Grace

...now browsing by category

 

Grace and potatoes

Monday, September 8th, 2014

In the last month or so, I’ve been having a quiet mental breakdown.

I say “quiet” because it’s not like I’m falling apart. I’m waking up and exercising and getting my work done. I painted a wall in my living room the other day. I’m meal planning and taking Foxy on walks and meeting friends for drinks and boarding airplanes and generally just taking care of business.

But every night, I climb into bed and stare at the brick wall across the room, the one that sold me on the house – because hello, charm. But in these nighttime moments, it’s felt like a metaphor for something going on in my soul, something that I struggle to name but have been feeling on a daily basis.

I’m up against it.

I’ve just really been up against it these days, you guys – that desperate feeling that sneaks up for no real reason and with no real warning and tells me that the hard things are never going to get better, and that the things I desire aren’t worth hoping for. I wonder if my days have any purpose. All it takes is one quick trip down the rabbit hole that is Instagram to look at dozens of other people’s worlds that appear more lovely than mine, for a dozen different reasons that really aren’t worth listing, and I’m hit with that same old question: does my life matter at all?

I don’t mean to be dramatic. This isn’t a cry for help or a plea for people to validate me (that would make me embarrassed). But I just wonder if I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way – futile and insignificant, like I should do more or have more or be more.

:::::

Recently, I stood with my friend Becca over her garden in Minnesota, and she confessed that this year she and her husband had neglected the potatoes that they planted, not doing any of the things that they “should” have done to guarantee a good crop. But even so, their garden has produced dozens of pounds of beautiful, perfect potatoes.

“I look at my garden and I see grace,” she said. “We didn’t do anything to deserve potatoes. But we got them anyway.”

And then she picked some fresh strawberries and gave them to me to eat.

:::::

I’m in the weeds these days. Some are there by my own negligence, some despite my best efforts – either way, they’re messing with my perfect little plot. Because when the things you hope for just aren’t happening and the things you despise just won’t go away, at some point you just want to throw up your hands.

But could it be that there is something good growing underneath?

I think that’s what grace is: the generosity of good things, whether or not we’ve earned them, whether or not we choose to acknowledge that they might be developing.

Soul-stomping

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I recently took my car in for a major repair – one that required taking the engine apart, and then putting it all back together. I knew that it was going to cost a painful amount of money, so when the mechanic called to tell me that the clutch was shot, too, I lowered my forehead to the table. “Uh huh,” I said. “You can fix that, too.” TAKE EVERY DOLLAR, man. It’s all yours.

Later that day when I picked up the car, I asked the mechanic if there was any way I could have known that the clutch was on its way out. He said, “You should have felt it in the pedal.” I shrugged, saying, “It felt normal to me – just the way it always feels.” I settled the bill and headed to the car.

As I drove away from the shop, I was surprised at how different the new clutch felt. It was so easy to press down; my left leg barely had to work. All of a sudden, shifting was no longer a full-body effort – it was a breeze. Everything seemed quieter, easier – and I realized that this wasn’t some fancy luxury, this was just the way that it was supposed to feel.

It’s funny how dysfunction can sneak up on us. We go about our busy lives, from one distraction to the next – and just as long as we keep moving, we don’t have time to notice what might be falling apart right beneath our feet. The growing noise becomes normal. The increasing struggle feels standard. And before we know it, something inside is burned out, worn down, used up.

These days, I’m becoming more and more aware of the beliefs and thought patterns that have made my life feel hard for a really long time. Years? Always? It’s hard to tell. All I know is that the mantras I’ve repeated for so long, framing the way I think about this life and my place in it, have advanced to a point that has made everything feel like a fight.

Just like my stubborn clutch, life has gradually become a soul-stomp. And I just thought that was normal.

Famously hard on myself, I have a habit of self-pressuring to be better, be more, do more. I have pushed myself hard and fast, aspiring toward a place where there is nothing left requiring relief, all the while ignoring the ever-growing trouble inside.

And sometimes, it isn’t until we experience something the way it should be that we realize just how bad off we’ve been.

