Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In the Beginning

The sky was heavy.
The air around her felt empty.
She was suddenly utterly aware of her skin,
And felt a hole begind to grow in her breast that, even a lifetime later, she wouldn't be able to fill.
The Lord had retreated.
The gates of the Garden were closed; an angel stood before them, shifting his weight, his eyes.
She saw an expression of pity fleet across his features and then dissolve into a light she could no longer bear to look at.
She looked at her husband, but for the first time, had no words to express her heart.
And then, not with her ears but with her heart, she heard the words she would cling to for the rest of her years.
The words she could try so hard to teach her children; the words she would always ache to hear again, but would forever only feel--as if an echo...
"Oh, beloved, how I love you."
She turned her back to the Garden, the only home, the only world she had ever known. In her heart she knew her children would know the Lord's grace.
But for the rest of her years, whenever the wind blew, she would know a great ache in her heart.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thoughts (Pt. 1)

This will undoubtedly be the first in a series of posts. But I want you to know what I am learning... somehow, I want to chronicle this journey. Snapshots of my soul. I'm not sure a polaroid could expose the transformation that is taking place. So I will paint a picture with my words as best I can.

There is a difference between believing and following. Even the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The rich young ruler believed the same; I would even go as far as to say that the young ruler loved Jesus. But don't we want to be more... don't we want our hearts to be in a better place than the demons, or the man who walked away? Believing is recognizing His majesty, recognizing Him for His power. Following, on the other hand, is the hard part. The part of the plan that will lead you past your ability. Following is the part that will break you, make you vulnerable, and lead you to a place you never could have gotten to on your own.

Jesus said, "Come, follow me." Not, "Come, know who I am." Rather, He said, "Come, be like me. Come do life with me." He wants us to see with new eyes. To see for ourselves (Taste and see that the Lord is good) that He is holy.

He separates us, sheep from goats. Those who fed Him, clothed Him, loved Him... from those who did not. With this analogy He urges us out of our comfort zone. He calls us to love everyone. To love the forgotten. To remember the lost. To be reminded, daily, that very little separates the suburbs and the park benches... that the resources we have been given, those that make us comfortable, are the very things we are called to give away. They say that money is the root of all evil. It is, rather, the hoarding of money... the misuse of money... that has left some without clean water or clothes.

Gates are a defensive structure. When Jesus refers to the gates of Hell in Matthew 16, He also refers to raising a church... which is an offensive action. In one translation, Jesus says the church will be "so expansive with energy that even the gates of hell won't be able to keep it out". T-shirts are being made. "I'm following Jesus straight to hell." I'm interested to hear the questions we'll get... I just can't help imagining Jesus charging ahead on a horse... I think He'll be yelling.

Christianity is uncomfortable. By picking up our crosses, we are submitting to a life of what my friend and I call, "un-comfort". Jesus does not want us to live in "discomfort". The point of Christianity is not pain and suffering. But about doing what it takes, whatever it takes to bring glory to God the Father.

And so when Jesus says to let the dead bury the dead... when He says to hate your father and your children... He is redefining family. The Body of Christ must be flexible. It must be able to grow with you, accept you as you change and grow and mature in Christ. You are not called to hate anyone... but you are called to love Christ above all else. That's all there is to it. And when He says "go"... your response should be nothing else but, "Yes. Where?"

The Lord knows me better than I know myself. Daily He looks at me and says, "That is who I created you to be. Let me show you, let me take you there."

Believe in Him.
Love Him.
Follow Him.
Be like Him.
Let Him consume you.

My disclaimer is this: He may not be gentle. The way may be steep. You may be uncomfortable.

But His grace is sufficient.


Twice a year the extended Vaughans drive in for the Keeneland meets. Once in the spring, once in the fall, it never fails. The only thing that varies is the number of them who come. Some years every brother, sister in law, cousin, first cousin, and second cousin once removed gathers in a hotel lobby to eat pizza. This year, there were only four. Johnny and Betty drove in from Chattanooga. Ron and Marlise drove down from Columbus. And I was dreading it.

