Musings of My Mind

"To a great mind, nothing is little." Sherlock Holmes

Category: Uncategorized

The Poised Girl’s Guide to Surviving

2017 is a mess. 

There, I said it. Let’s get it out of the way quickly. So many of us are stressed and overwhelmed and terrified and tired of all the events of the world. What can we do? How can we keep our sanity, our friends, and our bearings? 

1. Be Informed

          I know, I know. There’s so much information and it seems that all of it is bad. What’s a poised girl to do? Well, she doesn’t bury her head in the sand. Not permanently anyway. A poised girl is invested in the world she lives in and therefore must be informed. An important part of that is getting information from multiple sources. Now, more than ever, it’s becoming difficult to tell what’s truth and what’s a distorted retelling of events. Find reputable sources that you can trust on both sides of an issue. Read, listen, discuss, and then make your own conclusions. Just as a poised girl doens’t run from current events, she doesn’t let someone else dictate her opinion. 
2. Be Patient

          There are some people in your life or your Twitter feed that have been discussing nothing but politics and news since December. Other people have blatantly refused to discuss anything political or news-related. We must be understanding of both. While it can be hard to understand why someone isn’t totally outraged about the events of the day or why someone is so outraged that they can’t focus on anything else; it’s important to understand that everyone processes differently. Everyone is doing what they think is best and necessary. It’s up to us to be patient and not complain about someone’s Twitter feed not being what we want. 
3. Be You

          Now, more than ever, it’s vital to remember who you are as a whole person and not just in relation to the current state of the world. Find ways to connect with your whole self, and not just someone constantly engaging/constantly avoiding. If you’re drowning in a sea of stress and information; remember that you also love fashion or sports and take an hour to recharge by seeing what someone wore at their latest event or what’s happening on Trade Day. If you’re someone who used to love watching the news but you’re avoiding it now; remember that you like being informed and find a few minutes a day to take in a little bit more than you did yesterday. You are a lovely, complex individual and you shouldn’t forget to feed all the parts of your soul. 
We may not know what the future holds, but I trust that we can go boldly into it with poise, grace, and compassion. 
xoxo,

Dawn

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On Being Happy

Sometime during my college years, I decided that being happy and cheerful wasn’t cool. Maybe because that was the height of my pink-haired, “punk rock” days. Or perhaps it was an over correction after being surrounded by the kind of Christian culture that preached that people who love Jesus are always happy and joyful forever. I had lived too much life to swallow that pill.

However it happened, it happened. I found myself getting defensive when people would call me cheerful or peppy. “No, see. I’m just good at faking it. I hate people. I hate everyone.” Some days, I feel like that’s true. Call it the curse of the introvert. I go to Twitter (especially my secret Twitter account) and complain about everything and everyone. The thing is, sometimes I am mad and need to complain. I’m human and not always a very nice one. That’s okay.

Confession time. I think I’m by nature a happy person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total pessimist (about my own life) and a massive introvert. But a happy person. I’ve noticed lately a disturbing trend where I focus on the annoyances or miseries in my life when I start to feel “too happy.” My life has troubles and I can’t say that it doesn’t. Turns out, you can be sad about a thing and still be happy overall. Your love life can be in shambles but you might still smile about the rest of your day.

And the biggest thing I’m learning is that while it may still be cool to be cynical; the coolest thing you can do is be yourself. If your inner monologue is more Wednesday Addams than Pollyanna; own it. The world needs Wednesdays and Pollyannas and those of us that fall in between. So let yourself be you and I will do my best to allow myself to be happy. If you catch me online or in person being too crotchety, let me vent and then remind me that you love me even when I’m smiling.

On Accepting What is Offered

If you’ve encountered me in person (or on Twitter) for the month of July, you know that I’ve been sick pretty much the entire month. I had a cold/allergy issues. I had a sinus infection. I had pneumonia. Correction, I technically still have pneumonia as it takes weeks to fully recover from.

No one likes being sick, but I especially hate it. You’d think that my overwhelming narcissism would love it. After all, being sick is an excuse for attention and sympathy and cuddles.* Except I don’t like pity, and to my mind’s eye, sympathy and attention look an awful lot like pity. Admitting that I’m less than perfect is hard for me. (See previous post and also the last 31 years of my life). So, I downplayed the sickness as much as I could. “I’m not sure I’m going to make it to dinner tonight. I have pneumonia and I’m actually kind of tired. Sorry!” This is an actual email I sent, you guys. I know it looks stupid. I would drive across town to shake sense into someone who sent that email to me. But it makes sense for my life.

