I want that.

Some of the best moments of my life have happened when I am alone, sometimes in the car or at home or somewhere foreign. These moments are like old school photographs where I dropped off some film and had to wait for it to be developed to see the final picture.

These are the ones where you finally get a sense of understanding about why something happened or didn’t. Why you walked through a season that seemed to have no explanation at the time. Why a particular grief was caused. Some of these things we never get answers to. I consider it a grace when I do, God’s way of saying that we will never understand everything, or even most things, but here is a help to guide you, heal you, redeem you.

I had one of those moments recently. Some things had been rolling around my mind throughout the day that seemed like random thoughts, as if they had all been walking around the same neighborhood but never intersecting.  Then I was driving home from work and they all came together like good friends over a good meal. [Aside: is there no better picture of comfort and ease than loving friends joined around a meal and laughter? My favorite.].

The backstory to my revelation: After asking God rather demandingly [usually something along the lines of, “Seriously. Seriously? What was the point of all that!?”] for some time about the meaning of a particular heartbreak, I gained some humility and left my wonderings behind, but my heart, still quite in need of healing, offered up to Him.  I began each day for a long time surrendering my hurt and pain and choosing to believe what I know to be true: You are good.  You are a good Father. You know what is best for me and you work all things for your good purpose.  I want more than anything to be a part of your purposes.

That day in my car what I realized was this: God wants us all out on fragile limb of faith because He wants us to believe he will take care of us.  He wants us spending most of our time and efforts in the deep water where we are really unsure of things and have to depend on something other than ourselves because HE IS WORTHY OF OUR TRUST. [FOR REAL.]

I have said and believed those words to a certain extent, let’s just say a comfortable extent, for some time.  It’s not a new concept.  I trusted God in increments, in amounts that looked and felt like a lot but, when I get real honest it wasn’t very much at all.  When I really looked at my life it was pretty gosh darn safe and full of “good” things.  When I look back on what I finally learned, without realizing it, is that God is really trustworthy and that means that I can venture out into and I daresay live in the area of “want”, an area that has been historically the scariest place of my life.

I love what Allison Vesterfelt says about want,

It was scary to want something.  Wanting something meant feeling the pain of not having it, and feeling the pain of chasing it down.

I have avoided the area of “want” for a long time to avoid that pain.  Growing up I was never very competitive, I think that’s because if I lost, along comes disappointment or worse, rejection.  It was easier to just not care.  That is a profound statement for my life because so much of it is defined by either pretending to not care or living in my authentic self and caring more than any human should be allowed to care.  The empathy dial is always turned up to “very high” on this girl.

The aforementioned heartbreak came from a situation where I had typically denied myself the “want”.  I subconsciously would not allow myself to want because there was the probability it would end in tremendous pain.  Well, somewhere along the way I choose to want it.  For the first time I felt how nice it was to experience what I had denied myself the opportunity to have.  Then it all came crashing down.  The heartbreak I had carefully avoided experiencing came.  For a time I wondered how people experienced it more than once.  It felt like when I was a little kid being caught in a tumbling wave in the ocean, the kind where you can’t find up, you can’t catch your breath, and you keep getting crashed into the sand and picked back up like being in some kind of underwater spin cycle.

All because I wanted something that had great risk attached to it. Because I chose to a little brave.

Your eyes and lungs sting when you get washed ashore and finally get reoriented.  You spend some time catching your breath and coughing up water.  Someone would come over and pat you on the back and push the wet hair out of your face.  But then you went back out in the ocean, wiser, stronger, running faster and with more joy than before.  It was just a wave.

We recover and run back into life again and tackle the next one.  You don’t stop wanting to play in the waves.

That’s what happened in the recovery for me.  I realized that God is worthy of trust and that I can and should want to go after things that seem completely crazy (and quite inconvenient) because He is with me and without this type of sincere faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).  I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.  I want to get more skin in the game.  I want to be a part of hard things where the stakes are high.  Wanting means giving up things.  It means not thinking about my level of comfort and convenience above everything else.

