I love the Internet! Vol. 1

There has been a lot of talk about how “blogging is dead” “Twitter is meaner than it used to be” “Facebook’s money grubbing ways ruins everything” (okay that last one is kind of true) and it makes me question why I even bother showing up.

But then I remember. I remember that two of my dearest friends I have yet to meet in real life. I remember that the internet gave me the courage to do things I really want to do. Sites like Deeper Story, SheLoves, The Mudroom made me aware that I was not alone, and that we are stronger together. I remember that “me too” is often what we need to hear. I remember that the internet came together to feed my kid’s classroom snack for a whole school year.

Y’all, I love the internet. I still love the internet. I don’t think that blogging could possibly be dead. There are still so many of us showing up. So let’s celebrate that! I know that starting a round-up is like placing a kick me sign on my own back. I know about “she only links up her friends” and “what the heck does a girl have to do to get noticed?” I know because I have said all those things. So, let me let you in on a secret. I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE CHOOSE THEMSELVES! Find me on twitter, on Facebook, tell me that you wrote something awesome. Put it in the comments on these posts. There is so much goodness on the internet, and I want to know about more of it.

So! Without further explanation,

I LOVE THE INTERNET! (vol. 1)

Ed Cyzewski writes honestly about Christian publishing. Ed is the realest. Experienced, honest, and generous. This advice was clearly hard one and he is just handing it out on his blog!

When Commercial Christian Publishing was Bad for My soul. 

Sarah Kovac on broken bodies and communion. This is my first introduction to her. Wow. “I avoided eye contact as I returned to my pew. I, a wife and mother, who has lived independently and enjoys a successful career, had to be fed like a toddler in front of hundreds of people.”

I Boycotted Church Over Communion

Becca Stanley writes honestly about the how hard it can be living amidst brokenness. “It all feels lately like a hopeless tangle of fights and arrests. And we watch, mired in our own helpless uncertainty as everyone gives up on them, until finally they give up on themselves. Can anyone escape this warzone unscathed? I roll the question around in my chest, hoping the answer may yet surprise me. ”

Dry Bones

Kate Schell on what it means to miss church, but not fit anywhere, but believe in redemption, but have lots of questions. “Won’t I always be a Christian, though? Wasn’t Susan still a queen of Narnia, even when she started wearing lipstick and stopped believing? Could she see a hotel wardrobe or a beaver at the zoo without remembering that lifetime of magic?”

Church Bells

Esther Emery gives voice to how I feel about being a Christian feminist. “For better or for worse, I’m stuck right in. Whatever “Christian woman” means, it means me, too. I can’t and won’t let go of my identity in Christ.”

The Christian Sisterhood, For Better and For Worse

Jamie Wright Bagley writes about when you just don’t feel it anymore. “It’s hard to believe in fullness if I am feeling empty, and there are still plenty of days that look this way; when the sun is blazing but the heat does not reach my center or set my heart on fire.”

When Your Heart Hits a Wall

Places to Watch

She Loves Magazine is completely golden this month with Dangerous Women. This week Tanya Marlow wrote about crying. You know I loved that. “In the early years of my Christian ministry, I felt ashamed of my strong emotions. Surrounded by men who debated Calvinism versus Arminianism for breakfast, I often felt excluded for caring about how decisions and theological debates would impact people emotionally.”

Armed With Tears

The Mudroom Blog is still pretty new, I am excited about this space (Full disclosure: I write here.) Because it is new, it is actively seeking submissions! Get on that! I loved Brenna’s piece about hoping to show her daughters a courageous mom. “My goal as a mother is to raise girls who love God, love others, and are brave and here I am hiding from a picture so I don’t have to see myself. I want to accomplish big things; to be someone they can look up to and emulate. I want them to remember me as someone just as strong and brave and daring as the women they grew up reading about.”

What I want them to Remember

 

Because it is Friday!

Someone made a digital spirograph and you can play with it for free. This is why I love the internet.

Play with the spirograph

Why do you love the internet? Show me in the comments!

