I’m going to get all sentimental on you now.

In 27 days, my classmates and I will don caps & gowns of royal blue and receive a piece of paper saying that we’ve made it through high school successfully.
As I thought about what to type after that, my hands froze over the my phone’s keyboard, and my eyes stared blankly at the screen. My heart started pumping blood a little faster, and my lungs sort of seized up.
In most people’s minds, I’m sure a high school graduation just seems like a rite of passage or a step into a better phase of life. And I’m sure that they’re right. I know it’s a small step in my life, and I know it’s a springboard into my future, a future full of the plans God has for me.
But boy, oh boy, how hard it is to wrap my mind around the end of this era. I’m ready for college, and I think I have been for about a year now. If not that long, then at least the past six months. But there’s still the part of me that feels like I’m still 13. Where did the past 5 years go?
Since I don’t have an answer to that question other than the obvious (the list of things I’ve done in the past 5 years, who doesn’t explain why it’s gone by so quickly), I’ll move to another topic.
Jesus and the demon-possessed man.
If you haven’t read this recently, take a look at Luke 8. Until the last part, it seemed familiar though still amazing to me. Then it says that the demon-possessed man begged Jesus not to go. Begged. And all of a sudden, I can put myself into that man’s place.
Step 1) Jesus miraculously delivers you from things that have been destructive to you and to others.
Step 2) you are amazed to find yourself healed. You are full of gratitude to God and want to learn more about this incredible love that heals the sick at heart.
Step 3) Jesus says he has to go. He gets in a boat…
My heart just ached at that moment for that man. But, Jesus, I still have so much to learn! I want to spend time with you. I… I… I love you. I don’t have anyone else! I can just hear his plea.
Why did Jesus leave? I know Jesus is always there for me (not physical, but spiritually), and all I have to do is cry out to him… And I suppose it was the same for this man. But did he know that? Did Jesus explain it to him?
I can’t question Jesus here. I mean, he heals the guy! And he does have other places to go to, other people to deliver. And he’s not really leaving this man alone. His next step is to turn the man away saying, “return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Ah. There it is. In retelling his story, not only will the man continue to relive it, but he will be able to have more people to marvel with about Jesus’ amazingness.
Smart, Jesus.
He really does take care of us.

Scavenger hunt.

Here’s what I’m thinking about today.
People often depict life as a walk, that we’re all on this path called “Life”, strolling along through the nice weather and the rainstorms. Things aren’t always easy, and the view isn’t always nice, but we’re walking.
I would like to propose that life is more like a scavenger hunt. It’s a purposed walk. And you don’t always know where you will be going next or what you should be looking for. It’s not just a stroll down a pre-paved path, because no one has ever had the exact sequence of events that you have. Sure, you’re not the only one who has ever been in your situation, but perhaps you are the only one who has ever been called to India then gotten behind in Calculus, gotten stressed, and had your hair start falling out, in that order.
The path image makes it seem like we always know what’s ahead and where we should be going, like we have a map. I won’t say that we don’t have guidance, but let’s be honest – it’s quite a bit more ambiguous than that. There are some times when you just know the right thing to do, because it’s a black and white choice, a right and wrong decision, chocolate vs. vanilla. (you always pick chocolate in that circumstance, by the way) But what about when you’re deciding between who homework assignment to complete first? What about when you don’t know whether or not you need to sign up for the 21 or the 15 meal plan?
These type of things are what make like a scavenger hunt. We get clues and have an idea of what we’re looking for, but we have to rely on God’s guidance (who He so abundantly provides, when we ask – and often when we don’t ask) to find our way.
Scavenging, doesn’t that bring up images of searching through a dumpster or looking for berries in the woods?
It’s a search. A search for truth and right and the sure footing that will lead us to the place where God wants us.
Just my musings on my homework break. Homework break = over.

Me & Betsy Ray

There are a few literary characters with whom I feel very deep connections.  Granted, I feel connected to characters in almost any well-written work, but there are a few who resonate with me very deeply.

Betsy Ray in one of them.

