Simply Today

One of the most surprising compliments I have ever received was being called a brave writer. I won’t get into why it was said, the important thing is that when it was said it hit a nerve. This statement floored me. I was not a brave anything. I wanted to cry because being brave felt like this unattainable trait, like my earlier aspirations of having an olive complexion, jet black curls and a thin frame. I was born with freckles, strawberry blonde hair, hips that would take on the toasty curve, the limits of hobbit-ish height and a disposition to be more of a talker than a doer.


I will say that as the oldest of three sisters I can tend towards the protective side. This can extend to other family members and friends, but that’s about where my bravery seems to end. I’ll be brave on the behalf of others but I find it extremely difficult to rally on my own behalf. This has meant for all the story ideas I have, my portfolio is quite thin, for the men I’ve desired fewer kisses have been given and for numerous aspirations scrawled in notebooks or left to float in my head, a far shorter list has been achieved.


I’m decent at giving pep talks to other people and sometimes I even try a talk or two out on myself. When this happens I’m often in the company of friends and am processing something that I want to see change but find difficult to accomplish. I don’t like being the friend that sounds like a broken record, but sometimes I am. Do these friends inwardly sigh when I bring up a desire to exercise more, speak more honesty into a relationship or get better at organization and time management, etc.? No one has ever tossed up their hands and whined at me to “just do it!” But part of me wishes they would.


That’s not how the real work is done though, I know that. The change has to come from me (with any kind of help God will give me). The movement towards change has to come from me. What place I’ll draw from to get there, I don’t know, but I’m grabbing buckets and rope, and a strong set of oars before I hop this boat. I already know that I have a number of stops to make along the bravery-waterway, so keep your ears trained on the door. When you hear a faint knock, it might be me. To seek rest or perhaps because I’m ready to be brave.

Last year Halloween kind of caught me off guard. Maybe after living in a condo and apartment buildings  I had gotten lazy. It was the first time I was living in a house since my junior year of high school. But the doorbell rang, and the expectations of Halloween came rushing back in that instant. Asking my housemate if we had any wrapped sweets laying around (perhaps dumpstered), I left the kid standing on our cement stoop. We didn’t come up with much, so I ended up being one of those people who doesn’t answer the door on Halloween. Well, except to see one of my favorite little ones dressed up as a dalmatian. I think seeing kids dressed up, combined with not having candy when I should have, along with the fact I haven’t had a reason to dress up in costume in far too long (maybe I need to be in another play), I decided to go big this year.

And by big, I don’t mean BIG big, I mean, I got candy, got dressed up and hosted a low key party-ish event at the new (three or so months) house I live in. And it was great. Don’t believe me? Here’s my ‘what made it great’ list:

~All I had to buy for my costume was grapes, a black belt from the resale store and eye lashes (I had the clothes already, I’m not that scandalous!)

~I had a legit reason to buy and eat candy

~The weather was decent enough that while handing out candy I could wear a shawl that didn’t hide my outfit too much

~One of my housemates chose a great movie for us to watch (Psycho)

~Another housemate spook-ified the basement with a lot more than the spider web, rubber bat and purple lights I had given him to work with (see the pictures)

~Other people dressed up! (There were four clue characters represented, a ladybug, a Tae-Kwon-Do master, a farm girl, PBS’ “The Woodwright’s Shop,” Roy Underhill, a butterfly, and me)

~Another housemate made us popcorn for the movie

~People came and had a good time!

It can be hard organizing an event not knowing how it will be received. Will people come? Will people buy in to the activities? Will you catch “this is lame,” glances? Will folks have a good time? Will I be able to relax and enjoy myself? At various points since college when I have hosted something I have been disappointed with the result. Or I have felt that I kept making concerted efforts to include/ get to know folks but then didn’t feel included in other things that happened (Well, I haven’t felt that in awhile, and I think as a whole the group of young people around here do better at organizing things than in the past and are more inclusive). But after realigning my motivations for putting events together, and doing a check to see if I had the energy to make something happen, I would put the hosting hat back on. Because hosting is important to me. Bringing people together is something I can give to this community and my friends. Fostering friendships and creating memories. Seeing people who are new in the community be included and feel more a part of the neighborhood than just Sunday mornings. Providing the space for people who feel less comfortable initiating things even one-on-one to still have opportunities to get to know others in a relaxed setting. Offering others and myself a chance to reconnect with friends (a good example of this would also be the annual ladies’ weekend).

