Mary Did Know

Maybe it was my middle school crush on Clay Aiken, or maybe it was a bent toward feminist theology at a tender age, but “Mary Did You Know?” always makes my top 5 for Christmas songs.

(And, yes, i know it’s barely day two of Advent, you snooty Christians. I need a little Christmas, right this very minute, okay?)

A couple of weeks ago i was leading a Bible study on the Magnificat and the encounter in Luke 1 between Mary and Elizabeth. Our deacon then commented that if you were only to have the first chapter of Luke, one might presume that this promised Messiah would go on to be a great king, an uprooter of worldly power through his own majesty. Mary’s song, after all, falls in a great line of Biblical womyn singing praises to God for giving them sons, sons who would go on to do stuff quite like that.

We wondered then about what, exactly, Mary knew.

And, worryingly, what she consented to.

Gabriel doesn’t say precisely what “overshadow” means, nor does he detail how God will protect Mary from being, say, dying in childbirth or being abandoned for her indiscretion. We know she will give birth to one who will be called God’s Son. But God doesn’t detail that Jesus will die, gruesomely, as a criminal. Before her very eyes.

Maybe that’s because God didn’t know; maybe this is evidence for free will, that it was not some magnanimous gesture of wrath on God’s part that killed his kid, but humanity’s fear of what God on earth looks like, acts like.

I really like to think God asked Mary. That consent was required for the conceiving of such a gift, and such a curse.

But what becomes clearer and clearer to me is how much Mary knew. No, she probably didn’t know Jesus would “calm the storm with his hand” and give sight to that particular blind man, but did she know that her baby boy was going to be “Lord of all creation”?

“Surely,” she sang, “all generations will call me blessed.”

 

 

In other news…

Ya’ll, there is just so much right now. I’m not sure i’m ready to talk about Jesus and this election. What i’ve been trying to do is stay present, and hopeful, and to do so by being plugged in with people i love and art that nourishes.

So a few weeks ago i finally launched a photography business, because apparently, i just can’t do one artistic thing at a time. And right now i’m running a sale of goofy Christmas card photos. You can read more about why here

But just in case you’re as mired in the muck of sadness and anger and resignation and rebuttal as i am, here’s a picture of our step-dog, Tupelo:

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Love you. Here’s to laughter!

God, the Persistent Widow

In the Gospel of Luke, there’s this parable. (I originally wrote: “this bizarre parable,” but i realized that was redundant.) And in it, there is a judge who “neither fears God nor respects people,” and there is a widow seeking justice.

Widows are kind of a big deal in Scripture; they are one of the few categorically specific people whom God tells the people over and over they must care for.

Widows were also the most commonly targeted people in medieval witch hunts. Widows were women bereft of a patriarchally-sanctioned identity – that is, a husband or father to claim her.

Widows, too, are an emblem and embodiment of grief: as much as they threaten power structures with their liberty, in this parable her namelessness seems to speak to the cavern of loss. She is a spare, an excess – a bereaved excess. Maybe she loved her husband; maybe she didn’t. But in this story she is known only by the absence – widow – and her grief is no less significant than her gender or her powerlessness.

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From The Flawless Project: Why I Love My OCD

I’m over on The Flawless Project today, writing the scariest thing i have hit “publish” on. Here’s a sample:

Content warning: discussion of OCD, suicidal ideation, mental illness, familial and child death

Author’s Note: This is my story in learning to live with and love my OCD – but this is in NO WAY a universal experience or sentiment. Writing this has been cathartic – and painful – for me, and it’s my hope it will be a connection, a validation, a balm for others. But no one lives with mental health/illness/neuro-atypical-ness the same way. None of what i say here should be essentialized as something all people living with OCD feel. No one should act on my story without consulting a doctor, therapist, or professional.

If you need help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

I was diagnosed with OCD three years ago, in the worst season of my life.

My aunt, uncle, and two cousins died in a plane that failed to make it off the runway; on the other side of the family, my grandmother’s last of a dozen or so strokes took her away two hours before my international flight landed – a flight taken to make my good-byes to her; my parent’s divorce was finalized; my dog of ten years had to be put down; and i had been suicidal for months.

The months before my grandmother dying, the plane, crash, the divorce, the dog dying.

There was a stretch of some three odd weeks where my brothers, my then-fiancé, and i were driving down to Greenville, SC, every couple of days for another funeral. My family was from Greenville, and had been vacationing with another family from Greenville. Two prominent doctor families, one town. So many wanted to honor them, to grieve them; there were so many services – i have glimpses from the Episcopal K-12 school where all the kids had met, the internment at Newberry College, and – the most painful – the Boy Scouts ceremony where they talked about 14-year-old Connor being just one project shy of his Eagle’s badge.

And, hours after one service and days before another, it’s all a humid blur – i stood out under the deck in their backyard, clawing at my nicked-up arms and screaming at my fiancé about an argument we’d had in April.

It was July.

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Turning Twenty-Four

I get a little squirmy these days when people ask how old i am. Actually, scratch that; i’ve always gotten squirmy.

