Monday, September 26, 2016

The need to read

I read a chapter in a book last night and it felt like I had started doing my homework after being out sick from school for six months.
(It also felt good.)
I have a library book -- one book -- checked out, and I received an overdue notification. I've had it for so long that when I tried to renew it the website told me I couldn't, my renewal limit has been surpassed.
Have I read this library book? Yes, some of it. But not all. Certainly not even half.
It's so strange to me that I haven't been reading.
Because I used to READ.
I read a little bit earlier this year, as I think I've managed to finish 18 books or so in 2016. Several of those were young adult books.
But according to my Goodreads account, I haven't finished a book since mid-July. More than two months ago.
I don't know why I'm telling you this, except for that this is my blabbery blog and I tend to tell you guys a lot of things, and also, I don't know, I guess I want to process it.
Reading is so much a part of who I am that, without it, I feel strange. I feel as if the contents of my closet were stolen and I'm wearing someone else's wardrobe. Which means I'm surviving, I'm clothed, I'm fine. But I'm not quite me.
I emailed my friend Jill recently, Jill who's managed to find some 14 podcasts that she's had time to listen to, analyze, categorize. Jill who's managed to read, NO JOKE, 133 books this year.
I told her that her prolificness (prolificity?) impresses me. I then proceeded to tell her that I'm not doing anything with much regularity lately (other than pack suitcases, travel, unpack suitcases, repeat). Other than just recently starting to rewatch Bunheads and then Felicity, I rarely watch TV or movies. When the second season of Kimmy Schmidt came out, I told Alex he could watch it without me.
This not watching TV piece of my life I'm actually not complaining about. I sometimes think with disgust the number of hours I've spent in front of a screen, and kinda sorta wish I could take some of those hours back.
I've done some very recent blogging, and I've been writing prayers since June, but other than that my fingers haven't been flying across the keyboard in the name of My Novel.
I certainly haven't been exercising with any consistency, or this gut might be a thing of the past.
I have managed to get a lot of stitching done, but that's evident to me only because I look at all the projects I've done this year and see that it's been a lot. But I don't feel like I'm sitting down and stitching all that much. (Though I must, obviously, be.)
When I read that chapter last night, I wanted to read more. And I started a second chapter, but then I got so sleepy, I had to call it quits for the moment. Which was mildly aggravating, because I had to wonder: will I actually keep reading tomorrow? Because the thing is: I just can't predict my reading behavior lately, except that I haven't been reading much so I probably won't be reading much from day to day.
The weird thing is, I'm not (entirely) super jealous of Jill (read: I'll probably always be a little bit jealous of Jill, because she's a gem). Even though she reminds me of Taylor Swift, I'm still not (entirely super) jealous of her. I don't say this to say that Jill isn't worth being jealous over, because she's super cute and super smart and super funny. I just say this as a: "Hmm. Strange that I'm not jealous because jealous is like my go-to emotion."
Part of the limited jealousy is because Jill just has a great heart. I genuinely enjoy her company. She doesn't make me feel like a lesser person in any way. And when we get together we're just like, "Blah blah blah have you read this? blah blah blah and this? blah and this? and this? and this?"
And those are my kind of people.
But I guess the reason I bring up the jealousy thing is because I do really miss reading, so you'd think that someone who has time to read 133 books in a year (and is reminiscent of Taylor Swift to boot) would be someone I would envy greatly.
So this makes me wonder: am I in denial? Admittedly, I've been trying not to think too hard about all the not reading.
I suppose all I can say -- and propose for myself -- at this point is that, I guess I need to get back to the reading.
Tonight. Before bed. Book in hand. Get back to it. Get back to that which gives me life. Get back to that which doesn't fully make me Bailey, but which does help make me Bailey.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I vow to fight for love.

