Thursday, August 2, 2012

Joy has a new blog!

Joy McCracken has a new blog!
For my latest musings about life after "coming out" and graduation, check out:

Peace to you all!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Plastic: A Poem

Hi Friends,

I went to a beautiful place called Malibu Club over spring break. It's a several hour boat-ride outside of Vancouver, BC. Mountains, salt water, trees, snow and, best of all, no cell service or computer! While I was there I was reading Wendell Berry poetry and it inspired me to write some poetry of my own. This piece was also inspired by some awesome slam poetry done in my Inkling's class last quarter.

It's Plastic
This this that keeps me from being where I am.
From being still and being whole,
In once place with all things.

Plastic steals my mind as my heart wonders what is the time
Who has called or sent a note
A post on a wall of immaterial bricks
Built on the belief that plastic connects and fosters realness,
Though it is plastic that severs me from all that is real and here and now:

The cry of gulls
The rushing sound of waves and trees moving in a rhythm I cannot quite catch
The smell of wood stain and fresh-cut pine
Laughter around the corner of friend meeting friend.

Plastic tears me from contended existence as my mind yearns
To know all that has gone on in my absence
From a world which has no dirt or mud or trees
At least
Not mud I can cover my body in
Or trees I can wrap my arms around and let their worship and mine mingle together
In between our bodies of rushing waters and created souls and limbs

Reaching up
Reaching out towards sun and stars and beings alike and not
Surrounding us with their bodies of flesh, bones,
Blood and hands grasping always for what we do not know

For plastic
A cruel delight from which I have no flight,
For even in a place as this
Where it would seem plastic cannot touch
I find it beside me in my backpack
In my neighbors ears,
Tearing and severing and pulling us from here
From now
From anything that's real.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On to the fun parts!

Hello Friends,

I do apologize for not posting anything in the last month. Much has happened and school has delightfully taken over my life.

Right now I am sitting in my school dining hall, affectionately referred to as Gwinn. I took a final this morning and decided to celebrate with breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, fried potatoes... yum!

Today winter quarter will be over for me. The dreaded quarter I feared would be the death of me has actually come to a close. To my surprise and delight, I didn't die, the bottom never gave out, and I am in a space of much deeper freedom and joy than I thought was possible, especially so quickly after the many hard things of San Diego last fall.

This quarter has been a time to really feel my existence in the world for the first time. I noticed that people notice me, that I have an impact, that I am enjoyed by many people. In this noticing of my own existence I grew brave: I took more risks in friendships, new and old, I fought for myself in many situations, I recorded songs I had written and posted them to facebook, I submitted a tender, intimate piece of writing to a student art journal on campus, I shaved my legs(!), I had breakfast with my dad. This quarter I let myself explore who I was and if that really depended on boundaries I had set for myself before.

I shaved my legs, and not for any special reason. I had been thinking about it since returning to school and really wondering why I hated shaving. What did it come down to? I was afraid. I was afraid of fully living into my woman-ness and letting it be a celebrated, maybe even attractive, piece of me. Being a woman doesn't depend on whether you shave your legs or not, but I realized one of the deepest reasons I didn't shave was out of fear of truly being an attractive woman. When I shaved them, I didn't tell anyone for a while. I just wanted to let myself grow comfortable with relinquishing that part of my image, cause I gets that's what it was. Yesterday I worse a skirt without leggings for the first time since I shaved. I didn't feel a need to tell people I used to have really hairy legs, or to hide the fact that my legs were smooth and womanly looking. I just let it be how it was, and I rather enjoyed wearing a beautiful skirt and, instead of getting odd looks when people saw my legs, I was complimented on my skirt. I was simply me and there was no need to hide behind manly looking legs, it was ok to be a girl wearing a cute skirt.

Yes, I also had breakfast with my dad. It was such a delightful time of getting to be in his presence again. For four years I have avoided it out of fear, self-protection, and just not knowing how to hold all of the hurt that has happened along with all the desire within me to be loved by my dad. I found I didn't have to hold it all, because all of me is held by God. My heart is held together by the Lord so I didn't have to worry about holding the hurt and the desire at the same time, all I did was open myself up to be loved, and that is what happened. My dad loves me so deeply, and even though I have been hurt so deeply I find that doesn't mean I cannot also be loved by him. This was made possible because for four years God has been building a foundation under me of his radically immanent and transcendent love: a love so intimate it sees all of me, and so transcendent it can hold all of me without fear for itself. With this love as my foundation space was created in me to accept imperfect, broken love as it is. I didn't have to wait for my dad to become someone else, as I once thought would have to happen, instead I was brought to a place in which the man my dad IS can be enough for me.

