Tuesday, July 31

Reflecting: Kettles, Window, Pain

I just figured out how to upload photos from my mobile phone. I mesmerized my Poppie today with my Nokia's ability to morph into a camera.

I am very fortunate that all four of my grandparents are still living. But two of them suffer from Alzheimer's, and one quite severely. And that makes my heart hurt. (I do not have any better words than these.)

Today it felt good to just hold my Grandma Mary at the nursing home, and let my tears fall on her even as she was unresponsive and still. We watched her quivering lips, wanting to believe she was just trying to say, "I love you, too."

Meanwhile, back at the house, my Poppie's heart is sad, too. But I tried to cheer him with silly reflective pictures in his shiny new kettle. The light still pours in through the windowpanes, after all.

Sunday, July 29

Ramen at the Lord's Table

I have some not-so-healthy habits. I stay up too late. I drink too much coffee. I eat things that remind me of college, like ramen noodles and mac-n-cheese. These are non-meals, but I do enjoy real meals, and find the conversation with friends as much of a feast as the eating.

I am eating solitary late-night ramen wondering when it is that the Lord's Supper became a non-meal. When was it that this luxurious table was splintered down into a tiny wafer and a sip of syrupy grape juice concentrate, and/or cheap wine?

And when did it become so boring? I really would like to enjoy this sacrament with celebration. But it seems that in order to "do this in remembrance," my culture has told me that I have to be sullen and serious and sad. But I do not think a meal in the wake of a Risen Jesus should be so. He's alive, kids. Everybody mango!*

* a silly phrase recently developed which denotes summer-sun/fun/laughter/dancing.

(Ramen Noodles by Mochick)

Saturday, July 28

I Am Where My Feet Take Me

I have just returned after an intense last week of class with my wonderful Fuller cohort in Pasadena. Please forgive me for the extended blog absence. As one of you mentioned, seeing that bloody Harry Potter post each day for the last week has been quite irritating and horrendous. My apologies. I might offer the following condolences:

{alpha} I hope to post each day for the next week, providing I have sufficient internetting to span my Northern journeys.

{beta} These artful words slash prayers:

"For who am I? ...Am where my feet take me...
Come unto me, you say. I, even to myself, turn.
O Lord and lover, I come if I can to you down through sleeping and waking and eating and saying goodbye and going away and coming back again. Laboring and laden with endless histories heavy on my back."

-from Frederick Buechner's The Alphabet of Grace

(Photo by Phil Hilfiker)

Saturday, July 21

Come to Me, All Ye Laden With Potter

This morning I discovered one of my possible contributions to society: Harry Potter Therapist.

I was out getting coffee with Mackenzie last night, and we heard that the other coffee shoppes were staying open till 1am to accommodate the frenzied Potterites. For at midnight oh one, bookstores released Rowling's, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). To poppy culture, I imagine this is just a few adrenaline drops short of Beatle-mania.

I appear as an eyebrow-raised (casually giggling) observer watching this all unfold. I've not yet read even one Harry Potter, nor have I seen the movies. And not for any deep reason, either, except that I've just always been a bit bored by any sort of fantasy/sci-fi. I've never been able to make it through Lord of the Rings, nor have I even finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia (causing great rebukes from Lisa B).

And so, all of these vacuums make me quite useful to society today.

As I was getting my morning coffee here at the Klein house, I observed what hilarious tension Harry Potter can cause in opening-day readers. Two sweet members of the household are voraciously reading their just-acquired Book Sevens, but, they are reading at quite differing paces. Reader #1 will inevitably laugh aloud, or gasp, or signal a cause for alarm. Even if in another room, these responses cause Reader #2 to yell, impassioned, "YOU JUST HUSH!!! DON'T YOU DARE TELL ME ANYTHING!!!"

Seeing that I could be of some help here, in my Potter virginity, I grabbed my pink "I feel just like a princess" coffee mug (just discovered in the cupboards) and took one of these Klein gals for a walk around the block. She was so itching to talk about what she'd read so far, but had no one to listen. I, on the other hand, am somewhat disinterested, and thus, completely immune to ruining the big Harry surprise. A good Potter therapist, I am.

