Stress butterflies.

Whew, there are so many butterflies all over my stomach right now. We’re talking monarchs, painted ladies, and at least one giant swallowtail.


Because, packing, that’s why.

Deep breaths. One, two, three. There, that’s better.

I have 5 tabs open on my computer about what to pack for studying abroad, how to pack light, how to know what the weather’s going to be like, what I should bring, what I shouldn’t bring… along with a tab about how to make the best fondue and my facebook account.

Then there are 4 lists on my counter of things that I should bring or need to buy before I go or when I get there. I have a list of things to put in my carry-on. I have a list of things I need to do before I go. I have a list of things I need to do today. There a cup of coffee to my left and the pot to my right.

The coffee is probably part of the cause of the butterflies. Or maybe just aggravating them.

I’m going to Austria in 15 days and 21 hours and 34 minutes. And that’s just about two weeks, which is short. And I need to pack now. And I need to finish my book about Austria. And I need to finish knitting a scarf for my sister and those other crafts. I need to buy more underwear and see people that I love and finish my taxes. I need to be mentally prepared. I need to know everything I possibly can know.

If you aren’t catching my drift, this is stressful, in the most joyous and wonderful way. It’s scary, too. Because traveling alone to a new place is always scary. It probably should be a little scary. That’s normal.

Do you ever need to just speak truth to yourself when you forget? I do. I forget to, but I should do it all the time.

Here’s the truth I need today:

I am not in control of my life. There is nothing I can do to make myself in control. Jesus holds everything, and he’s completely capable of handling all my difficulties. And when I walk through those, he’ll be right there to guide me and calm my nerves. He will plant friendly, English-speaking people along my way. He will give me wisdom (and my mom as she helps me decide what stays and what goes) as I put things in my suitcase.

He will be present. And he will help me be present exactly where I am. He will help me to maximize my time with the people here and there.

He died and rose again to have a relationship with me that includes the daily, the mundane, the stressful, and the victorious parts of life. He’s not going to abandon me now.

It will be good. It may not be easy, but it will be good.

Now, go finish reading your book about Austria. Be still, and know that he is God.

Violence on a full tank.

I drove into the first glow of morning today, on my way back from taking my parents and brother-in-law’s parents to the airport. In my sleepy, early-morning stupor, I thought at first that the mix of light and gloomy gray clouds was the reflection of headlights, but I soon realized that something much brighter was shining from the other side. I would be dead to the world for the sun’s official arrival, trying to make up for lost sleep before church, but as I rolled toward the rising sun, I thought about war.

In Judges 7, the passage I read as I gulped down a yogurt at 4am, Gideon takes a whole bunch of men to fight Midian. God tells him that he would rather deliver Israel with a small fraction of the men Gideon thought he needed, so that way it’s obvious that it was God’s power that delivered them.

And God’s power did deliver them. He caused the Midianites to turn on each other as the small band of Israelites attacked, which made the job significantly easier.

God did some attacking. He sponsored the Israelites violent campaign, actually instigated it.

So, when should I get violent?

I kept driving down the highway, picturing one of my favorite professors as I thought. He wasn’t very open about his opinions in the class I took with him last spring, but he did own up to one specific belief.

“I’m a pacifist,” he admitted with one of his signature hand gestures, as if to say well, there’s that. Do with it what you like.

And, since I admire the man greatly, my first thought was whether I should be a pacifist, too. If nonviolence was good enough for him, it was good enough for me.

I think about how often I respond to people violently, harsh words or looks that could kill. I think about the times I’ve wanted to rear-end someone for being inconsiderate on the road (a nonsensical response). Violence doesn’t seem to be a good first response. Speaking of first responders, what if that was the paramedics’ first step? If you can survive this, we’ll give you CPR and take you to the hospital…

But God did it.

I know, that shouldn’t be my criteria for whether or not my actions are just. I should not get out my garden hose and try to flood the earth. I’m just following God, Officer. Really! God has a few advantages on me, the knowledge and the goodness and the power, which give him supreme ability to take care of things.

