Friday, December 3, 2010

grace at the intersection

Something that has always baffled me about Harry Potter type stories is the fact that two people who both have magical powers don't keep casting spells to do and undo things. I mean, it makes sense to me that if someone casts a spell to, for example, build a wall where there previously was no wall, that the other wizard should just as easily be able to cast a spell to undo the wall. With powers like that, it's a wonder to me that anything ever gets done. Shouldn't spell casting be like in Sleeping Beauty when the two fairies keep changing the color of the dress because Flora thinks the dress should be pink, and Merriweather thinks it should be blue. I mean, if you have the power to make what you want, why wouldn't you just keep insisting on your way?

I like the fantasy of wish fulfillment that wizard stories provide. But it's just that, a fantasy. In real life, I learn that my personal happiness is not the ultimate goal of the universe. I realize this every time I drive somewhere. There's something about operating a giant piece of metal housing a V6 engine that makes me feel so untouchable and powerful. I start thinking that I'm the only one who knows how to drive, and I get pissed off because someone cuts me off or is driving too slow in front of me.

But being on the road requires grace. It means forgiving a person for cutting me off because I understand that we all make mistakes sometimes where don't realize we didn't have the space to switch lanes. It means understanding that maybe someone is driving slow because they are lost and trying to figure out convoluted directions to wherever they're going. But it's more than just that.

The way I see it, you can be the kind of person who does a rolling stop at the 4-way intersection and just goes, or you can be the kind of person who lets the other person go first when you arrive at the intersection at the same time. Personally, I think it makes sense to let the other person go because then you are absolutely ensuring that you will not have a collision due to both thinking that it was your turn to go first. Grace can just be practical sometimes--submission to the other person in order to avoid a collision. On the road, we all have somewhere we have to be. So being a driver who thinks that you are the only person in a hurry is dangerous. And living as if you are the only person whose feelings matter and whose needs and desires should be met is, likewise, dangerous. When it comes to driving, I always [try to] practice grace. When it comes to life, well, I'm working on it.

It's not easy, but I actually think that offering grace to others is the less dangerous way to live. Not only because God says that's what we should do, but also because insisting that a dress be pink instead of blue can make a mess of things. Sure, we all want the dress to be the color of our choice rather than the color of someone else's choice, and we all want to be the first driver to get to go at the intersection, but me getting my way isn't what this world is about. [Even as I say that, I'm like, say WHAT?!]

But if I can remember that the world doesn't revolve around me, I can put others first and avoid unnecessary collisions. Practicing grace might not always get me that thing I wanted, but wish fulfillment isn't reality anyway, is it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

future mrs rieger

Yes, facebook speaks truth; I am, in fact, engaged! TJ and I got engaged two weeks ago (Oct 26). We were going to be having dinner at The Pressroom, which is in the city. TJ was living about 15 minutes outside of the city, but he told me to be at his place at 4 PM. I was like, what the heck, why is he making me dress up and drive to his place out of the way?! The thought that he might be proposing crossed my mind, but I had to stop thinking about that because I didn't want to be disappointed if he didn't. I figured since he was planning a nice date, though, that I would just go to his place like he asked, and if he didn't have a good reason for me coming out there, I would yell at him later. I showed up at his place promptly at 4, and he brought me in the living room where he had set up candles and scattered rose petals and chocolate truffles everywhere. I was in shock! He told me to sit down and listen to a poem he had written, and the poem ended with him asking "will you marry me?" He got down on one knee, and popped open a trick door on the side of the coffee table, and he had the ring box hiding in there. I couldn't even speak at first because I was so in shock!! But I said yes, of course!

Anyway, it was such a joy to call everyone and tell them about it. But we didn't get to rest in that for very long because all the planning started right away. And as it turns out, wedding planning isn't as fun when you don't have endless money to spend on it. Weddings are expensive. I've been dreaming about my wedding for my entire life, but now I'm finding out that I can't really have all those things that I dreamed about. But I'm glad for it. This wedding is not about having a dream day full of lilies and outdoor reception tents; it's about celebrating the beginning of a marriage with the man that I love.

And rearranging my priorities in regards to this wedding begs the questions: how does God want us to spend money for this wedding? What part does stewardship play in this one-time occasion? Knowing how Jesus found it important to provide really good wine for the wedding at Cana reminds me that God really wants to bless us and love us lavishly. But I also know that spending too much time and too much money on fancy decorations and unneeded traditions is not how God would want us to celebrate our marriage. I keep thinking, why is this so complicated? I just want to stand up in front of everyone we know and commit my life to TJ! But this process is meant to be joyous, and it's partly meant to be an opportunity to offer hospitality to our wedding guests. And that's pretty exciting.

Spending a good chunk of money on a wedding is inevitable, but remembering why we're spending that money is important to me. I don't like following traditions just because that's the way things are done. With every step in this process, I want to keep asking why and keep centering on what's important in this wedding, and to TJ and I, what's important is glorifying God through this. Believe me, I want to get married outside under a beautiful huppah beside a lake with the grass so green that it hardly even looks real. I want our reception to be under an outdoor tent with hanging Christmas lights and centerpieces with yellow gerber daisies. I want a cool dance floor in the center where all of us can shake our groove things. I want beautiful simplicity. But what I really want is to commit my life to TJ. I love him so much, and being with him for the rest of my life is my dream. Being with TJ is what I care about, not having some dream wedding. That's why I'm glad that weddings are so expensive. It forces me to keep my priorities straight and center back on the things that really matter. :-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

kick me

I've been looking at my body lately and haven't been too happy with the way it looks. I work at a pizza shop and can eat anything I want, and so my meals usually involve lots of cheese, and they usually don't happen until 8 PM. This lifestyle is wreaking havoc on my body. But I'm sure I'm the only person who is thinking that I'm a fatty mcfatster (yes, that is what I call myself when I look in the mirror). TJ doesn't like it when I call myself fat because he thinks I'm beautiful. He once kicked me because I called myself fat. True story! We were at the top of the stairs, and he kicked me playfully, and I almost fell down the stairs. What a tough punishment that would have been for criticizing myself too harshly...

But he was right to kick me.

Everyone is always their hardest critic, and sometimes that just means that you don't think your poem is that great even though it is, but more often than not, it gives you broken record messages that really kill your soul.  My friend Betsy once told me that if something isn't nice to say about someone else, it isn't nice to say it about yourself either. That really hit me. Why is it that we would never let someone else think that they are ugly, but we so easily say it about ourselves?

I've thought a lot of horrible things about myself. Good for nothing, fat, ugly, crazy... the list goes on. And I bet as you (my lovely friends) read this, you are probably cringing at how untrue you think that is. Thank you. No wonder it's not good for man to be alone. Man needs other people to keep him grounded and kick him when he starts believing the broken records above God's truth.

But moreover than deeming oneself fat or ugly, I can think of no deeper soul killing lie than the broken record saying that you are worthless in God's eyes. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's the beauty of it all, that though we are all unworthy, God says that He loves us. It's easy to believe that what you've done or what has happened to you has tipped the scales to render you unworthy of God's grace, but it's just not true. I would never let anyone I love believe that they don't have a chance to be close to God because their past is ugly. I would always point my loved ones to hope. And I think that if I believe in God's love, grace, and hope when it pertains to my loved ones, I have to believe it for my life.

When I start believing the lies, I like to think about who God is. And then I hear stories about God changing the hearts and lives of drug addicts, murderers, and prostitutes, and I remember Him. I remember that my God is all about taking a mess and making it beautiful for His glory. And because I believe that God creates and makes things new, I can believe in hope above the broken records that spin in my head. I can let go of those lies because God wants to write a new chapter in the story, and it's safe with Him because my story's ending is secure.

And just in case you have records spinning lies in your head, which you probably do because I think we all do, I intend to kick you and remind you of God's truth when you have trouble hearing it above the noise of the broken records. And remember, since you would never be okay with me believing that I am worthless, ugly, and fat, you shouldn't be okay with believing it about yourself!

Monday, September 27, 2010

psalm 61

My dad is having a bone marrow test done today because they saw some abnormal cells or something like that in his spine. I'd say more but I don't really understand medical things, plus we don't know much more than that. Anyway, my point is that today I was really worried about it. I have been scared about what the doctors are going to find and all that, though I am really thankful that the tests are being done so that if there is something wrong, we can get it taken care of! Still, it's scary.

So I started praying today, and I felt God just giving me reassurance that He is carrying me, and my dad, and my family. He is taking care of us. And I instantly felt peace. It was funny because as I was praying, I was putting my laundry away. And then I compulsively wanted to tidy up my room, but I felt God asking me to put all that aside, and just worship him. So I opened my bible, and I turned to Proverbs, since I've been reading through that. And it didn't feel right for where I am today, so I turned to Psalms instead. I came to Psalm 61, where it says "From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings." Amazing, right? God is carrying me, so I can rest in the shelter of His wings.

