Gettin’ on That Mat — A Deeper Story

It’s time for my monthly contribution over at A Deeper Story today. The editors chose to put this on the family channel – see what you think.

DSC02107

Matthew’s gospel has him showing up by the lakeside. Mark and Luke talk about an overcrowded house and the removal of roof tiles to get the guy into the same airspace as the Rabbi. And all three of these gospels talk about the friends, the ones who cared about the paralyzed man.

His friends.

The ones who carried him when he couldn’t walk anywhere under his own steam. The ones who laid him carefully on that mat, who got inventive when access seemed to be denied, who believed in his healing for him.

His friends.

Surely one of the most beautiful of words in the history of the English language: friends. For most of my life, I’ve been gifted with some great ones. People who have met me in the middle of the pain, in the squishiness of the mess, and in the moments of joy and silliness, too. Sisters, and a few brothers here and there, who have walked life with me — the dailyness of it all, the twists and turns, the routine and the unexpected, the predictable and the not so much.

People who know me, who get me, who hold me accountable, who call me on my crap, who encourage me when I’m down, who shoot holes in any hot air balloon that may be surrounding my head at any given moment in time. People who love me, all of me: the too-muchness of me, the outloudness of me, the bossiness of me, the loud laughter of me, the realness of me.

There have been times when the faith of my friends has carried me through some scary, dark times. When the prayers of others have had to be all the prayin’ there is, because I ain’t havin’ none of it. When the kindness of my friends has saved me from myself, from the hurtful remarks of not-friends, from the pain that comes along with the option of living here on the planet.

I’m not at all sure why this is true, but sometimes trouble comes in batches, when painful situations pile up like a rugby scrum, and hope has a tough time finding its way into the center of the throng. It is those times when the truest friends miraculously show up, when they gather round, bring in a meal, send a care package, make a phone call, drop an email or a FB message. . . 

Please join me over at A Deeper Story to read the rest of this piece.

Rick Steves, Anniversaries, and Italy – A Deeper Story

It’s time for my monthly post at A Deeper Story. Here’s a sampler . . .

DSC02057

 

This is a story about being married. It’s an anniversary story, an old one, nearly twenty years ago now, but a true one, and a good one. It began as an adventure, sank pretty quickly to a disaster, and ended with joyful re-discovery.

My husband had to be in London for business, so we figured, “Why not make a trip of it? Let’s go to Italy, rent a car and see as much as we can see.” We’d done that for our 25th — driving all around England, Scotland and Wales, following Rick Steves’s advice the whole way, and we had a fabulous time.

This, however, was a different experience entirely. First off, the London meeting got moved to New York. Well, okay. Hmm. Let’s see what we can do about those tickets. And what we could do with those tickets wasn’t much – NYC to CHICAGO to Milan, turning an eight-hour trip into twice that.

Oh, and while we were in New York, one of our bags got lost – the hotel’s fault – and I spent two days frantically replenishing my husband’s travel wardrobe, purchasing a new suitcase, and replacing my Bible and journal, and — serendipitously — picking up a delightful small guide book featuring ‘inns and itineraries’ of Italia.

Thirtieth Anniversary Trip, here we come!

Except when we landed in Milan, things got a little dicey. I tend to . . . how shall I put this? Take too much stuff everywhere I go. And we had seven — count them — seven pieces of luggage, including two roller bags, two backpacks, a purse and two smaller carry-ons — and after we went through customs, we thought we’d lost one of the backpacks. Dick went to find it, I got on the bus to town with the rest of the bags, and sure enough, the bus took off – leaving Dick with our only Italian money at the airport, and me with all our luggage (yes, all our luggage) headed toward the center of Milan – each of us alone.

And it went downhill from there.

Please join me for the rest of this tale over at A Deeper Story . . .

Iced Tea, Decaf, and the World Changing on Its Axis: A Deeper Story

My monthly contribution to the wonderful collection of essays at A Deeper Story is up today. Click here to continue reading:

IMG_4202

 

The California sunlight was angling in the window, scattering itself, checker-board style, across the shiny surface of our table. I could feel its warmth on that crisp fall day as she and I visited, chattering about life and family, checking in.

