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often when i go to God about decisions I’m making, I come to him with my proposal typed out and neat and tidy in a folder. i lay it all out on the table and show him how i’ve narrowed it down to two choices, A and B, and which would he like to choose?

I take the God of the universe, the Creator of everything complex and incomprehensible who wrote this great story that we call Life and Eternity, who is bigger than anything i can imagine and who understands it all and somehow stitches this huge tapestry together into one great, intricate and beautiful masterpiece, and who loves–me!–more than i can even begin to fathom; and i give him a multiple-choice quiz with two possible answers: A or B.

“OK, now which one do you choose, God?” I tap my foot impatiently and want him to answer me on the spot. I mean, come on; He’s the one with the answers right? Why should I have to wait around on Him?

It makes me pretty disappointed in myself and embarrassed, really, that I would do that to the God who loves me so much and who all He wants to do is help me get the most out of Life that I can and wants what I want even more than I do. I do that now and people did that to Jesus back when he was alive, too: taking him these questions or demands and presented them to him as having only two options. but time and time again, He would break that mold and that conception and show them how close-minded their thinking truly was, as he’d show them another route or another question that never crossed their mind.

I need to focus more on just asking God the question and leave it at that; stop it with the “I’ve already analyzed the situation, so choose between these two.” go to him from the beginning with the raw question and leave it open-ended. “What do you want? What do you want me to do with this?” and then…wait and listen.

this acknowledges that he knows better than we do and that his answers are so much better than the lousy and limiting–and un-interesting!–A and B choices we often give him. there are so many other options, we need not strip him of his creativity and his power. option C can be so much greater than we could have imagined!

I will bring you gold in place of bronze, silver in place of iron, bronze in place of wood, iron in place of stones.
– Isaiah 60:17

He will bring us more and greater and richer things than we can imagine or think we need…if we just ask him and quit trying to take over the reins all the time.


Not being a fan of forwards or chain letters, I received this email from one of the girls in our youth group and thought it was a fitting and direct illustration:

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, ‘Who would like this $20 bill?’ Hands started going up. He said, ‘I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this. He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, ‘Who still wants it?’ Still the hands were up in the air. Well, he replied, ‘What if I do this?’ And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. ‘Now, who still wants it?’ Still the hands went into the air.

My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE and WHOSE WE ARE.

 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

as many of you know, I’m an avid blog reader. and though I haven’t had much to update/share myself (sometimes it’s good when life is smooth and unhairy!), here’s something I do want to share, that I came across in my morning reading. (plus, it comes wrapped up in a crafty extended metaphor, which you know i can’t resist):

Like so many postmodern ideas, “love yourself just the way you are” is halfway true. Or rather, it’s a truth that’s been flattened out.

When we love someone or something, we do love it as it is… but we also want the best for it. Let’s say you love antique furniture. You go into a dark, dusty shop and find a beautiful oak desk tucked away in the corner. It’s covered in dirt and grime, and has been partly repainted an ugly yellow, and it has a couple of handles missing. Even so, you can see that it’s beautiful – in tough shape, but beautiful. You buy it and take it home. Do you love it as it is? Yes, definitely – that’s what moved you to buy it, take all the trouble of getting it in the back of your car, finding just the right spot for it in your house.

But are you going to leave it that way? Do you really love it “just” the way it is, with its mouse droppings in the corners of the drawers, and cobwebs around the edges? No – you’ll clean it up. Do you love it now? Yes, of course. But are you going to leave it with that awful yellow paint? No, you’ll strip off the old paint and refinish it. Are you going to leave it with missing handles? No, you’ll buy some new handles, maybe replace the whole set so that it matches.


But you did the refinishing because you saw that it was not what it could be and indeed should be – because you had an image of what it really was and loved it enough to want to get it there. People understand this. It’s why we call it a “labor of love” when people remodel old houses, or put in hours of labor transforming a weedy garden into a place of blooming flowers, or run bake sales to buy books and toys for their children’s classrooms. Love sees what the beloved is… and wants to help it be more than it is.

Yes, we should feel that we are worthwhile and precious just as we are – just as that oak desk was valuable even tucked away in the corner, covered in cobwebs. But we should also respect ourselves enough to recognize that we are not all that we could be or ought to be.

We should understand that we are broken people, broken by sin; and that we are blessed above all imagining that our Lord loves us so much that He won’t let us stay that way.

