Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Joy bringers

Christmas leaves me so quickly. In fact, I swear on Christmas day, thoughts of the holiday being done, over, finito, creep in. And the morning of the 26th—that’s it. No more. I can’t do Christmas music, and it almost pains me to look at my tree or hear Christmas commercials on TV. Everything has lost its luster. And I must tell you, this isn’t how I want it to be. It’s not that I’ve been waiting for the holiday to be done. It’s quite the opposite. I absolutely love the season and do not want it to end. I become super dramatic thinking, it’s all over for another year…no Christmas spirit for another year. And don’t you hate how the place in your living room that your Christmas tree has adorned for the past month is now just this huge gaping hole? And then I get more dramatic…well, now it’s back to work with no long holidays in the near future. And the next three months—January, February, March—are the longest, coldest, grayest of the year, at least in Minnesota. How will I ever make it I wonder? And why did I leave California again, someone please remind me?!

As a Christian, I’m not sure that this melancholy I seem to fall into every year after Christmas is quite what Christmas is supposed to do. Jesus came...so we can be sad?

My refrigerator is covered in Christmas photos/cards from friends and family across the miles. Many of my friends have brand new babies or are pregnant. Some of my dearest friends had a baby girl last January 17. She is going to be one in a matter of weeks, and she has brought them so much joy. I can vouch for this. They may as well be singing and dancing as they talk about her, their words sparkling with love. Their lives have changed and they will never be the same.

Other friends of mine will be having a baby in a few months. This pregnancy follows unimaginable heartbreak. This baby's sweetness so strong and miraculous that its creation could only have been drawn and then shaded by God. Their new joy is just beginning.

Another family welcomes a baby girl as it says goodbye to a baby boy. This world did not deserve this baby boy whose name was Emanuel—“God with us.” In a twist we would not have chosen, God took Emanuel, and in his place, left Himself. In the pain and tears and the family bonding inevitable in tragedy, God is there…and amazingly so is a baby girl, Emanuel’s cousin. She should be born today? Tomorrow? Any time.

The list of babies bringing joy continues…
Blaine, Augustella, Aryana, Ezra, Preston, and so many more to come in 2009.

The thing I was thinking about is that all these babies bring a joy and a smile that last so much longer than the time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas…so much longer than the 12 days of Christmas. The transformation within the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends of these babies lasts. And the joy that babies bring is brand new; it’s just beginning.

I do believe Jesus came to us as a baby so many years ago. And I am humbly reminded that really Christmas is just the beginning.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with the justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” Isaiah 8:20

Monday, December 22, 2008

The perma-flick

I experienced something new this morning.
The perma-flick.

My car thermostat read -14 degrees at about 7:30am. This in conjunction with the 4 to 5 inches of snow we received over the weekend means the roads are slick. Icy slick. The on- and off-ramps are treacherously icy, and back roads are far from clear. In fact, I saw four cars in the ditch on my way to work. And, while only going about 15 mph, I slid down a slight decline into a four-way stop as I left my neighborhood. So, needless to say, I was driving slowly. The majority of us were going about 35 to 40mph on a 60 mph-freeway.

Well, one guy was even going slower than the rest of us. He had to have been at about 20mph or so and, as he should have been, was in the far right lane. And that’s fine...I wasn’t mad...didn’t hold anything against him, I mean...maybe he’d actually been in the ditch yesterday and was spooked. Ain’t no thing. Nevertheless, I was comfortable going a little faster so I put my blinker on, veered to the next lane over and slowly passed him (as many others were doing too), and as I did...there it was...my new experience...the perma-flick.

Driving with his right hand on the wheel, looking straight ahead nonchalantly, this guy had his left elbow resting at the bottom of his window and just chillin’ there, not going anywhere, was his middle finger, flicking off all those who dared to pass it.

The normal, common flick usually lasts 3-5 seconds and is accompanied with a mean, mean face or scouring look. But this one was permanent (How long had he been flicking people off? And how many people?!), and the guy seemed to be happily listening to the radio. The gesture almost seemed friendly. Like a happy wave to all those going a little faster. I almost smiled and flicked him off right back. And a merry Christmas to you too, sir.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I wonder as I wander

Christmasy things I wonder about:

When did ugly sweaters (of the ugly sweater party variety) become ugly? Like, what year did they turn from cool to ugly? A friend thinks 1994-1995ish.

When did Christmas carols stop being written? It seems to me there are just the good ole classic carols and at some point new ones weren’t produced anymore. When was that? (No, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is not a carol)

I spend time looking all over at multiple stores trying to find the best deal on something. Then I finally find the place that sells this thing for $2 less. I get up to the register and the cashier asks if I’d like to donate $2 to such-and-such organization. Uh...yes. So, I broke even money-wise, but lost time. What's worth more?

Where is mistletoe? You know...when you’re out hiking people always say, "oh there’s poison ivy" or "that’s a pretty fern." No one has ever pointed out mistletoe to me.

Who thought a song about a hippo would be perfect for the season?
"I want a hippopotamus for Christmas
Only a hippopotamus will do
Don't want a doll, no dinky Tinker Toy
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy..."

What kind of containers did the three wisemen carry their frankincense, gold and myrrh in?

Who thinks it’s a great idea to play "Feliz Navidad" over and over and over?

And a friend used to always chastise people for using the adjective Oriental in reference to people. "Oriental’s for rugs," he’d say. And I agree with this, but there’s the song, "We three kings of Orient Are..."

How did sugar cookies with frosting become a uniquely Christmas treat? Why not turkey-shaped cookies with frosting at Thanksgiving? And same with fruitcake, or red hots, and gingerbread. When and who decided that these should be reserved for Christmas?

I don't think Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins should have a Christmas song.

Is the game "Chinese Gift Exchange" somehow derogatory? I don’t know, but I feel bad and uncomfortable saying it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hurry up and wait

For those who don’t go to church, or didn’t grow up in a church, or maybe don’t pay attention in church, advent marks the season (four weeks) before Christmas. The word derives from Latin's adventus, meaning “coming.” So, for Christians, it’s a time of expectant waiting for the birth of Jesus. He’s coming!

Growing up, advent meant church on the four Wednesday nights before Christmas. And usually we went early to eat dinner at church—whatever the youth group (which for many years I was apart of) was serving as a fundraiser.

And the sanctuary was always marked with a big Advent wreath containing three white candles (for weeks 1 through 3), one pink candle (for the 4th week), and one white candle for Christmas. I remember getting increasingly anxious as we lit more and more candles. Although normal children want the days to pass more quickly, I wanted the days to rewind. I didn’t want the season to end! Go back, go back, blow that candle out. One day closer to Christmas meant one day closer to it being done. I know lots of kids like those little calendars where you rip off the days one by one leading up to Christmas. I hate those things!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was just stranded in Chicago for 36 hours due to a snow storm. Two coworkers and me waited. And waited. And waited some more. We waited for the taxi to get to the airport. Then we waited for the shuttle to pick us up from the airport to take us to the hotel because our flight had been cancelled. Then we waited for the shuttle driver to get UN-lost to take us to our hotel. Then we waited for dinner. Then we waited for hours to board our flight. Then we waited on the tarmac to take off. Then we waited for luggage. Then I waited in more traffic to get home. Hurry up and wait is what we did. And at one point as we sat on dirty, ripped, black leather airport chairs listening to the loudspeaker announce over and over and over that the airport is a non-smoking facility (honestly, don’t we all know this by now? I mean it’s been years since you could smoke in the airport!), I told my fellow slouching coworkers, that our waiting was actually fitting...after all, it’s Advent! Lame, I know, but we all got a chuckle out of it, and my one coworker said, "You’re right! We’re waiting for Jesus Christ!" LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, CHICAGO’S MIDWAY IS A NON-SMOKING FACILITY...

But I have to tell you in all our waiting—so expectantly wanting to get home—we bonded. We told stories and jokes and most embarrassing moments. We laughed. We rolled our eyes at each other and made fun of each other. And shared about our families and past Christmases. We waited and waited some more. And we now share something.

This whole Planes, Trains and Automobiles experience reminded me how precious the waiting can be. Like so many little children who want Christmas to hurry up and come, we often want to be done with the waiting, and yet there’s so much there. So much we’d miss.

Waiting inherently means needing to pause, to stand or sit still. To hold up. And that really has not happened much for me this December. Advent is a time to prepare and celebrate the fact that Jesus came and he’s coming again, but I feel like I’ve spent more time preparing for my vacation.

So, being stuck in the windy city’s airport in December pretty much seemed like the worst thing ever at first, and yet, it finally put me in the Advent spirit. The spirit of waiting.

"It is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD."
Lamentations 3:26

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In good time

I’ve been on a work trip the past four days, at a conference in Chicago. One of my coworkers I’m traveling with uses the phrase “in good time.” We’ll get to dinner “in good time.” We'll head downstairs "in good time." Which challenges me because it’s not definite. What does that mean “in good time?” I need to know minutes, seconds, and “in good time” is so vague. But it also carries with it a calmness that I like and wish I had more of. It’s not we’ll “get there,” but we’ll “get there in GOOD time.” Whenever we arrive will be good.

Well, I’m writing this from Chicago’s Midway, and I need to tell you that I will get home in good time. We were supposed to board a flight at 4pm yesterday and be home before 6pm . However, after a two and a half hour cab ride (that should have been 25 minutes) stuck in a snowy blizzard, we discovered our flight had been cancelled and airport was closing. And to top it off, the next available flight was not until tomorrow at 3pm (today). So let me just tell you that the rest of the evening brought wrong hotels, missed reservations, lost reservations, hour-long shuttle rides (we had to stand and hold our bag and practically hug our fellow riders and our driver got lost trying to find a better way) broken, beeping fire alarms in the hotel room, and well…there’s more. So much more.

