Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Life Suggestions from the Mouths of Babes

So, I'm pretty open to what's in store for my future. So open, in fact, that I decided to see what Jack (4) and Julia (6) would suggest - they know me pretty well after three years of babysitting and I knew their imaginations could stretch further than mine. I sure was right.
Here is what they said when I asked what I should do with my future....Well, actually the first thing Julia said was, "Buy a car!" But, after that here's the list they came up with:

1. make candy
2. ballet teacher
3. baker
4. soccer coach
5. firefighter
6. night dreamer
7. doodle bear maker
8. teacher (I had to prompt this one!)
9. toy store maker
10. robot maker

Yep, there it is. My best future life through the eyes of children. .. Actually, I could just about jump on board with #6 night dreamer. I suppose it's conveniently ambiguous and I hardly know of anyone with such a job title, but is that really required?

Anyway, this made me laugh a little.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Lemon Ginger Zinger

So, I'm sitting here sipping on Lemon Ginger Zinger and babysitting again as my Spring Break finishes up. I have my regulars Jack and Julia to babysit tomorrow morning and then Sunday brings a new week and a fresh start. Tonight it's Elinore, who sadly had to retreat to bed shortly after I arrived. She is a stunning and impressive 16 month old - someone I would much prefer to my lonesome, save the cats earlier this week. It really has been interesting, though, looking at my life left to its own devices. I actually don't really like it.

I'm looking forward to my housemates coming back if for nothing else the consistency of seeing faces and engaging in interaction every day. I kid myself that I'm a real loner - that I belong in the dark, quiet places where I can think. The funny thing is - when I actually find myself there, it's all I can do to stay put and be useful. I realized this in Chicago as well. I need people. Sure, we all need people, but I know that in order for me to fully function in the body of Christ I need to be in contact with the body as a community. Without accountability I'm unpredictable and unreliable.

On the way back from Indy last weekend, I battled the long stretches of silence. I don't know if anyone can relate to those times in the car where no music is the right kind. Every CD I put in or radio station didn't seem to connect. When it comes down to it, I was strangely unsettled when I wasn't moved or inspired by the music. I wanted something to connect - gratify my desires and feelings for that specific time.

I ended up shutting off the music completely and painting the road with my own words and rhymes. I'm glad I didn't record what followed, but I stumbled upon a few things that put me again in the role of student. I remember one phrase that came up:
I've got a pocket full of problems and a heart heavy with dreams. There are visions dancing on the backdrop of my eyes...

Sure - it's sappy. Given time, I'm sure a writer could make it into a killer radio single. But, then again you could give anything that slightly rhymes to writers these days and they've got 13-year-olds belting out the chorus within weeks. That's not where I was going, though.

In some ways, it describes the struggle I have - we all have - with what lies ahead. There will never be a time in our lives where we are problem free. Really - never. And as much as we are weighed down with earthly agendas, we are burdened with the weight of an all-consuming glory - a glory that opens the curtain and sets the stage for the most brilliant play that ever was.

There's that... and then there was something else. It started with a seed. In one of the bible studies I'm a part of, we recently studied the parable of the sower and the seeds (I think I wrote on this awhile back). I started thinking about birth, growth, and the anticipation involved in the whole process. What a wondrous thing it is to have a beginning, to take root and claim space for your existence. Really - to think on life and creation is so beautifully wound up in beginnings.

The seed - so small, seemingly vulnerable is put into the ground, inches down and covered with soil. What assurance have we that this small piece of matter will produce anything of substance? Yet, creation is fed by the harvests of many fields and zillions of tiny, precious seeds. After the seed is planted, the sower starts the first of many impatient phases. Oh! The things we find to fret about - rain, no rain, too much rain, animals, insects, fertilizer, good soil, run off, weeds... I grew up between rows of corn and soybeans. I know what it is to have conversation begin and end with a report on the coming crop.

But, back to that tiny, tender beginning planted just so.
(From this point on, I may sound naive and a bit amateur to the way of plant life and green growth, but maybe it will make sense to someone else as it does to me.)
We can not control at precisely what moment that seed is ready to sprout. Sure, we'll know about when it should happen. But, when all is quiet above the surface, that little seed is going about making roots... roots that will sustain the future plant. Only when the roots have stretched far and deep enough for precisely that plant will the wondrous sprout appear. Enter impatient phase #2 (and so on).