 (From the insightful blog

another thing, i’m feeling more encouraged, after reading that book, “The Year I Got Everything I Wanted.” it’s a bit curious because the book deals a lot with how sad he is, but that’s one of the things i like about it. so often we feel the need to pretend like everything’s OK and great and has a cherry on top. but he just airs it all, and that’s so comforting. because then, as i’m struggling with those sorts of feelings (as we all do, from time to time), i don’t feel so weird or alone or messed up for them–even though the rest of the world goes on grinning and all that, i know it’s not just me, someone else has been there and felt that, too.

here were some of the things he had to say about despair and sadness, all influenced by the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes (written by Solomon, one of my favorites from the Bible, who asked for wisdom and received it). these are all pretty much direct quotes from different places in the book:

  • Ecclesiastes 7:3: “frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”
  • “it is only in feeling the depths of our despair that we are ever able to experience joy again. in other words, miss the sorrow of Good Friday and miss the joy of Easter. or, “a sad face is good for the heart,” which is what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. miss the sorrow, miss the joy… [the author’s friend told him]: ‘you see, my job as a pastor is to help people fully enter into their pain.'”
  • “i wish i wasn’t so sad, but i understand you have to do things like this to get my attention. this whole year has been about me, hasn’t it? sorrow it seems drives me to Jesus, which is particularly fitting because sorrow was so intrinsic to who Jesus was.”
  • “i find myself being half-present, unsure why i’m unable to concentrate, unsure why i’m unable to plumb the depths of my sorrow and move from an inward to an outward focus.”
  • “we are only able to be fully present with others once we’ve confronted our own demons. those who haven’t dealt with their demons are distracted.”
  • “it’s easier to forgive someone when they show you how wounded they are. usually in the heat of an argument, people exude an “i’m right, you’re wrong” attitude, and i never get to see how wounded they are, how weak. but tonight as [his ex-girlfriend] sobbed, i saw how pointless it was to hate.”

this past sunday kicked off a new series at church called, “peace.” (you can subscribe to eastside’s podcast and get the sermons for free; just go to iTunes Store > then search for Eastside Christian Cincinnati, and it’ll be the only one that comes up.) so, back to peace.

the one time when hitting the FWD button is a good thing
the one absolutely lovely idea that Jonathan spoke during that hour that I’ve really tried to latch onto is the idea of forwarding our worries to God. he was talking about how we get emails and there are some people who forward them on to all their friends. well he was saying that we need to be like that with the things that are stressing us out–don’t even bother opening them (the “emails”/worries) but just forward them along to God, who will open them up and deal with them appropriately. if we can just learn to forward them on to Him, then that peace that He offers will be so much more lasting and profound.

so i’ve been trying to abide by that, ever since. just when i start feeling that anxious feeling rise up, i just press the “forward email” button in my head, and just release it. interesting, because that’s something i’ve always struggled with: how to release things to God and not hold on to them. but this image of “forwarding” really strikes a chord with me.

trying is good enough
another realization of late that’s been bouncing around in my head is the idea that, you know what? i’m trying. and that’s all that matters. i’m trying when it comes to this whole snafu with paul and doing the best that i know how to do. i’m trying when it comes to reaching out to the girls at church. i’m trying when it comes to doing enough. i’m doing the best that i know how to do; i’m by no means “stubbornly resisting.” but at the same time, i’m human: so, try as i might, i’m going to mess things up. i’m destined to never get it “right” all the time. but that’s not for lack of me trying and so that doesn’t make me any less of a person.

i’ve struggled with that a lot and have finally come to terms with it, that what i’m endeavoring is enough. i have to do one thing at a time and then move on to the next–not expect to do it all here and now and be done with life at the ripe age of 25.

we watched a video on Bono once, and he talked a little bit about how his first trip to Africa was more than a decade ago, when he and his wife were still really young (maybe when they were first married?). anyway, he talked about how that one trip was merely a seed; they didn’t come back and jump right into starting charities and raising awareness–that trip percolated in their minds and then, when the time was right years later, they were able to take that seed and watch it blossom. so i just have to trust that those things will happen in my life–there’s no rush, right now. i just keep planting, and waiting.

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.

the idea of doubt is weird to me. because if you talk about god, even though i don’t understand him and i know i still have miles and acres to traverse and learn about him, i still know that He is good and He loves me and He will watch out for me. i don’t really have a hard time grappling that. or at least i don’t think i do.

but i’ve realized, lately, that when it comes to matters of the heart, i do.  i have a hard time giving my heart over and trusting in it. i think it’s a flip-of-the-coin thing: in the good in the bad, i know that God is doing what ultimately is best for me, even through the struggles and hard times. so i know that they will come and that they will strengthen me. but i think that i almost expect them too much. that even though i trust they will be for good, i expect them to happen. and so i set myself up for them and keep a watchful eye, almost willing them to happen.

i’ve realized that i do that with paul. and, admittedly, it’s dumb. we talk at least once a day. he holds doors for me and smiles at me and listens to me. he opens up to me. we hang out multiple times a week (this past week, we hung out, for some amount of time, on sunday, monday, thursday, friday and saturday). so should i doubt? but inevitably i do. with thoughts of “well he doesn’t do this like he used to” or “this has changed.” it almost seems inevitable for me to think that he’s always on the brink of leaving or losing interest. and i suppose it’s probably a lot of  insecurities, but i also chalk much of it up to selfishness.

