Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Capture the Castle

One of my favorite books of all time . . . that I can never recommend to anyone.

The first two thirds of the book are lovely. Cassandra lives in a dilapidated castle with her eccentric family, which includes a brilliant father who has suffered writer's block after publishing a brilliant novel ten years prior. As an aspiring writer herself, Cassandra details everything in her journal in an attempt to "capture" the events and beauty around her. And she does so in the most charming and readable way possible! When I say I fell in love with this book two pages in, I mean I was unreconcilable to the thought of putting it down until I was done. I talked about it incessantly, read parts aloud, tried to mimic the writing style for school essays, yeah, it was love. 

Or, was love for the first two thirds. Then the story goes horribly wrong when the most complicated love (pentagon?) surfaces. Cassandra, for all her artistic and brilliant leanings, becomes a sop that can't be happy for her sister and who pines away after her sister's fiance. Which ends up not mattering when it turns out her sister loves the man's brother instead, who coincidentally Cassandra liked initially. There is much crying and complaining and awkwardness and eloping. Cassandra feels bad, and so refuses to pursue her infatuation for her sister's fiance after he is dumped and available. Plus, the Gilbert-esque character who has loved Cassandra all along gets hung out to dry. Repeatedly. 

Cassandra had become my friend - I admired her for her wit and skill and imagination, she was so loveable! And then she turned into a whining, selfish, and infatuated twit. And she expected you to love her for it still. I really couldn't help myself, by the time I made it to the end, my only thoughts were, "That was rot. I loved it." It's one of my favorite books of all time. For no real good reason. And while I'm kind of ashamed of that, because it certainly says something about me, I feel as though a book that can move you to such deep dedication to a fictional character that you forgive them for being stupid, loving them still, that's a book that is worthy of being well-loved.

(For Lilly.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

I love Trader Joe's

Once upon a time, Rhode Islanders lived in grocery store darkness. We were slaves to our local markets, in bondage to Seabra and Dave's and Confreda's and Stop-n-Shop, giving faithful servitude to the high prices and lack of variety. The advent of a Whole Foods Market did little to liberate us. And then one day . . . Trader Joe's came to town. 

They have an entire aisle dedicated to exotic, organic, cheap chocolate. I'm just sayin'! Talk about liberation! We don't go very often, and some how I always get left out of these shopping trips to Trader Joe's (probably because I would buy the whole store), but this is a testament to how much my siblings love me. Last time, they brought home cranberry green tea and pomegranate green tea.

If you do not suddenly understand the awesome dripping from these two beverages, I am sad for you. First of all, while I've grown to be more of a black tea kind of person, there will always be a special place in my heart for green tea. The mild but pointed flavor pairs so well with fruity tastes, and is super versatile. The cranberry green tea is really better chilled, in my opinion, but it smells incredible when it's hot. And the pomegranate green tea concoction is comparable to liquid happiness. I am anticipating much sadness when these drinks are gone.

Plus, I don't need to mention that the antioxidants and no-sugar-added mean these drinks are like the elixir of life for one's immune system. (You can only drink so much Emergen-C and Airborne during tournament season before you begin to hate life.) It's like Vitamin Water, only not actually bad for you! Trader Joe's rocks my face off.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I like who I am. I hate who I am.

It's so easy to trick myself, so easy to fool myself into believing lies about who I am. From July 30th to August 24th I was miserable. I hated who I was, I hated everything about myself, and I had no joy. I was a sinner, and I could not separate myself from the sin. For three weeks sadness and darkness were pressing closer to me than they ever had before, and I could do nothing but write angst-filled journal entries and wait it out.

And then my hands were pried off my ears and I was forced to see - those three weeks were about selfishness, not grief, they were a self-induced trial when I preferred to wallow in my own self-pity than attempt to live like the new creation God had made me to be. I had confused the fight inside of me, forgetting the justified self was not the same as the sin nature self. In those three weeks I learned that hate is selfishness, but love is self-less.

But now I find myself sliding into the same dangerous territory of selfishness. But the scenery is new and different and attractive. The snare is not that I hate myself, but that I like myself. I think I'm kind of okay sometimes. And this hurts more to admit, this subtle indulgence of pride, because I am not out of the woods yet and I think this sin runs deeper than I even realize now. What I am learning as I stumble forward, self-love is selfish, but love is self-less. 

Still, every time I turn to look, both now and during those three weeks last summer, God was there, God is there, God is love, and He is watching me, guiding me, and He has promised me victory. Not in my strength, but in His love. 1st Peter 4:8 runs in a loop through my head, "Love covers a multitude of sins." He is taking my frail understanding of love and replacing it with something deeper, something self-less, that I might really understand that God is love. 