My beloved friend family decided that being sick and quietly suffering while still working/volunteering/trying to run a committee/living life as normal was not an acceptable plan. So they banded together and did a number of wonderful things.

They banned me from church and social activities. Seriously. I was told in very clear terms that I was to stay home and rest instead of doing anything.

They reminded me that self-care is more than taking time to recharge after a day of extroversion and reading good books. It’s about saying no to things even if you want to say yes. And it’s about saying yes to the things you don’t want to say yes to. Like help. As my dear friend put it, I had to learn to accept the “kindness of the Kingdom.”

And then, dear readers, my friends and church family decided to feed me. For almost a solid week, a meal (usually enough for two or three) appeared at my door. Homemade soups and casseroles and fruits and vegetables and all the healthy things my body needed that I didn’t have the energy to make for myself. Every single time I felt guilty and tried to push away the gifts, the answer was always the same. “St B’s is family and you are loved.’ (I could write an encyclopedia on how much I love my church).

Some amazing and fascinating things have come out of this. I’ve realized that all my people still love me even though I’m actually human and get sick. That’s astounding to me. I’ve learned to expand my definition of self-care. I say yes to different things now. Things that bring me calm or joy. I am learning to say no to things even if they give me joy and fulfillment while I learn boundaries. Because I can’t give my whole soul to every endeavor. If I do, there’s no soul left for me. I’m learning to spoil myself in small ways. (Pedicures, anyone?!)

To all of you who prayed and cooked and chastised and loved me through a month of sickness and beyond, thank you. You are all my happy place. Now that I’m feeling better, let’s hug it out next time I see you.

*Author’s note: I always want cuddles but never ask. Feel free to hug me next time you see me. Seriously. I may make a sarcastic remark but I’ll actually be really chuffed.

On Being The Worst

*Author’s Note:  Hello friends! I have returned! I’m sorry for the long hiatus, but as I tired to explain in previous posts (and as you can imagine), mourning the loss of my mother pretty much took up all of my mental and emotional energy for the last year. That’s not to say I’m over it now that the calendar has flipped, but I’m finding my feet and myself again. So, thank you for sticking by and waiting me out. Those of you that are Sherlock fans are well-versed in hiatus life, so this was nothing.*

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I don’t like not being the best at things. Like, I really, really don’t like it. At all. Not even a little bit. I don’t mind being terrible at things I don’t care about. I’m rubbish at most sports. I can’t craft to save my life. In fact, I might be a danger to some people with a glue gun and glitter. The things that I value? The tasks that I find important? I need to be perfect. All the time. Perfect daughter/sister/employee/friend/enemy.

As I was letting my mind wander recently, it occurred to me that at times, I’m actually the worst at everything.** Let me explain.

I’m the worst feminist because while I believe in equal rights for all people, I still want a man to help me carry heavy things or put oil in my car.

I’m the worst daughter/sister/friend because I can be selfish and withdrawn. I expect people to live by my exact rubric of life and when they don’t, I totally don’t understand. I suppose you could put milk in your cup before the water but YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

I’m the worst employee because some days I’m sick. Or cranky. Or I misspell the word “Regional” in an email to a major client.

Do you know what happens when I realize I’m “the worst” at a thing? I remember that I’m human. I understand that perfection is not actually attainable. I look back and see how different this mistake is than the last one. I see how far I’ve come and I see how far I have left to go. While it is a huge attack on my pride, knowing that I have not yet reached my fullest potential is actually so comforting. Guys, if the me right now is the best it gets?! Oh man. No thank you please.

Several people on Twitter today shared this quote,

“Only the mediocre are always at their best.”  Jean Giraudoux

Read that again. I’ll wait.

What I’m saying here is that I’m learning to embrace my moments of imperfection. Being truly terrible at something provides a spotlight straight on what I can improve. Well done, self, for sucking for the greater good. For you, it may not be letting yourself be less than perfect. It may be putting words on paper when you don’t want to (me again). It may be not being nice or being too nice. Maybe you knitted a sweater and it has three arms and no head. I don’t know what your thing is, but we all have impossible standards to which we hold ourselves. We see ourselves falling and want to give up instead of acknowledging the reality that falling on your face is still forward motion and all forward motion counts.

