Waves

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Does it ever seem like Sophia’s directions come in waves? For me it does. Just when I think I have a grip on the direction God wants me to take in my life, something changes and everything looks different.

As I prepare for a trip back to the U.S., back to places where I had a different life, I can’t help but look back on the paths I almost took. At one time I heard God calling me to do work at my church in Saint Louis with youth, and so I did for 5 years. Then I left them when I eloped with my now ex-partner and moved to another city and participated in two years of national service with AmeriCorps. That is what I felt called to do.

I have made many decisions in my life, followed my heart and my understanding of the Holy Spirit to many cities, and a few countries. Sometimes I worry that my path has been too scattered, too varied  too different. But then, when I am feeling most lost on my path, I stumble across these words from Paula D’Arcy’s book Gift of the Red Bird:

Ultimately God remains a mystery to me.  Sometimes friend, or father,mother, listener, guide, lover, distant,…silent.  Always he [or she] says, WILL YOU FOLLOW ME? Even if there’s nothing to give you stability? Even if you can’t understand where I am leading you? Even if you must wait for things you desire? Even in the darkness?

These words remind me that the voice of Holy Wisdom is not always clear, does not always come when we want it most. We must follow the voice of Sophia the way surfers follow waves. We must wait for the right one and then go with it as far as we can.

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Transitions

By: Jenni Taylor

I skipped out of my last semester of college in order to teach in Peru. I loved my college. We had hookah club and quidditch club, interpretive dancers with ribbons waving their arms in the trees, and you could talk about vagina power over cigarettes and imported beer every weekend if you wanted. Leaving sucked. I took my first grown up job in South America, took out my piercings, and even stopped dying my hair- huge sacrifices for a girl like me. I had to let go of this whole image of myself I had built up and put on a uniform instead.

While it wasn’t easy, I entered this amazing jungle world with cold showers, pit stains, and kids throwing markers at you or hugging your neck alternately. I loved it and hated it in turns probably every day. Sometimes I would just curl up and cry in my big empty bed, and sometimes I would sit in a rocking chair talking Spanish with grandmothers and feel like I never wanted to leave.

I say all that because growth is slow. I always felt a little jipped because of leaving college early, and yet I find myself in a pretty similar environment now. I find myself wanting to get weird piercings and dye my hair all over again, because I don’t know who I am in this kind of world without those things.

Peru was straightforward. Poverty was straight forward. Kids throwing up on you was pretty straightforward, too. I miss the simplicity, the latin bass thumping from down the street and the stars speckled over the mango trees outside my window. Now I’m a city girl, a Shanghai girl, where the taxi lights and the high rises stretch on forever and everyone you see has crazy shoes and looks a little bit lonely. I’m finding my place still, where the jungle part of me can put on heels, be sophisticated, and be real about it. That’s the key, really, to not getting lost. Being real. Being you.

The funny part about that is it only happens when you stop trying. I can stand on a street in a city of 20 odd million people and feel lonely or lost and wonder who the hell I am, or I can look at the people surrounding me and see their place in the world, see their connectedness, their loneliness, their joys, their heartaches. When I stop being me, I can become them. I can see myself reflected in the humanity around me and realize it’s not about me at all, it’s about us, all of us, all of us together.

Then things don’t feel so lonely after all.

Loose Thread: Touching Moments

Today’s Loose thread is about moments that touched your soul this week.  

So tell us….What moment touched you this week?

Jenni: I recently moved to Shanghai to work as an intern before starting the school year as a teacher in the fall. Being an intern means all the non-fun parts of teaching- grading, power point making, grammar worksheets, etc. My only interaction with students occurs for one hour of tutoring with different students every day after school. Earlier this week during lunch break, I ran into a 5th grader I tutor. “Miss Taylor!” she shouted, and waved me over to watch her and her friend do tricks on the monkey bars. I cheered them on and clapped when they were done. As I walked away, I heard her friend ask, “who’s that?” “That’s my tutor, Miss Taylor!” my student said, in the excited, proud sort of way that warms your heart. It was a simple interaction, but it was enough to remind me why I teach and that boring office work won’t last forever.

Autumn: This week I went to a German beer festival with several friends. It was an amazing intergenerational experience of people from 16-80 singing songs and dancing together. The night ended with a series of group hugs. During one hug I was literally stuck in the center of a group of about 8 people. I couldn’t move and wasn’t even properly standing, I was being simultaneously supported and overwhelmed by my friends. I occurred to me after I freed myself and regain my breath, that that is what deep love is like, it is both totally overwhelming and totally supportive. 

How were you touched this week?

Sophia Sighting: London, Ontario

goodtouch

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

Sometimes touch can be bad sometimes it can be good. A lot of times touch is filled with Sophia. This is a photo of my brother and I when he was about one and a half years old. I was talking to him about all the things we saw outside. I was teaching him, but he was also teaching me. In my arms he taught me about the trusting love of a child and showed me the wisdom of curiosity. Sometimes children see so much more of the divine than adults do.

And Yet…

By: Autumn Elizabeth

After reading what Jenni had to say about safe touch this week, I couldn’t help but think about how many deep issues her simple post brought up.  As a woman of faith, a woman who believes that Jesus was given life by a woman, a woman who has survived the traumas of bad and unsafe touches, I can’t help but wonder how it is all supposed to fit together.

I wonder about how a faith that was literally born of a woman can sometimes hurt women so much and so deeply.  I’ve seen Christians grab women, throw things at women, and scream horrible things at hundred of women who are simply trying to feel safe in their own bodies. This behavior horrifies me, and yet, as a the very same book that they use to persecute women, tells me “judge not lest ye be judged.”

