Monthly Archives: July 2013

what’s saving my life right now

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So once upon a time I read this:
http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-this-is-saving-my-life-right-now/
and it really stuck with me and I loved it. Once upon last week I acquired a counselor (for free because grad school) because I have smart and helpful friends who do social work and think that’s generally a good idea for most people (i’m looking at you max and becky and jen)
Anyway. This particular lady is all about strategy. What’s your strategy for this and your strategy for that? Which I appreciate, because I’m not always good at making plans, but I get weirdly attached to following them, so they end up being pretty effective. Anyway. One of the strategies she gave me for general life improvement was listing out things I was thankful for, and so I remembered this http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-this-is-saving-my-life-right-now/ (seriously. just read it okay?) and I was like…I’m going to start doing that.

So. Since Tuesdays have always been and will always be my least favorite, I’m going to do this on Tuesdays. Just list the things that are saving me right now. Some of them are deep, most of them aren’t. It’s all good in the hood. So without further ado, here’s a list (because I missssss lissstsss)

1) Derek Webb. Alllll of the Derek Webb. I’m thinking of making “I Don’t Want to Fight” my new personal theme song (and if you participated in DWD yay. if you didn’t… it’s never too late)
2) churches that baptize kids in kiddie pools and absolutely ooze openness.
3) Benadryl. Because mosquitos
4) Kevin Durant made a movie y’all. A *movie*. And you can see hideaway at one point
5) Skyping Robyn. Need I say more?
6) Dance moms #sorrynotsorry
7) Rebecca being conveniently unoccupied 100% of the times that I am bored in the middle of the day
8) Taylor’s pictures from Harry Potter World
9) Anne Lamott and the fact that she made me seriously contemplate dreadlocks. That takes skill as a writer. I disagree with her some, but she makes me think.
10) rain. it turns out rain makes me really, really happy. Go figure.

 

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springtime green

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I blog all the time, I get that. But whatever. It’s incredibly therapeutic for me.

You get down on your knees in the middle of the night when you’re spooked and studying and just generally not sleeping. For the first time in months you pray from the deep places in your heart and you’re surprised to see what’s there. Gratitude for new friends and for the lokomat and for the best bosses who ever lived. You hadn’t noticed how thankful you really were. And it bubbles up inside you, and you thank God for being the bringer of the myrtle when you sowed nothing but briers. In the next breath you ask. Not for survival, the way you have been.

Eating a chunk of cookie cake that proves to you that things are more than they seem to be, you ask for restoration. Because the Shane Claiborne liturgy book took you to Nehemiah and everything is exploding in new for him and you long to be remade.

It rains. And you’re not that person who hyperspiritualizes the weather (actually yes you are. You totally are), but this rain feels like it comes from the very top of heaven.

You can’t articulate it for so many days. You sit in front of a computer and try to form the words that will speak this into your heart. You need to write it to yourself because the noise in your head is loud and the white page is quiet and none of this makes any sense. But you’re feeling like it’s spring. Something in your heart unclenches and starts to open. But the words escape you. The joy is somehow too fragile. It’s new and it’s thirsty like a baby flower and the rain is soft outside. So you sit barefoot on the wet grass and soak it in, sort of afraid that the newness will leave you.

The sun comes up on Sunday morning, and you promised yourself to try a new church. Just to see, just to hope one more time. The cynicism attached to the old one seems too heavy for the fluttery thing in your heart. It meets in a middle school and the greeter has dreadlocks. And they read a prayer and sing hymns and take communion, but the people on the stage are casual and the people sitting around you are friendly.

The sermon is about persevering when joy is faint and about being made new. Your smile almost breaks your face.

They baptize a kid who looks like Kevondre in a kiddie pool with a hose, and it’s so beautiful that you could burst.

It’s church the way you always sort of hoped it could look. The grape juice on your tongue brings you suddenly back into this place where you want to be connected to the church again. It’s a body, and you were so angry with it. You were so hurt. You were so tired. But the nourishment isn’t a mouthful of bread, it’s the casual loveliness of the body of Christ.

The thing that was so delicate. The tiny, quivering newness inside your heart. It sprouts and shoots and curls around your cynicism and your anger. It burrows restlessly through the wall, cracking and splitting and throwing chunky patterns of light on the dark places.

 There is a hole in the wall, and you are astonished to find that through the crack everything is bigger on the other side.

And you sit with a seventeen year old who could not sound more like the way you were at seventeen and instead of angry you feel quietly grateful for the God was with you and is with you.

And you see a face on your computer that you haven’t seen, and for two hours the joy leaks out of every part of you.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”
-Isaiah 55

And it sounds like a lie, but I’m so happy to be here. It’s been a lie, honestly. I’ve said it because it needed to be said. Today I can say it because I mean it. Because God is here and I’m here and it was always supposed to be like this.

