Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Room of One's Own

Here's the reality: I share a room with my sisters. Always have, since I was a young'un. Not a big deal when there are only three of us, but there it is. As is my prerogative as the oldest, I got to choose which bed I wanted, leaving the sibs stranded with the bunk bed, so things really aren't all that difficult for me. I have my own uninvaded corner of the room and I keep it quite well.

But here's the truth: the Bankstons spoiled me rotten. In the five months I lived with them I had my own room all to myself. My own bathroom, too! When I was younger I always though I would never be able to survive in my own room, all alone, that it was always such a comfort to have both my sisters right there. But once I experienced this luxury at the Bankstons' . . . oh, there was no going back.

So now I don't live with the Bankstons, I suffer through nights in the same room with my sisters, and it's so much harder than it used to be! Having to cope with different bedtimes, ambient noise, disruptive chatter, lighting discrepancies, and general space-invasion conflicts, my lands! We always had these problems before, we three stubborn young ladies, but now that I have known the tantalizing prospect of an end to these unpleasantries, oh, contentment is so much harder!

This is just another reason why I have nothing but pity for only children.

You know what I mean? Never having to share their parents' attention, never having to yield to another's moment of triumph, never having to make peace with those people who are required to love you yet never seem to want to? Generalizations, of course, and not every only child is a victim of the stereotype of maladjustment, but it seems to me that we learn so much from living with others [do not even get me started on youth trips] that is difficult to learn any other way.

There is just something to charitable and privileged in my current living arrangements, despite all the late night drama and moody morning accusations. I plan to put on my resume: "plays well with others. qualifications: oldest of four." Ah, ohana.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When will we get it right?

Never. Not on this earth.

Teach me humility, God. That I may champion truth in meekness and without arrogance. That everything I believe about who You are is only what You've told me, nothing more and nothing less. That I may consider others as more important than myself.

And give me faithfulness. That even though I will never get it right, not here and not now, I will not abandon the pursuit of You. I don't understand. Thank You that I don't have to.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Maid of Orleans

Now that school is out I'm reading a biography on Joan of Arc. My interest was piqued during the end of my psychology course, when my professor referenced her during his lecture on schizophrenia. Realizing that the extent of my knowledge of Joan of Arc came from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and an episode of Wishbone, I pulled her biography off the shelf and despite the bizarre cover art, I dove in.

Um, and so far I've learned a lot about the Hundred Years War. Not so much about Joan herself.

The question that's plaguing me at this point in her story is the relationship between religion and politics. Joan did what she did solely on mandate from God. The girl was sold out. But there's also no denying that what she did was political to the hilt: she picked the "God-ordained" ruler, picked a side, divided the French people, and navigated practically legislative channels. She made dramatic claims about God's will for the nation of France, and in the name of Christianity she helped shape the future of Europe. She wasn't out there feeding the poor or freeing the slaves or any other sort of social justice missions - she was in the business of government supremacy. I don't know what to think of that.

The other question that's bothering me is the nature of Joan's visions. Where did they come from? The clergy who questioned her at the time of her initial audience with Charles VI were unable to verify or condemn her call, but I think it's reasonably to believe her visions were real. Or at the very least, real to her. But were they from God? The voices were later identified by Joan and her questioners as St. Catherine and St. Margaret, also Michael the Archangel. I'm not excessively squeamish about Catholicism, but I can't help but wonder, if God wanted Joan to do something for Him, why communicate through "saints" than through Jesus? Or some other kind of vision? Or a still small voice?

Further, would God do something like that? He channels the princes' hearts like streams of water, but does He send peasant girls to slay a bunch of English troops in the name of Christianity and France? He controls the world, He rules the nations, but it seems strange to me that He would intervene so directly . . . though I guess I have no developed reason to think that's strange. But if Joan's visions weren't from God, where were they from? Satan? Herself?

And so there is also that question that my psychology professor proposed: what if Joan of Arc was schizophrenic? Or crazy in some other way. I don't lend much credence to this question, as my professor also taught that anyone who believes a talking snake led to the fall of the earth is also displaying psychiatric deviance, but it is somewhat of an interesting question. Joan's upbringing was deeply religious, and it could have served as a kind of catalyst for her already erratic behavior. I don't know. She had to have been just a little bit crazy to be as brave as she was.

Joan of Arc is just a bundle of controversy. The relationship between faith and politics, how God rules the world, perhaps even the question of whether women should lead. What freaks me out about Joan, though, is her conviction. She pursued her calling with persistence, unwavering dedication, even to her death. How much more does this mean to us with the words of life?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

He makes all things beautiful in His time

I noticed this morning that I have spider veins on my thighs. So I looked up the causes of spider veins online today: "Use of oral contraceptives, certain cosmetic applications, issues relating to pregnancy or obesity are among the common causes when we consider spider vein occurrence in women." Um. No? Smoking, alcohol, and sun exposure are other reasons that also have no application to my life. It seems the source of my spider veins is my genes; it was nothing that I did to be blessed with these, it appears that I was just born with them. It's like God doesn't like me very much or something.

