Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

Finding my name: The battle for joy.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I’ll be honest.

I haven’t been exactly sure how to approach the followup to the story of my name.  When I finally had the short-lived courage to begin this short series of posts, I didn’t plan it fully and wasn’t sure where it was headed. As soon as I got over the initial excitement of asking my mother to write, clicking “publish,” and watching the number of hits rise steadily over a few days, I realized I had gotten myself into a little bit of a mess.

A mess named me.  Such an intensely personal topic, this joy-searching.  I’m timid to approach it.

Why joy?

I’m fully aware that a life obsessed with finding joy may very well be a lived both selfishly and fruitlessly; focused on my own experience, I tend to turn inward and cripple myself in rumination, stealing myself away also from serving others whether in deed or as a matter of preoccupation. As Terry Lindvall writes, reflecting on C.S. Lewis’s writings on joy, “A greedy impatience to snare, grasp, and keep joy . . . is the surest way to lose it,” and joy “can be instantly frightened away by introspection.”

But Lewis (a fellow joy-searcher and joy-stumbler) also called joy “the serious business of heaven,” the “grand truth,” and “the surprise that happens when we discover God’s love.”

Perhaps my favorite so far are Earl Palmer’s words: “Joy is a meaningful acceleration in the rhythm of our relationship and our understanding of God.”  I love that description. I love the way it moves.  I love the thought of joy as synonymous with a quickened relationship with creator God.

I’ve kept it no secret here that I’ve struggled mightily with anxiety and depression. On my worst days, I am cynical, critical, unmotivated, and at times paralyzed by dread, fear, and self-loathing. As it would happen, at the time I have chosen to let you all in on my quest for joy those feelings are very present.

So why joy? Because it doesn’t come naturally for me. Not only does any sinner approach God from a broken standpoint, but on top of it I am a natural pessimist and cynic (though I hope those qualities can be changed).

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks extensively about her struggle to live the meaning of her name, “full of grace,” despite hardship and disillusionment. What is one whom God named joy to do when joy is elusive? Joy, which is supposed to be Christian lifeblood, a natural outpouring of gratitude for God’s good gift of Christ and all things added to him? (Pour on the guilt!) I suppose I have all year (and maybe a lifetime) to figure it out… But to begin, I’ve identified a few places where I have found joy in the past, and where I can focus my energy and time this season:

My joy list for 2012

• Giving of myself to church service and fellowship.
• Praying always
• Memorizing scripture
• Writing often
• Spending time in creation.
• Resting intentionally.
• Using time purposefully.
Practicing gratitude.
• Having grace for myself and my mistakes.
• Forgiving quickly.
• Serving Jesus by serving other people.

I hope to add to this list significantly this year. Where do you find true, lasting joy?


Thoughts for a new year.

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

glittering snow[via Kinahmi]

I’m practicing writing with my new fountain pen, pondering the old and new, tending to a clingy kitty (who didn’t quite like that we made him sit in the car for 12 total hours and left him with a house sitter for a few days), and trying to create a few really meaningful and achievable resolutions.

My thoughts feel scattered today since it’s been a while since I blogged — the break was unplanned but needed — but I’ll do my best to focus, because I think that’s what you’re supposed to do when it’s a new year…

A word.

One trend I’ve seen in the last few years is that of choosing a word for the year. My problem with this is that I have a word hang-up that continues year to year – joy. I don’t think I’m quite ready to give it up just to have a 2012 word.  I explored joy in 2011 through study, though gratitude, through mindfulness and prayer. I have a plan to elaborate on this word and its significance to me in the continuation of the story of my name, which I hinted at through this poem last month.


I’ve struggled with the word conundrum and the idea of resolutions (and the discouraging thought of once again attempting to stop biting my nails — both that I believe it may be impossible and that there are far more important resolutions to make).  Yesterday an elder at our church gave an incredibly timely sermon on the last chapter of Habakkuk. He examined Habakkuk’s response to God after God reveals his plan for disciplining his people by raising up the Chaldeans to conquer them.