The woman across the table from me was twenty-plus years my senior, a spiritual mentor for most of my life. I had a glass of iced tea that day, she a cup of decaf, and we were splitting a piece of pie after enjoying some soul-warming soup.

I remember that I was animated as we talked, excited about something I was learning in school. I was midway through a 4-year seminary experience at that point in my life, tentatively exploring whether or not God might be calling me to ministry.

She was intrigued and a bit cautious, wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. Mostly, though, she wanted to hear me talk. Always a learner, she couldn’t help but be excited by my enthusiasm for lectures, large books, and hard questions.

At some point in our conversation, she sat back with a big smile on her face, dropping every bit of caution from her voice. “Diana,” she said. “I am so excited for you! I’m so glad you’ve gone back to school — I remember when I did that for a year and how much fun it was to be in the classroom again.”

“Exactly,” I replied. “It ifun. It is exhilarating.”

And then I felt the sting of tears. She looked at me with concern and asked what the tears were about. And this is what I said:

“I love what I’m doing. I love it. And I believe more and more each day that this is exactly where God wants me to be. More than that, I think God may be pushing me into ordination, to a job, working as a pastor.”

“Ah,” she said. “A job. Is that what brings the tears?”

“No, not really. This is what makes me feel sad: that I would never be doing this, never, if my husband were not making enough money for me to pay the tuition costs. And to pay them easily, without any member of my family having to sacrifice one thing for me to be in school.”

And then she began to cry. She understood this kind of thinking all too well.

After all, that’s how she raised me. 

Women are the ones who sacrifice for their families. Not men. Not children. Women. In her world, God could not be calling any woman to do something that would cost her family anything. Not.Possible.

Please follow me over to A Deeper Story to continue reading about this life-changing event/realization. I’d love to interact with you in the comments over there.

Sunday Dinner: A Deeper Story/Family

Another installment in the series of reflections I’m writing on this final walk I take with mom, the one through dementia. You can begin reading here, and then click over to A Deeper Story, where I’m writing for the Family Channel today.

DSC00273

The sun streams in through the French doors on the south side of the building, adding warmth and light to the carefully set dining tables. It’s a lovely space, recently redecorated, with linen napkins popping up out of the water glasses. My husband and I eat lunch here every Sunday, joining our moms for a nicely presented 3-course meal.

There are floral centerpieces on each table, assembled every Wednesday morning by the people who live here, under the gentle direction of two volunteer Garden Ladies. Today’s bouquet consists entirely of white rosebuds and looks lovely as we take our places around the table.

I must say that the dinner guests are an interesting assortment. All of them are over 75, most of them over 80. A few – like both of our mothers – are over 90, moving closer every day to the century mark. They move slowly, these diners. A variety of metal walkers are lined up along each wall and I always hold my breath until all the stragglers are safely seated at the table of their choice.

Last Sunday, we counted 12 residents out of a possible 15. One is out to eat with family, one chooses to remain in her room, and one – my mother-in-law – is too sleepy to sit up at the table. One of those missing is a singer. During past dinners, we’ve heard the battle hymn of every division of the US military, “Home, Home on the Range,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and a few we don’t recognize.

This Sunday, however, that voice is missing. At first, it feels like a relief. A quiet meal! But after a while, the silence becomes thick and cumbersome, like a too-heavy blanket on an overly warm day. 

 You can continue reading this post over at one of my favorite sites on the web, A Deeper Story. . .

About Settling Down . . . A Deeper Story

Every month, I share a story at one of my favorite websites ever, A Deeper Story. This month, I am once again writing for the Family Channel. Here’s a piece of this month’s story and a link so you can read the rest:

Trautwein_Scans_2_018

 

You think you know so much when you’re twenty years old. When that third decade begins, you’re a little bit full of yourself, impressed with what you’ve learned in school and in life, and convinced that you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws your way.

And, if you were a 20-year-old raised in the 50s and 60s, you also understood the order of things, especially if you were a female. Even more especially if you were a female raised in the conservative wing of the Christian church. Your life was pretty well mapped out for you: childhood, adolescence, a little bit of young adulthood, marriage, motherhood.

