Category Archives: Self / Emotions

The Here and Now

We don’t always recognize the BIG moments when they occur – often they look like all the normal ones that bookend either side.

Which I guess is another reason to pay attention to what’s going on here, now, right now.  Because someday you might want to look back and remember this very moment.

This very moment that you’re living through might be the reason a group of strangers become friends and hang out.  Or the reason you apply for that new job.  Or the inspiration for a new song you write.  Or the moment you find the courage to smile back at him.

And if you’re so focused on the past, you’re not gonna remember this moment.

And if you’re too focused on the mystical future, you’re not gonna remember the details of this moment.

So pay attention.  Don’t wish yourself elsewhere.  Don’t try to just live through it; don’t agree to just survive it.

Pay attention.

 

(Yes, I realize this is just an extension of last week.  Not sure what God’s trying to tell me.  Maybe to stop complaining and to just enjoy the journey. )

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Facebook, peer pressure, cold water, and what to do

It happened.

I knew it would, and I had been trying to figure out how to respond to it when it did, but, when it actually happened, I still didn’t have a clue.

See, there’s this thing, going around on Facebook where people dump water over their heads in support of a horrible degenerative disease that goes by the initials ALS, and since over half my Facebook friends are kids, well, I was gonna get nominated to dump ice over my head at some point, sooner or later.

But see, I’m in this thoughtful season of life, when I want to think about everything before I do it.  So, I wanted to know where I actually stood on this “challenge” thing before I simply lemming-style dumped five gallons of ice on me – in public (well, filmed, and then posted on Facebook, so the modern form of public).  I know, I know, I’m probably over-thinking it.  Or, as my brother would affectionately say, I’m “femaling it up”.

But I didn’t want to just mindlessly dump water over my head.  And no, it’s not because it’s cold.

See, I want my kids to think through something before they do it.  And if I want that from them, then I need to model it.

And I’m not really sure of the best response.  See, ALS is a degenerative disease where you lose control of everything.  And that’s horrible.  And if pouring a bucket of ice over my head will help someone research it and come up with a cure – great.  Pour five buckets over my head.  But see, pouring a bucket over my head means that I’m not giving money to fund that person to go find that cure.  So, I should give money.  Which I’d do if I had any (being a student will take all the money you’ve got – and then some).  But even then, even still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.  Because, see, if I simply give money, than I can be done.  I don’t have to think about it anymore.  I can say I did my part and go dive back into school papers, or hiking in the mountains, or drinking coffee with one of my teens.

But that’s not really what we’re called to do as Christians.  We’re called to sit with each other in our pain.  We are called to help someone out – to take care of them – no matter what.  To stay there, where they are.  Not to throw money at them and then walk away.  Not to say, “Hey, look how much I care; I’m pouring water over my head” and then walk away.  I’m called to befriend those in pain, those who are uncomfortable, those who will ask much of me because they can’t give anything back.

So, how do I do that?  I don’t know anyone with ALS.  Do I go find someone who has ALS?  Do I just accept that God hasn’t put anyone in my life with ALS and focus on the people He has put in my life – and their needs?

Truth is – I don’t know.  I could dump a bucket of water over my head in solidarity or something, sure.  But…doesn’t that just bring more attention to me than to the thousands suffering?  I mean somewhere the video label will say ALS on it, and so everyone will know I care…but do I, really?

The only answer that comes to mind, as I wrestle with this, is one that feels trite because it has been a Christian cop-out so often – prayer.

I don’t know anyone with ALS; I don’t have anything to give; I don’t really believe pouring a bucket of watery frigidness will do any good, so what do I have?

I have God.  I have prayer.  And, in the long run, assuming I actually pray and ask God to do a work – in my heart at the very least – that might be the most powerful thing I could do.

Note – if I felt God was calling me to do something about ALS specifically, this would be different.  Maybe I’ll talk about that next week.

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Mommy, why is the sky red?

