Wednesday, December 23, 2009
When I got home, I plopped down and opened. First, a card. He had gone to the store and picked out a very sentimental card from Hallmark. The words “Remembering You at Christmastime...” decorated the front. The inside was more text about how special I am and how much he thinks of me during this season. My heart melted. He doesn’t get around very well. He has trouble going up and down the stairs to his apartment! So, all I could think about was the fact that he had made the effort to get to the store and sift through cards to pick out just the right one. All for me.
Second. A business-sized envelope labeled in his handwriting: “Heather Things.” Inside were pens...pens I knew he had gotten for free with his Reader’s Digest subscription. But that’s not the point. The point is, he knows I write. Pens are Heather Things. So thoughtful!
Third. Another business-sized envelope labeled in his handwriting: “Heather More Things.” Inside were 10 to 15 bookmarks of various shapes and sizes and colors. One had come from a used bookstore in Carlsbad, Cali, where I used to live. One was for the 1.800 medical hotline he can call if he has problems with his diabetes meds. One was black with an orange tassel and Garfield, saying “I’m cool. I’m cool. I’m a reading fool.” Again, not the most glamorous gift by any stretch of the imagination, but oh-so-thoughtful. Indeed, bookmarks are Heather More Things.
Fourth. Something square wrapped--a black box with my name engraved on it. In the box was uncirculated, limited edition state quarters. 10 of them. The last two have yet to be issued. I may or may not have had to blink back a tear. Grif doesn’t have much to expend in terms of money. The bookmarks and pens would have sufficed! But what he could give, he gave. He even engraved! I envisioned him having to direct someone on how to spell my name over the phone. All for me. It’s too much. Too much.
Anyways, the contents of that little box yesterday reminded me of the true reason for the season—to be cliché. Like my pens and bookmarks, Jesus’ birth in a manger of some sort was not exceptionally glitzy, sparkly or spectacular. What was spectacular though? the angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus to the shepherds:
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 who please him.
…all who heard were amazed.(Luke 2)
Jesus’ birth became pretty glitzy and sparkly when it was shared, when it was given away! When it was told!
In business-sized envelopes labeled “Heather Things,” Christmas became spectacular for me last night.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Like a little girl, I'm crazy excited for vacation, for presents, for singing Silent Night at church, and for fresh snowflakes! I'm scheming ways that I can coax my brother outside to make a snowman and woman (perhaps some snow angels?) Christmas Eve night with me. I'm also dreaming of waking up in my old bedroom at mom and dad's on Christmas Day and looking outside to snow, beautiful snow! One of the things I most appreciate about waking up at home-home is the sound of voices, the thuds of mom and dad moving around upstairs, and the smell of coffee and breakfast. Living alone, I wake up to silence. But at home-home, I wake up to my peeps.
I'd like to share with you some of these winter songs that I speak of. Some truly are "winter," thanks to their title and/or lyrics. Others are just made wintery by me. They feel, speak, or are winter to me.
First. Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michealson, off a very wonderful and highly recommended Christmas album: "Hotel Cafe Presents...Winter Songs." This song and cartoon can make you cry and smile at the same time. It makes me miss my bestest friend in Cali like no other...and wish we could spend the holidays together.
Second. Lump Sum by Bon Iver off his "For Emma, For Ever Ago." Please tell me you not only know who Bon Iver is, but LOVE him! He actually wrote "For Emma, For Ever Ago" while huddled up in a Wisconsin cabin in the deep of winter. And for the record, I've met him, and even have a photo of me and him. We're tight.
Third. December by Norah Jones off her new album "The Fall," which has been stuck in my CD player since I bought.
Fourth. For my dad's birthday last week, I bought him the new Sting album, which is 1. amazing and 2. technically Christmas, but can probably be played legally until March? At least. It's called "If On A Winter's Night." I'm sharing with you The Hounds of Winter.
Fifth. I've loved Sarah McLachlan's version of Song for a Winter's Night for years. I can remember studying for finals on the top floor of the St. Thomas library, as it snowed outside. (note: This particular youtube video is uber cheesy. Just enjoy the music, please.)
Happy Winter to you!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Heard the song? I’m sure you have. It’s the Black Eyed Peas.
But I bet you haven’t heard it in church! I have. As in played by the worship band during the service on Saturday night. As they started playing the instrumental intro, I thought to myself…oh, that’s funny, they’re kind of playing off of the Black Eyed Peas song. I wonder what hymn it’ll break into. They are very creative here at this church.
But then they started singing "I’ve got a feeling…" And I froze. Really? We’re singing Fergie in church? The song says jump off that sofa, not the pew, people! What are you doing?! And the line fill up my cup is not referring to communion! I looked around at others. Did they hear what was going on?
Thankfully, they didn’t go into the full song. Just the chorus. And then it quickly flowed into a "normal church song." But it totally made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like it one bit. I instantly started judging whoever it was that made the decision to sing that song. Who thought that was a good idea? How irreverent! Inappropriate!
I’ve been thinking about it more though…
First. It’s interesting as I’m generally on the other side of the fence. My worship preferences tend to be a bit edgier, more contemporary, more liberal (whatever term you prefer to use), than whoever I’m talking with. So, for me to suddenly think that something in the church service has been taken too far, is a switch. And it’s a little humbling. I don’t like when other people judge my worship preferences or deem them inappropriate. Who are they to say what is or isn’t worship for me? So, then, who am I to say the same of others?
Second. Ok. Fine. I can’t judge, but can I if what they’re playing is actually the music of hoochiemama nightclubs! If the video of the song is rather risqué? Let’s just say, Fergie doesn’t wear a turtleneck in it. It’s not like I’m judging their version of Amazing Grace! But, they didn’t play the video. Nor did they sing the whole song. They sang the chorus. So I should chill. And, I'm kind of a walking contradiction. If the song is good enough to chill on my radio for me to sing (dance) along to...I should probably be able to bring it into church?
Third. The song I’ve got a feeling makes you dance. I cannot hear this song without singing along, and I certainly cannot hear this song without at least boppin’ my head just a little bit (if not full-out dancing). And that is just the kind of joy I want to have because of Christ’s love for me. His goodness and grace is too good for us to remain seated in life! He is SO sacred that we should be moving! In fact, we may be disrespectful if we sit back quietly in life.
So, I don’t know. I just decided that it’s not my favorite thing to hear KDWB songs in church, but hey, if it works for others, fantastic. And if I had gotten over my shock of singing I've got feeling in church before they cut to the church song, I'm pretty sure I would have been dancing while worshipping!
It’s Jesus’ birthday this week. And I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good good week. One worth dancing to.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Mom and dad were visiting me in California once. I lived near the large Marine base, Camp Pendleton. We were driving through the camp, along the ocean. Often as you go through, you’ll see Marines doing various training exercises. On this particular day, there was a very large chopper just off the coast. Dad said something about dropping seals. My little wheels spun for a few seconds, and I asked why the heck they’d be dropping seals?! I mean, I’m not a huge animal lover, but wouldn’t that hurt them?! And golly, think of the splash?!
A few days later, I walked into my office. There, hanging down from ribbons above my desk were three cute, acrylic seals. They are dropping--training, I’m sure.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I immediately started wondering if I’ve ever unknowingly used this phrase in a work conversation? What did people think?! Or at cocktail parties and people later, behind my backs, were like "Eegads, that girl is a little inappropriate! Even if she is wearing a turtleneck, I smell promiscuous!"
So, I researched.
The original saying is "in like Flynn." As in Errol Flynn. He was an Australian movie star in the 1940s. At that time, it’s believed that the saying merely implied speed and/or success within a particular situation because Flynn’s character in many of his movies was often quick and successful.
Then in 1967, the movie--a spy spook--In Like Flint came out. Its lead character was Derek Flint. The title was a pun on the saying “in like Flynn.” People got confused. Obviously. And Flynn and flint started to be used interchangeably.
To further complicate matters, Errol Flynn was a playa’, known for his promiscuity, alcohol consumption, and brawling. In fact, he was charged and acquitted of statutory rape of two teenage girls in 1943. So…"in like Flynn" started meaning something less than wholesome. And now people like me go around saying it!
