Playing Catch-Up

Saturday Snippets

So I won’t win any awards for painting the entire downstairs of my house in a week, because I didn’t, but I did win some blog awards in the past, oh, five months or so. Every time I win one I tell the awarder that I will accept it eventually, which only seems fair since they had the goodness to think this blog was worth recognition, but the time, evidently, was not right until now. One caveat, however: because the requirements for accepting most of these awards stipulate that I tell you seven secrets about myself, I am just going to tell one set of seven for the whole lot. I mean really. I don’t want to run out of blog-fodder in one post, now do I?

I really hope I haven’t told you any of these before. What happens if I run out of Jenn stories??

Seven Random Things About Me

1. My brother and I are the first two grandchildren on both sides of our family. Then, when I was 8 years old, two different aunt/uncle sets, one on my mother’s side and one on my father’s, had daughters a few days apart. Both of these women are fantastic people. One of them was just visiting my Paul and me. More about that this week, probably.

2. I enjoyed my first ever pedicure three years ago. (I really need another one right now, but I also need money to get it.)

3. I went to India for five weeks in 1993. (I feel like everybody knows this, but I also have a feeling that’s not actually true.) I would love to go back someday.

4. Although there are places I’d be interested in visiting or revisiting, if I ever had a bucket list, I’ve already done everything on it.

5. The first youth group I ever led was in London, England. It was pretty small, just like the one I lead now. That one met in the home of one of the kids, and we would always watch The Simpsons together afterwards. I’m not sure if that’s “kosher” for Christian youth groups, but it was rather a bonding experience.

6. When I was a little kid in Honduras, I had successive pet rabbits, respectively named Blackie, Greyie (Try saying that out loud. It isn’t easy.), and Snowy. Guess what colours they were?

7. When I was in elementary school I thought I wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up.

The Awards

I read a lot of blogs, so probably I could nominate 15 for each of these, but you’d all stop reading after the first eight anyway, so I’m only doing seven a piece, okay? Sevens, all around.

Courtesty of Contemplating Love (click this badge to visit her blog)

Courtesty of Contemplating Love (Click this badge to visit her blog. Same concept applies to the badges/blogs which follow.)

This one came at me back in February . . . they don’t expire, do they? My nominees for this award of versatility are the following:

Raising Five Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane – You’ve gotta be versatile in every way for that, I think. I don’t know this woman, but I have a friend from high school with a similar situation and I have so much respect . . .

Anyone 4 Curry & Other Things – I’m always for curry . . . and other things . . . and this woman’s blog is warm and about food, clothes and travel mostly, all of which delight me.

Jill London – I feel like if we knew each other in real life, we would totally hang out.

Life and Photos by Andy – Interesting life, great photos.

hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley – This dude is one of those who manages to strike the balance between funny and serious, and to talk about things that matter, and sometimes things that maybe don’t, so much, but are just recognisable human experience.

Seasonsgirl – This woman’s blog is sweet and homey and even though my Paul and I don’t have  a farm, I think we have similar aspirations to what this blogger and her husband are doing in their corner of the world.

The Nomadic Soliloquist – I have some affinities for nomadic soliloquising, although I haven’t had to do much of that lately.

*************************************************************************************************************

Then, this month, I got nominated for the same award again–but with a different graphic:

Courtesy of Lights of Clarity

Courtesy of Lights of Clarity

So here are some more versatile bloggers:

Wibble – We were gonna co-blog elsewhere together, and I flaked out on the project, but this guy has interesting things to think and say at this blog, too. He might think awards like these are pure nonsense, but . . . he still needs to be awarded something, so there.

Writings of a Mrs – Not gonna lie–sometimes I feel a little envious of this woman’s following when I’ve been blogging so much longer, but her following is surely deserved. She’s consistent and encouraging. Plus, her name is Jennifer . . .

The Blurred Line – Victoria and I have recently decided that we were probably separated at birth and then one of us was plunked in the US (via Honduras and a few other places) and the other in South Africa. Because that’s how these things happen. There’s a novel in there somewhere . . .

Rarasaur – She’s basically a blogging celebrity already, but is she versatile? Oh yes she is!