I had watched my grandmother work herself into a frenzy trying to prepare for the wealthy Vaughans. The food she made, or had Granddad make, "would have fed Bosnia" (in Larry's words). "Twice" (according to Marty). I walked into the garage on Friday to find Granddad cleaning out a vacuum cleaner, a look of apprehension and slight disgust on his sweet face. Those are two emotion you rarely see on Joe. But there they were.

The Lexington Vaughans congregated before anyone else showed up. This was relaxed and easy and full of knowing glances... "it's about to get crazy up in here". We all knew. My mom looked at Marty at one point and said, "So how's life treating you, Marty?" Marty got a little bit of a smile on his face and said, "Wonderful. Life is wonderful."I immedately teared up."I have a good job, a good church, I'm in love..." he turned red. "I have no want." He has a good stew simmering, according to my mother. I need the recipe.

So my family, Marty, Granddad and Grandmom all waited for the four others to join us. About three or four hours later they showed up, having fallen asleep in their hotel room after a long day at the races (we found out later they watched the races from the Equestrian room... and the look of digust returned to Granddad's face). They walked in with a bag filled with bottles of wine. Betty declares, "Vicki brought this up from Atlanta last time we saw her. This is wine from a store called Trader Joe's. We call it 'Two Buck Chuck'." From across the room I began to die laughing. $2.50 wine... from an organic grocery store by Piedmont Park in Atlanta. I looked my granddad and said, "I hear that's some pretty good wine". So the poor man poured himself a glass.

Joe and Ron and John are brothers. Their oldest brother Luke died almost ten years ago. Granddad, Joe, is the baby. John is the next oldest. And Ron is third. John looks just like our Granny Vaughan who died back in 2001 and all you have to do to get to his heart is give him a hug. He married Betty, and after almost 20 years I still can't figure her out. Ron does everything in his power to intimidate you. He throws out numbers and irrelevant facts and tidbits of information. He wears round, gold rimmed glasses and talks with a distinct air of disdain. Love them, yes. But as they walked into the house, I leaned over to Mom and told her to pass me the bottle of wine. And then I looked at Marty and said, "man, we ought to get Ron to play some Mario Cart." This had Marty in stitches.

I had psyched myself up for the typical gamut of questions. "School", "Work", "Plans".... I didn't have the heart to tell them last night that none of my plans seemed to be coming to fruition and that God was ruining my life with His holy presence. I just didn't think they'd get that.

After we ate my Grandmother came out of the bedroom to fix herself a plate for dinner (she had retreated for a while to get herself together, I think). So I got up and went into the kitchen. She looked up and me and pursed her lips and closed her eyes (a smile that says, I'm not really alright, but let's pretend I am). "You okay?" I asked. "Need any help?" "No, I think I'm doing okay.""Grandmom?"She pursed her lips again."Grandmom, I want you to get yourself a plate and go sit down in there in the dining room and rest."She looked up at me."I mean it.""Okay. That sounds good to me.""The time has come when you have to start doing what I tell you to do, just like I listen to you." I winked at her. She grinned for real this time."That sounds good to me."I won't ever forget that moment.

I walked back into the living room to find Abby Taylor sitting cross-legged on the floor with Ron (the intimidating uncle), a glass of wine on the table beside him, playing Mario Cart. I was beside myself.Not too much later, Joe and John grabbed the controllers and my grandfather, the littlest brother, started teaching John how to play. Which buttons made it go. How to shoot your amo. How to jump (which, unless you could jump over an opponent, this button made no sense to poor Johnny).

Kat and I checked out early last night... we didn't really have anything better to do, but we couldn't handle it anymore. So we made our rounds, hugging everyone and kissing cheeks. "Sweet girl, don't work too hard," Ron said to me. I paused... "but study really hard!" He said. Oh. I thought for a second Ron had redeemed himself. Nevermind.

I hugged Granddad. He always hugs me really long and really tight and he whispered in my ear, "Come back, please, when there's not so many people." I told him I would and he winked at me. And as I walked down the stairs, once I was out of sight, I heard my mom say, "Can you believe we have two more grown women in this family?" My heart swelled.

Family. I'm shaking my head and laughing even as a I think about them...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I asked for this.

