part 2

Part 2

I wrote that previous, unfinished excerpt on June 21st, and I just came back to it today, August 7th. I have not really figured out how to wrap up a blog post about something that’s still so continuously affecting me, always staying in my brain.

And there are many, many other things to add to this plate of life right now. I could list them all out, decorated with the tiniest, most delicious little details. Anne Lamott recently told me […indirectly through a book, but whatever, we’re besties…] that I own everything that’s happened to me and I need to tell my stories. If people wanted me to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.

So I’m remembering this as I write down thoughts, reactions, feelings, and stories from the last few months, but I’m also remembering the beautiful melody of grace as I choose what to share with the world and what to write down on paper to throw in the fire of letting go.

This summer could be summed up in one metaphor: rock climbing. I do not really like rock climbing; as someone with the desire for upper body strength but who’s lacking the motivation to see that dream through, you can imagine this activity is rather strenuous. I honestly haven’t even gone rock climbing in years. At Outdoor Lab in sixth grade — when I was in my heaviest and most hamster-cheek phase of life –, I got harnessed up to the climbing wall and barely made it ten feet off the ground before I began having a panic attack about dying. Sweat was dripping down my chubby face, hair plastered to my forehead underneath a too-big safety helmet, and I glanced behind me in desperation for the nice harness man to help me down.

“Uhm, I’m sorry, but I can’t do this! Can I come down?” I shouted.

He kept calmly replying stupid and unhelpful things like, “You’re okay.” and “You can do it!” and “Don’t worry, I’ve got you! I’m not letting go.”

I started crying and he brought me down. He gave me a nice little side hug and told me I did a great job. If I hadn’t still been in a combination of crying, hyperventilating, and sweating profusely, I probably would’ve said something other than “Thanks” but I left it at that.

I think that was the peak of my rock climbing days; I may have gone once or twice after that but probably didn’t make it fifteen feet off the ground.

Anyway, this summer was rock climbing. Because I didn’t really like it, but when I look back on it, it really wasn’t the worst. And I wish I’d tapped into my potential for strength more because I could’ve gone a lot farther than I did.

But, I did okay. I think. I let time do its little healing-power thing, and I stopped pushing God away after a little bout of anger and shame. I began to read again and spend time alone again, things I found I couldn’t stand to do for about a five month span of time.

And I started digging into every little detail of life, scavenging for lessons and epiphanies in every second of my days – which some people may call crazy, but I don’t really know.

Just now, there was a little spider crawling on my book and Writer-Claire, unleashing her frenzy of circumlocution and deep intellectual thought, was like “HEY A CUTE LIL SPIDER! HE HAS A STORY TO TELL! SHARE IT WITH THE WOOORLD!” and I started attempting to figure out how I could write a whole essay/blog post/short story/novella/novel/thesis about this practically microscopic creature.


Have I mentioned I like Anne Lamott? And that she’s personally speaking to me right now through her book “Traveling Mercies”? Well, she is. And she writes this on page 75:
“Life does not seem to present itself to me for my convenience, to box itself up nicely so I can write about it with wisdom and a point to make before putting it on a shelf somewhere. Now, in my early forties, I understand just enough about life to understand that I do not understand much of anything.”

When I read this, I could hear Anne – though I haven’t the slightest idea what her speaking voice sounds like, but I’m going to guess that it’s a lovely mix between an Americanized Cate Blanchett and a mewing kitten. I could hear her say, “Claire. This is what it’s all about. You’ve got to stop scrounging the bits of life around you, looking obsessively for wisdom that’s not even yours to give to people who aren’t even your people. You’re never going to find that anyway, a perfect little present of just the perfect little nuggets of wisdom. Just live. Say thank you, and keep on living. And write about that real stuff; that’s the stuff that people want to hear, little lady.”

So. This summer was like rock climbing, and Annie Lamott told me to keep living life (and writing about it), and John Eldredge reminded me of the scandalous, playful, and fierce personality of my God, and things are okay. I just read a poem that says, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” I think the spring and summer of 2015 was the season that my heart broke open. Is yours like that? You may not see or feel your broken-open heart on a daily basis, but I think you’ll find this to be recognizable and familiar in all those open-heart people when times call for that sort of thing.

