Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Epistrepho: A Definition

Transitively to turn to to the worship of the true God
to cause to return, to bring back to the love and obedience of God 
to the love for the children
to love wisdom and righteousness
intransitively to turn to one's self
to turn one's self about,
turn back to return,
turn back,
come back.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent Calendar and Writing

The Advent season starts December 1, and I'm nipping at the bit.  I love this season.

The kids and I made an advent calendar that I stole from Pinterest (gah. one more addiction to battle.) and combined with our Nativity story books.  Each day has a different activity on it for December leading up to Christmas. 

I kept them rather small scale and unambitious because this is such a busy time of year for us, with Brandon working out of town nearly every day through December 20.  I didn't want to become frustrated by the activities, so we're going to do things like watch Polar Express, drive around to see Christmas lights, make hot cocoa, buy Christmas presents, etc. 

Coming up with the activities actually helped me to plan out the holiday season a little bit better than I might otherwise.

In the poetry world, I've been trying to write poems out of the advent wreath with its various meanings and themes.  From various Google searches, I've compiled this info: the first candle is the prophecy candle, primarily Isaiah – represents hope or anticipation of the coming Messiah.  The second candle represents love – Bethlehem candle, representing the manger, John the Baptist.  The third candle, the pink candle, represents joy – Shepherd’s candle, Mary. The fourth candle, purple, represents peace – Angel’s candle, the Magi. And on Christmas Eve, the white candle is lit – the Christ candle, life of Christ – purity.

I have two solid poems out of this project, the first more directly advent-ish than the other, but even if I sway from the prompt, I'm writing poems.  These kinds of projects make me think and help me stretch, so I'm not just waiting for inspiration to strike.  Sometimes inspiration is slow.  Like I'm late to work and trying to get three kids into winter coats and hats and boots but they aren't interested kind of slow.  :)  Amazing how motivated they are to leave the house when it's to play.  So that's what I'm doing for my inspiration - playing in poems.

On another note, my hearing seems to be coming back (hallelujah!), but tomorrow I have an ENT appointment just to see if they can determine what caused the hearing loss in the first place, and what I can do to prevent that from happening again.

This weekend is the Ashland Poetry Workshop.  I am teaching my first workshop.  I'm both excited and terrified.  I have a plan to reduce the terror, though, so there's hope.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling

We are home after visiting with family for the last few days, an always lovely time at Thanksgiving.  I'm grateful for family being so close and being able to spend time with both sides.  And, can you say leftovers?  Yum.  I'm on carb-overload.

I love coming home to a Christmas decorated house.  It's warm, welcoming, cozy, and peaceful.  And sometimes quiet.  This afternoon we watched The Grinch (the unanimated version), played Sorry, and folded laundry.  Now we're watching The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and next on the list is the first Harry Potter - I think the others are all too frightening for these little people.  Maybe next year.  Henry is still napping.  Dinner is marinating.  Brandon is traveling and should be home tonight.  Oh, weekends!  May you never end. 

The coming week is a hectic one, with Brandon working a lot and me working a lot, several evening commitments, and some health issues I'm trying not to worry about.  Since Thanksgiving I haven't been able to hear out of my left ear, a problem I think started on Monday night when I was running with ear buds in.  After I ran for about 30 minutes I got off, and like sometimes happens, I had this hollow crackly sensation in my ears for the rest of the evening.  Normally this happens to me when I run in the cold outside, not while on a treadmill, but it usually fades away after a couple of hours.  This time, the crackling persisted through Tuesday and Wednesday, gradually turning into a fuzzy ringing until Thursday morning, when I woke up totally deaf in my left ear. 

When it didn't go away the rest of the day and continued into Friday morning, I went to the ER in Akron.  There's no sign of infection or blockage, and I still can't hear, though I do have some crackling again instead of just silence, ringing, and static.  I'm taking steroids and Mucinex to try to clear up any unseen blockage or reduce inflammation, whatever might be causing the hearing loss.  I plan to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor this week.

As usual, googling any health issue ultimately leads to cancer.  Every health concern you could imagine has some rare chance of being cancer, I'm convinced.  So I've stopped googling symptoms, except to see about any home remedies for stuff. 

Probably it's nothing but music too loud on my headphones while running, and hopefully it'll just go away.  Any constant off-ness in the body results in relentless thinking about what could be wrong, though.  Worry leads me to worry leads me to worry even more. 

I'm not sure it'll be fine, but I'm sure it'll be fine.  In the meantime, I will play Sorry, watch movies, cook dinner, do laundry, hang out with friends, and wait for my husband to come home as if it doesn't feel like I am wearing earplugs, and rejoice that it is the holidays.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Crazy Jesus Parables and Dead Pigs

Lately I've taken to listening to the audio Bible on YouVersion's Bible app in the mornings as I exercise or as I'm getting ready for work.  I have been out of spiritual practice, so since I'm exercising regularly, I figure coupling my physical exercise with some kind of spiritual exercise is a wise move.

I'm listening to the Gospels right now because it feels like it's been a while since I listened to stories about Jesus or read anything about Jesus.  We're real good at talking about the behaviors expected of Christians and the rules and regulations to live a more Christian life, because that's the stuff we have control over to some degree, and man, we love rules.  But the Gospels are bewilderment, mystery, magic, confusion, frustration, rebellion, storytelling, crazy faith, epic failure.  The epistles are a bunch of friends who come around regularly to nudge you back on the right path. Jesus is the model for how his followers should look in contrast to societal norms, and it's a certain kind of crazy awesome weird.