Friday, December 11, 2009
I have another friend who sees each number as a distinct color. When I was looking for homes to buy, I’d tell her the address and depending on the color scheme of the numbers (pretty or clashing?) she’d say “good” or “bad.”
They both have synesthesia, a condition where senses that should separate don’t. Sound and smell may cross wires. Or taste and touch. Taste and sight. Imagine seeing pointy objects or shapes when you tasted chicken, and circles when you tasted chocolate!
The word "synesthesia" is a mix of Latin and Greek: "syn" latin for "together" and "esthesia" Greek for "sensation or perception."
Ironically, my letter/color friend was unaware that her “condition” was a “condition” until she found out about my number/color friend. They've now formed a support group... nah, just kidding. But seriously weird, given that it’s estimated that only 1 in every 250,000 (to maybe 1 in 20,000) people have this. Women are six times more likely to have—suffer from?—synesthesia. And, fyi, John Mayer is a synesthete. In his brain, he sees each music note as a color.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Five inches of snow and below-zero temps can be rather revealing. These conditions will render you motionless on the freeway. You. Will. Not. Move. So, this morning—as I was far from free on the freeway—I found myself looking out my side windows taking in scenery I normally don’t take in on my way to work. Things were revealed! I saw signs I’ve never seen before. How the heck could I have missed that sign for the past 700 days that I’ve made this drive to work? And that backyard? Really? They have a basketball court on the side? And that pole on the bridge, why haven’t I noticed that before? What is that for anyways? All these things.
I just turned in my final paper for the trimester. (Cheers erupt!) One of the things I had to write about was revelation, as in how God reveals Himself to us. First, I guess it should be noted that He does, in fact, need to do some serious revealing. This insinuates that not everything is clear, and for me, that’s true. I’m often wondering what the heck is going on.
In Ephesians, Paul says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better,” (1:17) Yes, please. I’ll take some of that wisdom. And I appreciate that later on he calls God and God’s grace a mystery. (Eph 3.3) That it is! Jesus says that the mystery is probably not going to be solved by those around us though. He states: “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven,” (Matthew 16:17). (That’s a good thing because as I Was. Not. Moving on the freeway, the guy next to me had a t-shirt on, his window rolled down and was smoking a cigarette. Did I mention it’s negative zero? I'd prefer he not reveal anything to me!)
Rather God’s words do the revealing: “They are as true among today as when you first heard it. It doesn't diminish or weaken over time,” (Mark 13:31). And I have to say that one of the many many things I appreciate about my faith is that God’s words are always there…just like those signs I saw this morning that have been there all along. Admittedly, often, I'm going too fast to see them, but they're there. And through them, at different points in my life and in different situations, He reveals himself differently, guiding me. “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path,” (Psalm 119:105).
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I visited some friends last week. Pulling up to their house, I saw their Christmas tree through the window. As I knocked and walked in, I could hear their little two year old, giggling in the bathtub. I kicked off my shoes and headed to the bathroom to plop down on the toilet and participate in bath time. The little boy Peter is an absolute doll, and in the presence of company, he also became a show off. So excited to have a visitor, he splashed around like a fish.
After bathtime, it was on to story time. Also humorous. While his mom and I read the book and enjoyed the pictures, Peter had his face smooshed into the pillow and his little bottom wiggling high in the air. I asked if this was how story time always was? "Um, no," his mom told me. "He’s trying to impress you with his suave moves." And it was working. I couldn’t stop laughing. He also kept unzipping his pajamas to show me his very manly chest.
Before bed Peter’s mom asked him who he should go say good night to. He said Jesus. Looking back at me to make sure I was following him, he padded into the living room and dropped down at the Christmas tree. He picked up the little baby Jesus that was part of the nativity scene. Rather than saying good night to Jesus, he turned and handed Jesus to his mom and said “poopy.” Jesus has a poopy diaper. He should be changed.
Alas, with a kiss good night, Peter went to bed. His mom (and the little baby inside her!), dad, and me cuddled up on the couch in front of the tree with hot tea to get caught up…and…
I had a moment. One of those fleeting moments where life’s goodness is almost too much to take in. I was momentarily overcome with how lucky I am to have such dear friends. To be warm inside their cozy home, doing life with them. Talking, listening, caring. The Christmas tree lights twinkling. Peter sleeping in the other room. A baby on the way for my friends. God is so good, I thought. So good. And as quickly as that moment comes, it passes, but it’s not forgotten!
In my head, I was just processing the pros and cons of doing Christmas cards. Should I do cards? And when would I do these cards? Each one uniquely handwritten? Should I do one mass letter? Should I try to do a photo of some sort? Perhaps involving snow for my Cali friends? Are we going to have snow? Or, what about just NO card? And as I was thinking through these things, I pondered what I’d write to people besides the standard recap of the year. I realized that for my friends and family, I wish them "moments." Lots of "moments" like the one I had at my friends’ house last week. Moments where God’s goodness is too much, too obvious, too clear. You almost can’t breathe.
Anyways, I’m not sure if you’ll get a card from me or not. But if you don’t, know that I wish you many "moments."
Monday, December 07, 2009
1. Meet him in high school, but don’t date him. Date someone else. But regularly cut out of track practice to go to KFC and have mashed-potato eating contests with your friend. For good measure, you may decorate his locker with photos of Sarah Michelle Gellar—who he thinks is hot.
2. Continue the friendship through college by visiting each other, talking on the phone, emailing, drinking too much together, smoking cigars together. Still have your high school boyfriend though. In fact, the three of you should hang out often.
3. When things do finally go south with high school boyfriend and you call it off, call your friend. Obviously! He’ll come over and make you laugh and do your dishes for you.
4. Graduate from college and move to Cali. When your friend comes out to visit you and suggests being more than friends, firmly tell him no, absolutely not. Won’t work. But then continue to be great, if not better, friends.
5. Move back to Minnesota. Strengthen the friendship by dating many others. Then meet up with your friend often and laugh about these “others” that you date. He’ll do likewise.
6. Even if you’re seeing someone else (and he happens to be out of town for the weekend), invite your friend over to dinner at your parents’ house. Your parents already love your friend and you’ll have a fabulous time.
7. You may wonder at times if you could perhaps be more than friends with your friend, but just sit on it for a bit. Do some praying and then decide no. Don’t do anything. Just keep dating others, even if the people closest to you ask if you're really sure about your friend not being more than a friend.
8. You and your friend should take your siblings camping for a weekend, even if you’re dating others. Now you’ve been such great friends for so long that nobody really even questions the weirdness (save those you may be dating). Try it.
9. Then, when your friend has been in a relationship for at least six months, and when’s he’s about to move far away, when the timing couldn’t be worse…then you should start seriously thinking about saying something to him about maybe being more than friends.
10. Write him a letter that states your fears and all the things you wonder about. Then tell him you have something to give him and you need to meet him. He will meet you at a park but inform you beforehand that he needs to be done by a certain time because he has dinner plans with his girlfriend. Feel free to freak out a wee bit (or a little more) at this point. But don’t cave.
11. Meet at the park. Sit down on a step. Face your friend. Remove letter from envelope. Read letter. Cry as you read letter. Put letter back in envelope. Hand him the envelope and tell your friend that you will be on your way now, because this is most assuredly a movie, and no one scratched the DVD to save you from making an idiot of yourself! But don’t get up too quickly because your friend will lean in, kiss you, and tell you that it is most certainly not too late. Steps 1 through 11 work—they can make a friend more than a friend.
Friday, December 04, 2009
I’ve spent a lot of time with dead people recently. Or at least reading about them.
Over Thanksgiving, my grandpa handed off to me 20 years worth of work. He’s slowly but surely pulled together a 250 to 300-page, 1st-person account (genealogy) of our family, dating back to the early 1800s. I’m honored that he would like me to edit the piece, and already I have had a blast reading stories about my great-great grandparents!
Today, I find myself digging through a book called A Centenary History searching for stories and dates for a piece I’m writing at work about the university’s archives. The book chronicles the “Baptist pioneers who made history by serving humbly and without thought of recognition” between the years 1852 and 1952. It's so old that its dusty pages are making me sneeze!
