Experienced Moving

I’ve moved a lot. I change houses like some people change favorite jeans. I know how to set up a kitchen in less than a week, and make a new house feel like a home I’ve lived in for years. 

Moving is not all about houses. It is also about leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown. It’s about changing out communities, finding new friends, and learning new places. It’s about losing and gaining things at the same time. 

My favorite moving day story is from when I was sixteen. We were leaving a place we had been for four years that we didn’t really ever feel we could call home. There are various reasons for that, most of them are not my story to tell, but for my own part I was not leaving any friends my age behind. I was glad to be leaving. 

Our driveway was black sand that ingrained itself in the carpet and any other surface it came into contact with. Each time I got into the family van, I would snap my feet together to shake the sand off my feet so that the sand transfer would be as minimal as possible. When I got in the car that final morning, I intentionally did not shake the sand off my feet, because I had run across the passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. In verse 14, Jesus tells his disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they do not find welcome or listening ears. I didn’t shake the sand off my feet because I refused to say that the blessing of God’s peace was not present in that place, even if I hadn’t encountered peace while I was there. 

On the last day when we were packed up and the house was clean and empty, we went to have breakfast with a couple that were friends with our family. They pulled out all the stops. Biscuits, eggs, sausage, and this amazing concoction of blueberries with sour cream and brown sugar. Don’t knock it until you try it. June is prime blueberry season in south Georgia. That breakfast was the final good memory to have in a place that didn’t have many other good memories. 

Some moves are like that, a time to leave bad memories behind and move forward into new experiences. Some moves are heartbreaking, leaving behind longtime friends and loved spaces for the unknown. Some moves happen because of graduation or getting a new job or moving closer to family. 

I imagine that my perspective on moving is different than most folks, because I grew up expecting to move, and I chose to work in a profession that expects me to move. I never expected to be in the same place for a very long time. I always wonder where the next place we will live will be, even if that new place and new move is a long ways off. It means that my roots don’t get very deep. But it also means that I am always looking to learn something new about the people I meet. I become more curious each time I find somewhere new. I always know that the blessings of God are present even if I don’t yet know where to look. 

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The In Between

I’m having a hard time seeing the image of God in folks these days. Rather. I’m neglecting to look for it. I’m not really seeing many people, actually. I’m seeing tweets and Facebook updates and news headlines and an amalgamation of what serves as entertainment. These snippets of people, either the best of them or the absolute worst of them (and really, it depends who you talk to as to which is which), are not their full embodiment. There is more to the story. There is more to the narrative. There is more to us than our lies or our successes. There is everything in between.

I’m having a hard time finding the in between.

The in between isn’t very exciting. It’s the part that gets left out of the novel. The only time you see a bathroom in a movie is when the heroine is checking her pregnancy test result. There’s no suspense in vacuuming a house. Cleaning up after dinner is boring.

Even the fun stuff is mundane. I love my daughter’s giggles, but I don’t need to tell you each time she does it. I don’t want to tell you about every time my husband and I have a conversation after which one of us needs to apologize for a hasty word. (usually I need to apologize.)

But it is the in between parts that make us human. I’m not seeing many people in their humanity these days. I also do not feel seen in my own humanity. I don’t participate in a community in which I can be wholly myself, and so I feel pieced together. not whole. Scattered among my various support networks, are pieces of me, parts where I celebrate and exult. but not all of me. Not all at once.

And sure, some of this is because I am finding a new reality in staying at home and taking on the mantle of full-time motherhood. Some of it is because I have been working over the last eight years for the church and towards the church and now I’ve reached a place of not yet. Some of it is utter disgust at the current political climate and the ease at which I can say that those who support the candidate I don’t like are wrong on all points. More than a little bit of it is exactly that.

But I’m worried that I am not seeing the whole person behind someone’s statement. A person, with all their history and narrative and emotions and struggles and difficulties cannot be distilled down into a headline or a tweet.

I need reminders to look for the humanity of those around me. I need reminders to look for the image of God. I know it’s there. Sometimes I refuse to see it because it makes my life easier. But easy is not always holy.

Philosophical Hugs

I think my daughter hugged me for the first time today. Waking up, she makes noises to let us know that she is ready to be not in bed any more so I went in to go get her before we left for the morning. I unzipped her blanket and drew her into my arms up out of the crib. And she held on to me.

She’s kind of done this before, but this time was different. It felt more intentional. She held on, reaching around me, and it wasn’t grasping or a desperate holding on when she pinches the skin of my neck and clutches to me.

She embraced me.

My husband and I are her mainstays. We care for her, talk to her, change her, feed her, provide her with everything she needs as soon as we can figure out what she needs. We are the strong center that she calls for when she gets cold or wet or hungry or lonely. We protect her from falling when she rolls, we hold her safe, and we carry her through the day. She trusts us.

