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one of the ways I’ve seen God’s provision most is absolutely, positively through the relationships He’s placed throughout my entire life. I can look back and see how there was special purpose to so many of the friendships i had and even bad dating relationships that i had. as i’ve become a christian, that reality has only grown and shown itself to be even more true. such was the case when I moved up here to Grand Rapids and barely knew a soul–but instantly had a new best friend.

essentially, when Mallory and I had visited, we went to Mars Hill for church and were going to go grab pizza and play games with the one guy I knew in this entire city. as we were gearing up to go do that, a girl walks up and she decides to come join us. end of story. we got along great and when she found out I was moving up here, she called me and we made plans to hang out when I moved up, she invited me to join her Bible study, to go to Mars Hill with her–the whole shebang. and that friendship, which started off so briefly, has been so amazing for me, growing my faith and encouraging me and opening a ton of doors for me.

one of which is the aforementioned Bible study she invited me to join. it’s been phenomenal. i have to say, that is the one thing I look forward to most every week. I’d done small groups before, but what I absolutely love about this one is how diverse it is. it’s all women, but women of all ages. in my group, i’m the youngest and there are moms with teenagers, younger single women, older single women, grandmothers. and it’s beautiful to see how they can all minister to one another and be an encouragement for one another. like when i was sad and just flat-out admitted that i missed Michael and wasn’t enjoying the whole “long-distance” aspect of our relationship. i expected them to pooh-pooh me and shove it off because dating is not marriage and you don’t know love until you’re married. but they didn’t. they looked me square in the eyes and said, “yes, that has to be hard. i understand. i remember. that’s hard.” to feel understood and to realize, “you mean, i’m not crazy for feeling this way? i’m not acting like a cheesy middle school girl? it’s ok to feel this way and still be a grown-up?” it was so touching.

it’s also here that i’ve started meeting with a woman who is giving me some insights into what i trust God has for my future, which is marriage. i’m stepping out in faith and trusting that that desire that is on my heart is one He is going to fulfill. so, while I wait,  I wait in faith and begin preparing, even now though that hasn’t come to pass yet. when God promised Abraham that He’d give him so many descendents that he wouldn’t be able to count them, Abraham had to shake his head and say, “Well I have no idea how that’s going to happen because from my vantage point it seems impossible…but…i trust you LORD. I know in you all things are possible.” (well of course he didn’t actually say those things, but essentially that’s the circumstance he found himself in and that’s how I relate to it.) i want to, when i see the seemingly impossible before me, KNOW that it’s not too big for God and step out in faith, waiting expectantly and excitedly for God to provide it. and I’ve seen the firstfruits of that promise already, in an amazing boyfriend who has already defied so many of my expectations. God has done an amazing work in him and, though i often forget and somehow manage to take his heart for granted, he still is someone that i just simply have an awe for–because of how I can see him live out Christ and chase after God and humble himself and just love. it’s not that i’m putting him on a pedestal, but it’s recognizing the amazing treasure that’s before me.

that epitomizes many of my relationships right now: both with the new freinds in my multi-generational Bible study and with Michael and with Him.

“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty,  “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” — Malachi 3:10

are you still there? do you still think to stop by, despite the fact that every time you have over the past month, it’s been desolate and dusty?

 

this past month has been nothing less than a whirlwind, as nothing in my life has gone unchanged. from my location to my job to my friends to my calendar to my love life, everything’s completely different. part of that is exciting (i’ll let you guess what part that is!) and part of it is terrifying.

 

last week, when i’d just started the new job and i was only days into my new life here in grand rapids, i got overwhelmed with being homesick and questioning the decision i’d made to move here. i wondered if this was really where i was supposed to be, because it didn’t feel good and things were hard. i moved here for community, and i didn’t feel that swaddling me like it did in cincinnati. i wasn’t finding myself surrounded by inspiring, on-fire-for-God people like i’d hoped and prayed. i was having a hard time adjusting to my new job and all the new demands and figuring out whether i’m good enough at it.

