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michael played a show on friday and performed one of the songs he wrote for me! can’t wait till i get to see him play live in person, but for now, video (and a few private showings!) will have to suffice:

isn’t that so sweet?! reason #283 why i love him!

so of course in the midst of all things changing with the move, there’s also the obvious factor that now i have a boyfriend who lives states and states away and who i really love.

the long-distance thing has admittedly been a bit of a struggle, but it’s also something that i’ve known from the beginning: if God allowed it to happen, it has to be for a reason. it has to be for the benefit of our relationship, not the detriment.

and i believe it has been. it’s really encouraged deep and healthy communication that’s often been absent from other relationships in the past. we talk about our days and our thoughts and our struggles and, before we wrap up our conversation for the night, we take some time to ask some “get to know you questions,” which range from “what were you like in high school” to “if you could only have one table utensil to eat with for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?” i know it sounds silly but it’s really been so much fun! (and for the record, michael’s questions are usually a lot more interesting than mine, but the idea itself was mine, so i guess that makes up for it!)

then, the distance makes it so that we have to be intentional about connecting with one another, so we started our own little book club together. we’re reading the same book together and then once a week, we go through, chapter by chapter, to discuss what we read and what we thought about the readings that week. it’s allowed some really theologic and thoughtful conversations. and we don’t always agree, but the fact that we’re able to be open and really get to know each other’s thoughts has been quite a privilege. and i don’t think we would have been that intentional if we were living in the same city.

because even now, when we do visit each other, it’s so easy to get caught up in the ordinary tasks of hanging out like watching tv or running errands. which are also totally a part of the relationship-building equation, but can easily become a distraction from talking about life’s deeper side. we can go the whole weekend and wonder where our time went together.

we’ve only been dating for about 2 months now, but it’s been awesome. i feel like we’ve really gotten to know each other and he’s truly become my best friend. and of course, as in most friendships, we don’t always agree on things. but the fact that we’ve been able to talk through those disagreements and open up and still love each other through them… has been really encouraging. i don’t feel like we’re faking it. i feel like we’re able to be totally ourselves with one another (or at least we’re getting there), and things are still good and we still love each other.

he’s coming up to visit next weekend; i’m already counting down!

“these are the days that no one sees…” is part of a paul westerberg song. “…they run together for company.”

awhile ago i read a book called “anonymous” that talked about how God puts seasons of anonymity into our lives to prepare us for our seasons of action. she paralleled it to the fact that Jesus was “anonymous” for years until he finally was ready to take the steps that would make him affect the world.

one of the analogies she uses is of trees and how the different seasons affect them: during the summer, their leaves are full and coat the limbs, but when winter comes, the leaves fall off and all you see is the tree’s infrastructure–that’s all that’s left and all that lasts. so it is with us: what the plenty of summer hides, the nakedness of winter reveals: the strength of our infrastructure–our character. but to get to that point, we have to grow to that point. so these seasons of anonymity, when we go unseen and seem unnoticeable, hide us and protect us and prepare us so that we have time to create and forge that infrastructure. when we undergo the winters of our life, our underlying strength will be strong enough and shine through–and sustain us.

a couple notes from the book: “anonymous seasons are sacred spaces, they are formative and to be rested in, not rushed through–and never regretted.” and “we can easily mistake fruitlessness for failure. we naturally grant more weight to the visible than the invisible, so it’s easy for us to underestimate its vital importance. we must not think unseen = unimportant.”

i think that’s a beautiful idea and it resonates with me, as i’ve recently become aware of one such season of anonymity that i’ve been trudging through. looking back, now i can see why my church’s lack of mature christian guys has been good for me, even though it’s something me (and various others) have lamented along the way and wondered where they went. for me, it’s been protective and helped me guard my heart. it forced me to be still and quiet and focus on other things, things that will last longer than any random relationship. it gave God a chance to work and heal and restore what’d been broken and marred by the years of haphazard dating that i was accustomed to during high school and college.

it prepared me for when that season of meeting someone does come to pass, i’ll actually be ready for it–not just in my head, but also in my heart and my spirit. God’s used this “downtime” to root me because growth takes time. it’s only now, after much fertilization and pruning and gardening, that i’m ready to be transplanted into that next phase of my life where this could come to pass. it’s only just now beginning that i’m ready to handle what that  (more specifically: the hearts and faith and community that i see in Grand Rapids) could offer to me. i have been in an “anonymous” place these past few years–but rather than stunting me, they’ve been establishing me for great things!

in the words of tara leigh cobble, “here’s to hindsight.”