I had a breakdown in a rental car this weekend.
The car was fine. I was not.
Am not.
As I drove across Wisconsin, tears kept placing a chokehold on my throat, and then they'd pour out of my eyes and I just kept driving because I had no time to spare to get to the airport, 200 miles away.
All this emotion is a combination of something chemical in me, circumstances in my own life, and the state of our world.
Lord, have mercy. Are things bad now.
I've been in some really dark places in my life, times that have brought me literally to my knees just telling God, "I need you to show me some hope." But right now the ache inside me is giving those times a run for their money.
I'm scared. Nothing seems stable. I keep looking at Facebook, out of habit, and I keep telling myself maybe I should take a break from the outpouring of horrible, helpless, hopeless news.
You might be wondering why I'm here telling you all this. My vulnerability might make you uncomfortable. You might be wishing I'd keep it to myself, or just between me and some close friends and family.
But that's not my way, for one. It used to be, but then I started sharing my feelings and I felt the life it gave back to me, and I said, "Sayonara, Privacy. Never keeping things to myself again."
And, if I'm going to survive, Friends, I've gotta stand with someone. I can't just sit here and let the fear rot away at my edges, at my core.
I need help.
Some help I've already employed:
A med check with my psychiatrist. Check.
A fresh cup of coffee, to fight my fatigue. Check.
Emails and texts to family and friends. Check.
Already owning a cat. Check.
Ugh. Writing this is not providing catharsis.
But I guess I'm here to say this: after all I've been through in my life, what I've survived and overcome, all the great experiences I've had...I'm gonna be a fighter.
I just emailed my pastor to see if he'd be game for an impromptu prayer night at church.
I've got to believe in something bigger than all this. And I need to be around people who want peace and hope and love. I know we all want that, but I can't feel that from the headlines. I need to feel it in held hands and long embraces and with my butt in a squishy church pew. I need to fill my tank so I can get back out there on the front loving lines.  
A couple of years ago, I was having a very hard time, a time I thought might end me. Freaking out, I called my friend Tommy, and he told me that I had to stick to my plans of working out that evening. He and I both knew the movement of body would move the soul and heart, too.
So I followed orders, and then I took a shower and put on a happy green shirt and sat on my patio and made a list of good things in my life at present.
I wrote about a sweet friend of mine, who had recently had twin girls. I wrote about how I had the chance to help her bounce and rock and pat the girls' backs so they wouldn't cry as much. How we whispered to each other about life, as the sun went down and their nursery grew dusky dark. How the time spent with little squishy darlings collapsed on my chest helped lift me up.
As my arms grew sore from holding babies, I mentioned it to my friend. She said lifting the babies was like lifting weights. Like lifting sacks of sugar, she said.
I'll never forget that.
And thus, ever since, when I've felt down I've forced myself to sit down and count some sacks of sugar in my life. Or little sugar packets, if I can only think of small things. All the good things in my life, whether they be squishy babies that feel like sacks of sugar, or something else.
So I don't know about y'all, but I'm not giving up. If I get the go ahead from my pastor about the prayer night, I'm inviting the whole neighborhood. I'm going to keep visiting my psychiatrist. I'm maybe going to take a break from Facebook. I'm going to keep being transparent on this blog, and with my friends, and with strangers and with everyone.
I'm going to pray, and pray some more. I'm going to hug more.
I'm going to tidy my space. Hang out on the treadmill, and out in the sunshine, more often.
And I'm going to list 25 things right now that are sacks of sugar in my life.
Ready? Here we go.
1. I got to see these people less than a week ago:
2. I have glasses now, so things aren't blurry. Yay!
3. I LOVE my church family, and the peace those brothers and sisters give me.
4. I love that we let anyone share the communion meal with us at said church. So on board with how I feel about God's grace and love and message.
5. I get to go to a very special event this weekend -- that I can't name here, because it's a surprise for Alex.
6. I'm listening to Shania Twain right now, and she's pretty upbeat.
7. We still have things to smile about in this world, thank God.
8. I need a shower, and I have a shower at my disposal to make that happen.
9. With my super cat loving powers, I molded my already snuggly cat into a lap cat. So I can smooch on that little fuzz face as much as I want, during non-working hours.
10. I have an appointment this week with my therapist, who wants to help me and see me thrive.
11. I get to write prayers for church this week, and I love doing that.
12. I have a lot of groceries at my disposal currently, which is not always the case. Thus, I can eat actual adult food, and I don't have to spend money on restaurant food.
13. I have a movie date with a friend tomorrow.
14. The night after that, I have a date with the same girl and some of her pals, and we're going to see MY BIRTHDAY TWIN DREW CAREY!!!!
15. Last Wednesday I got a voice mail saying that I won a trip to Napa (in a raffle at the Bonnie Raitt show this summer!).
16. My sweet friend Jill texted me this weekend and told me she has an extra ticket to the Dolly Parton show next month. And she wants ME to have it. Thrilled. Dream show.
17. That friend Jill is someone who I met through the Internet, and I consider that a miracle. She is great and loves to read and write about the same amount as me (I think we're pretty much equal, but one of us might love those things more than the other).
18. I understand basic makeup applying skills now. I did not always have such skills.
19. Someone close to me was in an unhappy job and recently found one doing something he loves. Hallelujah.
20. Some friends of mine recently had their first kiddo.
21. I got to text with my friend Lynn recently, and it was encouraging and just warm and wonderful to chat with her. She's so real and loving and amazing. One of my role models for sure.
22. I think my Rachael Yamagata CD is coming in the mail on Friday. I pre-ordered. Duh.
23. My new workout pants are coming in the mail soon. I've developed a problem with leg chafing, so I have to say "See ya!" to workout shorts.
24. While I have been SO BLESSED to travel to a million bazillion places this year, I am so relieved to say that I don't have to do any traveling for 53 days.
25. And finally, I have you guys. People who read my writing. That's amazing. It gives me so much life to write, so to have an audience is just all the better.
Be strong, everyone. Fight for love. Fight without fists. Lift your head up to the sky. Feel the sun on your face. Buy a latte. Pray. Vote in November. Count your sacks of sugar, and get back out there.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Compassion prayers

