Trucks are prohibited...but you are always welcome

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Entitled to Nothing

I have been watching a lot of my favorite show lately, "How I Met Your Mother." For those not familiar with the show, it follows a man through his journey to become who he needed to be before he could meet his wife. The story is presented as a narrative told from the future, with the recipients of the tale being his two future children. It's absolutely adorable. Anyway, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop and had a moment of clarity. I've been growing discontent (and maybe a bit resentful) recently waiting for the next step of my life, the start of my own family. I think this discontentment stems from feeding myself the message of this show and innumerable love stories like it: flounder along in life learning lessons from mistakes and once you reach a moment of personal growth, the universe will bestow upon you the perfect partner you so richly deserve for all your trouble. Another complicating factor of this erroneous perception is my mistaken view of God. I've been re-reading the old testament and it has reminded me that my God is not all warm and fuzzy, a teddy bear deity. He does not exist only to pull the cosmic strings and do a rain dance to ensure that all the pieces of my life fall together and equal perfect happiness. He wants me to be holy, He desires my obedience. I haven't held up my end of the bargain. He declares me righteous because of my faith in Jesus but that does not mean he gives me a much-deserved husband; it only means he does NOT give me a much-deserved death. He owes me nothing. I deserve nothing. When I look back at past relationships, I treated my brothers in Christ with such recklessness. I took them for granted, I lead them away from the cross, I mistreated them and acted selfishly. God would be completely just and right to declare me unfit for any one of them given my track record. Just because I've reached a point in my life where God is finally the rock upon which I build my life does not mean the universe owes me my prince charming. If my heavenly Father sees fit to join me with another at any point in my life it is nothing less than an ultimate show of grace. And I would be a fool to treat it with less than humble, dumbfounded gratitude.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dumb girl

I just want to play music
I just want to make my coffee, intricate like a science project
I want to travel, either past the boundaries of my building or past the boundaries of my continent
I want to immerse myself in art and nature, where places are green and blue and brown
I want to dance and ride my bike fast
I want to praise and worship, and grow in mustard seed faith

I want to stay busy, so I've barely time to think that these would be made infinitely better when shared with you. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Starbucks windows are the best reality TV around

He had a unique gait, shuffling and yet spritely, carried by heavy boots. Worker's boots, worn bald on the toe and unlaced. Sparse shoots of unkempt hair that may have been auburn at one point wave wildly, made alive by the bursts of autumn wind. Draped in camouflage like a soldier, he contrasted sharply and almost comically against the bland waves of grey and brick and metal of the city scenery. Veering. Drunk? Perhaps not but definitely aimless. Checking trashcans periodically, poking anthills and probing under rocks looking for One Man's Trash.
A few minutes pass and the trashcans and retracing of steps seem to lose appeal as he digs in his pockets and pulls out a candy bar. A car patiently awaits its turn to wander the streets as he stands in the  road fumbling with the wrapper. Success, the candy finds his mouth and the wrapper finds the street as a trashcan watches, disgruntled, from three feet away.
A woman stands next to the trashcan smoking, disinterestedly watching the man. She looks at the wrapper with disdain but does nothing, save furrowing an already furrowed brow. The smoke curves the lines of her face, cupping her brow before dissipating into the increasingly chilled air. Her demeanor  is an imprint; the folds of her visage remember every hard day and lonely night she's had in this city. She stares intently at a space in the air, and I wonder what memory she's inhaling and exhaling into smoke and ash.
I wonder if she pities the man, his low stature and desperation. I wonder if she sneers at the lack of shame and social etiquette.
I wonder if the man pities the woman, her lack of freedom and her dependence. Pity for her misery despite having the world in her possession.
Does his street feel like an exile?
Does her condo feel like a prison?
We all three wonder if there can ever be freedom until our feet feel the clouds.