Being an eldest child with a strong sense of propriety and extraordinarily overactive responsibility glands, you did exactly what was expected of you. So, in the year you turned 20, you got yourself married. You found a good, Christian man, dated him (carefully!) for a good long time, got engaged and then, of course, you “settled down.”

Well, five out of six ain’t bad, right? The meeting, finding, dating, engaging, marrying thing you did according to plan. It’s the settling down part you’ve struggled with for the last — how many is it now? — FORTY-EIGHT years.

I chalk it up to delayed and extended adolescent rebellion, that’s what. As an eager-to-please, hyper-obedient child and youth, you never truly rebelled against anything or anyone. And that remarkable man you married? He wasn’t exactly a rabble-rouser, either, was he?

Yet somehow, you’ve traveled this wild and wooly, sometimes adventurous, always unique journey-through-life that began with an afternoon of “I do’s” at the end of 1965. Now you’re taking a gander at 2014, as it rises out of the fog and begins to take shape. Holy crap, next year, you’ll hit the big 5-0. Can you believe it? Doesn’t that happen to old people?

I look at the pictures from this most recent anniversary and I still see those kids in there, those good kids who so wanted to do ‘the right thing,’ whatever the heck that was. Yes, the years have added pounds to our frames and lines to our faces and a whole lotta white hair to the head of at least one of us.

But you know what else I see? A couple of undercover rebels, that’s what. We obeyed the rules, we followed the protocol, yet somehow, we never managed to settle down, did we? At least, not in the way our parents envisioned settling.

Please click on this line to read the rest over at A Deeper Story. . .

A Safe Place: A Deeper Story

IMG_1532

As I began to wade into the waters of the internet at the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, I wound my way over to this remarkable place called “A Deeper Story.” I was in transit at that point in my life, moving into retirement, giving up an identity I had happily filled for fourteen years as pastor and leader in my church. I wondered what was next for me, where God would have me thinking and working. And the only thing I knew, in those early days, was that I had a clear and direct call from God to write, and that call had the word ‘stories’ in it.

I’ve done a lot of exegetical, theological, spiritual and psychological work to become the person I am at this juncture of my life. And I could, if I chose to, make a good ‘argument’ for what I believe and why I believe it. But I was increasingly convinced, as I read all around the blogosphere, that I did not want to argue; I wanted to tell my story.

All of my stories, to be more precise. The fun ones, the adventurous ones, the love-filled ones — of course, yes, hooray. But I also wanted to tell the stories of wondering and wandering, of doubting and wrestling. And I wanted to read stories like that, too.

And “A Deeper Story” was the very best place I found to do that. The reading part, at least. And I read them all. Every single one.

And then, lo and behold! Just over a year ago, an invitation came for me to tell my stories in that rich space — a gift straight from the hand of God, courtesy of Megan Tietz. And this place has been a good, welcoming, wrestling place for me.

And here’s why.

All the people who write regularly or guest post at this site are starting from different places along the journey. We do not all agree on theology or politics or child-raising or any other topic you might care to mention. We do agree that we’re following hard after Jesus, and some days that’s a lot harder to do than others.

And that right there has been a tremendous gift. We care about one another, we encourage one another, we listen, we welcome. And our regular readers do that, too. The entire experience has been gift.

Right now, the site is in the midst of a pretty massive overhaul. It’s a necessary part of the growing process. And Nish Weiseth, whose brainchild ADS is, has been paying ALL of the costs connected to keeping this site going up to this point. Now, however, we’re turning a corner of sorts.

We’re growing up.

And as any parent will readily agree, growing up is expensive. So we’re asking for some help.

There is a Fundly campaign going on right now, today. And the goal is $4,000.

I am confident that the readers of ADS will help us reach that goal and, in addition, will give Nish a nice, comfy cushion to keep us afloat for a good, long time. I’ve already made a gift and may very well do so again.

Can I invite you over to the website today to read all about this from Nish’s perspective? You’ll find a link to the campaign over there.

Thanks so much for being a friend of mine and of this blog — and for following me over to ADS when one of my posts is up over there.

 

The Many Shades of Christmas – A Deeper Family

IMG_0271

 

Have you ever noticed how many of our favorite carols are written in a minor key? Think about it for a minute . . .