I'm reminded of this as I listen to Jesus tell stories to his disciples, as I hear the narrator tell stories about Jesus healing people, about demons driven out into a herd of pigs and about pigs dashing off a cliff, about how scared people were, how they asked Jesus to leave their region but the healed man asked to go with Jesus, and how Jesus told him to stay and tell people about God's mercy, and I imagine how angry the farmer must have been to hear his 2,000 pigs were dead because of Jesus, how hard it is to see past our own griefs into the miraculous.  That herd of pigs seems to follow me throughout the day.  Do I rejoice that Jesus healed a man or am I angry that he took away my profit this season?  I don't even have a herd of pigs, what am I talking about?  What is my herd of pigs, my prized possession I would never sacrifice, not even for another man's life?

The Holy Spirit must use some circumstances, people, places, or creatures to carry off the demons in our lives.  Lots of country songs talk about how a song can bring back a memory; I wonder if the opposite is also true.  I think some people are put into our lives in particular seasons, and maybe without knowing it, they carry our demons away, through a conversation or interaction, they carry away whatever it was we were struggling with.  Our burdens are cast away with that person.

This morning, I listened to Jesus tell a bunch of parables about Israel.  The one that stuck with me throughout the day goes like this: “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation" (Matthew 12:43-45).

After Jesus drove out the demons in the possessed man and sent them into the pigs, he told the man to tell his family how much the Lord had done for him, about the mercy that was shown to him.  And he did.  He filled the empty places that were left by the demons with the fruits of the Spirit, spreading the story about how a Man came who cared for him so much that he drove a legion of demons out from inside his spirit, who carried away the terrors that possessed him, who ordered them away and restored him to himself, a fuller version of himself, one absent of impure spirits and filled with the spirit that produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Imagine what it would have looked like for the man to have returned to his family without this miracle story.  To resume his every day life, whatever that might have looked like.  To leave his soul wide open, swept clean and vacant for whatever other demons might come to dwell there.  It's a dramatic portrait, like a foreclosure in the country, grasses and vines swallowing a house, slowly gripping its foundation and crumbling the concrete that held it up. Without regular maintenance and the presence of people to take care of the structure, all things degenerate and are consumed, governed only by the laws of nature.  It isn't enough to kick out the demons of our past.  Something better needs to move in.

I've carried the story of the impure spirit around with me today.  It lodged in my heart as a reminder to do the daily maintenance required in order to keep the ugly out and invite whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable in.  Daily I send out the demons to drown with the herd of pigs.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ambition and Contentment

What is it about the human spirit that itches the inside of us and drives us to look beyond where we are right now toward some blurry-eyed future, probes us to keep climbing and reaching for more, to keep creating, inventing, dreaming, brainstorming, vision-casting, striving and risking in spite of the joys and possibilities all around you in your present circumstances?

It's been a few days or more since I've sat down to write something.  After a little while of not writing, two things happen. The first, I don't miss it.  I slip into the routine of daily life like a favorite pair of blue jeans, usually wearing my favorite pair of blue jeans, and I cook and clean and garden and fold laundry and think about making homemade Christmas presents.  It's wonderful.  It's immediate.  They are dozens of moments to savor.

The second reaction after not writing for a few days or a week is this anxious twitch in my brain.  Sometimes it is flicked to life by the joys of the day, a thought or meditation or prayer, a realization, a moment with my children or husband, and I dance with excitement for a pen or the quiet of an evening in front of the computer so I can get it out.  But there are other moments when anxiety wells up.  If I'm not writing, I won't have anything new to revise, and without anything new to revise, there's nothing sharpened and tuned to a finished version, nothing to submit to journals, nothing to be rejected or accepted, nothing to be published, nothing to be recognized, nothing to add to a growing resume of publications.  But to what end is all of this?  To what end, when the anxiety detaches the writer from her life, from her family and friends, and leaves her carefully studying her own accomplishments?

It is so difficult to put a stopper on personal ambition in the presence of contentment.  Ambition is a buzzing fly around my picnic lunch.  I just want to enjoy my italian sausage and watermelon. 

And yet.  And yet.  I love to write.  I love to utter whatever notion fluttered through and landed for a spell so someone else might read it and feel something, experience something, have that tight part in their chests softened a bit.  I want to be used to touch people's souls.  Is that too much to ask?  Coupled with the actual writing is wanting that writing to be read, and that rubs shoulders with pride and recognition, then vanity and arrogance.

How do you buttress yourself against conceit and vanity while still pursuing your dreams and goals?  How do you stay humble enough to receive grace to share truths eloquently?  How do you push forward with enough drive to achieve your goals but with enough restraint to avoid sacrificing your family along the way?  It seems like there is a constant need for reflection and assessment: how are the kids?  How is my husband?  What self-care am I doing?  When was the last time I saw my friends?  How much of my time is spent wondering when I'll receive my next acceptance/rejection?  How fully have I invested in navel gazing lately? 

On the other hand, it is the buzzing fly of ambition and curiosity that has provoked men and women throughout the ages to create and consider objects of wonder and stories of life that touch the hearts of men and women throughout the ages. Is it wrong to want to be a part of that legacy?  No, but I do not want to neglect the legacy I leave my family in the process.

Someone buy this gal a set of weights and measures.  I got me some balancin' to do.