Sunday, October 14, 2012

On Remembering (Part 2)

I've been wanting to mark this season. I've been wanting to remember. I've had a lot of ideas. One idea, my second favorite, is to get a tattoo. The tattoo would say, “eucharisteo.” (If you haven't read Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts to know what this word means, I have this to say to you: why are you reading this junk? Go buy that book immediately).

I had the idea that I would write about it. Each of those painful moments as those days return, like the Stations of the Cross, except, this would be the Stations of the Being-Laid-Off-Unexpectedly-And-Somewhat-Shadily-Thereby-Losing-Your-Livelihood-And-The-People-Who-Had-Become-Your-Family. …Or something like that. Station One, under this idea was called, “So The Five of Them Ate A Lot of Jello Anyway.” None of this was quite capturing the spirit of what I had envisioned.

I thought about covering all four walls of my art room with paper and drawing it all. All the images. Writing all the words. Copying all the lyrics. Quoting all the books.

I spent a long time planning a worship service of some sort. I could invite the people we love and who loved us so well. We could sing the songs. We could all tell the stories. We could give thanks and break bread and be together and cry and celebrate. This was my favorite until I realized that this would be happening, in pieces, for the rest of our lives. No need to rush it. No need to use all the good stuff at once. No need to harvest anything before it's ready.

And so, here, is my number one favorite idea. I'm going to give thanks. Not just a tattoo of thanksgiving and grace and joy, but actual thanksgiving and grace and joy.

I'm writing letters.

I am writing letters this year to say thank you to the million people who loved us. Who let God use them to hold us and heal us and encourage us and support us. And I'm going to tell them the good story that they were part of.  I'm not sending Christmas cards this year, I'm sending Thanksgiving cards. Eucharisteo cards! (READ THAT BOOK). ...and then I'm getting a tattoo. ...probably.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

On Deaths and Resurrections and Remembering

How like our God, to make it happen in the autumn. The most significant death of my life so far in a season marked by death, on fire and color with death, leading into a winter of waiting. It was in this season, last year, that so much came to an end.

It happened in November last year, but it started long before that. We didn't know what was coming, but we knew something was coming; the death came in pieces to us. Still comes in pieces.

It was my birthday this week. And because it is the nature of grief to revisit me, it came on that day. It came alongside all the love that came to me. It reminded me of last year, and the beginning of the end of our time in that community.

Our God has been good to us in the past year. He was faithful, and loving, and strong. There has been so much life that has come after that soul crushing day, that it feels wrong, sometimes, to still be sad. Feels wrong to let myself feel it. I feel like a traitor to my healing and all that has been made beautiful.

I get frustrated with myself: how many more times will I write about this? How long will I remember? But the simple answer is: forever. I will write about this forever. Let me remember every year. Let autumn come, and with it, that ache in my heart of both tremendous grief and overflowing gratitude. They run together. We can't have Easter without Good Friday. There is no resurrection without death.

Didn't our Jesus, who taught us how to live, also teach us how to die? How to live again? How to grieve well and how to rejoice well? Come Lord Jesus, teach me. 

I am announcing this my Lenten Season. I will mark every Triumph. I will mark each day of Ashes. I will wash feet and eat and drink and remember. I will call those days of cruelty and mockery and betrayal and pain Good. I will make stations. And come November 18th, I will celebrate the Gospel that is coming true every day of my life before and after and since. After so much death, He is Risen! And so am I. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Anger. Fear. Windshield Smashing.

I needed to get away tonight. I packed my dumb old backpack with books and paper and colored pencils and I got on my bike and I tried to find a place to sit where I could be by myself. It turns out that all the places where you can be by yourself are also prime places one could get assaulted. I couldn't shake the feeling. I tried. I sat down and tried to still my mind but I kept checking over my shoulder. A man drove by slowly in his car and stared at me. I wanted to run after him. I wanted to throw my bike at his windshield. I wanted to punch him in the face. I wanted to scream at him, “stop making the world unsafe!” It was then I realized I was feeling a little angry and a little out of control.

I've been hearing a lot of stories lately, about people who hurt other people. And I'm trying to be eloquent about this, but the best I can do is that I'm just pissed. I'm angry that a man can walk into a movie theater and open fire. I'm angry that parents are too busy smoking pot to realize their daughter is being abused in the next room. I'm angry that a man can decide he is going to put drugs in a woman's drink and mess with her life and walk away. I'm really, really angry.