Isaiah 55:13
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”

This weekend one of my bestest friends having just tied the knot this past weekend (and I got asked out on a date for the first time in almost a year, but it’s not what you think. Ask because it’s a rather pitiful—but entertaining—story…). So with seeing her get all fancied up for the big day and her text yesterday that said “We saw dolphins in the ocean today…I am having a great time with my husband,” let’s just say falling in love and weddings and marriage has been on the mind of late. (But, really, when is it not?)

Anyway you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that I read an article this week that talked about planning your wedding…alongside your soon-to-be-husband and how important it is to include him in that process, even though most guys say they want whatever you want. She brought up some good points about how it’s the first steps of decision-making together and teaches you about his likes/dislikes even before you start “forever” together. That’s something I’d like to replicate whenever my time comes, too.

Also, we recently wrapped up our latest book in my small group with Mal, Bri and Cathy. We read “Get Married” by Candice Watters which isn’t nearly as bad as the title makes it out to be. In fact, I fell in love with the book because she talks about that marriage is a gift God WANTS to give us (among other things: it models for us the relationship between Christ and the church and also teaches us crucial virtues like selflessness and putting others before our self). And so because God wants to give us, we should be bold to ask Him for it:

Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. . . . If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 7:7–8, Matthew 21:22).

And: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

She talks about not being ashamed of this (although of course with the caveat that to truly reap this gift you should aspire to marry not just anyone but the RIGHT person, which she then details, based on Biblical standards). It was a refreshing and encouraging look at something that people never really talk about. Which is why we are talking about it now. Along with a few other friends, we’ve started a prayer group called “Women Praying Boldly” which is something she suggests in the book, where you just make it a point to be praying for each other as we navigate these waters in our life. (Of course, life is more than just getting married, but that’s one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make so why WOULDN’T it be something that you’d invest a lot of time in and prayer and preparation for? Seriously. It’s a good thing.)

Here are some of the notes I took from this book:

  • if it’s true that God is all we need for fulfillment, no one was in better position to be fully satisfied than Adam, who was closest human to God until Jesus came. but even GOD said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone–that man should not be alone….and that’s because man is created in God’s image, and God is a relational God. being alone contradicts God’s nature, which is why it “wasn’t good” for Adam to be alone.
  • in Hebrew tradition, God is often described as the great Shadchan or “marriage maker.”
  • many of the longings that are common to our generation (for friendship, wholeness, for a life that is serious and deep, for associations that are trustworthy and lasting) could be largely satisfied by marrying well. (note the imperative to make your choice intentionally–just any marriage won’t do)
  • through our faith we can believe that if we’re following the guidelines for what to pray for, we can ask boldly and believe that our prayers will be answered. it is worth the risk of disappointment to pray boldly.
  • live like you’re planning to marry: cultivate a lifestyle that is consistent with the season of marriage ahead, where you are responsible (your choices with your checkbook, calendar, media consumption and treatment of your own body–because they are not yours but God’s!), concerned with others (not just yourself), and nurturing the men and the community around you to play their roles so that you don’t have to carry it all.
  • to be feminine is to nurture, not merely respond. we can bring healing to the very men who need it so that they can be empowered to take more initiative.
  • The most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through introduction by family, friends or acquaintances. despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate, the evidence suggests that social networks (the old-fashioned kind) are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests/backgrounds. almost 60% of married people were introduced by family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances.
  • do people in your life know you desire marriage? do they know the qualities you’re seeking in a husband? they might be willing accomplices in the search. also by talking about it with others, you can stand in the gap for each other. you can facilitate the courtship process and through self-disclosure, express your beliefs about marriage and courtship with your friends.
  • stop giving away pieces of your heart without being asked. start insisting that to gain intimacy, men must act honorably, state their intentions and initiate official relationships with the goal being marriage = GUARDING YOUR HEART

last week, my favorite Tara Leigh Cobble posted yet another blog post that i wish i could have dog-eared and highlighted, had it not been on a computer screen. a reader wrote in and asked her how you know what to look for in someone to date? how do you keep your expectations in check?

her reply included a list of characteristics she looks for in a man (and she notes that many of them mirror what she looks for in a friend because that’s what your relationship should mirror first and foremost):