Let the Children Come: The Grace of an Open Communion

They announce the open table every week; every week the table is open, and all are welcome. I have heard this announcement before. But always there is an asterisk at that end. When we say all what we really mean is everyone who follows our rules. Everyone with our theology. Everyone who won’t cause a ruckus. The table is open on the one side, but the other side is for a very elite club. God made the membership rules, sorry if you don’t like them, here is the body and bread, broken for you to receive only.

communion

I have always loved communion. I can still recite, word for word, what the pastor of my youth recited as he broke the bread, lifted up the cup. In my head, it is still in Andy’s voice, warm and comforting. “in the same manner our Lord took the cup and after blessing it He said, this cup is the covenant of my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins, take drink in remembrance of me.”

I petitioned to take communion early. You were supposed to wait until you were baptized, or at least until you could understand the significance of the holy meal. I was maybe in the fourth grade. I just wanted in on this thing that was happening. I too wanted to take, eat, in remembrance of Him. After a conversation where I explained myself to an extent that I guess was acceptable, the next time the metal plate came around I took a tiny square wafer, a plastic cup of grape juice.

I now walk to the front once a week, cup my hands as a piece of bread is placed in it, and I dip it into a cup of grape juice. I have learned this is called intinction. I watch every week as the servers first take communion, and then serve it to the rest of the congregation, a reminder of our response to the grace of our God. First you receive it, then you hand it out freely. If you sit in the center, and our pastor knows your name he will use it as he hands you the bread.

If you want to see me cry, serve a child communion. I didn’t know that this was true until I saw a server bend low and look directly into a five-year-old’s eyes. For you, Christs body. The cup-bearer responded in kind, bending low and letting the child carefully dip their piece of bread in the juice. I became completely undone. This girl is five and giggling, and yet she is invited. There is now way she could no, no way she could understand.

It is there that the spirit interrupted my scandalized logic. “And you? You understand? Abby, love, like this child, you are welcome, you are loved. Take. Eat. Not because you are worthy, because you understand, because you are properly contrite in heart, but because you are loved. Because you need fed.”

Juliet got upgraded to the five-year-old classroom. Her birthday is coming up anyway, and the sister’s forever dynamic between my two darlings was disrupting the learning of the three/four class. Five-year-olds come back to the service to take communion. I tried to prep her, sitting her on my lap and asking her to watch as the bread was ripped, and dipped into the cup. I don’t want her to get it wrong.

She takes the bread, she dips it in the juice, she cups her hands underneath the meal and heads to her seat. Juliet sits between her very nervous parents and slowly puts the wetted bread up to her tongue. “Eat it!” we tell her. We are terrified she will declare that the body of Christ is “nasty,” loud enough for everyone to hear. We don’t want her to get this wrong.

Or you could let her taste and see that the Lord is good.” 

And as I watched her taste, and see. As she turned her adult sized portion into a more manageable three bite meal and declared that she liked it, that it was in fact good, I was reminded that the table is always open, you can’t do it wrong, you won’t mess it up.

You are loved. You need fed. The table is open. Come.

Rilla at the Roller Derby: On Raising Dangerous Women

She was throwing the most epic tantrum of her tiny life. It had only been 18 months, but she had already had some good ones. This one though. This one took the cake. She was red faced, back arched. She was face down on the floor of a public restroom and every time I tried to move her to the side of the doorway, she would scoot back to the middle. Every single other woman who walked into the rest room had to step over my daughter’s anger just to use the toilet.

It would have been the most mortifying moment in my entire parenting career.This screaming public display of tiny angry feminine rage would have been the worst moment of my entire motherhood. It would have been horrifying and mortifying.

But we were at the Roller Derby, so Rilla fit right in.

TXRD

My friend Megan, having heard countless stories of the antics of my two girls, (and the proud way I was telling them) suggested that they might like the roller derby.

Let me tell you about the Roller Derby. Well, let me tell you about what I know about the roller derby. I have no idea about points and scoring. I am not really what makes a really talented roller girl. I know they skate in a circle, and that pushing and bumping and very agressively blocking and getting passed each other are totally part of the game. I do know that thick eye liner and bright lipstick is war paint. I know that awesome knick names you choose for yourself are part of the culture. I know that if you are looking for a lady who is not afraid, you should probably look at the roller derby. There is pushing and yelling and growling. On roller skates. It is awesome.

The ladies of the roller derby don’t really believe in being too much. All kinds of ladies are welcomed, especially women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to go after it.