So, friends, I don’t know when I’ll get home. I’m hoping this evening. But all I can tell you is that I will be home in good time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sorry, special friend

I work for two departments. One had its Christmas party today. We each received red monogrammed aprons and got to celebrate the season by visiting special stations: the gingerbread-house-making table, the cookie-decorating table and the pretzel-dipping table. Our boss reserved a special room and turned it into our own little holiday workshop over the lunch hour. My other department will have its party next Friday night at my other boss’s house.

A few days ago, this boss called me into his office and told me that I was more than welcome to bring a "special friend" to the party. I thanked him but said I’d not be bringing a "special friend." He laughed and said he completely understood... that a work Christmas party is probably not the greatest date. I assured him that no, had I a "special friend," I’d bring him! I just didn’t have one. He said OK, but as long as I knew the invite was there. I walked back to my office and kind of laughed at the conversation, but then also frowned a little. It had reminded me that I do not have a "special friend."

And days before this happened, I had almost the exact same conversation with someone else. I was invited to this gracious person’s house for dinner, and she wanted to make sure I knew that I could "bring a guest." (Grandma? Mom? Brother? Anyone? Anyone? My stuffed monkey?) I told her thank you, but it’d be just me.

These two people were being incredibly nice and thoughtful, and I very much appreciate it. It's just never fun having to say out loud: I AM ALONE. SOLO. JUST ME. UNO. But I do have to smile realizing that when that "special friend" comes along...bless his soul...he’s going to be going everywhere with me! I’ll go around saying...You see him?
Feel him! He’s real.
And isn’t he tall and handsome?!
I know. Those eyes. Can you believe them?
Isn’t he just the most special friend you ever did meet?
And he is thrilled—positively thrilled—to be at this here work function with me right now.

I should apologize to him right now.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

O Little Town of Bethlehem

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel for work. I visited the Holy Land days after Christmas and during some free time on a Sunday morning, I took a cab to the border with another woman on the trip. We crossed over into Palestine, which is where Bethlehem is.

Prior to this day, my vision of Bethlehem had been that of Christmas cards. A deep midnight blue sky with one bright shining star illuminating a quiet stable with nice-smelling animals. Jesus in a very comfortable manger. A calm, peaceful, tranquil setting. O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie!

Once through the bullet-riddled checkpoint, my Bethlehem quickly vanished. Today the town is crowded, smelly, filled with horns honking, people yelling. And I could not find the stable anywhere. I felt anything but calm as I tugged the large scarf I had bought to cover my head tighter around my face. I knew that the Bethlehem in my mind was not the Bethlehem, and yet I could not help but be blindsided by the contrast between my version and the real version (this trip has ruined my version of Christmas...like someone telling a four year old that there is no Santa! I thought.) We took another cab to a church smack dab in the center of Bethlehem. I had plans to interview the pastor, but we were also going to take in a church service.

Thanks to the throngs of people who used the roads for walking and biking, not driving, our cab arrived late. We snuck into the sanctuary a few minutes after the service had begun. It was all in Arabic. It took a few moments for me to get settled in...to take off my scarf, get comfortable, and find my place in the bulletin. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks for getting to the church safely. Unwinding, I began listening to the familiar Christmas carols being sung in a language I did not know. I looked up at bright, sparkling stained glass windows. I looked at the people around me. The air was calm and peaceful. We were singing about Jesus where Jesus was born! And we were offering thanks for His birth in multiple languages. And there, in that service, in that pew—even though it was craziness outside—I felt it. Simplicity. There you are, I thought to myself...the Bethlehem I envision and long for.

A coworker this morning took a deep sigh and said she was tired. So tired. I thought she meant from work stuff, so I asked what project she was working on. She shook her head and said no, that it was everything else. The hosting, the cooking, the running around and shopping, the traffic. I concurred. Having taken cookies out of the oven at 11pm last night for a holiday work function today, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

It felt like the Bethlehem in my head versus the real Bethlehem. What Christmas should be, and the Christmas we actually participate in.

I know that my version of Bethlehem is naïve. Even two thousand years ago when Jesus was born, Bethlehem was not idyllic. But its simplicity is the stuff of Christmas. Likewise, I know December will always be busy. There will always be more hosting and baking and shopping and errand-running than normal. But Jesus was inside that Bethlehem church. And He is the peace that my coworker and me want.

A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth
Luke 2: 11-14

Friday, December 05, 2008

The traffic report

I’ve recently taken to traffic reports. I need to know what’s going on. Am I going to have a longer commute? And if so, why exactly and where exactly? This is a recent phenomenon. I turn the radio on in the morning, and as I’m getting ready, catch myself making faces in the mirror...backed up for four miles? Scrunchy face and nose. Or ice on overpasses. Rolling of the eyes...tell me something I didn’t know.

And I have to admit, I find great satisfaction when the hold ups do not include my freeway or affect me, but rather those poor suckers down in Burnsville or Eden Prairie (or Apple Valley, a shout out to Hey! Your Blinker’s On at heyyourblinkerson.blogspot.com ). Ha! Glad it’s not me, I think to myself as I smilingly continue on my merry 70-mph way.

Within weeks, I’ve become addicted. I feel completely unawares if I do not have my morning commute information fix. Yesterday I was warned before I left the house that a semi truck carrying live pigs—as in oink oink—had overturned on my route. And in fact, pigs were running loose. As you can imagine, traffic was stopped, wondering: why did the hog cross the road? So I smartly took a round-about way, feeling very proud of myself for tuning in to the traffic report.

But other times, most of the time, there’s simply no way around the hold up, no short cuts. Ya just gotta go through it...slowly. There are only a couple places along my daily commute where there’s detour potential. Otherwise, it’s a straight shot down the freeway, so if there’s any commotion, I’m screwed.

There were three accidents on my way to work this morning. And a huge one on the same freeway going the other way—in fact, they had to airlift someone from that site. And ridiculously, as I sat in the parking lot they call 694 this morning, I couldn’t help but smile and nearly wave to my next-door driver because I had listened to the traffic report. Good thing! I mean, I knew exactly what was going on and where, and it had gotten me really far! Right next to the driver who hadn't listened to the report.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Not a recent arrival

Why didn’t anyone tell me that the key to my life is in the basement at Book Smart on Hennepin Avenue? More specifically in a book about Capricorns on the “Recent Arrivals” rack.

Last week a friend and I moseyed through the used bookshops of Uptown, one of my alltime favorite things to do. Almost simultaneously we found the books. One on Capricorns (I’m one) and one on Tauruses (he’s one). For the next 10 minutes, we found exactly what we’ve been looking for over the past 27 years: who we are, what we should do for love and success, and what’s going to happen next. Greedy astrologers with wide eyes, we excitedly told each other what the pages in our respective books revealed—practically EVERYTHING.
Like the fact that Capricorns are organized and disciplined. (true, too true)
I should wear classic dresses like Katherine Hepburn if I'm trying to attract men. (ok)
My spirit is moved by Latin music. (haha, what?!)
I’m a saver, or some level of a tight-ass. (true)
Orlando Bloom shares my birthday, and Dolly Parton is a Capricorn too!
My friend learned that he has a weakness in his throat, among other things.
We took all of these things to heart for exactly zero seconds, and tried to keep our laughter to a minimum in the quiet basement of books.

But I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to actually have a book with truth about the future because over the past few weeks, a fear about the future has been lingering closer to my heart than normal. Yesterday, I sat at a work meeting with a new coworker. She asked how I got to be where I am. I then proceeded to relay to her how over the course of a year or so, I got from California to Minnesota, from editor to nanny to freelancer, back to editor plus grad student, and in a chair in my very own office, not to mention in a townhome that I own. Her response? “Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

Ha! Yes. Yes it is. And I thought to myself how silly I am to forget, to worry about my future. Hasn’t the past taught me anything? And I do have a book (not a recent arrival) with hope, assurance and direction.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

And no, God’s plans are not very clear sometimes, but c’mon. Neither is trying to attract members of the opposite sex by wearing Katherine Hepburn dresses.

Monday, December 01, 2008

No sun, no Bob

This morning on the way to work, I was flipping through stations and "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison was on 104.1. I couldn’t listen to it. It seemed wrong. I flipped to Cities 97. I listened to them talk for a while, and then Bob Marley came on. That too felt wrong...and I love Marley! On to 101.3 (which means I'm digging deep) and Jesse McCartney’s "no stress no stress no stress" was on. Wrong.

All of those songs feel like summer to me. I should be wearing a tank top and rocking out to them with the windows rolled down, not bundled with a scarf and mittens, and snow falling outside. Landon Pigg’s "Falling in Love at the Coffee Shop" feels OK. Or anything by Damien Rice or Dido or Bon Iver. Those are appropriate. Those feel winterish to me.

And Hem and Nickel Creek are fall. Definitely fall.

This mirrors the sermon in church yesterday. Pastor talked about how some people don’t like listening to Christmas carols during advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas in the church calendar). Maybe it’s not that they dislike it, but they feel it’s wrong. You should not sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" until Christmas Eve. The angels do not herald until Jesus is born. (But how awful! I mean, I snuck in my Sarah McLachlan Christmas album a week before Thanksgiving! I didn't even wait until December.)

