Where I am.


Consider my absence from the blogosphere for the past couple days a commercial break. Aaaaand, we’re back.

Where are you today? I’ll tell you where I am. I’m in my closet, my office closet. I’m sitting in my pajamas, cross-legged on my desk chair (the one that’s at an awkward height, so I can’t cross my legs under my desk) with bedhead. To my left, there’s an empty coffee cup, a Belvita wrapper, and a shoebox with a slowly dwindling number of cookies in it. On my right, I’ve got a stack of books and papers and notebooks and folders topped with my notes from the sermon at church yesterday.

There are bobby pins and bracelets and headphones and envelopes and papers with varying levels of importance and a bottle of face lotion and an empty CTA card and a lip balm and a jar that used to hold quarters for laundry but is empty now.

That’s where I am. Not getting out of my pajamas and sitting in the organized mess. Well, it’s not really organized. It’s less of a mess and more of a task. I need to go through all this stuff and figure out why it’s here and where it needs to go and if I need to do anything about the fact that it exists.

I know I’m not the only one who sits in this kind of messy task. I also know that Jesus meets me in the middle of the mess. In the middle. He doesn’t ask me to leave to meet Him. He comes to me, even before I ask Him to come.

Because I need Him. And He knows it.

When someone is the strength of your heart and your shield and salvation, it’s a good thing that they don’t wait on the sidelines for an invitation or a good time to interrupt the chaos. It’s a good thing that they will jump right into the mess.

Right into the lack of normal attire and the excess of paper and to-dos. Right into the confusion about priorities and disorganization and feelings.

He meets me where I am.

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Pressing tenderness.


Today I need to press out some words here on WordPress, like I’m squeezing them out of my toothpaste tube of a brain. There are just a few left, and we have to press on them to get them to show themselves.

Ah, victory.

I’ve heard that meat tastes better when it’s been tenderized. I don’t know this from personal experience since being a veggie-o-saurus keeps me from understanding that aspect of life, but I’ve heard. I’ve also seen a meat tenderizer, those sort of spiked hammer type things. And I think there’s some kind of machine that does it, too. Either way, it’s by beating the meat that it makes it tastes good, right?

I might be wrong about that. I didn’t do any research.

I was thinking about how tender God is with us today, and the immediate image that came to mind when I thought of tender was how people tenderize meat. Beating.

I don’t think God had to become tender in order to know that was the best way to relate to humans, but he’s certainly been beaten. Not just in Jesus’ whippings but every time someone says no or tells Him that they’re doing just fine on their own, thank you. It’s when He’s near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, because we know that has some effect on the Savior, too. It’s every time we speak about Him casually, as though He isn’t there and listening. It’s when we push Him aside to give something else the throne in our hearts.

And His response is tenderness.

I find that rather amazing today.

Tight spaces.


Every time I get out my yoga mat (technically my mom’s, but she let me bring it to school with her since she’s been blessed with two yoga mats), I learn something new. It’s usually that my balance isn’t as good as I thought it was or that I shouldn’t whack my arms on the furniture in our little apartment.

For tonight, I was reminded that we breathe into the tight spaces.

As I attempted to do pigeon pose (google it if you don’t know what it looks like) tonight, I felt the tightness. My muscles protested because it isn’t somewhere they want to be. Usually, my arms and legs are at opposite ends of my body, without intersecting in any way, but pigeon asks me to bend and stretch in ways that I’m not flexible. It’s tight, and it doesn’t feel good right away.

So, there was tightness. But it’s a good kind of tightness. It’s the kind of tightness that threatens to take your breath away at first, but what you really need to do is breathe into it. You take deep breaths and release with every exhale. And it doesn’t make it looser, but it does bring this sort of strange comfortableness with complete uncomfortableness.

With every breath I release my insistence that this pose isn’t comfortable, and I ask my body to stop fighting the stretch. I breathe into it in the hope that someday the tightness will go away.

How to write a paper


Sometimes you want to do a good job on a paper because it’s for your favorite professor, and it’s the first paper of the semester. So, when you get the prompt for the first essay, you

STEP 1: Have a small panic attack. It’s not a long paper, and the prompt is straightforward. There is nothing here that would logically induce such a response. But since you already feel the pressure, you just have a small breakdown. Then you

STEP 2: Get over it. And you

STEP 3: Start re-reading the dense animal rights and utilitarianism articles needed to write the paper adequately. You underline things and make small guttural noises of agreement and disapproval in the back of your throat when appropriate. And you write things in the margins like buzzwords and just because it’s absurd doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. Then you

STEP 4: Go over all your notes from the articles and start to formulate a thesis. Write it in plain English, nothing fancy. Write it in a way that when you go back later to start actually writing the body of the paper, you’ll see things that make sense. Then you

STEP 5: Write out some sentences that are jam-packed with content. It doesn’t matter if they’re run-ons or if the ideas in the sentences need unpacking. As long as you can unpack them later, feel free to leave the sentence incoherent and jumbly.