And no one can see such love and not be changed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Everything - Tim Hughes

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

The menial, the mundane, the every day, in this very moment as I sit, as I type, this is living and breathing and existing. The sleeping in abandoned consciousness, the waking with realization. 

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

The mind that won't be still. The busy work and the hard work and the work that doesn't feel like work. The careless words and careful words, the times of resting and reviving.

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

The desires I have for the future, the aspirations, the bashful wish for a home and a life, the careful trust that I am waiting and watching for something incredible.

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

The things that shouldn't amuse me, and the irrational anxiety, the puns, and the fear. The melting of my resolve and contentment, and the building of my joy and understanding. 

Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything
Be my everything

Peter said, "Lord, to whom else will we go? It is You who has the words of life." There is nothing else, nothing more, nothing greater than the truth that God is everything we could ever want or need to fill our landscape. We are free, we are whole, we are renewed! In this is the Truth. Go, and walk in it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wisdom, wisdom! Trial and error. Stooping falling seeking, sometimes finding. And oh how precious a find, and we store it in our hearts and minds, each little precious bit of wisdom, accumulating eventually shining bright enough to reveal a little more and a little more of the picture.

But for now I sit here, thinking, wishing, waiting for a bolt of wisdom to zap my heart. What do I do, how do I say it, should it be said at all? Decisions, decisions, don't have to tell me twice that a choice no matter how small can lead to big big things. That a look can crush a mood, or a fumble can lose the game. 

But I can't sit here, waiting indefinitely, waiting for my bolt of wisdom, hoping to put off the inevitable decisions. Because waiting is a decision. Because waiting does as much harm as acting foolish. Because waiting is the worst kind of action that only gets you expired due dates. 

Ah, silly melancholy, thinking and questioning and wondering when you've been given the answer. It's right there in front of you! But do you have the guts to trust it? Will you believe that this is the right thing done the right way and walk in it, or will you continue to lean on your own understanding, regarding your doubts as prudence? 

To think yet act, always trusting. This is the race.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Friendship should be more than biting Time can sever." -Murder in the Cathedral, TS Eliot

Should. But isn't.

I spent a depressing amount of time reminiscing over past friendships this afternoon. I think of dear, close friends who I slowly pushed away in anticipation of their departure from my life. (Why must college be the equivalent of exile?) I think of dear, close friends who I pushed away knowing we never saw each other enough to remain close. (When your lives no longer intersect do you still need each other anyway?) I think of dear, close friends who taught me everything I know, but now seem like strangers, friends from a different lifetime, nothing in common anymore. (When you lose what you have in common, does the friendship lose its foundation?)

And I hate that I would even dare think and act in such a way with such a mindset, but while I grow closer to people in church and spend more time with the kids I've grown up with, I think of the kids from homeschool group, I think of former NCFCA groupies, I think of friends of the family, and I recall a bizarre ache that smarts of guilt and regret. Why did we grow apart so easily when we were so close? What did I do wrong? As I watch my friends grow up and leave for college, as I see the door slowly creeping shut on my involvement in NCFCA, as I observe friends move away and build new lives, as change alters the landscape of my comfortable life . . . must friends really be casualties, or is friendship really more than biting time can sever?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What does it mean to love justice?

"God of Justice" Tim Hughes

God of Justice, Savior to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward, keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly every day
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out.

Our God is a God of justice. The psalmist writes in Psalm 140:12 "I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy." God is justice Himself and has not once forgotten the plight of the weak. And did we ever doubt it for a second? Maybe. Maybe when life isn't so fair, when the good die young, when the innocent suffer, when the guilty get off scotch free. Where's the justice in that? It's hard to believe in justice in the face of such atrocities. We forget . . . we are the problem, the poison, the cause of injustice, but also the instrument for reconciliation. And yet, we are conquered by despair, we forget our role as God's hands and feet.

As such, there is such a lack of attention for justice in our world today. We are half-hearted, discouraged as the injustice gets bigger and the justice-lovers dwindle in number. Victims victimized, dehumanized, a number. Proverbs 29:7 "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." And those who do manage to care? World humanitarian groups, trying to do the right thing, the United Nations, trying to establish rights - they trip over themselves, mutilating justice as the try to uphold it. Do we even know what it is anymore? Proverbs 28:5 "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully." As we seek the Lord is comes into focus, understanding, our role, our call, our hearts.

