Salvation

I was sitting at supper, flanked by two children who each have wallowed their way into a deep, uncharted part of my heart. I was rounding out the day with a family who has become my own, after birthday celebrating and catching up and laughing and drinking coffee. I was feeling flat out happy to be alive, to be breathing and to be seeing and laughing, again. I was wading through the effervescent warmth of love and fear, the needed friction of a life, caught up in a strange sadness to be leaving them, to be going back to a world that feels a little wild and messy and unknown, a world that isn’t quite home.

And then, the littler one, that blonde headed cackler, looked me in the eye and said,

I have a schecret to tell you.

You do?

She pulled my cheek to her chin and whispered,

I lobsh you.

I love you.

I love you, too.

And I had to sit still for just a second, to catch the breath that carried salvation on the whisper of a child. I had to listen for the sacred to settle at the very bottom of my toes, because I was, in that moment, bathing in some voice of the Divine. I was hearing, for myself, holiness.

In the same way, I felt salvation in the acres beside my home, in the warmth of an afternoon sun slipping from a sky while I walked with Abe through a field. Simple, warm, beautiful, home. I could feel the gratitude of a particular deliverance wade through me.

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In those moments, I wonder about salvation. I wonder about God. If you have known me well over the past two years, you have watched me lose a faith so enmeshed in my personhood that I have felt as if I have lost my very self. And perhaps, this has been my greatest salvation. I have been silently angry, uncertain, apathetic, agnostic, and when all of that would leak out, I was apologetic, even repentant…because I did not value the doubt enough to give her space to breathe, to let her live, to let her grow. These things we hide, these things we fear, they always find a way to be known.

And so, when I felt love on the whisper of a three year old and in the warmth of the sun, I was surprised when I thought of Jesus, a being who I knew to bend toward the one, who no one else would, and hold the unknown again and again, and whispered, always, I love you.

I thought of the way true redemption rushes, like the light of the sun, into that which screams to be known but is hidden or abandoned or left alone. I thought of the way salvation is impulsive and compulsive to those who choose to be honest.

To me the courage of the whisper, the courage of the sun is proximity; we must come close, so close, that we touch the objects of our fear. We tend to spend our days drafting distance, to produce some sense of safety. However, we neglect the things, which need a whisper, which need the light the most; those scary, angry, ugly things, those sad, restless, painful things.

We can, continue, everyday, for the rest of our lives to move away from those spaces. But perhaps to live, to really live is to seek, to find, and then to bend into those darkened hidden hollows and whisper on the very brow of the unknown.

And then, to move, to grow, to go close with the light of the fearless whisper…I love you.

I lobsh you.

Salvation.
You are known.
You are home.

Ladybugs

I live in a house full of ladybugs.

They spend their days climbing up my white cotton blinds, moving on up toward heaven, clinging to the windowpanes, bellies to the sunshine. I spend most of the time in the shower saving them after they have hurled themselves into the collected pool of water at my feet.

I hate to watch tiny things die.
But I watched one survive tonight.

Back to the ground, little legs clawing at the air, she pushed with those thin fragile flap wings, and she flipped herself over. Her body, her very architecture, her nature kept her alive.

I work in a world of ladybugs, resilient little creatures whose lives are full of promise and guts and shit and courage, whose childhoods have been robbed, whose feet have never been washed. I see them, belly up, using what they’ve got to find the right side of gravity again. I watch them, watch the struggle, watch the fear, watch the fight, watch the victory and the cost. I get to offer what I can, but mostly, I let them feel their own strength, their own tenacity.

I see the way they move, their architecture and their nature, toward life.
I suppose we are all flipping and flailing, finding earth beneath our feet.

I think of the way I have felt my own back to the ground, the way my skin sometimes feels like a husk around an immovable darkness. I think of the way upside down feels, and I think I have done a lot of living on my back, thrashing around like a capsized ladybug. I have seen girls with razor raked arms, refusing to eat, sitting beside my body, wrecked with a binge and a purge. I have seen friends lose babies, lose mothers, lose homes. I have seen myself lose hope. I have seen cars slam into walls and bullets into bodies. I have felt displaced and confused, lost. I have felt overturned.

And yet, somehow, my architecture, my nature is beginning to expand again, to hope, to breathe, and I am feeling myself lifted, returned, restored.

Every day, we turn ourselves over with what we have been given. All of that raw life material moves in rhythm with some miracle, some mystery, pulsing toward life. We are breathing, beckoned toward something pushing our flap wings out and into life.

I say listen, feel, breathe; let your very nature, your very architecture be the saving thing. We are strong little creatures, pulsing and aching and loving, carrying beautiful hieroglyphs on our backs from the places where we have lain.

Ladybugs alive.

