Worth a Thank You

My daughter frequently asks to listen to the Moana song, “You’re Welcome” in which the demigod sings a self enthused celebration about how much he’s given to the people of the islands around him. It’s a fun song, as long as you remember that the song is making fun of people who think too highly of themselves. My two year old has learned words and motions for much of the song, and enjoys it when my husband and I sing along.

Doesn’t it feel like there are all too many people telling us we should be grateful for things that we didn’t need in the first place? Or perhaps I simply feel that there are people who expect thanks for things I didn’t want to have happen. I am reticent to acknowledge folks who require thanks for what they have done.

A thank you is far more genuine when it is unexpected; I want to thank someone when they’ve done something surprising or sacrificial, when I’ve not expected to find or receive the gift that is presented.

It’s funny, we were traveling in DC this past weekend on the metro and I think I was given a seat to sit in far more regularly than when I was further along with my previous pregnancy during our trip in NYC. Not that this is a comment on the metro riders of either city: it was still chilly in NYC when we were there while it was hot the whole time we were in DC, and the clothes I wear when I am pregnant can sometimes greatly reveal my changing shape and sometimes deeply conceal how I am bearing another human being. Also, traveling with a toddler might have affected the responses of strangers.

I most want to thank people who did something outside themselves. The act can be as simple as giving up a seat on a metro train, or as involved as preparing a meal for me while the other was fasting. Or it can be something that the person may not have realized was a huge thing to me, like my friend who consistently makes sure that when we come over to her house for dinner, she prepares food that makes us feel good and fits inside our dietary restrictions, and is something that is delicious.

I cannot always thank people for what they have done, but knowing how I feel about people who act outside themselves makes me want to act outside myself more often. Each time I see an example, I want to follow and live that way, too. I want to live outside myself, give of myself, offer what I have and what I can do and who I can be for others to have a life that is more full. It is my way of saying thank you.

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Laughter and Boundaries

I’m having a hard time finding joy, recently. I read a reflection today by my friend Sarah who had encountered wisdom saying that joy flows from compassion. I wonder if I am not finding enough compassion, either for myself or for others, right now. Or maybe I just see the great need for compassion and feel that the task is far too large to take on myself.

Joy is a big deal and I want to do it right.

My daughter has started a new game where she laughs and then does something that she shouldn’t do, such as hitting me in the face. I tell her no, and she does it again. Laughing again.

I love my daughter’s laugh.

I do not love being hit.

I do not want her to hit me, or learn that hitting is how we do things.

She laughs again.

I tell her not to hit. I take hold of her hand. I tell her not to hit.

I let go. She hits me again.

Still laughing.

And so I put her down out of my lap. I put space between her and me, so that she cannot reach me to hit me. She doesn’t like the space.

Nothing stops her until I do it. Saying no has not really become effective, even though she loves repeating the word.

The hitting stops.

So does the laughter.

But then she hugs me. And we are better together until she decides to try a new boundary again.

I’m wondering how she interprets the joy I share with her. Does she remember me laughing more than she remembers me teaching her a new limit?

And then, does God rejoice when I find a new game to play but is let down when I turn the game to my own destruction?

I believe God wants what is good for me, and that God wants to celebrate joy with me. I don’t believe that God is watching me to seek out an opportunity to punish me.

I am not a perfect parent. I lose my temper and get frustrated when my daughter keeps on doing what I have already asked her not to do. I have the feeling this tendency is far from over. Yay exercise of free will!

However, God is a perfect parent (among other things) and though God can and does get frustrated, God is more saddened by how I turn away from what God wants because it hurts me more than because it hurts God.

God wants what is best for me (and you) and goes out of the way to show love in whatever way possible. This is the compassion I long for in each of my relationships no matter if they are fleeting or forever.

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.

It’s Bigger on the Inside

I wrote this week about Doctor Who, the TARDIS, and Eucharist. It’s something I’d been thinking of since my Commissioning interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry. How appropriate therefore, that my post is on the Conference Blog the week after I was Commissioned as a Provisional Elder in my Conference.

To read the article, go read it on the Conference Blog Website. I’ll post it here in a couple of weeks.

Scarves, Skirts, and Shoes

Jerusalem teaching steps
Jerusalem Teaching Steps (photo by John Bryant)

I am not a person of high fashion. I never said I was, I never try to be, I never imagine that I shall be. I have my own fashion. But isn’t that what we all say, hipster millennial digital native generation that we are? We all claim to be unique… just as everyone else claims. Still, I have my own preferences for clothing, which tend to lead towards comfort and functionality at the cost of the cutting edge of… anything else really.

I learned about a year ago that my preference towards comfort in my clothes partly has to do with a hypersensitivity of my skin: I feel every single texture of every single stitch I wear, especially if one is out of place. It was odd, and then amazingly right, that a doctor asked me about my feeling about socks as a child. The verdict: utter animosity.

I still don’t like socks—though I’ve gotten to work around it in the wintertime by collecting soft knee socks—I wear my sandals at any chance I get. Not just any sandals, mind you, but my high tech, low profile, webbing strapped hiking sandals. Y’all, I love these shoes. They carry me well. They support my feet, knees, and hips through days of standing or hiking.

They are also a convenient way of identifying other kindred spirits. I look at shoes and see who is wearing what. And when I see someone I don’t know wearing these specific shoes, I can begin a conversation with them about what is on their feet. My shoes both connect me, and set me apart, partly because of the heavy price tag for these specific shoes.

I’ve worn these shoes in the blistering heat and when snow was still on the ground. They’ve carried me through deserts and rain forests, sometimes in the same week. These days, I don’t always wear them to preach, but sometimes I go with it anyway, if I am feeling rebellious or tired. They are part of my identity, however skewed that may be. They go with my favorite skirt, a hiking skirt that was designed by a fellow former Peace Corps Volunteer. And a scarf usually completes my outfit (with the necessary shirt of whatever sort).

An aside on scarves: I hate turtlenecks. I always feel like they are choking me, and I cannot stand that constant, or occasional pressure on my neck. It’s one of the reasons that I hesitate getting a clergy shirt—I am not sure that I want to get a hard band of plastic to sit against the most sensitive part of my neck. I fear I would be distracted and unable to do the work of ministry. Part of my sensitivity with my neck became more concrete when I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, and my thyroid began to swell… and I couldn’t stand to have anything, or anyone, touch my neck.

Here is where it gets a little more odd. Though I hate turtlenecks with a vengeance, and have this utter sensitivity about what touches my neck, I’ve become deeply enamored with scarves. I’ve been wearing them as an integral part of my wardrobe going on ten years now.

Whatever it is about scarves, usually the wide and soft wrap style, I love to wear them. Perhaps it is the amount of control I have on where it goes and how I wear it. I have different scarves for each of the seasons: winter, fall, spring and summer. I now have too many to count, but I never turn one down.

I suspect that I like to wear them because they are a part of the protection that I put on when I go out. If the temperature is just a little too cool in an air-conditioned building, the scarf goes on tighter. Or it loosely drapes somewhere. Or it gets stuffed in my purse and pulled out at the next time I need it. I need one when I am driving to protect my neck from being rubbed raw by the seatbelt, and to keep my neck warm when the AC is on full blast. My scarves protect me, add modesty to my neckline, and help add a layer to my style.

My style may not ever be featured on the runway, and I may get flack from my family who doesn’t quite understand why I like to wear what I do, but it’s my style and I like it.