Thursday, November 29, 2012

beautiful


"For beautiful eyes,
look for the good in others;
for beautiful lips,
speak only words of kindness;
and for poise,
walk with the knowledge that 
you are never alone."

-Audrey Hepburn 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Life is Art


"I think everything in life is art.
What you do.
How you dress.
The way you love someone,
and how you talk.
Your smile and your personality.
What you believe in,
and all your dreams.
The way you drink your tea.
How you decorate your home or party.
Your grocery list.
The food you make.
How your writing looks.
And the way you feel.

Life is art."

-author unknown

[Also, broiled grapefruit is nice for brunch.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

about coffee...


“Coffee is far more than a beverage. It is an invitation to life, disguised as a cup of warm liquid. It’s a trumpet wake-up call or a gentle rousing hand on your shoulder…Coffee is an experience, an offer, a rite of passage, a good excuse to get together.”
-Nicole Johnson, Fresh Brewed Life


Monday, November 5, 2012

Brent + Emily


This is the day Brent lost a bet. 
A bet made with his co-workers that he would still be single at age 25. 

This is the day he told about his loss and grinned without apology.
"I met Emily and I fell hard."

This is also the day he won a bride
Because he had already won Emily's love.


See a few more shots of Brent and Emily's celebration here...





Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Strength of Character


“It requires great strength of character for a woman to be gentle in an age that screams for her to do otherwise.” -unknown


(Thanks to my friend Shaunda and her little Christopher for being the subjects of this snapshot.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Equal or Alike? On Interacting and Respect

Thanks in part to a book I keep re-reading and in other part to some experiences I've had lately, another blog post on femininity has been rolling around in my head, gathering mass. Like a snowball. But I don't have anything earth-shatteringly new to say... and I feel like I've already said more than I possibly SHOULD, being a bit on the youngish side and not having even a few grey hairs with which to validate my words of wisdom. Besides, talking is helpful, but mostly living is what changes things.

But the snowball hasn't melted, and a blog post Donald Miller posted this morning served as catalyst. So I'm writing this. Obvious, I know. 

Don asked in the blog post, 

"Do women want to be treated like men or do women want to be treated equally? (And make no mistake, the question is important.)"

The question is important. And it's one that should engender (yes, lame pun... sorry...) frank, respectful discussion. This is my only intent, I hope you know.

From my perspective, the answer is nuanced: it depends. Mostly equal. But it depends.



1) It depends upon who you are. What sort of relationship you have with me.

My friend Bekah observed, after traveling with my dad and I, "You're different when you're with your dad." She said I'm more traditionally "girlie". Instead of immediately jumping out to pump gas and check oil, I let him. Other things, too. She said she'd never seen that side of me. I was intrigued. What makes that change? I think it's because of my dad's and my relationship. He's my DAD. So I belong to him. Not in a chattel, women-are-possessions sort of way, but an eye-to-eye belonging that goes both ways. A belonging in relationship. Whether because he's a man or because he's Enos, the impulse to provide and do and care is embedded into every aspect of his personality and life. I know that he loves to "take care of me" when he has the chance. Consequently, I love when he does. Why would I deny him something that gives him inherent satisfaction? Also, and this is absolutely key: I trust my dad. Deeply. My dad is not the sort of dad a friend of a friend of mine has: her dad tells his (single) 30-year-old daughter what job she should work and what church she should attend because of some sort of belief that she can't make her own decisions because she is female. If my dad was like that, I think his insistence on doing unnecessary, very nice things for me would feel overbearing and suffocating. My dad is not like that. He rarely offers unsolicited advice, and, when solicited, he gives me his perspective and then tells me that I'm capable of making good decisions for myself and that he trusts me to make them. Because of the closeness of our relationship and the trust he's earned from me, I will feel loved and valued by some of the exact actions that make me feel like driving a semi in heels just to prove a point to another man.

For instance, I had a colleague who treated me like someone who needed special consideration because I'm a woman. His attitude and actions didn't make me feel valued at all. They made me angry. It felt like he couldn't imagine I would have anything to offer because of my gender. It felt condescending. It felt as though he was assuming possession of me somehow, assuming an intimacy we did not have, and assuming power and control over me simply because he is male. It felt awful. It felt so awful and made me so mad that (after two weeks, because confrontation isn't exactly my forte) I told him I didn't feel respected by him. That conversation, combined with a work situation he handled in my absence, brought about another conversation. One in which he told me that he needs my help and told me I'm just as effective in my field as he is, despite (and because of) my doing things a bit differently. We became a team. And I loved working with him.

So. For those of you guys who are reading this and want to know how much chivalry to show, good luck. I'm not being flippant. Because what makes a woman feel respected might fall anywhere on the wide spectrum of social and cultural factors and situations. So much of respect is person- and situation-specific. But here's the best guide I can give you: it seems to be a sort of equation in which the level of  relationship/loyalty/trust you share with her is directly proportional to the amount of gender-specific doting she'll appreciate from you. If she starts doing anything that resembles driving semis in heels, re-evaluate your approach.

And, while most of us women genuinely want to have mutually respectful, beneficial relationships with you guys, some of us, whether due to some sort of hurt or some sort of (ugly) power surge we might feel at stomping all over your well-intentioned offerings of friendship, will do just that. I'm sorry.



2) It depends upon your practical application of "equal".

As Dorothy Sayers emphasizes, this whole gender thing has seen far too much over-generalization. Sure... in general... men tend to think more logically and women tend to be more emotionally intuitive, but I can think of five married couples right now that are comprised of  a "heart" man and a "brain" woman. It's true that... in general... men tend to be better mechanics than women, but I have a good friend who is in all respects a "traditional" woman... killer cook, cuddles kids, very sensitive to other's feelings... only she fixes cars, too. I'm rather in awe. I'm serious. She takes things apart and installs cool things like brake pads and stuff. A guy friend of mine lifts weights and is a talented carpenter... and cook. Better than I am. True story.

