Staring at raindrops.


Something about rainy days makes me want to curl up with a book and stare out the window.  Book in hand, fetal position assumed, stare out window.  You’ll notice this doesn’t include actual reading.

Sometimes you just need to stare.  You watch the rain come down and let the thoughts churn in your head til you’re ready to settle into a book.  I was all prepared to enjoy some sunshine with Crime and Punishment, but then this ominous raincloud came overhead.  I told myself that it couldn’t chase me back inside. (I’m tough, dontcha know.) I would stick around. Few raindrops?  That’s fine.  Hmm, I wonder how long it takes for them to get from that cloud to my skin? Back to Raskolnikov.  Wondering how exactly Russian names and nicknames work.

Ominous cloud keeps coming.  Ominous cloud starts dripping, just a bit.  Ominous cloud starts dripping a lot, and though my stubborn nature tells me that I should stick it out even though it’s not ideal and not comfortable and not what I came out here for, I go run up the stairs as the rhythm of the raindrops gets faster.

I don’t regret coming inside.  Better to take shelter when the conditions get bad and wait for sunnier weather than to try to convince yourself that the rain is comfortable and ideal and exactly what you were looking for when you came outside with your book and sunglasses.

Five minutes later, and the sun is back out. Blue skies, not a cloud in sight.  It does happen, people.  It does happen.

Declaration.


Whoops. I forgot to blog yesterday.  I intended to, and I wasn’t even that busy.  Somehow, it just didn’t happen.  Can we still be friends?  Good.  Thanks, guys.

Today, I am officially declaring that I have declared my majors.  As a collegian, you kind of feel like an astronaut cut off from the space station until you settle on a major.  Even then, you’re still floating in space in a sense, but you’ve at least got that safety line connecting you to something sort of solid.

You knew this was coming since I’ve alluded to it before, but just let me have my moment.  I am majoring in PHILOSOPHY and ENGLISH WITH A CREATIVE WRITING CONCENTRATION.  Yay double majors!  Yay humanities!  Yay for traveling off the beaten path of majors where you might have a good chance of getting a paying job after college!  Yay for dreams and callings!

It’s not very practical, but I’ve decided that I don’t have to defend it.  I’m going to just smile and say that I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’ll be in five years, but that I do know that it’s going to be great.  Jesus will be there, and I bet He’ll provide for my needs.  Then, when we get to five years from now and that’s true, all the naysayers and questioners will say, “hey, Jesus is good.  He did call you to something then provided work and food for you. Wow, that’s great.”

At the very least, I can still blog (if that’s not obsolete by then), and you’ll still read them, right?  Oh, you precious readers.  I like you.

Cardigan Dream Killer and Sass Box Writer


Some thoughts about food before I get to my real story for today.  (feel free to skip past the numbers if you’re not interested in food)

  1. I like eat unpeeled carrots.  I feel like I’m living life on the edge (which tells you a whole lot about my life).  I mean, it’s more like the edge of a 5-foot-deep swimming pool than the Grand Canyon, but it’s still the edge of something.  My mom likes peeled carrots, but she’s still an adventurous person.  I like to think of my non-peeling lifestyle as preparation for life in a semi-stocked kitchen this fall.  Who knows if we’ll have a vegetable peeler? Better to be prepared than to be caught unawares.
  2. Being a veggie-o-saurus has some major perks, one being that you get to eat more and still be pretty healthy.  Exhibit A: eat a salad full of veggies and wheat berries and wheat berries.  You just stocked up on vitamins, nutrients, minerals, fiber, protein, and a whole bunch of delicious.  Also, you’re not full when you’re done.  Meaning that you can then grab a little bit of carb, which isn’t as healthy, but you feel better about it after eating such a healthy dish.
  3. Rainy, fall-ish days in summer call for a second cup of coffee around noon, just because it’s so pleasant to drink a warm, caffeinated beverage on a chilly day.

On to my little rant for the day.

I met a dream killer yesterday.  Only it was at work, so you can’t really call customers out on that.  Hey, you’re a dream killer, and I don’t like you.  Oh, yeah?  Well, then I won’t shop here and will get you fired for your snottiness.

Said dream killer came into my place of work yesterday, needing to buy a cardigan.  (Really, we’re famous for our selection of cardigans… ) Dream Killer was slightly more needy than your average customer, needing me to call numerous other stores and asking me personal questions while I was one the phone.

Dream Killer: (while I’m on hold with another store) are you in college?

Me: Yeah, I go to school in Chicago.

Dream Killer: Oh, you go to the University of Chicago?

Me: Oh, no, I go to another school in Chicago.  North Park University.