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The sky was red last night.  Gorgeous streaks of what my fourth-grade self would have described as neon watermelon (it was a colored pencil name – mid 90’s, era of the neon…until now, of course) swirled among puffs of deep soul blue and quiet gray.  It was glorious.  Gorgeous.  Breath-taking.  And I took pictures, because that is one of my favorite ways to express all the joy and love that is inside me during such moments.  And I did a couple step-hops as the neon watermelon swirls got deeper and brighter and less watermelon-y and more…indescribable.  And I ran from one side of the house to watch the sunset over the mountains to the other side, to watch the sunset over the city. And every atom currently making up my body felt loved, and overwhelmed, and accepted, and beautiful, and…. And I am full.

As I watched the sunset, the phrase, “The sky is red Momma, why is the sky red?” kept coming to my mind.  My last year of college (so, a while ago) I wrote a one-act for my college’s final theatrical fling of the year – called Drop Dead.  It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime-experiences-that-I-got-the-privilege-of-participating-in-three-wait-four?-no-I-can-only-remember-three times.  I wrote one acts for all three times.  And the last one act I wrote I don’t remember as vividly as I remember the first one, but I know it started out with a little girl and her momma staring at the sky, with the girl asking her momma why the sky is red.  The point of the play was a bit about perspectives, and a bit about arguing with God, and a bit that God really does have a plan for all things. 

I’d re-read it right now, but I wrote it on a different laptop, and I don’t have the jump drive with me that I saved it onto when that computer died. 

But it got me thinking about sunsets, and God, and love, and how He really does have a plan for everything, and how He’s in charge. 

Recently, I’ve wondered a bit if He does.  I mean, yes, I know, God’s in control and has everything covered.  But, as is always the case when what we know in our minds is challenged by real life experience, I’ve had to do a bit of trusting that it’s really true, and then releasing worry to God, and praying my heart out. 

Because, see, I’m rather human, and I don’t understand everything. I mean, how does free will work?  If God loves us, and if He’s constantly pursuing each of us (I’m not much of a pre-destined-er) in the best way for us, what about when we don’t want Him to pursue?  Does He still pursue our hearts, just more gently, more from a distance, more from the shadows?  Does He let us go about our lives, doing what we want, in the hopes that our empty lives will draw us back to Him?  Does that tactic work? 

How does this work?  If true love really does allow us a choice, how do we express that choice?  And then if God is love, than He respects that choice….  But then He also knows everything, and is outside of time, and knows how it all plays out…so if He knows that you say you don’t want Him now, but you will in five years, then what? 

I don’t know.  I trust that He loves each of us, and that He desires each of us to enter into the relationship with Him that He originally created us for. He wants us to be the best, most fulfilling version of ourselves.   And I’m not sure I’ll ever know – or ever really want to know exactly how He handles every little detail.  God is God, and I am not.  And He is love, and good, and righteous, and merciful, and graceful, and just.  And patient.  God is sooooo patient.   And I trust in that – even when it’s easy to trust that because the skies are full of masterpiece red and orange and yellow and purple swirls.

 

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Mountain Tops and Attitudes

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I just got back from backpacking with some of the awesome high schoolers in the youth group I work with.  And I noticed something odd, something that has been niggling at the back of my mind for over a month now.

See, a little over a month ago I went camping with some of my middle schoolers from the same youth group.  We hiked a 14er (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that means a mountain whose summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level).  Now, this is nothing new; we do this every year.  And I am the “in the back” leader, pushing those who don’t necessarily want to go, up the mountain (mostly because I’m one of the slowest hikers I know, so I naturally fit there).  Until this year, I’d never summitted a mountain.  We’d gotten pretty close at least twice, but never to the summit.  But somehow, this year, the group in the back made it all the way up.  Craziness.  I knew it wasn’t because I was in better shape.  Definitely NOT the case this year.  I chalked it up to having kids who were in better condition and more willing to hike than in years before.

