after qualities I hoped to have in my future marriage one day. I worked on blocks like “Steps to the Altar” and “Young Gentleman’s Fancy” and “Tree of Life”, intending to make a glorious quilt depicting my domestic dreams.

I found those blocks recently as Husband and I unpacked our apartment. Truth be told, they were sort of sad. Colors I initially loved turned garish and awkward. More experience with quilting revealed my ignorance in using poor-quality fabrics. And construction was frightful! Maybe I could make them up into a wall hanging? I refused to put them into a quilt. I ought not to get rid of them, right? So much work, such a depiction of who I had been before I met my husband! (Not that meeting my husband suddenly changed me, but it is an easy place to put a marker on my timeline.)

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I tried to get inspired to work on something else, but I kept coming back to these blocks. Finally I made a decision.

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Destroyed! I took a critical eye to each block, harvested good pieces of fabric for my scrap bin, and trashed the rest. And these blocks were not the only ones. Each abandoned unfinished project got the same treatment. My scrap bin revived with new bits of favorite fabrics!

And I made cushion covers for our sofa’s toss pillows.

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Here is the metaphor: I have put a lot of effort and study into learning what makes the best marriage, but along the way, I’ve mixed a lot of poor quality fabric in the lot. I have to say, there seems to be a lot of wasted effort. My husband does not meet the criteria on my list. He is not what I was told to “hold out for”. He has ideas and opinions and ways of doing things that are unlike mine. He went through the same ministry school as me, but to my horror, he does not agree with every idea they teach. (Lord, that upset my apple cart!) There was a moment of panic, my mind reeling with the thought, “What have I gotten myself into?!?”

And then I’d look at those crazy pillows. Scraps and bits and chaos, wild and untamed, beautiful because of the mess. We sort, we piece, we pick apart, and we let go.

I let go.

I let go of my right to be defined as a hardcore God-chaser, rather than simply His daughter. I let go of my former last name. I let go of my expectation that it is Husband’s responsibility to intuit my needs. I let go of having the covers all to myself. I let go of my ideas of the roles of the wife and husband. I let go of my preference for doing things my way. I let go of control – in so many situations – and I piece trust instead.

It has been a month of sorting and choosing and saving and trashing. Moment by moment, gently or rushing all together. Not all sound teaching is universal. The best-intended rules can still hurt more than they help. And no rule – other than the Law of Love – actually draws reality and life into any relationship. (Seam ripper, scissors, scrap bin.) We have a long way to go. No marriage is without its baggage. But it is a worthwhile journey, and I am so happy to be on it. Laugh and cry and dance and learn and grow, together this time, and on down through the ages to come.

The other night, as it begins to turn cooler, Husband requested a larger blanket for the bed. (Y’all, I got a good one!) Is there anything sweeter to a quilter’s ears? Immediately I thought of my 100 City Sampler blocks. As I made calculations, however, I realized another row would be just right. Which meant:

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These are my favorite types of blocks. They are spontaneous and bold and free. They are the best of what I love, and they reflect what I want to bring to my marriage: life, effort, kindness, and freedom.

If this is the first month, I hardly dare imagine the rest of our lives! We have such a brilliant future ahead of us, and we are excited to launch into it – seam ripper at the ready! Here’s to the future! It is sure to be bright.

This is not a sewing post.

I want to talk straight about the last month. I want to process this magnificent life change that has taken my river, broken its dams, and having flooded the banks, begun to settle into a newly-created bed. Three and a half weeks ago, I married a man I’d known less than a year. In fact, our wedding date was on the first anniversary of the first time we set eyes on each other. We both attended a weekend workshop on God-given creativity, and I remember seeing him as I found a front row chair. The next day, he watched from the back as dancers pirouetted, and he heard God say, “You know you’re watching your wife dance.” I was the only young, single woman in the group, so he stepped out in faith, arranged to meet me through mutual friends, and after a wild ride of a year (wild even for a passionate pistol like myself), here we are. We married as virgins just weeks shy of our 30th birthdays.