Fully grown, never aging

It's come to my attention recently that I don't look/dress my age.
I don't wear heels or anything I have to dry clean.
Among my requests for my recent 25th birthday was a onesie with unicorn print.
But I have some concrete evidence that though the childish spirit in me is very much alive and well, I do exhibit some adult-like behaviors. Here are a few to start (mostly to assuage the nudging suspicion that I'm gripping my immaturity like a security blanket).
-I both understand, and utilize, a 403B retirement plan
-I put monthly installments into my investment portfolio and have an iphone app to track stocks and progress of said investments
-I genuinely care about my credit score
-Cleaning day is a cherished part of my weekly schedule
-I both own and regularly use olive oil
-I have regular dentist visits.... voluntarily
-Staying in and playing board games now sounds infinitely more enjoyable then going out
-My parents are now sources of valuable counsel and friendship
-Dinner parties, wine tastings and art exhibits are a consistent part of my social calendar
-I read and enjoy books that have no traces of pictures, wizards, vampires, characters, or fight scenes.
-I organize my receipts, bills, insurance forms and retirement plan information in labeled folders
-And last but not least... I am still currently living and in good health after living completely independently for seven years

That's all I can think of at the moment.
So I guess the point is... I do what I want, compadres.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Codes and Keys, Dogs and Fleas

Am I my sin?
As a flea is to a dog, but not to be confused with the dog itself. 
Do we condemn those trapped in sin habits?
Only if we aim to attack the hostage rather than the captor. 
I borrowed this topic from a favorite author of mine whose words echo what I've been working through as of late. The greatest lie told by the enemy (and one I believed for longer than I'm proud of) is that we and our sin are one. "Look at what you've done. It is who you are. You do because you are." The feeling this attitude produces is both freeing and utterly binding. It binds us to our wrong actions but frees us from all accountability. I can't tell you how many nights were spent pounding my pillow when my white-knuckle righteousness had failed to withhold against the purr of concupiscence and the leanings of my flesh. I, a dog returning to my vomit, cried out for what seemed like the millionth time; "Why do I keep falling?" In my ear, "This is who you are... it is what you crave and what you deserve." The enemy is so crafty, making his voice so much like my own that at times the two are indistinguishable.
Romans 6:5-14 speaks of the beautiful release that Christ's death afforded me, declaring me free from the power of sin. But then, why don't I feel free? I feel as trapped as I ever did. It all comes full circle in verse 15, "Don't you realize that you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey?" My sin is the flea to my dog, yes, but I fed it and kept it alive. Romans 7:14-25 describes the paradox perfectly. I can not do good, be good, by my own bootstrap theology. The Tenth Avenue North song resonates with me: "Hallelujah, we are free to struggle... we're not struggling to be free."

This post may seem a bit disheveled and undercooked... mainly because I am still processing through the tragic circumstance of being a broken human loved by a perfect God. I think Martin Luther had it just about right in his latin phrase describing the condition of the Disciple: Simul justus et peccator. Righteous, and at the same time, a sinner. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Intentionally Alone

I like to think I am intentionally alone. Does this mean I am single by a conscious choice? Well, yes and no... but that's not what I am referring to by this title. In my mind, my intentional solitude is more describing how the state of being is utilized and appreciated and less about the circumstances that created it.
I have come to fully believe that single years really are a gift. This statement was previously a trite and infuriating statement given by parents to assuage a lovelorn teen inquiring why all the other girls had boyfriends and she didn't. A lemon to a paper cut. But now I see the wisdom and the peace in having all the time and opportunity to truly focus on pleasing the greatest man in my life, who just happens to be the loveliest and worthiest man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. But like the gracious and selfless dear that He is, He is using all this time we share to work on my heart rather than just bask in my adoration. In this, I find the intentionality plays a role. As I intentionally grow close to my Savior, He intentionally readies me for the day He will give my hand and certain parts of my heart away to another. It's the funniest thing... when I seek earthly affection, He grows jealous and finds ways (usually painful ones) to remind me why He is the one I long for. But when I seek Him first He eagerly gifts me with earthly joys to echo and complement His glory. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all else will be added unto you."
Though I couldn't be further from marriage, my Lord and I are already making preparations. He is teaching me to recognize Himself in men, and seek it out. He is teaching me to be wise and use discretion. He is teaching me self-control and the beauty of purity. He is ridding me of selfishness and revealing the joy and fulfillment in the pouring out of self into another.
Please don't think me an anti-single love addict. Being married is not the ultimate goal for all people but I feel myself being gradually led down that path. The beauty of it all is the closer I come to being ready for marriage, the less and less I really care about when or if it happens. What a funny and wonderful God I serve.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tea with Lemon