The Seeker’s Dungeon – I am not much of a poet, and I don’t regularly imbibe poetry, either, but this guy’s verse blows my mind.

Live2EatEat2Live – The Mouse is a sweet writer who blogs about what my Paul describes as “food, my favourite!”

The World’s Top Ten of Anything and Everything! – I don’t know where he gets this stuff, but sometimes it’s a little awe-inspiring, almost . . .

In the middle of these two (yet one) awards, the lovely Victoria nominated me for two other awards, as follows:

Courtesy of the Blurred Line

Courtesy of the Blurred Line

There are a lot of you who make great The Readership team members, but a couple of you are extraordinary. For example Victoria herself, but I always feel weird about nominating back the same award, so here are some other people:

How the Cookie Crumbles – Her blog is supposedly about old age, so should I be worried that I can identify with so much of it?

Ben’s Bitter Blog – Ben once contributed to what was probably the longest (and maybe eventually the most inane) comment thread on this blog ever. I was kind of bitter when I realised his blog wasn’t about beer, but it is actually really funny, so I let him off the hook. I hope he won’t be too bitter about this award, since it doesn’t involve money.

Alzheimer’s Trail – My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years before passing (therefore my grandmother suffered from his Alzheimer’s too). Sheila Marie writes poignantly about caring for her mother who has this same disease . . . and she (Sheila) still has time to read other people’s blogs and comment on them. Respect.

Rajiv Writes – I suspect our points of view, which have some overlap, but which, so far, are not from the same place, intrigue each other. Rajiv is great about asking questions and engaging feedback on his own writing.

Pish’s Blog of LovelinessLovely is the right word. Probably, considering I’m trying to nominate only people I haven’t nominated for other awards before, Pish deserves to be at the top of this list. Her blog is a sweet read to begin with, and then her comments and interactions on this blog are also heartfelt and heartwarming and I feel like I have a sister I’ve never met before.

Catholic Lite – Okay–I haven’t seen her around too much lately, because she’s got a lot going on. This young woman is a brave person, trying to find her way in Christ, in spite of opposition from those who want her to find Him only in their way. She shares her heart, in blog and comment, and I’m happy to have “met” her.

don of all trades – Dude is hilarious, whether writing on his own blog or someone else’s.

Also courtesy of the Blurred Line

Also courtesy of the Blurred Line

I don’t know, but I think this award might make me the happiest of all, partly because I’ve never seen it before, and partly because I like the idea that I’ve made at least one person’s blog-reading experience that much more memorable/enjoyable. There are so many blogs I could nominate for any one of these awards, really, but here are seven of the ones who just plain delight me (although the reasons for the delight would be as diverse as the blogs).

In Vegetables We Trust – What? YUM.

Things I Want to Tell My Mother – Similar to Alzheimer’s Trail, but remarkable in its own way.

helenvalentina – More poems. More amazing.

The River Walk – I had a small epiphany reading this blog.

The Forester Artist and The Backdoor Artist – Okay, so that’s two, but they’re husband and wife, which makes me happy. Plus, their respective stories about how they met are great.

A Mélange of Contradictory Tendencies – Two bloggers, one blog. Good stuff.

Lights of Clarity – She could just as easily have won the award before this, but this one’s good, too.

Thanks and congratulations, one and all!

 

Hey, What’s Up?

Wordy Wednesday

Or: Some Words for Wednesday . . .

I know. I’ve been totally slacking off. But I was fresh out of Theology last Thursday and then I went to the camp in Boondocks, New England, with the Youth Group and then I got home and immediately started washing walls ceiling and trim so I can pain my house and now I’m actually painting it and . . . that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

You’d think I’d actually have time to blog when I’m on vacation.

Yep. This is vacation.

Anyway, I haven’t forgotten you, but most of this week my computer’s been buried under the debris we call “art” and “knick knacks.” I’ll be back next week . . . just in time for the Nationalest of National Holidays . . .

photo by Jennwith2ns 2013

What I’m doing on my summer vacation

This Train

Wordy Wednesday

Everybody already knows I’m a word-nerd. I just love words. I think about them all the time. I use them a lot, too, as you may have observed. I also like–when I stop to notice them–trains of thought. They’re kind of amazing, I think.

