Friday, December 21, 2012

Psalm 139:24

This has been a week of lots of feelings. Reunions with old friends, finishing up finals, navigating frustrating bureaucracies, making plans, holiday and Urbana anticipation, presents, addressing failures, watching AYOQ (which has reunited for a week!), meeting new people, combating laziness. It's been dripping with feeling. I started sobbing yesterday because I climbed up too high on a ladder and couldn't get down. Clearly I was super stable. (Pun mercilessly intended. ;P)

But through the broad variety of wonderful and horrible things I've been feeling, the most dominant emotion is probably anxiety. And the worst thing about anxiety is that it is irrational but all-consuming. It's knowing that you're crazy, but you can't stop the craziness taking up residence inside you and yanking on all the strings. Maybe it's because I was a worry wart as a child. My mom used to joke I was going to give myself an ulcer over my profound fear of arriving places too early or too late. I know now that worrying is bad for me, so I try to avoid it.

Still, I'm so overwhelmed by all these feelings I feel! I want to bury myself in mindless digital media, and then sleep until I've out-slept all the opportunities and all the consequences. It helps clear out the confusion, and it's really the confusion that makes me anxious and overwhelmed. And it's tricky because this is a layered, contorted confusion that is both holistic and self-referential. I don't know anything. I don't know what to do about anything. 

But I find this is what I do every time I'm overwhelmed. And when I'm anxious. And when I have so many feelings churning around inside me that I can't respond to or process. I retreat, I avoid. When I don't know what to do with the sheer volume and profundity of my feelings I find that the only thing I can muster to do is bury inside of myself.* 

I sense intuitively that this response is very unhealthy. (Also, see peer-reviewed research on the efficacy of avoidance as a defense mechanism. Overwhelming.)

So if I can't beat the confusion with avoidance, then I'll reach for clarity some other way. It's time for me to make a list of the things I know.

I know I love people, and people love me.
(And that when I feel most like tunneling inward, it is imperative that I reach outward.)
I know I like this CD
I know my family will have a happy Christmas.
I know that Urbana is coming whether I'm ready or not, and that will be fine.
I know that the summer and beyond is a question mark, and that will also be fine.
I know that all will be well. ("You can ask me how, but only time will tell.")
I know that He is closer than my own heartbeat, that He will never leave me, that He is faithfully rooting up the ugliness in my heart and that He is leading me in the way everlasting.

*Or blog. Sometimes I blog. There's some masochistic relief in vomiting my anxiety onto the internet. 

Monday, December 17, 2012


I am captivated by a good story. Who isn't? I saw my dear Minnesotan friend for the first time in months today, and stories were brimming in a moment. This is my favorite time of year. Back they come, returning with their stories.

Pinterest. Stories. ESPN. Stories. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr. Stories. People worry that the news industry is becoming a changeling, but the face of news is as constant as ever: stories.

But still I am afraid. Afraid I don't have a story to tell.

But I'll tell you one anyway. And be warned, it's a Hayley story, full of extraneous detail and an unsatisfying punch line. I had this one professor this semester . . . I hardly know where to begin. I picked up one of her books and read the inside jacket over the summer. It was a charming bit of literary nonfiction about Chevalier Jackson and his foreign body collection, and I thought to myself, I was looking forward to taking a class with this woman. A real author of a real book that real people actually read. Oh, but it was not until halfway through the semester that I realized the magnitude of the intellect I studied under. Apparently she's a pretty big deal? A Google search of her name returns over a million results. (For your reference, Wendell Berry returns two million results.) She has won a Fulbright, she has taught all over the world, she has been scammed by plagiarists posing as The Guardian, she has battled cancer, she's hobnobbed with myriad academics, and even introduced one to our class. (I've met enough famous people this year to get a list going; none of those are good stories, though.)

Her class gave me panic attacks. I've gotten used to sitting through classes where I have no idea what's going on, it's been a humbling quality of college, but this was different. I felt like I was Alice in the rabbit hole, falling falling falling infinitely, rolling head over heels, with nothing to grab onto. Terminal velocity. Weightlessness. I spent every class feeling sick to my stomach. I was sure I would keep falling straight through to the end of the semester. 

And somehow, I fell straight into her good graces. To be fair, everyone in the class was in her good graces; she's a professor who cares foremost that her students learn what she has to teach. (Which is a considerable amount.) But the more I asked questions, parading my perplexity for the class to share, the more she asked, "Are you sure you're not an English major?" She still asks this, and I shudder at the thought. The thought of writing pages and pages of meaningless analysis, asking fruitless questions, pouring over the minutia of countless texts. Dratted details. Is that all I'm good for? I hope against hope it's not. 

And don't get me wrong, those of you know know me know that I love literature. That I will wax pretentiously on The Lost Generation or gothicism in Flannery O'Connor's short stories or anachronisms in Shakespeare's plays. I like to read. And I love stories. English as an academic discipline is by no means worthless, in fact, it is one of the more worthwhile things students can turn their attention towards. (English majors, my hat's off to you. You were braver than I.)

Still, I'm flattered that she sees a place for me in the study of the literary. My heart of hearts knows it is not stern enough for the challenge, but I am comforted that she sees my bewilderment as an asset. That my curiosity is a skill. It is sobering that she thinks the things I write are worth reading. It is terrifying that she thinks my mostly addled musings are worth saying, never mind sharing. And so I can't help but write my final paper with fear and trembling . . .

What if she sees me for what I really am? A mediocre student who really knows nothing about where the literary intersects with the acoustic, who didn't really enjoy her class, who wrote most of the assignments for this class in the middle of the night before they were due and forgot to do the rest of them. A fake who feigned a wee bit too much ignorance, who simultaneously understood more than she let on and comprehended less than she pretended, who stammered questions about MLA-format and writing a literary analysis despite her prior dabbling with both. (What if she sees this post?!)

I have a hunger and ambition to exceed expectations.
But I am sated by fear and laziness.
And so I chronically set expectations low enough to exceed them with ease.

Mine is the story of the underachiever who would be the overachiever. I neither Olga nor Dymov. I am incompetent. I could have cried in the middle of the Christmas party. These kids deserve so much better. 

So I'll keep hunting for my niche, the place I can carve out for me, with my jagged-deep flaws and acrylic bright side and wordy stories. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Issues with Womanhood

I feel like I am constantly being told what womanhood is supposed to be.

I actually appreciate this. I like instructions. I like formulas. I like easy, comfortable answers. "I'm black or white, but I can't stand the in-between." I am content to be handed the answers, and in my lazy simple-mindedness I would awfully gratified if someone would sweep away the confusion and give me a pretty-packaged checklist of what to do and who to be. 

But instead I hear lots of conflicting advice, instruction, and exhortation.

Modesty    Dress modestly to protect yourself from being objectified! Cover up to keep your brothers from falling into temptation! You were created to be a thing of beauty; dress to reflect that! Don't wear sweats in public or you'll never get a husband! Modesty is an attitude! Modesty is a way of dress! Don't wear expensive clothes. Don't wear scrubby clothes. Dress like a woman. Dress however you want. 

