Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflections: Isaiah 1

I think at one point something convinced me that I was better.
Then when I tripped I fell on my own sharp crown and a whole bellyfull of mess fell out. I sat and I played in it and may have called it good. I locked myself into a cage with it and kept everyone else out.

It has been my own, my precious mess. I have held it close and thought how much I loved it... How it justifies me. 

Then in one horrific moment I realize the absurdity of it all. I see the sheer mess around me ... my insides disgust.

And to become acquainted with my brokenness is a personal horror story I wish on all my most beloved. To learn to worship with the best of them... worship though it hurts to hear my own voice, it is so ugly to me. To praise God when we suffer ... even if it's only suffering for realizing our wretchedness.

To realize that the best way to follow the World's command to love myself, is to follow relentlessly the Lover of my Soul, is to realize the answer to self-hatred. 

We must transcend self-hatred, but not by calling the ugliness beautiful. We know we're supposed to love ourselves somehow, so we do it by saying there is nothing wrong, we accept ourselves, even exalt ourselves as we are ... or is this just me? I call a puss-filled hole a picture of perfection.

He has offered me a solution, a life raft. He has not condemned me, but He has redeemed me. He has loved the creature somewhere inside my emptiness, pride, ugly black greediness, He has mopped up the poison that has spilled from me onto His beloved. But He has not said "it is okay." He has said to cast it off! Cut off the hand that makes you sin! Realize that sin is gangrene, and it will fill you up and take you over unless you chop it off. ("Sin" is anything I am willing to have replace my God. I do not have to kill or steal or sell myself or fill my veins.) Nothing is too precious to sacrifice if it stops the spread of the poison. Do I believe this?

I can identify that I have broken ways of dealing with relationships, my body, my pets, my time, my money, my work and my God. I am broken in every way possible. I am false and I put up walls. I am so tired of my surroundings being in disarray and reflecting my spirit sloppiness. My car, my bedroom, my bathroom, my desk -- always a shambles. Why am I always making myself miserable?

But this is the ugliness of me. I wanted to be famous, to be popular, to be the best. I wanted to tell people things they wanted to hear. And here I am, filling a window with words. Only, this is what no one wants to know about me. And this is what I must embrace and see that I am poor. I am walking -- not just wounded but sick. I am holding on to these festering limbs. Just let them go. Let the gangrene be removed. Accept that it will take time to heal. Receive a genuine replacement, not a prosthetic. Something far more real and something beyond this decaying realm. 

I will tell you something real, which is that a God exists who will not let you stay in your mud hut and play in your filth as the walls burn down around you. He will plunge in and drag you from that putrid hole, though it sets Him on fire. He will calls things by their right names: good, good; evil, evil. He will demand the evil be emptied from you, wiped off of you, banished from your presence. He will fill you, plaster you, drape you with rich righteousness. And He will do this even if it hurts you bad and even if it kills Him. And it will, but He will do it anyway. 

Did you imagine you were loved this much?

 5Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.
 7 Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners. [...]
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?" says the LORD;
"I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams  and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 

12"When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. [...]
24Therefore the Lord declares, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel:
"Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes.
25I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.
26And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city."

 27Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness." (Isaiah 1)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why I Stay in Plano

Ru-weezy comma Michaellini.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton,
who followed me from Baltimore
and now lives across the street from me.
(Sonic. Burger Street. Cafe Brazil.)
Streets at 90-degree angles to one another.
Starbucks ... which changed my life here.

Promise of things yet to come.
Southern hospitality.
A little bit of funk, a little bit of rock'n'roll.
(Less exposure to country than I had in MD, actually.)
Belief...that this is where I'm supposed to
Like the best roommates a girl could ask for.
Bluebonnet Trail.
Food on the table (employment opportunities).
Hot sun. Less SADness.
The occasional, unforgettable experience of authentic Mexican food.
Crape myrtles.
My very first very own car.
Most of all, little pieces of my heart got broken all around this town, and when I leave, they'll stay here without me.
Not sure I'm ready for that hurt, just yet.
This is where I grew up.
I sat on a wall.
I had a great fall.
Somehow, the King's men put me together again. 

*On this 16th of September, the 4 year anniversary of my arrival in Texas, I want to say thank you to the Ruiz family, the Resslers, my family at Starbucks Custer and Parker (esp. my 'big brother' boss and my courageous friend Sam), and the Seton community for taking me in at my messiest and most stubborn and helping me to become more accepting, more loving, less proud, more healed, hopeful, cared for, and on and on. I will always cherish this passage in my life. Now, Texas takes second place as the state I have lived in the longest! (Maryland has it beat twice over, still.) Also, it bears mentioning that I would not be here any more if not for the support of 1) Michael Ruiz, who has loved and accepted me for what I am, inside and out .. no matter what that has meant in the past 4 years. I am a better version of myself for his influence on my life. Words cannot express... 2) My family, who loves me unconditionally even when I leave them! Yet I always know that I can go running home and they will open arms and make a bed for me. Their presence with me wherever I go makes it possible for me to feel at home in a strange place. A family of legends! I hope everyone can experience such a family in their lifetime, by creating one or having been born of one.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Car Troubles, Actually

Well, shoot. Sometimes this life stuff just gets in the way of things.

