Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sunday, April 1, 2018

John 4

This is just my favorite.  I have tried to examine what it says about me, that it's my favorite, but ultimately given up.  Today my head is filled with the woes of the world, a reminder of how truly horrible we are, and ultimately, how totally confused.

So God is in walking around in the body of a Jewish man, and he stops, in the middle of the day, in a town that's not Jewish, to get water at a well.  There's a woman there, filling up water for her house. I know it's unusual for her to be there at midday.  Most of the women went in the morning, when it was cool and before doing household chores for the day. She probably didn't want to see those catty old judgmental jerks doing their gossipping at the well.  So she waited until lunchtime. She sees this Jewish dude there and she does not want to talk to him, because why would she?  Out of the blue he says, "hey, would you mind getting me a drink?" She looks around herself just to check if there's a Jewish person, but there's not.

This reminds me of a lot of things that happen in our own culture.  There are people who just try to avoid each other.  They don't talk because someone thinks they're somehow better than the other, and the other just shrugs their shoulders and stops trying. Or maybe they get angry, go on a few marches, hope things get better.

"Are you asking me?  You know I'm Samaritan, right?"

But he says, and this is crazy. . . "If you knew who I was, you would be the one asking for a drink.  And the water I would give you would be living water." And since He was God, I bet those words made her tingle all the way down to her feet.  Water is living, right?  It's filled with organisms, it's . . . what keeps us alive.  We're part amphibian, born in water, not needing our lungs until we're pushed out.  I mean, it is living.  But part of her knows this is so different.

"Sir," she says, because maybe he's insane, "You don't even have a cup.  Plus, are you saying to me that you are somehow better than the great Jacob, the fighter, leader of armies, favored by God, whose land this is?  The Jewish hero? This is his well, and I doubt your water could compare with his."

"If you drink this water, you'll get thirsty again. But my water is special. You drink it and you're never thirsty again. It becomes inside you, a spring of water, and turns into eternal life."

So this part always surprises me, because why does she know that he's for real and not a weirdo? Maybe she's just so desperate not to come to "gossip town" again, she wishes there were another source for water. She'll take anything.

"Sir, can I have some of that water? I would love to not have to fill up at this well again."

"Sure," he says, "call your husband." (Ouch, we all know why he said that. Low blow.  Maybe He knows she doesn't really believe him, she just wants water.)

"I don't have a husband." (She's so honest!  She could have just lied to this random Jewish guy, but she doesn't. And I think this is why he came to her. She's not a liar.

"You're right. The fact is, you've had five husbands, and the guy you're with now is not your husband.  But thank you for telling me the truth (I know how hard that was for you.)"

"Ok, well I see you're a prophet. So listen, here's my question, the Jewish people say we can't worship God here, and we think this place is ok. . . " (blah blah, she's asking a political question).

"The time will come when it won't matter where you worship anymore.  I'm here to change all that."

And then, it hit her for the first time.  Maybe he's got information about the messiah they talk about all the time. Or maybe she's being polite. It's normal for a Jewish person to say "this will all be better when the messiah comes" maybe she's doing that.  She says:

"Well, I know the messiah's coming, and then things will be clear."

And he looks her in the eye and says, "that's me.  I'm the messiah."

And she has no idea what to think, but this random jewish guy knew all about her, and now her whole life is changed forever.

And ironically, she got that living water without even asking.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Art of Fear

I have a lot to get done this morning, but I'm dragging my feet. I figured I'd write a blog and that would launch me into doing something super-productive. It sounds like a plan.  Sometimes, these days, as I interview for jobs and scramble to finish the doctorate I don't want to do anything.  I'm too overwhelmed and I'd rather just hide in the closet and eat peanut butter out of the jar.

But that's not going to help, so here I go. Finishing a doctoral degree is very different from the bachelor's or master's.  It's similar to moving.  There's a point when you've organized and all the boxes are filled, the house looks, for the most part, empty, and you say to yourself: "you're close." Then you open up a closet door and the whole thing is filled.  "crap," you say to yourself, and then you pack that up and realize that you forgot the last part of the garage, and then the stuff behind the piano, and the further you get you start thinking, "I AM NEVER GOING TO GET THROUGH ALL THIS." You start chucking stuff in the trash, you cry a little, you find a photo of your mom and dad in a drawer and then you take a second to feel emotional and it goes on and on.  But you finish, right?  Faith is the opposite of sight.  You know you will finish, you just can't see it yet.

I've had a few job interviews, so, as a fellow student says, "that means you'll get a job." But I have a list of fears: Will I like the job? Will I like the new home? Will I be able to afford it? Will the job pay like crap? Will my husband find a job? Will the kids have good schools? It goes on, but I won't bore you, because then there wouldn't be anything else in this blog.  Besides, the worst thing is that once you start, it SPIRALS.  You start thinking about whether you'll like the grocery stores or your yard.