God’s track record in the Old Testament is filled with patience. He waited hundreds of years before passing harsh judgment on evil people groups (evil not only because they didn’t follow him but because they had vile practices like temple prostitution and infant sacrifice, among others). He was patience with them, gentle even.

It seems that was God’s first response, which matches up with what we see in Galatians.

“For the fruit of the Spirit is violence, judgment…”

Nope. But gentleness, kindness, and self-control are on there, along with patience and peace.

It seems like violence is our last resort. Or at least, it’s God’s. Whether we’re allowed to go that far… I don’t know. I know I’ve been in situation where it seems the only way that the person I’m trying to speak truth to will hear and understand is if I yell and shake them and threaten and dangle them by the ankles off the side of a tall building.

From what I’ve seen of God’s responses to people in the Bible and from his responses to me, gentleness is the status quo. I don’t know what exactly that means for nations and people groups and businessmen, but for me, it means that I need an extra dose of the Holy Spirit.

And probably more sleep than I got last night. Fill the tank, people. Fill the tank.

Healthy and stuff

Hello, again. It’s been a few days.

I’ve decided I can’t trust myself to blog when I’m sick anymore because it always just ends up being about… (you guessed it)…. me being sick. Sure, being sick does give you something to talk about, but since I typically just get colds, I feel like I just keep thinking about the same 5 things :

1. slow down

2. rest, even though you aren’t used to it

3. drink lots of fluids

4. thank Jesus that it’s temporary

5. ask Jesus to make sure it’s temporary.

In case you were dying for a report on how those homeopathic remedies worked out for me, here you go:

It’s my fourth day of having a cold.. You know how you start with some symptoms that progress to new ones? For me, it’s always a sore throat and congestion, along with fatigue and muscle aches, leading to the sorer throat, stuffy/runny nose, fatigue, tight chest, then the final stage of productive coughing, runny nose, better breathing, and more energy. Step three is where I am, people!

So, moral of the story: gargle apple cider vinegar mixed with warm water (about half and half ratio) about every hour for a couple of days when you start thinking you’ve got a cold, drink lots, rest as much as you possibly can, knit a pair of mittens and a headband, and drink smoothies with fruit and spinach in them. I also ended up trying this Cold and Sough Syrup from Primally Inspired, (even though I don’t know what it means that her ideas are “primally inspired”… is she a monkey?) which didn’t hurt!

I didn’t enjoy sickness when I was younger, but unless it was really painful, I didn’t mind too much. My world only spun fast when I twirled around too enthusiastically or twisted the chain on the swing then let go. The only things I was responsible for were spelling words, worksheets, keeping my room in decent order, and keeping my clothes off of the bathroom floor. It was more of a joy then to stay home and watch Mary Poppins and the cartoon version of Robin Hood (and sing along because I knew all the songs). There wasn’t any anxiety or urgency involved, nothing to hurry up and get done.

Now, I just want to be well, always.

In sickness, you wonder what it’s like to feel whole and healthy. What did it feel like to have all my faculties in working order? Did I ever have enough energy to tackle these responsibilities? Will I ever again? Even when it’s just your regular, run-of-the-mill cold. Your capable, confident, energetic self seems far away and foreign.

And even with all these syrups and gargles and breaks from normal activity, I can’t heal myself. I can’t make the cold go away.

This is why I need a Healer. I need a body Healer. I need a soul Healer. I can do the prep work; I can get on-board with the healing process, but I can’t heal.

I’m thankful for a Healer who doesn’t just write prescriptions but is present in the process. I’m thankful for a Healer who presses out infection – even when the pressure is uncomfortable – to clean and make new. Not just for you to be healthy but so that you’ll be even more useful.

Sending sickness packing

Have you ever woken up to find that your throat has swollen to half its diameter and feels like it has bruises all the way down?

Hello. Join the club.