And everything will be made new again.

 

a surprising emotional development

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So I’m working on a profound revelation right now. It’s percolating in my brain like tea (does tea percolate?) and as much as I hate the smell of brewing tea (and that’s a lot) I’m glad. Every time I try to write about it (because external processor) it comes out as total gibberish. So I’m letting it stay in my brain, but I still want to say something.

I’m walking differently at the moment.

My mother, whose profession is gait analysis, pointed it out. She said I’m walking like someone has just taken something heavy off my shoulders. Her explanation was anatomy being over, but I’m not convinced that’s it.

There are books on my bookshelf, finally. They’d been sitting in the box I packed them in since I left Waco. I’ve added a bunch this summer. The thought occurs to me that I’m reading like a grown up now. I didn’t before.

I played in a dodgeball tournament with my brother, his college roommate, their wives, and Lauren and Nate (#seventhwheel). And for the weirdest collection of people maybe ever, it was fun.

The red chair from Waco apartment found its way into my apartment here. You guys remember, maybe, how very attached I was to that chair. It feels like MC and Sunday naps and ICM emails and nail polish. It doesn’t make me sad, somehow.

There are children in my life. The same ones every week. We stay late on Thursdays, and it seems like ICM. Only it’s somehow more in line with the way I’m wired.

I’m sleeping again. I wasn’t for a while. I was channel surfing for Friends reruns until like two or three in the morning and stumbling out of bed at six like a train hit me.

And I’m happy. I’m singing loudly all day long and being snarky in a nice way and high fiving people and praying in the rambly, out loud way that everyone in Phi Lamb used to laugh at.

So I’m walking different. Maybe it’s confidence. That I feel like I belong here. I’m not looking around trying to impress people.

I’ve said before that I was doing better, and the midsummer meltdown did delay my progress a bit. But before when I said better I meant…like not crying and able to function. What I mean now is that I like my life here.

It was a hard summer. I know you know that. But I look around and I see how everything in my life was always leading up to this. The pieces fit. And I’m happy. I prayed for contentment, I prayed for joy, I prayed for hope. God let me have happy. I didn’t expect that, and I certainly didn’t earn it. I haven’t even been trying all that hard to be happy.

Sometimes grace is waking up and realizing you legitimately think that morning is a good thing.

It’s been awhile. 

hope

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Almost asleep on the most comfy couch in the world and the conversation turns to the Middle East. It interests me in that far off way that almost breaks through the haze and makes me giggle a bit thinking about Nate Rogers and how strongly he feels about this. How I want to feel that strongly about things. It’s real conversation, and when we usually just pile on Dr. Carter and the mess this class is making of everything I want to listen to this. 

Suddenly we’re there on the couch talking about Jesus. My head is clearing a bit, registering the fact that it’s been awhile since this conversation occurred somewhere other than the bridge in Waco or Common Grounds or the floor of my old living room. The canned phrases we fought so hard for bubble up inside of me, but they feel oddly forced, here in this room. Here in this place in which God and I are fighting. Not against each other, for each other. Him fighting for me using the people who love me and me fighting for Him with the almost burned out candles on my nightstand, an already-battered prayer book, and a thousand text messages. I can’t say the things that make it seem easy.

“Do you ever feel like Jesus or God or whatever…Like it’s true for everyone else, it works for everyone else, but like…not for you?”

This. These are not my words and yet they are my words. They’re the words my heart has been searching for. The words it tried to find years ago, and that it’s looking for again. I’m shocked to hear them so clearly, in a voice that isn’t my own. I’m not entirely sure how I respond at first, I’m assuming I somehow communicate that yes. I feel like that. 

I feel like that in a thousand moments. I feel like the answers I have to give…the ones I’ve read about and talked about and that I honestly believe are true…I feel like they aren’t for me. I live like they aren’t for me. I would tell you, in another time of my life, a thousand beautiful words about God’s love being eternal and outside us and in spite of us and broken things being stamped excellent with ink welled from divine veins. I know the words to say. 

I do not say them. What I say are the words that rush into my heart as the question sits so deeply on me. “It’s not always about believing it’s true. A lot of times I can’t believe it’s true. Satan believes in God.It’s not always about believing. It’s about hoping.”

Crucify me theologically, but those words. I mean them. I still mean them. They are the truest thing I could say to you, to anyone. I fumble a bit, trying to explain what I mean by hoping. Trying to explain that when you really hope, you center your life around this thing. You change. Gravity re-centers. You drift out of the center of the universe and the sudden weightlessness is relief. Utter relief in no longer hoping in yourself. (I’m nowhere near that articulate out loud. Out loud I am rambling). 

