Shaking the dust.

Have you heard this? (Have I already put this in a blog post? Probably.)

You might not be into spoken word poetry. I didn’t think I would be. But this is the quiet alternative to “Shake It Off.” There are days when you can’t quite shake literally, but you can shake the dust.

Jesus told his disciples if they ever came to a town where they weren’t welcome, they should shake the dust from their feet and leave. I wonder if Taylor Swift knew that Jesus said it first?

I left my town. I wasn’t chased out, and when I arrived in the next, it welcome me with a rainstorm.

I had forgotten my rain coat at home, but the thing didn’t have a hood anyways, so we bought a new one.

Shake the dust.

My new roommates and I spent all weekend putting things away and organizing and trying to figure out what will go where, but there are still unpacked boxes, and we haven’t vacuumed and good grief, classes start tomorrow.

Shake the dust.

I got into bed and reached to turn on my reading lamp, which I had already found a plug for and gotten into place.

No light bulb.

Shake the dust. (and maybe slap your forehead because that’s kind of an obvious thing to remember to buy)

The allergens and the stress of moving swirled together into a cloud of congestion and a full-blown cold system that has been steadily moving into my body over the past few days.

Shake the dust (blow your nose, drink Emergen-C).

It’s just dust. Mud clumps? Now that might require a bit more. Dust can be shaken, brushed off. It can stay a molehill. We can shake off dust so it doesn’t accumulate into sludge.

So that’s what I’m doing. Shaking the dust of transition (ugh, that awful word) off my feet and walking into the new.

I also will need to vacuum at some point.

City on a hill.

I was trying desperately to think of what the promise is for a new chapter a few minutes ago. I was trying to blog my way into it. If I start writing, it will come. But a few paragraphs in, it sounded trite and forced.

What is the promise when you step into a new chapter?

I have a hard time with some of the Christian radio stations because I get cynical and can’t deal with sappy. And sometimes, I just plain can’t handle the music. That’s a confession from a real person who just has preferences and sometimes needs to get over herself in order to hear truth. And sometimes she just needs to change the station because the intent is good, whether or not the content is.

Anyway, I’ve been hearing these songs all summer. And they were just a little too peppy for me, most mornings. I need slow, reassuring songs before work. Something calm, maybe a weather report and an encouraging testimony.

But the past couple days, they’ve been hitting home – breaking past the crusty exterior that wants to say it’s not really that great music, not that profound.

The Gospel is simple – profound, yes, but simple. A mystery, yes, but the concept of a people needing a Redeemer and getting exactly that is simple. So simple words, simple melodies might just be exactly what it needs.

The promise when we walk into a new chapter is that we’re a city on a hill, which is really to say that we’re nothing at all but that the unfamiliar does not faze the God who has placed his marvelous light in us. The promise when we step out of one thing and into something else is that God stays the same and will be glorified in His people.

I’d never thought that being a city on a hill was a testament to who God was. I thought it was a reminder that people were watching, that the church needs to up its game. But the city on the hill, though its position makes it visible, only plays a part in keeping its lamps lit. It doesn’t determine how far or how bright the light shines or who sees it.

No matter where I am or how well I am doing, I am still a child of the King of light. My shortcomings do not overcome what Christ is doing and has done in me (I don’t completely understand the process, what has been done and what is yet to come, but I know it’s good).

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

On leaving

It’s a day of lasts for me, again. My last day at my summer, godsend internship.

I walked from the bus stop to my office this morning with a new kind of wonder you can only achieve when you’re leaving. Will the scary mannequin in the window of that storefront still be there and still look like a human being when I come back? Will the bus schedule still be so that when I hit each crosswalk it has just turned to don’t walk?

The bus is taking me back to my suburb now for the last time for a while. I’m trying to savor it. Someone else is driving.

I said my goodbyes today and packed up the few things I’d brought to my cubicle. I left my keycard and a good portion of my hope that I might be back sometime soon.

This is the part where we brace ourselves. Headed straight into the onslaught on transition. Leaves will change, employment will change, the structure of any given weekday will change. It’s like getting sucked into a vacuum cleaner, swirled around for a bit, and spit back out onto a different rug.

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

All for good purposes. One really should go back to school to finish the last semester.

Depending on the day and hour, this is both negative and positive, depending on what I’m excited to do and what I’m loathe to leave.

There will still be public transit in Chicago. It’s not like that makes up for everything.

But it’s definitely something.

Apart and a part.

I’m at that stage of life where I feel like I’m arranging a curio cabinet as I decide what I’m going to be, where I’m going to be it, with whom I’ll be it, and when I’ll start. Like if I spend enough time arranging it and making careful choices it’ll be just perfect and I can just merge my imperfect self right in.