*Dream Killer looks slightly less impressed.*

Dream Killer: What’s your major? (she’s not just making small talk.  she’s doing an evaluation)

Me: I have two: philosophy and creative writing.

*Dream Killer gets disbelieving, slightly condescending look on face.*

Dream Killer: What are you going to do with that?

Me: I want to write.

Dream Killer: Like write a novel? Are you going to be the next Ms. Rowling?  (laughs like this is absurd)

Me: Maybe.

Dream Killer: *something about how you need a fallback from creative writing. do people hire people with those majors? how are you going to get a job? you should do business management.*

Now, this is where the actual account ends and I get to say what I wish I could have said then. In reality, I told her that if all else failed, I’d keep working retail and write in the side, to which she replied, “you really like it that much?”

Here’s what I wish I could have said:

Business management, really?  I don’t like business management.  I wouldn’t be good at business management.  You know what I am good at?  Writing.  You know what God has given me a passion for?  Writing.  I didn’t just pick my majors casually, like you’d pick out a cucumber in the produce section (great analogy, right?  Right?  okay, maybe not)  Haven’t you ever had a dream?  Haven’t you ever been passionate about something?  I know some people who are passionate about business, but I’m not one of them.  What if everyone who had a dream about art or music or education threw in the towel and went into business management?  What if we all sold our souls and didn’t follow our dreams and passions?  Have you never read a book or an article or an inter-office-memo that changed your life?  Have you never been influenced by art or words or someone with real passion?  By the way, lady, I have two real jobs right now.  I get paid.  HOURLY. Yeah, man.  Hourly.  And I’m not in it (it being life) for a six figure salary.  I’d be happy to live simply.  Really, I would.  So, there you go.  You go into business management if you like it so much.

End sass box monologue.

I’m sure she meant well.  I’d like to think that she didn’t mean to condescend and kill dreams.  She’s probably a really nice person who was just having an off day (even though she got a great deal on the cardigan).

More to learn.


You’ll notice that the spacing is different in between lines in this post. Dead giveaway that I’m blogging on my phone. I’m not sure why you needed to know that but I felt like I needed to explain the formatting change. Now you know. Commence real thoughts.
I’ve been thinking about vulnerability the past couple days, how hard it is and how crucial it is that I practice it. Hard because when you share a piece of your soul with someone, it’s kind of like pulling off a band-aid. You don’t need the band-aid for the scratch to heal. (it might be an accidental paper cut, maybe a wound self-inflicted in a moment of weakness or panic, maybe a jab from someone else) You will eventually need to take it off. But the stuff under there might not look so pretty, and you never know exactly how someone will react to you ripping off a band-aid. They might be grossed out by the band-aid, shocked by the method of removal, or hesitant to peer at something messy and weak.
I’m hesitant to be vulnerable because I’m terrified of being misunderstood. You probably get this. I hope you do, otherwise my great fear will be actualized right here and now. I choose my moments of vulnerable sharing carefully, gauging if the person knows enough about me that they’ll understand why I’m sharing this and cares for me enough that they won’t judge me for it.
This is why relationships of any kind are hard. Sometimes they’re one-way vulnerable streets. Sometimes nobody opens up. Sometimes there’s way too much sharing, and trust gets broken or misunderstanding happens or you share too quickly.
Do you ever get sharer’s regret? Like when you maybe open up on the spur of the moment and – even if the response is ideal – wish you’d just kept it to yourself?
I do.
It’s a hoarrible way to live. (I spelled that wrong on purpose.) You hoard everything you wish you could share and thus feel horrible. I don’t know what the cure is, but I think it has something to do with listening well so that others are invited to be vulnerable and opening up when the burdens ask to be shared.
I’m sure it’s a learned practice, like juggling or walking on your hands. Probably as difficult. Maybe a bit more worthwhile.

An Open Letter to Donald Miller


Let’s talk about Donald Miller today.  Okay?  Okay.  Let’s talk about how he responded to my tweet/Vine on Tuesday, which made me ecstatic because why wouldn’t you be ecstatic if someone you admire greatly/would like to be responded to you? Donald Miller isn’t too big for his britches.  Donald Miller responded.

Well, maybe if we’re friends, maybe I should write him a letter.  I was going to contact T-Swizzle because I look like her, but I think I’d rather write a letter to Donald Miller because I’m reading Blue Like Jazz, and I feel like someone spilled my heart out all over the pages, both the good and the stuff that needs holy Clorox wipes.

Let’s just make it an open letter, since I have nothing to hide.  It’ll travel faster than a real letter anyways.