Changing a Tire

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Body to asphalt, I was balancing on the narrows of my elbow and width of my hip in a gas station parking lot on Westinghouse and Tryon at 10:30 pm. I was pulling a giant piece of metal out of my tire. After two weeks of car issues, a new window, bumper, and mirror, I now had a flat tire, and I was weeping over it…like, draining my body of all fluid type of cry.

Three things reduce me to a sapling of a human:

1) Car Problems
2) The new Honda Sedona commercial with the lost dog (I will not post it here due to copyright infringement)
3) ….ok, three is a major understatement; I’m sensitive.

I lose function in my mental faculties, and any reasonable choice becomes unfathomable…like, I don’t know, changing my own tire?

So, I did the only thing I knew how to do after pulling a giant piece of metal out of my tire. I called my friends (and current roommates) for help. I think I sounded like a walrus sucking in air after mildly drowning while listening to ANY Adele song for the first time; I couldn’t catch my breath. Thankfully, I was able hurl enough words out of my mouth for Brandon to decipher my location and my need.

And then, I sat in a pile of fire ants, and some of those enterprising vulture ants found their way into my pants. At that point, I was in the grand finale of my weeping, and I really did not care about the loss of feeling in my rear.

Brandon came; he changed my tires and basically saved my life.

I am thinking about change a lot today…inertia and flat tires, love and baby giggles. I am thinking about directions and movement, growth and pain. I am thinking about how I feel knowing I have someone to call when I need help in the middle of the night. I am thinking about two children who have led me into a love that radiates from my bones.

I am fairly certain I arrived in Charlotte with a flat. I was exhausted and sick, body to the asphalt, trying to appear well, happy even, when I more accurately felt homeless and unlovable. I would run miles in the mornings, go to work, and then buy way too much food to fill my empty heart, rent a DVD, and fall asleep on my raspberry couch with a prayer hovering on my lips for deliverance. Every day, the same routine.

But, here I am, holding up these two years in the Queen City. And I see such a profound evolution. I see why this place was necessary for me to land, even just for a short time.

I am a different woman.

And now, I am moving, out west (I like to say it like this because it makes me sound like a pioneer). I will begin a new job in five days, in a different yet familiar field. I will live in a little white house, whose walls will watch me grow up some more. Everything has moved peacefully and properly for this transition; so, I cannot negotiate with the “THIS IS RIGHT” belief I feel in my gut.

I am both excited and proud, but more than anything, I am sad. Leaving these people who have changed my life feels like ripping sacred seams in myself. Grief is surely a holy tension; hope and anger, sorrow and joy. I wish this were as easy as changing a tire. But this simply cannot be easy because I have felt love unfurl my clenched spirit. I have been undone, discovered, shepherded, and cherished by people who had no familial responsibility for me.

These people, God, this family cultivated in my two years here have wooed me out of such deep loneliness, deep depression. They have taught me that I am, indeed, beloved. They have loved me into growth. And to me, that is a great miracle.

I know no other words than thank you, and I love you. Every day I live will be marked with the fingerprints of your kindness. And if I were to share all of our memories and every way I have been salvaged, unearthed, reborn…I would give the internet a flat tire with the weight of my wordy world.

Simply,

to those who have been so faithful to me, thank you.
To those of you who have been so faithful to me, I love you.
Thank you for showing up, changing my tire, filling me up, and loving me on my way.


All y’all know you’re stuck with me for life anyway.

Lessons from a Moderately Bougie Niche Grocery Store Crew Member

 

Two and a half months ago, I left my adult, professional career job to “take a break from education.” I place that phrase in quotes simply because that is the neat way of excusing myself from the action of rank rising and vertical movement. My reasons for leaving are complex, as is basically everything in my life.

However, in leaving, I knew I wanted to make some money and land a job where all my dreams come true…(name withheld out of respect for the organization, however…y’all know exactly where I work). After two months and ten days of being employed here, I have generated some lessons I would love to share with the whole world (or the ten people who read this blog).o

Lesson One: Cart Runs

The activity of wrangling long lost buggies (apparently people call them this) and manhandling rascally rows of ten carts at a time has truly exposed me to new depths of myself. While I do not necessarily hate the activity (I do when it is 106 degrees outside), I have concluded that cart runs make me hate humans…well, most of them, specifically the folks who leave his or her cart ONLY FOUR FEET from the cart well. COME ON!

Four feet.

FOUR FEET. How much effort does the process of shoving your cart a measly four feet into a row of carts require? Not much, friends, not much.