I’m going through somewhat of a personal renaissance these days, feeling revived and encouraged and all-around refreshed, and through this, I’ve had a taste of what feels right. It makes me sad that I have spent so much of my life fighting against things that were broken to begin with – things that could have been easier, should have been easier. I want to live differently.

So today as I drive my car to work, with each easy push of the clutch I will remind myself that it’s okay to go easy. It’s okay to quit training for the half marathon for the sake of my back. It’s okay to fall a little short of my monthly savings account goal. It’s okay to order the bridesmaid dress in the size that I am, not the size that I want to be. It’s okay to be a beginner at something. It’s okay to not know what’s going to happen – because whatever happens, it’s not worth the soul-stomp.

The “right” person

Friday, September 14th, 2012

These days, when asked about my love life (thanks, everyone!), my response has been, “I’m not focusing on finding the right person – I’m just trying to be the right person.”

Good one, eh?

Here’s the only trouble with that statement, romantically focused or not: who gets to define what the “right” person looks like?  You?  My family?  My married friends?  My single friends?  My boss?  My books?  My church?  Or, scariest of all, me?

The past few years of my life have been nothing short of a war zone, and while the dust is finally starting to settle, my ears are still ringing.  I’m looking around at the landscape of a life that I did not plan, and my eyes are having trouble focusing.  I’m still walking a little wounded, trying like hell not to fidget with my bound-up broken bones, hoping to give them a chance to heal.

And all the while, I’m telling myself, “Be the right person.  Be the right person!”

Famously hard on myself, I have defined being the “right” person as achieving, succeeding, pushing myself, doing more, being better, and never, ever sitting still.  At some point, I decided that not reaching my goals makes me a Failure, that changing my course makes me a Quitter, and that not winning makes me a Loser.

So in the midst of the chaos and the noise and the still-settling dust, I spin my wheels, straining and striving and trying SO HARD to be the “right” person – based only on my own harsh definition.

But what if instead of trying to be the right person, the goal was just to be?  Period.  Just to be – with joy and gratitude and the will to breathe each and every day.  Regardless of whether I meet my arbitrary goals.  Despite my inevitable shortcomings.  Whether or not I “achieve” much of anything.

Because, as my mom reminded me, “there is grace to cover it all.”  (Sometimes, my mom sounds like Jesus.)

Maybe when we stop trying to be the “right” person, and allow ourselves to just be, we’re exactly who we are – which is who we should be, anyway.

Barns and such

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Well.  My mom said that yesterday’s post made her want to throw herself off a building.

So there’s that.

But on another note, I got some emails from people who were saying that they’ve been there, felt that, got the t-shirt.  Go figure – it seems that loneliness runs in the culture these days.

Thank you, friends (W, C, M, L, H, and G), for your words of solidarity.  We should have a club.  It can be called the Walking Wounded.  Our mascot can be Toad the 3-legged dog.

Greta once heard a sermon in which the pastor (Richard Dahlstrom – holler) compared life to a barn.  You can keep your barn empty, and therefore, very clean and orderly – but that’s not what a barn is meant for.  A barn is made to house LIFE.  And if you invite life into the barn, then you’re bound to have to shovel some shit.

Except I think that Pastor Richard probably didn’t said “shit.”

Guys, I don’t even really say “shit.”  Sometimes the blog flies away from me, and all of a sudden, I’m a cusser.  In real life, I only say cuss words when I stub my toe (often) or Gabe drags the kitchen trash all over the living room (thrice now).

Anyhow, I’ve passed this barn analogy along to a few people, and it seems really pertinent to me all of a sudden.  To invite others in is to welcome the mess.  In a way, it’s what we’re made for.

A few months ago when I was in Nashville, I heard another pastor (Craig Brown – holler again) say that we’re so quick to say that we don’t need Jesus – that is, until we come into contact with other people.  Then, all of a sudden, people are bugging us and letting us down, and we’re failing and disappointing them and becoming the worst versions of ourselves – and without warning, we realize that we need a savior.

I tend to like the idea of being self-sufficient.  I don’t like to need anyone or anything – because what if the needing is met with… nothing?

But luckily, my needing isn’t met with nothing.  There’s grace enough for you, and – miracle of miracles – grace enough for me.

“The Undoing”

Monday, May 9th, 2011

It feels strange to not be writing here.