 

in short, i was doubting that God had really brought me here (had i been tricked or led astray?) and if he had, i was rushing God to fulfill those promises. i cried a lot about it. then i started reading this book that Michael and I are going through together (like our own two-person book club, which i absolutely love!) called anonymous. i posted about it on here before, but–because God is always and forever so good–it happened to be that the part i was at in that moment of distress and questioning, was exactly what i needed to hear.

 

i was reading about Jesus’ temptation in the desert and how the devil first tempted him by appealing to his appetite. the book points out how food and eating is a good and natural longing. but it turned into a temptation, a lure to disobey God because Jesus was in the midst of fasting and was waiting on God until he finished. though hunger is not innately a sin, when we rush past God to grab at it, it can become one. that’s exactly what i was doing: wanting a godly community and wanting to be fulfilled by my job are both good desires. and i believe they’re both desires God wants to fulfill–but that’s going to be in His own time, not in mine. for now, while i’m waiting on those answers, i must allow Him to be enough, rather than rush past Him onto His provisions and creations and blessings.

 

it makes me disappointed in myself how i can treat Him that way and forget His goodness and all the ways He’s blessed me and answered me so many times in the past. but i know that’s what makes me human. that’s why the Old Testament is so full of phrases like “God of Israel” and “God of Jacob” and “God of Abraham”–because we constantly have to be reminded of what God’s done for us in the past and what he’s promised to bring about in the future.

 

so now things are good. i’m trying to be patient and allow God to work and lead and guide me as those promises come to pass. i’m trying not to get distracted from the reason he brought me here. i’m trying to keep the focus on him and not on my schedule or my to-do list. that’s been the hardest part, hands down. i really need to watch how i spend my time and make sure he’s getting the chunk he deserves. so if you can be praying for that for me, i’d really appreciate it.

now i had done this sort of informational interview seeking once before, right after i graduated college and thought i wanted to move to new york city. i couldn’t find a job and decided to visit the city and see what i could do. before going, i lined up as many interviews as i could, at places like teen people, ym, cosmogirl, and the knot magazine. (you see, i’ve always had a thing for teen girls!)

so my inclination with this grand rapids visit was originally to line up as many interviews as possible, but at this point i only had one. but Something told me to pursue this one avenue–to see it through and to trust. so i fought my urge to blanket the city with resumes and pitches and cover letters, i sat still. and waited.

when mal and i visited, it was great how people reached out to us. even before the visit, we seemed to be getting signs that there was a community already waiting for us up there–with people eager to open their homes to us and encouraging us to come. kevin had invited friends over and mallory made all sorts of new contacts up there for us. it was amazing to see that all weave together and get some sort of bricks laid for that. even moreso, when i told kevin where i was interviewing and remembered he had a friend who worked at Baker and i should call him to get a sense of the company. i did, and it ended up that the woman i was interviewing with was his boss! he would be a coworker in the same department! so i asked him my questions about the company and he assured me that it was a stand-up, practice-what-they-preach company. that’s what i wanted to hear. if i was going somewhere to grow closer to God, i wanted to be sure that’s what i could expect.

the last day we were in town (a monday) was the day of the interview. somehow through the whole process, God gave me an insane peace about everything. and you should know i’m, by nature, a worry wort. when i was in grade school i could never enjoy a snow day because i always thought that perhaps i’d misread the information and we actually weren’t off school. i’d freak myself out and not trust that it was truly a day off. but with grand rapids, i wasn’t worried or rushed or stressed or anxious. i just trusted: that God would provide a job if he was going to point me in that direction. that i’d figure everything out with my living situation in cincinnati. all the things that people asked me if i’d considered and what i was going to do. all i could do is shrug and say i don’t know, and be done with it. how glorious and releasing is that?!

so upon going in for my interview, i could not have been more at ease. mallory drove me to the interview and before i went in, prayed for me. my peace grew. i walked in and met with the interview lady, and it was like meeting with a friend. we got along great and talked shop but also talked about life and the way God works. she recommended books to read to me and gave me one to take with me and i made recommendations for her. i walked away feeling like this is a woman i could really look up to and respect, not just as far as a job goes but also as far as having as a sort of mentor in my life. to have that as a boss? that’s pretty phenomenal!

