Saturday, December 31, 2011

He makes all things new.

Four years later, what happened to the girl who went to San Francisco? Who was buoyed by her idealism and her fervent conviction?

Three years later, what happened to beautiful crushed brokenness of Vermont's starry night? That was unrivaled in its message of humbleness and healing?

Two years later, what happened to the girl who felt so keenly? With a rending message, and cathartic conversations, and freely loving one to another?

One year later, what happened to those library conversations, so organic but profound? Which made light glimmer in a crowded and desolate landscape?

Who on earth am I? And where on earth am I going? (Most telling of all, why on earth am I asking?)

We are always changing but we stay the same. I can hardly stand it. 

I hope your new year bursting full and overflowing with His grace, true regeneration, and that eternal hope that spurs us on.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Greetings from the dark annals of Christmas break

I hate break. I hate sitting on my hands while the guilt shatters over my head and rains down all around me, knowledge of all the things I should be doing with all this newfound spare time. I have an enormous to-do list, filled with ambiguous goals I have no hope of sticking to.

And the worst part is, most of it is catch-up, things I should have done before school started back in September, but couldn't do because I was working. Things like clean my room. Oh, it's a sight to behold! I have two boxes full of "junk" sitting next to my bed, things I meant to sort and take care of months ago.

You know what kind of stuff is in those boxes? Lots of random stuff. 

A pomegranate 7-Up can that Bryna wrote all over.

Assorted programs and ticket stubs from Luke's concerts.

My camcorder, one I have little use for since A Year of Questions ended, and the cable doesn't fit in anyone's computers anymore.

Paycheck stubs.

The former contents of my purse that got dumped in the boxes last time I needed to free up some room: I strongly suspect that's where my pocket screwdriver and favorite lipstick have gotten to.

Rebecca's book in hallowed print.

A stack of wonderful letters from wonderful people, gone almost entirely unanswered.

Oh friends, I have been so very negligent. I am so guilty, and my guilt overwhelms me. 

So much has happened in my little world, I feel so very different than I felt just last Christmas ago. And still, so much has happened in my family, and I'm so grateful I've been mostly close enough to see it unfold. But still worse, so much has happened in you and in your lives, and where I might have been kin in the knowning of the goings-ons, at least a supporter or an interceder or an encourager, I have been wholly absent. Too absorbed in my busyness and my meltdowns and my selfish needs. 

I am so limited. God, be infinite!

I hear there is grace for these things, but grace is not easy. I used to really hate Christmastime. I mean, I guess I didn't violently or vocally hate it, but I didn't really enjoy it very much. It made me feel sick to my stomach: all the waste, the excess, the indulgence. Blasted commercialism! Pathetic. It didn't seem fair that I was warm and happy and well-fed while others were shivering and miserable and hungry. This is an injustice year-round, but it's just so particularly heinous at Christmastime. And how could I celebrate a baby sent to this miserable earth to die? How is that a cause for joy? His coming brought the slaughter of numerous infant Hebrew boys and the wise men brought Him gifts fit for burial. This "tidings of comfort and joy" business always seemed so counter-intuitive to me.

And somewhere along the way I grew and learned and came to appreciate . . . hope. This is what we celebrate! In all the sorrow: a broken world necessitating God in flesh to humble Himself in crying, naked, vulnerable humanness . . . He came! God's promise rang true! A Messiah finally to save us all, hope for the conquer of sin and the death it breeds. Hope for abundant and eternal life. He came to live amongst us, to know the world as we knew it, to feel the pain as we felt it, to save us as one of us. His is a gift not just of salvation, but of the truest empathy, and does any hope speak more fully to the human soul? I've heard this truth my whole life; it's hard to speak in words that do it justice, but I see Christmas not in cynicism, but in hope.

That is to say, in grace, in forgiveness, in empathy I am armed. I have neglected people, that which is most important! But I can stand up under the guilt that convicts me, because hope is real and grace is coming.

Friday, December 16, 2011

That's just the way it is?

I watched When Harry Met Sally, probably because Katie told me to or something, and I remember thinking it was okay, but the central theme was a little to stressful for me to consider, so I told myself I'd revisit it at some much later date. Now that I'm older I feel (unjustifiably :P) it's like it's safer to talk about, or something. So it's time to tackle the age old question, one I've previously read about on a few of my friends blogs and now have a little opinion of my own to contribute. Yeah. 

Can boys and girls be friends?

Duh. I'm going to offer a tentative yes. 

I think of it this way: friendship teaches you how to interact with people. How to love people, how to resolve conflict with people, how to work well with people. And I think similarly, friendship with members of the opposite gender teaches you a lot about how to love, have conflict with, and work with people of that gender. Which is kind of something that's useful to know before going into marriage! 

I mean, as much as I am a proponent of treating people like people and not like gender identity scripts, the fact remains that there are some differences, especially when it comes to friendships and communicating. (What I'm about to regurgitate can be cited from Ronald Adler's interpersonal communication textbook Looking Out, Looking In.) Women are more relationally-oriented, whereas men are more action- and activity-oriented. With women, it's about what's said while men are into how much time has been spent. Women look for quality, men trend toward quantity. Women listen with "minimal encouragers" and are more likely to offer an empathetic response, whereas men generally listen more stoically and are more likely to offer advice and solutions. 