Jennie Allen puts it this way,

Some of us have decorated our prison walls so beautifully that we have altogether forgotten we are sitting in a cell, wasting our lives. We don’t know there are chains that, though they no longer bind us, still seem to tangle us up.  We sit and listen to talks or read good books about God, and we wonder why nothing changes when we so desperately want it to.

I was in an extremely beautiful and good prison cell that had lots of things that looked like God on the walls and on the coffee table and in the words that were spoken, but it was still a prison cell.   Ironically I’m moving to a country where it much more resembles a more literal prison cell but now my heart is a prisoner of hope alone.

Let’s want things that require us to be brave and have sincere faith.

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ignorance is [not] bliss.

I have noticed a trend emphasized by social media that makes me cringe and sometimes even fearful.

Can I put out a desperate plea?

Can we please stop celebrating ignorance?

I want to make the distinction first between celebration and admission.  I firmly believe that admission of ignorance on any given topic whether it be in public forum or discussion between friends is absolutely useful for creating environments of humility, not to say anything of creating strong bonds between people.  If there’s anything that will bring people together more than a common interest, it’s a common coming out of dark about a lack of awareness or know-how about something.  Trust me I have experienced the blessed relief of knowing, “whew, I’m not the only one who has no idea what I’m doing or what to think about this.” My favorite conversations are then the ones that follow, where I try to learn something, to be informed and educated.  That is admission of ignorance, an action that promotes a healthy self-awareness and keeps our egos in check.  Celebration of ignorance is over-embellishing the degree of ignorance and letting ourselves off the hook a bit too easily.  We are better than that.

I will be the first to raise my hand and say I don’t have a clue about many things in life, but I’m desperately trying to figure out how to live it well.  I try to take advantage of opportunities where I can learn something, especially from people who share viewpoints different than mine so I can gain a better perspective and greater understanding. At the same time this is not a plea for us to all try to become know-it-alls.  Besides, we all only have so much mental capacity and things we can afford to ponder in a day while managing our own selves and families  The issue is bragging on our ignorance in attempt to make ourselves more likable, to appear funnier.  Let’s not trade a humble quest for knowledge for shallow and fleeting solidarity among the peanut gallery.

Let’s not glorify in a facebook post how we don’t know how to operate our iphone.

Let’s not glorify to our friends how we don’t understand anything about retirement plans.

Let’s not glorify to our coworkers how impossibly complex the global trafficking issue is.

I have mentioned before how sometimes this world just seems like too much.  Problems are just too big and too hard to solve.  That is a dangerous mentality to get comfortable in because it takes us from despair to indifference.  But that’s the thing, if we are going to be a people that matter, in the sacred words of Schoolhouse Rock, “knowledge is power”.  The injustices of this world require people who 1. want to pursue understanding and 2. use it for good.  So when we start to feel overwhelmed by our lack of  understanding about something let’s do something about it or keep our concerns to ourselves.

Image

We have several options, but the option of elevating ignorance to celebration status is the worst one.  If we celebrate ignorance in the small things like not understanding technology it is a slippery slope to celebrating ignorance in the big things.

1. Ask for help. Do go ahead and put out an APB on facebook to get help for your iphone problem, understanding troop involvement in Chad, or bitcoin [I’m still lost on that one, but it falls into #3 for me].  Don’t post a conversation to social media between you and your husband showing how “funny” you are because you know nothing about cell phones.

2. Research.  Start with reputable sources you trust and go from there.  Don’t let yourself off the hook with the excuse that “you don’t know where to start”.  Google is your friend.

3. Move along.  If you find yourself in a conversation where you are not familiar with the topic, it’s really ok to just say so, admitting ignorance, or an even rarer feat, say nothing.  I think it is a very healthy and respectful notion to not feel compelled to jump into a conversation and fake your way through it.  At all costs, do not aggrandize your ignorance by saying it is “over your head” or the like. If you are not interested in the subject, move on from it or listen and learn.

If you want to celebrate ignorance make it a party of one. If you want to admit ignorance, learn something, and carry that with you, then by all means, party on.

 

repairs.

It was early, almost unbearably early, but when it is routine somehow the unbearable is just normal.