so i walked away from the interview with a good feeling brewing in my stomach–as if i already belonged to this place. we went to a cute french cafe and met more new friends before hitting the road for the 6-hour return trip to cincinnati. oh and i forgot to mention that the night before we were able to check out mars hill. and even though rob bell had taken a hiatus from speaking only weeks before we came to visit, i learned so much more in that one “gathering” than i had in a long time at a church service back home. things were looking good…

now that i’m living semi-permanently in the northern ‘burbs of cincinnati, i decided to take advantage of the locale and check out the Cincinnati House of Prayer (c-hop, which i will heretofore refer to as “the chop chop”).

first, wouldn’t it be my luck that the one street that it’s on “Carnegie Way” is the only street that is not labeled? i drove the entire length of the connecting street, for about 20 minutes and starting turning down every side street in case it was it. finally, i found it. i checked the schedule that was posted outside the door and i was just in time for “worship with the word” which was my favorite time when we were at IHOP-KC.

there’s a small little bookstore and cd shop set up in the lobby and then down a hallway is the prayer room. it was much like IHOP-KC except that it had more of a living-room kind of vibe which i really liked. the lights were dimmed and there were three girls playing from the stage. there were about 10 other people in the prayer room and it was definitely a fostering sort of atmosphere. there were flags on the walls to pray for and verses on a white board to spur reflection.

just like IHOP-KC it was easy to sit still and read and reflect and journal for an hour without noticing. and that’s what i needed. that’s what i need. i hope to be able to stop by there more often. it’s funny how powerful and more effective prayer and solitude can be when you’re around other people, even when you never say a word to them.

matthew 8:20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

* * * * * * * * *

here’s the schedule for “the chop chop” because you can’t find it on their website (but you can find better directions there):

sunday:
open from 12-8pm, featuring a live webcast from IHOP-KC prayer room

monday:
from 8am to 10am is the live webcast from the KC prayer room
from 10am to noon is a devotional
from noon to 4pm is the live webcast again
from 4pm to 6pm is intersession
from 6pm to 7pm is worship
from 7pm to 9pm is worship with the word

tuesday:
from 8am to 4pm is the live webcast from the KC prayer room
from 4pm to 6pm is intersession
from 6pm to 7pm is the live webcast
from 7pm to 9pm is worship with the word

wednesday:
from 8am to 10am is devotional
from 10am to 2pm is the live webcast
from 2pm to 4pm is intercession
from 4pm to 5pm is contemplative
from 5pm to 7pm is the live webcast
from 7pm to 9pm is intercessory dance

thursday:
from 7am to 9am is devotional with an israel focus
from 9am to 4pm is the live webcast
from 4pm to 6pm is intercession
from 6pm to 10pm is the live webcast

friday:
from 8am to 6pm is the live webcast
from 6pm to 8pm is worship
from 8pm to 10pm is intercession
from 10pm to midnight is live webcast

saturday:
from 8am to 1pm is live webcast
from 1pm to 3pm is youth team practice
from 3pm to 6pm is live webcast
from 6pm to 8pm is intercession with an israel focus

it seems as though nothing of great import has been going on lately, but at the same time i know a lot has been happening and why do i undermine/lessen that? i’m not sure. i guess because it’s my own life and that just makes it seem all the more ordinary. but at the same time, it is LIFE! and isn’t that extraordinary enough?

i just got confirmation that i will be returning to san diego again this spring for a work trip, the Y Design Conference that i attended last year. that was my first solo trip and now that i have another under my belt, i have confidence that i can make it as successful (from a work and networking point-of-view) as the last.

and so part of me is looking forward to it, as a challenge toward independence–to take on a new city and a big crowd of strangers and make something of it. but a greater part of me is sick of uprooting and starting over, even if just for a weekend. i like consistency and keeping what i have and watching it flourish, rather than have to start a new plot over every couple of years. first it was high school, then it was college, then it was birmingham, then it was cincinnati. i’m ready to dig my heels in and make it last, once and for all. and this just reminds of that and how life is constantly revolving through seasons. but for once, i really love where i am. and i don’t want to see it washed away.

but of course i know that it will only continue to get better. but i think the struggle comes with the fact that for that to happen means that it’s not going to be easy. and part of me just wants a rest to enjoy what i have, rather than keeping with the learning and the toil and tilling. but i know that that’s how we get to that enjoyment, that’s the way of God.