Dear Donald Miller,

You’re not like most contemporary Christian writers.  This is a high compliment.  You don’t package up Jesus and Christian spirituality into a nice, neat little box that we keep closed most of the time but open when we’re feeling holy.  Everything I’ve read that you’ve written seems like you’ve invited the reader to your soul.  I appreciate soul invitations, particularly since not many people issue them.

I bet everybody says this, but I relate so deeply to Blue Like Jazz.  That makes little sense since we have pretty different lives.  Also, just for the sake of being honest, I’m halfway through.  I haven’t even finished.  If you take a hairpin turn in the last half, I may have to retract that statement about relating.  I promise to finish though, no matter what.

Here’s something about me: I love stories.  I wish everything came in story form.  I’m not a good verbal storyteller (since it always sounds like a more substantial story in my head.  Example: This one time – it was a Thursday, yeah, a Thursday – I went to that same store that you went to, and that same person was working.  Oh… yep. that’s it.), but I could write stories, listen to stories, dream up stories, or read stories all day.  I’m really enjoying your story.  It’s a purposeful story about a journey, one that I feel like I’ve been invited to sit in on.  Thank you for that.

I just stopped at the place in Blue Like Jazz where you said that you propose to Penny once a month on the phone because she actually believes things and lives them.  (First of all, that gives me hope for the male species.)  Second, the reason I stopped is because I really wanted to know if she ever accepted.  That was 2003, so there might be another part to the story now.  You’d think the internet would help me with this, but wikipedia is strictly professional life, and google didn’t help either.   I’m nosey, but it’s just because I love stories.  Feel free to not respond to these personal inquiries.

If I’m ever in Portland, can I meet you for lunch?

I thank God for you, Donald Miller.

Sincerely (and I mean that),

Ashley

Why I’m disgusted with Facebook and how I’m going to use it better


Longest title ever.

I’m a social media junkie.  I love being a part of hundreds of people’s stories at the same time.  I love sharing mine, too.  I currently have five social media accounts (if you don’t count my shoutlife account that has been dormant for years): Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and… WordPress.  Does LinkedIn count as a social network?  We’ll add that.  Six.

In the past two and a half years, I’ve tweeted 5,827 times.

5,827

I’m not going to say it’s a problem, just like we’re not going to talk about my coffee addiction.  Maybe someday, but not today.

So, you know it’s a big deal when I tell you that on Friday, I was dead set on deleting my Facebook account.  I’ve taken fasts from Facebook before, but I’ve never considered actually doing away with it.

Here’s why I wanted to delete my account:

I discovered a Change.org petition last year that was entitled: Block All Child Pornography From Facebook.  My initial thought was but… there couldn’t be child pornography on Facebook. It’s just a social network.  There are a lot of pictures I wouldn’t put up on there, but surely nothing as horrid as child pornography.  Who would be so sick as to allow that?  That has to violate community standards.  They would take it down if they knew.

Famous last words.  They would take it down if they knew.  You’d think they would, wouldn’t you?  Wouldn’t that be the decent thing to do?  What do they have to gain by allowing it?

MENAPAT, which stands for Men Against Prostitution And Trafficking, knows otherwise.  They’re learned about groups, pages, and profiles all devoted to this atrocity.  So, like good community members, they reported the pages.  And they emailed their following to encourage them to do the same.

I am a part of that following.  I reported those pages because they were heart-breaking and horrible. And I got an email back from “Vicki” (I’m doubtful that she exists) each time, saying that she couldn’t prove that the page violates Facebook’s community standards.

Oh, really?

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 11.35.12 PMSource: Facebook’s Community Standards page 

“Vicki” has sent the same email to thousands of other people who attempted to report pornographic pages on Facebook.  In addition to encouraging people to report the pages, MENAPAT sent thousands of ‘Demand Cards’ to Facebook’s highest executives, demanding that they block all child pornography from Facebook, which has received no response except denial from the company.

I didn’t want to be a part of a network that allowed such things.  I wanted to throw Facebook out of my life forever and be done with it.

But I thought about it some more, and I realized that I’d much rather use it for good.  I’d MUCH rather use it to tell other people about what they’ve been doing, whether they’ll believe me and choose to act on it or not.  I’d much rather change my outlook, to use Facebook as a way of connecting with people to encourage and challenge them, not to show off my life, creep on someone else’s, or waste my time scrolling through my news feed.

It’s time to for change in the way I view my networking.  It’s time for me to use my voice for those who have none.  It’s time to use Facebook well and to fight to create an environment that does not exploit children.

I challenge you to do the same.  Share this post with your friends.  Sign the petition to ask the president to get involved.  Use your social network for good.