So, if your personal application of "equal" means that you are nice enough to me to not make fun of the things I do that can't be completely squeezed into the generalized womanly role... but you act as though I am not capable of anything outside that generalization, then please. Treat me like a man. Don't hold doors for me, don't buy me coffee. Personally, I really enjoy both gestures. But if you can't hold both a door and a discussion about politics (or anything outside whatever women are expected to talk about)... I'll get the door myself.

Mad apologies to anyone who feels yelled at by what I'm about to say next. I really and truly hope you don't take this personally, but I do want us to take this to heart. To respect each other and remedy the ways we hurt each other. Not only as males and females, but as human beings who misunderstand and injure each other a lot more often than we'd like. I've seen a lot of people... both men and women... devastated and confused by advice given by well-meaning people concerning who they should be and what they should do as a man or a woman.

To be perfectly candid, some of the most hurtful experiences I've had of this sort have come from other women. Women who thought that my participating in discussing theology, politics, restorative justice, and the like were strange ploys to gain male attention. When confronted, I was devastated. Is that how it looked? Um, yuck! Because nothing was further from my mind.  I was genuinely interested in the discussion itself. When I stammered out my lack of intention, I was told that I couldn't really know my own mind or intentions because women are inherently unpredictable, almost exclusively emotional creatures and could not be trusted to know their own intentions. It took me a few years to recover from that. It undermined the very basis of what it is to be me. And sometimes I still feel a small sort of panic after I've been asked to speak to an audience including men. That's how deep it cut, despite my being told by the people who know me best that I should disregard the advice. Whose fault is it, then, that girls often tell me that they wanted to participate in those very discussions... but didn't... because they didn't feel their input was wanted or even valid? Is it men's condescending or women's failure to celebrate each other's individuality?

I don't know. Like everything else seems to be, I'm guessing the ways we've been misunderstood are unique to our person. I'm also guessing that, until we are completely redeemed, we will unintentionally misunderstand and hurt each other... gender to gender and person to person. But if conversation equips us to better follow the example of a Man who did scandalous things like sit on wells and talk alone to women about such grand and weighty things as the Kingdom of God... then let's brave conversation.

If we navigate the minefields of this conversation with this focus, maybe there will be redemption between the minefields for us all:

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." -Jesus (Matthew 7:12 NASB)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Morning Inspiration


"Good is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through Him who loved us."

-a prayer of Desmond Tutu


(I shot this picture at the beautiful convent that witnessed The Taking of Anthony and Jess's wedding pictures on Saturday. I felt like I was in Rivendell.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Baby Detweiler


This whole thing of my best friends becoming parents... 
It's a bit dizzying. 
Somewhat breathtaking.
Completely amazing. 

Especially when you have years of shared history and got to witness first-hand the whole falling-in-love that transpired before the phone call that said, "Becca! I make babies; what's your superpower?" 

You can see a few more shots of Art, Lisa, and baby Detweiler if you click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Slow Learner

When I started working in the human services field, I remember making a determination: the day I watch a kid cry and don't cry with them, that's the day I quit.

If I am numb and cynical, I am incapable of love. And love heals. Cynical distance can further wound. In all my feeble efforts, I want to love. More than anything.

But what I want and what I do aren't always identical twins. Sometimes they don't even look like siblings.

Rob Bell says that Jesus calls us to relinquish the things that keep us from his Kingdom, that He tirelessly works to prepare us to handle the perfection of a world that turns the right way.

Jesus called the rich man to generosity and sacrifice.
The stone-throwing Pharisees to empty hands and humbled hearts.
The soldiers from violence.
The woman at the well from serial relationships to a satisfying Love.

If I've been listening at all over the past year or two, Jesus insists that I give up my awesome, black-belt-level self-protection skills. Unlike karate black-belt, my relationship black-belt skill is disengagement. If hurt or misunderstood, I move to a safe distance faster than a speeding bullet. And initially, I give enough of myself to think I'm making a difference... loving... until my wariness is eased. All these self-defense maneuvers keep me checking my surroundings and watching my space and I end up thinking more about myself and whether things are going to turn out safely for me than I do about the other person. Love, by nature, requires a decreased self-consciousness... a focus on the good of the other.

All the seemingly arbitrary pieces of losses, gifts, fears, and hopes of late interlocked recently... and I realize...

It's for my own redemption as well as for others' that God blesses me with tears.

****


"May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.
And may the blessing of God, Who creates, redeems, and sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day and forevermore." 
-Franciscan blessing



Monday, September 24, 2012

I have an art store!

It's true. Really and truly true. My art is for sale online! Check it out, if you like, at beccayoderart.com.

Marketing my own stuff is a rather new thing for me, and still doesn't feel natural. I suppose I'll get used to it, but I don't plan on posting "business" stuff on this blog (after this)... except I will include a link to my site to the right. Or, if you want to keep tabs on my art site, you can like Becca Yoder Art on facebook or follow the art blog.

Kudos to Ryan Zook of Zook Computer for taking my ideas and making them into a website! I really couldn't recommend him enough.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Case for Sabbaths

I was on vacation with a group of friends who have had the best adventures together since we were fifteen years old. Let's just say there are few inhibitions among us. At some point during the evening, I fell asleep. I do remember finding it impossible to stay awake. For the rest, I had to rely on their confessions and my sore muscles. Apparently the night was still young and I had made a mumbled promise to rejoin the fun after "sleeping half an hour". They, being the great friends they are, decided to take me at my word when a much longer time had passed and I remained comatose. I'm told they pulled me out of the bed, and I hit the floor without stirring. Or reacting to their varied and imaginative waking techniques. (I am just grateful no one filmed it. They still laugh too hard at the memory to tell me everything that transpired.) Um. Yeah. That probably isn't normal. Neither the unresponsive state or my friends. (Hey, guys. You know I love you.)

