Thursday, January 31, 2013

i hold these truths to be self-evident.

why haven't i written in a while? oh yeah, life.

but that's always the excuse. but life is not an excuse for anything. who gives a rip if life is an excuse? it better be! otherwise you'd be dead and people would be sad. truly. they would.

i wonder if my school papers have sucked because i've stopped blogging. or maybe because i like to use the word 'sucked'. and i hate using my pinkies to use the 'shift' key. but using it for ' is okay.
i'm a hypocrite.

there have been many adventures. still are. will be.

we are now in the looking for houses phase of our twenty-something life. it is teeeerrifying. forget houses being haunted; it's especially frustrating when you realize that you have issues from the past that are apparently doing the haunting when you LOOK at houses. it's okay. or at least, it will be.

jesus is more real now. so much more real that i realize he doesn't matter if i capitalize his name or not. he is just so good. even when things are so full of sarx and life and dirt and poop.

grad school is hard. can we just be honest here? why in the world would someone submit themselves to things like this? oh, because we are gluttons for punishment and somehow, somewhy, we cannot say 'no' to school.
'lifelong learners', we say. 'preparing for the future!', we say.
lord help us.
well, and also because learning is fun. but that can be quickly forgotten.

there are two kinds of people in life:
those who knew they wanted to be an astronaut, pillow maker, baker, zoo keeper, and dammit, they are astronauts, pillow makers, bakers, and zoo keepers the second they leave their parents' house. 


those who within any given week of their 9-, 12-, 16-, 20 1/2-, 34-, 58-year old lives are in a constant mindwar of WHATINTHEWORLDAMISUPPOSEDTODOWITHMYLIIIIIIIFE?!

those are the only two options. i know of no others.

in my mind, the second group are NOT the kind of people who go to grad school. they like options. they do not like making decisions. they do not really narrow things down in life. if they did, they would be the first group. god bless those people. i'm eternally envious.

i believe i have second-guessed my grad school decision roughly 8,254 times and counting. today i had at least three more. i don't know why i'm there. they must see i'm a fraud by now, right?

trust. it all comes down to trust.

trust that if yet another class is failed, i can still continue.
trust that jesus is with me, even in my bad memory and failed classes.
trust that yes, thousands upon thousands of dollars are sacrificed, but this is not all there is to life.
trust that i need to do scary things. that require trust. this counts. 
trust that if i die tomorrow, i died trying to become the best counselor i could be, in my current capacity.
trust that even if i fail completely, i will still be loved, cared for, and accepted by those who truly know me.
trust that my uncertainty is okay in the hands of jesus.
trust that my current capacity is constantly stretching to fit more experiences, failures, to make me more fully me.

why, i do not even know what will happen tomorrow. what is my life? i am a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
i have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly
look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet my Dad feeds them. am i not much more valuable than they? can i by worrying add a single hour to my life?
 these are the lived-in truths of the moment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

George Page and feeling helpless.

Did you ever watch that PBS series Nature?  The one hosted and narrated by George Page, who had that super syrupy voice? I was completely enthralled by those natural history documentaries. The more animals there were, the better.

My dad and I have this thing we say if we see something extraordinary in nature, like seeing a V flock of birds across an incredible sunset, or catching a spider spinning an amazing web. Basically catching animals being animals but in ways that aren’t typical. We call it “having a George Page moment”. I do affirm the fact that, sure, these are “God moments”, but whatevs. George Page was a BA.

Last night I had a George Page moment.

We’re currently in Morro Bay staying at the Koole’s house. [Thank you guys!] I was dumping out our ice chests in the front yard when I heard a rustling in the street.   
In the gutter, there was a dove that appeared flapping its wings against the ground. I went across the street and was horrified: its neck appeared to be broken and bent out of shape, so it couldn’t balance to fly properly. Its leg appeared to also be crooked and lame.
I carefully picked it up and took it to our side of the street and put it in the Koole’s walkway.

It just sat there, head twisted up at me, not knowing what to do. I just sat there, head twisted down, not knowing what to do. I love animals, but have absolutely no medical knowledge for animals. This bird clearly was beyond help and was struggling to breathe. What do you do then? So I watched.