I think we also reserve Christmas spirit/giving for the month of December. It’s generally when people are most giving. Thoughtfulness abounds! When I worked at the coffee shop (unfortunately not the one where Landon Pigg fell in love), tips were always better in December. During the weeks before Christmas, people pack shoeboxes of goodies for needy children through Operation Christmas Child. They adopt boys and girls and families to give gifts or food to. They volunteer extra time at food pantries. They drop quarters in the Salvation Army buckets. What if a Salvation Army worker were waving their bell in the middle of August in front of Wal-Mart? Weird!
Can you imagine gift-giving in June? Multiple family gatherings in April? Time-consuming, but oh-so-yummy sweets complete with red hots in May? Not so much. Not so often. If people walked around in the month of February with the same childish grin on that they wear during the holiday season, we’d think something was wrong with them--sadly.

The point to yesterday’s sermon was that actually we do have reason to celebrate. We can hark now. We don’t need to wait four more weeks. And maybe during all the days of 2009—not just those in December—we should try to act a little more holiday-ish. I mean, maybe not put up the Christmas tree and lights, but put others first. Give random gifts. Volunteer for an extra shift. Make some cookies and bring them next door. We shouldn't pack away our kindness and pleasant attitude with our ornaments.

But I’m still not gonna sing "everything little thing’s gonna be alright..." while it’s snowing out. Sorry, Bob.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bestest day

I smiled when my alarm went off this morning. It’s my absolute favorite day of the year. Thanksgiving Eve. As I give people an explanation, I can feel the child in me coming out, and maybe that’s why it’s my favorite day. It renders me giddy and excited like a child. Yesterday, I found myself telling coworkers—with my hands clasped and a big grin on my face—the day before Thanksgiving is just the greatest day ever!

In my opinion, the day holds anticipation of all things festive. It’s almost time for turkey, but not quite yet. It’s almost time to get a Christmas tree, but not quite yet. It’s almost time to whip out the Christmas decorations and music, but not quite yet (some have broken this rule). Recipes are laid out ready to be made. People are generally in good moods. It’s usually a pretty easy day at work (I’m only working a half day, and I think the lack of traffic indicates many are not working at all!). When I lived in Cali, it meant that going home was just around the corner. The warmth and comfort of mom and dad and those who know you...so close. In some strange way, I wish this day lasted longer than 24 hours so that everything the holiday season brings was still ahead of us.

In Minneapolis it’s a clear, 19-degree morning, and I am thankful for today, my favorite day. I’m thankful for my wonderful friend who I am grabbing sushi with tonight. I’m thankful that I’m close to my family all the time now. I’m thankful that I will have a turkey dinner and will crawl into bed tomorrow with a full belly. I’m thankful for good health. I’m thankful for my brother, my job and my new home. For good music, piping-hot coffee, scarves made by best friends, and Angel perfume. For friends who are going to have babies and friends who are going to get married.

I think of those dear friends who I will not get to see this season, but who mean so much to me. Of my grandpa who I continue to miss. I also think of those who are hurting. For them, today isn’t the bestest day but rather just another day of surgery, tears, fears, uncertainty.

The heart hopes for what’s ahead in anticipation. So, today, my favorite day, no matter where you are geographically or in life, I pray you are filled with hope.

And be giddy! Because today is the day before Thanksgiving, the bestest day EVER!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You said it

With a Trader Joe’s gift certificate, I purchased staples. Peanut butter and jelly. Trail mix. Soup. Cheese. I walked up to the register, put down my basket and began rummaging through my purse for my wallet carrying the gift card as the guy at the register started taking out my groceries to swipe across the counter. Suddenly I hear "oh, mmm, pb and j!" I looked up to see the guy excitedly looking at me, smiling. "Uh, yes," I said. I wasn’t sure if it felt like an accusation, like, you’re an adult still eating pb&j?

Ok. Back to getting my wallet ou... "Ohhh, parm!" I looked up. There he was again. Smiling. "Yes, parmesan cheese, thank you, very much." These exchanges continued for each of my eight to 10 items. I know what I got! You don’t need to tell me! I felt exposed. Like, somehow, this guy not just knowing my staples, but SAYING them out loud was revealing something about me. That, yes, I still eat pb&j. I also eat tomato soup. What if I had had tampons I wonder? I almost felt the need to justify what I was purchasing. Look, dude, yes, sometimes I eat Trader O’s (tj’s version of Cheerios) for dinner but not a lot!

Anyways, I know people say actions speak louder than words. And I agree. But I also think words hold some strange, solidifying potion or something. Isn’t it funny how certain things aren’t real until you say them, and then you almost wish you hadn’t said them. Putting words to feelings or emotions and then putting voice to those words somehow solidifies them. They’re no longer able to just disappear in the corners of our thoughts or heart. They’ve turned into solid objects that have to be held. To be dealt with. You said them, someone heard, and they can now hold you accountable.

When I’m dating someone I always know things are about to go downhill fast when I hear myself say, "welllll..." And then proceed to say something that is not-so-great about this person or maybe a realization about my feelings (or lack thereof). There’s no turning back. I admitted it. I said it. I’d been thinking it for awhile, but hadn’t voiced it.

And then there have been numerous times in my life when I’m struggled to hold it all together. On the outside it may appear that I’m totally cool, but inside I’m a total stress ball. And then finally, some lucky person gets to hear me say--yell--hey, I’m so busy I can’t see straight, and it’s too much!!!
There. I’m revealed. It’s been said. Said, said and said.
(like "bomb on an airplane. Bomb bomb bomb...bomb bomb bomb.")

I have no earth-shattering conclusions about this phenomenon. Just contemplating it as I thought about Mr. Trader Joe man "Ohhhh, soup. Ohhhh, milk."

Ohhhh, stop. Just gimme my contest coupon for using my own cloth bag and my pb and j and I'll be on my way.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Driving in this stuff

I just read a news article about the National Weather Service trying to figure out why so many people don’t listen to meteorologists when, for example, they say there is a winter warning and people should stay in.

Are you kidding me? Do we really need research done on this? It’s because meteorologists don’t know! They’re wrong often because it’s the weather! They can make educated guesses but no one ever knows. How often has the picnic gotten rained on? Or the sun amazingly stayed out when you were expecting thunderstorms? And in Minnesota, if we heeded every weather warning, we’d never see the light of day. So, we throw our boots in the trunk and head out shopping or to the Wild game, even if we’re told there’s a good chance we’re in for seven inches of snow.

There are usually some pretty serious warnings in life as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure if there were life sirens, they would be constant (how awful! the little ticker on the bottom of the TV saying BEEP BEEP BEEP: ALL COUNTIES EVERYWHERE, TAKE COVER BECAUSE FEELINGS COULD POTENTIALLY GET HURT, AND THIS WARNING WON'T EVER EXPIRE). We know relationships are hard. We know loss cuts—deep. Words can leave scars. Moves are scary. Change is like...I don't know...a hail storm. But, we grab our umbrellas and we love. We put on our mittens and we try to forgive. We put sunscreen on and show compassion. We keep going.

And as we do this, God’s the weather. We know certain things, and we can make some predictions on the basis of these things. He loves. He is good. But there’s so much we just don’t know. That seven-day forecast is a joke! Some days the sun is shining so brightly... and it really shouldn’t be. And other days the lightning strikes without warning. But we hop in the car and go because if we didn’t, we’d miss out on a concert, time with friends, a good meal.

The news article I read said that Minnesota’s incoming winter weather leaves us all wondering: how the heck do you drive in this stuff? Well, yes. That’s a great question, but I think the key is that you drive, period.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Everything that has breath...

Well, it’s Friday. And, we all know it’s pretty much the greatest day ever. I’m having a difficult time stringing together meaningful thoughts about any one thing (which could pose a problem today at work) after a long week. A week that has caused me to wonder on more than one occasion if at a certain point your brain says, no...no more...you can not fill me any more...no more lists...no more deadlines...done.

I do have one more list in me before the week ends: Things that have momentarily taken my breath away recently.

>> Last night’s wind! With a temp of 11, I assure you that north wind was brutal! And can you believe that at about 10pm driving home, I saw a guy driving a jeep—one that’s all open with no windows or doors or anything. He was wearing a hat and goggles. Gloves and coat. And then his legs were wrapped up in a plaid blanket.

>> I always go into the first stall in the public bathroom. It’s a known fact that this is the least-used stall. (But, if everyone knows that, it’s probably not true anymore.) Anyways, while using the first stall in the restroom this week, I suddenly hear a beep beep beeping coming from behind my behind. And I jump...what the heck? Well, now we have self-cleaning toilets. Check it out at my friend’s blog.

>> In class, as part of a discussion on peace and violence, we watched a 16-minute clip from the movie "To End All Wars." The image of one man giving his life for another has not left my mind. And as I watched it, I lost my breath—and covered my eyes for a bit! I've not seen the movie in its entirety, but need to soon.

>> I heard of a woman who has been told she has two months max to live. She is now in the process of saying goodbye to friends and family. She’s finishing quilts for all of her grandchildren and will go spend her remaining days in the nursing home with her husband. The finality of this situation makes me gasp for air. And it’s precisely why I do NOT want to live for Fridays (see previous post)!

>> I laughed really really hard with my brother and some friends. So hard that my stomach started hurting and I couldn’t breathe...the best kind.

I was reading Psalm 116 yesterday morning. And, like my mind is prone to do, it wandered. Hmmm...Psalm 116. I wonder what the longest Psalm is? What’s the shortest Psalm? And did David ever contemplate how long or short his Psalms were when he wrote them? How much editing of his Psalms did he do before he decided, yup, this is good. I flipped to the end of Psalms wondering how many Psalms there were...150? Yup. That’s right. 150. I knew that, I thought to myself, and then I read the very last verse of Psalm 150, of THE Psalms.

"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord." Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The day that never ends

“this is the day that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends…some people started singing it...”