I know sore throats intimately. As a child who was anything but immune to strep throat and a college student who got not one, not two, not three, but FIVE (count em!) colds — and a sinus infection — during the course of her freshman year, I know colds. I know it’s not the worst thing that could happen, but I’m unwilling to let it slow me down.

There are people to see and things to do. I haven’t had a cold since last spring break, and I’m not gonna break my streak. I have room in my schedule for sleep, healthy eating, non-antibacterial natural soaps, down time to knit and enjoy my family, but I do not and will not have room for a cold.

I passionately hate drainage.

So, I’m doing everything I can to get rid of this beast. I woke up only an hour and a half ago, but here’s what I’ve done so far:

– taken my multi-vitamin

– drank apple juice, water, iced coffee, orange juice, and eaten a piece of toast

– taken mucinex

– gargled apple cider vinegar and warm water… twice. This sounds gross, and it is a little gross, but it has proven to be effective in the past. Reader’s Digest says that germs can’t survive in the acidic environment the vinegar creates. mwahahaha (Instructions: ¼ cup warm water, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar in a cup and gargle a little bit every hour)

– swallowed some coconut oil, about a spoonful or whatever you can handle (this was actually nasty. I gagged because the texture is like chapstick, but if you swallow it with some good-tasting liquid, it’ll be much better. Supposedly it gets rid of mucus.)

And in 45 minutes, it’ll be time to gargle again. And we’ll be getting some Emergen-C later.

I’ll report back tomorrow and let you know if it worked. I have full confidence in these techniques.

Because ain’t nobody got time for a cold.

And now I get it.

I know why people hate telemarketers now. When I called for my school to ask people for money, I didn’t understand why people were so defensive and rude right off the bat. But you haven’t even heard my sweet, little voice making a pitch for scholarship money! Listen to my plea. I just want $5! Or $50…

Really, I was quite shocked that few people were courteous enough to remember that I was human.

I had the same experience of feeling inhuman again tonight, but this time from the other end. After two hellos (the second one sounding more annoyed than the first because I hate having to say “hello” more than once… they called me, right? they should be ready to talk.), the man asked for my mom. She wasn’t available, so I asked to take a message.

I could rant about what happened afterwards, and it might feel good, but I’ll just say that I wish the conversation had gone differently. And I can think of multiple ways that it might have been better.

I could have pretended to be my mom’s sassy secretary:

Man: Is Debbie available?

Me: May I ask who’s calling?

Man:  It’s a courtesy call.

Me: Well, you don’t sound very courteous. I screen Ms. McDonald’s calls for her, and I must ask you to remove her from your list.

Man responds with something indignant, like  I’ve attacked him when he was only trying to help me.

Me: I’m sorry, sir, but if you won’t tell me who you are or what your purpose in calling is, I will have to assume that you are a criminal. Please hold while I call the police.

*Bobby McFerrin hold music*

Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for no-

And he hangs up. And takes us off of his “courtesy” list forever.

End of fairy tale.

When I told him that I wanted to be able to let my mom know who had been repeatedly calling all day (coming up on caller ID as “unknown name, private number”) he said, “well, isn’t that nice of you.”

Oh, my blood boils.

Too bad you can’t phone slap people.

It’s too bad you think of all your good retorts too late to speak them. Granted, I wasn’t a doormat. People don’t get to call our house and  be bullies or treat the daughter like she’s being dumb for wanting to know who is on the phone.

How does this guy keep his job? I doubt anyone wants to talk to him and even fewer want to listen to his pitch. How does he have friends if he’s so manipulative and condescending?

How the heck would Jesus respond to that guy? Would we get “you brood of vipers” Jesus or the flipping-over-tables-in-the-temple Jesus? Or would we get the “Father, forgive him for he knows not what he does” Jesus?

I’m still not sure, but I’m pretty sure that if I get to talk to that person again, I will have words for him. Hopefully the right words at the right time.

Knitting vulnerability.