And I just want to write some letters or give some speeches or buy a billboard or run for president or chain myself to a tree or something so that I can just yell to the world, “STOP THIS! Stop this and look at what you're doing! Stop and look at what you've done!” So I can scream out, “DO BETTER! Do better church! Do better parents! Do better people who are supposed to be protecting but are choosing to hurt!” And I want to ask why? Why? Why?

It seems so cruel, that we are all packaged together into one communal people. As much as we try to pretend we are individuals, it's impossible. We forget until we remember that what one part does affects the whole. And I'm sitting under a tree and I'm writing and suddenly I want to throw my bike at God's windshield. What sort of plan is this? How do you do this everyday? Why aren't you freaking out? STOP THIS! DO BETTER! 

I'm looking for grace. I'm looking for a place in my heart past this anger and fear and I'm looking for a place that forgives even though it can't comprehend. God is edging in on me with that whisper of his, “I have come to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...” I stop him. I stop him with my pen hard on the page: “WHY brokenhearted at all? WHY captives at all? WHY darkness at all?” And he whispers it still, “to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion...” He breaks my heart and I whisper, “I know. I know about redemption. I know about your provision. I know about your comfort. What about your justice?”

And then he said, “What did you lose, Kylee, that I did not give back to you abundantly?”
I hadn't realized we were talking about me.
“What was taken, Kylee, that I did not give you something better for? This is who I am.”

I love his answer. I hate his answer. I want more answers. I can't yet accept his answer because it would mean too much would have to change about my heart. What are the implications of this? And what is our role in the “STOP IT!” And the “DO BETTER!”? When do we trust his justice and when do we make justice happen and when do we trust his grace and when do we give our own? Maybe these aren't the right questions. Jesus, have mercy on me. Lord, I want to see.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

El Roi: God Who Sees

Maybe most of my life I've been lonely.

This isn't to say that I didn't have a family and so many friends along the way that loved me. I do. But there have been those times, I hope you know what I mean, when all the family and friends in the world wouldn't be enough to stop the lonely that settles in your legs heavy, or makes your breathing fast and shallow, or tightens up your shoulders and jaw and chest.

I have a new job. At this job, I get to live eight hour sections of life with women who struggle with eating disorders. One of their projects, during their stay at this place, is to draw an image of their body as they see it. They can use images, words, magazine clippings...anything they want. Among the words that I see again and again, I see this word, written right over the heart: "lonely."

"Me too," I want to tell them. 

I sit across from her at the table, a new employee, just a trainee really, as this beautiful woman squeezes her eyes shut, telling us how much it hurts. It's not the first thing she's said today. She asked us to pass the water three times at the table before anyone heard. She tried to see something someone was showing the group. They didn't notice right away. She gave up. 

"Me too," I want to tell her. I know that lonely.

I sat there, silent, as my coworker skillfully, lovingly, beautifully spoke truth to her. And I, deep in my thoughts, tried to find the right time and way to tell her that we have a God who sees. 

It was Hagar in the desert. Hagar fleeing when the angel of the Lord finds her and speaks to her. I looked it up when I got home, Genesis 16. "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." El Roi in the Hebrew: God Who Sees.

"He sees!" I wanted to tell her, "sees you at the table asking for water, sees you sitting by yourself, sees your pain, your deep loneliness, the lie that you believe that no one sees you."

"You too," God tells me, "I see you." 

One thing I never noticed about El Roi and Hagar. She names God this, and then says, "I have now seen the One who sees me." Ah, yes, God. This is the truth that would change us. Not that God suddenly sees us, but that we become aware of His eternal gaze. That somehow, we would train our darting eyes to find His steady ones. 

It's my prayer for us, her and I, you and me, the lonely ones:  Give us eyes to see Your seeing. And when we find Your eyes, make us brave enough to hold the gaze long enough to notice that what we see in those eyes set on us is love

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Signs for Stations of the Cross

For the last few weeks, I've been drawing these signs for a Good Friday Mediation at Park Place Church of God. Finally finished them up today...thought I'd share them here because I wrote about the first one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Touching Jesus' Face: Gethsemane

The middle of March and I’m driving with my windows open down country roads. I found a song that made me drive past the turn to my house. One of those songs that gives words to a mysterious pain. One of those songs you yell out your windows to the empty fields at twilight. Or at least, I do.