Guten tag, my reading friends.

Per a friend's request, I am posting yesterday's prayers.

May you all be well, and not wrecked by the memories that yesterday stirred for us all, but rather renewed in hope, light, life, and love. If you are not feeling those things, my prayer is that you would reach out, or reach Up, to find some relief.

Much love,

Theme/worship intention: Compassion = suffering with

September 11, 2016

When we toss at night, and our minds tangle with our sheets. As we have thoughts of what is wrong with our lives, or what is wrong with us, tame us. Smooth the hair out of our eyes, and hum a lullaby of peace. When we wake and our morning latte doesn’t erase our disheveled state, hold our hand. Even at our worst, help us realize the miracle that we can still serve, because where Your spirit is, there is freedom. When our spirits are broken, help us use the parts that are still living to soothe those in our reach. And in return, may we be comforted and return to peace.
When we are annoyed by those who are still maturing in areas that we believe we have mastered, humble us. Remind us that we all have to climb the steps of growth in our own time. When someone’s economic status, or sexual orientation, or style of dress, makes us squirm, adjust our lens so we see that person as your beloved child. Prick our hearts in the places where we have been misunderstood, so that we can remember the times we needed others to respond to our uniqueness with grace. Only you can turn a situation on its head, turning us from judges into friends.
On this tragic anniversary for our nation, Lord, we know that you are solemn with us. We know that you are especially with those who lost someone whom they can call by name. Wrap your widows and orphans in a heavenly shawl, as we prepare them a cup of tea. Let us hold them as they weep, and may they wake up tomorrow renewed. Remove us from a place of fear, and turn our eyes to hope. Teach us to always seek out how we can make the world better. May our own experience of grief and uncertainty urge us to remember those around the world who now face the same.
For our Muslim brothers and sisters, who are too often treated unjustly on account of the actions of few. May we not bristle with fear when we see scarves on heads; instead open our eyes to people who are a lot like us; people who want to worship and walk in peace. May we be open to them in all ways – with open hands, open hearts, and open doors. When other walks of life frighten us, let us not turn on our heels and run, but set us down inside a conversation. Be our mediator, and our guide. Give us the words we are to say before we speak them.
For those wrestling with an emptiness inside them, may we share our life’s fullness to fill in their hollow. May we serve them bread that steams when torn apart. May we draw a bath and pour in the fancy soap. May the couches in therapists’ offices be extra cushy. Make us brave enough to lance our emotional wounds, so that healing may rush in. When we find ourselves in our most hopeless corner, draw us out. Lead us to doctors, and fresh air and casseroles and dance parties, and to people who will sit with us, for as long as we need sitting. As their arms embrace us, may we feel your arms, too, in a divine group hug.
Our world has long groaned in deep, emotional pain. May we hear your groaning on our behalf, and know that You feel our labor pains alongside us. You are the best Lamaze coach we could ever desire. As our bodies cramp and our chests heave, you dab our heads with wet terry cloth. You place ice chips on our hot tongues and rub our tight backs as they melt. You mysteriously make us laugh when we feel like we are dying. And then you give us new life, revealing your grace in warm light that fills the room, as we forget the thrashing that came before. And then we know that the scars left behind are just a memory, of that time you stopped the bleeding and stitched us back to wholeness in You.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I find it hard to pray. So I'm glad someone asked me to do it more this year.