It’s possible that you don’t need to hear this and that’s great. I think some of you might. I know that I’ll need to hear it again and again and again in the future, so I might as well share with you.

I challenge you all to greet your “failings” with open arms this week as you rejoice that you are not done improving yet. Let’s continue to get better together, shall we?

**Note: I’m using “the worst” as a colloquial term to mean less than perfect. Also, these are the standards that I have for myself. I would never expect anyone else to hold themselves to these standards. You do you. That’s why I like you.

On Shipwrecks

Periodically, St. B’s has the honor and opportunity to have a guest break the Word for us. When I arrived and saw that today was one of those days, I was intrigued. When I found out that he’s a professor; I swooned. Like, I actually had to hold on to the back of a pew. You all know of my weakness for people in academia, right? So imagine how excited I was to hear Dr. Sumner’s homily.

Disclaimer: I love almost all styles of preaching. There has never been a Sunday at St. B’s that I have not enjoyed/learned something/been challenged by what was said to me.

But today? Today we got a sermon that referenced Albert Schweitzer. I died and went to nerd heaven. Somewhere, though, in the midst of all my fangirling, Dr. Sumner said something that I cannot shake. Christianity, he said, centers around the “shipwrecked death of a Palestinian rabbi.”

That one phrase knocked me sideways. How often do we forget that Jesus was a rabbi? He was a teacher like so many before him. Being a Palestinian rabbi was about as earth-shattering as being a Canadian priest. To outsiders, he was nothing remarkable or rare. He was a man who chose to dedicate his life to the service of God and the teaching of the Law. That’s it.

So how do we know he was so much more? The death part of the equation.

The thing about shipwrecks is that they are unplanned, unexpected, and unstoppable. Once your boat hits an iceberg, it’s over. There’s not a lot of fixing that. A shipwrecked death? Messy. Impossible to avoid. Leaving disaster in its wake. Making people afraid of sailing again.

Two thousand years ago, a man who seemed like any other man lived a life that was simultaneously extraordinary and mundane and died a death that was destructive, unavoidable, and completely disastrous.

Contrary to what I like to believe, logic will not save the world. There is no secret waiting to be unlocked. There is only a creation crying out for healing. There is only a man who came a lived an extraordinarily ordinary life that culminated in an otherworldly death. Salvation comes in the shipwreck: in the broken, shocking unexpected. The world changes in pieces and pain.

On the First Christmas

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan…

While perhaps not one of the most historically accurate carols (it didn’t snow much in Bethlehem), this centuries old hymn evokes perfectly the imagery of my Advent and Christmas seasons. This has been a bleak year for me. Had you asked me at this time last year, I would have told you that 2014’s biggest challenges were adjusting to a new job and turning thirty. How simple those things seem now.

Losing my mother was a plot twist, breaking point, cliffhanger moment for me. Everything in my life is categorized as before or after. Mourning her has been ugly, and messy, and difficult. It has forced me to face all of my demons and then some. I have learned how (poorly) I deal with stress in my life and that compartmentalization is not always healthy.

More than anything, I have learned to be a woman without parents. I have learned to be an orphan. It’s no easy thing, being an orphan. You lose the ability to say where you’re going for the holidays or in what part of the world your family lives. Originally, I thought that losing my mother meant that I would stop being a daughter; that I would stop having a place to belong.

The lessons of Advent teach us about anticipation. We immerse ourselves in the darkness of the world without Christ and see how desperately the world needed a Savior. We look at the darkness in our own world and acknowledge the aching for His return. I understand darkness and I understand ache.

A wise man once said that you cannot fully appreciate the light until you have lived in darkness. My life growing up was not easy, and things have not changed much since adulthood. I have experienced hunger and cold and homelessness. I have experienced loss now more than even before. I am a person in darkness.

Then Christmas comes. God made flesh come to us in human form so that we may fully understand God’s love for us. Jesus, who becomes our brother and invites us into the family. Paul’s letter to the Galatians says that we are no longer slaves, but children; and not only children, but heirs. Do you know what that means for me? It means that I am an orphan who has been adopted. While my biological parents may be gone, I need not fret for I have been pulled into an eternal family. My mother knew most of my secrets and loved me anyway. My Father knows my secrets before I do and still decided I was welcome in His family.

