Sunday, May 30, 2010

I wonder what Dave Ramsey thinks

When my room is completely dark and I'm trying to convince myself to fall asleep so I can wake up at a decent hour the next morning and be a productive member of society and I feel all the good events of the day wash over me speedily followed by all the guilt and guile of living and all I can turn to is perverse top 40 radio to lull me to sleep.

That's when I stay up all night feeling bad. Badly.

Thinking about money makes me want to vomit. And I spend so much of it! On stupid things! Like nail polish and laser tag and arcade games and ice cream and Disney princess checks so I can pay people for things. And, on not stupid things, too, like college orientation and presents and missions trips. I'm struggling to be thankful for the privilege of a bountiful society.

It's an idle and ignorant wish, but occasionally I wish I didn't have money. My parents are not wealthy, but sometimes I wish my family had even less money than we have. To be so blessed to see God's provision in times of want, not just in times of plenty. To understand the power of discipline. To not be chased with guilt at the impulse purchases I'd never make . . .

"Money is the world's curse." — "Then may God smite me with it. And may I never recover!"

I'm coming up on the conclusion of my year without buying clothes, my idle guard against materialism, but of course, I failed. My mom bought me a dress and some slacks for when we went to DC. Does that count? I'd like to pretend it doesn't, but, I'm feeling tugged by the principle of the matter. Darned principles! So bothersome! The thought still rides on the top of my head, the guilt of squandered prosperity, my "fast" didn't do much because it didn't change my habits at all.

Like a petty socialite who justifies her exorbitant divorce settlement by claiming she's become accustom to a certain standard of living. With my air conditioning and my Nutella and my internet access and my weekly fifty cent dirty chai. God has given me all I need, He gives it freely! But why does indulgence in the extras chafe my soul so much?

How dare I spend the LORD's money in ways He has not purposed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Psalm 18:1

It's so much easier to be confused than to risk doing something difficult, or unfamiliar, or simply less interesting. There's a lot I don't do because it's just not interesting. The reason I have no life-ruling, soul-consuming material passion is because I just could never commit to any one thing. Eventually all things become uninteresting. Especially television shows about plane crashes and smoke monsters. [RIP LOST.] But see, being confused is generally interesting. Because internal mental puzzles gauge everything that exists externally against prior or future knowledge and soul-searching. And that is always interesting. Albeit generally less fruitful than, most things. In short, I spend a lot of time being confused, and I don't really like to, but it's mostly interesting, so I fall into this pattern of confusing a lot.

Conversely, I hate meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is not interesting, and usually just exasperating. It always stops me from understanding, from getting stuff done, consuming me with endless circular questions of little consequence. I have to forsake reasoning and justification, and just open my eyes to see the palace already.

I'm just trying to be normal. Normal? I don't mean, average, or, business as usual, or ordinary, or just like everyone else. By "normal" I mean, as I ought to be. I'm just trying to be as I ought to be. And often this process is confusing to me.

I sent some emails today! I've missed that! I didn't really realize I'd missed it, because usually when I think of sending emails, or writing personal notes of any kind, I think of how laborious and soul-sucking the process is . . . and that's still true. It took me a pretty long time to write what I did today. Writing such things steals all my time and feeling away. Yesterday we sent out support letters for our missions trips, and I was the last person to finish. By a lot. Because it took me fifteen minutes to write each brief little personalized note. I returned home emotionally exhausted.

I don't really know why this is, I'm guessing it has something to do with how I introvert feeling -- I'm irrationally obsessed with sincerity, and it feels sacrilege to write anything that I do not mean completely and fully, and so I agonize over the perfect words to convey my sentiments accurately . . . or at least, struggle to work up the feelings to accompany the words I ought to say. Writing those personal emails is like ripping out a little piece of my guts, like my words are communicating a very part of me and sharing those thoughts and feelings involves severing them from myself . . . that sounds melodramatic, but it is in a way accurate. Isn't communicating a way to show love? Doesn't showing love mean dying to self, and giving it away . . . ?