I guess that is a snapshot of the incredible movement that has taken place within me this quarter, though, like an earthquake, it has been building for years. The bursting and movement seems to have taken place suddenly and all at once, but I know it has been possible because of the heart-wrenching work over the past several years. Now I get to do the fun part of it all!

Stay tuned next quarter for more learning and growing as I take more fun classes (Physics of Sound, the Gospels of Jesus, and Behavior Science Statistics!) and bask more often in the sunshine!

Blessings to you all,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jean Vanier, Community and Brokenness

For the last four hours I have been researching for a group project on Jean Vanier (think French when you say that). It really shouldn’t have taken me four hours, but I was pulled into the beauty of his writings and, more importantly, his heart that was woven throughout every syllable.

Jean Vanier is the founder of l’Arche communities. These communities are simple houses in which people with mental handicaps and people without them live together as a family. The focus is not on “normal” people caring for the “abnormal,” but on creating a home, a community, a family in which people who are handicapped and people who aren’t live together. A part of it is that those who are more physically or intellectually abled are able to serve those who are handicapped in those areas, but a part of it is also that those who are physically or intellectually handicapped are able to reveal to those who aren’t the simplicity of loving someone and being loved in return, of wearing your heart on your sleeve and revealing your darkest and most broken parts, and especially of not judging a person by their abilities but rather looking at their heart.

While reading several books and articles tonight written by or about Jean Vanier I have been brought to tears again and again. This man has truly seen people in their most broken state and has understood the need for healing in the context of long-lasting relationships built on mutual trust and surrendering of oneself. My tears have come in parts when he touched on wounds in me that have yet to be healed, as well as desires in me that have yet to be filled, or even known very well. After four hours of being immersed in Vanier and l’Arche I am a messy mixture of exhaustion, joy, and a much deeper hunger for loving and being loved than I was aware of today.

Vanier talks about the deep hurts felt by people who are handicapped. The abandonment and rejection they have each experienced is immense and profound. Their brokenness is not in their bodies or minds but in their hearts. They have been left by parents, siblings, caretakers, friends etc. They have felt the weight of their own neediness and live in fear that it is too much for anyone to handle, that they are too much for anyone to truly love. They are unable, however, to hide this because they do not have the social awareness or ability to compartmentalize their emotional experiences from their bodies. Some call this a disability, tonight I long for that disability, however. Too much is hidden beneath set faces, social graces and the wall put up between what I feel and what I do or say. I wonder if I were able to say all that I wanted to say if I would find life more livable, or relationships truer, deeper and easier to work out? Are the social graces I have been taught more of a disability than the way people with handicaps often operate?

I hunger for a people I can share meals with. Where the intimacy of being around a table sharing food together is a daily occurrence. I hunger for a people who can know my daily life and I theirs, where we share our daily lives with one another. I yearn for a people to be known in, known for me with all my beauty and gifting and flaws and brokenness, where I will be loved for all these parts of myself. I long for a people where I don’t have to be parts of a self, where I can be whole and wholly loved and accepted. I yearn to know I am accepted. I even yearn for the mess of a community where people mess up and annoy each other, where you do have to work through the hardest things in life together and you can rest knowing you won’t be abandoned in the midst of the mess, that love and acceptance and care will continue in the midst of the mess. Is there such a place? Are there such people? That is the more correct question. If there are than how on earth do I find them?

I could probably write another 20 pages tonight on all I have reflected on in the last four hours. Alas, I am bound by time and an exhausted body tonight.

For your information, here are the books I read or skimmed about/by Jean Vanier.

By Jean Vanier: “From Brokenness to Community” “The Church and Disabled Persons” “Befriending the Stanger” and “Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances Young.”

About Jean Vanier: “Messy Love” By Micheal W. Higgins, and “The Miracle, The Message, the Story: Jean Vanier and l’Arche” by Kathryn Spink.