As beautiful as weddings are, they’re also exhausting. Recovery from such exhaustion should include either a trip to Cancun with your new husband or knitting a scarf and watching Sherlock.

Obviously, I chose the latter.

So, now that I’ve confessed to you the greater portion of how I spent my week (oh, I went to the dentist, too), let’s talk about what it looks like to be honest.

Have you ever had that conversation with someone where you’re both trying to prove your imperfection? It goes something like this.

I did *this horrible thing* to that person. Gosh, I’m just so awful. And look at you. You’re here, and you spent your day at the homeless shelter while I did *that horrible thing*. You’re just… you’re so perfect. I want to be you.

Then the person who did good deeds that particular day but knows that they are quite imperfect uses hyperbole to try to convince the other person that they’re just as bad… if not, worse.

Oh, honey, if you only knew how bad I am in my thoughts/how much I mess up/how awful I am. What you did would seem like a tiny misstep.

Or have you had a conversation with someone who doesn’t know Jesus where you feel like you have to be the person who has all the answers and is past the mistake-making, fumbling around stage?

Oh, yeah, I know it’s hard to be imperfect and to struggle. I used to be like that, too, but now I know Jesus, so I don’t struggle anymore. It’s like I live in a plastic, iridescent bubble of joy and perfection that can never be popped! 

Somehow, I think we feel like we have to either be the perfect guru of all things wise and wonderful or the wretched wretch who is just so glad that God doesn’t mind people who trip over their own feet on purpose.

Where did we lose vulnerability and honesty? Did we lose it at the same place we lost self-examination? Is it because we don’t know what our struggles are or haven’t identified them that we can’t share them? Or are we just too scared to be honest?

I’m not sure. But it seems like regardless of the cause, honesty and vulnerability is worth pursuing, and self-examination is worth the time and effort.

It might take away from my knitting and tv time, but I suppose that’s a sacrifice I could be willing to make.

Wedding day beauty.

Walk in my front door (take your shoes off), go up 7 stairs, head down the hallway on your left, then enter the first door on the left. Oh, wait. You can’t because the floor is completely covered in wedding presents and decorations. It’s a glittery, snowflakey, boxy, bow-y, magical wonderland that gives a small glimpse into the beauty that was yesterday.

On January 10, 2014, my sister became a wife, and it was beautiful.

On normal mornings we don’t wake up with smiles and immediately listen to a sweet song about having a marriage that cherishes your spouse and looks ahead rather than behind. It was a beautiful moment, a pause for excitement in the quiet of 7:00 am.

It was beautiful.

With coffee in hand, she drove off to get her hair done while I pulled blueberry scones out of the oven and the family sat around drinking coffee. Then we pulled out our curling iron to bring our hair up to par. We added sparkly things to it and an inordinate amount of bobby pins and hairspray.

It smelled like caustic aerosols, but it was beautiful.

Then Brooke sailed in the door with curls pinned up on the back of her head. “I know how to put my veil on; you just stick it in then put two pins on the sides. She said it’s really easy!”

The photographer arrived with her cameras in holsters on her hips, like the artist version of a old west gunslinger – but with curled hair and red lipstick. She orbited around us while I dressed Brooke’s eyes with browns and tans then hung around the house, snapping pictures while friends and family came over for soup. We were warm and smiling and eating with people we love.

It was beautiful.

Then they all departed to leave us to our last minute preparations. I finished pinning my hair up and dressing my face, and Brooke and I sat at the kitchen counter as we had done so many other times throughout our lives, eating cucumbers and hummus and talking about how we felt like we should have something urgent to do. But it seemed the most pressing need at the time was snacking. We planned out our departure time and what we needed to make sure we didn’t forget to bring with us.

At 1:40 we started to get bags put together and hang garments in the backseat of her Hyundai. We put honeymoon luggage in the trunk and every little thing we could possibly need, including fancy shoes and mittens in the backseat. We hugged Mom, Dad, and Grandma goodbye then set out… to buy gas so we could make it to the chapel.