But I have to tell you, reading the stories of so many people from so many generations ago can make one feel small. I am just one little-biddy person who happens to be alive in the year 2009. Will I be just a name in a book someday? One of many?
Over snickerdoodles and coffee a couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing a 90-year-old woman—a spitfire—named Nancy. In her home, we chatted and she shared what it was like to be the wife of a university president for some 20 years. Towards the end of our conversation, she assured me that she doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, yet she knows she’s near death, considering her life in its entirety. And now near death, she can see so much more clearly that every decision we make has a ripple effect. We are all ripplemakers, she said. She reminded me that I’m—you’re—much more than a name in a book on a dusty shelf.
Her words: “God has put you on this earth for a very brief, but specific period of life. It’s just a little space in eternity. But it’s during this time that you make big decisions and they affect those around you...and they affect your eternity…”
Thursday, November 19, 2009
He is a brewer at Summit Brewery in St. Paul and has concocted a special, limited-time-only batch of ale brewed with me: heather, the flower/herb.
I tried it last night, and it’s wonderful. I’d highly recommend purchasing at select locations while there is still some available.
Not sure about me in your beer?
"It’s on the sweet side...but the level of bittering balances it nicely, keeping it from becoming cloying..."
Here’s a review.
Dad, don’t buy. I’m getting you some!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Then, she asked: "Have you seen any books on beans and legumes?"
Ok. now within seconds I was wondering:
1. Is she talking to me?
2. Does she think I work at Barnes & Noble?
3. And does she want a book on beans AND legumes? Or
4. A book on beans and then a book on legumes?
5. And who calls them legumes, anyways?
I responded. "Uh, no. No. Haven’t seen any. But then again, I haven’t been looking."
"Such a shame," she continued. "They used to be all the rage, and now when I want it they’ve all but disappeared! Isn’t that how it always happens?"
Me wondering again:
1. Books on beans and legumes were all the rage at one point in time?
2. They’ve disappeared?
3. Or beans and legumes themselves used to be all the rage, but people’s tastes have changed?
4. Who calls them legumes, anyways?
At this point, I was trying not to crack too big of a smile and just nodded. "Yes, that is how it always happens with beans and legumes."
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
You see, my magazine’s most recent issue just hit, which means the complaints are on their way. It doesn’t really matter what role (or lack thereof) I played in gathering a quote, doing an interview, or writing the piece. I am the editor, and thus the recipient of feedback. And to be fair, I know I receive more compliments than others who worked on the publication because, again, I’m the editor.
With time though, I’ve toughened my skin. Complaints are no longer personal. I’m better at letting things that I can’t control (like inserting a comma post-printing) go. And comments like this one, for example, make me chuckle now:
"Any correspondence from your organization elicits a negative, visceral reaction from me and I don't care to feel this way in my own home. Please stop IMMEDIATELY. Do not call, do not ever send anything, don't even respond to this email. Just STOP."
I induced a visceral reaction. Beautiful.
But recently I’ve also realized that I’ve toughened my skin in other areas—namely my singleness. Singletons have to, at least a little bit, to survive! Dating is not easy. First, there’s the fear that he just will not think you’re attractive enough. And then, let’s say, you get lucky and you actually find him attractive and he’s clearly digging you...then hold on. Just you wait. Something will fall, because it always does. It always has. I mean, we’re single! Something has always gone wrong! Either he stops liking you, you stop liking him, he hurts your feelings, he never calls back, he freaks, he stands you up, he moves away, he doesn’t understand, he needs anger management, he turns out to be psycho! (Yes, I speak from experience.) Perhaps he even says you’ve elicited a visceral feeling in him! Something goes awry. And I can assure you that misreading intents and desires is much more painful than misspelling a name. So, don’t you worry. I have grown tough (read: cynical). Me and one of my single friends don’t believe he’ll actually call. We don’t believe we’ll actually fall for someone. We think the chances of something lasting longer than a coffee date, let alone three coffee dates, is slim to none. We’re not stupid. Fall for something once, twice, but three times? C’mon! We’re smart girls. Sure, we’ll date, but we won’t believe. We must protect ourselves.
So, when someone does call, when he does show up, when he does understand...how’s a single girl to respond? How do you not fear a misspelling and wait for the complaining emails to fly?
Well, as I said, we’re smart girls. So first, we make sure he calls, shows up, understands not just once, but twice, three, four times. Heck, let’s go for five! And then you pray—hard—that he will be able to put the period at the end of your run-on, callused sentence, even though you think it’s too late.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I love pumpkin.
I love mushrooms.
I love November.
So, here is my new favorite food: pumpkin mushroom soup, which pretty much HAS to be made in the month of November in order to enjoy it fully. And it’s orange, of course.
PUMPKIN MUSHROOM SOUP
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp curry
3 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp honey
dash of nutmeg
1 can pumpkin (1 lb.)
1 cup evaporated milk
Saute the onions and mushrooms in butter in large pot. Add curry and flour. Stir. Add broth gradually. Add everything but milk; cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk, heat until boiling. Serve topped with sour cream.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I then pondered what they’d be for and where they were coming from, and as I continued driving toward them, I realized that they were in the general vicinity that I was heading. A few more miles, and I thought, huh, they actually must be fairly close to my house. A few more miles, ok, they’re actually coming from somewhere right off my exit. Interesting. Perhaps in the Wal-Mart parking lot? Maybe the nearby liquor store. I turned into the parking lot for my gym and headed to my normal parking spot: the first one, next to the curb, a few rows down from the gym door. And there...in my parking spot...was the truck containing the spotlights. IN MY SPOT.
I looked around, checked my rearview mirror. Uh. Really?
Turns out it was my gym’s birthday. Inside were tables of appetizers, little sandwiches and lots of wine. I was sweating it out on the treadmill while three feet away people were inhaling cheese and merlot.
But the lights-in-my-spot thing. I have to say...it’s indicative of my week. I’ve looked around my shoulders on multiple occasions wondering if other people were seeing this? Is this for real? And yes. It is. There are some crazy bright, shining people sharing my spot in life.
Monday, November 09, 2009
For many it’s the difference between before and after.
Like B.C. or A.D., it becomes a marker. Before or after a loved one died. Before or after he proposed (yay, Paul!). Before or after cancer. Before or after something was said. And what the day means, then, is change. Drastic change. What’s ahead suddenly looks so different than it did yesterday. Life, as you know it, changes.
I can feel my anxiety rising at the thought of it, but God’s words whisper through my ears, calming me...
“Surely I am with you always...” (Matthew 28:20). Before and after.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
I got to thinking about how so often, my home becomes just a house. During the week, I can sometimes leave at 7am not to return until 11pm. My house becomes just a filling station for sleep, food, laundry. Oh yes, and a car wash—shower. I grab the receipt for all of the above on the way out the door, knowing I’ll be back for more, as needed.
I do this with God too. I get busy. Talking with him or spending any amount of time with him becomes a rushed transaction. More Saturday night, God—don’t you worry—I’ll be at church then! I don’t bask in Him enough. Unlike my house though which is pretty immobile, God goes with us all day everyday, so there’s really no excuse. My prof was recently talking about how he thinks daily living—driving to work, talking to a friend, eating dinner—should be a form of prayer or worshipping God. It’s a hard concept to grasp because so often we set parameters and timeframes around such things. Prayer happens for x amount of minutes before bed or in the morning. Likewise, worship happens for the first 40 minutes of church on such and such day.
I want to be with God all the time though, in the way I was at home today. Basking in him in my sweatpants and slippers. Really enjoying his peace and hope.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity...”
Honestly, ambiguity tastes pretty awful to me sometimes! But this quote, still on my fridge, is a great reminder that try as we might, we simply cannot know what’s going to happen. I ended a very special relationship not knowing what it meant for my future, but believing at that moment, I needed to change. I moved to California alone not knowing what lay ahead, but confident that God was directing me—shoving me—west at that point in time. I quit a job not exactly knowing how I was going to get by financially for awhile, but knowing I needed to do it. These decisions, and there are many more, were made with lots of tears, mainly fearful tears because I was so unsure of what tomorrow would or could look like.