So then I went downstairs to play my Urbana cd, and as I was setting my ipod up, I saw that the napkin holder was empty, and I wanted to put some more napkins in the holder. So again, I had to actively accept God's invitation to put my housework aside. It's funny how that is such a hard thing for me to do. Anyway, I put on the song "In Christ Alone," one of my all-time favorites. I turned it up really loud and went into the living room and just lifted my hands. I didn't even sing along with it. I just stood there. And it felt so freeing to just stand in God's grace. So that's what I did.

I'm still anxious about the verdict of my Dad's test. But honestly, I've never felt so close to God as I do today. It's no wonder that when I'm overwhelmed by life's situations, worship is always the appropriate place to start. There's a silly quote that says "Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is." Well, silly isn't a good description because I actually think it's a beautiful quote. I love that God knows how big my storm is, and I can trust the burdens of my heart with Him and know that he won't invalidate my feelings. And I love that when I stop what I'm doing and just worship Him and remember how big He is, I feel secure, and I trust that He is much bigger than anything I'm going through. He's got this!

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
for my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God.
-Psalm 62:5-7

Monday, September 20, 2010

preparing for a marriage

I hesitate to write about this topic because I don't want to freak my boyfriend out, but let me just give my disclaimer that this isn't really about that. You see, I'm a girl who has been planning her wedding ever since [insert an age or milestone event for dramatic event]. I just love weddings. I always have, so I jump at any opportunity to attend one. I love every part of it. I love when the groom walks out, looking dashing, clasping his hands in front of him with a strong stance and looking towards the door for his bride to walk in. I love the moment just before the bride walks in, when you can feel everyone's anticipation of the moment when she will start walking with her father down the aisle. I loved seeing my friend Melissa, who doesn't really cry that often, start crying when she got halfway down the aisle. I loved seeing my friends BJ and Kristie passing tissues to each other, as they both shed tears of joy at their wedding. I love the ease with which the couple interacts with their family and friends. Well, you get the idea.... I love weddings. So naturally, I've been anticipating mine for my whole life. The style of the dress, the colors, the month, the food, the playlist. I've spent my whole life planning my wedding.

But you know how those events go... you anticipate something for so long, and you build it up so much, and then all of a sudden, it's over. It's not that it was a let down; it's just that you have been planning it and preparing for it for such a long time, and then suddenly, it's the day after. My wedding day will just be one day of my life. It will be a very blessed day, one of the best of my life probably, but it must feel weird when it's over. I'm sure it takes a few weeks, once you come back from the honeymoon and have settled into your new apartment, when you realize that this day that you have always been planning for is over. I've spent a lot of time dreaming about a destination wedding here at Hore Abbey in Ireland. And I've made a lot of plans in my mind about how my wedding day will be, but it's a bit silly, isn't it? It's just one day.

That's why I think it's much more wise to prepare for a marriage, since that has much longer time span than a wedding. Preparing for a marriage has a checklist including, but not limited to:
  • Learn to forgive and accept forgiveness in return.
  • Learn to be loving in the hard times
  • Learn to share my resources unselfishly
  • Learn to put Jesus first in my relationship
  • Learn to listen well
  • Learn to communicate love in ways that my partner understands
  • Learn to give when I would rather just take
  • Learn how to grant acceptance, be an encourager and a helper
  • etc.
The list goes on and on, of course, since a marriage is meant to be a deep journey of pursuing the other's heart "as long as you both shall live."

I love weddings, so I will probably continue to think about colors and locations and playlists, but I think what matters more is preparing for a marriage. When people attend my wedding someday, they will definitely spend some of the evening exclaiming that Jess Bui is a FANTASTIC wedding planner/party thrower, not to mention a ridiculously beautiful bride. But I intend for most of their awe to be about the reverent beauty of a wedding that isn't about a perfect wedding day, but rather a celebration of the first day of a marriage. I want my family and friends to be inspired by the couple before them who are vowing to forgive and love and encourage and pursue each other's hearts for the rest of their lives. So from now on, I'm going to put more thoughts and prayers into preparing for a marriage, rather than focusing on flowers and outdoor reception tents. A marriage matters more than a wedding day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

on teleportation and hiking

Yesterday I drove by a place called Susquehanna Scenic Vista or something like that, and I just had to check it out. As it turns out, it was basically a big hill, and it ran through the mason dixon trail. The main walkway to get to the top snaked around the hill, which I didn't think made all that much sense. I figured that going straight up would save a lot of time and energy, seeing as it wasn't really that steep, but I followed the winding path anyway. It was a fun adventure to go on, and it made me realize that hiking isn't really about the scenic vista at the top. On the walk, I got to see some horses and some really big mansions that I wouldn't have gotten to see if I had just taken a straight path up the hill. Adventures are really all about the journey and not the destination. It would be boring if you could just get straight to the top right away.

I mean I understand that whole "it's the climb" philosophy, but I've never really been convinced. I'm more of a destination kind of girl. I think that's why the idea of teleportation always excited me so much. My friend Molly and I used to pretend that we had watches that could teleport us to anywhere and any time period we wanted to go to. I like that. I just thought the value of the journey was overrated. Let's just get there already! Who really needs to learn something along the way? Not me.

I recently read that it takes most people 10 years after college to get settled into the perfect job. Do you know how miserable that sounds to me? 10 whole years?! So by the time I pay off the college loans, THEN I'll find the right job. Great. You see, when I was in high school, I told my English teacher that I wanted to be a lawyer, and she said that I should go to Lebanon Valley College and major in English. And since I'm not much of a decision maker, that's what I did. I just wanted a straight and narrow path. I didn't want to change my mind halfway through college and have to stay an extra semester or two to finish. So when I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore, I didn't consider changing my major to something else. I don't think I ever would have because I love English, but it's not the most clear cut major. It's not accounting or elementary ed, that's for sure. I do love literature, and I had a fantastic time discussing it during college... but now I'm a waitress. And apparently this is part of the journey. And apparently I can't just go straight up the hill and get to the destinations right away, like publishing a best-selling book, getting married, having a baby. Sometimes I wish I could just teleport to those places instead of living this incessant "climb."

But when I think about it, what really is the destination? Isn't publishing a best-selling book and getting married still just part of the journey? I guess life is a journey in itself, and it's not like you get somewhere and then stop and enjoy the view forever. That would be boring, too. The story doesn't end when you get to the top of Mt. Everest; you still have to climb down. And I imagine that once you get to the bottom, you start thinking about your next adventure. No hiker or mountain climber would want to just teleport to the top. What would be the point of that?

In  my life, I'm craving adventure so much. It's not actually those destinations that I crave. So I want to start focusing on living an adventure and enjoying the view at each step because I think that if I'm always just waiting to get to the destination, I'm never going to be happy. Teleportation would be awesome because I'd probably zap myself to Paris right now or maybe Vietnam or 2005. But since teleportation doesn't exist, and all we have is the journey of here and now, I'm just going to keep walking and keep seeking adventures.

Friday, August 20, 2010

to be isaac

I picture a young boy who was so excited to be going on an adventure with his Dad one morning. They hiked up a mountain, and Isaac was probably jumping around and asking his Dad all sorts of questions about what they were going to do that day, and meanwhile, Abraham must have been so solemn and heartbroken as he thought about what he was about to do. I wonder if he felt guilty for explaining away the absence of a lamb. When they got to the spot where they would normally sacrifice a lamb, Abraham must have been shaking so hard as he asked Isaac to get up on the rock. I wonder if Isaac was afraid when Abraham started to bind him to the rock. And what must Isaac have been thinking as his dad lifted a knife above his head? Did he understand what was about to happen? Did Isaac hear the angel telling Abraham not to harm him? I wonder what it must have felt like for Isaac after they sacrificed the ram. Did he have trouble trusting his father, who almost killed him? And did Isaac question what kind of God would ask his father to kill him?

You see, I understand that Abraham got to experience how faithful God is through this act of obedience, but what did that mean for Isaac? Would he have been able to understand that Abraham was just doing what God asked him to do? And even if he could understand that, would that have been enough to give him peace?

There had to have been more to the story. I believe that because when you are dealing with people, there is no such thing as a clean break. It's one thing if God is asking you to get rid of your TV or block youtube because of struggles with lust or something like that; obedience, in those cases, is something altogether different from ending a relationship with someone.

I bet Abraham wrestled with God over a zillion questions when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. But Isaac didn't get to go through the same process, so he had to process his questions afterward. I wonder if Abraham had to give him the short explanation, due to his age, and wait to give him a deeper explanation when he got older.

