Blogging was such a big and important part of my life for a long time. Writing or even just choosing a quote and pictures helped me reflect deeper.
It was also such an intentional way for me to be joyful. There were so many wonderful, joyful things in my life, yet the years since college also were very much characterized by fighting back fierce loneliness.
Well, actually, that's not completely true- I didn't want to fight the loneliness, all the time. Actually, I tried hard to be intentional about letting it in and acknowledging it... sitting with it, learning from it, being where I was on purpose and not missing out on what those seasons uniquely were, and offered.
But I fought fiercely the despair that can so easily accompany dark loneliness. This blog, focusing on the blessings and joy my life was so filled with, was a way for me to intentionally turn my eyes to them, to not think longer than I should on the places in my life that ached with what felt lacking.
My fairly sudden lack of inclination to engage in a hobby and discipline I'd practiced usually multiple times a week for years took me by surprise. But it hasn't seemed to make sense to force it; I see so much wisdom in restraining energy from the social media world that I couldn't figure out too many good reasons to make myself try harder to invest more online.
The best way I can understand my lack of desire to write and post on here... is that joy has never come easier to me than it has in the last sixteen months. I don't feel like I generally posted more when I was unhappy?? But I do think there was something in it about talking myself out of self-pity, strengthening my resolve to rejoice in the life I was living: "Look. See. You're happy. You really are, and these are the joys of your life, and they are really, truly good."
And they really truly were. (Are.)
For the last sixteen months, I haven't had to work very hard to remember joy.
I'd expect that someday I will again...
So yeah. Lately, blogging words haven't felt forthcoming, so I haven't bothered...
but then I go back and read things and certain seasons are captured so vividly in the way only real-time writing can do... and I am grateful to have those years saved in that way.
So. We'll see.
On that note... I just reread this, which I wrote more than five years ago.
I summarized where I was spiritually that year with more clarity than I certainly could use to explain where I am spiritually now.
And oh, just, oh. Life!! I wrote that in the Illinois suburbs, living in 27-year-old Ryan and Kendra's guest room. Oregon was a state I'd barely been to or thought about. Matt was working in DC in Joseph's House- no! He was in Ohio with his family, getting ready to move to DC to work in Joseph's House. Christine was living with her parents and dating Luke. I was fairly sure I'd probably never date anyone, ever. My mom was critically ill and I could barely breathe for fear. My roommates had both just moved and Wheaton felt ridiculous without them. I was spiritually and emotionally so sad. And wondering when I'd ever heal back to being comfortably and securely Christian.
Five years and one week from the day I wrote that, I would get married. In Oregon. To Ben, who I couldn't even have imagined to pray for.
Ryan and Kendra wouldn't be able to come, which would make all of us so sad, but it would be because life would be too insane with the recent birth of their second baby. Matt would be in it along with his husband, who he had married a year before, calmly and happily and legally, with me standing up as an attendant and his family present and Chet having flown in from New York. Christine and Luke, husband and wife for years, would walk in together. My mom would be there and fine, and beautiful. She and my dad and my stepparents and stepsiblings- people I had never met or imagined five years and one week before- would sit in the front row together,. My roommates and the Tuesday boys and I would pose in our finery for pictures in an Oregon field, laughing and so happy. I've given up on being comfortably and securely Christian, but God and I are doing okay anyway.
Apparently my rambling blog style hasn't changed... ever.
July 5, 2010.
"...The last four months were hard. But if a semester is the cross, as are all things, then maybe the last four months saved my life. Maybe all those other things taught me to see my One thing better."
Prayer this semester didn't look anything like what I have known it to look like before. I couldn't journal. I couldn't sit in a coffee shop and follow any train of thought long enough to feel like I was praying. The cheerfully-voiced and neatly patterned prayers I said with friends in the cafeteria before meals bore little to no resemblance to the way God and I were actually talking.
Me and Jesus, the me and Jesus we have been since I was 12, wasn't happening. I didn't know how to talk to Jesus in a world that lets little girls get raped and beaten and abandoned. Not in a fake, "Well, I just don't know how to talk to you if you're going to be like that" haughty way. I mean I literally did not know how to talk to Him in this new world in which I found myself. Sometimes I'll try to tell someone that I feel 'different' since HNGR and I don't know how to explain it. Because we're all different, all the time. We're different every year, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. But I don't mean like I grew, or even I regressed. Sometimes I feel like my entire foundation that I stood on has been taken apart and put back together and I'm standing on something I don't even recognize. Now that I can breathe a little bit more I'm realizing that what I'm standing on is still pretty good. Sometimes I get these tiny glimpses that it might even be better. Stronger. But I had to learn how to do all these things on it that I knew how to do before, but the ways I knew how to do them don't work here. And the main thing that didn't work, was praying.