Education    What are you doing exposing yourself to that cesspool of public education? You have to have a way to support yourself in case your husband dies or can't take care of you. Education should be spiritual and not of wordly things. Guys like smart women. Guys don't like women smarter than they are. Study something useful. Study what your passions are! College is a bad investment. College is the best place to get a ring before spring.

Dating    Don't actively pursue guys, but build your character as one worthy of marriage. Show guys that you're interested or they'll never have enough confidence to approach you. Don't date. Do date. If you're not sweet, demure, and skilled no worthy guy will want you. If you are too occupied with your spiritual walk and education, guys will be too intimidated to pursue you.

Marriage    The husband is the head of the household and the wife is his helpmate. Good marriages are built on love and respect. The curse placed women at the mercy of men, but godly marriages are supposed to reflect the restoration Jesus is bringing. Marriages are teams. You might be called to singlehood. You're probably not called to singlehood. Egalitarianism. Complementarianism. 

Family    A woman's role is biology: have children, nurture children, build the next generation. You can't have a family and a career and all the rest without failing in one area. A homemaker is the highest calling. God has called each person to a unique path. You better homeschool your kids. It's perfectly okay if your kids go to school. Dishes are a woman's job. There's nothing wrong with a stay-at-home-dad.

There's probably lots of truth in a lot of what I've heard. But I suspect there are a lot of lies and (albeit well-indended) misconceptions, too. And I'm just over here like, "Can I just skip all this confusion and go straight to heaven before I have to figure out what I think about all this stuff?"

What does it mean to be a woman? I have no freaking clue. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Start With 12

What's InterVarsity's triannual missions conference's favorite fruit?


I remember when I registered, wow, way back in May. I really hadn't the faintest idea what I was signing up for, but I had seen my father's Urbana booklet from the eighties, and I had watched Sunder Krishnan's "Pray Big and Pray Bold" talk, and I had heard that Urbana promo video five-hundred-million times, and I knew it was going to be awesome. Zoom forward through a trip to Europe, summertime, and a few months of school and already it's Christmastime. Urbana is just a month away.

And I think I'm all set. Sarah booked our flight over the summer. Rachel and I made hotel reservations in October. I paid off my balance today. I've plotted the subway route, I've registered for the International Students track (though I'm still dabbling a bit with the Urban Poverty track, ugh, so hard to decide!), I've researched where to eat lunch in St. Louis. (Apparently there's this thing called gooey butter cake . . . which I am definitely not going to eat.)

I'm still reading through the gospel of Luke. (And it's blowing my mind.) I'm still researching the seminars. (Which all sound fabulous.) I'm still exploring the list of exhibitors. (And boy, is it a long list.)

There is much still not done, though. I have yet to begin my packing list. (I've never been to St. Louis before, who knows what the weather's like there.) I haven't paid for my flight yet. (Luckily my sister is not yet charging any interest on my debt.) I have also neglected to mentally and spiritually prepare. On the one hand, fall conference was a great perspective realignment, but I am still sick, so heart-sick, and I feel a warning that Urbana is for the well, the vibrantly living. I'm frightened of staying the same, of being one of the White Witch's victims turned to stone, frozen in place and watching the living run away. I'm dreading the possibility that I might miss out.

 But I am also hopeful that I will find opportunity at Urbana. In six months I will have an open docket, a year to spend before I continue with "the plan." (That is open to revision.) This is the time to return to San Francisco. Or level up in Spanish via immersion. Or begin legal advocacy work. I am literally ready and willing, debt-free and eager, hopeful that my God will give me a part in His plan and a way to walk in. And I know He will not only make plain my paths, but also give me the faithfulness to walk in them. 

Oh, and have I mentioned how stoked I am to be rooming with Rebecca?! So STOKED.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Riding the relationship struggle bus

There was a period in high school when I didn't go to youth group. It was kind of a subtle trend, I don't think anyone really noticed that I wasn't around. I had the great excuse of tournaments: if we were away for the weekend at a speech and debate event, usually I was too wiped to show up to Sunday school the next morning. There were a few Wednesday nights where I plead homework or a head cold, and stayed at home curled up on the couch. I had countless bouts of the post-tournament blues, facing the desert of isolation after the oasis of relational affection with my NCFCA friends. I didn't look for friendship in my youth group, because I already had it in my speech and debate community.

I mention this to illustrate something I'm learning in my communication theory class. We just wrapped up a lecture on the social exchange theory of relationship development where, basically, people initiate relationships with others on basis of profit, if they perceive that their costs (i.e. social investment, risk) will exceed their rewards (i.e. fulfillment of their needs to be accepted, influential, and liked.) "Profit" is evaluated by an individual's comparison level, that is, the threshold above which an outcome seems attractive. Satisfaction depends on expectation, which is shaped by prior experience. So if a person has had a string of positive, fulfilling relationships, their comparison level and expectations for new relationships will be high. Thus, according to the social exchange theory, people will develop relationships with those whom they think will meet or exceed the benefit they've received from previous relationships. 

So theoretically, I didn't go to youth group for a while because I didn't think investing there would maximize my relational profits. And while I shook off the mindset after tournament season ended, I'm finding it's crept back in to my collegiate mindset.

When I started college I was so blessed by the new experiences that befell me. Previously insulated in a Christian homeschool bubble, I finally had open access to myriad individuals of different backgrounds, and God gave me countless opportunities for wonderful conversations on truth. I met lots of cool people! And it was awesome! I was so thankful. But then, what happened? I started avoiding my new acquaintances in the halls. I made awkward, stifled small talk with my classmates. I chose the convenience of being alone over the effort of engagement. I closed myself off potential relationships so subtly, I didn't even see it happening. Even while the distance grieved me, I continued. Each semester I told myself I would be less busy, would branch out more, but it never happened. And here I am, one semester of college left, full of regret at the opportunity I blatantly squandered.

For me, all relationships involve a very high cost. I am clumsy at loving, I am awkward and insecure. I guard my time jealously and I am too lazy to love like I should. This is part sin, part introversion, but I have not been proactive in compensating for my weaknesses. As an obnoxious teenager, I longed for a circle of close friends with whom I could rest, and in His generosity He gave them to me. And they loved me so much more than I deserved. ("I know you have felt much more love than you've shown.") So I wonder, if in my warped self-centeredness, I neglected the potential for other friendships where I was because the "profit" wasn't worth it. Why invest the cost and risk when my need to be accepted and loved was already being filled?

It's remarkable that a paragraph in a textbook describing social exchange theory could so succinctly cut to my heart.