But then, this last week when we went backpacking, a similar thing happened.  Hiking into the camping site, backpacks the size of some of our middle schoolers on our backs, we didn’t stop nearly as much as before.  And, the coolest part was, I, personally, didn’t have to stop nearly as much as in the past.  Really, I promise I’m not in better condition.

But obviously something’s changed.  Whether it’s because the kids needed me to push them less this time ‘round, or there’s less emotional baggage for me to carry, or what, I don’t know.  But I’m enjoying the difference.

It’s kinda crazy because other than not using strength to push other’s attitudes aside and encourage them, there really was not much different.  Which, I guess goes to show just how every important it is to have good attitudes about everything – and to have people around you who encourage you (as well as you can encourage).  When the people around you are only griping and complaining…life gets hard.  It’s hard to be the sole encourager; it takes a great deal of emotional strength to do that, which saps your physical strength.

So, I guess my challenge is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you as much as you encourage them.  Make it up the mountain with them.

And keep trudgin’.  It’s when we stop that we feel we can’t start again.

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Reflections and Hummingbirds

Matthew 7-11  Hummingbird
The way the sun is hitting my computer screen creates a pretty good reflection right now.  I see myself, my white earbuds in, the butterfly necklace around my neck, my navy blue shirt which looks black in the screen.  The way the sun is hitting my face is rather artistic, half lit, half in obscured shadow.  I see my thin-framed glasses, the arch of my eyebrows, the outline of my lips, the beginning hints of the wrinkles that will deepen over the rest of my life.

I like what I see.  Not necessarily the physical aspect of my reflection (though I’m pretty partial to that face and the twinkling eyes), but the heart and unshaped dreams that also are reflecting back at me.  I don’t know exactly what’s coming.  I don’t know where I’ll be when I’m done with seminary (or even if I’ll finish, though I plan to).  I don’t know what my life or my dreams will look like.  But I like the woman I am becoming, and I am excited to see what God does with and through her.

Mixed in with this morning’s version of my reflection is the computer’s background – which is a picture of a humming bird with blurry wings sucking nectar from a yellow flower.  I took this picture something like two years ago, a couple weeks after I had been fighting with God.   It is a reminder of God’s love for me, and how far He has brought me in the past couple years.

And I think the fact that I like the reflection of the girl in the monitor is a direct result of the fact that she actually believes God loves her, that He has a crazy adventure planned out for her, and that He is a God who, while being God and so Just and Righteous and Powerful, is also a God who simply loves.

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Margins

Rose heart

 

This week has been a blessing for me.  A while ago I heard someone say that she tries to live with “margins” in her life – meaning that she tries to live with a bit of extra time in every day to be able to appreciate the beauty around her.  I’m sure she was quoting someone famous, but I don’t know who, and she didn’t cite her reference.

Over the past year I’ve begun discovering the importance of “living with margins”, and what exactly that means.  Sometimes this is a conscious choice (and battle) to not schedule every moment of her day; sometimes this is simply a choice to look for the beauty found amongst the unavoidable busy.  It’s a way of living life.

Starting a week ago today, I’ve had the gift of very large margins.  Last week Friday did not go as planned.  Not that it was a bad thing (hence the reason no post last week – sorry)!  I got to see people I hadn’t planned on seeing, chat with them, and took a friend grocery shopping.  And then I got to go to a (planned) game night.  It was a great day – just not the blog-writing, sewing, productive one I had planned!

Most of my days since then have been similar to last Friday, mostly because other plans were cancelled.  It was absolutely brilliant.  I have time to spend catching up, and not feeling guilty as I sit and listen to the rain, or taking pictures (can someone say ‘therapy’?) of pretty flowers, or hanging out with friends and youth kids, or really soaking in some wise words of a book, or of a song.  The week has not gone according to plan A…or plan B…or sometimes even plan C, but since I have the time to discover what plan D is, it’s really no big deal.  And I love that.  I want to live my life – as much of it as possible – this way.
I need to learn how to schedule such time into each day; I need to learn that I don’t have to schedule each moment of every day.  It’s NOT a waste of time if there aren’t plans in my calendar.

