Thursday, July 23, 2009

And to Him be glory forever

I have been so happy. I wonder if it's the jar of Nutella in the cupboard downstairs, or the fact that Christian is visiting, or maybe I'm still on the missions trip high, or that my friends are still as wonderful as always. But I cannot give any of those things credit for the joy that's simmering inside. And despite being so happy, I've had a few low points. Seeing the evil in this world and realizing it's me, feeling the creeping cynicism seep into each aspect of my hopes for the future, looking my sin in the face, I can't help but spiral down into sadness. The stress that comes from laziness, the hurt that comes from hurting others, in a flicker I go from buoyancy to feeling heavy-hearted.

But God in all His mercy does not let me collapse into myself in my guilt, instead He turns the tables. I say, "God, oh, God, my sin!" He says, "My Son died." I say, "But God, my mistakes!" He says, "My Son rose again." I say, "I'm confused and I'm blind, God." He says, "Look at my glory." It is not about how I have failed and how I will fail, but about the God who fixes failures. The holy and faithful God of grace and justice. The God who is so good, we cannot understand the depth or reason of His goodness. He renews my spirit, gives me peace, fills my heart. And in an instant it is clear and simple. God is there, and God is good.

I have a lot of little things to be happy about. I have a lot of little things to be sad about, too. It doesn't matter, when my beautiful Savior fills my landscape I take joy in the only thing I see.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stress Relief Drabble

"Your sense of irony is irresistible."

"Well," I huffed inwardly at the pretension dripping from this man in his Armani suit, not believing that either of us were bothering to waste our time on the other, but feeling obligated to verbally bludgeon away, "Shut up."

Yes, my criticism was scathing.

Bemused, the corners of his mouth twitched a little too obviously, as though he were attempting to give the illusion of suppressing a smile while he was actually becoming seriously annoyed on the inside. Jerkily he reached, without turning his face from mine, for a flat rectangular box on his desk. "That should suffice, Mr. Wilks." His eyes now watched the box as he moved it from the desk to my mechanically outstretched hand.

There was that split second when I was certain he did not intend to let go, and that we would be left standing there, each with a hand on the box, not releasing our grasp, perhaps for eternity.

The thought further occurred to me that Emalinne might miss me if I stood here for eternity fighting wordlessly with this pompous man, and the back of my mind reminded me of the caffeine addiction that might break my stubbornness for a Dunkin Donut's run. In that split second I decided that no prolonged stand off would be necessary - my pride could take the hit.

It didn't matter, of course. He handed me the box without as much as an arch of his eyebrows. I took the box firmly, and slid it into my sports coat pocket with as much dignity as I could muster. Now who was condescending whom?! I nodded at him stiffly, and turning to leave I was faced with a dilemma.

I had clearly won our standoff (I had the box, didn't I?) and now I wondered about victor procedure. Do I back out of his office maintaining eye contact and smirking? This could help protect from any unforeseen attacks on my back with a letter-opener. Or do I briskly storm out of the room without giving him another glance? This seemed much more dramatic. What to do! I was paralyzed in the face of this complex decision.

"Just leave!" sang the caffeine bells in my brain. I could see the synapses in my brain drooping for want of coffee. "Just leave!" called Emalinne from my memory. I could see her exasperatedly whacking a random passerby with impatience. Deliberation was too much! I had places to go, people to see, a future life to live! I found myself at the door, with my hand on the opaque handle, turning by the force of my own skepticism and indecision.

But the grating sound of his call interrupted my automaton actions. "Mr. Wilks!" He hadn't moved from his authoritative stance next to his desk, but he was looking at me expectantly, hands clasped in front of his trim figure.

"Yes?" I asked, still completely in control of this situation, regardless of my inner turmoil. The confidence that had managed to buoy my spirits during the entire exchange was still pulling energy from my indigence at his entire charade of control. It was actually somewhat circular, but to this I was conveniently blind.