I come to you tonight completely low on life. For pretty much no reason at all. Just being a little transparent and flawed here.

I was thinking on Sunday as they were reading the Scriptures from the pulpit that it would be utterly amazing to meet someone whose feelings never changed. What if you or I were able to be emotionally consistent 100% of the time, yet not be a robot? What if people could always know what to expect from us, yet always be surprised?

This is what it's like to learn about God. That's theology. It's so outside my realm of experience, and so foreign to who I am.

Today was a doozy. All I wanted was to get my car inspection (emissions test) taken care of on my one day off, and they had to go ahead and tell me I needed a $1700 repair for them to be able to do it. I left for a second opinion and got the quote down to $1350. Then I went to look at buying the parts and paying for installation. Now we're down to around $1200. Not too shabby. The guy at the parts place tells me to try to one other mechanic before I do anything else. I go. This guy tells me he can take care of me for $378. Excuse me?

Mind you, I don't have any of this money. I have the sixty bucks for diagnostics and emissions, but that's about where it ends. If you really know me, you know I'm working 2 jobs as it is. I opt for the $378 and I feel elated for a couple hours, until reality sets in. At some point, I'm gonna have to pay that $1200 for this silly car, and all my dreams of financial liberty and freedom are in the can. House arrest.

It's times like these when I watch my feelings and emotional state rise and fall based on my circumstances that I know, I just know, there are spiritual forces at play. How can I react with so much feeling to something so ephemeral as money? It's barely even a concrete idea. And hey, it's plastic when it comes to me. You don't even see the actual stuff itself!

Other things I saw today that mattered to me much less, apparently: tornado-destructed buildings in the nearby city; someone getting into a car accident because of our flash-flood conditions. 

The point is, my soul is challenged today to remember the things that are true, at all times, not just in the heat of the moment -- also in the dull aftermath. I must remember the ultimate things, which I can take with me when I go someplace where the cars and the money (paper or plastic) can't come with me. 

Check out Jeremiah 31:
This is what the LORD says:
       "The people who survive the sword
       will find favor in the desert;
       I will come to give rest to Israel."
 3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
       "I have loved you with an everlasting love;
       I have drawn you with loving-kindness. [...]
16 This is what the LORD says:
       "Restrain your voice from weeping
       and your eyes from tears,
       for your work will be rewarded,"
       declares the LORD.
       "They will return from the land of the enemy.   
17 So there is hope for your future,"
       declares the LORD.

To believe it, and to take Him seriously, is one of the hardest things I can attempt when my small plans are failing me. I am so frustrated over something so non-epic. Earlier, I was elated over such a small victory. Do you understand? I am so inconsistent, so shifting.

His love is everlasting. I need the everlasting. This up and down sure isn't feeling good to me. BUT, there is hope for my future (declared the LORD!). And I'm just going to take His word for it.

In other news, I wanted to share this song with you. I named my blog after this song, but I betcha didn't know that. Some of the lyrics apply to my attempts to transcend and remember to go with ... my soul! ('Pearls, necklaces .... I ain't seeking to have'.)

Soon I'll return with something a little less mundane. I know I'll finally open my eyes to the sublime somewhere on this winding way tomorrow.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"What are .... The Things Sydney Misses About Maryland?"

My mom's cooking and grocery shopping.
My parents watching The Weather Channel when I wake up.
Starbucks coffee made the way my mom makes it.
Endless quoting.
Debates over my head all around me.
Smooth walls (mine are all textured).
Small roads.
Trees growing with silly abandonment.
Seasons ... 4 of them.
Spring blooms.
Fall colors.
9:30 Club.
DC Metro.
49 West, Annapolis.
Monuments & Museums.
Movies on the Mall.
The smell of fireplaces burning.
Snap of cold and beauty with it.
My Sister ... being understood.
Donut Shack.
Record & Tape Traders.
B&A Trail.
Listening to Jeff Buckley when the weather turns to Fall.
Driving just to see the beauty, and actually having something to see.
My Lindsay, Rachels, James, Kyle .... and so on.
Maggie Blanchard.
*****My nephew, Stevie Wonderful.*****
Playing blocks and toy drums.
The water, the boats, the seafood, especially MD Blue Crabs.
The oldness.
Cherry blossoms.
Unconditional love.
Crinkly-eyes smiling Daddy.
Lil Brudder laughing at what he's reading ... nobody knows what ... but soon he'll read it to us.
My Daniel-in-law, who seems to be as defensive of me as a blood relative.
Being myself.
Being close enough to many things to go anywhere.