Things I want you to know


1. The DMV doesn’t take cash or Visa for passport applications. I just wanted you to know since it came as a surprise to me.  They accept checks or money orders.

2. It’s not the lady at the counter’s fault that the government doesn’t accept the most commonly accepted forms of payment. Don’t shoot the messenger.  Just indicate your disappointment respectfully, smile, say you’ll come back later, turn around, grit your teeth, walk out the door, and walk exactly a mile (in your girly, not good for walking, gold, sparkly flip-flops) to the nearest Target, where your mom went, since she thought they’d be processing your application for a while.

3. Donald Miller responded to my Vine today. (in which I admitted that Donald Miller is my imaginary friend… In truth, he’s more like a great example of what I’d like to do with my life.  So, when I tell you that I’m a Philosophy and Creative Writing double major, and you give me that weird look and ask me what I’m going to do with that — Donald Miller.  I’m going to be Donald Miller.)

4. I jumped up and down when I got the response and was speechless for a moment.

5. After all my cleaning at the beginning of this summer, I still can’t keep my room clean. In my defense, I’d like to say that creativity doesn’t require organization.

6. Working retail is dangerous for me and potentially detrimental to my goal of saving money this summer.  They give you a discount on the merchandise.  And you see everything that gets marked down.  It’s dangerous because I don’t want to be governed by a desire for things.  And I’d kind of like to be able to pay for my plane ticket for studying abroad.

7. I’ll be taking at least ten things to consignment tomorrow.  Please ask me if I did this the next time you see me.

I’m all over the place today, probably because I had coffee on my lunch break and spent 8 hours touching clothing.  Hence, the list.  I guess creativity does require organization.

A holy moment.


Today’s one of those days where I cross mini hurdles and want it to be a day that I look back on and remember, but in all likelihood, I will forget about today – not the lessons learned but the events.

If you’ve been around here for a while, you probably know that my Sunday tradition includes going to church with my family in the morning and with friends in the evening.  The two churches are completely different experiences, both valuable but for different reasons.  I’ve got deep roots at my family’s church, so many people I love and who care about me right back.  God speaks there.  My evening church is totally different, however.  I’m kind of a fly on the wall, in a sense.  I’ve always gone with a couple of friends, and since I left for college soon after I started going there, I’ve never had enough time to get plugged in.  I love the atmosphere though, and God speaks there as well.

Tonight, he spoke through a member of the community who was sharing about faithfulness.  We’re currently in a series about the fruits of the spirit, and this man was saying that his wife told him that he should speak about faithfulness.

That was nearly the last word he would use to describe himself, but it was what his friends saw in him, too, which got him thinking about that phrase in Galatians 5, “fruit of the Spirit.”  The word ‘of’ refers to that to which you belong or are connected. So, when we say “fruit of the Spirit,” we’re not saying, “this is how Christians should try to act.”  We’re saying, “This is what the Spirit produces in people who abide in Christ.”

Funny how my immediate thought as he shared his story about how God used him to be faithful to someone else was I would like to be more faithful.  I should work on that.

Wow, Ashley. Way to get the exact opposite message.

I had to stop myself and not listen to him for a second while I reset my brain.  Hold up there.  Remember what ‘of’ means?  It’s about being connected to Jesus.  It’s about abiding in Him and being faithfully obedient, listening, and letting the fruit be visible in your life.

It’s not about striving to be better or do better.  How freeing that is, how hungry that makes me for Jesus.  After he spoke, we had worship and communion, which is served at multiple stations where you kneel and someone tells you “this is the bread… this is the cup…” da-dee-da-dee-dah.

It was different for me tonight, though.  I knelt at the station, took a piece of bread off and dipped it in the cup as the woman who was serving me communion said, “This is the body and blood of Christ that He gave for you because He loved you so much.”

That last phrase hit me.  Simple words that I’ve heard before, but I had to stay kneeling there for a minute with my eyes closed while I swallowed the bread.  It was such a blessing to hear that, to hear this woman that I’d never met in a place where I’m still sort of  a stranger say that Jesus gave Himself for me because of His great love for me.

This story isn’t over yet, because I had a renewed sense of God’s presence in my heart.  It was a repaired connection to my source of life.    I glanced back across the sanctuary as the woman kept serving communion to other people, and I got that feeling that I get when I know God wants me to do something.  It’s a mix of a fast heartbeat and indigestion.  (so pleasant, I know)  He wanted me to tell her how she has blessed me.

So I tried to argue my way out of that one.

Oh but that’s kind of weird.  I mean, she probably said that to everyone. And I don’t know her. And even more than that, I’d have to walk across the room intentionally, and I’m with these girls that I’m going to drive home.  And I really should not do that.