Maybe it’s just that she was a Minnesota girl, and that she was a writer who was sort of idealistic.  Maybe it’s because I spent my summers as a younger girl reading all the Betsy-Tacy books all the way through Betsy’s Wedding. Regardless of why, she and I are nearly identical.

“Betsy was pleased to be taking the solitary drive.  She was a friendly, fun-loving girl with high spirits, touched off like firecrackers under a match by the company of others.  Yet as she grew older, she like increasingly to be alone.  She wanted to be a writer, and she had already discovered that poems and stories came most readily from the deep well of solitude.  Moreover, she had discovered that at seventeen one was growing up so fast that one needed time to think, to correlate all the perplexing changes and try to understand them… she did not look like the Betsy Ray who had entered high school four years before.  At thirteen, grown suddenly thin and tall, she had been plainly in the awkward age.  Now she enjoyed being tall and slender.  She loved high heels that made her even taller, large droopy hats, lacy clothes, perfumes, bracelets, and polished fingernails.”

Betsy and Joe, by Maud Hart Lovelace

Hello, Betsy.  You are about to be part of the graduating class of 1910 of Deep Valley High School.  I’m about to be a part of the graduating class of 2012 of Small Private Christian School.  You’re tall.  I’m 5′ 11 1/2″.  You’re obviously feminine, and I couldn’t be much more girly.  Freshly sharpened pencils are on your list of favorite things, along with new notebooks and family and rosy apple blossoms and lifelong friends.  I nod my head as I type each one of those things, feeling solidarity with you, a fictional character.  

You set goals, Betsy.  At the beginning of every school year, as you sit in the rowboat on Murmuring Lake, you make grandiose plans and write them out.  You decide who you will be and what you will do during the next year.  You plan those things out, and you don’t end up doing all of them.  Yet, when you get to the end of the year, you realize that “…you never slip down to quite the point you started climbing from.  You always gain a little.”  

We could be friends, Betsy Ray, you and I.  We could be dreamy and idealistic together and not live up to it but still accomplish something along the way, learning heaps as we go.  I’d love to join your world, to take picnics on the hill with you and Tacy and Tib.  We would get ready for the dances at Shiller Hall together, where you and your Crowd dance the waltz and the two-step and all the other dances while singing along with gusto to the music.

Have you ever read a book that you would belong in?  Not just one that you’d like to be a part of, not just wistfully thinking about living in a different time, but one you belong to.

Oh, Betsy.  At least I can read your books if I can’t live in your world.

P.S. If you haven’t read the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, you are missing out, so put it on your summer reading list.

Rain or shine.

I love the drive home from my after school nany job, down windy, remote roads. Especially when the sun, just beginning to set, is filtering through Audrey windows and it’s warm enough to have the windows down a little bit.
That’s the feeling of freedom, driving around curve after curve, while those warm rays lift my spirit and the breeze reminds me that spring is here and summer is coming. Summer, ah, the thought makes me twinge. So much to accomplish and live through before it arrives, and yet it isn’t far away at all. It will brings more peaceful moments with warm sunshine, and more relaxing drives down long, windy roads.
Rainy days, however, can have the same effect on me – only not if I’m driving. Those are the days where I hear raindrops hitting the roof and the windows of my house with a feeling of safety and security. Those are the days when my instinct is to grab a book and a blanket and to sit out on our three-season porch, in the big round chair, hearing the storm all around me but being safe.
There’s a genuine sense of peace in being protected. And I won’t always be protected; I haven’t always been. Sometimes, I’m driving in the rain, during those downpours where you can see about ten feet in front of you and have no idea if the other drivers can see you. (during those situations, I always think of the part during 27 Dresses where they hydroplane, and it keeps me at a slow, precautionary speed.)
It’s good to drive in the sunshine, and to be sheltered from the rain. and to drive in the rain. Maybe even to be sheltered from the sunshine (it can burn, you know.)
Thoughts of a Saturday morning.

Promises, promises.

