This is me talking about God.

Story time:
I used to be a teacher at the MTC.
That stands for Missionary Training Center.

I often asked the new missionaries,
“What do you need to feel in order to experience conversion?”
I wasn’t looking for any one answer in particular, just trying to get them thinking.

I often heard things like:
“Feel that God loves you.”
“Feel a desire to believe”
“Feel that He is listening.”

Once, from a brand new sister missionary in the back corner, I heard this:
“You need to feel uncomfortable.”

She explained that conversion requires a change of heart.
Some sort of self-renovation.
You cannot change or progress without leaving your comfort zone.
And so, she concluded, you need to feel uncomfortable.

I believe she was right.

Let’s talk about this.
Maybe the word conversion is strange and foreign to you.
You could call it inspiration or enlightenment or something more ambiguous if you like.
For me, that move can sometimes be deceiving.

Watch:
God >> Divine Being >> Higher Power >> Vibrations of Light >> Force of the Universe.
With each move, your subject becomes more broad.
You are covering a larger scope of ideas with just one word. This type of language is good if you’re speaking to a bunch of people from diverse backgrounds. It helps us unite and relate to a large spectrum of ideas. Yoga teachers are masters at this. But here’s the deal: in embracing that ambiguity, in trying to include every possible belief that others have, you may pass over the opportunity to clearly define what your belief is.

And so, I believe the safety of ambiguity also comes with a loss of clarity, relevance, and intimacy.
Who is God to you?
I think it can be simpler than a vast, vague sphere of ideas.
I think God is a man we can know, rather than a force that comes and goes in mysterious waves but is never quite as personal as a friend. I can be uncomfortable to try and communicate with someone you don’t know. But that is not the type of uncomfortable I’m talking about here. What I’m saying is that while the conversion experience must at some point feel uncomfortable, our relationship with God as a being, as a Father, does not have to be. It can be simple. And clear. And awesome.

Kind of like this:
There was a time when I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. My good friend Jared offered to help. He was kind. He didn’t mind that my musical background consisted solely of jammin to the radio, he was just pumped to teach me–so I decided to try it. Still, it was uncomfortable for me. Holding the guitar, finding the chords, staying in rhythm–all of that was weird. It was a position I’d never been in before and most of the time I felt pretty embarrassed. Jared was patient. Sometimes he would explain things in a way that didn’t make sense to me, but I trusted him. I knew he was listening and that he cared about me, but learning to play like him was hard. It required much more. Same thing with God.

If you want to know Him,
You must be ready to go where you have never gone,
Learn new things. Embrace awkward positions.
Leave your comforts behind.

This means you will feel uncomfortable at times.
Not so much in your relationship with God,
but in the experience of becoming like Him.

I could leave you with a beautiful ending about how I stuck with guitar until I mastered it and was no longer uncomfortable. But that wouldn’t be true. I gave up on the guitar pretty fast. I just didn’t know if I was capable of the results I wanted. And if I was, would it be worth all the time I spent feeling uncomfortable? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped trying, and went back to the way I was. Now I listen to music like I always have, appreciating it from a distance without being involved. I think this is how I am with God sometimes too. Distant. Complacent.  But not happy. Not anywhere close to the potential he created me for. I keep having to remind myself to seek that potential–leave the zone of comfort.

So here’s the ending: I think that process is normal.
That is how you find out the details of who He is and how He works with you.
That is how God goes from someone you hear about, to someone you know.
That is how you move from an ambiguous notion, toward a firsthand, personal clarity.
It is also, I believe, the point of life.
We can do this.

HOME.

I am sittin here on the bed eatin blueberries,
wondering what to write about next.
I’ll just let myself talk to you.
(Or the void that is the internet.)
(Or whoever and whatever it is I speak with here.)
Here it comes.

This morning was a weird morning.
I swear I got out of bed multiple times and then woke up: still under the covers.
Ken tried to help.
I remember him nudging me with his nose like some kind of animal.
When I didn’t respond he pawed at my shoulder and made rawr sounds.
“Roaaarrrrrr! Wake up!”
“No” I said.
“But we’re pretending to be LIONS!” he replied.
“Nope.” [roll over]
“Oh. But why not?!”
And then somehow I was dressed and ready for church.
This is all I remember.