Maybe it's the mood of the moment framed perfectly by the quietness of the hour, soft tones of Blind Pilot playing, and a good cup of tea... but I sure am feeling nostalgic. I've been looking back at my time here, all the ups and downs and I feel gratitude in a whelming tide. To be so rescued from myself, to watch dumbfounded as my Lord worked tirelessly while I sat in the ashes and scratched at my sores with broken pieces of pottery. Like Job, I had to have the excess stripped before I could really receive all the good things prepared for me. I believe that sometimes God will let us feel His absence (not to be confused with Him actually being absent) to encourage us to rely less on feelings and more on faith. I was guilty of chasing the feelings, the spiritual highs, making the emotions an idol. For the past several months, a spiritual numbness was my constant companion. Yet every time I prayed, asking God to draw near and return the passion for Him to me to ease my doubts, the answer was always the same. "Choose me. Choose faith." So I prayed, feeling I was having a one-sided conversation. I read my bible with no fire or desire. I struggled, blind, deaf, and dumb.
Lately though, He has returned full-force and it's a sweet homecoming. I feel His presence and His peace and I appreciate it so much more. The contrast is overwhelming. It's so profound I find myself sneaking away during the day to be alone with Him. It is just such a joy to practice the presence of God and enjoying full and absolute acceptance that comes, and to be fully understood, fully known, and fully loved.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi...

I've never taken compliments about my appearance well. When I was younger (and occasionally nowadays) it was because the words felt like a pair of too-small pants; they didn't fit. I just didn't accept them because I didn't believe it to be true.
Now that I've grown into my skin a bit and made peace with the mirror, I can accept compliments like a piece of gum right after I've just brushed my teeth. I don't need it, but I appreciate the gesture. But lately (most specifically in relationships) constant comments on my appearance tend to bristle. I do appreciate the comments, and who doesn't like to be told they are lovely... but only being complimented for my outside makes me feel as if the inside is not important or even worse, not appreciated. A Lana Del Rey song croons, "will you still love me when I'm no longer young and beautiful?" It's the cry of every woman's heart. Tell me that I'm loved for more than my exterior... I am more than decor and accessory. It has taken me years and lots of time weeping in the arms of my Savior to learn that I am worthy beyond my sexuality and femininity and the last thing I need is to have my progress reversed by verbal classical conditioning from my brothers in Christ. I still struggle everyday in this looks-driven society. The Bible talks of the Proverbs 31 woman who is made lovely by her hard work, her good deeds, and her love rather than any outward adornment. This beauty will never fade. I had a patient tell me about his wife of 60 years and how she "used to be a real beautiful girl."  "Used to be? You don't still find her beautiful ?" He then proceeded to ask me to dinner.
Physical attraction is important, but I believe love needs to be based on seeing something unique at the very core... the strings and fibers that make up the heart-of-hearts of your beloved... and knowing you can't live without that heart tied to yours. Admire her courage. Compliment her generosity. Notice her perseverance. These will last when figures fall, faces show lines, and gray knits its way through brunette/blonde/red tresses. To my brothers, encourage your sisters not to over-emphasize appearance. Compliment our godly behaviors, use that classical conditioning for the greater good. And search not for the most beautiful, but the most godly woman in your circle. Because when all of us have grown old and ugly, you will still have the godliest woman... and in that, she will be the most beautiful woman. You win.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

You don't know me from Adam

I'm re-reading from Genesis, and also working my way through Donald Miller's amazing book, "Searching for God Knows What." Both seem to land coincidentally on a man by the name of Adam. Miller talks about Adam in the garden, a huge expanse of virgin land where man and God walk together as friends without sin yet marring the communion. There is no division, no strife, no need for airs and tuxedos. Just air and breath and sun, Creator and creation. But yet, Adam feels something that he has no name for, and God sees it: Adam is lonely. Not unhappy, unfulfilled or any other un-words... but lonely. After the creation age of "it is good" God says, as if to Himself, "it is not good for man to be alone." He goes to Adam (the frameworks and blueprints of the coming helpmate already spinning through His head), and tells him to name the animals. Name them all. Adam becomes the very first naturalist, studying every one of his companions in that great Wilderness. Wandering through mountain and valley, a hundred years of study and work; and all the while he was lonely.
But oh, the rapture of that morning when he had laid down to rest and opened his eyes to find Eve... the helpmate he had been searching for and longing for all these years. The gratitude, respect, and adoration felt for her was multiplied tenfold by every year he walked the garden without her. Oh, but the timing was perfect. All he can utter in this moment are few but weighty words: "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh."
When I pray about my future lately, especially regarding love, I have a few specific prayers. I pray that the man I will meet is like Adam, working hard at the tasks put before him by God. And I pray that someday I will feel the way Eve must have felt on that morning. To be so cherished by a man who had needed her for so long before her arrival, to be met with such gratitude. Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Love is a Battlefield