What have we been called to do? What does it mean to love justice? To seek it? How can I even know what justice is in a world that twists it and abuses it? Isaiah 1:17 "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." We must. It tells us how, what we must do. Our theme verse while in San Francisco was Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." We must. To act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God is required of us. It's a command, like in Zechariah 7:9 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'" We must.

Love justice. Seek justice. Do justice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I mean when I say I love kids

I am not known for my love of small children. Even as a toddler, I would point to other, slightly younger kids and laugh, shouting, "Baby! Look at the silly baby!" If you ask anyone in my family confidentially they'll say, "Hayley? She hates kids!" This is, of course, a completely unfair assessment of me, but it doesn't matter because my entire life I've been surrounded by people who adore kids. (Sarah loves kids, kids love Sarah. Maggie is magnetically attracted to babies. And every Mary, Susy, and Jill I grew up with or go to church with dote on small children. I have to warm to kids as individuals. It's called social graces, for goodness sake!) So compared to them, I am an ogre of sorts.


I recently started a baby-sitting job for a two-year old girl. It's my job to feed her, entertain her, potty train her, and love on her for a few mornings each month while her mother sleeps. All I can say is that me getting the job is some kind of God thing, considering my only link to this family is that I was close with their niece growing up. They hardly knew me or anything about me but they gave me the job anyway. I think they must have been desperate, but they've been incredibly kind to me and I'm just struck by the queerness of the situation, it must indeed be a God thing, and I can't even begin to imagine what he has in store for this job. 

Peculiarities aside, however, this girl is off the hook. I don't know why I love her so much, I spent the four hours I was with her this morning in perpetual fear that I would do something to put her in a fussy mood, but I also listened in amazement as she rattled off the Pledge of Allegiance and repeated everything I said. (Also, I read about INFPs that they hate to rebuke, and apparently the saying is true: as we think in our hearts so we are - I never used to be afraid of rebuking kids, but I nearly died when I had to put her in time out this morning. Why are we humans so weird, yo?!) 

A few months ago I had my first real encounter with a baby who was not related to me, specifically the eight-month old baby of a lady in our church. She was in the wedding party, however, so she needed someone to stay with him during the ceremony. She passed an adorable, sleeping baby off to me, and he slept on my shoulder for nearly forty minutes. When he woke up he just crinkled his eyes at me, smiled, and started sucking on my necklace. He was incredibly hungry, not to mention groggy, but not once did he fuss, he just smiled. He sat contentedly in my lap until his mom came, but I didn't really want to give him back, I was completely charmed. I mean, even if he hadn't spent the previous forty minutes asleep in my arms, it would be impossible not to love him!

I'm just learning, small children have personalities, too. I used to think kids had less dimensions to their personalities because they just haven't existed as long, they don't care about social norms and have a more shallow understanding of life in general. But I think I was wrong - in not giving them more credit I've been missing out on how fascinating kids are. I get annoyed when adults don't give me enough credit as a teenager, and it's equally wrong for me to assume the same of little kids. God loves people, regardless of age, and He's made us all incredibly complex, and the more I realize that the more I see how amazing He really is!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If we are the body . . .

Hayley: You gonna eat more than just salad there?
Meghan: I would, but I'm off meat and chocolate for Lent.
Hayley: Wait, you practice Lent? I didn't know you were Catholic.
Meghan: I'm not. 
Hayley: . . .
Meghan: So you don't practice Lent? That's right, I forgot, you're Baptist.
Hayley: Oh snap! I guess I deserved that one.

Actual conversation from March 2008. To give a little context, I get called a Baptist a lot, and it irks me almost as much as when say "writing utensil" instead of "writing implement" - no one wants to be labeled or stuck with a misnomer. I've gone to an evangelical, Bible-preaching, non-denominational church since I was born and I didn't even understand the concept of denominations more recently. I'm still not sure I completely understand it. Just don't call me a Baptist unless you mean I believe in baptism. Just because I'm not Pentecostal doesn't mean I can't dance during worship. But I make the labeling mistake, too. Just because you're not Catholic doesn't mean you can't practice Lent.

Rant aside, I've been thinking about division in the church. The church. I've had limited exposure to other denominations, and still I've visited Catholic churches, Seventh Day Adventist church, Baptist and Southern Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, and other nondenominational ones. And I've always felt uncomfortable, comparing things to back home, thinking, "My church does things the Bible way. This church isn't doing things my church's way. Therefore this church isn't doing things the Bible way." Simple mutual differences turn into attacks on truth. 