I have this problem. I confuse physical and emotional energy. If I would enjoy doing something, I say "of COURSE I'll do it!" and assume I'll have time and physical energy. And I enjoy a great many things and adore doing things for people and have far too many interests. So I throw myself at them all simultaneously. And I knock myself out sometimes. Literally.

Partly through sheer necessity and partly through other people's examples and encouragement, I think I might be starting to learn a few things.

We human creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made though we are, are not invincible.

We need rest. Hard work gives us the honorable pride of working with God in ordering and blessing His world. But we aren't valued according to our output. We aren't machines. Work is an invitation to dignity and fulfillment, not a struggle for worth and value.



Knowing your limitations and saying "no" or asking for help is a sign of maturity. That's what my friend Carla said. I think it's also a sign of humility. Because admitting I have limitations is brutally hard on my pride. (I am a Yoder. I pretend I'm invincible. It's what we do.) 

It is possible to say "no". Hard. But possible. I was talking to my dad about all this and concluded, "I think I need to learn how to say 'no'." His immediate reply? "It starts with a 'n' sound, and then a long 'ooooooh'." Yes. Noted. And I thought of this explication the following day and actually utilized it. 

Interdependence fosters community. When I rush around, trying to do everything myself, insisting on procuring my own resources, I deprive myself of precious connection with other people. 

God integrated times of Sabbath from the dawn of the world because He knows us and wants us to thrive. Because I work the majority of weekends, I have a tendency to forget to fully rest. I'm fortunate to still be able to attend church most Sundays, even if I work, which is refreshing and invigorating... but when my days off roll around, it's the middle of the week and I'm in get-stuff-done mode... and after a while I start to feel depleted and realize I haven't taken a whole day of Sabbath for a long time. I've been grabbing snatches of solitude by eating a meal on a tree stump between projects and talking to God while I'm driving and reading Scripture while I'm at work while I drink my coffee in the wee quiet moments before I wake my girls. All of that is meaningful and adds life and magic to the day, but never taking an entire day to relax and just be with God makes me start to feel (to quote the venerable Bilbo Baggins) "Thin... sort of... stretched. Like butter, scraped over too much bread." 

I need to change, and I think I've made a start.

Hopefully someday soon I'll be able to wake and defend myself against my friends. 

Jethro + Mary

Back in June, a Very Fun Day happened.


Jethro and Mary love each other, so they promised forever.


And celebrated with flowers...


...and siblings and friends...


(who were sometimes a bit scandalized by all the celebration)


...but everyone was actually really happy about it all,
and helped them ride off


...into a whole new life.


I've posted more pictures on my facebook page for you to view, if you so desire. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In Which I Discover My Place

We left the sand, Sharon and I. Through the rippling greys and out to stand waist-deep where the water glowed with pink and coral on the tips of its wrinkles to fall lavender in its folds. Silent in awe, just breathing, suspended between sky and reflected sky. Enveloped in brilliance. Small and securely lost in immensity.

The beauty built until I had to open my mouth to ease the aching and we began to sing. Cupping handfuls of water, we threw them in exultation to the sky. Each droplet hung in the air for long seconds, each reflecting so it seemed full itself of sky... diamonds and stars falling back to their whole.

Weight that had accumulated from two years of daily trying to ease suffering and fill holes of neglect flew from my hands with the droplets. And nothing feels sacred now that these griefs have ripped into the inner circle of my world. The actuality that my love cannot protect my dad from heartbreak, my sisters from trauma, my friends from date rape and death has repeatedly glared closer than my reflection this past year. Realizing that loving and picking up the pieces is no prevention or magic wand has worn thin places of guilt. All that rose from murky depths to the surface. And I flung it into the air to watch it sparkle and fall.

Worship is a celebration of God's vastness. A letting in of His intimacy. An emptying and a filling.

I can't be enough, and I despise that fact. But I am eventually crushed if I walk under a load that isn't mine to bear. I wasn't meant to be enough, only a drop in the sea of God's presence with us.

He has been and is constantly enough for me. So I threw to Him the responsibility to be enough for them.

I stand in worship, and I keep filling and emptying my hands. Only a drop in the sea that washes jagged brokenness smooth into sea glass treasure.

I was meant for this.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Don't Understand

I don't understand

Why people are prejudiced
Why adults fight
Why people must die
Why we do things we'll soon regret

What I do understand is
Writing is knowledge
Reading is influence
My brain is smart


-written by "Allie" (nickname), age 14

* * * *

This girl's strength, wisdom, and self-respect... after knowing abuse, neglect, and homelessness... amazes and inspires me. She gave me her notebook to read, and I asked her permission to share this one.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A World Cleared

These days are warm and golden and mostly idyllic. And then I got to work and Monica asked, "Did you hear about Jesse?"

"Jesse Anderson?" Oh, did he land another big art show? Or the children's book he wrote get noticed by a publisher for the genius that it is?

"Yeah. Um. He's dead."

And she went home and I sat at work, just mostly staring at nothing. Nothing. Nothing really prepares you for the suicide of a friend. I've made peace with deaths and broken relationships and even forgave the guy who raped my close friend. I thought I had a good handle on how to reconcile with suffering and the crazy, vulnerable God who gifts us with Choice... to heal or crush, love and serve or usurp and plunder.

No one to forgive, no one with any answers. Only his absence from a world I can't see beyond.