The week before the wedding, we did not know where we would live. Between us, we had three part time jobs, none of which qualified us as renters. I was going on interviews, we were looking for housing, and I was managing anxiety moment by moment. And yet we were simultaneously full of faith, repeating, “God has a plan, we don’t have to know what it is.” We stood on a history of His faithfulness in our lives, even as we stretched to hold onto Him in the present.

Before we met, God called both of us to give up our lives and follow Him wherever He led. My husband left his home and livelihood in Northern California and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. As we met, I was in the final weeks of preparation to leave my home in Nashville, Tennessee, and move to Northern England. These big risks – following God, giving up security, material possessions, income, relationships – ultimately paid off, but they “shook everything that can be shaken”. My husband went through a year of the aptly named School of Supernatural Life, and I gave all I had into the newly-restored House of Prayer, Europe. Returning to the States after three months, rather than the promised year, I found myself reeling, confused, and very, very hurt.

We wrestled through with much prayer and good counselors. We had heartaches and breakthroughs, joys and failures. We were poor but provided-for, discouraged but tenacious, willing but at times unable to love, unable to even articulate what we were feeling or what we needed. But by the kindness and mercy of God, we returned to Him, and we returned to one another.

And so we came to the beginning of a new beginning. I went on another interview the Tuesday before our Saturday wedding. They called back within a few hours offering me a job! But the next day I was feverish, unable to pack (though we still had no home). Thursday, still sick, I moved from my friend’s house where I’d been staying, topping off a storage unit for the time being. Meanwhile, my husband secured us an apartment with my parents’ and his best man’s help and finished moving out of his friends’ home where he’d rented a room. The apartment would not be ready until we returned from our honeymoon, so he packed his things into the storage unit, too. Still, we were thankful and excited, happy for God’s faithfulness, saying, “He is never late, though He misses many opportunities to be early.”

A bridesmaid rode with me to pick up my wedding gown and head to the state park lodge where family and friends were already gathering. As I gingerly laid the gown in the back seat, I caught my cheek on the edge of the car door. It struck a vein and began to swell, and I could not control the tears. We turned back to where we’d gotten the gown, received an ice pack and first aid instructions. My bridesmaid then drove my car out to the park while I kept pressure on the bulging bruise. As we talked about our lives and our work with children, she mentioned a recent bout of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Later, finally settling into our suite, I found red sores in my throat. Sores appeared on my hands and feet the next day, and a quick googling confirmed the diagnosis. I cried.

Or rather, I mourned. All the preparation, all the excitement, all the waiting, and here it was, almost my wedding day, and I had a black eye forming and an infectious, painful virus with no treatment, just an imperative to keep away from people. Impossible! This wasn’t bridezilla drama. I loved my dress, didn’t care if everything was perfect. But this mattered! I wanted to be well, I wanted to be beautiful, and I wanted to freely hug and kiss friends and family, not to mention my husband! I had waited and fought the hard fight to have this day, to be a “pure and spotless bride”, only to be literally spotted with sickness that would quarantine me any other day, and to top it off, I looked like I’d been punched in the face!

But The Lord, my sweet Daddy God, spoke to me. He understood. After all the prayers and declarations and expecting Him to heal, I stood in the shower claiming Scripture and praying promises, forgiving and blessing, following every Godly principle I could – but still the sores and sickness remained. And God said, “Welcome to the prophetic.”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but with God, I think one word is worth a thousand. I had four thousand to unpack in understanding, but my heart knew immediately what He meant, and it took the anxiety and disappointment and drained their power, putting them in perspective.

I looked through Scripture for the phrase “pure and spotless bride”. Shockingly, I could not find it. There are references to New Jerusalem coming down as a bride (Revelation 21:2), and the Spirit and the Bride saying “come” (Revelation 22:17), but that particular phrase, which I’ve heard for years in Christian circles, was nowhere.