But in most instances that's just silly. 

You know what divides me from a Baptist? Almost nothing. The Jesus of my neighbor who's a born-again Catholic is the same Jesus who saved me. Ultimately, predestination, election, sacraments, speaking in tongues, egalitarianism, what's going to happen in the end times - it doesn't matter! These should not be points of contention with our brothers, the people who are supposed to be our very family in Christ. But that's how it works, right? Just like in our modern culture "family" is code for "people I hate to be around but I somehow owe something to" the church is adopting a similar definition of family in relation to the body of Christ. It's lame. Can we get over it already?

Last week I had the extreme privilege of going to a gathering of youth groups in Rhode Island, the brain child of a group of youth pastors called UNITED. It was awesome, our entire sanctuary was packed with Christian teens, eating & playing games, worshiping and praying, all together and it was completely off the hook!

Wherever we go, we are the body of Christ. Whether that's at my home church, or in the supermarket, or at classes, or during a tournament. I tend to compartmentalize my life, and I hate that. I forget that my school friends and my NCFCA friends are just as much a part of my family (the same family) as my church friends. I forget that Don Miller is my brother in Christ. I read stories of persecution and I forget that's my family being oppressed. It should be joy to meet a family member and pain to hear of a family member's suffering. What a wonderful gift that has been given to us - that where there is Christ there is family, and how could I even venture to forget or disregard such a gift?!

And how dare I judge a brother? If Christ is in him our differences in the gray areas don't matter. Why should a sacrifice a family member over doctrine that is between him and God? Unity is an over-worked, worn-out, tired word. But it's something the church is desperately lacking and even more desperately needs, and it needs to start with me. Romans 14:13 "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Look, Dave, it's snowing!"

I woke up this morning to Mom saying, "Get up, don't think just because it's dark and raining outside you can sleep in!" And I think I actually bounced out of bed to see for myself. Rain, it really was raining!! This winter had been too cold for much rain, but now it was back! Think child-like glee.

I finished most of my school work by lunchtime (bizarre miracle, usually being away for four days means I have more school to do, not less) and made a beeline for the door, yanking on my coat and grabbing my hat. "If I'm not back in twenty minutes, uh, call or, yah, be worried," I told the sibs before I stepped outside for my walk in the rain.

It was amazing. The sky was seriously a purply gray, and the rain was the perfect drizzle. And there were no worms! It was cold, though, so I only made it the length of my street and back (it was very Robert Frost, "I have walked out in rain - and back in rain."), but it was so tremendously prosaic, my spirits were lifted higher than I thought it was possible for them to go!

And, jeans damp and feet cold, I got back to work. No sooner had I sat down at the computer to do some speechifying, did I look out the window and see, yep, snow. First it was flurrying, but then it started to gain momentum, and now it's falling fast and furious. The deck, the yard, the roof, the trees, it's all covered with a decent layer of wet and frozen snow.

And I just gotta say, this crazy weather better yield some amazing maple syrup.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Freedom Tourney Detox

I had so much to repent of on the ride home from Freedom. My insecurities, my silent judging, my verbal judging, my self-centeredness, my complaining, my criticism, my laziness, my conceit, my many, many failures. Experiences and relationships. The competition, too. Eating the humble pie of a record that was not what I expected it to be and my first first place placing that according to my ballots was a fluke. The rounds I should have won and the rounds I wasn't supposed to win. The people I was supposed to talk to and the people I ignored. Reading that same chapter in Lamentations over and over again, and not understanding.

But this is how good God is.

The pattern: Hayley realizes how fallen and stupid she is. Hayley wallows in said stupidness. Hayley gets depressed and feels like she can't change. Hayley realizes how self-centered this is and gets over herself. Eventually.

But God wasn't about to allow me to repeat this pattern this time, I think. 

Right before I left, Mrs. Rock grabbed me and told me, "Trust God, when you don't understand, surrender your confusion and trust Him." She was my constant cheerleader through the tournament, telling me I looked lovely and was talented every time I started to feel wilted or was tempted to stop trying my hardest. In fact, throughout the tournament, there was always encouragement in the moment I needed it. It was almost like God was grabbing me by the shoulders saying, "Don't give up, it's not about you, keep trying." When I felt left out, He sent someone to give me a hug, giving me the love to pass on to someone else. When I felt ill-prepared He gave me the guts to work harder. He said, "You messed up, but my grace is still sufficient for you. Have peace, rest in Me."

The Foundation for Economic Education is amazing. Almost as amazing as your face.