Tuesday, December 23, 2008

caught in the valley

i'm currently caught in the valley between the mountain of obedience and the mountain of desire, and i'm not sure i'm safe where i'm at.

my entire life i have lived by the code and direction of obedience. it's been my MO since i remember having stolen a can of soda at the age of 5 and walking back into the grocery store to confess to the manager my great sin. every decision i've made i've weighed against the bible of my parents or the Bible of my faith. i've always imagined there was a right way and a wrong way to every way. so, i went to college based on what i thought was the obedient thing to do. i started having kids as an act of obedience. i've confessed white lies and guilted myself over speeding and turned in every item the clerk accidentally forgot to ring up. i've lived my life by the code of obedience.

and recently, i've slipped down the mountain of obedience. not that i've been disobedient - but i'm wondering how high on my priority list obedience should be as the primary guide of my life. i've realized you can be obedient without using your heart. you can be obedient and still not love. you can be obedient and still not be a good and faithful servant. i'm guessing many of the pharisees valued obedience above all else too, and we know what Jesus had to say about them.

so, if not obedience, then what? my mind has been opened to the idea and pursuit of desire (notice my heart hasn't gotten there, hence the dilemma). could it be that the psalmist was right, that to have the desires of your heart is well worth seeking? and that by delighting in God, and the way he designed us, is to move closer to the desires that he built in us. i'm not talking about wanting more money, or a bigger house, or a better body - but the desire to live more fully into who God made us to be...beings who yearn and crave more than what the world has told us to settle for.

so, the valley - i haven't yet embarked on the journey up the mountain of desire. i'm overwhelmed by the presence of the wolves of disappointment, and the lions of pain, and the bears of fear that wait to ravage my willingness to climb. so, how long do i stay in the valley? because, either i trek back up the mountain of obedience from where i came, or i will inevitably be swept away by the rivers of discontent and despair that await me here in the valley. or, i move. i look for a lifeline of hope that will save me when the animals of all that oppose His way attack with their full force.

the waters are rising. which way will i go?...


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

toying with the idea of new year's resolutions

so - every year, without fail since i knew what they were, i've made new year's resolutions. when i was more disciplined (back in 8th grade), i would make resolutions to not be so loud, to memorize verses and poetry, to work on my etiquette. now, its pretty much the same thing every year: lose weight, eat right, exercise, get out of debt, etc...and no matter which cloak the resolution takes on (i.e. lose weight by training for a 5K race), it can't mask the fact that in the past, i have only achieved one of my many new year's resolutions (i did run a 5K race, but didn't lose any weight).

with a new year, how about a new idea - out with the old, in with the new! instead of a new year's resolution - how about a new year's question to ponder over and over again in the year 2009? i have decided - or possibly resolved (:0) to ask myself this question before as many decisions and actions as i can:

"will this (fill in the blank) be good for me?"

not "will this benefit someone?", "will this make someone else happy?", "will this make me look or appear to have it all together", "will this keep me out of trouble", "will this make the bad feelings go away - even if for just a little bit?" because i fear those are the questions i've been asking myself my long 31 years - and as noted, they haven't brought me closer to who i want to be - or that person that i resolve to be every year.

instead, i want to ask myself these questions, and act on the answer. "will this extra helping of cake be good for me?" "will this impulsive buy - because i want it and don't need it - be good for me?" "will taking on this extra committment be good for me?" "will sleeping in be good for me?" "will worrying about him or her be good for me?" "will watching this show be good for me?" "will having this conversation be good for me?" "will spending my time mindlessly and aimlessly be good for me?" "will running from my problems be good for me?" "will going for a walk be good for me?" "will calling a friend instead of cleaning my bathroom be good for me?" "will sitting down to snuggle with my daughter be good for me?" "will getting up early to have peace and quiet be good for me?" etc...etc...

while this idea may not be altruistic - i have to believe in the nature of loving myself for once before trying to love others. i've spent so much time thinking about all the things not to do - i want to meditate and call to the forefront of my memory a question that will change the negative messages i've been listening to all my life. it will remind me of what's most important. being good to me means i can be better to others.

so, we'll see this year, "will it be good for me?"