Now, not ever actually having the burden most farmers carry about their crops almost as if they are children, it may seem hard for me to relate. But, the way I see it, I get so impatient for the plant first to break ground. I want to see that something is happening. I want to know that I didn't plant a dud - the only evidence, save digging up the poor thing, comes after waiting. I might say to myself, "If I could just see it come above ground. I just want to know it's taken root - that's all. I just need to see that I've done this work for nothing. Really, then I will trust the rest."

Sure enough, when that solitary green shoot emerges in a bed of brown, I get excited. I know I've done something right. But now, I'm only more tormented with anticipation. "Why is the process so painfully long?" I might say, "Why can't we skip to the part where there is fruit and leaves and life coming from this thing I planted?"

But, more waiting. Funny that with each stage of growth I forget more and more about the spreading roots of the beginning. I spend little time wondering at the process of growth and much time impatient for its completion.

Let's say this seed I planted was a tree. What a long, excruciating process - one that I will never see complete in my lifetime. I can almost see myself, hunched over, whispering words of encouragement with great urgency. "Can't you grow any faster? Friend, I've given you water and sun and all those things they say to give in the magazines. I've done it - now when will you grow?"

Winter comes and ice decorates the cold, bare branches. Even though I know the season will pass, it's hard for me not to lose hope. To see the infant tree in such a poor, paralyzed state is quite a harsh thing to encounter from a snow-glazed window. Yet, as death and dormancy melt away on its gray exterior, impatience grabs hold once again. "When, oh when will the leaves come? Those are such a sure sign of life and a welcome assurance of spring."

I could go on - and this would turn into a very sad tale. I would be somewhere in the range of 68 years old, staring out the same window, rocking gently in the soft groove on the wood floor, maybe preoccupied as I knit mittens for a grandchild. My gaze would be fixed on that same tree, now grown and sturdy, but still waiting, hoping, and anticipating.

Oh, that is quite enough! The question is: what are we - what am I really impatient for? If I am waiting and anticipating the sprout, the leaves, the blooms - if these drive my anticipation and excitement than I am missing completely the joy and beauty of things created. I will time and again be disappointed and never satisfied. Why? Because what I've missed is that everything, from spreading roots to the shade-giving branches, is merely a reflection. If I'm impatient for more of the reflection, then I will never see the true beauty.

When the children of Israel begged Moses to petition God they asked that He remove the snakes biting at their heels. They were getting sick from the venom and were desperate for a cure. God answered by not removing the snakes, but by asking His children to simply shift their gaze. Because snakes, too are a part of His creation, and if we are distracted for even a moment we are looking at a mere reflection. God told them to look up to the bronze serpent and those who obeyed found instant healing! I won't go into the symbolism in this passage, but it is clear that we are far too easily consumed with created things. If I spend my life anticipating things in the created realm I will never be satisfied. Yet, if I shift my gaze toward Christ, the author and perfector of my faith, I am no longer looking at a reflection, but at the True, Real Beauty.

I am almost embarrassed at how long this is... I know I could have said everything in a couple sentences, but like it or not, the words just come. There's so much more to these blessings - and also their role in my burdens right now. But, this is quite enough for tonight! I am going to finish up A Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis - what a marvelous and enchanting read!

This week has been long and revealing. I am thankful for even the ugly parts brought to the surface when no one is looking. I need only shift my gaze to know that the God of all the universe waits to lavish his love and laughter on this child.

peace and grace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Snail Mail Blessings

Well, I've written and re-written this entry at least 10 times but it never published. I wanted to just share that merely a day after I wrote about losing $20, I received a bright spring-pink card in my grandma's familiar hand. Folded between stories of spring, grandpa's bus tales, and the new garden was $20. And just in time for my trip to Indy.

It always amazes me when others are especially attuned to those nudges!

Thank you grandparents!

Mulling Things Over

---- I wrote this on Monday and I'm just now posting it! ----

I have no idea where to begin. I'm chuckling to myself because I'm cat/house sitting this week (Spring Break) and I've had no problem finding topics of interest to share with Jack and Louis. I suppose they are the ones chuckling at all my rambled processing.