It was beautiful, something as normal as pumping gas, because we were together. Neither of us had to go through the day alone or without someone to be there for the little things.

I drove. We sang along to music, talked, and laughed. Something about the finality of an era has made every moment together during the past month even sweeter, more beautiful.

The incredible florist and her team turned the chapel and reception room into a wintery wonderland (in the truest sense of the word “wonder”) while the bridal party donned charcoal dresses and suits and ventured outside to capture the moment. The photographer stood in the snow, dancing a little every time she got a particularly good shot and promising us that the pictures looked so good they’d be worth the cold. The personal attendant ran around giving people mittens and checking on things, communicating and rearranging the train.

The bride was beautiful, the groom – dashing, the bridal party – elegant.

Later we all sat in the dressing room, re-fueling with turkey sandwiches and – in my case – pretzels, grapefruit juice, and granola. Once our blood sugar levels got back up, so did our excitement. The groom and groomsmen left, and it was just us ladies, talking, taking turns holding the bride’s heavy bouquet which had a shape that didn’t lend itself to being set down. Then, before we knew it, it was 6:45, so we gathered around the bride to pray.

It was a holy moment.

The next thing we knew, we were walking down the aisle in twos then standing, waiting for the doors at the back to swing open and reveal Brooke and my dad.

The organ signaled, the doors opened wide, and even though I know exactly what I was going to see, it took my breath away. My lungs got all tight because there’s something so beautiful about watching a proud father escort his radiant daughter to her new husband, walking in between crowds of people who love them.

It was so beautiful that tears crowded my vision.

The tears came back, too, when they started to repeat their vows. I had to start blinking fast as Alex stared into my sister’s eyes without once looking away, vowing to love and cherish her, forsaking all others for her until death separates them. I think it was then that I knew just how beautiful it was – how beautiful and good. The whole evening felt like a prayer and blessing over Brooke and Alex’s marriage. As Lloyd talked about how neat it was that all these people had stopped what they were doing to come show their support and love for Brooke and Alex as a unit, I watched many of them nodding their heads in agreement.

Relationships are beautiful.

Lloyd prayed for the couple at the end, and I know the breath of God descended on them. It was impossible to be present and not experience Heaven’s love and see a glimpse of what the kingdom of God is like.

It was beautiful.

I ended my evening by waiting in Brooke’s car for the couple as they walked through the crowd who had stayed til 10:30 to wave goodbye with glow sticks. May your marriage be filled with light, it seemed to say, and color! 

At so many times that day, I found myself pausing for a deep breath, because there’s something about beauty that makes it hard to breathe. There’s something about seeing the holy and sacred that makes your lungs seem temporal and unnecessary. There’s something about watching your sister make a huge life change that causes you to gulp for air, but the thing I keep finding impressed on me is how every aspect of their wedding day sparkled: the people, the interactions (because who’s going to be nasty at a wedding, especially one that has this aroma of Jesus?), the outpourings of love, the gifts, the beautifully dressed people, the glittery flowers, the Holy Spirit, the love between two wonderful people.

It was beautiful.


In case you were wondering, it’s still winter here in Minnesota. And apparently we aren’t the only ones with negative temperatures. My only advice to folks in cold areas: keep your toes and ears warm, for without them you will have no balance. It’s getting warmer by the day here – headed to positive temperatures tomorrow and Friday – but definitely still has a bite to the wind.

These are the days when I wish I lived in a sunny, coastal city. Wouldn’t some nice ocean air be refreshing right about now? I could walk outside without four layers on.

But then I remember how much pride I take in being a Minnesotan. Right, some of us say our vowels weird. But we also brave very negative temperatures to go places. On Monday, the insides of my nose froze when I got outside, instantly, and my car wouldn’t start, and the cold air made my lungs seize up, but it could have been worse.