Thus began the dove’s horrifically awkward dance; of fluttering and flapping, while banging its head on the ground, trying to push itself up to get to the air. It was like watching a fly hit the inside of a window and buzz in circles on the sill for a while until it got too tired to buzz. Because his neck was bent, he was constantly looking at me the whole time. It was disheartening.
He flapped for a good twenty minutes and then waddled/flapped/bumped his way into the street. Several times, actually. Once, he waddled back to the street so quickly, I didn’t have time to pick him up. By the time I turned around to sit back down to watch, he flew about three feet in the air, hit one of the brick pillars in the Koole’s front yard, spiraled out of control and landed on the grass. He waited a bit, then tried again. And landed in the street.
I kept bringing him back onto the sidewalk so he wouldn’t get hit by a car, but kept thinking, maybe that would be better? Maybe that’s what he wants?

I began to tear up. I feel a lot like him sometimes. My life is broken and falling apart and I can’t see straight enough to fly. I bang my head against a wall, trying to right myself and attempt to see the bigger picture, yelling at God to fix me and make me right again. But the harder I flap, the more tired and frustrated I become. I can do this myself! I can do this! I’ve done it before! I don’t need help! I’ve never been in this position before, but I know how to fly! So why is it so hard now?!

In all of these thoughts, the dove’s needs kept playing in the back of my head: it needs to be fixed, it needs water, what if it can’t find a worm to eat?, it’s getting cold and should get home soon… yet I can’t fix any of these problems except for maybe the water. But its neck is too warped to drink anything. What the hell.

I brought him back to the grass one more time. He kept flapping. By now the sun had gone down, and it was chilly. I decided I’d just wait until the end. He kept flapping. I’ll just sit here and wait. If anything I’ll put him under a tree to hide him from predato….

From right above me, from the eave of the house, a massive hawk swooped down and grabbed the dove in less than a second. It had been sitting there watching the dove, just like I’d been. What. The. What.

*Cue outrageously surprised, dumb look on face*

That just happened.

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I know the metaphor isn’t exactly right, but that’s exactly what I thought about the moment Mr. Hawk flew into the pine tree across the street and dove screeches began filling the air.
If we allow ourselves to be broken, flapping, and helpless in plain sight of the enemy, we shouldn’t be surprised if we’re destroyed. The devil is watching me flounder, just like God is. The question is, will I give up and let myself be taken, or will I allow God to help fix me? I don’t know how to fix myself.

So who will I let get to me first?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Jobs, and me.

Among other things, art is something that I struggle to maintain balance in my life. Creating something is beautiful, fulfilling, nerve-wracking, and hopeful. It puts into practice the skills God has given me, makes me feel like I'm doing something awesome, frustrates me because I never think it's "good enough", and still encourages me to keep doing it. This morning I had a talk with my dad-in-law, who encourages me in my artistic endeavors. "Even though 'art' is broad and vague, you need to keep creating things. There is always seems to be a reason behind what you create, and that's really neat. It's important." I need to remember that what I do is important.

I got this list of seven reasons to be creative from Ann Voskamp. She's legendary. And oh so humble. Right now I'm trying to allow these to permeate my brain in order to kick my rear in gear to keep creating. If you're in a rut, or just need another reason to keep doing what you're doing, allow these to help you out.

Seven Keys to Creativity

1. Quit trying to fit. Why try to squeeze all your extraordinary into ordinary?

2. God made woman to be a maker, to open her empty places and let life be knit from within her.

3. Creativity, it’s good theology; it’s what God did in the beginning.

4. When we stop fearing failure, we start being artists.

5. Don’t let the sun set till you’ve done one thing that sort of scares you. The only trees that ever grow tall keep relentlessly stretching into unknown territory.

6. Art, it’s the second person present indicative of the verb to be. Art is a way of being and when you make your life art — thou art.

7. You have to bury your fear in faith. Otherwise you bury your talents.

Whatever talent you have that you think is stupid because you're the "only one" who seems to have it, you're even more stupid if you don't put it to use. Although I don't believe God's put me on earth to be an artist, He still gave me certain gifts like a steady hand, an eye for detail and a love of color. And even if I'm not getting my master's degree along those lines, there are many other things that I'm supposed to hone in on because my Dad gave me those gifts. And part of being creative is figuring out how to work all your gifts together for the glory of the One who gave them. Letting fear run our lives is how the devil steals our joy. And art is pure joy!...whether we're painting, singing, putting a computer together, writing a play, or creating a brand-spankin' new recipe, do it with joy, and not a spirit of fear or self-condemnation.

Let's make because our Maker made!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On reactions and receiving.

I think there are times when God allows life to happen and there are no words for it. No explanation. Things just happen. Choice, reaction. Occurrence, reaction. Fortune, reaction. Turmoil, reaction. Life is a series of our reactions to things that happen, or to choices we make. I'm certain of it. If I were to propose a new sort of psychological theory, that would be it. But that probably already exists.