It's one thing to write about suffering that disturbs you when it's halfway around the world or in the house next door. It's quite another when grief has crashed into your own heart and you need to talk but can't stop crying long enough to make any sense. And what is there to say?

Thank God for a dad who doesn't need you to make sense, that just blurting facts and sobbing helps because now he KNOWS and he's going to carry it with you. Thank God for Carla, who sits on my porch steps with me and prays what I can't formulate: "God, have mercy on your world. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on Jesse." Thank God for friends who call to tell me I'm loved and text late at night when I'm back at work and keep thinking I see Jesse stomping in with his greatcoat flapping behind him, red hair wild, and I keep trying to force my mind around the fact that he's gone. For fun cousins who drive all day to spend a few hours of laughter, sun, water, sand, and the simple treasure of presence. And for friends who listen to Jesse stories and tell me to listen to music that speaks my language and reminds me that hope is not a stranger to lament, but her friend who points to the misty dawn and to flowers rooting in asphalt fissures.

The loss of a good friend and the care of so many others. Because of you all, I see things differently. Better. Like a world cleared and brought into focus with a new pair of glasses when you hadn't realized it had gone a little blurry.

Each person you know is irreplaceable. Each one God's magnum opus. See them for what they are: masterpieces. Marvel at the magnificence of their hands, their laughing eyes, their little kindnesses and all the infuriating and comical idiosyncrasies that comprise their whole.

Cherish and enjoy your people. Tell them. Show them.

Then maybe you won't have years to wonder if the text you thought of sending... then didn't... would have made a difference two days later.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Preceeded the Coffee Break

All I wanted was a coffee break, and this is how the phone was answered:

"Hey, crazy."

I should have anticipated this. Mark is the bizarre, friendly clown in our shift's daily circus.
But I hadn't anticipated. So I wasn't armed with any sort of witticism, and all I could hurl back was a "WHO is the crazy one?"

(In monotone): "You are."

"No, Mark. That's called 'projection'."

"No, Becca. I'm not projecting." Still the patient monotone.

"So you're subconsciously projecting?"

Long pause.
"You know, Hitler was a VERY BAD MAN."

"Yay! Godwin'd. Now may I have a coffee break?"

Strange humor we have around these parts. This is a mild sample, but it's a rather monumental sample. For once... alright, for the FIRST time... Mark's was the long silence. Not mine. So I documented it, in the likely event that it won't happen again.

Celebrate your life and your people this week. Cram in lots of laughter.

(Even if you're more often the one laughing at wittier people's jokes.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

My Resignation

At the risk of inciting controversy, I just want to say this aloud:

I'm resigning from culture wars.

I want to put more focus on how well I love than how right I am.

I'm sorry to the point of tears that Christianity too often looks at a person and sees a race, a political affiliation, a sexual orientation, a socioeconomic status, an addiction, a psychological profile, or a convict rather than a person.

I'm sorry that we scorn.

I'm sorry that we feel cleaner and more justified in comparison.

I'm sorry we don't see a person like ourselves: a person with a story. A person who has hurt and been hurt. A person who laughs and cries and bleeds the same color as the rest of us.

I say this, not to be more politically correct or to be more approachable or just a nicer person, but because the minute I take up a picket sign or suddenly loudly support fast food to try to score one in the culture war... I place myself in opposition to people I am called to love. In that position, I appear as though I care more about being right and trying to make everyone else act right than I do about actual people. I'm pretty uncomfortable with that.

Because I have no stones to throw.

When Jesus stands in the center of our circle of opposition and yelling and says that lust makes me just as culpable as immorality and hatred equal to a murderer, all he leaves me is the sound of stones plopping in clouds of dust from my hands to the dirt and a confession:

"Me too."

*****

"So, then, the gist of the Gospel is this:

No man is so high or may rise so high
that he need not fear becoming the lowliest.

Conversely, no one has fallen, or may fall,
so deeply as to preclude all hope of becoming the highest.

By saying: 'The first shall be last'
Christ takes all presumption away from you and forbids you
to exalt yourself above any prostitute,
even though you were Abraham, David, Peter, or Paul.

By saying: 'The last shall be first' He guards you
against all despair and forbids you to cast yourself
under the feet of any saint, even though
you were Pilate, Herod, Sodom and Gomorrah."

-Martin Luther

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dirty Hands

The news this morning was a fist in the gut. I stared aghast at the screen, my mind doing those little spasms of unreality. The amount of suffering contained in just one of many news reports just blew right past my level of comprehension.

The families of the victims, and all who knew them. The survivors. The family of the shooter. So much trauma that will take a lifetime of years to heal. The shooter himself. What broke him to this point of insane hopelessness? No healthy person wakes up one morning and decides to plot a massacre.

I wonder if God ever regrets His vulnerable, loving choice to entrust us with free will? Most of the time, I understand His wanting friends and co-collaborators instead of puppets. But when human will goes rabid and we hate and destroy each other, I can't help but wonder if I'd rather live under a dictator than a Father.

I confess, sometimes I am angry at Him. As if this messy, hurting world is His doing instead of ours. But it is our doing, Lord have mercy.

And even the space of one day is crammed with breath-taking proof of this consoling truth:

God has not abandoned us in the mess we've made. His presence is still here. With us. On this planet. Walking the streets and fields of our neighborhoods. His hands are still at work.


While I was still wondering why God lets us choose to hurt each other, I was telling one of my teens how proud I was of her. Her determination to inflict as much pain as she has received is gone. She stands proudly, bright face and clear eyes. Her pride in her new determination to make choices that respect both herself and the people around her is vibrant and evident. 


During a training session on mental health diagnoses, one of my favorite co-workers told his story of grief, loss, and teen years in lock-up. He's overcome behavior disorders, dyslexia, and lack of parental support to become one of the kindest, safest people I know. 