"Well, tell me what you've read so far," I said, as we walked up the block.

"You really haven't read any Harry Potter before? Well, first of all, it's about a kid who does magic..."

Friday, July 20

"He Calls Me To Be A Life Again"

(for Rachel and her dreams) some re-discovered words from Buechner's The Alphabet of Grace :

Beneath the moonlit drifts of sheet, I turn in my sleep and draw up my knees...And with my knees drawn up, I dream I am sitting down. I am sitting on a stool at a bar, and my glass has left a wet ring on the wooden counter-top. With my finger, I start to move the wet around. I move it this way and that way with nothing much on my dream of a mind. And then on the smooth counter of the bar I write a name. When I have finished writing it, I start to weep, and the tears wake me up. I cannot remember the name I wrote, but I know that it was a name that I would be willing to die for. Maybe it was the secret name of God or the secret name of the world. Maybe it was my own secret name. The dream is only a dream, but the tears are exceedingly real.

Darkness was upon the face of the deep, and God said, "Let there be light." Darkness laps at my sleeping face like a tide, and God says, "Let there be Buechner." Why not? Out of the primeval chaos of sleep he calls me to be a life again...To wake up is to be given back your life again...Waking into the new day, we are all of us Adam on the morning of creation, and the world is ours to name. Out of many fragments we are called to put back together a self again.

"My poor misguided child," my grandmother says, "is all this cloudy rhetoric your way of saying that in the morning you wake up?"

"Yes, it is," I say...
-Frederick Buechner

(Waking up photo by Phil Hilfiker)

Wednesday, July 18

(This is) How Family Works

You might remember me mentioning the awful fire that destroyed the Simple Way community house, and how you could help Shane Claiborne and company rebuild.

Do you know how some in the Family have just responded? They gave the Simple Way the keys to their building, and said, “It’s yours now, because you need it.” The remarkable part is that the gift house is actually located just a couple of blocks from the burnt house on Potter Street.

Adventures in Mission literally gave one of their houses away.

I’m sort of scratching my head about the whole thing. And it's not just because I’m stunned by the generosity of these beautiful people, because radical sharing is how God's Family works.

I’m also raising my eyebrows at the fact that it was just yesterday that I was first introduced to Adventures in Mission. I interviewed my friend Liza at the California Pizza Kitchen for an assignment in our course on Organizational Dynamics, and she told me what she loves about being a board member for AIM. I’m most impressed that they are a group of people committed to the emerging culture, hospitality, and “listening” prayer. Oh, and outrageous generosity.

It seems this is a group I ought to get to know.

(Stephen.Hackett's Micah 6:8 tatt)

Sunday, July 15

Riding the Sky to California

The nice people of Southwest Airlines dropped me off at LAX last night. And then the most wonderful Klein family picked me up from the aeroporto in their rad '90 Volvo wagon. We rode around Angel town with the windows down and I lamented the loss of my old dark green '90 Volvo 240.

Its name was Volvino, as I hypothesized that it was somehow a Swedish-Italian hybrid. We sold it after I moved to Portugal, and after its breaks failed me while driving north on highway 301.

I am happy as a clam in California. The sun is smiling out loud and it is not humid at all. The Kleins left me good coffee and I enjoyed the first responsibility-less morning and afternoon I've found in quite a long time. I went on a little run and the San Gabriel mountains cheered me on through the flower crested streets. I picked up a small flower and ran with it, just because I could.

Tomorrow at (yikes) 8am I'll start two weeks of class in Pasadena with my Fuller cohort. It will be our last two weeks together, and then we'll go on to finish our electives and then graduate like cylinders. I shall be done in the Spring!

(Balloons over California by MS4JAH)

Friday, July 13

A Great Pregnancy; or, Christmas in July

(From my all-time favourite little book, Letters to a Young Poet, letter 6)

December 23, 1903

My dear Mr. Kappus,

I don't want you to be without a greeting from me when Christmas comes and when you, in the midst of the holiday, are bearing your solitude more heavily than usual...