This morning I read 1 Corinthians 2 and was reassured by Paul’s words to the Corinthians. He says honestly,
"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."
The last few words hit me. He talks of a faith that rests not on my own wisdom but on God’s power. I think if we believe and rest in God’s power rather than our own, the unknown, the ambiguity, can become... delicious rather than scary.
Friday, October 30, 2009
How loud did you sing this morning?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
This conversation caused me to go back and look at what my “strengths” are (I had to take the test before grad school).
One of mine is ACHIEVER (begotten from mom). Clifton tells me that I feel as if every day starts at zero: “By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by 'every day' you mean every single day-workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you.”
An internal fire? Yes. Yes I have that. It’s called stress! Often unnecessary stress! And I’m not sure that being unable to relax while on vacation is a good thing...a strength?! I was recently in San Diego for a few days of relaxation and had to check my work email! I mean, I make lists on SATURDAYS just so that I can feel good in checking things off that list.
Another strength is DISCIPLINE. For the record, I was the only person in my class with this “Strength” and this one also comes from mom. Thanks, mom. Clifton tells me that I need precision: “Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control. Lacking this theme of Discipline, others may sometimes resent your need for order, but there need not be conflict.”
In other words, I have OCD! And I’m resented! GREAT! My underwear has to match. I need lists for pretty much darn near everything. Supposedly as a child, I wouldn’t leave for school until I made my bed (I ENJOYED making my bed). In class or church, I really need to sit in the same general spot or vicinity every time or else I feel weird. If I’m writing a letter (or another list), I have to fight the urge to completely start over if I make a mistake. Please don’t resent me.
Although not a strength of mine, another one I find very humorous is SIGNIFICANCE. Clifton says people with this "strength" want to be very important in the eyes of others. They want to be recognized. Sounds like the kind of person I’d like to hang out with!
Ok. I know people sometimes put a lot of stock into these tests, and I agree that they can be at times extremely helpful in learning how to better work and cooperate with each other. And self-awareness is a good thing. I get it. I’m just sayin’ though...Clifton, whach you be smokin’?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
For some reason, Mat Kearney (songwriter/singer) and his current hit single “Closer to Love” instantly came to mind. The opening lines...
She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn't believe
It could happen to me
I guess we're all one phone call from our knees
Every time I hear the song, I’m creeped out a bit. I find myself wondering what that phone call could be for me. What are the things that could bring me to my knees? That could take my breath away? When my friend relayed the tragic story, I envisioned the football player’s parents receiving their phone call, falling to their knees in their kitchen, wailing.
Kearney's song continues...
If every building falls
And all the stars fade
We'll still be singing this song
The one they can't take away
I'm gonna get there soon
She's gonna be there too
Cryin' in her room
Prayin' oh, Lord come through
We're gonna get there soon
Oh, it's your light
Oh, it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to shoulder the weight
Cryin' out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love
In an interview with "Radio Free Chicago" just prior to the release of this song’s album, Mat, a devout Christian, talked about writing for the album "City of Black and White."
He said, "I’ve finally landed in a community and invited in friends to join along. There are songs about stuff you can only write about by sticking around, getting roots—heartbreak, loss, acceptance."
After receiving the phone call Sunday morning, my friend went to the house of the football player who had died. He said that there were more than 250 friends and parents of friends from the Christian high school that this boy had attended. There they laughed, cried, prayed, hugged, and just were...together...there. He said it was amazing how this Christian community pulled together--to "shoulder the weight" of a knee-buckling phone call. And the community encouraged each other to draw closer to God. Closer to Love.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Abby, friend of all friends
Honey’s, best muffins in town, and of course, Cesar with a wink and a compliment
HOME, where cute guy works and awesome clothes are sold
Swami’s beach, one of the best places to chill on this earth
6454 Kinglet Way, home away from home, family away from family
Grif, always happy to see me
Lucy, the only dog I love
Golden Spoon, sweet Fro-Yo
And to all of the above: hold on! Here I come!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I thought about that this morning as I very slowly merged into stop-and-go traffic on 94. Once I was safely in the furthest right lane, I knew I’d be there for awhile, until traffic let up and I could move over into the left lanes.
It’s a metaphor for life though. We get stuck in the traffic—materialism, greed, success, peer pressure—around us. We can’t change lanes. We can’t hear or see or feel God perhaps directing us on which lane we should be in.
Yesterday a coworker’s husband called her before she left for work. He and their two boys had been in a bad accident. Stopped in traffic, they had been hit from behind. Momentarily, her life flashed before her eyes. She saw and felt what it would be to lose…to lose greatly. She said she stared out her front window blankly after her husband assured her that everyone was OK. And there, suddenly in the silence, Psalm 46:10 came to mind.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
She said life has been too raucous lately. There’s been too much going on. Scheduling nightmares. Busy family members coming and going. Dinners eaten on the run. Arguments over silly stuff. And a traffic accident reminded her to be still and know something. Know that He is God.
I don’t want to be stuck in traffic. I want to change lanes when God’s putting on my blinker--when He wants me to know something.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you've got to rise above
I just can't wait til my 10 year reunion
I'm gonna bust down the double doors
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for
--John Mayer, No Such Thing
Well, John, I don’t need to wait any longer. I busted down the double doors at a Marriott Hotel last night for my 10-year high school reunion.
As I got ready and waited for my girlfriend to pick me up, I felt old and wondered perhaps if I shouldn’t have paid $50 for an event to which you’re supposed to wear “dressy casual” (oxymoron?) and awkwardness is guaranteed. And as she dropped me off later I knew I shouldn’t have paid the $50. But I smiled because the evening affirmed something else I knew--I definitely chose the right friends.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Not normal. Not normal ‘tall.
The book I’m reading says that “there is a theological prerogative belonging not only to an elite academic priesthood, guardians of the sanctuaries of learning, but to all God’s people.” So, in other words, not just those of us crazies in grad school learning and thinking about God should be learning and thinking about God.
As classes started back up this fall, I had a conversation with someone. She asked what class I was taking. I told her systematic theology 1, not to be confused with 2 or 3. She asked what we study in those classes, and her eyebrows went up as I quickly tried to tell her. She proceeded to tell me that she doesn’t like to think about “that stuff.”
Now, I should share a few things about this person. She is great, and has such a strong faith. She’s a wonderful encourager, but at times, her comments on God have rung a little hollow to my ears. They’re the ones Christians sometimes fall into the rut of saying. “God has a plan.” “Things will work out according to God’s will.” Etc. etc.
How and why though? What do those things even mean? What is God’s will exactly? Maybe I believe those things or can believe those things, but I need to know some things! Too many things have happened in my life and the life of so many close to me causing me to wonder about God’s plan. To wonder. To question. To seek more information.
When this woman told me that she doesn’t like to think about stuff though, I was momentarily caught off guard. Should I not be worrying about “this stuff”? Should I just be believin’? My conclusion: No. I don’t think that’s faith, or at least a growing faith. Which is great news because the book I’m reading is titled Faith Thinking, which is what I’ll keep on doing (even if it is 5 a.m.).
Interestingly though, the only reason I'm faith thinking now is because I had faith first. That came first--strong or weak or little or bedraggled. Then the thinking.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Last weekend, I walked into one of those Halloween stores that only pops up in the few weeks preceding Oct. 31. My brother and I had come up with this costume idea for a couple, who will remain anonymous, and the costume involved fake butts. To be helpful, I decided I’d swing into this store and check on prices. So when I entered the disturbing store and saw ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall Halloween paraphernalia, I took up Frankenstein’s offer to help me find what I was looking for.
Yes, please show me your butts.
Not cracking a smile—I suppose...he IS Frankenstein—he turned on his heels, and I understood that I was to follow him. He took me to the body-part aisle. And there they were. Three different, potential butts. "Here you go," Frankenstein said displaying them as though he was Vanna White with three vowels. "Uh, thanks," I timidly responded, as the people next to me, considering fake boobs (what? what costume is that for?!) looked at me. So, I called the person who would ultimately be wearing this costume to tell her the price. For only $7.99 you can get a real nice butt, I told her.