I'd like to think that our obedience to God would leave everything with a clean break--that when God asks someone to do something, it wouldn't break the other person's heart or leave them with so many questions that they don't know what to do with. But that's just not always the case. Sometimes you are left, shell shocked, standing in the wreckage of an atomic bomb, looking for anything that's left to salvage. You wouldn't think that the aftermath of someone's obedience to God would hurt so damn badly, but the confusion can be crippling. The fear can make you go hide behind a rock whenever something triggers a flashback.

I wonder if any of Abraham's explanations were helpful to Isaac. I think he was lucky because he had his father there to try to answer his questions. But what if you don't have the opportunity to ask your questions? What if you just want some answers? And what is worse: never knowing the answers, or getting the answers and finding out that they aren't all that satisfactory?

It's confusing, right? Someone binding you to a rock and holding a knife over their head, saying that they are just doing what God asked them to do... what must that feel like? I think I get it. But I guess since Isaac didn't live the rest of his life emotionally crippled (or so I assume), I have to just trust God, whether or not I ever get any answers to my questions.

Monday, August 9, 2010

waiting is good

I've been thinking a lot about intimacy lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about why God asks us to wait until we're married to have sex. Growing up in my Christian culture, I've been given lots of reasons why, and I don't know if any of them really stick out to me as the reason why I sat around in middle school with a bunch of other girls and pledged to wait until marriage. Maybe our reasons have to change and evolve as time goes on to keep us believing what we believe. I don't know for sure.

The problem with me is that I like doing things in a hurry. I always have. I'm not one of those "it's the climb" kind of people, even though I think Miley makes a good point. So I'm always trying to rush things. It's funny though because I really dislike change, and to be honest, I don't think I can handle too much reality at once. But I'm an impatient woman, and I don't like waiting for things. Time is a funny thing because I feel like we are always wanting to rush things along, but at the same time, we want time to slow down or even stop just for a little so that we can enjoy the moment.

So, here I am thinking about sex and waiting and hurrying things, and it all spins around in my head and always ends with a sigh and some variation of "Well, I'm waiting, and waiting is good." And waiting is good. I had to convince myself of that for a while, but now I actually believe it. I think waiting is a gift. I think that not rushing and taking things step by step is a gift from God.

We like to hurry things (or is it just me?), but I don't think anything is ever the best it could be when it's rushed. I mean to say, it's not easy to share intimacy with someone (or is it just me?). I find it to be really difficult. And so I'm thankful that the best way to have a relationship is to take things step by step because I don't think I could handle it if things happened too fast. That's just too much reality for me. Too much emotion. Just too much.

Silly Christian dating books tell you things like that your sexuality is like a piece of tape, and if you give yourself away to a bunch of people, it's like sticking a piece of tape to soemthing again and again, and eventually, it loses its stickiness. Or they tell you that a relationship is like a 5 course meal, and you should enjoy each course separately, and if you have sex too soon, it's like putting those 5 courses into a blender and drinking them all at once. Okay, whatever, that's not going to stop me. But to be fair, I think those arguments did make sense to me at one time.

Joy and I used to talk a lot about sex... things like whether we would regret it if we slept with someone and then married someone else later on. And I don't know the answers to any of those questions. All I know is that I believe that, ultimately, waiting is good. Waiting is good because intimacy is important and carries a lot of weight. Waiting is a gift because we can't handle too much reality at once. We have to take things step by step, building intimacy and connection through memories and conversations. Movies seem to make things happen so quickly, but that's just not how it's supposed to go. What is beautiful and holy is getting giddy about holding someone's hand, and then later getting excited about him putting his arm around you, and so on and so forth, moving slowly and not giving too much too fast. Sex is easier than love, Switchfoot has told me. And I like things to be easier, but I would rather take the time to build real intimacy with someone. Plus, I think the cliche is true: good things come to those who have to wait. ;-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

on parenthood

I've recently become a huge Donald Miller fan. His writing is witty and deep and refreshing. My first Miller book was his newest one, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I wish the title wasn't so long and weird because it feels awkward to talk about it, but in any case, I absolutely loved this book. Miller talks about the elements that make a good story and how these same elements relate to having a good story in life. It's a really relevant topic for me because I feel like I'm at [yet another] transitional phase. I'm "just waitressing" as I've been putting it to people who ask what I'm up to. I don't know what I want to do in the longterm sense. I'd be honest and tell you that I want to be a writer, but for me to say that I want to be the next Donald Miller is a bit like saying I want to be the next Miley Cyrus. It's a lofty dream, I know. So though I'm a bit of a wanderer right now, I can tell you one thing for sure: I want to live a good story.

I want to live a good story that is deep and meaningful. I want my story to have faith and love and laughter and courage. I want my story to show the people around me that there is something more worth living for because I believe that how we live our lives shows the people around us what has value and what doesn't.

And that's where parenting comes in... I'm definitely not ready to be a mother yet, so sometimes I think about what I could be doing now to learn how to be a good mother. I thought about going to visit my friend Allie's baby so I could learn to change a diaper. And I should probably learn to cook something other than pasta. And get one of those credit cards with reward points for my kids' college funds; you can't start saving too early!

I could do all those things, but when it comes down to it, I think the best way to prepare for giving my future children the best life is to live a good story myself. I want my children to live great stories, where they love deeply and go for their dreams and put all their faith in Jesus. And the best way to teach them how to do that is to do the same for my own life.

I once heard that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse well. Loving your spouse well shows your children unconditional, sacrificial, and [dare I say?] mutually submissive love. It's showing your children a good story from which they can learn what has value, what is worth dying for, and what isn't.

Donald Miller talks about a friend of his who found out his teenage daughter was dating a bad boy and smoking pot and such. The dad yelled, but it didn't change his daughter. What finally made the difference was her family creating a better story for her and inviting her into it. They decided to fund the building of an orphanage in Mexico, and the daughter got really into it and even wanted to go to Mexico and meet some of the kids they were trying to help. They created a better story for their family to live, and their daughter's life was transformed because she had a better role to play in life. Praise God!

So yeah, I think the best and most loving thing I can be doing right now for my future children is to live a good story--a passionate story from which others can see the glory of God shining through. I want to grow closer to God and value the things that He values. I want to learn to love well and deepen my relationships with those around me, and I want to laugh a lot. I want to be brave and take chances and not be afraid of making a complete fool out of myself. And in doing so, my children will see an example of a great story, and they will be inspired to live, laugh, and love in their lives with full appreciation of God's gifts and the chance to take part in the beauty that God has created.

I might be "just waitressing" at the moment, but there's so much more that God has for me during this period of my life, and I'm excited [and scared] about it! I intend to live my story full of romantic intrigues and daring swordfights so that someday I can tell my children all about being a 23 year old.

Monday, June 14, 2010

reminders of grace

I have a bad driving record. Anyone who knows me at all knows this about me. You would think it's to the point where my friends would say that they don't want me to drive them anywhere ever. You'd think they'd stop trusting me. Needless to say, I was pretty tough on myself about getting in this last car accident. I was pretty sure I would never trust myself to drive a car ever again. So imagine my surprise when I got a call from my friend Jesse about a week after my accident, and he was offering his car to me for the next two weeks while he was at chapter camp. I thought to myself, "Do you even know what my driving record is like? Do you realize that I have a history of doing this?" I was so flabbergasted that he would trust me, all things considered, because I certainly didn't merit his trust in this particular area. Part of me thought, "Man, Jesse, what are you thinking?!" Well, actually that was probably all of me at first. It wasn't until later when I realized that Jesse was extending me grace. In spite of my driving record, Jesse didn't look at me like I was a screw up who didn't deserve trust with his car.

Due to my driving record, I've now been kicked off my parents' car insurance. After crying myself to exhaustion in the storage closet at Tabor, rubbing snot on my dress, and asking God, "Why did I have to get in another car accident?! This wouldn't have happened if it weren't for that accident!," I politely asked Him if He could turn back time a bit so we could just undo the whole ordeal. For some reason, He chose not to comply. But believe me, I know that I am a blessed woman. The problem is that it can be so easy to forget sometimes when I'm sitting on the floor in a storage closet thinking, "why me?" That's why I need to be reminded about grace sometimes...or more like constantly. I need friends and family to offer me grace and make God's love complete (1 John 4:12) because it's too easy to forget about my blessings when my circumstances start to drown me.

God's recent reminders of grace in my life have been humdingers (although, of course, grace is by definition always a humdinger!). I was so struck by God's grace one evening as I was waiting for TJ to come pick me up. It occurred to me that I didn't deserve TJ to be so nice to me. In fact, due to my experiences, I half expected him to feign disappointment and say "Oh well, I have stuff to do tonight anyway" when I called to say that my alleyway was blocked so I couldn't drive to his house. So when he said he would come pick me up, I didn't even know if I could accept the offer. But TJ was offering me a reminder of grace.

