Monday, June 21, 2010

Literature is not overrated.

I'm feeling overwhelmed by nostalgia and snippets that were at one point a part of me. Mostly by books I used to love. They seem like old friends who went away to college and got kinder and smarter, and I marvel at them from afar without realizing we haven't talked in a good long time.

My favorite books frustrate me! I always worry that I'm not intimately familiar enough with them to call them my favorite, but I persist in calling them that because I remember so clearly how each story changed a way of thinking or appealed to my soul.

Like Alas, Babylon. On the one hand, I love stories about the collapse of modern society. On the other hand, who knew a circa Cold War novel about America after a nuclear holocaust would so inspire a revelation of character. I still have a freakish obsession with sustainable living, too.

Or Perelandra. I put off reading The Space Trilogy for so long, because I'm so inclined to judge books by their covers. And yet here is a fiction book that made me love Jesus in a way I thought only the Bible could evoke, that versed truthes about obedience in a way that adhered to my understanding.

You know Sarah Dessen? I've read so many of her books, these soppy teen romances, but Just Listen made me ask so many questions about the nature of honesty, it resolved me to a more direct mode of communication. Nationals this month reminded me just how freeing unnuanced conversation is.

There are books I appreciate on the level that they convey interesting ideas or are artfully crafted or I just chanced to exceptionally enjoy. And then there are books I treasure for how they softened my heart and changed my mind. I can't tell what makes a book fall into which category. I have read beautiful, heart-crushing books that wowed me with their insight and rhetoric, but the story never hit my heart. I don't know why some themes stick and others don't. Why some revolutionize my perspective and some don't.

And so I'm torn with how to budget my time. It seems such a shame to re-read anything when there are so many fantastic books I have yet to discover, that will change my mind in ways I couldn't anticipate now. But at the same time, the books that won me over first are begging for a second or third or seventh perusal, all while the glossy covers at the library hold desk promise new ideas and new revelations. Life is so short and there's just so much to read!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

1 Peter 1:13

I heard the greatest verse in Sunday school this morning.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Prepare your minds for action. Wow. I've read 1st Peter so many times and I still had no idea the Bible even said that. Prepare your minds for action. God knows what a disconnect we suffer, between thinking and knowing, and living and doing.

Be self-controlled. I see this popping up not just in my devotions, but nearly literally everywhere. This is one of those lesser fruits of the spirit; people get all pumped about love and joy, but I'm realizing that self-control is the essence of life full and free.

Set your hope on grace. I don't know why I keep waiting for God to rain fire down on my head. I suppose my guilt keeps wishing He would. But I have hope for sanctification because of grace, because of Jesus I will be given so much that I don't deserve.

I'm leaving this Saturday for a missions trip to New York, and oh, regardless of how selfish and presumptuous of me it is, I so covet your prayers. I'm so weak, and that's so wonderful. But I don't want to forget that God is my strength. I don't want to get washed away in a torrent of stubbornness, laziness, and fear. I want to prepare my mind for action, be self-controlled, and set my hope on grace. I am just so nervous.

So, pray for me? Pray for the team, these fifteen people I love so dearly, that we will find way to bless our host church and encourage the YWAM team and serve in God-honoring unity? Pray for the people we'll encounter, that their souls will be softened and their needs will be met and their hearts will be healed? Pray that we would have holy boldness, the mind of Christ, and hearts of service? Intercede for your brothers and sisters? ["You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." . . .]

It's just a short, small, insignificant missions trip. But I am expectant, to see God move in powerful ways.

Friday, June 18, 2010

On relationships and anthropophobia.

URI freshmen orientation was kind of like RYLA all over again.

When I first showed up, I was dispirited to find there were so few people "like me." That is to say, "my kind of people." I don't necessarily mean people who think the way I do or like the same things I do or come from the same background I do, though I have been spoiled to know a lot of fantastic people who foot that bill. I just mean, I didn't happen across anyone on my same wavelength, with my same expectations and attitude towards orientation.

I mentally sorted through the people in my group, deciding who would be friends with me and who wouldn't give me the time of day. I sized up the kids from LaSalle who wouldn't look me in the eye when I asked them questions, and the short standoffish preppy brunette, who probably already disdained me. For some reason the sporty outgoing twin who I tried to converse with met my questions with laconic answers, and another blonde girl simply ignored me. And I decided it was going to be a long two days.

