The Stories I Tell Myself

February is Rare Disease month. I don’t currently have any big plans to write about rare disease this year (although that could change) but it’s part of our lives. Our oldest son has a rare disease called Isovaleric Acidemia. It almost killed him when he was born and we were unaware that IVA existed. He carries those repercussions in his body to this day and he will his entire life.

{The short version of IVA is that your body has a defective, though present, enzyme that should function when breaking down protein, specifically the essential amino acid leucine (essential means it’s in all protein). Because the enzyme doesn’t function, instead of leucine being broken down and continuing to be metabolized, it gets stuck and produces isovaleric acid and ammonia. IVA is managed by a low-protein diet and a medical formula, among other differing things.}

This pandemic has been especially trying for him. He is not more likely to get sick but being sick is more complicated for him. We have ended up in the emergency room to get fluids over a stomach bug more than a few times. A fever of 100.4 slashes his daily protein intake because your body breaks down your own protein when you have a fever. We pay for AirEvac because our local hospital won’t admit him and/also because he needs more specialized care at a children’s hospital when he is sick.

Since being sick is much more complicated for him, we have taken extensive quarantine measures during the pandemic. We’re homeschooling. We see only a small handful of people. My husband has been working from home. We’ve done it outside, or masked, or on zoom, or not at all. While I’m grateful for all the good our family has still been experiencing, it’s been a long year.

What I Read (or finished reading) in January

Mary Oliver wrote this lovely poem that I discovered in December.

Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon
the entire house is filled with books;
poems, stories, histories, prayers of
all kinds stand up gracefully or are
heaped on shelves, on the floor, on
the bed. Strangers old and new offering
their words bountifully and thoughtfully,
lifting my heart.

But, wait! I’ve made a mistake! how
could these makers of so many books
that have given so much to my life–
how could they possibly be strangers?

I’m going to have it printed and framed just like the poem in our bathroom (which is “The Genius” by Billy Collins, in case you were wondering). I love to read and I love books on shelves; we just added some more shelves in our home. I don’t aim for a certain number of books every year and I don’t force myself to finish books that I don’t like, but I do read intentionally and I keep a record. For the past few years, I’ve kept my reads in an Instagram highlight and I’m still doing that this year. But I’m also recording them in the back of my planner (a Get to Work book– this is the sixth year I’ve used one and I love it) and I’m going to catalogue them here every month.

When 2020 ended, I looked over the years’ books and decided I wanted to sprinkle in some variety. But I don’t make a reading list for the year; I read what I feel like reading. In order to navigate this tension, I decided that every month, I would aim for some poetry, fiction, and/or essays along with my nonfiction. In an effort to relieve my stress about deciding on fiction (and since we still aren’t hanging out at the library) I splurged on a subscription at The Bookshelf  and will get a new fiction book every month, picked out by Annie Jones. Yes, it’s a treat and it will be a delight.

Citizen living: the why + how of my news consumption

Every single time I have voted, I have felt the weight of the cost for my right to vote. In my shadow walks the women who petitioned and protested and went to jail in order for me to vote. (I also cannot leave that statement there without acknowledging that did not clear the path for all black women.) It’s an honor to participate in the workings of our nation. I call and email my representatives gladly because they cannot represent me if they don’t know how I feel. At some point, perhaps the next time there is an election and not a pandemic, I would like to assist with voter registration or even the election day process. I’m sure my ability to participate will shift over the years.

I am grateful to live in America; my goal is to work for the common good of all people. Although I participate in our country, my intention is to put my effort into the kingdom of God. My ethics are to be kingdom ethics, not party ethics. I may, at times, agree with one party or another, but I am also free to critique either. My allegiance is to Jesus and His kingdom. My desire to stay current on politics or the news is to engage well with the world. To care for my neighbors, to vote responsibly, to discuss how our theology weaves throughout our tangible lives requires an awareness of the world I inhabit. To speak credibly to the world about Jesus means I must speak from the reality of what the world is.

Seminary Notes 4: a harvest of Greek

Over and again, my pencil scratches out the same strange symbols in a chart with crooked lines.

NS    ος        η/α        ον
GS    ου       ης/ας     ου

This quarter in seminary I’m taking Greek. Last quarter I took Interpretive Methods. I loved it and at the same time felt a smidge like a slacker for only taking one class. Today I’m drowning in thankfulness that I don’t have another class along with Greek. Greek is memorizing. Scratching out paradigms (that’s what the above barely-begun chart is called) until they are perfect. Memorizing vocabulary and breathing marks and articles.

Earlier this week, I flipped book and discovered I’m going to be memorizing paradigms for a long time. Chart after chart to learn equals day after day of practice. Bits of knowledge will eventually compile into a body of information that I can use. Just this week, I actually translated a few small phrases from Greek to English. The work is a gift; seminary was a closely-held dream for years. The gift is also the work; it means nothing if I won’t put in the time.

Resources for Hold Up Weekend

My friend Megan Anduzlis and I have started doing Hold Up Weekends to help believers “hold up” for a minute and think before responding. We share a resource, wait a few days to give everyone time to read/listen to the resource and think about it, and then hop on an Instagram live to discuss the content. You can watch the last one we did here.

One of the goals is that we practice thinking about what we are consuming instead of being content with a quick reaction. We want to think well and converse graciously; since this is not our natural reaction we have to cultivate this approach. This is a space to practice those skills.

Exercises in Advent Resistance

This month I’ve been reading Advent by Fleming Rutledge. The book is a collection of her writings and sermons on Advent which she insists is not just the coming of baby Jesus, but the “once and future coming of Jesus Christ.” I’ve made my way slowly, one tiny section each night before sleeping, and it wakes me from my stupor. It is easy for me to believe the stories on the surface of living: Christmas is commercial, next year will be better, I am what I make of myself. Marinating in those lies makes me sluggish, unwilling and unprepared to move with the demands and truths of life.

Instead of being lulled to sleep, I am called to be awake. If I was dead before Christ, now I am alive. As one who is alive, I am a child of the day, called to self-control and putting on armor. Rutledge frequently references 1 Thessalonians 4 in her Advent teaching, a passage speaking of judgment and relief that sounds unfamiliar to my Christmas ears. Because my mind associates Advent with a baby, with good news, with hope, I need her reminders that yes, Advent is about hope, but it is hope in the face of horror.

RBG and How We Think

A few years ago, a friend loaned me a copy of My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I carried around that book of speeches and lectures and briefs for a couple of weeks, absorbing Ginsburg’s work and becoming fascinated with her as a person.

I went on to read Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life and fell in love with RBG. Lucky for you, you don’t have to read hundreds of pages. You can watch RBG, a 2018 documentary, or On The Basis of Sex to learn more about her life and all she has accomplished. America was a completely different world for women before RBG. I appreciate that work but spending time with her life taught me to admire her as a woman.

Here are some things I greatly admire about RBG:
-her ability to foster strong friendships with people who disagreed with her
-her marriage to Marty
-her work ethic
-her commitment to her beliefs/standards
-her lifetime of work
-her brilliant mind and logic
-her integrity
-her unswerving commitment to lead others to incremental growth