Can't say it's bound for glory, but it's bound to end up somewhere unexpected.

Can’t say it’s bound for glory, but it’s bound to end up somewhere unexpected.

Here’s one I had on the way to work yesterday, which nicely illustrates both my word-nerdiness and the fact that my mental processes might not be entirely normal:

I recently found out that Brigham Young University in Utah houses a new Lloyd Alexander exhibit. The late Lloyd and I go way back. As it were. I was thinking that I would like to go see it, since I never actually got to meet him in person.

Then I started thinking about Mormonism.

Then I thought about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Which made me think about the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Then I started thinking about the word Tabernacle. “Tabernacle is a great word,” I thought. “I like the way it sounds. Tabernacle. Tabernacle.” Then I wondered if any groups outside Judeo-Christian traditions (mainstream or otherwise) ever use that word. Then I started wondering where the word itself comes from. It’s the name of the ceremonial tent that the early Israelites made for worship and to house the Ark of the Covenant, but Tabernacle doesn’t sound very Hebrew. Not to me, anyway. More . . . I dunno. Latin, or something.

They carried this thing around for years, and it wasn't until Solomon had a Temple built that they retired it. They had to have replaced bits of it over the years, though, right?

They carried this thing around for years, and it wasn’t until Solomon had a Temple built that they retired it. They had to have replaced bits of it over the years, though, right?

Maybe Sister-in-Lu knows. She just completed her PhD in some sort of Hebrew Bible/linguistics thing. (Sorry, Sister-in-Lu–I don’t think I know your actual title, although I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on this here blog. Congratulations!) I could always ask her. Or I could google the etymology of Tabernacle. Maybe eventually I will. But sometimes I just like to wonder, without actually knowing, you know? And let the train of thought keep chugging along: TabernacleTabernacleTabernacleTabernacle . . .

What’s the oddest train of thought you’ve ridden lately? Or what’s a favourite word of yours? Or . . . do you know where the word Tabernacle comes from?

Don’t ‘Black Knight’ Your Characters

The Tuesday Reblog

Yesterday (or maybe it was the day before) I made a new blogging friend who has self-published a book. It is going for a great price and is a genre I dearly love, so I anticipate it’s finding a place on my Kindle app in the next day or two. In the spirit of doing unto others what I would have them do unto me, I’d like to share some publicity for this guy and his work. This post isn’t directly about his book, but it IS some good writing advice . . . and you can find the book info on his blog.

Legends of Windemere

One thing that drives me nuts is when I read a book or watch a movie/TV show and characters ignore injuries.  Running full-speed with a broken leg, bouncing around with busted ribs, and so many other mistakes that seem sloppy. My characters get hurt all the time, so I have to remember to slow them down or add in something that explains how they can keep going.  A barbarian’s rage or a magic spell can work, but you must always remember to have them react to the injury once that boost is over.  Unless that boost comes with a healing spell, they’re going to be hurting later.

I can only think of three reasons (here with solutions) for this to happen:

  1. The author forgets about the injury, which is something that should be fixed in an editing run.  Once that character is hurt, you have to read through the rest…

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The Hotel

Memory Monday

Whoa-wa! What just happened to the WordPress dashboard? There is black? And slate grey? Maybe I like it? I can’t decide.

Okay. Enough of that.

Today is Memory Monday (again) and I feel that after all my blurting (sort of vaguely) about “trauma in London,” I need to take this opportunity to say that those three friends and I made up before I returned to the US, and that two of them (who have since married each other) and I are now back in touch via the last-century wonder which is email. I think we’ve all grown up a bit. They have a couple of kids. It makes me happy that we are in contact again.

I also feel that I need to take the opportunity to recount a happy memory of at least one of these people, so here’s one–from before the fall-out and make-up:

My friend the Lovely Ecuadorian stayed with me in my house for sometime between a week and a month while Roommate-Beth was in the USA, and we bonded (I made North American pancakes, which were always a win, no matter who it was) so that when she was chosen Employee of the Month (or something like that) at the hotel where she worked in Central London, she honoured me as the friend who got to benefit with her from her award.