I still remember names right before I fall asleep: Esther, Sharon, Rashida, Irene, Joseph, Abote, Doreen.

My brain still doesn’t really know what to do with all that I saw and experienced in Uganda. And I think that’s okay. There doesn’t have to be this big, overarching summary or lesson or moral or takeaway. It can just be this: I went to Uganda and it was one of the many things in this past season of life that busted me open, wrecked me well and good.

This wasn’t “The Summer of Uganda;” it was a summer where I experienced a tiny piece of Africa, and I learned what it looks like to have a hurting heart that’s filled with a lot of emotions but completely doused in a sweet glaze of love. I don’t mean to say I’m really good at loving people, and I don’t mean to make love sound disgusting or totally tacky like a bundt cake dessert at a 90s Christmas party; I just know that I think I’m starting to understand this balance of feeling my feelings no matter what they are, but still recognizing that love is present and it’s not going anywhere, and it makes everything just a bit sweeter, a bit more comforting.


diary of a mzungu: part 1

Part 1 – June 21

This is a little story about Africa, and it’s also not about Africa.

This is a little story of a girl sitting in a bright red dress with a big turquoise chunky necklace on and curled hair, face plastered in makeup today — and that same girl who was a mosquito net princess, perfumed in bug spray and burnt by the African sun, just a few weeks ago.

It’s a story of how that girl’s heart was cracked open a few weeks ago, and how she hasn’t been able to pick up the pieces and stitch it back together yet. Maybe she never will, and maybe that’s the point of the story. But I’m not sure yet.

I don’t want to be cliché and say that nine days in Africa changed my entire being. But I also don’t want to brush it off and say it didn’t. The point is that something changed, and I can’t quite figure out what or how, but I feel like on more than one night there, God set to work fixing my eyes to see things differently from now on.

Ask me to coffee to hear about my trip, and I promise you we will end up talking about something else the majority of our get-together. Because I’m still in a boat fishing for words to describe what I saw and felt, smelled and tasted. And I’m not winning with finding the words, at least not yet. I don’t know how long it will take to be able to honestly answer, “How was your trip?” but for now, all I can say is, “It was great and pretty overwhelming; I’m still processing it.”

And today, I added another sentence to the short-answer story – “I miss it a lot.”

Because it hit me this morning how much I miss it. I miss the green and the humidity, and the clouds (trust me, you ain’t seen clouds till you’ve seen ’em in Africa). I miss the food and eating lunch with the kids. I miss having my hair braided by six little pairs of hands all at once, and I miss kids running at me, ready to play. I think seeing kids running towards you with big grins on their faces is the best depiction of what it will be like when Jesus welcomes us into heaven. He’ll look over and see us with great recognition, and start running toward us and he won’t stop running until he practically tackles us and we fall into his arms. The kids grab you in a way that says, “You’re here. I knew you’d come see me. I’ve been waiting for you.” And I think Jesus will say things very similar.

I was baptized again in an African rainstorm. My first baptism was pretty awesome – my sister-in-law baptized me in a hotel swimming pool, surrounded by family. It was a peaceful and joyous ceremony, carefully planned and thought over for years. This time, it was a spontaneous reaction to the feeling that I just needed more Jesus. More and more and more. So I ran out into the rain and asked for more.

Some of the memories and the names are fading, and things come in flashes.

And the week I got back, emotionally wrecked Claire got physically wrecked in a car accident. A wet road and old tires do not mix well, let me tell you. It was a scary moment because I was watching the road the entire time – I wasn’t distracted, I wasn’t texting, I wasn’t even daydreaming. I was alert and fully aware that my brakes were not stopping my car, that I did everything right but everything still went wrong. That’s life sometimes. It wrecks you even when you feel most prepared.

So then my weeks back have been filled with insurance policies and phone calls to strangers and chiropractor appointments and shuffling cars around in the family and a few tears — okay, maybe more than a few. Because this was just a reminder that life can feel really overwhelming.

But I went and saw this awesome movie about emotions, and was reminded that this life is such a mix of feelings, a watercolor painting that only looks beautiful and complete once every color has been added.