I have had several friends checking in on me this last week, praying for me, and asking about my hip and lower back pain. The answer is that I'm mostly okay. The pain is still there but it's so much better than it was when I wrote the last blog post. I took ibuprofen every four hours for three days to get the pain under control, then tapered off to see what would happen. Thankfully the pain has remained relatively low and does not seem to be worsening. I am hopeful for continued progress as the days pass, so I guess that means my mind is mostly okay too.
I finally finished copying quotes last night from Anne Lamott's most recent book Hallelujah Anyway, which I reread in March. It took me a few weeks of sitting down for twenty minutes after the kids were in bed, on as many nights as I could muster the energy for, to get the 115 passages copied into my commonplace book. I loved every minute of the time, truly. I say to myself again and again, how come God lets me love these words so much?
I originally read Annie's book last year this time, but for whatever reason, I didn't love it the first time I read it. Nonetheless, I knew I wanted to copy quotes from it so I picked it up again a couple months ago and decided to reread it before beginning to copy. If there ever was a true thing to say about me and this book, it's this:
This time was my time for what this book offers, an invitation to "rediscovering mercy," as the subtitle says. There are so many parts of the book I love, so many parts that I want to share, so many parts that make me almost cry.
I got teary last night when I read to TJ one of my favorite sections in the book. It's in the second to last chapter when Annie retells the story of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. When the story starts, this woman was not even close to mostly okay. But talking to Jesus brought about a mercy that she didn't think was possible.
This was one of the longest passages I copied from the book but shortening it would have short-changed it:
He wanted her to move out of the lie, into authenticity, but first she had to admit to how she was living her life. People in recovery would call it taking a thorough and fearless moral inventory and then sharing that with another person. Jesus offered himself as a loving listener, a no-judging ear. He invited her to come clean....It was an invitation to be changed, to have a complete psychic change from ultimate outsider, to welcomed, beloved...
She said, Oh, no, thanks.
I love this. She kept lying. Jesus did not stomp away. He stayed with her. Such mercy and patience...So, Jesus said, let's talk about that. That is where you'll start from - from what is real, instead of from the lie. He had to badger her into accepting a call to a sweeter life.
The woman finally confessed to what her life was like, and He said, Well done, girlfriend - welcome.
First this makes me love Jesus so much - to think of him saying to her, Well done, girlfriend, like he was cheering her on the whole conversation and so glad when she was finally able to receive the mercy. Second, I think, how can Annie write like this? How can she be in the story this way? And how can she tell it to my heart in language that makes me want to give Jesus all my junk and come clean?
From what I can discern from my reading of the book, the Loretta that was mentioned in the opening quote was Annie's first sponsor when she got sober.
Loretta was also the one who told Annie, "...no, when all else fails, follow instructions."
That is maybe the best piece of advice I've heard in a while. It's so simple and so unavoidable. I have something on the horizon that will likely prove difficult, but I feel ready for what's next. My self-talk, modeled partly on Loretta's advice, is this: Just follow the lead. Don't ask questions if the questions are going to make you doubt what you're doing. Don't look around to see what other people are doing. Put your head down and do the task, do the thing, that hard thing you aren't sure you can do. It's okay. More than okay, actually, because you are not alone. You have a teacher, one giving the instructions, a loving listener, that Jesus. You have friends like Loretta, people on the end of the phone if you will just pick it up and make the call when you need to. You have hundreds of Annie quotes to dive into when you need a boost. You have a body that's healing and a mind that is healing too. You have writing as therapy, even if you don't know where it's going to lead. Does it matter? You are alive. You get a part in the story. You are mostly okay.
And that is all the way okay.