Anyway, for as many times that life just happens unexplained, I'd say about 25% of the time, my life goes through an 'a-HA!' phase. That twenty-five percent (probably less) is the explanatory phase. God ends up revealing the 'why' to my mullings, processes, reactions that I've had for the other 75% of the time. So sometimes I go through life with no explanations, sometimes there is a quick explanation in the middle of life and things begin to make sense.

As people, we want to be justified in everything we do. Even if I do something negligent, I still reason away my feelings of inadequacy and fault; I just desperately want to be right.
I've been reading A Grief Observed, thanks to my dear Wendy. CS Lewis is raw, unabashed, emotional, and logical all in a short 76 pages. The pages are pieces of his journal after losing his wife, that show intense pain, anger, questioning, the problem of evil, and coming to terms with the ever-present loss as well as her ever-present presence he still felt with her absence. It's a great book.
I'm not usually one to write in-depth about books, although I do love them and think about them quite often, something I read today is very note-worthy. I will not give a context, other than he is grieving the death of his wife, but also pondering true desperation:

Why has no one told me these things? How easily I might have misjudged another man in the same situation? I might have said, 'He's over it. He's forgotten his wife,' when the truth was, 'He remembers her better because he has partly got over it.'
Such was the fact. And I believe I can make sense out of it. You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can't, in the most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can't get the best out of it. 'Now! Let's have a real good talk' reduces everyone to silence. 'I must get a good night's sleep tonight' ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst. Is it similarly the very intensity of the longing that draws the iron curtain, that makes us feel we are staring into a vacuum when we think about our dead?

... And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all the your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when Go can't give it: you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.

On the other hand, 'Knock and it shall be opened.' But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? And there's also 'To him that hath shall be given.' After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give. Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity.

[taken from pages 45-46]

To quote Liz Lemon, what the what? Have I been so caught up in my own grasping, clawing, feelings, that I cannot see that His hands are out with good things? Have I been angry at God for not coming through, but all the while it was simply my pride and inability to receive that I do not have?
Even being blindingly frustrated at Josh can cause me to think that the whole world is out to get me and that no one loves me. How stupidly foolish.
My reactions give way to how I will further act in any given situation, but my reactions come from a deep-seeded ability or inability to receive.
Do I receive grace at this time?
Do I accept their apology?
Am I at a place to give advice right now?
Do I take them at their word?
Do I receive that particular person's praise?
Can I rightfully give this person grace that I've been given? 
Usually, my emotions are correct about 50% of the time. They are real, but they are not always correct. Curse of being a woman. (Just kidding guys, you're just like us.) Yet almost 100% of the time, I base my reality on how I feel about things. This is relativism at its finest.

And so, perhaps, with God.
If I have not built up trust, I will not trust Him.
If I have not ever thought to receive anything good from God, why would I believe He gives good things?
If I do not think I am beautiful, how can I believe God created me perfectly?
If I cannot forgive myself for my sin, how can I expect God to do the same?
These are the things that create callouses in our minds. Whether they are true or not, we allow them to stay.

For me, all this means setting out to take God at His word. He commands us to love, to love others more than the amount that we love ourselves (1 Cor. 16.14). We are to pray for each other, and bear each others' crap (Col 3, Ephesians 4). We are to trust, and trust with confidence that God is who He says He is (Heb 11). We are to know that His ways are higher and more lofty and incomparable to ours (Is 55.8-9) and that we cannot fathom how all the goodness and crap comes together to make an amazing picture. We just can't.

We can only give what we've received. I cannot give what I have not received.

So it doesn't matter that I don't feel like loving that person, that stranger or my husband, I must do it anyway. Because love isn't a thing. It's a choice I make to accept the love I've been given and give it back to others, regardless if they deserve it or not. 
It doesn't matter that I get the short end of the stick, I must accept it graciously and be thankful that it is in fact, a stick. (Okay that was dumb. Make it a piece of pizza and now we're talking.)
It doesn't matter that I'm wronged, but what I will do with my actions immediately afterward.
It doesn't matter that my emotions are getting the better of me, I still have life to live. It might be slow, but it still must be lived, and lived well. 
It doesn't matter that I don't like that person, I'm still commanded to respect and love them.
It doesn't matter that I don't know where I'll be in a year, I'm to be a person that, will be still trusting Jesus and accepting His truth in a year.