So in the early, dark morning as I made my usual route to work, the ding sounded in my car signaling some problem.  My car has lots of pictures programmed to communicate what it’s issue is.  This one was pretty clear: a thermometer floating in some liquid.

Never good.  Especially in a car you’re about to sell.

I loathe dealing with car issues.  All of a sudden fear and gray hairs sprout up like an epidemic throughout my being.  It’s rooted in having to make decisions without having expert knowledge, or ever amateur knowledge about what the problem is.  I have to rely on someone else and hope they are not taking me to the cleaners. There are always tears involved.  I praise God for the mechanic I have found in Houston who reminds me a lot of my own Dad and gives advice to me like I am his own daughter.

After some rounds at my trusty car mechanic, I ended at the dealership getting a recalled part and unexpectedly the thermostat replaced.

<$$$$$>

I paid the hefty bill.  Problem fixed with a swipe.  I drove away happy to not stress anymore wondering if fire was about to erupt from my hood at any moment.

As much as my natural inclination should have been to dwell on feeling sick at spending so much money, [be assured there was temporary stress, albeit no tears this time], I left feeling thankful that there are problems that can be fixed as simply as car repairs.  I took my car in, got a loaner, got a phone call, got a bill, got my car back good as new.

Instead I thought about all the things in my life that I wish could be repaired with the swipe of a card.  I thought about all the things in this world that I wish could be repaired as easily.  I was suddenly very thankful for an easy problem. I was suddenly thankful for a problem with an easy, black and white answer.  It gives my brain a momentary break from battling the much larger gray areas of this life that are not quick, easy fixes.  That might be the most frustrating thing about trying to solve the world’s problems is that so many of them just take so much time.  A broken heart that began with such a good dream, faded into a nightmare, and then is left navigating each day in a fog trying to wake up while the rest of the world around you seems to just be going along as normal.   A broken friendship, a loss of a parent, friend, or child, the loss of the future that would never be.  Loss is just so overwhelming.

Then there are the problems that plague this earth on such a grand scale it feels like too much.  Where to even start.  Bill Gates is currently featuring what he calls “Mosquito Week” on his blog.  Did you know that mosquitoes kill more humans that any other animal on earth, even more than humans kill each other, by almost twice as much. For those it doesn’t kill it is so debilitating it limits any potential a person has to have a full life.  Suddenly I’m laying awake thinking about how I need to donate some mosquito nets, money for malaria pills, cases of OFF, something…

Overwhelming.  Such need of repair.

I recently finished Anne Lamott’s “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair”.  Such a good read, good for the soul.  In it she says,

This is all that restoration requires most of the time, that one person not give up.

Not giving up is hard, but it makes looking at this mess of a world less hopeless.  We just have to all keep calling each other out of the dark.  Keep moving on.  As I recently saw on a sign, we all just keep walking each other home.  So in broad strokes, I will keep taking that view of things.  I take comfort in the struggle:

God often seems unconcerned with helping us maintain the same, simple lives where everything fits and works…You have to thank God for the seemingly good and the seemingly bad because really [we] don’t know the difference. – Jennie Allen

While I wish there weren’t problems to begin with, the truth is there are, and it feels like there are a lot more L’s than W’s at the moment.  So if this week the immediate problem was a problem with my car, I’ll take that kind of repair.

 

 

eating things. [honey beer bread]

there’s something about seeing your house filled with people you love, something about feeding people, especially on days when it seems like you can’t make a dent in any of the larger, more theoretical challenges in life. – shauna niequist

I really like food.

What I love so much about food is that it brings people together and usually makes people happy.  I love having people over, creating things in the kitchen, and laughing around the table as we all partake.

This fool-proof recipe came from a friend a few years ago and is one of my favorite indulgences to throw together a few times a year to have with breakfast, a snack, a late night snack, you know…let’s call it what it is, a calorie laden guilty pleasure that takes 3 minutes to get in the oven.

Honey Beer Bread

3 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

12 ounces of room temperature beer [not light, I usually use Shiner or Shiner blonde]

1/2 stick butter

honey to taste

Comine flour, sugar, baking powder and then add beer.  Pour into lightly greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes or until the top has a touch of golden color, remove and pour melted butter over top of loaf and return to oven for 15-20 minutes or until loaf is golden.

