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}

Roger And Our Dirty Skin

{Taken right outside Froyo World.}

I would love to show you a photo of old Roger so you could see what I see: that he’s just the most beautiful. His leather-like face is thickly etched with time-lines, his hair is unhygienic, lousy . . . his skin wears pockmarks and blackheads like some woman wear pearls and polka dots. He doesn’t have any top teeth that I can see beyond his overgrown mustache and whew! if he doesn’t smell like an unwashed decade. He wears baggy velour track pants, three jackets, scars across his heart and no less then a globe’s worth of guilt on his back. Maybe he’s 65. Or 90. Who can tell under all the layers of filth and fault he bears?

Our family was getting concerned about Roger and started asking around town because we hadn’t seen him in two months, when we usually intersect stories weekly. We asked and asked and all five pairs of eyes would go left and right and all in circles scanning crowds and alleys looking specifically for the tall, homeless man with that distinct gait and bushy beard of his.

He loves Froyo World more then anything so we always brought him there. For a while, EVERY time we took to town to treat ourselves—out of all the places he could be in New Haven—Roger would magically walk right across our path like we were telepathically connected and destined for friendship and Froyo. We would take him inside and all the curious watchers would wonder at our ease of relationship, love and laughter with this bum-looking character. The kids would get their small allotted portions, but Roger? I always told him to FILL. IT. UP!!! And he would pour $8 worth of vanilla yogurt into his container. That’s it, no toppings. Just plain vanilla. Maybe he likes to keep it simple because life has been so complicated?

Roger talks of the crazy wife he wanted to kill, his time in jail, his two children—a boy and a girl. He gave them up for adoption because he was so strung-down on drugs and too busy suffocating the life out of himself that he couldn’t meet their most basic needs, let alone offer any kind of nurturing. He says that he constantly checks on them, (maybe to assuage his heart?) to make sure they’re not “turning out the way he did”. But to hear him talk of it will sure-as-anything-sharp, slice-your-soul-right-up because when he says it, his eyes are full of fathomless sadness, sadness so strong that a person could be sucked right into the vortex of his pain and drown inside if they weren’t careful.

He once told me he was “an undesireable” and with all my heart I told him that was a lie.

Last night we were driving to Froyo World to meet our friends, Justin and Chrisy, when we pulled up to a red light and Jude yelled from the back seat: “THERE”S ROGER!!!! I FOUND HIM!!!!”. And I rolled down my window so fast to call his name so loud and with all the thrill of a Christmas morning, “ROGER!!! HI!!! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!? WE’VE BEEN LOOKING EVERYWHERE FOR YOU!!! WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET ICE CREAM WITH US?!

Because, you see? I’ve missed my friend and I wanted to make sure he knew it.

Roger tells me right back that he’s missed us, that he’s been looking for us too!!! “I thought maybe you moved to Texas!!!” I laughed so big and just like that we fell into our camaraderie and moved as a unit to get dessert together, but before our friends even showed up or we could get our frozen yogurt, Roger said he had a present for the boys and took off at a trot towards the stash of stuff that he keeps somewhere. 20 minutes later he came back holding out a big, colorful hardcover “Birds of Prey” coffee table book and he gifted it to Gabe, Seth and Jude. And, can I tell you? It was one of the sweetest moments in my personal history, to witness a homeless man giving something to us when he, essentially, has nothing. Oh, it was like being transported to ancient times and witnessing the widow give her mite. What a sensation, to feel (in little) what it must’ve felt like for Jesus to watch her give from her poverty, everything she had.

Mercy. The whole event moved mountains in me and the rest of our time together was filled with the Spirit while we ate and shared questions and stories and near the end Roger asked me to read some Psalms over him and our friend Justin had a prophetic word for Roger regarding the guilt he carries and how God actually sees him like a beloved son in spite of the lies he hears. Then we bowed our heads and Justin prayed for him and I held his hand, dirty skin to dirty skin – Roger’s and mine.

 

{Austin Morrison – my Mr., my Him, my Love . . . I was SO wishing you weren’t out of town for this. Miss you.}

Not Your Average Will

Do you remember the movie Bruce Almighty? (This film about a narcissistic, ego-centric, ungrateful, pessimistic, money-hungry guy who has an encounter with God that changes his life.) Our three boys were watching it a few weeks ago in the backseat of the car while we travelled Rt. 80 through the pastoral hues of western PA toward our family holiday destination. And even though I couldn’t see the screen from the front passenger seat and only listened to the scenes with half an ear while reading a book, in the peripherals of my mind I was following the storyline of a movie that I hadn’t seen in more then five years. But for some reason I was pulled out of my peripheral-listening and became sharply focused right as this particular point near the end of the movie: Bruce has reached the absolute end of himself and is wandering the city streets like a person gone mental; his stagger is that of a man who’s been stripped of all his walls and has nothing left but the bare and wretched truth of his human condition. If that isn’t enough, the sky suddenly opens over his realized condition and lets-down this skin-soaking storm as if to seal his situation as dire – just in case he was mistaken about it before. He finally gives in to the inevitable and plummets to his knees on the asphalt, stretches his arms all the way east-to-west, throws his head up to heaven and shouts into the downpour, “OKAY!!! I SURRENDER TO YOUR WILL!!!” And no sooner are the words dredged from the pit of his dying narcissistic heart then he is hit square in the body by a horn-blasting semi-truck . . .

Would you follow me over to Deeper Story today to hear the rest of this narrative?

