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So it’s official: At the end of this month, I’m going to be moving back in with my parents. But you know, I’m actually psyched about it. For one, the main reason why I wanted to move out in the first place was just so that I could decorate on a large scale all by myself. I also hated all the driving I had to do to and fro for work and church and such. But besides that, my family is pretty great and understanding and if nothing else, quite entertaining. (My sister tells stories about old men returning condoms and KY Jelly to her Walgreens store because they didn’t enjoy “the experience;” my mom shares how she lured our runaway cat back indoors and how the other family cats responded; my dad shows me his latest WWII video…)

And especially if I’m going to be moving hours away in the coming months, I’d like to have this time with them.

But something makes me wonder whether I’ll even get that time. I wonder if I won’t be whisked off earlier than I’d thought? And that really scares me. Now that many of the systems’ kinks are worked out, I want to stay put just a little bit longer, enjoy the downtime just a little longer, save money just a little bit longer, hang out with my friends just a little bit longer.

So the idea of this job option working out does make me nervous that I’m going to have to start over sooner than I’d expected, although I’ve always had a feeling that it was going to happen July-ish. I just don’t feel ready for that now that it’s getting close!

Anyway, I know that’s out of my hands and when the right time comes, it will all work out so long as I stay to the course that God has planned. And I know that when that happens, the course is going to be more amazing and gratifying than I could imagine—look at where it’s taken me thus far?!

On a side note, I read an article the other day about living at home with your family and the (unexpected) benefits it provides, such as keeping you from being too selfishly and independently focused but constantly balancing yourself and your desires against others. (Typically even if you live with roommates, there’s not much accountability or interdependence except to get the bills paid on time.) There are other ideas that the article mentions that were pretty insightful and I’d never considered before.

RE Grand rapids: I’m now back in the safe, sound, snug place of peace with God concerning this. For a week I was all antsy and anxious and worried about how it would pan out. But I spent time praying and following God to especially fitting verses. Then on Sunday at church, the entire sermon was on being fearless and following God (Jesus’ greatest command is “Follow me” while in the Bible it’s “Fear not.”) and that solidified my trust in God: That it’s not my place to worry or try to figure out what will happen because God can/will do that for me and in ways I never could have imagined. I trust that he will do that here with this decision, its provisions and timing.

Also one of the messages from church was how God uses—and wants to use—ordinary folks. We looked at the life of Gideon (judges 6) who didn’t think he was worth it to do God’s work, but God saw something in him (and, extrapolated, sees something in me) that we don’t see in ourselves and that He can and will use. We can’t hold ourselves back! I think that was another part of the situation that I was experiencing—I felt like I was too spiritually immature to take this big of leap of faith, that I’m fooling myself and trying to do something that’s bigger than my spiritual footing. Like I’m trying to force it. But the point of that is that it’s not about me at all; God loves using the ordinary and the weak to accomplish great things because then he gets all the glory, which is what it’s all about in the first place. So I just need to remember to do that—to give Him the glory rather than wish to take it for myself and all “my” hard work. It is only by his strength and insight and special positioning that all of this has come to be. I am grateful.

Hebrews 13:5-6
God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”

Psalm 92
A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day.
1 It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,

2 to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,

3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.

4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

5 How great are your works, O LORD,
how profound your thoughts!

6 The senseless man does not know,
fools do not understand,

last night I went over to my parents and we spent a good portion of the night outside, scouting out different plants around the yard and clipping flowers and putting them into vases. I took a big bunch of lilacs home with me, which sat on my nightstand and woke me up every once and awhile when I’d catch a waft, which was soothing and seemed to remind me: breathe in, all is good.

and it’s true. all is good, because i feel like i’m breathing deeper these last few weeks.

i think there are two parts to this newfound feeling:

part one
the whole grand rapids thing, where i have so much peace that it makes me wonder if maybe it’s too good to be true? but aside from praying that if this isn’t what God wants that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure to tell me/stop it from happening, then i’m trusting in God’s nature as a peace-giver and as unchanging. even if this did seemingly come out of nowhere, i don’t want to sit on my hands if i feel it’s a good thing. and i do.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Don’t be terrified. Don’t be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

I’ve been going through bouts of feeling scared about whatever the future might hold, because it’s so far-off and so indeterminable. The fact that it would mean leaving many good things behind (church, friends, work, youth group, family) in exchange for…i’m not yet sure what. That makes me scared, so I keep praying that God will be with me and to “not hide your face from me,” that I will know his will and be strengthened to forge ahead with it. i woke up the other day and one verse from a Hedley song was rolling around in my head, “If you don’t believe me, watch and I will make it happen.” i really felt like that was God reassuring me, that he will make it happen. he won’t pull me this far and then drop the ball and walk away. another song lyric that spells the same thing to me: “you are safe, child, you are safe.

Isaiah 43:5-7
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

plus i’m reminding myself that if this is what God wants, he’s not going to purposefully make it hard or arduous; He WANTS it to happen and so He will help me do that. He did that for me when it came to breaking up with Paul (I was prepared to do it, but Paul ended up coming over and finishing things); when I moved to Alabama I had 2 weeks to relocate and find a place to stay for 5 months and God provided that along with an awesome roommate; then with Cincinnati He totally set me up with a great church and great friends and a great job. So I have to keep reminding myself of those blessings past, and that because God’s unchanging, that He won’t stop doing that—he’ll continue to guide me and provide for me along that pathway.