Parenthetically, am I a freak for hyper-analyzing these minute interpersonal interactions? I think it's interesting, generally, but I am also probably too emotionally invested in this particular scenario to have unclouded observations. I am very afraid my perception was inaccurate, but I have no way of knowing if I was seeing things as they actually were, and if not, how to fix my perspective. I'm so very chained inside my own head! Anyway.

Everyone I met, I asked the desperate question in my head, "Are they like me?" The kid with the toggles in his ears whom I played pictionary with, maybe. The giggly threesome with the perfect tan, probably not. The unkempt girl in the community service workshop, possibly. I honed my interpersonal intuition, trying to figure out what kinds of people I was encountering: what stereotypes they fit, what made them unique, how they were feeling about orientation, and most pressing of all, how would they receive me? I watched people while drafting a social contract in my head, deciding with whom I should bother and with whom I had no chance or future relationship.

Oh my soul, is this what real high school is like? I definitely wouldn't be able to take it. Why isn't church like that? GTC? NCFCA? Are we just super chill, or am I confident enough in those spheres to overcome my barriers of insecurity?

If I may indulge another parenthetical from my original point here, it's occurring to me that I was looking for someone with whom I could rest. Be comfortable, be frank, be unabashedly personal with. And I think that's too much to ask of a two day orientation group of strangers. But instead I extroverted an edited version of myself, and it was exhausting, and it made me retreat even further into myself. Implication, application? Be real always, don't expect too much, our Father gives all the affirmation we need. I don't know, I need to think about this more. Anyway.

It's just so ridiculous! When did I fall into this way of thinking? This, "We can't be friends, it would never work." I thought I was not a "narrow" person, with a tightly defined demographic of friends. I like nearly everyone. And still, without hardly realizing what I was doing, I selfishly evaluated potential relationships by how they would meet my social needs. I'm horrified. This is not what I want! I want to treat people in such a way that they feel set at ease, comfortable, accepted. I don't need to be BFFs with everyone I meet, I just want to, love them. Above all, I don't want to disregard the potential for a relationship just because it seems that there's no potential for close friendship. I do, I really do like people who are different from me. I want to interact with others for their sake, not for my own.

[Or maybe, more selfishly, I just want to be liked.]

It's strange, though. I thought stereotypes weren't real. I was expecting that the people I met would not match the projected image. But so many people did. Fit a stereotype. And it caught me off guard. And I started believing in it. I'm relearning a lesson I thought I had learned solid the first time around, that time with the PCOM girls in San Francisco: do not judge. People are not what they seem like on the outside. People are not what they seem like in a two day orientation. And dare I postulate that where there are people there is always potential for relationships? They don't need to be "my kind of people" for me to befriend them. And we don't need to be best buds to have a relationship. Love does not require proximity of souls.

I still worry, though. Just because I want to love people doesn't mean they want me to. The people I tried to talk to rejected my small talk. Shouldn't I take the hint and terminate the relationship potential? Not annoying people is a form of loving them, right? I'm just kind of a lame person. I don't mind that. But I mind that other people mind. I do, I really do want to be liked. I wish I didn't . . . I'm amused by how insecure I sound, because, though I am insecure, I also don't care. I spent most of day two in sullen silence because I was so, so tired, and it's occurring to me now how rude I must have seemed. Which I regret, I suppose, but my silence spawned by insecurity is something I regret because I failed to love, not because I must have appeared socially maladjusted. Implication, application? I lack gentleness. Working on that.

This is what I really hate about HIMYM. Ted is a jerk. He goes on these dates with these girls, and if they're the slightest bit weird he freaks out and ditches them. Whereas, he himself is a psychopath, it's the girls who ought to be running out of there. I don't know. He's fictional. But I feel like telling him that just because someone does something he doesn't like, it doesn't give him license to treat them without courtesy. Should people have to hide their true selves until you know them well enough to not be scared off? I don't know. To an extent, it's inappropriate to dump all your baggage on someone without some kind of relational context. Friendships are not instant, they build and have progression, and this is right. But by the same token, we're all weird, and idiosyncrasies shouldn't be deal-breakers. I don't know. I think I've inappropriately framed the question. There are plenty of people I thought were bizarre when I first met them, but I grew to appreciate what I used to think was weird. How should a friendship progress? What is the ideal development of a relationship?

You know, most of my friends, especially my close friends, I just decided to be friends with them. The people I casually grow close to, somehow those relationships aren't as binding. Hm. I wonder why that is.