I don’t like to sleep when the sun is down,
but then by the time it’s up that’s all I wanna do.
The fact that I woke up every morning at 6:30 for a year and a half is a miracle.
(That’s when I was a missionary.)
The church is true people. That actually happened.
My mission is also the only time I looked forward to going to bed.
I was worked. WORKED.
All of that feels so far away now.
Now I work at the Missionary Training Center.
I help teach missionaries.
I am all around it every day, and yet my own mission feels far far away from me.

This has happened to me before– I want to tell you about it.
Remember the house on the culdesac?
The one with golden lights in my room at night?
The one I ran away from?
I ran away because we were moving.
My Dad was getting “transferred.”
That meant I was too. And I was real sad about it.
Now I know this all sounds very trivial, but it was so real to me then.
I wasn’t old enough to drive or take a bus or have a friend bring me back.
So, in my eyes, I couldn’t ever come back on my own.
I was leaving everything I’d ever known.
My friends and my cheer team and the woods in my back yard.
My bus stop and my Mamaw and my friend down the street.
And I couldn’t do anything about it.
That’s why I packed-up some canned food in the trees.
That’s why I planned for my friend to leave me sandwiches.
I was going to keep my life there, no matter what.

We moved on my tenth birthday and my heart broke.
There’s a lot to be said about this time in my life.
But the part I want to tell you about is this:
One time, we went back.
We drove back to Greensboro and Mom said we could go by our old house.
I couldn’t wait. That was my world! My home. I was going back to my life.
I carved my name in a tree in the front yard.
(…with my Mom’s tweezers, stolen from the console of our mini-van.)
We still had the key and no one had moved in yet, so we went inside.
I burst in the door, but
There was no big rug in the living room.
Everything was painted white– no colors.
No floral couches.
No kitchen table. No hand soap on the counter.
No shoes in the closet. No candy on top of the fridge.
No curtains on the windows. No pictures in my room.
It didn’t even smell like home.
It smelled like carpet cleaner and white paint.
It was empty. It seemed bigger. Father away.
At ten years old, this didn’t make sense to me.
I was HOME but nothing belonged to me.
I was right there, but it was all gone.
I was confused and embarrassed to have expected anything different.
I cried and cried.

And sometimes, when I’m walking around the MTC, watching all the boys and girls– the Elders and Sisters— with their black name tags and their scripture bags, their big nervous hearts, I try so hard to feel at home. To feel that I love this and I know this and I’m back and I belong. But that’s not who I am anymore. That doesn’t belong to me anymore. Sometimes, I can barely remember Sister Brown. She is all around me and yet she is not my life now. And really, that’s okay. I didn’t expect for the curtains to stay on the windows this time. The problem, even then at ten years old, was not that my old home was gone, so much that my new home was yet to be found. Seeing that there is no place in the past for me only emphasized what I had been ignoring: that I must go forward and find somewhere new to belong. At ten, this was terrifying. I didn’t want to belong anywhere else. Now, nearly 15 years later, I would love to belong somewhere besides full-time missionary work. I am excited and willing and open to this idea of somewhere else.

And yet, it is scary to know that everything behind me has been painted white and re-inhabited by strangers. Until this new home comes to light, I am floating, with what’s left of my torn-up roots scraggling along beneath me. But roots aren’t meant to float around exposed. Their work is meant to be concealed, deep underground, as they dig and hold steady to whatever they can find, spreading out for stability. Branches and leaves are blown in the wind, but roots find something more solid, more safe, and more steady. Especially my roots, because everything else about me is an emotional blow-around-in-the-wind mess. In short, I’m not crying in the mini-van this time, riding towards the scary unknown. I’m driving. I’m going willingly. I have lots of safety and stability and steadiness in the man next to me. I have big faith in the future. But still, it is disorienting and unnatural to drag one’s roots around every day. I am ready for some solid ground I can belong to for a while. Not only solid ground in God or solid ground in my husband, but real, squidge-your-feet-in-the-dirt solid ground. A place. A city. A home.
Texas, here we come.

UT.tree

University of Texas from Wooldridge Hill