So it's a matter of receiving, reactions, and giving. Huh.
Now I'm going to go back to the other 75% of life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming...

those are some hopeful words. they are like music.

it's hard to hope for something you only think is going to happen.
it's hard to hope in something you only think is going to happen.

of all the paralyzing emotions that a human can have, fear is the worst.
it denies us love, hope, joy, peace, forgiveness, and freedom.

you might be kneeling in the dark somewhere, crying out for a hope you think is never coming.
you could turn to the bottle,
little white seeds of numbness,
or a piece of metal to ease the pain.
you might be craving a purge of sin
or are purging your own body of food.
you might be dying from words spoken of you.
words untrue.
people might be fighting you on what you believe and it kills you.
it might be the absolute darkest it's ever been for you.

you might be living in friday.
the deathly friday.
that friday was the darkest it's ever been.

but then.

then there was Sunday.

blessed, blessed Sunday!
the Day that the rock turned to pebbles because of course, life is stronger than death.
the day that caused us to throw down those tools of destruction and choose to throw ourselves on the only body that can save our hopeless hearts.
because we are.
we are hopeless.

the day that gave us the freedom to live in peace and not be in conflict with ourselves or others.
freedom to live in joy

freedom to live a guilt-free life

freedom to fail and be picked up

freedom to seek help, and accept it

freedom to start forgiving ourselves

freedom to accept peace we cannot understand

freedom to love others in the way you try to love yourself

freedom to keep living in the mundane because you still have a present hope.

deep hope is like stirring music; you cannot understand why it moves you, but you feel the urge to move.
you have no clue how to move, you just are convinced you must.
if you can't move, then
scream loud,
run fast,
jump high,
fall on your face,
cry til your face is red and puffy,
pump your fists with all your might.

but do. not. sit.
you cannot afford to.

embrace the hope you do not understand.

Jesus died, was buried, rose again and changed history.
of that i am most sure.

friend, embrace the Hope you do not understand.
for it is the greatest hope.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekend happenings.

Jesus speaks to people in strange ways.
Through pieces of paper.
Through broken words.
Through video conferences.
There are people we are called to love: those who bring us joy, those who are testy, those who are our foe, those who are far from us.

Sometimes our foe is ourselves. We hate ourselves. We strongly dislike ourselves. But we're still called to love. It's. So. Hard.

Loving ourselves is a cyclical circle of finding our identity in Christ.
They inform each other. Its just how it happens.

Gosh, so much life happened at the women's retreat. I met so many incredible, faith-filled women who are doing their best to live life as excellent moms, wives, and friends. It was so encouraging.
It made me want to live more excellently.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- happens.
One moment, you can be such filled with hope and joy, and then you get a really big chance to secure the fact that you actually have hope and joy, no matter the situation.
To see if you really won't crack.
But you probably will.
Because you're human.
I did.

Not five minutes after I walked in the door from the retreat, I had to go to the bathroom.
Habitually, I looked into Iris' cage to say my usual, "Hey beebee!"

She was dead.

It surprised me how sad I was.
I really really loved her.
I loved her as best I knew how.
She just never woke up.
I could be really angry about myself.
I was for a little while.
I told Jesus how I felt about this.
And now I'm okay with it.
I buried her in the bushes below our bedroom window and cried a lot.
I thanked Jesus that we as Americans can even have exotic pets in our possession.
[Seriously? We're so spoiled!]

Anyway. That's all, really.
Jesus is really awesome, and allows us to have really good things for a time.
Whether it's a cool pet, a great gift of speaking, a neat idea, or a word of encouragement.

Sometimes things are just for a time.
And we have to be alright with that.

Love you, girl.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Surprise me, God.

sur-prise [ser-prahyz, suh-] to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpectedness; to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly.

When I started the job at FPU north, I found a book as we were cleaning out old offices called Surprise Me, God. I took it home and ironically, I only read the back flap and the first chapter. The author decided that every morning for 30 days, he would pray, "Surprise me, God" with the notion that when you ask God to surprise you, you can't be surprised if something great or really awful happens because you asked for a surprise. But it also insinuates that you'll be on the lookout for things to happen.
I didn't want to read the rest because I wanted to try it myself and didn't want expectations. (As if God surprises people in the same way.)

Sometimes I forget to pray in the morning and go about my day and just be. Maybe at 2:15 I'll remember to ask God to surprise me, and from then on, I'm on the lookout. Sometimes I'll remember at 10 at night and think about the day and how I was surprised or not. I've given up feeling guilty about things like forgetting and not reading the bible and feeling bad about not praying, etc. As long as I'm walking with Jesus, I'm filled.

Things have just ...happened. Maybe things have always been happening and I haven't noticed, or maybe because I've asked, stuff has happened.

I've found favor at work when favor wasn't likely.