What I then understood is this: first, Jesus knows what it is like to marry a diseased bride. His Bride, the Church, is covered in the symptoms of contagious illness. These may be hypocrisy, judgment, religiosity, ignorance, gossip, bigotry, racism, idolatry of a political party or idolatry of a healthy lifestyle. He understands the pain of disappointed hope. To know there in that moment, on the eve of my wedding, that I was perfectly understood by the One who made me and loves me more passionately than words can say was – and is – tremendous.

Second, while He is there for us in our pain and takes us on a journey of healing our attitudes and behavior, still God chooses us in the moment. There seems to be an expectation in the Church that Jesus is waiting for us to be “pure and spotless” before He returns, as if our sinlessness, or at least our earnest striving to become so, will finally prove to Him that we have enough faith to satisfy His criteria, allowing Him to hold up His side of the bargain. In other words, as long as I sin, I am not worth Jesus returning. If I am not pursuing radical holiness, Jesus is not pleased with me – or not as pleased as He could be. So while I do not believe it is the intent of those who preach such messages to burden listeners, my heart somehow understood it that way, and here I was, supposed to be representing the Church as a bride, utterly failing at spotlessness.

Later, as it turns out, I learned that I got sick from my interactions with children at my new job. Essentially, what God used to provide for me also made ill. There is a metaphor there, too, about God accomplishing His perfect plan through imperfect circumstances and imperfect people. There are no guarantees that following Him will not have side effects, and there is no promise that those effects will fit my sense of fairness – as if by choosing to follow Him, He owes me comfort and ease.

But coming to the point: I followed Him to the best of my ability – not only in giving up my life for Him, but also in choosing to follow Him in sexual purity, trusting Him to open doors for me and provide for all my needs. And I might even say that had I been less stressed, I would not have gotten sick. Had our apartment been in place sooner, or my job secured earlier, my wedding would not be on the verge of ruination (I mean, can you imagine no hugs and kisses at your wedding, for fear of infecting others?)

All this hit me in those simple words, “Welcome to the prophetic.” The truth is, He doesn’t choose us because He hopes one day we will be pure and spotless. No, He knows life is messy and ugly and we will experience negative effects we cannot control. But none of that negates His love. It is the same simple truth as salvation, yet it means so much more now we have history together.

And I realized I have committed myself for eternity to One of whom I still know so little. We have been together for eighteen years, and He surprises me with His tremendous love. How freeing to be understood, how freeing to have peace, no matter the storm, disappointment, or fear.

Not a person got sick from me, I’ll have you know, and I hugged and kissed freely. My bruise was pale enough to be covered by makeup for the wedding, too, though it darkened into accusing purple on the honeymoon.

The wedding night was a memorable adventure, and we spent our honeymoon mostly off the grid, watching the lake rise from almost incessant rain. I discovered poison ivy on the arches of my feet, presumably from taking pictures in the woods in my sparkly sandals. After dealing with hand, foot, and mouth, this old nemesis was annoying, but not powerful, so I wore socks to bed à la Flight of the Conchords. We came home to a whirlwind move-in, barely getting a mattress into the apartment before returning the truck. It took us three days to fully move, and then I started my new job.

Without belaboring the point, it was “not a good fit”. I could feel it in my guts, and my intelligence was continually insulted by the company’s practices, which contradicted all the training I was receiving. Poor husband listened to me rant and vent each evening. Still, I was shocked when, four days in, they let me go. As the tears cleared, husband suggested I follow back up with a school that called on the honeymoon. I started new hire paperwork with them last week, and husband just got promoted as well. To say the least, we are thankful. Credit where it’s due – this is His plan, we just don’t know what it is!

So we are settling in to make life happen. Name changes are processing, our apartment is free of cardboard boxes. We bought a desk for husband to work on writing and film, and God led me to a yard sale where I got a table for my sewing machine (more on that to come). We have close neighbors and are part of a loving community. We are excited about life and enjoying marriage. It’s all a story I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it’s a story I love to tell, because it’s ours. Here’s to the future – we’re smiling at you!

