welp, it’s a birthday listicle

life begins at 40 SOMI’m writing all this before I go away on vacation (today is 12/12). I’m excited that I can leave here and see people I love and care about, which is usually all I want for my unfortunate 40th birthday, which is, by the way, December 25th.

So here’s a listicle of 40 things I’m grateful for enduring and embracing this year.

  1. My room flooding
  2. Sir Coughs-a-Lot, the incessant coughing housemate
  3. energy vamp, the second incessant coughing housemate
  4. Developing better boundaries, especially energetically
  5. Helping a friend move from Miami to D.C.
  6. Staying at the Omni Hotel in D.C.
  7. Twitter
  8. Losing my car again
  9. Letting go of people who weren’t healthy for me
  10. Sour gummies (I should let these go in 2017)
  11. New noise-canceling headphones
  12. Spell work
  13. Scented candles from Bath and Body Works (as long as I’m not allergic)
  14. Those moments of heartfelt connection, kindness, and knowing
  15. Fall and winter sunsets in Florida
  16. The hawk who comes to visit
  17. Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” episode
  18. Getting unemployment
  19. Having a safe place to be during Hurricane Irma
  20. Annie
  21. Dayna
  22. Jamie
  23. Amaya
  24. Nancy
  25. Zikea
  26. Learning about narcissistic mothers
  27. Losing Tom Petty
  28. The solar eclipse
  29. Winning #NaNoWriMo
  30. Lost frogs
  31. One of my patrons who gave me a monetary gift, just when I needed it
  32. Singing loudly in the car with the windows rolled down and the sunroof open
  33. Full moon insomnia
  34. A deeper knowledge of astrology
  35. All the things that I wanted to work out but didn’t
  36. Being a full-time freelancer (whether I wanted to or not)
  37. The groups I floated in and out of
  38. Any time I spent on the beach
  39. Real, deep healing from past hurts and traumas
  40. Every day when I can wake up and try to do this life thing again.

Good Lordy, I’m 40, and I’m just getting started.

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A Christmas lament

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Photo credit: Dindo Jimenez

I woke up early this morning, 6ish. I saw a Facebook post from a friend that she had posted 4 hours earlier (she lives on the West Coast) about the Coventry Carol’s meaning. Funny enough, she mentioned Annie Lennox, who is born on Christmas Day like I am. Lennox sings the song on her Christmas album.

 

And here are the lyrics

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay”?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.”

 

My friend also just had a son this year, so I can imagine how she felt when she learned that this was a lullaby sung by the mothers to their sons who were to be killed. It’s a song I never really listened to or knew about fully.

Although historically, the Massacre of the Innocents was only found in the book of Matthew, and it’s disputed that Herod ever did such a thing, this carol seems to fit my mood–a lament. It’s a droning dirge over the way over my own life has gone, and over my country, and over the world.

There’s so much to ache over, to mourn, to yearn for, to repair, to bridge, and also to cast away.

I try to imagine how Jesus learned about this story, of him fleeing to Egypt with his parents, fleeing for his life (which is a little ironic since the Israelites had been there many years ago in captivity), all because some mad king wanted him dead. The weight of all those babies and toddlers, of all that grief, of all that death. How did Mary and/or Joseph tell him? How did he react? Did he remember coming back from Egypt? Did he remember Egypt at all?

I can’t imagine that Jesus didn’t think about the events of his birth during his life and ministry, of living under Roman occupation. I wonder if it haunted him, or disgusted him, or motivated him–or all of the above.

When I think about how American Christianity, evangelicalism especially, has made Jesus into an apolitical, cuddly bestie, instead of seeing him for who he was: a person born under distress, an early life in exile, and then a life under occupation; a man who saw his people treated like shit on a daily basis, a man who saw the religious leaders in cahoots with their occupiers…sound familiar?

The Coventry Carol reminds me of the contentious time that Jesus was born into, and the heavy calling that he embraced. Both were bloody. Neither were cuddly.

It reminds me of the times that we live in now, where people so casually and callously call for the oppression, deportation, and extermination of others, where we have elected a mad king, elected in part by most evangelicals who had their own “pro-life” agenda. They have their thirty pieces of silver.

So, as we wait for Light’s return with the Winter Solstice, and for the Advent of Christ’s birth, I think about how Jesus is probably one of the most misunderstood and underestimated people in human history.The followers and the followed do not resemble each other. It’s also a contemplation of my own relationship to the Church–status: it’s complicated–born of frustration, of bewilderment, of utter disgust, and of exhaustion.

I also think about the Jesus I encountered at age five. He is not convenient, nor moldable to my agendas. His tenderness is undergirded with fire, a fierce, unrelenting, inclusive love. And Herod knew it, and tried, in vain, to extinguish it with genocide.

How dare he come and bring the Kingdom of God to earth and usurp Herod’s throne. What a redemptive dare.

Christmastime is gilded and festooned with ribbons and wrapping paper. It’s dotted by the cheery eyes of children and punctuated with the contented sighs of full bellies. Even my tiny Grinch heart can’t help but expand a little at the pageantry, even without the added celebration of my own birth.

Yet I can feel something squirming underneath the tree, and dancing in the snow, and even pulsing under the crushing weight of stifling societal expectations. It’s humming in the air of the Christmas carols being sung and the prayers being offered up: the faint yet persistent idea that the Divine isn’t anything that can be boxed up or tied up with a big red bow or stuffed into a stocking.

It is costly and weighty. It is disarming, inconvenient, all-encompassing. It is meant to wreck your world. It is meant to right those eternal wrongs, to free you, and to help to see you, and others, in the peerless mirror of grace.

As you make your way through the gauntlet of the holiday season, may you encounter the Divine. May it wreck you. And as you offer up your own laments and prayers, and may you be seen and heard and loved for who you really are.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

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