Sunday, December 14, 2008

there you go being a good mother again.

thank you for the mix cd you sent me for my birthday. when i get these musical mysteries from you, i tuck them away in a special place. i hide them until i can be fully present to their melodies. i wait patiently until no other voices can interfere with my hearing each puzzle possessed word that is inevitably on each song you've chosen. and later, like a racoon who collects shiny things, i pull them out and curiously run my fingers over them.

with every song i wonder what drew you to it, and moreso what drew you to selecting it for me. sometimes i believe one song must have been selected for its catchy tune - but knowing you, it can't just be the music that has moved you - but must also be the wonderful orchestration of words, lyrics, limerick, and the captivating themes, ideas and passions presented in the precisely packaged present of word with song. that's what i believe, anyway.

and so, with the recent birthday music cd, i found you being a good mother again with song number 2 in your ordered scheming: "daisy" by karine polwart. i didn't have to guess why you selected this song. the pleasant, tongue curling irish accent on 'dahr-ling' was impossible to miss. but a one-line lyric might have gone unnoticed by even me had it not instantly brought the comfort and tonic i've been missing in these past sick six weeks:

"i know you’ll only say a thing you believe to be true..."

exquisite, no. intentional, yes. knowing that recently, i've had 3 encounters where i've berated myself for things that i've said, and called into question the usefulness of truth as a virtue, you snuck in a song that would convey a most mothering message that reminds me - someone knows and believes the best in me, even when i can't believe it myself.

and so - when i can, i steal away quiet moments in order to listen to the soothing voice of a mystery irish woman, grateful that your mothering soul crafted for me a present that is as much a comfort to me as a blanket to a baby.

thank you.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Poetry to my ears

One of my professors ended our class with a few poems the other night. I really connected with this one and I thought I'd share it with you.

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Counting down...

three days of madness left and then I'll search for my sanity once again.

But until then I thought I'd post these two videos which help me to visualize a couple of themes we've been exploring in our Sexual Disorders class.

The first one characterizes the perversion of love (as an example of sadomasochism)...

And this one contrasts that distorted love (yet often our best effort) with a more pure form of love...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wrapping Up Yet Another Season

I can't believe that in 7 days I will be half way through my program here at MHGS. There have been moments where my time here has felt as though it were creeping at a painfully slow pace and there have been other moments where I'm spinning around in the wind and chaos of the enormous workload I am somehow able to tackle by the end of each trimester. This season has been excessively chaotic. I began the trimester with a reunion as many friends of Colorado made their way up to the great Northwest, and not too long after that we drove down for my sister's wedding. I feel like I never really had an opportunity to catch up and and rest assured that all was not beyond my reach.

Our 14 hour drive home from California this last Sunday provided me with a great deal of time to ponder upon my anxiety over always feeling like my life is in flux. It seems obvious, perhaps, that I would feel that way in our current situation considering we are sort of in a state of transition in our lives. Believing that we are only here in Seattle temporarily, while I finish my degree, has prevented us from really putting our feet on the ground. And yet, when I really think about it, I wonder if I've ever felt planted at any stage in my life. High school was transitory - I couldn't wait to leave home. Not too long after that I got married and two years later began a family. Both Brian and I have both struggled to land on a specific direction for our individual, yet intricately and intimately connected, lives.

I recognize that we are a part of a larger context - a culture that is always on the move. But lately I've discovered that my continual movement and progression, which some have associated with ambition, is most deeply rooted in a sense of fear. I'm afraid of standing still. I'm afraid that if I stop running toward something I won't know what to do, who to be, or how to be. But I'm tired of running. My marathon of a life has worn me out. And yet, it's how I've learned to cope with the traumas of my life.

The other night in my human development class we were discussing this idea presented by Winnicott (a psychological big shot) referred to as "the fear of breakdown". He suggests that the anxiety that we feel in the present, whereby we think we're afraid of what could happen, is in actuality a result of the trauma that has already occurred. So maybe I haven't really been running toward anything...I've just been running from what I have not been able to work through at this juncture.

For some reason, the season of Advent always beckons me to stop running so fast. I'm sensing that invitation now. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my closest friend here (whom I've referred to as my security blanket) about mine and Brian's struggle with determining where we should go from here in life and she asked me a poignant question that I can't shake from my mind. She asked what it would look like for us to simply be here where we're at right now. In my own reflecting since that conversation I haven't been able to come up with any concrete answer, but I think it's stirred my desire to figure out how to make this a place we can call home. I'm learning that home isn't really a location, it's a way of being present and in relationship with those in your life at any given point in time.