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Those that know me well are probably amazed it has taken me so long to address this topic! Overdue though it may seem, it’s actually a testimony to the grace and favor of God in my life that the issue hasn’t presented itself in a stronger form. Tonight it bears acknowledgement, however, as a sweet surprise “royal” high tea – a belated birthday treat – put circumstances in better light.

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I had the joy of sitting beside Pastor Lois Gott, world revivalist and personal mentor via the HOP internship. She has a way of putting me at ease with her warmth and vitality – and yet I seem to come away from her company more contemplative than I entered it. She is much more extraverted and gregarious than I tend to be when I am at my most natural. On most occasions this wouldn’t be particularly remarkable. I’d talk if I chose, or silently observe if I’d prefer. But as my superior and one I hope to honor, I challenge myself to draw up out of my comfortable internal nest and engage. This runs counter to the ease I feel in her presence – on the one hand, I am loved and accepted as I am, but on the other hand, I am challenged to behave in ways which are not indicative of who I am.

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I think my relationship with Pastor Lois is part of the wider fractal of living in community and culture here. There is a tension between being myself as the contemplative observer and the mandate to rapidly become part of an integrated unit. On the one hand, I must be true to myself in order to be truly known. On the other hand, I cannot be known unless I behave in ways that are inconsistent with who I am.

The result of living in such tension is, to be honest, a seemingly permanent state of semi-exhaustion. My closest friends – those with whom long history of mutual appreciation and similar temperament has provided the immeasurably valuable gift of peace – are far from me. Thankful as I am for social media and technology, ain’t nothing like the real thing. My heart longs for the rest found in those longstanding and life-giving relationships. The effects of being apart seem to be cumulative – each day feeling a bit more laborious.

Would you call that homesickness? I’ve shed tears for the lovely Tennessee autumn I’m missing and the swimmable rivers that I could wade in endlessly, but this is a different sadness.

I never realized what a privilege it was to know and be known among others with ease and tranquility of soul. The challenges of my current context makes those friendships all the more precious and their absence more poignant.

You know who you are. I love you dearly and miss you acutely, and I am so thankful for the treasure you are in my life.

I had a birthday this week! Celebration began on Monday when a box of treasure from my favorite red-bearded man-wonder arrived. I didn’t wait for my birthday to open it!

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My actual birthday began with a couple of solo hours on the keys at the HOP. Such a beautiful way to begin a new year’s adventure! Later, I went for a walk and found an excellent tree to climb. (This remains one of my favorite activities!)

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My doppelgänger is also an intern, and as we have the same birthday (though different years), we celebrate together as the “twinterns”. We had cake and chocolate together, then sweet presents and cards. I’ve already eaten all my birthday chocolate – yum!

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Last night was our final bit of celebration. A third intern’s birthday is this coming Wednesday, so we joined forces for a three-in-one party at a teppen-yaki restaurant in Newcastle. For such a special occasion, we put extra effort into our attire – even the lads spiffed up! It was so much fun, and quite yummy, too. Sushi was what I’d expect (not bad for being outside California or Japan), miso soup was full of delightful memories, and the entertainment was a joy!

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Altogether, I had a wonderful birthday! Of course, I still missed friends and family from home, but circumstances being as they are, I really couldn’t have asked for a sweeter celebration. Thanks to all for your love, kindness, well-wishes and friendship! This looks to be a year of special magnificence, I’m sure!

An Introduction

You must understand, I love my land. I love my heritage, I love my culture. Every rose has its thorn, but the sweetness far outweighs the sour in the South (bless its heart). Yet in less than two months, I’m leaving for Northern England for a year or more. As is typical for me, the magnitude of the transition is happening within. By beginning this blog, I hope to surface a bit more and give glimpses of my gears and cogs as I launch into the adventure I’ve longed for, which, hyperbole aside, may turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime. In this space I intend to pepper my prose with updates on my creative process and produce (sewing, painting, etc.), images of my experiences, cultural contexts and colloquialisms, and ruminations on my Christian faith.