Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peeves (Pet, Or Otherwise)

I recently had a text-ersation with my friend "D" in which he said:
"I'm in Oklahoma for a visit, but let's get together when I get back!"

I responded with an inquiry:
"Oh! Where in Oklahoma? I have a best friend in Bartlesville."

In answer, "D" assured me of the following information:
"Oh, my mom's side of the fam lives here, so we're visiting for Xmas."

You can plainly see the question/answer relationship, of course; I asked a question with the word Oklahoma in it, thus anything related to Oklahoma was apparently sufficient response. From now on, when I want to know something, I will simply send a key word or, better yet, a completely blank text. Then *insert recipient* can simply respond with whatever information he is interested in sharing, which will spare me the unnecessary effort of formulating a specific question in the first place.

If I'm not worth the time to read a text, why even respond?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"If Only You Would Hide Me In The Grave"

Have you ever watched someone you love
destroying someone you love?

The ache.
The smarting reminders of past experience, like searing irons to the brain, hold teeth to tongue lest love for one appear a betrayal of the other.
And it does.
Every time.

Love translates to hate. Loyalty to disloyalty.
The children of divorced parents feel this way.
There are only two options: choose sides! or shrivel up and die.

You realize your weakness to choosing sides. . .
And choosing back. . .
And rechoosing. . .

Your pacing of circular paths begins to trample your own soul, rendering option two more palatable, inviting even; the battle is "not against flesh" but is more than your body can bear.

Each day ends at long last.
You bury yourself in blankets.
You say your prayers, a lullaby. . .
. . .and if I die before I wake. . .
. . .and if I die before I wake. . .

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I had to google the word "spiel" just now, to check the spelling.

One result was a random blog entitled "my spiel." (Clever.) It said something about a logical approach to the issue of homosexual marriage that reminded me of a Dr. Rapinchuk class, so I clicked. Bad idea. It was from the opposing side, and, while I am not afraid of their arguments, it pains me terribly to read them. I only got about a paragraph in, but this quote struck me because it is sadly, admittedly, true:
In her essay “Against Marriage” Claudia Card asserts that we should “be reluctant to put our activist energy into attaining legal equity with heterosexuals in marriage—not because the existing discrimination against us is in any way justifiable, but because this institution is so deeply flawed that it seems to be unworthy of emulation and reproduction,” (Card, p. 88). . . .Marriage is not a successful institution as it stands. The push to extend the reach of this troubled system seems a problematic ambition. . .
The world should never look to us, as long as we look just like them.

Faith, Hope, and Love

A cold front is moving through middle Tennessee, replacing last week's unbelievable warmth and sunshine with an equally unfathomable wind that can only be described as "blustering." These fronts are the famous sources for countless Whitehead family pressure headaches, and I have one now.

Stress also gives me headaches. The Whitehead family has an abundance of that, too. Last night was particularly stressful for the sorts of reasons that all of humanity has experienced. I won't go into details, but I was glad to be "tucking in another day" (Chris Rice) when bedtime finally rolled around.

It is a blessing the way the Lord restores one's soul after a full night's sleep. Maybe that's part of what it means that God's mercies are "new every morning." Everything seems new in the morning. I apparently clenched my teeth all night and woke up with a killer headache, mind you, but I woke refreshed in spirit if not in body. After a glass of water, a shower, breakfast, sudafed, tylenol, and coffee, I was far better in body too. Next, I set to work on my state of mind with some morning reading.

I have been studying the book of James for the past few weeks. The first week I read chapter 1 every day, the next chapters 1 & 2, and I have worked my way up to 1-3. (One can't use this method with all books, but I like the reinforcement and James is a short one.) The second half of chapter 2 caught my attention today. The subject is Faith, and I need it right now.

I suppose it is only though the blessing of trials that God's word can be made alive to us. I may have been interested in "having faith" before, but it is when my faith is failing that I am most thankful for the Word's elaboration on the subject. James 2:14-26 discusses the invalidity of faith without works. We've both heard that before, but reading it today brought to mind a conversation in which a dear friend was near despair and said he just didn't know how to "have faith" right now. It occurred to me today that these verses address that very problem.

(I'm young. Bear with me.)

Faith seems to me an abstract thing. I say I want to "have faith" and to "believe," but when I'm really struggling I often note that I "don't know how to have faith right now" or that I "don't know how to believe" what I claim to believe. Maybe these verses are the answer to those dilemmas: Faith IS work. Studying grammar taught me to see a linking verb as an equals sign. Thus, the two are not only linked, they are equivalent. "Having faith" and "believing" are not abstract things, they are tangible actions in the form of works. Just as with Hope and Love, I am discovering that it takes a lot of courage, energy, and effort to "have Faith." In fact, all of those seem to involve a lot more "trying" and a lot less "having." This made me think of our conversation last night, how sometimes we just don't know how to be (and the bible telling us "how to be" sometimes doesn't seem to help as much as point out impossibilities). However, the Word always tells us what to do, and that is something tangible. I am thankful for the occasional tangibles of faith (she stated paradoxically)!

An author once illustrated Christianity with the "say like" game. Do you remember?

"Say like I'm an astronaut and this is my rocket ship."
"Say like I'm the mommy, you're the daddy, & teddy is our baby."