Sincere mirth was now etched across his face as he asked, "You aren't going to check the box?" Panic washed over me as I considered his reasons for being so freely jubilant. What was it? What did I say? What did I do? His arms were now crossed on his broad chest, and his amused aloofness confused me.

There were too many words to say! I was suspicious, perhaps paranoid, but definitely confused. I only needed to breathe, I told myself. I was going to win this battle of wits, I had only to uncover and analyze my options for rejoinder. I was going to verbally smack his absurd sententious face, with class, of course. "I . . ."

So articulate I was today.

"Oh, irony, good fellow."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I want to be wrong

It hurts to hear. "You're wrong, Hayley, you're so wrong!" The rebuke, no matter how gentle, stings immeasurably. I feel instantly defensive. I try to justify my [faulty] position. I respond with, "I understand what you're saying, you're right and I agree, that's just not what I meant." But my scrambling to clarify only illuminates for myself further just how wrong I am. Unthinking and indefensible.

Because simply, I love being right, and I love having insight, and I love understanding when God is showing me something. The last thing I want to hear is that I'm wrong. On the Vermont trip Mr. Bob asked, "Would you rather stop at every red light for the rest of your life, or be wrong for the rest of your life?" We all chose the red light. Most of Rhode Island is highways anyway.

So when people call me on where I've been slipping, it hurts. I deny it. But when the lady doth protest too much, it reveals how much she needed to hear it. [Name that reference, folks, and make me happy.] It hurts, and I resist the rebuke, justifying myself and adjusting my glossy mask. And in that instant, I'm pound pound pounded into a wonderful mess through this humbling accountability. The twinge of hurt at the rebuke demolishes my pride and readjusts my perspective to a perspective worth having. It's far more wonderful than affirmation.

So tell me, tell me just how wrong I am. I need to know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

YouthWorks 2009

I never know what to expect from these trips. They surprise me every time. I'm just back from spending the past five days up in Rutland, Vermont. My youth group [or, at least, 24 of us] went on a service trip there through an missions camp program called YouthWorks. We spent the day doing projects around Rutland in small groups, and the evening with our church talking about the Christian walk. My God is so good, there is so much to tell, but first: have I mentioned lately how much I love my youth group?

My crew is super route seven. Yes, we are so cool we have our own inside jokes and gang signs. [The Chin for the win!]

The soundtrack for the week, Group 1 Crew Family Force 5 B. Reith John Reuben Chris Rice Skillet Grits and the Sweet Action mixes bringing the heat. "You turned off my boom!" Singing House of Heroes and Regina Spektor with Hannah.

Being dubbed "Ukulele" by Caleb the first day. And Hannah's gangsta name is "Wondabread who could." Cos Caleb is win at nicknames.

Repeatedly resisting the temptation to text the two people whose numbers I actually have memorized and keeping a running list of "I have to tell you . . ."

Not showering in the morning, and managing to not die. Bandanas for the win. Rolling out of bed and being ready for the day in five minutes is wonderfully strange.

Learning how to dice a tomato, prepping for Taco Tuesday, talking to Amanda about the evils of milk, vegetarian to would-be-vegetarian about vegans while swiping Oreos.

Dance parties! Awkward bathroom dance parties, awkward hallway dance parties, awkward car ride dance parties, and the rock-out-kitchen-clean-up-crew dance party. Michael leading the way, prompting, "Why is Michael so embarrassing?"

Feeling uncomfortable and creating drama due to the poor kid who kept harassing girls from other churches. "No purple! Just don't touch me, man!" and "Um, he bought me earrings?"

The Rutland County Parent Child Center and the Open Door Mission - best work sites ever! Painting ourselves into carpal tunnel syndrome, cutting cakes, organizing books, and color-coding pants into shades of grey, champagne, tan, and khaki.

Worshiping God from the top of a mountain just never gets old. Climbing back down, however . . . an exercise in faith.

Eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream and managing to amass a tip for the poor guy who served over forty people completely solo.