I think I may have been wallowing in disobedience, shutting my ears to the mandate: initiate, reach out, build, love. I took my parents' suggestion that I dampen communication with my "clique" to mean that I was justified in antisocial behavior. I am free from my fear of people! And yet I continue to cower in the corner of my cell, too lazy to love proactively. It's a process. God is good: to remind me, to enable me, to forgive me. Tomorrow is going to be difficult, remembering to initiate, to live externally as opposed to internally, to live normally, to live as-I-ought-to-be, but attempting to do what is difficult is leagues better than being confused.

"I love you, O LORD, my strength."

Friday, May 21, 2010


I've been thinking about love again, which is always good.

Last summer, during one of our church group sessions on our Vermont missions trips . . . actually, if I may indulge a parenthetical, these group sharing sessions seem to always go awry, they rarely if ever work. When prompted to spill your guts on command in an artificial group setting, no one usually takes the bait, and I think that's fair. But in Vermont, everyone was pretty good at sharing. It was a mystical dumb-founding occurrence that was clearly the result of some crazy Holy Spirit workings. Anyway.

One of my friends shared how she never felt loved, that people would say, "Oh, I love you, I do, I love you!" and she was skeptical that they even cared at all. She said that they seemed mere words and she was desperate to know they were backed by truth, reality, action. And I felt horrible, even though I figured her criticism probably wasn't directed at me, that I hadn't been able to make her feel secure in the knowledge that I did, I do love us. I felt second-hand horror at the hypocrisy, how could the people we came to minister to know we were Christians by our love if our own members didn't know?

So I wonder, are we supposed to believe people when they say they love us?

You know that I love you, boy. Hot like Mexico, rejoice.

Doesn't loving people back mean believing in their love? Isn't love at least three parts trust? Like in a marriage, all this consternation comes when one person starts to doubt the other's love for them. It's an ugly soup of mistrust. [Or, at least, that's what I see in the movies.] But what is equally sad is the sop who continues to take their spouse at their word when they say "I love you" . . . even up until said spouse walks out on the relationship. [Okay, I definitely do not have a specific movie in mind here!] Of course, trust ought not be blind, but, they say love is blind.

So I think now, along my friend's train of thought, when my friends, acquaintances even, are laughing and merry, and toss out the occasional thoughtless "I love you" that is mostly unprecedented by relationship and experience, how much stock ought I put in the declaration? "Do you? Are you just saying that? Do you know what you mean? Are you saying what you mean?" I feel as thought any evaluation of their seemingly irreverent announcement is inherently judgmental. Can I judge their hearts? Some people you just don't know well enough for their actions to back up their statement. I can only assume it's impossible, in these situations, to tell externally what's true internally. So, do I take them at their word, or do I brush off their "I love you"s off?

I guess the real answer is that it doesn't matter. It is not the love from people that fills me up and makes me whole.

I wonder how to live "I love you" so people never wonder if I mean it . . .

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I just came home from a graduation party, can you tell?

The future still confuses me. Because even though I think I understand about pursuing a vision, and God-opened doors, and other inspirational rhetoric, stifled plans kill me.

I tell myself it doesn't matter where I end up, so long as I have a chance to interact with people. People are the only thing that matter, and you don't need a degree to pour yourself into people. The degree gives you the job that gives you a circle of influence. I think receptionist might be the greatest job in the world -- you know how many people a receptionist interacts with in a day? How a good receptionist is hard to find, how a good receptionist sets the tone of the office, whether your experience there is positive or negative? We have the greatest receptionist at our doctor's office, I love her, she's so nice and so good at her job. Conversely, we've gone places with bitter and irascible receptionists. And we haven't gone back. You know what I mean.

But see, there's so much pressure in that job. You have a bad day -- tired, grumpy, not feeling so well, everything converging in a swell of notsome -- boom, dealing with obnoxious and pushy and difficult people, and you're the one whose job is on the line if you get crabby.

But doesn't that also sound like the greatest challenge a Christian could face? Opporunities just handed to you every single day, to love on people. To be a servant, to be humble, to be a light. Receptionists are like the at-home missionaries.

But I've gotten off track.