What I’m trying to explain is that some mornings you wake up and swear at your alarm clock and remember the important thing you forgot to do yesterday and you don’t have clean scrubs and Oklahoma City feels like the loneliest place in the world. You read a blog by a friend who is hurting, and it hurts you because you have zero left to give. You have a day that’s just brutal, and all you want to do is sleep. All you want to do is swear at the pissy person who hurts your feelings and not return the angry text and put off being there for the friend who needs you and blow off family time because nothing seems to help anyway. That’s the only thing you are capable of wanting. And in that moment God is hard to believe. Not because He is less real, but because it all seems random and painful and like the world has exploded into a thousand disjointed pieces. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold”. 

In that moment you remember the voice of Jesus telling you to love your enemies and to invest in your neighbors and to rejoice and to hope. And in that moment it seems like the second most impossible thing. But the most impossible thing…the most impossible is staring into this suddenly void universe and believing that you are your best hope. That is too much. The universe is void and dark if you are the best you have. 

This is where faith becomes hope and you find a point of light in the fogginess. “inwardly we are being made new”. That Jesus loved the wreck you are. That He died to redeem it. That the way He asked you to live is somehow better (and at any rate can’t be worse) than the things you are chasing. And even when you can’t believe it in a way that grounds you…you can hope in it. You can choose to walk through the motions of the life you were called to, void as they seem. 

God is there. He loves you there. He is glorified in even that crooked moment. 

 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

You never see it. A lot of days the confidence and the assurance are heavy on your shoulders. But CS Lewis said it best (what else is new)

“Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that in that case the made up things seem a great deal more important than the “real” ones (of yours). (In that case) I am going to stand by the made up world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there is no Aslan to lead it. I am going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there is no Narnia.”

The solidness? It comes back. When you choose to trust in the God you can’t see, when you read His words even when they are thick in your throat, when you hope against everything because…because there’s nothing else worth hoping in…I believe God meets you. The plan He laid out so long ago will be solid again. 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

 He died to make this true. For me. I’m not the sum of God’s story (and that’s relieving) but I am a part of it. That’s what I would say—it may not feel like it, but it was always for you.

accident prone…

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Dear elementary school best friend who I sort of dropped in middle school:

Okay. Now see, we’ve known each other forever. Okay. Great. So you invite the whole James gang to your wedding. Wow. Okay. Keeping in mind that I drove almost TWO HOURS with my brother listening to froggy fresh (if you don’t know about this/I didn’t send you sound bytes go look it up. I need you to be appropriately sympathetic), you shouldn’t be surprised if disaster was lurking. After all, we go way back. You were there when I got bit by the ferret and the time I cut a huge chunk out of my hair and when I got concussed playing red rover. You know about the incident with the Vicodin when we were ten and the whole helium thing. I won’t even bring up breaking my arm on the couch or the amount of loopy the anesthesia made me. Anyway, long story short you should have been expecting some kind of disaster. So let me remind you: NONE OF THIS WAS MY FAULT (mostly).

So. First off. I get the wheezy laugh from my mom. So when there was an a capella group suddenly from nowhere singing and snapping we giggled a bit. Actually we were fairly discreet. You couldn’t even hear us over the screaming baby. And I didn’t quote Pitch Perfect at all. You’re welcome. Because it was right there.

And. And. My intent was not to get confetti all over the chapel (and the guy sitting in front of me). You gave me a handful of confetti like AN HOUR before I needed it. That was never going to end well.

But that wasn’t so bad. I was expecting more disaster. Oh wait. The reception. In which you ASKED ME TO SERVE DRINKS. Now we both know that wasn’t the best decision (also we haven’t talked in like six years and I’m semi in your wedding? Hokay). AND the punch was SO BLUE. Now obviously blue dye stains. I know it was your colors, but either have clear punch or have someone else serve it. (anyway. That girl was wearing an all white dress to a WEDDING. That’s weird and we both know it. She deserved it, probably.) As an aside I am sorry that the man I joked about spiking the punch to was your teetotaling uncle. He started it. And he probably knows you aren’t a drunken heathen like “that Baptist Baylor girl”.

Oh. And about setting the table on fire and also making bead animals out of the table runner. Um…sorry. That’s my bad. I don’t do bored well. But nothing bad happened, and we put it right out. So…no hard feelings?

It was a lovely wedding, really. You looked so happy, and I was happy for you. I even hugged you (I even hugged your mom). Seeing high school friends was something. AND I stopped my brother from throwing the beads at people he doesn’t like. I mean, you’re welcome. Basically saved your wedding.

Oh. And. I’msorryiaskedyoursisterifshewaspregnantwhenshewasn’t. I have that problem more often than I’m proud of.

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How all conversations with high school friends go: (my thoughts in italics)

F: JJ! HI!