Repeat, repeat, until my heart broke open. I sang that song like I was singing it to the one who had broken my heart. I sang it and I imagined me saying those words, breaking the silence with those words, finally telling, with those words, all that had bled and could not stop bleeding. And then, though I was not praying, I prayed: God, will they ever know what they’ve done? Will they ever feel this as I’m feeling it, right now in the middle of March, singing to the cornfields?

This is how he answered.

The task was to make signs for the Stations of the Cross for a Good Friday service. I had some ideas to go on, so I started on the usual path: copy, paste, choose a font, print it out.I didn't like how it looked, so I drove to Dairy Queen, drove back, and ate a Blizzard in the parking lot. With an idea, I grabbed a basket of chalk pastels and an overhead projector out of my backseat (never telling what you can find in my backseat), walked in, and I drew Jesus’ face in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I outlined his cheek bones. Slid charcoal across his jaw line. His lips. His wet eyes. I ran my hand down his nose. Touched each crease under his eyes, in his brow where the thorns would lay. And as I touched his face, I touched his face. I could hardly breathe. This is my Jesus. And then I felt him answer my question, though he didn’t answer it at all— didn’t tell me if anyone would ever know my pain or not. Instead, he asked me, in the quiet of my heart, if I would feel his. Would I imagine it with him: that night in the Garden, sweating blood, taking the cup, receiving the kiss? Oh, Jesus, my friend! My love! What was it like? I never thought to ask.

“I heard you in the cornfields,” he pressed it into my heart.

Who is this God? This Jesus! This God who knows all and sees everything and not only hears the sound of my heart break, but invites me to hear his! His sweet heart: shattered, lonely, betrayed, and full of love, mercy, hope. That’s what I found there, when I looked. I knew him new: our God who knows and desires to be known.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Box (Week 10)

My friend Marcia has three red bird feathers stuck to the outside of her kitchen window. I worry about that bird, despite her continued assurance that she's “sure he's fine.” I don't know how you leave a clump of yourself on someone's window and be fine. But I join her in hoping for the best. Justine says that if you see a bird on the ground who has flown into a window, you should put a box over it for awhile. That will let it be safe and regain itself. Then you remove the box and the bird will fly away. “Unless it's dead.” Thanks, Justine.

This is my tenth week in the box.

Lessons From Week Ten:

I've had all this time on my hands. There isn't much you can do from inside the box. Lots and lots of time, and lots and lots of pain. Broken wings and hearts and clumps of your feathers all around town. I laid around unconscious for awhile, and I've cried many times, and other sweet souls have met me here and other confusing souls have said all the wrong things, and worse yet, some haven't said anything. I've sat around and gained 5 pounds and watched all six seasons of How I Met Your Mother. I did these things because it's all I could do. I could cry, and sleep, and eat, and talk, and watch sitcoms.

Then, week ten. I started flossing.

That's how it started. I thought to myself, well, I've got a lot of time on my hands. Sure, I could go conquer the world I guess, but so far my list of abilities since that glass-hitting incident is: cry, sleep, eat, talk, watch sitcoms. Not ready for world conquering. But you know, I could floss.

And I could do yoga.

I could start actually taking vitamins and eating breakfast.

I could read my Bible.

I could find some excellent books.

I could find (slowly, gently, bravely) a few new friends.

And so it went.

I find myself being grateful for this season of life, in week ten. I'm thanking God that He gave me a box. A window of time to heal, to recover, to regain myself. Dare I say it, love myself. And, amazingly, I am finding that this is a good and right thing to do. I feel my muscles stretch in a yoga pose, and I think, “I'm taking care of my body.” I wonder how long it's been since I've actually felt attached to my body. Since we've been friends.

I read God's Word and cry. I read other people's words and I cry. I remember that I love words. More than anything I love words. I wonder how long it's been since I knew that as deeply as I know it this week, from the box.