Every small step of progress I make in this area is almost always compensated for with retreat. [Is that allowed? Two prepositions in a row? It seems wrong, but I don't know how else to say it. Is the "for" superfluous?] Small victories are matched with slightly larger defeats. My character and habits are so deplorably weak, I am so unversed in the language of loving. Begging for more opportunities to try and fail seems masochistic, how many do I need before I learn this simple lesson? I hate regression. This discourages me, I ought to be discouraged, but I can't help but be heartened beyond understanding by my weakness. And on this weakness I stake my claim. I love you, O LORD, my strength.

One more thing I learned about people during orientation: girls are girls, wherever you go. Boys, I thought I had a working understanding of boys. No. I don't. And if I may make a gross [but flattering?] generalization, the boys at college are not half as nice as the homeschooled ones.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

His favorite rapper is T-Pain?

It seems strange that it's been half a year since I've seen the kid who was practically my brother last year. It's funny how much I miss him, but he was very much like a brother the way he teased and hugged and annoyed and spent so much time at our house. But it feels like a long time since I've seen him. And then I realize what a long time it's been since my real little brother has been much of a little kid. He's eleven now, he seems so old. He has mastered the art of the grave smile, and as his sense of humor refines his witty one-liners become more frequent. I wonder if Christian's changed in the same way since we've seen him. I wonder if he and Caleb will still get along now that they're both older, reunited after maturing so much in their time apart.

I think of Caleb and Christian chasing pigeons at Starbucks after the funeral in Arlington. I remember Christian running up and down the stairs on the lighthouse ferry while Caleb watched skeptically. I can easily picture them playing Pokemon, sitting nearly silently next to each other on the couch. The fragile silence as Caleb's feelings are hurt and Christian senses keenly that something is amiss. The twin declaration as the boys assure me that my grilled cheese is the best, despite my failure at everything else. Caleb and Christian, two polar opposites, and two little boys I saw way too much of, whom I regarded with boundless affection.

One a brother to me in blood, the other a brother to me in circumstances. How I love them both.

I'm scared, because the simple truth is kids who go through situations like Christian has gone though, is going through, are not "okay." The odds are against him. To be shuffled from house to house to house, to lose a parent, to fear the other, and to lack any certainty in anything . . . I blanch at the thought of that happening to Caleb, and quickly sober at the realization that this is the reality of what Christian faces. How can he survive it intact? His situation is a reminder that there are awful things in this world. (And it is my fault.)

This is what it means to trust, to let go of the sick feeling in my stomach and to stop biting my nails over what will become of him, because He is in God's hands. I know God loves him more than I do, more than his grandparents do, more than his father did. And I do not naively assume that all will be well for this little boy, but I am certain that the evil that has dictated his situation will not win in the long run.

He's here, he's in my house, he's laughing and poking me and giggling and showing me disturbing Youtube videos on his FlipCam, and he's taller but just as skinny and the collar to his polo is frayed but still popped. It's weird to miss someone when they're in the same room as you, but I do, I miss him already, even though he just got here. I'm thankful, so thankful that he's here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the Light of the Common Day

I'm listening to Phil Keaggy. It makes me anxious to create, to be creative or contemplative, but I can only muster some vague longings for the future, for things I can't have or for things that are not mine quite yet. I feel like talking, but I have nothing to say, even though there's plenty I could say.

I miss you so much.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Marriage is hard

She sat curled up on the sofa, with a pilled afghan resting in her lap alongside her folded hands. She was staring blankly at the evening news, seeing the perfectly coifed brunette anchorwoman describe product recalls and touching dog rescues -- seeing but not really watching anything other than the obstinate yellow digits in the corner of the screen broadcasting the late hour.

She traced a figure-eight intently on the knee of her pajama pants. A torturous thought rain through her head like the star of Mousehunt: "You're wasting your night with staying awake when you know he's not coming home." The tension in her neck fixated on the television screen, insisting that this was insomnia, not worry. That she was killing time, not waiting.

But while there was still that chance she could not let it go. If there was only a moment, she would not let it slip by. She swallowed hard at the late-night infomercials and yawned in fidgety contentment. Because she was content, and she would continue to be even if she stayed up all night.

She blinked sleepily and there he was next to her, his tie only recently loosed and his keys still lightly clutched in his road-worn palm, his head propped up by the couch cushions, dozing with honest exhaustion. She wrapped her arms around her knees and watched him sleep. "Thank you God for even this." He was here, he was home, if only for a moment, and over this she would not let her heart hurt.