Today I think I saw what my life would be like if I lived alone. I woke up and went to a meeting, then I stopped for coffee and read an independent newspaper. Then it was off to my house, where I spent the morning cleaning the kitchen, fridge, floors, and emptying trash, all to the tunes of Tristan Prettyman and the Postal Service. I set a placemat for one and ate my lunch while watching a clever fellow from the travel channel sample meat-bone stew from New Mexico. After savoring my jasmine green tea, I went on a recycling run - which yielded a $1.90 profit. ...I could go on, but I could that ever get boring:)! In any case, I'm on my second cup of coffee right now, listening to Chopin's Waltz #14 in E Minor. My mind seems to be mulling things over much like a magician rolls a coin back and forth through his fingers.

This past weekend was beautifully blessed. Laughter truly is of the Lord! It has to be. Though, at times, merely an affection, laughter decorates joyful hearts and gently lifts the head of sorrow. I spent time relaxing. This is no longer a hard thing to believe. I used to make a big ordeal out of my stopping to breathe, rest, relax, and regroup. I realize this is silly and most times a cry for pity - to make a display of just how busy I really was and how much time I didn't save for myself. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true and let me tell you - it's much, much better to forget that game and enjoy the busy times just as deeply as the relaxing times.

My Indianapolis friends are some of the most generous I know. They grafted me in to their routine for the few days and it felt wonderful to be a part of their community. There are so many blessings as part of God's family - Paul must have (at times) leapt inside as he traveled about joining in the eclectic praise of different communities!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

...and then I lost $20

I know, I know. Usually someone follows a dull story quickly with the always exciting, "...and then I found (insert any amount) dollars!" This little tactic is thought to make a detailed, drab anecdote worth all the listening. Well, unfortunately this anecdote starts out quite opposite. I really did lose $20, but I figure since I've probably found $20 at some point in my life it's fitting that I should lose it too. Now, someone else gets to go around adding $20 worth of excitement to the end of their less than story-worthy tales!

It happened on Monday. It was the most gorgeous day! I mean blue sky, sunshine, and the savory smell of new life about to burst through the surface was dancing on the breeze. I finished class and couldn't stand to think of staying inside. So, I called my friend Shyle (like Kyle with a sh) and decided to go a bit early to her and Nate's game night. What glorious fun times of laughter and love!! We made pizza, danced to KT Tunstall, rode bikes to 3 different gas stations to find air, watched the boys longboard for two seconds and took as many breaths of fresh-filled air as was possible.

Then some adventurers in the bunch decided we should go adventuring to the beach. We took off, parked our cars at Rosy Mound, and walked through the forest - up the ravines, through the trees, and always on the snow-covered path. Nate was nice enough to find me a walking stick, which saved me more than one tumble, I'm sure! The night was dark, but still and calm. We talked of music, years past, and humor seeped through our shaky footsteps. We made it down the many steps to the beach, where I instantly began scheming ways we might build a fire. Unfortunately, my mad science and technology skills could not make flame from sand and water. Whoever could come up with a clever invention that could make sand and water combust would surely be one for textbooks!

Anyway, after we trudged back the long trail and made it to our cars, I must have pulled out my keys and in the same motion pulled out the $20 bill. I'm sure it fluttered to the ground unnoticed in the dark. And then I lost $20. And that's the end of the story. ...

Whew - that story took awhile. I really need to update on what is happening "in other news." Like, my upcoming final interview with Teach for America, my encounter with a wonderful audio sermon series entitled, "Walking in the Will of God," my 3-day trip to Indianapolis starting tomorrow, and Spring Break - which is next week!

The Lord is good! My dad arrived safely late Sunday evening from Kenya and I can't wait to hear of his travels! Okay - more updates sure to come, until then peace and grace to all!

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Walking in the Will of God"

I'm listening to a sermon series that my brother and sister-in-law suggested with the above title. I'm not even sure where to start, except to say that I feel blessed. It is all wound up in what I have been learning these past few weeks. But, then, there I go again with the "I's."

Really, what I learn and even how I learn has nothing to do with me (unless we are talking about how learning is impeded!) and has everything to do with God. This new sermon series has taken these notions and brought them to the surface, where my understanding of who God is becomes a reflection like that of the blazing sun on a placid lake.

The questions posed at this stage in life seem to loom so big - where are you going, when are you going there, why did you choose that profession or this place? But, where do these questions begin? They begin with me, and therefore they begin with details. I don't want to attempt the kind of micro-managing involved in counting hairs on heads and each sparrow that falls. Thank the Lord that is His.