I know this doesn't sound like much of a humdinger, but the key background information that you need to know is that I had been running away from God not too long before then. I mentioned this a bit in other entries, so I won't go into details, but I had no desire to engage with God for about a month or so. And there He was in all His glory, blessing me anyway. I asked Him why He was being so good to me when just a bit ago, I hadn't even wanted to talk to Him. I told Him I didn't deserve to have someone like TJ in my life, being a white knight, bringing me flowers, offering to come pick me up. I didn't understand why God was blessing me when I was clearly undeserving.

But that's grace for you. I couldn't possibly earn it no matter how hard I'd try... and I think that grace really hit me that day as I waited for TJ to pick me up because I knew how I had blatantly chosen not to engage with God. So to experience blessings after going through a period like that was experiencing grace to the fullest because I couldn't possibly think I deserved any blessing.And after going through a period like that, I think I needed God to offer a big romantic gesture to remind me of His grace. That day, while waiting for TJ to pick me up, God was Derek to my Meredith--on top of a mountain, standing among paper bags with candles in them forming the outline of a house, exclaiming that He thinks we can be extraordinary together. There was no way to ignore a big romantic gesture like that. (God knows I go weak in the knees for big romantic gestures!)

Not all reminders of grace are big romantic gestures, though. Sometimes they're more subtle. But they're all humdingers because, well, how can it NOT be a humdinger when God shows you that He thinks you're worth it, that you're not just some screw up, that He wants something extraordinary with you?! And in a world where we are constantly faced with lies telling us that we are just worthless screw ups, it becomes absolutely imperative that we extend grace to those around us as a reminder that God blesses us and loves us, even though we really don't deserve it. We need to give reminders of God's grace so that others can keep having their Grey's Anatomy-like, extraordinary moments when, otherwise, they might have just cried in a storage closet about something or other.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

and the poetry lives on

I once wrote that I didn't want to ever see things differently. I wanted the poetry I had written to always mean what it meant at that time to me. And yet, in the same paragraph, I claimed to be letting things go and understanding that my current view of love was a working definition. But I wasn't really letting things go, and I wasn't willing to let my definition of love be molded. The truth is, I was terrified to let things go. And oddly enough, part of the reason I was afraid of letting it go was because I really, truly, deeply dislike when my feelings are invalidated. Even in this case, when it meant damaging my heart deeper and deeper because I stubbornly thought I had to be committed and keep clinging to something that wasn't really there and hadn't been for a long time, if ever, I couldn't bear the thought of my words, my poetry being invalidated and meaning nothing.

My poems are like horcruxes, the darkest of dark magic in the Harry Potter world, where I've placed pieces of my heart, thinking that it's safe, but I find out later that when the feeling behind my poetry finds itself invalidated, it not only destroys the poem, but it destroys that part of my heart that hid there. It's a gamble to spread myself so thin and create all these horcruxes. Shakespeare liked the idea of immortalizing himself (and others) in his poetry. He said that his lines were eternal. I kind of wonder if he ever experienced something where the woman/man (who knows?) he wrote sonnet 18 for turned out to not be as lovely and temperate as he thought. And if he did, what did he do with that poem afterward? Would he even have wanted it published?

In the aftermath, though, I find my poetry still belonging to me. The feelings are still mine to hold. Just because I don't feel the same way now doesn't mean that those feelings were invalid. That's the beauty of literature, isn't it? Literature lives on, takes on a new shape, and means one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. And mine is no exception. So just as I originally thought, my heart is safe hidden between the lines.

And as it turns out, I really do have a working definition of love. Having a working definition of love means that as I grow closer to the Lord, I will learn how to love others more and more as Christ would have me do. And that's a Good thing, with a capital G. I regret that I wasn't able to love better in the past. But I realize that I was where I was, and just because I'm not still where I was does not mean that the way I felt then is invalid. That's why my horcruxes haven't been destroyed. The nature of [good] literature is that it lives on, even if the original muse is gone. In Sonnet 18, Shakespeare thought about comparing his beloved to a summer's day, but he realized that summer fades. But his eternal lines, well, they're eternal.

Likewise, my eternal lines continue to morph as my definition of love is refined over time. So when I think of poems like "Lavendar Petals" or "Grounded," I now feel the freedom in knowing that these poems can live on and mean something different, as my viewpoint changes. Because that's good literature, right? And that's Good to know for life. My definition of love is being refined, praise God! And as my definition of love deepens, the poetry I write is becoming deeper, and the poetry I wrote yesterday changes shape to mean something even more to me than it meant before. Maybe that's why I love poetry so much--my feelings can never be invalidated in my poetry, so long as I remember that my definition of love is a working definition and that seeing things differently is actually a good thing. No, it's more than a good thing, it's a Good thing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

sentimental stuff

Once upon a time when my parents were dating, my mom accused my dad of caring more about money than he did about her. So he took his money and ripped it up, saying "You think I care about money? Here's how much I care about money!" Now, the idea of ripping money up kind of makes me want to cry, but you have to give the guy props for being willing to do that to show her that he did not, in fact, value his money more than he valued her.

As for me, I like to keep memories in a box. I like to save special emails in a folder. I like to keep photos organized neatly in a photo album, chronologically from the beginning of the semester to the end. In short, I'm sentimental. So for me to get rid of my sentimental stuff is a big deal. It wasn't until a few months a go when I decided to clean out a folder of emails that I had saved that I understood what it means to let go of stuff. My original intention was to organize the folder by cleaning out some of the emails that didn't really say anything, which was about half of them. But there I stood with at least 30 emails remaining, so I started to get rid of ones that meant only a little, and after a few times reading through, I was down to 6. Honestly, I couldn't delete those last 6 that day. Some of them said meaningful things, and others were meaningful because I remembered how I didn't win that argument, but this email proved that I clearly should have won. I knew I would delete those last 6 emails eventually, but I couldn't do it yet.

I didn't put pressure on myself to delete those remaining emails. I had deleted a lot, and it felt really good. In fact, I couldn't believe how good it felt. I no longer had any record of those conversations ever taking place, and that was okay. I was okay. I half expected one of my limbs to fall off, I think. Every time I deleted one of the emails, I held my breath and examined my extremities, just waiting for one of them to disappear because I had just deleted what I thought was a piece of me. And when I found myself fully intact, I realized how good it felt to know that I was still whole. A few days later, I was able to delete the last few emails. And yes, I still have ten fingers, ten toes, and all the necessary body parts holding those extremities in place!

The whole ordeal was a bit like my dad ripping up money. In the end, it wasn't about me cleaning up my gmail folders. Rather, it was a statement about letting go of my past relationship; it was me saying that I no longer attach meaning to those things, and it no longer matters. I no longer had one foot stuck in the past. It's saying, YOU matter more than the memories of what used to be. (And speaking of losing a limb, doesn't keeping one foot in the past sound like the real way to do that?)

Knowing that God is jealous for me, I wonder if that's a bit like how He feels when I tithe my money, give away my possessions, or sacrifice for someone else's sake. Letting go of the things that we used to put value in might be how we're demonstrating to God that He matters more. When we choose not to place value in money, beauty, etc, it's like we are making the same declaration that Paul made--that he counts everything as loss compared to knowing Jesus. Choosing selfishness or love of money over my love for God is a bit like saying, "I love you, TJ... but I'm going to keep all my old emails and reminisce about my past relationships from time to time. I hope that's okay with you." Yeah, that would definitely not be okay with him.

Obviously counting everything as loss compared to knowing Jesus matters a lot more than letting go of my old emails. But why is it that sometimes we can so easily justify our love for money when we can clearly see that putting value in my old emails isn't okay? Letting go of all the things I could value more than my relationship with God has the same freeing result as deleting emails or ripping up money... I realize that I'm okay. In fact, I'm more than okay, I'm good. And I mean good with a capital G. Good.

I still have my box of memories (though I have gotten rid of some of the things in it). And there isn't anything wrong with keeping the box, but I need to give it the proper value it merits, which means, in short, trusting that all of my limbs will stay attached to my body, even without that stuff.

"A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home" -Rumi

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

i can run really fast

"Am I protecting myself?
Hell yeah, I am.
I can run really fast."

I never knew how terribly fond I am of running away. But I don't like dealing with messes or conflict, so it actually makes perfect sense. I distinctly remember one time during the fall of my junior year when I asked Ryan if he would run with me because we needed to talk, and he said yes. Then a half an hour later he decided to watch a movie with Alyssa instead. I was just left on the street when they walked the other way. I felt so abandoned, but I couldn't even say, "Hey, you said you would run with me!" I mean, at the very least, I could have said that. But I didn't. So that night I ran by myself, fast and hard... it felt so powerful. It was actually a really good God moment for me. But the fact remains, I was running away, and when I got back to my dorm, nothing had been solved.

