Live Color Fully

today i am excited about everything.

Dear Grandma

(This is the letter I read out loud at my Grandma’s memorial last month. It was so easy to write, and so hard to read, and… I don’t want to forget, so I’m letting it rest here.)

Dear Grandma,

I think that in the arrogant way that only the younger generation is capable of, I believed I knew almost everything about you. Don’t get me wrong, I always knew you were special. I saw it in the way your feet turned in and your hands clasped behind your back as you told me the stories of your childhood, the stories of my history. In the way you always looked put together (you’re the only person I know that actually owned bejeweled sweats). How you somehow were incredibly laid back and simultaneously high-maintenance. The way your shoulders would lock- strong- in a bout of stubbornness and we knew to just let it go even if you were wrong. How you knew the name of every plant by heart. How proud you were of where you came from and the life you had built.

But of course, there are things that I’m just now learning about you, even this week as your family gathered to share stories and celebrate you. I never knew how much you loved letters, Grandma. Your drawers are full of, well, many treasures, but among those it seems you may have saved every letter sent your way through the years. It seemed fitting to add one more to the pile, one that describes who you were, they way we loved you, and how we’ll take what you taught us into the next generation.

So, here are three things I promise to carry forward, the things that will exist in me to allow people to know your legacy.

First: Grandma, you were a life-learner. You often told the story of going to school a year early- at age 4, after weeks of begging and pleading with your strong-willed parents. Even the strongest wills can be worn down, and off you went to fall in love with education, and later, teaching. You served kids and families in Title 1 schools well, understanding what it’s like to come from very little. But while you loved and believed in education, it was more than that- you saw the world around you as an opportunity to learn. You took classes, studying spanish at the local college and computer at your local library. You watched documentary after documentary after documentary on your favorite thing- Netflix. You travelled anywhere you could get to by plane, train or boat, and let your adventurous spirit lead you to new and different ideas. You read everything you could find, and relayed tales of history, financial facts, and countless other things in long phone calls. You saw the world as your classroom, Grandma. I want to be like that.

Second, you were… yourself. This may not sound like much, but in a world that constantly pushes for people to fit into a mold, you were you. You inherently understood what churches incessantly preach- how to be who God created you to be- nothing more, but nothing less. Some of this came with the wisdom of age, but some of it was just you. You liked what you liked, and you were unapologetic for it. We teased you mercilessly for your freezer stockpile of treats (that you ate one bite per night), your shoe shopping habit, and your love for Kenny G- but you didn’t care. It was this sense of self, this sense of understanding what you had to give the world that led to your volunteer work here, with WHO- and ultimately, to your time in Honduras. There, you offered exactly what you had to give- education, women empowerment, and your time. This sense of self let you hear God’s call on your later days, and it gave you the courage to answer, ‘Here I am Lord, send me.” I want to be like that.

And finally, there is this: the way you loved. It was your own unique way, just like everything in your life. You weren’t prone to long flowery speeches confessing feelings, but there was a quiet determination in the way you cared for the people in your life. Sarah saw it in Honduras, when you set out in the heat of day an hour early for school, mostly odd because you never left an hour early for any place… or 10 minutes early, or anything other than 20 minutes late. She watched as you slowly made your way along the dirt path to the school, stopping often to hug women and ask them about their days in broken, heartfelt spanish. You made the time, you showed them their worth, you loved them.

And you loved your family. Even when it was hard, even when people disagreed and didn’t see things the same way. We all inherited the stubbornness you had running in your veins, and though it drove us crazy, drove ME crazy, I’m so thankful for it.

And I’m thankful you moved here; lifted your roots out of the California soil and transplanted. This was your ultimate show of love, and this is what allows me to write this letter today. Instead of yearly visits, there were coffee dates and hours sitting cross legged on the floor of your living room. Every memory from high school, every concert, every dance- when it plays in my mind, I see your piercing blue eyes as a part of my story. I know it wasn’t easy to start over and craft a life here, but our lives look different because you did. You taught me this: loving others is as complicated and as simple as showing up. I want to be like that.

Grandma, I’ll remember the smell of your house, your fingers running through my hair, your rough voice singing mountain songs just slightly out of tune, and the way you looked the world with the wisdom and awe of a traveler.

None of us stand alone. We are all built on the lives of those that have come before us. I am so lucky to have bricks in my foundation with the name “Lillian” penned in your beautiful handwriting on the side.

I love you, Grandma.

Until I see you again,

Annie

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Genesis 32, And Other Tales

I have been imagining this over and over recently, this moment where the Almighty wrestled a human (merely) being.

Was it hot that night? Did sweat slide down the brow of Jacob only? Did the Mysterious Man rub away the dust that surely covered His face? Was there a breeze that rustled the leaves and added to the soundtrack of shuffling feet and labored breathing?

Did they lock eyes in the moonlight? Did Jacob know he was holding the same arms that hung the stars in the sky? Did they speak as they struggled?