*I don’t respond*

F: OMG do people at Baylor call you that? HAHA.

Only the really obnoxious ones. Also who are you? Dangit. Facial recognition.

Me: Ha ha. Not really no. omigosh HI! How have you been?

F: You look SO DIFFERENT WITH BANGS.

M: yep. I’m like Clark Kent.

Was hoping you wouldn’t recognize me. Also WHO ARE YOU?

F: so what are you doing back in Oklahoma?

Presenting my body as a living sacrifice. Looking for a ram in the bushes. Slowly decomposing.

M: I’m in PT school, what are you up to?

F: Oh, I’m _________. PT school, wow. So what did you study at Baylor?

Physical therapy things? Come on.

M: Biology

F: are you still so smart?

No. Case in point: I still don’t know who you are.

M: No. What did you study?

F: English.

So not helpful.

F: We should catch up sometime now that you’re in the city!

M: yes! Great! But I lost all my numbers so you’ll have to text me your name.

Small victories. Oh look, open flames to play with.

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if you’re aware of any medications that would help me be less of a disaster, please let me know. 

he has made everything beautiful in its time

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Ecclesiastes 3

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

I know Boggus has been preaching on Ecclesiastes, and I’ve heard Brooke Nine say a lot of things about wind. So when I went to BSU lunch today (and that was a huge personal victory) and I saw that this was the passage I rolled my eyes. “that’s my old life. that’s not what God wants me to hear right now.” 

false. I needed to hear this. So much. I don’t know where you are as you’re reading this. But I do know that God is making you beautiful. It’s not on accident, friend. The ordinary, everyday things you do? The housework or the babysitting or the homework or the busywork…God makes it beautiful. We’ve been brought to this season to shape us. The business of redemption is painful, scary, and exhilarating. But when these words hit my ears today I knew God was telling me…this was always the plan. This moment. This mind numbing list of tasks. This seemingly mundane conversation. All of it, to make you new. Because you matter. And this season won’t be forever. You may even be surprised to find you miss it once it has gone. 

Don’t miss it. Deborah told me that, and she was right. be present.

it’s profound. totally.

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*i know, i know, i just posted yesterday. but i was in the mood to post something a little more cheeful, because i feel better today. and because i had a specifically blog-related conversation today. i was inspired 🙂  *

I haven’t talked much about my OU friends in this blog because it seemed like a weird thing. After all, no one from Waco knows them, and it just felt like that might be awkward. Today, though, I was studying with Taylor, and she mentioned that she reads this. Which is funny, because this blog is such a mess. But I mean, whatever. So I officially decided that it’s okay. And because I’m worried I might have scared some people yesterday, I thought I might tell you a little about the good things that exist here.

 They’re all people. A group who got thrown together through random numbering. I think at first we were all like “oh, yeah, this isn’t going to work.” because, well, we are all pretty different. But it’s working. Maybe it’s because we spend all day together, or maybe it’s more that…we just work. We can laugh at each other and roll our eyes and it’s okay. I’m used to being the snarky one in any given group, and I like that these folks hold their own. Not to mention the moments that I realize that deep down we are actually really similar. 

 Taylor wanted to say something profound that I could learn something from and write about. I rolled my eyes, because I’m not sure I’ve actually learned anything profound this summer. It’s been a lot of beating my head against the wall and trying not to hear the true things everyone was saying. But you already knew that.

 The most profound thing isn’t some magic bit of theology or advice or wisdom that suddenly fixed everything. Those moments mean a lot, and I need them, but I think maybe the mundane things are the ones that matter more. The moments when you get to sing off-key Taylor Swift on your birthday or you take a group nap on a really comfy couch or you develop the ability to read each others’ faces. There’s something completely profound about the fact that I have people in my life who know whether I slept last night or not (answer’s almost always not enough). It’s incredible to realize that six weeks of such little things can run together to turn people into a mosaic that just…makes sense.

Weddings and moving and friend drama and boys and Dr. Carter and really bad luck…It’s been an intense six weeks. But sometimes you end up laughing in a parking lot and in the same moment the words “yeah but we’re friends” leave your mouth you realize they’re true. You realize it because it matters to you when something happens to someone else, and you feel incredibly vindicated when they say the thing you wanted to say so badly. 

 I needed this. More than I can say I needed friends who wouldn’t ask me to have answers (well…okay. But anatomy answers are different). I needed something to hold onto, because a lot of days the faces start to blur and it’s impossible to imagine breaking into the waves of people and starting even a simple conversation.

 The thing last summer that was the hardest was the alone. Spending day after day alone. I remembered this on Friday when I was sitting on the couch trying to hold things together. And then, like magic, there were friends. There were people reminding me that there’s hope. There’s always hope. If that isn’t profound, I’m not sure what is.