The lesser hatred rests on people who decide to leave his or her cart twenty miles from the store (admittedly hyperbole; truth is, I find them in weird places in the parking lot…but if I took a stroll up the greenway, I would probably find a little red cart or two). I both love and hate these humans, because discovering a cart four miles up the greenway is a hysterical delight which makes me question my belief that humans carry any sort of inherent goodness. I submit these people do not. These people and the people who leave carts four feet from the destination are probably hell bound (or moms/dads who have tried to tackle grocery shopping with four kids ranging from the age of one week to three…this is a reasonable excuse for displaying a lack of effort).

Put yourself in the carts shoes…do you want to be left out, alone in the wilderness to be hit by a car, a toddler, a crazed greenway runner…far away from your family and friends. I think not, think before you heartlessly abandon the cart that carried all of your needs, strained under the weight of two hundred dollars worth of Pumpkin Bread Mix, Organic Gala Apples, and Kosher Ground Turkey.

In conclusion, my new love language is cart returning…like, I would fall in love with you if you return your cart (mostly if you are an attractive male between the age of twenty eight and thirty five…oh, heyyyyy). If you return your cart, I know I am loved. This is a personal thing.

Lesson Two: Hurricanes Happen

PEOPLE!

When a stores distribution centers are in the heart of Florida where HURRICANES HAVE DEVASTATED HUMAN BEINGS LIVES, our selves will be barren. I am sorry we do not have the Spatchcock Chicken your daughter told you about; do not huff at me, ma’am.

Sometimes really terrible things happen, and we are so distracted by our own comforts, our own favorites (…yes, I was sad too that we ran out of Kale), that we choose to overlook the cost of our comforts. We are all shortsighted from time to time. We struggle to see anything outside of our own measly peripheral vision and needs. However, the cage-free-grass-fed eggs and organic pizza dough will return. In the meantime, consider purchasing some Tunisian Organic Extra Virgin Unfiltered Chetoui (told ya, we bougie) Olive Oil…seems we’ve got plenty of that.

Lesson Three: Hard Work, Money, and Carpel Tunnel

Leaving a moderate to low productivity job with great salary and benefits for one that is basically eight hours of hard physical labor without benefits and salary has produced a new sense of gratitude in me. Not only have I developed carpel tunnel in my right hand, bruises and cuts all over my body, I have also experienced a consistent and acute exhaustion related to my job. How do people do this for years?

Modernity is built on the backs and by the hands of men and women who labored. The work is not glamorous, and my income is pretty feeble in comparison to what I formerly raked in; however, I look at an apple and know the cost of it is twenty minutes of shelving twenty different versions of organic and conventional nut butters. I have had to decrease my spending in ways which make me feel limited, and I have seen my own privilege in specific ways. Budgeting and saving was always an easy practice because my income was always far more than my need (and for so long, I lived with and was supported by my parents). Thankfully, I have friends who have taken me in during this particular time; otherwise, I would be living in one of my store’s giant cereal shipping boxes out back.

Regardless, I am thankful for the experience…even though I have lost 90% of the feeling in four of my fingers in my right hand. No biggie.

Lesson Four: Attractive Men

When I started working here, a few folks said… “oh my goodness, you are going to meet some really attractive men!” I have a couple of thoughts on this:

  1. Yes, undoubtedly, there are attractive men who choose to shop at my store.
  2. They are ALL MARRIED.
  3. The End.

But there is always Iain!

Lesson Five: People and Food

There is a beauty to working at a moderately bougie niche grocery store. Mostly, the beauty is the people (only ones who return carts), and specifically, the kid who told me he saw a dead cockroach in our light fixture.

When I leave every day, I walk into a world where everything seems to be blowing up, where chaos and hatred seem to rule, where children are being shot or abused or sold. I struggle to keep myself afloat in the ache, but I think of that kid.

A world where everyone just seems to be deeply hungry.

And then, I think about the woman who told me her husband was going through his eighteenth month of chemotherapy…and the treatment was simply not working. The beauty is the goodness of a woman who consistently and seriously asks me if I am well, asks how she can pray for me, and consistently follows up…a register between us. The beauty is seeing a familiar smiling face who I know just left a miserable job. We have some beautiful folks come through our lines, and in the store, sometimes I feel like the world is a safer place.

For someone who has a history of trouble with food and depression and anxiety, this has been a gift…because life can be pretty simple. People really do need food, and for eight hours a day, five days a week, I can help someone have a full, happy belly.

 


(Unless there is a hurricane, then….NOBODY gets Spatchcock Chicken or Holiday Challah…because all y’all is so bougie.

Please return your cart…to a reasonable place.

Please.)

 

Commuters

Commuters on a train,
we watch a man murdered on the street from our seats
again. Again,
safely, we roll by capturing blurry imaged manuscripts
of his body exhaling one last time

. ….

…  ……

..

.

 

Erupting on our phones
because THIS IS OUR CITY,
THIS IS OUR HOME!
So, tell me, murder and riots and danger finally make us aware of our own?