Hi, Friends,
I'm not a good pray-er. Generally speaking. Chiefly, I just don't do it very often. I think about God a lot, and His hand on nature and circumstances and us. But I don't do a lot of talking -- for all my talking -- in His direction.
Nor do I listen, as prayer is, I think, supposed to be a two-way sort of deal.
This is for various reasons. Chiefly, I don't want to stop moving and be still and quiet. Again, I think about God a lot. While quietly stitching, listening to meditative or classical music, I think about the blessings in my life, the struggles I have and knowing that Someone is there. But to put down the colored thread, to silence the music, and just sit on my bed, eyes closed?
Mmmm, no thanks.
That's a terrible attitude to have, but I am a busy person living in 2016. That's an excuse, but, well, I make those. And as a lifelong Christian, I know how easy it is, even when you believe in a divine caretaker, to go for that which we can touch, and see, and smell, rather than to reach out to a deity who we can't see, or touch. I can tuck myself in my boyfriend's chest, and smell his soap and his Alexness, and be comforted. But I can't do the same with my God.
[Side note: I'm reading Lauren Winner's Wearing God, and she talks about finding the divine in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the candles we light, whose aroma we breathe in. She dissects things like God's sense of smell, regarding incense and burnt offerings. Interesting read. And, side note within a side note: I love Winner. She is an amazingly well-read, honest, darling gem. If you're looking for a less heady introduction to her, check out Girl Meets God. (It's in my top 10, or at least 15).]
Anyway, so it's hard to sit and talk to someone who you can't see in the room with you, even if you believe He's there in the room with you.
But as I've mentioned in previous blog posts this summer, my pastor asked me to write some prayers for our church. At first I was interested in helping him out, and since then I've really enjoyed the process of writing them.
It's also been a growth practice for me to read them aloud during service, as I've learned to steady and slow my voice for my audience. I tend to cry when I read Scripture or talk about God out loud (see: Riley's wedding, 2011), but I've learned that not letting my voice waver helps others to pray with me. If they just hear a warbling girl in front of them, while I'm sure they'd be supportive and sweet, then none of us would really be praying. I'd just be crying and they'd be cocking their heads to the side, like attentive therapists, or mothers. There are a lot of spiritual mothers in my church family. This is comforting, as my mother is far away.
Writing the prayers, while it hasn't inspired me to sit quietly in my room and talk to God on my own time, it has made me focus on Him and his love, for an hour each week as I pen some reflections of Him. And for this I am so grateful.
So far I've posted my justice prayers and my love prayers (each week we have a worship intention that the prayers, sermon, and music are centered around) to the blog. Y'all have given me some very kind words in response. So for that, thank you.
And, as I know firsthand how hard it can be to, of our own volition, bow our heads and start talking to the Big Man, I thought I'd post some more prayers for you to pray along, if you so desire. I don't know about you, but I don't have one of those holy and compact prayer books. So if you find yourself in the same boat, feel free to pray the prayers below, from this past Sunday. 
To be honest, I feel a little weird posting these to the Internet, but I think I'd feel even more weird just filing them away for no one else's eyes or ears. This is not a private collection; I want you to be able to touch and feel and smell God. I want you to snuggle in his chest and smell his laundry soap, the soap that Mary took to the river, wringing out the robes of her mysterious son.
OK. Thanks for reading this far down the post. Read on, if you so wish. And pray on, as you feel moved.
Much love,
Prayers, Sunday, September 4, 2016
Theme/worship intention: Light, life, and love
Scripture: 1 John
Once riddled with cracks, we were broken pottery, deemed useless by the world. Forgotten amid the dust, we despaired. But you dug your nails into the earth, until it gave way to wet, sticky clay. You massaged your thumb over our cracks -- lines where we had broken under life's pressure and heat. You turned us in your hands until we were water tight. And when you were done, we knew that even when we had been imperfect, your light was always shining through our brokenness. We had purpose when the world said we didn't.

