The Glorious Muddle
glimpses of grace in the messiness of life

May 22, 2017

Can You Love a Place?

I’ve been thinking about the importance of place lately. Why, you may ask.

Because I’m going home. Actually, I’m going home to two homes.

Are there places you love? Places you consider home, even when you don’t live there and perhaps haven’t lived there for decades?

I have many. I’ve lived in places that I’ll hold dear until the day I leave this earth for my final home. Places that make me feel fragmented because I’m not there, no matter how much I may love here. Part of me, part of my heart, is always someplace else.

I’ve left my heart in San Francisco, and I’ve left it all over the world.

People have told me I get too attached to Place. That it should be People who matter. And only People.

Of course, people elevate the value of a location. But I can love a place solely for its own merit.

Many factors affect how you remember a place. The general atmosphere and attitudes. How formative the place was in your history. Whether you made lasting friends. Did you have significant work that fulfilled you? Did you like the climate or the geography? Were you happy there?

Or maybe you like who you became in that place. How the place changed you.

Settings become characters in the story of your life.

I’ve lived all over. I’ve experienced the joy of falling in love with a place that’s radically different from anything I’d known before.

Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you live in the same town you grew up in.  I admit there are times I’m jealous of you. You have the steady comfort of roots grown deep, and probably family nearby, that I’ve longed for. Yet I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve lived for anything.

Like potential friends, you don’t always bond right away with certain places. Or perhaps, never. Usually I found something I liked, some pretty corner tucked away or some friend I enjoyed, even in places that I think back on as little more than temporary stepping stones on my journey.

Some places you’ve loved longer than your memories exist. I can’t remember ever not loving Harmony. The name says it all, situated in the Land of Pleasant Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was my first home, and my only home for 23 years. I’m homesick for it when I’m away.

But I do remember, as a young girl, being captivated by novels set across the globe, and yearning for something more.

Then there’s love at first sight. The first time I drove to Rhode Island, I knew it. I felt it deep in my bones as I crossed the state line from Connecticut. Energized. Excited about possibilities. Invigorated. Berkeley, California was another immediate infatuation for me.

I entered Romania with a mixture of fear and hope. Deep underneath rested a confidence that God had called me, but I couldn’t summon that assurance to the surface on demand. Life was hard and the city of Bucharest was aesthetically-challenged in those days.

Still, it didn’t take long for the warmth of the people to woo me and never let me go.

Like a mother’s love for a child, sometimes your love for place defies explanation. And like a mother’s love, my bond with Romania didn’t suffer when it acted badly toward me, and I couldn’t love it any more when it made me proud.

From there I moved to Hungary. Budapest had glimmered as the beautiful destination for all my train trips to stock up on supplies and get re-energized. I loved it as a visitor, but I wasted the first few years living there by comparing it to my dearly-missed Romania.

Relentless Hungary edged its way into my heart after all. By the time I left, I’d come full circle, appreciating the good things.

Sometimes you need distance, and maybe time, to feel the love. I didn’t realize how utterly I loved Hungary until the first time I returned.

When I got married, I moved to probably the most gorgeous place I’ve ever lived. Prickly Marin County, California—the extreme opposite of Eastern Europe in terms of lifestyle and values–didn’t welcome me as I navigated cultural re-adjustment.

Yet, I’ll always love Marin because that’s where I met Steve and started my life with him. And that’s where he promised me that we’d go “home” to Eastern Europe every five-six years.

It’s been six years.

In one week, less than a day after we return from my nephew’s wedding, we fly to Budapest. Then we hop on a boat for a river cruise down the Danube to Bucharest.

I’ll be reunited with my two beloved cities.

Can you love a place?

I do. And I’m headed home!

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May 17, 2017

Transition Ahead

You know that feeling when you have worked hard and completed something challenging and you can sit back and catch your breath? It’s a mixture of accomplishment and exhaustion. That’s how I feel today.

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I have completed another commencement season. This time I did five ceremonies in three cities, made especially difficult because of a huge rainstorm that swept through the South. Only half of our outdoor crowd could fit into the main auditorium, and the ones who didn’t have tickets were not pleased. I had the fun job of delivering the bad news.

My ears still reverberate, as the last veneer of sweet tea, gardenia blossoms, and “yes, ma’ams” evaporated from the normally gentle folk. Gone with the wind.

But it’s over, I survived, and we got them graduated!

So today I celebrate not only the closing of one project, but the beginning of a long-anticipated transition, a commencement of sorts for me. I’m commencing to reduce my work hours, and I’m kicking it off with a trip.

Detour AheadSteve and I had a plan, formulated back when I began this job, to leave my post this year. In the process of submitting my resignation, I had what I now refer to as my heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack (Billy Joel fans, anyone?). Turns out it was a Bundle Branch Block, meaning my body sends out whacky electrical signals that something’s amiss when it isn’t. (If you’ve known me awhile, that explains a lot.)

I didn’t know whether to take my medical emergency as a sign from God that I need to eliminate all stress and hence, quit for good. Or was he trying to tell me to keep working full-time so I can still get health insurance?

After we got the bill for my overnight in the Cardiac Hilton, the answer became clear. 🙂

I will stay in my office job and continue with special projects, working 10 fewer hours—the minimum to be considered full-time. That gives me a whole day to write from home!

I’ve been living for the day when I can write at home full-time. In preparation, I got a master’s degree, converted a guest bedroom into my office space, filled it with white boards, and planned every detail with writing goals and accountability.