Also, l’Arches website: l'Arche USA

May Shalom visit your house tonight.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remembering my former life

Taking three theology classes is one of the best, and one of the worst, ideas I had about this quarter. The reasons for both are the same: my mind gets blown with new ways of thinking every class period. That means I have a mind-blowing experience 9 times a week: awesome and exhausting all at the same time.

Yesterday was an exceptionally exciting day as I learned a whole new vision of freedom and also a very different way to interpret the book of Hosea. I may write another blog to explain each of those, but what is more important than these radical new ideas, is the way I reacted to them.

I was excited and fully engaged. I could have spent hours just discussing these theories and ideas and just attempting to grasp their multi-faceted implications. I wanted, and needed, to digest them in the company of other students and professors because they were huge ideas that require long and thorough digestion. I was really excited to spend at least a class period on each of these, but was hoping we could spend a whole week of class on them. Can you see how excited I was? I was literally bouncing in my chair and furiously writing down almost everything the professor was saying. It was awesome.

The problem: as far as I could tell, no one else was half as interested as I was. I realized how apathetic students are towards learning. They are in the class to get the grade to get the degree to get out of school and into the world of fighting to make money. Maybe that is simplifying the life of an American college student a little too much, but then I wonder if it isn’t. Feel free to give me feedback, fellow students.

In my Hosea class the problem was also that no one, not even me, was willing to speak up and ask to go more in depth with this new, radical way to interpret Hosea. I am not sure anyone else thought it was possible, but I wanted to give them all the benefit of the doubt. Maybe others were just as excited as I was, they just felt outnumbered by the people who weren’t, or by our professor who did not give it much credence. Whatever the case, I was downright angry when he glossed over it, dismissing it as impossible, way too radical. Maybe he is right, but maybe he isn’t.

Most of my college life I have been an apathetic student, even in my last year of high school I was only doing the work to get the grade to get the degree to get out of school. Senior year we call it senioritis, but when I got to freshman year at college my senioritis was still with me, and it didn’t ever leave. Until I left and came back for my senior year, that is.

I love learning. I love discussing new ideas and challenging old thoughts with new, maybe impossible, thoughts. This quarter I love my classes not because they are easy or I can bullshit them, but because they challenge me to work harder, think deeper and go beyond the box of my former education. In Uganda this was encouraged and given lots of room to grow. Grades slowly faded in their importance and learning became the important thing; at least with some classes. Now, however, it is a fight for the grade, for the degree, for the job. It is all a fight. I don’t want to fight, I want to learn deeply and share that experience with other people. This is a problem when others do not share that desire. It’s hard to learn in a community when I am the only one in the community.

Though overall I felt discouraged by the end of the day, I am encouraged to catch a glimpse of the learner within me. To see this yearning for understanding, for learning beyond what gets me a decent grade, is beautiful, a side of myself I have not known within school since I was much younger. Now that I see it, however, I can see it was there all along. These past years of hating school I was still yearning to grow and learn and understand. That part of me was overwhelmed with having to grow and understand what the hell just happened in my family and in my life. Now that I have space and have experienced much healing I find learning within school is not only fun, but also it feeds my spirit and my brain!

How funny God is, that he took me far away from school, into a whole different mindset, in order to teach me how much I love school.

Shalom to you all!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Father, Can You Hear Me?

Sometimes my heart feels like it is full of all the pain my family feels. My one little heart seems to feel what everyone feels. Being blessed with the gift of empathy sometimes feels like a curse.
My family have gotten a backseat in this blog over the past several months. My life was overwhelmed with camp and California and going back to school

Yesterday, my littlest sister called me in tears. It took a few minutes of texting (cause first I got her tearful message) before I realized how much of an emergency was happening. She and the other two young siblings were going to work for my dad, helping him to move into a house he bought with the same woman he had an affair with. They are, obviously, still in an intimate relationship with each other. Well, this woman was also helping him to move on that day. No one my family wants to hang out with her. Most of us don’t even want to hang out with our dad. Kate was in tears because she was trapped, she had no warning of this. Protective older sister instincts took over and I had the urge to jump and in car and drive the 2.5 hours to pick her up. Instead I texted my mom that my dad was being a cuss word and her kids needed help. This worked better, cause my mom was closer.