And that is what Rilla was, right there on the bathroom floor. She was a tiny woman who knew what she wanted. She wanted a drink of the soda I had bought to keep myself awake. Two kids under three is not ideal for those of us needing a solid eight hours of sleep. I was at my wits end, sitting on the bathroom floor next to her, watching to make sure that no one stepped on her, that she was safe. I was not able to stop her from screaming.

And it would have been mortifying. It would have been terrible, but we were at the roller derby, where people understand the neccesity of a woman in this world, getting a little rowdy. They value a girl who is in charge of her own voice, who demands to be seen. So instead of shooting me dirty looks as they stepped over my screaming daughter on the dirty floor, they told me I was doing a good job.

Lady after lady in the bathroom of the roller derby stepped over Rilla and smiled, told me I was doing a good job, told her she had a promising future in the roller derby. They were glad there were girls in this world, learning to assert their large opinions from their tiny bodies.

I should have been crying, instead I was empowered.

 Because dangerous women recognize dangerous women. They aren’t intimidated or ashamed of them. They don’t see other dangerous women as competiton. They see the potential, look it dead in the face, and call it out in their peers.

I hope, later in life, Rilla will pick better battles. I hope she will care less about whether or not she gets my soda, and more about injustices of a larger scale.

But I hope she maintains the fierceness of her fight. I hope she knows her voice is powerful and that sometimes it is important to disrupt the order of things to get heard. I hope she is always savy enough to know what might make the biggest scene, and I hope she has the gall to throw her fit right there. 

And I hope that there are dangerous women around her, telling her the fight in her is good, letting her know that they are proud of her.

On Georgia Springs

Growing up in north west Ohio, I always hated to spring. March was the calendar’s official start to spring, but you certainly couldn’t tell from looking outside. March meant more precipitation, but not warmer weather. Spring often started off with still more snow, freezing rain, sleet. Spring snow is not marveled over like the first snows of December. A white Christmas is a thing of beauty, crisp and quiet and cozy. Even adults will gasp at the fat snowflakes coming down outside. Look! They will cry like the extras in a Hallmark movie, it’s SNOWING!

cotton

A white Easter isn’t quite so welcome. There are exclamations from people about the snow, but they do NOT belong in greeting cards. They don’t even belong in mixed company. In the mid-west spring is a time where nothing seems to make sense. You leave your house in a sweater and need to defrost your car to get to work, then you are sweating uncontrollably on the way home even with the AC on. The next day you show up for work in your new spring skirt with a bright floral print, and it snows.

Those late snows are heart breaking. The snow sits on the tulips and mocks every hope you ever had about shorts and sun tanning and lying in the grass. In April, (yes it sometimes snows in April) the whiteness that sparkled in December just feels dull and awful, like nature is attempting to erase all the tiny pieces of hope you’ve been noticing for a month.whiteflowers

My first Spring in Georgia was a complete shock. None of this sweater one day, shorts the next weather. There are a couple glorious days in early March (or sometimes late February) and then it just warms up gradually. You no longer need a coat and two weeks later you can wear shorts. Spring comes, right when the calendar says it will.

This Lenten season, in my spirit, I am experiencing a Georgia Spring. I had a long hard winter from September-February. I arrived at Ash Wednesday tired and hungry, completely worn out just from the daily grind, from being out in the cold. I hadn’t even decided what I was going to give up for Lent.

And at the kneeler, with ashes on my forehead acknowledging that from dust I come and from dust I will return, I heard the Lord tell me that I was to give up striving for Lent. I was to give up slamming myself into all the brick walls and just let Him handle it.

24 hours later I got accepted into a program I had forgotten I applied to. Within the week a chance I had long wanted but didn’t know was even available was just handed to me. I was seen, I was affirmed, I was given good gifts. I had done nothing to deserve this. It is just steadily getting warmer. The flowers are coming; the smell in the air has changed.

springgirl

I have had my share of spiritual springs, but mostly they are the North West Ohio kind. Right when I am sure it is all going to be glorious and we will wear shorts every day, when I can literally see the tulips, that last storm comes and I have to dig down deep to believe that spring will ever really be here.