Why don't you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? What keeps you from projecting his birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy? Don't you see how everything that happens is again and again a beginning, and couldn't it be His beginning, since, in itself, starting is always so beautiful?

...Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?

Dear Mr. Kappus, celebrate Christmas in this devout feeling, that perhaps He needs this very anguish of yours in order to being; these very days of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you is working at Him, as you once worked at Him in your childhood, breathlessly. Be patient and without bitterness, and realize that the least we can do is to make coming into existence no more difficult for Him than the earth does for spring when it wants to come.

And be glad and confident.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, July 11

Go to the Limits of Your Longing

I came across this old poem from long ago, the one that my mentor in college ripped from her Rilke's Book of Hours, and mailed to me in a letter. I tacked it to every bedroom wall I lived within for many years. Now I'm unsure of where that tattered page could be. Yet, words are recovered. If ever there was a reason to learn German, it is to be able to read Rilke in his original voice:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, July 9

Everybody Mango!

I am currently back in Baltimore. I got my three tiny cavities filled, quite painlessly. Among many other things, I am pond-fishing through my iTunas and putting the finishing touches on a Hey you! It's summer! homemade CD mix extravaganza of indie goodness. In honor of Portuguese summers, it shall be entitled Everybody Mango!

If you would like to Mango, I would be happy to send you such a Compact Disc with my handwriting on it. But you might want to indicate as such, and be sure that I have your postal address.

Thank you. And now, dance.

Sunday, July 8

The Trumpet Child, in Brief

Well, that was a soulful treat. A sneak peek at Over the Rhine's newest record. The first five songs left me a bit breathless. Particularly because Karin's voice sounds better than it ever has--even more out on a limb, if that is possible.

The opening track walks in with cabaret horns, Linford's lush piano, and Karin playing the soul-angel:

I don't wanna waste good wine if you won't stick around;
I won’t pray this prayer with you unless we both kneel down.

And on track three, only Karin Berquist could get away with singing the phrase, "the whole enchilada" and still make it sound strangely artful.

The standout song is the title track, "Trumpet Child," as it considers the possibility of the King's arrival with the welcoming pronouncement of a simple little trumpet.

Isn't it August yet?

If You Are Free Tonight @ 8pm (EST)

Oh now really, just cancel your plans tonight. Instead, put your feet up and enjoy the sneak-preview of Over the Rhine's newest record, Trumpet Child. (It's free, folks!) Afterwards you can even live-chat with Karin and Linford. If you miss it, the album comes out August 21st.

Click here at 8:00pm Eastern tonight: Trumpet Child Webcast.

Friday, July 6

Most Vivid Dreams - part 72

It’s time for yet another installment of Nelly talking about her vivid dreams.

It is healthy and enjoyable to write down my dreams from night-time and allow folks to pontificate about their meaning. So, get ready all you Josephs and Daniels…and Danielas and Josephines!

I was playing baseball at Yankee stadium. The place was packed, and all eyes were on me, but I wasn’t nervous at all. I had on my game face. I hit a line drive to center field and almost forgot to run to first base, because the hit surprised me so much.* I even made a double out of it, once I got to running. My double was replete with a really nice slide into second, I should add, and umpire-man called me “safe.”

Upon advancing to third base, I stole home on a catcher’s error. I dove headfirst and the crowd went especially wild. As I picked myself up from the victory-dirt I unabashedly sassed the catcher for fumbling around with the ball, and letting me score. But as I mocked him, I realized he was just an 85 year-old man with a long white beard. Then I felt a little bad for all of the jeering.

In another scene, Jesse Borden was showing me some cool new white linen garb he had picked up from his recent trip to India. It had all of these interesting things attached to it, like tiny whittled wood things that were actually little Indian flutes. Jesse was psyched to have such a cultural outfit with lovely musical instruments built within it. I remember thinking how “Jesse” it looked. Perfect for an African boy so wild with adventures. (His Mama would be proud.)

