the wrong kind of grey

self discover #15, I’m easily discouraged

 

Today is sort of cloudy outside which would normally make me jump for joy because I love grey clouds especially when they come bearing rain or snow. Let’s be honest, I picked SPU for college because I (1) thought that God wanted me there and (2) because it rains. Mostly, number two. I don’t mind walking to class and sitting in desks with my jeans soaked halfway up the calf. I don’t mind the way my hair curls in the humidity. I don’t mind the mundane hours in the library spent staring out at dusty skies. I love splashing in puddles and running in the mist and sitting on wet benches at Marshall Point to watch the ferries make their crossing.

But today, I think it is a bad day to be cloudy. Do you ever have those days that just seem to unravel at the seams?

I had an argument with a really good friend last night.

I hardly slept because the room at my parent’s house is so freaking dry.

I slept half the day away.

I’m bored.

I didn’t go to a friend’s last night because I was worn out by people (though that would have probably been encouraging to my heart).

I’m sick.

My fricking visa still hasn’t arrived.

I miss Ashland.

I miss TrailMark.

I miss you yelling “go Diesel! get ‘er!”

I miss Kelsie. Lots.

And I had to turn down plans to go to the White Rose Gala for New Years because I don’t have the money.

The last few days had been really good until this afternoon. I was feeling like I might pull it together with God. I saw Chronicles of Narnia and I was reminded of who I want to be. I was actually starting to feel like that person again, in a new and refreshed way. And then last night, I cornered myself in the basement for alone time which turned into internet TV time which, while relaxing, wasn’t what I needed. And this morning dawned a slow and lazy grey. And I was sick. And I just thought, well hang it all.

I don’t understand what makes us so easily discouraged? Why are we creatures of such shallow reserves? I don’t understand how the right combination of just a few mis-spoken words and a bit of a runny nose can work to make us so frustrated and almost gloomy? I’m not sue if there’s a remedy for this. I think there must be, is it just a choice to buck up and be okay?

Well, I’ve got to run and go get Joy at the airport. Perhaps she and her parents will be cheerful. I can’t imagine them any other way… Maybe Jesus knew what he was doing when he delayed their flight?

Christmas time

I love Advent, but I have sort of struggled with Christmas the last couple years. There’s this bizarre thing that seems to happen where holidays would  be a bit more meaningful or special if one had a significant other. I’m not sure why that is, but I know friends who have experienced the same thing. We feel extra lonely at the holidays, we feel more alone, we feel, you know?

So I went to Midnight Mass with a single friend. She came from a married friend’s house, to pick me up at my parent’s house where I was the only single, and the pair of us went to the Basilica downtown. We arrived 15 minutes before the service was to start, illegally parked in an apartment lot in a spot marked “reserved” and skipped across nearly empty streets burdened by other illegally parked cars. Two sheriffs, one short and squatty, another tall with mangy red hair greeted us as we darted up the stars. “Merry Christmas,” and we sand back the words as we hurried inside.

The Mass had begun with a service of carols and apparently thats when the entire state’s population of Italian, Polish and washed out white American Catholics had descended upon the Cathedral. We were in the back, with less space than standing room only. We were in the foyer, our necks craned around the doors to see inside.

But suddenly the same sheriff who had greeted us on our way in was suddenly in the back of the church with us, “‘Scuse me people,”  said the short and squatty one, “we gotta make some room, I got the Archbishop comin’ in.” And he said that as he moved up through the crowd to where it thinned just past the last few rows of pews. We made way, and then they filtered in from outside. It was beautiful, the deacons and lecterns in their black covered in white, the bishop and archbisop in golden robes and he with his starched and pointed cap. They were whispering and we were all staring, I think, in a bit of shock, or more with awe. How did we, who had arrived last, come so close to greatness? They lit incense and for a moment, the cloud was thick so we couldn’t quite breath. And then, with the bells chiming overhead, they held high the Bible and with the crucifix swaying on its pole high above us, they began the prcoession. A little girl in a red dress with staticky hair clipped back by a tiny bow carried a figure of the baby Jesus and they went to the altar.

Eventually, after the homily, after the Eucharist, enough people left so that we were able to be in the sanctuary, leaning against the baptismal font in a very unholy manner. We sang Joy to the World in loud, clear voices as they came back down with their straight and somber faces–which seemed such a tragedy. He’s here! He’s here, we sang, Joy! Joy! But they had only long faces of reverence in their processional. Maybe it’s something they learn at the Catholic Seminary.