Faith and belief are a game of "say like I'm Jesus." In Lauren F. Winners's memoir, Girl Meets God, she narrates from an obscure British novel a scene in which a believer and a cynic are debating God. "Of course I know you believe in it, the cynic says, what I want to know is do you believe in it the way you believe in Australia?"
My answer is usually No. I don't know if "I believe" God is answering my prayers. I don't know if I "have faith" we can overcome the demons that sometimes indwell this house. But I can ACT as if I do. I can continue trudging along in the actions that are required of me, trusting grace to meet me in the middle. I turn to the golden rule. I begin to discover how King David could delight in the Law, how it ceases to be a task and even becomes a relief to meditate on it day and night. The Word tells me what to do, the work of my faith. One of my psych professors said it this way: We cannot think our way into a better way of living, but we can live our way into a better way of thinking.

All that being said, I must finally reminding the pragmatist in me that this "better way of living" is not to effect some change in the world around me but to fulfill my destiny to become more like Christ. It is likely that the fruits of the latter will take care of the former, but I must trust God's sovereignty and, in obedience, take responsibility for myself alone. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion. . .soon. (Philippians 1)

Well, that's my spiel. It was a bit of a revelation about faith for me, and a much-needed encouragement.

"I am amazed at the patience of my blessed Master & Teacher, but how I love His school!"
E. Prentiss

Monday, November 15, 2010


It is good to have days I couldn't survive without the Word.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


"You can't spell quarantine without"
me, or so I've heard.
And I can't spell paralysis,
without you to define the word
and define my life and enforce the guilt
with a dagger of rust and my name on the hilt.

Yesterdays live forever, a vividly detailed ghost
and links of chain and iron balls and still that unangellic host,
you who can't and never will and couldn't be convinced
(the world be turned, and turned again another thousand since)
of the truth that I've come to confide:
that captives sometimes take your side.

Forgive me or forgive me not,
no argument's writ in this song.
But leave me alone in the bloody mess
that I was always wrong.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Basic Training

A mother's work is never done.

And if that mother happens to sneeze one night, and if that sneeze happens to throw out her back and render her bedridden, and if you happen to be the twenty-four-year-old voluntary live-in homeschool tutor, cook, and housekeeper. . .you may find that your work is similarly endless (and that your younger siblings have begun referring to you as "the Nazi" behind your back).

Poor Mama. Get well soon (for all our sakes)!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Middle Branches

Maybe I will be a parent someday, maybe not. My sister, though, in anticipation of her first little one (due December 7th) has been a recent catalyst for endless conversations on the subject. Us? Parents? It's a good thing we've had good role models. We scoff at what certain other parents did wrong--in-laws, relatives, that one set of weird neighbors--commending our parents for getting those things right. Obvious things like being home, having dinner with us, and the ultimate decision of perfect parenting: Home Education (which we home-schoolers know is the magic ticket to raising good children).

Yes, my sister and I nod, we know how real parents parent.

But there are those other things, the ones you don't see for as long as your parents are right "because I said so," the small and hidden secrets you suddenly find have been growing inside you because sometimes, just sometimes, they were wrong. And sometimes they taught you to be wrong too, and no one ever told you 'til you went to meet the world, presenting the beautiful portrait of yourself, anticipating only applause.

And they all said it was ugly. You got it wrong. Start over.

I was talking with my brother last night about whether we're a "normal" family. I assured him that our parents had done well, very well, the best they could possibly do, and that try as he may he would never find a family that came even close. To normal, I mean. There is no such thing. Every family tree has its roots in the dirt.

My siblings and I live under the oppression of hereditary diseases: the one we're all dying from and the other ones that my parents acquired within the quarantines of their diseased childhood homes. As small children, they were trapped in close quarters with illnesses from which they can never escape--and neither can I. They are difficult diseases, the kind with names that are hard to pronounce in public. We have seen the doctors, we have heard the prognosis, and for these there is no cure.

What would those doctors say then, I wonder, if they saw my parents today? They would call it a handful of misdiagnoses. They would ask where we have been for help. They would ask whom we have seen. They, and my parents' parents made the same mistake. They thought that incurable diseases cannot be cured.

My parents, however, do not agree, and neither do I. I watch their healing and wait in hope for the cure to my own incurables. My children will still be born with my diseases, but it is not only illness that passes down from generation to generation.

There are a few rotten limbs near the trunk of my family tree, but the ones nearer me are more alive every day. And I can see the tiniest, topmost branches from here where I reach for the sun; they are young and green and flawless.

Dear Doctors,

Where we have been is on our knees,
and whom we have seen is God.


Friday, July 23, 2010

When is a good time to die?

Yesterday I heard of several tragic deaths in the families of "friends of friends."

One friend told me how young man and woman of our age had moved from their hometown to pursue a new life together. Three weeks later, his mother was killed in a flood in Mexico. Knowing the mother had left her family, including four children, 7 years previously, my friend and I wondered what sorts of closure were already sealed and what sorts of regrets would never find closure.

The conversation moved to my friend's cousin, who had spent most of her life in the wake of her mothers various addictions and alcoholism. After a painful and humiliatingly public falling out on Christmas Eve, the grown daughter finally washed her hands of the destruction and began to live her life. She was away on vacation when her mother killed herself three months later. At least, we thought, she had made peace with the separation already. But maybe not.

Another friend of a friend was killed two days ago when his rock-climbing party was struck by lightning in the Tetons. He had recently decided to propose to his now heartbroken girlfriend. His body could not be recovered until the following day, and she was hundreds of miles away. Zero closure.

Some days it's a friend of a friend. A few times it has been a friend. God decides.

If I die on the way to Memphis today, now is a good time to die.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Anniversary

They still say goodnight, flicking last switches,
the kitchen still warm with italian food.
The coffee is still in the pot.
My toes are still getting cold.
I still sit on the red plaid couch,
still prop my chin on folded towels
to stack in the still silent bathroom upstairs,
where you still don't brush your teeth anymore.