Her eyes closed involuntarily for just a moment, and when they opened again it was morning and he was gone. A hot pot of coffee in the maker, a hurried note tacked to the refrigerator. "Hey J, take suit to the cleaner? see you Friday, don't wait up. love, W." She tucked the note into a nondescript shoe box in her desk, the one labeled, "I love you, too."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"This is where the healing begins"

All sorts of ugly feelings from earlier today, when I woke up and realized that my last Nationals ever was over, are bubbling to mind, which is a shame because I was in a perfectly content frame of mind. It's just, the music of the Hyatt lobby so perfectly enchanted my mind as I loaded up the car in solitude, pricking my eyes with this week's ever present tears, and oh how grateful I am for those brief moments alone this morning.

I can hardly know what the most wonderful part of it all was. Our hotel didn't even have the Food Network. I had script problems for the first time ever. I yelled at my duo partner and at one of my dearest friends. Among so many other things . . .

But I also laughed and ran around the portico like a seven year-old. I ate ice cream to cheer myself up. I walked around a fountain in a rainy reunion. I unburdened my soul in ways I had never indulged before. Among so many other things . . .

Perhaps I was just over-tired. Or perhaps my faithful God is softening my heart.

It's as though my feelings were free. As I noticed when I was shaking a stranger's hand with tears rolling down my face, when I opened my journal with sentiments to share, when I let loose a deluge of anxiety and confusion in these special healing conversations.

In many ways this was a selfish experience, during which I drank in attention and counsel and understanding. I feel, sobered that I did not initiate and reach out and lift up this week. And yet in spite of this my dear Father blessed me anyway, through these dear people He restores my soul.

I have so many letters to write, people to connect with, networking to do. I'm a little inspired. Hanging out with Lilly kind of does that. Hearing Chantilly's laughing and listening to Josiah wave his hands over his life's ambitions does that. I am refreshed, ready to face tomorrow and this week and this month and this summer and this year with His praise on my lips and thanks for His grace in my heart.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I want to say today was cathartic. Or, these past three days have been cathartic. Clearing the air, addressing unspoken issues, finding soul-mending kinship. I feel healed, restored, thank you Jesus.

I long for strength in character, but I content myself with leaning on His power and His love and His discipline. I am weak and fickle and wicked, but He is so, so beautiful.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More Psalm 18

As I'm starting to consider my packing list for Nationals, I've begun to ponder the unspoken rule of the day after breaks.

And by unspoken, I mean there are probably only ten people who consciously ascribe to this rule, but mostly everyone does it anyway.

On the Thursday of Nationals, it's just polite to dress down a little.

While keeping competition attire, of course. But, as a little courtesy to those who have trouble remembering every single name called or not called at that chaotic breaks banquet [read: basically everyone who lacks a photographic memory] dressing down provides a non-verbal indicator that averts a lot of awkward conversations. And I mention this because I love when communities organize themselves innately into these unspoken courtesies. Sociology is COOL!

I've been ruminating in Psalm 18 for a few weeks now. I don't know if this is devotional laziness, but, I like it.

So this morning Cindi said, "Work is, oh you know, that thing we do, that makes us feel good and gets us inspired."

I was somewhat shocked. Work? Fulfilling? Hogwash. I mean, certain jobs can be meaningful certainly, but surely work for work's sake isn't fulfilling . . . I'm interested now to find that this was my initial gut reaction, because the more I think about it the more I think she's right, if we do our work for the Lord. And in this I've been blessed with a new way to learn of God's peace and provision. Did you know He actually gives strength when you need it, that He actually lifts tired spirits and alleviates anxiety? I believed it but didn't love Him for it, until I was blessed with an opportunity to lean on Him. Because, I've been working, babysitting, and for some reason it's been stressing me out. But every time I ask Him, the anxiety melts away. It's a small thing to thank Him for, but I'll choke on the goodness if I keep it to myself.

Also, it being June and all, Amazon has their new 100 at $5 list, and I begin my monthly battle of resisting the purchase of CDs I don't have but kind of feel I ought to have. [Though I stand by the money spent on Needtobreathe's The Outsiders because I LOVE IT.] [I don't think you would, though, so no need to check it out. Unless you want to. But it's back to being full-price on Amazon, so . . .]

For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?