Now a group of us alternate hosting a game night every other Sunday evening. But also, and this has meant a lot to me, my housemates have supported initiatives I have put forth. Now we have house spiritual quite time twice a week. They brought energy and positive vibes to the Halloween hangout idea. And tonight I am watching three kids while their mom is working her late night job and my house is fine with having the kids to dinner before we got back to their apartment. I feel blessed.

How has it felt to you when you have hosted things? What has prompted you to organize events? Also, what are some of your favorite costumes you have ever worn for Halloween?

Sometime this past spring a former dance member (Kara) of the dance ministry team approached the group as well as other members of the church or former members to gauge our interest in a performance she was hoping to put together. Combining her interest in dance as a form of communication and her passion for racial justice she came up with the working title “Race Stories Through Movement,” and it stuck. Three of us on the ministry team said ‘yes,’ and five other ladies from the congregation and community at large joined as well. We were chicana, black and white. From the initial proposal right through the end I knew this initiative was larger than any one person or even the group. The work being done, the experiences being shared were combatting racism, even if at a micro level.

We gathered for weekly meetings, multiple months, first being given questions to reflect on, and then taking some of our answers and the images that were invoked, started working on choreography. The two prompts I ended up focusing on were “What does white privilege feel, taste and sound like? What shape is it?” And “Write an “I am” poem, using references to the five senses.

To the question on white privilege I wrote briefly that, privilege feels like a synthetic, transparent skin I was dressed in at birth, not by God but by white mankind, that is a faint enough memory I forget that it exists sometimes, a lot of the time…The shape of privilege is (being inside of the) circle.

And my I am poem:

I am the stench sent off the lake breeze, risen up from the sandy, seaweed floor.

I am before and after the cracks in the sidewalk and unknown constellations.

I am soft fingertips.

I am the echo hiding in eaves, flying down to join a whisper or a song.

I am sugar and spice, dimpled pie-crusts and pumpkin filling.

Guided by a professional dancer in our group who headed up the creative component, we started brainstorming how to translate my short response on white privilege into a four or five minute dance. Immediately she and Kara took to the idea of being within the circle, after an exercise that had produced the idea of having a figuratively backwards birth (one in which awareness was not there), and being stuck inside of the circle. They wanted a spotlight creating the circle, and me in it, with various levels of awareness and various attempts to get out. Yes! That jived with what was in my mind. They liked the backwards birth too. So, throughout the following weeks I worked on the dance and then eventually the creative leader suggested I use the images from my “I am” poem to extend the dance once I was out of the circle. It was a hard process. The type of movements I was using were not usual to my set of skills honed through liturgical dance at the church. Also, though I had solely choreographed dances before, this  one told a harder, more intimate story.

What follows is the blurb I submitted for the program, once the dance was fully choreographed:

Jessica ——- is a life long member of — and the current — Dance Group leader. In this three part piece, she explores the various levels of awareness she has come into, regarding white privilege. Questioning that privilege, dialoguing, and remaining an active thinker can be scary and does not come naturally to her, but initiatives like this performance encourage growth in these specific areas.

Here are a couple pictures, and if you would like to watch the grainy video, e-mail me and I will give you the link, username and password to view it, because I can’t putting it here.



Upon arrival to my new apartment I quickly realized, 1) I didn’t understand how to work the round thermostat and 2) I’m going have to get creative with my food choices over the next 36 hours. The first point needs no explanation, the second I will grant you the full story. Feel free to laugh out as you feel led; I am more amused than anything.