But oh how gracious my God is. How gently He's been pulling my hands off my eyes, how tenderly He's been needling my heart, how faithfully He's been lighting the path for me to walk in. I love the people I work with, so I went to the movies with them. I want to grow something with the girls from Intervarsity, so I went to trivia night with them. I want to reach out of the kids in student senate, so I haven't quit yet. And ugh. I don't like being out late at night. I don't like putting myself in unfamiliar situations with high levels of uncertainty. I like comfortable. I like predictable. I like safe. I feel pathetic that these tiny baby steps are so hard for me! But there is His grace for my selfishness, and His power for my weakness. And I'm terrified that I don't fully "get" it, that I don't yet grasp the depths of my neglect and selfishness, but He is beside me, slowly unstopping the dams until His love flows to others freely through me.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

RIP, ginger cat

I killed a helpless little animal today. I was driving along the short three mile stretch between my house and my church when out of nowhere a slender ginger cat darted across the road. Before I had time to think, react, and swerve, I felt the sickening thump of my tires going over a bump in the road, and a quick glance in the rearview mirror confirmed my fears. A lump of ginger fur lay prone in my wake. 

When I arrived at church I felt sick to my stomach. My first roadkill. My first bloodshed. I was Lady Macbeth with metaphorical blood on my tires. The car behind me had seen my transgression. I was so traumatized, I felt like I needed to confess what I had done. And yet, how could I offend the shining faces of the junior high girls who greeted me when I walked in the door? How could I stand up under their judgment? It was with a quivering lip that I made my confession.

And what happened next was kind of weird. 

They hugged me. They patted my arm and told me it was all right, and that now that kitty was in a better place, and that accidents happen to everyone. They shared with me stories about all the times their parents had killed unsuspecting wildlife. They gave me their compassion. They weren't all sunshine and roses, though. They certainly expressed their horror that I didn't even pull over to assess the damage done and their concern that now some poor family was without their kitty. And they mourned the passing of an adorable ginger kitten like only junior high girls can. Still, it was comforting, and I felt a little less queasy when I passed the site of the terrible deed on my way home.

I believe with a measure of certainty that there is no healing without confession. Straight-up James 5:16 style. This is part of what makes my heart so heavy about the turmoil that has disrupted my family's equilibrium. Resolution and restoration must be pursued with repentance, and yet, how much has yet to come to light? And so I've been thinking about how to be like those junior high girls, to banish the fear of condemnation and create safety for confession and healing. 

I wonder how it feels to have something terrible locked up inside you, a grievance far worse than turning an adorable pet into roadkill. And how overwhelming the fear of confession must be, to keep such a cancer contained inside. Is that part of why our trend is to "like to keep our issues drawn"? Jesus demanded of the woman at the well, to share who she really was. He already knew, but he asked it of her anyway. A woman who got around. Like Him I want to expect genuinity, and be prepared to meet it. I want the first words on my lips to be compassion, not condemnation. To be a comfort in the face of confession. I want to help bring healing.

What would it look like for us to be genuine and trustworthy? 
"You can tell me who you are, and I will not reject you. Release your burdens, accept my compassion."

And what does it look like for us to trust and be real? 
"I will surrender what weighs on me, because the freedom that calls is more precious than the shame I fear." 

Help us, Jesus.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

He is near to the broken-hearted

Are you, God?

It seems every hour I am reminded of the disease of this world. I see it now with unveiled eyes, I see how evil presses in close all around us, I see how it seeps in and stains and erodes. It is always within reach of those who would grasp it. It is brashly stealthy in our complacency.

I see the hearts pearly pink on the outside, and cracked open I see them blackened and hollowed out by the cancer of darkness. How did this happen? I see deceit, betrayal of that which was not what it seemed. I see innocence long abandoned, and fresh burdens that never ought to have been carried. It happens so easily.

I am angry. I am grieved. And I am so disheartened I can scarcely raise my head to see Your rainbow in the sky and Your chariots on the hills. In the thick of the battle, it is only with terrible and grim resolution that I wield Your promise of victory. And I seek to embrace forgiveness, but the anger is only swelling in my guts. And I am trying to stay positive, but it's chalky like a lie in my hands. And I have not doubted for a moment that You will have Your way, but I am burdened by the hurt in my heart.

Out of the darkness You shine, and out of the ashes we rise. And there will come a day where this muck and mud yields beautiful fruit for You. And until it does, what I cannot bear You will bear for me. So take my sorrow and make it pleasing to You. Humble me and refine me in this hurt. Set my heart on the hope of Your power. And may I always be broken before You. 

You are God. And my broken heart will ever praise You.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I tipped him off when I asked for time signals

Today it finally came out. He asked me point-blank. I couldn't avoid the question. So I answered his question with an nigh imperceptible nod. "Have you done speech before this class?" Nod. "Have you competed in speech?" Nod. My professor smiled in a self-satisfied sort of way. "You're a ringer. I can always spot them."

My spirits sank at this confession, I spent the rest of the class stewing in self-pity. I've tried desperately to keep my competitive forensics background under wraps. It's not on my resume. I haven't sought out the debate team. I've never mentioned it to my advisors. I stack expectations against me by approaching speeches, presentations, and group projects with much trepidation. I managed to get all the way to my junior year without a soul in the communication studies department knowing I did seven years of forensic competition in secondary school.

But I think my beginning public speaking teacher was on to me. She pinpointed that nebulous criticism I had always received on my NCFCA ballots: my tendency to "put on" an stereotyped persona, to become a caricature of myself when speaking. She held me to a standard higher than just being able to stand in front of the class and sound coherent. I got my first A- in that class, and I was furious. Each subsequent semester I would pull my evaluations out of my folder, and begin assembling my grade appeal. Eventually, though, I just threw it all out. I deserved the grade I got. It took my pride a few semesters to see that. 

And this was exactly why I wanted to leave my speech and debate experience in high school. Let the truth be known: I am not a good public speaker. I lack the natural knack for dynamics and fluidity. I worked at speech and debate for several years before I made it to the podium for the first time. This is not to say that I have not honed a certain degree of skill in this area, but I still have much, much more to learn, with much more struggle and practice ahead. And an understanding of this reality offended my pride. I wanted low standards, I wanted little expected of me. I wanted to coast, I didn't want to be challenged.

But my secret's out. My advanced public speaking professor knows, and worse, our whole class is also privy to my handicap. And I'm petrified, of not being good enough, of getting a bad grade, of being challenged, and of being unable to rise to the challenge. And yet, how much more fearsome is it to be content with my own mediocre skill? Much worse, I think. And on that I will lean the rest of the semester.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life," Part II

I heard a beautiful salvation story this evening, told over a few pieces of $1 cheese slices from my favorite Ronzio's location. She shared her heart with a sparkling conviction, her blue eyes brimming as she explained the waterfall of joy that welled up in her heart when she realized her need. I sat there rapt as we talked about Thailand and family and YWAM and church. 

Rewind an hour or two. I get off a long day at work, weary of talking to angry parents and making awkward dorm visits. I clutched a heavy tiredness as I headed to the quad to play frisbee with our Intervarsity chapter as part of our new student outreach. I showed up out of obligation, and glanced at my watch in between pathetic frisbee tosses, and made small talk like I was trying too hard. 

Last semester I was approached about joining the leadership team for my school's Intervarsity chapter, and without a second thought I filled out an application. It is the hand of God that has me here where I am, and I want to be working where He is working. But now that the fall is beginning and the rubber has to meet the road, I am finding myself timid and dulled by the sense of obligation that motivates me to show up. And an empty motivation it is.