"Well, what does it look like?" she asked me. Really? Was I going to describe a butt to her over the phone in public?
I nearly told her to go into the bathroom, unzip...nevermind. Instead, I did proceed to describe the differences among the three butts. "Well, one is rounder, firmer. The other looks like it'd fall off easily..." etc. etc.
And now she's not even going to use a fake butt for the costume.
Monday, October 12, 2009
True that, I want to tell the father! I hear him on the unbelief thing.
St. Anselm once said that we don’t try to understand so that we’ll believe, but rather that we believe so that we’ll understand.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past few weeks in starting back to class. And it’s true. Understanding doesn’t bring belief. I have more questions now than I did before starting seminary. And yet, oddly enough, I believe more wholeheartedly, more desperately. I feel the belief I do have is allowing me to unroll the canvas and see the portrait. It makes more sense, even if the colors aren't all painted in. But, oh how often I still use “if.”
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
On Saturday, while driving with a friend--actually crawling through traffic in the wake of the Gophers game--on 94, we saw the most disturbing, disheartening display of humanity.
Out of this guy's car window came a large, flying fast-food bag. As the bag made its way to the ground, the square, cardboard hamburger holder fell out, as did a scrunched-up napkin. And there the bag of garbage landed on the freeway, to be run over, smooshed, and dragged by oncoming cars.
I wanted to do something, but what? Yell something out the window? Stop traffic and pick up the bag--to make a point! My friend said there's a huge fine for throwing your Mickey D's bag out the window, so does one call the police with a license plate number? And then they search for that car, eventually knocking on this gentleman's door with a ticket? What was I to do?!
We settled for nasty looks in his direction as we passed him. I'd post his license plate number so you could do the same...if only I remembered it now.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
After chatting for some time, she proudly showed me what she was carrying in the inside pocket of her shorts: a Go Girl. A device, which looks like a distorted funnel, through which females can go to the bathroom supposedly quickly and easily while in places where there may not be a toilet (or maybe there is but you’re bad at squatting). Now, as soon as she showed me this, the questions wouldn’t stop. How much did she pay for that? Where exactly did she presume to use this along our 10-mile race through the heart of the Twin Cities? Aren’t there laws against public urination? And after you get done using it...what do you do with it? Shake it out and put it back in your pocket? Bring it home and throw in dishwasher? I was so confused. But we were up to the front of the line, so as we exchanged pleasantries on how nice it was to briefly chat and wished each other luck in the run, I said "You Go Girl!"
Our conversation did not solely focus on urination though. We talked about where we live. Me in Maple Grove. She in New Brighton. Where we work. And as soon as I stated my place of employment, her eyes lit up. She proceeded to tell me that it’s where she got her master’s a few years ago. That she had always done public school—from grade school on up to undergrad. And what a blessing it was to have a Christian educational experience. That it was so crazy and great to have professors who not only cared that you were learning what you were supposed to be learning in class, but who also prayed for you and the things going on in your life outside of class. I then shared with her what I’m going to school for. And suddenly she said, you know though, I just always cringe when I come to the part where Christ dies for us.
Um, come again?
She continued: Him dying on the cross just makes me so uncomfortable, and I feel so bad. I just want to skip that part, but I know I can’t.
I’ve come back to that comment a number of times since Sunday morning. My initial thought was, but Christ dying is GOOD news! It should be happy thought. He died for YOU! Don’t skip that part! But I wonder if sometimes for me the lilies of Easter Sunday overpower the brutality of the cross. Maybe I actually DO skip over the cross. Give me an empty tomb, but not the grave.
I always feel a bit uncomfortable when people do nice things for me. I never want to put people out or have them go out of their way on my account! So, I even felt a little guilty that some friends got up early to come stand in the cold and cheer me on my 10-mile race. It seems strange then that my first reaction to Karen’s—her name was Karen—comment was not one of agreement—yes, I know, I feel so bad too!— but rather, what are you talking about?
Maybe I need a little more of Karen’s perspective, and she needs a little more of mine. God doesn’t want us living unhappy, guilt-ridden lives, but I also think a healthy dose of discomfort every now and then in remembering what He did might be a good thing.
You Go Girl.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I did some research. And after sifting through many links to Babies R Us and Pottery Barn for Kids, here’s what I found:
Originally in the 1600s, crib—or cribbe—was Olde English for “manger or fodder bin” (what is a fodder bin? I also ask) At some point, I guess mangers started being used for children. Maybe Jesus started that fad. Crib was also used to refer to a basket, which somehow led people to start using crib as a verb meaning “to steal.” Use your basket and steal.
So, it’s believed that our current slang use of the word (the one referring to cheating of some sort, not the one in Pimp my Crib) comes from this. We’ll often refer to “crib sheets” as a form or plagiarizing or stealing information. Like, a student uses his or her crib sheet—cheat sheet—on the test. But, that still isn’t what I’m working on at work. I’m working on a completely legal, helpful piece of information!
Also, there are nine different noun forms of “crib.” A person could take their crib (basket), go to someone’s crib (house), and crib (steal) a teddy bear from the baby’s crib (barred bed for little ones). And if your British or Australian, after doing this you could take a rest with your cribbed (stolen) teddy bear and eat your crib (snack).
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The process: the potatoes need to be dug up; then sorted between worm-infested, too small, too green, sliced up by potato harvester tractor (not the technical name) and good; the good ones are washed in large buckets of water by hand; these are then brought to and laid out upon a large trailer bed to dry; once dry someone does one final sorting and puts them in boxes, readying them for the food banks and shelves. We did some washing, and then some final sorting and boxing.
Two things struck me.
First, I originally learned of Hands for Harvest a few months ago when I was told that a recent grad of my school had started up this cool organization, and I might want to write a story on it. So I did, and it appeared in a school publication. Last weekend, while sipping my coffee and reading the local newspaper, I came across another story about this graduate and his organization. The Star Tribune had picked it up as well. And then, lo and behold, there was a small segment on KARE-11 last week too. And yesterday, a reporter from the Mankato Free Press was in the fields gathering stories and photos to run a story in today's paper.
Now, what they're doing is very cool. I mean, I, too, wrote a story on it. But it hit me that such a simple, kind thing should be so news-worthy. They're planting potatoes, picking them, and giving them to people who need them. It's not rocket science. It's just kind and generous. And when coupled with large numbers of people and time...it's news. I just wish it wasn't news. I wish it was more commonplace to give. My friend and I discussed what would happen if everybody gave just one hour of their time a week. What would that look like? What would happen?
Second. We were told to only wash and sort and box the good potatoes. If one was more than 1/3 green, put it aside. If one was super small--too small to peel--leave in the field because it can be used as seed perhaps for next year. If one was sliced or hacked by the potato machine tractor thingy, put aside. Only the best ones were to be given to the food banks. I found myself thinking...if people are hungry, pretty sure they can just cut off the bad section of the potato. Or they can eat a slightly green one even if it maybe doesn't taste as good. I mean, they shouldn't be picky! After all the picky of potatoes we've been doing! We're not going to waste potatoes! Well, turns out, they're not being wasted. The family running the organization takes the not-good-but-still-edible potatoes for themselves. Volunteers are also welcome to take the iffy ones. And the rest of the questionables the family brings in to their church to give to friends. They're not wasted, and I was humbled. Of course we should give the best to the needy. Of course we should take the bad ones. How could I have thought otherwise? With so many taters, I saw the good ones to spare and keep, but Hands for Harvest sees the good ones to give.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
My friend, however, born and bred in So-Cal, thinks me and my land of 10,000 lakes are crazy. She’ll take the ocean any ole’ day over a lake—a body of water that she believes “festers.” It sits there, she says, motionless, festering, brooding, if you will. And that is just downright disgusting, and she doesn’t like to think about swimming in such grossness.
Well, I’ll admit sometimes our lakes do fester. In fact, right now, late in the season with uncanny warm temps, some parts of the lake I run around are spotted with multi-colored algae. And if the wind is blowing just right, it smells. And yes, this would be sick to swim in.