When I don’t write, I’m reminded that this blog was born out of a need in me, for myself, and not really for anyone else.  I can’t not write.  I think I have to, as a part of being the truest version of myself.

But I haven’t been writing here. And I’ll admit, I’m not feeling much like myself these days.

But here’s a new song, recorded yesterday with a stuffy nose, super lo-fi style in the living room.  It gives a glimpse into these days, the days when it’s difficult to write anything else.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

[Song has been taken down - maybe you'll hear it some other time.]

Brownies, dog poop, and grace

Friday, March 18th, 2011

These days, I am jolting from one crazy big thing to the next.  Many of these things are good, wonderful, amazing things.  I mean, I flew to Haiti for a week of snuggling babies and expanding my vision.  I wrote songs about Larabar and spent a weekend under the palm trees.  I bought a car that I adore and pretty much want to write a love song about.

Truly, my life is like a fresh pan of brownies.

With a little bit of dog poop in it.

“Oh, it’s just a tiny bit of dog poop,” you say.

Um.  I’m sorry.  But even just a little bit of dog poop in the brownies has a way of tainting the whole batch.

There is a lot of insanity going on behind the scenes in my personal life these days, and it’s starting to creep into every corner of my world.

Yesterday in the Denver airport, I had a complete emotional meltdown.  It was borderline obnoxious: there, in front of God and TSA and everyone, tears dripping from my chin, struggling with the feeling that I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not in control.

“But Annie, you’re not in control,” you say.

I knooowwwwwwww.  AND IT’S THE WORSTTTTTTT.  [gnashing teeth]

But I’m learning that grace is defined by necessity; it doesn’t mean a thing unless we need it.

And oh my stars, do I ever need it.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who are extending grace to me right now.  I know that I don’t deserve it.

But I suppose that’s the point.

Some thoughts on grief

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer’s long hair in water.  I knew the weight was there but it didn’t touch me.  Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown.  So I just didn’t stop.

The substance of grief is not imaginary.  It’s as real as rope or the absence of air, and like both those things it can kill.  My body understood there was no safe place for me to be. (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)

- – - – - – - -

I love the way that this woman writes.  My body understood there was no safe place for me to be.  That is grief in its truest, most potent form.

I am finding in the most concrete way of my entire life that there is absolutely no hope apart from Jesus.

This is not a “Christian blog” in the same way that some are – I tend to write more about my hair and my bras and my couch than I do about my faith.  I know that a lot of you reading this do not believe the same things that I do, and let’s be honest – talking about pop culture and music and whatever tomfoolery I got into over the weekend is usually more fun than a bible study.

But in the midst of it all, and above it all, I believe in Jesus – in redemption, in healing, in grace.  As much as my hesitant heart fights it, I believe that God loves us and has good plans for our lives.  That is my bedrock.

So when I hit rock bottom, standing on that bedrock is a good place to be.

The grief is still there, and the substance of it is so real that I’m afraid it will strangle me – but grace is flowing downhill, and pooling in the darkest places of my life.  It is taking on the weight of my pain, lifting the burden from my head, and moving me forward.

Loved

Friday, August 21st, 2009

I don’t always believe that Jesus loves me – even though the bible tells me so.

Oh, I know that Jesus loves me – in a “whole world in his hands” kind of way.  But do I believe that he loves ME?  That he sees ME?  That seems impossible.

It’s this thorn in my side, this snag in my otherwise fairly confident faith – which is interesting, since the love of God is what the gospel is centered on.  When I have a hard time trusting the central truth of the Christian faith, it has a ripple effect on the other things that I believe.

I find myself swinging like a pendulum between an inflated sense of self-importance and a groveling sense of shame.  Driven by a strong need for justice, I still buy into the lie that I can earn my worth, and that if I don’t secure my merit by my own accomplishment, then I’m done for.  I miss the whole grace thing, over and over again – and then just beat myself up for being a loser.

It’s hard to believe something that I can’t feel.

But lately, I’ve been coming back to that passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about the birds of the air, and how they soar and glide and don’t worry about their lives because they are provided for – and that if God loves them, how much more does he love you and me?  For some reason, that has felt like a good line of reasoning – something that I could latch on to – and so a few weeks ago, I prayed that God would help me remember that.