Nearly two years later, I took my ipod and ran down past the barn to the meadow at my Grandma's house. I used to walk down that path with my Grandpa a lot when I was a kid. There's a path along the corn field that leads to a pond. I started running full speed down the path as I cried, leaving my flip flops behind in the grass because they only slowed me down. I just ran barefoot until I got to the pond, then I stopped because I couldn't run anymore. I stopped for a few minutes, doubled over, panting and asking God, "What now?" and "Why?" These questions only made me feel more angry, so I began to sprint again, up the hill this time. Until finally, the grass ran out, forming a triangle where the path ended... I stopped, glancing between the rocky path that continued up the hill and the corn field beside it, realizing there was no where else to go. Not ready to turn back, I lay down in the grass in an X position, turning Tenth Avenue North's plea into more of a challenge to God, "If you're everything you say you are, won't you come close and hold my heart." But after all that exhaustion, I had to turn back from the path. There was no where else to go. I had to turn back and face everything.

It was only a few hours prior to that when I wrote that I was protecting myself. But you know what, I didn't feel protected when I was driving home in my car, alternating between screaming and holding my hand over my mouth to stop the screaming. It seems like if I had chosen to be real and honest instead of running away from how I felt, maybe it wouldn't have had to hurt so badly. I mean at that point, maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but running away certainly didn't help. Sure, I can run really fast. But if it doesn't solve anything--if it isn't really protecting me--what's the point of using up my energy on running?

I'd like to be the kind of person who is not afraid to be real and honest and face issues head on and expend all my energy on doing that instead of wasting energy on running away. And at the end of the day, after sticking to the deep determination to talk through things even though I just wanted to go hide under a rock, I would collapse on the floor in that X position that I'm so very fond of and know that it was okay... I didn't have to protect myself because being open and exposed was okay. And because you can't run forever, no matter how hard you try.

"No matter how thick skinned we try to be, there's millions of electrifying nerve endings in there. Open and exposed and feeling way too much. Try as we might to keep from feeling pain, sometimes it's just unavoidable. Sometimes that's the only thing left--just feeling." -Grey's Anatomy

Thursday, May 13, 2010

greatest hits

This one time at the beginning of my senior year, I was at the CCO welcome service for the freshman, and during worship, I thought about how I really wanted to hear the song "Beautiful One." But then I thought about the last time I heard that song, which was during the same worship service the previous year; I was leading worship between Alyssa and Ryan, and I remember thinking, man, I am so blessed to be standing here worshiping next to my boyfriend and my best friend. The memory almost made me change my mind about wanting to hear that song. But wouldn't you know that "Beautiful One" was the next song they played! And I felt God telling me, very clearly, "Now you can remember this moment when you hear this song." God gave me a new memory for that song, and now "Beautiful One" is one of me and God's special songs!

God knows I'm a sentimental person, so He likes to romance me in this way quite often. I can remember a time last summer when we were visiting a church during Sidewalks... God played a few of our special songs that I hadn't heard in a while. First, He brought back a song I had been wanting to find ever since I heard some students sing it at chapter camp called "Til I See You." Then He played a song that I LOVED in high school and used to make Dennis play ALL THE TIME called "Sing for Joy." And as if that wasn't enough, He played "Friend of God," which I don't necessarily like, but it has a great memory attached to it from the beginning of me and Vanessa's friendship. That service was like me and God's mix tape!

As my relationship with God continues, we keep having more and more special songs, and every once in a while, He surprises me by playing one of them. And when that happens, we have this moment like when you just stare into someone's eyes, totally in love and in awe that they remembered something that meant so much to you--something that you had almost forgotten.

This whole idea of me and God having special songs gets me thinking about how when you spend more and more time with someone, it's like you are creating a Greatest Hits album with your special songs and memories. And you know what's so awesome about a Greatest Hits album? It's the nostalgia of ten years worth of the best Madonna songs--songs like "Holiday" and "Lucky Star" that you haven't heard for a while. It's the best feeling ever to remember great memories and songs like that. Maybe that's why we have anniversaries, so that couples can reminisce about their memories and recall themselves back to why they are committed to one another...because sometimes in the here and now, we forget.

But it's definitely the passing of time that makes a Greatest Hits album a hit. That's why I find it weird when people like the Backstreet Boys put out a Greatest Hits album. I mean what's up with that? You put out three CDs in a matter of like four years and think you can put out a Greatest Hits album? Then you're including songs like "Anywhere For You" and "More Than That," which are okay songs, but seriously, they're not hits. Give me time to forget a song before you put out a Greatest Hits album!

It's exciting to think about someday having a 50th anniversary, when my husband and I will have TONS of hit songs to look back on: our wedding, buying a house, our children, our children's weddings, etc. That's why only makes sense that love changes and grows as time goes on because you have more greatest hits to choose from! And when you have lots of memories to look back on, you can love that person even more because you can see the passing of time and how they've been there for you and the things you've experienced together.

Call me too sentimental, but I like having special songs with someone. Sometimes you'll have to sing them the song because they've forgotten, and sometimes they will sing it to you. And sometimes they'll have to read the memories to you every day from a notebook. The beauty of a special song is the ability to hold a memory over time and carry it as a simple reminder that those moments matter, not only when they're happening, but later on, when you need to remember why you're even there in the first place.

(ps - Hi Sherry!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

at least

Last Wednesday, on my way home from work, I had a collision with another car in the middle of an intersection. I was in such shock that I didn't even realize the damage that had been done to the car. After I stopped shaking so much, I tried to open the door and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't open. So I resolved to crawl out my passenger side, which was very surreal for me, like I was living in a movie or something. When I finally got out and looked at the car, I realized why I couldn't open the door; the driver side of my car was completely smashed up! Later I saw that it was quite noticeable from the inside, too, so I don't know how I didn't see that before. The woman in the other car was so nice to me, and she didn't want the cop to give me a ticket, which was such a great blessing for me.

So I watched the annoyingly cheerful man from AAA tow my car away and went home. I got to my doorstep and couldn't find my house key amidst all the crap from my car that I had stuffed into my purse. I started throwing things on the porch and then finally decided to just ring the doorbell. Mary and Amber were met with my uncontrollable sobs, and when I told them the story, they tried to comfort me with some variations of "at least you are okay" and "at least you didn't get a ticket." But after three car accidents, these types of responses just don't satisfy anymore.

It makes me wonder how God would want us to react in such circumstances. Is it acceptable for me to sob uncontrollably, throw things on the porch, and say that things aren't okay? Would God want me to play the "at least" game and recount all the things that could have happened that didn't? Is THAT what should give me consolation? The way I see it, we could play the at least game forever. "Oh, you've been making out with random guys? Well, at least you're not doing drugs." "At least it wasn't worse." etc etc. And I'm all for keeping perspective about a situation and counting your blessings, but I think playing the at least game is dangerous. And it just doesn't work for me.

That's why I think the only safe response to my circumstances is to lean on grace. The fact is, I messed up. Maybe I'm a terrible driver. Maybe I'm a stupid, flaky girl with a crappy attention span. Maybe I just have really bad luck with driving. If any or all of those things are true, I will definitely not get any consolation from knowing that at least I didn't get a ticket. It might be that any or all of those things are true, but because of God's grace, it's okay. Because of God's grace, I didn't get a ticket. And I think if I play the at least game, I'm not going to see it that way. If I play the at least game, I'll just be comparing circumstances--Mine with another person's, or mine with "what could have been." And it might sometimes help to make me feel better as a quick fix, but the only real thing that will satisfy me is clinging to God's unending grace.

Looking back, I can feel God's love covering me, as I remember my mom running to me and then calling AAA to take care of the car. I can see God's grace offering me a hand so I can stand back up as He brings a compassionate woman and a lenient police officer so that I don't have to feel so ashamed and so I don't have to get another ticket. Because I'm a screw up, crappy things like car accidents are going to happen. But God always finds a way to remind me that He's taking care of me in the midst of the situation I find myself in. And that's the only thing that is going to comfort me after a car accident.

It sucks not to have a car, but what would suck even more is to miss seeing the ways God takes care of me by reducing His acts of love to mere statements of "at least it's not as bad as what could have happened." I crashed my car, but then, I got to see God's love made complete in the kindness of strangers, the grace of my mom, and the support from my friends. So yeah, at least I had that.

If there’s an upside to free falling, it’s the chance you give your friends to catch you. –Grey’s Anatomy

Monday, April 26, 2010

not heavy, just big

Several times last week, as I was packing and unpacking my car for Tabor's Annual Banquet, I told people I didn't need help because whatever I was carrying was not heavy, it was just big. Of course by the time I neared the 3rd floor after a few loads of big, but not heavy, things, I was really feeling it. Sure, it wasn't too heavy for me, but it definitely left me with some really sore arms. Apparently, to me, "big" means that I can handle it, whereas "heavy" would have meant that I can't.