You made us
a city on a hill, God, so we could offer hope in the night. A lamp in a window, to guide the paths of passers by. We sometimes lose sight of your light, when all the news is bad. But with the flicker of a wick, you remind us that no darkness can ever overcome it. Help us feel your warmth in our cores, that we would be moved to shine your light to those who have lost hope. May we never be without a dry match, so we can rush to show that your light lives on.

You chose to make us exist, God. You could have kept this world spinning without us, but you decided to give each of us a chance. A chance to taste ice cream. A chance to stay up past our bedtimes, wrapped up in conversations that end only when someone falls asleep mid-sentence. A chance to feel healing as we sing in your sanctuaries. Let us close our eyes in the moments of gold, and say "thanks for the memories."

In this broken world, Lord, we can't always taste the ice cream of life. With worldwide strife, unfathomable amounts of death, and unexplained feelings of emptiness inside -- we sometimes wonder why life is so great. In our unspeakable pain, God, hold us. Help us find the joy that keeps us going. May we all be walking stories of redemption -- a people who has cowered in fear but then marches out of our cave, blinking in the sun.

For the opportunity to love, Lord, we can never thank you enough. To be unable to shut up about our latest crush, this one who we feel might finally be the real deal. To be just enamored by the cuteness of our pets, shoving our faces in their fuzzy bellies. For that certain squeal that emits from our bodies, the squeal that is reserved only for nieces and nephews, who grow and change so fast we can hardly stand it. May we never lose our urge to act crazy, because we are crazy in love.

Teach us how to love You the most, God. It is easy for us to fall for the tangible, for the people we can see and touch. But it is thanks only to You that we love at all. God, you made love an INSTINCT, and that alone is a miracle. May we obsess over You, the one who grants all things and people whom we love, the one who makes our hearts beat. May our hearts always beat for You.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Alphabet dreams

My dream today is tucked in a classroom in Iowa.
I'm nervous in my dream, and self conscious, wondering who decided to let me in here. I remind myself this is a dream, and in dreams one is accepted to an elite writing program if that is her dream.
I find a seat.
Even though it's September Second and I know it's sweltering in Iowa, I pretend in my dream that my shirt is not sticking to me, where my messenger bag presses humidity flush with my flesh.
Today in my dream it is overcast and chilly. Just a little chilly, though -- Bailey, still-acclimating-from-California-and-needs-to-ease-in-to-the-chill chilly.
A Pumpkin Spice Latte warms my grip. I decided to splurge, because there is no credit card debt in dreams.
I feel a pang for Alex, hours away in the City of Angels, and I can feel his head's silky curls between my fingers.
I wear a scarf, the scarf of many colors that I found when I was conquering Vienna the summer before I found myself in this classroom. This sweet, sweet classroom.
I will only share my Austrian anecdotes if one of my future friends inquires about my variegated shawl. For now I will sit on my chattiness. I will bite my tongue, letting milky, artificial pumpkin soak over it.
Even my Words with Friends cannot tempt me to look at the phone in my bag.
Because here I sit with my Words with Friends. This is the real deal, Y'all, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I am scanning this corner of campus for a Robinson sighting, waiting for a greater thrill when I spot her than that time Rosie and I passed Mr. Romano hiking in LA.
(I will spot Robinson, because legends don't retire in dreams.)
These are my celebrities. The ones who make words speak our hearts' tugs. The ones who make me want to fight the good fight and string my own words to speak additional tugs. Because until this world sighs its last, we will always have tugs that need to be voiced.
I fish for a spiral notebook and fast forward to Labor Day (a daydream within a daydream, if you will), when I will drive to Kansas and see the Mom and the Dad and the cats. One cat, two cat, three cat, brat cat. The Dad will pour glasses of red and I will prattle as long as they will let me about all the feelings -- the nerves, the thrill, the happy -- that crowd my dream.
I will hunker in their living room, a grey furball for company, and I will write. I will wonder if I am any good. I will wonder again who let me into this dream.
My phone will buzz nearby, with inquiring texts from the best ever friends, and I too will buzz.
I will choose not to check the texts. Because I will find they are an alarm instead.
So I pull the blanket tighter round me, and buzz.
Warm and steady.
I'm not pressing the snooze button today. I want to feel that buzz and live out this dream until the cat begs so loudly for food that I must be roused to reality.
(And once he gets his morning dose of Fancy Feast, I will write. Because dreams don't write themselves.)