“What are you giving up for Lent?” my tribe asks. I say “tribe” because my brilliant writing coach friend taught me to view those who share my questions in life as my tribe.
The question didn’t spring itself on me this morning. I knew Lent was coming since the day of Epiphany in early January. Mardi Gras (or carnival) inevitably rolls into Lent with its ever-present question—what during the church’s traditional season of asceticism and preparation for Easter am I giving up?
One thing: my husband is our cook so whatever food he gives up, for the most part, I give it up too. I don’t consider this my Lenten discipline; it’s his discipline that I piggyback on. It leaves me to answer for myself the basic question: how will I focus on God this season?
Hip rehab, yes. But obsession in writing a new novel too. That’s why I’ve been so absent—the combination of these two life facts have been deadly to blogging, for which I apologize. BTW, I’ve missed being here. 🙂
Here’s my latest:
* The University of North Carolina was eliminated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Sooooooo, I won’t be singing this year. When UNC wins the NCAA, I fling open my front door and sing at the top of my lungs, “I’m a tar heel born, I’m a tar heel bred . . . ” The neighbors are currently breathing a sigh of relief.
* The dog and I are easing back into relationship, something that pretty much died when she absolutely could not jump on my new hip and I could not take her for walks. Our new relationship involves a lot of stretching out in bed together.
* I’m making thumb prayers, to be put in your pocket and rubbed with your thumb when you need a reminder of God. Here’s a pic of a few:
* A random stranger on the internet sent me a message that, in the opening sentence, contained the phrase, “and I think you’re brilliant.” This has tickled me to no end. I Googled her, to make sure it wasn’t a sham. She’s the real deal. And she’s been reading my work and thinks I’m brilliant. 🙂
* I have kept up my Lenten discipline of having a God sighting each day and sharing it on Facebook. Here are a few:
I Saw God Today
when I opened my eyes this morning and realized I live in a wonderland—the reaching branches of the cottonwood, the glint of water in the harbor, the blue sky peeking through. My unease at returning to Memphis and the “grind” of daily living evaporated. This is what I see when I wake up. I live in a wonderland. #Lent2015
I Saw God Today
in the faces of cousins and cousins once removed and leap cousins and cousins so distant I don’t know how they’re my cousin: the never-ending circle of life and love #Lent2015
I Saw God Today
in this hand soap. HAND soap, shaped like a hand. I can’t remember who gave this to me. Was it you, my sister? Or you, my cousin? Someone who knew me well enough to know I would adore it. And where is God in this? Well, God—the creator of laughter—loves puns too. #Lent2015
* I’m going to write a “How to Write in Community” pamphlet to be distributed to anyone and everyone who is interested in starting a writing group in a homeless shelter, women’s shelter, prison group, cancer support group, divorce group, etc. It’ll be simple. “Get someone to donate a packet of notebook paper, lined.” “Secure pencils and pens.” “Expect writers to fall asleep. Expect writers to arrive late. Expect absences because writers are in the hospital or at chemo or in drug rehab or jail or at the Social Security Office or a job interview or at the lawyer’s office or in trial or they’ve moved to a new part of the city and can’t make the trip to writing group. Everyone’s going through something. Life takes precedence.” That type of thing.
Oh. And the new novel? It’s a mystery set along the Wolf River Harbor where I live. The hero, a scion of a Arkansas plantation family and formerly homeless, investigates the murder of a real-estate developer who wanted to improve the harbor for the benefit of the poor neighborhood. Our man Coot is also trying to come to terms with a long-ago murder that occurred when Mud Island was still a wild place of squatters living on floating oil-drum homes. Here’s the harbor from my front door during a recent flood:
Thanks for hanging in there during my absence. I appreciate you.
Graffiti. A bare tree. My dog’s pink tongue. This is where I’m seeing God these days.
My Lenten discipline this year for the forty days preceding Easter is to see God every day and share my sightings on my Facebook author page. I’ve had many, varied Lenten disciplines over the years. During my childhood, mostly no sweets. As an adult, often no alcohol; easier, now, for me to give up than sweets. 🙂 Last year, we did vegan for three days a week. By the end of the first week the practice had knocked me off my I-don’t-eat-much-red-meat-so-I’m righteous pedestal. I HATED it. But I learned how very much I depended on animals to stay alive. This Lent, I wanted my practice to force me to be with God.
I Saw God Today in the graffitied encouragement on the warehouse loading dock when, after a grueling ( 🙂 ) physical therapy session, I plopped into the chair in NOCCA’s new cafe and glanced out the window: #Lent2015
My sightings of God are not going to be yours. For the most part, they don’t take place in church (particularly when I’m recovering from a hip replacement and not going to church.) It has dawned on me that when I finish Lent, if you follow my postings, you are going to know what I believe about God. This can be a scary thing.
I Saw God Today when Evangeline’s pink tongue poked from her mouth and licked my thumb. We love our pets whole-heartedly, knowing full well their time on this earth is briefer than ours and we are sure to mourn their passing. God is in the courage of that love. #Lent2015
You will have seen my underlying melancholy.
I Saw God Today
in the shadow of a parked car, the outline crisply defined, appearing in the parking lot only because the sun chose to shine. “Do not rue the shadow; it means the sun shines nearby.” #Lent2015
You will see where I believe the Spirit to reside.
I Saw God Today in the stark beauty of this tree, its bare white limbs soaring in a city that celebrates its live oaks #Lent2015
You will see clearly how much I love my husband.
I Saw God Today in my husband’s hands as he pressed into place the covering to protect my incision. “Let’s get out all your bubbles,” he said, gently checking his work. The covering crackled. His palms smoothed, done. #Lent2015
But as you click on Like depending on the content of the post, I will see what resonates with your Spirit too. I’ve already discovered that, for most folks, it’s more likable to see God in the light rather than the dark. I am trying not to get sidetracked by reader’s reactions but to swim forward based on my own watery, blurred sightings. Each day I wonder, will I see God today? I can’t think ahead, can’t plan, cannot fake it. I must wait for that moment when the air coalesces and a frisson arrives, and I know: that’s God.
Now you may think I’m a tad touched. So be it. No one searching for God in this world is gonna be altogether sane.
I Saw God Today in the corona of Mary. She traveled with me to Nazareth where she was sprinkled with water from the well. I rubbed her image this morning and the oil from my thumb polished her golden rays. Why did I see God in Mary? Because I missed her and went looking for her. #Lent2015
Someone posts a photo of her beloved pet, and I weep.
Someone posts a photo of a great flash mob, and I weep.
Someone posts a quote, and I weep.
I believe I’m ready for Lent to be over.
I don’t think I’m put together for an extended period of intentional deprivation. I’m MUCH better at deprivation over which I have no control. Intentional deprivation—a lecture to yourself to not be happy—makes me (Surprise!) not happy.
I am not an adherent of the “suffering brings us closer to God” tribe.
I am an adherent of the “God put all this joy on the earth for a reason” tribe.
I have learned a great deal from my discipline of not critiquing people (I’m sure I’ll write about it at some point when I’ve got the energy). I’ve learned one big lesson from the vegan days—animals keep me alive—but I realized that a week and a half into Lent. I have learned nothing from the abstaining from alcohol because I already knew I liked wine.
Call me spiritually immature. Call me lazy. Call me a whiner. Call me a failed Episcopalian. I can agree with you on some of those. Just, at this stage in the liturgical calendar, don’t call on me to defend Lent.