Friday, April 23, 2010

I was born. I was made alive.

April 21, 2010

Here I am, the utterly undeserving recipient of abundant love. I don’t say this as a sort of self-deprecation but as someone beloved to a degree that boggles the mind. I am on the receiving end of love that cannot be earned; it’s beyond measure. My cup overflows. Already. I felt it. The love of this Chicago community would be enough to be amazed by. But there is also the love of my family and of the friends who have stood with me for many years. Then there are those that I have never, or at best barely met, my long distance friends who continue to astound me with their affection and fidelity. Today, Laina absolutely astonished me. She has bought me a ticket to Orlando, Fl, roundtrip, April 29-May 4th. She coordinated it all on the sly, working things out with Anne and the fam. Sometimes it feels like too much. I was already feeling that way with all the affirmation, parties, presents and the presence I have been given for confirmation. When discussion arose as to what to do for my birthday I felt overwhelmed. Such an outpouring of love, I don’t know if I am a container adequate to hold it. I will let it spill over and continue flowing.

* * * * * * * *

Anne took me out for a delicious and embarrassingly expensive dinner and dessert at a sweet little French restaurant in Lincoln Square…One the way out to dinner Anne and I drove past a coffee shop called Julius Meinl. I had gone there once for a sort of interfaith discussion group that I’d found through an online network called “Meet-ups.” That was shortly after I moved here, during the time when I was persistently thrusting myself into situations where I might meet interesting people. I couldn’t figure out how to identify who I was trying to meet that day and wound up leaving without having made any connections, feeling frustrated and dejected, wondering if I would ever figure out how to make friends—how much has changed! Truly, God has been so gracious; granting me the courage to press through awkward situations and the disjointed early stages of relationship, guiding me into this incredible community.

Lying here in bed I was thinking how grateful I am for this day, for this condensed account of the wonderful people I’ve encountered and continued to be in relationship with through various places I’ve lived and stages of my life—Apopka, Winter Park, Mt. Vernon, Berea, Chicago (not to mention Keene and Graz, where I’ve never been!)—and I realized that beyond this day I am grateful for this life and overwhelmed by all the good that it has been filled with, all of the wonderful people and places and experiences. I am glad to be alive. I am glad for today and yesterday. I am glad for tomorrow. It feels good to say that. The feeling of love for life is not one that I’ve always had. One of my few regrets is that I’ve dwelled in so many days that I wished to be removed from, thinking that not being would be preferable to being who I was. I know that I am privileged, embarrassingly privileged. I will not respond to that knowledge with guilt but will give thanks and give back and, God willing, give forward.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Returning to the present--two recent entries, very closely related

April 12

Our community is fond of posing the question, “If I were not afraid I would…” I generally respond with well meaning ambiguity, something like, “If I were not afraid I would…love.” Yes, yes, very nice Amy. You’re sweet. Currently, I find myself in one of those rare moments when—though specifics still elude me—I have a clearer idea not only of what I would do, but also of what I am afraid of. So, without further ado:

If I were not afraid—

of the criticism of others
of being dependent
of being a disappointment
of making a mistake
of being rejected (or worse, tolerated)
of hurting or offending
of failing
of loving and living deeply—

I would—

become fully engaged in community
be less wasteful
embrace conviction
go to Arizona and spend at least a week with No More Deaths
write diligently and, Lord willing, truthfully
be willing to risk arrest and to risk more in general
talk more openly to friends and family about my feelings, questions and beliefs
joyfully pursue peace and service

April 16

I can’t stop thinking about the reflection exercise Annemarie facilitated at Kairos last night. She asked four questions, waiting after each one until we had an opportunity to respond before moving on to the next. It was a warm, soft-aired night. We were gathered on the porch of the ministry center, many of is in shorts or skirts. I was feeling sleepy from a day full of walks and sunshine, sharing space on a deep-cushioned couch with Claire and John. We split into groups of five or six.

The first question was something to the effect of, “What would you be willing to work your whole life for, to die for?” I was discomfited by my inability to think of an answer. “Life” was the vague response that surfaced. No wonder I am aimless, I thought, I have no great passion. Instead I tread amidst many small passions, each distracting me from the other and from s specific focus through which to channel my energy.

I listened to others in the group: Katie on education, bridging the gaps of unknowing between cultures; John on service and placing the same value on all people; Rachel on non-violence and on end to war; Claire on purity, against violation and all the contributing factors. I caught fragments from the other group as well, Luke finding Jesus in the face of prisoners, and Meg empathic concern for those who suffer from poverty. The most tangible thing I was able to latch onto was waste; particularly food waste.

I had watched Dive earlier this week and it brought back to me much of what I had been studying last year about food and the far reaching effects of our choices about what and how we eat. It is something that consistently stirs me up, grieves me, moves me to want to act. There is where I stop, not knowing what to do, afraid to try. There is so much injustice, ignorance, irresponsibility dishonor, cruel carelessness and even hate (albeit often inadvertent) in waste. I see this as very much tied in with sexuality—its abuse and misuse—service with and for others, violence, lack of education, poverty, spirituality and many other things. It’s a web from which no one strand can be extricated. I see waste, and all these things, essentially as both symptoms of a reverence for life, or the lack thereof. Though I frequently fail to live it with integrity, such reverence is a driving force in formulating how I want to behave and who I want to become. Life, of the capital L variety, is what I live and die for. However, it is difficult to hit the mark when you don’t know where you are aiming.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

remembering Lent, part 1

This is going to get a bit long. I have been wanting to update this blog for quite sometime, preferably taking the time to elaborate on the many under-developed thoughts meandering about within. For tonight though I have decided to revisit selections from my journal entries from the season of Lent. Partly as a reminder to myself, and partly as an opportunity to share with anyone who might be reading.