My brain knows what's good for me, knows what I ought to be attending to and where I ought to be investing my life. Watered by ambition, it flourishes in the idealism of a productive life, one that loves and serves with abandon. It trusts and believes that the strength and love and joy that He pours into me is enough to overflow into others, and turn back into praise to Him.

By contrast my heart is weak and brittle. Besieged by apathy, it longs after the things my brain knows to be foolishness. With a sullen sense of defeat it contents itself with curling up in the silence of frivolous and solitary pursuits. It grows achy and feels helpless at the realization of its anemia, and to fight its own coldness it grows numb.

My brain wants to want faithfulness, love, righteousness, but my heart is too helpless to fight to desire these things.

But then there is the beauty of the story shared with me. The reminder that showing up to play frisbee and meet people is not an obligation but a privilege. And that the joy that poured from her eager face is the joy that could pour from my softened heart. Oh Father, so high above me, so close within me. So much like Lilith, strong in her rebellion and broken in her repentance, I cannot open my hand on my own. Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

I have this white board. Technically it's my mom's. The homeschooling stand-by that sported our daily grammar lessons and math tricks charts  lived in our basement for a while, until I redirected it for my own personal use. (Kids do this with their parents' stuff. It's the worst.) So "my" white board that previously enshrined my summer to-do list has received a makeover as my autumn goals list. Though I whipped up the goals arbitrarily and on a whim, one particular goal has been a nagging addendum to each campus-related decision I make.

It says, "Be available."

I feel pulled in so many directions, my heart caught by the things I know I ought to invest in. There are seven days in a week, and twenty-four hours in a day, and the things set before me are all good and important. Why, then, do I find myself disquieted by the lack of space in my schedule? 

Part of me is bitter. I look at the students in my honors' class, how they're on the executive board for three clubs, and in Greek life, and they have internships, and campus jobs, and they still have time for Applebee's trivia night every week. How do they do all that? Why can't I pull that off?

Part of me is selfish. My time is my time, and I will spend it the way I want. The sense of obligation and responsibility I feel towards my commitments leaves me with an acidic taste in my mouth, something my head can rationalize but my heart revolts against. Why do I hoard my time so hungrily? Why do the things I love and choose to do so often feel like obligations?

Part of me is overwhelmed. I am just one person, and I am not enough to do all that needs to be done. I cannot possibly love all the people that need loving. I cannot even learn all there is for me to learn. I am too weak and too busy and too self-centered to be what I ought to be. How can I cut off the things that make me small and hold me back? And what if I can't?

Oh, here is the really mysterious part. That I have to teach my brain to skirt around it, so I can think about it better. (Like you see things more clearly out of the corner of your eye.) It's so simple that I struggle with the mechanics of it, but this is it: He is my enough. He owns my time. He fills my heart. He gives me strength. What does that mean? What does that look like? How do I let Him?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Today I survived my first half-marathon race. Actually, it was the first time I've ever run that far in my life. [Yeah, I know, not an advisable training strategy.] It was a total blast, and as the heat bore down on me around mile eight at India Point Park, the race seemed to me a fitting end to one of the most bizarre summers of my life, and a great kick off to the foggy semester ahead. 

And oh, it was so hard to believe when I smelled the salt on the harbor breeze and when I rubbed the grass in the finishers' village and when I melted in the heat reflecting off the Gtech building, but the signs were all around. The shorter days, the budding acorns, the sale displays in the shop windows; fall is coming. 

New England is the best place to be, I don't think I could ever leave it during fall. Brisk air on my cheeks. Wood smoke in the air. Leaves turning. Apple picking. Corn mazes. Fog on the fields in the morning. Walks in the woods, nature exploration. Sweaters. Scarves. Lots of layers. Oranges and yellows and purples and browns. 

And time in the kitchen. Pumpkin-spice everything. Pumpkin-spice muffins, pumpkin-spice coffee, pumpkin-spice pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, pumpkin-spice French toast, pumpkin-spice bagels, pumpkin-spice froyo. Everything. Apple cider. Tangy black tea. The most satisfying soup weather. Scituate Art Festival vendor food. Halloween candy. 

Back to school. The brain revving that comes after a restful summer break. Getting inspired over new course material, before it starts to get dreary and stressful. Beginning new notebooks. Reorganizing files. Repacking backpacks. Meeting new professors, befriending new classmates, new opportunities to live Him large.

New season, new goals, new to-do list. Summer? It's been real. And it's hard to say good-bye, but the regency of fall makes it possible. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pride & Prejudice

People wound people with their misunderstandings and their hasty judgments and their callous assessments and thoughtlessly spoken words. Their good intentions sometimes crumble into ill-advised decisions. Their unripe opportunities sometimes implode under the uncommunicated resentment.

Sometimes everything is so close to going wonderfully amiss. 

And sometimes, when they chose vulnerability over pride, transparency over prejudice, when they seek others above themselves, when they examine themselves with humility, when they swallow the consequences their judgements have concocted . . .

Then, sometimes, people end up completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Nehemiah 8:10

When the weight on my chest forces out a heavy sigh during my solitary car rides. When I can't force my eyes to crack open in the dark at the sound of my alarm. When my patience and fortitude is mercilessly sapped by the people I seek to love. When I am so mired in my confusion that I don't know the right way to move forward. 

I must remember, I must not forget . . .

You have been called for joy. 

When I sing along with revelation songs at the top of my lungs in my soul-mending car rides. When my eyes snap open to catch the opportunities in a new day. When I am spilling over from the Creator's love for His creation. When I am shrouded in clarity and hedged by a path from which my steps will never falter. So I will walk in the way set before me.

He is bigger, He is greater, He is my refuge and my salvation. The joy of the LORD is my strength, so I face the darkness and heaviness with no need to grieve.

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Take Me As I Am" - Nichole Nordeman

I spend a lot of time thinking about the person I want to be. I definitely aspire to be like June Cleaver. She's such a boss. It's like magic, how she makes three square meals a day and keeps her house pristine, all while making time to visit the neighbors and humor her adorable sons. She's hilarious, never a hair out of place. She's pretty much perfect, and while she feeds Betty Friedan's point about the feminine mystique, she's the archetypal housewife figure who manages to tour the facility, pick up slack, and look like a total babe when she goes driving with her husband after dinnertime. Like I said, such a boss.

And then there's Agent 99. Not only is she a glamorous agent of justice with snazzy outfits, but she always comes through in the clutch when Max's made a mess of things. She has an unobtrusive way of asserting her perspective and always has the best ideas. Her deadpan wit and patient countenance make her the unsung hero of the show, the perfect supporting character. And if anyone can rock a short skirt with a long jacket, it's Agent 99. If I could be a seemly mix of June Cleaver and Agent 99 when I grew up, I would be unstoppable.

But I guess there's a bit of absurdity in patterning myself after fictional characters from old-timey television shows.