STEP 6: Eat a calzone and take a little break. Actually, do that a few times throughout the process. Don’t do it all in one sitting. Drink some water, call your sister, and then

STEP 7: Start typing out the ideas from your notes, starting with your thesis (that will change later when we revise… don’t worry, it’s supposed to). Follow that up by unpacking all those ideas you jumbled out on the paper. Keep going until you get it all out. Then

STEP 8: Formulate a conclusion based on everything you’ve just written. Go back and read through your brilliant material  to get an idea of what the heck you just wrote about. Believe me, it’s harder than you think to remember it all once you’ve spewed it out in typing mode. Conclude, then

STEP 9: Revisit your thesis. Hello, old friend. We missed you while we were drawing conclusions down there. Oh boy, we didn’t actually talk about this in our essay. Did we need to? Oh, we didn’t? Well, what did we actually talk about? Oh. Let’s put that in our thesis. Once your thesis is actually about what your paper is about, then

STEP 10: Have a revision party! Invite the grammar rules and George Orwell’s rules for writing to the party. Visit every line and spread the cheer of making them clearer and more active. It’s your last hurrah before turning in this draft, so make it a good one.

And that, dear friends, is how papers come to be.

It’s good to be alive.


Some days it’s really easy to count your burdens, and you’re tempted to do that because the dishes stacked up in the sink, and you haven’t cleaned your bathroom in a while, and there are forms and papers and yogurt containers on your desk. And you have a test today about Plato, which is a little bit daunting since you only met him a short time ago.

That’s when I need to stop and remind myself of all the reasons that it’s good to be alive today.

  1. We’re talking about and writing metaphors today in my creative writing class. If you haven’t realized that I love metaphors almost as much as I love coffee, you probably haven’t been here for very long. (In that case, welcome!)
  2. Oatmeal. It happened this morning.
  3. It’s Freedom Friday (the day of the week that I set aside to pray for people who aren’t free around the world), which always reminds me that I’m a part of what God is doing to break chains. He could do it Himself, but He wants to use us.
  4. Forecast for today? RAIN.
  5. It’s only a week until payday.
  6. I get to see my family again in 26 days.
  7. No matter what happens today, Jesus walks with me.

What’s on your list today?

 

Thunderous healing.


There’s something poignant about walking home slowly in the rain while numbing your mouth with a mango popsicle. I think experiences like that might be healing for the soul or something.

Healing for the soul because not a single one is whole. And we’re all just groping around, trying to find things to shove in there to make it better. He said, “Come unto me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest,” but we’re pretty sure that we’re not the weary ones. That’s probably someone else because we might have it together just a little bit more than your average person, even if we feel a little run-down and worn all the time.

When they sing that all the poor and powerless and all the lost and lonely will know God, we think about how great it is that those poor unfortunate souls find Jesus. We are those souls. We’re the souls who are ripped and torn, even if we don’t know how we got that way. Even if our story doesn’t indicate how we ended up broken, we got there somehow.

So those nights where Jesus walks with you through a beautiful rainstorm and puts a healing hand on your soul – not with words or with power but with tender gentleness – must happen. It’s not just for the people who know they’re broken.

Or maybe it is.

Maybe we have to become them or realize that we already are them. Maybe He heals us when we realize that we weren’t whole to start with. Maybe when we cast down all of our walls and our presuppositions about who needs Jesus, He meets us there and wraps our hearts in His holy bandages.

Not just once, but over and over again, because the hurts and the sins and the brokenness aren’t a one-time deal.

Thunder crashes, and the lightning illuminates a holy moment.

Bets.


I paced around our apartment today while I read Plato’s Republic. Paced not because we don’t have anywhere to sit or because I couldn’t sit still but because I’m doing a pedometer challenge. Sitting is for sissies when you’re going up against highly motivated walkers.

I actually don’t know how highly motivated the other people are. I just know that I want to win.

My pedometer challenge pales in comparison to The Actual Pastor‘s run through the Grand Canyon, though. He’s running 24 miles, the very end of which is called “The Devil’s Staircase” (which I wouldn’t even attempt to run if that was my only challenge). He’s doing it to raise money to rescue women in Ethiopia from forced prostitution.