But I'm thankful to know that heavy and big are different. When things are big, it can seem overwhelming, but there's hope because you can just do one thing at a time and take one step at a time. My friends Brittany and Allie got me through my freshman season of cross country with their encouragement that I need to focus on just one point ahead--the next mile marker, the next stop sign, the next lap--instead of focusing on the 3 more miles I have left to run. Running long distance can be heavy, or it can be big, depending on how you choose to look at it. A race is 6k, 3.7 miles, 30 minutes heavy. But I can't look at it that way, or I'll just not do it. I'll get out of it somehow, by contracting a hysterical injury or, worse, a real injury--whatever it takes, really. Or a race can be taken 8 minute average mile by mile, which makes it seem a lot more doable.

The best part of a long race is, hands down, the sprint to the finish line for the last few hundred yards. There are always a few runners who are a steady few steps behind or ahead of you for the entire race, but at the end, it's a footrace to the finish line, and it's anyone's game. But usually, it's mine. I am a kick ass runner, for the last few hundred yards anyway. It's easier to give up your last few shreds of energy when the finish line is in plain view. The problem for me is that for most of the race, it's not. For me, it just feels heavy, and my body feels weak, and my legs feel weighted down, and my chest feels constricted. But what if it doesn't have to feel like that? What if running a long race well has more to do with how I look at it than how in shape I am? What if I could focus on just getting to the next mile marker? One step at a time. 8 minute average mile by mile.

The truth is, in the end, whether you choose to view the race as something heavy or as something big, your body will probably hurt the same amount, your legs will shake like jello squares, and you will be 97% sure that you are about to throw up all that you carb overloaded on the night before. That's why it seems to me that the only sane way to run a race is to view it as something that is "not heavy, just big." 8 minute average mile by mile, you can focus your energy on getting to that point, and once you get there, you can focus on the next marker. And you know what's so great about looking at it mile by mile? You get to have more than one kick ass last few hundred yards!

I'm not a great runner, but I never minded that. I always thought God had me on those courses to encourage others because when you're in the tail end of the race, there are fewer runners there to keep your adrenaline going, and when you run past the spectators, they are less enthusiastic than they are with the top runners. But I like to be there to encourage the other runners around me that this doesn't have to feel so heavy; it can just be "big," and you can handle it--mile by mile, step by step--trusting that because God has gotten you through the last mile and the mile before that, He will get you through this one, too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

true strength

One of my friends, Jenn, recently was talking to me about reaching a breaking point. Sure, she has been strong through her circumstances, but if they keep compiling, she's going to reach her breaking point. It makes me think a lot about how God says he will never give us more than we can handle. I always wondered what that means because I guess we have to take what's given to us, right? We have to handle what's thrown at us. It's weird how that works because we have hope when going through difficult times that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. We have to have that hope, don't we?

During college, I experienced a lot of hurt with all the breakups with Ryan, and people were always telling me how strong I was to be places where he was. They said if they were me, they wouldn't be able to do that. But I didn't feel strong. I remember one particular conversation at our women's bible study when my friends said they think I'm strong, and I just started crying. I was trying so hard to hold myself together so I didn't crack, and you don't feel strong when you're just barely holding yourself together. But that is the hand I was dealt. What other choice did I have other than persevering through that difficulty? I didn't view it as strength because I didn't choose into that. I was just existing.

I do not know why God lets bad things happen to us. I don't know why He pushes us until we think we're going to break. All I know is that Jesus offers His strength to us to say "not my will, but yours be done." Which may not make grieving and coping any easier, but to keep hoping and trusting, that's strength. It isn't comforting to be told that you are strong for persevering when you actually aren't. What I was doing wasn't strength.

Strength is in the choosing to hope. Hope isn't something that just happens to you; you have to choose to have hope. You have to choose it every single day, be committed to it, and really, really believe in it. Because sometimes you won't want to. And honestly, you don't have to. You can live in a state of numbness. I did it for a long time. But sooner or later, you realize that having hope is really the only thing that makes sense. It's the only thing you can do. So choose hope, believe it, do it, and live in the freedom that it gives!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

two bras

I have been in a weird place lately. Long story short, I haven't been engaging with God and pursuing my faith. I haven't wanted to. But God met me yesterday as I was tanning on my roof. I'm reading a book called Cold Tangerines, which was a gift from my housemate Megan. It was a big step for me to even start reading the book because I've been slowly disengaging with God, so much so that I even stopped listening to Christian music recently.

So I'm reading this book, and the author is going on and on about all this stuff happening in her life and how God is working in her life, and I thought to myself, "It's just not that simple. What about the world's suffering? What about Africa?" It bothered me that she was painting this picture of roses and sunshine. Well, wouldn't you know that the next chapter was about a trip she took to Africa. Any normal person, especially one who is purposefully not engaging with God, wouldn't think much of this... but I have never believed in coincidences, so I couldn't ignore it. God knew I was thinking about Africa. I thanked Him for putting that chapter right there, right after I had thought about it.

It jogged my thoughts to predestination and foreknowledge and free will and all that good stuff. I love that stuff. And I realized, maybe it's none of those things. It's not like God planned everything ahead of time and then just watches it happen. Plan or no plan, the point is, God doesn't just sit up on a cloud and watch things happen. That's the thing about our God... He is actually with us! I think that God has made me to be a certain woman and prepares me for things... it's like we're walking down the street together, and He says, "Hey Jess, let's walk this way towards the diner" because he knows that I'm hungry for pancakes. It's not like I had the thought about Africa, then he stuck that chapter in there. No, he was present with me as I read and got upset, and our next turn on our journey was reading about Africa.

It's a bit like a mischance of wearing an outfit requiring two bras on a date--one bra for support and one sports bra because otherwise, the shirt would be too low-cut (just in case you find it weird to wear two bras). God knew you might want to go let things go too far, so He prepared you for that by having you wear that outfit with two bras. It seems like a mischance at the time because it kind of ruins that moment. Sure, taking off two bras is absolutely possible, obviously, but it does make it more difficult. God was walking with you, and you didn't know why you chose that outfit, but God knew why. It was extra protection to keep you safe. Or me, or whoever.

God walks with me. He leads me. Even when I'm pretty darn content with walking my own way, he's still working. In every moment, He is present. That's love for you. I experience love when someone meets my needs/wants without me asking for it. That's what God did for me when I was on the roof yesterday. I was so stunned, so deeply in love, that all I could do was grin and say, "Thanks God... you knew I wanted to hear about Africa. You knew it."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Boy Meets Girl

Boy meets girl. Boy buys girl a drink, or two, or three. He has something more in mind than casual conversation and a few laughs at the bar. It's the thrill of the chase really, and he's hoping that it will end up at her apartment. Cuz he likes a good conquest. He likes feeling like he has won. And it's a symbiotic relationship because what she desires is to feel beautiful and precious and worthwhile. All the attention he's giving her and the way he's looking at her sure makes her feel desired. "He could be flirting with any girl here, and he chose me." Though both have been through this routine before, both have followed through before, and both have regretted it before, they still carry on with the game. He thinks that winning her affection will make him feel like a conqueror, strong and victorious. She thinks that winning his attention will make her feel beautiful. And it does. For tonight anyway.

I myself don't trust guys enough to sleep with them. At the discussion I was at last night at LVC, Pastor Ron said that the mechanics of it are pretty easy. It's the actual relationship part that is difficult. But I disagree, I always thought that the mechanics would be hard. Thus, I wouldn't trust a guy enough to be vulnerable like that. I don't trust that a guy won't be thinking that he assumed I'd look better naked than I actually do. I don't trust that a guy wouldn't make fun of me the next day with his friends. I would have to really know someone and really love someone to be that vulnerable. Can I trust that man enough to know that he isn't using me? That he sees me as more than an object to fulfill his needs? That takes time to find out. Does he find me beautiful and precious enough to love and care for me on a long term basis?

I realize that not every sexual relationship is the story of a one night stand in a bar. But I do know that getting someone to sleep with you doesn't actually make you much of a conqueror. Winning a woman's heart is a lot harder than winning her body for a night. And having someone want to sleep with you doesn't make you beautiful. When someone sees you as more than a hot body, when someone wants to know you and take care of you and live life with you, that's a man showing you that you are precious.

I dated a guy in high school who tried to push me further physically. And he did manage to push me slightly further than I meant to go. Which probably made him feel really good about himself. And I want to say that the joke's on him because it wasn't really that much of a feat... but I don't know how to say that without sounding like I was easy. So this poem kind of better explains what I mean. (I hope)

"You Win"

Do you feel a sense of accomplishment
now that you’ve stolen my innocence?
Do you feel better about yourself,
knowing you could charm me with your smile?
Did I keep you entertained for a few months
so you wouldn’t have to be alone?
Or was I even less of a person to you than that?

