The Matchbook Diaries


My question was: How do you accommodate a catastrophic truth? That question drove me into my faith, and, from that foundation, into the life I now lead. I’ve been unbelievably lucky. Years ago, on August 19th, 2003, my husband and I went through a stage where we played the dice game Yahtzee at night. We were living in his grandmother’s basement at the time, and we were sitting on our queen bed, a bed that took up about a third of our total living space.

On his first turn my husband rolled five 1’s in 2 rolls. The second turn he rolled five 2’s in two rolls. The third turn he rolled five 1’s in two rolls. The forth turn he rolled five 3’s in two rolls. We slipped. Just for a moment, into a sphere we knew was truly exceptional. This occurred on the same day that my father-in-law had handed us a news clipping about a man both my husband and I knew and disliked. That man had won $500K in a lottery scratch off ticket. The article stated the odds at 480,000 to 1. I don’t know the odds of what my husband did, but I am pretty sure that they are at least similar to the odds of winning a huge lottery.

I’d love to be solely the product of God’s perfect design of Aimee. But family makes an indelible imprint on the original creation that slipped bloodily and helplessly into the world.  My childhood was catastrophic by any reasonable measure. In the aftermath I wondered how I could ever be big enough to accommodate the abomination of my history and so resist denying, atoning for, or trying to erase it?

I knew, when I became a Christian, in my darkened bedroom, alone, at the age of 12, that I needed help. I’m not interested in being either right or good; I do not know if there are other means to redemption. My choice to embrace the crucifying beauty of this faith was the cornerstone of everything that happened since.

Now, exactly 40 years later, I cannot deny that I’ve been the beneficiary of infinite grace. So, as I endeavor to share, in these diaries, my perspective as an expat, and my truth from our gypsy life, I know this:  my life is good because God is good despite that I am not good.

No one enters adulthood without some cross to bear, and no one’s cross feels any lighter than anyone else’s. The instant I’d step into another’s shoes I’d see we all face personal versions of the same thing. The elemental tool for building a beautiful life is that cross on my back. I take it down, shove it into the ground, and then walk right into it, through it, into an infinitely expanded reality, and there my journey continues until, again, I notice that cross on my back, and once again I tamp it into the ground and use it as a doorway out. My history, looking backwards, is an inverted pyramid, like a series of ever expanding courtyards, each one tethered to the one prior by a cross shaped door.

I don’t know a thing about being right. I do not believe in a God who makes us good. I believe in a God who makes us free. My five senses were imprisoned by the atrocity of my childhood. But embracing the enigmatic doorway that looks like torture and death but is actually joy and life has informed every decision I’ve made since that first one at age 12. What I will write of here is the liberty of the margin, the liberty of disenfranchised life.