A phone call from a friend left me in awe and worship. Prayers for change and wholeness in the lives of people I love are years in the answering, but here they are. 



Maybe I can't understand why God doesn't intercept human will when it wreaks swathes of horror, but I know this: He is still at work, calling us into relationship with Himself and with each other. Relationships that shape our wills into our greatest empowerment for wholeness. 


There aren't quick fixes and easy answers for suffering. There simply are not. But there is a God of patience, dirty hands, re-shaped lives, and a sort of wholeness that is a beautiful offering to others. 


God is still at work. And we get to choose to help Him. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Bloom


“To love at all is to be vulnerable. 
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. 

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, 
not even to an animal. 
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; 
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. 

But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. 
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

-C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Bigger Truth


It's true. 
Earth groans with the weight
Of horrifying twistedness.

But, already, 
The untwisting redemption
Has sprouted and grown. 

Even the darkest dark
Burnishes the brilliance
Of all else:

The good, the wholesome,
The honest, peaceful,
Safe, and loving. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

mirror, mirror (bulletin board)

Once upon a time, there was a mirror. She was ghastly. So gold and gaudy that whenever light struck her, she projected shadows instead of casting her own. Outdated and shamed, she sat in a thrift store.

Of course you know what happens next in these stories. She was seen, carried, and taken home with great rejoicing. She was given a new coat of paint, which made her frame look like lace. Proudly she hung in a spot all her own on the living room wall.

Until tragedy struck.

A broom, innocently set against the wall by the person who had cared for her, slid down the wall. It all happened so fast. She tried to hold onto her anchoring nail, but the fatal blow had been dealt. She crashed to the hard, cruel floor.

Her heart was broken.

So was her face.


She remembered no more. 

Only a few pictures impressed themselves on her delirium. Vaguely, she felt pulled and poked. 


(Narrator's note: the surgeon was too lazy to cut two pieces of cork to fit the entire frame, so she bandaged the gaping wound with lace.)


(Another narrator's note: Sharon, do you recognize a few things?) :) 


Today, our brave little mirror is not a mirror any more. But she is back in her very own spot on the living room wall, happier than ever. Her new life has just begun. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

dance of daughters

Over a latte and an espresso macchiato, she and I, respectively, painted with words the dance we try to learn. Femininity, role, gender, equality, dream, freedom, responsibility... God. All that and me. And her. The steps we learn, the toes we step on, the embarrassments we make, the slippers we lose, the twirls in which we exult.

Sometimes silence is most wise, but sometimes it is only easy comatose. That is no conclusion, but perhaps it will guide the dance.

"Cultures in which women have not found their voice, or are silenced, are scary places. They do not produce good men." That's what my dad says.

Maybe, when we are old, the lines in our faces will sketch the pattern of a woman shaped in the likeness of her God. Yes. That's why we engage this push and give, this question and peace.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

closer

Aspirations. My head has always been full of them, my heart running about five steps ahead in about six different directions. And God has been generous, so very generous in the helpings of opportunity He serves me.  I've done more in my short quarter-century than I ever imagined. 

And I like to think I know where and to what He will take me next. 

But this has been a changing sort of year. It feels like God is shoving things around, rearranging the furniture of my heart... until I'm not sure who lives here any more. Or what dreams fit into the revealed corners. 

It's a little disconcerting. 

Simultaneously, more opportunities present themselves than ever before. It's hard to choose between them when I really don't know what I want. Maybe the problem is that I want to do everything.

I hugged the questions to myself in the darkness of the plane. The moon, round and full, bounced off the wing outside my window until we banked. I looked up, then down, suspended between the fullness of the moon and all the lights of Memphis in rows like jewels on velvet. 

In the silent moment of catching my breath, the questions ebbed. In flowed slowly, like a tide, the music. 

"Nearer, my God, to thee
Nearer to thee!"

And into my memory dropped my dad's voice. He had been talking about his life, and how it's turning out so vastly different than he'd dreamed. After the uncertainty and pain, the forceful rebirth into what he never thought, his rest declared this triumph: "I'm forty-eight and closer to God than I've ever been." 

I still don't know quite what to do next, but I know what I want. Most of all. Anything that brings me closer. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Jazz", a painting


This painting has been a long time in formation. The drummer is inspired by photo I shot in New Orleans a few years ago. For the record, all the things you've heard about New Orleans are true. Have you heard that people dance in the streets to jazz all day? And that everywhere wrought iron drips like lace? Yup, truth. Culture, cuisine, history, art, and music. New Orleans has it all. I admit, I fell in love a little. With the city, and with jazz. 

Jazz. I like it. And sometimes I hate it. It's so restless. So aching. Even the lively songs with bright notes and lots brass have this urgent, almost contradictory feel. And then there are the bluesy, sobbing ones that bring your soul all choking into your throat. 

Jazz, and other types of music that have a lot of aching and dissonance, teach me a lot. I love the parts of a song that are chilling and awful. There is a rare beauty there. But I kind of hold my breath and want the music to speed along to the end, or the next note, where there is resolution and the beauty is a little less wild. More safe. 

I live that way sometimes, too. Holding my breath and not enjoying the beauty of dissonance. Of conflicting emotion. Of questions that can't be answered now. Of un-redeemed brokenness. 

I want to breathe in those chords. 

In this painting, I tried to capture what jazz... and melancholy, bluesy music in general... makes me feel. A conflicting jumble of aching and reveling. And I wanted to celebrate the unresolved. The dissonant. In the world and in me. Redemption will come. It will be made right. But redemption might not be so breath-taking if the broken is pretended away. 


Here's what I did to try to portray all that: 

Blue and red are conflicting colors. The human eye can't process them both simultaneously. True story. 