He’s crazy. In the very best way.

Don’t we all want that kind of existence? Where we know that we don’t just matter to our moms and our best friends but that we make a difference?

Do you believe that you can change the world? I’m not asking you if you think that the world can and will change. I’m asking you if you think that you as an individual person can change the world with your dreams and passions.

Do you?

I bet we could.

I bet if we dug down deep and rooted ourselves in a God whose capabilities know no boundaries, we could do something great. I bet if we were willing to risk something so that love could win and justice could reign and the world could know that our God lives, things would start happening.

I bet it would be worth the risk.

Knee level living.


I’m learning that I need to love living on my knees. I’m learning that the best things happen when I kneel.

Scrubbing floors, getting down to eye level with a child, sitting on the floor, weeding a garden, looking up to someone. You can’t do any of those things from a standing position. And they are so worth doing.

You can try to do them while you stand. This is why we have Swiffers and babysitters, chairs and weed killer. They’re substitutes, but they don’t do the job as well as a knee bend.

I want to live in a way that makes my knees muddy, that stretches out the knees of my pants til they look funny when I stand back up. I want to become familiar with low level living, to make it my home.

Right now it’s not a comfortable place to be, partly because I know I should have been here all along. I should already have holes in the knees of my jeans.

But I love that Jesus doesn’t reprimand me for not coming sooner; He just welcomes me as I arrive and gives me my orientation. He doesn’t care that I’m late because His love is the most beautiful there is, the kind that forgives shortcomings and lateness over and over again.

Friday boats.


Sometimes you try to write a blog post before you’ve actually drunk any of your coffee, and it sounds like a slightly personal research essay. Then you realize that just because you have a cup of coffee sitting beside you on the desk doesn’t mean that you’ve actually drunk any of it.

Then you realize how much you need caffeine and delete everything you’ve written.

It’s another Friday, which surprises me since it seems like yesterday was Monday. People say that life accelerate progressively faster with each passing year, and it’s true. I’m pretty sure that last week it was June, and the week before that was March. But today it’s September, and what are you doing with your life?

[side note: if you have the hiccups, use caution while drinking coffee. End side note.]

Sometimes I feel like God has this boat that He’s asked me to travel with him on. I’m standing on the dock with one foot on and one foot off, confused look on my face while I yell up to God (who’s on the boat already), “Wait. Where did you say this boat was going?”

“I didn’t!” He replies, and He motions again for me to come with Him. “But it’s going to be great!”

And I stand there, sometimes with two feet on the gangplank or two feet on the dock or one and one. And I’m still not on the boat, because I want to know where I’m going before I get in.

I think this is supposed to be the part where I put both feet on the gangplank, walk up, and get on board. I think this is supposed to be that pivotal moment.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Twelve years ago and today.


Twelve years ago today, I was eating breakfast with my mom and my sister. I think the radio was playing in the background, because all of a sudden, I remember my mom startling, going over to the radio, and turning it up. She stood there in shock as the reporter broke the news about the plane crashes. It’s the first time I can remember seeing my mom cry. And I didn’t get it.

I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal until I got to school and saw that everyone knew. And everyone was sad.

In the aftermath, I remember reading a Time for Kids magazine in my second grade class with a picture of an American flag stuck in the rubble of the Twin Towers on the cover. That was when I learned what heroism really is and that those firefighters totally embodied it.

I remember hearing President Bush speak about how the terrorists (a new word for me that I got mixed up with ‘tourists’ for quite a few years afterwards) had hoped that the attacks would tear us apart and break us down. But instead, Americans had united, supporting each other through the crisis. I think that’s one of the parts of American history that I’m proud of.

I don’t know if we responded in the right way. I know that the world knows that America doesn’t like terrorism and will do quite a lot to make sure that everyone else knows. I know that we sometimes have good intentions about helping other nations who are under terrorist rule.

Today, I’m not sure what the right response is to all the conflict in Syria. I don’t know all the details. No matter how many news articles I read, I still feel like there are gaps in my knowledge. It almost seems like good and right can’t win. It almost seems like no matter what we do, we’ll cause harm and maybe not even help the situation. It’s complex. I know that I want the UN and all the powerful people to start with conversation, maybe a meal together. I want the tide to change, for people to fight a little harder to keep from fighting and bombing.

But really, I want the world to know Jesus. I know that when we live apart from Him, we set ourselves up for conflict. We have human solutions that might work, but the only thing that will truly end all the strife is when we let Jesus be king.

It’s a good day for the Lord’s prayer, because we need His kingdom here.