I didn’t get much chance to process my feelings for myself about it all yesterday. I was fuming for the sake of my sisters; furious that my dad would decide such an idea was a good one. Those were feelings for them, for their situation. They were helpful because they propelled me into action, into helping my sister see she was worth rescuing, that her feelings are deeply important and she is worth protecting. I was so glad to be able to demonstrate that worth to her and to tell her in my actions how precious she is and that she should not be treated any other way.

This morning my feelings were for me. I was driving for church and found myself listening to my favorite cussing song, “Rootless Tree” by Damien Rice. The chorus is a satisfying string of F-words I can scream from the car. I was pissed and sad and outraged and would have liked to scream the F-word at him.

My dad is moving in with this woman and is either blind or choosing to ignore his children’s feelings. I guess he never asked us. Did he even think to? I guess I won’t speculate and project feelings or perceptions of mine onto him. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Whatever the case, I feel like he is pushing himself away from us. My heart aches for my siblings, for my mom, and for me. It hurts like hell. It really does feel like I am losing him all over again because it feels like he is creating a new family for himself. I feel such sorrow for my younger siblings because they will have to navigate something so painful and difficult as they work to keep their dad in their life, but cannot handle having his lover in their life. That should not be asked of them. Do the sorrows of divorce ever end?

I keep listening to a song called Sorrow. It’s originally a Bad Religion song, but Jon Foreman did a cover of it that sits much deeper in my heart. The chorus says:

“There will be sorrow,
there will be sorrow,
There will be sorrow no more.”

I yearn for the day when there will be sorrow no more. When the horrors and pains of divorce will at last fade away. Today in church, however, the pastor suggested reconciliation might yet continue into heaven. Whatever we don’t reconcile here we may be asked to reconcile there. Before I went to the table with all my brothers and sisters in that church to receive communion I had to breath deeply and ask myself if I could receive communion with my dad next to me, or even with his lover serving it to me. If there was no willingness for that to happen I wasn’t sure I should take communion. Somewhere in me there was willingness, even hope, that one day we could move beyond the pain and sorrow into a communion with each other. I just hope that day isn’t today.

Maybe there will be no more sorrow because we will at least be able to reconcile with all the peoples of the earth. Maybe we will be able to wipe our souls clean of all the wrongs done to it, and all the shame for the wrongs we have done to others. I hope this is so.

Shalom to you all.

(also, here is the link to "Sorrow" sung by Jon Foreman. It's worth a listen.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week One


A whole week of school has happened and I didn’t die! I didn’t really think I would, but at the same time I wondered if I might explode or something.

What has this week been? Like nothing I expected. When my plane landed in Seattle last Tuesday I had tears running down my face. Not from fear or dread or sorrow, no, these were tears of excitement and joy. After writing my last blog on that same airplane I was overwhelmed with the realization that I get a second chance at being a student, a second chance to love learning at an institution. The grace and mercy of this second chance brought me to tears and a new excitement about it rushed through my veins as my heart beat a little faster.

The excitement in many ways has lasted throughout the week. I love studying. I don’t know how that happened, but I get excited for the hours of studying I get to do every day. I also get excited to go to classes. For those who have followed my life you know this is beyond me. Last year ended with classes being a place of panic and fear. How did I get to this point? I guess I don’t really know. God has way bigger plans than I could have imagined, and also smaller. I had no idea my adventure to California was actually meant to lead me back to school. I had no idea God wanted to redeem school and my love of learning. I wonder what else I have no idea about.

I have also been living with men. Sometimes this is quite terrifying to me, but I also trust there is purpose in this so I am able to be patient within the tension of it. I don’t know yet how to be fully myself, fully comfortable at my home and I don’t know how to be bold in saying what needs to be different, but I know when one sit’s in tension growth inevitably happens.

In the midst if all this growth and excitement and joy I am also apprehensive and hesitant to really relax into it because for so long school has been hard and disaster has struck almost every quarter in some way or another. I find I don’t really know how to do school without impending doom. In some ways I miss it, which is really odd. The danger and excitement of having to just survive is thrilling even as it sucks the life out of me. Doing school when I can take the time to study, when I can sit through classes and just enjoy learning, when my life is actually stable feels abnormal. It’s not that I want disaster to strike, but I am confused by the lack of it and not sure how to just be in the stability right now.

That’s all for now, my friends. I am going to try and post weekly now so if I haven’t posted in a while feel free to get on my case about it.

Peace be in your weeks!