30 degrees will feel like sunbathing weather when we finally get there. And I can tell all the relatives who came in for the wedding from the south and think it’s cold here, “Oh, it was so much colder earlier this week. You don’t even know!” And they’ll be amazed at how tough we are.

It’s all comparative, right? When you’ve got -20 without windchill, 30 sounds great. When you’ve got 30, you miss 60. When you have 60, you put on a sweatshirt and wait for 70 to come back. If you’ve got 70, you wish it wasn’t humid or wish it was 80.

Contentment is hard, isn’t it?

Making a lane.

Last night, we had a bachelorette party for my sister, full of laughter, food, and people who are dear to her. We went ice skating (outside! It was around 20 degrees for the first time in about a week, so we had good timing) and out to dinner. The weather was fine while we skated (though a little chilly), but when we came out of the restaurant a few hours later, we were met by freezing rain.

Mmm, lovely. One of the joys of winter.

I creeped along the highway in Audrey, singing along to the radio and praying that I wouldn’t spin out. 40 mph all the way home, about 20 miles. The freezing rain made a nice white slush on the road, masking the lane divisions just enough to make me nervous. Fortunately, there were other people out on the highway as well, so I could follow them. Even if they weren’t exactly centered in the lane, at least there was a train of cars to make it obvious that we think this is where the lane is. In addition to wanting to make sure that I was in some kind of lane, Audrey’s a light little thing, so it’s always better to stay in the tracks of those who have gone before.

I tend to not be a follower. Why do what someone else has done if you can make your own path and do something new and adventurous? It’s my deep need for individuality. Something about being a second child. But last night, I found that I really needed to follow these strangers.

I wondered about them. Were they nervous about the slick roads, like me? Were they just as oh well, we’ll just hope we don’t cause any problems by not knowing if we’re actually in a lane as I was? Did they have some trepidation about following the person in front of them? Do we all have trust issues?

And I suppose there had to be someone at the front, really feeling the pressure to lead these people well. Or maybe everyone was following someone else.

Maybe we’re all followers. And if we’re not, maybe we need to be. Maybe it’s just all about who you follow. Maybe it’s okay to not blaze your own trail – or maybe you haven’t ever really done that… it was just a little overgrown when you found it – and to go where others have travelled.

Maybe what matters is that Jesus is our initial trail blazer. Maybe if we just adhere to that and follow, we’ll stay off the shoulder and in a lane of sorts, continuing on our journey rather than being out of commission on the side of the road.

Amazing what a long, perilous drive in freezing rain that eventually turns to gigantic snowflakes can make you think of.

2014: the year of following

I think the calendar says that it’s January 1st, 2014. But I’m not so certain that 2013 is over. It probably won’t feel like it’s over until February or March, when I can finally write the date correctly the first time.

I thought about making a New Year’s resolution, but then I got tired. Somehow, in the middle of helping plan and execute plans for a wedding, my energy to resolve is low. I was talking to Jesus yesterday about this, and I got this feeling that He was okay with me not resolving.

He just asked me to follow.

And peace rained down from Heaven.

2014 is the year where I will walk with Jesus on the path He has picked for me. It’s the best one. We will walk side by side so I can grasp His hand and lean on Him when I get tired, but He will lead.

Do you know how much work it is to blaze your own trail? Especially without all the tools you need? Sometimes I try to do that, but I just end up getting scratched by all the thorny plants in my way. And I wonder why it doesn’t feel good.

I tend to lead, even when I don’t know what’s going on. It’s not a helpful or constructive tendency. It doesn’t get me very far, and if it does, it just gets me far from God.

I know everyone has a different experience with God, and it’s colored by the way the people of God portray Him. But the more time I spend with God, the more I feel that He’s more interested in dusting me off and cleaning up my scrapes and bruises that I’ve garnered from choosing my own path and leading me back to the path where I can walk with Him than berating me and making sure I know how wrong I was.

His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. I think that’s because we don’t bear it alone.

So that’s my goal in 2014, to follow and bear the light burden.