The graffiti and more urban style felt fitting because life is simply more raw and honest on street level.

The drummer facing away from the black circle, his back and the circle of his hat juxtaposed against each other, hopefully lent a feeling of conflict to the composition, while the position of the round cymbal (again, hopefully) lends enough direction to the composition to keep it fluid.

Only painting the highlights on the drummer and cymbal, then switching to paining the shadows and black values on his neck and beard are another contrast. 


I really had a lot of fun with this piece. It's a completely new style for me, and it took a while to stop being careful. For the blues in the background, I brushed water on the canvas (like a watercolor wash) and floated the color on top, letting it do what it wanted. The only intentional color blending I did was the edges, for which I added black to darken the blue and kept building it until the edges had a more contained, finished feel. Immediately after brushing the graffiti (because I used acrylic paint, and it dries fast), I sprayed the letters with water and let the color run. I wasn't entirely sure I wanted the cool blue shades breached, but it was totally fascinating to watch. Again, learning not to be so careful. I also had fun letting the paint get a little dry and "globby", using it to add some 3-d texture in the lettering and the drummer's beard. 

So, breathe in the dissonance. And create things. It keeps you alive.


Friday, April 20, 2012

no comeback

My co-worker Mark and I had a lot of filing to do while the kids slept. As in, a stack of paper a few inches thick. After sorting it out with each client's papers in a stack, we proceeded. Almost done, Mark pointed to a stack of paper sitting somewhat aloof and asked, "Is that a person?"

He meant, of course, "Is that a person's pile?" As opposed to, say, duplicate copies to be shredded. Just to be facetious and because he appreciates dry humor, I replied, "No, Mark. It's a stack of paper."

"What makes you sure?"

"It's flat and white."

"My brother-in-law is flat and white."

I couldn't think of a comeback due to gasping with laughter, but he kept on with a perfect monotone:

"It's true. He's so thin and has such a big head that I call him Mr. Earthworm. I don't think he appreciates it as much as I do."

(I laugh so much at work.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In the Resurrection Scheme of Things


[adorable little packages tied up in string sent to me by my amazing friend & cousin, Sharon]

"...let me tell you something wonderful, 
a mystery I'll probably never fully understand. 

We're not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. 
You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, 
and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—
it's over. 
On signal from that trumpet from heaven, 
the dead will be up and out of their graves, 
beyond the reach of death, 
never to die again. 

At the same moment 
and in the same way, 
we'll all be changed. 

In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: 
everything perishable taken off the shelves 
and replaced by the imperishable, 
this mortal 
replaced 
by the immortal. 

Then the saying will come true: 

   'Death swallowed by triumphant Life! 
   Who got the last word, oh, Death? 
   Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now?'



It was sin that made death so frightening 
and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, 
its destructive power. 

But now 
in a single 
victorious 
stroke of Life, 
all three
—sin, guilt, death—
are gone, 
the gift of our Master, 
Jesus Christ. 

Thank God!


With all this going for us, 
my dear, dear friends, 
stand your ground. 

And don't hold back. 

Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, 
confident 
that 
nothing 
you do for him 
is a waste of time 
or effort."

- I Cor. 15:51-58, The Message

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aaaaand we have a winner! (Or so.)

I do apologize for the delay in announcing this, and yet I don't. Because I was with my family for the past few days. I intentionally didn't take my computer because I wanted to get lots of face time with my dad, sisters, bro-in-law, and whatever they call a sister's boyfriend. And blogging is really a pain from a phone.

But... today...

I put all the names those who entered in a hat. Literally.


Because I was looking at all the names and thinking that using a number generator felt really sterile and cold for such wonderful people, and I remembered seeing a blog giveaway done with names written on paper... and it felt much more appropriate somehow.

The problem with drawings is that I can hardly bear to choose one winner. I wish I had unlimited resources. I'd give you each a print. I'd love to. Really.

But I closed my eyes and pulled out a name:


Congrats, Janelle! It makes me happy to mail the drawing to your far-away self... especially since I got a picture of your darling lil' daughter in MY mailbox yesterday. 

Then, because all the names still in the hat looked so forlorn, I pulled another one.


Anita, my dear friend, I'm thrilled to be sending "Greater Love" to Poland! 

Thank you to all of you who entered! I loved hearing from you all... both familiar and new friends. You ALL win at being awesome. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

a gift for Good Friday

Her normally quiet self was doubled in half, wrenched with grief. Her lungs wrung out ragged wails, and her tears bounced off the carpet. "My brother is dead! Why did they take him?" Her anguish was raw and tearing. It consumed her until I thought she would fall.

I pulled her into a chair and held her close. Helpless. What do you tell a sixteen-year-old girl whose brother was shot in the street, six times to the head? What sense do you make of violence what takes a seventeen-year-old boy because his friend is in a rival gang? What is left to offer? Only tears, an arm around her shoulders, and hands stroking her hair. And prayer.

But what prayer? What can you ask when a heart is broken beyond recognition? Mine was only a giant heart-sob. And in return, I heard Him:

"I am here. And I know."

When she was limp and emptied, I asked if I could pray for her and her family. And, even in my vicarious pain, all that came out was "thank you".

Thank you, Jesus, that You KNOW. You know what it is to cry over a dead friend. You know what it feels like to die. You know what it feels like to be killed. Her brother was not alone in that moment because You have been there already.

Thank you that You are HERE. You cry with us. You died for both the sins committed by us and the sins committed against us. For both, You writhed in pain, and Your blood soaked wood and earth.

Thank You.


It has been several years since I finished this drawing, but creating it remains one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life. It was a kind of sacrament, really. A profound realizing that I had a part in this. And this fierce, conciliatory, crucified Love is mine. And I am His. 

