This is Your Real Life, Part 2

a foothold in dirt and disorder

Today I get to circle back to the conversation we were having about how this is, indeed, our real lives. We asked, if this is real life, then how can we reconnect with our joy, our God awareness, our own skin, mouths, and friends like Jesus did? 

I don’t have any outright answers for you. Wish I did, but I can tell you some things I’m noticing. About two hundred times a day, I go outside and poke around at my garden. Sometimes I gnaw on a spicy nasturtium leaf, which are like miniature climbing lily pads with edible red or yellow flowers. I planted them to share with my chickens. I gnaw at leaves and stare at the ground, willing a sprout up from the dead as some sort of beggary to God, that my think space might get a better grip, my ears open up to his voice, and my heart soften so I can go about this real life with right love. So far, all its done is render me calm. At this point, sticking my hands straight into dirt is about equal with eating a Xanax, but otherwise, I’m struggling to read or hear at all, and I’ve never slogged so hard to write something as during this season. This is why the Daily Readings with my family have become fairly nonnegotiable. It’s always been true for me that engaging my soul depends a whole lot more on my writing and reading practices than it does my gardening practices. Or gardening is the silence and solitude part of it, but reading and writing is where my relational work with God really happens.

It is not my goal to be a woman who speaks more of what she used to be than of what she is, but … I used to practice miraculous and whimsical thinking like now I practice practicality, list making, hand washing, and aging. My writing reflected the magic, and there’s a chance that’s why you signed up for this newsletter. I used to come to the end of a journal page (or a blog post) breathless, tears streaming down, so tapped into something outside of myself that I wept - regularly. But these days, as well as in the days of loss before the COVID season, the magic has disappeared, except in tiniest glimpses. I’m hearing the same thing from those around me, that creativity and tapping into what makes us come alive has been a rough go, so I want to dig into why that is. Not only are we untethered from our own bodies, churches, and friends; we are also often untethered from the MAGIC, or what used to make us feel fiery and alive. 

Maybe we don’t get the magic until we find our foothold in all the dirt and disorder of our real lives first. Maybe that’s why every time I walk around outside I come in with black earth up to my elbows. My soul does beg for me to dig, and it ain’t a metaphor. It’s as if the dirt is actually where my brain might heal so I can pay attention in scripture, in literature, in writing, and in prayer. This is why keeping rhythms for all this is a must. Otherwise, all I would do is shop on the internet, eat entire bags of chips, and space out in more zoom calls until my life is donefor.

In Part 1 of this newsletter, we took a week to do a sort of inventory. Have you noticed yet how even more disconnected survival-mode can make you? You probably already know that if you eat a bag of chips as a way to feel your body that it actually does the opposite, that the numbed-out survival habits reveal themselves as a contrast to abundant life. As I’ve been bouncing between survival and abundance, myself, what keeps me tethered to my real life is becoming clearer - which brings me back to the daily readings and two things it’s helped me see lately. Dang, if it doesn’t feel like a miracle to see something!

1)    Our weird, fearful, and strangely sad Easter isn’t too far off the beaten path. In fact, during the first Easter season, Jesus found Thomas so he could expose his bare skin to him, acknowledging the reality of suffering that still existed (as it does today) by showing those scars. We get to see how the very first joy that existed in Christianity happened in the context of loss and betrayal, being diminished, hunted, and persecuted. It’s easy to assume that Jesus’s friends didn’t know which way was up for a while. If you feel off, then perfect. The path to abundant life seems cobbled with mis-steps and wounds: crow calls, empty nets, and a basket with not enough bread.

2)    When Jesus rose and showed up like he said he would, he went to his best friends and gobbled up a fish to prove he wasn’t a ghost. He ate a fish to prove he was human, made of dirt and rain water like the rest of us. Then he opened the minds of the disciples, so they could see him for who he was, as if our brains were made to open up and comprehend the very divinity that breathed life into both whales and volcanos. Suddenly, they saw him: God and Man. Maker of gravity and eater of tilapia. The fact that he ate a fish with them is no small thing for us.

The daily readings have reminded me of some simple things about Jesus. Like, there are days we lose touch with the body, and we have to figure out how to get it back. We lose touch with Jesus, with ourselves, and with the purpose of the flesh and blood of the church. A virus sweeps through humanity, and here we are ghosted away with no eucharist to swallow; no people to hold. Jesus turns into a faint apparition, as something we remember with doubt toward our own capable minds.

Back to Recovery and Restoration

Even if all you’ve lost in the COVID season is a vacation and a handful of expectations, it’s easy to get stuck and disembodied, especially as our culture begins to shift dramatically. Like one minute we’re in North America, and the next minute, it’s Pangea, and who knows what this is? We have a collective sense of lost time and space, and it’s traumatic enough that we self-soothe by binging some things and depriving everything else. Some of us have spent inordinate hours staring into space, netflixing, and scrolling Instagram. This is the ghost of us.

Since this is real life, as we move forward, we’ll do it in our actual wounded bodies, knowing that we are more than our wounds. Thank God for what survivors he’s made us. We’ve disembodied to survive, and if we wake up in our real-life bodies, we’ll probably be waking up with a limp. If Jesus gets a hole in his side, I reckon I can be consoled that I hobble a bit, too. 

Eat a fish

For now, to begin small is to do how Jesus did in proving I’m more than a ghost. Maybe small is all it takes. Jesus simply made breakfast. He ate a fish. Maybe this week, we choose one small way to be human, and we stick to it. Instead of depending on your gut in a moment-to-moment survival mode, maybe we can examine and choose one small way we will no longer deprive or overindulge ourselves, and that one small thing will be how we begin to grow a new rhythm of life. 

What might be your one thing for this week? 

Mine will be to continue with the daily readings and to add some strict “office hours” to continue the discipline of writing and reading, no matter what a slog it is. 

Peace to you as you become more than a survivor.

Amber

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PS: Our first gathering of Art Embers ( a Community for paid subscribers to share and comment on one another’s art for the month) was such an enjoyable gathering of poetry, music, and an essay. I’m processing what a gift it has been and if there is a better platform for us to share our stuff with one another. In the meantime, you’re still invited to be a part of that as it grows. Again, let me know if you’d like to join but can’t afford it. Just know that you’re welcome.