When i was fourteen, people outside of school regularly mistook me for a first-year college student. And on my wedding day, the woman who did my makeup made a tutting noise and told me i looked way too young for this. Last week, someone asked me what kind of music i grew up with; i made the usual pinch-nose, bracing for the exclamation that i was too young. She said she’s guess my age, and guess lower than she thought; she aimed for 29.

Maybe it’s my fat face, maybe it’s my premature sass, maybe it’s that we love to classify youth as this measurable and identifiable thing but, like basically every label, it’s all socially constructed consumerist nonsense. I don’t mind the guessing, usually. When the 29-guesser laughed, i delighted. She made me feel old and mature, like i would always eat all the groceries i buy instead of finding a few soured grapes in the corner of the bottom fridge-shelf after wondering for two weeks what that stink was.

So i’m 24 years and a few days old.

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On Our Anniversary

 

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By Urban South Photo

“Right now, I love you forever. I love you for the hardest mile we walked together.” Andrea Gibson

I don’t know if i can in good faith call it my most favorite part of our wedding day, only because i can’t choose a slice of the whole cake and call it the most sumptuous.

But this is definitely the story i love most today.

We woke up on August ninth to a downpour. My mother had always told me how they had wrapped her train and head with trash bags as she walked to the church, to keep them from soaking. Saran held my hand and told me it was good luck.

Jonathan and i had always loved the rain. I told our photographer – who had managed to sneak engagement portraits in between drizzles some nine months prior – that this was just our lot. We learned to love in the downpour; we’d been engaged just two months when a plane crash took four people from our family forever, when i was in biweekly therapy for clinical OCD and anxiety, when we looked at each other and said, “are they right?”

“Are we too young?”

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A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

A few qualifiers: this sermon was delivered in a Methodist church on both Trinity Sunday and the Sunday following the grueling two weeks of General Conference – a once-every-four-years gathering of the worldwide leaders of the United Methodist Church. At this Conference, there were powerful disruptions wherein the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQIA clergy and laity joined forces to confront the church’s racism and homophobia. The church nearly split in half over whether or not to eradicate harmful language towards “homosexuals” in the Book of Discipline – the Methodist rule book, essentially. As a guest preacher in a church that I know well – it is my mother’s church, a church i attended while still Methodist, i wanted to be sensitive to my position. They, too, are facing their own transition: my mother is taking a new parish and in a matter of weeks, this congregation will have anew pastor.

I also left the Methodist church because i could not handle the heartbreak of continually being told being queer meant i was not “compatible with Christian teaching.” And yet, i wanted to offer words of encouragement for those brave leaders who had joined forces confront racism and homophobia. And i wanted to care for the people, equally loved by God, who choose not to love the LGBTQIA community and radically confront racism. Because being a priest means loving your enemies and recognizing when you are the pharisee and when you are the outcast. I know it is not a perfect offering. But it was from my heart.

Reading: Romans 5:1-5

Transcript:

Today is Trinity Sunday, a Sunday for recognizing and specifically discussing what it means to worship a triune God – a God who is Holy Spirit, Son, and Parent, and a God who is all of this as one Being.

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Sabbath v Self-Care?

I sometimes wonder if all our good-intentioned language around self-care has ruined sabbath. 

Like, i think most of the time we mean self-care as energy devoted to renewing ourselves, loving ourselves, ensuring that we are capable of being authentic by taking time to know ourselves and what we need. I am very pro-self-care, i am very pro-saying-no to over-taxing (particularly because i am prone to overcommitting and then under-fulfilling).

As Brené Brown says, “the most compassionate people are the most boundaried.” Boundaries between us and the people and work we take care of are necessary.

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Resurrection is Nonsense: A Sermon for Easter

 

A few weeks ago i wrote why the sadness of holy week matters to me;  here is why the resurrection matters to me, as it interrupts and subverts all that grief. (And while Easter is past, the good liturginerd in me assures you: Easter is a season! So indulge me?)

Luke 24:1 – 14 

24 Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One[a] must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.

“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense.”

Resurrection is nonsense.

I don’t mean resurrection is not real – or even that resurrection did not happen – no, the resurrection is real, it happened, but it is nonsense.

Non-sense, non-sensical, non-sensible – resurrection does not make sense.

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One Day I Woke Up and I was Fat

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original art by lizzie mcmanus

In the last year, or so, i have gained over fifty pounds.

I could list my excuses: i drive more than i walk, which has never before in my life been my primary mode of transport; i’m married and fat and happy; i’m in grad school and stressed and struggle for a good night’s sleep; i have a thyroid condition that makes me gain weight without changing my diet and i have severe enough asthma that sometimes, even at my fittest, i get winded going up stairs.

I have spent my whole life – at every weight since i was old enough to understand – thinking i was too fat and therefore, not good or pretty or attractive enough.

But the thing i need you to know most of all is that while my weight gain has caused me considerable anxiety and body-shame, i’m tired of excuses. 

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