An Integrated Approach

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on taking it personally.

I love the following poem. Truly. I come back to it again and again. I find that I often subconsciously pick a poem that becomes emblematic of a stage of life. Its becomes an anthem, something I come back to in times of stress and point to, saying, “See! Don’t you all understand? He gets it!”.
I found this poem in college. Its not my constant mantra anymore., but it testifies to the gosepl in a way that I think Fredrick Buechner would appreciate–I just finished Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. Rather, if it doesn’t testify to the truth of the gospel, this poem at least gets at the core thing in all of us that desires the cosmic narrative, the story of our lives to be played on the grand scale. In that respect, Hoagland, with out referencing the gospel, demands and articulates our deep need for all of this to matter, and in such perfectly pairs with the tradgey, comedy and fairytale of Burchner’s gospel. And there is just something lovely about someone brazenly demanding that the ugly, the unkempt, the rigmaroll of life, in all its beauty be acknowledged.

By Tony Hoaglandb. 1953 Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—
the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,
the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me
and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.
The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,
and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.
Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk
Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts
but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;
I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,
I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back
and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?
You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.
I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:
trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

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a running explanation

I’ve started running recently. Not for weight-loss, not because I like it, not because I want to run a marathon (though maybe one day I will).

For some reason, my friend from work thought it would be fun to do The Shamrock Shuffle—the unofficial inauguration of Chicago running season. 40,000 crazy people run every year, looking forward to the booze-fest that awaits them at the finish line. You can’t really call yourself a Chicagoan with out having run it at least once. Well, maybe you can, but having done it, I now hold a completely different appreciation and sense of solidarity with my city and its people.

Anyway, about 2 months ago, we started running once a week. It was bad. I mean, I hated it. I was proud of us for getting out there, we at least were running every Thursday while our co-workers went out drinking. So two points to my sense of moral superiority, but still, I hated it. I have never liked running. Although every few years I get back on a treadmill, hoping that as I’ve matured I’ve also developed a hereto unknown passion and love for running. This has never been the case, until now.

Fast forward to the end of March. We ran the Shuffle. I walked over every bridge, I nearly cried from the pain of my body processing the gatorade I so desperately needed to keep going. But I did finish; with a pretty respectable time, considering I’d never run that far, nor had I trained more than three or four times for this thing.

All of the sudden, I was a runner. This was something I did, it was a part of me. I ran a major race, I couldn’t dis-acknowledge that fact. I cared about this thing much more than I admitted, even to myself.  Somewhere, between the hundreds of people in start group B and the finish line, I became like the thousands around me hurling themselves down the streets of Chicago. I felt legitimate. I felt powerful. Like I had weight in the world because no one could tell me that I didn’t finished in 48:31. That’s what the clock said. I had done this thing. There were thousands watching that day that did not do it. But I did.

That feeling was exhilarating, I had actualized in a way I didn’t expect. And now every time I run there is an after taste of that first race. I exist. My body does this crazy thing. I will move myself through space and prove to you and myself that I am alive.

And as of today I am officially registered for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon at the end of June. Last weekend I ran six miles, on Sunday I will run seven. I will continue to delight in my existence, in the ways I am fiercely, fearfully, and wonderfully made.

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a birthday present

I have always loved making things. But recently, creating has taken a backseat to the rest of my life.

That is, until I met Lauren.

She has a wonderful eye for possibilities. Just look at her blog! She and her husband Alex have “Crafternoons” on Sundays after church. They are both incredibly talented. At first when I met them, I was in awe of how together they were—newly married, real jobs, and both had a shared value for the aesthetic and physicality of their home.

As I got to know this fantastic couple, my awe turned to inspiration. If Alex and Lauren can make cool stuff, I could too?

But when it came time to getting a real, grown-up present for my dear friend’s birthday this weekend, I was at a loss. I’m not exactly rolling in dollars these days. However, I do have tons of junk and random craft stuff squirreled away throughout our apartment. So, last night I sat down and thought: What would Lauren do?

Something clean, simple, elegant. Less is more. And with the Handmaden blog fresh in my mind I set out to create something beautiful for my friend.

I had the drawing below in a frame, but had never found where to put it in my apt. And while I didn’t want to part with the drawing, I could use the frame. Below is result of yesterdays attempt at creating with the materials I have.

on the left, a drawing from an old art text book.
on the right, my painted rendering on glass.

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a berry good smoothie

I’ve been a bit of a smoothie-addict as of late. Last week at least one meal a day was a smoothie. I skipped the office today and have been nursing a spinach and blueberry smoothie all day.

This is what I will be making tomorrow.

The Curious Country Cook….: Berry Blast Smoothie.


1 ripe banana, peeled
1/2- 3/4 cup orange juice
6 ounces of frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2  tbsp ground wheat germ
1/4 cup soy milk (or milk)
1 tbsp honey

1. Combine the banana, the berries, yogurt, wheat germ, honey, and 1/4 cup of the juice in a blender.
2. Blend for about 1 minute or until all of the ingredients are mixed. Add in the rest of the juice and the milk and blend until smooth.
3. Serve

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a holy week reflection

For the past six years I have celebrated Holy Week at a church that relishes spectacle. Complete with a 2 mile prayer walk, operatic interpretations of the creation narrative and 700 people acting out the valley of the dry bones story; these people know something about the revelry of God. While I attended that church, I rarely participated. I often just stood in service and cried the entire time. I wasn’t in the most helpful or healthful place in college. When asked by my best friend if I was alright, I could only ever reply: “I hurt. And how can I not cry in the face of truth?” At that time, it was enough just to stand and painfully glance into the face of truth and love.

Fast forward a few years, post college, post-disastrous relationships, post- spectale-church-of-truth.

I find myself part of a small Anglican church-plant. We meet in all sorts of places. Last night we held Maundy Thursday service in a sweet little 7th Day Adventist church. Completely devoid of spectacle, we brought bowls and bath towels from home for the washing of feet. The congregation was maybe 25 people. What struck me that night, as it does every Sunday in my friend’s apartment, is that God is present in the liturgy, no matter where that liturgy is held. I still cried (though not as much) last night. There was no best friend to hold my hand. My tears were of those harkening back kind, when, even though you are no longer in the place of raw scraping, the muscle and psychosomatic memory is such that you are profoundly aware of who you are and where you have been. When every image of abundant love reminds you of all of your own failed attempts and how sweet, earnest and pathetic they were.

I am both that same girl from six years ago and a wholly new person.

How can I possibly begin to articulate how I now understand why so many of my attempts to love have failed? It’s a long and complicated story. But it always comes back to this: I refuse to let my creating-brother-father-lover God love me. Because I hold up walls to him, I can’t help but hold up walls to others. I don’t barricade myself in the obvious, “I won’t reveal x,y,z” ways. But in the “I can’t sustain a larger perspective outside of this moment because I am scared!” kind of way, and that causes me to do all sorts of damage. I can’t dissect it out into words. I am not sure how the change happened in me. But every holy week for the past six years I have taken a step, a small step closer to accepting that Jesus Christ actually loves me, even though I still hold up walls and I still chafe at the idea of worth and love.

I know truth when I hear it, and I can’t help crying when in the presence of it. But this year I realized I have outgrown simply recognizing the face of love, I must now begin to walk with Him.