The kicker is, I don't really mind that much that I have spider veins. What leads me to joke that God must not like me very much is the spider veins plus the acne and the scoliosis and the kyphosis and the poor eyesight and the perpetually shiny face. I can live with the color of my eyes and the shape of my face and the texture of my hair and the crookedness of my teeth. I can get over the fact that I'm not athletic, or a good speller, or I have a sickly skin tone. That I'm a bad driver and just a little socially awkward. My character flaws may get me down, but the stuff I was born with doesn't usually bother me. My character is something Christ has freed me to change, but I can't help the way I look!

So, I mean, I never used to worry about it. Actually, I never really had body image problems at all in high school. Maybe they're catching up to me now, as I'm realizing that I've stopped growing and this is the physical prime of my life. How am I going to get a husband?! Just kidding.

But I wonder, why did God make me this way? One or even two of these physical issues would have been reasonable, but He had to make me with all of them. Isn't that overkill? Shouldn't we spread out the eye problems and back problems and skin problems through the population a little bit? Maggie and Sarah were shocked to hear me say all this of course. "You weren't born with leprosy, be thankful for that!" And I am. Though at least with leprosy I might experience what real suffering is like, and become more like Jesus because of it. There's really no suffering involved with spider veins. So I mostly feel pathetic for complaining.

I don't think that I'm discontent, not really. I just feel there ought to be a telos to it all. I want to be comforted by a purpose in it. Is it part of God's cosmic plan that I wear long pants and glasses and take acne medicine and have a hunched back? Oh man. It's moments like these that I realize I'm so incredibly vain.

In other news, I bought some bermuda shorts today!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I love those Quaker Oats commercials. Just get Bob Harper to say something in a reassuring tone, and I'd believe it. He should run for president.

How far my political idealism has slipped.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


We are a house of cards
Precipitously placed
Smiling and nodding
While holding our breaths.
One wrong word

We tumble
So fragile
Never what we once were
Until we are built back up again
Holding our breaths.

We're proud of our skill
We love what we've made
But how little we know
One wrong word can decimate
We are rigid, not fluid
We balance, not gel
We protect our ideas
and our views of ourselves

But there is no glue in this house of cards
Just luck
And some hope
And just enough distance
Keep us tottering tottering tottering
Without seeing what we are.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Good night, good night until we meet again"

I'm fresh back from my church's women's retreat. As one of the four unmarried girls in attendance, I learned one thing from everyone else: having a husband is hard. One woman gave a testimony of how she went into her marriage with rose-colored glasses, expecting that her husband would adore her like her father had. When he fell short of her expectations, she became bitter and shrewish, driving her husband away. And though her story has a happy ending, with growth and reconciliation and true love, I couldn't help thinking to myself that I'm in big trouble if I ever get married.

Because honestly, there's no guy better than my dad.

So I'm fresh home from this retreat, right? My mom is preparing for her night shift, curled up on the couch, and my dad greets me with a hug. We sit down in the other room, quiet so as not to disturb, and blow-by-blow he catches me up on life at home from his perspective. About his battle with cordon bleu, his fix-it challenge with the bedroom lamp, his devastation over conflict with my sister, his gratification in a quality Sunday sermon. While I was gone and Sarah was away, my dad spent his weekend working, taking care of my mom and siblings, and holding down the fort; I forget sometimes what a big deal that is.

My dad has a genuine servant's heart. I was horrified to hear the women this weekend complain about going home, wracked with certainty that they would be faced with a sink full of dirty dishes and an empty refrigerator. That would never happen in my house. My heart sank for them when I heard them share their hurt at their husbands' shortcomings in listening. My dad has the wisest and most sympathetic ear. A few women laughed helplessly over how they occasionally felt neglected by their husbands, like they didn't matter. And all I could think of, it's funny, is how I always feel guilty asking my dad for permission for anything, because he hates to have to say no. He loves to dote on his family.

I've learned a lot about God the Father from my father in this world. Who could possibly live up to that?

Not that hanging out with a bunch of married people for a few days made me cynical about marriage: they had plenty of wonderful things to say, too. And granted, my dad's had 20 years of practice at this whole husband/father thing. So there's that.

Now Caleb and I are watching The Lawrence Welk Show [wait, what? I know!] and my dad is telling me about how my grandmother's favorite singer was Nora, and how smart the producer of this show was, and the best chart-toppers. "I think all these people lived their lives vicariously through this show," he's says referring to the predominantly elderly studio audience, and laughing as he taps his toe to the Bobby & Sissy number.

It doesn't seem fair, that there are girls who don't have dads like my dad, that there are ladies who don't have husbands like my mom's husband. I don't understand how it works, how you end up with who you end up with. But I never want to be guilty of not honoring my father like I ought to, especially because he is so deserving.