Like I could really just filter out anything that I don’t want, anyone I don’t want. Maybe it’s my generation of entitlement speaking here, but the thought is that I’ve got the world on a string and might just be able to manufacture a perfect life.

Experience tells me this is not so. I also have been reminded that no job (however wonderful) is without flaws and frustrations. No friendship is without exasperation or hurt. No family is without their irritations or estrangements. No church is without their points of contention. (and I’m not just saying this to make you feel better if your communities aren’t perfect. Really, none are.)

The world we live in is far from perfect – like after God arranged it all just as it should be humanity shook it all up and decided to try to make a life in the mess.

So here’s what I’m dealing with now: do I live apart from my imperfect communities and experiences and people, or do I live as a part of it? (Don’t you just love these grammar nuances?)

Criticism comes to easily to me. It’s a gift when I’m editing a manuscript for someone who needs me to be ruthless and to question every decision they made. Because those who follow me will be just as critical. It’s not a gift when I can sit on my high horse (which you’ll remember I tried to sell last year) and point and shake my head.

This is painful to write.

It’s painful to admit that I see and shake my head when others could easily do the same to me.

But when you sit apart, you don’t fix anything. You don’t engage. You don’t learn or have opportunities to understand. You’re apart, which probably breeds stagnancy.

Here’s what got me started thinking about this again:

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.15.09 PM

When we sit apart, we miss seeing people’s needs and their brokenness that makes them act this way.

You’ve seen the news about Josh Duggar, right? That he was a porn addict which lead him to extramarital affairs and having an Ashley Madison account, all the while claiming to be a born-again Christian and advocating for families? Yeah, I saw that and thought: That man is the scum of the earth.

What he did is not defendable. There are no excuses for it. He made horrible choices that will have repercussions not only for him but for his wife (can you imagine the incredible pain she must be in?), his children, the rest of his family, and everyone who ever trusted him even a little bit.

But he did it because he is broken.

In desperate need of a Savior to say, Your sins are as scarlet (red, staining, bloody hands, have you ever noticed that ketchup and red wine are the hardest to get out of your clothing? Especially your white clothing?), but I will wash them white as snow (not the slushy stuff of the sides of the highways and parking lots but the freshly fallen snow). Jesus brings redemption into brokenness. Not even just cracked behavior, where the fissures don’t affect as many people. Josh Duggar is not beyond God’s saving grace.

This is the time for God’s people, holy and dearly loved by a Savior who scrubs our stains out every day, to press in and speak the truth of the Gospel that does not condone sin but acknowledges that humanity is powerless to save itself and needs to accept the grace of God.

Not just to Josh Duggar but to the people who have hurt us or who irritate us or who disagree with us, those whose lifestyles and choices and beliefs offend us, to the communities that don’t meed our needs but aren’t about us anyway, to the workplaces that stress and stretch, to the families that wear us thin sometimes.

And if we’re worried about people getting off scot free or feeling like they haven’t done wrong, we needn’t. Has anyone ever forgiven you for something you’ve done wrong? Like really wrong? Undeserved grace and life brings the deepest gratitude, and the process of sanctification that follows is anything but painless and smooth. (welcome to the bumpy ride)

Being a part will bring us deeper understanding of God’s grace and human hearts than we could ever have standing apart.

Dressing for the season

Question: How many times have I gone to title a post, “Rainy Day”?

Answer: Every time I sit down to write a post when it’s raining.

Minneapolis was gray and dull today, which I of course, could not see unless I rolled to the farthest edge of my desk and peered into the office behind me to see what was out the window there. I spent the day copying and pasting. Pretty much all day. I got a good six hours of copying and pasting done.

I took deep breaths on my way into the office, not knowing that copying and pasting was what was ahead of me (but really, I’m just glad to have a good job with nice people where I’m exposed to things that teach me about the industry in which I’d like to work), blissfully enjoying the cooler, drier air.

It was so lovely. Made me want soup. Any weather that makes me want soup is good weather.

I passed a guy who looked ready for November, like maybe he loves dressing for the cold and couldn’t wait for it to arrive: sweats, sweatshirt, down vest zipped all the way up. I probably stared for a little too long. Either you’re not a Minnesotan or you just really wanted to sweat. The temperature was right around 60 at this time, people. 60 degrees. Fahrenheit.

Maybe he heard the weather was changing and was trying to be prepared as he went out for his morning run. Gosh, that makes me sweat just thinking about running in that getup.