But something I love about lakes is there ability to be absolutely still—so still that they become mirrors for their surroundings. It doesn’t happen often. A boat, ducks, wind—weak or strong—can all upset the water. But sometimes, like tonight, the lake by my house, becomes so still, flat, and calm, that it replicates the trees and shoreline on its surface. You almost can’t decipher the real from the reflection.
I stopped running halfway through my lake route tonight, staring at the water’s stillness and thinking. Thinking how we, as Christians, are to reflect God, and how we, as Christians, rarely reflect God. Like lakes, we get waves when life blows stress, hardship, or pain our way. We grow white caps, curled over in our own self-pity. Or we create ripples when difficult people decide to swim in our waters. And those walking around us don’t see a reflection of God, but rather something that “festers”!
We'll never reflect God perfectly, but we can get closer with some help. One night when Jesus was on a boat with his disciples, there was a “furious storm…so that the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples freaked out and Jesus said, “ 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'...then he rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
Friday, September 11, 2009
I was touched by his familial commitment.
So, did it work? The marriage, I mean. I asked him.
He shrugged. It’s ok. What can you do now? He chuckled.
You can NOT have married her, I thought to myself, letting my eyes wander up to the flat screen TV bearing closed captioning of HGTV. But it was now his turn for the questioning.
Him: You have family?
Me: Of my own? Like children? No.
I mean, my mom and grandma were on either side of me. I definitely had family.
Him: No husband?
Him: You live at home with parents then?
Him: You live alone?
Him: You go online?
I knew exactly what he meant. He was asking if I was internet dating. I mean, I go online all the time. Facebook, blog, hotmail. But that’s not what he was asking.
Him: Your parents. They sometimes know what’s best. Maybe they pick someone.
I laughed. I’ve seen how that works. I’ve experienced that. They’ve tried. I had images of mom and dad laying in bed, dad with his crossword puzzle in front of him. Mom with a pad of paper and pencil in hand...arranging my marriage. She'd ask dad for input. Dad would "say, sure, that sounds good."
Him: It didn’t work out?
Him: Your grandma. She pick someone out?
Him: You go to church with your family?
Me: No. We all go to different churches.
Him: My family all goes to church together. We’re Catholic. Big families. It happens. Maybe your grandma find someone at her church.
I didn't say anything. I smiled and looked at grandma. No.
Him: You go to D&B? Dave & Buster’s?
Once. Many years ago. In California. I never want to go back.
Him: Maybe you should. Lots of guys.
I'm going to find a guy at Dave & Buster's? And he's SERIOUS! So serious that it was endearing!
Me: No, I don’t think so.
It went quiet for a bit. And then...his conclusion:
So, maybe it is that you’re too picky.
Alright, bud, BUSTER. Finish up that pinky nail! I've had just about enough.
I went in for a manicure and got a cure for a man!
The cure? Mom. Dad. Grandma. If those three fail, then go to Dave. He can do something. And if not him, definitely Buster.
It was the girls’ wing in one of the freshman dorms on campus during Welcome Week. I had brought in a photographer to shoot move-in festivities. As he followed me down the female hallway, he looked at me with raised eyebrows. He could either have been wanting to know if it was OK that he—a man—was on the floor. Or he could have been wanting to know what the heck I was making him do...entering this cave of femininity! Either way, I beckoned him to keep following. I asked the squealing girls if any of them would be willing to let us take some photos of them in their new room. The response? 10 girls jumping up and down excitedly. We willSUREcometoourroomWEJUSTDECORATEDlemmeputmybethelsweatshirtonMETOOpickus.
Disentangling ourselves after much photo-taking to do, we moved to the boys’ side. It was quiet. I heard the whir of a window fan. The majority of the floor had already hit the dining center for dinner, but at the end of the hall was one open door. We peered into the dark room. There, slouched on the couch with massive headphones on, not talking, were two freshman guys lit only by the glow of a huge flat screen TV. Their bodies were connected to the massive square in front of them by cords and controllers. Their fingers were flying, and thousands of sci-fi, action-packed DVDs built a fortress around them. Uh. Suddenly, I felt out of place, wondering what I was making us do! Can we take your picture? I asked the boys. I mean after you've hit the jackpot, or killed the enemy, or drank the the secret elixir, or whatever you do on those video games. They looked at each other, shrugged, and said—or grunted—sure.
The pictures turned out very different.
Girls and guys are very different.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
What’s up or down with that?!
You can say “the siren went off.” What you mean is that the siren turned on—it was going, it was blaring. It wasn’t off at all.
You can tell someone to “turn the light off.” But at the same time, you could tell someone “The light went off.” And what you mean is that the light started blinking or it turned on. It wasn’t off at all.
My fire alarm went off this morning as I was getting out the shower. I mean to say that it turned on...it started REEEP REEEEP REEEEEEEPing as I tried to shut it off as soon as possible so as not to bother the neighbors. And for crying out loud, there was no smoke anyways! Why was it on?
Sometimes I wish my brain would go off. Or on.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Really? I glanced over to see what this necessity was, but she had two teenage boys with her, muttering to themselves and rolling their eyes, and kicking the bottom shelf of the aisle. They were obstructing my view. Although I couldn’t see what it was, the woman was holding a box of something. A need, supposedly.
“No, I really do. I really think this is a necessity,” she said again in all seriousness.
Her boys were not listening or caring, so I had half a mind to pitch in and give her a little of the attention she was wanting. But instead I moved a few feet closer in hopes of seeing this necessity. I mean, maybe I needed it tpo? Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get a good look, without making it obvious that I was looking.
And a third time. “I really think this is a necessity.”
WHAT? WHAT? WHAT is the necessity? Through the corner of my eye I saw her put it into her cart and slowly begin moving my direction. At just the right time, I turned around as though I needed to look at the other side of the aisle. Completely satisfied that she was purchasing her need, and with her boys trudging behind her, she pushed her cart past me.
And there. In all its red-boxed glory. I saw the necessity: A funnel cake maker.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Well, this past weekend, driving through Southern Minnesota, I perked up when I looked out the side window and saw volunteer corn. Lots of volunteers, in fact. I felt a sense of pride for these volunteers. They’re the underdogs, so way to go you kernel you! For not following suit, for taking the road less traveled, for sprouting above the others! For being independent. And now I’m really glad I felt this way because when I Googled "volunteer corn" (I wanted to see if this was the actual term...it is), I discovered that everyone is out to get the volunteer. Words like "manage" and "control" and "oust" and "infestation" and "weed" are used right alongside volunteer corn. Farmers do not want any volunteer corn, so those green stalks can just go ahead and quit raising their hands (in fact, I’d advise wilting below the other crops so as not to be killed or maimed!).
It’s funny though, isn’t it, that if that particular volunteer corn stalk were in another field, or even in the same field at a different time, it would not be called volunteer corn? It’d be an important crop, something yielding money and worth. Farmers would want to harvest it, take care of it, water it, fertilize it. It would be a precious commodity.
I just finished the book Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, a true (and unlikely) story of a wealthy, white, art dealer befriending a homeless black man. It revealed and challenged some of the mean, and even subconscious, judgments we make against those people not like us. The volunteer corns of our fields, if you will. Unfortunately, my pride for volunteer corn in agriculture doesn’t look like my pride for people in everyday life. I tend not to have time for people who are different or time to find out about their differences, and perhaps come to admire them. We’d rather "manage" or "control" them. Which reminds me of another book, Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski, who I had the privilege of interviewing in person at my former job. He took time off from college and traveled the United States with a friend as homeless people. Literally. They had no money and lived on the streets. It was an experiment of sorts to see how others treated homeless people. What Mike and his friend discovered was sad and heartbreaking. I read the book three or four years ago, and I still vividly remember one short story. They were camped out on the steps of a church one night. A sign in the front yard of the church advertised a big pancake breakfast in the morning. Well, when the sun came up, one of the church leaders walked out the door and kicked Mike and his friend off the steps, shooing them away without so much as a drop of syrup. I’m guessing, however, they would have gotten as many pancakes as they wanted had the church known they were really college kids from a prominent, wealthy, evangelical school.