“Jennie, will you come with me?” she asked me. The award was a night in the hotel for the awardee and a guest, with dinner and a bottle of wine in the evening, and breakfast the next morning. At the time, as she was not dating our other friend that she ended up marrying, and in any case, all of us had certain guidelines about romantic interactions before and after marriage, so I guess her closest in-country platonic girlfriend was a perfect choice. I dunno. It made sense to me, and I was flattered to be asked.

Now that I think about it I wonder if I would have been as stoked to sleep overnight in my own place of employment as I was to stay at someone else’s, but look, we lived in the East End, and none of us made a lot of money, and it was probably nice for the Lovely Ecuadorian to be the beneficiary of some of the beautiful customer service she was so used to offering in the sumptuous surroundings she had to work in every day.. We jumped on the Tube and rode into the City, and unfortunately I don’t really remember, but I feel like we sneaked in a back employee door, which was exciting.

We did, however, have to check in at the front desk, where the award was verified and we were ushered to the dining room for our complimentary dinner.

I might be wrong about which hotel it was, but I'm pretty sure it was this one.

I might be wrong about which hotel it was, but this dining room looks delightfully familiar.

It was a fancy dinner. I mean the kind where the plate is an enormous elegant white slab and each course looks like a tiny little dot in the middle of it, but it was so delicious, and so astonishingly filling that, after eating however many courses we were entitled to (the number of which I no longer recall), and drinking our complimentary bottle of wine, we essentially staggered over to the elevator (I mean lift–we’re talking about London, here) to get to our room.

Neither of us were big drinkers, but I don’t remember being even buzzed–just surprised that we had done justice to the whole bottle between us, and really really full. We rode up to our room and each camped out on our individual queen beds and talked until something like 2 o’clock in the morning. Probably, knowing both of us, we sang and prayed together, too. Weirdly, although it is my favourite meal of the day, I do not remember breakfast at all.

In the morning, we each got up and maybe the Lovely Ecuadorian had to do something absurd like work after that, and maybe I had appointments with contacts in the East End. Or maybe I had the day off. I remember walking past the employee entrances on my own, feeling quite delighted that even a hotel employee and a religious worker, neither of whom usually had two pence to rub together–even between the two of us–could still have enjoyed one 12-hour period of five-star hotel-ness. It was an unexpected, but surprisingly not all that uncommon, moment of freely-given and received happiness. There were lots of little surprises and delights like that in London. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about another one.

Roll the Credits

Family Friday
The final installment of the series. A word of warning to the squeamish might be in order. Read at your own discretion.

So last Thursday? Kind of sucked. And kind of was awesome. At the same time.

It was, as you know, the last day of class. I was scheduled to share my Life Map. The whole previous week and a half had been rough–both trying to organise my Map and reliving some of it. But I thought I had a plan for presenting it. When I tried to do so, however, I got totally derailed and ran out of time to share any of my recent stuff. I was just winding into London, so to speak, when our Facilitator held up the “10 minute” sign. I had way more than 10 minutes left of life history, so I panicked, and said, “Okay, so I made friends and then they dumped me, and yeah.”

Everyone said, “Hang on there. What?

I decided to take the "map" thing literally. This is my Tube-map/Celtic-knot-inspired Life Map.

I decided to take the “map” thing literally. This is my Tube-map/Celtic-knot/Jesus-fish-inspired Life Map.

I tried as best I could to sum up the trauma that had been part of my London experience and the trauma that took me back to the States, and the difficulties of my 30’s–in ten minutes–but it was all rendered more impossible by the fact that as soon as I started talking about  London, I started crying and didn’t stop for the rest of the class.

In the feedback aftermath, one of my classmates wanted to revisit the “Don’t be proud of me” element of my childhood. He suggested strongly that all the rest of my unhealthy thoughts and behaviours have stemmed from that one right there. I began to think he might be right. He also wondered if I have trouble letting people get close to me, and everyone sort of agreed that I don’t seem to feel free to be myself. This frustrated me. I said I always try to let people get close to me and I think I’m always being myself, but I must be communicating badly or people just don’t know how to interpret me. Like, nobody in the whole world. I thought about the Banquet Dream and suddenly it seemed less relevant to the circumstances in which I had had it, and more like it was describing my entire life.