He was prepared. Maybe too prepared. Maybe prepared too early. And now I have a visual for whenever I find myself trying to step too far into the future.

Should I start making a list of all the places I want to check for open positions right before I graduate? Should I set a calendar reminder? Should I send emails to all those people now so they’ll know I’ll be applying for jobs? Should I research all the job descriptions I could possibly apply for? Should I get another backup job?

That’s just on the job front. Today I had the fleeting thought that I might enjoy being a school librarian. Here’s what followed:

I wonder what a library science degree entails. Should I Google it now? Make my decision at this moment? Oh wait, no, I’m working. Should I do an internet search for, “so, you think you want to be a librarian”? Should I buy glasses? Practice my shushing and emphatic reading-out-loud of books? Should I start memorizing leveling standards?

Calm it down, girl. Take off the down vest. Not yet.

There’s a time and place for preparedness. But there’s a point at which it becomes both faithless and unhelpful. Unhelpful because who knows what will come before you reach the hurdle you are trying to jump over from 1,000 yards away? And faithless because this kind of frenzied preparing seems to think that God isn’t concerned.

(Feuerbach might say here that I’m choosing laziness, that I’m renouncing moral effort)

I suppose instead of renouncing moral effort, I should take up my cross daily and wait on God. That sounds lazy, but remember the guy in the fall getup. And remember that waiting is harder than action, much of the time. It requires trust and patience (which I lack).

Right now I don’t need six job offers or even six companies to which I might apply. *Takes off down vest* I don’t need to know what my next degree will be or if there will be one or if I need to be a school librarian. *exchanges sweatshirt for t-shirt* I don’t need to live in the future as a fail-safe because God is already there. *struggles to remove sweats over gym shoes… falls over… rights self and pulls on gym shorts*

For the crusty and those who wish they were

Curmudgeons have always had a special place in my heart. Those characters who tell it like it is, don’t care what anyone thinks, make wry commentary on the world around them, refuse the status quo, and usually have a soft spot for furry creatures or babies. I look at them and think, ah, to be so crusty and independentwhat a way to live.

Take Batman, for instance: thinks happiness in love is impossible, holds no daydreams about Gotham getting its streets swept clean and staying that way, gets trained in a really dark place (like, literally dark… does anyone know where that was?), talks like he’s got a major larynx problem, and knows that what he needs to be is not a hero in white shining armor but to take the fall for someone else so that people have hope.

Or picture your favorite gruff old man who does not fight bad guys. Maybe he’s rough around the edges, but he’s probably got great stories and doesn’t delude himself. It’s like the guy from Up. Square-jawed, solitary, not interested in fancies, disappointed.

Oh, to be a curmudgeon. To not give a rip what anyone thinks. To see things the way they are.

Of course, it’s not as cut and dry as all that. There’s a place in-between those who expect sunshine and rainbows and those who are certain a hurricane is imminent. And that’s probably where most of us fall, caught between hope and fear of disappointment.

Isn’t that what being crusty is all about? Not hoping so you’re not disappointed? Not caring so you don’t get hurt? If you’ve read any C.S. Lewis, you’re thinking of the line from The Four Loves where he says that love is essentially being vulnerable.

“Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.”

At my stage of life, curmudgeonness (sooooo not a word) seems equal with maturity. At least, that’s the picture I get when I tell people my aspirations and they respond with something like this:

“Awww, that’s so great. I remember when I had just graduated college and was starting to plan out my life.”

Then a hint of fortune-telling follows: Oh, I see it now. You’re going to pursue this for a while and try to make it work. You’ll get as far as hope can take you and will eventually settle for the existence everyone else has or something equally stable. Like the future is calling and saying that everyone has to deal with disappointment and move on from what they want to do to what they have to do.

Part of that is true. Everyone does have to deal with disappointment. And failure. And that’s when it’d be nice to be a crusty, hardened veteran of the world. And those experiences are what give tougher skin.

But maybe we need to be careful to not get too tough. I so want to be. I want to be tough and able to handle anything and never get my hopes up without cause, because strength is so admirable and I hate crying – especially when there’s a good reason. And being doe-eyed and ignorant of the world and dreamy about what could be is not a trait that leads to survival and thriving (at least not in the wild…).

As much as I’d love to abandon the look of inexperience and naïveté, naive people have done amazing things. Tough people have, too. The thing they both have in common is that they keep going no matter what stands in their way. For one, it is the failure and the roadblocks that could stop them and the vision of what could be that drives them. For the other, it’s the inability to hope for what isn’t seemingly possible that could keep them from progressing and their belief in soldiering on that keeps them going.