Last night I gave myself a pep talk about today. I knew it was going to be a doozy. It started with a 7:30a.m. meeting. And it will end about 11p.m. when I get home from class, which includes a group presentation.

The thing is I never want to just make it through a day, or an hour, or even a minute. And yet, I do this all the time. Get to Friday and then it’s the weekend, I tell myself. Get to 4:30pm and then I can go home. Get through my run and then I can EAT! Get through whatever, and then I can....do more whatever.

I know not everything can be crazy fun, and you always want to be looking forward to something, but I think having the “just make it through” attitude incites crabbiness because inevitably the meeting goes too long, and 4:30pm does not come quickly and dangit, my tummy is growling!

So, there’s gotta be a happy medium. Not scarily wearing a joker-grin to my 7:30am meeting or my group presentation because it’s just-so-much-fun-and-I-can’t-think-of-anything-I’d-rather-be-doing but also not just going through the motions.

My early meeting was nothing spectacular, but the sunrise I caught on the drive to the meeting was. And my group presentation is not going to be all that funny or entertaining, but the email I got from a classmate about our presentation was. In fact, I laughed out loud. Little things helping me maintain a happy medium, I guess.

“...not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue singing it forever because this is the day that never ends...”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's 11-year-old

It’s called the "safe haven law."

In every state you can drop off your infant (under one year) at a hospital and walk away, never to return, and no legal action will be taken against you for abandonment.

Nebraska decided to pass this law back in July, only they forgot to stipulate an age. Actually, they didn’t forget. They thought it’d be a good idea to extend the law to include all minors. So you can actually drop your child off—1 year old or 17 years old—at the hospital and walk (probably run) away.

Well, today an 11-year-old boy was left in an Omaha hospital by his father. He’s the 31st one in the state since the law took effect.

Can you imagine? I heard about this on the radio this morning and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head—an 11-year-old standing alone in a cold hospital hallway knowing that his parents just left him. That they couldn’t love him enough, or fight for him enough, or care enough, to keep him. Or maybe it was that they loved him too much or cared too much and they thought he could be better--do better--somewhere else? But does he know that’s what they were thinking? Who is going to feed him dinner tonight? Where is he going to sleep tonight? He was from Florida, and now he’s in Nebraska. Does he have a coat? It hurts too much to think about these details.

I told a friend recently that sometimes I feel absolutely overwhelmed by all the things and people that I could pray for. I feel bad that I forget to pray sometimes about certain things. And he said he sometimes feels bad that he falls asleep while praying. Yeah, that too! But he suggested that maybe we are to pray about those things that we think about praying for and not stress about the ones we forget. The ones we think about are obviously, truly on our heart.

So, today I’ve been praying for that 11-year-old boy. And I know there’s a trillion gajillion other awful, horrible things going on as I write this, and the people involved in those things could probably use a little praying for too, but for me, today, it’s the abandoned 11-year-old.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can't believe you DON'T hunt

I feel like I’d be remiss in not addressing what has now taken over Minnesota: hunting.

On the freeway Sunday night, I was passed by a red minivan with a deer strapped to the roof. They had tried to cover it up, but the thing’s four hooves were sticking out the back, and the wind had blown the blue tarp over leaving the carcass visible to passersby. It reminded me a little bit of the movie "Harry and the Hendersons." My brother and I used to watched a taped-from-tv VHS version of this movie when we were little, and one scene is of the Henderson family in their station wagon with a thought-to-be-dead big foot—Harry—on the roof.

I had the most basic cable installed on Saturday afternoon (so that my dad and bro will actually come over on Thanksgiving). In chatting to the Comcast guy, he told me he was trying to hurry up and finish his jobs for the day so that he could head up north to hunt for the rest of the weekend. I’ve never seen anyone work so fast.

A friend of mine proudly told me via email earlier this week that he shot a doe. I jokingly asked him what that meant and then sarcastically said that I really couldn’t believe he hunted. To which he sarcastically responded:
"I took a 308 winchester semi-automatic rifle and fired one round (bullet) from a tree stand 98 yards away (the length of a football field) into the neck of a female odocoileus virginianus (North American White-Tailed Deer) dropping it where it stood and not disturbing (shooting) any of the delicious venison (deer meat) chops, loins, steaks, and trim. In addition, the excellent marksmanship left the hide (skin) unblemished (unshot), which will result in a much higher quality glove or mitten. The trim will be made into mouthwatering veni-sticks... i can't believe you DONT hunt."

Today’s front page of the local newspaper had a story about dozens of hunters getting fined or having their guns confiscated for baiting deer. Now, I’m not sure that these people can really be called hunters, but whatever you call them, they violated the "code of fair chase." And do you know that 76 people commented on the online article? Someone simply said: "gun-toting nitwits," and 43 of the 115 people who viewed this comment liked it.

In this past Sunday’s ad for a local wholesale supply store was a red shot shell mailbox for only $79.99. Enough said on that one.

Anyways, I cracked myself up this morning, as I imagined deer hiding in the woods, watching these baiters laying out...I imagined kernels of corn, but pretty sure that’s not what they use...and then suddenly scaring the crap out of the hunters by jumping out from behind trees and chasing them all.

NOW who’s baiting?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Unique. Who, me? Yes, you!

"Do you want to write a book?"
I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is yes. Yes and no.
Yes, I do. But no, because I’m afraid. As a writer I can’t think of anything worse than someone picking up a book that I have written and saying that it could have been written by anyone, or that the ideas, the tone, the plot—whatever—are not new or unique.

So, after I tell people that yes, I would like to write a book, they then ask what about, and I fumble around. Err...uh...well...I really don’t know. Because I really don’t. (On a recent date the dude was like, ‘oh you so know, you’re just not telling me.’ Um. No. I really don’t!)

I think this illustrates an addiction we all have. An addiction to be unique, to be known, to be loved for who we are with all our oddities. It’s why I dislike that there is always another Heather on the waiting list at the restaurant (and using my last name—son of John—is even worse!). It’s why I thought the world had ended when I showed up at my junior prom in what my friend coined the "wow" dress only to discover that someone else was wowing in the very same dress. And I was recently told by someone that they swear I’m twins with their sister-in-law. This is not a good thing. I want to be unique! I don’t want to look like anyone else.

But I think it’s true: there’s nothing new under the sun. If I do write a book, maybe I’ll mix and match words a little differently, but whatever I’m saying will probably have already been said before. And guess what, someone out there is probably wearing the same Target sweater I’m wearing today. And someone maybe has eyes that look like mine.

This got me wondering if the only thing unique about us is that we find others unique. We are only particular through our connections and relationships with others. Striving to be unique through worldly things...clothes, writing, my possessions, my career, even my name, will inevitably render me common. How can it not? Have you seen how many books are out there?! How many bookstores?!

My unique-ness is only reflected through my relationships with others. The others who know that I pick out my clothes the night before, that I can quote—nearly in entirety—"Home Alone," "Christmas Vacation," and "The Burbs," that just because I’m not a huge fan of animals, I’m still a compassionate soul! That I eat frozen semi-sweet chocolate chips out of the bag and instant mashed potatoes whenever I can.

And I think it’s like this with God too. He finds me unique. At His restaurant, I’m the only one of me on His list. And guaranteed He’ll be at my book-signing, endorsing my words. When I remind myself that I’m already unique to God (I don't have to do anything), it frees me up. I stop being so concerned about trying to be known to others through worldly things and spend more time getting to know others and enjoying their uniqueness (oddities).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Steal of a deal

"A can of mushrooms here is only 58 cents?!"

"And look, they have low-sodium diced tomatoes and bread flour!"

"Check this out, their cheese is 14 cents cheaper a bag."

"Mom, can you believe this? I just paid $1 more for this at Byerly’s."

"No, Heather, I can’t. And I just paid 77 cents more for a bag of pecans at Target."

This is me and my mom at Wal-mart this past Wednesday night at 11pm. Yes. 11pm. And yes. We can tell you exactly how much we pay—down to the cent—for specific groceries at various stores.

I have never shopped at Wal-mart at 11pm, but I now highly recommend. Why we were there at that time is a long story (it involves red hots). Neither of us shop at Wal-mart—we’re Targetters—but as we quickly walked through the store to get to the one aisle we needed to purchase the ONE item we needed, our steps began to slow. Our eyes, like automated scanners, began to take in the prices lining the shelves. We were distracted by the crazy low numbers and specific items that our regular grocery-shopping places do not carry. And we both began to map out in our minds how we could change our weekly shopping routine to incorporate Wal-mart and its rollback prices. Next thing I knew we had a cart, and were filling it with stuff because, I mean, how could we not?! The brown sugar was a whole 33 cents cheaper than what we usually pay.

We are suckers for deals, even at 11pm. Which is why before leaving Wal-mart, we ended up hitting almost every single aisle. And the one item turned into far more than the allowed "express lane" number.

But I have to tell you about the best deal I ever got: my mom. Today is her birthday, and here is why she is such a deal. I pay nothing and get everything—unconditional love, forgiveness, understanding, encouragement, smiles, a friendship. I don’t even need a coupon, and if I did, it wouldn’t have an expiration date. It’s a steal of a deal, really. Happy Birthday, momma.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


November 6, and I struggle to remember summer—only weeks past. July nights when the sky isn’t completely dark until 10pm. The smell of freshly cut grass. Muggy mornings. Tank tops and swimsuits. Sunburned cheeks and shoulders. All those things seem so hard to imagine now as I look outside and see only a few brown leaves that haven’t yet fallen. There are only empty branches, and even these I can only see until about 4:45pm before it starts getting dark! I can only feel the crisp, chilly wind, whispering that winter is just around the corner, and I can only smell smoke from chimneys.