Do what you love. I've been told that so many times. I'm not entirely sure what it is I love. As much as I love literature, that's a useless pursuit that only edifies myself. If there's anything I must flee above all else, it's a selfish, self-oriented life. So you know what I love to do? Missions trips. It means more to me every day I look back on it, and I do, I think of it often, but that time spent in San Francisco was among the best five days of my life. I don't say that lightly. It's okay if you don't believe me though, that's what I get for dabbling in hyperbole. I don't even know, what is it that I love? Having my heart transformed through simple meaningless tasks. But they're not meaningless. I've never made sno-cones with more meaning in my life.

Meagan and I decided to go back to San Francisco, next summer, for their Summer of Service program. That sounds stupid, like we'll never do it. I want to do it. Wanting doesn't make it so. Two years ago I said I was traveling to London the summer I graduated. No cigar. But, instead I'm headed on not one, but two missions trips as a last hurrah with my dearly beloved youth group. Dare I say that this plan is better? Micah can tell me if London is worth the airfare, or if I should just let my dream die already. And so, if Meagan and I don't do SOS in San Francisco, I know it'll because I'm doing something better. And if that's having a summer job to pay for college, as much as the thought pains me from where I am now, and oh, it pains me . . . I trust, I have to trust that I'm supposed to be where I end up.

And so I'm saying good-bye to my plans . . . [the idealistic ones I always knew would never come true no matter how hard I wished it . . .]

While at the same time I'm in some dire need of some other plans. Occupational ones. I don't know. I could go to law school. Law degrees are useful. I could do things in the state house, in politics. I could specialize in mission organization litigation. Law degrees, it doesn't matter much what your undergrad is. I could study English if I wanted. It's such a useless degree . . . but, I like reading, and I like writing about what I've read, I love how literature marries culture and society and psychology and philosophy and history, sometimes even science. I could double major. I could get perfect grades. I could graduate with zero undergraduate debt. I could stay in school forever, get a doctorate, pursue tenure. This is so silly, vague aspirations for things I perceive as important that I'm not even vaguely convinced I want!

I don't really know what I want out of college. I haven't the foggiest idea what's supposed to come after college. I guess, get a job and get married? I don't know what kind of a job I want. How can I have a plan for the future when I don't even know what the future's supposed to be like? I, am having difficulties articulating what I mean. What I mean is, I don't know what it's like to live a responsible adult life. And I'm trying to think realistically, to prepare for a responsible adult life. Responsible adults make sacrifices, responsible adults can't do just whatever it is they want to do.

When my dad was my age, he was going to school to be a Christian counselor, and now he's a mailman. Part of me feel terrible: my dad is such a wise man who cares so much about people, he's so smart. I think he would have made a brilliant counselor. Why would God allow him to be a mailman? I don't know. But my dad is where he's supposed to be. And God is blessing him, and using him for it. I don't know, the death of a plan makes me heartsick, but, I have to, I have to trust it's better this way.

I'm so afraid of living an ordinary life, but, maybe I'm supposed to. Idealistic teens planning to travel the world and do insane yet useful things, few people end up doing that kind of stuff. Living their dreams so to speak. Usually life ends up more normal than that. And even though four years ago the thought of growing up, getting a job, having a family, and living in the suburbs sounded like the worst possible life, the security and familiarity and normality of it comforts me. That's something I know how to do. It's been modeled for me. In a life like that, I might have some chance at success. An ordinary life sounds stifling, but, maybe that's a lie. This dramatic change the world stuff also sounds like a lie.

A guy named James Hunter has written a book called How to Change the World -- I haven't read it, I need to finish Robinson Crusoe first, I think -- and ironically, it's about how individuals can't change the world, and the importance of institutions and groups and unity bringing about change. At least, I think that's what it's about. I haven't read it, but, that's what the article I read about it said it was about. Ugh. Yeah, I make myself sad. A lot. I hate realism, for robbing me of my idealistic hopes for a meaningful future. I don't know if "settling" for an "ordinary" life is failure. I don't know if I should pursue wild, ambitious change-the-world things if I'm not convinced they're what I want. Catch Me If You Can used to be my favorite movie, but now I wonder if it's foolishness . . . I want to be where God wants me to be, and I don't know what I mean by that.