So I got an email today from the regional coordinator for The Veritas Forum. (As Harvard law student fluent in a bunch of languages and living in Boston, he's basically got the life I wish I had.) He was wondering if I was up for directing URI's Veritas Forum this year. Sarah lol'd when I asked her about it. "Aren't you barely getting done what you already have on your plate? And what was the state of your mental health last Veritas? I'd think about this one for a bit if I were you!" And let's be serious, who are we kidding, I'm terrible for the job. I am woefully inadequate at event planning and administration and getting stuff done. Still, I'm filled with a keenness to take on the job, because if anything's important to me, it's this outreach. The idealist in me says, "Yes! Absolutely! His truth must be proclaimed at my school!", while the realist in me says, "If you want this thing done halfway right you'll keep it far away from me."

Oh, for a heart that does not ache, for a backbone that won't break

I am often overwhelmed by the feeling that my apathy is bigger than my ambition. I want to be so much, and do so much, and I'm filled with so much vision sometimes that my heart feels like it's swelling against my ribcage. But when it comes to turn my passion into practice, I trip every single time. Too easily defeated, I see my shortcomings in retina display. I always bite off more than I can chew, take on tasks that I am not equipped to see through to the end. I am not dependable. I will choke in the eleventh hour. I am too brittle to lean on. It is one of my greatest heartaches that I am not enough, that I am too limited, to do and be all the things my inspired and idealistic mind would believe are within my grasp.

And the list gets longer between who I wish I was and was no longer
But the gap grows wider between who I am and all I aspire to be

I wondered once about how much agency I have in my own self-creation, and I have yet to find an answer. But I think I can be sure that I will never be June Cleaver. I will never be good at sports, or good at math. I will never be quiet and demure and not socially awkward. I am not the girl in that Cake song. God has not seen it fit to give me certain things, and how dare the pot criticize the creation of the Potter. When I feel that He has made me as weak as they come, I comfort myself in the promise that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong. And when I feel utterly useless, I am all the more confident that He will answer my prayer, "Use me."

I never could be good enough to measure up, but You want to take me as I come. You're the only one that can take me as I am.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pensamentos Mistos

I got in the car to drive to work earlier this morning and wondered to myself if I still remembered how to drive. While this skill is still in question, I can at least be assured that my ability to dwell on half-conceived thoughts while driving is still very much intact.

A) Though I encounter very little danger here in the suburbs, I've had my share of sketchy encounters in alleyways and middle-of-nowheres. Still, the first time I felt fear for my safety was last summer, in Dearborn, while being immersed in a culture of misogynic domination. I didn't have to worry about that during our European adventures, as I was practically always flanked by someone, but the frequent reminders of my feminine frailty turned a notch in my mind today as I walked down Daboll Street alone in the dark. It's an odd feeling to be accosted by fear where you previously never felt it before.

B) Walking through the twilight on the Lisbon waterfront on Sunday night was the most divine feeling, I felt assured that heaven would be the same climate. But today I found myself striding through the sunny Kingston breeze, and breathed deeply and thought not just about His Kingdom come but also His kingdom coming. The warm welcome back at work and the eager testimonies of the youth group kids onsite and the bliss of being loved by my cherished family were apt reminders that my eagerness for Home should not detract from my gratitude for my Sojourn.

C) Coming home has been like sticking my head in a cold shower of news, and I keep trying to rinse the travel fatigue out of my hair without getting brain freeze. I am alternatively cheered and grieved, emboldened and overwhelmed. I feel such a shift in my heart, like it was a jar full of marbles, and when it cracked the marbles were given room to roll around when I walk. I don't want to forget what I learned, or perhaps more appropriately, I want to synthesize what I've experienced in order to learn from it. Like any introvert, I bask in the clarity of hindsight. There is so much to do, people to get back to, things to pray about! And there is the pondering in my heart, to see the movements of God.

Been home for about twenty-four hours now. I'm not sure if I want this odd weightlessness feeling to fade away.

Spain v. Portugal, 2:45pm ET tomorrow. Viva Portugal!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


It's odd, to be awash on another continent with people you love, seeing sites that are older than you can even really imagine, laughing in the midst of people who are very similar but places that speak of a difference to marvel at. It's very odd. Each new day is an exercise in suspending disbelief.

Your brain gets so fatigued, listening hard for words you recognize, willing yourself to understand, and nothing. Even when you latch onto a word here or there, by the time it's been processed a million more words have flown by. So you spend a lot of time smiling.

And trusting that He is making me better, that each day is another exercise in grace. That I will have more mindfulness and love and empathy to show for the day's successes and trials. Towards the people for whom I have such affection, both those among me and these strangers, to be ever growing and ever grateful.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Casting a line

When internet is unexpectedly available for the first time in ten days, you don't know what to do with yourself.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

People problems

One of my coworkers is back from his tour as a Marine in Afghanistan. It's pretty exciting to having him back, especially now that we're on our small group of summer staff and spend most of our time selling computers, as opposed to fixing them. When the phones aren't ringing we have a fair amount of downtime, which is occasionally spent standing around chit-chatting, as opposed to being productive.  And so I am explaining why I didn't make it out to the store's most recent bowling night: "I know you guys think I'm a loser, but I usually have plans Friday nights."

The Marine chimes in from over at the desk, "Hey! I don't think that, don't lump me in with these [other people]." And then the purchasing manager pauses. "Just so you know, I hold you in high regard."

This surprises me, because this is the guy who sat radiating discomfort as I shared the gospel with him. This is the guy who has a Darwin fish on the back of his car and who is anxious to change the subject whenever religion comes up. Even though we get along great, I had assumed our differences were a wee bit insurmountable. Still, before I can even process the compliment, the Marine pipes up with an effective piece of interpersonal communication, "So do I, but when you don't do stuff with us, it makes me feel like you don't like us."

And this hits my ears with a crack, like a ball colliding with a baseball bat, distilling each moment I've ever felt like an outsider at my job, every time I've wondered why I am not quite as present at work like I think I ought to be. Here it is, why they don't confide in me, why they're super polite around me and why they coddle me. Every party and bowling night and Dunkin run and pool day that I've blown off stands in evidence of my guilt. I don't do stuff with these people. I act like I don't like them.

But, I do like these people.

How do I show it to them?

On the one hand, I don't think I've done wrong by not putting myself in situations where people are getting high and sloppy drunk. I don't feel any shame in passing on las pachangas where it's hard to guarantee any quality interactions anyway. On the other hand, when they invite me time after time after time to this or that and I never make an appearance, what does that say? That I don't like them. That I'm not interested in hanging out with that. That I don't care.

And that's not what I want my actions to be saying.

The trouble is that fatal flaw of mine. I have this problem not just at work, but with most of my human interactions. The inward focus. The self-absorption. The indulgent insecurity. My standoffishness is with me like my shadow is. It takes effort, so much effort to reach outside myself, that in my laziness I resort to passive interaction. I react instead of initiate. I make them cookies once a week and hope that's enough. I don't know how to get close to people, especially people who I see as so different from me.