This Christmas was easily the hardest Christmas I have ever faced and yet it has also been one of the best. I am thankful today for a God of paradoxes, who understands that heartbreak and healing can happen simultaneously. The people in darkness have seen a great light.

On The Second Sunday of Advent: FAITH

Semantic satiation (n):  a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener. Basically, this is the phenomenon of hearing a word so many times that it loses its meaning.

For the Christian community, I think that word is FAITH. We write it on coffee mugs and greeting cards. It’s on t-shirts, Bible covers, even people’s bodies as it is a popular tattoo choice. Having faith, man, that’s what it is all about.

Okay. But what is faith? The author of Hebrews tells us it is the “assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.” Defined in the OED as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something,” we use faith as the banner of our belief system. We tell one another to have faith, to keep the faith, to seek faith. It’s all words.

The second Sunday of Advent is known as the Sunday of faith, but it is also the Sunday of the prophets. God began sending prophets to His people beginning with Abraham. Prophets are the deliverers of God’s message. They are the people standing before us, proclaiming that we just don’t get it. God used the prophets to explain how He wanted us to live. He used his messengers to tell of the love He had for us, and that’s why He so wanted us to live rightly.

Sometimes, people listened to the prophets and would walk the straight and narrow for a little while. Sometimes, people loathed the prophets. Usually, these were the same people. God’s mouthpieces often faced torment and ridicule and threats of violence. Not to mention they had the unenviable job of saying to their friends, family, and neighbors, “Hey guys? You need to cut it out. Not cool.”

Who would like that guy? No one. No one likes that guy.

The other day, a friend told me about a problem she is having in her office. Her coworkers all got a little rowdy and distracted, and she was the one that reminded them how important it was to stay on task and stay focused. She was met with snide comments and plenty of rolling eyes. Simply put, people don’t respond well to being reminded of the rules.

The prophets kept going. They knew it would be hard. Some of them (looking at you, Jonah) even hated the people to whom they were delivering a message. Yet, they pushed through. They persevered. Because they had faith. Hope in their unseen God; that all of this was worth it. Anticipation in the unseen Messiah that they were telling people about. A complete confidence in a boy from Bethlehem.

I think this Advent, the story of faith is not just about trusting God, but about believing His messengers. What ways is God speaking to you? Through choirs singing carols? Through Christmas cards? The voice or encouragement of a neighbor? Maybe through a sweet boy who put down his blanket long enough to ask, “Lights please!”

May we heed the words of the Collect for the second week of Advent: “…give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer…”

On The First Sunday of Advent: HOPE

Despite the fact that November seemed to not last long enough to be considered an actual month, we have reached its end. Thanksgiving has come and gone and people are finally allowed to listen to Christmas music without the risk of facing my wrath/annoyance at rushing ahead. It is the last Sunday in November which means one very important thing.

It is the first Sunday of Advent.

I’ve learned over the years that there are many people in my life who don’t observe Advent or really have any idea what in the world it might be. So first, a primer.

Advent, in simplest terms; is anticipation. The season of Advent waits on two things. We remember the waiting of the people for a Messiah and we acknowledge our own waiting for His return. Each of the four weeks has a theme, and the first Sunday is all about hope.

The Oxford English Dictionary (delight of my heart) defines hope as ” a feeling of expectation and desire; a feeling of trust (archaic).” A feeling of expectation. I understand desire. Wanting is the easy part. Expecting to get what I desire is something else entirely. I usually expect to get the opposite of what I desire. Seems safer that way.

The people of Israel had a pretty good grasp on wanting but not expecting. They’d been waiting on a Messiah for approximately ALL THE YEARS. All the Prophets spoke of one being brought up to rescue the people. He was going to bring light to the darkness, hope to the hopeless. He would set things to rights. Things were bad. Things were dark. There was 400 years of slavery in Egypt. There was the destruction of the Temple and the diaspora at the hands of the Babylonians. Read Lamentations. Read Psalms. People were stressed and unhappy and longed for a Messiah that had been hundreds of year in the making and yet had never come.

It is no wonder that they often got tired of waiting. I don’t think I would have lasted as long as they did. But, God spoke through the prophets and encouraged the nation. Isaiah tells of God wanting to comfort His people; reassuring them that someone is coming. “Behold, the Lord God will come with might…’ (Isaiah 40:10). Despite generations worth of waiting, God wanted the Israelites to still have hope. He wanted not only their desire, but their expectation. They needed to assume that things would be okay in the end, even if that seemed silly or irrational.

