I can’t sleep. I’ve been trying for a while now, but tomorrow I go before Presbytery (the regional church gathering in my denomination) for the final step in the process, the final approval before I can go ahead with my ordination service: I have to defend my statement of faith before Presbytery, and they vote whether to approve my joining the presbytery or not.
I’ve been telling myself that I’m not nervous, that I know my statement of faith and believe it, and that I tend to get the same questions and I can answer them well, that even if I get a question I’m unprepared for I will probably still be able to stumble my way through an answer. I don’t even feel nervous, or didn’t before I tried to fall asleep. It seems doable, and distant enough that I don’t need to worry yet. (That comes in the minutes or hours beforehand). But still I’ve been unfocused and unmotivated all day.
And–I am nervous. It’s the final step, and a big crowd, and I’ll have to be loud. I’m sure at least one question will be unexpected, and I’ll fumble around and just feel so awkward the entire time I’m up there.
I’m just trying to remember that it’s okay to be nervous. It’s natural. It’s okay to acknowledge that I’m nervous and that this is a big deal. It’s okay to name my fears about tomorrow. And that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to let it take over. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to let my nerves turn me mean or frozen or anything else. It just means totally ignoring it or shoving my feelings aside is a way of lying to myself, of saying that I’ve got it all together and I’m a good little robot of a human and I don’t need God to keep me from turning into a quivering mess. None of those things are true. None of them are even worth striving for.
It’s just way harder to sit with the fact that I’m nervous than it is to shove it aside. It’s way harder to remember that I don’t have to do it alone and depend on God and other people. It’s difficult to listen to myself, because what about those moments when I say things that are ugly and uncomfortable and that I’ve been trying to avoid for weeks?
But there’s something so incredibly freeing, too, about being honest, about admitting what I’m feeling and sitting with it. It becomes so much less serious. It becomes something I can embrace rather than avoid and deny, and with embrace comes acceptance and that moment of letting go of judgment. “It’s okay that I feel this way.” It’s never okay to act that out in ways that are hurtful or sinful or dangerous–but it’s okay to feel.
I haven’t been cleaning very much. And by “very much” I mean it’s been more than a month since I’ve done anything that wasn’t laundry. (Necessary about laundry?)
It’s not just that. I’ve been at my place for almost a year now and still haven’t hung anything up, except for one post it reminding me that “The internet does not inspire you.” (Truth!) As much as not cleaning has partly been about being exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s also been about a lack of permanence. I know I won’t live here forever. I plan to move out when I find a church. I’ve been actively trying to not set down roots: I have more boxes than furniture, and most of my books and winter clothes are still packed (because last September, I optimistically thought I wouldn’t need them before I’d moved). I haven’t really bought anything for the room. I haven’t bought anything future-oriented since I moved in.
And I’ve been thinking about that, as I try to get over the hump that is “I haven’t cleaned and nothing has exploded!” so that I can reach the other side and start cleaning again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not completely unpacking, or not buying things I’ll just have to move again–but intentionally distancing myself so I don’t form any attachments is not really the goal. I don’t like it. What’s wrong with loving the place where I am, even if I’ll be moving someday? Why do I feel the need to hurry through instead of getting to know my neighbors?
I’d like to love this place, even if I’m not here much longer. I’d like to clean, and leave it better for whoever comes after me. And I’d like to remember that organizing and cleaning and putting pretty things on the walls and shelves is good for me, too.
Which is why I’m going to the store in a bit to get a new shower curtain. Which is why I’ve been rearranging my room so that there’s more than one path (because it’s a start) and making piles to donate.
Which is why I found myself mopping the bathroom today, dripping with sweat because I made the bright decision to start cleaning when it was pouring rain and so the humidity was through the roof.
And…loving is mostly hard work, and messy, and made up of moments that aren’t particularly memorable.
Like everyone else, I’m going to start with the eclipse! I didn’t see much of it; I went outside briefly, but it was much more fun to watch other people stare at the sky and share eclipse glasses, and then I could stay inside and continue my crocheting and conversing.
I may not have ended up being too excited myself, but I hated hearing people get so disdainful and even mean about how excited people were to see the eclipse, like there was something wrong and childish in getting excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a cool nature thing.
I’m sorry, really?
I’m all for people getting excited for pretty much whatever. Yes, there are limits, i.e. legality and morality, but other than that: woodworking? button collecting? beetles? lighthouses? your job? an obscure species of plant found only in a square mile of the Amazonian rainforest? You go!