  • Do we like to do the same things? (not all the same things, of course – it’s important for you to have individual interests that you can explore on your own)
  • Do we like to talk about the same things? (Again, not all the same things, but the big ones. For example, it is an absolute deal-breaker for me if a guy can’t expound upon his thoughts about spiritual matters. Being in ministry, this is too much a part of my life to not be able to discuss it with my best friend.)
  • Do I respect this person? Even when he/she fails? And does this person respect me?
  • Do we have fun? Do I enjoy being around this person?
  • Does this feel natural? Is it easy to be around this person or does it require a lot of effort?
  • Do I trust this person with my heart?
  • Does this person make wise decisions? (For marriage, you will be making decisions with this person for the rest of your life. If they don’t execute wise decisions, it will affect you forever.)
  • Am I able to be my true self around this person without fear of rejection?
  • Does this person understand me in a way that even I don’t understand myself? (This is important if you are looking at marriage as a means to become holier and more sanctified, because this person will be able to help you develop your strengths and reduce your weaknesses.)
  • Can I welcome the “hard truths” from this person when they challenge me?
  • Does this person help me become all that God has called me to be? Am I developing into a better version of myself because of his/her presence in my life?
  • Does this person encourage me, lift me up, and make me feel alive? Or tear me down?
  • Could he lead? Would I follow?
  • Am I this person’s biggest fan? Do I think he/she is awesome?
  • Does he/she make me love Jesus more?

if you know me well, then you know there are a few things that i’m a huge fan of: the color green, licorice, songs that sing about dancing, dancing in general, anything nature-inspired (the more birds, the better). so it is that over the past few months i’ve also become a huge fan of the website/blog/webcast for Boundless.org, which, surprisingly enough, is part of Focus on the Family.

i’m not one to usually listen to webcasts, but theirs is always one i relish, and when i sat down today to catch up on the most recent one–it was no different. because they’re geared to the 20something age group and presumably because they’re affiliated with Focus in the Family, much of their content has to do with relationships. of late, they’d been discussing the idea of “settling” when it comes to dating, which aroused a lot of uproar from readers. because they were urging people to settle and “just pick someone,” i was among those scratching their heads about what kind of advice they’re dishing out–because i truly don’t believe that that’s what my God has in store for me so it sat very uneasy with me.

in today’s podcast though, i think they finally were able to get their point across: christians need to settle–when it comes to things that the world deems important. but they need to not settle when it comes to the things that the world doesn’t deem important. in other words: focus on his character and spirit and faith,  not on his wallet and wardrobe and height. i’ve always loved the idea that “the weak will be strong” and “the first will be last” and those sorts of turning-logic-on-its-head. so it is with this idea, where we take the opposite of society and then find success–which, too, is not of the world’s standards.

ok so today at dinner we were talking about how these guys were going to a yankees training camp to try out for the team because they were amazing baseball players. well they show up to the first day 15 minutes late, and they just waltz in. evidently the coach walks up to them and tells them, “you know what? you need to turn around and leave because you’re late and you’re never going to have another chance at ball again.” just like that–for 15 lousy minutes.

then there was the story about this kid who took a dare to show up at a school basketball game drunk, for $20. he takes it, gets caught and then… ends up losing a FULL RIDE to harvard. harvard calls him up and says, no thank you. a loss of an education at the premier school in the country all for a lousy $20 and some bragging rights.

as i’m hearing these stories i’m nodding my head, like yep, i totally know where that coach and where that school admissions counselor was coming from. because when you’re laying the reputation of your school or your team on the line, you have to be selective; there are enough kids out there who can get by with “good enough” (whether academically or athletically). but the real test is how dedicated are they to your cause? do they have the heart to pursue it with all their might and all their soul? and in these two cases, those kids dropped the ball and revealed that they didn’t take these causes seriously enough–they didn’t appreciate the prizes they held and let them slip from their grip to shatter to smithereens with one stupid decision.

and i think about the guts that school and that team had to say “no” right on the spot, at the first sign of danger. rather than go, ah shucks and give them a second chance and hope they’ll shape up next time. they realized that if you can’t get it right from the start, why even attempt it? nip it in the bud at the first sight. demand the best because you know you deserve it–be willing to demand that.

which got me thinking about me dating boys. and why can i see that it’s OK for a school or a team to do that, but not for me to do likewise when it comes to my heart/dating? why don’t i have the guts to stand up and say, “no you blew it. you didn’t call me back/you didn’t treat me with respect/you didn’t make an effort/you hurt my feelings/you didn’t take responsibility for your actions/you didn’t trust me.” instead i turn to gush and waver and let it all slide. which doesn’t demand greatness or achievement. instead it encourages mediocrity for the mere fact that it allows it.