I asked for Him to come, to feel Him.

I wanted a purpose. I wanted to be free and natural and I wanted my soul to meet my body.

I asked and pleaded and begged.

There were days when I retreated... I was tired of looking, tired of seeking and not finding.

And days all I wanted was to be on my knees, and wait.

But it snuck in.

Slipped in quietly and planted itself in my heart. And even now I cannot pinpoint when it happened. A seed that had been buried deep within myself long, long ago has begun to grow.

And the process is a painful one.

I found myself standing toe-to-toe with a challenge.

Suddenly swept up in a sea that had once been dammed...

And I found myself feeling sick. Consumed in a way I had never quite felt before.

I wanted to cry and the tears wouldn't come. I needed to take someone's hand and fall to my knees and ask for direction... for some reason, a prayer said silently just wouldn't suffice.

I prayed the feeling would stay. Stay with me, Lord... don't leave me again.

I felt my soul drenched...

Feeling heaven meet your soul is like waking from a dream. I felt as if I needed to stay very still... barely breathing, hoping the feeling would stay. Staying still to keep the real world from coming and pushing heaven out.

I feel His grace. Like rain, it's falling down on me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

unforced rhythms

I am blown away.
When I say I am considering joining the circus... I am not kidding.
My grades are horrible.
My bank account is empty.
My body is suffering.
I do not sleep well.
I am hungry a lot.
I feel like I am pushing a boulder up a mountain... and even when I stop to rest, I have to bear the weight of the burden.
And then today happens.
How a simple 82% on a biology exam could turn everything around, I'll never know.
But I wanted to shout for joy during lecture.
For the first time in a long time, I knew what it meant to want to dance and jump.
Happiness. I was PROUD of myself. Immensely so.
And then I am reminded... unconsciously by a new ruined-life friend of mine... of a promise that Jesus made to us.
(Matthew 11:28-30) "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
I am tired.
And worn out.
Frayed at the edges.
Religion holds no joy for me... only love and spirit.
So I need to seek Him.
Find him, run away with him.
He will wisk me away.
He will give me rest... real rest.
He wants to take a walk with me.
He wants to work by my side.
If I watch how He does it, then He'll do it with me.
And then I will know how.
"The unforced rhythms of grace."
That made my heart stop.
My shoulders cannot take anything heavier... I cannot walk beneath a load ill-suited.
Keep company with Him.
What does it mean to be free and light?
I want to take his yoke.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Do you need to be inspired to write?
Apparently that's not the rule.

It is my rule.

And even as I sat down to write this, feeling slightly inspired, I feel it slipping from my fingers. Like sand. I cannot hold onto inspiration. It is inspiration that holds on to me. Hold me now, muse. Hold me tight.

I spent the weekend in Atlanta. The weekend flew by just like I was afraid it would. The old adage, "time flies when you are having fun" is so true. I had an amazing time. Shelby and I drove down on Friday afternoon. We reached Atlanta after the sun had set, and the city lights seemed to burn against the sky. The only way to drive into Atlanta is at night. The city's spirit is out then, and you can catch a glimpse of her character.

As we drove, I felt something rising in my chest. As if the dam had broken, and the chambers of my heart were filling up. I laughed out loud. Shelby asked me what I was laughing for. "I feel like Tiffany... my heart is happy!" We listened to American Pie as we drove into the city. The words still echo in my ears. "And we sang bye, bye miss American Pie..."

On Saturday, Tiffany and I got up and watched a parade on campus. Then we met Rachael in Atlanta. I was determined to stand up for myself, to be assertive. As much as I love Rachael, I have always let her walk all over me. I have let her confidence suppress me, and I worry far too much about what she thinks of me. We ate a late brunch at Java Jives. Buttermilk pancakes and black coffee and suppressed tears. We caught up on trips to Africa, loved ones, struggles, and goals. We talked about seasons of life and rent. Tiffany and I left, and my tears dried up.