I hate that these words from a coworker that struck me over the head won't magically change the way I act. It's not going to instantly melt my icy exterior and make me a bubbly and affirming coworker. I hate that sanctification take more than just conviction and revelation. But I have to believe that there is grace for this. That I can prioritize making it to bowling night. That I can be involved in their lives. We don't have to be BFFs. But I need to keep finding ways to show them that I care. And maybe they'll see Jesus in m.

Monday, May 7, 2012

T-minus twenty days

My heart goes in my throat every time I think about it. The closer it gets the less real it seems, and the more daydreamy I get. Four weeks on a new continent with some of my dearest friends. Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France. É muito para desejar. It is too much to wish for.

I feel the tiniest bit like Daisy Miller, some young air-headed girl who is intent on exploring Europe to round out her education. On one level it seems selfish and indulgent, and I always answer any inquiries as to the trip's purpose with a sheepish, "Oh, just vacation." Oh, but what a blessing! What a mind-blowing, heart-swelling, joy-giving blessing! To see the things God has made and the people He loves, to grasp hold of a perspective that transcends my little Rhode Island suburban world into a vision for all the people. A "vacation," yes, but oh that it would be missional.

I am worried about certain things. Like spending twelve hours in a fuselage hurtling through the air 30000 feet above the ocean. The longest I've ever been on a plane before was five hours from PA to San Francisco, and believe you me, that was a rough flight. The most recent plane trip I took was only two and a half hours from Florida to Rhode Island, but because of horrific turbulence I spent most of the flight taking deep breaths and counting to sixty. It's not that I don't like flying, it's that I don't know how to cope with new (and potentially anxiety-inducing) experiences. So that should be fun.

It makes me shy to admit, but I've also never been away from my family for a whole month before. The two weeks I spent in New Hampshire one summer when I was fifteen were lonely, and even when I lived away from home in Wakefield, I still got to see my family on weekends. No one knows better than my family that I'm not easy to get along with, that I'm whiny and contentious and moody. I wince in anticipation of the failures I'm sure to fall towards, shortcomings in loving others and honoring God. I can't help but expect that I'll stumble in the newness and foreignness of it all. And it's a challenge in the next twenty days to dwell on the power of Christ in me, rather than the tendencies of my shriveled little heart. 

I am obsessed as well with how best to document this month of adventure. As I will be cut off from my traditional modes of Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, I've turned instead to the trusty journal, which has guided me through many of my Significant Life Experiences. But then, I want something super portable. And it would be nice to have something scrapbooky and self-contained, something I could dig out my curio cabinet saying, "Ah, yes, here it is, my Europe 2012 memory book." Currently I've opted for a little khaki softcover Moleskine booklet, but I wonder if it's a bit too flimsy, and maybe even too small for a month's worth of reflections. 

And so these various worries are causing varying levels of angst in me. Still, through it all God's hand has been over this trip. From arranging accommodations to providing someone to stay with the Rocks' vovó. Giving me the money to afford this and school. To know that He cares for these things! That He showers blessings with true abundance! I am positively brimming with gratitude, for the Rocks and for this expedition!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Gawker's Reflection

So I'm listening to a Paul Washer lecture. (If you're curious, this is it.) Perhaps it was a mistake, because it's finals week and I probably should be writing my paper on second wave feministic rhetorical theory. (Believe me, the irony is not lost on me!) Right now he's saying that girls who can't boil water aren't qualified to disciple people. So, I mean, you know. But while there's some crazy stuff in here, there's also some excellent biblical advice at times, too. 

I'm partly listening with a critical and argumentative ear. I partly want to affirm my perception of how twisted some of this doctrine is. I'm partly listening for sensationalist reasons. (Which, admittedly, is not super edifying in itself.) But part of why I'm listening is curiosity, too. I want to hear the other side. I want to see how I stack up. I don't want to be a kid anymore, I want to made this rending transition into adulthood, and if he has some valid things to say about that, I want to listen. 

So would Paul Washer approve of me? Probably not . . . I don't share some of his doctrine, I'm not a whiz seamstress, I'm a student at a public university, I'm en route to a sixty hours per week career, I wear jeans and have a rebellious spirit. But on the other hand, I can cook and clean. I guess I can kind of run a household. I'm pretty good at bargain shopping. Can I mold my life around my husband? I suppose I have to. I love Jesus. That has to count for something. 

Am I prepared to manage a family? The big thing he keeps harping on is this idea that singleness is meant for preparation to train up children and raise a family. This is so foreign to me! I'm not one of these girls who always pined for a family and a billion kids. It's a monstrous responsibility, too much to plan and hope for so casually. To assume that a family is what God has in store for me. "When I have kids of my own--" is a stupid phrase. But Paul Washer says that only a handful of people in the whole world are called to singleness, so I guess he's working off the assumption that the odds of a family are in my favor. 

When I think about my future, I don't model it around a specific picture of 2.7 kids and a white picket fence. (Though, maybe I should?) But my sister is not like me, she just wants to have a family. She is incredibly skilled with kids, and an all-around resourceful, loving person, and she just wants to be done with school and move on with her life. She looks at her future differently than I look at mine, with a family as a given. She has a calling I have yet to tap into. And when questioned about the concrete, about a potential fellow and possible steps into this calling, she replied, "Yeah, he's great, but I'm looking for someone more grounded in Christ." And I thought (on his behalf), "Ouch."

But this is Paul Washer kind of comes through for her, for me. That if you want to be in a relationship, if you want to get married, if you want to live your life alongside someone else, you must know Scripture. You have to be grounded in understanding of who God is and what it means to follow Him. You have to be sold out for Him. He has to be the center, the most important thing, and one has no business seeking another person if they are not first seeking Him. And this is something my mom has always told us, to love Jesus more than anyone else. To marry someone who loves Jesus more than you. And I don't agree with more than half of the things he's said so far, but that? I can get behind that.

Of course, now in the lecture Paul Washer is saying that guys who don't know how to use jumper cables shouldn't consider starting a relationship. Because apparently car battery maintenance is an essential component of manhood. But, you know. To the pure, all things are pure. Take the good, leave the bad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This has been my best semester so far. I have dialed back on my commitments, I am setting realistic expectations, I am getting stuff done. I am in only wonderful classes with only wonderful professors who seem to like me and want me to succeed. Do you know what it's like to have professors who are rooting for you? It's wonderful. Finally, I am comfortable where I am. 

This semester has also been one of turning a corner. I have two semesters left after this. Only two, and then I'm thrown into the harsh, cruel world of unemployment and incompetence. And am I prepared to compete in the job market? Oh the hours I've spent agonizing over my resume! The interesting opportunities I've neglected for lack of time. The perfect experiences I've passed up for rote commitments. I'm not ready. It's all coming at me too fast. 

And as I critically survey what I've done with my time in school aside from coursework, I see that it hasn't been much of anything. That I have engaged in little of much significance, that I've mostly been puttering around, trying to keep my grades up. Trying to make just enough money to keep myself out of debt. I have been too unconcerned with whatever's supposed to come after this. Intent on survival I have considered the college afterlife very little. 

