January more and less

If I stumble, will I fall?

If I fall, I’ll tuck and roll.

Close my eyes and let the love-light guide me home.

Let the love-light guide me home.

~Cage the Elephant, Skin and Bones 

Last month in a desperate act of middle-fingered hope, I buried approximately 432 flower bulbs around our yard’s flower beds. It was no small effort or lack of colorful language breaking up the cold unforgiving hard-as-a-Southern-Baptist-scorned Texas dirt. I chopped. I hacked. I railed at black clay and pandemics and the Bride of Christ. I fought all hell to get those bulbs in the ground. And I did it too. I wound up ripping a muscle from my backbone…but I did it. 

I raked a thick velvet-smooth layer of top soil over the uneven divots and clods and added a chocolatey mix of fresh nose-stinging mulch. No one but me would ever know the damage underneath those seemingly even beds or what it had cost to make a viable home for things to grow. They might be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor…and that only if they had an eye for such things. But only God and I could really know what it took to get there. I did my part and now I knew (I believe help my unbelief) He would take care of His. 

2020 cost us all in ways we can never know about each other, on top of all things we can never know about each other’s whole-life experience. It makes me tender for people and I’ve begun looking at everyone as an irritable, sad, feisty, resilient, hope-filled and bent-backed farmer. I don’t know what has cost you, I could never. But I will only assume you fought all hell to be here too and I’m in awe at each of us. 

I think God observes our hope that anything beautiful can come out of the manure and He recognizes it as a common miracle.

****

I am in a creative recovery now of my own making. It’s been about two and half years since I was able to write with any sort of rhythm or reason. Some life happened that Friday in May and it just never stopped in such a comically relentless way…still is happening for all of us. 

Scripture says a bruised reed he will never break, but damn if being bent all the way in half doesn’t snatch the creativity right out of a soul. There was a wordlessness that accompanied a long season of deep suffering for me. Words have always been my way of making meaning, of playing, of connection…of worship. To have none for a time felt achingly cruel. I understand for-real now you can’t give away what you don’t have for yourself. Makes common sense, doesn’t it? (more on the shortage of compassion on the internet later ;)—Look! I’m still sassy!). This lowness and learning to live in process continues to exorcise demons of religion, spirits of pomp and most of my fear of man. It was also a holy time and I would not trade for my life what I have witnessed about God in our silence with each other. Perhaps we will talk about some of it one day. 

All of these words now to be thinly honest and also to say you might be hearing from me more than in the past if you stick out this space. I hope my letters can serve you, bring you some sun and warmth, a moment of stillness or joy or an irreverent giggle here and there. I don’t take your trust in my words lightly. I really am grateful for your presence here. 

That brings us to the idea of more and less. Taking intentional notes, paying attention:

what gives you life? 

what takes from it?

Instead of making hard lists with boxes for checking, I’m taking a more gracious posture. Just some more here, some less there…kindness towards ourselves in all (isn’t that the hardest dang part?).  

Here is what I’ve been practicing this month (stay to the end? I wanna hear from you as well). 

+more 

*water I am perpetually dehydrated.

*writing…and creativity in general playing with poetry, painting and pottery. I’ve got some spots on the calendar for hip hop meets classical violin shows, dates with myself to museums, parks and plays. Sometimes these are inconvenient, awkward or out of my comfort zone: always they perform CPR for my own creative pursuits.

*asking myself ‘What do I need?’ And really learning how to answer. Every week my therapist asks me, ‘What do you need from me today?’ I usually say, ‘Hell if I know.’ I have learned I’m not alone in being talked out of the ability to name those core needs at an early age: we learn quick-like that making others okay over ourselves keeps us safest and most relationally attached. I’ve been ignoring my own needs for so long I had to have a colored wheel with feely words to jog the process (let me know if you’d like a copy). 

*Headspace I’ll talk more about this in one of my next letters because I believe it’s literal life-and-death-in-this-digital-culture important for us. For now, you might check out the series on mindfulness and presence on Netflix. If the word ‘meditation’ spins you into the orbit of religious legalism or new-age chills, I hope you’ll consider: we’re not conjuring anything except our presence in our own lives (replace it with the word ‘awareness’ if it makes it easier). Betting my whole farm this living awareness is God’s own ordained practical science (‘neural plasticity’ is such a flirty word).

– l  e  s  s 

*multitasking I used to think this was a talent…now I see it as a clever little thief of small important moments.

*social  media, news and clanging voices speaking into my life I’ve turned the volume almost all the way down progressively over the last year and trimmed every bit of fat on my email subscription list. It was a commitment to my own soul and I intend to keep on keeping it. 

*buying books I am discovering that reading other people’s words is sometimes a way of distracting myself from a necessary stillness I am not naturally comfortable with. I’m in book rehab for a whole year. Unless a friend releases one. Baby steps, y’all. 

What about you? I’d love to hear what you’d like more of this month…and less of too. Give me simple list, a short sentence or a paragraph you didn’t even know was banging around your heart to get out? I find the pausing is necessary in accepting invitation to attention…but the naming is an act of persistent, rebellious, bent-backed hope. 

I would be humbled to bear witness with you. 

big love,

Mel 

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