I’m just wondering today about promises and obligations towards those to whom I make them. Don’t worry, if I promised you something, I’m sure I’ve kept it unless the promise was made after 12am. I lose brain function shortly after midnight.
There’s a story behind all this:
On my flight back home from India, the second leg from Amsterdam to Minneapolis, I sat next to a woman who was probably about 80 years old. She was Iranian, and may have been one of the quickest and most volatile people I have ever sat next to on a plane. It was an experience to remember.
As I’m telling you all this, remind yourself – as I had to do many times during this flight – that she grew up in Iran and didn’t grow up in a western, suburban culture. So when I tell you that I would open my eyes, waking up from a nap during the long flight and she would be staring at me as though she’d been waiting for me to wake up, it might not be as weird as it sounds. She also put her feet up on her tray table (a flexible lady, for sure), demanded tea three times before takeoff (getting the same negative – and apologetic – response each time), taught me to play a card game where the rules kept changing (I don’t think either of us knew how to play), and vehemently insisted that I fill out her customs form for her. It was a slightly scary time.
But then again, she also told me I was beautiful. And that I had beautiful hair.
And she made me promise to never dye it.
I sputtered an, “oh-okay. I won’t.” in response to her demand. What else would I say? The woman had proven her tenacity and desire to have things her way.
I probably should have no problem dismissing this promise. Not that I was planning on dyeing my hair anyways, but I can let go of the promise I made to a woman I only knew for about seven or eight hours and will most likely never see again, right? I mean, this is a question of my hair. Mine. It will get gray eventually. I will want to dye it at some point in college, I’m sure. (not that it’ll be gray by then…)
Does it say something negative about me if I dismiss that hasty promise? Logic says no, but I still feel this nagging voice in my head, in an Iranian accent, telling me I need to keep my promise. It’s silly. And it probably wouldn’t hurt anything if I broke it. But how far do I go in breaking promises of I break that one?
Sometimes there aren’t answers right away. Sometimes, I just sit in the sun and wait for inspiration.

Your story, which is actually mine.

It’s always a sad day when it’s sunny outside… While you’re in school. Then the lil guy you’re babysitting is sick, and you feel bad. And on top of that, he wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch for snack. That’s all he wants. But there isn’t any left, so you have to give him frosted flakes, which are a sore substitute for the cinnamon-sugary goodness of CTC, as we all know.
It’s also a sad day when people don’t understand that because you drive a manual transmission, and you do it responsibly, staying under 3 rpms at all times, you don’t accelerate as fast as she can. And so maybe her young, automatic car can go from zero to 55 in 3 seconds, but Audrey cannot. And when she throws her hands – cigarette and all – in the air and mouths “go!” like she’s never been so frustrated in her entire life (if that’s true, we should trade, lady), it doesn’t make Audrey accelerate any faster. You want to explain this but unfortunately, telepathy has not yet been invented.
So, you try not to dwell on those things.
You remember the great parts of the week. You recall that PSEO test that went better than any of the others have. You relive the experience registering for college classes for the first time and all the squealing and excitement that went along with that. Pictures of meaningful or happy conversations come to mind. And then, you remember that it wasn’t really a bad day. And you don’t really know why you felt like it was.
So, as you put a glass of water next to the poor coughing boy and remind him that wherever he goes, his water needs to come too, his smile makes you remember that there is happiness in this world, today. It’s not a bad day, not in the least. And what can we do about the elements that were unpleasant? Well, now that they’re over, absolutely nothing.
Even though you’re not certain whether or not all your homework will get done, or if your future holds what you think it will, or that the Twins will win their next game, the sun will come up tomorrow morning (unless Jesus comes back, whih would also be a positive scenario), and whether or not it comes up before you’ve left your house, the day will go on. And there will be something redemptive in it. Some blessing to find, some chunk of God to grasp onto.
Oh, the temporariness of these things I get upset over.

For those times when there is no time.

Dear blog readers,

As some of you know, I contribute to ChurchWith.Us, an online community blog. Since tonight – as with many of the past few days – there is no time to blog, I will instead share with you the post I have most recently shared with them in the hopes that you will still read my blog when I have time to post again.
Peeling the Layers Back to Third Grade

Sneezing and cleaning and a side of worship, please.