I’ve never been trusted like this.

Granted, I’ve never been able to provide so much for a single person. My daughter depends on me. It’s been a wonderful journey watching her develop her agency. She’s developed control over her hands and her feet and her mouth and her voice and her body. Soon she will be able to do more than roll to where she wants to go as she learns to crawl and to walk. I knew being a parent was cool, I didn’t realize that it would be this full of so many new things. I didn’t imagine that I would get philosophical about a hug from this morning. But here I am, in awe of this human being who is learning who she is just as much as we are learning who our daughter is.

We named her, but she is becoming her own person.

Now, I know that all of you who have raised children of your own have had your own experiences that either relate or sound utterly dissonant. And I know that I sound a bit dewey-eyed about this little human being that has entered my world. I’m sure part of this is due to sleep deprivation. However, this little rebel continues to draw me out of myself, teaching me how to love someone unconditionally. I’m learning how to be a better wife and a better pastor in the mix. I’m learning a little something about God’s love as well. God, who loves us, watches us develop our agency and how we learn to get up and walk, either away or towards a deeper relationship with God. I look forward to the time when I can embrace God and trust God like a child trusts her mother.

In the meantime, I cherish the tiny moments when I get the slobbery half kisses. And that is good.

Creating Our Family Story

My husband and I are preparing to usher a new life into the world in about five months. Baby Bryant is coming. We are getting ready to expand our family and share a whole host of new things with this new little person on the way. Among the host of preparations, considerations, alterations, decisions, and worries associated with becoming parents, I want to make sure that we pass on traditions that we cherish from our own families.

One of the traditions of my family is going to really interesting places. This may be as part of a really long trip on a vacation, or as simple as making a set of memories as we go away for a weekend or as short a trip as a picnic. I remember specific picnics that we took while I was a child on Sunday afternoons, the meal already prepared before church, then carried out to the edge of a lake at a bench on the side of a hill at Callaway Gardens. I remember going on a camping trip to Amelia Island so we could watch the full Lunar eclipse. I remember trips to the High and the Cummer Museums to go look at poignant paintings and sculptures four feet across made of ribbons and feathers dipped in wax.

But there were longer trips that I cherish as well. We loved going to Colonial Williamsburg, more than our trip to Disney. There was more to do, more to see, more to learn, and really, there were not as many people there, which made it all the more better. We were delving into history, learning the steps of the old dances and the stories of the people who created our nation. We traveled to California to learn about the westward expansion of the nation, and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at Big Sur to see the waves, in the forest to walk among the Redwoods, and at Monterrey to watch the seals flop around. We traveled down the Florida coast to the Keys, and went sixty miles west of Key West, to the Dry Tortugas. We camped on the beach (again) and listened to the waves (and the cars on the highway) lull us to sleep.

I want to be able to share these kinds of memories with my child. I want to learn what different things my husband loved to do, what we want to create for our own family, what memories we have to share with this new thing, this new family we are creating. We are creating a family, and a family is held together by its common story, by the narrative that we weave together. We will take our different parts, the memories of each of our families, and create something new together.

Finding Inspiration

When I am looking for a new idea or a new way to describe an old idea, I need to go away from where all the bustle is, and I need to go to find a bit of peace.

When I am struggling with feeling dry and complacent, I need to go somewhere to clear my head. Generally I can go for a walk close to my house, or if I need to I can go take a shower, something that gets my body moving and helps to work ideas to the surface. Or, if I need to, I go to practice centering prayer, where I lie still and allow my mind to open, relax, and release into the presence of God.

Sometimes I am not searching for inspiration as much as it is placed on me. When I go to the top of the mountain, or to the shore of the ocean, or even to the edge of the local creek, I am inspired by what I see, hear, and feel. I become fully present.

It seems that the common thread in all of these places and situations of inspiration is the ability to become fully present in those places and in my own body. When I am at the edge of the ocean, I can taste the salt in the air, feel the sand under my feet, hear the waves crash against the shore, and see the water continue its endless and never replicating cycle of movement. I have no choice but to sense the place of where I am, and so stand more solidly in myself, rather than have my mind flit between a hundred different places and a thousand different thoughts.

It helps if I don’t have my phone on, tethering me to everyone who has my number. Sometimes I need to get away, and be where I am, rather than wondering or worrying about this friend or that family member. I need space to remember who I am, in my own skin. When I do that, I can more ably respond to others with grace and kindness.

When I know who I am, I am better at being who I am.

I guess, in a way, that I find inspiration in places that allow me to be myself at my fullest potential. When I am not able to be myself, I end up rehashing old ideas and lack the creativity that lies silent and deep in my core. I can grow crusty with old things, but when I crack the shell of routine I am able to do more than I could ever do before.

When I go to find inspiration, I find more than that. I find joy.