Hannah and Ashley have sick rhyming skillz [that almost rival Gangsta K's dope beats.] "It's pizza Wednesday, now don't say ew!" and "Don't you wish your youth pastor was hot like mine?"

Being "THAT church," the big and loud and enthusiastic church. Being a truly cohesive group, truly loving each and every individual, and having mandatory hug time not once, but twice!

And wondering as the tears flow, why is it that we feel the most complete when we're smashed into tiny pieces?

I mention all the silly and entertaining and little things, because the blogosphere can't handle the stories of what God did in the community of Rutland and in our youth group and in my heart. Not right now. Not when I'm two hours fresh from the car ride and melting in the summer heat and seeing double from fatigue. It would be sacrilege. But God did big things, and I need to praise Him for them. But for now I praise Him for the small and amusing things.

My heart is just so impossibly full, God is so good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Great is Thy faithfulness!

I went dragging my feet, fussing that I had to give up two hours of my precious summer weekends to shoot guns in a musty building. But, I missed it, I really had. Once there I got sucked in again, once again romanced by the spicy smell of gunpowder and the thrill of pulling the trigger. (I am not a maniac. Your lives are safe.) But as I got back into the rhythm -- load, breathe, lift, lock, squeeze -- shooting at the gun club became a sport of subconscious concentration, while my mind was elsewhere. It's outrageous the way my thoughts run away with me, but for once I could commend the path they took me down.

I thought about Michael and how glad I was he likes House of Heroes so much. I thought of Micah and how he's beasting NaNoWriJuly. I thought of Rebecca and how much I want her to come to my house and teach me to sew. I thought of Katie and Kristen and Kara and how I can't believe they're leaving and how much I'll miss them. I thought about Lilly and Hannah and Mary Claire, what kindred spirits they are and how much I identify with them. I thought about Luke and how I can't believe I haven't talked to him in a while, darned summer. I thought of Jake and his genius idea for a speech that's proved interesting to research. I thought of Andrew and how deeply I wished I could have gone to his graduation party today. I thought of Jesse and how I wished I knew him better. I thought of Nathan and how he's going to beast speech this coming year. I thought about Liz and how she really needs to start blogging.

And that's just the blogosphere, folks.

I am surrounded by people so dear to me, wonderful people, people who love God. They love God. I remember when I was much much younger, coming home from church and crying in my closet, pitying myself for my lack of friends and wanting so desperately to go to school, because maybe then I'd have friends. Ah, silly girl. And yet despite my indulgently self-centered sorrow then, in the now I have been abundantly blessed. A Passion for Wisdom speaks of a fickle God who failed to be faithful to His people -- an idea I can't help but scorn, especially in the face of how He has given me exactly what I wanted. I have dear friends who love God. Few things on this earth are more precious to me. God is so faithful . . . I don't understand why He should care. Friends for Hayley, friends who love God, that must be rather low on the list of important things in this world. And yet . . . God has been so good to me.

And I feel silly for saying all this, and I hate that I can't help but speak in generalities when I have so many wonderful specifics I could share, but God has been good to me. I must praise Him for being so faithful.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for loving God.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Only a Child

I'm only a child;
Who am I to
think I know what
ought to be done

I'm only a child;
Intellect fails
the one who thinks
herself smarter

I'm only a child;
If I could do
anything would
it even matter

I'm only a child;
Injustice is
greater than my
small solution

I'm only a child;
I am so small
and the world is
so big and wrong

I'm only a child;
Too scared to let
go of what is
pulling me down

I'm only a child;
I don't know what
to say to help
a hurting heart

only a child
choking with fear
only a child
but deadly sincere
only a child
humbled at last
only a child
but not an outcast

Jeremiah 1:7-8 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, I am only a child. You will go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.