I hesitated long enough after the service ended so that I lost sight of her.  See, God?  I don’t know where she went now.  Sorry. Lost my chance.

Still, though, the fire burned in my belly, and I kept looking around to see if she was there while I talked to my friend.  Of course, one of the girls I was with had to use the restroom before we left, so that prolonged the time and the likelihood that I’d see her again.

Of course, I did.  She walked across the hallway past me, carrying the cups of grape juice, but she was busy enough and far away enough that I still didn’t obey.

Didn’t you just learn about faithfulness?

God is so patient with me.  The third time I saw her, talking to a couple people, he compelled me more than ever before, so I relented.  I tapped her shoulder and told her that she had really blessed me in communion.  I told her that I didn’t know why, but I felt like I needed to tell her that.

The experience was holy.  Obedience always is.  I forget how much I crave that.  In talking to her, I learned that she had been praying for me, just whatever came to mind as I sat there.  She was kind of floored that I felt moved to speak to her.  It was beautiful and holy, and now I’ve met a friend there.

And I’m journeying toward faithfulness.

Books and fireworks.


I was going to be self-disciplined when we went to Barnes & Noble downtown tonight, and I succeeded… at first.

But then I saw the Bargain Books section, and who isn’t going to be drawn to that?  I mean, you can’t lose by looking, right?  So, I wandered over, saw a few things I didn’t need… Saw a few things I could definitely love forever.  Like a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writings, two novels and a bunch of short stories – all for $7.68 (plus tax, since apparently books aren’t considered a necessity).  I picked up the complete works of Shakespeare, too, but I put it back.  Because Fitzgerald beats Shakespeare today.

I started breathing kind of funny as soon as I saw the shelf with these collections of classic writers’ works.  They were hardcover with dust jackets and LOTS of pages of words.  And the price tag was less than $10, which is always cause for slight hyperventilation.

If you ever want to buy me something, buy me a classic book.

After we browsed the bookstore, we grabbed sweatshirts (and dropped FSF off) at the car and headed to the river to watch fireworks.  We had a perfect seat, elevated above the water, right at the edge of the hill, and directly facing the launch site.  They were some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

I always think it’s the grand finale way before it happens.  They’ll shoot off a few in quicker succession than before, and I’ll wonder if this is the part we’ve been waiting for, but then it isn’t.  That usually happens a few times before the real deal.

Really, it’d be a lame finale if my impressions were correct.

But then the real finale comes, and it’s so much more striking than any other part of the show.  And I always wonder how I could have thought that anything else was last hurrah.  It leaves me speechless, takes my breath away.  It stands out, high above the rest of the show, with a grandness that can’t be denied.

So much to learn from fireworks.

Jesus and the hormonal woman


What does Jesus say to hormonal women?  Or anyone else with self-pity/emotional issues?  I’m kind of wondering if he supports wallowing, because sometimes it’s 5:30 and you’re fine.  But then 5:31 comes around and you’re both crying and laughing at the same time, crying for sadness and laughing because you’re crying so suddenly (and you really are perfectly sane).  Then we hit 5:32, and you decide that the cure is to slice the mango and eat as much as possible.  And you kind of think it might be a good night to just eat and watch Smallville.

But then there’s that little voice in the back of your mind that says, I wonder what Jesus thinks about that. And you just want to slap your brain for trying to ruin what could be a very relaxing evening.

Because you aren’t totally sure what position Jesus takes on self-indulgent evenings when you’re feeling like it might be nice to not do anything productive.  There’s the guilt for being unproductive, of course, but that might subside.

Is Jesus like some of those really touch coaches who make their athletes play on sprained ankles without ice or anything?  Or is he the one who lets you sit it out at the hospital and doesn’t guilt you for it?  Or does he fit in neither category?  (maybe that isn’t a good analogy)

I’m not sure what Jesus says to hurt athletes, but I bet he says to people who want to wallow: Come.  I bet he wants to heal the wounds (even though hormonal wounds aren’t really wounds… they’re like diseases) or at least administer some holy ibuprofen. I bet he’s not into quick fixes like movie nights… not that those are bad, they just don’t need to be the medicine.

You know when you’re sick, and you think that watching Mary Poppins and drinking the Coke slushy from Burger King that your mom bought you after they told you that the strep test was positive (again) are what makes you feel better?  But it’s really the amoxicillin that you picked up at the pharmacy and they tylenol your mom gives you every few hours.  Nothing from Burger King can cure strep.  And nothing cinematic heals anything else.

Jesus doesn’t do band-aids.  He does open heart surgery.