It's such a small state, nobody gives it much credit. "Where's Maryland? Isn't that in, like, Boston or something?" (True story.) I certainly didn't want to go there. But then I went, and now it's like Home, in a  way no other place will ever be. As long as my family is there, I will love and miss Maryland.

   Fear The Turtle!!!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Starting With The Man In The Mirror"

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson happens to come from a slumber party, which was very likely my first slumber party. A girl in my second grade class was turning something (seven? eight? how old are second-graders anymore?), and she had every girl in the class over to sleep in a big Army tent. We're talking HUGE. Like, a school bus could have fit in this tent (please know that I grew up on Army bases for most of my childhood). I was still young, but I remember I didn't want to sit and scream and drool and stare at the screen while Michael Jackson concert videos were being played -- and that is all the other girls were doing. It didn't have anything to do with the music, I just didn't want to be a screaming, slobbering, boring idiot 2nd grader who couldn't think of anything better to do at a slumber party than watch television. Harsh? Well, that was me as a 2nd grader, no lie. I remember sitting with my 2nd grade BFF on the Army cots and making fun of Antonia's older sister (age 17) who was 'chaperoning' the slumber party (if chaperoning = making out with high school boyfriend under scratchy wool Army blankets).

My next memory of Michael Jackson comes from a year or so later when Free Willy (the first) came out on video. Someone bought the video for me and my brother and sister. We watched it, but I think we were skeptical of the political agendas at play. Still, Killer whales were alright with us, and we liked to gawk at the funny music video after the credits, featuring the dancing man with all his smooth moves, strange clothes, and funny vocal effects.

Of course later in life there were news reports about cosmetic surgery, criminal allegations, eccentric behaviors, and on and on...

I truly became a fan of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 once I was old enough to start dancing with boys at homecoming dances and wedding receptions -- I finally learned the great charm of some of the best, most heart-lifting songs out there. Insane rhythm!

Last Summer came the terrible news that Michael Jackson had died in his home, most likely from drugs coursing through his veins which were, after all, only human veins encased in the body of a pop superstar. THE pop superstar.

Several months ago I had the opportunity to watch 'This Is It,' the documentary made from footage of Michael Jackson preparing for his next mega world tour. I saw something new in this infamous pop star: diligence, perfectionism, professionalism, and love. He wanted his life to be about love. I don't think he knew the first step to take at times, and took many wrong ones at that, but he was dedicated to loving others and motivating his fan base to do the same. I had never understood this about Michael Jackson the icon, pop symbol, stereotype, caricature of himself.  It made me wish I could have seen him on the actual tour.

So this is supposed to be about last night, but I wanted you to have the background that I took with me to the concert.

Michael (Ruiz) and I had this excellent opportunity to see Michael Jackson music performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and The Entertainer, James Delisco. When we entered the room at the Meyerson, we noticed immediately that the atmosphere differed greatly from the previous DSO concert we'd attended (which ended and I think we were both asleep, I kid you not). There were brightly colored lights and a high energy filled the room. People of all ages surrounded us and anticipated a night of fun and nostalgia. We were happy just to be together for once in a crazy while.

Everything was classy as the orchestra stepped out on stage and took their places. All black. The brightly colored lights stay illuminated on the stage and flashed as the house lights went down. Not knowing what to expect, we welcomed Delisco onto the stage and were instantly impressed with his artful impression of Michael Jackson. He's done his homework: every superhuman movement was replicated! Every vocal nuance echoed Michael's performance perfectly. If I'd wanted to see Michael in concert, I could close my eyes and I was there. 

I didn't close my eyes, however, because the visual portion of the evening was half the entertainment. I couldn't help but watch the faces of the orchestra members as the crowd went wild in response to the groove of Delisco. Someone shouted, "I LOVE YOU MICHAEL!" We were all applauding, laughing, wooing, and the orchestra members just sat there. Stony. That's the only word for it. Actually -- there was one Asian man three rows back and I happened to see him crack a smile, but I think his blatant lack of decorum is what landed him three rows back in the first place. [I wanted to yell at them and say "You can dance if you want to!!" but then I thought they might start to cry, or whip me with their violins.]

Michael (R.) noticed that the rhythm section was totally on point but that the horns seemed to be missing the funk/jazz pops necessary to keep up with MJ's beats. There were stuck in a classical moment that they could not seem to get out of, but apparently it wasn't that bad because it did not subtract from my enjoyment at all. Michael had to tell me to "try really hard" to hear them, but I was far too involved in enjoying the perfomance.

