Thursday, May 28, 2015

Closing Time

There are two songs I love with the title, "Closing Time."  The first is the 90s classic by Semisonic.  If you grew up in the late 80s & 90s, you know this song and (hopefully) love it.  If you don't love it, then  I'm not sure we can be friends. (Just kidding. Maybe…).  It's one of those songs that perfectly captures bittersweet moments of ending and transition.  It's the ideal high school graduation song - or college graduation since it says something about whiskey and beer.   The signature quotable line is, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  Sigh. Genius.

The other song with this title is one by Texas artist Sean McConnell.  When Jeff & I lived in Fort Worth, we became big fans (bordering on groupie) of Sean McConnell because we loved his music, and mainly because one of Jeff's childhood buddies was Sean's touring drummer.  I became obsessed with his album, "Saints, Thieves, and Liars" near the time we moved from Fort Worth.  The raw ballads captured so poetically the tearing pieces of my heart as I prepared to leave a place & people I had come to love while also anticipating with excitement the new beginning ahead.  The song on this album, "Closing Time", actually came after my very favorite song on the album.  It's a song about a romantic relationship ending, and so at first I didn't pay much attention to it.  But the melody grew on me and soon I found myself belting it out in the car as a farewell prayer for the life I was leaving.

Closing time.

As May turns to June there are a lot of endings approaching.  The end of Spring.  The end of school.  Graduation season.  Transitions from one place to another.  For us church nerds it is the end of the Easter season.  I think many of us could safely say that the month of May is typically a time of closing, ending, and goodbyes.

I don't have any significant closings in my life this year.  But many people I know are saying goodbye to high school, or college, or seminary.  Many parents I know are hanging on to the slipping thread of final moments in their senior's last year of high school.  Some people I know are preparing to pack up their lives in boxes, say their goodbyes, and move to a new city or state.

Closing time.

Today I wrote in the final page of the journal I have had since December 2012.  This particular journal was the thickest one I have ever owned.  And although I have been writing more regularly in these last few years than I ever have, this is the longest amount of time I have spent in one journal.  There was also a long stretch of time after Abbey was born where I was either too lost in exhaustion or despair to pick up my pen.

It's a weird feeling to write a final entry in a book that has literally been by your side for 2 and a half years.  In one sense it's an ending, but only for me.  It's not like a graduation where you have a whole group of people to commemorate the experience while leaning on one another's shoulders.  In the grand scheme of things, an end to a particular journal is not a big deal - like, at all.  It's not as though I'll stop writing and it doesn't make any difference to anyone else.  But it does to me.  This journal has carried me through a lot.  A lot of new beginnings and a lot of closing times.  It's been there in my continued struggles of call and ministry.  It has been the home for my prayers and most recently, my creative writing exercises.  In the early pages I expressed despair and sorrow for the shooting of children in Newtown, CT in December 2012.  I recorded prayers of hope for Jeff's home congregation when their church building burned down in March of 2013.  My journal holds words of exasperation for the state of our world when racial, sexual, and economic injustices paint the streets of our country and send its people into opposing camps of distrust and hatefulness.

This journal has in its pages the celebration of the birth of my niece Ella in October 2013.  It holds the story of the day my daughter Abbey came into this world on February 19, 2014.  In its pages I have written about the deaths of my grandparents - Nana and Granddaddy - and how their lives have richly touched mine.

Transitions.  Losses.  Gains.  Celebrations.  Frustrations.  Fears.  Questions.  Prayers.  Affirmations.  Searches for truth, and joy, and meaning.

Closing Time.

In this season of endings and beginnings, I hope that I will continue to find God through the act of putting pen to paper and sharing freely the yearnings of my heart, the depths of my questions, and the every day graces of ordinary life.

And I hope that, whatever closing time you are going through, you will find a way to be still before it, bless it, and honor it in a way that only you can.  No matter what our endings may be - whether it's a book, a journal, or a season in life - they are important.  They have meaning and lessons for us.  We just have to pay attention to them.  And then... we have to let them go.  Because, just like the song says:  "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

True love: A girl's struggle with pizza (not a metaphor for life, I don't think….)