Then in another scene, I was in California or Florida, in a neighborhood where there were many fires spreading from some natural phenomenon. I was inside with a bunch of friends--I remember Jane, especially--and we were all having a grand time. That is, until I peered out the window and could see the fire heading towards us, and then I turned into Fire Marshall Nelly. I desperately tried to push everyone out of the house, but it took forever to convince them that there was danger, real danger, folks! They were totally lollygagging, and I was yelling at them to move. Once I finally got them shuffling, I grabbed my guitar, my laptop, and a few other odds and ends, and ran out of the house to safety. But nothing ended up happening, in the end. No fire. Just me yelling.

* (I may have played fast-pitch softball for 10 years in real life, but softball is not so much like Major League baseball.)

Tuesday, July 3

Happy, Independence

I went running in Central Park yesterday and felt like I'd wandered into another 5k. There were so many (far more) hardcore runners flying by me in that picturesque city greenery. I pretended I was in a movie as I ran by that old lake thing in the center--the one with the buildings that scratch the sky in the backdrop.

In the US, today is Independence Day. And yes, I am feeling happy and independent.

I'm not sure why, but in the last few weeks, three or four of my dearest friends have asked me the same question on separate occasions, and from various points of longitude/latitude: "What if you never get married, Nelly?”

I like it when people ask good questions. My answer has swirled around a few things. I shall list them, because it is a holiday, and I love lists.

So…what if I never get married?

1. Well, I think that God will still satisfy my loud desires with good things.
2. But I’ll likely be mad at Him at times and become even more of a God-wrestler.
3. I will question whether I “heard him right” the many times it felt like the Spirit promised me a family and such.
4. And those questions of not hearing His Voice as clearly as I presumed will probably be harder than the fact of not being married. Because it might cause me to question all the other holy assurances I’ve written down over the years about a host of other things.
5. But, in the meantime, I have resolved to live passionate and free, as best I can. Not waiting for anyone, but living open and awake. Loving out loud.

Time Out did this cover article on the new breed of single women in the city, and how there’s something like 185,000 more single women in this city than single men. If you add in that there are far fewer folk daring to follow the rebel Jesus, then that makes NYC a difficult place to find a decent date, let alone a husband-dude.

This "happy, indepedence" thing makes me think of Rachel C. and her four fun flat-mates that I stayed with the other night in Manhattan. They’re all twenty-something young professionals, single, and smiling aloud and free as Jesus-followers. It made me so happy to notice the streak of good independence I saw in them. They didn’t come to the city to find mates, but maybe they will after all. In the meantime, they’re living free and laughing a lot. That’s the sort of independence I want to cheer on and protect, somehow.

Time Out: NYC Single Women Speak

Monday, July 2


On Saturday I wandered up to NYC with my Dad and little brother for a Yankees game. With all of the insipid construction, the subway was nearly more difficult to navigate than most of the foreign undergrounds I've traversed in other languages. Starting in Brooklyn and headed toward the Bronx, I needed assurance that we were going the right way. And so, I approached a rather large Italian cop wearing awkward shorts.

Me: "Excuse me, officer, could you help me find my way to Yankee stadium?"

Cop in awkward shorts: "Yankee stadium? Fuggedaboutit! It's about so easy, you can just fuggedaboutit!"

Me: [caught off guard by the hilarity of his helpfulness] "I'm...I'm...already fuggedin about it!"

Cop in awkward shorts:
"Take the 4-5-6 to 125th, and then it'll go local alltheway to 161st."

I couldn't stop thinking about how appropriate awkward-shorts-man was as a welcome mat for my week in New York. His classic fuggedaboutit-ness with a thick Brooklyn accent made me so happy for the rest of the afternoon that I barely noticed how miserably the Yankees played against the A's. (And it was really miserable, sports fans.)

I must say that as soon as I entered into the city, I exhaled quite noticeably. In some way, it felt more like home: international people everywhere, alternate smells, thousands of holes-in-walls offering good eats. I am feeling fresh new life breathed into me in this raucous metropolis. Particularly after eating phenomenal pasta in Little Italy and getting cupcakes and cold milk from Magnolia's bakery. (I hope they'll all be served at the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb.)

I shall post other highlights as they are squeezed out in fluorescent yellow over the next few days.

(Little Italy photo by Funkybug)