I don’t think my classmates understood me then, either (which might have also been because, except for my mentor, they were all men), though they were all kind and supportive and almost defensive on my behalf against my low self-esteem or whatever it was. Then they prayed for me. It was all very good, but I still couldn’t stop crying.

We got off the pontoon and put away our picnic, and everyone skedaddled back to campus for their next class as quickly as they could. I had a “next class,” too, but I still had an hour until it, so I stayed home for a while to debrief my Paul and try to get the crying under control. I told him how I had looked over my whole life and was utterly unable to see any way in which God had used me for any good and to further His Kingdom.

My Paul got sort of angry then, as I had known he would. “You have something,” he said. “Some block. You are constantly saying God isn’t using you in people’s lives, but I myself have seen Him do it. We’ve talked about it right here in this kitchen, and every time you just dismiss it! It’s like whatever it was never happened at all!”

I reminded him of “Don’t be proud of me,” and he, like the others, said, “Yeah! What is that?”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “I’ve always felt it was about not wanting to take the credit away from God.” As we talked it began to dawn on me that when I try to avoid stealing credit from God by not taking it for myself, I end up stealing it from Him anyway, because I essentially deny that the good thing happened at all. In the moment I may credit God, but because I’m not acknowledging that He gave me any part in it, it ceases to be a part of my life and experience, and so when I look back to see God at work in it, I can’t find Him. It’s all just my work, which frankly turns out to be precisely as disappointing as my presentation was that day. And so I am the one taking the credit–away from God–in the end by my own very attempts not to.

I didn’t tell my Paul all this, because it was such a new thought that I was still trying to think it clearly, but what I did say was, “Remember when we were dating and you wanted to pray for the Holy Spirit to be more active in my life and I got mad because I thought you thought I didn’t even have the Holy Spirit in my life?”

He remembered.

“Well,” I said, “I’m ready for you to pray that for me now.”

So we stood in the kitchen and held each other and he prayed. I think he prayed something about God releasing me from what was blocking my ability to work with Him, and then he started praying in tongues.

I guess I thought I might start praying in tongues, too, so I opened my mouth, and something actually started to happen. I felt my mouth opening wider and wider, and something, maybe at the base of my skull, pushing forward against the back of my throat, like something trying to get out.

Then I started to make a sound. It was like laughing–I guess I was laughing? But there was no emotion with it, and sometimes it turned back into crying again, and it was totally involuntary laughing and crying, with no emotion except a mild curiosity about what would happen next, and then I stopped.

My Paul said, “Do you ever just laugh in the Spirit–it wells uncontrollably up from your gut?”

“Yes?” I said uncertainly, although I’m pretty sure I never have, but Paul himself makes me laugh pretty hard sometimes. “Something’s happening in the back of my throat.”

So we held each other again and I forget if he was still praying in tongues or not, but I wasn’t afraid or on guard like I sort of always was in London–or when Paul and I were dating–because I trust him now, and I trust Jesus’ influence in his life, and I started the laugh/cry thing again, and then suddenly I started to cough.

For a split second I was disappointed. (“We are praying in the Spirit only to be interrupted by an asthma attack? Seriously?”) But then I realised it was gag-coughing, not breathe-coughing. And I kept coughing and I let go of my Paul since he hates when I cough on him (I know, right?), and then I thought, “I’m going to vomit.”

I didn’t feel sick at all. I was no longer overwrought (and anyway, I have never vomited when I’ve been overwrought, even though, as some people from my past could tell you, the overwrought thing has happened to me a lot). As I walked to the bathroom, I thought of those stories my pre-London charismatic friends used to tell me about this sort of thing. I remembered how those stories used to horrify me. Now the whole process seemed perfectly logical. Paul had prayed that God would remove this thing which was preventing me from seeing how He was working in my life, and there it was, in the toilet, looking like mostly-digested bratwurst and a distinct chunk of celery from the potato salad. I stood there looking at it for a few minutes, waiting to see if more was coming and, after realising it wasn’t, thinking, “That’s it? That’s been the bane of my existence for my whole life?”