This phenomenon carries over into my personal life. I have a hard time envisioning anything outside the particular season I’m in. Having been single now for quite some time, I can’t imagine having a boyfriend, or a husband and family for that matter. It seems so far-fetched. So foreign. So impossible. I know others have been sick for a long time, and they can’t envision living life in a healthy state. I have a friend who has been stuck in a sucky job, and try as she might, hasn’t been able to land a good one. A perfect, better job is getting so hard to imagine. So unreal.

But even though I can’t imagine it right now, as I’m getting out my mittens and scarves, I know summer will return. The grass will be green again, the lake water warm. I’ve seen proof (27 times!). I will run around Lake Calhoun when it’s 90 degrees, and I will drink sangria on Solera’s rooftop in a sundress. And the same thing happens in the seasons of life. Good or bad, lengthy or short, the seasons change. Some will require a little more bundling up; Others may be more carefree. But good or bad, changes in season are inevitable (unless you live in So-cal. I don’t care what they say or how many turtlenecks they wear in 60-degree weather!).

Genesis 1:14-19
“God said, ‘I command lights to appear in the sky and to separate day from night and to show the time for seasons, special days, and years. I command them to shine on the earth.’ And that’s what happened. God made two powerful lights, the brighter one to rule the day and the other to rule the night. He also made the stars...to separate light from darkness...Evening came and then morning.”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Land of the notified, fed and free

On Saturday I received notification in the mail from my community’s police department that a third-level sex offender (the most likely to re-offend) was moving into my neighborhood. We were given this offender’s name and photo. We were also invited to a community meeting held on Sunday evening. Present were police, corrections officers and other experts offering advice, answering questions and disseminating as much information as they legally could to the 150 or so of us residents. The situation is less-than-ideal, and to be honest, the meeting only made me more anxious, but as I listened to people voice their concerns, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful that I live in a country in which I’m notified and informed in a timely manner about these things! We received letters, photos, meetings, etc. I appreciate this!

Last night a friend and I went to my church and packaged food that will be sent to starving children in Haiti. The church is hoping to send 1 million meals total. As I (with a hair net on) poured heaping spoonfuls of dried vegetables into a funnel leading into a small plastic bag, I felt blessed to live in a country that doesn’t have such a food shortage, and even more, has the resources to actually give food away. As my friend and I filled bags, we discussed how late LeeAnn Chin’s was open and if Chipotle or Noodles & Co. would be better for dinner. Oh, how lucky we are!

And this morning, I stood in line, coffee in hand, at my precinct’s polling station and cast a vote in the presidential election. The process was simple, safe, organized, and for me as a woman, legal! Again, I’m thankful. This is not the case in so many places.

I know lots of people will be upset this evening as polling results come in, but I hope we remember that no matter who our leader is, we have much to be thankful for.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who let the dogs out?

I just got done running. If you live in Minnesota and have not been outside this evening soaking up the late-October warmth, you are crrrrazy, and you’re also probably the only one. Everyone—and their dogs—was out. And something that always makes me laugh are the owners who cannot control their dogs. I came upon a woman, probably in her upper 50s. Red quilted vest, white turtleneck. Black, tapered jeans and white old-school Reeboks. The poor woman could barely hold onto her dog. I think it was a boxer, but admittedly, I’m not good with dogs, so am not sure. The dog (it was black and white) was practically dragging her into the lake. When I finally reached her, the leash was blocking the pathway, and she looked at me like “sorry, so sorry.” Then I curved around a bend, and there was a younger guy standing there telling his brown dog to sit. And I swear the dog was just rolling its eyes back at him. The thing would not sit. It just kind of kept wandering around in circles.

But what’s funny is I always think stupid owner!. Like Are you for real? Get a hold of your dog! And it suddenly dawned on me tonight, it’s not the owner that’s stupid! It’s the dog! And then, I realized that I’m like the dog!

I am so easily distracted. I let my schedule, money, people, even the weather, dictate my mood and my direction and how I’ll spend my time. God’s just standing their patiently, waiting (the metaphor breaks down here because He does not have a leash. sometimes I wish He did because I go all over the place.) When I let worldly things determine me, I get tired, oh so tired. Probably like the dog trying to fight his leash. It's much more fun and smooth and pleasant when I let heavenly things guide.

A side note: Some of my friends and me have a theory. Guys (without rings) walking their dogs are very good things for the single girl passing them. Why? Because if they have a dog, chances are they are at least somewhat responsible. I mean they obviously have to feed something else and open the door every now and then to let their pup go to the bathroom. And it probably means they are financially OK, at least enough to buy food and take their dog to the vet. And, if they’re walking—running is even better—their dog, they might be in shape. But I think we need to add a caveat. They have to be in control of their dog! I, unfortunately, didn't see any of these good things tonight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I just emailed a friend and used the phrase: "Now, I’ve gotten myself into a pickle." And by this I mean in a quandary, or a position I’d rather NOT be in.

But how did that turn into being IN a pickle? What came to mind was something a coworker was just telling me yesterday. She used to cater for a living, and the hardest thing to cater was appetizers. They were very time-consuming and intricate. One thing they used to do was carve a little tunnel through cucumbers, then jam carrots (ideally very straight ones) into those tunnels. Then slice the cucumbers and voila...you got yourself pretty orange and green appetizers. So, that could make sense, "like a carrot, I’ve gotten myself into a pickle." Except sometimes getting ourselves into pickles is really quick and easy, unfortunately. But still, you could say, "I’ve jammed myself into a pickle."

But actually, the phrase was first known in Dutch by about 1561: "In di pekel zitten." It referred to the pickling liquid made from brines and vinegar that is used to preserve food—like pickles. One does not want to be stuck in it. And the first to actually put the phrase in print was—obviously—Shakespeare in The Tempest.

I have been in such a pickle since I
saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of
my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.

I don’t have time at the moment to dig anymore, but I’d really like to know what exactly fly-blowing is now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Borrow Mine

I think of things like courage, strength, endurance and faith in terms of the individual. Like, every person has their own ideal amount of these things, and we’re all little hamsters running, running, running on a wheel trying to get more of those things. We just never quite get enough. We never generate enough to reach the ideal amount, but dangit, we’re going to try our darndest to pull up our own bootstraps and go it alone.

But at church Sunday night, a song made me think of these things in a different way. Sort of shifted my paradigm. What if there’s one set amount of things like courage, strength, endurance, faith, for ALL of humanity. And that set amount is inherently enough. There is just the right amount of all those things here already. It’s just that at different points in time, different people have more of certain ones while others have less. And that means, in order to do life we need to share, to borrow.

It’s a simple concept...when I have too many tears, I need friends who have the smiles and can afford to hold my tears. And if my friends are struggling to reach that finish line, struggling to hold on to their faith and their hope, well, I better be ready to hand over some of mine, knowing that I’ll need it back some day. It’s just so often I’m too proud to receive or too selfish to give. I'm too busy running on that hamster wheel.

God tells us that we do, in fact, have all we need. We don’t need to somehow produce more. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11

"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done..."

And we better give what we get.
"He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God."

Maybe some of you know the song that prompted this line of thinking for me.
"You Can Borrow Mine":

Take my hand and walk with me a while
Cause it seems your smile has left you
And don't give in, when you fall apart
And your broken heart has failed you
I'll set a light up
On a hilltop
To show you my love
For this world to see

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Right here, right now

I saw Bill Maher’s movie “Religulous”* last week, and I laughed—out loud—numerous times. The thing is though, Bill Maher has very legitimate questions; unfortunately, he went to zero legitimate sources and received zero legitimate answers. The guy dressed as Jesus at The Holy Land Experience, at Orlando's DisneyWorld, asked Maher if he wouldn’t rather just believe and be safe rather than sorry at the end of the world. Basically operate on the side of caution. You can just about imagine Maher’s response. And as a person who follows Jesus (not the one at the Holy Land Experience), I think this is such a lame response or offer. It’s a pay now—results later mentality. And who wants that? For Americans especially, we live in a right-now society. We want communication, answers, food, money RIGHT NOW. We have drive-throughs for cash, pizza, coffee, prescriptions, even alcohol—at least in Wisconsin and Mississippi. We're like Veruca Salt on "Willy Wonka": Give it to me rrrright NOW!
So what about the offer of operating on the side of caution for the rest of your life just in case it may pay off years from now sounds remotely appealing?

I’m reading the book Wholly Jesus written by my pastor in California, Mark Foreman. He says, “...rather than offering to get people into heaven with the real results to come later, Jesus’ offer concerns itself primarily with getting heaven into people and thus transforming culture now.”

And notice he says Jesus’ offer, because I don’t think it’s the offer of many churches or pastors out there right now. Sadly. But anyways, I believe Jesus’ is a results-now operation. It’s not just about heaven later. It’s about heaven now! I believe following Jesus changes things right here, right now. So, to the Jesus at the Holy Land Experience I say: LAME.

* “Religulous” is a documentary written by and starring political comedian Bill Maher. Rated R, the film is a satirical look at organized religion and religious belief. Maher interviews a U.S. Senator, a Muslim British rapper, and a Catholic priest, among many others, including the Jesus at the Holy Land Experience. So far, it’s made more than $9 million at the box office.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The double, triple or quadruple posting of election signs in yards is like all caps in emails. Most recently I received an email from the security department where I go to school. It was about getting updated parking permits. GET YOUR PERMIT NOW. STOP BY OFFICE. Ah! Ok! I mean I felt like if I didn’t get it within minutes, something horribly awful would happen to me or my car.

So goes posting of election signs.

Ok. I got it. One sign is good. Why do you need three of the same sign in your yard?