So, I am living in a campus apartment this summer, which I’m so excited about, don’t get me wrong, but is completely void of any kitchen implements. This, my flat-mate and I were warned about, which led us to split a list of items to schlep down here. She’s not getting here until Sunday sometime or possibly Monday though, and she is most notably bringing pans and mixing bowls. I brought a wine opener, wooden spoons (hm., I could eat with those), metal tongs, measuring spoons and cups, an oven mitt, a can opener, and a turner spatula. It’s kind of incredible how not useful those items are without the things that often accompany them…

Who’s bringing plates and silverware? Well, without having made (or perhaps retained) a list of what I put in storage two summers ago, I’m going on a fuzzy recollection that in those couple boxes are some Tupperware, plates, cups, silverware, a thin quilt, and who knows…But watching the taxi ticker getting closer and closer to $20 (I don’t actually know what it’s called), I opted not to hunt down security, sign out a key and search through cobwebs and humming light for my somewhat forgotten boxes. Plus, I didn’t need those items right away. Of course my thinking ability might have been slightly impaired by a full day of travel on two different planes.

So off my cab driver drove, and up the stairs I went, possessed suddenly by the need to rearrange my dorm furniture to my liking. Food, smood. I would go eat out for dinner. Problem solved. Or was it? Jess, what about breakfast, lunch and dinner on Sunday? What do you do without plates/bowls, silver or plastic-ware, no microwave and no baking pans?

I would just like to say that tonight, CVS is my hero. I had dinner at a local diner (I had the foresight to ask for a plastic knife and fork set to go with my left-overs (cough, which I will be reusing), and then went on to CVS. As I walked down the aisles I had to keep reminding myself of my constraints. Thankfully I was able to score some items that are food-like. Maybe they’re not super nutritious, but I’m just glad I won’t be subsisting on dry cereal, snickers bars and chips until Sunday night. Fine, I exaggerate, but you get the point. My spoils consisted of a box of pop tarts, peanut butter crackers, Annie’s ginger cookies, individual apple sauces, a pot-pie, and a soup which actually either needs a microwave/pot (whoops), so I’ll have to track down a microwave to use on campus. Needless to say I am eager for my flat-mate to get here!

So Lent happened. And though I am not a voracious reader ( I do enjoy reading, but I rarely finish a book in one sitting…I like to take my time), I did stick to my Lenten practice of not reading fiction, and instead reading supportive, religious texts, as well as the Bible, when I did read. Below are books that made their way into my hands and a short assessment of what I thought on each.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (read 50ish pages)

I appreciate her voice, and feel challenged and encouraged by her journey towards a more feminine awareness and embracing a spirituality that embraces her as a woman, all while remaining in the bounds of Christianity. Thumbs up.

Real Live Preacher (read 50ish pages)

He sure tells it like it is, with humor and heart thrown in. Very readable. Thumbs up.

A Time to Dance (read half of it and took notes)

As someone involved in dance ministry, I should have been reading books about dance in the church a long time ago. Even with this book having been published more than 15 years ago, it still offers a lot of wisdom and reminders. Thumbs up.

Hard to Dance with the Devil at Your Back (ch. 1-4)

I was grabbed by the title and the intro, which I was able to read on Amazon, but this book fell flat for me. The chapters didn’t flow in a way that kept me engaged. I like the concept of a Lenten study, but this wasn’t the one for me. When it used imagery, it was over used to create some kind of consistency that just wasn’t there. I wanted to like it. Thumbs down.

Immanuel Prayer brochure

I have participated in Immanuel prayer a number of times (and was part of a prayer group for over a year),  attended trainings on it, and had been given various literature on it, some of which I’d read, some that I hadn’t. This brochure, I hadn’t. Along with it is a booklet that I am going to read as well. Though the former make-up of my Immanuel Prayer group might not again be achieved, I have even more of desire to find a way to get back into having regular Immanuel Prayer times back in my week.

Circle of Seasons (chapter on Lent)

I bought this off of Amazon and appreciate the structure of the book and the way she guides the reader through the liturgical seasons of the Church year with suggestions, personal stories, and reflections. Thumbs up!

Overall, I really appreciated this discipline, and a couple of nights ago when I was feeling down and discouraged, I picked up another book off of my shelf I had yet to read (Fifteen Faces of God) and read the chapter on ‘optimism’. I felt encouraged, and a bit more hopeful. I share this, because, now that picking up any number of religious books on my shelves feel less foreign to me, I am doing it more readily. Amen.

Flickr Photos