Zephaniah 2:3

Some context: I spent the weekend in Franconia, New Hampshire with my graduating girls from Good Company Tutorials last week. The significance of this is two-fold. First, Robert Frost owned a farm in Franconia, there's a museum of him there, and all his poetry books are gloriously inexpensive. (I got three for $4.50.) And secondly, there was much talk of graduation and moving on and knowing God's plan for your life, great conversations. My head was swimming with the collective wisdom pouring from Robert Frost and these girls. Revisiting Frost's most famous poem (and therefore my least favorite) "The Road Not Taken" was the perfect prelude to what I had to learn from these girls, and these are the questions I asked.

choosing where you want to go . . . do you really have a choice? whether you react decisively or go with the flow, will you end up in the same place as you would have otherwise? do we follow open doors as a sign of God's leading, and where we end up is where He wants us? or do we struggle and follow rough roads in pursuit of a vision of our mission as from God? does God really care what our earthly circumstances are so long as we're serving Him wherever we are? is ambition form God or something we invent ourselves? what does it mean to seek God's plan and leading in our lives? do we have only one ends in this life, or do we seek to accomplish whatever we can accomplish? why do some people have "a calling," and others don't? do people who have "a calling" really have a calling? do people who think they don't have "a calling" really lack a calling? is it possible to screw up my life by choosing the wrong career, or is that just the wrong perspective? is it even possible to have the "wrong" career? is it wrong to wonder or think about what I want to be when I grow up? isn't that self-centered and short-sighted? 

how can we know what our mindset ought to be? 

what does it look like to trust God? 

how can we know?

I know what I think, but I don't want to assume I'm right. I don't need to worry about this now, but I will have to think about it soon and I don't want to be ill prepared. I don't want to struggle with God, and I want so much to be where I ought to be doing what I ought to do. And I am confident that if I seek Him, He'll show me. I thank God for these girls from whom I've learned so much.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm okay with revisitation.

If I had to pin down a point of tremendous spiritual growth in my life, those two weeks I spent at Camp Berea in 2006 instantly come to mind. During the first week, our training week, Dwight Knight [no jokes, folks, that was his name] was speaking to the main camp and our group sat in on some of his sessions. I was a little underwhelmed; I'd seen him speak many times before and I was a little weary of the camp sermon routine. But by the end of that first week, not only was I humbled in my indifference to his [poignant] messages, but I was also reminded of a simple reality . . .

Whenever someone teaches Scripture, it applies to you.

It doesn't matter how many times you've heard the lessons - you'll need to keep learning it. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard the lessons - you'll need to keep hearing them. It is utter folly and arrogance to sit back in your plastic folding chair and zone out while God's word is being taught. There is always something that applies to you, no matter how many times it's been taught to you. Don't set something aside merely because you've heard it a thousand times. Never write something off as "learned."

The irony here is that I'm learning this same lesson over again. I was reminded of this Camp Berea experience because I've been so frustrated lately, confused to a point of not being able to articulate exactly what I think my problem is . . . but now, I think I've been frustrated because I haven't had any "new revelations" about God and Scripture and my walk with Him. I haven't been willing to revisit the lessons that were new the first time around. I think God's been trying to show me some amazing things, but I keep brushing them off because they bear a label of "this I already know." 

But between the mention in passing to the simple things on Stuff Christians Like, and the depressed feeling I got when I realized how much I was missing in not doing devotions with some sort of guide, to the renewed interest in the theological questions I've been asking off and on these past few weeks, I think I'm starting to see what my problem is, by the grace of God. I had so many wonderful conversations this past week in New Hampshire with my friends, many revisiting things I've thought lots about, and it wasn't that I saw these things like new in hashing through them again, but rather I was reminded why they were so important in the first place. I need some reminding.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Everybody knows, it hurts to grow up."