in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books, there’s a part where this kid rescues a girl who’s been snubbing him the entire journey, and he runs to get her help but the hermit tells him he must keep running to deliver a warning because an enemy army is on its way. the book says:

Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.

and that’s how growth happens.

i think one of the things i hate most about going on solo work trips is that i step in as the face of our magazine and have to represent that, which is a lot of responsibility because i respect what we do so much. so i walk in and have to network and mingle and represent and wear this face and try to make friends, and it’s all just so taxing. and at the end of the day it’s just not me. that’s not how i do relationships; it seems pretty pointless to me, to just make a friend for a day.

that’s something that i’ve learned over the past year or so–where my strengths lie. i guess it was last summer when i was teaching the teen girls’ sunday school class and then going down to Over the Rhine. every sunday i would get back from OTR around 3 or 4 and just feel drained. and not a good, refreshing drainage but like i was being wrung out. i realized that as much as my heart loves OTR and what they do and that I want to be that kind of person who goes out to strangers and loves them as they are and witnesses in that way, it’s not me. i’m by nature a pretty reserved person. i don’t like small talk. i don’t make friends anywhere and everywhere. instead, i prefer to have a few good friends who i know deeply and who i can turn to with anything and be completely honest and completely genuine, even when it comes to my fears or my shortcomings or my dreams. i look at those relationships and realize that i don’t need any more friends. i have a lot that makes me feel genuinely bad for people who don’t know love like i do.

and when i realized that that’s the way i develop friendships–intimately and few rather than spread over dozens of sandwiches and faces–i decided to give up OTR and focus on youth group where i feel like i can put who i’m made to be to best, most fruitful use. and though i am aware of the bigger problems facing the world and that i do feel deeply for poverty and injustice, i just feel like my place is with these girls as they experience every day and i try to help them do that, one lesson, one laugh, one conversation at a time.

so i am excited for this work trip, another chance to see the sunny ocean of San Diego again. but you see why there’s such a tug-and-pull about it, as i take a deep breath and forge ahead despite my inhibitions. i’ll be hopping a plane the end of next month.

this week has flown by. case in point: every tuesday we have our staff meeting and i was sitting at my desk when one of my coworkers stopped by another’s desk and said, “it’s that time again!” scratching my head (i’m always afraid i forgot to write a meeting down), i glanced at the clock: 2pm. in fact, it was tuesday not monday, as i’d otherwise thought. that has been the theme of this week.

because here i am today, at friday.

it’s been a busy week at work; we just sent our april issue to the printer and are already rockin’ and rollin’ on june and just starting assigning august features. then, i’m taking over our bimonthly e-newsletter, so i’m gearing up for that. and on top of that, there’s another big project that seems looming over the horizon.

but it’s good because it makes me feel really productive. monday i spent recovering from my TCTC weekend and catching up on TV; tuesday was a lovelies night where we flipped through magazines and checked out some more bridesmaids dress options (slowly but surely!); wednesday was my small-group meeting at starbucks; last night holly’s friend brandon came over in our first installment of Special Guest Nights in Mariemont–it was fun. we made grilled cheese and soup (which he called “a treat”!) and watched MTV and then played the oldest version of clue i’ve ever seen! and tonight i’m going to step on a soccer field for the first time since 1999, in my junior year of high school. eek! but i’m playing with kitty so i’m totally stoked.

so life is ticking along. so quickly, in fact that i’ve already started getting emails about … SWIMMING SUITS! where did winter go?!

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I know thanksgiving was officially a week ago, but I also know that a day is only just that—a day. And so today I feel like it’s more like thanksgiving than a week ago. Why? Quite simply, the power of friendship.

For awhile there, I was holed-up in myself. It was the holidays so people were busy and I was just in a mood where I didn’t really feel like reaching out. I didn’t feel like catching people up on what was going on, I didn’t feel like talking about it and rehashing it again and again. But then I realized that—while I hope I’m great company for other people—I’m not good company for myself in times like these. It reminds me of the part in Chronicles of Narnia when Father Christmas comes and says that winter is finally starting to end, and all the ice starts melting and the grass starts showing and then the rivers break free.  Things come back to life.