and the reason i do that is because i’m afraid of the “what if”–that they won’t do it again or that maybe he is the one. i’m afraid that if i mess up–if i cut the cord on the first sign of danger–that perhaps i’m pulling the plug on the one. i don’t trust God enough to know that he’ll make plenty sure that if it’s the right one, that he’ll MAKE the relationship pan out rather than fall through the cracks. or i get afraid that to do so is to overreact and be deemed an inconsiderate, unyielding snob. however, shouldn’t i indeed demand excellence when it comes to my most crucial attribute?

today betsy got baptized and even before she stepped into the pool, i was already crying watching mere strangers get dunked and come up anew in their relationship with God. and i thought, this is why i’m glad i have a tender heart. this is why i’m glad that i haven’t gotten jaded or bitter or callused over the various things that have happened in my life. i’m glad i get hurt easily because that’s what allows me to love easily. which is even more reason to guard my heart, because it is fragile–and that is a good thing. but not something to allow to be abused. excellence ought to be demanded.

sometimes i just don’t get emotions. like how you can careen from one end of the spectrum to the other within a single moment. or, in some cases (such as the current case at hand): without even noticing it.

but right now, that’s a good thing. because i’m very much in a happy place. maybe it’s the fact that last night i walked around with sparkly deer antlers on my head for hours on end and got to wear fake eyelashes. or maybe because i was also spending the evening with some of my (ahem) deer-est of friends, decked out in peacock, feline, giraffe, kangaroo, skunk and rabbit regalia, which is enough to make even the scroogiest in spirit crack a smile. or maybe it’s because today i bought new slippers that are soft and comfy and super bright green. or maybe it’s because after that, the Lovelies met and ate at Frisch’s and then paged through some pretty bridesmaid dress options for the big bad July event. maybe it’s because i just spent the last hour doing nothing but listening to the soundtrack i made for last night’s party and dancing along at all appropriate parts (which, for the record, is almost the entire thing). maybe? maybe.

but does it matter where it comes from? because i have to wonder if we’re even meant to understand emotions in the first place. think about it: emotions are the quality that set us apart from all other animals. yes, i imagine some emotions are instinctual (for example, a dog’s ability to show sadness or excitedness). in the chronicles of narnia, it’s this ability (to talk and show emotion) that set the narnian animals apart from the other beasts–aslan handpicks them. what i’m saying is, aren’t emotions the quality in us that best reflect our God, who in fact is Love? so if we already can admit how BIG God is–too big for us to comprehend how he created life or his timing or his whole plan or how he does anything–then why wouldn’t it make sense that this thing called emotion wouldn’t elude us as well?

i take comfort in that, that sometimes it’s not for me to try to grapple. sometimes it just is. and right now, it’s good and glad and all things in that wonderful, beautiful vein.

this might come out of left field for some people, because i haven’t really said much on the blog about all the specifics of what’s happened in Paul-and-Carmen-Land, but suffice them to say that if you’ve gotten the inkling that i’ve been upset for awhile, I have. the thing that sucks most about it all is that I remember being so happy with him: i remember coming into work the day after talking to him and being giddy. i remember our first date and staying out late eating ice cream and getting scared by sprinklers, and our second date when he was the most considerate person i’d ever met and we kissed under fireworks. fireworks! where did those go?

well, that’s the mystery. but also what we’re coming back to. because we decided this weekend to break up and return to building that foundation–work on building it right again. because i guess in our haste, we glossed over that. i guess–i’m not really sure what went haywire, all i know is that it happened and now we’re apart, but i’m glad for it.

the reason i’m glad for it is because through the whole thing, i’ve learned a great deal: a great deal about God and how amazing and myseriously he works and how his blessings work, and how to bolster my relationship with him and learn how to listen and how to trust, which has never been my strong point. but i feel like that, through all this, that has started to change. and for that, i can ask for no more.

it wasn’t until thursday night that i realized we should break up. until that point, i was holding on to our memories and things past and trying, trying to make it work. but all the effort was in vain. and i realized, it just isn’t working. and then i felt an amazing peace about everything–God’s reassuring hand that that was the right path to follow. i knew it’s what i had to do, what i needed. but i didn’t want to. i was very hurt by the realization because it shattered a lot of my hopes. but yet, i still knew.

so i prayed for strength to do it and to not chicken out. i had gone up to columbus on friday and when i came home, paul texted if he can come over. i did want to see him. because i’m still drawn to him, despite this revelation. and then i realize: he’s coming over to break up with me. and i was relieved; counting it another notch in the board that this is really what God intended for us. because God was doing the work for me. and that’s exactly how it happened–he came over and we broke up together.
it made me realize how fully God does look out for me and how he totally met me halfway. i guess it’s kind of like Abraham and Isaac, where all God desired was that Abraham be willing, and then he spared him. and here, even though i wavered (on timing), i knew it was something necessary that had to be done and so i was committed to the action. and once i made that commitment, God rescued me, just like he did with Isaac and the goat. it didn’t hurt hardly at all, in fact the whole thing was actually quite beautiful.