But then again, I guess if someone steals one of ‘em, you’re good to go. Like the campaign helper who was eating breakfast at the Maple Grove Perkins and saw out the window, across the street, someone pulling up all the signs supporting this particular campaign helper’s candidate. And I have to wonder: First, did the guy finish his pancakes? And second, if you’re the person pulling up the signs, do you care if people see you? Do you care what people think? What do you do? Do you casually pretend like you’re investigating the shape of the sign, like you’re the sign patrol—just making sure all are in tip-top condition and if they’re not, well, you need to get rid of them. That way if someone asks, you say you’ll be back to replace it with a better one. Or do you not care? If someone asks, you just tell them where they can shove their vote.

And then there’s a friend of mine. She got home from work one night and saw a “Women for McCain” sign in her yard and thought it rather presumptuous of her roommate to put that up in their yard without asking. Well, actually her roommate was thinking the exact same thing! Neither one of them had put the sign up. So, does someone just go around and randomly place signs in yards? And when do they do this? In broad daylight? Late at night? The idea of someone setting their alarm for 3:30a.m. to post "Women for McCain" signs...

But, I watched one of my neighbors put up a second Obama sign yesterday in his yard. And I was thinking, oh, now I REALLY know you’re for Obama. That one sign wasn’t enough. I was still wondering who you’d vote for.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Keep passin' the candy

Last Thursday I had an all-day strategic planning retreat for one of my departments at work. We sat in a large classroom, at long tables forming a U shape. After lunch, someone started passing along the U a plastic Target bag of miscellaneous candy, Milky Ways, Twix, Peanut Butter Cups, etc. I passed it to the next person without taking any because I had just finished eating a cookie. When it got to the end of the U, the last person had to actually get up, cross the room behind the person speaking in front, and give the bag to the person at the beginning of the U. And what did that person do? Began passing it again! And I’m thinking, ok, I just said no about three minutes ago. I haven’t changed my mind! And some people had grabbed two or three pieces the first time, thinking they wouldn’t see the bag again, silly them. So, the bag was passed again. No, thanks. Still none for me. I passed it on and got up to go to the bathroom. I got back and guess what? The bag was going around for the third time. Are you kidding me? Thankfully others had noticed the absurdity of this and were smirking.
Sheesh. Enough with the candy! I hadn’t changed my mind.

But sometimes I do.

As I’ve been unpacking and organizing my belongings, I’ve come across pieces of clothing, books and movies that at one point in time, didn’t interest me. Some books I started and couldn’t get into. 10 pages in I knew it wasn’t working. I put it aside. But then a year later, I picked it up, started it, and interestingly, it sucked me in! I wanted to read it! And movies. You know those ones you saw once and thought it was so not what everyone hyped it up to be. But then you saw for a second time a couple months later and loved it. And maybe it was because the company in which you watched it was better. Or your mood was different. Something. And I was putting away some scarves last night. Many of them I didn’t wear for awhile, but now, for some reason, I’m wearing. I’m bringin’ ‘em back! Certain cds are the same way.

I love how different things speak to us, work for us, at different points in our life. My mind changes about them. Same thing happens for me in reading the Bible. Sometimes something I’ve read a trillion times falls on me like snowflakes. The snowflakes that because it’s so cold out, don’t go anywhere; they don’t melt. They just begin to cover you, softly, gently. Read another day, I wouldn’t have paused; the snowflakes would have immediately melted. But for some reason, that particular verse or chapter on that particular day is so unique and pretty. It hangs around long enough, like snowflakes, for me to see the twinkling white, crazy patterns.

Yesterday that verse was Psalm 46:10.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
I’ve heard and read and even sung this verse many a time. But I think because stillness is not something I’ve participated in over the past month—at all!—it struck me like it has never struck me before. Like cold snowflakes, they're stickin' right now.

So, I guess I’m thankful that the candy keeps getting passed around. I may change my mind and take a piece every now and then. That peanut butter cup may be callin' my name next time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You're 19

“Just say you’re 19.”

That’s what my 12-year-old cousin said last night as he was about to smuggle me into the local community center’s “teen center.” I was touched he actually thought I could pull that off, but as it turned out there wasn’t a bouncer. I was able to easily walk in, plop down on the leopard-print futon next to my cousin (and Godchild), grab a guitar and proceed to lose in Guitar Hero by no less than 70,000 points (which he found to be absolutely hysterical).

Then we hit up Old Country Buffet—OCB—my cousin’s favorite restaurant, which I had never been to. And if I have a choice, will never go to again.

It was fun to talk about how slushies coming out of your nose—because you were laughing too hard—would really hurt. And gross but hilarious to watch my cousin supposedly semi-swallow a noodle only to bring it back up. It didn’t dawn on me until this morning...I should have shared some stories of my own childhood. How his mom would sometimes get me laughing so hard, I’d wet my pants! How she and I would dance to Billy Ocean “HEY hey YOU you...get into my car!”

And a month or so ago, I hit up IKEA with my brother. We thought it’d be really funny to whip out my camera and take pictures of us role-playing in some of the perfectly decorated little showrooms. So we did. And yup. It was funny. And nope. I didn’t wet my pants. We were so not acting our age.

Age has been on my mind a lot lately though. I have felt older as opposed to younger, even though out with friends not too long ago, some boys asked if we had just graduated from high school. Um, yes, 10 years ago! And even though someone just recently guessed that I was 22. Nope. Try again.

I feel old because I’m celebrating friends’ 30th birthdays. And because I now have college reunions. Because some of my friends are on their second child. Because I work on a college campus teeming with 20 year olds. And because I realize that at my age, my parents were done having their children more than five years ago! I feel old because I have a mortgage and a 401k, and my brother’s graduating from college.

But my cousin reminded me last night that you don’t always have to act (or feel) your age. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t. “Just say you’re 19.” It’s fun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Swamp tromp

My dad and I attended a seminar on healthy marriages last week. I needed to go for school, and he was my date. The person presenting gave this metaphor: Dating and the actual act of getting married (the wedding) is like swimming in this beautiful, crystal-clear, cool pool. And then as soon as the wedding is done, someone comes and scoops you up out of that and places you in a scummy, warm, germ-, bug-, crud-infested pond where lots of things are lurking. The word “fester” comes to mind. And I hate that word.

Wow. So then if someone could tell me why I subject myself to horribly awkward dates? Do I really want to live in a festering pond the rest of my life?

But the festering is not reserved to marriages. For my class this week, I had to write an essay about a relationship—one that was broken or threatened and then through some form of reconciliation was brought back together. Or at the very least, the people involved came to terms with the situation and were able to move on. Immediately one particular relationship of mine came to mind. And I assure you, there was some nasty, mucky water there! And it still isn’t very clean. The things lurking include betrayal, lies, resentment, anger, hurt.

I spent about six years growing up in a town just outside of Memphis—5th through 10th grade. During a couple of those summers, I spent a week at church camp. The big activity of the week was the “Swamp Tromp,” which consisted of tromping through a muddy swamp in the backwoods of Tennessee. The idea—the madness to the method—was that we build trust amongst each other. The mud was thick and, at times, deep. You’d have to carefully watch the person in front of you to know where to go or not go. One step and the mud would be at your ankles. The next step, it’d be up to your belly button. Sometimes there’d be roots or branches to watch out for. You were in charge of letting the person behind you know what was going on before they took their next step. And there was a lot of hand-holding.

One year, however, there was no Swamp Tromp. The camp administrators realized that there were water moccasins (as in SNAKES, not shoes) in the mud or sometimes sitting off on the bank watching these skinny, twerpy teens meander through THEIR territory. And maybe they had always been there, but this particular year the snakes were exceptionally bad because the weather had been cooler, thus rendering the swamp cooler and snakes digging the coolness... The thought of it makes me shudder, but I was much luckier than the other kids because my dad was my youth pastor. So he was there. No one else had their dads! Not like he could have saved me, but still. (Somehow I don’t think anything about snakes was on the release form that parents signed. But my dad was participating in the madness so I guess it didn’t matter for me.)

Everyone was always so excited about that damn Swamp Tromp, and I secretly dreaded it. It was like the dark spot (literally) in the week of fun that was church camp. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to, and to save face, I acted just as excited as everyone else. You even had to bring special Swamp Tromp clothes because after you swamped they would never be worn again. And I’m kind of a clean person, so this was not fun to me. Purell was not going to help the situation. But I can clearly remember the feeling of relief when we got to the end of that swamp. I really wish I could have seen my face. We’d all go to the volleyball pits where there was a hose, and we’d play in the water and get all the nasty swamp guts off of us, or as much as we could anyways. It never truly went away. And I swear to you, we still smelled like swamp the next day. But it was a celebratory time. We had done it together. We had survived the Swamp Tromp. It was worth it! We didn’t get eaten alive by water moccasins. And now, on to the campfire with smores and funness!

Anyways, I think relationships sometimes are like swamp tromps. We want them and, to some extent, we’re excited about them, but then we are secretly afraid of them. Things lurking include insecurities, jealousy, fear. What if someone gets to know me, the real me, and doesn’t like me? What if I get hurt? What if I fail or they fail? What if I hurt them?

But there’s comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together. Paul says to the Ephesians, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (4:2). It cracks me up that he uses the word bearing—or something like it. Not “relishing,” but bearing. Not jump up and down and be excitedly happy all the time with each other, but endure. It’s not easy, and no one ever said it was, to be with one another. To walk through the swamp together. But there’s also great comfort in knowing that God is the hose continually washing us clean of the muck—the insecurities. The jealousies. The anger.