Well over two thousand years later and I face God with desire but without expectation. I see around me darkness. I outline all the reasons that hope is lost; that it will never work. God reminds me that when the world was darkest, He sent a light. Not a king or a warrior, but a baby. His solutions may not look like I expect them to, but He will always provide one.

As the liturgical church begins its new year, as you look out your window and see more darkness than daylight, as the world seems to crush you with overwhelming despair; remember that a star pointed the way to true Light in the darkness and that we should anticipate, we should desire with expectation, we should HOPE that light is returning to our dark world.

On Bearing the Chalice

Since my first Sunday at St. Bartholomew’s, I’ve wanted to be “one of those people helping.” Not long into my journey into Episcopalianism, I learned that those people are actually referred to as Lay Eucharistic Ministers. They are the people that help the Verger help the Priest, especially in the serving of the Eucharist. I knew that I wanted the opportunity to serve, but I also knew that I didn’t need to jump into service while I was adjusting to a new town and a new faith tradition.

Fast forward to a year later, when I’ve officially been confirmed as a member of St. B’s and the Worldwide Anglican Communion. I felt like I was ready to volunteer and so I took all the steps necessary to become a LEM. Yesterday was my third time serving and I am still overwhelmed by the power of it all.

It’s one thing to be in the sanctuary, to be sitting next to the Priests and other LEMs, watching the congregation from under the cross. It is another thing to be within arm’s reach of the elements during the preparation of the Eucharist. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, watching the Celebrant as he prepares the bread and wine; saying words of blessing and remembrance; is easily my favorite part of the service. I love watching the communion (literally) between Celebrant and God, between the heavenly and earthly realms. Getting to watch that up close is soul-filling.

But the part that takes my breath away every single moment is being able to serve the chalice. I become a part of the Eucharist is such a profound and special way. I am taken out of myself and become the hands of the Lord. It is through me that my fellow parishoners hold out their hands and ask for the Cup of Salvation. I use all my strength trying not to cry with every person I serve. The honor of being allowed to offer the words “This is the blood of Christ; the Cup of Salvation” is overwhelming. Though horridly unworthy, I have still been allowed to participate. Like the servants at the wedding in Cana; I know that Jesus does not need me to serve his salvation to the members of St. B’s; but, like the servants, He is allowing me to help Him because of what it does for me.

I come face to face with myself each time I serve someone else. In their eyes I see my own set of worries, fears, hopes, and needs. We all come to the table with something, and we all leave carrying the fruit of redemption. May I be worthy of the task set before me and may be all feel within us the power of Christ, given to us through the Bread and Wine.

On Saints and Orphans

The day after Halloween is known throughout the Christian world as All Saints’ Day. It’s a day that, among other things, we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before us into glory. We remember the martyrs, the saints, and this year, we remember my mother.

This Sunday also happens to be Orphan Sunday, when we are reminded that adoption is the Gospel. Christ made a family out of a bunch of sinners, and there are those of us called to follow in his footsteps and make a beautiful family out of pieces. Today, I was an orphan. I know this sounds dramatic, but when you have no living parents, you are an orphan. While I will never know what it is like to grow up in foster care, wondering if I would ever have a home to call my own; I will live the rest of my life motherless and fatherless.

It’s still a weird thing to wrap my head around. Being an orphan, even at 30, comes with an odd feeling of transience. My roots have been ripped out of the ground and tossed aside. I belong nowhere, and no place is my home. Though there are friends and people who love me like family there, Kentucky is no longer home. It has ceased to be the place where my mom lives and is instead the place where my mom rests. I am a child who lived as a nomad for the first ten years of my life and though I have no intention of moving any time soon; I have become a nomad once again.

The transition has been harder at times than others. Some days, I still want to call her and tell her all about whatever stupid thing I did or the ridiculously hot new guy I’ve just met. (She would not have like that last part.) Most days, I think of her in pain and am thankful she is no longer bound by the limits of a fallen world.

Today, as we sang for the saints, I sobbed my way through verses about freedom and rest. I am an orphan and yet I am surrounded by the saints who have gone before me. By Mary, the Mother who had to watch her child suffer. By my Grandmother, who taught all the women in my family how to be tough as nails and soft as silk at the same time. By my mother, who only in her last days made a choice that was better for her than it was for me. I am alone and yet stand in community with believers across time and space.

O blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.