Psalm 25:4-10
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths

5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.

8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant

* * * * * * * * * * * *

part deux
which brings me to my second point which is the book i’ve been reading of late: Breathe. it’s pretty phenomenal and one that I barely convinced myself was worth buying; I only did so because it was half-price. it was well worth it.

the book is very grounding and encourages us to put our purpose and focus on God and to do so with our time and resources. it encourages us to simplify and say “yes” to the things that draw us to Him and to say “no” to those which don’t. while i know that my priorities aren’t nearly as tangled as a parent’s who has multiple other people to keep in mind with decision-making (the book is intended for mothers), i want to become aware of these struggles now. because if i can be aware and intentional and deliberate now, then it will become a practice/discipline which will serve me well as i move forward–and on into those next stages of life.

i like that the book gives you permission to say “no” to people, causes or activities that draw you away from God. this has been revolutionary to me and quite liberating. i’ve decided to let go of my TV-watching because i can see how it not only wastes time but also wastes words–when i spend time recapping tv shows with my friends and coworkers. it prevents me from digging deep into conversation. so i’ve started abandoning that need to “fill” my time with things like TV. now i just let my friends recap the shows for me, which cuts my investment time down to 5 minutes or less and frees up at least 15, a pretty good exchange if you ask me. (although I do foresee making room and allowing for “Heroes.” no matter how great a storyteller you may be, I don’t think anyone could recap that show with justice!)

one challenge they give in the book is about looking for opportunities to shave down your obligations, and then not fill them. Today I did that on my lunch break by breaking free from my desk and rushing to a nearby park to sit quietly and read more from the book. Being quiet isn’t an easy task or discipline for me, so this book is especially fitting. I need to invest in this ideal more and more, because I know I always complain about not being able to easily “hear God” but I think that’s because I’m not patient enough with the quiet to listen. I’m also hoping that our upcoming trip to IHOP in Kansas City will be enlightening and insightful for that, too!

i’m also hoping that in this decision to follow God to somewhere new, that hopefully that’ll draw me nearer and keep teaching me to connect with him and get to that point where i can hear and where i can really find my purpose and place.

even though there have been ups and downs, things have fortunately held at the “highs” for the most part. as i’ve mentioned, i’m feeling like God might have something else in store for me as for where i belong right now. i read somewhere that God is a gentleman and that he likes to hold the door open for you, it’s just a matter of you stepping up and walking through. so that’s what i’ve been up to. trying to meet Him halfway. the way i look at it is that if it’s something He wants me to do (and I do believe it is) and I’m doing what I can to reach it, then He will gladly give it–when the timing is right.

but the one thing that does make me glad through all this is that i really do feel like this is what God wants. I’ve been fortunate enough to see God at work a lot in my life (almost always in hindsight when it comes to people he put in my life or circumstances that I never would have chosen for myself or opportunities that I seemingly stumbled upon). but it’s been rare that I’ve actually felt God at work in my life. these past few months have shown me a few of those gems: when Paul and I were breaking up and I knew it was the right thing; then again when Paul and I started chatting again and I started getting hurt again, God told me when to plant a fence and give myself time to heal and then when to swing open the door and then when to work on barriers. and now with this next step. in all those, those were the times when I really felt God beside me guiding me and pointing and me being able to understand that “small, still voice.”

it’s still full of murmurs and ever-interrupted, but i want to keep hearing it and harking it, because I know it won’t lead me wrong. it’s hard to trust something that only feels like an inkling, but that’s where I think God’s gentlemanly nature comes into play. if i’s His will, He’ll see to it like he did even when Jonah ran the opposite way. God still got his way. i just want to make sure that i don’t want to run the other way. because i know that when you listen the first time around, things fall into place. that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy. but they’ll be right. and i think that when they’re right, they’ll seem easier.

at least i hope so.

p.s. i would like to introduce my friends to one another! after visiting with dear MRS elizabeth in nashville this weekend, i was reminded of this. and since i have such good taste in friends (if i do say so myself), i think you’ll all enjoy it. (see in the left-most column where it says “MEET MY FRIENDS.” there are some wise women in there!)

 you probably should know by now one of my favorite books is Tara Leigh Cobble’s “Here’s to Hindsight.” i’m not one to read (or watch, for that matter) anything twice. on the rare occasion that i do, that says something. and H2H is one that i think i will probably reread every couple of months, just because it speaks so loudly and directly to me. well, let the love continue; here’s something she just posted on her blog:

We all do it. We take a perfectly good wound — one intended to teach us something, to grow us closer to God — and we try to cover it up with an ill-fitting bandage. Sometimes we act in desperation, grabbing dirty napkins from the ground just to have something to put over the wound so we don’t have to see it, so we don’t have to be reminded that it’s still there.

We do it for our friends, too. We say and do the wrong things to help them move on from their own pain, we speak and act without thinking or praying first. Maybe we just want the pain to be over for them, or maybe we don’t want to look at their wounds because those wounds disturb us.