I wonder how I am supposed to forgive the people whose touches have not been safe for me. Is it really wise to forgive the man who bruised my arm or broke my finger, the man who stole my childhood, or the man who almost raped me? And yet, the message of the bible, and so many other holy texts, is one of love and forgiveness.

I have seen human touch break people wholly, and yetI have watched one safe touch restore lost faith. I have seen a hug save a life and handshake change the world. The sins of others are written on my soul and the bad touches of the world scar my body, and yet…I know, beyond any doubt, that a loving touch gives me far more faith than unsafe touches take away. The world is a scary place and yet, as Robert Frost says, ” it’s the right place for love” .

So when the demons come calling, when the doubt creeps in, when I can’t figure out how it all goes together  I try and remember that there is almost always something more. Nothing is perfect, and yet…..

Touch

By: Jenni Taylor

It was my first week in Shanghai, and a friend of mine thought the best way to be inducted into Chinese culture would be through a full body oil massage at the Dragonfly Spa. I said hell yes, of course. There’s a first time for everything.

We put on comfy robes and the scratchy paper underwear. I laid down on the bed and tried to fit my head in the weird head hole. Not made for my tiny head of course, but it would do. There was a little plate with sand and flowers underneath, as something pretty to look at instead of the black soled shoes of the masseuse.  Instrumental music played in the background, peaceful and calm and Enya-like.

Scoff all you want, but halfway through the massage I was already planning how to carry the masseuse off with me to the Bahamas to live happily ever after. What I experienced in that cozy upstairs room in the middle of Shanghai was something called safe touch. Safe touch is amazingly hard to find in this world. I thought safe touch had become extinct, and all that was left was the bad messy hurtful kind. But there they were, strong hands making me feel safe, oh so very safe and beautiful and worthy of- good touch. All the bad touch faded away, and I felt like Dorothy getting ready to see the Wizard, with all the primping and trimming and stuffing and shining after a long hard trip through Oz. I felt like I was being put back together again, that my body was beautiful, that maybe touch could make you whole after all instead of taking bits and pieces of yourself away.

I don’t know what heaven is like, or what it really means.  Whatever it is, it won’t be disembodied spirits floating around with harps, that’s for sure. There will be touch. The beautiful kind. Shy. Sloppy. Passionate. Strong. Loving. Playful. Comforting. Warm. Healing. Maybe we’ll all get our own personal masseuse, too.

Loose Thread: Praise

Loose Threads are all about community conversation, so read and then share your thoughts.

What is your favorite quote that praises the Holy?

Jenni:

I like Autumn’s answer below- beautiful. A personal favorite of mine is a song I learned in church. Not sure who wrote it, but it’s called “Blessed Be Your Name.” Two of the verses say:

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

I find myself humming this song all the time, especially in the bad times when it’s hard to be thankful. It’s worth a listen, especially the Newsboy’s version 🙂

Autumn: While there are a ton of great words in may holy scriptures that praise God for all the good things of this world, I think my favorite quote that shows great praise for everything that is holy comes from Robert Frost’s poem Birches.

It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
What are your favorite quotes praising the Holy?

Sophia Sighting: Alicante

Paella

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Location: Alicante, Spain

ah food…who doesn’t love food? I feel like a lot of important spiritual teachings surround food, whether fasting like Gandhi or feasting like Jesus. This particular dish of Paella was made for me by two amazing people who hosted me for a time in Spain. The dish, like life, is a sumptuous mixture of different ingredients, various tastes and complex sights and smells. There is holiness in the making of this dish, and the sharing of this dish. Comiendo es sabiduría, y cociendo es ternura.  Eating is wisdom and cooking is tenderness.

A Little Dreamy

By: Jenni Taylor

Can I? Can I? Please? Please?

Start an orphanage in Africa
Live in Hungary and then move to Turkey
Float down the Nile in a raft
Play the ukulele
Fly an airplane and wear a hat with silly fur flaps?

I want to eat an ice cream sundae in Paris.

Can I hug all the kids who don’t speak English? Can I get sticky kisses on the cheek? Tears and snot on my sleeve?

I would very much like to sit with you beside the river and simply not speak at all.

But now- NOW, I want to talk talk talkity talk talk talk and laugh so loud the tourists turn around and make quiet-like faces at me.

And then we can sit some more. Then it won’t be you- it’ll be someone else, someone new, and then him, and then her, and maybe a few of them and us mixed together. Then the sun will go down and come up again and there I’ll be, on the park bench, by the river, talking and listening and think think thinking like one of those whispy clouds floating by.

I’ll think about how nice it is, that orange of the sky with the blue of the water. I’ll think about how nice it is, to have peace after a sad sad day. But then?

Then I’ll stop thinking so loudly. I’ll quiet down, take your hand, and we can walk home together- home to the lights and the laughter and the clean and dirty smells and sounds of everything around us.

A Prayer for When it All Finally Goes Right

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Dear Generous Spirit of Love,

I am so grateful for the successes you have co-created with me. Blessings are obvious and abundant in my life right now, and for that I am joyous.

If I have only one request in this time of abundance, it is this: that my abundance be shared.  May my blessings spread infectious joy to those who are in times of suffering.

Times of unhindered joy are brief and not long ago, it was I who felt alone in failure. Bless those who are where I have been and let me help them into places of joy and success.

Let us all be reminders to each other of the love and hope that exists,even in the most lonely moments of this word.

Amen