Pharisees on street corner media,
posting our prayers like
salutations to the irrepressible swell of guilt seeping inside our guts.

Because, we know our sons will likely never encounter the same but
could rape a woman behind a dumpster simply because he can
again. Again.

Privilege,
that relentless, filthy indifference
to any human broken for the sake of gain,
to any human burned, beaten, abused, then raised as a banner to ease our shame.

We are commuters on a train,
safely watching a murdered man’s blood leak on the street from our seats again.
Again, we roll by,
blood on our hands.

stars

I stand under the night sky. Two feet on Dominican soil, thin rubber soles between. I wonder how my fingers would feel to reach up and scoop the stars from a leaking sky, light dripping holes in the darkness. They would never fit in my pocket, even my two blue eyes struggle to stretch wide and far enough to hold them.

I feel so small inside these skin walls, which hold my belly to my bones to my soul.

I feel so small when I see you, little one. Arms wide while you smile, star teeth shining between your dark brown lips, your dark brown skin, you reach up to me like the ache in my belly reaches for love. I pull you up, into me. You are growing, and I am stilled by the surprise in my muscles responding to you.

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Good morning, I say, as if we are familiar, as if I lived in your batey and you see me every day. You are sassy, little one. What have you seen since I saw you seven months ago? Through what have your growing feet walked? Are the other kids sweet in Cabeza de Toro? Do you have enough to eat? What do you love? Tell me all.

There is one full year of growing inside of you since the first time I held you through your first day of school. Your life is shooting up out of the soil of your soul like the sugar cane lining your long road home. You are bigger, all of you, your bones, your memories, your fingers, your nose.

I am holding you on the same morning I am holding scary words from my very best friend. She is sick, baby girl; she is so sick. The doctors think cancer; my mom had cancer too, and these things wreck us all in such strange ways. This makes me feel so small, little one, so sad and so small. I hold you with the same hands I hold them all, and I wish these hands could do more. I wish these hands, this mind, this heart could be so much more; I wish this body could heal her tumor and carry her pain. I wish my body could stand between you and abuse or shame. I would lay myself down to ease the ache of the world.

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And I would think of those Dominican stars, so big and beautiful, gas and dust expanding into light.

And in some quiet moment, on a Sunday night in late July, they raised my chin and made me stand stock-still between the whirling tension of rage and delight. We are not so different from those fireballs in the sky, collecting soul and spirit matter over time. As much as I wish to carry all the hurt and all the shame, I will only stand beside you, hold you and love you, because I would hate to take that glorious substance, relentlessly expanding dust and gas, aching into eternal light.

We are made to become such magnificent giants, stars in the night.

Step by Step, Bit by Bit

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July 21, 2014, I walked into Carmel Christian School.
July 21, 2016, I walked out of Carmel Christian School.

As I read both of those sentences, I think immediately of the slight margin between. Those black letters and that white space humming within punctuation. That is some chunky life, baby; the manifold experience of pure, full throttle living lingering between two set points of calculable, calendar time, between 731 days (plus one because this was a leap year).

I moved to Charlotte for the job at Carmel; I had no other reason to come. My expectations were foggy but pretty glossy, a little like an underdeveloped Polaroid. I believed working at Carmel would be like working at summer camp, really vibrant and energizing and crafty, and I thought I was really going to blossom, a little bud in spring.

Of course nothing is really clear until you give it time.

With the little time I have had to generate some perspective, I can confidently say I did not move here for Carmel. My work there was meaningful and will continue to be; however, the job was simply a mechanism to pull me into an unknown.

When I consider this, I really moved here to meet the Young, the Liner, and the Otis families. I moved here to meet Ben. I moved here to meet Dawn and Lacey and the good, kind people of Carmel and Renovatus. I moved here to be closer to folks who usher a certain fullness of joy into my life.

I moved here to know what it feels like to miss my family.
And I moved here to wonder about home.

I moved here to check myself into a Renfrew Center, to recover and to grow up and to learn the power of honest decision-making. I moved here to be heartbroken, more than once, to be lonely, more often than not, and to help a girl, brand new to America, figure out the nuances of private Christian school in South Charlotte. I moved here to be her safe place and to find my own safe places too.

I moved here to discover an unconventional, strange faith in an unconventional, strange God. I moved here to learn how to hear myself think and to find gratitude with my odd, wild, wonderful being. I moved here to hike mountains slowly and to learn how to chew my food carefully.

That is all life really is: hiking mountains and chewing food. Step by step, bit by bit.

So, here’s to something new, step by step and bit by bit.
Here’s to life and taking it day by day, this unpredictable, wildflower adventure.


No, I am not marrying Iain, my skydiving instructor.
Or moving away from Charlotte…
yet.