Specifically, I prayed for a visual reminder of that truth.

And last week, I received a birthday package in the mail.

Greta’s note was short and sweet, simply saying that she knew that this was an enormously impractical gift, but that she saw it and just wanted to send it to me.  I unwrapped it, and found a doorknob.

It took me a second to put it together – because there’s no way she could have known.  Why on earth would she have sent me a doorknob – especially when I don’t even have a bedroom door?

But when the pieces fell into place, my heart almost burst.

Because the love of God will open the door and set me free.

picture-1

Thoughts for a Thursday

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Let me just get it out: I feel like a terrible blogger these days.

Okay, now I feel better.

- – - – - – - -

Saturday is the 6th annual Tomato Art Fest in East Nashville.  This is of note for 3 reasons:

1)    Sound the trumpets: I am making my triumphant return to running, as I’ve registered for the 5K in the early morning.  Nashville Miranda and I plan to run together and catch up about life – and if that means running 15-minute miles, so be it.
2)    I’ll be singing backup for the beautiful, the talented, the VOICE – Wendy Jans, at 12:45pm on the main stage.  It’s supposed to be 96 degrees out.  So much for glamour, and/or happiness in general.  But seriously – come hear this woman!
3)    At 3pm, Seth will be entering the Red Head Contest.  For those of you who have had the honor of beholding Seth’s gorgeous (and all natural) locks, you know that he is going to win that ribbon.  He will hold the title of “Tomato Red” soon enough.

Also, I just love tomatoes.  They’re so fat and wonderful.

- – - – - – - -

I wish we said the same thing about humans, because I have some amazing birthday cheeses in my fridge.

- – - – - – - -

“Amnesty” is just another word for “grace,” and I think that deep down, that’s why we are so moved over the story of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.  It makes me cry to think about them being pardoned and allowed to return home – mostly because it reminds me of the undeserved kindness and generosity I have been shown in my own life.

Sometimes, I feel just like those girls.

Back on track

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Yesterday, I experienced true grace.

To back it up: last week, I really slacked on my training schedule for the half-marathon – meaning, I ran one time. ONE time! If I am hoping to run 13.1 consecutive miles in a few short months, then I need to keep up with the program. After such a lousy week, I started to feel like this whole running “thing” was not for me: there’s no way that I can do it – I’m not a natural runner – I’m behind on the training – I can’t catch up – I’m unmotivated – there went my $85 registration fee.

But never fear: as is becoming a regular occurrence, PZC to the rescue.

Paul called me on Sunday morning after I missed the group run, and said, “This is unacceptable. You haven’t even done your time trial yet. What are you doing tomorrow night? You’re coming running – no excuses.”

So Paul and Josh and I met at Centennial Park to do my time trial – basically, run as fast as you can sustain for 3 miles, which becomes a benchmark pace for other training runs. I hate to run fast, because what if my thighs rub together so much that my underwear catches on fire? Running fast equals being severely uncomfortable, and I don’t have a high tolerance for uncomfortableness; this is why I hate the beach (sand in all the wrong places), the wind (totally blows), Nashville summers (sweaty misery), and hangnails (self-explanatory). But Paul and Josh gave me a pep talk as we jogged to warm up for a half a mile, and told me that they would run with me at whatever pace I set.

So we started. I ran fast – a lot faster than I am used to running. The first mile and a half were fine, but when we approached the 2 mile marker, it felt harder to breathe. All of my childhood memories of asthma and panic attacks came racing back, and in a terrifying instant, I found my windpipe closing off – a purely emotional reaction, since my legs were keeping up just fine. I felt the same alarm that I felt on Mt. SneffelsI can’t breathe.

But Paul talked me down, and I finished the run, and Josh and Paul told me that I’m doing a great job. And although they could have abandoned me as soon as I started slacking with the training, they came back to get me and said, “We’re not letting you quit.” They stooped to my lesser level of fitness, and gave up what might have been a better workout for my sake. I don’t deserve friends like them.

But I’m so glad that I found them.

Thank you, Paul and Josh, for demonstrating grace in such a tangible way.