I’m a blog stalker. It’s true.
A ton of my favorite bloggers post monthly about the books, music, TV, and links they’ve been loving. I love lists. I have ever since my high school days, when I cut out the “Modern Library’s Top Books of the 20th Century” list from the newspaper and started highlighting books as I read them. (Not a nerd. Ahem.)
Since I’m blogging every day during the Fifty Days of Easter, I decided to summon up my courage, stop blog stalking, and actually write my OWN “What I’m Into” post. Here’s what I’ve been reading, listening to, watching, and doing in March.
I had been there for eleven months.
Eleven months of walking along the train tracks, through the rice fields to school. Eating beef braised in chili oil, stir-fried spinach, dumplings with chives and pork, rice. Eleven months of drinking chrysanthemum tea and eating tangerines at a teahouse by the river, hearing people say foreigner whenever I walked past, linking arms with friends. It had been eleven months of teaching classes of sixty students, mouthing along with the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed in another language, walking two blocks from an upscale shopping mall to a market selling live fish and chickens.
I could have talked about it for the rest of my life and still have more stories to tell.
“It is not enough to celebrate Easter and say, ‘Christ is risen.’ It is useless to proclaim this unless at the same time we can say that we have also risen, that we have received something from heaven. We must feel appalled when the tremendous events that took place, the death and resurrection of Jesus, are proclaimed again and again and yet actually nothing happens with us. It has no effect.” -Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, in Bread and Wine
The day after Easter, I am not sure what to do.
On Easter, I rise.
We go to church. We shout our alleluias, we sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Afterwards, we feast. I cook a turkey for Easter dinner, my first ever, won in a trivia contest. (Don’t ask.) Josh and I watch basketball with some friends, eat turkey and potatoes cooked in cream and carrot cake, drink good beer and good wine.
And we go to bed, and then it’s back to life the way it was, before the Lenten disciplines, before weird lifestyle changes or diets or food given up. Christ is risen, and things are back to normal.
It is Easter, the time of alleluia.
The time where I and some others gather and sing songs about resurrection, early in the morning on the first day of the week. It’s the time of holy foolishness, when we sing the praises of a man who we say is God, who was dead and alive again.
The sun is sinking in the sky as I watch the waves roll in.
It is October. We’ve been Southerners-turned-Californians for a month. It is hot outside, hotter than I thought it would be. I am looking for a job.
I have been looking for a job every day. I sleep too late. I go to the public library. I dig through the bargain bins at the grocery store, see how much food I can buy with twenty-five dollars. I play fetch with the cat. I walk around the labyrinth of graduate student apartments until the midday heat is too much.
And I look for a job.
It’s been just a month, but I am already panicked. I keep ten browser tabs open. Temp agencies, Craigslist ads, calls for medical study volunteers, human resources from all the area colleges. Mint.com, which makes me more panicked with its angry red bars that mean there’s more money going out than coming in. I feel helpless. I have no idea how people stand unemployment for years.
Josh comes in the door as I am walking back and forth, bedroom to kitchen to living room to spare room. “I need to get a job,” I tell him. “I still don’t have a job.”
What we need is here. –Wendell Berry
Four and a half months ago, we drove our boat of a Buick through the desert and into San Diego. It was the last leg of our cross-country trip. Two weeks, 3000-some miles.
“Do you want to stop for lunch in Arizona?” Josh asked me. “No,” I told him. “I just want to get there.”
We had waited to be here for six months, since Josh accepted the offer to study at University of California, San Diego. And even though we didn’t know where here was then, we had waited to be here for years. A place where I could be in ministry, where Josh could study and teach. Where we could be together, both doing the work we had been called to do.
We pulled into a space at the grad student apartment complex. Opened our door with our key. Moved in the few boxes that we had fit in our Buick. And we began again here.
Sometimes I have been good at being here, at being where I am.
I had nightmares after Newtown.
Some of it is the anxiety surrounding my first Christmas on staff at a church. But most of it is the news, with its stories of children hiding in closets and gunshots fired in school. I went to sleep and dreamed about children being abused, hurt, and me not able to stop it. I woke up, heart racing.
“It was like a nightmare,” people said after Newtown, “the worst thing you could imagine. But we were awake.”
I have always loved the poetry of the 121st Psalm. “He who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will never slumber or sleep.” But now I shivered. God was awake for all of it. Who could stand to be awake for this, twenty children gunned down in school?
Newtown. Aurora. Tucson. I realized it then: All of God’s nightmares are waking nightmares.
The sky is blazing with stars the day before Christmas Eve.
I am working my second job, pizza delivery. Between the two jobs, I’ve worked fifty-five, sixty hours the past couple weeks. I’ve stopped counting.
“What does Jesus want for Christmas?” I ask the kids at our midweek program. The answers vary: an Xbox, a Bible, world peace. We decide at the end that Jesus wants the hungry to have food, for everyone to have enough. And Jesus wants time with us, I tell them.
We have lit our Advent wreath sporadically, Josh and I. Some days, we read the passage, pray something from the Book of Common Prayer that looks beautiful and not too long. I bought a devotional on December 15th and read two, three entries a day to make up for lost time. I have not sat and prayed by the light of the tree. I have not listened to The Messiah while I baked or wrapped.
We start our Advent practice six days late.
I have been working fifty, fifty-five hour weeks between my two jobs. One I’ve had for a month, the other for two. I just learned how to put in schedule requests at my second, so I work late Saturday nights, driving pizzas, sweeping flour into dustpans, mopping the floor. I get home at eleven-thirty Saturday night, rise at seven on Sunday morning. At seven-thirty, we are out the door.
“Do you want to read some Scripture, pray, light the Advent wreath?” I ask Josh in the evening, after work. We have no Advent wreath, no candles, no matches. We read the passage–Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them–and then we sit in awkward silence. “I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, this Advent practice,” Josh confesses to me later.
We sit down, watch Rudolph, put together the little tree, drink our eggnog. It is 10 pm, after my shift at work. We are tired, but this is the time we have.
It is what it is, I learned to say a few years ago. I don’t know when. I say it with a sigh of acceptance, resignation. And what I mean is this: But it’s not what it should be.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, my grandfather died, and we flew East on a jet plane. A couple days after that, I got the second job I had been praying for.
One week before Thanksgiving, the woman in front of me slammed on her brakes in rush hour traffic. I slammed on my brakes too, but not fast enough. I felt metal on metal, my first car accident, and I cried.
A day after that, I went with Josh to trivia night and won an entire Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a twelve-pound turkey, and I laughed.