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 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 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?