In honor of that spirit–and, as that person who sometimes feels self-conscious about the “weird” things that I sometimes read–here’s a list of books I’ve been loving lately, even if I do feel self-conscious talking about them, and loving them.
100 Essential Modern Poems by Women: I just always feel self-conscious about reading poetry, as if by doing so I’m shouting to everyone that I’m conceited and obnoxious. I’m not sure why that’s my first thought about reading poetry?? Anyway, it’s a collection of a hundred poems written by women over the last hundred and fifty years, and while I haven’t loved every poem it’s a really good collection. It also includes biographical information about every poet, which is fascinating. (I may or may not now be dreaming of reading a book of poetry by each of the women featured?) I just find poetry so interesting and truthful, even and maybe especially when I don’t understand it. And I love reading more by and about these women poets that I’ve mostly never heard of.
From Midterms to Ministry: Practical Theologians on Pastoral Beginnings. Because…it’s so bad that I want to be a better pastor? *sarcasm alert!* I’m not quite sure why I feel so self conscious about this, although I’m sure it has something to do with not wanting to admit that I still have so much to learn. Or maybe I just feel self-conscious that my first learning instinct is to find a book about it.
God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation by Terence E. Fretheim: This book is a bit of a brick, complete with a final third made up entirely of footnotes in a tiny font. I love it! I love most of Fretheim’s work, in fact, for he’s very thorough and methodical, and it’s been oddly fun to slowly work my way through a such a scholarly work.
What about you? What have you been loving unabashedly, or trying to?
I really hate starting with that–and I hate having started with that so often in the history of this blog.
I just…haven't felt like I've had much to write about. Part of that was taking on a new job at the beginning of last month, which put me at just about full-time between all of my jobs. What a transition! It hasn't been bad, really. It's been tough, sure, and an adjustment, but I really love it. It's a good job. But between the new job and my other jobs, there have been lots of little good moments (and lots of irritating, frustrating ones, too!) but nothing big enough that I wanted to write a whole post about it.
But good grief it's been a long time since I wrote anything here.
And I think those little moments are worth celebrating and cherishing–and isn't that what I wanted to do here, in this space? find the good and beautiful and God in the routines and small moments of life? So let's take a moment–let's celebrate all the tiny things that being us joy. For me, that's been:
Walking to work. It's a tiny way to make space for myself, and I love it.
My new friend.
Going to the park. I live right by one, and I've finally rediscovered that is a great place to go to read or get some work done.
Beautiful sunsets. Enough said, right?
Work. Definitely not every day–but there's something beautiful about seeing a task be completed, and being the one working towards that. There's something wonderful about having a clearly defined goal.
Crocheting. I've been crocheting more lately and loving it! I find it such a soothing way to spend an hour or two.
Writing. Surprising no one but myself, developing a regular writing habit has been giving me so, so much joy. (Perhaps this is a post for another time, but why do we so vehemently avoid the parts of life that give us the most joy?)
Rain. We've had so much rain here I've the past month, and I love it. It's my favorite weather, full of such beauty and potential.
What about you? What small things have you been loving?
I haven’t been on here lately–I haven’t felt like I had much to say. Not in a bad way for once! I have had a lot going on, in a very introverted kind of way–that is, lots of sermon research, lots of walks and crafts, and lots of housesitting.
So I thought I’d share some pictures, and in the meantime get to work on something to post later in the week.
I write a lot on here about fear. I think a lot about fear. The more I get to know myself, the more I see threats fear influences all the little parts of my life: not reading because I’m afraid of not liking a new book, being afraid to start a sermon and so finding a million other things to do, staying home because I’m afraid of seeing that one person again…. The list is endless.
And it feels kind of pathetic to admit. I can just imagine some sneering voice asking, “You really avoid every day things because you’re afraid of silly things like that? Coward!”
To which I say:
Several swear words. Irritating voice!
So often I don’t even realize that my fear is influencing how I’m behaving. I just think I’m not in the mood. I think I’m just really tired. I think about how I’m no good at whatever-it-is.
Realizing that I’m reacting out of fear is a good step. I can’t very well face my fear if I can’t or won’t recognize it.
Trust me, I feel silly too. I wish my fear didn’t come out in all sorts of strange ways. But without realizing what I’m really feeling, I can’t accept it and then gently lift it aside and start doing those things even though I’m afraid.