Two days ago, my 4 year old asked me on the way to school, "next year, will I be in the classroom with the fish on the door?"
 I told him, "well, probably not sweetheart. We might move to a new house next year, and then you'd be at a new school."
There was a long pause. "What? What house? Where? What kind of school?"
And there it was.  FEAR. It's the most natural instinct. Please, don't make me change, but I'm also afraid of stagnation. I'm afraid I won't be liked, loved, I won't have money, I won't have a home.  Fear is all-encompassing.
24 hours later, we were on the couch together when he said, "I kind of love this house." Out of the blue. And I knew what was going on. That turning, wrenching, fear had stayed with him 24 hours!  This house, where he doesn't have a space to play and he wishes there were a yard. It's the only home he remembers.  He's almost 5 but he's been here 3 years! I just held him and said, "I know. But I promise wherever we go we'll be together."

It's kind of all I can say right now. The move 4 years ago was insane. It was painful, ends were not tied, and the dust of trauma chased us across the country. Now, if we move we are stable.  Hopefully I'll be done finding closets full of "extra stuff" that I have to get done for the doctorate. I'll be trusting God to land us somewhere that people will love me, and I'll make music, and I'll find someone like-minded.  Maybe just one person. And wherever we go, we'll be blessed to be together. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

If You Limbo Like I Do

I find that life, so far, has been a series of trials seeking landing spots.

The trials are happy and sad. Don't get me wrong. I think that first statement makes it seem like there's just a lot of awful but that's not really true.  What it really means is that I have spent a lot more time in limbo than I would like.

I think there are other choices.  Sometimes, when you're in your own life, looking out, you don't see other choices. You don't go "well, Amy's life could have been an option."  Let's be honest, her life was not an option.  This is MY life. And my life is climbing mountains, sitting in limbo, finding a brief landing place, getting bored, and then looking at another mountain.. . salivating a little.

Being an Opera Singer.  That was a mountain.  Jeez.  Got to a point where I was singing, auditioning, crying, singing, auditioning, crying.  Good times. It got lonely. But the singing part was GOOD.  Like--crack good. Still, the auditioning and crying, ouch. So then after a while that mountain turns into limbo.  The state where I need something else. Something less lonely, something that makes me feel purposeful.  Something. Street kids in Peru, little dog in a purse, constant working out.  Something.

Dating. That was a mountain. Lots of dates with men who revealed, after things seemed to be going well, that they were married, but not super married.  Or dates with men who did not see it necessary to believe in anything, or did not see it necessary to call, or be kind, in between dates. Or men who thought I was ok, but they really wanted a red head. 

Adjunct teaching. This is limbo.  This is "work your butt off and make $11k a year limbo." That's eleven. Teaching two classes, 12 students a year, and 11 thousand dollars. Of course, I work 3 other jobs. So we add the MOUNTAIN of the DMA. And that was a mountain.

I'm going insane, because if you limbo like I do, you know that there's a place, somewhere, that you could land. And work one job. Your husband could have a job that wasn't hurting his health, and there could be a real place to invest yourself, to do what you already know you love. To not worry and count pennies.

I am happy here in limbo. I am SO HAPPY. That's almost the worst part.  How can I complain when I have beautiful children, a nice home, albeit a rental, and a loving husband? How can I complain when I drive a functioning car (thanks to Dad loans) and I eat healthy food, and have two cute dogs, and get good health care?  HOW?

But I am just looking for this landing place. This place where, for some brief time, there are no mountains, no limbo, and I don't have to write people in the middle of the night looking for hope. Because unfortunately, it's been 5 years on this mountain, then in this limbo, and I am running. Out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Love needs Legs

I'm just going to copy and paste the lyrics to David Wilcox "Show the Way" because they make me feel hopeful and I'm not sure what else to write today.  This is not specific, just a general feeling about how things seem to be going.

You say you see no hope
You say you see no reason we should dream
That the world would ever change
You say that love is foolish to believe
'Cause they'll always be some crazy
With an army, [gun] or knife
To wake you from your daydream
Put the fear back in your life
If someone wrote a play
To just to glorify what's stronger than hate
Would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late?
He's almost in defeat
It's looking like the evil side will when
So on the edge of every seat
From the moment that the whole thing begins
It is love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love can show the way
Now the stage is set
You can feel your own heart beating in your chest
This life's not over yet
So we get up on our feet and do our best
We play against the fear
We play against the reasons not to try
We're playing for the tears
Burning in the happy angel's eyes

For it's love who mixed the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Though it looks like we're alone
In this scene, set in shadows,
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play
For in this darkness love will show the way

Friday, February 16, 2018

Who is Jesus?