Grad party preparations were in progress this morning as my mom and I braved the dust, dead bugs, and junk on our screened-in porch.  Two space heaters (conveniently acquired when our furnace was tagged “dangerous” by the furnace inspection guy this winter, so the heating company provided them for the night spent without heat) kept us warm since this week the temperature has dipped a bit from the unusual highs we’ve been experiencing lately.  The dust started swirling as we went through shelves full of garden supplies, badminton rackets, a random piece of tupperware (we’re not sure how it got out there since we usually keep tupperware in a cupboard in the kitchen… because that makes sense.), too many flip-flops, beach towels, a tube of sunscreen that looked like someone had sent the lawnmower over it (DAD???), and a can of spray adhesive… among other things.

two short breaths in, and CHOO! That’s how I sneeze. (I’m sure you were wondering.)  Not only have the influx of pollen and a night spent around woodsmoke helped me clear out my sinuses by sneezing, but now we have dust as well to keep me sneezing.  I, however, like the sort of strange individual that I am, enjoy sneezing.  I can’t explain it, but I feel like it’s a release.  Like I’m saying LEAVE, pollen.  Clear out the premises, dust. And while we’re cleaning house, get out, Anxiety.  You too, Selfishness.  Out, out, Irritation!  I won’t be missing you

I should sneeze out my faults and hangups more often.

I almost blogged last night about how the empty tomb is inviting to me in more than one way – the first being because it’s a catalyst for rejoicing that my Savior is alive, the second being that it could be a place of retreat for an introvert… – but then I realized that the second reason made me sound depressingly creepy.  I don’t really want to spend time alone in a dark, cold, hard, lonely tomb.  I’d rather have a little room painted lime green all to myself, where pictures of people adorn the walls, but I am alone.  So, there you go.  I’m introverted but not depressed or creepy.  And I’m not a hermit either.

In fact, I went to a party last night.  Not your typical party, since it was actually a church service, but it felt like a party. I’ve mentioned before that I go to church twice each Sunday.  The first time is in the morning, at my more traditional Baptist church.  The second is at 7pm at a slightly younger, much more contemporary church.  The morning service was great; I even went to it twice since I was doing the powerpoint for both services.  But the 7pm was exactly how I think we should celebrate the resurrection.

There was crêpe paper on the walls and strung over the two trees in the room.  After Joe (who I found out a couple weeks ago has the same last name as me) spoke about letting go of our doubts and surrendering to God, we started to sing like the saved.  We sang and clapped and jumped around and danced like we’d been set free.  Because we have been.  If there hadn’t been a great feeling of joy and gratitude to my God behind all that, I would have been the one  standing in the corner, judging and wondering why people were being so rowdy. But it was so clear that it wasn’t about the jumping and clapping and singing – it was just an outpouring from the hearts of people who had been redeemed in the most remarkable way possible.  It was the celebration of people whose God had conquered death and sin forever, once for all.

That, my friends, is joy.  That’s where hope and joy spring from, knowing that my God has overcome all the things that face me in life.

I intend to sing like I’m saved a little more often.


Also, we dyed Easter eggs. With a glitter dye kit. It was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had with egg dying.

Good Friday thoughts.

I started off my day with a donut and real, caffeinated coffee. (the story behind that is that my severely caffeine-dependent family has been accidentally and unknowingly drinking decaf for the past week. When we realized, we were all like, “THAT’S why I’ve been so messed up!” Moral of the story: check the label before you brew.) Then I prayed for freedom, because it’s Freedom Friday – a blog post all in its own, for a later Freedom Friday.  And because it’s GOOD Friday, I read John’s account of the events leading up to the crucifixion.

Something struck me while I was thinking about the horrible pain Jesus went through.  I can’t remember the exact thoughts that were running through my head, but it was something along the lines of the incalculably intense pain that Jesus was under.  Intentionally.  On Purpose. He did it because it had to be done.

I was just thinking about how little I love people.  Not that I don’t love people as well as I can, but by comparison, I have no love.  I would not endure whipping well.  Particularly the barbaric kind of the time of the Romans.  I wouldn’t be able to think about why I was doing it, why it was important.  My pain would occupy my thoughts.  My blood would distract me from any thoughts of a greater purpose that I had.  Any good intentions of remaining  composed or not yelling at my whippers would be out the window.  The jeers of the crowd would make me weep and forget that I love them.  or maybe I’d just lose the love altogether.  I would not be stoic as they shoved a crown of massive thorns deep into my skull.  I wouldn’t be thinking about anyone but myself.