But this is what you learn in Ohio in the spring time. The spring will come. The snow always melts. The hope of tulips and green grass is hiding there underneath that last cruel snow. Whether a Georgia spring or a cruel and uneven Ohio season: Spring always comes.

chipmunk

Crocheting Grace

I heard mention of a crochet circle while I was sitting around a dinner table, getting to know people. I was immediately intrigued. My friend Leanne gifted me a hand crocheted rug last spring, and I had been thinking about trying it out ever since. I love the way it feels under my feet. I love the way I am reminded that a kindred spirit in Michigan loves me when I put my feet in the middle of that circle. I had even gotten as far as buying the fattest crochet hook I could find on Amazon, and spending my lunch break obsessively watching videos of people hooking rugs on YouTube.  I don’t quite know how to explain it, but I was at the beginning of a season where I did not have very many words (sorry about the silence on the blog) and it was as though my hands sensed that they would need something else to do for a while. Sitting still isn’t a great option for them. I mean, I can’t even speak if my hands aren’t moving.

Feeling loved on my new kitchen rug handmade by leanne penny

A photo posted by Abby Norman (@accidentaldevotional) on

I couldn’t wait for the crochet circle. In January I went to a thrift store and bought twenty dollars in sheets, turquoise, blue and navy. I came home and began tearing the sheets into strips that my fat crochet hook could work with. Snip, rip, attach, wind. Snip, rip, attach, wind. Slowly the abandoned and worn thin sheets became a ball of frayed, flat, one inch (or close enough) string.  The sheets that were no longer needed sat in their new form, waiting to be made new.

I too feel ripped and reworked. I feel reshaped and waiting. I have been wondering when the promise of “all things new” would come for me.

I watched the video one more time and began my rug. Loop after loop I circled around and around and around. My rug growing, my work visible. I was making progress, and it felt good. I continued on and on and on.

But then, but then things became wonky. When I laid the rug down it did not lay flat but rather waved up and down. The edges came in like a bowl. I googled the problem (who else but Google does a You Tube student have to ask?) and discovered that while I could try washing, or wetting, or flattening, that if I really wanted the rug to lay right I would have to undo the progress that I had already made. I would have to pull that handmade string and watch my progress fall into a pile on the floor. So I did. I pulled and pulled until the rug lay flat. Then, I tried again. And I had to undo a little less the next time, and again and again until I realized that after the initial sheet, I can only manage to crochet a flat rug if I am sitting on it, slowly spinning it or my body to match the progress. Even then, sometimes, the undoing is simply a necessity of the process. It is just the way the rug is made, by me anyway.

I managed to finish that first blue and turquoise rug. It sits in my kitchen and my dog likes to lay on it. Somewhere in the undoing I felt the Spirit pull on the string of my heart. I felt some things unravel where the tension had been pulled too tight and things had become bumpy. I felt a pile somewhere in my soul of things I have long believed about myself, about my worth, about why it is I matter. And I can feel the spirit slowly reworking these threads so that my whole self will lay right. My understanding of my God is beginning to smooth out.

It is okay. This is just a part of the process. We could go around it, but this spot is going to come up again and again. I promise, it can be different this time. The loops are loose, the hook is ready, if it doesn’t work, we can try again.

And as I work the sheets into something new and beautiful I can feel something move in my heart as well. These experiences I have had are not wasted. They are being made new. It was bumpy last time, the tension was off. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s try again. We are slowly working this life of yours into a symbol of love.

Girls Can Do All the Things

March is Women’s History month. I know because in the fourth grade my mom was concerned we weren’t getting enough women’s history in school and suggested to my teacher he celebrate Women’s history month. He agreed and we did an awesome project about famous women in America. When people ask me who my favorite feminist is, there is no question. Juliette Low. She founded the Girl Scouts and I was one for twelve years. It had a major impact on my life. I am so excited to be writing for the Mudrooms awesome theme this month. 

Juliette Gordon Low founded the girl scouts because she had been hanging out with the Boy Scouts founder and thought, well, why the heck weren’t girls encouraged to go hike in the woods, build a fire, swim? She liked all of that stuff.

When people think about women who have made a major impact on this world, I feel like Juliette Low often gets overlooked. I mean, so she founded the Girl Scouts, so what? They make a mean cookie, but do they actuallyhave an impact on the world?