I went to the sink to brush my teeth. Paul came over to me. “Feel better?” he asked.

“I feel fine,” I said.

“Did you vomit?”

“Yep,” I said. “Vomiting in the Spirit?” I chuckled, but I don’t know why, because I already knew the truth when Paul said, “Sometimes, yes. Sometimes that’s how the Spirit gets stuff out of us that needs to go.”

“I know,” I said. “That’s what happened.”

He reminded me that when something gets evicted, I need to pray God into that space. So I did. And I have done. That night I got an email from a literary agent who wants to take a look at Favored One. So maybe two blockages were removed at once, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I spent the entire next day (which, conveniently, was my day off, and absolutely pouring with rain) feeling as if I were convalescing–as if I’d been very very sick and was now well, but needed some time to recover. I stayed in my pj’s in bed and journaled for hours and the day after that, I felt all better.

God always allows anyone the ability to explain away the things He does if they really want to. Turns out “Don’t be proud of me” is a kind of explaining-away. Or someone could read this story and say, “Hysterical female. She worked herself up to such a pitch that she puked and then she put some spiritual gloss over it. Crazy lady.” And maybe someone would be right. But I don’t think so.

I know what I felt and didn’t feel. I have, many many times, been that hysterical female, and it has never felt like what happened last Thursday. Hysterics also don’t explain my new outlook, or my new sense of peace. And I can tell you right now. You can go ahead and be skeptical if you want. But personally, I don’t ever want to take the credit away from God again.

Are You Okay?

Theology Thursday
This post is part of a series. For the whole story/thought-process, start here.

Here’s something else that happened in London, that’s kind of funny, but which takes some serious explaining, since I’m pretty sure The Readership is diverse enough that you won’t all immediately resonate with what I’m talking about.

When I moved to London, I, Miss Evangelical, went to work for three Charismatic Churches.

In my recently completed Spiritual Formation class, we delved into 6 discernible “streams” or traditions within the Christian faith. These traditions are related to, but basically independent of, denominations, and aren’t mutually exclusive of each other, but, although they operate best when balanced, usually a Christian will exhibit or focus on one more than the others. In my case, my primary stream was Evangelicalism, and the one with which I had the least experience was the Charismatic.

It’s hard to make really accurate generalisations, but for the purposes of my life and this story, let’s just say that the Evangelical stream tends to major on words, beliefs, thought-processes and even (despite public stereotypes to the contrary) intellectualism. The Charismatic tradition, on the other hand, tends to emphasise faith, experience (preferably somewhat miraculous or–as it might be described in some circles, paranormal–experience), and feelings. Although these traditions aren’t incompatible, sometimes people within them seem to think they are and view the others with suspicion. I certainly did.

It didn’t help that, never having been to a charismatic church service as a child, I had no way to evaluate the mysterious things I heard about such events except on the basis of the wife of one of our church members, who sat in the back of the sanctuary and was always the only person who raised her hands heavenward (very enthusiastically, I might add) during the singing. Also unhelpful (probably especially to her) was the ribbing she got about it from her husbands’ friends after church each Sunday.

For about six months before I even arrived in London, I was in contact with many charismatics, getting more and more freaked out by stories about people getting “slain in the Spirit” (essentially passing out in the throes of religious experience–sort of like a divine anesthesia, so God can really work on something in you, as I understand it), vomiting, hysterical laughter . . . it made the signature spiritual gift–“speaking in tongues” (that is, speaking in an heavenly language, or an earthly language that one has never learned before)–sound almost normal. Working with charismatic-evangelical churches in London was kind of an adjustment, but in the end it turned out not to be as alarming as I had feared. I had some mild “experiences” (one time I felt Jesus’ hands on my shoulders when someone was praying for me, and you all know I have dreams; sometimes they mean something. Other times, not so much) and I resisted all attempts to force me to have such experiences. Someone tried to push me to the ground once (to be fair–not from my church, but a visiting group), but I would have none of it. To this day I have never “spoken in tongues.” I came to believe those things legitimately (and sometimes illegitimately) happened–but not to me. I had mixed feelings about whether or not I wanted those experiences for myself. However, that didn’t keep other people from wanting me to have these types of experiences.