This past weekend, I was a leader and guest musician at a women’s conference for nearly 200 women of all ages. The women moved me with stories of their healing, their pain, their mistakes. They’ve wasted time (haven’t we all!?!) trying to cover up the pain through improper relationships, eating or drinking too much, looking at porn, and even having children. They’ve felt the pain of losing husbands who have tried to heal their own wounds in the wrong ways, as well.

It reminds me to ask myself what I’m doing to push past my own pain (or the pain of others), to create the illusion of healing without actually giving the wound time to breathe and heal. The more we apply the wrong bandages, the more we delay the process by refusing to put the pain in God’s capable hands.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3

“oh where, oh where has my little blog gone, oh where oh where can it be?”

As it turns out, there just hasn’t seemed much urge to spill words out online as of late. I think it’s because everything is settling down and smoothing out and that is so relaxing and comforting and calming. There’s not a sense of urgency anymore or a sense of needing understanding. Instead, what I have now is enough. And to be able to say that—is quite a relief.

I’ve been busy planning the beginning of my spring. This week is another party, this time 80s/90s-inspired. I’m going as Angela Chase from “My So-Called Life,” my roommate is going as Rainbow Brite, some guys are coming as Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World,” others are coming in full retro regalia—leggings, side ponytails, off-the-shoulder shirts, Madonna, Mario, etc. it should be pretty entertaining. As they always are.

I’m not really sure why I love parties so much except that they’re an occasion to let down walls and embrace the inner goof and charm that floats within us all, but that we often learn to hush. The other week, I was talking to Betsy’s soon-to-be-step-son who’s four and asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He didn’t look up, didn’t get excited, but answered matter-of-factly: “A hero.” he told me that he’s going to have a mask and a cape and he’s going to be a super hero. Just like that.

Where did that urge to be something bigger than ourselves go? True, many of us cling to it and keep persevering. But even moreso, many let go of those big, colorful dreams and start slipping into the belief that “this” is all we have or “this” is all we’ll ever amount to. It’s a dismal change.

And not that I think silly theme parties are going to restore dreams or a sense of self by any means. But they do allow us to take ourselves less seriously. To just enjoy the moment and the silly daydreams of being a TV star or a retro starlet and not care what everyone else thinks or expects. And, to dance our hearts out.

“To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak” — indian proverb

over the weekend, i played my first soccer game with kitty’s indoor team. fortunately, i didn’t really have much time to get too nervous about the venture because work has been hectic as all get out lately (more so than usual as we’re working on yet another web project–we just got a new CEO who’s “passionate about the internet,” oh and also about coaching baseball. and yes, he mentioned both “passions” in the same sentence).

anyway so friday night i find my way to the venue where, come to find out, i’m wearing a purple shirt while my team is red and the opposing team is black. needless to say, that’s when the nervousness started to kick in.

but, as ‘luck’ would have it, all that got erased in a moment’s time, because as i showed up, a big guy with a shaved head throws his hands down on the table i’m standing in front of. “carmen from temple baptist!! do you remember me?!?” once i shook the shock off, i looked closer and–not being one who easily remembers faces–slowly guessed, “jon simpson?”

sure enough, here was a kid (now a man) who i haven’t seen in 10 years. when i was in 8th and 9th grade, maria and i played soccer and her dad was a youth pastor at the nearby temple baptist church, so of course i hitched a ride with her. jon was in the youth group there and for the next 2 years i spent quite a bit of time there (sunday nights, wednesday nights, overnights, church camp–the whole shebang). but then maria’s dad decided to quit as youth pastor there (he was also the Bible teacher at maria’s high school and the school’s volleyball coach and basketball coach). when he quit, a lot people were upset and thought he was being selfish for resigning. so, they decided to leave temple baptist. i left with them and never returned, either.

but here i was, on a random friday night and i already knew about half the team. jon, his brother and sister were also on the team. it was really interesting to be reunited with people who probably don’t recognize you at all, because the last time they saw you, you were running around in baggy cordorouys and singing Goo Goo Dolls in the parking lot with your BFF who was wearing green mascara and even baggier jeans.

it’s interesting to think back to those afternoons that we spent there, having no idea what lay ahead of us. i don’t even remember what i worried about back then or what i thought would happen or where i thought i’d be when i was 24. i probably expected to be married and maybe even starting a family–or at least thinking about it.

but here i am, as confused and foggy about the future as ever, but, looking back over my shoulder, quite content at where my path has led me. it hasn’t been simple or suspecting. but i can see how God stepped in and guided all of that and has made it richer than i’d ever imagined. which just makes me look forward to more–to tomorrow.

I have to say it: I’m excited about growing up. yes, I’m a ripe 24 (which would send my coworkers rolling their eyes) but I still feel like I’m just dipping my toes into the waters of adulthood. People still ask me if I’m going to be going to prom this year or where I go to high school and the like, to which I smile and tell them I graduated 7 years ago (to which my coworkers would again roll their eyes!).

But as I watch my friends shoot roots and grow up, I’m liking the pace at which I’m going. Holly’s becoming a wife, betsy’s becoming a mom and a wife… And here I am scouting out one-bedroom apartments. But taking everything one-step-at-a-time has been something I’ve had to learn to embrace, and I feel like I’m finally doing that.