Praying with the expectation life is going to work out just beautifully didn't work. That sucked, but it was good. That was a wrong foundation I'd had. That's not how God works, and it's not how He's ever said He was going to work. I'm not sure why I thought otherwise, and it's been- it is- painful rearranging that. But it's good.
And, praying with the knowledge that God is good, didn't work. Because I wasn't so sure about that all the time anymore.
That sucked, and it wasn't good.
I didn't know how to pray without knowing that God is good, which means I didn't even know how to pray about the fact that I didn't know God was good. And so praying (and pretty much everything else, actually) felt terrifying.
So prayer this semester felt like it almost never happened. Because it didn't happen in any ways I had known to recognize.
Prayer this semester, instead of feeling like I was "keeping company with God", instead of quiet times in Starbucks or Caribou or long letters to God in my journal, was a lot of long walks, in the snow, by myself, with my iPod. Sometimes if it was cold or too late at night instead of walking it was driving, through my neighborhood, through the campus, going the speed limit and using turn signals, going slowly and mindlessly over the same route again and again as I tried to line my heart back up, in the quiet, for just a minute with the God I was missing.
Prayer was chopping vegetables. Really. So much so that I once heard a housemate confess to her boyfriend that she "kind of love[d] it when Emily gets depressed because we get a good soup". Prayer was hymns playing in the background as I focused on the purpose of peeling and chopping and stirring and found peace in the rhythm and the use of my hands.
Prayer was reading Rilke out loud before bed with my roommate and being able to, yes, line my heart up to these words. It was lighting a candle for five minutes at night as I asked God to bless the girls at Mosoj Yan- candle-lighting is something we did on the HNGR retreat which I found helpful.
Prayer was interceding for others, which I didn't do enough out of sheer laziness, but which by some beautiful miracle did not hold the difficulty that attempts at casual conversation with God did.
Prayer was and is, in an incredible gift of grace, the liturgy. It is going to church and saying and singing the same words every week, and in recent months being blessedly able to affirm them more and more. It is the gratitude that rises up in me that, in my inability to tell God these truths about Himself out of any spontaneity or warmth or even sense of friendship, I can sing them and raise my hands for an hour on Sunday mornings and get to tell Him them in that way. That I can find myself more and more knowing that I do believe these things, and that this liturgy, this church, is providing a way for me to affirm them before my own emotions or abilities are going to let me do so on my own. Oh, how grateful I am to get to praise God through words others have written and songs others are singing when my own heart is so confused and cold.
Prayer has been, greatly, others praying for me. That is something I think I underestimated the power of in these past seven months. People have prayed for me and that has been important.
Mostly as I have looked at myself and my interactions with God in the past seven months I have felt ashamed. Who am I to not pray? To not know how? To be so faithless? Clearly, to feel so far from prayer must mean I am far indeed. And how does this show gratitude to Mosoj Yan and the work they do?
But recently I have been realizing a bit more that it was a good thing for me to learn that prayer that does not look like journaling in a coffee shop and leaving with the feeling of peace, can still be prayer. That crying myself to sleep, God still heard me. That prayers lifted by others on my behalf and the behalf of my girls, do something powerful. And that if walking in the snow and chopping vegetables until my fridge was too full enabled me to be in front of God, then He was happy to meet me there.
I'm not very proud of how I lived the last seven months, but good things came out of them.
Mostly this year I felt like I couldn't see "my One thing". But maybe in His great and crazy mercy, He let me go for long walks and chop vegetables and rely on others' prayers, to teach me something about walking on without clarity or feelings of peace or any pride. Maybe He let me rely on the prayers of the church to teach me about the power of community worship, of the history of the big-C Church, of the importance of repetition for our souls, of the power that is in praising Him by choice and even by rote when we feel cold and dry.
I hope and pray that maybe in the long-term, these will be things that will let me see Him more.
If a semester is the cross, as are all things."