On our way back, we passed old movies theaters that play indie films, Trader Joe's (an organic grocery store that sells $2.50 bottles of wine), and Piedmont Park. This is when I had my epiphany. The realization that it is, in places like these, where my soul meets my body. As if, finally, they fall into step together. The Anna who is organic and soulful and excited and ambitious. This is why I feel full. My soul is filling my heart. And I wonder how anyone could ever learn to love me, if I am not the person I love to be. How can I expect a man (or anyone for that matter) to see me, know me, love me... if it is not the real Anna he is seeing?

On Sunday, Shelby and I got into the car and headed home. Driving up I-75, Shelby looked over at me and said, "I am ready to be home." I paused and watched as Atlanta disappeared in the rearview mirror. It was daytime, and the city had lost her luster. Her homeless could not hide in the shadows, her grime was not glorified in bright lights. She was just a city. Where life happens. Where there are traffic jams and laundry to be done. "I'm ready to be home too," I told her. Five and a half hours later, we were.

And Monday came with all her hell. And I threatened to quit school. And I needed to cry. The tears won't come. Yet, I had another epiphany.

I can make Lexington anything I want it to be. This city can be my home. Geography has very little to do with our hearts. Unfortunately, this just means my greatest obstacle is myself. Oh, to be your own worst enemy. This is the challenge.

So I met dear Liza at Coffee Times tonight. I've halfway boycotted Starbucks in support of local houses. Especially fair trade ones. I walked into the shop and saw a collection of my favorite cards and a guy who was wearing really awesome socks. And Liza and I sat and drank macchiattos and I realized what kindred spirits we are....

What free spirits we are.

I'm sick and tired of writing about who I want to be.
Dreaming of what I want to do.
Of suppressing my heart and soul.

I'm ready for my soul to fill my body again.
For my outside to reflect my spirit.
For my heart to fall into step with my actions.

Nothing in my life right now is in sync. Nothing makes sense. I remind myself that this is just a season and "this too shall pass". Will it ever feel right again? Will it ever feel good? Even for a little while? This free spirit of mine is tired of being caged.

It will be a gradual transformation... as all true transformations are. Then one day, the cage door will fly open. And there will be wind beneath my wings.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Opening Day

Yesterday was opening day for the fall meet.

I've been coming here since I was a little girl. I remember "Breakfast with the Works" and bundling up against the cold October mornings. I don't ever remember staying for a race when I was younger. I don't remember the beer or the cigars. I just remember the sycamore tree and having my dad place $2 bets for me with his own money.

I took half a day off of work yesterday. Amazing how three hours of work will drag on and on when you are looking forward to leaving. It poured the rain yesterday morning. Everyone is happy... we need the rain. Being selfish, I wished it would stop. I had a special afternoon planned. Rain would just make it kind of soggy.

I brought my camera with me for the first time. Knowing how to take fast-action shots and utilize the lighting of the overhangs and tree branches. It's a good feeling to know what you're doing. It's a good feeling to capture an afternoon with a lens.

But this time it was a little bit different. I was old enough to place my own $2 bets (still, with my dad's money). I was enveloped by the smell of beer and cigars. I was acutely aware of the well-dressed men and women of wealth. I wondered if someone held a stamp at the front gate that read "Trust Fund" and impressed it upon these people's foreheads. They dripped with it... whatever "it" is. I can always tell how wealthy someone is by the sunglasses that they wear. (Just to give you a hint, most of them wore shades that cost more than my car.) I watched as people won and lost money. As a few particular individuals grew increasingly intoxicated. And I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I was not the thin, beautiful, well-dressed girl on the arm of the wealthy, well-bred young men who smelled so good (and they did smell good...). I couldn't walk in those heels for all the money in the world. I was the girl with the camera. Who was limp and wrinkled in the heat. Not to say that I didn't belong there. I did. I do. I just have a very evident socioeconomic bias.

It's a source of humor for me.

So we left... having lost all our bets and eaten hot dogs. We walked to the car and drove away. And I couldn't help but think that, despite the money the other's had one, besides the valet parking, besides the box seats and big hats... I was the one who had walked away with my hands full--my arms full. My heart full. Which is why I go to Keeneland at all. Tell Ernie that it's not about the gambling.

But my day was not over.