That’s what I look at my friends and see.
Friday:
Betsy called to set up a date, which goes to show that ESP runs her in her family because it was just what I needed. Even though I probably wasn’t willing to reach out, I needed that time. We went to Max and Erma’s and gorged on their soup and fries and sandwiches and all kinds of conversation. It was a nice relief to everything else.
Tuesday:
Lovelies date with Holly and Kitty, which included Chipotle and crafts trips. We hadn’t done one of those in quite some time, either, because Betsy’s been traveling, but I knew that I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t not “fellowship,” however much it’s nice to self-indulge and sulk.
Wednesday: Lunch with Bee, then small group with Cathy and Brianna, which I’ve realized I need greatly in my life. I’d never had much experience with small groups before, but now I’m a big advocate, because I can see that where I’ve been really sad lately, that outlet has also been missing. We didn’t meet for almost two months, which is about just as long as I’ve been feeling upset. And so I know that things will still be tough and all that, but I think that that’s a good anchor to keep in my life, because it’s so rooted in what’s real and spiritual and connecting.
And then! I got to talk for about an hour to my friend Kristin, who lives in Phoenix. My dear, dear Kristin, who I haven’t talked to in probably months. Fortunately, the time change is now on our side (Arizona doesn’t abide by the laws of time, evidently) so she’s only 2 hours behind. And it’s funny because I didn’t even meet Kristin until spring quarter of my senior year—Easter weekend to be exact. And when we did meet, we were both trashed (I’m almost certain it was the drunkest I’ve ever been). And yet, that’s all it took. Ever since, we’ve been close and I can remember when I moved to Birmingham, she was the one I talked to most, even though at that point we’d only been friends for 4 months.

And that’s the thing I love most about friends, about the friends that I’m so fortunate to have, is that you know how genuine the friendship is when you can go for a time apart and then come back together like it was only a moment, rather than weeks or months. It’s like, time doesn’t distance you like it normally would. I’ve always held those relationships up as my only tool for comparison when it comes to love. That they are true love, and that I’ll know romantic love from holding it up to that light. It’s a tool that I hold dearly because I know that even if nothing else does compare, that I always have it there, undeniably. Even when I push away, they pull back, because they love and they care and they are selfless and know what to do.

So, I’m thankful. Thankfully.

Everyone likes lists, right? Well welcome to the humble abode of the List Maker:

  • I was talking to Holly last night (in the midst of all-out, no holds barred girl talk) and mentioned that “Emotions aren’t logical.” and I think about it, and it seems ever more true. For instance, an hour ago I could not have been any more upset and angered, towing my little gray storm cloud (not even a rain cloud would do!) behind me. And while I’m still hurt and upset, I’m licking my wounds a bit more because now I’m softened. But the sad thing is that I know that if you give me long enough, even just a few hours, that rollercoaster will take off again. And that instability, inconsistency just doesn’t make sense. Illogical.
  • Which leads me to my next point. God isn’t logical. But that’s one of the reasons why I love him so much—he’s so much bigger than I can understand and I think that’s a good thing. I rest assured putting my faith and hopes and future in the hands of someone who is that much bigger than me, someone who I can’t even come close to understanding. Because I’m not supposed. That’s why I’m made in his image; merely a reflection, not an equal.
  • I gave up reading that book “A General Theory of Love.” it was interesting at first, talking about all the different roles of the brain and how the brain’s evolved and that the last evolvement (the limbic part of the brain) is where emotions came into play. it was interesting and had me captivated for about an evening, but then I got tired of wading through the science-y muck.
  • I’ve now started reading this book I nabbed when I was down in Birmingham—back in 2004. It’s called “Devil in the Details” and is a memoir of a girl who suffers from OCD. I’m only about 20 pages into it because last night I was set to dig in and waste my night away doing that but, given the Rollercoaster, couldn’t concentrate and instead wasted it on naps and TV.
  • I’m patiently waiting for a package of American Apparel t-shirts to arrive. I ordered them about a week and a half ago, I think. I WANT MY CUTE V-NECK T-SHIRTS!!
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  • This weekend I’m going on a retreat for the middle and high school ministries at church. I’m really looking forward to it and to take a break from everything stressful that’s going on, and just focus on things that are good and healthy and hopeful and promising. Which is also why I’ve agreed to go to this teen christian convention, TCTC, as a chaperone in January. I know it’s some time away and I know that after last January, I said I’d never do another overnight again (those kids can be so wild, and I’m not one for discipline), but I feel like this is something I’m sure I can’t go wrong with. So I’m looking forward to it and, for one weekend, letting go of the selfishness that otherwise consumes my life.
  • tonight I’m going to paul’s awards dinner + ceremony. I’m conflicted about it because everything has not been going well in that area and I feel like this is just one more opportunity for stuff (well nice to meet you, euphemism) to hit the fan. I want it to go well and for things to be smoothed over with us but my hopes aren’t high. It just seems that frustration has been reigning supreme lately, above all else. And that’s draining. So we’ll see. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I’m so glad to get away this weekend.