In college, I was graduating in 3 years so I took 20 credits a quarter and worked another 10 hours a week writing for the alumni magazine. With no time to spare, I thrived on the function to gulp everything down and learn/ace it at once, and then move on to the next subject or exam or project. And on the cycle went—learn it as fast and completely as possible and then move on to the next task at hand. When it came time to learning about God and His will and everything, I tried to put that mentality to work there so that I could check as many things off my list as possible and move on to the next and become a super Christian “in 10 weeks or less!”

But then I’d realize how fallible that was and how I wasn’t making progress—and I’d get frustrated. I’ve had to learn over the years that God doesn’t work that way. That he does function in, “Here, I’m going to give you this bit to work on. When you’ve learned that task and had time to sit on it, I’ll give you the next bit. But this is how you truly learn and change and grow—one step at a time.” I’ve had to become OK with—and appreciative of—that aspect: One. At. A. Time. Learn this one—truly learn it, down to your bones—and then you’ll get your next one. But don’t rush through it. That’s not rich or true or deep enough for this kind of learning. It might have got you by when it came to college courses but not in the school of Life.

So that’s where I am, where I’m learning one day at a time and embracing this moment in life where I am—sorting out budgets and organizing receipts and searching out quaint little one-bedroom apartments on Craigslist that later this summer I’ll fill with funky furniture and a hodgepodge of accessories and hopefully a little kitten—and call all my own.

so rather than make resolutions for 2008, here’s an abridged (due mostly to forgetfulness than anything else) list of amazing things i experienced this past year. (oh, and that IS something that i would like to resolve to do: every week take a picture of something that impacted me or that i learned a lesson about. week one will be ending soon, let’s see if i can stick to it!).

  • i went on a missions trip, to Haiti!
  • paid my civic off.
  • went to winter jam with the youth group and continued to get more involved in the core leadership of the student ministry, which i’ve found quite fulfilling.
  • started to teach myself the guitar. (and then, of course, quit when it came time to learn chords.)
  • joined a small group! became closer with Cathy and met Brianna. this was truly a godsend for me.
  • through my small group, youth group leading and just thoughts/resolutions i had, began to be able to open up more and more about faith issues and even give advice/offer own insights, rather than always be on the receiving end. and in that way mature: be able to think for myself and offer that to others.
  • traveled for conferences for work on my own (to san diego and minneapolis) and grew so far as my career and confidence in it, plus being able to present myself professionally and network.
  • my 3rd HOW Conference.
  • moved out! Got a roommate and decorated a cute apartment, which taught me a lot about initiative–if you need something done, you have to just do it. that means figuring out how to undo the overhead light when the bulb burns out or learn how to hang curtains and how to drill on my own or call the landlord or the billing departments when something isn’t going right. that was a big lesson in and of itself. plus able, for the first time, to really be able to reflect my tastes so LARGELY–a whole house to decorate! what a canvas! i had a great time doing that, too. my two best friends were spray paint and sewing machine–dear friends to the end!
  • started blogging, and through it, began to explore more the idea of ‘opening up.’ this also aided as i took a spiritual gifts test and realized one of my gifts is teaching/pastorship–so i felt like being able to share my insights/experiences via a blog and a small group would mentor/apprentice me in doing this in the future.
  • went to see a counselor, twice. and then decided didn’t need it after all. (i have my own Counselor and a bunch of friends who take on that role quite nicely. and don’t charge me $125 an hour.)
  • got back into running, this time a lot more successfully than last year.
  • some big purchases: new laptop and camera!
  • our Back to School Party!
  • took initiative and took leadership role for another (though short-lived) small group.
  • learned lessons about God: that sometimes it’s not for me to understand and fathom what happens in my life, i just have to trust. the importance of opening up/being real about your flaws and ugly spots is healthy (as Lauren Winner says, it’s another ironic form of sanctification). that God is going to put desires on my heart for a reason–to fulfill them; he isn’t going to tempt me and then yank it away and disappoint me–all in due time. that i still struggle with letting things go–that’s one to leave for 2008.
  • i made a concerted effort to try to get to know God better and to try to listen to Him, be guided by Him.
  • i felt–and knew–God’s peace.
  • read some really beneficial/enlightening books: The Thrill of the Chaste, Fight Like a Girl, Captivating, Wild at Heart, Girl Meets God, What Now, Here’s to Hindsight, With or Without You, Chronicles of Narnia…
  • musical discoveries: Tegan and Sara. Andrew Bird. Mae. Jack’s Mannequin. Hawk Nelson. Ben Folds (never had gotten into him before, believe it or not). Sea Wolf. Anberlin. David Crowder Band.
  • visited: Haiti. San Diego. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Minneapolis.

now i admit that here i am, sitting in short sleeves and i didn’t even wear my coat out to my car this morning. however, with the knowledge that thanksgiving is almost here (!), i can’t help but not be able to accomplish anything today. i just feel like a vacation is on it’s way. i feel like good things are finally here and i’m looking forward to them. fitting that right now i’m listening to hawk nelson: “let’s pack up and move to california. hop on board before we get older. raise your hands, we’re heading for the border. come on, come on, come on!”

