Monthly Archives: December 2014

You Have Everything You Need

If you have a garden and a library. Cicero said that.

I was explaining to a friend the other day that feeling when it seems you run into a part of yourself that you haven’t seen in years. It is always a little strange at first, perhaps even off putting, like that familiar face in a grocery store that causes you to duck behind cereal boxes, intently reading the labels because there could be something life changing there. Other times, it’s as if serendipity has worked her magic and you stare in disbelief in hope, yet still with some angst, because we know how this ended last time. In this case, it was a little of both. This was the year of the rediscovery of the novel and memoir in a way that I have been swept up. After a four year grad school journey, the spined book and I have had our ups and down, never broken up, but definitely needed space. But, it has wooed me back.

Here is my 2014 book list that I will possibly (have) talk(ed) about in an obsessive way.

Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd
memoir : social justice, mental health
This is the best book I have read about CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children) and DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking). Please read.

Still: Notes on a Mid Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner
memoir : faith
Lauren is one of those writers that I would just like to drink whiskey with and talk about life.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
memoir
I waited to read this book for too long. If you haven’t, you need to read it.

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
faith : theology
Grace. That is what this book is about. Grace and a call towards change. If you love OR hate the f-word, you might be surprised (in the best way) by how it’s handled.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
memoir
I got lost in the brilliance of the words and meaning and continue to threaten my roommate that I’m moving out to live in the woods. This is not a story about hiking; it’s a story about living.

If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher
memoir
She tells a tale of expectations, losing, and finding self and hope. I laughed out loud and cried an ocean. Incredibly beautiful and highly relatable if you have ever wanted to do something good for the world and love a good pop culture reference.
Preorder here.

My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman
faith : art
I bought this as a gift for friend and began reading before wrapping it (oh, don’t judge me; you’ve done it too). Thirty pages in, I bought two more copies for myself. If you are a writer, poet, artist, faith seeker, it will grip and tangle you.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
novel : relationships, cross-culture, race, mental health
This is my first read of Chimamanda’s books and I’m hooked. She is both funny and thoughtful and her storytelling draws you in.

Now I am working on next year’s list, though most of 2014’s books found me rather than the other way around. I’m also trying to keep a plant alive. We’ll see.

Real Christmas Trees

It’s December 27th. All our presents are still sitting under the tree. It’s a real tree; we switched a few years back from the towering style that came in pieces in a box. You had to spread each branch out intentionally filling in the gaps of evergreen, trying to hide the metallic core. I was the one each year designated to fill in those spaces. I don’t know if it was because I was actually talented in the art of fake spruce or if I was the only one who became obsessed by their placement, putting meaning into each bend as if it was art or salvation. I prefer real trees.

The siblings have now almost all rolled in from various states, nephews and nieces in tow, and I’m left again overwhelmed by it all. For the last few weeks, I’ve been sitting in the waiting. Holding onto it as if it was the season I’d been wanting all year long. And, perhaps some of the truth is that it has been what I’ve wanted all year long. It has given me permission to mourn, to speak into the night – hope for something different. This waiting is the tension I notice sitting in my stomach most days. I need joy to show up.

But, the second truth is that sometimes I’m not sure I’m ready for the waiting to end. I feel I am afraid I will be like that child on Christmas day that after strewing wrapping and strings and paper all around ends up sitting in it all, saying, “but is that all?” And, for that reason, I delay. As the expectation grows, I grow more anxious. Perhaps, we should just forget the whole thing. I am afraid of my own disappointment. What if after all of this, I am holding nothing?

So the real truth then is that any ending terrifies me. And, so I gather, all these things, these people, these places, and hold on for dear life. We build ourselves mansions with these parts that were never meant to be walls and furnishings.

I am learning, instead, that waiting is a letting go. Waiting is a wondering. It is participation in this life with all it’s heartaches and small victories. It is noticing what is here and now and then watching it go, feeling the joy and the pain. It takes all of you.

If you asked me to describe what I believe will happen at the end of all of this, I would probably fumble over my words. I know that because there are days when I have tried to explain the belief that seems built into my bones despite the doubt of my skin that tries to shake it. I never feel like I have really said much of anything; maybe it was a metaphor or a tenant that doesn’t really explain what faith is. I say that mostly out of my own frustration because the truth is that I would like it to be built much sturdier. I wish it felt like a wide, wire cable. If anything it’s more like a perennial that grows, seemingly dies, but is dormant, ready to come again when it feels like winter will never end.