How did it feel to wrestle this God, this Creator, this Everlasting I Am?

How did it feel?

You know, my soul answers. You know. Because right now? You are wrestling God.

In all of the ups and downs (and down some more) that have been happening since for the past daysweeksmonths, in the midst of cancer appointments and tragedy around the world and tragedy around the corner and resting on top of it all, an unexpected and heavy heartbreak, I have found myself in a new place. My past dictates this pattern: Things are hard. Run away. Find something gentler, something easier, a sunnier space to stretch out in and feel the sunbeams kiss your shoulders.

My past dictates the easy way out, for faith.

But no longer. This time I remain in the dark (for but a moment), I engage in the doubt, I engage in the struggle.

I engage.

And in that engagement alone, in the not-hiding, I grow (up). In the exhaustion of standing right before the Almighty I Am and asking Him the kind of sentence with a question mark at the end:

Are you good?

It’s the not the doubt that He is. He is, that much is certain. We are locked together He & I.

It’s the very real doubt that the Creator who poured so much good into this planet & this life I live, who poured out His beauty into the flowers and voices of the children and kindness of a stranger, that He is still good- still working His good. Somehow. Somehow. Somehow.

And then, buried somewhere in the Words of my Faith is a promise. We are wrestling now, here in the dark, but time moves on of its own accord, and morning is coming. The sun is coming.

(The sun came up as he left Peniel).

And I too, limp away from this place, changed. Joy intact. Doubt intact. Faith intact.

The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.” Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.” The man said, “What’s your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.” Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?” The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him. Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” The sun came up as he left Peniel… (Genesis 31:26-31a)

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The Difference of Four Days

Wednesday, 3 PM

Sales Gal to E: Oh, is this your Mom?

Me: Oh, no! Actually, her Mom & Dad are out of town, so I’m watching her for a few days! I mean, I’m her Pastor at church, so in a WAY, she’s mine. But not mine like I’m her parent. More like, a cool Aunt, or way older sister. So, not my daughter. But kind of just for the next few days. So, yeah. I’m in charge of her.

Sales Gal: Oh. How… nice.

 

Saturday, 10 AM

Woman at Christmas Concert: Is this your Mom?

Me: Yes. 

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A Note to My Loves

(Written for Valentine’s Day. But you know, as par for the course, I’m running a bit behind.)

There is a reason I never write about what it means to be 29 and single (a rule I’m about to break right now, because you know, my parents raised me to reject any rule that’s stupid. So essentially, all rules not including the words “Don’t” and “Murder”): there’s too much to wade through.

Let me clarify- not internally. Internally, I stand with feet firmly planted on a rock a man could never quite occupy, though a handful have tried here and there through the years.

But outwardly, my friends? Outwardly, on the InterWebs and splashed onto the pages of books and in hushed tones in coffee shops, the amount of material on this subject is insurmountable. It’s exhausting.

The past few weeks have found me in conversations around this topic that have been heartbreaking, as men and women question their core identities in the face of what someone else has decided should be.

What someone else has decided for them they should be.

And so, it’s 2013 now and Valentine’s Day has come and gone- and while I’m pretty sure I’m not the very last single girl on earth, sometimes I wonder if I might be the very last single girl who’s okay with it.

My friends, my loved ones who live here and there and everywhere, who face a day of love and feel somehow less then, can I just say:

We don’t need a list of ways to better ourselves. We don’t need to thumb our nose at the beauty of love.  And mostly: we don’t need to wait.

There isn’t a magic to marriage. There isn’t a universal switch that is flipped that day, and from that point forward, life is interesting (or if there is, the married people are keeping a really tight lid on that one).

There is only magic in living into the now of your life. Your life. Not anyone else’s. Just yours.

We are wedded, my dear ones. Maybe not with a ring and a covenant (although those are sacred, lovely things), but we are wedded none the less. To each other.  In relationships that are life-giving and meaningful. That are human.

So why would we hate a day to celebrate The Greatest of These? Why would we feel anything less than perfectly formed for this time, in this day, in this now? Why would we let someone else define for us that we are less than- or not quite- or almost? We are full. We are living days that are pieced together in beauty and life, not lacking in sunshine or laughter.

And can I say? Live out the fullness of your life, right beside Your Creator, in beauty and truth and adventure and newness and familiar and fun and light. To wait a single moment for any of these things is to ignore the wildness and freedom life offers to you. That your Creator offers to you.

That is a gift, my loves. For all of us. Together.

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29.

Me: “In year 28, I was fired for the first time, left a work situation that crippled my creativity and almost broke my faith, took an epic trip through everywhere I’ve lived, moved to the homeland, made incredible friends, got to CHOOSE between two jobs, went to Guatemala and learned something new, and loved. Really hard.”

Her: “So how is this different than any of your other years?”

Me: “Right.”

Here’s to one more year of crazy adventures. No rest, no waiting, just running towards (and when I get it right, alongside) My Creator.

29. 

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