mountains, the boy, milkweed, fall
During this season of Advent, I am praying that God would reveal to me something yet to be revealed. For the past few months I’ve been hovering just around the edges of a big something, an idea, a concept, a truth, a something he wants me to understand, but that my own fear has kept hidden.
This morning I read Paul’s prayer to the Philippians (1:9-11): And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
So now, as we anticipate the coming Light, I pray Paul’s prayer for myself, for knowledge and full insight. I wait for the fog to lift, for God to help me understand what has yet to be understood.
What are you waiting for during Advent this year?
OK readers, in light of a few recent posts that are bringing me a little down, a post about the positives of right now:
D and I bought a house. When we aren’t feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of long-term debt, we are basking in the joy of having our own little home. The house came to us through a bit of wu wei; we noticed the ‘for sale’ sign at the bottom of a driveway on Bee Branch at a time when we were just settling into my grandparents house right up the road. We took a look just for the heck of it, met the owners and heard their amazing story of working on the house over the years. They bought the four acres from their friend, ordered the cedar logs from British Columbia, and have been laboring in love, little bits at a time (as this was their vacation home) since the 70′s. D and I fell in love with its small size, cozy wood stoves and cedary-smells, and have been blessed to work with owners who empathize with our less-than-impressive income.
We put up our first Christmas tree in the house last weekend. Need I say more?
We traded in the old mini-van for a new car. Yep. Crazy. Jetta, TDI, car of my dreams. Loving the gas mileage and the coolness. Not gonna lie.
I have a full-time job (thus the house and the car, whew)! After a year of working one part time job, a month of working two part-time jobs, I finally have full-time work with GEAR UP NC in the Yancey County School system. For the next seven years, I hope to be working with parents and families to see more students graduate high school and succeed on a wide range of post-secondary paths.
In many ways this year, I am feeling for the first time like maybe I am becoming an adult. With real pain and suffering has also come real joy. Alongside all the unsettling, unpleasant changes I’ve been experiencing lately, I must also acknowledge the sweetness of the positives.
Alright, ya’ll, throwing it out there: a post about anxiety!
I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) since I was in college in 2005. At that time, I felt anxious for about two months, couldn’t eat, cried a lot, and felt like I was going crazy, and had no idea what I was anxious about. For a young student who generally felt positive, on top of things, and in control, I was terrified. I went to the doctor, got a prescription, and finally started to feel like my old self again (it wasn’t as simple as it sounds, but the rest is a post for another time).
Since then, I’ve still had anxious times, but nothing like those two months at school. I’ve also learned more about anxiety, and am trying a different approach, going off my medicine and researching cognitive behavioral therapy (in hopes of trying it soon). In my research, I’ve read lots of practical tips for dealing with anxiety. One I’ve found helpful is to notice my feelings without judging them, naming the physical sensations and accepting them for what they are (instead of giving into my most common response: Oh no I am going into anxious mode let me get more anxious about being anxious! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
Another thing I’ve been trying is looking at the times when my anxiety gets intense, goes beyond general nervousness or apprehension that’s normal and short-lived. So I have been following my anxiety, paying attention to my body and my environment (what am I actually doing) when I feel it coming on. Below are a few of the recent times when I’ve had severe anxiety that has uninterrupted sleep/eating habits and lasted more than a day or so:
- D broke his jaw and had to have surgery.
- My brother’s best friend died unexpectedly.
- I directed a summer camp for a week.
- I got into conflict with someone at church.
- I changed jobs and had to send an email in which I felt that I was letting someone down.
In the first two instances, it seems like when my idea of reality, the status quo, gets upset by something or changes dramatically, I get uncontrollably anxious. “The world is NOT what I’ve always known it to be! Terrible things happen and I can’t control or prepare for them!”
