When A Cross-Dresser Meets An Off-Key Kumbayah

Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 12.02.08 AMI quit all service-related activities this past summer when I burned out.

And I haven’t been back at them since.

But the thing is, when you go too long with your heart-values being unrequited, something different—but equally damaging—happens: your heart starts to choke on your own values because they just keep sitting there, stacking up inside you.

Until they come so high you can nearly taste them crawling inch by inch up the back of your throat, suffocating you for their need to be released.

So it was no surprise to walk into Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry at butt-early o’clock on Saturday and feel like I could breathe again. I had come home. Home, I tell you. A place so familiar I can smell it in my sleep, with sounds and sights cascading dreamily through me like a favorite childhood memory – maybe the one where I sit on the counter in our growing-up kitchen, sneaking dough and keeping my mama company while she makes my favorite cookies. Comfort, contentment, intimacy, warmth down to my little white feet, that’s what flooded over my body when I travelled across the threshold of that church-basement pantry.

I’ve said it before and I’ll I say it again: there is never a greater sense of belonging then in this space, where my soul is catapulted to the center of an unwashed, undignified sea of quirky people. I love the loud-mouths, the misfits, the skin colors and wrinkle patterns. I love the offending scents, bad language and indecent behavior. I love the spectrum and volume of energy buzzing and pinging from wall to wall, the graceless chaos of pushing and shoving. I love the reluctant acceptance and show of community. I love the joy that still comes when someone starts yelling at me because I can’t understand the name he mumbles at the registration table. All this—even much more—and I feel like I’m the opportunist who found herself in heaven because she already chose to die.

Jay-Z and Kanye were wrong, you know. There IS church in the wild and I find it every time I’m there in that jungle of battered humanity, where I am chief of all the rabble-ish creatures. But, for absolutely dead damn certain the finest part of the whole [rethink] church service that morning was the moment when a lively cross-dressed man (complete with giant gold hoop earrings) flaunted in and started serenading the crowd at the very height of his off-key lungs. Round and around and around he would weave himself slowly through all the food-seeking bodies with an open hymn book in hand, singing song after song. He was so LOUD y’all, but in my estimation this man seemed like he represented The Glue that stuck all us kids together that day . . . not only did his off-color character invite you to come just as you are with all the strangeness and skeletons you stand up under, but because the first song he belted forth was none other then Kumbayah – the tune “originally associated with human and spiritual unity, closeness and compassion”. The whole eccentric event made me want to whoop and dance and grin as wide as the lousy limitations of my face would allow. And my spirit was so stretched with colliding and ricocheting sensations, the feeling you might have when something shamelessly pure and indescribably right and incandescently beautiful rises from an unseen place and expands your chest with all the good things. Bursting, I have heard it called before.

I am bursting. And all the craziness and Kumbayah singing doesn’t stop me from pausing within the bedlam just to inhale him, my Jesus. Pausing and breathing and shutting my eyes for only a moment and I can see his figure moving around the earthbound bodies in that fluid way – touching shoulders, bathing feet, bending close for every hug, delivering that celestial-sized smile he’s famous for . . . You see? The reason I go is selfish, really. I just want to be close to Jesus and remember who he is [especially] during this Lent season. Not only is he all over every person I smell and touch and serve, but his Spirit is also whorling between every piece of food and flesh. I mean, you literally and certainly CAN’T miss him. Of all the reasons for dragging my arse out of bed on a Saturday morning, that one is the absolute best.

{Image: SOURCE}

Three Little Notes And Some Lowridin’

Someday when they’re older then breast-height, they will have shot so high and flown so far . . . I am sure they’ll go right past where the stars are born and be away from the under-shadow of my mother-wings and I will sit in this empty nest with my forlorn arms and remember the morning when I sat quietly in the living room with my good-morning-hands wrapped in reverence around the habitual-tea-drink, a Buechner book open on my blanketed lap while they were hush-hush busy in the kitchen and whispering from oldest-ear to youngest-ear. I will remember how I thought that I should check on them because they were too quiet and too quiet means too much trouble, but somehow I knew to let be.