and that’s not just because it’s the holidays. i feel like a vacation is on it’s way for reasons larger than the holidays. it’s the fact that things emotionally are feeling better. encouraging. and not really because anything’s changed specifically–but moreso my perspective. and i think that that can make a world of difference; from dark to light, from somber and self-centered to open and aware and, yes, thankful.

yesterday and today have been consumed with all kinds of amazon searches (another component to my lack of productivity). yesterday alone i ordered 4 books (part of my “perspective change” epiphany) that i hope will help me with the struggle i have with letting go of control. i think that’s a big part of everything. that whole idea that i–and my perspective–am/is my own worst enemy. i think much of that is the devil sneaking in there and contorting things and manipulating things and always bringing them back to me when they most likely have nothing to do with me. but it’s so effective.

right now i’m trying to learn to Slow down. to Count my blessings. to Be quiet and embrace it, rather than spend my time running around and worrying and fretting with a wringing of hands (i love that phrase!). and that i’ll be grounded through it. and i am already. it seems like things are suspended in a slower motion, and moments are a little bit sweeter than they have been in awhile. so i’m trying to hold on to them and continue to pray for Patience, Forgiveness, Grace, Sufficiency, Gentility, Generosity, Selflessness and Humility to etch themselves into my heart and life and–yes–perspective. i know how important lessons are and that you learn best, with the deepest and most long-lasting results, when you learn step-by-step and don’t rush the results. so that’s what i’d like to do here: use these lessons to erect a foundation, so that i don’t have to ride this rollercoaster around any more times than necessary–that the amusement park is closed for the season.

i’m sick of my heart and would like to trade it in for another. that would pretty nice right about now. lash up the parts that aren’t working and get a new one that is New! And Improved! where i don’t have to worry or fret or fidget with old wounds or hurts.

i get afraid that my heart is permanently messed up, damaged goods and it’ll keep messing everything up. that because it’s been dropped and kicked and punched, that it will never learn its lesson and let up or be able to return to whence it came from–a place that’s pretty and unjaded and not awaiting disappointment and salty tears.

[cue background noise: wah, wah.]

i just feel like the last month has not been good to me and this little heart of mine. october: you are no friend of mine. and it just makes it hard because matter of the heart always float to the surface and take precedence and color and tinge everything else around them.

but how is that surprising? the heart is so important to everything we do and every way we live our lives. it’s supposed to be soft and supple and easily bruised. that’s what makes it so effective. we just tend to want it to be something it’s not: a machine that you can control and that is indestructible. mine isn’t like that. i wish i could turn it off and type in the command, “don’t overthink these things, don’t do this, don’t do that.” but it never listens. it’s an unruly heart. and while i’d prefer one that’s more disciplined, i know that’s not what i really want. because that’s a poor excuse of a heart.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

i’ve been sad and upset for about a month now. and i’m sick of talking about it. i’m sick of thinking about it. i’m sick of even dealing with it. how do you move on and recover from soemthing like that? that’s what i’m trying to do. because recovery is not an easy process either.

that seems to be the dominant theme here: things aren’t easy.

and while i can appreciate that in theory, when it comes to real life i struggle and trip over it. and get all tangled up in it. which is where i am. i think if i were cast into a movie of my life, the camera would pull back and there i’d be sitting on a sidewalk, sprawled out with yarn unspooled all around me as people rush by and look down but keep on going, shaking their heads. and i can’t for the life of me figure out how to pull all this yarn back together into a ball that makes any sense. or any sense that even a kitten would want to have anything to do with. much less a fellow human being.

and i’m not trying to be melodramatic. i know it sounds that way. and that you might feel like your first inclination is to email me and ask if i’m ok. here i’ll go ahead and tell you, “no i’m not.” but i think right now the answer isn’t for you to try to make me feel better. because i feel like i’ve already been too self-indulgent. i just want to let it all go and keep moving along. i want to let all that go and quit trying to make sense of all these hard times and just release them. just let them float away and start off new. stand up from the pavement, shake the string from my limbs and skip off down the park and watch some old men play chess and little kids run around shouting and moms watching nearby as they read a book. that’s what i want. it’d be nice to still believe in santa, and add that to my christmas list.

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.

that’s a pretty quote that i read in this lady’s blog. she seems like she lives such a pretty life, always cooking and baking and sewing clothes for her kids. seems very peaceful and serene in that it’s probably chaotic and crazy, but just the way you’d want it to be. who knows. anyway, yes, i liked the quote.

tomorrow i leave for good ole birmingham, alabama. i’m actually really, really looking forward to it. it will be me, becky, and an 8-hour car ride from here to there. and “there,” we’ll meet up with jackie, my old roommate from way back When; when we used to live in a little southern cottage and chase the flying cockroaches with bug spray and try to smash them with phonebooks and textbooks and when i burnt a whole pan of baked beans and our other roommate hated us and there was a visiting mouse and melted strainer and we worked at big-name magazines and hung out at southern bars and learned every word to “sweet home alabama” and watched “life was we know it” until it was cancelled and took a road trip to new orleans and got ourselves in all sorts of youthful debacles. and then she stayed there and i packed up my car and then on Christmas Eve 2004, drove back home through a snow storm with no idea what awaited me in my old hometown.