In the last two instances it seems that when I don’t know how another person is perceiving me, or fear that I’ve upset another person, I get uncontrollably anxious. “What are they thinking? I bet they think I am an irresponsible, incompetent jerk. Oh no!!!“
The middle instance seems to be a combo of both those things: A drastic change to my status quo, and being completely vulnerable to how people (and kids) might perceive me, sends me into intense anxious mode during which I can’t eat and I demand that my poor hubby to actually come to church camp and stay with me….
I don’t want to make too much of this pattern, as indeed sometimes I can find no reason whatsoever for feeling anxious, but there does seem to be a common theme centering around my need for CONTROL…..When something happens that reminds me that I am not in control of the world I live in, nor of the people in that world, it really throws me off! Of course I can rationalize to myself: “Dora, come on. You KNOW you are not in control of anything. God is. You are not. You know that. Don’t even try.” But how do I make my body believe that? HOW???
So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
‘Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we’ll be alright
~ Mumford and Sons, “Ghosts That We Knew”
My life has generally been bright and smooth, like a river stone. I’ve had dark days, and painful losses, to be sure, but I’ve never questioned that my life would continue on its bright path, in a world that was basically good with people that were mostly safe and happy. I don’t think I’ve ever really needed that kind of big, grounding hope, that things will get better. I’ve heard it talked about, to the point of cliche, but never needed it.
Lately though, I’ve been feeling the need for a hope that will see me through in a big, overarching way. This year has been one in which I have
been reminded experienced for the first time my own lack of security in the world, of the fact that the world is imperfect and that people suffer inevitably and sometimes beyond any scope of what I can understand. In the days after months of witnessing enormous loss in close family and friends, I feel like I am modifying my identity, or my sense of reality. Pressing questions weave in and out of my mind. Is the world good? Are people mostly happy and trying to do their best? Does God will terrible things to happen to innocent people? Is it wrong for me to seek and enjoy happiness and security while others are suffering so greatly? These questions aren’t just hanging around for pondering over a cup of coffee and a journal entry. They are urgent. I need to know the answers so I can get on and live. How do I continue?
Hope. God shows me the possibility of a better world, one that we all have hands in creating. Hoping and working for the kingdom of heaven on Earth, drawing nourishment from the transcendent spirit that connects us to one another and to the world, and looking forward to a time when we will all be drawn back together without suffering, represents, for me, that big hope that I can’t live without.
Practicing this kind of hope is a new feeling, like grabbing hold of a little gift that has always been there for the taking. It reminds me that the river stone wasn’t always bright and smooth. It has ridden the ancient waters of tumult, lost parts of itself and been transformed.
Summer’s last big showing.
She uses all her sway,
Oozing up through every low plant
Pressing down through the tops of trees,
Heavy green leaves drooping with the weight of summer.
In the prism of the air we walk in
She throws out her cloak of morning fog
Summons the susurrus of crickets
And breathes her sorceress sigh from
The open blooms of the honeysuckle vine.
But the clear blue sky reminding, urging
Loosens the fastenings of summer’s web
With a whistling switch and sweeping leaf.
In our own bodies too
We feel the gentle push-pulling of the days.
Our hearts bind tight, contract around
The heavy fullness of summer.
The long apricot-to-blue-gray evenings
Swell and contract around our hearts.
But in our hair and heads the cool clear blue
Whispers and whips and undoes the bindings of summer,
Until she flees and we are filled
Summer weekends in the mountains are the best.
Inspired by new friends, we sought the rare Gray’s Lily on the Roan Balds.
The view from the Roan is even better in person.
And someone became a fan of the Johnson City Cardinals (actually, I think the grape Italian ice is what really won him over).
He got to run the bases after the game.
Weekends like these remind me of why we moved back home.
Lifting up gratitude today.
As D and I approach the second birthday of our marriage, I have been reflecting on our magical wedding day and chewing on a story about the procurement of my dress. The following tale is as true as I can remember it. Ladies, enjoy.