Will there ever be a career discussion that asks, "What will bring God glory? What will bring holiness and righteousness and JOY?" For, these are the things, when chosen, bring blessing. It matters not if I choose this city or that vocation. It matters if like Isaiah I can say, "Here I am, Lord." That is it. "Send me, Lord."

Where will you send me? Or
How long will I be gone? or
Who will store my bedding and pay off my loans while I'm gone?

No, these questions begin with a distrust for God's sovereignty. I have to know because God has promised that He will work all things for the good; He indeed will deliver as promised. I believe that. Now my decisions carry less weight because whether I choose this city or that career, God's will and sovereign plan remain.

There is no way to exhaust these thoughts or even to make sense of the marbles I just threw onto the floor by writing all this jumble. BUT, that is for another day. I'm off to Science class to learn about the technology of transistors.

Friday, March 02, 2007

**we interrupt this program***

I wasn't a fool. I knew as sure as the sun shining in the blue sky that Spring could not be so soon. Sadly, the green buds breaking the sopping surface didn't get the memo.

In any case, today is a day of fierce winds and swirling snowflakes. I have finished my classes for the day and I'm headed to relax for a bit. I thought if I wrote a mini-update I would feel less overwhelmed the next time I sat down.

Here are just a few things I've been jotting down and meaning to write on:
The other day in chapel I joined voices to lift up praises of a seasoned, savory sort. I have always felt the Body drawn together in connecting with the words and people of our past. The song, "I'll Fly Away" is one of those eloquent and sure reminders that is just as true as it was then: our life here on earth is inextricably wound up in our life eternal. Mmm... and amen!
This is just a mind-picture I've been tossing around (not to be confused with reactance theory or social facilitation which are also being senselessy jostled about up there). It's an analogy of sorts involving our lives being like tissue paper. Alone the paper has no special magnificence. I mean, it serves its purpose as decoration and enhancing aesthetics on gifts, but alone it holds little interest. But, for those who enjoy crafts, you know that tissue paper can be combined to make something quite beautiful. I guess the crafter usually uses modge podge, but for the sake of my analogy I want to use water. Tissue paper, when water is added, takes on a truer color. Even the faintest touch of water gradually consumes the whole piece, bringing new attraction and a transparent quality. Maybe this is completely overboard (I'm a bit rusty as far as analogies go), but it speaks to me about the beauty of the Holy Spirit's presence (or consumption) of my life.
Real quickly. .. I was standing in the Gathering last week (our college's Sunday night service) and as we started to sing I had the overwhelming urge to move. The music was not just speaking to my mind and lips, but it was asking to burst through my fingers and stretch through my toes. I pictured the extensions of praise through movement and dance and immediately had to crawl over several others to find more space. I walked to the back of the chapel and quickly lost my nerve. I found a half-empty pew and without looking at anyone around me just took up the space by stretching my arms and face toward heaven. I didn't end up dancing. But, I haven't quite figured it out... there's something about worship consuming my entire being, all of my faculties. The music of my soul rises up and doesn't just seek notes, but the movement of life. I feel most alive when I can sense my muscles stretching, reaching, moving to the sound of an eternal, holy chorus.
(call it 'new age' or call me a little too 'in touch' ... but there is such joy here!)
I have to add a funny story here!
Just this past week, I got a call from my mom saying that friends of the family were coming to Hope with their daughter for a college visit and I should be expecting a phone call. Well, being a senior myself and knowing the stress of my own decision four years ago, I was more than happy to share my experiences.

I talked to the mom and we arranged to meet for lunch in the campus cafe. I went to chapel that morning as usual and sat with my friend. This was one of those days I felt the Lord calling my arms to flail and legs to bounce. After this wonderful time of worship, I did a little homework and then set out to meet the expectant senior with parents in tow.

Sure enough, as I was walking towards them the mom said, "So, you're the one that was dancing in front of us in chapel today!" (Nice to meet you too!)
What a laugh!

Well, that's all I've got. I am hoping to not be swept away this weekend. I know Iowa has it real bad as well!

After this week is over I will have babysat 5/7 days and twice on one day! I know - it may seem like I'm a little anxious to move on to another phase of my life, but never fear! I think I'm realizing what my sister found out in NY - it's going to be awhile. a long while! :)