I haven't been as worried lately about my physical appearance.

Our marriage has become more fine-tuned. We are close friends and learn something new about each other every day and I respect him more.

I notice people more. As in, their mannerisms, the way they interact with other people, if they're stressed, short with me, generous, etc. It might be creepy, but sue me for being observant. Wait. Please don't sue me.

I went to Zona Rosa Caffe last night and some guys came in and I got to talk to them about their art they were hanging up. We had a nice chat about oils vs. acrylic paints and why they do what they do. They were just regular guys with some amazing talent.

I had a lovely conversation today with Alicia Nash in the restroom. We talked about what it was like to make A Beautiful Mind, what Jennifer Connelly was like, what the weather in New Jersey is like, and how neither of us like windy days because it messes up our hair.

I hate him. Guilt. And he doesn't plague as much as it once did. Which is quite surprising.

There have been some really crappy surprises too. Students going through an unexpected hell at home and not knowing what to do about it is awful. The little girl I've been tutoring has turned into a let's-trust-Jesus-with-this-one kind of situation. I've felt more of a rage towards frustrating situations that I don't know what to do with.

But being surprised is turning out to be exciting.


When you ask God to surprise you, you're innately asking Him to be Himself. God will work as only He can, which is not necessarily how you would act. "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways." (paraphrasing Isaiah) He knows what we need, even more specifically than we know we need them.

The people who attended the Cana wedding probably didn't expect to be surprised. They probably assumed it would be an awesome party with lots of eating, drinking, dancing, throwing the garter and whatnot. When the host ran out of wine, Jesus' mom nudged him in the ribs and was like, "Hey J, you're God. You should do something about this." To which Jesus probably responded by an epic eye-roll and sighed, "Woman, why do you involve me? You know that my time hasn't come yet. Why you gotta try to run my life?" Just kidding. He only may or may not have said that last part. But then his mom ignores him and practically throws him under the bus and tells the guys attending to do whatever Jesus asked them to do. Thanks, mom.
So even though the moment apparently wasn't right for Jesus [or maybe it was], he goes ahead and turns the water into wine. And it was the best wine any of them had ever had. If Jesus made wine, just imagine how good it would be. If you're a teetotaler, imagine the best drink you've ever had. It was better than that. Shoooot.
Jesus was just doing what he did. But it was surprising.

Nicodemus' mind was blown when Jesus told him that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "...You should not be surprised at my saying, 'you must be born again'." Jesus didn't surprise Nic for the sake of surprising, He acted in the truth that He brought. He Himself was the vessel by which to be born again, and was just acting in that truth.
Jesus was just doing what he did. But it was surprising.

Later in John, Jesus surprises the Samaritan woman at the well. He spoke to her in a firm, truthful gentleness that expressed the need for change in her life. All her life she had been waiting for the Messiah and didn't really expect him to come around anytime soon. Maybe because she went through men like I go through cell phones. I can't imagine her to be a very patient or trusting person. So when Jesus said, "I who speak to you am He," she probably nearly fell into the well she was sitting on.
Jesus was just doing what he did. But it was surprising.

The last surprise was last night.

When I walked into coffee shop #2, I just wanted to feel wanted. I've been in Pasadena since Wednesday and I miss my hubs and friends. Thursday night is the night we do bible study with the Hermosillas and I really wanted to be there. So I was feeling a little homesick. About two hours earlier, I'd asked Jesus to surprise me and had been immensely enjoying getting lost around the town. So at the coffee shop, I ordered a bagel and sat down to do some reading.
I'd noticed a large group of people doing a very intense bible study about giving and the state of one's heart, etc. It was encouraging to overhear their conversation.

The book I was reading is called Created for Community. It's pretty good stuff. I was super absorbed, when the group broke up to pray for each other. The women came over to near where I was sitting to do so. I started packing up my things to leave when one of the girls told the group that she just found out she was pregnant. They got super excited and I offered a happy "Congratulations!" her way. They looked at me and asked if I'd like to pray with them. Of course! They asked about Created for Community and we laughed because it was what we were doing! We spent about an hour talking about our lives, and praying for the new life that was inside of Judith. We prayed for each other and it was all very normal. These girls felt like sisters and they were. Are. The funny thing is, Daniella is in the same program at Azusa and in the same tumultuous boat I'm in when it comes to figuring out what Jesus has for us. We ended up talking and praying more together and she offered to take me back to where I was staying. We exchanged info and parted.
God knew just what I needed last night. And it was perfect and normal.

Because Jesus was just doing what he did. And it was a surprise.