I don't enjoy having time on my hands.  I know I should--I know somehow I should learn to relax, calm down, whatever.

But instead I hate being at home.  I hate housekeeping, and I hate listing "ways in which I was productive today" and feeling like there are never enough.

I have been like this for as long as I can remember.  I wanted to join every club, be in every play, every musical group, speech competitions, work. I was always spinning 5 plates on something imaginary.

So now I have this weird schedule where I work 12 hours one day, and then only a few hours each day the rest of the week.  I earn some money at home, writing, and sometimes singing. And I may be going insane.

"I thought you said this post was about Jesus?" you may be asking yourself.

This week a few things happened. A school shooting happened.  I am a teacher, and my children are students, and when a shooting happens I lose all sense of peace. I am a wreck. I hate my husband. I just donated money to something hoping that would assuage the horrible sense of sadness (I over-empathize with each victim, I feel sick to my stomach, and I blame everyone for any response that doesn't seem genuinely and totally compassionate. I have nightmares, and sometimes I can't sleep for days. 

You may be thinking, at this point, that this will be something about Jesus and tragedy, but it isn't.

It's about my struggle in faith when I hear the inner thoughts of "devout" people. You see, to me the worst thing about social media is knowing what other people think.  I trusted people--they may not even know I read it--7 or 8 words? and now I don't trust them. That happens a lot. One insight into the inner workings of another's mind and I don't like them.  Sometimes I quickly unfriend, I walk away, and I forget.  I start thinking of them by the way they present themselves to me, and not by what they said to a family member or friend. And the relationship remains, mostly, preserved.

But some--once I have seen what they think, I am left with this question, "How can your Jesus look so different from mine? And who is Jesus, who is the cornerstone of my life, if you--you who are devout, who claim to love him, who tell others about him--who is he really? Because he can't be all these conflicting things.  He can't delight in the pain of others, as you seem to think he does, and yet fully experience the pain of his creation, as I think he does. He can't think we should reject immigrants and welcome them. These are not political anymore to me, there are underlying spiritual aspects to this.

And the struggle is here. Because if you compare my Jesus with others in my life--it's not the same God. It's not the same words. It's not the same meanings. It's not the same set of standards we are each living. I don't say a prayer with that person and erase everything I know they seem to believe so adamantly. And if you can make up your Jesus, maybe I'm making up mine.  So there you go. It hurts and it asks me over and over and it keeps me up at night.

And all I want to do is learn who He is.  Because he said you'd disappoint me anyways.  He said, "many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."

He knew not to trust us. Please God, help me reconcile how to love and not be disappointed, and remind me I won't get every answer, just a good supply of grace and truth. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Who I Love, How I Love and the Free Forties

I am 44 today. At first I had this weird fear about it. I remembered in Chinese numerology that 44 is the most unlucky age you will ever be! In Mandarin, the number 4 also means death. So sometimes hotels will skip the 10 floors between 40 and 49, just like Western hotels skip the number 13. It's a real thing, this silly superstition, but I have a long relationship with Chinese culture, so I instantly remembered it when I realized what age I would be.

Actually, if you add up the bad numbers in all the different cultures of the world, you might be hard pressed to find a good number.  Everyone seems to like 3. It's strong, like a triangle. It feels mathematically perfect. But you can't stay in your 30s forever.

So today I'm 44. And I have finally reached an age where I don't love shouting it out.  "38!" I would say proudly.  And now I whisper the years as they go by. I was born the year Nixon resigned.  Freaking Nixon! That sounds old.

What's different about the 40s? As I get older fewer things are black and white.  It's hard to look around yourself, see everyone's different life experiences and go, "ok, I am more right than any of you. I know better than all of you. I have got this." It's easier to look at them and nod your head and say, "there but for the grace of God. . . " I am so lucky not to have one of the million things we judge other people for be something I've done. Accidentally. Or on purpose.  Or. . . even that distinction is a little blurry.

It's a recent realization I've had that for years I listened to someone say that I had to love people only this much. That I had to love in different ways, and only that would be ok. I am not sure I get that now. I have had friendships that were like romances--we talked all night, we brushed each other's hair, we missed each other intently when we were away from each other. And someone challenged me on that.  We were "too close." I mean. . . only romance should be that close, right?  Now I look back and I wish I'd said "screw that" and just loved the way I wanted to.

Sometimes, nieces are best friends. Sometimes grandfathers are like brothers. Sometimes you have a person in your life who might as well be related, why don't you get to call her sister? Sometimes your parents are the bad influence.  These rules are not helpful. For me at least, they have only held me back.