Archbishop Chaputo stood at the door and shook our hands as we left (though I am sure there are many he missed because we poured out through side doors and back doors and in clumps and pairs so he could not have touched or blessed us all). But I wanted to shake his hand, probably just so I could say afterward that I had done so. And I think I wanted to look the man in the eye who had denied me communion while praising Jesus and honouring his sacrifice of infinite reality become contained.

“Merry Christmas!” he said cheerfully, his round face wrinkled.

“Happy Advent!” I replied. He looked startled: how many people come to Midnight Mass and use such language as “advent” in every day conversation?

“Well thank you, but it’s over now!” he said merrily.

“Oh!” I was startled myself and momentarily reconsidered my statement, “right! He’s here!” Ingrid, my friend, was laughing ahead of me, already making her way down the steps to the street. I pranced out to the stairs and hopped down them like a child. “He’s here!”


Christmas can be hard sometimes, but I think the great news of Jesus is that he came in to this space and entered our sorrows.  He knows what it’s like to be lonely and he’s felt the deep longing to be with someone else, to be known. I love Advent, the anticipation of someone coming to heal our wounds, to set the world free from her self imposed slavery and crushing burden. This year, I can’t stop thinking about Ashland. I want to walk in the rain again, wander through a small town and loiter amid bookshelves while drinking chocolate and breathing hard on icy hands. I want garlic french fries, blueberry french toast, pizza and peanut brittle from a bright blue tin. I miss that little guest house, with the leaking toilet, the bedroom floor with a soft mattress and quilts piled high, and a tree branch scraping against the window. I miss Ashland, and on Christmas Eve, I even missed Trailmark and Waterton Canyon by bicycle.

But the beauty of Jesus is that he isn’t shaking his head in dismay. He’s chilling in Popí’s office with me, enjoying a much needed episode of Psych. He knows what I’m dealing with, what everyone is dealing with, because he felt it too. He sent the Spirit who walks with us because the beauty of the incarnation is that he came down as one of us and did life with us, among us. And he knows. I went to Mass because the incense wafting to the distant rafters, the chanting, the recitation, the kneeling, it made it real. It was consuming to be saturated in the five senses by the presence of God. But the enveloping reality was also a good reminder that Jesus came in among us. And we’ll be alright, because he knows what it’s like.

225 and Parker

I drive through this intersection on a regular basis, almost once or twice a day. When I’m waiting at the stoplight to turn right, there is almost always someone standing on the corner, panhandling. Usually on the south side is a man with puffy eyes and a straight mouth, a little too relaxed, and his clothing is one of the worst hodge podges I’ve ever seen on a homeless man. Recently he wore a tattered santa clause hat and had a new sign. It said Merry Christmas, under the scrawl begging for help. Yesterday another man stood there: his crooked cardboard sign advertised that he was willing to work even while reaching into car windows to accept the few bits of change we handed out.

I told a friend recently I might start carrying paper bags in my car stuffed with instant oatmeal packets, ramen noodles and a pack of cigarettes. I might start when I have a job and I can afford the ridiculous tobacco prices. But in the meantime, I keep trying to scrounge coins from my pants pockets and the seats of my car and the pavement of parking lots. It isn’t much, but I think sometimes it’s just the help of being noticed, and not ignored.

Tonight as I drove home from Castle Rock I went through this intersection. It’s been a rough day. I have slept walk through most of it: I dozed off while typing an email this afternoon. I spent two hours rambling to a friend and then feeling guilty that I talk so much. I shaped up some dreams and found them to be impossibly hard to accomplish.* I had driven right past Nick’s house while in Castle Rock and a little piece of me ached. But I pulled up to this intersection and I had finally remembered my change, pushed into my jeans this morning before I left the house. It had been dark for hours. But still there stood a figure on each side of the street, and I angled my car to the furthest right of the three lanes. I had the heater on full blast and my feet were still cold. As the lonely waif wandered up the exit ramp toward my car I struggled for my coins. Shaking with anxiety that the light would blink red to green before I was ready, I unbuckled, held both feet down hard on the clutch and brake and I hoisted my hips up so as to more easily rummage the tiny pockets. With the light on in my car, I managed to piece together barely a dollar.

I rolled down the window and she scrambled towards me, all aware of the chances that hte light would soon change. She reached in as I leaned over the seat, holding out my coins, the tiny offering towards her chilly night. She smiled at me and I stumbled over my words “I’m sorry, it’s not much, it’s all I have though.” And it is true. I don’t function on cash. I use credit, and I never have anything to give people. But she smiled at me, widely as I held her thinly gloved hand and she blessed me.