If I've learned one thing about the Christian walk, it's that it is a daily activity rather than a one-and-done conversion. Every day I have to make the conscious decision to keep walking, growing, loving, etc. It's kayaking in a class 3 rapid; if you stop paddling, you will go backwards. There is no standing still when it comes to chasing after the heart of God. Yes, he is always pursuing, but we are also a very frivolous, forgetful people.
The point I am dancing around here is an issue I'm dealing with from people I'm close to.
Many Christian dating relationships focus on a very important aspect: purity. Christian couples will fight hard to have a Godly relationship with bible studies, prayer, accountability and restraint to keep kosher. Yes, purity is important... especially when God has brought you someone you want to respect, but also want to make open-mouthed kisses with. (Ha.) But what comes of it once the rings are on and the fight is over? You win! Go forth and multiply. But where is the motivation to pursue righteousness in light of the freedom you both now enjoy?
Lust is not the ultimate threat to Godly relationships.
Maybe more so in dating, but in marriage a new enemy rears its ugly head. This threat is much more delicate and crafty, and is a destroyer of worlds; selfishness and pride. They can creep in quietly and nestle in between the thrift-store furniture you've both recently purchased and there they grow and fester. Unless they are continuously being hunted and rooted out, they will grow and taint every bit of the old, new, borrowed, and blue. Like a mold. There may be symptoms that masquerade as unpleasant character flaws or personality quirks, but the putrescence below rages on. Don't be fooled, the struggles of selfishness in marriage are very much just as spiritual in nature as the lust you battled against in dating and should be approached the same way. Bible studies, prayer, accountability, and restraint. Both situations call for you to put the good of the other as top priority, and hope (but not expect) that the same grace will be granted you.
And above all, God heals all. No disease of the spirit can ever be conquered if God is not the center and the focus of both lives.
But what do I know? I've never been married. So maybe I'll stop talking now :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Russian Roulette With a Flare Gun

And..... wait.
The Lord has blessed me with a restless heart and a passion for adventure. I know I have never felt more myself than when exploring new places and having new experiences, either in this country or another. Every country I've been to, I rarely got homesick and always wanted just a few more days to wander. Many desires float around in my tiny body. I want to backpack in mountains of Cambodia, I want to ride my bike around the Italian canals, I want to drink strong coffee and strum guitars with the Spaniards and I want to sort through fistfuls of fresh-picked coffee cherries with Rwandan farmers. I take a "bloom where planted" approach to my life here and always hold my world with loose hands, ready to have it taken away (or at least shaken up a bit). I work hard at the tasks put before me because they, too, are for God's glory and are a gift. But in my desperate prayers for direction, I get the same message. "Stay. Pray. Wait. Trust." For what, I don't know. But I'm getting restless and eager for whatever the next step of my life is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Walden Van

I want to spend a year living out of a van.
Everyone I have expressed this to have all responded similarly: "Why? That's dumb and dangerous".
Maybe I will, maybe I won't, but let me tell you why I want to.
For one thing, I am a bit of a rolling stone. Always have, and always likely will be. I don't like to stay in one place for long and seem to have an addiction to change. Therefore, my home being wherever I feel like it hits me in a deep place. But the most attractive thing about living a minimalist, stripped-down existence is the freedom. A life stripped of distractions, excess, and worrying about dumb stuff like plasma screen TVs and if my decor is outdated or not. I would spend the whole day doing nothing but being in nature and enjoying my Creator and His creations, hunkering down in coffee shops to read, or fellowshipping with brothers and sisters because there is literally nothing else. I need very little to be content and feel the best quality time with God is spent doing the aforementioned activities. At best, it would be a spiritual revolution, a 'Walden 
Pond' kind of year. At worst, it would be a challenging social experiment I can tell the grandkiddies about someday when trying to explain why they should shut off the 3D Mariokart and go outside. I will know a kindred soul when they hear my van dream and say, "can I come?"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Problem of Pain, The Purpose of Pain