It’s a different way to spend time, a healthier way.  It’s good.  I cannot tell you how relaxed my spirit is.  I can breathe again.

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“Love thy neighbor”

“And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first time I actually thought about that verse must have happened sometime in middle school, because I remember thinking, “Huh, I can do better than that.  I don’t love myself, but I love others.  I can love my neighbor better than I love myself.”

I’ve heard quite a few sermons and theories about this particular verse over the years.  Everything from, “Well, it actually means to love yourself as you’d love your neighbor” to “You know, try to love yourself, try to love your neighbor” to “Love God, that’s what really matters”.

I wonder if loving ourselves is a uniquely Western culture problem (where very few people actually love themselves, actually are comfortable in their own skin – everyone just pretends) or if this is an age-old human problem.   I think maybe, if it were a universal problem, perhaps the scriptures would have been worded differently.  Maybe.

Because we pretend we love ourselves.  And sure, we’re selfish, we still take care of Number One before we take care of everyone else.  And if that’s what the scripture means – to take care of everyone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself – as some of my professors think – than it’s an easy scripture.  I mean, no not easy.   Taking care of someone else to the same extent that you take care of yourself, or protecting someone else as much as you protect your own well-being is never “easy”…but it’s rather surface-level if you ask me.

I have come to realize, over the years, that if I don’t “love myself”, than I can’t love others well.  And this gets tricky.  Because, yes, without fully being comfortable with whom I am, without liking my quirks, strengths and weaknesses, I can still be nice to people.  I can still be kind.  But…it is not the same as if I am fully embracing myself.  If I’m not a fan of who I am, I can only be nice or kind or giving or date someone so long before things start blowing up.  Whether I suddenly start showing my judgmental thoughts, or just stop showing up to hang out, or start getting super depressed (this is NOT the only reason for depression, mind you) or dependent on others or any number of super unhealthy things, something awful is going to show up.  Guaranteed.

But even bigger than that is the simple thing that love is generally meant to be reciprocated.  So, if you don’t love the person you are created to be, than how can you allow anyone else to love you (because yes, to some extent you have to allow and accept love from others)?  If you don’t love yourself, you can’t allow someone else’s love for you to really penetrate the depths of you that love is meant to penetrate.

The tricky thing is – that you can’t.  You just can’t love yourself, love the person you are, without God’s help.  Sorry.  It’s just not going to happen.   Only through the knowledge that you are Christ’s kid, and dearly loved by Him, specially created to have the quirks, strengths, weaknesses and passions you do, can you begin to really, truly, embrace the person you are.  And it is only by His strength in this world of brokenness that is trying to get you to believe the lie that you are never good enough and must be constantly doing something else; that you can even begin to accept the amazing being you have been created to be.

So, again, start praying.  Pray that God opens your eyes to see yourself as He sees you – as much as He’ll let you.  If we could see how deeply loved and precious we are in God’s eyes, than I’m pretty sure we’d be able to enjoy and hold close the person God is calling each of us to be.

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Moments

I have been troubled recently by how busy I am.  I am not proud of my busyness.  I do not think I am running from anything; I am not trying to avoid anything.  Yes, there is brokenness in me.  I experience acute loneliness, but I do not run from it, or ignore it, or deny it.  Not all of my relationships are what I would like them to be, nor are they all healthy, but I do not think I am running from them either.  If I have had one realization over the last ten months (I’ve had many, but one of the most obvious ones), it is just how very important relationships (family, friends, romance) are, and how incredibly crucial it is for us to enter into them as fully, as brokenly, possible.  We are to fight for them.

Not the point of today’s entry though, however.

My busyness bothers me.  When I picture who I want to be, the woman I feel called to be, my fullest self, I envision a woman with enough time to be spontaneous.  I don’t have that time, currently.  I envision many other things for that version of me, but living a slower life is the one aspect most incongruent with the current version of me (well, the part which bothers me the most).