She had gaps in her teeth and the ones that remained had yellowed beyond repair. Her face was worn but the creased lines deeply woven into a spidery web crinkled in gratefulness as I apologized for the size of the tiny gift. “No honey, God bless you,” she said with fervency that I saw in her blurry eyes and felt in the way she squeezed my finger tips. “Merry Christmas,” she said as the light flickered up ahead and the long trail of cars began pulling away.

“Stay warm,” I mumbled. A few moments I was turning the corner, heater on, radio turned up and window tightly closed.

MGMT was pounding through my speakers. Kids, by MGMT. In the background you can hear children screaming on a playground. “You were a child, crawlin’ on your knees toward it, makin’ Mama so proud…” I could have cried, I think I actually would have if I hadn’t cried every last tear in the wee hours this morning.

That woman was once a baby. She was swaddled and someone laughed over her with delight. Many years ago a mother kissed her pink toes and tickled her chin and blew raspberries on her belly. She was pink and round and smooth and she laughed over simple things like lights and shapes and peek-a-boo. She wore footie pajamas instead of heavy boots with worn out toes and peeling soles. Someone held her close while she screamed the night she cut her first teeth that would someday fall out–and never really be permanently replaced. Someone wished good things for this woman, when she was a babe, new and full of opportunity. She was treasured and teased and she watched the Christmas lights go up and she stood in awe at the beauty of the glowing tree, and she fingered the bright paper on presents while dreaming what lay inside. She had tiny fingers without dirt under the nails a smile that wasn’t tired and an easy laugh.

What happened?

How did you get here?

And how can you bless me for a few pennies and wish me Merry Christmas while I go on my way in a warm car to a free home and my choice of goat cheese or spinach artichoke dip? How can you be pleased with my pennies when I ought to give you so much more?

Woman, where did the world do you wrong and what hurt did you suffer that brought you so low?

Do you know that Jesus is coming? Last night, in the eclipse, the moon turned red and Ghena quoted the prophecy: the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.* Do you know, Woman, that he’s coming? He comes like a baby, like you once were: sweet and innocent, fragile and unaware of the pain of the world.

But he wears your pain, he hears your quiet fears breathed in silence because, he like you, was not always a babe. And he, like you, knew all the injustices and all the sorrows of the world. But he is coming again. Last night the world turned into winter at the solstice and the earth eclipsed the moon and we remembered that he is coming back in power and might and glory and he can save you from the wretched corner of 225 and Parker.

Do you know? Have you heard?

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

Woman, have you heard the angels sing?

______

*Acts 2.20-21 ESV

my generation:

I think a lot of recent graduates can be summed up in this post off “texts from last night.” My friend sent it to me a couple weeks ago, and after talking with her and a few others, I think it’s pretty accurate of the disenfranchisement that is plaguing us lately.

(317) Drinking wine in my childhood bed getting ready to go to sleep in order to wake up for my menial temp job. Thanks college degree. I can handle the real world.

 

I could be philosophical about that, saying something artistic and satirical. But I think it sort of speaks for itself.

advent [or, waiting]

Today I got a text from a friend asking if I had heard anything about the visa I am waiting on  before buying my plane ticket to Central Asia. I sighed and while turning onto 225 I wrote back that nothing had come in the mail, and I am struggling not to be anxious. I as playing catch and release with a blue chevy cobalt driven by an asian with a foo man choo that was just a liiiiiitle too long. And yes, I was texting while driving, doing something entirely illegal and even more dangerous. But she didn’t know that, which is probably good because that would have given cause for a second lecture and the next text I recieved was plenty to think about:

I will [pray]…waiting is hard. That’s what advent is for…

Jesus comes next week. I mean, he is already here, or so they say. But he isn’t really here. He didn’t abandon us, per se, but he isn’t walking around my neighbourhood, enjoying that delicious goat cheese rolled in garlic and herbs while we watch an episode of Bones, he isn’t answering my questions and challenging my status quos. No, the person of the Trinity doing that is the Holy Spirit, and she is much more ephemeral and therefor, a bit more challenging to perceive than the walking, talking Jew with a rough woven robe and worn leathery hands from years of working with wood.

Jesus comes next week. I wish he would hurry up and get here. I am not a very patient person. I wonder what it’s like to be a Jew, waiting even now for Messiah to come? Chanukkah just passed, Menorah’s were lit and prayers whispered. He’s coming, they must have told each other. Just like he came through in the temple when we had run out of oil to keep the lamps burning, he’ll come through, he always does. But when? When?