today could not be any more confusing, any more shape-shifting, any more clumsy. i can hardly think straight long enough to formulate a fluent train of thought, everything’s so mishmashed and disjointed. i think that’s what happens when everything gets turned upside down and you don’t even know where to begin. that’s how i feel.

but despite that, today has reignited my love for my friends, who make me fancy mashed potatoes and cookies with frosting and who come to hang out because they know i need it. of course i never doubted that; i know how blessed i am with my friends. but it feels good to feel loved and to know it, without a doubt, deep into your bones.

part of me is really sad and part of me is really relieved. and unfortunately i don’t think this is the time/place to go into such things. so i apologize for the enigmatic-ness of this entry. but it feels good to admit that everything isn’t ok. that sometimes things suck.

and so i’m reminded of a sermon jonathan did a long time ago–i’m guessing around Easter–when he talked about how, like Jesus, there are going to be Fridays in our lives. but, as with his ressurrection, SUNDAY will always triumph. so long as we love God and embrace his will, Sunday will always come and we will be rescued.

right now a Hey Mercedes song just came on, and it seems fitting: “it’s such a beautiful day to be sad.” because today after church, it started raining, big cold heavy wet raindrops. and i had to walk around in them. but i didn’t run or try to cover up because it was comforting–that i was sad and the weather didn’t laugh in my face, but instead consoled and let me continue that way, to ride the wave out and embrace it and sink into it.

before that was my favorite Smoking Popes song where it goes “no more smiles, it’s just teardrops falling to the ground. now it’s around here, i don’t love you anymore. and i’m sorry about it, when did my heart change its mind? must have been near the changing of time. no more smiles from now on, they are all gone. i’ll never understand what went wrong.” and the third song in this little string of consolations is an Andrew Bird one, titled, “Don’t Be Scared.” which i think is a good note to end on. because Sunday will always come. and i know that even though things suck and i don’t know what they mean or where they’re coming from, that that is a comfort. and i have nothing to be scared from. God has carried me this far, so why would he let go anytime soon? He won’t.

it’s silly to be happy about this, but i am. after months of bemoaning and not really doing anything about it, i’ve finally found my way to a new book that makes me giddy and unable to put down.

on sunday, i had an afternoon and evening to myself. so after taking a nap and then finally making my way to the grocery store and back, and finishing the book i’d previously forced myself through (unfortunately i have to admit it was “the lion, the witch and the wardrobe,” which i’d originally read years ago and didn’t remember being so simple)–it was still early. i’d already caught up on all of my television shows (which is impressive in and of itself), so i decided to pick up another book from my shelf. i’d started collecting a lot from the library in hopes that one of them would stick. as it turns out, the one that did was one i’d bought a long time ago. it’s called “with or without you” by cameron conant.