Anyways, people, like volunteer corn, are called different things in different places and different times. But they’re always the same to God, and they should be to us too. They should always be precious and worthy of care and compassion.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I heard a girl say this to her friend yesterday as I walked into church and they walked out of church. I was appalled. How does that happen? That shouldn’t happen! No doubt—there are definitely things to be serious about. I think we could all use some stern teaching every now and then. But there are also so many things for which to be joyful and thankful. So many things to smile about! So much good news! (And what family hasn’t made the pew shake from trying desperately to contain obscene laughter because someone farted or made an inappropriate noise?! )
The more I thought about it, I decided that I probably wouldn’t go to church—or a church—if it never included smiling or laughing. So yesterday, I smiled as I walked out of church because I was thankful that I had laughed during church.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I challenged my fellow staycationers to come prepared to share one prayer request. Then, I wanted each of us to commit to praying for or about that one thing for the others. I didn’t put an end date on the praying…perhaps until God moves in some way in that situation? But anyways, as we finished up dinner outside on a nice patio, sat back in our chairs with full bellies, I asked that we go around the table and share our prayer request. Fairly certain “here she goes again” ran through some heads.
Here’s what happened though: as we went around the table sharing or talking about our requests, we discovered, that we already knew each other’s challenges or desires. And we were already, in some way, praying daily about it for that person. Before I could share mine, dad said he’s already praying for it daily. He nailed it. He knew. He knows. And when my brother shared his, I realized I’d been praying for it for quite awhile. Same with my mom’s. We all knew. We all know.
As I crawled in bed last night, I almost felt like crying. I felt too loved, too known, too cared for. And not just by my family, who knows and is praying for the desires of my heart, but also by God, who already knows too (Psalm 44:21; Acts 15:8; Luke 16:15). And there is some serious comfort in being known in this world, where being misunderstood and anonymous is much more status quo.
Monday, August 17, 2009
When I walked out of the dim exhibit hall back into the fluorescent mall, I had the desire to state my favorite part, or the most surprising thing, or the most disgusting thing, but truth be told, I couldn’t narrow down any of those particular groups to just one thing. I was shocked at how small some things were. Like the pituitary gland—the master gland. We’re talking a lima bean or even smaller! How big other parts were—our lungs, for instance (the lungs of the small child right behind us were also huge).
My friend was able to point out, on a real body, all the bones she has broken over the years. I was able to see what my friend’s baby probably looks like at 15 weeks. I also saw what breast cancer does to a breast, and looked away, thinking of a dear friend. Later in the night, my friends and I rattled off the strange facts that we learned to our other friends. Oh, and did you know that babies have more bones than adults? And eyes are always the same size? And we might be a little dorky for doing this on a Saturday night?
At the end, I couldn’t quite grasp how everything I had just seen in the finger-smudged glass cases somehow neatly, compactly, perfectly fits into our beings, our selves. And I was also stuck somewhere between fear and assuredness. Seeing MY body through A body laid out so systematically rendered me vulnerable. I felt like my pass to the exhibit was also a confirmation ticket that something will eventually go wrong within the walls of my skin; I will die. Simultaneously though, I was blown away by how wonderfully composed we are. How our systems work together—bones, nerves, muscles. Our digestive system? Our eyes? Unbelievable! And peace washed over me realizing that a God who does that craziness is over ALL the craziness of life. The confirmation ticket then became one for His love and His grace.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
But I am left-handed. And so today I celebrate my right to be left-handed, along with 7-10% of the world’s population. August 13 is International Left-handers Day! Apparently I can designate my personal space as “LEFTY ZONE” according to the day’s official web site (www.lefthandersday.com). And if you enter my LEFTY ZONE, you must do everything left-handed.
Us lefties (I’m among Prince William, Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo da Vinci, Jimi Hendrix, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Clinton, just to name a few) tend to excel more in fencing; we can see better underwater; when doodling or drawing, our figures tend to face right instead of left; and we’re generally more good-looking.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Quite often recently, I’ve found myself asking the question: Well, when do you find out the results? When will you hear? I want certain family and friends to know NOW. I want to know now. In fact, as I type this, I am eagerly anticipating a phone call from someone and an email from someone else, both of whom will hear good news or bad news about something this week. I’ve been praying for good. When will they KNOW?
I love Psalm 5, especially in the NIV.
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
I have this ongoing joke with one of my coworkers. She’ll ask me to edit something. I do, and I send her the edited version. It never fails...she emails me back a compliment. "You are awesome, HJ." "You do wonderful work, HJ." "You are fantastic, HJ." I’ve told her she better stop or I’m going to get a big head! I am, after all, just doing my job!
But seems like this is sort of like David here. Verse 1 and 2, he’s asking of God, imploring of God, to please hear him. Listen to Him! But just like my coworker already knows I’ll do what she needs me to do when she asks, David knows God will do just as he asks. In verse three, he simply states that God does, in fact, hear him. And later in the Psalm he calls God merciful and righteous. Basically, you are awesome, you do wonderful work, you are fantastic.
I love that this translation of the Psalm uses the word "sighing". How often do we sigh?! In fact, I just texted a certain someone with simply: "???" knowing full well, if this person had heard anything he would have already called me. But still. Just wanted to check. And of course I got the response: "Nope."
Sigh. More waiting.
I love that David is sure that the Lord hears; he doesn’t say, "I think you hear my voice." He says "you hear."
And, I love that he waits in expectation. Not suspense, not frustration, not doubt. He anticipates a response. He believes there will be a response—maybe what he requested, maybe not, but a response nonetheless.
I would like to know, however, David, when exactly this response comes. If you send your request out in the morning...I mean...it’s 3pm. The evening is fast approaching.
God does do good work though.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The mail person drops off mail on Monday. When I get home from work on Monday, I get this mail. And because it was sent to my attention, someone wants me to open it. I oblige and open it. That is, after all, what mail is. And I open it that day because guess what? The mail person is going to come on Tuesday with mail that someone wants me to open on Tuesday! Same for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Well, supposedly some people don’t do this. Some people actually leave their mail in their mailboxes until it’s so full that their mail person has to leave them a note saying... “Um...here’s how mail works: I leave it in this here box and you pick it up from this here box! Or else you don’t get anymore mail.” Others will let it go three or four days because after all, they say, it’s usually junk mail. Still others go through the effort of getting the mail each day, but then they let it stack up on their counter, or a special (or not-so-special) “mail basket” of sorts, for days, even weeks, at a time.
I was shocked! I didn’t know that some people treated the U.S.P.S. system so cavalierly! And what if they’re missing something important in not opening every piece?! Like a call to jury duty?! A letter from a friend? A rebate check? A traffic ticket?! (In Cali, they take your picture, unbeknownst to you, and then send you a nice photo of yourself along with the ticket). Or how about a notice that a third-level sex offender has moved on to your block? Perhaps a save-the-date? A birth announcement? Coupons?!
I mean sure, sometimes it’s addressed to the current resident in addition to you and it’s crap, but not always!
And those people who let it sit out on their counter not to be touched for days, how can you stand it? There it sits right in front of you just begging to be opened and either enjoyed or thrown in the recycling.
I guess I take my cues from my dad. He is mail master. He usually eats lunch at home, so before pulling into the driveway, he will do a quick pass at the mailbox—still in the car—to get the mail if it should happen to be there that soon. If not, he will do the same thing on his way back to work after lunch—checking it from the car before pulling away. This meant, when I lived at home, that if I checked the mail at 5pm like a normal person, there wouldn’t be any mail in the mailbox OR the house. Rather, it was still be in dad’s car and he wasn’t home from work yet! I relished the days when for whatever reason I got the mail before he did! HA! Beat ya!
So do you get your mail every day and open it every day? Do you get your mail every day but only open it once a week? Do you never get your mail and thus, never open the letter I sent you? Do you leave a big, fat mess in your mailbox for your mailperson? I ask you: How much do you really respect the U.S.P.S. system?
Sunday, August 02, 2009
This is what Jesus says in Matthew 11:6.
The people in my life who have shined with God’s peace and grace most brightly are those who have not fallen away even when the path was slippery or treacherous—when God appeared not to act. When, despite falling desperately on their knees with arms outstretched and sobs wracking their bodies and endless prayers uttered—the cancer did not go away, a family member died, babies were taken away. They fell down, but they didn’t fall away.