I find myself sitting across the table from women I barely know, and I hear my voice in the room. I nod as they talk and I hear them and my heart resonates. I wonder how long it's been since I wasn't trying to lead, or teach, or hurry, or fix. I wonder how long it's been since I just showed up as Kylee. How long since I simply brought what I have and left with full arms.

I went grocery shopping tonight. I thought about what I would feed my husband this week. And my heart lit up. I realized for the first time that I liked that I could feed the people I love. That I could make food with my hands and invite them to a beautiful table. I wonder how long (I wonder if ever) it's been since I actually enjoyed this instead of feeling so pressured to get-stuff-done-hurry.

Lesson from Week 10: The box is a gift.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


All I kept thinking today as I should have been thinking other things, as I stood and shook hands and sat and nodded and did all the motions, is this: I want to go home.

I don't know these people. I don't want to know these people. I don't know these songs. I don't want to know these songs. I don't know the rules. I don't want to know the rules. This place is fine, but I want to go home.

Then the crushing next part: I don't have a home anymore.

I've recently started to think about what I want my life to be about. What I am to be about. Here's one part I know for sure: I want to reveal the beauty in things. And I want to tell the truth.

Here's the truth: The thought of what has been lost and of starting over is indescribably painful.

And here's the beauty and the truth: We have a God who can raise the dead.

Those words circle in my mind and my heart and my fingers and my toes and the tips of my ears, and as painful as it is I can't escape the great hope of those words. There is so much grief and loss and unbelievable hurt. And in the midst of it- my bloodied heart learns a new way. Learns to weep and worship in the same beat, in the same motion, in the same song. My home is coming.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On Living

I have so much time on my hands these days. Here's what I've been up to:

1. I move from sitting on my couch to laying on my bed to standing by the fridge in various sequences.

2. I watch three to four hours of TV a day (in my living room or in my bedroom, that's how I spice it up).

I was whining about this yesterday. I said, “When there isn't anything to do, I just can't seem to do anything.” And then one of those annoyingly wise people in my life said, “There's too much to do for you to do nothing. The world is too lonely for you to be alone.” She said it kindly, of course.

And of course she's right. It just isn't true that there is nothing to do. There is a world full of things to do. Exciting things that most people don't have the time to do. And of course I don't really need to complain about being alone either, because the fact is that there are a lot of people in the world. A lot.

The reason, then, for what I hope to be human nature and not just my own sloth- can't be that there isn't anything to do or anyone to see. That doesn't really check out. So what's going on here? (That's my question of the day. The topic of this post: What's going on here?)

My friend contacted me a little while ago about teaching art in after school programs. I love students. I love art. I stayed on my couch. I never even clicked the link she sent. Never responded. I played Angry Birds for 45 minutes. What's going on here?

I'm just scared. I think we're just scared.

We're scared to live with that much hope. That much joy. That much freedom. I'm scared to start something on my own. I'm scared to live like that. You put yourself out there and then you're OUT THERE and it seems lonely and like I would be opening myself up to all sorts of pain and failure and disappointment. I want it to be someone else's idea, someone else in charge, someone else who goes for it and I want to follow behind them at a safe distance.

Here's the thing I've been learning of late (one of a million): You can't cut yourself off from pain without also cutting yourself off from joy. It doesn't work. You can't cut yourself off from risk without cutting yourself off from deep love. We don't hope, we don't go for it, we don't live because we're too scared. It's occurring to me that in my attempt to stay safe I'm losing life as I was called to live it: abundant and free and full of faith and hope and love. I want to want a life like that more than I'm scared to have it.

"So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, 'I am holy; you be holy.'" 1 Peter 1:13-16

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Peter Not Judas (A Prayer)

Lord, there have been too many Judases. Judases who, with a kiss, sold love for a bag of coins. Let it not be so of us. Change our hearts from his. Help us turn. Don't leave us now- to fall in the field we bought without you- clutching our counterfeit comforts- knives in our backs and hands forever.

Jesus, I pray that it was Peter's face looking at me. And that my face was his as I stared back without any words. Give us hearts like Peter. I want more than anything, in the silence after the crowing, to be asked if I love you and I want my good heart to say yes. I want to embrace my brothers on the shore next to your fire and I want to sit down with them and feast on your goodness.

Lord who knows all things, you must know that we love you. Teach us how to love each other. To Repent. To Forgive.