I feel I could topple over from the mysterious vagueness of the question, "What on earth is going to happen to me?" 

I spent last night watching inspirational videos with various incriminating titles such as "What I'd Tell a Pre-Law School Me," and a more blunt one, "Don't Go to Law School." The promise of competition gags me: the hustling to get in, the thrust to survive the first year, the striving to attain judicial clerkships or a spot on the law review, and the cutthroat battle for job placement once degrees have been finally earned. An empathetic weariness settles deep in my bones when I think about it. 

I don't want striving. I don't want to be stretched out and spread too thin, pushing and pulling to make the edges of my life overlap. I don't want to be manically searching for the next opportunity to boost myself up a rung. I don't want to be competing, pit against myself and others. I am weak, brittle. I crack and then fold under pressure. I know that I am not made of the mettle of exceeding expectations. All I can ask for, all I really want is to be comfortable

And that is horrifying and frightening. 

Where is the girl who loathed the white picket fence and the nine-to-five and the safe, secure routine of things? Did she crumble with my self-efficacy? Did her passions fade, or did they morph to the point of unintelligibility? When will it be time for me to pour out instead of soak up? When will I finally be grown up? To write off my transitional angst is to stake my claim with comfort, that this (too) will pass.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I don't think I'm "called" to youth ministry. It was never something I saw myself doing. I am not one of these goofy, laid-back people who are super-relatable and always know the right thing to say. In fact, I'm basically the exact opposite of those kind of people. I'm occasionally intimidated by teens and their "coolness", and I often don't know what to say to some of the common teen woes of parent troubles, boyfriend troubles, school troubles. (I'm almost frustrated by my squeaky-clean upbringing! Another conversation for another time . . .) Youth ministry is outside of my skill set and outside of my comfort zone. 

Nevertheless, by sheer convenience I have found myself a youth leader in our church's youth group. I've officially been on the team since September, but it's only since our rough patch in November that I've really felt like I've come to be a contributing member. And as one of the two college students on a panel of mostly +40 adults, I've found that it's been nearly effortless to connect with the students, many of whom were my peers not two years ago. I love how they let me laugh with them, how they tell me about their weekends, how they participate in our discussions about what the Christian walk ought to look like.

On the one hand, youth ministry is one of the most brutal callings anyone could accept. It's a long row to hoe, filled with emotional booby traps and cutting hypocrisy. I was recently a teenager, I know this stuff! And the people who tolerated my foolishness, stubbornness, and self-indulgence were absolute saints with infinite patience. But on the other hand, there's is no blessing and reward like seeing teens walking with Jesus. It sends shivers down my spine, to see students encouraging one another and asking excellent questions and reaching out to their peers in truth.

There is a season for everything, and it would seem that this is my season for youth ministry. Time to level up and approach my time here less with an attitude of passive involvement and more of an attitude of passionate commitment! And though my youth ministry involvement will probably end when my undergraduate student status does, I'm determined to soak in all the lessons here that I can. Learning how to love people, how to live like an example, how to give wise advice, and how to walk in humility as opposed to hypocrisy. 

Because I've never thought of myself as "called" to work with teenagers, I've fallen into rather rote and reactionary approach to my role in the group. I'm a little bit of a warm body, to supervise these nuts kids, to lead small group discussions, to teach big group lessons, to perform auxiliary odd jobs for events, to introduce and integrate new kids. I'm following a function rather than a vision. But oh, shouldn't it be so much more?! Girls who need mentorship, students who need prayer, teens who need encouragement. Though my involvement is only a season, that does not mean I'm justified in being a paper doll leader, a placeholder. 

I remember when I was in junior high. I remember Laurie, who drew me in when I was just a sixth grader, who fueled my desire to grow and who taught me so much about living for Jesus. Laurie who got burnt out from giving so much of herself to youth ministry. If I could have that passion and vision for the students I know and love, that would be true service to God. Because He's who it's all for. Youth ministry is not about me, it's not about our church, it's not even really about the students. It's about Him, and it's time for me to start serving like I understand that.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I will boast gladly of my weaknesses

Some days I am such a coward. I look at the opportunities in front of me and the big things within my reach, and I run so quickly away. I am wearied by the importance of the things I hold in my hands. I want all of the power with none of the responsibility, and it's made me afraid of significance.

I am too foolish to be doing anything at all.

I forget that this is not my work. I am too full of myself. I forget that I am merely a vessel.

I worry that I was born a wuss. Or worse, that I was born a leader and have devolved into a wuss.
I think it's my defeatist attitude: so easily shut down by obstacles, so easily resigned to cynicism, so easily downtrodden. I want to ask, "How did I get this way", but it's more likely that this is a symptom of the sin that has always been inside of me, and I am slowly being given the eyes to see it.

If this latter instance is the case, I'm in big trouble because I'm too much of a wuss to even really do anything about it.

And so you see my vicious cycle. Who will save us from ourselves?

The Veritas Forum went reasonably well. It has its own few hiccups: the building was difficult for community members to find, signage could have been better, we were a little short-staffed and over-zealous with taping off sections. Holistically, though, I was pleased with how things went. How even though the event was dominated by community members, there seemed to be a few more students than the year before. 

Still, my heart was in my throat when the Veritas rep starts talking with me about next year. Next year? As I'm picking up the scraps of this year? I have to let down my hair and sigh and shake it out a bit before I can even begin to think of facing the terrifying reality of coordinating the Forum with Manny graduated. It sounds too hard. I would probably mess everything up. And worst of all, I'm worried the Forum hasn't made a difference at URI. So why continue?

You see now my defeatist attitude. 

I'm praying for God to enlighten my perspective. To be cheered in the fact that there were students there. That what the impact lacks in scope is makes up for in magnitude. That with each year the Forum has another opportunity to gain recognition with students. That faithfulness will eventually be rewarded with fruit.

I want more than anything to see God working and moving and redeeming at my school. But I'm a little too small and a little too fearful and a little too wimpy to do much of anything. And so I am continually thankful that His power is made perfect in weakness, because at the very least weakness is something I have in abundance. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In His grace we're sinking

It seems that quite unlike wine or cheese or ironic music, I am not getting better with age. I've been noticing that things that never used to bother me now drive me nuts. I'm a lot more intolerant, I think, and more easily irritated. I'm less loyal, more rash and, immature? It doesn't seem to add up that an individual who was set on the road to sanctification early-on is still getting worse as one gets older. Except when I consider that pride unchecked always balloons out of control.

My mom says that this is the typical sin of the college student. The world revolves around them. For the first time in their lives, they are part of an independent world that is all there own, with responsibilities and obligations outside of the family structure. Freed, so to speak, from the rules and standards that held them back while under typical family governance, college students become incredibly self-absorbed in a setting where they have all the control and everything is actually mostly about them. (College: it does wonders for the ego.)