Jesus comes next week. Will my visa come next week? I think I know a small idea of what the anticipation was like. Anna was waiting, praying and fasting in the temple, waiting her whole widowed life. Zechariah waited 9 silent months for his son, and his wife’s cousin was carrying Messiah. They had been waiting for years. They had been waiting for centuries. God had been silent, where was he? There were no prophets! There were only the Macabees and pigs slaughtered on the altar, there were the Herodians and no heirs of David. There were only glimpses, nothing hard and fast, nothing worth counting on.

Kayak keeps sending me price alerts on various flight dates to Central Asia. It’s like a beacon of hope: I’ll be able to afford that but not yet because I don’t have the papers to enter the country. I packed away clothes that I won’t be needing and left out my salwar kameez. I’ll be wearing that but not yet because I’ve  no place to wear it. They are little samples, little glimpses that are hopeful.

Jesus is coming. Jesus came. But he also hasn’t come entirely. He atoned for it all. But there is still sin. He paid that price. But there is still strife. He fed the masses. But there is still hunger ravaging children across the world. He made the lame walk and the blind to see. But there are still more children dying malaria than aids because the world can’t buy them mosquito nets. He redefined the temple a symbol of politics and religion. But politicians are still corrupt and the church is still greedy. He came. He conquered. He sent the Helper.* But he is coming again. And like the Jews always have, we are holding our breath, waiting for when he arrives in glory and we welcome him like a conquering hero come home to a proud and triumphant nation. We are waiting, because there is still something wrong here. It’s like a half way point.

All creation groans.

All creation is waiting.

All creation is breathless.

Can you hear it in the silence?

Can you hear it, soft and gentle, like the snow falling, brushing against the window pane?

Can you feel it in the air?

Can you taste it in the wine?

Can you smell it in the candles, low and bright?

Jesus is coming.

My heart jumps at the thought and tears spring to my eyes.** He’s coming. Soon, I think, or hope and pray. He’s coming and the world will be set to rights. I sometimes feel I stand beside Jewish brothers and sisters and whisper: I know what you’re thinking. I know what you’re feeling. I know what you’re fearing.

Will I have quit my job for nothing? Will the visa never arrive? Will I never board that plane?

Will we have waited in vain? Will he never come as he promised? Will we never be caught up, captive in his train?

We’re waiting. Always waiting.***

But I have heard the rumour. I can feel the change in the wind come off the mountains. I can taste it in the dryness of my mouth after cheap wine has doused the bread. I can smell it in the pine of the glowing tree wound with ribbons and baubbles. I believe. I know.

He is on the move.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Happy Advent. Happy Waiting.

__________________________

*Or the Father sent her. Parakletos, the early church split based on who you proceeded from… but does it really matter from whence you came?

**Yeah, yeah, I’m a weeper. Whatcha gonna do?

***Always winter. But never Christmas.

recently:

I was given a sermon and prayed over in a starbucks parking lot (should we talk more about this? it was pretty fantastic.)

I had coffee with a great old friend that I didn’t know when it would have been easy and convenient but have lately taken to with completely delighted surprise. (Too bad she lives 25 minutes away now, and you know, doesn’t go to my church. Convenience? What’s that?)

I had a phone date with a long lost bestie in Chicago who might be  here for a little bit around Christmas!

I had this phone conversation:

Ingrid: Is this my normal friend Sara B—?

Sara: Why yes, it is.

Ingrid: So do you have your life planned out yet?

Sara: Hm? Oh, yeah, I’ve got the next ten years lined up, with back up plans in case of a husband suddenly appearing and even made some plans for kids too. And in case of flash flooding, I’m covered.

Ingrid: What about zombies? Do you have a zombie clause? I always find it helpful to have one of those. Just in case, you know.

Sara: Oh! I hadn’t thought of that! I do have vampires figured out tho, because if I become immortal, I’ll have a lot more time to kill on my hands. But zombies, I hadn’t thought of that.

 

And guess what else? Jesus. Next week. I heard this rumour. He’s on the move.

packing light

#14 I’m just like everyone else

Ingrid told me this last night at Slat’s. She left her keys in my car so I drove to Belleview at 1045 last night to meet her at the pub across from her work and trade keys for food. We talked until almost 1am, when she was yawning and everyone else but the bartender had cleared out. He refilled waters and asked if we needed more sliders or fries. Last call, he said. But I think for Ingrid, there is no last call at Slat’s.