If you wanted to feel big and manly by stealing my innocence,
you should have known you’d never have succeeded.
But I know I didn’t make that clear enough.
And I take the blame for that completely.

If you wanted to feel better about yourself by tempting me,
you should know that enchanting a high school girl is not that hard.
Though I thought I was smarter than one of those girls,
as it turned out, I was nothing more and nothing less.

If I kept you entertained so you wouldn’t have to be alone,
you should know that perhaps I was using you for the same reason.
Although my reasons were purer than yours,
I admit that loneliness may have skewed my perceptions.

I don’t know how you viewed me or why you were with me.
I don’t know if your reasons had anything to do with me;
even considering these negative possibilities,
I question whether I was even that much of a person to you.

You should know that if you had wanted to break my innocence, you did.
If you had wanted to charm me momentarily, you did.
And if you had wanted to be entertained,
I suppose you took care of that yourself by playing your little games.
So if I was just a pawn in your game, you win.

But in the end, I will not allow any way you have made me feel
to dictate where I go or who I will become.
You will not haunt my past because I’m stronger than that
and I wouldn’t let you, of all people, get in the way of real love.

So if you want to look at this from your narrow vision,
where you are great and special because you conquered,
You win. Congratulations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Green Dress

For tradition’s sake and for tradition alone,
I wear green today.
I can play along with tradition’s silly rules.
In truth, it’s fun to be a fanatic, go all out,
And fancy everyone else apathetic
As I apply my green eyeliner with a smirk.
(I even wear green underwear,
though no one will see it.
Now THAT’S dedication.)
I never wanted to be one of those people
who wore blue or brown or yellow,
it just doesn’t make sense—
why would you NOT wear green today?

But I don’t even know what St. Patrick’s Day is.

I start to wonder
Why do people wear green?
Why NOT blue or brown or yellow?
What are we even celebrating?

The year I was grieving too much to get dressed that day,
Someone asked me where my green was.
I felt oddly ashamed for breaking tradition.
It was the one time that I just didn’t care,
And someone called me out on it.
I know my friends have a right to keep me accountable,
But why?
I’m not even Irish.

I don’t know why we’re wearing green
Or why we’re drinking beer,
But I can go along with it.
I like playing the fanatic,
even though it’s meaningless--
I mean there’s really no other way to describe it, is there?
It's just silly, empty, meaningless tradition
if I can’t even tell you who St. Patrick is.

The only thing I know is that I’m supposed to wear green,
And lucky for me, I look damn good in my green dress.

Monday, March 8, 2010

E is for Evaporation

I'm grateful that the snow has finally melted away. It's weird though how hard we have to work to dig our cars out after a snowstorm, and then a week later, the snow just melts anyway. What's up with that? You work so hard for something that just disappears.

My life has had a reoccurring theme of evaporation lately. For instance, the other day at work, I worked all day to edit a document and got so much progress done, and then the document just disappeared. I had forgotten to save it in a different location, and then it was gone. None of my work counted for anything because it was just gone. You can imagine my anger. It was pretty much a broken record of the f-word repeating in my head. A few weeks ago, my ipod just decided to delete everything on it. Sounds like no big deal, but you have no idea how long I have worked to organizing everything perfectly. Countless hours have been spent to organizing my music and videos just so. It's all gone now. I recognize that these situations do not matter much in the grand scheme of things. But they are like physical representations of why I'm actually angry.

The reason I've actually been angry is because my relationship with Ryan just evaporated into thin air. What does that mean about the 2.5 years of my life spent trying to make something work that wasn't ever really working in the first place? I am not consoled by the thought that it was a growing period and that sometimes relationships don't work out, blah blah blah. The whole thing just evaporated. Which makes me feel like, well, why did I bother?

Before snow evaporates, it gets really ugly from dirt and stones and all that road gunk. It gets pretty gross. By the time the snow is tainted by all that grossness, you just can't wait for it to disappear. But it evaporates and leaves all the junk behind. So did I really put all that work into shoveling for something that would just disappear in a week?

But it never really disappears I guess. The snow either seeps into the ground or goes back into the air. It's not gone. And it leaves behind the junk which kind of settles again on the road. It's the unseen aftermath that kills you. And part of the reason it kills you so much is because you can't see it. No one can see it except for you, so you kind of wonder if you're going crazy. What are you left with? The only proof that it even happened is that your back is really sore from the shoveling. It all melted away and left you standing there alone.

The snowstorms this year were pretty brutal, and I was digging my car out for hours sometimes. And when it's all done, you just stand there... numb and exhausted, not really sure where to go from there.I think snow is really beautiful when it's falling down from the sky. It's peaceful, and it's pure and untouched. I look forward to it. But at this point, I wonder whether that beauty worth the work you put into it or not.

But such is life. We work and toil, and for what? It's all going to evaporate. There is nothing new under the sun. I think that's supposed to be freeing, but why does it make me feel so trapped? I just wanted the work to count for something. I just wanted the time not to feel wasted.

And yet, such is grace, reaching down for me, telling me that I have nothing to work for--it is finished. There's still this pesky business of shoveling. Why do we bother? It's just going to disappear. As Mother Theresa said, "What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway." After all, "In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway." Grace says it isn't about the final product or the work, it's about moving and serving and having hope, no matter how many times things evaporate.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jesus is Pro-Life

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to live in harmony. But it doesn't stop there... Peter gets more specific so that we don't misunderstand what harmony means. Harmony means a lot more than just co-existing with people... it means being compassionate, loving, and humble. Don't seek revenge, don't do evil... but don't just not do those things... give blessing, do good, pursue peace instead. It's a high calling. It requires action, not just passivity. It's asking us to be CONNECTED to one another.

And asking us to be connected is not a simple request. If we're connected, that means that your life affects mine. To me, it means that I'm not alright if people in Ethiopia don't have clean water to drink or shoes to put on their feet. It means that when I want to choose the convenience of the 75% off rack at JCPenney or the cheaper coffee instead of the free trade, I have to really consider how my actions affect another. If I buy cheap coffee or support stores that do, I'm a part of the chain of oppression that doesn't allow for decent wages for a coffee bean farmer. I don't want to be a part of that. I want farmers to make enough money to support their families. 

But sometimes we get so lost in our causes. My friend Dana Beth wonders that if people are so against homosexuality, why aren't they willing to take in or mentor a girl who has been abused? Why wouldn't they want to directly address the factors that might cause someone to become gay? And I wonder why people advocate for pro-life and are very against abortion, but they don't take particular care for children who are orphans or in general, anyone who is poor, oppressed, and lost. Being pro-life should mean going out and spreading Jesus' love around so that those who are dead inside can know what life is. It's a bunch of baloney, really, that people can call themselves pro-life and choose to ignore the fact that slaves made their clothing. We misuse the environment, causing others to suffer because their water is contaminated or their resources are depleted. We get lost in our causes and forget the people and the calling.

But if I believe that my God is all about wanting the best life for everyone, that Jesus came here to give me life, and that we were called to live in harmony with one another... then I think we have to care about these things.

Jesus is most definitely pro-life. He heals people, frees them from their sin, feeds them, and loves the hell out of them. Jesus wouldn't hold a sign and picket the abortion clinic. And if Jesus wouldn't do it, then maybe we should ask ourselves why we do it. The calling is to live in harmony. The calling is to give blessing and do good. Be connected, be pro-life. And don't just be pro-life, DO pro-life. It's a high calling. But God wants the best life for us, so if this is what He's asking, then the calling must be worth it...

Monday, February 15, 2010

D is for Deforestation

God's intention was right relationships in the world between him and the people, between people and people, and between people and the earth. Original sin messed all that up; original sin marked the first time that man thought of himself before others. Eve didn't think of trusting and obeying God, and she didn't think about how her actions would affect Adam. That's kind of what sin boils down to, isn't it? Thinking of ourselves first, before obeying God, before how our actions might affect others. It was the beginning of disconnect, where Eve just had blinders on and saw only herself.

But God created this complex world where everything is connected. When I was in my environmental science class, I was just in awe to learn how intricately connected everything in nature is. For example, in any forest, you have the small plants and animals that are on the forest floor. If there aren't any trees in an area, the microclimate that usually exists for these smaller organisms changes drastically. So these small plants are sparse, which leaves the herbivores that usually eat those plants without food. They start dying out or moving to other areas, which leaves the bigger animals who feed on those small animals without food. In addition to a lack of food, the bigger animals that might make a tree their home are left without shelter. Any bodies of water around the area suffer because they derive a lot of nutrients from leaves that fall into the water. And I can't forget to mention the bacteria, which doesn't have anymore dead matter to feed on because we clear-cutted the forest. That doesn't seem important, BUT they are an important connector in the chain.

