I don’t blog anymore because I can’t react to things at the appropriate times.
I can’t be a journalist.
I can’t be clickbait.
See, these days, I live up in a little top story of a Nashville cottage-mansion with two little souls who haven’t quite learned how to respond when I say things just yet. I could talk at them all day about women’s rights & evangelicalism & purity culture & they’d just blink. Maybe scream. (Prolly scream.) I play mama now, & let me tell you WHAT, is it ever an exercise in rejoicing-with-those-who-rejoice & mourning-with-those-who-mourn. Our tear duct cycles are all in sync, the three of us, in our little Rapunzel tower on our quaint, fiery autumn Nashville street.
I’m not gonna blog about blogging, although I probably should. I should probably tell you why I’ve been absent. I should probably wax verbose on the subject of blog “vision”. Maybe I should care about branding or making this little corner of the internet look less like shit. Maybe I should tell you that this site is UNDER CONSTRUCTION & will shortly be streamlined & professional – all the punk-kid shined off & looking semi-respectable. Maybe someday all my blouses will get hung again after that one bedbug outbreak & maybe someday that little ring of grime around the faucet I can’t quite get to will miraculously disappear.
Maybe someday! *insert cheery shrug*
TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY.
Today, I’m just going to write like we are the oldest & dearest of friends, because I have a little story to share. I made almond icing for these scones in the oven, and boy, I’ve never made anything this fancy so you’d better get it while you can. Pull up a mug of cream tea. I have an announcement.
Today, after 10 months of bathroom-floor tears & planted roots of bitterness & playing the outsider, today I told myself: I FIT.
I choose to fit. I choose a community that is broken & shabby & kind of looks like grandma’s quilt after 30 yrs & moths.
Truth is, by most accounts, I kinda don’t – or so I’ve always believed. “You’re a missionary kid,” the voice that sounded sorta like me would say disdainfully. “You’ll never meet anyone’s expectations. You’re just a punk kid with weird lipstick who loves foreign alphabets and calligraphy and solving Agatha Christie novels and you don’t even look like a good minister’s kid with those sunset-colored PICTURES on your arms! Who would want you?”
(Turns out that voice wasn’t me after all.)
I sat across from my pastor’s wife, a woman in whom I had seen a fierceness, a twinkle, strength & wisdom & humor gathering pooled behind her eyes. She was a deep well. I could tell. She’s a pastor and a therapist, a mama and a leader, and I asked her to meet me so she could tell me I was OKAY. That I fit. I wanted validation, see. I wanted recognition. I wanted her to pat me on the back & say, “Well done.” I wanted her to be the Spirit.
Then, the strangest thing happened.
Turns out – the SPIRIT was inside ME.
& I heard, in my heart’s ear, the whispered truth about my self & how I mattered & without knowing what she thought of me really, I told her I fit anyway. I spoke it into existence.
AND IT WAS THERE, SUDDENLY, IT WAS THERE. IT WAS REAL.
I FIT BECAUSE I SAID SO.
& then, just like that, we were in the thick of it, talking about our dreams for God’s strange, beautiful women in our little city. We are a ragamuffin lot, we are, failed artists & aspiring singers & single moms & boy, do a lot of us have purple hair. A lot of us left other places because we didn’t fit those places & we are all HERE, NOW, not-fitting together. Most of us have probably heard a voice that sounds much like ourselves tell us that we don’t belong where we came from & it had sent us like aimless, doubting Hagars to search for a hometown & answers from heaven.
She told me that the Spirit had given her a dream – a dream about women – and my breath caught. She’d had an inkling of equipping the women of our little body with PERSONHOOD – dismantling the power differentials that kept us from preaching & standing tall & forging ahead with our respective visions. In her dream, that strength & purpose had gone forth through the city, passed on from sister to sister until it spread far outside our four old brick walls & took root in the hearts of this city.
She said, “That’s kinda my thing.” & I said, “That’s MY thing!” & together we soaked in that joyful, pregnant silence just a minute.