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it’s another relevant book and it’s a guy’s memoir about his relationship–into love and eventually out of, culminating with getting divorced. i think that’s one of the reasons that i’d put off reading it; because i was scared of what i’d read or what it’d say or how it’d change my own insights. i was afraid it’d make me sad and depressed and weary of relationships.

but it’s heartening and very human. you feel sorry for the guy–what started out as love morphs into hardened hearts and unapologetic expectations–but you also totally relate to him. you can see how something started out so innocent–the idea that “I couldn’t imagine life without her”–and how that just isn’t always enough to base a relationship on if you don’t have other things in place, namely resting on God instead of on another person. (i think the captivating and wild at heart books do a good job of talking about those ideas and how important it is to not manipulate where you look for fulfillment–it can only come from God, not from another, flawed human.) i think the reason why i like the book so much is because i do identify with him; it reminds me of the past relationships i’ve had and makes me thankful that those paths ended when they did, and i (selfishly) didn’t have to go through all the pain that this guy did. it’s encouraging and comforting in a sad kind of way.

right now i’m at the end, where he’s talking about his spiritual life and how his divorce has shaped it. how he’s learned to depend on God, but also how he feels like his Christian community hasn’t really lived up to their end of the deal. i think he looks at it from the perspective of, that’s just another reason why you have to let God and His grace be enough, but i think that’s one thing that’s sad to me–that i want to see people step up to the plate and be there for one another. of course that’s me being hypocritical, because i know i let my selfishness get in the way, too. i just wish it weren’t that way.

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my involvement in small groups at church has had an interesting path. i sampled one or two in college, another when i went to birmingham and then another at the first church i tried when i moved back to cincinnati. nothing stuck, nothing was compelling.

then i found eastside, and through eastside, a small group where i met the girls who would later become my best friends. it was an unequivocal blessing. that group grew and became too massive and unruly so i left and put my passions elsewhere–into leading the junior high girls and into helpOTR. after being out of a same-age small group for about 10 months, in march i joined up with one. we started off reading “fight like a girl.” and it was what i needed. in tara leigh cobble’s book “here’s to hindsight,” she talks about the Tuesday Night Jesus Club gatherings she and her friends would have down in nashville. i like to think of this as my own little version.

we made our way through “fight like a girl” (a pretty good book, although i’d recommend “captivating” as a more useful and insightful read), and have just started on the relevant book “what now?”. we’re still in the beginnings, but the book is about finding your god-given purpose, and yesterday it included a quiz about uncovering your spiritual gifts. i’d never really taken one of those tests, but this one was really, really interesting. i was actually surprised by the “results” it offered up, and in that way, very pleased. i love when you get epiphanies about yourself that had been heretofore hidden from you. it’s like getting a cupcake with sprinkles or something. very tasty and out-of-the-blue.

the gifts it pointed out for me after a little quiz (that link shows all the possible gifts):

  • mercy; “The special gift whereby the Spirit enables certain Christians to feel exceptional empathy and compassion for those who are suffering (physically, mentally, or emotionally) so as to feel genuine sympathy for their misery, speaking words of compassion, but more so caring for them with acts of love that help alleviate their distress.”
  • faith; “The special conviction God gives to some to be firmly persuaded of God’s power and promises to accomplish His will and purpose and to display such a confidence in Him and His Word that circumstances and obstacles do not shake that conviction.”
  • pastor/shepherd; “The special ability God gives to some to assume a long-term personal responsibility for leadership and the spiritual care, protection, guidance, and feeding (teaching) of a group of believers.”
  • teaching; “The special ability God gives to some to explain the truths of the Word of God clearly and to apply them effectively so that those taught understand and learn. To instruct others in the Bible in a logical and systematic way so as to communicate pertinent information for true understanding and growth.”

the whole “pastor/shepherd” one kind of freaks me out because it sounds so B-I-G, but at the same time it’s really heartening. and makes sense considering the place where i’ve ended up and the relationships i’ve made along the way.

and so, dovetailing on that, another small group is on it’s way, too. eastside has been pushing its new tapestry series and encouraging every person in the congregation to join a small group. i hadn’t heard anything about one for my age group so i volunteered. so far, i’ve heard back from about 1/2 a dozen ladies who are interested. so it should spark some really good dialogue. i just hope i’m not over-committing myself. but i don’t think that god would let me falter when it comes to something that’s concerning him. i think he’ll make it work. i have–say it with me–Faith that he’ll make it a blessing and not a burden.