it was a really scary time in my life. i remember driving down there when i accepted the internship. jackie and i had never met, i had no idea what i was in for and was taking this as a leap of faith. i remember listening to the allister song that talks about starting over from “scratch”, which is exactly what i felt like i was doing:

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

I know there’s no time left for second chances
Still we’re right despite these circumstances
You’ve changed me more than you could ever know
So we will just hang on until tomorrow
so take my hand
don’t ever let me go

take our time
making sure that everything feels right
it won’t be easy
but I’m not afraid
she’s so far away

you better start from scratch
it’s now or never
but we can’t look back
I need you with me
for another day
she’s so far away
yeah far away

and as with so many other things in life, it all turned out beautifully. we made memories, i found a perfect job and moved back home and made amazing friends and an amazing little life for myself. so it will be interesting to journey back, now at the point where i am, and look at it all through that lens. on Friday, we’ll head over to Jackie’s and do dinner and reminisce and then head over to Innisfree, the bar that we used to walk to every weekend, and on Saturday our friend Liz is tying the knot so we’ll get to experience a proper Southern wedding. and then on Sunday… we make the trek back. maybe we can stop in Nashville for dinner or something? i’d enjoy that i think.

so we’ll see. but i’m looking forward to the break and the moment to catch my breath. i feel like i’ve been running full speed ahead and so now i realize that that isn’t healthy. so if you pray, i’d appreciate those kinds of prayers. just learning how to strike that balance. i went so far as to scribe a little list of rules: things like leave one night a week with nothing planned, do nothing (phone, visiting, etc.) after 10:30pm, and only schedule 2 things a night. (last night for instance involved a happy hour from 5 to 7, small group from 7:30 to 9:15, and stopping by paul’s from 9:30 to 10.) i just recognize that by running myself ragged i get stressed = fretful = crabby and that’s not worth it. that’s not me.

so thanks for any prayers, internet friends. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

(also, in regular list-making fare, i got started on my christmas list. and that’s a month later than most years!)

not sure if you have noticed, but i have been suspiciously absent for the past week. the culprit? i’ve been away to a distant land. a distant land called I Like A Boy. but what’s kept me away so long isn’t the land itself–i’ve visited there quite a few times, taken some day trips there–but this new part of town that i stumbled upon, He Likes Me Back.

this latter land is an elusive one, hidden out in the far fringes of the landscape. you have to traverse some steep mountains, being sure not to tumble down the rough terrain and rugged cliffs in the process. you have to wander through the flat, lifeless fields where it appears to just be an endless plateau with no end in sight.

and then you finally make it to that point where the grass starts to get greener and the leaves start popping from the tree branches. you’re still walking and sweating, but it’s not as bad at this point in the journey–in fact, you’re quite enjoying it. you’re looking around and noticing the beauty of the peaks you passed and the swaying grasses and hidden creatures of the meadow. a woodpecker swoops down and reminds you: there’s more than meets the eye here.

so you sigh and smile and soak in the journey as it continues on.

and that’s when you find it. that’s when—when you least expected it, when you’d finally grown content in the pace and scenery around you—that you walk smack dab into this novel little oasis.

this land is ruled over by a young prince named Paul. he greets you at the edge and you take notice of how blue the skies are overhead and how, here, the butterflies dance about and the birds are whistling a fresh summer ditty. he offers to show you around.

you’re used to the journey so you say yes, and walk alongside him. as he takes you farther into his oasis, he tells you all kinds of magical tales about bright shooting stars and other distant lands with princesses. you’re so rapt in the storytelling that you forget to pay attention to where you’re going, because you don’t need to: you simply follow. but then, you stop suddenly, remembering that this in fact is a journey (and you recall how treacherous they’ve been in the past) and look up to see that he’s led you to the very heart of the land.

you’re now surrounded by a wall of pale yellow roses and bright, sunny daffodils that bend down and whisper in rhyme, “Hello, how do you do? We’ve been waiting for you.” he chooses a bunch and offers them to you; he asks you sit down and stay awhile. he promises to show you more around the land tomorrow, because there’s much to see. this is only the beginning…

Return, return to the person that you were.
And I will do the same
cause it is too hard to belong to someone who is gone.
My compass spins. The wilderness remains.
— Bright Eyes “Make War”

after i found out about the old flame-turned-new-husband, i decided to email him and tell him congratulations. i could have ignored the fact that i knew, but that almost feels like hiding it or keeping a secret. i felt like since i knew, i should let him know that i know, and also that i’m OK with it. to push the awkwardness of it all under the rug.

i did that last year when i was at a weekend outdoor music concert (desdemona festival, for those of you who remember). i was there with one of my coworkers and his friends (a coworker who, yes, i’d dated but who at this point really didn’t want to have anything to do with me, so that made it awkward enough as it was). and i saw the old boyfriend, watching the same stage as me (the VHS or Beta djs) with his girl there dancing. he had a camera slung around his shoulder and looked every bit the same from when we’d been together 3 years before.