I read months ago C.S Lewis' chronicle of his experiences after the death of his beloved wife, 'The Problem of Pain'. In true Lewis form, he pulled the pins from his heart, placed there by mortality, and named each one. He cut apart and catalogued every iota of his broken heart, giving purpose to the pain. After the hurt and anger of my own loss of love (whether it was storge, philia, or eros, I can't presently tell) subsided, I began to do the same. I dissected the whole business like a surgeon until the pieces began to fit once again together. Not every unsuccessful relationship is a failure, not if it was dedicated to the glory of God. Were mistakes made by each party involved? Of course... but the salvation and grace of one was extended to the other. Two children of God, growing and falling together. I see now the effects. My dear boy, previously self-relient and unfocused, remedial and inflexible in the search for the meat of Him. Now, well connected in the fellowship and now with a full knowledge of the weakness of self and the need for utter dependence on the grace of God. And me...before I was a bitter, self-involved shrew of a woman who sneered at the role of a biblical woman and cynical to the core. Now I find myself changed to one who's heart is scarred but softened, hands that are weary but open, and eyes that search only for the Savior, both in Heaven and in the hearts of the Brothers around me. Yes, I still find myself wistful and longing for the friend that I had and lost, and I am eager for the day I have that friend back. But until then I will pray for both of us, that God would continue the work he started with our clumsy, baby deer relationship. Praise the Lord for His goodness to His servants, and praise Him for the purpose of pain.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

We didn't start the fire

How do you build a fire (properly)? You start with a bundle of small twigs, followed by thin, dry sticks. Then, surround the pile with larger branches and finally the logs. Use tinder and a lighter or flint to start the fire going and watch it grow. I was thinking of how this fire-building is like the sin I find myself battling with. I make small, seemingly insignificant decisions throughout my day; let my mind dwell on this fantasy, watch this movie, listen to this song...etc etc. This is the laying down of small twigs. Then, larger decisions. A small compromise in the wrong direction. A risque conversation. A branch, and another. The surrounding is set up for a mistake, a stumble. Logs. Then, sooner or later comes the spark. The small flame to the perfect setting I've created over days, weeks, months. And the flame that devours is too powerful, burns too bright. It burns because I fed it. It burns because I've nurtured it and prepared for it. I never meant to start a forest fire, yet it rages on. And in the destruction, I look down at the matches in my own hand and am powerless to do a thing. Only I (and God) can prevent this chain of events. No more gathering twigs, and no more playing with fire. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

I feel an adventure coming on

My God is a Ninja

I've struggled with my reckless, unfocused heart for as long as I can remember. My struggle for identity and need for validation was the driving force behind most of my college-age decision making. I know many Christians can pin-point the moment their walk burst into life in the same way we all remember where we were on 9/11, but with mine it didn't happen like an explosion; it happened like a whisper. It happened like the turn of a season, each day one degree warmer until I found the snow replaced by thin, new blades of grass under my feet. I can, however, pinpoint the brokenness that started the reaction. The catalyst, if you will. It took a shattering of self to get me to renounce my own self-reliance. This looked momentarily like a renunciation of my faith as I indulged in what I had previously denied myself. Then, the seasons began to turn. My down-turned face felt a nudge under my chin as He lifted my eyes to Himself. "Look at me". I had, until then, occupied my eyes with my own heart, tinkering with it and trying to fix the un-fixable. But now thoroughly disgusted with its condition, I turned my eyes to Him. This forgetfulness of self and adoration of the Creator started the rotation, the spin of the globe that brought the sun back into view. He changed my season, and all the work I had been striving for before was beginning to be accomplished as I rested. I can't describe the relief of dropping my hands, lifting my eyes, and breathing clean air for the first time in years. I pray He keeps me from taking up the plow once again. And now I see my own heart is still unfinished, but farther along than I could have ever hoped... and I never even realized work was being done. Glorious grace... I bring nothing, I have nothing to offer, and can do nothing on my own. Before I would have used a relationship as a substitute for God and His influence, but now my gratitude and need for Him is so great that I know that won't be the case. His plan is perfect, His timing is perfect, and I find myself swept away in the beauty of it all.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Times, they are a'changing

To be honest, I'd forgotten how much I love this blog.
I suppose as I've nurtured close friendships, I have confided in them all the things I could only express here before. My life looks very much the same, only perhaps enhanced and made sharper. A world seen with old eyes but a new pair of glasses. The blessings have continued, I am blessed through my church and friendships and I bless with my work, music, and fellowship. I suppose the biggest change as of late is a new relationship, very much like the one I'd kept tucked quietly in the back of my life's game-plan. But now the play is in action, and the moves that are so unfamiliar seem to flow seamlessly. It looks, however, different than I thought it would, and God delights me by showing me his wisdom in bringing me someone I may not have believed I wanted, but always needed. And it is better. So, so much better. But more on that later...