This is best enjoyed fresh from the oven with a dab of honey.  You can thank me later.

thinking things.

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we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.

– albert einstein

I enjoy thinking.  Thinking about things might be one of my favorite things.

Except when it’s not.  That is usually around Friday from the hours of 2:30-5:30pm, after that I’m good to go again.

I like to read things that make me think.  I like to read things I don’t agree with, that I somewhat agree with, and things I unapologetically agree with.  So I will post links here to things I’ve read that exercise my brain, some will be a gentle stroll on a perfect 72 degree 46% humidity day while others will be that half marathon I did that one time that made me question everything that brought me to that point, or your version of that.  I possess the belief we cannot shelter our minds from what makes us uncomfortable in hopes that the world will just magically become a better place without thinking about the hard things.  Thinking allows us to then go DO hard things with hopefully more compassion, but maybe less certainty than we had before.  I think the snap judgement and shallow thinking epidemic permeating our media is revolting, which is addressed in the first link.  So let’s think on and then do things.

I like discussion too, especially the kind that doesn’t have easy, quick answers.

A few things that make me think:

The Culture of Shut-Up

The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment, but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by us—by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree.

Portraits of Reconciliation

“These people can’t go anywhere else — they have to make peace,” Hugo explained. “Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence. It’s more out of a survival instinct.” 

PERPETRATOR:  “I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”

SURVIVOR: “I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.”

 Devotionals for Holy Week: Love to the Uttermost

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1

 

musings: an introduction.

I have lots of thoughts.

As in, my mind is very inquisitive about the whys and hows of people and life. Often times I create the whys and hows when there are not immediate answers to satisfy my curiosity.

For example, I always wonder how bumper stickers end up getting put on crooked. In my mind a bumper sticker is a pretty serious commitment.  They are usually positing some personal belief or at the very least some kind of identification of whoever drives the car. On top of that, once it’s on there you can’t just easily peel it off and try again, you have one shot at greatness.  I guess the gravity of applying a bumper sticker comes from a Dad who painstakingly measured anything to the millimeter before it was hung or applied with extreme care to ensure it’s symmetry and balance. {disclaimer: I am the one who in such excitement to get things on the wall will end up putting 47 holes in the sheet rock to hang one picture.}

So, I might decide when I see a crooked bumper sticker the car owner was in their driveway one sunny Sunday afternoon carefully contemplating where they wanted to place this new badge of honor for other road warriors to see.  All of a sudden, just in the moment the adhesive was to touch the bumper, it happened.  From out of nowhere a stealthy spider dangled down from it’s web directly in front of the bumper stick installer and scared the bajeezus out of them causing the sticker to get slanted in its application.  Or maybe the real reason behind crooked bumper stickers is people are just so excited to get them on there they don’t use my Dad’s precision, but instead my confident fire, aim, ready approach.  Either way…

These kinds of things go through my mind, in rapid succession.  I can tell you’re concerned.

However sometimes I get to the more complicated issues of life.  I can’t seem to spin a story that makes any kind of sense.  I have these monologues in my mind about whys and hows.  What sometimes feels like a very one-sided conversation with God I know is really Him working on me, pulling me further away from easy explanations and snap judgements.

The older I get I seem to have more questions and less answers, there is so much more grey than black and white.

While at the same time I feel more sure of who I am becoming than ever before.  God seems to give us what we need. I have always needed more than so many other things, to know who I am, and He gives without hesitation.  I rest in that.

I intend for this space to be a place where I can flesh out some of the grey in my day to day life, along with the funny, mundane, and random, and especially to record my adventures when I move to Shanghai in August.

The title for this blog comes from one of my favorite books, Love Does by Bob Goff.  He says that living life with too much fanfare and too much focus on presenting the impressive version of yourself ends up with you getting tangled in your cape instead of being loving and effective. Be secretly incredible.  So, no cape here.  A long suppressed love of writing and the potential to sow lots of good memories plus the prodding from a good friend have culminated in the existence of this space.  Enjoy.