Maggie was telling me about the new Gail Carson Levine book she was reading, and I was filled with the worst kind of nostalgia. When I was almost exactly her age, I was a Gail Carson Levine junkie. I read all her books our library stocked. I moved on to Margaret Peterson Haddix's princess books. (Also, shout out to the Shadow Children series - I gobbled those up.) Then E. D. Baker and Shannon Hale. (I . . . read some Meg Cabot, too.) Do you understand how much of a junkie I was? It started with Ella Enchanted and didn't stop. Somewhere along the way I got sucked into the vortex of historical fiction, and princesses were replaced with stories about the Salem witch trials and the Holocaust and Troy, but for a while I had remarkable working knowledge of fantasy novels aimed at preteen girls. It was an awesome genre, and I remember all those books fondly. 

So fondly, in fact, that I picked up one of these books recently to try for a nostalgic re-read. And I couldn't stomach the stuff. I was bored by the third page, even though this particular book I hadn't even read before. And this has been a growing trend in my "junk food" reading queue. The "recent additions" shelf of my library's young adult section has revealed not the glossy guilty pleasure coming of age books, but boring stupid books that I cannot justify wasting time on when I have brain bashing classics to plow through. (Speaking of which, I need a support system to get through some of these tomes on my reading list - we should totally have a book club.) I just don't like reading those books anymore, and the entire experience has been very sad.

Don't you hate it when you cease to enjoy the things you used to love?

Some things you just outgrow, like watching the lobsters in their tank at the supermarket. After we've been around on the earth for a few years, we're not as excited by the sight of lobsters (that aren't on our plate, or soon going to be) as we were when we were little. We mature, our likes and dislikes change, and experiences influence us. But sometimes, things lose their charm unexpectedly, and you don't realize it until you've been let down. And it's sad to realize you can't enjoy something like you once did. It never occurred to you that one day you would outgrow your love for princess fantasy novels, that you'd hate what you once loved. [And once again, by you I really mean me.] Did I really outgrow those books, or did my tastes just change? Either way, nostalgia, while one of my favorite things about being human, has an ironic and sadistic side. 

However, I still listen to ZOEgirl sometimes. That doesn't get old. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I wrote this in May. And I'm very tired, and have wretched insomnia, and found this in my drawer. In my tired delusion, I remembered and identified with the sentiment that was on my brain when I first jotted it down. I'm hesitant to call it poetry - the first part half is words and phrases that built a picture of what I was feeling; the second half is more of a lyrical analysis of my initial musings . . . I guess what I'm trying to say it was written strictly stream-of-consciousness, and I'm not sure what it means. Fun is not quite the right word, but in my own way I enjoyed writing it. And yes, I needed to explain that, thank you for indulging me. That is all. I may delete this in the morning. 
the intoxicating dullness
where practicality dies
it all can seem so tempting
but you can't just close your eyes

disjoined and random
along for the ride
the topsy-turvy punch drunk love
sends you sprawling

scattered intensity overwhelms
fractured ambitions glitter
insubstantial pining wans
is the harshness heightened reality
or something else entirely?

is the lens a dusty pane
or a blinding prism?
are the colors too intense
or merely muted?
clarity and reality clash

electricity and electromagnitivitiy
the charge that holds you in this world
fails elasticity and succeeds fluidity
you're free from the fantasies
but only if you want to be

do you want to be free?
from your dream world and your fantasies?
insubstantial and intangible
lessons you just can't learn
so stop existing and start living

this is the real world
but it looks like a dream world
in that nothing makes sense
you just go along with it
and grab things along the way

what we lack in faeries
we make up for in ghosts
what you could have, should have done
that's not how your battle's won
between the concrete and the figment

in the fantasy versus the unfortunate
there's the magic of mages
and the magic of pessimism
different kinds of blue
different kinds of dirt
different kinds of real

so if you can't escape this dreamland
I'll hit you until you do
sensation doesn't separate the two
but I know you'll know my hand
that's the trick with fantasy land

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

[inspired by my favorite McLernons - a drabble of 300 words.]

Mira balanced on the porch banister. Her toes flexed against the dark stained wood to maintain her footing, and her sundress seemed suspended around her, leaving her movement unimpeded.