{Also: Hi!!! I’m back!!! I have updates and stories and post-sabbatical notes to share with y’all! I’m not sure how much of it I will be able to write out here, but I’m gonna do my best to clear my chest in the coming weeks. :)}

{Also, also: Hi!!! I LOOOOOOOOOVE you!!!!}

Love,

Erika

Photo Credit: Amy Ballinger via Flickr

If Ever

Thanksgiving is over and gone, celebrated with family and high feasting and burgundy drinking and kids up before the sun to cross-country ski their fledgling legs across fields of diamond-white brilliance in the Vermont Green Mountain National Forest landscape. If ever a parents heart is full, it is when the offspring come in stomping snow, red-cheeked and puffing with eyes that twinkle, twinkle like little stars with so much alive-ness it’s pouring out their skin, they’ve just done something worth remembering forever. And the adults are sitting by the wood-burning stove in the farmhouse kitchen with hot drinks and bed-head-hair and slippers and all wrapped tight-up in robes of winter coziness. Just watching. It is enough, always, to see the young-ones exploring through the same things we–all four parents–did as kids and the aged-ones smile so wide behind steaming mugs for knowing deep the exact feeling that beats in their chests right now and it burns incandescent.

Thanksgiving? Oh, my God. Yes! And all this is Grace, Himself, on boundless platters.

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And, as if that wasn’t enough, He steals in quiet on the heels of this carousal-of-gratitude with a beckoning to His Advent . . .

The atmosphere glows gentle with a hundred and more tiny sparkle lights on our Charlie Brown evergreen tree and all the spirit-atoms within go hush, hush for the sweet Bethlehem Baby. A Baby that I’ve never wanted to hold so bad and we all take Him in our arms tonight with our sacraments and remembering. We take Him in our arms and clutch Him close again, tis the season for new-skin smell and Baby-breath fanning and for swaying around the living room with flesh-palms caressing a soft, downy, Divine-head. Even the three rowdy-ones know the space around them has shifted to temperature still as we light the candle of Preparation on a Sunday and supplicate for the deep hope of softening our Christmas hearts: ” Come, Thou most welcome One . . . prepare our human-temples to be a place where You can rest Your holy head this Christmas season . . . We don’t care what You do within us or with-out us, just make it matter in the Manger Kingdom . . .”

And if ever the air is pregnant, it’s the Advent air – 9 months, pre-labor big with the memory of Something so great, it can only come in the package-size of an infant.

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How, dear friends, was your Thanksgiving?

And, if you have a moment . . . what are some of your Advent and Christmas practices and sacraments?

Love,

Erika

 

Wherein My Heart Changes – Part 2

For those of you who might have missed it, the following post is a continuum from Wherein My Heart Changes.

Everyone got a grip on their girdles?

I could prolong the agony and make you wait until the end of the post for the big reveal, but I’m not like the people who are like that. I can’t keep anything inside. In fact, sometimes when folks hear things come out of my mouth, it’s the first time I’m hearing it too. Which is just a fancy way of saying that occasionally I don’t think before I speak. But, I’m working on that. In fact, I’ll probably be writing a post about it soon and it will most likely include a picture of me with a piece of tape over my mouth – blue painters tape to be more specific. True story. Let’s move on before I break out in another rash induced by self-depreciation.

Now . . . where was I? Oh, yeah. The thread with the edge where we find our five pairs of feet standing.

We’re about to walk this fine strand of twisted fibers, our hearts are already leaning way over . . . It looks like Love and it spells . . .

Adoption.

We’re breathing this idea into our lungs just to feel it inside us for a while.

Adoption.

We’re holding the air so we can wonder around the possibility of this being a part of our family story.

Adoption.

We’re pausing at the cusp of pursuit to savor the forthcoming process.

Adoption.

Adoption is the thread even though it doesn’t seem to make any sense to take one breath of something so large and altering. It doesn’t make “sense” because we’re in one of those seasons of living where our personal limits are being stretched and pulled like taffy in the hands of a candy-maker. How can we add anything in the midst of losing our home, a work schedule to make grey hair, homeschooling three lively dudes, plus this, that, and . . . Adoption?

Many days already end with my hiney hitting the couch hard in sweet relief – add a darn good sigh. I sit there in the quiet, with the dark and my feather blanket to make cozy and I take stock of the parts of me that have been spread further then the day before and I pray that I’ll have just enough for the next sunrise.

But, it is also in the dark of days-end when the last pulse of hub-bub has died-down that I absorb the abundance of our existence and know that I could expand further still, if only to pull every possible nearer-to-God experience to my bosom and live my “one wild and precious life” to the fullest.

For this, my heart grows bold and audacious in it’s requests to Great Giver God.

“Great Giver God, this small heart, it yearns for “more . . .”

The “more” is open-ended in definition, but the longing is certain in that it wants to inmost inhale what it means to be a follower and lover of Christ.

And it is in the asking for the things that will grow my following and loving of Him that my soul-soil is made fertile and The Farmer sows His seed without the “sense”. He plants in me just the thing that will draw me abreast to Himself . . . if I can only lift the hand holding the bright-white flag of surrender up to the-blue-hued sky and give my “YES’s” to heaven.

This Girl, her Man and their Boys are saying “YES”. “Yes” to moving our feet in the direction of adoption. The spreading and the pulling have enlarged our capacity and what else should empty space be for, but Love?

The End.

Or, is it The Beginning?

Whoa. Deep thought. Talk amongst yourselves.

Bye for now.

Or, is it Hello for later?

What am I even saying?!?!?!

I’m going to go before this digresses any further.

Love,

Erika

{Photo Credit – adoptionmaine dot com.}