I ate pizza one night for supper
That is enough for now, I said.
And then the next day, I ate pizza again.
Really, I groaned, that's enough.  No more.
And wouldn't you know, two nights later
Pizza offered itself to me.

And I said, well,
if you insist.

Well shoot, I've done it again.
I gave in to the temptation.
The cheesiness of its appearance, its scent
too delicious for me to bear.

Why did I cave in and have another slice
Even after I had told it, Enough?
Paying no mind for the way I will feel tomorrow
Or to whom the blame will fall heavily upon
When the guilt of indulgence settles in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I never want to be so sure of myself
that I go through life without stopping
to consider the still, small voice.

I never want to talk so loudly
and so matter-of-factly
that I go through life
unable to hear it sigh and breathe.

I never want to project my truth
onto another
That I go through life
rejecting theirs.

I want to be sure of myself.
I want peace of mind.
But I also want peace of spirit.
And that opens up a whole new world of color.

This kind of peace is tricky, I think.
It requires a certain amount of doubt
And pause...
And wonder...
This kind of peace
remembers the still, small voice….
Is much bigger than mine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Old Are You?

I was thinking this morning about how my 14 1/2 month-old is growing and changing at lightening speed.  How just a few weeks ago I wondered if she was ever going to choose walking over crawling and somewhere within those short days, she did.  From one day to the next she discovered the location of her belly button.  Since most of us don't have a memory of the day we make that discovery - holy cow, it's pretty epic.  One thing I have discovered from having a child is the emphasis we place upon the growth and changes of each month.  The world of social media has even encouraged a custom of publicly sharing the newfound discoveries that babies accomplish as they make their way from one month to the next - especially within the first year.  We silly parents put round stickers on our little ones to mark how many months they are, plop them in a chair or lay them on a blanket and do the most ridiculous things you can imagine in an exhausting attempt to get them to smile.  Then we post our best efforts online for the world to see.  (The smile part gets easier the older they get, thank goodness, because I still haven't gotten back into cardio exercise yet.)

Oftentimes we list alongside their picture the latest "tricks"our little one is doing this month - what s/he likes and dislikes when it comes to food, we calculate how many inches s/he has grown in the last month in order to communicate just how much can and does change in the span of 30 days.

You know, I guess I should back up and also remind myself that this kind of calculating of time and growth for lots of first-time parents (usually the mamas) begins before the baby is born!  I had an app on my phone when I was pregnant that told me which fruit Abbey was every week as she grew inside me.  I will admit that I had never really thought about the size and weight of a rhutabaga until I was in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.  You really do learn something new every day in this life….

Anyway…my point in all of this is to say - when and why do we stop exploring and being amazed with how much we have learned and how much we have grown over time?  Before a baby is born, we are fascinated with weekly changes.  When they enter the world we move the focus to monthly changes.   Then after about 2 years old we stop calculating their age by month and focus on how old they are in years.  At that point we chart their growth on a yearly basis - pencil marks on on their closet door marking their height and grades in school determining their academic and social advances.

And then…we stop.  We stop paying attention to the small, tiny details in the small, tiny increments of growth.  We stop being so fascinated at how much has changed in our lives from one week or one month to the next.  It's a little bit frightening to think….do we assume that we just stop growing?  I mean, physically yes, I haven't gotten an inch taller since the 7th grade, sadly.  But what about internal growth?  Is there an age limit?  Or a month limit?

Why do we let our days, months, and years blend together at a certain point in our lives?  I wonder what would happen if we took the time each month to think about how we have grown and changed and become a happier(?), fuller person.  What if we took the time to intentionally mark our lives not so much in calculated years but in how much we have grown in the days, weeks, and months that made up those years?  Perhaps we would feel younger and lighter.  Perhaps we would realize that we are wise in a way that we never considered.  Or maybe we would discover more areas in need of growth or celebrate a small success that might otherwise be overlooked.

It's a cause for thought, at least.  Can we still be amazed at what we have learned about life and about ourselves even after a certain age?

If we realize that we never do truly stop growing….I wonder how we would change.