So, I know relationships are hard, but I do crave them. I do believe we were meant to be in them, to constantly be working on them, through them. Sometimes I don’t want to give in and open up. And yet, I desperately want others to give in and open up. We are meant to help lead each other through the swamp, murky as it may be. And I do pray that one day I’ll find someone to be my swamp partner (We can be Shrek ogres together).

Donkey: Pick me, pick me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good night, moon

I can remember riding in the back seat of the car at night when I was little. My head would rest against the window and I’d look up at the moon. I pondered how it could so easily follow us. Where ever we went, it came along. My dad could turn, speed up, slow down, go back. It didn’t matter, it was always in the same spot in the window. How did it do that?! I wondered. It didn’t help that there was a little segment on Sesame Street in which the moon was a cookie. How exactly did that work? You could take a bite out of it! I didn’t understand. Ernie, Bert, help me out here. Clearly, I was thinking way too much even as a child.

I thought about this last night as I drove home from a late movie. A friend called to tell me to look at the moon. It was gorgeous, and if not full, close to it. But as he told me this, I couldn’t see the moon. I was driving, and I strained my neck in all directions trying to see it. I couldn’t! (eyes back on the road, Heather!)

I knew it was there though. It was like a spotlight. If I didn’t need to let other cars know that I was on the road, pretty sure I could have driven home without my headlights on. It was so bright.

As I crawled in bed, I decided to leave the blinds pulled up (window is second-story) because again, even though I couldn’t see the moon, it’s light was there. It was shining in the window, creating pretty patterns of light on my comforter through the branches of a tree. I obviously was awake for maybe a total of two minutes to enjoy this, but it felt good falling asleep knowing the moon’s light was on me.

I have a few friends who are my moons. Where ever I go, they come along. I can’t always see them directly, but their love and prayers are felt, and that feels good. One of my friends told me recently that she’s pretty sure God is probably getting really annoyed with her for continuing to pray about the same thing for me each night. And I got teary-eyed. She's always there in the same spot, following me. Some other dear friends of mine are currently in Iran, and they called from across the globe to tell me that they were thinking of me as I moved into my new home. They’re my moons. Their light feels good.

I was up early this morning, and guess what? The moon was still there.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hello, Neighbor

Living alone, I don’t shut doors. I leave the bathroom door open, mainly because this allows me to continue hearing my music. But why shut it? Who’s going to come in? Well, yesterday I was about to head to my girlfriend’s spontaneous cocktail party and decided to quickly go to the bathroom before I hopped in the car. So I'm in the half bath right off my kitchen. My mind was racing with things I didn’t want to forget…birthday candles to put in the cupcakes my friend made for another friend’s birthday, plastic forks…and then…oh my. OH MY. There’s my neighbor! He had just gotten his mail and was strolling down the street past my place. All he needed to do was glance through my big kitchen window, and well, there I was. Going to the bathroom. I could have waved. He could have nodded. Hello, neighbor! Thankfully, I stretched just enough, reached the door and gave it a good swing; it caught just enough to stay shut.

This reminded me of the Timberwolves game last year. I went with some friends and in between quarters got up to the use the bathroom. Only if you’re at some really lame concert or sporting event where there aren’t many people do you get to select which of the 500 stalls you want. Normally you just go to the one most recently opened. No questions asked. I always wonder what would happen if, when one opened, I just didn’t go in. The person behind me would probably give me a nudge and say, "um, hello, that one’s open." I’d politely smile and "yes, I know. I want the next one." Anyways, so Timberwovles game. There were a lot of people. I didn’t have a choice. So, I’m in my designated stall, and I glance to the right and realize that, that’s funny. Where there normally is a little silver trash container and then toilet paper built in, there was nothing. For a split second I thought how weird that they’d put a square mirror right there in its place, because I could see my thigh and my...wait…that is SO not my thigh or my…OH MY GOSH! There’s a hole and there’s the woman in the next stall. Hello neighbor!

I looked around and with one hand was probably making the gesture as if in front of an audience…can you believe this? I mean really!? But there was no one there to participate. Well, no built-in thing to hold the toilet paper meant there was no toilet paper. So, for a split second I contemplated putting my hand through the little “window” and asking the woman next to me… "I see that you’re done, would you mind passing me some TP?” (Gray Poupon-style...pun intended) , but I couldn’t do it. I rummaged through my purse conveniently hanging from the hook on the inside of the door and grabbed a couple Kleenex. I kind of wanted to forewarn the next woman in line who was about to enter this stall, but at this point I was chuckling to myself and decided nope. Survival of the fittest in this here bathroom in the Target Center.

And the fittest:
Shut the door.
Are aware of surroundings.
Always carry Kleenex.
And carry little containers of Purell!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bumps in the Night

When I turn off my lights—lately around midnight or a little after—I don’t know where I’m going. In my apartment in California, I knew how many steps it was from the bathroom to my bed when I’d get up in the middle of the night. I knew how far to the right I should go to not ram my thigh into the corner of the couch when I walked from the living room in the dark. I knew how far to outstretch my arm and grab the door handle early in the morning. The same thing at my parents’ house. I can’t tell you the actual number of steps down to the basement, but I do know when I’m done with them. It’s just ingrained. I know after dup dup dup dup dup dup..I’m done. I’m at the bottom. I never have to tentatively step around for the next step...is there another one? I just know.

In my new place, I fumble in the dark. I turned off the lights last night, and as I tried to make it to the steps, my knee went right into the end table, and I saw this morning I had a nice bruise to prove it. I climbed up the stairs tentatively unsure when I’d reach the top. I made my way to the bedroom and had to use my arms as feelers. Where was my bed? And then where was my pillow?

I hear people sometimes say, "Well, God told me..." or "God really directed me..." And I know what they’re saying, and I get it. And I’ve probably said those things or things similar before. But to be perfectly honest, it is rarely so cut and dry in my life. God does not give me a ring or shoot me an email and let me know what’s up, let me know where I should go in the dark. I can only take baby steps forward and kind of hope that I’m where I should be.

I guess sometimes I think God feels more like the railing up the steps or maybe even the end table that my knee hit. What’s ahead of me is super dark and fuzzy and unknown. And despite prayer and sometimes serious pleading, no light shines before me. Instead, I just bump around like a fumbling idiot and God gently—and sometimes not so gently—pokes me, guides me from the side. Like the bumpers at the bowling alley.

Some of the big decisions I’ve made in my life have not been because I knew exactly what I wanted. Rather they were made knowing things that I didn’t want. Again, to use the bowling alley analogy, I’d hit the bumper and realize, not such a good idea. Get your butt back over.

I heard someone recite the Psalm 119:105 the other day. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." And I thought, not really. I mean yes, but I think sometimes the lamp or the light is really the railing or the coffee table.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Love or something

Dad was bent over, pencil in mouth, measuring tape in hand. He was calculating the length of trim needed to finish off one of my cupboards in my new kitchen. I patted him on the back and said, “you’re the best, papa,” as I headed off to church Sunday night.

The thing is, he should have been home taking a nap and watching football because for the previous three days and four nights he had done nothing but help me. I closed on my townhome last week, and while I was at work (on deadline and unable to take time off), dad was in my new place, having taken vacation days, painting my kitchen and bathroom. I didn’t even go and buy the paint. All I had to do was pick out the swatch. He also rented a carpet cleaner to clean all my carpets. He was there Wednesday night, Thursday day, Thursday night, Friday day, Friday night, trying to prepare the place for moving in on Saturday. Then Saturday day and night, he along with the rest of my family helped me move in and unpack. So Sunday definitely should have been kept holy. He should have just watched Favre like I know he really wanted to, but instead he called to say he was coming back over to do more projects.

Then Monday, on his regular day off, guess what? He was back at my place, painting a door, and hanging things I had asked him to hang (I made him a list and had pre-marked the wall.) And I assure you, he is not done. He’s got more projects. Some of which he’s good at and likes to do, but others, well, I just need ‘em done, and he’s my dad, and he’s going to do them for me because he's so great.

I cannot thank my dad enough. I cannot repay him. I mean, I’ll write the check out to him and compensate him for the paint and the other gajillion things he bought, but that really is not repaying him. To be shown such giving love, to be served so consistently and expected to give nothing in return is hard to accept. It’s hard, I think, because I know I don’t deserve it. And it’s hard too because I can’t give it all back. At least not right now. I was sharing this phenomenon with a friend at work. She is a mom of children about my age, and she smiled and said, “they” (my parents, because really mom is included in this, just in different ways)…anyways, she said, “they must really love you or something.” I smiled back. She said that’s what parents do.

It’s a lot like my relationship with God. I mean, what I can give him, is just pitiful. And yet he just gives and gives and loves and loves. He fixes me up, paints me all clean, hooks up my wires when they get crossed, tightens my lightbulbs. I often have this weird mix of feelings as I consider God...superbly inadequate, but so thankful. helpless and humbled, but determined to say thank you as many times as possible, even if they're weak thank yous.

Anyways, Dad went home yesterday but then he came back over later last night to hook up my wireless internet. When he left, I thanked him (lamely) and he smiled and said he’d be back.

He must love me or something. I love him too.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Neither tongue nor dung

It’s official. I am tired. I am really tired. And you wanna know how I know? I’m reading about tung oil online because I can’t focus one minute longer here at work. It’s been an incredibly, insanely busy week, and it ain’t over.