I have never been one of those people who dream about their wedding day in acute and ecstatic detail. Yes, I hoped to get married one day, but I was never in a rush and usually had more pressing things on my mind, like you know, the meaning of life and death and whatnot. So when I found myself happily engaged in the summer of 2009, I approached dress shopping with an unexpected sense of glee: This is my day to look as beautiful and as me I want! Woohoo!
Dress Number One
The night after D proposed, my sisters and I spent hours on ebay, and I actually bought a dress. $78 plus shipping. So what if it has poofy sleeves and is two sizes two small? I’ll remove the sleeves and make it work! Something about that neckline I just have to have! (“Do it! Do it!” cried the giddy bridesmaids-to-be.) So, as I basked in all of five days of being engaged, Dress Number One arrived. Let’s just say it was a no. Think Shelby in Steel Magnolias, but with long sleeves. My dad loved it, actually wanted me to wear it. Not happening.
But not to worry, my frugal readers, the $78 were not for nothing! A few months later, my little sister went all out for Halloween as a shockingly realistic zombie bride. The dress debuted in the hideous glory for which it was destined.
Dress Number Two
After my initial adrenaline-based purchase, I calmed down and decided to take my time dress-hunting. I knew what I wanted: simple, lace, cream, not to wedding-y. A few months later, I found it. This time on Etsy, $60, vintage. I was in Harrisonburg so I got to try it out for new friends before my family saw it. And it was a hit. In the back of my mind though, I knew it wasn’t gonna fly with the mother of the bride. It was just too simple. But I thought I would give it a shot, so I came home and tried it on for her. As expected, “It is beautiful, but it just isn’t what I pictured my daughter walking down the aisle in.” I was in the familiar pickle of wanting to please my mother and needing to be true to myself. So I compromised. It was two months until the wedding, and I told her that if I could find something I loved between now and then, I’d get it. If not, I’d wear Dress Number Two.
Dress Number Three: The Gypsy
A little less than two months until the big day, and I was still in limbo about the dress, thought not really panicked. I knew if I had to wear Dress Number Two and disappoint mom, the world would go on. But part of me still wanted to find that perfect dress that would please everyone. So, it is a normal Saturday in July, and D and I are driving down the road in rural Linville, finishing a week of cooking at Camp Caramel. We drive by several yard sales, nothing strange for a Saturday in the mountains. As the circus of items long-stashed in garages and attics of strangers floats by my window, a mannequin in a white dress, looming over a quilt of gnomes and bicycle wheels, catches my eye. I demand that D turn around, and we return to the little square piled high with the wares of a dreamy lady in a long skirt and magenta headscarf. The dress is kind of seventies style, deep v-neck, floor length cream-colored thin fabric. Lace around the neck and flowy lace sleeves. Just so me.
“How much is the dress?” I ask hopefully.
She grimaces, “Well, I was really trying to sell the mannequin. The dress was my sister’s, out her wedding didn’t work out so she never got to wear it.”
“Would you mind if I tried it on?”
“Sure, I guess. I guess I could sell it for 15 or so.”
I tried to stay calm. Please let it fit.
D and I found a dark shed and he zipped me. I felt lovely and natural. I stepped out into the sunshine and the lady stopped straightening her empty picture frames and stared at me.
“That dress is yours. I have chills you look so beautiful.”
We both teared up and I said too many thank yous and hugged her like an old friend. She gave me her email address: gypsymtnwoman@…. and asked me to send pictures of the wedding.
D and I looked at each other, thinking the same thing. “We’ll take the mannequin.”
She was thrilled, explaining how there was just something about this day, and how she would be glad not to have to tote it around for the rest of her long journey.
There certainly was something about that day, and about that dress. It was magical.
So, it only took three dresses, approximately $150, and one gypsy to find the perfect dress. I think the story alone is worth that and more.
(From Psalm 19)
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
the dome proclaims his truth.
Day to day pours forth speech;
night to night declares his knowledge.
Every swath of grass sings his word;
any brittle leaf chants the key.
There is no speech, nor are there words.
Their voice is not heard.
Their line goes out through all the earth,
their words to the end of the world.