I’m a teensy bit disappointed to defer my ultimate plan, glad to start easing into it, and mostly thankful that I still have insurance. At my age, time speeds by so quickly that it will feel like tomorrow when that blessed day finally arrives.

One day “off” per week may not sound like much, but here’s the best part.

My reduced work load won’t begin for a month.

Next week, we go to my nephew’s wedding in Arizona. We leave from the wedding on a red-eye flight home for a 23-hour-turnaround before we leave for … wait for it ….

Eastern Europe!

Stay tuned for more on this.

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May 4, 2017

A free book and a free mug!

Everbloom coverWhat can be better than a free book? Especially if it’s a book like Everbloom, with deeply personal stories that you won’t be able to put down.

Everbloom on Redbud bagMaybe the only thing better is a book and a custom mug!

Stories just seem to go together with coffee (or tea or hot chocolate), don’t they?

TODAY, through Saturday, you can enter to win your copy of Everbloom, the new book by the women of the Redbud Writers Guild, plus a mug!Opening Box Day

To sign up for my personal giveaway, you can contact me any of three ways:

  • “Contact me” on my website
  • Post a comment on my blog
  • Post a notification on my Facebook author page (Taryn R. Hutchison, Writer @tarynthewriter)

I will draw the winner on Saturday, May 6. If I draw your name, I’ll contact you to send me your mailing address privately.

Shauna Niequist

Read what poet Luci Shaw writes about Everbloom:

“Gritty, funny, painful, affirming. Once I began reading these stories I couldn’t stop.”

Everbloom contains stories of transformation, pain, beauty, and redemption. They come from the hearts of friends of mine, women writers on the journey to find their voices. The stories are organized into stages of a woman’s life: Roots, Trunk, Branches, Blossoms. (My story is in the Trunk section.) Each concludes with a prayer and a writing prompt that invites reflection and encourages you on your personal journey.

The book is available through the publisher, Paraclete Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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April 25, 2017

Finding Your Voice

Everbloom launches today!

Launch dayEverbloom is written by women Redbuds, my writing guild. I’m humbled to be one of the authors among such a talented group, and proud to be part of something so wonderful. I couldn’t put my copy down! It contains cathartic stories of pain, loss, struggle, beauty, and redemption.

From the beginning, our hope for this book is that women will be empowered and inspired on their own journey of transformation and growth. At the end of each story, the reflection question is actually a writing prompt to spur you on to find your voice and to inspire others.

We believe in the transformational power of stories to help us find our unique influence & voice.

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Read what our publisher writes:

Be inspired by the transforming power of story!

Through the pain, loss, beauty and redemption in these pages, you’ll find freedom in Christ and the courage to embrace your own story. The women of Redbud know the importance of spiritual shelter, and how easy it is to feel alone and misunderstood.

In the Everbloom collection they offer essays, stories and poetry: intensely personal accounts of transformation, and the journeys to find their own voices. Best of all, they invite you to join them, with writing prompts that encourage a response of honesty, faith and imagination.

Accept the invitation: set out on the journey to find your own voice.

Everbloom, TWITTER

 

A close-knit community of Christian women writers share compelling and courageous personal journeys of transformation and growth toward finding their unique voices and invite other women to join them on the beautiful journey.

From matters of politics to education, from social justice to health and wellness and beyond, this has been a year for the voices of women to ring out, and the Women of Redbud Writers Guild add their voices to the swell: voices of honesty, faith, deep spirituality, and generous wisdom. They speak out on behalf of those women who might not have found their own voices yet, sharing stories of their own personal transformations, discoveries, and overcomings. Opening the Box

In forty stories, from global campaigns against social injustice and poverty, to the most intimate retellings of miscarriages and stillbirths, these Women of Redbud Writers Guild share a clarion call to all women: there is no pain that cannot be redeemed by the grace of God, no God-given voice that should be silenced, no one for whom the love of God through Jesus Christ will ever fall short.

Click here to purchase. And stay tuned for a special giveaway here, on my blog, on May 4.

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April 12, 2017

Sunday’s Coming!

angel-1822368_960_720This Easter week, my thoughts turn dark as I look to Friday. Pain. Death. Grief.

But Friday is only the climax to the story. It’s not the resolution. It’s not the end.

In the words of Dr. E.V. Hill, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

Oswald Chambers reminds us that the horrible events of that historic Friday weren’t an accident. “The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it.”

This morning, as we ate breakfast and talked about our most meaningful Easters, my husband told me about the time a friend from Sri Lanka spoke in his church. This friend had grown up watching people journey to the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa) in his home country, where the right tooth relic of Bodhidharma, the Buddha, is kept. Bodhidharma’s body was cremated when he died.

Millions make the pilgrimage to Medina in Saudi Arabia every year. There they pay homage at the tomb of the prophet of Islam.

Confucius is buried in the Shandong Province of China, in a large cemetery where over 100,000 of his descendants are buried.

Christians may dispute the exact location of Jesus’s tomb, but they agree on one thing. The most important thing. Jesus’s tomb was only temporary.

His tomb is empty.

Jesus died to rise again.

As C.S. Lewis writes, “In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend.”

That Friday, from noon until three in the afternoon, the sun went dark as Jesus hung on the cross. The earth quaked. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. Rocks split apart and tombs broke open.

Anyone alive at that time had to know that something significant was happening.

Matthew gives more detail in his account:

The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:52-54

Jesus’s death paved the way for us to have life everlasting.

Again, from Oswald Chambers:

The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened – but the crash is on the heart of God.

In his own words, Jesus replaces despair with hope. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Death doesn’t have the final word.

Sunday’s coming!

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