So this afternoon, I was given a gift of an inconspicuous realization.  With an adorable, almost-two -year old princess on my lap, blowing bubbles and watching them float above the curves of purple bell flowers that I love so much, I realized sometimes a slower lifestyle is not so much in how busy we are, but in the willingness to slow down when the unplanned moment presents itself.  Watching one large bubble in particular float extra gently, with more grace than you would expect for a mere sphere of soap, ascend above the tips of the twilight lavender fairy-skirt flowers, the iridescent magenta orb popped, and then ceased to exist, I realized that in that moment, I was given the gift of a reflecting a bit more of the woman God originally thought up when He thought of me.  It was a beautiful moment of stillness, of buzzing bees, of feeling deeply, intimately loved.

I might not be able to leave my life of busyness right now.  I deeply want too.  But, until that time comes, I am going to start searching for more delicate bubble moments.  Moments to witness the fleeting bubble lives.  Moments to watch the pearl clouds sing the harmony of a luminescent full moon.  Moments to watch the yellow butterfly flitter around, delighting in the freedom of wings after being mere mush, unable to even walk, let alone fly, not so long ago.  Moments to wonder if that flying thing is a gigantic moth, or a bat with antennae.  Moments to delight in the song of the hummingbird, or the enticing fragrance of pine in the early mountain air.  These moments are more valuable than gold, or knowledge, or anything else physical that I might try to hoard.   These moments whisper lyrics of the woman my heart strains for and is being, ever so slowly, whisperingly sung into being.

 

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Be STILL, and KNOW that I am God…

Abide in ME….

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Potential Prepping and Reflections on Open Hands

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This particular blog post is probably more for me than for anyone else, but here goes anyway.

I think God’s prepping me for something, and in His divine wisdom, He’s not telling me what for.  See, two of my closest friends left the state on Sunday, and will leave the country in a couple days, following the path that God has so obviously laid in front of them.  These are two of maybe five or six people who know me – the ins and outs of me.  Which hurts, their leaving – for they are taking a rather large chunk of my heart with them –  but at the same time, I am so excited for them!

But, oddly enough, over the last two and a half weeks, three books have made their way into my hands – one before this last Sunday, and two within these past couple days.  All from different sources, all kinda just showing up.  But all three books have a couple things in common – they all are stories of people saying, “yes” to God, no matter how ludicrous His request is.  One girl left the US and is living in Uganda, surrounded by hundreds of children who are no longer quite as hungry,  who are getting an education, and who are (most importantly) learning tangibly of God’s love for them, because of what God’s doing through her “yes”.  Another was the story of a Texan-stay-at-home momma whose husband started seeing things differently.  And when God changed her heart too, they as a family, started a house for teenage pregnant mothers in Kenya.  The third book is written by a lawyer who, while still definitely rooted in the States, has had many crazy adventures all over the planet because he simply says “yes” every time God calls him.

Seriously – all three books have landed in my path recently.  That, piled on top of my friends who are doing exactly the same thing, and I’m left a little bewildered at the possibility of what God is trying to do in me, or with me, or prepping me for.

I’m jealous of all of them – I want to be a part ofbig, crazy, only-God-could-do-this stories.  I want to hold everything that “belongs” to me with open hands, so that when He asks me to do…who knows what, I don’t mind giving the man on the street my scarf, or spending my non-existent savings to meet someone’s need, or, or, or I don’t know.

Sunrise at St. Malo's

But, as I was praying about this desire inside me (again) this morning, my eyes landed on a picture on my wall.  A long time ago (okay, so like, 3 and a half years) I was pouring my heart out to God at a little retreat center in the mountains, asking God what was next, asking Him what He wanted of me. One of the mornings, as I was watching the sunrise, I saw the sun coming up behind a tree, highlighting the tree.  And He reminded me that all He wanted of me – was ME.  That’s all He wants from me – for me to be the woman that He originally created me to be.  The story He has picked out for me is my own, it’s not going to look like anyone else’s.  But, in order for the story to be how He intends it, I need to be as fully me as possible.  Which, of course, is only possible through Him.  Oy.