well, we both ignored each other. he wasn’t exactly in my line of vision (more peripherial) so it wasn’t obvious to wave and be done. but that kept happening all weekend (at one point, he sat down on the other side of holly as we were sitting at a statue) and we just kept on pretending like we were clueless about it. i thought that was stupid, so at work on monday, i sent him an email telling him so. and that i hated that things had to be weird between us. he agreed and a decent email exchange ensued. nothing deep but, instead, very ordinary, update-y type things. it felt nice to acknowledge what had happened and then be able to react maturely, even if after-the-fact.

so the same was true in this incident. i sent him an email telling him how i found out and that i wanted to pass on my congratulations and that i hope everything went well. the next day, an email showed up from him where he said thanks and told me that they’d gotten engaged in april and had a 4-month engagement till the wedding this month. he caught me up on how his school’s going. he offered to send me some pictures from the wedding if i wanted.

i wrote him back this morning and responded to everything, making pleasantries and updating him on my (slightly static) life. i told him, sure, he could pass along the pictures. but even in thinking it, just the idea of the whole shebang is weird. and so i decided to tell him as much: that thinking that the person i used to talk about marrying is now married to someone else, is just weird. i told him that it’s funny how when you’re so young, you’re so sure of things, but that we really had no clue what it all meant. i told him that i’d never wished badly on him or on their relationship, but that, in a nostalgic sort of way, it was just plain weird to think about.

i want to be able to be OK with admitting those things and putting those things out there, even if they make me look less “put-together” or flawless. i wanted to acknowledge that and get it off my chest, rather than pretend that everything was peachy keen. for the most part it is, and as i’ve said, i have no regrets about any of that nor do i question whether i want him back: i don’t. i know that for sure. but there’s that little voice that says, “he used to love you–he still should! why doesn’t he? how can he move on? why isn’t he still pining?” that’s selfish, for sure. but it’s that little pang that hits that reminds me where we once were (in love) and where i am (not–in love) and where he is now (is–in love).

anyway, he responded and just said that now that he’s older, it’s made him question more things. i kind of just wanted him to say, “yeah it’s weird to tell you, too,” (not to discount what he did say). but i think, for me at least, it cleared the air because i wasn’t sitting there pretending. and i guess that’s a start in this whole lesson about learning what vulnerability means. i feel like that is the season of life that i am in right now, that i’m always going cycles and the cycle i’ve recently entered is one of learning more about honesty and vulnerability and opening up. so if i start to sound like a broken record, bear with me. i’m hoping that part of it sticks and lasts and the next bit of the cycle will make its way in due time.

every once and awhile, something happens that reminds me that i’m, in fact, 24 year. almost a quarter-of-a-century old. (i’m not complaining or bemoaning, it’s just that i still feel younger and greener than most 19 year olds.) today was one of those days.

i went into kroger on my lunch break to buy some stamps (to send a thank-you card). the guy working the counter had also gone to princeton and after i confirmed he was who i thought he was (i never made an effort to stay in touch with anyone from high school), he told me that the guy i’d dated through most of high school and college had gotten married recently–did i know?

actually it just passed the four-year mark of when we broke up. i think it was august 2 in 2003, and we’d been together for four years at that point. i’ve never been bitter about any of it (i’ll be the first to admit that i did enough of that while we were together) and in fact think that that–heart break–was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. it’s why i’m advocate for heartbreak; not to be miserly or anything but because i think suffering and feeling like your world’s upside down is  enlightening. i’m sure that i’m neglecting things (i read in a book once that your mind, because it has to be be selective and can’t remember everything, only chooses the extremes–the highs and lows–or your experiences and forgets the middle grounds. this could very well be the case here), but it seems that in that moment, i had my own butterfly effect and, with that one release, became a completely different person. now, at the time i was 20 and of course i would grow up in the years to come. but i really do think that that moment of “OK, then we’re done” was the catalyst for who i am today. and so i’m actually thankful that he decided he didn’t love me anymore. i feel much more at home with myself now than i ever did then.

and so when the guy told me, i asked him if he went to the wedding and he said no. i asked if he knew the “wife” (how weird is it to say that about a guy who you always thought you’d grow up and call your husband?), and he said kind of and I asked if she was nice and he said she was kinda goofy and i said good. and i mean that. i do want the best for them.

but it’s weird. it’s weird to realize that someone who i had spent nearly every day with for what was a quarter of my life, is not someone i know anything about anymore. he’s grown up, he’s made different choices and become someone totally different. i know the same is true for me, but it’s hard not to imagine him as the same 22 year old i knew back in that other life. it’s weird to think of him having the courage to ask someone else to marry him and then picking out a first-dance song and then a honeymoon and then furniture together for their first place. it’s just weird because it seems like a life so long ago.

and that’s when i realize how much i’ve grown up. that these things happen. i don’t yearn for prom or for homework or for drama or having to pick a seat in the cafeteria. but i do miss the days when anything is possible and you don’t feel like time is running out–you feel like it’s always on your side and you live forever. of course i have faith, but it’s weird to be snapped back to reality as i watch everyone else grow up and i simulanaously stand still and realize that while everyone else gets married or talks about getting married, i’m of marriage age but so far removed from it. it’s a sobering reminder. and one i’m OK with for now, but just that causes me to cock my head to one side and blink and go, “hmph,” at the curious thing before me.