Yes. They do. I know because the Girl Scouts had a major impact on my world. I don’t know that it was initially up to me, whether or not I wanted to be a Girl Scout. As the third daughter of my very pro Girl Scouting mother (she ran at least two troops for most of my childhood) it was just assumed.

Join me in the Mudroom to learn more about my favorite feminist, and why I hope to be like her. 

What I am into January/February

This winter, unfortunately what I have been into is a tad bit more of anxiety and depression than my usual winter blues. You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging less lately and I weirdly the January what I am into was freaking me out for no reason, so I skipped it. But the days are getting longer and I can feel the hope seeping back into my veins. So asside from anxiety, this is what I have been into.

TV AND MOVIES

Gilmore Girls- I am late to the party on this one. But really, I am right on time because my sister and I have been watching it more or less together. We both love the witty banter.

Selma- I had the opportunity to watch this in the theatre by myself. Just go see it. Find a way and watch. It is really important to know our history. The ties to today are obvious and insightful. Seriously, go see it.

Empire- Some people that I did not think would be into this show started telling me how good it is. I gave it a try and binge watched the whole 8 episodes in two days. IT IS SO GOOD. So good. So soapy and dramatic. I love it.

FOOD

Cheese Burger Soup- SheLoves magazine had an article about simple hospitality and cheeseburger soup. I read the article made a huge batch of this and ate it for a week.

Gumbo- First I made it for a snow day. Then I made it for my new church small group and if they didn’t like me before, they do now. A can of diced tomatoes, a can of chicken broth, a pound of chicken, a pound of summer sausage, a bag of frozen gumbo veggies, a bag of seasoning veggies, chop the chicken and sausage dump everything into your crockpot on low for 6 hours. One hour left add the pound of frozen shrimp, at the end add the cooked rice. Season to taste with Tony’s and cayenne pepper. Be named a culinary genius.

Sweet Potatoe Nachos- These are amazing. Bake your sweet potatoe chips and then dump whatever you want on them. They will be delicious. I promise. Healthy version- blackbeans, guac, and fruit salsa, sour cream (you will not be able to understand in your brain how something so veggie full will be this good). Less healthy version- pulled bbq pork, jack cheese, sour cream, black beans, corn salsa. (You will not be able to believe that this perfect plate came out of your own kitchen.)

Bacon Mushroom Mac and Cheese- I think the title speaks for itself. This is the recipe that introduced me to smoked paprika and now my whole life is better. Smoked paprika makes my whole life better!

BOOKS

Lessons in Belonging from a Church Going Commitmentphobe- This book wrecked me. Erin Lane sent it to me and I thought, OH! What good timing with me switching churches at all. First, I am TOTALLY jealous of the prose. Her writing is perfect through the whole thing it makes me a little mad, except I am just glad it exists. Second, it is just so true. It will resonate. I promise. I finished it crying and immediately emailed her to tell her how fantastic it is. Seriously, this one is special.

Damaged Goods- I was so stoked to get this book from Dianna E. Anderson. It is a game changer in a game that desperately need changed. Purity culture managed to jack so many of us up. Whether because we did wait, or didn’t wait, or technically waited but had some slip ups. Dianna gives us a new way to think about sex and our relationships with our own bodies, and the bodies of others. I don’t come to all the same end conclusions as she does, but I really enjoyed her thought process and the discussion she is starting. It is seriously needed.

BIG NEWS

If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter you know that we GOT A DOG! Her name is Lady Luck (after the Colts quarterback Andrew Luck) but her friends and family call her Lucky. She needs walked about thirty minutes a day or she looses her mind, so the motivation to get out and around is real. Plus, LOOK HOW CUTE SHE IS!

Meet Lucky. Best Valentine's day ever!

A photo posted by Abby Norman (@accidentaldevotional) on

I joined the Mud Room! Tammy asked me to write monthly for a new contributor blog and I am so honored to be writing for them. The sight is GORGEOUS and the writing is just as good. I feel so honored to be in the club (and we are totally seeking new club members. We totally want you.)

I’m headed to Minneapolis this summer! The Collegeville Institute has invited me to spend a week in the workshop Writing to Change the World. I will be totally thrilled about it as soon as I can wrap my brain around the idea of a whole week with nothing to do but write.

As always I am linking up with the lovely Leigh Kramer. Join us!