So, I don’t know what God’s prepping me for.  If He’s going to ask me to move to Africa when I graduate (or before), or if (as I suspect) it’s something far more local.  But I think, for now, I get to learn to live a life that continues to pursue Him, and the passions and desires He has placed within me.  And I get to learn how to do that with hands wide open, allowing Him to take and give what He chooses (possessions, opportunities, friendships, time, etc.).  Which is hard in our rather consumeristic society.   But those around me need Jesus too, and they need to see someone who is not giving into the overwhelming (on so many levels) materialism that numbs us to our deepest need – God.

I don’t know what that looks like exactly yet for me, but that’s what I am going to strive for.  A life that is not my own.  A life that is not dependant on stuff (I say that sitting in my bedroom which is packed with STUFF – most of it stuff that I don’t want to get rid of).  A life of open hands.  A life of saying, “yes” and trusting that He will do what needs to be done.

 

Sunrise at St. Malo’s

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Loved One

Sometime in the last year or so I read an article floating somewhere on the internet that talked about how we shouldn’t compliment very young girls with words like “pretty girl” and such, because then, somewhere in their psyche, they will think they have to be pretty to be appreciated, loved, and accepted.

 
I’m not sure how much I buy that, though I know that at some point in my childhood I definitely adopted that mentality.  That I had to be pretty, I had to be skinny (well, or at least, ‘normal’ – which I was not) for anyone to actually love me.   Being the child who saw things from a long-term viewpoint rather than just this-minute, I assumed this meant that I would never marry, since I would never be pretty, thanks to my extra serving of body curves.  Or, if I married, it would be a man who was a widower, and needed help raising his children.  No joke.  That’s what I assumed.

 
Which is heartbreaking, looking back.  I want to take young me, pick me up, cuddle me, and whisper truth into my younger ear.  But I don’t get that chance.

 
All that to say, I’m pretty hyper-sensitive to body-image remarks by women (or men) about themselves and others.  I’m also hyper-sensitive to comments that articles like the one I read make.  They stick with me now.
 

There is a little toddler that I babysit fairly frequently.  She’s absolutely adorable.  Blue eyes, curly hair, and the happiest, brightest smile that is reminiscent of a buttercup (that’s a flower for any flower-ignorant people out there).  She is toddler-gorgeous.

 
And while I tell her this fairly often (because I do think it’s necessary – girls NEED to hear they are pretty) I also make a point of complimenting her in other ways.  The endearment I try to use most often is “Loved One” – because that is exactly what she is, by me, by those around her, and especially by her parents.  And nothing can change that.  And there is nothing she can do to earn more love – or to lose it (not saying that she can’t make loving her harder or easier, because that is possible).

 
And so, if the names we call children when they are very young CAN take root deep inside them and help show them how to see the world, the name Loved One hopefully shows her how very un-dependent others’ love for her is based on her looks, or intelligence, or achievements.  In fact, others loving her, or her value, or her worth is dependent on nothing save her simply being her.
 

This hit me hard when I first started calling her Loved One – because I think that’s how it works with us and God.  Our value, our worth, our identity, God loving us, is dependent on NOTHING we do.  In fact, it’s simply because God made us, and we are who we are that gives us value, worth, identity, etc.  I wish I had realized that as a young girl, and especially as a teenager.

 

You are loved by God and others around you simply because you are you – not because of what you do or how you look.  Just keep bein’ you.  It’s the best gift you can give the world.

 

(Assuming, of course, that you bein’ you is a you that is striving to become more like the you that God envisioned when He made you.  I think that’s kinda incredibly important.  Of course, you can’t do that either without Him and accepting His love for you.)

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