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“In the Bleak Midwinter”

“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent”

“What Child Is This?”

“Greensleeves”

“I Wonder as I Wander”

“Carol of the Bells”

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

“Coventry Carol” (“Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child”)

These are melodically darker-hued songs, offered in a season when we are encouraged on every side to be merry, dang it! And I am more grateful than I can say for the rich texture they bring to these days before Christmas.

Why?

Because there are many pieces of this story that can only be told in a minor key.

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus came into a broken world, that there were no colored lights, and certainly no tinsel around that hayloft. Yes, yes — the gift of the incarnation is unspeakably good, that babe whose head was cradled by his open-hearted, willing young mother, that babe brought light and hope to us all.

But in and around the lowing of cattle, the bleating of lambs, the exhausted moans of a brand-new mom and the healthy lungs of a newborn — who can forget the cries of the mothers in Ramah, the rumbling threat of Herod, the hurried flight to Egypt, or the sorrowful truth about where that sweet baby hung his beautiful head at the end of his good, good life?

The reality of life on planet earth is that even good news, the best possible news, must be told in the midst of the bad; to get to the light, we have to walk through the dark. To truly live our story, we have to tell all the pieces of it.

So I think it’s important that the sounds of sadness, the echoes of loss, the edges of fear and uncertainty, are carefully and intentionally woven into our celebrations. All the voices in this Story, and in our own stories, cry out to be heard as we move toward the manger and the major key of Christmas Day.

I know that I have lived longer than most of you who are reading this piece. And over the course of this long life, I have experienced loss upon loss, asked question upon question, and listened for the answers in the midst of silence. If there is one thing I’ve learned, one truth that stands at the top of all the truths I know, it is this one: everyone carries a story of brokenness. Everyone.

Please join me over at A Deeper Family today to read more about singing in a minor key in this ‘hap-happiest season of all . . . “

31 Days of Giving Permission . . .TO WRITE YOUR OWN PSALM

31 days of giving permission 200x130

I’m writing today at A Deeper Family, continuing a series on my journey
with my mom through dementia.

Our weekly lunch last week was a tough one for me,
and I tried to write it out as the psalmists did.
It’s an interesting exercise — I encourage you to try it.

A reflection on Psalm 56

“Be merciful to me, my God,
    for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
    all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long. . .”

I watch, helpless and adrift.
The enemies are winning, O God,
the wormholes are growing.

The past is but a whisper,
the present, lost in the whirlwind,
those swirling terrors of fear and confusion.

Where are you, O Lord?
Where are you?

Come and rescue us, return to us the days
the locusts have eaten,
the swarming hordes
or forgetfulness,
devouring her memories,
erasing her story.

I watch and I weep, tears my companion day and night.
They sit, just behind my eyes, waiting to ambush me,
to gut me, knock me to my knees.

And she slips away, Lord.
Every single day,
she slips away.
Piece by piece, slice by slice, word by word.

Please join me at A Deeper Family to read the rest of this post. . .


The Noise Inside

So. I’m taking this remarkable online writing class, one of the great workshop offerings coming from TSPoetry. This week’s assignment was to write about jealousy and it’s impact on my writing life. I would like to tell you that I am ABOVE such emotions, that I am spiritually mature enough to never have to deal with the green-eyed monster, that I am completely confident in my own ability to write what God gives me to write. I would like to tell you all of that. But, in truth, I cannot. I am grateful for this group of writers and the kindness and encouragement we share with one another.  AND, my classmates tell me I am not alone in this craziness; I find that oddly comforting.

 (I should probably tell you that we were to riff off of a chapter in Anne Lamott’s wonderful book, “Bird by Bird.” So this is my small attempt at humor.)

Sometimes it feels really crowded up inside my head!!

I recently wrote a piece for a A Deeper Family entitled, “The Crazy Lady”  In it, I described one of the voices that inhabits my head, the one that takes me to the precipice of anxiety and tells me I’m pretty dang worthless along the way.

And she’s a mighty force, that voice, determined to push me into incessant navel-gazing and unnecessary worst-case-scenario thinking.