The conversation turned to books, & she said, “Have you read N.T. Wright?!” & I said, “Have you read Jesus Feminist?!” & she took down a little note to herself that out there in the world was a lady named Sarah Bes – no, two S’s – ey who thought that being a Jesus feminist was a real thing.
She hadn’t had the words for it, you know?
She didn’t have the language.
But she had the Spirit, & the Spirit had spoken anyway.
It was then, I think, that my little abstract dreams of feminism in the way of Christ took flesh & blood.
They had a name.
They were April.
It’s taken a long time for my dreams & theories about feminism in the way of Christ to take any sort of tangible form. Praxis is not my strong suit. Tonight was a tiptoe in the right direction, though, and in the name of the Spirit who speaks to us even when we don’t know all the fancy words & in the name of Ruth, who declared Naomi her home & Boaz her kinsman-redeemer I say, with all the clarion tones my timid voice can muster,
I say to you
& you & you & you –
I FIT, & so do you.
It was the kind of summer day that threatens to melt you into its scorched grass and heavy, humid air. I filled my Kool-aid bottle for the five-hundredth time that morning and languidly pulled myself up out of my lawn chair to go wander the campgrounds in search of God-knew-exactly-what. My go-to wander that summer at Cornerstone Festival 2012 was a little stage nestled right behind a long snaking line of bright blue porter johns, constructed rather haphazardly and shielded from the unforgiving Illinois sun by little more than a tarp or two.
It was called ‘Arkansas’, and I spent every afternoon sitting criss-cross in the back left corner, trying to seem inconspicuous and drinking in the languid, folky melodies of acoustic guitar players and hymn singers. Every artist who found their way onstage was a new discovery; a treasure to store up in my repertoire of all sounds bright and beautiful.
And then, suddenly –
like a train wreck,
like being born,
like fireworks and electrocution and every rude awakening –
I met the blues.
He looked like a lost son of the ‘70s – hair and beard almost to his knees, tied back out of his face with a faded bandana, cut-off t-shirt and an old steel guitar. “I hear death knocking at my door,” he sang,
and his voice quivered a little,
as if perhaps he really had.
Conjuring up phantoms of deep deltas past, he led his mesmerized listeners through old spirituals and scriptures, walking us through the simple truths of the Gospel and accosting us with the bold-faced prayers of a man whose soul seemed to wander up from the stage and into a fellowship with the divine that was almost uncomfortable to watch unfold.
I felt suddenly that maybe my soul had never quite had its fill;
that perhaps here was a man who knew how to truly commune with the God of history and tragedy and the grief of longing for redemption.
Here was a man who could sit in it,
soak in it,
drink in his own sadness and desperation while offering it back up to the only one who could truly bear the weight of his burdened longing.
“When the saints go marching in, dear Lord, I wanna be in that number,” he pleaded.
“Don’t let me go down to the grave.”
My soul echoed his words, screaming them at the heavens from the back left corner of the rickety old stage that now felt like home.
I never was quite the same.
This January, I am joining this man & his band in their mission.
I have the opportunity to help launch Sean Michel Partners from Nashville, Tennessee,
a movement based on the belief that music is mission –
that souls the world over will hear the blues when our hearts will not hear sermons.
We’ve heard enough talk.
But the Gospel and God’s mercy are new every morning,
and our methods in sharing them ought to be as broad and inventive as the One who first gave us our imaginations.
Please come with me.
If you cannot pack up a bag and fit in the back of an old rusty Toyota Corolla with me, then join in the vision with me from wherever you are.
Let’s get coffee and dream about the Kingdom coming.
If you can financially support me – 5, 10 or 20 bucks a month – well, please & thank you!
Lift me and Sean and the band and the hearts of listeners who haven’t learned how to sing the blues yet up to our Father,
who hears us and grieves with us and alone can soften our calloused hearts & make us sing.
Thank you, finally, for being my community.
I hope to keep dreaming and striving with you for all redemptive motion and heavy summer days and every aching,