The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a Dove

The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a Dove

One Sunday I arrived in church with my flute to play along with the other musicians who made up that week’s “worship team.” (Sometimes I wonder about that term, but we’ll leave it alone for now.) I used to fast fairly regularly (I was more comfortable with the Contemplative stream than the Charismatic), so I had been fasting, intending to break my fast at lunch time. Unfortunately I hadn’t bargained on Communion (the Eucharist). In some churches, this commemoration of Christ’s physical sacrifice for humanity is enacted every week, but in the churches I frequent, it happens only once a month, and so sometimes, if one is not paying attention, it can take one by surprise.

Now let me ask you. What do you do if you’re fasting for God and then the commemoration of His Son’s death comes up and involves eating? I suspect churches like the Roman Catholic church have some sort of guidelines for such things, but in places known as “free churches,” as far as I know there are no such ground rules.

I decided I needed to take Communion.

But there was a problem. If Jesus was really God in human flesh, then miracles are certainly possible, but regular physical, scientific processes are also validated, and what happened when I ate that miniscule piece of bread and drank that little sip of . . . well, watered-down fruit juice, in this case . . . was that my stomach acids, which had been waiting for something to work on for at least twelve hours already, began to churn. But they really didn’t have enough to digest, so when I got up to play my flute on the last song, the simple blowing of breath across the mouthpiece was just enough exertion to make me lightheaded.

Suddenly, I realised I was about to pass out. My eyes grew dark, my ears pounded and everything sounded as if I were under water. I thought, “If I fall, I’m going down those little steps headfirst, and my skirt’s going to flip up. If the microphone doesn’t get me first.” I grabbed onto a low wall next to me and hung on, arms crossed over the top of it, with my head on my forearms, for dear life. I really could hear almost nothing else but a rushing sound, and I couldn’t see even that much, but I didn’t ever quite go unconscious, so I was still thinking. What I was thinking was:

“Everyone in this building is going to think I’m finally having a ‘touch of the Spirit.’ No one is going to realise there is anything wrong.”

The final song ended–without the flute. The benediction was spoken. Everyone walked to the back of the room, where the kitchen pass-through window was, to get their tea and biscuits. (That’s cookies, for us US folk.) I was still holding onto the partition. After a little while, someone came back toward the front of the room. “Jenn?” someone asked. “Are you okay?”

“NO!” I said. There were hands unfastening my arms from the partition and leading me, blind, down the platform steps to a chair.

"The wind blows where it wills . . . "

“The wind blows where it wills . . . “

“What happened?” asked someone else. I was starting to draw a crowd. My vision was returning, and words were beginning to sound like words. I told them what had happened.

“Somebody give her some tea and biscuits!” someone said. Someone else brought me the entire box. Technically, I wasn’t done with the fast I had set for myself, but I stuffed those biscuits in my face like they were the last food on earth.

“Wow,” said yet another someone, a little disappointment in their voice. “We had no idea. We really thought you were finally having a touch of the Spirit.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I know.”

I’m Jennifer

Wordy Wednesday
This post is part of a series. For the whole story/thought-process, start here.
Banquets. So many connotations. So many candles.

Banquets. So many connotations. So many candles.

One of the reasons I’m a big fan of the Bible is that it was written over millennia, but it has these overarching themes and symbols (plus one major storyline) that run through the whole thing. One of these symbols is that of a banquet. From the very beginning, the image of banquet means fullness and celebration in fellowship with God. There are some messed up feasts in the Bible, too, but when prophets prophesy about God’s reinstating His rule over the earth, sometimes the images they use are firey and brimstoney, but often they’re about a big old party.

The multinational banquet image I found in Isaiah especially, really inspired my time in London. I just wanted to be with all my friends, partying with Jesus, I guess. One of these days I’ll tell you about the actual party that happened five years after I daydreamed about it, but today I’m going to tell you about the night dream that I had about a banquet instead.