What I didn’t say in that essay is that The Crazy Lady is not the only voice inside my head. No sirree. She is just the leader of the pack. Her posse includes a few other banditos, of varying ages and shapes, who somehow manage to inhabit my psychic inner space with alarming frequency, making life interesting on the best of days and wildly challenging on the worst. 

Shall I name them for you? Let’s see — there is The Little Girl, about age six, who needs some comforting now and again. And then there’s the gremlin-like version of my mother, The Parent Voice (or the infamous Inner Critic) who calls me names that I would never dream of calling another living soul, who constantly criticizes my every thought and word, and who often succeeds in making me feel like a worthless pile of crap.

And then we have . . . ta da! . . . The District Attorney, who is always trying to make sure the balance scales of life are even, or, if possible, tipped a tiny bit in my direction. I can see her now, in her fancy suit, pencil skirt, white blouse, tailored jacket. Large horn-rimmed glasses, minimal jewelry, hair up in a bun, and a pencil stuck just behind her ear, the better to jot down the names of others who are getting far too much attention, don’t you know?

Did you see who got ALL those comments this morning? It’s just not fair – your writing is at least as good as hers!

Are you kidding me??? SHE got a book contract? How is that even possible?

That person has not been blogging nearly as long as you have and just LOOK at the audience she has built. She’s got this ‘platform’ thing sewn up.

And it’s at about this point that, all of a sudden, the pencil disappears, the hair comes down, the tailored suit morphs into a long flowing gown that glistens darkly in the light and every piece of jewelry she owns is shining, dangling, teasing me into these kinds of thoughts:

Dahling, did you read that line? That perfect line of prose, those words that sing? What a pity that you can’t write a line like that.

I really think you should move onto something else in life. Your words are SO pedestrian, so redundant and reductive and altogether B O R I N G.

And then, in a flash, the glitter disappears, the hair turns the color of mouse fur, and she hunches over as if she’s embarrassed to be in the same space as all these other fascinating creatures inhabiting my head. She becomes a more pathetic version of the inner critic, mumbling and wringing her hands. I call her Miss Mouse.

I KNEW you should never have tried this – you just aren’t good enough.

That woman over there, she knows what she’s doing and she’s going to make a huge splash. But YOU? Not a chance.

Platform? Did you hear about something called a platform? Oh my, one more thing you simply cannot do.

So please, just shut it down, okay? Just SHUT IT DOWN, before you embarrass us all.

Sigh. It’s a wonder I get anything done ever, don’t you think?

 

In the spirit of playfulness and story-telling, posting this with Laura and Jen this week.

 

The Language of Lament – A Deeper Family

 

There are days when I feel immobilized by all the pain in this world. I’ve had quite a few of those in the last few weeks. Days when despite the sunshine, I see clouds of gray. Days when I wonder where God is, where hope is to be found, when relief will come.

Sometimes this is personal pain. More often, it’s pain carried by someone I love. And then, there is all.the.angst — the burdens borne by our big, wild, crazy world. I’ve lived long enough to see too much ugliness, too much suffering, too much.

I’ve tried cutting myself off from news sources. And that helps for a while, at least until reality intervenes at some other juncture in my life. You can only hide for so long, it seems.

I’ve tried focusing on the small graces of every day life. And that helps considerably. Counting gifts is good therapy, and a habit that I’ve lived with for a very long time now.

But, in and around the thanksgiving, there are those other days. The days that feel like —

massive overwhelm,
uncertainty deep in my soul,
tears beneath the tears,
knots within knots within knots.

And on such days, words escape me, gratitude is much harder to find, and I sense myself suffering what Madeleine L’Engle used to describe as the flu-like symptoms of atheism, the temporary variety.

          Where are you?
          How could you?
          This is too much!

These are the words that rise, the only words that seem to be appropriate in the midst of the ‘slough of despond.’ And these are also, by some miraculous gift of Goodness, the words that slowly but surely open the door to grace and truth.

These are the words of lament.

Get a personal letter from Diana direct to your inbox once each month

Sign up now for 'More Wondering' and as thanks, receive Living the Questions, Diana's 8-chapter ebook wrestling with some of the hard questions of life and faith.

powered by TinyLetter