I say this all in the third person like I'm not talking about myself. :P

When I sit in meetings, wincing at immature assessments and poor conflict resolution, I wonder at how these "mature saints" could be so childish. I spot character flaws in others and reflect on the trouble that'll cause all their lives. I am lacking in compassion for others' mistakes. And I am welled up with defensiveness and justifications for my own. A well-timed conversation this weekend related to this very topic reminded me of the video below. (Lilly, you're my muse.)


This is what I see in myself more and more. (Ironically, when I first watched this video, perhaps over two years ago, I thought to myself how important it was that I guard my heart against defensiveness. Whoops.)

One thing I get really defensive about is my time. My availability is next to zero, with almost every minute of almost every day allocated to a specific purpose. If it's not class, it's work. If it's not homework, it's youth group. If it's not family time, it's church stuff. When am I going to train for the half-marathon? Not totally sure! I feel a sick sense of pride in how occupied I am, like being busy is only for awesome people. Therefore, when people make demands on my time, I can feel myself flush at the neck and my heart rate quicken. I feel uptight and resentful that they don't seem to understand that I am busy. Even as I feel shame at guarding my time so jealously, I also struggle to fight the feelings of irritation that I am being misunderstood -- I am irritated in my assumptions that people think I'm lazy (well, I am, ya know) and I exaggerate my commitments. 

I'm so sick, guys. I'm a terrible person. I really need Jesus. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if I actually was the person that people thought I was.

I know this battle with pride is a long one, a tricky one. I know it requires vigilance, faithfulness, ruthlessness. I worry that my pride will engulf me, sinking me like an iron-clad cruise-liner, and even in this is the irony that my pride thinks it's too big for God's grace. Because if there is any escape from a thing as extensive and cancerous as my pride, it is in Him.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I'm thinking about what it means to be available. Open to being used by God, and willing to do His bidding. About what that looks like on a macro scale, and what that means for every morning of sluggish rising and morning commutes and quiet lunches with book in hand. 

I know some pretty charismatic people. Interestingly, most of them are in ministry. (Though I'm not saying correlation equals causation! :P) They also write blogs, and I read them.

And occasionally re-blog them.

Like right now.

Here is a cool story I heard a while ago. There was this guy who was a Christian and really loved Jesus. One day he felt God was saying to do a head stand in isle 9 of a local super market. The guy thought he has gone crazy and felt he just heard God wrong. But again God told him to do that. So he ended up going to that isle and doing a headstand. A little while later a lady passed by and when she saw him standing on his head she broke down in tears. After talking to her for a little bit he found out that a few minutes before she was jokingly saying that if God exists he should have a guy do a headstand in isle 9.

Does God work that way?

I don't know. Why not? 

(You can follow some of the work God is doing through YWAM at San Francisco's North Beach at Markus Hauesser's Twitter feed.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Slip-sliding away

My eyes opened on their own at 8am this morning to the perfect vantage point to see Lilly's numerous book titles and the swiftly falling snow out the window. In that comfy bed, on three quality hours of sleep, I willed the snow to fall faster and thicker, hoping against hope to be snowed in instead of en route to work in an hour. Unfortunately, responsibility dragged me out of bed, and excessive hemming and hawing stuck me in the thick of it, driving through the messy roads of South County. 

I cannot even count how many times I lost control of my car today. And it was really scary! I wanted to cry the whole way home, but I also wanted to be able to see the road. I wanted to warm my fingers up, but I also wanted to keep my hands on the wheel. I couldn't feel my feet, but I kept one foot gently on the accelerator, afraid to stop and get stuck in the drifts. The perpetual smell of burning rubber as I skidded along was giving me a headache, but there was no stopping, there was only struggling through. 

At one point my car was stuck with its wheels spinning in the snow of a busy intersection, and it bucked crazily like it had a direction of its own when I tried to pull the wheel in a left-hand turn. Just as the light began to turn, I lurched forward in shock and relief that I hadn't hit anyone, only to hold my breath as my car veered left and right trying to forge a path through the slippery highway. I thought to myself how glad I was my tires had blown in August. Because as traumatizing as it was at the time, now it meant that I had fresh, not-bald tires to help me wade through the chaos of an unplowed I-95.

My heart stopped beating wheezily when I finally pulled onto my unplowed street, where the snow was a lot less abundant and a lot more attractive. Officially out from behind the wheel, I felt heady from an adrenaline rush, realizing how afraid I had been. I always talk about how I'd be fine with dying any day now, but today I was terrified by the real potential of losing control of my car and hitting someone around me. While I'm prepared to meet my Maker, I forgot how scary it was to really face the prospect.

I sound melodramatic, but I don't have near-death experiences very often. (Only every time I get in my car! Heh. Just kidding! Mostly.)

I take the fact that I am still alive as a reminder. And, I'm not sure how theologically sound this thinking is, but I wonder if my presence on earth is an indicator that my purpose is yet unfulfilled. Which on the one hand is depressing: I have not lived so fully for Christ that I have done all that He would require me to do. I have been lazy, disobedient, and misguided. And that's convicting. On the other hand, though, I am encouraged: I must be useful for some small facet of God's plan if I'm still here! He hasn't chopped me yet! And that's heartening, that He will not let me flounder in my flaws, but will rescue me from the treacherous, snowy roads of Rhode Island because He has something yet for me to do. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quiet Time

In the quiet times of the morning commute: the asthmatic hum of my Altima's engine, the whooshing of the cars driving by in the passing lane, the crackly bass of the carelessly chosen playlist, the hour with my first thoughts in the morning, unblemished by the days' events that have yet to unfold. 

In the quiet times of the slowly settling sleep: the muffled intonation of Adventures in Odyssey, the regular breathing of my dreaming sisters, the unattributed creaking in the rafters and bedframe and trees, the waning time of my last thoughts of the day, laying to rest in order all the events of the day.

And for the times in between? 

While I am not altogether fond of Gertrude Stein in general, there is a sliver of attributed wisdom when she says, "It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing." Quiet time is grossly underrated.

The times in between can get awfully crowded. Which is not altogether bad; I've been the recipient of many moments bursting full and I wouldn't trade them for a week by the Lighthouse shut up with my thoughts. Still, I am not particularly skilled at keeping track of my thoughts in the midst of the busyness. Like mischievous monkeys my thinking capacities run off and hide, or irritate me with clanging cymbals in my ears. I was never a huge fan of monkeys. Or very good at keeping tabs on my thoughts. 

But as he thinks so he is . . .

What does it mean to take every thought captive? What is concentration? How do I "think upon these things"? I am not yet skilled enough to focus my heart in the ebb and flow of the tasks of the day. And so I am so thankful for quiet time. These heaven-sent opportunities to dwell on truth, to refresh my mind, to strengthen my soul for these times in between. Rest is so sweet.

You're the scent of an unfound bloom—a simple tune, I only write variations to soothe the mood. A drink that will knock me down to the floor, a key that will unlock the door where I hear a voice sing familiar themes, then beckons me weave notes in between . . . This is my call, I belong to You! This is my call to sing the melodies of You! This is my call, I can do nothing else.