So, yeah. I’m afraid of some things that make even me laugh. I’m afraid a lot. But I’m working on it.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle–I’ve been working my way through this book for a few months now. L’Engle writes meditatively and beautifully about life and art and faith. It’s a bit all over the place, as her non fiction works tend to be, so it’s hard to describe–but I do know that this book gave me hope. She has a great deal of faith that the best way to live is to do our best, to live well in the small things we’re given, and to search out beauty and quiet and love. I need those reminders.
Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber–A fascinating nonfiction look at women’s work in the ancient Mediterranean world, specifically weaving, which made up a huge chunk of that work. Barber looked at various bits of evidence to draw a picture of how weaving worked and developed over time. It was a great reminder that so much that we take for granted now used to take mind-blowing amounts of work.
The Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie–One of the Sydney Chambers mystery books. I love these books, because they’re as much about Sydney’s life as a pastor, husband, father, and friend as they are about the mysteries he solves (each book contains six short stories/mysteries). We get to see each step of working through the mystery but also Sydney’s struggles to not be overwhelmed by everything else going on in his life. They’re relaxing, even soothing, because Sydney is really wonderful to read about and I love how much they’re about everyday life.
Goldenhand by Garth Nix–OH. MY. GOODNESS. What a wonderful addition to the Sabriel series!! We finally get to return to the stories of Lirael, Nicholas, and Sameth. It was beyond satisfying to see their stories tied up a bit more (and tangled a bit more), and the characters are all real-feeling and funny, and I got so invested! (I yelled at the characters a lot, but to be fair they’re pretty sensible characters and mostly don’t need it. I just get invested!) It was so easy to slip back into this world, but also great to see entirely new parts of it and meet new characters. Seriously, read the whole series (but in order!).
A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean–I couldn’t resist when I saw that this was a Jane Austen-style mystery–and it was as good as it sounds. Dean did a wonderful job of capturing that Austen style of speech and description, and in true Austen fashion the characters and relationships took up as much, if not more, page time and thought as did the mystery. Dido Kent, the main character, was fun and spunky but also felt period appropriate in her beliefs and actions (other than maybe solving mysteries in the first place?). So much fun!
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson–This was another fascinating book. Robinson imagines a world a few hundred years in the future when humanity has spread through most of the solar system and is in various stages of terraforming and colonizing planets, moons, and asteroids. He imagines all this in ways I’ve never seen done before, though: people get around the solar system by hitching rides on terraformed asteroids, for instance, that are full of various combinations of earth biomes, animals, and plants. Humans have undergone various genetic and physical changes as they’ve adapted to space and adapted themselves to increase life spans. Earth has accumulated problems and poverty as the rest of humanity has escaped to the rest of the solar system. He has a very good grasp of science that makes the future he imagines seem plausible, and a beautiful, wonderful writing style. It was a brick of a book, though, with a slow, sloooow plot that took frequent detours. It worked, really, for the book as a whole, but I did lose interest in the middle and pause in my reading for a few weeks. I was glad I picked it back up and finished it, even if the ending was a bit of a let-down after all of the build-up of the mystery (the solution was unexpectedly normal). But still, it was beautiful and fascinating and different from any other sci fi I’ve read.
Not too much (yes!). I’ve been working my way through Arrow, and rewatching bits of Grey’s Anatomy and Leverage. But nothing’s been blowing me away this month.
To podcasts, of course! I’m trying not to add any new podcasts, since my playlist is a bit overwhelming right now. But I’ve been especially enjoying BBC’s Newshour, which covers worldwide news. I’ve been going through some interesting-sounding old On Being episodes too, and they have had some amazing guests. Parker Palmer has been on there so many times!
The weather here has been really wonderful, with nice temperatures and a mix of rain and sun. I’ve enjoyed getting to live with the windows open and walking everywhere possible.
Basically, I will never tire of finding flowers in unexpected places.
My best friend in town finished her thesis this month, and so we went out to celebrate together (a few times, really). But there are just so many interesting restaurants to check out! I got a German chocolate donut covered in chocolate chips, whipped cream, chocolate mouse, and drizzled chocolate, for instance. Hers had vanilla Oreos and raspberries.
And, of course, I’ve been spending lots of time in my local library, researching sermons and writing and just having a quiet place to work and be.