don’t worry; i won’t count my way through entries for long. but this is just an attempt to say “yes, I’m still here” and “yes, I meant what I said.” i want to try at this blog thing. i suppose two days might be lofty at gauging success, but there you have it–it’s a start.

and it’s funny to think that my life could be considered a “start” right now. because i’ve been at my job now for 2.5 years. i’ve been out of college for more than three. i’ve bought a brand-new car and already paid it off. i’ve signed a lease and bought a new bed and called the cable company and water company and had to haggle them to get things done. i’ve gone on business trips by myself and introduced myself to big names (within our industry, though). i contact people and tell them i work for a magazine and i get them to give me stuff and clamor for attention. i’ve been invited to weddings without my family; i’ve been a date to weddings. some of my best friends have been the ones getting married. i’ve been teaching the teens for almost two years now–teaching! when did i outgrow being just a student and step into this role? what do *i* know?

and yet, here i am, still feeling like i’m fumbling around and still sorting all this out. by all accounts, i’m grown up. but i still feel like i’m 17. it’s a weird feeling and i was talking to my dad a few weeks ago, and he talked about how he always imagines himself back in his younger years. i’m not sure what specific year, but he said he doesn’t feel his age. i never, ever imagined i’d be like that. but here i am and always feeling puny and insignificant and unsure of myself and out-of-place.

but i want to feel grown up and full of confidence. i wonder if that’s why i try to read more and more–to try to catch up with my age. to match my wits with my calendar-year. or to solve all my problems as soon as possible to speed the aging process.

i’m not sure but sometimes i take a step back and i realize where in life i fall and i’m amazed. how did i get here? was it all a dream? i feel like i was in a trance most of the time and that’s one of the most heartening things I find about God: that it’s obvious, “in hindsight” (shout-out to Miss TLC), that he was there all along, playing puppeteer to my marionette.

today i had to give a testimony during a meeting for church members interested in serving with the youth group. i talked a little bit about how i just one day decided to try it out and didn’t really think too much about it–i just did it on a whim and without really any contemplation. our youth pastor always says, “well, pray about it and then get back to me about your decision.” now, i think that’s very good advice–i do, i do. but sometimes i think that the best decisions i’ve made are ones where i just did and didn’t question. because it’s in that questioning step that i usually am able to talk myself out of something. but volunteering for the junior high ended up being something so perfect and so amazing for me, that i had absolutely no clue and couldn’t have. i had no idea the potential it held. but here i am, with amazing girls who look up to me and who i love and who i get to share with. and i feel like that totally was a God thing–him leading and me not even realizing it at the time; just figuring, why not?

it’s interesting to look back at the path he’s paved… “and be glad in it.” i know i owe it all to him and that in itself makes me eager for the times to come because i have to trust that if he’s gone through all that trouble, all that fishing, all that cleaning off, that he’s got something worthwhile in mind–that he has big plans for me. and i know that it’s a scary thing to say that i hope he does, but i do. i know i’m a scaredy cat and will probably pull a Jonah and run off when he asks me not to, but i do want to fulfill those plans, i want to become that woman and bloom those seeds.

lately i’ve been listening to the hawk nelson song:

let’s pack up and move to california
hop on board before we get older
raise your hands and shout for california
come on, come on, come on…

i feel very much “in-between” right now. not certain of where to go next. because i love my life here, i truly do. but i can almost glimpse myself outgrowing it. but then (yes, this is a glimpse into my mental dialogue–very Gollum-esque) i wonder if it’s me not realizing what indeed i have under my nose and jumping to conclusions? like with my job: it took me awhile to realize that in fact was my dream job, sans the hefty paycheck. but for awhile i was letting the lack of money detract from everything else that was amazing about it. and i almost left it because i was looking for “the next best thing” without realizing the prize i already held.

i wonder if i’m doing that here, with “Cincinnati.” i can see changes abrewing and i can see the tides coming in. and i’m fully expecting them to wash me away and maybe i’m jumping the gun in preparation? who knows. but at this very moment, amidst the changes and growth spurts, i am quite happy.

and that’s what i welcome you to with this Premiere entry in my new, freshly painted blog with a cute little welcome mat out front. (i hope you took notice, it has a gnome on it!)

this is my little experiment into reaching into the world, tentacles and all, and hoping for the best. i was thinking about what my talents are–what is it that i love doing? one of my favorite things is what i do with the youth group, and that’s when i take the junior high girls and pull them close under my wing and make what’s meant to be a valiant effort to show them the world out there. and what i mean by that is the world that God’s created. they’re so smart and no one ever gives them enough credit for that. and so that’s what i’m trying to do; dish out everything i can so that they’re ready for everything that’s waiting for them … and that they’ll turn to God when it is. i try to make them think and make them open up and make them evaluate. and i share with them; i share what’s going on with me and the musings i’ve read and the morsels i’ve collected.

and so that’s where this blog has brought me: an opportunity to try to do more of the same, to whatever wayfaring strangers find their way to my humble (but ever so rickety) abode. hopefully they (you!) will pull up a chair, knock on the door, and i’ll pull up a chair for you. because what is life without living it? you can’t do it all on your own.

so here we are. you and me. welcome, it’s nice to have you…