because in my doubting, what does that say to him? your word isn’t good enough? your past actions aren’t good enough?

i try to think of relationships–friendships, romantic, etc.–in light of God. and so i think about how in the Bible they always refer to him as “the God of Israel” or “the God of Abraham.” they reference the things he’s done, almost as a reminder and testament of his nature–what he’s done in the past and so what he’s certain to do in the future. and yet, you watch time and time again how the israelites turn their back on god and stop trusting him. i mean, they’ve seen him provide for them and lead them out of deserts, and yet they still waver. which is why i think those reminders of how he’s proven himself in the past are so important; as humans we need those reminders. because we’re so easy to stray.

and so i have to learn to trust and let past actions speak for themselves, and quit being wrapped up in looking out for myself–and expecting that i’m the only one who will do that. it reminds me of the whole adam and eve story, when eve’s convinced to eat the fruit, because satan convinces her that god is holding out on her. and so she doubts god and all the promises he’s made and all the past blessings he’s poured out. she wavers and decides to take matters into her own hands. she turns her back on god and sins. i have to let go of that need to control and be on alert for those things. i’m sure i’ll never really overcome that (i think that’s kind of the curse of being a daughter of eve), but still. i want to trust instead of doubt. which otherwise i feel like comes so easily.

i think it’s hard with paul because there’s a lot at stake. of course i know that if it goes south, there’s purpose in that and that it’s just another step along the way. and i can handle that–i’ve been there before. so what am i so scared of?

but then i think about how God fashioned us after him, how he planted little pieces/reflections of himself in us. and i wonder if this, this need for reassurance, is a manipulation of Him. because you look at how Jesus shows us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. the first thing he does is praise God. he tells God that he loves him. and God loves that, God wants to hear that. he knows everything about us and everything in our hearts and everything before it happens, but yet he still likes hearing it. just like i do. and in church today we were talking about doubt, and Jonathan quoted the verse in Mark 9:24  where a man tells Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” he believes but still has unbelief.

so that’s not me making excuses, it’s just me exploring and prodding. and trying to learn.

there are two cds that i’ve been listening to on repeat lately and that i shuffle between, both of which make me feel very teeny-bopper-ish but for which i’m not embarrassed: avril lavigne and hawk nelson (even though this cd, letters to the president, is actually pretty old–sometimes it just takes me awhile to give some bands a chance; that’s the pessimist in me not expecting them to be any good).

whenever i get a new cd, i can tell that i really love it–that i can even call it a favorite–if, upon popping it in, i listen to it on repeat, over and over again. if i keep going back to the same songs and can’t bear to skip ahead because i like this one so much. the same was true for mates of state, the brunettes and, most recently, jack’s mannequin. and yes, that has happened with these two recent discoveries.

but there’s a part of one hawk nelson song (the title track) that’s really resonated with me as of late:

if i was brave, i’d write a letter to the president
and have him give it to the leaders of our parliament
but for now, i won’t say nothing

now, i realize that in this song, he’s talking about something big and political and trying to help society. the reason why i like the song so much and empathize with it is for nothing so grand as that. it’s because i love how he says that to speak up, to say “something,” is a brave thing to do. and i feel that way a lot and am trying to be better at it.

Read the rest of this entry »

now i realize that i originally said that one of the things i wanted to do with this journal (“blog” is such a weird word) was to try to focus on thoughts and deep-down stuff, not fluff. and i realize that my most recent post was all about drinking and parties and the like–not exactly something that i’d brag about in an interview.

the reason for that–for posting that–is that i’m trying to learn how to be okay with being imperfect and having messed up, and admitting those things. it’s not that i believe drinking is wrong, but i do believe it made me do stupid things–many of which were associated with nights like the ones i listed. i’m not proud of them, but they exist. and because i did them and because i actually view them as good things (in that i learned from them), i have to be open about them rather than lock them up in some air-controlled safe.

because i’m learning that being a christian isn’t about being perfect. otherwise the whole notion of grace would be null-and-void. having messed up and being able to take the steps to pick up the pieces and move on is much more attractive than never having any pieces to pick up in the first place. that’s because every one of us knows that we ourselves have plenty of pieces and are broken, so we need others to be able to relate to, who can walk alongside us and share in the growing pains together and learn from one another. perfection is alienating, in that it’s fake.

and so, here i am admitting that i have done dumb things and am still feeling my way around. i don’t have it all figured out, not nearly. but sometimes i’m afraid that i don’t reveal that often enough–that i don’t let my guard down to let others know that they’re not alone and that i’m just as much in this mess as they are.

(plus, i think they’re pretty entertaining stories. i mean, seriously: Sock Man?!)