My mom reminds me, I used to be so ambitious, I used to have such grand plans! I wanted big things, I wanted to change the world, be useful, make a difference! She reminds me, "Without a vision, the people perish." She asks me, "What do you want to do with your life?" But what vision do I have beyond Micah 6:8? Am I wrong to be so content with my lack of a plan? Am I directionless? I don't think I am . . . but I worry, I worry. I feel as though I've been equivocating, and I've masked the issue, so I don't know what question I'm actually asking. I think, I don't need to have my life planned out in order to be useful to God. But I think, I have to plan to be useful to God, or else, I am purposeless and truly without meaning. I think, it's about not earthly conditions, but an attitude, a kingdom perspective. This conclusion is fine for now.

Nothing is more irksome to me than the fact that I must continually struggle with this question when I already know the answer!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Too much pop culture for one post

Right now, I like Justin Beiber, okay?

I can say very little for who he shall become, or what he is at his core, I can only speak to my perception of him and who he proports himself to be. But what I see is amusing, and endearing, and harmless. So I like Justin Beiber, okay?

Like what happens with most things, Hannah sent me a link. Hannah loves all things Canada music scene. And what I saw was a hilarious music video of a young white kid with a swishy haircut trying to be gangster, making silly motions at the camera and skateboarding. A few days later, the music video was the iTunes free video of the week, and I took a screencap of the hilarious slew of one-star ratings and comments bearing majescules that said "He sounds like a girl!"

So? Ryan O'Neal or Michael Shephard's range is well into alto and no one cares. Just saying!

Although, with Beiber's voice changing, I guess that's a non-issue. Take THAT, haters!

I guess, I don't really know any of these rapid twelve year old Beiber fans. Outside of having his "One Time" music video, and hearing "One Less Lonely Girl" on the radio occasionally, and watching Dave Days' "Baby" parody, my exposure to Beiber has been minimal. I can't say with any parcel of truth that I enjoy his music, but I will allow, it exponentially beats out the promiscuous crap that floods the stations.

And Beiber is what, sixteen? Maybe he talks about love with words way above his maturity level, but I think his picture of relationships is at least leagues healthier than Rihanna's. Just saying!

He's [or his manager has?] done a great job building a lovable image, he's got an impressive scope of instrumental mastery, and also, the kid had mad moves. There's something to be said for charisma, and it's silly to hate a celebrity just for having it!

It's not that I'm in love with the kid, I'm just saying, on a scale from Taylor Swift to Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber's a Hilary Duff. Except that, yes, he can actually sing. What's that? A pop star with actual talent? Like whoa.

And when he eventually messes up somehow and falls out of public reverence, when he grows up into one of those child stars gone wrong, so be it. For now, eh, I feel defensive for him. Cos for now, I like Justin Beiber, okay?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Fastidious, neat, and just-so. Conscientious. Indiscriminately and unwaveringly loyal. Outgoing, kind, and tactful. Observant, with eyes wide open enough to read your face at any moment. Empathetic and a ready listener. Someone who knows how to identify and service a need. Dependable, a promise-keeper. Principled, but not legalistic. Quick to laugh and slow to be offended. Not a complainer. Well-read, culturally-relevant, street-wise, down-to-earth. Not a quitter, but someone who knows how many ultimate frisbee attempts are too many. Patient. Efficient. Sensible and practical, calm and level-headed and easy-going. A person disciplined enough that one merely decides to do something and it's as good as done. A good driver. Perhaps a little too accepting, unguarded, lacking in discernment. Teetering on the edge of jadedness from concern over the hurts of living and the living, but too dedicated to the ideal of hope to ever be swallowed in more than momentary discouragement.

This is a little bit of who I wish I was. Maybe if I think hard enough . . . !

They say a person's personality are nearly completely formed by five years old. Then again, I think "they" is Freud. Who was a creep. Some other studies I found on the first page of a quick Google search [I am a thorough researcher, word] suggested that personality traits are mostly static during the adolescent years, despite nearly universal struggles with identity across the demographic. Or something. I should go ask Sarah. Anyway, personality doesn't really change. Character continues to develop over a lifetime.

I'm wondering what parts of me are "character" and what parts are "personality." Luke said today that personality is never an excuse for behaving badly, and I think that's true. When we were in Indiana, back at the hotel room one night, my mom rebuked me for being loud and obnoxious and unprofessional, and I responded by saying I was only being myself. The idiocy of this was quickly pointed out. And if Jonathan Edwards pined for gentleness, so can I. I'm learning, oh so slowly, that social respect is not overrated. In that instance, though my personality trends towards lively and expressive conversation, it was my character that failed in consideration for the people around me. There the distinction is clearer. Elsewhere, not so much.