She asked about boys. She asked, more specifically, how I am doing with boys. I just laughed, shrugged and stuffed my mouth with fries dipped in BBQ sauce. How am I with the boys at Adullam? Fine, actually. Probably because this time next month I plan to be in another country. Probably because they own up to junk and so it’s impossible to put them on pedestals. Probably because I am so opposite of them. Probably because I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I want to figure my own ish out before I join it up with anyone else’s.

I was going on about getting my masters. I was proposing teaching college or high school. I was talking about the exotic life I have wanted for years: living in Central Asia, speaking three languages, raising kids who are neither here nor there and running a restaurant from my third world kitchen. But then I was also saying that a part of me wants to stay. I want to be here, in the city or in the country. I want to raise kids who know America inside and out. I want to have a husband with a normal 9 to 5. I want to stay at home and bake for the neighbours. It’s a bit of a dichotomy, a convulsive war that is going to be sorted while I’m overseas. I think I must have sped up half way through the monologue when Ingrid reached over and put her hand on mine–frozen as it had reached for fries when I first began this talk.

“Honey. Stop.”

I stared at her, a little startled to be interrupted.

“Are you worried? Do you think you have to figure this all out? Do you think it’s bad that you don’t have it figured out? Do you feel under pressure to figure it out?”

I sort of nodded.

“Well, stop. None of us has this figured out. You have junk and questions and shit just like the rest of us. That’s what Jesus is all about. Live today, right now. Learn about who you are and trust God with the rest. You are just like the rest of us. Do you think there’s something wrong with you? That you aren’t on the same page because you’re still confused about some kind of life plan?”

I nodded again.

“Yeah, you aren’t different. You’re just like the rest of us.”

“Really?”

“Really. So quit worrying. And yeah, you’ve got baggage, of course you do, because no one is perfect. It’s a blessing you’re single. Here’s what you do, someone once told me: work through your junk. Get it sorted. We all have a big bag, but you’ve got to unpack it and get rid of it. Pack light for marriage. Let it all go and pack for an overnight but jump in like it’s the rest of your life. That’s the only way to do it. And stop stressing so much.”

 

Laughter

Today I had the most hilarious conversation over texting in the history of the world. Or at least, the history of my cell phone (and trust me, that baby sees a lot of texts). Matt Baca emced Ahava last night and we ended up exchanging numbers (to assure one another we made it home alright, considering our group didn’t leave Comedy Works until around 1am. Ingrid, Grahm and I did the same thing too.). Matt started off this morning by groaning about getting to work at such a ridiculous hour after we’d all been out so late. I had stumbled into my own house around 2am thanks to navigating construction and some rather seedy areas of Denver that I prefer to avoid in the middle of the night–especially in four inch heels, it’s hard to run in an emergency. And then, I think Matt must have left work around 430, becuase that was when the conversation really picked up.

We talked about everything: the smell in Greeley (“it reminds me of my days in the rodeo), type two diabetes (“my dad remembers his mother greasing the pans with lard”), Christians are closet fans of rap music (“I think JC would have DJed the crap out of that wedding in Canna,” and “have you seen the beatitudes? there is some legit material there for rapping”), socks with crocs (“that is the dark side”) and stick shift driving (“dayum* girl! you got skiiillz if you textin and shiftin!”).

Matt is a comedian, educator, actor and general jack of all trades. He’s 40, and last night he told me he’s just hitting his stride in the last few years: so I’m not to worry. I’ve got time. That came out during a much deeper conversation last night, one of several. We talked at the table, we stood in line for the food, we chilled at the bar in the back talking with Dusty, we even meandered outside on the patio where I almost stole his coat before making it to a center position at the fireplace. It was so cool this juxtaposition of talking about deep things like hearing the voice of God, relationships, and foiled dreams all set up against todays conversation of pure stupidity.

There is so much in the church that has gotten jacked up. Jed said today over lunch that we should be more honest, because the more we air out our dirty laundry, the more we can figure things out and work together in community to be changed.** I think that is so true. We’re hiding. I hide. I sat at my apartment tonight and watched tv and rubbed lotion into my swollen feet and I could feel relief wash over me that I wasn’t seeing Jed, Ingrid and Grahm again tonight–because I’m sometimes afraid that I’ll be just a little too open and then things will fall apart. Last night, Ahava was about the beauty of God working in our lives, changing and molding us and the way our community is sticking together for better or for worse.