But don't let all this destroy the real similarities that exist! (My textbooks says, instead of men being from Mars and women being from Venus, it's more accurate to say men are from North Dakota and women are from South Dakota. So.) I mean, both men and women talk about the same amount per day. (But men talk more about sports, the news, and activities, while women talk more about relationships and other people! I digress . . .) Anyway, learning how to deal with these differences is an important skill whether you're going to get married or not, so why not take advantage of this convenient awesome thing that's friendship? Amirite?!

Okay. So that's about what my thought process was. But then, one of my coworkers showed me the video below at work this past week.

Well, I'm a girl. So apparently I just don't know anything. Thoughts?

But, okay, I think there's an important caveat here. The biggest difference between the people in that video and the people I know is faith. In Christian "culture", the emphasis on guarding your heart and brotherly/sisterly unity makes it a lot safer to interact on a platonic level, because theoretically all that stuff is less of a distraction. Jesus came to set relationships right, and maybe that also means unifying the genders. Yeah, that's right, I like to think Jesus makes it possible for girls and guys to be friends! I would argue that you see more successful, appropriately modeled platonic cross-gender friendships in the church than anywhere else. (Not proven, but it's a nice speculation, eh?) In a world with Jesus, rather than men and women always trying to domineer and manipulate each other, we are instead beginning to learn from each other.

(Hm, still too rosy-glassed?)

Do I think I have quality platonic relationships with boys because I'm naive, or because I actually do? Well, when all else fails, my default defense is that the exception proves the rule. (That's basically what I've applied to all of my abnormal world experiences ever.) I feel like this is one of those things where asking the question is more important than the answer, because it forces you to reflect on the way you behave. Are you honoring the friendships you have? Are you protecting yourself, and them? Loving people is so challenging, and multifaceted, and complicated. Doing it right is not easy! And so it's worth it to ask, "What am I doing here? What is this supposed to be? Is this okay?" Forcing yourself to reflect on your friendships is the first step to being a better friend. 

My mom was all, "You can be friends with boys. Until they get married. Or you do." And that sounds okay to me.

P.S. I really hate disclaimers, and being excessively meta, but I feel compelled to reassure my guy friends that I didn't put them under a microscope.  That's all.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"I close my eyes, I tell myself to breathe and be calm."

It feels so good to be chilling. These past two weeks have been among the most stressful of my life, and not just because of the disappointment my church has sustained. I have knots in my shoulders the size of golf balls. I have never felt so tightly wound as I have felt these past two weeks. On Thursday if you had've poked me I would have shattered, I was so tense. I walked a mile in a Type A personality's shoes, and I did not find them comfortable!

One of my problems is that I've been trying to create time. Make it appear out of thin air. I have staring contests with the clock, willing everything to work out and it just never does! I'm strung out between responsibilities, often needing to be in two places at once, and I'm beginning to realize how impossible that is. I am not transcendent! I am not an infinite being! So why am I trying to stretch time out or make like it doesn't limit me? I've been jamming puzzle pieces that clearly don't go together and it's like, "Is this girl even out of the pre-operational stage of cognitive development yet?!"

That was some psychology humor there for you. ;D

Speaking of psychology, my psychological development class is such a beautiful foil to my abnormal psychology class. The former features the dream professor, and the latter the professor of your nightmares. And I have a pathetic horror story to share! Thursday dawned a bright and bitingly cold morning, on which I got to sleep in until the ripe late hour of 7am, dressed sharply in a blazer and sun dress for my presentation later that day, and booked it to the library to print out my very last paper for this intolerable abnormal psych class. It was just past 9:30 when the tears started flowing, as I searched for a functioning computer in the lab and battled printer malfunctions at the library and phoned home to get the right file emailed to me. I was panicked at the thought that I would not be able to hand in my paper, because I cannot even explain the fear this professor breeds in me.

Late to class, I forced a smile on my face while I rushed to my classroom building, hoping and praying that the professor (in usual style) was also late. My stomach dropped when I saw her stalled by another student, chatting by the door. Missed it by THAT much! I sank into my seat with complete relief, stapled my paper, clipped it to my research, and plopped the packet on her desk . . . and then I realized. I did not have my other, previously graded paper. I had forgotten it at home. And she would not accept my paper without this other paper. There was no phoning my way out of this one!

Fortunately, she was in a good mood that morning and gave me the option of meeting her on the Providence campus and passing in my paper then. But because things never work out the way they're supposed to . . . 

I was in the car for an hour and a half! My wonderful, self-sacrificing, back-guarding parents agreed to meet me in Providence with my paper, my only challenge was getting there. I survived traffic, getting lost, my own dangerous driving risks, and tricky intersections. With a half hour to spare, I parked in the general area I though maybe the Providence campus was, and began wandering. For the record, considering I was wearing a sun dress, it was super cold. I was lost in a tangle of sketchy alleyways, completely disoriented, and my only salvation was phone-a-friend; Peter's navigational prowess saved my sanity! I arrived outside my professor's classroom with minutes to spare, and my mom passed off my paper with a hug. 

I walked into the room as I heard my professor saying, "And don't forget to pass back your first paper along with the one due today--" and I handed her mine without a word. Her eyes crinkled at me, "Thank you" was all she said. So then I left. Wandered around for a little while trying to find my way back to my parking spot. Got on the road en route to another uncomfortable church meeting and was reminded that growing is a process, that no one is perfect, that healing takes time. Ah, God be gracious to us.

Concurrent with my ongoing desire to grow into adulthood, I think Thursday taught me that I really need to be less of a pansy, I mean, really. And also, that stress is overrated. (But maybe, it's only going to get worse from here on out . . .) 

Bring on winter break!