I went to the Home last night... the home for pregnant/sexually abused teenage girls. And I took Liza with me. We were late (fighting downtown traffic on a Friday night was our excuse). Tasha and Jess and Alexa and Sara were already there, had ordered pizza, and spread out newspapers so we could paint mini pumpkins. Jess brought the movie Gremlins... thinking it was a "scary" movie for Halloween. Turns out it's a disgusting Christmas movie.

"Where have you been? You're late." One of the girls said. She stared at me and then cracked up laughing when I threw my hands up in the air and blamed Liza. It's never my fault. But they had noticed I was not there... they had noticed my absense.

We turned on the movie, sat down, and started painting pumpkins in glittery, pink, and purple paints. One of the girls, who is fifteen years old, had been having contractions for the past hour. One more hour and they were taking her over to UK. Her due date is next week. The other fifteen year old girl let Sara hold her four month old baby. The baby girl kept crying and fussing and Sara kept rocking and bouncing her. This turned out to not be such a good idea. The poor girl vomited all down Sara's arm... crying and shaking her head and vomiting again and again. The baby's fifteen year old mother just stared. She didn't get up to help, she didn't offer to take the baby from Sara. Just sat there with a paintbrush in her hand and acted like the child was not hers.

So I got up and cleaned Sara's arm off and cleaned up the baby's face and took the baby from Sara so she could go wash off. I held the baby girl the rest of the evening. She laughs a lot, likes to suck on her toes, and has the prettiest brown eyes I've ever seen. When it was about time to go, the girls started bustling around, cleaning up, moving chairs. So I stood up with the baby in my arms.

She was sleepy, rubbing her eyes and yawning and holding onto any part of me she could get a hold of. I rocked back and forth on my feet and laid my cheek against the baby's head. And all I could do was pray. Looking around me at the three fifteen year old girls who were pregnant, the one fifteen year old who was a mommy already, and the two others who had been sexually abused by brothers or fathers... all I could do was pray.

And I remembered the girls at Keeneland. In their Gucci and Prada. And I know that underneath the labels, they have pain. And that no one is as perfect, or clean, as they appear. And to be quite honest, I would never wish the life of a the rich and famous on anyone.

But I held that baby in my arms. And I wanted more for her. I wanted her to know what it felt like to be loved. And to be safe. Father, take this child as your own.

I am glad I am not a mother yet. Really. But in that moment I would have wrapped her up in a blanket and taken her home. To be honest, I would have wrapped my arms around that fifteen year old mother and taken her home too.

Because I know what happened in my life that kept me from going down that path... that kept me from the Gucci and the Prada. But what also kept me from motherhood at fifteen... or abuse (of any kind). We had a guy come to our door the other night and ask us, if we could teach the "inner city kids" one thing to help change their lives, what would it be.

I wanted to tell him I wouldn't start with the kids. And the lesson I would teach, I'm not qualified to teach. And really, it's not something quite so tangible. But there's something to be said about love... and grace... and purpose.

And despite my socioeconomic bias, I feel for both girls. And I want our Father to take them both as His own. This, actually, is the same prayer I pray for my sisters. For Tanner and Ella. For Austin and Carter.

Father, take them as your own.

Because the Father has no bias.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pointe Shoes

I am feeding off your creativity.
I'm all about the metaphors and analogies these days.
The shoes I've been wearing are long deceased.
I can't dance in them anymore.
And so instead of spending some energy, taking some effort, to put on new shoes...
I don't dance at all.

I put a ring in my nose yesterday.
I spent Saturday morning with a camera in my hand.
Friday afternoon I was in a tattoo parlor.
I drove to Richmond in a big truck on Sunday, listening to Amos and Ray.

A sliver of who I am. I get the occasional glimpse, a snapshot, a whisper carried on the breeze. Giving me goosebumps, inflating my soul like a hot air balloon.
But just as quickly it is gone. Because I'm afraid of the blisters and calluses that are going to come from wearing new shoes. I don't want my toes to bleed. Which is what will happen if I lace up again... if I dare to learn a new dance (this dance that my heart already knows).

I'm trying to remember those things that make my heart feel full. And reach for them again.