As always, I come to a place where I realize that being balanced is probably the best thing. Toughness and hopefulness combined can achieve things that either on their own or paired with something less antithetical would not.

I can’t be Batman (for a lot of reasons). I also can’t be Bambi. Now, to figure out what lies between.

Conquering or maybe not actually finishing

Remember those Geico commercials where the money had eyes and would stare at people like, This is all the money you could have but don’t since you haven’t switched insurance providers? My unfinished projects have eyes.

They’re staring at me. My half-put-away laundry. My partially cleaned out closet. That manuscript that I’ve been slowly but surely editing for the past couple weeks. They all want to be done.

Of course, it’s going to rain, and I just bought a Kindle and have so many different ways that I could curl up with a piece of literature instead of finishing one of those.

Are you feeling the pep talk coming on? I am.

Hey you there. Yes, you. You, with the unparalleled work ethic. Well, maybe a little bit paralleled or maybe not so much of an ethic as a possible modus operandi. You’ve struck the balance between work-before-play and all-work-and-no-play-makes-Jack-a-dull-boy.

You’re tenacious.

You’ve got a fire within you that cannot be doused. You just worked 8 hours, but so what? Your world may require more of your superb work. Grab a snack and get going.

You are capable.  You have blinders to distractions and naysaying.You are the kind of person who puts in her time. Then you relax for a while before sleeping – because that’s important, too. 

What a champion, a champion of getting things done. Or maybe just doing part of it. Sometimes that’s half the battle, beginning when we know we cannot immediately finish.

We may not conquer everything tonight, but let it be known that we fought for a while.

Then we paused the war for recoup. That happens sometimes.

Go forth, brave, capable doers.

25 things I want to do before I’m 25.

I feel compelled to set goals today, like there are things to be learned and done, and if I don’t write it down, I’ll never do it.

I guess it all started when I thought to myself, I should learn how to use chopsticks well before I’m thirty. 

Then I thought, Well, maybe I need to learn to like food that you eat with chopsticks better. Because there are few Chinese dishes that I eat (hello, vegetarian here) and most of the Thai dishes I like are soupy or have long noodles that intimidate me and make me not want to try the chopsticks.

So that goes on the list, but because I don’t really do long-term goals well, let’s make it before I’m 25. Maybe you can make one for the next four years of your life, too, and we’ll say it’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s not that we don’t feel we’ve done anything with our lives thus far, we just see possibility in setting goals.

So, here are the 25 things I want to do before I’m 25.

1. Learn to use chopsticks proficiently and without looking or feeling stupid.

2. Learn to like more foods that you eat with chopsticks.

3. Finally have a place for everything and everything in its place. As in, to always be able to walk across the floor of my bedroom without hazard. (BTW, it’s a hygienic mess… just a little cluttered with my two lives coming together)

4. Write a full-length book. Maybe send it somewhere and get rejection letters or maybe just write it for the sake of writing. Then start another one.

5. Always be reading at least one book for pleasure and make it a habit to let it be the last thing I see at night. Not my phone. Not my computer. A book.

6. Leave the country and see one I’ve never seen before with someone I love.

7. Get better at saying, “I love you.” Because I forget and miss the moments I should say it and always think people know that I love them.

8. Have my own place. Not that I don’t love my parents or appreciate being able to live here, but I’d like to learn how to live on my own for real – bills and all.

9. Be a regular somewhere. Preferably at a coffee shop.

10. Take a dance class. This time preferably not in German.

11. Go camping again.

12. Get through all 500 prompts in my writing prompt book.

13. Learn how to either a) change a flat tire, b) change my oil, or c) be able to label all the parts of an engine and know their function in relation to the others. Maybe all three.

14. To better understand sanctification and how God uses it.

15. Take a vacation (no matter how short or close to home) by myself.

16. Master Excel.

17. Have a thriving vegetable garden.

18. To have permanently callused fingertips on my left hand… none of this “just when I have time to practice” thing.

19. Learn to like tofu.

20. Ease myself out of my hoarding tendencies and into a balanced mindset where not everything has sentimental value and not everything is bound for the dumpster.

21. Learn how to say, “no” and how to say, “yes” and when to employ them each respectively.

22. Have something published somewhere by someone who isn’t me. (Ambiguity intentional)

23. Meet Taylor Swift (you knew it was coming) and do something normal like bowling or something. Maybe take a selfie.

24. Become friends with a librarian somewhere.

25. Know a little bit more about who I am.

That’s 25. Those are probably not the only 25 things I will do before I’m 25, but maybe they’ll be among the many things. And maybe I’ll do others instead that I didn’t plan, and these will come later.

What would you do in the next four years of your life?