Then they came forth like a barbarian-parade, heavy on their feet and heavy with the excitement-noise and their teeth-baring-smiles reach all the way to crinkle at eye-corners and oh, those eyes? They shine like twinkle-shot-jewels and their arms reach right towards manhood when they stretch them out to me, their open hands bearing courtly envelopes with homemade wax seals.

“We made these for you Mama . . .” and I just think there are times when they say the Mama-word and it comes out sounding like mystery and fairytale, like a harmony the un-seen spirits must sing and there was the Supernatural injecting His magic into the vein of this ordinary moment with this most ordinary-heard-word, the one that bounces off my eardrum at least a hundred times a day. And how often does it sound so old . . . ? But, this time I listen to them say “Mama” and I think it was just different sounding enough to be understood as an invitation. An invitation to pay attention and remember the exact lilt of the “m” and the “a” as it rolled from their mouths. I had this sensation that Someone wanted this memory to be harbored-to-keep for a noise-less, boy-less, rainy day down the road.

And their three little notes with the messy wax seals? I’ll grip them strong and tuck them safe and bring them out with the Mama-word-memory when my future-heart longs to go back to a smaller-child time.

Gabe: “Dear Mama, I love you so much and I am very thankful to have you in my life. You are a great person to all of us. Thank-you for giving us your time to give us a great education! You are the greatest mom 3 crazy boys could ever have. You are very loving, very kind, very quick to apologize, very forgiving and many more. Love, Gabe”

Seth: “Dear Mama, I love you so much I can hardley brethe. I am so thankful to have such a careing Mama who deal’s with three kid’s every week. Love, Seth”

Jude: “Dear Mama, I am so happy you are my mom. You are the best mom ever. I am so happy you can be in this family.”

Oh my heart.

:::

Later that same day . . . 

When Mama is away, Papa and the boys have “guy time” and who knows what they’ll turn out doing, but on this particular evening they raided my closet with their little-grubby-Viking-fingers and HANG ON A SECOND!!! IS THAT MY WHITE SCARF?!?!?!

We live in Da Hood and lowridin’ is a way of life here and the boys dress themselves up in their own hilarity and parade around the house in Papa’s “teenage shoes” and the undies showing {the way they see the neighbor kids doin’} and an ongoing litany of “YEAH, WUS UP, UH-HUH, YEAH” rapping from their white-boy lips. And they’re giggling like school-girls.

Papa-Husband sends me these photos in txt and I smile big for all the flavors of this family and how the taste changes from morning to night, from Mama to Papa. And these memories that didn’t cost us a thing? Priceless.

Life As Art

“Listen to your life, see it for the fathomless mystery it is.” ~ Frederick Buechner

It’s raining grey drops on the outside, peppering the asphalt and earth-dirt with heaven’s impartial, christening water. It smells like creation’s church and my imagination is pressed close to cold panes of windowed glass and I can almost feel the taste of liquid silver on my tongue and this absurd little human-heart inside a chest-of-flesh flips over and oh dear God, the sound of it on the roof? Makes me school-girl giddy; if my spirit were to rise any higher, it would be away and gone from it’s body-home. There is the fog descending, too, to join nature’s tryst, offering his filmy, floating-fluctuation and dewy-dimension to autumn’s canvas. God-painted leaves dance their colors under the wet in a lover’s waltz with the subliminal brush of a wandering by, hands-in-his-trouser-pockets-with-a-whistle kind of breeze. They know it is their highest praise just to be and I am noticing, my eyes eating elements and landscape like soul-food. It is my own high worship, the watchfulness and mindfulness. The listening . . .

Today, I have the exceptional–and I do mean, exceptional–privilege of guest posting with Emily Wierenga of Canvas Child. Would you please follow me there? I’m sharing my heart for Life As Art . . .

Love,

Erika

{Photo Source: Unknown}