I have put so many rules on myself, due to this, about how much or how little I should love each parent. How close everyone should be with their siblings. I have thought I had to make decisions about choosing one person over another (this is child of an addict stuff, I think). Could I love someone so much that I couldn't stand anyone saying terrible things about them and still love the person saying the terrible things? Yes.  You know why? Because it just isn't wrong to love people. These rules are ridiculous.

See how freeing the 40s can be???!!!!

I can love someone who disagrees with me on something FUNDAMENTAL. I can love someone who has wronged me, and I can love someone who will never love me back, and all of that is fine. AND, this one is good. . . I don't have to apologize for someone I don't love. Even if I'm supposed to love them.  Things can change.  You couldn't stand them in your 20s, and now you're best friends. Or vice versa.  Or both at the same time. Even if everyone says . . . something.  Because everyone has something to say.

So happy birthday to me. I'm forty four and I'm in the freeing forties and today I'm going to love like it's ridiculous. I'm going to send you a card or call because I love you and not because I should, and not because I'm relying on an obligatory thank you. I'm not going to regret that we haven't done this or that because let's be honest, we never had a relationship anyway. It is what it is.

This month, 2 parents of good friends died. This month, a 16 year old who I didn't know, but was part of my extended family, died and left broken hearts everywhere. It's all recent, and it's a reminder that we don't spend a single wasted minute loving, or forgiving, or eating humble pie. Feel bad about something you said? It gnaws at you but you feel like you'd be an idiot to say it.  Just say it. Always wanted to thank someone.  Thank them. Always wished you'd spent more time with someone? Try. It may not work. It's still worth it.

And just for my birthday, could everyone stop being an a**hole on facebook?

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Mama Memory is Long

Babies are cute.  They are round, and they smell good and they have toothless giggles.  I loved breastfeeding, watching them walk, hearing them say silly stuff.

I feel like I'm missing something though.  How come I don't "miss" the babies? My children are getting older.  I love it!  I love seeing how they dress, hearing them talk about things that matter. I love their independence, and honestly, I prefer that they love me, rather than need me.

I wonder all the time, does this make me someone who wasn't meant to be a mom?  After all, I see these "mommy" types post on facebook or say at parties how much they miss the babies.  They remember when their kids were little, and the little hands and hugs. They remember the silliness, and they long for it.

Or am I misunderstanding what "missing" something means?  After all, I used to feel so guilty when in-laws would say they "miss" the children, until I had multiple trips where they didn't really play with the children, or clean up their vomit, or punish them, and I started realizing they "missed" looking at cute things.  They didn't long for the feel of baby hands.  It was more like--they just enjoyed having babies around.  Kids I was raising.  It was fun to see them. It was entertaining.  Once I realized that, it was liberating. Missing and longing.  Those are different.

Sometimes I miss being a single woman in NYC.  I think, "oh man, it would be so great to have nothing on my schedule today but to spend 30 minutes getting ready and then work out all morning and then take the subway to Chinatown or meet my friends." I miss that.  But I don't long for it.  I know that there were issues.  I was lonely a lot.  I wished I were more successful every day. And now, I can fill my day with other happy things.  In this reality, I have a supportive husband, kids who are adorable sometimes, and things to write about.  So . . . longing is not the word.  I just remember something fondly that I naturally evolved out of.

My mama memory is long. And with each memory of babies, I remember praying at 2 1/2 that my daughter would sleep.  I remember floor fits.  I remember having to buckle children in the backseat when it was 20 below, or 115 degrees.  I've done both hundreds of times.  I remember cracked nipples from breastfeeding.  Late night doctors. Just keeping them alive! But mostly, I remember mind-numbing afternoons where the choice was watching baby songs on the tv or playing batman toys, and I just wanted to be myself. Everyone told me I could "set boundaries" and still have my own life and that was really a lie. I wanted a life, I wanted to be a grown up. Each day, as my kids get older, I can set those boundaries, I can ask, and they come closer to understanding what I mean.

My investment in my children is, I believe,  what it should be. Someday it's likely that my daughter will look at me, she'll cry and she'll hurt deeply and she'll tell me that all of her body issues are because of me.  Because try as I might, I know she's going to inherit the most painful thing in my life.  Hopefully less than I have--but at some level, she will.  And my heart will hurt.  But it won't shatter.  Because I'll think, "I'm a really good professor," or "I encouraged someone today" or "I volunteered for people who need me" or a million other things I'm investing in my life to do for others that are not babies. Not even children. And I'll be reminded that I tried hard at parenting, but it was one thing of many.  Right?  It was never all of me.

I miss the past and fear the future about the same I guess.  Neither is exactly as we imagine. And neither deserves to be as important as today.