In God's design, everything is connected, and it's so beautiful... but there's one huge problem... we live in a fallen world where we are disconnected from creation. But here's the thing, if everything depends on everything else in nature, that must mean mankind is part of that, too. We depend on nature A LOT, but we're pretty disconnected from that. We don't hunt our own animals, grow our own vegetables, cut down our own trees to fashion our chairs. We don't have any idea where our stuff is coming from or what the impact is.

It's easy for us to be short-sighted and thinking that we don't make a difference as an individual. I sometimes even have to remind myself that one plastic bottle that I throw away doesn't make a difference, but it does... because that's just one more person to the millions who adds more waste to the world.

Forget the whole thing about climate change and what not... I get that people don't believe in global warming. Frankly, I don't think that's the root of the issue here. In the practical sense, we are using our resources at a rate that is much, much faster than they can be reproduced; sustainability should be on our minds because once we run out of stuff, then what are we going to do? I think if we were even a little more connected to where our stuff is coming from, we'd see that we do have an impact. There are landfills in third world countries, namely China, Nigeria, and India, where we dump all of our old electronics. Waste gives off chemicals that seep into our groundwater, which is bad for our country, BUT we have the money (aka your tax dollars) to make landfills more safe so that we aren't drinking toxic water. But what about third world countries? So workers in those countries have to disassemble our old electronics, and they are actually handling these chemicals. This is not safe, but what choice do they have? Then said chemicals get into their groundwater, which flows into their rivers, and they drink it. So if you care about the justice issue of clean water, it's not just about digging wells, but it's about creating less waste that pollutes their water in the first place.

And here's the thing, I don't even know if anyone bothered to read all of this. I don't know if anyone saw the word "deforestation" and was immediately put off. But I'd ask you why. Why are you disinterested in the environment? I think our sinful nature causes this disconnect that we don't actually think what we do could possibly affect someone across the world. God's restoration is all about connecting a disconnected world. That can happen as simply as making the choice to reuse bags instead of getting plastic ones at the store, recycling paper instead of throwing it away, and just reducing the amount of stuff that we have and use.

I think Jesus was totally a hippie, and if he were walking around today, he would be all about the environment. He would tell parables about our attitudes of wanting whatever is most convenient for us. I think Jesus would look at a forest that has been clear-cutted, and it would hurt him to see that disconnect. He'd be sad that His father created all this beautiful stuff, and we didn't care enough about it to take care of it.

God is all about us being different from the world. So what does our use of the resources in the environment say about how we feel about the God who created it all? I think He has a few things to say about this:

Monday, February 1, 2010


Speaking of restoration, I read on someone's facebook status that this is the year of re--... I have no idea what he or she meant by it, but it stuck out to me because our spring conferences for InterVarsity in our area are called Restore and Release. We just had our Restore conference this past weekend at Dickinson College. We were given an hour of silence time for personal reflection at the conference in which I really thought a lot about my own restoration. I wanted to pray for the Millersville students, my LVC friends, and other things, but I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to focus on my own restoration during this hour rather than others. I know it may sound selfish, but I thought of a quote of Thomas Drier that says, "You cannot add to the peace and good will of the world if you fail to create an atmosphere of harmony and love right where you live and work." After going to Urbana and getting all fired up about restoring God's kingdom around the world, it was very fitting to have a conference where we focused on our own restoration because that needs to happen first. It occurred to me that I cannot expect to go out and restore the world if I do not first let God restore me.

Betsy talked last night at our IV meeting about the Hebrew people being enslaved in Egypt before the exodus. They had been slaves there for 400 years so generations had not known what it was like to worship God. They had been in the Egyptian culture for so long, so when Moses asks them to trust God as He freed them, the Hebrew people don't really want to. Even after they're free and wandering in the desert, they're mad at Moses because they would rather have stayed slaves. That's all they knew. But how ridiculous to want to be slaves when God is offering freedom! Betsy compared this to the gods that we worship in our culture, such as image, success, or addictions. It's sick to think that we would experience Stockholm Syndrome to the culture that tries to enslave us and start thinking positively towards these captors when we could be free from these things in Christ. Why do we think it's easier to remain slaves?

When I reflected a few weeks ago about how I see God, the first thing I thought of was a friend of mine who had been enslaved by an eating disorder. She struggled for a long time with it, but one day, she was free. God set her free! I'm not saying it wasn't a process--that it's just easy. But she experienced freedom that only comes from God. And THAT is who my God is. My God gives FREEDOM! Jesus came that we might have life, that we could have a drink of living water that will satisfy us forever.

It isn't easy. You can create boundaries, rules, a 10 step plan... but ultimately, it has to come from God. In Exodus, God explains that He is going to harden Pharaoh's heart so that everyone will know that it is He who rescues the Hebrews from bondage. It wasn't Moses, and it wasn't Pharaoh being nice. God likes being the one who saves us. If our 10 step plan works to restore us, then it's ourselves and that plan that rescues us instead of God getting the glory for the rescue.

Restoration is a process as we struggle and try to hear what God is saying, but in the end, we can give God all the glory because He alone sets us free. I praise God that, actually, every year is the year of re--. But for me, this year in particular demands much needed restoration. In my life, in my family, on campus at Millersville. I crave it. God will never stop restoring what's been lost. That is the one thing I am sure of.

Sunday, January 24, 2010



You believe that we were never friends,
And we were never dating.
So maybe I did imagine it all.
The scenes play over and over in my mind,
Like a bad movie that you wish you had never seen.
I only kept watching because I wanted to see the ending.
I wanted to resolve this mess and rectify your wrongs,
But justification never came.

I loved you, didn’t I?
I took your hits of blame and control,
Seeded with the weight of the hurt you carry,
Always thinking I was waiting for you to heal.
And since I loved you enough to stick around
And be understanding of where you have been,
I thought that things would get better.
But redemption never came.

We never got better. We could never heal
From the ways you threw my pearls before the swine
Time and time again.
And the damned thing is, I let you.
I handed them to you. It must be my fault.
People are supposed to learn from mistakes
And grow stronger and wiser in time.
I thought I was learning, I thought I was being refined.
But sanctification never came.

Maybe you were right,
We were never friends or dating
because after dating, I couldn’t just be your friend.
And after being hurt, I couldn’t truly be with you
Because there were too many walls.
I thought it was only your walls that hurt us,
But in the end, it was the walls I didn’t even know I had up
That made you and me an impossibility.
Donc le chagrin qui marque mon coeur,
Le chagrin que j’ai apporté pour si longtemps,
Il doit être tué.
And why? Because I can live without you.
And it’s time I started resting in that truth
So that my restoration can come.

What is this poem a reprise of? Find out here!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

weakest link

There are many different angles through which one can investigate the history of a country. I had never thought about it before I took a class on Paris my senior year. In high school, we just studied the presidents, the battles, the important inventions. That's what history meant to me. But I actually always believed that an important part of a country or a culture's history is the art, the literature, the architecture. But another interesting way to study history is to look at the poor and the common people. Who were they? Which leads to questions like...Why were they poor? And what was the government doing to help them? In my Paris class, we took a break from talking about kings and generals to look at the common people. People flocked to Paris in hopes of jobs (as always is the case with moving to the city), and they couldn't find jobs. So they resorted to prostitution and that sort of thing.

It gets me thinking about that phrase "you're only as strong as your weakest link." What if that were true of a country? I mean you can experience a country's culture when you travel in a myriad of ways: the landmarks, the museums, the food, the everyday way of life. But what if you traveled around and did volunteer work at places like orphanages, soup kitchens, etc. instead of the usual sightseeing stuff? Your picture of that country would be quite different. I wonder what that kind of experience would be like in comparison to the norm. What if a country was only as strong as their weakest link? It's just interesting to think about.

Which reality counts more? The pride of a country's monuments, museums, and battlefields or the amount of people in their country who have no homes or can't provide meals for their family? I don't know. It makes me sad to think of someone visiting the US and looking at the people sleeping on the streets. Part of me would want to shelter the visitors from the poverty so that I could show them our capitol building and our battlefields where soldiers bravely fought for freedom because I am really proud of those things. Which portrayal is a more accurate reality?

Apparently, the countries in Scandanavia rank as the happiest in the world. Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands are in the top ten. The number 1 happiest country, according to, is Denmark. These countries tend to have high income tax (50% for a middle class worker in Denmark), but that means they have good health care, education systems (college is free in Denmark), and welfare benefits. Denmark has a 99% literacy rate, and supposedly, 95% of their population is Evangelical Lutheran. Well, I'm going off on a tangent because I'm finding Denmark to be so interesting, but my point is, it seems that the poor are definitely taken care of in Denmark. And the country is happier for it. (Although, I must note that the Danes are not known for being friendly, but remember, they descend from brutal vikings!)

All that to just offer a different perspective of viewing a country's history and culture: from the bottom. I think that we're all connected and that my freedom is tied to yours. That's why we're only as strong as our weakest link.