I'm so endlessly torn between the person I am and the person I want to be -- oh! I think this is good.

Monday, May 3, 2010


My parents have always been into the whole modesty thing. Bathing suits were a necessary evil and utilized in the one-piece with shorts combo. I remember the drama surrounding my first sleeveless dress, was I ten? I wore it maybe twice. I remember my first tank top, measuring the straps with three fingers. Raising my hands over my head for every shirt. Hands by my sides to measure the length my shorts. And despite my ridiculously long arms, some shorts still didn't make the proverbial cut. Things got a little harder after my growth spurt, being just too tall to find skirts and dresses and shorts that were long enough. The stringent measurements ended for the most part when I started dressing solely in boy shorts. Sue me.

But I've been noticing lately that the girls in BrioMag are dressed more modest than I. I'm amused that this is even my comparative measuring stick for how modest I am. I don't read BrioMag. For the record. Just, you know, saying.

It has been hard, guarding against rebellion. Because I'm not surrounded by people who are flagrantly immodest, or people who are troubled by that sort of thing, it's hard to remember why modesty matters. I've used my fair share of safety pins, had my numerous last-minte wardrobe changes, I've been there done that. I'm not sure why I think being older changes anything. I've always preferred to wear what I'm comfortable wearing, and the older I get the fewer layers that entails. I view modesty like I prefer to view everything: in terms of the spirit of the law and not by the letter of the law. I don't judge my wardrobe in terms of inches and centimeters. There are tops I can wear that other girls can't. There are skirts other girls can pull off that I'd never venture out in.

But in being careless over the concrete standards of modesty, I'm forgetting the spirit of the standards, too. I don't feel self-conscious in spaghetti straps anymore. I've never been very aware of my appearance. Still, when I wore my party dress to a banquet last month, I was acutely aware of where the hem fell on my thigh. Especially standing next to my fellow homeschoolers, there was a twinge of shame. No one cared, but, I felt a little like Meg at Sally Moffet's engagement party, playing a part. I can't honestly say I'm a fan of the hem measuring, but I'm remembering that the rules and standards exist to remind me of the principles behind them. That's how I deal with my authority problem, kids.

I just keep waking up and realizing somewhere along the line I stopped thinking.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Little nothings.

I've been anxious these past few days, to novel? To write about things I know nothing about. A concept that's been growing in my mind these two years. Something to write about so I can understand it. Even just a fraction. I talked with Emily about noveling today. How co-writing a novel works. Hearing about her rich world of setting and story and characters but her struggle to organize the action and put words to her stories. Thinking of my weakness in plot functions but my passion for the big picture. Finding an interesting juxtaposition of skills here. "We need to collaborate some time." -- "Definitely."

On the way home from church today, a song called "Fly, Robin, Fly" came on the radio. My dad revealed that he first heard this song playing during the catwalk of a fashion show he went to. When his friends from college visit, they tell how on blustery days, my dad would walk sideways so as not to mess up his hair. So it is not so hard for me to picture to circumstances leading up to his presence at a fashion show. In other news, Buck ruined the Project Runway finale for me. I'm only on episode eight. I'm not sure I'll be able to carry on.

Last night, we had cherry garcia ice cream. Tonight, we had java chip frappachino ice cream. With my dad's fudge sauce. While watching Kevin Jonas on Minute to Win It. I'm sorry that my family is so typically American. But I kind of love it. Oh! Hah. Oh my soul. We just saw a commercial, a cell phone commercial, where a woman was sending her son on an airplane in a dog carrier, because she couldn't afford a regular ticket. [Because her cell phone bill was so high . . . ?] "Hey, is that a talking dog?!" Media fascinates me. Not enough to stick with my "declared major", though.

Though I rarely feel like I belong to the creative subset my personality supposedly fits with, today I am particularly coveting inspiration. To shake off apathy and allow myself to get caught up in a vision again. Little nothings cannot sustain me. "Without a vision, the people perish."