it was beautiful because it was almost magical–how a few simple words can break the spell that had been looming over us and had made everything dark and clouded and dismal. because with those words set and us being released from each other, we were real again. i felt like time was rewinded to a few months earlier–where we left off. we were real again. we just had conversation. with nothing holding back, just fun, real conversation. it was really good and reminded me once again of the guy that i first met. tonight he told me i was beautiful and that he liked my hair and my nails and my sweatshirt and my socks. oh, how i missed those compliments. and so it’s funny that they come back now. because now we’re broken up. which is what i knew i wanted… i know there’s a lot to work on, friendship-wise as well as spiritually compatible-wise. and so it’s best to do that in a non-demanding situation.

i guess we’re broken up, but with the potential for more. which kind of freaks me out because i’m afraid i won’t be able to handle that. that i want all or nothing–either to be boyfriend/girlfriend or nothing at all. and by nothing i mean, we stop talking.

but i read an article just before The Conversation that truly speaks to that idea of learning how to live life in the balance, rather than black-and-white or all-or-nothing:

Sometimes following Christ means going 180 degrees from what our culture dictates. I’m learning about that, for sure. But other times it means taking a different route … a more difficult one. It is our fallen human nature to look for the easy way out, and it is actually easier to reject God’s creation than learn to use it appropriately—because rejecting it means you don’t have to actually think about anything, while learning how to use it wisely and well means … thinking.

that this is another chance for God to challenge me and teach me. how to go ahead without expectations. and just be. leave the details up to him. to let go and give him the reigns. whether we’re together or i’m destined for someone else. that’s out of my hands right now. and for that i should be glad. and not fret or over analyze or over think. because that will shatter the whole beautiful thing we have going right now.

everything with this situation has been beautiful–learning about God’s will and getting more and more in tune with him, during this end. and looking at it now, i can see how things turned bad and could have hinged on that one point–that it wasn’t until the relationship was falling apart, that i turned back to God and learned from him and drew near enough to learn. i love that he allowed me that. because he taught me and he MADE me come to him and he MADE me learn to listen. he didn’t just give it to me, because that would have been too easy. but he gave me the opportunity to come closer to him and then i DID. i learned how to listen and how to discern. how amazing is that?

so i’m happy. in a weird, surprising, bittersweet, surreal kind of way. but happy, nonetheless…

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.

last night i just started reading “a general theory of love,” which came highly recommended from a designer who was in town for work the other week. she raved about it, so i grabbed it from the library and am giving it a shot. about 40 pages in, and finding the book interesting but very academic. you have to focus to read it, and i have yet to come across anything particularly gripping or worth jotting down, but still. plus, the authors use lots of big words, so it’s good mental floss!

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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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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…

i finished the thrill of the chaste earlier this week. and i would highly recommend it to any and every girl. here is evidence of that–all the places i found (and marked with cut-up post-its) noteworthy and memorable:

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so in celebration of all those colorful bits of post-its, i’ll intersperse some of the highlights:

when not being chaste (which means being intimate outside of committed love), you:

  • learn to detach self from emotion and action; do it all without letting self get attached so that you don’t have to get hurt–being preemptive/protect self. if you hunger for intimacy but fear rejection, it is MUCH easier to let a man touch your body than to let him touch your heart. (the answer is to stop protecting yourself and the only way to do THAT is to take yourself out of situations where you have to protect yourself–keep yourself from getting into those situations in the first place. to truly connect with someone you must be vulnerable.)
  • plus causes you to objectify sexual partners to the point of being unable to perceive them but in terms of how they relate to our own wants/desires. it makes us more selfish and honed in on what we want from someone; neglect that they’re actually human.
  • often becomes a thing of power/control

do good, worthwhile men exist? they have to: for god’s purpose of love and right sex to be fulfilled, both men and women must be capable of experience both to the fullest.

jesus compared heaven to a wedding feast and in Revelation, John writes that we’ll celebrate a wedding in heaven: the marriage of the church to Jesus. when you unite yourself to a husband, you will in a very real sense be practicing for your life in heaven.

God uses the natural polarity between a married man/woman to right an unbalanced world. when a man and woman live together in harmony, the divine presence dwells in their midst. when you can take two things which are by defintion opposites and bring them together, this is a microcosm of the purpose of the creation of the world.

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.

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.

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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.

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