We got the very best possible seats, right behind a waif of a 50-something Caucasian woman who was dressed like Michael Jackson. She was so excited about the evening that her bottom barely touched seat cushion the entire evening. This woman was dancing, snapping, wooing, laughing, and waving her arms in the air. We loved her enthusiasm, to the point that Michael really believe that she was Delisco's foster mom ... until I talked him out of it (I think).

During the intermission we met a wonderful man wearing slacks and a sport coat with a dapper hat, and beneath his coat he wore a black shirt covered in sequins, shaped into the dazzling image of Michael Jackson's face. When the bell started chiming and the lights began to wane toward the end of the intermission, we stood with said man while he and Michael chugged the dregs of their Shiner Bocks together (mine was long gone, mind you). Michael complimented him on his shirt. He was flattered, looked at the two of us and noticed my little bedazzled number. "Well now, you've got some bling then haven't you!" We all laughed and agreed and he turned to Michael, "And you'll be goin' to the bank tomorra, won't cha?" More laughing and warmth and we returned to our seats.

Intermission has a funny way of refreshing people and loosening things up, and that funny way is called 'beer'. So part II of the evening had a lot more audience participation and dancing in the aisle. We were even blessed to see the jumpy-bottomed lady and sequin-shirted man break it down for us together on multiple occasions. Joy!

One of the audience's favorite parts of the evening was when Delisco welcomed 4 children on stage to sing 'Thriller.' Heart-warming and adorable. It caused us to laugh and soften, and we all reflected on the fact that James Delisco himself had received an opportunity to see Michael Jackson in concert as a child, after Michael Jackson paid to have all the poor children in the city bussed in to his concert. Delisco looks at Michael as a role model, an individual who broke down racial barriers and made some of the first music videos featuring a Black man on television. There was so much meaning in that moment when Delisco pulled the awed 5-year-old child on stage with him, and welcomed any others who would come. I know James Delisco felt that he had come full circle, giving a moment in the spotlight to a shy child, just as it had been done for him.

I know that we can argue about celebrities all day, disagreeing and spouting our opinions about their actions. Michael Jackson led such a controversial life that he is beyond immune of the worst criticisms of society. We can call celebrities guilty when they're acquitted and say they deserve everything they get. I think we can so easily forget that they are human, too, withstanding immense pressures of fame. We condemn them so quickly, forgetting that we are no better -- it's just that our flaws are not magnified to an epic level. 

I welcome the artistry of Michael Jackson and I praise God for his musical talent. I will always be so glad to dance to one of his tracks! He had an ability to lift people to heights of joy and called them to think about Love. I embraced the moment of grace we had last night to think about the good that MJ did with his life: the lives he touched and the people he encouraged when they were in a low moment. I hope that we can all take our lives as seriously as Michael Jackson did: every movement and every sound should express an outpouring of the love that fills us up inside. May we all learn to groove and move with love! Let it make us laugh for the joy and the unbelievable grace of life, and always and forever drive us to lift our neighbor up a little higher. 

And just for kicks, here is the song from Free Willy:


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hello, September & a Call to Action

Can't tell you how glad and surprised I am to see September. August was a big fat crazy mess! I'm glad that's over with of course, but also I am obsessed with new beginnings, so I always get excited about a new calendar page and the number 1. Someone reminded me that September 1st is the day that all the Hogwarts students would head down to Platform 9 3/4 to board the Express train and start the school year, so I would just like to wish all of them a great year, hopefully uneventful. 

Today was one of those days, and I know I'm not the only one who felt it. Really almost poked myself in the eye with a plastic fork from Wendy's to distract myself from the chaos of it all. Sometimes it amazes me that an office of 5 women is responsible 7 days a week for the needs of 500+ families. We are heroes, I tell you, and pretty stylish ones at that!

So, the truth is, I need to practice writing more. You may have noticed that I did write more in August, but I want to practice even more in September. People tell me to write every day to get better at it. The goal is to turn this into my career in one way or another somehow. Therefore, I will be attempting to write daily. Please don't feel like you have to read it.

Please do feel obligated to give me ideas

I need topics, but I also need to learn how to write to an assignment. I have the hardest time writing about something that isn't driven directly by personal inspiration. If I want to make writing my life's work, I will need to learn to write about things that other people want me to write, sometimes. I am just not clever enough to generate an interest in all of my own ideas. 

So there you have it. You can email your ideas to me at, or message them to me on Facebook. You can also leave them as a comment on this post, but then other people will not be surprised.

If anyone responds to this, I will be super humbled and grateful and I promise I will do my best to write my best on your topic. Also, Michael told me that I should start posting my blog link to social media every time I write something because letting it feed into my Facebook notes is not a good way to get consistent feedback on what is good for readers. I am going to follow his sage and artful advice in September, as well. We'll see where it goes, and we'll revisit things when the new beginning of October comes. 

Next up: a little review of this event: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra presents the Music of Michael Jackson.