Today, Matt reminded me that perhaps one of the reasons we hide is because we take ourselves too seriously. I laughed so hard I cried in the coffee shop today. I almost peed my pants driving home. I was breathless and choking at times because I couldn’t stop laughing. Because you know what? I’m a closet fan of rap music. I like Mike Posner and Nellie and some Enrique, I even like Kesha at times and Katy Perry is always going to remind me of Ryan back in Seattle. Laughter–and the ability to laugh at ourselves–is as important as the willingness to be honest and lay our pride down for the sake of being transformed. Laughing is restorative. And laughing sometimes eases the deafening realization that we are jacked up. And laughter reminds us that even though we’re sort of screwed, we’ve got Jesus and he makes beauty in even the most bizarre places.

Fo. Sho.

[“there’s my little rapper!”]

_______________________

*dayum=Matt’s attempt to sound black and gangster. Even though he is white and has long hair and is sort of a teddy bear. But good try Matt. Good try. Must be said in high pitched voice like “DAY-um” with a slide down on the ay-um shift…

**of course, change only comes by way of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to cooperate. But sometimes I think that willingness may be inspired from community and encouraged by others who have been or are right there with us. (see previous post “thoughts”)

thoughts

I had a lovely conversation with Ingrid last night via text. I told her I was going to be a smashing hit in my dress at Ahava tonight. I told her I was going to  bring misteltoe to our set up shindig (which will be a breeze, thanks to how much is already put together for us thanks to Comedy Works). I told her that I am glad to be leaving in a month because everyone tonight can be my friend, and nothing more. I told her that we’ll have a sharefest over lunch tomorrow. And I told her that she is great and she said this morning that I am sweet and basically, it was an all around good conversation.

 

Tonight is Ahava. I have just pulled two cakes from the oven. I am about to get started whipping up green beans with garlic and onions and coarse ground kosher salt. I keep thinking about that dress downstairs in the canvas bag. I am fretting about walking in heels. I have to shave my legs. I must shave my legs. I’ve been saving those hairy monsters for a grooming so that they’ll be extra smooth tonight, inside at the raffle, outside on the patio, wishing for snow, tripping in four inch red heels, laughing over food and drink. Yeah, I’ve got to shave them beasties.

Tonight is Ahava. The word means love in Hebrew. It’s the name of the place where the Jews stopped on their return from exile. They fasted, prayed, re-covenanted* and then they partied. If there’s one thing my church is good at: we throw fricking awesome parties. And though Ahava Fest is not directly related to Christmas, it falls around the same time of year because the Gregorian Calendar ends at this time of year. That’s sort of what we are celebrating: the end of a good hard year (as are all years) and looking forward to the next.

Ahava does not just mean love. It’s sort of the middle word for love in Hebrew. Riyah means friendship. Dod means the mingling of souls. Ahava means: I have seen your junk. And I’m sticking around. I’m. Not. Going. Anywhere.

That’s what we are celebrating tonight. Ingrid’s heard my junk, some of it. I confessed a lot of it last weekend at Caribou with her and Grahm. There was a man in the over stuffed chair behind me, he kept peaking over his newspaper and his wife threw darting glances from behind the crinkled pages of a well loved book. Grahm stared off for some of the conversation, and I thought he was in his own world, ignoring the conversation taking place as I laid out my faults on the table and pushed emotion back down with the dark turtle mocha. But there were times when he would turn and make eye contact, direct and peircing, and he would say something that I needed to hear. Or he would laugh and tell me that I”m not such a very bad person, and I shouldn’t worry about it, and that we’re both still young–even though he hates when people tell him that. And behind those oval glasses and the hair that kept falling in his eyes, behind the quiet and seemingly gruff appearance of boots and pick up truck, he was sweet and precious. And Ingrid kept laughing at me! My naivete, my space to grow, my fears and shames. She kept telling me that Jesus loves me, Jesus has grace for me. Jesus knows my junk, he knew my junk before I was even a hope in the marriage of my parents. And still he died.

Ahava is celebrating the crap my church goes through: broken finances, sick children, struggling marriages. But it is also celebrating the comfort of talking with friends over coffee that I did not buy myself. We are celebrating that I was open, that Ingrid hugged me, that Grahm didn’t judge. I’m pretty jacked up. But they’ve seen that and they are sticking around, because Jesus stuck around for them.

we’re. not. going. anywhere.

 

____________

*no, that’s not technically a word. But I’m going to pretend like it is.