The Little Things

In times like the one I am in right now, of oppressive, suffocating loneliness, it's good for me to try to be present to and appreciate those little things that make me smile. God is so in the little things, you know? Like today, this brief interaction between one of my students and I, when she first walked in the room this morning. I must have looked like hell or something, after crying on my way to work and just feeling like crap.

Shonshana: Hi Bethany
Me: Good morning, Shonshana
Shonshana: Are you okay?
Me: No
Shonshana: Oh, you're in trouble?
Me: {grinning}

Maybe you have to know her to appreciate this, since she's always getting in trouble for one thing or another. There was just something so endearing about that exchange. I loved that her first response was to assume I had gotten into trouble. It was just so sincere, and sweet, and funny. Thank God for those moments of light.

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This is currently the desktop image on my laptop. Of course I find it funny, but also more wise than it seems upon first glance. Just thought I'd share.


Public Service Announcement: Isolation

Drawing from my conversations with people, it seems clear to me that pretty much everyone struggles with some strong feelings of isolation. I really have lately (I'm also an only child who had a tumultuous family life...kind of lends itself to feelings of deep aloneness that I am constantly having to battle). Our culture also lends itself to that, and I really think it's a profound evil that is running amok in our culture. So this is just a public service announcement to all of us to say: Enough already! Call someone! Initiate! Take a risk!

If almost everyone is feeling isolated, and most everyone struggles with initiating because there's a risk of being hurt and rejected, then no one is ever going to hang out with anyone, and no new relationships and communities are going to be formed. And while I'm not saying that I am the queen of initiating, I do try to reach out to people and to ask people to do things and to try to get to know people. But I often feel like people don't initiate with me as much as I initiate with other people. And it's not that they don't want to hang out with me; because when I suggest it they are all over it. But there are those people who are never initiating, and always just waiting to be approached...and to you people I say: stop slacking and just do it already.

Take this as a potential message straight from our God to you. If you are feeling lonely, don't stare at the phone (or your email inbox or your IM window or your myspace account) waiting for someone to come and rescue you from your isolation. You are not the only one who feels isolated. Pick up the phone and call someone else, who might also be feeling isolated. If you always leave it to someone else to do all the work, that's just not fair. Get off your figurative and literal butt and go love someone already!

End of public service announcement.

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4 Things

1. This has been a pretty great week. My favorite singer (Patty Griffin) came out with a new CD on Tuesday (Children Running Through), and after listening to it for a few days, I'm really starting to enjoy it. At first I was sorely disappointed, but as I've kept listening the songs are growing on me, and I'm starting to feel them more.

2. In fact, based on #1, I finally got myself to go to my church's Gospel Choir practice this week. There's a song on Patty's new CD called "Up to the Mountains (MLK Song)" which is a very inspired by African-American spirituals--and it just called to mind what I love about Black Gospel music. So I put aside all the insecurities that come from jumping into a new group, and the inconvenience of having to drive 30 minutes each way at 8pm on a weeknight, and slapped myself around a little, and kicked my ass over to the choir practice. It was really great. Such a welcoming group of people--just a ragtag group of people from different ages, education levels, economic situations, and races. I've been looking for a kind of "church within a church" since my congregation is on the larger side--and I think I may have found it. I think the people that most resonate with Gospel music (especially people in a church like mine, where it's not the norm of what most of us grew up with) are some really lovely and quirky and interesting folks. These random collections of people really help me see what church and Jesus are about.

3. I find myself kind of sad that Anna Nicole Smith died. I don't really know why, it's not like I'm a huge fan, but I guess I just kind of feel for her since she had a hard life and it ended so soon. And her daughter is now without a mother. I saw her once at my friend's birthday party a few years back, she stopped by with her entourage for a quick drink. She had a strong presence about her. Anyway, may she now have the peace she didn't always have in life.

4. I think it's time for our culture to reclaim the power and beauty in menstruation. We always talk about it as if it's gross or inconvenient or crude--but it's something that virtually all women experience and that symbolizes some of what it means to be a woman. So, women (and sympathizing men), let's be more aware of how we think and talk about menstruation. I'm totally serious.

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Falling in love with the *person*

Over the past few years I've had a few friends begin to date someone of their same gender. These are friends who, up until that point, had always dated people of the opposite gender. I heard a similar thing from them, that it's not about the gender, it's about the *person*; and they are falling in love with the person, and not the gender. A friend just told me this again on Friday evening, so it has become fresh in my mind.

This sort of makes sense to me, but it sort of doesn't, so I'd love to hear some thoughts about it so I can try to understand what this means to people. Now, putting aside issues of whether homosexuality is a sin (I know I have readers on both sides of the issue, and I don't want this post to become about that in the comments section), I just want to look at this idea of falling in love with the person and not the gender...because it's difficult for me to wrap my head around.

The issue for me is, how can you separate a person from their gender? Is that what this idea is trying to say--that gender is meaningless, and that someone's "personhood" doesn't have a gender at all?

It's really tricky for me to see what this is all about--because on one hand, as someone who has seen definitions and delineations of gender used oppressively and wrongly, I can kind of jive with the idea that a person's gender alone does not tell you anything about their character, personality, or anything like that. But on the other hand, it's also not just incidental. I am a woman, and whether or not I conform to someone else's definition of what that means in terms of my character, I don't feel that my gender is just happenstance. And I guess I feel that if someone was to fall in love with me, I would want my gender to be part of that, not just kind of an incidental side-issue. Like, it would feel weird to me if someone was like, "I am totally in love with you, and the fact that you are a woman is just incidental. If you were still you but a man, I would be in love with that man." I guess the issue of whether I could still be me and a man is also up for debate.

Anyway, I am just trying to make sense of this idea; especially since it has been repeated to me by 3 different people (all women, incidentally). What does it mean to fall in love with the person and not the gender?

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