I was, indeed, living in London, and three of my friends (two men and a woman) had just “broken up with” me. There was no actual romance involved on my end, although a couple of them had misunderstood the rather stifling and possessive kind of friendship that I practiced at the time (an outworking of codependency). The fault wasn’t all mine, but the whole experience had set me very painfully back on my heels. It was starting to dawn on me that the relational anxiety and competitiveness in which I had always existed, even as a small child, weren’t detrimental only to me, but were harmful to other people. I had just been trying to imagine myself without the characteristic which my erstwhile friends were calling my “jealousy,” and I realised I couldn’t imagine it at all, but that I wanted to be rid of it, even if it meant I were reduced to nothing and nobody. I’d rather be nothing than jealous, I decided. I told God this in no uncertain terms, and then I lay down and cried myself to sleep, as I had been doing the previous few nights.

Unlike the other nights, that night I had a dream. In the dream, I was at a banquet. I was seated at a long, long table, with many people around it and a white tablecloth over it. The lighting was dim enough and the table long enough that I couldn’t actually see the far end of it, but I was seated right near the head of the table. I feel like Jesus was supposed to be sitting at the head itself, but I can’t remember if He was in the dream or not, or if we were waiting for Him to get there, or if He was there but somehow I couldn’t quite see Him or He wasn’t quite aware of me. Although the me sleeping in the bed having this dream was 28 or so, the me in the dream was just a little girl. I suppose my dream self was about 7 or 8. On my left was one of the people who had just sworn off my friendship. She was talking to someone across the table from us. I didn’t know him.

All of a sudden she turned slightly and noticed me sitting at her elbow. “Oh, hello, little girl,” she said, all cheerful but condescending, as some adults are with children, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jennifer,” I said.

“What’s that?” she asked, although I could tell she hadn’t really even been listening.

“I’m Jennifer,” I said a little louder.

“Stephanie? That’s nice.” And then she continued her conversation across the table with her new friend.

Jennifer!” I shouted, “I’m Jennifer!” But no one could hear me. I woke up just as I had fallen asleep–crying. I wondered if giving up my jealousy would mean that no one would hear me ever again. Would I effectively cease to exist?

I have another memory of this banquet, though. I don’t know if I night-dreamed it or daydreamed it. I don’t remember if it was during this same time period or much later. I don’t remember if it was involuntary or my way of “fixing” the scenario I had dreamed. I don’t think it really matters, to be honest. I don’t think its time and method of transmission makes it any less true. Whatever it was, I have this vague recollection, after the desolation of not being heard, of getting up from my chair because Someone was calling me Jennifer, and it was Jesus, right there at the head of the table, and I climbed into His lap and He held me.

Don’t Be Proud of Me!

The Tuesday Reblog
This post is part of a series. For the whole thought-process, start here.

Today I am reblogging myself. The next few posts will all be stages in the same story, and this is information you need to know (or be reminded of) in order to understand what comes later.

That's a Jenn Story

Memory Monday

Last week DJMatticus was blogging about pride a little bit–if and when it’s ever appropriate and stuff. I don’t really want to get into that at this point, but I do want to explore this memory I have about pride. When I was a very very young child, if anyone ever expressed pleasure or approbation over something I had done, I  would cry out in consternation,

“Don’t be proud of me! Don’t be proud of me!”

I still remember this sort of queasy, panicked feeling I would get in those moments, and maybe I even sometimes still get it–less noticeably–because every once in a while one of my parents (usually Dad) will say it to me, which must mean I’m providing some sort of (possibly) more grown up exhibition of the same discomfort with other people’s approval.

The weird thing is, I struggle with codependency, which is, as…

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I Haven’t Forgotten

Memory Monday

Well, obviously I haven’t forgotten, because it’s Monday. Memory Monday.

Also, I have no coursework to do for the next few months, so there’s no reason for me not to write something today. But right now I’m stuck on the fact that I want to write about Thursday, and I need to provide some background stories, but in order to do that, I need to look up some stuff, and the stuff is at my parents’ house and . . . in the meantime, none of the other stories that come to mind feel that fun to tell. If I don’t have fun writing ’em, you’re not going to have fun reading ’em.

So . . . this is just a reminder to you that I’m still here. And I hope you are, too. Thanks, weird and wonderful The Readership!

Looking for memories

Looking for memories