In honor of this Gift, I'd like to make a small one of my own. If you want to be included in a drawing for a print of the "Greater Love" drawing, leave a comment. If you want to let other people know about it, each time you share a link to this post on facebook, twitter, or what-have-ya, you can leave another comment to increase your chances. 

The print is 18"x11", unframed, and black-and-white, as the original was done in graphite and charcoal. The print is an archival-quality, professional copy by my friend Tim Kirk. I'd be glad to mail it worldwide to the winner, so if you connect with the drawing and want a chance to have have it, comment away! I'll randomly draw a winner a week from today.

And make space in your time and heart today to ponder the awful lengths to which God went to prove His love for you. For us all. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

we belong

If you follow the news at all, chances are you're tired of hearing about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Everyone's talking about it. Hey, the incident already has its own Wikipedia entry. Yup, that was the link I gave you. Sorry. And when everyone's reacting and re-reacting and every political agenda out there is trying to use it for their angle, it's easy to develop tinnitus. Underneath the hype, though, there is usually a problem that deserves attention, not a deaf ear.

Here, it is my intent to share the things I think command a long, hard look by us all. I want to honor the memory of Trayvon, help us realize that his shooter is just as human as you and I, and to remind us again that violence does not end when the larger power brings out the biggest gun. Violence ends when two people look each other in the eye and see someone just like them. A person with dreams, with fears, with family. With a life ahead of them that no one has the authority to take. 

First off, I think it's far too convenient for everyone's conscience to demonize Zimmerman and paint him as a racially prejudiced, power-hungry opportunist. I don't know him. Maybe he is. But, because I don't know him, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. We all have errors of judgment and results we regret. If we demonize him, we don't have to face that we often see things as they aren't and do hurtful things.

But I do in no way think it is demonizing to Zimmerman to say he was wrong. I don't care if Trayvon was suspended from school on drug charges. I simply don't care. That is totally irrelevant to the case, as there is no way Zimmerman could have known so. Even if he had, that would have been no reason for him to confront Trayvon for wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. I don't care if Trayvon scuffled with Zimmerman when he was confronted. I wish he hadn't, because he likely further jeopardized his safety. Not only is responding violently to a threat not the way of Jesus, but (like I tell my teens all the time), it's more dangerous. Science proves that the instigator gets an adrenaline rush when he is met with returned threat. This actually makes him stronger and sharpens his fight/flight impulses (sorry about the psychology term). So, while I'm not saying Trayvon was right to engage in the tussle, I can understand why he did. If, in fact, that is what happened. I know a bit of street law, but I know my teens better. And I know that every single one of their reactions to an armed, un-uniformed big dude of a different race's following them and yelling would be this thought: "I'm fighting for my life." Even if Zimmerman didn't go into that situation wanting to kill Trayvon (which, God have mercy, I hope he didn't), I can understand how it happened. But it should not have. Should not. I'm sorry, but, in terms of self-defense, Skittles are no match for a gun. Neither is an Arizona, no matter how delicious.

Trayvon is gone. Horrible. Tragic. But fact. Instead of long focus on who was right and who was wrong, we need to ask "what now"? How do we do justice for Trayvon, his family, his friends? Incarceration or any mistreatment of Zimmerman will not help them heal. It will not bring about a world where teens can walk home without fear of being followed and shot.

Since the can of worms words called "racism" has been opened over this tragedy, I'm diving in. Whether or not it shaped Zimmerman's choice to confront Trayvon, it's not as far from home as I'd like to think. When I was living in the city, an incident happened on my street that still makes me cringe to think about. An argument between neighbors attracted the attention of the police patrol. They arrived, waving guns and yelling. This really didn't help anyone calm down, and my friend walked out to talk to the neighbors and see if he could be of help in restoring peace before things got out of control. He strolled up, hands in pockets. When the police saw him, they lowered their guns, stopped yelling, and very respectfully said, "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm going to have to ask you to step back." My friend felt sick to his stomach when he realized what could have happened and what did. He was white, well-dressed (as he had just returned from Bible study), and the police were white. Why did they treat him differently than our neighbors? If he had been black and walked up with his hands in his pockets, the sad truth is that he probably would have been shot on the spot. His death would have been ruled accidental because the police would have assumed he was armed. Did the (white) police have a conscious hatred of African-Americans and Latinos? I'd like to think not. But what kept my friend safe is this: they identified with him. As a result, they acted sensibly.

Racism's bottom line is a lack of empathy with people different in some way from me. Color, socioeconomic status, lifestyle choice, religion, gender, political preference, size of family, brand of clothes... the list is endless of things that make us look at each other and say, "He is not like me. And I like me better." Instead of viewing diversity as the one of the biggest things that gives color and interest to our lives, we feel completely justified in blocking ourselves off from those who don't look like us. We feel justified (isn't this senseless?) in not having to try to see ourselves and the world from their perspective. This justification is prejudice, and prejudice makes us, thoughtlessly or intentionally, do heartless, senseless things.


Prejudice is ugly, but we all have our little ones. Or not so little. We don't naturally empathize with others, especially if we don't take the time to know them. To understand them. What conscious effort are you taking to push back the boundaries of your understanding? Who can you befriend that broadens the scope of your identifiers? What places can you frequent that help you connect with people you tend to avoid? What books can you read that help you realize your world is much, much bigger than you and... while your culture and your individual have much to offer... you and your culture have a lot to learn from the vast spectrum of diversity in your world?

What can you do to show you identify with others?