I recently told a friend, one who is not so sure about God, that I was praying for his family. I am, but I cringed because what if God does not do that very thing that I’m praying for in the situation of this particular family. What will my friend think? He will think: Some God that is! And truth be told, so will I, because I tend to fall away when God doesn’t do the things I know He can do. The great things He has done in my life as well as the lives of others close to me sometimes actually work against Him because I look at those things and think…you did that, so why aren’t you doing this?!
I simply cannot fathom what He’s doing! Interestingly, the word “fathom” means “to penetrate to the truth of.” And there it is! The hook by which I hang my faith! I believe there IS truth. We may not be able to penetrate it or understand it, but it is there. We will always be wondering and searching, but there is eventually an X that marks the spot. It’s not a joke without a punch line or a maze with no way out, even though it feels like it sometimes.
I feel like Jesus knows. He’s like, look, I know I’m confusing, and I know I won’t always make sense, but don’t fall away because of that! His ways are unfathomable—but somewhere in that unfathomableness is His love, a truth that can be believed.
I will still ask why, but I don’t want to fall away when the answer isn’t apparent. I may fall down, but not away.
Friday, July 31, 2009
I’ve checked out the dessert options; want something other than cake? why not cookies and milk in bottles that have customized stickers “From the Smith/Johnson Dairy Farm.” I’ve seen many wedding dresses—trendy, country, girly, beachy. I’ve contemplated menus—if you’re going casual, semi-formal, formal, casual but want food to look like formal, formal but want food to look like casual, Italian, seafood, etc. etc. And then of course there’s the party favors, the decorations, the bridesmaid dresses, the tuxes, the blah. Blah. BLAH.
Don’t worry. I didn’t meet someone, fall in love and become engaged and not tell you. I have a dear friend who’s getting married in February, so my girlfriends and I have had fun picking out what we like or don’t like and then telling our friend—the bride—what we would really like her to do. Unfortunately we will not be dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown. Sad. We will, however, each be wearing different gorgeous navy blue, floor-length dresses that we got to pick out!
Anyways though, as I waited in line at Wal-Mart the other night, I found myself staring at two bridal magazines, one of which I had already scoured with my friends. Oh yeah, that’s the one with the couple who had the most hideous orange and pink decorations. Awful. Who was their coordinator, anyways?
Interestingly though, not one of the magazines I’ve looked through recently has had substantial help or advice on real stuff. And granted that’s not what they’re for. They’re supposed to be about the wedding DAY. The aesthetics, appearances, prettiness. But what about the marriage? Shouldn’t there be just as many magazines at Barnes & Noble about how to have a healthy, happy marriage on days when you’re not in a dress and he’s not in a tux? Or how about for the bridal party, how to support and encourage a marriage through tough times...illness, money problems, infertility, depression? Not just how to pin the bride's train.
Well, ‘tis the seasons of weddings...for family members, friends, and coworkers, and I’m excited to celebrate the weddings, but I’m praying for the marriages!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
STOP THE CAR! Turn around! Get the camera!"
A couple weekends ago, I found myself yelling these things from the backseat of my friend’s truck. Four girlfriends and me were driving through Cable, Wisc., on the way back to our condo where we were staying for the weekend. Where we had hoped to relax in swimsuits, bask in the sun, and sip cool drinks. Instead in sweatshirts and jeans, we drove 20 miles in the rain and 50-degree weather to the “largest” town to shop and catch a movie. Gotta love northern Wisconsin in the summer.
But as I was gazing out the window, content listening to my good friends chat and watching greenness speed by, I saw it. YUKI! Whiteness! The albino deer! The one Cable, Wisc., is known for. The one written up about in the town’s Chamber of Commerce “Things to do in Cable” booklet—last year’s edition—on our condo’s coffee table.
My friend did, in fact, turn around and park on the shoulder. We proceeded to take lots of photographs of Yuki. I mean, we had just read that Yuki’s been in hiding of late. Not seen too often. Locals were starting to wonder...Yuki still alive? And there we were, out-of-towners getting to see the thing. HA! But quite frankly, if I looked like that, I’d be in hiding too. It was disgusting—a cross between a very large white rat and another very large white rat with pink eyes and pink ears. Sick. But take another photo anyways because it’s Yuki—which means “snow” in Japanese. It also rhymes with puke-y.
So, there we were. Five girls. Laughing. Pointing. Snapping photos (speaking of, can one of you send me a pic? I’ll post it for others to partake of). Delighting in something out-of-the-ordinary. Something not seen everyday. It didn't last long. Yuki soon ran back into the woods, but seeing him, her, it, whatever, came to be one of the highlights of the trip. The tale and laughter live on.
I think there are Yukis each day, even amidst our monotonous routines and busy-ness. You just gotta be willing to stop and look. Or stop and listen. It’s worth a laugh or a smile.
Seen a Yuki today?
Monday, July 27, 2009
For the next mile or so I found myself contemplating this. It would have been different had be been in street clothes, walking and smoking, on his way to a store or a restaurant or a bar. But he was dressed to exercise, and he was on a somewhat secluded part of a path filled with people who use the path to exercise—rollerblade, walk, run, bike. And he was smoking.
I mean, maybe he wasn’t really exercising per se, but just trying to release some stress. Maybe he had spent the whole day at the hospital with a sick family member and just really needed a smoke to take the edge off.
Maybe he was an alcoholic trying to kick his drinking habit, and needed a cigarette to get him through the hour.
But all the potential scenarios I came up with in my head didn’t require the walking part. I mean, you can take the edge off with a cigarette while sitting on your bum on the porch. No need to walk. It definitely seemed like a diet-coke-at-McDonald’s situation (order two Big Macs, a large fry and THEN a diet coke).
So, then I tried to think about the places in my life where I do the same thing. I somehow managed to justify and explain every situation where I may do something along these lines (obviously). That is, until I got to my faith.
Living out a faith that is not diet-coke-at-McDonald’s is not natural; it’s a constant challenge. So often we walk—oh we’re walking...we’re going to church, we’re praying, we’re doing all the things we think Christians should be doing. But then we’re also smoking (Not meant literally. See post on cigars!). Attitudes and actions—or sometimes lack thereof—completely negate the walking. We huff and puff in our worry or our selfishness or anger or fear or whatever it is you smoke. And then we wonder why we walk alone. Why some aren’t always up for the hike...
Because it’ll be a hike no matter what. It’s just a bit easier without the cigarette.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The guy in front of me had two movies. He inserted his first one...waited, waited, waited. "Your DVD has been successfully returned." And then he inserted—or tried to—his second one. The thing wouldn’t go in. After multiple tries and a few sighs and whispered "what?"s from him, the screen said, "Sorry. This Redbox full. Please return your DVD at another Redbox location." I think the guy was actually relieved to see this because that way he knew I was no longer thinking the problem was a Redbox user error. That maybe his wrist wasn't positioned correctly as he tried to slide the movie in or something...
But anyways, the guy turned around and looked at me with his shoulders up and a sheepish grin. "Sorry," he said. Really? A Redbox can be full? And really? Right now? I was in a hurry! He said he guessed he’d just head over to Cub and return his other one there. My mental GPS went into action trying to figure out what my best options were. I wish I had thought to give him my movie and say "here, you return this! It’s your fault that Redbox is full! You just HAD to return Transformers!"
As I walked out, I found myself trying to envision what the inside of a Redbox looks like. Are the DVDs stacked horizontally? Vertically? And how exactly are they organized? Alpha order? Release date? How many boxes could a Redbox hold if a Redbox could hold boxes? I researched. I didn’t get all my answers, but here’s what I did discover...
A Redbox can hold 700 DVDs.
On average, one Redbox kiosk is opening each hour throughout the country.
Last month, more than 4 million people swiped their credit card through a Redbox. I was one of them.
Netflix may be in trouble.
You can purchase used movies at a Redbox for $7.
When your Redbox is full (holding 700 movies because the weather's nice and no one's inside watching a movie, especially on a week night), you can head to one of the 12,899 others.