But the tung oil. So a few weeks ago I bought an antique steamer chest on Craigslist for $20. I emailed the guy to see if it was available. He responded that yes it was, and that although he lives about 45 minutes out of the cities, he’d be in town the next day for an eye appt, so we could meet somewhere. We, of course, agreed to meet in the Target parking lot. For those of you who know me, I have this thing about meeting strange guys for the first time in Target parking lots. Well, I made sure my friend could come with me. So on that morning, I picked her up and we drove to Target. It was POURING. As we sat in the parking lot listening to the rain pounding on my windshield, I asked her if she realized that it was 10am on a Thursday and we were sitting in my car in a Target parking lot waiting for some strange man, whose last name was Lime, to bring his steamer chest. Did she find this odd? Yes. Yes she did. But we’ve been in other odd situations together too, so it’s becoming less odd I think. Anyways, long story short, I got drenched, made a new friend with a last name of Lime and got me my steamer chest.

I wanted to refinish and use as a coffee table, so I researched. I found out that after sanding the chest down, taking the rust off the metal, cleaning the inside, and making sure all glue and canvas was off (read: after LOTS and LOTS of work), you finish it with tung oil. Tung oil. More specifically tung oil with mineral spirits. So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past week (And my mom. In fact, she was out in the garage a few nights ago in her pjs putting another layer of tung oil on my chest. Thank you, mom.)

But what the heck is tung oil? Well, let me tell you. It comes from neither tongue nor dung but the tung tree, of course. This kind of tree has a nut and it’s the oil that’s made when you press the seed of the nut. It’s considered a drying oil, which means it makes whatever you’re trying to finish tough and water-resistant. It’s also sometimes called China wood oil, because I guess the Chinese have been using it for thousands of years. But, I’m sad to say, if you are allergic to nuts, you may have a problem coming over to hang out with me and sitting down to eat your dinner on my new coffee table to watch a movie.

Where are these tung trees? Like could I plant a tung tree? It’s native to China, Burma and Vietnam, but was brought over to the United States specifically for tung oil purposes after WWI and has been found to grow best in the Gulf states between Texas and Florida. The tung tree’s fruit is hard and woody and pear-shaped. And guess what? It’s ripe in the fall! Right now.

And I’m ripe for a nap.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


You know how when you hear about a book, a song, a place, that you’ve never heard about before. And then after hearing about it for the first time, you suddenly hear about it everywhere. Everyone’s talking about it, and you wonder why the heck you hadn’t heard of it before!

The word “dwell” will not leave me alone. And obviously I’ve heard this word before, but just never really thought about it. In Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, I was looking at magazines. Feeling the ones with the really nice thick pages--so nice. And then flipping through the eye-catching ones. I picked up Dwell. Not only is the magazine stunning but so are the dwellings pictured inside. I mean, it makes you feel bad that you don’t have enough money to outfit your house with all this fancy furniture and decorating, but still.

Then a friend gave me music from Brooke Fraser, and I’m stuck on the last song. The chorus includes the line “Till I only Dwell in Thee.” It’s been my mantra the past few weeks, really only because I can’t get the melody out of my head. But it’s about beseeching God to please come after us until we only dwell in him because we’re so prone to wander about aimlessly.

“If to distant lands I scatter
If I sail to farthest seas
Would you find and firm and gather
‘Til I only dwell in Thee
If I flee from greenest pastures
Would you leave to look for me
Forfeit glory to come after
‘Til I only dwell in Thee”

Yesterday morning, I put my pen the paper, gaining a 30-year-mortgage on a townhome. The woman walking me through the bajillion papers I had to sign was quickly explaining what all the fine print meant. To be honest, I just kept nodding, not really paying attention because I was too busy looking at the seller across the table and imagining her in MY house (even though she’s lived there for 10 years, and me a total of 0 days). But at some point the woman helping me used the word “dwelling,” and I jumped to attention. There is it again! Dwelling. I’m going to have a dwelling?!I was signing for a dwelling!

And, lastly, this morning, I quickly read more of Ephesians while I waited for my straightener to heat up. And guess what? Here’s what Paul said, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may DWELL in your hearts through faith.” (3:16-17)

Part of me was like "ok, enough with the dwell." But the learner in me got the best of me. I just looked "dwell" up in the dictionary. It means to take up permanent residence, to reside.

And I was struck by all the things around us here on earth that seek our dwelling. In sucking up our time, our money and our thoughts, things like jobs, material possessions and even family and friends become our dwellings. We act as though they’re permanent, and we decide to take up residence there. Like Fraser’s song we situate ourselves in farthest seas. We set up shop in the wrong places. And I’m telling you, my new home is pretty great. I cannot wait to get a cool welcome mat in front of the red front door and get all my books out of their boxes, but I do not want to dwell there.

I want to dwell in Christ, and I love that if we decide to dwell in Christ, he’ll totally dwell in us in return. Paul says through our faith, he’ll dwell in our hearts. He’ll reside permamently. He won’t leave.

So, where you dwelling today?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Staccato highlighting

I’ve been reading for school for the past two hours, and I’m having a hard time focusing. Not because there are 15 other things I need to get done today. Not because I’m dozing off. No. I’m having a hard time focusing because they former owner of the book was troubled.

I purchased the book used online through Amazon, risking the inevitable dog-ear, some highlighting and the occasional annotating. But I’m OK with that if it saves me money. This particular book is no different. It has all of these things, except, when it comes to highlighting, it is unique. So unique. Instead of highlighting by the line, this person highlighted by the word. As in:


This absolutely cannot save time. Lift highlighter, lower highlighter. Lift. Lower. Lift. Lower. Lift. Lower. Rather than dowwwwnnnnnn lift dowwwwwwwnnnnnnnn lift.

Nevertheless, if you don’t care about wasting the time and still choose to highlight by the word, why oh why highlight “of” and “a” and “an” and “of” again?

The words started turning into notes for me. I kept thinking of my piano teacher tap tap tapping her fingers on the piano next to me as I learned to play a piece “staccato.” The notes were to be short, detached, quick. Rapid-fire.

I know the author of this book didn’t write his words to be detached, and yet the former owner of the book transformed them into a staccato piece of music. INTO. AN. ACT. OF. PIETY. And notice how staccato is rarely quiet? Rapid-fire is not quiet. So the former owner now has the author yelling at me!

The sentence "Such sacralization of cultural identity is invaluable for the parties in conflict because it can transmute what is in fact a murder into an act of piety." does not need any further complications. It requires all of my focus to decipher on its own. So, you former owner you, I wonder if you knew this and just thought you’d be funny and staccato highlight throughout? Did you want people to not know what they were reading because they were too uncomfortable with the author yelling at them? Or did you want the reader to wonder what the heck was wrong with you instead of paying attention? Whatever you were thinking, not cool.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In the clear

A couple weekends ago I went camping with two wonderful friends. Have you ever noticed that everything is sharper--clearer--while camping?

The stars, you can actually see them.

Loons singing; crickets chirping; the snap, crackle, pop of the campfire. I can hear them because my cell phone isn’t vibrating, and my music isn’t blaring.

Food. It tastes better because you’re slowly cooking it over an open fire rather than zapping it in the microwave. The corn on the cob I had seriously gave the state fair’s corn a run for its money. And Smores? I’m not even a “sweets” person, and yet I couldn’t get enough! I think I had three? And French-pressed coffee is pretty much heaven when enjoyed on a brisk morning, sitting in a camping chair reading.

And friends. You really hear them. Through the smoky glow of the fire, you hear and feel their frustrations; you listen to their hopes and aspirations; and you’re reminded why you are friends with them. Because they are really stinkin’ great.

While camping, everything feels sharp and clear, but back to the “real world,” there’s Facebook, cell phones, traffic, honking horns, schedules, deadlines. There’s just stuff, and it gets in the way. It’s hard to get clarity.

But, this morning, I hopped on 94 to head to work, and I gasped. There in front of me, just above the line of the freeway and the tops of buildings was the sun. It was the full-circle sun you can look at because it hasn’t risen enough yet. It was this brilliant, deep orange circle contrasted by this crazy dark turquoise sky, still trying to wake up. It was sharp! So sharp. I wanted to text my closest friends to say LOOK AT THE SUN RIGHT NOW! Which, actually, if I got that text from someone, I’d probably wonder about them, but… (especially if they were in a different time zone!)

As the sun continued rising and losing its edges--turning into a big blob of dayness as I got closer to work--I realized I had just seen some clearness. Some clarity in the “real world.” And no, I didn’t crawl out of a Coleman tent this morning, but I did walk out of a house with a roof. And I did have three voice messages on my cell this morning from dear friends thinking of me (I crashed early last night). And I did have some piping-hot coffee in my hand. And it was Friday.

Sometimes I may have to listen a little harder or wait a little longer or watch a little more closely, but it’s so there. The clearness.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The guy who doesn't measure

I just got an update in the mail on my 401K, basically telling me how much I’m worth (how much money my brother will get if I die right now).
I spent nearly 30 minutes on the phone yesterday with someone, measuring out how much my new home and all my possessions are worth in order set up a new insurance policy.
I measured out 2.5 scoops of coffee and filled my pot to the 8 line in order to drink sweet, caffeinated nectar the second I hopped out of the shower this morning.
Last night, I set my alarm measuring out how much time I’d need to get ready, based on time of first meeting, planned hairstyle, etc.
I’ve been measuring furniture to make sure it fits in the back of the car and then its proposed destination in my new place. Inches matter.

We measure. We measure everything from ingredients in recipes and money in our accounts to ourselves compared to others. We think things like “We just don’t measure up” or maybe even say things like “They don’t measure up.” A couple days ago I was reading Ephesians, and I was reminded that we cannot measure God because he’s crazy reckless like that. He doesn’t use a coffee scoop or calculator, and he certainly doesn’t have judging eyes. So we may as well put away all of our measuring tools and gadgets.

“Now to him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3: 20-21

What a relief! And really, what girl doesn’t want the mysterious guy who throws caution to the wind? The guy who doesn't measure...