"I guess what I'm try to say is that I'm concerned. I'm not passing any judgments yet, I just want you to think about who you’re spending your time with.” He delivered his warning humbly, concern for his daughter in every word.

“You don’t know my friends, Dad,” Mira stopped traipsing on the banister while she looked her father dead in the eye, speaking softly. Not defensive, but not understanding.

“This is true. I just want you to be careful.” He was sizing up his pint-sized daughter, already so old, and he hated having this conversation.

“My friends love Jesus. What’s so horrible about that?” Mira was back to putting one foot in front of the other, carelessly, pacing the length of the porch railing while her father looked on.

“No one is perfect. I will fail you, your mom will fail you, your friends will fail you. I don’t want you to be caught off guard when that happens. Please honey, just, don’t put yourself in a position of walking the line of dangerous influences.”

He had said what he intended to say. He had no fingers to point, just quiet wisdom, and Mira could take it or leave it. He turned and walked inside the house, leaving his daughter walking the line of the porch banister.

So unassuming she balanced, acknowledging gravity, but never fearing it. She could not guard her heart; they were her friends and she had nothing to fear. The warning, though well-meant, she was certain, did not take seed in her heart, and she balanced on the porch banister.

And then she fell.

Food Fail

Math has always been a struggle for me. Actually, that statement might be false, I think I was fine with math until fifth grade, when my cool workbook with the perforated sheets was replaced by a hardcover textbook. Then I think I just got lazy, wasn't willing to work to understand math, and as a result, as a teenager I was up the creek without a paddle. I've recovered nicely, I think, due to the SAT and chemistry, and I'm now swimming through all those botched math courses with a working understanding. Nevertheless, math has been a horrific blotch on my academic experience. But I was comforted by telling myself that at least it was the only blotch. 

However, I failed to factor in my inability to cook.

Some things we can get by without. No one really needs to know how to factor polynomials, and analyzing and interpreting literature is only so useful. But to survive life, we kind of need to know how to prepare food. When I was ten, my favorite books were My Side of the Mountain and the Redwall series. The former featured a kid making his own food out of random woodsy fare -- like acorn flour pancakes -- and the latter featured obscenely delicious sounding feasts, multiple times in every single book. And I was all, "Cool!" I like food, a lot. I'm surrounded by a lot of people who like to cook food, so it works out well for me. 

But sometimes I see how much fun they're having and want to try my hand at it! Molasses cookies - fail. Pancakes - fail. Brownies from a box - fail. French toast - fail. Helping Mom in the kitchen on holidays and when we have company - EPIC fail. Part of me wants to attribute these fails to my perceiverness and the resulting inattentiveness and inability to follow directions, but even when I'm ridiculously careful, what I touch comes out ruined for no apparent reason.

However, Christian has dubbed my grilled cheese "the best" and my chocolate chip cookies are better than decent. I have also mastered the art of egg frying and I have uncanny ability to boil pasta to that perfect point of just beyond al dente. And I rock sandwiches. But man cannot live on sandwiches and fried eggs alone! With college beginning to loom on the horizon, I'm beginning to realize if I want to survive on something other than Ramen and take out from Pizza Pie-er (which is actually a viable option, now that I think of it!) I'm going to have to kick my cooking curse. 

Last night, in a stroke of genius, Sarah and I in our boredom grabbed my camcorder and this awesome book I just checked out of the library and decided to play cooking show. Cos we're super cool. We made this epic carrot soup that actually tastes super good. And we attempted to make a cake. It was going really well, we did everything right, we pull the pans out of the oven and they're perfectly done! But when we flip them onto the cooling rack, the middle of one cake layer falls out. We stuck the middle-less cake back in the oven, but it wouldn't cook. My genius solution was to just cut the middle out. It worked, but in the process we discovered how gross the cake tasted. The irony, of course, is that the title of the cake recipe we used was "idiot proof one-bowl vanilla cake." The cake was indeed a lie.

Being hopelessly awful at something you'd love to be good at is a sobering and depressing reality. And the story of my life.