🙂

every tuesday me, holly and kitty congregate in the basement of betsy’s townhouse, squishing onto her big comfy couches and partake in what has become the great american pastime: watching tv together.

it all started one night in 2005, at an ihop or steak-n-shake or some late-night place like that. i remember us swinging open the glass doors to enter and somehow bringing up the topic of “gilmore girls.” kitty said she loved it. holly echoed the statement. so it seemed silly for us to not celebrate the splendor that is heretofore known as GG as a group.

so we gathered, dragging betsy along in tow, every tuesday to watch the latest installment of Luke vs. Christopher; Logan vs. Jess; Rory and Laine, Lorelai and her mother.

since the series kicked the bucket this spring, we’ve had to adopt new shows to fill the void. our choice? monday night television: Greek and The Hills. the hills is quite a phenomenon, and not one i had really sunk my teeth into. but that’s all changed. i still don’t know where audrina came from or what happened to whitney, but what i do know now is that holly and i totally deserve our own reality tv show. i think it’d be quite entertaining.

we’ll be in the midst of something and say, “if we had a reality show, this is a part they’d totally show.” since we might be waiting forever for this blockbuster to ever be taken seriously, here’s a glimpse at some of our would-be highlights from our debut season in The Maple Street House:

  • about a week ago holly was going to take a shower and found a big bug hanging out above our window. we decided that it was a hornet. and since we have yet to own a flyswatter, i went back to my closet for reinforcements and came back with a shoe on each hand, one Roo and one New Balance. (the thinking was that they each had different tread patterns on the bottom and maybe one was the better for trapping large flying insects with stingers.) i climbed up on the sink and, holding my breath and putting on my game face, started flailing at the bug. between screams and damnations and switching between shoes, it finally crashed to the sink top, vanquished.
  • on sunday, holly made me a mix cd to which the opening song was UNK’s “walk it out” of youtube fame (actually, my manager at work first introduced me to that video. in the same vein, it was my mom who had to teach me about lil mama’s lip gloss). well after googling it and watching homemade dance videos to it, i wanted to learn how to actually “walk it out.” so, we downloaded some instructional walk-it-out hip-hop videos and proceeded to try to teach ourselves how to walk it out in the corner of holly’s bedroom. i think biggy must be up there shaking his head right now…
  • and then, yesterday, as we were driving home from Monday night tv fest, we decidedly decided what the closing scene/credits would showcase. as we made our way down the windy state route, we turned up jack’s mannequin and the fratellis and hellogoodbye and sang as loud as we could, as happy as we could.

i guess they all just go to show how silly this little life we lead is, but yet how much fun we have inspite of it. yeah, they’re pretty embaressing, but isn’t that what tv’s all about anyway? i think we can handle it.

there’s one stretch of my drive home that is my favorite, and not because it’s the stretch before you turn into my neighborhood. from work, i drive through the area that wraps around the mall and shopping plazas on every inch of concrete. then, i hop onto the highway and drive south. i take my exit and am dumped, again, into suburban wasteland. but then, i round a corner and make my way into the next few blocks that never fail to make me smile.

this takes me through one of the more “ghetto” parts of town. meaning it’s run down. and you can tell because none of the storefronts have new signs; they’re all left over from the 50s and 60s, and all they offer up are sports bars and auto shops and a family dollar. but i think another repercussion of this is–and this is what makes it my favorite–that everyone congregates outside. on porches, on sidewalks, at the basketball court, at the corner stores…

and as i make my way through this area, eventually, after about 4 or 5 blocks, i have to make a right. cincinnati’s suburbs are such that you can go from one extreme to another as far as neighborhoods go just by crossing a street. there’s nothing gradual or a blending. it’s just plain obvious that you were Here and now you’re There. so with this one right turn, the houses become freshly painted and yards more manicured. and empty.

i love the concept of community and knowing your neighbors. i didn’t meet my one neighbor until about a week and a half ago (which, admittedly, was mostly my fault because i’d hide from her if i didn’t feel like talking). but we tend to lock ourselves up inside our houses and little worlds, and it’s kind of depressing how we shut ourselves off from all the others who are surrounding us who we aren’t taking the time to get to know. it just becomes so insular. and self-centered. but yet, here i am, inside, in my bedroom, typing away when i could be outside getting to know the kids who are forever running around and playing in the dirt.

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