February 16

What mysterious beauty shimmers within undisturbed snow set aglow by street lamps. Remarkable beauty. Patches of hallowed ground finged by fences or rumpled clumps of snow that have been shoveled from the sidewalk and trodden on by children, by dogs (who leave their yellow mark) and, when no one is looking, by me.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I am glad for it. Lent is such a gift…

February 18

Why the Catholic Church and not just “Christianity”? Because the Catholic Church is where, in my lonely wandering, I found myself confronted by the presence of Christ.

February 22

Since I’ve all but decided to not be confirmed, I feel the homeless loneliness creeping back up. I also have a renewed interest in an international adventure—why not? What else have I got to do? Money is a continual obstacle and also the inclination I have to be called to a place and not just to choose it randomly. I did recently begin to re-acknowledge my long harbored desire to work with orphans…I also do want to learn more about food, health and agriculture and as long as I’m listing things I’d like to learn sign language too.

“Only goodness and steadfast love shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall return to dwell in the house of the Lord
forever” (Ps. 23:6, ESV alt. trans.)

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9)

(Where did we get all of these other trappings from?)

February 25

The morning sun is shining powerfully through my window, magnified by a fresh layer of snow. I can breath through my nose and swallow without wincing. This day is off to a good start. When I wok up—after many false starts—I felt such a sweet wave of gratitude. I was almost washed away by it when I drew back the curtain.

Last night, I feel asleep with my head full of thoughts of India. My dreams though were of the Music Man. First watching it with the family, then, somehow living. And just before I woke, I was traveling. Where I was travelling I am not sure…

February 26

Oh Chicago, how I love you! More specifically, White Rose Catholic Worker and the extended community that you draw, how I love you! I was trying to think of what the feeling is that I have when coming back to the apartment after these gatherings. the best I could think to say to myself is, “I feel like a person.” I know of course that is what I always am. Here though, I am Amy. When in Florida, I am a Nee. When in Kentucky, a part of CAP. I am Amy here; this woman, equally aimless, bent, confused, delighted, alive, but more than ever me. Part of me wants so much to just pick up and leave while I still have a good reason to. Another part of me thinks that could be the worst mistake of my life.

February 28

Anne and I watched Meet Me in St. Louis last night. The movie is good, in part because it is wonderfully simple, yet you get the sense that the characters are experiencing this simplicity with full feeling and drama, just as we do when we are awake to our lives…I watched the sweet and clumsy relationship between Judy Garland’s character, Esther, and the boy next door with delighted amusement and also with some sadness. they were so young and fresh and they believed so strongly in the significance of their emotion…

I propped myself in bed with every intention of meditation or praying, of listening to God’s take. Instead, I remembered. I became submerged in Kentucky, revisiting scenes I didn’t know I had stored—my CAP car breaking down after a home visit in Crab Orchard, those visits—the mischievous smiling face of the little boy and the tired, negative apathy of his mom—the Vineyard, making shish-ka-bobs at Z & T’s, night at the playground with T when we found a wallet and I learned he knew AW, living in Janet’s spare room, moving into the “hotty house,” walking over Cardiac Hill for the first time as a volunteer and then daily as a Healing Rain employee; the faces and voices of people I worked with from every program and the scenes we shared; Disaster Relief in New York and calling T, writing him letters I never sent; so many memories and so emotively and visually vivid. I can’t describe how I felt at receiving this flow of recollection. The sad and the happy alike were so sweet to me. I felt wonderfully grateful. Returning, slowly and gently to the present, the thought occurred to me: I have been praying. These memories are my prayer. God’s presence and mine…

Dear, Adoring Mystery, where are you leading me?

March 2

Notes from today’s reading (Is. 1:10, 16-20):

 “Cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widows cause”

It is right to focus on these things—God has been commanding it as long as there have been people to hear; perhaps even longer.

 “If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword…”

And so it is with us. We are being devoured and devouring.

 I am feeling this morning that the one constant thing is Christ’s presence.
 Sometimes I feel as though all of life is just a lesson in love
 What a strange mix of being comfortable and at home whil simultaneously longing for the hills I feel.

March 5

Why are you so gracious to me, my Lord? Goodness and mercy have indeed followed me, all the days of my life.

Kentucky is where I began to wake up to the world beyond me. Chicago is where I have begun to wake up to my place in that world.

Last night I prayed for God to guide me, with no ambiguous messages, to where he would have me go. In the mean time, I commit to be faithful to those things I have already invested in for the sake of growing closer to God.

March 7

The following is something I wrote on the back of an envelope (as I continued to procrastinate from writing the LACW application letter):

“It’s time. It’s time to take my place…

I want to become a midwife and I want to walk through the birthing process alongside those fourteen year old girls who are still children themselves, children whose role as mother was not chosen by, but for them.

I have spent so many years being fed and taught and cared for—it is time for me to give food and to teach; it is time for me to actively care.”

I don’t know anything about being a midwife or becoming involved in a program that would give me this opportunity—I don’t know if it is what is best or if it is just another fixation. I know that it’s high time I get my hands dirty and put legs on all these words about love.

Lord, let you will be done, and please, God, make it obvious!

…I am feeling a bit emotional now. this is in part because I am weary from the weekend. I think it is also because I feel certain a change is close at hand. Change means loss, but opportunity too. And so, I am full of sadness, gratitude, and hopeful anticipation….

An Eaters Prayer:

Creator of Life,
we know that this food came to be through great labor,
of earth and of men and of women.
We know that it is a privilege for us to receive it.
Thank you.

As I am typing these things out I realize that my journal is almost half full and that we've only been out of Lent for a couple of weeks. I may have to be more selective in what I choose to include!