Friday, August 2, 2013

Dear Carolyn and Nora,

You asked me to show you some pictures of where I live, so here you go!  This is what our apartment looks like when you walk inside:

And if you turn around to look at the door...

Here is our kitchen--I hope you see the beautiful artwork on the fridge composed by our very own nieces!

If you look out the window, this is what you see!  I hope someday you can come visit and swim in our pool.

Here is our bathroom.

Complete with flowers, of course. :)

Here is our bedroom.

And this is what we see when we look out the window!  More palm trees!

I miss you girls like crazy!  I hope you are having a ton of fun this summer.  We love you!!

Love, Auntie Laura and Uncle Ryan

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Being Made Well: Hutchmoot 2012

At Hutchmoot this year, I had one of those rare experiences of being able, for a moment, to see clearly.  It was a gift I wasn’t even looking for (God has a habit of giving those!).  I’ve decided to follow John Barber’s lead in resurrecting the old blog so that I can share it with you.

It started with fear.  I have attended Hutchmoot for three years now.  Last year, in 2011, I had a difficult time.  There were good and beautiful things there, of course, but I struggled with feeling self-conscious and afraid most of the time, worried about being liked and accepted.  I felt unsettled and anxious.  I really wanted it to be the almost euphoric experience that the first year had been, but it wasn’t. 

So this year, a few weeks before Hutchmoot, I started considering how I might approach it differently.  I came up with a decent plan for avoiding the fear and self-consciousness, and actually felt pretty hopeful about it.  But a few days before we actually got in the car to head to Nashville, two things happened that I didn’t expect: Jason Gray wrote his post about the Monster in the Mirror, and I got into a fight with my sister.

It actually wasn’t a fight, but I’m not sure how else to succinctly describe it.  It was just a moment in which I accidentally let her see just a corner of some bitterness I had been feeling toward her.  I’m usually very good at controlling what I say, so I can hold all kinds of irritation and condescension inside without anyone ever knowing.  Kind of like what Jason said in his post about the monster, I can believe that because I’m not expressing any of that, I don’t actually have a problem with it.  But when I accidentally mentioned it to my sister, a crack split open in the wall and spread some light on what I had been keeping in the dark.  I realized that I had been in the habit of criticizing and comparing myself to her, of indulging in making myself feel better because I don’t struggle in precisely the same ways that she does.  I read Jason’s post around the same time and the crack opened even wider.  I realized in a rush that I was practicing this habit all across the board, in almost all of my relationships.  No, I rarely said anything rude or pretentious, but in most of my relationships, I found pleasure and satisfaction in considering the ways in which I was smarter, steadier, nicer, or more humble (yeah.).  I looked into that mirror that Jason pointed me to and saw a monster staring back at me.  Fortunately, it was the kind of monster that only needs a little light to be scared away.  I found that simply seeing myself in this way was enough to begin to start living differently.

So I brought the mirror to Hutchmoot and carried it around with me, trying to stay on the lookout for the monster of my own arrogance.  I quickly realized that this, and not the elimination of an unpleasant feeling like fear, was precisely what I had needed in the first place to fully enjoy, appreciate, and participate in Hutchmoot.  I felt able to engage in new and old relationships with much more authenticity than I had the previous year.  I felt able to listen, and to mean it. 

This was the gift I wasn’t looking for—I had just wanted to not feel afraid and self-conscious.  Instead, God went to work on my arrogance, and it gave me freedom that no amount of courage or confidence could have.

When I feel afraid, or ashamed, or anxious, my prayers tend to be focused on the hope that God might make me feel better.  God, give me comfort.  God, help me to not be afraid.  God, remove my guilt.  Surely God is the God of all comfort.  Surely he puts people and situations in our lives that are balm to stinging wounds, and we should be glad and grateful when relief like that is given.  But it may be even truer to say that God is the God of redemption and renewal, of healing and wholeness.  What I most want may be to just feel better.  But God wants me to be better.  He wants to gather me up, along with all of creation, in his work of making all things new through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  May he give me the grace to want that, too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gratitude, Hutchmoot-style

Last weekend my good friend Laura Peterson and I attended a conference in Nashville called Hutchmoot. As I have labored over this post over the course of the last week, I have found the actual event to be quite as inexplicable as the name. “What is a Hutchmoot?” is almost as difficult a question to answer as “How was Hutchmoot?”

Here’s my best shot at explaining the first: Hutchmoot was a gathering of various sorts of storytellers (authors, songwriters, sit-in-a-coffee-shop-with-a-book-and-a-friend storytellers, etc.) who share a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We found each other by way of the Rabbit Room (an excellent little corner of the internet) and many of us also share a love for the writing and/or music of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Frederick Buechner, Andrew Peterson, Jason Gray, and many others. In short, Hutchmoot was a way for a bunch of people who had never met each other to come and talk about things they found they all cared about.

Laura and I were there among them, and I’m gladder than I can say that we were.

I’m glad because now I know what “the magic hour” is and find myself filled with gratitude almost every evening when the descending light turns everything golden. It is a fine thing to have more gratitude in your life.

I’m glad because I now have several new items on my List of Books to Read. They come with recommendations from most trusted sources, so I’m counting on them being Very Good.

I’m glad because I now have a heavy (but not too heavy) hand-thrown mug called “The Professor” to drink my coffee out of every morning. I want to say that when I drink from it I get little visions of the wonderful things that I learned at Hutchmoot, but that’s not really true. It’s more of just a warm feeling, a comfort, like a smile I don’t realize I’m smiling until later.

I’m glad because I know better than I did before that I have something to offer other people. During one session Andrew Peterson shared with us his belief that each of us is an “image-bearer,” and therefore each of us, even the most unlikely, can create and share and edify. At Hutchmoot, I remembered that my desire to create is a good and God-given thing. At Hutchmoot, I realized that what the Rabbit Room contributors do that convicts and affirms and encourages me is essentially just “composed experience,” to quote Walt Wangerin. It’s shaping and naming, and then sharing. Handing it to someone else to experience. I have dabbled in the shaping. Now I want to learn how to do the sharing.

I’m glad for the delight of having crossed paths (even ever so briefly) with other people who believe that stories are important, that beauty is worth taking time to shape and thank God for, and that The Story is indeed true. I remember now better than I did why I believe these things.

And I’m glad for the delight of a more lasting variety of continuing on the same path, at least for now, with my good friend and traveling companion Laura Peterson.

There’s more to say, of course. Maybe there will be other Hutchmoot posts in future days. But for now, may I simply be thankful for what I have been given.