I walked to the gas station wearing a hoodie. I didn't wear it as a statement, but thought about all the hoodie-wearing demonstrations for Trayvon Martin as I put it on. And I tweeted something snarky like "I hope I don't get shot." Forgive me, but sometimes I make cynical jokes about things that really disturb me. I passed a guy wearing a hoodie even bigger than my guy's-size-large, could-almost-be-a-dress, epitome-of-comfort hoodie. He was black. I was white. He was a guy. I was a girl. His head had a doo rag. Mine had a veil. But we looked at each other in recognition and smiled.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Keep it Classy"

I say that to my teens a lot. That, and "You aren't trash...", which I say so often that my girls often finish it for me: "... so don't talk trash." They tell me I'm weird and cheesy sometimes, but I hope those phrases and the concepts behind them become embedded in their semi-conscious psyche. I hope they form the way they see themselves and interact with other people.

My biggest reason for pushing my teens to handle themselves with respect is because it works on their behalf. In a culture that says you may punch, swear, yell, and throw things because you're upset, it's hard to explain this in a way that makes sense... but I've seen it played out often enough to know it's true: If you're yelling, you drown out what you have to say. If you're disrespectful, you only prove you aren't mature enough to stay respectful under pressure. Your immaturity discredits what you have to say, and no one feels obligated to listen to you. Whether motivated by vicarious embarrassment or glee over another's spectacle, other people's response to you is not dissimilar to shoppers' reaction to a two-year-old having a meltdown in the candy aisle.

And my teens have something to say. They have too much to say in one sitting. Wisdom comes from pain, and my teens have a lot of both. They deserve to be heard because they have a lot to offer. Because, simply, even if what they offer isn't apparent, they are people. And people deserve to be heard. People deserve respect. When God breathed His own breath into the first man He'd made in His own image, He gave each of us a birthright of dignity that demands recognition.

Election year always wears on me. After the first few debates, I don't watch them anymore because they depress me. I love to debate ideas, exercise the logical side of my brain (which sometimes goes on hiatus and I'm extremely abstract and paint a lot), and learn from other people's viewpoints. Conflict in the form of topical debate doesn't stress me out. It invigorates me. But when anyone resorts to personal attacks or the point of the debate becomes winning the argument instead of presenting a viewpoint, I'm out. That just smacks of immaturity to me, or, more darkly, of some ruthless need to dominate another person mentally and emotionally. It feels twisted and wrong. That's why, even though I have a passing interest in economics and a rather vested interest in judicial law, politics and elections depress me. I don't know why we make so sacred a system where success is rated and obtained by belittling and attacking your opponent. The best political jokes and punchlines far too often rely heavily on stereotypes and personal attacks for any would-be content. And I look at the cheering masses and wonder why we think this is so wonderful... and start to analyze why we idolize one person, waving their banner like we expect them to be the answer to all of our problems, and feel completely justified in spewing all manner of verbal garbage at another... and I get depressed about us all. This isn't the way we were meant to treat each other.

And we do have something to say. I personally don't vote because I don't feel the need to be part of a system I can't endorse. I don't want my name signed to the ballot of a person who will wage war in office, among other things I oppose. Many Christians feel strongly otherwise about their level of involvement in government, and I respect that. This is where I stand, based on my understanding of what it means for me to follow Jesus. Huge subject for another day. But I don't think those of us (ahem, Anabaptists and Mennonites, most of us, anyhow) who take this position are cleared of any responsibility to think about pertinent government issues and talk about them from our cultural strengths of nonviolence and community. Those strengths are relevant and needed in our world, and the change they can effect most definitely isn't limited to the voting booth.

Howard Zehr is an Anabaptist and visionary who saw how his understanding of Jesus' teachings on reconciliation could heal the perpetrators and victims who aren't well served by the current model of crime punishment and started the Restorative Justice movement. His model works. I talked to the director of a Restorative Justice organization actively involved in dealing with crime, and his face lit up with pride as he told me that their organization is now receiving compensation from the state of Pennsylvania. The state is realizing how much money one little organization, led by this kind, soft-spoken man, is saving it because the repeat offender rate is almost nothing compared to the 60% repeat offender rate in the judicial system.

Zehr is just one example. My friends, Clair and Anna, do all sorts of cool things: befriending people that are at risk of (or entangled in) a life of crime and helping them live more wholly. Shane Claiborne (since I heard him with my own two ears declare himself a "brother" to the Mennonites), went to Iraq as a petition to the government to refrain from bombing Baghdad. He stood with people in a park, looking up as the sky cried missiles, and heard the outrage of the woman who asked him, "Your God does this?" More recently, he's continuing to feed the homeless in Philly even though it is becoming illegal .

Being put into office doesn't give any human the inerrant handle on solutions. We have solutions to offer, but offering them in a way that is disrespectful of the person in office won't only distract from our offering... It is also wrong for us. Everyone but the speaker always seems to know that raging diatribes become a reflection of the speaker. It looks like hate. It fractures the human in us. It labels as "nothing" the human in our target. The God-image in you and the God-image in others deserves your respect.


This is what I dream for us this election year:

That we have opinions. Well-informed opinions that fuse current events with a constant focus on how Jesus wants us to respond to laws, leaders, and injustice. We have to live with them, and it's important that we know how to relate to them. It's important that we discuss them. Because we live out of the way we view our world and our humans. Having our heads in the sand gives us the worldview of an ostrich, which means we will act like ostriches, which means... Well... yeah, that's all rather awkward.

That we neither idolize nor demonize the candidates for office. They are human, and they are neither the final answer to all that is wrong nor the catalyst for the Apocalypse. Or was that Apocrypha? (Sorry. Old, lame, inside joke.) Either way, real change to real people most often happens in a very daily, very dirty manner. More rarely, and in a more inhibited fashion, in white houses on white paper, signed by white collars.

Be informed of change. Be change. But, with all that lieth within you, keep it classy.