Habakkuk begins by appealing to God for relief. He then spends several verses recounting God’s mighty works in creating and delivering his people. He submits himself to God’s purposes (“I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”).  Then he rejoices. Though he is about to lose his livelihood, his community, and all he knows at the hands of an evil conquering people, he says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” He knows that regardless of his limited understanding, his situation fits into the larger plan of a God who has been and will continue to be faithful. And he is able to say all this even without the knowledge of the Messiah come that we just celebrated this Christmas.

In 2012, I pray to be made like Habakkuk: bringing my laments to the God who cares for me and appeal to him for relief; remembering, always, his faithfulness and the promises he has made and kept; submitting my will to his; and rejoicing in him always, regardless of my circumstances.

Year in Review.

Last year, I got my first real teaching job. I celebrated my second wedding anniversary, signed up for a triathlon, attended my brother-in-law’s beautiful wedding, and read a lot of 7th and 8th grade core literature. I redesigned the blog and moved it to, moved into a new apartment in Portland, and began thinking deeply again about creativity and writing. I completed the aforementioned triathlon. I continued my quarter-life identity crisis. I officially launched my freelance writing business. I found out one of my best friends is pregnant! We celebrated Eric’s 26th and my 25th birthdays. I got a job teaching high school online while I work on growing my writing venture. I read and wrote a lot of poems.

The new year finds me searching. I feel a little dizzy, a lot excited, fearful. I still think the questions I’m asking might have been answerable several years ago, and it takes intentional grace-extending for me to move into fully accepting this season. I’m thankful for the removal of the numbness to creativity I felt for a couple of years up until this summer. I’m thankful that although I feel apprehensive and insecure, I feel awake.

…the sense of creative activity is the great happiness and the great proof of being alive. (Matthew Arnold)

Alive is a good way to start a new year. Here’s to living fully and celebrating the giver of breath in 2012.

Love to you all.


Finding my name.

Monday, December 12th, 2011


I lean on five letters
and they slope
to carry my weight,

these pounds of
muscle, mind, and organ
pushed through pen stroke,
calligraphed into
language I can’t read.

My eyes stumble right to left,
trip over symbols,

this joy to begin
where words end.

B’rina: with rejoicing.  So begins my story.

[to be continued.]


Tuesday, December 6th, 2011


“Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down. Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit the synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself. Freedom succumbs to dizziness. Further than this, psychology cannot and will not go. In that very moment everything is changed, and freedom, when it again rises, sees that it is guilty. Between these two moments lies the leap, which no science has explained and which no science can explain. He who becomes guilty in anxiety becomes as ambiguously guilty as it is possible to become.”

Søren Kierkegaard

If I can end.

Thursday, December 1st, 2011


I’ve been writing more in my journal and in my mind than in my blog, lately.

Writing in my mind?

Yes, that is something I just made up to make thinking sound important. But all speaking, all listening, and even to self with all its divisions and rivalries can be prayer and conversation and learning.

Wherever you write, do you write to discover?

My thoughts are a jumble and I can only unearth what I really mean as I write.  Often when I’m grading essays, I shuffle through words clumsily dropped on a page with no organization or purpose or interest, until — there it is.  The very last paragraph finally finds its meaning. I usually write, Is this what you really meant to write about? That they might turn the conclusion into an introduction and start again, thoughts focused.

The end is the beginning.

Have I even gone far enough into my soul to make the turn?

Far enough into His?


[previous gifts here]

261. Cold sunny walking
262. Gym member status
263. Grating spicy ginger into muffins
264. The realizing of rushing…
265. ..and the stop to close eyes and really taste sweet batter.
266. Good insurance.
267. Blessed assurance.
268. Testing of faith.
269. Church home after two weeks’ absence.
270. Christmas snow globe singing.