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.
But I think I’m ready to love a little more.
I have a very vivid memory of that moment: grass too green to imagine, framed and dotted by lush trees and a few brick buildings. I was in the car with an acquaintance; I don’t remember where we were going. I just remember sitting next to her, watching the cultivated college landscape go by as she drove down the winding road and said about the most recent speaker, “She said she thinks of God as She.”
I didn’t quite know what to do with that; neither did she, to be fair. It was an idea she played with as we drove, and I listened.
That’s the moment that keeps coming back to me as I think about God as mother.* That wasn’t the moment when I accepted it, or even heard of this idea. I think it was the moment where the idea of God as feminine became a possibility, or maybe even the seed of an idea.
If you’re curious about this idea, feel free to check out my devotion.* Here‘s another personal narrative of seeing God as mother. This article offers a good overview of Biblical sources that describe God as mother, and this site has a pretty comprehensive list of verses.
*They’ll ask for a login to see the devotional I wrote, since it’s been a few days since it posted–but it’s completely free to create one if you don’t already have one, and I never get unwanted emails from them. Don’t freak out!
Speaking of freaking out: there’s also no need to freak out about all this God-as-feminine talk. As the Creator of both male and female (Genesis 1:26), both genders reflect God but God has no gender. And so I prefer to use no pronouns at all to refer to God–but that also means that it makes sense to use imagery and ideas of and about both genders to talk about God.
Mountains stretched to the horizon, mountain after mountain: most of them blue-green with evergreens, a few tall enough to be topped with rocks and snow. The closest had a peak covered by a meadow bright with flowers: gold, scarlet, and violet swaths, with highlights of creamy white and tiger orange dotted with jagged boulders.
That rainbow mountain was why I was here.
I’ve always loved nature and seen God in it. Well, almost always. There were a few years there where that wasn’t quite true, and today I’m over at Off the Page telling my story of seeing God in nature, especially in those few years.
(You may especially enjoy it if you love hearing about flowers, bees, mountains, beautiful nature things…)
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have been blogging here only sporadically at best. I’ve always had the goal of blogging regularly, but I’ve struggled to find subjects or even to articulate what this blog is about. That’s part of why I haven’t been blogging much–I’ve been trying to figure out what I am blogging about, and what I’d like to blog about.
I chose the title ‘Adventures in Writing’ because writing is something that weaves through my life, but especially because writing is something that gives me life. It’s something that helps me to listen and love myself and connect with God. But a few things became obvious on reflection:
- writing here only about writing just isn’t working. It’s been a struggle, and it just doesn’t feel quite right, and
- writing isn’t the only thing in my life that’s life-giving.
Why not write about everything that gives me life, all of the places I see God, and not just those places that have to do with writing? Why not expand my focus here? I didn’t see any reason not to, so here we are! I’m expanding my subject, and you may notice I’ve changed the name of the blog to reflect that, so let’s give this a try!
Stay tuned: Friday I’ll have a post that explains in more detail what I’m hoping for my reimagined blog.
It’s been a while, embarrassingly so.
I have all sorts of excuses, but it boils down to the fact that writing has been hard lately. I haven’t felt motivated, and I kept pushing it off until “later.” I’ve had some difficult news on the job search front, and the whole thing has been really discouraging, and it’s been hard to be optimistic and feel like much is worth doing in the midst of that. I haven’t felt like I could listen well enough to write.
I’ve always felt like writing is all about listening–to myself, to others, to God, to the story or article I’m writing. And I’ve been bad at listening lately, whether it’s to God or myself or the people around me. Discouragement makes it hard. Discouragement makes me narrow my focus to myself, to whatever’s gone wrong and whatever I’ve done wrong. Narrowing doesn’t lead to listening.
I’m trying to listen again, to write again. Both give me hope.
I need some hope.
Here’s my latest writing update. As you can see, it’s not very consistent or prolific. I reached my goal of an hour a week only twice. And I’m frustrated that I made so little progress. I know I can do better.
However, it was a difficult few weeks emotionally. Nothing happened, really, but I struggled again with being unemployed and with what I have been learning or should be learning. As much as I’ve loved a lot of the past few months in really unexpected ways, making what feels like little progress is frustrating, and I let that frustration overwhelm me and keep me from writing.
So… Not as good as I hoped. At all.
But: I am not a robot. I cannot expect myself to always feel like writing. I cannot expect myself to always write one hour, exactly, not one second more or less. I cannot expect myself to always write well, always be completely undistracted. I am not a robot. It’s okay if I don’t feel like writing, or if I need a day off. Yes, I would like to build writing into a more regular habit, and yes, not feeling like writing isn’t always an excuse to not write. Yes, absolutely, and I am working to write more consistently. That’s why I post these updates. But, as I work towards building this habit, sometimes I need to remember to give myself a little grace, instead of being frustrated that I’m not perfect.
Give yourself a little grace. You’re not a robot, either.