I would not endure the shame of bearing my own method of execution unsuccessfully up a hill.  I wouldn’t have the presence of mind to remember that this was necessary so that the people I love could have a restored relationship with me.  The nails would hurt, to say it delicately.  I think pain and self-pity would blind me to anything else going on around me.

But not Jesus.  Not my Jesus.  You can say that He didn’t have a choice as Judas betrayed him into the hands of the Jewish officials who would condemn him.  You can say that he had to go along with the questioning, the whipping, the torturous walk to Calvary, the excruciating death on the cross.  You can say that.  And you would be wrong.  I firmly believe that the God of the universe in human form, Jesus, had every power to stop the people who were torturing him.  I think he could have even just transported himself right back up to Heaven if he’d wanted to.  He could have ignored John and Mary, his mother at the foot of the cross instead of telling John it was now his responsibility to take care of her.  He could have scorned the two thieves on his right and left – they were actually guilty of the crimes they were being executed for, after all.  He could have cursed the people who crucified him instead of saying, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

All for love.  For love of a sinful people who can’t/don’t/won’t serve him, yesterday and today.

There aren’t words for that kind of the love and the gratitude that springs from it.

I spent the latter part of the morning reading about Chinese syncretic religions – not doing any faith-hunting, it’s for a class – and comparing it to this Jesus.  Comparing it to the One who knew – and said – that humanity was sinful and lost.  And he knew we could do squat about it.  So He took care of it.

Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

Surely, this was the son of God.

wrong numbers and days off.

In the past three days, two people have called me looking for someone else.  “Is Mrs. Cragness there?” Uh, nope. I’m not a Mrs, and my last name certainly isn’t Cragness.  Praise the Lord. (my apologies if that happens to be your name.  I hope the person who was trying to reach you found the correct number.)  I’ve had other wrong numbers too, in calculus.  Fortunately, not too many, so I will have no problem graduating. Graduation.  That’s in 50 days.

Back to those phone calls.  Whenever a number that isn’t in Pearl’s phonebook pops up on the screen, I debate over whether I should answer it.  I’ve had tons of calls for this Cragness woman since I got my phone – which makes me wonder if she’s been trying to steal my identity… – most of which I don’t answer.  So then I get voicemails for Mrs. Cragness.  I wonder what those people think when she never replies?  There’s something a little disappointing in knowing that I’m not the person that these callers are looking for.  I can’t help them, can’t answer their questions.  I’m really of no value to them, just helping them know that this number is not the one for Mrs. Cragness.  That is, if I decide to answer.  Thank goodness I get calls from people who actually want to talk to me, or my self-confidence would be shot!  (don’t worry, I don’t measure my self-worth by how many phone calls I get. It’s more by blog views per day.:))

Today, I’m just a wrong number. Which is totally fine, since it’s my day off – and I’m not itching to spend my day on the phone.  Those wrong numbers remind me of how I look in all the wrong places for the things I need.  For happiness, for satisfaction, for peace.  For energy.  I’ve got some wrong numbers.

“My soul, find rest in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Ahhh. There we go.  That’s the right number. No number in my phonebook can give me those things: rest and hope.  Just thinking those words gives me that peace in my heart that nothing else brings.  There are some sensations you can’t describe – and this is one of them.

Another thing that is hard to depict without pictures (my apologies, I forgot to get my camera out.) is waffles.  You think you know what waffles look like, but until you see two girls with peanut butter, syrup, chocolate chips, yogurt, etc spread out all over the counter, eating next to the waffle maker because it’s just more convenient for stuffing yourself than moving back and forth from the table to the counter… you haven’t seen waffles.  Waffles, dear reader, are a beautiful thing.

The dishes, eh, not so much.  But it’s a small price to pay for a fun breakfast on a day off with a lovely friend.  Hooray for waffles.  Three cheers for days off.  Hurrah for sunshine and spring.